x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Al Jazira want management pedigree, not marquee name

The chief executive of Al Jazira insists his club will not be following the example of Al Wasl and hiring a high-profile coach to replace Abel Braga this summer.

Al Jazira won the double this season, but the club has also seen huge increases in attendances.
Al Jazira won the double this season, but the club has also seen huge increases in attendances.

ABU DHABI // The chief executive of Al Jazira insists his club will not be following the example of Al Wasl and hiring a high-profile coach this summer.

The champions are searching for a successor to Abel Braga who announced he will return to Brazil at the end of this season after three years at the Abu Dhabi club. Phil Anderton, the CEO, will make a recommendation to the board of directors, chaired by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, and it is understood the club is likely to opt for a South American coach to continue the fine work of the Brazil-born Braga who worked well with the club's player imports.

However, Jazira will hire the candidate with the best CV and their judgement will not be clouded by the previously playing exploits of the candidate.

"When it comes to our new coach, we look for talent, not a name," Anderton said. "We have built up a great team and want to see someone come in a pick up the great work Abel has done, so we're not looking for a marquee name, a great former player or someone like that. We hope to make an appointment sooner rather than later and we are very confident of getting a quality manager."

Al Wasl grabbed the attention of the football world by recruiting Diego Maradona as their new manager last month, creating a wave of publicity and hype around the club and the league. But Jazira will not be dragged into a possible battle for a share of the spotlight by making a similar selection.

"The Maradona appointment doesn't impact on us, although it's good publicity for the league," Anderton said. "Al Wasl have had a lot of headlines because of Maradona but we took the decision to stick with our coach [Braga] for three years and not make a knee-jerk reaction after a few bad results. To have Braga with us for that period worked because it takes time for a team to gel together. So we will watch with interest what is happening in Dubai but we're not overly concerned."

Anderton said the club will also apply the same policy to recruiting foreign players should they decide to dispense with the services of either Matias Delgado, Ricardo Oliveira or Bare.

"The most important thing is getting in players who perform, not some big name who is perhaps in the final months of his career and past his sell-by date doesn't work," Anderton said.

"It also doesn't bring the crowds in. And the young Emirati players will think why is this guy is getting paid millions when they are not really doing it."

Anderton cites Delgado, the Argentine playmaker, as the ideal foreign recruit.

"He [Delgado] is a perfect example of who we want," Anderton said. "He is a great, as is Ricardo Oliveira, and he helps out the club by attending press conferences and is first in for training every day. It's been a pleasure to have him with us."

Delgado arrived from Besiktas last summer and has his silky play has been a feature of Jazira's title-winning campaign.

"It's not been about me," Delgado said. "It's been about the team, the coach and all the staff in the background who have worked so hard to help us."

Since Anderton was headhunted last summer as the club's CEO, after impressing in similar roles at the Scottish Rugby Union and Hearts FC, Jazira have not only established themselves as the best side in the country - winning the league and cup double - they are also leading the way in terms of marketing. They boast an average attendance of 15,000 and attracted 28,000 for a home match against Al Wasl. The club, however, will not be resting on their laurels.

"We go on like Sir Alex and Manchester United do," Anderton said. "They are not one-hit wonders. They will always keep going, work hard and don't allow the players' motivation to dip. So we will go out there and defend the President's Cup and the League. Our next challenge is to do better in the Asian Champions League. We haven't performed well there and need to get out of the group stages as we've never done that. This is a definite goal for us next season."

Jazira's progress is a far cry from last season when Anderton sat in the north stand with his wife and three children for the final game of the campaign.

"There were five other people in the stand and I think the attendance was 212," Anderton said. "So we are really pleased to get the crowds. It's difficult to to that here because there is not a culture of going to football games. The night we had 28,000 in was a tremendous occasion."

ncameron@thenational.ae