Lucky pants, big dreams as Glasner leads Frankfurt to Europa League final
Berlin, May 17, 2022 (AFP) - Oliver Glasner hopes his lucky trousers will play their part in helping Eintracht Frankfurt win a first European trophy in 42 years when they face Rangers in the Europa League final on Wednesday.
The 47-year-old head coach wants his blue trousers ready for the "biggest game" of his career in Seville having worn them on the touchline during the wins over Real Betis, Barcelona and West Ham United in the previous rounds.
"My lucky trousers had to be cleaned, they're still at the dry cleaners. I hope I get them back in time," quipped the Austrian, as Frankfurt hope to capture their first piece of European silverware since lifting the UEFA Cup in 1980.
Frankfurt's run to the final is due more to hard work than luck, however.
After winning a group containing Fenerbahce, Olympiakos and Antwerp, Frankfurt saw off Betis in the last 16 before landing Barcelona in a plum quarter-final draw.
Ansgar Knauff's spectacular volley helped earn a 1-1 draw in the first leg at home before Barcelona were knocked out as the Germans won 3-2 at the Camp Nou in the return. West Ham were then beaten home and away in the semi-finals.
The original trousers Glasner wore at the Camp Nou -- complete with grass stains -- now hang in Eintracht's club museum.
Glasner bought the replacement 'lucky' pair before the semi-finals against West Ham and he said they gave him "a good feeling, it's a little ritual".
In his first season in charge of the club, Glasner can become the first Austrian coach to win a European trophy since Ernst Happel led Hamburg to the European Cup in 1983.
He worked in Austria at SV Ried and LASK before joining Wolfsburg in 2019, helping them qualify for the Europa League and then the Champions League in his two seasons there.
Yet the former defender made an inauspicious start with Frankfurt as they were dumped out in the opening round of the German Cup last August in a shock 2-0 defeat at third-division Waldhof Mannheim.
'Rolled up our sleeves'
Indeed Eintracht were winless in Glasner's first eight games.
But things improved with a shock 2-1 victory at mighty Bayern Munich in October, only their second win under Glasner.
"The easiest way to deal with setbacks is to do something different," said Glasner as he looked back at his below-par start.
"We pulled together, rolled up our sleeves and looked forward."
Winning the Europa League would make up for an unimpressive record in his first Bundesliga campaign of 10 wins, 12 draws and 12 defeats as Frankfurt finished in mid-table.
They have saved their best performances this season for Europe with Glasner encouraging his players to have the Seville final in mind right from the start.
"He tries to let the team dream," said captain Sebastian Rode.
"He said early on we want to look from round to round, but not just be watching on May 18 -- be in Seville."
"He's a great guy, has a good connection with the team. That helps," said Knauff, who has shone on loan from Borussia Dortmund.
While Glasner pulls the strings, he is happy to let his players take the glory.
"I prefer to stay in the background, the players are the protagonists who have to implement my pipe dreams," he said.
Before they walk out to face Rangers at Seville's Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, Glasner will tell "his boys" to seize the day. "Carpe Diem -- enjoy the time".
That is a mantra he swore by after Eintracht beat West Ham in the semi-finals and he joined the raucous party that went on into the early hours.
"I've already got a bit more wrinkles and grey hair," he joked.