Before 1. FC Union Berlin’s first game of 2019 at home to 1. FC Köln, Director for Professional Football Oliver Ruhnert sat down with the club’s media team and reviewed the winter transfers, as well as, answering some selected questions from supporters. The full interview can be found in the matchday magazine on Thursday January 31.
Q: The reactions came in especially after the most recent transfer of Carlos Mane. How did the transfer come about?
OR: We discussed with the team whether we should get someone for the wings following the departures of Kenny Redondo and Simon Hedlund. We looked around the market before, and there were one or two ideas. The players’ council also confirmed that from their perspective something has to be done to be prepared for everything in the wide areas. We wanted to get a player who could help us straight away. So then we became active as a club. From the very first minute we got in touch, we had the impression that Carlos was very interested and engaged himself on the topic of Union. After the first conversation with Urs Fischer and I, we were both so enthusiastic about his positive overall appearance, we really wanted this player. In the end, there were some negotiations which were nervy but to have implemented this makes us proud as a club because Carlos is a huge addition for us.
Q: All this underlines the impression that the relationship between you, the coach and the team is very communicative. Can you confirm that?
OR: One can answer that with a clear yes. We try to bring a lot of transparency to it. We have an adult team here, a self-determined players’ council. It’s important to treat our players like adults — of course we decide at the end, but it’s important that everyone’s opinion is respected. If you want to be successful, you have to get everyone on board and steer things in the same direction. The team deals with that well.
Q: Is there something like a normal working week for you? How many hours do you spend together and how often do you travel outside of Berlin?
To characterise a normal working week is pretty difficult. The classic pattern is to go to the office on Monday at 8am and be home at 12 on Friday. I don’t have this process, I’m always dependant on my schedule, on certain events, on transfer periods and possibly media influences. I try to have a frequent presence in the office and attend as many training sessions as possible. The hours are also hard to quantify. Sometimes I arrive at 9am, and leave at 1am in the morning, and then realise that I haven’t been out all day. But there are also days when I can work from home, do a lot of work by phone or travel to appointments all over Germany.
Q: Are you an expert in Swiss football, or how did Urs Fischer appear on your radar?
OR: I’m not an expert, but I remember from my time at Schalke that Switzerland not only plays good football but also coaches. Especially clubs like Basel, who are exemplary. That is why I knew Urs Fischer from the history of Basel and since we only ever said that a German-speaking coach is important, but without saying he must have worked in Germany, the focus also became German-speaking nations.
Q: Did you take part in the Kicker Manager (Fantasy Football) during your time as a scout?
OR: No, I didn’t, but as a rule of our whole environment, no matter where I am, I played this manager game. I’ve sometimes wondered how many was shifted back and forth between us and who signed whom. You cheered when they were successful that weekend.
Q: Does Union, under your leadership, mainly focus on Scandinavia and Austria when it comes to transfers?
OR: I’m less fixated. Football has become more global, as you can see from our players. Carlos Mane is from Portugal, while Suleiman Abdullahi originally came from Nigeria, though he joined us from Eintracht Braunschweig. I can’t narrow it down and say: this or that country is the only interesting one.
Mornings: Coffee or Tea?
Sometimes like that, sometimes other. About 50/50.
Pancakes or croissants?
Neither. I like rolls and bread more.
Summer holiday: Mediterranean or Baltic Sea?
I like both a lot, so I wouldn’t put an “or” in there.
Blue or red?
Blue in the west, red in the east.
Rock or electro?
Standing or sitting?
Promotion to the Bundesliga or a Cup triumph?
This season, I’d like to go up. But when we’re up, I’ll take a cup win of course.