Author: Can Kartal
TSS’s Can Kartal and Freddie Lammie spoke to Borussia Dortmund U19s centre-back Nnamdi Collins to discuss his return from injury, interest from abroad and his aspirations with the German national team.
Can: Firstly, thank you for agreeing to this interview and for allowing us to gain an insight into your athletic career and learn more about you as a person.
Nnamdi: Personally, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity. I look forward to a pleasant interview!
Can: Tell us how you first got into football. When did you first get involved with the sport?
Nnamdi: I started out at a small club, called VFL Benrad in Düsseldorf. I joined at the age of five and stayed there until I was eleven. Upon leaving, I joined the U12 team at Fortuna Düsseldorf, where I competed at a higher level. This was a really new experience for me, as I moved up from a small-town club to an “NLZ” youth academy. One year later, I progressed further in my career when I joined the youth academy at Borussia Dortmund, where I still play today. I have always considered football to be my passion and my life blood. Since I was a little kid, I always carried a ball with me. I would describe the relationship as an indestructible bond. Even when I attended kindergarten, I pursued the game of footballed, and it never stopped bringing me joy.
Can: How did your transfer to Dortmund come about?
Nnamdi: Let me tell you a little anecdote about it. I was a striker at Fortuna Düsseldorf, and we competed in the same league as the BVB. Due to the fact that Dortmund had a very strong striker in their ranks, I was ordered back to the center back position when it was time to play against them. I was so good that day that the Dortmund coach reached out to me, via phone call, on the very same day. As the phone rang, my mother, who’s usually in charge of taking phone calls, wasn’t home at the time, so it was up to me to pick up the call. Subsequently, the coach invited me to the BVB grounds for a try out and the rest is history. I am glad that everything turned out that way.
Can: Tell us about your daily routine – what does a typical day look like for Nnamdi Collins?
Nnamdi: Firstly, I would like to mention that I graduated from school last summer. My day usually starts around 9am in the morning when I enjoy a balanced breakfast. After that I still have enough time until practice starts, which I use to work on myself. So, I spend a lot of time in the weight room as well as doing neuroathletics with my personal coach, something I started two years ago.
Additionally, I use that time to work on my weaknesses and to be as prepared as possible for the upcoming training sessions and the game on the weekend.
Can: You are known to be a physically strong and fast player blessed with excellent height for a center back. How would you assess your game and where do you see a need for improvement?
Nnamdi: First, I’ll start with the things I’m currently working on. Currently I am working on my decision-making skills. Mainly, I go through and visualize my motions and decisions made on the field. For example, I review when it’s most convenient to pass the ball, depending on what kind of pressure the opponent exercises on me or when to dribble and when to play a clear ball. That should be getting worked on in any case.
In addition, I have to improve my offensive headers, although I do already score headers. The last point I would like to mention is that I have to work on my weak foot. It’s always important for me to follow the example of great players, such as Sergio Ramos or Virgil van Dijk when looking to identify potential areas to work on. Even players of that statue are continuously working on themselves. There’s always room for improvement and it’s just a matter of constantly working on yourself.
The strengths I would like to highlight are my speed, my physical condition and my duel skills.
In terms of speed and physicality, I am blessed with my skills, which I am extremely grateful for. However, it is not the case that I have done nothing for it. I would say the disposition is great, but what I do with it is entirely up to me.
I love playing against strong players. You can learn so much from them and they remind you of the importance of constantly developing yourself and taking advantage of your strengths.
Can: In March 2020, you joined professional practice sessions under Lucien Favre for the first time. How did that happen?
Nnamdi: I came back from school and was about to take a power nap before my U17 practice when I suddenly got a call from Otto Addo informing me that I was invited to train with the pros on the same day. My pulse went up immediately and I got extremely excited. It was an unforgettable experience; I still remember it like it was today. The first time with the pros was something special.
Because it was so sudden, I didn’t have much time to think about it, which I think was a positive thing. To top it off, I also won the training game. A great success all around.
Can: You’ve been training with the pros for quite some time now and were able to celebrate your first appearances for the pros during pre-season. What are your impressions and what did you learn from working with the first-team?
Nnamdi: I got to know what goes on during a game and how pros behave on the field. In general, it was a whole new experience, in terms of the way they communicate and in regard to the intensity on the field. Having an audience, you feel a lot more pressure because you know that people are watching you play and while I still need to get more comfortable with that, I am also looking forward to it. In fact, I do enjoy being watched playing and I love to get recognized by spectators for my skills. I am passionate about playing in front of a big crowd. I like it when the spectators ask themselves after the game: Who was that player? That’s what drives me. Football is a sport where you have to deliver. So I tell myself: Use this stage.
Can: You’ve been in contact with the pros for quite some time now. Which player has impressed you the most and why?
Nnamdi: Raphael Guerreiro is the one who impresses me the most. I am amazed by how Guerreiro solves situations in the tightest of spaces, combined with an outstanding technique.
What I like about Mats Hummels is his calmness on the ball and his strong build-up play, even when pressured by multiple players. The same can be said about Witsel. When you look at the skills and the degree of sophistication professionals show, you think about how you also want to get on that level. My personal belief is that it’s all a question of time and routine. In any case, it’s a great honour to train with them and I am very grateful for the opportunity.
Can: Speaking of pre-season, you unfortunately incurred a knee injury during one of the games with the first-team against VFL Bochum and were not able to play for several months. It was pretty early on in pre-season. How did you deal with that?
Nnamdi: Injuries always occur at bad times. I had extremely big ambitions and wanted to show the coach that I could be an option for the new season. In the past, I’ve already experienced an injury that made me feel sad because I couldn’t play for a long period of time before. I learned from the past and that’s why I quickly came to terms with the scenario that I would miss a few months. I have told myself that I would do everything in my power to come back stronger. True to the motto: Every setback is a setup for a comeback. All with the idea of being back with the first-team in the future to perform and show off my skills.
Can: As a young player, what is it like interacting and integrating with the first-team?
Nnamdi: Well, I was told to go back to my youth team to get back in after my injury.
I’m still preparing to re-join them at some point in the future. At the moment, I am looking forward to what will come after the winter break.
Can: You train in one of the best youth academies in Europe and decided to stay in Dortmund some time ago, despite numerous interested clubs. How do you see your prospects and what are your hopes for the coming year?
Nnamdi: The past few weeks I haven’t really been thinking about my prospects as much as I was thinking about them when I played with the pros. I’ve signed a contract and knew that I wanted to work my way up to become a pro. For now, I can’t really say much about my prospects because I’m training with the youth team and I think that I’m going to be able to elaborate more on that once I’m back with the pros. Step by step. In the upcoming year, I’m looking forward to rock the UEFA youth league in addition to the Youth Bundesliga as well as the DFB youth cup. I want to get back to the pros and regularly join them in practice.
Can: Chelsea was particularly interested in you. How close were you to a transfer?
Nnamdi: That’s right. They were very interested. In any case it was out of the question for me and Dortmund was always my first option. I feel very comfortable here. For sure, the Premier League is a league where I want to play one day. It’s the best league in the world. However, I’m firmly convinced that it was the right decision to stay here in Dortmund and I’m looking forward to the coming years.
Can: Which coach or person in soccer has influenced you the most along the way and in what way?
Nnamdi: I’ll always remember my first coach back then at my first club. He was never satisfied with any of my performances, even if they were good. I learned a lot from his criticism and in addition to that I learned how to deal with a coaches’ criticism and to respect your coaches’ decisions. I wouldn’t be the person that I am today without all that.
My U17 coach Sebastian Geppert also played a big role in molding me into the person I am today. He accepted the individuality of each person without wanting to change anything about them. There was not one player who was not feeling comfortable with him. He was a great coach and I’ll for sure always remember him and his amazing character. Every coach is unique and has their own way of coaching, but you must always treat them with respect.
Can: Is there a motto that describes you well as a character?
Nnamdi: What describes me best is the term “Still Hungry”. It doesn’t really matter what position I’m in or how much money I earn or even how many followers I’ve got on Instagram. All of that is irrelevant to me. At the end of the day, football is a performance-based sport where you must squeeze the maximum out of yourself each day to be able to deliver on the weekend. If you don’t give 100 percent or don’t subordinate your lifestyle to the sport, you’ll never reach the top. That’s why I continuously stay hungry for more.
Can: If you were to create an ideal player, based on the following attributes: mentality, physically, pace, passing and finishing. Which five players would you choose to represent each attribute, resulting in the ideal player?
Nnamdi: In terms of speed, I would name Kyle Walker because he runs the sideline game after game with outstanding intensity.
In terms of passing quality, I would name Rodri from Manchester City. Many wonder why Rodri and Busquets always play, but if you look closely at the game, you can see how safe and clear they are and how calmly they get out of situations on the field.
As far as mentality is concerned, I would name Virgil Van Dijk. He’s an absolute role model for me. Watching one game from him is sufficient to realize how badly he wants to win a game. The body language, the way he throws himself into every duel and how commanding of a leader he is speaks for itself. He radiates a strong presence that is simply a blessing and that you can’t acquire through training alone.
In terms of finishing, I would name Erling Haaland. In training, he scores from all angles, regardless of whether he’s on the right or the left foot. He is incredible.
Physically, I can single out Romelu Lukaku. He is simply a machine.
Can: Final question: What are you doing in the summer of 2024?
Nnamdi: (laughs) I hope to be able to play with the German national team. Until then, anything can happen. It is a dream that I have and I will work as hard as I can to fulfil it!
Can: At the age of 20, you can already participate in a major tournament.
Nnadmi: Of course.
Can: It was a pleasure to speak with you, I wish you all the best for the future, much health and a lot of success. If you carry on working as hard as you already do you will reach your goals for sure.
Nnamdi: You’re welcome. Thanks a lot for the opportunity.
TSS: Cheers for your time Nnamdi, and thank you to those reading! Make sure you follow the socials if you haven’t already! You can find us @thesecretscout1 on Instagram, @TheSecretScout_ on Twitter, and THESECRETSCOUT on YouTube! Stay tuned for more content coming your way…