We all dream of it, our sleepless nights trying to win the Champions League on Football Manager and wishing it was a reality. Some are fortunate enough to turn their love of the game in to a career. Some of us may remember that time when 22 year old Vugar Husenynzade used his Football Manager credentials to take over Azerbaijan club FC Baku back in 2012. This is another story about Paul Wandless and his first venture into football management with Bjerkeim.
Bjerkeim are a semi professional football club located in the South West of Norway. The club were founded in 1965 and in last seasons campaign were relegated to the sixth division. This is where Paul stepped in to take charge. After speaking with Paul about the clubs situation, many of the players had left due to the poor season where they only managed to tally a total of 7 points over the course of the season. There were a number of rumours about the clubs future and whilst Paul was training at the club, the manager didn’t turn up to training and then offered to take charge of the club for a friendly they had coming up. They allowed him to take charge of the friendly (which they won) and that’s where it all started.
Oh, we forgot to mention, who is Paul Wandless?
Paul is the founder/owner of Football Manager fan site FM Central, which was founded two years ago (2014.) It all started from a Facebook Group based on Football Manager, where many of the members would share their opinions and stories about Football Manager. The group continued to expand and eventually a successful website was created. The Bkerkeim manager is also a keen writer and content creator and his latest project consists of his YouTube Channel where he uploads videos ranging from Cities Skylines to Football Manager and Vlogs to Football Challenges (often at Bkereim’s training facilities.)
Paul claims he was quite a good footballer before he turned to management, however injury prevented him from continuing his ambitious to play – make of that as you will. He emigrated over to Norway from Newcastle, England back in 2012 and hasn’t looked back since.
We managed to catch up with the manager and talk about the direction he wants to take the club and his journey so far managing Bkerkeim.
So Paul, what made you decide to go to Bkerkeim in the beginning?
I moved from Egersund to Vikeså and was looking for a local team, I heard about them so went long to a meeting before the season about playing. The manager was only a temporary manager as they were looking. for our ONLY pre season game, the manager was not available so I said a few days before that I would take the training and match.. we won the game and I totally changed the style of play.
You mentioned that the team only had one pre season friendly, which isn’t a lot. Did it ever cross your mind that they’d take you on as manager, when looking at your experience in terms of football management?
No, I never thought I would get the job. I always expected to be just coming in to help as the manager was away but the manager decided and the owner that they liked what they saw and offered me it full time.
It’s quite impressive how it’s all fit into place, really. What are your aims and objectives for the club?
Aim is to make a stable club first, get ourselves a nice foundation to then build on and progress the club through the leagues.
It must be very hard to attract players in the lower leagues. How do you go about recruitment?
Recruitment has been tough, we currently don’t have a U16 side so many young players go to Egersund and Algard junior sides to finish development and many will not come back to Bjerkreim so we are looking at getting a U16 side next year which will help recruitment from within the club. In terms of bringing adult players into the club, most of my recruitment so far has been from a ‘Expats’ group, finding non Norwegian players looking to play football whilst working here.
With regards to the group you mentioned, do you find it challenging being an English manager in a foreign country? Or is that why you’re looking for non Norwegian players?
Not at all, I would love to sign players from other Norwegian clubs, bringing players in from local sides but it is very very tough. the 2 nearest towns both have large clubs in the town and they have 3 sides each, A, B and C sides so it is very hard currently to attract people in to the club, with us 20km from the nearest towns it is tough for them to justify coming to a club like us when they have what they need in their towns. One reason why the club is pushing social media promotion to make us a unique club.
It seems you have a very good plan. Would you say the time playing Football Manager has influenced your management skills and the way you go about running the club?
In terms of running the club I would say it has not directly helped but it in no way hampered me. Running FMCentral has been an assistance in terms of many peoples tactical views and views on running clubs in general. It all helps grow the knowledge.
Finally, whilst on the Football Manager topic, do you feel that if you weren’t part of FMCentral or play Football Manager you would have ever looked into management? Or is it one the many factors which influenced your decisions to become a manager?
That is something we will never know as I have played Football Manager, Championship manager before that since aged 10 so it has always had a part of my life in helping me live the manager dream. Was that first recognised played CM in 1997? who knows, as who aged 10 knows they want to manage a team.
We’d personally like to thank Paul Wandless for giving up his time to answer the questions we gave him. All of us at Dictate The Game wish Bjerkreim the best of luck in the current season and for the future. Also, a special mention to Football Manager Central, which is the website and Facebook group which Paul owns.
Once again we hope you’ve enjoyed this interview and we’d love to hear back from you. Let us know what you thought of the interview in the comments below, our Facebook page or our Twitter account.