Barnsley v Hull City: Ruhr to Reds, the coaching journey of Joseph Laumann

MANY a fine football career began by the coalfields of Barnsley – from Taylor to Howard, Winstanley to McCarthy.

Tykes interim coach Joseph Laumann. Picture: Tony Johnson

For Reds caretaker head coach Joseph Laumann, you have to go to Germany’s coal-mining region of Ruhrgebiet for where his own love affair with the beautiful game truly began.

Barnsley’s caretaker head coach may have been born in the exotic and vibrant Moroccan city of Marrakesh, but it was in the industrial north-west of Germany where his formative years were spent.

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Germany and Bayern Munich legend Franz Beckenbauer famously said that “the heart of German football beats in the Ruhr” and Laumann would not disagree. His only interest was football; so much so he even started coaching while still in his teens.

It probably helps to explain why he feels at home in the industrial north of England where great clubs pervade the landscape in Yorkshire, Lancashire and the North East.

Should Barnsley win today’s game with White Rose rivals Hull City, then his chances of sticking around for a fair while longer in the head coaching seat at Oakwell may well increase. The clamour might just grow.

Laumann told The Yorkshire Post: “Where I am from is called the Ruhrgebiet. It is a working area like Barnsley and it is quite similar to here and it is all about football.

“Everyone is playing football. Cities with 100,000 populations have 80 football clubs and then we have (other) bigger teams and rivalries.

“I grew up in Morocco and we only knew Bayern Munich at that time. When we came to Germany, it was way too far to support them, but we had Bochum which was only 20 minutes from me and Borussia Dortmund and Schalke, who I played for once.

“I actually started coaching very early at 16 or 17 and coached a youth team of kids who were nine or 10 years old. I did that for three or four years and then got my first professional contract. I needed to stop, but it was in my head all the time that when I stopped (playing), I would do my coaching badges and be a coach.

“I love football and when I was a kid, my whole day was just about football. I enjoyed coaching those kids and it gave something to me and made me happy and from that point, I fell in love with coaching. I kept it in my mind all the time.”

After starting out at Oestrich-Iserlohn and SpVgg Erkenschwick, Laumann earned a move in 2005 to Ruhr giants FC Schalke, whose nickname is Die Knappen – The Miners.

He would make one appearance for the first team, but recalls a time where he learned plenty ahead of his second career in football under a Bundesliga legend in Ralph Rangwick, the brains behind the rise of RB Leipzig and a revered name in Germany.

Much more recently, working alongside former Reds head coach Valerien Ismael is something he took plenty from.

Laumann, 38, added: “For sure, Ralph Rangwick was an influence. I came at 20 from a smaller club and it was the first time I was introduced to the real technical stuff on how I can improve. He had a big impact.

“It was the first time I saw how a coach has an influence on a team with his tactical communication and his wording and how he brought a message which everyone understands.

“I love to be a player, but I love to be a coach and when I stopped, I did not think for one minute about playing, but just learning, learning and learning.

“For sure, you tried to figure out what your coaches did well and I like to read and have read a lot about many coaches. It’s about learning and finding your own philosophy and working on it.

“Under Valerien, it was a very good year to see how he structured himself and his approach towards the boys and sending clear messages. You can always learn and I did learn from last year. It was no accident why we were so successful.”

Laumann is too professional and smart to speak about his own coaching hopes at Barnsley beyond today’s game. Very wise.

He is living in the now and 90-plus hugely important minutes today as every ‘football man’ does. One guarantee is that he will take plenty from this experience, however long it lasts.