It’s little surprise that the beginning of a new season brings new faces in the ranks of football clubs across Germany. New arrivals tend to be players for the most part, but in Hertha’s case, a brand new coaching team is also in place. Ante Čović has taken up the role of new head coach, with Harald Gämperle and Mirko Dickhaut supporting him as assistant coaches, together with established figures in Zsolt Petry, Henrik Kuchno and Hendrik Vieth.
herthabsc.de met the two new assistant coaches at the Neuruppin training camp, speaking to them about first impressions, working in the team and excitement ahead of the start of the season.
herthabsc.de: Pre-season has only just got underway, as has the training camp in Neuruppin. What are your first impressions?
Harald Gämperle: For me, it was about getting to know people during the first few days – the lads should get to know us and know how we function as a coaching team. Our amount of conversation with them is constantly increasing, bit by bit. Up until now, I’ve got a very good impression. They’re all good lads.
Mirko Dickhaut: At first, you arrive as a new member of the coaching team. We were well-received and feel settled. We’ve got to agree on the work we’ll do at the training camp first, but that will be easy with Ante. After two or three days here I can say that it’s been a good start.
herthabsc: Harry, you were at Hertha ten years ago. How have things changed, and what’s the same?
Gämperle: Of course, a lot has changed in terms of personnel. Fabian Lustenberger was the only player from last year’s squad who I knew. Apart from him, all the players are new. The training pitches are still in an incredible condition. The changing rooms and the training areas have all naturally changed. They look very nice and you can hence work well in them.
herthabsc.de: Have you stayed in contact with the club over the years?
Gämperle: A few years ago, I took a trip to Hertha’s training camp in Turkey and watched a friendly. I made good friends in my first spell at Hertha subsequently always came once or twice a year to Berlin. I’ve never lost contact.
herthbsc.de: Mirko, your connection with Hertha HSC is more in relation with Ante Čović …
Dickhaut: Yes, we met as players at Bochum, but that was a long time ago. I think that was back in 2000. We got on well from the outset, but he didn’t stay at the club for long. We met one time at a training camp in Turkey. At the time, I was there with KSV Hessen Kassel. We’ve actually always stayed in contact.
herthabsc.de: You met again when you were training to become coaches…
Dickhaut: We actually met in Hennef and even stayed there together in the same room. That of course binds you together. There were plenty of tests on the way to our final exam. We studied together there and quizzed each other. In such an intense period, mutual respect is extremely important. We’ve never lost sight of each other since – Ante has followed me and I’ve followed him. We always conversed well and got on well both in private and on a personal level.
herthabsc.de: Is coach Ante Čović very different to player Ante Čović?
Dickhaut: He’s certainly become more mature and serious. He admits that he didn’t give his all as a player. He did too little, what with his potential and his talent. As a coach, he has the necessary seriousness and determination. He’s developed brilliantly and the way he’s presented himself in his first days here shows, I think, that he’ll do well as a coach in the Bundesliga. I’m 100% convinced of that.
herthabsc.de: That sounds like it was a surprise. Was becoming assistant coach at Hertha not too tough then?
Dickhaut: When Ante spoke with me and questioned me for the job, there were two parameters – that we know each other, and are loyal to each other and trust each other. And what could be nicer than the Bundesliga? I experienced how it works and how special it is to work in the Bundesliga during my player career. It’s an honour and a privilege to be at a Bundesliga club – I had to take the job.
herthabsc.de: How did the decision come about for you, Harry?
Gämperle: We met two or three times before the decision came about. I met Ante around ten years ago and could remember him – he was a very communicative and empathetic guy with a good knack for football. He convinced me to work together with him. I of course try to support him together with Mirko as best I can and bring my experience to the table.
herthabsc.de: How important is teamwork in your job?
Dickhaut: Harry and I have now known each other for a few weeks and get on well both on and off the pitch. We have a big responsibility, so we’ve got to all work together in a team. If you want to do things all alone in this business, you’ll make mistakes on the pitch. The thoughts of the team are more important than anything else. As a coaching team, we’re living by this maxim and showing everybody mutual respect. We’re already having a lot of fun and you can see that we’re on the same wavelength. I find that really important.
herthabsc.de: What kind of football do you want to play?
Dickhaut: All three of us want to play lively football. Of course, you can’t always get what you want and we’ve got to cover all aspects of the game, but Ante was a striker during his career and played attacking football. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee anything but it would be great if we could make our mark together.
Gämperle: We’ll have a closer look at the state of the squad and what strengths they have. Everyone likes watching attacking football. We’re trying to pass that on to our players.
herthabsc.de: Lots of communication is important on the pitch. As a coaching team, you’re having a big influence on the team…
Dickhaut: Ante is specifying the framework as head coach. Moreover, as assistant coaches we’re not just working by the book, but bringing our own ideas with us – Ante expects that. If we recognize something, we speak directly to the players. Ante allows us certain freedoms. We’ve got to be in the position to immediately start an exercise, to speak and to help out. We’re doing Ante’s groundwork.
Gämperle: There are approaches which we need to get across to the players. They don’t have to be right straightaway, but our task is to show the players these approaches so they can get through certain situations. On the pitch, there are so many variations and there’s the need to act as quickly as possible.
herthabsc.de: The training camp has just begun. How will things go on in Neuruppin?
Gämperle: We want to get the team into very good physical shape. We have six weeks and are currently at the start of pre-season. It’s particularly important that the players get through this period injury-free so we can work with everyone. The final touches will then come in the second training camp. It’s my first time in Neuruppin and we’re in good hands here. We’ve had great conditions to work in and the pitch is in good shape. I’m excited.
herthabsc.de: At the end of pre-season comes the start of the season. How big is your excitement for when it all gets going?
Dickhaut: Every player and all the staff are working on the start of the season. It’s a transitional period, coming back from holiday directly into a brutally intense pre-season schedule. But us footballers want to be out on the pitch to win points and games. We’re all of course really looking forward to this. But first of all, hard work is the most important thing, because we’re not just working towards the first game, rather the whole season, in which we want to be successful. But it’s clear that it will of course be brilliant again to travel to the stadium, to go into the dressing rooms and play football with the very best.