Sinsheim - At just 22, Kevin Volland is already one of the most respected figures in the TSG 1899 Hoffenheim dressing room.
The Germany U-21 captain's experience will key to the south-west club's hopes of breaking into Europe in 2015/16, but the man himself believes the new faces can also make a telling contribution...
bundesliga.com: Kevin Volland, almost all Bundesliga sides headed to southern Europe for their summer training camps, but not Hoffenheim. What are the advantages of being in Norway, despite it reportedly being only 18°C?
Kevin Volland: For one, we can train in peace here and focus completely on football. For another, the climate is ideal. So far it’s been around 20°C the whole time - I’d rather train in that than 30, 35 or even higher. I enjoy it if it rains now and again. It doesn’t do any harm. We’re not here in spite of it being 18°C, we’re here because of it.
bundesliga.com: How have the newcomers settled in at the training camp and what impression have you, as an ‘old hand’, got of players such as [Pavel] Kaderabek, [Mark] Uth and [Jonathan] Schmid?
Volland: Off the pitch it’s already going really well. That’s what training camps are about as well - you get to know each other, spend time together and not just on the pitch. They’re all good lads - their character is a good fit for the team. [Head coach] Markus Gisdol and [sporting director] Alexander Rosen have a clear picture of what they want from a player before making a signing. On the pitch we definitely still need a bit of time to completely click. That’s normal. It’s already clear that the new guys all have great potential. We all know Jonathan Schmid from the Bundesliga, Pavel Kaderabek impressed me when we played against him at the Under-21 European Championships, Fabian Schär has played in the Champions League with Basel and Mark Uth had a great season in Holland. The lads can all play.
bundesliga.com: Andreas Beck was Hoffenheim captain for years. Is their a new pecking order in the squad?
Volland: The management specifically set out to change things. When the captain goes, there’s automatically a new pecking order. As a member of the team committee I’m also consulted on these matters. Pirmin Schwegler will be our new captain in the coming season, Eugen Polanski is an important figurehead in the side and there are other players, whose words carry a lot of weight in the team. I think we’ve got good structures in place which will be consolidated over the course of the season. Added to that we’ve also got a player in Kevin Kuranyi, who has shown his quality down the years and whose experience will definitely be a big help to us.
bundesliga.com: In Roberto Firmino you’ve also lost an important player. How do you compensate for that?
Volland: Roberto is an exceptional footballer. It’s impossible to replace him like for like. He’s just too good a player. We have to and will find other solutions; to share the load in attack and maybe even change something in our system and positionally. In that sense, we’re on the right path.
bundesliga.com: Does his departure perhaps even open a door?
Volland: We’ll see. Other players now have the possibility to play more, shoulder more responsibility and develop. Personally, I’ve mainly played on the flanks at TSG. If the coach now wants to use me centrally, that’s fine. I’m ready. It wouldn’t be an entirely new role for me. But regardless of where I play, I want to excite - with the way I play and my commitment. That comes before any questions about formations.
bundesliga.com: You didn’t play against Weinheim, but your team-mates put in a very focused, enjoyable and clinical performance despite it just being a friendly. Is that a coincidence?
Volland: The public shouldn’t read too much into those kind of friendlies; the players certainly don’t. The games against Lilleström and Leeds in Norway were on another level. They were more of a yardstick for where we’re currently at. Like I already said, we still need time to find our groove. We’re focused on our first competitive game of the season against 1860 Munich in the DFB Cup. That’s when we have to deliver.
bundesliga.com: Looking at the Hinrunde table Hoffenheim were seventh, but only 14th based on performances at the end of the Rückrunde. Was that a mental thing? And if so, what makes you think there won’t be another form slump next winter?
Volland: It’s not like we overran the opposition in the Hinrunde. We’re TSG Hoffenheim. Every game’s a battle. We’re not superior to any side in the Bundesliga. It went well in the Hinrunde: we won tight games or rescued the odd draw late on. That didn’t happen much in the Rückrunde. Every so often we were missing one or two percent and that makes all the difference in the Bundesliga. I don’t think it was a mental thing. Obviously we want to be more consistent. We also want to win two games in a row - that didn’t happen at all last season. An now we’re more experienced. In past seasons there were only a few players who had experience of fighting for the European places. That’s different now with the new arrivals.
Interview by Christoph Ruf
Translation: 'Above the clouds with Lutz Pfannestiel - training camp'