Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Will we miss Backe's influence?

With the news that Hans Backe has taken compassionate leave the question now is whether his absence will prove a setback for the side.

The 55-year-old is probably the most experienced assistant manager in the Premiership. In his 23-year career he's managed ten teams from five countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Austria and Greece). In Denmark he led FC Copenhagen to the three titles and also won the league with Aalborg BK. In fact, the only time he has really failed was at Panathinaikos in 2006, where he was sacked after just four games in charge (there's a thread about his time there at the talkboard).

With a CV like that it seems unlikely he would take the City job unless he was given a significant role, and the body language when Backe and Sven are deep in conversation during games does suggest he has a lot of tactical input. I'm also curious about this photo from the Bristol City game, which was posted by neil jung at Bluemoon:

Aside from being struck at how remarkably dapper they all look (has any bench been this well-dressed in the history of football?) I can't recall ever seeing a laptop being used during a match before. I'm not sure who the guy operating it is, but it might be Simon Wilson, a video analyst who joined from Southampton last year.

According to the Daily Mail's Charles Sale, Sven 'wasn’t much interested in sports science techniques' during his time with England, in contrast to Steve McClaren who has been using the ProZone software at every match since he took over.

Whether the laptop was Backe's brainchild is unclear, but his immediate impact at the club was noted by Steve Tongue in The Independent, who made this observation after the pre-season friendly at Doncaster:

Ever the players' man, Sven Goran Eriksson wandered among his Manchester City squad after the final whistle at the Keepmoat Stadium on Saturday, shaking hands with every one of them. More significantly, his compatriot and assistant manager, Hans Backe, was already making tactical points to several individuals.

But for the time-being it will be reserve team manager Kenny Jackett that Sven will be turning to for advice during games. Jackett may not have anything like Backe's experience but his record shows he's no Steve Wigley either, winning promotion with Swansea in his first season in charge and reaching the play-off finals the following year.

I just hope he remembers his tie.

~ The Irish Independent had a fascinating interview with Richard Dunne recently, in which he describes Backe, Sven and Tord Grip as "absolute gentlemen", while the MEN ran this profile of him which claims that Backe loves modern British music. According to this reader comment, Backe insisted on played The Smiths at the start of his TV show in Sweden and was a big fan of Oasis.

~ A couple of bits of (vaguely) Backe-City triva for you. In 1982 Backe became manager of Swedish side Djurgårdens, who were managed by Alan Ball's dad three years earlier. And during his brief stint at Panathinaikos the club announced plans to build a new stadium that will look pretty much identical to CoMS (pictures here)

~ Last March I wrote this piece that compared City tactical software to the ones used by rival clubs.

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