A Flight, A Football match and A First

 

It’s 3am on a Monday morning and my alarm is going off this doesn’t happen very often and when it does it means a long day ahead.

This time tho it feels different yes its going to be a long day but it’s a day I’ve been looking forward to for so long and it was finally here, today I was finally going to the Millerntor for my first match and under the flood lights too.

After getting ready I check my bag for what must be the umpteenth time looking for the essentials oh and my passport. I head for the car and on my way to start my trip well after realising I forgot something and have to turn round to pick it up.

Lets try this again everything is there and I’m off this time I have everything and with Joy Division soothingly pouring out of the car stereo I pick up Chris, Luke and David, they pile in the car after Chris and Luke decide who’s sitting in the front seat we are on our way to Manchester airport.

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We park up and head up into the terminal once through security we bump into Mick and meet up with Scott, Nerissa and her dad, we aren’t waiting to long till we board the plane and that’s it next stop Hamburg.

After a smooth flight and playing a bit too much football manager we land in a grey and misty Hamburg and its time to explore after a second breakfast.

The group meets up and we head to Hamburg central station and look for food, I still can’t work out if a burrito for breakfast is a good or a bad thing.

We made our way over to St Pauli where we everyone went their own way either for a kip more food, sight-seeing or to hotels, since this was my first visit to the city I decided on some sightseeing and made my way to the Elb Tunnel with Scott, Nerissa and her dad, I know walking through a tunnel probably doesn’t sound like the first thing you do when you get to a new city but I was just intrigued and for pictures I’d seen just looked architecturally interesting.

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From there I head on to the squats on Hafenstrabe and the surrounding area to get and idea of the history of the Pauli district. It’s great to see some beautiful street art and political flyers, banners and gig posters covering the area and the feeling of community around the streets.

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It was finally time to make my way to the Millerntor to meet up with the others, possibly like a lot of others when ever I’m in a new city I get excited to visit a new football ground but this one felt different as it is one I had built up for quite a while.

As I walked up from the Reeperbahn I was greeted with the sight of a huge Ferris wheel that dominates my view as I turn the corner.

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I make my way past the Dom and turn right to finally hit the homestretch and there it is at the end of the lane, to some its just another football ground to other it might not be the same any more given the recent building work and changes to the stands, but for me it was fantastic I’m greeted by the sight of the Gengengerade and the Sudkurve.

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The TV trucks parked under the scoreboard nestled between the piece of art that adorn the end of each stand.I meet the rest of the group in the bar on the Sudkurve for a drink and to plan the rest of the time leading up to kick off.

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As the hours pass one thing I notice is how many people are at the ground early coming in and out of the club shop and the Fanlanden of which I was one.

With an Hour or so before kick of to go Scott, Chris, Luke and myself are lucky enough to meet up with Dave Doughman the man in charge of the new music school based at the ground to look around the set up and tell us a bit more about what they are doing and how he would like to move the school forward and hope to open it up to local refugees in the area who might be interested in playing music or to those that had to give up as they left their homes.

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The room is one of the VIP boxes at the top of the Sudkurve and has a great view overlooking the pitch the ground.

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The entire room is sound proofed with instruments, and amps fill the room and walls strewn with gig posters.

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We make our way back out to meet the rest of the group, as we walk around the ground looking for people the community spirit of the club really does stand out as people stop greet each other and catch up on more than one occasion the others bump into some one they know from another supporters group or previous trips, I am Introduced to various people but as its been at least week since our trip (I’m pretty slow at writing this up) I only remember Mo off the top of my head.

The atmosphere is building with flares going off and everyone in good mood, it seems like the match itself could just be an added bonus of a night of catching up with friends, but there was one topic that seemed to be on the top of everyone list and that was would Ewald still be in charge the next day if the result didn’t go the teams way.

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Its time to make our way into the ground and join those already slowly making their way through the turnstiles, this is it finally I get to step into the terraces.We find a spot between the goal and the right hand corner flag as the teams are warming up, its great to finally be on a proper standing terrace again the last time was probably the mid 90’s while watching my hometown club Scarborough play some glorious division three football.

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It’s a nice crisp night the pitch looks in great condition as it draped in the light spilling from the floodlights above. There is something about a game under the flood lights that just seems to give it that extra special feel, the ground is heaving both sets of fans have their banners and flags on display. The travelling Nuremberg fans are in good voice and then the Bells chime and the roar goes up, the teams make their way of the tunnel to our left bits of shredded newspaper are trough in the air the shouts of ‘St Pauli’, applause and cheering ring out around the ground but it seems the biggest cheer is reserved for Ewald. The teams line up in the now customary way and the hand shakes commence followed by the last minute team talks and then kick off.

The ultras line the front of the Sudkurve 3 or 4 of the at different intervals each with a loud hailer leading the crowd in songs, the same seems to be happening in the Gengengerade. I’ll admit I found it hard to keep up with some of the songs and must have mumbled my way through quite a few of the bits I didn’t understand but I didn’t care it was so infectious and to be apart of it finally.

The match it’s self seemed to start positively with Miayichi making some good runs at the defence but then Nuremberg started to take control cutting through the midfield like it wasn’t there and looking much the better team. The team preserved and started to claw their way back into the game and took the lead 1-0 St Pauli the ground went up in a euphoric cheer, my first game and the boys in brown were in lead it was amazing it all just felt right standing singing under the floodlights the team pushed on, but much like the rest of the season so far the defensive frailties that followed the team reared itself again and Nuremberg were level. As the game moved in to the second half the team improved and started to settle creating a few chances but still lacking in the middle of the pitch, they just needed that one play to take control there and have the confidence to dictate the rhythm of play.

Towards the end of the game there was a chance to take all three points with a ball over the top and a clean through on goal but it wasn’t to be and the game ends 1-1, possibly the most deserved result but you can see how upset the players and it looks like they are coming off the pitch to a loss. The is a sudden feeling of uncertainty in the air as the players make their way to thank the fans along with the manager who seems to have such a connection with the fans and understands the club shaking hands and thanking the ultras one by one. As the players and coaching staff make their way along the front of the stand the songs and chants in support of the team go up again and with that both the fans and players head for the exits.

As we leave the ground the surrounding area is still packed with fans going over the game and contemplating what could happen over night and any potential anouncements of changes in staff at the club.

We all head back to the bar and carry on talking about the game and the trip I also get to know some of the others who are with us better such as the renowned Christian who I met earlier in the day but have heard many stories about and of course Luke and myself discussing the important to of which wrestler has the best entrance music, which may also lead to another article.

 

As I have now had a week or so to reflect on the trip and my first game all I can say is that I can’t wait to be back and to meet and get to know more of the people linked with other supporters groups as well as more of the YSP group.

 

Just want to say thanks to Scott, Chris, Luke, David, Nerissa + her dad, Mick, Gary, Jo, Chris, and everyone else I met and helped make my first trip one to remember.

Forza St Pauli.

 

Stand By Your Man. 

It’s rare to see a manager afforded time in the modern era of football. A few bad results and the blame generally lands at the managers door and ends in them being removed from their position. Why? Because it’s the only thing you can change. You can’t remove the entire board, you can’t change the entire squad and start again, but you can quite easily bring in a different management team in the hope that it’ll produce an upward turn in form. 

There’s not much room in football for sentiment anymore. But there’s a reason why fans still wonder if Boll, Ebbers and Naki could play. They *got* St. Pauli, and Ewald does too. It’s why Vrabec and Schubert are names long forgotten at St. Pauli, but why Ewald’s will live for years. That’s got to mean something, too. 

It’s also rare to see fans so supportive of a manager of a team that has only 5 points from its opening 10 games. But this week the fanclubsprecherrat came out in support of Ewald Lienen, despite the recent form. Sporting director Thomas Meggle also offered his support prior to the 3-0 defeat at Sandhausen. But if Ewald isn’t to blame, who is?

From the outside looking in, it’s always difficult to say. But in recent years, the club has continued to lose its best players. The players that make a real difference in this division. Marc Rzatkowski, Lennart Thy and Marcel Halstenberg amongst others were all lost within the last 15 months. Rzatkowski in particular was fundamental to our successes last season both with his combative defensive qualities and his goals going forward, and he was always going to be near impossible to replace without breaking the bank, but we failed to bring in any replacement for him. Last season when Rzatkowski didn’t play, at least we had Alushi or Maier to step up, but we also lost them during the summer. We bought quantity to replace quality, and for me, that’s the issue. 

In the last two seasons the club has only spent transfer fees on Sobota, Ducksch and Dudziak. Transfer fees of about €750k by transfermarkt figures. In return, the sales of Rzatkowski and Halstenberg have returned almost €5m, and we’ve also had the refund on the sale of Budimir. I know that free transfers and loans aren’t exactly ‘free’ and I also know that St. Pauli has ongoing financial commitments such as the regeneration of the stadium which can’t be overlooked when balancing finances, but if we continue to sell our best players each year without adequately replacing them then what chance have we got? 

There’s much to be admired about the St. Pauli transfer policy. Buying youthful players who will hopefully turn good and produce in this league, but it’s been a gamble that hasn’t paid off for St. Pauli yet. If you don’t trust those players enough to put them into your first team, then who is going to play? If you were picking the St. Pauli team for next week, who would be the first name on your team sheet, or who would even be in your team? After Himmelmann and Bouhaddouz everyone else at the minute is pretty interchangeable given the current injuries. We’ve used 22 players so far this season, perhaps heightened by injuries, but it’s evident that we aren’t sure what our best team is, or who our best players are. 

Ewald saved us from the 3.liga and then produced a remarkable team last season. Everyone now needs to stand up and take some responsibility, but now isn’t the time to panic. 

If we sack Ewald, can we replace him with someone ‘better’? In a football sense, I’m not sure we can. As a person, we definitely can’t. This is St. Pauli. And we’d all be moaning about promotion if we weren’t so rubbish anyway… 

FOOTBALL PEOPLE

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Good news. FIFA declared earlier this week that racism had been solved, and we could all stop worrying about it. No, seriously, they did. In a week in which FIFA disbanded it’s anti-racism task force and local Leeds Conservative (wait, what, she’s LABOUR?!) MP Rachel Reeves declared we had to stop racist attacks by urm…curbing immigration (wait, what?!), we are delighted to be supporting the FARE Network’s ‘Football People’ action weeks.

Last week our Football For All session saw it’s largest ever attendance – with 38 people from over a dozen nationalities attending, playing football and making friends. Perhaps we ought to invite Rachel Reeves down to a session to show her what can be done when you tell racists that their opinions are ill-informed, abhorrent and not welcome in our society rather than pandering to them.

On Sunday 9th October we will invite people to Leeds for yet another Yorkshire St. Pauli tournament. Except this one is a bit different. Rather than inviting teams and people playing in teams they play in every week, we will be inviting individuals and arranging everyone into teams on the day at random. In the same way that our weekly Football For All sessions run, people will turn up, join teams, make friends and have a great kickabout in a fun and friendly environment.

Although the tournament is open to everyone, if you plan on attending please contact us on Facebook, Twitter or email (info@yorkshirestpauli.com) so we have an idea of numbers attending!

You can find out more about the FARE Network’s Action Weeks on their site: http://www.farenet.org/campaigns/football-people-action-weeks/

 

 

Stuttgart – St. Pauli

Slightly delayed match review…

One of the most highly anticipated fixtures for St Pauli was the opening game of the 16/17 season was the opening game away to Stuttgart. A truly massive game to kick off the season was hosted at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. A nearly full 61,000 capacity stadium anticipated a tense affair between a Stuttgart team who have plenty of quality, but will have the pressure to succeed this season hanging on their shoulders, take on Hamburgs’ boys in brown who surely want to prove that their fight will push them higher than the 4th place they finished in the last campaign.
The atmosphere pre-game really did set the tone for the opening minutes of the match. Both teams riding on the electric support coming from both sets of fans. St Pauli the team who chased first, closing down an almost unsure Stuttgart team. No real instant threats coming from either team as the first 10 minutes ticked past. Of the two teams one player instantly looked full of energy and wanted to test an unconvincing opposing defence. Picault, always on the move was seeking the ball and trying to frustrate early on was given more than enough time to show his agility. In the 13th minute, the American international who featured in America’s friendly against Puerto Rico in May, leaped challenging Stuttgart’s Klein who went down holding his head. A corner was won following the aerial duel, once again Picault was the man leaping, though not quite making contact. He chased the ball he missed, showing another burst of desire. The home team had to deal with their holding midfielder being booked in the 17th minute as Hosogai was shown a harsh yellow for a late foul. A very tacky opening to the game, with neither team claiming ownership of the game so far. The first real chance coming in the 22nd minute of play as what seemed to look like a clearance almost put Stuttgart’s new boy Terrode through on goal following young centre half Zeireis’ ill-timed header. The 28 year old couldn’t manage to slot his low attempt past a calm Himmelmann, who deflected the shot with ease. St Pauli’s Zeireis very lucky as not only did his mistake not consequent to anything in the form of a goal, his slight tugging of his opponents shirt went unnoticed. The away team having the edge on the game but only due to the fact that they had closed down their opponents the quickest.
Then in the 27th minute, a wonderfully guided pass from Sobota out wide to the troublesome Picault found Stuttgart chasing. With a slight showing of his pace Picault was able to nudge past the seemingly nervous back line of the recently relegated Bundesliga side. A wicked ball fizzed in towards the Moroccan man on his Debut, Bouhaddouz, who was left a near open goal as the pace of the cross seemed to catch Langerak off-guard. Bouhaddouz only had to guide the ball into the back of the net, and with a controlled first time volley from the shin of the target man, the ball nestled much to the joy of the fans from the away end in the top left corner of the goal. Picault, once again showing his agility and receiving a well deserved assist for his efforts. Bouhaddouz, more than happy to be able to claim a goal within the opening 30 minutes of his debut.
The next 10 minutes consisted of the same uncertainty which kicked off the game. Kalla picked up a yellow card for a late challenge. Neither of the teams really managing to gather any time at all with the ball. After several duels in the middle of the pitch, Stuttgart developed a frustration with not really having any solid, direct threats to the St Pauli goal and gave away a free kick wide of the pitch. Buchtmann, hooked a ball in with his left foot and the goalscorer again found himself an opportunity to impress the travelling fans. Unfortunately for them, Bouhaddouz’ towering header was put only inches wide from the top right corner, despite being free to tuck the ball away, or at least on target. He could have done better, however, Stuttgart were beginning to look very uneasy. The home fans were even more concerned only moments later when Ex- RB Salzburg full back, Klein directed a pass back to unprepared team mate Sama, who out the corner of his eye saw Picault lurking. Caught flat footed, Sama could only push the tricky forward out wide, but as he wriggled between the remaining Stuttgart defence he managed to find Bouhaddouz. The new signing from SV Sandhausen was unlucky once again as he saw his first time shot roll beyond Langerak, only to hit the post and run parallel to the goal line. Bouhaddouz more unfortunate this time, as he was rushed by a swarm of incoming Stuttgart defenders. The home fans now becoming impatient. 5 minutes before the end of the half the home fans did have something to cheer about, only to find themselves more frustrated. Nehrig carelessly brought down Insua whilst pressing out wide, thus giving away a free kick. The ball whipped in by Ozcan, was instantly removed by the defending team, however, the second ball in found the head of Sama who attacked the ball as it was lifted in. The result found the ball in the back of the net, but celebrations were cut short as Sama was found to be only a footstep offside. It remained 1-0 to the visitors as the whistle blew, signifying the end of the first half.
As both teams walked out for the second half, the team in white had to up the quality of their play in order to get something from this so far frustrating game for them. Maxim on at half time. A decision made by new boss Luhukay in what must have been a bid to add more creativity to the home team, who already ooze quality in their squad. The Romanian international instantly added a spark to the team as 57 minutes in he got a shot away in the box, after giving the St Pauli defence a run around. He didn’t quite test Himmelmann, but alarm bells were starting to ring for St Pauli as the shot just fizzes wide.
The away team clearly looking a lot more stretched this half as Sobota puts in more a defensive performance than the fans coming from Hamburg would like. St Pauli were definitely going to have a lot of work to do defensively, as from a corner shortly after the Maxim chance, Sama once again rose in the air to beat everyone. His chance however, only deflecting off the frame of the goal. It was a chaotic next 5 minutes as both teams pushed aiming to silence any chance of success. Picault, who had been chasing everything in the earlier part of the game continued, as if to give his team mates precious seconds to rebuild.
25 minutes from the end St Pauli gained a corner from a Nehrig shot. Zeireis and others from the back line went up aiming to seal a precious second goal. Due to their offensive layout, as the ball was cleared, Stuttgart saw an opportunity to counter. Maxim found himself on the half way line with yards to burn, as he looked for support he saw that Terrode was just out of reach. The 26 year old on his 3rd year at Stuttgart tried his luck for the second time, thus again bending a shot, this time succeeding past Himmelmann. Zeireis, diving in an attempt to block the shot, stretched but couldn’t get a toe to guide the ball away from the net. Stuttgart were level. Following the celebrations Ozcan was replaced by the Ukrainian, Tashchy.
Miyaichi made a substitute appearance for Picault in the 68th minute, following moments later goal scorer Bouhaddouz left the pitch and was replaced by Dudziak. A statement that potentially Lienen, maybe was happy at this stage to take a draw or at most catch Stuttgart on the counter with that added pace. A free kick in the 78th minute was the first chance in a while that St Pauli really posed a threat from. A great delivery whipped in from Buchtmann on the left. Sobiech met the ball, but didn’t really challenge Ex-Dortmund’s Langerak who captured the ball at a comfortable height. Nehrig was brought off 10 minutes before the end. Having already been yellow carded and fatigued, Gonther was the replacement. From this point on it was more a case of ‘parking the bus’ for the away team who would have been happy to go back to Hamburg receiving a point in this difficult opening fixture, despite going a goal up.
With only 3 minutes until the 90, Stuttgart pushed to steal all 3 points. Tashche whipped in a ball from the right which risen above all in the box. The mischievous Maxim collected the ball from the edge of the box and gathered enough composure to lay the ball to Insua. The Argentina international went for the shot but unintentionally found Gentner awaiting at the back post, and much to St Pauli’s misfortune, all Gentner had to do was guide the ball into the partially open net, of which he did. Zeireis, already not having the best of games, nearly invited Terrode to a debut goal with only minutes to spare. He attempted to head the ball to Himmelmann, but not seeing the pouncing forward almost handed it to the man who scored 28 goals in the last term for VFL Bochum. The frustrated St Pauli keeper, Himmelmann, punched the ball away. Just as the 2 minutes added time was announced Maxim again had one final chance. Similar to his first attempt and his goal, the hot footed play maker stepped into the box and nabbed a shot away. Himmelmann seeing the ball late only just managed to flick the ball away. St Pauli, lucky to not concede a third. After the 2 minutes were played the whistle went and a loud cheer and sigh of relief from the majority of the 61,000 fans inside the Mercedes-Benz arena concluded the affair.
It was evident that it was a game of two halves. If Bouhaddouz had taken his chances in the first half then the home team would have had a mammoth task to turn the game around. I think that defensively St Pauli were under-par. Zeireis, more so than Sobiech was struggling all game, but it could have been a lot worse had Terrode been more lively. The player who I think really disappointed me was Nehrig. Sloppy in possession, not creating and giving away tedious fouls were starting to frustrate me. I would like to say that positively, I think Picault had a great game, especially in the first 30 when he terrorised Sama. Buchtmann’s passing quality was good, alongside a couple of his set pieces, but I feel there wasn’t enough creativity coming from the centre of the field. I can’t say Bouhaddouz had a bad game, it would be harsh to say that as he got an important goal. But still, he could have had at least two more if he took his chances. He was unlucky, which is why I can’t say anything negative but in the second half especially, we didn’t see anything of him. In terms of what I would like to see in the next game which is home to Eintracht Braunschweig, I feel that as an attacking force, St Pauli need to be more direct and including the likes of Sobota who we know has plenty to offer.
In terms of the result of the game. I think the Stuttgart fans will be happy to get a result looking from their perspective, especially from how they were doing at half time. I think it was a nervous performance from their players and once they included Maxim, he really was a game changer, one who could not only offer more in terms of taking the ball and taking it forward, but was a direct goal threat throughout the last 45 minutes. Stuttgart fans I feel will still be unconvinced by this performance and will be asking more in the next few weeks. The result as a win or draw really would have been a positive one for St Pauli, as they were in a difficult opening game. Competing against a giant team like Stuttgart who have so much quality in their team, not to mention the amount of money they have is always going to be a struggle, so I think it would be hard to criticize the away team for losing. This is one of the hardest fixtures for the boys in brown, and I don’t think they should be too disheartened. They’ll be disappointed that they hadn’t taken the points they could have, but it’s a tough team to break down.

Tom Trump

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