Why Germany trusts young managers - and England doesn't
Written by Simon Austin — April 14, 2018
ONE of the tastiest fixtures of the weekend takes place at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday, when Schalke host fierce rivals Borussia Dortmund in the Ruhr derby.
Standing on the touchline will be Schalke boss Domenico Tedesco, a trim 32-year-old with cropped hair and designer stubble, who is younger than many of his players. His appointment last summer shocked many, as there were only 11 games with unfashionable Ezgebirge Aue on his managerial CV.
Since then, he's established himself as the hottest property in German management, a title previously held by 30-year-old Hoffenheim boss Julian Nagelsmann. There are three other managers in their thirties in Germany’s top flight - Manuel Baum (38) of Augsburg, Werder Bremen’s Florian Kohfeldt (35) and Sandro Schwarz (39) of Mainz – and all have growing reputations.
In England's top division, there are none.
The youngest manager in the Premier League is 40-year-old Eddie Howe, who, like compatriots Sean Dyche and Chris Hughton, has had to get a team promoted to earn a place at the top table. In contrast, each member of the German quintet was given his first managerial job in the Bundesliga.
The average age of managers in the Bundesliga is 45.44. In the Premier League it's 52.45. So why does Germany give young homegrown managers a chance when England doesn’t?
Frank Wormuth, the German FA’s head of coach education, has claimed: “Our training of coaches sets the standard in Europe.”
England’s top young coaches are also highly qualified though: men like Bangor City boss Kevin Nicholson, the youngest Englishman to gain the Uefa Pro Licence (at 29), and Michael Jolley, who is now in charge of Grimsby Town via Burnley Under-23s and FC Eskilstuna.
Neither has been given an opportunity at the top like Tedesco or Nagelsmann though. People might cite the fact that Tedesco is highly educated, speaking five languages and holding a masters degree in innovation management; but Jolley has a masters in economics from Cambridge University and worked as a trader in New York and London.
Perhaps, as Uwe Rosler tells TGG, the different age profiles of the managers in Germany and England are down to one thing: opportunity.
“The young Bundesliga coaches have all worked in Academy football,” the former Brentford, Wigan, Leeds and Fleetwood manager says.
“And all of them, with the exception of Tedesco, were promoted to head coach by the same club they were already working for. There seems to be a career path for young coaches in Germany that doesn’t exist so much in England.”
The ‘Nagelsmann effect’ has undoubtedly been a factor. Hoffenheim appointed the German in February 2016, when he was just 28. He saved the club from relegation, before leading them to a Champions League place in his first full season in charge.
His success has encouraged other Bundesliga clubs to give young homegrown managers a chance.
Appointing from within certainly has advantages.
“Promoting from academy to first team means there is a consistency, because the head coach knows the values and philosophy of the club,” Rosler explains. "He's been living them already."
Nagelsmann's age has been cited as a major factor in his success at Hoffenheim. He knew many of the senior squad well, having worked with them in the Academy; he already had experience of developing talent; and he had a lot in common with the players, because he was from the same generation.
Perhaps these factors are accentuated in the Bundesliga, because it's one of Europe's youngest leagues. According to the CIES Football Observatory, Germany's top flight has an average age of 25.97 per player, compared to 27.31 in England.
But Tim Sherwood - one of few Academy coaches to be given a chance at senior level in England – showed the benefit of having worked at youth level when he became manager of Spurs in December 2013. At the time, Harry Kane was on his fourth loan spell away from the club, at Leicester City.
Sherwood knew him well, having coached him in the youth ranks, and brought the striker back to White Hart Lane. In April 2014, Sherwood handed Kane his first-team debut and the rest, pretty much, is history.
It was a similar story when Neil Redfearn (above) was promoted from Academy boss to Head Coach at Leeds United in November 2014. The Yorkshireman made youngsters Lewis Cook, Sam Byram, Mowatt and Charlie Taylor, who he'd worked with in their youth days, the mainstays of his side. The result was a climb away from trouble and a resurgence in the spring.
Dr Dan Parnell, who leads research on the Master of Sport Directorship course at Manchester Metropolitan University, says: “Head coaches who can work with, understand and develop talent from their Academy are helping Sporting Directors to deliver a club strategy.
“Germany’s success at developing and finding talent is underpinned by people and organisations working together on a shared purpose.”
SPORTING DIRECTOR SUPPORT
Ironically, two current managers in England who were promoted from the youth ranks are German – David Wagner at Huddersfield and Daniel Farke at Norwich.
They were given their opportunities by Sporting Director Stuart Webber, who has argued that the Under-23 competition in Germany is a better preparation for senior football than Premier League 2 in England.
When Webber appointed Borussia Dortmund reserve boss Farke in the summer, he said: “What a lot of people might not realise is that Dortmund 2 play in a senior league – they don’t play in an Under-23s league in front of 200 people.
“There are times when they will have 10,000 to 15,000 fans at certain games. So they’re essentially a first team playing in a league, but with predominantly Under-23s in their side.”
Webber argues that Bundesliga clubs are better able to blood young coaches because they all have Sporting Directors.
He tells TGG: “In Germany, the Sporting Director can succession-plan for a talented youth coach to come through. In England, we don’t have that same tradition of the Sporting Director and the decision-makers at a club might not even know about the academy coaches.
"The Sporting Director can create a safe environment for a youth coach to come into."
Webber says Warren Joyce, who was appointed Wigan manager in November 2016 after eight years with Manchester United's reserves, is an example of someone who would have benefitted massively from working with a Sporting Director.
"Warren isn't a young head coach, but he went from Under-23 coach at Manchester United to a manager’s job in the Championship. He signed 15 players and also had to create a culture – all while needing to get immediate results.
“He hadn’t had to do that in his previous job and the structure, or maybe lack of structure, made it very difficult for him.”
Rosler agrees that the Sporting Director model makes it easier to appoint young managers in Germany.
“They have a long tradition of the Sporting Director and every club in the Bundesliga has one," the former Manchester City striker, who is now working as a pundit for German TV, said.
"They are overseeing the football side of the club – the Academy, sport science, recruitment and the first team – which gives the head coach support.”
As Rosler says, we shouldn't read too much into the age of a manager.
"I've seen the young managers in the Bundesliga called the laptop coaches," Rosler said. "But you can't tell me that Jupp Heynckes (Bayern Munich manager) doesn't use technology or data analysis, because I know he does. He's 72 and has just won the Bundesliga in April."
In England, we have seen a trend of the same managers being recycled between Premier League clubs. Paul Lambert, Mark Hughes, Tony Pulis, Sam Allardyce, Alan Pardew and Roy Hodgson have all been chosen for Premier League jobs in the last couple of seasons.
It's little wonder the situation has been described as the managerial merry-go-round, with many younger coaches feeling there is a lack of opportunity to progress. This is reminiscent of Germany in the 1980s, according to Stuttgart Head of Sport Michael Reschke, who was trying to make his way through the coaching ranks at the time.
“It was nearly always the same coaches who went from one club to another," he said. "It was more or less a closed shop.”