I – Introduction
I retired from Football several years ago now and I still miss the buzz of stepping onto a pitch and giving my all. These days I work for IFK Mariehamn, the club I spent the entirety of my playing career at. I was privileged enough to play in some huge games, Champions League Finals, Europa League Finals, even a World Cup Final but that’s nothing when I put my managerial aspects forward.
I’ve had ambitions to take up management since my old coach Jukki Aittokallio retired. Jukki has spent an ourstanding 42 years at the Helm, something I’d love to replicate….. But not with Mariehamn. Yes, I spent my career with them & I truly love the club but I don’t want to sit in the shadows of Finland’s greatest ever manager.
II – The Announcement
I had read about this side, it’s something that truly interests me. The FA seem to be taking the same approach as the RFL (Rugby Football League) have done, allow a club from outside of the UK take part in the domestic competition. They way they plan to work it is unique, ill underline the main points below;
- The clubs Training Ground and Youth Academy will be based in Bergen, Norway.
- The club itself will play somewhere within Greater London.
- The club are working with local councils to accommodate a Stadium with Community facilities.
So the plans are pretty straight forward, develop Norwegian Youth outside of Norway. It is a good idea? Yes, Very. Do I think it will work? No. I think its going to be hard to make something like this work in football, the RFL have a team from Toronto playing in the 3rd tier, however they play game in Home and Away blocks. The FA have already said that blocks of games are something that won’t happen.
III – The applicationMy desire to manage is incredibly strong, this is a project that I didn’t think would be entirely possible but having looked into it a little more, it’s a perfect fit for me. I have no idea if I should go for it or not, it’s the possibility of potentially taking charge of a new club with the aim to reach the top, that is what makes me want the job. This may sound silly but how intense would the pressure be? Could I deal with it?
“Hello, Is this Mr. Cuevas?”
“This is Mr. Cuevas speaking. May I ask who’s calling?”
“This is Anna Eriksen, I am calling on behalf of Per Trondheim. Mr. Trondheim requests that you attend an Interview with the board of Nordic Vikings.”
“Wow, erm….. Thank you. I would be more than Happy to attend.”
“Perfect, I will send you over an e-mail with the time and place. Thank you for your time.”
“Thank you, I appreciate the call.”
IV – The interview
The board were kind enough to pay for my flight from Helsinki to Oslo, I paid and extra £135 for a flight from Oslo to Bergen as I didn’t fancy a near 8 hour drive! I spent a long time preparing for the interview, but it was a strange situation….. The club don’t have any history, I know barely anything about them. What do I do?
It took me 15 minutes to get from the Airport to my Hotel, with over 2 hours to kill until my interview, I took time out to discover the city and get some lunch. SK Brann are another team that play in Bergen, however all I saw were Nordic Viking posters, the board had turned this club into an advertising machine.
“Mr. Cuevas, Id like to thank you for taking time out to come and discuss your application with us.”
“Thank you for inviting me, I hope I can give you enough reasons as to why I am the perfect fit for the club.”
“Okay, The first question I’d like to ask is – What made you apply for the role with us?”
“Well, That’s a very easy question to answer. The club is a project, from top to bottom. If I’m not mistaken, we will be playing in the Vanarama National League South, the bottom of the ‘Professional/Semi-Professional’ Pyramid in English Football. It gives me the perfect chance to build this club up, give them an identity and give the opposition a reason to be scared. Everything about this project appeals to me”
“You worked under Jukki Aittokallio, arguably the best Finnish manager in history. What influence will he play on your managerial style?”
“Jukki was a very hands on manager, he wasn’t afraid to switch things up. I learnt a lot from him, he was my manager for 19 years. I know his playing styles inside out and of course with the success we had, that’s something I want to replicate.”
“This club will be very different from Mariehamn though. Jukki had the backing of a very generous board. Now, I’m not saying we will give you £0 to work with, however we certainly won’t be giving you the millions he used to get. What impact will funds have on your ability to bring in the quality we desire?”
“In regards to that, I was signed on a free and became the mainstay for Finland and for IFK Mariehamn. Good players, more specifically good young players are available for free. You could give me £0 and I’d still manage to bring players in. A budget isn’t always required.”
“What Style of play are you going to look at playing? We have reservations appointing a defensive manager as we look to push through the leagues.”
“My style certainly won’t be defensive, however it won’t be all guns blazing attack. To have success we’re going to need a balance. Attacking football is fantastic to watch, but sometimes we need to be cautious. I won’t be playing defensive every game, but I’m not ruling out playing a defensive formation if required.”
“Okay. This is the last question – If you are given the job, what are your aims?”
“Success, I was successful throughout my career as a player & I intend to be successful as a manager. Short term success is irrelevant, we need a stable base in order to get success but once that is establised, we can progress. I don’t intend to be here for a year or 2. I intend to be here for the next 10/15 years at least.”
“Well, that wraps it up. Thank you very much for attending. Expect to hear from us soon.”
V – The Appointment
I feel strange. Leaving Mariehamn was harder than I thought, I’ve been here since I was a 17 year old. I’m a 40 year old man now, it’s hard to believe I spent 19 years playing here plus another 4 years as the clubs first team goalkeeping coach. I’ve never felt like I belonged anywhere else and it’s been a privilege to represent the city of Mariehamn and the Åland Islands.
But now, Its time to focus on my new position, Head coach of Nordic Vikings. Excitement, nerves and a little bit of doubt has spent the last week creeping into my mind. I’ve been wondering if I’m good enough but clearly, I’ve done something right. It’s time to leave Mariehamn for good, unless in the next 10 years we qualify for a Continental competition and face off against each other. I’ve got big plans for this club, very big plans.
VI – The Press Conference
Per Trondheim – Nordic Vikings Owner
“We’d like to welcome you all to this Press Conference & thank all of the journalists that have came to see the unveiling of our new Head Coach. After impressing during the interview, all of the respective board members were unanimous in deciding that Dario Cuevas should become our new head coach. We will now give yourselves and Dario the stage to ask any questions.”
“Dario, we’ve heard nothing but positive things from your respective club in regards to your abilities, why move to the role of Head Coach when you were comfortable at a club you knew in Mariehamn?”
“You are certainly right about being comfortable, but sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone can be the best thing you can do. It was always clear that I had ambitions to become a head coach one day, Mariehamn always knew that. I felt like this was the right club and the right time to move forward and take charge of a club that could progress.”
“You join a club with no history, players, coaches or facilities. Isn’t that a big red flag?”
“why would it be a red flag? For you guys maybe but for me, its a chance to build. As for no facilities, you clearly haven’t looked into anything to do with this club at all. Back in Bergen, we have a superb training complex being built along with a centre of excellence as for a stadium, I’m not sure if I am allowed to say this but we’ve struck a deal to build on Hackney Marshes.”
“I’d like to take this chance to interrupt and say that we know this deal with anger several people, however we are working to redevelop the marshes and add in 11 community pitches around the surrounding areas.”
“Have you any Idea who your assistant will be?”
“So far, I have relied on a few old buddies. Shang Lei, my ex-Mariehamn team mate will be joining me as my assistant while Al Clark & Sebastian Button will be coming into the backroom staff.”
“We will have one more question, then that is time up.”
“Dario, welcome to England & of course to the English Footballing Pyramid! We understand you’ll be starting in the Vanarama National League South. Was that something that worried you at all?”
“Did you just expect us to join the Premier League? I don’t understand. The board turned down the chance to join at League Two level, we decided that the National League South would be the best place for us. It gives us an ideal opportunity to grow as a club and it also allows me to enhance my managerial skills. It was a good idea to start from the bottom. It wouldn’t have been fair otherwise.”
First press conference out of the way, I didn’t like it. I’m not used to being in-front of the media and cameras. Well, not for my coaching career anyway. We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to make the most out of our advertising, boosting the reputation and the fan base of the club within London. As you may have heard from the Press conference, we DO have stadium plans for Hackney Marshes which involves a 4,500 all seated arena complex which will help enhance and develop the surrounding community.
VII – The Merch release
The Kit & Scarf
The club asked me to introduce the new kits to everyone, but I don’t think they need introducing. They are minimal but beautiful, the black home shirt and they grey shorts look simply fantastic combined with the beautiful looking contrasted socks. The away shirt is of course a similar themes except the Away shirt and socks are both white, with the shorts still remaining grey.
There we have it, the Merch is available now for £7.99 with the home and away shirts costing £35 or both shirts for £60. It’s an ideal time to get involved with the club as we look to build a solid fan base both here and in Norway.