The 2011-2012 2-Bundesliga season saw Paderborn equal their best ever finish to any Bundesliga season by finishing on 61 points good for 5th place, 1 point behind eventual promotion playoff winners Fortuna Düsseldorf and 4th placed FC St. Pauli. Had it not been for a 5-0 hammering at the hands of St. Pauli, coupled with Fortuna’s 2-2 draw with Duisburg, on the final matchday this very well could have been a Bundesliga preview but sadly for Paderborn they will have at least one more season playing second division football. While it wasn’t exactly the best way to end off a season, the team can be proud of its overall consistency having never dropped below 5th place in the Rückrunde.
Change at the Helm – Schmidt the Younger
Much like at the beginning of the previous season, the club was forced to make a change at the managerial position for the start of this upcoming season. After manager Roger Schmidt’s contract was bought out by Austrian Bundesliga club Red Bull Salzburg (yes the same Red Bull Salzburg that were very recently knocked out of the UEFA Champions League by Luxembourgian champions F91 Dudelange) on the 30th of June, Paderborn wasted very little time naming 35-year-old Stephan Schmidt (no relation) as his replacement. Schmidt had spent the last 3 seasons as manager of VFL Wolfsburg’s U-19 squad, which ended the 2011-2012 season as U-19 Bundesliga champions. In an official statement posted on the club’s website, both President Wilfried Finke and Sporting Director Michael Born spoke highly of Schmidt and they believe he has the proper tools to move forward and achieve success with the squad, one of the youngest in the league with an average age of 24.3 years.
Summer Transfers – An Injection of Youth
Paderborn have been very active in the current transfer window. So far the club has brought in 10 new players and it has been a real youth movement; the average age of these 10 players is 22.8 years. However, knowing what we do know about Stephan Schmidt, this probably isn’t to be unexpected considering the experience he has with squads at the youth levels. The transfers thus far have been mainly young defenders and midfielders but perhaps the biggest addition comes in the form of former Borussia Dortmund II attacking midfielder Mario Vrančić. Although born in Croatia, Vrančić has represented Germany at several youth levels and was part of the U-19 Germany squad that won the UEFA European Championship in 2008. Having played mainly on reserve sides or in lower divisions, the 23-year-old will be looking to make a big impression on the 2-Bundesliga stage.
While there have been many players moving to Paderborn, there have been even more of them leaving the club. A total of 12 players have taken their leave this summer including 2 relatively important attacking players. Attacking midfielder Sören Brandy has left the club for fellow 2-Bundesliga squad MSV Duisburg. Brandy was Paderborn’s second highest goal scorer in the 2011-2012 season with 5 league goals and was often times employed as a second striker. The other key departure this summer has been the transfer of striker Nick Proschwitz who has made a move to England to play for Hull City for a fee of nearly 3.5 million Euros. Proschwitz scored 17 league goals making him not only Paderborn’s leading goal scorer but joint top league scorer alongside Eintracht Frankfurt’s Alexander Maier and Greuther Fürth’s Olivier Occean (who has now joined Maier at Frankfurt). In addition with the departure of American striker Matthew Taylor, this leaves Paderborn with only one dedicated striker on the team in the form of newly acquired David Poljanec.
Verdict – Growing Pains?
In spite of the overall youth of the club, Paderborn have had a rather successful pre-season campaign, having gone undefeated since last season’s end, The presesason has included wins over Eredivisie club FC Twente and Bundesliga side Werder Bremen. Taking things with a sizeable grain of salt, these pre-season successes could help the club grab some momentum for the upcoming season, which begins with a tough trip to newly relegated Hertha BSC on Friday evening and then the home opener 8 days later versus VfL Bochum. Considering the amount of turnover and the overall youth of the squad, manager Stephan Schmidt will likely have to lean on club veterans goalkeeper Lukas Kruse, midfielder Daniel Brückner, and midfielder and club captain Markus Krösche to help keep the squad’s cohesion. Time will tell whether this young squad will be able to replicate the success of the previous team but a top half finish shouldn’t be out of the question. A loftier goal of the promotion playoffs could be attainable but Paderborn will likely be on the outside looking in.
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