Russia’s managerial merry-go-round in full swing

by Domm Norris

Football management is a treacherous, cut throat business. Tenures, more often than not, are cut short as ambition overcomes reality in a manner that leaves many clubs clutching at the prospects of what could have been. With global football swept up within the managerial merry-go-round it comes as little surprise to see a nation as ambitious as Russia caught within the trends of the world. However the past week has proven to be one of the most turbulent of recent memory.

The Russian season remains firmly in its infancy – as calendar changes mean that season will continue for almost 18 months – and yet a flurry of poor results has seen three high profile jobs vacated in an apparent domino effect. However with such a long season currently underway do the recent managerial casualties wreak of short termism – or was their some logic in the madness?

The Chechen city of Grozny is a place that has witnessed significant change since over the past several years as the era of war have gradually been overturned. An increased level of prosperity within the city as a whole has seen its football club look to match such lofty successes and ambitions. The employment of Ruud Gullit during the winter months was seen as a move that could bring Terek Grozny to the forefront of Russian football – competing with Zenit St Petersburg and Moscow’s powerhouses. Such an appointment was met with fanfare throughout Russia – as well as many western media outlets – and it seemed that the profile of a once defunct club could finally be rising from the depths of the periphery.

Gullit’s reign in Grozny lasted all but six months – with a mere three of those involving competitive matches. A woeful start to the season saw the man who once claimed of an ability to produce ‘sexy football’ brought to his knees in a manner that lacked both skill and dignity. The initial appointment of Gullit was in itself questionable due to his frankly awful managerial career thus far – however his presence within Russian football has served to expand its image. Although despite such initial positives Gullit’s spell in Grozny has been a disaster for a club focussed on reaching the top of the Russian Premier League.

Problems were apparent in the early stages of Gullit’s career in Chechnya as he never felt as though he was given sufficient backing by the club’s – and Chechnya’s – President Ramzan Kadyrov when it came to transfer dealings. The club’s lack of genuine talent both defensively and offensively left Gullit with barely a leg to stand on as his team went into the season hoping to meet the expectations of their public. However the Dutchman never got to grips with the task in hand and sent his team out bereft of ideas in a manner that proved to be particularly embarrassing for the both Kadyrov and the Chechen people. The club’s parting shot towards Gullit was particularly damaging as they lamented his party lifestyle which saw him spend more time in his Moscow base as opposed to within the confines of Grozny.

Gullit’s dismissal may well have made the headlines across Europe however the departures of both Omari Tetradze and Vladimir Eshtrekov both somewhat fell upon deaf ears.

Tetradze’s spell with Volga Nizhny Novgorod proved to be one that brought the club a significant level of success – as he brought them up from the First Division last term. It would be easy to expect that the club would do him the service of allowing some time to adapt to the heightened quality and competition of the Premier League – however patience is something that remains desperately rare in Russian football.

Volga’s early season form made them early contenders to become the ‘surprise package’ of the season – with 3 wins out of 4 – however their refreshingly high tempo style of play soon saw them embroiled in a particularly disappointing run of results. 1 win their next 8 fixtures saw the club drop from the summit of the league to the rear as the cost of such a turn of fortune became clearer. Such dwindling form in the wake of a promising start left Tetradze open to the possibilities of being shown the exit door – however while such a situation was possible, it was far from inevitable. So when news broke that the Georgian had indeed left Volga it was met with both shock and disbelief. Volga’s swift action may well cause the club to plummet back down to the depths of the lower leagues.

Vladimir Eshtrekov’s spell with Spartak Nalchik was always going to be an uphill task – even for such a wily, experienced coach. The wondrous work of his predecessor Yuri Krasnozhan – which saw the club finish in sixth place – meant that a season scrapping towards the rear of the table was never going to be looked favourably upon. However Nalchik’s increased expectations have been formed upon nothing other than the miraculous successes of the previous season – where the team had a far superior squad.

The loss of the likes of Vladimir Dyadyun and Viktor Vasin has damaged the team seemingly beyond repair – as replacing such quality does not occur with ease and with limited resources. The poisoned chalice that Eshtrekov sipped from has seen the club rooted to the rear of the table for the majority of the season thus far and such a rot shows few signs of subsiding. Eshtrekov barely had any time at all to make his mark on the club he coached during the late 1980′s and while football may have changed since his first spell some things have remained the same – like providing time for coaches to impact upon a club and its players.

The past week has been an extremely turbulent one and while for some the recent decisions may prove to be the correct course of action – for others such a short term mentality may well cost them dear. However Russian football shows few signs of slowing down as the season roars through the summer months.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply