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So things have happened. When I last left you, we had just kicked off season two in the Swedish second tier at Varbergs BoIS with a decent 3-1 win over Örgryte IS. I’d been flatly rejected for jobs in France (Paris FC) and Holland (Willem II), and it was time to knuckle down and do better than last year. Not before applying for the Sarpsborg 08 role in Norway, but being laughed off without an interview. Again.
“I’m leaving you, you cow!”
That’s what I screamed in the face of Monika, the receptionist of the hotel I’ve been staying at for a good nine months now, after I won the FOUR opening games in a row in the Superettan. Fans of Alan Partridge would have recognised the reference and belly laughed enough to tell their friends about it. In this case, Monika had never seen Alan Partridge, had no idea who I was, and was deeply, deeply upset.
The reason I planned to leave the hotel is that my 100% record from the opening month of the Swedish second tier had me convinced, if only momentarily, that this would be our year. We would be getting promoted, we’d be heading for the Europa League within two years and the Champions League within three. All of our troubles as left behind as this two-star hotel. I’d take the keys to a beautiful new apartment and that shiny Volvo S90 I’ve had my eye on since I arrived here. Could it continue?
So April 2020 was an anomaly. I did not keep my 100% record up and sail off into the sunset a happy man (i.e. solidify my position in 1st or get a better job) . That being said, things were changing.
Tactically, I still steadfastly follow my ‘keep the ball’ tiki taka style, but with one minor tweak, which at first seems like a conflicting instruction, that has really made a difference.
I stopped telling the boys to work the ball into the box, and instead to hit early crosses. Now, with a tactic principally built around short, composed passing, and dominating possession, punting the ball in at every opportunity seems idiotic. It hasn’t quite worked like that, however. What’s happening now is the boys are keeping the ball in the middle of the park, playing nice triangles with the three midfielders in the middle, bringing the full backs into the game and dominating the middle third. Then, instead of continuing to gain yardage and move up the field like an NFL tactic, the front three are always in and around the 18 yard box, waiting to pounce. So suddenly and without warning, when the ‘hit early crosses’ instruction activates, one of the midfield five (sort of ) will ping the ball directly into the final third. This tactical paradox seems to be surprising defenders, and we are doing a heck of a lot better than before. I think I might be onto something here.
Ex-Barcelona full back Lucas Gafarot looks to be settling in nicely. Don’t get me wrong, his 7 dribbling, 9 composure, 9 decisions, 9 positioning and 5 jumping reach aren’t exactly incredible, but he’s made that left back position his own.
Which is just as well, because…
Yep. A torn calf leaves me with one functioning left back. My only other options are Jakob Lindahl, a solely right-footed central midfielder with 7 tackling who says he can play at left back, and Jesper Modig, another solely right footed player, this time a centre back with 7 workrate and 6 crossing.
The good news continued to roll in with these next two items.
This is where our current financial position (-£816,000 at the time of writing) really starts to cause us problems. Even if I could have found the money to offer my number 9 a decent deal to stay, he didn’t want to. Presumably his Dad is an accountant and could see we were the Titanic of the Swedish second tier, heading towards the iceberg of bankruptcy. I wouldn’t mind quite so much if he was leaving for a top team. After being linked with St Mirren back in my homeland of Scotland, he opted to sign for a French team predicted to finish 10th in the second tier, and named after a slightly irritating character from Stranger Things.
The fun didn’t stop there. My first signing in this journeyman, and my sole Varbergs signing from my first season in charge, Markus Steinhöfer, then hit me with this!
So instead of playing on for another season like I begged him to, Markus, 34, is presumably going home to Weissenburg in Bayern, despite his 15 for natural fitness, and clear ability to carry on playing. I know he’ll have a pint of Erdinger and no doubt look back fondly at his time with Real Betis, Basel, Frankfurt, Salzburg and even Bayern Munich, but there’s a part of me that knows that his 6 assists in 20 appearances for Varbergs BoIS (so far) will have a warm place in his heart. He actually looks like a moderately decent Head of Youth Development, so maybe our paths will cross again one day.
It’s not all doom and gloom. After my tactical tweaking, form did eventually pick up, it even culminated in my best result so far, where even my loan Ranger (woosh) Jamie Barjonas bagged a brace. Also, the board are wonderfully keen for me to develop my coaching badges, this is now the third qualification they are happily footing the bill for!
This upturn in form leaves us in a really strong position. Could this be our year, after all? There’s eight games left of the league season, my BoIS are two points off the top spot. There are six points between 1st and 6th in the table, it all comes down to the final run in.
In a nice change to recent history too, thank to my striker Alibek Aliev (1 goal in 18 appearances) and his constant evangelising of my virtues as per the last post, the squad actually believe that I am a football manager now. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, surely we can kick on and get promoted?
Ok then. Uwe Rösler has been let go from Swedish top division Champions Malmö. Rumour has it that Zlatan commanded it be so, all the way from his current role as the number 9 for Al-Duhail in Qatar. He’s on £115,000 a week I’ve just noticed, just the ten and a half times my entire weekly budget.
Uwe Rösler, for the uninformed, was a Manchester City striker in the 90s. A very good one too. That fact is for all the City ‘fans’ who think the club was formed just before Robinho signed.
Now it had previously occurred to me when I was laughed out of the Paris FC job, that although my qualifications are stacking up, my managerial attributes slowly rising, and my reputation growing, this has been my first job. So I’ve only ever managed in Sweden. Therefore, my “minimal” (thanks game) one-star reputation only really contributes to being known to the footballing world within Sweden itself. I can now speak fluent Swedish, and that 38% scouting knowledge of Sweden isn’t too bad either.
So perhaps this is the move? With Malmö floundering in 10th in the Allsvenkan despite winning the league last year, and with a double header against Poland’s Lechia Gdańsk ahead of them to get into the Europa League, could this be a match made in heaven?
I’ve had a quick look at their finances (secure) and a glance at their squad (stacked with quality but a distinct lack of decent centre-backs), the whole thing looks very promising.
Two questions remain, have I done enough in my 39 games in charge of Varbergs (W19, D6, L14) to merit this opportunity? Secondly, if offered, should I be jumping ship from a team I have an outside chance of getting promoted with?
Given the -£1.3m, -£2.4m, -£3.1m three year finances prediction, and two of my best players leaving, I think it might be time.
This could all be academic in a couple of days when Malmö inevitably laugh off my interest and appoint their caretaker manager permanently anyway…
BREAKING NEWS (again)
I’ll keep you posted!
Thanks for reading.