1. FC Köln have confirmed that they will appoint a new head coach in the summer to replace Stefan Ruthenbeck.
The 45-year-old had been in charge until the end of the season, after replacing Peter Stöger in December, and despite a courageous effort from his side, the Billy Goats look set to be relegated from the Bundesliga.
The club announced on Thursday that both parties had agreed not to extend his control beyond of the end of the campaign. Holstein Kiel coach Markus Anfang is currently the favourite to replace him.
A valiant effort under Ruthenbeck probably still not enoguh
Ruthenbeck, who had joined his home town club at under-19 head coach last summer, took charge with the team eight points adrift at the bottom of the Bundesliga with just three points to show from their first 14 games, the second-worst record ever in the league at that stage of the season.
After Ruthenbeck then guided them to their first league of the season, against VfL Wolfsburg just before the winter break, he was confirmed as coach until the end of the campaign. With four further wins since then, they have the 12th-best record in the league since he took over, better than all their direct relegation rivals.
However it hasn’t quite enough – their win over local rivals Bayer Leverkusen lifted them off the bottom for the first time since August, but Hamburger SV’s victory over Schalke 04 last Saturday, coupled with Köln 1-1 draw with 1. FSV Mainz 05, has returned them to the basement.
Victory against Mainz was seen as their last realistic chance of beating the drop, and having failed to do that, eyes have seemingly turned towards a probably 2. Bundesliga campaign next season. Ruthenbeck will remain in charge until May, whilst the possibility of him remaining at the club has not been ruled out.
Ruthenbeck: “It’s not about me”
In fact, as Armin Veh said in the club’s statement, that was always the case. He said that they had agreed they would “not plan any further” than the end of the season and that “it was also made clear” that he, along with his coaching staff, “would continue to work at 1. FC Köln regardless of the end result” of the campaign.
Veh, who himself only replaced Jörg Schmadtke as sporting director in December, added that “Stefan and his team overtook the team in a very difficult situation, but showed full engagement and continued to do a good job.”
Ruthenbeck meanwhile said that “it was and still is an absolute privilege to be head coach” of his local team, and that he was happy for the news about his future to become public so any speculation “would not be a distraction in these final weeks of the season,” before adding “it is not about me, but about 1. FC Köln.” He insisted that he “will do everything in my power… to keep this club in the Bundesliga.”
Whilst the club refused to comment on who his replacement might be, Anfang, who like Ruthenbeck is also from Cologne, has been widely linked to the role for some months, after an impressive spell with Kiel, who currently still third in the 2. Bundesliga, and could potentially pass Köln on the way up to the top flight.
Quotes via 1. FC Köln.