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FH profit from Gudjónsson alchemy

Published: Tuesday 10 February 2009, 20.03CET
Having gone 73 years without winning a domestic honour prior to a League Cup triumph in 2002, FH Hafnarfjördur's tactical switch to a Dutch-inspired 4-3-3 formation has changed the footballing landscape in Iceland.
by Stefán Stefánsson
from Reykjavik
FH profit from Gudjónsson alchemy
FH midfielder Davíd Vidarsson, 24, vying with Aston Villa's Craig Gardner earlier this season ©Getty Images
Published: Tuesday 10 February 2009, 20.03CET

FH profit from Gudjónsson alchemy

Having gone 73 years without winning a domestic honour prior to a League Cup triumph in 2002, FH Hafnarfjördur's tactical switch to a Dutch-inspired 4-3-3 formation has changed the footballing landscape in Iceland.

Without a trophy in their long history before 2002, FH Hafnarfjördur have been reaping the rewards of a near decade-long commitment to a Dutch-inspired formation ever since – and they are not ready to halt the gold rush just yet.

Stability
The 4-3-3 system has been a rewarding innovation for Icelandic champions FH in the nine years since it became de rigueur at the club. They ended their 73-year wait for silverware in 2002 with the Icelandic League Cup and the titles have flowed ever since, FH's trophy cabinet now creaking under the weight of 12 titles, including four league championships. Stability and that tried and trusted formation have been key throughout. "For the past nine years FH have lined up in a 4-3-3 and a core of key players have been here since 2003, so everybody knows the system inside out," said coach Heimir Gudjónsson.

Youthful promise
Even the club's youngsters are well-drilled in the nuances of the system as, with echoes of Dutch side AFC Ajax, the formation is used for all age groups. "The youth work at FH is very good and in these turbulent economic times I think clubs have to focus on developing young players. FH are very good at that," continued Gudjónsson. "There are some promising youngsters about to join our first-team squad; I expect a lot of them. Hjörtur Logi Valgardsson and Björn Daníel Sverrisson came into the senior squad last season and played important roles in our league success. Now there are even more players knocking on the door. I'm always in contact with our youth coaches, Ingvar Jónsson and Orri Thórdarson, and with them using 4-3-3 formations it means that when players make the step up they know exactly what to expect."

European ambitions
Gudjónsson, too, knows what to expect having joined the club as a midfield player in 2000. He played for six years before accepting a post as assistant to Ólafur Jóhannesson, taking sole command at the end of 2007 when his boss became Iceland coach and leading FH to Urvalsdeild glory last term. European success has thus far eluded Gudjónsson and FH, however, the side losing 5-2 on aggregate to Aston Villa FC in the UEFA Cup second qualifying round this season. "Our players see UEFA competition as a window to show their skills and it certainly helps earn money," said the 39-year-old Gudjónsson, who acknowledges that an improved showing on the continent is the next logical step for his side. "After good results over the past few years the club board and our great fans now demand titles. I assure them that this year we are going for it." The gold rush appears far from over for FH.

Last updated: 10/02/09 17.53CET

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