1. FC Nürnberg, or “Der Club” as they are known by Nürnbergers (see Uli Hesse’s latest masterpiece on ESPN Soccernet: German name-calling), was once THE force to be reckoned with in the Bundesliga and Europe after the turn of the century through the 1960s having been crowned Deutscher Meisters “German Champions” six times, and Pokal Siegers “Cup Winners” four times. Today, however, when you ask someone (not familiar with Der Club’s proud history) what Nürnberg is best known for, you are likely to get responses such as; bratwurst (we all know what that is), Lebkuchen and the world-renowned Christkindlesmakt (Christmas market). Lebkuchen is a traditional German ginger bread prepared for the Christkindlesmakt. Tourists flood to the Nürnberg every year to partake in the what is likely the largest Christmas festival in the world. During a visit to Christkindlesmakt, you are certain to feel your body temperature drop in the frigid Bavarian winter weather, and for that Nürnbergers have a remedy, Glühwein. Glühwein is the traditional beverage of choice during the Christmas holidays. Prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus, a little sugar and “mit Schuss” (with a shot), which means there is rum or liqueur added, Glühwein is likely to heat you up and put a little pep in your step, and the same might also be said of Der Club by the time the Bundesliga is ready to crown the “Herbstmeister,” or fall champions, and as much as it pains this die-hard Bayern fan to say it, quite possibly Deutscher Meister.
Camp Finished: Chemistry, Unity and Fitness Achieved
Der Club finished pre-season preparations with six clean sheets, the last being a win against Racing Santander. If that’s not positive news going into the season, The Club begin the season without any major injuries. Trainer Dieter Hecking summed it up happily in a ClubTV interview: “All the players will join the program, with all players meeting the physical requirements.” Der Club’s first pre-season acid test began two weeks ago at home in the easyCredit-Stadion against Dutch Eredivisie power Ajax of Amsterdam, and could very well be a sign of good things to come. Der Club earned a positive 2-0 result on goals by youngsters Robert Mak and Markus Mendler. Afterwards, like most Bundesliga clubs, 1.FCN made its way south to the Alps in Tryol, Austria a second training camp , barely getting by local club Zell, 1-0 and picked up the residue by defeating Slovan Liberec, 2-1.
If last season’s 6th place finish, coupled with a pre-season clean sheet, are any indicators, 1.FCN should should turn some heads this season and make a legitimate push for a Champions and/or Europa League position by seasons end. Meine Tip: 1.FCN – 4th place. That is, if the team remain fit. Hecking and the team are pleased with pre-season preparations, and Hecking provided his insights by saying, “We have come far in the past four weeks with the integration of new players. If we compare the current state to that of last year at this point, I believe we have reached the team unity, or something close to that again.” Now Der Club turn there focus on this Saturday’s DFB Cup away against Arminia Bielefeld in the Schüco Arena, followed by their Bundesliga opener which could two Yanks; USMNT defender Timmy Chandler of 1FCN, and Hertha BSC’s rising star – forward John Anthony Brooks.
Der Club extends Hecking; Transferborse (Transfer Market)
In June, 1. FCN extended Dieter Hecking’s contract which will keep the 46-year-old at 1.FCN for two more years, provided Der Club remains in the 1.BL. This stability will certainly give Hecking and team confidence going into the season. Der Club, like most clubs, was busy in the summer transfer market. 1.FCN welcomed 29 year-old midfielder Markus Fuelner to Der Club. Fuelner, a Franconian, comes by way of BVB Dortmund 1.FC Köln and Die Bayern, and brings with him much-needed Champions League and German Cup experience. Midfielder Daniel Didavi made the two-hour drive on Autobahn 6 from VfB Stuttgart. The two of them should fill the void left when İlkay Gündoğan signed with BVB Dortmund. Czech national and journeyman Tomas Pekhart joins Der Club on a 4 year deal from Czech top flight side Sparta Prague, after spells with Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton, Slavia Prague, and FK Jablonec. Newly signed Patrick Rakovsky, after learning from the best in the business, Manuel Nueur, should challenge regular Raphael Schäfer for the job between the posts. Other notable players joining Der Club include: Timm Klose (FC Thun 1898), Felicio Brown Forbes (returns from loan to Carl Zeiss Jena), Manuel Zeitz (1. FC Saarbrücken), Alexander Esswein (Dynamo Dresden), and Dario Vidosic (returns from loan to Armenia Bielefeld). Losses include: Marek Mintal (Hansa Rostock), Timo Ochs (TSV 1860 München), Mehmet Ekici (FC Bayern München), Julian Schieber (VfB Stuttgart), Daniel Batz (SC Freiburg), and Andreas Wolf (Werder Bremen).
IF sturmer Christian Eigler can improve upon his team-leading 8 goals tally from last season; fellow strumer Tomas Pekhart performs to the level he is capable of; the midfield holds together; Timmy Chandler avoids the dreaded sophomore jinx by making runs up the right line and teeing up pin point services into the box as he displayed while on USMNT duty last spring; Swedish international Per Nilsson holds down the back line, coupled with Raphael Schäfer keeping the ball out of the back of the net; promising youngsters Mak and Mendler continue to develop; THEN Der Club could very well find themselves in a position to cheerfully drink Glühwein during Christkindlesmakt and maybe, just maybe Heffeweissen vom stein in May. That is unless their Bavarian rivals 90 minutes south down Autbahn 9 have anything to say about it. Auf gehts! That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
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