One can assume that there are fans of Union Berlin who have to pinch themselves when looking at the table of the German Bundesliga.
Or at least rub your eyes in amazement.
After the 7th match day, the club from the German metropolis leads the league. Series champion FC Bayern Munich is already five points behind Union.
With Christopher Trimmel, an ÖFB team player as captain is right in the middle of the hype about the sensations team. With all the euphoria, you can still take to the streets normally without having to fend off a rush of fans.
“At Union, the fans are not intrusive at all,” says the Burgenlander, “when they see you, they briefly greet you with ‘iron’ and that’s it.”
The legendary battle cry “Eisern Union” is particularly easy to hear in and around Köpenick.
Dependent on phases of weakness of the big ones
Trimmel is in his ninth year at Union. He no longer remembers whether he was at the top of the table with Rapid at some point.
“With Union we are at the top in the second division,” grins the right-back.
“It feels like everyone is waiting for the big break-in, which then never happens.”
However, he doesn’t feel like he’s in the wrong film at the moment. Because just like the fans, the players don’t lose their grip on the ground despite the dream start with five wins and two draws from the first seven matches.
“I’ll be honest: Of course we are also dependent on the other clubs. Bayern are in a weak phase, Dortmund has lost in the meantime, Leipzig has changed coaches. In the Bundesliga you are dependent on the top teams weakening.”
Waiting for the burglary that never happens
They themselves have consistently performed: “We’re a tight-knit bunch, the environment is very positive. That’s why we’re where we are at the moment. But that’s a snapshot and we know that too.”
In 2019, he was promoted to the German upper house. After staying up in season one, you steadily worked your way up.
The second Bundesliga year ended in seventh place, the third in fifth. In the meantime, the notorious underdog has been playing in Europe for a long time.
“It feels like everyone is waiting for the big break-in, which then never happens,” smiles Trimmel.
Consistency in leadership
While there is a certain degree of fluctuation in the team, Union exemplifies what consistency means to those in charge.
Managing Director Sport Oliver Ruhnert has been in charge since 2018, in the same year coach Urs Fischer and his two Austrian assistants Michael Gspurning (goalkeeping coach) and Markus Hoffmann (assistant coach) hired.
Other supervisors have also been with the club for a long time. President Dirk Zingler has been on board for a particularly long time, the 58-year-old has been with the club through thick and thin since 2004.
According to Trimmel, consistency in personnel at this level is one of the secrets of success.
New players only need a week or two
“The structure is very important to the president. He knows that if he changes coaches or if he takes out a leading player and sells it – it’s not just about me as captain – it makes it more difficult within the structure,” said the 35 -year-olds.
Said structure provides a stable framework that makes it easier for newcomers.
“Of course, after promotion, many fans were afraid that the club might change in the Bundesliga. It’s about supposedly banal things, like ticket prices going up, beer and sausages getting more expensive.”
“At Union, they make sure that they not only get good footballers, but also good guys. Union has done that really well in recent years. We have an upheaval almost every six months. I’m pretty sure that millions of offers will come in winter too for our strikers Sheraldo Becker or Jordan. It happens again and again that players are sold. But we keep getting outstanding guys who fit in one-to-one. That takes a week or two for us. Then the players are integrated and feel comfortable.”
The character of the club has remained the same
This also suits a club for which attitude is important, which wants to stand for values that do not necessarily go hand in hand with commerce in football. But on the contrary.
Is it so easy to keep thinking like this when your own success at the top of the German Bundesliga makes you laugh?
Yes, says Trimmel, who signed on in the second division in Berlin in 2014 and emphasizes: “The character of the club has remained the same.”
Supply and demand are far apart
“Of course, many fans were afraid after promotion that the club might change in the Bundesliga. It’s about supposedly banal things. For example, that ticket prices will go up, beer and sausages will be more expensive. The fans worry about that thoughts,” reports Trimmel.
Here, too, Zingler is a guarantee of stability: “The ‘Präsi’ immediately made it clear that he wouldn’t do that. The beer and the tickets still cost about the same – standing room around 15 euros.”
Here supply and demand differ widely. With its 22,000 seats, the old forester’s lodge has long since become far too small.
“We only have a small capacity and meanwhile twice as many members as fit into the stadium. There is always a raffle for the tickets, there is no other way.”
The President as a fan
Although Trimmel can think of an example that Union sometimes asks to pay: “I saw that we have one of the most expensive jerseys in the league.”
“Annoying one or the other opponent is part of it. But I assume that the table will be back to normal by winter at the latest.”
All in all, however, it is difficult to claim that, despite all the success, you are dealing with a detached club. Being close to the fans is and remains the basis, which according to Trimmel has to do with the boss:
“The president used to be part of the fan scene. On matchdays in particular, he’s more of a fan than the president, I’ve seen him a few times now. He puts himself in the club very well, thinks like a fan, but also thinks like one Player.”
It’s fun to shake up the league a bit
It will be interesting to see if, and if so when, the aforementioned burglary will occur. Thanks to the international break, Union will continue to smile from the top of the table for at least the next two weeks.
Then you slip back into the role of the cheeky but realistically down-to-earth outsider.
“It’s fun to stir up the league a bit,” Trimmel grins mischievously, “annoying one or the other opponent is part of it. But I assume that the table will be back to normal by winter at the latest.”