Veteran coach Jos Luhukay has been signed by Stuttgart to lead the club on a two-year contract, while Sporting Director Robin Dutt has been given his walking papers. After flirting with relegation the past two seasons, Stuttgart were demoted last weekend and will spend their first campaign outside Germany’s first division in 41 years next season.
Luhukay, a former Dutch midfielder, has been coaching since 1998, when he took over at SV Straelen, a lower-division side from North Rhine-Westphalia. Now 52 years old, Luhukay has spent his entire coaching career in Germany, as he went on to manage another North Rhine-Wesphalia side, KFC Uerdingen 05, in 2000. From there he went on to become an assistant at 1.FC Koln before becoming manager at SC Paderborn 07 of Bundesliga 2 in 2005.
He has since managed Borussia Monchengladbach, FC Augsburg and Hertha Berlin. He led FCA to their first-ever promotion to the Bundesliga following the 2010/2011 and helped them survive their first season of first-division play before resigning at the end of the 2012/2013 season. He then became manager at Hertha Berlin, leading them to promotion while recording 22 wins, 10 draws and only two losses, setting a Bundesliga 2 record for points earned in a season. He coached at Hertha until February, 2015, when he was replaced by current Hertha coach Pal Dardai.
Jochen Röttgermann, Head of Sales and Marketing at VfB Stuttgart commented
Jos Luhukay is a very experienced trainer, who has proven his varied qualities at his previous clubs. He is familiar with football in Germany from several different view-points and won promotion to the Bundesliga as coach of three different clubs. He has a very clear image of the challenges facing us here in the coming weeks and months and has emphatically signalled that he is eager to work for VfB.
Meanwhile, Sporting Director Robin Dutt’s inability to turn Stuttgart’s fortunes around resulted in his termination. Hired in January, 2015 to replace Fredi Bobic, Stuttgart finished only a point above the relegation/playoff spot last season before failing this season. His promotion of reserve team coach Jurgen Kramny to lead the first-team looked like an inspired move late in 2015 and well into the new year. Kramny was appointed Dutt’s coaching choice for the 2015/2016 campaign, Alexander Zorniger, proved inadequate to the task in the first months of the season with the league’s worst defense preventing VfB from earning points.
The Swabians’ could not sustain the good run of results Kramny provided, though, and slid quickly into oblivion after looking safe from relegation not that many weeks ago. Dutt, who had the habit of sitting on the Stuttgart bench for matches, had quite a bit of success coaching at SC Freiburg, with lesser success in subsequent stints at Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen. (Kramny will return to coaching the VfB reserves this season).
Speaking as a VfB supporter, it was a sad, but perhaps necessary occasion, when Stuttgart were finally demoted. Since the club won the league and made the Pokal finals in the Spring of 2007, there have been ten coaching changes (including two stints for Huub Stevens and a not-so-good return engagement lasting from only July-November, 2014 for 2007 championship Coach Armin Veh). Since winning it all, the club has one third place-finish and three sixth-place finishes while finishing 12th (twice), 14th, 15th and now 17th — not much to write home about. A few nice runs into the late stages of the Pokal complete the resume of positive VfB accomplishments in the last decades.
Kramny, appointed as interim coach in late November, lost his first match to Dortmund but spurred the Swabians onto a run good enough to earn him a ‘permanent’ hire by winter break. His record in 23 games — seven wins, five draws, eleven losses — saw VfB earn 1.13 pts per match played — good enough to give them 38 over an entire season and good enough for survival in most seasons, including this one and all of the last ten.
With the obvious class clubs of Bundesliga 2, SC Freiburg and RB Leipzig, earning promotion, there is good reason to believe that Stuttgart can create an immediate bounce back to first-division football, especially with Luhukay’s proven ability to gain promotion with former clubs. But, even at the second-division level, Stuttgart’s defense ‘as is’ will still be a severe detriment — it amazes that the club allowed 75 goals in 2015/2016, 13 more than 2nd-worse Hannover !!! Although late season injuries to Serey Die and Kevin Grosskreutz hurt, the defending was consistently horrid from start to finish — only during the period where Kramny had his time playing great attacking football was it less noticeable.
And it will also be necessary for Stuttgart to retain some of their attacking force. Daniel Didavi was already signed by VfL Wolfsburg on a free transfer weeks ago (another bad bit of VfB business, eh?). It would be hoped that one or two of the combination of Lukas Rupp, Filip Kostic, Timo Werner and/or Daniel Ginczek will return (Ginczek, who suffered an injury-ravaged campaign and captain Christian Gentner have extended their contracts recently), and perhaps a few inspired signings (especially along the backline) will help. And although demotion is a sad occasion for Stuttgart supporters, it is perhaps the necessary wake-up call for the club to begin making better, more consistent decisions within a framework of a plan. That would be nice for a change.