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Author Archive for Jason Humphreys

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In defence of RB Leipzig

RB Leipzig are unloved for a good reason, but they deserve respect for trusting young players, promoting exciting managers and challenging Bayern Munich’s hegemonyBy Jason Humphreys for Englische WocheThe headlines from the Bundesliga last weekend belo…

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Germany in 2018: from World Cup holders to Nations League relegation

Germany began the year among the favourites to win the World Cup. They end it in the second tier of the Nations League By Jason Humphreys for Englische WocheThere was a sense of inevitability when Virgil van Dijk volleyed home a last-minute equaliser o…

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If Robben and Ribéry leave Bayern Munich, they will go as club legends

Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry are 34 and out of contract this summer. It may be time for Bayern Munich to bid them farewellBy Jason Humphreys for Englische WocheArjen Robben and Franck Ribéry joined Bayern Munich while on different career trajectories…

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How Paderborn went from top of the Bundesliga to three straight relegations

Paderborn topped the Bundesliga in 2014 but now face the prospect of playing amateur clubs in the fourth tier – unless 1860 Munich come to their rescue

By Jason Humphreys for Englische Woche, part of the Guardian Sport Network

The Stoppelkamp-Alle is a rather unusual boulevard that runs for precisely 82.3 metres in front of the Benteler-Arena, home of SC Paderborn 07. It was opened in October 2014, just weeks after the man who inspired it, Moritz Stoppelkamp, had scored the club’s most famous goal against Hannover 96, from the same distance. The goal came at a high point for the club, on the day they moved to the top of the Bundesliga for the first time in their history.

Less than three years later and Paderborn have fallen through the trapdoor, out of the third division into the Regionalliga and amateur football. Three relegations in three years: a feat never before “achieved” in professional German football. Paderborn put up a fight at the bitter end but by the time they started swinging it was already too late.

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Who could begrudge Lukas Podolski his Roy of the Rovers ending? | Jason Humphreys

Lukas Podolski’s professionalism, jovial charm and steely determination helped him to win 130 caps and score 49 goals for Germany. He earned every last one

By Jason Humphreys for Englische Woche, part of the Guardian Sport Network

An hour after playing his 130th and last game for Germany, and after scoring the winner with a trademark left-booted hammer, Lukas Podolski made an impromptu appearance on a sports chat show, still wearing his full kit complete with captain’s armband and boots. Still buzzing from the night’s events, he stood there with muddied knees and a wide smile spread across his face as the bemused technician fitted a microphone under his sweaty, grass-stained shirt.

That he had taken the time to gatecrash the show, long after his media duties were over, goes some way to explaining the extent of the heartfelt send-off he had received on the pitch earlier in the evening.

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Leipzig before Red Bull: a city that can claim to be the home of German football

Long before Red Bull took over a fifth-tier club in Leipzig and sullied the city’s reputation, it was an important place steeped in football history

By Jason Humphreys for Englische Woche, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Now and again, for one reason or another, a smaller team catches the attention of football fans around the world A couple of years ago it was the number-crunching Danish club FC Midtjylland; this time last year, millions of people around the world were struggling with the correct pronunciation of the high-flying Foxes from Leicester. This season it is RB Leipzig. Their name is slightly easier on the tongue but – like the idea that RB stands for RasenBallSport rather than a sickly Austrian energy drink – it is difficult for many to swallow.

RB Leipzig’s rise through the German leagues and their brief spell at the summit of the Bundesliga in the autumn have not gone unnoticed. And, although there has been almost begrudging admiration and praise for the youthful, attractive and attacking brand of football played under their highly regarded Austrian head coach, Ralph Hasenhüttl, the majority of fans stand on the other side of the fence. RB Leipzig rank among one of the most hated teams in world football.

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Leipzig before Red Bull: a city that can claim to be the home of German football

Long before Red Bull took over a fifth-tier club in Leipzig and sullied the city’s reputation, it was an important place steeped in football history

By Jason Humphreys for Englische Woche, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Now and again, for one reason or another, a smaller team catches the attention of football fans around the world A couple of years ago it was the number-crunching Danish club FC Midtjylland; this time last year, millions of people around the world were struggling with the correct pronunciation of the high-flying Foxes from Leicester. This season it is RB Leipzig. Their name is slightly easier on the tongue but – like the idea that RB stands for RasenBallSport rather than a sickly Austrian energy drink – it is difficult for many to swallow.

RB Leipzig’s rise through the German leagues and their brief spell at the summit of the Bundesliga in the autumn have not gone unnoticed. And, although there has been almost begrudging admiration and praise for the youthful, attractive and attacking brand of football played under their highly regarded Austrian head coach, Ralph Hasenhüttl, the majority of fans stand on the other side of the fence. RB Leipzig rank among one of the most hated teams in world football.

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Want to understand Pep Guardiola’s football? Look at Joshua Kimmich

Joshua Kimmich is the perfect Pep Guardiola player – smart, versatile and adept on the ball – and now he is even scoring goals for Bayern Munich and Germany

By Jason Humphreys for Englische Woche, part of the Guardian Sport Network

If Pep Guardiola deems it necessary to rush on to the pitch after a game to provide an impromptu lecture on positional play, then it’s probably because he feels the player is worthy of the attention. This was definitely the case with Joshua Kimmich. Seconds after the referee blew for full-time in Bayern Munich’s goalless draw away at Borussia Dortmund at the back end of last season, Guardiola flew on to the field and almost manhandled the 21-year-old centre-back. What followed was typical Guardiola: part emotional-tactical strategist, part Basil Fawlty.

The short but intense exchange finished with a hug and both men were quick to play down any talk of conflict afterwards. “I love him,” said Guardiola. “I love working with these players, who want to learn and improve.” And that was key; this was not a public dressing down but rather instant feedback from a tutor who knew his student would understand and not get the wrong end of the stick.

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A tale of two Marios: how Mario Gómez made a mark as Mario Götze lost his way

When Mario Götze scored the winner at the 2014 World Cup final, Mario Gómez was watching at home – if at all – but the striker has rediscovered his form at Besiktas and is likely to be the more effective forward for Germany at Euro 2016

By Jason Humphreys for Englische Woche, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Two years ago Mario Götze was the darling of Germany. His beautifully taken extra-time winner in Rio delivered the World Cup to Joachim Löw’s team and ensured the forward’s place in the hearts of the millions watching at home. But as the nation jumped to its feet in the 113th minute, knocking over plates and spilling drinks, another German forward would have been experiencing mixed emotions – elation, without a doubt, but with a melancholic tinge. For Mario Gómez, the tournament was the epitome of a season of false starts.

Despite scoring 75 goals in 115 appearances for Bayern Munich over three seasons, Gómez left the club in July 2013 after falling behind Mario Mandzukic in the pecking order – a result of the Croatian’s stellar form since signing from Wolfsburg and Gómez’s own injuries and subsequent delayed start to the season. Mandzukic hit the ground running and there was simply no getting him out of the team. In the end, Gómez signed off with a brace in the DFB Cup Final to help beat former club VfB Stuttgart and made an eye-catching move to Fiorentina for around €20m.

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How the Bundesliga’s once-motoring clubs, Wolfsburg and Stuttgart, stalled

They have both won the Bundesliga in the last decade but VfB Stuttgart are now coming to terms with relegation and VfL Wolfsburg are in need of a new identity

By Jason Humphreys for Englische Woche, part of the Guardian Sport Network

On an uncharacteristically cold May afternoon in Munich, the Bundesliga season drew to a close and despite the nippy temperatures, Bayern Munich’s players followed up their routine 3-1 victory over Hannover by chasing each other around the pitch with oversized glasses of Weizenbier as they celebrated their fourth league championship in a row, and three in three under Pep Guardiola.

About 600km to the north, another 3-1 home victory for the 2009 champions, VfL Wolfsburg, over the 2007 champions, VfB Stuttgart, confirmed that Stuttgart would be relegated to the second tier for only the second time in their history. Despite the home team taking all three points, there were no beer showers in the Volkswagen Arena. This game did little more than put two sets of fans out of their misery.

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The rise of TSG Hoffenheim: from ninth-tier amateurs to the Bundesliga

TSG Hoffenheim were just another village team until one of their former youth players decided to invest his fortune in the club. Now they are riding high in the Bundesliga with the youngest head coach in the league’s history

By Jason Humphreys for Englische Woche, part of the Guardian Sport Network

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim are playing the long game, and it’s about time. Over the last couple of weeks, the club’s new head coach Julian Nagelsmann has become more renowned internationally than any of his players. At 28 years old, he is the youngest Bundesliga head coach in the league’s history and is being asked to save the club from relegation. For some, this appointment shows the naivety of a nouveau-riche village team trying to cope in the Bundesliga, like a lottery winner joining an exclusive country club. But in reality it more resembles a return to the joined-up, forward thinking that has helped transform the club over the last two decades.

Whereas many clubs in Hoffenheim’s position would have appointed another firefighter manager with the simple remit of avoiding relegation at all costs, the club from rural Baden-Württemberg have put their trust in youth and long-termism and have taken a very bold step towards the future, regardless of what the next six months bring.

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Why Pep Guardiola’s time at Bayern Munich can only be seen as a success

Sceptics who judge Pep Guardiola solely on his Champions League results should recognise the good he has done for Germany’s football culture

By Jason Humphreys for Englische Woche, part of the Guardian Sport Network

The winter break may be a godsend to battered players, burnt-out managers and overworked ground staff, but, for football fans in Germany, there is only so much ski-jumping and luge you can watch. Millions of people up and down the country will have a big red ring around Friday 22 January – the day the Bundesliga finally resumes.

Another person who will be itching to get back to competitive action is Pep Guardiola. Six weeks without football can be a long time for a man with such obsessive tendencies. He will have had more than ample time to evaluate the first half of the season, tweak, retweak, and make several trips back to the drawing board, agonising over his masterplan for his assault on domestic and European success. It’s safe to say that Guardiola will be counting the days and hours until kick-off on Friday.

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Bastian Schweinsteiger will add class and bite to Manchester United’s midfield

The Germany captain has enjoyed a successful working relationship with with Louis van Gaal before. If the pair hit if off again, Manchester United could finally have a midfielder worthy of replacing Roy Keane and Paul Scholes

By Jason Humphreys for Englische Woche, part of the Guardian Sport Network

A year ago, in the 124th minute of the World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro, Bastian Schweinsteiger hit the deck for the last time. By the time he dragged himself to his feet, he was a world champion. Mario Götze may have won the game with a flash of his left boot in extra time, but Schweinsteiger’s performance in the 114 minutes before the goal and the six minutes following it were just as important. Battered and bruised and barely able to stand, Schweinsteiger clung to his team-mates at the final whistle, the back of his No7 shirt stained with the grass of the Maracanã and the blood, sweat and now tears of a battle won.

Due to his near omnipresence in the recent history of Bayern Munich and Germany, Schweinsteiger’s move to Manchester United feels similar to Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard switching to MLS: a highly decorated club legend will now be playing out his final few seasons in different surroundings. The difference is that, at the age of 30, Schweinsteiger is considerably younger than his USA-bound contemporaries. Whoever else Louis van Gaal buys this summer, he may have just made his best signing of the season.

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1860 Munich, the city’s other club, are struggling to become noisy neighbours

Munich’s oldest club (which was formed before 1860) were nearly relegated to Germany’s third tier this season, but they can always remind their local rivals that they were the first club from the city to play in and win the Bundesliga

By Jason Humphreys for Englische Woche, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Despite its relative infancy, the Allianz Arena in Munich has hosted some important and dramatic games – the opening match of the 2006 World Cup and Chelsea’s extraordinary smash-and-grab in the 2012 Champions League final among them. However, almost exactly 10 years to the day since it opened, the sleek arena – which resembles what a rubber dingy might look like if it were designed and manufactured by Audi – witnessed a match that was not only tense until the very end, but extremely significant for the city of Munich.

While Pep Guardiola’s Bayern were mulling over a season that juxtaposed domestic success with European frustrations, it was the turn of neighbouring 1860 Munich to take centre stage. Known as die Löwen (the Lions), 1860 were minutes, if not seconds, away from dropping into the third tier of German football, home to reserve teams and one step away from semi-professional competition.

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Reassessing Steve McClaren’s nine months at Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga

The former England manager joined Wolfsburg at arguably the peak of his career, having won the Eredivisie with Twente. He moved to the Bundesliga to continue his continental renaissance but it didn’t quite work out as he had hoped

By Jason Humphreys for Englische Woche, part of the Guardian Sport Network

England managers often fall foul of missed penalty kicks but in the case of Steve McClaren it wasn’t an England player that sealed his fate, but a Brazilian. In the 80th minute of Wolfsburg’s away match at Hannover 96, and with his team trailing 1-0, his struggling side had a chance to get back into the game and gain a creditable away point when the referee awarded a penalty. What happened next was both a symptom of his lack of authority among the squad and the final nail in his coffin.

Diego, the victim of the foul, immediately picked himself up and grabbed the ball. The designated penalty taker, Patrick Helmes, switched to autopilot and strode towards the Brazilian pointing to himself, only to be brushed aside. Clearly confused, Helmes looked over to the McClaren on the Wolfsburg bench and relayed the message to Diego who – without turning around to acknowledge his wildly gesticulating manager – sent Helmes away and set himself for the spot kick.

Related: George, Kevin-Prince and Jérôme Boateng: football’s intriguing brothers

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George, Kevin-Prince and Jérôme Boateng: football’s intriguing brothers

The oldest brother was said to be the most talented, the middle brother has made the most headlines in world football and the youngest brother has won the World Cup and the Champions League. Together they add up to quite a familyBy Jason Humphreys for …