Cologne - Second chances don’t come along often, but Mark Uth has got his after signing a three-year deal with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim earlier this summer.
On the fringes
Big things were expected of the 23-year-old German striker in his days as a 1. FC Köln youth player, so where on earth has he been since then?
A Cathedral City native, Uth first joined Köln in 2004. Six years later, after a two-year spell at FC Viktoria Köln, he hit the peak of his young powers whilst playing for the Billy Goats’ Under-19s. With 24 goals in 26 games to his name, he was duly promoted to the Köln reserves.
It should have been Uth’s watershed moment, but an alarming dip in form - 16 goals in 41 appearances - sent him tumbling down the pecking order. Warming the substitutes’ bench in Köln’s 3-0 win over FC Augsburg in 2011/12 was the closest he came to making his Bundesliga debut.
Still with much to prove, Uth moved to Dutch Eredivisie side SC Heerenveen in summer 2012. "He’s a creative player who has an eye for something special," then Heerenveen sporting director Johan Hansma said. "[He] can make goals just as well as scoring them."
The glaring potential notwithstanding, Uth made just three appearances in his debut season on Dutch soil. Only when he made the loan switch to Heracles Almelo a year later did he begin to rediscover his old ways, netting eight times, before returning to parent club Heerenveen.
One of Holland’s top three
With Icelandic forward Alfred Finnbogason trading Heerenveen for Real Sociedad de Futbol, Uth’s time had come - and he didn’t disappoint. A career-best tally of 15 Eredivisie goals, as well as another five in the Dutch club's Europa League play-offs at the end of 2014/15, attest to that.
Unsurprisingly there was no shortage of suitors, but it was Hoffenheim - with boots to fill following the departures of Roberto Firmino and Anthony Modeste - that convinced Uth to return to his homeland. If the former understudy to Lukas Podolski can continue his belated rise, Köln might well come to rue the day they let him go.