Reset the clock because we have a Gerhard Struber rumor involving the return of a familiar suitor.
With Watford looking headed back to the Championship, the club wants someone with experience to replace short-term hire Roy Hodgson. The Athletic reports that the Hornets are in the “research stage.” The list includes but is not limited to Fabio Cannavaro, Diego Martinez, Russell Martin, and, of course, Struber. There have been “high-level conversations” over paying a “compensation fee” in order to acquire someone (anyone) currently under contract.
The Hertfordshire club was first connected to Struber during the summer of 2020 following Barnsley’s escape from relegation. The Austrian is “keen to return to European football,” while his “representatives have remained in contact with the Watford hierarchy.” The ideal candidate will “work with and develop young players,” which is certainly a bullet point on his résumé.
While the New York Red Bulls team he currently manages is doing well at the moment, Struber has been shaking the tree for a few months at this point. His fiery preseason press conference was a little more than two months ago, since overwritten by a strong position in the table. Would he be able to turn down Watford and the opportunity to yo-yo back up to the Premier League?
Struber pulling up stakes and abandoning a promising MLS season would be painful for Red Bulls fans but a scenario that is increasingly common in the fast-moving world of global football that the club now participates in. It’s one that New York fans have indeed already gotten a taste of when Jesse Marsch jumped midway through the 2018 Shield-winning campaign for the assistant role at RB Leipzig.
But the structures built in New York by Struber and recently-departed sporting chief Kevin Thelwell are ones better built to withstand management upheaval than the one that spiraled into mediocrity following Marsch’s exit four years ago. The current Red Bulls squad is a young, flexible unit built with the club’s distinct tactical identity in mind rather than the more hybrid assembly of MLS veterans and reserve standouts that almost immediately unraveled under Chris Armas in the 2019 campaign after slowing its pace in late 2018. The club also features a deeper backroom staff with diverse management experience in North America and abroad, with headhunted reserves manager Gary Lewis coming off of administrative roles at Liverpool and Seattle Sounders while highly-regarded former New Mexico United head coach Troy Lesesne currently serves as one of Struber’s first team assistants.
Nevertheless, fans will hope that Struber stays put as his team gathers momentum. Sitting second place in the Eastern Conference, he will hope to get the Red Bulls their first home win of 2022 this Saturday against Portland before seeking to become the first MLS side to ever win their first five away matches the following week in DC.