The 68-year-old talks about was recently appointed as manger of Hertha Berlin.
Felix Magath was recently appointed as manager of Bundesliga side Hertha berlin until the end of the season. The club have not been in the best of form. With 26 points from 28 games, they live 17th on the table. Magath, who has experience in managing Bundesliga sides looks like a good appointment for the club. He guided Bayern Munich to two titles while also famously guiding VFL Wolfsburg to a title as well.
Maggath speaks about his return to the Bundesliga, the chances of Hertha Berlin to salvage their season and more.
How is Felix Magath feeling about being back in the Bundesliga?
“It feels like it always does. There is no difference to how it used to be. You remember how it was. Your head remembers how everything works. You think to yourself a lot must have changed but as soon as you are back in it, you realise that not much has changed. So for me, it feels like I am already used to everything” said Felix Magath.
How important was that win against Hoffenheim in your first game?
“It was a sensational start. We were not necessarily expecting it to go that well, but it shows that, together with my colleagues – Werner Leuthard and Mark Fotheringham – I was dealt a lucky hand. I think we, as a coaching staff, work together nicely and can to deal with situations well. This way, I think could prepare a squad relatively quickly. They would have seen that we know what we are doing and that is why, for me, it is astonishing how quickly the players have been able to focus and be able to adapt to our way of working. Particularly when you take into account the fact it would have been something completely different to what they have experienced previously.”
What was the game plan against Hoffenheim and how did the win boost you team’s confidence?
“You always have an idea of how you want to play, however, in football you also always have opponents that have their own strategy. Something that we have done differently as a team this time, was our ability to be solid on the pitch. That is something Mark has really put a great deal of effort into during training sessions. He has worked intensively with the players. That was then instantly reflected on the field. We would have hoped to score a free-kick goal but that was, like I said, more wishful thinking than planning but it is obviously nice to be successful in this way. This victory was something that the team needed. If you lose five times in a row, you will lose your self-confidence and your sense of security. A win such as this will help to rebuild that, and this something we have seen in the training sessions. So, with this win, I think we were able to bring back some hope, not only in the city of Berlin but in the whole league that Hertha Berlin is still a team to be reckoned with.”
What have you done to build up the confidence of the players?
“One aspect is this sense of togetherness when you are unsuccessful. Everyone retreats into themselves, and individuality takes place. It is important to bring the group back. That is why the encounter between the team and the coaching staff was so crucial so that the players could feel that there are people that want to bring them forwards. The players, as far as I have seen, are good players. It is a good team. With more successes, security will return. I am convinced that with these methods that we have implemented these past couple of weeks, we will have a big opportunity to avoid relegation.”
How did you help the players find the fun in football again?
“The way it works is that when a team loses confidence, you work hard to rebuild it. As a human, you only grow in confidence when you do something well. If you do something poorly, you will become insecure again. That is why getting a victory at the start was so important. These are always necessary. Things that need to be happening inside their heads constantly in terms of being able to move forward. The team has implemented that wonderfully throughout the first couple of days. I have rarely – or never – had a team that has been able to work in the training sessions as engaged as this Hertha BSC team has. That is why I am calm about the prospect of us reaching our goals.”
What are your thoughts about your reputation as a hard taskmaster and disciplinarian, with nicknames like “Qualix” or now “Magic Magath”?
“I have been part of the trade for a couple years! I am not new, so I know the rules of the business. The media like to simplify things so they use images that are easily relatable. Sometimes they are advantageous, sometimes they are not, but you do not need to bother yourselves too much with them. What’s important is to focus in a situation such as this, because what counts is just what we as a team and coaching staff do together. In the end, we see the end-product during the games. If you focus on that and ignore the irrelevant things, you will be able to move forward.”
What are your expectations for the rest of this season?
“If you are part of the game for as long as I have been, you realise it does not help to speculate about next week and the week after about ‘if’, ‘possibly’, ‘eventually’, ‘maybe’ – that does not help. It just distracts you. That is something I have experienced so many times in my career which is why I have no problem focusing on the next task. I take it one match-day at a time. I am able to fade everything else into the background effortlessly. That is something that I have learned over the years, and it has also become one of my strengths.”
What is your philosophy in football?
“I have a footballing philosophy that I have experienced during my playing career. My philosophy in terms of being successful in football requires physical fitness, order and a strong desire to be successful. These are things we implemented here quickly, so I am quite optimistic about the tasks ahead of us.”
How well do you know Berlin?
“Of course, I know Berlin. I have been in Berlin before. Berlin is not only Germany’s biggest city, but a city known around the world. That has pros and cons. In part, the atmosphere for young football players in Berlin is a little bit dangerous because there is a lot of other things going on; a lot of young people. The city is always alive, not only when it is light outside but also when it gets dark. That is why a city like this does offer distractions. What’s important is to be able to focus in spite of these distractions. At the moment, I do not see any problems but, in a city like Berlin, it can mislead players.”
What do you think about the people in Berlin?
“Let’s put it this way: generally, I think residents of a capital city are usually more self-confident than others that have grown up in different cities. That is why we know the typical Berlin gruff. We know that they are open, and sometimes too loud, but that is part of the city. That is Berlin so people who don’t like it might not feel comfortable here, but I am used to living here and I like Berlin a lot. There are few places with more historical aspects within such a limited number of square meters.”
How were your first days at Hertha?
“Everyone is different. I am still very new here at the club. So, at that time, the players cannot really – I used the first couple of days to paint myself a picture of the players and the team and the environment. Everything is new so you have to categorize everything. That is why I was more involved with that and trying to organize things for myself. I was overly happy with the process of the game and was able to follow the game in a relatively relaxed way.” You played Kevin Keegan at Hamburg.
What role did he play in your success there?
“We won the league in 79’ and 80’ together. Kevin was the difference maker already being a professional. We were more or less armatures even though we had professional contracts. He experienced everything differently: the relationship to the fans etc. That was new for us, so he really impressed. He was always respectful. A true Englishman. He was, due to his performances, outstanding but he was still one of us. That is why he had a special role but, nevertheless, we felt like a team with him; we respected him and looked up to him. He helped us clinch the league while also helping the club with his manner – to be recognised with more attention within world football.”
What was Keegan’s impact in Hamburg back then?
“It was extraordinary. That is why it was such an achievement by our manager at the time – Dr Peter Krohn. The one who brought him here. He was here for three years. The first year we were together was not too happy. We ended up in midfield in the Bundesliga but through the coaching changes, we really became one of the top teams in Europe.”