By Scott Reynolds

Tayfun Korkut and Hertha BSC: A shotgun marriage of convenience

Hertha BSC recently appointed their sixth head coach since 2019, with Tayfun Korkut taking the reins – a shotgun marriage of convenience for both parties.
You would be forgiven, as a casual follower of the Bundesliga, for not noticing when Hertha BSC appointed their sixth head coach (seventh, if you count the recently deposed Pál Dárdai’s previous stint in the job) since 2019 earlier this week; it’s happened so often, it’s hard even for a dedicated fan to keep track of the comings and goings, paired with the depressing pattern of each hire being less exciting than the last.

With that being said, Managing Director of Sport Fredi Bobic’s choice of Tayfun Korkut, last active as a professional coach in 2018, has a strong hint of optimism hidden beneath the perhaps too pragmatic (or even cynical) decision to appoint a classic “Retter” (rescuer), armed only with a contract ‘til the end of the season - at least when they hired Bruno Labbadia, they pretended he might last a bit longer than he normally does (spoiler alert: he didn’t). That glimmer of hope being, such an uninspiring hire is a means to an end - that end being for Bobic to install a coach that both he and the long-suffering fans of the team can envision leading the club to a period of sustained success. That coach is just busy right now (You usually are at this time of year, if you’re any good at your job.)

Putting aside the rumors of who that may end up being (Roger Schmidt of PSV, David Wagner of Young Boys have been mentioned as possible options), the general derision that accompanied the decision to hire Korkut is probably a sign that it’s the correct move. Bobic is far too smart to imagine that this hire would be met with rainbows and confetti by the team’s following; but he knew that the incoming coach would have a very clear and specific task for the rest of the season, and chose the person available he thought could best execute that job. This isn’t somebody who throws darts at the wall when making this kind of decision.

It is imperative that Hertha this year not only avoid relegation, but avoid the relegation battle itself in order to have any chance to attract (or retain) the quality of player they need to re-establish themselves in the upper half of the standings, let alone the top six. Talented players have been fleeing the club with a level of desperation not seen in this area since the Wall came down.

They have the talent in the squad where, combined with the number of weaker teams in the Bundesliga this year (sorry Fürth), that should be easy; but Dárdai’s brand of football had them consistently sitting at or near the bottom of all teams across the major five European leagues in shots and chances created. The “Kampfgeist” and more compact defensive style he was with some success able to instill was an improvement on the listless and disorganized play of recent years, but that alone isn’t enough; you do still have to kick the ball into the net on occasion to have success.

For Korkut, it represents an opportunity to show what he can do on Germany’s biggest sporting stage, when his career seemed all but finished, while the clarity provided by his contract length avoids any awkward discussions about the future in the media, for both himself and Bobic. That kind of noise is exactly what Bobic hopes to avoid this year, having spoken time and again since his arrival about the need to create stability before a sustainable upwards trend can be set in motion; the drama every week around Dárdai’s future was undermining the stability that keeping him on was supposed to foster. In the end, Bobic decided that a targeted dose of instability was the best course to steady the ship.

Many fans rolled their eyes, understandably considering the past two and half years, at Bobic’s recent plea for more patience. They would do well to remember that he has only been in command since this summer, and the next time they feel sorry for themselves, to remember it could be much worse (as fans from Bremen, Hamburg or Gelsenkirchen would be more than happy-or sad-to explain). The job Bobic did in previous years with Eintracht Frankfurt has earned him the right to request that patience, even if at first blush, it seems as if the Hertha merry-go-round of drudgery has simply ditched one replaceable rider for the next.

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