Greuther Furth aren’t just breaking records in the Bundesliga for all the wrong reasons, they also currently hold the unwanted title of being the worst top-flight team in all of Europe’s major leagues.
The newly-promoted Bavarians, who won three German championships between 1914 and 1930 in the pre-Bundesliga era, have the lowest points total of any team in Europe’s top five leagues this season, sitting bottom of the table with just five points after 17 games.
Their run of 14 matches without a win means they made the worst start to a season in the history of the Bundesliga, before a 1-0 victory against Union Berlin finally stopped the rot. That remains their only win of the campaign to date.
Furth are called ‘Kleeblatter’, which means cloverleaves, but luck has not been on their side in just their second ever season in the Bundesliga.
The situation during the past months became so dire that head coach Stefan Leitl pleaded with the public that no one should feel sorry for them. “The next goal: applause instead of pity,” a large sports magazine headlined one of their stories.
There has not been a lot of applause – with only 13 goals scored – with even opposing fans unsure whether they should cheer the fourth or fifth goal against Furth.
The low point was reached when Leitl’s side were outclassed and beaten 7-1 by Bayer Leverkusen in early December.
Head coach surprised by point gap
Performances like the one against Leverkusen have called into question the quality of the squad. Furth were promoted to the Bundesliga last summer and the club’s hierarchy subsequently made a few signings.
Former Dutch internationals Jetro Willems and Nick Viergever as well as German midfielders Sebastian Griesbeck, Max Christiansen, Jeremy Dudziak and Nils Seufert arrived last summer.
Viergever, Dudziak and Griesbeck cost a combined £1.1m, while Willems, Christiansen and Seufert were signed as free agents. In return, the club lost midfielder Anton Stach and German international David Raum.
The undoubtedly talented Christiansen came from third-division side Waldhof Mannheim and is now asked to act as a playmaker in central midfield. Veteran Willems has played most of the matches at left-back after spending six months on the bench of Eintracht Frankfurt.
“No one expected that we would be so far behind,” head coach Leitl said recently, indicating that he believes his team are much better than their points record.
Leitl has also reaffirmed that he would not change the style of his team after some critics suggested that Furth should park the bus instead of playing attacking football.
In his eyes, it is the DNA of the team to move forward and not solely defend even when they look outclassed.
Little time to celebrate Christmas
Furth were rewarded in the past two weeks, as they beat Union Berlin 1-0, celebrating their first win, and then finished the first half of the season with a goalless draw against Augsburg. But they are 13 points off safety and most have already written them off.
The club’s hierarchy shortened the players’ Christmas break, calling them back to training on 27 December.
“We owe a good Ruckrunde [second half of the season] to ourselves and the people out there. I expect that we are fit to play in the Bundesliga then,” sporting director Rachid Azzouzi said.
No one at Furth talks about avoiding relegation, only about improving the performance level. You have to start somewhere.