Cologne fires coach Solbakken as relegation looms
Cologne has sacked coach Stale Solbakken four games before the end of the Bundesliga season.
Former coach Frank Schaefer is returning on Friday morning to prepare the side for Sunday's Rhine derby at Borussia Moenchengladbach, the club announced Thursday.
The 48-year-old Schaefer left Cologne in April last year as the club struggled to avoid relegation.
Cologne currently occupies the Bundesliga's relegation playoff place. It has a league-high 17 losses and conceded 63 goals, more than any other side in the league this season.
Tuesday's 4-0 defeat at Mainz was the final straw for the 44-year-old Solbakken, who becomes the eighth Bundesliga coach to be fired this season.
''Cologne's league survival is our highest priority in the final stage of the season. We have to make all decisions based on this goal without any ifs or buts,'' said board of directors chairman Werner Wolf.
''After the game against Mainz the layoff of Stale Solbakken is a regrettable but unavoidable step at this time.''
Before accepting the Cologne job, Solbakken had signed a three-year deal to take over as Norway coach this year. Cologne reportedly paid up to ?520,000 (then $742,560) in compensation to the Norwegian football association.
Solbakken was previously coach of FC Copenhagen, which he led to five Danish league titles.
The former Norway international had several off-the-pitch issues to contend with at Cologne, including incessant speculation about star player Lukas Podolski's reported transfer to Arsenal.
Polish midfielder Slawomir Peszko spent last Saturday night in police custody after an alcohol-related dispute with a taxi driver.
Earlier this season, Cologne fined defender Miso Brecko for crashing his car under the influence during the city's carnival celebrations, while another defender, Kevin Pezzoni, suffered a broken nose after being attacked by an unknown assailant.
''I give the players a lot of freedom. But they must prove they can deal with it, or if I'm overseeing a kindergarten here,'' Solbakken said at the time.
Schaefer coached Cologne for 22 games last season, leaving after a 4-1 defeat at Wolfsburg, before then sporting director Volker Finke ensured Bundesliga survival as interim coach.
Finke left the club by mutual consent in March. Cologne is still searching for a new sporting director.
''Schaefer already showed last season that he can motivate the team to top performances. He knows the players and can start tomorrow,'' board chairman Claus Horstmann said.
''He also has a lot of favor with the fans, on whose support our team relies in this difficult situation.''
German media reported that former St. Pauli and Hoffenheim coach Holger Stanislawski turned down Cologne's offer to succeed Solbakken.