Hermann Gerland celebrates 65th birthday
He enjoys cult status among FC Bayern fans and his eye for talent is legendary. He’s brought endless home-grown players through the youth ranks and helped them make the step up to first-team football, either at Bayern or other Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 clubs. We’re talking about Hermann Gerland. After ending his tenure as assistant coach of the first team last summer, the ‘Tiger’ returned to his role as sporting director at the FC Bayern Campus to devote himself once more to finding and developing talent. On Tuesday, he celebrates his 65th birthday. Happy birthday, Hermann Gerland.
Born on 4 June 1954 in Bochum, Hermann was the oldest son of a mining family. “I was nine years old when my father died,” he explained. “We were four children and we were poor.” This period shaped him. A sense of duty, motivation and commitment helped Gerland on his way to becoming a professional footballer. “I’m a grafter who loves football and not show. My life motto is: no pain, no gain,” he described himself.
As a youngster, he worked “obsessively” towards his dream. “I wanted to show everyone and I trained doggedly.” With good reason, Gerland still says today: “Practice makes perfect. That’s not just something that’s in every book; it’s true. If you don’t practise, you won’t master.” Gerland then played in the Bundesliga from 1972 to 1984, solely for VfL Bochum. He was a no-nonsense defender who soon acquired the nickname Eiche (‘oak tree’). They still call him that in Bochum, where his coaching career also began.
From Alaba to Zvjezdan – a long list of talents
After three years at his hometown club (1985-88), he went on to have spells as coach at 1. FC Nürnberg (1988-90, 1995-96), Tennis Borussia Berlin (1996-98), Arminia Bielefeld (1999-2000) and SSV Ulm 1846 (2000-01). He then ended up at Bayern, where he’s been ever since in a full range of roles. In 1990, he was appointed reserve team coach on the recommendation of Jupp Heynckes, who was head coach of the first team at the time. Gerland was in charge of the second string until 1995 and reassumed the role from 2001 to 2009, and then again in the 2010/11 season. His achievements included winning the regional league title in 2004, reaching the last 16 of the DFB Cup in the 1993/94 season and the quarter-finals in the 1994/95 and 2004/05 campaigns. Above all, though, he made his name as perhaps the Bundesliga’s most successful talent developer.
The list of players who have passed through his tutelage is long: Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Holger Badstuber, Thomas Müller, Owen Hargreaves, Christian Nerlinger, Dietmar Hamann, Markus Babbel, Mats Hummels, David Alaba, Zvjezdan Misimovic, Paolo Guerrero and Piotr Trochowski, to name some. “I think I have a good eye,” concluded Gerland in an interview with the FC Bayern magazine ‘51’ when discussing his ability to spot players’ potential early. “But to realise that someone can really make it at Bayern, I have to watch them for longer.”
Dream job as assistant
In April 2009, Gerland became assistant coach of the first team, working alongside greats such as Louis van Gaal (“he revolutionised our game”), Heynckes (“he kept getting better”) and Pep Guardiola (“a phenomenon”). “I was lucky enough to be able to work under some of the greatest coaches of all time,” he said, reflecting on his “absolute dream job”. He added: “Without question, being a player is even nicer. But the next best thing is assistant coach, or goalkeeping coach. Being head coach again wouldn’t be so nice. I don’t want to be in the limelight.”
The father-of-three and now grandfather has long been a cult figure among the fans. The Grünwalder Stadion has had the unofficial name of the ‘Hermann Gerland Arena’ for some time, while his name is regularly sung at the Allianz Arena. Gerland, who breeds horses as a hobby (“my biggest passion after football and my wife”), has a contract at Bayern until 2022, and he’s not thinking about retiring yet. “When I do, I can’t imagine that I won’t do anything anymore. Maybe I’ll do something in the community, like coaching disadvantaged children.”