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Lawrence: "Without that, we wouldn't have had the success we had last year"

On arrival in Benidorm we sat down with James Lawrence to talk about the first half of the season, the training camp and challenges to come, as well as the dilemma posed by a World Cup in Qatar.

Hi James, how did you spend the short winter break?

I was with my family in Amsterdam. My parents live there and so it's kind of like home for me. I spent Christmas with them, my grandmother and my brother and then we all came to Hamburg. My grandmother hadn't been for a long time. It was nice to spend a bit more time together.

How was the first half of the season for you? It can't have been that easy.

It wasn't easy coming back after picking up an injury with the national team. It meant I missed the Euros and that was hard to take. By the time I was properly fit again the season had already started. I was fit but had to come to terms with being out of the starting lineup, which was understandable because the team were playing well. I wasn't too despondent because I was happy we were successful, but from an individual point of view I obviously wanted to play. Having said that, I knew every player would be needed over the course of the season and I would get my chance, which then came later on.

There's competition for places throughout the team, not just in central defence. How do you see that?

I think you need competition in the squad. We all push one another, and the competition gives you added motivation. If you're not better than your teammate, he'll start. That's true of every position and makes us better as a team.

Is that the major success factor for you or are there other reasons?

No, it just gives us an extra lift. The foundations were laid at the start of last season. Without that, we wouldn't have had the success we had last year.

After missing the Euros with Wales due to injury, you now have the chance to qualify for the World Cup. How does that feel?

It's exciting mainly. It hasn't always been easy for me with the national team, though. I haven't played that much but have been part of the team and the journey. We have two tough matches ahead of us now against decent opposition, but the play-offs and the opportunity to go to a World Cup would be fantastic. At the moment, though, I'm focusing totally on St. Pauli. I can turn my attention to the national team in March. It's going to be a really exciting second half of the season because we have the chance to achieve big things and I'll be doing my utmost to help us get there.

Would the pleasure of qualifying be tempered by the fact that the World Cup is in Qatar? The host nation has come in for justifiable criticism for a number of reasons.

For the players, a World Cup will always be a World Cup because to qualify for one is such an incredible achievement. You're always going to be delighted. For many, it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance, but the things that have happened there and are still happening are always on your mind and overshadow everything. The World Cup is a dream for me and every other player, so I can't say I wouldn't take part because it's in Qatar. But a lot of things aren't right there which is why I have very mixed feelings. It's hard to deal with. Am I OK with promoting something like that? Because that's what I'd be doing by taking part. I think it's the same for a lot of players. You're torn between what you think is right and something you've worked hard all your life for.

Back to the here and now. What's your first impression of the conditions here?

I've seen the pitches and some of the facilities and lots of food (he laughs). It's nice to have a change of scenery and a bit of sunshine. It's always good for you mentally. It's an important week for us and has nothing to do with being on holiday. We have a job to do and our next game is only two weeks away. We have to make the best possible use of the available time to prepare for the games to come.

 

Photos: Witters

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