In his wonderful book Provided You Don’t Kiss Me, Duncan Hamilton tells about Brian Clough’s disregard for Freud and and in a wider sense his managerial ability.
“So, you’re telling me that Freud is so good he can work out what you’re thinking from the way you lose your key…. I don’t need a boring book to show me how to do all that. I’ve been doing it from day one in management. How do you think I won two league championships and two European cups? I can tell, from the moment I see someone in the dressing room, whether he’s off colour, had a row with his missus, kicked the cat or just doesn’t fancy it that particular day. I know who needs lifting… and who needs his arse kicked.”
It is the famous trick, management’s finest and hardest art. Who to put your arm around, and who to kick up the arse. All players react differently to situations. It is the gaffers job to make sure that they get it right.
So when Uwe Neuhaus conducted a couple of interviews before the Hertha game recently in which he said that Chinedu Ede, effectively, needs to step up and realise the excellent player that he could become, it raised an eyebrow. Ede is a shrinking violet. He hates interviews and would rather let other people do the talking. Or better, in the words of the old cliché, he wanted to let his feet do it for him. I was not alone in questioning Neuhaus’s tactic, but it’s worked. Ede has now scored two vital goals in two weeks, both of them through a crowd, forcefully rammed home. Difficult chances, both. One with his left foot, one with his head.
Hats off boss, the tactic worked. As Ede’s 35th minute goal stunned his former team, the, unbeaten this year MSV Duisburg, Neuhaus was well within his rights to point out that he was correct. Ede could still become the player that he showed he might have been all those years ago in the fabled Hertha youth team of Patty Ebert and the Brothers Boateng. He just needed the kick up the arse maybe.
It was an excellent performance from Union. After a couple of early scares, they passed the ball better than in ages (although a decent pitch helps) and Ahmed Madouni, coming in for the suspended Daniel Göhlert was a sure presence at the back next to the titanic Christian Stuff. It may be unfair to lay all the blame at Göhlert’s door for last weeks draw at home to Osnabrück, but his fifth yellow card came at exactly the right time for many as Madouni came back in immediately from a long injury. The former Dortmund and Leverkusen player, who was languishing in the French 2nd division, has the potential to be huge for Union. He is constantly shouting, barking out encouragement and instructions to his team-mates. They might hate it, but I take it as a good sign.
Neuhaus has come under pressure, too, recently because of his willingness to play with a lone striker away from home, but he judged this one perfectly. A diamond midfield of Peitz at the back, Mattuschka playing his best game of the Ruckrunde up top, and flanked by Parensen and Ede was both creative and pacey. I just wish that Peitz was a better passer of the ball, but that is harsh on the big man. He is like a gas giant planet. He is Jupiter. Any ball that floats into his orbit get sucked in to the whirlwind storm of his ridiculously long legs.
The other question mark I had over Neuhaus’ dealing with the players was in regard to the goalkeeping situation. This one may run a little longer, because his kicking and dealing with crosses still needs improving, but Marcel Höttecke made two incredible, important reflex saves on Saturday, one with his legs from Maierhofer that was jaw dropping. He is a very good shot stopper indeed, that much is clear.
So Union are at home against the free-falling lions of 1860 Munich on Friday evening, and with the prospect of a win possibly taking them up to the rarified fresh air of tenth place. Maybe Neuhaus won’t need to kick someone up the arse before this one.