In Part One Lewis opened up about his bold move to try something different and go and find a contract rather than waiting for it to come and find him. The harsh conditions in Sweden proved tough, and the one week trial had come to an end…..
The week flew by and a day before I was due to fly home, I was called to the club office. The Manager had been impressed, he liked what he had seen and wanted to offer me an initial 3-month contract, to see me through to the summer break. Everything happened so fast, a week ago I was working part-time in Tesco and now I’m stood in northern Sweden, in 4 feet of snow, in the middle of nowhere with a full-time contract in my hand and a clear picture of what at least the next three months of my life will look like.
Two substitute appearances occurred before I got my first start, at home, against newly promoted Taftea IK. Thankfully the weather had picked up by April and the sun had at least brought some sense of warmth to the day. Kick-off had arrived, and the adrenaline was coursing through my body, I wanted to show the players, staff and spectators the quality I could bring. Twenty minutes went by and it became very apparent that the Swedish game was very much played on the floor. I put myself about, made myself a nuisance, won free kicks and closed opponents down. As the half petered out, their left back looked to play down the line, I slid in to block the pass, missing him completely, yet he jumps to the floor and screams. I look at him, completely puzzled by his actions, turn to the referee and ask why he had blown for a foul. Without any feedback to me he brandishes a yellow card in my face and simply says “you can’t go to ground like that!” Like what? Like trying to block a clearance? This was a far cry to what I had experienced back home, where defenders would willingly kick your ankles and elbow you, sometimes off the ball.
The game continued and in the second half I managed to take my first chance with a right footed finish past the goalkeeper. Brilliant, a goal on my first start and to give us the lead! However, the joy would only last 3 minutes, as when I blocked another clearance and it went out for a throw-in, I gently nudged the ball past the defender attempting to retrieve the ball. He screams, the ref runs over and brandishes a second yellow then a red. My home debut, my first start and I’m red carded. The second yellow was possibly justified, yet I’ve seen players back home launch balls over the stand after the whistle goes to waste time!
Stern words followed from Ben, and I was quickly made aware that the Swedish game isn’t as physical, and referees are extremely strict. Pity I had to find out the hard way.
A ban followed, and I returned to the bench two weeks later. We were down 3-2 to Pitea, I came on, scored from 25 yards and rescued a point. Red card forgotten.
The following two and a half months would bring a further 3 goals in 7 games as I adapted to a new role as a wide attacking-midfielder. We had a successful period as a team before going on a poor run of form at perhaps the most crucial time, just before the summer break.
I was adapting to life and football in Sweden well, the people were welcoming, I made a lot of new friends and as I was staying with a family in city I developed a strong relationship with them. My host was a coach for the IFK U14 side, and his son one of their star players. We often discussed my passion for coaching and player development, and this resulted in me becoming lead coach of IFK U14’s.
Part three coming soon