Like some ignominious allegations of sexual misconduct emerging like a giant spider from a wood-firing oven that metaphorically represents the past to confront a purely hypothetical pizza magnate, VFB Stuttgart have re-emerged from two years of chaos to challenge for a claim that should naturally be theirs by right; a top five place in the Bundesliga. This is a great triumph for the Swabian club after the utter chaos of the past five years, during which the Stuttgart faithful have fully spanned the entire Bundesliga spectrum, from winning the Salatschussel in 2007 to near relegation during the disastrous tenures of Markus Babbel and Christian Gross.
And disastrous they were. Stuttgart’s recent history has given me eerie flashbacks of spinning around on one of those spinny things you have at playgrounds, can’t remember the name, holding onto the edge with one hand and shouting as loud as I can shout. Their last five seasons have almost all started out with either a near relegation and a managerial sacking or a dull midtable position and a managerial sacking, the season usually ending in an improvement of roughly five places upwards in the league. Once they even won it, a fact that every Schalke supporter the world over loves to be reminded about in vivid detail. It comes as a pleasant surprise and also a great foreboding, therefore, that the Swabian club have got off to such a promising start.
This early good form is almost entirely down to the appointment last season of journeyman coach Bruno Labbadia while the club were mired in the relegation zone. Labbadia, nearly written off for his controversial departures from Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg, has resurrected the forms of this once great side in truly magnificent style, building victory on the back of a strong defence, something greatly lacking in Stuttgart sides of recent, and presiding over a renaissance in the individual form of most of his team, most notably Serdar Tasci, who could consider himself massively unfortunate as to miss out on a call-up to the national team for the most recent friendlies.
Along with a strong defence, Labbadia has carried on Stuttgart’s fine attacking tradition, his tenure coinciding with the emergence of the Hamburg born second striker Martin Harnik, who has been ejaculating goal after goal for both the Swabian club and the Austrian national team, and who, had he opted to play for the nation of his birth rather than that lot down south who I don’t like to mention, should definitely have been (A copy of Streetmentioner’s would be useful on this occasion) considered a starter. I could spend endless hours and probably an entire article dedicated to the considerable merits of Martin Harnik both on and particularly off the pitch, for he is truly one of the best looking players of our age. I could, and I say this as an entirely straight man of my entire life, probably write another thousand words on his radiant beauty, but it probably wouldn’t go down well with whoever it is that does the pictures (it’s not me). Don’t look at me in that way. Harnik’s got looks enough to seduce even Fred Phelps. As does most of the Stuttgart squad, for that matter. It’s a great shame that Christian Trasch is gone, as he was also quite a stunner, and white brings out the best in him.
It is not only Martin Harnik who has hit form under Labbadia, but the entire Stuttgart team. In another year, this side would be a certainty to wave large pieces of medieval tableware in the air (well look at that, I am a poet and I was caught off guard by the enormity of that fact. That joke never grows old.), but alas this is not another year, and instead it would come as no shock even if they were to finish in a Europa League berth come june of 2012, which would be a disappointment of sorts, as I’d love to see this team win the league before the world ends, and certainly Bruno Labbadia and his wandering charges deserve this honour. Such is the tragedy of football.
As someone with a casual support of Stuttgart, I can only say that this season has come as an enjoyable respite from the past few seasons of madness. Though I would not look anywhere beyond fourth spot, you never know what can happen. As the great analyst and therapist Dr. Tobias Funke so wisely put it about something completely different and yet so similar, “Everyone deludes themselves into thinking it’s going to work out for them, and it never does… But it might just work out for us!”. These are words that any football supporter would understand, and yet we still keep trying.
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