Hire and fire approach not helping Hamburg in Bundesliga battle

Hamburg have had five different men in charge at the Imtech Arena in the space of 12 months, following the dismissal of Mirko Slomka and appointment of reserve team coach Josef Zinnbauer on an interim basis.

Slomka’s sacking followed those of Thorsten Fink and former Netherlands national manager Bert van Marwijk, while ex-Argentina international and Hamburg player Rodolfo Esteban Cardoso had a brief caretaker stint in between.

A little over 30 years ago, this club were the Bayern Munich of that era. Hamburg signed a tricky forward named Kevin Keegan, who was voted Ballon d’Or winner in back-to-back seasons while at the club.

Current Fulham manager Felix Magath, meanwhile, scored the winner in the 1983 European Cup final from an attacking midfield berth to complete a historic double. Hamburg dominated the Bundesliga, winning three titles in four years from 1978/79.

Their honours since have been scant; a couple of domestic cups and the now defunct Intertoto Cup, which was hardly prestigious but a backdoor route in the old UEFA Cup. Hamburg is a club struggling to live up to its not too distant history, then.

Every manager at the Imtech gets compared to iconic Austrian boss Ernst Happel, who between 1981 and 1987 steered the team to four major honours, and six runners-up spots across league, cup and European competitions. There have been a staggering 25 changes of coach at Hamburg in the 27 years since he left.

Just six of those men to take up Happel’s mantle have lasted over two seasons. If ever a change of tack from the hire and fire mentality of modern football to a period of patience and stability was needed, then it’s at Hamburg.

Zinnbauer had an excellent start, winning a perfect eight out of eight with the reserves, but the battle to avoid a second successive Bundesliga relegation scrap has already begun. Hamburg have failed to even score this term, so there’s that to take care of and tightening up defence too.

Creative players, namely Tottenham loanee Lewis Holtby and club captain Rafael van der Vaart, need to start pulling their weight. They must furnish last term’s top scorer Pierre-Michel Lasogga and young Julian Green, borrowed for the season from Bayern Munich, with chances to address the goal shortage.

At the back, vice-captain Heiko Westermann and former Premier League defenders Slobodan Rajkovic and Johan Djourou must use their experience to re-establish a miserly rearguard that bullies opposition attackers. For too long there have been too many poor performers, and the new Hamburg boss needs to be given time to get a grip on that.

If Zinnbauer cannot then, like the club’s nickname, Hamburg could become dinosaurs, and extinct from the Bundesliga, which they are already rank 1500/1 outsiders with Coral to somehow win.