Frank Schmidt began his coaching career with then fourth-tier 1. FC Heidenheim in September 2007, winning his first five games in the dugout. His first defeat as a coach came on 27 October. The venue for that match was Sportzentrum Zuzenhausen and the opponents were the TSG Hoffenheim second team. Heidenheim lost 4-1 in front of 350 spectators. It was one of only four defeats in 28 league games throughout the then 33-year-old’s debut campaign as a coach.
Schmidt continued to make defeats a rare occurrence and helped Heidenheim to promotion to the 3. Liga the following year. After five years in the third division, during which time FCH consistently finished in the top half of the table, promotion to the 3. Bundesliga was secured in 2013/14. The much-desired step up to the Bundesliga almost occurred six years later in 2020, only for Heidenheim to lose to SV Werder Bremen under the old away goals rule in the promotion/relegation play-off (0-0, 2-2). The Ostalb outfit then finally sealed promotion three years later – in dramatic fashion. Frank Schmidt’s team scored two goals in stoppage time to win 3-2 at Jahn Regensburg on the last day of the season. The celebrations were huge, FCH became the Bundesliga’s 57th participant. And the man who has overseen multiple promotions remains in the same dugout where he started out 16 years ago.
Heidenheim are now set to face the TSG Hoffenheim first team in a competitive game for the first time, with the match on Saturday boasting far greater historical significance than the 4-1 defeat to the Hoffenheim reserves in the autumn of 2007. There is another interesting link to TSG too: Schmidt will have three former Hoffenheim players in his squad for Heidenheim’s first Bundesliga home game ever. Benedikt Gimber, Adrian Beck and Denis Thomalla all played in the TSG academy or for the U23s.
The dreams of a first point and a first goal did not materialise in their first-ever Bundesliga match, which saw Heidenheim suffer a 2-0 defeat in Wolfsburg. But the team displayed the high intensity and willingness to run with which they were synonymous in the 2. Bundesliga. No team ran more kilometres than Heidenheim in the opening round (123.2km). Frank Schmidt wants to build on that against Hoffenheim: “We have to start this game on home turf by showing our aggressiveness and our pressing,” said the head coach. TSG, meanwhile, want to ensure that the first Bundesliga home game in Heidenheim’s history does not result in a first point.