Niklas Stark is our iron man. Having played 2511 of the 2520 Bundesliga minutes available, our vice-captain has been on the pitch longer than any other Herthaner this season. What’s also notable is the gap between Stark and second place on the list: he leads Matheus Cunha (1,994 minutes) by over 500 minutes. Only on matchday one did Stark fail to complete the full game, playing ‘just’ 81 minutes against Werder. He has been ever-present in the 27 matches since then. That makes it even tougher for Stark to be without Bundesliga football, having last played on 10th April. Action will resume on 3rd May. “To be out there on the pitch fighting for the points together - it’s just something completely different from keeping fit in your own house. It’s annoying that we can’t get out there and take to the field ourselves,” says the defender of the quarantine situation. Our Germany international spoke to the press about...
...his first thoughts after quarantine was confirmed: We had already considered it beforehand because we knew that if Marvin Plattenhardt tested positive as well then we would be in quarantine. We had hoped that Platte would test negative and we’d be able to continue training. That wasn’t the case though. So we all had an idea of what it would mean for us and everyone was able to prepare themselves a little. I have to be honest - it was pretty lousy for all of us when it was eventually confirmed. Obviously we’re preparing well at home but we see the other games on TV and can’t play ourselves. To be out there on the pitch fighting for the points together - it’s just something completely different from keeping fit in your own house. It’s annoying that we can’t get out there and take to the field ourselves.
...a possible quarantine routine: It’s my third quarantine and each one is a bit different. It’s never nice but I try to stick to my routine: always waking up at the same time, eating well and doing the same things before and after training to stay as fit as possible while we have to stay inside. We have a bit more free time than usual but we are training twice a day and are kept busy. It’s definitely not like a holiday where we can sleep in until 10, lie around and then drink a glass of wine in the evening. Absolutely not. We want to prepare as best we can for the matches and so each of us is putting in that extra 1%.
[>]We are doing all we can to stay in contact and to maintain our excellent team spirit. That will definitely help us in the games to come.[<]
...the virtual sessions: Henrik Kuchno is making it really demanding for us at times. It’s obviously hard to stay motivated during quarantine but Henrik is doing really well. He listens to us when we have something to bring up. We are in contact with him all the time. We are training hard. The sessions at home can’t compare with training out on the pitch. We can’t make any great progress and we don’t have loads of room. I’ve reorganised my flat a bit so that I can do some longer runs here. (grins) We are trying to make training as similar as possible to what we do at Schenckendorffplatz.
...the things that can’t be done in quarantine training: On the physical side it’s hard to train short, dynamic movements like sprints in quarantine. We won’t lose our endurance too quickly, especially when we are all putting a shift in the whole time. But we are working on the smaller movements as well as we can so that we can pick them back up as soon as we’re back in team training. We didn’t work on them anywhere near as much during the quarantine last year - that’s one difference. So I think that we will come out of isolation quite fit. It’s also hard to do tactical work when we don’t have a pitch in front of us. We have been given homework by the coaching staff. We have to watch our opponents and prepare as best we can.
...communication among the squad during quarantine: We have been in contact the whole time and we’ve also created a new group. Normally we see each other every day and chat away about all sorts. Right now our conversations are focused on how things are currently going. We talk about what we can do in training, how the other lads are doing healthwise and whether anybody is sore. We also try to put together online events, doing things together in the evenings away from football. I’m taking care of that too. We are doing all we can to stay in contact and to maintain our excellent team spirit. That will definitely help us in the games to come.
...the aforementioned team spirit: I’m seeing this current situation as an opportunity. We are in a tough spot, but we all have the time to clear our heads and refocus on what lies ahead. Together we can achieve something huge. Lots of people have already written us off and said that we are going down. We don’t see it like that at all. We want to prove all our doubters wrong! That can only bring us closer together as a team. With the packed fixture list we are going to need every single player.
...the schedule: It could be an advantage that we will know roughly how many points we need for survival when we get back underway. That’s how we are approaching it; we are taking every positive we can. We know the schedule now and we know what’s expected of us. It’s a gruelling schedule, that goes without saying.Other teams have managed to conquer similar challenges in the past, though. It’s almost like a tournament for us, similar to the World Cup or the Euros with a game every three days. We have players who have featured in such tournaments - Sami Khedira has even won the World Cup. We are well armed for the fight. Sami has the most experience. He will be a really important part of the project with his experience. That will definitely help us in the remaining games