Welcome to volume two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard


September 2015

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Hannover 96 (Germany)

Hannover 96 is a professional football club who were formed on the 12th April 1896 in the city of Hanover, in Germany’s Lower Saxony. The full name of the club is Hannoverscher Sportverein von 1896, having initially being formed as Hannoverscher Fußball-Club 1896.

Until 1899 the club prioritised rugby and athletics as their prime sport. A merger with Ballverein 1898 Hannovera in 1913 to become Hannoverscher Sportverein 1896. Throughout this period the club were regulars in the national play-offs, with a local rivalry with Eintracht Braunschweig being established as the club played at Stadion Radrennbahn.

Hannover won the Südkreisliga in 1920-21 as they moved into their new Eilenriedestadion, 1926-27, 1927-28 and 1929-30. In 1933 under Third Reich rule German football was divided into sixteen top flight Gauliga’s with Hannover playing in Gauliga Niedersachsen under head coach Robert Fuchs.

Hannover won their Gauliga in 1935, before repeating the feat in 1938, before the team provided a major shock after progressing through the national championship rounds to defeat Schalke 04 and become German champions with a 4-3 replay win in front of 100,000 spectators at Berlin’s Olympiastadion.

In 1942 Hannover were moved to the newly formed Gauliga Südhannover-Braunschweig before the club was dissolved at the end of World War Two by the Allied authorities. The club was reformed as Hannoverscher SV before taking on their traditional title on the 27th April 1946.

League football resumed for the 1947-48 season with 96 being placed in Oberliga Nord, one of five top flight divisions of the day. The team were relegated but returned in 1948-49. Hannover 96 moved into the newly constructed Niedersachsenstadion in 1952, before lifting the Oberliga Nord title in 1953-54, going on through the group stages and then to the German Championship Final.

1. FC Kaiserslautern were hammered 5-1 in the final at Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion with 76,000 fans looking on, thanks to goals from Hans Tkotz, Werner Kohlmeyer, Heinz Wewetzer, Helmut Kruhl and Rolf Paetz with Helmut Kronsbein coaching the side.
The Bundesliga kicked off for the 1963-64 season. 

Hannover were placed in Regionalliga Nord but were promoted to the top flight after just one season under the returning coach Kronsbein. A fifth place finish and record crowds in their debut season resulted in ‘Die Rotten’ entering the 1965–66 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup where they defeated FC Porto before going out to FC Barcelona.

Another foray into the same competition came in 1968-69 when progression was made to the third round. Hannover continued to put in middle and lower half finishes in the league under several coaches. Horst Buhtz, Zlatko Čajkovski, Hans Pilz, Helmuth Johannsen, Hans Hipp, Hannes Bildauf all held the position on a full time basis before Kronsbein returned for a third spell but he could not prevent the team being relegated in 1973-74.

Hannover won 2. Bundesliga Nord at the first attempt to return to the top flight. However, the team were relegated just twelve months later back to the second tier. Baldauf and Kronsbein both had further spells in charge of the team. More coaches came and went. Anton Burghardt, Diethelm Ferner and Gerd Bohnsack took control before Werner Biskup took 96 to promotion in 1984-85.

The 1985-86 season saw Hannover go straight back down after a bottom place Bundesliga finish as neither Jörg Berger or Helmut Kalthoff could halt the slide. Jürgen Wähling took the team straight back up as champions. Wähling took charge until September 1988 when Hans Siemensmeyer arrived at the club. The new man couldn’t save 96 from another relegation in 1988-89.

A few seasons of mid table 2. Bundesliga seasons ensued under coaches Reinhard Saftig, Slobodan Cendic and Michael Krüger before Michael Lorkowski arrived at the Niedersachsenstadion. The new coach led the team all the way to the final of the DFB Pokal in 1992, where they defeated Borussia Mönchengladbach in a penalty shoot out. Among the heroes were Michael Schjønberg, Roman Wójcicki and goalkeeper Jörg Sievers.

More middle of 2. Bundesliga finishes followed with coaches including Eberhard Vogel, Rolf Schafstall, Peter Neururer and Egon Coordes trying their best to take Hannover back to the top flight. However when Coordes departed Jürgen Stoffregen couldn’t prevent 96 from being relegated to Regionalliga Nord in 1995-96.

Reinhold Fanz arrived and took the team to the Regionalliga Nord title in 1996-97 thanks to the goals of twin strike force Vladan Milovanović and Kreso Kovacec. However, promotion was denied as Hannover were defeated on aggregate by Energie Cottbus in the promotion play-off.

Gerald Asamoah weighed in with the goals in 1997-98 as the title was won for a second successive season. Tennis Borussia Berlin were defeated on penalties in the play-off final as 96 returned to 2. Bundesliga. Franz Gerber arrived as the new head coach in December 1998, and remained until the following June when Branko Ivanković took over.

Horst Ehrmantraut became coach in February 2001 as Hannover returned to a series of finishing half way up 2. Bundesliga. Joint head coaches Ralf Rangnick and Mirko Slomka took 96 to the second tier title in 2001-02 as the club reclaimed their top division status.

Niedersachsenstadion began its huge refurbishment in readiness for the 2006 World Cup. Hannover continued with employing joint head coaches, with Ewald Lienen and Michael Frontzeck taking charge from March 2004. Peter Neururer became the latest man to lead the side in November 2005.

Neururer was replaced by Dieter Hecking in September 2006, with 96 ending the 2006-07 campaign with another mid table ending. Goalkeeper Robert Enke came to the fore and captained the team to eighth place in 2007-08. Andreas Bergmann moved up as the new coach in the summer of 2009 before Mirko Slomka took over in the mid season break.

The season was marred when German international keeper Enke committed suicide on the 10th November 2009 after a struggle with depression. The renamed AWD-Arena was filled to capacity for his memorial service.

A win on the final day of the 2009-10 season saved the club from relegation. Slomka turned round the fortunes as 96 finished in fourth place in 2010-11 to secure a Europa League place. A win over Sevilla and a second place in the group stage led to wins against Club Brugge and Standard Liège saw Hannover reach the quarter finals were they succumbed to Atlético Madrid.

The 2012-13 season also saw Hannover end in seventh place, with 2013-14 seeing another fine Europa League run past the group stages before going out to Anzhi Makhachkala. Following another mid table berth Slomka departed in December 2013 with Tayfun Korkut coming in as his replacement.

Korkut’s run lasted until April 2015 before Michael Frontzeck returned to the club. He lasted until December 2015, with 96 in relegation trouble. Neither Thomas Schaaf or his replacement Daniel Stendel could save the team from the drop to 2. Bundesliga at the end of the 2015-16 campaign.

Stendel remained as head coach until André Breitenreiter arrived in March 2017 to steer Hannover over the promotion finishing line as they completed the season in second place; one spot above local rivals Eintracht Braunschweig.

Hannover 96 will play in the Bundesliga in the 2017-18 season.

My visit

Hannover 96 1 1.FC Kaiserslautern 0 (Monday 30th January 2017) 2. Bundesliga (att: 28,800)

It was the last day of my long tour of the north of England and Germany as I took an early train from Darmstadt to Hanover via Frankfurt. Arriving in Lower Saxony at lunchtime I did my usual sightseeing tour and also popped into the homes of HSC Hannover and Arminia Hannover.

I indulged in a few drinks in the Aldstadt to shelter from the rain. Hanover seemed quite a pretty place. I was taken by it. After grabbing some food, I took the U2 from Hauptbahnhof to Wiehbergstraße where I checked into Pension Donau for the night.

Once I’d had a sleep I headed out for the game. I looked at various routes from my digs to the HDI Arena as the Niedersachsenstadion was known under sponsorship rights. In the end I jumped out at Kröpcke and followed the growing crowds through the streets. Just over ten minutes later I was approaching the stadium on Robert-Enke-Straße.

As it was still early for the 8.05pm TV kick off I decided to head across the road from the many food and drink caravans and try and get a beer in the fans superb Nordkurve bar. Service was excellent and the memorabilia interesting. I decided not to hang around too long as I wasn’t entirely sure of the stadium layout.

This turned out to be a very wise move as I somehow got through ticket checks and ended up in the top tier of the Ost side. These were the best seats in the arena. I could have blagged it and remained there, but I decided to find my allocated view. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds, but it was worth the effort as the atmosphere was building.

The excellent stadium had been reconfigured to rid itself of the athletic track that once surrounded the pitch. The seats were far nearer to the pitch with two tiers wrapped around. I knew some of the history of the place as I tried to imagine what it must have been like when East Germany beat West in the 1974 World Cup as Jürgen Sparwasser scored the winner.

Hannover set out with a 4-4-2 formation with Uffe Bech returning from injury. It was the first game in charge for Kaiserslautern’s coach Norbert Meier as both sides played their first games after the winter break. 09 were in the ascendancy in the first period. There was action at both ends but the half ended goalless.

The stadium concessions required a pre-purchased card for any transactions. Experience told me that it wasn’t worth the hassle of queuing post-match to get the deposit back, so I did without, despite being hungry. The action didn’t take long to warm everyone up when the second half commenced on a bitterly cold evening.

On forty nine minutes 09 went ahead as Marvin Bakalorz sent in Bech to keep his nerve and fire past Julian Pollersbeck in the FCK net. The visitors nearly equalised within a few minutes as Christoph Moritz had a shot saved. Kacper Przybylko came close with a header and Lautern pressed, although Hannover had moments of their own.

There were large cheers from the home crowd as the game came to a close, with their side going back to the top of the table. I dashed down the slopes at the rear of the stand and headed over the road for some food from one of the stands as the sleet and snow began to fall in earnest.

My plans had been to head into the city centre and try out one or two bars, but the weather was closing in. Instead I retraced my route from before the game and headed for the U2 service one stop short of my hotel to Bothmerstraße and headed to the local Gaststätte Ole Deele.

It wasn’t the most lively of places but the beer was good and the smiles warm from the experienced hosts. One local was helped to a taxi as he was so full. Near closing time the older customers had a nice brief chat as we agreed on the merits of the beer in the father land.

It was nearing one o’clock when I eventually found my way to my room for bed before getting up the following morning and heading back into town to catch a train to Hamburg for my afternoon flight home.

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