U19 before reaching the Bundesliga final: Hertha’s youth academy between success and upheaval

U19 before reaching the Bundesliga final

Hertha’s youth academy between success and upheaval

Wed 05/11/22 | 2:02 p.m. | Of Jonas Bürgener

Bild: imago images/Matthias Koch

Hertha’s youth teams are playing – once again – a strong season. A few youth players have also been able to collect Bundesliga minutes in the professional team this season. In the next season, however, a lot will change in Hertha’s academy. By Jonas Bürgener

It’s going well at Hertha. Well, the professional team is still fighting to stay up in the Bundesliga on the last day of the game, but the Berliners can once again spread positive news this season, especially in the youth field.

The U17s, coached by Oliver Reiß, made it to the Bundesliga semifinals and were only narrowly beaten by VfB Stuttgart. Things are going even better for the U19s of the blue and whites. The team won the first leg of the semi-finals in Augsburg (3-1) and is about to reach the final before the second leg on Saturday (11 a.m.). It would be the second final in a few years.

“All teams have good players”

Michael Hartmann laughs out loud. The youth coach is noticeably uncomfortable with the question of how he managed to be on the verge of reaching the Bundesliga final again this season with Hertha’s U19s after 2018. In his answer, he then spreads the responsibility over several shoulders: “We have very, very good teams and well-trained players in all vintages. Accordingly, a lot was done in advance,” says Hartmann cautiously. His job is then “only” to prepare the players for professional business.

So far, he and his team have done very well. Not only the very good performance in the Bundesliga – already now – speaks for this, but also the so-called permeability in the professional area. This is used to determine how many players actually make it from the youth teams to the professionals. Hertha is traditionally good.

From the team at the time, with which Hartmann won the A youth championship in 2018, Arne Maier (FC Augsburg), Dennis Smarsch (FC St. Pauli), Julius Kade (Dynamo Dresden) and Jessic Ngankam (Greuther Fürth) made it to the professional level.

Bundesliga minutes for youngsters again this season

Pablo Thiam, who has been head of the youth department at Hertha BSC since last summer, also points to the importance of turning youth players into professionals. “Of course, youth work is also measured by the results. But the number of players that we find in the first team is much more important,” says Thiam. “Berlin is predestined and known for the fact that many youngsters make it and take their first steps in professional football.”

A few young players in Felix Magath’s team have been able to collect Bundesliga minutes again this season – most recently Julius Eitschberger and Luca Wollschläger. “Of course you have to see that we are a club in a very big city, we have a very large reservoir of talent,” says Thiam, naming one reason for Hertha’s traditionally good youth work.

Hertha often cannot keep players

But not only for the 48-year-old ex-professional it is clear that of the many players who make it from the Hertha youth into the professional field, only a few stay in Berlin and at Hertha. “Part of it is of course that the guys are good and are bought away or have other ambitions,” says Thiam. Of course, Hertha would only have limited options compared to other clubs in the position the club is currently in. Most recently, Luca Netz (Borussia Mönchengladbach) and Lazar Samardzic (first RB Leipzig, now Udinese Calcio) left the club, two players that Hertha would have liked to keep. After all, the contract was recently extended with homegrown Linus Gechter.

“We are trying to use new structures and approaches, also in cooperation with the licensing department, to ensure that there will be a core of Berlin boys in the first team in the future,” Thiam looks ahead. “It won’t happen overnight, but we have a lot of guys who have the potential, but who also have to have the patience to assert themselves.”

Hartmann is drawn to Munich

Michael Hartmann, who has been successful for many years, will no longer be involved in this process. After nine years in Hertha’s youth department, the 47-year-old will switch to Bayern Munich’s youth academy in the summer. “It’s part of the business. Michael Hartmann did a very good job,” said Thiam, commenting on the departure. “We now have new leadership and a new path, we want to work more conceptually,” Thiam continued. Everyone has the right to say they want to do something different or see things differently.

Hartmann also cites the “rethinking in the academy since last season” as the reason for his departure. “That’s not my way and I’ve therefore decided to look for a new challenge,” said Hartmann.

The current U17 coach Reiß will close the gap he leaves behind. Reiß, in turn, is replaced by Stephan Schmidt, whom the Berliners piloted from Hannover 96 to the capital.

While Hartmann has a new task on his agenda after the fight for the German championship, Reiß and Schmidt will take care of bringing as many youth players as possible into the professional field. And in the long term maybe even more at Hertha BSC.

Broadcast: rbb UM6, 05/13/22, 6 p.m

Contribution by Jonas Bürgener