With great power (money), comes great resposi… Wait, let’s not go down the old Spider-Man route.
Yes, we guided Djurgården into the Champions League group stage, yes, we may have conceded 16 to Liverpool over the two games, but a 2-1 win over Lyon and €14 million in the pot was a nice little bonus and a nod to a Group stage done well.
Burning a hole in our pocket, we went about putting our stamp on a team to play in the 4-3-3 that had started to turn out some really nice football. An XI who would hopefully guide us towards the Swedish title.
Let’s work our way from top to bottom.
New striker, Mihajlo Spasojevic, €1.8m from Čukarički Stankom.
21 years old, great first touch, acceleration and composure. Impressed by his dribbling, overall technical, plus excellent physicals. This could be the guy to lead this line for a couple of years.
We paid €2.5m up front, with the potential of another €500,000 to bring Jesper Berger from Orebro SK.
Straight away, we wanted him for his acceleration, and overall physicals. On the ball, he can dribble, with a decent first touch, and despite his mentals being a little low, he is going to work hard down the right flank.
Nils Fröling joined from IF Elfsborg after scoring 14 league goals, hoping the ginger forward could be the man to play on the left flank.
In the midfield we added two players, €250,000 brought Lucas Persson back to Sweden from Dundee United. Brilliant first touch, good physicals and impressive mentals. Including his teamwork and decision making, plus we liked his vision and decision making.
The biggest outlay was the €4.7m spent, also to Čukarički, for Deep Lying Playmaker, Dario Grgic. He has 16 first touch, 14 passing and 15 vision.
Niclas Bergmark and August Erlingmark joined to play a mixture of Half Back and Centre Back, which helped bring the numbers up after the departure of Aslak Witry and Thomas Isherwood from the defence.
€15.1 million well spent. Now we had to go get results.
The Svenska Cup is played during pre-season, and wins over Kalmar, Sollentuna, Landskrona BoIS, Malmo and Orebro took us to the final. Nineteen goals scored, three conceded. Norrköping would stand in the way of silverware, but not for two months.
A 4-2 win over Örebro kicked off the league campaign, we were delighted to see three of the new signings find the back of the net. We then lost 3-2 to Malmö and we’d be lying if there wasn’t a bit of a worry around the club, maybe we weren’t as good as we thought or hoped.
10 straight wins put our minds at ease.
Firing on all cylinders, there was nothing going to stand in our way, adding the Svenska Cup to the trophy cabinet. Summer signing Fröling bagging a hat-trick in the 4-0 victory.
Four points clear after 10 games, that climbped up to 15 with 21 played. Playing some superb football, it wasn’t just Swedish clubs feeling the wrath of Djurgarden.
Over in the UEFA Europa Conference Papa John’s McDonalds Coca Cola Tennants League, wins over Zorya Luhansk, Aris Thessaloniki and Italian giants AS Roma in the qualifying rounds sealed a place in the group stage. Impressively, we scored 12 and conceded only six over the six games.
A run of 21 straight wins in the league ended with a 1-1 draw with Helsingborgs, but it did mean three points against Norrköping would seal the club’s 14th Swedish league title.
Far from a game to remember, Spasojevic scored his 13th league goal after just six minutes and that was enough to get the job done.
Champions with five games to go, fair to say we dominated the league and everything we touched.
It’s quite easy to get attached to a club during a Journeyman save, but this was the first team that proper grabbed me. I loved Vestri and the plight they were in, but Djurgarden felt like the first club we had turned into a real contender.
The formation had clicked, it was fun to watch every fixture. In another save, it would have been nice to stay on, grow the club more, have another attempt at the Champions League, but that wasn’t the rules.
It felt harder to say goodbye to the players too. Spaso looked like a goal machine. Berger on the left and Persson in the midfield looked like potential stars. And you just know they are not going to be as loved by the next man in charge.
After finishing the season, it was time to quit and look for a new job, hoping for a gig in Denmark or Norway, but you’ll have to come back next time to find out where we landed.
Two countries, five seasons, two league titles, two domestic cups. This is just the beginning.