Fallen Kings of the Castle (SC Westfalia Herne)

Sportclub Westfalia 04 e.V. Herne was formed in June 1904 by local factory worker Willi Stens who had been playing for the BV Steele club. He was elected as president and looked to friends from the area around the well to do neighbourhood of Schloss Strünkede to become the first team. The original Strünkede Castle was built in 1243 by the Lords of Strünkede who had been nobility since 1142. The current castle was completed in 1664 and provides a serene and stately backdrop to the huge open terrace opposite the grandstand. Westfalia Herne originally chose red and white stripes as their kit although this would be replaced by today’s strip of blue and white stripes in 1914. The industrial city of Herne soon became well served with competitive teams with Germania Herne being formed in 1909 and SV Sodingen some three years after that. This led to a number of well attended local derbies in the first few decades of the twentieth century. However disaster struck in 1923 with much of the Ruhr still being occupied buy the French, Westfalia Herne were officially dissolved. However, unknown to the occupying authorities the club carried on playing and in 1925 merged with Fortuna Herne and began “officially” competing again. The merger made the club very powerful and two straight promotions in 1929 and 1930 saw Herne rise to the top flight.

In 1933 the club were placed in the Gauliga Westfalia as German football fell under the administration of the Third Reich. It soon became apparent that the meadow rented by Willi Stens had served its purpose and Westfalia Herne needed a home more suitable to their burgeoning support and status. The club opened their new stadium next to the Schloss Strünkede in 1934. Built on an audacious scale boasting a 40,000 capacity the new ground would welcome the likes of Schalke 04, Borussia Dortmund and VfB Bochum on a regular basis. The Second World War became problematic for Westfalia Herne as the British commander in the Ruhr locked the club out of the stadium. Club President Hermann Kracht held conservative views and after negotiations with the military a friendly between Westfalia Herne and the British troops saw the club allowed back into the stadium for good.

The 1940’s and 1950’s were a golden era for football in Herne with both Westfalia and SV Sodingen competing in the top flight for many seasons, unheard of outside of the major metropolises like Berlin, Munich and Hamburg. To celebrate their fiftieth anniversary in 1954 Westfalia Herne opened the newly built grandstand increasing the seated capacity at the Schloss Strünkede. In 1958 three Westfalia Herne players, Hans Tilkowski, Helmut Benthaus and Alfred Pyka played together in the same German national team. A year later under the guidance of Fritz Langner, Westfalia Herne became champions of the top flight Oberliga West. In May 1960 a crucial match against Hamburger SV saw an all time record 35,000 pack into the Herne stadium. Westfalia were runners up in the league the following season and despite consistent league performances the club missed out on election to the new Bundesliga in 1963.

The advent of the new national league really spelt the end of the glory years for Herne football, Westfalia were relegated to the third tier and SV Sodingen slumped even further and currently play in the seventh tier Landesliga. The 1970’s saw the club sponsored by the petroleum company Goldin, the stadium was renovated and Westfalia competed in the 2.Bundesliga-Nord. Four great years followed with well known players like Lutz Gerresheim, Jochen Abel or Sören Busk played for Herne. A famous 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund was witnessed by 27,000 at the Schloss Strünkede.  However disaster struck the club once again when the sponsor went bust and Herne pulled out of the league after just one game of the 1979/80 campaign. The club handed their professional licence back to the DFB and regrouped in the Amateur Westfalen Oberliga.

Also in 1980 the club played a central part of the film “Theo Gegen den Rest Der Welt” where the lead character has a ticket for the (fictitious) DFB Pokal match between SC Westfalia Herne against Schalke 04 but has to miss the big game when his truck is stolen.

This season has been a real struggle for this once mighty club. Competing in the fifth tier Oberliga Westfalia Herne have won just one of their fifteen league games and sit rock bottom of the table with just six points. Today’s visitors VfB Hüls are thirteenth in the 18 team division and Herne’s hopes of victory take a dramatic early blow. In just the third minute defender Yusuf Kilic handled a goal bound shot and despite him protesting his innocence he was shown a red card and Marko Onucka clinically despatched the penalty kick. Hüls doubled their lead before the break and despite Herne pulling one back after the restart with a penalty of their own in truth Herne were second best from start to finish. Today the magnificent Stadion am Schloss Strünkede echoed eerily with a crowd of around 400 (officially stated as 250) and the sixth tier trapdoor is well and truly open for this great club.

Despite their on field woes Herne still have their truly incredible ground, for me it’s a set of floodlights away from being the best ground I have ever visited. Just go there, they really do need the support.

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Sunday February 22nd 2015 – Oberliga Westfalen

Westfalia Herne (0) 1 (Mützel pen 49)

VfB Hüls (2) 2 (Onucka pen 4, Schröter  37)

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