Huub Stevens: "A really weird feeling"
When Hertha BSC were the visitors to our Arena on 25th August 2002, Huub Stevens was stood on the touchline for the Berlin side. It was the first time the S04 ‘Manager of the Century’ had returned to Schalke’s stomping ground, after six successful years with the Royal Blues. The 64-year-old speaks about the emotions he had when facing Schalke, as well as his time in the capital, his new role on the board of supervisors and his exchanges with Domenico Tedesco.
Huub, after six successful years with Schalke, in which you won the UEFA Cup, the DFB-Pokal twice and were so close to becoming Bundesliga champions, you moved to Hertha BSC in the 2001/2002 season. We will face Hertha again on the third matchday. What emotions did you have during these matches?
It was weird. It was also like that in the following years whenever I was the coach of the opposing team against Schalke. When you are in charge of a club for so long, like I was at Schalke, they automatically have a place in your heart. When I returned to the Arena as Hertha head coach, I got a great welcome. It was a nice feeling and once again showed how great the Schalke fans are.
Can you remember the game?
It was 0-0 and a fair result on the day. I always wanted to get three points instead of one, but I am being completely honest when I say that when my team beat Schalke over the years, I was always sorry, most of all for the fans, who were something special for me.
What was your relationship with the Hertha fans like?
You cannot compare it to my connection with the Schalke supporters. I had a difficult time with the Hertha fans from the beginning. They saw me as a Schalke lad and Schalke are not popular in Berlin. I always tried to be completely honest with the Hertha fans, however that did not always work out for the best and they did not accept me. Hendrik Herzog, who also played for Schalke in the mid-90s, was club caretaker at the time and said that he felt really sorry for me. He thought the reaction towards me was unfair, but he could also not change anything. My time in the capital was over after almost 18 months after we went our separate ways in December 2003. The second season did not go so well, after qualifying for the UEFA Cup in the first year.
You have made no secret of your special connection to the Royal Blues, which has continued over the years.
You know the phrase: once a Schalke fan, always a Schalke fan. Once this club has sucked you in, there is no going back.
You have been on the board of supervisors for almost three months now. Why did you put yourself forward for this position?
I want to help the club. The board is well set-up and I believe that I can give the committee some important input with my knowledge of football. At the same time, it was a desire of mine to return to Schalke. It is an honour for me to be part of the committee. The fact that so many Schalke fans voted for me, makes me feel very proud.
Domenico Tedesco has revealed that he was really keen to have a chat with you.
That makes me feel proud. He was the first new head coach, who tried to contact me to try and learn about Schalke and the surroundings. Lots of people already knew him, however it is sometimes helpful to speak to someone who has already experienced it all before. Domenico did not have my phone number at the time so he called my son Maikel instead and asked whether I could help him.
How was your first meeting?
We talked for almost two hours about the fans, the club, the players and much more. We spoke during pre-season, just after his appointment. I had a feeling that the chat really helped him. We also met a few more times after our first discussion and we call each other regularly. Domenico also revealed to me that he used to rate my work as a head coach really highly. He is a great guy and he loves Schalke as much as I do.
Does he sometimes ask you for your opinions on a game or a player?
That can sometimes happen. We also speak about formations and tactics. Domenico is basically interested in everything, for example, he wanted to know how I got on with the fans so well. Finally, I was also a young, unknown coach in Germany when I started off at Schalke.
What advice have you given to him?
That you should stay true to yourself and must not copy anyone else. He is Domenico Tedesco and I am Huub Stevens. It is incredibly important to stay genuine and Domenico has done this since day one at Schalke. He has not changed at all. His work and demeanor has really impressed me. He has stuck by his principles and is going his own way.
Going back to Hertha, have you still got contacts with previous colleagues from your time in Berlin?
Not really. I met with Dieter Hoeneß, who was Hertha coach at the time, a while ago and we talked about the old times. The reason for us meeting again was very sad, as it was at the funeral of former Schalke caretaker Reiner Kübler, who I had the fortune of working with. He also worked in the marketing team at Hertha. Apart from this meeting with Dieter Hoeneß, there have hardly been, and continue to be, any contact with people from my time at Hertha BSC. Despite this, I have a special connection with Berlin, which will always remain.
Why is that?
My son married a woman from Berlin and they have two amazing children, to whom I am a very proud grandfather. They currently live in the Berlin area.
Spending time with the family is important for you. Will you be in the stadium on Sunday?
I want to be in the VELTINS-Arena for every home game, to give my support to the team. Therefore, I will also be there against Hertha BSC, unless something out of the ordinary gets in the way.