New Zealand FA are set to announce Switzerland coach Fritz Schmid as the new manager of the All Whites.
The association followed on Twitter and the coach announced he would be leaving his role as Malaysia FA Technical Director this week.
The move to appoint a European coach follows in the footsteps of Wellington Phoenix, whose manager Darije Kalezic is originally from Serbia, and Andres Heraf, the Swiss Technical Director of the New Zealand FA.
Fritz Schmid is not a particularly well known coach, so what can New Zealand fans expect form the new appointment? Here are five things you should know about Schmid.
Anthony Hudson, the previous New Zealand coach, often bemoaned the fitness of players who were often playing semi-professional football across Oceania and beyond. This was particularly telling in the 2017 Confederations Cup, where tournament football saw fitness levels show in his tired squad.
Schmid, after a couple of u21 and lower league management jobs, was a fitness coach as Swiss Super League side Zurich in the late 90s. This was a time when Swiss and central European coaches were modernising the game and bringing a new level of professionalism to the top European leagues – led by the likes of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.
His background in fitness coaching (he returned to Zurich for a second spell in 1999) should bode well for the Kiwi stars who do not play professionally.
Tainted by Spurs
In 1997 Spurs made one of the worst ever Premier League management appointments. Eccentric Swiss coach Christian Gross was a disaster for the London club. Then Chairman Alan Sugar later admitted he knew he had made a mistake when Gross bizarrely flourished a London Underground ticket in his first press conference – and things went downhill from there.
He was often a figure of fun for the British press and was sacked in 1998 after a poor start to the season. His assistant manager at the time was one Fritz Schmid.
However, Schmid was actually denied a work permit for Spurs and didn’t take up the role until late in Gross’ tenure – so it’s not particularly fair to lay the blame on him.
Schmid joined Gross at Swiss side Basel in 2001 and won four titles and four cups as his number two. The club also enjoyed a brilliant Champions League run in 2002, knocking out Celtic, beating Juventus and drawing with Liverpool and Manchester United.
His stint at Basel was one of the club’s most successful in its history and did a lot to rebuild his and Gross’ reputation in the world game.
Austria and Heraf
After Gross was sacked by Basel in 2009 Schmid joined Austria as assistant coach – giving him vital international experience. Schmid would have worked closely with New Zealand Technical Director Andres Heraf at this point and this can be seen as the origins of the left-field appointment.
While at Austria he helped a revival of the national team’s fortunes, which had hit a low in 2010. He nurtured a crop of talented youngsters and the team impressed in qualifying for Euro 2014. Despite narrowly missing out, Austria has beaten Ireland and Sweden, as well as running Germany close.
His real success came in blooding youngsters – and although he left in 2013 the Austria team went on to qualify for Euro 2016 with a superb record.
Schmid’s latest role came in Malaysia where he was Technical Director from 2014. When he joined the national side had just been defeated 10-0 to United Arab Emirates in one of the worst defeats in their history.
However, things have barely improved. Malaysia have lost six of their last seven matches with only a 1-1 draw against Hong Kong breaking the run.
Better news comes at u23 level, where the u23 national side topped its qualification group for the AFC U-23 Championship. It then finished second in the group stage and reached a quarter final, only narrowly losing to South Korea.
Schmid’s record hints at a focus on youth development, where results have improved everywhere he has been. Bringing younger players through, a focus on fitness and a good relationship with Heraf could be just what New Zealand need as they look to qualify for World Cup 2022.