Big Interview: Daniel Bachmann
In his own words, Daniel Bachmann discusses his journey to Watford, making his Hornets debut in the FA Cup, and how he loves the community vibe at Vicarage Road...
GOALSCORER TO GOALKEEPER
I started off at my local club in my village where I grew up, and when I was 10 years old, I moved to Admira in the Bundesliga. That was the first club I moved to in the youth setup and I was just enjoying football – but that was as a striker at the time. After about six months our goalkeeper got injured and in the youth team you only have one keeper. I went in goal in a tournament we had, and I enjoyed it and just stayed in goal from there. I was the tallest at the time, and I always wanted to play in goal anyway, but my dad was the coach at the local club and I always scored the goals, so I never got to play as a goalkeeper. When it came up that we needed a keeper for the tournament, I insisted on playing in goal and enjoyed it. I stayed at Admira until I was 15 years old and then I moved to the academy at Sturm Graz on a youth professional contract, but after about six months I left because I just didn’t feel comfortable there – I was in boarding school and I didn’t really like it. So, I moved to Austria Vienna and I was there for two years before I eventually moved to Stoke.
Not many people actually know this about when I came to England to sign for Stoke City. It was the beginning of July 2011 and I came over with my agent and my mum to sign. The night before we were due at the training ground to sign everything, my mum asked me if I was alright. I said I was fine, but she knew I wasn’t happy – it’s obviously a big step away from home, in a different country with a different language. I went to the training ground the next day and I didn’t want to sign, I didn’t want to stay. As a mother, she felt that, and she asked me what was wrong, and I said I can’t do it. It was a bit of an awkward situation at the time, and I flew home. It was all over, I was back in Austria. Over the next few days, Andy Quy – who was the goalkeeper coach at Stoke City for a long time and only just left recently – kept making contact with us and made me and my parents realise I would be alright. I ended up coming back over, which is obviously a big thing. If you do that, if you don’t sign the contract, most clubs would just say to leave it. But they didn’t and I ended up back at the training camp, with the Under-18s. The decision obviously changed my life, because I don’t know where I could be in my career if I didn’t do it.
FIRST STEPS IN ENGLAND
The first two months in England were very difficult. I was with a guest family and I didn’t speak the language, but you get used to it, you make friends and it becomes a lot easier. I lived in the guest house with a second player, Karim Rossi – he was from Switzerland as well and spoke German too so that helped. We were in the same situation, first time away from home, in a different country, and that helped a lot. With the language, if you have to speak it all the time you learn it very quickly, so that wasn’t a problem. Once the season started and the games started, that’s when you start to realise it’s good and you’re enjoying it. At Stoke I had Thomas Sørensen and Asmir Begović to learn from, especially Thomas who was like a father figure almost – in fact, age-wise he could almost have been my father, I think! It was brilliant to work with them, both on the pitch and off the pitch. It was nice to have these people around me when I started training with the first team when I was aged 18 or 19. It was very helpful.
AN UNLIKELY AGENT
Sebastian Prödl was the person who first told me Watford were interested in me. I was in the Austria squad for most of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and he was there too. The first time Seb mentioned it was in March 2017. He basically said, ‘do you know Watford are interested in you?’ I told him I hadn’t heard anything. What had happened was I’d changed agent the November before that and it was all a bit of a mix-up. We ended up sorting it out. The next time I saw Seb in June again with the national team he asked me what was happening with Watford and said, ‘I know they still want you’. I still hadn’t heard anything, but a couple of weeks after the national team was finished they got in contact with my agent. I got a call and I came to the training ground the next day and we sorted it out pretty quickly. I knew of Gomey because as a goalkeeper you obviously know about Heurelho Gomes. I also knew who the owners were and I knew a couple of players, but when it got serious and I heard more about the interest I looked into the club a lot more.
After joining Watford, my loan spell at Kilmarnock was really important. I was there last season and I kept about 13 clean sheets in 25 league games, and a few cup games as well. It was a very good season. It was important for me to go out and play a full season, and it was very enjoyable, not just because I did well personally, but also because that season was a points record for the club, a third-place finish and we qualified for Europe. I think it was mid-February and we were still only three points behind Celtic and Rangers, so we were doing really well. It’s always enjoyable when you’re winning games and when you’re playing well yourself. That was a really important year for me. I’d had a loan spell in Scotland before at Ross County while I was at Stoke but that was a bit different, it came up really quickly and we terminated that because it wasn’t quite what we expected. Firstly, the living situation, and also at the club it wasn’t really what I was hoping for in terms of my development. This time round at Kilmarnock I enjoyed living in Glasgow – it’s very different to Inverness! I was happy there and it’s a nice place to live. Playing is the best thing to develop.
PUSHING FOR A START
Everybody wants to play. I want to play every week, that’s what we’re here for. I had a really good season last year and now we’re at a situation where I was given a chance in the cup, which I was really happy about because it gets me good game-time. All four of us goalkeepers at Watford push each other every day. It’s good to have a good group and we all get on well. We’re all at different stages of our career, with Fozzy and Gomes towards the end of their careers and me and Pontus at the start of ours. It’s a good mixture and we all learn from each other – obviously Pontus and me more from Gomey and Ben rather than the other way around! But it doesn’t really matter about age. You look at other people and if you can take something from them, you do. We’re definitely a good group, and the goalkeepers are almost like a different group, but it’s difficult because only one of us plays. So, you have to be patient, you have to be strong mentally and just wait for your chance and be ready when it comes. It’s different for a goalkeeper because you don’t just come on and make your debut in the Premier League in the last few minutes. As a goalkeeper you only play when you’re playing, there’s no ‘I’ll give him a half’ or ‘I’ll give him a game’. That doesn’t happen as a goalkeeper, you’re either the number one or you’re not. But I’m happy to have played in the cup, which is a good start. We’re all supporting each other. Football is a team sport so it’s all about us doing well as a team and that’s what we’re doing right now.
VICARAGE ROAD DEBUT
Walking out for my debut at Vicarage Road was not a shock, because I’ve been out warming up before matches, but it is different when you are part of the team and walking out onto the pitch and playing, rather than just doing a warm-up. It was nice to finally play, I won’t lie. To make my debut and for it to be at home as well was perfect. Obviously, the game didn’t really go as well as we would have liked it to as a team, but I was fairly happy with my debut overall. Obviously the second goal was a shame, but as a goalkeeper if you make a tiny mistake it’s a goal. The cross I dropped, I think I had the same ball two or three times before in the game, so it’s a matter of small details. We all make mistakes and it gets highlighted when we as goalkeepers make them. But I felt comfortable in goal and I was happy to finally make my debut.
My lifestyle is very family orientated. My mum and dad come over quite a bit and I’m taking them to the theatre to see Mamma Mia! I go into London every now and then with my wife, but with the kids it’s a bit difficult. I have one son and one daughter now – my son is two years old and my daughter is 10 months, they’re very close together and very small! But the area around here is very green and we can go for walks and there are loads of things to do with the kids. If I get a bit of time to myself, I like to play a bit of golf as well. We go out every now and then and play a couple of games. I play with Lee Stafford and Richard Line, who are on the staff here, quite a bit. Hughesy and I played at The Grove not long ago, and we also have Clevs and Troy. There are a few of us who enjoy going out and playing a bit. I’m good friends with Daryl Janmaat because our kids are good friends and our wives get on well, so he’s probably who I’m closest to at the club. Seb as well, because we both speak German!
KICKIN’ WITH THE RAIDERS
I met the Oakland Raiders from the NFL at The Grove earlier this season, and I really enjoyed it. It was a great experience to talk about their training routines, and it was great to try the field goals and do a couple of kicks. I think I did okay with them! I did think it would be easier than it actually is, because it looks easier. I did the field goal from about 20 yards and just about got it over the bar – in football I can kick the ball quite far! But if you watch their games, sometimes they hit field goals from 45, 50 yards, and it’s under a lot of pressure as well. But I really enjoyed getting to know their routines and everything. I’ve been to a couple of NFL games in London at Wembley, but I’ve never been to one in America. I enjoy the NFL a lot, but I don’t really support one club – I’m the same with football, I don’t really support anyone, I just like to watch it. But since I met the Raiders, I follow them a bit closer. Seeing as I’ve met the players, I feel like I have a bit of a connection I suppose. The last one I went to was the Jaguars against the Ravens two years ago. It was good and I got to go pitch-side as well. It’s completely different to our football with the whole setup, and everything is just a bit bigger.
Watford is definitely a family club, and us as players notice that as well. There are little things like our families always being welcome at the training ground, whereas at Stoke family members were never allowed there. There are lots of community events, like one for the club’s Community Trust I went to recently. It’s really good to see how much of an impact it has on everyone’s lives, the things the club does. It all feels very homely here. The togetherness feels very important, and it’s very nice for us players as well. I’m always happy going to community events. For us players, football is obviously the main part and what we’re here to do, but without everyone else, without the people in the stadium, we wouldn’t be here. So, I think it’s always nice to go and see people who appreciate what we do on the pitch and spend time with them. I think that’s really important and I really enjoy it.