The information about how long Horst Heldt analyzed the season on Sunday afternoon in a conference room in Cologne’s Mediapark in front of the 1. FC Presidium varies depending on the representation of those involved. Some say it was an hour and a half, others say it was two hours. Maybe it was 90 minutes for the regular season and 30 minutes for extra time that the relegation duel with Holstein Kiel, which had been successfully fought out the day before, took up.
Basically, it doesn’t matter how long Heldt’s speech lasted because the FC board had made its decision on the speaker before his lecture. They just neglected to tell him and let him tell the story first.
Heldt could have spoken like the great Roman rhetorician Marcus Tullius Cicero and developed theories like Albert Einstein – it would have been of no use to him. In the morning, the three presidents had already made their verdict with all the other gentlemen who are in charge of the 1. FC Köln on a voluntary basis – and there are a few. On Sunday evening they announced that they would end their cooperation with the sports director: “We cannot be satisfied with the squad composition and the sporting development of the past season,” said President Werner Wolf.
For the time being, board advisor Jörg Jakobs will take over the manager’s duties, assisted by the former substitute goalkeeper and management apprentice Thomas Kessler. Jakobs is also active as a lecturer at the sports university, but it could be that the improvised sports management will be responsible for a longer period of time. The presidium wants to take its time with the selection of the next sports director, the vacancy at the most important control point of a professional club does not seem to worry them.
Funkel still sided with Heldt
Heldt found out about his fate before the press release, right after his season balance sheet. Nevertheless, he was surprised and shocked, and so was his colleague Alexander Wehrle, who was also present and who had not suspected anything bad before this appointment. After all, they had only just returned home from Kiel at midnight, dousing their stay in the league with Kölsch.
How the top FC officials handle internal communication and how they define the value of personal closeness, they also demonstrated when dealing with rescuer trainer Friedhelm Funkel. He was surprised that he had no contact with the club management during his seven-week commitment. Which didn’t change after the rescue. President Wolf reported that he “welcomed Funkel personally by phone” and then preferred radio silence – until after the game in Kiel, when he wrote the coach a cell phone message.
But Funkel had long suspected that despite the strange absence of the board members, politics in the club did not stand still. The coach tried to counteract the threatened replacement of Heldt with warning words: “I have the feeling that too many people at FC who do not have a background in football and have too little idea want to have a say in day-to-day sporting business,” he said Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. Heldt is “the right man” for FC. Funkel’s successor Steffen Baumgart, whom Heldt proudly presented as the new coach recently, also regretted the departure of the trusted sports director.
The remaining managing director, Wehrle, expressed himself even more clearly. He would have liked to continue working with Heldt, he said, the termination made him “thoughtful”. Wehrle, who has been in office for almost nine years and has been hardened by crises of all kinds, has long been said by the industry that he is on the verge of a new job, either as CFO at his old club, VfB Stuttgart, or as a (partial) successor to League boss Christian Seifert. But for now he’s staying in Cologne. Although on Monday at the press conference of the FC leadership it was not clear whether Wehrle’s Swabian sense of duty prevailed or the club’s insistence on the contract that was valid until 2023. Wehrle pointed out that FC was facing “one of the most difficult financial challenges in the club’s history” and that he could not avoid responsibility. Wolf also predicted two “very, very tough years” because of the financial situation – which will certainly not be easier because the club still has to pay the manager an estimated 1.5 million severance pay.
Heldt has already initiated the transfer of Uth
President Wolf did not want to explain what Heldt is being accused of when it comes to putting the roster together. A dramatic error rate cannot be seen with the naked eye, however: Ondrej Duda, who came from Hertha BSC, proved himself as a regular player, as did Marius Wolf, who was on loan in Dortmund. Sebastian Andersson, who cost six million euros, was injured at the start of the season but came back in time to score the goals to stay in class. The loan players Arokodare and Dennis brought no luck, and the winger Dimitrios Limnios, acquired in Greece, only attracted positive attention as an FC fan in the reserve stands.
Heldt had already initiated the next transfer: Mark Uth, 29, should return from Schalke 04. The conditions are allegedly agreed with all parties involved, but the board of directors may still veto after Uth’s adviser Volker Struth, himself a Cologne resident City scoreboard has revealed his opinion about the understanding of the FC officials of professional football: “From my point of view, those responsible at 1. FC Köln dance in fairy tale land.”