Winter Wonderland ⋆ An Old International

Winter Wonderland

After a sluggish start to the season after which many feared a fight for survival in this division, Magdeburg know only one direction: Up.

Shaky Start

After a surprising fourth place finish last season, hopes were high in Magdeburg but no one lost their footing and postulated that last season’s feat had to be reproduced, if not bettered. After a quarter of a century of wet dreams and enduring disappointments, realism was the order of the day in Magdeburg. It served them well and was needed as the new season kicked-off. And it started in the most unfortunate manner: with a comprehensive defeat at home against Fortuna Cologne. Even though Magdeburg were the better team with more possession, more shots etc, they simply had no chance. The following win away at Paderborn gave hope that all would be well; alas it was not. In the following four games Magdeburg gathered a meagre point against promoted Zwickau while Duisburg, Osnabrück and the reserve of Mainz proved too strong. Normally, alarm bells would be ringing and possibly did. Surprisingly it all stayed quiet calm.

A lot of credit has to be given to the club’s directors who not once initiated a discussion about the coach, Jens Härtel. Likewise, fans and media appeared to be relaxed, something that was unheard of in the history of the club, especially the first decade of this millennium. It seemed as if the painful lessons of the 1990s and the early 2000s have been learned.

Golden Month – 7 Matches Unbeaten

If August proved difficult, September was a golden month, as the club went unbeaten in four games and though not looking solid or overly convincing, things looked good. Two defeats against Erfurt and Chemnitz saw fears creeping back again, but what followed from late November until mid-December was a superb run which saw the club climb to second place in the division. Seven games unbeaten, two draws, five victories, three of these away. Currently Magdeburg are the best team away in the division, level on points with Duisburg but with the better goal difference. This is a run that is speaking of a team that is settled and the atmosphere is correct.

Speaking of the atmosphere. The team has demonstrated over the last couple of years how much influence a rampant crowd can have on the performance of the team. At times, the chanting and jumping seemed to carry the team and push them forward. The best example was the game in December last year when the corwd stood and sang for an hour while the opponent, Münster had no clue what was going on. Duly Magdeburg beat them 3-0, despite Münster being tipped for a promotion. That was last season, yet the atmosphere this season again was remarkable. however, there was a hook.

In November the city of Magdeburg issued a warning that the stadium was not safe. Unsafe if the jumping continued. That is part of the culture in Magdeburg. However, it seemed under threat and even worse, the local derby against Halle was initially planned to go ahead without spectators. Not the ground pre se was deemed insecure but it was the jumping that caused the concrete beams that make up the stands swing but swing too much, hence the ban. A few hectic days ensued before it was clear that the game would go ahead in front of a crowd. The only requirement was not to jump. It was a farce and should have been addressed long before it became acute.

Goals are overrated and a win is a win

A somewhat bold statement this is. Yet, it summed up the performances on the pitch during said seven game unbeaten run. Not all of these victories were 100% convicing. More often than not Magdeburg managed to hold on to their lead by simply hanging on and sitting deep. It caused a few nervous moments mostly in the second half of these matches. However, football is results oriented and even Brian Glanville once noted ‘a win is a win’ when West Germany beat England 1-0 in 1968, thus marking their first ever win against an English XI. It was in this manner that Magdeburg sailed through the matches and gathered points as well as momentum which has led to a persuasive swagger in recent weeks.

There are of course issues that need to be addressed. Once more, Magdeburg have relied heavily on their target man, Christian Beck who has once again repaid that trust with 10 goals. Behind him follows Marius Sowislo with four. This is a similar pattern as last season where Beck was the top scorer of the team followed by Sowislo. This is a point that should be worked on. When Beck was suspended in autumn after a red card, the team responded and came away with a win. It is possible therefore, to work without beck and still score a result. Likewise, the last match before the break against Lotte saw the team playing out the away win convincingly without the nerve-wracking period during which it looked more likely that the team might succumb to the mounting pressure from the opponent. These are minor points, of course yet could lead to problems should Beck ever consider leaving or simply miss games through injury.

Winter Wonderland

It is somewhat unfortunate that the Christmas break has put a temporary stop to this winning streak. The positive note is that it provides time for us to reflect what has happened and to digest it. It is a feeling hitherto unknown. It would not be too far off to describe it as a Winter Wonderland that Magdeburg have built themselves and through which they are strolling joyfully and with ease. Let’s hope the break comes at the right time to reinforce the physical and mental resources for a tough remainder of the season. There are 19 games to be played until May, plenty of points to be won or lost. There is hope that this season will be another climax and should this run continue everyone will be happy to talk openly about winning promotion in spring.
No one will have an issue with that, surely.

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