The Bundesliga’s 2010-2011 regular season kicks off this weekend, an occasion which causes When Saturday Comes’ Matt Nation to consider the recent history and future prospects of Hamburger SV, the German top-flight’s only team to have never suffered relegation (“an achievement marked by an irritating stopwatch that™s just struck 47 years in the corner of the ground”). Needless to say, Nation doesn’t predict they’ll be challenging for any silverware this season either.
Managerial lowlights have included Frank Pagelsdorf, who regularly burst into tears during post-match interviews; Klaus ToppmÃ¶ller, whose flaccid perm, nicotine-addled purr and world-weary demeanour gave him the air of a Reeperbahn bawd; Benno MÃ¶hlmann, the pioneer of the half-time pep-talk that consists of kicking the right-back in the shins; and Egon Coordes, who, although refraining from physical assaults, treated his players with the contempt usually reserved for bears dancing on hotplates rather than professional athletes.
This year, fans spent the early close-season fans looking forward to a worthy successor to Ernst Happel, the inspiration behind the club™s successes of the 1980s. What they™ve got is Armin Veh, touted as the number one candidate, but only in the same way as the sole magazine in the lavatory is what you elect to read once you™ve dropped your trousers and sat down. The general manager, Bastian Reinhardt, got the job on the basis of a long and distinguished three-month internship in the marketing department.
Meanwhile, the team, although liberally sprinkled with internationals, is simply an accident that™s already happened. The backbone “ goalkeeper Frank Rost, ZÃ© Roberto and Ruud van Nistelrooy “ have a combined age of 107 and barely five knees between them. The central defence consists of one injury victim (Heiko Westermann) and, in Joris Mathijsen and third-choice David Rozehnal, two players who exude the calmness of men suffering a panic attack in a hall of mirrors. In midfield, Piotr Trochowski, continues to reproduce his international form at club level. And if last year™s anything to go by, centre-forward Paulo Guerrero will have a storming first three months, go to Peru for Christmas, develop a fear of flying and then stay there.