5 Minutes with...
Capped 76 times for Sweden, Linderoth spent 3 difficult seasons at Goodison Park.
He is now cutting his teeth in management, as manager of Skovde AIK, and I caught up with him to speak about his career, his regrets and his hopes for his future as a manager...
Nestled between the two largest lakes in Sweden, Vanem and Vattern, Skovde is a small town with an estimated population of just 50,610 – smaller than the capacity of Everton’s new stadium at Bramley Moore. Underwhelmingly most famous as the home to Volvo and the Swedish military; Skovde is an industrious yet laid-back town, a bit like Linderoth himself. It is a far cry from the cities where Linderoth spent most of his career, in Liverpool, Copenhagen and Istanbul. But in the town, which classes Handball as it’s most popular sport, an exciting football team is emerging.
Tobias has been in charge at Skovde AIK since November 2020, where he guided the club to promotion to the Superettan, the second tier of Swedish football, for the first time since 1995.
“Skövde AIK is a project, we are still establishing the club in the second highest league, after many years in the third tier. We are a small club with small resources, but it is a nice family club. I appreciate the values of the club, we work with young ambitious players, and we try to develop both on and off the field, all the time. The goal is to be able to establish ourselves in the Superettan, we are ambitious, but we don’t get carried away.”
Linderoth’s coaching career began at a much bigger club, Elfsborg, where he worked his way up from coaching the under-17’s, to the under-19 and under-21 sides, before being offered the chance to lead Skovde. It is perhaps not surprising that he has gone down the coaching route, after all, his father Anders was a very successful player and coach himself, with spells playing for Marseille and Halsingborgs, before managing a plethora of big clubs in Sweden. Linderoth was actually born in Marseille, while his father was playing for the club, and he is actually still a Marseille fan to this day.
“I grew up obsessed with football, and that's a lot because I grew up with my dad. He was first a football player and then he became a successful coach. When I was a little boy, I spent so much of my time being around those practices and in training camps. The players in the teams he coached were my idols, it was unbelievable. I remember when I was little, I made my own training programs and coaching drills, because I had seen my father do it. I am still learning from him now.”
I wondered what type of manager Linderoth would describe himself as? And how that style compared to himself as a player?
“Probably the same as I was as a player: quiet, hardworking, but ambitious. I always demand that my players give their all. I always believe it is an advantage to have played as high as possible before becoming a coach, but even then, you are constantly learning and evolving as a coach, that’s what is so much fun about the job, you never stand still – with every new experience you gain more knowledge and will grow as a coach. When I was a player, I had ambitions to reach the highest level, and that is no different for me as a coach. I am still at the beginning of my managerial career, but I am determined and will work hard to become the best I can be. I have the exact same dreams and ambitions as I had as a player.”
It was certainly an ambitious move when he joined the Premier League, moving to Goodison Park from Stabaek in Norway, although he was far from inexperienced. Linderoth already had 17 caps for his country and was regarded as one of the brightest young talents Sweden had to offer, when he was signed by Walter Smith for a fee of £2.5m. Industrious and hardworking, his defensive qualities were seen as the ideal foil for Thomas Gravesen, it was hoped Linderoth would bring a sense of discipline and balance, to compliment Gravesen’s more swashbuckling approach.
“The move to Everton from Norway was a big move for me. It was at Everton that I learned what it was like to really be a professional footballer, at the highest level, and exactly what was expected. I was still relatively young, and arriving in the Premier League, where the best players in the world played, it was a big change. I learned an incredible amount from all my teammates at Everton, and my coaches. There were some huge name players at the club who I got to play with, people like Gascoigne, Ferguson, Ginola and Rooney. I had the privilege of wearing the Everton shirt alongside them, and I will always be grateful for my time at Goodison Park.”
It was a difficult start to life on Merseyside for Linderoth though, with his first two seasons being crippled by injury, alongside the departure of Walter Smith and the arrival of new manager David Moyes. After two difficult seasons, and only 9 starts for the club, he finally became a much more permanent fixture in the side in season 03/04.
“Walter Smith brought me to Everton, but unfortunately, I didn’t have him for very long. But in the short time I got to work with him, I enjoyed myself. Smith was what I would call a ‘real manager’ who had coaches out on the training field, running all the practices, while Smith made all of the decisions and would lead the team out. David Moyes, when he came in, wanted to do things differently – he wanted to do a lot of things himself, and he ran all the training sessions. He was a young manager, but he was most definitely in charge of everything. They were both two very different managers, but both very talented, and I appreciated them both.”
One big positive for Tobias, throughout his tough start to life at Everton, was the friendship he built up with his two fellow compatriots – Niclas Alexandersson and Jesper Blomqvist.
“The first few months at Everton were tough, I felt alone. As a new player, you always feel that pressure to perform, and the injuries I had didn’t help that. Life was up and down for me at that time, and as a football player, everything is connected with how good or bad the football is going. It was tough when I was injured, but I got back to playing, everything got better again. Having Niclas and Jesper around definitely helped, especially Niclas – his family were very kind to me and took care of me for a while when I arrived.”
Speaking of Sweden, Linderoth went on to achieve 76 caps for his country, playing a big part in two World Cup’s and a European Championship. That Sweden team at the time, had some serious players – people like Henrik Larsson, Freddie Ljungberg and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and despite his shy and reserved personality, Linderoth was a big part of that group.
Despite his industrious style of play, fans often speak of Linderoth being as being somewhat anonymous and sometimes going under the radar. Linderoth will openly tell you he was a shy person, both at club and international level. This is something he tells me he wishes he could go back and address, if he could.
“Standing here as Tobias Linderoth the manager, if I could give Tobias Linderoth the player any advice, then I would tell myself not to be so impressed by everything, and everyone. Worry less about what other people bring and concentrate on what I can bring to the team. I wish I had more confidence in my ability, and fully believed in everything I did.”
I actually find it quite ironic, that a player as quiet and reserved as Linderoth, plied his trade for clubs with such passionate support, playing in some of the most intense and demanding atmospheres in Europe.
“My experience with Everton gave me the confidence to take more responsibility at Copenhagen, I became captain, and we won the league twice, qualifying for the Champions League.
My playing style developed over time, and I like to think I played with a very physical approach. I liked to fight, and fight on the field. I had the privilege of playing in front of such passionate home fans, I really loved playing in front of a packed Goodison Park, or the Parken in Copenhagen, and even a crowded and crazy Ali Sami Yen for Galatasaray. It was an honour, and I enjoyed it so much.
For me, Everton is one of the most classic clubs in England. Playing for Everton is always about doing your best, no matter what, it’s the minimum the fans expect. Work hard, never give up, that’s Everton for me. If the fans see you working hard, then they will get behind you no matter what, and the whole of Goodison Park will be boiling. For me, it is without a doubt the best atmosphere in the whole of England.”