Football: Red, red Rosler remembers the City slickers

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The Independent Online
IT HAS been an ignominious year for Manchester City, and the final ignominy must surely be that Uwe Rosler, the club's former much-loved striker, is now playing for the Red Devils. The Red Devils of Kaiserslautern in Germany, that is.

While City's players negotiate new service station stops en route to the likes of Colchester and Bournemouth, it has been strictly business class for Rosler, as Kaiserslautern have manoeuvred their way into the European Cup quarter-finals. He is now looking forward to a trip to Bavaria and an all-German tie against Bayern Munich.

"I'm 30 years old now and you don't often get the chance to play in the Champions' League and to play for a team that can win something," Rosler said, explaining why he joined Kaiserslautern this summer. "That's why I decided to come back to Germany, because I still think I'm young and good enough to try and compete against the best."

Rosler, who was top scorer for three of the four seasons he was at City, has not lost the goalscoring habit. As the Bundesliga enters its winter break with Kaiserslautern lying third, Rosler has scored four league goals and two in the German Cup.

Most spectacularly, he grabbed a hat-trick after coming on as a first- half substitute in Kaiserslautern's final Champions' League group F match against HJK Helsinki. Rosler also could not resist the opportunity of working with Otto Rehhagel, Kaiserslautern's feisty 60-year-old coach.

"When I was playing for Magdeburg 10 years ago he tried to sign me when he was Werder Bremen's coach," Rosler said. "For some reason the deal didn't come off. Rehhagel knows how to handle people. He never criticises players in front of the media; it's always done behind closed doors.

"A lot of players look up to him like a dad because he has so much life experience. It's similar to what Alex Ferguson has done at Manchester United."

Rosler says his return to Germany has been eased by the fact that both his fellow Kaiserslautern strikers, Olaf Marschall and Jorgen Rische, also come from East Germany. Indeed Rosler played his first professional game alongside Marschall.

"We have a long history together. There's competition for places, but we're friends and that makes it easier when someone isn't starting or not playing for the whole 90 minutes," Rosler commented.

Kaiserslautern, like City, are a club that like to do things differently, albeit somewhat more successfully. Last season Rehhagel's team became the first promoted side to win the championship since the Bundesliga started in 1963. "I had a fantastic time at City and it was a hard decision to leave," Rosler said. "But when I joined Kaiserslautern I felt from the first minute that there was a different atmosphere in the club and a lot of positive thinking. I saw the way they'd prepare for games. The players are only thinking about winning. Before every game we go into a training camp. That's harder for the players' families but for football reasons it's really good because it give us a lot of time to talk about tactical things."

Rehhagel, according to Rosler, is a big fan of wingers, which immediately triggers a memory of the fun he had at City during his first two seasons. "At Kaiserslautern, Andreas Buck is on the right and Martin Wagner on the left and they just run up and down the line and cross balls," Rosler said.

"That's great for a striker. Kaiserslautern are the only team in Germany that play this way. It's like playing for City when Peter Beagrie was playing on the left and Nicky Summerbee was on the right."