The Bundesliga Fanatic’s Matt Karagich had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kevin Hatchard, one of the world’s most recognizable English language voices during broadcasts of Bundesliga matches. Whether you live in Europe, the Americas, or elsewhere, chances are high that if you’ve ever watched an English-language Bundesliga broadcast, you’ve probably heard his voice. (You can read part 1 of Matt’s interview.)
MK: Thoughts on Der Klassiker?
KH: It’s a game Bayern Munich revel in as it’s a test they don’t get very often, an opportunity to further underline that they are the best. They know the world is watching which adds a bit more to it and they take the advantage to strut their stuff and show that they are the best. There is an extra intensity when they play Borussia Dortmund.
MK: As a Schalke fan myself, it is a bitter pill to swallow seeing Bayern dominate so regularly.
KH: As a Bundesliga neutral, I wish for nothing more to see Bayern Munich tested a lot more. A couple of seasons ago under Tuchel, Dortmund pushed them. Bayern are in a spell where they have an amazing squad and the only way you could take them down is if all the other big hitters take a big chunk out of them. You need Borussia Mönchengladbach to beat them, Schalke to beat them and Dortmund to beat them and Leverkusen to show up.
I think Pep Guardiola has attributed to Bayern’s current spell with Ancelotti and Heynckes benefiting from this still. He improved all the players at the club, making them tactically flexible and made them able to manage games better, you have that and situations where the likes of Schalke’ have had a lot of coaches and lost a lot of good players. Leverkusen have had a fair few coaches, Roger Schmidt started well but then he is such an intense guy and the message isn’t going to always land. It was inevitable that he was going to go. Whether they like it or not, Leverkusen are seen as a stepping stone to other clubs. They haven’t had a consistent base for some time and having young players has made it difficult for them to find consistency.
Gladbach have done quite well and have actually overachieved in the last few seasons. They have done quite well against Bayern over the past few seasons, I think they have won two of their last three home games against Bayern with the other being a 0-0 draw. Leipzig are new to the scene and they are still developing. What we need is all these teams to get their acts together, be in a good place and when that happens, they will have the opportunity to take chunks of Bayern and we will have a title race. I don’t see it as something where Bayern will win the next 10 titles. You look at Ligue 1; Lyon won seven in a row and now with Paris Saint-Germain inheriting a lot of money, now they are on the scene.
Imagine for example, a Hamburg or a Werder Bremen got a massive cash injection. With the stadiums and the fan bases they have, they could be back in the mix. I still think although Bayern have dominated the last few seasons but I believe there is the potential for somebody to take them down in the next two to three years.
MK: It’s almost as if we are waiting for a Leicester or Montpellier situation to happen in the Bundesliga …
KH: I think we have seen this in other ways in Champions League and Europa League qualification. What’s great about the Bundesliga is you have a look at clubs likes Hertha Berlin have had swings at the top four, Eintracht Frankfurt are doing that now. Freiburg finishing seventh, Mainz and Köln have been in the mix as well. Below Bayern, it’s great as the league is very competitive.
With all due respect, the league needs Bayern Munich. Sometimes the temptation is because Bayern get all the best players and are miles atop of the league, we think ‘oh pesky Bayern they are ruining the league.’ But actually they are so important to the Bundesliga in terms of marketing and making the league a world-wide brand, the biggest games in the league are going to have Bayern in them.
They have a great history but as a league we need to be careful with that and not take them for granted or get too annoyed at them setting the standard. The thing really is for clubs to get as close as possible to Bayern’s standard rather than being annoyed with Bayern. The culture needs to change slightly in the sense that other clubs need to make it more attractive for their players to stay. It is hard, and with Bayern having that shift in transfer policy in terms of making domestic signings with the likes of Leon Goretzka, Serge Gnabry, Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy –Bayern want the best German players available.
MK: The Leon Goretzka transfer felt inevitable didn’t it?
KH: Bayern had those ties with Goretzka’s family and now with him playing with the record champions next season, he will be more visible to Jogi Löw. It all makes sense deal wise but it is a shame from Schalke’s point of view. I think there are issues there that Heidel will fix. But the pressing question really is, why have Goreztka and Meyer’s contracts been allowed to get into the last years of their deals.
What I will say about Goretzka is his development almost caught many of us by surprise. He wasn’t scoring a lot of goals and had plenty of injuries, and it’s probably been only in the last 18 months to two years that he has really kicked on.
MK: Julian Brandt is another player Bayern are looking at but looks likely to remain at Leverkusen.
KH: I think he has agreed a deal to take the release clause out, with him it’s probably a sensible move. I find him fascinating and one of my favourite players. He hasn’t kicked on in the way he would’ve want but he has packed quite along in a short career. I think he looked at Bayern and thought they have told Gnabry he will be returning from Hoffenheim, Coman, Robben and Ribery are there. Brandt would’ve had to compete with them. He also has to think carefully about his next move because if he chose to go to Bayern and didn’t play that is a big problem. For him to stay at Leverkusen and take on a bit more of a leadership role and mature a bit more and be consistent, then that will help him in the long run, especially considering he has a long time left in his career.
MK: Leverkusen is very impressive under Heiko Herrlich; one particularly impressive player has been Leon Bailey. I was quite surprised he didn’t make an early impression when he joined from Genk. What are your thoughts on the Jamaican phenom?
KH: He is a thrilling player to watch, I think they were quite clever with him when they got him from Genk because when he arrived they could’ve easily chucked him into a relegation battle and said “come on Leon, help us out”. I don’t think that would’ve helped him at all, to put him in those pressure games early on. They gave him six months to adapt and then a new coach comes in, he has a free run at it and now we are seeing what he can do. He is another one who must think carefully about his next move with big bids from Premier League clubs, I don’t think Bayern will go for him because they don’t need him. Bailey is the type of guy tailored for the Premier League. He is someone who had to grow up fast and I think he seems quite level-headed.
MK: His Goal against Mainz was simply outstanding …
KH: Yes; but do you know what, there is a classic example of how he still has a little bit of developing to do. As he got that goal but then they had a break and he burst into the area and went for goal where he should have laid it off for Volland waiting in the area. A more mature, rounded player slips that ball in and they score an easy tap in.
He is doing really well and I’m amazed with the confidence he is playing with, but there will be a period where he dips at some stage and he will have to learn how to deal with that. Eventually their will be an element where he isn’t a surprise anymore and already we are seeing that with teams looking to stop his influence on a game. That is something he will have to deal with which I’m sure he will, but he still has a bit of developing to do.
MK: Recently, VfB Stuttgart hired Tayfun Korkut as their new manager, even though they let go of Hannes Wolf, who is statistically better as a coach. Does Korkut have any chance of turning Stuttgart’s season around?
KH: If we take Hannes Wolf’s sacking first, one the face of it looks like a bad decision and I don’t agree with the decision. It has since emerged that he had personally expressed his own doubts about the impact he was having on the squad and whether he would be able to turn it around. Michael Reschke knew that once Wolf had said that, you can’t maintain that situation. We have seen this time and time again, once the message is lost and the players aren’t responding to that message it is the end. Wolf would’ve learned a lot from his experiences at Stuttgart.
Talking about the squad itself I think it is where it should be, there is a lot of young players and they have some good players who aren’t amazing. I think Mario Gomez is still a very good player but wasn’t someone who was scoring for Wolfsburg, he has had a few injuries here and there. He needs service and isn’t one of those guys who will make something out of nothing, it’s not going to happen. It will take sometime to get him that service, this Stuttgart team has largely been built on defensive strength and the attacking part of it has been an issue.
In terms of Korkut, he has a bad record but he is an intelligent guy who speaks different languages. He was a great player with plenty of footballing experience, but at the moment the numbers don’t lie. Long term it wasn’t going to work at Hannover and at Kaiserslautern it was a difficult situation there. Leverkusen stayed up but did he massively improve them? Did he convince them that he should stay at Bayer? Reschke probably spoke to Jonas Boldt, who he is good mates with, and asked how he did, there was an element that Leverkusen were impressed with some things and probably impressed with how he dealt with pressure. But not enough to keep him on. That would concern me as a Stuttgart fan as Leverkusen weren’t falling over themselves to give him the job.
It’s a big job for him, he is a Stuttgart boy. So I think that helps and it will make a difference, there are a few examples of that around the Bundesliga. André Breitenreiter was born in Langenhagen which is in the Hannover district, he understands the club and the people. Sandro Schwarz is a Mainz boy, he used to go to the stadium as a boy and support the team. He deserves credit for that, probably has been one of the things that has kept him in a job.
That shouldn’t be underestimated but it will be a tough test and if he fails it and they go down, that will further damage what is already a patchy record. I think Stuttgart have taken a risk in appointing him and I suspect they wanted Markus Weinzierl but he either said no or the deal he is still on at Schalke in terms of severance, made it impossible. I think he would’ve been a great fit in terms of turning that club around, he did a great job at Augsburg and would be able to draw on his Bundesliga coaching experiences..
We will see. There has been a few appointments in the Bundesliga where I’ve thought that seems really odd but it has worked out. Maik Walpurgis for example — long term it didn’t work out at Ingolstadt but had a big impact when he went there. You think ok, it seems uninspiring and risky but we shall see.
MK: Time will tell. Certainly only one point earned on the road has been part of VfB’s struggle this season, and now they are also struggling at home. These signs point to relegation, if they can’t pull it together …
KH: My feeling has always been if you have a team with an abysmal away record, that’s on the coach. Because that suggests to me that you have a coach that is unable to come up with a scheme by where they can pick up points on the road. When all that home advantage is stripped away, can they go and get results?. When you have a team that isn’t doing that you are always in trouble. Going back to Hannes Wolf, it can’t be understated the job he did do at Stuttgart to take on a club of that size after Jos Luhukay left and to go on and win the title is a massive achievement.
I feel he did quite well over the first half of the season, but if he himself is having doubts that seeps through the club. I can’t imagine someone like a Domenico Tedesco or a Julian Nagelsmann having self doubt, they are incredibly self confidenct guys. With young managers, it will only work as long as the personality holds together. But when they start having doubts, you are on a hiding to nothing.
MK: You mentioned Domenico Tedesco. He seems to have revitalized the career of Max Meyer. However, with the player’s contract running out, do you see him staying at S04?
KH: I think Meyer will leave at the end of the season. He feels he should get a similar offer to the one they made Goretzka, but also he needs to feel that he’s a central part of the team. I think there would be Premier League clubs that would look at him, because he is very young. Before Tedesco got a hold on him, I felt Meyer had stalled quite badly. The season and a bit previously he was poor, last year he was dreadful.
At the start of the season, I had my doubts about Tedesco and binning someone like Benedikt Höwedes was really bold. In hindsight it has worked and I don’t mind that he took that risk, the thing that’s interesting about him is that you get a lot of coaches who are very good on the theory but aren’t very good at getting that across to the players. But with Tedesco, he seems to have that knack of transmitting what he wants from the players. I don’t always think its very exciting — it’s quite precise and very laborious at times.
I did the game against Hannover and they were very poor. Tedesco himself has said that Schalke need to play with more tempo in attack and I think that is the piece that is missing. Amine Harit is helping with that and he is so good, it’s a classic Heidel signing. Half the thing with being the coach at Schalke is getting everybody on the same page and stopping those splits in the dressing room. When you have a guy like Naldo who is three years older than Tedesco coming out and saying he is the best coach I’ve ever worked for, then that tells you everything you need to know. The key for Schalke is giving him the tools to work with long-term and making sure he has the best possible squad, then for Tedesco to implement a system.
He has done the first bit in making Schalke sound defensively — they don’t get battered around at the back. They have grown quite a lot under Tesdesco and finding that balance of defence and attack is the key. Tactically they are very good and Tedesco has created a base which the players understand, but it isn’t always going to be the most attractive football. If Schalke fans are cool with that then it will work. The worry is if they go on a long stretch without getting a result, then it will kick off.
MK: With the Bundesliga title almost a formality it would seem, who will go down to 2. Bundesliga this season?
KH: I think Stuttgart; it’s really difficult to predict. I will say that Mainz will finish in the bottom three, but I’m not going further than that. I actually thought this at the start of the season. The two I had in the bottom the where Mainz and Augsburg but the later hasn’t turned out.
MK: I really enjoy our interview and thank you for your time.
KH: No worries!
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