Archive for January, 2010

The Road to Costa Brava Via a Bleak Midwinter

Tentative and ill informed, not the emotions one might expect of an Assistant Manager walking towards the training ground. The fact of the matter was that I had no idea of who the new manager would be, nor had I any conversation with the chairman given any indications or leverage on my own position.
Being a Welshman with little Danish speaking ability was my immediate handicap when I joined the football club (just outside of Copenhagen) a few months ago. Little things like language were not going to get in my way, and as time went on, I began to pick up the odd sentence or two and command simple tasks of the players.

The football team had finished the previous season 2nd place in the league and had been invited to participate in the prestigious Mediterranean International Cup in Spain in 2010, a tournament that is full of the top European teams and was once the stage for a young Lionel Messi. The invitation was a huge incentive for the staff and players to represent the country, club and our fledging reputations in the game.

After spending Christmas in Wales with my family, I had received emails, demanding I ring the chairman immediately on a topic of ‘great urgency’.
I guess switching my Denmark simcard with my UK one, and not telling the club of the change of number had been a slight moment of lost in translation, but when eventually we did speak I was told bluntly, “We have a new manager, we need you to report to training an hour early next week”.
Arriving at the training ground club house, I waited anxiously and finally recognised a figure that possibly resembled the new manager, clumsily hoisting a bag full of old training gear over his shoulder, I said something that vaguely resembled “Are you new manager?” in Danish and to my luck he spun around and replied “yes” with a long sentence in Danish which I cared to nod politely to.
While shaking his hand I asked if English could be the preferred converse between the two of us for the foreseeable future, the nervous expressions upon his face dared to creep in, but he composed himself quickly and retrieved my recycled training gear from last season, upon which I was promised new personalised kit, I didn’t complain as the snow and subsequent frost meant that huge coats and gloves were all I was thinking about in the fashion department.

Fast forward 30 minutes, the manager and myself were standing amongst drifts of snow on the side of the well cleared artificial pitch, watching, 19 players go through their paces. It was amusing to see that the players were coming to me, talking in English and asking for help in what the new manager meant for this particular exercise. They were nervous and moved about loosing the former boss, who had become one of the boys, and now everything seemed deadly serious.

The heightening build up to the World Cup in South Africa in Denmark, is reaping results in the intake of new young players wanting to participate in the sport.
Ex-Danish internationals were watching training and games as their sons play at the club, and this level of enthusiasm is surely felt in the infrastructures in place at the club. The one thing that is surely the vital ingredient in the enjoyment and future success of the Danish nation is the realistic, down to earth and welcome qualification for South Africa 2010.

The manager was clearly keen to change the dynamics of training and the feeling that these players knew everything, he did this by adding new, thinking based training that night, and did those boys fall at the first hurdle. Ball flying everywhere, miss-timed passes, wrong positioning. The manager had got what he wanted from the session and with preparations building for the tournament in Barcelona.
I thought back to a piece of advice from a coaching course I had attended in London, saying ‘you should judge a person by how you find them and not by their reputation’.
Ultimately the popularity of the manager will be judged on the results of his team and not on the merits of his personality, as was with his predecessor.