From village side to top of Bundesliga

PUBLISHED: 08:29 09 December 2008 | UPDATED: 13:58 04 March 2010

HISTON are not the first club to reach for the stars.

Football's lower reaches are littered with those who attempted to satisfy their ambitions.

In Germany's Bundesliga, 1899 Hoffenheim are riding high at the top of the league.

HISTON are not the first club to reach for the stars.

Football's lower reaches are littered with those who attempted to satisfy their ambitions.

In Germany's Bundesliga, 1899 Hoffenheim are riding high at the top of the league.

Not bad for a village boasting a population of about 3,000 - the smallest community with its own team in the top tier of any leading league.

Hoffenheim's rise has been facilitated by their sugar daddy, Dietmar Hopp. In 1972 he co-founded a company called SAP AG that went on to become Europe's biggest computer software producer.

Today he has a personal fortune of more than £2 billion.

He chose to invest in Hoffenheim in part because, in the 1950s, he played centre forward for their youth side.

When he took over, the club were in the eighth tier of the German pyramid - 18 years later, they are rubbing shoulders with Bayern Munich.

Most of his early investment was in youth football. He brought in highly regarded coaches and built a state-of-the-art training ground.

Next year, they will move into the 30,000-seat stadium Hopp built.

Hopp is convinced Hoffenheim have enough of a catchment area to survive. To judge by the 13,200 season tickets sold, he may have a reasonable case.

But not every meteoric rise has such a happy ending.

The latest club to perish after expectations had rocketed were Gretna, the tiny Scottish club who dared to dream.

Founded in 1946, the club's pre-millennium history is hardly sparkling.

Despite being based in Scotland, the club played in the English non-league from 1947 until elected to the Scottish Football League at the third attempt in 2002.

Enter businessman Brooks Mileson, the supposedly mega-wealthy benefactor who set about turning Gretna into a Premier League outfit.

With his bucks bankrolling the Raydale Park revolution, the Scottish minnows tore up through the divisions, from the Third Division to the SPL in less than five years.

But all was not right behind the scenes.

With tiny gates, Gretna's ascent was not sustainable and the club's debts quickly began to mount up.

When Mileson fell ill, he withdrew his financial support, leaving Gretna on the brink.

The club was only able to compete its fixtures last season because the league promised to cover the cost of players' wages.

Mileson died on November 3.

In the spring of 2008 it was revealed by the administrator that Gretna had creditors of nearly £4m and assets (Raydale Park) of less than £1m.

HM Revenue and Customs was owed nearly £600,000 in total, and it was their threat to wind up the company that precipitated Gretna's move into administration.

Gretna resigned from the Scottish Football League in June, the club being dissolved soon after and liquidated by the administrators.

The dream was officially over.

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