Young Coaches are Old News in the Bundesliga

As I rapidly approach my 34th birthday it becomes more and more apparent that professional sports are truly a young person’s game, and that Bundesliga football is of course no exception. Just take a look at the starting lineups from any given matchday and you’ll see names like Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Leroy Sané, Timo Werner, Julian Weigl, Jonathan Tah, and Mahmoud Dahoud – players that are not simply there to fill out the lineup card but are making significant contributions on the pitch. All of these players are, quite astonishingly, 20 years of age or younger.

While I have accepted the fact that kids nearly half my age are playing top-level football, it is much more difficult to come to terms with the idea of a professional football manager being younger than me. Enter Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann who last week was named as the club’s new full-time manager effective at the beginning of next season – in the interim, veteran coach and relegation escapologist extraordinaire Huub Stevens will look to steer the good ship Hoffenheim out of troubled waters. Nagelsmann will retain his current position as the head trainer of the Hoffenheim U-19s before taking over duties as manager of the senior team next July, a mere 23 days before his 29th birthday.

Nagelsmann will officially become the youngest ever head coach of a Bundesliga side and in honour of that remarkable feat, but the Bundesliga’s past provides stories of a few other managers who were more likely than not coaching players that were older than they were.

Werner Kern – Age: 32 years 170 days – 1. FC Nürnberg

Fans of FC Bayern will undoubtedly recognize the name Werner Kern as long time assistant manager in the 1970s (under Udo Lattek and Dettmar Cramer) and more recently as the head of the FCB youth academy until 2012. After his stint at Bayern Kern became a Bundesliga coach at Nürnberg in 1978 (at the ripe old age of 32) but his tenure would only last less than half a season with Der Club as he was sacked before the winter break having only managed a 3-1-11 record – the final straw was a 4-0 thrashing in Munich at the hands of his old mates, FC Bayern.

Hermann Gerland – Age: 32 years 66 days – VfL Bochum

Another one Bayern fans will certainly recognize, as he’s currently one of Pep Guardiola’s assistants, Bochum born Gerland took over as manager of his hometown club at the beginning of the 1986-87 season. Having only been retired from playing for a single season he initially joined the coaching staff as an assistant before being promoted to first team manager shortly thereafter. His tenure at Bochum was only 2 seasons where he had a respectable 19-24-25 record in the league, finishing mid table in both campaigns. The highlight of his time as Bochum manager came in his final game where his side were narrowly beaten in the DFB Pokal Final by Eintracht Frankfurt

Rolf Herings – Age: 31 years 273 days – 1. FC Köln

Rolf Herings’ first stint as manager of 1. FC Köln was an incredibly short one, lasting only the final eight match days of the 1971-72 season. His only league defeat came at home against eventual champions FC Bayern, which may have been a bit of payback for die Geißböcke knocking Die Roten out of the DFB Pokal. Perhaps even more interesting than his managerial career (OK definitely more interesting) was that prior to his life in football Herings was an Olympian, having competed in the javelin throw at the 1964 games in Tokyo, where he finished in 7th place, and the 1968 games in Mexico City.

Erich Ribbeck – Age: 31 years 65 days – Eintracht Frankfurt

At five seasons, Erich Ribbeck’s first stint as a Bundesliga coach should be considered rather successful. Under his watch Ribbeck guided Die Adler to a very respectable 67-35-68 record and finished in 5th place in the 1971-72 season, which was good enough to qualify Eintracht for the UEFA Cup for the following season where they were knocked out of the cup in the first round by eventual champions, Liverpool. Many people will no doubt remember Ribbeck for his utterly disastrous reign as coach of the Germany national team, highlighted (or perhaps lowlighted) by the miserable group stage exit at EURO 2000. Ribbeck’s 10-6-8 record as Germany coach remains the worst performance by any manager of the national team.

Helmut Schulte – Age 30 years 313 days – FC St. Pauli

Schulte took over at St. Pauli, then in the 2nd division, in November of 1987 after manager Willi Reimann left to take over at rivals HSV. He led St. Pauli to a 11-6-4 record which was good for 2nd place and automatic promotion to the Bundesliga – the only manager on this list to earn a promotion. Schulte would keep the team in the league for 2 seasons before a rather difficult Hinrunde in the 1990-91 season saw the club dip to 16th place and Schulte was let go. This wasn’t Schulte’s only appearance at St. Pauli as he came back first as Manager and then again as the Sporting Director which inspired him to write a book entitled “Drei St. Pauli Leben” about his life at St. Pauli.

Klaus-Dieter Ochs – Age: 30 years 228 days – Hamburger SV

Ochs took over at HSV in the 1970-71 season, a team which of course included Hamburg legend Uwe Seeler, who was 3 years his elder!  Ochs led Die Rothosen for 3 full seasons reaching his heights in that first season with a 13-11-10 record, good for 5th in the league. After that early peak the Dino went into sharp decline finishing in 10th place in 71-72 and in 14th place in Ochs’ final season – Hamburg, in what is reminiscent of more recent seasons, spent over half the match days in the relegation zone before a late season push saved them from relegation. After HSV Ochs would manage VfL Osnabrück for 2 seasons before leaving football entirely to become a teacher, a career that would span nearly 3 and a half decades before his passing in July of this year.

Bernd Stöber – Age: 24 years 47 days – 1. FC Saarbrücken

This one is more of an honourable mention than anything. On October 23rd 1976 Stöber managed his one and only Bundesliga match (a 5-1 drubbing against 1. FC Köln) after then manager Slobodan Cendic was sacked. Stöber was there to basically keep the seat warm as a week later Manfred Krafft was appointed Saarbrücken boss to see out the rest of the season. While he was never given another chance to manage at club level, Stöber did end up having a rather successful career as coach of the German U-16 side, a post he held for 20 years.

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Born in Toronto, Adrian is a first generation Canadian by way of Bavaria and the Black Forest. After some intense football soul searching he's now a fully fledged member of the Church of Streich. Follow @AdrianSertl