When Bayern Munich play their second home game of the Bundesliga season today in the 69,900-capacity Allianz Arena, facing them in the Hamburg team will be a young Englishman who has taken one of the more unusual career paths in football.
Michael Mancienne, 23, who joined the Chelsea academy system at nine, has followed in the footsteps of such English luminaries as Kevin Keegan, Tony Woodcock and Owen Hargreaves by going to play in the top-flight of German football. Against Bayern today, the HSV team will be distinct underdogs – they have one point from their first two games – but already Mancienne is loving his new life.
"There are not a lot of English players out here but I saw it as an opportunity to come here and play in this league," he told The Independent yesterday. "At the moment I am really enjoying life here. It's a massive game against Bayern and I'm really looking forward to it. To be honest, I have settled in really well. Everyone has welcomed me, the fans and the players. They are a good bunch of players and it has helped that I have some familiar names coming with me."
Those who have come with him read like a who's who of Chelsea old boys. Frank Arnesen, the former Chelsea head of youth development, and then latterly the club's sporting director, took over at Hamburg in the summer after six years under Roman Abramovich. As well as Mancienne, a £1.8m signing, he brought with him from Chelsea the chief scout Lee Congerton and former academy players Jeffrey Bruma (on loan), Gökhan Töre and Jacopo Sala.
Mancienne captained England Under-21s in the European championships this summer but his chances at Chelsea were few and far between. He had three loan spells at Wolves, as well as two at QPR, before he decided finally to cut his ties with Chelsea. His parents are from the Seychelles originally, although Mancienne grew up in Hounslow, and he can speak the Creole of his parents' home islands.
Luckily in Hamburg, everyone, he said, can speak English. "I have already had three German lessons and I am determined to learn. It is difficult starting fresh with a language but I see it as an important thing to do so I can communicate with the fans and understand better what the coach [Michael Oenning] is talking about."
His commitment to making it in Germany is not in doubt given that he has signed a four-year contract and he has noticed a few differences already, the key one being that the training ground is open to fans. "They are here every single day, training is open and anyone can come in to watch," he said. "You wouldn't get fans watching training at Chelsea, or Wolves for that matter."
Mancienne has seen a difference in the style of play too. "It is really technical over here. It is not so direct. A lot of teams build up from the back. When you're playing against Stoke, for example, in the Premier League, you expect it to be more direct.
"It is a big city and a beautiful city, there are similarities with London as well," he added. "The people are nice and most of them speak English. No, I've not had any nights out on the Reeperbahn yet but I'm looking forward to getting my own place. It was an offer I couldn't refuse [from Arnesen] and I'm very happy to be here."
LA Liga kick-off halted
Players in Spain's top two divisions will strike on today's scheduled first day of the season after negotiations with clubs on wage guarantees collapsed. The Association of Spanish Footballers is demanding players be allowed to break contracts if they are not paid for three consecutive months. 'Our positions are very far apart,' said Spanish Football League chairman Jose Luis Astiazaran. 'We are concentrating now on saving the second day.' Players are said to be owed £43m in unpaid salaries.Reuse content