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

Here we go again…

And oh dear

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‘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

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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.

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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…

No

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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?

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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.

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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.

Except…

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…

Except…

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.

HAHOHE!

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.
Easy?
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

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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
lineup

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…
YES

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.

 

HAHOHE

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?

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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.

 

HAHOHE!

Unbeaten, unfazed, undone?: Wolfsburg, Duda and elfmeter problems

The international break saw a few of the boys from Berlin making appearances for their nations. The new UEFA Nations League has provided a little more competition to the international friendly scene but very few of the players had success with their respective nations. Whilst Rune Jarstein’s Norway won their friendly fixture, they were defeated by a lone goal against Bulgaria.
Ondrej Duda’s Slovakia won their friendly against Denmark (In which the Danes fielded an almost entirely amateur squad after a pay dispute with their players). However the Slovaks failed to win their Nations League tie against Ukraine and lost 1-0.
Meanwhile the young Hertha lads had a better time as Jordan Torunarigha and Arne Maier won 6-0 with the U21  and Dennis Jastrzembski played for the U18 national team.
It was difficult for Dardai having so many of the young players out for international duties as they missed the training with the rest of the team but open their return all seemed well in trying to prepare for the second away game in a row.
(Not to worry, there’s two consecutive home games coming) HUZZAH!

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Schade: Plattenhardt missed Germany’s games through injury but returned against Wolfsburg

Hertha remain unbeaten, however Rune Jarstein sadly does not. He was beaten twice against Wolfsburg in dramatic final three minutes at the Volkswagen Arena in a ‘top spiel’ between the top two teams beneath Bayern.
Only Bayern Munich’s winning streak remains unbroken after match day three, having pushed aside a quite frankly, terrible Leverkusen side who have yet to put in a decent performance this season let alone gain at least a point.
Until the 91st minute the game in Wolfsburg seemed as though it would be a typically boring draw… no one could’ve predicted what the last 2 minutes would hold. It turns out that the game tipped to be the most boring of match day 3, was actually the most exciting, and a point a piece may have proven to be a typical outcome but a vital lesson for the boys from Berlin… No one goal lead is safe, and your concentration is key until the very end… Never think about the final whistle before it actually sounds.

Bogey team Wolfsburg: The frustrating end to a madding afternoon

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“’e scores when he waaaaaants”: Duda has scored four times this season, and netted again in Wolfsburg

It would seem Hertha have some awful habits. Penalties and last minute conceding seem to be two of them. Bayern in 2016/17 in which Robert Lewandowski scored the latest ever Bundesliga goal (thanks to some lenient refereeing), again against Wolfsburg on matchday 3 this season. The men in green seem to be an ongoing problem for Hertha as both Wolfsburg and Bremen have proved difficult to defeat over the last three years.

Wolfsburg have become some what of a nuisance team for Berlin. Last season both games resulted in two draws, one exciting (3-3 draw away) and one boring (0-0 at home… terrible game followed by a terrible atmosphere around the ground afterwards).
The problem is this season but teams had a remarkable start winning 2 from 2 and both beating Schalke (although Wolfsburg defeated the Royal Blues at the Volkswagen Arena and Hertha had an away victory without conceding)
Rune Jarstein went into Saturday afternoon being the only keeper not to have conceded a single goal. Even Manuel Neuer had let one past him against Hoffenheim. It wasn’t down to a solid defense alone either. Jarstein faced an onslaught of shots against Schalke and saved a penalty against Nurnberg. He was to play a major role in the game against Wolfsburg as well.
There were formation issues for Hertha. Pal Dardai had suggested reverting to a 4-5-1 formation, something used quite a bit last season, rather than the new 3-4-3. However, he decided not to and allowed Jordan Torunarigha to start the game despite the youngster having been fatigued and missing one training session upon return from the international break where he played for the German youth side.
It was indeed a three at the back with Valentino Lazaro fitting into a makeshift right back position, something he did once as Mitchell Weiser was withdrawn from the home match against Köln last season.
Whilst did well then, it was apparent against Wolfsburg that he is not a natural defensive player, he is much more prone to being an attacking midfielder and the extensive defensive duties means he cannot be released by his teammates to create chances.
The first half was one of absolutely no stories to tell, the teams cancelled one another out with Wolfsburg exploiting space but Hertha dangerous on the counter and the away side only crafting once shot on goal. Kalou had the chance to score, but his shot was blasted over, and there was a much better option waiting with Ibisevic to his right hand side.

It would be a newbie to make the breakthrough. A lose ball in midfield was picked up by Javairo Dilrosun who sprinted in on goal to a tight angel to squeeze it past Casteels in the Wolfburg goal. It would not be the last time Dilrosun would score from an almost impossible angle.
An assist first appearance and now a start and a goal, Dilrosun has had nothing but a positive impact since putting on the blue and white shirt.
But there was controversy to follow.
What looked like a regular defenders challenge on Wolfsburg’s Maximilian Arnold by Arne Maier, was given as a foul just outside the box.
But interference from the VAR showed the challenge took place on the line therefore any ‘foul’ would have to be given inside the box.
The referee, having already decided it was a foul, had no choice but to award a penalty, but as Pal Dardai later stated in the post match press conference, there was no foul to begin with.
On closer inspection Maier’s challenge is clumsy, but Arnold is leaning back into the defender as the ball comes down, meaning when they both jump he’s already half way through crashing to the floor and is completely off balance anyway.
Arnold had been giving Hertha problems all game long, just being a general nuisance but much to the away sides annoyance he even admitted after the game that he had waited for Maier to make contact, meaning it was either a planned dive or Maier’s contact was heavier than it looked. It would seem the former is the truth of the matter.
When asked about it, Maier said that he knew what had happened and that Arnold had purposefully waited for contact, and whilst it was annoying he could not change the referee’s decision.
One thing debated that works in Hertha’s favour is that had this been further inside the box, it probably would’ve never been given. But since the referee deemed it a foul and then realised it was on the line, he had little choice but to give it without admitting he was wrong in the first place. Had the VAR never drawn his attention to the spot of ball, it would’ve remained a free kick. Another example of how VAR potentially undermines the position of the referee.
Unfortunately for Jarstein the penalty luck had run out. Whilst he guessed the right way, there was no stopping the powerful shot.
So close and yet so far, Hertha had allowed another last minute penalty and this time it had counted.
No one expected the drama of the last 3 minutes.
91 minutes in, with Klünter now on the field as an extra defender, Ondrej Duda and Marvin Plattenhardt stood over a free kick just outside the box.
Duda, having scored a free kick before the international break in Gelsenkirchen,  later revealed he’d politely asked Plattenhardt if he could take the dead ball… Plattenhardt agreed. As the wall jumped, Duda spotted the the potential gap left in its place and speared the ball underneath it, fooling the wall and Casteels in goal. It beat him, just tricking past him. Hertha were 2-1 up with 2 minutes left in the game. Cue wild celebrations from Pal Dardai.
But the euphoria of the late goal allowed the split second lapse in concentration of the defenders. A hopeful long ball into the area, headed on by former Hertha boy John Brooks, was poked past Jarstein who had no chance to get to the ball before it whistled past him.
The error was clear on replay, that both Stark and Lazaro, the two on the back post, were miles off marking Brooks, the defenders mistimed any challenge, allowing Brooks to head the ball on and there will no one there to win the second ball either. Closer knit defending on that far post would’ve meant the ball could be cleared away… but it wasn’t and that tiny lapse in concentration allowed the Wolves to equalise in the last minute.
It took 90 minutes for the game to actually spring into life but the ending was something out of a paperback thriller novel. Totally bonkers, with there being no clue as to what the final line would be.
But to take away a point away from home against another unbeaten side whilst good is frustrating when you deserve to win the game. Wolfsburg offered very little other than the few shots they had saved. Creatively the game was pretty even but over all Hertha looked the stronger team always with a backup plan, something Labbadia and Wolves look as though do not have and something that will eventually be Wolfsburg’s downfall when they face opponents that can work them out. Wolfsburg rode their luck in all three games that they’ve played. Hertha have too in a way, but perhaps not relied on it as much.
The positives are that from a draw you can learn from both the positive and negatives of your own game, your own style and your own mistakes.
Dardai will inevitably spot the errors that lead to the second goal and work on them, he may change his approach against Gladbach who are a much stronger, creative team. Having also started well, with two wins and a draw, Gladbach will be no pushovers but if Dardai can analyse and correct the errors made in this game, Hertha have a decent chance to get a point or three at home.
It was shown once again that this is a developing, young and progressive team. With more practice, space to learn and adapt and self belief, especially with Duda being as in form as he is, and goalscorers being young players with room to improve like Dilrosun, surely it looks bright for Hertha rather than dark.
The worry comes from whether or not the team can keep up the good performances for weeks to come, the motivation needs to remain high.

Elfmeter what?: The Penalty Problem. The VAR debate continues.

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Not again: Hertha have conceded a penalty in every single game they’ve played

What is the one thing defenders are always told? Keep you hands DOWN.
The term ‘natural position’ is up for debate and hand balls and penalty decisions are often a matter of opinion. There are guidelines set aside to help with the decision making but it doesn’t always perform the task required as the referee still has to decide from themselves whether they think the player opposed the guidelines and whether or not the foul/handball was an incident worthy of agreeing the guidelines were broken. Ultimately it all comes down to the referee, and whether they believe the matter in question is worthy of a penalty. Same will say yes, other will disagree, it is all a matter of opinion.
Unfortunately that is also the problem with VAR. Regardless of whether it used it still comes down to the referees opinion of what actually happened. It means so far, the referees role in the game hasn’t been made redundant so long as they do not side with the video assistant without taking a look at the incident themselves first. If they choose to just trust the video assistant,  then the referee is not doing the job required of them, they are allowing a third party to do it for them.
The fear in Germany remains, that referees, despite still having that final say on any decision, may be regarded as obsolete. Whilst terrible refereeing decisions cause a stir, it’s ultimately a part of the game even if not everyone is happy with their decision.

Sadly for Hertha, they’ve been on the end of a few questionable refereeing decisions in all three of their opening games. Even with the interference of VAR the final decision has always gone against them, calling into question whether the VAR works at all and whether or not it’s in any shape or form biased or unfair.
On match day 1, Nurnberg were awarded a penalty for a handball in which Karim Rekik was penalised. The issue was whilst Rekik’s arm was raised it looked as though it was done in an attempt to shield his face as he went to block the ball. Jarstein saved the penalty but it was debatable as to whether he should’ve had to in the first place.
In some cases it would be deemed harsh because of the circumstances but it did hit the hand. No one really noticed it until a handful of Nurnberg players protested.
The same could be said of the hand ball against Schalke. Although this time is was very much deserved. Not only did Marko Grujic have his hand raised above his head but it touched his finger tips. VAR was correctly used for this one but the penalty was missed anyway.
Against Wolfsburg the referee had initially given a free kick. The VAR alerted him to the fact it could’ve well been inside the penalty area.
The issue here is that had that challenge actually been in the box, not on the borderline, it would never have been given, it would’ve been seen as a 50/50 challenge in which Arnold just crumbled under the challenge from Maier.
If you watch back the challenge, it was extremely harsh to begin with. As the ball comes back towards the box, Maier makes the challenge Arnold is already both backing into his defender and leaning forwards, his back is arched meaning he’s clearly waiting for contact to be made (Which he even admitted to later).
By that standard the ‘foul’ is not a ‘foul’ at all but as the referee had already decided it was a free kick, when he was shown the evidence it was inside the box or rather on the line, he couldn’t reverse the decision on the foul and so had to give a penalty…
It’s an extremely unfortunate predicament for the referee to be in because he made the initial decision for the free kick knowing he’d never have given it had it been further inside the area. To reverse it entirely makes him look stupid, but there was no where near enough of a challenge to give a penalty.
It also questions the VAR in its validity. It was introduced to be used when ‘A clear error has occurred’.
If the error is not clear, if the referees decision cannot be 100% overturned because it’s an error, then he cannot overturn it, that’s the simple rule of the VAR usage… however it’s never that simple. Referees could well become reliant on the assistant to change their opinion. Players can also sway their pinion by protesting, even atmosphere’s can influence a referees decision making. If there is even the slightest doubt that the decision is incorrect then it should not be overturned. Goal line technology isn’t such a debatable matter as it is a clear yes or no answer… did the ball entirely cross the line? Yes or no? There is no opinion needed.
But a foul or handball is always a matter of opinion. As are red and yellow cards, such as Bellarabi’s red card against Bayern… was it red? Some say yes some say no.
Was Arnold fouled by Maier? Arnold himself says he waited for the challenge, Pal Dardai said it clearly wasn’t a foul.
VAR can be questioned but so too can the referees themselves. Remember the video is just playback of what’s happened on the pitch. It is the referee that actually decides but should they allowed to influenced or change their minds so easily or should they allow the game to flow without the interference of another official?

Number 10, He scores when he wants: Ondrej Duda the revelation, Lazaro… out of position, Plattenhardt ist zuruck and Selke returns.

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Come back: Davie Selke returned from injury far sooner than expected

Is Ondrej Duda about to steal Plattenhardt’s crown as ‘free kick king?’
Is Lazaro being played out of position because of injuries?
Is Rekik the biggest loss?
Will Selke replace Ibisevic and if so, who will captain?
Is it the end for Skjelbred?
There are many questions, not all can be answer at the moment, only time can tell what will transcend this season. One thing looks more certain… it looks bright. These young talents can only grow, although the defending has to improve, the attacking options are plentiful and their talent can’t be questioned.

To begin with, Marvin Plattenhardt’s place at Hertha BSC had been questioned long before the start of the season. Because of the World Cup, the left back was attracting the attention of a number of clubs, in particular from the Premier League.
Whilst Michael Preetz claimed he was open to any offer deemed to be enough for the highly regarded defender but the “Free Kick King” of Hertha remained in Berlin as the window closed and said he was more than focused on the upcoming season with ‘Die Alte Dame’.
He may well now be facing stiffer competition. The new 3-4-3 system allows a spot of Jordan Torunarigha, who was thought to be considering a move due to lacking of playing and or starting time in the squad. After an agreement was reached, there was a starting spot for the bright rising star, as well as the star free kick taking left back, but Plattenhardt’s speciality may be about to be stolen away by another rising star.
Ondrej Duda has had a remarkable start to the season, scoring three goals in two games, (now four on five) two of which have been free kicks.
According to Duda, he politely asked Plattenhardt if he could take the free kick in the 91st minute against Wolfsburg, to which his team mate agreed with ease. Duda ended up scoring.
But is Plattenhardt’s position under any kind of threat?
The answer should be yes, because the number 21 is well known for his wicked left footed free kicks. However, his defensive abilities are therefore often forgotten about and he is a more than capable and experienced left back.
But it was his performance against Eintracht Braunschweig is one of the reasons that Plattenhardt’s position in the team remains cemented.
Having scored from a thunderous shot from open play (the first goal from open play in his career), he proved his worth in what was to be an incredibly difficult game against a tricky opponent in a hostile environment. Whilst there is always speculation over the future of German national team players, Plattenhardt will be considered a integral part of the team as he remains a Hertha player. Whilst his position as “Free kick King” may be shared for now with Ondrej Duda, he his position as the first left back remains fully in tact and his assists are incredibly important.

Injuries are always an issue. When Plattenhardt missed the international break it proved that Hertha still may struggle with the balance of rotation. They’ve invested heavily in attacking players whilst leaving the back line slightly vulnerable.
At the moment the injury list is growing with the likes of Leckie (now back in training), Rekik, Darida, Torunarigha and during the Wolfsburg game Maximilian Mittlestadt, it means that defenders especially, are becoming more difficult to find and the squad rotation is becoming increasingly difficult, especially as Dardai’s new formation was just beginning to show its strengths against Schalke.
It also means that since Jordan Torunarigha was injured against Wolfsburg, and again with the injury to Karim Rekik, Valentino Lazaro had become somewhat of a makeshift rightback.
Whilst he did an adequate job last season when Mitchell Weiser was taken off against Koln, and Mathew Leckie was brought on in his place (Leckie is in no way a defender), Lazaro’s natural position is the wings, and to be placed into a dual position with right back duties consistently is not a good way to get the best out of him as a player, as it limits his strengths which includes assists, dribbling and pace. He can’t execute these skills nearly as often as needed when he’s being forced back into what is an unnatural position for him.
But the addition of Javairo Dilrosun, who’s introduction notably changed the complexion of both the game against Schalke and Wolfsburg, means that Lazaro is pushed back more often. The problem is with both Torunarigha and Rekik missing there’s two centre backs missing.  Plattenhardt or Mittelstadt usually take up the position on the left. Plattenhardt’s injury meant that against Schalke this was Mittelstadt’s position (More effective than when he was left wing/ one of three forwards against Nurnberg).
Whilst Lukas Klunter is an option at right back, he’s not yet made a start for Hertha, perhaps because of what’s been seen from him in training, however it poses a problem… change the formation, or play several players out of their natural position and push them out of their comfort zone at the risk of them failing their new occupations… and failing means conceding goals.
Notably the formation against Wolfsburg had to change because of the Wolves style of play and the injuries Hertha already had.
Lazaro was playing a deeper, right back position and struggled in the game to be released and cause the mayhem he is accustomed to causing for opposition defenders.
However, Dilrosun shone and because of his position it made it impossible to include Lazaro anywhere else on the field. Once injured, Torunarigha was subbed for Fabian Lustenburger, a central defender.
This didn’t help the formation, it remained the same, but it could’ve been altered for that Klunter took up right back, Plattenhardt the left, and Stark alone down the middle, with Lazaro helping on defensive duties but mostly played on the right wing.
The risk there is that the central defense is then sparse and Stark is left to deal with oncoming attacks almost completely alone.
Although the formation of 4 at the back ultimately worked, it only really did so once Dilrosun entered the field.
The same was said when Rekik left the field injured against Schalke, again Dilrosun’s introduction changed the game, so his loss has not shown the most major impact yet.
His speed caused Wolfsburg massive problems, but that right back spot was still an issue for Hertha. It was a lapse in concentration in the final minute from Stark, Lustenberger and Lazaro that allowed John Brooks to win the header that set up the Wolfsburg goal for 2-2.
It’s a stick and twist game. Does Dardai stick with his 3-4-3 and ultimately bench one of his starters, which is unfair, or does he changed the formation to fit the injury list? Does he even give a chance to one of the new youngsters such as Luckassen or even Florian Baak to help out, is it worth the risk?
In Dardai we must trust.

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Like a fine wine, better with age: Despite Selke’s return, Ibisevic has started every game and scored three times

Davie Selke’s return to the team could spell more difficulties in team selection. Whilst Ibisevic is not as prone to complaining about being left out of the starting line up, as he’s growing older and is on the verge of retirement, it does beg the question as to who would captain the side if he were to be left out.
With Lustenberger and Skjelbred not being regular starters either this season, it would suggest there was to be a new captain but with such a young team, who could take the armband from Ibisevic and does Selke being fit spell the end for Ibisevic as  a starting forward.
It’s experience over age, pace and skill here. Ibisevic knows how to captain, it also helps reign in his more Balkan-like tendencies (An explosive temper is one of them). Captaincy allows him to remain calm because he has no choice but to set an example to the team and he’s a leader for youngsters coming through. Marko Grujic, A Serb, said that Ibisevic had helped him settle in at Hertha because he was a leader.
But if Selke is to start ahead of Ibisevic and Skjelbred and Lustenberger are not regulars it falls to the best candiate, the most level headed and possibly the oldest of the players.
Usually this means a defender, as they have the best vision as to what’s happening on the pitch, they see everything in front of them, where as forwards have to look back over their shoulders to get an idea of what’s happening around them.
There have been suggestions that perhaps Niklas Stark could take the armband if needed, however still young it may take a few more seasons for him to gain that responsibility.
Rune Jarstein could be a candidate as well. Vocal, opinionated, passionate, he does have what it takes to captain the side and he remains the oldest along with Ibisevic in the team.
He’s not taken up the role yet but it is a possibility.
With that question comes the more recent one regarding Per Skjelbred, who said he would sign a new years contract extention if it were offered to him in Berlin.
The issue is that Skjelbred has not been in the squad this season, until the games against Wolfsburg last week.
It’s not because he is out of favour, there has just simply been little room for him with the others around him playing so well.
The upside for Skjelbred is that he did make the team against Wolfsburg although he did not appear inside the 90 minutes on the pitch. The Viking however did play in the friendly against Hertha 03 Zehlendorf during the international break and even managed to score a goal, something he was overly excited about since he is not known for his scoring abilities.
Players such as Skjelbred and Lustenberger are difficult to come across in modern day football. Their loyalty to Hertha BSC is something that has a place in the fans hearts. Despite losing out on a starting position, they’ve expressed they would like to remain at the club. Lustenberger has been a Herthaner for over 10 years now. Both Skjelbred and Lustenberger have been with Hertha through relegation and promotion battles.
Loyalty is something lost these days in the modern world of football… however players with their type of attitude and commitment are highly valued.

Focus: Javairo “Jeff” Dilrosun 

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Shining brightly: Javairo Dilrosun has 3 starts, and already 4 assists and 2 goals

Rejected by Manchester City and forced to play in the reserves, no one really paid much attention to Javairo Dilrosun… so when Hertha announced his signature in the summer of 2018, no one knew what to expect.
Hertha scouts attending Premier League 2 matches for reserve teams of the worlds most competitive and richest league, hints even more at what Hertha want to achieve, in other words, developing young players into what the club wants.
Dilrosun was no exception. He began his career in Berlin on the bench, until the match against Schalke when the injury to Karim Rekik forced him off.
Dilrosun became the new midfield force and impressed from the moment he stepped onto the field with his pace and dribbling ability as well as the determination to track back and help out defensively. It meant that the likes of Lustenberger and then Torunarigha were forced into more defensive duties but Dilrosun seemed to be a player not content with just attacking. In the match against Borussia Monchengladbach he was seen constantly helping out the defender in closing down.
His impressive display in Gelsenkirchen which included an assist for Ondrej Duda’s first goal of the game, rubbed off on Pal Dardai, who gave Dilrosun his first start for Hertha against Wolfsburg in the following game.
This time, Dilrosun not only played remarkably well, he also scored to put Hertha ahead against the Wolves. Despite the result not being the three points, Dilrosun made an everlasting impression, his skill and pace as well as his young age means he can only get even better. He’s provided more assists than anyone yet this season, two more of those came against Gladbach in the following fixture and one more goal in a loss to Werder Bremen. In just four games, only three starting, Dilrosun has assisted three and scored two. Amazing stats for someone who was slumbering in the Manchester City reserves last season. He’s already becoming a fan favourite at the Olympiastadion. It only goes to prove once again, the potential talent pool that is being wasted in England’s top leagues, all because of clubs ability to purchase whoever they like for however much they like. Whilst the Premier League is competitive, it doesn’t allow the likes of Dilrosun to develop further in their career where as a move to the Bundesliga and to clubs like Hertha, it allows youngsters the playing time they crave to develop into stronger, more mature players that can only get better and better as they grow older.
Imagine… if this is Javairo now, what on earth is he going to be like in a few years time with dozens of games under the belt.
Showing discipline as well and maturity at a young age is also important, and something that Dilrosun does not lack. He’s behaved well on the pitch and showed professionalism throughout his games so far.
Youngsters have time to learn more and more with every passing moment. Dilrosun is a prime example of the bright future Berlin could have.

 

HAHOHE

 

In Berlin… you can be anything…: New season, same Hertha… or is it?

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Preseason: Ibisevic and Selke at the training camp in Austria

It’s that time of year. The Pokal first round is done, the draw has been made and the Bundesliga has officially begun for the 2018/19 season.

But Hertha is still Hertha. Same old Berlin, same old problems, same old same old, but is there eternal hope for this coming season?iih
Is it “the same old Hertha”?
“You can’t win anything with kids” a famous English man once said about Manchester United.
That season United won the title and went on to become one of the worlds most dominant and successful clubs.
Is anything possible in Berlin?
Maybe…
Maybe not…
Who knows?
It’s been a long time since Hertha BSC won their opening two games of the season, but times could well be changing since in 2018/19, that is exactly what they have done.

What’s been happening in the world of Hertha BSC? Well…. to be honest, a hell of a lot and not all of it positive, as is always the way with the Herthaner.

World Cup Misery: Hertha boys shine bright but fail

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World Cup Misery: Marvin Plattenhardt and Germany fell well short in Russia

With Genki Haraguchi leaving for Hannover in the summer just before the world cup, Mathew Leckie and Marvin Plattenhardt were the two representatives of Hertha BSC on the worlds biggest stage.
Unfortunately, it didn’t end well for either of their nations.
Plattenhardt’s and Germany’s path would be the more shocking of the two, with an unbelievable fall from grace for ‘Die Mannschaft’.

Australia are never expected to be a major success at international competitions but their gutsy performance against France gave them a shot at progressing.
Leckie was by far the best and most impressive player of the tournament for the Socceroos, his pace and skill caused problems for every team the Aussies faced. But his talents weren’t good enough to help them team advance to the knockout stages as Australia crashed out in the groups.
Leckie however, received huge praise for his performances despite not scoring.
Marvin Plattenhardt on the other hand, would be always be playing second fiddle to Jonas Hector in Germany’s line up.

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Battle until the end: Mathew Leckie’s Australia team were knocked out but put up a mighty battle against eventual world champions France

It was a surprise to see Plattenhardt’s name appear on the starting line up team sheet against Mexico… although it was down to Hector suffering an illness.
Sadly for Platte, his call up would not be one to remember.
Germany were abysmal and fell massively short as they were defeated 1-0 by the Mexicans and with Hector returning from illness the following game, Plattenhardt’s time in the line up was limited to the bench.
Whilst Toni Kroos’s last second free kick earned a win against the Swedes, it was the game against South Korea that would prove to be the most diabolical performance by a German team this decade.
Clueless, with no constructive ideas, no team work and a lack of chemistry, Germany were so poor during their match against Korea, that even an undeserved victory would not have appeased the German supporters. From beginning to end, it was an utter mess.
At 1-0 down, and needing a win, Neuer came down field for the final seconds and ended up playing left wing… for no reason whatsoever, in fact the decision was a foolish one. Neuer hadn’t been as stellar as he had the previous world cup and the lengthy lay off he had with injury, which lead to Bayern employing Sven Ulreich as their number 1 for almost the entire season, showed up here. Sadly Manu only proved here that he may not have been up to the challenge. His usual cool was gone, concentration was vacant and his decision making was just incredibly naive.
That isn’t to say the rest of the German team weren’t  at fault.  The likes of Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Timo Werner and Jerome Boateng were all poor by their standards and Boateng in particular had a nightmare of a tournament.
They fully deserved to be eliminated, the first time they had not made the last 16 since 1938 (Oh deary me, insert pun here about the war… or actually, no, please don’t).
Plattenhardt had played little part in the downfall of the German national team at the world cup, in fact the one game he did contribute to and there were rumours circulating that Toni Kroos has refused to pass to Plattenhardt because he “Did not trust him with the ball”.
Problems like this, rumors of discord circulating, doesn’t bode well for team morale or harmony. In fact above all, it makes the team looks like fools. The entire campaign had been a disaster from start to finish and the plane leaving early from Russia was possibly the best thing that could’ve happened as it forces Germany to take a step back and look at themselves thoroughly before the next major competitions.
The cracks had been showing ever since their monumental triumph at the 2014 world cup, and suddenly the dam had finally burst. The cracks could not be papered over any more, even the win against Sweden was not well and truly deserved but rather, was extremely fortunate.
What’s more the blame cannot be laid on the fact that Joachim Low decided to leave Leroy Sane at home either. This was a team issue, not an individual one and only time will tell if the German national team can be mended before the next Euros.
Plattenhardt has made his world cup debut, but it won’t be one to remember. It’s a real shame the team performed so badly, as Platte’s performance wasn’t one that could be criticised.

“Lined with palm trees and all these new faces”: Berlin newcomers

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Like father like son: Pascal Kopke joined Hertha from Aue. His father played for “Die Alte Dame” as a goalkeeper

Departures are inevitable during the summer break, especially since some obscure little competition called “the World Cup” was taking place.
Hertha fans were already well aware that Mitchell Weiser would be leaving the club in the summer. It came as no surprise as young Weiser decided not to show his face during the last home game of the season at the Olympiastadion (when the likes of Julian Schieber did so).
Weiser’s move to Bayer Leverkusen was confirmed shortly after and his contract would become active on July 1st. The club of his choice was also not a surprise, as his father coaches at Bayer and his attitude in general during the 2017/18 season was poor. When you lose your ability to perform because of your attitude then there’s a serious problem and that is exactly what happened. The message from Hertha fans during his final appearance for the club (the first half as he was subbed off for Mathew Leckie at half time against FC Koln) was simple… ‘If you don’t want to be here, we don’t want you here… so just go’… he got the message, despite the fact his mind was already made up by the looks of things.
Weiser’s departure was met with a mixed reaction. Some were glad to see the back of him and his attitude and others were disappointed that the club had lost, on his day, a fantastic right back. For many, Weiser’s final response to coach Pal Dardai was the final straw.
According to Dardai, he had asked Weiser if he wished to play in he final game of the season against RB Leipzig. Weiser’s response had been “I don’t know”. Rumours emerged that he had become lax at training and sluggish and that wasn’t through anyone else’s fault but his own. Weiser was dropped for the final game, but his decision not to even appear at the stadium to say goodbye to the supporters was not met well.
The complete opposite could be said for striker Julian “Julo” Schieber, who had not been offered a contract extension and would become a free agent at the end of the season.
His destination it turns out, would be FC Augsburg, but only a month after arriving in Bavaria, Schieber picked up yet another knee injury that will see him sidelined for the foreseeable future. It was that delicate knee that caused so many issues during his tenure with Hertha.
His final game of the season was against Red Bull Leipzig, as he was subbed in around the 50 minute mark and despite the terrible defeat that day, it was Schieber that took centre stage post match, celebrating with fans in the Ostkurve, even grabbing the microphone himself and joining in the customary chants.
Hence why ‘Julo’ became a player that will always have a special place in Berlin fans hearts, a respectful, funny and down to earth guy that always showed appreciation to the fans that made his job possible.
The final loss was that of Japanese midfielder Genki Haraguchi, who announced his move to Hannover 96 during the world cup.
Haraguchi had spent the second half of the 2017/18 out on loan at then Bundesliga 2 outfit Fortuna Dusseldorf,  who obtained promotion by winning the division on the final day of the season, pipping Nurnberg to the title.
His most memorable moment of the season had been his incredible assist against Bayern Munich in which he’d skipped past 3 German internationals, and instead of being greedy and taking the shot on himself, teed up Ondrej Duda to begin an epic comeback from 2-0 down to draw the match 2-2.
Haraguchi was willing to return but there seemed to be no foreseeable place for him in Pal Dardai’s plans and so, he was sold to Hannover for around 5m Euros.
With Weiser departing for a fee of 12.5 million, Hertha made a pretty neat profit, as the newbies brought into the side were not going to break the bank.

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Right back: Lukas Klunter was brought in from relegated FC Koln.

As FC Koln were relegated from the Bundesliga, many expected the majority of their stars to part ways with the club.
Miraculously, many did the complete opposite with the likes of Timo Horn and Jonas Hector signing new contracts with the club despite their demotion. It sent out the signal, that they planned of being back very soon.
It seems to be going well so far, but one player that did part ways with the Billygoats was right back Lukas Klunter.
Klunter would be employed to take up the position left vacant by Weiser.
Klunter and Weiser have played for the same youth German national teams, but Klunter has slightly less experience. For just 5 million Euros, the quick and young right back looks like a bargain… although based on some of Weiser’s performances last season, anyone would be an improvement on him purely for the attitude.

The only other player to actually cost anything at all was Pascal Kopke. Brought in to replace Julian Schieber,  Kopke had been top scorer at Aue in the Bundesliga 2, however they had just managed to escape relegation the previous season. Not even 2.5 million Euros, Kopke again, is young but not yet experienced.
His father is also linked to the club, having been a Hertha goal keeper but Kopke chose the play in a position at the other end of the pitch. Kopke proved he can score in the second division but the Bundesliga is a different matter entirely.
Only time will tell with players so young, but development for them is key.

The other new signings included free transfers, internal switches and loan deals.

Javairô Dilrosun, a young player brought in from Manchester City’s youth and reserve side, looks to be a bright star. Pacey and skilled he could be menace in midfield if given the playing time to develop. For now, he’ll most likely stick with Hertha II to help his development or he’ll be confined to the bench. With little to zero chance of him getting into the Manchester City first team, a move to Berlin was always a positive one.
Internal switches included the likes of U19 champions Muhammed Kiprit, who scored twice in the 4-0 home win of the championship semi final vs Dortmund.
Kiprit’s contract was in contention for some time before eventually an agreement was made. His team mate, Dennis ‘Jatze’ Jastrzembski (also known as DJ) was offered a contract with the professionals as well. ‘Jatze’ is a quick, versatile midfielder who is only 18 years of age but in this game, age means nothing. He’s one of the brightest talents to emerge out of the youth system. It was his assist that provided the winning goal in the DFB Pokal match against Braunschweig.
Two loan signings were also made in the very latter stages of the transfer window, one with a ‘to buy’ option and one without.
Liverpool’s Serbian midfielder Marko Grujic joined for a year for 1 million Euros, however there seems to be no purchase option on the player if he wishes to remain in Berlin… it looks as though if he doesn’t wish to return to Merseyside, Hertha may be paying a hefty fee for him, but if he has a decent season he could well be worth it.
With the aging the Skjelbred, a holding midfielder might be desperately needed this season and Grujic is strong, young but also experienced, something that Klunter and Kopke and Dilrosun lack.

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Fresh young blood: Dilrosun was brought in from Manchester City in the summer

The final addition (so far) has been the loan signing of Derrick Luckassen from PSV Eindhoven. A centre-back, he may the solution to some issues in the backline that have appeared early in the season as Pal Dardai desperately tries to make his new 3-4-3 formation work.
The signings are not expensive, they’re not flashy but it seems Michael Preetz has done well in the market, looking for talent that can be developed and molded to the teams design. It now all comes down to how Pal Dardai coaches these players and how they fit into his plans and his system.

Schuss! Tor! Hurrah: Hertha in Pokal

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Thank goodness for that: Vedad Ibisevic scores a minute after Braunschweig equalise

Last seasons DFB Pokal campaign was somewhat of a disastrous horror show at home.
Hertha were well and truly defeated to eventually relegated FC Koln… embarrassing from a Berliner’s perspective, especially considering that at that point, Koln had hardly won a Bundesliga game that season. Their win in Berlin was a rare taste of victory.
All that after only two years before, Hertha had made it to the semi finals where they lost out to Borussia Dortmund.  It as Dortmund that would knock them out again in 2016/17.
But like the FA Cup, the DFB Pokal is the stage for upsets and the first round this season proved that point, with the likes of St Pauli falling to lower league opposition, semi professional clubs. Even Dortmund had struggled to defeat lower league opposition.
Hertha were subject to the final day of matches against a tough opponent in third tier Eintracht Braunschweig, who were relegated on the last day of the season in the previous Bundesliga 2 campaign as they were sunk 6-2 by Holstein Kiel. (Ironically, Hertha also lost their last game of the season by the same scoreline to RB Leipzig)

Playing teams from the lower division is notoriously difficult. There’s almost no pressure on teams such as Braunschweig to dominate or even play well at all. The pressure is always on the team from the higher division, because losing would call into question just how their season will pan out and it’ll put pressure on the players by messing with their mindset, especially since the Bundesliga season hasn’t begun at this point. However the lower tiers of the German football pyramid have started, meaning the likes of Braunschweig have already had competitive matches.
But the likes of St Pauli had already fallen to lower league opposition in the cup before the Monday night clash between Hertha and Eintracht.
The 3-4-3 formation is something new for Hertha and something Pal Dardai is keen to get right to bring more attacking flare to the side. It can result in far more exciting football, but the risk is that defensively it can leave huge gaps and lead to mistakes.
It showed here.
Hertha did dominate the game in possession but Eintracht were solid and there seemed to be no way through.
It took a piece of Marvin Magic to break through the yellow and blue wall. When a free kick swung in from Lazaro on the right flank.
It wasn’t the worse delivery nor was it the best as the home side’s keeper punched it well clear, only for Marvin Plattenhardt to smash it on the volley with his favoured left foot right into the keepers top left hand corner.

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Stunner: Marvin Plattenhardt celebrates with Maximilian Mittelstadt, after an incredible opening goal

Cue a shocked response, it was the first open play goal Marvin Plattenhardt has ever scored in his career with all his 6 previous goals coming from direct free kicks.
A moment to savour for Germany’s second choice left back, who was linked heavily with a move to the Premier League in the summer transfer window.
But everyone knows one is never enough and unfortunately for Hertha that point was proven in the 81st minute.
The chances had been few and far between but Braunschweig had been creative in front of their own supporters, testing a wobbly Hertha defense. They were rewarded when Hertha’s defensive unit seemingly imploded, with 5 players clustering around the ball and mis-timing challenges, allowed a strike to be taken and find its way past Jarstein.
But Hertha did not want extra time and so, seconds after being pegged back, Dennis Jastrzembski, the 18 year old who had been subbed on, set up Vedad Ibisevic who made it 2-1 in the 83rd minute.
Hertha managed to hang on to the that, taking the victory as well as some valuable lessons as to what would need improving before the season opener against Nurnberg in Berlin.

 

Nur nach…. what?!: “WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE?”

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Tradition: 25 Years Hertha’s song has been ‘Nur Nach Hause’

Is 24 hours before something happens, what you would consider “in advance”?
No, me neither.
But that’s what the powers that be considered to be “notice” when the ‘Einlauflied’ was tampered with just a day before the opening home fixture against newly promoted FC Nurnberg.
The song as the Hertha team enters the pitch has been Frank Zander’s ‘Nur Nach Hause’ for the past 25 years. Since the Hertha amateur’s success in reaching the DFB Pokal final (in the days where reserve sides were allowed to compete), the song has been Hertha BSC’s hymne and has been sung at every home game since then.
It’s is part of the club itself, a sacred anthem that, when sung aloud by the fans before kick off, sends shivers down the spine. It’s something in which the players can not only hear, but they can feel, as they prepare themselves for the oncoming challenge. It’s a moment in which the thousands of Hertha fans, who may be total strangers or not see eye to eye in other walks of life, from all over the city, or even the World, come together and sing for their beloved team. Just for a minute or two, thousands of people sing their hearts out for Hertha. We all share our adoration for our team and our city. It has been that way for a quarter of a century. The song is special to every Hertha fan out there. Even if some fans don’t love the song itself, they understand its significance and its special place in Hertha’s club history and tradition.
The evening before the first match of the season, Hertha fans and members received and email detailing changes to the program, along with the match day news… only the changes were hidden away at the bottom of the email, where very few people would read it.
The morning of the match, the umbrella branch for the Ostkurve’s Ultras, representative of Harlekins98 and Hauptstadtmafia (Förderkreis Ostkurve), posted a website article detailing the events of the previous evening.
They had apparently received a phone call from the management, to be told that there would be changes to the pre match programme, with the “hooking” and singing of ‘Nur nach hause’ now deleted from the line up. Instead, ‘Nur Nach Hause’ would be performed by Frank Zander 20 minutes before kick off and the team would enter the stadium onto the pitch to a new ‘Einlauflied’, which was named as the song ‘Dickes B’ by the Berlin group ‘Seeed’.

The issue here wasn’t that was song was changed, but the fact the marketing management and the Hertha executive board had failed to actively discuss any such changes with the members and supporters prior to the match. Fans were left angry and upset that their beloved song had ultimately been stripped away from them without any chance to even object.
That said, it didn’t stop the Ostkurve from protesting both online and in the stadium itself. The ultras made a statement in their post that basically read… ‘we are going to do this the way we always do it together. We won’t listen to or stand for this. We will sing our song no matter what’.
Whilst the fans joined in with Frank Zander as he performed, loud and proud, they weren’t as receptive to ‘Seeed’ being pumped through the sound system.
Zander admitted that he too, had been kept in the dark about the changes, until the day of the performance. He stated that he was uncertain whether or not he would even turn up to perform and that he was hurt that the club would decide on such a thing without concern for or addressing the fans.
When the team emerged from the tunnel, the marketing teams plan completely backfired. They were greeted not with applause but with jeers, boos and whistles as ‘Dickes B’ was basted so loud out of the PA it was deafening in what was quite clearly an attempt to drown out the jeers of the supporters.
Instead of accepting the changes as they were, Hertha fans were represented by an Ostkurve banner that simply read ‘Nur nach Hause- Jetzt!’ (Nur nach hause- NOW!) and proceeded to sing as loud as their lungs would take them, singing the clubs true anthem of ‘Nur nach Hause’ together, just as they always do.

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Nur Nach Hause… NOW!: Fans were left angry over the sudden change to the Hertha Einlauflied

It was a clear message to the board… ‘You’ve made a huge mistake… take it back and give us our song’.
What’s more, with the disastrous marketing campaigns that had been used previously the board had started steer the commercial side of the business element in the right direction. They had reverted back to the clubs roots and started to address the local community by reintroducing the “Kiezkicker”, where the team train in different districts of the city.  The clubs outlook had changed to be inclusive of all residents of Berlin and children under 14 years old would be admitted into home matches for free (except for against Bayern and Dortmund).
With such positive ideas, this one was truly a kick in the teeth for the supporters. To take away a club anthem, especially without addressing the supporters first was just a total undoing of all the previous good work in the seasons preparation.
The team suffer for something they haven’t even done as they were greeted with whistles, not directed at them but at the Einlauflied, and the stadium mood and tone was set to a negative degree.
It could’ve easily affected the manner in which the players approached the game as well, as on the pitch they clearly struggled to break down a mediocre Nurnberg side.
After the match ended, within a few days of further disgruntled fans attacking Paul Keuter (Head of digital marketing amongst other things) for the part he’s played in some of the more criticised moves regarding the marketing strategy, the club took a U-turn on the issue by announcing that not only would ‘Nur nach hause’ once again be the einlauflied but also that Frank Zander would be performing it live (schedule permitting) at every home match this season.
It wasn’t made completely clear whether it would just be the fact Zander would be performing, or whether the teams song would be switched back. Some media outlets reported that ‘Dickes B’ would still be the entrance song, but the club seem to have stated that things will be reverted back to their previous state with ‘Nur nach Hause’ being the entrance song.
Zander was openly pleased to be asked to perform at every game but the mistake had already been made by the board and whether their attempt at appeasement will work, only time will tell.
Only thing that is certain is that the majority of the supporters will refuse to call anything else the clubs anthem other than ‘Nur nach Hause’ and regardless of whatever song they try to play as the entrance music, it will always be ‘Nur nach hause’ that is sung in the stands.

The Bosnian boy and the man with magic hands: Matchday 1… FC. Nurnberg… oh boy

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Zuruck: Ibisevic scores the only goal of the game against FC Nurnberg

Regardless of what had happened just prior to the match, the support of the fans was as strong as ever, after all, it wasn’t the players that decided anything regarding the change in the pre match programme.
But that wasn’t to say the icy atmosphere couldn’t be felt inside the stadium, especially since VAR would also play a pivotal role in the match.
It wasn’t the most glamorous of games either, both sides looked tentative and neither wanted to be the first to make a mistake and concede on the opening match day.
Nurnberg also had a point to prove, having just been promoted back to the Bundesliga as runners up of Bundesliga 2 the previous season.
Whilst they did look strong in some areas they didn’t produce any real threat on the Hertha goal and vice versa. That was until the 27th minute when fantastic footwork from the tricky Valentino Lazaro, meant that Vedad Ibisevic slotted home after he was found from a perfectly timed and accurate pass.
Whilst the fans in blue and white celebrated with Ibisevic in the Ostkurve, the referee’s doubt would shadow the celebrations. VAR asked the referee to clarify a potential foul by Ibisevic in the build up to the goal… turns out the Nurnberg defender had just fallen over his own tangled up feet. The goal stood and the home side took a 1-0 into the break.
The second half wasn’t filled with magic either. Hertha created a few changes including a powerful header on target from centre back Niklas Stark however the keeper was equal to it and the score stayed at a rocky 1-0.
One is never enough… ever. Again point proven on 83 minutes.
Whilst Nurnberg had created bits and pieces their opportunity to level came in the last 10 when a strike smacked Karim Rekik on the arm. Poor defensive communications yet again, had lead to the chance in the first place.
Harsh? Perhaps, there was barely time for him to react to the flight of the ball, his arm didn’t unnaturally move towards the ball but it was placed in an awkward position to begin with.
The referee consulted VAR and a penalty was given.
The chance for Nurnberg to equalise however, was squandered. A half poor penalty resulted in the biggest moment of the match as Rune Jarstein saved the spot kick and it was cleared away. Cue celebrations from the fans and Jarstein’s teammates as he put in a class, man of the match performance with a save that ultimately won Hertha the game.
The boys in blue managed to hold on for the three points after a cagey affair and an opening game that was filled with more relief than anything else. Much like the opening day against Freiburg two seasons ago, late late drama but the best result.
At the end of the day however, it was a deserved victory, and no one deserved it more than Rune Jarstein, who’s heroics had ultimately, snatched the three points to keep them at home in Berlin.

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Berlin’s Wall: Rune Jarstein was the hero of match day 1.

15 years of hurt… no more: Hertha WIN in Gelsenkirchen

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Auswartsieg!: Hertha beat Schalke in Gelsenkirchen for the first time since 2004 (0-2)

The last time Hertha won an away match against Schalke 04, was 2004. Almost 15 years ago.
Since then, it has been a miserable affair for the Herthaner in Gelsenkirchen with defeat becoming the norm in the Ruhr valley. In fact, Hertha have had more luck at the Royal Blues local rivals Borussia Dortmund in recent years.
Last season saw two defeats from two, home and away against Schalke. They are not an opponent any Hertha fan enjoys playing however, the pressure was all on the home side as they’d lost their opening fixture to last season relegation playoff participants, VfL Wolfsfburg.
It’s not as if the Wolves had been a fantastic side either, Schalke could’ve easily dominated and won the match… but they didn’t and had failed to take a number of chances where as Wolfsburg had not squandered taking theirs.
Already at a low, there was no better or worse time to play Schalke at the Veltins Arena.
On the one hand they would be hurting and doubting themselves from the opening day loss, on the other hand Schalke would be revitalised, with home advantage and determined to seek a victory.
Whatever Pal Dardai’s game plan was, it worked perfectly.
Schalke were not massively poor, however they struggled creatively throughout the game, in particular in the second half. But they did create chances that they just failed to capitalise on. Shots wide, shots high and good handling from Jarstein, frustrated the home side… until the elfmeter curse struck Hertha for the second week running.
Marko Grujic, the Liverpool loanee, made the diabolical error of lifting his hand above his head.
At first, as a cross come in and was cleared away, only a few protesting Schalke players appeared to notice the potential handball, but VAR once again intervened and to the dismay of Hertha players and their traveling supporters, the blatant handball was spotted on the replay as Grujic, with his hands raised, allowed the ball to graze his finger tips. The movement on the ball changed, making the decision clear, despite the fact the actual flight of the ball has not been altered. Grujic was left blushing after his terrible misjudgement and it was left to Schalke man Daniel Caliguiri to convert the spot kick… only to fluff his lines spectacularly. The penalty wasn’t killed by Jarstein as it had been the previous week (although he did guess the right way), but instead was blasted agonisingly wide.
A let off for Hertha, but perhaps also a kick up the rear end. Just moments after the missed penalty, the ball broke to Dilrosun, who had been substituted on for Karim Rekik who’d been forced off injured. Dilrosun used his pace to create space and then whip in a ball to the edge of the penalty area to find an open Ondrej Duda who smashed the ball past Ralf Fahrmann.
Hertha unexpectedly 1-0 and it could’ve gotten a lot worse for Schalke as Kalou was played through to a one on one with Fahrmann… only he couldn’t find the target.
1-0 at the break and one would expect the home side to come out second half firing on all cylinders.
They would be mistaken.

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Next please: Ondrej Duda celebrates his second goal against Schalke

In fact, the home side could barely muster a shot on target for the entirety of the second half, until the last few minutes when new signing Mark Uth smashed the ball towards goal only to find Rune Jarstein in the way.
With time running out, the 04’s desperately tried to dig deep for an equaliser, but the ball was cleared and out ran Dennis Jastrzembski, who managed to take the ball away from the Schalke defenders and with blistering pace set himself up with a chance to score… only he missed the opportunity when he was brought down by Yevhen Konoplyanka just outside the box. As Konoplyanka was the last man and denied a clear goal scoring opportunity, the referee was left with little choice than to produce a straight red card. It presented Ondrej Duda with a glorious chance to make history…and that he did.
From the resulting free kick, 6 minutes into what’s was suppose to be the 4 additional minutes of injury time, Duda planted the ball into the top corner to seal the game and points for Hertha’s first away win against Schalke for almost 15 years.
Dardai and his team erupted into celebration…the last victory in Gelsenkirchen had been when he was still playing for Hertha. It was well deserved history for Hertha who were well worth their three points.
Schalke on the other hand look weary and cracks are starting to appear that don’t bode well for the upcoming Champions League campaign.

The rise of the minnows and fall of the giants?: Wolfsburg and Hertha on top, Leverkusen and Schalke rock bottom.

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Dismal: Bayern Leverkusen lost 3-1 at home to Wolfsburg on Match day 2.

Bayern are top… only just.
Wolfsburg second and Hertha third.
Hertha BSC are the only club after two matchdays to have not conceded a goal.
Leverkusen and Schalke, both contenders in European Competition, are pointless at the international break.
What’s going on?

In regards to Wolfsburg, it can be said ‘not much’ to be fair. Their two victories have come against struggling teams in which they themselves did not really dominate the game and against Schalke, were relatively lucky to get all three points.
Labbadia hasn’t done anything spectacular  nor has he made any great signings over the summer but the confidence that builds after the first few games when you win, no matter how, means that the players take that with them going forwards.
Wolfsburg haven’t been terribe, they haven’t been anything special either. They’ve been helped somewhat by the failure of two teams expected to do well (Schalke and Leverkusen), both with their own problems at present.
It’s hard to say whether Wolfsburg will continue to be a threat this coming season. Their general play hasn’t been anything that special but they’ve been good on the counter. They’ve also conceded goals in both their opening games proving that they’re not altogether, defensively sound.

Leverusen and Schalke have similar problems. Both in Europe, both with decent seasons in 2017/18 but has the effect of that season finally worn off?
It’s not as though they haven’t signed players or that they have poor coaching staff or that they’ve even had major changes. Other than their signings everything is as it was last season… perhaps that could be the problem?
Complacency as well maybe? Schalke and Leverkusen were expected to win their match day 2 fixtures easily as both were at home against what are considered lower standard opposition (Leverkusen played Wolfsburg and Schalke played Hertha BSC), but is there the chance that because of last seasons final standings the teams just considered their second match day fixtures as an easier match to win? Arrogance can play a role in failure but ultimately it just seems that both teams are massively under prepared for the season.
Look at how lax defensively both teams were on Match day 2 and it’s easy to work out where they’re going wrong. Defensive complacency can’t be outweighed by attacking prowess, in the case of Leon Bailey for example, Leverkusen cannot depend on his goals to save them, they must be able to defend their lead as well as score.
It’s a different problem for Schalke, who ended last campaign in second place behind Bayern Munchen.
Instead, they seem weak in both areas of the pitch, lacking any kind of flare or creativity in the centre of the park and the chances they do create are just wasted.
Their only goal so far has been from the penalty spot. Losing both matches also doesn’t do anything for the teams confidence.
It’s the lack of stability in Leverkusen and Schalke that has seen them fail in the first two weeks.
Perhaps after the international break they will come back stronger and begin to revive their dreadful start to the season. At the moment they are dragging themselves through the matches they play.
Hertha BSC, like Wolfsburg, are a team not expected to do well in the current season.
They haven’t lost a great deal of creative talent and have brought in some fresh faces, many of which are young and from the U19 and U23 academy squads. Fishing the local talent means Hertha have a great pond to catch talent from and it’s all local talent crafted in the capital city. It also gives young players the opportunity to develop, rather than the club shelling out for international talent.
The difference between Wolfsburg and Hertha is that they seemed to have changed approach in their two games.
Against Nurnberg there seemed to be a fear of being turned over by the newcomers who would be determined to start the season well. The new 3-4-3 system too would prove to be difficult to adapt to outside of the training ground.
There’s always a difference between training ground and match day. On the training pitch your opponent is that of players you know and who know you, on the pitch it’s the opposite, they’ve no idea who you are and you’ve no idea how they’ll deal with you.
The only way to perfect a new formation is in play and against Schalke, especially when Rekik was taken off and Dilrosun was introduced, this formation seemed to work perfectly, playing on the counter, adding more attacking options and yet players were tracking back in numbers to defend all over the pitch, severely limiting Schalke in their own attacking options.
Where as Wolfsburg had a few slices of luck in the poor performance of Leverkusen and Schalke, Hertha did not have this, especially when Schalke were at home having reviewed their opening day loss.
Schalke did not play that badly against the Berliners but it was the style of Hertha that prevented them from actually being a massive threat throughout the match.
Hertha managed to grab their victory with a carefully balanced game plan and by introducing new players that fit the place of the match perfectly with Dilrosun and Jastrzembski, who’s pace and skill made life difficult for Schalke defenders.
Who knows what could happen when Hertha face Wolfsburg after the international break.
And what’s more, Bayern are not dominating in performance as they expected to be. Two extremely lucky goals against Hoffenheim gifted them a pretty undeserved victory.
Confusion as to why a penalty that was quite clearly a dive was given, then retaken after being missed despite an incursion in the box being made by one of their own players (Robben) and then a potential offside not called back?
The second game against Stuttgart was customary… Stuttgart were exceedingly poor throughout the match and deserved to be well beaten. But Bayern have conceded, the only team not to so far, is Hertha BSC.
The record champions may be winning but their dominance looks a little on edge if their performance against Hoffenheim is anything to go by.

Welcome back: Selke ist Zuruck.

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Welcome back: Davie Selke scored in a friendly against Hertha Zehlendorf

For the second season running, Davie Selke could not participate in the opening match.
During his maiden season in Berlin, Selke had been injured preseason resulting in him being benched and recovering until October.
This season the bad luck has struck again, with Selke missing the first two games of the season despite now being seemingly fully fit and back in full training and participating in warm up training matches.
He scored upon his return to the Hertha team in a training match against Hertha 03 Zehlendorf during the international break in a 3-0 victory (Which saw even Per Skjelbred score!).
Selke had joined up with Hertha during preseason, but suffered a Pneumothorax (Collapsed lung) around the time of the Hertha training camp in Austria.
No one is quite sure how it happened but the dangers of such an injury are apparent.
Selke had surgery then returned home and was expected not to make a come back until October at the earliest.
A blow for the striker that scored 5 in 6 games in the latter stages of last season.
But Selke recovered far quicker than expected and was back in light training by August. In September he was participating in full training and in practice matches and upon his comeback scored for Hertha.
His recovery was a nice surprise. Pal Dardai was questioned over whether Davie would be available for the game against Schalke, but stated that despite fit, he did not want to risk taking Selke to Gelsenkirchen and asked to give him a week or two more.
It was a good move. Selke’s first full game back in action proved to be a success.
An injury like this one can have a devastating lasting effect and so it’s extremely fortunate that Davie is in good health and has recovered in the minimal time. Now, he looks set to be back against Wolfsburg and appear at his first home game against Borussia Monchengladbach, who’ve also enjoyed a decent start to the season.
Selke watched from the sidelines in Berlin as they defeated Nurnberg on matchday one, now, he looks set to return in the second home game of the season… hopefully with the winning goal to top off what is quite frankly a remarkable recovery.

The kids are alright: The Rise of Hertha’s young talents.

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Bright like a diamond: Muhammed Kiprit is just one of several young talents to have signed a pro contract this season

Hertha are fast becoming the template for any club looking to run a football academy.
This season a remarkable 12 players that are in the first team line up having come through the U19-23 youth system in Berlin.
Jordan Torunarigha, Maximilian Mittelstadt, Maximilian PronichevDennis Smarsch, Sidney Friede, Julius Kade, Palko Dardai, Arne Maier, Dennis Jastrzembski, Muhammed Kiprit, Maurice Covic and Florian Baak have all made the step up from the amateur league to the first team. Most of these young players are not yet 20 years old and with the likes of Köpke, Lazaro and Dilrosun joining the squad, themselves only just in their 20s, Hertha look to have one of the youngest teams in the league.
Admittedly, not all these young players will play at the professional level just yet. Kiprit, Covic, Smarsch and Baak are more likely to be set for a spell with Hertha II, who compete in the fourth tier of the German football pyramid. Many of them have already established themselves in Hertha II. Maximilian Pronichev, who began his career at Hertha before moving to various clubs in Russia and Germany before heading back to his native Berlin, was loaned out to Aue this season to gain experience although he too signed a professional contract.
Jastrzembski, Kiprit, Smarsch, Dardai, Maier and Pronichev were all part of the Hertha U19 team that won the championship titles in 2017/18, the first at that level for the Hertha.
After impressing throughout the season they were all offered professional contracts where as many of the U19 went on to be re-signed to the clubs U23 (Hertha II).
Of those players, several have featured for the professional team. In fact Palko Dardai made a little piece of history when he appeared for Hertha against Augsburg in the 2017/18 season, being the first father/son coach/player to feature in the Bundesliga in decades.
Palko isn’t in the team though because of who his father happens to be. He has genuine talent as a pacey and skilled attacking midfielder, having made an instant impact when he featured against Augsburg last season.
Arne Maier is another revelation to work his way up through the ranks. He now features as a starter for Hertha on a regular basis and even assisted a goal in the 2017/18 season. A more defensive midfielder, Maier has the ability to track back as well as create which made him useful against the likes of Schalke. He’s represented Hertha at U19 and U23 level and is a youth international as well.
Kiprit was the top scorer for Hertha’s U19 in their successful season as they lifted the title. It took  a while to gain his signature but he eventually came through, however he may have to settle in the U23’s for now as he faces competition from the likes of new signing Pascal Köpke and established starters Vedad Ibisevic and Davie Selke.
Jordan Torunarigha and Maximilian Mittlestadt are two names that stick out.
Regulars for the U23 Hertha II team, both are now well established in the senior side. Mittelstadt is making more appearances in 2018/19 as Dardai tries the new 3-4-3 system that sees Mittelstadt employed as an attacking option despite his favoured position being more of a defensive role.
Torunarigha, like Arne Maier, has been somewhat of a revelation.
Having already scored twice for Hertha, (Once against Darmstadt in 2016/17, once against Hannover in 2017/18), he was initially employed as a centre back, a tall and menacing young player with a lot of strength in the air. But in the absence at any given time of Marvin Plattenhardt, he can also be distributed as a left back.
Torunarigha is quick as well, he has the ability to be attacking minded but his strength is certainly his defensive qualities, as shown by his man of the match performance alongside Rune Jarstein against Bayern München in 2017/18, away in Munich. Down to his and the keepers heroics, Hertha were the only team not to concede at the Alianz Arena during the season 2017/18’s entirety.

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Fight: Jordan Torunarigha had to fight to earn his place in the regular line up.

Hertha BSC are a club that know all too well just how dangerous overspending on players can be. People from the outside see it as fishing for players out of the recycling bin when the club signs the likes of Köpke, Klünter, Esswein, Selke… simply because these guys are not considered Europe’s greatest talents.
The truth is, these players are only as good as the coaching staff make them. In the case of Ondrej Duda, who had a difficult first two seasons due to injury, was given the chance by Dardai and his team in 2018/19 and shone brightly against Schalke in Gelsenkirchen.
But purchasing players for stupid fees is a dangerous game Hertha do not wish to repeat.
In the 2000’s, when the club last achieved Champions League success, they borrowed money, brought in fresh new talent, then couldn’t afford to keep them and were almost made redundant. It took a lot of hard graft to avoid being dissolved.
This means the club is extremely careful in its financial dealings.
Hertha don’t have the clout and the pull that Bayern have, not only because of the lack of success but also because they can’t guarantee to meet massive wage demands.
Look at the difference in squad value between Bayern and Hertha… Bayern Munchen, €745 million…
Hertha BSC? €121 million. A seven fold difference. Success breeds riches.
What it does mean is that every player signed by Hertha, has to WANT to be a Hertha player, they have to want to earn the right to represent Berlin and fight for a spot in the starting line up, and if they fail to make the grade, still be proud to represent the city by being a Hertha player.
The one way to do this is to develop the talent you already have in the city, scout the local talent, sign them and train them to follow the standards and the values of the club itself.
Hertha can’t afford to purchase a new, hot, 40 goals a season striker every transfer window, so instead, they invest in developing their own striker that could eventually be a talent that could net 40 a season. Don’t purchase… build. Don’t buy… create.
What’s more, it feels as though for coaches and fans, that they have helped nurture these players into being world class talents by encouraging them and supporting them through the times where they were still learning.
And when they are shining, there is a sense of pride around the stadium that they are “one of our own” as the saying goes in England.
One such example is the bright star that is Dennis Jastrzembski, who looks set to become one of the leagues top talents.

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Lighting up the league: Dennis Jastrzembski is only 18 years old but is set to be a regular in the Hertha line up.

Already making impacts from the bench, he won the free kick that ultimately led to Hertha’s match winning goal against Schalke on match day 2. But it’s his blistering pace and the fact he’s still only 18 that makes his appearance in the side so remarkable.
Of all the youth prodigies coming through this season, he looks set to be the highlight in an already bright future for Hertha BSC.
Hertha’s current motto, “The future belongs to Berlin” is not so far off. The club does have ambitions. By developing young players to a high standard and then giving them the opportunity to actually prove themselves, the future could well belong to the capital. One thing is for certain, they are setting an example to the rest of the European leagues in regards to how youth and local talent should be developed.

 

Focus: Ondrej Duda

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Have it: Ondrej Duda scored a magnificent free kick in a man of the match performance vs Schalke

“Everybody sing this song, Duda! Duda!”… That was Salomon Kalou’s instagram reaction to Ondrej Duda’s match day 2 performance against Schalke 04.
The Slovak netted twice in the first away victory of the season and Hertha’s first successful trip to Gelsenkirchen for almost 15 years.
Why is this so significant for Duda in particular?
Everyone knows it’s not been an easy first two seasons in Berlin for Duda, who honestly acknowledged that fact himself in his post match interview. But it was his sheer determination and grit that landed him the man of the match award against Schalke after struggles of almost two years in the capital.
Duda joined Hertha from Legia Warsaw two seasons back but failed to make any kind of impact during his first season in Berlin.
Injury blighted his path to the first team and he spent most of the season recovering from injury after injury that saw him sidelined and his chances to play extremely limited. He spent most of his time in Hertha II, playing as regularly as possible in order to regain full fitness.
In his second season the injury crisis struck again but he did manage to find more playing time in 2017/18, which included his first goal for the club, against Bayern München of all clubs.
It was his goal, after outstanding work from Genki Haraguchi in the box that saw the Japanese international outwit 3 of Germany’s world cup stars, that resulted in a fantastic comeback against the record champions from 2-0 down (it would be the second week running they would throw away a 2 goal lead) to snatch a 2-2 draw.
It had been a simple tap in, and Duda wasn’t yet showing his full capabilities. He didn’t make much of an impact for the remainder of the season.
But during the off season something seemed to change. All of a sudden, something finally clicked.
During the preseason training camp matches Duda showed his class by scoring and assisting time and time again and showing his worth in some wonderful performances in friendlies.
Finally with the injuries that had been tainting his chances of regular first team football seemingly behind him, Duda began to display the very reasons that Hertha signed him in the first place…the old Ondrej Duda, the Duda we’d seen for Slovakia at the Euros, the Duda we all wanted to see.
Against Nurnberg, no single player had an outstanding performance. The entire team looked nervy and unsure of themselves.
But against Schalke, Duda was by far the biggest threat. He played his midfield role perfectly, becoming an absolute nuisance for the Schalke defense and creating chances as well as finding the target himself, twice.
His stunning free kick at the very end of the match topped off a performance saw Dardai’s and everyone else’s faith in him restored. There wasn’t a single concern over injury as Duda ran about the park as if he’d never suffered an injury in his life.
After a disastrous two seasons to start his career in Berlin, it seems now that finally the real Ondrej Duda has appeared for the 2018/19 season. Provided he stays fit, he could be an integral part of how Hertha’s campaign shapes up this season.
If he continues to perform the way he did against Schalke for the remainder of the season, it could well be a bright one for both Duda and Hertha.

 

Bring on Wolfsburg and Gladbach…. and LETS KEEP THIS GOING

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HAHOHE!

 

 

 

 

 

Nur nach …gone?:What were they thinking?

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Football clubs in Germany are all about identity and their close relationship with the supporters. The fact that clubs cannot make huge decisions without the consent of the members is something sets the Bundesliga in all it’s formats apart from the likes of Premier League, even if that means sacrificing some of the competitiveness in comparison to other European top flight divisions.

In Berlin, tradition has been something supporters of Hertha BSC hold onto dearly.
One reason perhaps, is the lack of success of the team. It’s a yo-yo club, fans are used to it being so, and so tradition and keeping the club close to the fans takes precedence and when there is a divide or a crack in that foundation, the club itself enters stormy waters.
The dangers of commercialisation in German football are becoming all too real, with the likes of RB Leipzig entering the fray of the top flight despite only escaping breaking the sacred 50+1 rule on a technicality.
Hertha is certainly one club that hold the foundations and traditions of football dear to their hearts… they understand fully that without fans, the football club ceases to exist at all.
Unfortunately that is not something certain members of the executive board and managers seem to fully understand and over the past few years it’s become more evident that they are in danger of completely losing touch with the fans that have always stuck by the team.

Someone turn the steering wheel: A club headed in the wrong direction

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Hertha ultras and the top management have had a tiff for a while. By tiff… I mean its gotten to the point where the two refuse to cooperate with one another. Harlekins 98, one of the biggest Ultras group at the club, that devote their time and efforts to making the match day atmosphere’s what they are in order to provide the best support for the team, announced a few years back that they had ceased communications with the board regarding matters with the club itself, until they felt their views were truly being taken into account.
Whilst the ultras don’t represent the feelings of all supporters and some fans feel their attitude does not reflect on everyone that holds a membership, they are ultimately the face of the active support in the Ostkurve (east stand) fan section and ultimately their concerns over the club becoming a commercial product rather than keeping its traditional values are actually well founded.
Some people tend to forget just how much the ultras groups do for the clubs active fan support, without them the matchday atmosphere wouldn’t be what it is. That doesn’t always make them correct and it doesn’t mean they’re the only fans worth listening to but their concerns are still sound.
But their refusal to speak to the members board about these concerns isn’t helping matters either, because it means whatever problems or issues they have with the manner in which Hertha BSC is being run from the inside, they cannot rectify those problems if they have refuse to listen to the justification in order to make a counter argument and put their point across.
What it results in, is a standoff between fans and management in which the board can ultimately decide for themselves what is best for the club because the ultras refuse to cooperate, listen or speak to them, therefore it means their opinion is not shared on any platform and their arguments aren’t heard.
Whilst the ultras refuse to speak to the board, it means their fears of the club heading in the wrong direction is only bound to get worse as a number of measures in the 2016/17 season, saw more and more protests in the Ostkurve regarding decisions that had been made in the promotion of the club commercially.
The first was the change of colour in the third kit.
Traditionally Hertha’s third shirt had been red or red and black with a number of other colours over the years. Some fans say the ultras always look for things to complain about but their discontent over the third shirt wasn’t completely unfounded. It turned out the third kit would be bright pink… not just salmon pink but bright, florescent pink and to add insult to injury, the training gear was bright orange for absolutely no reason.

The phrase “nur echt in blau weiss” (Only true in Blue and White) was coined by the supporters.
What’s more the teams new slogan for that season was “We Try. We Fail. We Win” which really did not go down well.
Whilst the meaning of the phrase may well have been lost in translation (I get it, sometimes we fail but we try and in the end we will get there and win… but hey it doesn’t read like that when including a negative quote in something that is meant to be positive in context), the fact the re-branding was in English and not German, for a German club representing the German capital, it made absolutely no sense.
The only answer as to why this was done was that the club wanted to portray a new image to attract new fans… only to do it in completely the wrong fashion, taking them on a slippery slope downwards.
Fans weren’t happy. Ultras certainly were not happy. At this time in 2016, Paul Keuter joined the board as a marketing and digitization expert. He would come to face the most criticism out of any of the board members. Despite a positive season on the pitch the relationship between fans and club were as icy as ever coming into the 2017/18 season.
With the total failure of the marketing campaign for that season, it could only get better… right?

Keuter Raus: Who is Paul Keuter and why is he being blamed for everything going pear shaped?

 

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Keuter Raus: Hertha fans are not best pleased with Paul Keuter

 

Paul Keuter is facing more criticism than anyone else at Hertha BSC right now… but why?
The man who probably has a photo of his face pinned up on a dartboard of fans apartments, ready for them to take aim at, is the most hated man associated with blue and white and it’s not surprising.
Hertha Ultras are extremely opposed to bringing the club into the world of social media and commercialisation, and whilst their views are to be frank, quite extreme, they’re not completely without justification. They want fans, especially in the Ostkurve, to be involved in the game itself, actively supporting Hertha throughout the 90 minutes on the field, and that makes total sense. But they see the use of social media, as a distraction from this, and urge fans not to use it during the game at all
Now, I understand their point, but that doesn’t give them the right to tell every other fan with an Ostkurve season ticket, what they can and cannot do.
The problem is that with thousands of fans in that section of the stadium, it’s impossible for all of them to agree. Some supporters take videos and photos to share them with the world and show the outside world what a fantastic club Hertha is and there is no harm in that. But at the same time it is indeed a type of distraction from the game itself and from the focus of fans actively supporting the team.
Where does Mr Keuter come in to this idea? Well he’s a former exec at Twitter and the digital and commercial world is his forte. The issue from supporters is that he’s leaning so far on his own ideas for getting the club noticed on a wider scale that he’s forgetting about the loyal supporters and the traditions close to their hearts in the process.
Using social media… too much of a distraction. It urges fans to not go to the stadium itself and despite having a better slogan with “Die zukunft gehoert Berlin” (The future belongs to Berlin… which fitted the clubs 125th anniversary) in the 2017/18 season the influence of Keuter was gradually getting worse and worse and setting bad precedence and moods in the stadium itself.
Keuter Raus! (Keuter Out!) become a natural phrase and banner in the stadium displayed by the ultras. There’s a difference between being a board member and then sticking your nose into every matter within the club. As someone who is not football minded but instead business minded, Keuter’s influence at the club was always going to be perceived as negative even if some of his ideas of bringing Hertha into modern age are in fact positive if utilised correctly.
What’s more, he seems to have taken it upon himself to make decisions without regards to or consulting the active members of the club first which was never going to make him a popular man at the Olympiastadion.

 

Train off the tracks: A positive start to redirection… with a disastrous ending.

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Heimsieg…aber…: Despite the win against Nurnberg, the game was overshadowed by fan protests over the boards decision to change the team entrance song.

The 2018/19 media campaign began a lot more positively in terms of the failures of the past two seasons.
A new marketing strategy was instigated by Michael Preetz which saw Hertha going back to the its very foundations in Berlin, ultimately including every district of the city which saw the coat of arms displayed on the team bus and plans for training sessions to take place in all quarters of the city in every district…ensuring that fans and players were better connected. Finally the club was remembering where it’s heart lay.
A new campaign that included regular Berliners, fans from all over the city with a title that read “In Berlin you can be everything, even Herthaner” was launched. Faces of Hertha fans from all walks of life from all corners of the capital, were included in a new promotional video.
Children under the age of 14 would be allowed admittance into the stadium for matches for free (only games against Bayern and Dortmund being the exception). There were shirts and cups made with the districts of Berlin displayed on them, and the new motto of “In Berlin you can be the next big thing” and “In Berlin you can be everything” were used, there was a true essence that the club was going back to their roots and being exclusively inclusive of the citizens of the city that had made the club what it is today.
The club also saw several young talents from the U19 and U23, sign professional contracts, young lads born and bred in Berlin itself who had represented Hertha through their youth, now getting to show their talents on the big stage.

All this was received with grand positivity and optimism from fans, ultras, Berliners alike, with the realisation that perhaps the board had learned from the past season and were finally attempting to bridge that divide between themselves and the supporters. It felt as though finally some open wounds were about to slowly begin the healing process and now the club’s path and direction looked far clearer… only for them to fall dramatically at the last moment.

Several ultras groups penned an online post to Hertha fans just hours before the opening day home fixture with 1.FC Nurnberg. An email had been sent out to fans the evening prior but this was still not an advance warning of what was to come. The main issue was not addressed in the emails title therefore many fans just overlooked it. The real story was hidden away at the bottom of the email like it was an irrelevance, all part of the plan to cushion the fall.
Less than 24 hours before the match was due to kick off at the Olympiastadion, the executive board had informed supporters that the opening “phase” or sequence, that accompanies the team entering the field of play, would be changed without warning or notice. The traditional Hertha song “Nur Nach Hause”, used by Hertha BSC for the past 25 years, would no longer be used as the tune that fans would sing together as the players came out of the tunnel. Instead “Dickes B” by the Berlin band “Seeed” would be used instead. In addition, Frank Zander, the writer of “Nur Nach Hause” would sing the song 20 minutes before kick off and the “Hooking” of fans, would be disrupted.
When explaining the reasoning for the change, the club simply stated that “Dickes B” represented a modern Berlin and was far more upbeat than the previous “hymne”.
What’s more, the ultras at Harlekins 98 claimed that they had received this information by phone call from the club. Because of how late the news broke, there wasn’t the slightet chance that the clubs members and fans could protest or object the idea of a song change before the opening game, which is exactly the reason they left it so late to bother to inform anyone of their plans.
Hertha fans were shocked. Hertha fans were livid. Hertha fans were in revolt.
Not a single supporter as far as I could see, was supportive of the change that was not even proposed to the supporters prior to match day.
What made matters far worse was that whilst the fans had indeed, been informed and notified of the changes, no one was informed in “advance” as the club had claimed. The evening before, less than 24 hours before the match starts, is by no means “Informing the fans in advance” because anything in “advance” would suggest enough time to rectify the idea.
There had been no warning, no prior conversation, the club had not asked for the supporters opinions and the changes had not even been proposed. Instead, they had chosen to go ahead with the change any way without even bothering to speak to those that would be affected most by it.

As you can guess the fans inside the Olympiastadion were not happy. The Ultras had just about managed to forge a banner before the kick off that read “Nur Nach Hause… Jetzt” (Nur Nach hause…NOW!).
When Mr Zander appeared to sing his Hertha Hymne, everyone joined in, but when “Dickes B” was blasted out of the PA system, the volume so high it was ear splitting and sounded terrible, the fans whistled, booed (No disrespect to Seeed because that wasn’t the point), and instead proceeded to sing “Nur Nach Hause” instead as loudly as their voices would take them.

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JETZT!: Fans angrily reacted to the changes with the banner “Nur nach hause…NOW!”

The message to the board was made very clear… “Give us our song back”.
The anger that erupted from supporters could be felt throughout the stadium, throughout the Hertha community and it wasn’t because of the song itself or what it was changed to, but because the board had failed to speak openly to the supporters about their ridiculous idea before implementing it. That was the point. Hertha is suppose to be a club that  has the supporters interests at heart, and in instances like this it was clear to the fans that their views apparently no longer mattered, just as the club was stressing that it wanted to be inclusive of all residents of Berlin for the upcoming season. All that work, all that good and decent work and those good ideas, all destroyed with one simple and stupid mistake.
To add insult to injury, a few days before via youtube, a video was released about the continuous partnership with DB (Deutsche Bahn) with fans seen singing “Nur Nach Hause”… only for a few days later, to ruin that with their decision to scrap it from the opening phase.

Frank Zander Bleibt: Why a song means so much… even when it’s not a top tune

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Our song: Frank Zander performs his song “Nur Nach Hause” with Hertha’s ‘Ostkurve’ (93 was the first time he performed the song, 25 years ago)

“Nur nach hause gehn wir nicht” (literally translates as “Only home, we do not go”) is a song that has been associated with Hertha BSC now for 25 years. It has been sung aloud by supporters of all ages and backgrounds at home matches for the best part of two decades as the team enters the field.
That energy coming from the supporters can be felt by the players, it is meant to fill them with confidence as they prepare themselves. It’s the one single moment where every single Hertha fan, unites for their team, even if in all other walks of life, the total strangers standing beside each other do not agree of matters such a politics or music or anything in between.
Thousands of people, many of whom are total strangers to one another, unite for a single moment for the one thing they all have in common… their beloved Hertha BSC.
There is no feeling to describe that moment. It is like Liverpool with “You’ll Never Walk Alone” or West Ham with “Forever Blowing Bubbles”… when you feel it, you really feel it.
Frank Zander, the writer of “Nur nach Hause”, is a Berlin native and has been a Hertha fan throughout his life. It was his song that took off and became the song Hertha fans have proudly sung at every home match since.
Not even he was made aware of the changes to the programme and when he found out, he was inclined to be in agreement with the vast majority of the fans… that Nur Nach Hause is OUR song. He admitted that when he received the news, he had been hurt by it.
For it to be stolen from the fans without any real explanation as to why or any room for negotiation, was disrespectful to the supporters and to Frank Zander by the board.
The song itself its nothing special to the outside ear. The melody is from Rod Stewart’s song “Sailing” which in itself makes total sense. Hertha BSC was founded by two sets of brothers who named the club after a boat (named Hertha by the owner), with a blue and white smoke stack. The club’s emblem is a ships flag to represent that too.
Zander himself is a native Berliner with a love for the club and the song refers to Hertha itself in the lyrics (“Everyone waits with anticipation for this the absolute game, The boys from Hertha have only one aim, today they want to win for the blue and white shirt”).
Not too long ago, Zander was also battling cancer and received huge amounts of support from the club and its thousands of fans. Frankie is very special to Hertha fans, his presence in the stadium when he appear is always met with love and appreciation and although even some supporters of the club don’t particularly like the song itself, no one can dispute that it brings thousands of people together, as they lift their scarves high into the air, outstretched, a blue and white sea, singing as loud as possible as the team they adore comes onto the pitch.

As a friend said to me, on the day of the opening fixture against 1.FC Nurnberg, when I asked him what was happening.
“The club has made a huge mistake this time. Our song will always “Nur Nach Hause” and nothing else.
That statement pretty much expressed the feeling of all fans. It was not that the song was changed that was the issue but the manner in which it was done, the board having zero respect for the supporters when something as simple as a song, is so sacred to them. To take it away without warning, without the chance to discuss potential changes first? it’s wrong in every sense of the word in the world of football.

If you’ve ever attended a Hertha BSC game in in Berlin you will understand why it was something people felt so deeply about.
Let me explain it this way with a personal short story.
A few years ago, I was having a disastrous time with my work. It was long hours that required work I didn’t truly enjoy and meant a 3am wake up call every day… and I desperately needed a break. So of course I went to Berlin, naturally to a Hertha game. I don’t even think we won, but the atmosphere that surrounded me, as always, was something special. When the team entered the field, I, with the thousands of other around me,many of whom were total strangers I would never see again in my life, lifted my blue and white scarf, closed my eyes, and sang…
My German is not fluent but I know the song, and like everyone else that is a native Berliner, sing it with heart and soul. And suddenly all those terrible problems from the outside world back home, were gone. Just for a moment… we all sang together and I realised why Berlin and Hertha BSC are so special to me. I am sure I am not the only one. This was a city united, in just a few moments, thousands together as one, singing for something they all love.
Nur Nach Hause is a song about home. This city feels like home. Not just to me, but to other too.
And then suddenly, someones saying to all of us “Oh sorry, this isn’t your song any more”. It was just totally out of the blue and extremely unfair to every single Hertha fan out there.
Alas, most of us pledged to not abide by the rules and to continue singing OUR Hertha Hymne regardless.  It’s what the majority of fans did during the opening phase and it’s what they continued to do after the game too.

Reversed: Zander ist Zuruck

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Arrangement: A rather unclear agreement has been reached between the club and Frank Zander… to perform “Nur Nach Hause” before every home game.

Literally a few days after the victory against Nurnberg, the Hertha board announced that they had negotiated with Frank Zander and that “Nur Nach Hause” would be performed once again before every home game by the man himself.
Whether “Seeed” will be played 20 minutes before kick off isn’t clear but the ferocity of the reaction from fans may well have played a huge part in the decision to seemingly reverse the initial action of changing the clubs anthem. It also isn’t clear if Nur Nach Hause is the actual run out song or just being performed live anyway 20 minutes before kick off. What is frustrating is if the latter is the case,that “Dickes B” is the run out song, it will not appease the supporters at all, it will probably only make them even angrier. There is no middle ground on this. Nur nach hause IS the Hertha anthem and no amount of attempted appeasement will fix that.
Whilst Keuter was involved in the decision but perhaps only to cover his own back after seemingly making the wrong choice in the first place which lead to the revolt. Either way, Hertha fans will continue to sing their beautiful hymne at home matches regardless. It seems that this time, the fans were actually read loud and clear and their ultimatum was fully understood.

 

HAHOHE!

Seasons round up: Some fun courtesy of Twitter

So someone on twitter created a thread in which the goal was to quote tweet your answer to sum up the season your team has had.

Here were the questions and my answers with some elaboration as to why for Hertha BSC.

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Team 2017/18

  1. Best player from your team this season?
    Valentino Lazaro

    46-106809579Top Talent: Valentino Lazaro has been a monster in midfield, scored twice and assisted numerous times this season


    After recovering from injury at the very beginning of the season, Lazaro came into the side a month or so into the season and it was clear from the very start that he was going to be very comfortable in Berlin. He was initially on loan from RB Salzburg and it was seen to be a good investment when Preetz announced it, but it proved to be a fantastic investment when Lazaro started to consistently create chances and play as a total professional and a valued member of the team. Preetz announced that “Tino” would be signing on a permanent basis in January on a long term contract and the reasons were pretty obvious when Lazaro showed incredible skill in a game away to Werder Bremen where he nutmegged a defender and rounded him to set up Ibsisevic in the box who unfortunately missed.
    Lazaro is extremely quick, a pacy attacking midfielder with an array of skills who has not only created and assisted a number of goals as well as scoring a delightful goal against Leverkusen (A game in which he also hit the bar, or rather Bernd Leno tipped a shot onto the bar in a 2-0 win). Lazaro also equalised against Hamburg when Hertha were 1-0 down.
    But he also showed his defensive skill against Koln when Mitchell Weiser, who’d had a poor game in the first half, was substituted for Mathew Leckie who took up the right midfield position, pushing Lazaro into the vacant right back position. He put into a number of fantastic blocks and challenges showing his defensive strength and determination and what’s more with ALL this talent he’s still only 22 years old and is already an Austrian champion and Austrian international. He’s got a bright future and he’s chosen to spend his time for now in Berlin, and Hertha is lucky to have him

  2. Worst player from your team this season?
    Mitchell Weiser

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    Not good enough: Mitchell Weiser’s commitment is being seriously questioned.

    It’s actually rather sad when one of your best players of the previous two seasons suddenly plummets dramatically to become your worst.
    Mitchell Weiser was a promising right back with a lot of talent and speed but for some unknown reason this season he’s gone totally limp and it wasn’t just for one match, but for a number of games. There are currently multiple rumours circulating about this future as his father is a coach at Bayer Leverkusen and his release clause comes into effect this summer (despite having a contract until 2020), he could be off to Leverkusen in this summers transfer window.
    Whether or not he’s distracted by the thoughts of a Leverkusen transfer, in a bad frame of mind or whether he’s just lost his touch is begging question. Think of Leon Goretzka moving to Bayern from Schalke at the end of the season. Everyone knows about this move yet his effort and commitment has not changed in a royal blue shirt. Weiser on the other hand is not just putting in poor performances but is becoming consistently lazy and lax, and according to reports even in training his effort is becoming minimal as he runs behind his teammates in sprinting exercises despite being one of the fastest players in the squad.
    Weiser has been at fault for a number of goals this season but the most noticeable was in the game against Koln in which he allowed the ball to roll and inevitably reacted too slowly and limply to Leonardo Bittencourt as he connected with the ball and Weiser almost clattered into Rune Jarstein in the process as the ball went past them both and into the back of the net. Weiser’s decision making and effort was questionable, as it was obvious when the challenge he could have and should have put in should’ve been made. His general reaction didn’t help either as he seemed unmoved by the error and during the rest of his time on the field he looked totally unfazed. When he failed to latch onto a ball he could easily have reached which had been switched from the opposite flank, the fans booed him. It was obvious he could’ve reached the ball but he’d chosen not to. That’s partially why he’s one of the worst players of the season. He’s been creatively impotent, defensively lacking and just plain poor. His exit from the Koln game spoke volumes and Pal Dardai has been openly critical of him. It’s not just a performance problem but an attitude problem.  When a right winger does your job better than you and he’s not technically suppose to be a defender, it says everything.

  3. Good performances from a player that went largely unnoticed this season?
    Per Ciljan Skjelbred

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    Linchpin: Per Ciljan Skjelbred has been with Hertha since 2015, quietly bossing midfield


    To be fair, Skjelbred has been putting in great performances for years now but hardly anyone ever speaks about it because he’s a quiet operator.
    He’s certainly not known for scoring goals or attacking flare but Skjelbred’s defensive ability and holding role go relatively unnoticed when ultimately he’s the linchpin in central midfield as the defensive part of the centre that includes Darida as the attacking variant of the duo. Darida is the attacking minded player but should he fail to keep control of the ball are lose out in the middle, Skjelbred is a surefire option to win it back or hold the ball up in waiting for support.
    He may not be a goal scorer but his persistence is highly valued and so is his loyalty. Skjelbred is ever reliant for effort as well, very rarely does he allow anything to dislodge his belief even if he makes a mistake during a game. Having worn the captains armband on a number of occasions he’s also proven he’s capable of leading the team as well. The quiet master of midfield.

  4. Most underrated player in your team this season?
    Mathew Leckie

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    Aussie Magic: Mathew Leckie scored a brace on his debut against VfB Stuttgart on the opening matchday of the 2017/18 season


    Pacy Mathew Leckie hadn’t scored for previous club Ingolstadt in the entirety of last season when the club was relegated from the Bundesliga. Hertha signed him in the summer and his introduction to Berlin gave him a new lease of scoring life, scoring twice in the opening game of the season and against Leverkusen at home. But whilst his scoring has dropped off slightly and he’s been more reduced to a substitute, his efforts have still be consistent. Leckie has a powerful shot, he’s also right footed but has scored most of his goals this season with the left (Not bad). His pace is his biggest attribute but when he’s not scoring goals he’s ensuring he’s doing his best to set them up by putting in as much as possible to find successful passes and options as possible. Long balls are something Leckie seemingly enjoys and always makes an effort to latch onto them. Whilst he’s not the star of the team and not a consistent performer, his contributions when he has played have at times been of high praise and high quality.  His move to Berlin seems to have revitalised him. His goal against Frankfurt was also not an easy one to score and he coolly slotted it past the home keeper.

  5. Most overrated player in your team this season?
    Mitchell Weiser (Again)
    Not much to add here apart from the fact that Weiser was and still is highly rated in Germany as a top defender but if his current performances are anything to go by he really shouldn’t be. Whether his poor performances are linked to his state of mind regarding a summer transfer we may never know but either way such a move shouldn’t be disrupting his current occupation in Berlin.
  6. Best goal scored by a player in your team this season?
    Mathew Leckie (Hertha BSC 2-0 Bayern Leverkusen, Berlin Olympiastadion)

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    Schoen: Leckie’s goal vs Bayer Leverkusen in Berlin was one of the best Hertha strikes of the season

    Leckie scored three times in a row at home for Hertha in the opening games of the season. His first two against Stuttgart in the first home game of 2017/18 were impressive but his left footed (weaker foot) hit against Leverkusen was one of the best goals of the season.
    The ball was played into Leckie who took it in his stride into the box, into the right hand corner where he cut inside and smashed the ball with his left foot into the top corner of the net. Leno had no chance and the opportunity wasn’t a particularly easy one to take but take it he did.

  7. Your teams best performance this season?
    RB Leipzig 2-3 Hertha BSC, Leipzig, Red Bull Arena

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    Unbelievable: Hertha beat RB Leipzig 3-2 away despite being down to 10 men for 80 minutes

    Hertha’s away form last season was more than abysmal. They lost 7 in a row on the road a new record set by Pal Dardai and lost to the likes of relegation strugglers at the time Hamburg. The away form was so poor that no one expected it to be any better this season as the poor away games hindered the chances of qualifying for the Champions League after a strong 2016/2017 Hindrunde. The home form kept Hertha’s European hopes afloat and they eventually qualified for the Europa League (Only to crash out at the group stage) whilst opponents RB Leipzig, already despised for the manner in which they reached the Bundesliga, reached the Champions League the previous season by winning in Berlin against Hertha 4-1 in Berlin.
    No one truly believed going into the game that Hertha would come away with all three points against such a strong opponent however after 6 minutes Davie Selke scored against his former club… and he wasn’t worried about showing his delight in doing so as Leipzig has shelved him the season before.
    Matters were not helped for Hertha however, when Jordan Torunarigha was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Timo Werner, in which it appeared both players clashed and the tackle was a 50/50. Down to 10 men for more than 80 minutes, Hertha pressed more and more and eventually got a second thanks to a header from Salomon Kalou and the 10 men were flying when Selke added a third.
    Whilst Leipzig pushed for a response late on they could only muster 2 goals as Hertha went on to win the game 3-2  and it could’ve been worse for Leipzig when Selke hit the post, which denied him a hattrick. The determination even after the red card which could’ve automatically demoralised the team and forced them to sit back and defend, had no such effect, instead Hertha went at the game head on and outplayed the Red Bull outfit for the majority of the game even with a man less. The desire of Selke to score against the club that had let him go in the summer and stripped him of opportunities the previous season was obvious and his commitment throughout the game as unquestionable. A come back is always tough but to win in such style when reduced to 10 men before 10 minutes has even passed is something admirable as the team attitude shone through.

  8. Your teams worst performance this season?
    Hertha 0 Mainz 2, Berlin, Olympiastadion

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    Double Nope: Robin Quaison scored twice in Berlin after a pathetic display from Hertha

    I, nor any other Hertha fan, likes talking about this game. It’s something we’d rather just forget in one of the early home matches against relegation threatened Mainz in 2018. After a decent 1-1 draw against Borussia Dortmund the previous home game it was out of the question that Hertha should not win against lowly Mainz but perhaps it was that attitude which was the death sentence against the 05ers. The game from Hertha’s perspective wasn’t just poor, it was diabolical. No chances created, seemingly no desire to make a change, the body language of the players was just all wrong and technically on the field Mainz were just as poor, just extremely lucky. They took the few chances they created, where as Hertha created zero chances. Even Pal Dardai stated in the post match press conference that it was the worst home game he had seen in Berlin since he took over as coach and that there was absolutely nothing positive to take from the game… nuff said.

  9. Most crucial goal your team has scored this season?
    Salomon Kalou 90+1min (Augsburg 1-1 Hertha BSC)

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    Leaving it more than late: Kalou equalised against Augsburg away, in the 91st minute

    It wasn’t a goal that saved the club from relegation or a game winning strike but Salomon Kalou netted a 91st minute equaliser away to Augsburg which secured a point to take back to Berlin. The game had been pretty poor from both sides but Kalou’s desire to get the goal showed as he netted with what was almost the last action of the game and more of a sigh of relief than anything else.

    Salomon Kalou 81mins (Freiburg 1-1 Hertha BSC)

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    Redemption: Salomon Kalou equalised from the spot in Freiburg despite missing a penalty just a few minutes earlier

    Kalou struck late against Freiburg as well for yet another draw but this time is effort was more difficult despite being from the penalty spot. Kalou had already taken a penalty in the game and so had Freiburg but whilst Freiburg had converted their spot kick Kalou hadn’t. In fact he hadn’t just missed, he had skied it in one of the worst penalty misses in the Bundesliga this season.
    However Hertha were award another kick from 12 yards not long after their first and an unquestionably brave Kalou found the courage to place the ball on the spot and attempt to take again. This time, it had the desired out come. Relief for the players and fans and redemption for Kalou in a tough match up against a side similar to Hertha in style and points and who at the time were playing remarkably well.

  10. Best signing your team made in summer 2017 or January 2018?
    Valentino Lazaro (again!), Davie Selke

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    Tag team: Selke (left) and Lazaro (right) both joined in the summer of 2017


    Lazaro has already been spoken for but joining him in Berlin was the equally young Davie Selke who joined from RB Leipzig in the summer and like Lazaro sat out the first part of the season with injury. However just like Lazaro, Selke proved himself to be a worthy investment as he scored his first goal in the Europa League and then his first Bundesliga goals followed.
    Selke is tall, quick and skilled but his goals come from all forms. He can header the ball strongly, he can latch onto loose balls and he can muscle his way through defenders but he’s also the perfect strike partner for Ibisevic. Whilst one is a finisher, Selke is more than that, he has the pace that Ibisevic no longer has, the two have different playing styles. Selke is also visibly passionate. Whenever opportunities are missed which he has been the deciding factor in, his frustration is clear to see but luckily he lacks the dangerous and explosive fire in attitude of Valentine Stocker, who moved back to Basel in January. That sort of centre forward is much needed at Hertha. Selke can score be he can also set others up with his own skill and pace. Interestingly enough his feet and head are seemingly as powerful as each other. He could be a German international in the future, he certainly has the talent. What’s more his fearlessness against his former team Leipzig was to be congratulated. When he scored for them against Hertha last season, he celebrated but didn’t seem anywhere near as thrilled as he clearly was when the scored for the Berliners against RB in 2017. Selke himself stated, when asked if he would celebrate against Leipzig if he scored, that the only team he would never celebrate a goal against would be Werder Bremen, where he began his professional career and of who he has the most amount of love and respect for. Davie Selke is a young, cheeky chap with a hell of a lot of talent and a great larger than life personality who hopefully will stick around Berlin for years to come and develop with Hertha BSC and of whom was one hell of a bargain in the summer.

  11. Worst signing your team has made this season? If any?

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    No weakness: Karim Rekik was one of four signing in summer 2017 but none have failed at their task

    Hertha only made four summer signings and all have been a success at the club since they arrived under the management of Pal Dardai. Mathew Leckie, Karim Rekik (Who has been a marvellous replacement to John Anthony Brooks), Davie Selke and Valentino Lazaro have all had great seasons. Perhaps the only bad signing was the promotion deals which now include main sponsor Tedi!

  12. Any memorable assist by a player for your team this season?
    Arne Maier and Marvin Plattenhardt (Hamburg 1-2 Hertha BSC)

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    Assist Kings: Arne Maier sets up the second and match winning goal (Kalou) against Hamburg SV at the Volksparkstadion

    Hertha’s away form last season was notably poor. Dardai was the coach responsible for setting a new club record of away defeats in the season 2016/17, so no one really considered the fact, especially after the up and down season and poor Europa League campaign as well as the Ruckrunde curse, that Hertha may be a threat away from home. Inclusive of the fact Hamburg were fighting relegation and had just introduced a new head coach that game, Hertha were rather expected to mess the game up, even though it was certainly one they could take points from.
    And that’s exactly how it started. Hamburg were 1-0 up at half time and Hertha hadn’t taken their chances however two goals, one from Kalou and one from Lazaro and a dominant second half display, showed exactly why Hamburg were threatened with relegation and gave Hertha a deserved 3 points at the Volksparkstadion.
    The talking point however was the manner in which those goals came about. Two excellent pieces of work provided Lazaro and Kalou with their goals for the day. The first was a pinpoint cross (as well as some questionable defending from Hamburg’s backline) from Marvin Plattenhardt, who’s recently been named in the Germany 2018 World Cup squad alongside Koln’s Jonas Hector as the teams left backs. Plattenhardt’s cross was precise and carried the perfect weight for Lazaro to be able to latch onto it and slot it past the Hamburg keeper that day, Julian Pollersbeck.
    Pollersbeck, who had earlier denied Vedad Ibisevic with some top notch goalkeeper (as he would go on to do throughout the game), had no chance with Lazaro’s strike.
    Likewise, the decisive winner came from Salomon Kalou who was set up after some trickery and fantastic footwork but a determined youngster Arne Maier.
    Maier was introduced to first team action after an injury to Vladimir Darida towards the beginning of the season. Maier slotted into the role comfortably and become a steady defensive midfielder capable of attacking play as well. His work lead to a perfect through ball to Kalou who simply slotted home past Pollersbeck to give Hertha the 2-1 lead that would see the game out.
    Both assists were typical of the Hertha style of play.  Hard work and effort that luckily had an end result

    Genki Haraguchi (Hertha BSC 2 Bayern Munchen 2, Berlin Olympiastadion)

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    Come back on: Celebrating a comeback, Ondrej Duda (Left) scored after an incredible assist from Genki Haraguchi (right) against Bayern Munich


    Genki Haraguchi would go to spend the second half of the season in Dusseldorf on loan for more playing time but his set up for the first goal for Hertha at home to Bayern Munich would be considered by some as ‘assist of the season’.
    Hertha, 2-0 down at the time, stepped on the gas after Lewandowski’s goal that added to first goal by Mats Hummels in the first half. Carlo Ancelotti had just been sacked at Bayern and Willy Sagnol was interim manager of the Bavarian team. Everything looked to be going smoothly, but immediately after the restart from Lewandowski’s strike, Bayern didn’t have time to even catch their breath. Hertha went on the attack, having already started the second half brightly. Haraguchi was already lively when he picked the ball up from a pass from the right wing, as he managed to weave his way through the Bayern defence past 3 German internationals. His tricky footwork was too much for likes of Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng as Haraguchi slipped easily past them and then unselfishly passed to an open Ondrej Duda who tapped in was unmissable range.
    It was Duda’s first goal but all came from the work of Haraguchi, who’s assist that resulted in a goal, would be the prompt for a comeback.
    Hertha began pressing. Kalou had shots on goal to no avail, when eventually a foul in Plattenhardt range mean an in swinging free kick into the box. The cross was actually poor, but an error of  judgement but Bayern’s new boy Tolisso allowed the ball to drop directly to the feet of Salomon Kalou who didn’t miss and from 2-0 down Hertha drew the game 2-2, keeping as well earned point in Berlin.

  13. One leader from your team?
    Vedad Ibisevic (c)

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    Leader: Ibisevic was chosen as Hertha captain in 2017


    Despite the inconsistency of starting, performances and captaincy this season, Ibisevic is a player that has proven that even if he is not scoring he is still leading on the pitch. It was his leadership as captain against Koln that saw Hertha claim all three points after the changes made at half time and Mitchell Weiser was replaced. Ibisevic is said to be a player, in the words of his friends on his native Bosnia, that would cry after a loss because he took the defeat so personally. His tough life, surviving and escaping the bloodshed in Yugoslavia during the Bosnian war, only strengthened his mentality and the gift of the captains armband actually calmed his more aggressive side. The captains armband was handed to Ibisevic in 2016/17 from Fabian Lustenberger. It seemed to work as Hertha finished in a Europa League group stage place, above the finishing spot of the season previous.
    Ibisevic is a passionate player and it shows in performance as a captain. Whilst he is capable of keeping it cool due to the responsibility the arm band brings with it, he’s not afraid of letting his feelings known. He’s level headed enough to be encouraging to the team, even if his own performance is lacking.

     

  14. A player who started regularly for your team this season that you just wish fucked off?
    Mitchell Weiser (AGAIN!)
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    Nuff said surely. If Mitch doesn’t want to be in Berlin any longer than he should be encouraged to leave and it seems Dardai has the same belief.

  15. Any unfair decisions go against your team this season?
    Offside goal for Hoffenheim

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    Life’s not fair: Nico Schultz (Top right corner) is clearly offside when the ball in played through, 2 seconds later a penalty was given


    It’s not good to blame the referee for incidents on the pitch but sometimes it has to be done. Even with VAR the final decision is left open to interpretation from the referee.
    The game between Hertha and Hoffenheim in Berlin was scoreless when the referee gave a dubious penalty for a trip in the box. Unfortunately for Niklas Stark there was no sympathy for him as he’d committed the ‘foul’ as a result of slipping and sticking his leg out to actually get back up, but what’s more frustrating was that the ball was passed to Nico Schultz, after Stark had touched the ball, but who still was involved in build up play who had been collecting the ball after coming from off the pitch to receive it, which would have put him in an offside position.
    The referee claimed the offside call was non existent because Stark had been involved too and the next phase of play had begun rendering the offside out of the question but the ball would have reached Schultz anyway and he was still active. The foul was committed after the offside, so shouldn’t have even stood. You can argue or agree with the referee it depends on how you look at it

    Red Card Jordan Torunarigha vs Leipzig

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    “What?!”: Marvin Plattenhardt is livid as youngster Jordan Torunarigha is sent off against RB Leipzig


    If ever there was an unfair call it had to be Jordan Torunarigha’s red card in the 8th minute of the game in Leipzig.
    Timo Werner may be quick but his clash with Torunarigha was certainly a 50/50 in which both players clattered and tangled their legs whilst going for the same ball. Whilst it could’ve been deemed a foul from either side, it was Werner that got the benefit of the doubt. Although 25 yards out the referee had decided the block denied a goal scoring opportunity although it clearly didn’t and sent Torunarigha off. Young Torunarigha remained calm but fellow defender Marvin Plattenhardt was clearly livid at the referees unfair decision.
    The challenge wasn’t brash or clumsy, it was simply a tangle of legs but Werner didn’t care, he back chatted and mouthed at the officials and Leipzig got a break through without even scoring however it would be them who were left scratching their heads as they lost the game to 10 man Berlin 3-2

  16. Best passer in your team?
    Marvin Plattenhardt

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    Precise: Plattenhardt is renowned for his set pieces, dead ball shots and assists


    Plattenhardt’s talents for ball distribution haven’t gone unnoticed by German national team head coach Joachim Loew. Plattenhardt is set piece and dead ball specialist who’s Bundesliga goals have all come from free kicks. Despite not scoring this season, he has been crucial in a number of them as the assist provider including from corners and free kicks as well as open play. Plattenhardt’s preciseness allows the likes of Kalou to get their chances at goal and along with Lazaro assists and chances from both wings are frequent for Hertha.

     

  17. With only a few weeks of the season to go, what are you hoping for come end of May? E.g. could be playing for pride, win the FA cup/UCL, or stay up
    Europa League tiny chances, Pride for as many points as possible

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    Dreams… probably not: The 2017/18 Europa League campaign was not a success


    It has to be mainly pride. Hertha’s final game of the season is against RB Leipzig and their is a planned fan march entitled “The march of tradition” on match day which speaks volumes about the mixed feelings over the new digital marketing strategy as well as the animosity towards Red Bull and Leipzig. To beat Leipzig could also mean the possibility of keeping them out of the European spots all together, as they just lost 5-2 to Hoffenheim at home in the match day just passed.
    The pride aspect wouldn’t just be for Berlin but for traditional clubs as well.
    There’s a tiny outside chance if the clubs above Hertha also now fail to win their next games, a Europa league playoff place is possible but whether fans want to go through the process of the play off again is another matter, especially after the disaster of this years group stage campaign.  At the end of the day the fact it’s against Leipzig, the club that the majority of clubs despise, and the fact Hertha could potentially prevent them reaching European football again, that makes the final match day worthwhile.
    Hertha’s main objective even this season, was to survive and now that’s been done (Mathematically impossible to be relegated), going out on a high against a club everyone hates is the priority.

  18. Sack your manager at the end of the season. Yes or no?
    Absoutely…No way!

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    Herthaner: Pal Dardai spent his entire playing career at Hertha, he has now had 3 consecutive top table finishes as a manager


    Since Hertha have had a successful two Bundesliga seasons following surviving relegation in 2014/15, it means the expectation of the team has changed and risen. Some fans complain as they expect more… but this is Hertha, and the most we should be hoping for as be continue to build the future with developing the current and youth teams, is to survive and finish as high as possible.
    Since Pal Dardai became manager at the tailend of the the 2014/15 season in which Hertha were sitting in the relegation playoff spot, he not only saved the club from potential relegation but he crafted a well structured team that in its next season finished 7th in a Europa league playoff spot and reached the DFB Pokal semi final.
    The following season the club finished 6th having drawn at home against Bayern Munich in a match the team deserved to win, and beaten Borussia Dortmund and qualified for the Europa League groups stages. Dardai’s appointment of manager has been one of the greatest signings of recent years in Berlin as he’s given chances to youth players from the academy to shine on the pitch for the first team (The likes of Arne Maier and Jordan Torunarigha) and shaped a well performing team with good and traditional values. Dardai is also a Hertha man through and through having played almost the entirety of his career in Berlin for the “Alte Dame”, he coaches the team with discipline and he’s honest about his frustrations when things go wrong. A good coach is one thing but a good coach who has only that team in his heart is something else. He’s not a manager that should part ways with the club, not at all. Even if failure came, Dardai would still be a part of the club in some form. He could never leave entirely.

  19. Any player(s) you missed this season? Whether sold, Injured or even suspended for a crucial game.
    Lazaro and Plattenhardt vs Wolfsburg

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    Missing quality: Against Wolfsburg both Plattenhardt (left) and Lazaro (centre) were missing… and it showed


    John Anthony Brooks could’ve been a huge loss had he not been replaced with the equally talented Karim Rekik in the summer.
    Brooks was absent for the awful game between Hertha and Wolfsburg in Berlin. The vile weather didn’t help matters either nor did the absence of Marvin Plattenhardt and Valentino Lazaro.
    Plattenhardt missed the game through suspension after picking up 5 yellow cards in the season and Valentino Lazaro missed the match because he had been recovering from a cold.  The lack of pace in the game showed that there was something missing. There were limited crosses into the box from Hertha, as the two players most successful at delivering them were absent.
    The game ended goalless with limited chances for both sides but the lack of bite from Hertha was obvious and the return of Plattenhardt and Lazaro was a welcome one as they came back a week later against Gladbach and the chances created were far greater in number. Despite a loss it was far from the lackluster pace of the Wolfsburg game and then against Koln is seemed to work. Plattenhardt set up the winning goal and helped provide the cross that was half cleared when Selke finally smashed it in.
    Had they been on the pitch against Wolfsburg perhaps the game would’ve been a tad more exciting, who knows?

  20. Do you have any statistics to show, whether it’s team or player?
    Hertha, the only club undefeated against Bayern 2017/18.

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    Smashed: Kalou equalised for Hertha against Bayern Munich after being 2-0 down

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    The Berlin Wall: Bayern could not find a way through at home to Hertha, as they drew 0-0 at the Allianz arena

    Hertha first played Bayern Munich at a time when fans were 50/50 on the belief that it was a great time to play the champions. Some believed that the sacking of Ancelotti would only spur the Munich side on, who had a point to prove. Other’s believed that Munich would be all over the place in terms of organisation and that made them vulnerable.
    It would seem that the first half of the game determined that the former was true. Bayern were 2-0 in the 49th minute thanks to Hummels and Lewandowski but a quickfire response thanks to some unbelievable footwork from the Japanese international Genki Haraguchi and an Ondrej Duda finish, followed by the equaliser by Kalou to make it 2-2 on 56 mins showed that the optimistic supporters had been correct. Hertha were more than capable of taking on the big boys, although it’s wondered if Bayern simply fell apart because of the so called ‘crisis’ in the club at the time (as in they weren’t winning every game so they thought it was a crisis… yeah I laugh about that too). It showed character from Hertha who never allowed their head’s to drop, even against the giants and who fought back to celebrate a hard earned draw in Berlin… and I was there to see it.
    What’s more, there’s another record to be proud of, after the return of Jupp Heynckes. Jupp took Bayern back to the top of the table, clambering above an ever fading Borussia Dortmund side that looked completely out of place and  unsettled after the sacking of their own manager Peter Bosz (who ultimately deserved it for his inability to adapt his style to face different teams in Europe).
    Heyncke’s return stabilised Bayern who looked far stronger and emerged as the superior team in Germany once again under his guidance. No one gave Hertha BSC a hope in hell’s chance of leaving Munich with anything. Considering Bayern had defeated every other team they’d faced in the league at home under Jupp and especially since Hertha hadn’t beaten Bayern in about a decade (probably more than that) the belief that keeping the defeat minimal came into effect in the manner of thinking of the fans… the players had other ideas. Bayern had scored in every home game under Heynckes since his return… except this one.
    Although they can consider themselves a trifle unlucky, Bayern created chances but didn’t take them as well as an outstanding man of the match defensive performance from Jordan Torunarigha as well who made multiple goal line clearances preventing Bayern from scoring. It was a stellar defensive performance from Hertha who showed Bayern they could be matched. It left the Muncheners frustrated but gave the Berliners a deserved point. It’s not like the bus was parked either as Hertha had shots of their own but failed to really trouble the Bayern keeper Sven Ulreich.
    Rune Jarstein in addition to Torunarigha gave an outstanding performance in goal, preventing Arjen Robben from snatching a goal from not one but two on target free kicks and he came to the rescue on multiple occasions for Hertha. A rather exciting 0-0 draw meant that Hertha were the ONLY Bundesliga team not to be defeated by Jupp Heynckes as well as being a club that were undefeated to Bayern over the course of the season, with the last three games in a row ending in draws.

    Rune Jarstein… the only man to stop the man on fire.

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    “Absolutely not! No damn way!”: Rune Jarstein (and Jordan Torunarigha) put in magnificent defensive displays again Bayern in Munich, ensuring that Jarstein is the only keeper (as of April 2018) to stop Robert Lewandowski scoring at the Allianz Arena

    In addition to being undefeated against Bayern in the 2017/18 season, Rune Jarstein became the only keeper at that point, (and as far as I’m aware is still currently), to prevent Robert Lewandowski from scoring in a Bayern Munich home game. Lewandowski has scored at home against every single team in the Bundesliga this season except in the 0-0 draw against Hertha. Jarstein made saved after save over the course of that match and was on par with Torunarigha for the man of the match. Without them the result would’ve been a lot different.
    Lewandowski did score in the reverse fixture at the beginning of the season, putting Bayern 2-0 up, but the game ended 2-2. Jarstein’s performance ensured Hertha were undefeated against the champions this season.

  21. You can only pick one position that you can improve on this summer. Which position are you picking?
    Right Back

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    More than capable: Peter Pekarik is an established right back


    It looks a little inevitable at the moment that Mitchell Weiser will leave during the summer. Since his exist clause becomes active, Hertha can pick up a tidy sum for him and Preetz has already been looking into replacements. There are rumours that should Koln be relegated, Hertha are looking into buying defender Lukas Klunter. But as of now Peter Pekarik is playing the right back position in place of Weiser.
    Unhappy with his performance in the first half against Koln, Dardai replaced Weiser and apparently openly scalded him for his lack of fight and effort during the first 45 minutes. When he was replaced by Mathew Leckie, the game changed despite an inexperienced defensive wise Lazaro slotting into a right back-type position.
    The performance on the pitch and in training had been so poor apparently, it would seem Dardai tried to send the youngster a message by leaving him out of the game in Frankfurt (which Hertha won 3-0) all together. Weiser did not even make the bench for the game and Pekarik started in his place. If Pekarik, who’s contract runs until at least 2020 maintains his starting spot at right back, he currently has no back up if Weiser is to be sold, so one is desperately needed, preferably a youngster.

  22. Your favourite player is?
    Vedad Ibisevic

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    From refugee to national hero: Vedad Ibisevic survived the Yugoslavian wars to become a successful professional footballer

    I make it no secret that Vedad Ibisevic has been my favourite player for Hertha BSC since he joined in 2015/16. It isn’t just his mark as a player but as a human being also. Ibisevic is Bosnian, the country my family hails from, only unlike my family who came to England in 1948, Vedad and his family were present during the Bosnian war and had to survive then escape to safety in Tuzla, a safe zone.
    Ibisevic’s dream of playing professional football didn’t diminish. Despite the war being over Bosnia was not safe in the early 2000’s when Ibisevic and family moved at first to Switzerland and then to the United States where Vedad spent most of his teenage years. Ibisevic developed his skills as a footballer in the US, but when called upon for international duty only had his heart set on representing Bosnia and Herzegovina.
    He was recruited at first by Paris giants PSG, but failed… yet never gave up and moved to Germany to Aachen where he eventually broke through. From there he joined Hoffenheim and Stuttgart where he was an immense success as a striker, reaching double figures in goals each season for both clubs in the seasons he spent there.
    Ibisevic did however have the trait of a true Balkan native with his unpredictable temperament, in which hot headed reactions saw him sent off a number of times.
    When he moved to Hertha he picked up where he left off, becoming top goalscorer in 2016/17 and being handed that captains armband for that season. He was an impact player with a lot of heart and love for the game. Having had to fight to survive, he is now a major success in the football world and what’s more his goals internationally gifted Bosnia the opportunity of playing in their first ever world cup finals, with Ibisevic scoring not only the goal that took them to Brazil but also their first ever goal in the finals against Argentina (despite a 2-1 defeat).
    Ibisevic scored in the home game of 2016/17 against Bayern, the victory was only denied by a 97th minute equaliser but Ibisevic’s unquestionable dedication to the team is continuous even though the current season has been turbulent.

    Davie Selke

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    It’s all heart from here: Davie Selke goes ballistic after scoring the penalty to put Hertha into the lead in Frankfurt again Eintracht.

    Davie Selke began the season 2017/18 late due to injury but once he returned his impact was magnificent. Selke was exactly the type of player Hertha needed, quick and agile and able to head the ball as well as strike it.
    But Selke’s likability is one of his greatest assets.
    It seems to me that his experience last season at RB Leipzig (Where he scored twice against Hertha in their match in Berlin and wasn’t overly celebratory about it even though it guaranteed Champions League football for Leipzig), it was not a pleasant experience for him in Leipzig. Although he was a huge factor in their promotion for the Bundesliga, the Red Bull outfit practically shafted him for their debut Bundesliga season and didn’t seem particularly bothered about the thought of losing him to another club. Whatever happened behind the scenes at Leipzig prompted Selke to make the switch to Berlin where it would appear his skill and his work rate are far greater appreciated.
    He scored in the Europa league and Bundesliga in two losses, but towards the end of the season has come up good in wins against the likes of Frankfurt away and Koln at home. Selke’s has shown determination in the games he’s both started and been brought off the bench.  He’s skillful and not afraid to show it but more than that he’s passionate about the game, as can be clearly seen in his celebrations against Koln and Frankfurt where he was probably lucky not to burst a blood vessel from the screaming he was emitting. He was even openly celebrating Mathew Leckie’s goal after it was given from VAR review (offside review) in Frankfurt.
    Selke was in a battle with Frankfurt defender Hasebe all afternoon, it was he who gave the penalty away which Selke converted but it was Hasebe that would see trouble in the battle as he elbowed Selke in the face later in the match resulting in a straight red card. Selke needed medical attention after the game and sat out training for the following two days, but his reaction on the pitch was to get up and play on until the 86th minute, determined to carry on.
    Selke is slick, young, pacy, a goal scorer, but it’s his attitude towards playing in Berlin that makes him one of the players of the season. He seems to appreciate the support of the Hertha faithful and that’s more meaningful that simply scoring goals.

  23. How many players do you need to become a top team?
    Signings? Maybe 3-4?

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    Ambition: “The future belongs to Berlin”

    It’s hard to say but the midfield is aging and it’s time we started looking for backups as well as a new right back. With a midfield of Skjelbred, Darida, Lustenberger, Salomon Kalou, a new attacking and defensive midfielder would be good, although Arne Maier and Valentino Lazaro are more than good enough. A new striker perhaps too with Ondrej Duda yet to show his best and Vedad Ibisevic not getting any younger, its more than possible that Julian Schieber will be on his way out in the summer too as his contract expires. Selke is a bit of injected youth, but with only Selke, Ibisevic and Duda to choose from, an extra hand would be useful in the goal scoring department.
    Although defensively it would appear as though Hertha are relatively comfortable a back up or two would also be quite useful although we’re not short of talent in the youth sides, with players such as Florian Baak.

    It’ll be an interesting new season

Some pictures from the season

 

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HAHOHE! HERTHA BSC!