Posted in Manager Profile

All the fun of the Fair

When you go to the funfair, there’s this big ride with horses and carriages, lights and music where children and adults absolutely love it! On there now and again, there’ll be a manager taking a leap onto it as it’s spinning, because sometimes there’s no room once you come off. That’s been proved this season as the 11th managerial change happened yesterday in the Jupiler Pro League, the second change at the AFAS!

Aleksandar Jankovic was given his marching orders to be immediately replaced by Dennis Van Wijk. Yes, that Van Wijk who has had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus. Managing most recently in the second tier, he has been given the opportunity to be the saviour of Mechelen in what could be, well it is, a season to forget. The question I can ask now is why sack Yannick Ferrera? There was a mini revival initially, but what if the young manager were given time? Instead De Kakkers are in a situation where they have a manager who has had 19 jobs in 24 years of management. Don’t know if that says more about Van Wijk or the clubs?

The last change was Vermant coming in at Beveren, which has looked promising so far, and before that it was Clement to Genk. That got me thinking. Why haven’t Mechelen thought a bit more outside of the box? Fans may say this isn’t a time to experiment, but Beveren looked to have had success now and before. People in England say managers get recycled like Hughes, Alladyce, Moyes, Pulis and Pardew. The same can be said for Belgium. Some of the managers have been around the block more than once, successfully or otherwise, like De Boeck, Maes, Bölöni and Rednic.

Three of those mentioned have taken their seats at their respective clubs at the start or during this season. Some managers have been sacked hastily in Kristinsson, Márquez, Condom and Weiler in my opinion, and some have deserved it like Anastasiou, Vanderhaeghe, Vanhaezebrouck and the aforementioned Ferrera at the point he was relieved of his duties. The thing is there’s only one relegation place and every league place isn’t exactly a million euros loss in money.

I don’t know anymore. I’m only 28 so sackings have always been inevitable in my lifetime. But 11 in a season of changes is remarkable. I’m still waiting for Sa Pinto to get tinned…there’s still time.

The full list it:

Sint-Truiden – Tintín Márquez.

Lokeren – Runar Kristinsson

Anderlecht – Rene Weiler

Oostende – Yves Vanderhaeghe

Gent – Hein Vanhaezebrouck

Mechelen – Yannick Ferrera

Eupen – Jordi Condom

Kortrijk – Yannis Anastasiou

Genk – Albert Stuivenberg

Beveren – Phillipe Clement

Mechelen – Aleksandar Jankovic

Posted in Manager Profile

What if Preud’homme…

Joins Bordeaux? As of the point I have written this, even though it seems to be common knowledge, there hasn’t been an announcement as of yet. What a great move for the former goalkeeper though of, and most likely, when it happens. Is this potentially a big step for Belgian managers going into bigger leagues? Rumours were being said last week and when I contacted a European football expert about the possibility, he simply said it’d be interesting, which is true. In football, Michel Preud’homme has achieved a hell of a lot on the pitch and in the dugout.

In case a Bordeaux fan stumbles across this, he has won 3 Belgian League titles as a player, 2 Belgian cups, a Cup Winners Cup with Mechelen and the Portuguese League Cup with Benfica. Has also won silverware with every club he has been with and numerous individual awards as a player and manager! He has fantastic criteria to do well outside of his native land, Holland and Saudi Arabia and make the step up to a tougher, bigger league in my opinion.

This season he has been linked with Glasgow Rangers, which is not only a huge club, but would surely make Scotland a two team league again. He was also linked with the Saudi Arabia national team job as well going into a World Cup, which would’ve been huge! But by biding his time, he may well have landed a big job in one of the top tier European leagues!

Currently, Bordeaux are out of all Cup competitions, 13th in the league and four points off the relegation zone. The dream for Preud’homme would be a decent finish this season, keeping Malcom and getting into Europe next year, maybe a cup? Not much then! But what it can also show is that managers from the Pro League aren’t just good enough for second rate leagues!

Doing some minor research, managers in Belgium either stay in Belgium, move to Holland, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey…WHEREVER! But some of these managers are decent. Some managers in Spain who are below average can’t speak English yet Pepe Mel got a job at West Brom. Why? I don’t know. Okay, that’s one example, but you must see where I’m coming from. René Weiler may be doing what Preud’homme did and just waiting, but he has been successful yet is still unemployed. If Ivan Leko does as well as he has done, at only 39, will he land a better job eventually or just go to Getafe or to Malaga where he knows? Step up in league but not in stature of club in my opinion.

I really hope some of the current managers, if they want to of course, do get a chance abroad eventually, and not just a summer at the African Cup of Nations or something. To see a great path being built in front of them instead of closing a gate in their face, condemning them to average leagues, below the Pro League. I’d love Preud’homme to get the job, if he does get it of course, to hopefully push more leagues to look at Pro League managers instead of some fancy Italian or Spanish name. The Premier League has already proven Dutch managers can’t do it right now, ask Koeman, De Boer and to an extent, Van Gaal, who all got sacked and others after them progressed those clubs. Why can’t Belgian managers take over? Their players are all the rage in England.

Posted in Manager Profile

Genk get their Man

Yesterday there was some huge news coming out of the Luminus Arena. They have hired a new manager as the merry go round continues. You can’t help but have sympathy for Waasland-Beveren in this process.

This season so far, they have lost Zinho Gano and now Phillipe Clement. The club have had a great start and a lot of it is all down to the man who has started his managerial career superbly. I’m not shocked that he has moved on, but I am shocked that it’s this soon. My words just feel slightly scrambled as I put my points across because I do feel sympathy for Beveren.

Even though one point separates the two clubs, Beveren have been impressive with some good results along the way. He is building a side where I just feel could be disbanded this January, if not in the summer. Quality players such as Nana Opoku Ampomah, Aleksandar Boljevic and Ryota Morioka may soon be on their way sooner rather than later unless the new manager gets them onside and quickly.

Genk have some top players of their own, and Clement will be used to that from his coaching days at Club Brugge. But getting a consistent tune out of them will be a key factor. Wins against Club Brugge, Anderlecht and Antwerp mixed in with 2 draws against Eupen, a loss to Mechelen and poor results against Lokeren and Kortrijk. They’re Jekyll and Hyde and I’ve said that for a while. Obviously that’s partly down to Albert Stuivenberg, but the players need to look at themselves too. They’re men and have pride and need to perform, and Clement won’t take less than 100%!

The positive for De Smurfen is that they’ve pounced and got their man. As I’ve said, they’re one point off of Beveren and four points from rivals Sint-Truiden. The way the fixtures run as well, Genk have a decent second half to the campaign in the regular season. The really could make a late run for the championship playoffs, but one step at a time there’ll be progression, and hopefully long term for Phillipe.

Beveren have to go back to the drawing board and consolidate their position and hopefully, through teamwork and good ethics, they’ll continue and maintain their place.

Posted in Manager Profile

Another One Bites the Dust

This week has not just seen one manager leave their post, but 2 in the Belgian Pro League. Monday saw Jordi Condom leave Eupen with Claude Makelele filling the gap immediately. And now we say farewell to Yannis Anastasiou at Kortrijk, with Glen de Boeck slotting in at the Guldensporen Stadion. An atrocious run of formal has seen the Greek manager go and I did say at the weekend that his days were surely numbered.

The club haven’t won in the league since the 12th of August away at Eupen and whenever I’ve seen them, they haven’t played terribly, but the reliance on Thomas Kaminski is a bit too much. The goalkeeper has probably kept him in a job for a bit longer, especially claiming pretty decent draws at home against Gent and Genk, but wins are what are needed and their early season formation seems a long time ago.

I said recently they’re missing the Stojanovic-Lepoint combination in attack and maybe that’s been proved right. Teddy Chevalier has dipped goalscoring wise and without a regular goalscorer like Idriss Saadi like last season, when the going gets tough, it’s difficult for the team to pull themselves out. Kortrijk do seem to be a streaky team who go on runs like this, but come good eventually. Falling to 15th in the table as well, Vincent Tan had probably seen enough and felt justified to see the back of Anastasiou with this international break.

In comes a familiar name in Glen de Boeck take his place. With his last job being at Mouscron, he has a…erm…reasonable managerial CV, managing in Belgium, Holland and the business world. It’s a baptism of fire for the Belgian however. The run of forms till just after Christmas is very tough with matches away to Anderlecht, Gent and Genk, and home matches against STVV, Beveren and Mechelen (with 3 of those teams being former employers of de Boeck). The good thing is that de Boeck was a good defender, so defensively they should be sound, you’d think anyway, but it’s in attack where they need to get their finger out and really start banging goals in! 

The thing is, this is the 9th sacking of the season out of 16 clubs even though only 8 clubs have installed new managers. Let’s just say from August, rather than July (when the season started) there have been 3 and a half months. Nine changes in that amount of time is unbelievable. How is that even possible? The only one who was given a chance was Jordi Condom in my opinion, but even I felt that was inevitable. I won’t reel off the list, but if we look at this, a manager is replaced every 11.5 days in the Pro League this season. Incredible. It’s as if every 2 match days a manager is relieved of his duties. 

I hope Glen de Boeck does do well, as all managers because it can be the most rewarding when things go well…and badly I suppose, if there is a pay out. But with the ruthlessness and stress, why not take the packet of money offered when you are sacked? Nobody is safe right now by the looks of it and literally take the job one day at a time. 
Pictures courtesy of Getty Images 

Posted in Manager Profile

Manager Profile: Claude Makelele 

In England, as this news was slightly older, Slaven Bilic was being sacked at West Ham United, There was unfortunately another sacking but in Belgium. Spaniard Jordi Condom was given his marching orders by the Eupen board after an heroic draw away at Sint Truiden. I felt it were coming for a long time, even as early as the second or third match, but the signing of Mbaye Leye helped with experience and the odd match winning performances. The problem that has always hindered the Pandas is that they just can’t keep a clean sheet. You shouldn’t have to score 4 away just for a point at the second placed club in the league!

Taking the small club on the German border to a semi final and survival was a success. Having an influx of youth players season in season out can’t always help either. But alas… Senor Condom’s time is up. And in his place is a huge name. A Ligue 1, La Liga, Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League winner in his time, Claude Makelele, yes, Claude Makelele has pitched up at the Kehrweg Stadium.

However, with a glittering playing CV, he has a rather modest coaching career. Assistant at Paris Saint German and recently, Swansea City, he has only been the head coach of one previous club at Bastia on the beautiful island of Corsica. But, his stint was short lived as they felt he had an inability to make an impact (not my words, honest) and was swiftly let go. What’s funny though is that he has done a bit of a Paul Clement in that he has been assistant at clubs he has been at, and now has spread his wings once this opportunity has arisen.

Obviously fluent in French, Spanish and English, he will do well language wise because when I was there, they spoke French, even though the club seemed to primarily speak German going by Twitter, Facebook and their website, but I feel this appointment is actually quite smart. Born in Africa with a lot of young Africans talent coming from Aspire, he is a superb role model. They may feel that if he rates you individually, they will instill confidence in you. Also, this could be a project of sorts for Makelele. A team bottom of the table with just one way to go, he has nothing to lose. 

As a defensive player in his time, he may aid with tightening up their defence too. A team shipping so many goals averagely week in, week out. I’ve lost my trail of thought… Erm… Anyway, a huge name coming to Belgium can only be helpful and what an acquisition from Eupen in general. This must’ve been lined up as he has just slotted straight in, and with an international break, this can only help too with getting points across and training methods. Good luck Claude, but especially good luck to Jordi! 

Posted in Manager Profile

Vanderhaeghe in at Gent

For somebody who does a Belgian football blog, I feel I let myself down without putting two and two together. Yesterday was Anderlecht informing the world who their new manager was. Today was the turn of KAA Gent. Where I feel I’ve let myself down is that why didn’t I think Vanderhaeghe would go to the Ghelamco Arena?

The former Oostende manager has briefly been out of work and has now been rewarded with one of Belgium’s top clubs. If anything, it is reward for how well did last season at Oostende in my opinion. They aren’t at the level of the others who finished above them last season, as well Genk and Standard I believe, and he took them to a cup final and 4th place. 

Many rumours were bounded around yesterday regarding Yves’ future. He’ll be assistant at Anderlecht. His waiting for the Kortrijk or Standard Liege job. He is now a manager so assistant would’ve been well out of the question. The other options look tenable but could never happen. I’ve always said that there’s a managerial merry go round and that once you’re off you may never get on. Look at Nigel Pearson now at OH Leuven. Nothing was materialising in England but through his connections, he went elsewhere abroad. 

As much as its a rough ride, it’s the most coveted and maybe important jobs in the most watched sport in the world. There’s computer games dedicated to it, so to get that job is a privilege and a top one is unbelievable. I know I’m going on a bit now. Actually sounds like I’m having a bit of a go. I’m honestly not. I’m happy that a good coach has a good job and that only Oostende is left. It’s now a 21 game season for Gent in this marathon to get themselves in place for the sprint…and now, they looking to get on the inside lane.

Posted in Manager Profile

Hein Vanhaezebrouck at Anderlecht

Well, minding my own business and up pops some information that hasn’t shocked anyone. Hein Vanhaezebrouck is, apparently, being unveiled as the new manager of Anderlecht at 4pm today (European or English time I’m unsure. More likely in CET). I feel sorry for Gent as the minute he left he has been flaunted about as basically the next manager of Les Mauves for the rest of this league and Champions League campaign.

The heavy manager is also a good manager. Let’s not forget that. The best players move from good clubs to great clubs. Why can’t managers? Even if that manager is from a potential rival for honours. Off the top of my head, unless I’m wrong, in Europe the only manager I can think recently who has moved to a rival is Jorge Jesus who went from Benfica to Sporting Lisbon in Portugal. But the other thing about that switch was that he moved at his peak.

Vanhaezebrouck has underachieved this season with Gent. Maybe a fresh start is what he needed, but if René Weiler wins a league and then gets sacked in September, who says a poor start to next season won’t see the big manager on his way too? Obviously Anderlecht are sure they’ve made the right decision, and Frutos either didn’t want the job yet, even though there has been an upturn in form domestically. I guess what will please everyone right now is a continuation of that form, and maybe a point in Europe?

He is a proven winner too. He knows the league and has a philosophy, plus an eye for the odd player, even though he has what I felt, the best squad in the league before a ball was kicked. Up first for HVH is an away trip to Mechelen. For me, a nice opener. Even though Mechelen clawed back a fantastic draw for the jaws of defeat on Saturday, and did beat Anderlecht at home last season, I just feel new imputus, a fresh look and recent winning form for the champions may see a win regardless this Friday night.

But going back to the first paragraph. Not that the fans from Brussels will care, but just imagine losing your girlfriend publicly and then she’s being touted all around town that she may have even been talking to somebody you hate behind your back, to then see that in fact she’s going to be starting a new relationship sooner rather than later…with him!?! Obviously football has its own little world and many…ok, the odd one who may read this, will say I’m being a bit drastic? A bit over the top? Regardless, it not entire classless, but maybe could’ve been dealt with a bit better. Without contradicting myself, you can’t blame Anderlecht or Vanhaezebrouck because they’re only looking out for themselves, and that’s all you can do in football, but maybe being more private would’ve been better in my opinion.

At the end of the day, Gent are still managerless, even though they performed extremely well away at Club Brugge, and Anderlecht may feel a poor start could be converted into a brilliant finish. But starting with Friday, we’ll see how the early signs will show if that’s true…

Posted in Manager Profile

Manager Profile: Hein Vanhaezebrouck

The news that broke earlier upsetter me more than probably the fans of Gent. Hein Vanhaezebrouck has lost his job with De Buffalos. Another top top job in Belgium up for grabs much like at Oostende and of course Anderlecht. The reason I am upset is mainly due to the fact I can now spell his name before triple checking I actually spelt it correctly.

I wrote a piece very early into the season at my concern at the direction the club were heading. Could’ve been bad preparation, considering, in my opinion, the dismal start to the league season and their exit from the Europa League before it properly started. Could it have been poor recruitment? Not sure. Players did leave and those who have stayed just haven’t performed. There are players within this crop who can get into every team in Belgium and potentially, bigger clubs abroad, but individually they have let the manager down.

Of course HVH isn’t blameless, and I’m culpable to blaming a manager, but not initially. I usually give the manager time before pointing fingers. The reason I suggested his sacking is because of you’re going to let your manager go at Anderlecht and Oostende, then every manager at an underperforming club has a target on their back. The manor of certain defeats certainly haven’t helped (Mouscron away).

Vanhaezebrouck has been fantastic over his time at the club and last season going into the play offs, I felt that Gent would overtake Club Brugge going into the Champions League qualification places, but with that momentum, it just never carried over into this term. But moving from Gent, if we go down the table, the amount of fresh faces at clubs, rather than faces to the league, has surprised me. Not so much at the leaving or sacking of managers, but just the numbers. Ten managers have left or lost their job since last season and a couple have happened at the same club.

In England, people ask why would anyone go into management when media is an option? It’s a short lifespan and if you don’t get back onto the Merry-go-round, you may never find another ride as some clubs, leagues and countries have a revolving door. I’m still saving space for Mechelen and Eupen, but until then, Hein Vanhaezebrouck is the focus.

Good luck…

Posted in Manager Profile

Manager Profile: Nigel Pearson

A familiar name to English fans, Nigel Pearson is the new Leuven manager in Belgium’s second tier. The 54 year old takes the short leap east across the English Channel/North Sea to take charge of the coincidentally owned King Power club. The Leicester City connection is strong after his dismissal from the club, the year after the great escape, and the season at the beginning of their title winning campaign.

I honestly believe he is a good manager, regardless of his stint at Derby County which wasn’t the best. He can round up a group of players and succeed as well as get a club out of the division below, into the top tier. It’s one of those hirings where I’m slightly shocked OHL have dismissed Dennis van Wijk because I felt the club weren’t doing too badly, but then again, I’m not surprised between the link of the ownership and new management.

Pearson will come in and have people on the playing staff where English is their first language, which will help him to begin with, and depending on the length of his stay and how commited he is, then we’ll see the progression of the club. As I’ve said, regardless on how fair or unfair the initial sacking was, Pearson is a very good replacement. He is a manager who expects 100% in effort and I feel the players will be too scared to give anything less.

The only problem, potentially, is the baggage that comes with him. Whether it’s holding a player down in his dugout by the throat, to calling journalists ostriches, to even having his son…well I won’t go into the Thailand fiasco without getting all the details wrong, even though most of Twitter saw what actually happened.

I’ll end by being honest, as this is a short post from me, but with this hiring, I do think OHL may well get promoted now. My opinion on manager hirings in Belgium hasn’t always been on point, but I do feel he won’t only succeed this season, but even do well the next with the backing of the board, the quality on the pitch and the quality in the dugout too!

All pictures courtesy of Getty Images

Posted in Back in Time, Manager Profile

Back in Time: Bill Gormlie

I’ve decided to blog random bits of history, whether it be about the Belgian Pro League, the second tier, European competition or The Belgian Cup (Beker van Belgie). The reason I’ve thought up this segment is not only to educate myself about the past, but to anyone who reads this, if anyone actually does, and to see that Belgian football isn’t about 1 or 2 teams, or the odd great player produced quite regularly actually, and that teams in the past competed and that the impossible is sometimes possible.

After this week in the Belgian top flight, I thought I’d look at the longest serving manager in Anderlecht history. I’m guessing his the longest serving as he has managed the most amount of matches, along with the fact he has won the most league titles for the club. Bill Gormlie was a remarkable coach in that he did what most Englishmen won’t do. He went abroad!

Born in 1911 in Liverpool, he went on to play as a goalkeeper for Blackburn Rovers and Northampton Town. But he really excelled as a manager. He originally became manager of the Belgian National team in 1947 around the age of 37 which would never happen now if you think of it. His first match was a derby against the Dutch. The problem at the time is the Belgian FA didn’t want to participate in the 1950 World Cup, so no qualifiers were played.

Because of that, maybe that was the reason he split his role with the national side, as he took charge of Anderlecht in 1950! He quit the role of Belgium manager in 1953, leaving them in a good position at the time as they’d defeated Finland and Sweden, helping them towards the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland. But as I were saying, he took charge of Anderlecht until 1959.

In those years he won 5 titles, winning one in his first season, following on the good work of Irishman Ernest Churchill Smith. In that first season however, Les Mauves won the league on goal difference and only winning 13 matches out of 30! Remarkable. It then took 3 seasons til his next title, but after the 1953/54 season, Anderlecht were ruthless. 

In that season, they scraped the league by a single point, but then the next, not only did they win the league by 3 points, they also managed qualification for the European Cup. They repeated the feat the next season before he won his last league title in his last season as manager in 1958/59. Five league titles in 9 full seasons is fantastic. 

Unfortunately for Gormlie, he couldn’t take his league form into Europe. Okay we know Real Madrid ran Europe then…much like they do now. Anyway, the inaugural European Cup saw Anderlecht lose 10-4 to Vörös Kobogó (I know) and were out immediately. The next season was no better after the Belgians were, frankly, demolished by Manchester United 12-0 on aggregate, the second leg being 10-0! The season after Bill Gormlie was let go, Anderlecht still disappointed on the European stage as the went out to Glasgow Rangers in the first stage again.

Bill Gormlie laid the foundations, and carried on good work from those before him too to be fair, for Anderlecht’s domination to this day. He helped in their history to shape the club in some way. He did do ground-breaking stuff, such as beating Arsenal in 1954 at Highbury, the first foreign side to achieve this. He was credited in finding Paul Van Himst, one of Belgian football’s greatest players. To only manage in Europe and succeed doesn’t happen often, especially for Englishmen, so this is one story which many won’t know, and maybe should know.