Harnik: The new man with a plan

The HSV fans were suitably impressed by Martin Harnik on his home bow last Sunday. The striker is hoping for a similar effect when he plays his first ‘proper’ away day on Saturday against SSV Jahn Regensburg.

After a light training session Friday lunchtime, the select band of HSV players will make their way to Hamburg airport for an early afternoon flight to the south of Germany. The anticipation is building for Martin Harnik for his first ‘proper’ away day with the blue, white and black diamond on his chest. The Austrian celebrated his competitive HSV debut in the derby against St. Pauli, but only had 24 minutes on the pitch, and, with the Millerntor standing only 7km away from the Volksparkstadion, can’t quite be classed as an away day. Last Sunday saw the native Hamburg man step out onto the lush green grass at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg colours for the first time, impressing from start to finish to end up with an assist and a goal on his home debut. Next up; Regensburg, 700km away. 14 years after leaving his home town in pursuit of professional football, the Austrian is back and looking forward to the trip down to Bavaria.

“The atmosphere is really good amongst the squad, everyone is ready for the game on Saturday, you can feel the intensity in every training session,” Harnik explained, whilst hoping to retain his starting berth after his impressive showing against Aue. The triumphant return to the Volksparkstadion made a big impression on Harnik. In a sporting sense, having laid the second on a plate for Lukas Hinterseer and scoring the third himself, but also in a psychological sense: “scoring in front of the Nordtribüne was a special moment for me,” Harnik concedes. “It felt really good to play in my home town, and in the right colours rather than as an opposition player.”

“I’ve always thought that it’s important to integrate yourself within the team as quickly as possible,” the old hand explained, “which is why I made such an effort from my first day here. I think you can see the positive effects of that not just in the dressing room but also on the pitch.” On top of that are a number of old faces who made the start in Hamburg that little bit smoother: “I played for the Austrian national side with Lukas Hinterseer, know Aaron Hunt from my time at Werder Bremen and Tim Leibold was just breaking through whilst I was in Stuttgart.” The striker wanted to make clear that wasn’t the only reason for his rapid integration: “Everyone made it easy for me and you could see with the whole story surrounding Bakery Jatta how close-knit the squad has become. That’s certainly something special.” This cohesion will once again be tested on Saturday, with SSV Jahn Regensburg the next difficult test for the Hamburg side. “I think it’s very positive how quickly the big changes within the club have been implemented,” the 32-year-old approved, knowing he himself was part of the upheaval and is now ready to face Jahn Regensburg for the first time in his career. Martin’s always up for a new challenge!