Union Berlin Season Preview: A truly different club
Photo by City-Press via Getty Images

Union Berlin Season Preview: A truly different club

The 2019/20 Bundesliga will be the first in which Union Berlin compete in the top flight of German football. Finishing third in the 2. Bundesliga last season, Union are a club different to many others in modern football.

amillington
Adam Millington

Matters on the pitch were not what excited most when they heard of the promotion of Union Berlin (despite the supporters on it) via the Bundesliga playoff against VFB Stuttgart last year, rather the incredible support and history behind the only truly East-German club.

They are a fan-led team to every meaning of the word. Their president, Dirk Zingler, is a local businessman and supporter who bought them in 2004, and he still can be seen standing on the terraces on a matchday as the vast majority of Union fans do. At a similar time to when Zingler became president, the fans started their famous 'Bleed for Union' campaign. In Germany, whenever somebody gives blood, they get paid a certain amount for doing so. The fans of Union Berlin came together and decided that they would all give blood to financially support the club at the time.

Even the stadium was built by the fans, which is why over 80% of the capacity at the Stadion An der Alten Forsterei is made up of standing terraces, with three full sides creating a tremendous atmosphere that will set them apart from other Bundesliga sides this season. 

Transfer Business Overview

Despite their limited resources compared to an average top-flight club, Union have made many moves in the transfer window - only spending a total of €7.4m. They made a number of last season's loan deals permanent, signing defender Marvin Friedrich and midfield player Manuel Schmiedebach from Augsburg and Hannover 96 retrospectively.

To a neutral fan, their most impressive piece of business is the signing of Borussia Dortmund legend Neven Subotic on a free deal from Saint-Ettien. The 30-year-old Serbian international has a multitude of Bundesliga experience and will be able to strengthen Union's backline, in a season in which their main aim will be survival.

Manager

Union Berlin's manager is Urs Fischer, a man who before moving to Union had never experienced football outside of his native Switzerland.

During his playing career, Fischer made 545 appearances for Zurich and St.Gallen, later going on to gain his first taste of managerial experience with the former. The 53-year-old has also managed FC Thun and FC Basel in his home country, departing Basel in April of 2017.

He joined Union Berlin as manager at the start of last season and immediately impressed. His tactics led them to a seventeen game unbeaten streak, only losing a single fixture in before the winter break in his first taste of German football. He guided the club to a third-place finish, only narrowly culminating the season behind SC Paderborn on goal difference. The side based in the capital city then managed to defeat Stuttgart on goal difference in the Bundesliga's relegation playoff on away goals.

Player To Watch

Last season's top goalscorer for Union was the Swedish Sebastian Andersson. He netted thirteen in his 38 appearances, proving to be instrumental in the club's campaign for promotion.

Sebastien Polter may prove to be more of a threat for Union, in his second stint at the club after being a loanee in the 14/15 season. He was the second-highest amount of goals for the team last year, whilst playing a number of games less than his counterpart Andersson.

One For The Future

There are no extremely young talents at the club, but the 22-year-old Suleiman Abdullahi may be one for fans to watch this season.

Despite not scoring too many goals last season, the powerful Abdullahi looked strong towards the back end of the last campaign. He also came extremely close to clinching automatic promotion for his side last season with his last kick of the regular season. 

The young German will now have an opportunity to prove himself on the biggest stage in German football, against some very good sides.

Predicted Finish

With a much weaker side than many of the other teams in the league, Union's main aim for this season will be to stay in the division, and not get relegated back to the 2. Bundesliga.

It is the side's first-ever year in the top flight of German football, and they become the first team from East Germany to compete in the Bundesliga - with RB Leipzig being formed after the countries were reunified.

The club will have two derby games this season, against both Hertha Berlin and RB Leipzig. There is a weird feeling between Union and Hertha, with no animosity between the two sides, and the two from the same city often supporting each other. They both had views opposing that of Dynamo Berlin off the pitch, and so the clubs both supported each other based on those views.

The match against Leipzig will be a much different affair, however. The club is extremely different from the vast majority of others in the Bundesliga, being so heavily sponsored and ran by Red Bull (whilst skirting around the 50+1 rule). Union fans have already stated that during the match they will be completely silent for 15 minutes, but have been urged not to by their squad who will need to use the atmosphere to their advantage at home.

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