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Safety remains Hertha's focus

Paddy Higgs
October 27, 2013

Hertha Berlin may sit fifth on the Bundesliga table, but do not expect the capital club’s fans to be fooled by what could be yet another false dawn. The goal this season remains steering clear of the relegation trapdoor.

Sami Allagui (L) of Berlin jubilates with team mates after scoring the third goal during the Bundesliga match between Hertha BSC and 1.FSV Mainz 05 at Olympiastadion on September 28, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Matthias Kern/Bongarts/Getty Images
Image: Getty Images

Football fans know the price they pay for following their team. For every one trophy, there are usually thousands of tears. Hertha's disciples need little reminding of that. If they did, they need only cast their minds back to the 2011-12 Bundesliga season.

Hertha were as high as ninth, 15 games into that campaign, but the departure of coach Markus Babbel in December sent "the Old Lady" into a spiral that ended in relegation.

Four coaches have led Hertha before the arrival of Jos Luhukay in July 2012, with the Dutchman guiding the club back into the top flight at the first time of asking. He has continued his fine work in the 2013-14 season, guiding Hertha into fifth after 10 matches.

Hard to break down and a determined bunch away from home, Hertha showed just how far they have come by almost shocking Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on Saturday.

Luhukay's men scored the first and last goals of the match, but it was the three Bayern scored in between that ultimately decided the result. Still, the performance would have impressed those who saw it.

Änis Ben Hatira (L) of Hertha Berlin celebrates with head coach Jos Luhukay (R) after scoring the fourth goal during the Bundesliga match between Hertha BSC and 1.FSV Mainz 05 at Olympiastadion on September 28, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Matthias Kern/Bongarts/Getty Images
Hertha coach Jos Luhukay (right, pictured with Änis Ben Hatira) has made it clear where the pass mark liesImage: Matthias Kern/Bongarts/Getty Images

Enough to prompt talk of a place in Europe, however? No way. Prior to the season, Luhukay identified safety from relegation as the only goal, and that is exactly where his thoughts would remain.

After 13 consecutive seasons in the top flight, Hertha has yoyo-ed between the Bundesliga and the second division since the 2010-11 campaign. They have done well to bounce immediately back after relegations, but clubs more regularly need several seasons to recover after going down.

Free-fall is a possibility - see Unterhaching and Hansa Rostock, who both now play in the 3. Liga after their respective relegations from the Bundesliga in 2000-01 and 2007-08.

It would be hard to see that fate befalling Hertha, but General Manager Michael Preetz - a survivor even despite the tumult and bloodletting of the club's more recent relegations - will be desperate not to tempt fate once again.

Counting positives, not chickens

So where has it gone right for Hertha this season? Easy.

Ronny's ability to orchestrate Hertha's attacking moves has not waned in the step up in class, with Adrian Ramos and Sami Allagui (both with five goals) the main benefactors. A hard-working midfield of Hajime Hosogai, Per Skjelbred, Fabian Lustenberger and company gives Luhukay an engine on which he can rely, while the defense has been solid.

A 6-1 thumping of Frankfurt to start the season has been followed by impressive wins over the likes of Hamburg and Mönchengladbach, and their efforts against Bayern show they are hard to intimidate.

But, as the dismissal of Babbel showed, it can only take one decisive incident to change a whole season.

The club has made a sound start to the season, but there are plenty of twists and turns still in store.

In their first season back in the Bundesliga, both those at the club and its supporters will keep survival as their only real goal. Recent history has taught them that.