Greuther Fürth’s nickname may be the Cloverleaves, but there was nothing lucky about their promotion to the Bundesliga as a side spearheaded by USA international and former Bayern Munich attacker Julian Green dominated the second half of the season in Bundesliga 2.
But what else is there to know about the team, and what does ‘Greuther’ even mean? bundesliga.com reveals all…
You might come across SpVgg Greuther Fürth in some places, an abbreviation of the club’s full name Spielvereinigung (sports association). Founded as SpVgg Fürth in 1903, they adopted the cloverleaf as the club logo in a nod to the city’s coat of arms.
The team largely played in the Bavarian regional leagues – local neighbours and fierce rivals Nuremberg are just a stone’s throw away – until participating in the inaugural Bundesliga 2 season in 1974.
They remained there until 1983, at which point they began to yo-yo between the lower regional divisions again following relegation. Financial difficulties led to a merger with TSV Vestenbergsgreuth in 1996, prompting the club name to change to its current form.
Fürth won promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in 2012, going up as second division champions. However, their stay was a short-lived one and after winning just four games in 2012/13 they were relegated straight back down again and have been in Bundesliga 2 ever since.
Goals are the hottest commodity in football, and Hrgota has provided them by the bucketload. The Swedish striker, who has 104 top-flight appearances following spells at Borussia Mönchengladbach and Eintracht Frankfurt, found the net 16 times in 31 outings to finish as the team’s top scorer, chipping in with another six assists to boot.
With nine goals and two assists from midfield, Green has enjoyed his most productive season as a professional. Quick, reliable and a hard worker who is as willing to track back as he is doing more glamorous attacking duties, it is no surprise he recently earned a recall to the US men’s national team for the first time since 2018, and for the first time under head coach Gregg Berhalter.
What Raphael Guerreiro, Angelino and Borna Sosa were for Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and VfB Stuttgart respectively in 2021, so Raum was for Fürth: an attack-minded left-back. The 23-year-old was arguably the team’s most consistent performer and their only player to start all 34 league games. He helped the Cloverleaves keep eight clean sheets and also produced an astonishing 13 assists, putting him top of the division's assist chart.
The coach: Stefan Leitl
Munich native Leitl was on Bayern’s books as a youngster but spent the bulk of his career in Bundesliga 2, although he did make five top-flight appearances in 2001/02 with Nuremberg. He hung up his boots in 2013 and moved into coaching, taking over the reserve side at Ingolstadt the following year before taking the reins of the first team in 2017/18.
He parted company with Ingolstadt in September 2018 before accepting Fürth’s offer in February 2019. Leitl guided them to 13th place that term and they finished ninth in his first full season at the helm in 2019/20.
And although he was a defensive-minded midfielder as a player, in the dugout he prefers a more attacking approach: “As a team it’s in our nature to go on the front foot from the very first minute.”
How promotion was won
The Bundesliga appeared a long way off at the start of the season as the team recorded three draws and a defeat in their opening four league fixtures. However, a subsequent five-game winning streak in which they scored 15 goals gave an indication of what was possible and Fürth sat top of the table after Matchday 9.
Leitl’s charges were unable to replicate such a successful run again, although they did go eight league outings without defeat between Matchdays 16 and 23. A solid defence has been the foundation throughout, conceding just 44 goals across 34 games, but it is in attack where they have truly shone: 69 goals scored is the second-best return in the division after Hamburg.
Not only that, but Fürth finished with the best away record in Bundesliga 2 (W9 D6 L2) and also earned more points (35) than any other team in the second half of the season. A 4-2 victory at Paderborn on Matchday 33 guaranteed them at least a place in the promotion play-offs, before a comeback 3-2 win at home to Fortuna Düsseldorf on the final day of the season earned them their place in the Bundesliga as runners-up behind Bochum, finishing two points ahead of Holstein Kiel in third.
Stadium: Sportpark Ronhof | Thomas Sommer
The club purchased the land for their stadium in 1910, having quickly realised the need for a bigger venue due to their growing popularity.
It has obviously been updated and renovated several times since then, and the team’s promotion to the Bundesliga in 2012 sparked a frantic summer of upgrades to the South Stand to meet top-flight requirements. They finished just in time; the seat numbers were only stuck on the night before their Matchday 1 encounter at home to Bayern Munich.
The main stand was given a modern facelift in 2016 and the arena now has a capacity for 16,626 fans, with up to 8,500 of those in standing terraces.
Did you know?
Former US Secretary of State and Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger was born in Fürth and is an honorary club member, having supported the team as a child and even played in their youth teams. In September 2012 he attended a home game during their maiden top-flight season, witnessing a 2-0 defeat to Schalke.