The Reds had hoped to train at Oakwell from tomorrow – observing social distancing protocol – but the new return date is May 25 following an EFL meeting on Wednesday. They reportedly hope to start the Championship on June 6 or 13 with the government indicating it could be safe to return that month.
Head coach Struber has been in his native Austria during lockdown but is expected back in England imminently along with his compatriots Max Senft, the coach, and players Sami Radlinger, Patrick Schmidt, Marcel Ritzmaier and Michael Sollbauer.
Other Reds overseas during lockdown include Spanish duo Dani Pinillos and Bambo Diaby as well as Germans Mike Bahre and Kilian Ludewig. There is also Mads Andersen, from Denmark, and Aapo Halme, from Finland, and Frenchman Mamadou Thiam. Those players make up roughly half the first team squad.
All the overseas players are expected back by the end of today while many have already returned. They are then expected to have to enter a two-week quarantine period for any new arrival to the UK, although the Reds had hoped that could be shortened.
They will not be missing any training next week as the EFL decided, following a meeting with members, to move the date of a return to training back nine days to a week on Monday. That has sparked further doubts over when and if the season can be completed.
EFL chairman Rick Parry has previously said the campaign cannot go on further than July 31, a sentiment echoed by Struber in recent interviews. That is mainly due to the hundreds of players whose contracts run out on June 30 as well as the potential impact on next season and the financial cost to clubs.
Struber and others have estimated that players would need four weeks of training to be able to play, so a May 25 return would give the Championship a window of six weeks to complete their nine remaining league games and play-offs.
If the season cannot be completed, then opinions will be split from the clubs over whether it should be ‘null and void’ – and start again with the same clubs in same divisions – or decided on a points-per-game ratio or something similar. The second scenario would relegate last-placed Barnsley as they are currently seven points adrift of safety.
If the season does continue into July, the Reds will need to make a decision on the players whose contracts are due to expire next month. One of them is captain and star midfielder Alex Mowatt, although the Reds have an option to extend that deal by another year which they are almost certain to take.
Others are goalkeeper Radlinger, who has been first choice when fit this season and is believed to have recovered from injury during lockdown, as well as out-of-favour duo Pinillos and Thiam who have both not played since September. Full-back Ludewig’s loan from Struber’s former club Red Bull Salzburg is also due to expire next month.
Meanwhile, the Reds remain in negotiations with first team players over a paycut or wage deferral. Head coach Struber agreed a three-month deferral of a quarter of his wages last week. Barnsley have not played for 68 days since the 2-0 home loss to Cardiff City on March 7 while Oakwell has been unoccupied by staff for nine weeks.