Happy Birthday to Me?

I woke up this morning to the sounds of my toddler son singing whatever version of “Happy Birthday to You” you get when you lose track of where you are in the song a few lines in.

My Facebook and Twitter feeds were deluged with birthday wishes from friends, family, and people I hardly know at all other than exchanging words over the internet.

The company for which I work gives employees their birthday off, so rather than getting ready to go to work, I sent my wife off and brewed a pot of fully caffeinated coffee, rather than the half-decaf we have every morning while she is pregnant.

And I learned early in my day the 1. FC Köln was making some last-minute transfer window moves, bringing in some offensive-oriented players to bolster the clearest area of weakness of the team.

Heck, even the fact the game ended up being delayed to allow more fans to arrive through bad traffic played in my favor, allowing me to get my shower in before kick-off.

You really couldn’t have blamed me for thinking it just seemed like things were going to go my way today.

Was it wrong for me to request three points and a victory as a birthday gift?

Apparently it was, according to whatever football god controls making numerous good chances go wasted, including an absolute sure thing off the foot of Daniel Royer that somehow was cleared away by a desperate slide from Ivica Banovic.

Despite seeing the Billy Goats dominate (yet again) the great majority of the game, it was Cottbus who made their chances count, scoring a goal one of the very few times they were even able to get a whiff of Timo Horn’s aftershave (wait…he probably doesn’t even shave yet, does he?) for a 0:1 road victory, leaving the city and fans of Köln in even more of a dizzying state of panic about the team’s fortunes than they were.

And, make no mistake, the Effzeh fan base is largely in a state of panic.

It’s hard to deny that just one point of a possible 12 is pretty much as poor as you can start, results-wise. It would be hard to imagine feeling any worse were it zero points because I know that one point does not make me feel anything positive.


The fact is, however, when I watch the team play, it’s clear they are the superior side in many ways to each of their opponents thus far. You can’t excuse the failings on the score board, but the fact of the matter is that Cottbus had no business taking home even a point today, much less all three. They were constantly chasing their own tails, excepting a good stretch early in the game. The second half was played nearly exclusively in Cottbus’ defensive half of the field. Granted, they were certainly bound to have decided to play a defensive game with the lead and figure they’d get away with at least the draw, but they’d have to admit they were fairly fortunate none of the many, many opportunities were exchanged for goals by the home side.

That has definitely been the story of the season thus far. Köln has definitely made some mistakes and had a few stretches of poor play, but they’ve yet to really beaten on the field by a team who simply outclassed them.

Of course, that and $2 bucks (and some change) gets you some Starbucks. It won’t mean anything in the table, which is the ultimate measure of a team’s worth, yeah?

Hence, I’m going to continue to be optimistic about Holger Stanislawski and the squad for the time being.

I do remember thinking Sascha Bigalke being one of the more energetic players for SpVgg Unterhaching when the Effzeh traveled there for their opening round victory in DFB Cup play. Hence, I’m excited to see what he brings to the team when he gets to don the jersey and take to the field, following his transfer this morning. Further, the borrowing of Anthony Ujah from Mainz is intriguing in that one of my rules in my limited soccer intellect is that strikers for Nigerian national teams are dangerous and fun to watch. Ujah is an under-23’er for Nigeria, meaning I immediately like him.

Well, I’m bound to like anyone wearing the red and white, aren’t I? Still, I was delighted to read about the two last-minute additions to the club and to see they were both offensive-minded players. If they can help create more chances and convert some of them, it’ll make it even more difficult for opponents to move forward in counter-attack, further limiting chances against Horn.

All I know for sure is that it’s still too early to start throwing the hands in the air and crying “ach..dritte Liga!” Certainly, it’s not fun seeing all the Mönchengladbachers (and Düsseldorfers and Schalke fans) popping up on Twitter to point and laugh at those of us keeping an eye on #EffZeh, but they’re basing their schadenfreude strictly on the results. Those of us who are seeing the matches should know better than to fall into that sort of thinking. This team is much better than the record shows. We must have faith it will eventually reconcile itself in the table.

It almost always does.

Ov vür ov zoröck – neues Spell heiß neues Jlöck!”

If only we didn’t have to sit on that lone point for 17 more days!

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