‘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
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