Paderborn have finished second behind Cologne to clinch a remarkable return to the Bundesliga. - © DFL
Paderborn have finished second behind Cologne to clinch a remarkable return to the Bundesliga. - © DFL

Paderborn: welcome back to the Bundesliga!


It is four years since SC Paderborn last appeared in the Bundesliga and they have been on quite a rollercoaster ride to return to the top flight, securing automatic promotion despite a loss at Dynamo Dresden on the final day of the Bundesliga 2 season.

They don't do drama like they do it in East Westphalia. That's right, because Paderborn's return to the Bundesliga after a four-year absence has been quite a fabled journey.

Paderborn rose to the Bundesliga for the very first time in 2014, and they hit the ground running in the top flight of German football, with two draws and two wins in their first four fixtures taking them to the top of the table.

It was the stuff of legends and there was talk of European football, swiftly dismissed by coach Andre Breitenreiter. "It's a dream that we're unbeaten after four games but nothing has changed for us," he said. "All that we’re concerned with is staying up."

After Moritz Stoppelkamp scored from almost 80 metres, Paderborn surged to the top of the Bundesliga after four matchdays in 2014/15. - 2014 Getty Images

They managed to win only five more games all season, though, and three straight defeats at the end of the campaign saw them plummet back through the trapdoor into Bundesliga 2.

A 6-0 defeat at home to Sandhausen in their third game back in Bundesliga 2 set the alarm bells ringing and many more crushing defeats followed as their freefall continued. A second successive 18th-placed finish and back-to-back relegations were confirmed by three straight defeats to end the season.

Paderborn suffered three straight relegations on the field, crashing from the Bundesliga to the fourth division, until there was a twist. - imago/Eibner

Life in the third division was no easier and heading into the final day of the 2016/17 season, they needed a win over Osnabrück to stay up. They received no favours from their local rivals, though, and fell below the Werder Bremen reserves into the drop zone after a 1-1 draw.

A third straight relegation was signed and sealed, but ultimately not delivered. "We had two black eyes and a broken chin," said general manager Markus Krösche about the figurative state the club were in as they faced a fall of three divisions in as many years.

The collapse of 1860 Munich meant that Paderborn were given a lifeline, however, and the battered and beaten club were reinstated in the third division. It was a gift they seized with both hands.

A 4-1 win over Hamburg ended the northern Germany side's promotion hopes and put Paderborn in pole position to join Cologne in promotion to the Bundesliga. - 2019 DFL

Under Steffen Baumgart, who had been out of work for a year after having previously only coached in the fourth division, a revolution took place. With 83 points and an impressive 90 goals, they finished second and earned promotion back to Bundesliga 2 at the end of 2017/18. Twelve months on from a collapse which would have put the club's future at risk, they were celebrating in the city's Rathausplatz as they returned to the second tier.

Their rise did not stop there, however. Baumgart persisted with his attacking style of play and he has reaped the rewards with a second straight promotion, back to the big time.

There were setbacks along the way, with nine defeats, but only champions Cologne scored more than their 76 goals this season. Even a 3-1 defeat in Dresden on the final day wasn't enough to spoil the party, as fellow promotion candidates Union Berlin failed to get the better of Bochum.

Just a day shy of two years since their drop into the fourth tier of German football appeared to be sealed, Paderborn are now filling the Rathausplatz once again, celebrating their fairy-tale return to the Bundesliga.

Welcome back SC Paderborn!