FEATURE | Borussia Dortmund U19 coach Mike Tullberg could be building the basis for a Bundesliga challenge in the coming years

Borussia Dortmund meet Stuttgart in the final of the U19 DFB Pokal tonight in an 1800 kick-off (CET). Dortmund has never won the Pokal at this level before and a former Hearts player is at the heart of the side’s success.

BVB’s U19 coach Mike Tullberg, who was originally appointed coach of the BVB U23s in the 2019/20 season, was replaced by Enrico Maaßen who won the Regionalliga-West title with unfancied SV Rödinghausen. The 36-year-old was given the U19s head coach job from 2020 in what many then regarded as demotion.

However, working with players like Lion Semić, Nnamdi Collins, Julian Rijkhoff, and an outstanding Swiss forward, who is eligible to play for England through parentage, Bradley Fink, the side has won back-to-back titles in the Western division under Tullberg, who also produced Tom Rothe who recently made his BVB debut and Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, who is now part of the first-team.

Although the team were knocked out in the quarter-final of this season’s UEFA Youth League by Atletico Madrid (0-1), the Danish coach is forming what is starting to look like a very promising future for BVB at the ‘Fussball Park Hohenbuschei’.

Tullberg himself was a talented striker but the Dane’s own career was cut short by injury at just 26, having played for AGF in Denmark’s Superliga, Reggina in Italy and RW Oberhausen as well as making seven appearances for Hearts in 2007/08.

The overall academy in Dortmund is overseen by former 1997 Champions League winning centre-forward Lars Ricken and has formed great talent including Antonio Rüdiger, Christian Pulisic, Immanuel Pherai, Ansgar Knauff and Youssoufa Moukoko. The club has been very successful, winning seven titles at U17 level as well as five titles in the Western division at U15 level, there was a long sixteen-year gap between the 1998 title and the one they won in 2016 at U19 level.

A valuable insight into Tullberg’s coaching vision could be gained in an interview with Spox earlier this season: “What is our strength? We are a real team. We put a lot of emphasis on that in the summer. We used all the players right from the start and managed to form a team. For example: In the NRW Cup, we used seven players in the final victory against Schalke who were not always seeded.

“We are well-staffed across the board. Everyone has their role, everyone knows their responsibility. We always manage to change the games by substituting players. We try to set an example that you also have to give something to the other team. That is the key for us.”

There is still a tough and promising programme ahead for the team, the most senior of the academy sides will also be playing out the final for the German U19 title at Hertha BSC Berlin on Sunday 29th (1300 kick-off).

BVB are the second only to Stuttgart who have won 10 championships, in terms of overall U19 title wins with eight, the last being in 2018/19.

The BVB U19s also still have a ‘Revierderby’ against Schalke 04 to play in the final of the ‘Westfalenpokal’, western division cup, although the fixture date is yet to be scheduled.

The Black and Yellows are on course to win a historic quadruple and Tullberg could be building the basis for a BVB Meisterschaft challenge in the coming years.

Ben McFadyean


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