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Tim Walter is no longer HSV coach

Photo: Nordphoto / Christian Schulze / IMAGO

You have to look a little longer in the history of Hamburger SV to discover a coach who stayed in the job for more than 956 days. Frank Pagelsdorf last managed this between 1997 and 2001, there was still the D-Mark, HSV played in the Champions League, 4:4 against Juventus.

27 other coaches followed at HSV, including some interim coaches such as the Dane Frank Arnesen, who was only on the bench for one game. Or Christian Titz, who was relegated to the second division with Hamburger SV for the first time in the club's history, but took over an unsolvable situation from his predecessors Markus Gisdol and Bernd Hollerbach.

It actually didn't matter who was in the coaching bench at HSV: things almost always went downhill and then a new coach came along. Hardly anyone remembers who was the coach at HSV and when.

Things are a little different with Tim Walter.

On Monday morning, HSV announced its separation from Walter. “Our fluctuations in performance in recent games have been too great and we lack full conviction that we will achieve the necessary balance and stability in the next few weeks,” sports director Jonas Boldt is quoted as saying in a club statement.

956 days – that’s how long Walter was on the job. It is the longest tenure since Pagelsdorf, the sixth longest in HSV history. During this time, it developed a style of play that could delight fans and drive them crazy at the same time. This also meant that Boldt did not want to move on from his valued coach until the end.

But in the end Walter was unable to lead HSV back into the first league. In 2022 the team failed in relegation to Hertha BSV, in 2023 in relegation to VfB Stuttgart and previously in a thrilling promotion final with 1. FC Heidenheim.

Even now, after 21 match days, HSV is in third place, which entitles it to relegation. The situation in the promotion race could be more dramatic, but apart from FC St. Pauli, there is currently no team in the second division that is consistently delivering good performances. Perhaps it has never been as easy for HSV to return to the Bundesliga as it was this season.

Confident football is followed by endless goals conceded

But it is doubtful whether this will succeed. Recently, performance under Walter has become increasingly inconsistent. Although he is said to have promised the club bosses during the winter break that he would play more confident football from now on, the defense remained far too conspicuous with its man-to-man defense. This was also due to the injury problem of defense chief Sebastian Schonlau, who was apparently one of the few to have internalized the Walter idea, but recently kept missing. The separation from Walter came after two home defeats against Karlsruher SC and Hannover 96 - with a total of eight goals conceded.

This marks the end of the era of a coach who had an idea of ​​offensive football from which he never deviated. A football that could also irritate new Hamburg signings. Last summer, new defender Dennis Hadzikadunic wondered after a test match whether they really wanted to play like that and defend at such a high level.

It was a style against which supposedly weaker opponents repeatedly found it too easy to score with long, high balls. This season, HSV only got one point in the first half of the season against the three promoted teams from Elversberg, Osnabrück and Wiesbaden.

There was always criticism of the dogmatist Walter, but often only from outside. The Walterball had now become pure entertainment for its own audience. HSV has a higher average attendance today than in the last Bundesliga years when it was fighting against relegation. Sponsors such as Adidas have signed new long-term contracts with HSV, even though the club still plays in the second division. In November 2023, the club also announced a profit of 7.8 million euros, the best result since 2014.

“We’ll stay with ourselves,” Walter said again and again during his HSV years. During his time in office, Walter managed to get the stadium back behind the team like no other predecessor. Waggon mentality, us against everyone.

The HSV coach's snotty manner was liked and displeased

Walter sang along to HSV songs before home games, he had journalists show up at press conferences and caused offense with his answers. How did he prepare for the opponent? “I never watch the second division,” he once said. "Those who say 'HSV, always second league' don't know that we'll be playing in the first league next year," is another famous Walter quote from last year. In the end he didn't get promoted.

Such a style can be well received, especially by one's own fans; it has been well received by HSV for a long time. But something like this only works as long as the results are right. If you subtract HSV's strong start to the season with 13 points from five match days, a clear downward trend can be seen. In a table from the sixth matchday onwards, HSV would only be eighth, six points behind third place. After the bankruptcy last weekend, the fans whistled. The long good mood was over.

HSV has 13 match days left to return to the Bundesliga at the sixth attempt. Merlin Polzin is currently taking over training for the third-place team. He is preparing the team for the away game on Saturday (1 p.m./Sky) at Hansa Rostock. Steffen Baumgart is considered the permanent successor. The 52-year-old was on leave from Bundesliga club 1. FC Köln in December. In 2018 he was promoted to the Bundesliga with SC Paderborn.

Baumgart is an avowed HSV fan. Identifying with the club can help. She helped Tim Walter. He won't be forgotten so quickly.