TGG Podcast #65: Danny Röhl - Sheffield Wednesday's great escape

When Danny Röhl took charge of Sheffield Wednesday in October 2023, they were seven points adrift of safety with no wins in 10.

Many were surprised that Röhl had even joined the club, because he had previously been assistant with Bayern Munich and the German national team and developed a stellar reputation.

What transpired was one of English football's great escapes, with Röhl helping the Owls beat the drop by three points on the final day of the season. In May he signed a new deal with the club to the summer of 2027.

Speaking on Episode #65 of the TGG Podcast, Röhl explained in detail how that remarkable metamorphosis was achieved. This article is an edited transcript of that conversation. You can listen to the full podcast below.


Danny Röhl: Sometimes when you are sacked, you need time and you want to reflect and have feedback, but I was really sharp to have the first step as a manager. I felt much energy in my body.

And then of course you see the table, you look at games from the team. Honestly, in October, I didn't know that you would need 53 points to stay up! I saw really the chance and said, 'Okay, there's so much potential around this club.'

When I saw the pictures from Wembley (for the League One play-off final in 2022/23) from this massive support and when I saw that I can Implement my football, with my style and intensity, that was the reason I was convinced that I could help the team.


You really never know what you can do a new group. Of course, you have an idea of how you want to play football, you have something in your mind, and I was really looking forward to my first step as a manager.

Then you see, okay, we have still 35 games to go. It looks at first massive. The Championship is a special one, it's a really strong league. You have a lot of games, a lot of ups and downs during the season. I think it was the the biggest challenge for me and for my team.

We always came back from setbacks. I think we improved a lot, we improved very quickly as a team, but the results weren't good (at first). When you look back to the first six games, we had just one win. But the direction was still very good and I think it was a positive signal.

My team has a great mentality, they are really open-minded for all the new new things. Especially at the beginning, it was important that we find the balance between increasing the intensity but also looking for the injuries.

This is normal when you start with a new philosophy, with a lot of sprints and high intensity, you have to always pay attention to the injuries. All in all, we managed it well, we had a good load management and then we have step by step improvement.

It was a a big result against Leicester at home (1-1 draw on November 29th). In the extra time we got the equaliser. It was key and from this point we started to take points. Then we come closer.

We had a fantastic game against Hull at home (3-1 win), it was the 1st of January, we won three and then we were really close, from 13 points behind (safety to within three points.

That was fantastic, but for me it was at this moment very clear that it will be a tough challenge until the end, because I saw our schedule - we played against Southampton, Coventry, some good teams from the top of the table.

Then we had the big game against Huddersfield and lost 4-0. I think this could be a moment where your team drop down and maybe raise the white flag, but after this game I sent a clear a message to my team, 'Guys we still have 16 games to go and there's a a big opportunity to achieve our goals, but it will be a tough challenge.'

From this moment we started really to win games. I think we had some good signings in the January window, with (Ian) Poveda, (Ike) Ugbo and James Beadle. Then we had a great run with a lot of wins, but it was sometimes hard for our mindset, especially for the players.

It was a big big challenge to keep going - 'Don't look to the table, focus on ourselves.' And then we come closer and the last difficult moment was after the Stoke game. We played well, but it was just a draw at home and then we knew it's just three games to go.

The schedule was not easy, to go to Blackburn at home, against West Brom, and then go away to Sunderland, but I said, 'Guys, if we win - and we will win the next three games - then we will stay up.'

My mindset as a manager is that I'm always positive, I always believe and have trust in my players. That was for me a big big experience experience from Munich - I learned a lot from Hansi (Flick), about how you can lead a group in this direction. This was what I took and what I give my players as well.

I think that was a little bit the the X Factor. I come back to my last speech to my players before the Sunderland game (which Wednesday won 2-0 away on May 4th). I said to my team, 'Guys, if we stay in the league - and we will do this today - then you will see in the future some teams looking to Sheffield Wednesday and saying this team took so many points and stayed up even when they had a a terrible start.’

At the end we had our happy end. Everybody is happy but now the focus is to go forward and look into the next season.


When you arrive in a club, it's very important to give my players immediately a direction of how we want to play and how we can be successful. I showed them three ways we can play football and how we can control the game.

One big part was active front-foot defending, high pressing. If you have high ball-winning situations you have a short way to the opponent’s goal.

A second way was to have a good net for counter pressing and the last point - and it was for me a big big point - was to improve the ball possession. I saw that the team didn't create chances, they didn't have ball possession and it was for me a big part.

In the week when I arrived there, we started immediately to find solutions with the ball, to have a better net, to have a good structure. The difficulty was that after the first week we had immediately three games in seven days, so you can't train so much.

It was a lot of meetings and then we had the first win at home against Rotherham. That was special and after this game the relationship between the team, me and the supporters was very connected and I think this was crucial.


My way to lead a group is two things. One thing is you have to convince your team about the tactical things, give them a clear idea and identity. In my first press conference, I spoke about wanting to create identity and that everybody should know what Sheffield Wednesday is with Danny Rohl as manager.

The second thing - and this is also a big part - is how you lead the group. It means I always look behind the players as well. Every player is a human and from this point you need this connection between your players.

You cannot just look to the tactical things and not to the human behind. For me, it's always about I I see it first the positive things from a from a people, I'm open-minded for all the players. I demand a lot from my players but my players know that I always trust and believe in them and this is what I give them also the future.

It's a a great sentence John Wooden - 'A good coach can change a game, a great coach can change a life.' Of course, you can improve him on the pitch, but for me it's also a big part that we want to improve the players as a human of the pitch as well.

You cannot be just a tactical engineer on the laptop, you need also the human side: how you can teach your group, how you can improve your group, how you can bring all the tactical stuff to your players. I think this is a big part and I had a feeling that I can do this and when I compare now my job, of course the biggest and new challenge was to lead the group in all the difficult moments.

As an assistant coach or as an analyst, after defeat you can sit in the corner, you can sit listening to the manager, and that's it, but now I have to go in front of the team, I have to be positive, I have to go forward and I have to believe and give belief to my players.

We are always humans. This is also for manager sometimes not an easy job, when you have a big defeat and the next morning you have to go in front of your team, but it’s important that you have done really the the belief and the trust in your team and you can do it again and again and I have a good slogan on the pitch, off the pitch - I said to my team two things.

First, we cannot change the past, but we can change the future. All in all there's no time for disappointment. It’s the same on the pitch - if you lose the ball, you can be disappointed and you can say ‘ah it was not good’ or you go again and hunt again and you get the ball back and then you are happy. This is a big big part of my football style as well.


I tried at first to have an individual meeting, to have a conversation, to get the feeling. Sometimes it's not just about sitting in the office and speaking with the players, sometimes you watch the players, you look to your players on the pitch. Then you have one minute where you can speak with your players. I think all the small details (are important).

Then it's also great to have people around you, they're also looking, like you, and have the same view and all the information you can collect and then you have idea what the players need.

Some players, they need sometimes a bit more pressure to improve; some players need more smart words to help them, to give them more belief. You have a lot of different characters in your team and I think that, beside the tactical things, is the biggest part of how you can improve your team.


When I compare my previous teams with Sheffield Wednesday, I must say we haved some really good leaders in in the dressing room. They are different sometimes. It's not a leader who is just talking, sometimes it's a leader who showed with a good performance on the pitch.

You need different profiles in your team as well. This is like in my coaching team - I have really really different profiles as my assistant coaches. That was a big big part when I bring all the coaches together. I know my strength, I know what we need in a group and I think all in all you need strong leaders on the pitch and off the pitch.

But to have just leaders in your group, you cannot win games, because you need also some guys that are workers and they go and follow the direction and this balance and this makes for a successful team.


I plan the schedule during the week and give my assistant coaches a clear picture what I want to see. It's important that my coaches know the schedule for the week. I prepare the topics, I prepare the trainings exercises for them, but on the pitch I give my assistant coaches the responsibility as well. I think this is a good mix.

For the assistants, everybody needs also a responsibility for a part of the game. This is important, this was my experience as an assistant coach. When you do not have this responsibility, I'm convinced that you will be not happy.

For me, it is important that I push my players and give them small details and advice on the pitch, but I have no problem that my assistant coaches lead the training session. My training is very different, it's complex. We start with a warm-up, then we have always passing drills, but I always look to prepare the training not just to train, I always look at what we can take from the game and then we can create some exercises from the game to improve our style of football.


When you work for nine years at Leipzig, of course you will get a good injection from pressing and transition moments, but honestly in the second year in the Bundeslig we improved also the ball possession, because when you are stronger and stronger in the league there comes a moment where you have more and more the ball. It means you have to improve as well in this part.

The experience in Southampton was different, you were more the underdog, you played more against the stronger teams. That was about having your identity but also having to adapt sometimes to the next opponent. And then I come to Munich. Munich were very successful, especially in the first year, when we won the seventh title, because we had a clear direction of what we wanted to do.

We had good pressing, but of course with Munich you have a lot of ball possession. I improved and developed as well in this direction, with my style of football and how you can have solutions in the final third. That's a big part when you are the assistant coach of Munich.

In modern football you need all the four phases - with the ball, against the ball, in the two transition moments and set pieces are also a big big part, we should not forget this. But when you have a good structure against the ball, you have also immediately a good positioning with the ball, because everybody is in the right position.

We have target zones, where you can make the transition offensive. To have ball position is not just to have ball possession, for me it's always a tool to prepare the next attack. This is what I showed my players, this is also what we are looking for in the meetings, to give my players these points where we can attack.

Sometimes you need maybe the first, second and third pass to lull the opponent, but then when the opponent starts to press then you have to attack and then it's from a really attacking forward playing forward and then it means we need a good net as well - we have to travel together.

We have to travel together, otherwise we have big distances between the the players. Then you don’t have a chance to counter press.


When you also look to our goals last season, they are very different.

For example against West Brom (3-0 win on April 27th), it was two goals after an offensive transition. Against Sunderland (2-0 win on May 4th), both goals we scored it was ball possession. The first goal was after 18 passes and the second was 25 passes. This is also difficult for the opponent to prepare what happens next.

I have identity, I have clear principles of what I want to see, but I'm open and I'm flexible from game to game. This is for me also a big part to to improve your team.

At first, when you ask me what is your your shape or your system, for me it's more about having principles. Then we come from these principles from game to game to different set-ups. That depends on the opponent.

At first we look always at how we can build up from the goalkeeper, what makes the most successful way to come to the next zone. Then we are looking at the positioning we need.

The next step is to find the solution in building up against midfield pressing. The biggest challenge is always the final third, because for this you need habits, you need good solutions and you need also the quality of your players, because they have to make the decisions and I think this is also a big part.

As a manager, as a coach, we can give our players a lot of principles, we can help them, but the decision-making on the pitch is about them. This is, for me, a big part of training - to bring my players always in situations where they have to make decisions. I like to be building up some habits, but I want to see also players making decisions on the pitch, instead of me saying, ‘You have to pass always to them’.

The final third is the biggest challenge. You can increase your chance when you have a lot of players in the box, around the box. I come back to my word ‘travel together’ - when you don’t have a lot of players around the box, into the box, then the chance is less than when you have a lot of players.

We scored a goal at home when we had nine players around the box and just two players in defence.This is a direction I like, but this is about working hard to come to such situations. That’s the biggest challenge for every team.

There is then also the part when you look to the opponent. Sometimes, for example, you can build up in a two-three positioning, because then you have three players in the midfield to go immediately counter-pressing; sometimes better to have a 3-2 positioning.

These are the small details and this is what I prepare during the week with my team. But, all in all, when we speak about decisions, I'm looking more forward instead of backwards.


The big topic for me is always active encouraged decisions. This is what I demand from my players and for myself as well. I think when you look back, to take over at Sheffield Wednesday in October, was a bold decision. Not everybody would take this job as a first manager job, but I saw the chance and the challenge.

And in a game against Norwich (on April 9th) we didn't play well in the first half and at half-time I made four subs (and scored two second-half goals to draw 2-2). This is also for me a bold decision. I'm not a coach to just cross my fingers and wait for something to happen. For me, it's about being active and this is what I demand from my team as well.

The game in Ipswich was different (when Wednesday were beaten 6-0 in April). Of course when you look to the paper, then you say, ‘Oh, six, a big big defeat.’

But I said, 'You have two ways to go to Ipswich. They are on a good run; you can try to play active and you can try to play your football and you are brave and make bold decisions and you play with courage, and then it could be that after the game a big defeat because they are stronger. Or you go to a game and say yeah, okay, let's have a look, try to play defensive and stay deep and then even in this you concede goals.'

This is not the big point for me. The big point is after the games how you react after defeat and it was really great to see for my team sometimes after defeat. I had in the past some teams when you had the feeling match day plus one, oh the team now, it's really down, but my team they were immediately on fire by the next training session, they had a spirit that you feel immediately they want to show again that they are better than the last result and this mindset was fantastic to see, fantastic.


(At the end of May, Rohl signed a new contract with Sheffield Wednesday to the summer of 2027).

I had a good conversation with the club. We spoke about my future and then we spoke about the future of the club, what we can improve, what we can do. Now it's about preparing the new season.

It means we have to sign new good players. For me, it's about writing the schedule for the pre-season, to plan the the friendly games, looking for the opponents. We know the Championship is a tough one and it will be a tough new season as well.

I'm really looking forward for my first pre-season as a manager, this is great to see, and I think we will have a lot of good things what we can do.

Of course there were some offers from other clubs, but for me it's about my next step and my journey was not finished after the first season with Sheffield Wednesday. The crucial thing for me how we can improve as a club, how we can improve the squad, and I think this is what I looking for, this is what I want to try at the moment.

It’s not always easy at the moment, the market, but we have some good players in our in mind and this is now convince them, try to get them, and hopefully then we have a stronger squad than last season.

We have to do a lot of things right. The competition in the Championship is tough, but I saw also last season that if you have a run, you can take the momentum with you and then there's always a chance.

Especially with Sheffield Wednesday, you have great supporters, they are dreaming for more, but again we have to do a lot of things right, we have to play good football, we have to sign good players and we have to develop the club step by step on different phases, like the facilities and so on.


In football, you have dreams and you have goals. Five years ago, when I left Southampton, I worked in the Premier League and for me it is a big big goal to come back to to the Premier League. I like this this league, I like the English football, that was also the reason I said, 'If there's a chance to go to the UK, I want to do this.'

I want to work at a high high level now as a manager. I worked on a high high level as assistant coach, with Munich with the national team, that was great to see, and now it's about making the next step.

Improving yourself is a big goal is for me, working the highest level, and it means the Premier League, when I have the choice, and the Bundesliga is also a big goal.


I hope so. I think it was the reason why maybe he got me the offer to extend my contract. I think we both, the owner and me, we dream of the Premier League. If we make good steps forwards, then there's a chance, of course. If he does this, then why not?

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