HUDDERSFIELD TOWN’S position in the Premier League may be increasingly parlous, but for Jan Siewert there will always be a sense of perspective.
The Terriers’ new head coach has overcome adversity before never more so than during his playing days as a defensive midfielder, which started with hometown side TuS Magen in the fifth tier of German football in the early Noughties.
A serious knee injury ended his playing career in the German lower leagues in his twenties and fortified his resolve to be a success in the coaching realm.
Spells as assistant manager of Germany’s Under-18 and Under-17 national sides provided Siewert with an impressive grounding in development football before getting his hands dirty as the assistant at Rot-Weiss Essen and then Vfl Bochum.
A spell in charge of Bochum’s Under-19s subsequently pricked the interest of renowned North Rhine-Westphalia club Borussia Dortmund, who offered him the coveted role of second team in July 2017.
Fewer than six years on from starting out in coaching, Siewert finds himself cast as the youngest head coach in the biggest league in the world – and the second youngest in the professional game in England and Wales behind Fleetwood Town manager Joey Barton.
He takes over a rock-bottom side with just 11 points to their name so far in 2018-19 and requiring something truly astounding to extend their Premier League journey to a third season.
Opening fixtures against Everton, Chelsea and Arsenal provide something akin to a baptism of fire, but given those dark times that he endured as a player it is a challenge that is met with a smile and steely intent by the 36-year-old, whose ambition is clear.
Siewert said: “I had four operations on my left knee in one year and then I had to quit and so I focused on my development as a coach. I had the possibility to look at several other coaches, and out of that my ideas developed. I was very young. I started to really focus on that when I was 23, which was really very young.
“But I like to challenge myself. This (Huddersfield) is a thing in my life that I am really looking forward to. I have to focus on my task and this is the most important thing for me.
“At the moment I am just focusing on Everton, and after Everton I am just focusing on Chelsea, and after Chelsea there will be Arsenal, and then, ‘Hallelujah.’
While engaged in his professional duties in his homeland over the past few years, Siewert has taken time to salute and rejoice from afar at Town’s remarkable promotion to the Premier League and subsequent ‘great escape’ last season.
Given the presence of David Wagner and a number of German footballers in their ranks, Town’s charming story has resonated on the banks of the Rhine, Elbe, Danube and beyond. The Yorkshire club have quickly become one of the best supported English clubs in Germany.
Siewert’s emotional attachment to Town has also become strong. After entering into a running dialogue with the club’s hierarchy during his time at Bochum in 2016-17, a deep-rooted bond has been forged between the club, coaching staff, players and fans under Wagner – something he is intent on reinforcing.
On being a Huddersfield ‘fan’ since being aware of their interest, Siewert said: “Wembley was amazing. I think it was Christopher Schindler who scored the final penalty. I know what this meant to the club.
“I have always worked at family clubs and this was so special to me. The games that I could observe were fantastic. I (also) saw some games live.
“I met David before he left for Huddersfield and I had a small chat with him in the stadium in Essen and then I followed his amazing career and his amazing work in Huddersfield.
“The job that he did was just incredible. It belongs to the history of Huddersfield and his name will always be linked with that.”
Having followed the Huddersfield story closely, albeit from a distance, Siewert has been greeted by a couple of familiar faces among the Town ranks in the shape of ex-Dortmund defender Erik Drum and fellow full-back Chris Lowe.
His time at the Westfalenstadion also saw him work with a leading young English talent in Jadon Sancho and having successfully worked at close quarters with a multicultural squad that also included the likes of German international Julian Weigl and Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa, he is similarly keen to cultivate a successful team ethos that transcends nationalities at Town.
Siewert added: “I know Chris Lowe because when I first did my Pro Licence he was in Kaiserslautern and at that time I met him there.
“Of course I (also) know the career of Christopher Schindler, but it is not just about the German guys, it is about the whole squad.
“I would like to get to know all of them, so this is my real focus, and I will.”