So the Bundesliga waves a goodbye to FC Cologne after their relegation was confirmed with a 3-2 defeat at Freiburg on Saturday. With only 22 points and five wins all season, it does not look too pretty for Armin Veh’s side. Eight points off 15th place, are there any positives for the North Rhine-Westphalia side looking ahead to next season?
Well, one major boost for the club was recently announced as star assets Timo Horn and Jonas Hector signed new contracts keeping them at the club, despite interest from clubs with higher calibre.
Left-back Hector has committed to the club until 2023. For a player nearly at the age of 28-generally accepted as a professional player’s peak-this contract is a sign of complete loyalty to a club where his career was forged.
Chemistry within the dressing room must be good for such deals to be made, especially with relegation looming ominously over the club when the contracts were signed.
‘‘It would have been no problem for me to switch to another club after this season. But it would not have felt right.’’
For a German international who has appeared 36 times for a very good national side, there would clearly be plenty of interest in luring him away from FC Cologne. His refusal to consider such speculation can be nothing other than a positive for the Billy Goats.
We may hang our heads today, but tomorrow we start by picking ourselves up again. Thank you for your support, #effzeh fans. ? pic.twitter.com/4xbRB5Mk7o
— 1. FC Cologne (@fckoeln_en) April 28, 2018
Likewise, Timo Horn has attracted interest from more high-profile clubs than FC Cologne-with rumours of moves to Liverpool and Arsenal being particularly prominent-but he has stayed loyal to his local club.
Both Horn and Hector will be strong personnel to have in the second division as Veh’s side will undoubtedly want to bounce straight back up. Keeping hold of those two players could be a huge step in making that a reality.
‘‘Despite a difficult season, FC Cologne has managed to create an excellent situation for the upcoming season and has ambitious goals. This is very important for me. I will do my best to put us back on the path to success,’’ said Horn.
Indeed, having qualified for Europe under Peter Stoger last season, it was somewhat surprising how this slump has arisen this campaign. Nevertheless, the experience of playing the likes of Arsenal in Europe can only have developed the players and have been learnt from for when they play at a lower level next season.
Beating Arsenal 1-0 (albeit a Gunners side who had already qualified) and BATE Borisov 5-2 proved FC Cologne have it within them to do better than they did during much of their disappointing domestic season.
Speaking after the club’s relegation was confirmed, manager Veh said:
‘‘We will start tomorrow by picking ourselves up, learning from our mistakes, and work towards making it back to the Bundesliga. We are well prepared for it, but it will not be easy. It is a long road, but our goal is clear: promotion in 2019.’’
Without the distraction of the Europa League next season, FC Cologne can fully concentrate on this ambition of promotion. Four consecutive years of experience in the top-flight can be used to their advantage in the second division.
With the likes of Horn and Hector around as well, few will bet against Veh’s side responding well to their relegation setback.