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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Hertha BSC trusts Mark Fotheringham

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On Friday morning, Fredi Bobic briefly considered whether it would still be worth driving to work. In any case, she already expected the worst. For example, that a comet fell over Berlin during the night and, of course, landed right on the Hertha BSC office.

The fact that Hertha employees, with Bobic as General Sporting Director at the helm, are developing a tendency towards fatalism is hard to blame. In this season, which is plagued with problems, “we notice it a lot,” says Bobic on Friday afternoon. In the previous hours he had received some messages, many with the same tenor: What else is coming from you?

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Injuries, illnesses, internal disputes, in addition to the usual sporting crisis, of course: There is little that Hertha have left out this season. On Thursday, Bobic received a call from Felix Magath, the head coach who had just been hired. Magath was not feeling well and suspected that he might have contracted the coronavirus. This suspicion was confirmed soon after. “At first I thought he was joking,” reports Bobic. “But that wasn’t a joke.”

At Hertha, they really feel that someone is trying to joke with them. Last Saturday, the team fell to penultimate place in the table; Coach Tayfun Korkut was sacked on Sunday, and veteran Felix Magath, 68, was introduced on Monday as his successor for the final eight games of the season.

Something like a spirit of optimism in the battle for relegation should spark that again. But just three days and three training sessions later, it turned out that eight games on the touchline turned into seven at most. When Hertha host Champions League hopefuls TSG Hoffenheim this Saturday at the Olympic Stadium (3:30 p.m., live on Sky), Magath will not be sitting on the sidelines as planned, but in his hotel room opposite the television.

Why would Mark Fotheringham be nervous?

“You want Corona, come to Berlin!” Bobic records. The fact that he still has a smile on his face in the Berlin Bundesliga club’s press room on Friday is due less to a hint of sarcasm; this is mainly due to the neighbor of him on the podium. “I am a proud Scotsman. I am convinced that we can do it,” says Mark Fotheringham, who not only replaced his boss Felix Magath at the pre-match press conference against Hoffenheim. The 38-year-old will also be on the coaching bench at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s not an easy situation,” admits Magath’s assistant coach. But when asked if he would be nervous, Fotheringham replied: “Why nervous? That’s my life. I worked so hard for this opportunity.” evident during the week’s training, which Magath mostly put in his hands.”Our aim was for us to do everything with a higher intensity,” says Fotheringham.”The boys have trained well.”

Aside from the ailing Rune Jarstein and Kelian Nsona, every player is available to him, apparently including Stevan Jovetic, who, as has been the case more often than not this season, only raced at the start of the week. “Everyone survived,” says Fredi Bobic, referring to the heightened intensity in training, which is something of a core trademark at Felix Magath.

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“You could tell that the players were very attentive, very united,” reports the Hertha sports director. The team must also carry this emotionality onto the pitch against Hoffenheim, perhaps even develop an attitude that is now more than correct. What system it will run on “doesn’t really matter at all”.

Fotheringham himself was a player for Felix Magath, who was at Fulham FC in 2014. “What I experienced there was not normal,” he says. Despite being relegated from the Premier League, Magath’s training was still at a higher level, too good for a second-tier Championship side. “I was a little smart and documented and collected all the training sessions,” says Fotheringham.

In general, his work is also the fruit of his own experiences as a player. Fotheringham hated when a new manager came in and didn’t even know who he was up against. Since the first training in Berlin, he not only knew the name of each of his players, but also his nickname. “He wanted to show from the beginning that he respects the boys,” he says.

Fotheringham has seen worse.

Which eleven of these guys will be on the pitch against Hoffenheim, who has to be on the bench and who even has to go to the stands? Mark Fotheringham was very vague about it the day before the game. That he has his own ideas when it comes to line-ups, for example when it comes to occupying the goalkeeper position, at least he has let that show. But first he had to “discuss it with the boss.”

Just because boss Felix Magath can’t be in the stadium on Saturday doesn’t mean he won’t have any influence anyway. The new head coach will be on the air at all times, says Bobic, connected by video before kickoff and speaking with the team. But once the game is up and running, Mark Fotheringham is the boss. Decisions about substitutions and substitutions are entirely his responsibility, explains Bobic. After all, there’s no time to say, “Wait a minute, I just have to make a call.”

Fotheringham himself is “very, very relaxed” about what is to come. He has experienced a lot in Germany, he says, and as an assistant coach at FC Ingolstadt he had to play a total of three times in relegation. “We have to stay relaxed,” he says. “This is not a war. This is football.”


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