Joost van Aken on choosing Germany, 'direct' Birmingham and starting again at Sheffield Wednesday
Rejuvenated Sheffield Wednesday centre-half Joost van Aken offered a brutally honest assessment of his Owls career so far while looking ahead to the stern test of ‘direct’ Birmingham City this afternoon.
The Dutchman is enjoying a renaissance in the Wednesday back three this season after he was sent out on loan to German second tier side Osnabrück last time out having suffered with form and injuries.
Speaking this week van Aken, who is a shoo-in to start his fifth consecutive league match for the Owls amid something of a defensive injury crisis at the club, revealed he had an opportunity to return to Holland on loan but chose Germany due to the fact it was closer in style to that in England.
Not once, he said, did he ever begin to give up on his dream of making a success of his time at Hillsborough despite an ongoing learning curve with the vast differences in football culture, particularly defending.
“It’s a fresh start for me,” he said. “I’ve been away for a season. I have to show myself, I know I have to do that but it was important for me to have a new, fresh start.
“Some of the things I see in training here I had never seen in Holland. Germany was good for me because they think more the same in England about defenders. I had a choice to go back to Holland last year on loan, but I chose to go to Germany because I always wanted to succeed at Sheffield Wednesday.
“I felt that to go to Germany was better than Holland. If I’d gone to Holland I’d have come back in the same situation.”
van Aken first spoke to Garry Monk at the end of the German season and was assured he was start on a completely equal footing to his teammates. It was all he had to hear.
“That for me was the most important thing,” he said. “The conversation wasn’t really long, once he said I’d get a fair chance I went in with a positive feeling.
“I’ve had some difficult experiences over here and I’ve seen foreigners, other centre-backs who needed time to adapt to the league. I need that time as well and it didn’t help me that I got the ankle injuries. If that hadn’t happened I don’t think I would be in this position, but that’s football sometimes.
“When I came back for pre-season I had a full season of experience in the second Bundesliga as well. That helped me to get my confidence back, sometimes with these injuries you doubt yourself.
“I needed that time to get some things right, for me it was very positive.”
The Owls defence will once again be tested by a physical style of play by a robust Birmingham side unbeaten in their four games this season.
van Aken, you suspect, is up for the challenge. “We know the way they play,” he said. “They like to play more direct, that sort of Cardiff style.
“That’s the thing we’ve worked on this week in training because we know what to expect, but from the other side we know how we can hurt them and we’ve worked on that as well.
“Of course that is something we keep to ourselves for the moment.”