The long suffering fans of Hamburg need no reminding that it has been 24 long years since they last lifted a trophy – and all but the most hopeful are already resigned to another campaign full of hurt.
The players which have formed the core of the team recently are being allowed to leave and with youngsters coming in to replace them an instant turnaround seems impossible. But the team being dismantled now is well past its sell-by date and though a season in transition will hurt, there is reason for cheer that the new direction the club is taking is up rather than down.
The last set of players went close to success in 2009 and 2010 but lost three semi finals – all of which could have been won – and continually fell short of reaching Champions League.
If you are going to fail, you may as well fail with youngsters which cost less money and can improve as a unit in the future. Losing the popular Colin Benjamin signals the end of an era but the departures of Joris Mathijsen, Ze Roberto, Frank Rost, Piotr Trochowski and Ruud Van Nistelrooy, along with a handful of younger underachievers, can free up precious wages which are badly needed for longer-term investment.
With the likes of Guy Demel, Jonathan Pitroipa and possibly even Eljero Elia in contention to join David Rozehnal in bringing in transfer fees, the squad which starts the next season will be almost completely rebuilt. And a rebuilding job which installs solid foundations for the future is definitely what is needed if HSV are ever to taste glory again. They can just look on enviously at northern rivals Werder Bremen who have achieved a string of successes in the last decades based on long-term bosses Otto Rehhagel and Thomas Schaaf. Instead Hamburg have attempted to apply a series of elastoplasts to injuries which have required major surgery.
Anyone wearing Rothosen looking at the coming season with optimism is likely to be in for more disappointment – probably starting with the opening game when a heavy loss to champions Dortmund already looks inevitable. But the appointment of Arnesen, and a slow rebuilding of the squad with an emphasis on youth, suggests that the scale of the challenge ahead has finally been accepted.
Good times in the Volksparkstadion may remain far away – but at least they may be coming into sight again from over the horizon.
Editor’s note: Read more of Derek’s work at www.sportwriter.eu