“We wanted to progress, not play football.”– Jupp Derwall (1927-2007)
For those who were around at the time to witness the events that took place during his seven-year tenure as Nationaltrainer, the achievements of Jupp Derwall will always conjure up mixed feelings.
On the one hand we have the fatherly figure who led the Nationalmannschaft to a still-standing unbeaten record run, has the best statistical record of all of the past Nationaltrainers and led the team to two major tournament finals, winning the European Championship in 1980. On the other we have the hard-nosed, cold professional for whom the endgame was more important than football itself, and arguably even sportsmanship.
Decent attacking midfielder
Josef “Jupp” Derwall was born on 10th March 1927 in the Rhineland town of Würselen, and signed up on schoolboy terms at the age of eleven with his local club Rhenania. Having developed into a decent attacking midfielder, Derwall then controversially signed for Rhenania’s local rivals Alemania Aachen in 1949 before joining Fortuna Düsseldorf four years later – where his performances would catch the attention of Nationaltrainer Sepp Herberger.
As the World Cup finals in 1954 approached the 27 year old Derwall was among those earmarked for selection, but was unlucky to miss out on making the squad that would famously lift the Jules Rimet trophy in Bern.
When Germany visited Wembley as World Champions in December 1954 Derwall had finally made it into the squad, and was among a group of players making their debut for the Nationalmannschaft. Germany were defeated 3-1, and of the five men making their debut that evening only Derwall would add to his tally; unfortunately his career in the Schwarz und Weiß would not be extended beyond that second cap, and his last international game was the friendly against Portugal played in December 1954.
Derwall remained with Fortuna until 1959, before moving to Switzerland and into a player-coaching role with first FC Biel and then FC Schaffhausen. Having cut his coaching teeth in the Swiss league and guided his former club Fortuna Düsseldorf to the German cup final in 1962, Derwall spent a number of years coaching with the Saarland regional association, and in 1970 he was chosen to replace Udo Lattek as assistant to Nationaltrainer Helmut Schön. Schön himself had been manager of the Saarland in the 1950s, and his continued close relationship with the region probably helped him to notice the 43 year old coach.
Derwall would remain as national team assistant for eight years, and was closely involved with what had become the most successful German team in history. During this eight-year period the German team won both the European and World titles, and when Schön resigned following the disappointing 1978 World Cup campaign in Argentina there would be no question as to who would succeed him in the senior role.
Having taken charge of a team that had performed poorly in Argentina, the new coach engineered a dramatic change in fortune. Between his taking the reins in the autumn of 1978 and the beginning of 1981, Derwall’s side would put together an unbeaten run that would stretch to twenty-three games, the longest such series in the history of the Nationalmannschaft and a record that still stands to this day.
While Derwall’s impressive statistics speak for themselves, they came at a heavy price. His approach may have seen his team produce the necessary results, but there was little of the style and sparkle that had been central to the German game under his predecessor. Players that could have provided a creative spark found themselves picked for purpose, excluded and, in the case of the highly talented and expressive midfielder Bernd Schuster – eventually alienated.
Pedestrian and functional
The group phase of the 1980 European Championship campaign provided clear examples of both the best and worst of Derwall’s tenure. While the Dutch – World Cup runners-up just two years earlier – were put to the sword courtesy of a Schuster-inspired Klaus Allofs hat-trick, the very next game against the group’s weakest team Greece produced the most tedious of goalless draws.
With only a single point required from the game against the Greeks to qualify for the final, Derwall had set about achieving just that: both Schuster and Allofs found themselves relegated to the bench as the Nationaltrainer sent out a lineup clearly designed to bolt the defensive door shut. The fact that the Greeks had hardly troubled their previous opponents was neither here nor there.
The final against Belgium saw Derwall rejig his starting eleven yet again, and the objective was duly achieved. The final had witnessed the odd spark of genius from the likes of Schuster and the equally talented Hansi Müller, but even then there was always this nagging feeling that the team could have offered a lot more if permitted. Pedestrian and functional it may have been, but Derwall had done all that had been asked of him. Not only had his team not tasted defeat, they had also secured a second European title without breaking into as much as a sweat.
Jupp Derwall with two of the biggest German talents of the 1980s, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Hansi Müller
Things were more fraught for the Derwall after the honeymoon period came to an end in the months leading up to the World Cup in Spain in 1982. While the coach continued to alienate the country’s most talented individuals, he would at the same time welcome back into the fold a man who was arguably one of the most divisive: Paul Breitner. Up until the beginning of 1981 the Nationaltrainer had largely been protected by the team’s results, but when the long unbeaten run came to an end courtesy of a 4-1 thrashing by Brazil in Montevideo the wheels were slowly starting to work themselves off.
Results, not pretty football
Perhaps the most curious aspect of the Derwall era had been the training ground culture. While the coach was clearly motivated by results rather than pretty football, his approach towards team discipline began and ended on the pitch. While he may have come across as a hard-nosed tactician whose team grounded out results, Derwall was in fact one of the most liberal coaches when it came to the day to day job of squad personnel management. While Helmut Schön had allowed his players to express themselves on the field while adopting a more hardline approach off it, Derwall’s approach was pretty much the opposite.
Derwall truly believed in the idea that his charges could be treated like adults, and he was keen to cultivate the idea of his being father figure than a traditional coach. While this approach seemed to work early on in his tenure, it soon began to unravel when results – and the national press – began to turn on the team. There were rumblings of discontent in the squad – something that was not helped by the recalling of Breitner – and it soon became apparent that Derwall had little or no authority over the squad.
Although the extent of his influence would be defined by the differing opinions of those who were there at the time, it was clear that the larger-than-life Breitner had begun to exert a hold over the team, not all of it positive.
Derwall also didn’t help himself with team selection policies that could be best described as bizarre; having selected a squad of 22 players for the World Cup, he then decided to leave the three he thought unlikely to play at home – supposedly to prevent them grumbling on the training ground and moping about aimlessly in their hotel rooms.
While one could at a push see the point Derwall was trying to make, there was also the issue of what impact it might have had on the squad dynamic had one of these three players been summoned to Spain in the middle of the tournament. While it is true that unused players may become depressed or bored staying in foreign hotel rooms, they were also less likely to end up feeling isolated if they were treated as genuine members of the squad – as opposed to mere stand-by auxiliaries seated next to a telephone hundreds of miles away.
“I’ll take the first train home”
The World Cup campaign itself was blighted by a catalogue of incidents both on and off the field, and things could not have got off to a worse start when the team were beaten by group outsiders Algeria in their opening game. Before the match Derwall had openly and somewhat flippantly dismissed the threat offered by the Algerians, saying that he would “take the first train home” if his team lost; when the final whistle blew with the score at 2-1 to the North Africans, there were many German supporters who were wishing that the coach would follow up on his threat – a feeling that would intensify almost exponentially as the tournament went on.
After seemingly getting things back on track with a 4-1 rout of Chile inspired by a Karl-Heinz Rummenigge hat-trick, the final group phase game against neighbours Austria provided the next chapter in the black book that was Spain 1982. In what would become known as the Nichtangriffspakt von Gijón or Schande von Gijón – the “non-aggression pact of Gijón” or “shame of Gijón” – both sides just knocked the ball about for a cynical eighty minutes to ensure their qualification at the expense of the Algerians.
After the embarrassing débâcle of Córdoba 1978 many German fans had expected the team to take the game to the Austrians, and the match had indeed started at a furious pace – culminating in Horst Hrubesch’s goal after ten minutes. But then – nothing. Pass, pass, backpass. Pass, pass, backpass. As a fan who wanted to see the Ösis taken to the cleaners, just watching this procession is enough to make one’s skin crawl even almost forty years after the event.
While even the diehards agreed that what had taken place in Gijón was nothing short of a disgrace, Derwall could not see – or simply refused to see – beyond the bare necessities. In his own words, “we wanted to progress, not play football” – an almost Machiavellian philosophy that fitted perfectly with his attritional style of play and bloody-minded mentality.
When the team responded to angry German supporters by pelting them with water bombs from their hotel balcony like a bunch of unruly children, the coach remained silent: rather than calling his players into line and risk his authority being undermined further, he simply placed his head well below the parapet as the proverbial Scheisse continued to hit the fan. It was pretty much the same after the semi-final in Seville against France, an otherwise classic match that was marred by Harald Schumacher’s lethal body-check on Patrick Battiston.
Despite reaching the World Cup Final, the mood in Germany was far from being one of celebration. Many in the German press had seen enough and simply wanted the entire thing to end, while many Germans had found it increasingly difficult to support the national team with a clear conscience. In the words of one young supporter,
Many people forgave, but never forgot. And some could not even forgive. They would never again be able to unconditionally root for the national team. 
While the German public had always been strident in their desire for the team to achieve success, it was clear that results were not the be all and end all; the press laid into Derwall with increasing intensity, but nothing approaching an apology for the Spanish fiasco was ever forthcoming.
Eleven minutes from disaster
After the World Cup Derwall’s side was never quite the same: the qualification campaign for the 1984 European Championships was to see the Mannschaft being beaten both home and away by a group opponent for the first time in its long history, as Northern Ireland claimed 1-0 wins in both fixtures; in fact the only thing that saved Germany from missing out on the finals altogether was the inability of the Ulstermen to achieve the same standard against the group’s lesser teams.
In the end, a scrappy 2-1 win against a ten-man Albania saw Derwall’s team sneak back to the top of the group on goal difference. They had only been eleven minutes from disaster, and the strike by the unheralded sweeper Gerd Strack helped to prevent the knives from being plunged into Derwall’s back for at least a few more months.
Derwall in 1983 with the man who would succeed him as Nationaltrainer, Franz Beckenbauer
Derwall’s stint as Nationaltrainer reached its Endstation at the group stage of the finals in France, though in the end he was only seconds from prolonging his stay of execution. Having secured a point against Portugal courtesy of a dull goalless draw in their opening match, a Rudi Völler brace saw the Nationalmannschaft through to a 2-1 win over Romania – meaning that just a point from their final game against Spain would see the the defending champions through to the semi-finals.
As the game went on, the luck that had followed Derwall for most of his time in charge seemed to still be there. Spain had fluffed an early penalty, and with seconds to go the match still stood goalless – only for the unheralded Antonio Maceda Francés to deliver the cruellest of blows right at the death. It was as if a script had been written, for Maceda played for the team from the city that would forever feature in Jupp Derwall’s nightmares: Gijón.
There was no way back, and the defending champions were out. While the first thrust of the blade had been made by a Spaniard, it was quickly followed by a barrage from closer to home. Derwall was now little more than a sitting duck, and the tabloids laid into him with an unrestrained venom. The shame of Gijón, Harald Schumacher’s charge on France’s Patrick Battiston in Seville, the very ordinary qualification campaign for Euro 84 and the insipid display at the finals themselves had all come to roost.
The final dénouement was unprecedented however. Before he could even line up his final charge to the cliff’s edge, Jupp Derwall was dismissed by the DFB, making him the first Nationaltrainer not to give up the post voluntarily. With his assistant Erich Ribbeck also sent packing, the long line of coaching continuity also came to an end.
Kind, generous and dedicated
On being relieved of his duties with the Nationalmannschaft Derwall chose to turn his back on his homeland and headed off for Turkey, where he did much to improve the status of football in that country.
In what was a relatively short period of time in the mid to late 1980s Derwall mentored a number of up-and-coming young Turkish coaches, and was a pivotal figure in engineering the development that saw a country that had been one of Europe’s whipping boys quickly transformed into a nation that could compete with the best at both club and international level. For his work in Turkey and its positive impact on developing German-Turkish relations, the former Nationaltrainer was honoured by both countries.
Throughout his career Jupp Derwall had been a difficult man to fathom: he was clearly kind, generous and dedicated, yet was at the same time driven by a sense of professional determination that fostered an attitude that was perceived by many to border on arrogance and bloody-mindedness. As a result, the team he guided for the best part of seven years could best be described as schizophrenic. In spite of being one of the best Nationaltrainers in terms of pure statistics – his win-draw-loss record is in fact second only to current incumbent Joachim Löw – Derwall was never really admired as a great coach, let alone loved by the fans.
The man popularly known as Häuptling Silberlocke – or “Chieftain Silver Curl”, on account of his silver hair – died following a heart attack on 26th June 2007 at the age of eighty in the Saarland town of Sankt Ingbert. Sadly yet perhaps somewhat fittingly, it was the day after the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Nichtangriffspakt von Gijón.
International Career Record as Player (1954)
Total matches: 2
Total goals: 0
Tournament Record as Player
Career Record as Coach
First match as coach: 11.10.1978 4-3 (4-1) v Czechoslovakia, Praha (Abramczik 8., Bonhof 11., pen 38., Ha. Müller 35. / Štambachr 15., 60., Masný pen 51.)
Last match as coach: 20.06.1984 0-1 (0-0) v Spain, Paris (– / Maceda 90.)
Total matches: 67
Wins: 45* (67.2%)
Draws: 11 (16.4%)
Defeats: 11 (16.4%)
Goals For (goals scored per game): 144 (2.15)
Goals Against (goals conceded per game): 60 (0.90)
Competitive matches: 38§
Wins: 25* (65.8%)
Draws: 6 (15.8%)
Defeats: 7 (18.4%)
Goals For (goals scored per game): 87 (2.29)
Goals Against (goals conceded per game): 30 (0.79)
Friendly matches: 29
Wins: 20 (69.0%)
Draws: 5 (17.2%)
Defeats: 4 (13.8%)
Goals For (goals scored per game): 57 (1.97)
Goals Against (goals conceded per game): 30 (1.03)
Results Breakdown by Year
*matches listed as wins include the penalty shootout victory against France (FIFA World Cup Semi-Final, 1982)
§includes the 1980-81 six-team Copa de Oro de Campeones Mundiales tournament