“I’m trying now to run my own company in supporting young players and give them the experience and give them the support to be a proper human, you know? Not a proper footballer but a proper human.” – Paul Scharner speaking to AllOutAttack.
Player. Leader. Philanthropist. Three titles that epitomise the nature of Paul Scharner. With the stigma rife of the somewhat egocentric personalities of modern footballers that is consistently portrayed in the media, Scharner went against this brandishment during his playing career by routinely being an astute favourite with supporters due to his charismatic identity. The quote above exhibits that, even after his playing days have ended, Scharner still lives the same charitable philosophies – further backed up by the fact he was playing in the annual Joseph’s Goal charity match when we spoke to him.
Scharner started his extensive career in his home nation of Austria playing for Austria Wien after breaking through to the first team from the youth setup. During his time at Austria Wien, Paul was apart of the prevalent side that captured the Austrian treble of the Austrian Bundesliga, the ÖFB-Cup and the Austrian Supercup. After falling out with then-manager Joachim Löw about the positions he was being played, Scharner moved to SV Salzburg and helped them survive relegation before moving to Norweigan side SK Brann and then, his self-proclaimed footballing home, Wigan Athletic. The Austrian was ever-present in the Wigan squad and made 153 total appearances in his first stint at the club (with a further 18 appearances in his loan spell), scoring 17 goals and creating a lot of memories for the faithful Wigan support. After four fruitful years at the Latics, he departed to West Bromwich Albion and then played in Hamburg in the Bundesliga before coming back to Wigan on loan and being apart of the historical squad that captured Wigan’s greatest achievement; the FA Cup.
Now residing back in Austria, Paul gladly spoke to AllOutAttack before the Joseph’s Goal charity match and answered some questions on his esteemed playing career.
“So you’re back here playing in front of the Wigan fans for the Joseph’s Goal charity match, how does it feel to be back?”
“Oh it’s always nice coming back to Wigan to be honest. It was a year ago; I was hear last time, so I’m looking forward to the game and of course looking forward to the occasion and I hope that we can raise so much money.”
“You were known for being a versatile and flexible player and played in positions right across the pitch. What players or managers influenced you and moulded you into such a versatile player?”
“Of course all managers were very important to me, like Paul Jewell when he signed me from SK Brann. Then there was Steve Bruce, he tried to teach us to pass as a team and be more successful, and also Roberto Martinez; of course he won the FA Cup and developed the squad and the play of the team. There are so many players too, like Emile Heskey, Antonio Valencia, Emmerson Boyce – who is a legend at the club. It was a lot of pressure to play alongside these guys.”
“You spent a multitude of seasons at Wigan across two stints at the club and became a firm fan favourite. What moments resonate fondly in your mind?”
“Of course my first game for Wigan; when I scored the winner against Arsenal in the first leg of the League Cup and then, of course, the last game of the season 2006/07 when we survived relegation against Sheffield United. Definitely the FA Cup win in 2013 too.”
What a way to announce your presence at a club – coming on as a substitute and latching on to a Gary Teale cross late on to give the Latics a vital advantage going into the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-final and ultimately secured Wigan the club’s first ever major final. That debut goal was an omen for what Scharner would bring to the North-Western outfit throughout his time at the club; a shrewd defender as well as a vital attacking player when he needed to be.
“Speaking of the FA Cup win, talk us through your emotions and memories throughout that day.”
“Absolutely emotional to be honest because, for me, there was no way we weren’t winning it. Of course in the League Cup final we lost 4-0 to Manchester United, I thought it can’t happen again so we need to win the game. Of course when you score in added time it’s brilliant! We really deserved to win and after the final whistle it’s just pure emotion.”
“You sound like you were confident going into the game, did the whole team believe they could win the match?”
“More or less actually. We had a difficult first half to be honest, we were a bit shy and we thought, “Ah we play against big Manchester City,” but Roberto Martinez had a good team talk at half time and said, “Come on, let’s start believing it! Let’s start to believe like the fans believe!” You can see how we changed out there.”
Scharner was a vital component in the adroit Wigan Athletic machine that secured the momentous silverware of the FA Cup and further etched his name into the Latics history books – books that are already abundant with fantastic stories of Scharner’s prosperous time at Wigan. The FA Cup can be seen as the icing on an outstanding career and a phenomenal way to close his footballing account out on the pitch.
“You retired after winning the FA Cup, how has retirement been treating you?”
“Of course it’s a different life now. We moved back to Austria, so after ten years abroad we moved back to my home country, it was a big step to be honest. To live away for ten years you change your view and you change your perspective, but yeah I have five kids at home so family is big. Family needs a lot of time and that’s my main focus.”
“You have shown before throughout your career that you are interested in a leadership or coaching role – especially with the Austrian national team. Is a coaching role your next step?”
“Yeah but I’m trying now to run my own company in supporting young players and give them the experience and give them the support to be a proper human, you know? Not a proper footballer but a proper human in the sport and developing their personality too. I stated one year ago, so I try to get the connections everywhere so the players can experience foreign mentalities and foreign levels so lets see how that progresses.”
Scharner’s will and desire to help young, aspiring sportspeople to develop and better them as people is a further illustration of the altruistic character that Paul is. The 37-year-old still holds the traits that made him such a beloved personality on the pitch and has honed them to assist his young protégés to get a foothold on what can be such a volatile career path.
“Finally, you had various haircuts throughout your career that allowed you to express yourself. What was your particular style that you wore during your playing career?”
“My particular favourite has to be when I played in Austria for Austria Wien and I put the stripes in my hair so my hair was purple and red stripes! That was my favourite.”
Just as Scharner’s hairdos and styles expressed his personality throughout his playing career, so too does his work post-playing career highlight his real, magnanimous identity. Whether you remember Paul Scharner as a player, leader or philanthropist, he is still evoked fondly by supporters as both a genuine person as well as sensational servant to Wigan Athletic. Even though he is now settled back in Austria, Wigan fans have made it very clear that he is welcome back anytime to his “footballing home”.