A Season Of Unfeasible Numbers – Lokomotive Leipzig 2004-05

GermanyStirling Albion is an unremarkable lower league Scottish football club with one remarkable claim to fame. In December of 1984 Albion kicked off a Scottish Cup First Round tie at home to Selkirk and 90 minutes later had recorded the biggest winning margin in any senior British club game during the 20th century: 20-0.

Lokomotive LeipzigVery few of us will have been lucky enough to see the team we support hit even double figures, but if you’re a fan of Lokomotive Leipzig then you’re likely to have a blasé attitude to Stirling Albion’s achievement. Back in the 2004-05 season, not only did Lokomotive match the Scottish club’s record in winning a home competitive fixture 20-0, just a matter of months later they replicated that feat, and this time away from home.

Rather than a couple of freakishly random aberrations, those games were broadly representative of the team’s results over the entire season. Every single one of their 26 League games was won and by usually such emphatic margins that Lokomotive was averaging a dozen goals a game – or a goal every seven and a half minutes. Two of their other League games yielded 19 goal hauls and on three further occasions 17 goals crashed past bemused opposition keepers.

Rainer Lisiewicz
Rainer Lisiewicz

There’s a catch here of course. By 2004 this was a club that bore little resemblance to either of its distinguished former identities as VfB Leipzig, three-time national champions in the early years of the German game, or the original Lokomotive Leipzig, a powerhouse of the East German Oberliga. While this famous old institution had once competed with the great and the good of German football, the motley collection of opponents being mercilessly pummelled every week during the 2004-05 season merely reflected the vastly reduced circumstances Lok found themselves in.

Following German reunification the club reclaimed its pre-war name and even reached the Bundesliga in 1993, but relegation the following season set in motion a precipitous decline in their fortunes: a decade later the moribund club had sunk to the fifth tier of the German pyramid and collapsed into bankruptcy. Supporters sprang into action and re-established the club as 1.FC Lokomotive Leipzig.

New coach and former Lokomotive player Rainer Lisiewicz hosted an open training day to assemble a new squad from scratch. A hundred local fans turned up for a trial and the best 25 were selected to form the club’s first team squad for the season ahead in the 3.Kreisklasse, Staffel 2: a local amateur division down in the depths of the eleventh tier of the German game. Half of the clubs in this division were the second or third teams of clubs you never knew even had a first team – FSV Großpösna II and VfB Zwenkau 02 III anyone?

Rene Heusel
Rene Heusel

The biggest mental hurdle that Lokomotive faced was overcoming the fourteen minute window of uncertainty – the time it took René Heusel to score the restored club’s first goal in its opening home fixture against the second team of SV Leipzig 1910. From that point there was no looking back and the rest of this game – and the campaign in its entirety – brought a blizzard of goals. With 8 minutes remaining Lokomotive led 11-1 and still had time to score six more unanswered goals.

A fortnight later the visitors of Paunsdorf Devils endured a hellish time at Lok’s Bruno Plache Stadion on the wrong end of a 20-0 trouncing. Forward Ronnie Richter scored 8 goals and yet he was upstaged by a substitute who failed to find the net at all. Henning Frenzel is a Lokomotive legend who spent 18 years at the club and the ex-forward was persuaded to come out of retirement to make a one-off appearance.

Henning Frenzel
Henning Frenzel

That the reborn club would want to capitalise on its proud heritage was natural, but Frenzel was a player who had played for his country at the 1964 Olympics – forty years earlier – and had retired from playing several years even before the fall of the Berlin Wall. But here he was back guesting for his beloved Lokomotive at the age of 62.

Frenzel was the oldest of a number of veterans who guested for the club over the course of this season, most notably Heiko Scholz who had played for Lokomotiv in the 1988 European Cup Winners Cup Final. Now 38 years old and a coach at MSV Duisburg, the former defender was happy to come out of retirement and lend his support to the cause.

World Cup winner Lothar Matthäus wrote about the club’s resurrection in his newspaper column and despite having no personal connection to the club or city, he made a promise to turn out for them. He was true to his word and at the age of 44 – and four years after quitting playing – appeared in a Leipzig City Cup semi-final tie.

The enormous gulf in playing standard between Lokomotive and the rest of the division was replicated in spectator numbers. At a level where an attendance figure of 200 was considered a revelation, Lokomotive’s early home League fixtures averaged over 6,000. One of their home matches early in the season against Eintracht Großdeuben II was switched to the city’s giant Zentralstadion and the 12.421 attendance is a world record for a game played at such a low level.

Lothar Matthaus
Lothar Matthaus

A few more cartoonish statistics from this once in a lifetime season. Lok’s perfect League record was achieved with 316 goals scored and just 13 conceded, and as well as easing to promotion the club also won the Leipzig City Cup by defeating SSV Markranstädt, then a team from three divisions higher up the German pyramid and now the foundation of the very successful RB Leipzig.

Lok’s many goals were predominantly shared among four players: René Heusel led the way with 81, Ronny Richter managed 57 and Maik Hänish scored 35 from midfield. Dirk Vogt was statistically the most effective with his 44 goals coming from just a dozen appearances. Lokomotive’s least clinical day in front of goal yielded a mere half a dozen goals in a 6-1 victory over Automation Leipzig and their most defensively lax performance saw them concede three against Eintracht Leipzig II. It was a good thing that there was a handy margin of error thanks to the 14 goals they had scored at the other end.

A couple of oddities. Later in the season SV Althen 90 II became the second team to suffer the ignominy of a 20-0 defeat at the hands of Lokomotive, and yet this still wasn’t the highest margin of victory seen in the division. That particular achievement belonged to Automation Leipzig who thumped Paunsdorf Devils – firmly enshrined as the whipping boys of this article – 23-0 in the opening round of fixtures.

And then there was the slightly sour note of Lok’s promotion festivities in May 2005. A high-profile home friendly was arranged against a Hertha Berlin team that had narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification. For reasons unknown the Berliners chose to mystifyingly disregard friendly match convention and play the game at full tilt. Unsurprisingly given the huge gulf in quality and fitness between Bundesliga professionals and local amateurs the outcome wasn’t pretty: 15-1 in favour of the Bundesliga side.

So Lokomotive’s unfeasible season ended soberly with the club on the wrong end, for once, of the sort of torrid hammering they had spent the whole season handing out to the makeweights of the 3. Kreisklasse, Staffel 2.

Lok Leipzig 2004-05

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