Former Chelsea duo Seb Kneissl and Nick Hamann spoke exclusively to Hannah Duncan about moving from their German homeland as teenagers to join the Blues.
How did your move to Chelsea come about?
SK: One of the Chelsea scouts watched me play for the Under 16 German national team. After the game they invited me to come over for a week to have a look at the club and train with them.
NH: It was the same for me, being approached by Chelsea after a German Under 16 tournament. I had lots of offers from Bundesliga clubs like Cologne, Stuttgart, Bochum and Dortmund, so I was going to move away from home anyway. After the trial, Chelsea offered me a contract and I signed a couple of weeks after that.
How easily did you settle in at Chelsea?
SK: Of course, it is hard to move to another country at that young age but the I adapted really well. I didn´t know anybody at the club although Robert Huth moved to London just 6 weeks later. It was good to have someone you can speak to in your own language.
NH: I settled really easily in England as all the people at Chelsea looked after me really well and they put me in a great digs. I already knew Robert Huth before I joined Chelsea so that made it even easier to settle in.
How did Chelsea as a club help with the transition?
SK: I used to live in digs.The family was great although a bit mental at times! As you are around the training ground most of the time you only have contact to the "Chelsea lot" and noone else. Frank Steer (Frank the tank) was always there for me when I had a couple of questions - so was Gary Staker.
NH: Chelsea sorted everything before I came over so I had only the football to worry about. I cannot name one player or staff member who didn’t make me feel welcome. Especially John Terry looked after us young guys really well. And obviously Robert Huth and Sebastian Kneissl were the 2 players I socialised with the most as they are German.
Did you have an opportunity to continue your education?
SK: I finished my education in Germany so I just wanted to concentrate on football.
NH: As I was pretty young when I moved away from home I wasn’t finished with school so Chelsea put me into the German school in Richmond for one year.
How often did you see your family and friends and what did they think of the move?
SK: My parents came to London quite often. When we had a weekend off training, I was on my way to see my friends and relatives in Germany of course. But it wasnt that often. I visited Germany maybe 3 times a year.
NH: My family came to see me once every 6 weeks. Chelsea paid for everything like flight and hotel. It was obviously very hard for my family because I’m an only child but at the same time they were really happy for me as I made my dream come true.
What was the hardest part of coming to England?
SK: THE FOOD! Having to stand on your own feet was hard for me at the beginning. Not having your family around you when you needed someone was quite hard too.
NH: Being away from my mates was the hardest part. But as a whole I fell in love with England.
Looking back on your experiences, what advice would you give to any young players coming over now?
SK: If it feels right, go for it. Don’t worry what anybody else thinks about it. If you have any doubts, dont do it - you will not get to your target.
NH: I would say to players who come over now that it’s just such a big opportunity for them, especially at big clubs like Chelsea where they get everything done for them. They’ve got to realise that this isn’t the real world of football. The problem is that most players realise it too late when they leave that big club and have got play for lower league teams. You can’t expect to get straight into a Premier League or Championship team even if you come from one of the biggest clubs. I think that this is the biggest challenge to overcome.