‘Los­ing my dad helped make me the man I am’

A fam­ily tragedy acted as mo­ti­va­tion for Pre­ston de­fender Pa­trick Bauer, he tells Luke Ed­wards

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Football -

Pa­trick Bauer has taken an un­usual ca­reer path, from Stuttgart to Por­tu­gal, from south Lon­don to Lan­cashire, but with Pre­ston North End mount­ing a pro­mo­tion chal­lenge in the Cham­pi­onship, the de­fender re­veals the in­spi­ra­tion taken from per­sonal tragedy that has pushed him to the brink of the Premier League.

Bauer was just nine years old when his fa­ther, Hans, a for­mer player and coach for Ger­man club TSG Back­nang, suf­fered a heart at­tack play­ing in a char­ity match in 2002 and died on the pitch.

Pa­trick was in the crowd and the trau­matic me­mory still haunts the cen­tre-back. He feels sad­ness, grief and a pro­found sense of loss, but also pride.

“I suf­fered the tragedy of los­ing my fa­ther when I was very young,” says Bauer, who has his fa­ther’s name tat­tooed on his arm, which he kisses be­fore ev­ery game. “It was an ex­tremely tough time.

“He was my coach and my in­spi­ra­tion, I was close to my fa­ther and to lose him so young, it was a tough pe­riod in my life. It was tough for the whole fam­ily.

“He took me to my first foot­ball game, he coached me, he was re­spon­si­ble for my love of foot­ball. But the ex­pe­ri­ence, it made me the man I am. Not just as a foot­baller, but as a hu­man be­ing. I was a young boy and I had lost my dad.

“My mum, she took on so much, but I al­ways thought that I want to make him proud and wher­ever he is now, I know he is watch­ing me and I think he will be proud of the path I have taken. I think he would be happy of what I have made of my life and that is im­por­tant to me. He is al­ways in my heart, I carry a bit of him every­where. I have a feel­ing he is watch­ing me and help­ing me al­ways.”

Hav­ing come through the youth sys­tem at Stuttgart, Bauer re­fused to let re­jec­tion break him, leav­ing in search of reg­u­lar first-team foot­ball to play for Mar­itimo in Por­tu­gal. From there, he moved on to Charl­ton Ath­letic, spend­ing four en­joy­able years in south Lon­don, which cli­maxed with him fir­ing in the win­ning goal in the play-off fi­nal, against Sun­der­land, at Wem­b­ley, in May.

Out of con­tract and Charl­ton fac­ing an un­cer­tain sum­mer with doubts over man­ager Lee Bowyer’s fu­ture, Bauer was in de­mand. A host of Cham­pi­onship clubs were in­ter­ested in sign­ing him. He chose Pre­ston, im­pressed by the work of Alex Neil with a young team. Few, though, ex­pected them to be quite as good as they have been this sea­son, as they sit sec­ond in the ta­ble, two points be­low West Bromwich Al­bion.

“When I came here I was hop­ing that we would be in and around the play-offs this sea­son,” ex­plained Bauer, who, at 27, is en­ter­ing his peak years as a de­fender. “We have a good team and you can see, over the last 18 months, it has been mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion.

“It is a young team but un­der this man­age­ment, they have ex­pe­ri­enced a lot and I be­lieve we can carry on like this for the rest of the sea­son. The aim is to stay in the top six. Pro­mo­tion has to be the aim, we have played most of the teams and we have not come across one that is bet­ter than us. We would be re­ally dis­ap­pointed if we did not fin­ish in the top six now. It would be fan­tas­tic for the town to have Premier League foot­ball, it would be a re­ally ex­cit­ing time if we were to get pro­moted.”

It has not all been smooth sail­ing. Last week, hav­ing sacked man­ager Nathan Jones, Stoke City made an ap­proach to lure Neil to the Pot­ter­ies. It was a tempt­ing of­fer. De­spite sit­ting bot­tom of the ta­ble, Stoke, on pa­per at least, have one of the strong­est squads in the di­vi­sion. Neil turned them down, and Pre­ston re­sponded by go­ing to Bauer’s for­mer club, Charl­ton, and win­ning 1-0.

“It was vi­tal that the man­ager stayed,” says Bauer. “It’s re­ally im­por­tant for the team, the club and the sup­port­ers. He is a re­ally good man­ager and the boys re­ally en­joy work­ing un­der him.

“He is an ex­cel­lent coach and, of course, there was some con­cern [he would leave] be­cause there was a lot of spec­u­la­tion about him, but very quickly he made it clear that he wanted to stay and wanted to keep work­ing with us.

“He has al­ready achieved pro­mo­tion with an­other club in the Cham­pi­onship [Nor­wich] and it’s a re­ally con­fi­dent mes­sage he has given to the boys. He thinks we are good enough to go up so why would he want to go to an­other club?”

Pro­mo­tion po­ten­tial: Pa­trick Bauer says Pre­ston aim to stay in the top six

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