- Andre Hahn had a hand in six goals in Gladbach's last four games.
- Scored a brace against Leverkusen which clinched a top-four finish.
- "You can only refer to it as crazy!"
It goes without saying that Andre Hahn was Borussia Mönchengladbach's ace in the hole during the final straight of the 2015/16 campaign as the Foals clinched a top-four finish and, with it, UEFA Champions League qualification.
Even Hahn's most earnest supporters would hardly have believed it possible that the 25-year-old would have such an impact, let alone so quickly, on his side's fortunes following an horrific knee injury suffered in October 2015. In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, Hahn discusses the difficult road to recovery, is openly critical of himself and explains why he understands being looked over by national team head coach Joachim Löw ahead of UEFA EURO 2016.
bundesliga.com: Andre Hahn, the story of Borussia's season, as well as your own, paints a picture of a phoenix rising from the ashes…
Andre Hahn: Exactly that! After five Matchdays we were bottom of the table, didn't have a single point to our name and were without a head coach. Then in the end we managed to secure Champions League qualification. Our comeback was a small, in fact big, fairytale for us and is almost comparable to winning the Bundesliga title in our eyes. As far as I know it is a performance for the history books, because I don't think a team, one who had no points after five games, has ever gone on to qualify for Europe in the same season. Considering the long list of long-term absentees we had to deal with this season you can only refer to it as crazy!
bundesliga.com: You were one of those long-term absentees you mention, but even before you got injured things were not going as well as you had hoped considering you were playing second fiddle…
Hahn: I think 'second fiddle' is probably the perfect term to describe my first half of the season. I was always thrown on at the very end of matches for a few minutes, if at all. In the 5-1 win in Frankfurt I managed to score twice, but the following game was the 3-1 win over Schalke in which I suffered my nasty injury. After that I had a lot of time to reflect on everything and to work on myself, not just in a physical sense, but a mental one as well.
bundesliga.com: During that time did you ever fear that you might not make it back at all, let alone before the end of the season?
Hahn: Fear of my career ending is a bit too extreme. Fortunately, it was clear early on that the injury, despite being a serious one, wouldn't leave behind any lasting damage. That gave me courage. I was always aware of what I would be able to accomplish and that I could be an important player for the team when I'm fully fit. I've already proven that in the past. When I then received the backing of the head coach at the start of April and got my chance, I was able to repay that faith with goals. Ultimately the team made life very easy for me and wasted little time in integrating me back into the system. I was only able to score those goals because my team-mates always provided the assists at the crucial moment.
bundesliga.com: Head coach Andre Schubert referred to you as a "mentality monster". Where does your mental strength come from?
Hahn: I've always been that way. I'm not the most technically gifted player, who will try tricks and flicks, or play clever little one-two-threes. I'm all about the willingness to run and fight and bring unbridled ambition to the table. This self-awareness was ultimately what saw me make my mark in the Bundesliga and what earned me a move to Borussia. Maybe those qualities were the things that went missing a little bit though. It's not like I wasn't trying to give my all, but something was missing at the start of the season. Perhaps the willingness and determination to take another step forward weren't quite as strong as before.
bundesliga.com: Being so openly self-critical is something we do not witness in the football world much…
Hahn: That might well be, but there had to be a reason behind me not featuring as often at the start of the campaign and I possibly looked elsewhere for those reasons. That was my mistake. It wasn't as if the head coach was really unhappy with me. On the contrary, he seemed to be pleased with my efforts. However, when you're not playing in spite of that, then at some point it has to become clear that something is missing. Then you've got to look at yourself. You've got to start throwing everything into it again until you reach the point, where, as it's so nicely put, the head coach doesn't have any other option than to include you in the starting line-up.
bundesliga.com: "Running and fighting is always possible" is something you have said yourself in the past…
Hahn: That's my motto! There will always be days when you can't find a team-mate with any of your passes or when nothing goes your way, but you can always help the team if you're willing to run until you collapse. Furthermore, as a striker you also have the advantage of being able to decide a match with a single moment that goes your way.
bundesliga.com: After making such an impressive comeback, is it safe to assume that you may be a little upset that the season had to come to an end?
Hahn: At the end of the day…yes! [laughs] But what could be nicer than going into the summer break with such a positive feeling?! For me it also comes down to making a commitment. I want to maintain this level of performance in the upcoming season and will be working hard on myself during the downtime to make sure that happens.
bundesliga.com: Are you at all disappointed that Joachim Löw did not call you up into his preliminary squad for EURO 2016?
Hahn: No. Ok, I had a good run recently, but you can't put too much weight on that. The national team head coach could and can call upon a number of top quality players and I've only ever made one appearance for the national team. That was two years ago already though. I have never been an established member of the first team and am no Bastian Schweinsteiger, who will automatically be included despite a lengthy spell on the sidelines through injury. For me it's better to look at my situation with a realistic perspective and to keep my feet on the ground.
Interview by Andreas Kötter