Greuther Fürth is not one that rolls off the tongue when it comes to prestigious German football clubs, but they are now in the Bundesliga for the first time in their history.
For the Clover Leaves, there could not have been a better time to make their debut in the Bundesliga. This is a special season in Germany—the 50th anniversary of the league’s inception in 1963/64, which marked an end to a fractious history for the country.
The immense shift in power within Bavarian football over many decades saw the ascension of FC Bayern München. Incredibly, for the majority of pre-war football, the Reds were far from the dominant force in South German football, with Fürth and FC Nürnberg at the top of the game. Even in the 1960s, FC Bayern were not automatic picks for the first-ever Bundesliga campaign, as 1860 München pipped them to the post to become the representatives from Bavaria.
The two pre-war giants of South German football—Fürth and Nürnberg—will go head-to-head in a mouth-watering double-header this season. Fürth’s honours list is quite impressive for a team never to have played in the Bundesliga. Kleeblätter have won three German national championships, in 1914, 1926 and 1929 respectively. Fürth’s success in 1914 could be the club’s finest moment in their 109-year existence.
Coached by Englishman William Townley, a pioneer of association football in Germany, Fürth beat the mighty VfB Leipzig in Magdeburg with a golden goal after 154 minutes of action. Townley, from Blackpool, would go on to coach FC Bayern amongst a host of others on the continent. Fürth have also won three South German titles, four Ostkreis-Ligas and a number of other regional honours, as well as last season’s 2.Bundesliga.
Fürth have been forced to invest heavily in youth development over the years and look to have a handful of players who could be future stars for the club. Midfielder Thomas Pledl is one name to note down, having been snatched from 1860 in the summer. The 18-year-old is a classy central-midfielder who looks to drive forward at every opportunity and has a lovely eye for an incisive pass in the final third.
The contrasts were startling. Fürth head coach Mike Büskens has only been able to add a sprinkling of new faces to his promotion squad. Büskens, 43, spent just €2m in the transfer market to build on a €6m budget from last season, whilst FC Bayern wrote-off around €30m on Mario Mandzukic, Dante and Xherdan Shaqiri.
In the end, though, FC Bayern’s quality showed over the hard-working and spirited Fürth ethos. Thomas Müller put a late dampener on a celebratory mood in the first-half, scoring with just seconds to play before the interval. After 14 minutes of play in the second-half, Mandzukic popped up with an easy header from close range to double the away side’s advantage. On his Bundesliga debut, Max Grün was helpless to prevent Arjen Robben’s wicked cross from adding a third to the scoreline as the ‘Rekordmeister’ sent out a damning message to the rest of the division.
Despite a hushed crowd at the Trolli-Arena, the smallest venue in the division, it was far from to be expected that Fürth would have been able to get a result against a side which looks to have strengthened well in the summer. The Clover Leaves are widely tipped to be relegated this season and should take encouragement from the fact they competed with the Reds for near-enough a whole half of football. These are not the matches which will decide Fürth’s fate in the league.
Football has changed in Bavaria remarkably since the formation of the Bundesliga and Fürth will have a tough battle on their hands to preserve their top-flight status.