JAMES NALTON explores the coach’s relationship with the team as well as their next match against Union Berlin
FC St Pauli coach Olaf Janssen isn’t doing things by half measures in Hamburg. Like any member of staff who joins the club, the Krefeld-born former FC Koln midfielder soon realised what it meant to be a part of this unique organisation, and it’s something he actively pursued when deciding where to set up camp in the city.
Speaking to the Hamburg Morgenpost, he commented on how he immersed himself in the St Pauli culture by moving into the neighbouring Sternschanze district, close to the club’s Millerntor stadium.
“I live in der Schanze, because you do not necessarily meet the upper class, but extremely down to earth people,” he said.
“This was important to me. To see what’s special about a club that you’ve heard so much about. When I came in a difficult sporting situation, it was clear that on this ride we are also very dependent on the people around the club, and you have to pull together.”
Having joined the side in November 2016 with the club going through a rough patch, there were initial struggles but things turned round in 2017. Towards the end of last season the side went on a seven game unbeaten run, winning six and drawing one.
“I hardly remember it because the time was brutally intense,” says Janssen of his first weeks at the club.
“I recently saw a picture again where after a few days I was already on the pitch with the tactics board. You had to think day and night of which string you have to pull, with whom you have to talk, whom you have to get on board — everything was packed with work.”
His side face Union Berlin at midday today having drawn their last three games 1-1. Their opposition from the capital are unbeaten at home this season and sit fourth in the 2. Bundesliga table, three points ahead of St Pauli.
“We’re really looking forward to the best team in the league at the moment,” said Janssen in his pre-match press conference. “We want to create problems for them and won’t shy away from the ball. Instead, we’ll play football ourselves and bring our DNA to the pitch.”
The clash in Berlin will see a meeting of like-minded fans from two clubs built, almost literally, by their communities. Union’s picturesque Alten Forsterei stadium was renovated in 2008 with help from thousands of the club’s fans who chipped in on the building site. It now takes its place along with the Millerntor as one of the best places in Germany to watch football. Despite the different surroundings, Janssen and his side might feel at home, and they’ll be hoping this helps them get a result against the odds on the pitch.