Mediocrity still not an option for the red shorts.
Almost 24 years have passed since Ernst Happel left the northerners to go back home to Austria. The chain-smoking media shy man is by far the most successful coach Hamburg have had after the second world war. During his 6 year reign at the club Hamburg won the German championship twice, the DFB Pokal once, and most importantly, the European Cup.
Ever since the moody Austrian left the club expectations at the club remained at a consistently high level. Fans and the local media alike constantly demand that the club plays at the top of the Bundesliga season in and season out. Most coaches have therefore quickly found out that being in charge of The Red Shorts isn’t a picnic to say the least. 21 one different coaches have sat on Hamburg’s bench since Happel left, 16 of them were hired to coach the team on a permanent basis. A coach lasts 1.5 years on average in Hamburg. One could say that ever since the Austrian left the team, his successors have suffered from a curse that was put in place by his successful stint at the club: The Happel curse, if you will.
Needless to say, these changes haven’t brough any sort of continuity to the club. The only titles of significance Hamburg have won after Happel left them is the 2003 German indoor football championship and the UEFA-Intertoto-Cup in 2005 and 2007.
Longing for titles
Frank Arnesen was brought to the club at the beginning of the season to help Hamburg live up to those high expectations. The new sporting directors first move was to re-model the squad entirely, a new generation of young and exciting players was brought in the Hamburg the entire city has been longing for since Happel. Arnesen is well aware of the pressure he is facing at the moment. During the annual general meeting of the club’s members on Sunday the Dane stated that ”a team like the HSV should play in Europe every season.” President Carl Jarchow told the club members that the ”team needs to win a cup in the not too distant future.”
Big words from the two men who are currently working for a team that is 13th in the Bundesliga table. Both men are very much willing to change the climate at Hamburg though. Former board members Bernd Hoffmann and Katja Kraus left 1.7 million euros in contract and obligations that weren’t accounted for in the Hamburg budget and a 4.87 million euros deficit after leaving the club, but both of them were honorably discharged by the members meeting on Sunday. Head of the board Ernst-Otto Rieckhoff had lobbied different fan groups to make this possible, in order to keep the cool in and around the club. The board seems to be determined to run the club as smoothly as possible, avoiding any sort of in-house fighting.
Fink delighting the fans
Thorsten Fink has been in charge of the team for the last part of the Hinrunde, and already managed to stabilize the defense, and his brand of attacking football is hitting all the right notes at Hamburg so far. In this week’s kicker the coach is delighting the fans even more, by stating:
”Mediocrity can’t be the demand of Hamburg”.
Furthermore, Fink says that he is used to ”having my team play in Europe”, and that he is aiming to reach Europe’s finest competition with his side:
”In two or three years we should aim at qualifying for the Champions League.”
Fink’s comments in this week’s kicker are music to the ears of the Hamburg faithful. However, it has to be stated that many coaches have tried to reach the stars with Hamburg, only to fail in the end. Fink certainly has a tough road ahead of him and he already seems to know that demands will keep growing week after week. The question then becomes, can he escape the Happel Curse?
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