This season has been one for the fairytales. Luton Town recently completed a tremendous rise to the Premier League from Non-League in the time span of a decade. The Hatters won against Coventry City in the ‘richest game in football‘ on penalties to play top-flight football after 20 years.
Although, Luton Town’s remarkable rise isn’t the only one that needs to be talked about. Something similar has happened in the German League.
Heidenhein FC, a German club that once played their football in the fifth tier, have completed a stunning campaign to earn promotion to Bundesliga. Climbing up the German football ladder hasn’t been easy for Heidenheim FC and their manager Frank Schmidt – who has been their manager for the last 16 years since 2007.
What began as just an interim position, Schmidt would be proud of getting his team so close to the ultimate achievement in the club’s history. Heading into the final matchday of Bundesliga 2, Heidenheim FC are just a win away from securing an automatic promotion to the German top-flight.
But how has the small-town club reached heights that one could never have imagined – not even their fans. FootTheBall maps Heidenheim FC’s remarkable rise and journey from the fifth tier of German football to Bundesliga promotion.
Heidenheim’s journey from where it all began
A club that is situated between Stuttgart and Munich, Heidenheim isn’t exactly a place where the best of German footballers have been produced. But this of all makes their rise and promotion all the more remarkable.
The club are backed by a billionaire company Voith who have a revenue of $4.5 billion, but Heidenheim haven’t had the financial support or backing when compared to the likes of Hoffenheim or Leipzig.
In 2020, Heidenheim played their first-ever playoff finals against Werder Bremen for a place in the Bundesliga. Even though they lost that one, Schmidt and his men have only gotten better since then.
This time around they have gone and gotten the job done well before they have to play the qualifiers. After some final day and final minute drama, Heidenheim have finished on top of the Bundesliga 2 table. A playoff final defeat and Bundesliga promotion in the last four seasons speaks volumes of the club’s progress after plying their trade in the fifth tier of German football back in 2007. .
A fact that makes their progress even more better is that, cash-backed RB Leipzig are the only other club to have played in the fifth tier of German football and Bundesliga in this century. Heidenheim have never had any money injected inside the club which portrays how efficiently the club has functioned ever since the appointment of Frank Schmidt.
— FootTheBall FC (@FootTheBallFC) May 27, 2023
The Frank Schmidt effect on Heidenheim
The team have been functioning as one unit, and it’s all thanks to one man – Frank Schmidt. The German manager will be celebrating his 16th anniversary in September 2023 and that in itself is evidence of the wonderful job he has done at Heidenheim.
Schmidt has had to get his teams to play in different leagues, in different ways for the last 16 years and he has done it seamlessly. The Heidenheim manager is the longest-serving coach in the top two tiers of the English, German, Spanish, Italian and French leagues. Diego Simeone is the closest that anyone comes, with the Argentinian joining Atletico Madrid three years after Schmidt.
What to expect from Heidenheim
Ever since the 2022/23 season began, promotion has looked likely for Schmidt and Heidenheim FC. They have only lost twice this league and only once at home – The Voith Arena.
Former Bundesliga giants Hamburger are just a point behind Heidenheim and neutral fans would be delighted to see them back in the Bundesliga. Although the final day was not to be there without the drama that was expected, Heidenheim were trailing until the 95th minute. With 2 goals in 4 minutes of added time, Heidenheim made sure they finished as league leaders of Bundesliga 2, with other results going their way.
The club have been oozing confidence from every aspect – be it on the field or off the field and that has helped them push for their automatic promotion. A Bundesliga promotion has been the cherry on top for them, but had they missed out for the second time in four years, Heidenheim are still no doubt the club to watch out for once again next season.
Many would argue that Heidenheim shouldn’t have gotten so far in the first place, but their belief is what sets them apart from the rest of their competitors. Bundesliga or not, Schmidt and Heidenheim are the real deal in German football.