Never, Never, Never Give Up ⋆ An Old International

Never, Never, Never Give Up

It is widely acknowledged that writing is a form of therapy to deal with emotional stress and other forms of discomfort. So this post is purely therapeutic and analytical.

Since the last post about FC Magdeburg some months have gone; summer is over and the Club are playing second division football in Germany. That the second tier is a whole different monster was clear before even a ball was kicked and it was made clear in the first game against St. Pauli. It all went off just it ended last season: Magdeburg took an early lead and though St. Pauli equalised they never gave up, only to concede late. The learning curve would be steep, how steep they learnt in the very first match.

What followed was a series of games in which Magdeburg managed to nick a point here and there, suffering a deserved defeat in Kiel but never lacked morale and effort. So much so that away at Paderborn Magdeburg were 4-2 down only to come back 4-4 at full time! It felt like a victory. The following match was a 3-3 draw at home to Duisburg which in return felt like a defeat simply because Duisburg were bottom of the table back then and are now 16. a place ahead of Magdeburg.

The plain facts speak brutally: one win from 13 matches, six draws and as much defeats, nine points in total. Admittedly, the team lack experience at this level and maybe just lack that bit of class to make life easier for themselves. Collectively, they lack fortune. What they do not lack, is what has been said above: morale and the willingness to fight and work hard for each other, for the coach. Unfortunately, it has not yet paid off.

After 13 games the normal procedure would be to question the coach openly. Fortunately, Magdeburg are not a normal club, that is until now. The calls to sack Jens Härtel, the official heir to the European Cup winning coach of the 1970s Heinz Krügel, grow louder by the day. Even former players such as Achim Streich and Wolfgang Seguin have joined those that now interpret everything the coach as wrong. Indeed, the coach is the weakest link in line and surely the easiest to change. Yet, it often does not change a thing in the long term.

The prime example that things must not always be done according to normal business procedure is SC Freiburg and their most successful coach to date, Volker Finke. He was signed in July 1991 and stayed until 2007. During his reign he managed to win promotion to the Bundesliga three times in 1993, 1998 and 2003. When they went down again, there was never a question whether or not Finke should go. He stayed until he voluntarily declared to step down in 2007. Even then many wanted him to stay and organised a petition that failed.

Hopefully, Magdeburg will heed this example and stick with Härtel for the near future. Even after the defeat away at Darmstadt or the following week at home to Regensburg this is the order of the day. The winter break is almost there and this is ideal to refresh the squad with players and more importantly with confidence and fresh ideas. A coach who has done great things at Magdeburg since he was signed in 2014 has not turned into a bad one over night or over the course of thirteen matches of the season so far. The same has to be said about the players. They still do create chances and even against Hamburg they kept a clean sheet for almost 77 minutes before conceding and losing the match thereafter. The potential is there, most observers, either from the press, bloggers or simply regulars at the ground testify. What lacks is luck and of course a certain degree of callousness and bloody mindedness that could force the run of the game to go Magdeburg’s way.

Magdeburg have worked hard to get where they are now. It is now their turn to work harder to stay there. It is possible. The task is to never never never give up.

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