Bo Henriksen On FC Zurich, Managing In European Football And Denmark Ambition

Bo Henriksen On FC Zurich, Managing In European Football And Denmark Ambition

An interview with Bo Henriksen, by Callum McFadden for WFi.

You joined FC Zurich as manager in the autumn of 2022. How would you reflect on your time at the club so far?

“It has been a fantastic experience so far. This is my first time managing outside of Scandinavia so it is a different culture.

”The setup is incredibly professional and FC Zurich is a big club with high expectations and passionate supporters so it is great to be working for such a football club.

“When I arrived, the team were going through a difficult period and it was tough for me because the games were coming thick and fast between domestic league games and European game.

“That meant that I could not work with the players in training too in-depth because we were constantly preparing for games.

“However, the World Cup break was a great time for me as I was able to have what felt like another pre-season with the team to implement my tactical approach which was fun.

“During my time at the club so far, we have faced clubs such as PSV Eindhoven and Arsenal in the Europa League which has been a good challenge for the players and for me and my staff.

“Facing Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium was a special experience in many ways because they are one of the best sides in European football at this moment.

“Our away fans were unbelievable and we played a very good game despite losing 1-0 in the end.

“We tried to contain and frustrate Arsenal so that we could catch them on the counter-attack because we knew that they would have a lot of possession.

”We executed that plan well and if we had been sharper in front of goal then it could have been very different games because we had our chances.

“Playing top sides like that is what provides you with learning opportunities as a manager, and as a group of players. You want to test yourself against the elite teams because it gives you a platform to show your worth by taking on the top coaches and players.

”I, like many coaches, would love to work in the Premier League one day so it was good to be able to take a team to the Emirates and test ourselves. We learned a lot from that match, for sure.”

Bo Henriksen Mikel Arteta

FC Zurich’s Danish head coach Bo Henriksen (L) and Arsenal’s Spanish manager Mikel Arteta on the pitch after the UEFA Europa League Group A football match between Arsenal and FC Zurich at The Arsenal Stadium in London, on November 3, 2022. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

How would you describe your managerial philosophy?

”Good question. First of all, I would say that I am a little bit pragmatic because you need to build from a solid defensive foundation.

”However, I want my teams to play dynamic football and to attack as much as possible.

”Pressing high is a key principle of mine too because regaining possession as quickly as possible is key for any team to be able to control a game.

“Having the ball is the best form of control within any game and I like my team to have possession and always look at ways that we can create opportunities to cause danger for our opponents.

”Playing on the front foot is the key to winning football matches on a consistent basis and that is what I aim to do as a manager with my teams.”

As a player, you won the Danish title with Herfølge BK in 99/00. What was it like to win a major honour with a team regarded as an underdog?

”That season will always be special to me because what we achieved as a team was similar to that of Leicester City winning the Premier League.

“Herfølge were a small club with a fanbase of around 5,000 people and they do not even play in the top divisions anymore.

“Winning a national title with a club of that size in Denmark was unheard of. Being a part of a team that did what was considered by many to be impossible, is one of my greatest moments in life and it will live with me forever.

“I am very proud of that success and the history that my teammates and I were able to create.”

You also played in Football League in England with Kidderminster Harriers. How did your experience of English football compare with that of Danish football? 

“I joined the club because of Jan Molby who was the coach of Kidderminster Harriers at that time.

“He was a childhood hero of mine as I had watched him in the 1986 Danish national team which is one of the best sides that our country has ever produced.

“Therefore, having the opportunity to play under him was something that I could not turn down.

”I thoroughly enjoyed my time in English football because I enjoyed the culture of the English people and their attitude towards football.

”The fans are incredibly passionate and the Football League had a lot of former Premier League players playing in it at the time which was a nice challenge.

“My goalscoring record at the club was good which was nice because you always want to contribute to your team in a positive manner which I was able to do.

“The respect that people have for the game is something that I remember vividly. The best example that I have is when I went down easily to win a penalty which was scored and saw us win the game 2-1.

”In the dressing room, I expected everyone to be delighted with the victory which most were. However, my captain approached me and told me that he did not want to see me doing that again.

”That really opened my eyes to how British people whether it be players, pundits or fans see the game. They want the game to be respected which I think is a lovely quality to have.”

You started your coaching career as a player-manager at Brønshøj Boldklub. What was that experience like for you? 

“That was a tough experience [laughs]. Being a player is a tough job on its own and when you combine it with management, it is such a challenge.

“I had to make sure that I was one of the best three players at the club to justify my place in the team if I was playing because players can see through you very quickly if you are selfish as a player-manager. Integrity and humility are important in such a role.

“In the end, I stopped playing after a few seasons and focused on managing because that is what would be best for the team.

“I never wanted to become a bad version of myself as a player while coaching the team. That would not have set a positive example.

“Overall, my experience at Brønshøj Boldklub was a good one for me as the club gave me my first opportunity in management and everyone needs to start somewhere.”

You moved on to manage AC Horsens in 2014 and stayed at the club for six seasons. How do you reflect on your time at the club?

”Horsens was a great time for me in my career. I took the club from the second tier of Danish football into the Danish Superliga where we were able to stay throughout my time in charge of the club.

“My role there was all-encompassing. I was the manager, the sporting director and the person in charge of all major footballing decisions. We had limited resources but we worked as hard as we could with what we had to be the best version of ourselves.

“Soon after I left the club, they were relegated back to the second tier which was a shame for the club but I am glad to see them back in the Danish Superliga now.

”Overall, I am very proud of my work at the club because we overachieved given our resources for the six and a half years that I was there. We finished in the top six in one of my seasons which was a remarkable achievement.

“It was also my first time managing in the top flight of Danish football which gave me the hunger to succeed and test myself even more.”

You managed FC Midtjylland from 2021 to 2022. What are your memories from your time in charge of the club? 

“FC Midtjylland was another strong experience in my career because we won the Danish Cup and finished a narrow second to FC Copenhagen in the league.

“Winning the national cup was a moment that meant a lot to me and the team because you want to compete for major honours and win them which we were able to do.

“The game itself was tense and was decided by penalties which was incredibly tense for me on the sidelines but I believed in my players to do the job and bring the cup home and to their credit, they did just that.

“I also managed the club in Europe and defeated Celtic in the Champions League qualifying campaign which was a big moment for the club.

“Ange Postecoglou has done a very good job at Celtic so to be able to draw in Glasgow and defeat them at home in Denmark was a special result.

“We played in the Europa League and then went into the knockouts rounds of the Europa Conference League in that season too.

“Before I left the club in the summer of 2022, I also qualified them for the Europa League.

”I am proud of the job that I did there. FC Midtjylland is a fantastic club and I have good memories from my time in charge.”

Finally, Bo, what is your ultimate ambition as a manager?

“In life, we all need to have dreams. I emphasise that to my players too. It is so important because you need an ambition that motivates you to work as hard as you can to get there.

“I am a proud Dane so for me, the ultimate ambition would be to manage the Denmark national team in the future.

“Managing your national team is the biggest achievement that any coach can have. That would be the dream for me.

”Of course, I would also like to manage in the top five European leagues too. That is the aim of any manager within football.

“However, to achieve your dreams, you need to succeed in what you are doing now and my full focus is on bringing success to FC Zurich.

”I am really enjoying my time at the club and my aim is to allow all of my players and the fans to dream big. That is what football is all about.”