I don my trusty grey coat, grab the essentials and throw them into a rucksack. I’m going to Sweden. Specifically the Locality of Vellinge, the seat of the Vellinge Kommun municipality, and home of FC Höllviken. I’ve been given a contract until the end of the season, about 3 and a half months away at the end of November. I’ve told Alexander, the Chairman, that I can save his club from relegation. Fun fact: there are 26 games in a Swedish First Division South season and my new club have already played 18 of them: Won 3, Drawn 4, Lost 11. We’re 5 points from safety. This is going to be a very tough first gig.
I get to work as soon as I land in Vellinge, organising my first training session with the players. Our first match is in 2 days against Oskarshamns AIK, who are 9th place in the league, so there’s no time to lose.
I arrive at our stadium, Höllvikens IP, to see that only some of the players are present. I choose one at random and ask him to gather the whole squad. He stares at me blankly. The penny drops and my heart sinks. This is it. This is my squad. All bloody 11 of them. And 3 are injured. “Under 21’s?” I plead. “Under 19’s?” Blank stares all round. Right, well this should be a doddle then.
It seems the only selection decision I’ll have to make, apart from which fans to pluck from the stands and give shirts to on a match day, is in net. And it’s an easy decision. On one hand we have Cyrile Tchouata Kamajou, a towering figure who can catch a ball OK and his reflexes are good, but whom the subtleties of the game seem to escape.
On the other we have Niklas Hammer, my pick of the two. He’s an equally mountainous man who’s not as steady of hand or as quick of mind as Cyrile, but he does seem to be the more rounded of the pair. And of course I’m going to play anyone whose name is as cool as Niklas Hammer, because obviously.
At right back, we have Oscar Vilas Nilsson, a short young man who seems decently rounded without being impressive in any way at all.
Our only natural centre back is Simon Henningsson, a big powerful defender who I think I’ll be able to rely on to do a job. He’s also an able centre mid.
At left back we have the surprisingly impressive Tobias Malm. He’s rapid across the ground and incredibly well rounded. In my opinion he is far too good for this team.
And then we have our Mr Versatile, Jason Grannum. He can play anywhere across the back and on either wing, although he’s most comfortable on the right wing. If I get the chance though I’ll be taking that no.77 shirt away so fast it’ll make his head spin.
The first of our central midfielders is Ali Burrniku, a good, rounded, no-nonsense midfielder who’s also able to play as a holding man.
The second is Joakim Nilsson Ingves, who also happens to be my assistant manager. And I have a suspicion that he’ll be my captain. He can do pretty much everything apart from run quickly.
And that’s all of the fit players we have. I shit you not. But let’s press on into the treatment room.
Egzon Sejiraca is a versatile right footed winger. Fast, skilful and able to take on a man and cross. He mercifully is in light training and will be back in 4-8 days.
Andreas Wihlborg is another versatile winger. He’s also quick and otherwise pretty rounded. He’ll be back in 3-9 days.
Andreas Persson is our only striker. He’s quick, gets in good positions and can finish with his feet and his head. He’s irreplaceable so is obviously out for the longest stretch: About 4 weeks to be specific.
I find myself looking pitifully at this sorry lot. They are, in all fairness, better than I expected. I just wish that there was twice as many of them.
Alex comes out to call me and Joakim into his office. He pours us coffee and gives me a sympathetic look. He knows we’re fucked. He knows it’ll be a tough ask to fill a team for our next match, never mind avoid relegation. We chew the fat for a while. I agree to hold a press conference tomorrow and I inform them that I’ll take control of as much of the running of the club as I can. It’s a grim meeting.
I decide that Joakim may as well be my captain. He’s already my assistant and he seems like he knows what he’s doing. I give the vice captaincy to Tobias Malm, the impressive young left back.
Joakim waits until now to hand me the squad report, which consists of 8 positive points and 26 negative ones. I bin the squad report.
So the solution to my situation seems clear: assess the squad while trying to grind out results, and then make signings to bolster the squad once I know what we need.
The holes in this logic are that:
– The transfer deadline is tomorrow so there is no time for assessment.
– The signings we need are Everything
– We have absolutely no money to spend, not even on wages
So with that all in mind I spend transfer deadline day driving around local parks recruiting anyone who looks like they have the potential to one day kick a ball in a straight line (In game terms I offer non-contracts to a bunch of my greyed out/ made up players) until I have an actual squad. They may not be pretty, they may be shit in absolutely all areas, but my god they… are available for selection.
I won’t show you them each individually, just trust me they’re bad. In fact I’ll show you one, just as an example.
See? Awful. He’ll probably start the first match of my career too. But they’re footballers. And footballers can be trained and drilled. There are plenty of underdog stories that start out bleaker than ours, and plenty that end happily.
Now that we’ve got a squad, all we need to do is win some matches. That could be trickier than it sounds with this rabble though.
Find me on: