Zdravo, Zdenko Verdenik!
Zdenko Verdenik was announced on Monday as the new coach of Omiya Ardija. 63 year old Verdenik comes from Slovenia and his most recent position in football was as the sports director of the Slovenian National Football Association. Verdenik comes to Omiya with quite a bit of previous in the J League. Indeed he has been manager of 3 Japanese teams - JEF United Chiba, Nagoya Grampus Eight and Vegalta Sendai. His last involvement with a Japanese team was at current J1 leaders Sendai, back in 2003-2004 when unfortunately the team was relegated from J1 down to J2. It seems that he was the first and only prospective candidate on club President, Shigeru Suzuki's list.
There are some important points to make here. Firstly I know next to nothing about Slovenian football so I find it very hard to judge the work Verdenik has done in his own country. Indeed I have very little data on his managerial record there. Secondly as I come from England, where technical or sports directors are relatively new ideas, and generally treated by fans with suspicion, I cannot judge his most recent position with a deal of fairness. Thirdly, I admit openly that I had never heard of him before his name came up last week as being in the running for the Ardija hot seat. In fact I am wondering whether other Ardija fans knew of him before this appointment and what was their opinion of him. Feel free to let me know. I am looking forward to finding out much more about Verdenik in the next few weeks, especially the general style of football he likes to use, his use of tactics and how he gets to know the team and make use of our squad.
According to Japanese daily newspaper, "Mainichi Shimbun" Verdenik said, "I'm very happy to be going back to Japan and working in J1 again. Taking this job is a huge challenge and a responsibility for me. What this team needs is organization so we can perform well on a consistent basis." So we can see that Verdenik has already got a grasp on some of our problems.
Fans have to view his appointment as positive. Certainly it feels good that he knows Japanese football and lifestyle already, so he should be able to move into both the country and the job reasonably smoothly. However the counterbalance is that his last job here was 8 years ago and Japanese football has developed a lot since those days. Hopefully he has been keeping an eye on the game in Japan from afar and maybe things have actually not changed so much that he will fit in pretty easily. His wikipedia profile mentions a role as a University lecturer. I hope that suggests he is a motivator, as our boys certainly need a pick-up, and a quick one at that. If, instead it suggests a quiet donnish type, then I might start to really worry for our plight.
The manager will need to get to know his squad very quickly, and it will be no easy task. Ardija supporters will be wondering if Verdenik will consider some of the players who were generally overlooked by his predecessor. Jun Kanakubo is one player who would fit that profile, and is a player who might very well have something to offer the team.
I heard Cesare Pollenghi, an eloquent and perceptive speaker on football in Japan, and Asia managing editor of Goal.com, on a recent podcast twice or three times mention the words Omiya Ardija alongside the phrase never goes down. Well I understand why he says that, and indeed Jun Suzuki, our outgoing coach, deserves some respect for his role in sustaining that image. But this season we are in real trouble. Teams around us have picked up and improved lots in recent weeks, while we have deteriorated. I'm thinking of early strugglers such as Kawasaki Frontale, Kashima Antlers and Yokohama F Marinos. It's time for Ardija to do the same. There's only Gamba left now and they are only six points below us with plenty of games left. We cannot rely on them to keep losing, we have to improve our game.
According to Mainichi Shimbun, Verdenik will over see his first Ardija training session on June 11th in time for his first J1 game in charge at home to Kashiwa Reysol 5 days later.
I am sure all Ardija supporters are excited to see if he can make a positive impact. Squirrel fans will get behind the new coach and make him feel welcome at the Nack 5 and in Omiya. Over to you, Mr Verdenik.