Being a manager of a football club is never an easy job: it’s time-consuming, requires immense patience, and nerves of steel. It’s especially demanding for someone who isn’t used to the needs of the job. Take Jan Siewert, a novice when it comes to handling a Premier League club.
‘I realised, especially for my wife and my son, how intensive it was’, he said in an interview. ‘When you’re in the job you don’t realise that. Now, after 15 years of managing, maybe I need this time. I’ve never had that period before, where you can have time to breathe, time to develop your process, to go to matches and scout without the pressure of the next game, to go to seminars. I just want to get prepared for my next challenge’.
January 23 marks a year when Siewert replaced David Wagner as Huddersfield’s manager. Since then, time hasn’t been treating him well. When he took charge of the club, they were 10 points away from being safe from relegation with only 15 games left in their season. Relegation, at that point, was inevitable. The following season, they had won just one out of 10 matches, including two losses and a draw in the first three matches of the 2019/20 season in the Championship. Any signs for improvement seemed bleak at best. Siewert was sacked on August 16.
Despite the state of the club and the difficult task that was handed to him, he felt that he was able to connect with the club, the players, its fans, and its staff. ‘I wouldn’t say it was a relief’, he said, ‘because still now it is painful for me if they lose. I left my heart there. For me, it’s really important people know I still care about the club, because I do’.
‘The whole time I’ve been living here – during my time with Huddersfield and especially after – people are so friendly. That’s one of the reasons why we felt so comfortable here, and we wanted our child to learn another culture, another language. People always say, “We know what you have done and thank you for that”. It’s a really nice area, a nice neighbourhood. That’s why it was no question for us to leave’.
After a long, failed season in the Premier League, with relegation on the horizon, the club’s chairman was also forced to resign due to health problems. He ended up selling it to Phil Hodgkinson, a lifelong fan of the club and a local businessman. Siewert kept his job but did more things that were beyond what his paycheck and contract said. ‘During the summer break I was doing a lot of work, not just as a manager’, he remembers. ‘I was helping the club in a structural way. This happened when others might have gone on holiday, but I felt I had to be there’.
After his nine-month stint with the club, Siewert left damaged. He wasn’t concerned about it though, but there was one thing that was constantly on his mind: how does one learn from a negative experience. Since then, he’s seen the silver lining: in accepting the job, he found a community; in losing it, he reconnected with family and friends; most importantly, he learned to face his problems head-on.