Monthly Archives: January 2012

Kaiserslautern Must Look to Walter for Inspiration

Archie Rhind-Tutt takes a look at the Bundesliga’s bluntest attack force, Kaiserslautern. Why are goals so hard to come by on the Betzenberg?

Glance at some of the players who have pulled on the blood red of Kaiserslautern. The likes of Michael Ballack and Miroslav Klose played in the South West of Germany. There is one more prominent than those two and in fact, all others.

Fritz Walter is a name which will get any German football historian purring with delight. Depending on whom you believe or what you’ve read, Walter is the best forward Germany has ever had. He may not have soured as many goals as Gerd Müller and Miroslav Klose, but he captained and inspired Germany to their first ever world triumph in 1954 under the tutelage of Sepp Herberger.

Fast forward to present day and Kaiserslautern are in a relegation battle. Playing at the Fritz Walter Stadion, they have the worst attack in the division, something of an irony considering the attacking players who have played for the club.

Fritz Walter - Captain of the 1954 World Cup winning German team

It is perhaps naive to expect every side from the Betzenberg to be goal crazy just because Fritz Walter played for them. Nevertheless, with Marco Kurz’s side occupying the relegation play-off position currently, it is apt to highlight the problem.

Last season, Kaiserslautern finished in an impressive 8th place and considering this was their first term back in the Bundesliga for four years. To replicate this achievement was always going to be tough and Kurz’s side are similar to Mainz and Nuremberg in this respect, having lost key players who played big roles in their success last season.

The greatest loss for the Die roten Teufel (The Red Devils) was Srdan Lakic to Wolfsburg. The most painful aspect of his move to Lower Saxony is that he has hardly played since arriving in the summer. His move was agreed to prior to the arrival of Felix Magath and has not found himself in favour with the disciplinarian coach.

Lakic played a vital role in lifting the Betzenberg outfit into the top half last year. He scored 16 goals in his only year at the club. In contrast, with just over half of the season elapsed, Kaiserslautern have only registered 13 strikes.

The main goal supplier is still present in the Rhineland-Palatinate. Christian Tiffert managed 17 assists and was widely considered one of the best players in the last campaign. He was six assists clear of any other player and yet this season, he doesn’t have a single one to his name. Granted, he has two goals, helping Kurz’s side to two of their three wins against Schalke and Mainz but the over reliance on Lakic last season appears to have become all too clear now.

Some results though have been very encouraging for Kaiserslautern. Taking four points away at the Ruhr duo of Schalke and Dortmund, two of the top three, is very impressive. In fact, something which should give Kurz great encouragement is his side’s defensive record. They have the fifth best back line in the Bundesliga and it even extends to third away from home. Despite their precarious position, they’ve only lost two of their last ten games. The problem is the other side to that statistic – no win in their last eight games.

Kaiserslautern Coach Marco Kurz

It all comes back to goals though. Dorge Kouemaha, Itay Shechter, Richard Sukuta-Pasu and Adam Nemec, the forwards at the club during the first half of the season, grabbed only six goals between them. Now though, Kouemaha has a long term injury, Shechter is suspended this weekend, whilst Nemec has left for Ingolstadt. To bolster his options, Kurz has brought in Jakub Swierczok from Polonia Bytom and Sandro Wagner on loan from Werder Bremen.

However, a recovery needs to surface soon. In the next two games, Kaiserslautern face Augsburg and Cologne. With no disrespect to either side, they are far more likely to garner points in those games than against Bayern Munich and Gladbach in the two after.

To draw inspiration, the forwards should look towards club icon Fritz Walter. Whether it’s his statue outside the Betzenberg or just the official name of the stadium, he’s certainly a player who Marco Kurz would love in his team at the moment.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 49 – Tight at the Top of the Bundesliga + Fan Congress Special

This week on The Bundesliga Show, Terry Duffelen and Jon Hartley discuss the start of the Rückrunde where it is tight at the top in the Bundesliga. Big wins for Schalke, Dortmund and Gladbach, while Bayern’s defeat means that it is a four horse race at the start of 2012.

Also on the show, Jon and Terry are joined by Stuart Dykes from Supporters Direct to talk about the recent Fan Congress held in Berlin, where a huge range of fan issues were discussed, including ticket prices, violence, pyrotechnics and the 50+1 rule.

To find out more about the Congress, check out this report from the Football Supporters’ Federation - http://www.fsf.org.uk/news/fans-kongress-2012-berlin.php

Also for more information on Supporters Direct please visit their website – http://www.supporters-direct.org/

 

Rückrunde Return – Schalke v Stuttgart

Diana Yeow takes a look at the Schalke and Stuttgart’s first match of the Rückrunde, and takes a look what this result could mean for both sides in the remaining part of the seaoson.

Schalke's Joel Matip being surrounded by his team-mates after scoring the quickest goal for the club this season, after three minutes. Schalke would eventually win 3-1 against Stuttgart.

So what happened when Stuttgart travelled away to Schalke? As they say, revenge is a dish best served cold, and on a chilly day in Gelsenkirchen, it was Schalke who took their revenge having been beaten 3-0 on the opening weekend of the season at the Mercedes Benz Arena. Schalke’s success (and Bayern’s slip up) means that they are level on points with Bayern and Dortmund, and only third due to goal difference. Schalke coach Huub Stevens has been realistic about his side and has played down being the so-called ‘Bayern Hunters’, as termed by the media. But this result was certainly not out of the norm for these sides. For Schalke, it was their fifth consecutive home win, while for Stuttgart, it was the fifth consecutive time Bruno Labbadia’s side has not registered a win and the third defeat in succession. Despite this great win, there was not all good news to Schalke’s triumph: Captain Benedikt Howedes was injured after a collision with his fellow team-mate Marco Hoeger and suffered a broken his cheekbone, and according to reports is expected to be out for up to six weeks.

It wasn’t a good day for Stuttgart, they were beaten by the set-piece goal, twice: That was how the first two goals from Schalke came about, and the coach Bruno Labbadia was rightly critical of his side after the game on how they defended from corners. The first of the two goals was the fastest Schalke had scored for this season, in the third minute by Joel Matip. The second came from another corner, but this time it was a header from Kyriakos Papadopoulos. If the first two goals came down in part to bad Stuttgart defending from corners, the Schalke third couldn’t have been more different…‘one-touch football’ was the way commentator Gary Preston described it, and it was exactly that.  From Ciprian Marica (who actually used to play for Stuttgart) to Raul, before Klass-Jan Huntelaar passed it to Julian Draxler who slotted it home – a demonstration of how devastating Schalke can be. This effectiveness in front of goal goes some way to explaining the differing fortunes of these teams. Huntelaar and Raul have contributed 23 goals in total for Schalke so far this season. While by contrast, according to the Bundesliga’s English website, Stuttgart have the ‘most lightweight strike force in the division’ with only a mere five to the tally. Stuttgart coach Bruno Labbadia said post-match that he is putting his faith on Cacau, despite the striker being overlooked for the German national team in view of his form at club level. Also in the line-up was Pavel Progebynak, whose future has been constantly discussed. But with these misfiring strikers, it may of too much surprise that  Vedad Ibisevic was signed by Stuttgart from Hoffenheim in the wake of this match.

Schalke coach Huub Stevens, realistic about the title chances after the 3-1 win over Stuttgart.

What does the result could mean for Schalke? Coach Huub Stevens, may be realistic about their title hopes because they have been down this road before, as Schalke have often their hopes up of a title challenge before their form trailed off. But the manner of their win over Stuttgart has raised the question of whether they can mount a serious title challenge this time around. With players like Atsuto Uchida, Benedikt Höwedes, Kryiakos Papadopoulos and Christian Fuchs, it is not that surprising that on the defence side of things, things are going well. They have currently the fourth best defensive record in the league, and given it has always been said that having a strong defence plays a part in a championship-winning side, this is no bad thing. When it comes to attacking options, Raul, Klass-Jan Huntelaar and Jefferson Farfan are capable of banging in the goals when required. Having the second best goal haul in the league at the moment is a testament to that with 41 goals in total so far. Then there are also players for the fans to get excited about the future in Julian Draxler and Lewis Holtby, who benefitted from his loan spell at Mainz last season. While Draxler did shine against Stuttgart and his goal against them was already one to enjoy, it is frightening to imagine what could happen when Holtby returns from his injury and when Farfan gets enough match fitness to contribute to the goals tally. If Schalke can become injury free and still maintaining their current form, it is possible for Schalke to mount a title challenge.

VfB Stuttgart coach Bruno Labbadia. If how he did at Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg before currently at Stuttgart are anything to go, it could possibly be a bumpy ride yet again.

But what about Stuttgart going forward? If things turn out for Bruno Labbadia the it did at Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg, it could possibly be a bumpy ride yet again…Stuttgart: During the game, I have noticed on my own Twitter timeline where someone had pointed out that this seemed to bear the hallmark of how Bruno Labbadia had been at his previous employers. As in, improving the sides he coached initially before they trailed away. That was also my biggest doubt over Labbadia’s coaching credentials when he first came on board back in December 2010. Not only that, the local paper in the Stuttgarter Zeitung wondered post-match if the club is in for a relegation battle again like it did last season. The paper’s concern is that there does not seem to be a clear leader in the ranks to get out of the position it is currently in at the moment. In the days leading to the away match at Schalke, the paper wrote about how the recent seasons have been up-and-down one for the club, which has exactly been what I experienced since I became a Stuttgart supporter myself in the midst of the 2007-08 season. One can only hope that the contract extension of sporting director Fredi Bobic to 2016 which was announced on the eve of the Schalke match bring some form of stability. In fact speaking to Bild on Tuesday, Bobic criticised what his predecessor Horst Heldt had left him at Stuttgart with before his arrival since the summer of 2010. While Heldt has not replied to the claims, he had already said before in an interview preferring to point out the ‘sporting and economic success’ he had during his time at the club before he left for Schalke, which also included the surprise league title in the 2006/07 season…could it be the Heldt might be heading for a similar kind of success now with Schalke?

Former GDR clubs prepare for the Rückrunde

This season Terry Duffelen hopes to spend a little more time looking at  clubs from the old East 1. FC UnionGermany, starting with those in the second division.

Their fans may not appreciate it but the German capital’s second club (behind Hertha) is 1. FC Union Berlin. Based in the old East Berlin this club has a romantic story as an anti-stasi club during communist era and has had a fantastic reputation as a fan oriented club. After promotion and rebuilding their stadium with supporter labour, the club have acclimatised themselves to the second tier and sit in a relatively stable seventh place as they prepare for the restart.

Prior to the final game of the Hinründe, Union had gone on a five game unbeaten run. This run included a 5-2 thrashing of Hansa Rostock and 4-0 mullering of FSV Frankfurt. Coach Uwe Nuehaus’ has assembled a forward line consisting of the Columbian John Mosquera, who has scored five goals in fifteen games, the Brazilian Silvio (5 in 17) and German, Christopher Quiring who has also score five goals in his seventeen appearances, this season.

But the players may have miss-read their calenders and figured the winter break had come a week early as they were walloped 5-0 by Greuther Furth in the final game before Christmas.

In terms of transfers it has been a quiet few weeks. In fact the only movement has been away from the Stadion An der Alten Försterei when 26 year old striker, Halil Savran, left for Erzgebirge Aue.

Aue (who used to play in Chemnitz, by the way, but that’s another story) challenged for a promotion spot last season but tailed off towards the end and finished with nine points away from the third place play off spot. So far this season they are in thirteenth with a forward line that have only mustered just the seven goals between them. Savran’s goal return is less than steller (no goals in five games) but a change is as good as a rest and perhaps the Wiesbaden born “striker” will find his shooting boots at the Erzgebirgstadion.

Two places above Aue in the 2. Bundesliga are Dynamo Dresden, newly promoted with a swanky new stadium, Dynamo represent a brave new future for clubs in the former East Germany. For a club that has spent a very long time in the doldrums, there is a certain reassurance in the unspectacularliness of their season. But let’s not forget that they did for the mighty Bayer Leverkusen in the German Cup First Round after storming back from 3-0 down to win 4-3 after extra time.

As with many clubs associated with the old east Germany, there is a perception that their supporters can be troublesome. This is not necessarily unwarranted. However, the Dresden club are in a position to look forward and after a season of transition, who knows?

Victory against Furth on Friday will take Dynamo above Energie Cottbus, albeit for a day or so, at least. The Brandenburg club were in the first division as recently as 2009. I have fond memories of Dimitar Rangelov occassionally terrorising opposition defenses at the Stadion der Freundschaft. The Bulgarian rejoined Cottbus at the beginning of the season after spending a couple of seasons at Dortmund and Tel Aviv. The return to Energie seems to have energised him and the attacker has scored eight goals so far. They play 1860 Munich on Monday 23rd.

Another former East German club recently in the First Bundesliga is Hansa Rostock. The Hanseatic club were a mainstay in the top division for ten seasons before getting relegated in 2005. They returned for one season in 2007 but financial problems have beset them and they suffered the indignity of relegation to the 3-Liga.

After one season they bounced back but it would appear that their position in the third flight was not false. They are second from bottom on a run of eight games without a win. So far, only right full back, Marek Janecka has joined them during this January from Slovakia. You feel that it will be a long season for the Rostock.

You can learn more about clubs form the former East Germany on this podcast recorded in December 2011.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 48 – Return for the Rückrunde

The winter break is finally over and the Bundesliga is about to return to action. Terry Duffelen and Jon Hartley take a look at the first round of fixtures in the second half of the season.

As the transfer window is wide open, also on the pod, a look at Papiss Demba Cisse’s switch the Premier League with Newcastle United.

 

The Road to Being a VfB Stuttgart Supporter

The debut piece from Diana Yeow, on how a football fan from halfway across the world in Singapore found herself becoming a VfB Stuttgart supporter.

The surprise title triumph in the 2006-07 season

Owning a car is a big deal in my country, a sign that you have made it. But not any Tom, Dick or Harry is actually able to afford a Mercedes here. As far as I know since growing up, the Mercedes name has always being held in high regard. For any major event happening in Singapore, chances are most of the time it is the Mercedes coming into view as the preferred choice to ferry people around.   I wonder if that is the case for the for the football club from the city of Mercedes?  The club I’m refering to is my team…VfB Stuttgart. But it is actually not quite straight-forward in terms of how I came to adopt it as my team.  Twists and turns before you can even utter ‘Mercedes’.

It was the 2006 World Cup in Germany which opened my door to the world of German football.  It was my first real encounter of what could German football offer, though I do remember watching the German national team that lost in the 2002 final against Brazil. During the 2006 tournament, Miroslav Klose became to be my favourite player. Klose was at Werder Bremen then, and I initially chose Werder as the club to support post-World Cup. Klose eventually moved on to Bayern Munich before joining his current club Lazio in Italy, but my association with Werder did not last long.  I found myself eventually switching allegiances in the 2007-08 Bundesliga season, though events on the final day of the previous season have in hindsight, changed the course of history for me.

The final weekend of the 2006-07 season saw Bayern Munich already out of the title reckoning, leaving Schalke with a chance to end all those years of hurt and seal their first championship since 1958. It also happened to be derby day on the Ruhr and Schalke were away at their old rivals Borussia Dortmund. But at the same time, Stuttgart were hosting Energie Cottbus who had nothing to play for. Schalke blew their chance, much to the delight of the Borussia Dortmund faithful. The attention then unexpectedly turned to Stuttgart because their 2-1 win over Energie Cottbus at home saw Stuttgart win the league title. The side, coached by Armin Veh at that time, had given no indications they would have a say in the title race throughout that season. Traditionally before the Bundesliga season starts, Bayern Munich is always mentioned as a title favourite. Stuttgart had the youngest squad at the start of that season – who said that you can’t win anything with kids (apart from Alan Hansen)?

The defining moment for me came when Stuttgart and Werder Bremen played against each other the following season. Stuttgart won 6-3 then, and I remember Werder sporting director Klaus Allofs said after the match that he ruled out Werder’s chances of qualifying for European places (they eventually did end up in Champions League spots).  Little did I know for myself in the aftermath, I had changed my team to support to the side which beat Werder Bremen on that day.  It is safe to say that it has never been the same again for me. Whenever the two sides play against each other, apart from knowing that goals will always come whenever this fixture comes up.

There are times when I look back on what happened on on the final day of the 2006-07 season (my first season following the Bundesliga) and wonder, did I unknowingly jump on a bandwagon? Since then it has always been said that VfB Stuttgart’s title triumph in that season was a fluke. But not only that, whenever it is derby day between Schalke and Borussia Dortmund, I look back at the time when Schalke lost the chance to end all those years of hurt and I feel guilty in a way.  Had Schalke won back then, who knows what it meant for me due to the Bundesliga club I ended up supporting.

Since then, it has been a common occurrence in terms of what Stutttgart’s season can be like. It always tends to be first-half bad, second-half better. Last season nearly took it to the extreme, flirting with relegation. For the first time since adopting Stuttgart I was living on the edge. I’d already learnt to embrace the lesser lights of the Europa League, and look at any appearance in the Champions League as a bonus. But what happened last season, before the arrival of Bruno Labbadia, taught me that not to take Stuttgart’s Bundesliga status for granted.

VfB Stuttgart coach Bruno Labbadia. He was actually the third(!) coach to arrive at the club last season, but at least it stayed up under his watch.

It would have been an all-out crisis if Bayern Munich, the giants of German football, found itself in the same position as Stuttgart did. But it also reminded me of a conversation I used to have with my father. Knowing that I follow the Bundesliga, he asked why I am not a Bayern supporter. To be fair to him, and for many in the English-speaking world, Bayern is the most prominent football club in Germany and for a good reason in view of their success.  That is apart for my father’s generation where there was also Borussia Moenchengladbach who were having their time in the sun as well.  I admitted to him that I could have been a Bayern supporter, but I chose not to precisely because of their history of success. My club in English football is Manchester United for a decade now, so I know how it feels like supporting a team constantly chasing for trophies.

Nobody will be tipping Stuttgart to win the league this season, given that has already has probably been reserved for Bayern Munich and the defending champions Borussia Dortmund.  Considering the manner of how someone like me, coming from halfway across the world, came to have VfB Stuttgart as her team, it is something I am used to with everything else being a bonus. When it comes to the Stuttgart this season, not heading for into the second-last match day with the league status in doubt will be an achievement as far as I’m concerned.

Borussia Mönchengladbach v Bayern Munich: Preview

‘Gladbach v Bayern: The Second Half of the Season Starts with a Bang!

  

In Matchday One, Borussia Mönchengladbach’s 1-0 triumph in the Allianz Arena (courtesy of the opportunism of Igor de Camargo, and severe lack of communication between Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng) was largely dispelled by fans and analysts alike as part of Bayern’s inevitable teething problems as they looked to bed into a new coaching regime, and revised defensive line. Indeed, having dominated the attempts on target (17:8), possession (with 59%) and crosses (27:0), such assertions would certainly look to have some merit. Cast forward 17 fixtures, and the best part of five months, and Bayern’s occupation of top spot in the Bundesliga would further bear that out.

However, what that victory did for ‘Gladbach and their fans was to reinforce the turnaround in fortunes enjoyed under the thus far remarkable tenure of Lucien Favre. The 54-year old took charge on Valentine’s Day 2011, and it’s fair to say that the relationship is still firmly entrenched in the honeymoon phase. Since taking the helm, the former Hertha coach has enjoyed a record of 17 wins, 5 draws, and just 8 defeats, guiding his team to fourth spot in the league, and the Quarter Final stage of the Pokal (where they meet Hertha in February). Nigh-on twelve months previously, that lofty position looked a long way off, with the side cast adrift at the foot of the table.

Last year, a 3-all draw at the Borussia Park and a 1-0 win for Bayern at the Allianz – the latter of which saw them finally occupying a Champions’ League spot, through Arjen Robben’s 77’ strike – indicated that, in actuality, there was little to choose between the two sides; save perhaps the belief engendered by positive results. And that indication has proven to be a solid prophecy for the current campaign. Much of the credit for the lofty traverse enjoyed by the Rhineland side has, justifiably, been levelled towards boss Lucien Favre.

Favre has served to put great store in a solid spine, as the fundamental part of his formation. And with the lineage of Marc-André ter Stegen, Dante and Felip Daems, Roman Neustädter and Marco Reus, and the much-maligned Mike Hanke, The Foals have arguably as resilient and dominant a backbone as any in the league. Favre has also alternated between a more standard 4-4-2, and a modified 4-4-1-1 that looks to emphasise the impact of Reus (deployed behind the striker), and Juan Arango. There is no doubt that those two have flourished, with Reus leading the Club’s scoring charts (with 10), and Arango heading the assists column (seven).

Fortress Borussia

Bayern, for their part, do not normally travel well to Mönchengladbach, having won there only once in the last nine visits, and that was some six years ago. That fact, however, has certainly not dented the confidence of Jupp Heynckes, who wrapped up their winter friendlies by boldly claiming: “We’re very well prepared heading into the second half of the season. Perfection is impossible to achieve in football, but we have a team which gives us every reason to be optimistic going forward”.

His apparent optimism was reinforced by two stars whose collective return to both fitness and form should sound a note of caution to ‘Gladbach: Messrs Robben and Schweinsteiger; who were both quick to suggest the break was indeed “perfect” for the Bavarian giants. The imminent return of the talismanic 90-cap international may have tempered Heynckes’ desire to focus too greatly on that area, or to delve into the transfer market with any gusto. And the Bayern head-honcho will be hoping for a swift return to form from ‘Schweini’, addressing the deficiencies so evident before the Christmas period, especially against Mainz and Dortmund.

In due deference to the ever-present pressure from the Bayern hierarchy (who have collectively dismissed the challenge of ‘Gladbach as little more than an irritation), Heynckes is likely to deploy both wingmen (Robben and Ribéry) alongside Thomas Müller, and behind the prolific Mario Gomez. So the reliance on the presence of Schweinsteiger will be immediately obvious, and with no side having kept ‘Gladbach from scoring at home so far this season, it is likely to be the midfield where the game is won or lost, with the home side liable to sit deep to use their counter-attacking speed: a tactic still more than tolerated against the Munich behemoth.

From a ‘Gladbach perspective, it is to be hoped that the confirmed summer departure of their own figurehead – Marco Reus, to Dortmund – does not have a equivalent destabilising impact to the previously MIA Schweinsteiger; and nor does the likewise move of Neustädter to Schalke.

On top of all other considerations, the two sides go into battle very much from divergent standpoints. While Bayern’s ascension simply marks a return to the status-quo, there is a distinct air of entering the ‘unknown’ for their Friday night hosts. Whether the five-week break will have fostered a change in mantra from ‘Gladbach seems unlikely – with captain Daems this week opining that we want to pick up a point or maybe even more…and deserve to be in fourth place. [W]e demonstrated in the first half of the season that we’re strong enough to deal with what may come” – but Favre will hope that his eleven will continue to play with the refreshing freedom of the first half of the season, without fearing thoughts of European competition to come.

One thing is for sure; ‘Gladbach’s position of mixing it in the top-four is fully merited. Indeed, as their prodigious shot-stopper ter Stegen commented to Bild this week: “[Being fourth] is no miracle. We work hard every day in training, and deserve to be there!”

While that position may feel like we’ve slipped into a time warp back to the ‘Gladbach heyday of the 1970s, it is very much the here-and-now. And the very worst mistake that Bayern could make would be to underestimate The Foals’; particularly in their own back yard.

For what it’s worth, I’m plumbing for a seat firmly on the fence: 1-1.

Gone But Not Forgotten – The Lost Class of 63/64

Jon Hartley takes a look at the clubs from the first Bundesliga season that you may have forgotten about.

Sixteen teams made up the first season of the Bundesliga, but of those clubs that kicked off the inaugural matches on the 24th of August 1963, only 10 still call the top flight ‘home’. Of course, only Hamburg have been ever present in the Bundesliga since its inception, but it might surprise new followers to German football that Bayern Munich weren’t in that initial pack. Bayern were fighting it out in the Regionalliga Süd at the time and were very much the small fry in Munich. The team that captured the imagination of the city was 1860 Munich and they were selected as one of the club to take part in that first season.

Other members of the Class of 63/64 include Eintracht Braunschweig, Meidericher SV (aka MSV Duisburg), SC Preußen Münster, 1. FC Saarbrücken and Karlsruher SC,  but unfortunately they join 1860 in a group that took part in that first season but no longer grace the top-flight. Despite no longer being first division clubs, there are some interesting stories of what happened next from these Bundesliga pioneers.

MSV Duisburg v Eintracht Frankfurt - 31st August 1963

As recently as 2009, Karlsruhe were a first division side, as were Duisburg the season before that. It also must not forgotten that MSV also made it to the DBF Pokal Final last May, though they may want to wipe their own memories of being thrashed 5-0 by Schalke in the Olympic Stadium. Both of these sides currently reside in the second division, and didn’t have the best of times in the first half of the season – Karlsruhe are currently bottom of the 2.Liga on goal difference (level on points with Hansa Rostock). If the club do get relegated, it will only be the second time since the advent of the Bundesliga that the club has dipped as far as the third tier of German football. Indeed, this club have had their moments of glory. They twice graced the last 16 of the UEFA Cup during the 90s and also made it to the semi-finals, but unfortunately now those times seems so long ago. Things haven’t been that much better for Duisburg. MSV start the second half of the season in 12th, and life at the club hasn’t been rosey since their trip to Berlin. Coach Milan Sasic was fired in October following the club’s Pokal defeat to fourth division Holstein Kiel, and was replaced by Oliver Reck, who was the goalkeeping coach under Sasic.

Two of the forgotten clubs in that ‘Class of 63/64’ did actually go on to win the Bundesliga title. 1860 Munich and Eintracht Braunschweig both won the title and did it in quick succession. 1860 kicked it off by winning in 1966, but this was the pinnacle for the club before they were dwarfed by their city neighbours Bayern. The following season it was Braunschweig’s turn to win the title, while 1860 narrowly missed out on a second successive championship. They were the runners up and just 2-points behind Eintracht, for whom this was also the highlight of their history.

Both of these clubs have long traditions in the top flight. Braunschweig were in the 1.Bundesliga for all but one season between 1963 & 1985, but from there it all started to go sour. By the time the mid-90s came around the club had dropped as far as the third division and have only as recently as last season got themselves back up to the 2.Liga, having ‘yo-yoed’ for the best part of a decade. They will be pleased with their return to the 2.Liga, and come back from the winter break in 8th place. 1860 have had their low points as well, but were a top flight club until 2005. Since then the club have been through the ringer in terms of financial problems, but since investment last year, it looks like the future of the club may well be secure.

Probably the least fashionable clubs of our bunch are FC Saarbrücken and Preußen Münster. Both are currently in the 3.Liga, but out of the pair, it is Saarbrücken who have the better record in the Bundesliga with a grand total of five seasons in the division. Unfortunately for Saarbrücken, their record doesn’t read that much better than the Münster-men whose only season in the Bundesliga was that landmark season in 1963/64. In fact, it was these two clubs who were relegated at the end of that campaign. And how different life could have been for poor Münster had they managed to survive. They finished the season one point behind third from bottom Hertha Berlin, and it was these two clubs who faced each other on the final day of the season. Münster won that game 4-2 having been 2-1 down just before the half hour, but the victory made no difference and Münster were relegated…what would have happened had they not taken the drop? Would we be talking about Hertha Berlin as a forgotten club of German football?

 

The Bundesliga Show mid season podcast

In order to test out the podcast settings for our new WordPress site, Jon and Terry got together  to record a short podcast. The transfer activities at Wolfsburg and Borussia Monchengladbach were the principle topic of discussion but there was time for a quick muse on what to look forward to before the season gets underway this Friday.

You can listen to the podcast but clicking on this link or by the embedded player below. If you subscribed via a feed but did not use iTunes then you will have the resubscribe to the new feed by clicking on this link.

The Tale of Two Talismans

Jon Hartley looks at the situation surrounding two of the Bundesliga’s most highly conveted players, Marco Reus and Lukas Podolski.

One of the big Bundesliga transfer stories has come to an end while another still rumbles on with no obvious solution in sight. Borussia Mönchengladbach and Cologne are not that far away in terms of distance, but they are miles apart when it comes to the solutions surrounding their prized assets. Marco Reus’ move in the summer to Borussia Dortmund for €17.5 million is a massive coup for the reigning champs, and signals their intent for the coming years. While down the road in Cologne, rumour and counter rumour concerning Lukas Podolski, looks like it will not be resolved anytime soon.

In the case of Reus, he has been the darling of the Bundesliga this season and has been at the centre of the Borussia Mönchengladbach revival, spearheaded by Lucien Favre. His impact cannot be understated in this incredible turnaround. A turnaround that has seen Gladbach go from bottom of the table at the end of 2010 to 4th at the end of 2011, and just a point off 2nd. Reus has contributed 10 of Gladbach’s 25 league goals this season, and has very much been at the teams creative heart. His direct style, good awareness of his teammates and even better eye for goal has seen him be a handful for even the best teams in the Bundesliga.

Despite his impact for Gladbach, Reus’ departure could well be good  for the club as a whole. €17.5 million is a good fee, and even better considering that he was picked up from Rot-Weiss Ahlen (having left Dortmund U-17s on a free) for €1 million in 2009. Not only is it is good return on their investment, but it also paves the way for Favre to carry on the good work he has started. He was unable to do that at Hertha Berlin during his tenure there, in part due to financial restrictions, but at Gladbach this move could well finance strengthening in more areas than just a replacement for Reus (if Patrick Hermann doesn’t step into his boots).

The timing of this move couldn’t be more ideal for Reus and his current club. The fact that it has come very early in the transfer window means that he can get down to business at the club’s winter training camp in Turkey without the distraction of speculation and negotiations. Good preparation and a great second half of the season is great news of Gladbach. They get to keep this talent until the end of the season and help push this team on, and leave the kind of legacy that will make him a favourite at the Borussia Park for years to come…with a return to European football.

For Cologne the story is not so rosey. Their return from the Christmas holiday began with a training session without Lukas Podolski due to a slight ankle injury. However, more importantly on the same day, the opening round of contract talks at surrounding a contract extension for the player didn’t go so well. It looks at the moment that Cologne are also going to have services of their top man until the end of the season, but under different circumstances than their Rheinland neighbours. Having contributed over half of the FC Cologne goals this season (14  in 16 games), ‘Prinz Poldi’ has given Cologne some thing of a dilemma. Top scorers are all well and good, but when he is also the hometown hero it certainly makes the issue that bit more complicated.

Sell Poldi and the club chances their hand of feeling the wrath of the fans. Don’t sell him and they missing out on their one great money spinner. Either way, he will almost certainly go in the summer and the fee will probably depend on how he does in the second half of the season and the European Champions…no pressure Lukas. So in the same way that Reus has a chance to leave a legacy, as does Podolski. But will his be as great? Speculation will follow Podolski like never before, and this kind of disruption is the last thing that Cologne needs. In his first press conference after the winter break, coach Stale Solbakken spoke positively about the future, and stated that he believed the team is understanding his concept. That suggests the start of stability, something that Cologne have been screaming out for, for sometime. Whether this can flourish with the Podolski transfer circus is unclear.

Would a pre-contract agreement that would see the striker depart in the summer be something that would benefit Cologne in terms of stability as well as financially? The complications surrounding Podolski’s relationship with the club makes this kind of level headed decision seem unlikely, as the club will continue to fight for a contract extension. With that in mind, it will just come down to whether he and Cologne can cope with the pressure and speculation that will mount in the coming months about his future. If being in the ‘shop window’ is something he relishes, he could well spur Cologne onto their best season in a long time and swell the coffers of the club. Who knows, that fee and a release from that carnival that surrounds Podolski, could be just what Cologne needs for a brighter long-term future.