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Season’s over – again

The 2010-11 season comes to a close next Saturday, and it looks very much like 1. FC Magdeburg will compete in the fourth tier for another year. What was a reason for dissatisfaction in the past two years, when Kiel and Babelsberg were promoted, is actually a source of relief. After a disastrous campaign, Magdeburg got very close to being relegated to the fifth tier. So close, in fact, as the club hadn’t been since 2002 when relegation was avoided only on matchday 33.
What had happened? After the club had tried very hard to win promotion in the past two seasons, a huge hole cropped up in the budget, and the board decided to a) lie about its existence and size, then b) admit its existence but lied about the size and then c) created a squad from scratch that was very very cheap, compared to the squads in the past two seasons. Unfortunately, along with being cheap, the team was also weak, aside from a few gifted players. Most of the team certainly had quality for a tier 5 team, but sadly, they had to compete in tier 4. At the start of the season, Magdeburg had lost two forwards who had scored 31 goals between them in the 2009-10 season. Of the team leaders in the past season, only two stayed, Daniel Bauer and Stephan Neumann. In any case, the club got off to a surprisingly good start, with 10 points from 4 matches, and then lost to RB Leipzig 1-2 after a good performance. Unfortunately, that would be the last time the team played well for quite a while – with dire consequences for their rank in the league table. After day 4, Magdeburg had led the league, but at the halfway point of the season – day 17 – they were ranked eleventh, with just four points separating the club from the relegation zone. In the winter break, forward Eddy Vorm left the club for Holland after he’d scored only once in the league, and forward Shergo Biran and midfielder Kosta Rodrigues were signed. The latter was not immediately helpful, while the former was banned from playing due to some transfer issues until March…
After matchday 24 saw the club slump to a 0-2 home defeat at the hands of Plauen, the board sacked manager Ruud Kaiser and brought in Wolfgang Sandhowe who was in charge of the reserve team at the time. The reserve was bottom of their league, too…
While Sandhowe did not at all improve the team’s playing style, Magdeburg did avoid relegation with him in charge. He did manage to get more points per game than Kaiser, but a difference of .18 is negligible at best.
The consequences of this season have already been drawn. Magdeburg will get a team manager who will be in charge of all the club’s teams. Hopefully this person will also understand that Sandhowe is not a long-term option, as his previous record with clubs is not exactly one of success. As there is an impending league reform next season, there will be no relegation from tier 4, making it an ideal season to form a new team to compete for promotion in 2013 – one of the famous two-year plans is in order, I’d say.

To sum up the various team’s performances:

  • Senior team: just avoids promotion with one matchday to go
  • Under 23: Relegated from tier 5, comes in last of 16 teams
  • Under-19: Relegated from Youth Bundesliga (top flight), 9 points behind  non-relegation spots
  • Under-17: Mid of the table, about 20 points behind promotion spot in the second-highest level
  • Under-15: Third in the top level Regionalliga Mitteldeutschland

One more thing: Next season, thing’s will be different at this here blog, although I don’t exactly know in which way. Different is all I can promise.

Speechless

Six matches to go in the league – 27 point deficit to #1 spot
Cup: Lost in the semi-final against Halberstadt. A team we have never ever lost against.

What gives?

State of the Club

Since I last wrote, after match day 3, 1. FC Magdeburg have come through quite a development. New transfer Wolf is out until January, and the club signed Lars Fuchs from Jena as his replacement. This has turned out to be a good decision, as Fuchs has already scored 5 goals in the seven matches he has played in. As for the league position, Magdeburg have improved since day 3 when they were on 14. They are now on 8, but still with a 5 point deficit to the top spot, held by VfL Wolfsburg’s reserve team.
Most importantly, however, manager Baumgart changed his tactics. Instead of a defensive 4-2-3-1, Magdeburg now play a 4-1-3-2 that gives them more options in attack and is largely responsible for the 19 goals the team has scored so far. Unfortunately this change has also introduced some weakness in defense, so Magdeburg have conceded 13 goals so far.

The matches so far:
At home against Hansa Rostock II – 2–2
Magdeburg go one down after 38 minutes, then celebrate a late comeback with goals from Vujanovic and Watzka, only to concede a late equalizer off a free kick, after goalie Tischer and defender Prest miss the ball. The match is a glimmer of hope anyway after the abysmal performance against Türkiyemspor in the week before.

Away at VFC Plauen – 4–1
Magdeburg go one down again, after only 4 minutes, but this time the team manage a complete turnaround. By half-time the score is 3–1 to Magdeburg, another Vujanovic goal makes it 4–1 for the final whistle.

Home against SV Wilhelmshaven – 5–2
After this demonstration of strength, Magdeburg face Wilhelmshaven. They are third from the bottom and it only takes seconds for Magdeburg to take the lead. But within minutes Wilhelmshaven equalize and it looks like the match would turn into a nailbiter. Watzka scores to make it 2–1 at half-time, and in the second half Magdeburg get their act together, extending their lead to 4–1 before a defensive slip-up gives the guests their second goal. Marko Verkic scores in the final minute to make it a clear-cut 5–2.

Away at Babelsberg 03 – 2–3
In the following away match Magdeburg are punished for their defensive errors. Despite taking the lead twice, defensive slip-ups give Babelsberg three goals for the eventual win. The team had retreated too far, at times back to their own penalty area.

Home against Hannover 96 II – 4–2
The match against Hannover was a make-or-break affair. Hannover were in second place and a loss would surely have seen Magdeburg losing touch with the top teams. But despite their advantage in technique and table position, Magdeburg controlled the match from start to end. A furious first ten minutes saw both sides score off a penalty before the hosts took the lead with a Fuchs goal after thirty minutes. Until the 84th Magdeburg had extended their lead to 4–1, before another napping defender allowed Hannover to make it 4–2 for the final whistle.

Away at Hallescher FC – 1–1
Last week saw Magdeburg travel to their arch rivals in the south of Saxony-Anhalt. In front of more than 10,000 spectators the guests started well, but were reduced to ten in the 23rd after Daniel Bauer appeared to kick an opponent who had roughly tackled him. Bauer himself says he was unconscious following that tackle. Nevertheless he was given a two-match ban. After the red card hosts Hallescher FC attempted to control the match, but were largely unsuccessful. They took the lead with 30 minutes left on the clock, but around the 70th a firecracker landed right next to the linesman, thrown from the stands populated by Halle „fans“. It resulted in a five-minute break that brought Magdeburg some time to consider their options. Even though Magdeburg had largely contained Halle before the interruption, this became more obvious afterwards and eventually resulted in the well-deserved equalizer by a Watzka header off a Racanel corner-kick.
After nine matches Magdeburg still have every chance to win promotion, but good results from the next three games against dead-last Goslar, St. Pauli reservers and Hertha Berlin reserves are imperative before the matches against competitors Chemnitzer FC and VfL Wolfsburg reserves.

Getting better

Since I posted last, not a lot has happened, aside from Magdeburg’s last three matches.

Only very basic post today as well.

1. FC Magdeburg – VfB Lübeck 3-0
SV Wilhelmshaven – 1. FC Magdeburg 2-2
1. FC Magdeburg – FC Hansa Rostock 2-1

Magdeburg are now in third place.

Recently

University classes have resumed, I’m job-hunting and don’t have a lot of time to blog…I do have time to attend matches, however.

Hamburger SV II – 1. FC Magdeburg
In a rather poor match, Magdeburg dominated the first half and accordingly took the lead. Keen defending and bad luck on the side of Hamburg sealed the second win of the season.

1. FC Magdeburg – Hertha BSC II
Magdeburg put Hertha under pressure from the start, and the one who felt it most was their goalie. Two mistakes by young Christopher Gäng and Magdeburg was up 2-0. The second half saw Magdeburg just trying to hang on to the result. As they did that successfully, Magdeburg won their first home game since March 2008.

Vfl Wolfsburg II – 1. FC Magdeburg
A double salvo in the 31st and 33rd sealed Wolfsburg’s fate, but a nicely executed counter-attack shortly after the halftime break put FCM under quite some pressure. They withstood however and celebrated the third win in a row in front of 2,400 travelling fans.

Germany U21 – France U21
The play-offs for U21 Euro 2009 saw this clash in Magdeburg’s stadium. This match had been used repeatedly to console the population after the controversial decision not to include the city in the 2011 Women’s World Cup. But the match did nothing in terms of compensation. An uninspired Germany team managed a 1-all draw against a French team who were much superior, but lacked finishing skill. The French must have gone home wondering how they managed not to win. 12,550 spectators were ready to support the team, but Germany just did nothing to warrant any support.

Blau-Weiß Gerwisch – Preußen Magdeburg
On the day after the rather disappointing play-off, I travelled to Gerwisch, 5 miles east of Magdeburg to see a fixture in the round of last 16 of the Saxony-Anhalt Cup. On what can only be called a dignified sports field the two teams played highly entertaining football. The underdogs, Gerwisch being a tier VII side and Preußen tier VI, took the lead off a rather non-controversial penalty, but Preußen equalised after thirty minutes with a strange ball. Unfortunately, Gerwisch’s keeper hurt his hand in the process and had to let in yet another goal before the break. In the second half, Preußen put on the pressure and increased their lead with a beautiful freekick that went in off the post. Gerwisch managed to pull one back almost immediately after wonderfully stringing some quick passes together on the right side. In the end, however, Preußen triumphed, eventually winning 4-2. A much more entertaining match than the night before, and for a tenth of the price…

Tomorrow, Magdeburg play VFC Plauen in an attempt to keep up with league leaders Babelsberg.

Rebuilding

May 31, 3:15 pm: 1. FC Magdeburg are relegated from tier III. Or do not qualify for the new 3rd Liga, whichever you prefer. This means that with the exception of Reimann, all players‘ contracts will run out on June 30, as they are not valid for tier IV. The same goes for manager Paul Linz.
Captain Mario Kallnik announces his retirement. He’ll take over an as yet undefined function with the club.
June 1: The board promise the team will be rebuilt within three weeks. A team strong enough to compete for promotion from the Regionalliga Nord is needed. Linz says he’ll stay if the team is competitive.
June 3: On the last fan meeting of the season, manager Linz announces his plans for the next season. He’ll continue using a 4-4-2, but considers a diamond in midfield. Although nothing is confirmed, it is clear that Linz will stay.
June 4: At a press conference, the club announce a number of things. Linz has signed a two year contract, the goal being promotion to 3rd Liga within this time, possibly earlier. Magdeburg sign Daniel Rosin, a defender and defensive midfielder from Wacker Burghausen. The player had been on the list of players for the 3rd Liga team Paul Linz had written up, but will join the club despite the relegation to tier IV. He has received a 3-year contract. Matthias von der Weth leaves Magdeburg for Borussia Mönchengladbach’s reserves.
Also on June 4, 2nd Bundesliga side Alemannia Aachen announce that they have signed Florian Müller from 1. FC Magdeburg. The right midfielder had been one of the few bright spots for Magdeburg in the past season.
June 5: Najeh Braham signs a new contract that will keep him at the club until 2011. He says he feels good in Magdeburg and wants to help them reach the 3rd Liga.
June 6: Goalkeeper Christian Beer, defender Christian Prest and defender/midfielder Stephan Neumann sign new contracts. Beer receives a 3-year contract, Prest and Neumann signed until 2010. All three are from the club’s youth system and have played for the club since, with the exception of the 2002/03 season.
June 9: Magdeburg sign Catalin Racanel from FC Sachsen Leipzig. The Romanian-born midfielder receives a 2-year contract. 31-year-old Racanel has worked with manager Paul Linz in the 2nd Bundesliga in Trier and Ahlen. „Linz is the best manager I’ve ever had“, he says when asked for the reason he’ll spend more time in tier IV footie. Racanel has played 7 Bundesliga, 100 2nd Bundesliga and 34 Regionalliga matches.
June 10: Magdeburg announce that Mats Wejsfelt and Pit Grundmann have signed new one-year contracts. Both are defenders and play a central role in Paul Linz’s planning. Says he: „It’s important to keep last year’s defense together, as you need to be well-established in that department.
In other news, Marcel Brendel, a versatile attacking player from FC Schalke 04’s reserves joins the club. The 20-year old from Berlin has signed a two-year contract.

To be continued…

It’s over

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.