BK Häcken were the Allsvenskan's surprise package in 2009, ending the season in fifth place to claim their best ever finish. The immediate mission for the Gothenburg club this term will be to avoid the drop, however, as the weight of history looms ominously over them.
Since reaching the Swedish top division for the first time in 1983, Häcken have never managed to survive two seasons without relegation, but coach Peter Gerhardsson is not about to fall prey to footballing superstition. "Well, history and statistics are just that – history and statistics," he told UEFA.com. "It's not necessarily reality."
Though Gerhardsson may not make much of it, his team needed only 180 minutes to make a more pleasant kind of history this year. After two rounds of Allsvenskan matches, the club from the island of Hisingen in suburban Gothenburg topped the table. It was the first time since the club was founded in 1940 that Häcken had ever led the league. "We were up there for three straight rounds," reflected Gerhardsson. "But league positions are of no interest to us. Our only goal is to establish Häcken firmly in the Allsvenskan."
Gerhardsson and his team seem to be well on their way to achieving that goal. After claiming fifth place in Gerhardsson's maiden campaign, Häcken remain among the frontrunners, though they were beaten for the first time this season last week, 3-1 at Malmö FF. For that trip, as always, a group of die-hard, yellow-and-black-clad Häcken fans travelled with them. "There are not that many of them, maybe 30 or 40, but they're extremely loyal," said Gerhardsson, whose side have the smallest fanbase in the division.
Bringing more fans to games is as big a challenge as avoiding relegation, especially in Sweden's second city where IFK Göteborg, Örgryte IS and GAIS Göteborg had established fanbases before Häcken were even formed. However, the club have been as dogged in their pursuit of supporters as they have been in seeking out victories on the pitch; successful marketing tactics so far have included giving away match tickets free through Hisingen pizzerias and erecting multilingual billboards around the island to entice members of Gothenburg's immigrant communities.
"It may not sound like much that 1,700 people came to watch us against Trelleborg, but if you consider that we only had 1,200 for the same fixture last year, you can see that people are taking notice," said Gerhardsson.