Herbert Ilsanker on emotions, companions and farewells

"I don't mind shedding a few tears"

It has been a quiet few days in our Taxham training centre with the summer break starting recently. The groundsman's lawnmower is the only background noise while Herbert Ilsanker clears out his desk after 19 years as a goalkeeping coach

It's not as sad as a scene as you might expect, as the 57-year-old goalkeeping scout is moving to an office in the stadium, making it not a farewell but just a change he is looking forward to. Nonetheless, there is emotion in the Salzburg man's eyes as Taxham has been a second home for him.

We met up with Herbert on his birthday today to talk about his time among our coaching team before he moves to his new behind-the-scenes role at our club in July.

Interview with Herbert Ilsanker

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How was your big farewell at the Red Bull Arena?

It was very emotional. To be able to take charge of the warm-up for the goalkeepers for one last time was really special. When everyone stood up to applaud, I could truly feel what we have achieved over the past 19 years. The day before there was a farewell among our smaller circle. The team and the staff thought of a small present and the tears were already flowing. I had to watch out that they didn't come back as it really moved me, and you can't just put 19 years behind you at the flick of a switch. I don't mind crying though, as I am a person with feelings, after all.

You spent a lot of time with the fans after the match. How was that for you?

That I went to the fans after the match is nothing unusual. Then came all the 'Get Ilse on the Podium' chants. It was great to be able to thank them in this way. The stadium was full before kick-off and a lot of people stayed well after the final whistle. It was fantastic that I was able to say such a nice farewell to everyone - even though I'm not actually going away. I will still see most people, just in a different role.

I made my decision a year ago, and it was definitely the right one.

You have left the warm-ups to your colleague Sebastian Baumgartner recently as it has caused knee and foot pains for you. That must make you look forward to the change of roles?

Yes, it's 100 percent sensible. I don't think I could have made it through another season. My boy, Stefan, told me I should give it up before I limp around the pitch and it gets too embarrassing - and he was quite right! I made my decision a year ago, and it was definitely the right one.


Goalkeeping has changed a lot in the 19 years you have been here. How was this time for you as a coach?

It has definitely become much more complicated. It was good that Sebastian and I were sharing the goalie training role as you have a lot more options in doing exercises and you can get them more based on reality. The shots aren't just coming from one side in a match, after all. As a goalkeeper you have to be able to make quick decisions as shots are so unpredictable, and we have tried to work harder on that.

How far is our club identity reflected in our goalkeepers? 

The big difference between us and many other teams is that our goalkeepers have to be more intensively involved and have a lot to do in the area. If we lose the ball in the opposing half, our defenders attack it, and the goalkeeper has to be positioned high and control the box. For other teams, a goalkeeper can drop back after they lose the ball and concentrate on defending the goal. For us they have to be wide awake at all times, like an outfield player!

I didn't want to miss a single day or a single training session here. 

You have worked with a lot of goalies and coaches - which relationship has been the most influential?

I have been asked a lot recently about the best goalies, the best coaches, best XI and everything else. I would not want to pick out any individual player though. Everyone has their own characteristics, their own strengths and everything. It is very hard to say who has been good and who has been better, and I don't like doing that. I have experienced some superb goalkeepers right throughout my time. I have worked together with lots of amazing guys and always had a good time. I didn't want to miss a single day or a single training session here, we are like a family.

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As a goalkeeper coach, your work with the goalies is a special one. Do you stay in contact with the goalkeepers when they leave us for the big wide world of football?

Yeah, a lot. Just a week or two ago I wrote a bit with Philipp [Köhn] and have been in touch just now with Pete [Peter Gulacsi]. I have been in closer contact with Eddie Gustafsson, as he is in the academy, along with Heinz Arzberger. I have actually kept in contact with most of them, and that pleases me as it shows that I haven't done too much wrong as a person.

Does it make you proud to see your former proteges in action?

Absolutely! Most people only think about Peter Gulacsi and our other first-choice goalkeepers, but there have been a lot of goalies in our ranks who nobody had the same kind of hopes of but have made very decent careers - such as Patrick Pentz, Carlos Coronel, Domenik Schierl, Thomas Dähne and Fabian Bredlow, for instance. You follow what they do, of course, even if it has become quite a job to keep up to date.

How hard is it with goalies to develop young talents?

We are in a special situation in that regard too at FC Red Bull Salzburg. Our club is measured by its success, and we are expected to be right at the top. For a young side like ours, an experienced goalkeeper can really help. Throwing a youngster into the deep end always comes with an element of risk, and if they make a mistake they will get more attention from the media and fans because of all the scrutiny on them. We saw that a few years ago with Cican [Stankovic]. Although it isn't easy, it's the aim to have a young talent in goal in the future.

How much will all your experience help in your new role and what will you look out for, in particular, as a goalie scout?

If I am watching a match – for pleasure or for work - I am only focusing on the goalkeepers. There are a lot of scouts that automatically look at the whole picture. If someone asks me after the match what I thought of the full-back, I wouldn't be able to give them an answer. I am looking at the goalkeeper at one end and the goalkeeper at the other, and that's it. Along with their technical ability, it's important how keepers get on with their team-mates and how they respond after conceding.

I'll still be in the stadium cheering on the boys.

Will we still see you at the Red Bull Arena despite you changing roles? What do you think of our season ahead?

I am very optimistic! I am sure that we will be much more composed and solid in the new season. We saw in the last few matches just what the boys are capable of. It's down to the new coach, of course, and I don't know how many changes will be made to the squad. If players leave, we will also have quality players coming in, I have no doubt of that. I am 100% sure that we'll win it again. I'll still be in the stadium cheering on the boys, of course!