Huub Stevens is a man on a survival mission - again. Just like in the past two seasons, when he rescued VfB Stuttgart from impending relegation, the 61-year-old has returned to a Bundesliga hot seat, joining TSG 1899 Hoffenheim with the very same assignment.
On Tuesday, Stevens met the media for the first time since being installed as the new head coach of Hoffenheim following the dismissal of Markus Gisdol on Monday. The Dutchman has penned a contract until the end of the campaign, when he will be replaced by the club's current under-19s coach Julian Nagelsmann, which leaves him with a clear remit for the next six and a half months: keep Hoffenheim up.
Hard work starts now
"I don't think this team belongs down there," Stevens said at his unveiling. "It's not going to be easy because I don't think this squad of players are used to being in such a situation, but I've already told the lads that we've got to get to work right away, not only on Saturday."
"Huub Stevens has arrived. Welcome to TSG!"
Hoffenheim head to 1. FC Köln on Saturday and Stevens wasted no time in getting onto the training pitch for a first look at the players he is convinced are good enough to avoid relegation. "We can only stay up together," he warned. "We've all got to be united as one team. I can't do it all by myself."
Thankfully for the beleaguered southwest club, Stevens is treading familiar ground. The veteran pitched up at Stuttgart in March 2014 and guided the Swabians to a 15th-placed finish. He left the Mercedes-Benz Arena at the end of the season, only to return in November 2014 and inspire another great escape, culminating in a thrilling 2-1 win at fellow basement battlers SC Paderborn 07 on the final day of the 2014/15 campaign.
'Nagelsmann is the future'
Next summer, Stevens will pass the baton to the 28-year-old Nagelsmann, who has agreed a three-year contract set to make him the youngest head coach in Bundesliga history. "Julian's always been a candidate for the position," said Hoffenheim's sporting director Alexander Rosen.
"Many other Bundesliga clubs have already wanted to have him and we always knew we wanted to give him a chance, only we didn't expect it to come so soon. Nagelsmann is the future and Stevens is the present. We hope that he [Stevens] gets us back on track."