x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Liverpool's 2005 winner Hamann starts coaching career from bottom

Former players often start managing at the top. Dietmar Hamann, part of the 2005 Champions League winning team in Istanbul for Liverpool, has chosen a different route.

Dietmar Hamann, left, won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005.
Dietmar Hamann, left, won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005.
The journey from Champions League to non-league has taken six years. It can be interpreted as going from immortality to obscurity, but it may yet prove the start of something.

Last week, Dietmar Hamann was confirmed as Stockport County's new manager. The man whose half-time introduction was one of the catalytic factors in the greatest turnaround in the history of Champions League finals, for Liverpool in Istanbul in 2005 against AC Milan, comes with an enviable pedigree.

In his country's colours, the German scored the final goal at the old Wembley Stadium in 2000 and was a World Cup finalist in 2002. Now he joins a club at a historic low.

"The club had some barren spells in recent years and we want to bring the glory days back to Edgeley Park," Hamann said.

Indeed, while County were a Championship side - and a division above their near neighbours, Manchester City - as recently as 1998/99, Stockport's 106-year stay in the Football League (England's four fully professional divisions) ended last season and the new manager hasn't even inherited a full quota of players.

"With the situation as it is - only seven or eight players on the books - I've got a chance to bring in eight or nine players," the 37 year old said. One man's complaint is another's opportunity and Hamann added: "I think that's a big advantage."

A can-do attitude may be required for what could prove a culture shock. While Hamann spent last season coaching in League One (with Milton Keynes Dons) and then the Championship (at Leicester City), the Blue Square Premier is uncharted territory.

"I'll go to places I've not been before but I'm not afraid of that because that's what it's all about in football," Hamann said. Nevertheless, Sven-Goran Eriksson, his employer at Leicester, said he should have started at a higher level.

His skill set seems to explain Eriksson's opinion. Hamann's (obviously) fluent German is an insignificant factor in non-league, but in the cosmopolitan setting of a higher division, it could be a benefit.

The Blue Square Premier tends to favour specialists who understand its demands, rather than glamorous arrivals from bigger clubs.

Hamann, however, has friends in grander places.

"I'll be speaking to Kenny [Dalglish] if he's got a player he wants to send down here."

The current Liverpool manager, who signed Hamann for Newcastle United, is among a stellar list of influences on the ingenue; he played under Otto Rehhagel, Franz Beckenbauer and Giovanni Trapattoni for Bayern Munich and both Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez at Anfield.

The Liverpool connection is indirectly responsible for his appointment. County's probable new owner, Tony Evans, is a Merseyside businessman who was born in the same suburb, Huyton, as Hamann's former midfield partner, Steven Gerrard.

Another former colleague, Robbie Fowler, was tipped for a coaching role, though those rumours have proved unfounded as he has now signed to play for a team in Thailand.

If Hamann, who played over 250 Premier League games, holds honorary Scouser status, he is a committed Anglophile, a rare German cricket fan and a footballer who married a tactical brain with an English style of play.

At Stockport, he has signed a one-year contract and, as none of the previous 10 teams demoted to the Blue Square Premier attained an immediate promotion, his is a difficult task. They may belong in the Football League, as he has argued, but getting there poses problems.

For County, however, there is a new-found optimism: the years of relegation and administration have been followed by a proposed takeover by a consortium led by Evans.

Bids worth a combined £200,000 (Dh1.17 million), a sizeable sum for the fifth tier, were made for three players (one, Accrington Stanley's Sean McConville, has already signed), while a managerial job initially advertised on the club website has gone to a Champions League winner. After the ignominy comes the intrigue.