Interview

First Interview: Chelsea Women signing Berger on decision, competition and motivation

We spoke to Ann-Katrin Berger ahead of Chelsea Women’s game against Everton at Kingsmeadow on Sunday, when the Blues’ new signing could make her debut for the club.

The 28-year-old joined us on Friday after her contract with Birmingham City came to an end, adding another layer of depth to a goalkeeping department which already boasts Hedvig Lindahl, Carly Telford and Lizzie Durack.
Her first opportunity to shine for her new side could come this Sunday when we take on Everton, a game for which tickets were made free for all and plenty of prizes are on offer for those in attendance, and we caught up with her ahead of that match to find out her thoughts on the biggest move of her career.

- Read: Ann-Katrin Berger signs for Chelsea FC Women

Having been selected in the PFA Women’s Team of the Year and named as the joint-WSL Player of the Year at the end of last season, Berger’s credentials speak for themselves – and Blues fans have seen it first-hand already this term, as she produced a Player of the Match performance against us in October.

Her first opportunity to shine for her new side could come this Sunday when we take on Everton, a game for which tickets were made free for all and plenty of prizes are on offer for those in attendance, and we caught up with her ahead of that match to find out her thoughts on the biggest move of her career.

Firstly, Ann, tell us how it feels to sign for Chelsea?

I'm excited. It's something new and I'm looking forward to playing with one of the best clubs in the world right now.


It must be pretty cool to be unveiled at Stamford Bridge. Have you ever visited before?


Yeah, I came here before to watch Chelsea play Barcelona and I'm sorry to say this but I'm a big Barcelona fan, since I was four years old. It was a good day for me, but not for Chelsea!


Moving on swiftly, why did you decide to sign for Chelsea?

First of all, I really like the league. Chelsea is one of the best so far since I've been in England and I think now is the right time to come and play for a big club. Chelsea felt like the right choice.
 

We’ve got three goalkeepers here already. Does the competition for places excite you?

Yeah. As a goalkeeper, everyone knows you are crazy and I need the competition. Hedvig has been one of the best keepers for such a long time, Carly is now a really good goalkeeper for England as well, and obviously Lizzie is still young for a goalkeeper, but she's also really good. I just like the competition and the chance to learn from the best.


You say Lizzie is young, but you're only 28 and coming into the prime years for a goalkeeper.

That's true, but as a goalkeeper you need the experience, which is why I think it's a good age for a keeper. I can say I am more experienced than Lizzie, so that's why she is really young as a goalkeeper.
 

We should also mention Stuart Searle, who is our goalkeeper coach and regarded as one of the best in the business. What have you made of him so far?

We've had a couple of conversations and I found him really interesting. He sees things differently. For a big club like Chelsea, you don't have to save a lot of shots every game, but you might have to make just one save – and you have to make it count. That's why I think his philosophy is a little bit different to other goalkeeper coaches, but I think he is right, because at Chelsea you don't need a lot of big saves.


It's more about keeping concentration and mentality.

That's right. That's why I was really interested to hear that, and then obviously I was more excited to see what he does in training to prepare goalkeepers for the game.


Have you always had a goalkeeper coach? Hedvig has spoken in the past about how it’s a fairly recent thing in the women’s game.

I had one since I was about 17 or 18, so the last 10 years or so. I've had a couple of good ones, but every goalkeeper coach is different. You learn different exercises and philosophies.


Tell us about Emma Hayes and how you’re getting on with your new manager.

I've had a lot of conversations with her and she sounds really football crazy. I love that, because I'm the same, and I'm just looking forward to playing under her. I think she can push me. You train more with a goalkeeper coach, but she can push me in her way. I need a couple of weeks to get to know who I'm playing with and what they want for me, but I think after that it will be fine.


Are you particularly vocal yourself, as a goalkeeper?


I think I could be more, but I feel sometimes I don't have to shout all the time. As a goalkeeper you can make your backline really nervous and I have a feeling that if I talk all the time, they just don't know what to do and which information is really important. To find the balance is always hard and I just say something if I see something or I think it's really important that someone knows this piece of information.


This past year you were selected in the PFA Women’s Team of the Year and named as the joint-WSL Player of the Year, as well as earning your first call-up for the German national team. That’s impressive enough, but you did it all in the space of a year after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It really is a remarkable comeback story...

I think for all the media it's a remarkable story, but it's just the way I have to work. If everyone would be in my position, they would do the same as me, because everyone wants to be healthy again. If someone loves football, like I do, that would be the normal story.


I know you're downplaying it, but it really inspired a lot of people...


Don't get me wrong, it was not easy. Maybe to be a goalkeeper, to be crazy, that's a huge part as well. But I think it's not crazy, because it's just like everyone would do that. Normal people, they have the same problem and they would do it. They have, for example, kids and they have to be healthy for them. For me, it was for my family, for me and for my football.


And then all these huge achievements, all in the space of one year.

I just tried that it doesn't affect me, my health. I was working really hard for a long time now to be here, signing for a great club and maybe helping my country out. It's not just this one year – obviously everything happened in this one year – but it was a long journey and lots of hard work.
 

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