Photo courtesy of www.union.de
Nobody remembers Michael Collins. Even Shaun Ryder (in Black Grape’s “It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah”, not The Happy Mondays, buddy) could get his melon together long enough to remember the first man on the moon (even though his facts are wrong about the golf): Neil Armstrong, astronaut, had balls bigger than King Kong / first big suit on the moon and he's off to play golf – hole in one.”
Buzz Aldrin is everywhere. He’s even got a limited edition $1000 watch on sale on his immaculate website, but Collins? Someone had to do the crappy job of waiting around in orbit for the glamour boys to collect their rocks, or whatever it is that they were doing down there (as he no doubt said with a roll of the eyes). Somebody had to fly the Eagle.
He will always be just the first man to get really close to the moon without actually setting foot on it. It doesn't really have a ring to it, does it?
It's the same the world over. Marc Cavendish became Britain's first road cycling world champion this week in over 45 years, but wouldn't have made it without the selfless drudgery of his teammates. They don't get to wear the Rainbow jersey (a slightly dubious distinction, sure, but a distinction none the less), and won't be mentioned in the history books, but without them Cavendish's win would simply not have happened.
And this leads us to the point of this rambling and tenuous introduction. At 1.FC Union, Uwe Neuhaus has discovered his Michael Collins in the increasingly impressive midfielder, Markus Karl.
Karl has been a revelation since he signed from Ingolstadt in the close season. His unfussy cleaning up at the back has helped to relieve some of the pressure on a back four that were still shipping sloppy goals, but his intelligent range of passing has opened up a whole new attacking side to the Köpenicker's play.
Finally on Saturday, against Alemannia Aachen, he got his reward in his first goal for the club. Finally he could say he walked on the moon. Finally he got the ticker tape parade. It was well deserved.
Friedhelm Funkel had only been in charge at Aachen for about 10 minutes, but his side had already shown all the hallmarks of the former Hertha and Bochum boss. Obdurate, and slightly annoying. Funkel doesn't set his sides out to glisten, he sets them out to persevere. It is a formula that often works, and if the impressive striker Marco Stiepermann had taken one of his chances it could well have done so again on Saturday.
It wasn't pretty, but in games such as these sometimes the breakthrough doesn't have to be. Karl was loitering in the penalty box as Torsten Mattuschka whipped a corner over. It seemed that everyone ducked out of its flight and the ball fell, dipping, to the trusty left foot of Patrick Kohlmann some way out. He volleyed it flat footed towards the far post, where Karl couldn't miss. His side footed effort squeezing past Seyi Olajengbesi's desperate effort to stop it on the goal line. He tried to stop it with his hand, his side, his knee. It didn't make any difference. Karl was already wheeling away, finger pointing to the sky in celebration. Not to the fans where he would have been showered in glory, but to his teammates who seemed as happy for him as he was, surely, with himself.
Karl has made the difference. He may not quite be Andrea Pirlo, but his form at the Alte Försterei has radically altered Unions attacking play. He has liberated John-Jairo Mosquera with long passes that, in the days of Dominic Peitz, would have sailed into the stratosphere (“Space is the place,” said Sun Ra, but he was no sechser). He has set Christopher Quiring free countless times on the right with a single waft of his (and this is the true sign of a player that doesn't feel the need to show off) plain black boot.
He is simply the bedrock. He pilots the Eagle with a cool hand on the tiller as well as Michael Collins. Or even like namesake Bootsy Collins who drove the controls to Funkadelic's Mothership: “Funk not only moves, it can re-move, dig?”
Going back or forth, a good team always needs a man to push the buttons and pull the strings. It seems that Union has found themselves a good one.