Category Archives: Hamburg SV

It’s a Mad Tea Party

There is a place. Like no place on Earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger! Some say to survive it: You need to be as mad as a hatter… Which luckily, I am!

One of the more signficant contributions to pop culture ever made by Charles Lutwidge Dotson was giving Disney theme parks an excuse to create the Mad Tea Party ride. For those unfamiliar with it, it’s a fantastic contraption that sees park-goers voluntarily decide to hop into oversized, pastel-coloured tea cups and spin round and round until either their eyes cross or their meals are involuntarily ejected. Despite these potential unfortunate side effects, the Mad Tea Party is considered one of the most iconic rides of all of Disney’s tehme park attractions and still quite popular.

A mad tea party also describes what we often see when it comes to the constant movement of trainers in Bundesliga of late, quite often with Felix Magath as the Mad Hatter.

So often when the sacking season begins, we refer to it as the “coaching carousel,” but this doesn’t quite fit the description of how things take shape for managers in Germany’s top flight. A carousel simply goes around in a wide circle, rhythmically moving up and down. Someone gets on, such as when Michael Oenning did in March for HSV, once someone else had been chucked of the horse, to begin a ride. The problem here, is that the carousel only goes in one direction, typically at only one speed, and the movements up and down can be timed so that the rider can come to expect when he’s on a high, and when he’s on a low.

Instead, Oenning just got his eyes crossed after having been spun violently every which way but up during his time in charge of Hamburg and from matchday to matchday likely had little notion of how to predict a high or low. Instead, he hopped into that red-shorted tea cup vacated by Armin Veh and gave it a spin for what many might have thought would be a short ride as a caretaker. The club opted to stay with Oenning to begin this campaign, however, and after one point from their opening six matches, could no longer wait to see if he might be able to lessen his vertigo and see the way forward. Even though it is still early doors at this stage of the Bundesliga season, it was becoming apparent the 45 yr old trainer was about to lose his lunch.

What is the hatter with me? Have I gone mad? 

Also, on the carousel, there is usually a large pole the rider can hold onto for security as the seat moves up and down. In Bundesliga, as in all top flight European football these days, there is typically no sturdy pillar with which a manager can cling to for support when his ride is at its ebb. Even a previous record of title triumphs is often not considered secure enough for them to latch onto to ride out the down times. Rather, in these eighteen tea cups, with some moving faster than particles in a CERN accelerator, a poor runs of form are spun so quickly into clubs being in crisis and managers start to look slightly dizzy and lost as the ride keeps speeding up as they try desperately to slow it down.

In the end, those, like Oenning, end up being spun right out of their seats before they decided to end their ride in the tea cup.

Now, there is the announcement that Ralf Rangnick is stepping away from Schalke 04, citing health reasons. Having listened to Rangnick prior to his appointment as the Royal Blues trainer in April, this is not an incredible shock. After Dietmar Hopp began spinning his tea cup in the wrong direction with Hoffenheim, Rangnick sounded like a person who wanted to take some time away from the game, watch the Mad Tea Party from the sidelines for a spell, before hopping back on the ride.

Instead, when the Mad Hatter himself left and took his party back to Wolfsburg, Rangnick was coaxed to come back for another spin, and he accepted perhaps too early for his own health. Those final days with Germany’s richest village team appears to have made him a bit sick of it all, and probably he should have given himself more time to focus on personal matters he most likely set aside while he remained a guest at the mad tea party.

You’re not the same as you were before You were much more…”muchier” You’ve lost your “muchness.”

So for Rangnick, being a rather seasoned veteran of this particular amusement park attraction, knew he was experiencing that feeling one gets right before they are about to be sick again if they have ridden the Mad Tea Party more than once, and chose to get off the ride on his own terms. As Schalke look for someone to replace him on a permanent basis, the question now becomes if another established Bundesliga manager is offered enough of a sweetener to hop out of their current seat to take a spin in Gelsenkirchen or if another guest is invited to the party.

Either way, it’s a mad ride. And do YOU know how a raven is like a writing desk?

LIGAtotal! Round Up

The LIGAtotal! Cup this year provided a brief two day window to analyse four teams that, on the basis of the performances witnessed, should be looking to compete with one another for the top places in the forthcoming Bundesliga season.

The accolade for the ‘Most Memorable Performance’ goes to Manuel Neuer for his two displays of nervousness that made him look like the devil spawn of Thomas Kraft and Hans-Jorg Butt. Poor Manuel, who has also somehow found himself on a slightly distasteful (read: asinine) campaign by a set of Bayern ultras who inhabit the Südtribüne of the Allianz Arena, who last week supplied the German #1 with a five-piece protocol that he must obey if his stay is to be comfortable. His performances did nothing to breed confidence in the Bayern faithful, after being partly culpable for the majority of the goals conceded within the tournament. He looked uncharacteristically flustered; this would usually be understandable given he had Holger Badstuber playing ahead of him, but for someone who had to put up with the inept defending of Christoph Metzelder for a couple of seasons, he should be used to lackadaisical – bordering on the slapstick – defending witnessed in his back four.

Heung Min Son of HSV, however, did genuinely impress however, even if Neuer did offer him a helping hand in his goals. His perfectly timed darting runs behind the opposition’s defence offered something that Hamburg missed last season. Further, the lad has a haircut moulded from his Mother’s mixing bowl – so for us, he’s an inevitable favourite. Dortmund new boy Ivan Perišić – who scored regularly whilst at Club Brugge – produced performances that should excite BVB fans. His aerial ability and goal scoring ability should hopefully improve BVB in front of goal, as they were often profligate in front of goal last year and the Perišić should be seen as seen as a solution to their (relative) goal scoring problems.

As a brief aside; the 30-minute per half format was intriguing to see in practice. Generally, the game seemed quicker in pace and more direct. Players rushed to get the play started again and genuinely seemed concerned with the time. Pre-season friendlies are usually typified by a lack of speed or pace to the game, with teams content to keep possession between the centre-halves – this was not the case here. With teams playing two matches in two consecutive days, it was not only a healthy proposal but one that lent itself to supporters who like to consume the happenings of their team over the whole year with a thoroughly watchable spectacle.

A New League for Old Men

With all the pomp and circumstance befitting someone with the nickname “Goldenballs,” David Beckham joined Major League Soccer side Los Angeles largely to cheers but also to jeers from American football enthusiasts certain his arrival stateside was only part of his early retirement plan. Arsenal legend Thierry Henry later arrived in New York to slightly less pomp but more circumstance owing to his reputation as a goal scorer and having landed in the media capital of the nation. As other footballers of a certain pedigree followed Becks & Titi (sounds like a terrible mixed drink, eh?) across the pond, the ceremony surrounding their arrivals lessened and for most the jury’s still out as to what positive contributions they have brought to their respective MLS clubs.

So, what’s this have to do with Bundesliga? Principally, it centers around the recent signing of former Schalke 04 & Hamburg SV keeper Frank Rost to Red Bull New York. Now, while Bild‘s transfer rumors can be as true as a Protestant Pope, it appears that it did indeed come to pass that Grandpa Rost is moving to the Big Apple. Red Bull New York desperately needs a keeper who understands he is the one allowed by the rules of the game to grab the ball with his hands during a match, and after shipping Canadian international Dwayne DeRosario off to DC United the New York club have an empty Designated Player slot that was set aside for a competent keeper. Rost would certainly fit the bill for RBNY in this respect, and Seattle’s Casey Keller has shown that being old enough to become Medicare eligible is no deterrent to being a quality keeper in MLS.

Another consideration as to the merits of Rost’s departure from the Hamburglars is that of late, Major League Soccer has become slightly fashionable for Bundesliga players who might no longer have the chops to handle the talented youth who seemed to have become prominent performers in the league. With Rost getting his wings from RBNY general manager Eric Soler–himself a former Hamburg player–he is the third notable signing from the German top flight to the United States for the season. Former 1.FC Koeln GK Faryd Mondragon joined Philadelphia to begin this summer’s campaign and has started all matches for the club that sits just below RBNY in the table on goal differential. Werder Bremen’s Torsten Frings opted to discover first-hand just how many American fans still remember his dubious handball non-call in the 2002 World Cup by joining Toronto FC (yes, Toronto’s in Canada, but the Reds play in the US league and supporters will let him know how they feel on away days).

What might it be, then, that could be the appeal for these former Bundesliga regulars to make the jump to MLS rather than try their hands and feet somewhere in Germany or Europe? While the story of Mondragon’s move might be peculiar, owing to him leaving the Billygoats on less than friendly terms, for players like Frings and Rost it might be down to the style of play employed in the United States. While lateral movement and wing play has generally been improving in the league, most MLS clubs choose to attack in a more direct manner–not necessarily Route 1 football–but mostly through the center of the midfield with goals often coming from the heart of the pitch or by unbeatable shots from afar like Vancouver’s Eric Hassli performed earlier this summer. For experienced Bundesliga campaigners like Rost and Frings, they might have a chance to succeed playing in this style, as Rost is more than capable of collecting shots from the middle of the park while Frings can simply force his way through the average MLS midfield.

Or at the very least, draw fouls to set up free kicks he hopefully doesn’t take. Watching his last days at Werder last year on the dead ball was rather painful at times.

Granted, the league has some quality within its midst–Goldenballs and Henry are still about along with some promising young lads–but there currently exists a dearth of darting Kagawas, cutting Robbens, ball-hawking Vidals, and the like populating a majority of the MLS squads. An American adventure for both former Bundesliga pros, then, might turn into good business for the sides that employ them and give additional pause to older Bundesliga players like Hans-Jorg Butt who are suiting up in the top flight of Germany on the bench.