Munich - When a team wins 4-0, it is not often that you hear talk about a close shave, but there was an exception in Nuremberg at the weekend.
After the final whistle had sounded at the end of 1. FC Nürnberg's first win of the 2013/14 Bundesliga season - at the 18th attempt - there was only one thing on the minds of the jubilant players.
It was straight into the dressing room, razors at the ready. Time for their coach Gertjan Verbeek to fulfill a pledge he made long before Christmas, when only the first signs of stubble were appearing on his face. "I'm not going to shave again until we win," he vowed. Little did he expect that wait to last for so long.
By the time Verbeek appeared for the post-match press conference, he was a transformed man. Gone was the grey beard and with it went the signs of anguish and anxiety which had been growing as long as his facial hair throughout Nürnberg's enduring quest for that elusive first victory. "I'm happy about the win," said the 51-year-old. "And also that my beard is finally gone."
If only relegation fears could be shaved away so easily, though. Despite the relief at finally recording a win, the realisation that there is still a lot of work to be done was heavier than any amount of facial growth Verbeek had forced himself to carry around over the winter break. "We didn't play our best game, yet we won 4-0," he acknowledged. "We've definitely played better than this without winning."
His task is now to combine the two: playing good and, more importantly, successful football. Saturday's win was at least a step in the right direction, and perhaps their luck is turning too. "When [during a winter training camp friendly] the ball bounced off the crossbar and into the goal from Robert Mak's shot, I thought 2014 might just be our year," said the coach. Indeed, Bavarians hit the woodwork 16 times during the first half of the season, only for the ball to rebound out to safety.
Josip Drmic's second goal in Saturday's 4-0 victory also happened to strike the inside of the post on its way in. "We were lacking this little bit of luck in the first half of the campaign," said Daniel Ginczek. "We could even have scored one or two more, but I'm not going to complain too much about it." Instead, Nürnberg will get their heads down and ensure win number one of the season is punctually followed by win number two.
They are still inside the bottom two with fellow strugglers SC Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt also celebrating much-needed wins at the weekend, but at least something seems to be changing. "We always believed in ourselves and carried on," said Drmic. "We've corrected our mistakes and done a lot better than in the first half of the season." They now need to remain razor sharp in front of goal to ensure things don't get too hairy again, for Verbeek or Nürnberg.