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Hamburger SV – the team that won’t go down

Daniel Pinder
550   //    20 Mar 2017, 12:21 IST
Hamburger SV v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga : News Photo
Hamburg are the only team to have never been relegated from the German top flight

Believe it or not, Hamburger SV remain the only team never to be relegated in the Bundesliga since its foundation in 1963. Bayern Munich were not included in the Bundesliga’s debut campaign whilst 1974 saw Borussia Dortmund play their football in the second division for two years. This record is one that HSV fans are proud of, so much so that they have a clock in the northwest corner of their home, the Volksparkstadion.

If there’s one trait this club associates themselves with, it’s pride. Upon arrival at the stadium, you get an instant sense of the history that this club possess. However, since their European heydays in the 1970-80s, Hamburg have come close to being relegated on several occasions.

In Germany, the bottom two teams are relegated from the top-flight, whilst the team that finished 16th in the Bundesliga will face the team who finished third in the second division. The 2011/12 campaign was the start of Hamburg’s downfall after finishing in a European place for most of the 00s.

Also read: 10 European football clubs that have never been relegated

The six-time Bundesliga winners escaped relegation in 2011/12, finishing five points ahead of Hertha BSC in the relegation play-offs. After a 0-0 draw in the first-leg against Greuther Fürth, it was Pierre-Michel Lasogga’s away goal that saved HSV that season.

A year later, Hamburg’s 2014/15 season, however, almost came at a price. Finishing just one point ahead of Nürnburg in 16th, HSV were forced to play Karlsruher SC in a play-off game. Marcelo Diaz scored a 90th minute free-kick in the second-leg to take the game into extra-time before Nicolai Müller confirmed Hamburg’s stay in the Bundesliga for a further year just five minutes from time.

Football under Markus Gisdol

Eintracht Frankfurt v Hamburger SV - Bundesliga : News Photo
Gisdol has overseen a remarkable turnaround in Hamburg’s fortunes

The departure of Bruno Labbadia in 2016 brought tension amongst Hamburg fans when it was made official; they hadn’t been that bad under him at all. Spending 529 days in charge is almost double that of his first spell – but in 49 games, he won just 16, losing 22. Losing their previous four matches before his dismissal, Labbadia picked up just one point in five games of the season.

A team that once again looked like battling relegation for the 2016/17 Bundesliga campaign, it became Markus Gisdol’s task to keep them afloat. Once Hoffenheim’s head coach, the German saved the club from relegation in 2012/13, defeating 1. FC Kaiserslautern in the play-offs before guiding the Sinsheim club to ninth place the following campaign.

That year, Hoffenheim scored 72 goals in the Bundesliga, conceding 70 and finishing ninth – there’s no doubt he likes his team to play attacking football, which is something Hamburg have been missing of late.

Gisdol’s first win came eight league matches into his managerial career at HSV, guiding them to a 2-0 away win against SV Darmstadt 98. Since that win on MD13, it’s fair to say that he’s done extremely well. If the season started with that win, Hamburg would be sitting third in the league table.

Masterminding wins over Bayer Leverkusen, RB Leipzig and now Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2017 alone, Gisdol is making this HSV side formidable at the Volksparkstadion, where they’re unbeaten in seven outings.

Where they need to go from here

Despite being the in-form team in the bottom-half of the Bundesliga, there’s still a lot of football to be played. Arguably the only ‘big’ German teams that Hamburg are still to face are Borussia Dortmund and Schalke but as shown, they do have the ability to grind out a result against anyone.

Coming up against Wolfsburg on the final day of the season could be crucial, considering only goal difference separates the two sides with 10 games left to play. A tricky away day to local rivals Werder Bremen – currently on the same points as HSV – could also decide the outcome of HSV’s season as they look to beat the drop.

Hamburger SV v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga : News Photo
Hamburg still have a couple of difficult fixtures in store

The worrying aspect for Hamburg is perhaps the meagre amount of goals that they’ve scored. Bobby Wood – their top scorer – has just five goals for the season, followed by Michael Gregoritsch and Müller who both have four.

There’s no doubt that Gisdol has a squad at his disposal who have the ability to stay up, before building for the next season. Seven points ahead of 17th-placed Ingolstadt, HSV should have no problem in finishing above the relegation zone, whilst they should be able to steer clear of the relegation play-offs.

Even though his contract expires in June, if Gisdol does just that, he could be Hamburg’s answer to getting them back in the European competitions.

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Daniel Pinder
Daniel is a freelance sports journalist that specialises in German football.
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