One of the stories of the season in the Bundesliga so far has been that of SV Darmstadt, and the newly promoted club's bright start to the campaign. Key to their plans has been the influential Konstantin Rausch, who joined the club in the summer from Stuttgart on a free transfer.
Darmstadt ended their 33 year absence from the top flight last year with a surprise second place finish in Bundesliga 2. As a small club in an ever improving league they were expected to find it tough to compete with the giants of German football but they have fared better than many would have expected.
At the half-way mark in the season they are three places and three points above the relegation zone and have rarely been outclassed.
Ever-present and in-form
Konstantin Rausch has appeared in all but one of their league games so far as either a left-back or in a left-midfield role. He left Stuttgart in the summer having fallen badly out of favour at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, where he barely featured last term. He opted to leave the club a year before the end of his contract and a move to Damstadt was one that suited all parties.
Stuttgart got rid of a player, who clearly was unlikely to feature but was still on a reasonable salary, while Rausch got a fresh start and a new challenge without having to move abroad or down a division. Darmstadt meanwhile got an experienced campaigner.
Although he is only 25, Rausch has a wealth of experience in the Bundesliga, something that was lacking from the Darmstadt squad that achieved promotion. He was a regular starter in the division for five seasons with Hannover before his ill-fated move to Stuttgart and it's good to see him getting his career back on track.
An interesting sub-plot could be his future as an international player. Rausch played for Germany at every youth level, appearing eight times for a successful German Under 21 side but has never been capped at senior level.
Having being born in Russia to Russian parents he could also clearly represent the nation of his birth and although he is yet be contacted by the Russian FA, his impressive form is unlikely to have gone unnoticed with a European Championship and home World Cup just around the corner.
Right now though it seems Rausch has little on his mind other than helping guide his new club to safety. This time last year the full back was playing reserve team football but he seems to be relishing his time back on the big stage and his top flight experience and qualities will be pivotal as Darmstadt head into the final months of the season.