The Hanseatic City of Lübeck has three universities, numerous museums and UNESCO protected architecture. This idyllic northern Germany location has much to offer the visitor including a small but proud football club.
VfB Lübeck play their football in the compact Stadion an der Lohmühle which is, as I found out, about a five minutes cab ride from the city’s famous Holstentor. My only trip to the club was in 2015, the season following their promotion back into the Regionalliga. We took the can because we wanted to get in the ground well before kick-off so we could peruse soak up the pre-match atmosphere with a few bottles of the local beer, with the happy name of Lück. I still have one of the celebratory tee-shirts that they were selling in the small club shop round the back of the main stand where the Ultras sat.
The stadium is mostly terracing with plenty of room for big crowds if they needs them but bijou enough to hold and atmosphere on regular match days. Its nearest Bundesliga club is HSV which may explain why the home game we went to was on a Friday so as to attract local Hamburg fans.
This diminutive but proud football club has done little to trouble the Bundesliga historians. However, in 2009 they pulled off a cup upset against a first division club that proved to be the catalyst in the dismissal of that Bundesliga club’s coach but also, unbeknownst to us all, kick-started a career in one of German football leading, if problematic, coaches.
When Jürgen Klopp left FSV Mainz for Borussia Dortmund in June 2008 he left the Bruchweg club in the second division. Their three year stint in the top flight from 2003 to 2007 had been eventful but short lived. Klopp had stuck around for another campaign before hearing the call of the Yellow Wall.
Mainz’ sporting director was Christian Heidel and he chose as Klopp’s replacement, Jørn Andersen. The YouTube clips of Andersen as a player shows the Norwegian striker as a no nonsense attacker who had a strong instinct for getting on the end of the right ball. He did his best work in the Bundesliga when he played for Nürnberg and Eintracht Frankfurt in the mid to late 90s. In 1990, he became the first non-German to finish a season as the Bundesliga’s top scorer. In ’92 he was part of that great Eintracht team that missed winning the Bundesliga title on the final day of the season. The following campaign he played up front with Tony Yeboah for die Adler in that great team that lost out on the Bundesliga title to Stuttgart on the final day of the season.
As a coach, Andersen began his career where he ended it, in Switzerland. He moved from Lucerne to Oberhaußen and then to Borussia Mönchengladbach as assistant to Horst Köppel. After a very brief spell in Greece, he returned to Germany, just in time to oversee the relegation of Kickers Offenbach. Heidel clearly did not see this as an issue and signed him as Klopp’s replacement in May 2008. Fifteen months later, Mainz were back in the 1. Bundesliga but Andersen, the coach, was gone.
The 05ers finished the season in a relatively convincing position of second, five points behind Freiburg and three ahead of Nurnberg. Beyond the first month of the season Andersen’s team ever dropped below the third placed play off place. Aristide Bance relished the second division with 14 goals. The midfield included stalwart professionals such as Elkin Soto, Florian Heller and Markus Feulner. At the back was Tim Hoogland, Niko Bungert and an up and coming Roman Neustädter.
This solid unit produced the desired outcome and were promoted. Joining the squad in the summer was some real quality in the shape of Andreas Ivanschitz, Adam Szalai, goalkeeper Heinz Müller and one Andre Schürrle. They reconvened in the summer under Andersen’s stewardship, ready for first division football but the coach never got so far as the dugout for the first Bundesliga match against Bayer Leverkusen. Before then was a tricky away trip in the DFB Pokal to Lübeck. The game started off OK for Mainz with Bungert taking the lead for the visitors in front of a packed Stadion an der Lohmühle. But, the Bundesliga side did not press home the advantage. Nico Schrum scored one of only two goals he would score for his club in his 18 appearances. The game was settled in favour of the home side, early in extra time, by an unstoppable strike from Jakob Sachs.
While the Lübeck fans toasted their Lücks, decisions were being made by the Mainz Sporting Director and supervisory board. In what, on the surface was a knee jerk reaction, Andersen was promptly sacked. The whys and wherefore actually go back to the previous season and Andersen’s training methods and attitude which were not shared by others in the staff and he had a reputation for being an inflexible personality. In pre season, Die Zeit reported that a pre season friendly had to be cancelled due to injury problems. Fourteen players were out of action. The subsequent cup defeat were laid at the feet of the coach’s preparation and this is seems was the last straw.
“We evaluated the situation, discussed it internally and explained in frank terms to Jørn Andersen what the philosophy of the club was,” said club president Harald Strutz. “At the end of these discussions, we concluded that our vision and his were not compatible.”
“We sat down together for a long time,” Andersen said, shortly after the decision was taken. “But we have found that we are no longer in agreement on our views about the working partnership. That is a real pity, I regret the decision of the club very much, but our ideas were simply too different. We don’t part on angry terms.”
Later, in 2011, the Norwegian expanded in an interview with Kicker: “The first year was very, very painful. My successor… had a lot of success with a team, which I had partly put together…. but life goes on.” His career however, peaked at the so-called carnival club. He was sacked as coach of Larissa in Greece after 24 days. There followed brief spells at Karlsruhe and Austria Salzburg. Today he is the national team coach… of North Korea.
As for Mainz: Christian Heidel wasted no time in appointing a successor. Thomas Tuchel, was the coach of the Under 23s and was always likely to take the first team job in the fullness of time, in spite of anything concerning Andersen. His first season was modest but punctuated by a superb 2-1 win over Bayern which foreshadowed a superb following season in which Tuchel, with the help of the Bruchweg Boys of Schürrle, Szalai and Lewis Holtby took the Bundesliga by storm. Mainz finished the 2010/11 season in fifth and qualified for a Europa League playoff.
Today, Tuchel is one of the hottest coaches in Germany after having revived the post-Klopp Borussia Dortmund by getting BVB back in the Champions League and winning the DFB Pokal, despite losing key players in the Transfer Market and the horrific attempt on his and the team’s lives before the Champions League game against Monaco. His departure from Borussia was less than amicable with senior players lobbying against him and a bad relationship with the cub’s hierarchy. While he has his supporters there will probably be question marks over his ability to play well with others, perhaps a trait that he shares with his predecessor who met his end on that unlucky night in Lübeck.