By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Fritz on Schmidt's resurgence: "He's just enjoying his football."

SV Werder Bremen attacking midfielder Niklas Schmidt is back in the saddle following three starts and one prolonged relief shift for his Bundesliga club in the new calendar year. 

SV personnel boss Clemens Fritz spoke to Tim Lüdcecke of German footballing magazine Kicker about the player's road back following several bouts with adversity and recent mental health struggles. 
SV Werder Bremen attacking midfielder Niklas Schmidt has some experience with adversity in his career. After making his professional debut with youth academy club SV Werder Bremen in 2016, it was back to the reserves for the bulk of two subsequent seasons. Following that, there were loan outs to lower division sides SV Wehen Wiesbaden and VfL Onsnabrück.

Bremen looked likely to part company with Schmidt as they prepared for their 2021/22 campaign in the 2. Bundesliga. The Kassel-native nevertheless played his way into the squad with an impressive training camp. Schmidt ended up being a regular during the successful promotion campaign, netting two goals and contributing six assists.

Football still had to take a back-seat earlier this autumn when the player, as he was candid enough to admit, struggled with mental health issues. After Schmidt went public with his problems during Bremen's most recent January camp, his Hanseaten teammates backed him for having the courage to speak up. This appears to have had a positive effect.

After doing a serviceable job off the bench during Bremen's opening-match rout at the hands of 1. FC Köln, head-coach Ole Werner placed Schmidt in the starting XI for the next three league fixtures. Schmidt has been working the buttressing attack role ordinarily occupied by the injured Romano Schmid behind strikers Niclas Füllkrug and Marvin Ducksch.

SV licensing personnel director Clemens spoke of Schmidt's return to form with Tim Lüddecke of Germany's preeminent footballing publication, Kicker Magazine. Fritz answered questions about why Schmidt has been trusted with this new role. The former long-time Bremen professional emphasized that Werner and the coaching staff "treated him like anyone else, which is precisely what he wanted."

"It's important that we dealt with his case as normally as possible," Fritz said, "He's very secure on the ball, can create opportunities for his teammates, and isn't bad at shooting either. Niklas' game brings with it aspects of creativity and initiation. That's what makes him so valuable."

"Overall," Fritz concluded, "You can tell that he's just enjoying his football at the moment. That's crucial."

Schmidt may or may not retain his starting spot against Dortmund this weekend. Leonardo Bittencourt will presumably be moving back up to his attack-support-position after filling in for the suspended Mitchell Weiser on the wings this past weekend against Stuttgart. Danish buttressing attacker Jens Stage - who scored his inaugural Bundesliga goal in the match - may also factor into Ole Werner's plans.

A deployment off the bench may turn out to be just fine with Schmidt. The 24-year-old was among the scorers in Bremen's incredible late, record-setting comeback over the BVB in the reverse fixture on matchday three. Schmidt commemorated his inaugural Bundesliga goal on that day.

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