Christian Groß’s unlikely debut

With only moments left to play, Florian Kohfeldt turned to his bench to see whom he could throw onto the pitch to secure Werder’s first league win of the current campaign. So far this season, the Green and Whites have struggled badly with injuries. Ömer Toprak, Ludwig Augustinsson, Sebastian Langkamp and Milos Veljkovic are currently all unavailable, leaving Kohfeldt with few players to choose from.

At 30 years of age, Christian Groß is an experienced campaigner, but so far the central defender had gathered his experience at 3. Liga and Regionalliga level. The Bremen-born defender was overlooked by Werder as a youngster and instead embarked on a career at Sportfreunde Lotte, SV Babelsberg, HSV II and VfL Osnabrück.

Then, at the start of this season Werder brought Groß in to guide the youngsters in the club’s U23 Regionalliga Nord side. Playing in the Bundesliga was never on the cards for the 30-year-old.

However, the aforementioned injury crisis meant that Groß suddenly was used in training matches and in the club’s DFB Pokal game in order to make up the numbers in defense. Werder coach Florian Kohfeldt has so far had only good things to say about the defender. Even ahead of the season, Kohfeldt told Deichstube:

“I like the lad, he does things rather well.”

Drink a couple of beers

Despite impressing the coach during the run up to the season, though, Groß hadn’t been used in the Bundesliga prior to the match against Augsburg. Florian Kohfeldt preferred Bundesliga experience ahead of the defender who’s known as “Grosso” among his teammates.

However, when Kohfeldt was desperate to play down the clock against FCA, Groß was finally given his first couple of minutes of Bundesliga action. In his few moments on the pitch in the Weserstadion, Groß managed to clear the ball ahead of Alfred Finnbogasson, doing his bit to help earn the River Islanders their first win of the season.

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After the match, Werder coach Kohfeldt admitted that he might have been wrong not to give Groß his chance earlier. Furthermore, the Werder trainer was once again full of praise for the 30-year-old Bremen native:

“He is a cool guy. What he does in training is superb. I’m overjoyed on his behalf that he came onto the pitch. He should go and drink a couple of beers now.”

Looking ahead

For his part Groß, who as a child once took a shot against former Werder goalie Frank Rost, is under no illusions that he’ll have a long-term future in the Bundesliga side. In contrast to his two minutes of Bundesliga football, the defender can boast more than 180 appearances in the third tier of German football.

Despite taking the step back to Werder’s fourth-tier U23 side, though, the central defender says that he’s content with his career. He told Deichstube:

“I’m still happy about how things turned out. I could have made it in the Bundesliga 2, but when it comes to football, one does need a spot of luck.”

Right now, Groß is enjoying and soaking up every moment. He knows that he’ll be facing lower league opponents in the not too distant future. His move to Werder wasn’t about reaching as high as the Bundesliga, but about the future.

The 30-year-old is also currently studying business administration and management in addition to playing for Werder U23.

“It’s my goal to stay within the world of football, but there aren’t so many positions available,” Groß says about his plans for when he decides to call it a day.

More Bundesliga football in the future?

So far, there isn’t any indication when Sebastian Langkamp and Milos Veljkovic can be expected to come back. New signing Ömer Toprak is likely to be available again at the start of the next month.

All those things combined mean that Christian Groß could play a few more Bundesliga minutes in the not too distant future. And the veteran has only had good things to say about his experience with Werder’s first team, stating that he’s learned an awful lot during his time with the big boys.

However, once Werder’s first-choice defenders return to fitness, it’ll be more and more unlikely that Florian Kohfeldt is going to keep the U23 side’s captain around for much longer.

Nonetheless, Werder at least now know that they can count on Christian Groß whenever there’s a defensive crisis.

“I’m there when I’m needed, and I’ll try to put in my best performance and simply enjoy it,” Groß told the press at the start of the season.

Whatever happens, the 30-year-old now has a cap in the Bundesliga to his name. He’s reached heights he didn’t even dream about when he penned his contract for Werder’s U23 side.

But even though he’s something of a late bloomer, Groß is far from the oldest player to make his debut in the Bundesliga. That record is still safely in the hands of Richard Kress, who was a staggering 38 years of age when he debuted for Eintracht Frankfurt back in 1963.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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