Starke: I'll be there for as long as my body allows it
Tom Starke hung up his boots last summer, but when Manuel Neuer sustained an injury in September the 36-year-old returned to help FC Bayern. He quickly returned to the ground and even featured between the posts. Starke kept clean sheets against Frankfurt and Köln, helping the German record champions win two matches. The netminder demonstrated his club can always count on him. Starke impressed his team-mates: "He looks about 50 and is as fit as a 28-year-old," said Javi Martínez.
Starke talked to fcbayern.com about his return to the team, how he manages to work at FC Bayern Campus at the same time and the StarkedieKrake[Starke the octopus] hashtag.
Tom Starke interviewed
You returned for Manuel Neuer at the end of September, when he sustained an injury. You've been in the thick of it since then. How does it feel to be back in the pro business?
Starke:I wasn't out for a long time, we're actually talking about a few weeks. We consciously made the decision in summer to give way to the young players like Christian Früchtl or Ron-Thorben Hofmann. It is as it is now. I like doing it, I'm still fit. Football is always fun for me.
How much did you have to catch up in terms of fitness and strength?
The strength hadn't really gone. I have to shoot a lot in my new job as goalkeeping coach, I can't do it when my muscles are cold. I have to make sure my muscles are warm, that I have the strength, that I don't sustain any injuries. So it was okay. The training load with the FC Bayern pros is something else of course, it was tough at the beginning. But you get used to it quickly.
For how long did you consider the request after Manuel Neuer sustained the injury?
I didn't have to consider it. We had agreed last season that they can always count on me if necessary. None of us had expected the situation to arise so quickly. We hoped Manuel would stay fit after the long injury spell. Unfortunately it didn't work. Hasan Salihamidzic called me, and it was clear to me straightaway I'd step in. But I absolutely wanted to pursue my job at the same time to continue to be there for the lads.
You've come out of retirement. How do you motivate yourself and push to your limits on a daily basis?
I motivate myself because it's my hobby. I'm out on the pitch with the best available players in the world. That has always been my motivation. Now it's about helping the lads. They need me, and it's a nice feeling to be needed.
Did you miss something even though you haven't been out of it for a long time?
The feeling of being out on the pitch has its charm. I realised it primarily when I had returned. It was only then that I realised something had been missing. But my new task is incredibly fun so I don't think about things I miss. I look forward to taking on my new task on a daily basis. I'm learning an incredible lot.
Is there anything you don't miss at all?
(laughing) All the trips. They're part of it of course. But I've promised my family to be at home more often and spend time with them. Unfortunately that's become rare again.
So besides training, you go to the Campus on an almost daily basis to do your work there?
I train at the Säbener Strasse in the morning, complete the necessary regeneration exercises and go to the Campus after lunch. I complete my tasks there, and around 17.30 I'm out on the pitch with the lads.
How does this double burden feel?
It's okay in terms of the body, you have to come to terms with it mentally. But it's so much fun that I don't need to motivate myself. I can play and pursue my hobby here and introduce my ideas at the Campus. The facility is unique in Germany.
What are your exact tasks there?
On paper I'm the goalkeeping coordinator. I look after all keepers from the U-9s to the U-19s, and now the reserves too. It's about our philosophy: how do we want our goalkeepers to be? It's about scouting, which kinds of keepers do we want? They should be able to help us and carry Bayern's philosophy to the top. I talk to the goalkeeping coaches about how the lads are doing on a weekly basis. I personally train the U-19s because they're at the forefront of the Campus, and the U-15s because I want to have a look how the younger ones are doing.
What's your next step? For how long will you stay with the team? Have you made agreements?
The only agreement is that I'll be available until the others are fit again. Of course I said I'd do it. I'll be there for as long as my body allows it. But in all honesty, I hope Manu will return very soon. I hope I can pass the baton soon.
Your former club Paderborn are your next cup opponents. Are you still in touch with the club? How was the reaction?
Their sporting director Markus Krösche was my team-mate, and I still know a few others. I'm looking forward to returning. The reaction was a bit ironic of course. For example if we were satisfied with a 3-0 victory for Paderborn. (laughing) Of course there was a lot of fun involved. I think we're the toughest draw they could have had. They'll give it everything. It'll surely be the match of the year for them.
What's realistic for FC Bayern this year?
Everything. We knocked out Dortmund and Leipzig in the cup, our two biggest rivals. Nevertheless, anything can happen in one match. We have to be highly alert but I think we're favourites. Things are going well in the championship, we got off to a good start away to Leverkusen. And in the Champions League each club has chances of winning from the quarter-finals onwards. It's about form on the day and a bit of luck too. The atmosphere in the team is very good at the moment. We have the quality in any case, and the injured players are set to return, apart from Manu and Thiago. The coach has more options again and can give us a breather if necessary. There's nothing greater than celebrating on the Town Hall balcony in the end. Preferably three times.
How does it feel to get your own hashtag towards the end of your career?
(laughing) Starke die Krake. I think it's pretty cool. It didn't emerge out of irony after all, because I was bad. My performances were appreciated. With a wink of course, but I'm always up for that.