When is the appropriate moment to say a team’s hopes for the new season are utterly doomed? In the case of the Bundesliga’s Hamburger SV, how about after 90 minutes of competitive soccer? The Guardian’s Raphael Honigstein reports that’s all the time it took to generate, “newspaper stories that read like obituaries.”
“A club does away with itself, HSV have become a caricature of themselves,” wrote Die Welt. “Not fit for the first division,” sniffed Hamburger Abendblatt. “Their fiftieth year in the Bundesliga could well be their last,” warned Süddeutsche Zeitung. Tabloid Morgenpost went further still: “Sixteen weeks without the Bundesliga were not long enough as far as the Hamburg supporters were concerned. Every day at HSV without football is a good day.”
“No one’s ever gone down after the first game,” argued manager Thorsten Fink on Saturday, not unreasonably. But neither a lack of perspective nor typical media knee-jerkism can be blamed for headlines such as “naked fear” (Morgenpost) – Hamburg’s catastrophically inept 0-1 home defeat by Nürnberg was in truth only the latest low point in a painful, drawn-out decline. “It’s been a constant for two years now, there’s has been no development, we haven’t made one step forward,” said midfielder Marcell Jansen with alarming honesty. “I don’t feel as if there was any progress,” admitted sporting director Frank Arnesen.
Fink is sticking to his “it’s all about confidence” defence but his utterings are increasingly unpersuasive. “We didn’t believe in ourselves enough to take the lead, how can a side that’s been criticised all year play well?” he wondered. Not that criticism is the problem, however, it’s the team. And those who are responsible for it.