I’ve been thinking a lot about Superheroes lately. So often in the comic books they sacrifice their happiness and their lives for the greater good. They are the unthanked heroes of their cities. But often they are loved. Maybe not by all, but by those who can see how much worse things would be without their intervention. Am I a superhero, you ask? I couldn’t say. There are many factors that make superheroes superheroes. But actually no. No I’m not.
Maybe I could be. Maybe if the stars align and I can drag this club back from the brink of the deep dark pit I’ll be given the key to Vellinge. Maybe local children will go trick or treating at Hallowe’en, wearing a rubber replica of my face over their own. Maybe posters bearing my likeness will be made and hung up in the bedrooms of every Höllviken fan around Vellinge. I can be a superhero, but only if we beat Husqvarna FF today. 3 points and a bit of luck are what we need to reach the relegation play-off spot and get free of the automatic places.
When the team bus pulls up to Jönköping, home of Husqvarna FF, I’m sat at the front next to Joakim. Barely anyone’s spoken for the entire journey. Joakim’s face is drained of colour and I get the feeling that I look equally ill. I certainly feel it.
We disembark and make our way to the away dressing room. It’s a silent, sombre walk. Everyone knows what’s at stake today. I’m using the FC Höllviken handkerchief given to me by Ms Alexandersson as a pocket square. We need all the fortune we can get today and I’ll be thrilled if the homemade hankie proves to be a good luck charm.
When we get Husqvarna’s team sheet I realise that they’re fielding 3 strikers. We’re prepared for this, don’t get me wrong: they’ve been switching between a 4-4-2 and a 4-3-3 recently, but it still scares me. Their narrow 4-3-3 may overload us in the centre, but it gives us the opportunity to exploit them on the wings. We’ll be focussing the left as usual and we’ll be hoping that Malm, the left back who I initially had such high hopes for, finally comes through and helps Wihlborg to double up on their right back, who looks like he’ll be pushing forward and leaving space.
The match starts slowly, with both teams testing each other out. For 30 minutes it’s a gritty, scrappy game, until Svensson, the playmaker in the team by the look of it, hoofs the ball forward from the halfway line. Karlefjärd, not being marked closely enough by anyone, takes it down and lays it off for Karlsson with one touch, leaving Karlsson to drill the ball into the bottom left corner from the edge of the area.
I feel like I’ve been hit with something heavy and blunt, only I can’t feel the pain of it yet. This can’t be how we go down, it won’t be how our season ends.
7 minutes later we have a free kick from the left hand side, close to the byline. Joakim curls a cross into a mess of bodies, Burrnie takes it down on his chest 5 yards out and hammers it straight at the keeper, who parries it out for a corner. I take the opportunity to tell the team to pass into space, to use the pace we have in Persson, Sekiraca and Wihlborg.
At half time I am Churchill. I am Braveheart. “Do it for Vellinge!” I cry, “Do it for Ms Alexandersson! Get your game faces on and let’s see some passion!”, I can hear the crescendo of an orchestra building in my mind, providing a beautiful and overly dramatic soundtrack to my speech of speeches. I sound fantastic. A single tear starts to fall down my cheek as my voice cracks “Do it for yourselves.”
When I finish talking, each and every one of them runs back down the tunnel clapping, shouting, completely pumped up. I smile. My trusty grey coat billows in the wind like a cape as I step back out of the tunnel. We aren’t done yet.
With 25 minutes to go we’re matching Husqvarna. The chances today have been at a premium but it’s an eerily even match. I put us onto control, we need to start to take the game to them. We need to fight.
Not long after, a Svensson free kick comes in from the right wing and falls for Eriksson-Ibragic, but his shot is straight at The Hammer. 10 minutes later they counter one of our pushes and Iskander gets a cross in to the far post, but Hamidovic’s header is easily caught.
With 15 minutes to go we go all out attack. With 10 to go I bring on Lawrence and Mukoko for Dizzle and the quiet Persson. As much as we try, as much as we poke and prod and match Husqvarna stride for stride, we don’t manage a good chance for the rest of the 90 minutes.
The final whistle goes and I stand facing the pitch, unblinking, staring at nothing in particular. We were so close. So fucking close and we fell at the final hurdle. We had momentum and we were getting better, we were finally at the point where I could field 11 senior players. If only I could’ve have this squad for my whole tenure, we’d be clear of relegation by miles.
We’ve managed 2 wins in 8 league games. On the face of it that sounds awful but considering my predecessor won 3 in 18 I think we did pretty well. Pretty well isn’t good enough for a football manager though. I know what’s coming. There’s only a week left on my contract after all.
Back in the changing room I bring the squad together and thank them sincerely for their efforts. I single out Joakim, The Hammer and big Simon Henningsson for praise as we would’ve failed weeks ago if not for their efforts.
I say my goodbyes and leave the dressing room with a heavy heart as I start to walk towards Alexander’s office. I meet him in the hallway halfway down, it seems he was on his way to get me. He looks genuinely saddened as he shakes my hand, and offers me a bottle of whiskey from his own drinks cabinet, which I note is of far higher quality than the stuff in my office, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there now. He forces a smile and wishes me luck. I offer it back, and then finally we officially part company.
I may yet be a superhero somewhere, someday. But not here. Maybe this isn’t my Gotham City. Maybe this has merely been my origin story. Every superhero needs a tragic back story. After all there would be no Batman without the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Nor would there be a Spiderman without the untimely death of Uncle Ben. Maybe there can be no Franjo without the death of my beautiful Swedish dream.
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