Not only is the season at its end, but also the time 1. FC Magdeburg spends in tier III of German football. Thanks to yet another league reform the 11th place is not enough to stay up, and Magdeburg will have to play in the then-tier IV Regionalliga Nord come next season.
How could a club that finished 3rd last season play this badly, you ask? As usual the answer to that question is rather complex. One factor, and basically speaking the factor that led to this miserable result is the 3rd place from the last season. A lot of people assumed that the team achieved this rank because of its inherent qualities, and unfortunately, members of the Magdeburg board and at least in part the manager were among those people. This has led to only very inadequate players coming in, such as Eric Agyemang and Dennis Tornieporth, both of which were unable to fulfill the expectations. Also, the club was not able to compensate for the loss of forward Aleksandar Kotuljac who went to Greuter Fürth (and has established himself rather well in the 2nd Bundesliga) and even Sven Kubis was missed by some. These two issues, the overconfidence in the strength of the team and the fact that as a consequence no new players that could increase that quality (an exception is, of course, Florian Müller who had a brilliant season) were signed are the origin of all problems that the club has had in this season.
From these issues arose another. Manager Dirk Heyne was soon obviously helpless and clueless with regard to the problems that the team had, but instead of sacking him at the end of the first half of the season, the board let him stay on for the first two matches of the second half as well, maybe because they thought that after beating Wuppertal in November things would get better, but I suspect that the actual reasons are Heyne’s merits with the club (having played as goalkeeper for more than 20 years and winning promotion to Regionalliga) and the fact that Heyne’s father had died only recently. Both factors are not actual reasons not to sack a manager, in fact this decision might be what cost us the league.
The next two matches were a disaster, points-wise: Magdeburg drew Werder Bremen U23 at home and lost to Energie Cottbus U23 away. Then Heyne was gone. I wonder if a prompter reaction by the board might have changed things, but it’s no use crying over spilt milk now.
Heyne’s reign ended with a terrible record: Of the 20 matches that the club played, they won merely 6, drew another 6 and lost 8. Only 1 away match was won and the goal record was equally abysmal: 19 goals, but 24 conceded.
As a successor, Magdeburg brought in Paul Linz, and finally the board signed players that could potentially help us: Tunisian forward Najeh Braham, Christian Reimann who came with the recommendation of 48 goals in 68 matches, albeit in tier IV, and Steffen Baumgart, an experienced former Bundesliga player and allrounder. In the test matches things looked good and a confident performance in the first match after the winter break spread a careful optimism, when Magdeburg beat Hamburger SV U23 2-0. But the away game at Dresden showed the old troubles again, the team looked scared, ran scared – and they played that way too, much to the chagrin of their manager. He had been trying to instill a hunger for attacking football into them, but that was not easy, after years of playing a 3-5-2 under Dirk Heyne, which most of the time turned into a 5-3-2 or rather 5-5-0.
The next home opposition was minnows Verl and Magdeburg fulfilled their task, beating them 2-0 again. But that was that. Curiously enough, Magdeburg began to win away games, even those that were highly unlikely, such as the ones in Düsseldorf or Berlin. However, this came at a price, as it seems, because since the Verl game, Magdeburg have not been able to win at home. None of these draws and even the loss against Essen on the penultimate matchday were of such a nature that you could have blamed the team. It’s just bad luck if you hit the bar twice in one game…it just wasn’t meant to be.
After yesterdays 2-1 away win at Wuppertal, the club were relegated on goal difference, showing that the management’s and the board’s failure to correctly identify weaknesses in the team was fatal in this season. However, in the new 18-team Regionalliga Nord, Magdeburg will have to try for immediate promotion. If they do not, they run the risk of losing much of their attendance (last season had the highest average attendance since 1983/84, with 11.800 spectators per game) and also their manager. Paul Linz’s contract runs out in June as the club did not qualify for the 3rd Liga. However, he is willing to stay if he gets a competitive team. The budget for next season is rumored to be 3 million euros. One should be able to do something with that.
Regionalliga Nord will start on August 16th, a lot of time to look for and sign new, talented and good players that can help put 1. FC Magdeburg back where they belong: Into a professional league.