Season 12 was a roller coaster of a season in Berlin. After missing out on the play offs the year before, the target was clear, go one better and get into the top 7!
This started badly though and one win in the first 5 matches left us looking at the bottom 7 rather than the top. Then came the change. A switch up in formation and suddenly things are looking better. We went on a run of 1 defeat in 13, including a draw against Chelsea in the cup! Perhaps the play offs were a realistic dream for Hertha.
I knew the team had the ability, but it was a young squad. We had incurred a transfer ban at the back of season 11 so we were restricted on who we could bring in, but as soon as the ban was up, in came Zapata, Max at left back, and then a few weeks later, the man who really pushed us along, Mario Mandzukic. Ive never been afraid to bring in older players of higher quality. They dont scare me and as Mario showed, can be really effective in the short term to help you reach your goals.
After getting into the play offs, we were at one point, only 2 points shy of the automatic places, but that was never to be, Napoli and Ajax were just too consistent and Hellas just smashed the league up. It left us looking at the play offs which in all, we never really looked like losing that spot. Because Division 2 was so competitive, i knew teams around us would allow us the odd wobbly.
While all this was going on in the league, we had started a nice little run int he World Club Cup! A tricky win in round 2 saw us then come up against League Leaders Hellas Verona in round 3! Incredibly we went to their place and ended up winning 3-1! This was a great chance now for some silverware! A nervy win over Monaco followed but a even more nail-biting finish against Leverkuesen, gave us the Division 2 cup title and set us up for a final against Division 1’s PSG!
The first leg was tight, we hung on for a draw and stopped PSG scoring an away goal, it was all to play for in the second leg. We started well but when PSG scored early in the second half, things didnt look so good. Away from home and 1-0 down against a team far better than us, the odds were against us! But thats just how we liked it, Mario stood up and snatched us an equaliser and with all the grit and determination that got us there, we ground out the draw and won on away goals! CHAMPIONS!
It was my first title in Top100 and one i am extremely proud of! We became the first team outside of division one to win the it and it will go down in history as one of the best performances the competition has ever seen!
With the final out the way, our focus moved back on to the play offs, we ended the season with a defeat and this meant we faced Espanyol in the Semi Final! Another tough encounter that really could have gone either way, thankfully for us, we scored the only goal and set up a Final against Arsenal!
Arsenal really should have be walking that league with the team they had, but a poor start meant Doug had a lot of catching up to do when he took over, but im sure that he fancied his chances against us come the final. In typical Hertha Berlin fashion, we worked our socks off and gave it all. Both teams had chances and in the end, penalties had to decide the winner! Gualsci was our hero and we are now set for Division 1!
At the start of the season it was always our aim to make the play offs, but given the quality we were up against, even i wasnt convince we could do it. But, on any given day, any team can beat any other in the league, so why couldnt we go all the way to the promise land!
Its been one hell of season, World Club Cup Winner, promotion to Division 1 and a nomination for manager of the season in Div 2. Its going to be hard to top. Its going to be virtually impossible to win Div 1, so perhaps a cup is our best chance of a trophy next time out, but our squad doesn’t have the depth that it once did.
But i have set a high bar for myself, ive worked my way up the leagues from Division 4 with Montpellier and now with Hertha, 3 promotions in 4 season is a great achievement, but the big question is, what is the next step for Hertha? This is my final year on the contract with the German club so could a move be on the cards? Possibly, but lets focus on Hertha’s first ever season in the top flight and lets see if we can make some magic happen!