Ian Burchnall: The man aiming to kickstart ex-Man Utd starlet Ravel Morrison's career at Ostersunds
Burchnall: 'It's actually a very mature decision to go to the top league in Sweden to enjoy playing football, get back on the pitch and build yourself up'
By Will Unwin
Last Updated: 18/03/19 6:52pm
The latest chapter of Ravel Morrison's career has taken him to the north of Sweden, to a team transformed into a Europa League side by Graham Potter and now relying on another Englishman to take them forward.
Ian Burchnall is Morrison's new manager at Ostersunds FK, where he has signed a six-month deal, and he thinks the former Manchester United starlet deserves more credit for the decision to take the less conventional route back to the top by joining a side with a stadium capacity of less than 9,000.
The Leicester-born manager's career has some similarities with Morrison's; both felt they needed to head abroad to progress in their career. Burchnall left England to become Brian Deane's assistant at Sarpsborg 08 before doing the same role at Viking, while Morrison has spent time in Italy with Lazio and Mexico playing for Atlas.
"He hasn't got the credit he deserves for signing for one of the top clubs in Europe in Lazio and then he went to Mexico and did fantastic there - and it is no joke to go to Mexico and perform.
"Not many people have spoken about it but he has done fantastic in Mexico, now he just needs to get fit and playing again as he's had a period of not playing at Lazio.
"He's come in here and been humble, gone straight in as part of the group, trained hard and I think the way we play football, combined with there being English people here makes it a comfortable one to come in."
Burchnall's staff is made up of Englishmen including assistant Shaun Constable and goalkeeping coach David Preece, which helped attract Morrison to Ostersunds rather than head back to his homeland.
Additionally, Morrison is far from the only Englishman in the squad; there are five of his compatriots in the playing squad, too, which aided the early settling in process.
"We're a club that's quite open, we saw he wasn't playing in his respective team. If he went to a team in the Championship club in January, he hadn't played football for a long while and maybe that wasn't the best thing for him to do.
"If he hasn't played for eight months, the best thing is to no go into a game at a high level, it's better to build yourself and rediscover where you want to be at.
"I read on social media and people write comments about him, it's actually a very mature decision to go to the top league in Sweden to enjoy playing football, get back on the pitch and build yourself up; kudos to the club to attract a player like Ravel and a mature statement about where he's at."
Burchnall spent five years as an assistant in Norway before being appointed Viking manager in 2017, aged 33. Despite the fact he failed to keep them in the top flight, he earned kudos for steering the team in a difficult period but it was a valuable one for the Englishman.
"We lost so many staff and players, then the manager eventually left. I was assistant at the time, I was 33, they asked me to take over one of the biggest clubs in Norway and Scandinavia - Roy Hodgson managed there, Uwe Rosler was there before me.
"Most people in Norway said to me 'if they offer you that, you should never turn it down as it's a massive job' but I also kind of knew, as I'd been told by a few people, that this was going to be a brutal task because the club were cutting everything apart and getting rid.
"I look back now and think it's a massively powerful learning experience to be in that situation at such a young age to deal with that pressure but at the time it wasn't that much fun and I really learned a lot about myself management, leadership and coaching during that time. It wasn't the perfect scenario to take over but it was a really good learning experience.
Over in Ostersunds they took note of Burchnall's success in Norway and when Potter decided to join Swansea, they knew who their first choice was. There were few concerns for Burchnall, whose only slight fear was replacing a club legend.
The curious career of Ravel Morrison
Ravel Morrison's chequered career has taken another turn. How did he go from being tipped for the top to ending up at Ostersunds FK?
"It couldn't have been a better fit of club for me. When I left Viking, I had a few offers in Norway straight away but I was quite conscious, having been through that, I was quite aware of the environment I needed myself, what was important to me. I said no to a few things, came back to the UK for some time to talk to different people about possibilities.
"Graham then left for Swansea and then I got the phone call and they'd done their research on me, so I was really happy with that and they understood a lot about me and how I wanted to play, which was similar to Graham, and they wanted that continuity.
"The only reservation was that the club had had such an unbelievable fairy tale and you were following a guy, in Graham, who is forever going to be a god in the town.
"There's always that worry it's like following Sir Alex (Ferguson) at Man Utd, it's that kind of feeling, but at the same time I saw that the club had good players and infrastructure and were stable and that's what I had missed in the last club.
"It's not easy to follow Graham but the club is in the good place and I've never had a better opportunity to enjoy success, really."
Ostersunds became infamous for their off-field methods, including live performances of Swan Lake and singing in front of locals, something championed by the chairman Daniel Kindberg, and Burchnall has been more than happy to carry on the traditions, as he led them to sixth in the league.
"I think the players were wondering where things were going to go after Graham left, he had been there seven years and that's all the players knew, so it was good that when we came in that we won a lot of games and had a quick impact on the team because it helps get the players onboard.
"Graham threw himself in on Swan Lake - I've seen some of the stuff he did and it was fantastic - but it's also part of the club's DNA, it was as much of a brainchild of the chairman as anyone else and he's very ambitious and leftfield about how things should be done.
"In the cultural academy I was singing and dancing on stage in November and doing all sorts of crazy things in front of big crowds because it's part of the club's identity so one of the things that I've done is come in and respected the culture and history here, embraced it, and used it to continue the club's success."
Heading into his first full campaign in charge Burchnall knows that further success for the team will result in star players leaving, as the Swedish league is seen as a stepping stone in European football, with Ken Sema and Saman Ghoddos heading to England and France in recent years.
If Morrison does show his ability at Ostersunds then his manager will be as pleased as anyone to help him back to where he belongs, as knows it's part of the job managing in Sweden and if his players shine, then he and the team will be doing something right.
"In Sweden you understand if you're having massive success by the summer you expect to lose a lot of players because there are a lot of bigger leagues out there who come in to buy them. We want to improve on last season, improve the way we play and to focus on each game in isolation. If we get the process right we can achieve something by the end of the year."