May 29, 2017

Justin Eilers – The man who finally has arrived

It’s the start of the 2014/15 season and Dynamo Dresden are taking on Schalke 04 in the DFB Pokal. The traditional club from East-Germany have just been relegated from the Bundesliga 2 and are now looking to bounce back.

In their line-up the 26-year-old Justin Eilers is featured. Most Germans have never heard of him, but his performance, which includes a converted penalty, shows off what great talent the striker and attacking midfielder possesses.

At this point, Justin Eilers had been on a rollercoaster ride. At the age of 19, the striker and attacking midfielder joined the ranks of Eintracht Braunschweig to gather experience in the second team. Back then, the Lions were still in the third tier and probably considered to be a stepping stone for most talented players. At first Eilers played in the second team, but during his two year stint at the the club the striker managed to pick up 9 matches for the first team.

His efforts didn’t go unnoticed and several clubs show keen interest as Eilers kept scoring goals for Braunschweig’s second team. By the end, Eiler’s 28 goals from 54 matches made for an impressive record, and from there on out the only way was up the youngster thought to himself.

Dead end at Bochum

To make his next step after two years of impressive results at Eintracht Braunschweig II, the striker decided to join VfL Bochum’s second team. The plan was clear: produce good performances on the pitch and break into the first team in order to make a name for himself at second tier level. However, things didn’t work that way.

Eilers spent two years at the club without producing the sort of significant performances that would warrant first team football. In his last 12 matches for the second team, he didn’t score a single goal. The 28-year-old later stated that he knows what the German term “Scheisse am Fuss” (“shit on your foot”) means, which seemed to describe his bad run of form back with VfL Bochum.

13 goals from 45 matches during those two years meant that the striker’s career was at a crossroad. His imagined rise to the top had come to an abrupt halt, which also down to the wrong priorities in Eilers’s life. He told 11 Freunde last year: “I had an unprofessional lifestyle. I went out a lot to party. I was starting to believe that everything would fall into place at an too early stage. I was naive and quickly satisfied.”

Quitting football?

At the age of 23, Eilers was forced to make the move to the fifth tier side Goslar SC. Given his age and the fact that most Oberliga players don’t make an awful lot of money, Eilers’ career and dream of professional football could have come to an end here.

However, the side from Lower Saxony went on a hell of a run in the 2011/12 season and Eilers was the main driver of that run with 15 goals in 20 matches.

Eilers later admitted that more than one season in the Oberliga would have caused him to look into other avenues of work than football. Instead he and the team went up one division into the fourth tier. 14 more goals followed in 25 matches in the Regionalliga Nord and Wolfsburg’s second team took a keen interest in the striker.

His time at Goslar had seen the striker changing his attitude towards how he should work on the training pitch. VfL Wolfsburg second outfit saw the results straight away, as Eilers hammered home 17 goals in 32 matches during his one season stint at the club.

Gaining a new outlook and releasing that things didn’t just happen by themselves was a realisation that came to Eilers during this stage of the career. He told 11 Freunde:

“I got myself out of the rut when I realised that I wanted to be a footballer and that I needed to life and train differently in order to accomplish that. I had to work really hard. That realisation came to me after my time at Bochum where my career was at a crossroad and back when I was considering if I really wanted to be a professional footballer.”

A new lease of life at Dynamo Dresden

Even though he was already 26-years-old by 2014, Dynamo Dresden gave Eilers a shot to show the world what he could do at third tier level. Now the striker had finally moved to a big name club within German football and this time around he was given the chance to play first team football. Playing both as a striker and on the right wing, Eilers showed straight away that he was a man who could help the former East-German champions in their quest for promotion from the third tier.

His first season was marked by 19 goals, several player of the weeks award in the third tier and a DFB Pokal run which saw him score three goals, most notably in Dynamo’s 2-1 win over Schalke 04.

In his second season with Dynamo, Eilers found another gear and scored a staggering 23 goals in 38 matches. At the end of the season, the 28-year-old was even crowned the player of the season in the 3. Liga. Despite his age, several clubs took a keen interest in signing Justin Eilers, and in the end the striker decided to join Werder Bremen to make his dream of Bundesliga football come true.

A new challenge

At the age of 19, Eilers was maybe thinking that things would fall into his lap, but when he started to realise that he had to work hard from them it was almost too late. However, his five years of hard work that started all the way down in the fifth tier were finally rewarded and the quick two footed striker can finally go up against the big boys of German football.

Werder Bremen are getting a striker who knows the value of hard work and never letting his head down. Eilers has good spacial awareness and often times finds space in order to create chances for himself. Additionally he can be used in several ways. Should Claudio Pizarro need a partner up top Eilers might be the man Viktor Skripnik turns to. However, he could also use him in any of the three position behind the lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 system.

It’s going to be exciting to see if the 28-year-old is going to hold up at Bundesliga level. His age makes the move from the lower leagues to the Bundesliga an unusual occurrence, however, if there’s one man who knows the value of hard work and taking the chances given to him straight away, it is Justin Eilers these days.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 30-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball and on the @AufstiegPod.