Monthly Archives: February 2012

History Repeating for Dortmund?

Archie Rhind-Tutt looks back into the history book to see if the omens are stacking up for another title for Borussia Dortmund.

“It’s just a little case of history repeating.” So sang Shirley Bassey with the Propellerheads in 1997 – the year Borussia Dortmund won the Champions League. Just five years earlier, the Ruhr club narrowly missed out on the Bundesliga title but according to Uli Hesse in Tor!, “to be in contention was something of an achievement for the dark horses in the title race.”

Gone are the days where the Ruhr side are considered dark horses but there are parallels to be drawn with the 1991-1992 season. For example, it’s not uncommon for Borussia Dortmund to perform well six years after near liquidation. The first time was in 1992 when they finished second to Stuttgart. BVB performed this trick for a second time in 2011, where they became Champions, when in only 2005 the threat of bankruptcy loomed large.

The correlation exists to an extent with one of their main rivals for the title this season – Bayern Munich. Bickering and infighting got out of hand under Jupp Heynckes in his first of three spells in Bavaria. He was sacked before the season even reached the half way stage though. As Bayern are currently not on top of the table, noises of discontent continue to grow Whilst they also teeter towards the edge of Champions League elimination, rumours of a third exit from Bayern will only increase for Heynckes.

The ’92 parallel is perhaps not as strong with the Reds as it is with Dortmund but elements still remain. It is also intriguing to take into account how affairs have changed in the Ruhr 20 years on. After Dortmund’s success in 1992, they went onto reach the UEFA Cup Final losing to Juventus. The club was able to garner DM 25 Million which was used to bring back German players who had moved abroad to Italy, the country widely regarded as having the deepest pockets in football at the time.

Andreas Möller with the Bundesliga Trophy

Andreas Möller, Karl-Heinz Riedle and Matthias Sammer returned to home with Borussia but they, nor any other Bundesliga club have to rely on bringing back players from abroad now, such is the strength of talent being produced by teams in Germany. That is not to say the likes of Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira wouldn’t be greatly received back in their home country.

With home grown players such as Kevin Grosskreutz, Marcel Schmelzer, Mats Hummels, Sven Bender and Mario Götze, Dortmund don’t have to search too far abroad. An impressive academy to boot helps. They will even bring back a product originally not deemed good enough this summer. Gladbach’s Marco Reus, arguably the best player in the Bundesliga this season, will return to bolster Dortmund’s ranks.

Strength in depth is an area Klopp is deprived in currently. Along with a lack of experience in European competition, his young side struggled to cope with the rigours of the Champions League. A player of Reus’ quality will only improve the state of the Dortmund squad. It is a group which must be kept together by Jürgen Klopp if they are to continue their excellent progress.

The club though deserves praise for the manner in which it has learned from its mistakes. Sometimes you have to look into the abyss before being able to succeed. In the last 20 years, Dortmund did it not once but twice. It’s not an advisable method at all but having been through this, it’s probably why fans are relishing their current success with all the more delight.

In Jürgen Klopp, they have a young coach who’s in step with his surroundings. He may not have the authoritarian management style of say, a Sir Alex Ferguson or for a German comparison, a Felix Magath. The former Mainz boss proves this isn’t needed to succeed in modern football.

Borussia Dortmund boss Jürgen Klopp

However, Klopp does adhere to a value which Ferguson endorsed in an interview with BBC Radio 5live on Monday evening. The Scot concurred wholeheartedly with the view that the most successful people in life adapt to change the quickest. Both BVB and Klopp function upon this currently and considering this make their achievements together that little less surprising.

Will there be a case of history repeating in the Ruhr? Dortmund will be hoping it won’t with regards to 1992. However, they’ll welcome with open arms the subsequent years of triumph which were experienced after their second placed finish twenty years ago. The way they’re playing at the moment, it looks like they’ll retain the title for a second consecutive year, something they last did prior to winning the Champions League in 1997.

If they can repeat the latter achievement under Klopp, then that will be a much greater feat. Not only would it be a terrific achievement for Dortmund but it would prove there is more to the Bundesliga than good spreadsheet results and Bayern Munich.

There’s Only Two Fritz Walter’s – The Legend of the other Fritz Walter

When anyone mentions the name Fritz Walter, the usual association is with rain (Fritz Walter Weather), the ‘Miracle of Bern’ and Kaiserslautern. And quite rightly so, after-all Fritz Walter was a legend. He led Germany to their first World Cup victory in 1954 and was part of the side Kaiserslautern side that won two German championships – the name Fritz Walter is almost as big as it gets in German football. But in Stuttgart they may talk about another Fritz Walter.

Germany's Bobby Moore - The legendary Fritz Walter

This other Fritz Walter can’t boast as great a career as his unrelated namesake, but that doesn’t mean that he amounted to nothing. Born in Heidelberg in 1960,  ‘Fritz Walter Junior’ or ‘Fritzle’ played 348 times in the top flight and scoring 157 goals in the process. He didn’t stray far from his birth place during the bulk of his playing career and the club he is most associated with is nearby VfB Stuttgart. It with the Swabians that his most successful period came, and there was no surprise that Stuttgart came knocking at the door of Waldorf Mannheim in 1987 to sign the striker. Fritz had already been part of the Mannheim team that were promoted to the 1.Bundesliga in 1983, and in his last season with the club he scored 23 goals including two against his future employers from Stuttgart.

In 1992, Stuttgart were Bundesliga champions and Walter was the top scorer in the division that season. He hit 22 of Stuttgart’s 62 league goals that that campaign and was very much the ‘go-to guy’ in front of goal, as no one else in the side got more that nine during that campaign.

After his time at Stuttgart he moved on to Arminia Bielefeld and had quite an influence on the field there as well. In the 1995/96 season, Walter was top scorer again but this time in the 2.Bundesliga. His 21 goals in 33 games for Bielefeld also brought success as the club finished second at the end of the season and were promoted to the top division for the first time in just over a decade.

Fritz Walter Junior - The other Fritz Walter

‘Fritz Junior’ place in Stuttgart’s history is certainly secure for several reasons. At the moment he is the third highest scorer in Stuttgart’s history, due to the fact he was the clubs top scorer for six seasons running. That record puts him ahead of the likes of Cacau, Mario Gomez, Jürgen Klinsmann and current sporting director Fredi Bobic on the clubs all-time top scorers list, so his legacy is safe at Stuttgart. While the original Frtiz Walter has a stadium named after him in Kaiserslautern, the younger one also has something named after him at Stuttgart…the club mascot. ‘Fritzle’ the Crocodile can be seen at every Stuttgart home game and is constaint reminder that ‘There’s Only Two Fritz Walter’s’.

'Fritzle' the Stuttgart Mascot

Sadly, to some Bundesliga fans he might be remembered, not for the masses of goals scored in a long and illustrious career but for something he said. Liverpool legend Ian Rush has constantly denied that he put his foot in it and said “I couldn’t settle in Italy, it was like living in a foreign country.” Well, Fritz certainly did drop a clanger when he was talking about the playing relationship he had with Jürgen Klinsmann at Stuttgart. He reportedly said, “Jürgen Klinsmann and I, we are a good trio…I mean: a quartet.” Never mind Fritz!

 

The Bundesliga Show Episode 53 – The Return of King Otto

This week, Jon Hartley and Terry Duffelen are joined by Archie Rhind-Tutt to discuss the big happenings in the Bundesliga. The big news this week in the Bundesliga was the shock return of Otto Rehhagel to management with struggling Hertha Berlin, so all that and the big results from the last matchday are covered.

Plus a round-up of last weekend’s results in the second division and a look forward to matchday 23.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 52 – The Horror at Hertha, Magic Mike Hanke & Blackburn of the Bundesliga

This week on The Bundesliga Show, Terry Duffelen and Jon Hartley discuss Leverkusen’s (mis)match with Barcelona in the Champions League, plus all the goings on from matchday 21 in the Bundesliga, including the situation at Hertha BSC.

All that and a preview of this weekends games and the crucial tussles for the Europa League spots.

 

The Bundesliga Show Episode 51 – No bores with the draws & the Lo Fidelity Allstar

**Apologies for a technical problem this week. Episode 51 of The Bundesliga Show is lo-fi versus hi-fi!**

Having hit the half century of podcasts last week, Jon Hartley and Terry Duffelen are back with another rundown of The Bundesliga Show. In this show, a look back on Matchday 20, which included a new leader in the league…Borussia Dortmund.

The pair also chat over the big match-ups for the up coming weekend and how they might play a part in one of the tightest and most exciting leagues.

 

One year to bring the golden days back to ‘Gladbach

Borussia Mönchengladbach’s rise to the upper echelons of the German top flight has been so sudden that you want to soak up as much of it as possible lest they fall back to where they were just over a year ago at the bottom of the Bundesliga. But as their coach, Lucien Favre approaches his first anniversary in post, is this sudden success sustainable asks Terry Duffelen.

“Last season is like a bygone era.” said Borussia Mönchengladbach Sporting Director Max Eberl on DW Sport “We were bottom of the table and we took a lot of grief for that and so did the fans.” It would have been more than interesting to be a fly on the wail of Ebert’s office when Lucien Favre was offered the coach’s job at Borussia Park. Was the job sold to him or did the former Hertha coach do the selling? Did he tell his prospective boss that one year from now he’d be pushing for a Champions League qualification place? Unlikely.

Yet there they are, one year later, fourth place in the Bundesliga and in the Semi-Final of the German Cup. After a last ditch relegation play off in May and an attempt in the Summer from former player Stefan Effenberg to depose Eberl, both he and Favre have engineered an extraordinary turnaround for a club that may have had some bookies paying out on their relegation as early as the Winter Break, last season.

Since taking over, Favre’s team have conceded only 21 goals in the Bundesliga. Marco Reus has realised his potential and become the talk of the Bundesliga. Patrick Hermann has proved that ‘Gladbach does not have a one man attack and that perennial underacheiver Mike Hanke is a player transformed since his transfer from Hannover 96. At the back, Marc Andre Ter Stegen, the 19 year old who, according to his captain Filip Daems, has the “charisma of a 30 year old” is arguably the in form goalkeeper in the Bundesliga and has given renewed confidence to the regular back line of Filip Daems, Dante, Martin Stranzl and the excellent Tony Jantschke.

However, probably one of the more compelling of the ‘Gladbach narratives is whether their success can be sustained not just until the end of this season but for campaigns yet to come. Is this the beginning of another golden age at Mönchengaldbach?

A foundation stone for their building blocks has to be the coach, Lucien Favre. But this is more that just a question of whether he will stay or move on to another challenge but if he does remain, will he be properly resourced? Irrespective of where ‘Gladbach finish in May, the squad is set to lose both Reus to Borussia Dortmund and the influential midfielder, Roman Neustadter who’s contract expires at the end of the season and has agreed to join Schalke. While these players may not to be immediately replaceable, it will be necessary bring in players to succeed them.

When Favre took Hertha Berlin to fifth place in the Bundesliga in 2009, he lost a some influential players at the end of that season (most notably the imposing Ukraniain forward, Andriy Voronin) and was unable to replenish his squad. After a poor start to the following campaign, Favre was dismissed. This is a fact that will surely not be lost on him in the Summer as he thinks about the next season. To avoid history repeating itself, the ‘Gladbach’s squad needs to grow. Presumably a portion of the transfer fee of €17.5 for Reus will be available. That sort of money can go along way if spent wisely. However, if Favre can get his team into a Champions League spot and subsequently into the group stages then the possibility exists to not just fill the gaps in the squad but to move it forward to such an extent where a second consecutive top four finish may be a realistic ambition.

But there are of course so many variables involved in that particular equation. For one, while ‘Gladbach may be able to raise plenty of money from Champions League football, there is the club’s wage structure to consider. While the Borussia Park regularly sells out, the club is by far from the richest in the Bundesliga and will have a wage structure in line with their turnover. Being able to afford the transfer fee for top players is pointless if they are not in a position to meet their wage demands.This raises the further possibility that their remaining players become the subject of transfer bids. Even if they could offer the player’s Champions League football, would ‘Gladbach be in a poisition to fend off Bayern Munich if they came calling for Tony Jantschke or Patrick Hermann?

And then of course there is the small matter of actually finishing this season in the top four in the first place. Failure to achieve this will render all other permutations moot. In 2009 Favre’s Hertha looked in a strong position to finish in the top three and perhaps even win the title. Instead they finished fifth which although impressive, could have been so much more and indeed, Hertha were relegated the following season. If ‘Gladbach don’t make it to the big show, next season, could the same fate befall them?

The good news is that all will be revealed over the next few crucial months of this season and the early week’s of next season. The mission is straightforward: If Favre can keep his squad onside and be given sufficient funds to bring in replacement bodies while keeping hold of his top young players plus qualifying and securing a place in the Group stages of the Champions League then maybe this is the start of a new golden age for ‘Gladbach. That’s a lot of plates to keep spinning at the same time but there is a healthy gap between themselves and fifth placed Bayer Leverkusen. It is entirely likely that one year hence, Lucien Favre will be celebrating a second year as coach of Borussia Mönchengladbach. That alone would be some feat.

Hoffenheim – All change at the village club

Jon Hartley investigates what is happening at Hoffenheim. Turmoil or a long term plan?

We must always remember that Hoffenheim are still a very young Bundesliga club. Not only that, in their current guise Hoffenheim are not an old either. Dietmar Hopp started investing in the club just over a decade ago, and when a rise has been as rapid as this one, there are likely to be some growing pains. This has been no clearer than in the last year. In just over 12-months, Hoffenheim have seen three different coaches at the helm at the Rhein Necker Arena. The first was the man who masterminded the clubs rise through the leagues – on the pitch that is – Ralf Rangnick. Rangnick left in protest of the sale of Luis Gustavo to Bayern Munich in the January transfer window of 2011, which was perhaps the first sign that all was not right at the Bundesliga baby. Stepping into his shoes was Marco Pezzaiuoli who was Rangnick’s assistant. Pezzaiuoli’s tenure was an extended caretaker role at best, and pretty unremarkable. The club bobbed around in midtable between 7th and 11th during the entirety of his time in charge, and only picked up an average of a point a game…hardly anything to get the blood racing.

Former Hoffenheim Coach - Ralf Rangnick

But before the end of the last season, Hoffenheim announced that St. Pauli coach Holger Stanislawski would be the man taking the club forward. Having been at St. Pauli for 18-years, the move to Hoffenheim certainly had its pros and cons. In Hamburg he could almost do no wrong. St. Pauli may have been heading for the drop, but he was still the club hero and orchestrated their promotion to the top flight. But life at St. Pauli can never be considered normal, far from it in fact, and after such a long time at football’s favourite madhouse, it was time to move on to something completely different but no less challenging. Hoffenheim certainly ticks the box on being different, but the switch from the Reeperbahn to the Rhein-Necker hasn’t been an instant success, but why should it be assumed that it would be? Every club has its challenges and Hoffenheim is no different.

Current Hoffenheim Manager - Holger Stanislawski

You would think that being at a club that is essentially bankrolled by a monied individual like Dietmar Hopp would allow any manager free reign in the transfer market, but it must be stressed that Hoffenheim are not Manchester City. With recent departures – especially Gustavo – there was a change in attitude concerning transfer policy and it appeared that Hoffenheim had suddenly become a selling club. So even before Stanislawski’s arrival, the magic formula that brought the club to the top table had started to become diluted, and other players were set to head away from Hoffenheim.

In addition to Gustavo’s departure, striker Demba Ba fashioned his exit from the club in order to make his way to England and Vedad Ibisevic has also made his move to Stuttgart. But please don’t think that these exits amount to wholesale asset stripping in Sinsheim. By Ibisevic’s admission, it was time to leave Hoffenheim and seek a new challenge, and it was probably time for Hoffenheim to seek a new front man as well. With the selling of these players, it would be easy to look at what has happened at Hoffenheim and think that they have lost their ambition, but I would tend to disagree. I think that Hoffenheim have just started to play the game in the ‘real world’ of football. Even for the mega rich Dietmar Hopp, a football club like Hoffenheim would be unsustainable if he threw good money after bad in a quest for the title.

Hoffenheim have become a little more pragmatic in their approach, but I still believe that in the long term they will be punching around the European places. Stanislawski is an ambitious guy, and he is also used to getting success without having a bottomless pit of money. He also needs to fashion his own squad, and is beginning to do that despite the teething problems he’s had with team discipline. Chinedu Obasi and Roberto Firmino were reprimanded for being late for training during the autumn, and Tom Starke had a ticking off for speaking out in interviews. Obasi has now gone to Schalke, and I can only imagine, that its been made clear to the other players what is expected of them. This transition may not be pretty, but it may be for the best.

New Hoffenheim Striker - Srdjan Lakic

In all this talk of exits, its right to point out that players have been coming in as well. Before the end of the transfer window Hoffenheim signed Ibisevic’s replacement, Srdjan Lakic from Wolfsburg, This should be a good signing for Stanislawski and for Hoffenheim, as Lakic is a player that proved his worth with Kaiserslautern by hitting 16 goals last season. That was enough to attract Wolfsburg to take a punt on him, but sadly not every player flourishes at the Volkswagen Arena, and Lakic was one of the masses who didn’t. But with Stanislawski, Lakic has a situation that he is used to, a manager similar to that of old Kaiserslautern boss Marco Kurz. From the outside, Kurz has the appearance as a manager who likes to support a player, and that is the reputation of Stanislawski as well. Let’s also not forget that Lakic is a player that his new boss knows a lot about. With St. Pauli, Stani went toe to toe with Kaiserslautern and Lakic when they both got promoted, so he knows as well as anyone else the player he is getting.

So far from selling the Hoffenheim jewels, the club are investing when needed but also cashing in when viable, both of which could good business for the future. Hoffenheim are no long the silver plated fairy story they used to be, but they could certainly be around to make their mark in the Bundesliga for sometime to come. Also bear in mind that Stanislawski was at St. Pauli for 18-years, so he knows how to stick it out at a club – given the chance and this could be a project for the long haul.

The DFB Pokal – a potted history

Hans von Tschammer und Osten is unlikely to be a name that resonates to any great depth, or which means a notable amount to many. However, next Tuesday and Wednesday, his legacy will, once again, be reprised – albeit in something of a reinvented form – as the DFB Pokal enters the quarter-final stage.

Given the post of Reichssportkommisar (later retitled Reichssportführer) in 1933, von Tschammer und Osten had no real interest in sport, to the extent that many believed his appointment was originally intended for his brother. Yet his standing in the Nazi sporting annuls was cemented in 1935, when he announced the formation of a competition “open to 14,000 football clubs”, and donated the resplendent Goldfasanen-Pokal (Golden Pheasant Cup) as the prize, engraved with his name.

By Christmas of that year, the very first final had come and gone, with Nürnberg getting the better of Schalke by 2 goals to nil, in front of a reported 55,000 fans in Düsseldorf. As a showpiece of the Nazi ideal, the Tschammerpokal was hailed an undoubted triumph, and began to grow in entrant numbers and popularity. The adoption into the Nazi philosophy was more clearly evidenced just over 12 months later, as the final moved home to the newly-reconstructed Olympiastadion, in Berlin. With its foundations embedded in those of its Prussian-built predecessor, the stadium was the very embodiment of the Nazist mantra, as cast in the unmistakable, quintessential architecture of the time. Having been the predominant site for the 1936 Olympic Games, the stadium was ideal as the venue for a burgeoning competition, and would play host to the final for six of the next eight years.

Those early years saw Schalke feature on a regular basis, though die Königsblauen only managed one victory from the five finals they contested, as not even the advent of World War Two could halt the competition. The last knockings of the inaugural version did, however, come in 1943, as the ravages of war finally took hold. And in an ironic twist, as Hitler’s empire began to subside, the Tschammerpokal also left the geographical bounds of Germany, First Vienna triumphing 3-2 (after extra time) over Hamburg.

It would be almost ten years until the Cup was reprised, and a further thirty before the final returned to Berlin.

A New Dawn

In a few days’ time – on the 7th – the minnows of Holstein Kiel will square off against last year’s Bundesliga champions, Borussia Dortmund, in the very definition of ‘a potential banana skin’ for the illustrious visitors. And it was under the rebranded guise of the DFB Pokal that the tournament first began to foster a reputation for being the ‘great leveller’, encompassing the vibrancy and revitalisation being felt across the divided nation in the post-War era. Such was encapsulated in the very first round of its first year back, as the relative unknowns of Concordia Hamburg put the giants of Dortmund to the sword; 4-3. And, as if to fully shed the skin of the memories of past associations, the 1953 final was held on the same ground as the very first, purging Düsseldorf of all remaining connotations.

However, one source of discomfort did remain into the fresh, bold age of German football – the Goldfasanen-Pokal itself. By the end of summer 1949, the DFB had been resurrected, and lay under the directorship of Dr Paul Josef Bauwens. The former referee and player had ascended to the helm of the organisation, embodying a more tolerant, inclusive era. With a Jewish wife, ‘Peco’ – as he was affectionately known – found the trophy to remind him a little too much of the persecution and quintessential anti-Semitism of the Nazi machine for comfort. Yet it wasn’t until 1965 – almost 12 months after his death – that a permanent replacement was designed.

Weighing around 27kg (12.5lb), and with an estimated market worth of some €100,000, ‘The Pot’ is one of the most iconic and valuable Cups on offer in modern sport, and the eight remaining sides in this year’s competition represent a cross-section of everything trumpeted by contemporary Germany, and envisaged for the prescient nature of her sport.

Quarter-final line-up:
07/02/2012 Holstein Kiel – Borussia Dortmund
08/02/2012 1899 Hoffenheim – Greuther Fürth
08/02/2012 Hertha Berlin – Borussia Mönchengladbach
08/02/2012 VfB Stuttgart – Bayern Munich

The current format of the Pokal largely dates back to 1974, and the formation of the 2.Bundesliga. Since that point, all Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga sides have enjoyed automatic entry to the first round proper (along with the top four 3.Bundesliga teams from the previous season). That privilege takes 40 of the 64 spots in round one, with the other 24 coming from regionalliga cup champions (of which there are 21), and the three most populous regional associations. Since 2008, reserve teams have been banned from entering. Rounds one and two then see the amateur/ lower ranked sides given home draws against those of more renown, over 90 minutes, without replays (a decision dating back, once again, to the 1974 season).

With last year’s winners – Schalke – having already succumbed, and the other three sides from this year’s Bundesliga top four all drawn away from home, the opportunity for European competition beckons for Kiel, Hoffenheim, Greuther Fürth, Hertha and VfB. The most recent of the eight remaining teams to have enjoyed success (other than Bayern) was VfB, and that was all the way back in 1997, when they triumphed over Cottbus by two goals to nil (though they also reached the final ten years on, losing out to Nürnberg, 3-2). Fürth, Hertha, Hoffenheim and Kiel, meanwhile, have never hoisted the eight-litre pot aloft (the latter two having never even reached the semi-final stage before).

Bayern – somewhat unsurprisingly – are the most successful side in the contest’s history, with 15 wins and two runners-up berths to their name. ‘Gladbach have three wins (alongside two further finals), and Dortmund have a 50-50 record over their four final appearances.

Whatever happens over the two days of quarter-final action, it has never been more true to acclaim of the Pokal as being in rude health. And the May showpiece – which has been held in Berlin as a matter of course since 1985 – will no doubt produce its requisite carnival feast of colour and football. While other nations’ cup competitions appear on the wane, Hans von Tschammer und Osten’s creation has grown to wondrous proportions, shedding its initial forbearance, and embracing a composite culture in a way that fundamentally celebrates all that is great about German football!

The Bundesliga Show Episode 50 – Celebrations, 2nd Division and Solbakken

The Bundesliga Show is 50! 50 episodes that is, and to celebrate is a bumper show. Niklas Wildhagen of the Bundesliga Fantatic joins Jon Hartley and Terry Duffelen, throughout the show to talk about the Transfer Window and matchday 19 action.

Also on the show, with the 2nd Division restarting this weekend, Richard Montague from Football Radar chats about all things 2.Bundesliga…plus is that wasn’t enough even Cologne coach Stale Solbakken makes a brief appearence.

Enjoy the show!