Christopher Steegmann: Progress Is Great But Title Talk Is Premature
With the Bundesliga season now on a two week hiatus for the first international break of the season, the league table is beginning to take shape as the 12 teams begin to ease into their rhythm as the main body of the season quickly approaches.
With 6 members of his first team squad away on international duty, Austria Wien manager Christopher Steegmann will have chance to reflect on an impressive start to the Bundesliga campaign from Die Vielchen and work those players staying behind hard on the training ground in an attempt to hit the ground running when the Bundesliga campaign returns. In his first six games in charge at the Generali Arena, the German has led Austria Wien to 3 victories and 3 draws and his team currently sit third in the Bundesliga table, but Steegmann believes there is still more to come from his team.
Christopher, thanks for taking the time out to join us, how are you settling into life in Wien?
It’s my pleasure. Yeah I’m really enjoying it so far, it’s been eye opening for sure, but Wien is a beautiful city and the people are incredibly nice and respectful. It’s not too different from living in Berlin to be fair so the transitions been pretty easy so far. The family is settling in well, the kids are enjoying school too so that makes everything that little bit easier.
That is good to hear. What about in terms of the football, how are you finding life at Austria Wien?
I’m absolutely loving it, it wouldn’t be fair to say anything to the contrary. It is a brilliant club with a lot of history and traditions that I am desperate to cling to and adhere to. I think in doing that and making it clear I want to do that the fans have made me feel more welcome than I had ever expected and they have been brilliant. Results on the pitch may be fuelling that slightly more too but that is part and parcel of being a football manager.
It was a busy summer for you, bringing a lot of players into this squad, how have they settled in to life at the club and what was the thinking behind that?
One of my directives when I first came into the club was that we had to show an improvement on last season, where we finished 7th and failed to qualify for Europe. For this club, that simply isn’t acceptable and we have to be one of the top two or three teams in the country year and year such is the expectation. The President gave me the room to change the squad to the way I see fit and to suit the style of play that I intend on introducing here and I believe we have done that with the additions we have made. They are settling in very well I think, you’d have to ask them to get a more accurate idea but from their performances on the pitch and the atmosphere in the dressing room, things are looking really good on that front from my perspective.
In terms of your playing squad, it’s been noted that you have one of the younger squads in the division, was that something you wanted when you considered taking the job or is it just a coincidence?
No, it’s definitely something I was looking for in a managerial position. The way I want this team to play and the philosophy I hope I have brought to the club, requires a lot of hard work and determination to be able to adapt to and that quite often comes easier with younger players. You look at the best managers in the world, the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, who have these distinct playing philosophies, they tend to sign younger players and develop them into better players by working closely with them on the training pitch and that is something I want to do here and throughout my managerial career.
The playing style you have introduced or are bringing to this Austria Wien team has been highly lauded so far. Are you pleased with how quickly your players seem to be taking to the philosophy?
Yes one hundred percent! I thought it would take a lot longer than it has for us to be putting in the performances we have done, and for us to have gone six games without defeat in the league is very pleasing.
Is it fair to say that you made a steady start to the campaign, picking up three successive draws, before turning those draws into victories? That must make the transition to your heavy pressing and high line style of play seem even better?
Yeah definitely. To now be getting the victories and importantly too, keeping the clean sheets is very pleasing and it is making our expectations for this season, change week on week. The objectives remain the same though and we’re well on course to meet those which is great. We want to keep getting better and better as the season goes on because you can guarantee that the other teams, the likes of Rapid and Red Bull Salzburg will do that and get even better so we have to raise our levels to match them. We have no real choice.
You mentioned your objectives for the season changing week on week, what are your overall objectives for this season then?
I think first and foremost, from a personal perspective I want to see that we are getting better. I’m still relatively new here and getting used to the club and adapting to the circumstances here, and that impacts the players so if we can continue developing and getting better and better than that will be very good. If that happens then we will rise up the league table and finish in a much better position than the one the club finished in last season which is ultimately what the fans and the people behind the scenes want. In terms of where we want to finish in the league, I said earlier, we need to be one of the top two or three teams in the country, and playing European football year on year so we need to be getting back into one of the UEFA competitions this season, it is as simple as that.
Interesting. You currently sit third in the table after putting together that run of three successive victories, has that changed your ambitions for the season? Are you now aiming for the title?
Listen, the performances since the start of the season have been great and have got better and better and has left us in the position we are in now, three wins on the bounce, three clean sheets on the bounce and sitting just a point off the top of the table. The progress is great and I am extremely proud of my team for everything we’ve achieved so far, but talk of us winning the title this season is very premature. However we will keep working together and building this team and see where we end up and take it a game at a time, and hopefully keep putting the victories together.
You currently sit above two of your main rivals for those top spots in the league though, surely that must be very encouraging?
Don’t get me wrong, that is fantastic and hopefully we can continue the fine run of form we are on and continue to sit above them and hopefully finish above them this season. However that doesn’t mean I think we are on course for the title. This is a work in progress. This team finished seventh in the league last year so there is a big amount of work to do before we’re back at that level. It will take hard work and commitment from myself, the board, the players, everyone associated with this club in fact but we will get back there sooner rather than later because its’s in the clubs blood to do that.
Does that mean you perhaps fear Rapid and Red Bull Salzburg catching you or overtaking you in the league and usurping you for that position you currently find yourselves in?
It’s not fear but I know that Rapid and Red Bull Salzburg will only get stronger as the season goes on. Their squads are too strong and they have the lifeblood in their clubs as much as we do to be successful and push themselves back into the top drawer and be amongst the contenders. They’ve not even started the season poorly to be fair, maybe they’ve not done as well as they’d have hoped in their first six games but by no means do I think they’ve started poorly. If they’ve started poorly then so have we. Teams like Sturm Graz and Wacker Innsbruck, who only came up this year, have started very well and it would be good for the league if they keep it up but Rapid and Red Bull will be up there come the end of the season, mark my words.
Ok, well our time here is drawing to an end unfortunately Christopher, so will ask one final question and then wrap things up. There are rumours of discontent and a poor relationship between you and club captain Alexander Grunwald, can you give any meaning and answer to these rumours?
Yes I have heard these rumours, but they are simply not true. Alexander’s been here a long time now and is a pivotal cog in our system and in this club in general. He is an excellent player and a privilege to work with and his impact on the pitch is clear to see and I am very much looking forward to continuing working with him moving forward.
Okay, well that clears things up, thank you for very much for taking the time to speak to us Christopher, good luck for the rest of the season.
It’s my privilege, thank you!
Austria Wien will return to Bundesliga action on September 15th when they visit Rheindorf Altach, knowing that a victory could send them top of the league.
Is great to start the campaign so well and to start picking up the victories and importantly too the clean sheets is a real boost heading into the main chunk of the season.
No it really can’t im delighted with it. A long way to go yet but things are looking very rosey!a
#9 Month In Focus: August
#11 Late Goals Secure Safe Passage