1. FC Union Berlin announced on Monday their shock decision to sack head coach Jens Keller after 18 months in charge, with André Hofschneider announced as his permanent replacement.
Keller and assistant Henrik Pedersen have left following their 2-1 defeat to VfL Bochum at the weekend saw them with just one win in five.
Hofschneider, who managed the team before Keller’s arrival, takes over with immediate effect and has signed a contract until 2019.
An apparent blip proves costly for Keller
After taking over in the summer of 2016, Keller led die Eisern to their highest-ever 2. Bundesliga finish of fourth last season, with the club briefly topping the table at the end of March although five defeats in their last nine games saw them finish outside the top three.
On paper at least they look well set to challenge again this year. They sit fourth after 16 match days, just three points behind third-placed 1. FC Nürnberg and not much further behind the top two of Holstein Kiel (six points) and stuttering Fortuna Düsseldorf (five points).
Despite maintaining a strong position in the table though, they have faltered in recent weeks, with just one win in five matches, with a second defeat of that run as struggling Bochum came from behind on Sunday. Whilst most would have seen it purely as a blip, the club’s hierarchy have seen it differently.
Keller “shocked” by sudden decision
Lutz Munack, the club’s managing director of sports, said it was a “tough parting,” however the club felt that “our style of play and the results of recent weeks” were not living up to pre-season expectations.
For this reason, their “confidence” in Keller was “no longer a given,” and that they had made the decision to ensure they could “compete successfully” in upcoming matches against Dyanmo Dresden and FC Ingolstadt 04.
Speaking to German sports website ran.de, who broke the story of his departure ahead of the official announcement, the former Schalke 04 coach said he was “shocked” and “could not understand” the decision, having been in discussions over a new contract just weeks earlier.
In a further interview with the website on Tuesday, he revealed he was told the news in a 20-second conversation about his sacking, whilst he feels that he would have “absolutely” taken Union up to the Bundesliga for the first time had he remained at the club.
He will now no doubt attract multiple suitors as he looks for a new job, with manageress 1. FC Köln, one of his former clubs as a player, already linked with the 47-year-old. His advisor Thomas Eichin has already talking up the possibility, but Keller confirmed he has not talked the Billy Goats and would not comment further on the speculation.
Hofschneider returns to lead side on permanent basis
His replacement Hofschneider is no stranger to the club, having been with them for ten years. He served as assistant for Uwe Neuhaus – whose Dresden side he will start against on Saturday – Norbert Düwel and the late Sascha Lewandowski, before taking over on an interim basis from the Lewandowski at the end of the 2015-16.
He won eight of the 12 games in charge during that spell, guiding to a sixth-place finish that was only bettered by Keller in the following campaign. Since then he has obtained his Fußballlehrer qualification – allowing him to take on a permeant management position – and has managed the club’s under-19s since the start of the current campaign.
He will be assisted as last time by Sebastian Bönig, who was also part of the staff under Düwel, Lewandowski and Keller, with Neuhaus’s resurgent Dresden first up for the new team. Following Ingolstadt and the winter break, they will then face two of the teams currently above them in the table in Kiel and Nürnberg.
Quotes via 1. FC Union Berlin and ran.de.