Munich - You might think any team bold enough to take to the field with an average age of 23 years and four months is asking to be taken apart. Not VfB Stuttgart.
Faith in youth
Inevitably, there were some pretty shaky moments against Hannover 96 on Matchday 15, but come the final whistle, Thomas Schneider’s intrepid young Schwaben were celebrating an emphatic 4-2 success.
"The lads gave it everything," beamed a contented Schneider after the game. "They really wanted to win - their body language was spot on. I’m really proud. It was the right response after the criticism that has come our way in recent weeks."
Having overseen just one win in five encounters going into last Saturday’s clash, rather than bring in a set of tried and tested heads, Schneider instead plumped for, amongst others, youth academy graduates Timo Werner (17), Antonio Rüdiger (20) and Rani Khedira (19). It was a move that paid tenfold.
Khedira MK II
"I only heard that I was going to start shortly before kick-off and I was absolutely delighted - and a little nervous," explained debutant midfielder Khedira, whose level-headed display reminded Stuttgart fans that there is indeed life after older brother and Germany international , who left the Mercedes-Benz-Arena for Real Madrid CF in July 2010. "Youngsters definitely have what it takes to succeed. The average age doesn’t matter."
Perhaps the best example of Khedira’s credo is team-mate Werner. The youngest ever player to don the white of Stuttgart has gone from strength to strength since taking his bow under previous coach Bruno Labbadia in August, serving up four assists - two of which came against Hannover - and scoring three in 13 Bundesliga appearances so far this term.
Labbadia’s magic eye
"It was pretty obvious that the fans weren’t too pleased with us after the last few games, but I think we gave them something to cheer about [against Hannover]," said Werner, incidentally the third youngest scorer in the Bundesliga’s 51-year history. "They really got behind us."
And so they should. With the likes of Werner, Khedira and Rüdiger - another player handpicked from the youth ranks by talent spotter extraordinaire Labbadia - destined to play a starring role in the years to come, the Stuttgart faithful have much to look forward to.
Take a look back at this sensational performance from Werner from Matchday 12, courtesy of the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel: