Season 4, BK Häcken, Swedish Superettan

Board Expectations: Promotion

Transfers in: 0
Transfers out: 0

I came to BK Häcken in the middle of the season, with the team in 14th, the first relegation play-off spot. I knew it would be hard within the first week, as I was inundated with players talking to the media about how we were underachieving, complaining to me about the lack of locker-room harmony and signing on frees to go somewhere, anywhere. Plus the board was grumbling about replacing me before I’d even played game one.

Luckily for me, the fractured squad somehow managed to initially pull itself together and surged up the table to within a few points of the promotion playoff spot on the back of some incredible home form. There were some remnants of the team that had been relegated two years ago. 

I could see why there were morale problems — the team had finished on 57 points the year previous, which would have seen them automatically promoted in many years, only they wound up tied with three other teams and missed out on all the promotion spots on goal difference.

We were already through to the Swedish Cup 4th Round when I took over and several tight matches got us into the semi-final, where eventual winners Kalmar came back from 0-1 to rout us.

The extra cup matches were ultimately probably too much of a strain as a home loss against the bottom-placed team started a tailspin at the end of the season, allowing several teams enjoying good runs of form to pass us and the top-placed teams to solidify their spots.

We wound up finishing in 5th, 7 points out of the playoff spot in 3rd, with the record under me being 9W, 3D, 5L. Not bad; not good enough for promotion. Considering that the board felt promotion was the minimum measure of success and their crankiness when I initially signed, I had my bags already packed.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when they instead offered me a contract extension of two years, with a decent raise to boot. I bit their hand off accepting, with the caveat to myself that I needed to gain promotion in the next year and that I would do the honourable thing and resign if I couldn’t or things went completely in the crapper before then.

Swedish Cup: Out in Semi-Finals

Player of the Year: Nigerian Target Man, who racked up an incredible 22 league goals, 14 after my arrival.

D1E 5TH P30 W13 D6 L11 GF49 GA41 Pts45

Season 5, BK Häcken, Swedish Superettan

Board Expectations: Promotion
Media Expectations: 2nd

Transfers in: 13 for £0, including two young Finns from the Ykkönen
Transfers out: 19, for a grand total of £1M

After almost clawing our way back to the promotion spots from in the relegation zone, the biggest problem in preseason was the squad turnover, as we were losing a ton of players on frees and had no money, necessitating almost as many frees in.

Somewhat luckily, two kwaaaaaality players that I had first spotted in the Ykkönen were available, so I snapped them up along with an assortment of veterans. When the dust settled, we had a decent, if thin, squad, with the biggest problem being that our best three players were all right-backs. And generally you only play with one of those.

A slightly shaky start settled into a decent season, with the team sticking around the top five. An early exit in the Cup meant that we were free to concentrate on the league and after the squad got to know each other, we went top, helped by the fact that there wasn’t another dominant team in the league.

Things almost fell apart in the midseason transfer window when the board sold our best two players without my consent. One was our Nigerian Target Man, who was currently leading the Superettan in goals.

He still wound up being our top goal-scorer and wound up being the second-top scorer for Hammarby, where he’s now valued at twice what they paid. The other was one of the young Finns and one of the trio of right-backs, also to Hammarby, also for much less than he’ll eventually be worth.

However, the team didn’t seem to miss them much and the second half of the season was a glide down the homestretch, marked mainly by excellent defense, except for a swoon after we clinched the Superettan with five games to go.

I also wound up selling another one of the right-backs because he seemingly couldn’t manage two consecutive games with a rating above 6. Since the third right-back was refusing to sign a contract, we’re now going into the Allsvenskan with nobody at that position. We also lost one of our first-choice CBs on a free at the end of the season, so the defense is looking more than a little shaky.

Swedish Cup: Out at the first time of asking, which at least meant more rest for the squad.

Player of the Year: The Captain, Swedish MC/ST, who held down the fort in the middle of the field and still managed to net 8 and set up 3.

Former Club Watch:

RoPS: Pipped Mariehamn to second in the Veikkausliiga with a final day win that gave them a one-better goal difference.

Offers: One, from Newcastle. Not turned down because it was unrealistic; when they came in for me, they were 15th in Championship and are so wracked with debt that their spending is severely curtailed, so I felt that going for a relatively unknown coach with a decent reputation wasn’t completely unheard of. Still didn’t want any part of it though.

D1E 1ST P30 W19 D6 L5 GF56 GA28 Pts63

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