Armin Veh’s resignation last month was the fourth managerial change in the Bundesliga this season. This is nothing to shout about. Although Tony Pulis’ shock departure has been the only change in the Premier League this season, there were six managers out the door by Christmas last year and there has been near-constant speculation about the futures of managers such as Redknapp, Lambert, Rodgers, Pardew, and even Wenger this campaign.
The biggest difference in the Bundesliga is what happens to many managers once they’ve left a club, and in particular how quickly they are invited to hop back onto the managerial merry-go-round.
Sticking with Veh, his return to Stuttgart this summer saw a six year tour of Germany come full circle. Despite winning the league with Stuttgart in 2007, he left the club at a low point, with the team struggling. His reward for this was to take over at the then defending champions, VFL Wolfsburg. Having again disappointed and been told to clear his desk, he was given another chance soon after at HSV Hamburg, a sleeping giant with European ambitions. It wasn’t until he failed again here, lasting less than a year and signing off with a 6-0 defeat at Bayern, that he was forced to drop down to the second league.
Or take Robin Dutt, recently relieved of his duties at Werder Bremen. Dutt made his name with SC Freiburg, taking them into the Bundesliga as second division champions in his second season and establishing the club in the top half of the table. Dutt was riding on the crest of a wave and replaced Munich-bound Jupp Heynckes at Bayer Leverkusen for the start of the 2011/2012 season. However, the team who had finished above Bayern Munich in 2nd the season previous underperformed and Dutt left them before the end of his first season in 7th place.
In the summer of that year, Robin Dutt joined the DFB (the German FA) as their new director of sport, where his responsibilities included developing youth talent in Germany and training coaches. A somewhat unusual post for someone who had failed to successfully step up to the next level in terms of club football.
Following this brief stint Dutt got a second bite at a big club’s cherry when he took over at a Bremen – subsequently lasting a little over a year, leaving the Grün-Weißen at the foot of the table.
There are many more examples, including two more VFB Stuttgart managers. Jens Keller, who had a brief, unsucsessful spell at the club, was snapped up by Champion’s League-club Schalke 04 (and recently fired); or Thomas Schneider, Armin Veh’s predecessor at VFB, who was recently appointed as Jogi Löw’s number 2 at the World Cup winners despite not exactly pulling up any trees at Stuttgart.
To bring it back to the Premier League, is it conceivable that someone like Pulis, for example, woud be considered for the Spurs job if it came up, or Liverpool? Probably not. I would argue that Spurs and Liverpool are comparable to teams like Leverkusen, Schalke and Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga – i.e. big clubs generally chasing Europe, with (in the case of Liverpool more than Spurs) an outside chance of challenging for the title.
A few seasons ago, ex-England manager Steve McClaren was forced to look overseas after failing to lead the Three Lions to Euro 2008. It was only after two successful years with FC Twente and a brief spell with Wolfsburg that ‘the wally with the brolly’ could get his foot in the door of an English club – and then it was the Championship. More recently, David Moyes – the Chosen One at Old Trafford 12 months ago – found it necessary to try his hand in the lower echelons of La Liga. According the Scotsman, he had had offers, but none he felt were suitable. Read into that what you will, but it sounds as if he felt the clubs interested in him were not befitting of his reputation.
Don’t get me wrong. The two should be applauded for trying their luck – and in McClaren’s case, succeeding – outside of their comfort zones. It would be good to see more managers and players following suit. It just seems that managers in England are only as good as their last job. Say Rodgers and Lambert do lose their jobs this season. Will their achievements at Swansea and Norwich count for nothing?
I’m not saying that Tony Pulis or Steve McClaren should have been given the Manchester United job over Louis van Gaal, nor should Robin Dutt and Jens Keller have been sent to coach the local prison team. I just find it interesting that coaches in Germany are not automatically written off on the back of one, or even more, unsuccessful stints in the dugout.
Whether this is a cultural thing, or has something to do with the way the majority of German clubs are run is debatable. The point is that the powers that be seem more inclined to give managers a second, third, or even fourth chance.
After all, it is often said that we learn more from failure than from success.