After seeing his League 1 Brentford side hold European champions Chelsea to a 2-2 draw in a frantic FA cup clash two weekends ago, Uwe Rosler is finally getting the respect and recognition his fine managerial work at Brentford deserves. With a few more results as eye-catching as the Chelsea one he could well be on the radar of many larger clubs in the very near future.
By Rob Boulton
Whilst Rosler has ambitions to manage at a higher level, he also deeply appreciates the opportunity he’s been given at Brentford and is able to keep football emotions very much in perspective after battling a life threatening cancer tumour 10 years ago. The story of the boy from East Germany is a fascinating one, and gives a very clear insight into the factors that have driven him firstly to succeed as a professional footballer, then overcome cancer and now become a very promising football manager.
Growing up behind the Berlin wall in Altenburg, close to the Czech border, Rosler was a very promising young footballer and aged 11 was selected to attend one of the government sponsored elite schools in Leipzig – meaning he had to leave his parents through the week, returning only at weekends. Rosler was the first from his district to be selected, and even though it was hard leaving home so young he was proud to represent his town and show that through sport East Germany could compete with the capitalist West. Much was invested in East German sport and their coaching methods were revolutionary even in the early 1980’s, with Rosler having the distance between his fingers measured at 11 years of age to help predict how tall he would grow to be. Though doping in East German sport was rife at the time, Rosler always believed it was ability, dedication and fitness that would take a player to the highest levels in the game, and he developed a fond fascination for English football at his time at the Leipzig school – often listening to recordings of the English crowds singing songs and familiarising himself with the words.
When the Berlin wall came down in 1989, the timing couldn’t have been better for Rosler. A whole new world of opportunity opened itself up for him as he embarked on his professional football career. Rösler began in his native country, joining FC Lokomotive Leipzig in 1987, where he spent one season, before moving on to FC Magdeburg in 1988 – scoring 22 goals in 62 appearances in his three seasons with the club. Rösler then moved to Dynamo Dresden in August 1991, before spending the 1992–93 season on loan to FC Nuremberg where he failed to score once in 28 games. Having grown up in the East where players were officially regarded as amateurs, Rösler found it difficult to adapt when he moved to the West after reunification: “I suddenly saw more individualistic thinking, cliques, a powerful press and personal politics around team selection. The Wall was still there in some people’s heads and in many ways I was naive.”
In 1994 Rosler was signed by Manchester City and finally had the opportunity to play in the country he so respected and admired – and a love affair began which burns strong to this very day. In his four years at Maine Road, Rosler finished top scorer three times and his fully committed playing style and eye for goal endeared him to the hearts of the City faithful. He was chairman Francis Lee’s first signing and played under manager Brian Horton, a man he’s kept in close contact with ever since he left City. Rosler was the first German to play in the English league in years, but feels he benefited from 1950’s City goalkeeping legend Bert Trautmann – and the team’s open attacking style suited his game perfectly and helped him score 65 goals in 167 appearances – making his time with the club a truly memorable one.
On leaving City, Rosler returned to Germany to play for current champions Kaiserslautern, then Tennis Borussia Berlin – both for one season each. When Borussia Berlin went bust in 2000, Glenn Hoddle signed Rosler on a free transfer for his struggling Southampton side but a succession of injuries and the form of James Beattie limited his chances, and in January 2002, after a brief loan spell at West Bromwich Albion, Rosler returned to Germany once more, this time to play for SpVgg Unterhaching. Just six months later Rosler was moving again, this time to Norwegian club Lillestrom. After a decent first season in Norway he began 2003 scoring nine goals in 10 games, but his career was then ended suddenly after he developed breathing problems which an X-Ray found was a result of a cancerous tumour pressing against his windpipe.
Rosler was given the stark facts, that unless they operated immediately he could be dead within a week – and even though Norway closes down for the Easter break there was no time to waste and they started treatment immediately. Thankfully the treatment worked and, whilst devastated at his playing career being ended so abruptly, the time in hospital allowed Rosler to focus on other areas of his life and he made a promise to spend much more time with his wife and children. Whilst in remission Rosler studied for his coaching badges and in 2005, with the cancer treated successfully, Rosler accepted his first managerial position with Lillestrom. At that time the Norwegian league was in good health financially and Rosler was able to attract some exciting players to the club leading them to two successive 4th place finishes and also two cup finals, unfortunately losing both.
In November 2006 Rosler was sacked but quickly surfaced at fellow Norwegian club Viking FK. In 2007 he took them to a 3rd place finish in the league, but then in November 2009 it was announced that Rosler would be leaving the club. In August 2010 Rosler was appointed manager at Molde FK, the club made famous for producing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and after a fantastic end to the season to avoid relegation Rosler was held in high regard but was moved aside to make way for returning hero Solksjaer to begin his managerial career. With a strong desire to return to England, and his children aged 11 and 13, Rosler decided the time was right to move his family back to the North West, and once settled he began to apply for managerial roles in England.
After a spell coaching at Manchester City, Rosler got close to landing a managerial role on a number of occasions but it was Brentford who finally took a chance on Rosler in June 2011. His appointment at Griffin Park seemed to be aided by Solskjaer, who had become friends with Brentford owner Matthew Benham when Benham had helped create an under 19’s Champions League with Solskjaer’s Molde side chosen to represent Norway. Whatever was discussed between them, it’s clear Solskjaer spoke very highly of Rosler’s abilities and Benham is no doubt delighted he took the gamble with Brentford currently sitting 3rd in League 1 and the team playing some of the most attractive football in years.
With his family still living in the North, Rosler rents a flat in West London and commutes back and forth which is far from an ideal scenario. However, with his heart set on one day returning to manage his beloved Manchester City there may be good reason to leave the family where they are. That phone call may not be so far away as Rosler and his buzzing bees continue to impress many with their style and substance, and for all he’s had to overcome in his 42 years so far he wouldn’t think twice about taking on such a daunting challenge. One thing that would be guaranteed is 100% commitment, dedication and total devotion to the cause – for that sums up everything you need to know about this likeable German.
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