Brutal reality for football coaches

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UPDATED: Few jobs in Norway, or just about anywhere, have as little job security as those tied to coaching professional football. Jan Jönsson of the Rosenborg football club in Trondheim is just the latest in a string of confident, high-profile men who’ve literally been kicked out of the game. His successor was named just before the weekend.

Jan Jönsson wanted more time in Rosenborg, but didn’t get it. PHOTO: Wikipedia/Kjetil Ree

Wildly popular one year, brutally fired the next: That can be the fate of head coaches, or “managers” as they’re often called. The higher they fly, the harder they fall. In a game where winning matches is everything, the absence of an extended winning streak is rarely tolerated.

Jönsson found that out last weekend when Rosenborg bosses called a press conference and announced he’d been fired after two years and 89 matches. “I’m a bit sad about this, but we’re parting as friends,” Jönsson told reporters. “I could have possibly done better with one more year, but my time in the club hasn’t been wasted.”

Rosenborg, once the powerhouse of Norwegian football, wants to “get back to its roots,” according to newspaper Aftenposten. It finished third in the league and that’s just not good enough for a club with a history of dominance. “We haven’t played at the level we wanted, not in 2011 or in 2012,” the club wrote in a press release, adding that the club “has potential” that hasn’t been reached.

Players weren’t surprised by Jönsson’s abrupt departure. “We have said we want a clearer playing style and haven’t found our form,” Rosenborg captain Michael Dorsin told local newspaper Adresseavisen. “The players of course need to take some of the blame, but there’s always someone with the ultimate responsibility.”

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported earlier this week that only the chief executives of some troubled corporations, or highly political organizations, are as vulnerable as coaches in Norway’s top football league. Jönsson’s firing closely followed that of Ålesund head coach Kjetil Rekdal. Åge Hareide, the former coach of Norway’s national team, also was recently dismissed by football club Viking, and Martin Andresen of Vålerenga didn’t hang on to his position either.

There’s thus no lack of available coaches on the market. Per Joar Hansen, who coaches the national team of players under the age of 21, was the immediate hot prospect to take over at Rosenborg, as was Trond Sollied, who recently was “set free” by Gent. Meanwhile, Aftenposten reported on Friday about various campaigns going in Trondheim both for and against various candidates for the job. One sponsor even bought a full-page ad in Adresseavisen to drum up support for coaching legend Nils Arne Eggen, while others mounted banners warning contenders to stay away. They failed, and Hansen was named to succeed Jönsson as Rosenborg’s head coach later on Friday

“This is Norway’s biggest club, at the same time I’m from the area myself,” Hansen told reporters when his three-year contract with Rosenborg was announced. “The temptation (to take over as head coach) was too great.”

Some may call him a brave man to step into the fray, even though it’s all supposed to be about sport and having fun. Some football executives admit that coaches can experience an enormous feeling of personal defeat after getting sacked themselves, no matter how unemotional they appear to be. “Many coaches feel lonely, and it can be hard to come back in another job,” Teddy Moen of the Norwegian coaches’ professional association told DN.

“We contact them to hear how it’s going, but they’re ‘men-folk,'” you know,” Moen added. “It’s not always they show their feelings.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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