Lukas Klünter was less than thrilled to be selected for a random drug test following the final whistle against 1. FC Köln, in which Hertha picked up the all-important point that ensured Bundesliga survival. While his teammates were busy celebrating beating the drop after the 0-0 draw against Klünti’s old club from Cologne, the defender was otherwise engaged. “I had a bit of catching up to do when I got back to the dressing room. There was quite an atmosphere in there,” grins the former U21s European champion, who was able to join up with the celebrations afterwards.
The fact that the 24-year-old had to overcome hurdles even after the hard work was done is somehow very fitting for the defender, who didn’t see a minute of action under Bruno Labbadia but fought his way back into the team under Pál Dárdai. “It’s not been an easy season for me overall,” reports Klünter, “But I’ve been in a similar situation to that before and I know how to deal with it. For me, it was just important to keep working hard and never admit to myself that I had given up.” In addition to the graft on the training pitch, Klünter’s reflective view of the football business has also helped. “Times like that are never nice, but I know how fast-moving football is and how you have to deal with it. It’s all a matter of staying calm and continuing to put in the hours of work. I know I can rely on my qualities and when the chance comes, you have to be there,” says our number 13.
New role, old strengths
This opportunity has also come with a new role in the Hertha defence. In nine of his eleven appearances under Dárdai so far, the 24-year-old has impressed as a right-back in a three-man defence. “That suits me very well, maybe even a little more than my usual role on the outside of a back four,” reveals the Euskirchen native. “Speed, positional play, and tackling are things that distinguish me from others and I can make a difference there.”
In the last match against his former club, the defender played on the outside of the back three again. The point that was needed to stay up was the result of a joint effort from the team. “Looking back, the quarantine might even have been a good thing for our team spirit. We had the time to talk about things honestly and tackle problems together. Everyone realised what it was all about given the situation!”
[>]Looking back, the quarantine might even have been a good thing for our team spirit. We had the time to talk about things honestly and tackle problems together. Everyone realised what it was all about given the situation![<]
Praise for the training staff
This extra insight and improved team spirit were also the result of the staff around the team. “All of the coaches and training staff analysed the situation well and knew what to do. Their calmness strengthened us as a team,” praises Klünter, who singles out the head coach and sporting director in particular. “Pál and Arne did very well. They deserve credit for the way they turned things around in a tough situation. These are exactly the right people and brought exactly what we needed!” In the end, all of the parts fit together so that the ‘Old Lady’ was able to escape the drop zone with a matchday to spare.
Looking forward to the season finale
The boys are looking to pull together to achieve one last good result before the season ends. “You can feel a real joy around the team. We are unbelievably happy that we were able to secure safety but there's still one game left and we don't want to be too nonchalant going into it. We have to stay focused and we will try to get another win in Hoffenheim!” It would be a fine end to a complicated season - a season which has ended on a high note, both for the entire club and for Lukas Klünter himself. And maybe next time the likeable defender will be spared the doping test!