It turns out even the mention of former coaches who were abject failures during my formative days as an Effzeh fan can do nothing to darken my football mood.
I know this because both Stale Solbakken and Holger Stanislawski appeared in my daily news meanderings today for various reasons: Solbakken because his current club won a big match in Champions League yesterday; Stani because the firing of Michael Frontzeck necessarily puts him on a short list of obvious candidates for coaching his long-time club.
Solbakken, of course, has returned to Denmark to resume his role of head coach of FC Kobenhavn, where he’d originally built his reputation to the point of catching the attention of those conducting a job search for 1. FC Köln in the summer of 2011.
Solbakken was coming off a season in which he had won the Danish Superliga title as well as advanced to the knock-out stages of Champions League, surviving a group including FC Barcelona, Rubin Kazan, and Panathinaikos before falling to FC Chelsea.
The 2010-11 Copenhagen club finished with a plus-48 goal differential in their 33-match season, finishing 26 points clear of second-place Odense Boldklub.
Solbakken did not make it to 33 games with 1. FC Köln, even if you add in two DFB Pokal matches. He departed after a 0:4 drubbing in Mainz, leaving the club mired in 16th place in the table with a minus-27 goal differential.
Ingloriously, my first full season as a self-proclaimed member of planet Effzeh hence ended with the 0:4 to FC Bayern at home, dropping the club into seventeenth place and the direct relegation, which got only more embarrassing as black smoke filled the arena from the south curve and attention-starved youngsters made their way onto the pitch.
Most of my friends here in the US who follow the sport at all are either Seattle Sounders fans and have no interest in much else or follow the English league, but that did not stop people from asking me, “Uh…what’s up with your club?” They may not follow Bundesliga, but such a spectacle certainly draws attention. Hence, I spent time explaining/defending my fellow Effzeh fans and German fans in general with the usual, “It’s a small group of knuckleneads…blah blah blah…”
Anyhow, Solbakken was the first coach for me with the club, at least as far as having been witness to his arrival. I was excited for the hire, but that might have been solely because I knew who he was, having caught a bit of their Champions League action. The wide world of European football was still a bit of a huge, swirling mystery to me at the time, so any name I’d heard prior in a positive way? Well, he MUST be decent?
Based only on his results in Köln, I was very much wrong. Off to Wolverhampton and the English second league, making it only to matchday 26 (of 46!) of a season in which the Wolves were ultimately send down.
Meanwhile, I suddenly found myself hopelessly tied to a second-league team, raising the level of difficulty on actually following the team from afar.
In comes Stanislawski, who had a bit of an iconic status in my mind for having brought St. Pauli to the top league, if only for one very poor season. As you likely are aware, St. Pauli has a certain profile around the world due to the club’s social activity and association with the skull-and-crossbones logo. People who barely know the Bundesliga exists know of FC St. Pauli.
And, admittedly, before I could have named five Bundesliga teams, even when I was living in Wuppertal, I was aware of St. Pauli for those exact same reasons. Hence, I’m always a bit more conscious of what’s happening up there in Hamburg, which means I was somewhat familiar with Stanislawski.
Dismissing the short time at Hoffenheim as a problem with the club rather than the coach, I again initiated my “Hey, I’ve heard of that guy” rule and went full-bore into, “Clearly, he’s the right man for the job” mode.
And I believed that through the ridiculous scoring drought of his tenure as head coach right up until he quit like a quitting quitter.
I admittedly felt for the guy when he announced his resignation. He looked bewildered at even his own decision.
But I was still a bit pissed. Still am, in fact, though that is tempered by the clear and present truth, which is that we have a much-better man in place now…
Even if Peter Stöger was a name I’d never heard until it was thrown into the messy disaster that the coaching search seemed to be this summer.
(jeebus…remember how horrible it all seemed that nobody wanted the job, and then, when someone finally wanted it, it was a guy who didn’t seem like he had the big-time credentials? WOW did a LOT of people get that one wrong, eh?)
So now, Solbakken is quoted as saying he is certain the 1. FC Köln is on their way to promotion, saying “This team is stronger than the one I had available to me in the Bundesliga.”
While I think that’s a bit of excuse-making for how bad the team was under him, I’m not sure it doesn’t also carry the weight of truth. At the very least, it’s a bit younger and more-organized than it was in 2011-12.
And could we be facing our former coach just months after he quit? FC St. Pauli fired Michael Frontzeck today, a bit more than three weeks before the cult club travels to Köln.
Keep in mind, Stani’s name was going to be raised no matter when a coaching change was made there, as he’s currently unemployed and is steadfastly identified with St. Pauli due to his long-terms there as both a player and coach.
However, nothing I’ve read indicates he’s officially a candidate.
On the other hand, St. Pauli has been mostly in the top half of the table all season, which is no great feat, but considering their flirtations with the relegation zone toward the end of last season, should have been enough to keep Frontzeck in position, based solely on performance.
This makes me wonder whether Frontzeck was simply not a good fit with the culture at St. Pauli, much like Stani seemed to have determined he was not as good a fit for the culture at 1. FC Köln as he’d hoped when he resigned.
Sidebar: By the way, when a coach tells me he’s going to quit, I send him packing that day. I don’t let him stick around to finish the string. You don’t want to be here? GET GONE! Totally didn’t understand having a lame duck for the season’s end.
I’m sure the early results in St. Pauli has someone believing a coach more in-tune with the club itself might be what’s needed to edge the team toward the top three spots in the table. Is there a more-obvious name than Stanislawski, in that case?
Ultimately, I don’t care because I’m enjoying fully what we have as fans of the Effzeh. I may have scoffed a wee bit at Stale’s little jab at the roster he was given (as if he were unaware of the roster when he took the job) and might have nearly spit coffee onto my keyboard when Stani’s name came across my screen around the same time I was learning Frontzeck had been fired, but, for me, we now have the right guy in charge, even if it was a bit of a bumpy road on the way to getting him.