International management is a funny old game. In Africa, the Under-23 National teams exist purely (as far as I can tell) to compete in the U23 AFCON, and don’t really do much else; they don’t play friendlies and they don’t seem to really play more than two games in each two or three months during qualifying. This lack of activity has left me with a lot of spare time in which to pore over job adverts that I cannot apply for (see part 1). Because I’ve moved to a national side, I’ve imposed the condition that I cannot apply for a job of any more than a 1/2 star above my current reputation, which limits me to clubs with a 1-star reputation for my next move.
Before I talk about my return to club football, let me take you through my four-game rollercoaster with Nigeria! Our aim was to qualify for the U23 African Cup of Nations, and we opened our campaign with a Second-Round tie against Burundi. It was when squad selection rolled around, that I realised I actually had no idea about 90% of the players within the National Pool, and I ended up choosing players based on their average rating in their club selections. We took to the field with the only players I knew being Isaac Success and Taiwo Awoniyi, and for the opening two matches, we did outrageously well, winning 8-0 and 5-0 respectively!
As you can see, we had a few standout performers, and I went into our second round of matches full of confidence. The 4-2-2-2 was looking good, and I was hopeful going into the second round of matches.
Senegal though, two months later, would prove to be a bridge too far – I didn’t make many adjustments to the squad, but in hindsight that was an error, as a few players had hit a shaky patch of form, and this shone through in our performances, as we went down fighting across the two legs.
I suppose the good news for me is that despite not qualifying, I was able to keep my job, while we wait for next year’s AFCON to roll round. I decided I couldn’t sit around and wait for my in-game self to grow old, and I went out searching for a new job!
In the end, over a year since my sacking from Gällivare, I’ve had to bite the bullet and depart from my ‘rule’ that I couldn’t manage in the same league twice consecutively, and we’re going back to Sweden, managing Örebro Syrianska in the Second Division North. Founded in 1977, Örebro have never won a senior honour, and with three games left in the season, my job once again rides on rescuing a team that are 7 points from safety from relegation.