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New Grampus boss looks for Tamada boost

2 Mar 2006(Thu)

February 28, 2006: For a club that kicked off the J.League in 1993 with one of England's most famous players (Gary Lineker), and was later under the command of one of the modern game's great coaches (Arsene Wenger), Nagoya Grampus Eight have become the forgotten team of J1.

Despite the generous backing of Toyota, Grampus have been left behind by clubs with much smaller financial resources, playing squads and fan bases.

All in all, then, Grampus finished 2005 in a pretty sorry state, in a humiliating 14th position and with Nelsinho, the Brazilian coach hired to take them to the top, long since gone.

Enter Sef Vergoossen, a Dutchman charged with pointing Grampus in the right direction.

I had a good chat with the man with the rather extravagant moustache during the J.League's annual "meet the managers" function in Tokyo last Friday.

Not surprisingly, Vergoossen was in upbeat mood ahead of the new season, and said his players were very motivated. Too motivated, in fact, and this had resulted in some preseason injuries.

The old war horse Yutaka Akita, the evergreen Toshiya Fujita and the new Slovakian import, Marek Spilar, from Club Brugge in Belgium, were among the casualties, but Vergoossen said he had total faith in his medical staff. Clearly he knows them well already.

The subject quickly turned to "Tamada Keiji, Tamada Keiji, Tamada Keiji woh-oh-oh!" (sorry about that readers; I thought I was at Hitachi Stadium for a moment!). Tamada, of course, joined Grampus from relegated Reysol for around 300 million yen -- well, that's the transfer fee I was told by someone close to the deal.

I liked Tamada a lot two or three years ago, but my opinion has changed. In my eyes, and maybe in Zico's too, he has to prove himself again at Nagoya, when he's fully fit, of course.

I want to see a hungry and energetic Tamada, running into the channels, taking on defenders and scoring goals with that lovely left foot. His slump in form and confidence seemed to be reflected in the whole Reysol team, but Tamada -- and Kashiwa -- can now start again in rather different places.

"We have to be careful with him," Vergoossen said of Tamada. "He can be important, and I have to give him the time to come back to his normal level.

"I heard that last season was not his best, but before he was a very good striker with high quality and soon he will be good again."

Grampus are an important club to the J.League, one of the 10 founder members. The J.League needs a strong Grampus, so hopefully Vergoossen, with a fresh approach and optimism, can turn them around.

And the Grampus fans can always look forward to singing the made-in-Kashiwa "Tamada Keiji" anthem...surely one of the best in the J.League!


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