For the first time in 12 years, two relegated sides look set to return to the top flight at the first time of asking. The expected return of Stuttgart and Hannover is largely good news for the Bundesliga.
Hannover and Stuttgart are all but back in the Bundesliga and that is frankly good news for a league in need of teams that have the potential to be competitive.
In recent seasons, the fairytale stories of teams like Paderborn and Darmstadt have provided some great memories for their fans, but the overall quality of the league hasn't benefitted. While Hannover and Stuttgart aren't boasting a host of playing talent, they are two bigger clubs with bigger fan bases and that can only be a good thing for a league grasping to hold onto its traditional roots.
With relatively modest means, both clubs have shown that relegation can be a start, not an end. Good work on and off the field has made sure the pair were competitive enough to return to the top flight. One season and down can be disastrous for some clubs (just ask Paderborn) and so it's refreshing to see clubs adopt a Freiburg-like policy and make relegation part of the plan rather than a hurdle.
After they went down, Stuttgart appointed one of Germany's most exciting young bosses in former Borussia Dortmund second team head coach Hannes Wolf, signed a proven second-division goalscorer in Simon Terodde and never looked back. For a side who flirted with relegation for two seasons before succumbing, the return to the second tier proved a necessary reset.
Admittedly, the return of Martin Kind (Hannover's chairman) doesn't bode well for the much-admired 50+1 rule, and there's no denying that seeing someone like Kaiserslautern or a Nürnberg back in the top flight would serve the traditionalist headlines better, but Hannover have taken their chance to return at the first time of asking and that deserves respect.
The duo of Horst Heldt and Andre Breitenreiter combined forces to get Hannover over the line - even though the somewhat ruthless dismissal of former youth coach Daniel Stendel left a bad taste - and are set to take on the Bundesliga with much less pressure than in Gelsenkirchen. The return of a coach once part of the aforementioned Paderborn story is also a story within itself.
Change is one of life's inevitabilities and accepting it is sometimes better than fighting against it. Both Stuttgart and Hannover not only accepted it, but embraced it. Now, both clubs are exciting places to be again, for players and fans alike, and while they're not guaranteed to stay in the Bundesliga next season, they're far better placed to succeed.
Hamburg aren't relegated yet - a dramatic finish against Schalke proved that - but they do look set to be in their third relegation playoff in four years. Perhaps it's time they got rid of their clock and started again. Who knows whether it'll work, but surely it's better than the same battle to survive every year?
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