When Max Kruse scored a late winner to beat Borussia Mönchengladbach last weekend, Union Berlin made it six games in all competitions without loss and more importantly moved them into a Champions League spot.
I remember watching Union’s promotion play-off tie against Stuttgart at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei in 2019 from the comfort of my shared apartment in Hildesheim, Lower Saxony. From that moment, Union were on a trajectory that no one could possibly fathom. At the end of their second season, Berlin’s now top team secured a place at UEFA’s new Conference League. The fact they have continued to go from strength to strength whilst juggling European ties is a story in itself. Yes, they may have taken a bit of time to adjust but they’re now looking likely to secure another European competition with perhaps the Europa League or even Champions League on the cards.
If you look on social media, you might find some Union fans celebrating that they are once again close to securing their safety in the Bundesliga. It’s this down to earth mindset that keeps Union’s fans on their feet. They understand that highs such as this can end just as quickly as they started. A club that has had such humble beginnings is reluctant to forget its past and just simply jump on the ‘big boys’ bandwagon. Ironically, it appears that this way of thinking is what is launching Union Berlin and its fans into the high positions of the Bundesliga.
So what’s the secret formula for such success? Union doesn’t spend the money that teams around them do simply because those funds don’t exist. From an outsiders perspective, their squad isn’t glittered with well-known players. On the face of it, they could be perceived as a team of misfits who are all fighting for one cause. It’s amazing what a great team spirit and the belief in one system can bring.
With 20 games gone in this season’s Bundesliga, Union Berlin occupy fourth spot and are just one point off Bayer Leverkusen in third. Though teams such as RB Leipzig and Freiburg are not far behind, the fact that a club such as Union is competing is an amazing achievement in itself. However, don’t think for one second that these players are happy to just be there for the moment. With Urs Fischer pulling the strings, this squad will believe in themselves and continue to fight for a European spot. Whether that’s the Europa League or even Champions League, we shall see.
It’s been quaint a week for Union Berlin. Before beating Gladbach on the weekend and climbing to fourth, they knocked out their city rivals, Hertha, to go through to the quarter-finals of the DFB Pokal. If ever there was a week to prove your superiority in a city that is filled with so many historic clubs, this was it. You’d forgive someone being a bit smug or pleased with themselves if they’d had the week Union had just had. However, you’ll most likely find Union fans just going about their business and looking ahead to the next fixture. You hear the cliché of “one game at a time” a lot in football these days and we’d expect no different from Union Berlin. There’s something noble about a club and its fanbase not to get ahead of steam. They will gladly take the applaudist but not let it fill their egos too much. In fact, it’s a breath of fresh air coming from an Englishmen who has spent years watching some fan groups in the Premier League lord their success over others.
Of course, it’s worth noting, and Union fans reading this will point out, there is still a long way to go yet and nothing is for certain. Die Eisernen still have to play the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Leipzig, and Freiburg. However, don’t be too surprised if Union secure a top seven place this season. Since entering the Bundesliga stage, Union Berlin has played and charmed its way into many German football fans’ hearts (unless you’re a Hertha fan of course). I think I can speak for all of those people when i say, long may Union’s success continue.
By Jamie Allen.