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Analysis: ‘Football mad vampire’ Jimmy Thelin ready to sink his teeth into new challenge at Aberdeen

Swedish boss' strong track record shows why he was on Dons' radar.

Jimmy Thelin while manager of Elfsborg.
New Aberdeen manager Jimmy Thelin. Image: Sipa US/Alamy Live News

Jimmy Thelin seems to be a man who goes by many nicknames.

His brother calls him a “football mad vampire” while one Swedish journalist labelled him “the most boring man in Sweden.”

He can now add a new moniker – Aberdeen manager.

Patience has paid off for Dave Cormack in his pursuit of the 46 year-old from Jonkoping with the Dons chairman following the lead of his predecessor Stewart Milne in refusing to take no for an answer.

Milne was faced with the same predicament when the late Craig Brown turned down an approach to leave Motherwell for Pittodrie in December 2010.

The former chairman was prepared to fight for his club and his persistence won out as he convinced Brown to leave Fir Park for the Granite City.

Cormack can lay claim to doing exactly the same with his new manager.

Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack.
Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack. Image: SNS.

Thelin had been under consideration for the Dons manager’s job in 2023 before the team’s remarkable resurgence under Barry Robson led to the youth coach being given the job.

The Swede found himself back on Aberdeen’s radar after Robson was sacked on January 31 but he initially rejected the Dons’ advances.

Thelin felt a sense of loyalty to his club, which had backed him significantly in the transfer market, and did not want to walk out on the eve of the new Allsvenskan season which started on March 30.

Cormack, however, has bided his time and convinced Thelin, who was also on the Sunderland shortlist a few months ago, to relocate to Scotland.

With Elfsborg having made the necessary arrangements to find a successor, the path has now been cleared for Thelin to take the helm at Pittodrie.

Why has Thelin become a wanted man?

Elfsborg manager Jimmy Thelin at match against Malmo. He is now the new Aberdeen boss.
Elfsborg’s manager Jimmy Thelin before an Allsvenskan match against Malmö FF on November 2023. Image: Petter Arvidson/Alamy.

So what is it about the quietly spoken Thelin, who once harboured dreams of being a musician after joining a punk rock band called The Parrots in his homeland, which has made him the man Aberdeen have pushed so hard to bring on board?

His CV suggests he is a project manager.

Thelin’s first job came with FC Ljungarum. Thelin led the team to the Division 6 championship in their debut season in 2006, where his side won 17 games out of 18.

He would go on to win the championship again with the club before moving to Jonkopings Sodra.

He worked as a youth coach at under-17, 19 and 21 level before the backing of the players, led by his brother Tommy who was captain resulted in him being put in charge of the first team in 2014.

It was there the vampire nickname was earned due to Thelin’s willingness to work every hour he could to study players and opposition teams.

The homework paid dividends.

Thelin is a builder of teams

In his first season in charge he led the club to a fourth place finish, their best since 1976, before winning the Superettan the following season to win promotion to the top flight of Swedish football for the first time in 46 years.

A historic achievement of that nature tends to have others taking notice and it was Elfsborg who prized him away from Jonkopings in 2018.

Elfsborg had finished seventh in the top flight prior to Thelin’s arrival and his first season in charge was a difficult one as they finished 12th in his first campaign.

Steady improvement followed with finishes of eighth and second in 2020 while Elfsborg remained a competitive top-half team with fourth and sixth place finishes in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

Thelin almost clinched the championship last year after guiding his side to the top of the Allsvenskan heading into the final game of the season against nearest challenges Malmo thanks to a 15-game unbeaten run.

However, a 1-0 defeat meant they were pipped to the title by their opponents on goal difference.

A new challenge in the North-East awaits

Despite the disappointment Thelin’s stock was sky high and Sunderland showed an interest in his services in December.

Thelin reportedly held talks with the Black Cats but it was former Rangers boss Michael Beale who landed the job.

Former Rangers manager Michael Beale.
Sunderland held talks with Jimmy Thelin but appointed former Rangers boss Michael Beale in December. Image: SNS

The north-east of England may not have materialised for the Swede – but the north-east of Scotland will soon be his new home.

A step into the unknown for all concerned, the new Dons manager certainly has a big job ahead of him.

Despite the unflattering description from journalists in Sweden it seems likely his tenure will be anything but boring.