In the summer of 2011, Michael Mancienne became the first Englishman to play for Hamburg SV since the legendary Kevin Keegan. He is approaching the end of his first year in Northern Germany and Bundesliga Football spoke exclusively to the former Chelsea defender.
Frank Arnesen came sweeping into the Volkspark at the beginning of the season with ambitions of restoring Hamburg’s position as one of the continent’s biggest clubs. It has been 30 years since Die Rothosen were German and European champions and nearly 26 years since the club got their hands on the DFB-Pokal.
At the heart of Hamburg’s continental success in the early 1980′s was English midfielder Kevin Keegan who left a lasting legacy from his three years in Germany. Former Chelsea and Wolves defender Michael Mancienne agreed a four-year contract with Hamburg in the summer and the promising star is held in high regard by the club’s Sporting director.
Speaking exclusively to BundesligaFootball.co.uk, Mancienne said:
It has been really easy to settle in. Basically, everyone around the club can speak English so that has made it really easy. I live in the city as well and it’s similar to London and having a few of the other lads that I knew that has made it a lot easier.”
Arriving at the same time as the former England-U21 international were Dutch defender Jeffrey Bruma, Gokhan Töre and Italian youngster Jacopo Sala who all came from Arnesen’s previous club, Chelsea and have helped each other settle in: ‘It’s been good having the boys around. Obviously, when we go to eat and stuff it’s easy to meet up. Having people there you know, you don’t feel lonely and you are not there by yourself.’
The 24-year-old didn’t have the easiest introduction in to the Bundesliga with Michael Oenning’s ailing side picking up just one point from the first six games of the campaign. For Mancienne, it was a chance to experience some intense fixtures against the likes of FC Bayern and Northern rivals Werder Bremen.
It was a little bit difficult. It wasn’t a good time. Especially, because we had done so well in pre-season and nobody saw it coming. We had a difficult start to the season with some really tough games. Even losing the first few games, the confidence of the team went down.
At the end of August, Hamburg were thrashed by a rampant Bayern side 5-0 which left Rothosen at the bottom of the table and Mancienne admits it was a difficult period under Michael Oenning who was sacked by the middle of September.
Bayern are an unbelievable team and they’ve got some great players. We had already played them in pre-season and we were pretty confident. But on the day, they started well and just battered us.
In the time after Oenning’s departure, Hamburg’s youth coach Rodolfo Cardoso was in control of the club and led the team to their first win of the season in Stuttgart. Both Cardoso and then Arnesen were in charge of the first-team until the Sporting Director unveiled FC Basel’s Thorsten Fink as the club’s new permanent head coach. Mancienne added:
To be honest, my relationship with Thorsten is really good. He speaks to me quite a lot, but even though I’m not playing at the moment, he says I’ll get my chance since I’ve been training well and playing well in matches.”
Hamburg’s form under Fink has certainly improved since the debacle at the start of the campaign but HSV lie in an awkward position in the table with just five points separating them and the drop zone. On the other hand, HSV are eight points behind seventh placed Hannover 96 in the Bundesliga and Mancienne still believes a place in Europe is possible given the level of competition in the league.
When we were 10th, we were looking at Europe to be honest. It’s so close and a few wins could put us back up there. Obviously, we don’t want to be relegated and survival is our main objective but overall, our target would be Europe.”
Michael Mancienne spoke exclusively to Bundesliga Football’s Ross Dunbar.