Jan Boller: Second attempt at a breakthrough in the professional ranks
Jan Boller has prevailed at LASK for the time being. The 21-year-old defender from Germany has been one of Linz’s regulars since this season, has made a name for himself as a shoe designer on the side and has finally arrived in the Bundesliga two years after moving to the steel city.
Jan Boller has secured a regular place for himself. GEPA pictures
With Jan Boller, LASK secured a former junior national player of Germany for its defense in the summer of 2019. Initially, however, the then 19-year-old was with cooperation club FC Juniors Upper Austria in the 2. He was immediately given a regular place in the first division and played 48 competitive games for the club in two seasons. When the Juniors’ coach at the time, Andreas Wieland, moved to LASK last summer as Dominik Thalhammer’s assistant, the Linz head coach also took the German defender with him, who has been part of the first eleven of the current ninth-place team in the table since the fifth matchday.
"I am very satisfied with my development. Of course, there are things you can still work on and do even better. I had also read at the kicker the Bundesliga statistics that I can show so far this season the third most intercepted balls. This spurs you on even more to get up a few more steps. I was just happy to get the playing time and assignments and to establish myself here.", Boller draws a positive balance after his first year in the league. "But it is still no reason to put a hook under it. I’m still relatively young and there’s still a lot to learn and always evolve."
Opportunity taken at LASK
After two years in the 2. For the former Bayer Leverkusen youngster, the move up a level was the next logical step in his career. The fact that the jump to the professional team of LASK took a little time, the blond sees sporty: "As a young player, you want of course, that it goes as quickly as possible to the top. But I believe that patience is also an important factor. Things don’t always work out right away. There are already players at the top who have established themselves and gained experience. Then it’s clear that as a coach you’re more likely to rely on experience and throw in a youngster now and then. Especially when it comes to promotion or international starting positions, you naturally want to put the best eleven on the pitch."
The time in the 2. In fact, Boller is positive about his move to the second league: "The last six months with the Juniors have really done me good, because I’ve also gained the trust of Andi (Andreas Wieland).) have received. I could then also show myself and then it was, I think, also deserved that I got the chance up at LASK. How it went for me since then is very satisfying for me personally."
In his first year in the Bundesliga, however, Boller did not have an easy time with LASK. In the league, you clearly fall short of your own expectations in the fall, could only cheer at the end of the soccer year 2021 in the current season about two wins in a row and is currently only in ninth place in the table. "It was an intense fall, so it was good for the body that we now had a break. Towards the end of the Hinserie, we got into a run, won two important games against Ried and Austria, and then you do wish that there were one or two more games where you could take the momentum with you", Boller is ambivalent about the timing of the winter break.
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Dense competition in Linz
While one had to fight on national level mostly, one could provide for it on international Gefilde for some at furore. In the newly-created UEFA Conference League, the Linz side secured a commanding group victory with five wins from six matches and only one goal conceded, thus securing their place in the European winter. "The fact that we won the group as a team was very important for our motivation and self-confidence. These positive experiences have also been good for us in the league. The first international appearances were very instructive for me, because you can compare yourself with other international teams, Boller attaches special importance to the games in the European Cup.
With nine central defenders currently in the squad, a number of professionals are fighting for a place in the Linz defensive center. So far, the German defender has been able to hold his own in competition with his experienced colleagues. "If you know you’re going to play anyway, then maybe you don’t try as hard in training and that drags your teammates down with you. That’s why it’s important that everyone gives 100 percent, so you just keep the level very high in general.", Boller, whose time with Bayer Leverkusen’s youth team as well as his first professional experience with the German Bundesliga club have prepared him perfectly for his upcoming task.
When you have players like Sven Bender, Aleksandar Dragovic or Jonathan Tah in front of you, it’s clear that you don’t get much playing time.
"The leap from junior to professional level is very big in Germany", says Boller. "Accordingly, it was good that I was already able to gain experience with personalities like the Bender twins or Julian Baumgartlinger, who constantly try to help you and clearly address you when something doesn’t fit. That’s why it was very good that I was allowed to train there for half a year and that I got playing time with the U19s at the same time. It was a good mix and prepared me well for my time at LASK."
The 21-year-old defender is not too upset that he didn’t make the breakthrough in Germany: "Back then, I had five or six other central defenders in front of me. When you have players like Sven Bender, Aleksandar Dragovic or Jonathan Tah in front of you, it’s clear that you don’t get much playing time. Then I was also honest enough with myself to admit that, because it’s no use sitting on the bench for half a year or a year and only training along with the team. The most important thing for a young player is game practice. That’s where you can get the most out of it, you can develop and adapt to the pace of the game. That’s why it was the logical step for me to find a club where I can get some playing practice."
Return to Germany the goal
In Linz, Boller has gained a foothold in professional soccer for the time being, is set under Andreas Wieland, who was confirmed as head coach until 2024 just before Christmas ("That was very important that there is clarity here, because otherwise there are several venues besides the pitch"), and wants to attack again with his team in the spring after the tough Bundesliga autumn: "We have a few things to make up for and want to take the momentum with which we went into the winter break, so that we also start positively in the second half of the season. The mood in the team is very good. Everybody is working hard as a team and personally so that we get off to the best possible start in the spring."
Boller himself extended his contract until 2023 only last summer. At 21, the defensive pro is at a very good footballing age, but he is still far from thinking about a move: "Of course the goal is to return to Germany at some point, but I’m still very young, I’ll take everything that comes along here, give it my all and hope to qualify for higher tasks at some point. The here and now is the LASK and there I want to tie on my achievements of the Hinrunde, improve me and then one sees what comes."
Despite the more intensive playing time at LASK, he still has enough time for his hobby as a shoe designer: "If there’s a training camp coming up, that’ll have to wait (laughs), but in general I always have a bit of time for it. It’s important to find a balance, to do something different in your head, to be a bit creative, and that’s why this fits quite well."