By Knut Espen Svegaarden
Once, many years ago, I asked the sports manager of FC Copenhagen about what qualities Ståle Solbakken has as a leader / coach. Parts of the answer were very interesting.
This is a comment. The commentary expresses the writer’s position
The sports manager came up with many of the “usual” things – like a good football head, the ability to see the man, not just the player, that he was good on the field and good at leading the team from the sidelines.
Then the man took an art break, before it came:
“.. and then Ståle has five percent madness, something indefinable, which makes him different from many others.”
As a player, at a young age, Ståle Solbakken was already a leader of men, a natural captain, both at home in Grue, eventually in Ham-Kam and Lillestrøm.
When he came to Wimbledon and the Premier League, Solbakken did not like everything he saw. But the fewest opponents against the boss, the manager, who in Solbakken’s case was the dreaded Joe Kinnear.
Solbakken took the fight in the locker room during a match – and was put out of the team.
But he stood up for himself, saw what he thought was right for the team, the tactics, and was probably long gone on his way into the coaching profession.
Then he went to FC Copenhagen, via a leadership role in Aalborg. In FCK, he did not reach much as a player before the tragedy unfolded on the training field. It is just over 20 years since Ståle Solbakken fought to the death – and won that battle.
And I’ve always wondered if it was partly the episode that he himself does not remember any of that has made him so fearless. For that is what he is; safe – and fearless. The players on the national team also notice it: Solbakken knows a lot about them, he has respect, both because of his career and results as coach / manager / manager for FC Copenhagen, where he stands up to both Josep Guardiola and Alex Ferguson.
At the same time, he can seem comradely – and then instantly change, to be a clear boss. Ståle Solbakken is predictable unpredictable. And that may be what the former sports director of FC Copenhagen meant by “five percent madness” – you know where you have Solbakken, but you can never be 100 percent sure.
And therefore, as a player, you have to be one hundred percent focused all the time – because he sees more than you think he reveals you. At the same time, the players see the commitment, the will, his passion when he turns on «that button», he likes to call it «the madness» that the players go to war, not only for Norway, but also for their boss.
And then you have the meeting with media: Fearless, no questions are dangerous. He uses humor and professional weight about each other. And he does not see it as a stressful moment, as many others do.
And he is in the first category in the phrase “some always have time, others never have time.”
I think it’s about security, about the type he is, about growing up in Grue, about the big family he always has around him.
Ståle Solbakken is not afraid of anything. Maybe you will be like that if you experience death.
The knowledge has been there since he was a little toddler, almost overly interested in football and history.
Ståle Solbakken learned the story of Lillestrøm Sportsklubb before he got there because he thought it was important. The same in Ham-Kam, where he got his first coaching job because he convinced the club’s management that he should get this chance. It’s about knowledge, and when you mix it with his personality – then you have a good starting point.
Ståle Solbakken had not been in FC Copenhagen as a player for long before he collapsed on the training field. And he had “only” trained Ham-Kamp; however, the club believed he was the right man for the biggest club in Scandinavia, 38 years old.
It became a success.
Maybe it can also be the case with Norway.
From a twisted start in March, with three internationals before he knew the players and the players he knew, has surely come stronger and stronger for each collection.
And now it applies – Ståle Solbakken knows that. First Saturday, then Tuesday.
Maybe Norway is in the World Cup in a week, much because of the «five percent madness» of the national team manager.