Steve Cherundolo's Hannover 96 mired in relegation free fall
One day and a thoroughly demoralizing 7-0 beating in Munich later, HAZ could find a bit of solace only in good old German "Galgenhumor" (gallows humor), the kind of jokes you tend to make when the noose is already firmly around your neck. "Football, in its special moments, is a fascinating sport," the paper wrote. "On Saturday, it was fascinating to see a team defending with nine outfield players deep in their own half and still managing to organize themselves so abysmally that one needed to be grateful it didn't go to double figures."
"This was my worst defeat ever,"
"Embarrassing, just embarrassing," was striker
"Was this really a Bundesliga team?" wondered Munich's
Slomka refused to blame the difficult journey south for the humiliation, but the seven-hour train ride to the Bavarian capital -- all German flights were canceled because of volcanic ash from Iceland -- couldn't have helped Hannover's cause. There hadn't even been enough room for all the players to sit down; Slomka had to give up his seat for Cherundolo, for example. "Perhaps we spent a bit too much time standing on our feet," club president
At Tuesday's annual general meeting in front of very worried members, the 65-year-old Kind was in a reflective mood. "Maybe it wasn't necessary to fire
It almost certainly wasn't. Hecking, 45, had led Hannover to a respectable 11th place in 2007, to the dizzying heights of eighth a year later and then to another respectable 11th-place finish last season. Mid-table safety, however, was no longer enough for Kind, who started arguing for a relaxation of the Bundesliga's stringent ownership rules with a view of bringing in additional investors. When Hecking lost two of the first three matches back in August, Kind's impatience got the better of him.
Hecking was replaced by youth coach
That's possibly an understatement: Slomka, 42, lost the first six matches and only won three out of seven after that. There's a suspicion he might well be the right man for the wrong job. He's very analytical, soft-spoken and fond of modern technology; sadly, none of these attributes really help in the relegation dogfight, when nice football tends to go out the window and those who can scrap and fight best traditionally tend to survive.
Looking through Hannover's squad, you don't find too many players who are suited for this battle. The Lower-Saxons are, on the contrary, one of the league's more technical sides, accustomed to combination football and controlled ball circulation. Albanian midfield enforcer
What's more, seven years of Bundesliga middle-class comfort has left the team unprepared for the kind of pressure those in the basement have learned to deal with over the years. You could argue that Hannover's playing style makes it even more vulnerable in that respect, because you need confidence to play good football. "Fear grips you and you're totally paralyzed on the pitch," explained former Hannover skipper
Kind revealed that Slomka had enlisted an army of psychologists and performance analysts to boost morale before the Bayern game. "We did everything, maybe even too much," he said.
Said Surmann: "It's difficult to get into players' heads. Nothing really helps you at this stage. Nothing apart from wins."
Kind seems to agree that now is not the time for another managerial change. He has ruled out firing Slomka three matches before the end of this horrific season. "We'll see this through now," Kind said. Not all is lost, it is true: Hannover, 17th in the table, can still avoid the drop. Six points from the last nine will probably be enough; maybe a win against fellow strugglers Bochum in the last game of the season could even suffice.
If Hannover does go down, however, its demise will certainly be attributed to Enke's unspeakably sad death. But Kind and general manager
The perennially injured