Hamburg - Last season, Thorsten Fink was supposed to put Hamburger SV back on the European map. In the end, though, 'project Europa League' was not achieved.
Poor results in their own backyard didn't help, but the Hamburg coach is determined to set the record straight this time around. "All I can tell you is what I want to see and what we are working hard for, and that is a team which can celebrate in front of their own fans at the end of home games," he told bundesliga.com.
The 45-year-old also gave his views on HSV’s summer recruits and expressed his excitement about his new "gang of rascals."
bundesliga.com: Herr Fink, how happy are you with the way the preparations for the new season have gone so far?
Thorsten Fink: A coach is never fully satisfied, but things are pretty positive so far. In the Nordcup, we managed to put into practice a few things that we’d been trying in training. I think we’re a bit further on than we were this time a year ago. Next weekend, we have the next test of where we are at in the Telekom Cup in Gladbach. Let’s see how happy I am after that.
bundesliga.com: With victory in the Nordcup, HSV have continued what is almost a tradition of winning a pre-season tournament with illustrious opponents. Last year it was the Peace Cup, and then you were in the hunt for a top-six finish for a while. Is victory last Sunday therefore a good omen for the coming season?
Fink: If at the end of the season, we qualify for the Europa League then we’d be glad to see winning the Nordcup as a good omen. Right now, though, this win is good for our self-confidence, but that's all. It’s important to pick up these minor successes during pre-season. Otherwise it’s hard to go into the Bundesliga season with your head held high, and that’s what we’re going to need to do against Schalke.
bundesliga.com: Only six teams conceded more goals than HSV last season. With Djourou, Sobiech and Tah, you now have three new central defenders in your squad. Have you been focusing on stabilising your defence this pre-season?
Fink: Not only signing new central defenders stabilises the defence. We have to work on that as a team. But it’s true that we have made this position our utmost priority in our transfer dealings. We have very high expectations of the three players you named, but it has to be said that Jonathan Tah will be given all of the time in the world. He has never played in the Bundesliga and I’m not going to burden him with such pressures.
bundesliga.com: The fans in the Imtech Arena were only able to hear and sing along to the music after a goal 18 times last season. Will Jacques Zoua ensure that that music is heard more frequently in 2013/14?
Fink: I hope so, both for him and for us. Jacques is a hugely talented player and he also has a great deal of experience. If I were not absolutely convinced of his qualities, I would not have worked so hard on signing him. We’re really excited about him.
bundesliga.com: Lots of praise has been heaped on Hakan Calhanoglu. Could he be one of the surprises of the season, or is the aim more to build him up with an experienced pro such as Rafael van der Vaart by his side?
Fink: The self-confidence and cheekiness I have seen from Hakan so far tells me that he has no intention of being built up slowly here. He’s already got itchy feet. We’re certainly not going to overdo things with him, but I’m really excited about seeing these young, wild players who are desperate to be successful. Arslan, Calhanoglu, Demirbay, Sobiech, Tah: this is going to be a great gang of little rascals, but if needs be, I’m not scared of reining in their enthusiasm.
bundesliga.com: What are you looking forward to most in the coming season and what do you particularly not want to see?
Fink: All I can tell you is what I want to see and what we are working hard for, and that is a team which can celebrate in front of their own fans at the end of home games. I’d like to see that at least three times as often as last season. Then we will have achieved our objective in the end.
Interview by Michael Reis