Alfred, how excited are you after the many weeks of uncertainty?
""First of all, I would like to emphasise once again that the interruption of the season in mid-March was the only right decision in light of the ever-increasing spread of the coronavirus. Health takes priority above all else. And so in this situation, which has been new for everyone, there was never any uncertainty among my players and coaching staff about accepting changes to our everyday lives. I am impressed by the discipline and solidarity shown by everyone at the club. We trust the experts, who have devised what I deem to be an extraordinary concept and, in doing so, ensured that we got the green light for the resumption of the Bundesliga. We are of course very pleased to be starting up again and would also like to thank the politicians for the trust they've placed in us by taking this step. But all of us are now obliged to fulfil the expectations that have been placed on our shoulders."
Quarantine hotel, mouth protection, handshake ban, reduced contact with club colleagues and the outside world – there are some strict rules of conduct accompanying the resumption of the league...
"And that's just as well. We shall obviously keep reminding ourselves and sensitising each other to ensure that we stay awake and alert. But this strict plan is not only a basic prerequisite for being able to do our job again; it serves the purpose of protecting our own health. And, as I said before, health takes precedence."
The team spent the first three weeks at home and were given individual training plans, among other things. After that, since the beginning of April, there have only been small groups working at the training ground. How fit can a team that is returning to competition in a week's time be?
"The boys are fit and can't wait for the matches. No doubt about it. They also worked well at home and subsequently we tried to keep both motivation and fitness high by providing varied training content. I know we did that very well."
Ultimately, however, there is only one week left to prepare and train as a team...
"This is certainly not ideal, especially as other clubs were able to work in larger groups or even train as a team earlier due to the more liberal guidelines in their states. That's why it was a good decision from the DFL not to start directly with an English week. After the game against Hertha BSC, we have a little more time to prepare together in a focused manner for the away game in Paderborn, before we head into the rather congested home straight.
A personal question to finish off: could you have imagined your first season as a head coach in the Bundesliga would be like this?
"I've had some diverse and extraordinary experiences here in the space of just a few months (laughs). But on a serious note, the situation caused by the coronavirus has been an enormous and unexpected challenge for all of us. And I don't mean for us footballers, but for society as a whole. I'm really happy with and thankful for how calmly this country has dealt with this unprecedented situation. As professional footballers, we're in a very privileged position, and I hope that this is now understood by the every single person in our industry including those who only a short time ago thought it'd always be as it was. Corona has shown us very clearly how quickly things can change and constants can disappear. That's why my thoughts are often with those who have experienced difficult times in the recent past; with those who've had to cope with private, professional or health uncertainties, or who've been tirelessly there for others despite the threat to their health. Our thanks go to them. I'm also glad that everyone at TSG showed no hesitation in offering support via a salary waiver and the "TSG hilft" relief fund."