Der Bär Wird Wieder Brüllen, The Third Season, Part Two

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“We have been well and truly Rogered.”

Everyone sat up a little bit straighter when Coach said that.

“One hell of a way to start a meeting.” Andreas turned around to find the offending player, and was rewarded with a bunch of blank stares.

Coach had paused when he saw Andreas turn around, and he frowned.

“All right, no bullshitting then,” he said, running his hands thru his hair. “We are 200-1 odds to stay up. Everyone, and I mean everyone, thinks we are going back down to 3. Liga. Not that they ever expected us to get out of the RegionalLiga, or promoted like we did last year. They could be right. I however, am an optimist, and I think we can stay up, even if it means flirting with the relegation zone most of the season…” There were a few grumbles, and Coach paused until they died down, then he chewed on his bottom lip for a few seconds.

“We’re 26 million Euros in the red. The DFL is already looking at us. It’s highly possible that at some point in time they are going to come to the club, take a look at the books, and do one of two things. One is that they will tell us to shed payroll. The second is they are going to put the club into administration, shed payroll, and dock us points, and then your all down in the 3. Liga or lower next year, maybe back on part time contracts. If that sounds like something you want to be a part of, then find your way to the door. I have no use for you, this team has no use for you.”

Silence greeted him, and more than a few stares.

“I mean it, go. Take your me first attitude on out, and I’ll terminate your contract with BFC no questions asked.”

The players stared back at him.

“Then listen up. We are going to practice effectively. We are going to play as best we can. I do not care if we draw every game we play, as long as we end the season on 33 points or better, we stay up. That is the goal, 33 points. That means we fight, we scrap, we work hard, we make them earn it. We will not roll over for anyone. That means playing as a team. Because if we don’t, you all are going back down. Back to 3.Liga, or lower. You give me a hundred percent on the field, I will do my best to do right by you all.”

“Is it true?” a voice in the back asked. Coach looked up, and saw that Daryl had asked the question.

“Is what true?”

“That you turned down five job offers this offseason?”

Coach smiled. “It’s not true,” he said after a few moments. “I didn’t turn down five job offers.”

There was some rumbling from the assembly.

“I turned down eight.”

The rumbling stopped. Nikki smiled tightly.

“That’s how much I believe in this club, and what it’s trying to achieve. And despite the…self inflicted wounds….I still believe in that vision. But believe me when I say that if you don’t share that vision, you are out the door.”

Is all the hard work worth it?

There were times in the offseason when I literally had to get up and walk away from the game. It was either that, or I would break something, and I can sneak a keyboard past Household 6, and maybe one monitor, but multiple of both? No, better to walk away and read a book for a bit.

I think I must have made around 100 inquiries. You are a team with a young player on loan and you want to get him playing time? Send him to Berlin…err, Cottbus. We’re in Cottbus this year. The number of teams who wanted me to pay 50% of their salary or more was ridiculous. The number of teams that turned me down bewause they wanted the player to play with better players was also high. When the season kicked off, we had made four moves. Well, five actually.

Malick Sanogo hates Important matches. He has a bit of an injury history. He’s also pretty quick, agile, a decent passer with good ball control skills, and he’s a good finisher as well. And he’s better than any other striker we have on the squad, at least from an attributes point of view. Most importantly, we aren’t paying any of his salary. Union Berlin wants him to get playing time. He’s going to get it.

Serkan Polat has had an interesting journey. He started out in Zurich, got some playing time on the U21’s, then ended up moving to Pazarspor, a team in the Turkish 2. League. He was underwhleming in two years as a starter, in 62 matches over 2 years he allowed 84 goals, had 13 shutouts, 2 POM’s and an 9.64 average. Was he the best available Free Agent keeper out there? Hell no. He’s an avergae keep willing to be a back up on a salary friendly contract. Beggers can’t be choosers. He’s not our starter, but I think he’s a viable short term solution.

Federico Crescenti‘s problem isn’t that he passes the eye test for a capable Bundesliga 2 striker. The problem is his passing grade is a C+. At 20 year’s old, he’s 2 1/2 star current, 4 star potential, but the more I look at him, the more I believe that where he is now and what his full potential is is a very short trip. Reasonably fast and agile, he’s average everywhere else. He is capable of playing all of my top 3 attacking positions though, which makes him a valuable off the bench player and rotational starter. I’m not expecting great things from him, and I suspect we won’t be dissapointed.

Niilo Mäenpää is a Finnish international who brings stability and experience to the midfield. A better than average player, he actually took less money to come to us. I think that’s because the other teams looking at him were all second division clubs in Finland, Swede, and Poland, and maybe he thinks playing for Dynamo will get him a job at a bigger club down the road. I am OK with that. If Dynamo turns into a stepping stone club, that’s fine, I can work with that.

Last, but certainly not least, I lucked out. Karlsruher FC was so happy with the amount of playing time and the performances Max Weiß had last year, they allowed us to extend his loan for this season. I knew going into last season he was a better than 3. Liga keeper, the question is how good a keeper can he be in the Bundesliga 2. How well we do this season depends a lot on his performances, and he knows it.

The bar was quieter than usual, they themselves were more subdued as well.

“So,” Hans asked. “What are we thinking?”

“Relegation,” sigh Ulrich, who then finished his beer, then sat back looking at the empty glass.

“Relegation battle,” sighed Sasha. When word came out about the stadium expansion, and the financial risks it involved, she about lost her mind, and subjected the group to a few hours of financial management.

“I agree,” said Hans.

“Lower table, no relegation,” Tobias said. Sasha looked at him with half closed eyes.

“You,” she said, moving a stray strand of hair out of the way as she reached for her mug, “are taking this piss.”

“You think so?” Tobias asked. She nodded. In response, Tobias pulled out his wallet, took out a bill and put it on the table. The crisp 100 Euro note looked very out of place.

“That’s how serious I am about it. How serious are you all?” he asked. A few seconds later they were digging into their own wallets as well.

“Gib niemals auf, denn das ist genau der Ort und die Zeit, wo sich das Blatt wenden wird.” Harriet Beecher Stowe.

“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” Harriet Beecher Stowe

Not winning sucks. Being in debt sucks. Not being able to sign the players you need to sign to help the squad out sucks.

But, at the end of the day, when all your holding is a pair of fives, you play them like you’ve drawn to the inside straight and bluff as best as you can. The goals was to be out of the relegation spots at the midpoint. Maybe by then we might be able to bring in another loanee or two to help the squad out.

This looks like a bad run of games. No wins until our fifth match of the season. September was a good month, 7 points in 4 games is a very good accomplishment, and beating Kaiserslautern and Augsburg back to back was easily the high point of the season. I was immensely proud of where we were at this point, because if you look closely, all the games we had lost by this point, were losses by 1 goal.

Sonogo scoring in the 88th minute against Nurnberg is perhaps the one game we should have lost, but the fact we weren’t getting blown out was good. We weren’t scoring a ton of goals, and to be frank we aren’t going to this season, but our defense has really stepped up.

And I didn’t do anything to the formation really. I am still playing the ‘Swiss Bolt’ 4-2-4. The only things I have done have been in game, to lower the line on occasion, mark a specific player, things like that. No wholesale changes or anything like that. I think having a squad who’s very familiar with the formation, and not asking them to do something they are not capable of (Like gegenpressing a full 90 minutes) has gone a long way to where we are right now.

Heading into December, and then the winter break, I was quite happy. We were at 20 points, which at that point in time was midtable. I was expecting a fall off after winter, and although I was doing a ton of scouting within Germany, I think my scouts walk around with a bag of Dramamine hooked up to there arm, and had some good opportunities.

Our first loss by more than 12 goal was against Bielefeld, but I don’t count it because they scored in the 94th minute to make that happen. Same thing with Paderborn, they scored in the 96th minute, but up until those two games, we were doing well. Everyone was happy with how things were going:

Then, the week of the Hansa Rostock game, the hammer fell.

We have to cut €1.1M p/a off our payroll. And if we don’t, well, the next steps aren’t pretty. So, there are some hard choices to be made…

“You wanted to see me coach?” Andreas Pollasch asked.

“Yeah, come on in, shut the door behind you.” Andreas paused for a moment, and then his facial expression went neutral, then He came in and sat down.

“I’m not going to bullshit you here Andreas. I’ve got to cut 22K per week from the payroll. And I’ve got to do it in such a way that it doesn’t hurt the team too much in the short term.” Nikki was trying to be stoic as he talked, and was mostly succeeding. Mostly.

“I’ve made a couple of calls, Patrick Glöckner would love to have you on his squad.”

“So, Oberhausen again?” Andreas said quietly after a moment. “RegionalLiga…”

“I can ask around, your agent can ask around, you can ask around. We can’t mutually terminate your contract, the board can’t allow it. Something by the end of the transfer window has to be done.

Andreas gave a sort of half smile. “Your day is already full coach.”

“I’m sorry,” Nikki said, and he did look sorry.

“I know coach. I don’t envy you.”

They both stood. “I am not trying to sound trite here, so believe me when I say that if you need anything in the future, let me know, I’ll do what I can,” Nikki said, holding his hand out. Andreas shook it once, nodded, then turned around and left, shutting the door behind him.

“Way to go Nikki,” he said, talking to himself. “You just told your Team Captain you’re selling him off back to a team in the RegionalLiga 2 weeks before Christmas….”

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