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'I'm Jan Siewert:' ex-BVB coach to do things his way

January 22, 2019

David Wagner's successor in Huddersfield is also German and also arrives from Borussia Dortmund, but Jan Siewert is determined to make his own mark. So, who exactly is the Premier League's latest German addition?

Jan Siewert Cheftrainer Huddersfield Town
Image: Reuters/E. Sykes

"Either we'll see each other here on Monday, or I'll be in England." Those were Jan Siewert's last words to his Borussia Dortmund under-23 players at the club's training ground in the suburb of Brackel on Saturday.

Talks between the 36-year-old, his agent and Premier League side Huddersfield Town were already advanced, and, come Monday morning, there was no sign of the head coach. Siewert was already in West Yorkshire, where he has signed a two-year contract with the struggling Terriers.

The path from Germany's Ruhr Valley to the United Kingdom's 11th-biggest town is a well-trodden one. Siewert's predecessor, David Wagner, also coached BVB's U23s from 2011 through 2015, before leading Huddersfield to promotion to the Premier League in 2017 and a 16th-place finish last season.

This season, however, Town find themselves bottom of the league — a position not unfamiliar to Siewert, whose only previous job as a first-team coach also ended in the relegation zone.

'A phase from which I learned a lot'

After just nine months in charge of the fourth-tier Regionalliga West side Rot-Weiss Essen, the then-32-year-old was dismissed in April 2016, with the club in danger of dropping into the fifth tier.

"Siewert's time in charge of Essen developed into a disaster," the local outlet RevierSport reports. "The young coach looked overwhelmed and had little authority when dealing with the players and the press. On fan forums, he was mocked as a 'kids coach.'"

That was a difficult experience but one that Siewert, from the small town of Mayen near Koblenz, said he had learned from. "[It was] an intensive and decisive phase in my career," he told Borussia Dortmund fanzine Schwatzgelb last summer. "A phase from which I learned a lot."

Jan Siewert Trainer Dortmund
Despite failure in Essen, Siewert was a popular and successful figure at Borussia DortmundImage: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Goldmann

Indeed, former players and colleagues in Dortmund are unanimous in highlighting Siewert's personal qualities since arriving at the Westfalenstadion in 2017.

BVB U23 manager Ingo Preuss praised Siewert's "approach to the different characters in the team," while veteran captain Massimo Ornatelli, 33, said he "promotes and demands but always with consideration, compassion and a good heart."

Defensive starlet Amos Pieper, 20, who was included in Lucien Favre's first-team squad for Dortmund's Bundesliga fixture against Borussia Mönchengladbach before Christmas, told Schwatzgelb that his discussions with Siewert were key to his development.

Tactical flexibility 

Pieper generally started in the back four of a 4-3-3 formation, but Siewert, previously on the coaching staff of the German U17 and U18 national teams and a former video analyst at TuS Koblenz, is tactically flexible and has also switched to 3-5-2 in recent league games against Viktoria Köln and Wattenscheid. He leaves Dortmund's reserves fourth in the Regionalliga West. 

"You have significantly more options going forward when you have four at the back, but we do tend to build up with three at the back, so it's quite variable," he told Schwatzgelb. "It depends on the potential and the strengths of the individual players."

A coach who admits that he gets annoyed when players "don't get it right tactically in certain situations," Siewert, who speaks English and French fluently, as well as a bit of Spanish and Italian, nevertheless insists that he has "a good connection with the players. I know what I want and I demand it from my players."

Jan Siewert Cheftrainer Huddersfield Town
An impossible job? Huddersfield Town are bottom of the Premier LeagueImage: Reuters/E. Sykes

With Huddersfield eight points adrift of safety, having lost nine and drawn one of their last 10 Premier League games, most recently a 3-0 defeat to champions Manchester City, Siewert has a difficult job on his hands. And, despite the comparisons to his predecessor, he he would do it his own way.

"Of course there are similarities in our playing style," he told journalists at his unveiling. "But the most important thing is that I'm Jan Siewert."