Felix Magath and his Scottish sidekick Fotheringham bring Hertha to life | Bundesliga
IIt was as if the appointment of Felix Magath was the peak of Hertha. We should have known better. On the eve of the first match of the new era, at home to Champions League-chasing Hoffenheim, the new coach tested positive for Covid and was confined to his hotel room in Berlin. When news broke that Magath would be unable to make it to the touchline on his scheduled debut with illness, it seemed quite typical of Hertha’s miserable season to date. “I thought he was joking,” sporting director Fredi Bobic said of the moment he took Magath’s call to hear the news.
Those expecting a must-have Hertha – for better or worse – might have felt deflated, but they needn’t have worried. Enter Mark Fotheringham, the 38-year-old Scotsman who played at Celtic, Norwich, briefly under Magath at Fulham and, more importantly, a German-speaker with experience as an assistant to former Magath foil Tomas Oral at Karlsruhe and Ingolstadt.
As the 68-year-old paced his quarantined bedroom, Fotheringham prowled the sidelines, giving Hertha presence and personality. “You can tell the team got a shock,” said defender Niklas Stark. “Mark is an amazing guy, and the energy he has is amazing.” Before Christmas, Fotheringham was linked to the work of Dunfermline, after their German takeover last year. Now he was leading a Bundesliga giant and winning.
Yes, win. Hertha’s first win of 2022 came courtesy of a performance by a team unlike any other that had emerged from the Olympiastadion’s home dressing rooms in recent months, and pulled the team out of the final two . It was easy to look at the first line-up of the Magath/Fotheringham regime and think that three centre-backs, with Stark just ahead of recalled Dedryck Boyata and Marc-Oliver Kempf and two more defensive midfielders in Lucas Tousart and Santi Ascacibar around him, represented Safety first. Structure doesn’t equal fear here, however. Hertha played with certainty and ambition.
They also needed their rub on the green, of course, having not had much of that lately, and when Jacob Bruun Larsen passed the ball over with only returning keeper Alexander Schwolow to beat in the 25th minute, Hertha was lucky they were gone.
They didn’t waste it. After Stark headed an opener from Marvin Plattenhardt’s free-kick late in the first half, they never looked back, scoring twice more on Plattenhardt’s set-piece deliveries to eliminate the 3-0 winners – set pieces which Magath credited Fotheringham with setting up in a Sunday interview. with Kicker from his hotel. “Mark Fotheringham did most of the work,” Magath said. “On the bench, in training, in discussions with the players.”
Not that Magath is entirely absent. He spoke to his players via video link before the game, as well as at half-time, while goalkeeper coach Andreas Menger passed on the manager’s messages to Fotheringham from the bench during the game. “I don’t even know if I have the right to say it, says Marco Richter furtively, but yes, the boss was there. The drama will continue even if, as the club hopes, the results pile up to push the bottom team away. Major investor Lars Windhorst’s public attack on Chairman Werner Gegenbauer and his “cliques” underscored that Hertha will continue to be a soap opera. The start of Magath’s spell, however – and he’s still tight-lipped about any possibility of extending his stay beyond the end of the season – suggests there’s life and even potential for harmony on the pitch. .
The other highlight of the weekend was a little less edifying, with Bochum’s home game on Friday night against Borussia Mönchengladbach abandoned in 69.and minute – with Gladbach leading 2-0 – after assistant referee Christian Gittelmann was hit by a mug of beer thrown from the stands. Gittelmann was treated for whiplash and bruises and while VfL apologized the club were incandescent with the incident which has marred their excellent season so far. Injured striker Simon Zoller wrote on Twitter that the action “was disrespectful to everyone who works so hard every day to live this journey”, while CEO Hans-Peter Villis said: “A few people are destroying everything we have built here for years,” with the club producing a pre-match video to urge spectators to stop throwing cups. Bochum has three days to submit its findings as it searches for the culprit before the DFB only announces the next stage of a disciplinary procedure, with a hefty fine and the possibility of a game behind closed doors (which would cost the club another €1million) both floating around.
It was a strange week for Robert Lewandowski, who caused panic midweek by stopping training and leaving the Säbener Straße pitch looking dejected. It turned out to be just a scare, as he started and scored twice in Union’s 4-0 demolition, taking him past the 30-goal mark in the Bundesliga and equaling another Gerd Müller record of 30 goals. or more in the Bundesliga in five different seasons. Manuel Neuer kept a clean sheet on his record 311th Bundesliga win and it was a feat considering Bayern’s decimated defense saw teenager Tanguy Nianzou head in his first goal for the club.
So after looking under pressure for the first time in weeks after Axel Witsel’s midweek winner for Borussia Dortmund in Mainz narrowed the gap at the top to four points, patched-up Bayern ended up extending his lead as BVB stood in Cologne, stretching the champions’ lead back to six. We’ve seen this one before, with Marius Wolf’s wonderfully taken goal off a Jude Bellingham rake that passed the signal for a torpid first-half performance, booked by a deserved leveler from Sebastian Andersson for the hosts . Erling Haaland, starting his first game in 57 days, could have had a winner but referee Daniel Siebert blew for a foul by Salih Özcan on Emre Can rather than playing an advantage when the Norwegian was clear.
After their tough week of losing Florian Wirtz and Jeremie Frimpong to season-ending injuries and Europa League elimination at the hands of Atalanta, Leverkusen needed some good news and Paulinho provided it. The Brazilian, on his way back from a few years out of injury (and still only 21, remember), came on late and scored two fine goals, his first in two years, to claim victory at Wolfsburg.
The week that CEO Thomas Hitzlsperger finally announced his departure from Stuttgart after six years of service and some heated exchanges in the boardroom, the team continued its unexpected turnaround on the pitch. VfB twice came from behind to beat – and skip – relegation rivals Augsburg in a five-goal thriller, with Omar Marmoush winning a row with Chris Führich over who should take a free-kick to bend in the second equalizer before a Portuguese teenager on loan Tiago Tomás hit a winner. “It was very emotional,” said coach Pellegrino Materazzo, who understandably turned a blind eye to the dispute between Marmoush and Führich.