Munich – When Hannover 96 unveiled Tayfun Korkut as their new head coach at the turn of the new year, club president Martin Kind acknowledged he was “well aware it wouldn't be a name immediately on everybody's lips.”
In terms of top-flight on-the-job experience, the 39-year-old former Turkey international is, after all, a complete novice. Following spells in charge of La Liga outfit Real Sociedad's U-19 side, 1899 Hoffenheim's U-17s and the U-19s at hometown club VfB Stuttgart, his last post before taking up the reins at Hannover was as Turkish national team assistant coach.
That somewhat minimalist background notwithstanding, Kind confidently predicts, “This isn't a risky undertaking for us at all, because Mr. Korkut delivered a clear and convincing case for taking him on.” The choice certainly took the world of media punditry by surprise, but on closer inspection it is not quite as revolutionary as it may first appear. Korkut's work at Bundesliga youth academy level is one telling indicator; another is the German FA's (DFB) pro-license graduate class of 2010/11.
Among those earning their professional badges alongside the future Hannover coach that year were Markus Weinzierl, Thomas Schneider and Markus Gisdol – all now making their own mark at the top end of the German game of course, with FC Augsburg, VfB Stuttgart and 1899 Hoffenheim respectively. And while four Bundesliga coaches emerging from the same crop of hopefuls is a handsome return, it is also the sign of a trend which looks fair set to continue into the future.
Tuchel paves the way
Just as the compulsory establishment of football academies at every Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 club has palpably improved the all-round quality of emerging prospects across the board, so too has the system produced a generation of coaches optimally equipped to deal with the requirements of the modern top-end game. And with ever more youngsters being successfully fast-tracked into the senior ranks from youth programmes made-to-measure for easing that transition, it seems almost a logical extension for clubs to adopt the same approach when the time comes for a change at the helm.
Thomas Tuchel's shotgun promotion to head coach of 1. FSV Mainz 05 at the start of 2009/10 was certainly far from the norm at the time and widely viewed as quite a gamble. Fresh from leading the provincial outfit's U-19s to the German title, he had no qualms about giving suitable candidates an introduction to the Bundesliga every bit as rapid as his own, with Andre Schürrle just one of those to benefit. Mainz have been consistently overachieving under Tuchel ever since and where he first trod, others have been following at an ever-increasing rate over the past couple of years.
Streich and Gisdol: sudden impact
During the 2011/12 winter break, SC Freiburg bumped Christian Streich up to the top job to try and improve their distinctly gloomy prospects of avoiding the drop. With over 15 years' experience in the club's renowned youth programme and three national U-19 championships under his belt, Streich was already imbued with the Freiburg philosophy and, like Tuchel, was able to integrate young players he had already been coaching for years into the first team to great effect. They staved off relegation that season, and won a place in Europe the next.
Markus Gisdol effected a similarly dramatic turnaround in an even shorter time-frame last season. Having followed Ralf Rangnick to FC Schalke 04 in an assistant role, he was last April offered the top job back at Hoffenheim, where he had been reserve team coach from 2009-11. A final-day victory at Dortmund earned 1899 an unexpected relegation play-off shot against Kaiserslautern which they took full advantage of and this season, while hardly the most stable of sides in the defensive department, they have certainly been one of the Bundesliga's most entertaining.
Weinzierl and Schneider making progress
Weinzierl is likewise leaving his imprint in no uncertain fashion on an Augsburg team where he endured a torrid first half-season in charge in 2012/13, picking up a paltry nine points. The former Jahn Regensburg coach stuck to his guns though and continued to develop a bold, attack-minded strategy which, coupled with a fantastic communal spirit, saw the unfancied Bavarian outfit retain their top-flight status last season and work their way up to eighth in the table going into the current winter break.
It was Augsburg's 2-1 victory over VfB Stuttgart that precipitated the decision of the latter's executive board to replace Bruno Labbadia with Thomas Schneider after Matchday 3 of the current campaign. Leading the club's U-17s to successive national finals, the second of which they won, was proof enough for those in charge that Schneider was the right man for the job. It remains a work in progress but, like his contemporaries, he has not been slow to place his faith in tried-and-trusted talents from his own youthful ranks, with Timo Werner spectacularly prominent among them.
Korkut gets his chance
As well as being fellow alumni, Schneider and Korkut were also both on the books together at Stuttgart's youth academy in 2011, with the latter in charge of the U-19s. The new man in the Hannover hot seat remains a largely unknown quantity in the Bundesliga as he prepares to get to grips with a “demanding but fascinating challenge” at the struggling Lower Saxony outfit. The signs are plentiful, though, that he is cut from much the same cloth as some of the very best up-and-coming coaches in the German game.