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Who is Fabian Hurzeler? Brighton & Hove Albion's new record-breaking manager

Who is Fabian Hurzeler? Brighton's new record-breaking manager
© Reuters
Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at Brighton & Hove Albion's new head coach Fabian Hurzeler and what Seagulls supporters can expect from the record-breaking 31-year-old.

Brighton & Hove Albion have confirmed the appointment of Fabian Hurzeler as their new head coach.

The 31-year-old has penned a three-year deal until June 2027 and becomes the youngest permanent Premier League manager in history.

Brighton's thorough data-led analysis, carried out by chairman and owner Tony Bloom, CEO Paul Barber and technical director David Weir, resulted in the Seagulls identifying Hurzeler as their primary managerial target to succeed Roberto De Zerbi, who mutually departed the club at the end of the 2023-24 season.

As soon as his work permit has been processed, Hurzeler will begin work as Brighton boss "straight away" ahead of the squad returning for pre-season preparations in July.

Here, Sports Mole takes a closer look at Hurzeler's career and what Brighton fans can expect from the highly-rated German coach.

Born in the USA, made in Germany

St Pauli coach Fabian Hurzeler before the match on April 21, 2023© Reuters

Hurzeler was born in Houston, Texas to a Swiss dentist and German mother while they were both working in the United States, and his family moved back to Germany when he was two years old.

After a three-year stay in Freiburg, Hurzeler and his family settled in the Daglfing district of Munich and he began his playing career as a youngster with SV Helios before joining Bayern Munich II in 2008.

A midfielder in his playing days, Hurzeler was disciplined in Bayern's reserve team under the tutelage of Hermann Hummels, the father of Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels, and he also shared a dressing room with Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and BVB's Emre Can, the latter predicted that Hurzeler would go on to have "a great career as a coach".

From the Under-12s onwards, Hurzeler represented Bayern at all youth levels and wore the captain's armband for every age group. He was also a regular in the German U-national teams, before leaving Bayern in 2013 to represent Hoffenheim II and 1860 Munich II over a three-year period.

At the age of 23, Hurzeler made the decision to drop down into the amateur leagues of German football and become a player-coach at FC Pipinsried. He eventually hung up his boots and concentrated on coaching, juggling his job at Pipinsried with the role of an assistant coach of the Germany Under-18 and Under-20s teams, before joining St Pauli in a similar role in 2020.

Rapid rise rewarded with St Pauli success

St Pauli coach Fabian Hurzeler reacts on January 31, 2024© Reuters

Hurzeler began life at St Pauli as one of two 27-year-old assistant coaches, along with Loic Fave, working under manager Timo Schultz, a popular figure and club legend having spent the final six years of his playing career at the Hamburg-based outfit before taking charge in the summer of 2020.

However, after just over two years at the helm, Schultz was relieved of his duties following a run of just four victories in 17 second-tier matches at the start of the 2022-23 campaign. The decision did not go down well with the club's supporters as they felt that their club hero deserved more time to turn their fortunes around.

To the surprise of many, Hurzeler was offered the job to succeed Schultz and at the age of 29 became their youngest-ever manager in December 2022. Hurzeler's appointment proved to be an instant success as he won each of his first 10 games in charge of St Pauli, setting a new club record and bettering Jurgen Klopp's seven-game unbeaten start in his first managerial role at Mainz 05.

Within the space of just a few months, Hurzeler's side swapped a relegation battle for a promotion push and at one stage were sitting just six points behind the automatic promotion places. St Pauli eventually settled for a fifth-placed finish, but the progress made under Hurzeler provided the fans with hope heading into the new season.

St Pauli head coach Fabian Hurzeler celebrates with fans after winning the 2.Bundesliga title on May 19, 2024© Reuters

St Pauli went from strength to strength under Hurzeler in 2023-24 and began the campaign in positive fashion with a 20-game unbeaten run in the second tier, scoring 37 goals in the process.

Nicknames 'Kiezkicker', St Pauli occupied a place in the top two of the 2.Bundesliga standings from matchday seven onwards and they led the way at the summit for 22 out of 26 weeks since then.

St Pauli went on to accumulate a club-record 69 second-tier points after winning 20 of their 34 games. They secured promotion to the top flight for the first time in 13 years with a win over Osnabruck in their penultimate fixture, before clinching the title on the final day of the season with success away against Wehen Wiesbaden.

Hurzeler was the mastermind behind St Pauli's stylish title triumph and not only did he implement an attractive brand of football, he crucially found the right balance between defence and attack which his teams lacked in stages at the start of the season and towards the back end of the previous campaign.

What can Brighton fans expect from Hurzeler?

Brighton & Hove Albion's James Milner, Joao Pedro and Carlos Baleba celebrate after the match on December 14, 2023© Reuters

Hurzeler has admitted that his coaching philosophy has been shaped by his brief playing experience at youth level with perennial winners Bayern Munich.

"As a Bayern Munich player, you always have to be successful. But you can't just be successful; you also must play a certain way, a nice style of football," Hurzeler told Transfermarkt. "You not only have to be successful, but also play a nice style of football.

"That's what created my personality and my thinking of the style I want to play and having to deal with pressure. Deep in my heart and DNA, I want to have the ball and dominate the game."

St Pauli executed an attractive, possession and pressing-based style under Hurzeler last season, with the German side boasting the second-highest average possession (57.4%) in the second tier.

Kiezkicker completed the most open-play passes (87.18%), made more intensive runs (746.41) and covered the most distance (122.24km) of any team in the division, while they also conceded the fewest goals (39) and faced 70 fewer shots than any other second-tier side (291).

St Pauli coach Fabian Hurzeler before the match on December 1, 2023© Reuters

Hurzeler has been likened to Germany's 36-year-old head coach Julian Nagelsmann and former Brighton boss De Zerbi, while his style of play also shares similarities with that of Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna, who was linked with the Seagulls job before extending his contract at Portman Road.

Not only must Hurzeler quickly adjust to being thrusted into the Premier League limelight, he will also be tasked with stamping his authority onto a talented Brighton squad that currently includes six players older than himself - most notably 38-year-old veteran James Milner.

Hurzeler was aware of the challenges that he would face when stepping into management at such a young age, but he believes that his "biggest strength" is to 'focus on the things he can influence' and portray his messages to players in an honest and direct matter.

Discussing how he earned admiration from his St Pauli players of a similar age to himself, Hurzeler told Goal: "I would say it's like friendly authority. I've tried to be very open to the players. I tried to give them some ideas on how they could improve.

St Pauli head coach Fabian Hurzeler speaks to the media before the match on May 3, 2024© Reuters

"I'm on their level when I talk to them. I'm not the guy who said 'Okay, I'll try to lead from upstairs'. I try to lead and try to use ideas to convince them to do something. I tried to improve them so that they felt that I really cared about their development. I think then they listened more and more and more, and then I feel they really feel it.

"It's very important that you are authentic, that you are real, that you don't try to be artificial in front of them. That was my first idea. And the second, of course, you have to be an authority because, in the end, you make hard decisions and, in the end, they have to really recognise that you are the person who maybe hurt them.

"It's not always an easy job as a coach. You have to make tough decisions where maybe some players don't agree, but that's the thing they have to accept. That's also the message you have to transport, that you are the man, the coach, the boss who makes the decision. It's like a balance between the relationship to them also being authority who makes hard decisions."

Hurzeler will hope to be given time at Brighton to make his mark, as well as funds to strengthen a squad that will be keen to improve on last season's bottom-half finish in the Premier League and push themselves towards the European positions in the 2024-25 campaign.

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St Pauli head coach Fabian Hurzeler speaks to the media before the match on May 3, 2024
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