Posted in Manager Profile

Tell me if I’m wrong

Of course the Pro League is basically over. Well it is. Other than the playoff just call it. But this is mainly about one thing this time and that is Sa Pinto at Standard. He went from laughing stock to laughing loudest. One massive ball of unpredictability, energy, enthusiasm and passion. I thought it and you probably thought he’d get sacked during the winter break. His touchline antics were theatrical and unnecessary, yet I couldn’t dislike him. Almost a pantomime villain to others and even though I didn’t like that side to him, I felt he wasn’t showing the discipline to do well at a club like Standard. Something clicked and Les Rouches did amazingly well in 2018.

It’s weird how Portuguese managers are THE best in the world tactically. Mourinho, Jardim, Villas Boas (was) and they won the Euros through tactics rather than quality, and with Ronaldo cheer leading. However, those three are students of the game and Sa Pinto played, maybe looking at coaching from a different angle to the previously mentioned. I think the good thing he did was coached, but then again, didn’t coach if that makes sense. I mean you can’t coach Carcela because he is a top player. Quality is just within them. Same for Edmilson and Mpoku. But you’d think he may have helped Emond who is a striker. It helps when you have a beast in Luyindama at the back and Ochoa. There is a superb crop of quality players in that team. Players who could get into any team in Belgium. Surely it’d be harder to not succeed, which was nearly the case.

After only gaining 26 points in the first half of the season, it could’ve been calamitous. But then collecting 39 points, including the playoffs, that’s an unbelievable feat. Add to that a Croky Cup win and second in the league. His either left whilst his stock is high to get another job, or because these Michel Preud’homme rumours were hurting. It’s almost turned out so well for the Portuguese. I was thinking earlier today about why hasn’t Preud’homme moved on elsewhere? I’ve asked a few times for why Belgian managers don’t crack on elsewhere in the bigger leagues, and Preud’homme is a big name in goal and in the dugout. Why hasn’t he gone onto other things, despite the Rangers/Bordeaux/Saudi Arabia rumours? Why leave the now best team in Belgium, have a sabbatical and then join the second best team (positionally)?

When all said and done, you will know more than I. Management is almost a freelance job. The more successful you are, the more work you’ll get. If you’re lucky you’ll get plenty of offers, and if not you’ll have to rebuild your reputation. Standard turned out to be a rocky relationship, to a match made in heaven going by results. Good luck Ricardo. No doubt you’d be flinging yourself to the floor in Turkey or Greece or wherever you’ll end up.

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Posted in Manager Profile, Matches in Brief

Unlucky No. 13

Last night there was a match where I was feeling a lot of pain if I’m honest. I felt like John Coffey in The Green Mile when Eduard Delacroix was getting executed, rocking on a bed in agony. Unfortunately I didn’t have Mr Jingles to look after and then scurry away as light bulbs burst around me!

Too much?

Anyway, it was heartless and professional from Zulte Waregem. Francky Dury said he wanted the job done last night and that’s what he did. He masterfully carried out two jobs. The demolition of Beveren and the sacking of Sven Vermant. To be 5-0 up at halftime was a signal of their intentions. I said to someone on Twitter, couldn’t Essevee have taken it easy? Reminded me of Germany vs Brazil in the 2014 World Cup semis where they took their foot off the gas. Zulte just didn’t and it was nearly even 9-0!

The feeling I have regarding Waasland-Beveren is that the players loved and admired Phillipe Clement so much, that Vermant seemed like a rebound to a girlfriend you loved so much, but you couldn’t help but adore the woman who left you. Boljevic and Ampomah both said they’d run through walls for Clement. I’m not questioning their professionalism at all, honestly, but when I tweeted that I though Vermant would get sacked this morning, a Beveren fan suggested that the players wanted that.

I just feel so bad for WBE fans that I haven’t given enough credit to Zulte Waregem who have done the double over Kortrijk, won seven out of eight, scored 28 goals and could now have the Taureau d’Or. They have been a class above defensively and in attack. It all goes down to recruitment and Harbaoui has been outstanding. Whoever they face in both finals to get into Europe will be difficult for the opposition. They’re incredibly confident and Dury can even have the benefit of resting players too if he really wants. Everyone accuses me of being a Kortrijk fan, when I’m simply an Arsenal fan who loves Belgian football, so for all of those who say that, you can’t say I’m not purring over how good Essevee have been.

I wonder what’s next for Beveren though? Is there a manager they could hire now or just wait? Could a Yannick Ferrera come in or is there another youth coach somewhere who’d get another chance? The club is in disarray with the quality who have left or are going, and they need to keep as many quality players as they can, whilst scouring places for hidden gems again or getting quality loan signings too.

A tale of two playoff campaigns here…

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…