x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Al Wasl coach Laurent Banide excited by Arabian Gulf League challenge

Al Wasl waiting for one recruit as Frenchman acquaints himself with new surroundings and looks ahead to rebuilding process, writes John McAuley.

Laurent Banide speaks to the media after he was presented as the new manager of Al Wasl last month. Jaime Puebla / The National
Laurent Banide speaks to the media after he was presented as the new manager of Al Wasl last month. Jaime Puebla / The National

DUBAI // Imbued by a justifiable sense of achievement in his last post, Laurent Banide is plotting a continuation of that success in new surroundings.

The Frenchman, having impressed during six commendable months with Al Dhafra, is the latest manager to be handed the baton at Al Wasl, tasked with rebuilding a once-distinguished club that has fallen on hard times.

Successive Arabian Gulf League finishes of eighth and ninth have disappointed after all, it was only six seasons ago the Zabeel Stadium welcomed home a side that was clutching a league-and-cup double.

However, a newly appointed board has brought fresh ambition, and in Banide, has entrusted a manager of quiet endeavour to plant foundations for the future. Diego Maradona, and the ringleader to a formidable footballing circus, he is not.

Banide, 45, shone on the Western Region's relatively ordinary stage, doing extraordinarily well to guide a limited Dhafra to eighth. Reputation burnished, he is keen now to sample life inside the big top.

"I'm excited, for sure," Banide said following a training session with his new side. "It's different to Al Dhafra, but I did a good job there and had a strong relationship with all the players.

"They'd a good spirit and a good mentality, and I have to thank the Dhafra committee, because the six months were fantastic. But it is a new adventure and I'll try my best to write a new chapter with another group of players."

With pre-season now two weeks old, Banide is gradually becoming more acquainted with the resources at his disposal. The early emphasis has been on physical conditioning during sticky evenings spent on the training pitch, although this week, the players have begun work on the technical and tactical elements of the new regime.

Banide has been enthused by the response, especially as this is a fledgling side. The club's board, chaired by Abdullah Hareb, has stated there is no quick-fix in place, that players must be developed and promoted from within.

The contribution of the foreign players thus far, Wasl have Mariano Donda, Milan Susak and Kaio, with another position to be filled to complete the quota is therefore paramount.

"They're very important, because they give the tempo and give the experience," Banide said. "We're still waiting for one player more, and once we have them all, they'll prove vital to the group. They show the others the path to take.

"And when you have a lot of young players it's important to have the more charismatic ones. Mariano and Milan have proved they're professional, which is crucial, because the young players see that and try to do the same.

"We're hoping to progress, but to do this we need both the young and foreign players working well."

Banide aims to have a fourth expatriate ideally a striker who can lead the line in place by the conclusion of this week. The club are currently negotiating with a South American, yet while imploring his employers to make haste, the former Monaco manager insists he is busy enjoying his latest role.

He said: "Now is the time to work, to connect with the players and for everybody to adapt, because they don't know me. But every day together we discover something new."


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