Cologne have confirmed they have parted ways with head coach Steffen Baumgart with the Billy Goats 17th in the Bundesliga table going into the winter break.
The decision, with the coach formally leaving at the end of December, comes in the wake of the final game of 2023, which saw Cologne beaten 2-0 away at Union Berlin. It was the club’s 10th loss in 16 league outings this season, leaving them on 10 points and only above bottom side Darmstadt on goal difference.
"Steffen and his coaching staff did an outstanding job during their time at FC. He showed real identification with FC and our strategical approach, and still extended his contract twice despite our many challenges. The path we have taken has demanded a great deal of strength and conviction from everyone involved, especially Steffen," said managing director Christian Keller.
"Following the unsatisfactory course of the season so far, we have had a very open, direct, objective and respectful dialogue in recent days and weeks as to whether this strength and conviction are really still sufficiently present. It is important to fully respect the fact that Steffen has questioned his personal convictions. As a result, we have come to the joint decision to end our collaboration - even if it is painful on a human level," Keller added.
Baumgart took over at the RheinEnergieStadion in summer 2021 after a successful four-year spell at Paderborn, guiding a team that had only survived relegation the previous season via the play-offs up to seventh and into the UEFA Europa Conference League with a style of play built on attacking whenever possible.
The 51-year-old’s second season at the helm saw an 11th-place finish in the Bundesliga, while the European journey ended in the group stage.
"Everyone can imagine that the decision to leave FC was not an easy one for me. The club has become my home over the last two and a half years. What we have achieved here together with the team, my coaching team and the entire club makes me proud," Baumgart said in his official statement.
"At the same time, this is also the reason why I now feel that a change is needed. FC is above everything else - and although we have invested a lot in the last few weeks and months, the results are lacking. It probably needs a new impetus after all. It hurts to leave, but I am grateful for my time here and would like to thank everyone at FC with whom I have worked here with a lot of heart and closeness, especially the people in charge, my coaching team, my team and the fans."
Watch: The time Baumgart had to watch a game from isolation at home
The former striker was immensely popular around Cologne. His touchline style of flat cap and T-shirt became one of the most common sights at the city’s Carnival celebrations, he featured on advertising boards, while his passionate demeanour endeared him further to fans.
However, a poor start to this season, with only two wins from 16 league games and elimination in the second round of the DFB Cup to Kaiserslautern, has prompted change. Baumgart leaves Effzeh with a record of 32 wins, 28 draws and 38 defeats from 98 fixtures in charge.
A decision on a successor will be made in due course. Cologne return to action in the new year with a home game against promoted Heidenheim on 13 January before hosting Borussia Dortmund the following week.
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