The 1. FC Nürnberg has decided to end the Gertjan Verbeek era at 22 matches, putting their U23 coach, Roger Prinzen, in charge for the three remaining matches of their struggle to retain the class.
Under Verbeek, der Club has lost eight of nine matches, dropping from 12th to 17th in the table and, hence, firmly in danger of relegation. The Dutch coach had seemed to have directed Nürnberg in a positive direction after the winter break, as they won four of their first five matches of 2014, losing only a thrilling home match to Bayern München along the way.
Nürnberg has been outscored 25-7 in the eight losses sandwiched around their lone victory since February, a 2:0 win over VfB Stuttgart, the three points from which is the only thing to keep Nürnberg from falling all the way into last place during the stretch.
Prinzen was the man on the touchline for the first match after the firing of Michael Wiesinger in October, drawing 1:1 at Eintracht Frankfurt, one of Nürnberg’s record eleven draws in the club’s winless Hinrunde. Now Prinzen will have three matches to lead the club to safety by at least catching Hamburger SV, which sits one point ahead of Nürnberg in the relegation playoff spot.
Despite facing some fairly stiff competition in the remaining matches, sporting director Martin Bader feels the move will bring something positive to his club before season’s end.
“After the recent series of defeats, we have once again dealt intensively through many conversations with the current precarious situation, in order to examine which measures are necessary in order to make the last three games victorious, “said Bader following the announcement of Verbeek’s release. “We are of the convinction that we can once again unleash something with this decision.”
Whether that “something” to be “unleashed” includes enough points from road matches at Mainz and Schalke, as well as the home finale against Hannover, to stay in the Bundesliga was not made entirely clear.
Not for Bader, at least.
Prinzen, on the other hand, is clear that fighting their way out of direct relegation is precisely what he has in mind for his trio of matches in charge.
“I do not want to talk about the relegation, rather about the retention of the class.” said Prinzen at the press conference announcing his new, interim role. “For everyone else, we have already dropped, but I believe firmly in the class-retention. Everything that happened before is no longer relevant. We will attack anew.”
The positive attitude of Prinzen was specifically mentioned by Bader on Wednesday, perhaps indicating that it was not just the on-pitch results that led to the change.
“Roger knows the team well and has already proven that he can quickly help the team in a difficult situation,” said Bader, “He is a positive coach who approaches the job very realistically, but also with the necessary optimism.”
As for the players, Bader had a message for them as well, heading into this weekend’s match in Mainz, wanting to assure they realize just how important the Bundesliga-status is to der Club.
“Give your wives photographs of yourselves, because they will not see you the next three weeks.
Unfortunately for Verbeek, Bader was not quite as direct with the Dutch coach, who learned of his new unemployment while in the Netherlands to attend the wedding of a friend. The coach had several times stated that he considered himself more a “football teacher” than a “miracle worker,” and would strongly consider staying with the team, even should it be relegated, presumably to help lead the rebuilding effort and return to the Bundesliga with a stronger foundation for future success.
For now, the focus for Nürnberg would seem to be on staying in the Bundesliga and trying to rebuild from the top league, rather than suffering the drop and reorganizing from below.
We’ll never have the opportunity to see what would have happened with Verbeek in place long-term, but we will learn very quickly whether the matter for der Club was simply a matter of a leadership change or the problem lies beyond the reach of tinkering with the coaching personnel.
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