FEW managers have had a more daunting introduction to English football than the one facing Jos Luhukay.
Fresh from his maiden training session yesterday as Sheffield Wednesday’s new manager, the 54-year-old’s thoughts are focused solely on Friday and the less than trifling matter of the 142nd Steel City derby.
Wednesday’s first trip to Bramall Lane in more than six years was always going to be a big moment in the club’s season. This much was clear from the moment United won promotion from League One last May to resume hostilities.
But throw in Luhukay’s appointment and the embarrassment of last September’s 4-2 derby drubbing on home soil to a rival who carry Sheffield’s only realistic hope of hosting Premier League football next season and this has now gone way beyond the chance to claim local bragging rights.
Victory over Chris Wilder’s Blades, therefore, will surely guarantee instant hero status for the Dutchman. Not that this is what will be motivating the man himself this week.
“It is not about me,” he said to The Yorkshire Post. “I do not want to be the hero, only someone who does a very good job.
“I will be very happy for the team if we win on Friday, but it is not about me.
“The players will give the performance and the fans are happy, that is what I like. For me, I am more happy for other people if we do well. I will not be the hero.
“For me, the big thing is that a win on Friday would give us more confidence and also a trust in ourselves and our team-mates. That is what we need, a boost for the next game.”
Considering the grandstanding that is going on in the Premier League at the moment among two of English football’s more high-profile foreign legion, such humility is to be welcomed.
As, from a Wednesday perspective, is the new manager having extensive experience of derby football from a 20-year coaching career in Germany that has brought three promotions to the Bundesliga.
“I know derby football,” added Luhukay. “Monchengladbach against FC Cologne was a big one. There was also Hertha and Union Berlin, they had 75,000 people at the derby. Two clubs in one city is the same as here. That made it a challenge to be the best team.”
Luhukay’s two Berlin derbies as manager in the 2012-13 season that ended with his Hertha side winning promotion yielded four points.
Comparing this to the Steel City showdown, however, may be a tad misleading with the passions aroused in the German capital nothing like what we can expect to see at the Lane on Friday night in front of the live Sky cameras.
Where the rivalry between Wednesday and United has been passed down from generation to generation since the first derby way back in 1893, the two Berlin clubs only met competitively for the first time in 2011 due to Union being in the old East Germany until the Wall came down and Hertha operating on a very different level in the following two decades.
Monchengladbach-Cologne, however, is a more fearsome rivalry with its two combatants once compared to Batman and the Joker, in that they are sworn enemies and yet somehow alter egos of each other. Luhukay’s two derbies against Cologne in the season that saw both clubs promoted ended as draws.
“I know what to expect,” said the new Wednesday chief about Friday. I have had a lot of derbies in the past.
“I have a lot of passion for Friday’s game. Derbies are special games, I like the atmosphere from the fans.”
Lukukay’s coaching career, taking in seven clubs and boasting a trio of promotions, has been built on a solid defence with clean sheets highly prized.
It is a trait he intends to bring to Hillsborough, along with a rediscovering of the winning feeling that characterised much of Carlos Carvalhal’s first two years at the helm.
“In this moment you can see the table,” added the Dutchman. “We are 16th and the way to upstairs is long. First, we must become stable.
“I am confident (of achieving a fourth career promotion with the Owls). But it is not just down to me.
“Together, we must work hard to bring success and then sometime in the future get to the Premier League. That is the dream, but we must also have the motivation. I come not to sit here. I want to have success with this team.”