Continuing our discussions with our 3 FCK fans about their dominance in the Danish game.
Do you think that the departure of Solbakken next year will have a big effect on the side?
IP -Very tough question, and shying away from answering I would say: It certainly depends on who replaces him. However, I have, as my previous answers should indicate, a strong faith in the management and I think they would only get someone in who would fit into the long term strategies for the club. They would of course have their own style and methods, and in the job they will get a lot of tactical and operational freedom, but strategy is everything. So the answer must be, that I don’t think it will have a big effect.
CA – Inevitably. Solbakken leaves at the end of the season to take charge of the Norway national team in 2012, and it’s going to have a huge impact on FCK. The coach has been far and away the key figure in the team’s recent success, and it’s testament to his tactical acumen that Copenhagen put in such impressive European performances. Solbakken’s usual formation is 4-4-2, but he’s not a manager who imposes a dogmatic philosophy on his sides, and FCK are eminently capable of switching systems between and during games. This was particularly evident in the Champions League, where only in one game – away to Rubin Kazan – did Solbakken clearly get some tactical decisions wrong. In my opinion, he’s establishing himself as one of the finest emerging coaches in Europe.
CW – It’s hard to say. I think it would be different if it happened one day to another. Everybody knows that Solbakken is out after this season – at least as things are right now, rumours are beginning to circulate – but of course it will be difficult. But Solbakken has made it very clear that he intends to hand over a side with a lot of possibilities so that the work he’s done can be continued.
Is there a frustration that the club sold out for the game versus Barcelona yet for normal league games there are thousands of empty seats?
IP – Yeah, some fans are frustrated. Fans attend games for some of the same reasons and also for different reasons. Personally, as long as the 20-30 people I stand with are there – and they normally always are – I am happy. I think the club did what they could ensuring the FCK Supporters areas were filled with FCK supporters and not Barcelona fans – not a 100% success but I don’t think they practically could have done more. I thought it slightly bemusing how many friends I had suddenly coming out of the closet as FCK fans asking if I could get them tickets. For me, the more people the merrier. For me, the glass is either full against Barcelona or half full against Esbjerg. It’s never half empty.
CA – It’s frustrating, because Parken can be one of the most thunderous and impressive atmospheres in northern Europe, but unfortunately this is the reality of mid-level European leagues. In general Scandinavian football fans are among the most passionate you’ll find, but populations are small and the quality of football outside the biggest three or four clubs simply won’t draw huge attendances. There are games in La Liga and the English Premier League which see half-empty grounds, so what hope does the Danish Superliga have? The saving grace for FCK, and something very much to their credit, is that they continue to budget without considering Champions League revenue, regardless of their expectations. So for the foreseeable future, low attendances remain a mere disappointment rather than a financial problem.
CW – Not at all. That’s how it is in Denmark. In Parken, there’s sold out in the big European games and usually in the games against Brøndby. And in the end of a season when things are closing in and the championship is being decided. It’s always been like this in Denmark and right know it doesn’t seem to chance.
In UK some of the “lesser” sides put out weakened teams against the top sides knowing they will get beaten irrespective of who they play. Is this now happening with FCK?
IP – No, on the contrary. Scraping a draw or even being the first team to get all three points is a huge bonus for any of the other 11 teams struggling to keep off the bottom, fighting to reach 2nd place (and CL qualification games) or BOTH! Our game against SønderjyskE, being 2-0 down… I don’t think they played a weakened team.
CA – With FCK so far clear of the rest, it’s something that’s increasingly likely to happen when the league resumes after the winter break. In the long-term, though, there’s hope that playing a weakened side against Copenhagen won’t become the norm. If Solbakken’s exit in the summer is followed by a player exodus, other teams may again start to see points up for grabs against FCK. It’s also worth noting that, while FCK have dominated the Superliga in the last decade, they’ve never been able to establish a period of uninterrupted dominance – a league win in 2011 would represent the first time FCK have won three straight titles.
CW – No, we haven’t seen anybody pull a Wolves on us yet :-) And i don’t think we’ll see it actually. And it’s worth noticing that two of the ‘lesser’ sides (Silkeborg and AaB) have taken points in Parken this season.
Is FCK’s dominance bad for the domestic game?
IP – Mixed answer, it’s both good and bad. It’s certainly bad for the thrill and excitement at the top. I have booked the Monday after the last game of the season as holiday, knowing that I am at the traditional Champions Party and knowing I will be unfit for work the day after. Booking 8 months in advance, it wasn’t hard getting that day through. So the domestic game suffers. Where I fear this could be a real problem is the last 4-5 games of the season. We could be mathematically de facto champions with an historic 5 rounds to go! Maybe players will be sold, youth players will be tested etc. so there’s a high risk that there will be defeats during that time – history shows that we perform significantly poorer AFTER we have “won” the championship. That gives an unfair advantages to those teams meeting us then compared to those meeting us in the early spring.
CA – This evokes one of the great cyclical arguments in football. Do we want quality in our leagues, or just good competition? In Sweden, for example, the Allsvenskan trophy has racked up more miles than Marcus Bent in recent years, but the standard of football is far lower than in Norway or Denmark, where Rosenborg and FCK make the domestic title grimly predictable year after year. The good news for Denmark is that FCK’s exploits have nudged the league far enough up the UEFA coefficients to earn a second Champions League place for next season – so while the title may be all but settled, a tangible reward makes the race for second place a little more compelling.
CW – On a long term yes. We need to pull others with us. If this continues in a lot of seasons – which I don’t think it will, not in this extreme sense after all – the performances and results in Europe will drop. OB looked like a team going forward a year ago but has since then fired their manager, his assistant and the sporting director. They are in a rebuilding phase right now but has the potential to be a serious contender. Brøndby… well, I don’t know where to start. There a stuff to right a whole article about them :-)
What do FCK fans due for their football fix in the long winter break?
IP – Well, one of the guys I stand with on Nedre-C says that in order to maintain the excitement levels he is taking up snorkeling in Egypt! I really don’t know. My wife was ecstatic when I told her it was the last real game for two months. I might watch a few DVDs from last season.
CA – Scandinavians are among the few hoping that the EPL doesn’t introduce a winter break – not only is the league of a good standard, but also many national team stars ply their trade in England, so it’s a big attraction. Copenhagen fans in particular can follow the fortunes of Parken alumni Christian Poulsen, Brede Hangeland, Lars Jacobsen and of course Roy Hodgson. Luckily for FCK supporters, Champions League qualification means that they’ll be resuming footballing festivities a little earlier than usual this season.
CW – Watch english football! :-) This long break is awful! We have had Royal League before – with the top 4 teams from DK, Swe and No – but that’s not there any more. No the new thing is this thing called Copa del Sol. It was broadcasted last year and that helped a lot :-)
The Brondby derby at Parken has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons in 2010. Can you see it being different in 2011?
IP – Yes. I am, at the core, an optimist and I can’t see this repeating itself. It will be interesting to see what the DBU (if possible more incompetent than the FA) will provide as sanctions against Brøndby for their 5 different incidents this autumn and even more so, how their fans will react to the sanctions. I fear it could be the same or worse next time they visit. Was it not Einstein who said: “Only two things are infinite: The Universe and people’s capacity for stupidity… and I am not so sure about the former”
CA – After the events of the derby in September, I’m hopeful that the police and stewards will be better prepared and coordinated for the next time Brøndby and FCK meet. In September, the situation was exacerbated by the apparently indiscriminate attacking of Brøndby fans by police, which of course only proliferated confusion and disorder. It seems almost clichéd to say that it’s just a small minority of ‘supporters’ who cause this sort of unrest, but it’s certainly true in this case. Before the match the authorities seemed to have the situation controlled, the chaos arose inside the stadium, causing the match to be interrupted for some minutes, suggesting that perhaps it’s more a problem with stewarding than policing. FCK- Brøndby is a fantastic derby for Danish football, but one that always has the potential to ignite in this way.
CW – Well, the problems have been there on and off for the last 10-15 years. We’ve seen fights and fire in the stands on numerous occasions. And that’s from both teams, I should say. FCK has as a consequence of some unpleasant scenes at Brøndby Stadion some years ago made FCK AWAY which is a identification system controlling FCK’s travelling fans on AWAY games. (somewhat the same they are about to do in Italy at the moment) That has been a success and there has been fewer of that kind of bad episodes. Brøndby don’t want to go in that direction and wants more communication with the bad elements of their fans. So to answer your question – it could easily happen again.
Which team could challenge FCK? OB? Midtjylland?
IP – Exactly those two, yes. Why? Because of the organization and approach behind. OB needs to get its act together again and FCM just need to carry on as they are, so mo money is on FCM.
CA – I think OB are in the strongest position. They have a good, functional side and equipped themselves relatively well in their Europa League group despite their poor results. That they’ve consistently finished as runners-up is encouraging – AaB Aalborg are a cautionary tale for teams looking to throw everything into a title challenge. In 2008 Aalborg won the title – Manchester United fans may remember them from the Champions League – but just two years later they’re propping up the table. Promisingly for OB, second place this season means entry into the Champions League qualifiers, which is a great step forward for a team which will look to take advantage if the post-Solbakken FCK struggle to find their feet next season.
CW – Well, I’ve covered this a bit already, but I think it’s OB. Maybe Brøndby if they get their act together – which I doubt they’ll do. FCM’s team is too young and inexperience and they have to sell players when they get a reasonable offer.
Is the winter break a help or hinderence for the team?
IP – As far as the CL is concerned definitely a hindrance. If we play an English team (My hope is on Spurs) I think we will be fucked. Having said that, and with my respect for Ståle and his clever staff, they will make a virtue out of necessity as far as possible. That is, use the break to ensure full recovery and restitution for all players. Do a lot of physical and strength building exercise etc etc. But never the less, still more minus than plus. On the domestic scene it’s an advantage. All the other teams are on breaks too, but they do not all have the resources of FCK who takes the whole team to Spain in order to play test games in warmer weather. OB and I think FCM are going to the same tournament as well.
CA – On the one hand, FCK will be fresh coming into their Champions League tie. On the other, they could be facing Manchester United or Real Madrid having not played competitive football for two months. Obviously FCK are facing an uphill challenge whatever the draw throws up, but they’re also going to be welcoming some unlucky team to a feverish, raucous Parken in the middle of February, which I imagine is not a prospect many elite players will be relishing.
CW – No doubt that it’s a hinderence. We’ve seen it that last two years where we also have played European games after the long winterbreak. In 09 we lost 4-3 on aggregate to City and in 10 6-2 to Marseille. We’re just not up in the tempo that you have to be when you play those games. This year we’ve planned at least 6 games before the first CL game and a lot of the players will be with there nation side in the week before.
Do you think the team will be as dominant in the second half of the season?
IP – Absolutely no doubt. If you look back at the stats, FCK is typically dominant in the second half of the season and there’s a whole subject to be analysed right there. My opinion is, that it’s partly because of the strong bench which makes us cope with (the few) injuries and game bans which begin to hit all the teams stronger in the second half of the season. It’s also in the strong attitude and continuity of the whole team. I’ll give you, that if we get through to the CL quarter finals (which I don’t think we will) you might see a couple of domestic games sacrificed to ensure maximum performance, but that would be it.
CA – Almost certainly not, especially if they get through to the quarter-finals in Europe. That yawning nineteen-point chasm between first and second means that FCK can easily afford to lean back a little and rotate the squad, so I’d be surprised if they went the whole season unbeaten. They still have to visit OB and Midtjylland, as well as face two more Brøndby derbies. If the league is wrapped up early, we’ll hopefully get to see a little more of the youth prospects – 16-year-old Kenneth Zohore looks a particularly exciting talent, with a handful of appearances, a first senior goal and a Denmark U19 cap to his name already.
CW – In the domestic league I think they will. Whether or not we’ll go through undefeated I doubt, but we’ll win the league with 15-20 point. It’s not to sound arrogant but that’s just the way it is at the moment. If the players can keep being motivated after the CL-exit almost every domestic record can be destroyed.
So there we have it….As an FCK fan the future looks bright. As a fan of any of the eleven other SAS Superligaen clubs not so…we will see.