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Østigård: "I've always tried to show it's no risk playing me"

Few people knew the name when FC St. Pauli signed Leo Østigård on loan from Premier League club Brighton Hove & Albion just before the season started. The centre-back delivered some excellent performances in the first half of the season, however, and now needs no introduction. We took the opportunity to speak to the 20-year-old Norwegian before the winter break about...

...his move to the Millerntor: "When I heard St. Pauli were interested, I called Mats to get some information on the club and the kind of football they play. I knew Mats a little and he only had positive things to say, which obviously made it easier for me to choose St. Pauli. My expectations have been met in the six months I've been here."

...his start with the club: "I picked up an injury straightaway in the friendly at Heerenveen and was kept out of action by a calf strain, which was very tough for me but that's football. I worked hard to come back stronger and be ready when needed."

...his debut at Dresden: "I came on towards the end of the game. The atmosphere there was special and the so was the game. We went 3-0 up but when I came on it was only 3-2. Unfortunately, we ended up conceding an equaliser. It wasn't how I'd envisaged my debut going and the result was obviously very disappointing for us as a team."

...his first start: "That was a very special game, of course, the atmosphere was amazing! I only found out I was playing two-and-a-half hours before kick-off and I was a bit nervous, I have to admit. I tried to stay calm but it wasn't so easy. I hadn't played in such a big game before. I'd played in front of 16,000 fans in Norway, but there were 30,000 at the derby. The nerves disappeared when the game kicked off, though, I stopped thinking about it too much. It ended up being a fantastic evening! I'm sure I'll never forget it. It was a huge experience for me."

Leo Østigård screams with joy after victory in the derby!

Leo Østigård screams with joy after victory in the derby!

...the run of nine games without a win: "It was a difficult time for all of us. We were giving our all and not losing by much and sometimes we only surrendered the points late on. It was as if everything was going against us somehow. Even a 2-0 lead against Karlsruhe wasn't enough for three points, which took some getting over. It went on for longer than we wanted but we kept our belief and finally got back to winning ways in the crunch game against Wehen Wiesbaden."

...his personal take so far: "Although the results weren't what we were hoping for, the first half of the season was positive from my point of view. I started almost every match when I wasn't injured, which was important. I tried to learn things and improve my game every week. I felt at home at the club right away and the fans are outstanding. I've enjoyed every game. I was really pleased to gain the trust of the coach. Not every coach decides to give young players a chance and give them regular games. I'm still young but he isn't afraid to throw me on. I've always tried to show it's no risk playing me."

...his strength in the air: " I started training with my father when I was still very small. My dad played football himself. He was really good in the air and scored lots of goals. He's even three centimetres shorter than me. I've never been scared of going up for challenges in the air even though I'm not the tallest at 1.83 m (6'0"). Being good in the air is all about timing as well as having a good spring, but it's not just winning the ball that's important, it's also about getting it to a teammate. That doesn't always come off, but I'm working hard to ensure it does as often as possible."

...his first goal for the club: "I haven't had reason to celebrate just yet despite having the odd chance or two. My biggest chance was against Bochum, but I didn't take it. I won't let it get to me, though, I'll keep trying. My career is still just starting but I've already got a few goals; I've scored ten in 40 games for Norway at youth level. One day I'll get my first goal for St. Pauli."

Leo Østigård came within a whisker of scoring his first goal for the club against Bochum.

Leo Østigård came within a whisker of scoring his first goal for the club against Bochum.

...the restart in late January: "We know we can perform better and improve our results because we have the quality to do so. Some of the lads will be back from injury and increase the competition for places. We want to make a good start, of course, so we have to learn the mistakes from the first half of the season and work hard during the winter break. I'm confident we can do that and have a better second half."

...the constant changes in central defence: "We had to keep switching things round due to injuries. That's something no central defender wants really because actually you're trying to build a 'relationship' with just one other centre-back. I've played alongside James, Buba, Zier and Knolli and spoken lots to each of them before the game and after. The changes haven't been a problem for me, I've had a good understanding on the pitch with all of them and always tried to do my best alongside them."

Leo Østigård and Marvin Knoll formed the central defensive pairing on two occasion during the first half of the season.

Leo Østigård and Marvin Knoll formed the central defensive pairing on two occasion during the first half of the season.

Photos: Witters

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