INTERVIEW: New head coach of Midtjylland, Kristian Kristensen, talks about the turbulent start to the season and about walking in former colleague's footsteps
Kristensen: "We realise that we are the underdogs"
It came as a chock to everyone in Danish handball, including the players in FC Midtjylland as Helle Thomsen was sacked as head coach in the club at the end of August.
Assistant coach Kristian Kristensen was appointed temporary head coach, and as late as 16 September, he was made permanent head coach - at least for the rest of this season.
“Of course, it was a not a situation I was anticipating before the start of the season, but I think that the players and I have all been good at putting the past behind us and look ahead, and all I think it has gone rather well. I think our results so far confirm this too,” says Kristian Kristensen who can look back on six wins and only one defeat so far this season, if we put league matches, the Danish Cup and the Super Cup together.
Being an EHF Master Coach as well as having experience as women’s and men’s coach in Denmark and abroad, he had the best possible background to take over as head coach for last season’s runners-up in the Danish championship. And he has not found it particularly hard to follow in the footsteps of Helle Thomsen who has signed on as national coach in the Netherlands in the meantime.
“Of course, Helle pulled off some fantastic results, but I have been part of it all for the past two years as assistant coach, so it has not been all that difficult to carry on this work.
Of course, we have missed a few trainings sessions together, but I still think we are where we should be,” says 42-year-old Kristian Kristensen.
Well prepared for the Champions League
Soon, he and his players will have to concentrate on the Women’s EHF Champions League along with the duties in the domestic league.
“I feel we are generally well prepared.
“We have had a few problems integrating our new players due to injury.
“In particular, we have not been able to use our new Romanian international Eliza Buceschi much so far, as she is nursing some Achilles tendon trouble, but when she gets fully fit, there is no doubt that she will be a reinforcement to our attacking play,” says Kristian Kristensen who will need all the force he can get when the Champions League Group Matches starts.
In Group C, FC Midtjylland are up against ruling Champions League winners CSM Bucuresti, losing finallists from the Women’s EHF FINAL4 last season Györi Audi ETO KC as well as Rostov-Don.
When the draw results became known this summer, his predecessor Helle Thomsen had this comment:
“We are huge favourites – not to go on!”
“She was right,” says Kristian Kristensen with a little laugh.
“Facing the winners from last season as well as a Russian wildcard team who has even added to their team a lot, and a Györ team who has also been strengthened obviously leaves us with very a small chance to proceed.
“We won away against Györ (26:21) and as we start by playing them away again this season, a remake of that win would be a great way to start.
“However, they are undoubtedly cautious and furthermore, they appear even stronger than last year.
“Of course, it is a bit annoying that we have ended up in this group, as we would probably have been sure to go on from any of the other three groups, but this is the way the draw has made it, and it would be foolish of us to give up beforehand,” he says.
Going for the surprise
He is also able to see the tough group in a humorous way, though.
“We realise that we have our former player Line Jörgensen to thank for this, as she was the one who drew our group.
“Still, she made it just as bad for her current team (CSM) so I gave her a hug after the draw,” says the Midtjylland coach who is determined to go for the chance to reach the main round, as small as it might seem.
“If we said publically that we have literally no chance to go on, we would soon convince ourselves that we actually do not stand a chance, and that is the wrong attitude.
“We realise that we are the underdogs, but there should be no doubt, that we are going for the win every time we play.
“We do not want to think of an early exit from the tournament beforehand, so to speak.
“We are definitely going for a surprise, if we make it to the main round from this group.
“We will be there 100 per cent in each and every match,” sounds the promise from Kristian Kristensen.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / bc