In Dennis Kutrieb, Ebbsfleet United have secured the services of one of the most highly rated young managers in the German lower divisions, writes Alex Howell*.
Whilst he may not be a household name in Britain, the 40-year-old has been making consistent ripples in one of the most competitive environments in European club football.
Kutrieb, who had an accomplished playing career, was most recently at the helm of Berlin-based outfit Tennis Borussia in the fifth tier of German football. In two seasons at the Mommsenstadion, the 40-year-old led TeBe – as they are affectionately known to their fans – to a second placed finish in 2019 and had his side at the top of the table before the Covid-19 pandemic halted football in Germany. Kutrieb also charted Tennis Borussia to the final of the 2019 Berlin Cup, where they were valiantly defeated by fourth-division Viktoria Berlin.
When put into context, Kutrieb’s success at Tennis Borussia becomes all the more evident. With only one promotion place on offer, the Oberliga – which is organised into various regional divisions – may justifiably stake a claim to be one of European football’s most demanding domestic competitions.
The 40-year-old also had to contend with the memories of TeBe’s two different spells in the Bundesliga throughout the 1970s, as well as more recent managerial conflicts at the Mommsenstadion. To put it simply, success with Tennis Borussia was by no means a foregone conclusion.
Utilising a mix of both academy graduates and seasoned professionals, TeBe have proven to be potent in attack and mean in defence under the tutelage of Kutrieb. Having already scored 61 goals when football was suspended in March, Tennis Borussia had outscored all the other sides in their division, whilst only one other outfit could better the 17 goals conceded.
Kutrieb displayed a keen eye for tactical pragmatism whilst at the Mommsenstadion, utilising a varied number of formations as and when the situation called for. Tennis Borussia’s 4-2 victory against Hansa Rostock’s second team is a prime example, where the 40-year-old utilised three defenders and a packed midfield to negate the opponents dangerous attack. The move came only weeks after Kutrieb had deployed a traditional four-man defence with great success in TeBe’s derby day victory against Tasmania Berlin.
Kutrieb’s time with Tennis Borussia’s cross-city rivals, VSG Altglienicke, should not be overlooked. Across a three-year association with Altglienicke beginning in 2015, Kutrieb operated as both manager and assistant as the East Berliners pioneered their way to the fourth division after three consecutive promotions. The Berlin native began his managerial career in 2014 with seventh-tier outfit, TuS Makkabi.
Kicker recently described Kutrieb as an Erfolgstrainer – which translates to successful coach – a title that one of Germany’s leading sports outlets does not bestow with great regularity. Now at the helm of Ebbsfleet, the 40-year-old will have the opportunity to prove his worth on the other side of the North Sea.
**Alex Howell is a football writer with an in-depth knowledge of German football and in particular its lower leagues. You can follow him on Twitter at @__alexhowell.