Opinion: The kids are alright — Hamburg′s youngsters show change is possible | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 28.04.2018
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Opinion: The kids are alright — Hamburg's youngsters show change is possible

Christian Titz has placed his trust in Hamburg's youngsters and the decision is already paying dividends. Whether it's enough to save HSV remains to be seen, but it shows that change is possible.

Luca Waldschmidt likes playing against Wolfsburg.

The 21-year-old forward made headlines last season when his late strike against the Wolves saved Hamburg's Bundesliga status. And he was on hand again on Saturday to lash home Hamburg's third goal – again against Wolfsburg.

If Hamburg are indeed to pull off what would be their most miraculous escape yet, other players and other decisions will have played greater roles. But it's fitting that two such important goals have been scored by a player who is still registered to play for the club's U21s.

Whether HSV stay up or not, a complete overhaul is long overdue. In fact, in recent weeks, the club's youngsters have shown that it's already begun. 

Read more:  Bundesliga: Cologne relegated despite late drama, Hamburg two points from safety

Out with the old ...

When coach Christian Titz dropped several big names for the home game against Hertha Berlin last month, defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos complained that "experienced players," such as himself, "had saved the club from relegation before and are important for the team."

What he appeared to conveniently forget is that those experienced players are responsible for getting HSV into such a mess in the first place. Year after year. 

Matt Ford

DW's Matt Ford

Players such as Papadopoulos, Nicolai Müller, Dennis Diekmaier and Aaron Hunt have all become synonymous with a HSV whose entire identity revolves around prolonging the club's status as the only remaining Bundesliga club never to have been relegated.

Once that is achieved, at whatever price and no matter how dramatic the circumstances, there is nowhere else for Hamburg to go as a club. This is what has to change, regardless of what league they find themselves in next season.

Whether Titz himself is trusted to continue next season remains unclear but the 47-year-old has been decisive in his management of first team squad, placing his trust in younger players unburdened by the poisonous culture which has engulfed the rest of the club.

Müller, Diekmaier and Hunt are all expected to leave as is Sven Schipplock. The future of all-rounder Gotoku Sakai remains unclear while Lewis Holtby has improved his negotiating position with four vital goals in the last five games.

... and in with the new

Otherwise, Titz's decision to turn to younger players has already begun to pay dividends. The 11 HSV players on the pitch at full time on Saturday had an average age of 21.7 years — in contrast to the average age of the team which started the season at home to Augsburg back in August (25.4 years).

Former reserve team captain Matti Steinmann has nailed down a holding midfield role while Gideon Jung has proven himself a reliable choice in the center of defense or just in front of it.

But the player who has made the biggest impact is Tatsuya Ito. The miniature 20-year-old winger became an instant favorite with a fearless, attacking display in his first Bundesliga start against Werder Bremen back in September but initially struggled to play more than 60 minutes before muscular problems would set in.

But he has played almost the full 90 minutes in each of HSV's last four games and was the most dangerous player on the pitch against Wolfsburg. It was his dribble into the box which drew the foul from Josuha Guilavogui which led to HSV's first penalty, and it was his pinpoint cross which Holtby glanced home to make it 2-0 shortly later.

Add European U21 Championship winning goalkeeper Julian Pollersbeck, teenager Bakery Jatta and Scottish defender David Bates (will join from Glasgow Rangers this summer), and HSV are slowly building a young squad with a fresh identity.

Will it be enough to save them? Hamburg have won both of their direct battles against relegation rivals and are within two points of the relegation play-off with two games to play.

It's still a tough ask and it's out of their hands. In a sense, it's become irrelevant; wholesale change is required regardless of the division.

It may be too late, but the recent performances of Hamburg's youngsters have shown that change is possible. 

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