• Berlin
  • Jacob Sweetman: Pretty Vacancies


Jacob Sweetman: Pretty Vacancies

It's that time of year. No actual games on, just the hint of competition in the regular legends indoor tournaments and the constant chatter as we try desperately to find something concrete to talk about.

It’s that time of year. The rusty pink, filthy snow on the ground proves that Berlin has just had its cheap orgasm of rockets and bangers that is New Year’s Eve and the dulled eyes of football fans belie a similar mess behind them. No actual games on, just the hint of competition in the regular legends indoor tournaments and the constant chatter as we try to find something to talk about.

The Füchse are having their best season ever and sit in 2nd in the handball Bundesliga, they are the talk of not just Reinickendorf, but the city. The ski jumping season is in full flow and the Dusseldorf born Sebastian Vollmer looks like his New England Patriots might make it into the NFL playoffs, but for football fans this is the graveyard shift. Not like in England, where midwinter is the time to squeeze in more games than ever before like a brilliant idea at fresher’s week with a mini parked outside.

In Germany the Winterpause is dragging its heels through the slush, leaving the talk to turn to transfers and managers – Ralf Rangnick being a case in point.

He resigned from his time in charge at Hoffenheim on New Year’s Day after finding out that Luis Gustavo had been sold behind his back to Munich. It’s galling anyway when the Bavarian behemoths buy your best players, but halfway through the season when your billionaire owner has apparently promised otherwise is just annoying.

Had Manuel Neuer made the trip southwest from Gelsenkirchen you could guarantee that Felix Magath would have ended up looking more like his nemesis Avram Grant (sorry for those who have never seen Dangermouse, this is a brilliant pun) than Penfold.

Rangnick, of course, is immediately linked with every job under the sun. Times were when managers were given time (in fact at nouveaux riche Hoffenheim they bucked the trend, sticking with him for the last four years), but as soon as one painted horse falls off the carousel then there will be a thousand who have failed somewhere else (the continued employment of Armin Veh springs to mind) lined up to take its place and to carry the expectations, and the weight, of all those who ride on him.

They say the Liverpool job is his, or Wolfsburg even, but it’s all speculation. Hot air rushing into a vacuum. Roy Hodgson at Liverpool is under pressure, he may have bought Paul Konchesky and a crap Joe Cole but can he really be totally responsible for a slump in form of players like Fernando Torres that had started long before he arrived at Anfield? Similarly a few months ago when it looked like Uwe Neuhaus at FC. Union Berlin was on the thinnest of ice. Was it really his fault that the players couldn’t hit the net as soon as they got on the pitch? Was it his fault that his keeper started flapping when previously he had been indefatigable?

That Liverpool fans are clamouring, not for Rangnick, but for Kenny Dalglish shows the myopia and boneheadedness of the football fan. Dalglish is a legend in a many ways, but to return to the club he loves more than any has got disaster written all over it. He may be mental, but Brian Wilson is right, never go back. He knows he’d just have to play “Kokomo” as an encore and smile with gritted teeth all the way through it as the good times seem further away than ever.

The other great rumour about Liverpool was Jurgen Klopp going there. Did I mention myopia, or was that sheer bloody arrogant twattery? Why Jurgen Klopp would leave his Dortmund team 10 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, with a sold out (80,000 people) stadium every week and as the appointed heir to the throne of being the national team boss to go to Liverpool is absolutely beyond rational thought. Why? Oh, he won’t. Just put it on the pile marked assumptions that we can do whatever we like because all the debt in the world and a crumbling football heritage is worth it.

And that’s it. Nothing other than mindless conjecture and the galling of Liverpool fans (I’d say the same about Hoffenheim but I’m not sure they actually have any). Well that and the fact that Chemnitz have got a player called Chris Löwe. If they could just sign Nils Tennant we could finally find something to talk about.