Not many things have the ability to surprise you with St. Pauli. But Michael Frontzeck’s sacking this morning did just that. Having taken over in October 2012, Frontzeck had narrowly guided the club to safety last season before building a promising young team which had started the season in decent form.
The reasoning given for the sacking is bizarre to say the least. According to the club, Frontzeck had given an ultimatum to the board demanding an immediate extension to his contract – which was due to expire at the end of this season. The club had already said previously that they would look at the situation during the winter break, but were confident of extending Frontzeck’s current contract if the form of the team continued. Frontzeck’s story is slightly different, denying he made any demands, simply stating that he expressed a desire to know what the future holds for the coaching staff, rather than it being decided from weekend to weekend. He citied differences in his visions of the future compared to that of the board, and the problems came to a head. It’s a strange story, and one which seems to have more to it than simply a disagreement over the timing of a new contract.
It’s difficult to not feel sorry for Frontzeck, with the club sitting 8th after looking up the table rather than down. He was also a nice guy, who seemed to understand what the club was about and also seemed to get on very well with Azzouzi – which makes the dismissal even more surprising. That said the reaction to his departure was similar to the response to his appointment in October 2012, mixed to say the least. Frontzeck has never had an outstanding record in management, and that continued during his time at St. Pauli. In his 40 games in charge, the cup won as many as they lost (15 wins, 15 losses, 10 draws). That bang average form sums up his tenure, and my personal views on him. Whilst he was good enough to keep us in the league and develop a reasonable team, was he ever going to be good enough to take us up?
The difficulty now is ensuring that Frontzeck is adequately replaced. We aren’t a team struggling at the bottom of the table, in need of a fresh face to rejuvenate the team and where the new manager has nothing to lose. We have a good squad of players, many of whom are young players brought in by Frontzeck, who the new manager will need to adapt to. What happens if the new manager comes in and loses the first few games and suddenly we are facing another relegation battle? The board has to get the next appointment right, and you would hope that they haven’t made a quick fire decision without the necessary thought into how they approach the next phase.
The obvious replacement is Holger Stanislawski, revered by the fans for his accomplishments both as a player and manager. But is it possible to go back? He didn’t leave on completely amicable terms with the board, and it’s difficult to envisage a return to the club in the immediate future. Another name touted is Thomas Meggle, who played 135 times for St. Pauli and is currently the coach of the U23 side. Meggle had been touted as the future first team manager, but has the dismissal of Frontzeck come too quickly for both him and the board? Assistant manager Roland Vrabec will take temporary charge, and may also be able to throw his name into the hat. He has no managerial experience, but has been assistant manager of the German U19 side. A good couple of results could see him get the job on a more permanent basis.
The pressure is now on the board to show that their decision was a good one.