A high level of trust

Marco Bode Interview

Marco Bode travelled to training camp in Mallorca with the team (nordphoto).
interview
Wednesday, 08.01.2020 / 17:25

Whether it’s on the training ground, in the lobby, during lunch or on the hotel balcony – Marco Bode is always involved in several discussions. Once again, the chairman of Werder’s supervisory board has joined the team at its winter training camp after also have done so in the summer and in South Africa. In an interview with WERDER.DE, Bode speaks about why he made the trip, his impressions of the team and what training camp was like during his former days as a player. Bode also explains what strategies Werder will use in their fight for survival in the Bundesliga.

WERDER.DE: Marco, you’ve once again joined the team at training camp, just like you did in South Africa and in the summer. Why?

Marco Bode: “On the one hand, I’m trying to accomplish certain tasks, but on the other hand, training camp is always a good time to have discussions that you can’t really have in Bremen, for example with Florian and Frank, with the coaching staff, the medical team, and the team behind the team that I rarely get to see in Bremen. Of course, it’s also about getting a feel for the situation within the team. Whereas in South Africa it was important for me to undertake various media and political engagements, my task here is more internal. But, I really value this kind of work, since I have more time and opportunity to lead intense discussions here.”

“Early success is key”

WERDER.DE: You said you’re taking it all in. What is your impression of the team? 

Marco Bode: “I think we’re all aware of the difficult situation we currently find ourselves in. The same goes for the players. I can feel the drive the coaching staff has to turn things around. Against Düsseldorf, we will be able to see the impact this short break has had on our ability to prepare ourselves for the second half of the season. I don’t think I have to explain to anyone just how important this opening match will be. On the other hand, I think it’s important to not let the pressure get too high. Despite the worries we may have, we should trust that the team has the strength needed to play better than they did in the first half of the season, especially towards the end. Unfortunately, that performance is what we’re currently being judged by. Having success early on will be key for us.”

WERDER.DE: The manner in which Florian Kohfeldt conducted the last few training sessions has been discussion amongst the fans and the media. What’s your impression of him and the work he’s overseeing in Mallorca?

Marco Bode: “What I just alluded to applies exactly to Florian and his work. His message to the team and those around the squad is that our full focus has to be on the battle against relegation. We have to accept that, and everyone needs to be well aware of our current situation. At the same time, he is also focused on making sure the players are having fun while playing and that they have the right level of self-confidence. He sets a good example, something that we’re all trying to do. My impression of him, as far as I can see, is that he has recovered and is full of energy.” 

WERDER.DE: As Werder fans, we’ve unfortunately become familiar with the battle against relegation over the last few years. In your opinion, is that an advantage for us or more of a disadvantage?

Marco Bode: “I think that mentality played a role for us during the Hinrunde. Especially mid-way through, when we were drawing a lot of matches. Unfortunately, it may have been that we all looked ahead and thought ‘Alright, at some point we’ll start winning these close games and get to the point where we’re able to achieve our goals.’ Since then, we’ve had to accept that we will not be able to achieve our initial goals for this season, and will instead have to focus on staying up. We’ve been able to take positive steps forward over the last few years, which is something that I don’t want to diminish. However, we’ve also been faced with the threat of relegation during the last five years. As a result, that experience can help us.”  

At the very least our goal is always to stay in the league, but that’s not a given.
Marco Bode, chairman of the supervisory board

WERDER.DE: People are often discussing whether Werder need to strengthen for the Rückrunde. As chairman of the board, you are responsible, among other things, for releasing the necessary funds. Will Werder Bremen be able to get something done this transfer window?

Marco Bode: “We are able to act within certain limits. There are no different opinions between the management and the board, which is great. We’re not desperate to bring anybody in at the moment. Frank and his team will look closely at the market and consider which players will help us in the short term, but also beyond the second half of this year. If options arise, we as the board will always try to do everything possible to be able to help out with funds. Of course there are financial limits, but I have great confidence that Frank Baumann and the scouting team will work with Florian to produce some good ideas.”

WERDER.DE: Let's leave the current sporting situation aside. Werder is in close competition with clubs like Hertha or Frankfurt, who invest heavily. How do you view this competition?

Marco Bode: "As much as there are differences in detail between Hertha, Frankfurt or Freiburg, Augsburg and us, of course, there are a lot of very similar teams around the middle of the league. But big funds don’t always mean results and if you invest heavily and it doesn’t work out, then you can be in big trouble financially. That happened to Frankfurt, it happened to Stuttgart, HSV and Hannover, who are now playing in the second division. At the very least our goal is always to stay in the league, but that’s not a given."

WERDER.DE: Hertha now have plenty of funds thanks to their powerful investor, and Frankfurt have made a lot of profit through transfers so they can reinvest in their squad. What is Werder’s strategy?

Marco Bode: “Werder is a club that wants to train its players, wants to do better. We can rarely buy completely finished players. Training and developing players from within is one of our key tasks. Nevertheless, we are of the opinion that we can find potential players on the transfer market and occasionally sign experienced players like Davy Klaassen, a former captain of Ajax Amsterdam. Creative transfers are very important to us."

WERDER.DE: That means the Hertha way is not a way for Werder Bremen?

Marco Bode: “In the short and medium term, we have decided that we don't want to go the way Hertha does with large investors, we want to be successful on our own. I personally believe that we need to continually review this stance, but at the moment, I think it's the right way to go, even though you always have to keep an eye on developments in the Bundesliga and your own options. But it is not only up to us to make a change in our philosophy, it also has to be possible to implement sensible strategic partnerships and investor models.”

WERDER.DE: Is a strategic partner currently a topic being discussed at the club?

Marco Bode:
“Not at the moment, no. We have dealt with such models over and over again in recent years, but when reviewing them we always came to the conclusion that our current model can be successful. Good decisions and good staff who act as a team are more important, I am absolutely convinced of that. With our philosophy we can survive in this league. The painful realisation, however, is that you never know what can happen in football."

WERDER.DE: How do you respond to the fans who think that, due to developments at Leipzig, Hoffenheim or Berlin, Werder will be pushed out of Europe in the long term, perhaps even out of the first division?

Marco Bode:
“I would say that of course a certain group of clubs are far better equipped than us financially. At the same time, there is a group of clubs that are no different from us or that are even more difficult to compete with financially. Let's take a look at Paderborn, Union Berlin or Düsseldorf. The management options are certainly even more limited there. It is still possible to be successful in this league."

WERDER.DE: If everything goes well, as the past season has shown, you can continue to compete for a spot in Europe...

Marco Bode: “I have to emphasise that the risk of slipping backwards is always there for more than half of the clubs. In the circle of clubs like us, we have to try to be the best of the lot through hiring good personalities, through producing good ideas and having a good philosophy, through making good decisions. In the end, there are a lot of little things that have to work on together. We didn’t play well in the first half of the season but I'm not ready to fundamentally question everything about the club’s philosophy."

"Essentially, it's all about becoming a unit"

WERDER.DE: Frank Baumann explained that, in his eyes, the dominant types in football are becoming fewer and fewer. Do you think so too?

Marco Bode: “We analysed together that the element of dominance was missing a bit in our team. Basically, Frank and I have the same view of how a team should be put together. In addition to criteria such as age structure and salary structure, different characters also play a role. It's about having different personality types. We may have misjudged the scope of the fact that the team itself creates leaders and sometimes that can have a negative effect. This can happen through body language on the pitch, or perhaps they’ll say the wrong thing in the dressing room. Unfortunately, the injuries also played a role. Niclas Füllkrug was supposed to be one of these positive, emotional leaders, but he hasn’t been able to fulfill his role this season due to injury. This is not an excuse for the first half of the season, but we know that we always have to ensure that the different personalities and their dominant characters gel together properly.”

WERDER.DE: Which positive leaders can you think of from your time playing?

Marco Bode: “There were different types. Just as Niklas Moisander is a leading player today, Rune Bratseth was one at the time. He wasn’t that vocal, but he was so influential with everything he did. We followed him. Then there were guys who led with their aggressiveness; whether it was Mirko Votava who won important duels as a midfield captain or Ulli Borowka. There were also other individuals, from Mario Basler and Wynton Rufer to Claudio Pizarro, with whom I still played. You could make a team better through individual class, special moments. We had very exciting characters in my time playing. When I think back to the 90s, from today's perspective we had almost too many dominant players. Whether it was Frank Neubarth or Olli Reck, almost every player was a special character."

WERDER.DE: What are the biggest differences when you compare the training camps of back then with the one today? 

Marco Bode: (laughs) "Otto Rehhagel often opted against winter training camps and instead we played a lot of friendlies in summer. During the winter break we used to stay in Germany and train in the snow. Otto was of the opinion that the lads sleeping at their homes was the best thing for them. Their wives would keep an eye on them. Besides, you end up training under the same conditions you then have to play under. Back then the pitches were different and you sometimes had to play on frozen or sludgy pitches."

WERDER.DE: You had other coaches as well, and travelled with the national team as well… 

Marco Bode: "Of course, compared to that, an awful lot has changed: both on and off the pitch. At the core of things, however, several things remain unchanged. Essentially, it’s all about solidifying yourself as a team, becoming a unit. It is important that everyone finds the right attitude for the second half of the season and casts aside any potentially egotistical thoughts. From experience, I know that when things aren’t going so well, it’s easy to start looking to shift responsibility and pass the blame. That doesn’t help at all. It’s good when the group is close and they do things together on days off – completing tough training sessions together. That’s how the team gels."

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