Kilmarnock found themselves a hero in Daniel Bachmann during the Steve Clarke era – and the current Watford goalkeeper still keeps Killie close to heart.
The Austrian is playing behind Ben Foster at Vicarage Road currently, waiting patiently for his consistent chance between the sticks, playing cup games for now. It’s something he’s happy to do with time on his side.
A fruitful loan spell at Rugby Park in the 2018/19 season had him keep a remarkable 11 clean sheets in 21 games, convincing Watford to extend his Vicarage Road stay until 2024.
At 26 he’s got many years ahead of him in the goalkeeper department but playing second choice since returning from Ayrshire has been a challenge. He’s explained why it’s so important to be mentally strong as a keeper, looking to the season ahead.
“Everything is a bit different without fans and travel restrictions, it’s all a bit strange,” Bachmann told NTOF. “We know the Championship is very difficult, very physical, very demanding. Anybody can beat anybody.
“We play 18 or 19 games before Christmas but it’s nice, you want a lot of games. Everything is pushed back a bit because we started a month later on September 12th and finish earlier because of the Euros. We need to play 46 games this season but we want to be playing 38 next season.
“It’s completely different to the Premier League and we have a very different team, fresher younger, a bit more inexperienced. But it’s a really good mix and I think we can do very well this season.
“My goal is to play. Ben has had the nod for the first few league games and I’ve played the cup games. I have had two decent games and that’s all that I can do. I’m ready to play and I want to play, the club know that.
“In goalkeeping terms I am still pretty young, I could play another 12 to 13 years. That would take me to the age Ben is now! But I’m ready to play now and hopefully it will come soon. It’s very difficult especially after the season at Kilmarnock. The season just gone was mentally very difficult. I have come back down after a great season for Kilmarnock and the expectations were completely different to what actually happened in that season which wasn’t easy.
“Goalkeeping is like a different sport. We have our own little team and only one can play. It’s difficult to not get frustrated and not let yourself down because only one can play and things can change very quickly. Coming to terms with why things had happened and not agreeing with things… I just had to stay focused.
“I knew I wasn’t playing. You go into a new week; you’re training hard and you still know you aren’t going to play. It is very difficult but that is the joys of being a goalkeeper. You have to be mentally strong. Look at my time in Scotland. The first 10 games I didn’t play and then the manager gave me my chance.
“I kept five clean sheets or something in my first five games so you have to stay ready. That’s the worst thing that can happen, you get your chance and you aren’t ready, mentally or physically. You’ll have bad days and find it difficult to motivate yourself, but you always have to be ready when the time comes.”
Bachmann remembers his time in Kilmarnock very well. It’s the happiest he’s been during his professional career, a brief stint at Ross County providing an insight to what he could expect on a return to SPFL life.
A notable face in Clarke, a highly-respected figure in English football, helped his decision to join the Killie cause. It’s one he’s happy to have completed a switch to as he opened up on playing under the current Scotland manager.
“It helped they had such a high-profile name in Steve Clarke,” Bachmann explained. “He’s a Chelsea legend, I remember I went to Socceraid at Stamford Bridge. I got out a lift next to the boxes and the first one I saw was the Steve Clarke box with a big picture of his face on it!
“It was good to have him there and we had a really successful season. He knew his players very well, that stood out to me. He knew how to make us play well and get results. You see some teams trying to play out from the back like Barcelona when it’s not working.
“You need to fit around the players and that’s what made us so successful. Every player knew their role and we put it onto the pitch almost perfectly. He’s quiet, very laid-back. We would lose a game and he’d have the same facial expression as he did when we beat Rangers 2-1! He was good.”
Watford’s Austrian stopper sees similarities in the Scotland national team to his days under Clarke at Kilmarnock. Grinding their way to 1-0 and 0-0 results on their way to Euro 2020 play-off success and Nations League joy, it’s something Bachmann isn’t surprised about.
He’ll watch with eager eyes as his old boss takes Scotland to Serbia next month as they compete for a spot at next summer’s Euro 2020 competition. The Watford keeper believes Scotland have one key advantage as he states anything is possible beyond that.
“I watched the semi-final against Israel and it wasn’t pretty but our games at Kilmarnock weren’t either,” he said. “Clarke knows the players he has for Scotland, especially at the back. In international football it’s all about results.
“If Scotland win the Euros next year and grind out 1-0’s doing so, nobody will talk about that. They’ll talk about how Scotland are European champions. If you grind results out, these are the best results as a goalkeeper.
“One thing that will help Scotland is no fans. Playing in Serbia with fans is not pleasant. I played there with the Austria U21s, t’s nasty. It makes it difficult and it takes the home advantage away from Serbia. That really helps them.
“They can definitely grind out a result in Serbia and once you are at the European Championship, defence wins you tournaments. It means a lot. All teams have a chance there.”
Returning to Killie
Now Bachmann is gearing up for another season of competition at Watford but that almost wasn’t the case. He’s revealed that a Kilmarnock return was very close but one day it could still happen.
“Kilmarnock is the time I look back on in my career as the happiest,” explained Bachmann. “My family enjoyed it and my wife and son liked it in Glasgow. Training was great and it helped we had such a successful season. You go into games thinking no one can beat us and that was a great feeling. It was a great year on and off the pitch.
“In the summer It was pretty serious, it wasn’t just talks. I had conversations with Alex Dyer. Things changed towards the start of Kilmarnock’s pre-season and our end to the season.
“It didn’t happen but it was very close. I read all the things on Twitter, there was pretty advanced talks, put it that way. In the future you never know.
“I always keep an eye out for the Kilmarnock scores and I speak to Gary Dicker quite regularly. I can see myself going back to Kilmarnock at some point in my career.”