Jimmy Thelin's journey from footballing vampire to family man as Swede sinks his teeth into Aberdeen challenge

-Credit: (Image: SNS Group)
-Credit: (Image: SNS Group)

Jimmy Thelin once was described as a footballing vampire and he admitted he can’t wait to get his teeth into the Aberdeen job.

The hard-working Swede got the cruel nickname from his brother when he was at Jonkopings Sodra, working all hours, along with assistant Christer Persson, as he tried to make his name as an up and coming coach. Thelin admitted that vampire is now dead because he has children but that won’t stop him putting the long hours in to get Aberdeen back to being a major Scottish force again and European regulars. The 46-year-old was headhunted from Elfsborg and has started his Pittodrie revolution this week, with his team back for pre-season training.

Thelin said: “Yes, but the vampire is dead now. Now that I have children! It was actually quite crazy. Myself and Chris, one of the assistant coaches, were changing computer sticks. It was like one in the morning and were like ‘look at this player, look at this player’ then we’d be up working, then training.

“It was from six in the morning, right through, a few hours sleep and then go again. That’s what you have to do sometimes. It was just me and him. But I couldn’t do that for 25 years. It would be impossible.”

Thelin went on a family holiday after he left Sweden and admitted he was working on his Aberdeen revolution into the early Paris hours. He stated: “When the children fell asleep, the computer went up.

‘I saw my children in Paris but not my wife. But she knows…”

Aberdeen’s greatest moment came in Gothenburg - when they beat Real Madrid to lift the 1983 European Cup Winners Cup. Thelin is hoping he can add to the Red Army’s Swedish love affair. He admitted: “Gothenburg is an amazing story. It is good. Maybe it is a sign.”

Thelin was previously interviewed for the Aberdeen job but missed out to Barry Robson. He got it at the second time of asking. He did his homework and admitted one of his first calls was to his ex-defender and Celtic star Gustaf Lagerbielke. He also wants to add to Sweden’s successes in Scotland from Henrik Larsson to Johan Mjallby.

He claimed: “I talked with Gustaf Lagerbielke who, of course, I had at Elfsborg. We would look at the football when Henrik Larsson and Johan Mjallby played, Carl Starfelt, I know a little bit also from when he played in Gothenburg.

“Also this guy here Fran who worked with us on individual development. He knew Starfelt quite well also so we irked up some information about the league and what we have to be aware of.”

Thelin was unveiled in Aberdeen’s Legends Lounge. It is surrounded by some of the greatest players like Willie Miller, Jim Leighton, Joe Harper and Alex McLeish. The new manager knows the club has a proud history but it is now about what he and his players do in the future. He explained: “My idea as coach, manager in a club and between games is that I never look back.

“I don’t think about what’s happened. For me it’s history. The thing you can manage is what you do in the future.

“To create a good future, you have to start today. You can’t go back. You can learn from the past sometimes.

“In this case, we can look at the walls here and see some amazing things. But I can’t put that pressure on the players I have now; we can’t be responsible for that.

“Our responsibility is what we can do in the future. We need to take a little bit off the shoulders. Okay, we can be really proud that we have a job here and take responsibility for that.

“But now we have to make our story. And be stronger and build from that. We can’t bury this but we can use it in a good way.

“I can’t put that standard on the players from Day One but I’ve already met fans in the city, everyone who is working here, I like Pittodrie and this history. I feel it. We can use it in a good way.”

Thelin went close to winning the league in Sweden with an effective counter attacking team. He will make changes but has vowed his side will have a block that is forged from Aberdeen’s granite.

He claimed: “The philosophy and identity - how we want to attack with speed, how we want to defend in a solid block - we are from a city with granite. For me, we have to use that. A granite block, how we defend. And use these kinds of things, like a DNA.

“For me it’s quite similar but still it’s different players, a different league. But the main difference is maybe some more set plays, going harder at the centre backs, more second balls, it’s quite a quick game.

Gustaf Lagerbielke
Gustaf Lagerbielke

“Still you have to adjust some parts. You might not need to press with so many players, those are small things to adjust to during games.

“The profile must be the way we want to do. What we played at Jonkopings was not the same as Elfsborg but still you could see the similarity. Small things can change to adapt. You always have to do that.

“Football always evolves. Even if 65 percent of teams play the same, there are teams in Scotland with their own skills, there’s a quick one, a strong one, there’s more crosses, expert in set plays.

“Then you have Celtic who play more combinations and more possession. We have a base then we adapt.”