Ahead of the first Hesse derby between Eintracht Frankfurt and SV Darmstadt 98 in over 30 years, Lilies captain Aytac Sulu spoke exclusively to bundesliga.com about the club's impressive start to the campaign, his own fine form and Sunday's regional showdown.
bundesliga.com: Mr Sulu, if someone had told you last Christmas that you’d captain the Lilies in the first Hesse derby in over 30 years, what would you have said?
Aytac Sulu: I would have told you it could happen on the Play-Station, but certainly not in real life! Seriously, though, it’s incredible that this derby is back - for Darmstadt, for Hesse as a whole, and the club and its fans.
bundesliga.com: Your current points tally of 15 from 14 matches has exceeded most people’s expectations. Are you surprised by how well Darmstadt have done?
Sulu: No, I’m not surprised. I knew we had the quality to pick up points in the Bundesliga. I’m convinced that every single one of our players is good enough to play in this league - and do well. The 15 points we’ve collected reflects our togetherness and the hard work we put in on a daily basis.
bundesliga.com: You yourself have been one of the top defenders in the division so far this term…
Sulu: Well, if I thought I wasn’t good enough for this league I’d have packed it all in (laughs).
bundesliga.com: Playing in the Bundesliga is arguably the biggest challenge of your career so far…
Sulu: That’s true. I did play for Gencerbirligi in the Turkish SüperLig, but my only appearance was a ten-minute run-out as a substitute! Still, I knew before the season started that if I train hard and and go into every game in peak physical condition, I can make it in the Bundesliga. I approach every Bundesliga match like a final and it’s nice to see I can hold my own in this league. Above all, though, I want to help the team with my performances, even though I’m aware it’s not all down to me.
bundesliga.com: Would you also say that playing in the Bundesliga is the most enjoyable experience of your career?
Sulu: I think our two promotions - to Bundesliga 2 and then to the top flight - were exceptional. Having said that, the last couple of months have been a real highlight for me. I hope it continues for a long time to come.
bundesliga.com: You’ve recently been linked with a call-up to the Turkish national team…
Sulu: I have read that they are interested in me, but I don’t know if I’ve actually been scouted at any point. I haven’t spoken to anybody. At the moment, the only thing that matters to me is Darmstadt. If we achieve our objectives, it’ll be a fantastic year. If anything else happens on top of that, it’ll be a nice little bonus.
bundesliga.com: Going back to the derby: Eintracht have a few personnel issues, with Alex Meier serving a one-match suspension. Is it a good time to play them?
Sulu: Alex is obviously an important player for Frankfurt and his absence is a blow for them. But form goes out of the window in a derby! Everyone wants to be involved and everyone tries that little bit harder. We’re also missing an important player in György Garics, who we need to find a replacement for. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter who starts for us. The attitude is what counts! And the result of course (laughs).
bundesliga.com: Would you be happy with a point?
Sulu: If we can get a point away from home we’d obviously be very happy, but our aim is to leave Frankfurt with all three points.
Aytac Sulu was talking to Andreas Kötter