I’m surprised at how nice my little office is at Höllviken’s training ground. I think this is where the squad’s budget probably went. It’s most likely the reason I inherited 11 players but it is fairly nice. There’s a good solid dark wooden desk. I’m no expert, I couldn’t tell you whether it’s Mahogany or Oak or whatever, but it looks good. There’s a couple of chairs, a nice TV for watching opposition videos, a pretty comfy leather sofa, and a fully stocked drinks cabinet. Now that I’ve written it all down, this is definitely where the squad budget went. There’s a knock at the door: “Come in” I call. It swings open and standing there is my head physio, Patrick Ekman, giving me a sympathetic look. I wish everyone would stop doing that. “Bad news?” I sigh.
“Not all bad” he replies. “Grannum’s out for about 3 weeks, but Vilas Nilsson’s fine, Wihlborg’s ready to come back in and Sekiraca’s just about there.”
He’s right, that’s not all bad. I was expecting 2 new injuries after the Hammarby game, and if my right winger’s injured it’s good that 2 replacements are ready to come back.
“Ok cheers Patrick” I force a smile and he ducks back out of my office, closing the door behind him. I’d probably be fairly optimistic for the next game, except that my squad’s exhausted and Ali “Burrnie” Burrniku, scorer of giant-killing penalties since 2016, is suspended for our next game after picking up 3 yellow cards.
I take out the Höllviken handkerchief that Ms Alexandersson gave me yesterday and study it, turning and folding it delicately in my hands: it’s hand-made. A labour of love for this club. Our fanbase may not be the biggest but the team I put out tomorrow has got to be right. The system has got to work. Good honest Swedish folk are depending on me.
The next day I decide to follow Ms Alexandersson’s advice: I don’t overthink it. We go back to the counter attacking system that we used in our first match: yes we lost, but we matched OAIK. If we do that again with a little bit of luck we can nick a result.
Fitness is an issue but I can’t afford to rest any of my first team. Henningsson in particular looks exhausted but we have no defence without him, so he starts. Joakim’s also looking off the pace but we need our captain too.
Hoffman did OK after coming on against Hammarby so he’ll be the holding man until Burrnie finishes his suspension, the newly fit Wihlborg comes in for Grannum on the right wing and a fresh-faced fellow named Truls Nylander comes in for the equally young Pärsson in the centre of midfield, as the latter could do with a rest.
I’m fairly sure I don’t need to point this out at this point, but every league game now is a big game. And I mean a BIG game. I reckon we need at least 3 wins out of our 7 remaining games to have any hope of staying up, and today we play Utsiktens BK, who are currently 10th in the league. And we play them at our place. If we can’t win this match, we can’t exactly expect to do well against the bigger teams. Utsiktens have been underperforming themselves this season so one of us is going to claim a massive 3 points.
We start the game poorly. We’re slower to every ball, we’re fouling them over and over as they dance through our defence, we’re shattered and we’re being outplayed.
In the 12th minute, just after one free kick had gone over, Bergholtz takes another, and puts it on target. It’s straight at the Hammer but he fumbles it. We’re 1-0 down already. This is the worst possible start. In a bid to stop us conceding any more direct free kicks I tell the team to stand off slightly and to stay on their feet.
My instructions do what they were meant to, but they don’t stop the onslaught. In the next 7 minutes 1 shot is blocked by Henningsson, a header from the resulting corner goes just wide, and another shot goes over.
And then Andersell picks up an injury. It’s not the worst news in the world as he’s probably no better a striker than I am, but he came close to scoring in my first match and I was hoping that a run in the side would bring out the best in him. Lago comes on in his place.
The match dies down and the only thing that really happens for the rest of the half is that I swap us to a standard mentality.
At half time my nerves get the better of me. The fact that we’re slipping further into the relegation quicksand, the fact that we’ve not scored a single goal in the 255 minutes of my tenure so far, the fact that I’m failing.
I shout, and I scream. I tell the boys to sort themselves out, to pull their fingers out and stop embarrassing themselves. Where’s the character I saw on Wednesday?
Quickly after half time I bring on Sekiraca for Axelsson and swap him with Wihlborg so they’re on the right and left respectively. 2 senior wingers in their preferred roles should give us a boost.
10 minutes after half time Stefan Bouvin, my understudy centre half, picks up an injury. Again it’s not the end of the world as he’s about as good at centre back as a Madame Tussauds Waxwork of himself would be, but another injury during a match certainly weakens us. I can either use my remaining substitute to take him off and bring on another shit centre back, or I can leave him and make a change that might just give us a chance.
I opt for the latter. I bring off defensive midfielder Nylander and replace him with fellow debutant Kevin Lantz. Lantz will go up front with Lago, who will act as a poacher to try and break our goal drought. Hoffman fills in in midfield.
Ladies and gentlemen, Höllviken will play 4-4-Fucking-2.
Over the next 10 minutes though Utsiktens are still the dominant team. They have several chances go wide or over, and we still have no answer. I tell us to go back to the counter attack, go more direct and play at a higher tempo.
In the next 2 minutes both teams go very close. Hyseni has a shot from 20 yards that’s destined for the top corner, but The Hammer pulls off a top class save. We go straight down the other end and Sekiraca goes 1 on 1 with their keeper, only to put his shot just wide of the near post.
With 20 minutes to go McVey hits the post after a decent Utsiktens move and I swap us to attacking in the hopes that we’ll grab the equaliser, but the last 20 minutes are dead.
Another league game at home, another match without scoring, and another 0-1 loss.
I head back to my office and start looking through the drinks cabinet.
I end up doing a lot of thinking. After my first match I could at least look back and wonder what could have been if luck had been on our side. Today we were obliterated, and frankly 1-0 flatters us. Drastic action is needed. We need goals. We need a senior striker. But the only position where we have any senior depth is… Goalkeeper…
I pick up my phone and dial. It rings for a moment before The Hammer picks up.
“Niklas! I want you and Cyrile to meet me for emergency training in half an hour. We’re going to see how well you can shoot.”
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