Some sackings are stranger than others. And Willi Entenmann’s dismissal from his coaching position at 1. FC Nürnberg is certainly among the strangest sackings the Bundesliga has seen in its long and illustrious history.
Der Glubb was struggling in a relegation battle ahead of an all important derby match against arch rivals and notorious big boys of German football Bayern München. Entenmann’s team were just above the relegation spots, but only on goal difference.
Getting a result against Bayern seemed unlikely, but November 6th 1993 was one of those days when the smaller team somehow managed to get a result against mighty Bayern. Goals by André Golke and Hans-Jörg Criens sealed the Bavarian giants’ fate on the day, and Nürnberg managed to put two points between themselves and the relegation places.
Not on his birthday?
Smiles all around at the club offices the following day, then, one would imagine. There was just one tiny problem, however. The club’s president Gerhard Voack had decided to give Entenmann the boot ahead of the match against Bayern München regardless of the result.
According to Voack, the dismissal was a done deal before the match against Bayern because “there were irreconcilable differences of opinion in the daily collaboration” between Entenmann and the rest of the leadership. Voach went on to say that Entenmann had even lost the dressing room at that stage.
The way Entenmann treated sponsors and other groups had also reportedly created a divide between the club’s leadership and the coach. While Nürnberg were struggling to keep their head above water financially, club officials felt that their coach treated Nürnberg’s head of finances like a schoolboy.
Stern writes that Voack subsequently decided to give Entenmann the boot on the latter’s 50th birthday. However, the club president then began to feel that the timing was ill-advised, so he waited until after the match against Bayern.
There are doubts about whether this version of events is entirely accurate, though, as Entenmann turned 50 on September 25th. There were, in fact, five games between the coach’s big anniversary and the match against Bayern.
While the details of precisely when the decision to sack Entenmann was made remain unclear, we do at least know what happened before and after the match. Ahead of the game, Der Glubb‘s president Voack decided to tell a bunch of people that he was going to dismiss his coach after the final whistle.
Given that the journalists present at Bundesliga matches like to talk, that wasn’t the wisest of plans according to Entenmann:
“At 10 past three a journalist approached me, telling me that the president had told the VIP room that I was going to be fired after the match.”
Instead of giving up, however, Entenmann decided that he’d give the game his all anyway:
“My thought was that if I ever should win a match, it should be this one.”
The 2-0 win meant that 1. FC Nürnberg could breathe a sigh of relief ahead of the fast-approaching winter break. But Entenmann knew that it wouldn’t change his fate. So he simply decided to enjoy a win like he’d never done before. In the end, he opted to take a shower fully clothed, bathing in his unlikely triumph.
The club’s fans protested on Entenmann’s behalf, demanding that Nürnberg kept the coach around. However, president Voack ignored their pleas and fired Entenmann two days after the win over Bayern.
After the winter break, the team was taken over by Rainer Zobel, who was eventually unable to prevent the club from going down after a 4-1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund on the last match-day of the season.
Regarding his dismissal, Entenmann would later say:
“It might sound insane: Personally this dismissal, as painful as it was, helped me on. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case for the club, which was suffering in the end.”
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