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On the spot

Hans Meyer

At 66, Hans Meyer is the oldest and most experienced coach in the Bundesliga. He first moved to Mönchengladbach in 1999. Now after stints at Berlin and Nuremberg, he's been back at Gladbach since October.

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DW-TV:

You're often described as a communicative but also a stubborn interviewee. What does that mean for me?

Hans Meyer:

I can certainly identify with the term 'communicative'. What was the other one?

Stubborn.

Stubborn?

I just want to know what to expect!?

You can expect what every journalist can expect from Hans Meyer. When you talk about something Hans Meyer understands, I'm anything but stubborn.

Great, let's do that. Let's talk about Gladbach.

The euphoria surrounding Mönchengladbach's return to the top flight is long-gone. Their descent began early in the season. In October, coach Jos Luhukay was given his marching orders, and Hans Meyer returned. During the winter break, Meyer re-organised his squad. His top priority was defence -- Gladbach had the worst in the league. His changes seem to be taking effect. Last week's defeat of Hanover showed signs of a reinvigorated side.

I think we have a lot of motivated players. We have some very good second-division players, and a couple of really good first-division players. But we haven't been able to prove ourselves as a team and show whether we've got what it takes to stay in this division. If you don't weigh up the situation properly at the beginning, and then you find yourself in this cycle of losing. It's what everyone says but it's true: you do gradually lose your self-confidence. And when you're where we are, it becomes very complicated. The situation we are in is very, very precarious.

As the defeats mount, self-confidence becomes scarce. In the rough and tumble of the relegation battle, promising youngsters are often sidelined.

We totally neglected our young players due to our terrible situation. I've tried to change that. I've brought in two very young players from our reserve team. I've given Tobias Levels a chance. Johannes van der Bergh is playing again. And Alexander Baumjohan, who hardly played before, is now back and playing regularly. Then there's Marko Marin, who's just 19 but has played 19 Bundesliga games so far.

Marko Marin has scored some crucial goals during his 19 appearances. But Hans Meyer has often used him as a substitute, giving the tabloid papers the opportunity to talk up a rift between the coach and the young Germany international.

He wasn't angry. Nothing could be further from the truth. He knows better than to place his trust a tabloid reporter. He knows his coach has a greater interest in his development.

It's better I set my own ultimatum than some other half-wit set it for me!

As soon as one wish is fulfilled, it immediately spawns others.

And what if we lose? Hans Meyer won't cry! But the situation is critical.

The pencil pushers should continue to write their garbage.

We'll recruit some scientists. We'll do some tests. And then I'll tell you if it's in the head or in the legs.

Hans Meyer and the tabloid press have always had a rocky relationship. His provocation is often intentional and he makes no secret of the fact he doesn't like the way they work.

Let me tell you this. For almost two years, one of the star reporters from Sport Bild magazine has been trying desperately to get an interview. I tell them I don't want to. You can't imagine how many times I turn down requests to go on camera. When you've been in the business as long as I have and there's some idiot telling you you're the star of the team and not the players, then I won't be part of that nonsense.

Meyer: Do you want it in French?

Reporter: German, please.

Meyer: Scheiße!

I'll always have a rocky relationship with people of your profession who have no idea about football, or who are malicious, and who only see their job in terms of a product to be sold.

2003 was a particularly controversial year for Hans Meyer. He stepped down as Gladbach coach intending to retire. But within a year, he was back in the Bundesliga. He saved Berlin from relegation and moved to Nuremberg, where he won the German Cup.

When Dieter Hoeness, Berlin's commercial manager, tried talking me into staying in Berlin for another four months, he knew from the outset that there was no chance of an extension. I made an exception for those first four months. They were time out of the game that I needed because I thought I could save my marriage. That meant a lot to me and that's why I would have welcomed an early retirement. But I realised that it was too late and it was a futile situation. So when I no longer had that argument, I actually gladly took on the job with Nuremberg. I felt good and I felt young, and I've always enjoyed doing this job. And when that main reason to retire disappeared, I decided to return.

His love of the game has remained strong throughout his career. Hans Meyer's been in football for almost forty years. He says as time has gone on he's become more laid-back.

I look at you and I see you're still a young man. Is your father a millionaire or a billionaire?

No, unfortunately not.

Well I was just thinking he could've been a finance manager leaving the business as a rich man in these bad times. But I hope that in your life you reach a situation where you have enough money, even if you have a relatively modest lifestyle, where you're no longer accountable to anyone. Then you can say 'I don't need to march to anyone else's tune. I don't need to prove myself to anyone, or make my boss look good -- even even if he is a bit of an idiot.' I really hope you're in that situation once, because then you'll automatically become more laid back. That's not an artificial state of relaxation, it's genuine.

Then I wouldn't have to buy sparkling wine.

Do you do that?

Sure.

And that's precisely what really thrilled me when I made that remark almost ten years ago. I got a whole truckload of sparkling wine because of what I said. We'd just beaten Bayern 1:0 and I was asked what I'd be doing that night. I said I'm going to open a bottle of cheap sparkling wine and get totally drunk.

And a week later the truck arrived?

The truck arrived. That's what I call service. I bathed in sparkling wine for three or four weeks. That's why I still look so young.

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