x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Emirates Club's new manager is back in familiar surroundings and plotting a successful 2013/14 campaign.

Eid Baroot says he is confident of keeping Emirates in the Arabian Gulf League, provided there is no interference from club management. Pawan Singh / The National
Eid Baroot says he is confident of keeping Emirates in the Arabian Gulf League, provided there is no interference from club management. Pawan Singh / The National

Eid Baroot sits in the reception of Emirates Club Stadium, his home away from home.

He is surrounded by the memories that have shaped his professional life: 16 years as the club's trusted right-back, the latter few as captain; two seasons as assistant coach to Reinhard Fabisch, a genial German "who taught me so much"; a brief return in 2010 as caretaker manager, culminating in tears on a wild night of President's Cup celebration in Abu Dhabi.

That victory, against Al Shabab, remains the club's greatest achievement in its 40-plus years of existence.

"Seeing the smiles of the fans, all 30,000 of them, that was very special," Baroot says, as he sips on a carton of water. "To witness those smiles, to share the Cup with them, this was the best time in my life."

Few endure the successes and failures of the Ras Al Khaimah side more than Baroot, who today finds himself back in familiar surroundings, entrusted as the man to guide Emirates on their return to the top tier of UAE football. It is an opportunity he was always willing to accept.

"I like challenges," Baroot says. "I like problems and enjoy solving them. You think 'how can I do that?' and then must find a way to make things better. You discover a lot about yourself."

Self-examination will give way to collective assessment this season. Given the claustrophobic confines of this northern emirate - RAK has about 300,000 inhabitants, or 4 per cent of the UAE's population - and considering Baroot's prominent position, he is living firmly under the microscope.

Emirates may have only one major trophy in their cabinet and have long flitted between divisions, but a new campaign brings fresh hope. As a native of RAK, that means extra stress.

"Being a coach from this area, the pressure is on you more than at any other club because for 24 hours you are here," Baroot says. "You go to the mall, people know you. You travel to the mosque, people know you.

"They know your house, your car, your family, everything about you. Everyone comes to the matches, everyone calls you, you receive SMS on your mobile. And everywhere you go people approach you: 'why's the club losing? Where's the club going?' This town is so small, it's not easy.

"But at the same time, I take my power from the club's management. If they give me good support I believe we'll do a good job, that we'll have an exceptional season."

Baroot repeatedly emphasises the importance of harmony between the coach and the club board. So far, his employers have backed him in the transfer market, adding the impressive Luiz Henrique from Shabab and the reliable Rodrigo Souza Silva from Al Dhafra, proving a distant locale is not necessarily a deterrent to attracting capable combatants.

"Our club pays money like the others, with bonuses, so there's nothing much different," Baroot says.

With their foreign contingent complete - German Herrera, the Argentine forward, has been retained and is joined up front by Jair, the on-loan Brazilian - Emirates sought also to strengthen their local ranks.

Abdullah Mousa, the goalkeeper, defenders Joher Musabeh Obaid and Marzooq Hassan Ahmed, and midfielders Abdullah Ali, Hassan Ali Ibrahim and Fahad Feraish, bring experience and impetus.

Content with his squad, Baroot says he must now be trusted to mould a team competitive enough to succeed in the rebranded Arabian Gulf League.

"If the management support me and understand what I want, there will be no problem," he says. "But when management do what they want there will be big problems. They bring me here for what? I am a coach. A coach is a coach, responsible for everything, and management is management. Don't mix the two.

"I don't interfere with them, so they don't interfere with me. I give chances, I wait, I am very patient, I respect everybody, but at the same time there is a limit."

What will constitute Emirates' limit this season remains to be seen. Put bluntly, it simply must be better than 2011/12, when the league's creakiest defence contributed to 15 defeats from 22 matches. The club finished second bottom.

They were given a reprieve via the one-off play-offs last summer, yet it was short-lived; Emirates were beaten by Al Shaab and Sharjah, and humbled 5-1 by Dhafra. They regrouped to eventually finish top of Division One in May. Again, they are seen as the country's yo-yo team: in the UAE's top flight one year, in the second tier the next.

Baroot, though, is determined to prove what goes up need not always come down.

"In the last years, Emirates Club always comes 11th or 12th," he says. "But we'll fight to stay in the league, to finish as high as possible. This is our aim and if things become better than that, like winning the President's Cup or any other cup, I'll be very happy, very happy for sure.

"But there will be no excuses for the players, no mercy for them. It will be a hard job because everybody looks at us as the weakest team in the league. That's good enough for them to fight, to prove they are the strongest, that they are the best.

"And in my experience, if you work hard and the management supports us, we will go without difficulties."

Baroot concedes that, should his side toil, he will be held accountable. A summer of significant change requires commensurate patience and, as only the second Emirati to begin a season in the professional era in charge of a top-tier team, he is determined to prosper.

He could have chosen to remain at Al Wasl, where he was installed as caretaker coach in February before guiding the Dubai club to safety. Several factors - an insufficient contract being one - affected Baroot's decision. Then, of course, there was another lure too great to ignore.

"When I came here and was handed the contract, chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saqr sat with me and told me 'we need you, we need you to help the club'," Baroot says. "And I told him 'no problem'.

"I have good backing from Sheikh Mohammed bin Saud Al Qasimi, the Crown Prince. He supports me a lot. He called me into his office and said 'you are one of our sons, we are proud of you'.

"I was a player in this club and it has given me good memories. The club is my second house. I grew up here, so I am very happy to return. I am back home."

jmcauley@thenational.ae