Xavier Amaechi: Straight out of the blocks

The 18-year-old winger very consciously made the decision to come to Hamburg and seems to have a clear plan for his own personal development. Meanwhile the manager tries to cool the expectations placed on the young man’s shoulders. 

Xavier Amaechi showed that he didn’t want to lose any time in signing for the Rothosen. As his flight to Hamburg was cancelled on Thursday evening due to stormy weather, with little prospect of flying on Friday either, the 18-year-old signing from Arsenal decided on the spot with his parents to make the journey from the English capital in the car. “We took the ferry to France and from there the motorway through Holland and Belgium to Hamburg. It was a long trip, about twelve hours, but I’m very happy to be here now,” the teenager said during his first meeting with journalists on Monday lunchtime. Things were wrapped up quickly, as both the medical and the signing of the contract took place at the weekend, so that the winger didn’t waste any more time and could get straight into action on Monday morning. 

Amaechi was able to watch his new colleagues for the first time on Sunday afternoon, as he was in attendance at the Volksparkstadion for the curtain raiser of the 2019/20 season, the visit of Darmstadt 98. As Aaron Hunt coolly slotted away the 98th-minute equaliser, the Englishman was certain he had made the right decision. “It was unbelievable; the fans, the atmosphere. It’s what you dream about as a kid, playing in front of those fans,” were the youngster’s impressions of his first home game as an official HSV player. 

“I wanted to sign for HSV from the beginning”

However, the Darmstadt game wasn’t actually Amaechi’s first visit to the Volksparkstadion, as he was in attendance for the match-up against MSV Duisburg right at the end of last season, although at that point an unknown quantity, able to make an impression for himself of the club without outside interference. The conditions at the club more than met the expectations of the England u19 player, having spent most of his youth career at Arsenal’s north London academy base. But that wasn’t the main reason for the switch from Premier League to 2. Liga. The tenacity and persistence of Michael Mutzel left behind a longer-lasting impression than any of the facilities at the Volkspark, as he fought tooth and nail for the winger’s signature. “For me it was clear from the beginning that I wanted to join HSV. Michael Mutzel was very convincing during our talks and showed me that I had a good chance to get some games under my belt. That’s important for me. I’ve got to grab this chance. The club also has a great history and a fantastic set-up with the city and the fans,” swooned the 1.79m tall left-footed winger, whose signature many clubs in Europe were chasing. 

The sporting hierarchy at HSV were quick to point out, that, despite all of the premature praise for the youngster and the club, the Bath-born man is an investment in the future. “He is 18 years old. Therefore you’ve got to give him a bit of time,” warned Dieter Hecking, looking to avoid a situation where the pressure to perform is too large, before the teenager had even set foot on the pitch for HSV. Amaechi was able to train with the first team at Arsenal, but didn’t quite make it onto the pitch at the Emirates, getting regular game time for their u23 side in Premier League 2 instead. “The second division in Germany is very strong, you have to be physical,” explained Amaechi, aware of the adaption that will be needed from the academy league in England. 

“If you look too far ahead then you lose focus”

As well as getting used to things on the pitch Amaechi will have a steep learning curve off it. “In London I lived at home. I’ll be living alone for the first time whilst I’m here. On top of that I’ve got to learn a new language. I think Hamburg will help me to develop myself as a person,” he remarked, displaying another of the reasons for the move. 

Despite looking to settle for the foreseeable future in Hamburg, Amaechi only has short-term goals when it comes to his work on the pitch. “I’m only ever looking at the next game, and that’s Nuremberg. If you look too far ahead then you lose focus on the day-to-day things,” he said, explaining his mindset. Thus, his task over the next few days will be to convince the coaching staff to consider him for the squad against Nuremberg next Monday. The new man got to know some of his new teammates during training on Monday morning, namely the players who weren’t involved on Sunday, before completing his first full training session on Wednesday with the rest of the squad. A man of his word, the 18-year-old has already got on with learning the new language, meeting his German teacher for the first time on Monday and having lessons on Tuesday. Time is seemingly something that the young Amaechi doesn’t want to waste.