We played at Dusseldorf on Monday night. They were two points above us in the table so it was a big game. It ended up 0-0 after a very competitive battle in which we played for 20 minutes with ten men. But the draw keeps us in contention for third place, which is the play-off spot with third bottom from Bundesliga 1. There are six games left in total, three of which come next week as we play Saturday-Tuesday-Friday. So not a lot of recovery time but I always loved the way the games came thick and fast in English football so I'm looking forward to it all!
20th March 2012
Took advantage of a day off and came to London today. Maybe it's the influence of my book making me miss the place! It's only a whistle stop trip but the weather is beautiful so it's well worth it. First thing I did when I arrived at my appartment was to get the old basketball out of the cupboard and head down to the park with my wife to shoot some hoops - always a lot of fun.
I love the spring time. Hearing the birds sing and smelling the fresh green grass when you are training is such a wonderful thing. Unfortunately we lost 2-1 on Sunday, even though we were 1-0 up at half time. We were pushing for a second and third goal, too, but just didn't take our chances. Meanwhile Erzgebirge took both of their chances from literally nothing. But sometimes it just goes that way.
We're still in the promotion race but we've certainly made life harder for ourselves and the next two games are going to be crucial.
I had breakfast with my old mate Leddy this morning. He used to be my goal celebration coach. But we didn't discuss any of that this time. Last time we talked about it, it took me four and a half years to score again so it clearly wasn't a conversation that helped me!
I've been receiving loads of really nice emails about my book - so many that I'm struggling to reply to them all! But I do read every single one and I'm really greatful for all the kind words...
14th March 2012
A successful Monday night for us against Karlsruher. We were under pressure to get three points because most teams around us in the table had quite convincing wins over the weekend so we needed a result to stay in the mix.
But it was a hard fought win courtesy of a stunning goal - a volley that dipped over the keeper - from...ME!!! I've got to say, scoring a match-winning goal like that in front of a home crowd was absolutely fantastic and gave me a real lift.
And now I can't wait to play the next game, which is on Sunday away to Erzgebirge. The boys tell me this is never a nice trip but we'll do our best to add to the points tally.
8th March 2012
Played away at 1860 Munich on Monday night and drew 1-1, which was a disappointing result for us as we threw our lead away with two minutes to go. At that point in the game we were defending well and weren't in any great danger. But we gave a way a silly goal and therw away two points, not to mention the opportunity for us to break away from Munich in the league standings.
Despite the result, it was a very enjoyable game - lots of defending so I was kept busy. And it was a great pitch at the Allianz Arena, too. But we'll go again next week and try and get back to winning ways.
I was cheering on the Gunners in the Champions League this week. It was a big ask to come back from the 4-0 defeat in Milan, and I wasn't even watching the game to begin with. But once I heard they'd got two early goals I had to go down to a bar to see the rest of the game. By the time I arrived they'd just got the penalty to make it 3-0 before half time. But for the second time in a week, it was a another disappointing evening in the end, despite a great effort. I think they'd given themselves too mcuh to do from the first leg. They gave their all, though, and did the fans proud. But overall I'm pleased to see Arsenal playing so well and looking good for a Champions League spot.
And I'm also really pleased to see Fulham doing so well and getting another great result last Sunday. Who knows, they might get another sniff of Europe again if things keep going the way they are.
3rd March 2012
We drew our last game 0-0 at home to Braunschweig. It was another clean sheet for us, so positive from a defensive perspective but there weren't too many clear cut chances to score so we need to look to improve our attacking options going forward. The result meant we dropped a place in the League to third, but it's very tight at the moment.
We've got 1860 Munich away next. They're on a very good run at the moment so it will be a tough game. Because it's so tight you really pay the price with every point you drop. But it works the other way to - you could go from fifth place to top in one weekend. So it's very exciting for everyone involved and hopefully we can carry on the good work. I'm really looking forward to playing Munich's famous Allianz Arena again. We played Bayern there last season but it will be great to go back and hopefully get a win.
I've been continuing my restaurant tour of Hamburg and ticked another off this past week, and more importantly my book came out last Tuesday! We had a media launch for it which was a great success. The book is in German and is called "Our Man In London" and its all about my love affair with the city I called home for so long. As such I gave the media launch an English feel and served fish and chips with mushy peas in old newspaper followed by bread and butter pudding and scones with clotted cream. It was a great success and the book is doing really well already which is great news. Will keep you posted on how things continue to progress...
21st February 2012
Second win in a row for us after beating Duisburg last Friday night - and there is nothing better than a good win on a Friday night to put some pressure on the other teams playing over the weekend. We were top of the League overnight which was great and it was great for us defenders to keep a clean sheet. So now its about building on this solid footing and trying to keep going.
Had a trip to Berlin on my day off last week to see the Gerhard Richter art exhibition. It was great to see and if I ever won the lottery I'd happily spend it on one of his pieces.
I've started going through my Hamburg Restaurants book - took some friends out to Jellyfish recently. They specialise in hand or line-caught fish. Was a great meal in a place I would never have gone to had I not had the book...on to the next one!
13th February 2012
We had a game yesterday against Bochum. It was my first home game since the injury and it was great to back there again in front of a full house - despite the cold! I'm pleased to say it was a 2-1 win for us, which was an important result for keeping in in touch with the teams above us and it was a good reaction to last week's defeat.
I played right back this week, and got through the whole 90 minutes without any problems once again. I'm now starting to feel like I'm getting into the regular match rhythm which is where you want to be as a player, and I'm now looking forward to our next game, which is away this Friday.
Last week I held a finished copy of my forthcoming book in my hand for the first time, which was a very exciting moment. I've not really let anyone know about the book project but it's been on the cards for a couple of years now after I was approached by a German publisher to write a book about my time in England. So that's what I've been doing over the past few months. It's been a lot of fun and now I can reap the rewards by holding an actual copy in my hands.
The book comes out in Germany on March 1st, and I'll be doing a fair bit of press over here to promote it.
So good news on all fronts...and for those of you who don't speak fluent Geramn, if it does well here, who knows, maybe they'll translate it!
6th February 2012
I'm delighted to say I made my comeback at the weekend after being out for many months with a broken leg. I played the whole 90 minutes in our league game against Alemannia Aachen. Unfortunately we lost, which wasn't the desired start but we made things hard for ourselves by conceding two early goals which was tough to come back from, especially in the current conditions. We did get one back just before half time but we couldn't manage to create enough in the second half against a very defensive opposition. But the result aside, it was just great to be back out there competing, and fortunately for us some other teams around us in the league also slipped as well so we're still in amongst the promotion race.
My wife threw me a little brunch birthday party with 20 or so friends not long ago, which was very pleasant. You won't be surprised to hear the event involved lots of nice food! And one of my presents was a book about 12 different Hamburg restaurants which I'll be working through over the next few weeks! Lots of new things to try off the pitch, and back on the pitch we start our preparations again on Tuesday for our forthcoming home game against Bochum next Sunday...
25th January 12
We just got back from week's training camp in between Alicante and Valencia in Spain. The winter break is still on in Germany so we went out to get ready for the second half of the season in decent weather conditions, and I have to say it was perfect for pretty much the whole week. That meant I spent my 29th birthday in the sunshine, which was nice, although being on a training camp meant there wasn't much time for celebrating with two sessions a day.
Over all we had a good time out there but I'm glad to be home and sleeping in a comfortable bed again and being able to make my own food! It's definitely helped us prepare for our up-coming games which start on Saturday week and we're all very much looking forward to getting going again.
I also saw my first bit of live Spanish football when we went to the cup game between Valencia and Levante, which Valencia won 4-1. It was certainly evident that Spanish football was played in a different way, but it was exciting to see and there were lots of goals. And I've always wanted to go to the Mestalla so I got to tick that one off - definitely a highlight of the trip!
8th January 12
Happy New Year to everyone. I spent some time in London during the winter break and managed to squeeze in a quick guest appearance on Soccer Am last Saturday, which was a lot of fun as usual. It's been nice to have some time off - it was almost three weeks in total, although I did have a running schedule to follow. I also managed a few days in the sun in Miami, which included a trip to an NBA game to watch the Heat play against Boston which was a very exciting experience. The Americans really like to make an event out of their sports!
I also got to see Fulham play just before Christmas. That, too, was an event, but for all the wrong reasons as they goot stuffed 5-0 by Man United. But despite that it was nice to get a taste of the Cottage.
Christmas was business as usual in the Volz house - red cabbage, potato dumplings and some nice meat. Unfortunately we missed out on the Rev's Christmas service after his little accident. We'll let him off - I think he suffered enough with the broken nose and stitches!
6th December 11
I'm off the injured list! As of last week I've been training again with the team and I've even played my first games with the reserves, too. Last Wednesday I played 75 minutes at the Millerntor Stadium, and then
I played in an away game at the weekend and got through the full 90 minutes. I'm pleased to say I'm feeling much better for getting out on the pitch and being involved in matches again. We have two more games to go with the first team before the winter break so that's two weeks to really push on for St Pauli.
The weather conditions are really starting to change here now. Today was the nastiest day of the year so far - we had the first bit of snow and some hail storms and cold wind as well. But we were still out there on the training pitch. We're still sitting in fourth place just a few points off the top so there is everything to play for.
Christmas preparations have started to get into full swing now and I've made my first outing to a Christmas Market already. As always there was some nice food to be sampled but I didn't go crazy although I did manage one or two cakes - and it won't be my only trip between now and and Christmas!
18th November 11
Am waiting for another doctor's check at hospital in Hamburg at the moment but things are still going well. I'm doing part of the team training now and am hoping to participate fully within the next week or so. I've built up a lot of strength in my leg recently. Some movements still hurt but the pain is much more tolerable now and I think I'm almost there, which is great.
Winter's finally arrived. Here in Hamburg the temperature has dropped to just above freezing, although I'm hoping the snow will wait a little longer as I'm not yet ready for all that!
I had the pleasure of seeing the Germans beat Holland here in Hamburg last week, which, although cold, was very interesting to see and certainly pleasing on the eye as the German team has some very promising players. These aren't necessarily young players anymore either - these are guys who have been playing regularly for club and country over the past couple of years now but who have really grown into those roles. I'm talking about players like Ozil and Muller - they may only be 22, 23, but they have quite a bit of experience now.
I really think the German public are excited about fotball again which hasn't been the case in a while. The atmosphere was great and I was singing along to the national anthem. And its always nice to get one over on your rivals, which the Dutch certainly are for us.
7th November 11
We drew 2-2 with Greuther Furth at the weekend - a late goal conceded by us after a good comeback was disappointing but a draw was probably a fair result looking at the game overal,l even though for us it felt like two points lost. But we're still in touching distance of the top group and hope to keep pushing after the international break.
My rehab is going well. I'll be increasing the football part of the work over the next couple of weeks. It's nice to be back on the pitch with the boys kicking balls around. I'm not totally pain free but I can tolerate the pain I have and my leg is getting used to the loading and the football-specific movements.
I had fun doing a radio show for the St Pauli radio station the other day. Yes, my football club has its own station...! If you check the website you might be able to download the playlist they asked me to get together. With all my gym work, I've had a lot of time to listen to new music these past few months so it's worth checking out!
i was at a 10th birthday party of one of my favourite Hamburg hotels the other day. It's the place where I lived for almost three months when I first joined St Pauli. It was a great party - great music, great food and a lot of fun.
27th October 11
I had my friend Benny over at the weekend - I played with him in the Schalke youth team and in various age groups of the German national team, too. He came with his girlfriend to spend a night in Hamburg and he also came to see our game against Frankfurt, which we won to cement our place in the top four. In Bundesliga 2, the top two sides get automatic promotion and third and fourth play off for the the other promotion spot, so we're right there in amongst the group. I don't think we're actually firing on all cylinders yet but we are managing to get the wins on the board.
I'm just on my way in to training now. The good news is that I've been on the pitch kicking balls again, and I'm building up the strength in my legs so hopefully I can move forward without any set-backs.
I had a bit of a freak incident yesterday. I was sitting in a photocopy shop and this stranger starts talking to me, so I look up and realise that he isn't a stranger at all but my doctor from Munich! That was an odd one! I then found out that his family actually live in Hamburg and he's here every other weekend so maybe I can start saving myself a few of these trips down there...!
I've just downloaded the new Coldplay album which I'll look forward to listening to while working on my fitness.
23rd October 11
Ive been peddling away on the exercise bike today to the sounds of Kanye, Jay-Z and The Naked & Famous - some of the music that's been keeping my spirits up during this long phase of rehabilitation.
Last week included more doctors visits. I'm still recovering from the last operation which was three weeks ago, but the aim now is to push on and increase the training load now that the wound has settled down and the swelling has gone.
I'm still experiencing a little pain, but the doctors have said that its ok to push myself through a little bit of discomfort as it is just one of the repercussions of the operation. Hopefully next wek I'll be able to get out on to the pitch and get my boots on once again and kick a few balls. It's all about trying out different movements and that will determine when I'll be able to join up with the rest of the lads again.
The highlight of last week came on Wednesday when I watched the Champions League at the invitation of a friend who, by coincidence, is running a fish shop close to where I live, and who has what I can only describe as a football theatre in the cellar of his shop where ten of us gathered. We were VERY well fed and the night finished on a high after Ramsay put that goal in for Arsenal. Good to see them showing an ability to grind out results and I really do think the fancy football with come the more more these guys play together.
2nd October 11
After two weeks of treatment in Munich I had another MRI scan on my leg and we took the decison to take some more of the metal out of my leg, so I had two more of the fixation screws at the top of my shin taken out a couple of days ago.
i was glad to get it arranged as quickly as I did. We only had the pictures of the MRI on Thursday and by Friday lunchtime I was on the operating table. It was another local anesthetic situation but the doctor did a good job and it only took about 45 minutes - and I got to keep the screws!
Now I've got to rest my leg for a week after hopefully my knee won't hurt as much as it had been which will mean training with the team will be on the cards!
28th September 2011
I went to see the Champions League tie in Munich last night where Bayern took on Man City. While I'm down here in Munich getting treatment and continuing with my rehab I thought I'd make the most of the situation - its always good to watch Champions League football. The Allianz Arena is a fantastic stadium and the atmosphere was good, as was the game. Although I felt Man City were a little disappointing overall. Even though they got into the game, they didn't really show any resistance after Bayern went ahead and didn't really create anything of note going forward - which isn't what you expect given their attacking line-up.
Maybe it's just a case of City adjusting to the Champions League - after all they are the new boys. And the current Bayern side is very strong and has a lot of pace thanks to players like Schweinsteiger and Ribery who are in top form right now and are among the best in the world. It's a tough group for City and it will be interesting to see how far they can get.
After my treatment I had a bit of time to kill before the game so I walked over the the Oktoberfest where a fair few of the Man City fans had congregated. It was all a bit too hectic for me but I still managed to try some nice food - bratwurst and a couple of other regional things.
I also bumped into Steve Kean at the game - who was Assistant Manager to Chris Coleman when I was at Fulham. He was out there watching Man City as they are Blackburn's next opposition. It was nice to have a quick catch up - that's one of the things I really like about going to games as you always tend to bump into someone you know!
7th September 2011
Rehab is still going well. I'm hoping I might be able to train with the team next week, but failing that then certainly the week after. But I'm definitely getting closer to a return which is a relief.
The end of the transfer window brought a manic flurry of activity as usual. There are always a few surprises as the clocks ticks away on that last day in August, and this year was no different, particularly in the case of my old club, Arsenal.
I'm not sure anyone really saw the Arteta and Benayoun moves coming but I'm looking forward to seeing how they get on and I'm hoping they'll help stabilise the situation there. They're both decent players, and along with the addition of the big German at the back, Per Mertesacker, it can't go wrong! That was a great bit of business to get him for £8m - an absolute bargain if you ask me...
That's it for now. More soon...
17th August 2011
I'm now in the final stages of my rehab from the broken leg. I'm doing a lot of work on the pitch one-on-one with the rehab coaches - kicking balls, passing, shooting etc. That's all going very well. The only thing I'm still struggling a bit with is sprinting and multi-directional stuff which is still giving me some pain in my knee and shin area. But I'm working hard on that and I'm confident that we'll get to the route of that particular problem very soon as part of my daily rehab. Once we get that right I should be able to to join the lads and start training.
It's been a long time out for me and obviously the season's already kicked off so I'm keen to get back as soon as possible. It's been a good start overall, the only real disappoinment being our exit from the cup at the hands of a Fourth Division team. But after four League games, we're top of the table with ten points having already faced some tough away games. We're by no means 100% perfect but the boys are playing well and getting the right results, and I think the longer the season goes on, the better we'll gel together and get the new boys fully intergrated. But as I'm sure you can imagine, being top after four games means the atmosphere around the place is very good at the moment.
Was great to see the English season get underway - obviously the Premier League, but also the Championship and Leagues One and Two as well. And the Champions League, of course. I didn't see the Arsenal v Udinese game yesterday but was watching it by getting text updates - which was quite a sweat-inducing experience, especially in the second half when Arsenal were getting pelted by the sound of it. But I'm glad they got a result and hope they can seal the deal away in Italy next week. The Champions League wouldn't be the same without Arsenal in it.
It's been a tough year for the Gunners and I keep hearing all these opinions saying that Arsene Wenger should spend all those millions he apparently has at his disposal. But I get quite frustrated about all that. My view is that even if you do have money to spend, you shouldn't spend it for the sake of spending it. After the likes of Man U, Chelsea, Man City, Real Madrid and Barca have had their pick there isn't really much left in the market to really improve Arsenal's squad. But I really do hope they have a good season this year.
That's it for now. More soon...
11th July 2011
We did our annual summer signing session outside the stadium the other day, after which the fans were invited to watch us train. As always it was a long signing session - I reckon we topped three hours!
All the friendlies are played now and we kick off the season for real on Saturday.Yestreday I managed to run for the first time since having my screws removed. I was supposed to rest for at least ten days, which I did, but I was happy with what I achieved yesterday and hopefully I'm well on the way now. I've got to slowly increase the running every day to allow my body to get used to things once again. But hopefully my leg should build up gradually and I'll be able to join the team very soon.
Today I spent the afternoon in a big park in Hamburg that I'd never been to before. I got quite caught up watching a big group of Peruvians - about 80 of them - having a big get-together. They had some meat on the grill, played traditional music and had about three football matches going on. It was fun to watch, and a bit different to watching Sunday League football in England - maybe a touch more skillfull but no less passionate!
30th June 2011
We're two and a half weeks into pre-season now, and I'm continuing on my rehab programme following the leg break in March. We've been to our first training camp which was located just outside of Hamburg. That gave the lads a good chance to get used to the new management and the new style of training and playing, as well as giving the new players a chance to integrate.
But it wasn't all work - we had a day out at a fun park too! We went on a few crazy rides and I even surprised myself about how brave I was...especially when it came to the 70m high tower that you then drop from. I'd never have done that as a kid. I cried when my mum took me on a big wheel! It's amazing what you'll do for team building...
The season is only just over a couple of weeks away. For me it's obviously going to take a little longer but hopefully not too much. I had some minor surgery this week to remove one of the screws in my leg and that will hopefully speed up the healing process. The procedure was done under local anesthetic - which is a bit weird because you become very aware all of a sudden of the fact you have metal in your leg!
But overall, things are all fine and I'm making good progress.
13th June 2011
We start pre-season at St Pauli tomorrow. I'm still doing rehab after the leg break so I won't be involved with the team straight away but I'm hoping to be back and available to be playing for the start of the season - that's my target anyway.
I'm really looking forward to meeting up with the lads again. We've got some new faces in the door and some have left us, and we also have a new manager as well.
But overall I can't wait to get going, get a good pre-season in, and then mount a really strong challenge with my team mates in Bundesliga 2. Will keep everyone posted with progress over the coming weeks.
6th May 2011
Congratualtions to Man United on getting to the Champions League Final. It'll be a great game against Barca, who are the best team in football history in my opinion. But I still think United are in with a chance - it's probably about 70-30 in favour of Barca but you can never rule out Man U.
I'm also especially delighted for Edwin Van der Sar to be playing in such a prestigious game at the end of his final season before he retires. I really hope he can leave with a winner's medal because it's nothing less than he deserves. He's such a role model to everyone in footbball - a real gentleman and a truly great player. So for once I'll be rooting for Man U which doesn't happen very often! My mate Leddy is a mad Man U fan but he reckons it's more important to beat Chelsea tomorrow and top Liverpool's League title record. Who knows, maybe they'll do both...
I had a hair cut the other day. My barber Phil told me that he was either going to be a chef or a hair dresser. In the end he chose hair dressing and has been doing it for 24 years now, but he was telling me how the two professions have a lot in common. So I'm just letting everyone know that in case my barnet looks like a salad.
The leg is doing well, and much to my surprise it doesn't even set off the security alarms at the airport. But all is progressing nicely and I hope to be running again in the very near future...
29th April 2011
Have been to the gym to get my rehab session out of the way for today before the big occasion. First and foremost, huge congratulations to William and Catherine on their wedding. I hope they are having a great day. There are so many celebrations going on up and down the country with people here from all over the world. I've never seen so many Union Jacks in my life! It's a great occasion that really brings everyone together - over five and a half thousand street parties across the country which is incredible. And I'll be joining my friends for a bit of a celebratory lunch, too.
Apart from that, things are going well. Fulham had a great result midweek which was good to see. I cycled past the stadium on my way back from rehab and was surprised how many people recognised me - but I was on my bike, which gives things away a bit!
The rehab is going well. I've been to see the doctor at Fulham who did an ultra-sound scan on the leg and seemed very happy with the healing progress and how well I'm walking so encouraging signs all round.
Once the wedding is over, my attentions will be turning to tonight's big game for my team mates back at St Pauli. We play Kaiserslautern in what is a must-win game for us as we desperately need three points to lift us off the bottom of the table and give us a chance of survival in the Bundesliga this season. So I'll probably seek out a German bar somewhere to cheer on the boys. I've got to admit that I have a good feeling about it and that we'll get a win - I hope so as Its' certainly a big one...
14th April 2011
Happy Easter everyone - hope you've all been enjoying the amazing weather we've been having here in England. What great timing for me to come back and do a bit of rehab work on the leg!
My Easter revelation is that I was finally able to tuck into some soft ice cream again - I believe it's called a Mr Whippy in this part of the world. I actually ate myself to the point of discomfort with that stuff while on holiday in Ireland as a kind and I haven't been able to touch one since. But cycling past the ice cream vans everyday on my journey to and from the gym, the temptation gradually got the better of me and eventually I couldn't resist. As you can see from the photo, soft ice cream has finally made a comeback and, I have to say, it was GREAT!!!
All is going well with the rehab work on the broken leg and hopefully my x-ray at the beginning of May will look good and allow me to start running again.
It was a disappointing result for St Pauli over the weekend, and one that makes maintaining our Bundesliga status a really tough challenge. We've got three games to go and we'll need all the support we can get. It really is time to pull our sleeves up and give it all we've got but we're still believing...
14th April 2011
Quick update before I head to the gym for more rehab. It's been a while since the last one but I've been pretty busy getting through some painful sessions. But the good news is that the doctors and physios are all happy with my progress since the operation and I'm off the crutches now. They told me I could put weigth through the leg immediately after the surgery but the pain involved soon put a stop to that for a few days!
But to be without crutches just over three weeks since the break happened is a great sign. It's strange as I'm kind of having to learn to walk again - particularly without a limp! The swelling is now almost gone, too, as are the stitches, so I'm certainly through the worst of it. Now it's all about getting on with the rehab, keeping the swelling at bay, building up the muscles and getting the movement back again.
29 March 2011
It's the day after the operation and I'm glad to report that I'm feeling much better than I was yesterday. For anyone who happened to come into contact with me yesterday, I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise for my behaviour - its amazing what the influence of heavy drugs and extreme pain can do! I really hope I didn't cause too much trouble but let's just say I was definitely feeling the aftermath of having a great big metal rod shoved down the centre of my shin bone! But now it's in place, I'm pretty confident my new bionic leg won't break so easily again!
I've posted a couple of pics for you - the first shows me in my hospital bed holding the rod that would later end up inside my bone, and below that is an xray taken after the operation which shows the rod in place, screws and all!
Today I'm still in hospital having the wound looked after and doing some physio to take care of the swelling and get some movement back. Amazingly I've been told by the doctors that I can actually put my full body weight through the broken leg which is hard to believe - and will certainly take a bit more time for me to get confident enough to do! But I'm already walking up and down the hallway on my crutches and as its sunny outside I might try and get some fresh air later which will be a nice change having been stuck in bed for five days.
The doctors have said the procedure went very well and that I should be up and running in no time which is great news, and I'm glad the worst of it is all over. Now I'm just really looking forward to going home even though everyone here at the hospital has been taking such good care of me.
I'd also like tao say a big thanks for all the nice emails and get-well messages I've been getting - they really are appreciated..
27 March 2011
As you may have heard, my season came to an abrupt end last Thursday when I broke my leg in training. It was just one of those things, unfortunately. It was nobody's fault - I just went in for a tackle and ended up breaking my shin bone. So right now I'm in hospital waiting to have a 30cm titanium pin inserted into my tibia. Luckily it was a clean break so I was given the option regarding surgery, but without the op I would be looking at 10-12 weeks in plaster whereas with the op I could be running again in around 6-8 weeks. What's more when you're in plaster for that amount of time you can't do any rehab work at all, whereas going down the surgery route means no plaster and therefore the ability to get on the bike and start swimming pretty much as soon as the wound has healed. So with all that in mind it was a no brainer to go for the op.
As mentioned, my season's over now - which is a bit of a blow as I was getting a good run of games going, and also we are already very short on defensive cover AND in a relegation battle. So it's a real pity I can't be there to do my bit. But my aim is to be back and fully fit for the start of pre-season and in the meantime I'll be cheering the boys on from the stands.
20 March 2011
I'm writing this from Frankfurt airport where I'm sitting waiting to fly home having just been beaten by Eintracht Frankfurt. Since we beat SV in the Hamburg derby we've lost six in a row which has put us in the dire position of being stuck on 28 points and in a relegation battle which looks like going right down to the wire. But hopefully the boys and I will be able to turn it around and convert some of the decent displays we're putting on into wins so we can dig ourselves out of this situation. There are still plenty of teams around us points-wise so there is still everything to fight for. It's going to be a challenge but we're all very much up for it, no doubts about that. Hopefully we can work well during the coming international break and then we'll go again roaring into our next game at home to Schalke.
Apart from that, not too much has been happening other than playing but I'm naturally very happy that I've been involved on a regular basis once more. I've been occupying the left back slot a lot of late but its just great to be out there and getting games. But obviously the aim now is to start getting results.
In other news, I was delighted recently when we all got given the club's own Panini sticker album. So the disappointment I felt earlier in the season when I heard that Panini had sold their rights to the Bundesliga has finally been lifted! And now I'm eagerly collecting St Pauli stickers to put in my St Pauli album. I know it's not the World Cup but I'm making an exception as it's my club!
22 February 2011
Last week we had what we like to call in Germany "an English week"- which basically means we had a midweek fixture as they're quite rare here. But it was a big occasion as it was the rescheduled Hamburg derby against S.V. The game set the city alight last Wednesday, and I'm delighted that we managed to beat them 1-0 - which obviously caused a lot of joy for one half of the city but a lot of pain for the other, depending on who you support!
It was a great night for us as it was the first derby win in 33 years so it meant a lot to everyone involved and it was a great occasion to be involved in. We had to work very hard to keep a clean sheet and keep S.V. at bay, especially in the first half where they had the majority of the play.
Needless to say the celebrations afterwards where very special and to top it all off, Arsenal also beat Barca 2-1 on the same night. So great results all round. I'll certainly be tuning in to the away leg at the Camp Nou where hopefully Arsenal will have enough to overcome them once again and go through. I think that win was a huge psychological boost for Arsenal.
We also beat Monchengladbach last weeek. That was a game that I was involved in from the start, playing as a left-back. It didn't go so well on a personal level as it was my loose back pass that let them in to score but thankfully it turned out well in the end as we ended the game 3-1 winners and played very well. Unfortuantely we couldn't keep the run going against Dortmund on Saturday and were pretty much second best throughout the game and ended up losing 2-0 against the league leaders. Another great occasion to be involved in though, playing in front of 80,000 at a fantastic stadium. They're a great team at the moment and play really good football so they deserve to be where they are.
9 February 2011
I've just got back from an evening out with the youth group of our support group "Fanladen". They invited me and a teammate along for a round of bowling in an old battered cellar underneath an Italian restaurant.
I learned that: a) I'm still not any good at bowling (apart from my extraordinary talent for missing the lane but still scoring points); b) the merchandise of the club is selling rather well (the kids were wearing all the gear you can find in our merchandise catalog);
and c) that you can go to a restaurant without eating a three course meal (I would rather have missed out on that lesson!).
As I said the youth group is run by our fan project "Fanladen" who, as well as keeping the youngsters busy during the week, introduce them to supporting their team at the grounds without the lure of alcohol and cigarettes. They organise tickets and trips to games and make sure there will be a strong support for the club in years to come. It was a fun evening and no need for me to mention that my team went home winners!!
It also gave us a chance to get rid of some unused energy that wasn't needed on the weekend because the big local derby against HSV was called off the night before whilst we were all making pasta in the midst of preparation.
We have had three straight days of heavy rain and the newly laid pitch in that wonderful arena couldn't cope with it. What a shame. I really couldn't wait to play and soak up the noisy atmosphere that I got a taste of twice last season as a spectator during Fulham's spectacular Europa League run. We also wanted to build on our strong performance in our recent 3-0 win over Cologne. It was by far our best performance this season and meant we overtook Cologne in the table. Now we are all waiting to find out when the HSV game is going to be played but it will surely be after Saturday's home game against M'Gladbach which is a great opportunity for us to get more points on the board.
26 January 2011
We've played two games since the last update - at home to Freiburg and then away at Hoffenheim - and we drew them both 2-2. Both games we played well for periods and were leading until close to the final whistle so it hurt to have played well and done all the hard work and then drop points. After the Hoffenheim game in particular I think we all felt a bit like we'd lost rather than got a draw. But we'll kick on and we've got a good game against Cologne to look forward to at the weekend.
I also celebrated my 28th birthday last Friday. I had a really nice day and got plenty of cookbooks as presents - so either people know that I like cook books, or if I'm being cynical they're trying to drop a hint and tell me I need them!
11th January 2011
This weekend we were in Düsseldorf for our last test before we start the second half of our campaign. Although they haven't been in the top flight for over a decade they have built a remarkable arena with a fully retractable roof a few years ago and host an annual winter cup. We got to the final but were beaten on pens by Mönchengladbach. Now we're into the final week before the Freiburg game and I think we are well prepared after the short break. The temperatures are up and most of the snow and ice has melted which means we can train on grass again and I hope it stays that way as I'm not planning to ever compete in "Dancing on Ice" even though I quite like the gear they wear...
6th January 2011
Happy New Year everyone!! I'm back in the swing of things and the only New Year's resolution that made sense to me was to get back to posting regular updates and keeping you in the loop with happenings here in Hamburg.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first Christmas break although it was only a brief one. It gave me a chance to catch up with dear friends back in London that I didn't see very much of since moving in the summer. I, too, was caught up in the air traffic chaos surrounding Heathrow in the snow and spent two and half days waiting - and boarding several flights without getting anywhere. Guess I won't get any sympathy off Ian Holloway!!!
Now I'm hoping that we will not get any more snow and the temperatures lift so that we can train properly and get ready for Freiburg in less than two weeks. All the best wishes for the New Year.
5th October 2010
The international break couldn't have come at a better time as it allowed me to make a trip back to London to see friends and also to start sorting stuff to move over Germany after finally finding a flat in Hamburg. I'm delighted that I'm no longer going to be living like a nomad in a hotel without my own kitchen, bed and sofa and I can't wait to move in. I had a great few days in London and caught up with a lot of friends but it's good to go back to Germany knowing that I'll be settling somewhere properly now.
I made my first squad the weekend before last for the away game against Monchengladbach away. It was great to be involved with the team, to travel and to celebrate a win. Even though I didn't get on it was all positive steps in the right direction. I was also in the squad for last Friday night's game against Hannover. It was our third away win of the season and puts us at 9th in the table, which proves to everyone that we're well capable and on our way to reaching our targets for the season. So lots of positives on both the personal and the team fronts.
The only negative was a training ground accident last week. I got fouled in a game and my team mate fell on me awkwardly and ended up with a big cut on his calf that required surgery and stitches which will keep him out for a couple of weeks. So I wish him all the best and hope he'll be back soon.
The other challenge last week was the training ground dance I had to do. It was a forfeit at the end of a training exercise, and what's more I had to do the dance in a pink bib which I was already having to wear for missing the target on various other challenges. It's a regular thing we do, and if you don't happen to measure up in your challenge you have to do all sorts of nitty-gritty jobs while wearing this pink bib. To add insult to injury, losing another exercise meant I had the double whammy of not just dancing but dancing in pink! And to some really bad europop! And just to really rub it in, the photos landed in the tabloids!
I've got Soccer AM coming over in the next few days so I'm looking forward to that. We're going to be doing the legendary Crossbar Challenge so keep an eye out of that. I'm sure my boys will be well up for it. As you can probably tell, we're used to being given challenges to beat...!
Don't forget to also keep an ear out for my regular monthly stint on BBC World. You can hear the interviews on line and I'll be putting links up on here. I'm also going to be linking to the monthly magazine column I write here in Germany - but you'll have to speak German to understand it...
20th September 2010
The big local derby here in Hamburg was played yesterday, between my club St Pauli and the city's other Bundesliga side, SV Hamburg. As you can imagine, the build-up to the game seemed to go on for weeks and with a lot of local pride at stake, our approach seemed to be more about trying hard not to make any unnecessary mistakes rather than being particularly threatening. It was certainly a very intense and hard fought game, and the 1-1 scoreline was a bit of a disappointment for us having taken the lead in the 77th minute. The raw of excitement in our stadium when the ball went in was like nothing I've ever experienced before but unfortunately we didn't see our lead through and Hamburg equalised a couple of minutes from time.
So even though we'd have probably taken a point before the game, I think it always feels very deflating when you concede right at the end like that - almost like you've lost in a way. Being a two-club city, it's always a big deal when these two sides come together, especially as it hasn't happened very often, and this was the first one played at our stadium so it was certainly the focal point of the weekend for everyone here in Hamburg.
I've now played 90 minutes in three reserve games as I make my way back from the injury I picked up a few weeks back, and I've come through all of them really well. I've noticed a huge positive difference between the first game I played a couple of weeks back, and the third one last Friday and I'm now feeling really good. Hopefully I can stay that way and make my first team debut very soon. In the meantime I'm continuing to pick the confetti out of my hair having been showered in it at the game on Sunday...
9th September 2010
I've now been back in training for the past couple of weeks. I've obviously had a bit of catching up to do but I'm hoping to make my full debut in the next four to six weeks and start playing my part. Last Wednesday we had a friendly against a selection of non-league players from the Hamburg area. We won 5-1, I played 45 minutes and got on the scoresheet so a good afternoon all round.
At the weekend we had a small break due to the internationals so Sunday and Monday were rare rest days. Although I couldn't fully rest as I was part of a leaving party for a friend who is going to London. She decided to mark the event with a Dodge Ball competition so we all went back to school days. I found a decent outfit and then spent two hours in a hall playing Dodge Ball in a way that would make Will Ferrell very proud. It was a lot of fun.
Training started again on Tuesday and in the evening we had a function to attend. Basically the club invited its sponsors to our 100th Anniversary of St St Pauli exhibition which is hosted in these big shipping containers just outside the stadium, and it basically goes through the history of the club. It's a really great exhibition - the fact that its in these shipping containers shows that we've got some very creative people here, and reflects the fact that St Pauli is rooted in Hamburg and is proud of its heritage.
31 August 2010
The coaches sent us running in the park next to our training ground today. It wasn't for the weekend's loss at home to Hoffenheim, just a top up during the international break. Its all in the bank but I'm knackered this morning. If anyone finds my back please return to...
I got my first ninety minutes on Sunday afternoon for the reserves. In Germany there isn't a reserve league. The teams take part in the normal leagues and our reserves play in the equivalent of the Conference, just outside the professional leagues. We drew 2-2 and I came through it alright, coming home with a dead leg and a twisted ankle. Oh its good to be back. Unlike in England where you get a few days off to relax whilst the internationals are at it, we proceed as normal here and even stick in a couple of friendlies to stay sharp - or in my case to get sharp. Having missed some crucial games during the two weeks I was out I appreciate the chance to get more playing time and build my match practice up. Its the best way to get fit.
I'm going to be telling the story of my season at St Pauli as it happens with a monthly chat to BBC World Service's "World Football" show which is available as a podcast and online. I did the first one last week and you can hear it by clicking this link..if you have nothing better to do, which I'm sure you have! Eeach one will come out around the same time each month.
I'm back in training which is making me very happy for obvious reasons. The last two weeks were frustrating to say the least but I joined the lads yesterday and everything felt very good. No more hip pain and I don't think I have lost a lot of the fitness I acquired over the past few weeks.
Our season started last Saturday with the first round of the Cup. As usual there are some upsets and unforunately this year around it was our turn when we got beat 1-0 at Chemnitz. They scored from a set piece early on and defended very deep and very well for the rest of the game. We are very disappointed to go out so soon and I will have to wait another year to feature in the competition. Better luck next time.
One of the highlights since my last update was my visit to the hairdresser. As I had no idea where to go I asked around some of my team-mates for advise. In the end I went for the spontaneous option, an old fashioned Italian barbershop just around the corner from my hotel. I must have walked past it hundreds of times over the years without ever noticing it but it does walk-ins and I had only one gentleman before me.
Salvatore came to Germany in the late Sixties as a fifteen year old. He didn't speak a word then and had been working in a salon since he was nine. Normal in Sicily, but as so often when you move countries qualifications are not always accepted and he had to start from scratch. He stuck to scissors and razor blades and for the past twenty-one years has been running his own shop at the same spot. I was by far the youngest customer, the only one under fifty, but I know why the old generation like this place. No fancy gels, hip look-books or over hyped stylists. Within 45 minutes I got my post-War hair-do, a head massage and a brief history of the last twenty years in Hamburg. I will sure be back in a few weeks.
Preparations for Freiburg are on the way and we can't wait to kick off our campaign on Saturday. Hopefully I can train well this week and be part of it all.
Oh, and I recently did an interview with those nice people from Beyond The Pitch in California. If you want to hear it just click on this link:
10 August 2010
I still haven't trained yet due to this slight hip problem, which meant I also missed our last pre-season game at the weekend. I'm still a bit sore but the discomfort is definitely less than it was and this week will be about testing out what I can do - sprints, change of direction etc. I'm obviously desperate to rejoin training as soon as possible but I also know I've got to keep patient and let this little niggle heal up so it doesn't cause me any further problems.
We've got our first competitive game of the season on Saturday which isaway to Chemnitz in the cup, so I'm hoping I'll have been able to train enough by then to be involved. If it takes place that is. There has been a lot of heavy rainfall in that part of thh country and they've had floods and all sorts.
We had an open training session for the fans at the weekend, followed by the longest signing session in the history of the world. We sat there at tables for over three hours and signed everything imaginable - including the obligatory German sleeveless denim jacket. I also had to sign a baby grow that was actually being worn by a four month-old baby. That wasn't the easiest - for me or the baby!
Oh, and here's a pic of me in my St Pauli shirt...hope you like my side parting...!
6 August 2010
I still haven't trained this week. I tried to come back on Tuesday but was still feeling sore through my hip region. So the aim is now to get to be totally pain free. I'm doing a lot of work everyday with the various medical staff at the club so that I miss as little as possible of training and playing time. But despite the frustration there is no sense in playing through any pain. I'll be much better off in the long run if I can get this niggle sorted, which hopefully won't be too far away.
On a more positive note, I've received a few more Panini stickers from the various on-line swaps I've been doing. I'm now only 25 short of completing my album, but since I didn't manage to get it done before the end of the World Cup my new target is to have it all completed by the time the new season starts. I'll keep you posted!
2 August 2010
I have had to step down from training since Friday as I've been feeling my hip flexors in my left leg a little since last week's practice game against Kirchhellen. It's just a precaution - hopefully a bit of rest will settle it down and it'll improve this week so I can rejoin the group and take part in the remaining friendlies before the season kicks off against Chemnitz in the cup. It's obviously a big week so I'm keen to get back as soon as possible but I don't think this is anything too serious.
On Sunday night the whole team attended a special gala in honour of the 100th anniversary of St Pauli. It was staged by the club's ex-chairman in his own theatre and the whole place was kitted out in St Pauli colours and pirate flags in homage to all things St Pauli. There were a load of acts performing, too, each one taking a specific chapter of the club's history. It was very funny and true to where St Pauli is based, slap bang in the middle of the Reeperbahn, there was also a male and female strip act too! The team even had to get up on stage as well. Not to strip I might add, but to sing along to a song.
But while Sunday night was great fun, it was the events of Sunday morning that were the real highlight of my weekend as we went to see a gospel choir at an African church where some of my new team mates like to go. We were all invited as a team and the whole thing was such a great experience. It was all in English but translated back in to German for us, and it was very lively, very loud and very enthusiastic. The sermon reflected the fact that we were there but was very inspirational and all in all it was a great way to start the day.
It's so good to attend these kind of events with your team mates because the more experiences you share with them the more you get to know each other, and the better you know your team mates the better you function as a group.
30 July 2010
This week has pretty much been dominated by training - no surprise there. And outside of that, every other minute of spare time has been used up with house hunting, which seems to be quite a tricky thing in Hamburg. As it stands I'm still in a hotel but I'm certainly getting to know lots of streets and areas of the city, as you do when you're being constantly walked around by estate agents. But I'm hoping that something good will come along soon so we can finally settle down.
Last Thursday the losing group of our three-man team championship I told you about last time had to do their forfeit. It was at the end of training and they had to put all these different outfits. The fitness coach was in a very fetching pink shiny body-building suit, and there was a particularly unpleasant very tight purple goalkeeping shirt on show, too.
Dressed in this ridiculous gear, they then had to score a penalty, but not just any penalty because first they had to run round and round a cone ten times with their heads down, which meant that were totally disorientated. And they had to keep doing this little routine until each player had scored - which took a while as some didn't even manage to make contact with the ball!
Anyway, all the English reading this will be pleased to know that penalty shoot-outs are too easy for us Germans now, so we're taking it to the next level and trying to challenge ourselves in other ways!
26 July 2010
Am back in Hamburg now with another training camp out of the way. With four weeks gone, there is now only three to go before we kick off the season in the Cup against Chemnitz. Crunch time has started and after a gradual introduction we will now be looking to hit our physical peak and focus on the tactical side. The training camp in Teistungen went well and as promised the focus was shifted from cardiovascular endurance to strength endurance. For the first time in a long time my muscles were aching for days.
The highlight of the week was undoubtedly a three-way competition held over three days in groups of, yep, you guessed it - three!!! We started off with a technical skill park consisting of nine different stations. Each member got a minute to score points which were then added up for the group and ranked for each discipline. We had to dribble, pass, shoot and throw our way through all sorts of obstacles that you could get on a football field, with the exception of a streaker maybe...!
This was followed by a speed endurance medley consisting of three long sprints for each team member. It was at this stage that having a goalkeeper who is also the oldest member of the squad in my team proved to be a slight disadvantage. Only one group consisting of another goalkeeper and the player liaison manager (a little fitter than his equivalent at Fulham...) was slower than us, but only just. With a forfeit on the cards for the losing group, we had to dig very deep on the next day's cross country run a round a small lake/big pond. Each group had one bike and had to complete four rounds, but starting and finishing each round together. How to use the bikes was crucial, making this contest tactical as much as physical. With each of us giving everything we had, my group finished a fast seventh - which could have been much better had we not had a flat tire and broken chain in the last two rounds. As you can judge by the sound of it the rental company was in for a treat when we returned their bikes.
Either because there wasn't a clear winner yet or for the sheer joy of the competition the coaches introduced a fourth challenge on our last day. I guess the thought of us all going down the slides in the swimming pool was too tempting so down we went in our groups. My group went were like lightning and tied with the supernaturals who had won in every discipline up to that point, whilst the other groups seemed to still be in the tubes whilst we enjoyed our lunch.
We almost made it into the European places and finished the highest ranked group that included a goalie so well done Matze and Egi. I can only recommend to sign up on our club website -which comes in English - and shows footage of our various struggles. Much better than just reading about it.
Before I forget we did play some friendlies too, one of which we drove four hours on a bus to win 14-0. Don't worry, I didn't get on the score sheet...
19 July 2010
It's been just over three weeks now since I joined up with St Pauli, and the time has absolutely flown by. It's been quite an intense time, settling into a new place, meeting new people, getting used to a different way of working. In the very limited time I've had between training sessions and training camps I've had to look for a place to live - which has proved quite tricky - as well sorting all the other bits and pieces out that you have to do when you move from one place to another. Training twice a day really doesn't leave too much time for anything, especially as we always get taken out at lunchtime as well!
We had this weekend off so I came back to London briefly but I'm back in Germany now and at our next training camp. I'm very lucky that the two cities I'll have been predominantly based in during my career so far - London and Hamburg - are both such vibrant, beautiful places. And most importantly, they both have amazing cafes and restaurants serving up plenty of treats. I popped into my favourite deli in London, Elizabeth King, while I was back - couldn't resist that one. The short visit was made even shorter by the delayed Easy Jet flight, but after surviving the journey home from Hamburg after the Europa League Final, I won't complain about a mere three hour delay.
Last Friday was very exciting as I got my first real taste of playing at the Millerntor, which is St Pauli's stadium. We played Bayer Leverkusen and even though the stadium's new stand hasn't been opened yet, a decent crowd still cheered us on in a way I haven never seen before - they looked to be having a great time and sung non-stop. The game finished 1-1 and there were certainly plenty of things to be pleased about as well as some things we can improve on. We've got four weeks left before our first competitive game and we'll certainly be making good use of the time. Three weeks into pre-season we've now reached a good base fitness level. We've done a lot of conditioning work and I'm sure we'll continue to do more at the training camp this week as well as some tactical work and some increased focus on the playing side of the game.
Congratulations to Spain on winning the World Cup. I thought they thoroughly deserved to win it as they are the best team in the world right now. After many, many years of very promising teams that never seemed to get very far, they now really do have a golden generation with so many talented players, many of whom play together regularly for their clubs as well. They're very inspirational and it's just a pleasure to watch their free-flowing passing game, which is the way I think we'd all like to play, but it's also one of the hardest things to get right. It was a great World Cup for Germany, too. Some fantastic performances from a very young team, lots of creativity, lots of goals. I think we got a lot of plaudits for the way we played and rightly so, rather than the usual focus on what we have traditionally stood for. Four years after staging the such a successful World Cup that everyone seemed to enjoy so much, it's great for Germany and German football to be portrayed in such a positive light once again, and hopefully we can continue to build on that.
I enjoyed this World Cup, even though it was a long way away and I didn't manage to get to South Africa myself. And I'm only 25 stickers short of completing my 2010 World Cup sticker album which I'm hoping will be done in the next week or two!
22nd June 2010
Am getting ready to head over to Hamburg at the end of the week for my first training session with my new club St Pauli, which is on Friday. I'm really excited and loking forward to meeting my new team mates and getting on with pre-season.
We've got plenty of friendly games, the first one being on Saturday. It looks like I'll be getting a nice tour of the local surroundings as we'll be staying near Hamburg for our two training camps and also a lot of our games are against smaller teams in the region. But obviously the more games I can get under my belt in pre-season the better set up I'll be when the season actually kicks off.
I was thinking the other day that it's about time I put up some of the pictures I've been sent by Fulham fans from the Europa League Final trip to Hamburg so there are a few to be getting on with on the right.
Maybe it's a bit of fate that I ended up joining the club that all the Fulham fans saw on the Eurpa League Final trip to Hambrg as the buses all parked just in front of St Pauli's stadium. Hamburg was such a significant part of Fulham's Europa League history, not just because it was where the final was played but also because Fulham actually beat SV Hamburg, too, who are St Pauli's main rivals.
It's pretty much setting itself up for a bit of a fan relationship between the two clubs I reckon! I can see so many similarities and I think it would be great if fans of the two clubs got together to get something set up as they'd both find a lot of common ground - and I'll be the patron!
Plenty of games have been played in the World Cup now. Lots of comments are being made about the disappointing standard, but the early games are often very tight.
It was very disappointing to see Germany lose to Serbia even though we played really well and created lots of chances with a man down. The sending off really wasn't necessary - the ref didn't need to book Klose, but then Klose also didn't need to make that foul on the halfway line. It ruined the game a little bit and Germany now have it all to play for against Ghana but I'll be cheering them on from home on Wednesday night.
With England, like everyone I was disappointed with the performance against Algeria but I'm hoping they'll play better in the the final group game - I'm sure they will and I'm sure they'll qualify for the last 16.
14th June 2010
I’m writing this having just got back from the Walkabout pub in Shepherds Bush where I’ve been doing a bit of World Cup work for BBC Radio Five Live. I’ve not been getting too many TV of late so maybe my looks have gone - but I must be still good looking enough for radio!
I was one of literally a handful of token Germans in amongst 1200 Aussies, all of whom were decked out in their green and gold (either that or it was a giant anti-Glazer protest), singing, dancing, drinking – of course – and in fact the only thing missing was the BBQs.
I wore one of my Germany Under 21 shirts and my job was to generally get involved with the Auzzies and have some banter, live on the radio – without them swearing, of course, which was a bit of a job!
It was great fun though – I love watching football on big screens in sweaty loud places. That was what was so great about all the public viewing places at the last World Cup, something that seems to have caught on everywhere since. It’s great fun to get together with people from different nations and celebrate a great game.
Obviously I am really pleased we started so well with a 4-0 win. I have to admit that was much better than I’d expected, although I was at Germany’s last friendly in Frankfurt before the team headed out to South Africa. It was against Bosnia and we won comfortably, even without key players like Ballack. But then you have to question Australia too as they were certainly disappointing, especially compared to four years ago.
I’m just really glad the World Cup has finally kicked off at last. The hype seemed to go on forever but it’s great to get going and have all these games to watch. My favourites are argentina albeit the shortcomings of their legendary coach.
My other big news is that I am delighted to announce that I have signed for Bundesliga club, St Pauli. Anyone who was in Hamburg for the Europa League Final will know who St Pauli are –a real special and well liked club in Germany, conveniently located in the red light district of the city.
It has fantastic support and has great character. I went to a home game while I was in rehab in Germany last season and was really impressed with the support and the atmosphere in the stadium and around the place. The club got promoted last season so there is a great buzz about them now and I’m really looking forward to bring my qualities and passion to the club and make my impact in the bundesliga. The fans have a great approach to supporting their club – they have a good sense of humour and are very distinctive, perhaps a little like Fulham fans in their own way so I’ll be very at home there.
I’m also really excited to find out what the Bundesliga is all about. As much as I’ve loved playing in England, I’ve always wondered what the standard is actually like back home and how I would fit in. Over the coming months and years I will finally find out.
I’ll surely miss my English life however much I’ll be staying in touch with everything and everyone - you don’t just walk away after living for 11 years in a country.
I'll miss cycling through fulham in spring admiring the blossoming cherry trees, observing the joyful life on the greens, indulging in cakes and other tasters from Elizabeth King, my no.1 grocer in the world.
I'll miss 5live Radio on the way in to work and films in their original language. I'll miss sunday mornings with Gary at St Matthews and taking part in the vital work of the Princes Trust. Foodwise I’ll miss my marmalade, my roast dinners on a Sunday, cream tea and a proper Indian – things like that are hard to come by in the motherland. Most of all though I’ll miss English football – the way the players and teams are supported here is amazing. But I’ll not miss anyone in England too much because I’ll be doing all I can to keep in touch and Hamburg isn’t very far away.
As much as I'll miss a lot of things I’m also looking forward to a lot of things, too - no speed limits on the motorway, being able to wear socks with my sandals again and not looking out of fashion in the gear I’m usually sporting! I’m really pleased it’s Hamburg as that’s my favourite city in Germany and a place where I’ve spent a lot of time over the years. I’m just delighted to have a platform where I can get back to playing. I’m totally confident in my body again and I’m really up for it.
St Pauli is exciting on so many levels and I’m ready to go!
ps - I'll post some of your Europa League Final photos soon, I promise!
18th May 2010
At last, some reflections on an amzing day in Hamburg last week.
For me, I think it only really hit home that Fulham were actually playing in a European final when I set my alarm for 3.30am the night before in order to get our flight out to Hamburg. It's also nice when you board your flight at some ridiculous hour that you then end up sat on a parked plane for a further two hours that you could have spent in bed! Damn those technical faults!
But at that stage, I think the excitement kept us going. Once we got to Hamburg we got dropped off in the Reeperbahn area of the city where UEFA had set up a special fanzone. We hung out there for a bit and ended up bumping into a lot of familiar faces. I also had a couple of bits of media to do while I was there - for Five Live and Sky Sports - so I got those done. It was particularly funny having Gary "The Rev" Piper, Fulham's chaplain, travelling with us (he's in the pic with me speaking to Five Live), especially while walking around one of Europe's best known red light areas! We also didn't waste any time getting stuck into a sausage early doors. Can't beat one of those for your breakfast.
I spent the afternoon showing the friends I was with the sights of Hamburg as it's a city I've got to know well over the years. I managed to pick myself up a World Cup Panini sticker album which should keep me busy over the coming weeks, and before long we were back on our bus an on the way to the stadium. That was when the atmosphere really kicked in for me. The fans had obviously got stuck into a few beers - and some sausages - by then and had certainly upped their noise levels.
It was a great laugh on our bus to the stadium. We had a group of lads next to us who all played in the same Sunday League team (I've forgotten the name - sorry boys...). These lads were playing in their own cup final the following Sunday so they asked me to record a motivational team talk on video which they then wanted to play in their dressing room before their game. So I gladly obliged using Lawrie Sanchez's all-time most inspiring line that he used on us once - namely, "Football is football is football is football." I wonder if it worked?? I doubt it. Let me know if you're reading this fellers...
It took quite a while to walk from the bus to the stadium. Not necessarily because of the distance but I think I can safely say that I had more photos taken with Fulham fans than I did over the entire course of my wedding day! It was great to chat to everyone though and it's so nice to feel appreciated still. If anyone has any good pics please send them in to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll stick them up on the site.
Inside the stadium the atmosphere was amazing. There was no mistaking what a special day it was for everyone, and I think the game really lived up to expectations. Both teams really competed and showed so much desire to win, and I loved seeing Fulham score in game like that. It was amazing to be among all the Fulham fans when the equaliser went in and the collective joy of that moment will live with me for a long, long time. I hugged a lot of total strangers!
But everyone was equally as distraught with three minutes to go in extra time when Atletico got their second, which seemed to pretty much come out of nowhere. It was like having a knife stuck in your back, but at that moment something happened that I will never forget. The players were on their knees with their dreams crushed and I think every single supporter felt the same, me included. But the Rev, a couple of seats down from me, picked himself up and encouraged by what I can only assume was a divine force, turned round and started waving his arms at that thousands of Fulham fans to get them going behind the team once again - it was amazing and everyone really responded which was great to see.
It was certainly a day of high emotion and it took a long time to digest it all afterwards, partly because I was so knackered! But what a day nonetheless. I was just so pleased for the club to have made it to the final, and was so happy to have been able to be there myself and be a part of it all. And I'm obviously very sorry for everyone involved that it didn't end up in victory but we had a lot of fun out there and we've had a lot of fun all the way through the amazing journey to the final, too.
The only downside was the six hour wait at Hamburg Airport on the way home where German efficiency seemed to go out of the window completely but we won't dwell on that!
And now the countdown to the World Cup starts...
Don't forget to send in those pics!
1st May 2010
Well, what a massive night it was on Thursday. I was working for Sky Sports which was a very tough call to make as I was so keen to be at the Cottage for what was undoubtedly the highlight of the club's history. Getting to a major European final is just massive, and for Fulham, to be the last standing English team in Europe representing the Premier League and English football in general in Hamburg later this month, well, it's is an absolute fairy tale. It's seriously the kind of thing I'll hopefully be telling my grandchildren about in 50 years time.
I really enjoyed working on the game at Sky Sports but in the end I think I regret not being at the ground and being part of that amazing atmosphere, especially having experienced the away leg in Hamburg and the Juventus tie at the Cottage - I've got a feeling the other night would have even topped that one. You could feel it even watching it on a screen - I was doing live TV but I was shaking and my heart was absolutely racing, and a couple of days later I still feel the same. It's absolutely wonderful how this season has turned out for Fulham and I'm so happy for everyone associated with the club, but especially the players who've done such an amazing job. I'll be at the final in Hamburg cheering them on and I can't wait!
There's only two more Premier League games to play now, and the Championship ends this weekend. I'll be taking a short break in May and going on holiday, but I'll be starting my preparations for the new season once June comes around. I played the last reserve game of the season for QPR last week. It was at Aldershot's ground and against Eastbourne. As with the previous game, I played in midfield and having got two the week before, the purple patch continued and I got another. It was at Aldershot that I played my first QPR reserve game a couple of months back. We lost that one and I gave away a penalty, so it was nice to go back there to end the season on such a positive note. My last few games have really proved that I'm in a much better place now and what a worthwhile experience this has been - and it was certainly nice to finish the season on a bit of a scoring run, especially as I haven't been able to say that since I was about eight!
Other than that, if you have seen Soccer AM this morning, you'll have seen me busting out a few dance moves dressed as a "Moritz Dancer" as part of their May Day celebrations. So happy May Day and I hope the weather holds out!
21st April 2010
Highlight of last week was the trip to Hamburg to watch my former team mates in the Europa League Semi Final first leg. With flights resuming just a few hours before I was due to leave, I got to make my way over in a much more comfortable fashion than the Fulham players following their arduous journey. While the game itself didn't have too much excitement, I had a great time overall and it was a great occasion to be at. I did a bit of media before the game - I spoke to ESPN about the Hamburg team and did a bit on Fulham for one of the German channels just before kick off. I had to walk all the way through the Fulham block to get to my seat and I have to say I got a fantastic reception from the Fulham fans. They were singing my name and asking for pictures and things, and it was a great feeling be still so appreciated even though I haven't played for Fulham in two years now. The picture you can see on the right is me with one of the Fulham punters who was wearing a World War One fighter pilots helmet - good old English humour as ever!
I hope some of the Fulham fans made more of the German experience than my friend Uncle Kev did while he was over. The whole time he was in Hamburg he managed to avoid doing anything remotely German by eating burritos and going to an Irish bar! I bet he didn't even drink German beer in there! Shocking behaviour on his part, but he can make amends for it with a sausage or two if he goes back to Hamburg for the final in a few weeks.
I went to the PFA Awards last night which always coincides with the close of the season. It was no great surprise to see Wayne Rooney win but the highlight for me was the speech from old leg-end Jimmy Greaves. He has us all chuckling away with a few anecdotes.
Really looking forward to the second leg on Thursday now...
21st April 2010
It's been an eventful couple of weeks since my last update. A lot has happened - or hasn't happened as it turned out - and I have experienced the dark side of the game but I am not going to dwell on it. Anyway, I'm very excited about recent events like QPR gaining safety, the exciting run-in to the end of the season in most of the leagues across the continent, and of course Fulham's stunning Europa League win over Wolfsburg.
I've helped QPR's reserves to two more away wins - at Brighton and Eastbourne. After the harsh winter the pitches aren't exactly carpets. All the fuss that is being made about Wembley is hard to take when you are out playing on rock solid gravel pits like that.
I was invited last week for a private pre-screening of a British film called "A Night in Turin". The film is about England's 1990 World Cup campaign and all its surrounding issues - media expectations, the political situation in the country, hooliganism,and Gazza. It ends with us beating you on penalties in the semi final - as I'm sure you all know. Needless to say that I think it is a great film and everyone should go and see it when it hopefully comes out next month.
Recent volcanic action has left a lot of people in dire situations. You feel especially for those people stuck in places like the Caribbean! However just like the recession there are some winners in the situation and I count myself as one. For once I could enjoy the fabulous weekend sunshine without the annoying noises of the Heathrow bound planes. I was doing cartwheels and hand stands in South Park, that's how good it was.
Having booked my flights and tickets the night Fulham got through to the semis I'm now hoping that flying will commence again in time for me to travel to the Motherland. Volcano action permitting, I will be in Hamburg to cheer on Fulham in the biggest game in the club's history. Hamburg is my favourite city in Germany even though I grew up nowhere near it, so I could not miss this game.
There is an abundance of nice hotels, restaurants, bakeries, and of course the famous Reeperbahn. Amongst my favourite places to eat are Vapiano for lunch, Remo in St Pauli for a casual Italian dinner, and Tarrantella and 'Die Bank' for upmarket dining. For snacks or quick food I strongly suggest the Currywurst huts or any of the many bakeries in town. The East Hotel has a great bar and is in the middle of the St Pauli red light district, which is one of Hamburg's landmarks. For those who have time and are after some sleeveless denim jackets and lederhosen, shopping is best around Neuer Wall.. The city also offers great walks, the most famous being around the Alster Lakes but I like the Speicherstadt a little more. Let's all go out and have a lot of fun and hope that we can all go back to Hamburg for the final in May.
26th March 2010
A few options have come up in the last 48 hours for me to to play out the rest of the season with a club. One was QPR which was really pleasing. After the time I've spent there training it's nice to feel I did well enough to warrant being offered something. However, another very attractive option has also come up abroad which I am hoping will materialise. A few things need to be sorted out first but once its all done I'll post an update straight away and let everyone know some more details. But overall I'm just delighted that I'm getting opportunities to play some proper games between now and the end of the season as that is the one thing I need now.
22nd March 2010
Well, what a historic night at the Cottage last Thursday. Thanks to my friend, The Rev (Gary Piper -Fulham's Chaplain), I was able to witness it in person and it was just fantastic. I'd played another reserve game for QPR in the afternoon (I got through the full 90 feeling sharp and without any problems in a 3-1 win over a formerly unbeaten Crystal Palace) and combined with the London afternoon traffic meant, it meant I was still outside the ground when Juve scored. But my presence obviously settled everyone down and the boys turned it round in magnificent style. By the time it got to 2-1 I really felt it was all there for the taking but hats off to Clint - what a great goal to win a game like that with. That will no doubt become the stuff of legend and rightly so!
So, two good scorelines on Thursday and now Fulham are looking forward to some German opposition, which I was really hoping for. Wolfsburg were last season's Bundesliga champions and have some very good players but at this stage in the competition any game will be a tough one. But beating Donetsk and Juventus will have given the boys immense belief and confidence and they know they won't need to fear anyone.
I went to the Princes Trust "Celebrate Success" Awards a couple of weeks ago. It acknowledges the work of everyone involved in the charity, along with the terrific stories of teenagers who've turned their lives around and in doing so have turned around the lives of many others. One of the things about being a professional sportsman is that you have to drink a lot to keep hydrated. And that means you have to pee a lot so you always have to clock where the toilets are. On one of my many toilet runs I bumped into my former team mate Andy Cole - or should I say Andrew as he is now known! Amazing who you can run into when you're having a wee - not literally of course...
Another little tale. A good friend of mine planned an 11-a-side game of football in the park for his 40th - his team against his mate's team so high stakes involved. We all turned up, the sun was out, and within three minutes of kick off, the birthday boy made a fantastic run and scored a goal that even Bergkamp would have been proud of! Never thought he had it in the locker if I'm honest. And with a bit of help from a German midfield maestro pulling the strings in the centre of the park , we won on penalties (what do you expect with a German on your team?!). It was a fantastic day and once again, happy birthday John. Can't wait for the rematch at your 50th!
I got down to the Stereophonics concert at the O2 a week or so ago, too. I got the tickets as a birthday present. It's the third time I've been to see them but as always it was a great show with lots of songs from the new album which I'm really liking.
25th February 2010
Since my last update, East Enders has turned 25. I've never really got into East Enders that much but I think it could be a show I could get into if I put my mind to it. I like the idea of that whole cockney thing which is why I'm such a big fan of Only Fools & Horses. Who knows, maybe I could land myself a guest role sometime - I could see myself as a chirpy little pick pocket running off through Albert Square with some old lady's handbag! I definitely reckon I could get the rhyming slang going. Bonnet de douche Rodney....
It was a good weekend for QPR. I'm not talking about Briatore going, but the 2-1 win against Doncaster. As I'm currently training with QPR, I went with a friend to watch the game and it was good to see such a rotten run of form come to an end.
Up in the Premier League, things are looking as exciting as they have ever been, and not just at the top but throughout the table. There's a very tight battle going on for that all-important fourth spot, and down at the bottom it's also very close with plenty of teams very close. There is so much still to play for, especially in terms of title and even though it probably sounds a bit biased, I actually fancy Arsenal.
I know they haven't done well against Chelsea and Man United when they've come up against them. But they've done well against most other teams and they have no more games to play against the big boys. What's more, Chelsea and United keep dropping points and they've still got to play each other so one or other will lose points there. Arsenal, on the other hand, have games against teams they know they can beat. I think Wenger gets an unfair amount of stick given what he's achieved at Arsenal, and generally with such young players. They're only five points short of United with a game in hand but at the moment everyone seems to talk about how great United are and how Arsenal are underachieving. And yet the difference between the two is tiny. As I said, I know I might be biased but I really do think they've got a good chance of winning the title this year. Come on you Gooners!
It's also very pleasing to see Fulham doing so well. I still feel very strongly connected to the club and I sometimes feel that its a shame we didn't have such successful times when I was there as a player. I'd have loved to have achieved what the current group of players are achieving. I also really hope that Bobby Zamora gets a chance in the England squad. It would be great to see another Fulham player pull on an England shirt. I've got a lot of time for Bobby. He's always shown through his career that he's got the ability but he's left himself open for criticism in the past by not scoring enough goals. But and now he's found a bit of form and the goals are really coming which is great to see. He's got a lot to offer to a team and I think Alex McLeish was right when he cited Bobby as being the main difference between Fulham and Birmingham last Sunday.
As for me, I'm in good shape, still working hard and still really enjoying being able to train again. Onwards and upwards!
15th February 2010
I hope everybody had a suitably loving Valentine's Day. I opted for a card and a movie at the cinema rather than some over-priced roses. I'll pick some of those up in the sale today when they're half price - that's a good bit of German common sense in action!
But perhaps more importantly than Valentine's Day this week is Pancake Day on Tuesday. For a foodie like me it's a great occasion and gives me an opportunity to break away from making cakes and get into some serious pancakes, which are my favourite. I'm not entirely sure of this details behind the history of it all but I think it's got something to do with Lent and fasting. I need to find out the full story don't I...
On Saturday after training I hooked up with an old friend and team mate of mine, Sylvain Legwinski, to watch the France v Ireland rugby match. It was good to catch up with Leggy, and to see his obvious joy at the French win. I don't watch rugby much but I really enjoyed it and have got to do it more often as I actually really like it. Although it was good to have a few experts around me to fill me in on all the rules! There are plenty of them!
On my way in to training on Sunday morning I heard an interview with Sven Goran Eriksson where he was talking about his current situation and whether or not he would be signing with a club or had had any offers to do so. His answer was that he'd had a lot of agents approaching him, but until there is a concrete offer on the table it means nothing. I can sympathise with that right now as it's not a million miles from where I'm at. You get plenty of agents ringing you out of the blue, some of whom you've never even heard of let alone met before. They talk about deals they say they've got for you but with a bit of experience you soon come to realise that in most cases, it's all just hot air.
Enjoy your pancakes!
11th February 2010
I played another game for QPR reserves last week. This one was against Reading. It was a good paced match and another good test for me. I managed 85 minutes which I was very pleased about as it really does show continued progress and a further indication of where I stand in terms of my comeback. I definitely feel that I’m getting more and more used to the pace of competitive matches after such a long time out and it’s just great to be back playing again. Hopefully I can play more and more over the next few weeks as I definitely feel I take a big step forward each time I play.
Since I’ve been training with QPR there have been lots of reports in the media about me signing for them. I’ve even had messages of congratulations - by text and even by people coming up to me in the street! But as it stands I’m there just to train as I still have a little way to go to be at full fitness and therefore to be of full use to a team. But the way things are going, with a few more games and more regular training and I’ll soon be there.
Just before the Reading game I made a short visit home to Germany for family reasons. I was glad I managed to get in and out as easily as I did given that 60cms of snow had fallen. The whole place looked amazing though – the scenery was beautiful. It’s certainly the most snow we’ve had in Germany for as long as I can remember.
Have been busy in the kitchen making a cake recently. This one wasn’t one of my famous pre-match cakes but something much more important - a 98th birthday cake for the mother of my good friend, the Rev Gary Piper. Happy birthday Reeny – I hope you liked it and I definitely want to be making you another for your 100th!
29th January 2010
Monday evening I went to a pastry class at a cookery school in the West End. There were ten people in the class and for the record I wasn't the only guy before you ask! The class was held by proper chefs who obviously had a lot of skills and experience so we did everything from profiteroles to quiches and apple tarts and even puff pastry - and all in two and a half hours. It was a fun evening and I certainly learnt some tricks which I can now add to my cooking efforts.
Over the past few days I've been training with QPR. I'm very grateful they're giving me the opportunity to build up my match fitness after such a long time out. I played 80 minutes in a reserve game for them in midweek which went well and helped give me a good indication of where I'm at and what I've still got to do to get back to where I was. You can train all you like but it's matches you need to really get back to your best and games like this really help to indicate where you stand physically, technically and tactically. So I'm going to carry on training with QPR for the time being and we'll see what happens from here. But all in all it's been a good week. I'm off to do a few quiches now...
20th January 2010
Over the weekend, Hertha Berlin made a statement that said they were considering taking me. They've had a tricky first half of the season and were obviously considering different options, one being me. But after a convincing win on the weekend they've decided to give the people they already have at the club a bit more of a shot, especially as they signed a few right-sided players in the summer, which means that at this moment in time they've withdrawn their interest in me. So it doesn't look like I'll be heading to Berlin any time soon. But I'm still making contact with various people at clubs and am still feeling very positive and looking forward to what's ahead towards the end of the month which is when most things actually start to happen.
In other news, I went to a christening at the Greek Cathedral in Bayswater at the weekend. It's a fascinating place and an amazing building - another hidden secret in London. I love the fact that I've been here ten years and I still keep discovering new things...
14th January 2010
I got back from Spain on Sunday afternoon after having a really good week of training with Schalke. It was intense but I came through it really well and coped much better than I'd expected - nothing flared up even though I went as far as playing a half in two friendly games. All in all, the week gave me everything I'd hoped for and more and it was great to get the opportunity, especially with such a good side - and in a warmer climate, too! I'm really grateful to all my old friends at Schalke, and of course to the manager, Felix Magath, for giving me that opportunity. Having coped so well I've come back to England in very good spirits. I've picked up a bit of a cold since I've been back, but that hasn't stopped me from carrying on with my training - both at Fulham and at Sport Dimensions, which is the London sports rehab centre that have done so much to help me progress as far as I have these past few weeks.
Before going home on Sunday, I went straight from Heathrow to ESPN's studios in Chiswick where I was a guest on their Talk of the Terrace show, which is presented by Kelly Cates and mark Chapman. On with me were comedians Lee Boardman and Mike McLean - one is a Man U fan, the other Man City, so there was some lively banter going on. I also gave Lee Boardman my Schalke tracksuit which happened to be in my bag after the trip, hence the picture opposite. The show was great fun, and I stayed on a for a bit after to do some punditry on their coverage of AC Milan-Juventus. But by the time I eventually got home I was absolutely shattered and delighted to be finally getting into my own bed after a week away and a very long day.
But all in all, the trip away was a great way to start the year and it's so good to be going into 2010 feeling confident in my body once again. So now I'll be looking to keep improving, keep working and keep training until the right opportunity arises to start playing again. But after the week on Spain I'm feeling really confident and I know I'm getting closer and closer to my return. Being away with Schalke certainly created a bit of interest in my name once again, both in England and Germany and that has led to me to be in loose contact with a few people in football so hopefully something will materialise very soon.
6th January 2010
First of all, happy New Year to you all. Sorry for the delay in posting something at the start of 2010 but I've already been very busy since the new year began. I'm currently having a little post-training siesta here in Andalusia, Spain, where I am training with my old club, Schalke 04. It all came about at short notice through contacts I have at the club from my time here before I came over to England. I'd started some proper training at Fulham right after Christmas and did three days there, feeling no pain which was great considering it's nearly a year that I've been out. That was a big relief for me, a great way to end to what had been quite a troublesome year and a real boost going into 2010. And then the phone call came from Schalke inviting me out to Spain, which couldn't have come at a better time, and in conjunction with my rehab coaches we agreed it would be a great opportunity to get some fitness under my belt.
In Germany they obviously have the winter break which allows teams to head off somewhere a bit more sunny to train. So I flew out to Germany to meet up with the team and pretty much got straight on the plane to Spain with them. I didn't know too many of the guys beforehand, other than three or four who I'd played with in the German youth team. But getting to know everyone has been pretty straight forward and everyone has been very friendly. It's a very young team with a lot of players who have made their breakthrough this season. But they have done extremely well and are currently placed second in the Bundesliga - which is probably above what they expected but they've worked really hard to get there. The management team led by Felix Magath have got a reputation for working very intensively and getting their players fit and motivated. Felix was manager at Wolfsburg when they won the Bundesliga and he also won it with Bayern Munich so he has a fantastic reputation here in Germany.
I've been really surprised at how well I've coped with the demands of the physical training over these first few days. The first day started with a strength session on the beach, and then day two consisted of three different sessions, starting with a one hour run by the beach before breakfast and then a morning and afternoon session. To go straight into training of this intensity has been a big challenge and naturally, I've felt a bit sore and very tired. But overall I'm really pleased with how my body has reacted. Although outside of the training, all I've managed to do is eat and sleep!
On day three we had two running sessions and then in the afternoon there was a friendly against Dusseldorf who are doing very well in Budesliga Two at the moment. The weather meant the pitches were very heavy and hard to play on, but it was great to be involved, starting the second half playing a holding midfield role. That came as a bit of a surprise as I thought they'd be looking at me as a right back. The game finished 5-5 even though we were 5-2 up at one point, so that was a bit of a downer. But on the plus side I'd never imagined I'd be able to come back into a friendly game so quickly and to top it off I also managed to get on the score sheet after putting the ball through the keeper's legs which was a great bonus.
Since then the training load has decreased a little bit and we got an afternoon off, which allowed us all to put our feet up and rest the legs which was much appreciated. And today it was back to another double session before we play a Spanish team in another friendly tomorrow. The plan at the moment is to head back to Germany on Saturday. But all in all I'm just so happy to be back working hard on a daily basis in a team environment. I definitely feel that I'm improving on my physical levels every single day. Obviously I'm still not back to where I was before I got injured but considering that I've been out for almost a year on and off, it's been going so much better than I thought. I've kept in touch with y rehab coaches back in London all the way through the trip and I have to say that I have nothing but praise for the work they did with me, as they've got me to this stage where I can train without set backs. So all in all I'm very happy!
22nd December 2009
It's got very cold over the last week or so which has meant the joy of some snow here in London and across much of the country. Lots of games got hit by the weather last weekend but everyone, me included, is now hoping that we'll see a white Christmas at the end of the week. For the first time in many, many years I won't be busy playing on Boxing Day, and while it's a great shame my philosophy is to make the best of it and go back to Germany to spend Christmas there with my family.
I was actually back in the Motherland last week to see my doctor and while I was there I took opportunity to make use of one of our famous Christmas markets in Regensburg. In my view it's the best one I've ever been to - a beautiful setting, great atmosphere, loads of lovely food stalls, open fire places to keep warm and topped off with a covering of snow.
I've been doing some more TV work recently, including a bit of Christmas cooking with Helen Chamberlain on Soccer AM which you can see on the Christmas Day show. And then last Saturday I was back on ESPN with Kevin Keegan covering the Arsenal-Hull game. With the news of Mark Hughes' departure from Man City coming in at the time, it was certainly interesting to see what happens behind the scenes at a sports TV station when major news breaks.
Finally I'd like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas, and in case I don't update before, a happy New Year as well. I'm hoping to be making a return to the football field in January and I can't wait for it.
6th December 2009
It was great to see the teams come out of the hat at the World Cup draw last week, although the even itself was a bit dull. It wasn't for a lack of trying by FIFA but not even Charlize Theron, beautiful as she is, could help make bring it to life and she - like everyone else but the FIFA guy - clearly didn't have a clue how it all worked. Watching the lottery draw without having a ticket is more fun! Anyway, the Germans got a tough group. Ghana, Serbia and the Aussies are no easy opposition.
Mark Schwarzer, the outstanding Fulham goalie, will be excited to face the Motherland as his parents are of German background and he speaks the language fluently. Shame we didn't get to spend more time together at Fulham as I enjoyed for once being able to keep my home tongue going. Ghana have lots of strong and fit players who are technically very good and you just feel that the African teams improve with every experience of a World Cup, so they should be more suited to compete on a tactical level this time around - and the fact that this is the first World Cup to be staged on African soil should provide an extra boost. As for Serbia, I kind of guessed we'd be drawn in the same group because they have many players from the Bundesliga in their squad.
I'd be very surprised if England don't win their group. The fact they play the USA first of should help. It's a team they know about, that are totally beatable but who aren't considered a banana skin because they're no longer seen as outsiders anymore. A victory over the Americans will certainly get the ball rolling for England and will ease the pressure for the remaining games.
I loved the reaction to the draw over here. It really sums up the English football culture. Every time a tournament approaches that England are due to play in, the whole country - be it fans, journalists and even players - sees England as favourites. This creates a huge sense of expectation every time, and as we know, and in all but once instance everyone has been left disappointed. In Germany it's the complete opposite. We expect very little going in to tournaments and usually come out reaching at least the Semis so we tend to feel we have overachieved every time. In my opinion England could benefit from taking the same approach as the players would then be more relaxed and therefore able to perform better and fulfil the potential which they so clearly have.
As for me, after a good week of work at Sport Dimension where I've been focussing specifically on my running style and technique, I had thee weekend off and headed to Cornwall. Plenty of rain as you would expect at this time of year but lovely countryside. Thought I'd be able to escape football down there but still ended up tuning in to Sky Sports....
24th November 2009
I'm back in England now, having finally left the rehab place in Germany. I achieved some good results there so I'm feeling pretty positive and I'm now at the stage where I can start building up my training and working towards match fitness. I've been into my former club, Fulham, for some assessments on my general fitness - cardio-vascular stuff and so on. Considering the fact I haven't been able to do much of that kind of thing over the past three months I seem to have kept quite a bit of my fitness which is great as it means I don't have to start from nothing.
I'm also now going to be using a sports rehab place here in South West London that will be looking at things like my running style, the idea being to get my body to operate in a more efficient way - which appeals a great deal to a German! I had an assessment there yesterday to check how my muscles are working, and from there we'll work on switching on those that aren't working efficiently enough in order to release those that are currently doing too much work. Combined with some football work, it should all help towards a full and speedy recovery as soon as possible.
Something that won't be helping my fitness is the fact that the German Christmas Market by the Millennium Wheel opened in London last Friday. I paid a visit straight away, partly because some friends of mine run the sausage stand there - which you can't miss by virtue of the giant bratwurst sitting on top of their little hut! Having picked up my first sausage of the festive season I can now assure you that they make the best bratwurst in London so get down there and give one a try...
10th November 2009
Another interesting weekend for me. On Friday night I went to an ice hockey game. Bavaria is big on ice hockey so I went to watch the local team, EV Regensburg, who play in the Bayern League which is about the third or fourth highest league in Germany. One of the therapists here is also a therapist for the ice hockey team so he got me a ticket for the game. It was certainly fascinating stuff - non stop action up and down the arena, lots of body checks and physical play, a real adventure.
On Saturday I watched the David Haye fight on TV. I'm not normally big on boxing but thought I'd check in a see how the Haye-Maker was doing seeing as I got to meet him when I went on Soccer AM the other week. And then on Sunday I went to the big cathedral here in Regensburg to see the child's choir sing. They're very well known in Germany so it was great to see them do there thing. And that was my weekend in a nutshell. I'm back to work now but I'm hoping to be back in the UK very soon if all continues to go to plan...
4th November 2009
Things have been going well on the physical side. I've been able to step up my training over this past week without having any negative reactions which has been really pleasing and very encouraging.
This weekend I took advantage of being only a two hour drive from Salzburg and spent a day there. It's a lovely little city just over the border with Austria, and ironically enough, while I was there I had the best sausage I have EVER eaten. Weird that I had to leave Germany in order to do that, especially as I have spent the last three months in Bavaria which is supposed to be the sausage capital of the world. I mean, they even make salads from sausages in Munich - seriously!
The sausage in question came from a little parlour run by this old lady who, if she spread out her arms, would have touched both walls. But despite her tiny premises she was grilling the best sausages you could ever taste. I'd seen people on the street eating these amazing looking hot dogs when I first got there and when I finally found out where they had come from I wasn't going to let a 15 minute queue get in my way of getting hold of one!
I also went up to the old castle and got an amazing view over the town, which was great. But the trip was worth it for the sausage alone!
27th October 2009
Was back in England briefly last week - for a meeting at Parliament of all places! It was to represent the PFA at an event initiated by Unions 21, which is an organisation for trade unions. I think 24 unions are involved which works well with the name! Maybe it was 21 to start with..
The meeting involved a debate with various politicians to which any of the representatives of the various unions under the Unions 21 umbrella were allowed to attend. The idea was to provide and opportunity to discuss various issues in the game right now, and to give the politicians a chance to ask us questions on subjects such as the six plus five rule, globalisation.
Before the meeting took place we got a given really interesting tour around the Parliament buildings and got to see some places that you wouldn't ordinarily get to see. It's an amazing place where a lot of history has taken place and so many major decisions have been made and you can really feel that when you are in there. We also got to watch one of the debates which was good. I always enjoy listening to them on the radio anyway so it was fun to actually see one. It's pure class seeing these guys pretending to be polite while basically hammering each other!
It was a short trip but because it was for the PFA it was more than worth it. I can't emphasize enough what a great job they do in representing players, making sure rights are protected and generally offering support on all sorts of levels, both during and after a playing career. At the moment I'm on the PFA Committee. We meet quarterly to discuss anything that the PFA might want to have a say in or be consulted about. Having spoken to people in Germany, I get the impression that the PFA stands alone in terms of the amount of say it has in decision-making. It really is very strong compared to players unions in other countries and I think that's vital because it gives players so much more protection. Things that the PFA have influenced, such as the introduction of standard Premier League contracts, have made such a difference to the game in England.
It's a big responsibility being on the committee but I'm so glad to be involved and I'm happy the PFA value my opinion on things.
I didn't hang about in England as I wanted to get straight back to Germany and get on with my rehab but I had a nice break at the weekend and got to see two games of German football. The first was a Third Division game between Ingolstadt v Dynamo Dresden on a freezing cold Friday evening. One of the guys who had been here with me at the rehab centre a few weeks ago was making his return for Ingolstadt so I wanted to show a bit of support. It ended up being a 0-0 draw and I haven't felt that cold in a long, long time. But my mate got on for the last five minutes. And then on Sunday I watched a Bundesliga 2 game in Hamburg between St Pauli and Cottbus, as one of the guys at the rehab place is from Cottbus. St Pauli are the city of Hamburg's other team and are a really cult club here in Germany. They have amazing support and the whole atmosphere was brilliant - the fans were amazing. I'd never been to a St Pauli game before but it was a great experience. They have a very old and small ground, a bit like Fulham, but they're doing well this season and look like having a chance of getting promoted which would be great. It was a quality game to watch as well, and ended 1-1. A great day all round...
16th October 2009
I’m writing this while at the doctor’s in Munich where I am waiting to find out how much longer it will be before I can resume training once again. Over the past days and weeks I’ve been continuing with my rehab programme, which has been going well. I’ve pretty much been following the same routine of physical training and electro treatment combined with some manual therapy and massage…and the odd meal out or trip to cinema just to break things up a bit and give my mind a rest. Last weekend I went to a huge thermal water park in Erdingen. It has slides, loads of saunas, and lots of very therapeutic thermal water. I think it’s the biggest of its kind in Europe and was a great way to relax.
The weather is a bit crazy here at the moment. We were sitting on our balcony at 9pm last week and it was 27 degrees, but since then we've had snow! I'm not sure we've really got the hang of autumn...
The results of the World Cup qualifiers made for exciting viewing this week and it’ll be interesting to see who will make it out of play offs. Goes without saying I was glad to see Germany qualify in Russia, and all in all it’s shaping up to be a good tournament next summer.
1st October 2009
Had a busy day last Saturday before I returned to Germany to my rehab centre. Firstly I finally made my Soccer AM debut. It's been on the cards for a few years but until recently I've always been rather busy on a Saturday! So it was great to take this opportunity to go and see what it's all about. I made them a pre-match cake, too - something suitable for a game like Fulham v Arsenal which was kicking off later that day, so I went for something healthy. During week I'd picked up a recipe for a courgette cake so I went for that one, which put me under a bit of pressure as I'd never made one of those before. But it went down rather well, especially with A-HA who were the other guests on the show - who else can say that they've baked a cake for Norway's finest pop group!
I also scored my goal in the shoot-out, but what the cameras didn't see was the nice little volley I stuck away just after which impressed a few people - not least me!
From there I headed to ESPN's studios to cover the Fulham-Arsenal game, which was a great pleasure. There was no way I was going to miss that game and to be in the studio with a broadcasting legend like Ray Stubbs, along with King Kev himself (Kevin Keegan) was not just fun but also a great experience. I also got to hold the Premier League trophy, too, as they ahd it in the studio. I wasn't going to let that chance go as I might not get to touch it again! Oh,and just to keep my mate happy, I was pleased to be able to get the phrase "Bullet Proof" in to my pundit-speak. Hope that was alright for you Stokesy!!
25th September 2009
Have been back in England taking a short break from my rehab this week, just sorting out a few things at home and catching up with friends. Yesterday I paid a visit to both Fulham and Arsenal's training grounds to see how everything is going in the run up to the big game on Saturday.
I'm doing a bit of punditry for ESPN's live coverage of the game so I was trying to see if I could get a bit of inside information but the only thing I managed to come away with was a slice freshly made banoffee pie courtesy of the chef at Arsenal - which is no bad thing of course!
Fulham-Arsenal games are always a bit of an awkward one for me as I obviously want both teams to win, so I'm hoping for a draw but with plenty of goals.
I'm also finally making my debut on Soccer AM tomorrow morning as well. Iit's a great honour that I've finally been certified as being dodgy enough to feature on the show! When I'm in a hotel on a Saturday morning before an away game it's a programme I never miss so I'm really looking forward to meeting everyone down there and seeing what goes on behind the scenes.
I'm also delighted to report that my favourite Aussie Rules team, Geelong, have made the Grand Final again. Fulham's club doctor ended up working for them and through that they eneded up coming over and doing a bit of pre-season training with us a couple of years back which was great fun. They were top guys so I'll definitely be tuning in on Sunday evening at 7pm, wearing my Geelong shirt!
18th September 2009
As I'm writing this I'm lying flat on my back with electricity running into my groin and hips. It's supposed to increase the blood flow through through the area to promote healing. I've been able to increase my training load a little without any bad reactions, which is great news. But apart from that it's just been a case of chipping away at the regular rehab regime - lots of hands-on physio and electro treatment as well as continuing to work on strengthening the rest of my body that isn't affected by the injury. Soon I'm hoping to be able to train on the grass again and it'll be great to dust off my boots at long last as they've been a bit neglected of late!
Even though I can't play myself at the moment, I've been watching plenty of footie recently, both in Germany as well as back in England. It was a bit of nightmare to see Man City beat Arsenal last weekend, especially with all the controversy surrounding the game. But on the other hand it was great to see Fulham do so well against Everton. That was an important win and will help them feel a bit more settled. One thing about the Europa League is that it interupts the Saturday-Saturday rhythm quite a bit, but it's vital to get on top of things early and not to let yourselves run into trouble in the Premier League. But that said, I also hope the Fulham fans are really enjoying this European football experience as it'll no doubt bring some special games - the icing on the cake for what was a really great campaign last season.
8th September 2009
With the international break, it's been a quiet time in top flight football of late, but that didn't stop me catching a glimpse of some Bundesliga 1 action courtesy of Regensburg, which is the local club to my rehab centre. With a couple of the guys from the centre I went down to watch a game against Werder Bremen's second string and I'm pleased to report that Regensburg won the game 1-0. Having spent last season fighting relegation they seem to have started really well this season. It was good to show a bit of local support and interesting to get an idea of the standard of football outside of the top division.
In other news, my dad has become something of a star in Co. Kerry, Ireland, recently. Whilst on holiday there last week he caught an exceptionally large fish of some kind. I'm not exactly sure what kind it was as I have to admit I'm not too up on my fishing, but the one he caught was apparently a bit of a record breaker by Co. Kerry standards. So you could say my dad has become something of a big fish...for catching a big fish...
2nd September 2009
My days out here in Munich are still pretty much following the same routine - early morning workout, breakfast, another workout and then assorted treatments and massages, plus anything else that's on offer here to treat my injuries. It's a great feeling when I finish a day here knowing that I've done so much good work towards aiding my recovery.
Aside from the rehab work, the highlight of the past week was going to see Coldplay in concert last weekend. I liked their music beforehand, although I wouldn't say i was a massive fan but I have to say they were abosultely fantastic and much better live than they are on record. It was certainly the highlight of my time here in Munich so far - a truly inspiring performance and if I'm certainly more of a fan now. It's good to have little treats like that at the end of a hard working week and if I'm back in London by the time they play at Wembley Stadium later this month I could be tempted to go again!
26th August 2009
I was shocked to read recently that Shane Supple, Ipswich's number two keeper, has quit the game. That's certainly not what you expect from a perfectly fit player in his mid 20s, and especially someone as motivated and hard-working as Shane. I'm currently at an injury rehab centre in Germany and it's weird to hear things like that when you're at a place like this that's full of people working as hard as possible to be able to play again as soon as possible. But at the same time I respect Shane for admitting he has fallen out of love with the game and taking a decision like this as it takes a lot of guts. I'm sure there will be many people out there who will criticise him as he's choosing to stop doing the one thing that that millions of people would love to do. But if he feels he is just going through the motions and that football is no longer making him happy, then it's certainly best for him to try and fulfil some other ambitions, so I really do wish Shane all the best for the future.
Things are going well for me over here in Munich. It was a shame I had to stop training due to this persistent groin problem but I think we're finally getting to the bottom of what the issue is over here in the Motherland. The facilities and staff here are great and I'm hoping this will really help me get back to being pain free and over this problem as soon as possible so I can kick on and find the right club for the next stage of my career. It's been difficult looking on at all the European leagues kicking off over the past couple of weeks but I know I'm in the best hands possible and I'm working hard and making progress day by day. And the good thing about this centre is that I'm here not just with other footballers, but other sports people, too, as well as some local people who are recovering from operations and things like that. So we're all in the same boat, just trying to get fit and healthy again. And while my situation isn't exactly ideal at the moment, there are certainly some people here who have a lot more to deal with than me, which is always a good way to keep things in perspective.
10th August 2009
The Footbal League season got up and running this weekend. I managed to get a glimpse of the Southampton v Millwall and Newcastle v West Brom games, as well as watching most of Ipswich's opener at Coventry yesterday. Obviously sorry to see the boys I played with at Ipswich last season lose but equally as pleased to see Cookie get off to a good start. I just hope that Ipswich can turn the huge pressure to win into a desire as well, as I'm sure it would help the team.
My start of the season will have to wait a bit longer as I'm still recovering from last season's groin injury. In the meantime I was the wally with the brolly last Thursday night week when I covered Fulham's Europa League game against Vetra for ITV - and the great British summer weather certainly got the better of us, too. Since there is limited space at the beloved Cottage we had no alternative but to be pitch-side right next to the tunnel throughout the game and got absolutely drenched in the process despite the umbrellas we were given. A friend told me it looked like I was eating the microphone I was holding!!!! Just as well my shoes weren't in the picture or he'd have had even more to slag me off about! Needless to say that Fulham won comfortably and progressed to the next round. If I get asked to cover their coming rounds I'll be sure to check the weather first...
On Sunday afternoon I visited a children's holiday camp out in Kent, run by Fulham's chaplain, my good friend Gary Piper. I spent most of Saturday night baking cupcakes for them, which went down a treat I might add. There was all sorts to do there - they have a pool, an assault course, a canoeing lake and even the opportunity to take part in mud fights - shame I coldn't get away with pretending to be between 8 and 12 as I'd love to have stayed a bit longer!
5th August 2009
It was good to see Fulham get an away win under their belts in their first Europa League game last week. Playing in Lithuania is quite an unusual way to start a season but the result was very comfortable and FK Vetra were the kind of opponent you'd want to come up against in these opening stages while you're finding your feet. All being well I'll be down at the Cottage watching the second leg on Thursday.
The German season kicked off last Saturday with the first round of the Cup. The talking point of the weekend was the thrilling game between Hamburg and Dusseldorf which I managed to get a glimpse of. It was potential giant-killer stuff as Dusseldorf are in the Third Division but they managed to take Hamburg all the way to penalties after a last minute goal.
I've been in the Motherland myself for a short while this week and it was only when I went to the kiosk at the airport to buy my season 2009/10 Panini album that I got the terrible news that Panini are no more, having been sold to Tops Cards! Such a big loss to football culture after all those years of stickers. Gutted...
20th July 2009 - Farewell Fulham!
As I've now officially come to the end of my contract at Fulham I wanted to put down a few words about the whole chapter. I had a great time in my years at the club and I'll always look back on it as a major part of my career, and my life for that matter, because Fulham was the first place where I got to play regular first team football at the top level.
I clearly remember my Premier League debut, which was at home to Middlesbrough back in August 2003. I say at home even though it was at Loftus Road because that's where we were playing at the time. We won 3-2 and I'd only been at the club for about a week at that point. I had no idea that within a few seasons I'd be the longest-serving player of the existing squad. That first season was a great one as we finished ninth and equalled the club's top flight highest position, which was a great achievement. I was playing week-in, week-out so I had no hesitations about making my loan move a permanent one during that winter, and looking back I still think that was the best and most enjoyable season of my time at Fulham.
The highlight of the second season was going back to Craven Cottage which was great. It was obvious that was what the fans wanted and it meant more to the players to be back in our own stadium, too, and especially a stadium as special and unique as the Cottage. I loved that place from the first time I set foot in it. The club had made a lot of improvements by the time we went back, and combined with it's incredible location by the river and the obvious history which is there in front of your eyes, it's a pretty special place - not to mention the fact it was close enough that I could cycle to games from my house!
Of course, a big part of what makes the Cottage special is the fans, and the fact that they are so close to the pitch contributes a lot to the atmosphere down there. I have a friend who used to be in charge of policing at the Cottage and he has always been very complimentary about the Fulham fans. In my time I certainly don't remember any problems. People used to tell me I was popular with the Fulham faithful and that was certainly I nice feeling. I always felt liked and every time I set foot on the pitch I tried to give as much back as I possibly could and I always felt my effort was appreciated which made it all worthwhile. I certainly got back from the fans as much as I put in. But it seems that Fulham fans have always had a soft spot for the slightly crazy ones and I've always felt there's nothing wrong with being a bit alternative! I think "Fulhamish" is the phrase, so I'm told...
At the start of my time at Fulham, I was still living up in north London where I'd settled to be close to Arsenal. But after a couple of years the journey got a bit much and I made the move over. But living in Fulham itself has been great as it really allowed me to get a sense of the place and see just how deeply rooted the club's role in the local community is. I always got a strong sense of that as I jogged past the Cottage on my days off. I certainly didn't look back once after moving in and I'm sure I'll always keep some roots in Fulham no matter where my career goes from here as I love the place.
No matter whether times were good or bad, either for the club as a whole or for me personally, I can safely say that I had a great time at Fulham and I'll always look back on it very fondly. The ups and downs were all part of the experience. As with Arsenal, Fulham is a club that I've grown very close to and that will never change. Over the past six years I've made some great friends at Fulham that I hope to stay in touch with forever. But you can't get rid of me that easily. No matter where I go next I'll always be keeping a close eye on how things are going at the Cottage, and as a certain Austrian ex-bodybuilder-turned-U.S. politician once said, "I'll be back!"
Thanks to everyone for making the last six years as memorable as they have been, good luck and keep in touch!
16th July 2009
Training's been going well over the past week or so. I've been a regular at hot Bikram yoga too, usingit as an early morning warm-up to the football work. As for the person who 'borrowed' my shorts over the weekend, I am not impressed!
Monday was a tough day. I did a triple session - which consisted of yoga, training and then running, and followed that with a visit to a five year old's birthday party. You can work out for yourself which was the most tiring! And if that wasn't enough, I then went on BBC Five Live's Monday Night Club alongside the Romford Pele (aka Ray Parlour) and Darren Fletcher - the commentator rather than the very talented Man U midfielder. People have since told me that I look better on radio. What do they mean??
I rediscovered the beauty of Richmond Park recently when I took a good mate of mine cycling there last Friday afternoon. Bet we looked a right pair, him on my fold-up and me on my wife's navigator with the saddle too low. I took the opportunity to treat him to a nice piece of German cake and bread in the fairly recently opened German bakery in Ham. I urge every bypasser to drop in and give it a try.
3rd July 2009
While doing this update, I'm sitting on my couch absolutely knackered after training, supporting Andy Murray in the Wimbledon men's semi, knowing full well that whoever wins will only be runner up anyway because they've got to face the Fed-Express in the Final. I was supporting Tommy Haas earlier for obvious reasons but he wasn't able to make a game out of it unfortunately. But it was still great to see another German in a Wimbledon semi after such a long time. What isn't so great, however, is listening to Boris Becker on the TV with his comedy accent - I think I preferred it when he was charging up and down the court!
I had my own mini-Wimbledon when I was back home in Germany last week. I played against my younger brother and his girlfriend. She played full time for a couple of years so needless to say I didn't even see the ball, never mind win a point. I could handle that because she's obviously very good, but what stung was losing to my younger brother - yet again. I blame the blister on my thumb...
I've been doing a bit of co-commentating and studio summarising for the Euro Under 21 Championships during the summer. That's been a new experience for me but one I've really enjoyed. And of course I'm happy to report (for those who don't know) that Germany won by beating England 4-0 in the final. It was a typical German tournament performance - i.e. doing as little as possible to get to the final and then really turning it on. I have to say the 4-0 scoreline suggests the gap between the two teams is much greater than it actually was. But the future looks bright for German football because we also won the Under 19 and Under 17 European Championships too, so there will hopefully be a lot of players coming through - making my chances of ever appearing for the national team even slimmer!
I'm back working hard in pre-season now. As I'm between clubs at the moment, I'm training with Fulham until I work out what my next move will be. Where I go next is an important decision for me and I want to make sure it's the right one so I don't want to rush into anything. But at the same time I'm keen to get started on my training so it's worked out well. It's great to be out on the training field again. I genuinely love the feeling of coming home exhausted unable to move a limb.
I have to mention the amazing weather. I kind of regret being away for most of June because to me there is nowhere like London in the sunshine - I love it! Long may it continue!
I'll be back doing regular updates once again now so there'll be more to follow soon...
15th May 2009
Wow, has it really been that long since the last update at the end of March? The weeks have just flown by and there's been so much happening, which is why I've been off the scene for so long.
Just so you don't get confused when you read what I'm about to write, I had to go back to Munich for a second time recently, not to have seconds of that legendary ice cream, but to pay Dr. Muschaweck another visit.
I was back and able to play within two weeks of my last groin surgery in March, but after coming on to play the last twenty minutes of the Sheffield United match I struggled to return to training because my left side was hurting me. That was another huge blow, because I had been looking forward to playing again and contributing to the final and crucial part of our play off push. But instead I was back in the physio's room trying to make it back in time to play again this season.
The difficulty was that while we were trying to settle and control my pain, I was also trying to increase my functionality and intensity in training. Unfortunately I run out of time in the end which meant that my last full game for Ipswich remains our 1-0 win at Derby, which was also our last game of 2008.
I wish I could have finished my loan spell on a different note and also regret deeply that as a team and club we came short of our goal of reaching the play-offs this season. I had a good time at the club and met some good people to whom I am very grateful for their help. I will certainly keep an eye out for Ipswich and would like to see them improve next season and return to top flight football.
Most striking about my return to munich this week was that I felt like an Englishman in New York - or more like a foreigner in my own country. Monday morning on the way to the doctor's practice, I was almost arrested three times in 20 minutes. The first time I was blocking the exit of the tube. Where in England you would have people saying excuse-me and politely asking you to let them pass I was shouted at by an elderly guy who I'm sure had been a general in the past. Then I found myself walking on a cycle path and it was only the sound of a bell from an on-coming bike that got me out of the way. Lastly I was ordered by a fellow countymen not to cross the road at a red light even though there wasn't a car in sight. I'm sure he is still standing there waiting for the green.
Anyway I think that a couple of weeks complete rest will be just what the doctor ordered for my groins to settle down so that I will be ready in time to start pre-season at the end of June.
In the meantime stay tuned in...
29th March 2009
I made good progress with my training last week and got to a point where I was even working with the ball, which is amazing given that it was only a week before I was having surgery. But all credit for that goes to the doctor in Munich who has refined her technique to allow such quick come-back times - and that's why she's getting sports people from all over the world going to her now.
Today I continued to build on last week's successful work and had my first full session with team, so I'm now hoping I can carry that through for the rest of the week without any bad reactions, which should mean I'm in contention for selection for the sqaud from now on.
I actually ended up at Craven Cottage on Sunday, although a bit unexpectedly. I went out for a jog in Fulham with a friend and by the time we got to the park next to the stadium we realised it was Boat Race day, which always coincides with an Oxford-Cambridge football match at the Cottage. So we decided to stop in and have a look and caught most of the second half. It wasn't a sell-out or anything but it was a really friendly atmosphere with plenty of banter going on between supporters of both universities. I found it particularly amusing to see that one of the Oxford strikers, a Mikael Forssell look-a-like wearing green Nike boots, was called "Toogood" -well, at least that's what it said on the back of his shirt...that's got to be tough one to live up to if it was for real!
I looked out for my ex-Fulham team mate Andy Melville who told me he was going to be doing a bit of coaching with the Oxford team when I bumped into him a couple of weeks ago, although I didn't see him. But all in all it was an afternoon of unexpected fun at the Cottage - oh, and I reckon I'd be a safe bet for a football scholarship for Oxford or Cambridge. Maybe that's one to consider?!
19th March 2009
I'm back from Munich having had my operation. According to the surgeon it all went really well. Obviously Saturday's game will come too soon for me but I'll be able to do some light jogging over the weekend and then hopefully join in with some ball work next week, depending on how it's feeling. The international break that's coming up will also give me a bit of extra time to get back in shape so that I can hopefully play out the rest of the season without any further complications.
It's never nice to have surgery but in my case it wasn't too unwelcome as it gives me hope that the injury trouble I've had on and off for the past weeks has been finally sorted out once and for all now.
The operation was done under local anaesthetic but they gave me some sleeping gas too, just to get me snoozing. It only took about 45 minutes but needless to say, I was fairly spaced out for a few hours after. Back in my room I was in a world of my own and apparently coming out with some fairly random stuff - and all in English too, even though I was in the motherland! But it soon wore off and by the evening I was back to myself and tucking into a nice bit of suckling pig and dumplings - when in Rome and all that!
16th March 2009
.I'm writing this update from Munich. Last week was a long one, having to wait as I did to see my specialist. Unfortunately the injury came at the wrong time as the specialist was away on holiday, hence the wait. But I'm here now and keen to see what the outcome is and whether I'll need surgery or not. It's been diagnosed as a hernia, which kind of makes sense given the pain symptoms. The week's rest has certainly allowed it to settle but I'm eager to find out what the doctor here thinks and, more importantly, how long I'll be out for.
I really like Munich but it's just a shame that most of the time I come here is to see the doctor. It's great to see friends and relatives while I'm in town and the ice cream shop that sells 50 different flavours will certainly be getting a visit! And when I was looking to get on the train from the airport I was having so much trouble purchasing my ticket I had to get help from an English woman! How ironic is that??
3rd March 2009
I was really happy to be back from injury on Saturday and starting a game for the first time since Sheffield Wednesday in early January. Despite conceeding two really annoying first half goals – including a penalty in the sixth minute – it was a great game to be involved in and we were actually playing really well.
Having got three reserve games under my belt I was feeling really good from a physical perspective too – in fact I was probably feeling even better than before I even got the injury. A minute before half time we got a corner. The ball was cleared by the first man and it came to me as I'm one of the defenders who stays back for corners. As I went to play it back to our keeper I felt a little tweak in my groin - the same area that had just recovered after keeping me out all this time. I got into the dressing room but it was pretty obvious I wouldn't be able to play the second half so I came off. And since then I haven't been able to do much as the medical people are still assessing what I've done and what action needs to be taken.
I'm hoping for the best and that it's just a temporary set-back that will sort itself out pretty soon, but beyond that I can't really say a lot more. The first five days after an injury like this are always about waiting for it to settle and then it's about seeing exacty what the problem is and how we go about sorting it. But as I'm sure you can imagine I'm majorly down given that I thought I was back. And I was really enjoying the game too. It was a great match to be involved in even though we lost - very competitive, plenty of goals, plenty of chances. You could see that both teams were really going for it. It was just a shame things turned out how they did, both in terms of the result and for me personally.
Another great game I was involved in – albeit as a spectator – was Fulham's FA Cup replay against Swansea last week. It was great to go back to the Cottage and it made me realise what a genuinely unique and special place Craven Cottage is. I loved my time at Fulham and will always look back on it very fondly. It was great to be in among the supporters in the Hammersmih End, too. Fan Anthropology is a book that's waiting to be written – and it could include a whole chapter on the two blokes in front of me that went from starting on each other to hugging within the space of about 30 seconds! I really hope Fulham get a result against Hull and go on to beat Man U at the weekend. With United's Champions League game against Inter just a couple of days later it's as good a time to play them as any.
I'm writing this sat in the foyer of the cinema but Grand Torino is about to start and I have a lot of pop corn to eat so that's all for now. More soon....
12th February 2009
We did managed to get a reserve game going on, despite the weather. It wasn't Luton away as we'd thought though. In fact it wasn't even Luton at home – it ended up being Colchester at the training gound. It was tricky conditions – strong, cold winds, at times there were even hailstones. But the pitch took the water pretty well and was more than playable.
Colchester bought a very young team whereas we had a few first teamers out. Alongside me were Ben Thatcher, Dean Bowditch, our new signing Luca Civelli. I lost count of the score after a while but I think it endd up something like 9-2 to us. But even that wasn't enough goals for me to get on the scoresheet. The closest I got was being fifth in line to take one of our two first half penalties!
But I got through the whole 90 minutes and so by the weekend I'll have had a full week of training and a game under my belt which should put me in contention for the squad for Blackpool on Saturday and Nottingham Forest in midweek. To be honest I can't wait to get back into action so hopefully I'll get to make my return soon.
10th February 2009
Even though I was given the ok to train last week, due to the weather my comeback at the weekend was postponed as I couldn't get enough sessions under my belt. So that meant another weekend working on my fitness. I was in Saturday morning for a heavy top-up session which was enough to make me want to do little else but chill for the rest of the weekend as it was a tough workout. But it's what I needed in order to throw myself back into things this week. Depening on the weather there is hopefully going to be a reserve game I can play in which will be a good indicator of where I stand physically so I really hope it goes ahead.
It was a disappointment to hear the Swansea result on Saturday afternoon. Given our strong away record of late, the guys went into that game really hoping for a positive outcome even though we knew that Swansea were always going to be a very dangerous team. But they showed their quality once again on Saturday. The early goal gave them a lot of confidence and meant we were chasing all the way, and that situation only heightened when the second went in.
Despite the post-training tiredness, I did still manage to muster the energy to take part in an After Eight eating challenge on Sunday. If you've never experienced this before it basically involves balancing an After Eight mint on your forehead and then, by moving various facial muscles, you have to try and get it into your mouth - as opposed to on the floor. My first attempt failed, but the second one I nailed, even if I did end up with chocolate smeared all over my face...!
2nd February 2009
It had to happen. My return to training coincided with the biggest snow fall in twenty years. As soon as I woke up in London, I knew that even getting to Ipswich was going to be a struggle, let alone being able to actually train. It took me about four hours to get to Ipswich on some very slow trains but the fact that my injury was brought on by hard frozen pitches in the first place meant that I ended up doing a gym session just like I've been doing for the last three weeks. But it was the only sensible thing to do as training with the lads on the astroturf in the dome could have easily flared up my symptoms again and delayed my return. But hopefully I'll be able to train properly tomorrow.
That said, it's always nice to see the snow, especially when it's proper snow - not that horrible stuff that just turns to slush in a couple of hours. It was so scenic when I got up in the dark this morning and I have to say, I didn't really mind walking to two different stations trying to find a train that was actually going somewhere!
But I'm not surprised it's snowed given how cold it was at the weekend. I went to the Plymouth game on Saturday and I don't know why but whenever I'm not involved and sat in the stands it's always the coldest day in living history. The wind didn't help either – both for my cold feet and for the guys playing on the pitch as it played into Plymouth's hands. They were set-up very apprehensively and apart from a few break-aways in the second half they didn't really contribute much. We had plenty of possession, lots of good passing and balls into the box, but what we really lacked was the creation of clear goal-scoring opportunities and the longer the game went on, the harder it became to open them up. A disappointing home result on the back of our solid away form but we still remained unbeated in January which is something we can certainly take into the next games.
It's going to be a challenging game away at Swansea at the weekend, not to mention another very long trip. I hope to be fit for that one – that's the aim anyway. When we played them earlier in the season it was 2-2 but I remember them being a decent team that pass and move well. They've been on a really good run too, stretching some 13, 14 games now. They've also knocked two Premier League sides out of the FA Cup too, so their confidence will be high. It's Fulham for them in the next round so I'll be testing the water and reporting back to everyone at the Cottage on what to expect...
30th January 2009
Since the beginning of the week, I've been doing more and more each day in my rehab and have progressed from the bike and swimming up to light jogging and functional movements. Today I even kicked some balls for the first time! Next is to move up to long range kicking and some sprints so I'll be working away over the weekend to give myself the best chance of being able to join in training next week.
We've got Plymouth at home tomorrow. We've already played them at their place earlier in the season - one of the longest away trips we have to do. We flew down so I don't know if they'll be doing the same? Either way it's quite a trek!
Our form has been really good of late and on the back of our last league results, everyone is really looking forward to the games we've got coming up. Plymouth are desperate for points as they've slipped down a bit and are now in with a lot of clubs towards the bottom who are starting to look over their shoulders. So they'll be looking for a result but as far as we're concerned it's a game we've got to win. Unfortunately our home match against Nottingham Forest which was meant to be next week has had to be moved because they've got a Cup replay so no midweek action for us.
I've started to do a bit of country walking in the last week. I got given a list of about 12 walks from the people at the hotel where I stay when I'm up in Ipswich so I've decided to do one a week. The first one was around the Woodbridge are but rather naively, I did it in my nice white trainers. I was expecting roads and paths but I ended up trudging through a load of mud down by a river bed. Don't get me wrong, it was an amazing walk with beautiful, scenic views. But it certainly took it's toll on the footwear. I'll have the wellies out next time...
27th January 2009
Once I'd got over the groin injection, my birthday turned out to be a great day last Wednesday, even though my anaesthetised leg gave me a bit of a comedy walk. But I didn't let that stop me having a bit of lunch up in town (see picture...) before rustling up a nice stew in the evening for a few friends, courtesy of Jamie's new book. A games night then followed, thanks to the fact that I got Yahtzee as a present. I was on such a roll I did the impossible and got three Yatzee's in a row. For anyone not familiar with the game, that means five threes, five fours, five fives and five sixes with the dice. That's got to be a world record. Understandably, I was so psyched about my luck after that I decided to play the lottery for the first time as I was convinced it was destined to be my day. Unfortunately I couldn't get a ticket from any of the petrol stations at that time of night so I went for five of those scratch card things . And guess what? On two of them I won! With a nifty profit of four pounds in my pocket I then invested in some proper lottery tickets the next day but that's where plan came unstuck. No numbers, no jackpot, game over.
With my temporary infatuation with gambling behind me, I went to the Chelsea game with a few friends on Saturday. Even though I'm injured I wouldn't have missed that one, especially as Stamford Bridge is on my doorstep. One of the people who came with me was my old mate Sylvain Legwinski who I know from Fulham days and who then went on to play for Ipswich for two seasons until he retired last summer. It was great to see him again and compare our Suffolk experiences. It was a really good Cup tie and I felt we were certainly in the game for the best part of it. It took a German to come up with something a bit special to make the difference, but fair play to Ballack as that was a great free kick that could only have been topped by a bit of Lampard magic. It was really weird going to Stamford Bridge as a spectator though. The last time I went there was as pundit for German TV when they were covering a Champions League game. So in that case, you're obviously having to be totally neutral, whereas on Saturday – for the sake of Ipswich and Fulham – there was only one way I wanted the result to go. Unfortunately it didn't go the right way but at least I had the luxury of being able to walk home - didn't even need to get out the folding bike!
So the injection has worked in as far as it's settled down the pain a touch and now I've got to ease my way back into training. I've started with some stretching and swimming and hopefully I can step that up to running, and then if everything goes really well I might be back in training at the end of the week. That obviously means I'll miss the trip to Barnsley this weekend but I'm hoping the boys will get another win. Having won two on the bounce away from home, it'll be great to keep that going and edge a bit closer to the play-offs.
21st January 2009
I'm still not able to train at the moment due to my injury. It's an inflammation of the pubic bone and is a recurrence of a problem I've had before, but in this case I think it was brought about by the frosty conditions we've had recently. It's been pretty sore so this morning I was up in London for an injection into my groin in the hope it'll settle it down so I can get back into training as soon as possible - hopefully by the beginning of next week.
The injection was pretty painful to say the least - not really the kind of present I was looking for on my birthday morning! But hopefully it'll do the trick. It's rest for me over the weekend so I'll be missing the Chelsea game unfortunately, and I'm obviously gutted about that. I was already disappointed to have missed out on the win over Palace at the weekend. It was another good result for us though. Unbeaten in five, two away wins on the bounce - that's good form in my book and puts us in good shape for the next three Championship games, not to mention the weekend's trip to Stamford Bridge.
It's always great when you get to test yourselves against one of the best in Europe at their ground. And I'm sure it'll be provide a big incentive for some of our players because it will give them a taste of what life in the top flight can be like. So we'll certainly be looking to cause an upset, and even though I'm not playing I'll certainly be at the game - it is on my doorstep after all! With my Fulham background, and obviously being an Ipswich player, there's only one team I want to see lose.
I went to see Cirque de Soleil at the Albert Hall last week - my favourite London venue. I've been to Cirque de Soleil before but they have different themes and this was a show I hadn't seen before. As with last time, I was absolutely astonished by what I was witnessing - it really is inspiring to see people pushing the limits of what they can do with their bodies. Amazing stuff!
12 January 2009
Since I last wrote the boys put in a good graft to get us to the next round of the FA Cup. Well done lads - glad we got through and can't wait to chip in myself. We're up against the winner of the Chelski-Southend replay which is on Wednesday, but either way you look at it, it's a great draw. Stamford Bridge is right on my porch for starters, and last time I played there I scored the Premier League's 15,000th goal so I'll be up for a bit of that kind of action again – would certainly make the Fulham fans happy, as well as the Ipswich fans! That's if we win of course. And could just as easily be at Southend – which is technically another local derby, not that it is any closer than Norwich!!!
My parents got me the latest Jamie Oliver cookbook for Christmas which has been getting a bit of an outing of late. It's called Ministry of Food and is all about encouraging people to cook their own stuff instead of chowing down on ready meals. It's got christened this weekend - pasta with bacon and peas. Mmmmm!
Another book that arrived under the Volz Christmas tree was the legendary Football Lexicon, which basically explains the jargon of football in a half serious / half comedy way. To be fair, I've been in need of this book ever since I came to this country and now that I finally have a chance of understanding what people are really talking about here, my career is bound to kick off!Training has been affected by the cold these past few days as the pitches have been frozen solid. We trained as best we could under the circumstances but I'm sure most clubs were suffering with the same problems. It got me thinking what a tough job it must be to be a groundsman. It must be a hard graft at the best of times, but a freezing January must be a real challenge. It's been a tough couple of weeks for the boys but our playing surface at the weekend was as good as it always is so they deserve a lot of praise for the work they've put in. Our position in the table hasn't really changed even though we're unbeaten in three games having won two and drawn one. I think we were all pretty disappointed with drawing at home at the weekend. But as always, it's about turning that disappointment into a good week's training and taking that into the next game. I got a bit of a muscle injury on Saturday which has been pretty sore since so I missed training today. But it's started to settle down a bit now so I hope to be back involved later in the week.
31st December 2008
Christmas has been and gone, and apart from our result on Boxing Day, it was a good one on many fronts. We trained in the morning on Christmas Eve but I managed to get back home in time to get to the kids’ service at our local church – where I ended up on stage as the little donkey! The kids were a bit shy which meant that some of the older folks had to get involved and when the donkey opportunity arose I grabbed it with both hands and did the business. Unfortunately they forgot to bring any ears but I did my best nonetheless. Later on we had some friends over and cooked up a lovely dinner, German style. Red cabbage, potato dumplings and a nice piece of roast meat with red wine gravy, and then stuffed baked apples to finish – lovely!
It was an early start on Christmas morning to get to Ipswich for training but the roads were clear – if only they were like that every day. We started off well against Birmingham on Boxing Day – we had a lot of the ball in the first half an hour and although we didn’t create too many clear chances, they were there for the taking. In fact, Birmingham hadn’t really got anywhere near our goal before they went one up and the manner of the goal was a real disappointment for me. When a cross came in from the left I tried to get my head to it but just missed and it bounced on my arm. The ref was quick to point to the spot even though it was utterly unintentional but he couldn't have known. It spoiled what had otherwise been a good game for me and it obviously hurts when it feels like you’ve cost your team mates a good result.
The next day we traveled up to Derby to prepare for our next game in what is always a busytime of year in the fixture list. We didn't play particularly well and it wasn’t pretty. But after getting an early lead we defended with courage, put our bodies on the line on more than one occasion and ground out a big result and clean sheet too. My legs are heavy now and deserve a rest after two games in the space of three days....
Happy New Year!
23rd December 2008
Storage containers for my kitchen. That’s top of my Christmas list this year. And some socks, striped ones of course. Oh, and three points on Boxing Day, too. So if you’re reading this Santa, I’ve been a good boy this year and I’d appreciate it if you could sort me out.
It’s not difficult to write the script for the stuff most football players say at this time of year – “just another day’s work” and all that. But the reason those clichés get rolled out is because they’re actually true. This is one of the only countries in Europe where there’s no winter break, and the time-honoured tradition of games on Boxing Day means anyone involved in my line of work will be grafting away while everyone else is getting stuck in to the turkey.
We’ve got Birmingham on Boxing Day (or “Birm-u-num” as they should always be referred to, thanks to Trevor Brookin’). Fortunately we’re at home, which means we won’t be stuck in some hotel. There are a lot of great things about playing football for a living but that is most definitely not one of them. Either way, as has been the case on every Christmas day of my professional career, I’ll be training. And even when we’re done, the rest of the day is still a write-off as I’ll be getting into pre-match mode.
Being German, Christmas Eve is a big day chez Volz, so I usually allow myself to eat some decent stuff then. But after that it’s back on the brown rice and pasta. But before you start feeling too sorry for us players there is some fun to be had in any football club’s festive calendar. One of my favourites is the customary afternoon of carols from the Academy boys. They hate doing it but that’s part of the fun. It’s a right of passage and I certainly had to do it at Arsenal. I can’t remember what I sang but I do know it wouldn’t have been a patch on the two Ghanaian kids who got up at Fulham last season and threw a bit of dancing into the mix! But if you’re feeling a tinge of sympathy at the humiliation of these stars of the future, forget it. The young fellers certainly know how to work Christmas to their advantage too. At Ipswich the scholars still clean the first team players’ boots and, well, put it this way, you don’t need a calendar to know when Christmas – and therefore the chance of a bonus - is coming. You just have to look at the immaculate shine on your boots that seems to coincide with this time of year before the normal patchy service is resumed in January!
Talking of boots, having recently examined them at length in my Times column, it did occur to me that a bit of festive foot decoration wouldn’t go amiss. If someone can get away with pinks ones there’s no reason why I can’t pull on a pair on Boxing Day with some little bells and reindeer sewn in to them. Maybe that’s one for next year. By the way, Puma, if you’re reading, thanks for taking pity after that particular column and sending me those boots. Very kind. Think I might write about Ferraris next...
21st December 2008
A 2-2 draw against Coventry - we went behind twice but managed to come back both times. Massive pitch so lots of running but a result that doesn't get us up the table unfortunately. It as good to catch up with Cookie, although I only saw him very briefly.
Went to see Stereophonics at the O2 Arena afterwards. They absolutely rocked and have got so many great songs - I love their music. And what a good use of what was once London's biggest waste of money - the Millennium Dome. I knew about footie grounds getting more comfortable than peoples' sitting rooms but rock venues??
I had a big moment today reading at my local church, St Matthew's. It was the first time I've actively taken part in a service and I was super nervous. Playing in front of 70,000 at Old Trafford was nothing compared to this - a weird but wonderful experience. The Christmas carrols were great too....
17th December 2008
The weekend’s result against Cardiff has seen us continuing with our pattern of winning one, losing one. It’s frustrating because we jump a few places one week and end up playing catch-up the next. It certainly wasn’t our best performance of the season though. We gave away cheap goals which put us on the back foot and in the second half the rescue was made even more difficult on a heavy pitch in testing conditions when we ended up a man down once again. But fair play to Cardiff – they’re a decent team who showed some quality, especially going forward.
We did the customary Christmas hospital visits yesterday afternoon. It’s a big tradition and pretty much all clubs do it. But with the size of squads these days, if you split up into groups of four or five like we did, you can get around a few places. So we weren’t just in Ipswich - my group went to a hospital in Colchester, and some of the other guys went to places as far away as Bury St Edmunds. We all chipped in to buy presents. Some go to individual kids, but the wards also put up a wish list of things they could use throughout the year that will then stay at the hospital, so we got some of those things covered off too. Being in hospital isn’t nice at the best of times, let alone at Christmas when everyone else is busy enjoying themselves. So if we can cheer a few of the kids up by dropping in to say hello, having a chat and giving them a present, well, that’s the least we can do.
We’ve got Coventry away this weekend so I’ll get to see my former manager, Chris Coleman. As I mentioned last time, it was nice to have a quick catch up with Lee Clark after the Norwich game – it was just a shame I’d been on the losing side. So when I speak to Cookie I'm hoping I’ll be the one with the three points!
11th December 2008
Unfortunately, the latest chapter of the “Old Farm Derby” last weekend didn’t turn out quite the way we’d have liked and was a bit of a downer for anyone on the Ipswich side of the fence. It’s a shame because it was a great atmosphere on the day. You could really see just how up for it our traveling fans were. I noticed the buzz about the place as early as when we came out for the warm-up. It was almost as if the game had already started because the noise was overwhelming.
I think it was the best Norwich have played in a long time and we just didn’t cope with them very well. The goals we gave away were unnecessary so from our perspective it was a very disappointing afternoon. It was good to catch up with Lee Clark afterwards though – his last game as Norwich Number Two before being appointed manager at Huddersfield yesterday.
After Sunday’s result it was important that we bounced back at home to Bristol City last night, although that game couldn’t have started any worse for us after we conceded a bad early goal. The fans weren’t too pleased from the weekend and that start didn’t help matters. But we played well, showed good movement and created plenty of chances. By the time we came out second half, I don’t think City knew how to handle us at all and within a few minutes we’d not only equalized but had gone 3-1 up. It was a really pleasing performance all round, especially given that we had to play the last half hour with ten men.
I got a dead leg with 20 minutes to go too – caught a beauty, knee-cap right in the thigh muscle. I played on but I can certainly feel it today. But I’ve got a couple of days to have plenty of treatment so I can get myself fit for Cardiff at the weekend. It’s the 23rd game which is the exact half-way point of the season and if we can play with the same spirit and rhythm as we showed last night there’s no reason why we can’t get a result and keep on track with pushing for a play off place…
2nd December 2008
Saturday’s game against Sheffield United was certainly a great opportunity for us. With two minutes to go we were a goal up against a team in the Play Off places but by the end of the game it was 1-1 after we conceded a late penalty. So it ended up being one point rather than three, which was a real shame as we could have pushed up towards the top six had we held on until the end. It was a game we certainly could have won as we had some chances to extend our lead but we didn’t take them. So with 20 games gone we’re now approaching the half way mark of the season, and while we’re not quite where we want to be, we’re still in touching distance, which makes Sunday’s game against Norwich even more significant.
The East Anglia derby is a game I’ve heard a lot about since I first signed for Ipswich. I’ve played in a few fierce games against Norwich in my time but I’m eager to experience this one as from what I’ve heard it can be pretty wild! But that means it’s our job as players to stay settled and keep our focus on getting a result. By the way, I might challenge Delia to a bake-off if I see her - although I’ll have to keep an eye on her given that her last cook-book was all about cheating!
My former youth team coach at Arsenal, the legend that is Don Howe, came down to take our training today. Now this is a man who likes nothing more than being out on a field with a bunch of footballers and putting on a session, which probably explains why they go on for so long! But it was a really nice change and a great privilege to have him at the club and it was a very enjoyable morning.
Unfortunately, me and three of my team mates had to break away a little early to head off to Portman Road but we had a decent excuse bearing in mind we had to meet Prince Charles, no less! His Royal Highness had come to thank Ipswich Town for the work it does for the Princes Trust. All football clubs support the Trust in one way or another but we’re actually the first and the only club to have an actual Princes Trust team. It was great to have him there and a privilege to meet him and we gave him a shirt with HRH 1 on the back – so you never know, you might see him in goal on Sunday!
I’d actually met him once before because of my work with the Princes Trust but I don’t think he remembered me. He’s probably met millions of people since then. But we had a brief chat which was good. And a few of the people I deal with on a regular basis through my Princes Trust work were there too, so it was good to see everyone. A great day all round!
Oh, and I made my first visit to the German Christmas Market at Hyde Park on my day off earlier in the week. Even though it’s a long way from being like an actual Christmas Market back in Germany, it is worth a visit - if only for the grilled sausages!
28th November 2008
I missed the Derby game last weekend because I was serving a suspension for yellow cards, but it gave me the opportunity to watch a game from the stands. It was seriously cold though – not a day when you wanted to be sitting still. Give me running around in shorts over that any day. It was a great game and a very positive performance from us. We deserved to win it, no question and it gave our spirits a big boost, putting us back in touching distance of the play-offs once again.
After that we were in a confident frame of mind going up to Birmingham on Tuesday night but things didn’t quite go they way we’d hoped. I’ve got to say, in the first half hour of the game Birmingham played some of the best football I’ve seen in this League. They pressed very effectively and in the right areas and when they had the ball they always seemed to have options. At times it was almost like they had an extra two players on the pitch. They made it really tough for us so full credit to Birmingham for a great display but another set-back for us. We seem to be bouncing between 8th and 10th at the moment – every time we win we get within touching distance of a play-off place, but every time we lose the gap opens up again.
It’s Sheffield United at home on Saturday which will be another really good test as they’ve had some form of late and are in a play-off place at the moment. They’re a strong, physical side who are dangerous at set-pieces but like us they had a good result last weekend but a disappointing one mid-week. It’ll be a very competitive game but one we can certainly win.
I had a nice chat to a couple of very pleasant guys on the train back from the Birmingham game So if you’re reading guys, hello, and thanks for the company.
And the Christmas decorations have started to go up in my hotel in Ipswich which is nice to see. It’s almost December now so I guess we’re allowed to officially start getting in the mood!
21st November 2008
I went to Wembley when England played the Motherland the summer before last. I sat with the England fans and got shed loads of abuse. Probably something to do with the fact I was wearing one of my Under 21 shirts and a German flag afro wig. And that we won. So rather than volunteer myself for another night of German-bashing, I decided to join my own for Wednesday night’s game. No, I didn’t hot-foot it over to Berlin. Instead I went to Fest, which is a German bar on the Fulham Road.
Unfortunately the wig seems to have gone walk-about, but seeing as it was a big occasion I dug out the shirt from my one senior appearance for the Motherland and wore that. You know, the shirt with the three stars above the badge. Not one. THREE. Got that?
The place is done out a bit like a bierkeller – long wooden tables, all in nice orderly straight lines (the German equivalent of feng shui) and staff dressed up like the cast of the Sound of Music. I was intrigued to see how many actual Germans would be in there, and I have to say I was quite impressed. Not long after we arrived, a whole gang invaded our table (some things never change…) and were all chatting away in the mother tongue. I tried to go for a bit of bonding and join in which was all well and good until this one girl, who we’ll call Helga for the sake of convenience, told me my German was “actually pretty good.” Great. Even my own countrymen think I’m English. What has become of me?
The combination of “Fulham” and “bar” naturally meant there were a few antipodeans thrown into the mix too. It’s not often you see Auzzie men drinking from smaller glasses than women, but there’s no stopping our frauleins when they get patriotic. With the two-pint steins out in force, I decided to follow suit. I can tell you now it takes exactly three bottles of J20 and one bottle of fizzy water to fill one. I’m not sure anyone noticed it wasn’t beer. It just looked like some obscure Bavarian home brew. And more importantly, it still had maximum clink-ability. Prost!
Keen to get in the spirit of things, we got the food order in sharpish. Currywurst sausages, pork knuckle and schnitzel. And lots of potatoes. I’m telling you, those tables must have been reinforced with girders to take the weight of all that meat. It was pretty good stuff but the tinned sauerkraut was as soft and sloppy as England’s opening goal. Which obviously went down like Zeppelin’s air balloon – and I mean the bad sauerkraut as much the goal.
I was hoping to see Jimmy Bullard get a run-out but Capello had obviously decided against it – probably on the grounds that Bully’s grandma is German. One of my mates said you could tell that by his barnet, but I’m not having that. I’ll take a lot - the ‘Hoff, bad taches, socks and sandals. But no way am I taking responsibility for Bully’s hair. That’s way beyond German. A bridge too far you might say…
Talking of fashion I was a bit disappointed not to see any sleeveless denim on show – or sweatbands and luminous socks. I thought it would all be out in force, especially amongst a football crowd but it was actually quite civilized. Either that or it had all been confiscated at customs.
So, the game. Here are my thoughts. Do David James and Glen Johnson call each other up beforehand and to ask who’s going cornrows and who’s going ‘fro? Has there ever been a player as small as Piotr Trochowski? His head was actually below the linked arms of the players either side of him during the anthems. How can someone called Jermaine Jones be German? Good shout on getting a Swiss ref - that’s the only neutrality acceptable when England and Germany get going. And finally, is German efficiency catching? I think it must be because Defoe was barely off the pitch before he was sat back on the bench in his suit. Maybe Jermaine is a German name after all?
Oh and full marks to the two blokes behind us who were cheering for England, in German. Not quite sure what that was all about but it was very funny. You’re both obviously as messed up as me. And who cares about the result. It’s all about the stars.
19th November 2008
Am sat on a train from Ipswich back to London so I’m filling my time writing as there is no buffet car on this train, much to my annoyance! I’ve been doing a fair bit of traveling around the country over the past few days. We were up at Doncaster on Saturday – losing 1-0 was a very disappointing result and must have come as a bit of a shock result for the bookies given that they’re bottom and we’ve been on a decent run of late.
I think it was one of the few games this season where we didn’t manage to score which says a lot about the kind of match it was. Once Doncaster went ahead they just made life really difficult for us and stopped us from playing and creating clear cut chances. We had a few opportunities but we just didn’t take them. But I’m not taking anything away from Doncaster – they played really well, were very competitive and managed to stop our run. We have three big games before the month is out so we’ll be looking to get things back on track against Derby at the weekend. To make matters worse, not only did we lose but I also picked up my fifth booking on Saturday which means I’m suspended for Derby – bit of a problem given that my brother is coming over to watch me play. It happens every time. Whenever he plans I trip, I end up out of action for some reason. Maybe I should just ban him from coming!
After the Doncaster game I headed straight to Manchester for two days of meetings with the PFA. I’m now on the PFA’s Management Committee which is composed of eight or nine players from across the leagues. The meetings involved reports from each of the departments and then a series of discussions about various issues. It was the first time I’ve attended since I joined the Committee as I missed the first two get-togethers so I was glad to be there at last. But it was a long weekend and it was good to get home.
Am really looking forward to the big game tonight. I wouldn’t normally be that bothered about watching a friendly international but I’m not going to miss the Motherland beating England!
12th November 2008
It’s been back-to-back wins for us since the last update – the first back-to-back League wins we’ve had this season, in fact, which is great. But we deserved them as we played really well in both games. Against QPR it was chucking it down – rain like I’ve never seen before which made the pitch really heavy. It was a competitive game but we kept a clean sheet and followed it up with an away victory at Blackpool at the weekend – another demanding match which was very satisfying to win.
It meant a lot to us to get six points from those two fixtures as it’s been our priority to get ourselves established in the top half of the table. As I’ve mentioned before, the Championship is such a tight league and it only takes a couple of decent results to be right up there. But now we’ve climbed the table a bit, the next priority is to get a bit of a gap between us and the teams below us as we try to edge into a play-off position. We’ve won three out of the last four so we’re on a decent run. We have four more games this month which are all going to be tough. But they’re all winnable too, as long as we keep our focus and concentration, and it’ll be great if we can keep the run going.
In fact it was a good weekend for football all round because Fulham beat Newcastle and the mighty Arsenal beat United. I actually went to the Fulham game on Sunday. It was really weird to be back at the Cottage as a guest and not part of it all but it was a great win – and crazy how many League places Fulham jumped!
The build-up to Christmas seems to have got into full swing already – much to my annoyance. It winds me up every year when people start talking about Christmas in October and November. It’s just a big commercial opportunity which totally detracts from what it’s all about. As far as I’m concerned, the only justification for mentioning Christmas in November is if you have small kids and you’re trying to get them to do something they don’t want to do! Don’t get me wrong, I love the whole festive season. But I can tell you now I’ll be staying far, far away from all the shops!
I’ve been hanging out with my friend’s four year old daughter this week. We went down to this place in Fulham where you can paint pottery. It was great fun and really woke up the creative Volzy. Stars, sheep, trees – you name it, I was painting it on to bowls, plates and all sorts. Although I probably should have done, I didn’t get as far as a tractor though. If you’d have seen my sheep, you’d understand why trying to pull off a tractor might be a step too far!
28th October 2008
Last week was national baking week which is all about encouraging people to get the cookbooks out and get a few cakes on the go. As you can probably imagine, it’s something I normally take very seriously. But this time around I couldn’t really get as stuck in as I’d have liked, due to two far flung away games which kept me away from my kitchen at home.
But four points on the road made up for it. Drawing away at Forest last week might have seemed like a bit of a disappointment at the time given that they’re bottom. Obviously we went there looking for a win but just didn’t create many clear cut chances on the night. But the fact that it was followed by the win at Plymouth at the weekend meant four points from two away games, which isn’t bad by anyone’s standards. It was a long old trip down to Devon, but I think we succeeded in taking the positive aspects from the Forest game – things like building up play, being in control of the ball – and really built on them against Plymouth. In fact the only disappointing aspect of the game was that we didn’t manage to keep a clean sheet and gave away another silly goal. But points matter more at this stage.
Next up we’ve got two successive home games, both against London clubs. We played Charlton not long ago and it was a challenging game and I don’t expect it to be any different this week. And I’ll be up against my former Fulham team mate Hameur Bouazza again who is always a handful. Then, at the weekend, we’ve got QPR who’ve just got rid of Ian Dowie. The guy in charge now, Gareth Ainsworth, I used to play with when I was on loan at Wimbledon a few years back and at that time I could never have imagined he’d be a manager. We used to call him “The Wild Thing!” I’m sure it’ll be another tough game, but both of these matches both give us the opportunity to get back in contention for a promotion place which is where we want to be.
Oh, and I’ve finally had my first ride on a tractor. The hotel where I’m staying let me get theirs out when Natalie Pinkham from Virgin Media Sport came to interview me. You can see the clip here -
It was great fun to be at the wheel and I suppose that makes me a bona fide Tractor Boy now. Although I didn’t do a very good job of cutting the grass so I’m not sure the hotel will be letting me out on it again….
16th October 2008
Thanks to the international break we’ve had a weekend off since the Charlton game a couple of weeks ago, which provided a good opportunity to time to get over any niggling injuries that were lurking. That afternoon at Charlton was really very disappointing on a lot of levels. For starters we lost a game that we should have drawn at the very least. And whereas a win would have really kicked our season off, the defeat did the exact opposite.
And then there was my own goal too, which I know was just one of those things that can happen but it was still a gutter. But I just want to reassure Ipswich fans that there’s nothing to be worried about - I spent most of my time at Fulham with a goal scoring statistic of minus one!
In all seriousness though, it’s time to kick on and get on with things now.The injuries I’ve had to take care of lately have meant I’ve missed quite a bit of training and that hasn’t been ideal. Before those injuries occurred I was steadily improving on all my levels and getting into a bit of a flow. But the fact that I couldn’t train for periods has set me back a bit so now it’s all about getting those levels up again.
But I’m really looking forward to the games we’ve got coming up. We’ve got two successive weeks with midweek games ahead of us now, starting with Swansea at home on Saturday. And while that means a lot of matches, it also means plenty of opportunities to make up ground on the teams above us which can only be a good thing.
Away from football, I went to the Comedy Store in Piccadilly last night. A friend was heading down there to do some research for a book he’s writing so I thought I’d tag along. I wasn’t expecting a lot, but I have to admit, we had a really good night in the end and saw some great acts. It got me thinking that doing stand-up is a bit like being a footballer. You can prepare yourself all you like for the big game but you can never really tell what’s going to get thrown at you on the night because you’re right there under the spotlight in front of a whole load of people waiting to abuse you at the first opportunity!
It was great fun though. I was expecting a bit of German abuse to come my way but the comedians seemed to have it in for the Americans so I got off the hook. Funnily enough, comedy clubs aren’t massive in Germany. But then being a comedian in Germany is a bit of a lonely life in general. If they were to make a Little Germany TV series they could have a whole sketch about being the only comedian in the village!
23rd September 2008
Whether the last two results can be looked at as positive or negative all comes down to how we do against Palace on Saturday. Last week at Southampton I think we all feltwe should have won. They have got a young side but play very good football, but with our superior experience and the way the game went we felt should have taken maximum points. We should have taken our chances and defended better for the goals. The major disappointment was that we basically invited them to score when they did. For a team away from home, to have dominated the second half like we did, it was disappointing not to come away with more than we did.
The games come thick and fast in the Championship. After Southampton we had a post-match recovery session and then headed up to Hillsborough. It was my first game there, and being such a historic place, I’m glad to have been there now. It would have been nice to have played in front of a full house, but even so, Wednesday get great support for a team that’s had some rough years recently. Again it was a frustrating result because we dominated the game and created the better chances. But they’d also just been beaten 6-0 by Reading and were therefore eager not to concede which made them unusually defensive for a home team – a situation I hadn’t faced for many years.
There were positives from our perspective too though. We were solid at the back and defended well, and a clean sheet away from home is never to be scoffed at. But it was still disappointing not to capitalise on our possession and come away with all the points.
So all in all it was a mixed few days in as far as we didn’t lose at all, but we still feel like we dropped unnecessary points. And when you draw games, it’s really the next result which determines whether it’s viewed as a good or a bad draw. So if we beat Palace on Saturday, we’ll look upon two away points as positive, but if we lose to Palace those results will seem a lot worse.
But between now and the Palace game we’ve got a break from the League - Wigan at home in the Carling Cup. It’ll be good to be up against Premier League opposition again, and Wigan have signed some decent players so they’ll be a tough nut to crack. But we’ll be playing with our strongest team and it’s a great challenge to look forward to. I’ve not played my part in this competition so far but the team has given us two decent results already and I’m really hoping we can carry that on and get a good cup run going.
15th September 2008
Thank goodness for the international break! I really felt the effects of that first Ipswich game against Watford a couple of weeks back so it was fortunate that I had an extra week to recover. But I’ve got much fitter since and felt a lot better after the weekend’s game against Reading. And we got a big win on my home debut too which was fantastic. In fact as far as results are concerned last weekend was perfect because we won, the Arsenal won, and so did Fulham - can’t ask for more than that! Hopefully there’ll be many more weekends like that to come.
It wasn’t my first time playing at Portman Road. If my memory serves me right, I played there years ago in an FA Youth Cup Semi Final when guys like Darren Ambrose and Darren Bent were in the Ipswich youth team. But it was my first match there as a bona fide Tractor Boy so it was great to mark it with a win – especially against a team like Reading. They’ve pretty much got an unchanged squad from their time in the top flight and like us they’re well capable of going for promotion this season.
Understandably, the win gave everyone a big lift. We hadn’t really started the season too well so there was already a bit of pressure on us due to our own high expectations. But what’s more important is following it up against Southampton on Wednesday night as getting a decent run together early on can be a major stepping stone towards a successful season.
I’ve got to say, the game continued to prove to me what a competitive league the Championship is. And it’s much more open than the Premiership - it’s nowhere near as easy to predict who’ll be fighting for the title and who’ll be scrapping for relegation at the end of the season. There are so many teams in with a chance of doing something that it must be a lot more thrilling for the fans in many ways.
I feel I’ve really started to settle in now and am thoroughly enjoying life up here in Ipswich. It’s great to be playing competitive football again, and as part of a good team too. And everything surrounding the football has been great as well. I’ve met so many friendly people and the overall atmosphere and friendliness has been second to none – and that goes for everyone from the staff at the hotel where I’m staying down to all the people at the club. Everyone has made things so easy for me. I’ve called Stacey’s Sally and Derek’s Darren, but there have been so many new names to learn that I’m bound to get it wrong at some stage. If I’ve got your name wrong, please forgive me but I am trying! The last thing I want to walk around the place calling everyone either “mate” or “love” for the rest of the season!
I must admit, I’ve been a bit lazy in exploring the town so far – mostly because I’ve been coming up by train a lot. But the one thing I have noticed is that you tend bump into people and that just doesn’t happen in London. I’d only been at the club a week and I bumped into a team mate and our physio in the same night at the cinema!
Oh, and I don’t think it’ll be too long before I start getting my apron on and getting stuck in down in the kitchen of the hotel where I’m staying either. The food is great so I reckon I might be able to learn a few tricks. I’ve already warned them – not sure they know what’s coming though…
5th September 2008
I played my first game for Ipswich last Saturday and I’ve got to say, I’m really looking forward to being part of a dressing room again on Saturday afternoons rather than watching from the stands or sweating over results on the radio. And I’ve got lots of games to look forward to – in the Championship they come thick and fast because there are so many teams in the League. I really like playing midweek as well as Saturdays so I think it’s going to suit me.
My debut at Watford on Saturday was a bit of a shock to the system though. I played the full 90 without having played competitive first team football in a while so my body took a bit longer to recover than usual. I’m lucky that we’ve got the international break as it gives me a bit more time to adjust to everything.
Everything is very new to me at the moment. In the last week or so I’ve had 50-odd new people to get to know and that means as many names to memorise. So as much as it’s an exciting time it’s also very exhausting. But roll on the next game!
28th August 2008
This time it’s actually true – I’ve agreed to a year’s loan at Ipswich Town. I’m really looking forward to competing for first team football at Portman Road and hopefully pushing for a promotion place with what is a very good Championship team.
I like what I’ve seen of the club so far and think Ipswich certainly have the potential to be a Premier League club once again. They have a good stadium and good facilities, and with the new owners there is a lot of ambition here with regard to trying to achieve that. So I feel I’m in a good place where I can progress my career and improve my football.
All that remains for me to do is to swap my folding bike for a tractor!
20th August 2008
The season’s up and running although it was a disappointing result to kick things off up at Hull last weekend, especially after going into the lead so early on. But while we’re disappointed we’re not dwelling on it and even though a lot of the players have been away on international duty this week, training’s been going really well ahead of Saturday’s London derby at home to Arsenal. It’s always good to get the first home game under your belts and I’m sure the Cottage will be buzzing – and given my history with the club I always look forward to games against the Arsenal.
I’ve been trying to keep up with the Olympics where possible, although I’ve got to say, I’m really disturbed by the fact that Great Britain have won more medals than Germany so far. Surely that can’t be right! On the same subject I heard a funny quote from Arsene Wenger the other day. “I didn’t know the British were good at swimming,” he said. “I have been in this country for twelve years and haven’t seen a swimming pool.” Classic. Mind you there have been a lot of things Arsene hasn’t seen in his time over here!
14th August 2008
So what’s new? Well, as we all know the season kick’s off this weekend – which is good news for all us players as it means that the hard graft of pre-season is finally over! Training always slows down once the games start as you’ve built up your fitness and it’s more about maintaining the levels than building them up.
But on a more important note I bought a new cook book the other day. It’s by this catering group called Ottolenghi. They have a few places around London and it’s right up my strasse. But they charge ridiculous prices and because I’m too tight to pay for it I decided I’d buy the book make the dishes myself – and it’s working a treat. Healthy food cooked in a healthy way, but really tasty. There’s a big Middle Eastern / Mediterranean influence in there recipes – one of the first dishes I rustled up was something called Kosheri, which is an Arabic rice dish with lentils and onions in it. But its special kick comes from the cinnamon which makes it slightly sweet – it works a treat.
Ottolenghi are also famous for their cakes too, so I’ll be looking to improve on my pre-match cake-baking this season too. I actually spent a lot of time over the summer perfecting my cup cakes. In fact, while on holiday in New York this summer I went to the famous Magnolia Bakery which is in the meat-packing district and has been on shows like Sex in the City. I bought a book from there and that really got me going on the cup cakes – they’re great fun to make. Although I’m not sure cup cakes are what we’ll need ahead of our opening game against Hull at the weekend. I’m thinking more along the lines of a rock cake for that one!
Another new favourite pastime of mine – reading the local papers. The stories are hilarious! Things like a lift not working is enough to get some serious column inches. But the best one was about this guy who was going to hike up to Scotland to see his childhood sweetheart, but the rucksack he’d just bought got nicked. So there was a whole story about it pleading for the rucksack’s return – and that made page three!!!
Oh, and apparently a modelling agency voted Fulham fans as the second best looking supporters in the Premier League which is all very flattering. The fact that I spent more time in the stands than usual last season is obviously no coincidence...But before you get too excited, it’s worth bearing in mind that Liverpool came top, so I’ll leave that open your own interpretation!
17th July 2008
We’ve got a couple of friendlies under our belt now. The first was at the training ground against Team Bath. We put out a different side in each half and won 4-0. And then we played away at Southend on Tuesday night, which was a good test against a decent League One side, so winning 2-0 was a good result. I played the full game in that one (see the pic!), but I could still feel that we’re only just getting back to full fitness. You’re not as bright and sharp as you’d want to be when the season starts but that’s normal at this stage. Celtic come to the Cottage on Saturday. It used to be a regular fixture for us each summer but after a bit of a break it’s good to see that the Fulham-Celtic pre-season trophy is back on. It’s always a good game and they always bring a massive crowd – it’s like playing an away game for us!
And then we’re off to Korea on Sunday – to stay at Seol’s place. Apparently he owns a whole village! Just kidding. I think it’s Korea because of something to do with our sponsors, and also to try and get a few more Korean fans on board.
And finally, a special mention to one of the secretaries at Fulham who is leaving after seven years at the club. Corine, we’ll miss you! Another one of the old guard gone – soon I’ll not only be the longest serving player but the longest serving member of staff over all. Good luck Corine!
15th July 2008
Seeing as I haven’t updated the diary since the Euros, I thought I should remind you about what a good shout it was when I told you to support the Motherland in the absence of England. Okay, we didn’t win, but we came pretty close! I was in a hotel in New York watching the game and while lightning isn’t supposed to strike twice, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Six years ago I played for Germany in the Euro Under 19 Final. We played Spain.
They had Iniesta and Torres playing. We lost 1-0. Torres scored by slipping the ball over the German keeper. Talk about déjà vu.
Since I’ve been back all I’ve had is “weren’t you Germans poor, blah, blah, blah…” Okay, we weren’t the most exciting team in the competition, but at least we were there - you lot were all on holiday!
Fair enough, the Euros didn’t feature a German side playing top class football. But it did show that we’re one of the most fiercely competitive teams in Europe. Maybe we don’t have the fancy players that other European sides have – or even that Germany has had in the past. But one of the reasons we got as far as we did is because there is so much belief whenever a German team enters a competition. And a big part of that is down to the success we’ve had in the past.
Most of the players in the Euro 2008 squad had played in the World Cup Semi Final only two years ago. And some of those had played in the World Cup Final four years prior to that. There are always players involved who’ve been there, done it and who know what it takes to get there. And it’s this consistent success that reinforces us and gives us a huge psychological advantage, even if our team isn’t necessarily the best.
At the 2002 World Cup we had a really average team. I remember Ireland tearing us apart in the Group stage, but we managed to draw and eventually ended up in the Final.
But that’s what tends to happen with us. Other teams might play the better football and create more chances. But they don’t have the composure or the belief that we have. And even if we only get a few chances, we tend to take them. And that is one of the other reasons that we consistently do well. In all seriousness it comes down to good old German efficiency. We’re like a machine. We don’t give the opposition anything that they won’t have to work hard for and we don’t waste our own opportunities.
In a way it almost suits us not to have outstanding individual talents like Ronaldo or a David Villa, because that means the German players know they’ll have to be at their absolute best to achieve anything.
We know beforehand that in order to get anywhere it’s all about working as a group and focussing on the task at hand – which is not to do with playing beautiful football but winning. We don’t go into games wanting to impress people. We go into them wanting success and we’re ruthless about it.
Look at the Turkey game. They were easily the better team, especially in the first half. Going into the break they should have been probably two goals up when you look at the chances they had. But if we’d had those chances we’d have converted them. We didn’t get too many chances in that game at all.
But the ones we got we took, and we won.
Even back in Germany, people don’t think we’re the second best team in Europe. And while everyone was delighted to see us in the final, I think the general opinion was that the only advantage we had over a great Spanish team was psychological - that Spain could crack under the pressure of not having won anything in 44 years. That advantage showed in the first 20 minutes.
But once Spain got past their nerves and created their first chance that was it. They were by far the better team and deserved to win.
The psychological advantage we have, in combination with the ruthless efficiency we inherently possess, once again got us a long way. People may not like us for it. But you can bet your bottom dollar that will continue to carry us into the next tournament and beyond.
June 6th 2008
Went to see one of my favourite bands the other night, Van Tramp, who were playing at the Gibson Guitar Studio in London. It was a kind of fan club / invite-only thing so it was quite intimate but it was a great gig – they boys were on fire. Check them out at www.myspace.com/vantramp - new single is out at the start of July...
And it also gave me the chance to catch up with my old mate Claus Jensen who was there too. So good to see him and delighted that life in Copenhagen is working out so well for him.
So, the bags are packed and we’re off to the sun for a bit now. I won’t tell you where, except to say that it’s somewhere in the Pacific Ocean a long way away from football – which means I’ll miss a lot of the Euro 2008 action.
But if you want to hear my thoughts on it all ahead of the competition, just click the links below. The first is to my Times column from last Monday where I state my case for why you should all support Germany this summer, and the other is to a new football e-magazine where I run through my thoughts on each country…my bit is on pages 16 & 17...enjoy!
So, with the season all over, what have I been up to? Well, hanging out Number Ten Downing Street for starters! No, I haven’t become buddies with Gordon Brown – it was for a Kick Racism Out Of Football event, which is a great cause I’m always keen to support.
Although I’d never been to Downing Street before, I’ve been to the German Embassy a few times – and am usually the only guy there under the age of 50, finding a corner to stand in unnoticed for an hour before sneaking out and going home. And to be honest I expected this to be similar, but when I got there, the sun was out and everything was set up in the back garden which actually made it very pleasant.
It’s a decent sized garden too but I might has well have been at a Premier League convention as it was full of players, ex-players and managers. In fact, with everyone that was there, we could have got a great kick about going on. I had a good nose around to see what garden toys old Gordon has but apparently they’d put the Prime Ministerial swing ball away before we got there. Gordon had a few words to say as the canapés went around but I can’t remember what he said as I was more interested in what was on the plates!
Inside Number Ten was very similar to what it was like in the German Embassy – lots of old oil paintings and pictures of former leaders. It doesn’t look much like a place you’d live in – not the bit we saw anyway. Although I resisted the temptation to sneak upstairs and check out the bedrooms to see what kind of pyjamas the PM wears.
Oh, and I won an award the week before by the way, totally out of the blue. It was from an organisation that recognises community work in sport and I ended up winning it after the PFA put me forward. Got a nice little fruit bowl for my troubles – the only thing that’s gone in my trophy cabinet for a while. But it was only when I was at Downing Street and talking to the PFA’s community officer that I realised that it had been between me and Ricky Hatton. So I can now claim to be one of the very few people to have beaten old Hitman himself!
12 May 2008
So we did it. We survived the drop and live to fight another season in the top flight. But what a day. I didn’t fancy watching it on my own so I went to Craven Cottage with my good friend and Fulham’s club Chaplain, Gary Piper, to watch the game. They had screens at the stadium and there were lots of fans around so I stood out in the sun for the first half.
Without any major chances it was a bit of a dull game but everyone was on a knife edge because the results from the other games were coming in all the time. Even though both Reading and Birmingham scored early, everyone stayed upbeat and I certainly felt that there was more to comefrom us. For the second half I decided to head up to one of the lounges to watch with some of the staff. As you can imagine, there was a fair bit of tension in the air because some of these people’s jobs were on the line. Relegation breeds so much uncertainty, and in addition to that, nobody wants to be associated with a team going down because which ever way you look at it, it’s perceived as a failure for everyone involved.
A girl from the club asked me if it was harder to play in a game like that or to watch it, and it really made me think. I know watching it involves less running but it really wasn’t easy for me. As you can imagine, Danny’s goal triggered a huge celebration. And as with the Birmingham game, going one up made me even more anxious because we had even more to lose then. The old heartbeat was going through the roof and that last quarter of an hour seemed to take an eternity. Every time Portsmouth got even near our box my heart was in my mouth – and by this point I was definitely of the opinion that watching this kind of game was much harder than actually playing in it! When the final whistle blew, everyone went mad – a huge outburst of relief and joy. Although for me it was a weird feeling. It was only at that point that it dawned on me how much stress I’d been under for the last six months. Don’t get me wrong – I was immensely happy. But I suddenly felt absolutely drained by it all. And I won’t lie, I felt a bit left out too, because I’d have loved to have been celebrating with my team mates on that pitch at Fratton Park.
You always want to tell yourself that football is just a game, but games like this show you just how much it matters, and walking home afterwards I had a little bit of time to reflect on it all away from the excitement. Overall, I’m delighted that we survived but I’m also glad this season’s finally over. I’ve never tried to hide away from the situation we’ve been in and I’ve always been realistic enough to know it was going to be an uphill struggle .But looking at the games we had left a few weeks ago, I always felt we still had a chance, provided the teams around us kept us in it.
But in this last run of games the lads really stepped up and full credit to them. We hadn’t won away in a year and a halfand then we win three in a row on the road. As I said, I was disappointed to not be part of it and have felt left out at times. But I care a lot about that club and while it was disappointing not to be in the team as much as I’d have liked, that as all irrelevant compared to the job at hand which was staying up. I’ve just had to put any individual agendas to one side over the past few weeks. Whatever it was going to take for us to stay up, we had to do. Yes I was disappointed not be playing, but as long as the boys that were getting picked were doing a job, that’s all that mattered. And that’s what they did. Now I’m looking forward to a nice summer break to get fresh for it all to start again. I’m already looking forward to pre-season and another season in the Premier League. And I hope we never, ever have to go through a season like this again…
8th May 2008
To say that Saturday’s game against Birmingham was tense would be a huge understatement. I watched it from the Cottage balcony and although we were in control for most of the game and were playing the better football the whole place was on a knife edge which made for a great atmosphere. But the weird thing for me was that once we went 1-0 up I felt even more tense because I knew we then had something to lose. One-nil can be weird score line because you invite the other team on, which means they get more chances to score - and if they do score they’re really in the ascendancy. And we were at 1-0 for a long time - every time Birmingham got near the box my heart rate was going through the roof! It was probably pounding at the same rate as if I’d have been playing!
Once the second goal went in and we buried the game I was so delighted – and absolutely drained too. I went down to the dressing room afterwards to see the boys, and then I went out on the pitch to do the end of season lap of honour – which, I’ve got to say, felt a bit weird bearing in mind I was in my suit and hadn’t taken part in the game. I almost made me feel like I didn’t belong. It was an awkward one for me but I still felt it was really important to say thanks to the fans for their support this year, for sticking with us patiently and for travelling to all those away games when we hadn’t won on the road in over a year and a half.
It was great to send everyone away happy from our last home game of the season and what a time to get out of the bottom three for the first time this year. Three weeks ago that looked almost impossible. But there were points still to play for, we won three out of the last four and that’s earned us the right to go into this last game at Fratton Park with our destiny in our own hands, because if we win, no one below can overtake us. But it’s still incredibly tight at the bottom, and although everyone was buzzing after beating Birmingham, the two teams below us are still in touching distance. Everyone was right to be celebrating on Saturday because it was a great moment in an otherwise not so great season. But we have to remember that it’s not over yet.
Saturday is a tough one to call. One school of thought says that Harry Redknapp has nothing to play for and will be resting players ahead of the Cup Final. But the other view is that they’re going into the game on the back of a couple of defeats and they’ll want a win under their belts before Wembley. Interestingly we played Portsmouth in the reserves on Tuesday night – the rescheduled game after last week’s was called off - and there weren’t too many first team players involved at all. My view is that those who played wouldn’t even be considered for their last league game or the FA Cup Final. So maybe he is going to be using some of his first team squad players on Saturday. But we can read between the lines as much as we want. Which ever team Harry puts out, we’ve got to beat them, simple as that, and we’re more than capable of it. And even if he rests a few of the regulars, those who do come in will be getting their chance to really shine.
Fratton Park is never an easy place to go. Pompey have had a great season and they’re very dangerous going forward. But having just won three from four we can go there with a lot of confidence too. We’ve done all we can in the last couple of weeks and we’ve got it all to play for on Saturday. Time to make that last step and get everyone over the finishing line…