Motspur Park is usually the place where player interviews are conducted, but today was an exception. With the players due to have their annual team photo on the lush turf at Craven Cottage, training was moved to Fulham’s spiritual home.
André Schürrle is aware of his duties and, after filing into the changing rooms following a strenuous session, he reappears in the home strip. With a limited amount of time before the team take their places in front of the Riverside Stand for this season’s snap, we have to make do with a somewhat cramped side room just out of view of the pitch.
For someone who has a wealth of Champions League and international experience under his belt, the 27-year-old seems incredibly grateful to have been granted a return to SW6 and enthusiastically recalls his feelings on hearing that the move back to England had been completed.
“I was really happy because I wanted to come back to England and I spoke to Fulham for quite a while at the start of the summer,” he tells the programme. “Once you know a transfer is complete, it’s a relief, because you wanted it and I’m really happy that it got through.”
Inevitably, the Whites were not the only side vying for his services.
“The thing that really impressed me the most was that Fulham were there at the beginning of the transfer window. When I gave my agent a call to say that I wanted to move, they were one of the first teams that were persistent and gave me the feeling that they really wanted me.
“I made myself a picture of the club, the team and the manager. I watched the Play-Off games to give myself an idea of what I was dealing with and what kind of style the team played. I like to keep hold of the ball, so it was the team for me.”
Of course, most players moving abroad have some adjusting to do, but Schürrle’s time at Chelsea meant the process slightly easier.
“It was not so difficult for me this time because I know south-west London quite well and I knew where I wanted to live, but of course the first few weeks until you have a house and everything is settled is always difficult. Living in a hotel without a fridge, a dining table or anything is not easy.”
Away from football, he enjoys his life in the capital.
“I just like the people,” he says. “I like to go out with my girlfriend and my family. I like to visit coffee shops on Kings Road, I like Fulham Broadway a lot and I like this area, Parsons Green, because it’s a family area, a lot of nice people, a lot of coffee shops where you can just relax and look a little bit at people. I also like going to South Park and playing some basketball. The Fulham area is perfect.”
It is always difficult to set targets both individually and collectively when moving into a new division and the man on loan from Borussia Dortmund is reluctant to expect massive things from the squad after four years out of the top flight.
“We have quality, but as a promoted team, you can’t always aim for a top-half position in the table,” he admits. “First of all, we have to stay in the league – that’s the main objective. Then, when we achieve this, we can go further. We have to keep looking from game to game. We have to get points in all the games at home and after this, I’m sure we can go a little bit further, but the first objective must be to settle into the league.”
As for trying to predict how many he would score during the campaign, Schürrle is emphatic in his response.
“No, I never do this. I don’t set a goals target for the season because you always have to look from game to game. If you have your goals target, you want to score ten goals, you have nine and then you try to shoot, shoot, shoot. I don’t like this. I want to keep it simple, keep it natural and if the goals come, it’s good. If not, I hope we still win.”
The 2014 World Cup winner opened his account for his new side in front of the Hammersmith End against Burnley, capitalising after Aleksandar Mitrović’s fierce drive had beaten Joe Hart and thundered off the base of the post.
A smile breaks across his face when he discusses playing on the banks of the Thames. After all, he scored a hat-trick here for the Blues. It is nicer to see him scoring in black and white though.
“The ground is so special because it’s so traditional,” he gushes. “It feels like so many people have already played in this stadium because it hasn’t changed that much. I saw pictures from 60, 70 years ago when it was almost the same. It’s incredible. My family have been sitting in the Cottage [for the Crystal Palace and Burnley games]. This feeling that everybody’s so close makes it feel very special.”
Schürrle’s second goal for the Club against Brighton & Hove Albion came following a wonderful scooped through-ball from Jean Michaël Seri. The German has played with many technically gifted midfielders in his time, but certainly feels the Ivorian is one of the best.
“For sure, he’s up there. His quality on the ball is amazing, he is a good passer and has a good sense of his team-mates. He’s a brilliant guy and I hope he will help us a lot this season.”
The Fulham faithful have already become accustomed to seeing the forward shoot from range and he has already had 15 shots, with eight of them hitting the target. Down the years, fans have got used to seeing players who are reluctant to pull the trigger. Why has he adopted this approach?
“I need shots that feel good on the pitch. I don’t need to do a lot of dribbling or passing. I like to be where I can score a goal. I like to be outside the box, inside the box. I have really settled well into the team because I have found my position. Obviously I have had quite a few shots during the season and I hope to translate them into goals.”
Schürrle is more used to being stationed on the left flank during his career, but has quickly got used to playing on the opposite wing due to the performances of Luciano Vietto. However, his versatility has stood him in good stead.
“The teams I have played in are very flexible. You can start on the left and change to the right. You look for your position. Because the game is so fast, you always have to find where you can be better. It may be good to spend 20 minutes on the left, but then they change a little bit and adapt to this and it’s better to switch to the right. So I can play both. I can also play in the middle as a second striker; it’s one of my best positions. I look forward to keep playing like this.”
The trip to Manchester City last weekend was a stark reminder of how devastating the Premier League champions can be and the scoreline could have been an awful lot worse for Jokanovic’s men.
“They are one of the best teams in the world and you could see it at the weekend. In the end, we didn’t have too many chances there, because when they get an early goal at the Etihad, they will just play, play, play and try to find the spaces. They are a very good team and they will do well this season. We have to keep focusing on the games where we can really do damage and try to keep going.”
This afternoon’s match could potentially pit Schürrle against former Chelsea teammate Nathaniel Chalobah.
The pair never appeared alongside each other, but the ability the midfielder possessed was clear to see and his reputation travelled beyond England.
Schürrle has been keeping an eye on his career.
“When I went to Wolfsburg and Dortmund, the managers asked me about him because he was quite big at Chelsea in the youth team and was a promising kid, so I have followed him.
“He’s a good guy, a great player and I hope he can do well, but not on the weekend,” he chuckles.
For many footballers, a loan move is a means to an end – returning to the international fold. Schürrle though has not allowed himself to think about the possibility of a recall from Joachim Low.
“It’s not in my sight. I’ve played a lot of games for Germany and scored a lot of goals. I was part of the golden generation, but it’s not my goal to get in there as quickly as possible,” he insists.
“I want to play well for Fulham, that’s my main target. My main goal is to help the team play good football and the rest, we will see.”