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…