When things go well, you are the King!
Ron-Thorben Hoffmann has given an interview with German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung ahead of tonight’s Carabao Cup Quarter-Final against Arsenal.
Sunderland’s number one described during the interview how it has been a difficult start, as he adapts to being a key player for a club, but believes it was worth missing out on training with world class players at Bayern Munich to sign for Sunderland:
The regular playing time helps me tremendously. I also take on a completely different role in the team here. Even though I’m relatively young, I’m one of the key players at Sunderland. It wasn’t easy for me at the beginning. But I’m getting into the role more and more. In order to play regularly at Sunderland, I had to forego the high level of training at FC Bayern. But it’s worth it to me.
Hoffmann says he watched ‘Sunderland ‘Til I Die’ after signing but barely recognises any of the club, thanks to the changes at the club following Kyril-Louis Dreyfus’ takeover and emphasis on youth in the first team squad:
I also watched the documentary after I arrived. It’s curious, because I don’t recognise much of it in the club at the moment. There have been a lot of personnel changes in the recent past. There are very good people working at the club. They have decisively changed the face of the team compared to previous years. There are a lot of young players like me in the club this season. Players who were trained by big clubs and are now at the beginning of their careers. Together with some experienced players who know exactly what is important in this league, this currently results in a very good mix.
He goes on to explain how he still gets goosebumps playing in front of the fans at the Stadium of Light and how he feels like a king when we are winning but admits there can be some restlessness when things aren’t going as well:
It doesn’t matter whether it’s the first, second or third league - people live for football here. That is really impressive. Playing in the “Stadium of Light” is a real experience. Shortly before kick-off, the fans sing “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley. Afterwards they shout “Sunderland!” - so loudly that the whole stadium shakes for a moment. It gives me goosebumps every time.
Also, many of the English stadiums are very cramped. We recently had an away game in Portsmouth. The spectators felt like they were sitting a metre behind my goal. I didn’t know that from Germany, it was completely new to me.
The power that a club like Sunderland exudes goes both ways. When things are going well, you are the king here. When things go badly, discontent arises very quickly. When we lost three games in a row, the fans got restless. You have to stay true to your line and try not to get too distracted by either the positive or the negative side noises. Overall, I am very happy to experience this fan culture.
Before signing for Sunderland, Hoffmann regularly started for Bayern Munich II in the third tier of German football and the 22-year-old compared the difference between that level and League One:
Both leagues have their appeal. The level in League One is definitely very good. The intensity with which football is played here is very impressive. The players are all very strong physically, the games don’t take any breaks. Anyone can beat anyone in this league, the quality of the teams is very close. It’s not easy for me as a goalkeeper, also mentally. I’m challenged all the time.
Ahead of tonight’s big cup tie at the Emirates, Hoffmann says Sunderland will make life difficult for Arsenal but the main goal is still promotion:
It’s like David against Goliath. To play one of the top teams in the Premier League is a great honour. We will try everything to make life as difficult as possible for Arsenal. The fact that we made it this far in the League Cup shows the quality of our team. That’s nice, that’s good attention for the club. But the big goal is promotion to the Championship.
Finally, he was asked whether he can ever see himself returning to Bayern in the future and although he admits he could see that happening eventually, it’s crucial for him to be playing first team football right now:
Yes, I can do that. FC Bayern is my favourite club, next to my hometown club Hansa Rostock, and it always will be. In the end, perspective is crucial - for both sides. I’m now coming to a point in my career where it’s important to have the prospect of playing games. But I’m the very last person to demand games at FC Bayern. That would be totally presumptuous at the point I’m at in my career.
Congerton to Serie A
Former Sunderland Sporting Director Lee Congerton is on the verge of a shock switch to Serie A after being lined up by Atalanta as their new General Manager, according to the Daily Record.
Congerton has been working in a similar position with Leicester City for the last two-and-a-half years but is now expected to part ways ‘amicably’ with the Foxes.
He has held similar roles at Celtic, Hamburg and West Bromwich Albion.
Scocco on Sunderland spell
Ex-Sunderland striker Nacho Scocco announced his retirement last week, although he quickly signed for Argentine minnows Hughes FC after a promise to ex-Liverpool winger Maxi Rodrigues that he would turn out for them following his retirement.
Speaking to TYC Sports about his retirement, Scocco discussed not taking advantage of the move to Sunderland as he believe he should have done, explaining that he had recently become a father and wasn’t ready to go and live abroad again:
When I played at Sunderland, I came from Newell’s and I wasn’t ready to go abroad again. We had just won the championship and I wasn’t ready to stay, but I wasn’t ready, I had recently had a family and I wasn’t ready to go and live abroad again and it ended up taking its toll on me, and I didn’t make the most of it as I should have done.