To this day, I remember my former manager at Leicester City, Nigel Pearson, saying to me: “Bru, take your time going into management and develop yourself as a coach step-by-step, there’s no rush.”
That conversation was at the end of February 2012, just before I retired from playing professional football on 1 March that year, whilst still a Leicester City player.
I’m still in touch with Nigel. He congratulated me a year ago, after we successfully maintained our Challenge League status at SC Kriens at the end of our first season in the division.
But let’s go back a bit.
“If you are not going in now, you’ll never try it,” said my wife. I took over at SC Kriens as head coach in the summer of 2017 and immediately stopped working as a junior marketing manager. The club offered me a two-year deal with the goal to gain promotion to the Challenge League within the next two to three years.
We achieved that amazing step for the club in our first season with me as head coach.
My players were all amateur players and they remain amateur players. The only difference is that we play in a professional league against professional players.
With SC Kriens investing in a new stadium, I was told that there wouldn’t be the funds available to buy professional players to help our current squad avoid relegation in our second season together.
It definitely sounded like a challenge.
We all know how enthusiastic you feel after achieving something special and I wanted to keep that going for us as long as possible. Not being able to invest in players and staff, whilst trying to navigate your way in a new division and maintain your place in it, is a very big task to fulfil.
I had to create the right strategy to enable us to survive with more or less the same players we had in the league below. We were used to dominating our opponents in the league below, but that wasn’t possible any more, due to us facing much better opponents.
We had to change our style of play; sitting deeper, staying compact and disciplines, while hitting teams on the counter-attack after winning the ball. My players adapted well in the first half of the season, staying second to last just before Christmas and going into the winter break.
Whilst we were able to loan young players from the Swiss Super League, the fact that they needed time to adapt meant that wasn’t an option for us. We didn’t have time.
So many battles took place, but we achieved our goal. We survived our first season in the Swiss Challenge League.
That enthusiasm I was so determined to keep returned and we were able to come together for what’s usually an infamous second season, having gained promotion the year before.
On the horizon – a new challenge awaits.