Pitchside

Another week, another club in crisis talks

Pitchside

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A month ago Hamburg’s board kept us in suspense with an eight-hour meeting, after which they decided that former Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk could stay in charge.

Not that it did him much good. The following weekend Hamburg lost 4-2 to bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig and Van Marwijk was shown the door.

This week, Thomas Schneider’s (above, right) future was up for discussion, following a dramatic late turnaround in Frankfurt that left Stuttgart fretting about a first relegation since 1975. The club’s top brass eventually took the same approach as their Hamburg counterparts.

“Following what was an emotional game in Frankfurt, we took the necessary time to calmly analyse the situation and discuss the issues,” VfB president Bernd Wahler said on Tuesday.

“The board has made the decision to continue working with Thomas Schneider. The advisory committee is 100 per cent behind this decision.”

Schneider keeps his job for now then, presumably on condition that the Swabians win their next game. Their opposition on Saturday? Bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig.

The 2-1 defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt was Stuttgart’s eighth straight loss in the league. But if you go a little further back, the statistics are even more damning. Schneider’s team have been beaten in 10 of their last 11 Bundesliga matches, which means they are hovering above the relegation zone on goal difference.

With just 11 games to go, it is not surprising that the club considered their options. Schneider took training on Tuesday morning but, like everyone else, he was awaiting the outcome of that afternoon’s board meeting.

Bild were convinced that Thorsten Fink – sacked by Hamburg in September – was all set to replace Schneider.

Ex-Croatia international and Cologne boss Zvonimir Soldo told Stuttgarter Zeitung that he had been contacted by the club, however, with the suggestion being that he could become Krasimir Balakov’s assistant in a new-look management team. Both men played in the same Stuttgart side as the club’s sporting director Fredi Bobic.

Former Schalke and Hoffenheim coach Ralf Rangnick was also mentioned and then there was experienced former Schalke manager Huub Stevens, who had just been let go by Greek side PAOK Salonika.

In the end, though, the club held fire.

Keeping Schneider on after such a bad run might seem like a gamble but Stuttgart already paid out once this season to sack Bruno Labbadia in August.

The directors want to develop a young side, so it was perhaps inevitable that they would struggle at times. But Schneider, a former Stuttgart defender, started out with four wins, four draws and just one defeat in the Bundesliga.

Furthermore, as the club’s Under-17 coach he had overseen the development of Rani Khedira, younger brother of Real Madrid midfielder Sami, and Timo Werner.

Schneider said the game in Frankfurt was their best performance in weeks, and they do have a favourable fixture list ahead. They face fellow strugglers Braunschweig, Werder Bremen, Hamburg and Nuremburg in successive games.

Reaction to the decision has been mixed, although some fans maintain that the coach is the least of Stuttgart’s worries. Die Zeit agreed, arguing that the general uncertainty and the decision to contact potential replacements points to a “fundamental leadership problem” at the club.

In public at least, however, Schneider still seems to have the backing of senior players.

“I think it’s a good decision,” Germany international Cacau said. “It’s a vote of confidence.

“We’ll give everything as a team on Saturday so that the situation improves and calm returns. I’m optimistic that things will move forward.”

There is certainly little room to go further backwards. Defeat on Sunday would leave the 2007 Bundesliga champions level on points with the team currently propping up the standings. And that would probably necessitate a fresh round of crisis talks.

Mark Rodden - @mrodden

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