The Premier League’s youngest ever coach talks a big game: ‘I want to challenge the establishment’

Fabian Hurzeler understands why there’s so much intrigue.

After all, he is just 31, the youngest manager in Premier League history, an American-born German who quit soccer in his early 20s to get into coaching, and is coming off two impressive years at one of Europe’s most hipster clubs.

But he wanted to allay any concerns.

“I am a young man,” Hurzeler said with a smile at his presentation as Brighton manager on Tuesday, “but I’m not a young coach.”

Hurzeler sure didn’t sound like a rookie as he spoke of his footballing philosophy — a combo of Thomas Tuchel and Jurgen Klopp — and his own personal approach — “a mix between courage and humility.”

At one stage, he even called himself “a grounded one” — reviving memories of a young and charismatic Jose Mourinho joining Chelsea in 2004 and pronouncing himself “a special one.”

“I call myself the friendly authority,” Hurzeler said. “Football is my passion and I try to convince my players by using the power of ideas. I want to value and improve every player … that’s my leadership style.”

“I want,” he added, “to challenge the establishment.”

Hurzeler has quite the back-story.

He was born in Texas and his family moved to Europe when he was 2 years old. An academy player with Bayern Munich, he went on to play professionally in Germany’s lower leagues but realized by the age of 21 that “I won’t reach the highest levels.” He was the second youngest coach in Germany when appointed by St. Pauli — a cult club located near Hamburg’s famous red-light district and with famously left-wing supporters — at the age of 29 years, 11 months, in 2022. And, barely two months ago, he got the team promoted to the Bundesliga.

Now he finds himself in England, in what he describes as the best league in the world and at a club that also classes itself as different to the rest.

Hurzeler said he was attracted by Brighton’s “analytical and data-based approach” and by the standard of the players already in the team. Six in the squad are older than him, including Lewis Dunk — currently at Euro 2024 with England — and 38-year-old former Liverpool midfielder James Milner.

Of course, he said, he knows “my age is a big topic.”

“And I don’t have experience in the Premier League,” he said. “But there’s always a start.”

Asked for his style of play, he name-checked two other German managers — Tuchel and Klopp — as inspirations.

“I like to have intensity on the pitch — it’s a mix of ball-possession and intensity off the ball,” said Hurzeler, who said he regularly watched Premier League games while in Germany, especially those involving Brighton, Arsenal and Manchester City.

“It’s part of my job to follow different trends of international football. The Premier League is the best in the world, it has the best coaches … but you have to have your own philosophy.”

Brighton’s opening league match is away to Everton on Aug. 17 and the club’s chairman, Tony Bloom, is excited to see what his new recruit can bring.

“I wouldn’t talk about it as a gamble at all,” Bloom said. “We look at everything, we put a lot of effort into the appointment of any head coach like other clubs do and we think Fabian is the best fit for the football club. He’s the least-risk option of all the options we had.”


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