Bremen – relegated to the second division with Werder Bremen in 2021 and held personally responsible for it by quite a few fans, then promoted again in 2022 – and suddenly become a famous sporting director: it’s a year of extremism behind Frank Bowman. In an interview with DeichStube, the 46-year-old explains how he handled the matter, what role he believes Werder can play in the new Bundesliga season and how the vaccination pass issue surrounding Marcus Beginning has helped the club.
Mr. Bowman, it has been a year since there have been death threats against you, and since you were under personal protection after your disembarkation. What do you think about this time today?
The situation was not comfortable. But what I found very upsetting was that we were relegated to First Class. This pushed all the other unpleasant things that were related to him to the sidelines for the time being. Football is a great thing, maybe a little more than the cutest thing in the world. We saw it only after climbing. On the other hand, if things are not going well in sports, these feelings can also be expressed in the other direction. There have been many comments on social media over the past two years, especially before the last game of the season against Gladbach, which clearly violated the bounds. This resulted in consultations with our security guards and the police. Then there was a recommendation that we should be protected by a private security company in case we go down in the evening and in the evening. We complied.
Did you feel seriously threatened?
I wasn’t worried something was going to happen, but you can’t rule it out 100%. The whole thing also had an effect on the family, who watched everything firsthand. For those responsible for Werder, it soon became a matter of dealing with the consequences of the decline and starting reconstruction.
A year after those unfortunate events, you are now welcomed to re-emerge and make your first summer transfers. How do you navigate between these two extremes?
Professional football is an industry thriving to the extreme. In my career as a player and in charge, I’ve been through a lot of difficult stories, but also a lot of beautiful ones. For me, I’ve always looked at it relatively sober both ways. This helps to make the right decisions, both positive and negative, and on the one hand do not stand out, but on the other hand do not lose confidence in yourself.
Sports director Werder Bremen Frank Baumann on the club’s appeal: “It is mainly due to three components”
Lately, there has been a lot of interest and praise on contracting with Amos Pieper and Niklas Stark. What does it say about the club’s development over the past year that the most sought-after players have decided to move to Bremen again?
Werder has always had a very good reputation among gamers in recent years. This is mainly due to three components. On the other hand, there is the coach, who is always a very important aspect for potential newcomers. At Florian Kohfeldt we had someone who could inspire players to come to Werder. It’s definitely the same with Ole Werner. Marcus Begining also persuaded the club’s players. Added to this is the enthusiasm of the city and the region, which is very important for many professionals. And as a third point, it is the values that Werder represents as a club that played a major role in the decision of both Amos and Niklas to move to Bremen.
Both players come on a free transfer and together bring them to an estimated market value of €14.5 million. Do you rehabilitate Werder with transfers of this kind?
Promotion to the first league is generally reflected in the increase in value within the team. As a second-tier player, you don’t have the same market value that you might get in the Bundesliga. However, talking about restructuring the two transfers is too loud for me. The main thing for us is that we both help in terms of sports and that we, as a rookie team, have formed a team that enables us to stay in the first league permanently and continuously. Of course, we also have to create values, that’s obvious. But even among the players who are currently under contract with us, there are some who have developed well and are not yet at the end of it.
Goalkeeper Jerry Pavlenka recently renewed his contract and remains No. 1The face of defense will change dramatically with the new center backs Pieper and Stark. What is your plan for the remaining parts of the team?
We will definitely do something in midfield and forward and sign new players. But I don’t want to go any further on this topic.
Could there be another goal for this season than to stay in the league for the team – whatever its shape in the end?
No you can not. Basically clear. We got out of the second league, also in terms of financial possibilities. When it comes to a salary budget, we’ll be in a landing zone. Regardless of the players that may come, staying in the league will be our goal. In addition, we continue to strive to develop the players and stand out in the way of football that we can delight the fans.
Frank Baumann, sporting director of Friedrich Bremen, said of the expectations: “We are on the rise. You should not assume that we will play at the top.”
Werder should not be seen as a classic climber. There are still well-known names in the squad, the club has only been out of the Bundesliga for a year and transfers like Pieper and Stark raise expectations…
But none of that changes the fact that we are climbers. You shouldn’t assume we’re going to play at the top. If you look at the Bundesliga for the new season, you can ask yourself who should actually be relegated at the end. It will be a big challenge for us not to be included in the draw for who should drop off after the season. That’s why we approach our task with humility, but of course we want to be ambitious on the pitch.
Werder’s former chairman, Marco Bodd, put forward a thesis in his recently published book that Werder could never be a German champion again. Is he right?
(laughs) Marco wants his book to sell well, and then he can put forward some theses that resonate. But I’m going to tone down the thesis a bit and say you should definitely see it that way for the foreseeable future. But I don’t want to commit myself to that forever.
How encouraging do you see the positive examples of Eintracht Frankfurt, Union Berlin and SC Freiburg, who have all recently achieved great success with relatively manageable means, that Werder Bremen could also advance again at some point?
The three clubs in particular have always advocated being very careful in scoring, even if they are already in the first third of the table. In this regard, I follow suit by not talking about the distant future. We have a big task ahead of us next season, and we want to do our best.
The stadium was sold out several times during the second division season, after the last match against Regensburg the whole of Bremen was drowned in a sea of green and white joy. Did the crowds return to the crowd surprised you? Finally, in the first phase of the Corona pandemic, a possible break was discussed between clubs and their supporters.
I was already resisting at that time the pessimism. But what impressed me the most from the scenes before and after the last game was the support during the season when things weren’t going well for us. I think, for example, of the atmosphere in the match at home against Darmstadt, when there was incredible enthusiasm on the field. That was of great value to us. I think people feel the values that Werder represents and also see the social commitment of the club in the city. They gave it back to us on the field.
Sports director Werder Bremen Frank Baumann on the fans: “I think people feel the values that Werder represents”
Now there should be a lot less wins to celebrate in the new season than in the promotion year. Do you think that after all this euphoria, fans will quickly return to a realistic perspective again, that is, expectations will not be too high?
Yes, I totally believe in that. As North Germans, the people of Bremen are known in their own right for their modesty and not quick to take off. Our fans know that we have to stay together in the Bundesliga to achieve our goal. They’ve proven enough that we can count on them even in tough times, and I remain convinced that with the spectators at the stadium in 2021 we had a very good chance of not being relegated.
Have you already been in contact with Markus Beginning since Ascension?
Yes, we’ve texted each other, but we haven’t met yet. We weren’t able to do it in time, but it’s definitely planned to speak again in peace.
The bottom line is that the issue surrounding Werder’s initially fake vaccination certificate ended well. How do you look back on the November days? Are you still skeptical? Meanwhile with a slight smile and a shake of the head?
It was definitely the culmination of many difficult moments that we had to overcome. You really can’t prepare yourself for that right now. It was a difficult situation for the entire club, but it greatly accelerated the team building process within the professional team. After that, it was clear to everyone which players in the team are leading, what the axis looks like. At this point the players had to take matters into their own hands because we don’t have a head coach anymore. This made the team grow together.
So in the end, did the now-more-than-correct mindset contribute to the resurgence?
Yes, you can say that. It also helped us a lot that we kept calm in the administrative committees during the difficult phase. I must pay my fellow directors and supervisory board, who took office a few weeks ago, a great compliment. Soon we found the right coach at Ule Werner. Fortunately, he also had the impression that Werder was very fit. (dco)