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.

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