Jeggo: „Alles was ich in Österreich erreichen kann, kann ich auch mit Sturm erreichen“
„I can achieve everything I want in Austria with this team“
Hello James, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. You have been here in Graz for almost a year. How do you like the city?
It’s fantastic, I am very happy with my job and with the city. Graz isn´t very big, but it has absolutely everything we need. My girlfriend enjoys being here as well, and that´s of course super important.
Have you seen other places in Styria, outside of Graz?
A bit, yes. I learned how Kernoel is being produced and I also have learned a lot from my teammates. Both my girlfriend and I absolutely love it. We always use it for salads.
And do you like Puntigamer beer?
I do, but I generally don’t drink much beer. It’s a very typical beer I guess. (laughs)
You gotta be careful with this topic, right?
What is your favourite Australian beer?
Well, I love Corona. It´s not Australian, but it’s definitely my favourite. XXXX Gold an VB (Victoria Bitter) are good, too. Do you know those?
However, my favourite Aussie food is Vegemite.
You know everything about Australia! I also like Vegemite. A friend brought some glasses from Australia, so I am happy to have it at home.
Do you have problems understanding your teammates? Did they teach you proper Styrian expressions?
You know, I am next to Christian Gratzei in the locker room. If you understand him, you understand anyone else.
Is there any phrase or expression that comes to your mind?
Yes, it‘s „Oida“! He says „Oida“ ALL THE TIME. So when I am not sure how to express myself, I just say “Oida” (styrian way to express „dude“).
To what extent do identify yourself with the typical Australian lifestyle? What are the most obvious differences to our Austrian way of life?
I was born in Vienna and came to Australia at the age of 1o or 11. There are of course typical Australian things that I don’t like so much, like surfing and the general sports culture. I prefer European sports. But I definitely love the Australian way of life, with long hours of daylight and being constantly on the move. I am not a big fan of the short, cold winter days in Austria.
How do you get along with the temperatures?
It´s ok, not a big problem. I prefer playing at 5 degrees in Austria to playing at 35 degrees in Australia.
Did you know about Sturm before you came here?
Yes, of course. I grew up near Vienna and played a lot of football. Sturm was already a big name in those days. I´ve also played against Sturm with my youth teams. So when I got contacted in Australia, I knew that this is a big thing.
We had another Aussie at Sturm, in 1997. His name is Joe Spiteri. Have you ever heard of him?
Sure! He played for a club that was just five minutes away from our house. I have also played against Eddy Bosnar a couple of times.
Have you been contacted by other teams before you´ve joined Sturm?
Yes, I always thought that four or five years in Australia is enough. It was time to move on in order to become a better player. The Austrian league is good and not too big. I knew that Sturm is a top team in the league and the fans are awesome. It was the right choice, I had no doubts about that whatsoever.
Could you tell us a bit more about your time in Vienna?
My parents are from England, but they both worked in Austria at the time. My brother was also born here and I lived here for ten years. At home, we always spoke English and we frequently went to England to visit our families. I went to an international school where everyone spoke English. So my only chance to learn German was on the football pitch. I played six years for SV Schwechat because we lived there and I have a lot of very good memories about that time. I played football every day, the training pitch was just 2 minutes walking from our house.
Schwechat, so you were close to the airport, ready to board the plane to Australia!
That´s correct. My dad travelled a lot for work. Still, it took us by surprise that we had to move to Australia. But my parents are still there and they love it.
You had to fight a serious illness very early in your life. Did this experience help shape the big fighting spirit that you show on the pitch?
It was definitely a tough time, I was only 16. But of course, such experiences give you mental strength and I learned to focus on the positive things. That helps in life. I don’t look back too much to those times, but it certainly helps to put things in relation. It could always go worse…
I’ve learned quickly that running is a special asset for my football career. – James Jeggo
Great spirit! Does James Jeggo get tired at all? You sprint for every ball – where did you acquire this outstanding stamina?
I’ve always been like that, even as a little child, I was always running, always active. I’ve learned quickly that running is a special asset for my football career. It´s so important that one knows how to use his particular talents and strengths.
Is “chasing the ball” also your main mission within the team?
Among other things, yes. My job is to conquer the ball in the defensive part of midfield. If I do that well, Uros gets more room and opportunities for our offensive game. I actually didn’t play this role in Australia, it was quite new for me. I was much more involved in offensive plays.
But I quickly realized that this role as a “6” suits me very well. I tried to learn a lot from the best players in this position and now I absolutely love it.
Do you also see yourself as an «aggressive leader»? You get quite many bookings…
Oh, I hate that! (laughs) I should not be booked so frequently and definitely need to learn quickly how to act smarter. My role obviously includes lots of tackles and that might result in a yellow card here and there. But already eight in just 20 games? Way too much. I will try to stop talking to refs and be more careful in order to protect the team.
So, just say «Oida», turn around and get over it?
That would certainly be better. It still might happen that I forget that in the heat of the moment, but I am sure it will be better in the spring games.
We heard that Uros Matic will leave Sturm after the game in Ried. How did you take this decision?
Of course, I am not happy because he was so important for the team and we just understood each other very well. Also off the pitch, he is a very good friend of mine and I will definitely miss him a lot. But then I am also happy for him. FC Kobenhavn is a big club that plays in a European championship every year. Uros deserves this big chance. It’s a challenge for our club now, but we will see other players growing into that role.
I agree – a big chance for Uros, but tough times for Sturm. You might know the saying that “disaster always strikes twice”. What could happen to you during the winter transfer period?
Well, the offer was way too attractive to turn it down – both for Uros and for the club.
But I am totally focused on my job at Sturm. I’ve only been able to help for five months so far and need to develop further. Sturm with the coaches, the team and the league is the perfect environment for me. I am now just looking forward to our last game and the little break so I can come back even stronger for the spring season.
Is it possible that you will change to the «8» position in 2017?
I really think that the current «6» is ideal for me. There are others who can play at «8» – Hierli, Sandi, who is great talent, or Piesi once he will be fit. I will give my best to stay in the starting squad and find the perfect balance with a new partner in the defensive midfield.
Talking about Sandi Lovric: Do you think he will be able to play at Uros’ position?
Absolutely. We see that every day in the training. He is an outstanding talent and player. At just 18, he plays like a much more experienced footballer, running well, making the right decisions. If he keeps going and developing like that, he will inevitably become an essential part of the starting squad.
When will we see your first goal for Sturm?
In Ried, hopefully! (smiles)
Did you prepare a special way to celebrate your first goal?
No, I don’t think about such things. It’s important to focus on my role and that we win. But sure, it’s nice to score a goal. I try it when I have the opportunity.
You were quite far away from the starting squad last season. How did you manage to cope with this?
It was tough and a little weird. First, we thought that I would qualify as Austrian player but it turned that this was not true. There were already six foreign players in the starting squad, so I had little chance to play.
Sure, that was frustrating. Joining a new club and not playing a single game in over six months. The club had to make a decision in the summer: Am I good enough to occupy a foreign-player-spot? I knew I had to give everything in the summer break and that definitely paid off. I made it to the starting squad, we started well into the new season and everything worked out fine. But I know that things can head in the other direction quickly. So I need to keep developing and raise my limits in order to stay in the team.
Did your relation to the manager also improve during that time? Or was it very good from the beginning?
It was also difficult for the coach to handle this unclear situation around my classification as a domestic player. We had the chance to talk a bit in the summer, but he is generally not the most talkative person. He wants to see a good performance, that’s the only way to convince him.
How concrete was the plan to move you out on loan to a Polish club?
It was quite concrete. It was an opportunity. I am 24 – at this age, you have to play regularly. It was not an option for me to sit on the bench for another six months. That might well have ruined my entire career and the only chance left would have been to go back to Australia. So I talked to my advisor, to Franco and to Günter.
What was the reason why you decided to stay?
I was not totally happy with my performance during the summer preparation. But I seem to have shown some good games and the club insisted that I would stay. I am very happy that I did. And now it’s time to focus on the spring preparation.
We are also very happy that you stayed!
If you would have told me upfront that I would play so many games, I would have super happy. But of course, when things go well, you want more. I want to become a much better player and achieve a lot with the team. We have played a decent half of a season, but there are many things that we need to improve. I definitely want more.
Why did you actually choose the Austrian league and how would you compare it to the Australian league?
The Australian league is certainly not an overly big league. I wanted to play in one of the better smaller European leagues like Austria or Switzerland. I spoke some German and, though the difference to the Australian leagues is still there, it is not as big as to the Premier League or the German Bundesliga.
Many believe that the Australian league is a physically demanding league. That´s not true. Athleticism is way more important here in Austria, and the game is faster. Maybe it’s also because of the high temperatures in the Australian summer – you just can’t play that intensely all the time.
Another difference is that all the teams in Australia are pretty similar in terms of strength and tactics. Everyone plays 4-3-3 and tries to make the game. Here we have a few top teams and the others, who don’t have the quality of Sturm, Rapid or Salzburg. They rely on the long pass and tacklings to win. That was totally new to me. I have seen more long passes and went into more tacklings in the first game against Ried than I ever had in Australia.
How was your time at Melbourne Victory?
It’s a very ambitious club with lots of fans. I started with the youth team and managed to make it to the first team, quite like Sandi here. I was a regular player in the starting team when I moved to Adelaide. Their coach absolutely wanted me and convinced me that he can help me becoming a better player.
Are there local rivalries between the two Melbourne clubs? Is it comparable to Sturm and GAK?
Yes, there are two major clubs in Melbourne, Victory and City. There is a certain rivalry, but you have to consider that the league is very young. It only exists for ten years in the current form. That’s why there are less emotions and a less deep-rooted loyalty to the teams. People like football, but it is of course not a national sport that everyone is automatically interested in.
I absolutely love the emotions and the passion for football in Europe. I was totally stunned when the fans came to our training before the Rapid game. I have never seen that before, it was absolutely brilliant.
I think a change within the Austrian league won’t happen. – James jeggo
Could you imagine to move to a direct rival?
I think football has changed a lot recently. Staying with the same team for ten years or more has become quite unlikely, so I can’t promise that it would not happen. But Sturm is a great club and I can achieve everything I want in Austria with this team. So I think a change within the Austrian league won’t happen. But of course, I just can’t completely eliminate the possibility. A football career isn’t very long and I need to make the best out of it.
There are also other things that play a role. Am I happy? Is my family happy? And yes, we are very happy in Graz, love the team and love the city.
So, a change to Rapid won’t happen any time soon?
Again, I am really happy here and haven’t thought about changing the club ever since I made it to the first team. I am focused on the next training, the next game and play football as well as I can.
You have already mentioned that the fans in Australia are less passionate. What’s your opinion on the fan support at Sturm?
As I said before: I have played in front of 50.000 fans in Australia, but the atmosphere was by far not as exciting, as passionate as it is here in front of 15.000 against Rapid or 12.000 against Austria Vienna. This incredible support is so important for us. I am thinking of the game against Rapid in Vienna. The guest supporter area was full, it felt like a home game. It just gives you an extra kick, an extra motivation to win. One almost automatically goes to his limit.
We are lucky to get this support even if we don’t play really well. As long as you fight for every ball, the supporters appreciate that even if we don’t win. That’s fantastic.
The support at home games is usually very good, but Sturm lost the last three matches in Graz. What are your thoughts on that?
We know how much the fans invest to come to the stadium every week. They give everything they have for 90 minutes and then it is really bitter if we don’t manage to win. Take the game against Salzburg. The atmosphere was incredible and we have tried everything to win. But we didn’t. All we can do is learn from that and improve.
Salzburg was a tight game and it was somehow acceptable that we didn’t win. But we have lost important points against St. Pölten and Admira and that must not happen. Mattersburg as well – the first half was a disaster. We have to learn to win against the smaller clubs at home.
You played really well during the first half of the season and it was absolutely clear that you are a part of the first team. But you also had two “blackouts” – against Altach and Admira. Do you have an explanation fort hat?
What a rollercoaster ride! Two big mistakes and then the euphoria of winning against Rapid.
What was particularly tough for me was the fact that I hadn’t made such a mistake in over a hundred games before. It’s particularly frustrating to see the table and imagine where we would be without those mistakes.
But what can I do? Learn from the mistakes and don’t make them again…
You probably came to Europe with the idea to play at a bigger league. Do you have a dream destination?
Well, there is always the goal to play in the best possible league. But I seriously don’t know what is the best possible league for me! It might well be the Austrian league, but I don’t know that for sure.
It’s definitely a short-term goal to play in a European competition with Sturm.
What role do you want to play in the Australian national team?
Well, I was called up to the squad twice, but haven’t played yet. There is of course a lot of competition in the midfield from players of the German and English second leagues.
I definitely want to play there, but first I have to be called up regularly. And then it’s of course essential that I play regularly for the club.
So, I hope that I will get the chance to play at the next game in March. If not, I will keep aiming for that.
Is Tim Cahill still in the squad?
Yes, he is there, but he now plays as a forward. On my position, there is Mile Jedinak from Aston Villa who has played in the Premier League for many years. He is also the captain of the national team. And there are other candidates. But, again, I need to give my best for Sturm and then I need to see what happens.
How are the chances for Australia to qualify for the World Cup?
We have played a good campaign so far. Those long flights and the overall circumstances in Asia are quite special. It’s not easy to always play at one’s best. We will have two very important games in March – on the road against Iraq and at home against UAE. If we can win them, we are in a very good position.
Coming back to Austria. What ist he current situation regarding your idea to get the Austrian citizenship?
Well, as I have played for Australia and we have only five foreign players in the club, this isn’t a big issue for the moment. I have an Australian and an English passport. That might be important because of the Brexit and almost my whole family is there. So I think I will be ok with two citizenships for the time being.
Do you have a role model or idol?
As a kid, I have been a big fan of Manchester United and David Beckham. As I grew older, I got more interested in midfielders and my favourite player was Steven Gerrard. I was quite sad when he left Liverpool. Nowadays, I try to learn from the best players in my position so I can learn from them. That’s why my girlfriend says that I watch way too much football on TV. (laughs)
Your brother plays in the second league in Norway. Will we see him soon in Austria? Possibly at Sturm?
Well, maybe! You need to ask Günter. (smiles) He had to come back after a pretty serious injury and fight hard to come back. But he visited me in Graz and told me to find a club for him here because he liked it so much. Anyways, he will make his own way and be successful.
What are your goals with Sturm?
Personally, I always want to become a better player and deliver a better performance. I am happy with the first half of the season, but am aware of many things that I need to improve.
The team has played a pretty good campaign overall, but we were absolutely not happy some of the later games. Now it is essential to play well and win in Ried. If that happens, we can be satisfied with what has been achieved.
Our goal is still the same: We want to play in a European competition next year. This is definitely realistic and we know that we have the quality to beat absolutely every team in the league. And we want to look back to each of the next three, four or five seasons and be very happy with what has been achieved.
But now we have to focus on the next game to stay in the competition with Salzburg and Altach.
We have what it takes to achieve everything in this season. – James Jeggo
What’s your bet for Sturm’s ranking in the table at the end of the season?
That is so tough to say. As I said, we have what it takes to achieve everything in this season.
Is it realistic to say Sturm will be champions?
Yes. But I don’t want to say that we want to be champions by any means. Before the season, everyone agreed that we can possibly qualify for a European competition. After winning against Salzburg twice and Austria, we have realized what could be possible this year.
What does James Jeggo do in his spare time?
I spend quite some time with my girlfriend in the city or shopping. So far, we have also spent quite some time with Uros and his family. And of course, we frequently meet other teammates for lunch or dinner. Altogether we are super happy here, it is perfect.
Are you familiar with the name „Roman Mählich“?
I know that he played here when Sturm was in the Champions League. He ran a lot and fought a lot. I can’t really say more about him because I haven’t seen those games. But I definitely believe that he was a great player.
And yes, I absolutely also want to play with Sturm in the Champions League. (smiles)
Thanks so much for the interview!
Not a problem, mate! It was my pleasure!
This interview was conducted by Karl Szibrowski and Mario Singer.