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Hertha left rattling in wake of Klinsmann chaos

By Jacob Hansen

It took 45 minutes for the home crowd to snap. Up until that point their support had been nothing short of fantastic in view of what was happening on the pitch.
Hertha BSC captain Niklas Stark.
Hertha BSC captain Niklas Stark.Photo: Steindy, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0
Coming up to the interval yet another pass directly into the feet of an opponent was apparently one too many and when the referee blew for half time shortly after, the Hertha BSC players took aim for the inner sanctums of the Olympia Stadium accompanied by a storm of abuse. At that point the visitors from 1. FC Cologne were 3-0 up!

Hertha BSC is not the only side to have changed managers over the course of this campaign, but no other club has experienced such tumultuous times since former star player and German national team chef Jürgen Klinsmann was appointed new head coach in November. Just like his time as head coach at Bayern Munich was accompanied by a whole lot of fanfare, which unfortunately was not translated into equally good performances on the pitch, Klinsmann arrived in the capital with a lot of show. The ambitions went from “a place in the Europa League if everything goes well” to Champions League participation within a couple of seasons.

After having initially installed some new fighting spirit into a side heading for the drop under Ante Covic, the former Stuttgart, Inter and Tottenham goal-getter took his leave after a mere 76 days in charge. A move which according to sporting director Michael Preetz took the whole club by surprise. Players could have been excused had they failed to deliver at the first time of asking, but impressively they pulled off a 2-1 triumph in the away match at Paderborn.

Bulinews.com headed to the German capital on a freezing cold Saturday afternoon to witness firsthand whether the squad really was left unaffected by the whole commotion following Klinsmann’s peculiar goodbye. The answer was a roaring no!

Racism no thanks
It took the visitors just four minutes to punish some sloppy defending by the home side and put them on the way to their biggest away win for years in the 1. Bundesliga. If only the players had been as ready as the supporters, things would have looked quite differently as the traditional club-anthem “Nur Nach Hause…” sounded fantastic even in a stadium only half full (46.207 present on Saturday) and not even the first goal saw the supporters turning the backs on their heroes on the pitch. Not that they are uncapable of swift reaction as an idiot in the crowd found out before the referee blew his whistle for kickoff.

After the horrible attacks in Hanau, the match started with a minute's silence remembering the victims. However, not everyone in the stands had as much sympathy as one could have hoped for, but they were soon identified by supporters more in touch with humanity and escorted away from their seats. After 22 minutes every supporter could have been silenced when Jhon Cordoba made it 2-0 with his 2nd of the day, but not even that had the crowd turning hostile.

Forgetful Klinsi lost players’ respect
That was more than could be said for Jürgen Klinsmann. According to Sport Bild, he had already lost the trust of most of the players. Many were left with the impression that “Klinsi” was unable to incorporate his visions in the daily training and often forgot in the afternoon what he had scheduled for the day in the morning. Apparently, the boss, according to Sport Bild, several times had to be reminded by his assistants. One of which was Alexander Nouri, who was left with the task of picking up the pieces from Klinsmann. A bold move as the former Bremen boss had been unable to win any of his previous 21 league matches in charge of Werder and Ingolstadt. After the win in Paderborn, it seemed it was perhaps not a bad choice after all, but after 37 minutes on Saturday on Berlin Nouri looked as baffled as everyone in the stands as the Hertha defence combined forces to perform what can only be described as pure slapstick. 3-0 and the travelling Cologne-supporters had one fine day out.

Again, according to Sport Bild, confusing his players was only one of six reasons why Hertha Berlin and Jürgen Klinsmann in the end didn’t prove the right match. The latter had a whole list of players he wanted for the squad. Jerome Boateng, Lukas Podolski, Mesut Özil, Mario Götze was apparently targeted by Klinsmann while Santiago Ascacibar from VfB Stuttgart was the only player on his wish list that Sporting Director Michael Preetz actually managed to get a signature on a contract from. Klinsmann was no big fan of Preetz, a Berlin stalwart since joining as a player in 1996. As more and more information emerges from the wings, one is left with the distinct impression that the appointment of Jürgen Klinsmann as head coach seems to have been something Mr. Preetz had very little say in. The otherwise modest Preetz was unusually blunt in his statements following the departure of the former U.S. national coach.

Who is mocking who?
Instead the whole Klinsmann project seems a scenario wanted by rich investor Lars Windhorst and as Klinsmann has probably burnt his last bridge in German football, one is left wondering how long Windhorst finds the whole project with Hertha amusing. Can he and Preetz find common ground to move the club forward as envisioned by millionaire?

Judging by their performance on Saturday, Hertha Berlin will have to wait a long time for Champions League football at the Olympia. Just after the hour mark, Cologne made it 4-0 with their first attempt on target after the interval which had thousands leaving the stadium is disgust thereby missing Mark Uth making it 5-0 from a direct free kick.

“I don’t take the performance of the team personally,” coach Nouri stated afterwards according to Berliner newspaper BZ am Sonntag. Perhaps not, but one more so called “performance” like that and it is doubtful whether he will sit out this season.

In the end, the Hertha fans treated the whole experience with a dose of gallows humour as they sang “Oh wie ist das schön” while the players for the first time this season did not approach the fans to applaud their support.

“When you are being mocked, you don’t really feel like facing them,” the captain Niklas Stark stated afterwards to BZ am Sonntag. After losing 5-0 at home to a team below you in the table, it raises the question: who is actually mocking who?

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