Exclusive Interview: Paul Scharner

James Rowe for The Secret Footballer

JR ''Hi Paul, it's really good of you to talk to me today at TSF, we have a lot of fans that are looking forward to this one!  Where did it all start for you?

PS ''That's nice to hear.  Yes, it all started back in 1996 with my former club VSE St. Pölten because they released me, but then I was invited to the Austrian national team setup at under 15 level and my next step after that was to FK Austria Wien.  It was a massive move because it was the first team I joined where I moved away from home and left all the people I love. However, it was great character building and I was very focused on becoming a professional footballer, that is why I took the decision to make the next step in my career.  

It was also very unusual at the time for a young player to come through the youth setup at the club because we had a Canadian investor by the name of Frank Stronach, he spent a lot of money buying international players so it was particularly difficult to get into the first team and make a career at FK Austria Wien.  But I did it.  We won the Austrian League and the Austrian Cup in 2003.  It was a great achievement to do the double but from then on I knew my next step would be to play professional football in a different country.''

JR  ''Glad you brought that up.  In the U.K we know you best for your two spells with Wigan Athletic FC.  In its own way, the success that Wigan enjoyed is almost as incredible as Leicester City winning the Premier League.

PS  ''Well it was always a dream of mine to play in the Premier League.  I went to SK Brann in Norway first and then made the next step from there to the Premier League.  In 2006 I made my debut for Wigan Athletic FC in League Cup semi- final first leg against Arsenal FC and I scored the winning goal in that game... I mean.. What more can you ask for?  I came on in the 33rd minute and scored in the 77th minute.  In the second leg at Highbury we scored a decisive away goal in the 119th minute of extra time to reach the 2006 League Cup Final.  Unfortunately we lost against an excellent Manchester United team but we had shown that we could compete. 

I had a great following four and a half years at the club and we were very successful.  In 2013 we won the FA Cup Final against Manchester City.  Nobody expected us to win that game, it was just a shame that we were relegated in the same year.  But overall it was a massive time for me, Wigan Athletic are one of my beloved former clubs and I always love to talk about Wigan Athletic FC and the people there.''

JR  ''You were also capped 40 times for Austria, but do I sense that you remain a little unfulfilled at international level?''

PS  ''First and foremost I have to say that I was always proud to play for my country, Austria. But to be honest when I look back it was not as successful as I would have hoped it would be. There are lots of different circumstances and reasons but all in all I made 40 appearances for Austria, however, I did not score a single goal and that is such a shame to be honest because I scored many goals at club level, I just couldn't score in international football.  I guess that happens sometimes.  I am not satisfied with what came out of my time playing for the Austrian national team if I am honest.  I could have achieved an awful lot more.''

JR  ''I hear you.  That said, you played with some talented players in your career."

PS '' Yes, sure.  Antonio Valencia was a real handful on the right wing and he went on to play for Manchester United later in his career and did brilliantly.  Emile Heskey was a brilliant professional in all honesty and Emerson Boyce, he is Mr Wigan Athletic FC!  Jimmy Bullard was a great talent and he was very unlucky, not only with his injuries but also in the decision that he made to sign for Fulham FC.  But he was a very talented player and I personally believe that the decision Jimmy made to move to Fulham FC was the wrong one.  Maybe it was not the right time to move to that club and maybe that was why he was overlooked at international level.  He had more ability in my opinion and could have played for a bigger club that Fulham FC in my opinion.''

JR ''You hit the Premier League at a time when a couple of demigods were plying their trade, who stands out?''

PS  ''Thierry Henry.  He was the biggest opponent I ever played against.  He was an absolute handful and I still remember the last game at Highbury Stadium before Arsenal FC moved to the Emirates Stadium... it was rumoured to be his final game for the club and there was a big party in the stadium.  Thierry scored a hattrick and we lost 4-2.  He was amazing that day.''

JR  ''Paul, it's been great to chat with you today, the weather outside is glorious so let me wrap it up by asking which managers played a key role in your football development.

PS  ''Sure.  First and foremost I was fortunate to play under very different managers whether that be Steve Bruce, Roberto Martinez or Paul Jewell, and other managers that I played under in Europe. 

But I had three very important managers in my career.  The first one was Christoph Daum at FK Austria Wien.  He was a German coach and under him we won the Austrian Championship in 2003, he gave me the chance to establish myself in professional football and in my first season alone I played over 30 matches.  The second manager was Mons Ivar Mjelde at SK Brann in Norway.  He totally supported me and was instrumental in my goal to sign for a Premier League team.  He did everything for me when I played for SK Brann, he helped me develop as much as possible in order to make the move as easy as possible.  And the third one I would say would be Roberto Martinez because he brought me back to Wigan Athletic FC to win the FA Cup.''


James Rowe is a Dutch Football expert based in the Netherlands, professional writer and translator for The Secret Footballer. He has featured on talkSPORT and regularly features on talkSPORT 2 and Love Sport Radio. You can follow him on Twitter here.