On Tuesday morning, Würzburger Kickers surprisingly announced they had sacked Michael Schiele as coach just two games into the 2. Bundesliga.
He leaves after almost exactly three years at the club, having only just guided them to promotion from the 3. Liga in June. They had lost their first two league matches, against Erzgebirge Aue and Fortuna Düsseldorf, but showed a battling performance in the latter and were unlucky to lose to a late goal.
Whilst the two firings in the Bundesliga in the past couple of days – David Wagner at Schalke and Achim Beierlorzer at Mainz – were understandable, if cruel, then this decision makes little sense on the surface.
Würzburg had lost several key players following promotion – the likes of Fabio Kaufmann and Dave Gnasse included – but the blame for that can’t be laid at Schiele, nor can the assorted patchwork of signings they made to replace them with their limited budget.
The decision makes even little sense when you consider that Marco Antwerpen, who wasn’t deemed worthy of a contract extension at Eintracht Braunschweig having, like Schiele, guided his side into the second tier, was immediately appointed as his replacement.
“An intensive and detailed analysis of the previous season preparation and, in particular, the results achieved have led to the release,” said the club statement on the decision over Schiele. They also spoke of needing a “new impulse” to help secure their aim of staying up – as if the momentum from the promotion run wasn’t enough of an impulse.
There is no justifiable reason on sporting grounds for Würzburg to have made this decision, suggesting there is more to the decision. As it happens, there have been hints that Schiele could go for a while.
Media reports have suggested for a while that Felix Magath, who has an ‘advisor’ role at the club as part of its ownership group, has not been impressed by the coach since he arrived at the club at the start of the year.
A contract extension that had looked sown up before Magath’s arrival had been quietly dropped, and it had been unclear whether he would even stay after securing promotion, with his eventual extension only triggered by the ascent. If they had not wanted to keep him then, the writing must have already been on the wall.
Why did Magath have doubts? It’s hard to tell, but perhaps, given his own experience at a much higher level, he had a preference towards a higher-profile coach. Although Antwerpen, who has never managed beyond the 3. Liga, can hardly be considered an improvement.
Perhaps he had misgivings about their route to promotion. They lost just twice in their final 17 games, although the manner of their 5-1 defeat to Viktoria Köln on the penultimate matchday, which could have cost promotion, may have played on Magath’s mind.
In the end, it may have been just his whim to make the move now, perhaps inspired by events in the Bundesliga. Whatever the reasons, it’s a cruel way for Würzburg to break up with a man that had led the club with such distinction.