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January 13, 2010

Hans Backe

Erik Soler

Richie Williams

ERIK SOLER: First of all, thank you all for coming. And I hope you already can sense what the building is going to do to this club, what it's going to do to the soccer here in the U.S., and especially here in the New York area.
You know, being European, coming here, I still think this will be the nicest stadium I've ever been to. It's going to look absolutely fantastic. And it's a superb home for our club. And you know, I spoke with Richie. He's a decent center midfielder. I used to be a decent drive fullback. We try to get into the team maybe instead of being in the staff. We're here for obviously for a couple of reasons. One is to be invited to the stadium to look at the facilities, see what it's all about.
The next is to present our staff on the sporting side, and I'm very excited about the fact that we have around myself three very, very good training persons, three coaches that are going to bring us a lot of success. Even though it's going to be hard work, and we wouldn't promise you too much at this time because it's all new to us.
But I think we have some really, really good persons on board. And first Hans Backe, which is Swedish. Normally Swedes and Norwegians, that's a little bit sort of hostility there. So we'll see how that works out. Two countries that are on each side of the border. So we'll see. Hopefully we can work together. That's the plan.
Hans was the number one on my list from the start of the search. And lucky for me at that time, when I started looking around, he had just been hired by Notts County, who had some really big plans for what they were going to do.
So a few weeks later it turned out that the plans at Notts County, they were very, very different from what they originally were. And then Hans, he went, stepped down from that job, from obvious reasons, and I was not very slow to call him up. And we had some meetings, and we ended up agreeing to announce him the head coach for Red Bull here in New York.
One very important aspect for myself was the fact that I had already met Richie some years back in warmer conditions in Florida at that time, Richie. It was like in the 80s, not the 80s from years but from degrees. We were at the Combine the other day, and it was the coldest they had had in 83 years. So we were a bit unlucky with the days, didn't get too much sun. But among the qualities of Richie, everybody speaks very highly of him, and I'm absolutely convinced it was, for myself and for Hans, extremely important to keep him on board.
We hope to keep him on board for a long time. So we'll dig into that discussion very shortly. And also to have Des along who is very, very dedicated and a very good goalkeeping coach, also with experience from the MLS league, which also Richie brings to the table. And that's going to be, of course, a huge asset to the staff.
And I want to say it this way: You know, this is not about bringing in the European or not bringing in the European. It's about building the best team, the best staff you can get to run this club forward, and that's been sort of the thought, the basic thought and the basic reason for having these people sitting on the table.
So I'm a very, very happy person today, because I have this staff around me. I'm very happy because I'm seated in this place. I'm very humble to the fact that I'm going to be part of what's going to go on in this stadium for the coming years. And, yeah, I'm just very happy. I'm a soccer guy. I'm going to love this, and I want to welcome Hans with giving me this cup.
Then I would like to leave the words to Hans so he can give a short introduction of himself and we'll take it from there.
HANS BACKE: Okay. Thank you very much. Of course, I'm very, very excited to join the Red Bull New York and the Red Bull organization. It's a massive challenge to build a team, also working with the academy rather close to improve and develop players. With this breathtaking stadium, the future looks bright for this club, that's for sure.
Also to have, a vital thing is to that Des and Richie is in the team, because it's vital to know that we have the great knowledge of the MLS. I still have a lot to learn about some tricky rules, but otherwise I would say soccer is rather similar worldwide.
That's in a way what it's all about so far. Just arrived Sunday. So still a little bit problems with the time difference. But I will survive.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. With that we'll open the floor to questions.

Q. Hans, Erik mentioned what had gone on in Notts County that there were promised made, not kept, and that you resigned, I guess, after nine weeks, seven games. Could you give us a little more background on what happened at Notts County?
HANS BACKE: Yeah, we can do it rather quick. It's normally when you get the manager job in England, you get your own budget. And you can say I was promised some kind of money until the emergency loans in England is until November 26th.
So we had signed three players in the beginning of November. But there was no money. And the days were just rolling on. And then we went to the 26th, and I was sitting with three players in a hotel. And so they had to travel home. It was a little bit embarrassing.
I was also promised also a budget for the January transfer, but the day after the emergency loans, November 26th, it was a take-over, and the club was sold to the chief executive for one pound and the owners were gone.
So there was no money in the club. So he's out. I feel sorry for them. They're still hunting investors for this to get some transfers in January. So that's it.

Q. So you were allowed to walk away from it. Did you have a contract?
HANS BACKE: Yeah, definitely. I had a two plus one, one option, the last one was an option. But I had a talk with the chief executive, and Erik saw them. Of course, they couldn't say anything when they couldn't keep promises.

Q. Hans, in the past, MLS coaches with foreign background, with not much experience in MLS, have struggled. Why do you think you can do well here with the Red Bulls?
HANS BACKE: It's difficult to say. I don't know. In a way I can't analyze what happened earlier in the past with foreign coaches.
I would say in a way I've seen around 20, 30 games with MLS teams in the InterLiga, SuperLiga, during the Mexico time. I would say the MLS, okay, it's physical football. And it looks rather similar, I would say, with Scandinavian football. Okay. I've been around in five, six, different countries, different characters, different attitude and things like that.
But I don't like to analyze what's happened in the past. I'm just looking for the future doing it my way to build a team.

Q. Hans, you mentioned how the troubles in Notts County with promises that were made for acquiring players. Has it been explained to you how difficult it is under these league structures for a manager, of what we think of would take place in Europe or around the world, to just go out and get players when they would like, how difficult player movement can be in this league?
HANS BACKE: Yeah, it's a big difference. Now, I don't get my own budget. I'm not the English manager. I'm the head coach here. So Erik is responsible for the budget. But I know most of it to be about the transfer and the difficulties, I fully understand that.

Q. Hans, can you explain maybe a little bit of your style or what people might expect from your team when they step on the field?
HANS BACKE: I think it's a little bit too early to do that. It will take too long a time, I would say. But, of course, because I will not start today to say we will play like that, view that kind of information and things like that. I haven't seen the players train. I have to give them a chance.
I've just seen a couple of games on the DVD. That's not enough. It's too early. I will say I will wait for that.

Q. Surely you can tell us what sort of style you like. Can you tell us what sort of team you admire, what sort of players you admire? What do we expect? Do we expect them to look like Norway? With due respect, I hope not?
HANS BACKE: I hope not, too. I totally agree.
ERIK SOLER: I don't like that, too.

Q. You can tell us what you like?
HANS BACKE: I like pace. If you look at the Premiership, it's the best of the world, they have the best players in the world. So if you can find players with pace, technical skills, of course, it would be a dream. The thing I can say that we will definitely play with the back four, then we will play with three or four midfield players or one or two strike, and then we have to wait and see what squad we will have.

Q. Can you give me a team that you would like to emulate, the team you would like to look like? Do you want to look like Barcelona?
HANS BACKE: Yes, but I don't think many teams can play like that. But, of course, sometimes in a way you look at the Spanish league, it's a possession league, in a way. And sometimes I also think that too much possession can be boring. It's all about to find the right balance with a rather counter-attack game and possession game. Of course, you need possession, but I would say the key is to be very, very aware of, about the counter-attacks nowadays.
Every team can defend very well, be well organized. You have to take advantage of the counter-attacks. That's also a key factor.

Q. Richie, can you talk about your offseason, what kind of choices you had to go somewhere else and why you decided to stay here?
RICHIE WILLIAMS: Did you say what other choices I had?

Q. Yes, opportunities to coach elsewhere.
RICHIE WILLIAMS: You know, I didn't have any other opportunities, to be honest with you. I went on a couple of interviews, but I was not offered any jobs. And my decision to stay here is because I wanted to stay here and I want to be part of this organization.
You know, obviously every assistant coach wants to be a head coach. My time will come to be a head coach at one point. You know, I mentioned to Erik that obviously I would love to be a head coach. He had spoke to me about if I wasn't the head coach, would I want to be an assistant. I said I could definitely continue to be the assistant. But I wanted to make sure that, you know, for the sake of the organization, that we had somebody that was going to be, had a lot of experience and someone that for me personally I could learn from and to make myself a better coach so that when I do become a head coach, I've had a lot of training.
And obviously Hans has that background. So when Erik told me he was going to hire Hans, I was excited to be a part of Hans's staff, and I'm excited to be here. I'm a New Jersey person. My family's very happy here. And, again, as we look around and we see a stadium here, new training facility coming, new structure in our club, I think there's going to be a lot of great things happening for our organization, and hopefully that will lead to championships in the future.

Q. Bruce Arena, one of your predecessors, made a point of being called manager as opposed to coach. We would like to know what you would like us to call you.
HANS BACKE: Oh, you can call me Hans or Coach, doesn't matter, no problem. (Laughter).

Q. Hans, you're taking over a team. You don't know much about the league. You're taking over a team that finished last in the league last year, and the draft is only a couple of days away. Actually, it's tomorrow. So was there ever a concern, or is there a concern that this might get a bit overwhelming?
HANS BACKE: No. I don't think so. I had no doubt when Erik phoned me about this. I would say after seeing 20, 30 games with MLS teams, I thought I had a rather okay view of the level of the MLS teams. As I said, it's a physical league. Even if I could see teams playing a possession game, where the InterLiga, used to probably more physical and direct and things like that.
So, as I said, I had no problems in a way with that.

Q. You have seen MLS games before?
HANS BACKE: Not MLS, but InterLiga, SuperLiga, during the Mexico time.

Q. Hans, from your standpoint, how big of a challenge is this to take over this program and turn it around? And, second of all, have you had experience in your career taking over a team that had been decimated like this one was last year and turning it around? First of all, the challenge; second of all, any experience at that level of turning franchises around.
HANS BACKE: I don't think in a way that I've been taking over a team with the season. It was the last season, I can't remember that, I have to think a little bit. Probably not. So it's in a way no experience.
But after so many years, in a way, I have my philosophy. And I know in a way how to build a team from the defending, attacking game and things like that.
So it's just a massive challenge, I would say, to build a new team.

Q. Hans, you said that you've looked at a couple of games on DVDs. Can you tell me what were the more glaring weaknesses that you saw on the team that you think you need to fill? I know you hadn't had much of a time to look at the team train or anything?
HANS BACKE: My feeling is it's not fair to the players if I start analyzing the last season after seeing a couple of games on DVD. For myself, I know what to do, what I would like to do for the next season. But it wouldn't be fair in a way to point out players after a couple of games on DVD. I couldn't say enough, but I have seen what I would like to do.

Q. This is a follow-up to the question, you foresee a massive rebuilding project with the team? You're going to bring in a lot of new players? What are your plans right now?
HANS BACKE: I will definitely give the players a chance, the players that we have at the moment in the squad. Of course, we'll have the draft, and it will probably be players coming in. But we will probably not have a massive change. We have planned for some training camps already in January. We're going to Spain, Lamania, playing three really tough, against high qualified, high profile teams from Europe. And I would say those two weeks in Spain will show me a lot about the players we have today.

Q. Hans, you mentioned not having seen enough of the players to be able to fairly comment on what needs to be tweaked or what formation. I'm curious -- and you also mentioned as coach, it's not necessarily your responsibility to get players. Do you have a good opinion, I guess, of what sort of designated player or high-priced player you might want to have or you might think would be good for the team at this point?
HANS BACKE: We will talk about this, of course, with Erik, Richie and Des. We will have communication about the player, but nothing is said or done so far.

Q. Hans, with your experience with the Mexican National team, what did you learn about -- what did you learn, if anything, about the Hispanic player that you may not have known previously assisting then with Mexico?
HANS BACKE: I would say I was really, really surprised over the character, the attitude for every training session. I had in a way an idea when we went to Mexico that perhaps the Mexican were going to be a little bit of the southern Europeans, how to say, not the most hardworking players. But I was really -- it was terrific to train every session, hardworking players would learn all the time new things.
I think we were hired for the FMF in Mexico to try to turn in a way to win away games. Mexico is always unbeatable at home, but struggled winning away. We won at home. We lost away. And I don't think that's why we were sacked.
But tactically, no problem. Every training session, excellent, the attitude, spirit and the characters.

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