By Tony Attwood
Recently I published a couple of pieces about two prospective future managers of Arsenal: Remi Garde and Dennis Bergkamp. The reason for these stories was not the fact that these ex-players had declared their interest in the job, but rather because both were highly regarded by Arsene Wenger, as players, and both are now in the senior levels of management.
A third ex-player who was highly regarded by Mr Wenger (and whom he called “a professor of defending”) is also in management, and has actually declared he would love to manage Arsenal: Tony Adams.
As reported in the earlier articles which have gathered together a list of all the ex-Arsenal players who are now involved in football management, Tony manages in the Azerbaijani league at Gabala FC.
After a typical flutter of interest from the English press Tony was left alone to do his thing through the season, and it was not until the article about Tony’s first season at the club that anyone much has picked up on his work.
Tony is now in the second season of a three year contract at Gabala FC, one of 12 teams in a league which is played over the same period as the EPL. The average gate across the league is around 2,200 and last season Tony’s team came 7th in the league.
The club however can on occasion get bigger crowds – 4,000 on occasion, although the official capacity of the stadium is less than this. And there is a 13,000-capacity stadium is under construction, financed by the owner. Training ground facilities are being improved as well as an academy is being developed to nurture the best talent in the country.
For Tony Adams the big benefit is having time, and no pressure. Instead of hundreds of journalists all asking the same questions and then making up utterly different answers from the ones he has given, Tony has only a couple of journalists to deal with. Instead of a bunch of inane trouble-makers calling for the board to sack the manager, and then sending out emails from multiple addresses, there is just support.
Of course not everything is plain sailing. 7th in a league of 12 is not wonderful, and nor was the 1-0 defeat to Barnet in a pre-season game. But the club did go for a ten game unbeaten run in the latter half of last season, which bodes better for the future.
Gabala city has a population of 13,000 and is in the north of the country. Five of the 12 clubs in the league are in the capital Baku, with a population of two million. The country as a whole is about one third of the size of the UK and has a population of about 9 million, about one seventh of the UK’s population. In a recent interview Tony Adams described the league as being similar to Scotland “without Rangers and Celtic or maybe the Spanish and Italian second divisions”.
In the season about to begin the league is made up of…
The league for the coming season
|Tofig Bahramov Stadium
|Ganja City Stadium
|Lankaran City Stadium
|Ismat Gayibov Stadium
|Guzanli Olympic Stadium
|Gabala City Stadium
|Mehdi Huseynzade Stadium
|Zaqatala City Stadium
|Tovuz City Stadium