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Historic mission for ex-Ried coach Heraf

Historic mission for ex-Ried coach Heraf
Andreas Heraf sets the direction at Lustenau
Image: GEPA pictures/Oliver Lerch (GEPA pictures)

Never before has a team been able to avoid relegation from the Austrian Bundesliga after a winless autumn. Andreas Heraf has set out to achieve something historic with Austria Lustenau and lead the bottom team to stay in the league in the 15 remaining games. The division of points after the games on March 10th makes things more promising compared to Neusiedl/See 1983, the SAK 1985 and Vorwärts Steyr 1995.

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No win, only three draws in 17 games, eight points behind WSG Tirol, the fewest goals scored (8), the most goals conceded (40) – the figures for the Lustenau autumn season are sobering. Heraf was still interested in the task, he moved from neighboring second division club SW Bregenz shortly before Christmas. He doesn’t see the situation as hopeless. “You can build on little based on the numbers, but based on positions and players. Many had very good seasons with safe relegation. They haven’t forgotten that, there is a foundation there,” explained the Viennese.

But it is difficult to get out of a negative spiral like in the fall. This should succeed with a new coach and some personnel changes. The mood at the start of the preparation was “not that bad”. “The players weren’t completely down, they’re motivated, they’re giving it their all from day one. The team knows we still have enough games to turn things around. There’s no reason not to believe in it, and that’s how they present themselves.” said Heraf.

Similar situation at Ried

The 56-year-old speaks from experience. The situation in Ried was similar, although not as miserable, when he took over the office in March 2021 and led the Innviertel team safely to relegation. “It’s not a guarantee that it will work again, but I know what’s important and I’ll pass that on to the team,” he emphasized. “I tried to focus the team on the fact that we have nothing left to lose. The boys smelled a fuse and wanted to show everyone,” said Heraf, who played with Matheus Lins, Leo Mikic, Luca Meisl, Paterson Chato and Nico Gorzel got new players he already knows.

Because there isn’t much time to get used to it in Lustenau this year. There are construction sites at the back and the front, and intensive work is being done on both. “Anyone who knows me knows that I attach great importance to defense, I can’t get used to conceding 40 goals. Stabilizing the defense, working well against the ball, that looked good in training and in the test matches. Much more difficult “It’s to score goals, that’s a much bigger step,” said Heraf.

The Lustenauers can get a lot of tailwind for this difficult undertaking right from their debut. The Vorarlbergers will be visiting the WSG on Sunday (2.30 p.m.) and could reduce the gap to five points with a win and catch up after the points are shared. “Everyone is eager for the first match, in this case against a direct opponent. But I hope that it’s not just the WSG that is playing against us to stay in the league, I would also like Altach and Blau-Weiß Linz to be included take the raffle,” said Heraf.

“We have to keep a calm head”

But he is also preparing before the trip to Innsbruck. “You can also lose. If we lose, it’s not all over yet. We have to keep a calm head. But of course I would like to win, a reduction in points in the first game would be cool.”

Sports coordinator Alexander Schneider shows the same mix of realistic assessment of the situation and hope for a happy ending as his coach. “We have had to tweak the squad a bit and hope that it bears fruit. We know that the situation is difficult, but by no means impossible or hopeless. We will leave the path we have had for the last three and a half years a little bit “Now we subordinate everything to staying in the league,” Schneider made clear. Schneider is convinced that Heraf has “a clear plan.”

And he already has successes in Vorarlberg. Lustenau was the former midfielder’s first stop as head coach of a professional club from May 2003 to June 2005. He recently led Bregenz from the fourth to the second division and, as a promoted team, to third place in the fall. The last twelve months were “a brutally beautiful time, 2023 was unbelievable. Now I have a new job and would be happy if things continued as successfully,” explained Heraf.

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