That the Bundesliga’s two longest serving managers are like the grandparents of the game is a sad indictment of football clubs, fans, the media and every other twat with a twitchy trigger finger in the beautiful game.
There you go, I’ve said it.
We should love our managers like we do our old LPs. If humanity can rescue the population of the brown pelican so dramatically when it looked like it was going to die out, why can’t we wait a bit longer to see if our managers can turn it round?
Usually this kind of ire is stirred in me by the Premiership and its all-consuming money making and spending frenzy. But the Bundesliga has got things even worse in terms of the managers. German clubs go through them like sardines through a cat with the runs.
Thomas Schaaf is the longest serving by far. He was appointed in charge at Werder Bremen in 1999 while Bill Clinton was having his own little traumas about holding onto his office. The logos on the front of his tatty tracksuits change, but he stays the same. Barking at his players to get the ball forward, barking at them to do things more quickly.
Schaaf was rumoured to have been perilously close to being fired at the end of last year. It was clear that Bremen had no money to spend on anyone, and a catastrophic season had been endured where they had conceded 61 goals.
His successor as the countries longest serving gaffer would have been Uwe Neuhaus, who has, himself, endured a rumour or two over the last couple of months about the length of his stay at 1.FC Union. It was almost by chance that the dinosaurs met on Saturday for the second time at the Alte Försterei. Union had been supposed to play the Czech first division side FK Viktoria Žižkov in Strausberg, about which the only interesting thing would be that Žižkov play in the Gambrinus Liga, named after the legendary king who is claimed to have invented beer. There was little else to say, but when they pulled out of the friendly at the last minute, a phone call between Nico Schäfer and his opposite number Klaus Allofs confirmed that Bremen’s friendly opponents had pulled out too. It was perfect.
Union were desperately hoping this one would be better than the last time. That was an equally glorious day as Saturday turned out to be. But Marco Marin was astonishing. Bremen eviscerated Union. They scored five, but it felt like 10. The sold out stadium rocked in appreciation. It wasn’t a humiliation. Just a massive spanking by a clearly better team.
As Marin scored the opener after eight minutes the somewhat less full ground thought back and remembered. As he scored again for Bremen to go two up, after Union had got fully back into the game it seemed like it was going to be just one of those days. But the diminutive playmaker (diminutive not even being the word – he is tiny) has a mirror image at Union in Christopher Quiring. Marin was playing behind Wagner and Rosenberg, whereas Quiring was mostly on the left wing, but his pace was terrifying the Bundesliga players. Naldo, back after a long injury (and desperately needed now that Per Mertesacker has gone to bang his head against a brick wall in north London) was having to use all of his wits to keep his back line together.
Torsten Mattuschka, stung by being dropped against 1860 Munich last week was commanding, and he stroked his penalty away with ease. Patrick Zoundi was popping up everywhere, steaming into challenges when the game around him was going on at pensioners pace. You see, it was hot out there. And it was a friendly.
So friendly, in fact, that we shouldn’t read anything into the result, but for one young man it was a make or break match. Federico Platero had been training in Berlin for the last week with a view to a move being settled for the winter reopening of the transfer window. He had impressed, but Neuhaus wanted to see him in a match. It’s a different thing altogether. Platero was mostly fine. He played every ball so simply it could have been Sesame Street. But that’s what he was told to do. To be tidy, stay on his feet. The classic rules. It was announced after the game that he wouldn’t be coming back to Köpenick. The inference being that Union is a club not short of gifted central defenders who go missing once a game at an important point (Bremen’s second goal). They’ve got loads of them already.
It was all smiles at the end. Silvio’s header proving Markus Karl’s worth as a provider again to make it 2-2. The dinosaurs could go back to their stressful lives in competition, and the fans, both in red and green could party like it was 1999.