13 Months in the Life of ⋆ An Old International

13 Months in the Life of

Just before the end of the year comes another shock and review of the fate of FC Magdeburg. The year ends with a bombshell.

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h3>Rollercoaster

It has been a hell of a ride ever since those jolly days in April 2018 when Magdeburg gained promotion from league three to Bundesliga 2. What followed was the sobering insight that the squad was not good enough for this division, yet it was the coach, Jens Härtel, who had to go. His replacement Michael Oenning was briefed to keep the club up. He failed on the pitch and never appeared to be fully invested in the job. Where Jens Härtel was the player’s coach, Oenning was the distanced head master. It did not work and Oenning left.

New coach – New dawn?

In came Stefan Krämer. Another player’s coach it appeared who carried his heart in the right place and who occasionally wore his tongue on his sleeve, though never to appear as a chatterbox. What followed during the first half of the season was the impression that the club seemed to have lost its path. If only slightly. There were only six wins – for a team considered to be among the top six of this division this was not enough. There were some lucky draws among the nine since August, particularly away against Jena who at the time sat in bottom place of the table and away (again) against Chemnitz where Magdeburg were indeed lucky to get a draw in the first place. No one is particularly happy about the performance during this season’s first half, yet there is room for improvement and the winter transfer window is near. So what could happen? Indeed, a lot could happen.
The last match before the Christmas break, away at Braunschweig, was also the last in charge for Krämer who has been relieved of his duties for endangering the development targets the club have set themselves. This is a blow on several levels.

A Christmas Car… Nightmare

First, there were no targets publicly communicated. The only point was that within three years Magdeburg should be again pushing for promotion. Three years! After only six months, the coach given the task to initiate the rebuilding of the squad was fired. It all appeared to be an ad hoc decision when it happened just before Christmas. Admittedly, the game away at Münster was horrible, Braunschweig was only minimally better. After Münster, players and coach admitted that this was not good enough. Braunschweig was just a show of morale as Magdeburg fell behind twice, had two players sent off and still managed to get a draw.
Even though the table says 12. place, there is only a gap of six points to the top three, yet to the relegation zone, the cushion is only seven points, thus not much better. It is testament that the league has few top sides and is a rather levelled playing field.
Still, this does not justify the sacking of Krämer. The squad has been assembled by the time he had arrived in May. He was involved in only a few transfers; largely he had to deal with the players that were already signed. To request some reinforcements seemed legitimate as the club’s directors asked for a progressive approach to play (think SC Paderborn and you’ll get the idea). Moreover, the style of play was also dictated by Mario Kallnik and Maik Franz, the two in charge of the club.
The media partner, the local paper “Volksstimme” have played their part in this as they simply repeated what the club’s directors said without questioning this decision and comparing it with the targets set out at the beginning of the season. There was no questioning, no scrutinizing just repeating what has already been said. If this is journalism, bin it.

Only 72 Hours

The whole affair leaves a sour aftertaste as the new coach has been presented just 24 hours later. Moreover, it appears that this has been a move that was planned quite some time ago. The successor, Claus-Dieter Wollitz, has terminated his contract with Energie Cottbus 48 hours before Krämer was sacked and was presented as the new coach just 24 hours after the dismissal. Coincidence? It reeks of secret machinations behind the scenes and a stab in the back.

Wollitz himself is a divisive character who acts on the touchline with a lot of passion and energy. With the press he is frank and outspoken. So much so that he seems to ignore that some of Cottbus’ following openly show racist views and he attempts to explain them away with emotions which are part and parcel of football. With people of this kind you need no task force against racism as the problem simply does not exist for them.

How to ruin your reputation

More importantly is the fact that Maik Franz and Mario Kallnik have severely damaged the club’s carefully constructed image within the space of just thirteen months. For many, the core issue was the sacking of Jens Härtel in November last year. After four and a half years of continuity, Magdeburg has become a byword for rapid fire decision making and instability, where within the period of just over a year three coaches have been fired. The hiring of Wollitz is the last chance for Franz and Kallnik, that much is certain, to safe their own employment at Magdeburg. If, in a possible worst case scenario, Magdeburg are relegated at the end of the season, the Club will be without an established leadership as change will be inevitable in this case. Should Wollitz against the odds manage to push Magdeburg close to promotion Kallnik and his sidekick will be vindicated, yet their reputation will have suffered. Just short of six years ago, Magdeburg made a similar move when they announced that the contract with Andreas Petersen, the coach who made the upward trend possible in the first place, would not be renewed for the season 2014/15 because he lacked the sufficient coaching badges for the third division, at the time Magdeburg’s declared aim for the season. It left the fans gobsmacked and confused. What followed was an ecstatic period of four and a half years.
The search for a coach who is a perfect fit for Magdeburg turns out to be a painful one. The supporters have been through a lot of pain since 1990, it remains to be seen if they are ready for another stretch of sorrow. Moreover, they surely do not like to be treated in this manner. Least of all does Krämer deserve a treatment like this. He has not had a chance. Kallnik, Franz and Wollitz have to deliver to make this sour taste of the fans’ Christmas dinner go away as quick as possible.

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