Otto Rehhegel (on the right).
According to yesterday's Berliner Kurier, Berlin (like Funkadelic said about America) is eating its young. Not the hipsters unfortunately, who are getting ever stronger, wolfing down the fetid regurgitations of their parents’ bad records and recycling their stupid sunglasses en-masse like gannet chicks in a neon pink plastic nest on a cliff edge, but as the redoubtable tabloid says “The older, the better”. Or as my online translator makes out of the headline “Je Oller, Desto Doller”, “There’s no fox like an old fox”.
Christian Wulff is on there being compared unflatteringly to Joachim Gauck, his septuagenarian, favoured replacement – the inference being that a flash young man without substance, but an enormous predilection for free holidays at his ritzy mates’ gaffs is not quite the man for the big office at the top of the stairs in the palace near the Tiergarten. Gauck is seen as exactly the pair of hands needed to take over as president. On that front cover, Wulff’s name is written next to those of the former Hertha BSC coaches Markus Babbel and Michael Skibbe, “Those young men who carried our hopes, but botched it,” which is a bit harsh on Babbel but less so on Skibbe.
Michael Skibbe is a man who his players didn’t rate, who the press never took to and the fans couldn't stand. His five match long reign comprised a single goal scored and five losses. Even if they included a battling performance at home to Mönchengladbach in the Cup which was decided by a piece of acting by Igor de Camargo that deserved a Golden Bear, an Oscar and the right to piss in Keanu Reeves’ dirty shoes. Under him Hertha looked damned, and the players looked bored, bereft of confidence and, in places, simply fed up with the whole thing.
Hertha manager Michael Preetz had to act (or at least to react) in a decisive manner. The longer Skibbe’s losing run went on, the worse it was looking for him, and the memories of all those goals he scored for the “Old lady” were slipping away faster than the half a million quid that he had given to Turkish side Eskişehirspor to buy the hapless coach out of his contract in the first place.
Remarkably (and not just because it actually pulls this ramble together with a flourish and a nice pink ribbon tied in a bow), Preetz may have done just that, pulling off a coup of huge proportions. He has convinced the last remaining trusted royal in Europe to take the helm. “King” Otto Rehhagel has returned to the club where he signed on as a player as long ago as 1963, and to whom the Kurier were referring to alongside Gauck on that front page splash as being the other half of the “Super-Oldies”.
King Otto, needless to say, broke the Bavarian hegemony in the Bundesliga with the poor Werder Bremen, with the newly promoted Kaiserslautern (surely a feat which will never happen again) and then topped off all of that by overseeing the footballing equivalent of turning up at a party as the ugly kid and leaving with the hosts beautiful wife, his wallet and the keys to his Porsche by winning the European Championships with Greece. This is a man who knows how to manage a football team alright.
The question remains as to whether his traditionally dour style will work in a modern day, super-fast Bundesliga, but it is inconceivable that the players will get any ideas above their station again before the season is out. Preetz has bought himself the time to get a bit older, and he may just come out of this smelling of roses. Rehhagel himself has got nothing to lose, but if Hertha stays up this season then he can waltz happily into his own retirement, flicking V’s at all the upstarts who still don’t know the half of what they think they do, and he can take all the holidays on the free he likes. In fact he’ll find plenty of Hertha fans willing to give him their Villas just to come along for the ride.