Lerch reflects on The Best year
Lerch won league and cup double in first season at Wolfsburg
Guided the She-Wolves to the UEFA Women’s Champions League final
"I’ve learned a lot and experienced so much in my first year as head coach"
It is fair to say any season in which you win the domestic league and cup double and reach the UEFA Women’s Champions League final in your debut campaign as head coach is a successful one. Add to that a nomination on the ten-strong shortlist for The Best FIFA Women’s Coach award and there is no doubt that it has been an extremely good year for Stephan Lerch.
"It fills me with pride and it’s a great honour to be part of this group," Lerch said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. "Nevertheless, I see myself as a representative of the team, the coaching staff and the team behind the team, who all worked extremely well together last year. Last season was a real career highlight for me. It was very emotional and exciting with plenty of highs and a few lows too."
Having beaten Bayern Munich 3-2 on penalties to claim their fifth DFB Women’s Cup, the She-Wolves also got the better of their Bavarian rivals in the race for the championship title.
"Every competition was very special in its own right, from the high of winning the DFB Cup on penalties to the disappointment of defeat in Kiev," the 34-year-old said. "When it came to the German championship, I can still remember how it felt to know we’d clinched the title. They are moments that I’ll never forget as long as I live. That heart-in-the-mouth final performance against Bayern Munich in Cologne turned out very well for us, and then we won the league. That was a very special moment as it was testament to all the hard work that went into it over a long period of time."
The UEFA Women’s Champions League was the only moment where luck was not on Wolfsburg’s side, the German side losing to Lyon in extra-time. "The final in Kiev was also very emotional because it went to extra-time again but this time things didn’t end so well for us. Understandably, we carried that disappointment with us for the next few days and weeks."
Lerch in brief
Born on 10 August 1984
Played for clubs including Eintracht Frankfurt and Darmstadt 98’s U-23 side during his youth career
Joined Wolfsburg in summer 2013 and spent two seasons in charge of the reserves before becoming assistant coach to the first team
The sport and biology teacher gained coaching experience at a young age, spending five years with the Hessen Football Association in the Darmstadt region before joining Wolfsburg
Took over as head coach at the start of the 2017/2018 season
Lerch’s nomination means he is following in familiar footsteps. His predecessor Ralf Kellermann was named on the 2013 shortlist before being crowned FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football the following year.
"We have lots of good coaches in Germany and we’re making particularly positive progress when it comes to the quality in the women’s game," he said. "I really enjoy working in women’s football. While we generally have high quality coaches in Germany, they obviously need further encouragement. We can’t rest on our laurels. I think we’re very much on the right track and hope that continues to be the case."
The man from Darmstadt proved that he is on the right track with Wolfsburg in impressive style last season – but as soon as one campaign ends, all attention turns to the next one. The She-Wolves begin the defence of their Women’s Bundesliga title against 1. FFC Frankfurt on 16 September.
"We generally want to play attractive attacking football," Lerch explained. "We always want to give our all on the pitch; that’s very important to us. We want to dominate games by having plenty of possession to ensure that we can keep creating opportunities to score and ultimately convert them too. The whole team are extremely hungry for success and they have a good attitude."
The stage appears to be set for Wolfsburg to build on their achievements over the past year.
Lerch on The Best FIFA Women's Player nominee Pernille Harder
A very technically strong player capable of asserting herself in one-on-one situations; a strong finisher and header of the ball
Aggressive tackler who can hold her ground in defence
Ambitious, yet a complete team player
Always works hard for the team and creates plenty of opportunities