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Smart move by Sendai

21 Sep 2003(Sun)

When a team has taken only five points from a possible 48, something has to go.

In the case of Vegalta Sendai, the thing to go was manager Hidehiko Shimizu, who was fired at the start of this week.

Sendai began the season well, winning three of their first four games and drawing the other to take 10 points from a possible 12.

But their last league win was on April 19, and since then they have drawn five and lost 11 games.

The sack was inevitable, as Sendai found themselves at the bottom of the table for the two stages combined.

Despite this long sequence of poor results, the fans have stayed loyal to the club and fill Sendai Stadium for every home game. I am sure no one in the J.League wants Sendai to be relegated, as their support would be a big loss to J1.

The club has acted very smartly in two ways over the new manager.

First, Zdenko Verdenik is a good choice.

He did a fantastic job at JEF United Ichihara, and was enticed to Nagoya Grampus Eight, much to the anger of Ichihara officials.

At Nagoya, Verdenik's team promised a lot in the first stage of 2002, but faded in the second stage.

This season, they drew too many games in the first stage, but were still near the top. I still think Grampus fired him too early, as he said at the start of the season that his target was to lay a solid platform in the first stage, which he did, and then challenge for the second stage title.

I am sure Verdenik can tighten up Sendai, but they must score goals to win matches.

The second encouraging move by Sendai was to give the Slovenian coach a contract for two years and four months, taking him through to the end of the 2005 season.

I think this is a big step forward for Japanese football, just like when clubs such as Kashima Antlers put their best players on long-term contracts rather than a one-year renewable deal.

It gives the club continuity and the manager security as he tries to build something over two or three seasons.

Although Verdenik is still in Slovenia waiting for his visa, he will have enough time to save Sendai from relegation.

There are still 10 games left, meaning 30 points at stake, and a change of manager can often produce an instant upturn in fortunes. But Sendai want a long-term improvement, hence the decision to hire Verdenik under such conditions.

ends

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