WAG­NER’S BID TO LEARN

New Hud­der­s­field boss has thirst for knowl­edge on his jour­ney of life

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

EVER dreamed about quit­ting the day job and go­ing back to univer­sity? Hud­der­s­field’s new gaffer David Wag­ner has some ad­vice for you.

“Don’t do it!” laughs the Ger­man, ap­pointed last week af­ter four years as as­sis­tant to Jurgen Klopp at Borus­sia Dort­mund.

“If I had known be­fore how dif­fi­cult it would be to study, I never would have started. I spent five years get­ting my diplo­mas and it was the tough­est five years of my life!”

Wag­ner, born in 1971 to a Ger­man mother and Amer­i­can fa­ther, was just 31 when he grew tired of a life plod­ding through Ger­man foot­ball’s lower ech­e­lons.

A UEFA Cup win­ner with Schalke in 1997, the striker sub­se­quently turned out for FC Guter­sloh, Wald­hof Mannheim and SV Darm­stadt 98.

“I played foot­ball all over the world,” says Wag­ner, who also won eight caps for the USA. “With the na­tional team in Costa Rica and El Salvador. With Schalke in Spain, France and half of Europe. I played 11 years in Ger­many.

Hun­gry

“I felt I had seen ev­ery­thing and I was no longer hun­gry and greedy for foot­ball. I wanted to learn some­thing else, to open my mind.

“So I stud­ied sports science and bi­ol­ogy. My wife is a phys­i­cal ther­a­pist and I had al­ways been in­ter­ested in what the man­ager was ask­ing us.Why do we have to run 5 times 100m? Why do we have to rest for 60 sec­onds? I wanted to understand what was hap­pen­ing to my body.

“There was some­thing sur­real about turn­ing up on day one. Ev­ery­body else was 20-years-old and just start­ing in life. I was there at 31, 32, my old ca­reer over.

“And it was hard. But at the end, I was very sat­is­fied and self-con­fi­dent that I had been able to do some­thing so to­tally dif­fer­ent.”

At the time, the am­bi­tion was to teach. Then Klopp turned up. The pair had spent four years as room­mates at Mainz in the early Nineties, be­com­ing close friends. And, over din­ner, Klopp – then in charge at Mainz – urged his old pal to aban­don the class­room.

Wag­ner re­calls: “He said to me ‘You played as a pro­fes­sional. Now you stud­ied two sub­jects. If you get your pro-li­cence, who else will be as uniquely qual­i­fied as you? Give me one name’. I couldn’t think of one.”

So he re­turned, work­ing first at Mainz and then at Hof­fen­heim as Un­der-17 coach. His ar­rival in 2007 co­in­cided with a fairy­tale rise for Die Kraich­gauer, from the mid­dle of the third tier to – briefly – the sum­mit of the Bun­desliga.

Even then, foot­ball nearly lost him. “My op­tions weren’t so good af­ter leav­ing Hof­fen­heim,” he says. “So I took a break and com­pleted my teach­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion. It took one and half years and, just as I fin­ished, Jurgen called to ask if I wanted to join him at Dort­mund.”

Wag­ner did, lead­ing the Ger­man gi­ants’ sec­ond string into the third tier just as Klopp’s high-tempo, al­lac­tion first team stormed to the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal.

Risk-taker

Yet if history tells us that where Klopp goes, Wag­ner fol­lows, the past fort­night has proved oth­er­wise. Of­fered a po­si­tion at Liver­pool, the 44-year-old in­stead opted for a left-field move to West York­shire.

“Maybe I’m a bit of a risk-taker,” he of­fers by way of ex­pla­na­tion. “Maybe I need a new test. I just know that Hud­der­s­field ex­cited me.”

Nei­ther Klopp nor Wag­ner were dis­tin­guished play­ers. Prior to his ap­point­ment, no­body on th­ese shores had heard of the new Ter­ri­ers boss. But he re­jects the no­tion a lack of fame and medals is an im­ped­i­ment to man­age­ment.

“In Ger­many it’s noth­ing spe­cial,” he shrugs. “Of the 18 teams in the Bun­desliga, I’d say six never played pro­fes­sion­ally or at the high­est level.

“And in my opin­ion, be­ing a good player is com­pletely dif­fer­ent to be­ing a good man­ager. It’s two dif­fer­ent jobs.

“It’s like the dif­fer­ence be­tween a cook and a house­keeper. You both work in a ho­tel but a good house­keeper isn’t a good cook and a good cook isn’t a good house­keeper.

“Yes, there are ad­van­tages to be­ing a top player.You know how to deal with the me­dia, how to deal with big pres­sure, how it feels to per­form in front of

80,000 peo­ple.

But ev­ery­thing else, no.”

Like­wise, he re­futes any sug­ges­tion that coach­ing the likes of Nakhi Wells and James Vaughan will prove a tougher task than Mario Gotze and Robert Le­wandowski. “No, no,” he says with a steely glare. “It’s not a ques­tion of age. It’s not a ques­tion of abil­ity. It’s a ques­tion of char­ac­ter. If some­body is greedy to learn, he will de­velop and get bet­ter. If he is not open-minded, he will not.

“Take Robert Le­wandowski. He tried to get bet­ter in ev­ery sin­gle train­ing ses­sion. He was very re­cep­tive. He lis­tened to ev­ery­one. He read about nu­tri­tion and changed his eat­ing habits. He hired a per­sonal coach and worked on his weak­nesses. In pre-sea­son, when ev­ery­body else was on hol­i­day, he was train­ing.

Work

“If he can do that, so can any­one. No player, even the very best, gets suc­cess as a present. He has had to work for it.”

And Hud­der­s­field’s play­ers will cer­tainly work; the in­tense press­ing style pi­o­neered by Klopp and Wag­ner at Dort­mund re­quires ex­treme lev­els of fit­ness. The ba­sic phi­los­o­phy is that ev­ery player does his own job plus half of some­body else’s.

Does he be­lieve it can com­bat the Cham­pi­onship’s famed pace and phys­i­cal­ity?

“We will see,” he says, break­ing into a grin. “But English foot­ball is not the one style that peo­ple seem to think. I’ve seen ball pos­ses­sion, counter-at­tack, more direct. And I re­spect them all.

“But we have our own way – the Dort­mund way, I sup­pose. Is that dif­fer­ent to other teams in the Cham­pi­onship? From what I have seen so far, I would say it is.

“It may take time to de­velop. But I have seen it work at Mainz. I saw it work at Dort­mund. I even saw it work at Hof­fen­heim. I am to­tally con­vinced it will work here.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

GLORY MO­MENT: David Wag­ner holds aloft the UEFA Cup af­ter Schalke’s fi­nal suc­cess against Inter Milan in 1997

GOOD PALS: David Wag­ner and

PIC­TURES: Eurosport

Jurgen Klopp at Borus­sia Dort­mund, and Wag­ner on Hud­der­s­field duty yes­ter­day GRAFTER: Robert Le­wandowski worked hard at Dort­mund

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