Grigor Pasha writes: I didn’t have high hopes of what I’d find at Neftochimic in terms of staff. I started here as manager in early May and the players weren’t due back until mid-June, so my aim was to have a new backroom team in place ready to greet them.
In fact I was pleasantly surprised: the quality of staff here has enabled me to avoid a bloodbath in terms of firings.
So I fired only two. The Director of Football (DoF) — not because I didn’t think he’d be good at his job, but because I couldn’t see any conclusive reason for needing a DoF.
Advice from commentators such as FoxInTheBoxFM did give me pause for thought, but I did nevertheless fire the DoF.
I also fired Stanimir Dimitrov, the assistant manager. This wasn’t an easy decision: he had evident strengths and is a club icon, so you can imagine how that went down. But he wasn’t rounded enough — in particular, he struck me as lacking in the tactical area — and I wanted my own man.
I was expecting to fire the U19 staff too. There are a lot of clubs of similar size along the Black Sea coast here and most of them attempt to run an U19 set-up here even though they have usually have few U19 players under contract. Whenever you decide to do that, you incur staff costs and it seems to me this is uneconomic.
So even before I arrived I was minded to roll the U19 squad into the senior squad and dispense with all U19 staff, bar the Head of Youth Development (HoYD).
In practice, this was all made simpler by the fact that I found we had no U19 players whatsoever.
And when I looked at the U19 staff, they seemed to me impressive and most of them were on low wages, so I desisted from firing them.
Instead, I moved one of the first team coaches, Nikolay Krastev, across to become the HoYD. He was in any case filling that role as a secondary job and was happy to move across.
That left three vacant positions (assistant manager and two coaches) in the staffing team for the senior squad. I was therefore able to promote three U19 staff into those roles.
It helped that two of those guys — Gancho Evtimov (my new assistant manager) and Milen Hristov — are established as favoured personnel.
The remaining U19 coach, Venelin Petkov, I promoted to U19 manager, a job he really wanted. I’m not sure it’s cost effective to keep him on, since really all he’s got to do is manage U19 matches. But he can always do some gentle scouting and, in any case, it could be useful to keep him on the books: he’s an adaptable chap.
So, overall, the pieces in the coaching jigsaw fell into place remarkably easily.
Kostadin Kolev, the physio, is an impressive chap, so I promoted him to Head Physio. I also brought in another physio and two sport scientists — all of them for their first jobs in professional football. If, after all that investment, we find ourselves near the top of the table, I’ll be disappointed.
I also brought in a Chief Scout, Miroslav Petrov. I can’t see the point of a appointing any further scouts as we have no money for transfers and precious little scouting budget. His main job will be to scout the opposition, so I’m pleased that he has reasonably strong tactical knowledge.
I might appoint a data analyst in due course, but I don’t see the need in pre-season.
Wherever possible I gave the newcomers two-year deals. With a number of loyal types in the team, my hope is that we’ll have a stable team that steadily becomes more effective as a unit. The board have supported that by agreeing to finance one of the coaches, Ivan Donchev, on a course for the Continental A qualification.
Everyone was in position by the time the players arrived and that gave me a sense of pride and confidence. I felt very gratified by what I’d managed to achieve in the first few weeks.
- the changes didn’t put too much of a strain on the club’s cash flow, as there were only two mutually agreed contract terminations
- four of the current staff have been promoted, so should be in a positive frame of mind
- the major investment has come in the medical team, but as a result of that investment we currently have what seems to be regarded as the best sport science team in the division