Gerhard Struber thinks the end date of the Championship season on July 22 is still too early and could count against Barnsley as they have one of the smallest squads in the division. 

The head coach last week called for the season, which is set to start a week tomorrow, to be extended from the initial end date of July 18 until the end of that month, due to a risk of injuries.  The season is now due to finish on July 22, meaning the last-placed Reds are set to play nine matches in 32 days including eight in the last 25 as they try to close a seven-point gap to safety.  Struber told the Chronicle: “Four days is not a big difference. The short time is a challenge for every club but also for my team because we have a disadvantage with a small squad. It may be an issue but I will bring a smart plan in the games and the training sessions.  When we have a good training load, with a good plan, and a bit of luck, we can bring the boys without issues through the league and be successful.” 

Struber also hopes the social distancing rules will be relaxed around Oakwell. He said: “It is very strange to have social distancing around the club and testing twice every week.  I think Barnsley’s training field is the safest place in England. It is so strange but we must do it. For me, I like to be with my boys and my staff so this is a big challenge for my character and my mentality. We cannot create the right spirit that we need with social distancing so next week we need the right measures.”

The Reds – who are due to restart at Queens Park Rangers on June 20 – are hoping to play a friendly against local opposition in the coming days behind closed doors and with no media coverage.  They have been back in training for three weeks, with half of that time featuring contact training. Struber said: “It is a special time and a special pre-season for me. I have had a very short time and it has been a challenge to put my style in the brain of my boys.  I am pleased with the progress.  “We have had a lot of fun in training. “The last week has been very important for my style. We have played ten against ten games which was helpful for me.  The most important thing in the restart is that every single player can play in a high intensity. 

“In the next week we need to balance the training so we are fresh.  But we need to be very clear for our tactics against QPR, especially our distances in the diamond formation and the triggers for pressing.”

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Barnsley have three players training with them whose contracts had been due to expire on June 30, the day they play the third of their nine games.   Struber said last week that he had agreed with his previous club Red Bull Salzburg to keep right-back Kilian Ludewig until the end of the season and now says the same will happen with goalkeeper Sami Radlinger and midfielder Kenny Dougall. 

Struber said: “It is very clear that Dougall and Radlinger will play until the last game of this season then after that we will speak to them again.”

Chief executive Dane Murphy suggested that the club was in negotiations with Portsmouth, who are in the League One play-offs, and Barnsley’s Championship rivals Hull City over the loans of Cameron McGeehan and Mallik Wilks who left Oakwell this season.

Struber said: “They will stay at their loan clubs for the rest of this season, then we will see after that what is the best for those players.  “We need a win, win for everyone and we will find a good solution.” Barnsley’s remaining games are: Queens Park Rangers A, June 20, 3pm; Millwall H, June 27, 1pm; Blackburn Rovers H, June 30, 6pm; Stoke City A, July 4, 3pm; Luton Town A, July 7, 7.45pm; Wigan Athletic H, July 11, 3pm; Leeds United A, July 15, 7.45pm; Nottingham Forest H, July 18, 3pm; Brentford A, July 22, TBC.