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Fabian Schär: 'I know I won't play forever so I just try to take in every moment now'

Written by Tom Easterby

In a welcome, pressure-alleviating week at Newcastle United, Fabian Schär found some time to consider what was, what is and what might yet be. The defender extended his contract with the club on Monday, a deal which could take him into his eighth year with the Magpies. At 32, he has stood on some shifting sands at St. James' Park and has seen his own outlook on the future change.

"I think when I was young I probably thought more about, 'in three years I might want to be there, and then there' or whatever, but in my career I realised football is always going to be different, you know?" he says. "I live more in the moment, possibly, and being here right now, (you) don't know what's really happening in future years or whatever. So enjoy the moment, try to maximise the period I'm in at the moment, and all the rest comes through that."

In his five-and-a-half years on Tyneside, Schär has played 169 times and been part of three sides distinctive in their approaches. It says much about his adaptability that he has proven capable in all those teams. He was once a centre half of raw promise at Basel, introduced early to the Champions League a decade ago, and perhaps his career has unfolded in an era where the stock of technically gifted defenders is at his highest. There is a realisation, in his 30s, that all this hurtles by at speed at it is there to be enjoyed.

"I'm just really grateful to stay here another year because I feel I'm comfortable, I feel like I'm settled in my second home place, in this club," adds the Switzerland international. "Staying here for such a long time now – it will be my seventh year – is quite a long time in football. I'm thankful to be on this level for so many years and hopefully achieving some more great things with the club. I'm looking forward to that.

"It goes so quick. Now when I'm a little bit older, I realise how time flies. It's actually mad saying that it's already my sixth season. Time goes quick. I think now I'm a player who enjoys football a little bit more. Realising being here and achieving things, I'm probably a bit more grateful than I was like ten years ago. I know I won't play forever so I just try to take in every moment now."

Is he the type of person who finds it easy to enjoy things? Schär feels the lack of time to dwell on particular events makes it tougher. "For me, a big moment was the Paris game at home. That night was incredible for me but a few days later, you have the next game and you have to forget it, somehow," he replies. "Sometimes you wish to stay in these moments a bit longer, but you have to be ready to go again, and the next game's coming. You have to learn that and reflect maybe a little bit more when you have a break or a bit more time off.

"Sometimes it's really difficult, but it is how it is. You have to accept the situation. For me, I try to really enjoy it from my side, deep inside me, even after the game, just for myself – reflecting and being pleased at what was happening. You know it's going on and you have to be ready but also somehow try to not forget the feeling, because it's something that makes you even stronger."

Last Saturday's comfortable 3-0 FA Cup win over Sunderland quelled some of the recent concern at United's form. It was about as routine as a derby day victory can be and it was significant, too, in ending a run of four defeats in all competitions. But it is still just three wins in ten, and the visit of Manchester City, a winning machine, is an altogether different task to that of a cup tie with a Championship side. "This is probably the trickiest period for the last two years or whatever. It's not been our best few weeks, I would say – we've had to take a few setbacks and difficult results, which is difficult to take and obviously you don't want to have that.

"But at some point I think it's going to happen sometimes. Obviously you try to avoid and things you don't want to have, but we just have to stick together and be positive. I 100 per cent trust in everyone in this club and I'm 100 per cent sure better times will come soon."

Schär has played in far more troublesome times at St. James' Park. "I think the difference now that we had two such great years (is) that it's even harder to accept or have a bad period, because you want to be on that good side all the time. But this is not football. Sometimes it's just not happening.

"Before that it was always, I would say, difficult, so the difficult part… you're more used to it, or you know you're in a difficult situation and now you have to come out of it. And now you've seen the other side, you just want to be on that level all the time. We have to learn from those results, those weeks, and I think then it will make us even stronger."

He is reminded of an interview he gave to NUFC TV after a thoroughly miserable 2-0 defeat at Southampton in November 2020. He described the performance, correctly, as '****' and, when asked what his side could have done better, he replied 'everything'. He was right on that too. But he shakes his head. "I have heard this so many times," he says, adding that some of his frustration came from often being one of the players required to front up to media after defeats.

But it works as a reference point, something from which to take perspective in the present. "Probably in that period there were more question marks of how we were getting out of that. We couldn't answer questions, things like this. And now, I'm 100 per cent confident of having better times soon. Obviously we had a lot of bad luck with injuries – we don't want to use it as excuses, but just in our season it was influential to the game we played, and now there's going to be a more normal week-by-week game rhythm."

It has been less than a month since Sven Botman returned from the knee injury that kept him out of 17 games in the first half of the campaign. The Schär-Botman axis in defence formed the bedrock of the Magpies' success last term and the Dutchman being back in the fold has been one of the brighter things to come from United's harsh winter. Schär feels one of the keys to their partnership is a simple one: he gets to play on his favoured right side, Botman gets to play on his stronger left side. "For me, that's probably the most significant part. It's quite different to play on the left or on the right. I think I somehow kind of enjoyed it on the left – before, I thought it could be really difficult, really different.

"But over a few games, I saw it's not working too bad. I enjoyed the challenge for me personally, but if I could choose I would rather play on the right because it's suited to my style of football, I would say. And he's a great player, so everyone's happy that he's fit."

How can that it be as simple as that, a ten-yard switch of role? Schär seems to be able to play comfortably enough on his unfavoured left foot. "But not the same – not the same as my right," he says. "I can't play the same balls with my left than with my right. I'd rather be on the right and have the ball on my right foot predominantly. Sometimes on the left you get more forced to play on your left which makes it a bit more difficult. But wherever I play I try to give my best and do my best."

This is the first extended period during this season where Eddie Howe's side have the best part of a week between games. It is a luxury they were rarely afforded previously due to the Champions League group stage but it is a double-edged sword. They have a chance to rest more between matches now, which is patently needed; but it means they are no longer playing in Europe's top bracket, for the remainder of the season at least.

"I'd rather still have (just) those three days break, you know," he says. "I still enjoyed it, because you're playing so many games. You know you play Champions League, European football, and it's the best level. You want to be on that level.

"It was tough but I still want it back. Hopefully we can achieve the same thing again. We are now maybe in a more difficult situation, but I truly believe we can achieve it."

This interview is featured in Saturday's edition of UNITED, the club's official matchday programme, for the visit of Manchester City. Find out more about what's inside the latest issue here.

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