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“To have a comeback, you have to have a setback”, those are words once echoed by Mr. T, and this seems to ring true with SC Paderborn 07 who are making a very impressive comeback after several years of nothing but setbacks. The small-time club worked hard to eventually gain a seat at the top table of German football for the first time in their history in 2014, but from there it all went wrong. Paderborn did not dine at the top for very long, and when they were booted out they fell so far back that within a couple of seasons but for the grace of God they would have ended up playing regional football. Almost as quickly as they fell, however, has been their rapid rise back, and heading into the last 5 games the current season they find themselves just 4 points off an automatic promotion place that would take them back to the Bundesliga, Germany’s top-tier.
Based in the town of the same name that sits at the source of the River Pader, SC Paderborn were formed in 1985 after a merger between 3 local sides and first reached the second tier of German football in 2005. Paderborn became regulars in the second division and in 2013/14 went on to make history under coach André Breitenreiter. A second-placed finish that season saw Paderborn enter the big time, for the first time in their history they had been promoted to the Bundesliga.
Playing at their compact, modest but modern Benteler-Arena, Paderborn were a team that had a very small budget to go with their rather small stadium and weren’t expected to hang around in the top flight for very long. Paderborn looked like the might prove the doubters wrong, however, as they started their league campaign with a bang, remaining unbeaten after four games and finding themselves top of the Bundesliga. Things then calmed down a bit but a fairly successful first half of the season saw the club enter the winter break in 10th position.
The second half of the season, however, saw Paderborn drop right down the table. Paderborn were losing games whilst the teams below them slowly began to pick up points and overtake them. After a 6-0 defeat at home to FC Bayern in February, the threat of relegation was becoming deadly serious. Things were now beginning to turn out how people had expected before the season started. More defeats followed and in March Paderborn finally entered the bottom three where come the end of the season they would still be, ending the season in last place. But that was just the beginning…
After relegation Breitenreiter moved on to Schalke 04 and Paderborn struggled, with interim boss Markus Gellhaus lasting only till October after the club took just 10 points from their opening 11 matches. This dreadful start meant that when in a surprise appointment pundit Steffen Effenberg left the tv studio and took over at the club they were already sliding towards another relegation. Effenburg described himself as the ‘New One’, but there wasn’t really anything new about his Paderborn team as the dismal results continued and he did not last the season. Academy coach Rene Müller took charge for the final ten games but could not stop the unthinkable and the club finished rock bottom for the second season running.
With so many players having jumped ship, Paderborn entered the third tier 3. Liga with a squad barely recognisable from the side that had played in the Bundesliga only two seasons earlier. This new unsettled side did not however fair any better than the teams of the two previous campaigns and after a disastrous start to the season Müller was eventually sacked in November when Paderborn lost 6-0 to Sportfreunde Lotte, a team playing in the third tier for the first ever season in their history. Müller’s replacement was out the door by Easter and Paderborn went into their final game of the season with relegation a real threat. Drawing 0-0 with VFL Osnabruck they thought they were safe, but an 84th minute goal for Werder Bremen II in their match with Aalen saw Bremen II finish a point ahead of Paderborn who dropped to 18th (out of 20) and took the final relegation spot.
Having played in the Bundesliga just two seasons previously, Paderborn would be playing next season in the West Division of the semi-professional fourth-tier Regionalliga, a fall from grace of mammoth proportions. At least that’s what was supposed to happen, but 1860 Munich, however, had other ideas…
Having just been relegated from the 2. Bundesliga, 1860 Munich due to financial problems were not able to obtain a licence to play in the 3.Liga for the following season. Not being able to play in the 3. Liga meant Munich’s second club would have to settle for a place in the Regionalliga and Paderborn would be given a reprieve and stay in the 3. Liga at 1860 Munich’s expense. No club had ever been relegated from the Bundesliga to the Regionalliga in three consecutive seasons and Paderborn’s men in black and blue were set to be the first, but thanks to a serious stroke of luck a third successive relegation would not be coming to the mouth of the Pader.
Having taken charge late on in the season and tried his best to save Paderborn from relegation, Steffen Baumgart remained in charge for the following season of 2017/18 that followed, and after drawing their opening match the club then won 7 in a row as they stormed to the top of the table. Paderborn remained top for much of the season before eventually finishing in second. The previous season they should have by rights been relegated for a third successive season, but with circumstances elsewhere working in their favour they stayed up and then produced the most remarkable of turnarounds to secure promotion back the 2. Bundesliga. It really was a script you couldn’t write.
During the first half of the current 2018/19 season it looked like too many draws might stop Paderborn from progressing beyond a mid-table finish during their first season back in the second tier, but winning their final two games before the winter break and 5 out of their first 6 when the league restarted put them firmly in title contention. Mixed results in recent weeks means they are as mentioned four points off an automatic promotion spot and one-off the promotion/relegation play-off birth, but with 5 games still to play anything is possible and who’s to say they can’t make it back to the Bundesliga for next season and complete a stunning rise as dramatic as their unbelievable fall?