My German is just barely good enough to read through a newspaper interview and not really need much help knowing what was said, though I do utilize Google Translate for the odd word here and there. I have to say that since getting into Bundesliga football a few years ago, becoming an Effzeh fan, and doing all the reading, watching, and listening to German that has come with it, my language skills are a lot sharper than they were, though they’d likely still show plenty of evidence of it going on 19 years since I was over there trying to speak it every day.
Despite that, my comprehension and retention is far better when I’ve put the work in of casually translating and transcribing things into English, which perfectly suits my project here. Hence, I give you the KSTA.de interview with Peter Stöger from Wednesday, by Michael Krämer. Far from a professional-style translation, I try to make it sound like native English being spoken. Often, I fail.
I love this interview.
“The FC is another dimension”
The tension before the season start of the second Bundesliga increases. The new coach of the 1. FC Köln, Peter Stöger speaks in a KSTA Interview about his first impressions, his philosophy, and the pressure of his new job.
Mr. Stöger, the training camp in Windischgarsten is nearly over. How would you summarize it?
We were able to go through with the entire program, the intensity was high. Except for some small things, there were no injuries, which is all very positive. Now, we will give the team a chance to refresh before the season start.
‘Before the season start’ does not leave a lot of time, the preparation was short.
It was important that we push the limits, as we need to have the right stuff through Christmas. The season is long. In the championship, I do not want big changes, especially in the defense. But, of course, we don’t want to again have only two points after six matches; six points after two matches would be better.
The FC Köln had a lengthy search for a coach. Mainly, Mike Büskens and Roger Schmidt were considered the favorites. Do you consider your self a third option?
I don’t ponder that, at all. At Austria Wien, they wanted Franco Foda. Then he went to Kaiserslautern, and I arrived there. I don’t see myself in a situation in which I was the sole candidate for 1. FC Köln and find it absolutely legitimate that there were other candidates. As a coach, one is always in a competitive situation. There are many very good colleagues and very few interesting jobs.
What makes the FC so attractive to you, that you were willing to pass on the opportunity to compete with Austria Wien in the Champions League qualification?
I see the FC as an interesting task and as a great opportunity for me. I like to be around when you work to build something in sport that can keep pace with the general framework. That is motivation enough, even if it is the second league. I believe the second league in Germany is, by far, the best second league in Europe. Back home, everyone understood my move because everyone understands the importance the FC has in Europe, even still.
You were also considered as a candidate at Werder Bremen…
…there were never any concrete discussions. But – in Wien, we say ‘small world’ – it was brought to my attention that I was a candidate in discussions. But if Bremen then secures a coach like Robin Dutt, I have to say, ‘no problem; that is a different level.’ That covers a completely different type of person, because I do not see myself as a loser.
In Köln, the playing system has been discussed a lot in recent years. What is your philosophy?
I have an ideal image. Yet, it is to the quality of the coach to adjust to the players and to see where they can best use their strengths. I bring with me no fixed system, rather set myself according to the players in the squad. In Wien, we played a 4-3-3. We were playing to win the championship, so I chose an offensive formation. It could be similar here. Whether it’s a 4-3-3 or a 4-1-4-1 remains to be seen. A good coach ensures that the players on the field have the chance to play to their strengths and feel good about themselves.
Did you follow 1. FC Köln this past season?
Yes. The coverage is immense. And, of course, I followed the Austrian players Maierhofer and Royer and Wimmer. Hence, I’m not coming in completely blank, as they say in Austria. For an Austrian coach, this league is very interesting because it has a standard to which you can fairly compare yourself. Everyone looks to Bayern and Dortmund, but you have to ask yourself, “What is realistic and what can you implement in Austria?” It’s wonderful sit-in on Arsenal or Barcelona, but it’s then frustrating to return and have to say, “Now I’ve seen everything, but it will never be implemented”
What are your first impressions of 1 FC Köln?
It’s a different dimension, particularly when I’m travelling in the city, not even just at the club. Simply put: a football team is a football team. As a coach, you go and try to do the best possible job. But, out in the city, this club is – and I say this after three weeks – the ubiquitous focus of many, many discussions. That is unique, and it is what makes the club attractive and perhaps a bit more difficult, but in any case more interesting.
Can this added weight also have a daunting effect on a coach?
I enter the season with the knowledge that this is an exceptional club and that many people have the wish to go with their club to the top league. For me, the anticipation of trying to build it is what prevails.
Were you warned about 1. FC Köln before coming?
In interviews, the environment is often brought up, and that that media landscape is massive, the finanical situation was better in the past, and on the other side, that the FC have unbelievably passionate fans. I’ve not yet gotten the impression that there’s anything associated with any of it that will make me feel uncomfortable. It’s a lot, but it’s to be expected in a city of millions, that the coverage is great. Likewise, it’s clear that if you don’t win every week, not everything is positive. If you can’t deal with that, this job will always be difficult. If you don’t like it, you have to find a club that few come to watch and on which few will report.
Editorial insert from the American at the keyboard: “HELL YES! Tell ’em, Peter!”
You cost the club a transfer fee. Many fans were surprised a club in debt would pay money for a coach rather than invest in the squad. Does that increase the pressure on you?
I noticed that. It increases for me personally not the pressure, rather the desire to be successful, so that the people in the club who spoke strongly for me can say, “That paid for itself.”
Prior to joining Austria Wien, you waived salary to allow the transfer. Was that again the case here?
It was a similar story, but the contract value was not what was important to me. For me, the sports-related move was the important piece. Money was not a deal-breaker, just like in the transfer from Wiener Neustadt to Austria Wien. Sports-wise, it was the right step for me, as the money was not the deciding factor.
You’ve expanded your coaching staff with the addition of team developer Werner Zöchling. What do you hope to gain from this move?
He is a staff developer and a sociologist, not a psychologist or psychiatrist. He works for various companies to check certain areas and see how the team spirit is developing and whether there are reservations. In a football team are many people who must look at their personal success, though it’s a team sport. Therefore, it’s important that the group is coherent, despite that. I busy myself intensively with the question as to how to lead a group, because it’s an important point, in order to be successful. It’s important to me that a few things can be addressed through an external specialist. The days in which a coach could oversee all areas are long in the past. (I struggled with a few sentences here, so I’ll say it seems Stöger was saying that anyone who feels overburdened with questions as to how the team is working together, Zöchling will be available.) Then the opportunity for individual players to contact him will be there. It all runs on a voluntary basis.
How has the offer been accepted to date?
Like in Wien: some are very interested, others less. In Wien, ten players had contact with Werner. It’s not just about sporting development. In everyday life, there’s enough outside stuff to occupy them. We just want to offer.
The team planning is nearly complete. Are you happy with the players made available to you?
We are well underway. The pieces fit together, and we will find our offensive options. We have young players here and more good players in our youth corps. I see it as my duty to sift through and promote them. I am very happy it worked out with Anthony Ujah. He is an important piece for us.
Have you imagined what the will happen in the city should promotion be achieved?
I’ve been told I cannot even imagine it, so I needn’t think about it. You have to be careful with all the talk about promotion, but I can say I’ve naturally already dreamed in my sleep of bringing the 1 FC Köln back up with my coaches and those responsible for putting the group together. If I don’t admit that, I’d be lying.