Paul Scharner spent eight years playing in the Premier League for Wigan and West Brom, winning the 2012/13 FA Cup with the former, while also amassing 40 caps for Austria. He enlightens news.bwin on the demotivating effects of playing under negative managers and his high hopes for this country at Euro 2016.
An exciting Austria side are 33/1 to win Euro 2016 after bossing a qualifying section featuring Sweden and Russia and Das Team are considered to be among the tournament’s dark horses.
In a wide-ranging interview, former Wigan and West Brom stalwart Paul Scharner – capped 40 times for them between 2002 and 2012 – let news.bwin.com in on his sizeable expectations of Marcel Koller’s outfit in France, also finding time to discuss the managers he played under and against in the Premier League and what the future holds for Wigan.
On being relegated and winning the FA Cup at the same time with Wigan in 2012-13…
I think I enjoyed it more than the rest of the team because we won the Cup during my second spell, whilst I was on loan, so I was going back to Hamburg regardless.
It was a strange moment for the team to win such a big competition, especially for a small club like Wigan. It’s astounding they managed to play in the Premier League for so long.
On Wigan’s fall from grace and recovery…
I think Wigan’s fall was down to the philosophy of the chairman, which wasn’t conducive to building for the future.
Dave Whelan’s main aim each season was to avoid relegation and as a result, all resources Wigan had were poured into buying good players who could help the club avoid relegation.
This in turn caused the club’s youth set up and infrastructure to suffer and when we were relegated, our ability to attract great players evaporated and so too did the success.
Since Wigan’s fall from grace, they’ve changed their philosophy to focus much more on youth development.
Building a new academy as well as improving the club infrastructure has been part of this and while their cash situation isn’t great, their players are good and that should help them eventually push for promotion to the Premier League.
On Gary Caldwell, David Sharpe and young managers…
The young chairman and manager combination started in unfavourable circumstances. Wigan had just been relegated to League One and were not performing well and it seems the root cause of this has been the lack of continuity while they were in the Championship.
With three or four managers cycling through the club in a short period of time, the Wigan team had around thirty-five players who were purchased on the basis of completely different football philosophies.
Wigan seized the opportunity for positive change when they moved to League One. The Chairman gave Gary Caldwell time to figure things out and now Wigan are playing for promotion.
They have the quality and know-how to stay in the Championship and should be ambitious about re-entering the Premier League but while I’m optimistic about long-term success, this can only be achieved with continuity.
I think Gary Caldwell is the right man to continue this stable rise, but ultimately he’s going to want to go on to bigger and better things, so it’s also understandable that he’s padding out his CV for larger clubs.
Caldwell isn’t really that young for a manager nowadays, you just have to look in the German league with Hoffenheim, whose manager is 27.
With the evolution of football, managers are getting younger and younger and this is a positive trend, as they bring fresh new philosophies. Interestingly, they’re foregoing football careers to get in to management early.
On playing every outfield position bar left-back…
You could say I am the definition of a utility man. My preferred position throughout my career was centre-midfield as I liked to be close to the action, to be involved in all phases, but every time I tried to cement my position there, I was moved elsewhere to cover.
Ultimately, my drive always came from a desire to help whatever team I played for and if we had injuries in a particular position, I would fill in with no questions asked.
On his hairstyles…
I’m honestly ashamed not to be on the charts for worst haircuts of all time. I had a total of around twelve or thirteen during my playing career and I’m not completely sure which one was my favourite.
If I was to pick out a particular haircut that’s really bad, I’d probably say Paul Pogba at Juventus has the worst in Europe.
On the contrasting styles of the managers he played under…
It’s very interesting for me because I played under young managers and older managers and they behave very differently.
Roberto Martinez came up with great, innovative ideas while I was at Wigan whereas Roy Hodgson may be a bit stuck in his ways after 40 years of management.
Roy can be very rigid at times, often playing a conservative four-four-two and this contrasts with his young, exciting England team.
Hodgson’s staid mentality could be detrimental for England when the Euros start.
Tournaments aren’t just about tactics, there’s a psychological element to football and I don’t think Hodgson inspires the belief that players need to cope with pressure and win games.
When I played under him, Roy always seemed satisfied with our team’s performance, even encouraging us to go for draws. Ultimately, that’s not good enough at a tournament where you should aspire to win every game.
When I was at Wigan, I couldn’t bear Tony Pulis’ tactics and from what I have seen, West Brom’s style has changed for the worse. I didn’t appreciate playing against his sides and the fans aren’t particularly happy with how the team plays either.
The Baggies aren’t pushing to achieve something in the Premier League beyond survival which is strange considering Leicester have proved that with passion and optimism, any club can become Champions and play European football.
They should take a lesson from Leicester’s book because currently, the chairman, the board and the manager are unambitious and it’s stifling the club.
On how West Brom could emulate Leicester…
West Brom don’t have a winner’s mentality and they need a new mission beyond surviving relegation. Leicester obviously rode the wave of good feeling they had from not being relegated last season and they’ve built on it from having a good start to this season.
While they may not have been aiming to top the Premier League, they have the psychological edge over Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City who seem to have completely lost it despite their phenomenal squads.
Of course Leicester have been a bit lucky on the way with very few injuries and the players playing at their peaks, but you cannot knock them for capitalising on their opportunities and we should all enjoy their success while it lasts.
On the identity of English football…
I think English football is losing its identity. Leicester are really bucking the trend with their solid defence and playing the ball quickly. I think different countries have different mentalities.
You can’t bring the Spanish mentality to Britain; no matter how many foreign players come over, you can’t change the histories of the English clubs.
Clubs should tailor their playing style to their strengths. It’s strange that so many are trying to emulate Barcelona’s possession-based football, especially since a lot of them just don’t really understand it.
Although English football has moved away from the ‘kick and rush’ style that persisted about twenty years ago, English teams need to rediscover their personal flair and play in the right style that suits them.
The Premier League was very successful prior to 2010, where teams fought hard and were always in the mix in Europe, but those days have gone. I really hope that English football can find that identity again and rediscover the success it’s used to.
On Austria at the Euros…
Austria and England are in comparable situations. They are both in the top three for the most successful qualification campaigns for this tournament, but the difference between the qualifying campaign and the tournament will be vast.
Our boys need to get their targets right and now’s the time to start thinking about them.
The team needs to believe anything is possible given their strong qualification campaign and I honestly believe, without sounding too optimistic, that a realistic target should be the semi-final.
Setting low targets, like West Brom have consistently done, saps the drive from a team and targets should be set on the border of what teams can realistically expect and what they dream of achieving.
My personal prediction is that Austria will reach the quarters, but they should be more ambitious than that.
Austria thump Sweden 4-1 away in Euro 2016 qualifying
On rising stars in Austria…
Everyone thinks the foundation of Austria’s success will be players like Marko Arnautovic, David Alaba and Aleksandar Dragovic and it’s certainly true that if any one them is injured, the tournament will become more difficult.
Despite this, there are players who people just don’t talk about who could actually be more critical to Austria’s campaign.
Robert Almer from Austrian Wien, Julian Baumgartlinger from Mainz and most of all Zlatko Junuzovic from Werder Bremen, have the ability to light up the tournament and I look forward to seeing how they perform.
Prediction for Euro 2016: Quarter-finals
Key Player: Zlatko Junuzovic
Zlatko Junuzovic strutting his stuff for Werder Bremen