Mark Uth is enjoying being back at his hometown club Cologne on a permanent basis after signing from Schalke over the summer, playing an intense style of football under new head coach Steffen Baumgart which has had a successful start.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, Uth talks about Cologne's start to the season, how Baumgart's intensity on the touchline makes it fun to run for him on the pitch and his and his side's goals for the rest of the season.
bundesliga.com: Are we allowed to welcome you to Cologne for the second time? After your loan period in the first half of the 2019/20 season you have finally moved to your hometown, how does that feel?
Mark Uth: "Yes, you can! It feels very good to finally be home. Everyone knows I grew up here, I've moved home and I'm happy to be near my family and friends."
bundesliga.com: You have settled in Cologne, thanks in part to your goal in the 3-2 defeat against Bayern Munich on Matchday 2...
Uth: "Yes, that was my first goal, it's nice to score my first one so early but I still have room for improvement. I need to get used to Steffen [Baumgart]'s way of playing, the intensity but it will get better over the coming days and weeks."
bundesliga.com: To what extent does this early goal help you to put your relegation with Schalke last season behind you and to start afresh this season?
Uth: "It definitely helps, the preparation was good, I really enjoyed it. You have to put it behind you. It wasn't a great season, wasn't a great ending."
bundesliga.com: You scored a great goal against Bayern in pre-season - which won Goal of the Month in Germany - and now again in the league. Are Bayern becoming your favourite opponents?
Uth: "I think Mainz are my favourite opponents, I've scored a few goals against Mainz. My record against Bayern isn't bad but unfortunately, I haven't picked up many points, one win with Hoffenheim I think. They're only your favourite opponents if you win against them regularly so I'd go for another team."
bundesliga.com: How did it feel in the first games this season to play with Anthony Modeste as a front two?
Uth: "Toni is someone who attracts a lot of attention and has worked very hard, especially in the last few weeks in pre-season. The previous few months weren't easy for him and I'm even happier for him that things are looking up for him, that he's scoring goals and that he's getting fitter and becoming very important for Cologne. He really deserves it after the way he's been working."
bundesliga.com: How would you describe your role as a second striker, behind or alongside Modeste?
Uth: "I played next to him in the first two games, I enjoy that every now and then, playing the number 10. I don't mind where I play though, it's very intensive football, whatever position you play in."
bundesliga.com: How do you rate the new coach, Steffen Baumgart? How does he convey his energy and his ideas across to the team?
Uth: "Just the football he tries to play is impressive, when it works like it did against Hertha Berlin and Bayern, then you trust him because it has worked. He's the most open, the most honest. He tells you what he thinks, he tells you when he doesn't like something. He is loud on the pitch and that works with this city, this club, that's why it's very positive at the moment."
bundesliga.com: Cologne were the team who ran the most last weekend in the win over Bochum, is Baumgart's brand of football already in the team's DNA?
Uth: "Yes, I think that's the only way. If one person falls asleep and doesn't join in, then the pressing doesn't work. We have to work a lot, especially up front, we have to run a lot. That's why we need some time to get used to it because it's very intense, a lot of running. When it works though, as it has done in the last games, we win a lot of balls in the final third. There's a big difference to last year, both to Schalke and the lads here. It works, we're enjoying it and we hope that it works in the same way against Bochum. I think it will become automatic in the coming weeks, when you do it every day and everyone knows what they are doing then it becomes automatic."
bundesliga.com: Bayern's Joshua Kimmich said in an interview that it was "cool the way Baumgart loses himself on the touchline, personally, I really love to see that." Do you see it the same way?
Uth: "Yes, I think he can get the fans who sit behind him going! It's better than someone who only sits there. He gives us positive messages and pushes us, encourages us into the press. I think it's really good too, it's fun."
bundesliga.com: How was it, after so long playing without fans, to finally have your fans behind you in the game against Hertha?
Uth: "It was a really nice feeling. It's great to finally have the fans back with us. We hope to see more of them in the coming weeks but the 16,000 were really impressive. You saw in the second half how the fans can lift you and for a club like Cologne, the fans can really carry us."
Watch: Cologne's most recent win, 2-1 over Bochum!
bundesliga.com: Have you set yourself a personal target for your first full season with Cologne and, if so, what is it?
Uth: "I haven't set myself any personal targets, I just want to be as important to the team as possible, help the lads, score goals, provide assists and we'll see where we are at the end of the season."
bundesliga.com: What is your target for Cologne this season? Do you want to avoid relegation first and foremost after it took so long to secure your place in the league last season?
Uth: "Exactly, avoid relegation firstly. Steffen has said 12th place is important for him and if we play like we have in the last few weeks and in pre-season then that's a realistic target for us."