Cold start doesn’t stop Deane warming to new role

Brian Deane
Brian Deane
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FROZEN out in his quest to break through into frontline management in his native England, opportunity has finally knocked for Brian Deane amid the wintry confines of south-eastern Norway.

Few rookie bosses start out life in the dug-out in the top division, but that is the position the former Leeds United, Sheffield United and Middlesbrough forward finds himself in at Sarpsborg O8, promoted to the Tippeligaen, Norway’s major league, last season.

Before any onlookers get envious, it is worth looking at the fine print on the brochure with Sarpsborg – ground capacity just 5,000 – hardly a big fish when it comes to Norwegian football, with the more well-supported clubs such as Molde, Rosenberg, Brann and Valerenga hogging the bulk of the limelight.

Scant in terms of their fanbase and finances they may be, but Sarpsborg – promoted from the second-tier Adeccoligaen in 2012 – are richly resourced when it comes to hope and spirit ahead of the start of the top-flight adventure next month.

And if Deane – who celebrates his 45th birthday today – is in any way lacking in terms of inspiration, he may care to look back at the experiences of one of his compatriots, also in Scandinavia, albeit many moons ago.

The man in question being a certain Roy Hodgson – who started his managerial odyssey in comparative obscurity just over the water from Sarpsborg in the Swedish city of Halmstad, who broke the monopoly of Malmo during the Hodgson era with two domestic titles in the mid to late seventies.

Although you suspect that consolidation and survival would do Deane just nicely in his first foray into professional management.

Deane told the Yorkshire Post: “This is the opportunity I wanted. If you want something bad enough, you have to make sacrifices.

“I looked at the situation and thought: ‘What are the chances of me getting an opportunity in England?’ and there was not much chance.

“Previously in England, I have been frustrated a little bit in that I had applied for a couple of posts and never had a reply. Unfortunately, that’s football.

“But I was not going to let anything like that get me down.

“To be honest, I don’t think England right now is the right place for me. It might prove to be wrong, but at the time being, it isn’t. Although one day I want to come back and manage in the UK.

“What I have learnt is that as a manager, you don’t switch off and there are too many distractions over here, but not in Norway.

“We are only a small club and have probably got the lowest budget in the division and we have to be creative and must mould, improve and develop our own players. That involves being a little bit inventive on the training ground.

“It is a challenge I am relishing and I am enjoying it and it is very hands-on and we are all really looking forward to the season.

“Obviously, I have got a lot to learn as a manager. But I am working towards getting the best out of the players every day and aim to try and be the manager I would have wanted to work under, having taken plenty from the ex-managers I have played under such as Howard Wilkinson and Dave Bassett.

“It is a tall order this season. But I believe we can stay up with the right type of people and the strong foundations of the club.”

Preparing for a new season in sub-zero temperatures of -10 is far removed from warm-weather training camps that Deane will have been used to in his playing days in England.

But more pertinently, the Yorkshireman – who sampled spells in his playing career overseas at Portuguese giants Benfica and Perth Glory, is grateful for being afforded a smooth acclimatization process with his new charges having received him warmly.

That said, a familiar face or two always helps with Deane – who is being assisted by University of Leeds head coach Ian Burchnall – having handed a chance to former Leeds United defender Ben Parker, who he knows from his association with the Whites.

Deane is full of praise for the resourcefulness and drive shown by Parker so far on his own Norwegian adventure, with the 25-year-old chasing a deal with Sarpsborg after a bitter-sweet last few years in the English game.

After an injury-plagued time latterly at Elland Road, Parker copped an additional blow just before Christmas when he looked set to link up with former Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell on non-contract terms at Bury, only for the move to be blocked by the Football League, who subsequently placed the Shakers under a transfer embargo.

Deane said: “Ben has grasped his chance over here and it has opened up a whole new life experience for him.

“He is a very good professional and came out here and researched the area. Many players typically stay in and within their surroundings.

“But, to be fair, he has come out and had a look around and trying to immerse himself into things here.

“He is outside his comfort zone and you need more players who are willing to do that and test themselves, rather than say just go back to their homes”