Thomas Hitzlsperger is the youngest son of a large Bavarian family and grew up on a farm. But he knew he always wanted to play professional football. His English fans know him better by his nickname -- "Hitz the Hammer."
We've talked about how to best strike the ball, give it the hammer treatment so it rockets into goal. How do you do it? Do you hit it straight on or more from the side?
For me, the best way to shoot is straight on, but there's a science to it. People have found out the exact spot you need to hit the ball to score a goal, what the best angle is and with what type of movement. That's just way too much science. I don't really get involved with that, I've just practiced it over and over again and developed a feeling.
What was your fastest shot? Do you know?
That was measured in a training session, I think I had about 135 kilometers per hour, give or take a kilometer or two. In a match not so long ago it was 125 kilometers per hour.
That's right against Leverkusen.
As a junior, Hitzlsperger played for Bayern Munich. Then, at the age of 18, he realized his ambition of becoming a professional footballer, signing up with Aston Villa in the English Premiere League. In 2005, he returned to Germany to play for Stuttgart where he reached another milestone.
In 2007 you became Bundesliga champions. That was something you played a big part in, scoring crucial equalizers in the final two matches of the season. That must have been quite a big deal. How did it feel?
It's difficult to describe. Actually, it's something you dream about. When you go to bed and dream about football, you see yourself about to shoot a deciding goal in an all-important final match. That one came pretty close to the dream. It the last day of the season. We had to win. We were down one-nil and suddenly I had the ball and scored a goal. That was one of those moments when you think football is fantastic, because right then you only have seconds and you want to do something special. But it's not what I do. It's the goal itself that's special.
You're the leading player at Stuttgart, the captain. Are you ready for role like that in the national squad?
A larger role? I've always felt I should be in top form and always try to improve myself. That's why I've always seen my role as trying to be the best I can be and playing the best football I can play. I've always done that and will continue to do that."
Hitzlsperger is the workhorse of the German team. But the midfielder is fighting for his place against the likes of Thorsten Frings, Jermaine Jones and Simon Rolfes. In the last two friendlies, the Hammer's had to watch from the sidelines.
How do you deal with this very competitive environment?
I'd have to say it's had a positive effect, because I know that when I play it's not going to be forever. It's just for the moment, and at that moment I might be a little bit better than the others. A few weeks later it might be completely different. So it increases the pressure and my own willingness to do more. That's my goal. I want to always be on the national team, because it really is something special and I'll only be able to do that if I continue to develop. I realise that because there are two or three really good players who could immediately step in. I always want to be there and I hope I will be. This is a competitive environment which is pushing me forward and I think that's true for the others as well.
Germany lost last the two friendlies against England and Norway, both matches without Hitzlsperger.
We have to take that very seriously. We can't just say, "It's over, let's move on." I wish we could mentally, but in preparing for the upcoming match against Liechtenstein we'll have to focus on it again. Once we get there we might start thinking about the last league match and not the last two internationals. We have to deal with it and I expect the coach will be addressing it as well. He doesn't want to see it happen again. So he'll talk to us indivdiually to find out why we weren't in top form back then. And maybe he'll draw the conclusions about what we need to do to win convincingly against Liechtenstein and do the same thing against Wales.
But beyond Liechtenstein and Wales, Germany faces its toughest opponent in October, Russia. That match could decide who winds up going to South Africa. Only the first placed team in the group automatically qualifies for the World Cup.
If Germany qualifies, what would that mean for you personally?
To experience the World Cup in South Africa would be fantastic for me. I want to play in as many of these competitions as possible, World Cups and European Championships. That will continue to push my development as a player. That's the main reason I want the title, to bring the trophy home to Germany. It would really be something special. In the last World Cup we were third. In the last European Championship we came second. So it would be a great triumph if we took the title in South Africa. But it is very, very difficult and so too is qualifying. It's a constant struggle and we'll have to improve ourselves a lot. But I'm very confident.