When Thorsten Fink was appointed at Hamburg recently, it finally put to bed the speculation about who will be the new coach at the club, but it unfortunately left far too many questions unanswered about the future of HSV.
By the time the former FC Basel coach finally started his tenure at Hamburg, it was just shy of a month since the departure of Michael Oenning from the post. But why did it take so long to fill what should be an extremely coveted position, that many coaches around Europe should have been clamoring to take? Was it purely the case that the club wanted to make sure that they got their man? Or was it that they didn’t know the kind of guy they needed or wanted? Either way, it was probably another case of poor planning at the Volkspark Stadium that has dogged Hamburg for many a moon. Let us not forget that with the arrival of Fink it took the number of HSV coaches (including interim appointments) in the last decade to 13 (since Frank Pagelsdorf). And of those ‘permanent’ coaches, only one managed to win over 50% of his games at the club (Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf has 50.75% over the last 12-years), and that was Martin Jol. The Dutchman has been a bit of an exception to the rule of late in Hamburg, a manager who left rather than was fired and chose to go to Ajax. Yes Ajax are a big club, and he is Dutch, but when you look at the size and potential of both clubs it could be argued that Hamburg would have been an equally good fit…perhaps even better. This doesn’t paint a good picture for what is going on behind the scenes at Hamburg, as it seems that coaches are either fired or they choose to leave even when the going on the pitch is not too bad.
Last week, Hamburg Sporting Director Frank Arnesen, stated that Fink was his first choice to be Oenning’s replacement but the history of the move doesn’t exactly suggest that. There was the reported attempt to get Huub Stevens into the role, but this didn’t happen and the club were left to search again. There were big names and up and coming names flying around in the speculation. Everyone from Marco van Basten to Morten Olsen were linked with the job, and even the likes of Louis van Gaal and even Gus Hiddink was reportedly in the frame…but the man who got the job was Fink.
But is this going to be a good choice for Fink and HSV? As we know, the club expects results and when they don’t get them the manager at the time usually gets the boot. The fans expect as well, after-all, (as is so often banded around) HSV are the only constant in the history of the Bundesliga and are three time winners of the title – and this loads pressure on Fink from the off. But the good thing is that unlike his predecessor Oenning, this young manager is twice winner of the Swiss Super League and also has a Swiss Cup to his name as well. This of course is no guarantee of success at HSV. Armin Veh won the Bundesliga title with Stuttgart, but has not gone on to great things at Hamburg or anywhere else for that matter. One thing that Fink has in his favour is the fact that he has been working with a side that has had to blend youth and experience, something that at Hamburg is a must. He promoted several of Basel’s members of the Swiss under-21 squad, and blended them with veterans like former Dortmund striker Alexander Frei. This bending of youth and experience is certainly the philosophy that has been employed at HSV (even if a little rapidly), but there is no doubt that Fink if can do the same good job with Hamburg’s youthful talent and the veterans, then this will be a successful time at the club.
He is unfortunately faced with the problem of trying to get the best out of the squad quickly, which could be especially after they have seen so much of upheaval already this season. He needs to galvanise a the team, tactically and mentally and keep it up as just around the corner is the winter break. The winter break, far from being a time of rest and relaxation is crucial to a teams season, and dealing with the second half of the season preparation is key…HSV aren’t in the position to get that wrong.
Being coach of HSV has in recent time had its serious pitfalls but for Thorsten Fink, it could pay off…but then again, this hasn’t been the way for so many before him at the Bundesliga Dinosaur.