Welcome Fuji-san!

No, not that one.

This week, FC Gifu announced the signing of Giravanz Kitakyushu full back Yuki Fuji. Fuji was an integral part of Giravanz’s amazing run in J2 last year, playing a key role as the Kitakyushu side finished a scarcely believable 5th in the league.

Predominantly playing on the left of defence, Fuji has a reputation as someone who can be relied upon to do his job, but also to get forward and help start attacks.

In his (very) brief introduction he said:

“I appreciate the chance to come and play for FC Gifu. I’ll do my best for the players & fans”

The left side came to be a bit of a problem last year. Alex Santos started there before Yusuke Mori took over when Santos got injured. Hopefully the addition of Fuji will stabalize that position.

ようこそ富士選手!

The release list – updated (December 19)

This is the current list of players that have left/been released by FC Gifu.

  • Takahiro TAKAGI – GK
  • Shogo TOKIHISA – GK
  • Arata SUGIYAMA – DF
  • Kosuke KITANI – DF
  • Shuto TANAKA – DF
  • Yusuke MORI – DF
  • Tatsuya ARAI – DF
  • Alex SANTOS – DF/MF
  • Hirofumi MORIYASU – DF/MF
  • Yusuke SUDO – MF
  • Atsushi MIO – MF
  • Yuki NAKAMURA – FW
  • THIAGO – FW
  • Taira INOUE – FW
  • NAZARIT – FW
  • Naoto KOJIMA – Coach

Adios Naza

Yesterday, it was confirmed that out-of-contract striker Nazarit had agreed to move to Hokkaido based Consadole Sapporo for the 2015 season.

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I’m on record as saying that I thought Naza would leave, but I thought it would be to a J1 club or abroad. The move makes sense in as much as he will be playing with Shinji Ono & Ken Tokura, and Consa will be one of the favourites for at least a play off spot.

It will be interesting to see how Gifu replace him, because 17 goals looks to be a substantial number to replace. Namba & Junki Endo would seem the first options. With Taira Inoue, Yuki Nakamura and Thiago being released, Tomohiro Tanaka is the only other striker on the team at time of writing.

The following video is what Consadole Sapporo supporters can look forward to in 2015:

Adios Naza, I wish you luck but don’t score against us next year!

The release list…..part 1

This week, the club started the process of determining the playing squad for next year. The release list is never a happy time, but this year it was particularly shocking. The official list reads:

  • GK – Shogo Tokihisa
  • GK – Takahiro Takagi
  • Defender – Shuto Tanaka
  • Defender – Arata – Sugiyama
  • Midfielder – Yusuke Sudo
  • Midfielder – Hirofumi Moriyasu
  • Striker – Yuki Nakamura
  • Striker – Nazarit

Of course, the name that jumps out at you is Nazarit, Gifu’s top scorer this season. My guess is that he has offers from elsewhere, possibly in Japan and most probably from overseas and that he has decided to embrace a new challenge.

A lot of supporters are disappointed by Shuto Tanaka leaving. He has been at the club for six years and is a link to the past and the fledgling years of the club. A squad without Shuto is one that is difficult to imagine.

Yusuke Sudo is one who I thought would be at Gifu next year. I’m surprised the club didn’t see enough in him, because I saw a steely, strong holding midfielder.

Nakamura & Moriyasu were never really given a chance under Ramos, while Arata Sugiyama has been injured for the majority of the season.

Takagi & Tokihisa were victims of the decision to keep 4 goalkeepers this year, although they both have had a hand in bringing along young Gakuji Ota.

I sincerely hope all these players find good homes for 2015. They all did their bit for FC Gifu, and for that the supporters are thankful.

Alex Santos to leave FC Gifu?

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Today, the Chunichi Shimbun (Article, in Japanese, here) is reporting that Gifu’s ex-Japan international Alex Santos will leave the club.

Alex Santos 2014 season stats (via Football Lab)

  • Appearances – 18
  • Full 90 minutes – 9
  • Goals – 2
  • Yellow cards – 7

Alex was brought in as one of the “hat-trick” of high profile arrivals at the beginning of 2014 (the others being Ruy Ramos & Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi) that ushered in the new, high profile era of FC Gifu.

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Alex started the season well, providing a set piece danger, whether from his long throws or vicious deliveries, that added a lot to Gifu’s arsenal. His corner led to Gifu’s first goal of the year (against Kamatamare Sanuki) and his brilliant free-kick forced Takuya Kokeguchi to head into his own net in the Kataller Toyama game.

Slowly though, teams began to realize that if they exposed him down the left, he no longer the pace to keep up with wingers/attackers. Teams set up to isolate him, and he picked up seven bookings – and I would think that the majority of them came when trying to stop opposition players racing past him.

He picked up an injury after the Consadole Sapporo game in the summer, and had an extended period of time out before returning to the bench for the final games of the season.

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Now with four children, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Santos retire from the game. It looked like time had caught up with him during this year. His crossing/passing is still very good, but his body didn’t allow him to be comfortable on the left hand side of a back four or back five. If he does continue, I’d expect a team to play him as a holding midfielder which would allow him to pick passes, but would take the burden of running off him.

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Of the pitch he has been extremely accommodating to fans when they ask him to sign things, take photos etc. even though he’s a fairly unassuming & quiet person away from the game. He has always acted with class and decorum whenever he’s been asked to promote the club. Whatever he goes on to do, I wish him the very best.

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Sayonara 2014……

So, the 2014 season is over and done with. FC Gifu finished 17th, which somehow feels slightly anti-climactic given the ups and downs that the season has thrown at us.

Season stats: 

  • League position – 17th
  • Points – 49
  • Wins – 13
  • Draws – 10
  • Defeats – 19
  • Goals for – 54
  • Goals against – 61
  • Top scorer – Nazarit (17 goals)

What went right in 2014:

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  • The attack. Nazarit was revelation in J2 – he is destined for bigger things, I believe. I’ve talked before about how much I like him. He has all you want in a striker: pace, power, positioning and presence. Hot on Naza’s heels has been Hiroaki Namba – scorer of 12 goals. I’m not sure anyone would have predicted this kind of season from the 31 year-old. He seemed re-born in Gifu, buzzing about the field with purpose, and he was visibly enjoying his football. They were both a pleasure to watch this year.
  • Mr Onda, our president. If I had to give a club MVP, president Satoshi Onda would be it. He, and his group of managers, have made so much progress off the field in such a short space of time that it is scarcely believable from this time last year. The promotion that he has presided over has resulted in some incredible results. For example:
  1. The club record crowd
  2. An average attendance almost double last year
  3. A huge increase in public awareness
  4. 8 games with over 10,000 crowds

It really has been a superb effort from the off field team. So much hard work goes into promoting the club, and I really hope Onda and the rest of the PR team take a well earned rest this winter so they can come back, ready to give it both barrels next year.

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  • The supporters. Led by the Vamos Zone residents, Gifu’s support has been fully mobilized in 2014, and it has grown quite a lot too. Most people only see the supporters on matchdays, but they do a lot for the club around the city and around the prefecture. I went with them around Gifu city when they were handing out promotional posters. This was done in their own time, and on a voluntary basis. Such things tend to fly under the radar usually, but I’d like to say a huge thank you and express my admiration for their dedication. The call-leader, the rest of the Brigate and all supporters – GREAT WORK THIS YEAR!!

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What didn’t go according to plan in 2014:

  • Giving away leads. In home games this year against JEF, Giravanz, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Yokohama and Sapporo, Gifu were in the lead in all of them but failed to win any of them. Something has to be done about this in the off-season. Gifu could have easily finished in the top 12 this year if they’d shown more poise and calm when defending a lead. This season, because of the licensing situation, Gifu were never going to challenge for the top six. But the plans are in place off the pitch and if the team can’t match the developments off the pitch and they keep giving away points, it will be highly regrettable.

 

This has been an amazing year for Gifu, on and off the field. Hopefully we can kick on from here.

On a personal level, being involved in the club and observing the players & management at such close quarters has been a privilege. The club and the players that I’ve interacted with (special mention to Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, and absolute gentleman) have made feel so welcome. It has been amazing.

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But it is the supporters that set this club apart. The supporters are the lifeblood of the club, and I feel very humble to be a part of the group. Special mention goes to Gifu Richy, my FC Gifu partner in crime, although he really needs to sort his fashion out! Also, massive respect to the Brigate Mamushi supporters group for making a stand against racism earlier this season.

Even though we finished 17th, it was an incredible season for the club. I hope everyone gets a good rest and comes back refreshed for next year. 今年本当にお疲れ様でした。来年J1に行こう!2015シーズンよろしくお願いします!

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