Jonjoe Kenny has credited David Wagner with making him a Bundesliga success, and acknowledged the Schalke boss has instilled a fighting spirit that has fuelled their push for a top-four finish.
Kenny joined Schalke on loan from Everton in the summer to become the 16th Englishman to feature in the Bundesliga and with ambitions of following in the footsteps of compatriots from Kevin Keegan to Jadon Sancho.
The 22-year-old right-back has made an excellent start. He missed just seven minutes of Bundesliga football in the first half of the season to help leave Schalke fifth at the winter break, and well within touching distance of the UEFA Champions League places.
Watch: Jonjoe Kenny's first senior league goal as Schalke defeat Hertha
Kenny, who had played 31 times in the English Premier League for Everton, admitted Wagner has been central to him hitting the ground running in Gelsenkirchen.
"It's massive that I have a coach who's been fantastic, brilliant for me. He gave me confidence from day one to go out and perform," he said. "When I came here, the coach knew me, I knew him. He knew my qualities, I knew his. If I'm not performing, you don't play, that's down to you.
"I've come in and started well, and the coach has given me the confidence to produce what I can on the pitch. I came here to play, but you have to perform, week in week out. I've got no time to be slacking. I have to be full on it in training every day, every week."
There is little chance of Wagner allowing Kenny or any of his squad to rest on their laurels. The former Borussia Dortmund reserve team coach, who enjoyed a promising three-year spell in England at Huddersfield Town, expends almost as much energy as his team come matchday as he transmits his passion to his players from the dugout.
"It gets drilled into us every day," said Kenny, who highlighted the fact Wagner's enthusiasm and striving for perfection runs through the backroom staff. "The assistant coach, Christoph [Bühler] has been unbelievable for me. We talk about how to improve my game. Even when I think I've done well, there are always little things to improve. That's what I want, I want to know those little things.
"When you see the coaches on the sidelines, they're on their feet, cheering. Even when you give the ball away, it's OK as long as you react. There's no pressure on you. They want you to just go out there and do what you're good at."
Kenny has already shown that with his no-nonsense approach to the game pleasing Schalke fans both on and off the pitch.
He has managed to score a top-flight goal — something the Liverpool-born full-back did not do at Everton — and provided two assists as well as making a significant contribution to Schalke boasting the joint-fourth-best defensive record ahead of the Rückrunde.
Fans of the Royal Blues can expect more of the same and potentially even better from their England U21 defender in the second half of the 2019/20 campaign.
"There's loads to improve. I'm not at the top of the game, I'm not playing for my country, I'm not there yet, so there are lots of things to improve in my game to get there," he explained, adding he feels the whole team can still take a step up.
"I think we have another level to go again, there's more to give. We have a top, top side here. What helps us is that we're a team, people aren't just playing for themselves. It's Schalke from the team to the backroom staff, the physios, the kit men, the kitchen staff, everyone's in it together."
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