Peter Hermann: Worker behind the scenes
When Frank Lampard, John Terry, Didier Drogba and all the other Blues celebrated their Champions-League victory on the fateful 19th of May 2012 on the pitch at Allianz Arena, Bayern’s then-assistant coach Peter Hermann let his thoughts roam ten years back. He lived through all of this already. As assistant to Klaus Toppmöller in Leverkusen. Back then Real Madrid led by Zinedine Zidane tore apart all dreams of the underdog, who finished second in all competitions.
Even though Bayern’s loss in their own stadium after 120 dominant minutes with lots of chances to come away victorious seemed more dramatic, Hermann felt different. Back with Leverkusen it was obvious for him, that this chance would never return. The team was set to break apart with Ballack, Zé Roberto and later Lucio leaving. “Of course the final at home was extremly bitter, especially for the guys on the pitch. But at once I thought: this team, this squad will have the chance to reach the final next season. Whether they make it is a different question, but the chance will be there next year.” A pleasantly realistic thought after a completely unrealistic match. A true Peter Hermann.
It was this rational view of an experienced assistant, who together with Heynckes’ meticulousness and Sammer’s passion got the team back on track starting in the first practice session of the new season. Hermann is not one for passionate speeches, as everyone who talked to him will tell you, but every sentence is upright.
Jupp Heynckes and Peter Hermann get together rather late in their careers, even though they both worked in different functions in the Bundesliga for decades – as player and as coach. However, on different levels.
2009. In Leverkusen, where Heynckes, former Champions-League winner, rejuvenated his career, they meet up. Heynckes is already 63 years old. Hermann, who besides a short stay at Nürnberg, worked for Leverkusen since 1989 and was 57 years old at this time. They both complement each other, as Hermann is especially impressed by Heynckes’ ability to lead a team – both on and off the pitch. Heynckes values the constant dialogue about football and Hermann’s highly professional work at the practice grounds. 2011 they change colors and start in Munich – together.
At a time when observers and players almost fight out a culture clash about modern coaching, Hermann combines both worlds. His talk about football can be astonishingly simple. “Counterpressing can only work, when everyone works together”, is one of those easy sentences. This provides some simplicity to the game, despite the growing professionalisation. But nobody should be fooled by this.
Hermann has a nearly inexhaustible pool of forms and ways of training. In particular certain forms of play were repeated in his time at Bayern. Juego de posicion. Switching with change of playing fields. Zone oriented pressing. Switching after winning the ball. Changing from attacking to midfield pressing. Analyzing tape is another strong suit of his. Anyhow, he watches lots of football. Not only the games of his own team, but everything available.
Hermann is not the assistant, who does not care who is head coach during his tenure. He knows his role. He works behind the scenes. His tracksuit is his boiler suit. In Leverkusen and Munich Heynckes always was the boss, the director, the maestro, who would be thankful to hints by his assistant, but make decisions and lead the way himself. Hermann was a helper – in a literal meaning. Expect more of this in the months to come.
On the training grounds, Hermann’s orders echoed loudly. It is in this role that Hermann flourishes. He is the representative for players and a valued advisor in all small and big things concerning football. Hermann worked together with Bastian Schweinsteiger to work on the right angles in build-up, when the German midfielder dropped to deep in his play. He worked with Jerome Boateng on the right timing in air duels. He worked with Xherdan Shaqiri on free kicks. He stayed on the pitch for extra sessions with Arjen Robben, when the Dutchman worked on perfecting his cut inside and left footed shot. He was never pushy, but was always there when needed and not only for the stars but for everyone. Especially for the ones, who seemed to be left outside.
Hermann has and thinks in different categories as most observers of modern football. Much rather he is concerned with the everyday work in practice, which might not be in the spotlight but is important nonetheless. When asked about the crucial moments of the famous Triple season, Hermann will not talk about the loss against Borisov or the round-of-sixteen second leg against Arsenal, but about the last week of practice just ahead of the cup final against Stuttgart. For the first time that season, Bayern’s practice was off. Just few days after winning the Champions League this might be comprehensible, but looking ahead to the last game of the season not positive – and that is all that matters. Only in the last training session ahead of the cup final this tension and focus, which had set apart this team throughout the whole season, came back.
“Philipp Lahm never had a bad practice in his entire career.” Another typical quote by Hermann. His eyes light up, when he talks about his time with Lahm and Schweinsteiger. He describes the two co-captains of the 2013 season as curious, ambitious, highly professional in every practice session and leading their team by example. Hermann presents the Triple as the final evidence to all the announcers and self-declared experts, who viewed both those exceptional players as incomplete. The Triple, of course, is Hermann’s biggest success in his long career as well, but he doesn’t like to talk about himself.
Becoming the most expensive asisstant coach of the Bundesliga – maybe even world-wide – at the age of 65, with Bayern supposedly paying Düsseldorf 1.75 million euros, is probably awkward for him. Lots of money for someone who even most hard-core supporters never heard speaking in front of a microphone. However, Heynckes had this as a non-negotiable term for his return. Heynckes, Hermann, Gerland, Tapalovic – the band is back.
The diligence of the old and new Bayern headcoach Heynckes is famous. Once more, nothing will depend on good luck. Just like Heynckes, Peter Hermann will follow-up the games until late-night after Champions League matches, in order to review and conclude them neat and proper on the next morning.
Just as it is fit for a worker behind the scenes.