Born in Cologne, Timo Horn has played for the club since 2002. We asked the 28-year-old whether he thought play-off momentum was on Köln’s side, his insight into Holstein Kiel’s biggest strengths, and where his own mental toughness comes from.
The Billy Goats’ No.1 also talked about Jonas Hector and Sebastiaan Bornauw, who have both come back after injuries, when the season has reached crunch-time.
You managed to work your way up into the relegation spot just before the end of the season. Kiel only dropped down into the relegation spot late on. Momentum is on your side, isn’t it?
“I think so. We picked up a lot of points in recent games, which put us into a position to fight for our Bundesliga status in the relegation playoff. Kiel already had an eye on automatic promotion and then dropped back down in the final game. We want to try to make the most of this.”
The Bundesliga team has almost always won in past years. How important is having experience in these big games?
“We also don’t have much experience because we have a very young squad for Bundesliga standards. I think we fielded the youngest starting 11 in the Bundesliga, but this has changed a little in recent weeks. The situation meant that we had to go with a bit more experience in one or two games. Players like Jonas Hector, Marco Höger, and me have already experienced a lot with Köln and we count on these lads to lead from the front.”
You picked up 10 points in the last five games. What part did Friedhelm Funkelplay in this? How helpful is his calmness and composure in exceptional circumstances like this?
“You can see that the coach has already experienced a lot, including in his own football career. He tries to pass this experience onto us, especially in this dangerous situation we currently find ourselves in. He radiates calmness and composure and this is something the players try to emulate. It is good to have a trainer whom you can learn a lot from.”
Kiel made the headlines when they overcame Bayern in the DFB Pokal. What will you have to look out for in the relegation games? What are Kiel’s biggest strengths?
“I think Holstein Kiel is one of the strongest teams in the second division. They play quite atypical football for the second division because they keep possession of the ball and they are technically very strong. It is a very uncomfortable experience to play in Kiel, which is something we already experienced when we were in the second division. We are ready for what will come our way and for the energy that we will need to put in.”
After a slow start of the season, you personally have had an excellent season. Where did this mental toughness come from?
“I didn’t find the first few games as bad as everyone else. There were a lot of good pieces of play and some that were not as good, which are always the ones that are highlighted and focused on. I always see these things a little differently as a goalkeeper and I am able to assess how the players are doing. I try to analyse things objectively and discuss them with the goalkeeping coach, Andreas Menger. I don’t let myself get unsettled and I just keep working hard in training. If you keep working hard, then the results will come.”
You did not keep a clean sheet for quite a time in the second half of the season and then came two in succession. How did you manage to keep these clean sheets?
“This was down to the opposition who, for example, only needed one point from the Hertha game and therefore set up very defensively. We also tried to put special emphasis on the defensive side of the game because we knew how quickly a game can slip away if you concede a goal. We tried to be compact and solid at the back and this worked well twice recently. We need to take this solid defensive performance and this ability to work our way up the pitch into the relegation playoff so that we can be successful.”
Let’s talk about Jonas Hector and Sebastiaan Bornauw. Both had big injury problems during the season, but have come back just when the season has reached crunch time. How important will these two key figures be in the relegation games?
“I have always said that Jonas is unbelievably important to us as captain. We had to make do without him for a long time while he was injured. Players like him and Sebastiaan Bornauw are the ones who you plan around ahead of the season, so it affected us when we had to find replacements for these important positions due to injury. It was difficult for the team to come to terms with this and that is why it is so important that they were back fit at the right time for the last part of the season and now for the relegation playoff. These are players who help define our team.”