After the disappointing 3-0 defeat in Fürth on Monday night, it was little shock that the club decided to part company with manager Roland Vrabec after picking up only 4 points in the first 4 games of the season. But the problems with Vrabec went back longer than the start of this season, with only 4 wins from the 15 games after last season’s winter break.
And yet, Vrabec’s tenure at St. Pauli got off to a fantastic start. He was appointed interim manager following the dismissal of Michael Frontzeck, and won 4 of his opening 5 games as interim boss. By the time St. Pauli faced Karlsruhe ahead of the final weekend before the winter break, the appointment of Vrabec was a mere formality, and the club were talking about the possibility of promotion – such was the impact of Vrabec. In his time as interim manager, the team had looked rejuvenated, exciting and the tactics employed by Vrabec were a key in that. The defeat against Karlsruhe at home just before Christmas was disappointing, but it did nothing to change the club’s mind on Vrabec. The only other blip on his record had been an understandable 3-0 defeat at home to FC. Koln, whose superior quality eventually saw them walk the league.
Away from home during his interim spell, Vrabec had worked on the shape of the side – making the defence more resilient and playing counter attacking football with some fantastic results. He employed Fin Bartels as a striker, and Bartels was key in the weeks leading up to the break – in particular instrumental in the wins at 1860 Munich and Aue.
But the winter break came at the wrong time for Vrabec and the club, and the momentum built up was soon lost after the return to the league in February. The tactics that had worked so well before the break were no longer employed, Bartels was no longer instrumental (notable that he’d already agreed a deal with Werder Bremen by this point) and the wheels on Vrabec’s promotion push quickly fell off in dramatic fashion. Since taking over the job full time, Vrabec won 25% of the club’s competitive matches – and one of those was in the DFB Pokal against Optik Rathenow. In contrast, 8 losses in 20 games was the telling statistic, and the defeat in Fürth left the majority of St. Pauli fans (81% of a Hamburg newspaper poll) thinking it was time for him to go.
After holding talks with Michael Büskens, the former Greuther Fürth manager who had worked with sporting director Rachid Azzouzi before, the club opted to look closer to home for Vrabec’s successor. And you don’t get much closer to St. Pauli than Thomas Meggle. The 39 year old former St. Pauli player had 3 separate spells at the club, playing 133 times in total. He had then worked as assistant manager during the spells of Holger Stanislawski, André Schubert and Michael Frontzeck, and was previously in charge of the U23 side – a position he had taken with the club seemingly intent on one day making him manager of the first team. Perhaps though, it happened sooner than he expected!
The message from Meggle is simple. “Hard work, coupled with lots of fun, is the key to success. Football is a game, and a game should be fun in the first place. But the basis is hard work. Then the success will come. Whether it’s short, medium or long term remains to be seen”. As for Meggle’s ethic, “now i purely jump into the deep end and work like a madman, trying to make the most of every day”. What Meggle lacks for in managerial experience, he makes up for in his knowledge, understanding and passion for this club. Which counts for a lot when it comes to St. Pauli.
Good luck, Thomas!