Being told you are long shot favourites to stay up puts the fear into you. Going into the 2022 season with Vestri it was all hands-on deck, the off-season scouting and trialing every player who would take our calls, trying to find a couple of gems good enough to keep us up.
If you missed the first part, get caught up right here.
14 (Fourteen) players arrived, if we are being honest, it was probably too many, but it felt the right move at the time. It is unlikely the squad that won promotion would have had enough to fight.
One defeat turned to three, two draws against JA and KA offered hope, but then we lost five in a row — scoring three and conceding 12.
Rock bottom, with no wins, things were not looking very good.
The whole point of this save was to win as many leagues as possible and I gave myself the test of not leaving a country until the top-flight title was mine.
My other big factor is, Journeymen saves are not about the club, it’s about you. You are growing your reputation and you can’t just stay loyal. You cannot go down with a sinking ship.
The game is called Football Manager, not Club Builder.
What I am getting it, justifying to myself, I left Vestri.
Two more draws weren’t enough and looking at the table, there was no way we were going to stay up, so I abandoned ship, applying and getting offered a move to Knattspyrnufélag Akureyrar (known as KA) for the last eight games of the season.
If you are wondering, Vestri managed two wins without me in charge, but still went down and have remained in the second division ever since.
KA were also in a relegation fight, but six points ahead of Vestri, they were a chance to prove that I could win games at that level.
Analysing the squad, we went with a 4–2–3–1 strikerless. A draw against Grotta wasn’t the spectacular start we had hoped for, but things improved with a 1–0 win over Kefvalik.
Who else would be up next but Vestri, and it is what I call my ‘Shawn Michaels v Ric Flair’ moment.
They didn’t stand a chance. Hallgrímur Mar Steingrímsson scored a stunning hat-trick and I had a single tear roll down my check as I watched Ásgeir Sigurgeirsson tuck away no.6.
Wins over Breiðablik and Íþróttafélagið Fylkir sealed the end of the season and safety in the top flight. Job done.
However, was KA going to be the club we pushed on with? Well, at one point I was tempted, until that was a very interesting job popped up.
Valur Reykjavík finished third, six points off Champions Stjarnan and sacked Heimir Gudjonsson for his troubles. It was too good an opportunity to pass up.
Just one week before Christmas, I was unveiled as Valur’s new boss and we got to work. Obviously a team worthy of chasing for the title, and the contract reflected their expectations. Win the damn league!
Jhon Miranda arrived on a free, the Colombian tasked with joining up with Patrick Pedersen up front — the Dane had finished as the league’s top scorer. Left-back Andre Reynolds came in after a successful loan spell and we convinced Brynjar Ingi Bjarnason to follow me from KA to shore up the defence and add an aerial threat.
Perhaps my biggest downfall in management is my temptation to tinker with the formation too often. Very reactive, rather the being smart and just to tweak parts of a shape.
Far from ideal then when we only won two of our opening eight league games. Defeats to JA, Vikingur and Grotta — bloody fucking Grotta — kept us mid-table. 4–2–4, 4–3–3–0, 4–1–2–3–0, 4–2–4–0, we tried them all. It wasn’t working.
Back to basics. 4–2–3–1. Wingers, keep it tight and narrow, standard passing and look to hit hard on the break.
It seemed to be working, although it didn’t stop NK Domzale knocking us out of the Europa Conference League 6–4 on aggregate, but it wasn’t all bad news.
A win in the cup over HK sparked a run, and five wins in a row ended July perfectly, that would extend all the way through August.
Five league wins were complemented by a cracking 1–0 win over FH in the Icelandic Cup. SILVERWARE!!!
Now we’re cooking with gas, and 15 games in we sat second, two points off Breiðablik and momentum fully with us.
Miranda was scoring for fun, playing as the CF as Pedersen fell to a season ending knee injury. In the seven games that followed the final the Colombian scored 13 times, Valur kept their winning run going and no one could keep up.
Champions. My first league title and we did it in style, finishing seven points clear. Miranda managed 20 in 20 league games and my first proper summer signing had paid off, and I’m not sure there’s a better feeling than when someone you invest in fires the club to glory.
With the title in the bag, it was time to resign and move on. The Icelandic top flight was ranked 60th in the world, so almost anywhere would have been a step-up, but the play was to stay and do a tour of Scandinavia.
Time to hit the job centre.
You’ll have to come back next time to find out who took a chance on Scotsman, trying to find a way on the managerial ladder.