Ian Burchnall: Managing abroad, Scandinavian football and future ambitions

Photograph courtesy of Ian Burchnall

You have accrued 15 years coaching experience. How are you enjoying life as a coach and having also managed clubs abroad too and how do you believe the role of a coach has changed in recent years in professional football?

I enjoy coaching and I feel fortunate to work in something that I am passionate about. I guess when I started coaching very young age groups in academies and at that point my only goal was to be able to work in football everyday and I did not necessarily have ambitions to manage professionally. I just wanted to try and be involved in football everyday and I am fortunate to do that.

Credit: Pexels

I have had a lot of varied and different experiences and each one has contributed to myself as a coach. I do think that the role of a coach has changed. I was always involved in academies and development coaching is different to result driven coaching to a point.

I think before that coaching was one dimensional where the coach would tell you what to do and everyone follows suit but is a bit more mutual learning nowadays where players are very interested in understanding why and there are some many cultures of influence too certainly in British coaching now.

There is a broader spectrum of ways top coach and teach rather than the kind of traditional, autocratic manager. There is more of a mutual learning between players and coaching staff.

You managed Viking FK in Norway. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or special memories?

Credit: V2 Football

I was at Viking FK for three years and it was a really good period. Viking FK are a fantastic football club sadly it did not end brilliantly because the club had some problems in the end. Stavanger is the oil capital of Norway and the oil prices dropped and it really hit the club quite hard.

In my first season we broke a points total for the club since the Norwegian League went to 16 teams before such a league that had never accrued so many points. We managed to move the team up into the top five and we were really close to qualifying for Europe. We also played the Norwegian Cup semi-final and Viking FK had struggled the year before so we put in some really good performances that season and we managed to get the town behind us also.

My last season was tough because we sold a lot of players and had to bring through a lot of youth players but looking back we managed to save the economy and we gave a platform to a lot of young players that went to help the club bounce back into Europe. We managed to put good foundations in place for Viking FK to grow.

Credit: Ian Burchnall / Twitter

You went on to manage in Sweden at Östersunds FK. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any special memories or highlights?

Credit: Martin Årseth

I really enjoyed my time at Östersunds FK and it was not an easy job because I took over from Graham Potter who did a wonderful job taking the team to the Europa League and I came in at a moment where we had a lost a lot of good players from the Europa League run and the staff too.

We managed to win five out our first six matches and that season we went onto to win over 55 percent of our matches and took the team back up to the top six in the Allsvenskan. I had a fantastic first season there and considering where the club was. I think a lot of people were concerned with where the club might go and we kind of settled the ship and once again laid foundations and I left the club in a really good position in terms of selling young players and stabilized the economy. My two years there was a challenging experience but also very rewarding.

You are from Great Britain and you went on to become a success abroad. What advice would you give to young British coaches, managers and players if they receive the opportunity to move abroad?

I would say to any coaches, managers or people with aspirations to coach abroad I would say take yourself out of your comfort zone because you learn a lot about yourself and in turn you learn a lot about the way in which you coach so have an open mind. I went to Norway thinking maybe arrogantly that I had a lot of answers coming from English football but actually what I found was a lot of things that they were doing in Norway were really quite impressive.

Credit: Werner100359

When you look at some of the players they have produced such as Mohamed Elyounoussi, Martin Ødegaard, Erling Haaland, Sander Berge and Kristoffer Ajer they are now players playing in top leagues all over Europe from a small country so Norway are doing something right but also different to England

Credit: fc-zenit.ru / Вячеслав Евдокимов

I had to accept that different can also be right and then when I opened my mind up and took myself out of my comfort zone I really started to broaden my own knowledge about the game and about ways in which to improve as a coach so I think it gave me a lot.

Finally Ian. You are still a very young coach and you have achieved an awful lot of experience in your career so far. Going forward in your coaching and managerial career is there anything in particular that you would like to achieve during the remainder of your career?

Credit: Pexels

Yes, Like you say as a manager I am still relatively young compared to the majority of managers so I still hopefully have a long time in the game. I have accrued over 200 games on the touchline but of course during a managerial career you want to win things and to have the opportunity to win cups or leagues in whatever country. I would like to come back and have a go in England and see what I could achieve back in England now.

I am back from Östersunds FK and hopefully whatever role or level of club it would now be an opportunity to come back to where I started and see what I have learned and that is what I hope to achieve in future particularly in the short term come back and see what I can do in England.

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