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Irvine: "All I really had to do was get my head on it"

Hard-working, strong-tackling midfielder Jackson Irvine put in an impressive performance in the 3-2 defeat of Nürnberg on the opening day of the season and got his reward with his side’s first goal. Irvine and Co. now go to Hannover 96 on Saturday (20.30 CET) eager to get another three points under their belt.

He's in a good mood and you can tell. He being the young man who, given the searing temperatures on Tuesday morning, ambles down the steps at Hoheluftbrücke underground station wearing flip-flops, shorts and an Argentina shirt with Gabriel Batistuta's No9 on the back and carrying a sports bag over his left shoulder. Jackson Irvine is on his way to the Kollau training complex, where two shifts are set to follow in temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius. "I always get on at St. Pauli, ride to Hoheluftbrücke and then take the No5 bus to the Kollau," says the Australian, who owns neither a car nor a bicycle. He’d wanted to acquire the latter some time ago, but he’s fine with that: "The journey is great. It takes me just under 25 minutes to get to training. Sometimes the train or the bus are full and you have to stand, but other times it's like today and you find a seat straightaway."

On Tuesday morning, Irvine finds a seat straightaway and off we go towards the Kollau. It's seven stops on the No5 metro line bus from Hoheluftbrücke to the Niendorfer Strasse stop, and we start the 11-minute ride with a look back at the 3-2 opening-day win against Nürnberg. "It feels good to have started the season with a win. We played well in the first half and took our chances but we also had a few difficult moments to negotiate," says Irvine, who was full of industry as usual against Nürnberg and also his side's most combative player.

Irvine had only hooked up with the squad a few days before the start of training camp and on top of the various workouts also had a Word Challenge with Connor Metcalfe to contend with. The two Australians had to guess the meaning of some German words, including Gebirgskette (mountain range), Ballkünstler (artist on the ball) and Labskaus (lobscouse). There's another word for him to guess on the way to the training ground, and that's Dosenöffner (tin opener, used here in the meaning of door opener). "Don't know, never heard of it," says Irvine like a shot. The meaning is quickly explained using the example of his opening goal against Nürnberg, which ushered in an impressive spell of play in the first half. "It was a great ball in with plenty of pace and curve. All I had to do was get my head on it," says Irvine in praise of Leart Paqarada's perfectly struck free-kick.

A moment of acrobatics from Jackson Irvine during Tuesday morning’s training session – under the watchful eye of Leart Paqarada (left).

A moment of acrobatics from Jackson Irvine during Tuesday morning’s training session – under the watchful eye of Leart Paqarada (left).

Paqarada joked afterwards that he hadn't expected Irvine to meet the ball so well, as it had often been different in training. "He's got a point there, but this time everything came together and it went in." It was Irvine's second goal in a St. Pauli shirt, the first coming in a 4-0 home win over Hansa Rostock in late October 2021 - another header to break the deadlock. "It's hard to compare the goals," the Australian says as the bus stops briefly for the fourth time outside SC Victoria's ground. "Maybe this one was slightly more special, given the circumstances. It was the opening game of the season and the Millerntor was full, which it wasn't when we played Rostock."

Irvine and Co. began the week before the opening away game at Hannover 96 buoyed by having taken the first three points of the campaign but knowing full well that some things didn't go according to plan against Nürnberg. "Obviously we're taking the positives from it, but we’re also analysing the things that weren't so good and trying to put them right and do better," adds the midfielder, who watched the closing stages of the game between Kaiserslautern and forthcoming opponents Hannover that kicked off the league campaign on Friday night. "I saw the last 20 minutes and they were probably the most exciting. Hannover ended up losing from a late set piece," says Irvine as the bus approaches the last stop at Niendorfer Strasse.

Talking of losing. "Hannover were the only team we lost to twice last season, weren't they?" asks Irvine before supplying the answer himself. "No, they weren't, we lost both games against Darmstadt as well. We didn't score against Hannover, though, so we have to make amends." The midfielder is expecting an "exciting game" against decent opposition. "We go to Hannover feeling very confident after the win against Nürnberg, but we know we're in for a tough game. They lost their opening match and will do everything they can to get the first three points against us. We're focusing on ourselves and will go into the match well prepared," says Irvine, who is determined to do his utmost to get a result from the opening away game. He'll be travelling on the team coach then, however, and not the No5 bus, which has now reached its final destination. And hopefully he'll have three points in the bag when he comes back.

Photos: Witters