With the news yesterday that centre-back and all-round German Adonis Christopher Schindler has signed a new contract, a tribute to the big man was always on the cards. But what can be said about the man-mountain from Munich that hasn’t been said already?
Even before he immortalised himself into town folklore forever with the world-class penalty that sent us into the Premier League, Schindler was already in my eyes, the best centre-back I have seen in my lifetime.
Whilst legends like Trevor Cherry might surpass Schindler’s achievements (so far), Schindler’s outrageous consistency, footballing class, leadership, and bottle has put him at the top of the tree for most town fans in their all-time lists.
When he arrived for a club record £1.8m fee, most town fans were fairly content knowing that town had recouped two-thirds of that money shipping out Joel Lynch to QPR for £1.2m in what now looks like the best transfer business we have done since a young Jordan Rhodes signed for £750,000.
A lot of players would have felt the burden of expectation on their shoulders over the club-record transfer fee. However, such is the character of the man that is Christopher Schindler, he took it in his stride and used it as a motivation for paying back the faith that had been put in him by owner Dean Hoyle and Head Coach David Wagner. Hoyle admitted as much in his post-match interviews following the play-off final.
At the start of the season, Schindler admitted himself he took some getting used to the aggressive and physical nature of the Championship, with some trepidation about “putting himself about” as the old cliché goes. This is largely due to the contrasting playing styles of the 2. Bundesliga and how referees were much stricter in punishing the dark arts behaviours that centre-backs can routinely get away with in English football.
However, once Schindler had realised he could chuck a few cheeky elbows here and there, he demonstrated his supreme authority and his performance levels never dropped throughout the entire course of the season. The only bad game I can remember him having was Fulham away when we lost 5-0, but on that occasion the whole team could have walked up the M1 after an anomalous performance like that, so one-offs like this can’t be considered with any real brevity.
As a former club captain of 1860 Munich, Schindler brought composure and calmness both to his performances on the pitch and off it. On the pitch, he is a player who always appears to have all the time in the world to read a situation, pick the correct course of action and deal with the threat.
This is deceptive and underlines just how well he is able to read the game, assessing the situation before it occurs and dealing with the danger in a supremely cool manner. Rarely have town fans in recent years seen a centre-half who doesn’t just hoof it at the first time of trouble or lets the ball bounce in highly dangerous situations. It certainly took us some getting used to.
Off the pitch, he is one of the first to engage with the fans, taking pictures, signing autographs and helping in the local community. It was Schindler, Hefele, and Kachunga who visited the local hospital in Huddersfield’s cancer ward midway through the season and made some children’s dreams come true. They weren’t obliged to do this but gave up some of their own time to make someone’s dark day that little bit brighter. That tells you all you need to know about the stature of the man.
The thing that will most stick in my mind about Chris Schindler though was the way he took the responsibility of taking the final penalty in the play-off final. He was the one who went up to Wagner himself and said “I want to take the final penalty”. As Wagner said in the post-match interview afterward, when someone comes up to you and says they want to take the last penalty, you let them do it! This shows a level of character most people, including myself can only dream of.
In a situation like that, to take a penalty kick worth £190m with the hopes, dreams, and livelihoods of a whole club resting on your shoulders, to tuck that penalty away into the very bottom corner of the goal past Reading keeper Ali Al-Habsi is something I will tell my grandchildren about. If he had placed that shot with any less accuracy or power, it would have been saved; such was Al-Habsi’s quality.
Across social media, it is telling how much praise and support the first-team players have given to Schindler for his new contract and he deserves every bit of success that comes with it. I
n 3 months’ time, I guarantee there will be premier league pundits from Paul Merson to Martin Keown enthusing about this man. “Where did they find this lad?” “Why didn’t a Premier League side pick him up?” You can see the bewildered expressions on their faces even now.
In a bonkers transfer market where bang-average players can go for £30m as a starter-for-ten and top-quality centre-backs are in such short supply that Virgil Van Dyk is valued at £60m, if Chris Schindler excels in the premier league like town fans know he can, we could be looking at Huddersfield Town’s first ever £30m player. He will be worth every penny.