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Tom Ashley

[FM 15] Completing the Circle

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Posted (edited)

Rudy Mathiasen had never enjoyed drawing much attention to himself.

Perhaps that's why, as a young footballer, he never wanted to be a star striker, like many talented lads.  He preferred to play as a defender, calmly going about the business of keeping opponents from endangering his team's goal.  He grew into the role, literally and figuratively; he was six feet, three inches tall and powerful.  

Rudy enjoyed his studies as much as he did his football.  At age nine, he listed his career choices as "footballer," "architect," and "writer."  As it turned out, Rudy got the chance to pursue the first goal on his list.

His career took him from Plymouth Argyle to Leicester City, and from there to the Premier League with Fulham at age 19.  If you lined up all the center backs in the top flight on the goal line and had them race to the half-way line, Rudy might have finished last. However, such was his sense of positioning that he actually seemed quick.  He was also two-footed, and he was exceptionally comfortable on the ball.  He hit a mean dead ball, and regularly took free kicks for every one of his club teams.  The complete picture was that of a versatile, promising young star.

England manager Nigel Woodley wanted just this sort of ball-playing defender for his squad, so he handed Rudy his first cap in 2001. He became a regular in the England team, and played with distinction in the 2002 World Cup.  Rudy's place in the game seemed secure as he moved into his mid-twenties.

Then came 2005, and everything changed.

Rudy was dating a lovely woman called Meredith Bass. The couple were talking about marriage.  Then, on a rainy February evening, the car Meredith was driving was hammered, head-on, by an intoxicated driver's vehicle.  Meredith was pronounced dead on the scene.  Six weeks after Meredith's accident, Rudy pulled up lame after a sprint (or what passed for a sprint, in Rudy's case).  His hamstring was badly pulled, and he missed the remainder of the season.

In the meantime, Tracy Faulkner took over the England job. Faulkner's ideal center back was mobile, able to run with pacey attackers. Even at his physical best, Rudy was not that sort of player.  He earned his 27th England cap that August, and then Faulkner never picked him again.  

Rudy played another year at Fulham, and when his contract ran out, he considered retiring from football.  He was close to finishing his degree, and while he no longer aspired to a career in architecture, the thought of teaching English literature and coaching young footballers had its appeal.  Instead, he ended up accepting a contract from Heart of Midlothian.  Once again, his life took a turn, but this time it was for the better.

Rudy's manager at Hearts was Alex MacDonald.  A Scotland center back with nearly 80 appearances for his country, Mac paired Rudy with Liam Nicholls, whose electric pace combined well with Rudy's smarts and power.  Rudy's zest for the game returned in Edinburgh, and he played so well for Hearts that it was rumored Faulkner was considering him for England duty again.  Before the 2009/10 season, MacDonald installed a new formation that employed a defensive midfielder, and he tapped Rudy for this new role.  He performed it with aplomb, neutralizing opposing attackers and displaying the full range of his repertoire of passes.  

Mac also encouraged Rudy to take his coaching badges. That, too, would change the trajectory of his life.

In May 2011, Rudy made his final appearance for Hearts, and announced he would be making the transition into a coaching career.  He had offers from several League One clubs, and he could very well have stayed with Hearts.  But Rudy had other plans, which would take him from Britain and connect him to more of his family's roots.

Most profiles written about Rudy in his playing days mentioned that he was the grandson of a Danish international.  Søren Mathiasen patrolled the right wing for several Danish clubs and the national side in the years following World War II.  He married an English woman and settled in London, raising a family that included Rudy's father, Patrick.  While Patrick was never more than a Sunday league player himself, he encouraged his son to bond with his father over the game.  

Now Søren was nearing ninety, but his eyes flashed as blue as ever, and his mind was still sharp.  When he learned that Rudy intended to pursue coaching, Søren was quick to offer a suggestion.

"Go to Denmark.  Complete the circle."

Until that moment Rudy had assumed he'd remain in Scotland or England, where he figured his connections would make it easier for him to land a position.  But as soon as those two short sentences escaped his grandfather's lips, Rudy felt something stir inside him, as trite as that might sound.  He was happy in Britain, but there was also nothing tugging at him, making sure he stayed there.  He had neither partner nor children, and he rented his apartment in Edinburgh.  

During the summer of 2011, Rudy sent his CV to a number of clubs in Denmark.  He was fortunate to have learned Danish along with English as a child.  More than one club official was surprised when Rudy spoke to them on the phone in perfect Danish.  In July, he accepted a position as a coach with Randers FC, and he was off to Denmark.

Rudy knew right away he had made the right choices.  He loved coaching, loved imparting his knowledge to players, loved discussing the game with the other members of the backroom staff at Randers.  He got along well with manager, Leif Eriksen; the fact Rudy refused to make jokes about exploration and Vinland at Leif's expense didn't hurt.  

When the board shook up the coaching staff at the beginning of the 2012/13 season, Rudy wondered what his fate might be.  Eriksen was sacked; he tapped into his namesake's urge to explore and set off to manage in Qatar.  The new manager was Lee Wilkinson...an Englishman.  Rather than bring in his own assistant, Wilkinson tapped Rudy for the job as his right-hand man.  

Rudy might have happily stayed at Randers for several more seasons.  He still didn't like being the center of attention, any more than he had as a young boy.  But Fate intervened, once again.

Lyngby Boldklub were founded in 1921 in a suburban area north of Copenhagen.  Four years later, Søren Mathiesen was born there.  He grew up in a house on Caroline Amalie Vej, and he began playing for the local club at the age of ten.  Lyngby were a lower league team then, and while the talented young winger soon outgrew them, Søren never forgot them.  Nor did the club forget him.

In the spring of 2014, Lyngby decided not to renew the contract of their manager, Christian Pedersen.  Chairman Flemming Lose and his board wanted a new man, one who would provide the club with the energy it would need to climb out of the First Division.  Lose had been paying attention to Rudy, and he liked what he had seen.  The fact he was a Mathiesen, from the line of one of their old-time heroes, was even better.  

Lose asked the Randers board for permission to speak to Rudy about the possibility of taking the top job at Lyngby and, to their credit, the board gave him their blessing. So did Lee Wilkinson, who told Rudy he was ready for a club of his own.

Rudy, however, still wasn't sure.  

Again, it was Søren who convinced him.  "You're ready.  It's the next step.  Take it. It's a good old club, and you can make it better."

So it was that on 26 June 2014, Rudy Mathiesen sat at a table in the headquarters of Lyngby Boldklub.  On his left sat Lose, and on his right was the club's managing director, Sebastian Madsen.  Rudy wore a royal blue track jacket with a club patch, and a somewhat shy smile.  He signed his name to a one-year contract while camera flashes popped around him.

Rudy was managing the club where his grandfather's distinguished career had begun. He'd get attention now, whether he wanted it or not.


Football Manager 15.  Denmark, England, Holland, and Germany loaded.  Fake names, so my characters will be entirely my own, for better or for worse.  




Edited by Tom Ashley

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Posted (edited)

22 July 2014

When Rudy took over at Lyngby stadion, the club had ten other coaches on its staff.  His assistant, a young Swede called Nils Johansson, was a very good man manager with a talent for working with young players.  But there was something about Nils that kept Rudy from connecting with him.  He learned that Nils was good friends with Christian Pedersen, and had in fact gone to Flemming Lose's office to express his displeasure with the decision to dismiss the manager.  

"You might give some serious thought to bringing your own man in," Lee Wilkinson advised.  "It's essential that you be on the same page as your number one assistant.  That's why I asked the board to promote you at Randers."  The idea was in the back of Rudy's mind, at the very least.

On the other hand, Rudy especially liked Thomas Hansen, the manager of the Under 19 team.  If Thomas hadn't been so good at his job, Rudy might have asked him if he'd like to be his assistant.  He also got on well with goalkeeping coach Frank Nyborg, who lived in the same Lyngby neighborhood where Rudy had rented an apartment. Frank and his wife, Amalie, had Rudy over for dinner once a week.

Rudy was pleased to discover that the Lyngby players were well-suited for the style of football he wanted to play--the style in which he'd thrived at Hearts.  Rudy envisioned a team that took care of the ball, but didn't value possession for its own sake.  A team filled with players who could read the game, make smart passes, and pick apart opposing defenses with precision.  A team that worked hard, a team that could pressure opponents and win back the ball.  A team that would be fun to watch.

There were two capable goalkeepers:  Ulrik Wind and Jack Jensen.  Both were comfortable on the ball, and their ability to do more than whack the ball up the pitch would be crucial to the style Rudy wanted to play.  Jensen was especially popular with his teammates.  

Right back Brian Bendtsen and left back Magnus Jakobsen were well-rounded full backs.  Bendtsen was especially effective when he joined the attack.  Jakobsen, only 20, had loads of promise.  Morten Fabricius was a good backup for Jakobsen.  

When Rudy met his starting center back pair, he had to look up at them.  They were each a shade under two meters tall, and had a good three inches on their boss, a tall man himself.   Neither Henrik Vinther nor Mathias Kjelgaard were quick, although Kjelgaard could run once he got going.  However, both were formidable in the air, and Kjelgaard was an especially tidy passer.  Anders Rasmussen was a good third center back, who could also fill in on the right.  

Veteran Jacob Nielsen would be a fixture in the center of the park.  He could play effectively as the most defensive member of a midfield trio, where his marking and tackling skills would be highlighted.  Or, he could play farther up, where his pace and technique made him an offensive threat.  In any role, his composure and his passing range allowed him to dictate the tempo of the game.  

Rudy had brought in only one player in the month he'd been in charge:  free agent Christian Lohse.  A versatile player who had earned four caps at the U21 level, Lohse had a skill set similar to Nielsen's.  Peter Pedersen, Jannick Laursen, and Thomas Visti gave Rudy three more options.  He planned to rotate all these players, with only Nielsen likely to be anywhere close to everpresent.

Wide men Troels Hansen and Lasse Sørensen could torment defenses with their pace and crafty dribbling.  Sørensen, in particular, was a dangerous weapon.  Strong with either foot, he could cut inside and attack the box directly, or stay wide and whip in crosses.  Troels would start on the right, with Lasse on the left.  Christoffer Pedersen and Kasper Overgaard were experienced pros who were comfortable in supporting roles.  Another talented winger, Andrew Cele, would be sidelined until spring with damaged knee ligaments.

Morten Dahl was the team's best center forward.  He wasn't especially fast, nor was he a tricky dribbler.  He read the game well, however, and could play in his teammates or finish himself.  His backup, Mads Madsen, was tall and powerful, and was especially willing to press opposing defenders and win back the ball.   

Lyngby was known for the quality of its youth setup, but there were only a few young players whom Rudy thought might one day be stars.  Forward Jesper Pedersen  (19) was fairly close to being ready for the first team.  Defender Sune Simonsen (16) was still far from that point.  Rudy had his scouting staff, headed by capable Bendt Kruse, on the lookout for talented teenagers who could blossom under the right conditions.

The board expected Rudy to lead De Kongeblå (The Royal Blues) into a position where they could challenge for the league title.  Two clubs from the First Division would earn promotion to the Superliga.

"Lyngby belong in the top flight," Søren told his grandson on the telephone one night.  "See if you can't take them there."

Edited by Tom Ashley

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12 September 2014

Rudy Mathiesen was frustrated.  He closed his office door, reached up to link his hands behind the back of his head, and sighed deeply, looking up at the ceiling.  These movements prevented him from hammering the door, or perhaps the top of his desk, with a balled-up fist.

His Lyngby club were languishing in sixth place. They had been as low as eighth, following a disappointing loss to Viborg FF at home, before bouncing back with a 4-1 result over bottom-dwellers Brønshøj. The Royal Blues had required extra time to see off minnows SC Egedal in the first round of the Danish Cup.  Even the youth and backups Rudy had sent out for the Cup tie should have handled that match with ease.  The team was far from where he wanted them to be, and Rudy was feeling pressure. Nobody else--not the players, not the board, not the supporters--had expressed any real displeasure, but that didn't make Rudy's feelings any less real.

Early in August, right after a brace from Morten Dahl had powered the club to victory at rivals AB Gladsaxe, Jacob Nielsen had come to see him.  He had heard FK Austria Wien were interested in him, and he wanted his manager's blessing to leave if the Austrian club put in an offer.  

Rudy was taken aback.  He understood Austria Vienna's interest; Jacob was a fine player.  He could also understand Jacob's reciprocal interest. He was about to turn 31, and if he were ever to make a move, now was the time. The lure of the larger club with its case filled with trophies, playing in its nation's top flight, was undeniable.  Jacob might be able to earn a nice raise, too.

But Jacob was the club's captain!  Rudy was counting on him to solidify the team's support behind him.  

The manager decided to promise Nielsen that if Austria came in with a bid that matched the club's valuation, he would agree to the sale.  Nielsen was happy and, fortunately, none of the other players complained when the Austrian club made an offer of just over £100,000--twice what the club thought Nielsen was worth.

Meanwhile, striker Morten Dahl was firing in goals right and left.  He scored twice against AB.  He came on at the 80 minute mark in the Cup tie, and proceeded to score a hat trick, including two in extra time.  Goal-a-game strikers tend to catch scouts' eyes, and this had been the case with the 24-year-old hitman.  Several clubs, both in Spain and in the Middle East, were expressing interest.

Rudy turned down one offer after another, and the bids kept coming.  Now the offers were approaching half a million pounds.

"I'd like to go to Osasuna, if they'll make another offer," Dahl told him.

"If they bid what these other clubs have been bidding, we can make a deal," the manager replied.

The Spanish transfer window closed without another offer from Osasuna, but the Middle Eastern clubs were still in the running.  Among them were Lekhwiya Sports Club...the Qatari side who lured manager Leif Erikson away from Randers while Rudy was coaching there.  His contacts in Denmark had obviously tipped him off to Dahl, and now he was looking to add a fellow Dane to his team.

Yesterday, Lekhwiya put in a £480,000 bid for Dahl's services.  The board couldn't resist an offer that trebled the amount they thought Dahl was worth.  The Qatari club was said to be paying Morten ten times what he'd been making at Lyngby, so it was hard for Rudy to blame the lad for wanting to leave.

Still, earlier today, Brian Bendtsen had tapped on Rudy's door.

"I'm disappointed that you felt it necessary to sell Morten," he stated. "He was one of our key players."

Rudy looked the right back in the eye. Brian had come to him like a man, not moaning or threatening to turn the players against him.  He deserved a fair answer.

"I'll be replacing him with a better player."  

"Thanks, boss.  When you put it that way, I understand it better."

Rudy had already planned to bring in another striker, but whether or not he could find one as good as Morten Dahl was a fair question.  

He and the team's head scout, Bendt Kruse, both had connections in Holland.  They had taken advantage of those connections to find a good midfielder, Jeffrey van Dijk, to fill Jacob Nielsen's spot in the team.  

"He's going to be as good as Nielsen," Kruse insisted.  "His technique is better, and he's five years younger.  He's not as fast, but we aren't putting together a track team."

Rudy was impressed with van Dijk, too. Once he was match fit, he'd be very hard to prise from the first eleven.  And, while he was checking out van Dijk, Kruse found another intriguing Dutch player, a versatile veteran called Richard Adelaar who wanted to keep playing football and was willing to move to Denmark to do so- on an amateur contract!  

"My wife and I are English teachers," Richard explained, in perfect English.  "We can get jobs teaching in Copenhagen.  I just want to play football."  

Adelaar could provide cover all along the back, or as a central midfielder.   And, he might have been an amateur player, but he had a professional approach to the game that Rudy sensed would help the club stay focused. 

Neither Richard nor Jeffery spoke any Danish, but everyone at the club--players and staff alike--spoke at least basic English. Many spoke four or five languages. Rudy, for example, was not only fluent in English and Danish, but he also could converse easily in Dutch and German.  He had a basic understanding of Swedish and Norwegian.  Even as a teenager, he had found learning different languages fascinating, and as a player and a coach, he'd challenged himself to learn new ones along the way.

Now, he needed to figure out some new ways to inspire his team to victory, too.


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