Why you should never go back

In the heady days of spring in 2007 a largely unfancied VFB Stuttgart team lifted the Bundesliga title and reached the cup final. The man behind this, Armin Veh, became an instant hero. Seven and a half years on, he has left the club. And although his previous success means he may never have to buy a beer again in Stuttgart, it is certainly not the farewell he had in mind.

The thing is, this is the second time he has cleaned out his desk in Stuttgart. Veh returned to the club this summer, enthusing about a special relationship with VFB and a desire to build something for the future. While a relationship may still exist, this second ‘fling’ will have hurt both parties. And as for the building work, well he didn’t even have time to lay the foundations.

Veh grossly overachieved by winning the league in 2007 and was always on a hiding to nothing after that. The team never looked like being able to defend their crown and finished way off the pace in sixth in 2008. Things continued to slip the year after and Veh was relieved of his duties in November with Stuttgart languishing in the lower reaches of the league.

However, trainers in the Bundesliga are never out of work for a long time and he soon rocked up at defending champions VFL Wolfsburg, replacing Felix Magath.

Unfortunately, Wolfsburg, and subsequently Veh, struggled and he lasted only half of his first season before being shown the door at the Volkswagen Arena. The end of that season saw him head north to HSV Hamburg, before again being sacked and heading back down south – and down into the second division – to take over at Eintracht Frankfurt.

In Frankfurt Veh finally enjoyed some success and relative longevity, immediately leading the team back into the Bundesliga. The wind was once again in his sails and Frankfurt continued to impress, finishing in sixth place following their promotion. Veh had his mojo back and his stock was at its highest since the glory days of 2006/2007. Nevertheless, he moved on once more, but this time on his terms – announcing before the season’s end that it would be his last in Frankfurt.

His return to Stuttgart was both expected and surprising. On the one hand, Veh still loved the club and would always be remembered fondly. Alongside that, Stuttgart had lurched from trainer to trainer and had consistently slid down the Bundesliga pecking order. In short, they needed a pick-me-up. But on the other hand, what did Veh think he could realistically achieve? VFB sure as hell weren’t going to be challenging for the title anytime soon, and his time in Wolfsburg and Hamburg must have warned him against harboring ideas of a long-term plan.

Despite the fairytale rhetoric surrounding his comeback, Veh was returning to a very different side to the one he had left and the season never really got started. Aside from a couple of memorable matches – coming back from 3-0 down at home to Leverkusen to draw 3-3, and winning an amazing 5-4 away match at his old team Frankfurt – it was a dour time to be in the Cannstatter Kurve. Uninspiring football and lack of investment in the squad led to the dismissal of sporting director, and fellow VFB legend, Fredi Bobic. Bobic had been largely responsible for bringing Veh back, and the writing seemed to be on the wall for the trainer.

To his credit, Veh quickly realized that it wasn’t working second time around. “It’s shit”, he said bluntly, when announcing his resignation. Reportedly he has done so without cashing in on a large compensation package, which is a move that will undoubtedly score him some points with the fans. But however graceful an ending it may have been, it leaves both club and trainer on a downward trajectory.

As is the nature of the Bundesliga, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Armin Veh back in action before the season is over. But whatever his next move may be, he will surely think twice about returning to another of his former clubs.

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