The 21-year-old Austrian striker has played 23 games for Barnsley but 21 of those appearances have been from the substitutes bench, with his league cameos averaging 16 minutes. A total of 22 players have been given more Championship minutes for Barnsley this season than Schmidt, including January signings Kilian Ludewig, Marcel Ritzmaier and Michael Sollbauer. Schmidt admits his lack of physical strength can prevent him from competing in the physical English second tier so is doing extra sessions in the gym in his family home in Austria during the period of isolation.
Schmidt told the Chronicle: “It is a good opportunity for me to get stronger. I have a lot of time to train at home. The club has given me an individual programme to get my fitness better and I have a small gym in my house so I can do a lot of work on that. I hope I will get stronger and I can take something good out of this crazy situation.”
After joining from Admira Wacker last summer, Schmidt has netted twice for Barnsley – a consolation goal in the 4-2 home loss to Stoke City in November and a last-minute winner at Millwall the following month. He has the best goals-per-minute ratio of any player in the squad. He said: “I expected it would be a very tough league but I am very glad to have this opportunity in a special league and special country. It was the right decision and I would make it again. I have learned a lot. Of course I would like to play more and score more but I think the first year has been quite OK and next year will be even better.
“I tell my family that football in England is way bigger than in Austria. People in the UK live for football and there is a special atmosphere in the stadiums and in the towns. It makes me feel so good before every game.”
With Barnsley seven points adrift of safety at the bottom of the Championship and three years remaining on his contract, Schmidt is hoping for a long spell at Oakwell – whichever division they are in next season. He said: “I want to stay here. I hope we stay in the Championship, and I think we will, but even if we go down I want to stay. If we go down to League One, I want to help the club back to the Championship. There is so much potential at this club. It’s a great club and I don’t think about any other club.”
Schmidt is one of four Austrian players at Oakwell, as well as head coach Gerhard Struber. “I never expected that my first club in another country would have so many Austrians. He said: “It is easier when you can speak in your own language but I also really like the English people and the English players. They are so funny and friendly. It would also be fine if there were no other German-speakers. My biggest dream was to play in the UK and my second dream is to play for the senior Austria team. For every player, that is what you want to do in your sports career. I would love to do it but I can only do it if I do well for my club. I work hard every day for that.”