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With the 2020/21 season done and dusted, head coach Timo Schultz and director of sport Andreas Bornemann looked back at the campaign and offered some conclusions at a press conference held towards the end of the recent "quarantine training camp".

Timo Schultz and Andreas Bornemann on…

…the players who surprised them:

Andreas Bornemann: "It wouldn't be fair to single anyone out, but it was amazing to see Guido Burgstaller play like he'd been with us a couple of years even though he'd struggled for a while at Schalke and then got injured in his second game for us and was sidelined for several weeks. Leart Paqarada has also made good progress after taking some time to settle in, but there was no one player who surpassed all the expectations."

Timo Schultz: "Leart Paqarada came on really well as the season wore on, but so did Rico Benatelli, Philipp Ziereis and Luca Zander. Rico's assurance on the ball spread to all of his teammates, especially in the phases when things weren't going so well. I don't think the players are finished in their development, though. They have the potential to become even better."

…moments to cherish:

Timo Schultz: "There were lots of little moments, for sure. When I'm at the Kollau early in the morning having a cup of tea with the kitman, those are the moments that strike an emotional chord. Or when I think of the time we took the lead against Regensburg with a free-kick we'd been practising for ages. The game at Hannover where Igor scored right at the end is another of those moments. It doesn't have to be a huge goal every time, it's also the little things when you see all the hard work in training paying off."

…tough decisions this season:

Timo Schultz: "There were no decisions I had to make from one day to the next. We stayed true to our approach. We infused our values into the way we want to play football and work in training. We were never going to stray from that because we'd have lost all our credibility otherwise. We have our values and our identity. We wanted to be brave, creative, play attacking football and then do the analysis with the lads. Tough decisions are a feature of that, of course, but I stand by them 100 percent. Making unpopular decisions is part of your job as a coach. When we in the football management feel there's no alternative to a decision because it's the best for the group, we see it through. We've been open and honest in our communications with the lads and that's the crucial thing for me."

…improvements needed for the future:

Andreas Bornemann: "Which players come and go is the essence, though everything surrounding the coaching team, the backroom team and all the different processes is at least just as important. The infrastructure is where the club has the biggest latitude and room for improvement in my opinion. I'm glad there's so much interest in addressing the problem and finding solutions on the various boards and committees. The desire to develop in this area is there. I'm also glad we could welcome a new groundsman on 1 April who's there day in, day out and bringing in new ideas. A different awareness of pitches will develop inside the club as a result."

...the coming season:

Timo Schultz: "It's difficult to judge at the moment. There'll be lots of big players in the league operating with a totally different budget. We already have ideas about the makeup of the squad and the kind of football we want to play, so maybe we're a step ahead of some teams in that respect. I have the second half of the season in my head, but as coach I know we'll have a different team in an incredibly attractive league. It wouldn't be serious to say how things will go at this stage. We can talk about it in more specific terms in late July, early August."

Andreas Bornemann: "We would do well to prepare for the new season as well as we can and get off to a better start. Stability is simply so important, but in a league with so many good teams it's tough to achieve stability on a certain level. We aren't running away from ambition. It might sound hackneyed, but we want to develop and improve on every level of the football club. Schulle and I won't get bored trying to drive that forward."

…possible transfer targets for next season:

Timo Schultz: "The way I've defined my job is that I work with the players and develop the players who are here. That's my job, whether they're on loan or under contract. We wouldn't have any objections to getting some of the loan players back, of course, but we don't have the whip hand there. We're in close conversation as far as new signings are concerned and in close consultation with every player here. We defined our position on where we see a need to do business weeks ago. We'd be one step further if we could fill Rodrigo's position with a perspective. We have lots of good lads who we believe can take the next step next year, so it won't be easy to find better players. Everything we do we do calmly and with conviction and within the financial means at our disposal. We've done a good job in the background so far. The foundations are very stable, and if we can dot a few more i's here and there, we'll have a powerful squad. Then we'll start from scratch again in a very attractive league next season needing to find our feet and put the focus on training."

…matches without fans and their return to football:

Timo Schultz: "As head coach I haven't experienced anything else at the Millerntor, but I've been here 15 years and know the roof would have come off against Darmstadt with the crazy ending to the game and against HSV with Kofi's late winner. I feel sorry for the lads who were only with us a year or half a year. The fans would have been a big help to us for some of the draws and narrow defeats in the first half of the season. It would be outstanding to start the new season with fans again, but looking at it soberly and realistically it isn't up to us. We have to wait and see what the government and the authorities decide. We all hope that fans can be allowed back in, of course."

Andreas Bornemann: "Anyone who's been at the Millerntor when it's sold out knows the incredible energy it can give you. I never would have thought these circumstances would accompany us a whole season the way they did, so it's all the harder for me to venture a guess as to what will happen. You could almost call it ideal if a certain number of spectators were allowed back for the start of the season, though obviously that wouldn't meet with too much approval from the organised fans. We all hope we can play in front of fans again soon, it's a big wish of mine."


Photos: Witters