Second season syndrome appeared to have struck for Ruprecht Prusseit as his FSV Zwickau flirted with the relegation places then clambered back into mid-table in the first half of the 2023/24 campaign. But luckily, he still had a B- rating with the board and C+ rating with the supporters.
Prusseit now had a month-long break to reflect on a tricky few months and do a few deals in the transfer market. The first was forced by summer signing Daniel Kaladjdzic getting his knickers in a twist because he “hadn’t played as an advanced forward” despite doing so in six of his last 10 games. And he joined Vorwarts Steyr for £59k rising to £82k, which could become the club’s all-time record signing, surpassing the existing record of just £69k set back in 2013. Centre-back Robin Ziegele signed a deal with local rivals with Magdeburg in January, so Prusseit agreed to flog him now for £50k.
Kalajdzic was replaced by former Dortmund striker Timo Bornemann on a free. Prusseit also loaned a couple of players he was looking at signing on permanent deals in the summer in centre-back Andi Hoti from Inter and midfielder Nathan Wicht from 1860 Munchen. He was also keen to keep strengthening the youth side, which included the free transfer of Leipzig winger Cedric Zajkowski.
Looking to climb 3. Liga
Zwickau somehow managed to suffer an injury crisis despite having a month off. But they started 2024 well as a brace from striker Marvin Pourié and a delicious Alexander Nollenberger free-kick earned a 3-1 win at home to Bayreuth. That took them to seven games unbeaten and up to 11th in the table. Prusseit then had TEN players injured for a trip to Dortmund II and they unsurprisingly lost to them yet again, but only 1-0.
A rival clash with Energie Cottbus followed and they drew 1-1 in a fairly even game before surviving a battering from in-form Osnabruck to nick a 0-0. They then fell behind early on at bottom side Lubeck but raced into a 3-1 lead and, despite more defensive horrors, won 4-3 led by a Pourié brace.
A decent run of form ended dramatically with a 3-0 loss at home to Ingolstadt and a 5-3 battering at Magdeburg, which saw promising striker Tino Kaufmann, who’d scored 27 in 11 for the under-19s, score his first goal for the club. Just what they didn’t need now was games against the top two! Zwickau got robbed by a horrendous refereeing decision at home to 1860 Munchen who, with the score at 2-2, clearly fouled striker Luis Cortijo-Lange then went down the other end to score a winner. They then went to second-place Dresden, which saw an opponent score their first shot for what Prusseit guessed to be the fifth game in a row. But the hosts dominated and won 4-1.
Dragged back into a relegation scrap
That took Zwickau to four straight defeats and one win in eight, which saw them suddenly just four points above the relegation zone with eight games remaining.
First up was a game at home to Meppen who, shockingly, didn’t score their first shot on target. However, they did score an injury-time penalty to nick a 2-1 win. And Zwickau were now just three points above the dropzone. Prusseit decided to change things up by switching to a simplified 4-3-3 and dropping goalkeeper and captain Johannes Brinkies for 16-year-old Feisal Ali. The youngster did well to hold Elvesburg out until Bornemann scored his first goal, which meant Zwickau obviously had to concede the opponent’s next effort. And they eventually lost a close game 2-1, which put them two points clear of the relegation zone.
Next was an absolute must-win game against 19th-place Fortuna Dusseldorf II. They got a great start as Pourié drilled home after 20 minutes, Luís Júnior scored a brilliant volley and Noel Eichinger scored a bizarre third just before the break. Surely even Zwickau couldn’t throw this away? They couldn’t and Adriel smashed home a fourth from the penalty spot to seal a much-needed win and Ali’s first career clean sheet.
Next was a write-off against Freiburg II, who strolled to a 1-0 win in a terrible match. That dropped Zwickau to 17th but, crucially, five points clear of Erzgebirge Aue with four games remaining. Zwickau had a decent run-in with three games against teams also in the bottom six, but the season could easily hinge on a final-day Sachsen Derby.
Game 1 – Hallescher (18th, home): The first game in the relegation scrap was a massive local derby as Zwickau hosted Hallescher. A dreadful game saw nothing happen until Pourié won a penalty that Adriel tucked home after 58 minutes. Pourié hit the bar and Hallescher offered nothing until the 92nd minute, when Zwickau’s awful defence crumbled yet again to concede an equaliser. Erzgebirge won at Wiesbaden to close the gap to three points.
Game 2 – SpVgg Unterhaching (8th, away): Prusseit brought Brinkies back into the team and immediately regretted it. Unterhaching scored their first shot from a direct free-kick and strolled to a 3-0 win without Zwickau laying a glove on them. Erzgebirge drew 1-1 with Bayreuth to move within just two points.
Game 3 – Holstein Kiel (15th, home): This, as Sir Alex Ferguson would say, was squeaky-bum time. The first of two potential relegation six-pointers saw Zwickau entertain Kiel, with three points splitting 15th from 17th. Another change of formation saw Prusseit move to a 4-4-2 Diamond, as wingers clearly weren’t working, and throw Kaufmann in to line up with four youth products starting. And that worked well as Eichinger scored his first goal in months after seven minutes then won a penalty that Adriel converted. But Kiel had dominated the game and got a goal back just after the break then predictably equalised. Zwickay were all over the place and, despite several changes found themselves 3-2 down late on. Eicinger though he’d equalised but it was ruled out for offside.
Erzgebirge somehow drew 1-1 at Dortmund II to make it one point gap before a massive final-day Sachsen Derby clash.
Game 4 – Erzgebirge Aue (17th, away): Probably the biggest derby clash in East German history saw Erzgebirge and Zwickau lock horns with relegation on the line. Prusseit reverted to his 4-4-2 formation for the biggest game of his career.
An edgy start saw Erzgebirge firmly on top with seven shots to two in the first half hour then miss a huge chance just before the break. Prusseit thought he’d rallied the troops with a rousing half-time team talk, but they immediately conceded from an indirect free-kick. They then smacked the bar after an hour and Prusseit was seriously worried and desperate, so he made four subs and went to three up front. That nearly worked as Kaufmann immediately hit the post from 25 yards then Cortijo-Lange missed an absolute sitter at the back post in the final few minutes. But they couldn’t find a goal and lost 1-0.
FSV Zwickau were relegated from 3. Liga. And, as a result, Ruprecht Prusseit was sacked as Zwickau manager!
Prusseit had been let down by some truly awful performances by his defenders, especially the full-backs. They only won one of their last 12 games and lost 10 of them! While they only won three times in 17 games after the league restarted in January.
East German update
Elsewhere in Germany, RB Leipzig finished fourth in Bundesliga and Union Berlin finished eighth. Hansa Rostock avoided relegation from 2. Bundesliga by a point. Dresden won 3. Liga and were joined in promotion by Magdeburg. Zwickau and Hallescher were both relegated with Erzgebirge and Cottbus avoiding the drop.
So what now for Ruprecht Prusseit? Is this the end of the save? Or can he find himself a job elsewhere in East Germany?
It may take some time to find a job from the limited opportunities available, but join us next time to find out!