Whether or not 1. FFC Frankfurt clinch their first Frauen Bundesliga title for six years by avoiding defeat at VfL Wolfsburg on Sunday, it has certainly been a successful season for the trailblazing women's club.
The only side to win three UEFA women's club titles, and seven times champions of Germany between 1999/2000 and 2007/08, Frankfurt have not claimed either the continental or the domestic crown in the last six seasons. Indeed, just once since the European competition was rebranded as the UEFA Women's Champions League in 2009/10 have Frankfurt even competed, finishing runners-up to Olympique Lyonnais two years ago in Munich.
But things are now changing. In May Frankfurt lifted the German Cup, ending for them a lengthy three-year wait since the same tournament gave them their last silverware. And last weekend a dramatic 2-1 victory over perennial rivals 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam in front of 7,250 fans secured a top-two finish and a return to Europe, which had been Frankfurt's pre-season goal.
Kerstin Garefrekes's last-gasp header against Potsdam also ensured Frankfurt stayed ahead of reigning German and European champions Wolfsburg, meaning FFC will wrest back the league title if they can complete an unbeaten season when they visit the VfL Stadion.
Yet how has the resurgence of traditionally the financially-dominant German club, undefeated in competition games in 2013/14, come about? First, there is new coach Colin Bell, who replaced Sven Kahlert a year ago. Unlike his predecessor, the Englishman (not to be confused with the former Manchester City FC player of the same name) had experience in the women's game with SC 07 Bad Neuenahr and the 52-year old ex-1. FSV Mainz 05 defender obviously hit home with his calm and prudent demeanour and was able to unite the many internationals in Frankfurt's squad.
"I never leave my team alone, because I love the girls," Bell said. "At Frankfurt, I have met grown-up women with their own minds. I have tried to create visions and ways to reach this. You have to keep the reins in your hand, you may loosen them, but never give them away."
Notably, Frankfurt are already the only side to have denied Wolfsburg a trophy in the past two campaigns, beating them 1-0 in the German Cup in November, and defender Peggy Kuznik said: "The coach has managed to instil hunger into everyone again. He plays a decisive part in our success."
Whatever happens on Sunday, though, there will be changes for their European return, for which there will be the carrot of another German final, this time in Berlin. Definitely leaving are German internationals Melanie Behringer (FC Bayern München) and Babett Peter (Wolfsburg) while experienced defender Saskia Bartusiak may be out for almost all of next term after a knee injury suffered against Potsdam. But if Bell's summer signings can match the success of this season's arrivals Célia Šašić, Asuna Tanaka and Kuznik, more glory could be on the horizon.
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