Berlin- An active and busy Hinrunde lies behind the Hertha players. An active and busy Hinrunde lies behind Vedad Ibisevic , too. A goal-drought was followed by his retirement from international football with Bosnia before a flurry of three goals in successive games. A packed Rückrunde now lies between Ibisevic and the rest of the Hertha squad. The second half of the season starts this Saturday at 15:30, when Hertha will play VfB Stuttgart in the Mercedes Arena. Ibisevic took time out to speak to Hertha BSC about the upcoming duel with his old club, the goals between now and May, his captaincy and Davie Selke.
herthabsc.de: Vedad, it’s been nearly a month since the Bundesliga went on a break. Has the time been long enough?
Ibisevic: I liked the fact the break wasn’t too long. We kept working even when we weren’t training, and preparation time has been even shorter. I prefer that because you don’t lose as much fitness and sharpness and you don’t need as long to be 100% again. The fact we did not fly anywhere either is also no bad thing. The weather here was good and we lost no training time because of being in the air, which also makes a lot of sense for the short break.
herthabsc.de: After time to reflect, how do you look back on the Hinrunde?Ibisevic: It was a tough start to the season – but we were expecting that. We said all through the summer we would have to watch out. Having the Europa League in the schedule was a new thing as well. We were lacked that cutting edge to win games in Europe and we didn’t progress because we didn’t quite have that experience that we do now. Even though the opponents were not the most prestigious, it was the Europa League so were still up for it. I think it’s a real shame we are not still in. If I think back to the game in Bilbao in particular – it was so much fun.
herthabsc.de: We’re currently 10th in the Bundesliga at the halfway mark. How would you rate the first 17 games?
Ibisevic: The Europa League was one the thing, the Bundesliga another. The daily routine was also far from easy at first. We had to greet the new players and get used to working together and being rotated. In the end the Hinrunde all came together – and that’s exactly what we all thought would happen. The last two or three games before Christmas were very good. The game in Leipzig set the benchmark for how we can and should be performing. The passion and fight we showed there should act as our basis for the remaining 17 games. Now we need to pick up from where we left off.
herthabsc.de: It was a far from quiet first half of the season for yourself either. How do you reflect on that from your perspective?
Ibisevic: The last year has been full of new experiences form. I’m not yet 33 (laughs). I found it hard to find the goals at first and I am one of those who likes to question and criticize myself. I do that a lot, but never publically. I always want to get better, but the team has priority. The one thing I have learned is that everyone is most happy when the team is successful. Sometimes you have good days, sometimes you have bad ones. That’s part of football. If we all have the same goal we will achieve more than if everyone tries to make their own way individually. I am satisfied with my Hinrunde, it can get better, but only as one.
herthabsc.de: You’re going into your fourth half-season as captain. Have you changed during your time as the on-pitch leader?
Ibisevic: I don’t think so. I don’t want to say I was made captain at the right time – because that is not my decision, rather that of the coaching staff. It was never my aim to be captain. I was at the age when you are ready to have that kind of responsibility. I am the oldest player in the squad. It doesn’t matter if I were the armband or not, I am here to help the team and give advice to the younger players. I have always tried to be a team player even if as a striker you sometimes have to be selfish when you are trying to score goals. I was not always the best example growing up and I always tried to model myself on the older players. You can always learn something from more experienced players because they know what the young players will be expecting. I didn’t always follow but when I did it helped (laughs).
herthabsc.de: One of these young players is Davie Selke, who returned to fitness and who can be another option up front for Pal Dardai in the next few months. How do you see the situation?
Ibisevic: It’s a fantastic situation. Davie has done so well and he just keeps getting better. He has started to confirm what has always been thought of him, that he is one of Germany’s top talents- It’s good for him and it’s good for us, and he has to keep that going. I want to keep supporting him, whether we play together or someone else plays. That’s all part of supporting one another and giving advice. It’s a clear situation for me. I am somewhat older and can get to grips with any situation and just keep going. Julian Schieber is also there. For him it is all about getting fit and healthy again. It’s hard to come back from such a long injury layoff. Every player brings their own quality and strikers are no different. The rest must be decided by the coach. Pal can pick two other forwards apart from me. The competition for places is always there and it is a good thing.
herthabsc.de: It’s time to stand up and be counted again – how excited are you for the Rückrunde?
Ibisevic: I love football. It does get tough after five or six consecutive months, because that is all your doing, but when you take a break you quickly see just how wonderful football is and you are thankful to be part of the game. Football motivates you and the Bundesliga is cool, so I am very pleased that it’s all about to kick off again.
herthabsc.de: Saturday sees the team go to Stuttgart, where you spent three and a half years, how do you see that game going?
Ibisevic: We are expecting a touch game. You never quite know where everyone is at after the winter break. It’s all about getting a feel. The game will be decided by the small things and the tactical discipline. They have very good players, but have played some strange games. They have improved with Mario Gomez and bought a good and experienced striker. He will help bring the club forward just with his presence. But our game is to take something from the match.