It is July 2019, and Swedish outfit Varbergs Boll Och Idrottsällskap are £50k in debt, have 11 players out of contract at the end of the season (which is in November) and most importantly, they are sitting 12th of 16 teams in the 2nd tier.
Out goes previous manager Ulrika Jonsson (probably not accurate, I didn’t check) and in I come, all tartan-clad and swigging Irn Bru (another cultural stereotype that isn’t true), ready to save ‘Varbergs Bois’ and the 27,602 residents of Varberg (I wiki’d that fact on the flight to Gothenburg, while my 4G should’ve been off) from the embarrassment of relegation.
This may be my first managerial role, but not my first attempt at getting a job. Viking FK’s fans may have “laughed off” my interest in their managerial vacancy (they did), but who’s laughing now? Now that I realise they have 6 points from 15 games and sit rock bottom of their league; it would have been dreadful to go there. I was also interviewed by the famous FC Fredericia in Denmark, but they instead opted for Christian Lønstrup, someone me nor anyone else has ever heard of.
So what do we have here? A below average season so far for the outfit founded in 1925. A bit of work to do to deliver a nice and safe finish for the team from the city described in 1826 by the famous Swede Esaias Tegnér as being, “the least appealing place in Sweden.” I’ll be the judge of that, Mr Tegnér, thank you very much.
The squad don’t actually look that bad, and if this goes well, my biggest challenge will be keeping the players who’s contracts expire in a couple of months time at the end of the league season.
Thankfully, star striker (8 goals in 18) Astrit Seljmani looks like the kind of guy that could do a very good job for me here, and he has another year and a bit to go before he inevitably leaves for a ‘more appealing’ part of the country. Hopefully the rest of the squad are as pleased to see me as this guy’s beaming smile in his profile picture suggests.
Nope. They all hate me. Oddly there’s no highly influential players, just Lindner. He seems to transcend importance as a sole team leader. I think he thinks he owns our 4,500 capacity stadium. (He doesn’t, the council do. I am weaving in introductory facts left, right and centre here, and you haven’t even noticed. Stealthy.)
During one of our first team meals together as a squad and management team, I noticed Linder sitting at a table by himself eating a sandwich. By sandwich I mean grapes that he had demanded one of the other players had hand-peeled. By table I mean our midfield kneeling on the ground with a sheet of plywood resting on their spines. I’ll soon put a stop to this mindless arrogance Mr Lindner!
The actual squad has decent qualities. Eritrean inside forward Nahom Girmai is fairly good (apart from Determination – 4) but is adamant that he wants his salary to multiply by five in order to stay any longer than a few months. Robin Book is also a decent all round 27 year old midfielder, but has already agreed to join Örebro in January, for free.
This could be a baptism of fire, managing here.
I opt for a 451, with tiki taka style possession and passing. The plan is to keep the ball as much as possible. Inside forwards support a hard working striker and the midfield trio keep the ball neatly and patiently in the middle, waiting for gaps to exploit. The key man has to be the man in the defensive midfield position. Not specifically Albert Ejupi, but that DLP-D role. He should dictate the play, always be available and be the most composed head on the park. Think Sergio Busquets, but Swedish, and on £325 a week.
Six days later and my first match rolls around. I get out of bed at the hotel I’ve chosen to live at (I might not be here that long), have half a bag of mini cheddars for breakfast and head to our home stadium, the Påskbergsvallen. A name I am eternally thankful to the ‘paste’ function for. I invite the very famous Varbergs native (but who played for our rivals, GIF, and not us) Stefan Selaković, along to my first home game as a guest of honour, but tell him how often I used to buy him on CM01/02 so many times that he gets irritated and actually chooses to leave before kick off.
I send the boys out to show me what they’ve got. It’s against Mjällby, who are presumably named after the ex Celtic midfielder. (Probably not, actually, now that I think about it). They are the league leaders and have lost just 2 in 18. This could get ugly…
So we lost 1-0. That’s actually not bad! Given that we had 12 shots to their 10, and 60% possession, the bois have picked up on my tiki taka instructions very quickly. A loss does nothing for our league position, but the statistics do a hell of a lot for our confidence.
The journeyman has settled in his first port of call. I’m glad I used that expression, because Varberg actually has a port. I haven’t yet visited, but it looks lovely on Google Image Search.
This is going to be a long old adventure…
Thanks for reading.