By Jackson Irvine

At St Pauli we walk out to “Hells Bells” by AC/DC. The Millerntor is rocking, the Jolly Roger flags are waving in the stands and those big power chords run right up your spine.

My two passions are football and music, so to be out there in a St Pauli jersey, listening to an iconic Aussie pub rock song, is definitely one of the coolest experiences I’ve had as a footballer.

Everything is golden for me in Hamburg at the moment. We’re top of Bundasliga 2 and we’ve won every game I’ve played. 

A couple of weeks ago I scored my first goal at the Millerntor, in a 4-0 win over one of our main rivals, Hansa Rostock. Because of COVID, we’re still working our way back to full capacity, but that game was the first where we had the ultras back in the stands.

Before the match, I’d done a few interviews with journalists who asked me when the goal was going to come. It’s funny how things fall into place: I could feel it coming in the build-up, and then when the ball hit the back of the net it was just pure elation. 

I remember punching the air and soaking it all in while the fans chanted along to Blur’s “Song 2”. I don’t think there could have been a better time to score my first goal.

Of course, everything is great when you’re winning, but it wasn’t long ago that I was going through a difficult period. I’d had a fallout when I left Hull City and was without a club after ending a short-term contract with Hibernian.

Financially, I wasn’t too worried, but I knew that I wanted to move to a club that would satisfy me from a lifestyle perspective as well as football. So when the St Pauli offer was slid across the desk, it seemed like a perfect fit.

The club coach and football director spoke to me about what I could add to what is already a very strong squad. They wanted me to play on the right side of a diamond, in a high-energy, box-to-box system which highlights all of my qualities. 

Most people give you a good pitch, but I think after speaking to me they probably realised that I would enjoy being at the club and living in this city. I think they knew I would thrive here on and off the field.

I first came to Germany in 2014, during my time with Celtic. We played against St Pauli and Union Berlin and I came away thinking it was incredible that both clubs could pull a crowd of 30,000 while they were in the second division.

Since then, I’ve had a fascination with German football. I love the way the clubs operate here and I have a great deal of respect for the fan ownership model. 

Some people say that sport and politics don’t mix, but I love that St Pauli doesn’t shy away from major social issues that most of the football world is guilty of paying attention to only for brief moments.

At most clubs, Rainbow Round or Equality Round unfortunately can become a chore for players. Here, our captain’s armband is rainbow every game of the season. Our values and beliefs are written into the stands and printed onto the jersey. There’s no empty gestures here – this club lives its values every day.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that German fans seem far less celebrity-obsessed than in the UK. In England, a lot of the songs were about individual players, whereas in Germany it’s more about the club. 

Here, if the fans recognise that you appreciate the club, that you work hard and that you’re there to give something back, they respect you – but they don’t put you on a pedestal. For example, the fans know about my musical background and they like the fact that I live in Sternschanze, which is about 15 minutes from the Millerntor.

Honestly, I walk home from the stadium after games, amongst tens of thousands of people, and everyone will just wave and say hi, as if I’m one of them. Instead of people asking for selfies, they’ll come up to me and say, “Hey, good game, man” or  “I listened to your Spotify playlist the other day, it’s really cool.” They genuinely seem happy that I’m happy playing for their club. 

This week is the third time I’ve been away from St Pauli for international duty. At the moment, I feel as if I’m playing my best football domestically and internationally. I love the winning mentality of this current Socceroos squad. We’re proud to have achieved that record-breaking 11-game winning streak, but we want to go further. 

This is a massive game for us against Saudi Arabia – especially because it’s the first time we’ve played on home soil in more than two years. We’re here to win, but we also want to reignite that connection between the Socceroos and our fans.

Once the international break is over, it’s back to St Pauli for an away game against Schalke. In the new year, we’ve got a local derby against HSV on a Friday night under lights.

As a footballer you never know what’s coming next, but I’ll be 29 this season and my partner and I are looking for a new place in Sternschanze after our short-term rental ends. We’re both city kids, so we want to be amongst it, within walking distance to the bars, clubs, restaurants and the Millerntor. 

I appreciate that St Pauli fans see me as a person, not a performer, and I’m looking forward to having the full experience of living in this community.