It ends here: Talk, action… but do not appease, do not ignore

How many times does someone have to make a statement or take a stand condemning racism before the world actually stands up and takes notice of it for themselves?

How many of these incidents need to take place, how many kneels, how many instagram posts of support or rainbow armbands need to be worn before the world actually takes action instead of making empty gestures that are followed up with inaction regarding discrimination?

How many more times do people have to be blind in defence of their own team or players? What will it take for the world to stop hearing the pleas from us all, to finally listen? You say ‘ Never again’? the principle is to mean it.

Why are we asking ourselves this again?

What happened on Friday night after the final whistle between FC Union Berlin and Bayer Leverkusen was inexcusable and regardless of your club allegiance, who and what you choose to believe, it is not the incident itself that is concerning me the most, but in fact the reaction towards it, in particular from the direction of Union Berlin and some of their fanbase.

It would be the same regardless of my own club, it doesn’t matter to me that it was Union that are now embroiled in this scandal. But what irritates, and to be quite honest, frightens me, is the response I’ve seen to what happened during Fridays game, more so than what apparently happened on the pitch .

What happened: An empty room doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Nadiem Amiri accepts opponent's apology for 'ugly words' - Sportstar -  Sportstar
Scuffle: Amiri is infuriated after the final whistle

After a controversial late winner in the match between Union and Leverkusen, a scuffle followed the final whistle. Players had to be pulled apart and tempers were frayed.

It is not unusual for frustrated players to become emotional, especially after a (Pretty undeserved) defeat. What is unusual however, is the heated and overly emotional reaction of Nadiem Amiri, who was seen right up in the faces of the Union players and seemingly was beyond upset, in fact was furious and for a simple loss on the night, incredibly over emotional. Losing is a part of football that all players are accustomed to handling. Sometimes tempers fray but the problems are quickly resolved with a handshake or an apology. This was not.

According to Jonathan Tah, although he later added that he did not hear this himself, Amiri had been insulted by Union’s Florian Huebner, using the words ‘Shitty Afghan’. A xenophobic and racist insult.

Amiri and his brother were born and raised in Germany, Amiri even plays for Die Mannschaft, Germany’s national team, however their parents are Afghani, and their physical appearance suggests their heritage is as such.
Earlier in the game, an Union player had also been heard commenting to Leon Bailey, a Jamaican international ‘Chill out, we are in Germany here’.

The context of that statement isn’t clear, however it was captured on camera and audio, unlike the incident after the final whistle. The suggestion was that Bailey, who speaks a mother tongue of English, had complained in English to the referee in frustration and that whoever made the statement was using a far right notion that ‘Everyone in Germany needs to speak German all the time at work’. It’s not common place to hear on the football pitch. It is more common place at right wing rallies outside the Bundestag.

After the Amiri incident, a fracas ensued, it was eventually broken up and the apparent cause was pointed out by Tah.

About 30 minutes later, Amiri reposted an instagram story from his brother, addressing what had happened including the words that Tah had stated had been said. The repost was later deleted from Amiri’s story, possibly because of a pending official DFB investigation. The fact it was posted in the first place suggests what had been said had indeed been heard by someone and reported to Jonathan Tah to explain Amiri’s reaction. Why repost something that contains hearsay? When it was directed at you? Would you do that?

Amiri also then reposted a support message from former team TSG Hoffenheim, suggesting again that he had suffered some sort of racist abuse or a racial insult, or even an insult he perceived to be racially offensive. Either way, he was directly insulted and felt offended enough to react emotionally causing the fight on the pitch.

The following day the DFB praised the two clubs for addressing what had happened… except they had done no such thing publicly.

Leverkusen had released a statement an hour or so before to declare that Amiri had spoken to Huebner after the game and had forgiven him for his words and accepted an apology. It could be Amiri deleted the story from his brother after this happened. It could also be that he was asked to. Huebner never denied using such insults himself.

The only other statements to be were by Urs Fischer, the Union coach, who is not a spokesperson for the club in any shape for form. His words only asserted that he himself had not heard anything and had not understood why the fight had happened at all.

The next morning, Union did not help themselves by remaining silent on social media and then when they did finally tweet a message it claimed that the racism claims were ‘unfounded’ but that it did not support racism. The Union managing director of sport Oliver Ruhnert, seemed to suggest that Huebner could not have made a racist statement because of the origins of his own girlfriend, the classic ‘I can’t be racist because I have black friends’ argument. He also said that because the words had not been heard by anyone they could clarify with. they were not treating it as a racist incident.

This ethos and reaction is totally unacceptable for a professional football club to have. Clubs at the top level have a responsibility because they have such a large influence across their fan base.

The approach to the scandal was not helping Union Berlin in any way whatsoever. The statements were laden with denial and victim blaming, some fans suggested Amiri had no right to react as aggressively as he did regardless of whether what Huebner said was racist.

I ask those making such statement, to answer this?

If it were Sheraldo Becker, of Union, being insulted, would you simply say ‘Let’s see what happened first and get the facts?’ no… you’d believe him. You must take the victims claim seriously, or you’ll learn nothing at all.

The DFB said they would open up a full investigation into the matter but without substantial proof, as so often is the case with abuse and racism claims, it will probably be dropped through lack of evidence… As I have said many times since, ‘ Just because something happens in an empty room where no one can hear it, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen’.

When and where does it end: Appeasement is not acceptable

Unacceptable explanation: Oliver Ruhnert did not make many friends with his attempts at washing over the racism issue with his choice of words.

I’ve made this argument time and time again and it doesn’t seem to be getting through to some people.

It is not the incident itself that is angering me but instead, peoples reactions to it. The law states that when someone is accused of a crime they are ‘Innocent until proven guilty’, however in the case of sexual assault and racism this notion is incredibly difficult to abide by, because to assume innocence would accuse the victim of lying and then blaming them for the incident being made into a bigger issue than what some people believe it is. It also addressed the ongoing problem of how we tackle racism in football, because it rears its ugly head so often and we do so little about it. Some will even evade the problem all together and be satisfied pretending it simply doesn’t exist… unless it should happen to them or their own club.

I guess the reason that this may have touched a deeper nerve, is the fact it took place on ‘my patch’ ie, in Berlin, albeit, the east in Kopenick, an area unfortunately already affiliated with the far right AfD party, having their health department headed up by the party council. Whilst this is not reflective of the majority of FCU fans across the area, it is sadly reflective of the views of some people in the country, that may not be football fans, but their association with the AfD in the party’s tweet congratulating the club over their (Very poor) handling of fans in stadiums during the Coronavirus Crisis, made me feel extremely uneasy.

When it comes to racism, even if claims are unfounded or cannot outright be proven the accusation must be taken seriously and the victim believed for their own sake.

Union, like any other club, must take social responsibility in times of crisis and difficulty and they failed massively on both parts here.

Instead the club, many of its supporters and those responsible for speaking on the clubs behalf, became outwardly defensive, showing no support for Amiri, empathy for the victims of racism or even acknowledging what they were stood accused of. It was an attempt to stand on the moral high ground and claim exemption from accusation because of who they are in the cultural standing.

They shied away from an ongoing issue not just across football but across the world, regardless of what happened on that Friday evening, this is not the way to handle it… in fact if anything it looks like an admission of guilt and a form of appeasement, a plea that they cannot possibly be guilty because of their romanticised image portrayed in the media.

Sadly, as a British Unioner living in Berlin also pointed out, and bravely so for standing against the grain, that racism does indeed exist on the terraces at the Stadion and der Alten Fosterei, He’s heard it for himself. Too afraid to speak out at the time, like so many, he let it slide… but knew it was there. Much the same can be said at the Olympiastadion. Bystanders can say now they regret saying nothing when they heard the racism being dished out but this attitude, this acceptance, this culture, has to change from the inside out.

Those who stand by and allow it to happen, become just a guilty as those that made the remarks.

Even last season there are two prime examples of stories heard about racism in the stands. Even at Hertha.

During Hertha’s away game at VfL Wolfsburg, a Hertha fan, who was becoming increasingly frustrated with the game, used racial slur directed at Dodi Lukebakio and Jordan Torunarigha… his own team. The latter would received racist abuse in Gelsenkirchen just weeks later.
However the accused fan would see karma bite him… Lukebakio, the man he’d insulted, scored the winning goal.

Similarly, when Hertha played FC Bayern, a fan later claimed that they had heard a fellow supporter launch disgusting insults at Robert Lewandowski, telling him ‘I Wish they’d send you to Auschwitz’. The fan who had heard this said they were too afraid to anything in case the other fans friends with him turned nasty and attacked them.

Again, in Gelsenkirchen, when Torunargiha was racially abused, some Schalke fans claimed he was upset and lying because the team had lost the match. One Schalke fan in the Nordkurve confirmed that they had heard the insults and had been too afraid to speak out and that she was ashamed for not doing so. Likewise, some Union fans on social media too admitted the latest racism scandal had made them ashamed of their club for the first time in their support.

In the at incident, despite the fact the racist abuse against Torunarigha could not be proven, there was an outpouring of support for him from fans and clubs across Germany. Union did not acknowledge this notion either. I ask again, Would their fans arguing their case feel the same if Sheraldo Becker had been insulted? Or would they be defensive of the accused? I don’t believe so.

Schalke immediately issued a statement the same evening that the abuse took place regarding Torunarigha, despite the fact it could not be proven, David Wagner openly apologised and hoped the story was not true. Union failed to do this against Leverkusen… and even when they did speak it was on the defensive, never once believing that there was a problem.

A simple statement is not difficult to make.

‘We apologise that this has been claimed and we will work with the DFB to investigate. We are opposed to racism in all forms and will do everything to ensure the conclusion is reached. We apologise to Amiri for the offence that was caused and fully support him’.

There, it’s that easy.

Hertha defender Torunarigha racially abused by Schalke supporters |
No room to forgive and forget: Jordan Torunarigha tried to have the Schalke fans that racially abused him found and charged. The DFB failed to find the culprits and therefore it was dropped and forgtten about.

Whilst it cannot be proven the fact that Huebner apologised to Amiri and that action was made public in a statement suggests that he did offend the German international. In what regard is immaterial, him apologising leads us to the belief of an admission of guilt, meaning something was said.

As someone over twitter said ‘Our own romantic ideas of the club can often blind us to what’s happening around us’. In the case of Union this in incredibly true because of their cult club status.

The fight against racism begins at home. It starts from within. Education from within will stop these sorts of incidents happening , because you stop it at the source. From there, you give out the harshest punishments for those who perpetrate racism as well as incite it whether it be on the pitch or in the stands.

Remember when Neymar made claims of racism during a Ligue 1 match, he was sent off for starting a fight and hitting an opponent? People laughed and refused to believe he’d been insulted. Why?

Because it was Neymar, the silly boy who dives for fun… except it doesn’t matter who the player is. Neymar has the right to be believed, instead he was mocked.

It makes me incredibly uneasy and uncomfortable to see fans apparently asking questions such as ‘Well what about what Amiri said?’… , well Amiri wasn’t accused of racism or insulting language, this wasn’t about what he said, and that excuse is a simple deflection of the issue in hand here. It’s appeasement, it’s denial… a denial that there is a problem at their own club and that MUST be addressed and addressed quickly. When there are professionals making such ridiculous statements such as Ruhnert’s , then it’s no wonder people aren’t understanding the severity of the situation here. Thankfully some Union fans actually admitted to being shocked and disgusted by the comments. Sadly there is also a contingent that continue to downplay the situation because it doesn’t suit their own framework and narrative.

The advice? Just stop. Stop defending it. Stop finding excuses. Face it.

Because if this were my club in this situation and they attempted to downplay it, I’d be ashamed.

What does it feel like to be insulted?: To not be believed is the most bitter blow

Schalke Beat Hertha BSC
Tears: Torunarigha, normally a strong and vocal footballer, was left in tears in Gelsenkirchen after suffering racist abuse

Racism issues are personal to many of us. We are a nation of different cultural backgrounds and upbringings but one cannot possibly understand how it is to be insulted racially or in terms of xenophobia, unless it happens to them as a minority in their own country.

‘Fuck off back to where you came from’

‘You lot are stealing our jobs, if you don’t like it here then leave’

‘Dirty Slavs, you lot are so backwards’

‘Why don’t you speak your language to us if you want us to leave you alone’

‘We’re calling immigration on you. You shouldn’t even be here’

‘Your country is full of rapists and extremists’

‘Where are you from… you don’t look…’

Oh yes… I’ve heard it all.

I know for certain that black players, Asian, Afghan, Indian, those of immigrant background and goodness knows how many ethnic minorities have heard it too. Again and again someone will call them a name, that degrades them, that makes them feel worthless for their own existence.

It’s not exactly the same as the racism that Jordan Torunarigha received, the two are only slightly comparable. My family is of Yugoslav, Bosnian origin. My appearance is slightly more tanned than the average ‘White Brit’. My name is not English, it’s incredibly easy to insult someone based off their origins.

It leaves you crying yourself to sleep at night, wondering if you’ll ever face a day where you don’t have to fight hard for acceptance in a harsh world. Instead you become accustomed to reacting to it as harshly as it comes at you. That’s how so many have to learn to handle it. We become abrasive but it allows us a unique understanding to be able to use that to speak out louder than others. That doesn’t mean to say everything insulting is racist… it isn’t. Some people find offence in everything they hear, however, we understand it… when it’s aimed at us as an insult… it’s racist, it’s as simple as that.

For a long time it became difficult if not almost impossible to feel any pride in my ethnic background and heritage. Instead I was made to feel ashamed to the point there were discussions about changing the family name, and pretending our family history didn’t even exist… as to make the abuse and the name calling stop. But why should anyone ever be made to feel that way? Disguise their history because of someone else’s ignorance? Imagine being told ‘you cannot be you any more’. It takes time to realise that you are not the one in the wrong. You just simply are who you are, and it is them, those saying such things that are the problem.

The problem comes when you try to make these insults public knowledge and people just outright refuse to believe you. It probably hurts more to be called a liar than it does to actually be insulted.

I’ve repeated this until I’m blue in the face and people still don’t want to hear it.

‘You can racially insult someone in an empty room where no one can see or hear you, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t do it’.

And this is why it’s so easy to dismiss the claims of racism and why so often cases are dropped.

What does it feel like when someone insults you for your background or ethnicity?

Imagine looking in a mirror and hating everything about yourself because you cannot be ‘normal like everyone else’. You can’t change your skin colour, your origins, your race, but for some reason, someone has insulted you because of your very existence. They hate you because you exist?

And therefore when no one believes how much that hurts, you begin to question everything about yourself too, question why does it have to be you?

That’s how it feels. Words are words, they sting deeper than any cut. You can recover from a wound but you cant erase your memories.

And what’s more you feel you’re losing the battle because these problems arise every single week. In football we have a platform to successfully take a stand, whether it be with words or a knee… it’s why a knee is needed, it attracts people attention.

A silent kneel as a plea for you to listen to us.

We are screaming at the world to take notice.

You can hear us… but you still won’t LISTEN.

What does it take?

Do we have your attention now?

A word of advice

Relegation battle instead of European Cup dreams: a resigned Hertha after the defeat in Bielefeld

If given the opportunity to advance yourself in life it is entirely up to you how you do so. It comes down to some key factor to determine whether it be a success.

What have you been offered? Let’s agree, it’s almost always money…. So how do you progress?

It’s easy to speak. It is however, action that defines you. Talk is cheap. Your means of which are not.

Ambition can exist without funds at all, because ambitions are only hoping, dreams. To achieve them you almost always need the facilities and the means to do so. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a gift you either, money combined with ambition only appears to be a success, it doesn’t mean it is one.

And of course such things take time too but they do not appear on their own either. If you lack the backbone, the aggression and the willingness to understand where your failures lie along the way then you’re already destined to fail miserably.

It is not up to anyone else but yourself. You define what you are and what and were you desire to be. Excuses are not acceptable for failure on an individual basis. As a team, one individual breaking away from the intended idea is not helpful either. But that doesn’t mean you deserve victory simply because of your status, your cash and your ideas.

So, what are these factors needed to ensure the ambition can be realised. If they’re not considered then the ambition is not an ambition but a pipe dream… and pipe dreams are for losers… not just on the field but in every manner of the word.

Reality is harsh. You have to live in it to understand the complexity of success.

Firstly, you need to fully understand what it is you’re trying to achieve. It’s simple enough to do when you set yourself a target. It’s not so easy when those targets are so ridiculously out of reach and bend the wills of reality. Remember you’ve also got limitations… don’t forget them, they’ll become your strength if you allow it to happen. But be realistic, calculate exactly what it is you’re doing and how you’re going to get there, because simply improvising won’t work for you.

Secondly, understand your means. Okay you’ve been given a load of cash to do with it whatever you please. That doesn’t indicate any measures of success and if you believe it does you’re simply a fool. You think success is an overnight sensation that comes when you’ve got a bank account? You need the correct structure and the correct balance otherwise the entire project topples over.

What use is it if you’re getting to invest your cash in something that is never going to give back? Invest in ideas that you haven’t thought through carefully? Investing is something totally off the radar? Directionless ideas won’t ever work. Invest in something worth while that you believe in. Otherwise what is the damn point?

Thirdly, Assess your failures very carefully. Reluctance to admit when you’ve got it wrong it downfall of many ‘has beens’ and failure to act soon enough will just see the spiraling downward continue. If it doesn’t work it doesn’t work but don’t aimlessly start looking for excuses and reasons, just get on with it.

Fourth, your ambition needs to be backed up by your attitude. Be it confidence or be it arrogance, some will see it as one, some the other and you shouldn’t care about either. Focus only on yourself now.

Do you really think half heartedness is going to help you achieve anything? In any walk of life? What’s wrong with you? If you approach something with anything less than 100% then it’s already a failure. You get where you want to be by hard work and determination.

And you never settle for less than 110%.

If something doesn’t work or beings to splinter structurally, you find the problem and eliminate the source, without the excuses and niceties. It’s brutal but that’s the way you must approach everything you do, because being too soft, willingly accepting defeat if half of the problem already and doing do means just one outcome… you’re doomed to fail every time.  

If you fall, it’s temporary, get up and show the laughing public what you’re truly capable of, or you’re just a weak link.

Understand your strengths don’t work on their own unless you also identity your weaknesses and turn them into strengths instead. Remember if you lose, it’s entirely your own fault, because you did this to yourself. If your head drops at any point then you are a shame on yourself… you pick yourself up, look in the mirror and remind yourself of how talented you are and what you need to do to reach the goals that were set.

Mediocrity is not an acceptable standard when you’ve got ambitions and the means and power to achieve your ambitions set out in front of you.  Settling for less than victory it makes you nothing but weak, pathetic as you search for others to blame but yourself.

Use it. Use the anger and use it to fuel your passion when you go again, because if it eats you up inside instead you’ll just be doomed to fail again and again and again and continue to look for anyone to blame but yourselves.

Of course, luck is a partial piece of the puzzle… it shouldn’t be.

Being a success because you were repeatedly lucky is actually an embarrassment to those with higher quality and talent, those that work harder but have no luck at all.  

To be lucky time and time again disgraces the integrity of the game. Don’t rely on it. If you have the talent and the quality then it’s only down to you to use them, utilize them otherwise it’s a different kind of embarrassment… laziness. To be lazy is something in your own control which makes the trait repugnant, revolting even. If you want to embarrass yourself then that’s your problem alone, just remember it drags everyone else down with you.  Make your own luck instead, the harder you push the easier the triumph will be.

You make your own success but determination and attitude. Don’t allow the pain to show on the outside but use it against your opponent’s instead, deal with it, and move on. If you fail, and so many times you will, learn your lesson, digest it, and blame no one but yourself, be furious at everything and use it as motivation.

Analyse everything, then push forwards as hard as you can and do not accept losses, don’t accept mediocrity when you know what you’re capable of.

If you dear feel sorry for yourselves then get out, then give up and leave, no one wants to hear the same whingey and whiney excuses again and again, at least be bloody honest with yourselves. If you at all believe that you didn’t give enough you should see yourself as a disgrace.

Again it’s your problem to fix.

You don’t achieve anything by talking about it, but by actually doing it. Your task is simple. Accept the failures as they come, and it’s all well and good admitting why you failed, the answer to the question is to damn well do something about it and stop moping about it. Don’t dwell on the pass, set your sight on the future, and analyse the present. If you simply give up or don’t care, then get out. You are a disgrace to the game, your team, yourself.

If you do care then prove it.

Get up and fight for it. Even if you fail show your fight, play the game, even if it’s gritty, and push until success comes.

There are no excuses anymore.

If you have the means and the tool to create something grand then it’s no use simply talking about it. Words are meaningless. You need to show it.

And that comes down to you.

And if you are the broken piece that causes the failure then, eliminate the source. You are a cog in a machine. A part of the system. If you fail it all fails.

Success isn’t a gift rewarded based on individual talent.

You have to earn that right.


If you want success… prove to the world why you deserve it… or watch your opponent’s luck their way past you.

Wake up. Fight harder. Don’t settle. This isn’t just a game.

Show me the money: Why aren’t Hertha achieving yet?

They’ve got the cash… so

Why aren’t Hertha achieving great heights yet?

Lars Windhorst: Der Schuldentrick Investors von Hertha BSC Berlin - manager  magazin
Lars Windhorst: Investor at Hertha BSC has now injected almost 200m Euros into the club.

It’s been over a year since Lars Windhorst invested his millions into the capital club. Hertha are regularly joked about as the ‘Big City Club’ (A phrase actually coined by former manager Jurgen Klinsmann, much to the dismay of 36,000+ members of the club itself), but they have seemingly done very little so far in both the transfer market and on the pitch this current season to assert themselves as a threat to the top 5 or 6 this year.
The question is why?
And is it the fact that Hertha can never change or is this truly a work in progress?
Let’s start back at the very beginning.

Poor decisions: An avalanche

Jurgen Klinsmann named new Hertha Berlin manager as club legend Ante Covic  is sacked | Daily Mail Online
Ante Covic: The Hertha legend was installed as the new coach in 2019, and only lasted a few months

Let’s have a review of the turbulent season that played prelude to this.

At the end of the 2018/19 season, Pal Dardai was released as the head coach of Hertha BSC.
Dardai had been the second longest serving manager of that season in the Bundesliga (Behind only Christian Streich of Freiburg) and had been at the helm for 4 seasons, having saved the club from relegation in 2014/15 and leading them to two successive European League spot finishes on a limited budget.
What Dardai had done with so little funds was deemed to be a minor miracle. Hertha was a club on a shoe string budget, who were dishing out defeats to the likes of Dortmund and Bayern Munich under Dardai’s management. The fans were merely enjoying what they were seeing at the time.
But over the course of time, questions were asked as to whether mediocrity in mid-table, would forever satisfy the lust of football fans who wanted to see a capital city club in a major European footballing nation, reach its full potential, or rather create a long-term goal.
That’s when Michael Preetz turned to Lars Windhorst and his company Tenor holdings, the first major external investor to be allowed to influence the club.
It wasn’t quite a case of turning the other cheek such as the case with Hoffenheim and Dietmar Hopp, who, despite being closely linked to the village of Sinsheim, does have exemption to the 50+1 rule (The rule in Germany in which all clubs sporting shares must be 50% plus 1 share (meaning only 49% shares externally can be bought, majority owned by their fans), Windhorst and Hertha are not an exception to this ruling.
Hertha, unlike Schalke for example who are entirely fan owed, are quite simply put, split into two separate businesses. Hertha’s sporting aspect is indeed massively majority owned by the fans, however the financial side is separated and this is where Windhorst holds his 60%+ shares. What’s more he can refuse to release funds; however, he cannot simply just walk away, his shares must be sold if he is to do so.
Windhorst, over the course of the next year or so , was to invest 200m euros into Hertha BSC for player purchases and other means however this would of course be altered by the course of history in late 2019 and 2020.
With new money arrived new ideas.
Preetz wanted to rebrand the style of football Hertha were deemed to be playing. On the pitch, under Dardai, Hertha was seen as an incredibly defensive team that loved to counter attack whenever they could. Set pieces were often well rehearsed and many of the goals scored could be seen as lucky. Hertha was a club seen to be as plucky, but the football was not an exciting watch for many, it was a brand of football that was considered to be outdated. Despite that, the football was stable, Hertha were very rarely in danger of relegation under Dardai with the exception of the point of the 2014/15 season that he took over and even then he was the clubs saviour.
Preetz wanted a more exciting, attacking style and a more modern brand of football to be associated with Hertha BSC, so after 4 years together, it was decided Dardai and Hertha would part… if only for a little while. Despite being considered for the FC Koln coaching role in 2019, Dardai stated he would not leave Hertha. After a year sabbatical, he returned to the Berlin club as the head coach of the Under 16s, as agreed when he departed as the professionals’ head coach.
In his place, appeared Ante Covic.
Unfortunately for Hertha, it was the first in a succession of errors throughout the 2019/20 season.
Covic was already, like Dardai, a Hertha legend. Many years of his playing career had been spent at the club and he had played alongside the likes of Michael Preetz in some of Hertha’s best seasons.
He’d also been promoted from within. As coach of U23 (Hertha II) side, he was responsible for overseeing of talents that would eventually become invaluable to the Profis , including Maximillian Mittelstadt, Jordan Torunarigha and Arne Maier.
Although he had not always been successful as the Under 23 coach, his style was seen a more progressive and experimental and so he was offered the opportunity to try his luck with the professional side.
It was disheartening for everyone involved at the club to see a legend to become so spectacularly overwhelmed.
As for the new money, it had been used but not extensively.
Hertha’s transfer record had been broken for the services of Dodi Lukebakio, 20m euros from Watford, who had been on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf the previous campaign and been their top scorer. That had included a hat trick against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.
Alongside Lukebakio, was the signing of Eduard Lowen from relegated Nurnberg, who had been their best player in what was to be a disastrous season for FCN, as well as the re-signing of Marko Grujic from Liverpool on loan.
Marius Wolf joined on loan from Borussia Dortmund as well, a player who’s skills had not been fully utilized at his parent club.
On a free, Dedryck Boyata had joined from Celtic. He was to become perhaps the bargain of the decade for Hertha, as within one year he’d become not only a reliable saviour at the back but also club captain.
Windhorst had spent, but not spent big yet. As Preetz would later state ‘The club wants to spend money over time, not all at once’.

For Covic the early signs were good. It included a 4-0 victory in a friendly match in London over Premier League outfit Crystal Palace at Selhurt Park. Fans were delighted that one of their own had picked up where Dardai had left off and with an attacking minded strategy in mind. Scoring 4 goals against a strong Palace side was now easy feat.
However, that was where the hope would begin to fade.
Despite a ‘convincing’ performance and a 2-2 draw in Munich away to Bayern on the opening matchday, the euphoria of such as result papered over the cracks of actual performance itself, particularly in the defensive department. Despite scoring twice, one of which involved a huge slice of luck, Hertha also looked to be finding it very difficult to keep up with the pace of the onslaught of later Bayern attacks. Marko Grujic stupidly gave away a needless penalty and Bayern were extremely unfortunate not to have been victorious. But when the results speak the criticism is somewhat laxer and the cracks are indeed papered over. Those cracks were to become evident during the first home match of the season against Wolfsburg.
Hertha believed they’d gotten off to a dream start when it appeared Ondrej Duda had been taken down in the box just a minute into the game. Upon VAR review, the penalty was overturned and just 10 minutes later at the other end of the pitch, Karim Rekik had foolishly given away a penalty of his own.
Hertha looked strong in attack, with the ball possession being a majority and dangerous attack a plenty, however they were consistently vulnerable to counter attacks and had absolutely no idea how to prevent them. Whenever the ball arrived in their own penalty area, the defense either seemed to freeze or panic.
It didn’t get much better either. A 3-0 away defeat to Schalke in which two of the Gelsenkirchen sides goals were actually own goals (Courtesy of Niklas Stark and Karim Rekik), a 2-1 away defeat to Mainz followed. Hertha then had no choice but to win against Paderborn, a side widely tipped for relegation.
It worked. Hertha managed to scrounge a 2-1 victory after a glorious solo strike from Javairo Dilrosun and a hit from loanee Marius Wolf, however their defending once against made the final moment nerve-racking and edgy. Paderborn had dragged a goal back, going into the final moments with just a one goal lead Hertha could’ve easily drawn the game. They were lucky.
But it seemingly led to a resurgence for them too. There were positives to take from the games. Hertha could score goals… they just couldn’t prevent them.
The following matches, a 1-1 draw in Bremen, a 4-0 away demolition of FC Koln (Who are admittedly down to 10 men for the majority of the game) and then a 3-1 victory over Dusseldorf in Berlin, showed that Hertha did indeed have potential but that unfortunately the key areas of the game were not be correctly balanced. They had a tendency to concede easy and preventable goals to their opponents, to lose focus at the wrong moment and to make rash decisions that often led to stupid fouls and penalties.
What then didn’t help matter was the at Hertha had to go into extra time against struggling Bundesliga 2 side Dynamo Dresden, in the DFB Pokal.
By any means, the Pokal does have its own rules in regards to ‘cupsets’ but there were no excuses for the poor performance by Berlin in this match. It wasn’t even that they were massively challenged by a determined Dresden side, it was the mere fact that Hertha played incredibly poorly in all aspects on the field. The goalkeeping, the defending and the lack of ideas and creativity in attack led to the game being taken into extra time, where even then Hertha had to rely on a 121st minute goal from a hobbling Jordan Torunarigha to level the game in order to take it penalties.
It began to slowly unravel when, despite coming from 2-0 down at home to Hoffenheim the previous week, Hertha eventually lost 3-2. Then had come the exhausting DFB Pokal match, 120 minutes plus penalties against Dresden. That was followed by the first ever top flight Berlin derby against 1. FC Union Berlin.
It was perhaps the most disastrous and abysmal football match that either side were to play all season.
The football itself was dire, there was a lack of creativity. Other than Union accidentally hitting the bar in the first minute of the game, there were no clear cut chances for either side that were clear cut. Both were total absent in midfield. Both made poor decisions on the pitch and the game was overshadowed by the events off it, the throwing of flares and some hooligans storming the field after the final whistle.
A 0-0 would’ve been a fair result given the poor quality of the match itself, however a questionable penalty in the dying minutes of the game gifted Union Berlin the victory, one that was probably not undeserved.
What came next was reminiscent of how the supporters were feeling. As the players approached them, they just stood there, arms raised, asking what they had just witnessed. All their fighting talk had now been for nothing. The players had let them down, and they knew it.

The only consolation was that Dedryck Boyata, the man to give the penalty away, took responsibility by staying behind a little longer and apologizing for what he believed was his fault.
Ante Covic was now known as the coach that had lost the most important match of the season, and it showed in his post-match press conference. He was devastated.
The next two games determined his fate.
Firstly, the difficult task of taking on Champions League competitors RB Leipzig.
It all started so well, when Maximillian Mittelstadt scored in the opening minutes… it then went badly wrong. Hertha’s inability to defend threatening plays rose its head again. A penalty was given away rather harshly against Rekik, and Rekik then was the victim of a horrible unlucky deflection that wrong footed Rune Jarstein. Leipizig’s 3rd and 4th goals however were entirely unacceptable from a team of Hertha’s quality. The 2nd Hertha goal from Davie Selke came far too late.
Fair enough that the side from Leizpig were an incredibly tough team to beat, having been top 3 for 3 seasons running and in the champions league, but this should not have been an excuse. What’s more it was to become embarrassing just a week later in Augsburg.
When Hertha went 1-0 down to a defensive error and then Rune Jarstein was sent off, the wheels had well and truly fallen off. Hertha lost away in Bavaria 4-0 and it wasn’t to Bayern… but Augsburg.
The end had come. Covic was gone.
What was to follow was an even greater disaster.

What went wrong for Klinsmann at Hertha Berlin? |
Klinsi effect: Jurgen Klinsmann took over the role of head coach.

Jurgen Klinsmann had been installed on the board of directors at Hertha at the request of Lars Windhorst.
Klinsmann was knowledgeable about the industry, the profession and the sport, whereas Windhorst was certainly not an expert in the field by any stretch of the imagination. He merely wanted an investment return, and football was an interesting venture to take up for him.
After Niko Kovac had been sacked from Bayern earlier that season (Having suffered 5-1 defeat to Frankfurt the same day Hertha had played Union), it was rumoured Hertha had approached him, however the Croat insisted he wanted to take a sabbatical before returning to management and it became clear that Hertha probably even then, wouldn’t be his likely destination.
With Klinsmann already in place in Berlin the choice was obvious. He was named head coach and was to be joined by former Werder Bremen coach, Alexander Nouri.
The combination was to be a lethal as poison.
There was suddenly a buzz around Hertha. The ‘Klinsi effect’ was well and truly a strong one. The team, the fans, the media, were in awe of the man, his history and his charisma.
His first task wasn’t an easy one. A home match against Borussia Dortmund.
The players too had changed their attitude. They, like many, were in awe of Klinsmann simply because of status in the footballing society. Sadly, appearances are deceptive.
2-0 down early on, Hertha went into the half time break against Dortmund only down by a goal having pulled it back to 2-1 and with Dortmund being down the 10 men. They thought early in the second half the game was level, but the equalizer had been cancelled out by VAR when Davie Selke’s heel was seen to be offside… and that’s how the game ended.
In terms of football, it was a slow emerging improvement.
Was it the exciting football Preetz had promised?
Absolutely not.
As the games continued on, a 2-2 draw in Frankfurt (Having been 2-0 up), a 1-0 win against Freiburg, a 0-0 draw to Monchengladbach and then Schalke, the actual football being witnessed had suddenly become the opposite of what had been seen a few months before.
Under Covic, Hertha had played more attacking football indeed, but they’d had a torrid time defending their own goal. Now they had the opposite problem, they could keep clean sheets but they couldn’t play creative attacking football making the matches incredibly frustrating and boring to watch. Despite a 2-1 victory in Wolfsburg the game itself was scrappy and not at all entertaining. Hertha were scraping the barrel and scrapping for results and looked uneasy in doing so.
During the winter January period Hertha had gone bigger in regards to their spending. They had somehow managed to lure AC Milan striker Krzysztof Piatek to the German capital, with Davie Selke heading out on loan back to his home of Werder Bremen. However the best piece of business to be made, would only become clear a month later, as Matheus Cunha was signed from RB Leipzig. Little did anyone know the significance of that deal.
But Klinsmann was still struggling for a settled team at Hertha. The football had to change.
Then came the killer blow.
Hertha had just been knocked out of the DFB Pokal having given away a 2-goal lead in Gelsenkirchen and losing the Schalke in extra time, having been marred by a racism incident on Jordan Torunarigha during the game. What followed was a pitiful home performance to Mainz in a 3-1 defeat… and then…
Not long after the Mainz game, without any warning beforehand, Klinsmann posted a message on his personal Facebook page.
He was stepping down as Hertha head coach, citing a ‘lack of trust from the management and board’ as the reasoning.
In truth, Klinsmann’s own ego had gotten the better of him. He claimed he wanted more control over transfers and the general running of the club in the sporting side, a job reserved for general managers and sporting directors like Michael Preetz. These positions had to be earned. He claimed he wanted a ‘more English style managers role’ citing that the likes of Klopp had more say over the transfers. What did not make sense though, was that Klinsmann had never coached in England therefore isn’t entirely privy to how clubs in the Premier League operate, nor was he limited in his involvement of the transfers made in January by Hertha. Piatek, was a player that had been requested by Klinsmann, and a player that had been successfully signed and lured to the capital simply because Klinsmann was in charge.
He then published a set of diaries criticizing the Hertha management and finding fault with multiple aspects of the club, including writing an entire document on each player making unfair and harsh judgements on their involvement in the team. The term ‘Mehrwert’ or ‘Market value’ was used a lot throughout, as he made judgements on every individual. Even if some of the analysis was believed to be true, the fact he had singled out players and accordingly judged them when they were still contracted to the club was seen as unfair, unprofessional and extremely damaging to their self esteem.
This left Hertha in a terrible predicament… they now had no head coach and with so little time were left with very little choice but to install Alexander Nouri as interim.
It was again, a total disaster.

Werder Bremen-Ex-Trainer Alexander Nouri jetzt Chef bei Hertha BSC! | News
Unfair: Klinsmann (Left) left Alexander Nouri (right) in a difficult an untenable position

The way Klinsmann had always worked was that he had always been part of coaching team. He provided the motivation, but a tactician was always the one that provided the game details. You could see this during the 2006 World Cup with Germany between Klinsmann and Joachim Low and again when he coached the United States national team.
The same had happened at Hertha. It was Klinsmann’s team but Nouri’s tactics, and this was part of the problem.
The issues tactically that eventually gotten Nouri fired from his job at Bremen, were to arise at Hertha now as well. Whilst Klinsmann had been in charge, the problems were partially ignored, only because the coaches stature and ego were clouding the performance and respecting the better results. It was clear even against Dortmund that Hertha had a major midfield problem.
The attack was too high, the defense was sitting too deep, leaving a vacuum in central midfield and wingers coming back far too deep to collect the ball making it impossible to get forward and create.
It was only really down to the introduction of Matheus Cunha that Hertha did have creativity in the midfield area.
Nouri did manage to win his first game in charge as head coach, but it was a struggle. Individual errors from defenders as well as keeper Rune Jarstein, were leading to soft goals.
What followed was horrific in its own right.
Hertha had begun the day above Koln in the table in a relegation dog fight… they ended it below Koln and had shipped in 5 goals at home. The 5-0 defeat in Berlin to FC Koln drew fury from the supporters whose aggression had led to the players deferring from the Ostkurve after the game. It wasn’t helped when captain of the day Niklas Stark attempted to criticise the fans for their furious reaction. This only made the fans angrier.
It was obvious that Nouri was completely overwhelmed by the task at hand. He’d been thrust into a situation in which he had no idea what to do and no means of motivating his team.
Going into a vital game in Dusseldorf, it was to become extremely evident that he had lost control entirely.
Within the space of 45 minutes Hertha, like the previous week, were 3-0 down again. All of the goals had come from poor defending. Dusseldorf had only had 3 shots… they’d scored them all.
What is frightening about this is the fact that it was not the coach that provided the boot up the backside needed at half time, but goalkeeper Thomas Kraft.
Kraft, one of the oldest members of the squad, delivered a half time team talk in which he questioned his team mates on their commitment.
‘Do you want to go out there and fight or do you want to embarrass yourselves again?’.
Somehow it worked. Within 10 minutes of the restart some luck finally went the way of Berlin. An own goal, which had come from an awkward cross from Vladimir Darida, who’d somehow managed to keep the ball in play by his own determination, started a fight back.
2 minutes later, Matheus Cunha managed to break free and fired a shot past the Dusseldorf keeper… 2-3. Then, Piatek managed to squeeze into the penalty area and having been brought down by the keeper, won and then scored a penalty. 3-3.
Dusseldorf had managed to score again, but the luck once more was with Berlin. The goal was offside. In the final seconds Cunha hit the post, however the pure determination of the team shone through with the second half performance in which every player pulled their weight.
The following week, at home to Werder Bremen, the same mistakes appeared again. The solid Hertha defense was crumbling once more. Niklas Stark was at fault for 5 goals in 3 games (He’d bee absent against Dusseldorf), 3 against Koln and 2 against Bremen.
Hertha were once more 2 goals down in 10 minutes. Stark redeemed himself however by scoring in the comeback. 2-1 at halftime quickly became 2-2, and once again the determination and working as a team ensured the Berliners did not lose.
This was however the end of the road.
Hertha had planned to travel to Sinsheim to play TSG Hoffenheim behind closed doors, due to the Corona Virus outbreak across Europe.
Whilst on the coach on the way to the airport the team received the news that the entire match day would be postponed until further noticed… the lockdown had begun.
Indeed, a horrible time for the entire world. Europe had been hit hard by the Covid 19 pandemic. However, Germany initially led the way in dealing with the virus with its mass early testing.
They would be the first European nation to return to sports.
The extended break from football provided Hertha with a unique opportunity.

Bundesliga | Maximilian Mittelstädt: Hertha Berlin "fighting for one  another" under Bruno Labbadia
Seasoned: Bruno Labbadia became Hertha’s 4th coach of the season and guided them well clear of the relegation zone

Alexander Nouri was released a head coach, which had always been planned at the end of the season. It’s believed that there was only one candidate for when he would depart in the summer anyway, but now Hertha had the chance to install their man early, and give him time to work before a competitive game.
Bruno Labbadia, known as a firefighter (A coach that gets teams out of trouble and stable), Labbadia had led a poor Hamburg side out of relegation by winning their playoff and into 10th place the following season before being asked to leave. He’d led Stuttgart to a top half finish. He’d managed Leverksen and done the same. Most recently he’d led Wolfsburg to a 6th place finish in the table, and only left due to differences with the management there.
Labbadia was a seasoned coach who played the style of football Preetz had wanted all along… and so he was named as the new head coach.
When the players slowly returned to training, it gave Labbadia time to work with his squad and flesh out the issues before finally finishing the season where it had left off… away to Hoffenheim.
And it was like an entirely new team.
Hertha was dominant in Sinsheim, they created chances, defended well and worked as a unit. A deserved 3-0 victory away from home was followed by the second derby of the season against Union Berlin.
A shame to be played in front of 75,000 empty seats at the Olympiastadion, and a slow and nervy first half, saw a huge second one. Hertha hammered Union 4-0, when veteran Vedad Ibisevic scored the first, it started a waterfall effect.
And Hertha just kept going.
They got a 2-2 draw away in Leipzig.
Followed by a 2-0 win against Augsburg.
A few losses followed, a 1-0 loss in Dortmund and then victim to circumstance against Frankfurt which saw Hertha lead until an untimely red card saw a 4-1 defeat. Individual errors led to a loss in Freiburg but then a 2-0 victory at home to Bayer Leverkusen followed.
Injuries began to bite for the final game against Borussia Monchengladbach, when 11 first team players were listed as injured as Mathew Leckie and Alexander Esswein were forced to play as right backs.
It was a 2-1 defeat, but Hertha, who had looked more likely to be relegated earlier in the season, had become Europa league contenders towards the end of it due to Labbadia’s influence.
The season had ended as the previous one had, mediocre. The Coronavirus pandemic had influenced the season, but there was excitement to see what was to come.

What made this so hard?: A broken transfer market

Hertha-Manager Preetz vor Bundesliga-Start: "Der Auftritt im Pokal hallt  bis heute nach" | rbb24
Difficult Situation: Michael Preetz (Sporting director) called for patience with the transfer market, which he claimed had been made almost impossible to deal in due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, games were forced behind closed doors for the remainder of the 2019/20 season and the 20/21 season would begin in the same fashion.
Despite an agreement with the DFL from most clubs (In which 20% of capacity of stadiums would be allowed to filled with fans provided the incidence rate per 100,000 people was below 35), fans in their limited capacity wouldn’t make a significant difference to the general input of consumer cash flow, ie the money normally spent by fans on match days wouldn’t be matched and there would still be significant losses.
This also was not applicable in Berlin, where the cities own ‘Infection Protection Ordinance’ acts as law and must be passed through the senate. When the infections began to rise in the city, the senate and the Club management at Hertha decided to stick with the initial plans and not make changes to the ordinance therefore leaving the limit of attendees to outdoor events at 5000 people. This meant Hertha would be allowed 4000 fans and 1000 workers to be in attendance at the first match at home for the season against Eintracht Frankfurt.
But this significant loss in revenue also meant that clubs were now struggling to stay afloat financially. Initially in the 19/20 season, clubs begged the broadcasters for the release of TV money because the loss of it meant that about 15 clubs were at a massively increased risk of insolvency. This also raised the question as to why so many clubs had become so entirely dependent of funds from the TV broadcasters instead of the clubs being financially stable by handling their finances better in general. In particular, Schalke 04 were guilty of such mismanagement which resulted in debts of 200m Euros going into the 20/21 season forcing their hand to sell many of their players, refuse fans season ticket refunds for the previous season and signings players on loan and frees.
For Hertha, the loss of revenue was not felt quite as hard because of the investment from Windhorst. The money hadn’t been spent in its entirety and because it was still secure, it could be used to bolster the club during financial hardship.
When it came to the transfer market things became very muddy. Preetz had stated he wanted to wait for prices for players to potentially drop before making any purchases, however in many cases the opposite effect was seen. In the case of Lyon Midfielder Jean Rene Adelaide for example, Hertha were willing to pay the 30m fee for the attacking minded player but he did not want to leave France and according to sources his agent then demanded an additional 5m euro fee fro the transfer which Hertha rejected.

It was a similar story for almost everyone linked with Hertha, every available player from Under from Roma to Christian Eriksen from Inter Milan, were linked to Hertha… why?
Because Hertha needed players and Hertha had cash, where as other clubs did not because of the loss of finances during the Corona crisis. However, this did not mean Hertha was going to prostitute herself either, buying players for ridiculous prices that may or may not work out and the selling them at a loss because no other club can afford the price that Hertha would’ve paid for them.
Instead, Hertha had to be clever with their spending. 30m meant for the Lyon Midfielder was instead spent on Koln striker Jhon Cordoba, with the cost offset as Ondrej Duda went in the opposite direction in a partial exchange. Hertha had already signed Lucas Tousart in January but allowed him to be loaned to Lyon to finish their season, Eduard Lowen, who had been loaned to Augsburg had been recalled. Deyovaisio Zeefuik had been purchased from Groningen for around 4m euros and Matteo Gendouzi had been signed on loan from Arsenal for the season. Omar Alderete also joined from FC Basel, to help flesh out the rotation in defense. Alexander Schwolow was pinched from under Schalke’s noses as a replacement goalkeeper.
Significant signings? Perhaps, but disappointing considering all the big names the club had been linked with throughout the course of the extended transfer window.
The issue was very simple. Clubs demanded extortionate prices, and Hertha were not willing to pay them. They were not about to be milked as a cash cow.
In the opposite direction Ondrej Duda had moved to Koln in a switch for Cordoba and Selke had remained at Werder Bremen on loan as they’d survived the previous season where as Karim Rekik left for sunny Sevilla.
For Hertha the worst loss was perhaps that of their most experienced players.
Thomas Kraft had retired citing a consistent back injury. Per Ciljan Skjelbred had returned home to Norway to be with his family there and switched back to Rosenburg. Salomon Kalou, who had been suspended since the Corona lockdown due to a breach of the regulations, moved to Brazil and captain Vedad Ibisevic was released after his contract expired. He’d initially joined Schalke on a free and for no wages which he was donating to local charities, on a ‘performance bonus only’ contract, however as things deteriorated at Schalke through the course of the season, his contract was terminated early.
Schalke was the best example of how a transfer market becomes difficult when the club is already financially struggling. Hertha did not have this issue, but their investment was better spent securing the clubs existence rather than be splashed out of players who were being overpriced in order to create profit for their parent club.

The loss of experience: Like starting anew

Bundesliga | Hertha Berlin's Vedad Ibisevic: "We've realised it pays to  work hard as a team"
Gone: Vedad Ibisevic (Right) celebrates with Dilrosun and Piatek in his last season at Hertha. He left during the summer along with veterans Per Skjelbred, Thomas Kraft and Salomon Kalou.

One of the many reasons Hertha may be struggling to make the impact they’d hoped for this season in the table, is the fact they lost so much experience during the summer.
With the loss of Kraft, Skjelbred, Kalou and Ibisevic, the leadership quality was automatically stripped from the squad, and any that remained was not familiar enough with the German language to be able to express themselves entirely, as Kraft and Ibisevic had been in the dressing room.
With the loss of experience also came the loss of the back bone of a squad that had been together for a number of years. Most other Bundesliga squads have a few years’ experience of playing together, whereas with Hertha this was now less possible. Either the players are new and don’t speak German or they’ve only been in the squad for less than a year, or they’re incredibly young. Whilst the likes of Darida and Stark have played together for a while, Plattenhardt and Mittelstadt are always in and out of the starting 11, so can’t always 100% integrate themselves. There’s a lack of consistency because of the new additions and trying to determine what works and what doesn’t.
The players that had replaced the experience that departed, the likes of Tousart, Gendouzi, Cordoba and Alderete don’t speak German at all, and some struggle with English too. They’re all young and they will initially struggled to communicate. The backbone of strength is partially withered away and so a new one has to be created and that takes time. It can take an entire season.
What’s more, Bruno Labbadia only had half a season with the squad initially, then for 20/21 has had to begin the project almost from scratch with the introduction of new players. The replacements don’t just slot in like pieces of a jigsaw, they had to be moulded and forced to fit in, be flipped and switched and turned around until they do.
Labbadia expressed his frustration with the current transfer market, there are positions he would’ve liked filled such as the right wing, where Dodi Lukebakio currently plays and sometimes struggles and needs a rest. But whilst the frustrations are understandable so is the reasoning as to why it didn’t work out the way everyone had hoped for, it simply wasn’t viable, the market became muddy and unpredictable and Hertha wasn’t going to take major risks in overpriced players that didn’t want to be there.

Building something: This is a project not the finished article.

Away win to start the season! - Teams -
To build a team: The Hertha squad of 20/21 are finding it difficult to gel.

Currently Hertha is not a readily assembled piece, it is more like something from IKEA. You have the pieces, now it’s time to assemble them yourself. You’ll make mistakes but you’ll rectify those mistakes and eventually you’ll have something that is fully functional.
No one should’ve had high expectations of Hertha in the first real season of Labbadia having total control for its entirety. The coach has many new aspects to contend with, many new players to integrate and new ideas to work on. This isn’t the same squad as the one he took charge of last season, now he needs time as does the team itself to full find itself and realize what does and does not work.
This is possibly why despite losing games to the likes of Bayern, Leipzig and Dortmund, Hertha could still come out of the matches feeling a sense of achievement and progression. Only two games did not provide an indication of something good building (vs Stuttgart and vs Mainz), each game Hertha displayed a good half or several great phases of the match in which more could’ve been done to secure point or even all 3. Luck also is a factor, such as the ridiculous red card against Leipzig or the 50 50 penalty against Bayern.
Teams in this state can take time to grow. Already this season there’s been clear growth already. The defense with Torunarigha and Boyata at the helm seems to have stabilized somewhat, having been shaky when one of them is absent.
Hertha also score goals, a lot of them. They’ve only failed for score three times this season. Against Stuttgart, Leverkusen and against Mainz.
The first round exit from the DFB Pokal would not have helped confidence going into the new season, but it seems as it continues the new squad is slowly developing into something far more impressive. Some matches, such as the 1-1 draw with Wolfsburg, should’ve been turned into wins. Some losses such as the 4-3 loss the Bayern, should have been draws. There’s been some luck involved but also some shooting of the own foot. Hertha sadly make their own graves sometimes and have to lay in it long enough to have the match facts blasted into their ears and get it into their heads before getting up and starting again.
It could well take an entire season for Hertha to become anywhere near a finished article but the signs are already there for a significant push forwards in a positive direction.

Victim of circumstance: It’s all too much

Lewandowski leads Bayern with a hat-trick to a big victory, Leipzig...
Harsh: Referee Tobias Stieler, send off Deyo Zeefuik with two yellows in the space on 4 minutes, in a questionable overall refereeing performance. He’d earlier dismissed a valid penalty claim for Hertha

Whether it be injury or suspension, an unfair red card, poor refereeing, bad luck or the fact the opposition is at full strength when they’ve been weaker against other sides, Hertha always seems to be a victim of circumstance. They just don’t seem to handle it very well.

Because of the delay in the start of the season and the 20/21 campaign starting much later than it normally otherwise would, alongside a congested fixtures list for the European competitions and the international breaks set alongside it, many clubs have felt the strain of the fatigue from such a heavy schedule catching up with them.
In fact, Leverkusen, Dortmund, Bayern, Gladbach, Hoffenheim and Leipzig have often struggled to get results in the Bundesliga after returning from a European week, at one point all 6 clubs were playing 2 matches a week through the course of an entire month. The fatigue was more evident when one weekend all 6 did not register a win, but either a draw to significantly lower opposition or a loss.
The same can be said for the international breaks which are made even more difficult but the Corona regulations across different European countries.
Before the season had even started, Hertha were already wrestling with this when the Polish FA had initially agreed to allow Krzysztof Piatek to return to Berlin so he play in the upcoming DFB Pokal match, however they changed their minds and instead took him with them to play in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a risk country according the RKI in Germany, forcing Piatek into self isolation upon return to Berlin. What made this worse, was that Piatek spent the entire match on the bench for Poland.
This wasn’t where the international break issue would end for Hertha. They have the 3rd most players on international duty in the league, only Bayern and Leipzig have more. What’s more, unlike Bayern and Leipzig, Hertha don’t have the adequate squad depth to replace anyone that might become sick or injured or even generally fatigued.
The trend was very east to see. After an international break, Hertha’s squad looked depleted and exhausted.
After the 4-3 loss in Munich, 14 Hertha players were forced on international duty for the nations league. Only 4 regular first team players were left in Berlin to train (Tousart, Plattenhardt, Schwolow, Mittelstadt), forcing Labbadia for train them with several of the U23 squad, and a team of trainers. Not only that but at the time Torunarigha and Santiago Ascacibar were also injured.
Gendouzi had only just been signed when he had to jet off to play for France’s U21 side… where he contracted the Coronavirus and had to self-isolate for 10 days and be tested negative before even being allowed to train with the team delaying his integration into the squad even further.

Watch: Arsenal's Matteo Guendouzi scores stunning goal for Hertha Berlin -  Planet Football
Stuck: Both Matteo Gendouzi and Krzyzstof Piatek fell victim to Corona virus regulations during the international breaks, preventing either from playing in key matches.

During the 10 days the squad was away most of them play 2 or 3 full 90-minute matches and traveled to various countries. For the likes of Omar Alderete, Matheus Cunha and Jhon Cordoba, they had to travel back from South America, leaving them naturally jetlagged. Most of the squad arrived back on Thursday afternoon, they had just the Friday to train with no chance to recover from their jetlag, then they had to play Stuttgart on the Saturday afternoon. What’s worse for them, they’d all just spent 10 days in a totally different squad with a totally different system and coaches and Bruno Labbadia had been given just a matter of hours to attempt to explain his plans for the upcoming Bundesliga matchday. In comparison for Hertha’s 14 players that had been on international duty, Stuttgart had perhaps 4 or 5 at most. All of Hertha’s starting 11 with the exception of Schwolow, Tousart, Mittelstadt, and Plattenhardt, had been away the day before… and all looked absolutely exhausted after just 60 minutes. Of the Hertha players that play regularly for the club, Cunha, Boyata, Stark, Piatek, Cordoba, Pekarik, Darida, Dilrosun, Lukebakio and Zeefuik had all returned from international duty playing 2 or 3 games and most for the entire 90 minutes, with that they had travelled across Europe.
The trend repeated itself when Hertha played Dortmund after returning from an international break. Again 9 of Hertha’s starting 11 had been away… but only 4 of Dortmund’s starting 11 had been on international duty. The others were sat on the bench. Hertha did not have the luxury of having a Jadon Sancho ready to come on for them.
But the other trend was that having lost after returning from a break, Hertha then drew and then won their following games.
After defeat to Stuttgart, Hertha lost, rather unfairly, the RB Leipzig, but this wasn’t unexpected especially after a ridiculous red card incident. The following week however there was a much-improved performance to be seen against Wolfsburg, a game, upon watching the second half, Hertha should’ve easily won. Wolfsburg did not register a single shot after 40 minutes. It was only some inaccuracies in the final shot and some good saves from Coen Casteels that prevented a Hertha victory.
The following week Hertha went to Augsburg and took the game by the scruff of the neck, emerging deserved 3-0 victors.
Then came the next break… then a 5-2 loss to Dortmund.
Then a draw with Bayern Leverkusen, in which both sides looked groggy and slow. Then a victory again, deserved, over Union in the derby.
The lack of time to prepare for significant games because of the international break has taken its toll on Hertha. It’s diminished the squad’s chances of gelling and it’s interfered with the progression of good performances in the season that haven’t been able to be analyzed and then reviewed, deconstructed and then improved for the next game. It’s meant that actually getting a squad to understand one another a build on performances has become incredibly difficult, and it begs the question as to why on earth international games, many of which are meaningless because they were inclusive of friendlies, are being played amidst a global pandemic.

It takes time: The Piatek conumdrum

Piatek double for Hertha in derby ends Union's unbeaten run | SuperSport
Finding the balance: Piatek scored twice in the Berlin derby to ensure a 3-1 victory over Union

Krzysztof Piatek has struggled to 100% fit in since his arrival from AC Milan in January.
Initially a Klinsmann signing, it seemed as though he would be a perfect fit for the system he was installed into at the time. His first ever appearance against Schalke 04 was greeted with delight from the fans in attendance, excited to see what their new record signing would bring, and it was to show the Pole was already determined to prove himself. His first action of that game was winning the ball deep in the oppositions half however nothing came of it. That game ended 0-0 and Piatek later scored against Dusseldorf after Klinsmann’s departure, a penalty which he had won himself after being taken out in the box. He had also scored against Schalke in the DFB Pokal… but then again so had Pascal Kopke, and he left in the window in the following summer.
Under Klinsmann and Nouri, Piatek both was praised for his efforts and at times struggled, and more so because the team as a whole was struggling. Later, he would be benched in favour of Vedad Ibisevic.
The issue for Piatek was very simple, and it showed even more after Bruno Labbadia took over… the system is more difficult for him and sadly sometimes he fails to adapt.
Piatek is a striker who requires proper service to be able to score. When there is no service from his team mates, he fails to make an impact and becomes invisible. This means it takes a skillfull player to open up opportunities for him to score.
Towards the end of the 19/20 season, he showed this against Augsburg and Frankfurt where he scored one in each game. The ball broke to him, he took the shot and hit the back of the net. The chances were set up for him to score. He’s a finisher. But when these chances and these creative moments for him to capitalize on are few and far between he becomes lost in the silence and Hertha begin to struggle.
The same can be said for the 20/21 season. When Jhon Cordoba was signed from Koln in the summer, he very quickly made an impact. Piatek hit the post against Werder Bremen and can be considered very unlucky. He was replaced by Cordoba who added a 4th and final goal to Hertha’s 4-1 victory in Bremen. Piatek began the second game against Frankfurt but was substituted at half time for Cordoba and from that point the record signing had to be content with coming off the bench.
Cordoba is considered a ‘Labbadia type striker’ the meaning of which is that he fits the system that Labbadia wants to play. Cordoba is strong, bulky, plays often with his back to goal and can hold the ball up, whereas Piatek is a finisher who more often that not needs to be facing forwards. They are two totally opposites in terms of the qualities and what they bring to the team. Cordoba needs less service because he provides it himself but Piatek requires service in order to be dangerous. Piatek has a stronger strike accuracy with his foot whereas Cordoba is better with his head but less accurate with his feet.
They have played together at points in the season. Against FC Bayern, they actually worked well together. Cordoba scored the goal to make it 2-1 before Piatek provided the assist that levelled the game at 2-2. But the two strikers have rarely been given the chance to gel and be used as a unit.
When Cordoba was injured as he won the penalty that put Hertha 1-0 in Augsburg in a 3-0 win, the challenge that took him down actually caused a nasty injury.
Piatek, who had been sitting on the subs bench was called into action, and later scored the 3rd goal on a perfectly timed counter attack that set him up, scoring past compatriot Rafael Gikiewicz. This showed what Piatek is capable of when provided for.
But the injury to Cordoba, which would keep him out until Christmas, gave Piatek an opportunity to prove himself once again to Bruno Labbadia, and at times he did exactly that.
For a handful of games, against Dortmund and Wolfsburg, he made little impact, but this could be boiled down to the fact that he was given very little to work with. The team performance against Dortmund in the second half was abysmal defensively. Against Wolfsburg, a win should’ve been taken at home but a solid goal keeping display prevented it.
It was in the derby against Union where things changed.
At halftime Union were one goal up but one man down when Robert Andrich, a former Herthaner, was sent off for an extremely high boot on Lucas Tousart.
Whilst the red did alter the way Union would play, setting up a brick wall to prevent damage in the second half, it was the halftime substitution that made the real difference.
Dodi Lukebakio had begun the game as the lone striker with Piatek on the bench and a midfield full of central players making the structure very narrow and forcing Hertha to try and play through the middle of a team known for their defensive style.
It was a disaster; Hertha couldn’t penetrate through any part of the Union defense and had then fallen behind.
Labbadia made two key changes.
He fleshed out the structure by adding a left winger in Javairo Dilrosun, forcing Lukebakio out to the right and Matheus Cunha to the left adding Piatek to the middle.
The width that was added made the game a lot more open and stretched Union at the back rather than keeping the play narrow. Hertha began to exploit the wide area and Dilrosun took full advantage.

After Peter Pekarik pounced on a spilt shot from Andreas Luthe, struck not particularly convincingly by Cunha, making the game 1-1 before Dilrosun combined with Piatek who was a little fortunate that his shot was deflected to make the game 2-1. Whilst it can be deemed as lucky from Piatek because of the deflection the shot took off an Union defender, this positioning and the pass into the box were key in te combination that allowed the chance to be created. The same can be said for the third Hertha goal, where again, a good piece of work from Dilrosun down the wing and a pass into Piatek allowed him to take full advantage of a poor clearance and strike the ball first time past Luthe.
The combination of Dilrosun and Piatek killed off the derby, but what was most convincing was how the changes at half time had finally seemed to deconstruct the dilemma with Piatek.
It was again reiterated that without good service, he struggles to score.
Labbadia stated before that Piatek ‘Has to find ways to work with Hertha and not the other way around’. With his positioning changing and the assistance he becomes a lot more of a threat. It was also seen against Borussia Monchengladbach a week later where he had a chance to score, but leaning back on the shot, missed the opportunity as it was blazed over. His general performance was better than it had appeared previously.
But the problems rose again against Mainz during the Englische Woche.
The entire team was toothless in the 0-0 draw and because of the lack of service from the midfield, Piatek was often drawn too deep and found it difficult to get fully involved in the game.
If anything, it proves that Hertha as a team and as a unit, fail when they perform badly together and there’s no standout performances from anyone. Usually this role falls to Cunha, who provides a little spark to push things forward. Here, even he failed to do this and whilst Dilrosun still showed some initiative in coming forward he wasn’t helped by the rest of the teams lack of creativity and aggression.

Too small: The squad depth isn’t there

Hertha BSC: Lions on loan to FC Augsburg – In summer for 7 million to  Berlin – World Today News
Too much of one thing not enough of the other: Eduard Lowen is one of many Hertha players in central Midfield, where as other key areas are sparse on the bench

Well, it is but the replacements aren’t the same standard as the starting 11.
If you look at the likes of Dortmund, Bayern, Leipzig, even Leverkusen and Gladbach, their benches are full of additional talent that are equal to that of their starting 11. In Hertha’s case, this isn’t true.
The lack of additions to the squad in the summer in terms of new talent means that Hertha’s starting 11 is pretty much standard and it makes it difficult to rotate with an 11 that’s actually seen as a danger.
Whereas in the game against Dortmund, BVB fielded an extremely strong 11, with the likes of Sancho, Thorgan Hazard and Bellingham on the bench, Hertha had Lowen and Leckie.
If any of starting 11 and then their backup picks up an injury, Hertha struggle to field and equally strong 11. It was a similar story in the last game of last season when Mathew Leckie and Alexander Esswein were forced to play right back.
The squad depth for Hertha simply isn’t there and it’s starting to affect the season. Some of the key positions don’t have a like for like. Instead, several players can cover several positions and a less skilled player then takes up there. They’re still capable of playing the position but they’re not exactly a threat.
This is also mostly seen in an extremely cluttered central midfield where there are adequate replacements but there are too many to choose from the know who plays the best together as a unit.
In the central roles now are Tousart, Lowen, Gendouzi, Ascacibar Stark, Darida and sometimes Cunha will also shift into a central position. This means the central midfield can appear quite narrow when three of these players appear on the same team sheet. Each player also has their own unique skill set, with the likes a Tousart and Gendouzi being passers of the ball but Stark is a typical ‘screener’ cutting out dangers from the oncoming attack before they can reach the central defenders. His issue is that once in control of the ball, he is unsure of the next step going forwards and the ball often ends up going back to the likes of Boyata and Torunarigha.
There is a central midfield overload which also limits the opportunities going out wide. Dodi Lukebakio played as a central striker whilst at Fortuna Dusseldorf, but has now been pushed the right. Hertha don’t have another natural right winger to replace him, except for Leckie. Dilrosun is a natural winger but often sits on the bench as Cunha, a natural striker, is forced to take up the left side as a secondary position. Because of his skill set this is usually rather easy for Cunha but it doesn’t deter away from the fact many players are playing out of the preferred or natural position to cover the field, and that if they do get themselves injured or suspended, there’s no one really that can take their place. The central midfielders are equipped to go wide, as seen against Union Berlin, there is a lack of wingers in the squad and without Cordoba there is also a lack of strikers.

Give me a break: A difficult opening schedule.

Bayern Munich 4-3 Hertha Berlin: Lewandowski scores FOUR and wins late  penalty in thrilling contest - RokzFast
Heartbroken: Hertha came from 2-0 down and then equalised again in the 88th minute, only to lose to a last second penalty in Munich. Their opening 10 games included Bayern, Leipzig, Dortmund, Wolfsburg and Leverksen.

Whilst Union Berlin picked up points relatively quickly, their fixtures list was far more kind to them than that of Hertha. Having already picked points up the pressure eases and the table looks more positive.
For Hertha, it meant the opposite. The points were too low going into match day 9.
Whilst Union had played a struggling Mainz, Bielefeld and Schalke as well as Freiburg, a 10-man Hoffenheim, Augsburg, and Koln, all at the time of writing in the bottom 7, Hertha had been forced to play Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverksen, and Wolfsburg in their opening fixtures and had played none of the bottom 5.
The effect of losing such games would usually be shrugged at when these are spread out of the course of 17 matches but for Hertha these had all come within 10 games. Usually losing to the likes of Dortmund, Bayern and Leipzig wouldn’t be considered as such a shame however what was frustrating for Hertha was that because these games had come along one after the other the points tally was disastrously slow in building. What’s more the effect on confidence is detrimental, especially when a strong performance in Munich and Leipzig saw them come away from both games empty handed. That and the fact the fatigue that followed the international breaks that affected 14 players in comparison for Union’s 5 or 6 meant that Hertha struggled against the likes of Stuttgart as well. Once again Hertha fell victim to unfortunate circumstances.
This does mean however that closer towards the end of the Hinrunde, Hertha will be forced to play the bottom 5 and their neighbours in Kopenick will have a heavy run of fixtures against the top 6. With no international breaks left it may set them up for an interesting remaining Hinrunde when there is no fatigue left as an excuse. However the bottom sides, such as Mainz and Freiburg, have had time to improve making Hertha’s task even more difficult.
For Hertha however it does mean they must pick between 10 and 15 points from their remaining Hinrunde fixtures. With a small winter break coming, of just a few weeks it may see the return of Jhon Cordoba quickly and with it perhaps and turn of luck too.

With the kids: Youth prospects shine

Bayern Munich 4-3 Hertha Berlin: Lewandowski scores FOUR and wins late  penalty in thrilling contest | Daily Mail Online
Proving your worth: Jessic Ngankam showed his potential when he scored against Bayern

Hertha has been able to pride itself on the production of its youth projects and team for a long time. Even now the likes of seasoned Bundesliga players like Arne Maier, Jordan Torunarigha and Maximillian Mittelstadt were produced and developed at Hertha’s own youth academy. John Anthony Brooks, (Wolfsburg), Robert Andrich (Union Berlin), Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), were all at the Hertha youth academy where they grew as players and most were handed the opportunity to make their Bundesliga debuts.
Now, the youth talent development continues to remain strong, with the likes of Jessic Ngankam, Marton and Palko Dardai, Nils Korber, Omar Rekik and Luca Netz all being included in the Profis squad at some point this season.
Whilst only a few have actually made it onto the pitch, their inclusion in the match day squad has shown once more that Hertha are willing to allow their own home grown talent the chance to shine when options are either limited or tactics are not working. They are unpredictable, opposition haven’t seen these youngsters play and therefore aren’t prepared with how to deal with them.
Two cases include Marton Dardai (Second son of Hertha legend and former coach Pal Dardai), who made his debut for Hertha against Augsburg, playing just over a minute, but then played a full quarter of an hour when coming on for the injured Omar Alderete against Bayer Leverkusen. His time was short and not particularly exciting but he remained calm, collected and made zero errors in his time there.
The second and possibly most significant case is that of Jessic Ngankam.
Ngankam was already known amongst the Hertha faithful for less uplifting reasons when in 2019, reports came in that there had been an incident during a Hertha U23’s match in the Regional liga Nordost against Lokamotive Leipzig.
LOK, already known for their fanatic fan base and unfortunately also for their links to far-right politics, had brought a strong and apparently aggressive crowd to the Amateur Stadion on the Olympiaplatz.
Always vocal, the strong LOK support began to target Ngankam, when during the match he became involved in a heated exchange with them. It was later revealed that a section of the crowd had made racist gestures towards him and chanted ‘monkey sounds’ towards the young striker throughout the game.
During the next Hertha home match, a banner was displayed across the Ostkurve in support for Ngankam. ‘Jessic, einer von uns’ (Jessic, one of us).
What didn’t help matter was that exactly the same day, Hertha’s U16 squad had walked off the pitch despite leading 2-0 in the 60th minute against Auerbach, when they also reported racist abuse. The youth team was later asked to forfeit the match for failing to adhere to the fixture.
Ngankam signed his professional contract, was handed the number 27 shirt and was included in Hertha’s squad for the majority of the matches played.
He made his Bundesliga debut in the 3-0 victory in Hoffenheim, the first match back after the Coronavirus break, coming on for Dodi Lukebakio. Since then, Ngankam has made several appearances off the bench, the most significant coming in the 20/21 season.
When Hertha played Bayern Munich at the Allianz arena, they had already been 2-0 down and come back to level. They then conceded again to be down 3-2 in the 85th minute.
Ngankam, who came on in the 86th minute of the game, managed to get onto the end of Maximillian Mittelstadt cross, heading past Manuel Neuer to level the game at 3-3 in the 88th. It was his first touch in the game.
It was just a shame that for Hertha, an individual piece of naivety that had come from the same player that had set up the goal, resulted in a 94th minute penalty for the Bavarians and subsequently the victory in a match that deserved more.
What it did show is that the likes of Ngankam, show something that perhaps some players lack… determination. The is unquestionable heart from the players that spent their youth in Berlin that also decided to work hard and remain at the club for a shot at the professionals. It can be seen in Torunarigha, Mittelstadt, Dardai and Ngankam. What it also shows is that Hertha are not the ‘Big City club’ with all the money in the world trying to buy the league.
Whilst Hertha are spending in order to improve their squad quality and depth, they, unlike many other Bundesliga clubs, have not shied away from including their talented young, home grown players. Where as many clubs in the league are now struggling to add to their squad because of the financial issues involved with Covid 19, and instead being forced to fill out their squads with youth squad talents, Hertha actually choose to include theirs, without having their hand forced.
It’s something to be respected amongst other clubs. Whilst Hertha has money, it has to use it and spend it wisely.

Perhaps the biggest problem for Hertha this season is very simple.

The have the potential to become something greater than what they already are. But it just remains as potential. Sadly it can take time to realise that potential and make it work, sometimes an entire season or two. But people expect far too much far too quickly, and whilst your given the tools to work with, it sometimes takes some time for the builder to realise how they best work and how best to construct.

Rome wasn’t built in a day…

Neither will Berlin be either.

Results 20/21 so far

Werder Bremen vs Hertha BSC (A)

Weser Stadion, Bremen

Result: 1-4 (AS)
HBSC Goal Scorers: Peter Pekarik (Assist, Maximillian Mittelstadt. Tapped in at the far post)
Dodi Lukebakio (Assist, Vladimir Darida. Run down the left, right footed shot into the far corner)
Matheus Cunha (Assist, Vladimir Darida. Pass through, one on one, rolled past Pavlenka who gets a touch but can’t keep it out)
Jhon Cordoba (Assist, Mathew Leckie. Flank pass from left to right, one on one shot slotted into the far corner)

Eintracht Frankfurt (H)

Olympiastadion, Berlin
Result: 1-3 (HN)
HBSC Goal Scorers: Martin Hinteregger (Own goal, assisted Jordan Torunarigha, long run and dribbled down the left flank into the left centre. Shot tipped beyond the keeper by Frankfurt defender)

Bayern Munich (A)

Allianz Arena, Munich
Result : 4-3 (AN)
HBSC Goal scorers: Jhon Cordoba (Assist by Matheus Cunha. Crossed from a free kick on the right side, into the box and flicked past Manuel Neuer)
Matheus Cunha (Assist by Krzysztof Piatek. Ball flicked on a one two into the centre by Piatek onto the foot of Cunha who slots it past Neuer)
Jessic Ngankam (Assist by Maximillian Mittelstadt. Ball crossed in from the left back flank into the penalty area and headed firmly past the far post into the corner by Ngankam)

VfB Stuttgart (H)

Olympiastadion, Berlin
Result: 0-2 (HN)
HBSC goal scorers: None

RB Leipzig (A)

Red Bull Arena, Leipzig
Result: 2-1 (AN)
HSBC Goal Scorers: Jhon Cordoba (Assist by Dodi Lukebakio. Quick fire counter attack through the centre, hit quickly into the net)
Incidents: Traffic light red card: Deyoraiso Zeefuik.

VfL Wolfsburg (H)

Olympiastadion, Berlin
:1-1 (HR)
HBSC Goalscorers: Matheus Cunha (Assisted by Dodi Lukebakio, scuffed slow shot towards the far post)

FC Augsburg (A)

WWK Arena, Augsburg, Bavaria
Result: 0-3 (AS)

HBSC Goal Scorers: Matheus Cunha, Elfmeter
Dodi Lukebakio (Partial Assist by Krzysztof Piatek. Crossed in from the right by Piatek, an error by the defender, Lukebakio takes it down on his foot to control before putting it past the keeper first time)
Krzysztof Piatek (Assist by Matheus Cunha. Counter attack, Cunha launches the ball out as Augsburg press forwards and Piatek, onside in his own half, runs down the right flank and into the centre latching onto the long ball and slotting it past the keeper into the far corner.)

Borussia Dortmund (H)

Olympiastadion, Berlin
Result: 2-5 (HN)

HBSC Goal Scorers: Matheus Cunha (Assist by Dodi Lukebakio. Controlled the ball in the centre of the pitch and hits a long range shot into the near post)
Matheus Cunha (Penalty)

Bayer Leverkusen (A)

BayArena, Leverkusen

Result: 0-0 (AR)

HBSC Goalscorers: None

FC Union Berlin (H)

Olympiastadion, Berlin
Result: 3-1 (HS)

HBSC Goal scorers: Peter Pekarik (Parried shot from Matheus Cunha hit straight into the path of Pekarik)
Krzysztof Piatek (Assist by Javairo Dilrosun. Crossed in low from the left flank into the penalty area. Piatek, with back to goal, gets a shot away. A deflection from the defender takes it past the goal keeper)
Krzysztof Piatek (Assist by Javairo Dilrosun. Crossed in from the left flank, ball clearance fails and falls into Paitek’s path who hits it first time hard past the keeper into the left corner)
Significant events:
Direct red card: Robert Andrich (Union Berlin), high foot and dangerous challenge on Lucas Tousart (23 mins)

Borussia Monchengladbach (A)

Borussia Park, Monchengladbach
Result: 1-1 (AR)

HSBC Goal scorers: Matteo Gendouzi (Assist by Vladimir Darida. Poorly cleared ball comes to Gendouzi on the edge of the penalty area who strikes it first time into the top left corner)

FSV Mainz 05 (H)

Olympiastadion, Berlin
Result: 0-0 (HR)

HBSC Goal Scorers: None

Hertha BSC… And a Card game? : Hertha have to be more ‘Kaiba’

Yes… I drew Seto Kaiba as a Herthaner… Here’s why!

What do Hertha BSC and a children’s card game have in common?

Well in truth, absolutely nothing. The two are in no way linked apart from the fact that I happen to be a fan of both.

During the Coronavirus Lockdown in the UK, I, like many key workers who were nor required at the time because of slump in their industry, was part of the Government’s ‘Furlough scheme’. It’s very simple really. I work in the aviation sector and at the time no one was flying. I had been determined to stay at work throughout the pandemic but during a shift in which we had seen just 2% of our regular number of passengers the eery silence of the continents biggest international airport was starting to drive me insane. I didn’t want to work whilst I felt helpless and as though I was doing nothing constructive with me day… It literally got to the point where we were being allocated to the terminals seating area to sit there and social distance for hours in end. It was taking a horrible toll on my mental health because I love my job and the industry and it was falling apart before our eyes. I requested to be put on Furlough until the passenger numbers were at a level where we’d be required to work hard and be occupied again with our actual jobs… So I ended up on Furlough, for 3 months.

This IS significant so bear with me. If anyone isn’t aware of want the ‘Furlough scheme’ is, it was exclusive to the UK. Anyone who was employed by a business in an industry that wasn’t required at the time because it had been badly affected by the pandemic, would have up to 80% of their wages paid by the government. It was to save the businesses, as they’d no longer be paying their employees wages, and to save jobs, because they would be required in the recovery process, particularly jobs like mine that require training and experience as well as a certain amount of skill. Anyway… How does this link Hertha to a certain card game? Well this actually began before leaving for Furlough but the madness increased significantly during my time as it became a sole investment and kept me entertained through the entire period. So here’s how it is…

When I was about 9 years old I was surrounded by anime shows on our various TV networks here… One revolved around a card game… Called ‘Yu-Gi-Oh’. Except when you’re older you see these things with brand new eyes. At the time as a child you’re taken in by the pretty looking animation. When you’re older you realise these concepts and characters actually were far more interesting on a deeper emotional level than you realise.

Yugioh was a show that was created from the ideas of Kazuki Takahashi, originally a manga series about a young boy named Yugi, who solved an ancient puzzle that contains the spirit of an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh, Atem. Yugi is a small and shy boy who loves playing game one of which was the basis of the most popular anime, a games known as ‘Duel Monsters’, which spawned the realm life trading card game (just called Yugioh). The game in the show is actually a modern day form of real life ancient battles between good and evil. Yugi ‘duels’ various people, and is possessed by the spirit of the Pharaoh when he does so. The two are the ultimate tag team and both mewrn something from one another. Atem learns of kindness and humility from little Yugi and Yugi learns about bravery and honour from his counter part. For the majority of the anime series Yugi’s friends are aware of the Pharaoh’s spirit and the presence it has inside their friend. What’s interesting is the reaction of Yugi’s (or rather the Pharaoh’s) greatest rival, Seto Kaiba.

And this is where I began thinking about this particular character and now it partially connects to what Hertha is and where it wants to be. To understand how the hell this is connected you need to first understand some things about the character of Seto Kaiba… So here’s a brief look.

Make no mistake… Kaiba is a total asshole.

Okay, well much of the time but all his behaviour and beliefs are with good reason. Kaiba is a realistic that doesn’t like to blur the lines of fiction, pipe dreams and reality. He’s extremely arrogant but with good reason as he has the skills to back up his cocky attitude, and his rivalry with main protagonist Yugi dates back 3000 years ago in ancient Egypt when his own previous incarnation and Yugi’s (Atem) were rivals, destined to ensure they would be rivals in their present form as well, not that Kaiba believes in such nonsense.

His back story however is what makes this guy so interesting because he’s one of the only characters that gets an incredibly detailed history. He wasn’t always the way he appears to be. In the present day, Seto Kaiba is a young multi billionaire, the president of Kaiba Corp the world’s largest gaming company. He’s invested his own time and money in creating virtual software and holograms that bring the game of Duel Monsters to life, created theme parks, created video game software, created portable hologram generators so the game can be played anywhere and all this tech was his own brainchild. He is incredibly intelligent and resourceful. But it wasn’t always this way and it wasn’t gifted to him either.

Before he was Seto ‘Kaiba’, he and his little brother Mokuba lost both their parents and were orphaned as their remaining family stole their inheritance before leaving them at an orphanage. Seto swore to do anything to protect his little brother from harm, this included baring the brunt of any bullying, torture, or any other problems putting him in harms way. He also swore that from then on the two brothers had to get tougher and no allow anyone to control them, they had to take control of their own lives, and that they would control their own fate and destiny… Later in life the belief remained the same, that destiny doesn’t exist, you control your own.

Desperate to get out Seto refused to be adopted unless Mokuba was adopted with him, despite the fact many families were interested in the intellectual youngster. He refused. That was until he saw an opportunity. Seto was incredibly gifted at gaming. When Gozaburo Kaiba, a chess champion and CEO of Kaiba Corp visited the orphanage for a publicity stunt, Seto decided to challenge him to a chess match. The deal would be that if Seto won, Gozaburo would have to adopt him and Mokuba. Guess what? Seto won. He and his little brother were adopted… And there began the change in Seto Kaiba.

From then on Kaiba’s entire outlook became colder and far harsher. He saw a stark and brutal reality. His innocence was lost, he grew up too fast. Gozaburo planned to groom Seto into becoming a worthy heir to his company. He challenged him. He forced him to study until he was in the verge of collapse, but all this shaped Seto Kaiba into a person who was willing to work hard for what they wanted. He was set a challenge, which is better explained alongside a comparison to the current situation at Hertha but in less detail, he had to try and get back a profit on an investment in a year… Seto did it in one day and he did it by some very questionable means. Kaiba went from youngster to master, overthrowing his stepfather in the business and becoming it’s majority owner. Gozaburo’s ‘Kaiba corp’ had manufactured weapons for war. Seto Kaiba’s new empire would venture into gaming and become far more of a success. However what happened to Seto Kaiba over the course of a harsh upbringing was also a brutal conditioning. His personality was shaped by seeing the world as black and white and no in between. Kaiba is extremely arrogant but with reason. He’s highly skilled and a master in his craft of Duel Monsters as a duelist but has also an incredibly harsh and brutal businessman that understands the reality of dealing with a harsh world. There’s also the reality that despite seemingly losing his soul to the devil, he does have a humane side. His rivalry with Yugi and the Pharaoh changed his perspective slightly. For years he had been unbeatable until Yugi did defeat him, in doing so it slightly altered his personality, he was still arrogant but now he questioned himself far more, he reevaluated his place in the world and his motives. It also created the ongoing rivalry.

But what made me begin to believe that Hertha need a bit more of this Kaiba personality in their approach, isn’t the fact this character is arrogant. Kaiba’s aim for a long time was just simply be the best in the world… That isn’t Hertha’s aim right now. But his aim changed after the first episode of Yugioh upon his defeat to Yugi. Instead his purpose sort of became a rediscovery of himself. That is something Hertha can certainly relate to. But the ‘Be more Kaiba’ idea came more from his aggressive personality and attitude as well as some historical events that have an odd parallel with the Berlin based club… And here’s what it is… Now you know a little about this fictional character, time to explain what got me thinking about this.

Not gifted success: You make it your own

Moving forward: Bruno Labbadia must create a successful team with this the new cash from Windhorst

Here’s one unique parallel that gears more towards events rather than attitude. Seto Kaiba was not always a success nor was he always rich. In fact Kaiba grew up poor until his adoption and even then was forced to work so hard the poor kid was on the verge of collapse. But Seto Kaiba was presented with a unique opportunity that involved the shares of his step father’s company.

Gozaburo had promised to give Seto 49% of his companies shares if Seto could be gifted $10,000 and make an investment in that would create 10 fold and see an output of $100,000 within a year. It was a challenge set to test Seto’s ability to be creative, smart and how he’d handle business dealings. He accomplished this task in just one day by some rather brutal means and without worry which is not something you ever want to aspire to. But the point is he then acquired the majority shares not long after via some manipulative schemes as well. He saw the company Gozaburo ran, one creating weapons, as harmful, poisonous, he wanted to turn the direction of it around into something with a more positive output. He inherited the company after overthrowing his step father, and took something that already existed and crafted it into his own vision of what it should be making it a far larger success than it had ever been, investing in projects that created a greater output and running the business wisely.

Here is something the fictional character and Hertha have in common. Both were gifted a large sum of money but it is down to the wise investment and the decisions made aftward it’s in your hands that matters. Hertha how have to be like Kaiba and take the project that already exists and craft it into something more sustainable and profitable as well as create a bigger success out of on the pitch. The investment and inventions of Kaiba in the gaming world allowed him to progess his own career and status as well as give something back to the world. He did so because he recieved money he had to decide how best to use. Now Hertha have an almost identical predicament. They have invested money that they must decide one best to use in order to create a greater success on and off the pitch and if its done wisely and skillfully it will reward everyone involved greatly. But that also takes determination, self belief and a fair but justified aggression, qualities all seen in that character.

Changing direction: Dispose of the deadwood and decide what you want

The past must be the past

Hertha began to change massively with the introduction of the cash injection from Lars Windhorst but when the funds appears the club appeared to have a rare problem… They didn’t know quite what they wanted to do with it, what exactly the new style of football would be or how to rectify mistakes that were taking placed.

It began well enough with the purchase of Dodi Lukebakio but the subsequent purchase of Eduard Löwen didn’t make absolute sense, it was as though the club was scrambling instead of thinking things through clearly. This could’ve been linked the inexperience of the new head coach Ante Covic, in reality a huge error of judgement. The placement was made with the heart not the head, as he was and remains a club legend having worked with the youth talents for so long… And here is an error. The dead wood was not cut away, despite the money there didn’t seem to be any suggestion of growth in the football or the running of the club nor its mindset.

This didn’t get any better when decisions were made on impulse such as the appointment of Jurgen Klinsmann, which now seems to be of the greatest regrets of last season. The man did want to spend but some of his transfer requests were for attention, such as the quest to sign Mario Götze and the insistence of playing certain players that clearly were good enough for the scrap. It got Hertha involved in a relegation fight. He had no clear plan or direction and his own ambitions didn’t run parallel to the clubs, his agenda was opposite. Hertha no longer knew what they wanted to achieve, until the arrival of Bruno Labbadia who only seems to demand that he be left to do his job and not interfere with anything he need not be involved in.

Football is ultimately a business, but an ambitious business. As Seto Kaiba once said ‘If I’m faced with a problem I eliminate the source’… Which is exactly what Hertha didn’t do because they weren’t sure what the source was and by making poor decisions kept changing the source of the problem. But what Kaiba does well in business as well as his skills in the card game he plays, is that be eliminated dead wood. Anything he doesn’t need in his business he rids it of which is exactly how he turned his company on its head to become a bigger success than it was before. And he was brutal in doing so.

When changing the direction of Kaiba Corp form a military weapons business into a gaming industry giant, he simply threw aside the employees his father had put in place of their job was no longer or value, thus stripping the assets down and building them back up with his own vision and direction and with a clear sight as to what he wanted that direction and company to be. He took control and rid his new empire of elements he didn’t need. The employees he stripped away (mainly the big 5 from his step father’s era) were not particularly pleasant people anyway but anyone that worked under Kaiba had to prove their worth…

Not to say Hertha need to be quite as brutal in the manner that they handle these changes but they must take some responsibility in making the changes work. We saw already what confusion of the direction can lead too. It becomes a total mess. Whether it be players or staff or anything in between, the club needs clarity in what it wants to become. It’s easy enough to talk the talk but as current coach Labbadia said ‘Talking about it doesn’t make it happen’. In other words as Seto Kaiba once said in regarding one of his own new projects ‘it doesn’t just happen. It takes hard work an determination’. Both are honest in their assessments. Hertha is at the start of its new project and with a coach that finally has a grip on the team on the pitch can actually began to craft its own fate which is always in its own hands. But that also means that even if its unfair or difficult, what ever isn’t needed to create this new side with ambition, needs to be identified and stripped away. It may be harsh but it’s a harsh world. But it seems Hertha is half way there as well, having already allows 4 players to depart in summer with one more being told directly they may not return.

It’s a similar story for those who’s contracts expired. Vedad Ibišević, a long standing captain, will be wearing another shirt in Germany next season. Not because the respect was lost but because Vision and ambition will focus on younger players and a prosperous and developing squad that can be sustained in the long term. The ambition is set out and now the path must be set with it. Older players have no long term future with the club therefore the project can’t be built around them either. It’s a harsh reality but like Seto Kaiba, as have to realise that reality can be hard and harsh but some things are unavoidable for the survival of your ideas longterm.

Something else that was appearing to be lacking during the preseason was the presence of a leader. A voice that tells you what to do… The problem is in sport its often collective responsibility, however players must learn that individual responsibility must also be a part of the game. After defeat, Kaiba doesn’t blame anyone one but himself but he depends on mi one but himself so the fault always pays with him. Players cannot look for excuses when staring into the eyes of defeat, they must take a long look at what they did wrong as an individual first, be prepared to criticise and berate themselves, apply it to the team measures then move on quickly. They must remember what their end goal for the season is.

A tweet that captured my thoughts exactly on the mentality change Hertha need to have

‘I have never settled for mediocrity as an acceptable standard and neither should you’

New horizons: mediocrity is no longer acceptable

It’s come to a time where ‘simply surviving’ shouldn’t be the ambition for the season. This is a club with new vision. That means the old mentality of ‘I hope just survive the season and win the Derby’ should be forgotten about and erased, without losing yourself in the process. This idea is no longer good enough. It will take hard work to achieve it but that means not resting on your laurels and not settling for what simply is ‘acceptable’. Hertha need to learn the mentality that only victory is good enough, which is exactly the attitude that Seto Kaiba has towards everything in life. To him, failure is not an option, in his fictional world to him failure was compatible to death it was such an intense matter. If it does come then he’s no one to blame but himself and depending on the situation, either moves past it or allows it motivate him further, pushing him to work even harder until he is victorious.

It’s not just on the pitch, it’s a battle of the mind as well. There is a ruthlessness required in order to be successful…you also need to set out what success means to you. Is to reach the European spots enough? Titles? Why not? If you simply tell yourself how there is a limit to set then you’ve already lost. Working out what your best is is a something else needed. ‘There are no limits…’. But the basis for such achievements has to start somewhere and that doesn’t appear from nowhere. The ground has to be set with the coach. His ideas have to be realised, there has to be harmony in the team and all required bases have to be converted structurally on the pitch, bringing it back to the money issue. Investment is fine. It does however, have to be used wisely or it’s a failure.

Like Kaiba, set yourself a target not a limit. Set yourself a goal and an ambition don’t simply rule a line in the sand. There is no limit, not when you believe in your own capabilities. The major difference is you have the right to gloat when you’re victorious, true. But don’t let that cloud anything. You quickly move on from triumphs. Don’t become too arrogant. It only serves well when you are certain about your own capabilities.

Know your strengths…and Find more of them, learn from weakness

Passion and fire have to be at the root of what drives you

Kaiba may be outwardly arrogant, there is a question as to whether this is to mask his inner instability and turmoil. That said when he does lose to Yugi, who seemingly came from nowhere, the effect it has on his entire approach is profound, it begs the question of whether he is worthy is any respect from others and it makes him question his place in the world…much like disaster as Hertha made the club reevaluate its own position and ambitions for the 2019/2020 season.

Kaiba, upon losing to Yugi, doesn’t really question what Yugi did in order to win, he knows exactly what happened in his defeat, often as we see in football matches the mistakes being made before our eyes… Instead he questions what he did wrong… And he really evaluates it in detail. Tactics, revision, evaluation, strategy, rebuild confidence.

It’s something Hertha have already shown under Bruno Labbadia who isn’t shy about criticising his team, the players in turn had a different attitude in comparison to their blaming of everything around them when Klinsmann was in charge (Niklas Stark was critical of fans criticism after the 5-0 thrashing at home at the hands of FC. Köln.). Instead now, Labbadia forced his team to take a look at themselves, self crisitism, is effective and constructive is extremely useful. But it is a fear that the team may be over worked. You cannot get the balance wrong. One of Kaiba’s downfalls is so often he does this. He stacks up a high attack strategy, leaving the defences open. Throughout however he learns new strategies. What’s more he always has more than one idea, a trick up the sleeve, a backup plan. It’s learned through defeat and reassessment.

Kaiba talks alot of trash talk but usually manages to back it up with action. It’s fine when it works that way. Hertha have to be careful not to fall into a trap of talking too much and failing to display the skill to back it up. They, as Seto Kaiba also doesn’t, talk themselves down. Kaiba goes into every duel outwardly confident that he’ll win even when odds are stacked against him (the blind duel vs Ishizu Ishtar is a good example when her millennium necklace allows her to see the future and predict his moves… Only for him to defy her and win). Despite that, it also doesn’t mean that upon defeat you shouldn’t be willing to learn from your own errors, in fact realising them makes you stronger as Kaiba so often does upon defeat. He sucks it up despite detesting failure, moans a little, gets over it and goes forward… Perhaps with a little fire on the soul for revenge but either way, find what his own strengths are, notices the weakness and works on it… It’s a lesson for next time.

If Kaiba signed for Union, then you’d hate him then…’

Joey (Union), is torn apart by Kaiba (Hertha) (the result of this confrontation is that Kaiba throws Joey to the ground) who are at two different ends of the spectrum in mindset

OK… No and no. This was something someone said to me as a joke… And hey it is funny.

I don’t ‘hate’ Union. Intense rivalry is made a lot more emotional when you actually experience it first hand.

Either way Seto Kaiba wouldn’t ever go near a club like Union. They’re more suited to a character that wins on lucky and whims with a little bit of skill, like Joey Wheeler…who’s attitude which agitates characters like Kaiba, also suits their club.

Joey is a happy go lucky player that rides his luck a majority of the time despite having some skill. The attitude and approach of simply being content with less is very much suited to Union, the exact opposite of Hertha are going to need in this upcoming season in order to success. Its the way Hertha have been until now.

Despite being arrogant and self absorbed Kaiba is also someone that shows huge respect for the game itself, he hated bully’s and cheats, and respects the rules as well as for the ethics, which is a sadly something Union have not done throughout their history despite the glittering reviews written by football romantics. The media have failed to criticise Union for their misdemeanours and failings and instead target Hertha for theirs, an example being Salomon Kalou being hammered by the press for breaching corona Lockdown rules when Unions fans a few weeks later were applauded for a gathering outside the stadium without any protection, regulations or permission.. Kaiba’s loudmouth also comes from his ability to back this up with his skill achieved in results in the game as well as success outside of it, something Hertha would be entitled to do if their plans for success were realised. Unlike Union, Seto Kaiba doesn’t seek the approval of others, where as the likes of Joey do, they attempt to prove themselves to others, to gain respect. Hertha should only seek the approval of their own fans and themselves. Where as respect for Kaiba comes from his results and his showcase of skill and intelligence. Recognition only matters in terms of others realising that he should be feared, and even then that’s before his rivalry with Atem begins. Titles he loses do frustrate him and he becomes determined to win those back, as any club losing a game unlawfully would also want to do. Everything Kaiba does he does for himself, not to gain the approval of others. If someone doesn’t like something, if someone berates him, he simply pushes forwards with his goal ruthlessly, to achieve that outcome he wants. No it’s not always right but it’s a ruthlessness something required to achieve your aims, the trick is not to lose your self along the way.

‘Rivalry, the root of all passion’

More than a rivalry

What defines Kaiba’s aggression and personal, in particular through out the Darkside of Dimensions, is his rivalry with Yugi/Atem. The two are pretty much equals in terms of their skill but Atem was the only rival Kaiba could never accept not defeating. For the reason of rivalry, the scars of defeat burned particularly deep for him.

Kaiba’s rivalry with the Pharaoh Atem (when he realises Atem is different to little Yugi his rivalry with Yugi eases) has to be properly explained. The reason the rivalry may be so strong is the historic background of the past lives of Atem and Preist Seto, who never had the opportunity to defeat the Pharaoh. In a way it then falls on the reincarnation of Priest seto to carry that out.
But Kaiba is incredibly emotional when it comes defeat but always seeks for the answers within himself to work out his own weaknesses other than his rivals strength. He doesn’t accuse anyone of cheating and although he doesn’t accept defeat gracefully still accepts it.
I won’t go into the rival shipping fan girls ideas and fantasies, since I’ve personally always seen the Kaiba Yami yugi relationship as an unbalanced and intense rivalry… A bit like Hertha and Union. There is an imbalance, Hertha feel it more. Because they feel the city is theirs… And it is.
Like Hertha, Kaiba doesn’t make any secret of his desire to defeat the Pharaoh a bit like Hertha’s attention on Union, he’ll do anything to ensure they meet so he can take his revenge. Defeat to him burned wounds into the skin that cut deep, much like the original Berlin derby did to Hertha.
Where as like Union, the Pharaoh only actually cares about the rivalry when they meet to battle. They don’t actively seek to meet.
Kaiba’s dislike and intense desire to beat Atem is a constant in his life. He takes every opportunity to slate the pharaoh, question him, and backchat. Much like Hertha. Only when their rival is defeated and defeated badly does the intensity die down.
But also Kaiba hates when Yugi (Atem) loses to anyone one else. Whilst that can’t quite be true it does anger Herthaner if Union were to lose to a weaker team than both of them.

I’ve often said that the rivalry in Yugioh between Atem and Kaiba is something that can only really be understood by those that have first hand experience of rivalries in reality themselves. The intensity of it is so strong that it goes beyond words, the aggression and desire to champion over that opponent is just overwhelming during any battles that take place. Almost like a poisonous romance but not quite, the victory is something that stays with you forever and the defeat stings for a long long time. It’s not just the bragging rights of the city, it’s the satisfaction of the victory itself, the heart aches of you lose.

How Kaiba handles this rivalry isn’t perhaps something to be completely admired but is something you can have empathy with as football fans often feel it for themselves. Kaiba is determined to be victorious over his greatest rivals. After the narrow defeat in November at the Alte Försterei, Hertha were almost identical in their response. The last game before the Derby (before corona interrupted the season) the ultras exclaimed ‘No other games matter apart from two weeks time. The Derby is the only one that matters’. The ferocity of it was tangible. Kaiba’s determination to get his rematch and defeat the Pharaoh was equal to that. Determined to make it happen and giving everything up to do so, is exactly the type of approach Hertha should have to the Derby. All or nothing. Even if it nearly takes everything from you. It has to be done.

And so… A new mindset. Perhaps too aggressive or perhaps not, but there is to be no more ‘typical Hertha’ philosophy or ‘typical Berlin’. The future at Hertha begins now. New money, new plans and new mindset with a new direction to accompany it. Be.. More… Kaiba. You may just be as successful as amines greatest anti hero.

‘I have never settled for mediocrity as an acceptable standard and neither should you’

‘Since when do you bow to your rivals? Get up. Show me what you’ve got’

‘When are you people going to learn? I focus on the future. I don’t spent time worrying about the past’

‘Fight them off and never let any body control you’

Blah,blah,blah. Don’t you get tired of making the same speech every time you’re faced with a challenge?’

‘Games are not boring. Games purify our souls and leave room for new development that challenges the mind! They are the products of human wisdom!

‘The future is unlimited and the past is but a trace of memory’

‘Boasting is the privilege of winners’

Turnaround or just luck riding?: match days 1-6

Here we go again…

And oh dear


‘Just end already’ was my thought upon 90 minute mark on August 25th, as VfL Wolfsburg cruised to a 3-0 away victory at the Berliner Olympiastadion. A total shambles of a second half from Hertha saw them at the very beginning of a magnificent slump, something that only added more frustration when fans took into consideration that the club had had a major investment and now an ambition. They had been promised Europe and instead watched what appeared to be a relegation threatened side.

But perhaps the problems hadn’t started here at all, perhaps they had started further back, as the result of partial naivety after match day 1 in München.

Munich Monster: how going beyond expectations in results can lead to a crash


Let’s not pretend. Anyone would be thrilled just not to lose to Bayern on match day one, especially away from home. No game in Munich is easy and that’s even truer a statement when it’s your first match of the season.

No one wanted them… Hertha got them. Hertha had to play them at some point and it may as well have been early on to get the expected defeat over with. Once that ends you can move on and start properly.

Everyone, fans of the home and away side, went into the game expecting only one outcome… Bavarian victory. A stronger squad provided little room for argument but what perhaps worked in Hertha’s favour was the fact that Hertha had played against pretty much the same Bayern side last season and at home has been victorious. They knew the way Bayern were set up and they understand the threats, where as Bayern were facing this new Hertha team with a new coach for the first time and weren’t aware of what setup they had.

As per last season in Berlin, Bayern were dominant from the get go and scored via you know who (Robert Lewandowski) early on.

But the away side sprung a surprise, having not had much possession or any chances, when new signing Dodi Lukebakio’s shot, deflected off the back of Vedad Ibišević and sailed past a helpless Neuer.

A matter of minutes later and Hertha took an unexpected lead. Once again, having had no clearcut chances, Ibisevic turned provider with a chip over the top of Bayern newbie Benjamin Pavard who was out muscled by Marko Grujic, who then skipped around Neuer giving Hertha a 2-1 lead. Grujic and Pavard had clashed resulting in the Serbian collapsing after his goal and later recieving a black eye. Pavard had gone down from the clash, Grujic had allowed the pain to subside and instead continued on and scored before falling to the ground. Where Pavard lost concentration, Grujic hadn’t.

At the break Bayern were shaky. They played almost identically to the way they had last season in Berlin, chance after chance and not a single one going in except for the goal. They could’ve easily been 5-2 up but failure to capitalise on the chances meant that they were behind.

It was the same story after the break and the same result. Chances and no goals. It was only the foolish reaction of Marko Grujic that saw Bayern level from the penalty spot.

When Grujic was deep in his own half defending Lewandowski in the box, the Polish striker took full advantage of the young Serbs inexperience as a defender. With the ball cleared, Lewandowski clung onto Grujic and ultimately Grujic reacted by throwing the Pole to the ground, which VAR checked and awarded a penalty. The ball had not been anywhere near reaching Lewandowski but Grujic reacted on instinct to be manhandled.

Such stupidity was addressed by Grujic after the game but it could be argued that had it not been given, Bayern would’ve found a way to score anyway. The fact that play had continued for a while before the incident was brought to the referees attention, is also contentious.

So it ends 2-2 with Bayern having dominated as expected. But take a step back and review and you may find the problems that would manifest in the next 3 games began here.

The euphoria of coming away from Munich on match day one having not lost, overshadowed the truth about the way Hertha played.

You cannot possibly analyse any new systems that were suppose to be introduced for the season, when such a system wasn’t in place against Bayern.

The trick against Bayern is all out defence and counter, which can work against the best teams in Germany, but leaves you scratching your head when you play in the same manner against the likes of Schalke and Paderborn.

Whilst the trick worked, and the likes of Lukas Klünter and Niklas Stark played incredibly well in Munich, the concentration on the point gained sugar-coated some of the poor positional play by Hertha who were pretty much non existent in the midfield.

You could argue that this is the way you must approach a game against Bayern, and no one would question that either, but it also masks underlying problems in the squad and the set up.

Until match day 6, not a single striker had scored for Hertha, with Lukebakio playing as a winger against Bayern. The Midfield seeming had little structure which wasn’t easy to determine in the style that Hertha played. Because they weren’t given a chance to play any new system and run with new ideas, we didn’t get to see what Covic had planned for the team this season… And the nervousness began to show cracks in the squad and set up when the home game against Wolfsburg came.

Wolves maul bears: glimmers of attacking flare wiped out by poor defensive display.


The first home game of the season always produces a great atmosphere…

Most of the time…

The problem in particular with this match up, was the fact that it was the very last game of the weekend. Whilst Wolfsburg isn’t exactly a trek, no one enjoys a Sunday evening 6pm kick off, mainly because the freedom to head out post match and celebrate or drink with friends is near impossible. People have jobs and lives to go back to on Monday morning. Even Fridays don’t provide this much annoyance, at least everyone has the Saturday to get over their Friday night despite having to travel.

And so began an already partly lower key atmosphere weekend. Whilst the attendance still racked up over 40,000 there was a hint of nerves around.. Could Hertha play with the freedom and style that Ante Covic had promised during Preseason? The type of class we had seen against a Premier League side like Crystal Palace? Short answer…


Hertha began the game very brightly. With their first Attack, Ondrej Duda was brought down in the box. From the stands it appeared to be a clear penalty. Captain Vedad Ibišević had picked up the ball and placed it on the spot ready to score the first home goal of the season, when VAR intervened yet again.

When the referee has taken so long reviewing the case, everyone gets the sinking feeling because they know what’s coming… They know the decision will be overturned.

When reviewing the incident, you can understand why the referee initially gave it, at full speed it looked clear but upon replay it was clear that the ball had been won, at the same time Duda was tripped by no contact, he merely fell over a trialing leg trying to avoid it. Some could’ve still given it but the decision in the end was correct. What perhaps angers fans more isnt the outcome and the correct decision but the fact that a man sat in a room half way across the country, can dictate the game despite the fact the referee is employed to make these decisions. Sometimes they’re incorrect but it’s been a part of the game for centuries now. It gives supporters something to debate about.

Nevertheless, Hertha failed to capitalise on any of the good attacking pressure they were applying. Wolfsburg however were using gaps in the midfield to counter.

When the defence failed to clear their lines, Klaus attempted to bring the ball down on the flank of the box. A ridiculously stupid challenge from Karim Rekik, who’s extended high foot could’ve easily taken Klaus’s eye out, resulted in a clear cut penalty for the visitors. Terrible from Rekik, who since joining Berlin, has given away more penalties than anyone else.

Weghorst made no mistake. Hertha were now 1-0 down at home but the fightback looked to be on. Grujic was denied and certain equaliser as his shot from just outside the box was saved then his rebound cleared off the line. Salomon Kalou headed a great chance just wide. Chances came and went and at half time the scoreline didn’t like pretty for Berlin.

They continued the pressure from the first half for about 20 minutes of the second. But around the 65 minute mark it became clear that Wolfsburg were content to defend deep.

You cannot walk your way through a brick wall, which was unfortunately the way Hertha were attempting to break them down. No one had a shot from outside the box and as time went on misplaced passes and anxiety began to set in.

Seemingly at a loss, Covic ended up with 4 different striker’s on the pitch in an attempt to find an equaliser. The sacrifice made for them was the fact that the creative players were subbed off with Selke expected to be an attacking force.

He wasn’t. There was no one to provide the four strikers on the pitch. The customary substitution of Ibišević did not happen, he played the entire 90 minutes and at this point the Hertha team and the formation completely fell apart. There was no longer a plan, a formation, there was no creativity. Wolfsburg were clearing everything. The brightest spark was young Daishawn Redan making his debut and seemingly the only creative player left. At least he was giving it everything.

That’s what left the Hertha midfield and defence open to counters and low and behold that is exactly what happened. Josip Brekalo managed to control the ball on the flank before cutting inside, with Niklas Stark totally flat footed and not bothering to make a challenge as he ended with his back turned and in a totally tangled position. The Hertha players piling forwards had left a huge gap at the back and only one defender back. Brekalo slotted it past a helpless Jarstein.

And then the same thing happened again on 90 minutes. The scoreline reflected the game which Wolfsburg had pretty much won in the final 20 minutes thanks to Hertha’s collapse. To be honest, for the first 60 minutes, Hertha had played the better football, but they had nothing to show to it. A low shot rate and poor accuracy at the end had cost them massively. The scoreline flattered Wolfsburg who did what Hertha couldn’t… Take their chances.

And so Hertha were left with work to do, because it could only get better… Right?

Schalke shine: Schalke’s performance has paved a better season in Gelsenkirchen


There was a fundamental belief the things could only get better after the tragedy of the Wolfsburg result. Perhaps if Hertha could play the way they had in the first half against Wolfsburg, that they may be able to take something away from Gelsenkirchen, who at the time, had failed to score a goal and lost 3-0 to Bayern, something that Hertha had not achieved against the record champions.

Schalke however, had improved under David Wagner, man previously linked to the vacant Hertha managers position before it was offered internally to Ante Covic.

It was felt that during Čović’s press conference following the Wolfsburg match, that he had fully understood the issues that the team had faced and that he knew how to fix the problem.

Everyone was proven wrong.

Like the Wolfsburg match, Hertha started brightly in Gelsenkirchen with Dodi Lukebakio having a huge chance to put Hertha 1-0 up with a one on one situation, Alexander Nübel saved well however the shot wasn’t accurate.

Ibisevic wasn’t getting the assistance from the midfield, which again at times was non existent. Schalke gained more momentum and confidence as the game went on and luck was clearly on their side as Hertha scored not one, but two own goals.

The first from Niklas Stark, could be excused.

As Stark later stated in a post match interview, he believed there was an opponent perfectly situated behind him, had he not attempted a clearance, the ball would’ve reached him. In attempting to direct the ball away from goal and out for a corner, he got his angles slightly skewered and a poor touch took it beyond Jarstein who was yet again, helpless to prevent it.

There could be an argument against Starks comments. After reviewing the goal it is possible that the ball would’ve never reached the Schalke attacker and that if it had he’d have been drawn wide. That and the fact that had the attacking player got a touch, Jarstein may have had a chance to save it as he’d positioned himself to expect the shot from Schalke, not the touch from Stark. Jarstein had no chance with Starks touch. Whilst it was unfortunate for Niklas Stark, it was nothing compared to what was to come.

Going into the break yet again 1-0 and having had chances to score, Hertha wanted to finally put those chances away second half. Yet again they failed to do so and it wasn’t helped by the horrendous judgment of Karim Rekik just a few minutes after the interval.

A ball coming across goal, quite going wide of the target, with quite a lot of pace on it, was diverted backwards into the net by Rekik.

Had he simply left the ball alone and focused on the position of opponents around him, he’d realised there was no need to make an interception as the ball was spinning wide of the goal. The fact that he altered the direction of the ball in his attempted clearance demonstrated that his judgment as well as ability, had to be questioned. Having given away a penalty against Wolfsburg down to poor judgment, he’d now given away a goal putting his team 2-0 down and on the verge of a second defeat in a row. The problem with Rekik’s own goal was that had he simply attempted to clear the ball by pushing it away in the same direction it was traveling, it would’ve most likely have done out for a throw instead. By attempting to clear off the line, against the direction of the balls travel, he’d inevitably turned it into his own net. And with that comes a huge dent in confidence not just to Rekik but to the entire team… Because nothing was going right, all the plans had been thrown out the window and it wasn’t just down to defensive errors, but the inability to score.

Selke replaced Ibišević but recieved the same problems of little assistance. Ondrej Duda also for a second game in a row, provided very little attacking flare. Ibisevic had managed to get a Goal but it was correctly ruled out for offside.

Then came the hammer blow. With no resources left and no more ideas, Hertha began to sink. Jonjoe Kenny managed to squeeze a shot from side pst Jarstein and for the second time in a row Hertha has conceded 3 and scored null.

Hertha’s confidence was shattered and once again they’d failed to take advantage of the early opportunities to score goals. The defensive problems had now also come to the fore and Covic had work to do going into the international break.

Once more fans were telling themselves that it ‘can only get better’. But how wrong they were.

Hertha as a team still hadn’t recognised their strengths and weaknesses or gelled as a team under their new coach who was now being put under increasing pressure to get results. The next opponents would be Mainz, who were, at the time of the game, bottom stuck on zero and had been at the hands of battering from Bayern. Another away day and a place where Hertha had struggled in the past… Surely now with the break, things would improve?… Well, sort of.

More misery in Mainz: Make your own luck.


One thing was clear… Karim Rekik’s performance in Gelsenkirchen had earned him a bench spot. Dedryck Boyata, the free signing from Celtic, took his place and regardless of the result, he’d retain that well earned spot.

It was a game Hertha felt they should win but they showed no reason that they deserved that on the day. Mainz were always a tricky opponent for the Berliners.

Duda was allowed to retain his spot in the starting line up but didn’t do much to encourage Covic that he should keep that spot either. Whilst he was at the heart of some creative moments, it was again the midfield that let the side down.

Hardly any aggressiveness, no ideas and Hertha seemingly allowed Mainz the ball, whilst they didn’t use it particularly well, they were allowed chances. Hertha appeared to want to play counter attacking football against a team that they should be taking on a full throttle and testing the backline that had conceded 6 tkm Munich. The team didn’t look like capable of scoring when Selke, who had replaced Ibišević in the starting 11, had two fantastic chances and scuffed them both. He looked totally out of touch.

Just as in the previous game, Hertha conceded in the first half just before the halftime break. A piece of lackluster defending allowed Quaison a simple tap in. This time it was unlucky for Boyata, who just missed putting it into touch, and Starks lack of concentration that allowed it to get across. The finish was simple for the Mainz forward who plagued Hertha two seasons ago when he scored in Berlin.

After the break the intention was clear for Hertha… Play football.

Robin Zentner, the Mainz keeper, was the largest factor in Hertha struggling to score.

The second half seemed to be a different Hertha that finally had ideas and a plan. The midfield did begin to come together slowly but there were far too many mistakes in which defensive midfield was out of position and unable to break down Mainz counters.

However there was a bright spark Hertha. On 83 minutes a cross from. Javairo Dilrosun, allowed Marko Grujic to finally head last the Mainz keeper. There was currently relief for Berlin. Dilrosun coming into the game had made a significant change.

The relief wouldn’t last long.

St Juste, a Mainz defender that possibly shouldn’t have been on the pitch having had a red card rescinded by VAR to a yellow, was allowed to break free from a corner. This time is was Marius Wolf that had lost his man and the moment spelled disaster. The header flew past Jarstein and this time it was down to luck. Hertha had none of it.

After the final whistle the feeling was horrible. Fans were left wondering whether Ante Covic would be in charge, some doubted he would be in charge after the home game against Paderborn.

The players were called over by the ultras following the defeat to Mainz. It left Hertha bottom of the table with one point.

What took place between the ultras and players is unknown, but it is assumed to have only been words of encouragement. Following all three defeats, the Hertha faithful had been loud in support of their team. There had been no jeering or booing and an understanding that the club was in transition with new players and a new coach along with a new investment and perhaps heightened expectations.

There were actually a surprising amount of positives to work on from the Mainz game. The team had finally started to get an idea what what sort of football they wanted to play in the second half. It was only really down to the talent of the Mainz keeper that Hertha hadn’t won the game 5-2. The focus now was on finishing any created opportunities. Hertha had one of the lowest shot rates in the league. They had seemingly taken to attempting to ‘walk it into the net’. No one except Grujic in the first home game, had taken a shot from outside the box.

One other bright aspect was the debut start of Dedryck Boyata, who and been a huge improvement on Rekik.

Boyata, starting slow, grew into the gsme and became a defensive rock. He came forwards to assist the defensive midfield and despite one error of not clearing the ball that lead to the goal, his strength and ability aerially showed why the change at the back was needed. His questionable skills might be his judgement on the ball and tendency to panic at the back.

Mainz was a huge blow however for the confidence of team. Čović was under intense pressure to get results and fast without any care as to how Hertha played in the next game… They had to win at any cost. Forget pretty football. 3 points was desperately needed.

But with everything going against them, it was difficult to feel any sense of achievement or any degree of confidence. It seemed that with every game, there was a new weakness that be to fixed in training… And Covic had apparently had enough.

Like the fans, Covic understood that this was an incredibly talented side with an array of talents. His job was to utilise these talents and take training to the pitch. In the first four games that hadn’t happened. And it was clearly affecting the teams confidence as well as testing Čović’s patience.

According to a report, during a training session following the Mainz defeat and Padeborn match , Covic had run a passing drill in which one of the two sides had been beaten heavily… And his reaction had shown that he was becoming harsher on his squad, running them rigorously through drills to get them up to scratch.

It was clear that whatever Covic wanted and whatever his ideas were, he wasn’t getting on the pitch from his players and it was time to start putting that to bed. The goal for the match against Paderborn was clear… Win at all costs.

Everyone wanted to see nicer football after the first game… Now they didn’t care.

Poor Paderborn, the promotion teams folly: Horrible game, better result.


The message was clear for Ante Covic. Win against Paderborn or you’ll probably lose your job come Saturday night.

That was unfortunately some feeling amongst some supporters who were already calling for his head. Many that weren’t, still had simmering doubts.

It perhaps wasn’t fair. Čović had only had 4 games to settle into the professional coaching role. The fact and perhaps an issue too, is that he is learning on the job, and therefore without experience, is still facing these defeats and victories and whatever is in between for the first time. He’s not used to this scrutiny or this pressure and he’s therefore not someone with the experience, for the players to always look to for answers.

That said, Covic is a man that adores his club and despite results deserves respect for his unquestionable commitment to Hertha BSC. His experience as a coach in general is vast. As a Profis coach he is still growing.

Fans were nervous and not at all optimistic going into the second home game of the season vs SC Paderborn.

Hertha were bottom only to Paderborn by goal difference. A win would take the Victor out of the relegation spots for now.

Padeborn are also an incredibly fast pace attacking side. Newly promoted, they couldn’t be taken lightly.

Players were also nervous it seemed. Where as Paderborn were expected to be in a relegation scrap from the get go, Hertha were not, much more was expected of them. There had to be a performance to match the intense training.

The team has been kept pretty much the same as the Mainz game. Only this time Javairo Dilrosun had been selected to start.

Once again captain Ibišević had been benched in favour of Davie Selke who It seemed Covic had put faith in to prove his worth.

Skjelbred was in midfield for Arne Maier and instead of Darida. Maier was revealed the next day to have sustained a knee injury keeping him out for at least two months. He’s expected back after the winter break. It doesn’t help matters that his presence is being noticeably missed.

The game began once again, tentatively. Both sides needed a win but the home fans were desperate to see victory when so much was expected of them.

It was down to a piece of individual brilliance from Dilrosun that saw the fight begin. Weaving past 4 Paderborn defenders into the box, he finished the job putting Hertha 1-0 up and it remained that way at the break.

But the overall performance was a tragedy to witness. A car crash in slow motion. Hertha in midfield were over place and looked completely lost. They were void of ideas against a side that were defensively poor. In such games, with Hertha’s squad, they should be dominating. But the statistics showed after the match that Hertha were outplayed.

Paderborn had over 60% possession, mostly in midfield, where the Hertha central line was totally missing. Duda’s small contribution first half saw him subbed off for Vladimir Darida at half time. He didn’t have a huge impact either but he was a slight improvement.

Selke however, did not improve. No creative ideas, straying offside and making no significant runs off the ball, he was eventually subbed off for Ibišević.

Hertha continued to lose the ball in the middle and rode their luck as Jarstein was forced to make to class saved and Boyata was forced to make a goal saving challenge.

Luckily, Dilrosun was focused on one thing… Increasing the lead. It was his run down the flank that lead to a cross and decent control from Marius Wolf that lead to a second goal.

Hertha hadn’t really deserved it but finally things were going well.

If you can play poorly and win, your luck might’ve changing.

But the ecstacy wouldn’t last long yet again. Less then two minutes after the restart, Padeborn scored when Plattenhardt was caught out and Stark failed to clear.

Hertha were again on the ropes and spent the rest of the game clinging on.

There were however, two goals ruled out for offside one of which VAR became the subject of criticism yet again.

Selke had recieved the ball, tried to go around the keeper and failed so hit it, straight at him. It rebounded out as far as Darida on the edge of the D, who struck it into the back of the net. When VAR reviewed it, the initial call came back as goal given by the video assistant. Cue confusion as every Hertha fan celebrated a goal, only to realise the referee hadn’t given a goal and had determined that Selke was offside in the build up. The VAR controller in Köln had pressed the wrong button in the monitor room.

Ridiculous example of how VAR can destroy a game. If they cannot even get that correct what decisions will they get right?

That said, Paderborn did constantly press for an equaliser and it was again, Boyata that denied them. Dropping into defensive midfield to assist Skjelbred his was a job well done. Along with Dilrosun he was man of the match in a poor display for Hertha.

They managed to cling on to the win but whether it was deserved can be disputed. Paderborn played some nice attacking football but lacked the finish. They had over half the possession and had 8 corners to Hertha’s 1.

Hertha may have not been at all convincing but they did display some good football at times. It was however the amount of spaces left in midfield that worried Hertha supporters after the game.

Normally a victory would ease the mind but this one caused more concern over the mindset of the team and the ability of the coach. The only stress reliever was perhaps that fact that Hertha were no longer bottom of the table.

A number of players interviewed post match, spoke about starting the season from this point. One word in particular was a common factor in their statements.. ‘confidence’.

The victory wasn’t pretty and even from the reaction of the players with the supporters in the Ostkurve after the game, it was evident that the confidence was only filtering through slowly… They knew they hadn’t played well.

Ante Covic and Michael Preetz knew it too. They addressed it in their post match presser. Čović could only reiterate the importance of working out weaknesses and improving in training, that and the fact that the three points were extremely important regardless of the performance.

That’s the point that he also apparently took a harder stance in training. The following week the training at Hanns Braun Straße apparently became increasingly intense with the players having little tiffs. Whilst it’s normal to have such encounters at training, it showed there was a new perspective to the approach.

You’ve shown you can win, now show you can play well and win.

It seemed the message paid off to a match against a very decent Köln. An away game again, not many expected what was about to happen.

Killer instinct leaves Köln in crisis: Ibisevic proves age means nothing


There wasnt too much optimism going into an away game in Köln. Despite being below Hertha in the table and having been trounced by Bayern the week before, they weren’t to be underestimated.

Köln had been reduced to 10 men against Bayern and had had a fair few chances. They had played some nice attacking football and hadn’t deserved to be so heavily defeated. The same story would occur against Berlin.

Hertha had trained hard. It was time to finally put the practice into a match situation.

Rekik has been well a truly replaced for the time being as Dedryck Boyata retained his spot. Ondrej Duda was replaced by Vladimir Dardia in midfield but Davie Selke as given another chance… It could prove to be his last.

Just as before, Hertha began with little possession and Jarstein was called into action early. It seemed to be the same old story. Hertha with little possession, inviting the opponent to attack them and counter attacking against a weak defence.

But slowly the cogs began to turn. Dilrosun was yet again, the key element as he picked up the ball from Darida and struck it sweetly from about 25 yards. Timo Horn didn’t stand chance.

But it wasn’t the goal that changed the game.

Firstly, Drexler sustained an injury for Köln and was forced off.

Following that An awful challenge by Köln defender Jorge Mere was firstly met by a yellow card. VAR intervened and revealed that the challenge that had managed to flip Darida over which could’ve already ended in disaster. But the challenge with studs exposed showed that he bent the Hertha players leg into a horrible position that could’ve easily ended with a broken bone.

The yellow was upgraded to a red and for a second week Köln were down to 10 men and this time deservedly so.

Hertha failed to initially capitalise, due on part of the poor form of Selke who’s frustration wasn’t just affecting the score but also the mentality of the side.

Going into half time 1-0 up Hertha had the perfect chance to put the game to bed whilst realising that Köln would desperately push for an equaliser.

It could’ve easily been 2-0 before break as Darida unfortunately hit the side netting from a tight angle.

Into the second half and Selke remained on the pitch for just 10 minutes before he was finally replaced by Vedad Ibišević.

It’s worth noting that of 2 of the 3 defeats and a poor game against Paderborn, Niklas Stark had captained the side. But the youngster clearly doesn’t have the same leadership influence as the 35 year old Bosnian and it was shown as Ibišević entered the field on Sunday.

Within moments of coming on, with a slice of luck when Wolf’s cross deflected to Klünter, Ibisevic pounced with his first touch. An easy tap in however it was movement off the ball that allowed him to make the connection to score. A much needed nose for goal and hunger for victory had shown why he was needed. His impact was immediate and not just with the goals but the attitude and the feeling of the game. When Ibišević came on the entire complexion of the game changed. The momentum shifted.

Within 4 minutes Ibišević struck again, once more he lost his defender an his spacial awareness allowed Hertha to go 3-0 up. Two goals in four minutes, Ibisevic had had the impact everyone wanted. Čović’s substitute decisions were perfect, he made the right changes at the perfect time. His decision to play Darida also paid off.

Despite playing against 10 men, which inevitably changes a game, and the teams approach to it, Köln did not give up. They hit the bar on the 75 minute mark. Hertha were not perfect but they were a hell of a lot better.

You could argue that it wasn’t a great opponent but Köln aren’t an easy one either. And to defeat them 4-0 is still a feat especially considering Hertha’s poor form.

To make the day even brighter, Dedryck Boyata, who had already given a perfectly solid defensive display, then scored from a Dodi Lukebakio corner having out muscled the defender and climbed to hammer it past Horn.

It was a far more convincing win compared to that of the Paderborn match especially taking into account that it was a difficult away game.

The starting line up was far better than the previous games, with the exception of Selke. It also showed Covic had the bravery to make decisions that ultimately changed the game and ensured the result.

Whether Covic will use Vedad Ibišević as an impact sub as he worked so well as one here, or whether he’s earned a starting spot is yet to be determined but it could be highly likely now that he is through giving Selke chances to redeem his poor performances. Despite giving his best, the striker is massively out of form and the coaches trust in him has not been repaid in 3 starting appearances. Where as Ibisevic has an assist to his name against Bayern and two goals, Selke has no goals and no assists. Perhaps it time to allow him, like Duda, a break to reflect and then return to the side better.
What’s clear is that for now, tj je fact the style suited the side better against Köln, Vladimir Darida deserves his starting position based on his performance, omitting Duda from the startelf. Vedad Ibišević has proven his doubters wrong with a brace and Dedryck Boyata has cemented his place in the side as a defensive rock pushing out Karim Rekik. All these changes have shown the building blocks of a more stable and settled side. It seems that finally there are some ideas of which direction the style and formation is going. Before the side seemed a bit clueless, now they have some direction to build upon. Skjelbred, Darida, Ibisevic and Boyata alongside Dilrosun made a huge difference against Köln, to the side we had seen a few weeks previously. It could be that finally it’s settled. But no one can determine the future anf as Covic said, no ones position is assured.

Hertha on the up? : a change in form or easy wins?


Will Hertha now slump against tougher ooppents? Who knows.

Despite having played against 10 men in Köln, there is something that can’t be denied.

Confidence in the teams ability is growing. Hertha should, in theory and on paper, be beating these teams. It’s taken a while and it’s still not perfect but it seems as though the balance is almost right and the stars are slowly starting to alleign.

Every thing will be tested in Berlin against Düsseldorf on Friday. Düsseldorf haven’t exactly had a flying start either, but they have faced some tough opponents. They are also a thorn in Hertha’s side.

A victory would be a huge matter. It would prove intent. A loss could send them back to square one. With hard fixtures in Bremen and then home to struggling Hoffenheim, for Ante Covic, it’s time to really step up… If he can’t, then who knows.

What’s a certainty is that he’s improved the team from the defeat to Wolfsburg. He’s learned alot in a short amount of time. The team is rebuilding, whether it withstands the season is something only time will tell. But Hertha shouldn’t be relegation candidates with this strong squad, one of the strongest in recent years.

Whether or not the victory in Köln is season changing is up for debate, but it is certainly a good starting block of which to build upon.

90 Minutes: It’s not just game, this isn’t just a club… this is my life. This is Berlin. My beloved Berlin.

Wir sind Hertha. Wir sind Berlin’

“Have you ever felt like nobody was there?
Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere?
Have you ever felt like you could disappear? Like you could fall and no one would care?…
Well let that lonely feeling wash away,
Maybe there’s a reason to believe you’ll be okay,
‘Cause when you don’t feel strong enough to stand… you can reach, reach out your hand.
Someone will come running and I know, they’ll take you home…”

If I was ever asked to describe my club and everything I associate with supporting it using the lyrics of a song, I’d think for a while… but ultimately there is one I would always come back to.
There’s a popular musical in the United States, soon to be making it’s away to UK, entitled ‘Dear Evan Hansen’. It’s the story of a young man that just struggles to belong, who struggles with what’s inside his own head and is searching for some means of acceptance whilst trying to make sense of the world around him, yet at the same time feeling utterly alone. Whilst the rest of the story isn’t necessarily as relatable, as Evan fabricates a like in order to popularise himself, the essence of his character is one that everyone, at some point in their lives, can relate too.
In that story, there’s a song… it’s called ‘”You Will be Found’. It’s a moment in the show where Evan is surrounded by people he barely knows, but of who are telling him he is NOT alone, that whenever you are feeling completely empty, broken or alone there is someone out there that cares, there is something that can pull you out of the darkest places you’ll find yourself in.
Even when the dark comes crashing through, when you need a friend to carry you, and when you’re broken on the ground, you will be found. So let the sun come streaming in cos you’ll reach up and you’ll rise again, if you only look around, you will be found.’

Lyrically, the song always reminds me of Berlin, more so of Hertha BSC.
It sounds totally over the top from a distance, I know.
It’s not clear or obvious from first glance just why. To link the two without understanding the personal background behind it, one could almost assume I was being a total sap, a soppy little fool who cares far too much about things that in the grand scheme of life, do not matter.
But the truth is, everyone who has been a low point in their lives that managed to claw their way back out of it, has a reason for that happening, whether it be a person, an event or something else… people invest their time into something that gives them sustenance, gives them life when they believed perhaps at one point they either didn’t have one or they didn’t one worth anything. This is our escapism.
For some its music, for some its theatre, for some it’s a little of everything and for me it’s Berlin. And this all shapes up because of experiences, the vast majority of them not exactly pleasant, an complicated heritage and a love of a sport shared with millions.
I could’ve chosen any club in Germany to support… once I established that German fans and their traditions were far more exciting, fun and meaningful than what the English equivalent had become over years of peeling away and disintegration, it could’ve so easy to give support to the likes of successful clubs like Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund… after all, I detest losing, and admittedly since childhood I’ve been a sore loser. But it had to mean more than that. It wasn’t Hertha BSC that grabbed my attention at first, but a more significant connect and bond with the city of Berlin. The tale begins with that moment… but the story of the ‘football girl’ begins way further back.

Football crazy: The family connection.

Most fans start of young. I was no exception to that.
Nor was I an exception to the fact most young football fans inherit their love of the game from their parents.
I may live in London now and have done for the past 6 years. I wouldn’t change anything about that, in fact I’d rather face a firing squad than be forced to move back to my hometown.
The place is so small it’d just drive me to the point of insanity now.
I wasn’t even born in my actual ‘home town’. Myself and my twin sister were born in Nottingham, only because the local hospitals were full… what a brilliant start to life that was, not even born and already not belonging anywhere.
The feeling of displacement and no sense of belonging was something that was going to haunt us throughout life.
We were raised in a small town in Northamptonshire, a little boring old market town called Wellingborough…where nothing much ever really happens, and probably never will.
In terms of footballing sides we had to pick and choose from, professional clubs were few and far between in the East Midlands. Our biggest club these days would ultimately have to be Leicester City, who brought huge pride to the region when they miraculously won the Premier League title.
Other than that we had the Northampton Town side, known as the Cobblers in League Two. Peterborough United were another side relatively close by, MK Dons were a side that no good soul was ever going to support considering the manner in which they were formed, and other than that we had very little to choose from.
Rugby was the sport that the area was more known for, with the Northampton Saints being a hugely successful club.
So what’s one to do instead?
Support the grass roots of course!
That’s exactly what me and my father started to do in 2004.
It all comes in the form of WTFC (Wellingborough Town Football Club), a tiny, non league side at the very bottom of the footballing pyramid in England.
In fact, Wellingborough town were known for something… they defeated Tottenham Hotspur in Spurs’ first ever FA match… but other than that? Not much to brag about.
Even at that lower level, clubs still struggle to run financially. It all depends on the efforts of the locals to keep the clubs afloat.
In the 1990’s, Wellingborough, know as the “Doughboys” from the traditional town food creation ‘Ock and dough’, were forced to fold entirely, having existed as a football club since the 1880’s.
Whilst it was a sad day for many of those that followed the team, in times where the club chairman was forced to play a game because the club couldn’t field a team otherwise, I was far too young at the time to be affected by it.
It was however, sad for my father, who had attended games at the ground known as the ‘Dog and Duck’ with his own dad, my Grandfather, since he was a child.
A tradition passed down, my dad was at one time, quite heavily involved with helping the club out, but over time, backed away and eventually WTFC was liquidated and ceased to exist.
Meanwhile, myself and my dad still enjoyed watching amateur football sides, there many of them around Northamptonshire. In fact, there was another club next door, who bore the name “Wellingborough Whitworths”, named after the “Whitworths” flour mill in the town. Sometimes we’d pop along to their matches, as well as Irchester FC and Raunds FC. Not once did we attend a professional game.

My father is the type of man that dislikes travelling and refuses to pay the ridiculous amounts money professional clubs in England now request for tickets. Instead, we’d watch all the highlights on Saturday night via the show “Match of the Day”, share thoughts and have a laugh about the game.
In short, football was the one thing myself and my Dad did together on a regular basis for years. Over time that changed, he became more involved in other activities and I grew up, whilst we parted a little on football we were stilled bonded over the sport as well as NFL.

In 2004, Wellingborough Town FC, began to slowly reestablish itself as the towns sporting team.
What began as a youth project, eventually developed into something more as the youth prodigies of the town gained more success and were rewarded by being formed as a ‘First Team’ rather than a competing youth side.
The first game of the season in Northamptonshire’s ‘United Counties League Division One’ attracted a large crowd for that level… in fact over the course of the next three years WTFC would be setting a few recorded for football attendances of the level they were playing at. The average attendance for lower level non league football here is around 70-100 at best.
During that first season, Wellingborough town were attracting crowds of over 500, on Christmas day, in a derby against Whitworths, over 1000 spectators were present.
The team was also marvellous to watch. A group of young lads who were just playing for fun on their weekends, not being paid any extensive amounts of money, just there to enjoy it. It was a group of ordinary guys, one was a builder, one was a decorator, and our keeper was my secondary school form tutor and PE teacher.
But the fans of the club were fantastic during those first few seasons, they were loud, fun, they were part of the atmosphere that really was unheard of at this level.
During their inaugural season back in the ‘UCL’, Wellingborough town lost only one game and were promoted as runners up to the United Counties Leagues Premier Division. They also reached the final of and won the local trophy “The Junior Cup”, where the final was played at Northampton Town’s stadium ‘Six fields’.

Always home: Wellingborough Town FC was my first ever experience as a football fan. Stay local, support your local club’

In the second season, the first after promotion, a new manager arrived, new players arrived and the wages increased a little, which wasn’t uncommon. The support for the team remained the same, even for away matches in which supporters were taken by coaches along with the players. Several of the new players that were introduced had already had professional experience with the outside “Rushden and Diamonds”. In fact striker Darren Collins were their all time top scorer. The new player manager had also come from the Diamonds.
Unfortunately, Wellingborough missed out on promotion to the ‘Southern League Division One’ because of an obscure rule in the promotion playbook. It wasn’t just UCL teams that could be promoted to the division, because the bracket of teams competing in the Southern League covered more ground than the local divisions such as the UCL. WTFC finished third, but missed out as another third placed club in a different division… from there however it all seemed to go down hill.
During the next season the team weren’t performing quite a consistently, the manager parted ways despite being well liked, and with him several of the players exited as well. When a new manager was brought in, it was clear his intention was to win games at literally any cost. The fans of the clubs often attended supporters club meetings to discuss the running of the club, me and my dad were a part of this set up too. The new manager was due to attend one of these but failed to show up. Along with that the demand for wage increases became greater, the new players brought in were not only failing to perform on the pitch but looked as though they just didn’t care anymore.
At which point the new manager was sacked for lack of decent results and with him about half the team left as well… and the club was beginning to struggle yet again financially as it had struggled to pay the players what they requested.
At this point, myself and my dad began to wonder “Is there any point in being here anymore?”
The prices for tickets to matches went up massively. You’re now expected to pay £5-7 for a home game, in a division where the standard is in contrast to some professional leagues that charge the same price, poor. The entire running of the club became toxic, luckily for us we managed to avert the implosion of the club before it took place.
What we have loved about the non league grass roots experience was that we as supporters had made it what we wanted it to be, but now it was following the same ridged path as professional clubs had in England, focused on money and success and struggling to keep those that given the club life in the first place i.e the supporters, involved.
In the end, we just stopped going… the same was happening to other non league clubs as well. The game in England had just become one massive money pot. It was not what me and my dad wanted to see any more.
That didn’t stop me from being involved in football.
As a child my dad had never given his support to any particular professional outside, although he had told me that he owned a Manchester United Shirt as a child and admired the likes of George Best whilst growing up.
Growing up in a town with no professional club, instead being forced to get my fill of football from the Sky Box, I chose Manchester United as my team to follow.
Unlike those born in London, I had no affiliation to any professional local sides and whilst Manchester was not anywhere near close to where we lived, it was watching the likes of Ole Solskjaer, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, watching the 1999 European Cup final comeback against Bayern that really attracted me to them as a club. There was a philosophy at Man Utd… just give it everything you’ve got.

‘Back where you started : Me at Old Trafford, incidentally wearing a Hertha cap’

It was an era too before money took over. The majority of the 90’s Utd team were products of the youth setup there and their talented was crafted by Sir Alex Ferguson. It was that set up that made me love United for what they were, a success off their own hard work and backs.
Whilst football would change over the years especially in England, my own love for the game and those fundamental values, wouldn’t. But the love for German football and Hertha BSC would spawn from something other than just the values of football I grew up with.

Mental Health: The impact of a difficult upbringing

Hertha is unbeatable’: Hertha BSC create a choreo against FC Bayern München

Everyone goes through rough patches in their life and everyone’s life is difficult. I am no exception.
Some feel sorry for themselves, some develop difficulties and find themselves in dark places they can’t pull themselves out of and some eventually manage to discover something that just enables the light to shine through.
Not a single person on the planet can truthfully say they have had zero problems with mental health in their life. Some more than others, some worst than others, some diagnosed with issues and some that just struggle to process what’s happening around them. Half the time world doesn’t make sense, it would inhuman if anyone were able to go through life unscathed until the day they pass away.

And so, this is where my own story get’s a tad…emotional.
I don’t like pity, and I certainly don’t feel sorry for myself. What would be the point in that?
I wasn’t exactly an ‘easy child’ to deal with for my parents. I had major issues with hyperactivity, but that wasn’t the most difficult thing the family had to contend with.
My mother was diagnosed with a deadly disease, PVL (Periventricular Leukomalacia) along with Cerebral Palsy when she was a child. She was told she would not make it past 18 years old and that having children would be impossible. Well that clearly was false because my sister and I were born. Both diseases affect the brain and motor skills, and the affects of having two kids only made matters worse.
When we were just 5 years old, my sister and I were told (By our father who was informed by doctors), that ‘Mum only has 3 years to live’.
You can imagine the trauma that causes a 5 year old child.
But I always appreciated the honesty, rather than trying to hide the fact she was severely unwell.
Strangely, almost 18 years later, she’s still here… things aren’t perfect, the disease and her reaction to it has been something my sister and I have had to witness and gradually worsen over the course of a decade. This was just one factor though that made our upbringing difficult.
Over the years, especially when I moved to London, I began to hear stories from my sister about how difficult her home life with my parents was becoming. There were times that I began to blame myself for ‘abandoning’ her and putting my mother in this position because I was ‘the mistake’.
My sister and I were twins, in my head that meant that one of us was an ‘accident’, me being the youngster, to me it made sense that was to be me, and I began to blame myself for my mothers illness, believing that had I not been born, she’d never have become this unwell in the first place.
That sort of thought stems from depression, or at least depressive spells over time. It’s what happens when you have a rough life up until the age of about 18.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Our extended family didn’t make matters any better either, they were continuously at loggerheads with my mother, my fathers mother, our Grandmother, was constantly making any sort of normal family relationship difficult.
Something else happened when we were kids as well that had an impact. Someone we believed we could trust and treated like our own family, someone who we believed cared about my mum, attempted to break up the family entirely, and to make matters worse, attacked me and my sister… only when we, these two 8 year old kids, told someone, we weren’t believed.
Accompanied with the fact that we were easy targets in school as well, you can imagine things only got worse and worse, one thing after another.
Our Grandfather was born in Banja Luka, what is now modern day Bosnia and Herzegovina, but what was back then Yugoslavia. He had survived Nazi persecution and fought fascism as part of the Partisan movement. In 1948 he fled Yugoslavia and was given a choice… move to Germany or England.
He chose the latter, married and had four children.
But with him he had brought his foreign surname.
No one else in the school at the time had a name like it, this was long before the EU immigration debate began, before there was as many Poles living in the UK as there are now. It was extremely easy for other children to point at us and laugh, I recall being told to ‘Go back to your own country you dirty immigrant’ and ‘You don’t even belong here’ a number of times and when I finally reacted, I was the one that got into trouble for it.

Remember your heritage: My sister and I in Banja Luka, Bosnia, where our grandfather was born and lived until WWII

Teachers witnessed physical and verbal bullying and yet chose to just sit there and do nothing about it.
The mental impact of this sort of thing over a number of years can do and did indescribable damage, to ones self esteem, to ones self belief.
I was made to feel for almost a decade that I did not belong in my own country. I was a ‘tom boy’, the girl that liked guy stuff. The girl that liked sports and rock music, I was the ‘freak’, the ugly duckling, I was made to feel like I belonged absolutely nowhere and made to feel ashamed of my Grandfather, who, unbeknown to those that mocked our family roots, was part of the reason that they today, were free to do as they please, a man that had ensured the Nazis had no been victorious in Europe.
It took me almost a decade to feel a sense of pride in not being 100% British, it took learning slowly that this was their problem not mine, to understand that they were in the wrong…because if you’re made to feel a certain way or told something repeatedly for years, you actually begin to believe it.
Whilst I found some sustenance and release in music, learning to play 4 instruments and attending college where I actually began to made sense of the world, making friends that appreciated me for who I was, half the damage was already done.
There were times whilst still living at home with my parents where I would wander around the town in the dark at night time, coming to a bridge over the local rail tracks, standing there for minutes just for a split second wondering if jumping would be the easiest solution. The psychological damage was already done, it took substantial amounts of effort to walk home and then get up the next day.

It had been one thing after another after another, negative after negative, only after leavings school did things begin to look up but by this point both myself and my parents knew something wasn’t right.
My behaviour at certain points could not be deemed ‘normal’.
I was able to remember and recall certain events and information of importance to me, not to anyone else, in extensive detail. There were times I was able to memorise entire speeches or event details, pieces of history ect and no one could explain why. But there was also a problem with my hyperactivity. I found switching off difficult, sleeping was hard, my brain was often overpowered with information and I had a nasty explosive temper.
I found it difficult to stop talking and couldn’t bear it when a room was silent, I was always active and couldn’t stop, and along with that I had anxiety that was at some points, making me very unwell.
Doctors eventually established that I had ADHD, but there was anomaly on their test results regarding one significant factor that doesn’t appear in ADHD… ie the ability to remember things in detail. Instead this was a factor of ASD, Autistic Spectrum disorder, along with ADHD, it explained a lot about my behaviour but also personality. People would automatically just assume I was a chatty and loud person by default but the truth of the matter was I actually can’t help it, it’s a learned behaviour, a developmental disorder that is always present but often has a trigger…

Music, life, football: music was the initial escapism from ordinary life

It means we develop little obsessions, as means of a coping mechanism to the complicated world around us. It can also lead to complications later in the life, explaining depressive spells and the anxiety, difficulty communicating what we truly feel and saying sometimes what we don’t mean.
It explained the obsession with music, with football, we often look for things to invest our time in to get away from the overpowering information inside our own heads. It can be a blessing and a burden though. The blessing is that we can analyse things in microscopic detail and notice everything around us, incredibly observant. The burden? We notice everything around us and I mean everything. Even when we don’t want to see it.
The problem for me was that I still felt trapped at home and needed an escape out of that town in order to truly feel free.
I moved to London 2014, attended university studying aviation, another area of interest for me growing up. I’d always wanted to work in an airport, no idea why but it just fascinated me. 4 years in London, it gave me the opportunity to live in a city where you could start over, be anyone, a totally multicultural metropolis where your family nationality didn’t matter, but there were still points where I could feel that intolerance of foreigners creep up. London wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t a totally clean slate.
Just prior to moving down London however, was the moment everything would take a different shape… 2013, Columbiahalle, Platz der Luftbrucke, Berlin…

Finding purpose: Berlin 2013/14

Erste mal: My first time in Berlin was for a concert

In 2013, myself and a few friends were thrilled to learn out favourite band were going to be coming over to Europe for a tour… the problem? They were only performing at Download Festival in the UK and all independent venues were across the pond in Europe.
So what’s one to do? Simple… head overseas.
We discussed a few shows we could make, one was Amsterdam in the Netherlands, the other easiest option? Berlin.
It was also perfect for us, we had dozens of friends scattered across Germany and Austria who loved this band was much as we did. It would be a gathering of friends, a chance to have fun together in another country.
So we planned and planned and eventually managed to find the time, the funds to book flights to Berlin, tickets to see 3 Doors Down at the Columbiahalle and a hotel. Myself and two friends travelled together, the others met us over in Berlin.
The problem here was that we were there for so little time that we barely saw any of the city beyond the area of Tempelhof at Platz der Luftbrucke, where the concert venue was situated.
Whilst it was interesting to look at Tempelhof Flughafen and the old Airlift, we never had time to venture into central Berlin in that short time we stayed there.
The concert itself was fantastic, we met a handful of Berliners of whom we got along with incredibly well, the Berliners were welcoming to us and friendly and the only issue we had was a mixup with the S Bahn tickets not covering ABC for our trip back to Schonefeld the next day, which luckily we managed to scrape out of thanks for a kindhearted police officer.
It was a brief trip. It wasn’t my only trip planned in that period of time. The following month my sister and I travelled to Krakow for a summer break to explore the medieval city as well as history. We visited Auschwitz and the Schindler factory whilst there, in what is a life changing experience. But this does eventually play a role in my return to Berlin, as odd as it sounds right now.
That was our first trip abroad without the accompaniment of our parents. It gave me the bug for travelling whenever the opportunity arose.
About a year later, with the funds to travel in the summer, I wanted to return to Krakow because we had adored the city whilst there and I had inadvertently pledged to our Polish taxi driver whilst there that I’d return and visit the Salt Mine, something we missed out the first time round.
I was literally within seconds of booking my flights, one click away on the Ryanair website and then something struck me… I stopped and pressed cancel.
I turned to my mum who sat behind me and said ‘You know what, I want to go to Poland in the winter… I think, I’ll go Berlin. I didn’t get to see it properly last time’.
So the search started again, flights to Berlin instead.
What I didn’t realise until later, was that the dates I’d booked to be in Berlin, were right slap bang in the middle of the 2014 World Cup.
In fact the day I arrived was the day Germany were playing Algeria in the last 16 knock out round.

Fan Meile: Germany took on Algeria and thousands watched at the Brandenburger Tor

And this is where the realisation of the difference between English and German football begin.
June 2014, I arrived in sunny Berlin just before mid afternoon and ended up walking around Treptower Park, purely our of curiosity. I’d purchased the away strip Germany shirt at Luton Airport and had read up on the fanmeile before arriving. I knew exactly what I wanted to be doing in the evening.
I was totally alone. No family, no friends just me. Whilst there were other English speakers around the city, I was for once, totally free to do what I wanted, whenever I wanted.
Around the time I made it back from Treptower park, I realised it was time to make my way to the Brandenburger Tor to the famous ‘fan mile’.
It didn’t go exactly to plan, I found myself with some Americans and we pretty much stuck to each other like glue throughout the entire evening, just to ensure we didn’t get lost.
But the S Bahn Station at Brandburger Tor was closed, meaning we ended up following the crowd to Potsdamer Platz and walking a good mile before reaching the screen at the Brandenburg Gate, in that time becoming drenched as we were caught in a downpour but… the hundreds of thousands of German football fans all there for one huge party.
We weren’t scowled at or looked down on just because we weren’t German. In fact we were openly welcomed to join the party by the German contingent, who despite being plastered were not the typical aggressive footballing drunks like we have the England.
Instead, the alcohol seemed to make the more mellow.
The 2-1 victory against Algeria and the party that followed was the perfect way to begin this summer trip the capital of Germany but my love of the Berliners started from the moment I actually got lost on the U Bahn.
The line I desperately needed to get back to my hotel, at gone 1am, was closed for the night. I had never used the bus systems in Berlin and at this point my German skills were less than acceptable.
So I ended up wandering around Alexanderplatz completely alone for about 30 minutes trying not to panic, eventually finding a bus stop where people were gather.
A young lady, a local, immediately offered to help me find my way, I didn’t even have to ask. She and a handful of young football fans from the fanmeile escorted me onto the bus, and then ensured I made it back safely to where I was staying, without their help I’d have been completely lost.
On that journey one of lads asked me why I was wearing a Germany shirt. I just told calmly told me “I love it over here, I love your football culture”…
All before the beginning of Hertha BSC.

Three days I was in Berlin, just exploring the city, taking a number of walking tours with guides around the place, absorbing information about this fascinating city and its turbulent history. What struck a chord in me the most was that after so much turmoil, the Berliners had come together to ultimately fight for the city that they wanted. No matter how many problems came their way, the Berliners kept going and going. Once divided now united, the same could be said of their biggest football club Hertha BSC, who’s fans stand together like a wall, who’s team has a turbulent history like the city.
When it came time to leave Berlin in 2014, I didn’t want to go. There was still so much more I wanted to do there, more to see, parts of the outer city I’d had yet to explore, and what’s more there was something I wanted to do that I ran out of time to cross off the list.
The last evening I spent in Berlin in 2014, I travelled towards Charlottenburg. There was one, very significant place in the city I had yet to see on my trip… history ridden, old and now one of the magnificent sports arenas in the world.
The sun was setting when I finally reached the Olympiastadion, the sun was on the horizon, just about to fade turning the day into night. It gave the stadium this wonderful backdrop, it just looked so glorious, peaceful. The Olympic rings were captured so perfectly in the sunset and I was just stunned by this remarkable piece of architecture. The most frustrating part of this little detour out of the city centre, was that it was 9:30pm by the time I reached the Oly, the place was closed to visitors for the evening and so I didn’t have the chance to explore inside the stadium.
I just left the Olympiaplatz thinking to myself ‘I HAVE to see a game inside that place. I have to experience that’.
It didn’t cross my mind that Hertha BSC were the tenants of the Olympiastadion at the time. My brain was filled with the world cup instead, so my mind was set on the Nationalmannschaft. In fact, I knew very little about Germany’s clubs until I returned home.

Love at first sight: The first ever photo I took of the most beautiful stadion in the world. The Berliner Olympiastadion

It was actually my dad that drew my attention to Berlins football clubs. He’d heard rumours about this ‘incredible atmosphere’ in comparison to what English games had become.
My first experience with actually watching a professional game live, came about because I’d moved to London. I managed to get to a game at Wembley, to watch England play San Marino. In the space of four years at University, I also managed to see my beloved Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Nothing would even come close in comparison to my experience at the Olympiastadion.
When I returned home from Berlin, just a few months before leaving home to attend university, the world cup was in continuation. Germany were the eventual victors, my dad and I watched the destruction of Brazil together. I recall at one point, as Germany’s 4th goal went in, turning to him and whimpering ‘This has to stop. This is horrible to watch’.
I had wanted Germany to beat Brazil, I hadn’t wanted Brazil to be embarrassed like that. It shocked everyone in my house watching it.
I have no idea how the conversation arose but I remember my dad was listening to my stories about my trip to Berlin. He knew immediately that I’d grown this connection with the city, I couldn’t stop praising the Berliners and speaking positively of the place.
He asked me whether I’d heard about how different football was in Germany, because he had heard that German domestic football had this wild reputation for being loud, exciting and far more inclusive of the supporters and fans than top flight English football had.
He then asked if I’d heard about Berlin’s two clubs, Hertha and Union.
I had heard the names, I just hadn’t done my research yet. I started to look into the clubs right away… I was fascinated by what I found.
What drew me away from Union, which is usually the first port of call for fans outside Berlin looking for an exciting experience with a club of so called ‘traditions’, was the fact the club seemed to constantly be riding that wave of ‘Look what we’ve made, we’re so important. We never win anything, poor poor us’.
Whilst Union’s history is interesting in regards to how they saved themselves ie the ‘Bleed for Union’ campaign, and the fact their stadium is 80% all standing, what acted as a deterrent for me was the fact this was used by some people as a means of ‘Oneupmanship’ and from my perspective Union was not a club inclusive of fans from all over Berlin, merely a large section of support from the district of Köpenick. Very few Union fans seemed to be from further afield.
Hertha on the other hand was the complete opposite. Shrouded in controversy as many clubs are throughout their history, Hertha fans were all over the city even when it was divided. Fans from the east would attempt to get their fix of blue and white by listening out for crowd reactions on match day, by standing near the wall. When the wall eventually fell, Hertha fans from the East were free to see their beloved team play.
Hertha fans, like Union, were passionate but Hertha fans were particularly passionate about their city, taking great pride in it.
What made Hertha however, all the more fascinating, was their lack of success.
There was nothing to pinpoint why anyone would support them. They didn’t have the booster cushion that Union have in the claims that they had created something unique blah blah blah. They also hadn’t seen success in domestic football in the early 1930’s. Champions League spells were the closest the club had ever really come to being a successful German side and then it was all disrupted by the financial disaster that struck resulting in the loss of several key players and relegation. The relegation battles between the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 were consistent. Up then down then up again, there was no level of consistency, Hertha were always on the edge of danger…
And that is what made the club so interesting.
Hertha may not have found success but that was the entire point. Watching a club that is so unpredictable, even now after a period of 3 seasons of stability and no relegation worries, including Europa League football, is still far better than watching a team that wins everything every season like Bayern Munich.
What’s more, the fans of Hertha BSC stick by their club no matter difficult things can be on the pitch. Whether it’s relegation or European spots in sight, the Hertha faithful make their way to the Olympiastadion every few weeks and sing… and sing… and sing…something we would never see here in England.
That atmosphere is impossible to replicate, but what made Hertha my choice was that the club was inexplicably linked with the history of the city. Berlin was divided, it fixed itself, it tried to heal and the Berliners kept fighting no matter what curve balls were thrown their way. Hertha replicated this attitude, that philosophy is woven through the fabrics of the club.
‘It’s okay if we fail, it’s ok if we fall, so long as we don’t remain on the ground and do everything to pick ourselves up again’.
I recall being at home one evening, I was trawling through YouTube videos of Hertha fans in the Ostkurve. It was watching these clips that attracted me to being a Hertha fan in the first place. I was just totally immersed in this totally crazy experience, this totally different world of football, that we’d never seen in England.
My mum was sitting next to me at the time, she was curious too.
I was watching a video of the Einlauflied.
I remember turning to her and telling her ‘Mum this is so amazing. Listen. This song, it’s to the tune of ‘Sailing’ by Rod Stewart, but its called ‘Nur nach Hause’.
She watched it too, she couldn’t believe how loud these supporters were. She was laughing at the supporters jumping in the Ostkurve, referring to them as ‘Jumping beans’. The only qualm she had was that it was possibly unsafe for me there, as football hooliganism isn’t exactly a thing of the past across the world.
She didn’t need to worry. As she was to learn later, I would be very well looked after by the Hertha fans.

From 2014 I began to follow Hertha, watching them on TV. On my days off Uni, my weekends, I’d watch Hertha BSC. At a time were Jos Luhukay was still in charge after the promotion from Bundesliga 2, I joined the Hertha world at a time of desperation.
The first game I actually recall being hugely frustrated about was the 2-2 draw with Werder Bremen at the Olympiastadion, in which Hertha had been 2-0 up. From then it was all down hill, Hertha were in a relegation scrap and I was stuck with flatmates laughing at me for supporting a club on the brink of yet another relegation.
More fool them.
I started supporting Hertha at an equally exciting time. The sacking of Luhukay meant the appointment of Pal Dardai, a man who’s still around today.
I watched as Hertha’s fighting spirit became evident, they managed to, by the skin of their teeth, survive relegation by finishing above Hamburg on goal difference.

This is what I loved about the game. The gritty battle, the fight, the fact you could be given a heart attack by the frights your own team give you. Accompanied with an adoration for the city and its people, Hertha just became my club.

Finding Hertha: September 2015… everything changes and nothing changes

Finding home: My first time standing in the Ostkurve

I had just moved to University when I decided that enough was enough. No more delays.
I’d been watching Hertha for over a year and never had the confidence to travel to Berlin again, alone to a game was just out of the question. But not, I was alone anyway. Away from parents, mingling with new people, making new friends, in a city I loved in London… It was time to try the Bundesliga experience for myself.
The only issue I had was that Hertha had a home game, on my Birthday…. against FC Koln.
My birthday just happened to be the first day of returning to University. It was far too risky to not attend, so the date was pushed back to the weekend prior to that game.
Hertha vs VfB Stuttgart.
Ticket for the Oberring.
Totally alone and with a bag full of my stuff… my flight home was immediately after the end of the game. That’s a mistake I haven’t made since.
I did however, finally have the chance to visit the Olympiastadion and explore the stadium in all its glory. Standing in the Ostkurve the day a game, knowing that the place would be bouncing not before long, it was unreal.
But the understanding of being in an arena where I knew absolutely nobody and where I wasn’t familiar with the language, it was frightening, especially for someone with high anxiety.
Whilst I’d taught myself the odd German word, a few football related words such a ‘Tor’ and ‘Unglaublich’, and learned the Hertha hymne, I still wasn’t any sort of expert on German, I wasn’t at all sure of how other around me would react if they found out I wasn’t a Berlin but I was still mixing it amongst the truest of Hertha fans around the Oberring Ostkurve.
Turns out, I didn’t need to be worried about that. I was wearing blue and white, that’s all that mattered in the end. I could’ve been from mars and had green polka dots on my face, so long as I was there singing and supporting Hertha, the fans were never going to treat me like an outsider. That’s part of what made the experience the final piece of the puzzle… this was going to be my team for the rest of my life now.
That game against Stuttgart couldn’t have gone any better either. We had a team that at the time, could take on the world. There was no expectation from Dardai’s men in 2015/16 other than trying to survive relegation. No one expected a 7th place finish and a DFB Pokal semi final.
No club is predictable either so early in the season.
For the first time, I sang with the Hertha fans ‘Nur Nach Hause’. It was one of the greatest feelings of release and unity one can experience in the sport.
The atmosphere was like nothing I’d ever experienced, not even a concert atmosphere was this buzzing. Then the game begins.
1-0 up after a fantastic turn by Genki Haraguchi in the box, was cut out by Toni Sunjic who equalised for Stuttgart after some horrendous defending in the box.
But it wasn’t long until Hertha were back on top. Just before half time, from nowhere, after Marvin Plattenhardt’s free kick was initially cleared, Fabian Lustenberger smashed the ball into the top corner from outside the box on the volley.
And that’s how it stayed.
The first taste of the Bundesliga and it was clear to me why people had spoken to highly of German football and its atmosphere.
Not for a single moment did the fans below us in the Ostkurve, stop singing. 90 minutes, with 20 minutes pre match and 10 minutes post, the noise was constant. I left the Olympaistadion with my ears ringing, and unfortunately in a rush to get to the trains to catch the S-Bahn to Schonefeld to leave.
When I arrived at the Schonefeld Flughafen, an elderly gentle, an airport cleaner approached me, glancing at me in all my Hertha gear, full on with scarf, shirt and baseball cap.
“Hertha? Die Endstand bitte?” (“Hertha? What was the final score?”) he asks.
“Zwei zu Eins!” (Two to one!)
“Fur?” (For?)
“Zwei zu eins fur Hertha!” (Two to one for Hertha!)
The gentleman just beamed, he smiled so wide as he began to return to his job.
“Ahhaaaa! sehr schon!” (Ahaaaa very good!)

Meine Hertha: the ostkurve below

It was that sort of encounter that made me realise very quickly the despite a lack of success in terms of trophies, people in this city lived and breathed and loved football, more importantly they loved club and they were not afraid to show it.
Every corner, of the north, south and west and even the east (or former east) of Berlin is decorated with blue and white stickers from various fan groups across the Hertha fanbase. Each group makes their mark on their territory but the truth is they are painting the city blau weiss.
After that first match in Berlin, there is no question… Hertha fan created, heart stamped with the mark of the ships flags.
And it was time to return only this time, it would be with newfound friends,

Since that first game I have never returned to a Hertha game and watch it alone.
Though social media can be a harsh world it has opened up huge avenues to allow people to communicate. That’s inevitably how my relationship with the Berliners began. I began to speak those who had grown up with Hertha, those who had been born and raised in Berlin, many of whom had seen the fall of the wall, and the rise and fall of their beloved team… even down to rock bottom in the Dritte Liga.
I cannot remember how I came to know all these incredible people but the Hertha fan base grows every single day. In fact Twitter is how I met the vast majority of my friends in Berlin now, including one of my best friends of which I now attend every game with.
But it was also the kindness and openness, the acceptance of these (to begin with) total strangers, that still fascinates me.
If I was asked a question about what my background was, there was no malice behind it like there had been when I was a child in school, where I was taunted for it.
Instead there was genuine curiosity about this girl from England who loved football but hadn’t been attracted to the success of other German clubs like Bayern Munich… this kid who loved Hertha BSC, who was not a Berliner but for some reason, loved this club.
I like the fear of not knowing how games and the season will pan out, the unpredictability of Hertha, but whats more, I love the passion of the Berlin faithful who make their way to the Olympiastadion every few weeks to cheer on their team no matter what, in total unity and unison for just a few hours.

Hertha family: Hertha UK at a friendly against Crystal Palace

No matter what is happening in your life outside those walls, for just 100 minutes on a Saturday, is immaterial. You are there with strangers who may believe politically something totally opposite to you, with people you may on any other day, absolutely despise for their attitude to life ect but for just those beautiful 100 or so minutes, they are brothers and sisters, in blue and white, singing their heart out for the same reason as you. You are not greater or smaller than anyone. You simply are one of the thousands, one of the thousands of voices, singing for what you love.
There is no other feeling like that, to know you are actually part of the game. That sense of unity is indescribable.

The beauty of not winning: Hertha times 23 and counting

Anything is possible: Hertha beating Bayern München is possibly the greatest moment of my life

You can easily be accused of glory supporting when you tell people that your English club is Manchester United… but having grown up in a place without a professional side, the temptation to support a club in which you enjoy the style of play and admire the philosophy, the mindset of the management, is too great.
There has to be of course, some connection there. For me it was simply to the sort of football we were being treated to. I enjoyed what was happening on and off the pitch and many of those players during the 2000’s had come up through the ranks of the United Academy, they were born and bred locals and that was something intriguing to me.
Whilst United were wealthy, had the cash to purchase (and they did so too), watching the likes of Scholes, Giggs and the Neville brothers was far more interesting. The manner in which they became professionals was far more inspiring than some of the success stories that were coming out of the ever growing money pit of the English Premier league.

But part of the excitement of the Premier League is that there is a top 5 or 6, a collective group of contenders for the title every season.
Even when United and Chelsea had their day, there was still a race.
Sadly the same cannot be said of Germany.
Despite the fantastic atmosphere’s the fill the terraces of German clubs, the story season after season is usually the same… Bayern Munich are champions, a no one, not even Bayern it seems anymore, actually care.
The focus goes towards racing for the European spots in the Champions League and Europa League instead and the battle for relegation.
Bayern gather momentum during the summer through transfers that only a handful of other German clubs can actually afford and then poach from other German teams too, cherry picking the best of the Bundesliga for the following season.
What makes this tactic so unfair, isn’t just that they are weakening potential rivals, but that even that sign players from relegation threatened clubs, it ensures that no other team in Germany can strengthen themselves either, and they can’t afford to pay for top players from abroad.
Hertha BSC are worth around 173 million Euros… Bayern are worth over 800 Million. The cost comparison is almost laughable.

What it does mean however, is that balance in Hertha results is always totally unpredictable. Since the Pal Dardai tenure began, the club has been steady, finishing in 7th, 8th and 10th, The season Dardai took over, he (just about) saved the club from relegation, on goal difference alone meaning Hamburg would be in the relegation playoff and Hertha were safe.
His rebuild work began the following season, with a 7th place finish and a DFB Pokal semi final.
But the results were still completely unpredictable, probably more so now than before he took over as manager.
At least before, Hertha fans fully expected to lose games.
Now however, there are certain fixtures that fans believe they should easily be winning, with the strength and quality that is now in the side.
But that also leaves Hertha fans at a loss as to what to expect. There is far more hope and optimism than a few years ago for certain but there is always without a shadow of a doubt, that tiny niggling feeling that something will go wrong.

The Dardai era ended when it was clear that had he continued, the development would’ve remained in stasis where it was. He could do no more than he already had. He had done a monumental task, he had stabilised the club. We were not longer relegation candidates. He has given us victory over Bayern, he had done everything. But it was time to move forward with new style which was where Ante Čović came in.

That’s part of what makes Hertha far more exciting to watch than Bayern or even Dortmund.
No one ever knows which Hertha they are going to get.
The other with flair, the one that plays exciting attacking football… or the one that defends for 90 minutes desperately trying to carve out a draw.
There are moments of brilliance, and moments of pure tragedy when it comes to watching Hertha.
It is exactly that which makes the team interesting.
Going into every game expecting to win, being used to victory as Bayern are, creates a dull atmosphere and makes the victories that are hard fought far exceedingly unexciting, boring and empty. Winning becomes a chore not the reward for hard work… who wants to pay to see that? It’s like paying for a movie you’ve seen 18 times in a row, knowing the outcome… it becomes tedious and boring.
The atmosphere at the Allianz arena notably suffers from it.
Years ago Bayern’s Sudkurve was rocking… these days barely even half of the space is moving. The decibel level in the stadium barely rises, even after a goal it remains the same as during the match, and Bayern fans become upset if they don’t win. The media makes it out to be a total disgrace as it the world is falling apart.
A loss for Hertha in the German papers is not met with such shock… like the club itself, it just moves on.
Turn the tide and see Bayern lose to Hertha and the world starts to take notice. The media outlets begin to whisper about a Hertha that could go on to challenge for titles… only for a few weeks later the be writing up a story about how they’ve lost their last few games and are back where they started.
Results such as the 2-0 victory over Bayern, is testament to the turbulent club that Hertha is. Since that victory, results haven’t come so easily but it’ll remain a treasured memory for eternity for the supporters. It meant more to the Hertha fans than any victory for Bayern could mean to any of their supporters, because they are simply not used to fighting clubs that are basically considered a band of Gods, unbeatable.

What it means for fans of clubs other than Bayern and Dortmund, is the feeling of walking directly into the unknown every match day. No one knows what the next 90 minutes holds and anything is possible.
For the likes Bremen, Hertha, Wolfsburg, Leverkusen, Augsburg, Köln and others, those clubs not really seen as especially threatening, every game for the players is a fight… for the fans every game is one that is there to be won OR lost. It makes your heart jump into your throat at some points throughout the day, but that’s part of the fun. It’s no always about quality on the pitch, it’s about determination, playing your heart out, and learning from mistakes if you lose.
Fans do not expect to win games, what they expect to see if their team give their best, leaving everything on the pitch. That is beauty of not always winning.
When you constantly win, even when playing badly, you don’t learn.
When you lose, you take time to review what went wrong both on and off the pitch, with the tactics and sometimes even the attitudes if certain individuals, and have time to rectify it before the next attempt the following week.
Winning all the time… is boring.
Being totally up in the air, is a thrill ride that can either end with tears of joy… or tears of heartbreak.
The beauty of not always winning, is also that beyond the game, the fans still support the team they love… even in desperate times. Through relegation, through defeats, even through off the pitch tragedy. Sometimes not winning, can be just as important, it forces one to reconsider what matters, which is not always the game itself, rather what the game does for those involved with it, such a creating friendships, new relationships, people finding a sense of purpose, easing the pain of their every day lives just for a few hours.
For Hertha, winning is not the primary focus, although the fans enjoy victory just as anyone would… instead the most important thing is that the fans see the team give their best, and at the same time, the fans give their absolute most in their support.

Bayern have the ‘Mia san Mia’ philosophy, ‘We are who we are’…

Hertha’s is slightly different. We know what we are, we know what can be, what is possible and what inevitably just ‘is’. We know what we are.

And amazingly, we are content with it. A Herthaner in London for the friendly against Crystal Palace, spoke to me and his exactly words were, when I asked him about qualifying for Europe?

‘I don’t care about Europe. All I care about is that my beloved Hertha do their best and that we don’t get relegated. We celebrate the games, the season but if we finish middle of the table then it’s OK.’

But like it or lot, there are changes coming to Berlin. Hertha seem to this season, have an ambition. They are looking to Europe. Perhaps they have finally started realising their potential, and stopped being ashamed of having that ambition.

The beauty isn’t winning, it’s the way that you play.

The greater moments as a Hertha fan come when the team gives everything on the pitch even if the outcome is not the desired as one. When however, your side doesn’t win and they deserved three points, it becomes ‘typical Hertha’.

That’s a Berlin thing. Shrug your shoulders after a draw or loss, or a last minute equaliser, it’s ‘typical Hertha’.

In 2017, Hertha played Bayern at the Olympiastadion. There had been a terrible rough patch just before that game. Every Hertha fan expected as horrible defeat. But we were still there to support.


20 minutes into the match, Vedad Ibišević latched on to a Marvin Plattenhardt free kick. It flew past Manuel Neuer. But we now all believed that we would just lose 5-1…


It remained 1-0 until half time and kept going. On and on. 50 minutes, 60 minutes, 70 then 8o then 90…we were starting believe this was possible. My friend and I were still standing, hands over mouths, biting our nails, until the four official held up the added Time board.

5 minutes.

He knew. He slouched into his seat.

I tried to remain optimistic but in my heart of hearts, I knew too.

95 minutes comes and passes. But the referee is still playing. Everyone in blue and white is asking ‘why?’ We have the ball then suddenly Bayern do. They get a free kick near the corner flag. Even Neuer comes down for it. The time is 97 minutes played. The game should’ve been over. The game WOULD have been over had it been any other club but Bayern. 97th minute, ball is played across goal, Robben hits it. The ball hits Maximilian Mittelstädt on the line. Any harder it would’ve bounced, by out and away any softer and it would’ve been cleared. But it bounced straight out to Robert Lewandowski. 97th minute and Hertha has been screaming for the game to be over. But referees are seemingly obliged to give Bayern more time.

When the goal went in and the whistle sounded for full time, I was fuming. I wanted to wrap my hand around the throat of anyone in red. I felt we had been robbed in a game we deserved to win. And about 50,000 other Hertha fans felt the same.

It took a long time to accept and realise that we had In fact, prevented Bayern from winning, which in ordinary circumstances would have something to celebrate. This case took along time to get over.

Until that joyous Friday night in late September 2018. After the heartache of 2017, the 2-0 deserved victory was one of the greatest moments for means many Hertha fans too. But having experienced first hand that pain of the 97th minute equaliser, this victory drew tears from me. Because it proved that no matter what the world thinks of you, no matter the challenge, no matter how difficult it looks, no matter whether you’ve got the world against you, anything is possible. You can do anything if you believe it.

The darkest place: A moment realisation in a time of desperation

Nur nach hause, geh’n wir nicht: Singing Hertha’s beautiful anthem, with 50,000 Berliners.

This is the part where the ‘why Hertha?’ question for me, is answered.

I do not want people’s pity. It is one thing in life that I cannot stand is anyone feeling sorry for me.
Whenever I reveal the extent of my own personal and mental health issues, that is the response I’ve unfortunately received.
Everyone on the planet suffers. Whether it be a break up, family problems, illness, or just finding life exceptionally hard sometimes, everyone has moments that just wish they’d fade away into the night and never return.
For some people, those emotions become too much to handle, there is an internal war taking place in their head and every waking moment is a fight.
Heartbreaking but true, some do not make it through those dark moments.

My parents knew there was something ‘not quite right’ with me as a child.
I was incredibly hyperactive, could never keep still or concentrate and was always loud, but at a young age it’s mainly mistaken for just being a pain in the backside and being a ‘naughty child’.
When those symptoms do not disappear however, there is concern that grows in parents that these signs are not only still present but also changing and progressing.
For me, I was always hyperactive but I began to grow obsessions with little things, I was able to memorise certain things, but other things would go ‘in one ear and out the other’. Subjects I didn’t enjoy in school I’d ultimately fail in, subjects I took an interest in were excelled in.
It took almost 18 years for them discover what exactly was causing this strange behaviour. I’d have random outbursts, both hyperactivity and anger.
School was a harsh world for me, I was an easy target for bullies, who would constantly pick me out for whatever reason they pleased. Whether it be because I had a foreign background or because I was tomboy or because I was just too scared to fight back. Being told I could ‘help it, didn’t make matters any better either.
That sort of suffering takes it toll internally. All those hyperactive symptoms begin to turn inwards and become internal. Instead of aggressive outbursts, the feelings become somewhat darker.
I was diagnosed with ADHD at 18 but there was an anomaly on their data. The one symptom that majorly did not correspond with ADHD was the ability to memorise certain subjects of interest to the person in question.
That characteristic was part of ASD (Autistic spectrum disorder).
The spectrum is vast, extremely wide. Some people are higher up it than others. Many are high functioning and have poor social skills. Mine is different. My brain is like a combination of a pressure cooker and a sponge. It can easily boil over by absorbs everything even when I don’t want it too. The information overloads.
I have certain aspects of it combined with ADHD, meaning my reception to certain situations socially is not always considered ‘correct’.
I often say or do the wrong thing at the wrong time without meaning to.
But I don’t have difficulty with talking… in fact I find it difficult to stop.
What accompanies this disorder are a number of complications and features of other mental health problems, such as a sense of displacement, anxiety attacks and spells of depression… it can lead to extremely dark places.

I was offered medication to prevent my hyperactivity… I refused. I asked the doctors to provide me with talking therapy instead to help with my anxiety. There had to be an outlet for the energy that I couldn’t expend.

They took so long to fix up any appointment that by the time it came round to it, the mental health clinic in my hometown had closed. There was no funding for it… so all these emotions, feelings, problems accumulating had almost zero output.
For a long time music had become my saving grace… but once college was over after 3 years that became difficult too.
It was still there, it was still something I was able to put my focus and attention on, but it wasn’t main focus anymore.
Instead I went university, studying aviation… another obsession of mine… and for a while I believed that was my new focus.
But the imbalance of information processing in my head became too much.
People on the spectrum find too much information so difficult to process that this is where the ‘other complications’ kick in, in other words the anxiety and depressive spells.
Whilst at university, it was required on the course to take a years work placement within the aviation industry. It didn’t matter exactly where within the airport that was. I’d moved down to Brentford where the University was situated and notably the closest airport happened to the UK’s largest hub, one of the busiest in the world, at Heathrow.
It could be assumed that it is therefore easy to access jobs there… but for the airport itself it’s incredibly difficult.
I now work as a security officer at the airport, employed by Heathrow directly, but that sort of employment takes months of training and the process was almost 6 months collectively.
We as students, especially those that had moved to London specifically to study therefore didn’t have the know-how of the city as well as those that have lived here their entire lives do, were given little to no help in finding a placement by the University… in other words it was all down to the student themselves, and the majority of us, including me, trying to balance that out with the assignments already given to us, were left with very little time to do so…
I did manage to find one, unfortunately for me it was in retail.
My interest was in the aviation sector itself, not selling products at exaggerated prices to the public who clearly didn’t want it.
But that’s what I ended up doing just to tide me over the placement year and this is where things got difficult.
The job was early hours 3 days on and off. Whilst working you were required to do a University portfolio, which at the end of long days of waking up at 3am, no one is in their right mind to do so.
But the job itself, whilst I loved the environment of Heathrow, was stressful. The demand from management was ridiculous and the early morning shifts were draining me so badly that I actually become unwell.
This was only made worse by the company I was working for who then called me in to speak with the for absences, when it was ultimately their fault that I’d become sick in the first place due to exhaustion.
With all this, balancing it with University demands which kept increasing, with them constantly pestering all students for their work, most of whom hadn’t completed their hours required, along with already crippling anxiety over time, led almost to a total break down.
Depressive spells are one thing. I’d had them as a teenager whilst still in the East Midlands. Moments of standing on bridges overlooking the local railways station in the dark just wondering what it might be like to jump. It’s natural to feel that isolated when everything just seems to be going wrong with no escape.
And it was only flashes of that, nothing ever got too much…
But this has. One never likes to admit they’ve considered suicide. But you have to face it. It is no shame. I was closer to the edge than ever before I my life. My brain was about to implode.
I was on the verge of giving up, quitting University all together, leaving this job I found myself stuck in and going home or just running away.
The only place I was ever going on my planned holidays away from work… was Berlin.

Shocked: someone didn’t wait for me to pose! We must’ve won a game!

The only place I was flying to on those annual leave breaks, was Berlin… the only thing I was doing there, was going to watch Hertha.
It very quickly became a countdown upon return from Berlin, to the next time I’d be back there.
I even recall changing a preplanned holiday by a few weeks, begging the company to let me do so because of ‘Unforeseen circumstances with family’, so I could attend the DFB Pokal Halbfinale against Dortmund… right at the beginning of my time in the job.
But after nearly 11 months there and so close to this assignment due date, everything began to close in. It was nearly impossible to even breath.
3am wake up calls, exhausted from work, no time to write the set portfolio and rushing to get it done along with everything else going wrong and becoming physically stressed and unwell, I was on the verge of total collapse.
It was extremely fortunate that one of my breaks had come at around that time.

I don’t remember who Hertha were even playing, my guess would be Hoffenheim. I remember that we lost the game I was at.
But at the moment in time, I couldn’t leave work fast enough. The last day before that trip, I was sprinting out the door as fast as my little legs could take me.
Stansted at 6am? Didn’t matter I was shattered, I was getting out of this place.
I remember getting to the stop on the S-Bahn, near the hotel I almost always stay in whilst in Berlin and walking around with this sense of familiarity. As if I had once lived here and I’d come home.
From the moment I’d stepped onto the train at Schonefeld, I was free, like a bird from a cage that was screaming in agony for a means of escape.

I don’t recall the game at all. If it was the home match vs Hoffenheim which Hertha lost 3-1, which saw Maximillian Mittelstadt sent off and Peter Pekarik scoring, then the result didn’t matter.
What I do recall however, is being inside the Olympiastadion for the first time in months. It had been at least 4 months since my last Hertha game before it. It was an evening kick off, it wasn’t freezing but it wasn’t particularly warm either.
And here I was, scarf held high, just like the thousands of Berliners either side and behind and in front…
There was this decisive moment that night. It came about during ‘Nur Nach Hause’.
It didn’t hit me until later, but during the rendition that night, I’d been in tears whilst singing the song,
In fact, whilst no one had noticed around me, I’d almost totally broken down inside during Hertha’s hymne.
After it was over, I could barely breathe, I was trying to hide what was happening. I did remarkably well to do so, no one seemed to notice.
And the game ended in a loss but it didn’t matter.
From that moment, whatever had been hanging over me, that darkness, was gone. It had melted away. I didn’t feel stress, pain, hurt, confusion, cloudy…. nothing.
I had been completely cleansed, pulled up from one of the darkest points in my life.
I had never been at such a low point. I had never wanted to just give up so badly on everything.
And then suddenly, it was gone.

I returned to London feeling completely different. I buckled down, finished my work, completed the placement and left the company and found instead a job I loved… which for the rest of my University career, was ironically at football stadiums working with supporters.
Whilst I still get to low points, none have ever been as difficult to hoist myself out of as that one.
But three days in Berlin, 90 minutes surrounded by all these people, all these incredible people filled with hope and optimism and love for their city and team and friends who don’t even realise they’re part of the solution, and it was therapy. Hertha Berlin had become a type of therapy.

It may be that because I spent most of my time as a child and teenager, never really fitting in, always feeling like I just didn’t belong, that there was bound to be something that would come along and ease tightening around ones emotions.
I moved to London to escape that difficult upbringing, I ran away from it and sometimes believe that it may have been cowardly to do so… but even then, whilst I love London with all my heart, something was still missing here.

I came to Berlin for an adventure, to learn about history, to just explore… I didn’t realise I was going to find something that I didn’t even know I was looking for.
There was judgement, no displacement, no fear of standing out… in Berlin I was welcomed and in Berlin, I could be anyone that I wanted to be.
There is a saying at Hertha this season “In Berlin you can be anything”…
It’s true.
I came to this city not looking for anything at all, and left in 2014 having found one of the most important things in my life. With a club spanning 125 years, came this amazing group of people, people who would become friends. A philosophy that met with my own way of thinking ‘No matter how much you suffer, just don’t give up. If you give up you’ve already lost’
This incredible city had suffered throughout the years and yet somehow had always come through and so had it’s citizens. The Berliners were strong, they never gave up on what they fought for and Hertha, despite falling so many times, was the same… a club that never gave up, that fought for what they had.
I was standing in the Olympiastadion and it doesn’t matter that I am not German… I could be from the moon for all anyone cares.
For, if I am standing in blue and white, I belong.
In Berlin I was not just a nobody… I belonged. We all belong.
At the one time in my life where I was stuck, trapped in the dark, Hertha BSC became this light that pulled me out of that place… and kept me out.
Every trip to Berlin for me is a precious event.
Football is 90 minutes long (most of the time)… what comes before and after it is far more than just a game.
Even now, if I feel myself slipping back into that hole, there’s always someone connected to Hertha that can snap me out of that trance.

I have always thought about it like this however.
If someone to ask me, what has been asked to many football fans, “Would you die for your club?” I would ask “Do you mean would I give my life for this club”?
And if so, I would pause for a moment and consider and eventually answer
“Yes… because this team and this city, ensured that I have a life to give them”.

Even now, despite being in a better place mentally, there are days life is increasingly difficult to deal with. Wait keeps be going on those days, is the thought that in a few weeks I will be back in Berlin , surrounded by the best people in the city that accepts and takes you in. I count the days until I return.

Berlin became my solace long ago. It wasn’t just football but a instant connection with the city. I have never felt more free than when I walk the streets of Berlin.
Hertha BSC is Berlin, it captures the city perfectly.
Football is a passion.
But the two combined, is perfection… Hertha is Berlin. And Berlin, is engraved on my heart.

The Balkan connection: The pride of having Ibišević, Čović and Grujić

Vedo Hero: It its not a hidden fact that Vedad Ibišević has been my favorite player for years. The Bosnian made my 25th birthday a special once after meeting him at training that day.

So my surname is not British… I however, am.
I was born and raised in the UK as were both my parents. It was my fathers father however that passed down his name to myself and my sister.
The history of what is now Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro Macedonia, Kosovo, ect is beyond complicated.
My Grandfather was born in what was then Yugoslavia. In the city of Banja Luka, which is now modern day Bosnia… however Banja Luka is in the Serb region of Bosnia, the Republika Srpska.
Bosnia has two governments, two entities but is one country. Many in the Serb Republic want the country to be separated from Bosnia.
The way it works is that in Yugoslavia there were three main ethnic groups based on religion. Bosnian Bosniaks were Muslim, Serbs were Orthdox and Croats were Catholic.
In Yugoslavia the country was made up of the different states, named Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia ect, which became independent nations when the war took place in the 90s.
My Grandfather was an Orthodox Christian born in Bosnia. But at the time these divisions didn’t really surface, all Yugoslavs were just Yugoslavian.
When WWII began and the Nazis invaded Yugoslavia, he was just around 15 when he joined the Partisans in fighting against them as they aimed the massacre the inferior “Slavic race”.
He survived and in 1948, was given the option to flee Yugoslavia as it became a republic.
He’d seen horrors during the war, it’s understandable that he wanted a new start.
Germany and England were his options… he chose the UK.
Whilst the rest is history, he never returned to Yugoslavia, despite the fact his surviving family had remained there.
My father told me he and his brother had visited our cousins in the 1970’s, recalling that Yugoslavia was a ‘beautiful country with wonderfully hospitable people’…
But then Tito died…and the war came.

Nobody knows what happened to our family in the Balkans. We had family in Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia. No one knows whether they remained there during the war, whether they survived, but our Grandfather never heard from his brother after the war. They simply disappeared… in 1992, the year before my sister and I were born.
We never had the opportunity to meet our aunts, uncles or cousins and now, we’ve no means of tracking them down.
So many were murdered, so many were killed in shelling during the Bosnian war that it’s impossible to even know where to start. We lost family that we never even knew.
Meanwhile my Grandfather never shared his political opinion on the war. Instead he was forced the British media news outlets every evening with updates about how his country was being torn apart… whilst he could do nothing about it.

I can’t even begin to imagine how that feels.
Regardless of whatever he may have thought, my own personal opinion is based on facts… such as that Srebrenica was a genocide and must be acknowledged as so.
I was raised in a far more tolerant world than that of my parents in regards to race and sexuality. Whether a human being is a Muslim or a Christian is totally irrelevant to me… they are still a human being.
Having suffered a degree of racism myself, it angers me more than anything to see it happening to others. The hatred towards Muslims in today’s world frightens me more because of knowledge of what such hatred and intolerance can lead to, as shown in Bosnian war.
What also made baring this Yugo surname more difficult for myself and my sister was that because of the intolerance amongst our classmates at a time the EU was opening up and more Eastern Europeans were coming to the UK to work, we were an easy target for their hate.
It got to a point where we were made to feel ashamed, so ashamed that my parents considered changing our surnames legally to avoid any more taunting.
In fact, at a local job centre, my sister was once told to change her surname, because employees were look more favourably on British surnames on a job application.
That was the final straw.
We’d had enough.
It took almost 15 years for us to become proud of that background.
When my Grandfather passed away, we wept at his funeral, a traditional Orthodox funeral, and then realised that we were not ashamed and should never be made to feel so. He had fought the Nazis, something to be proud of. But his homeland had suffered more than many could possibly understand and is still to this day rebuilding.

Bring this into the context of the modern day and it is difficult to find Bosnians, Serbs and Croats that find success.

Always welcome: Upon meeting Marko Grujic last season, I told him that no matter what, he would always be welcome in Berlin. Oddly enough, he has stayed this season too, on loan from Liverpool

In football, the Balkan nations still have very little in the way of resources in comparison to other more wealthy nations, because of the fall out of the war.
Take a look at the most successful footballers from the three major Balkan nations and the vast majority of them grew up in warzones.
Now considered the worlds best footballer, Luka Modric of Croatia, played football on concrete as a child whilst trying to avoid shelling in his village.
Nemanja Matic of Manchester United explained that he refused to wear a poppy on remembrance day because the British had been complicit in the bombing of Belgrade in the 90’s, in which he was trapped, a scared little boy.
Dejan Lovren of Liverpool spoke about his experiences as a young boy, fleeing Croatia and running to Germany where he found refuge with his Grandfather… but still terrified they’d be sent back to Croatia which they inevitably were after years in Germany. Lovren didn’t speak Croatian and was haunted by the war, saying that the situation in Yugoslavia changed like the flick of a switch, one moment everyone was getting along and the next moment they were killing each other.
But the most tragic of stories mainly come from Bosnia.
Edin Dzeko is the only member of the Bosnian national team to have stayed in the Bosnian capital during the war. He survived the entire siege of Sarajevo, and forged a football career after the war ended.
It is remarkable that out of such suffering, these men are providing such joy to the fans of their clubs.

It’s also massively important to those with a connection and affiliation to the Balkan’s, to see the representatives of those nations, become a success.
Success stories from the Balkan’s are so rare because the resources just aren’t there still. The football leagues in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia are notably lower in standard compared to the Premier League… but seeing players from those regions that had been devastated by war find success in the best leagues in the world provides a lot of pride in being from the region and having ones roots there.
Vedad Ibisevic rarely, if ever, speaks about his escape from Bosnia.
He survived the war, and his family escaped to Switzerland and then the United States. It’s where his career began. But the story for Vedo really took off in Germany.
Having failed at PSG to make an impact, he moved to Aachen, then Hoffenheim, then Stuttgart and then Hertha BSC where he became captain of the club in his second season.
Ibisevic faced a lot of trials along the way, but he persevered over the doubters to become on the Bundesliga’s more recognisable figures. What’s more he represented Bosnia at their first ever world cup and scored their first goal at the finals against none other than Argentina.
People in Bosnia are immensely proud of their ‘Vedator’. His dedication and passion for the game and love of his country display what is likable about him, but what he does is make those with a connection to the region, proud of their heritage.
For us, watching players like Ibisevic fills us with hope, pride and love. It’s a special feeling to watch them play especially as they represent the club you love.
Alongside Vedad this season, is another Balkan boy in the form of Marko Grujic.
A lot younger than his Bosnian captain, Grujic has represented Serbia at international level but isn’t old enough to have experienced the war… therefore, there should never be the assumption that a Bosnian and a Serb cannot be friends.
Football can be political, but only should be if it’s spreading a message of decency, such as anti violence, anti racism or tolerance and remembering events like the war, sacrifice ect.
Football should not be about politics that are not clear. Tolerance and anti racism are not political matters, they are humane matters.
The Balkan’s conflict is so hugely complex with so many factors that many just do no understand, that those politics have no place in football.
Unfortunately in the Balkan nations themselves, this message is not understood. Meetings between rival nations have ended in disaster in spite of the fact that most of the time the players have tried to remain professional… the exception being the Serbia vs Albania drone incident.
What’s wonderful about Vedad Ibisevic and Marko Grujic being in Hertha’s ranks this season is that, despite being from two nations that the outside world could assume, should despise each other, Vedo and Marko are from two different generations, and have no case of politics, they are professional but most importantly they are human beings.
Grujic has comments numerous times on how Ibisevic helped him settle at Hertha, one factor to note was that it was made easier as they both speak the same language (Bosnian and Serbian are classed as two languages but do actually sound audibly the same).
He’s also commented on the fact that Ibisevic is a leader and true captain and the respect they have for one another.
For us with knowledge of the past history of the Balkan’s, seeing this is a beautiful sight. It has happened before at Manchester City with Kolarov and Dzeko but to see it at your own club is wonderful. To see representatives of your families nations brings about a sense of pride, especially since we have the veteran in Ibisevic, and the young talent emerging in Grujic.
For me, I don’t see myself as Bosnian, Serb or Croat, but instead Yugoslav. We had family all three of those nations, and for me, it strikes a chord to see these lads representing the nations on the pitch, it’s always a special moment… and just makes one even more proud to be part Balkan.

The season anew: Here we go again

Welcome to the big time: my first Hertha season as a member and season ticket holder.

This will be my 5th season visiting the Olympiastadion for the reason of watching Hertha BSC.

It will be my 6th year of visiting the German capital however it’ll be my first ever season at Hertha as a full paying member and season ticket holder.

The season, regardless of any results or the type of season the club may endure, will be a special one anyway.

Of the 17 home league games I currently plan to attend 14. The only reason behind skipping three matches was that my work annual leave doesn’t cover the amount of days required to attend all the games and the fixtures haven’t been set for the entire season, instead they’re confirmed about 6 weeks in advance.

It means that as soon as the fixtures were announced I had to book Friday to Monday as leave, despite the fact I may not need all four days. The only way to plan it out was to discard those unneeded dates when the next set of fixtures are released, or to ask for ‘shift swaps’, in other words, swapping my day at work, for someone rest day, and in return I work their day on my rest day.

It’s a tough get around but either way some of the dates look improbable. I had to select 3 games to miss.

So far it is Augsburg, Mainz and Hoffenheim, all of which are weekends that something is happening in the outside world. For instance, East Sunday or the end of half term.

It may be possible to get around it but the games fall right in the middle of the day’s at work. To add to that, a yearly refresher to approaching at work and failure means losing my job anyway. That hopefully won’t happen.

The games that were an absolute must were naturally, the Berlin derby in March, Bayern in January and Dortmund in late November to early December.

After half a decade of coming to Berlin to support the team, it important to now at least become a member of the club. The season ticket idea came about once qualifying for my job since the idea was affordable.

It’s a special feeling, and it’s taken a long time but here we are.

There’s a sense of optimism in the air this season, despite the opener being in Munich against Bayern on the Friday evening. Bayern haven’t really changed where as Hertha are unexpected, they can’t be cracked because their system hasnt been made obvious or anaylised even by the clubs own fans. But facing the record champions anyway isn’t going to be easy.

Personally, whatever the result, the season truly begins the following week at home against Wolfsburg. Despite it being a Sunday game, it’s the chance to fully open up to the new system and coach.

Hertha have a new look squad with old and new names, Bayern however seem very much the same. No game changers.

The optimism comes from the fact that Hertha want to have a brand new approach. Attacking football, no fear in doing so and no fear of new things. But the defence is unpredictable as well. Its a mixed feeling but as always in Berlin the impossible only exists if you believe it does. There are no expectations going into the first game. The expectations begin against Wolfsburg.

Being able to have the chance to be a part of the season, more games than I’ve ever been to before, is something that is special to me personally. It is not any sort of achievement but rather something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and finally, have been awarded the chance to try it.

And we can only hope as fans of the club, that we see a team that gives nothing but their best through the entire season.

That’s all we ask!

Bang bang boom!

The hardest task:There is no shame in losing in Munich… Except we didn’t

To add there, that the game against Bayern München on opening day, seemed to have been a blessing in disguise.

Not only did Hertha avoid losing the match, which the bookies had against odds the entire 90 Minutes despite the score, but Hertha BSC, the underdogs, managed to to go 2-1 up.

A bit of lax defending from Maximilian Mittelstädt allowed Robert Lewandowski to pounce early, and it looked as though it was the same old Bundesliga… But

Not longer after, Bayern’s ‘nemisis’ as he was called, Dodi Lukabakio, in his first appearance for the club, fired a long range shot that smashed into the back of Vedad Ibišević and flew last Manuel Neuer.

Whether it was going in, wide or striking the post and whether Neuer would’ve gotten to it had it not been deflected is questionable, we will never know the answer, but Lukabakio remains in Bayern’s nightmares as he scored a hattrick against them in Munich last season for Fortuna Düsseldorf in a 3-3 draw.

That said, Bayern were still favorites to score again but only moments later a breakaway and work by Ibišević allowed him to lay the ball off to Marko Grujic, who had huge amounts of work to do still against Pavard. Work he die. Grujic controlled the ball and slotted it past Neuer for an unexpected lead of 2-1.

Hertha fans going wild, everyone asking what the hell is happening and Grujic collapsed to the ground immediately after celebrating scoring. No one had noticed that on his run through, that he had classed heads with Benjamin Pavard. Pavard had stopped running by Grujic, full of adrenaline, had not.

That would be an excuse used later for the goal along with the claim of offside, which if looked into, shows that Ibisevic was level with the defenders and Grujic certainly wasn’t offside.

Now Hertha had a lead to defend and defend they did, until Grujic perhaps felt the effects of concussion clouding his judgement in the second half when it came to defending Lewandowski.

Grujic would also bare scars from the battle. He brandished a horrendously deep purple shiner following the game. Thankfully a black eye can heal rather quickly.

Ouch: Marko Grujic suffered a nasty black eye whilst scoring against Bayern.

The courage and determination of the this seasons team to not lose the match was plain to see. The defence that had looked frail Preseason, stood firm against an onslaught of Bayern attacks. We’re talking about the beer team in the country here.

Whilst Grujic was the savior by scoring the goal to put Hertha ahead, his inexperience showed in his off the ball manhandling of Robert Lewandowski, who had already tried multiple times in the first half to con the referee. It was just foolish of him to react in such a manner which conceded the penalty that ultimately ensured the game was a draw. But the defence managed to stand firm and ensure the game wasn’t lost either.

In fact Coman and Lewandowski’s battle with Lukas Klünter, who stood out as Hertha pick of defenders, was the most entertaining part of the match.

Crying wolf: Robert Lewandowski went down under several fair challenges from Lukas Klünter.

But the entire mentality of a mid table team fighting for something greater showed here massively.

Hertha were always expected to lose, therefore they had nothing to lose by trying everything they could. Whilst luck plays a role as well, there’s no deny that the fearlessness of the Hertha team, enabled them to score and then hold on.

The belief that anything is possible even when on paper it doesn’t seem like it, may be a belief that Hertha have to carry this season. For once there are certain expectations of the team, to perform well. They have an ambition, to reach Europe. The fact it exists provides a new outlook for Hertha this season. They can afford players and they’ve shown that they can compete with champions on their own patch.

The draw certainly was met well by Bayern ‘fans’ who expected an easy opening day victory as they had the last 11 seasons. Things are changing. Bayern are rocky and Hertha are looking forwards.

This attitude is nothing but positive and provides a good outlook. Had Hertha lost then the season would’ve truly started against Wolfsburg, the first home game of the new season. The result in Munich however has shown massive potential in the squad and although expectations are changing slightly Hertha fans remain level headed about the changes that may come on the pitch and the table.

This is the beauty of Hertha BSC… The fans are realistic and known exactly what can happen but despite that always stand behind the team no matter what.

It wad their support, a huge trek on a Friday night to Munich, that boosted the team to do as well as they did. When they made the error and conceded, they did not let their heads drop, as was seen sometimes last season. Instead they kept pushing. The fans, in that top corner of the Allianz, pushed them too.

The fans of the away side are purposefully placed in the worst section of the arena at Bayern, a tactic to silence the away support.

Sadly for Bayern though, their home support is so lax, so quiet, that that small segment of away fans is the only thing you can hear still.

This is what makes Hertha special. The doubters doubted, the fans in Munich believed. They sang until the end, and despite not winning the game, didn’t care. Scoring twice in Munich is an achievement and to come away from there, first game of the season, with at least one point, ja something we could’ve only dreamed of.

Hertha fans are a rare breed.

Unlike Union, they do not gain recognition for the amazing things they do achieve on around match days, but Hertha fans have no need for fame or cult status. Instead they’ve got something better… A city that comes together, every region, on match day, and celebrates that city. Hertha isn’t a ‘cult club’ and it doesn’t need to be, or just needs to be proud it be itself… A lesson they have taught many, including myself.

What my newfound friends in Berlin may not realise is that both the club and they, the fans, the people, my friend’s, are the ones that get me through the dark days, the thought of Berlin, Hertha, gets me through my days at work. I owe alot, perhaps even my life, to them…

There is no shame in being you.

In Berlin kannst du alles sein auch Herthaner

In Berlin you can be anything

Even Herthaner

In Berlin kannst du alles sein auch Ausländer

In Berlin you can be anything even a foreigner

In Berlin kannst du alles sein auch….

In Berlin you can be any thing.

Even…? Anything, anybody… You are you. And Berlin will always welcome you home.


Welcome to the Ruckrunde…hooray…

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‘He scores when he wants’: Ondrej Duda now has 9 for the season

It’s that time of year again, where the agonising wait for the winter pause to end is over and the Bundesliga returns to its full glory.
Sometimes with a bang, sometimes with a yawn, the opening fixtures of the Ruckrunde can be exciting times since clubs return to the open stage with new incentives. They now know where they stand for the season…
Relegation dog fight,
European challengers,
Title chasers….
Every club has something to fight for. Their standards and goals are set, the second half of the season is the moment to begin again, in particular for those teams struggling at the foot of the table.
The likes of Nurnberg, Hannover and Stuttgart can use the winter pause to pinpoint what exactly has gone askew with their season.
For Hertha BSC the focus of the extended winter break was purely to ensure that almost an entire starting elevens worth of players were at least 3/4 of their way onto a full recovery before the season restarts.
11 players either injured or unavailable meant scraping the barrel for the last two or three games of Hinrunde, it also meant just 1 point from a possible 9, which was completely the opposite to what Pal Dardai wanted.
During that 6 weeks, the likes of Bayern and Dortmund jetted off to the sun, halfway across the planet to train and prepare for the next half of the season.
Hertha did not. Instead the team remained at home, training in the sub zero degree temperatures in Berlin, a useful tool to help prepare for the fact the first few games of the next round are going to be played in minus Celsius… training in the desert doesn’t prepare anyone for that. Berlin braved the cold instead, playing a handful of training matches whilst pushing for the likes of Marko Grujic, Niklas Stark and Karim Rekik to regain their full fitness.
But it worked. Hertha returned to some sort of action in the friendly tournament “Telekom Cup”hosted by Fortuna Dusseldorf… where they lost both games to Dusseldorf and to Monchengladbach.
It wasn’t a case of playing badly, it was a case of ‘this team haven’t played in match conditions alongside one another for almost 3 months’, and it showed.
Friendlies out of the way, they returned to Bundesliga action away from home in the reverse fixture list for the Ruckrunde… beginning with lowly Nurnberg who themselves now have to focus purely on what’s above them, fighting for their lives at the very foot of the table.
No. With fresh minds, teams in  the bottom half are far more dangerous when coming into the Ruckrunde than people realise. Their ambitions and goals are set, their minds are focused and they’re prepared to give everything and anything for survival. Stuttgart showed that sort of fight pre Christmas break and Nurnberg were not going to be any different, they were not going to make it easy.

Auswarts Challenge: Destination Nurnberg

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Captain Fantastic: Ibisevic scores the first and assists one in Nurnberg

Games against bottom clubs are not easy and no one should ever walk into them believing they’ll walk away the victor. No game is easy, no game is hard. You have to take it as it comes.
Stuttgart had already taken advantage of the frailties in Hertha’s injury stricken defence at the tailend of the Hinrunde. Now, FC Nurnberg were refreshed after the winter break just as the Berliners were, but “Der Klub” have much bigger problems than just injuries.
Rooted to the bottom of the table, Nurnberg had suffered monstrous defeats at the hands of Borussia Dortmund (7-0) and RB Leipzig (6-0) in the first half of the season, but showed glimmers of class in their draw against Frankfurt and downing Fortuna Dusseldorf 3-0.
But rock bottom clubs are in that position for a reason, and Nurnberg were never going to be pushovers, especially since now the players were motivated to turn their season around starting with Hertha.
The Berliners were not without worries themselves. Draws to Augsburg and Hoffenheim and then losses to Leverkusen and struggling Stuttgart away from home as well as a disastrous performance against Dusseldorf resulting in a red card and 4-1 loss, Hertha had managed prise themselves up the table due to other results and victories at home over Frankfurt as well as sinking lowly Hannover in the Hinrunde.
Over the duration of the latter stages of the first half of the season, Hertha had an almighty battle to field a strongest 11 on the field, almost as many players that could start were also on the injury list.
Marko Grujic, a key playmaker in central midfield, injured yet again after the horror tackle he suffered in the 4-2 home win against Borusssia Monchengladbach, was one of the most noticeable losses in a key role. Along with Grujic, there were injury problems for Karim Rekik, Niklas Stark, Jordan Torunarigha, Derrick Luckassen, Lukas Klunter, Javairo Dilrosun, Mathew Leckie, Salomon Kalou as well as U23 options Julius Kade and Marius Gersbeck. With several vital defensive players missing, Hertha were forced to field a team not experienced with playing together and with players in makeshift positions. The aim was to make it to Christmas without losing anyone else to injury… by the time the winter break came, it was a relief, as the startelf was as long as the injury list.
It meant however, that the team had weeks to recuperate and work to regain fitness.
By the time the first game of the Ruckrunde, only four first team players were left unavailable. (Leckie for the Asian Cup with Australia, Torunarigha, Dilrosun and Luckassen as an injury risk). The theory as to whether the “Grujic magic” was true, was about to be put to the test. Hertha are unbeaten when the Serbian has played.

In temperatures of just -1, things in Nurnberg got off to a slow start. Creativity is difficult in such conditions but Nurnberg were fully displaying the reason they were bottom of the table. They didn’t shape a single clear cut chance in the opening 30 minutes. But their opponents did.
Good movement from Duda in the midfield allowed Vedad Ibsievic to weave his way through the middle, when his well placed shot squeezed into the bottom corner giving the away side a well deserved lead.
It looked as though that would be enough to see the Berlin side through the first half. Nurnberg continued to create almost nothing as their lack of flare coming forward was evident, but Hertha began to sit back, slowly allowed the home side to begin pressing and putting on pressure. The backing off and sit back defending tactic and then pressuring on the counter, did not do Hertha any favours, allowing Nurnberg to have the ball allowed the home sides confidence to build.
Whilst there were few clear chances for Nurnberg, their first real opportunity came from a corner. Initially cleared, Hertha failed to clear their lines as the ball was played back in. With anyone failing to get close or tight enough to defend it, the ball dropped to Nurnberg’s own captain Hanno Behrens, who levelled the game from absolutely nothing just before the half time whistle.
Jubilation for Nurnberg, frustration for Hertha. The blue’s defensive issues would all serve to become evident in the following fixture against Gelsenkirchen 6 day later, but on this day the failure to calmly work to clear the ball and the lack of communication at the back led to a goal that shouldn’t have been conceded. It is unfortunately the story of the season.

Half time talk over and it looked as though the equaliser had given Nurnberg a new lease of life. They began the second half brightly, began pushing the Hertha defence, only this time the away side managed to cope with the pressure far better. It also didn’t help Nurnberg as they seemingly forgot how to defend themselves.
Just 3 minutes after the restart, a wonderful assist from Vedad Ibisevic allowed space for Ondrej Duda to steer his shot past the keeper and make it 2-1 to the Alte Dame.
Duda’s 8th goal of the season, a bet won with team mate and best friend Salomon Kalou, and relief for Hertha.
From that moment, Nurnberg just couldn’t seem to pick themselves back up. Conceding so soon after the restart seemed to knock the air out of them.
Matters went from bad to worse for the home side when, once again it was Duda who would haunt Nurnberg, this time the assist from Davie Selke and the finish from Duda to take his tally to 9 for the season.
Amazingly, despite only scoring once, captain Vedad Ibisevic was involved in every goal that Hertha scored that afternoon, assisting the second and part of the build up for the third.
Nurnberg were sunk, they simply could not bring themselves back from the brink after Duda’s brace. It could’ve gotten even worse for them, as Davie Selke saw his strike bounce back off the post late on.
But that was how the game ended. For Hertha, a decent performance but with much work to do still, in particular in the shaky defence. For Nurnberg, it was a dismal way to start their fight against relegation.
Hertha’s ambitions for European Football next season are entirely plausible and the goal of reaching those spots along with a potential appearance in the latter stages of the DFB Pokal are achievable, as shown by gritty performances like this one, but there is always work to be done. Conceding such slopping goals with a strong defence, the likes of Stark and Rekik and Torunarigha, shouldn’t be happening so easily. The gaping holes in the defensive midfield and the general defence would only be more evident in the following game.

Heimpunkte: Gelsenkirchen, the tale of two blues.

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Sweet victory: Hertha’s 2-0 win in Gelsenkirchen on matchday 2 was their first since 2004

Defensive issues are still ongoing. Ever since the injury returns of Rekik and Stark there seems to be an unbalanced defence with the middle being far too easily split open and the defenders becoming either far too deep or losing concentration at key moments.
Fabian Lustenberger, despite having been rock solid 95% of the time for so many seasons, is not getting any younger, it may be possible that now in the latter stages of his career, he simply cannot consistently keep up with the pace of the game, and that Rekik and Stark being so young, still have much to learn as they have not yet reached their prime. It was momentary lapses in concentration that led to goals in several away loses in the Hinrunde, goals that weer easily avoidable.
Rekik and Stark’s central defensive partnership is usually a good one, the most concrete Hertha have. Strong on the ground and aerially, there was very little issue with them against the likes of Bayern at the beginning of the season. But after both suffered injury the centre back pairing has changed several times to fit the needs of the defence. Lustenberger and Torunarigha are both capable of playing that position, but aren’t the strongest pairing and when the latter was also injured it left Hertha with a very thin central defensive pairing. The final loss of the Hinrunde against Leverkusen saw Lustenberger and Torunarigha paired up, as did the loss to Stuttgart. Against Hoffenheim, Derrick Luckassen made his debut and had a strong performance, but he too succumbed to injury.
Despite Jordan scoring against Leverkusen, the general defensive line down to its bare bones, U23 defensive giant Florain Baak was drafted into the squad against Leverkusen and may have even been a better option at the back than Lustenberger but shoving in inexperienced players at the deep end when the defence is always wafer thin, was probably not good for the team or players confidence.
But with Rekik and Stark being out for so long, came another problem upon their return.
The pair had not played together in that central defensive unit since the 4-1 defeat to Dusseldorf in early November. It was now nearly 2 months later and the two hadn’t defended together at all in that time. January saw them both return to training a small training match against Aue and Bielefeld, then a dodgy friendly cup against Dusseldorf and Monchengladbach wasn’t really enough to determine a strong returning partnership. There is only so much that can be done in training sessions. These friendlies are merely tests and not comparable to actual competitive match conditions where the stakes and pressure are much higher.
The only way to truly regain the confidence and strength in the defence that was seen against Bayern in the early season, is to continue to work at it by learning from mistakes in competitive matches. Whilst frustrating to watch when things go wrong, it’s the only way to determine what needs to be worked on in training, as was made extremely clear in the match vs Gelsenkirchen.
Schalke 04 hadn’t tasted defeat at home against Hertha since 2004.
That all changed in 2018 when two goals from Ondrej Duda sunk the miners as the runners up from last season had an abysmal start to this campaign.
Throughout the season, the Gelsenkirchen side have been improving, beating a tiring Wolfsburg side 2-1 on the opening day of the second half of the season. A win a piece for both teams, they were each seeking victory on a bitterly cold night in Berlin.
Schalke now had similar issues to Hertha in the injury department. Several of the big stars were out due to knocks, meaning the royal blues were scrapping the barrel of the own squad, with former Union Berlin man Steven Skrzybski taking the strikers position.
With the strongest players in Schalke’s squad all missing, the likes of Harit, Embolo, Burgstaller and Di Santo, they were now in a similar position to that of their rivals just before the Christmas break.
For Hertha, there were welcome returns home for Grujic, Rekik, and Stark. Kalou was subjected to the bench in favour of Ondrej Duda and Davie Selke and the starting eleven was the strongest it could for the match under the Friday night lights.

The game began, like the week previous, gritty, with very few chances for the opponents and just a few for the hosts. Hertha did have a chance when Davie Selke’s shot was saved well, straight at Schalke’s new starting keeper Alexander Nubel.
Gelsenkirchen had create literally nothing at all in the opening 20 minutes but that didn’t stop them taking an undeserved lead. Poor defending from Hertha allowed Yevhen Konoplianka to take the ball down the flank and cut inside. Defensively it was a mess, as Ondrej Duda was the closest player to closing the Ukrainian down before he managed to easily get his accurate shot away, which Jarstein had no chance of saving.
With not a single Hertha defender in sight, Konoplianka was easily able to manoeuvre past Duda to strike from outside the box. The constant backing off of defensive duties from the Hertha defence would continue all evening. Without the attempt to close the attack down, the home side were massively vulnerable to attempts from outside the box and to counter attacks. One thing is certain from a defensive perspective regarding that goal… a number 10 should not be that deep inside his own half, trying to close down an attacking player, that is simply the job of the defenders and defensive midfielders. Duda’s positioning at that moment only shows how poor Hertha’s defensive closing down of Schalke’s attacking players was.
Frustrated, it didn’t take long for Hertha to respond with a sublime attack of their own. This time it was the away side that looked entirely shaky at the back, as some neat passing lead to a counter by Arne Maier, started by Marko Grujic who managed to squeeze back into the centre to finish the move after a beautiful backheel pass from Ondrej Duda.
It was only Grujic’s second goal of the season, on his return home to the Olympiastadion after injury. Involved in the build up and with the finish to match, this was by far Hertha’s best ‘team goal’ of the season. Every player on the same page and piling forwards in an all out attack showed just what the men from Berlin are capable of when they focus on the task ahead.
But the jubilation didn’t last long. The goal was followed by some extremely unsavoury scenes on the pitch,a fracas between the opposing teams. It would seem something was said in the aftermath of the goal, with Schalke complaining to the referee about something in the build up. It delayed the restart, and perhaps unsettled some of the home team… not before long Gelsenkirchen were back in front and once again it was defensive lack in concentration that lead to the goal this time from Mark Uth.
Decent build up play, yet against down the right flank led this time to a pass just inside the box to Uth, who didn’t have a single Hertha player near him. Totally alone in front of goal, not a single one of the midfield or defensive players were marking the forward which made his finish from close range all the more simple. Yet against Jarstein had no chance but the questions over Hertha’s defence and effective communication were raised yet again.  The defensive line were all over the place, in a game where the attacking units were going to be key, to completely leave a centre forward unmarked is defensive suicide and is just asking for trouble.
Those sort of errors would continue into the night for both sides, in particular for Hertha who’s central defence was spared blushes due to saves made by Jarstein in the second half. But you cannot always rely on your last line of defence in your keeper.
What didn’t help matters in this case was the fact that the referee didn’t give Hertha a free kick at the other end of the field when there was a clear foul on Davie Selke, who, had he gone to ground instead of staying on his feet, would’ve probably been awarded the kick. As it was, Selke was completely wrestled off the ball, and not legally, and Schalke began the counter attack that allowed the goal to happen. The frustration of not being awarded the free kick may well have caught Hertha off guard at totally the wrong moment.
It could’ve been a real disheartening end to the first half for the home side however, the captain had other ideas.
3 minutes into the 4 of added time at the end of the first half, Davie Selke managed to wriggle through the Schalke defence and somehow find an accurate cross into the box which landed right on the head of Vedad Ibisevic to level the game with the last action of the first half.

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Double trouble: Selke and Ibisevic combine again to equalise.

Ibisevic and Grujic scoring in the same game, the ‘Yugo connection’ was working wonders for the home side. Grujic has still yet to lose a game with Hertha, and his professional relationship with captain Ibisevic is something to be marvelled.
2-2 at half time and one would expected the second half to be filled with the same attacking and gritty play as the first…
How wrong one can be.
Whilst there were chances for both sides in the second half the closes the away side came to scoring against were both saved brilliantly by Rune Jarstein who’s heroics were widely celebrated in the Ostkurve. Likewise the Berliners had several chances to score, with one shot from Davie Selke being brilliantly saved, a few chances in the box for Ibisevic that were blocked but the most frustrating part of the evening were the two half chances created by the oncoming Salomon Kalou.
After working hard to get into a great position in the box, the Ivorian failed to pass the ball to three waiting players in the middle, as the chance broke down and eventually came to nothing. Whether he was waiting for a foul that never came to claim a penalty, or whether he simply couldn’t find the right moment to get the shot away, the moment came and went and that was that.
Hertha’s  central defence however, was continuously being split down the middle, which resulted in the saves from Jarstein. A more clinical finish and on a different night, the home side could’ve either easily won 4-2 or lost 4-2. But the build up from both sides around the 70 minute mark was just bogged down time and time again, the game slowed and became less and less aggressive.
Either side could’ve pushed harder. Hertha especially, had they pushed forwards more often and attacked the game more aggressively could’ve easily opened up a dogged and tired Schalke defence. As it was, no side wanted to open up at the risk of conceding on the counter. A similar mentality meant that the game ended the second half as it had the first in terms of scoreline. 2-2 and a point each wasn’t the worse result for either side but not the one they wanted either. Either way it could’ve been a lot worse.
Karim Rekik was incredibly lucky not to be red carded after he left Schopf in a heap on the floor, the result of a mistimed high challenge.
The last ditch heroics from Jarstein meant the home side didn’t concede more needless goals in the second half but it showed once again there are some things that need to be worked on if Hertha are to reach their goal of European football next season.


The ever fighting Hertha: The battling Berliners, a perspective shift?

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‘Who the hell are Bayern?’: Hertha;s victory over Bayern was treasured.

“Typical Hertha” is a phrase coined by the Berlin faithful that was created long long ago. It refers to the history of the club making waves early in the season only to spectacularly miss the opportunity to keep that going once the Ruckrunde comes… or when the club has a shot at achieving something big only to miss out by producing a poor performance as was the case with the DFB Pokal Halbfinale against Borussia Dortmund over 2 years ago.
Having an “okay” season can be considered very ‘typical Hertha’ and because of the clubs turbulent history of relegation and re-promotion, many are quite okay with finishing mid to high mid-table. So long as it doesn’t result in another relegation dog fight or playoff battle it’s all okay.
But in more recent seasons there’s been a change at the Olympiastadion, more than likely down to the higher success rate of Pal Dardai and his influence on the style of football and the mentality that comes with it.
Hertha are no longer content with just surviving the season despite that always being the number one priority when the season begins.
Dardai had finished his full campaigns after taking over as coach in 7th, 6th and 10th place, taking Hertha to a DFB Pokal semi final and beating the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich. His first task as manager was to ensure survival in 2014/15. He did so, with a little luck and help from Hamburg who were forced to play the relegation play off instead, Hertha survived on goal difference alone. Since then, there hasn’t been a relegation in sight.
All of sudden Hertha were winning games and people were enjoying what they were seeing without the fear of having to be involved in relegation again.
The much missed challenge of Hertha competing in three competitions, which hadn’t existed since that treasured memories of being a Champions League outfit (And the horror as to what followed regarding the clubs meltdown in finances) was something that whilst it resulted in finishing a mediocre 10th position in 2017/18 (accumulating in a horrible 6-2 home defeat for Leipzig), it meant the club could better understand how to balance out playing in Europe if the challenge were to arise again… and this season it seems like it could be possible.

The ‘typical Hertha’ mentality still rears its head from time to time amongst supporters but this season, it would appear the fear of failure has been somewhat erased.
Hertha as a club no longer consider themselves to be bottom half of the table, on the books to be relegated, instead they are contenders amongst the strongest sides in country, unafraid of challenging the likes of Bayern and Dortmund, having not lost to either of them in the 2018/19 Hinrunde.
Perhaps the mentality has changed. This is the first season in a long time where Hertha are not only playing well, but also playing attractive football, and where the off the pitch campaigns are far more positive, with each home match day being dedicated to specific Berlin district to bring the fans and the club closer together.
“The Future Belongs to Berlin” is the new motto, far better than the failure that was “We try. We fail. We win”.
The future is vast. Short term and long term, Hertha looks set to build a team that can achieve things, with a long term goal of also developing its own home grown talent and allowing them the chance at the top level, as shown by the fact Hertha have at least 7 players that began in the U23 on the professional squad books.
The mentality this season seems to be “We do no cower in the face of a giant. We do not give up when everything looks lost. When the worst happens, dust off and start again. Learn from your mistakes and move on”.
That’s what’s been appearing out on the pitch from day one of this season.

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Win, lose, draw: Hertha have not allowed themselves to fear strong opponents this season.

It was easy to go into match day 2 away to Gelsenkirchen, and recall the previous visits there. It was easy for the players to go there with that at the back of their minds and allow it cloud their ability to focus. It has happened in previous season and it happens to many teams that play the likes of giants like Bayern, who go into the match realising what a challenge they face.
But this wasn’t what happened in Gelsenkirchen. Despite Schalke having a poor start to the season, the challenge of beating them away from home in front of their passionate fans at the Veltins arena, was never going to be an easy one.
Instead, Hertha approached the game as if history had never happened. Every team they have faced this season have had the same faces, no team is greater than any other regardless of how many titles they have won in the past or how many times they have defeated Berlin before. It is quite literally one game at a time.
That win in Gelsenkirchen also appeared to start a chain of thoughts… ‘History doesn’t matter any more. If we can do this, we can do anything’.
It shone through again a few weeks later against Gladbach and Bayern despite a blip in Bremen in between.
The football is attractive, both because of the attacking options, the likes of Dilrosun and a revitalised Duda, a strong body like Grujic, a seasoned veteran like Ibisevic and a wall in the form of Jarstein, but also a solid mentality at the back.
Hertha only had about 29% of the ball against Bayern Munich when the two sides met at the Olympiastadion. Hertha won the game 2-0, and that was all down to the belief that despite the odds being against them even at 1-0 up, they were capable of getting the result if they worked hard and as a team to ensure it.

It is some of the best football both on the pitch in terms of skill and ideas and creativity, as well as the approach in which to execute it, that Hertha has produced in years.
Part of that vital glue to keep the unit together, is good leadership. In the form of Vedad Ibisevic, Hertha have a captain who’s destructive tendencies and sometimes fiery temperament (which  have caused trouble for him in the past) are curbed and sedated, with the extra responsibility of leading the team, comes the responsibility to keep ones temper and set an example. Since Ibisevic was made captain of Hertha, he has not seen a red card. His last was against Schalke two seasons ago before being handed the arm band.
Balkan nations are very well known for being passionate when it comes to football, both players and supporters are well known for the physical side of their game but this means they are also extremely passionate about the sport.
Ibisevic is a visibly passionate player, when he scores, it means something, it’s always evident on his face. But what’s more, when the team goes behind, it’s his place to motivate his team as captain, to do better. Time and time against this season that has been the case. From going behind against Dortmund, to the leveller away to Nurnberg, from going behind to Augsburg to the extremely hard fought for and well earned draw 3-3 to Hoffenheim, Ibisevic’s determination not to surrender is key. It was under his leadership that Hertha managed to defeat Schalke for the first time away from home since 2004 and defeat champions Bayern for the first time since 2009. As a player he played a key role in all three goals against Nurnberg but what’s more it’s mentality of players after going behind that has struck a chord this season. The type of game Hertha is playing, the aggressive attacking nature of the football they’re playing is something fans have wanted to see for a while, and perhaps they are just starting to realise their potential. That fear that Hertha will regress into the relegation threatened capital club once more, has faded for now, instead the focus is on becoming a better and better unit and team, one building for the future whilst influenced by the past. This new mentality, building and progression can be nothing other than positive for the future of the club. Fans are enjoying what they’re seeing, the team has grown, the support is strong and the belief is building.

Serbian Force: The importance of being Grujic


The magic man: Marko Grujic has yet to taste defeat in a Hertha shirt

If only it wasn’t a loan…It’s what most of us are thinking.
A 1 million Euro loan deal for Marko Grujic’s services this season is starting to look like bargain of the century. It’s just a shame that after July, he may well never be seen in a blue and white shirt again… now it all comes down to Liverpool’s decision about what to do with him.

There’s no buy option on Grujic, the idea was to loan him out so he gain experience at the top level before returning to Liverpool with the potential to make his way into their starting 11. But there’s two major issues with the Serbians ambition to play for the Merseyside club.
One) Grujic has suffered two major injuries this season alone resulting in limited game time, in comparison to what he could’ve played. His match fitness is a concern for both parties but it means his experience in the Bundesliga has been limited. Liverpool won’t want to risk him returning only having played a handful of the games he could’ve potentially played.
Two) Liverpool’s own attacking options and financial prowess mean his chances to breaking into an already extremely strong squad are massively affected. Liverpool have only lost one game this season, with the team they currently have both starters and bench available to them, it seems highly unlikely Grujic would get a starting spot next season.
He is however, open to staying Berlin another year, if Liverpool would allow it. Grujic is seemingly happy with life in Berlin as well as his team mates at Hertha. He’s commented before on his strong friendship with Vedad Ibisevic, which is also evident on the pitch.

Pal Dardai had also highly complimented the midfielder, claiming he’s “the best I’ve ever seen in my time here”.
Stats don’t lie either. From the possible 24 points available, Hertha have gained 20 when Grujic has been on the field. He’s scored twice in that time.
Without him, Hertha have gained just 7 points and their midfield stability has collapsed.
What is worrying for Hertha at this point, is what happens after that loan spell has ended and Grujic is on his way back to Liverpool?
There’s debate as to whether it’s worth trying to convince the Serb to stay permanently in Berlin, despite the fact he’s made it abundantly clear that his desire is to play for Liverpool. Despite that, he has suggested that another years loan in Berlin would be an option he’s open to, hopefully less injury riddled than this season. It also depends on Hertha’s finishing position this season. A European spot would strongly help sway the Serb to stay another season.
From the other side, Liverpool, if they were to sell their man, would undoubtedly ask for a massive sum. The question is, if Berlin were Marko’s preferred destination, would Hertha be willing to part with possibly over 25 million Euros to get him?
He’s certainly worth it with the performances he’s put in this season. It all hangs in the balance of Liverpool’s decisions. Unfortunately for Hertha, this situation is entirely out of their hands, no matter how much they’d like to keep him.

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Passionate heart: Grujic scored his first goal for Hertha against Frankfurt, and was more than happy to show his feelings.

As for Grujic’s performances, his influence has been nothing short of a miracle. Remarkable strength in the midfield, his assist and goal tally isn’t glittering (yet), but what matters is his influence. He creates from almost nothing, his strength on the ball and vision has allowed Hertha to time and time again play their way out of trouble and into a good attacking position. His calmness on the ball and his sense of awareness allows the midfield to flow and be put at ease instead of being pressured into tight and nervy decisions that lead to defensive errors.
When Grujic has made mistakes (and it has happened on occasion), he has not allowed it to faze him.
Much like Ibsisevic in his mentality, the Serb has never allowed mistakes to get in the way, in fact it was his error against Hoffenheim that allowed them to score… only for Hertha to fight back three times and end the match with a hard earned point. Grujic was instrumental in ensuring the Berliners didn’t lose. Accompanied with a strong passion to do well and continue to do better, Grujic’s feelings are clear to be seen on his face when he scores. When Hertha levelled against Hoffenheim, it was Grujic who could be seen in the background screaming with relief. When he scored against Frankfurt he immediately approached the home supporters to celebrate.
Whether he is a loanee or not, Marko Grujic has seemingly embraced the philosophy and passion of Hertha BSC. Many loaned players have the tendency to treat their spell like a holiday, in which they’re placed at a smaller club to keep fit and waste time as they wait to return to their parent team hoping to in with a chance and a shot at the starting eleven. Grujic doesn’t have this approach, instead, he plays with complete focus on only one club, embraces the fans and their traditions and approaches each game with 100% determination to come out victorious. His professionalism in this loan in unreal, his talent is remarkable and the fact that Hertha will more than likely have to give him back to the red side of Merseyside come July, is a sad prospect indeed.

The frailty of a giant: How to be okay with the challenge of Bayern (DFB Pokal).

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Anything is possible: Is there an upset in the round of 16 on the cards?

Nobody want to face Bayern until the DFB Pokal finale… but as Pal Dardai said in the round of 16 draw press conference ‘Someone has to play them, it may as well be us’.
Why not? Hertha have already defeated Bayern 2-0 this season and the DFB Pokal match is at the Olympiastadion, once again under the lights in the dark, once again quite possibly sold out.  It is entirely possible to win… and entirely possible to be absolutely torn apart.
Bayern are on somewhat of a resurgence.
They’re now just 6 points behind Dortmund and have won both their opening Ruckrunde matches… however despite the results the performances have been less than convincing if you watch them back.
Many have assumed that Kovac has “stabilised the crisis and steadied the ship” but rewatching performances, you begin to realise that Bayern are just as frail now as they were when they lost to Hertha in September.
Conceding to Hoffenheim and struggling to defeat them, a Hoffenheim side that hasn’t exactly been settled themselves in comparison to last season, and then a win against Stuttgart, which despite winning 4-1 Bayern still conceded and were far from convincing defensively, it really hasn’t changed.
The results are there but the performances aren’t up to the standard the Bundesliga is used to. Dortmund are by far the best footballing side in Germany this season. Bayern, are for the most part, getting extremely lucky in their results.
Stuttgart should not be equalising against Bayern. Whilst Hertha lost to Stuttgart in the latter stages of the Hinrunde, you have to remember that Hertha had almost an entire starting 11s worth of injuries at the time. Bayern don’t have this excuse at all. In fact, they’re at their strongest at the moment, but there are obvious problems with their defence and if a team could take advantage of that, and then defend against an onslaught then the Bavarians are entirely beatable… in fact Hertha and Gladbach proved that already this season.
Provided he doesn’t get injured against Wolfsburg at the weekend, Marko Grujic should be fit for the Pokal showdown against Bayern. If Hertha are ahead in the game against the Wolves then it seems likely Dardai will substitute his star man early in order to spare him for the challenge of the Pokal. For Hertha, the DFB Cup game could prove to be more important, a priority for the season.
There’s no chance of catching the title chasers in the Bundesliga any more, despite there being a decent opportunity of making the European spots, the Pokal is something that is somewhat of a main focus point.
So often clubs field their weaker 11 for cup matches to focus on the league, like in the case of the English FA Cup. However, you have remember that the final is played at Wembley, whoever reaches the final it’s a day out for them. (Spurs’s home is not Wembley, they are simply residents there whilst their new stadium is built).
In Germany, the domestic cup final is always held at the Olympiastadion, regardless of who the finalists are. That means that if Hertha BSC were ever to make the final, they would be playing in their home stadium. It’s a unique situation in domestic cup competitions and the closest Hertha came to reaching the dream of playing in a final at home, was back in 2016 against Borussia Dortmund, in the Halbfinale… which Hertha lost 3-0.
The Pokal is also a greatest chance Hertha may have at winning a trophy, an actual meaningful title (rather than these friendly games such as the Telekom cup).
With this particular match up, so early on in the competition against Bayern, and with a win under their belt against the record champions already at home this season, Hertha could have the belief that if they overcame this challenge, provided they don’t draw Dortmund in the next round, they have ever chance of making it to the final and winning it.
Bayern have struggled to make it past amateur sides Drochtersen/Assel and SV Rodinghausen (winning 2-1 and 1-0) in the previous rounds where as Hertha initially struggled against Eintracht Braunschweig and then flew past Darmstadt.  It is entirely possible that Hertha could defeat the giants of German football again, even if it seems unlikely.
But the truth is matches against Bayern and Dortmund are somewhat of a luxury for Hertha fans, who, rather than planning for the next round, just enjoy the moment and offer their full support to the team instead. Whilst we believe anything is possible, especially after the miraculous victory over Bayern already this season, we have to remain realistic to, and enjoy the moment…
But if recent history were to repeat itself… my goodness they would be celebrations for days. And a hell of a lot of Hertha fans calling in sick to work on the morning of February 7th.

Contracts, moves and the future: Who’s going where?

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New contract: Per Skjelbred is sticking around

Alexander Esswein has already been loaned out to struggling Stuttgart for the rest of the season.
It was inevitable really, since he was already subjected to appearing for the U23 side and only really made bench appearance when the squad was stretched due to the injury crisis.
Some of the offhanded comments Esswein made upon his arrival in Stuttgart however, weren’t especially helpful. Whilst he liked Berlin, he made some rather jagged jibes towards Hertha head coach Pal Dardai, suggesting that because he scored when he last started for the club (last season against Frankfurt), that he should always be considered for the squad this season.
Dardai is known to push players when he realises he not getting the best out of them. The same was said about Duda when he struggled last season, however the key difference is that Duda allowed himself to be pushed and whilst he found it initially difficult to adjust, allowed himself to pushed to his limits, understanding what the coach wanted from him. The results of that can be seen this season, Duda is a totally different player. But Esswein never quite picked up the pace and being in contention with the likes of Dilrosun and Grujic this season, he needed to prove himself to have any chance of making the squad… and it just didn’t happen.

Meanwhile Per Skjelbred, despite not being the first choice in defensive midfield this season, signed a contract extension in Berlin. It would appear the Norwegian is happy in the capital even if he’s not starting.
Alongside Skjelbred, young Palko Dardai also extended his contract with the club. “Baby Dardai” has made a handful of substitute appearances for Hertha this season, but mainly appears for the U23. Either way, his hopes of regularly breaking into the first team are boosted as he remains a Hertha player.
There are still questions at the whether Vedad Ibisevic will sign an extension.
The captain has stated his desire to stay in Berlin, enjoying his time with Hertha and continuing to score important goals for the club, but the Bosnian is now reaching his late 30s. He could be considered the Bosnian Pizarro, but so long as he continues to score, age is just a number, and Vedo is completely fit, in fact he rarely ever gets injured. It all comes down to whether a contract can be negotiated, but it seems that with the captains desire to remain in Berlin, he could well be staying for the remainder of his career.

Can the same be said for Fabian Lustenberger? Perhaps not.
Lusti has been at Hertha for 12 years, seen relegations and promotions, highs and lows and been the captain for a number of seasons. But his time in Berlin could be coming to an end. His family live in his native Switzerland and rumours are circulating that he may return to his boyhood club in his homeland. It’s all the more likely as his appearances have been slowly being cut over the last few seasons as younger players like Arne Maier start to progress into the starting 11. Lustenberger, like Ibisevic, is starting to age, and whilst he is adored amongst Hertha fans, one of the longest serving players in Europe for a single club, it could be time for him to move on.
Not long after the 2-2 draw with Gelsenkirchen, Lustenberger made a statement revealing that was indeed, leaving Berlin and parting with the Blau Weiss, returning to his native Switzerland to Young Boys Bern at the end of the season when his contract expires.
In a heartfelt post, Lusti explained that the decision had been difficult to make, but that in his mind, it was the correct one. His family have resided in Switzerland now for years, it is time for him to return to his children, who can have their father back, and for Lusti to finally return home.
A hard choice for the former captain, that fully embraced and embodied what it means to be a Herthaner, always giving 100% on the pitch and leaving nothing behind. The man that helped lead Hertha to re-promotion to the Bundesliga after seeing them collapse. The man that captained the club to their first DFB Pokal semi final in recent times. Lustenberger may, like all players, have weaknesses, but his strengths come in the form of not only his playing ability, but his attitude and loyalty which is, these days, a quality harder to find,  but one very much treasured by true football supporters.
12 years of service in Berlin, Fabin Lustenberger is a player that will be deemed a legend… and come the last day of the season regardless of where Hertha finish in the table, the match against Bayer Leverkusen in the Olympiastadion will not be solely about the result, but instead about celebrating the time Fabian Lustenberger has been a part of this club.
Danke Lusti. Alles gut.

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Ramos, Lustenberger and Ronny celebrate promotion back to the Bundesliga. Lustenberger saw several relegations and promotions, as well as a DFB Pokal Halbfinale and season in the Europa League. 


The best of the best…

Hertha’s best 11?
What is Hertha BSC’s best 11 this season? Maybe something a little like this
With perhaps Dilrosun (Mittelstadt), Torunarigha (Rekik) and Kalou (Selke/Duda) involved as well

This means war: The everlasting divide between Ultras and Management

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The real deal: This type of scene was non existent on Saturday vs RB Leipzig

It is no secret that the Hertha BSC Ultras have several issues with the board members and executives of the club.
For over a year now many of them have made it clear that they blame members of the board for problems on and off the pitch, in particular they blame Paul Keuter, the head of digitization, a man that they believe its responsible for the club being on the path to selling its soul in order to become popular and lose its traditionalism in the process.
No Hertha fan wants to become a Premier League type club, nor do they want to follow the direction of RB Leipzig.

The problem is that some of the hardcore supporters refuse to budge or accept that there may be other and sometimes far more effective and reasonable beliefs about the direction the club should take, other than their own.
The ultras withdrew from dialogue with the board long ago, citing that their opinions and their concerns were not being listened to, catered for or even regarded by those in higher management.
With the changes brought to the club last season in their poor marketing campaign, the board stumbled backwards and then backtracked in order to rectify the issues this season. The modifications made to the marketing approach included the reintroduction of regional training for the players, dedicating each home game to a Berlin district and being inclusive of all Berliners in their approach. This was received extremely well by the supporters and seemed to be a step back in the right direction.
But as is so often with the Hertha hierarchy, they shot themselves in the foot and then equally stabbed themselves and the fans in the back by attempting to change the clubs ‘Einlauflied’ (Entrance music as the players enter the field to begin the game) from the tradition of 25 years ‘Nur Nach Hause’ by Frank Zander, to ‘Dickes B’ by Seeed.

The change itself wasn’t the sole reason supporters, be they ultras or not, were aggravated.
The reason behind the fury being directed at the higher management was down to the fact that they had failed to open any discussion with the members of the club about the change, of which was quite obviously going to seriously upset the fans.
Only the evening before,  perhaps 14 hours before the opening game at home against Nurnberg was due to kick off, were all members of Hertha BSC sent an email detailing the new structure of the organised support and build up to the game which had redacted ‘Nur Nach Hause’ and pushed it back to be performed by Zander, 20 minutes before kick off. ‘Dickes B’, a song about the city  of Berlin itself, was about to become the new team entrance song… and without approval. The outcome was as a PR disaster. The team entered the field to a chorus of boos, not directed at them but at the song.

No official statement was made and the fans were given little if no time at all to react other than create a banner which read “Nur nach Hause…Jetzt”.
The fans did not take part in the proposed build up, instead the ultras proceeded to do what they always did before a game.
And instead of bowing down to the request on the board, Nur Nach Hause was sung aloud anyway.

Within the following 24 hours the board had realised, very quickly, the extend of its own mistake, and in doing do had reversed the decision and reinstated the Einlauflied to Frank Zanders classic hymne.
It did not appease most fans.

Many Ultras or even just every day fans, find reasons to backchat the board. Whether it be small matter or something far more significant.
The Einlauflied matter was something that almost all supported backed up the ultras on, as it was something that most felt strongly about. But matters such as ‘Keuter raus’ still divide opinion. Whist this is a club of great tradition, it also cannot be stuck in the past and must move forward with the times whilst remaining true to its own values and traditions.
The reason is that some fans believe the refusal of dialogue from the ultras towards the board is a major part of the problem. The board don’t understand what the fans want because the biggest sector of them, aren’t speaking. The refusal to discuss anything means nothing of concern is ever addressed, and the board continue to work and act on their own agenda… because there’s no one else’s agenda to consider, there’s no one the stop them from acting when their ideas are not entirely beneficial for the majority.

It’s a 50/50 battle with both ends on the offensive and no one wants to back down. The management constantly has to defend itself for its decisions but the ultras refusing to attend meetings with them means there’s absolutely no one from the Ostkurve to bat them back down when they (the board) are clearly in the wrong. At the same time, the Ultras must understand that not all their demands can be met for certain reasons, whether they be financial constrains or something else. No one has it all their own way.

The debacle of Dortmund.

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The seeds of chaos: The banner celebrating 15 years of the Ultras group was violently torn down by Dortmund police without reason

Pyro isn’t legal to use in Germany. Many ultras that use them know the consequence at very least will be a four to five figure fine to the club. It’s happened on many occasions with a number of clubs and it’s nothing new.
But the boards reaction to a violent incident at the Signal Iduna park during Hertha’s away match against Borussia Dortmund, is one that has to be questioned.
If your club’s fans do something horrendously wrong, there is no way the management can defend those supporters. They have to condemn them because not only is it a requirement but defending supporters that have clearly done something illegal is just morally wrong.
In many cases’s that is exactly what has happened and that isn’t just true of Hertha as a club.
The club has been punished before for several issues regarding banners and pyrotechnics. One such banner was seemingly homophobic last season against FC Koln. The punishment was dished out accordingly and the ultras didn’t react in a disgruntled manner because those responsible were dealt with accordingly.
But the matter in Dortmund was different and was handled badly from both sides. First the management board and executives in their sanctions, then the Ultras in the Ostkurve for their own protest reaction.

The story of what exactly took place in Dortmund isn’t entirely clear, and that possibly why the fans reacted the way that they did and why Michael Preetz’s sanctions that were deemed excruciatingly harsh on the fans as a whole,  were so widely criticised.
Rewatching footage of the events that took place, it seems that Hertha’s second largest Ostkurve Ultras section, ‘Hauptstadtmafia’, were celebrating their 15 year anniversary and did so by displaying a large banner with their title on it.
There was nothing offensive depicted on the banner nor was there any obvious reason for the police to intervene with it. Banners in away section blocks are relatively normal, until there is something offensive displayed. According to Dortmund police, some fans were using it to shield themselves with pyro’s so they could not be detected and then identified but the fans deny that this was the case. Looking closer it seems as though the fans were telling the truth.
Previous to the reveal, ultras had released several pyro smoke bombs. Whilst it is a concern when they go off, the usual reaction is to allow the smoke to dissipate and the the flares to burn out as the stewards and police try and single out who was responsible for lighting it. Unless someones throws one at someone else with the intention to harm them, it’s never usually an issue.
But the Dortmund police began to rally and then kettle the supporters, attempting to dislodge the banner and began to attack the guest fans as they fought back to keep their banner. About 100 traveling fans then became engaged in a battle with armed policed officers who beat them back. In response, those supporters fought back as well and it ended in a small scale riot.
No one was sure why the police took the actions that they did and why they became so violent so quickly, especially considering that after the 2-2 draw, Dortmund supporters ad Ultras openly supported the traveling Hertha fans over the incident and instead turned their own blame towards the reaction of the police. No one is supporting the violent reactions of some of the Hertha supporters either, because whatever the provocation, they should never have physically fought back and inflamed the situation further.
The following week, Bayern Munich and Hansa Rostock supporters also offered open supports of the Hertha fans after the sanctions to the home match against Leipzig were introduced.

Collective punishments are never taken lightly amongst supporters. Such things affect all fans not just those involved in previous incidents. In fact the vast majority of Hertha fans that attend all home matches, were not present in Dortmund the previous week.
In reaction to the violence, Michael Preetz and the board of directors announced a ban of all stadium flags and banners ‘until further notice’ in the Olympiastadion for both home and away fans.
This meant all of the Ostkurve’s tools of the trade, other than their drum, would not be allowed into the stadium.
The punishment was not received well, and it was no surprise since the majority of those being affected by this sanction, were not even in attendance at the game in Dortmund and yet were being prevented from bringing in their own fanclub banners and flags.
Organisations that support anti racism and inclusive international fan groups that welcome supporters worldwide, were now being told that they could not openly support their campaigns for the club until the ban is lifted.
What’s more, this decision was made before any investigation had been completed on the incident in Dortmund which appeared to show the police, not the supporters, being the instigators of the violence in the guest block. Instead of targeting those handful of fans responsible for the escalation of the violence, Preetz and his board instead decided to punish the every day supporter that had nothing to do with the violence that took place.
Whilst it seems unlikely Preetz alone made this decision, he was the face of the outcome, facing even more criticism from the Ultras than before, just as this season things appeared to be being bridged.
On Thursday, a potential meeting between the Ostkurve and the board of directors was apparently cancelled without reason and little notice. The Ultras again argued their case that they are not being listened to and that the management simply do not care about them, despite their efforts to bridge the gap in the conflict before… but always on their own terms and never that of the fans.

Silence can speak volumes: The protest without voice.

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‘Against collective punishment’: This was the only banner present in the Olympiastadion on Saturday

The reaction of the Ostkurve ultras was simple.
‘If we can’t have our flags we’re not organising the support’. In other words, it becomes like a Premier League game. The singing is scattered in a huge stadium and the atmosphere is non existent.
Against a club like Red Bull Leipzig, of which has an ultras section that would never respect traditionalism like other Bundesliga would have, were never going to be silent. They were all you could hear for the duration of the game.
The problem with such a type of protest is that ultimately it does affect the players.
Whether the flags are present or not the players are far too focused on the game to ever watch the fans flying flags and banners.
But they can however, still hear you, and this time, all they could hear was their opponents singing.
Whilst Pal Dardai had prepared the players for the boycott, no player can prepare for that feeling of not being loved by your own supporters.
The lack of audible support made the Olympiastadion feel like a ghost stadium.
The decision also had a horrible impact on fans not part of Ostkurve, or part of the ultras. Some fear the retribution of the ultras and therefore followed their lead and did not sing either.
But the point they wanted to make, whilst made, was one that came at a cost.
Hertha played poorly and lost the game 3-0. Whilst it cannot be blamed on the atmosphere entirely, that boycott played a huge factor. Not just the noise… but the icy atmosphere in general was unpleasant for anything affiliated with Hertha BSC and played right into the hands of all those attached to RB Leipzig.

The cost of the loss of support is the loss of will and aggression to win.
But was this what the ultras wanted? Sacrifice 3 or even just 1 point for the team  in order to get a point across to the board?
Imagine had this been a relegation battle match… imagine the rage at losing 3-0 then.
Was it worth losing to a team everyone wants to beat because they are so heavily despised across Germany for what they (red bull) stand for?
Probably not.
Fans willing to sacrifice both points and players confidence to make a point, are to many peoples eyes, incredibly selfish.
They are other ways in which to protest that still ensure the support is as strong as it ever was.
In England, boards and management, owners and rich pigs, take control of clubs all the time and treat them like a play thing. They have zero regard for the supporters and do as they please and it’s something English football fans despise about the modern game. Fans however, never allow their support to dwindle because at the end of the day, the management and board and not the players, made the decisions that the fans aren’t happy with.
The players are not to blame when something goes wrong behind the scenes. A boycott in the style of this one is implemented on the wrong people… it’s impacting the players most of all in a situation that is not their fault.

There is a sense of immaturity about the conflict between the fans and the management now. It’s like watching two children fighting and from the perspective of the every day fan it’s a battle of which they have to be bystanders because unfortunately,  whilst the ultras are a huge part of the club and do a lot of hard work for it, they are not the only supporters that exist within the club and there are some issues that some supporters do not agree with them about.
It happens, that’s a democracy. Not everyone in the Labour party agrees with the leaders policies but still agrees with the fundamental outset of the party itself.
But when the board refuse to acknowledge the wishes of the fans and then the Ultras then refuse to speak to the board about their concerns, you enter a stand off… and no one wins those.
Whilst one can understand what exactly it was that the Ultras were trying to achieve with their silence, making a point, the result of it could’ve been the scoreline as well as the sense of desperation and downright lowness for the players.
Imagine going out there and feeling like no one is supporting you? In your own stadium? It’s hardly an appetising prospect.
In turn, the board can look at this and consider what exactly what path they want to take from now on regarding punishments to supporters that do actually cause trouble.
Whilst the Ultras proved a point, one feels there are better ways to do it.

Behave children: The battle continues

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Criticism: Michael Preetz has been heavily criticised for his heavy sanctions of Hertha fans.

It was revealed on Sunday that the Ultras and Ostkurve were given another opportunity to speak to the board members about their concerns on Monday.
Once again they turned down this offer, and yet against the divide between the two remains and only seems to be widening as a result of refusing to speak to one another and cooperate in order to overcome their problems.
As much as both sides have a valid point they are equally to blame for the break down in communications. The Ultras need to learn they cannot have it all their own way and must compromise on certain matters whilst the board have to learn to actually listen to the demands and take into consideration the reasoning behind them.
Compromise is the key word here, because until the two can meet in the middle they will always be engaged in a battle for dominance at the club regarding influence.
By refusing meetings because its not on their own grounds and terms, the Ultras are wasting the chance to actually get their point across directly to the people they’re trying to grab the attention of.
Whilst the board is to blame, in a major part as well, for the sanction and the reactions to them, you have to consider that the response from the Ultras may not have been the best one, there were of course as always, several options. Prematch protests, anti DFB and board chants, a 20 minute silence rather than an entire game ect.
Such an atmosphere in the stadium hinders more than just the players ability to perform, it hinder reputation and from outside world it can appear that the fans look immature because they’re behaving in this manner, influencing the game, when the players were never at fault in the first place for their anger.
Refusal of dialogue is never going to help matters either. Whether the fans think it will help or not, the only solution is to at least try and speak to those in charge about their concerns and if matters still aren’t cleared up, then at least all of us can say ‘We tried’ and then the protests look more justified.
The truth remains.
Real supporters sing for the TEAM. Singing on the inside is not the same thing. It doesn’t do any good. You sing for the club itself, its very foundation. Not for the board, the management, the background staff, or even themselves but for the entire TEAM. And the team need that support. The 12th man concept really does exist. Dortmund prove that week in week out.
Against Bayern Munich, Hertha proved that too, by winning 2-0. The fans were fantastic.
It just seems with this latest stunt the Hertha board have shot themselves in the foot once again and this time they may not be able to appease supporters.
Yes the punishment was unfair. Yes a point was made… but at what cost? And at the end of the day what has it actually achieved other than a loss. Sometimes one thinks those that were silent may as well have just not turned up at all.
But should any of us being punishing the team as a result?
And how do you suggest we finally get the management and the fans to listen to one another before the divide is so large that it totally implodes?

Then again this is just how I see it.
To me the two sides are both to blame for the mess they’ve gotten into. Whilst the board can be widely criticised… the other side isn’t helping itself much either.
The two sides have to start again, if it has to be from scratch then so be it… because at the moment this divide is hurtful for the very day supporter.
Just take a look at the guy on Block P trying to make an atmosphere against Leipzig. The man is a hero.
We all need to be like him


As you were

Dusted, sweet sweet revenge: HERTHA BEAT BAYERN….

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“This is a completely changed team” says the commentator on BT Sport as the second goal sails past Manuel Neuer.
There would be no comeback, no mercy this time. Hertha lead Bayern 2-0 in the 90th minute… 4 minutes of injury time passed and then suddenly it was over…

You heard it correctly…

Hertha have BEATEN FC Bayern Munchen.

Friday night saw Berlin victorious over the Rekordmeister 2-0 at the Olympiastadion under the Friday night lights.
After almost 10 years of losses or draws, this is Hertha’s first victory over Bayern Munich since 2009.
And it was a sweet victory that will be talked about for a long time, even if the season goes askew.

Painful memories: The haunted past, recent history of Hertha vs Bayern in Berlin

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So close: Niklas Stark is left on the verge of tears as Bayern equalise in the 97th minute.

February, 2017,  Olympiastadion Berlin…
16:15pm:  Hertha BSC go into half time with a slender 1-0 lead over Bayern Munich. The record German champions are flustered but the Hertha fans remain pessimistic. This is Bayern after all. The lead surely could not last… could it?
16:30pm: The second half begins… the fight for a win against an almighty giant has begun… and no one expects to last the 45 minutes required of the team to keep the three points in Berlin. If only that second goal by Ibisevic had not been offside…
60mins it is still 1-0… and then 70 mins…80 mins, 85mins pass.
The fans in the Ostkurve are actually starting to believe this is entirely possible Their beloved Hertha, once a laughing stock of the capital clubs in Europe, once the favourites for relegation every season, are on the verge of achieving something quite unbelievable. They have witnessed their team play their hearts out and now the onslaught of Bayern attacks has begun… the Bavarian record holders are panicking and it is making the home supporters both giddy with humor and extremely nervous.

17:15pm: Hertha BSC are leading the record champions FC Bayern Munchen 1-0. Captain Vedad Ibisevic had given the Berlin side a 1-0 lead, scored in the 21st minute after a free kick from Marvin Plattenhardt was launched into the box and the captain got his toe to it. Since then, they have managed to keep a firm grip on the lead for the entire 65 minutes that have followed. Rune Jarstein has made several remarkable saves to keep out the Bavarian’s. It’s the 90th minute of the game and Hertha have defended the magnificently throughout the afternoon and look set on course for a hugely valuable victory over Bayern, the first since 2009.
The fourth official holds up his board… 5 minutes added time.
The faces of the home fans turn a shade of grey… some remain optimistic, but the majority know what’s coming. In fact the optimism is hollow, even those that believe outwardly, know in their heart of hearts, that Hertha are about to lose their fingertip grip on the three points they deserve.
The 5 minutes pass… the fans are whistling, urging the referee to blow his final whistle… but he doesn’t. Hertha have the ball in midfield, with no danger being posed by the opposition. 15 seconds after the 5 minutes should’ve been over, Bayern regain possession, down the wing Peter Pekarik makes a foolish challenge and the free kick is awarded near enough next to the corner flag but just outside the penalty area.
Bayern’s keeper Manuel Neuer arrives in the box. 11 in the danger zone it is now or never for Bayern… and of course the inevitable happens.
The ball is played across the penalty area to Arjen Robben, but the shot is blocked on the line by Maximilian Mittelstadt. Had it hit him any harder it would’ve bounced out and away. Any softer and he could’ve cleared it himself.
But it didn’t and it bounced straight out to Robert Lewandowski, who struck it… it flew past frozen Rune Jarstein, and Bayern got their undeserved equaliser.
Cue the commentators ‘They are never beaten’ comments… but also cue the absolutely livid and understandable reactions from the players and supporters of Hertha BSC. They flew into a rage at the referee and the players of Bayern Munich who’s completely classless and arrogant reaction was met with external outrage from the likes of Jarstein and Ibisevic.
The captain shunned Neuers attempt at a handshake when the whistle did blow, with the Bayern keeper knowing full well the Bosnian was already furious, trying to gauge a reaction.
Whilst Hertha had managed to prevent Bayern from doing what they set out to achieve in winning, they had inevitably been robbed of a deserved three point by the incompetence of the referee. Whilst some players continued raging, Niklas Stark, the Hertha number 5, crumbled to the floor, almost in tears. He, like John Brooks and Maximilian Mittelstadt, could not believe what had just happened to them. Heartbroken, exhausted and inside completely distraught, the fact they had taken points off the champions didn’t matter… because they had deserved to win.
As Pal Dardai later called it “the Bayern bonus” cost the deserved winner three points. Meanwhile, Bayern celebrating as though they had won the match was not making matters any better, their arrogance was oozing in their own reaction to the game, of which they deserved nothing from.
It had to be said, the following week Hertha hosted Eintracht Frankfurt. The same number of substitutions had been made, possibly even longer injuries had occurred and the score was a 1 goal separation. The officials added just three minutes and ended the game as those three minutes were over.
Had Hertha been 1-0 in front against any other club in the league, there would never have been 7 minutes of injury time. To add insult to injury the Bundesliga media was making a deal out of Lewandowski’s strike being the latest ever scored in the Bundesliga and even two years later FC Bayern’s social media were gloating about the goal.
Revenge would be sweet for the likes of Niklas Stark, who seemingly took the draw very hard.

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Unfair: Rune Jarstein was livid with the referee for allowing 7 minutes injury time to be played. Way more than the allotted 5 minutes.

October 2017, Olympiastadion Berlin…

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Let’s go!: Ondrej Duda scores to start the comeback from 2-0 down.

16:35pm: Robert Lewandowski has just doubled Bayern Munich’s lead over Hertha BSC. Niklas Stark was out-muscled at the back and caught out, forced into a position where Karim Rekik couldn’t help him… 2-0 down having started the second half of the game brightly, Hertha were now really up against it and the arrogance of the Bavarian’s was about shine through in a way that put Hertha in a fashionably good light.
So much talk a season ago about how Bayern ‘Never give up, are never beaten’ with their ridiculously late 97th minute equaliser (Addressed by the stadium announcer just before the Aufstellung) and this time it would be Hertha to show their grit and defiance.
Of all people, it would be Genki Haraguchi to get a nomination for assist of the season.
Almost immediately after Lewandowski scored, the ball ended up at the Japanese internationals feet as he managed to weave through not one but two world cup winning Germany internationals, skipping past Hummels and Boateng, leaving them on their backsides, as Haraguchi entered the penalty area and then unselfishly skimmed the ball across to the open Ondrej Duda, who simply couldn’t miss as he put the ball past Sven Ulreich in the Bayern goal. (Ulreich had been covering for Neuer for the majority of the season as the Germany national team goalkeeper had been injured in training resulting in a broken foot).
2-1 and it was game on. It was also Duda’s first ever goal for the club. Simple, but important.
Now the players and fans of the Hauptstadt club had a sense of belief. Bayern had shown they were frail at the back. Only the week before, Bayern had allowed a 2 goal advantage to slip at home in Munich to Wolfsburg.
They were about to repeat the feat in Berlin.
Marvin Plattenhardt’s free kick shot on goal went just wide and Kalou had a shot saved straight at Ulreich, Hertha’s attacking momentum began to build… they smelt blood and they wanted desperately to equalise.
Another free kick just moments after Duda’s goal, provided a huge opportunity.
It wasn’t a fantastic cross into the box from the number 21 but an error in judgement of the flight of the ball from Bayern’s Tolisso led to the ball dropping to the feet of Salomon Kalou….and Kalou didn’t miss.
He slotted the ball under the body of Ulreich and into the back of the net. The Berlin crowd went wild.

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Level terms: Salomon Kalou fires past Ulreich to level the game at 2-2 coming from 2-0 down.

It was 2-2 and it was deserved. Hertha had not allowed the 2 goal deficit to break their spirit and now the game was level with still 30 minutes at least to go.
2-0 and given little chance of getting anything out of the game, the Berliners had proven that by not giving up, this team were capable of pegging back the biggest club in the country.
It remained level until the final whistle. The boot was now on the other foot, Hertha were celebrating a draw like a victory, the difference being that Hertha are not a club used to either coming back from 2-0 down or frustrating the champions.
Carlos Ancelotti had lost his job as Bayern coach the week they played in Berlin, but that should never be an excuse as to why the favourites did not emerge from the capital city with 3 points.
Hertha were by no means the better team during that game nor did they deserve more than a draw, the point is that being 2-0 down to a club like Bayern is, whilst no shame, a situation not many come back from, but the fighting spirit of the Berlin side showed they were capable of something more than just being ‘an obstacle in the way of another 3 Bayern points’. Whilst they didn’t really challenge for any European spots or titles in 2017/18, Hertha were on their way up, building towards the future, as seen in their next encounter with Munich in Berlin.
They were the only side not to concede in the reverse fixture at the Allianz arena, the only side to stop Robert Lewandowski scoring at home. Rune Jarstein and Jordan Torunarigha produced two of the performances of the season of any player in the league. It was some feat, Hertha had remained unbeaten for their last three encounters with Bayern, even if the 1-1 draw in 2017 had hurt.
It was a sign of things to come despite a disappointing season in 2017/18 that resulted in a bottom of the group Europa League exit and a mid table finish. The two draws with Bayern were something to savour from the season along with the 0-3 away win in Frankfurt. But things had to change for there to be a chance of progress, and so Pal Dardai and Michael Preetz began to concoct a plan, that would truly see the ‘future belongs to Berlin’ motto, become something that may well be achievable.


Spieltag: The game no one expected to win

Under the stars: The Olympiastadion become a spectacle on Friday evening against Bayern

No one ever expects to beat Bayern Munich.
No one.
Especially since in the early stages of 2018/19, they had been unbeaten and won all 4 of their opening games.
That was to change during an Englisch Woche, that saw Hertha lose to Bremen in a dreary match on a Tuesday evening, and on Wednesday little Augsburg took the first points of the season off Bayern in the Bavarian derby.
No one had expected Augsburg to walk away from the Allianz with anything other than their heads down in disappointment. But the little Bavarian side fought back against a rather lackluster Bayern side that had not boasted the likes of Lewandowski in the starting 11. Niko Kovac was saving his ‘best team’ for the meeting in Berlin on Friday night.
In some ways it was mark of respect from Kovac against the club he’d spent two stints of his career with, a native Berliner, Kovac could be deemed more of a Hertha legend than a Bayern one.
But Bayern’s lack of creativity and finishing proved costly, as Felix Goetze, little brother of World Cup winning goalscorer Mario, managed to bundle the ball over the line after an uncharacteristic error from Manuel Neuer.
There is always a sense in Berlin when Bayern comes to town, that ‘There is not better or worse time to play them’.
Last season they had just sacked their coach, they had also lost a 2-0 lead the previous week to Wolfsburg and lost 3-0 in the Champions League to Paris St Germain. Despite that there was the argument that they would want to prove themselves in Berlin therefore any game against them would be doubly difficult.
This season the situation was almost identical, as they’d dropped points against Augsburg and would be determined to rectify their mistakes, as well as having a near enough full strength squad with James and Lewandowski returning.
No one gave Hertha a hope in hells chance of getting anything out of the game. Not the pundits, not the bookmakers, even many supporters were pessimistic, although there was the odd gleeful joke about it actually happening. Even after the 1-0 lead to Hertha, Bayern were still favourites to win the game according to the bookies.
The midweek loss to Werder Bremen had served as a steep learning curve for Pal Dardai and his team, the defense had to be more compact but with Marko Grujic missing and Fabian Lustenberger clearly out of sorts in the defensive midfield position, it saw the return of Per Ciljan Skjelbred to that holding midfield role.
No one could’ve predicted that he’d be a candidate for man of the match.

Berlin was full of little red pock marks. The invasion had begun.
It is widely known that when Bayern come to town, the stadium is as red as it is blue and white. Whilst there is a reserved away fan section, the neutral areas of the Olympiastadion become clogged up with Bayern supporters many of which just make the quick trip from Brandenburg to Berlin. The majority of those in red in Berlin, are not from Munich at all. It somewhat aggravates the Hertha supporters, who take massive pride in displaying their blue and white stripes.
It takes a huge amount of strength whilst at the S Bahn station not to say something untoward to anyone in the opposite colour. Red is not a welcome colour in Hertha territory, whether it be from Union fans or Bayern, they may well just equally hated in the district of Charlottenburg (Or any other area other than Kopenick).
If it’s not the fact the Berlin based Bayern fans support a club miles away from their home that angers the Hertha supporters, it’s certainly the arrogance that accompanies those of a Munich persuasion. The sheer number of times the Rekordmeister have found success makes many Hertha fans stomachs churn, the belief that three points is a given right not something you fight for infuriates people, the fact that now winning a title in Munich has become somewhat boring (judging from the reactions of the last 6th straight title win by their own players) and that even scoring goals just seems to be an every day chore, are a number reasons that Bayern and their fans are widely disliked across Germany.
But this season something has changed. In the early stages of the season, there is a title race. Bayern, Dortmund, Werder Bremen, Hertha BSC, Wolfsburg and Borussia Monchengladbach have all had decent starts to the season. In fact, at the time of writing, Dortmund sit top of the pile and Hertha are level on points with Bayern, only in third position down to goal difference.  Had they won 3-0 at home on Friday night, Hertha would be sitting second leading on goals scored and would’ve gone into Saturday as league leaders.

The match was still regarded as a “topspiel” despite Hertha being in 4th spot and Bayern being top on Friday night.
The likes of Javairo Dilrosun were certain to cause problems with the aging Bayern defenders. But there was a strange optimism in the air in the Olympiastadion… perhaps not with the belief that victory was possible but because Hertha had been playing good, attacking and above all, interesting football.

In the team, Marvin Plattenhardt had been left out and switched position with Maximilian Mittelstadt. It was for a good reason. The young defender was now back in his natural position at leftback having been utilised against Nurnberg as a winger/forward. Plattenhardt’s demotion to the bench asked questions of Dardai as to why he’d dropped his top left back, however he had also spoken about rotation and justified his decision by remarking that Plattenhardt had just recovered from injury and played a lot of minutes this season.
In for the injured Marko Grujic was Per Skjelbred. It was his first start of the season having even struggled to make it into the matchday squad let alone the starting 11.
Otherwise it was a more or less unchanged side to the one that started against Borussia Monchengladbach. Kalou had returned to start in place of Palko Dardai who had started against Bremen but no effect on the game and Vedad Ibisevic remained in the starting 11 over Davie Selke.
The major change came in the goalkeepers position as Rune Jarstein, the day before his 34th birthday, carried his injury from the Bremen game into Friday night, meaning that number 1 Thomas Kraft would be his replacement to face his old team.

The changes proved to work. Unlike the midweek defeat to Bremen, the midfield was compact with Arne Maier and Per Skjelbred keeping the likes of Sanches and James quiet.
As predicted, Dilrosun and Lazaro were causing issues for the Bayern defense.
Bayern were however the ones creating chances. Boateng’s header was directed just wide as Kraft could only watch it fly over the bar.
The dominance of possession from Bayern wouldn’t save them however. On the 25 minute mark a perfect cross from the right hand side was met perfectly by Vedad Ibisevic only for Manuel Neuer to make a fantastic save to keep it out.
The rebound fell to Salomon Kalou who attempted to control the ball on the byline only for Jerome Boateng to fly in with a completely needless challenge tacking Kalou’s legs from beneath him whilst getting nowhere near the ball. Kalou went down, the referee was left with no choice but to award Hertha a penalty.
6 in 6 games was correct…. however this time the penalty was in Hertha’s favour and unlike those conceded there was no question over this one. Boateng had attempted to play the ball, however that is what all defenders do… it is a question of whether to retrieve and win the ball that determines whether it is a penalty. In this case it was stonewall, Boateng got nowhere the ball and took Kalou out instead.
It fell to the captain Ibisevic to take the spot kick. When asked why he had not taken it, despite being the regular taker, Kalou responded with ‘Vedo has been on a streak lately, it only seems right he keep that going’.
The ‘Vedator’ obliged. He smashed the ball past Neuer who dived the wrong way to give Hertha a 1-0 lead.

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Opener: Vedad Ibisevic slams the ball past Manuel Neuer

Deserved on the balance of play? Perhaps not, but Bayern were sloppy and were making errors as well as failing to take the chances they were creating themselves.
Not long after the opener, Arjen Robben missed a glorious opportunity to equalise but his shot went high over the bar.
Lewandowski was being kept mightily quiet and Bayern were being frustrated by a brick wall Berlin defense.
Matters were made much worse for the champions as Kalou and Lazaro combined for a fantastic doppelpass, Lazaro managed to get in around the back and cut the ball back to none other than Ondrej Duda, who smashed the ball so fast past Neuer that he barely had time to blink.
The number 10 had done it again, 5 goals for the season, and ironically, he’d scored what could possibly be a winning goal against the same team he’d scored his first ever Bundesliga goal against.
2-0 up at half time and this was no what either Bayern or Hertha were used to. Now for the next 45 minutes, Hertha would not have to defend a slender one goal lead over the best team in Germany, instead Bayern would have to score early and produce and almighty all out attack on the Berliners.
But the Berlin wall stands firm in the form of Thomas Kraft, Per Skjelbred, Niklas Stark, Karim Rekik and Arne Maier who knew their task for the second half would be to keep the glittering Bayern attacking prowess at bay.
They did so brilliantly, keeping out the likes of Lewadowski and making his role almost non existent. James had no luck either finding it impossible to break through.
Kovac made changes, bringing on the likes of Thomas Muller to try and at least get a foothold in the game and a chance to snatch a goal to get back in it.
It proved fruitless, and the introduction of Sandro Wagner didn’t do much to help matters either. Not only was he met with a chorus of whistles and jeers but he also did absolutely nothing to bolster the Bayern attack either.


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Cushion: Ondrej Duda fires past Neuer to give Hertha a 2 goal advantage before half time.

Wagner’s antics of celebrating in the Ostkurve when scoring against Hertha when he was at Darmstadt, having been an ex Hertha player, wrecked any relationship he had with the supporters. His arrogance is seen as ‘typically Bavarian’, he began his career at Bayern before they deemed him not good enough and has been on the run around Germany since. He has since proclaimed himself to be ‘Germany’s best striker’.
It was only at Hoffenheim that he actually proved to be a decent forward, when Bayern poached him as a backup to Robert Lewandowski, and Wagner seemed only too content to sit on the bench, make a handful of substitute appearances and still able to claim a Bundesliga winners medal for the little effort.

But for Bayern the night only became more and more frustrating. As time passed Hertha’s defense would not budge, it remained strong and intact and Bayern found it impossible to break it down despite the 72% possession they had. But again, possession does not win you games, what you do with it does. You could have 28% possession and still be the victor, which is exactly what Hertha did.
Pal Dardai once stated that “It does not matter what chance you create, if you don’t capitalise on those chances, if you don’t take those chances and make them count, you do not deserve to win”.
This was a good way to describe Bayern’s performance here. Saying “You should’ve won” is different to saying “You deserved to win”. You can only claim to deserve it if something from the outside interferes with it… for example a terrible refereeing decision… or adding 7 minutes of injury time for no apparent reason.
Hertha retained the ball defensively and then when out of possession, managed to smother any attack thrown their way. Bayern kept pressing and Hertha kept pushing them back. Back and back again until they just seemed to run out of steam.
Dardai made his own changes too. Davie Selke replaced Vedad Ibisevic, who handed the captains armband to Skjelbred, early in the second half.
The change was intended to use Selke’s pace as an advantage to any counter attack that may present itself as Bayern began to pour forward in a blitz of attacks.
It worked, Selke managed to create a handful of difficult chances which he sadly couldn’t take to improve on the two goal cushion. But he didn’t need his attacking qualities to help win the game. Instead, the entire 11 became an all out defense, blocking anything coming their way.
Thomas Kraft made two incredibly vital saves to deny Bayern a way back into the game, but the 4 in front of him were already doing a stellar job at keeping Ribery, James, Lewandowski, Robben and then Muller quiet.
To put it into perspective, in the first half Bayern had no shots on target and in the second the only two that they did were saved by Kraft. Anything else was blocked.
But as long as the game clock continued there was always a chance for Hertha to throw their valuable lead away despite having a two goal advantage.
Bayern’s last throw of the dice was to push Manuel Neuer down for a final corner, as he had done in the World Cup, and just like the world cup, Neuer failed to make any kind of impact as the ball as cleared and almost put into an empty net for a third Hertha goal. Sadly for Hertha, the ball was picked up by Neuer in the nick of time but time was out for Bayern. The final whistle, at the end of a 4 added minutes, was blown.
Hertha had done. They had inflicted Bayern’s first loss of the season on the reigning champions and with it, obtained three points to put them level on points, it was now only goal difference separating the two sides and Dortmund had the chance to go top of the table if they beat Leverkusen the following day… which they did.

It was delirium, complete jubilation for Hertha players, coaches and fans alike. This is the best start to a season Hertha BSC have had in their 126 year history, and now to accompany victories in Gelsenkirchen for the first time since 2004 and a win over the tricky Borussia Monchengladbach, Pal Dardai has finally beaten Bayern Munich. His record against the Muncheners is impressive. 1 loss, 3 draws and now a victory.
The fans reaction was one of pure joy, having been so close in 2017 with the last minute equaliser, the latest ever in the Bundesliga, then a comeback to make fans proud last season at 2-2, a 0-0 draw which an achievement in Munich an now this, the first victory over Bayern since 2009, almost a decade ago when Pal Dardai was still a player for the club. Now as a manager he has been the mastermind behind one of the best wins of his tenure. The victory against Gelsenkirchen was sweet, but this was something else.

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Together: Hertha worked incredibly hard for their victory over Bayern and celebrated in style with the fans

More than you will ever now: Why does this victory mean the world to Hertha BSC?

Everything: The win on Friday meant a hell of a lot to Pal Dardai.

“We are the capital club, the Hauptstadt team… but we are in no way the most successful”. It has to be said over and over again.
Unlike other European cities like Paris, London, Madrid and Milan and even likes of Copenhagen, Belgrade, Zagreb and Moscow, Berlin has not always had a top flight, success of a football team.  In fact, Hertha BSC have often been subject to taunts because they’ve been relegated more times than they’ve won a title. Berlin has been left time and time again, without a top flight club, the only capital in Europe’s big leagues not to have one. That is no history. Hertha have been in the Bundesliga for five straight seasons and it looks to stay that way.
Whilst Berlin is the political and designated capital of Germany, Munich is often seen as the football capital. Many suggest that Hertha and Berlin are jealous of the success of Bayern Munich but football fans across the country will tell you otherwise. Success is one thing, but the arrogance to consistently buy players that no other club in the country can afford is quite another, especially when those players tend to be from clubs that could be future rivals.
Take the last few seasons for example. The fact players like Lewandowski and Goretzka joined on a free is immaterial. Players know that by defecting to Bayern for no money leaves their previous clubs with no cash made from the signing and weakens the opponent whilst making Bayern stronger.
Robert Lewandowski left Dortmund, the club that virtually made him the superstar that he is today, on a free. He could’ve joined any club in world at that point, but instead Bayern chose to snap him up because it bolstered their offense whilst weakening Dortmund’s side. Lewandowski helped BVB win two titles and the DFB Pokal as well as get to a Champions League Final which they lost to… yep you guessed it, Bayern.
Mario Goetze was a youngster lured by Bayern’s cash and success, as he joined them just days after the UCL Final at Wembley in London. Dortmund at the time were Bayern’s only major rivals in the league. Goetze later returned to Dortmund claiming that moving to Bayern was the biggest mistake he’d ever made.
Mats Hummels also made the jump from Dortmund to Bayern despite addressing the media insisting he had no interest in joining the Bavarians again, having been at their academy as a boy.
Dortmund began to drop off as a rival, instead in the following seasons, no one could touch Bayern. Last season the closest contender ended up being Schalke, who allowed Leon Goretzka to leave Gelsenkirchen to join Bayern on a free. Bayern were not in need of Goretzka but knew full well that luring him to Bavaria would weaken one of their potential rivals. It proved correct, Schalke so far this season have been incredibly poor.
It proved the same story with Hoffenheim, who in 2016/17 and 17/18 were chasing Bayern down with good performances.
Sebastian Rudy, Niklas Sule and Sandro Wagner, Hoffenheims best players, jumped onboard the goodship Bayern leaving Hoffenheim weakened. Rudy was constantly on the bench in his stint at Bayern and is now a part of the Schalke team for the 18/19 season.
This approach angers Bundesliga fans alike. But it also serves as frustration to other clubs who feel they have zero chance to compete when Bayern Munich have almost double the value in their squad as anyone else.
This season, Hertha beat Bayern, but the value of the two squads was quite remarkable. Hertha’s squad is valued at £123 million. Bayern’s is valued at over £800 million. The 8 fold increase goes to show that clubs like Hertha, Bremen, even Leverkusen and Dortmund, have little chance of competing against Bayern when they cannot afford the best players.
Instead Hertha’s tactic is to turn to youth, their own home grown players, develop them into something they want in order to fit their system… it is something that Munich lack in their team. Instead they choose to buy players once they’re developed. As soon as an emerging talent is quite clearly going to stick, Bayern will start racking up the offers in Euros to entice them to join the red side of Munich.

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Never far to travel: Red is not really a welcome colour in the Olympiastadion. Many Bayern fans do not hail from anywhere near Munich

Such an attitude and sometimes a lack of respect towards their Bundesliga opponents means that other German clubs have zero respect for the reds when they come to town. It also means that the bookmakers and the pundits give smaller clubs like Hertha zero chance of getting a result when they play each other.
The pressure is unknowingly therefore, on Bayern to perform. If Hertha lost, it would be expected and no big deal, but if the result were any other, it would be a triumph like no other and proof that sometimes discipline and youth can be successful, without the need to be rich and in the light of glory.
Bayern fans claim “You have to support them when they lose”. Problem is that is practically never, for Hertha it is a different story… they lose a lot more often. It takes a lot more effort to continuously support them.

The reason perhaps this means more to Hertha than anything is that although not beating Bayern since 2009 was one thing, the Berliners have been seen as somewhat in the shadow of Munich for decades. Hertha have won zero trophies, they have barely even played in European competition. In contrast Bayern have won it all and winning the league title alone last season was seen as a ‘disaster’ and ‘disappointment’ to them. Hertha would dream of winning any title, the fact Bayern were disappointed with just one sort of makes the Berliner’s blood boil with rage at the arrogance.
Berlin is not regarded as a football city in the wider perspective of football fans despite having dozens of smaller clubs and being steeped in tradition. If you ask anyone on the street in England to name a German football club they will more than likely say Bayern Munich, because it’s the only one they know. They have probably never heard of Hertha BSC, but the start to season has brought Hertha into the limelight, just a little. Now they may well be known as ‘that team that beat Bayern on Friday night’. But it’s a title they will take.

It also means more to several of the players that took part in the 2-0 victory.
Niklas Stark, Maximilian Mittelstadt, Vedad Ibisevic, Salomon Kalou, Per Skjelbred Thomas Kraft,  as well as benched Marvin Plattenhardt and Fabian Lustenberger were all part of the team that played in the 1-1 draw in February 2017 which saw Bayern equalise with the last kick of the game in a minute of the match that should not existed. The scenes at the end of the game were unsavoury, as Ibisevic, Plattenhardt and Jarstein were seen arguing with the referee, Ibisevic and Jarstein then had a quarrel with Manuel Neuer and Stark and Mittelstadt were left exhausted and devastated. To be so close and have a deserved victory snatched away is extremely painful.
A year later and although the comeback from 2-0 down was somewhat of an act of revenge that 1-1 draw still stung in the back of the minds of the players and all those fans in the stadium that had witnessed the latest ever Bundesliga goal. It didn’t help that just prior to the match under the Friday night lights, that Bayern’s social media accounts were mocking Hertha by posting about the 97th minute goal from two seasons back, seemingly mocking the team in blue and white.
It would be sweet sweet revenge for Hertha.
It had been a long long wait for the supporters who not only saw a win against Bayern but a clean sheet and a deserved win from a hard working, determined, unified team that gave their hearts and souls in a game that suggests that this current team are shaping up to be one to watch in the future.
A number of the players, the likes of Arne Maier, Dennis Jastrzembski and Maximilian Mittelstadt are all graduates of the Hertha youth system.
Niklas Stark, Ondrej Duda, Arne Maier, Maximilian Mittelstadt, Valentino Lazaro, Karim Rekik and Javaro Dilrosun are all under the age of 25. These players are not just ones for the here and now but have years ahead of them to develop into world class players. Developing them from your academy or from a young age also presents a sense of pride from the Berlin supporters who feel that those players are their own, proud to represent the city and the club.

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Cause for celebration: The team celebrate in the Ostkurve,

Beating Bayern is not just a victory on the pitch but off it too, in terms of mentality, outlook and ambition. Hertha are more than likely not going to be Bundesliga champions come May but what they can achieve is an attempt at European spots as well as proving all those that were against them and shut them down as a force, wrong.
Why does it mean so much?
Because it was something that was fought for with grit and heart and something that took a while accomplish but in the end, came through. The clash of ambition and style as well as outlook and cultures so often resulted in the red half of Germany being the victor, this time however it was overturned. Despite half the stadium emerging in red, it was the true football loving blue side that had the chance to finally celebrate beating the champions.


11 Behind the Ball: Hertha becomes a second half team of defenders

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Old enemies: Lewandowski scored the equaliser two years ago, to leave Niklas Stark defleated… now he had sweet revenge.

One goal is never enough… that’s what they say.
But in the case of Hertha BSC, neither is two, and especially not against the reigning champions of Germany.
Bayern have more than enough quality to make a comeback even from two goals down. We even saw that the two goal cushion is never safe in the Saturday late fixture between Leverkusen and Dortmund which saw the home side throw away a two goal advantage to lose 4-2.
What some did not want to see in the second half from Hertha, a defensive style of football, is inevitably what happened, however it is exactly what needed to be done, especially considering the lack of consistency in defending over the first 5 games. Hertha had gone the longest without conceding but in previous 2 matches had let in 5 goals and had conceded penalties in all five of the games they’d played in.
There was a distinct lack of discipline in defending even though the primary focus has been on attacking flair this season so far. It was something that needed addressing by Dardai and his coaching staff… and they responded with the second half display against Bayern.
Davie Selke was introduced to add some pace to the front line, in case there happened to be the chance to counter. It was a good move, but Mathew Leckie was already brought on, his first game in a while having been out injured. Leckie defended well for all it’s worth, he’s an attacking minded player as is Valentino Lazaro.
But the entire 11 pulled together as a defensive unit with special mention going to Skjelbred who seemed to be everywhere, having not made an appearance in the starting line up all season and was absent from even the squad selection until match day 4.
It’s not pretty, by no means is it guaranteed to work but the challenge was to defend the two goal like, like a Berlin wall. Every man played their part in doing so, from Thomas Kraft in goal to the backline of defenders, to even the attacking midfielders all pitching in. Even Davie Selke was helping out at the back, Bayern could not get get through.
Defensive football is exactly what Dardai had been criticised for last season and the previous seasons that he’s been in charge. Whilst Hertha could be accused of being a defensive team, there was no question they were fairly good at it, but it meant a lack of creative and entertaining football, they had failed to truly thrash anyone home or away for 3 years, the most goals they’d scored in a game had been 3 against Frankfurt away from home last season.

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Brick Wall: Valentino Lazaro did his part as a defensive winger

This season showed something new. Whilst Hertha had always seemed to be fearless against Bayern under the guidance of Dardai, they had never been attacking minded as such and whilst showing they were capable of scoring goals against the boys from Munich, there was never anything to suggest that they would be comfortable in the games they played. Hertha vs Bayern had become an edgy match for Hertha, knowing that one simple mistake would cost them all their hard work and so it was nearly impossible to play creative and entertaining football and so the fans became accustomed to being sort of directionless in style.  Now though, in their previous 5 games Hertha had scored in every single one, putting 4 past Borussia Monchengladbach and 2 past Schalke and Wolfsburg away from home.  But they had conceded goals too, leaking at the back having kept two clean sheets in the first two games.
It would take the visit of a powerhouse like Bayern to bring out the best of Hertha’s defensive qualities and this time the discipline stuck and the lessons from midweek defeat were learned. For once in Berlin the sense of optimism was not stemming from results going the right way, but instead the type of football the club was playing. It has become entertaining, creative, compact and positive, mainly thanks to the additions of several attacking players into the squad. At the same time, against Bayern, the team showed they were more than capable of calmly defending a lead. Leverkusen showed on Saturday just how a two goal lead can be thrown away if the confidence concentration, discipline and strength lapse and how becoming cocky can lead to losing games despite having been entirely comfortable. 45 minutes is a long time, it only takes a second to score a goal, Dortmund proved that in their spectacular come back.
Bayern had expected the second half Hertha approach to be how they would play the entire match… it shocked them to realise that is not how it would go. They hadn’t gotten what they expected and it forced their hand and forced Kovac to have a rethink, but even as he did Hertha were one step ahead.


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No way through: Arne Maier played the defensive midfield role with Per Skjelbred perfectly to shut Bayern out

In the 0-0 draw in Munich last season, Hertha were the only team not to concede a goal at the Allianz arena. It put an end to an attempted record in the Bundesliga of consecutive home wins for Bayern. It also stopped Robert Lewandowski from becoming a player to score against every team at home in the league.
The type of football witnessed that day was that type of football that the media were so critical of however, the goal was not to win that day, but to at least come away with a point. Instead of just 45 minutes of the style seen in the 2-0 victory over Bayern, the game in Munich last season for an entire 90 minutes of it. They just did not have the capability back then to attempt better.
This season there is no need for that approach with the attacking quality Hertha have at their disposal.
Whilst 11 behind the ball is not a pretty means of seeing out a game, in this instance with a two goal lead, it was not in anyone’s mind to criticise Dardai for his approach to the second 45 minutes. This is a season not many are expecting great things from Hertha, because the team is young and still learning, still developing. But what the game against Bayern on Friday showed was that despite being young and always finding room for improvement, this team could well be capable of doing what needs to be done whilst playing attractive football.
It seems the optimism in Berlin is not coming from the match results, but instead, coming from the style of football being played and that is a far more positive thing than simply being satisfied with the full time score.


Community Club: Frank Zander returns, a non racist message, the dimming of the Olympiastadion.

Anything: “In Berlin you can be anything… except racist”

Friday night lights. The Olympiastadion was set for a party, not because they had yet won the match but because Berlin is simply, the best city in the world.
That was the vibe set by the pre match warm up in which Frank Zander returned to sing with the fans in unison, his anthem ‘Nur Nach Hause’.
It felt to serve as a ‘good luck’ gesture to the team from the man himself. Hertha fans completely outdid themselves with their vocal performance. It was loud and extremely proud. This weeks home fixture was dedicated to the district of ‘Mitte’… where no one is really from but everyone is a part of.

The good gestures continued. The player came out to warm up wearing jackets that displayed a clear message
“In Berlin, kannst du alles sein…ausser rassist” (In Berlin, you can be anything, except racist).
It follows a similar pattern to last seasons kneel prior to the game against Gelsenkirchen at home, which Hertha lost 2-0.
Berlin is a tolerant city. Despite the reputation Germany humorously carries around because of the war, it is now in huge part, the most multicultural in Europe and Berlin is by far its most multicultural and multi ethnic city. The capital even during the war years was known as the ‘Red City’, meaning it was more prone to communism than it ever was to Nazism and fascism.
With the events such as the far right marches in Chemnitz taking place, Berlin too a stance politically by staging several, far larger, counter protests to bat down the racist and fascist behaviour of far right and AfD sympathisers. Clubs elsewhere in the Bundesliga had also shown solidarity with equality movements in displays of unity such as wearing rainbow captains arms bands to support equal rights of the LGBTQ  community.  When RB Leipzig’s management claimed there was no need for them to act because Sports and Politics don’t mix, they hadn’t thought through that by addressing the issue they had automatically made a stance. Notably Leipzig is an AfD stronghold.
The phrasing also follows Hertha’s own campaign this season of bringing together and including all districts of Berlin. “In Berlin, kannst du alles sein… auch Herthaner” has included every day Berliners, Hertha fans, to be a part of the poster campaign around the city, with each home game being dedicated to a certain district.
“Nazis raus” is a phrase often heard in stadiums across Germany but more so in clubs in the former West Germany. East German clubs have a far greater problem with Far Right Winger nutters getting access to their stadium and their management far less willing to do anything about it.
Hertha as a club has always taken equality and anti racism pretty seriously.
Along with the jackets pre match the clubs social media account posted a photograph. A team photo with a large number of players having been erased.
The caption stated that “Without diversity we are nothing.”
The only players remaining in the photo were native, white German nationals.
A strong message and a true message. Berlin is one of the most multicultural cities in Europe and embraces that title. Without people of all faith, backgrounds, colour and ethnicity, the city and the team, are non existent.

Something special: The lights were dimmed for the Aufstellung on Fridaynight

Build up to a match is always important, but this time around it was a regular Bundesliga fixture. The fact it was against the reigning champions is usually not really taken into consideration… but the stadium was packed, sold out, the first time in two seasons that it had happened.
The last time the lights were dimmed for a game at the Olympiastadion, was the DFB Pokal Halbfinale against Borussia Dortmund in 2016, the most special of occasions.
This Friday night fixture proved a little different. The atmosphere, the support wasn’t so much set up because the mighty Bayern were in town, but because for once, there was optimism in the air, a sense of pride, the pure enjoyment of just watching the team. It was set up for one reason with one message from the fans to the team…
“We are here to support you, not matter what happened. Win, lose, draw, we are here and we are proud”.
The Aufstellung was loud, the players could feel it. Many of them reposted on social media, their own names being blasted out by supporters around the stadium. There was no fear going into battle. Instead it was excitement, anticipation, even fun. The place was buzzing and it may well have rubbed off on the team. Their performance on the pitch was worthy of celebration. The Olympiastadion has not been bouncing like that for years. Now all of a sudden there was cause for celebration

Focus: Salmon Kalou, the Ivorian veteran still ready for action, the lovable lad.

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Veterans: Kalou and Ibisevic are the two oldest outfield players in the Hertha team this season

Salomon Kalou is a Champions League winner with Chelsea. He knows the Premier League well and is a proven winner despite not getting any younger.
He hasn’t scored yet this season but Kalou has been with Hertha now for 4 years. He’s not won titles like he did in England but nevertheless seems to be content and happy in Berlin.
Kalou is not quite the speedster he once was but it doesn’t matter, his quality shines through in every game he plays.
During an away game in Freiburg he had the opportunity to equalise for Hertha as they had fallen to a 1-0 losing position. Kalou skied it. Just moments later, Hertha were awarded another penalty, Kalou stepped up with nerves of steel and this time slotted it home resulting in a 1-1 draw.
He scored with what was almost the last kick of the game to take a point away in Augsburg. He scored to draw Hertha level with Bayern in Berlin after being 2-0 down.
The boy is a determined winnera and never it seems, in a bad mood.
From his instastories and posts it is clear that Kalou adores his teammates and is considered by them to be a hugely valuable part of the squad. His friendship with Ondrej Duda has been a huge boost for both Kalou and the Slovakian Number 10. Their friendship is evident on the pitch too.
But what sets Kalou apart is not just his contribution to the team on the pitch a a goalscorer. The Ivorian is also unselfish, having assisted and helped create assists this season. His work against Borussia Monchengladbach, refusing to go down after a foul, allowed him to worked the ball into the box to find a wide open Ibisevic.
In the 2-0 victory against Bayern, he was the one that worked the ball into Valentino Lazaro to enable him to then find Ondrej Duda for the second goal of the game.
His work ethic is unquestionable, but he takes defeat graciously as well, willing to learn from mistakes rather than dwelling on them.
He’s much loved and valued by the fans of the club as well, always finding time after training to speak with them, a highly approachable human being and charitable off the pitch too, always campaigning for equality and much the face of the anti racism campaign last season, openly speaking about following the defeat to Schalke at home.
Despite him being one of the oldest outfield players in the squad, along with fellow forward Vedad Ibisevic, he hasn’t slowed down in assists, goals and contributions to the games he plays in. His age and experience allows him to be somewhat of a role model to the young players coming through the ranks at Hertha, whilst still improving his own game.
Salomon Kalou remains an important part of the team in Berlin. Whether he will remain in the capital at the end of the season is a question for then not now, but to obtain a player of such quality on and off the pitch is something Berlin can be proud of.



All good things must end…aber…?

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Spitzenreiter: Top of the table for two hours after defeating Borussia Monchengladbach 

All good things must come to an end, but the future still looks bright.

Despite losing their first game of the season on a cold Tuesday night in Bremen, it was the first time anyone could really say there were a few positives found in defeat.
Hertha managed to score in a 3-1 loss in which Bremen could consider themselves extremely lucky however, the loss also serves as learning curve for Pal Dardai and his young Hertha team.
After all, the euphoria of being top of the table for a few hours on Saturday afternoon (to be batted back down by Bayern’s win over the quite frankly abysmal Schalke 04), couldn’t last.
Hertha take on the Rekordmeister on Friday evening at the Olympiastadion where they remain unbeaten, with two wins from two, but the feeling of being top for even a few hours was a feeling this team cannot allow to go to their heads.
Bremen, undefeated still would be an entirely different task, especially in the “English week” or “Englisch Woche”… and defeat could be a blessing in disguise for Hertha, since now, Pal Dardai has to focus on the negatives on which to improve on rather than the only positive side of the team he saw on Saturday against Borussia Monchengladbach, who had been unbeaten at the time.
After all, you learn from more in defeat than from an undeserved victory.

Spitzenreiter for 2 hours: The euphoria against Gladbach.

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Duda does it again: Ondrej Duda scored his fourth goal of the season

Borussia Monchengladbach came to Berlin with an identical record to Hertha… but they certainly didn’t play as if that were a fact on Saturday afternoon.
Hertha were on the back of a draw against Wolfsburg, Gladbach too remained unbeaten…In fact Hertha and Borussia’s records were identical down to the number of yellow cards they’d each received.
The same number of goals scored and conceded, the same results (2 wins and a draw) therefore the same number of points (7), the same number of yellow and red cards, there was literally nothing to separate the two teams coming into Match day 4 in the table other than alphabetical order.

You wouldn’t have been able to guess that upon revision of the match however.
The first 10 minutes were cagey, both sides had a few decent chances, but there was no real threat from the Gladbach side.
Until the inevitable happened.
“Hertha and penalty is a better love story than ‘Twilight'” said a fan on Twitter.
He was right.
A clumsy halfhearted challenge by Niklas Stark led to Hertha’s fourth penalty conceded in as many game, setting a new and very much unwanted record.
The penalty itself wasn’t VAR reviewed by the referee on the monitor and could be considered incredibly harsh against Stark, who appeared just to out muscle is opponent.
Thorgan Hazard did the rest, giving Jarstein no chance and put Gladbach 1-0 into a very much undeserved lead. After two or three squandered chances by Duda and Kalou, the game was opening up.
The Berliners responded almost instantly. Just 3 minutes later, a perfect cross from Marvin Plattenhardt was met by captain Ibisevic, who’s reaction to equalising was typical of a captain determined to go out and get more.
He ushered his team to get back to the centre circle as quickly as possible as if they were down by 2 goals not one, to restart the game. Ibisevic could sense something and he was right to. Just moments later, newbie starlet Javairo Dilrosun, found a pitch perfect cross that found the head of Valentino Lazaro. The header was perfect, straight into the top corner past a rooted Jan Sommer who could only stand and watch.
The turn around had taken just 4 minutes. Hertha were now in control but by no means cruising. It meant Gladbach had to come out and play and they did create chances but posed little danger. The midfield was being dominated by the likes of Marko Grujic and Arne Maier, winning the first and second ball.
After the break it wasn’t long before Hertha could afford to just lay back a little, when Salomon Kalou took on the Gladbach defense, he could’ve easily gone down for an obvious foul but managed to keep his footing as he saw the run of Ibisevic who tapped in for a second and his clubs third of the game.
But Hertha are Hertha, and something always has to go wrong.
Firstly, Plea managed to somehow snatch another goal out of nothing for Gladbach making the scoreline uncomfortable at 3-2 for Hertha. The 3-2 score wasn’t at all reflective of the game’s progression or the balance of play but was instead a moment of lapsed concentration for Berlin. The header hit the underside of the bar, bounced down and over the line, which was unfortunate if anything else for Jarstein.
Secondly, Marko Grujic was forced off the pitch after a horror challenge from Patrick Herrmann, being replaced by Per Skjelbred to bolster the defensive midfield.
Grujic, who had been one of the contenders for Man of the match, was grounded after Herrmann raised his studs, crunching into Grujic’s ankle. The replays make for uneasy viewing. The result was later revealed to be damaged and torn ligaments in the ankle which could take months to heal.
Questionable decisions such as the penalty and the choice to only give Herrmann a yellow card for this challenge, are starting to become a normality for Hertha. 3 of the 5 penalties against them could be considered harsh or wrong. The decision to allow Herrmann to stay on the pitch considering Karim Bellarabi made an identical challenge last week against Bayern, once again begs the question of VAR and how it’s being implemented.
Despite the set back Hertha pressed again and again and as Gladbach were left vulnerable at the back, they took advantage.
Dilrosun once again was a huge factor in creating the chance, Ondrej Duda was only too happy to oblige to complete the process, scoring his 4th goal in 3 games.
Dilrosun is now the leading assist maker in the league, Duda the top scorer.
The game ended 4-2 and with Bayern not playing Schalke until 6:30pm, Hertha BSC were the league leaders as the match came to its conclusion.
It ended Gladbach’s unbeaten start, but Hertha’s defensive frailties were still present, the euphoria of the well earned victory against tough opponents, perhaps meant that the negatives were not taken into consideration for Hertha’s Tuesday trip to Bremen.

For the first time in a very long time, Hertha were head of the pack, even if it only lasted a few hours as Bayern easily sailed past a unbelievably terrible Schalke 0-2 in Gelsenkirchen.

The truth of the matter was however, that Hertha were now playing attractive, attacking football, where as in previous seasons, Dardai had been somewhat accused of being far too defensive and not playing pretty football.
Now it seems Hertha have a direction, introducing new and exciting young players and balancing it with the older and far more experienced.
The problem with that, is that sooner or later the youngsters have to learn something new and take constructive criticism in defeat. You can’t always see what’s wrong when you win consistently and no one is taking about the positives of the win against Borussia Monchengladbach but euphoria can blind you against anything you may need to take into consideration to keep the momentum going… and that showed two days later in Bremen,

Fan perspective: Ultras disgruntled, the return of Nur Nach Hause, Fans optimism.

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Dialogue: The ‘Einlauflied’ returned but the Ultras are still not 100% happy

Frank Zander has a concert in Wolfsburg…. it just happens to be matchday, so the idea of having the Berlin legend in the stadium to perform for every home game didn’t quite come to fruition this week. However, Frankie did address his adoring fans in a Facebook post, explaining a pre-planned concert meant he would be absent for the game against Borussia Monchengladbach but he would be returning to support the team against the Rekordmeister Bayern Munchen on Friday night.
There was therefore, an underlying fear, that the management may not honour their promise to return the ‘Einlauflied’ to its former state.
There was no need for any fear, as ‘Dickes B’ was pushed back and Hertha’s classic song “Nur Nach Hause” was played once again as the team entered the field.
Not only that, but it was as if the Ultras, and the fans in general, dedicated their vocal performance to the team and to Zander as they repeated the songs chorus twice after the music stopped. The singing was continuous, and the noise was louder than before.  It was the fans way of saying ‘We are home, and so too is our beautiful hymne’.
It will be special to have Frankie back, especially for the Bayern game, but to hear his eternal anthem sung once more as the team comes in, was something to be marvelled. Guess the board heard the cries of outrage from the supporters after they tried to change it.

That’s not to say the Ultras aren’t still complaining about something. Paul Keuter is still at the root of the concerns and ‘Keuter Raus’ is still being chanted out across the stadium, along with the likes of ‘Scheiss DFB’.
The issue remains however, if the management can’t access the members then there is simply no dialogue and without dialogue there is no solution to any questions or concerns that the supporters have. By closing communications, it’s all one way traffic, both parties need to find the time to listen to the opposite side.
By changing the ‘Einlauflied’ without querying it with the supporters first, the management and board made a massive mistake and an enemy out of themselves which they were quick to realise and rectify, but it felt as though asking Frank Zander to perform at every home game (when he is available) was an attempt at appeasement after making the horrendous error and misjudgement at changing the song in the first place. There was no formal apology to the fans for the upset that was caused.

Optimism and Berlin do not always go hand in hand. The city is used to disappointment and compromise.
With the team, it’s no different. Over the past few years Dardai has been accused of being far too defensive and not playing ‘attractive football’.
The solution to that is to change the style of thinking, change the outlook… what is it you want to achieve?
By purchasing and inviting new attacking players into the team, with a handful of defensive teammates, the balance of the squad shifts entirely. The likes of Dilrosun and Grjuic, Lazaro and Maier, go hand in hand with the aging experience of Ibisevic, Lustenberger, Skjelbred and Jarstein who know the Bundesliga well.
With the addition of youngsters as well, it allows far more attacking options to produce better attacking displays not previously linked with ‘Dardai style’ football. Dardai himself was a midfielder more prone to defending when needs be, so his stance on managing would clearly have a certain tinge of defensive style about it.
The problem that arises is that being so attacking minded allows the defensive side the slip. As shown by the late display in the draw at Wolfsburg and the two goals conceded against Monchengladbach, Hertha are now prone to conceding goals and not everything can be put onto the shoulders of Rune Jarstein. It is the risk of the new 3-4-3 system Dardai is trying to instil in the players. But the risk, is it worth it?
Hertha have not failed to score in their first 5 games. Even the loss to Bremen saw the Berliners score a goal thanks to Dilrosun.
The new system and approach gives cause to be excited and optimistic for the first time in a while for Hertha fans. Even if the risk and the chance to change direction fails, it seems as though there is finally an outlook and a goal the club wants to reach on the pitch… to produce good young talent and play entertaining football.
It’s not all about winning no matter how you do it, it’s about entertaining those that matter the most, in footballs case that is always the supporters, those fans in the stands that pay to watch these young and older men kick a ball about for 90 plus minutes.
Hertha may finally have a direction and goal it wants to achieve but it’s all about how they’ll reach it. This team, young and growing and therefore learning, have the ability to win games and score goals. The 4-2 against Gladbach was the first time the Berlin side had scored 4 goals in a game for 3 years, the last being in 2015 away to Darmstadt.
But with problems regarding the conceding of penalties and just amateur mistakes costing goals as well, there’s always something to learn. In Berlin, there is always something new to see and something new to learn from.

Ref, we have a problem: 5 elfer in 5 spiel… what the hell is going on here?

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5 in 5: Hertha conceded a penalty against Wolfsburg (pictured) as well as Nurnberg, Schalke, Gladbach and Bremen. 5 in 5 games, a new Bundesliga record

“We’re going to concede a penalty against Bayern on Friday”
“Oh yeah, no doubt”
There is now even a joke doing the rounds on social media… “When will we concede the penalty?”
and guess what?
It happened again.
Whether unjustified or not, it’s something that has to stop happening. Pal Dardai needs to begin disciplining the young defenders, urging them not to panic when under pressure and make rash, unneeded challenges like the one committed by Marvin Plattenhardt against Werder Bremen.
Hertha cannot be reliant on scoring goals, they must begin to work on defense despite trying to escape the tag of being a ‘defensive team’.
Attacking options are all well and good but a team but work on both aspects of the game and that includes rigorously defending set pieces and dangerous attacks. This team are capable of that, but it needs to be consistent for 90 minutes and more.
So far, the only clear cut penalty against Hertha was in Gelsenkirchen, when Marko Grujic raised his hand and grazed the ball in the process inside the box. Despite the ball no really changing direction, the spin on the ball altered, meaning upon review it was clear Grujic had touched it with his fingertips.
That sort of mistake is foolish, but the four other cases on penalties given against Hertha are more than questionable. Even more questionable is how VAR was used on several of those decisions but no VAR has been used for potential fouls in the other direction. A perfect example was in Bremen when Duda was brought down in the box and no review was made, and when Niklas Stark was quite clearly potentially fouled in the box defending a corner, only for Werder to score and no review of the potential foul on Stark was made.
If VAR is going to be used for these decisions it has to be used to review potential mistakes in other areas too. We’ve seen it can be success even in Hertha games. A goal in Wolfsburg last season was called back for a foul in the build up on Fabian Lustenberger. Rightfully so, the goal was disallowed.
But now, referees have the knowledge that Hertha may be prone to giving away fouls in the box. Influence from the opposition, especially the likes of the whinging FC Bayern players, do still have influence on the referee in making their final decision.
Whilst it’s easy to argue against the penalties, the question remains why does it keep happening?
Hertha had been incredibly cautious in their match against Bremen, only to end up conceding a penalty anyway.
The look on Pal Dardai’s face said it all, he looked as though he was about to burst into the tears. He was asking the same question on all our lips… ‘Why is this happening to us in every game?’.
However, the incidents provide a learning curve for the players, that they must remain disciplined and level headed throughout the game.
Certain teams like Bayern know exactly how to con the referee, as shown on match day one against Hoffenheim where Franck Ribery blatantly dived in the box and still managed to get a penalty out of it even upon review of the VAR.
It does beg the question of referees when such incidents occur, but it questions them even more when teams like Hertha never seem to get the calls in their favour either.
You can be as cautious as you like, one error and it’s all over yet again, but how does Dardai instil this into the players? Sometimes fouls cannot be helped, but you have to ask how on earth do so many penalties get given against the same team with at least 4 of them being questionable.

In the end it is immaterial. The truth is one has to play to the referees whistle. Caution is needed but don’t be too careful either or you lose concentration. Eventually it will have to be pounded into the players that they have to be disciplined in defending but still be firm and strong.

The Green Curse: Hertha lose in Bremen… the curse against the boys in Green. 

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Oh dear: Fabian Lustenberger accidentally takes the ball out of the safe hands of Rune Jarstein, leading to Bremen’s first goal.

It was a terrible game. A cold Tuesday night in Bremen. It wasn’t especially pleasant football weather, a stark contrast to how the last match was in Berlin just a few days before.
It wasn’t a typically entertaining game that followed either.
Both teams were unbeaten going into the match but it was also both teams that lacked any sort of flair and creativity in the first half.
There were a limited number of chances but it was Bremen that got all the luck. A free kick that looked to have been dealt with by Rune Jarstein was fluffed and somehow ended up in the back of the net from Martin Harnik, always a thorn in Hertha’s side.
Scrappy, the goal was something of a comedy of errors. As Jarstein went to collect the ball and pounce on it, Fabian Lustenberger hadn’t realised the ball was at his keepers fingertips. He went automatically to poke the ball away and clear, only to realise far too late that the ball was already safe. In doing so, Lustenberger steered the ball out of Jarsteins grasp and plucked it into the air for Harnik to poke it in.
A horror moment for Lustenberger and frustration for Jarstein as Hertha looked completely out of sorts in the midfield. The space left behind by the injured Grujic was being felt massively as Lustenberger had been pushed up into the defensive midfield and Karim Rekik had returned at centre back.
Before half time things only got worse for Hertha as Bremen made it two from a corner, another set piece. This time however there were question marks over whether there was a potential foul on Niklas Stark who appeared to be being held down by the goalscorer therefore unable to jump and make his challenge for the ball. The claims become more valid when you see the reaction on Stark’s face at the time, as he seems to be in pain. But the goal stood and Hertha were 2-0 down at half time.
The half had been extremely cagey and the free flowing football was non existent.
Second half, Hertha had a new look. Palko Dardai, son of coach Pal, had been given his first start but was replaced having failed to make an impact on the game. Salomon Kalou entered the fray as did Davie Selke late on.
Their introduction did not do much to help matters. Ibisevic had a few chances early in the half but it came to nothing.
Despite getting one back through Javairo Dilrosun, Hertha were laid to the penalty curse yet again, just as they were on top of the game and on the verge of levelling.
Again the decision was questionable as it almost mirrored the challenge Kevin-Prince Boateng made in the DFB Pokal Finale against Bayern.
But this one was given as Marvin Plattenhardt made a rash challenge in the box.
The mistake was not the challenge itself but the fact that he had no need to make it in the first place as the Bremen attacker was going nowhere and had his back to goal.
Needless to say the penalty was scored and Hertha ended the game with their first defeat of 3-1, a massive reality check for the Berliners who could now take defeat with a hint of optimism.
Having seen what the team is capable of on their day, it could now be seen what has to be worked on in training.  All the mistakes and errors were clear in this game, when you win it’s far too easy to only see what you do right, not what you’ve potentially done wrong.
So whilst the win over Borussia Monchengladbach was a triumph, no one had taken into account the two goals conceded in enough detail. You can learn from more from losing where you can see what went wrong, than from winning where, even if you payed poorly, you don’t take account of the poor display, just the three points.
It is a steep learning curve for the players who face their toughest challenge on Friday against Bayern Munich.
But from it can also seen some positives. Dilrosun is a star in the making having scored twice and had 3 assists in just 3 starts and 1 sub appearance.
Ibisevic still has the capability to score goals and the squad has a far better rotation than last season.
From the loss comes both positives and negative. It just depends how those points are taken on board.

VAR, get it right? Was it a red?: Bellarabi’s despair, a lucky Patrick Herrmann

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Pain: Marko Grujic is helped off the pitch after a horror tackle from Patrick Hermann

How is it that Karim Bellarabi received a straight red card for a challenge he made in match between Bayer Levekusen and Bayern Munich, when Patrick Herrmann made an almost identical challenge on Marko Grujic when Gladbach came to Berlin, only to receive a yellow?


Ouch: This challenge by Herrmann led to Marko Grujic’s nasty injury. 


The challenge from Bellarabi was notably reviewed by VAR, however Herrmann’s destructive challenge on the Serb in Berlin was not. Grujic was forced to the leave the field in quite a bit of distress and was confirmed to have suffered ligament damage in the ankle meaning he would be out of the game for at least 6 weeks. He was seen on crutches the following day.
Challenges like this one was extremely dangerous, they can easily put a players careers at risk, but to not punish such challenges with a sending off is simply ludicrous. Despite Herrmann’s apologies after the incident, it doesn’t change the fact that Marko Grujic was left in agony and will now miss a chunk of the season. He may never return the same player, as injuries of this kind can ultimately have life long lasting effects on the players ability.
But Bellarabi made an almost identical challenge in his match up with Bayern and was indeed sent off, without much of a complaint either. Whilst both challenges looked like errors and accidental, the studs were showing, and it could’ve easily resulted in a leg or ankle break. By the law, this is endangering an opponent and therefore a straight red card and three match ban from football in the Bundesliga.
Regardless of the intent, the VAR did not review the challenge on Grujic and the Video Assistant did not even appear to make the referee aware of it. Perhaps they did not see it clearly, but from the images shown of the tackle later, it was quite obvious that the call was more than a little questionable.
Perhaps there is a vendetta with Hertha and the VAR system, with the amount of penalties given against them this season and now the VAR not even working in their favour for what is a clear and obvious error from the referee.
Meanwhile Grujic is left recovering from injury and supporting the team from the sidelines. It could be 6 weeks or more before he returns but come to think of it, he’s lucky he will recover, had the challenge been any higher up the leg it could’ve been a lot worse.

Finally a direction: Is this a sign of things to come? 

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Goalscorer: Valentino Lazaro takes on Gladbach

Hertha fans can finally look forward to games rather than dreading what they might see, with a team that can only mature and improve with the aid the older players. The balance is right and the mentality of attacking style football has brought in a brand perspective to the side that were previously accused of being ‘far too defensive’… but does that mean they are also left vulnerable at the back?
For once in Berlin there is true optimism, not the jokes that we make about the team beating everyone and becoming champions that we all take with a pinch of salt.
The direction of the style of play and the direction off the pitch finally seems to be a little clearer. With the types of signings being made it seems Hertha want to take a more progressive approach, by inviting young players and developing them into potentially stars rather than straight up buying ready made stars like Bayern do.
This system allows young talents to emerge and get their chance in a top flight division such as the Bundesliga rather than slumbering in academies in England waiting for a chance that will never come so long as those clubs have billions in the bank.
By doing so it emulates a little Berlin pride too, with Arne Maier, Jordan Torunarigha, Palko Dardai, Flo Baak, Maximilian Mittelstadt all coming through the youth systems to make appearances for the senior side. There are also plenty more to come, with Hertha investing in young talent from outside of their own pool in Berlin, such as Javairo Dilrosun and Pascal Kopke.
This is in a way, how the success of the 1990’s/2000’s Manchester United team started.
‘You can’t win anything with kids’ said Alan Hansen in 1995, for BBC’s “Match of the Day”. He was of course speaking about the Man Utd team that would go on to become one of the most, if not the most successful club, in the world.
The problem these days is simple… money and competition. So long as Bayern have the cash the buy the likes of James, and spend however much they like on new targets like Benjamin Pavard and Leon Bailey, there’s never going to be any competition in the league any more. They poach the best of the competition and strengthen themselves by also weakening their opponents.
The direction Hertha is taking is more one of pride than anything else. These players may never become world beaters. But the path set for them in Berlin is clear, they’re here to learn and adapt and to gain as much experience as possible. It’s a club players seemingly like being a part of. Marko Grujic is only on loan for the season but has seemingly embraced being a part of the club and Berlin it seems. Davie Selke had interest from the Premier League over the summer but chose to stay at Hertha because he was happy in Berlin and with the club.
If players wants to be here and represent the club with honours, that is something that has already been achieved.
The aim for the future must surely be the European spots and getting Hertha out onto the world stage, perhaps not becoming a global success but gaining attention in all the right ways.
Off the pitch the story is similar, the idea of holding training sessions in the various Berlin districts as well as dedicating a home match to each district is nothing short of incredibly positive. Whilst there are still niggles and little varying issues between supporters and management, there has to eventually be some middle ground between the two. To fans, the attempt to bridge the divide feels a little like an attempt at appeasement for attempting some questionable marketing ploys in the past, along with the change of ‘Einlauflied’ for the first home game of the season. Now however, if things go right on the pitch, the blame will not always fall on the board and management. You always find if there is harmony on the pitch, there is more than likely to be harmony off it too. If the team begins to fail however, there will always be ‘someone to blame’ in the backroom staff for it, even if that’s not true.
The direction looks clear now. Entertaining and attacking football on the pitch and an attempt to connect the city and club off it. Simple, but simple things have the tendency to become over complicated if results don’t go your way.

Healing process: What happens when the squad is complete?

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Farewell?: Despite scoring in a friendly against Hertha 03 Zehlendorf, players like Per Ciljan Skjelbred could find playing this season difficult

The likes of Lustenberger, Skjelbred, Esswein, Darida, Pekarik, Leckie, Klunter, Kopke and even Selke could struggle to get into the team when the squad has a complete line up.
The phrase “If it isn’t broken don’t fix it’ comes to mind. The team that played the matches against Schalke and Gladbach were by far the strongest but unfortunately the team is ‘broken’.
With Torunarigha and Grujic out changes have to be made.
When players don’t get starting positions their focus tends to drift towards looking at other options. All players want playing time, but when something is clearly working Dardai cannot simply appease them by changing it up. Some of these players currently not regulars may, to put it bluntly, just not be good enough in comparison to the players coming into the squad. For example, it now looks impossible to drop the likes of Ibisevic, Duda and Dilrosun as they’ve had such fantastic starts to the campaign this season.
But Dardai does want to rotate… just who do you rotate? Maier and Skjelbred? Dilrosun and Leckie? Lazaro and Darida? Esswein and who? It’s tough because it looks like a compromise, playing lesser players to more skilled ones but it also depends on the type of game and the strategy being used. A more defensive minded game may require the likes of Skjelbred and Lustenberger, a more attacking outlook may see Dilrosun needed in the midfield. Ibisevic is also aging, and during busy weeks, he will need to be rested at some point, so Selke should have no problems there.
Goalkeeper rotation shouldn’t pose an issue either. Jarstein’s early season performances have cemented his place as the number 1 but Thomas Kraft is a more than capable backup and he will get his chance against Bayern due to an injury suffered by Jarstein in the Bremen game.
The midfield becomes more complicated. Hertha have a number of defensive and attacking midfielders in their squad that will want to play as much as possible.
Klunter Kopke and Essewein has hardly made the matchday squad and Skjelbred has only just been reintroduced as a measure due to the injury to Marko Grujic.
When players don’t play regularly they end up wanting to leave the club or being loaned out and no one wants to see that happen.
The trick may be rotation but its successful rotation, depending on the match in question. The question is now, can Dardai do it successfully?

And in regards to the game against Bayern… is it possible to win or draw?
Of course it’s entirely possible. Anything is a possibility… it will be a terribly difficult task but their draw to Augsburg on Tuesday showed that they are vulnerable and no where near perfect. Whilst Bayern fans argue it was a ‘weakened’ squad the only true weakened position was the centre forward, with mediocre Wagner replacing Robert Lewandowki. He may be back for the match up in Berlin but remember this squad has barely changed since the last encounter in the capital in which Hertha came back to draw 2-2 after going 2-0 down.
That said, the odds swing strongly in the favour of the Bavarians but the pressure is all on them to perform. If Hertha lose, no one will be too disgruntled, because it’s expected. But anything else and it’ll be a cause for celebration to mark how far the club has come from relegation favourites to top half table candidates.


Feature: Marko Grujic (Get well soon buddy)

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Serbian force: Grujic has shown his Premier League experience so far.

“I’m ok… it doesn’t hurt so much. I’ll be alright” says Marko Grujic as he leaves the Hertha training ground on crutches late Sunday morning. For all the pain he must’ve suffered the previous afternoon, tearing a ligament in his ankle, he seemed cheerfully optimistic.
In England, we know Grujic quite well from his limited number of Premier League appearances.
The Serbian on loan from Liverpool, proved his worth in his first few appearances, he almost immediately became a starting player in Pal’s 11.
But the horror challenge from Patrick Herrmann against Gladbach saw the bulky midfielder leave the pitch, limping away with the help of the physio’s. The damage caused was worse than first feared. Grujic had suffered a nasty tear to ligaments in the ankle, he’s now expected to be sidelined for at least 6 weeks, just after putting in an almighty shift against Gladbach that afternoon.
When the challenge came in it was immediately obvious something was wrong. Grujic is not the type to roll around crying out trying to get a free kick. This time, he was down for a number of minutes, appearing to be in agony. It was clear he couldn’t continue but upon revision of the tackle that lead to the Serb being subbed off, it was clear that Patrick Herrmann, despite being apologetic later, should’ve been sent off.
The images are quite horrifying. Grujic’s leg is seen at a shuddering angle, any movement and he could’ve easily have had his leg broken.
Many have said, if upon his return, he remains as strong and productive as he had before his injury throughout the season, Hertha may have to search for the cash to buy him from Merseyside.
There was no buy option in his loan deal, but it could change, however the price tag attached would be mightily heavy… could Hertha risk that?
If he continues to play as he had, then it may well be worth the risk.
Grujic is incredibly powerful, has excellent control of the ball and finds space. From intercepting, he quickly releases the ball to begin counters or simply holds it up until there are more options. For such a big guy, he certainly doesn’t lack pace either.
Until his untimely departure against Gladbach, he’d been one of the candidates for man of the match. His hold up play had been fantastic and his awareness as well had been on point.
During the match against Bremen on Tuesday, his absence was clearly felt, is the midfield almost crumbled and was non existent without him.
What’s more, he seems to have a great relationship with the captain Vedad Ibsievic, despite the two being from neighbouring nations in Bosnia and Serbia. Politics plays no role in football, especially not politics of this sort, as matters in the Balkan’s are always very complicated, but Grujic spoke highly of Ibisevic, which from the outside perspective is incredibly positive.
It has been clear from Grujic’s performances that he has spent time in the Premier League and has that experience. His style reflects that of the English top flight, something really only seen in clubs like Bayern Munich, who can afford superstars from the worlds most competitive league.
As Pal Dardai said in an interview, ‘we are not used to the talents of players like Grujic at Hertha, we very rarely have that class of player in Berlin’. The shame is that now, he will sit out at least several weeks if not a few months in order to recover from the injury he received. It’s a setback for both Hertha and Liverpool but more so for Grujic, who’s loan to the capital club was part of a chance to gain game time and match experience.
The best hope is that he, like Davie Selke, recovers quicker than expected. The doctors at Hertha are fully capable of taking care of the big Serb, but his absence will be felt until he returns to the side. He won’t be taken back to Liverpool to recover it was confirmed but rest assured the medical staff in Berlin are capable of ensuring his recover will be as speedy and successful as possible and he won’t be unsettled by moving around.