Hannover 96 saw light at the end of a very disappointing 2015-16 season when Daniel Stendel took the reins with just a handful of matches left. The former youth team coach has propelled a team from relegation to the side sitting pretty in second place, with one of the most competitive squads in 2. Bundesliga.
One of the backbones of the team has been Philipp Tschauner, and the goalkeeper has been in fine form since taking over the number one shirt from Ron-Robert Zieler. Big shoes to fill without a doubt, and the Schwabach-born stopper spoke to VAVEL about the promotion race that has a long list of sides battling for a Bundesliga spot.
"The performance of the team was more than okay," said the 31-year-old on die Roten's start to the season. Hannover are just two points behind Lower Saxon rivals, Eintracht Braunschweig after the Hinrunde and are perfectly placed to continue their good form when the league returns from the Winter Break.
Tschauner has played in all but two games this season, both were missed due to injury, and feels his side are worthy of where they currently sit: "We started well in the league and had only a small period of difficulty after two defeats in a row. After that we got even stronger and sit deservedly in a promotion place."
In terms of who Tschauner believes can keep pace with the top three, it's a case of an open field: "I think that it will be an exciting fight for promotion and will be until the end. All the teams that are currently in the running will also be there come the end."
With just nine points separating the entire top half of the table, the custodian is taking nothing for granted and least not those teams just behind them: "Therefore comes the teams like Heidenheim and Union Berlin. But Würzburg should not yet be written off either."
Many believe 2. Bundesliga is among the strongest second divisions in the world, and that is a thought that Tschauner - who has most of his playing experience in the league -echoes: "The German second division sits in the top three strongest second tiers in the world. Spain and England are also on the same level."
Competition and the battles ahead
Much has been made of the battle to earn a starting berth in Hannover's side during the Hinrunde, which has largely stayed intact after relegation. Tschauner is adamant of the importance competitiveness plays in a squad: "A high level of competition for places in a team is always hugely important in order to achieve your goals."
He explained that it keeps everyone on their toes, all the time: "It is a daily motivation to defend your place in the team and stay in the starting eleven at the weekend."
In terms of going forward, Tschauner's aim in 2. Bundesliga is very simple: "I hope we, as a team, play as strong a half as we did in the Hinrunde and also earn more points. By doing that we will achieve our goal of automatic promotion back to the Bundesliga."
Hannover also have a cup tie against Eintracht Frankfurt to look forward to in the coming weeks. The HDI-Arena will be rocking in early February, and the veteran stopper is also looking forward to the clash: "A Pokal game against a Bundesliga team is always something special. With some luck we can perhaps spring a small surprise."
For Hannover, there is a crucial period towards the end of the season that could be make or break. As it sits now, Stendel's side will face eight of the top nine in eight weeks. But for Tschauner, it's all about taking it in their stride: "Until April the make-up of the table can still change, until then there is still two, three months."
He continued, "It's true that in April it could be a decisive month for the fight to be promoted. Naturally is essential that we keep direct competition at a distance with wins."
That may be what the neutrals are looking forward to, as the best teams in the league do battle, yet it couldn't be further from Tschauner's mind: "But April is not important at the moment. Now, we must be at it with the first game against Kaiserslautern."