“It was a real privilege to be chosen and asked to go to that school. Nobody in my area, in my district, ever went there. So I felt really proud of it. And going to that school, obviously there was a lot of pressure to stay in that school. Competition. Each year there would be two or three players dismissed, and two or three new players came in. It was permanently pressure to survive, and I think that formed very much my character in terms of living with pressure.
At that elite school there was not only footballers, there was all sorts of sportspeople – Olympic champions, world champions, European champions, and obviously the school found a very, very challenging system. The Olympic champions got the best food, then the world champions and European champions on the second level, and then the footballers who never won a gold medal – they won one gold medal at an Olympic Games, but never a world title or European title, so the younger footballers they got less food or downgraded food. It still was very good compared to the majority of people living in the East. But it was always a fight. You try to make friends with some swimmers who won gold medals, or gymnasts who won gold medals, and they gave you a little bit from that.
I’ve been very much driven on competition, I like competition. I think it gets the best out of me. I try to take that sort of experience into my group of staff or into my group of players. And we driving on competition, and we always try to win and we try to be the best we can be in every training session to push ourselves to the limit. That can be sometimes very intense. I’m aware of that. But in the modern day I think it’s very important that you… as coaches, normally now in this day you have a shorter life spell unfortunately. But I think it’s important that you get the best out of the players and the staff you have around you for as long as you can.”