Kevin Thelwell: “He’s well known to the group and the rest of the organization. That helps in terms of the process because we’re obviously able to get some very good references. But without question it’s all about New York at this stage.” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
Red Bull fans, if you think that new head coach Gerhard Struber will be joining the team any time soon, guess again.
The team could be waiting until the MLS Cup playoffs in December and perhaps even beyond.
Red Bulls head of sports Kevin Thelwell said the club is “anticipating maybe six to eight weeks” before the 43-year-old Struber arrives. It could take that long to obtain his work visa.
“He’s very much around the visa process we all recognize that that some may slightly more difficult in these times of COVID,” Thelwell said during a media Zoom press conference Wednesday afternoon. “So, I suppose we’re anticipating maybe six to eight weeks will be would be the timeline to get him to get him across the water, and hopefully get in here formally.”
So, until then, interim head coach Bradley Carnell will guide the team. Carnell took over the reins after Chris Armas was fired Sept. 4. The Red Bulls host Inter Miami CF at Red Bull Arena Wednesday at 7 p.m.
That Struber had a past with the Red Bulls organization – he spent than a decade either player for or coaching at the youth level with Red Bull Salzburg – did not hurt his chances. The organization knew about his philosophy and vice versa.
But it was what the USA team wanted and needed; not what Salzburg desired.
“He’s well known to the group and the rest of the organization,” Thelwell said. “That helps in terms of the process because we’re obviously able to get some very good references. But without question it’s all about New York at this stage. We’re gonna want somebody who’s going to be committed to New York, and without question I got that sense in the conversations that I was having with it with Gerhard all the time. My view is that he’s extremely committed to us.”
Struber certainly didn’t come cheap. According to reports, the Red Bulls paid Barnsley FC, at which he most recently coached, $2.6 million so he could get out of his contract with the English Championship club.
When asked whether he thought another team could be interested in Struber, Thelwell replied, “Who knows? We’re obviously trying to kind of find individuals who are highly ambitious and want to achieve things some. Without question, they get interest from other football clubs, never mind our group. I’ve got no doubts that we’ve got the right guy. I’m hoping he’s going to be very, very successful with our support.
“During that time I’m expecting him to get interest either from our group, or from the wider football population. I hope so because that proves he’s doing a very good job. And then we’ll deal with that as we as we find it.”
It took a month to decide on a new coach.
“A month is not a very long period of us to decide to change and go through the process,” Thelwell said, adding that the Red Bulls did “the appropriate level of diligence and get to a decision as quickly as we could. Four weeks is quite a tight turn around. We wanted to make sure that we dot quite a lot of i’s and cross quite a lot of t’s.”
Thelwell didn’t say how many candidates or finalists who applied for the job, adding that Struber had to go through three rounds of interviews with the head of sport.
In a unique twist, Struber and Thelwell never met live. All interviews were done remotely.
“I suppose that’s one of the difficulties and one of the differences in today’s day and age,” Thelwell. said. “I was very confident with the references that we had, with the dossier of the information that we built and also the conversations we had with him that he’s going to be a very good fit for us.”
Struber just can’t arrive soon enough.
“I’m expecting a guy who’s going to be able to make a difference very, very quickly,” Thelwell said. “The way in which you make a difference is what he does on the grass, his coaching methodology. It’s a philosophy how he works, how he works for young players, how he builds team cohesion. Also, culturally. How he then works with other staff, how he works with other people to try and drive this whole project forward.
“It’s a bit of a cheesy saying but I’m big believer in getting the right people to drive the bus and I think he is without question and the conversations that I’ve had, and the experience I’ve had around some of the detail are built around him without question he really going to help us to drive this whole thing forward. So, yeah very excited.”