Stark's successful year
The end of November saw a surprising situation for Niklas Stark. He missed 1. FC Nürnberg’s second-division clash with FC Ingolstadt because of a cold but 24 hours later he found himself playing for their second team against Wacker Burghausen – a regional league side. Many would have found this a setback but Stark enjoys playing football too much. All games are important for him.
2014 was a big year for Stark, who as well as playing in local league games also took part in the U19 European Championship final. Regardless of the opposition, he always gave it his all. Stark is aware that he is still young and hasn’t achieved much in his career; however, there are two notable exceptions.
In March the defensive midfielder picked up a thigh injury, which we had already suffered in November 2013, and he was forced to watch on from the stands as his side were relegated from the Bundesliga. The injury and absence was more painful for Stark as he is a Nürnberg fan and used to sleep in club branded bed sheets when he was young. He joined the club when he was nine-years-old from local side TSV Neustadt/Aisch.
The 19-year-old’s father has been a member of the club for over 40 years – it’s engrained in their life. Stark has also impressed internationally. He was first called up to represent his country in 2011. He appeared in that year’s U17 European Championship and was agonisingly close to a winner’s medal – Germany conceded a 90th minute equaliser in the Final, which was then won on penalties by the Netherlands. Stark watched most of the tournament from the bench; however, he did play 30 minutes against France.
The experience gained at this tournament put him in good stead for future tournaments. In 2014 he captained the U19 side to European Championship success just three weeks after the senior squad picked up the World Cup. The good news didn’t stop there: In September he was called up to Horst Hrubesch’s U21 side for the first time and he won the Gold Fritz Walter medal (For the best German player born in 1995). A fantastic year.
A successful 2014 saw him get used to celebrating quickly. Stark will never forget the moment he lifted the trophy and obviously he copied Philipp Lahm by lifting the trophy high and celebrating excitedly. As well as the excitement brought about by victory, the success in Hungary brought Marcus Sorg’s side closer together. Shortly after the triumph RB Leipzig faced Nürnberg, which provided a reunion with Stark’s international team mate Joshua Kimmich.
Joy and sorrow were felt in equal measure throughout the year. He tried everything throughout the season to save the club from relegation and when the fate was confirmed he wrote: “The pain is very deep” on his personal Facebook page. His dedication to the club saw him appear in a motivational video for them entitled “I don’t regret this love.” He is, of course, referring to 1. FC Nürnberg. He has no interest in any other club – the 1.90m player has a long term contract with the club.
Stark was an incredible athlete as a child: He held five club records at TSV Ipsheim: Long Jump (3.89m) and Ball throwing (40m). It’s a long journey to becoming a top Bundesliga player, but he is on the right path. “Niklas is talented and can still improve,” said new Nürnberg manager René Weiler. “We shall see what happens.”
Connected to Nürnberg
Stark hopes that the change in head coach will see him make more appearances for the first team, even if he starts the game on the bench, like he did against Ingolstadt. The way he celebrated the goals from the bench shows just how strongly he feels about the club.
His biggest achievements in 2014 came in a Germany kit and he hopes to continue that trend in 2015 and be a part of the squad that goes to the U21 European Championship. “It would be a dream come true to play at the tournament,” said Stark.