“Two simple numbers describe the disaster. While the 1st FC Heidenheim, which passed hamburger SV in the aftermath of the direct duel, has employed a head coach since 2007, 20 managers sat on the bench at the traditional club from the north during the same period. A pattern of inconsistency, which has led to the club gradually losing its connection in the Bundesliga, relegated in 2018 and now looking forward to the third year in the lower house of football. This is a disaster for the still so proud HSV.
After all, the reflexes of the industry worked well as usual. Immediately after the 1:2 (0:0) at the Heidenheimers, supervised by Frank Schmidt, a debate amounted to whether coach Dieter Hecking was still the right man for the crashed Dino. The 55-year-old has only been in office since last summer, but would have reached the usual half-life of his predecessors.
It is not the only personnel debate that concerns the HSV. Sports director Jonas Boldt also has to accept the accusation that he failed abruptly in his first year on the Elbe. In March, he won the internal power struggle against CEO Bernd Hoffmann. But he too is in danger of missing the big goal, a return to the bellows of German football.
Once again, things are turbulent in Hamburg’s Volkspark. This year’s promotion would have been quite easy, given the weakening VfB Stuttgart and only one convincing team – Arminia Bielefeld. But since the re-start, the HSV has only defeated the two likely relegations Dynamo Dresden and Wehen Wiesbaden and lost six points in the post-match period alone by late goals.
These counters are now missing. While Stuttgart (58 points) behind the second division champion Bielefeld (65 points) can already plan for the Bundesliga, the HSV (54 points) is dependent on shooting assistance. As of Sunday afternoon, it is only a matter of reclaiming the relegation place.
This would require a victory of its own on the last day of the match (Sunday, 3.30 p.m.) against Sandhausen. In addition, Heidenheim (55 points) is not likely to make his away game in Bielefeld successful. Then the HSV, which has the better goal ratio compared to 1. FC, would have secured two finals against the 16th of the Bundesliga. “If I said now, no, we don’t have a chance anymore, then I would probably be a very bad coach. But of course we are now dependent on shooting assistance,” Coach Hecking said after the nightmare on the Swabian Ostalb.
Long list of defects
The club has to blame itself for the fact that the giant of the league, which has shrunk to normal, now has to rely on the Bielefelder, who have been celebrating more than training for a week, to make a final effort and to succeed in a game that is meaningless for them. The list of shortcomings is so long that even die-hard fans have lost their faith in and joy with the team.
The former U21 European champion Julian Pollersbeck has been in goal since the 29th day of the match. But he could not give the team the necessary support, nor could Daniel Heuer Fernandes, who was demoted to the bench.
This is also due to the fact that in front of the keeper so-called defenders demonstrate all their dilettantism in sad regularity. Rick van Drongelen, after all vice-captain of the team, has been completely out of form for weeks and has been instrumental in the flood of goals against in the post-match period.
In Heidenheim, he pawned at one last high ball from the opponent, which would have been easy to clear, but thus became the perfect template for victory goal scorer Konstantin Kerschbaumer. After all, he was able to look forward to a new Wikipedia entry: “Kerschbaumer is an Austrian footballer who is under contract with 1. FC Heidenheim and has taken the honour of the HSV”, it was written there for a short time. Hecking chose not so sympathetic words: “The counter-gate is inexcusable,” he said: “These are things that have nothing to do with luck or bad luck. It’s just badly defended.’
In addition, van Drongelen’s Dutch sideman in the interior defence, Timo Letschert, is trying and would be all too happy to be the leader. But the 27-year-old has also struggled with violent drop-outs and was instrumental in the late bust in Stuttgart (2:3 after a 2-0 lead).
It is a fundamental evil of this club anyway that no leader can be identified. Neither Adrian Fein in midfield, who played so magnificently, nor captain Aaron Hunt, who has largely lost his toughness and speed in his 16th professional year. The series of professionals who play good times and then again four games badly continues in the offense with Bakery Jatta and Sonny Kittel. Jatta is more an athlete than a footballer and rarely can effectively finish his fabled sprints. Kittel is an outstanding technician, but not a killer in front of the gate.
Lucky Handle Pohjanpalo
And so, in addition to the busy and offensively strong left defender Tim Leibold (16 goals), only the striker Joel Pohjanpalo, on loan from Bayer Leverkusen during the winter break, is a ray of hope. The Finn has nine hits in 13 games. He was also responsible for the leadership in Heidenheim. The problem: The Sandhausen game next Sunday could be the last if the relegation does not follow. The HSV does not have a purchase option on the attacker.
In this mixture, coach Hecking has to answer above all for the fact that he did not find the means to stabilize his team after a strong start and 24 points from the first eleven games of the season during the return round. He stubbornly maintained his basic formation on the field. When the opposing coaches and players had adjusted to this, Hecking could rarely react and give his team the much-needed impulses from the outside tactically.
Although the coach is praised for his matter-of-fact and calm way of working, he too has been a model of mediocrity. 24 points won means for the HSV seventh place in the back-round table.
“It seems that the football god is not on our side at the moment,” Hecking said after the last-minute collapse in Heidenheim: “We could have been through a long time ago, we didn’t manage that. We have to win our game, and then you can look to Bielefeld and hope that the Bielefelder do us the favor of giving us another gas. And if they don’t, okay. Then we digested it.”
The battle cry of the fans has long since been transformed: such a crash can be made within a few weeks – only the HSV! Whether those responsible will be allowed to start again is uncertain. Hecking’s contract is only automatically extended if he climbs, and doubts about Boldt are also growing. His luck: After Hoffmann’s ejection, there is no one to mime the strong man. A problem that the HSV has next to and on the field.