Is Saturday’s trip to Berlin to face Hertha BSC the first big test for Joe Zinnbauer?

Since Mirko Slomka was fired and Josef ”Joe” Zinnbauer replaced him as the coach of Hamburger SV things have started to look a lot brighter in the city in Hamburg. Team captain Heiko Westermann described the moment that Zinnbauer became the coach as ”the start of the season.” No one can deny that there now seems to be a lot more hope than before.

The former U23 coach, originally hired by former sporting director Oliver Kreuzer, made it clear that he wants the team to act as unit. Although he had no former experience of working at a level as high as the Bundesliga, Zinnbauer showed immediately that he was no pushover. In one of his first training sessions with the team, he put star player Valon Behrami at the sidelines for ten minutes to watch as his teammates continued. Behrami had not been showing the commitment that Zinnbauer demanded, therefore the Swiss international was delivered a message.

Since then, no one has questioned Zinnbauer or his methods. In a team with Bundesliga stars as Lewis Holtby, René Adler, and Pierre-Michel Lasogga, you would imagine that it would be difficult for an inexperienced coach to get the right amount respect, but Zinnbauer definitely proved to be a lot tougher than other newcomers.

The first match, against the giants Bayern Munich, was a small success for Zinnbauer and the team. Hamburg was able to keep a clean sheet against the best team in Germany. Also, Hamburg had played surprisingly good offensive football, despite no goals having been scored. The draw was more than just a point, it gave the team a lot of self-confidence, an important thing they had lacked until winning that result.

But still there remains much work for Zinnbauer. The point against Bayern Munich was followed by losses to Borussia Mönchengladbach (0-1) and Eintracht Frankfurt (1-2). Hamburger SV still showed a lot of promise, and there were clear signs that Zinnbauer had played part in that. In both games, Hamburg fought to the bitter end, showing courage and mental strength like they had not under Mirko Slomka.

In the game against Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park, Zinnbauer got his team to play a near-perfect game. Sure, Dortmund had been lacking form, but Hamburg played their best game of the season and won 1-0. Needless to say, winning at Signal Iduna Park is not something you do everyday and that Hamburg had achieved something really great.

Still, Zinnbauer had not been given a new contract and was still working with the same deal he got as the U23 coach. Other names had been discussed, but after the win against Dortmund the board was giving Zinnbauer a vote of confidence. Chairman Dietmar Beiersdorfer said that Zinnbauer’s future ”should be in the Bundesliga.”

The last game against Hoffenheim ended 1-1 which was not a remarkable result, but still good enough for Zinnbauer. But it is the game against Hertha Berlin that will be Zinnbauer’s big test. That will be the first game against a team at the same level as Hamburg.

”It is very important that we doesn’t lose,” Zinnbauer said at press conference on Friday. A win and three points would mean that Hamburg would leave the bottom of the table, something that the fans have been living with for a long time by now. It would also confirm that Zinnbauer is the right man for the job.

Hamburg will go to the German capital in hope of getting a victory. They will surely show a lot of Leidenschaft (passion) and do everything they can to ensure that they will travel home with three points in the bag. For Zinnbauer, it would be a step closer to getting the longer-term contract as the head coach that he has been aiming for since he got the opportunity to coach the team.


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