Welcome to a continuation on the regular series on The 94th Minute, called “Starting XI”. This is where I ask various people, who are fans of football, a number of questions to get to know them better! The first few questions will differ for each person, but the final question will always be:
“Who would be in your all-time, favourite starting XI?”
This is a question where anyone can be put into their starting eleven, whether they are famous footballers, football legends, past or unknown players who had an impact on their childhood, or even players they have played with or coached. Anyone is acceptable in their XI providing they give a reason for their inclusion!
The fourteenth instalment of the series is with a trio of gentlemen, Tom Middler, Simon Clark and Lee Wingate. They are the ones involved with the superb podcast, The Other Bundesliga, which focuses on the Austrian Bundesliga and Austrian football in general. I wanted to know more about how the podcast got started, the players we should be watching out for in Austrian football, the best grounds to visit in Österreich, and finally, the players they would choose in their all-time starting eleven.
The latest podcast from the The Other Bundesliga, where they provide an Austrian Bundesliga and Cup round-up, can be heard below:
Key for the Answers Below:
- T: Tom
- S: Simon
- L: Lee
Q. Could you give the readers some information on how The Other Bundesliga Podcast came about in its creation?
S: The three of us have been friends for a long period of time and we all have a shared interest in football. In fact, the first time I met the guys was in an Irish pub watching a Liverpool versus Manchester United game – so we’ve had that from the very start of our collective friendship. Throughout the years we had all watched Austrian Bundesliga games together and, if I’m honest, we weren’t particularly impressed by the quality! However, we always took an interest in the league from afar.
Business really picked up post-World Cup 2018 when we were all on a football high after England’s heroics, and I think it was Tom’s idea to maybe start an Austrian football podcast to discuss the Austrian Bundesliga. From the outset we decided to make it about our journey “to love and to learn” about our local league – and it worked – we all genuinely love the league now and have a real passion for the clubs, characters and the country. The fact that our love and our passion has instigated other people to have an interest in the league is an amazing thing to me. We know that Austrian football doesn’t compare to the glitz and the glamour of other countries, but it’s a very cool league and people seem to be slowly picking up on that.
Q. How long does it take to prepare, record and then edit a podcast on average?
T: It started off taking ages, and they didn’t sound all that great even after hours of editing, but like all things, this was intended as a learning process, and we’ve really worked out how to improve our recording techniques and I know my way around the technology better now too. We all keep up to date on Austrian football news, and watch a lot of games live and at home, so nowadays we can do a bit less research, and analyse the games more personally, which I think has improved the podcast as well. We spend roughly an hour on a meeting to record, and then perhaps two more until it’s out there online.
Q. Considering Austrian teams seem to be doing really well in European competitions this season, how well do you think they will do? What would equate to a good season for these clubs?
S: I’m slightly surprised just to *how* well they are doing. I think we all expected RB Salzburg to show-up in the Champions League – but to demolish Genk 6-2 and score 3 goals at Anfield? I didn’t expect that. LASK and Wolfsberger AC are really fantastic stories in general, both clubs have had recent-ish promotions to the Austrian Bundesliga and are very well managed overall, you can’t help but root for both of them on the European stage – they are true underdogs. Particularly Wolfsberger – the village team who beat Mönchengladbach 4-0 away, it’s a real fairytale.
What would be a good season? Salzburg to make the Round of 16 in the Champions League would be phenomenal, and for LASK and Wolfsberger, they’ve already got their wins. Anything from now on is a bonus. It’s already been a great season for Austrian clubs. Long may it continue!
Q. How has the Austrian Bundesliga changed from when you started watching it, to now? Has the standard of the league improved?
T: Red Bull Salzburg – love them or hate them – have really pushed the boundaries in the last few years with some excellent European campaigns. They’re a proper top side now, no doubt about it. I think naturally that has forced other teams to innovate a bit too, some have been left behind, but others are thriving. It’s a better league than it was a few years back, and the Scotland-style split makes it quite tense as well.
Q. Is there anyone in the Bundesliga, or Austria in general, that you think people should keep an eye out for – who are the next big stars from Austria?
S: The nature of the Austrian Bundesliga is that the biggest names will always leave for more illustrious pastures every season. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. Last season I was really impressed by Saša Kaladjžić at Admira Wacker (now at VfB Stuttgart after a €2.5m transfer), I feel like he is everything a modern striker should be – tall, powerful, skillful, an eye for goal. I also like Hannes Wolf (ex-Salzburg, now with RB Leipzig). Unfortunately he picked up a nasty injury in the EURO Under 21’s so I hope it doesn’t stunt his growth as a player, and Xaver Schlager (now at Wolfsburg) has already shown what a player he could be after being nominated for ‘Rookie of the Month’ in the German Bundesliga. These three players are all stand-outs for the Austrian national team.
T: In terms of players who are still in Austria, Patson Daka looks to be a bright prospect up front, he’s just turned 21, and has 9 goals this season. We’re all hoping Thomas Goiginger at LASK goes on to do well too. He’s a great dribbler, and if he could sharpen his eye for goal he could be incredible.
Q. What has been your favourite ground that you have visited during your Austrian travels?
S: For atmosphere, I don’t think you can look much further than Rapid Vienna’s Allianz Stadion. When it’s a big game, you know it. That stadium is bouncing. There’s a lot of characterful grounds across Austria – Wiener Sport Club’s Sportklub Platz is similar to a League One/Two ground in England and has a fervent fanbase that we all very much enjoy. In terms of architecture, I really like St. Polten’s NV Arena which is a modern identikit stadium mixed with Scandi-Wooden design. This might be quite random, but Regionalliga Ost side Leobendorf is quite cool too. It’s only a 20 minute train ride from Vienna and you have vineyards, heurigers (a traditional country-style restaurant) and beautiful views – plus the stadium is directly next to a castle! It’s amazing.
The best stadium in Austria might be Klagenfurt’s Wörthersee Stadion though. 32,000 seater, beautiful design, great facilities – but it’s kind of a white elephant with Austria Klagenfurt (the current tenants when there isn’t a forest there!) only attracting 1,500-2,000 to home games.
T: I personally love the Hohe Warte stadium, of First Vienna FC. You get an amazing view over the capital, and it has such a rich history. The grass banks used to hold 100,000 people plus, around a century ago, and the atmosphere still lingers!
Q. If someone wanted to come to Austria to watch some Bundesliga football, where would you say are the best places or teams to watch a game?
S: I would imagine that most football fans would travel to Vienna for a football weekender. If you do, and you’re lucky, you could easily do a Friday night game at Wiener Sport Club or First Vienna, a Saturday game at either Rapid or Austria, and then Sunday you are within easy day-trip reach of Graz, Salzburg, Linz, St. Polten, Mattersburg etc. My personal recommended trip would be: Friday night at Wiener Sport Club, Saturday at Rapid, Sunday in a different Austrian city.
Q. Is there a particular club, stadium or city that you have not visited yet, but are very eager to visit in the near future?
S: For me, it has to be Innsbruck and Altach. Innsbruck is the last major Austrian city that I have not visited and the city looks very beautiful. Altach is the most difficult Austrian Bundesliga side to reach from Vienna (it’s a 7 hour train away), so it’ll be quite an experience when we finally go there. I think a trip to SV Ried would be cool too, they are a very well supported club with a real history.
Q. Is there anyone in particular that you would love to interview for your podcast? Who has been your favourite guest so far?
S: David Alaba, Marko Arnautović, Hans Krankl – those three are the ones I would love to sit down with at length and talk shop with. It’s unlikely, but dream big eh? Jesse Marsch was a phenomenal guest and a lovely man – if all interviewees were like that then the sports world would be a better place.
[NOTE: If you wish to listen to the interview with Red Bull Salzburg’s head coach, Jesse Marsch, it can be found HERE]
T: Yeah, Red Bull coach Jesse Marsch was really welcoming, and very honest in a lengthy interview with us. That was definitely very cool. I have to say Stefan Schwab, the Rapid Vienna captain is always very good with his time, win or lose, I appreciate that. The guys here tend to be quite down to earth and happy to talk a bit of English, but it can scare some of them away!
Q. Do you have any future plans or wishes for The Other Bundesliga?
S: Just keep on doing what we are doing. The growth of the podcast and on social media has been pretty surprising for me, and I love the fact we are now at a point where people know who we are, and we are able to get accreditation for big European games and top Bundesliga games. We started the podcast at the ideal time and I just want to keep it growing.
T: We’re looking into the Patreon model of funding to see if we can take things to the next level in terms of the amount of Austrian content that we can produce… we might be at capacity at the moment without a bit of funding, but we’re really pleased with how it has been received.
Q. Finally, who is in your all-time, favourite XI?
Goalkeeper: Peter Schmeichel
Of course he was incredible, and won it all, but he also introduced a lot of us to Austrian football in a way, with THAT save against Rapid Vienna back in the day! (Tom)
Defender: Paolo Maldini
The man was so composed on the pitch that he could’ve played with a cigar in his mouth. The epitome of class, Italian elegance and leadership. (Simon)
Defender: Luis Monti
Belonged to an era long-forgotten, but one of the most fearsome defenders of his day. The heart of the Juventus defence in the 1930’s and the only player to represent two different countries in World Cup finals. (Lee)
Defender: Ashley Cole
Controversial choice maybe, but he was the best left-back in the world for many, many years and never let England down. Massively underrated penalty taker too! (Simon)
Defender: Sergio Ramos
He is a leader, he is a talisman and might be the best goal scoring defender of the modern era. Yeah, he’s a little bit of a divisive figure – but every team needs a player like Sergio Ramos in it. He’d be my captain any day! (Simon)
Midfielder: Juninho Pernambucano
The cultured choice for football purists back in the 2000’s. Whilst the school playground would rave about Beckham and Roberto Carlos, it felt like a secret if you knew who the REAL free-kick master was, and that Lyon side was unstoppable (except in every UCL quarter-final!) (Tom)
Midfielder: Lothar Matthäus
Shone in the brilliant Inter Milan and FC Bayern sides of the ’80’s and ’90’s, as well as winning the World Cup with his country. His 20-year career was the ultimate proof of his fitness and desire. (Lee)
Midfielder: David Beckham
I had posters of him plastered over my wall as a child. He was my boyhood hero. He’s David Beckham! (Simon)
Centre forward: Nuno Gomes
Perhaps not the greatest ever, but for me he captured the spirit of that Portugal side which was so entertaining when I was just about becoming a teenager. I’ll never forget that wine-red Nike kit with the green trim! Classic! (Tom)
Striker: Ronaldo (de Lima)
Before his injuries, he was the best striker of all time. Messi and CR7, try as they may, could never repeat the electricity that was a Ronaldo at full sprint. It disheartens me that he is referred to by many as the “Fat Ronaldo”, because it diminishes how electrifying he was. God-given talent. (Simon)
Centre forward: Alfredo di Stéfano
Played for three different countries (Argentina, Colombia and Spain), but really made his mark in Spain, where he was part of the Real Madrid team that dominated the inaugural European Cup years. (Lee)
A massive thank you to Tom, Simon and Lee for answering my questions and being brilliant guests on the Starting XI series! I have certainly learnt a lot about Austrian football, and it is a league I am very keen of learning more about. The Other Bundesliga will always be my first port of call for learning and finding out more information from what is happening in the world Austrian football. Also, I enjoyed their choices for their combined starting eleven, with that forward three being especially prima!
To find out more about The Other Bundesliga, the links to the podcast, website, and social media accounts can be found below:
- Podcast: https://anchor.fm/theotherbundesliga/
- Website: https://www.otherbundesliga.com/
- Twitter: @OtherBundesliga
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OtherBundesliga/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/otherbundesliga/
To read or catch up on the previous Starting XI episodes, they can all be found at the following link HERE.
If there you have any feedback, comments or suggestions who I should interview next in the series, let me know either below in the comments box, tweet me @The94thMin or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! It would be good to hear what you think about the series, and what have been your favourite episodes so far!