Wolfsberger’s involvement in the Europa League is a testament to how the Austrian league gets progressively stronger with each season. When Sole and co first qualified in the 15/16 campaign, they were knocked out by Borussia Dortmund in the third qualifying round after beating Belarusian team Shakhtyor Soligorsk 3-0 on aggregate.

Four years later they reached the group stage and faced Roma, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Istanbul Basaksehir, with a 4-0 victory in Germany arguably Michael’s highlight.

“For me it was a great experience because we were a very small club in Austria but we took it the hard way”, continued the defender. “We had a direct qualification and had the chance to play in Dortmund, so it was a great feeling to compete at this level in full stadiums.

“In the group stage, it was perfect; we had a good group with Gladbach, Roma and Basaksehir in Istanbul. Everyone thought Basaksehir was not the best team but they were champions in Turkey so it was a very good group with good games and good results for us.

“As a player it’s a great way to develop in these games because you can compete at a high level and we deserved it because we’ve already played a tough season. It was great for the country – especially the children – to see that you can play at the highest level in Europe, and I think that will help the club for the next seasons.

“It’s everyone’s goal. For us in Austria we want to play in the best stadiums and these competitions, so it was a great feeling – especially with your club where you have spent a lot of years. We played some really good games and won some victories and I think I’m going to talk about it for years and explain it to my son, for example.

After spending his career in southern Austria – including 10 years with Wolfsberger – Sole had the opportunity to fulfill another dream and play in England when Barnsley came to call him in January 2020.

It was also an opportunity to work again under the guidance of Gerhard Struber, who had guided WAC to the group stage of the Europa League before leaving for Oakwell a few months earlier.

But that would be an entirely different challenge for Michael, who was now the oldest locker room manager by far.

A team seemingly devoid of any real confidence and ingrained at the foot of the league, it would take some sort of minor miracle for the Reds to stay at tier two, and Sole believes his experience with relegation battles in his native Austria has been a big advantage. for him.

“When you have a season or two where you have these kinds of situations, you know how to handle it. “ he reasoned. “You know how to deal with the training, the atmosphere in the team and how to deal with a win or a loss so that you can put everything in order.

“You know it can go until the last game, as we saw in Brentford, so I think this experience is very useful and when I decided to come here I had no doubt that we could Of course it was at the end and very close but I had no doubt we could stay in the league because we had a lot of games left and I knew how quickly the situation could change.

“It was the best decision I have ever made to come here.

Order your Derby County edition from Grove Street to read the full interview with Michael.

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