When football and media pundits talk about David Wagner, many underestimate the miracle job he has done at our club. This is natural and to employ a phrase the great man uses a lot “this totally makes sense”.
We are a club with an unheralded squad that most pundits couldn’t name more than two players from.
However, what most pundits also don’t articulate is the character of the man himself. He does not put on a show for the camera, throw tantrums or “selectively” see incidents that go against his team and ignore the ones that go in our favour.
He is a principled, honourable and decent man with strong values and a belief system he has developed through coming from an underprivileged background.
Telegraph Journalist Henry Winter expertly unlocks this from Wagner in one of his most open and revealing interviews to date.
His humble and caring demeanour is translated into the work he does for the Town Foundation’s Breakfast Club. You can tell he is fully behind the project and not just doing it for contractual obligations:
“Dean [Hoyle, Huddersfield’s owner] created this idea of a breakfast club because there are too many children in this town who go to school without a proper breakfast, or without the [supportive] family background, which we all think should be normal”.
This piece focuses on Wagner the man, not the manager. Amongst a range of issues, he opens up about the impact his mother had on bringing him up as a single mum:
“Even if I disagree with a lot of things my mother has done in her life and she made some strange decisions which I can’t understand, things you did in this generation, I’ll always be very thankful to her.”
He also reveals that, despite pundits claiming he is half-American because of his stint playing for the USA national team, he is actually half-Thai, a fact not everyone would feel comfortable revealing;
“I met my biological father when I was 18. I went with my girlfriend to Thailand for five or six weeks. We spent some time with each other. I met him only once in my life. We had some phone calls over the last 30 years but it wasn’t a real relationship. He passed away last year”.
Not having a substantial relationship with your father can be extremely hard for any young man growing up. The fact that Wagner has accomplished so much in the game, has a loving and wonderful family he can rely on and did all this without a true father figure for all of his adult life is testament to the man he is.
He does mention the role that a youth coach called Karl Kuehner had on him whilst he was a player at Geinsheim. Having someone to help him through his teenage years whilst navigating the pitfalls and mistakes anyone goes through at this age clearly had a huge impact on Wagner.
The fact that Kuehner was the best man at his wedding and not another certain bearded German manager speaks volumes for the respect and love he had for him and still has to this day.
Wagner is also not afraid to broach a topic that quite literally splits our fan-base in half, Brexit. As a proud German and European, he emphasises why, in his view, the Brexit vote was wrong and why we should be coming together as a continent of people to solve our problems, not isolate ourselves:
“It gives the wrong signal,” he says. “This is the wrong idea, not only for England, Great Britain but for every country. Obviously, there are reasons because more than 50 percent voted for it, but running away is not the solution. The mindset should be that we are all part of this Europe, so let’s try to solve the problem. We should all try to take care of each other”.
It makes you wonder if Wagner would have taken the job if the Brexit vote had taken place before he was offered it in the first place. Perhaps it might have an impact on other charismatic German managers we might want to attract in the future?
To conclude, this piece is warm, well-researched and conveys a range of emotions that deserves your attention. Bravo Henry Winter for giving a rare and in-depth look at the man behind the famous glasses and beard combo and one that doesn’t mention that David Wagner was Jürgen Klopp’s best man.
Authenticity is a quality uncommon in the modern game. Not with our manager.