Posted in Manager Profile

Manager Profile: Yannis Anastasiou

I have procrastinated for long enough. Amongst all the ins and outs in the Pro League this pre season,and already this season too within the dugout, I’ve missed the hiring of Yannis Anastasiou at Kortrijk. Laziness, lack of coverage and, well, a number of things really. A lot more sacking were broadcast a hell of a lot louder than the news of former Roda JC manager in at Guldensporenstadion. With the start Kortrijk have had as well, the Greek manager deserves a bit of spotlight, even if it is after 3 matches.

Going back through the archives, the one time Anderlecht striker was appointed on the 20th of May. I was in Belgium and Germany the day before so as my excuse, I’ll take some sort of readjusting to the time difference and my familiar surroundings as my way of not knowing anything… or that I’m useless, you’ll decide (most likely the latter). A summer of multiple signings, which I’m sure isn’t over in regards to more acquisitions and outgoings, the team have been impressive this far, with 2 wins out of 3 and a loss away to unbeaten Charleroi by a David Pollet penalty is the only blotch.

Being shrewd in this window, the Greek manager has brought in players from the Pro League, nations around Russia, namely Ukraine, who have had successful players within Belgium, and areas he will know about around Greece such as Gary Kagelmacher from Maccabi Haifa and Abdul Jeleel Ajagun from Panathanaikos. One major success so far is Christophe Lepoint who has directly had a hand in Kortrijk’s last 3 goals!

On the other hand De Kerels have lost Idriss Saadi, Joãozinho, Andriy Totovitskiy and Nebosja Pavlovic. Key players who would all aid the team, some more than others, in keeping Kotrijk competitive last season. For me, they were very inconsistent and everyone will know that of course. They had 2 halves to the season, with the first half really being their saviour. Twenty four points gained before Christmas helped with survival really, seeing as in the regular season, they only gained 7 points in the second half (2017), one point more than they’ve already gained so far this season.

Without being too negative, Yannis Anastasiou will hopefully get a full season, and the way Kortrijk are going, the only way he won’t be at the club is through being poached? With a wealth of experience, playing and coaching, he could go anywhere IF he continues, although credit has to go to the playing staff too, but with his playing CV including Anderlecht and Ajax. And with a managerial CV including Panathanaikos, he can deal with pressure well and perform. With Roda JC seemingly being a one off right now, for Kortrijk, he’ll aim to get them firing in a continuous manner.

(All pictures courtesy of Getty Images)

Posted in Manager Profile

Something Stinks

The Pro League so far hasn’t disappointed on its return this season. You have top teams struggling like Oostende, Genk and Gent who are trying to get into the swing of things. Then you have Antwerp doing very well with Standard Liege (which isn’t much of a shock, but they were 9th last season!) So there is a mix of who is doing ok. But wait a second…there’s only been two matches. Some teams sometimes don’t even look at the league table until the 10th match at most.

But as managers and players have their own ideas on how to deal with performances, chairman and owners have different ideas. Lokeren yesterday sacked their manager Rùnar Kristinsson after just 2 matchdays this season and it has left a bitter taste in my mouth of I’m honest. If you want to feel worried that there have been no goals and 5 conceded, yes that’s fair. But I believe I just mentioned Gent and Oostende who haven’t even picked up a point as well.

The club have invest in players this pre season and I honestly thought the team would kick on. Seeing as they haven’t just yet really shouldn’t matter. I honestly think the players need time to still gel together. To pull the trigger on Kristinsson is a bit of a panic move.

Peter Maes is already in the hot seat. He has been out of work for half a season since his dismissal from Genk last Christmas and it does make you wonder, if Lokeren hadn’t hired Rùnar Kristinsson and Genk had got rid of their man sooner, would he have just gone back then? This is why I feel this stinks. Granted Lokeren had their most successful spell under Mae’s, but I think this was lined up before the Kortrijk match. The board may have thought ‘we’ll give it a couple of days after the defeat and then we’ll announce this’.

It happens all the time. One manager leaves and before you can blink, a new manager is installed. The difference between this and Sint Truiden is that Tintin Marquez left after 2 matches when STVV have performed well, but from what I have now heard, it was down to his poor language skills coming across to the players. Maybe a case of ‘lost in translation’ could be on the cards. And as well as that’s funny in one way, if this is true, it’s totally unprofessional from the group of players.

I’m shocked if this is true because you’d feel Marquez’s language skills in Belgium should be adequate? It’s not his first time coaching in Belgium. But the board have insisted that the vision of the manager and the board weren’t the same. That there was a shortlist of 5 managers they interviewed yet Marquez was best. That this decision is best for the club…the club…the club! Three points out of six isn’t a bad return so far, and maybe the club are pining for Ivan Leko? But if the club decided letting Tintin go after 53 days is a good choice, then it’s clear the club didn’t do their due diligence.

Either way the clubs have either been open and honest of their assessment of what’s happened and I’m being over cynical of this, or, maybe there is something that stinks beyond these dismissals?

Posted in Manager Profile

Manager Profile: Tintin Marquez

It’s finally happened. Sint Truiden have employed a replacement to Ivan Leko! The Spaniard, who is a familiar face in Belgium (mainly to Eupen fans) has signed for De Kanaries for the upcoming season.

Obviously the ins and outs were finalised but why has it taken so long? Known mainly in Spain, he has a job on his hands at the Staaien if I’m honest. With Pieter Gerkens leaving he has a void to fill, along with other areas within the squad! 

From being on such a high after an heroic play off tussle, the club seem deflated. Even their social media expert on Twitter seemed to have given up until 3 hours ago! A big job where consolidation maybe the order of the day in the Pro League? Maybe I’m being too pessimistic but right now, not a lot seems to be going on at the club and standing still in football can be as good as going backwards.

For STVV’s case, I hope I’m wrong, but until late July, we won’t find out….definitely good luck to Tintin Marquez and his backroom staff! 

Posted in Manager Profile

Manager Profile: Ricardo Sa Pinto

So…this week 2 of the biggest clubs in Belgium have settled on who will lead them into next season, and this time around, Standard Liege have appointed Portuguese Ricardo Sa Pinto. 

Courtesy of Getty Images

A familiar face to Les Rouches fans as he ended his career at the Stade Maurice Dufrasne 10 years ago, he’ll most likely be a popular acquisition with his connection to the club. Coming from Atromitos in Greece, Sa Pinto may feel he is taking a big step up in terms of stature of club and league. 

He has bounced around in management, coaching in 4 countries already! So experience is on his side as well as different styles of play, and maybe potential untapped players he has on his radar? But I’m guessing his main task will be maintaining who he already has in Belfodil and Scholz and keeping them onside for at least another season. 

I just think with a good pre season and no European football, Standard could progress if he gets his ideas across, if they’re good of course, and mount a challenge for at least a Europa League place next season. However, Belgium is weird in its own way because you can finish 15th and get a Europa League place, but I feel his targets will be slightly higher than a relegation battle, and the way Liege finished off the play offs, hopefully for them the momentum will carry through into next season. 

Courtesy of Getty Images

Lastly, I think José Jeunechamp deserves credit with how he made the team play in the end and restored some pride back into the jersey.

Posted in Manager Profile

Ivan Leko in at Club Brugge

Well…after Michel Preud’homme’s resignation at the end of the play offs, the hunt was immediately on at Club Brugge for a predecessor to the man who was reasonably successful in his spell at the Jan Breydel Stadion. I spouted at one point there were big rumours of Frank de Boer coming into the hot seat and I was only thinking about that very recently, thinking how exciting it would be and probably would bring a whole lot of popularity to the league with a huge name like him.

But with a month to think about the offer, if there ever was one, either two things happened. Either Brugge got edgy and would rather somebody taking over the team sooner rather than later, or, the more likely, de Boer turned them down. Obviously I’m speculating but my question is ‘Why Leko?’

Last night the news broke of Ivan Leko: Club Brugge manager!

Courtesy of Getty Images

He is more than well known in Belgium now, moving to the country in 2005 to Blauw-Zwart and winning his only real trophy at the club in the Beker van Belgie in 2006-07. Moving onto Beerschot and then finally Lokeren, where he won a second Belgian Cup, he went straight into Leuven as manager.
After a brief spell at PAOK in Greece as an assistant, he came back to his second home in Belgium, but this time at Sint Truiden. And this is where I go ‘huh?’ because no matter how well he did in the play offs, and let’s face it, De Kanaries were very, very good. But in his 30 regular season matches, his side were less than average. Winning less than a third of their matches and losing over half, how is that criteria good enough to be hired on? 

Players may be better at Brugge, granted, but he knows Belgium. He knows the league and was just not that good. Unless his play off performance was sufficient enough to offer him the job at the runners up of Belgium, with a crack at Champions League qualification, I’m unsure. I hope he performs as well as he did in the play offs for the club and leagues sake, but maybe my pessimist view could be echoed and felt by the fans too? 

Courtesy of Getty Images

I feel most sorry for Sint Truiden where, even though I’ve said he wasn’t amazing, he looked as if he may have been building something there which made him deserved of his two year extension there rather than his new two year deal in Brugge. 

Posted in Manager Profile

Manager Profile: René Weiler

The season has ended. Well…not officially. But for one club in Belgium it certainly has, and on a major high too. Anderlecht put a run together that saw them crowned this season’s Belgian Pro League champions, and deservedly so, and one man at the helm of this historic and huge club in the capital is a modest and unassuming manager, René Weiler.

The Swiss took over in the summer, leaving Nürnberg and replacing Besnik Hasi who moved to Legia Warsaw. With Anderlecht not winning the league for a short time, it would probably be considered a drought for a club this successful in recent years, so a plan would have been needed by somebody who spent his entire football career playing in Switzerland. Looking at the summer transfers in and out, some inspired signings were brought in, like Spajic, Hanni and Teodorczyk who not only proved a huge success, but also sured up the spine of the team. He also appointed Tielemans as a club captain as well as Sofiane Hanni which was a good move in itself.

Courtesy of Getty Images

After a reasonable start, remaining unbeaten until late September, when a huge upset where relegated Westerlo beat Les Mauves at the Constant Vanden Stock, his plans were going along nicely, and for his sake, very well until the end of the season. Looking at his results and the club, he looked​ to have made the team more assured, knowing how good Anderlecht were in this division and showing how he trusted his players as squad rotation did come into play. He also proved how much faith he had in his players as he took that into the Europa League and heroically only lost to Manchester United through an extra time winning for the English side.

Averaging just over 2 goals per game in the regular season and the play offs (scoring 82 goals), that’s a fantastic goal return, knowing that his players had the capability to score anywhere if needed. They also conceded just under a goal a game, which isn’t too bad conceding 36 goals all season. One thing is for sure, you were bound for entertainment watching this season’s champions in action, week in, week out.

This was groundbreaking for Weiler too. This was his first title as a player or manager. To win your first trophy is huge, no matter what it is, and to do it at a club which may have felt that they needed new, fresh ideas and to see such a positive turnaround so quickly, not only repaid the faith in the board, but proved them right too.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Winning only breeds winning and I’m sure this club will continue to remain hungry for progression. This also puts the manager into good stead as he can now know what it takes to see out a title win. The only problem for the club is that keeping hold of their players will always be an issue, and if there’s continuous glory, holding onto the gaffer will always be a problem too incase he moves to France, or a bigger Bundesliga side, or even go back home but with Basel this time?

I don’t intend to turn a huge positive into a negative, but the reality is that this league discovers and churns out such names in world football, whether that be on the pitch or on the bench. This won’t happen soon of course, and hopefully for Anderlecht’s sake, he may build something big in Brussels, but in the back of every supporter, journalist and players head, they know that success sees progression, and that means new explorations for everyone involved, unless you just love Belgium or the club you play for.