Struggles in Austria...
(*Note: Preston has graciously agreed to answer any questions that you post for him in the comments below.) (Part I) (Part III)
TSG: Okay, so then Hamburg sell you to what I’ll call your “nightmare club” in Austria? Spill it on Austria.
Preston: Well, thanks. It would be good to set the record straight.
TSG: Go ahead.
Basically what happened is my agent at the time couldn’t find a club for me.
Hamburg came and spoke to me and they didn’t want me on their books, and they had a relationship with a club in Austria and they wanted to loan me out.
I knew nothing about the club. The very next day Hamburg had consummated the deal with Kapfenberger SV and they said I just had to sign some personal terms.
At the time I thought it was a good idea and a good situation. So I went there and became a starter and started for 23 or so games.
I can’t say anything bad about playing there. I had playing time and an opportunity. I played and scored against Red Bull Salzburg and did some other good things…but…
It all came to a sudden end and they wanted me to sign a contract through 2012.
I had already communicated to them that I was only there because I couldn’t find a second league club in Germany and I couldn’t find that connection.
Everyone knew that I was going there to get experience, but not to settle down.
That was the plan and it wasn’t supposed to hurt anyone’s feelings. I didn’t like the atmosphere at the club and the culture in Austria is not really what I wanted either.
They wanted me to sign a contract until 2012, and when I didn’t things went sour…fast.
Once I said no, I got benched despite starting all the games before that. And then the coach would start hollering at me after training and also trying to get me to sign the contract.
I’d keep telling him that I’m not going to agree to a contract and you’re my coach, not the management.
He chastised me in front of the team.
Matt, this story could go on for hours.
TSG: We’ll take the short or long version.
Preston: It sort of came to a head after losing against Vienna.
He benched me for the first half and then the second half I came in, but didn’t score.
He came into the locker room after and wanted me to fight him!
He even pulled some other guy’s hair who didn’t play well!
So we get back to the club–it was a road game–it’s 11pm at night and we’re out on the pitch, it’s snowing and we’re sprinting up and down the pitch non-stop carrying medicine balls!
Then we have a meeting a little after midnight and he says…well, he demeans me in front of the team saying I have no respect for the team and the coach, and if that’s my attitude (about the contract) I can go find a new club.
He put his hand out and I shook it. I thought I was fired.
Preston: We then had a meeting when I came back and he blew up on me and basically wanted to fight me again!
Well, then I was 100% sure I was fired.
So I didn’t come back to training anymore, and he started threatening me through other players on the team saying if I didn’t come back to training he was going to have UEFA suspend me for six months.
By then I had a lawyer who advised me that I was fired by what happened, and that I shouldn’t say anything and not to go back.
It went on and on and it went into the media and he crucified me there.
He said I went to England on a trial. Meanwhile, I don’t even have the papers to be able to play in England!
I’d go walk places around town and people would come up to me and get in my face and ask why I was doing what I was doing.
But, bottom line: I was fired and I didn’t get any of the money owed to me.
Also, the apartment was from the club and my car too. I got everything out of my apartment because I thought they would take that.
And then I went home to Washington.
I tried to get into teams, Regensburg in Germany’s third division was interested, but no team would take me even though I had the papers that I was fired. Teams would check with Austria and they would say I broke my contract.
[At the time of publication, Kapfenberger SV had not responded to email requests for comment]
TSG: So let me interrupt and ask a question: how do you prevent a situation like that? Can it be prevented?
Preston: I’m sure it could have been prevented, but Hamburg did the deal more than my agent.
It could have been I guess, but no one was really involved more in the situation. My agent wasn’t helping me because he’s not the one that got me to Kapfenburg.
On to Mainz...
TSG: So then you had a friend at Mainz who finally quote “hooked you up?”
I don’t want to name him, but he’s in good standing with a club.
Somehow I popped up in a conversation and they were curious what happened to me after I was at Hamburg.
But with my history it was still difficult. Why claim a player with my background who might be a headache?
TSG: Wait let me go back…qualify just how difficult the Vienna situation was?
Preston: Worst time of my life, obviously.
It was hard because I had to stick by my guns and for ten months I couldn’t play while it got sorted out, plus I wasn’t making any money.
They [Kapfenburg] even tried to make Mainz pay money for me when I wasn’t even under contract anymore.
TSG: And let me remind our readers that you’re all of 20-years-old at this time.
I had to bum around Europe. I thought, “Is this what I have to go through?”
I was desperate. I went to Turkey on trial. I even thought about an offer from Azerbaijan.
I just wanted to play football.
TSG: Were you going to stay in Europe at all times or were you considering coming back to MLS?
Preston: I was staying in Europe.
A lot of people don’t understand the reason I live in Europe isn’t based exclusively on football. I love Europe and it’s not just about the football.
One of my goals in life was to learn another language and now I know German.
It’s not a bash on MLS. It’s just that I want to live here.
I decided I’m not going to give up and that team in Austria is going to know they messed up. I’m going to stay and make it.
TSG: Now you’re in a better situation?
Preston: When I first got to Hamburg I had great wages and then I had nothing, and now I’m back to where I was.
Everything has sort of gone the way it’s supposed to except that spell in Austria, I guess.
I wish it didn’t happen, but I can’t worry about that anymore.
TSG: So, to refresh, the plan is to now play out the year?
Preston: Basically I go to work in peace now.
I don’t do interviews because so often the media has got it wrong. You guys are an exception, of course.
I’ll see where it shakes out in January. I just want less chaos.
I know that I’m safe in Mainz and no one is out to get me. They want me to succeed.