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Bouhaddouz: You never score alone, only as a team

Aziz Bouhaddouz was the club's leading scorer in the season just ended. His 15 goals had a crucial impact in the successful battle against relegation. Before boarding a plane on Thursday for two international matches with Morocco, the 30-year-old looked back on his first season at the Millerntor.

Hello Aziz, you can't put your feet up yet because you're in the Morocco squad for the games against Holland on 31 May and Cameroon on 9 June. Does it bother you not to be on holiday like your teammates?

No, it doesn't. I'm looking forward to it even though I'll be travelling for 16 days.

What are you doing after that?

I'm going to spend some time with my family in Morocco. A week isn't that long, of course, so I'll have another word with the coaching team. Maybe I can get a couple of extra days off.

If we go back a year to the time when you joined the club, what were your objectives back then?

After two seasons at Sandhausen in which I scored nine goals each time I wanted to hit double figures. I'm pleased to have done that. Unfortunately we weren't able to achieve our original aim of playing a good role in the league, but we did have a great second half to the campaign and secured our league status with two games left to go, something that was inconceivable during the winter break.

Hand on heart, what was the first thing that came to mind after the final whistle at Kaiserslautern?

Each game was immensely important, but the one at Kaiserslautern even more so. With that in mind we gave our all from the first to the 95th minute. It got exciting again towards the end but we did it. The sense of relief after the final whistle was huge for all of us.

One of your 15 goals came at Kaiserslautern. Was it your most important one for the club?

Considering the special importance of that game, yes, it was. Taking the lead gave us assurance and we went on to secure a deserved win and celebrate staying up.

What was your best goal?

Against Karlsruhe when I chipped the ball over Dirk Orlishausen to make it 5-0. I wanted to lay it off for Lenny, but it came back to me and so I thought I'd dink it over the keeper.

That was your third in a hat-trick of second-half goals. Was that game the highlight of your season?

There wasn't just one highlight. There were lots of great moments, among them, of course, the wins over Karlsruhe and Kaiserslautern. But there was also the first home win against Bielefeld when I got my first goal and we were able to celebrate our first victory at the Millerntor.

Your strike rate improved as the season wore on. After the winter break you scored ten times. Why did it go so well for you?

A striker needs confidence to get goals. The more you have, the more likely you are to turn a half chance into a goal. But there are also matches, such as the final home game against Fürth, when the ball just won't go in even though you're on a roll. That's football. I'd have passed the 20-goal mark if everything had gone perfectly, but even players like Robert Lewandowski don't score every time, otherwise he'd have long since grabbed 40 goals or even more. I can be satisfied with my return, though. I have to thank the lads at this point. There were lots of perfect assists in there. I'm thinking of Cenk's cross at 1860 or Waldi's ball in against Karlsruhe. You never score alone, only as a team. Without the lads I'd never have scored 15 goals!

The first half of the season produced just 11 goals, the second 28. Do you have an explanation for that?

Our chances-to-goals ratio wasn't good for a long time, of course. I think I read somewhere that we were last in that category as well after the first half of the season. In the second it went better in every area – both in defence and in attack. We were better organised at the back, played better football going forward and in so doing created far more chances, which we also made better use of.

Your performances and goals earned you a call-up for Morocco, and in January you took part in the Africa Cup while your teammates were preparing for the important second half of the season in Hamburg and Spain. How difficult a decision was that for you?

It was a decision for Morocco, not against St. Pauli. Playing for your country at a tournament like that is a dream, but because of the situation we were in it wasn't easy for me to miss the preparations in the winter break. In retrospect the Africa Cup was absolutely the right decision. I came back full of confidence and was able to help the team in the second half of the season.

Final question, how will things continue next season, what do you think is possible?

We want to carry on where we left off next season and play as well as possible. Obviously I'd like to play my part in that with my goals.

Photos: Witters