Ahead of this Friday’s game, we caught up with Mark Wilson (@UnionBerlinMan) who has written for our site and fanzine before. Mark has moved from the North East of England to Berlin, and has adopted Union Berlin as his new club. You can read more on his travels on his website at here
1) How have Union played so far this season?
Union had a poor start and mustered only 1 point from a possible 18. To be talked about in the same breath as the likes of Kaiserslautern as contenders for a play-off spot is a tremendous achievement. Union are similar to St. Pauli in that they have a disastrous record on the road as both clubs have managed a paltry 2 victories away from their prospective homes all season. Bettering last season’s 7th place finish will be seen as progress.
There has been much talk of a play-off spot but that has been driven largely by the media. Most sensible fans – whilst of course harbouring ambitions of a 3rd place finish – are realistic and know that Union’s squad is relatively thin and that a top 6 finish would be a step in the right direction.
Union have gone away to Kaiserslautern and Braunschweig and scored 3 goals and also managed 2 at rivals Hertha. They were unlucky to have gained only 2 points from those away games against the top 3. Union’s defence has probably leaked more goals than Neuhaus would have liked but them Union often play with two forwards so are always an attacking threat – even away from home.
At home Union again have a similar record to the visitors. Union have taken 24 points from 13 games whilst Pauli have notched 22 points from the same amount of games. Both sides unveiled a new stand this season and both sides will need to improve their away form drastically if they are to be serious contenders for promotion next term. I’d say both clubs, barring a miraculous run of results, are destined for a mid to upper-table finish. The stats would point to a tight game on Friday night with Union slight favourites due to home advantage.
2) Who are the players to look out for in the Union side?
I’m sure Pauli fans do not need reminding of the talent of the mercurial Torsten Mattuschka after his brace in Hamburg when Union salvaged a draw. He was greeted by Union’s Head of Press and Stadium Announcer as the ‘King of Pauli’ in Union’s next home game. Mattuschka on form is a devastating player. When shackled, harried and forced too far forward by a packed midfield he can become ineffectual.
Union’s front two have won many plaudits this term. Nemec has been linked with a call up to the Slovakian national side whilst Terodde has started to bang them in. Both have arial ability and Union’s lack of width often puzzles the home support when there are these two bustling centre forwards to aim at.
3) For anyone who hasn’t visited Berlin and Union before, have you any recommendations of things to do before or after the match?
Prior to the game I’d head to a photography exhibition I am hosting. Details can be found on our page – www.facebook.com/unioninenglisch and come and share a beer (€1 donation) and talk football. The exhibition space was kindly donated by the Union Modern Museum which is also open before the game. It’s a cracking place and away fans are always welcome. The museum is only a 20 minute walk to the ground and means you get to see the old town in Köpenick which is very scenic.
After the match I’d head back into town and to one of the many ‘Pauli kneipers’ there is in Berlin. Most you’ll know. If you want some St.Patrick’s Day atmosphere and a huge Pauli fan as landlord then head to The Blarney in Kreuzberg. Ask for Ecky and tell him the Sunderland fan sent you!
It’s a cracking weekend in Berlin in terms of football entertainment. There is the 11mm football film festival and No Dice Magazine are hosting an Issue 6 launch party on Saturday night. We’ve mentioned both on our Facebook page.
Editors note – Babelsberg are also at home on Saturday, a team in the 3.Liga with great support and a team of a similar ethos to both St. Pauli and Union. They face Dortmund II (a chance to see St. Pauli’s new signing for next season – Marcel Halstenberg) from 14:00. However the club may be at risk of postponement depending on weather conditions so check before setting off to the game.
4) What’s the best way to get to the ground? We’ve heard you can sometimes get a boat trip to the ground?
If you are heading straight to the ground then I’d alight at Köpenick S-Bahn station and follow the crowds through the forest. The away end will be at the opposite side of the stadium but that’s the most atmospheric route – especially on a Friday night when the route will no doubt still be covered in snow.
Editors note – We have also been told there is a boat trip to the game! It will leave at 3pm from “Am Weidendamm”, close to S-Bahn station Friedrichstraße.
The trip will take about 2 hrs, arrival around 5pm at Mecklenburgisches Dorf, walking distance about 10 minutes from the away section. It is €7 and it’s a mixed trip for supporters of both St.Pauli and Union.
5) Finally, what’s your score prediction for the game?
Union are due a draw at home. Pauli have hit form. However, I’ll go for a 2-1 Union win rather than 1-1 as we only have 3 home fixtures after this and 5 away. For Union to progress I’d say this is a must-win game. Enjoy your time in the Hauptstadt and all the best for the rest of the season – starting from Saturday!