A narrow play-off success against promotion hopefuls Greuther Fürth may have rounded out the club's worst-ever top-flight campaign on an upbeat note but head coach Mirko Slomka is under no illusions as to the magnitude of the task in hand to get Hamburg shipshape in time for the start of next season. bundesliga.com has a few pointers...
It was a season which started with great expectations, descended into hard times and almost ended up as a tale of a city without a Bundesliga club. The initial remit was to qualify for Europe, but a 6-2 Matchday 5 thumping at Dortmund, followed by a home loss to Werder Bremen instead marked the end of the road for head coach Thorsten Fink. Bert van Marwijk appeared to steady the ship with eight points in four games but the rot soon set in again and a seven-game losing streak saw him then make way for Mirko Slomka. After starting with a bang, he too, struggled to instil any consistency or real confidence in the team. The shortcomings of others helped Hamburg to a fortuitous play-off shot against Greuther Fürth and they gratefully made the most of it, albeit only just.
Had it not been for Hakan Calhanoglu, Hamburg's woes could well have been considerably worse. The summer signing from Karlsruher SC was one of the discoveries of the Bundesliga season just ended. His incredible free-kick from close to the halfway line against Borussia Dortmund was the spectacular high point of a season in which the gifted midfielder served up 11 goals and four assists, and laid on180 scoring chances all-told.
50 years, 267 days and…still counting. The clock inside the Imtech Arena keeping track of Hamburg's uninterrupted Bundesliga attendance record did not, after all, have to be reset come close of play in the second leg of their relegation showdown at Fürth, on the other side of the country. That, in the end, became the most significant statistic of the season, one the club are proud to see continue into the 52nd season of Germany's national top flight.
"I expect an improvement on last season, and that means sixth place." Hamburg CEO Carl-Edgar Jarchow (l.) left nothing to the imagination when he laid out his expectations for the new season back in July. Having finished seventh with only 48 points in 2012/13, that did not look too unrealistic either, but Jarchow was left eating his words as the season progressed and Hamburg limped to just 27 points, and 16th place.
After losing 6-2 in Dortmund, few could have expected the radical reversal of fortunes in store in the return fixture. Not even Mirko Slomka. The former Hannover 96 coach marked his debut on the Hamburg bench with a sensational 3-0 win, rounded out by the aforementioned 45-yard free-kick planted almost casually beyond BVB keeper Roman Weidenfeller's reach by Hakan Calhanoglu. "He's shown in training that he can score from there," enthused Slomka.