Daniel Bachmann is relishing returning to the club next month and showing how far he has progressed following a highly-impressive loan spell in Scotland.
The Austrian, 24, spent the whole of last season playing in goal for Kilmarnock as Steve Clarke’s side put together one of the best seasons in the club’s history, achieving a record points tally, their highest finish in 53 years and a place in Europe for the first time since 2001.
Bachmann kept 14 clean sheets, conceding just 26 goals in 28 games – and 13 of those came in games against the big two, Celtic and Rangers. Such was his form that he was linked with permanent moves to Rangers and Hearts, but he is keen to return to his parent club and make his mark in the Premier League.
“I’m keen to push on,” he said. “I’m coming back on July 1 with the others and I’m looking forward to the challenge. Obviously I know Ben [Foster] has had an incredible season. He’s been in the Premier League for a long time and yet that was probably his best season so far, so that shows just how well he played. It will be tough to get past him but football is all about competition and waiting for your chance. I think the competition will do us both good and I’m ready to play.”
Bachmann nearly doubled his career appearances while at Rugby Park and appears to have come on leaps and bounds after playing top-flight football week in, week out.
“One hundred per cent [I’m a better ‘keeper now],” he said. “There is no doubt about that. Playing games is very important and I’ve developed a lot. I’ve learned to cope with the mental pressure and I’m a lot more relaxed. You can train as much as you want but there is nothing that develops you better than playing in front of 60,000 people at Celtic Park.”
Bachmann had to be patient when he first moved north of the border. He played just one of the first 17 games and didn’t establish himself as the first choice until November.
“It was very frustrating initially,” he said. “I missed the first league game because the loan didn’t happen in time and then my international clearance didn’t come through in time for the second game. Jamie MacDonald kept a clean sheet in the first game and then they went on a run. I just had to be patient. I had a few chats with Steve Clarke and I knew I’d get a chance at some point.”
Bachmann got the nod in a 3-1 cup defeat to Rangers but he had to wait until November 10, and the away game at Hearts, for opportunity to knock in the league.
“Even that was a bit of a tricky one,” said Bachmann. “I got the feeling in the week I was going to play but then on the Friday, Jamie MacDonald was called up to the Scotland squad. I thought, ‘There is no way the gaffer is going to drop a Scotland ‘keeper now’, but he did change it, I played and I kept a clean sheet. It was a really intimidating atmosphere and I really liked playing there [at Tynecastle].”
Bachmann never looked back after that 1-0 win. He kept clean sheets in each of his next three games and established himself not only as Killie’s no. 1, but also as one of the best in the league. Among the highlights were a 2-1 home win over Steven Gerrard’s Rangers and playing at Celtic Park.
“Celtic Park and Ibrox were amazing places to play,” he said. “The atmosphere was incredible at Celtic Park in the game towards the end of the season. One of the Lisbon Lions [Billy McNeil] had died and there was a big celebration of his life at the game. It gave me goosebumps.”
Kilmarnock thanked Bachmann on social media for his “effort and contribution to our amazing season”, adding he had “become a real fans’ favourite at Rugby Park with his talent and passion clear for all to see.”
“I was really well liked by the fans and that was really nice,” he said. “I had a nice relationship with them. I’m an emotional guy and I just loved winning for them. It doesn’t matter if I’m on loan or not – I just wanted to win. I’ll never forget my time there. I really enjoyed it. Playing games is the most important thing. A lot of people think the Scottish League is a bad league but it is a lot better than people think. They had high-profile managers in Steven Gerrard and Brendan Rodgers and that makes the league a lot better and increases the profile. I loved it.”
Bachmann will always remember his time in Scotland as his daughter was born in March while he was there. “I’ve got two kids but only had one when I first moved there,” he said. “The three of us moved to an apartment in Glasgow but then my wife moved to Blackpool, where she is from, to be closer to family during the pregnancy as I was at training a lot. We are all looking forward to coming back to Hertfordshire as we like living in this part of the country.”
Bachmann will return to the training base in London Colney and be reunited with some old faces and catch up with some new ones. He's been kept fully up-to-date with things at Vicarage Road as he was speaking regularly to Daryl Janmaat.
“I’m good friends with Daryl,” he said. “I think we spoke nearly every day. I spoke to a few of the other lads as well. It’s been an incredible season for the club and although the FA Cup final didn’t go the way everyone wanted, it was still a day no-one will forget. It was an incredible achievement and I’m sure everyone just wants to kick on now.”