Markus Daun: Late return to favourite club

Once trained to be a first-team player at Bayer 04, Markus Daun has been coaching the U15 squad at Kurtekotten since the summer. A report on his planned return, which was delayed by 18 years, and his team with its special character.

Markus Daun remembers one day in January 2002 very well. During the winter break in the legendary runners-up season for the Werkself, the then 21-year-old talented striker was loaned out to Alemannia Aachen to the end of the season. Actually only a temporary departure. But not an easy one. "It was a really difficult move for me," he says today. "Leverkusen was simply so close to my heart." Before he left the BayArena, he said a few words and it became emotional. The thrust of it: I'm not finished here. I'll be back in five months.

Five months turned into 18 and a half years.

18 and a half years where Daun won the Bundesliga title and the DFB Cup with Werder Bremen, later played for Nürnberg, Duisburg and Aachen again before being forced to retire from the game at the age of 30 due to a serious knee injury. He went on to be youth coach at FC Köln, coached their reserve team and, for a while, worked as assistant coach with the senior squad.

"Bayer 04 were always different"

Everything has now come full circle. Daun joined the youth set-up at Bayer 04 at the age of 15. Now he's coaching the U15s. Since July, 18 and a half years after his departure "for five months." Quite a long time where a lot has changed. Or so you might think. "At the end of the day, a lot has remained the same," reported Daun – and he said that without meaning any disrespect. Quite the contrary. "It's absolutely impressive and says a lot for the club. Bayer 04 were always different when I was a youth player," he added.

How Thomas Hörster let him stay with him overnight when he was injured and next day took him to the hospital, is etched in Daun's memory. Or, that Bayer 04 used to send youth players ahead of tournaments with the DFB team on holiday at the cost of the club so they could clear their heads. "What an outstanding idea," said Daun.

"This creativity, this being different, has remained the same up to now," he believes at the age of 40. "It was never the same old story here, it was always special." And Daun is now happy to be part of the special whole as he wants "to break the mould" as a coach. Daun and his former love – a perfect match straightaway.

Despite confused minds: Daun's U15s on course

The fact he knows Simon Rolfes from their time together at the Werder Bremen made settling in even easier. Even if, of course, not everything is exactly the same under the Bayer Cross from his youth days. "I wouldn't have had anything against playing on grass pitches with a Wembley character back then – like the lads do today," Daun says with a laugh as he remembers grazes from games on shale pitches that "really stung" in the showers. On top of that, youth football is now more physical and the pace of the game faster.

Since taking up his post, together with Erdal Celik as U15 coach, Daun has also worked in the psychological arena. After a lot of changes in personnel over the summer, the start of the season has been rather mixed with the results not always going right. "The lads were starting to have confused minds," said Daun. "Our job was to be patient and show the lads we're here for them."

That appears to have worked. At the point where the season was suspended at the end of October, the team were third in the Regional League West within touching distance of the top two FC Köln and Borussia Mönchengladbach. "We've become a team that has a chance against every other side," Daun ventured.


Training at home – but with a Werkself pennant

Success does not happen out of thin air: "The lads have earned that through hard work." The character of the team is something special. "They're a group that has an incredible desire to train," said Daun in praise of his team.

That could hardly be better to determine than in a phase like the current one. Since the start of November, Daun and Celik have only been able to work with their players online due to coronavirus restrictions. In addition to fitness regimes, four sessions per week are held via Zoom. The talented youngsters work on strength and technique for 60 to 80 minutes – in the garden, on the balcony, in their rooms. "Lots of them have hung up club pennants in the background," said a happy Daun. And: "The lads put on their Bayer 04 kit for training at home. I think that's brilliant." Microphones are always switched on. "That enables the lads to be able to communicate and simulates discussions in the dressing room," explained the former U 21 international. "The lads encourage each other and look forward to every session in spite of the difficult situation. They definitely want it. That's a special feature of this group."

Coronavirus: a chance to learn

For Daun as well, after working for over eight years as a coach, the coronavirus pandemic offers a chance to learn. "First you have to get everyone together," he said. "Not everybody can go from nought to sixty in online training. We're continuing to learn."

A chance but also a challenge: "Our job must always be to offer the lads the best possible in this situation." And for that, Daun is happy to be back at his favourite club. As: "We do it at Bayer 04 in a way that is unmatched." Very special indeed.


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