OstDeutscher Sieg | Part 4 | A Significant Step Up In Quality

Ruprecht Prusseit had enjoyed unexpected success in his first season as a Football Manager, leading SV Dessau 05 to an unexpected promotion led by the incredible goalscoring exploits of star striker Branden Stelmak. But the hard work began now as his semi-professional side made the step up to tier five with only a bunch of kids to work with.

Worryingly, the Dessau board had unsubstantiated lofty ambitions, advising Prusseit they expected a mid-table finish while playing defensive, counter-attacking and direct football. Furthermore, the club went into the new season £200,000 in the red, despite paying barely any wages – and was seemingly all due to paying staff wages and near-enough zero income. Better news was that they offered their manager a new one-year contract until the end of the 2023/24 campaign on £700 per week. Which was about £700 more than all of his remaining players.

The start of season two saw Dessau’s three senior players Stalmek, who was earning £375 a week, goalkeeper Zicos Resvanis and midfielder and coach Robert Römer all depart the club. Probably worse than that, he also released his entire backroom staff as they were either overpaid or terrible, and in most cases both, which meant a painful process of piecing together a new one. That included bringing in Toni’s brother Felix Kroos as his only coach on £25 per week.

The lack of staff meant that, for the first three weeks of pre-season, Prusseit couldn’t see how good any of his players were. And when he eventually could, he was slightly alarmed that recent academy graduates striker Tom Berg and goalkeeper Frank Sander were his best two players. While only those two and Koffi Laba are considered good enough to be of tier-five standard.

Prusseit did, however, make his first signings as a Football Manager, snapping up holding midfielder Tobias “Clubber” Lang and goalkeeper Ralf Wölk on free transfers. They were added to by new Director of Football Carlo Schmidt bringing in centre-back Jean-Pierre Saba.

Into A Strange German Tier Five

The step up to tier five saw Dessau enter the German Division North East-South (whatever that means!) division of the Oberliga tier. Strangely, all of the divisions at this level have different numbers of teams, for example, Dessau’s division had 16 teams, others had 20, some had 19, some had 17. It was all very strange!

What wasn’t strange was that Dessau were expected to struggle, with the club predicted to finish bottom of the table with odds of 150/1 to win the league. This time, only the winner gets promoted into Regionalliga with three teams being relegated. So it wasn’t looking good for Prusseit. Last year’s fellow promoted side Magdeburg II are again title favourites at 1/25 (even though they only have 13 players) followed by fellow East German side Wismut Gera (11/4).

Dessau began life at the new level by welcoming fellow East Germans and one of the top six promotion favourites VFC Plauen. They got battered in the early stages but took the lead against the run of play as winger Aluong Yaak sent Berg through for his debut goal, becoming the club’s youngest-ever goalscorer aged 16 years and 35 days. But Plauen scored a very dodgy penalty then Yaak got a ridiculous red card and they lost 3-1.

Another defeat followed in their first away day, 2-0 at Bautzen, before picking up a very lucky first point with a 1-1 draw at home to Eilenburg, despite being dominated by 23 shots to three! A first win followed at Rudolstadt as Berg headed home the opener then curled home a delicious 30-yard free-kick. However, the striker got sent off after 54 minutes, the hosts got a goal back then centre-back Kevin Wolf got a second yellow card. But Prusseit’s ultra-defensive tactics saw them just about hold on. But that proved very much the outlier as they struggled with the step up in quality.

One shard of optimism was a 1-1 draw at home to Wismut Gera amid a five-game winless streak. Prusseit decided to forget the negative tactics he’d been forced into, which worked as a balanced approach saw a better defensive performance as midfielder Wael Salhi nicked the only goal after half an hour. And that lifted them out of the relegation zone for the first time in six weeks.

Morale was strangely strengthened by only losing 1-0 to Magdeburg, which showed as Laba laid on goals for Yaak and a Berg brace to earn a 3-1 win at mid-table Nordhausen. And that was backed up by a first home win as midfielder Marc Kauffmann’s first senior goal and a tidy Yaak finish sealed a 2-1 comeback victory against Fahner Höhe. A 1-0 defeat followed at Oberlausitz but Berg’s second-half strike earned a vital 1-0 win at 12th-place Inter Leipzig.

That victory saw Dessau climb above Inter in the league, up into 12th place at the 15-game halfway mark of the season. Their games had been highly uninteresting, with Dessau scoring 14 and conceding 20, which meant the defensive football Prusseit’s board wanted was well and truly being delivered on.

Despite Dessau’s struggles, several Regionalliga (tier four) teams offered Prusseit interviews to fill their vacant managerial roles. However, none of the clubs that approached him, for now at least, were based in East Germany. Furthermore, it turned out the club had built a significant compensation fee into Prusseit’s contract that saw BFC Dynamo reject the opportunity to interview him for their vacant position.

However, Prusseit was happy at Dessau considering the significant potential in some of his exciting young prospects, considering 18 of the first-team squad have 5-star potential as do 17 more players in the youth squads.

Could Prusseit lead his young Dessau side to an unlikely survival? Join us on Monday to find out!


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