Wednesday, 28 July 2021

The History Makers: Those Original Sixteen Bundesliga Clubs and Where Are They Now?

First mooted in 1932 but rejected by the local associations, Germany's first national football division finally appeared on the scene for the 1963-64 season with the best teams from the varying regional divisions selected to join. Gone was the old end of season national championship for the regional league champions and in its place was a 16 team top flight division known as the Bundesliga. But what of those inaugural 16 teams? What happened to them and where are they now? James M. Gowland takes a look.

Borussia Dortmund

Since its formation, Dortmund have spent only two seasons outside the Bundesliga. The club had a solid start to life in the new division with finishes of 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 3rd but then began to struggle. However, after a brief second tier spell in the mid-seventies, they were soon back in the top flight and have yet to leave. The club now has five Bundesliga titles to their name but did not manage to win their first until 1995. The last of those triumphs came in 2012 under current Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp but they have only once finished outside to the top four since, managing to finish runner up five times over that same period.

Eintracht Braunschweig

Braunschweig won the Bundesliga in 1967 but were relegated six years later. The club have spent only a limited number of seasons back in the top flight since, spending most of their time in the second and third tiers. Last season they were relegated from the 2. Bundesliga.

Eintracht Frankfurt

Despite having never won it, Frankfurt, who finished third in the inaugural season, have barely been out of the Bundesliga since it was created. The club actually managed to last all the way until 1996 before suffering their first relegation. It only took a couple of seasons for Frankfurt to return to the top flight and although they've suffered a few more relegations in the years since, it never seems to take them long to find their way back to the top table.

Hamburger SV

Until 2018, Hamburg held the record for never having missed a Bundesliga season but a disastrous 2017-18 season saw the club relegated to the second tier for the very first time and they have been stuck there ever since. The club have six Bundesliga titles to their name the last of which came way back in 1983.

Hertha BSC

After trying to bribe players, the Berlin side were forcibly relegated from the Bundesliga in 1965 and replaced by fellow Berlin side Tasmania who went on to have the worst season in Bundesliga history. Hertha were not out of the Bundesliga long, however, and have spent much of their history since then back in it. There has though been a few notable spells outside of the top flight including a brief period in the third tier in the 1980s. Hertha have never won the Bundesliga but were runners-up in 1974-75. That lack of a top flight title is rather unusual for the number one side of a capital city.

1. FC Kaiserslautern

Two times Bundesliga winners, Kaiserslautern were first relegated in 1996, five years after their first title. Two years later in 1998, they became the to date the only newly promoted side to win the title at the first attempt. The club has struggled over the past 15 years or so, however, only briefly appearing in the top division, and currently ply their trade in the 3. Liga.

Karlsruher SC

Karlsruher lasted five seasons in the Bundesliga before being relegated and have been in and out of the Bundesliga in the years since. They most notably sat at the top table for 11 seasons straight from 1988 onwards. The club last graced the Bundesliga with their presence in 2009 and currently sit in the second tier.

1. FC Köln

Köln were the Bundesliga's inaugural champions finishing six points ahead of the runners-up in that first season. The club won the title again 14 years later in 1978 but have yet to win another championship since although they do have five runners-up finishes to their name. First relegated in 1998 they have now become a bit of a yo-yo club and last season only survived relegation from the Bundesliga thanks to winning the relegation play-off.

Meidericher SV

Now known as MSV Duisburg, the club finished as runners-up in that inaugural season and spent 19 seasons straight in the Bundesliga before relegation in 1982. Duisburg have spent the odd season back in the top flight since but have mostly been plying their trade in the second and third tiers. They currently sit in the 3. Liga.

1860 München

FC Bayern München may be the Bundesliga's most successful side of all-time with a record 30 titles to their name, but it was actually their nowadays less fashionable rivals 1860 who were the city's sole Bundesliga representative for its first two seasons and first side from Munich to be crowned Bundesliga champions. 1860 won the Bundesliga title in the division's third season, three years before their city rivals first won it, but are still waiting for that elusive second title. The club were relegated from the Bundesliga in 1970 but have been in and out of it in the years since with promotion in 1994 seeing a ten-year stint at the top table. Having since then dropped down the divisions, 1860 currently ply their trade in the 3. Liga having recently spent a season in the fourth tier Regionalliga Bayern.

1. FC Nürnberg

Known as Der Club due to their all-conquering side of the 1920s, they won their first and only Bundesliga title in 1968 only to be relegated the following season. The club did not return to the top table until 1978 but since then have spent more seasons in the Bundesliga than out of it. In the very recent past, however, the club have found themselves struggling at the bottom end of the 2. Bundesliga.

SC Preußen Münster

Runners up in the 1951 German championship, Münster have achieved little since. Founding members of the Bundesliga, they were relegated at the first attempt and have yet to return. They currently play in the Regionalliga West.

1. FC Saarbrücken

Saarbrücken finished rock bottom of the Bundesliga in its inaugural season. They did manage a couple of seasons back in the Bundesliga in the late 1970s and were promoted back to the top flight again for one lone campaign in 1992, but have spent most of the Bundesliga era in the lower divisions. Promotion from the Regionalliga Südwest in 2019-20 means they now play 3. Liga football.

FC Schalke 04

Schalke, last crowned German champions in 1958, are probably the biggest name side never to have won the Bundesliga. The club have seven times finished runners-up, however, and infamously thought they had won the title in 2001 only to see FC Bayern pinch the crown away from them with a dramatic stoppage-time goal in Hamburg. Last season Schalke suffered relegation from the Bundesliga thanks to finishing rock bottom with just 3 wins and 7 draws. Prior to last season, the club had previously been relegated three times although despite this had spent only five seasons away from the top flight. Financial troubles, however, suggest that their recent fourth relegation could well bring a longer stay away from the Bundesliga than they have previously seen.

VfB Stuttgart

Three times Bundesliga champions, Stuttgart last won the title in 2006-07. The club have spent only four seasons outside the Bundesliga since its formation with the last of those coming as recently as 2019-20.

SV Werder Bremen

Having spent only one season outside the Bundesliga since its formation, the club were relegated for a second time just last season. Bundesliga champions in only the league's second season, the club have four Bundesliga titles to their name, the last of those coming in 2003-04, and have seven times finished runners up.

Monday, 12 July 2021

A Brief Look At The Crazy Recent History of SC Paderborn 07

Last season SC Paderborn 07 finished ninth in the 2. Bundesliga in what was a rather sedate campaign compared to those of recent years where dramatic had been very much an understatement!

"To have a comeback you have to have setback", are words once spoken by Mr. T of "I pity the fool" fame, and this seems to ring true with SC Paderborn 07. Due to financial issues elsewhere the club made the most of surviving what should have been a third straight relegation in 2017 by following it up with back to back promotions to head back to the Bundesliga after a crazy four years away.

Based in the town of the same name that sits at the source of the River Pader, this small-time club from the eastern part of the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany worked hard to gain a seat at the top table of German football for the first time in their history in 2014 but from there it all went wrong. Paderborn did not dine at the top for very long, and when they were booted out they fell so far back that within a couple of seasons but for the grace of God they would have ended up playing regional football. Almost as quickly as they fell, however, was their rapid rise back that took them once again to the top level of German football. Of course, they were again relegated at the first attempt but last season's mid-table finish in the 2. Bundesliga has brought a rare calm to end the wild antics of the past decade.

SC Paderborn were formed in 1985 after a merger between 3 local sides and first reached the second tier of German football in 2005. Paderborn became regulars in the second division before eventually making it to the top flight. In the 2013/14 went on to make history under coach André Breitenreiter when a second-placed finish that season saw Paderborn, for the first time in their history, promoted to the Bundesliga.

Playing at their compact, modest, but modern Benteler-Arena, Paderborn were a team that had a very small budget to go with their rather small stadium and weren't expected to hang around in the top flight for very long. Paderborn looked like they might prove the doubters wrong, however, as they started their league campaign with a bang, remaining unbeaten after four games and finding themselves top of the Bundesliga. Things then calmed down a bit but a fairly successful first half of the season saw the club enter the winter break in 10th position.

The second half of the season, however, saw Paderborn drop right down the table. Paderborn were losing games whilst the teams below them slowly began to pick up points and overtake them. After a 6-0 defeat at home to FC Bayern in February, the threat of relegation was becoming deadly serious. Things were now beginning to turn out how people had expected before the season started. More defeats followed and in March Paderborn finally entered the bottom three where come the end of the season they would still be, ending the season in last place. But that was just the beginning...

After relegation Breitenreiter moved on to Schalke 04 and Paderborn continued to struggle with interim boss Markus Gellhaus lasting only till October after the club took just 10 points from their opening 11 matches. This dreadful start meant that when in a surprise appointment pundit Steffen Effenberg left the tv studio and took over at the club they were already sliding towards another relegation. Effenburg described himself as the 'New One' but there wasn't really anything new about his Paderborn team as the dismal results continued. He did not last the season. Academy coach Rene Müller took charge for the final ten games but could not stop the unthinkable and the club finished rock bottom for a second season running.

With so many players having jumped ship, Paderborn entered the third tier 3. Liga with a squad barely recognisable from the side that had played in the Bundesliga only two seasons earlier. This new unsettled side did not fare any better than the teams of the two previous campaigns and after a disastrous start to the season, Müller was eventually sacked in November after Paderborn lost 6-0 to Sportfreunde Lotte, a newly promoted team playing in the third tier for the very first time. Müller's replacement was out the door by Easter and Paderborn went into their final game of the season with relegation a real threat. Drawing 0-0 with VFL Osnabruck as the game came to a close they thought they were safe but an 84th-minute goal for Werder Bremen II in their match with Aalen saw Bremen finish a point ahead of Paderborn who dropped to 18th (out of 20) and took the final relegation spot.

Having played in the Bundesliga just two seasons previously, Paderborn would be playing next season in the semi-professional fourth tier Regionalliga West, a fall from grace of mammoth proportions. At least that's what was supposed to happen...  TSV 1860 München, however, would hand them a reprieve!

Having just been relegated from the 2. Bundesliga, 1860 München were due to financial problems not able to obtain a license to play in the 3.Liga for the following season (basically their owner wouldn't stump up the fee for a license). Not being able to play in the 3. Liga meant Munich's second club would have to settle for a place in the Regionalliga and Paderborn would be given a reprieve and stay in the 3. Liga at 1860 München's expense. No club had ever been relegated from the Bundesliga to the Regionalliga in three consecutive seasons and Paderborn's men in black and blue had been set to be the first, but thanks to a serious stroke of luck a third successive relegation would not be coming to the mouth of the Pader and boy would they make the most of it!

Having taken charge late on in the season and tried his best to save Paderborn from relegation, Steffen Baumgart remained in charge for the season of 2017-18 that followed, and after drawing their opening match the club then won 7 in a row as they stormed to the top of the table. Paderborn remained top for much of the season before eventually finishing in second. After missing out on a third successive relegation thanks to circumstances elsewhere giving them a stay of execution they had produced the most remarkable of turnarounds to secure promotion back the 2. Bundesliga. It really was a script you couldn't write.

During the first half of the 2018-19 campaign, it looked like too many draws might stop Paderborn from progressing beyond a mid-table finish during their first season back in the second tier, but winning their final two games before the winter break and 5 out of their first 6 when the league restarted put them firmly in title contention. Although nervy finish saw them lose two out of their last three matches they secured promotion back to the Bundesliga thanks to finishing above third placed 1. FC Union Berlin on goal difference. 

Of course, Paderborn are now back in the second tier and perhaps the Bundesliga and Paderborn are not a good mix as during 2019-20 the club managed to win only four league games and finished rock bottom of Germany's top flight once again, some 17 points off guaranteed safety. But having since survived a season back in the second tier with what was by their recent standards a rather unremarkable campaign, maybe they can finally settle down to a few years of stability. After all, many Paderborn supporters may feel that the past decade or so has not exactly been good for the old ticker.

Friday, 25 June 2021

The German Footballer Who Fell In Love With Cricket

Cricket is certainly not a sport you would associate with Germany. No doubt there are a few expats from cricket hotbeds such as India who play the game in this part of central Europe but, that aside, your average German probably has no interest in cricket whatsoever - Unless they are former FC Bayern München, Newcastle United, Liverpool, and Manchester City midfielder Dietmar Hamann that is.

On the face of it, a German being a huge cricket fan just seems rather odd but when you look at the list of English clubs ex-footballer Hamann played for things at least make a little bit more sense. England, of course, is the birthplace of cricket and one of the world's top cricketing nations and Hamann spent some 13 years of his playing career in the country. As well as those aforementioned English clubs he played for after leaving Bayern, Hamann also had a brief spell at Milton Keynes Dons.

Hamann first really became aware of the game of cricket after joining Newcastle United in 1998 as, at that time, Newcastle trained next door to the Riverside ground home of county cricket side Durham in Chester-le-Street. Although Hamann was impressed by what he saw there it was the 2005 Ashes series that really made him fall in love with the game, and in an interview with The Cricket Monthly in 2015 said: "I watched the Ashes in 2005 and that's what really caught my imagination." 

In that Ashes test series, England ended a run of eight straight series defeats to their old foes Australia in what was a summer of cricket that captured the hearts of much of the English public. 

Hamann loved the finesse of the game and also the tactical side of things, adding: "The whole sport is just great. It's a game of skill as well as strategy. That's why I enjoy watching it so much."

Hamann has been spotted at many a cricket match over the years and in various interviews on the subject of the sport has given his expert opinion on different teams and players and he certainly knows his stuff. He has even attempted playing the game.

In total, at club and international level, Hamann made 468 appearances on the football pitch during a career that spanned almost 20 years, but would he have been any good as a cricketer?

"[ex England star] Freddie Flintoff took me into the nets at Lancashire eight or nine years ago. He cranked the bowling machine up to 95mph to see what it would be like to face [ex Australian fast bowler] Brett Lee. I had a bat and a bowl and didn't do too well. To be honest, I prefer fielding!" said Hamann, also in conversation with The Cricket Monthly.

Hamann's love affair with cricket has been anything but a flash in the pan and indeed he was spotted at a Cricket World Cup game just two years ago in 2019, some eight years after his playing career in England ended. German's and cricket do not exactly go hand in hand but that just makes this unlikely match all the more fascinating. As a keen cricket follower myself, I must say that Dietmar Hamman definitely made an excellent choice when he started watching the world's other beautiful game after he first moved to England all those years ago! 

Sunday, 6 June 2021

Winning the League by 0.04 of a Goal (Revised Piece As Seen In Late Tackle Magazine)

The following piece recently featured in Late Tackle magazine (Issue 73 April/May 2021) and is an updated/amended version of an article I wrote, and posted on this blog, at the beginning of last year.

All the odds were stacked against Kilmarnock or so it seemed. To pip Heart of Midlothian to the Scottish Football League Division One title, they had beat their title rivals away from home by at least a 2-0 scoreline without conceding. This was thanks to the Edinburgh club's superior goal average, used at the time to separate teams level on points, as Hearts went into the final match of season two points ahead of Killie in an era when teams were still awarded only two points for a win. For Hearts, what would be a third top flight title in eight seasons seemed almost a given, for Kilmarnock, a first ever league title seemed improbable. But could the unlikely happen? Might the boys from Ayrshire actually make history?

Kilmarnock's rise to prominence in the 1960s did not come through acquiring top names. Managed by Willie Waddell who took charge in 1957, the club that started the decade having never won a league championship were a team of mostly Scottish born players with many of their squad one club players but very few of them internationals. Few went on to become big names at the larger clubs, with Tommy McLean who made his Killie debut, aged 17, in 1964 probably the only exception. McLean went on to win a host of titles and cups at Glasgow Rangers including the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1972 and a domestic treble in 1975-76. Players such as defenders Jackie McGrory and Andy King, however, never played for anyone else and both would play a vital role in the club's success without ever being snapped up by bigger name rivals. McGrory, an ever present in the team who between August 1962-December 1964 did not miss a single game, was by some considered the finest ever centre half to have played for the club whilst King would go on to play 21 times for Kilmarnock in European competitions to this day still a club record.

Despite the lack of big names Kilmarnock did, however, develop a solid defensive team who for much of the early to mid 60s were conceding on average barely more than a goal a game and several seasons conceded fewer than anyone else in the whole division. This strong defensive unit certainly paid dividends as the club started the decade with four second placed finishes in five seasons with the first of those seeing Killie finish one solitary point behind champions Rangers. Kilmarnock over this period could have easily been given the tag of nearly men and to emphasise this point over that same period they also lost 3 cup finals, one Scottish Cup final and two League Cup deciders. One can assume, then, that those involved with the club were rather keen to shake off the bridesmaid tag when the 1964-65 season got underway.

Kilmarnock started their 64-65 league campaign in tremendous style with six straight wins and, opening with a 3-1 home win over Third Lanark, Killie did not lose a league match until December 12 when they were beaten 5-1 away at Greenock Morton. Kilmarnock found themselves with only one league defeat to their name come Christmas with 12 wins and four draws from their opening 17 games. Once again defence had been the key - Kilmarnock had only conceded 14 goals in those opening 17 matches and five of them had come in one match. If they were going to finally swap the runners up position for a league championship then this season would surely have to be the one. 

McGrory, King, and Matt Watson were mainstays in that formidable defence but up front Ronnie Hamilton had also been a key player too, scoring ten goals before the Christmas festivities began. Jackie MacInally had also scored seven with others such as Jim McFadzean chipping in as well. Hamilton would never have as big a long term impact at the club as some of the others, and indeed he was sold part way through the following season, but his goals in the first half of 64-65 were priceless.

Kilmarnock, however, had not been the only team in fine form. Before losing 3-1 to none other than Kilmarnock themselves in their final match before Christmas, Hearts had also been unbeaten all season up to that point and despite that defeat, they were still joint top. Dunfermline Athletic and Hibernian were not far behind but would eventually fade away. Rangers and Glasgow Celtic, meanwhile, were both well off the pace and indeed 1964-65 would end up being to date the only season in the whole history of Scottish football that both Old Firm clubs have finished outside the top four. 

Although things had been going swimmingly for Kilmarnock their excellent form would not last as after New Year's Day the club lost four out of their next five league games. For the pessimist, dreams of title perhaps might have seemed to be slipping away from them, however, Hearts lost twice in two days at the beginning of January so although they would lead the table come the end of the month it was not as big a lead as it could have been. 

After three straight wins followed their two defeats, Hearts then dropped more points with a draw against Rangers in mid February sandwiched between defeats to St Mirren and Dundee, the latter a humiliating 7-1 home loss. Kilmarnock were now just a couple of points behind them having started winning again. 

Following that astonishing loss to Dundee, Hearts then managed five straight victories before a draw and then another win took them into the final game of the season. For Kilmarnock, meanwhile, seven victories out of six preluded their final match meaning they found themselves still two points behind a table topping Hearts side going into that final weekend of the season.

It was either Ayrshire or the maroon half of Edinburgh where the title was heading. Kilmarnock or Hearts for the championship and who were their respective opponents on the final day of the season? None other than each other! Yes, a massive title decider was on the cards! 

A win for Killie away in Edinburgh would see the pair level on points but Hearts' superior goal average meant Kilmarnock would need to win the game at least 2-0 and not concede to secure the title. Dividing goals scored by goals conceded in what was known as goal average meant a 3-1 or 4-2 win for Kilmarnock would see Hearts clinch the title but a 2-0 scoreline for the visitors would secure the title for themselves. With the mathematics seemingly far more complicated than under the current widely used system of goal difference it made KIlmarnock's task arguably even harder than it would at first sight nowadays seem. For many, it looked like Kille had no chance at all!

28 April 1965 was Kilmarnock's day of destiny but the build up to the game was unusually low key. McLean who lived closer to Edinburgh than Kilmarnock was able to make his own way to the game and was told to arrive only one hour before kick-off - this for arguably the biggest game in the club's history! 

More than 36,000 spectators were present at Hearts' Tynecastle home and Kilmarnock looking for those vital two goals found themselves ahead in the 26th minute to the dismay of most of those fans. McLean found Davie Sneddon at the far post and Sneddon was able to head the ball home. Boom, 1-0 Killie. 1-0 rather quickly became 2-0 and the visitors were in dreamland. Brian McIlroy received a pass from Bertie Black on the edge of the box, and despite Hearts appealing for offside, smashed a brilliant left footed drive into the far corner of the net.

2-0 was the half-time score and both teams were on the offensive in the second period, but Hearts only needed one goal and Killie could not afford to concede. Ronald Jenson hit the post for the home side early on and the tension was palpable. McLean came close to grabbing a third for Killie but it wasn't to be whilst for the home side an Alan Gordon effort that almost went in is still talked about today. In truth, however, Bobby Ferguson in the Killie goal made a fantastic save to keep Gordon's effort out. That was the last real chance of the game as Killie's defence held firm and the match finished 2-0. Kilmarnock had done it! The home side were despondent but the visitors were jubilant. Willie Waddell raced onto the pitch and was jumping for joy amongst his ecstatic players. Kilmarnock had won their first ever league title and managed it against all the odds - or in goal average terms by 0.04 of a goal!

Thousands of locals lined the streets of Kilmarnock as the team coach made it's way back to the club's Rugby Park ground and the town turned into one big party. The team had finally shaken off their runners up tag but long term the success would not continue.

The following season Kilmarnock lost 7-3 to Real Madrid in the first round of the European Cup and never building on that league championship success would not win the title again, in fact, nine seasons after that triumph they would end up being relegated! Although relegation was just a blip and the club have mostly been a top flight side in the years since, they have not exactly been a very successful one. The club followed up their lone title win with a third placed finish next time around but would fail to manage that feat again until 2019 more than 50 years later and even then found themselves 20 points behind Champions Celtic. 

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Halb Vier and the Turning Season

Writing features for this blog/website takes time as does the research and coming up with the ideas for features. Plus I have a boring full-time job away from writing about football. 

Anyway, as it's been a few weeks since my last piece and you may have to wait a little while longer for my next piece I offer you (above) this excellent interview/discussion with Michael Wagg about East German football and his book The Turning Season. In said book, Wagg revisits all the clubs from 1989-90 East German Oberliga, then East Germany's top flight before reunification. The book is an excellent read and this talk with him courtesy of Radio GDR is well worth a listen.

Finally, if you haven't seen already, issue six of Halb Vier is now out and features yours truly. Halb Vier is a UK-based English language fanzine all about German football and my writing has just made its first appearance in their pages. You can buy a copy here