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On the spot

Andreas Hinkel

Andreas Hinkel is a right back for Celtic and a German international. He's been in Glasgow since January, and won the Scottish league in his first season. We found out how he's settling into the Scottish way of life.

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Andreas Hinkel

What was it like the first time you put on the Celtic shirt?

There's a very special atmosphere here. The first time I played here was with Stuttgart in 2003, so against Celtic. The atmosphere was unforgettable. I'd never experienced anything like it. I had goose bumps when we walked onto the pitch. You never forget an experience like that. Then when I got the offer to come here I had another look around and found out all about the history and it's a very special club. I have to say that I'm proud to have the chance to become part of that history.

Celtic was founded in 1888 by a monk called Brother Walfried. In 1967, they were the first British club to win the European Cup.

Celtic is the club of Glasgow's Irish-Catholic community. They've been Scottish champions 42 times.

Their main rivals are Rangers, the club of the traditionally Protestant community. When the two come face to face in an Old Firm Derby, it's green against blue and one of the most hard fought and emotional contests in the footballing world.

It's the number one derby. I'd experienced other derbies before I came to Glasgow. In Sevilla there is also a very intense derby with the local rivals. The Spanish players can be very impulsive during those games. But it's slightly different here. It's all wrapped up in history and politics and religion and local rivalry. There are a lot of factors at play there. The games are incredibly intense, and the atmoshpere is electric. I don't know of another derby that even comes close.

The two teams meet this Saturday for the 381st Old Firm Derby. League leaders Celtic will play away against Rangers at Ibrox-Park.

The games against Rangers are the most important ones, there's no doubt about that. We're playing away and I love those kinds of games, when the whole stadium is against you. It gives you all the motivation you need.

You were at Sevilla for a while, how did it differ to Celtic?

The style of play differs from country to country. And they do some things differently in the Scottish league. A lot of the exercises are the same. But football is basically the same wherever you go in terms of the rules. Some things that are differrent include the training methods, the rhythm of training during the week. And the game here is very physical, much more so than in other leagues, especially the Spanish league. In Spain they play very technical football and they vary the pace. Sometimes they take the pace out of the game, sometimes they increase it. Here, they go at full throttle right to the final whistle, and it's always very physical.

He struggled to get regular starts in league games for Sevilla. His position was taken by Dani Alves. But he often played in Spanish cup games and in the UEFA cup. Sevilla won both in 2007.

It was a lot of fun because it was technical, attacking football. I was with some top players and the competition I had there was hard. Dani Alves moved to Barcelona this season for over 30 million euros. He was difficult to get past and I had to fight for every appearance.

A lack of regular football led to him losing his place in the Germany squad. But that changed after the move to Celtic. In September, he donned the Germany shirt for the first time in three years.

The call came out totally of the blue. I was shocked. It was Jogi Löw. He explained that I'd been playing regularly for Celtic, and Celtic is anything but a small club, and they play in European competitions almost every year. He also said he liked playing his right back to play the way I do. He looks for players who are solid at the back, which is the main job of a defender -- players that stop the opponent from crossing and really have control over their side of the pitch. But also players who can drive the attack forward.

Hinkel was a product of Stuttgart's youth academy. He broke into the Germany squad in 2003, and secured a firm place in the hearts of the Swabian fans.

You were at Stuttgart for 14 years. What was your fondest memory?

My fondest memory from 14 years? 14 years says everything. Stuttgart is simply MY club. As kids a lot of people wanted to play for Real Madrid or Manchester United and so on. My dream was to play for Stuttgart. I won a lot of titles with the youth team, I also played for Germany's youth team. Then I got to play alongside my footballing idols. It was a dream come true. When I was 17 or 18, I had my first training sessions with the first team and made my debut at 18. It was very intense when I broke into the squad because we narrowly avoided relegation. But just two years later, we were playing in the Champions League. Everyone thinks THAT must have been my favourite memory and something I'll never forget. But I think the years when we fought against relegation were more important for the club than the Champions League. It was crucial to stay in the top division and not drop into the second division. I'm glad I could help the club at back then.

It was a meteoric rise from near-relegation to the Champions League. In the 2002-2003 season, the backbone of the team were fresh from Stuttgart's youth academy. Andreas Hinkel was in the thick of the action. They played direct, fast, attacking football and scored lots of goals. They were the surprise team of 2003. Much like the surprise team of 2008, Hoffenheim, which is also coached by Ralf Rangnick.

Did you expect Hoffenheim to be at the top?

I know the coach very well. He gave me my debut in the first team back then and I know his philosophy well. Hoffenheim is very close to my hometown, it's less than an hour's drive. There are quite a few former Stuttgart players there as well.

Do you think they can really win the league this year?

Definitely. If they remain unfazed until the end of the season. They shouldn't put themselves under too much pressure. It's their first season in the Bundesliga and if they keep their team spirit, play well, harmonise well, and keep their feet on the ground, it's definitely possible.

Thanks very much.

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