At the Manager’s Trough

250px-Guus_Hiddink_2012Guus Hiddink is the manager/coach (whatever the term is) of Anzhi Makhachkala, the club from Dagestan. It was founded in 1991 after the fall of the Soveit Union and is owned by a billionaire who’s pumped millions into the club. They are perhaps most famous for paying Samuel Eto’o around $400,000 a week to play for them. They also bought Willian, one of the world’s best young players from Shakhtar Donetsk recently.

Due to the security climate in the Caucasus mountain republic, Anzhi train and play in Moscow and this week it’s the second leg of their tie with Newcastle. The first tie in Moscow was pretty dire and ended 0-0 which was about the right result. The 5,000 crowd was pretty pathetic despite the cold weather.

I’m deliberately writing this before the game so there can be no accusations of any possible sour grapes. I actually think we should win this game and so Hiddink will continue managing on the fringe of Europe, geographically and figuratively. he is after all one of the premier managers in the game and along with Eto’o, one of the games great strikers, I am a little disappointed by his absence from the mainstream.

He may argue its a great challenge to take and mold a new club.  And of course Anzhi should be able to leapfrog to the front like many other clubs in recent times. Manchester City and Chelsea are two very recent examples in England and a decade before Newcastle United saw a huge injection of cash to take them to the top of the league. Its nothing new either. Some of Europe’s greatest clubs have benefitted from the same expenditure.

But more generally clubs grew because they had a fan base behind them. Attendance was a big factor in the budget of the club. The club was the talk of the town and Saturday afternoons were full of apprehension, excitement, joy or sorrow. Anzhi due to obvious factors don’t play at ‘home’ and Hiddink hears distant cries as his team scores. 

toon_2503802bWhile I wish  Anzhi well, hope stability comes to the land and the locals get to see their own club play before them, Hiddink will be sat there last Tuesday in his lavish Moscow apartment watching Barcelona attempt to overturn AC Milan (and Manchester United and Real Madrid battle it out last week) with a sense of lost opportunity.

Hiddink is a respected manager and tactician for the biggest of stages. In reality, he is being paid a fortune to take a job which bizarrely never requires going to Dagestan and involves playing in huge stadiums to sparse crowds. After his exploits with PSV, the Dutch national team, South Korea and Russia, Hiddink is already a wealthy man and at the top of his game. He’s buffing up his pension while the rest of world football is busy looking elsewhere.

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