Next Brighton manager: Why fearless Tony Bloom keeps fans guessing with Fabian Hürzeler

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All the latest on Brighton and Hove Albion’s search for Roberto De Zerbi successor

Brighton chairman Tony Bloom often delivers a curve ball when it comes to managerial appointments.

Few saw Graham Potter arriving after the club surprisingly parted company with Chris Hughton in 2019 and Roberto De Zerbi was a relative unknown as the Italian came after Potter left for Chelsea in 2022.

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It’s almost a month since Albion bid farewell to the popular De Zerbi on the final day of last season and the search for his successor is now reaching its conclusion with 31-year-old Fabian Hürzeler. Sorry, who?

Fabian Huerzeler, Head Coach of FC St. Pauli, is close to joining Brighton and Hove AlbionFabian Huerzeler, Head Coach of FC St. Pauli, is close to joining Brighton and Hove Albion
Fabian Huerzeler, Head Coach of FC St. Pauli, is close to joining Brighton and Hove Albion

There was a very brief period for Brighton fans where they knew what they were going to get. The Seagulls had hit their sweet spot in the first full season under De Zerbi and pushed hard for Champions League football and took on Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, narrowly losing on penalties.

The senior players of Lewis Dunk, Pascal Gross and Solly March were playing the best football of their careers, while Moises Caicedo and Alexis Mac Allister were dominating midfield duels against far more illustrious opponents.

A few months later, Caicedo and Mac Allister were sold and despite early season promise, including topping their Europa League group, injuries started to bite and De Zerbi's time was nearing an end. The Italian fought against Albion's youthful transfer model and lost.

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Brighton reportedly missed out on Ipswich Town's Kieran McKenna, while a Potter reunion was briefly considered but shelved. "He understands and respects the fans’ reaction when he left for Chelsea," sources close to Potter said last Friday.

Malmo's Henrik Rydström was another intriguing candidate but it was the name Hürzeler that had many searching Google as Albion once more entered the unfamiliar.

The 31-year-old St Pauli boss is believed to have reached a verbal agreement with Bloom and, if appointed, will be the youngest permanent manager in Premier League history (Tottenham's Ryan Mason was 29 when he took temporary charge in 2021).

Born in Texas on 26 February 1993, to a Swiss father and a German mother, Hürzeler is younger than Brighton players James Milner, 38, Danny Welbeck, 33, Jason Steele, 33, Dunk, 32, Gross, 32, and Joel Veltman, 32.

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Hürzeler was previously the assistant manager of Germany's under-20s and Germany under-18s before moving to St Pauli as assistant to their former boss and player Timo Schultz.

He was then promoted to head coach at the age of 29 in December 2022 as Schultz was dismissed following a poor run of results. Hürzeler’s 10 wins in a row immediately pulled St Pauli away from the drop zone and close to promotion. The upward trajectory continued the following season as they played a patient and attractive style and gained promotion to the Bundesliga as champions for the first time in 13 years. They beat Holstein Kiel to the title by a point, with former Bolton Wanders forward Oladapo Afolayan among the top scorers with 10 from 34 appearances.

During his brief playing career, Hürzeler featured as a defensive midfielder for Bayern Munich II, 1899 Hoffenheim II and 1860 Munich II but stopped at the age of 23 and from there, started preparing for life as a coach. His former Bayern Munich II teammate and ex-Liverpool midfielder Enre Can predicted, “A great career as a coach."

There is apparently no release clause within Hürzeler’s contract and although negotiations are ongoing, St Pauli president Oke Göttlich is not expected to stand in Hürzeler’s way. He has also been granted a work permit for England.

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Brighton chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber said recently he's "obsessed with succession planning." Data keeps him and Bloom constantly aware of available managers, details of their contracts and release clauses and perhaps more importantly, what they achieve and the manner they do it with the resources they have.

Barber also said they consider the manager's personality and who is the right fit for the group of players at any given time. Hughton and Potter were calm and measured, De Zerbi full of passion and gestures, while Hürzeler is said to be engaging, smart and his impact on St Pauli's players was significant.

Brighton have many talented young players in their squad capable of producing brilliance and mistakes in equal measure. They could now have a manager with a similar profile to guide them next season.

Bloom, though remains fearless and – with the exception of Sami Hypia replacing Oscar Garcia in 2014 – rarely gets it wrong. This could be well worth watching.

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