Brentford boss Rösler's Norwegian roots
Uwe Rösler’s arrival at Brentford is the latest in a growing trend of foreign managers trying their hand in the English lower leagues, hot on the heels of Paolo di Canio’s appointment at Swindon Town and the success of Brighton manager Gus Poyet. All three played plenty of football on these shores, but Rösler cut his managerial teeth in Norway. Charlie Anderson, the man behind an excellent new Nordic football blog called Stone By Stone, has been kind enough to share his knowledge of Rösler’s time in the dugout so far.
The first game I attended in Norway was between Lyn Oslo and a Viking side coached by Uwe Rösler, the new Brentford manager. It was a 0-0 draw, and one of the more enjoyable games I’ve seen in person (one of the best things about Norwegian football is that low-scoring games are often very engaging). I also met Thomas Myhre (he’s lovely). Later that year, Rösler chose my birthday to resign from the Viking job. So we have a bit of a connection, me and Uwe.
Rösler’s story is an incredible one. One of the generation of East German players whose career straddled the collapse of the Soviet Union, he’s of course most famous for the spell at Manchester City that would later see him enter the club’s Hall of Fame (despite Garry Cook’s best efforts).
At the end of his career, though, Rösler went to Norway with mid-table side Lillestrøm SK. He played only a handful of games toward the end of the 2002 season, and one at the beginning of 2003, before his playing career was ended by the discovery of a tumour in his chest.
Remarkably, not only did Rösler make a full recovery but he earned his coaching badges along the way. At the start of the 2005 season, he was back at Lillestrøm as manager. LSK finished fourth in Rösler’s début season, reaching the Norwegian Cup final where they lost to Molde in extra time.
In the winter, the Norwegian off-season, LSK participated in the Royal League, a short-lived regional tournament for the best Nordic teams. They lost the final to a Copenhagen side coached by Ståle Solbakken, another whose playing career was ended and coaching career accelerated by sudden health problems.
Rösler was fired after the 2006 season after failing to improve on the previous year’s fourth-place finish, although Lillestrøm actually improved in terms of points and goals scored. Tom Nordlie, who had just saved Viking from relegation, was given the LSK job while Rösler, in a timeless lunge of the managerial merry-go-round, took Nordlie’s old job in Stavanger.
Viking’s fortunes improved immediately. Nigerian striker Peter Ijeh scored eighteen goals in twenty-three games as the team finished third. But it didn’t last, and the following year they fell to sixth. By the time I saw them against Lyn in 2009, they were on their way to a tenth-place finish in a sixteen-team league. Ijeh’s best effort on goal came in the pre-game warm-up, and was deftly punched away (by me, standing behind the goal in thick woollen gloves). The frustrating thing about the latter days of Uwe Rösler’s Viking was that somewhere in there slept a good team. André Danielsen dictated the play well from deep midfield. Børre Steenslid and Ragnvald Soma were a solid partnership.
But Viking were on a downward trend, and Rösler’s resignation didn’t halt it. They finished ninth in 2010 under former Norway coach Åge Hareide, and currently sit bottom of the league with only one win.
Rösler, meanwhile, had a brief spell on a short-term contract at Molde, who had been runners-up in both league and cup in 2009 but were battling relegation when Rösler took over midway through the following season. The German did a good job of consolidating the club’s position, and they ended up finishing comfortably in eleventh. Rösler’s stint, though short, paved the way to some extent for Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s Molde™ to improve in 2011.
Rösler’s first appointment in England is being met, perhaps understandably, with worries about his lack of managerial experience. At only forty-two years old, though, he’s already coached three of Norway’s more historic and well-established top-flight clubs. A potential worry for Brentford fans might be that Rösler’s teams tend to improve dramatically before falling away in subsequent seasons. But there’s no doubt that the intelligent and considered Rösler has a lot to offer in management, and it’s to the great credit of Brentford that they looked outside of the established rotary club of British managers.
Rösler’s immediate aim is the League One play-offs. In the long term, though, his goal is to coach in the Premier League. Perhaps not with Brentford, but who knows? Stranger things have happened to Uwe Rösler.