Anything is possible at Fleetwood Town, says the former Premier League star charged with plotting the club’s long-term future.
Many were shocked when Icelandic international Gretar Steinsson jumped ship from the Dutch top division to join Fleetwood Town as technical director.
The 33-year-old had been at AZ Alkmaar, where he had played under Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal, when the call came from the Lancashire coast.
But the story of Steinsson’s involvement with Fleetwood Town started well before that – the ex-Bolton Wanderers defender having made an approach months earlier.
He explained: “About a year ago I did a presentation for the chief executive and (owner/chairman) Andy Pilley about how I saw Fleetwood Town in the future.
“Taking the homework and research I did on the club and the ideas and the vision they had, I thought there was a good match.
“The club was in League Two then, around mid-table and pushing for the play-offs.
“I was finishing my degree in football management, working at AZ (Alkmaar), when the chief executive gave me a call and asked me if I would take this role and really put my plan in action. It was impossible to turn down.”
Technical director is not a role familiar to many English fans. Few clubs in the Premier League or Football League have such a position.
Steinsson’s remit at Fleetwood is wide reaching – matters relating to scouting, community work, player recuitment and development all crossing his desk.
But he believes it is important for the club to have a long-term strategy and a more controlled approach to what has been runaway success story
Attention to detail is key for Steinsson, who told The Gazette: “We’re in the first phase. We’re looking at everything, we’re observing and then we’re finding ways for Fleetwood Town to move forward, to bridge the gaps.
“We’ve gone very fast over the last few years. We need to know how to control success.
“We need to be creative, to do things differently, whether it’s in recruitment or our development squad.
“Whatever it is, we need to do it in a controlled way. Every club is unique and we need to use everything we can externally to maximise our performance.”
One thing Steinsson shares with Town, and chairman Pilley, is an appetite for success – his mission to find ways for Fleetwood Town to achieve that.
“I’m very ambitious, the club is very ambitious,” said Steinsson. “We’ve clicked together.
“It’s a big challenge for them to grow now. It’s very interesting how we take it with the youth, the community, starting a development squad and the training ground.
“There was an opportunity to grab, to be a part of this.
“If you come from the area, you quickly hear about the chairman and what he wants to achive.
“The chief executive (Steve Curwood) is very driven. Graham Alexander (manager) did a pre-season when I was at Bolton, so I know him a little bit. I could see the possibilities.”
Indeed, Steinsson believes that with the right plans in place, there are no limits for the League One club, particularly if they can make Highbury an attractive prospect to the game’s rising stars.
He said: “Everything is possible but it has to happen in a controlled way. It has to be planned out, mapped out.
“It’s a long-term project. That’s what’s very important.
“With the training ground coming, it’s starting to get established.
“We want to make Fleetwood an attractive place for young players to come and to progress their careers. To do that we need to offer the best.
“We need to be a platform for them to come here, do well with Fleetwood Town and take the next step in their careers.
“We’ve got a smaller budget than many. We don’t have the biggest crowds.
“We maybe don’t have the appeal to players of other clubs, so we have to be innovative in what we offer and how we do things.”
At 33, Steinsson is 10 years younger than Town’s first-team coach.
But, having completed a postgraduate football management degree at the Cruyff Institute in Barcelona, he has made it clear the dugout isn’t for him.
“I’ve never had any ambition to become a football coach or a manager,” he said.
“Everybody sees the team on a Saturday, what happens on the training pitch.
“Nobody sees the football club, how that all happens, that’s what I’m interested in.”
And, thanks to a certain former manager, he was given the chance to explore behind the scenes in the Dutch top flight
“At AZ I was given the opportunity to see all aspects of the club,” said Steinsson.
“I was working with (Louis) Van Gaal at that point.
“I had a lot of chances to follow, to study even though I was still a player.
“When I stopped playing it was very easy to go back and shadow and do my work experience there.
“That’s where I was when Fleetwood called.”
Having answered that call, Steinsson is now in the process of implementing his reforms at Fleetwood.
But he admits it won’t be something that happens overnight - Town having been forced to scramble in recent years to keep pace off the field with success on it.
“I don’t think the club has struggled to keep up,” said Steinsson.
“But when things go fast we need the personnel to carry the rest with it.
“Training in a different town and training in another, being able to get it all together in one place is important, as is being able to engage with the grass roots and the community
“Everything has been focused on the football.
“Now we need to engage everything around it to move the club on further.”
Some have questioned why a League One club needs both a first team manager, a director of football and a technical director. But Steinsson insists everyone has a defined role within the organisation and one common goal.
He said: “There are always roles and responsibilities. Without that there’s just chaos.
“Everybody has a set role, everybody has responsibility and accountability.
“How we structure the club is going in a different direction.
“That has to be done in steps. It can’t be done overnight.
“Again it has to be controlled. But everybody knows their role and we’re all pulling in the same direction.”