Big interview: Kretzschmar on dream Wycombe debut, broken collarbone, Woking move and dad's swearing
Max Kretzschmar offered a fascinating insight into the motives behind his surprise decision to sign for Stuart Maynard in the midst of pre-season - while he was being courted by several monied clubs on the back of a terrific 2021-22 season for Woking.
Thirteen goals from midfield in 34 league games are numbers that would delight most strikers. And how happy Stones fans were when Twitter exploded into life that June morning with the news that a late, fan-funded exercise would see Mighty Max wearing the GPF Lewis shirt this season.
“It was a combination of factors,” said the 28 year old. “Mainly though, it was the fact that Stuart had been in my ear for two years, persuading me that his style of play would suit my style of play. And Cookie dropped quite a few DMs to me during the summer! But once I’d seen how he and Matty Saunders structure the training I knew I had good reason to be excited.
“To be honest, the place to be is where you are most loved and I’m feeling that already at Wealdstone, from the players and staff to the fans”.
Kretzschmar admitting to being "a little bit nervous" before the season kicked off because a calf injury at the end of last season left him "a couple of weeks behind everyone else". But he had four assists after four games, including a Bergkamp-esque flick for Rhys Browne to score the winner against FC Halifax Town.
“My game is about covering every blade of grass, threatening teams and trying to win the ball back - although I’ll have more of a forward, No.10 role this season. My strengths are finding space in and around the box and getting on the end of things.
"We’ll be all about movement and keeping possession, moving teams around and then finding the cutting edge. I like to set little targets for myself each season and I got nine assists as well as my goals last year, so I’ll be aiming to improve those stats this season.”
Max’s family (from German descent) is from Kingston-Upon-Thames and he was scouted by Southampton as a boy, when he starred for his winning Molesey Juniors side in a tournament at Camberley. But after he was released he was offered contracts by Wycombe and Brentford, and chose the Buckinghamshire side. There he made an astonishing debut at Hartlepool in League Two in August 2013, scoring twice off the bench in a 2-1 win (replacing ex-Stone Nick Arnold).
“My dad said: “What the f*** have you just done!” laughed Max.
He returned an impressive six goals from 35 appearances that season, but was then released and joined Garry Hill’s Woking in the National League.
“That was a difficult time as I suffered a broken collarbone and did my medial ligaments, and I moved on to Hampton in the NLS... I was thinking, bloody hell, I’ve dropped two divisions in two years! But I really enjoyed it and we reached the play-off final, only losing on penalties to Braintree”.
Max had scored 14 goals in 40-odd appearances, and when Hampton boss Alan Dowson was installed as the new Woking manager the midfielder followed him back to Kingfield for the 2018-19 season. “I know what you’re going to ask next... you’re going to ask me about the NLS play-off semi-final against Wealdstone!” he chuckled.
“My dad says it was the most emotionally-draining game he’s ever seen. I know the Stones had a tiring game on the Wednesday night against Bath, while we had a week to prepare, and you don’t have to be a genius to realise why we scored three times in the last ten minutes. Wealdstone were leading 2-0 but they were knackered... We got one back, then I managed to find a pocket of space to equalise.”
And Jake Hyde’s winning goal... was that offside?
“I don’t care!” he said. “Godfrey Poku joined us from Wealdstone the following season and I have to admit we teased him a bit about that game."
Kretzschmar believes that the current coaching set-up at Wealdstone really helps develop and improves players. Jack Cook, for example, has come on leaps and bounds, according to his former teammate.
“He was always a good player but he’s really dominant now, one of the best centre-backs in the League," said Kretzschmar. "And the way Stuart and Matty set up the training makes me think they’ll have a really big future in the game.
"Most teams play keep-ball sessions but they cone off a small area of the pitch. Here we mark out a grid but it’s whole pitch size... it’s called pitch geography and the players are coached as to where they should be within the system. It’s really very different. It’s exciting to play within that system and when you have a small budget and a small squad you have to rinse every drop out of the players... and it works."
So how does Max organise his time, being a full-time player in a part-time environment?
“I do have my own one-to-one football coaching business, and that will really kick off in the school summer hoildays," he said. "I have just signed off my coaching B licence, and I also have plans to get into the media side of the game after doing a degree in sportswriting and broadcasting. But for the moment I’m focussing on getting fit for the season.
“There is talk of a few of the players getting together for a few mornings, to create a type of hybrid training model and I’m all over that. At Woking I was the one who reinforced the standards of what we were trying to achieve. I’d be out there every day with a ball if I could!”
* This interview was adapted from the one that originally and exclusively featured in the multi award-winning Wealdstone match day programme ahead of the Bromley game. Make sure you get a copy of the next edition at the Woking game.
See Kretzschmar in action against his former club Woking on Sunday at The Vale, 12pm kick-off. Click HERE to get take advantage of our early-bird ticket offer for the big game
• Pictures by Jon Taffel