Time running out for delusional Hamburg


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There is a clock on Hamburg's official website that proudly states how long the club has been a Bundesliga outfit.

It currently totals more than 50 years with HSV the only side of the original top-flight founders never to have been relegated. Perhaps, however, it should now start counting down with time running out for HSV.

It would surely not even be a bad thing for one of Germany's proudest and best-known clubs to spend a little time in the doldrums given the mess they have been in for several years now.

The club finds itself ridden with 100 million euros worth of debt, and a vote of HSV members on 25 May will decide how best to proceed in a bid to save the Bundesliga-Dino, as Hamburg is nicknamed, from extinction.

"We were also on the brink of insolvency with Borussia Dortmund," DFL President and BVB big cheese Reinhard Rauball said on German TV earlier this week. "So we brought young players into the first team and laid good foundations. HSV also need to show that they can trim their squad."

Rauball's comments throw into doubt whether HSV will even obtain the licence to play in either of Germany's top two divisions next season, and were not particularly warmly welcomed - as you might imagine - by HSV supremo Carl-Edgar Jarchow. But then again, the stark, harsh reality is often unpalatable.

On the pitch, the situation is equally perilous. With four games left, it looks like a straight fight between HSV, Stuttgart, Nuremberg and Braunschweig to avoid the drop.

HSV boss Mirko Slomka is confident.

"We can beat all of our last four opponents," he claimed this week, but when the remaining quartet of fixtures are against Wolfsburg, Augsburg, Bayern Munich and Mainz, Slomka's statement merely smacks of the delusions of grandeur that have afflicted the club in the recent past.

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Last season's finish just outside the European places seemed to suggest a recovery of sorts under Thorsten Fink, but after a slow start to the current campaign, he was on his way out.

Admittedly, four points from your first five games is hardly eye-catching, but surely the former Basel boss deserved more of a chance, particularly as he had to bed in a number of new players and cope with the loss of Son Heung-Min (and his 12 league goals last season, nearly a third of the team's total) and international full-back Dennis Aogo.

Instead, a promising fledgling coaching career was cut short - don't worry, I'm sure Fink will recover - and HSV followed it up with another knee-jerk reaction in getting rid of Bert van Maarwijk and replacing him with Slomka, the fourth man HSV have had in the dug-out this season.

"It wasn't planned for a long time, but in the course of discussions throughout the day," Jarchow had said to explain Fink's departure, claiming that - like a capricious girlfriend - the former Bayern Munich player "was no longer the right one".

That short-sighted and frankly amateurish way of doing business has been the sorry hallmark of the club for far too long. They have had seven coaches since Armin Veh took charge ahead of the 2010/11 campaign. Stability and rebuilding should be the order of the day at the Imtech Arena.

That would surely best be achieved out of the limelight. And they do have some positives, particularly the emergence of Hakan Calhanoglu, without whom and his 10 league goals, Slomka would not even have had a sniff at embellishing his reputation as 'a fireman'.

The 20-year-old only signed a contract extension through to 2018 in February, and - fortunately for HSV - there is no get-out clause should relegation occur.

"Hakan loves pressure," HSV sporting director Oliver Kreuzer claimed in a kicker feature on the Turkish international, which is handy given the esteemed German magazine not entirely wrongly stated Calhanoglu 'must save HSV' on its front cover.

The burden will be all the more on the youngster's shoulders given Pierre-Michel Lasogga will likely be sidelined for the run-in, though handily should be fit for any relegation play-off double-header.

If Rudi Völler is to be believed, referee Bastian Dankert could well be the man to keep HSV in the top flight.

"If Herr Dankert referees one of their remaining games, they will definitely not go down," the Leverkusen sporting director had claimed after his team's 2-1 loss to HSV a couple of weeks ago.

That outburst cost Völler 8000 euros this week as he was fined by the German Football Federation's disciplinary court.

Should the alleged combined efforts of Dankert, as well as those of Calhanoglu and Slomka fail to keep Hamburg's proud record going, it may cost the club a lot more.

But it will surely be a price worth paying if it provides the shock the Dino clearly needs to evolve into something resembling a modern, well-run football club.

By Ian Holyman - on Twitter @ian_holyman

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