Football clubs seem to be dying more often of late. Portsmouth are disappearing, Darlington continue to teeter on the edge and Rangers has become one big question mark. Whilst the birth of clubs remains rare, it is the resurrection of modern clubs that often sparks controversy. This is primarily because they seek to find the answer by delving into vats of fantasy finance, incurring the wrath of fellow sides in the process and finding out far too late that there is often no pot of success at the end of the rainbow. Surely the romance story of football has been lost to sides of the past and monumental cup wins. At least, I thought it had…
The German football league system went into a reform in 2008 with the creation of the 3. Liga and the Western Regional league, which sparked a short-term administrative nightmare. This incredibly resulted in the unprecedented event of the top ten being promoted to the newly created 3. Liga. I hasten to add that modern promotion to the 3. Liga is far more competitive, with only the regional league winners progressing. This young system has not been without complication but there is a bigger picture to be seen here. Simplification was its primary goal but also with the concept of development very much in mind. The reform has arguably reduced the quantity of Germany’s talent pool but in doing so has pivotally led to an increase in the quality of the talent within that pool.
Those who often go unnoticed though promote the successful function of the talent pool. Sandhausen, one of those sides promoted in the top ten in the reform year, are a team that represent a large majority of players, staff and clubs that work extremely hard for even the possibility of success. Their lead striker this year, Frank Loening, has 13 goals in 35 games and represents a relatively common mould of player. Apart from his stint at Paderborn, a 2008 promotion squad he was part of, he has spent most of his career playing in and around this level. Unlike in England where players are constantly persuaded to prolong their careers, often unnecessarily, in Germany there seems to be an excepted difference. There are of course players who rise and become incredible talents but they are normally scouted and transferred from a very young age. They then feed into the talent pool as they start to play and develop inside the best academies and youth squads in the country.
This is an increasing trend in the modern football market and the concept of the ‘journeyman striker’ is a fading one, particularly in Germany. There are however still players who make that change and can be the key difference in the lower leagues. Marco Pischorn left VFB Stuttgart after a brief first team stint and joined Sandhausen proving an excellent acquisition in the process. Alongside goalkeeper Daniel Ischdonat (ex-Mainz) and french winger David Ulm (ex-Strasbourg), Sandhausen have found an extra quality that has seen them improve. Titles are often not won through dominance or with a weighty goals-for column. They are won by hard-work, determination and good fortune. Sandhausen’s season (potentially a title winning one) has been just that. One of blood, sweat and tears rather than step-overs, favourable possession and overhead kicks.
It is these players that allow the collective unit to excel themselves just enough to be in contention. SV Sandhausen were born 95 years ago and this year’s latest development represents a side who are resurrecting themselves in the most spectacular fashion. Gerd Dais, a former manager, was brought back in and has overseen an incredible rise in fame for the humble club from just outside Heidelberg. They were languishing in the lower regional leagues before a lower league championship and a fifth placed promotion saw them playing in the new 3. Liga. A few years of hesitation were inevitable and after some nervy flirting with the bottom half of the table, this year saw yet another unbelievable chapter written in the SV Sandhausen book. Dais was once again the mastermind, stating before the start of the season he wanted the club to achieve a “single-figure place in the table”. I am not sure even the SV Sandhausen fans would have believed that figure could indeed be number one. The club have been fantastic this year and confirmed their promotion to Germany’s second tier two weeks ago with a 2-1 away win at Muenster. Last week they were defeated, meaning this weekend will decide whether they or VfR Aalen will be promoted as champions. It certainly could happen, there is no doubt the story deserves another romantic turn…
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