Will the clock start ticking again?

This article is an archive from February 26, 2021.

May 12, 2018: As the famous clock on the north-west of the Volksparkstadion ticked deep into its 54th year, it would soon need to hit the reset button, as Hamburger SV suffered relegation from the Bundesliga for the first time in its history.

Scenes after kick-off were perhaps more suited to the battlefield. Flares and firebombs set the Volksparkstadion alight as security and police tried tirelessly to placate the tension.

Once the drama died down, supporters sat soullessly as they witnessed an imperial giant of not only German, but also European football, sink to its lowest point yet.

Hamburg proudly boasted the record of being the only club never to suffer relegation from the Bundesliga, but the time had come for them to relinquish their throne and prepare for life in the second-tier. An immediate return to the top-flight was demanded by the heartbroken supporters but their last two attempts have proven insufficient.

A 4-0 win over local rivals St Pauli in March 2019 propelled them into the automatic promotion places but failure to win eight of their nine remaining games saw them fall out of contention. Dieter Hecking, who guided VfL Wolfsburg to unprecedented heights during a four-year spell at the Volkswagen Arena, was installed in the dugout to provide a welcome change in fortunes. But Hecking was unable to reverse the curse from the season prior as another late season capitulation denied them promotion.

Die Rothosen’s 5-1 humbling at the hands of a mid-table SV Sandhausen proved to be the notorious final straw for Hecking. His eagerly anticipated tenure promised so much but failed to deliver the coveted prize of promotion. HSV quickly selected their fourth manager since relegation, appointing Daniel Thioune as manager, after he inspired VfL Osnabruck to the 3. Liga title in 2019.

They staged a herculean comeback to overturn a two-goal deficit at Eintracht Braunschweig to finish the Hinrunde as league leaders. But once again the warning signs are there. A run of just one win in five was compounded by a 3-2 defeat against rock-bottom Wurzburger Kickers on Saturday, in a game that was rife with poor individual performances.

Holsten Kiel failed to seize the initiative and succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at Greuther Furth on Monday – placing the top four level on 42 points each. The 2. Bundesliga title race is excruciatingly tight, and the next fortnight could play a crucial role in determining Hamburg’s fate.

After the local derby against St Pauli, Hamburg face fellow promotion rivals Holstein Kiel and VfL Bochum respectively. Thioune must arrest Hamburg’s tendency to fall at the final hurdle or risk becoming the next managerial victim to fall by the wayside.

Thioune faces stern competition in the race for automatic promotion with only goal difference alone keeping them at the summit of the 2. Bundesliga. Furth have emerged as surprise candidates for promotion after stringing together a seven-match unbeaten run, although they registered just one point from a possible six against Hamburg this season.

Despite struggling for form of late, there are plenty of grounds for optimism with Simon Terodde leading the line. The 32-year-old is chasing a record fourth golden boot in the second-tier after previously winning the award at Bochum, VfB Stuttgart and FC Koln respectively.

Terodde has notched a remarkable 19 goals in 22 appearances for Hamburg since switching from FC Koln last summer and is six goals clear of any other player.

Hamburg have had little trouble finding the back of the net, with a league-high 48 goals scored, but the root of the problem has been at the other end. They’ve conceded more goals (28) than any other side in the top four, including six in their last two away games.

It was once unthinkable to consider that a club steeped in tradition with six league championships and one European Cup to their name could be absent from the top-flight. Thioune can revitalise his promotion charge in the Hamburg derby on Monday and restore HSV to its rightful place among Europe’s elite.

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