'The Club,' as Nuremberg is known in Germany, is quietly developing into a very solid side this season. Trouble is, some of the squad's best players are only there on loan - and will be gone next year.
Nuremberg have been a picture of harmony
Nuremberg coach Dieter Hecking was sticking to the obvious after his team's impressive 4-1 away drubbing of Stuttgart on Saturday.
“We played an excellent match,” Hecking told reporters afterward. “We're a difficult opponent, and we're in very good form.”
Hecking, who has coached three clubs in the German first division, is no superstar with the mystique of a Louis van Gaal, Felix Magath or Juergen Klopp. But he does possess an ability to motivate his teams and get them to stick to the fundamentals.
As a result, Nuremberg - a club that has had to undergo relegation playoffs in each of the past two seasons - is now sitting pretty in ninth place in the standings. Unless the wheels fall off they'll be spared a home-and-away fixture for survival this May.
Nuremberg's defense is very difficult to break down, and their forwards have shown an unusual efficiency in converting chances on the counterattack.
The current squad includes two emerging stars - the problem is that they're not under contract with the club.
Schieber, r, is one of the league's least selfish strikers
Schieber and Ekici
The man of the match against Stuttgart was 22-year-old striker Julian Schieber. The burly forward absolutely had his way with Stuttgart's Serdar Tasci, a Germany international. Schieber scored once and contributed an assist after a determined run down the left-hand side.
That has become something of a habit for Schieber who has 6 goals and 9 assists this season - the sort of numbers that indicate an unselfish striker.
Schieber didn't do any celebrating, though, despite his performance on Saturday. He's only on loan at Nuremberg for this one season - from Stuttgart.
Another stand-out was Nuremberg playmaker Mehmet Ekici. He tormented Stuttgart with pinpoint crosses throughout the match and picked up a goal himself with a fine, low, angled shot in the second half.
He would have bagged a brace - had a deft late lob of his not ricocheted off the post. Ekici has hit the woodwork five times this season, leading one to wonder where Nuremberg would be in the standings if he’d enjoyed a bit more luck.
Club fans had better enjoy watching him now. Ekici too is a loan player, in from Bayern Munich. And given the Bavarian giants' difficulties replacing the oft-injured Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, it's hard to see them not wanting their gifted midfielder back.
Unfortunately for the Club, Ekici is set to head to south again
Weird way station
Nuremberg would no doubt love to persuade these two young talents to stay, but that's going to be a tough sell.
Schieber is a native of the area around Stuttgart and might be willing even to follow his boyhood club into division two - where it certainly appears they’re headed. Meanwhile, Ekici would only ask for a transfer if he sees no chance to get playing time at Bayern.
That leaves Nuremberg in the curious position of doing well but still not making progress on long-term goals.
The Club is one of the true classic teams in the Bundesliga, having won the German title nine times in its history, most recently in 1968.
But Nuremberg went down the very next year, and have been a yo-yo club ever since, bouncing up and down between the top two football divisions. The Club has spent seven of the previous fifteen seasons, for instance, in division two.
Nuremberg have shown signs of renaissance before, for instance in 2007, when they came in sixth in the league and won the German Cup. The next season they went down.
The Club is thriving this year with the footballing equivalent of temps - that's a situation that needs to be rectified.
The eleven that thrashed Stuttgart didn't include a single player who came up through Nuremberg's youth ranks. And homegrown products will be essential if the Club is to ever re-establish itself as a team that belongs, year in year out, in the first division.
Otherwise, Dieter Hecking may be celebrating a fine season in May, only to find himself returning to the drawing board this summer.
Author: Jefferson Chase
Editor: Matt Hermann