Volz is wasting no time as Klinsmann gives youth its head

Fulham full-back benefits from German's regard for the Premiership. Jason Burt talks to him
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The Independent Football

One reason why Fulham's Moritz Volz likes being a footballer in London is the anonymity. After all, the metropolis is 80 times bigger than Siegen, his home town in northern Germany. The size means he rides the train to training every day, just like any other commuter.

One reason why Fulham's Moritz Volz likes being a footballer in London is the anonymity. After all, the metropolis is 80 times bigger than Siegen, his home town in northern Germany. The size means he rides the train to training every day, just like any other commuter.

Not many people in his position would, through choice, submit themselves to the vagaries of South West Trains. But Volz enjoys it. Driving, he says, is "a waste of time". And that's something he hates to do. Not 22 until this week, the right-back has established himself in the Premiership and earned an international call-up. The World Cup is a goal.

"I'm in contention, but there are a lot of other players," Volz says as he sits in Fulham's training ground at Motspur Park, south-west London. "To play I will have to fight off 35 to 40 others and, especially in my position, there are a lot of young players doing well who already have caps. I certainly wouldn't expect to be picked right now, but I've a year and a half to work on it and it's my target."

Indeed, a year and a half ago his target was simply first-team football. After a successful loan spell at Wimbledon, Volz returned to Arsenal, whom he had joined aged 16, only to be told, in pre-season, by Arsène Wenger "that I was not good enough, yet". It didn't hurt. "Not when you have world-class players in front of you," Volz explains of the competition at Highbury. "I didn't have Mickey Mouse to get out of the team, it was an international right-back who had been playing for 10 years at the top level here and in Spain."

That right-back was, of course, Lauren, who, by coincidence, was in the Cameroon team for that friendly in Leipzig for which Volz was included.

It was an earlier appearance for his country, captaining the Under-15s, that had attracted Arsenal's scouts. "I was interested and honoured but had to really think about it," says Volz, who was on the books of Schalke 04. "I had never really thought about playing abroad. It was a big decision but it was too good an opportunity to miss." He "wasn't scared". "I had to look at what was best for my development," Volz says, "and I haven't looked back since."

Nevertheless, it wasn't easy. "I was 16. I was on my own, but I stayed with an English family, with other players in the house, and that was good," he explains. "But for six months it was difficult." Volz could speak English but "I couldn't really understand conversations - especially with the irregular language at football clubs." In other words, the banter.

"I was nervous, not about going to Arsenal, but about going to training, having to prove myself," Volz says. "Training then wasn't something I looked forward to. I guess it was an insecurity, wondering what the other players think." He arrived with Jérémie Aliadière - still at Arsenal. There was, Volz admits, a suspicion of the foreigners. "Obviously there were a lot of players there and people naturally asked, 'Why do they get so many from abroad?' " he says. "So you have to earn their respect."

Volz did and, despite making just one first-team appearance, in the League Cup, he has nothing but praise. "Obviously I was disappointed that I couldn't make the team and on occasions that got me down, but I couldn't really expect it," Volz says. "I went there, especially at such a young age because it made me more open. I learnt that wherever you go people will take to you. It certainly helped my personality progress."

And his career. His loan spell at Wimbledon - "Fantastic. I was dying for first-team football" - paved the way to Fulham. "And that was the best thing that could happen to me," Volz says. He was asked to fill the void left by Steve Finnan, and has done so. "This club have everything, there's a great potential."

Volz already has a remarkable achievement to live up to, for no player won more tackles in the Premiership last season. "It's a statistic which means that all the other players know I like a tackle and I'm quite good at it," he says. "But it doesn't mean I'm the best. It takes much more than statistics, although I was very positive to get that, especially in my first season. But now it counts for nothing. It certainly hasn't helped me this season, because we are not where we were."

Fulham have struggled, which is all the more disappointing given their talent. "We are down there with six or seven others," Volz says. "I can tell you that is not a nice feeling even though you are always confident in the team. But it's not nice, especially when you go up against the teams around you and you need those three points and the pressure's on."

In games like today's, for example, at home to West Bromwich Albion. The confidence is slowly returning, however. "It's a massive factor in the game," Volz says. "The levels of how players play are tight together but the big difference is the confidence." The confidence, in Germany, ahead of the World Cup, is high. Thousands, Volz says, attend the training sessions. "The euphoria, even at this stage, is amazing," he claims. Until his call-up Volz had feared that the Premiership's lack of profile was a problem. "They don't really relish other leagues," he says. "In Germany they rely on the Bundesliga to satisfy their hunger for football."

It was the same when he was a boy. "We didn't get much English football. But I remember that Jürgen Klinsmann was at Tottenham." Klinsmann, of course, is now in charge of the national team and has given youth its head; Volz has followed Aston Villa's Thomas Hitzlsperger and Chelsea's Robert Huth. "Until then it was hard for those of us who played in England to get recognised," Volz says. "In my first year for Fulham I was playing week in, week out and people over here were saying, 'When are you going to get into the German team?' and I was saying, 'Well, I can't even get into the Under-21s'."

But he is happy where he is. "I love London," Volz says. "I've travelled a lot with football, and in my own time, and I've not seen one place I would enjoy living in more than London." And that even includes the public transport.

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