Danish legend Michael Laudrup is proving to have a golden touch as a coach at Brøndby IF.
By Peter Bruun
The tale of Michael Laudrup seems to be a success story without an end. As a player he was considered one of Denmark's two greatest footballers ever - his younger brother Brian being the other one - and after a troublesome start the same success seems to be clinging to his name as coach.
A Danish Cup winner with Brøndby IF in his first season as coach, top of the Superliga at the end of the autumn programme and coach of Denmark's only remaining team in European competition, Laudrup was recently voted coach of the year by his colleagues in Denmark. The title will doubtless fit in nicely with the Danish Player of the Year awards he landed in 1982 and 1985.
However, things have not always been so rosy for Laudrup at Brøndby, the club where he started his playing career and earned his first coaching experience as assistant to his old Denmark team-mate Morten Olsen. Indeed, when he took over after Olsen's departure in summer 2002, he almost faced a mutiny at the club.
That summer, Laudrup caused controversy by axing a number of established stars from the Brøndby squad - Swedish international Magnus Svensson the most prominent among them - and Laudrup's critics had a field day as just about every other match of that autumn season brought a defeat.
The spring campaign, however, started to prove Laudrup right, as Brøndby not only won the Danish Cup, but with a superb run of results in the final stages of the season, came close to stealing the title away from the eventual winners, their eternal rivals FC Københaven.
The 39-year-old Laudrup's second season has been superb so far. For most of the autumn Brøndby have been top of the league - and never lower than second position. The west Copenhagen side are also the only Danish side still in Europe after a 6-4 aggregate win against FC Schalke 04 carried them into the third round of the UEFA Cup, while Københaven were knocked out of the same tournament by RCD Mallorca.
'A winner is always right'
Certainly, the passage of time has proved that there can no longer be any argument about Laudrup's selection policy. As the coach himself said after the win against Schalke: "Someone once told me that a winner is always right!"
The coach himself and his assistant, former Danish international John 'Faxe' Jensen, are enjoying life on the bench - although it does have its drawbacks. "The worst part in getting used to having practically no influence on events on the pitch, once the game is on," said Laudrup. "I sometimes feel like kicking the man next to me, but that is Faxe and he kicks harder than me!"
There are signs that Brøndby will continue to thrive - the talented youngsters in Laudrup's side have begun to sign long-term contracts with the club - as they aim to oust Københaven from their position as the strongest club in Danish football.
A good draw in the third round of the UEFA Cup on 12 December would doubtless lift the mood further, and Brøndby's chances of taking the Danish title back from København appear more than good - unless this season's surprise team Esbjerg fB, can keep challenging the blue-and-yellows into the spring season. The future looks bright and, as we all remember, a winner is always right.