A coffee with Gerhard Struber

On identification, philosophy & family life – a portrait of our coach

Having grown up on a farm just outside of Salzburg with a ball at his feet, he made the leap into professional football before progressing all the way to coaching a team in the UEFA Champions League. It sounds like a dream come true, and Gerhard Struber is living it.


His CV is a shining example of the Salzburg Way, with which we develop players, coaches and even club management. His path to the "incredibly fascinating challenge,"  as Gerhard calls his current position with the Red Bulls, was a far from direct one - and involved lots of hard work for the entire family. 

The 47-year-old was quick to provide delightful anecdotes when we met up in Salzburg's old town, speaking about his time as a young footballer in Salzburg. "I lived in Kuchl, but I mostly met people in the centre, as I played in Salzburg and had a lot of friends here - it was a wonderful time!"


On the way to the café, Gerhard tells us more about the beginnings of his career, which was anything but straightforward. As the son of a farmer, the boy from Kuchl began by kicking a ball about a meadow at an early age. "My father was an amateur footballer in our village, so football was always a big part of our family. As a small boy you aren't thinking of a professional career right away, but that became more of a possibility with each step."

Gerhard's chief attributes on the pitch were his speed in combination with a huge willingness to run. That gives him a great understanding of the pressing philosophy of our Red Bulls nowadays.

"Everything was a bit more passive back then. The more active playing style these days would have really suited me, as I was quite a dynamic and proactive footballer. I have to admit that technically I was an average footballer. I won some titles though and scored the occasional goal or two,"  the former midfielder says, looking back.

The dark side of the football business caught up with our coach, however, and ended his playing days early. He did not have any thoughts about becoming a coach at this stage.

As a young lad, I was living in the here and now, just taking it from one day to the next. 

"As a young lad, I was living in the here and now, just taking it from one day to the next. I looked at my swollen knee at some stage with all the injuries I had picked up, including two cruciate ligament tears, and realised that I would have to consider ending my career." 

Gerhard Struber was just in his mid-twenties at the time – in what should have been the prime of his career.


"I had a technical education already, but I went to a business college", he says on his next move. "I got a job offer as soon as I finished to be a consultant training people on imports and exports as well as business and tax law. It might sound strange, but that was actually the first step towards my coaching career. I noticed how much I like working with people and coaching them."

There was no waiting around for Gerhard, who was ambitious in business and entered the insurance sector. He worked his way up to a sales manager and completed an MBA.

"At this time, I had put football behind me as I had moved into a very different area. One day the SV Kuchl chairman got in touch with me as the club was in danger of relegation. I got persuaded to take on the job, and thankfully we were able to avoid relegation. Things went really well, and then one day we had a friendly match against FC Red Bull Salzburg …"

This friendly would turn out to change Gerhard's career path and send him right back into football with our Red Bulls.

You can't explain everything logically in life. Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts.

"Ralf Rangnick invited me to have a conversation after the match. With all his sense of excitement, he convinced me to take the route to becoming a professional football coach. It was a very brave decision at the time, as I had a good job with great prospects. You can't explain everything logically in life. Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts."


A lot of people at the time advised him against becoming a full-time coach. Many told him it was too much of a risk to drop out of a comfortable career …

"… not my wife, though! She asked me what decision I would make if I only had a year to live. I answered "100 percent it would be football!" and then the decision was made. My wife has generally always been with me and supported me in my journey, also in the knowledge that it might take me away from home. I am extremely grateful for that still!"

While Gerhard has enjoyed a successful journey through the world of football - first elsewhere in Austria, then in England and in the USA - his family have remained in Salzburg. FaceTime calls were a part of everyday life, and there were a lot of visits. There was nothing quite like being with one another, which Gerhard can now do with his wife and two children.

To be able to coach my favourite club right by my home is something I appreciate even more after working abroad.

"To be able to coach my favourite club right by my home is something I appreciate even more after working abroad. I really enjoyed experiencing football in different cultures though. The biggest step was probably going to England. There was so much pressure at Barnsley in every single match," says Gerhard on when he kept the side in the second tier.


"I learned in America how to deal with lots of different cultures in a squad. In Barnsley the team was mostly English, but in New York it was a mix of very different cultures."

It wasn't just the football that our coach enjoyed there. Struber, who is a keen jogger, gained inspiration from the other sports in the US:

"I really enjoyed watching the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. Basketball really fascinated me, both with the atmosphere and the level of competition there. To see Dominic Thiem at the US Open was also a really cool thing. We are still in contact with one another, as I find it really fascinating what makes athletes in other sports tick."

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Gerhard's passion for sport is clear to see in the Salzburg area too, as he is a regular at FC Liefering home matches whenever the ADMIRAL Bundesliga fixture list allows. That is down to his past as Liefering coach.

If you spend so long as a youth coach going through all the levels and end up making it to the top, then you identify very strongly with the whole development idea.

"I think if you spend so many years as a youth coach going through all the levels and end up making it to the top, then you identify much more strongly with the whole development idea than if you came here from somewhere else. The development of the boys at the academy is very important to me, as I have seen it myself and know how important it is for players to show them the route they have to the top."

Our Red Bulls are all aiming for the top this season. The big aim for the season for Gerhard and his coaching team is winning both the cup and the ADMIRAL Bundesliga title. The 47-year-old would claim his first honours as a professional coach in the process.


"If you can get a reward for all the hard work, that's a brilliant moment! As a coach you want to leave your thumbprint on the pitch and experience the fruits of that with good results. That is an incredible feeling."