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Hürzeler: "Aspiration has to be to improve the entire team"

An outstanding second half of the campaign saw the Boys in Brown finish the 2022/23 season in fifth place. Two days after the final game against Karlsruhe, director of sport Andreas Bornemann and head coach Fabian Hürzeler sat down with the media to reflect on the season just ended and look ahead to the next one.

Bornemann and Hürzeler on…

...the season just ended:

Hürzeler: “It was important for both of us that we go into the summer break with a positive feeling, and we did that thanks to the last five games, none of which we lost. We responded to the two defeats against Braunschweig and HSV and the team showed character and mentality. We showed that it has to our aspiration to win every game. We managed to create a positive working atmosphere in which everyone pulled together, everyone was ambitious, and everyone put success above all else. As a result, I want to thank everyone who had a hand in the second half of the season. I want to thank my coaching team and my staff and everyone else involved. We did a lot of things right. We wouldn’t have picked up 41 points otherwise. We now need to take what we started in the second half of this season into next season.”

Bornemann: “Many thanks from me, too. It was a year that certainly packed a punch. I’m very satisfied with the way Fabian and his team and everyone around them had each other’s backs and went through the tough times side by side. We’re looking forward to getting started again after a three-week holiday and hopefully we’ll be able to carry on where we left off.”

Director of sport Andreas Bornemann

Director of sport Andreas Bornemann

...his debut as head coach:

Hürzeler: “In my two-and-a-half years as assistant coach here I learned what’s important for the second division and how you work with such a big team. I took a lot from that time that I’m benefiting from now. It gave me a clear idea of how I can manage the team and with what values and what type of football I want us to play. But football is mostly a day-to-day business. By that I mean you can prepare well and put a good plan together but in the day-to-day business of managing you find yourself confronted with things you hadn’t expected and then you have to find the right reaction. The biggest challenge for me has been responding to the day-to-day business and outside influences. I focused on the basics. It was clear to me from the outset that it’s about the work on the pitch, the team, and getting the playing philosophy right straightaway. The league was new territory for me but not the approach. Working for St. Pauli is an absolute privilege for me. It’s an ambitious club where you can develop players. I feel very much at home here and don’t waste a second thinking about leaving the club.”

…his management style:

Hürzeler: “Consistency and clarity are important topics for me. I’m very consistent vis-à-vis the players. If we make individual errors like we did against HSV, I address them no matter who the player is. I’m also consistent if I see something I don’t like in training and the players sense that. Players are clever, they look for every bolthole. If they feel I’ve left a gap open, no matter how small, they’ll go through it. That definitely didn’t happen to me in the second half of the season and won’t happen either because I’m very clear about how I want to manage. I had to make some tough decisions and that’s part of being consistent. It’s all about the success of the club and I only act with that in mind. There’s the sporting level with the players and the personal level. I made it clear to every player I told there was no future for him at the club that it was purely a footballing decision not a personal one. I have a bond with every player, but that relationship only comes about through such clear and open communication.”

Head coach Fabian Hürzeler

Head coach Fabian Hürzeler

...the targets for next season:

Bornemann: “You have to start by setting yourself a target totally independent of the other clubs, though who doesn’t go up and who comes down is a factor. In Hertha BSC and Schalke 04 there are two big names coming down from the Bundesliga who’ll be looking to go straight back up again. We also have two exciting newly promoted teams in Elversberg and Osnabrück. We’re focusing on our ourselves and our development. We want to put out the best possible team within the means at our disposal, one that’s capable of holding its own against other clubs. The competition in the second division has been incredibly tight for years. For us it will be crucial to prepare for every game in such a way as to ensure we have a chance of winning it. If you want to be among the top 25 clubs, you have to amass at least 55 points.”

Hürzeler: “In Hertha BSC and Schalke 04 we again have two relegated teams who’ll want to go straight back up. HSV will want to go up if they stay in the division and Stuttgart will want to go straight back up if they go down. Fortuna Düsseldorf are sure to invest. We’re an ambitious club and won’t go into the season saying we don’t want to go up. For me it’s important we set clear targets internally and determine clear targets for the work with the players. Targets that influence them and allow them to develop as players. Our aspiration has to be to improve the players and the entire team. In the key moments this season we saw we aren’t a top side yet. We know we have work to do, and we’ll definitely do that. With a view to the second half of the season, you have to say we didn’t roll everyone over and weren’t on a different level. As a coaching team we have to analyse what was good and what wasn’t and what we need to do better up front and at the back. Part of the truth is that not everything we did was top-notch. We have to execute the things we can influence to the maximum of our ability. And I’ll be pushy in demanding the most from the players in the things they can influence. The games can go either way, we’ll have to work hard for every win. That’s our approach going into the new season.”

Photos: Witters/Eibner