x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Long-term growth at Hamburg behind coach Fink's thoughts

Bundesliga club's players going through their paces under the manager in Abu Dhabi

Thorsten Fink has been coach for 15 months at Hamburg, who have had 11 coaches in 10 years.
Thorsten Fink has been coach for 15 months at Hamburg, who have had 11 coaches in 10 years.

ABU DHABI // Thorsten Fink knows the question is coming. The German midfielder had come on as a late substitute for Bayern Munich in their 1999 Uefa Champions League final against Manchester United.

It was his unsuccessful clearance from a corner that allowed the ball to land at the feet of Ryan Giggs, whose shot was turned in by Teddy Sheringham in the 91st minute for United to claim an equaliser. And, well, we know the rest, don't we?

Seconds later Ole Gunnar Solskjær scored a second for United as they won 2-1. "Yes, you saw everything," he said. "In my career it was the lowest point. But it was good for our team, because that is the team we developed.

"We had greater team spirit after that and everybody was determined that we win the Champions League. You must learn from it, to handle the situation. This is football, only sport and for me it made me harder."

To reduce Fink's career to just that moment is gross injustice of course. That was but one low in an accomplished playing career for Germany's biggest club (four league titles as well as a Champions League medal, eventually), and now in a low-key but gradually developing coaching career.

He is in his second season as the coach at Hamburg, one of Germany's oldest, best-known and supported clubs (the only team not to have been relegated ever in the Bundesliga since this format began in 1963).

Tenth going into the winter break, the club are training in Abu Dhabi, along with a number of other Bundesliga sides.

Fink is the 11th coach in the last 10 inconsistent years and given that most of them have lasted about a year or less, he is pretty pleased to have been there nearly 15 months now.

"One and a half years now which isn't bad, because before coaches were not here for very long. I am the world record holder!

"But now I can develop things there, not only players but administration, with president, manager, everybody. Everybody wants to go to next step, but we need time. Everything that goes up so fast, goes down fast also. We want to have gradual, steady growth."

Fink first came to prominence as the coach of Switzerland's Basel, where he won the league title twice and led the club to the Champions League (their shock win over Manchester United in December 2011 came two months after he had left though).

But the Bundesliga, with a big, old club, is where he has wanted to be. In his first season Hamburg began spiritedly, before fading sharply in the second half.

"For me last year was very difficult. Before I had a team who played in the Champions League and were number one in Swiss League. So for me this was different, from going to a top team, Champions League two years in a row, for me it's difficult.

"But I'm not a coach who rests on his laurels. I want more. The Bundesliga is very important and it's difficult and hard. You must play 90 minutes at full speed. If you play 90 per cent of what you can, its not enough so I love to be here."

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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