The 18 U23 players − along with the coaching and support staff, plus three players from the U19 squad − were based at Hotel Felsenland, a complex overlooked by the reddish-brown cliffs of the picturesque municipality of Dahn, for the entirety of last week. Head coach Marco Wildersinn and his charges were welcomed on arrival by a large banner that the hotel had had specially made for their visitors from Kraichgau.
Hotel boss Alois Ruppert and his team cared for their guests' every need. "Mr. Ruppert and his staff really went the extra mile for us and we have encountered top conditions here," said Wildersinn as he lauded the accommodation in the town of 4,500 people situated between Karlsruhe and Pirmasens.
Even on the day of their arrival, the 37-year-old tactician put his new-look team through their paces on the training ground, which had been transformed from a standard school sports field into an exemplary training pitch especially for the "Hoffe zwo" lads. Two high-intensity sessions were organised on the second day, with Wildersinn preferring to have the players training for slightly longer in the mornings and then working on the finer details in the afternoons.
Alongside the team training sessions on the pitch, periods of time were set aside now and then for the players to engage in individual activities such as strength training and swimming. On Thursday afternoon, the TSG contingent piled into their minibuses and set off for Kandel, where they scaled new heights at a climbing park. "It was a cool distraction and definitely a successful excursion," commented Wildersinn.
Satisfied with the new arrivals and the youngsters
The U23 boss was equally content with the training sessions: "The lads pitched in brilliantly and really threw themselves into it. It was really good fun working with them," said Wildersinn, who observed the team spirit grow as the week progressed. "You can see that the lads get on well. They're still very much in the process of getting to know each other, but things are working well already."
The three U19 players that travelled with the squad to Dahn were Benjamin Wallquist, Luis Görlich and Samuel Lengle. "They went about their business very well," said Wildersinn. Alongside the players who remained from last season and those promoted from the U19s, there were four new signings at the training camp. The 18-year-old Rui-Jorge Monteiro-Mendes has made the leap from A-Youth football, signing for the club from Arminia Bielefeld, while Filip Rettig, Philipp Strompf and Thomas Gösweiner already have one or two years of senior football under their belts. "You can see that they are more established players and that they have the potential to become very important for us," said Wildersinn, who is happy the new signings have boosted the size of his squad. "It's good that we've now increased the squad size and that there's competition for places in every position."
One player expected to take on a more prominent role this season is Robin Szarka, who featured in all 36 league matches last term and has been named as the new U23 captain following the departure of Marco Engelhardt, who previously wore the armband. Joining new captain Szarka on the Team Council are Johannes Bender and the two new signings Strompf and Gösweiner.