Yorkshire Post

Eckert and Styles point way for new-look Reds

- Stuart Rayner CHIEF FOOTBALL WRITER stuart.rayner@jpimedia.co.uk @sturayner BARNSLEY V LUTON TOWN

TONDA ECKERT’S youthful features are unfamiliar beyond and largely even in Barnsley, but the contrast with his weighty CV shows Markus Schopp’s assistant must be special.

Eckert is only 28, yet in his 11th year as a coach. Schopp is already his third Oakwell boss, even though today only marks his first anniversar­y.

But leaning heavily on experience­d young men is what the Reds are about. Callum Styles, who joined him to preview tonight’s Championsh­ip visit of Luton Town, passed 100 league games before the age of 21.

Eckert has already worked for Red Bull Salzburg, Red Bull Leipzig and Bayern Munich alongside the likes of Marco Rose, Thomas Letsch, Miroslav Klose, Gerhard Struber (who brought him to South Yorkshire) and since then

Valerien Ismael and his replacemen­t, Schopp.

The last three Champions League-winning managers, Jurgen Klopp, Hansi Flick and Thomas Tuchel are, like Eckert, German, and the Red Bull franchises have been production lines for forward-thinking coaches.

Where France’s revolution­ary philosophe­rs had coffee-houses and 1960s London football’s thinkers gathered in Cassettari’s greasy-spoon cafe, the “big office” at Salzburg seems to be the 21st Century equivalent.

“That’s where I got to meet Gerhard,” explains Eckert. “We were all sharing a big office in the academy. There was Marco Rose, who is now manager of Borussia Dortmund, Thomas Letsch, who coaches Vitesse Arnhem, and Gerhard Struber who is now in New York (coaching another Red Bull club). It definitely helped that we had a big office and a few chats about football and the way we see things.

“I had the pleasure to work with a lot of great coaches, with Miroslav Klose (Bayern’s under-17 coach promoted to assistant manager under Flick), one of the biggest. It was great to be in touch with personalit­ies like that and have conversati­ons about football and how they see players, the developmen­t of certain aspects of the game.

“A lot of German coaches are managing big teams and are very successful with them. If I look at the Championsh­ip there are a lot of excellent coaches and managers from England but for a coach like me it helps there are managers from Germany who have made their way and left their marks.”

Austrian Schopp, who went from playing to coaching at Salzburg after a loan at New York Red Bulls, is part of the lineage. Eckert had not worked with him until this pre-season, but they are clearly like-minded or would not be at Barnsley, who follow the highintens­ity, high-pressing principles of this new German wave, but whose head coaches have trodden different paths within it. Ismael, who cut his coaching teeth in Germany and Austria, preached direct “vertical” football. Schopp is much more enamoured by possession but has shrewdly sought a middle way.

“We had a really, really good season, we over-achieved in some eyes, so you can’t change much from a winning formula, you’ve got to just add bits to it and slowly evolve and strengthen,” argues Styles. “The gaffer obviously wants to play a bit more because he’s seen the quality in the team and knows what we can bring to the table so I’m excited for what the future holds and for us to express ourselves a bit more.

“We’re all clear in what we’re asked to do, it’s just a process. To get into full flow is going to take some games and some time.”

Tellingly, when Barnsley lost their captain and best player Alex Mowatt in the summer, following Ismael to West Bromwich Albion, they looked for youthful solutions.

Josh Benson, 21, was bought from Burnley but in the opening games Styles has been moved from wing-back alongside 22-year-old Romal Palmer, pulling the strings and taking freekicks as Mowatt used to.

“It’s good to have the backing,” he says. “That’s my responsibi­lity as a player, to make things happen.

“I feel like I need pressure to perform at my best and I’ll take it in my stride. It’s just about adding things to my game and getting better each day in training.”

Whether they can replicate or surpass last season’s fifthplace finish remains to be seen but Barnsley have a clear idea of where they are going. Schopp’s first win - 1-0 against Coventry City on Saturday - was an important early milestone.

“We just need to become a bit more confident in certain aspects but overall I think it was a good performanc­e,” says Eckert.

“We were solid and in the three games we only conceded one goal so there’s a lot of good things to build on, it’s just some little details we try to add.”

On and off the pitch, there are bright minds leading the process. Last six games:

I’m excited for what the future holds and for us to express ourselves Callum Styles on the prospect of playing under Markus Schopp at Barnsley

Bradford City WLDLDL; Stevenage WDWWDW Referee: O Langford (West Midlands) Last time: Barnsley 0 Luton Town 1, September 12, 2020, Championsh­ip.

 ?? PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES ?? FRESH OUTLOOK: Barnsley’s Callum Styles says he and his team-mates are looking forward to being able to express themselves more under Markus Schopp.
PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES FRESH OUTLOOK: Barnsley’s Callum Styles says he and his team-mates are looking forward to being able to express themselves more under Markus Schopp.
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