“The Darmstadt match is the next step in achieving our main aim”

In an interview with, Dutch centre-back Rick van Drongelen discusses the importance of the upcoming match against SV Darmstadt 98, the special feeling of securing a clean sheet and the close relationship he has to fellow HSV defender David Bates.

“Alex Meier doesn’t pose any dangers to me. It doesn’t matter who I’m up against,” said HSV centre-back Rick van Drongelen in the build-up to the 101st Hamburg city derby against FC St Pauli. The 20-year-old Dutchman lived up to his words as the Rothosen secured a clean sheet and bragging rights in a 4-0 derby victory. The defender and his teammates have now turned their attentions to Saturday’s home clash against SV Darmstadt 98 in the Volksparkstadion (13:00 CET).

The derby victory jubilation has now faded away as attentions turn to returning home to face Darmstadt. “We no longer have time to enjoy the derby victory. That was just a small success as we continue to progress and try to achieve our main aim. Now it is all about securing the right result against Darmstadt. Every matchday is special. The atmosphere, the support from the fan, securing points. It’s what matters on the pitch,” says van Drongelen, emphasizing the importance of the upcoming home match in an interview with Having kept Alex Maier and the St Pauli attack at bay, van Drongelen and his teammates are anticipating their next opponents.

Rick, following the impressive 4-0 away victory in the Hamburg city derby, Darmstadt await as your next opponents in the Volksparkstadion. How are you and your teammates preparing for the match with similar excitement to last weekend?

I saw yesterday that 52,000 tickets had already been sold for the match. When you know that the stadium is going to be that full, you truly become tense for the match. However, we have to build on this pressure and scrutiny internally in training. We have to give as strong of a performance as we did last weekend against St Pauli. Everyone knows how important this victory against St Pauli was for the team, but Saturday’s match against Darmstadt is just as important in securing points for the battle for promotion. We can’t take our foot off the gas, instead needing to show the same tempo, mindset and team spirit that we showed against St Pauli.

Is that easy to flick a switch and completely move on from the derby victory?

The fans will still be celebrating the derby victory during this home match and for a few weeks to come. However for us, we have to move on. We no longer have time to enjoy the derby victory. We can reflect on this victory at the end of the season. We still have nine matches to play and we have to give everything we have in each of these matches. We had the aim of winning the derby, of course, but that was just a small success as we continue to progress and try to achieve our main aim. Now it is all about securing the right result against Darmstadt. Every matchday is special. The atmosphere, the support from the fan, securing points. It’s what matters on the pitch.

One important aspect in the battle of promotion is HSV’s strengths defensively. In 25 2. Bundesliga matches so far this season, HSV have secured twelve clean sheets including seven clean sheets at home. Is the defence the strongest aspect of this team?

I definitely think we have a strong defensive unit. This isn’t just Julian Pollersbeck in goal and us defenders, but also everyone further up the pitch. If we press the ball well and put our opponents under pressure, it is always easier for the defenders to stop opponents. It will then be about making fast but not hasty decisions. If our opponents manage to create room to attack, it always becomes harder for us. Then an attacker breaks through with a lot of pace and suddenly it can be very tough for us to defend in one-on-one situations. We also have to defend set-pieces as a team. You only have to look at how many times Pierre-Michel Lasogga has cleared the ball away from the penalty box to notice this.

As a defender, is it always important for you to keep a clean sheet?

Absolutely, at the end of the day that is our main responsibility. Keeping a clean sheet is a great feeling for any defender. If we had conceded in the derby against St Pauli, then Julian, David (Bates) and I would still be talking about the goal we conceded now and how we could’ve prevented it from going in. 

You have formed an impressive duo with Scotsman David Bates in the heart of the HSV defence. How have you both managed to link up so well so far this season?

Firstly, we complement each other very well. On the pitch, I’m quite a loud character, pushing the leaders on the pitch and motivating the team. In contrast, David is quite a cool, composed character who seems quite pumped. Sometimes when I look at him during matches, I automatically become quieter and also more composed. Furthermore, we get on really well and we constantly speak to each other. We always know exactly what each of us should do in whatever situation we come across. We have probably said a thousand times to each other that are there to back up one another. We know that if one of us goes in for a tackle that the other always needs to be there to support. If a striker once to get through on goal, they have to get past both of us.

How important is communication and what language do you use to speak to each other?

Communicating with each other is really important. We mainly speak in English with each other. From past experiences this season, as I previously said, we understand each other really well but even still you sometimes have to take the lead. This is also the case for the full-back, in my case left-back Douglas Santos. I speak to him a lot and ask if he can play the ball out or whether we should clear our lines. Julian is also really important for long balls. For example, in the St Pauli match, there was a situation when Alex Maier tried a volley from long range. I heard the other say that I had time to clear ball but I wasn’t in a good position. You could see here that not everything goes to plan consequently communication is so important. This will also be the case on Saturday against Darmstadt and we want to once again win and secure a clean sheet.