Hermann Gerland has contributed immensely to Bayern's success. The fact that he became a footballer rather than become a banker is rather fortunate for Bayern. The Bochum native, still very much in love with the Ruhr valley, started his career there. He made it to Bochum following a tough youth; his father died when Gerland was nine and his mother had to raise her children on her own.
Gerland did a banking apprenticeship but football was always his real love. Gerland started off as a striker in 1972 but eventually found his way into defense where he developed a talent for keeping strikers away from the net. But, that did not stop a bit of systematic confusion from getting in the way and allowing Jupp Heynckes to knock three past him.
In the 1976-1977 season, Gerland's coach at Bochum, Heinz Höher preferred a mixture of zonal marking and man to man defending (you might remember from a previous Memorable Monday column that Gyula Lorant of Bayern introduced the system first to the Bundesliga). When defending against Heynckes, Gerland tried to follow Höher's directions but was undone against Gladbach. "Guvnor, you said if Jupp Heynckes went past me, I should let him go - so I did, and he scored three times" he explained to Höher.
Despite the tactical confusions, Gerland continued being good at his job. Although Bochum had relegation scares frequently, teams were uncomfortable with playing them, including Bayern. Bayern's coach Dettmar Cramer once said "We didn't worry about Schalke or Duisburg, it was Bochum...We were really scared of them."
Gerland's dignity and aura on the pitch was a part of that fear. In the early 80s, when Gerland was no longer deemed a starter, he accepted his role as a reserve player and eventually retired after 204 appearances to become assistant coach at Bochum in 1984. He took over as head coach in 1986, finally cutting his ties with his hometown club in 1988 for a stint at FC Nürnberg. Bayern came calling in 1990 and Gerland accepted, but in 1995, when Nürnberg called again, Gerland could not resist being head coach once more. He would return in 2001, but when he did this time, he was not going to leave again.
Upon his return, Gerland coached a certain 17 year old who clearly to this day has his admiration. He told the FCB website early this year:
"He's (Lahm) maintained an incredible level for the last 12 years, but he's still never been Player of the Year - and that's a catastrophe!"
His opinion has not changed much since the old days, when he gave a young Lahm his spot in the Bayern II lineup.
"It was in a match against Burghausen. I'd never before had a player who was as good at 17 as Philipp Lahm was. He didn't make a single mistake in either training or matches. For me, he was the best 17-year-old footballer I've ever encountered."
He advised Lahm to take the loan spell at VfB Stuttgart and that eventually helped Lahm shine. The Bayern brass understood Lahm better and brought him back. Gerland did not always need to send players out on loan to help them become better though. Mats Hummels for example was struggling somewhat in his days at Bayern II and Gerland handed him a spot in central midfield to allow the game to flow around Hummels. He became bigger, better and eventually Dortmund captain, something which did not exactly please Gerland too much. He is clearly trusted by the hierarchy. He convinced Bayern to hold on to Thomas Müller and Holger Badstuber. Müller almost signed for Hoffenheim but Gerland made one last plea which saw the youngster become a Bayern legend rather quickly. He knew what we all know now back then:
"He might be unorthodox, but he scores plenty of goals."
Gerland cares about his players; when he spots talent, he helps groom them. He used to wake up the players who were housed by Bayern in the morning at times. Also, he took a rather adventurous (to say the least) Bastian Schweinsteiger under his wings and set some ground rules.
"He turned up once with black hair, so I said to him that I'd leave him out until it was blonde again."
Basti understood him then and does to this day. These success stories of Gerland came in his second spell but his first was quite outstanding too. In fact, his track record in the 90s is perhaps why Bayern brought him back. Owen Hargreaves came through then as did Sammy Kuffour. He is nothing short of an astounding coach and a great personality. When Uli Hoeness thinks you are trustworthy, we have to take his word for it:
"We're very lucky to have Hermann at FC Bayern. I've scarcely met such an honest and dependable person in all my life."
Naturally, Bochum might have taken a peek at that World Cup Final and seen all those Hermann youths. They gave him a call in 2013. But for Martin Kree, the Bochum board member who called him, Gerland had a simple answer.
"Martin, there were times when I'd have really liked to work in Bochum again, but now I'm at the best club in the world. I enjoy every day because I'm working with the best players in the world. Every training session is a pleasure and I look forward to it every morning. I'd lose all of that."
Gerland is rarely ever mentioned as more than a former Bayern II manager and the current assistant coach by the press outside Germany (Louis Van Gaal made yet another great choice by promoting him to the first team in 2009). But he is so much more than that. He trusts his players and did not forget about the injured Holger Badstuber after the World Cup.
"We've [Germany] won the World Cup and five of the world champions are products of our youth section. If Holger hadn't been injured it would have been six, all of them leading figures! I think our youth section often doesn't get the credit it deserves."
For any fan out there, it is perhaps extremely difficult to imagine a Bayern without Basti and Mulli. Without Gerland, the current Bayern captain might never have gotten a chance either.
Without the Tiger, many of those trophies that currently stand in the Bayern Erlebniswelt might not have been there.
And perhaps, instead of congratulating the team as we always do after the end of the season, this time, we might as well thank Gerland for yet another spectacular Bundesliga triumph.