This is one episode of a wider series. To instead start at episode one, please click here.
When I took this job at Varbergs, I knew that survival was a long shot. I also knew that keeping the club financially stable would be a terrifying ordeal. I wasn’t wrong.
So after the previously reported 1-0 debut defeat to eventual champions Mjällby signalled my arrival, a 3-2 defeat to Halmstads (a team I’ve actually heard of) followed, but then, it happened. A sweet, sweet 2-1 victory against Idrottsföreningen Brommapojkarna (obviously), with both goals coming from the talismanic Astrit Seljmani.
A 2-1 defeat to Göteborgs was the only blip in an otherwise perfect August. Were we truly on the road to recovery? Or was this a false economy, with fate waiting to smash me in the face like the airbag of my old rented Saab when I crashed into some traffic cones on my way to the ‘Halland Museum of Cultural History’ one sunny afternoon? I anticipated the latter. I was going there because I had thought Erling Haaland might have been at the museum so I could sign him up, but instead I just bumped into the character Oaken, the shopkeeper from the kids movie Frozen. This is a joke which made a lot more sense before I Googled it and realised that he is probably Norwegian, and generally assuming all Scandanavians are Swedish, isn’t generally acceptable.
It gave me false confidence. Fast forward 9 or 10 weeks and after 2 wins in 7 games, the curtains came down on league season 1. Had it been enough?
Safety! I immediately demanded that the entire squad did a safety dance when survival was confirmed. Even including Möller, Asaad, Aliev, Girmai (*sad face*), Ljung, Zetterberg and Book, all of whom could be leaving the club shortly. Given that not one person in the squad (nor me) were even born when Safety Dance was in the charts, no one had any idea what I was on about.
Another negative is the bank balance. With a cup run still to go, where the cup occurs inexplicably between league seasons in Sweden, our balance is -£180k. Not as bad as it was when I first took over, but definitely precarious.
That being said, we signed a player! 33-year old right-sided German Markus Steinhöfer signed on a free transfer, delivering a solid 6.7 performance in the one match he played before the season ended. Our new chum comes with some decent pedigree (woosh) for our level, having played for Salzburg, Frankfurt and Basel in the past. Has he improved us? Certainly. Will he make season 2 a success all on his own? Unlikely.
Men Without Hats aside, I arranged for Varberg’s very own famous rock band, Kamchatka, to play at the awards evening. The players could not get enough. Not just of Kamchatka, but also the free Cava I had put on (because of finances). So much so that 20 year old Ivorian Adama Fofana celebrated his 3 assists in 26 appearances by drunkenly falling over a table and stubbing a toe.
So, in the next post I will let you know how the between season transfers and the cup run went, along with plans for season 2, but in the meantime let me summarise.
The positives – Survival in the Superettan. My staff are generally decent for this level. The board are paying for me to start my National B coaching licence. The bulk of the squad have at least another year’s contract (especially good getting Ejupi to renew). The discovery of a very good striker who I may take with me to future clubs (Seljmani). I have 10% scouting knowledge of Sweden now. Lastly, I have finally realised that that guy who seems to hang around near me all the time is actually Fredrik Danielsson, my assistant manager. Will he follow me from club to club on this journey? I doubt it, in spite of his obvious charms.
The negatives – Top players Robin Book and Nahom Girmai (7 goals and 9 assists between them) are definitely leaving, along with potential all of the other players mentioned above. I genuinely have no idea how we will replace them when our finances are so poor. Even with signings, I seriously have absolutely not a clue how season 2 will go. I haven’t even considered the possibility of the sack, or where I could move to next. I think the biggest negative is the confirmation that Stefan Selaković has definitely blocked my number. They do say never meet your heroes.
Next step is the cup run, replacing the leavers and depending on how those go, I might just move out of the hotel I’ve been at these first four months and look for an appartment. We shall see. In the meantime I’ve got a new Kamchatka EP to listen to while I finally go and visit this port.
Thanks for reading.