After failing to win any of their opening three 2. Bundesliga matches, FC Ingolstadt 04 have announced they have parted company with head coach Maik Walpurgis.
He had been in charge of Die Schanzer since last November and although he couldn’t keep them in the Bundesliga they had placed their faith in him to lead their attempts to bounce straight back up.
Walpurgis’s assistant Ovid Hajou had also been released. Stefan Leitl will step up from their under-23 side to replace Walpurgis on an interim basis.
Board “forced” to act after terrible start
Walpurgis was a surprise choice to replace Markus Kauczinski after his brief but disastrous tenure at the Audi-Sportpark. The 43-year-old had never managed about the 3. Liga before, but improved the side immensely as they battled bravely, but ultimately unsuccessfully, to beat off the drop.
Ingolstadt had been heavily tipped to make an immediate return to the top flight after a summer of strong signings and tying down several key players to new contracts. Yet despite that, they fell to defeat against 1. FC Union Berlin, SV Sandhausen and SSV Jahn Regensburg in their first three games of the season, only winning against 1860 Munich in the DFB-Pokal.
“After the poor start to the season, we weren't convinced that a turnaround could be achieved under the current setup,” explained Harald Gärtner, Ingolstadt’s managing director for sport and communication. He said that the club had “learned to appreciate [him] both personally and professionally,” however “after intensive analysis” of the season so far they felt they had been “forced to make this step.”
Walpurgis meanwhile accepted “full responsibility” for the club’s poor start to the campaign and although he “wanted to continue” in the role, he “respected” the decision that had been made. He also reflected on the past season, where he side has face “a big challenge” in trying to stay up, but had face it with “an impressive mentality” and “enormous tactical discipline.”
Replacement is Ingolstadt through-and-through
With a trip to Bavarian rivals SpVgg Greuther Fürth - the only side below them in the 2. Bundesliga table at present - coming up on Friday, the club’s board have turned to Leitl to lead the squad for the short term, which could well also leave him as Walpurgis’s most likely permanent successor if he is able to turn results around.
Leitl, 39, has been with the club since 2007 after joining as a player from SV Darmstadt 98, making almost 200 appearances for them, later becoming captain, until retiring in 2013. He immediately took over the under-19 side, before stepping up to the under-23s a year later. He earned his Fußballlehrer-Lizenz earlier this year, allowing him to manage at the highest level.
Gärtner commented that Leitl “knows our club in and out” and had “driven the development” of it over the past ten years. He added that he was “convinced” that he would give the team a “new impulse” for the game against Fürth.
He will be assisted in training by Michael Henke, previously assistant to both Walpurgis and his predecessor-but-one Ralph Hasenhüttl, and his own assistant Ersin Demir, his teammate during their playing days with die Schanzer.
Quotes via FC Ingolstadt 04.