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Verbeek versus Kurz: the next chapter

Manton St Tales

The first two rounds of the new A-League season were supposedly leaked this week, showing Adelaide United facing Melbourne Victory in round one: Verbeek versus Kurz. As Spiro Karanikos-Mimis writes, they’ve met before.

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The release of the fixtures for the new A-League season has been delayed after two clubs expressed their displeasure.

One club was said to be Newcastle Jets, but they have denied that is the case.

Melbourne Victory is said to be the other.

If you believe the “leak” is more than mischief, the FFA, sensing the new-found tension in the “Original Rivalry”, had pencilled a United/Victory blockbuster at Hindmarsh Stadium for round one.

It’s a script that writes itself: dumped coach, now leading his former club’s biggest rivals, faces off against the man who replaced him..

Regardless of when Adelaide does play the Victory next season, it won’t be the first time Verbeek and Kurz have faced off.

On March 2, 2016, Adelaide United was becoming the talk of the town.

A few days earlier, the Reds defeated Brisbane Roar 3-0 – United’s 13th match without defeat which saw the team surge to an unlikely second spot on the ladder.

As we know, United hadn’t recorded a win that season before round nine but, by May, they would be Premiers and Champions.

Meanwhile, over in western Germany, a crucial match was taking place in the 2.Bundesliga (the second division).

The home team, Fortuna Düsseldorf, was threatened with relegation while high-flying visitor, Bochum, needed a win to keep its promotion hopes alive.

Unless they could predict the future, Adelaide United fans wouldn’t have taken any notice of the match in Düsseldorf.

But had you approached a bookmaker then and said that the game would pit the Reds’ next two senior coaches against each other, you might have been invited to write your own ticket.

It was Marco Kurz’s fifth match in charge of Fortuna.

He’d been brought in midseason to replace Frank Kramer (now a German national youth team coach) whose 15 games at the helm yielded just 13 points.

One of Kurz’s previous gigs came in similar circumstances.

Midway through the 2012-13 Bundesliga season, Hoffenheim was in 16th place (third bottom) and the club ended the tenure of coach Markus Babbel (whose main claim to fame, of course, is that he’s currently at the helm of Western Sydney Wanderers).

But under Kurz, Hoffenheim’s campaign went from bad to worse and, 10 matches later, the team found itself down another rung on the ladder and in the relegation places.

Kurz was fired but the club – whose squad that season included current Liverpool star Roberto Firmino – stayed up thanks to improved results under his replacement, Markus Gisdol.

There would be one more job for Kurz before he joined Fortuna.

In 2013, he was given the chance to take the helm at Ingolstadt before the season commenced.

But after nine games, the Bavarian club was at the wrong end of the table – a situation which its director of football, former German international Thomas Linke, described as “extremely critical”.

Kurz was shown the door and Ingolstadt would recover to finish the campaign in 10th place.

With his reputation bruised, and memories of his only coaching success (at Kaiserslautern) fading, it would be more than two years before Kurz took the reins in Düsseldorf.

In contrast, Gertjan Verbeek was established at Bochum.

When the March 2016 encounter with Fortuna took place, he was around midway through a two-and-a-half-year spell as the club’s head coach.

It was the Dutchman’s second engagement in Germany.

His first had seen him take over at top-flight Nürnberg nine games into the 2013-14 season after a highly competitive three years with unfashionable AZ Alkmaar in his native Netherlands.

Nürnberg had just six points from those nine games and Verbeek added another 20 from 22 matches.

But under the threat of relegation, the club decided to part ways with the Dutch manager.

It did little good – Nürnberg went on to lose its next three games and finish one point from safety.

Going into the March 2016 meeting away to Kurz’s Fortuna, Bochum – which had a strong history of participation in Germany’s top tier – was on track for its best season since being relegated in 2010.

And the match began well for the visitors who had a couple of good chances to score in the opening exchanges.

But Fortuna took the lead in the 19th minute through Turkish international Sercan Sararer.

The home side kept its lead until the hour mark but, then, a 10-minute spell turned the game in Bochum’s favour.

Simon Terodde, who was on his way to being the season’s top goal-scorer in the 2. Bundesliga, equalised in the 63rd minute.

Two minutes later, midfielder Onur Bulut missed a golden chance to give the visitors the lead.

But Bochum’s dead-ball specialist, Thomas Eisfeld, was about to take control.

In the 67th minute, he hit the back of the net with a swerving free-kick from 25 metres.

Six minutes later, with another free-kick, he found young teammate, Janik Haberer (now playing in Germany’s top division with Freiburg), who headed truly.

The final score: Fortuna Düsseldorf 1, Vfl Bochum 3.

After another two losses, Kurz was sacked.

United head coach Gertjan Verbeek oversee training in Elizabeth. Photo: AAP/David Mariuz

Under Verbeek, Bochum would go on to finish fifth in that season and ninth in the next.

The latter would spell the end of his time in Germany but Bochum hasn’t seen its fortunes improve.

The 2015-16 campaign under the Dutch coach remains the club’s best since 2010-11.

It wouldn’t be long before Verbeek was in demand again but he accepted a poisoned chalice back in the Netherlands.

Before he joined FC Twente, the club had almost been relegated by Netherlands’ football association for financial reasons.

Matters weren’t much better on the pitch when Verbeek took over after 10 rounds of the 2017-18 season.

He’d be gone before it ended having been unable to reverse Twente’s league fortunes. He would, however, steer the club to an unlikely semi-final appearance in the Dutch Cup, knocking Ajax out along the way.

A long-time admirer of his coaching abilities is Adelaide United’s now chairman. Several years ago, Piet van der Pol sought Verbeek’s interest in working in Australia.

Now, as a club owner, he has his man.

Side note

The FFA Cup starts tonight, with Adelaide Olympic playing Floreat Athena at the Valo Football Centre – 7:00pm kick-off.

You’ll be able to stream the game and watch it on your device but, here’s hoping for a massive crowd and plenty of support for the locals.

Spiro Karanikos-Mimis is InDaily’s soccer columnist.

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