That iconic status was placed in grave danger last season, however, and in the current campaign, HSV are already heading in the wrong direction, with just one point and no goals from their opening two league games.
Defensive protection required
As manifold as the club's problems were in 2013/14, the most obvious concern was on the pitch. A league-worst total of 75 goals were shipped by a backline constantly chopped and changed under the three coaches (Thorsten Fink, Bert van Marwijk and Mirko Slomka) required to keep HSV in the division. Slomka reacted to the issue by bringing in defenders Cleber and Matthias Ostrzolek, as well as ball-winning Swiss international midfielder Valon Behrami during the transfer window, and while all three will strengthen the side, the latter could well make the biggest impact.
Having played in Italy, England, the UEFA Champions League and this summer's FIFA World Cup, Behrami’s experience and tenacity will be invaluable. A porous HSV midfield was crying out for a player of his ilk last season, and despite his home debut ending in a 3-0 defeat to SC Paderborn, it is hoped his bite will give the Red Shorts sharper teeth in what looks like being another campaign scrapping away in the table’s lower half.
Strength in depth
That loss to Paderborn will not be forgotten in a hurry, though. Drawing a blank and shipping three at the other end was entirely the wrong way to get the fans onside in Hamburg's first home game of 2014/15, and before the window shut, further additions had been made in the form of youngster Julian Green and former FC Schalke 04 midfielder Lewis Holtby.
Both are hungry to prove themselves - USA international Green made just a handful of first-team appearances at FC Bayern München, while Holtby is in search of regular first-team football after struggling for game time at English side Tottenham Hotspur FC - and Slomka will welcome the extra competition for places. Perhaps more importantly, though, both will look to inject a side down on its luck with some newfound energy and enthusiasm.
Winning the fans back
Green proved that he is capable of the spectacular in Brazil this summer, when he scored with his of the tournament to become his country’s youngest ever World Cup goalscorer, while Holtby’s drive in midfield and willingness to close down opponents has garnered him a reputation in both Germany and England.
Time will tell whether either can fill the void left by Hakan Calhanoglu (11 goals, four assists last season) and support captain Rafael van der Vaart in creating and converting the goals to fire the club up the standings, but these are two young, ambitious players that could give a struggling outfit a much-needed morale boost, as well as get the fans off their seats and behind the team once more.
Fighting for the shirt
In the striking department, Nicolai Müller has arrived from 1. FSV Mainz 05 and Artjoms Rudnevs is back after a loan spell at Hannover 96, but the key addition - this time on a permanent basis - is likely to be . On loan from Hertha Berlin last term, he notched 13 times, including the goal that saved the club from the drop via the play-offs.
Despite being a new arrival, the 22-year-old sweated for the cause like a club veteran and instantly emerged as a key figure in a team where leaders seemed conspicuous by their absence. The league’s oldest club now need Behrami, Holtby, Green and the rest of their summer acquisitions to show the same commitment to the cause if they are to ensure that last season’s dicing with the dreaded ‘r’-word remains the exception rather than the rule.