Due to their innate familiarity with the club, staff and players in question, youth coaches are emerging as first-choice candidates to fill head coach vacancies with increasing regularity in Germany’s top flight - Mainz's Martin Schmidt became the latest to join a select group currently strutting the Bundesliga sidelines.
Thomas Schaaf is the pre-eminent example of a coach coming through the ranks to lift a side to new heights. The now Eintracht Frankfurt boss set the bar with a 25-year spell at SV Werder Bremen, whom he guided to their most recent Bundesliga title in 2004 and three DFB Cup wins (1999, 2004, 2009). How are those following in his footsteps faring at present, though? bundesliga.com investigates…
Schmidt is the man with the "tactical discipline, aggression, passion, fighting spirit and application to develop the team," in the words of Mainz's sporting director Christian Heidel, who appointed the Swiss tactician in February 2015 after a near five-year learning curve with the club's Under-23s. He brought through the likes of Erik Durm and Yunus Malli, and has no fear of blooding similar young talent, nor of taking charge of a top-flight senior team.
Having featured for the club during his playing career, Freiburg native Streich returned as a youth coach, guiding his charges to three Junior DFB Cup titles and an U-19 championship. A strong advocate of promoting from within, Streich has worked magic with a meagre budget and almost clinched UEFA Champions League qualification in 2013. However, realistically speaking, survival is always the first priority, especially with his side sitting in and with two wins in their last eleven to their name.
Hertha’s record Bundesliga appearance maker, Dardai took the reigns at the capital city club on an interim basis after a poor run of form had seen them slip into the relegation places under Jos Luhukay. A 2-0 win over 1. FSV Mainz 05 got his reign off to the perfect start much to the delight of sporting director Michael Preetz: “He’s a coach who’s been well-educated, knows the club inside and out and understands the special circumstances that come with working in Berlin.”
Robin Dutt’s successor is another player turned coach, whose loyalties have been unwavering. A league and cup double winner under Schaaf in 2004, Skripnik has introduced a host of youngsters, Davie Selke chief amongst them, to first-team affairs having worked with them at youth level. Since his appointment in October, Werder have collected an average of two points per game, most recently winning five consecutive league outings, a feat last achieved eight years ago.
Eight straight wins for Hamburg’s youth side convinced the club that Zinnbauer was the right man to replace Mirko Slomka. Three games into the season, HSV were bottom of the table, but now find themselves in 13th after successive wins on Matchdays 19 and 20. “I like to promote an attacking style of play, but right now we need points by other means,” was Zinnbauer’s frank assessment following the second of those wins, a 2-1 success over Hannover 96.
Unlike his fellow coaches, Gisdol was promoted from youth coach to head coach in Sinsheim via the FC Schalke 04 bench, where he assisted Ralf Rangnick and Huub Stevens, and has transformed 1899 into one of the league’s foremost attacking threats under his tutelage. “The secret is repetition of instinctive movements,” explained the 45-year-old, whose side secured their first win of 2015 thanks to a 2-1 win against local rivals VfB Stuttgart.