I scored twice that day. It was a relief to know I could still get the ball in the net. When I met the manager Brian Horton after the game, things got even better.
He was taking me on until the end of the season. I would play the very next weekend, against QPR at Loftus Road.
My dream was becoming real.
Moving away from Germany was a big challenge. I didn’t know the language or the culture in England. But I was driven by my dream to make it happen. And to prove a point again – to be the first German for many years to have an impact in the Premier League.
I lived on my own, but my teammates looked after me well. The team spirit felt a bit like what I had experienced in the East, where we did a lot together as a team and it was always about the collective – playing together and socialising together.
That had changed when I moved to the Bundesliga, but in England I felt it again. Each week the captain would get everyone together for one or two events. It might be a round of golf (I couldn’t play, but I was driving the buggy or serving the drinks). Or a team lunch after training.
“My way of playing mirrored the people who went to the stadium: hard graft. Never say die. Never give up”
From day one, I felt good vibes at Manchester City. But I realised very quickly that to fully integrate myself, I needed to speak the language. I learned mostly from my teammates, so it was not exactly ‘Oxford English’ – I definitely picked up a few swearwords in the beginning.
I also had to adapt to a different type of football. At that time in Germany, we played a lot with man-markers and a sweeper. So it was very difficult to score goals; often you had not only one person to beat, but also the sweeper.
It was not exactly easier in England, but it was more suitable for my way of playing. A lot of teams played with a back four. People were not man-marking. They were defending in zones. The player that I was, with a lot of movement, I found it easier to get on the ball in scoring areas.
When I walked on to the pitch for my first game at Maine Road, all my dreams were fulfilled.
I was lucky to play in front of the old Kippax, where you had 15,000 fans singing non-stop. And even luckier that the fans took to me straight away. The goals were part of that, of course, but there was more to it.