Strange timing but the right decision?

The news is currently spreading like wildfire: The FCSP relieved head coach Kauczinski and director of sport Stöger of their duties this morning. This decision was made by the supervisory and management boards yesterday evening. This is a tough decision but also consistent decision, however the timing of this decision appears rather unlucky.

Basically, such decisions are usually made if the sportive aims and targets are no longer met or after a judgement that those aims cannot be met any longer has been made. However, looking at the pre-season targets (to be amongst the top 6 teams of the division), these target are still delivered by the team and thus there must be something else that’s not right at the moment. The club’s official statement published this morning doesn’t provide any further information in this regard as today’s dismissals are explained in the usual wordings “after the sportive development of the last weeks…” And thus, the fact that not just Kauczinski but also Stöger was dismissed appears even more surprisingly. The dismissal of the latter one was commented in the statement as “however, there have been different opinions about the further proceedings and stratification”. Thus, it also appears likely (and tomorrow’s press conference at 15:00 could provide even more information in this regard) that the management and supervisory boards might have been well willing to react to the developments of the last weeks with the dismissal of the head coach only but that this was also against the will of the director of sports.

However, these are only wild speculations of myself and my conscience just started screaming “Cobbler, stick to your last”. So let’s just review the work of the now dismissed Kauczinski and Stöver at the FCSP.

Yes, since the winter’s break there has not been very much delivered. The annoying defeat in Darmstadt, where the FCSP has clearly been the better team but however also caught two simple and thus really annoying goals, was followed by a really undeserved win (3:2) against  Union at home and the clear loss in Cologne. After the home loss against Aue, the mood was already almost tipping but the wins against Ingolstadt and in Paderborn caused a good position in the league’s table. However, with regard to the play, the FCSP was never convincing at all. Either, the FCSP did not even try to initiate a flat build-up when in ball possession (as e.g. shown within the matches against Union, Cologne or Paderborn) or they were not able to dictate their play to the opponent (what a horrible counter pressing against Aue). And this development inevitably lead to the absolute zero within the derby, a loss at home which was even well deserved result wise. How is a team supposed to act bravely when they were not trusted to play successfully football within the last three top matches?! No, under these circumstances there was no other way than to lose the derby. Followed by a loss in Sandhausen which could however still somehow be categorized as the aftermaths of the derby. So, a lot of work was announced for the international break, which resulted in some changes that were at least recognizable to some extent. In the following home match against Duisburg, the FCSP was for the first time in the second half of the season acting dominantly and was able to dictate their play to the opponent’s team. For sure, the MSV Duisburg was not very interested to play ball possession football either. However, one must acknowledge that the FCSP was able to play appealing football against a deep positioned opponent and also to create some good chances out of their play which were not as usually resulting out of counter attacks. So, this was a 0-0 draw of the better type. But what followed was more than a surrender: 50 minutes with one player more on the pitch resulted in a 1:2 defeat. However, one has to also acknowledge that Kiel took maximum risk during the second half. So what would have happened, if Kiel would have lost this all-in which was also very likely. Would the head coach and the director of sports still be in charge?

No longer part of FC St.Pauli – Uwe Stöver and Markus Kauczinski (© Stefan Groenveld)

This all appeared differently during the first half of the season. However, I would also like to emphasize that the FCSP was also only rarely able to convince play wise in the first half of the season. For sure, we sent Magdeburg back home with a 4-1 win but do you still remember the first half of this match and how dominant Magdeburg was back then and we were only able to safe ourselves with a 1-1 into half-time? Or the wins against Paderborn and Sandhausen at home with both teams dominating us? No, the FCSP was also only seldom able to appeal with dominating football in the first half of the season. Anyway, everyone has to ask oneself what to expect from the head coach? A head coach who was clearly stating at the beginning of his job that the FCSP is a counter attacking team (and who also clearly stated the exact same words in his job application which convinced the leading boards of the FCSP). And then you enter a club with a concept of football named “Zusammen-Zünden-Vorbereiten” [something like ‘ignite and prepare together’] which stated nothing less than to have a plan of the perfect counter attacking football (Yes, I am fully aware that there are many more levels on which to play this type of football with ball possession play amongst them. However, this concept still has its focus on counter attacking). So what was expected from the head coach? For sure, there was also a further development of the team expected in terms of their play. And this was exactly stated by the head coach himself during the summer’s season preparation. And so this head coach has to be judged by his own words.

And to be honest, the FCSP appears discouraged since the winter break. This is very disappointing especially from a spectator’s point of view because one gets the impression that it could get better with a little bit more of courage. And this discourage possibly resulted out of Kauczinski’s coaching whose earlier teams were also already accused to play discouraged under him (e.g. Karlsruhe in the play-offs against the hsv). And the slogan “Einstellung schlägt Aufstellung” which was boldly taken from the Millernton at the end of last season does not appear to have grip any longer. But why is it like this? What’s wrong with the team since the winter break? You only get bits and bops as a supporter. However, some headings and statements of the tabloid papers fit well into the picture. Apparently, Alex Meier is unhappy with the attitude of the rest of the team. Johannes Flum stated something similar after the match against Sandhausen when he wondered about the team’s character. So there seems to be something wrong with the team. However, partly there were also some wrong decisions made by the head coach (the two central defending midfielders of the hsv in the derby or the failure of the pressing against Aue which both came to the surprise of the coaching team). Anyway, of course it wasn’t all bad just because of the bad results since the winter break. Sami Allagui stated in the Millernton-podcast that the team decided to start the season with a 4-1-4-1 formation but changed back to a 4-2-3-1 formation after the match results were not as expected. So this failure was changed by the team which was however led by Kauczinski. And as I am a huge fan of statistics, I would like to speak out in favour of Markus Kauczinski. He is actually also a coach who is able to get the most of performance out of his teams.

But when the coach gets the most of performance out of the squad but the team does not fulfil its expectations one has to also wonder about the director of sports. Is the squad not good enough to fulfil the expectations? I have no idea about that, but the director of sports is generally judged a bit more differentiated than the head coach even if both influence the performance of the team on the pitch significantly. The director of sports is in charge to sign the best players possible, the head coach has to get the best possible out of these players. So let’s review the signings for which Stöver was responsible: For sure, with Diamantakos, Knoll and Veermann by no means wimps were signed. When Ziereis and Veerman got injured, Hoogma and Meier were signed to substitute them accordingly. Furthermore, some players of the NLZ (FC St. Pauli’s youth divisions/offspring) are also sometimes able to help out in the first team (which is for sure not the merit of the director of sports only as the concepts of the NLZ are literally only bearing fruits after years, especially when a team is not capable of or willing to invest(ing) millions into young players at youth age already). But especially the signing of Knoll was really appreciated by a large majority because the FCSP was getting a player who embodies the combative attitude alike no one else. Additionally, the contracts of important players were renewed (Avevor, Buchtmann, Ziereis, Himmelmann, Zehir, Buballa). However, I cannot get rid of the feeling that there’s still room for improvement. But why is that the case? On explanation might be that there seems to be no common thread through the composition of the squad. It seems the build-up of the squad is based on having as many types of players as possible. And also, speaking for myself and my brother, he once annoyed us when he was trying to explain the drawbacks of ball possession football based on ball possession statistics only, when we interviewed him for the Übersteiger-Fanzine. This left for sure a negative impression.

Furthermore, the focus on counter attacking football in the second division, especially the way the FCSP is playing it in this season, is never beautiful to watch. However, sometimes the end justifies the means. I still like to work myself up on the football played by Darmstadt 98 in the season when they got promoted to the first division. Even if the FCSP is trying to copy this type of football in exactly the same way now. While some teams really have an idea and according concepts about attacking football with which they try to beat the opponent’s team (I really envy such teams such as Kiel, Paderborn, Heidenheim and sometimes even Aue), the FCSP prioritized their results over their style of play. And this was mostly done by reacting rather than acting. The FCSP first and foremost aimed to disturb the play of the opponent’s team before they focused on their own play. That wasn’t beautiful to watch at all. But the resulting success allowed to proceed with this approach. And as long as such things are successful, there’s no need to change them. But the issue with result based football often only appears after the results are no longer successful. Or to frame it differently: I believe that a courage and attacking type of play keeps a coach longer in charge even if the results are bad.

However, both head coach and director of sports are no longer in charge. Andreas Rettig will substitute Uwe Stöver until the end of the season. That this position is only filled temporary is more than unlucky. Which team of the second division was already able to plan the next season in the second division in April during the last couple of years? This advantage was now taken away by starting to search for a candidate for the vacant position. For sure, Andreas Rettig will fulfil all of his duties. But every single director of sports has its own philosophy and its own understanding of long-term planning and team composition. And this is why I consider it as bad that this position is not filled with a long-term candidate, especially in such an important phase. So additionally, I wonder why also Uwe Stöver had to give up his position now, especially if it was just the “sportive development of the last weeks” which influenced this decision. I also want to add that I do not consider Uwe Stöver as the best candidate possible for this position. However, the timing of his dismissal is really unlucky and could really impact negatively on the next season, even if the best candidate possible is found until the summer. Another fundamental question that needs to be answered is why the club waited until Tuesday evening if this decision was made because of the sportive performance only and the last match was already last Saturday?

However, the new head coach is now Jos Luhukay. The length of his contract is so far unknown. I also believe that it is never easy to find a suitable candidate for the role of the FCSP’s head coach in such a short timeframe. The earlier cooperation of Luhukay and Rettig in Augsburg for sure also contributed to this decision. If he is the right coach for the FCSP can of course only be speculated. In any case, he is not categorized to belong to the generation of “laptop-coaches” of which for sure some candidates would have been available. Honestly, I was not able to spot very much positive statements about Luhukay on Twitter this morning. But this wasn’t the case for Ewald Lienen either. So we should just wait for 1. tomorrow’s press conference and 2. the outcome of the next matches with Luhukay as head coach. A win against Bielefeld might add unknown hopes again due to the snail race in the upper third of the league’s table. But if this change will be enough to re-add the necessary drive to the team is for sure questionable.