When St.Pauli took the difficult decision to part company with trainer Timo Schulz in December they were hoping for an upturn in fortunes, but could never in their wildest dreams have imagined an improvement of the magnitude they have seen.
The Hamburg side were 15th at the end of matchday 17 which signalled the end of the Hinrunde as the 2.Bundesliga paused for the World Cup and the Winterpause. A 4-4 draw away ay Karlsruher SC saw them just one point above bottom side Sandhausen and set for a New Year of struggle.
Schulz was a much-loved figure at the club having served as a player then as assistant coach and youth coach, and finally head coach. The decision from president Oke Göttlich wasn’t one that was taken lightly.
“Timo is St. Pauli through and through and has been a great servant to the club” he said at the time. “We’ve analysed and discussed the past few months intensively and unfortunately now feel compelled to take action. We always have to consider what’s best overall for FC St. Pauli – and our record on the pitch in 2022 is that of a relegated side. That has to change immediately to allow us to instigate all the measures necessary to avoid the drop.”
Schulz’s Texas-born assistant Fabian Hürzeler was first put in temporary control before the club opted to give him the job on a full-time basis. The rest as they say is history.
The 30-year-old played for both Bayern Munich and Hoffenheim’s youth teams before ending his playing days aged just 23. He began coaching with FC Pipinsried in Bavaria in the fifth tier of German football before joining St.Pauli as assistant.
The restart of the Rückrunde began with a 1-0 away win at 1.FC Nürnberg and that win was the first of ten consecutive victories that have taken the Kiezkicker from one point off the bottom to fourth in the table. The club are now being seen as a genuine contender for promotion being just four points behind third place Heidenheim and six behind city rivals HSV.
They face Hamburg away in two weeks’ time and also face leaders Darmstadt on matchday 31. If they maintain their current winning streak then there is every possibility of a top three finish.
Momentum and defensive solidity have been the watch-words at the Millerntor. St.Pauli have conceded just three goals in Hürzeler’s ten games, while keeping seven clean sheets, The signing of Estonian Karol Mets has been a key feature of this and at this rate the New Year miracle that Hürzeler has instigated could just turn into a fairy tale of epic proportions.
Where Union Berlin have led, St. Pauli could be set to follow.