Bremen - Welcome back to the Bundesliga, then, Viktor Skripnik. After a decade away from the bright lights of Germany’s top-flight, the new SV Werder Bremen head coach will feel the heat once more on Saturday in his first league game in charge.
Following Schaaf’s footsteps
But who exactly is the 44-year-old tasked with lifting the fallen northern giants off the foot of the standings? Allow bundesliga.com to fill in the blanks...
A defender in his playing days, Skripnik’s association with Bremen began back in 1996 when he joined the club from Ukrainian side FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. Some 138 Bundesliga games later and having won the Meisterschale and DFB Cup under Thomas Schaaf in the 2003/04 season, he embarked on his coaching career at Bremen, initially cutting his teeth with the Under-15 side before moving progressively up to the U-23s in 2013 - just one step below the senior outfit.
If that career trajectory sounds strangely familiar, it’s because it is: the last person at Bremen to earn promotion from managing the reserves to taking responsibility for the first team was Schaaf himself. Now at the helm at Eintracht Frankfurt, Schaaf made the step up in 1999 and went on to enjoy a successful 14-year spell as coach of the Green-Whites, winning the Bundesliga, the DFB Cup three times and reaching the final of the UEFA Cup in 2009.
Indeed, the path from reserve coach to first team boss is a well-trodden one in Germany and there are several more examples of tactical wannabes diving in at the Bundesliga deep end thriving. Former 1. FSV Mainz 05 supremo Thomas Tuchel is now one of the most sought-after coaches in Europe having established the 05ers as a bona fide top-flight club.
Similarly, Christian Streich has achieved remarkable results with a club of SC Freiburg’s size since taking the reins in December 2011, while in September Hamburger SV opted for an in-house replacement for Mirko Slomka by appointing Josef Zinnbauer, who has since hauled HSV off the bottom of the table and instilled greater backbone into a side that was in danger of becoming the league’s whipping boys.
There are, therefore, precedents that make Skripnik’s appointment less of a gamble than part of a calculated strategy on the part of the club. In 2011 he led the U-17s to second place in the national league, before securing another runners-up medal with the reserves in summer 2014.
“Every soldier wants to become a general,” the new Bremen boss said at the beginning of last season. “And that’s why I’d have nothing against coaching a first team at some point.” With a contract valid until the end of the 2014/15 campaign, Skripnik now has the chance to prove his worth as a top-flight coach leading from the front.