The Bundesliga new boys sacked their coach five days before the start of the new season
By Nick Bidwell in Munich
While it is increasingly common nowadays for clubs to react to a poor start to a season by dispatching the coach to the gulag, Bundesliga newcomers Mainz have gone one better in the sacking stakes, showing the door to Norwegian boss Jorn Andersen five days before the start of the 2009-10 season. Trigger-happy stuff worthy of the Guinness Book of Records.
Andersen, feted only two months previously for guiding the Mainzer to promotion, had his fate sealed when his side embarrassingly lost 2-1 to regional league amateurs Lubeck in the first round of the German Cup. Not that the divorce was a shock to anyone who know Mainz well.
Andersen was widely criticised last term for not having sufficient tactical awareness and rumours were rife of players turning rebellious. The final straw for the dressing room, it seems, was the dropping of captain and keeper Dimo Wache for the Cup encounter.
Given the circumstances, it was a remarkably amicable parting of the ways. Mainz general manager Christian Heidel matter-of-factly explained that Andersen’s working methods simply did not suit the club. The latter agreed, apparently relieved to be heading for the exit. As the successor to the much-loved Jurgen Klopp – now doing so ably at Borussia Dortmund and who must be a potential Bundestrainer – Andersen probably had come to the conclusion that he was never going to cohabit with this particular ghost.
To fill the vacancy, Heidel went for the in-house solution of Thomas Tuchel, who last term led the club’s youth team to the national title. However, the 35-year-old faces the toughest of tough jobs: a Bundesliga baptism and survival mission with a squad many consider sub-standard.
Mainz were not the only elite side to fall victim to a Cup giant-killing. Hannover also had their pride well and truly punctured, beaten 3-1 by Eintracht Trier, the fourth-tier side led by former Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich bad boy Mario Basler. Just two years ago, Trier were thumped 9-0 by Schalke at the same stage of the competition. But they would prove anything but cannon fodder this time. Well organised and the first to almost every loose ball, they were immune from the sort of defensive lapses which plagued Hannover all evening.
Yes Hannover had an excuse of sorts as they were put on a swine-flu alert before the tie when youngster Hendrik Hahne was suspected of contact with a sufferer. Yet nothing, in truth, could justify their sloppy performance.
Here was a heaven-sent result for the ebullient Basler. He has never made any secret of his desire to take charge in the professional ranks and the intelligent way he orchestrated Hannover’s downfall will have proved to many would-be employers that he is much, much more than a rent-a-quote, the fiery character always ready and willing to shoot from the lip.
Up against the part-timers of Munster, mighty Hertha Berlin required extra time to belatedly coast home 3-1, while Bayern Munich, pitching up at Hoffenheim’s ground to play little Neckarelz of the sixth division, hardly covered themselves in glory in their 3-1 win. During the opening 45 minutes, the multimillion Bayern attack barely threatened, but – no doubt prompted by some incendiary home truths from coach Louis Van Gaal – they at least discovered a modicum of resolve following the restart, breaking the match open thanks to a double from new striking acquisition Mario Gomez.
Worryingly for Van Gaal, the goalkeeping position continues to be a Bayern headache as Michael Rensing was badly at fault for the Neckarelz goal.
Germany’s Player of the Year in 2007, Gomez came runner-up in this year’s poll – organised by the national sportswriters union – no less than 160 votes adrift of the comfortable winner, Wolfsburg’s Brazilian striker Grafite, whose 28 goals last season underpinned his club’s totally unexpected league title. Joining a long line of greats such as Uwe Seeler, Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller, Lothar Matthaus and Michael Ballack, the 30-year-old Grafite is only the third foreigner to claim the prize, the others being Franck Ribery in 2008 and compatriot Ailton in 2004.
Inevitably, ex-Wolfsburg boss Felix Magath – now with Schalke – scooped the coach of the year award, while Beckenbauer was voted the Player of the Last Half-Century, polling three times as his many as his closest rival, Seeler.