Matthias, a SV Darmstadt fan and blogger, tells us in an interview about why he’s not happy with the Lillies at the moment, and what’s changed in just one year.
Hello Matthias, just quickly introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what your bond is with SV Darmstadt.
Hi all! I come from a home of historians, but I’ve been working in public relations for many years now. Because of my studies, I ended up in Darmstadt around the time of the new millennium, and so the foundations were laid for me to eventually find myself at the Böllenfalltor stadium. The Lillies had for me been a typical traditional team for years, before being left behind at some point. So our upturn in fortunes over the past few years has been nothing short of a whirlwind. Something like six to eight years ago, at times we’d only have an attendance of 2,000 at home games, while last years 8,000 away fans travelled to Dortmund. So it’s clear to see what kind of potential success can unleash. I’ve been following the Lillies for some time on my Kickschuh blog. Alongside that I wrote the Lillies book for the “111 Reasons” series. Lately I’ve started chatting with four co-debaters about the 98ers every week for the “Hoch-weit” podcast. So you can see how the right choice of studying location can kick everything off. ;-)
We’ve already spoken elsewhere, about ten months ago. At the time the Lillies had their heads above water by four points, but now they’re two points away from safety. Cause for concern?
Absolutely. In this relegation rat-race, SVD have had a few good opportunities to pull clear. Instead they lost home games against Ingolstadt and Hamburg, two competitors who had been winless until then. If the 98ers come away from encounters against Bayern and in Berlin without any points, we could see a gap grow, and that could be a pretty big mountain to climb during the second half of the season.
So what’s changed since then?
So many things. The father of our success, Dirk Schuster, left – a huge loss. The club clearly wasn’t prepared for that, and installed Holger Fach as the manager, somebody who had never held that position elsewhere. He then brought n Norbert Meier as a coach, and many were asking themselves if that was such a clever move. The club was hoping to get as much experience from the old warriors as possible, so that everything would work out in the end. Idiocy! Neither of the two succeeded at all. In addition to that, the team lost some of its spine. In Caldirola and Rajkovic, two defensive beasts left. In Sandro Wagner, 14 goals departed. So far we haven’t been able to make up for that.
You’ve lost your last six games in the Bundesliga. Before then, you had wins against Frankfurt and Wolfsburg, as well as draws against Werder and Hoffenheim. Why weren’t you able to build on those performances?
The win against Eintracht may have done the fanbase some good, but it papered over the cracks. The only truly convincing games were the win against a thoroughly-depleted Wolfsburg and the draw against Hoffenheim. Everything else was piece-meal. Meier didn’t find a single functioning line-up. He kept trying new combinations which has cost us any sense of continuity. Not even Aytac Sulu has seemed settled. As well, Meier demoted Niemeyer and Gondorf, both responsible for the balance in the Lillies’ play in the previous season. I don’t think the players even knew what kind of football Meier wanted to play, and if they did know, they couldn’t put it into practice. For me, Meier gutted the Lillies’ football. The fact that we’ve still not taken a single point away from home, while we were last season’s most buccaneering away side, shows that the team has lost their belief a bit, as well as the automatisms.
Are you pleased with how the team is developing, or do you feel that they’ve taken a step back after a strong season last year?
Definitely not pleased. We all knew it would be tough. Understandably, the board turned to experienced heads, but unfortunately chose the wrong ones. Now we need to revive the Lillies’ DNA, and that went rather well in Freiburg. We had eight outfielders from Schuster’s era in the starting eleven, and soon the memories of last season were fresh in everyone’s minds. The team had their spark back, and the old pillars of the team, Sulu, Niemezer and Gondorf, were back in their element. Frustratingly, the chances weren’t converted and then came the penalty conceded just before the end.
What do Darmstadt have to do to get something out of this match against Bayern?
I can barely dare to think we could take something from this game, but we can only try. They basically have to go out there just as they did in the two previous matches in Munich. Stay compact, shift well, double up, compress the space, fight, and hope Bayern are a little lax when it comes to taking their chances. It sounds pretty bleak, I know. But we shouldn’t forget how far the Lillies have come in a short amount of time. Just before Christmas 2012, we were on the end of a rather sobering 3-0 defeat to Preußen Munster and spent the winter break at the foot of the 3rd division. SVD marched so unexpectedly and quickly through the leagues that we can only focus on the collective and on the battle. The squad simply doesn’t offer any more than that, and so as fans we completely accept that too. What the Lillies represented for such a long time is a little bit similar to your “Mia San Mia”. That special We Feeling, that feeling of being the underdog, should spur the Lillies on once again.
How do you see the game going?
I’ll stick to my guns. Bayern will dominate the game and win 3-1.
You can choose any FCB player to have for the Lillies. Who suits Darmstadt’s football the most, and why?
Arturo Vidal of course. He bombs forward and would fit in perfectly here, with his physique and his bite. If he could sort out his proneness to injury and bring with him a bit of Robert Lewandowski’s goal-scoring prowess, that’d be like winning the lottery.