Sun, Nov 02, 2003 - Page 22 News List

Being fired is not new to Bundesliga's Neururer


Peter Neururer knows a thing or to about losing a job. The Bundesliga coach has been sacked five times and resigned from three clubs.

A story he likes telling is how he was fired at Schalke 04 while heading for promotion from division two.

Called into president Guenther Eichberg's office, Neururer bounded in thinking he was about to be offered a two-year extension on his contract.

"The president sat there with a glass of wine and I said `something to celebrate? Good, I'll have one with you,'" Neururer relates.

"He then said there's nothing to celebrate," so I replied, "good, I'll drink one with you anyway." He then told me I was fired.

"I slapped him on the shoulder, saying `stop those sort of jokes, what's it about then.' But he was serious."

Neururer, 48, can see the funny angry man when he has to talk about this season's developments in the German Bundesliga. Four coaches have been sacked in five weeks and others have been put under unprecedented pressure.

Neururer believes the Bundesliga business is becoming brutal with all common decency trampled over.

He describes the dismissal of Ewald Lienen at Borussia Moenchengladbach as "perverse" and of Kurt Jara's sacking at SV Hamburg as "mean."

The deceit practised in Jara's sacking has been particularly offensive to many in the game, coming almost immediately after Hamburg club bosses had called a news conference to pledge their support for the Austrian.

All along they were negotiating with former Bayer Leverkusen boss Klaus Toppmoeller.

Just as worrying has been the win-or-be-sacked ultimatums issued to Dutchman Huub Stevens at Hertha Berlin and Belgian Erik Gerets at Kaiserslautern.

Both coaches are still just hanging onto their jobs. But after Hertha scrap through a mid-week cup match against Hansa Rostock by penalty shoot-out Stevens looked emotionally shaken up by his recent experiences.

Stevens, Gerets and Hanover's Ralf Rangnick -- after five matches without a win -- could easily join Lienen, Jara, Armin Veh of Rostock and Friedhelm Funkel of Cologne on the list of ejected coaches.

"I can't ever remember a situation where trainers were told to either win the next two games or be sacked," Neururer told Sueddeutsche Zeitung this week.

"I also can't remember the work of a trainer being discussed so publicly as it was with Lienen. One can say that there has been a coarsening of morals."

Stuttgart coach Felix Magath has also criticized the way coaches are now being treated.

Coaching dismissals are nothing new in the Bundesliga -- there have been more than 270 in the league's 40-year history -- but with the financial stakes of success or failure higher than ever before clubs appear to be panicking when results go wrong.

Magath, vice-president of the German Coaches Association, told Stuttgarter Zeitung that directors now believed the easiest thing to do was fire the coach.

But this policy often backfired, with it becoming difficult to build a team long-term or have any credible transfer policy, he said. Neither could handsome pay-offs ease the pain.

"Must a coach allow himself to be abused and insulted just for doing his job?" he asked.

Many are now questioning whether the intense gaze of the media is contributing to the hire-and fire mentality of Bundesliga clubs, with every small series of failures turned into a crisis.

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