Greuther Fürth have sacked coach Mike Büskens. A Schalke stalwart in his playing days, Büskens took "The Unpromotables" to the Bundesliga for the first time ever. Someone else will scrap to keep them there.
Greuther Fürth, the Bavarian club propping up the Bundesliga from beneath, announced the sacking of coach Mike Büskens at a Wednesday evening press conference. Disgruntled players had already confirmed the move to several German media outlets, saying that their coach had told them the news himself earlier in the day at his last training session in charge.
Under-23 coach Ludwig Preis will take over at least on an interim basis as the team seeks to dodge relegation.
The dismissal brought days of speculation to a halt.
Greuther Fürth put up a typically spirited fight against Fortuna Düsseldorf at the weekend, with keeper Wolfgang Hesl playing out of his skin except for one Axel Bellinghausen shot that squirmed through his legs.
Typically toothless up front, the Bundesliga's lowest-profile side lacked the firepower to pull back into the match - even against a fellow newcomer in the German top flight.
This latest league setback was followed by the typical public denials suggesting a head coach has already started packing his bags.
"There is no discussion on our head coach," club president Helmut Hack told the football magazine Kicker, prompting the press to start just such a discussion in earnest.
It's understandable for a side at the bottom of the league to seek a change, but in Fürth's case, the deficiency appears to lie more with a limited roster of players than in the coaching dugout.
Plucky but understaffed underdogs
Fürth have fought solidly throughout the season, but have managed to score just 13 goals in 22 matches. The high point of the season so far was surely a 2-1 win earlier this month over Schalke, the side where Büskens played 257 games as a gritty holding midfielder. Büskens climbed the coaching ladder with the Royal Blues, before joining Fürth as head coach in 2009.
Fürth had flirted with promotion year after year without ever mustering the courage to call a cab and seal the deal. Büskens finally took "The Unpromotables" up into the big time last season - winning the German second division ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt on the way. This season, though, Frankfurt have shown what a larger stadium and better stocked squad can do in the top flight.
The small Bavarian outfit is perhaps best known vicariously via its most famous fan, Fürth native and star diplomat Henry Kissinger. The squad, on the other hand, lacks star appeal. German international of old Gerald Asamoah is well past his heyday, while promising midfield talents like Sercan Sararer and Edgar Prib have struggled to shine at a higher echelon this season.
Fürth sit 18th and rock bottom in the Bundesliga with 12 league points. Guaranteed safety already looks out of reach; 15th-placed Wolfsburg have racked up 26 points. Hoffenheim, however, occupy the relegation playoff position and are just four points clear of Fürth.
Barring an absolute collapse from one of the midtable sides, Fürth, Hoffenheim and Augsburg appear to be in a three-way dogfight to win 16th spot and the chance to fight for survival against a second division side at the end of the season.
Büskens is the fourth Bundesliga coach to get the boot this season, after Huub Stevens at Schalke, Markus Babbel at Hoffenheim and Felix Magath at Wolfsburg.