Erik Meijer revealed to uefa.com that he is hoping to go out with a bang at TSV Alemannia Aachen.
By John Joseph
TSV Alemannia Aachen's 1-0 victory over LOSC Lille Métropole proved the shock of the opening UEFA Cup group games, but club captain Erik Meijer believes the German second division side can cause an even greater upset by reaching the knockout stages.
Dutchman Meijer, who headed the only goal against Group H rivals Lille, told uefa.com: "By my calculation if you get six points then you have a good chance of reaching the next round. That means we have to win one more game at home, and we always do well at home."
Having moved to Aachen just over a year ago, the 35-year-old striker helped the club reach the German Cup final last season, with wins against FC Bayern München, VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach and TSV 1860 München, and is now spearheading their remarkable UEFA Cup campaign.
Aachen's cup exploits have raised their profile both at home and abroad, as well as helping boost the club's finances. "Our cup successes have been a big boost to the club," said Meijer. "Two years ago the club had some financial problems, but with these live European games, the club is getting some money.
"In the town everything seems to be yellow and black and with the children having a break from school there have been hundreds of them coming to the training ground to get autographs. It's a fantastic feeling and it's given everyone a boost."
Meijer attributes the club's run to the players' hunger and bigger clubs underestimating them. Aachen sporting director Jörg Schmadtke has assembled a team that mixes veterans like Meijer and youngsters like Simon Rolfes, who had been at Bremen, and Sergio Pinto, who has come on loan from FC Schalke 04.
'Nothing to lose'
"The players are very hungry to win something and we go into each game thinking we have absolutely nothing to lose," said Meijer. "
Nobody knows us in Europe and they don't know how good we are. I think the big teams we have beaten were expecting easy victories."
Aachen changed coaches in the summer with Dieter Hecking taking over from Jörg Berger. And Meijer believes the 40-year-old Hecking's youthful enthusiasm has been key to their success. "He thinks in a very positive way," said Meijer. "He wants us to play attacking football, 4-3-3, with an attacking midfielder as well.
"If a player is injured during training then Hecking will want to join in," he added. "I really like that about him, not all managers would do that. He gives everyone confidence and keeps the training very fresh. It's never boring and you never know what to expect."
Meijer's one concern is that the relatively small size of Aachen's squad - just 22 players, including two goalkeepers - may derail their ambition to reach the UEFA Cup knockout stages and win promotion to the Bundesliga. But for now the veteran striker, who has played for nine other clubs including Liverpool FC, Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Hamburger SV, is relishing Aachen's success.
"It's the perfect end for me," he said. "It's hard to believe I'm playing European football at my age. If we win promotion I would play with one leg just to have the chance to compete in the Bundesliga again. As long as the engine is still running I want to keep playing."