Nenad Bjelica's stint as Union Berlin head coach is over, with the club hoping their Bundesliga status doesn't follow suit. - © IMAGO/Michael Taeger
Nenad Bjelica's stint as Union Berlin head coach is over, with the club hoping their Bundesliga status doesn't follow suit. - © IMAGO/Michael Taeger

Union Berlin dismiss Nenad Bjelica; Marco Grote takes interim charge


Relegation-threatened Union Berlin have parted ways with head coach Nenad Bjelica, whilst placing Marco Grote in interim charge for the final two games of the 2023/24 season.

The news comes less than 24 hours after a 4-3 home loss to fellow strugglers Bochum that left Union just one point above the relegation play-off spot. It was the German capital club's fourth defeat in five games.

"We are giving our team fresh impetus once again," said Union sporting director Oliver Ruhnert of the decision. "I'm absolutely convinced that the players want to stay in the Bundesliga with Union. We want to give them our full support and are relying on a coaching team that knows our club inside out and is passionate about this task. We wish Nenad Bjelica and his co-coaches all the best and every success, both professionally and personally."

Bjelica oversaw 16 Bundesliga games as Union coach, having replaced Urs Fischer in late November with the club in the relegation zone. He took 11 points from his first seven matches as Union climbed back above the waterline, but results have taken a turn for the worse since March. A return of one win in nine, six defeats and two draws, has put them in real danger of having to contest the play-off with the team that finishes third in Bundesliga 2. There is even a slim possibility of them going down automatically.

"In the fight to stay in the Bundesliga, we need to draw on the strength of the entire club and, of course, that of our squad," commented Union president Dirk Zingler. "We trust Marco Grote and his team to lead our players back to their highest levels of performance to make the remaining games until the end of the season a success." 

Marie-Louise Eta (l.) and Marco Grote (r.) are back in the spotlight at Union. - IMAGO/Matthias Koch

Grote, who has been in charge of Union's U19s in the A-Junior Bundesliga since July 2022, had already taken over the senior team on an interim basis in November, breaking the team's 11-game winless start to the Bundesliga campaign with a 1-1 draw against Augsburg. The 51-year-old will once again have Eta - the first ever female coach in a Bundesliga fixture - for support. Former Union midfielder Bönig will also be part of the coaching team.

Grote's charges travel to second-bottom Cologne for a crucial relegation six-pointer on Saturday, before hosting Freiburg on the final day of the campaign. As long as they match 16th-placed Mainz's results against Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg, Union - playing their fifth season of Bundesliga football - will be safe. They could even secure their top-flight safety with room to spare, if they beat Cologne and Mainz lose to Dortmund on Matchday 33.