Hamburg SV recently removed coach Bruno Labbadia from his role as their coach, with sporting director Dietmar Beiersdorfer citing the team’s poor start to the season. After four defeats in five matches Hamburg are mired in early season relegation trouble, only a place above the slightly more woeful Schalke 04. Hamburg finished last season in 11th, a relatively comfortable position given that they finished the previous two seasons in the relegation play-off spot, but that wasn’t enough to convince the powers-that-be that Labbadia deserved a longer stint in charge of the side. It was Labbadia’s second stint in charge of the north German club and, like his previous reign, it proved to be short lived.
Since Labbadia’s last outing as Hamburg boss, back in 2009-2010, the club have had 13 trainers (that’s an average of 2 a year, although it is including caretakers and the newly appointed Markus Gisdol). Few have lasted more than a season, with some seasons seeing the club employ three coaches to take the club to ever greater… Well I can’t even pretend they’ve been successful, so ever greater flirtations with danger and ever more incredible escapes. Fans of Hamburg expect so much more; as the dinosaur of the Bundesliga, Hamburg have played in every season of the competition since its inception in the 1960s and have arguably never faced as traumatic a period as this. Since the heyday of the 1980s, when Hamburg were a side challenging for the very highest honours in German and European football, the club have had aspirations of greatness and with a fabulous city and fan base behind them you can understand the frustration that there isn’t a fantastic football club to represent them.
Hamburg’s sporting directors are playing with fire, however. There is a certain logic to sacking coaches on a reasonably regular basis: it keeps everyone on their toes; there is often a boost in motivation every time a new boss steps through the door as everyone seeks to impress him/ her; complacency is avoided. However, there is a fine line. A lack of unity or clear direction within the club is clearly growing, young players are being given the chance to shine only for a new boss to come in and drop them again, whilst Hamburg themselves are wasting millions upon millions of Euros buying players for coaches who they then sack immediately. It means that plenty of players brought in by Labbadia this summer may never get the real chance at Hamburg that they thought they would be getting. How many talented youngsters have slipped through the net? How many experienced pros have let the club down in recent years? It is getting ridiculous.
Under Labbadia last season it finally looked like Hamburg had turned the corner. The German boss had undone some of the defensive horror shows that the previous regimes had become famous for, whilst occasionally even getting his side to play decent football. A mid-table finish was not to be sniffed at, given the lack of success in recent years. Things were looking up as the summer rolled by and there were even murmuring rumours of a return to European competition if the season went really well. Five games in and those thoughts have disappeared, but despite a promising 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich the board decided enough was enough, with the club on a run of four straight defeats and a solitary point to show from the season so far. But had things really been that bad?
A 4-0 home defeat against RB Leipzig looks bad on paper, but really the East German club have been exceeding expectations so far and have had a fantastic start to the season. Any side can have an off day; Borussia Dortmund further showed that away in Leipzig. A 3-1 away defeat in Leverkusen is also not that disappointing, given that Bayer are a cut above a lot of other clubs at the moment. Two narrow defeats in the last two games pointed to things moving in the right direction at least and after last season it really didn’t seem necessary to replace the manager so early in the new campaign.
This is where things get worrying for Hamburg fans; the director of football, Herr Beiersdorfer, along with other senior figures at the club, are rumoured to have their fingers all over the team sheet, their decisions dictate team selection whilst they remain far away from all responsibility. These are just rumours, understandable given the sacking of another manager who seemed to be on death row after the Freiburg defeat, but given the continued comings and goings in the coach’s office with little lasting improvement on the pitch, it is easy to imagine. Things are not healthy in Hamburg and fingers are starting to point upwards.
So, Hamburg fans, it looks like another season of failure and flirting with relegation danger is coming your way. Just when you thought it was over, here it is. Back again. Continually firing the coach may work in the short run but over time it just damages the club and leads to uncertainty. Here’s hoping Markus Gisol doesn’t face the chop before the end of the season or the Hamburg dinosaur will start to look like it’s being forced to perform in a circus for the cheap, sad entertainment of everyone else.
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