“We need to be careful, Östers are absolutely flying” Joakim warns me. “They’ve won 8 of their last 11 and drawn the other 3, this might be our toughest match of the season. The bookies have them at to 1-6 to win, I’m surprised they’ve not already stopped taking bets”
“Never tell me the odds” I snap, hoping that they don’t have Star Wars in Sweden. We’re sat in my office planning for our away game against Östers IF at the weekend, and it does seem like an insurmountable task. They’ve been eating teams far, far, far further up the table than us for breakfast.
We’re interrupted by the sound of a car driving into the training facility car park. Joakim and I exchange confused looks. No one at FC Höllviken can afford a car. Intrigued, we stand, walk out of my office and around to the car park to see an unfamiliar young man closing the door of his mustard-yellow Saab. I note with interest from the license plate that it’s older than most of, if not all of, our players. And Joakim’s 31.
Joakim sighs with relief at the sight of him. “Andreas!” He exclaims. Andreas? I don’t know anyone called Andreas… Andreas struts towards us and removes his sunglasses.
“Did somebody order a star striker?” he asks, very coolly, like a Bond villain. I assume that’s what he said, he was speaking in Swedish, but he seems like the kind of twat that would say obnoxious things like that because it’s becoming painfully obvious that this is our only actual senior striker, Andreas Persson. And he reeks of star-strikerishness. I’d almost completely forgotten we had him to be honest but he’s come in to resume light training.
After I get over the initial resentment I realise that his return to training is a huge and welcome relief. I’ve not used any strikers that aren’t shit kids or goalkeepers up to this point and it’s sort of become the norm. Plus he can finish, he has pace, and he can get into good positions. He might be just the injection we need, but he’s not quite ready yet.
In the meantime though we’re now propping up the Swedish third tier and it doesn’t feel good. We’re still 6 points off the relegation play-off spot so I think that’s still an achievable goal, but we’ve only got 5 games to get there, and our goal difference is so bad that we’re definitely going to need more than 6 points. We need to turn our run around: We’ve lost 6 games in a row in the league and if we lose our next 2 we can pretty much forget staying up. And I can forget about having the option to stay.
So let’s start the fightback today. We play a variation of our Hammarby-vanquishing defensive 4-1-4-1 with The Hammer as a lone attacking target man and attacking wingers giving him plenty of service.
Well why don’t you and Markus sack the match off and go get a bloody room then Joakim.
The match starts in a familiar way: we have an excellent chance after 5 minutes when The Hammer puts a ball through to Wihlborg, who slots it under the keeper only to turn mid-celebration and see the linesman’s flag raised. I’m speechless. Another heartbreak inside 6 minutes for FC Höllviken.
Aside from a couple of harmless free kick attempts from ÖIF and a booking for Pärsson, the first 40 minutes pass without incident. In the 41st minute Pärsson trips an opponent and picks up his 2nd booking and thus a red. Another familiar scenario plays out over the next 2 minutes: The space between midfield and defence in our necessitated 4-4-1 is exploited and Cyrile has to tip over a Drott effort from 20 yards, but from the resulting corner a scramble breaks out inside the area and Johannesson is left to poke the ball home from 6 yards out. Hello 0-1 my old friend. You’ll never know how much I hate you.
In stark contrast to our last match, I just have nothing to say at half time. We seem to be unable to execute a game plan effectively. Whether we hit the post or have a goal disallowed, whether we have key players injured or go down to 10 men, we just can’t make it work. We sit in sombre silence through the break and go back out with barely a word spoken.
With 25 minutes to go I bring on Hoffman and Persson for Sekiraca and Wihlborg and swap us to a narrow 4-3-2 with overlapping full backs, but I still can’t cause a spark. Our fight seems to have dissipated today. With 4 minutes to go I tell the team to attack, and with 3 minutes to go we’re 2-0 down when Ostlind finds space, shoots for the near post from an extremely narrow angle, and Cyrile parries it into the net. We never manage a single shot except for Wihlborg’s offside effort 6 minutes in. There is a very thick silence in the changing room after the match. Yes they’re sat in 2nd place but this is unacceptable. Morale is at a new low.
Safety is drifting further away with every match that passes. With every game we lose there are 3 fewer potential points on the table. We need 7 points minimum out of a possible 12 to survive, barring some kind of mathematical miracle, but we can make our own luck to some extent. We still need to play the teams in 11th, 12th and 13th. And beating all 3 of them would be a bloody good start. Plus Andreas Persson should be fully fit for the next match and I sincerely hope he’s as good as he thinks he is, because he’s starting.
Find me on: