‘You have flares, drums, megaphones’: Andre Green relishing life at Slovan

The Guardian
The Guardian
Andre Green in action for Slovan Bratislava against Copenhagen in last season’s Europa Conference League.

Andre Green always wanted to move abroad to test himself in a different league. He might not have expected his first calling outside England to be Slovan Bratislava but the former Aston Villa winger is embracing his time in Slovakia as he aims to make it to the Champions League group stage.

Slovan face another of Europe’s historic names, Ferencvaros, on Wednesday in the second qualifying round. For Green it will be another exciting box ticked since he joined the club from Sheffield Wednesday last August. He played in the Europa League and Europa Conference League last season, scoring five goals in seven continental appearances.

“The biggest thing that attracted me at the time was playing in Europe,” the 23-year-old says. “I had always wanted to play abroad and this was a bold move at the time but the motivation for me was to prove everyone wrong and come here to play as many games as I can, score as many goals as I can, which I feel like I did, and to play in the competitions I wouldn’t get the opportunity to if I’d stayed at home. To do so and be involved in everything was really good for me.”

Green joined Aston Villa aged nine and progressed through the ranks before making his Premier League debut as a 17-year-old. He went on to play 48 times for the club, including in their Championship playoff final win over Derby in 2019. After being released the following summer he spent six months out of the game before signing for Wednesday.

He says of moving to Slovan: “It was a shock. I’d been in England my whole career; I was at Villa and doing well, playing the majority of games, then Covid happened and I was in the situation where I had no club for a while and then went to Sheffield Wednesday and it felt like I was starting from the bottom again. I got my fitness back, then the time was right to move to play football. I didn’t care where it was as long as it was still in Europe, and this league is a very good level and in the Champions League and Europa League you play against very good teams.
Andre Green celebrates after helping Aston Villa to win the 2019 Championship playoff final. Photograph: Chloe Knott/Danehouse/Getty Images

“You have flares, the fans have drums, megaphones, there are banners, signs, they’re all wearing masks, it is crazy. I remember the derby game against Spartak Trnava – I’ve played in the Villa-Birmingham derby but this was crazy, it was absolutely unbelievable. It was one of the best feelings I’ve had on the pitch – there was smoke everywhere.”

Forty-two appearances and a league title show the change of scenery has paid off for Green. “The motivation for me was that I had to do well on the pitch because if I am not everything is difficult. It is just me and my girlfriend out here – I’ve got no family – so if I am unhappy and not doing well, life – because I live and breathe football – is not going to be good for me. My motivation was to just do the best I can. It was the fear of not doing well; that is what motivated me. It was a good way of thinking for me. It wasn’t a fear of not playing, it was the fear that I had to make it work. I worked as hard as I possibly could and had one of the best seasons in my career so far and I am confident that this season will be even better.”

Green spends his free time with his girlfriend exploring the country and crossing the border into Austria regularly. The Slovan squad includes 14 nationalities, making it an intriguing melting pot for Green to absorb footballing global culture.

“It is just a different way of life. We have a player who has come from Brazil who has come halfway across the world to play football. It is really inspiring to hear these stories. I feel like in England, people think there is only one way and one path, but if you venture out, explore the world, there are more opportunities.”

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Slovan’s Champions League journey almost ended at the first hurdle until an extra-time comeback against Georgia’s Dinamo Batumi, including a 123rd-minute winner from the former Manchester City winger Vladimir Weiss direct from a corner. “I know it’s not the Champions League yet where you line up with the anthem playing, which we are fighting to get to, but it is still an unbelievable experience. We were dead and buried until the 115th minute when we equalised; we just had that belief. We got in a huddle at half-time in extra time and we were saying ‘Our lives depend on this’ because that was the situation we were in.”

Ferencvaros will provide another stern test but Green is relishing the opportunity. “I’ve already justified the reason for coming here. If we do get to the group stage, that is a massive bonus and I am going to give it everything to get through because some of the teams you can possibly play against is the motivation.”

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