I just wanted to leave this here, as I suspect it may not get any better than this!
Eight games into Hamburger’s debut season in Division Two, and der Dino sit second in the table, equal on points with leaders Internacional, and one of only two unbeaten teams.
Remarkably, it was the Red Shorts’ first home win of the season two nights ago against Borussia Monchengladbach that lifted them to such lofty heights.
Typically, D2 remains as tight as ever, with a good or poor run of form likely to send a team hurtling up or down the table in dramatic fashion.
In the Beginning…
For Hamburg, and manager Marsden, it’s all a far cry from the boss’s first season in charge, Season 2, when the club were rock bottom of D3 with one point from the first seven games.
Newly promoted from D4 after a superb inaugural Top 100 season under former boss Jim Kennedy, der Dino never looked like adapting to the higher level in those opening fixtures.
Relying on the players who got them up, some of whom had arguably over-achieved and were already in terminal decline, proved to be a disaster.
Things had to change, and change they did. The refreshed team went on a cracking run, at one point getting 28 points from 14 games, midway through the season.
The team also got to the final of the Top 100 Shield, which was an amazing achievement (even more so in hindsight), beating Juventus, Bayern and Chelsea along the way.
The Fall… and the Resurrection!
But that was where it all started to go wrong. After the Shield semi-final win, we lost four league fixtures on the bounce, before losing the final to Stuttgart on penalties.
Although we won our next three league games, and looked like we would secure our D3 place, we lost our last four games of the season, to go down.
From there, we won promotion back to D3 at the first attempt, then tried to buy ratings to get promotion to D2. That strategy failed, so we went down the youth route favoured by so many.
While the club saw steady progress – evolution – with improved league positions all seasons but one, culminating in a fourth placed finish and playoff defeat in Season 8 (finishing behind Scallotti’s Liege and Guri’s Anderlecht, both now in D1, and Verona).
That disappointment, and the frustration of several seasons’ slow progress resulting in ultimate failure, prompted a renewed ‘promotion or bust’ strategy for Season 9.
We sacrificed a lot – youth and depth – to bring in some more experienced, higher rated players, but it did the trick, and now we’re second in D2 with more or less the same team.
Ascension to D1?
Well, I don’t think our current position is sustainable. Our strength in depth is very limited, and while I hope that will improve with ratings rises for several younger players, that will not be soon enough for this season.
The other side of that coin is that some of our older, higher rated players our on the decline, and will lose their ratings.
As ever in Top 100, it’s a tough challenge, and a delicate balancing act between success now, and success in the future.