Brian Wake interview – June 2011
There’s a striker in Sweden with the one of the best goals-to-games ratios around. With eleven games of the Division 2 Norrland campaign completed the English marksman Brian Wake, playing in his first season for current leaders Östersunds FK, already has 14 league goals. On the back of a hat-trick against IF Älgarna the ex-Gateshead, Greenock Morton, Hamilton Academical, Scarborough, Gretna and Carlisle United forward talked about life in Sweden and playing at his new club.
Hi Brian, thanks for taking the time out to speak to Blågul Fotboll.
Hey, it’s no problem at all; my pleasure.
The path from Gateshead to Swedish football isn’t an obvious route to take. Could you tell us about how the move to Östersunds FK came about?
No it isn’t an obvious route and it came as a shock really. I got a phone call out of the blue from the manager, Graham Potter, and he told me about the opportunity in Sweden to come and play for Östersunds FK; it was one which I wanted to grab with both hands. I’m really grateful for the opportunity and one which I want to make the most of. I have enjoyed every minute of it so far and long may it continue.
What did you know about Swedish football when you agreed to move over?
I had a basic knowledge of the league system and I knew quite a bit about Östersunds FK because I have played with some players back home who have also played for Östersund. I played with Michael Tidser at Greenock Morton and Richard Offiong at Hamilton and Gateshead so they told me a bit about it, and they only had kind words to say about the club.
Your career so far has taken you from Tow Law Town and the Northern League through English and Scottish Football Leagues and the English National Conference. How does the standard of play and facilities, such as the stadiums and the training facilities, in the fourth tier of the Swedish league system compare to those leagues you have played in previously?
It’s hard to compare the levels because it’s a total different style of play in the UK to Sweden. In the UK the pace of the game is a lot quicker and more direct while in Sweden it’s a slower pace with a lot more play built from the back; there’s more build up play. The facilities at Östersund are great and the club is geared up to progress through the leagues and hopefully I can be a part of that.
You lost 3-0 to GIF Sundsvall in the Svenska Cupen at the start of the season, a team from the Superettan that has spent a few years in the Allsvenskan recently. How far behind them do you consider Östersunds to be in terms of ability?
Yeah, it was really good to test ourselves against GIF Sundsvall and they were a good team with good players. We contained them well in the first half however they got on top of us in the second and overran us. They are ahead of us at the moment but we are all striving to get to that level and compete with the likes of GIF on a regular basis.
Östersunds FK have had a number of English influences over the past few years, from managers to players. Has this focus helped you settle in?
Since I’ve been at the club everybody has been great in helping the English players settle in. The club really goes out of its way to help and all the players, including myself, are really grateful for this. We have a great spirit in the camp from the manager and coaching staff right through to the players and this can only hold us in really good stead for the rest of the season and with ensuring our goal in winning promotion.
What’s Östersunds like as a football club?
Östersunds is a great football club with massive potential. Everything is geared up now to hopefully progress through the leagues and it’s a really nice environment in which to work. Our manager Graham Potter wants all the players to enjoy football and enjoy playing it in the right way. This is great for us all to improve and you can already see evidence of that with us improving as a team as the season goes on.
You’ve started the season in fine form; how many goals have you bagged so far?
Yeah, personally the season is going great but the most important thing is that we are at the top of the league and we stay there. So far I have scored 14 league goals and 4 in the cup. It’s nice and hopefully I can add some more to help our team.
An Östersunds fan, Anton Boström from Eurosport, recently described you as Östersunds’ best ever signing. How pleasing is it for you to be considered as such an important player at the club?
That is really flattering and nice to hear. As a player you appreciate all the support you get and I just want to keep working hard and hopefully keep doing well for the rest of the season.
What were your own aims and the aims of the club at the start of the season – and have these altered now you’re progressing through the campaign?
My own personal aims were to get in the team, stay clear of injuries and do as well as I could and hopefully help our team to fulfil our goal which is to win the league and get promotion. We are currently top at the half way stage so it’s so far so good. It’s important we kick on now until the end of the season.
You’re well known as being a player who handles pressure well and with an important knack for grabbing vital goals to steer teams clear of relegation, such as at Carlisle and Greenock Morton. You’ve been signed to get Östersunds back up to the third tier; what kind of pressure does that put on you?
Yeah, there’s pressure on us to get promoted as we are the favourites and there to be shot at. I like to take the pressure as a challenge and enjoy trying to achieve my goals. We have a great team spirit at Östersunds and we are all really focused on hopefully winning the league.
Are there any players that you’ve played with or against this season that we should watch out for in the future – any that you think could progress to a bigger stage such as the Allsvenskan or beyond?
I feel at Östersunds we have some really good young players who have the potential to develop and go on and have good careers in football if they work hard, listen and learn. I played at Hamilton in Scotland when James McCarthy was 16 years old and he broke into the first team. He played a couple of seasons then secured a move to Wigan in the English Premier League. At Östersunds we have Dennis Widgren, Petter Bager and Viktor Ageskar who are all really young and playing games in the first team. This is great for their development and hopefully these guys can go on and progress to the best levels possible for them.
Being quite educated since leaving the professional game, and having had a number of developmental positions in football, how does Graham Potter compare to the managers you have worked under in England and Scotland?
Every manager I have worked under has their own style and so does Graham. Since I have been at Östersund Graham has been different class with me and the team. He wants us all to improve as players and by playing football the right way. He wants us playing passing, possession, football. He creates a great environment in which to work and for players to develop and this can only be great for Östersunds FK.
Have you watched a lot of Swedish football on television since arriving?
Yeah, me and a couple of the guys go to O´Learys in town and take a game in on the weekends. The Allsvenskan looks a good competitive league with some really good teams.
What teams and players have impressed you?
I have liked the look of Malmö when I have watched them as they look really strong and organised with good players.
What did you make of the events at Syrianska and Malmö this season where games were abandoned due to disruption from the terraces?
To be honest I didn’t see too much from it but these situations should be stamped out of football if possible because it’s needless and does no good at all
When I spoke to James Keene recently he described his first impression of Sweden as being so cold that he had to watch training sessions from inside Roland Nilsson’s car. You would have arrived at the tail-end of the harsh, northern Swedish winter. How did you find the conditions?
I couldn’t believe how cold it was to be honest and I don’t think I have seen the worst of it as I came a little bit later in the year than some of the other guys. However it is great to experience and I suppose it’s like anything and you get used to it.
What were your own first impressions of the country?
My first impressions were: what a beautiful country. The nature is breathtaking at times. When we travel to games you see some stunning lakes and scenery.
Even though you’re from an industrial part of the North East you grew up in close proximity to areas of stunning beauty, such as Northumberland and the North Yorkshire Moors. How have you found the Swedish countryside?
I have found it great. It’s really nice. There are some beautiful places and I try and get out into the nature as much as possible in my spare time
Can you tell us about how you’re finding life in the north of Sweden – and have you had a chance to visit anywhere else in the country yet?
I’m enjoying every minute of my life in Sweden. It’s been a great experience for me and one which I want to enjoy to the full. I visited Stockholm a few years ago with a couple of friends and I found it really nice there also.
Have any of your family or friends ventured north to visit you?
At the moment it’s only been my girlfriend who has visited me in Östersund, but hopefully after the break some of my family and friends are going to try and come across and visit.
Has it been stressed upon you how important Midsommar is to the Swedes and have you got your plans all sorted for it?
Not really, however I do have some plans myself. I’m going to travel back over to the UK to visit family and friends and them I’m going over to Belgium to a music festival close to Brussels with my girlfriend so we are both really looking forward to that.
What do you think of sill – is it a vital component of the Wake dining table yet?
I have tried it and it was OK however I would only eat it on a rare occasion.
Have you been intrigued enough to try snus?
Yeah, I’ve tried it. I went on a skiing trip with our captain Martin Johannson and we had a couple of beers and I tried it. I found it okay but it’s not something I would want to do on a regular basis.
Was it a shock to the system when you first went to the pub and ordered a beer? Calum Angus told me that he still has the occasional shock at the price when he heads to the pub, especially with the beer then being served in a smaller glass than back in the UK.
Haha yeah, it’s a lot more expensive for a beer and I can imagine Calum getting a shock. Me and the other English guys at Östersund have spoken about it a couple of times.
Andy Hudson – June 2011.
With thanks to Lasse Landin at Östersunds FK for arranging the interview and for providing the accompanying photos.