Berlin - Jordan Torunarigha had at least something to celebrate during Tuesday nights away game in Freiburg, as he made his 50th Bundesliga appearance for Hertha BSC. However, anyone who knows the ambitious centre-back well would have recognised his frustration with the defeat. The former youth international continuously found space for himself in the opponent’s half, but was unable to find success. “We didn’t need to lose that game, taking at least a point from it would have been a fair result,” Hertha’s No. 25 said on Wednesday (17.06.20), and admitted that he still wasn’t in the best of moods. In an interview with herthabsc.de, the Berliner spoke about Bruno Labbadia’s influence, the Hertha academy and the two remaining games this season.
herthabsc.de: Jordan, have you already come to terms with the avoidable defeat in Freiburg?
Torunarigha: Well, I’m never in a good mood after a defeat, which is something I’m still feeling now. We didn’t need to lose that game, taking at least a point from it would have been a fair result. After we equalised, I had the feeling that if anyone was going to win, that it would be us. But, that’s not how it went. Now, we move on to the next thing. We still have two games to come against really strong opponents, but we want to pick up points in order to end the season in a good spot.
herthabsc.de: Next up for you are Bayer Leverusen at home on Saturday (20.06.20, 15:30 CEST). The Werkself still have a chance of qualifying for the Champions League. You are sitting safe in mid-table, where there’s not much chance for any big moves up or down the table. What does that reality mean to the team?
Torunarigha: Things like that are always based on speculation. We can’t be relegated, and also can’t challenge for any of the top spots anymore, but there’s no reason to take our foot off the gas. As I already said, we want to end the season on a high, both for us and for the fans. I’d rather finish in 9th than in 13th (grins). But it’s about every player stating their case to the coach. That’s especially important with an eye on next season as well. Leverkusen have a lot of quality in their squad and will be highly-motivated. That represents a nice challenge for us and is also a huge motivator.
herthabsc.de: You’ve played the full 90 minutes in all seven games under Bruno Labbadia since the restart. How much has the new coach helped you?
Torunarigha: Our coach and the entire coaching staff talk a lot with me, they give me a lot of feedback and advice. I’m still a young player and am happy to take on the advice and to learn from it. Things were going well for me at the start of the year, the only game I didn’t feature in was against Köln. Even if we hadn’t just won our last three games, things are still moving in the right direction for us. We have a team with a lot of potential and our coach can still get a lot out of us with his philosophy, his instructions and his manner of coaching.
herthabsc.de: You made your 50th Bundesliga appearance this week. You played in eight games in your debut top-flight season, followed by 12 the next year and then 14 appearances last season. You could bring your tally to 18 appearances this season, which would be a consistent increase for you. What can we still expect to see from you in the future?
Torunarigha: I'm pleased to be getting more minutes and will give it my all to defend my place in the starting XI. I know what I can do, but I'm sure I can develop more. In the end, only playing can help you become better. As a centre back, you need experience to be able to read the game and help with build-up.
herthabsc.de: The Old Lady had eight academy products in the squad for Freiburg, if you count Omar Rekik. Along with Arne Maier and Maximilian Mittelstädt, you're one of the faces of the academy, but also one of the 'established' players.
Torunarigha: I guess so, yeah (grins). It's nice to see good players from the academy are breaking through. That's how it was for Arne, Maxi and me, and that's how it is for lads like Lazar Samardzic or Jessic Ngankam. I can't remember exactly how it was for me. At Hertha BSC, there's a good chance to play professional football. Young talents are given a chance here, but it's not all just given to them. The boys need to keep at it and commit themselves. Of course, I'm speaking from experience. When possible, I help them. I hope that we achieve a lot together.
herthabsc.de: There's a lot of competition at the heart of the Hertha defence. Apart from you, Karim Rekik, Niklas Stark and Dedryck Boyata, three guys with international experience, are competing for two spots. What are you thoughts on the fight for places?
Torunarigha: It's a bit of a cliche, but the competition makes us better. We can afford to let up, we push each other to improve - the team benefits from that. And it's always about winning as a team! I try to bring in my own strengths, but's it's helpful to take a look at Karim, Nik or Dedo. As I've said, I'm only 22 and I have a lot to learn.
herthabsc.de: Even though there are still two games still to play, what are your overall impressions of this turbulent and odd season?
Torunarigha: That's a tough one. The season was crazy - not just because of corona and the long break. Normally, we'd have finished the season by now and the preparations for the 2020/21 would be starting soon. We had some good phases this year, but some poor ones too, with three changes of manager and lots of unrest. It's clear that we haven't quite lived up to our promise. But in March, if we'd been told that we'd be safe, we'd have been really happy. The way we started after the break makes me optimistic. We still have a lot of work to do, but I feel positive about how we've done this season. But first of all, we need to focus on Leverkusen and Gladbach.