News | Jason Pettigrove

Ziege new sporting director

The path of true love never runs smooth so the saying goes, and that’s entirely true for the owners of FC Pinzgau Saalfelden/Fan Owned Club.

No sooner had negotiations for a new structure at board level been concluded, new players added to the roster and plans put in place to upgrade the stadium, than coronavirus wrought its havoc.

The immediate knock-on effect was that the stadium upgrade would be delayed, meaning that, were FCPS able to qualify for promotion through the play-offs of the Regionalliga West, they wouldn’t be able to take up their spot as the Saalfelden Arena wouldn’t meet the new criteria.

The season was declared null and void in any event, which was a first contentious decision by the authorities. That was swiftly followed by the club being unable to take up their deserved place in the Austrian Cup thanks to the decision of the Salzburg Fußballverband (SFV) to effectively ignore the results from the Fall 2019 campaign.

Set against that backdrop, one might be forgiven for thinking that FCPS had lucked out, however, nothing could be further from the truth.

The board have continued to work incredibly hard behind the scenes whilst the players, though they’ve found lockdown challenging at times, have kept their fitness levels up and, now back in training proper, can already see the fruits of their labors.

Pride in their work is a pre-requisite of course, but having Christian Ziege as their coach has ensured that the players have wanted to impress the former German international, whose professionalism has shone through.

“Christian Ziege is the main reason why I agreed to come back to FCPS, because I learned a lot from him during the four months we worked together previously,” center-back, Denis Kahrimanovic, said.

Words that were echoed by a number of his colleagues too.

“It has been a pleasure so far to play under Ziege as it is a great opportunity to see the experience and wisdom he brings to the game first-hand,” goalkeeper Henrik Regitnig added. “He is unique in his own way of being a manager but is similar to several great managers I have come across before in England.”

Defensive midfielder, Alex Gadenstaetter, noted that “It's an honor to play for a footballer with such a history. He’s brought in many new exercises and a good combination of fun and seriousness. All in all, great to learn a lot from a coach like him.”

“To play for Christian is a big honor for me and I am convinced that he is enriching for the whole club,” said central midfielder, David Rathgeb. “The training sessions quickly became very professional and as a player you learn a lot from his international experiences and about his personality.”

Go to any of the players and it’s a common theme… they all love Ziege! Even his son, Alessandro, the club’s left-back, enjoys working with him.

“Playing for my dad is a huge honor because I grew up watching his games and saw what he achieved as a player,” he said. “I have always wanted to become a soccer player ever since. Having him as a coach is very beneficial because he knows a lot about the game and the style of play that he wants to bring on the pitch, which fits my style exactly.”

Since agreeing to help out the club upon Alessandro putting pen to paper on a playing contract, Ziege Snr. has transformed the playing side.

By bringing in a more robust work ethic, allied to his own incredible playing experience which saw him serve the likes of Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Middlesbrough with aplomb, he quickly won the respect and admiration of his charges.

That bond continued to be strengthened by Ziege’s personable nature and management style, his boundless energy, endless enthusiasm and his humanity towards his players.

Not dissimilar to what another German, Jurgen Klopp, has engendered at Ziege’s old club, Liverpool.

The confidence that he quickly instilled within the first-team set-up saw an immediate upturn in performance levels and, as a consequence, results.

Simply put, Christian Ziege put FC Pinzgau Saalfelden/Fan Owned Club on the European football map.

Whilst the worldwide pandemic has led to uncertainty as to what’s to come and what the ‘new normal’ we all have to live with will look like, Ziege has remained steadfast in his ambitions.

The last few months has been a bump in the road, but with the backing of the new owners and wider board, the immediate aim remains the same; promotion to the second tier of Austrian football, with the realistic longer-term view of a top-flight berth and Champions League football.

The board believe that there is no finer individual capable of realising those aims than Christian Ziege, and to that end we are delighted to formally announce that he will also take on the role of Sporting Director at FC Pinzgau Saalfelden/Fan Owned Club.

What this means in practical terms is that Christian will have full responsibility for player personnel decisions for the first team, whilst shaping the direction of the club from the youth teams upwards.

The style of football at all age groups will be instantly recognisable and follow the same imprint, thereby ensuring that transition to the first-team for players, when the time is right, will be seamless.

FC Pinzgau Saalfelden/Fan Owned Club would like to place on record its gratitude to Christian Ziege for his work to date, and we look forward to working together with him in the pursuit of greater success in the future.

Plant the roots. Grow the game. Shoot for the crown.