After scraping a point against Darmstadt on Friday night, SpVgg
Greuther Fürth would have been delighted with the little resistant on offer as they cruised to a 3-0 win over Eintracht Braunschweig on Tuesday.
The schedule might be up the wall thanks to COVID but being four points clear in second at this stage of the season must leave the Kleeblatt’s fans, players and coaches dreaming of a return to the Bundesliga after eights season away.
In the dressing room though the achievement – and some achievement it would be – will be tinged with a little bit of bitter-sweetness, and the first goal in this game highlighted the point perfectly.
David Raum, one the league’s assist kings this season, got himself another with a pinpoint cross. He will be playing for Hoffenheim next season. In the Bundesliga. The superb volley to score, perhaps inches ahead of his teammate Branimir Hrgota, came from Sebastian Ernst. He will be playing for Hannover next season. In the 2. Bundesliga.
The situation with Ernst has its similarities with Philipp Klement’s decision to leave Paderborn for Stuttgart two seasons ago. He had played a big part in Paderborn’s rise from the 3. Liga to the Bundesliga, but rather than reaping the rewards of the Bundesliga, he instead opted to join Stuttgart, who were coming down the other way.
Money will no doubt have been a factor, but he was probably playing the long game too. He would have known the small chance of Paderborn staying up, and the high probability of Stuttgart bouncing straight back up. And so it proved. Even if he imagined more than substitute appearances for himself in the Bundesliga this season.
The only real difference is the timing. Klement’s move was announced when everything was done and settled, albeit only a couple of days after Stuttgart’s play-off defeat to Union Berlin. Ernst’s move was confirmed months before the end of the season, when it was already clear Fürth had a much better chance of going up than Hannover.
Let’s be honest though, Fürth’s chances of staying in the Bundesliga next season if they get there, even without Ernst and Raum, are going to be pretty minimal. As it stands, Paul Jaeckel, although not confirmed, is widely believed to be joining Union Berlin.
Hrgota and Håvard Nielsen are yet to decide their futures, whilst Mergim Mavraj, comfortably their most experienced top flight player, is also out of contract. Rebuilding the squad whilst preparing for the Bundesliga will make it doubly hard.
If Hannover were to be promoted next year, they would have a greater chance of re-establishing themselves in the top tier given the size of the club. But unlike with Stuttgart, that is no guarantee. Stuttgart came down as a big fish and built their squad to go straight back up. Hannover will be going into the third season in the 2. Bundesliga and already in a far poorer state than they were when they came down with Stuttgart.
As it stands, it looks like they have a new coach next season, possibly a new sporting director too, and there’s no guarantee that Martin Kind will get the decisions on either of those right. They too could lose several top players – and not just Genki Haraguchi – and those that remain will be bruised with seasons of failure.
Ernst’s finish for that first goal was Bundesliga class and then some. He would have deserved a crack of the Bundesliga just as much as anyone in this Fürth side. Maybe he will make it in the end. But it’s bittersweet that it won’t be straight away.