Time and date: late morning, 27 May 2019.
Place: manager’s office, Central Stadium, Mykolaiv.
Grigor Pasha was aware that, on his first day as manager of the club, he would be wanted by all kinds of people for all kinds of things. But they’d have to wait.
He noticed, as he entered the manager’s office, that it was horribly laid out. But now wasn’t the time to worry about ergonomics or aesthetics. At the moment there was only one thing in his mind: to sit down with the assistant’s report and the club’s database on players, which he would access through his laptop.
Didenko and his colleagues could take care of training.
Getting an overview of the playing staff didn’t prove easy, because they were divided into no fewer than five squads. There were Senior, B, U21, U19, and U18 squads.
Why, he wondered, if you have 44 players in total, do you need five squads?
Nevertheless, it didn’t take Pasha long to draw two general conclusions.
Quality and composition
First, there was a massive lack of quality. Out of the 44, fewer than 10% fell into what Pasha thought of as his ‘pleased to have’ category. Whereas there was no shortage of players who he categorised as either weak or dire.
Second, there was an extreme lack of balance. Pasha wondered why his predecessors had, between them, decided that one quarter of the squad should consist of players whose natural position was wide on the left of midfield.
And why would you decide you just didn’t need right backs, or right wing backs, or wide midfielders on the right? Might the opposition not notice and think to attack down their left?
On reflection, he realised that probably nobody had decided that. Perhaps there had been a succession of managers and the squad was the result of unco-ordinated decision-making.
Or, more likely, the division of the playing staff into five squads might have obscured the overall balance, or rather lack of balance, in the squad.
Perhaps he was the first person to have attempted a synthesis of the squads and discovered the horror, the horror.
And so Pasha set about sorting the sheep from the goats.
First, he identified those who might be good enough for the senior squad. They came to a total of 27. That was a few more than he wanted, but he could fine-tune things in due course.
He noted, though, that despite his best efforts, he’d allowed more left-midfielders to slip into the senior squad than he’d attended. He’d certainly need to take a second look.
Then he sorted through the remnants — those he deemed surplus to requirements. Youngsters he shifted into the U21 squad; the older ones went into the B squad.
That way the club as left with only three squads to manage.
Those in the B squad shouldn’t really stay there for long, because under the current arrangements there would be only one physio and no sport scientist available to them.
Why, he wondered, would a club permit a B squad to have a manager, assistant manager, and five coaches, but only one medical person? Was the aim to have injured, but highly coached, players? Is that what is called ‘investing in people’?
He was sure that announcing his decisions over who went into each squad would cause a furore, but if he bottled these decisions now he might never get on top of the situation.
However you look at things, he thought, a few left-midfielders are going to have to ply their trade elsewhere.