…at least not today. So goes the Oasis classic – in my opinion the absolute peak of the mid-nineties cultural revolution in the UK. But, we are not here to talk about that, we are here to talk about FC Gifu’s decision to dispense with the services of manager Ruy Ramos.
How did we get here?
In most normal circumstances, this decision would not have raised any eyebrows. It has been a theme of mine over the past couple of weeks to point out the facts surrounding FC Gifu’s current run of form. They don’t make for pleasant reading:
- Five consecutive defeats
- Six consecutive home defeats
- Nine defeats in the last eleven games
- No home win win since March 26th
Those stats are more than enough in this day and age to warrant a manager change. It wasn’t only the results though, the performances weren’t coming close to being good enough, even in Gifu’s last win (the 2-1 win at Mitsuzawa against Yokohama FC), the first half was probably one of the worst halves of football I have ever seen.
Defensive problems have been a hallmark of the Ramos era, and that never changed despite the myriad of defensive combinations that were tried. It became clear that his message either wasn’t getting through to the players, or possibly the players weren’t capable of following the instructions given. Or, the instructions given weren’t good enough to even be actionable. Whatever the reasons, it was very clear that there was a disparity in what Ramos thought the players could do, and what they actually did. All in all, his departure shouldn’t have been a surprise.
So, why was it a surprise?
Throughout his reign in Gifu, it has been known that he brings in the money. Money that, by no stretch of the imagination, saved the club from going out of business. Just by being at the club, he guaranteed money, income streams & sponsorships. That was what Ramos brought to the table. His profile, his retained A-list status in Japan which sees him appear on massively popular (not with me, I hasten to add) variety shows on primetime TV, was gold for Gifu.
His introductory press conference was live on TV (eclipsing the Nagoya Grampus presser, which was at the same time). He brought in Alex Santos & Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, two legends of modern Japanese football which helped put bums on seats. The increased media interest in Gifu started a snowball effect which resulted in increased exposure, increased crowds and increased interest in a team which up until that point had been ignored by a large percentage of the local population.
That “magic” effect started to wear off through last season when Gifu were embroiled in an all out relegation battle. The casual supporters that were attracted to Ramos when he was new had come to the realization that the standard of football wasn’t up to much, and the “core supporters”, those that turn up rain or shine every game, believed that the team was only going in one direction.
But, most people – myself included – believed that the decision would be taken by Ramos himself, such was the influence he held at the club. But in the press release announcing the decision it was stated that it was a mutual decision, meaning that the current management structure, headed by recently appointed new chairman Mr. Miyata, were actively involved in it. It is possible that Ramos had had enough, and the reaction by the supporters after the defeat against Zweigen Kanazawa was strong enough that a lot of managers wouldn’t want to have that coming at them. But also the chairman and board had to look at the predicament that the club were in, and given the tightness of the division there is no real “safe zone” this year. This means that Gifu’s downward trajectory could have (could still) seen them bottom within weeks, and relegation to J3 would spell all sorts of problems for the financial side of the club, not to mention the loss of status that comes with being a J2 club. It was a mutual decision, but it had to be instigated by someone.
As someone who was brought in to raise the profile of the club, he was highly successful. A smash hit, in fact. But his footballing credentials didn’t live up to the scrutiny that a managerial position brings. Lots of times in post-game press conferences, I heard him say “I’m not sure why they didn’t follow my instructions” or “they are professionals making very basic errors. I don’t understand it” or “We couldn’t play our football”. They began to sound hollow last year, and when they were repeated this year as well, it didn’t fill anyone with confidence.
As I said, he made FC Gifu relevant again for local people, and maybe for the first time in the Japanese consciousness. He was always patient with supporters, genial even. After defeats he would still stop and pose for photos and sign autographs. PR like that is brilliant for a small club like Gifu. But, ultimately, results need to be there as well – and in general, they weren’t.
To that end, the stats back it up. FC Gifu lost 56 of 108 games under Ramos (51.8%), conceding 170 goals in those games (1.57 goals per game). Had these kinds of stats continued for another half season, there’s a good chance that Gifu would finish bottom. The board had to act – it is that simple.
Thank you for your hard work Mr.Ramos, but now we have to look to our new manager.
Who is Megumu Yoshida?
Yoshida was Gifu’s top team coach before he accepted the call to take the helm. Prior to Gifu, Yoshida was at Kyushu based club Sagan Tosu, acting as their caretaker manager when Yoon Jung-Hwan was fired when they were at the top of J1. Now he comes into a very different situation, this time taking on a team that is fighting for survival.
(photo from fc-gifu.com)
His first order of business was to terminate the contract of Wellington Rocha, the injured defender, and there are rumours today that Yoshida will return to Tosu to sign Korean midfielder Choi Sung Keun. Next up is tonight’s daunting looking trip to Hokkaido to face J2 league toppers Consadole Sapporo. Sapporo, who stuck four past Gifu earlier on this season, are in great condition and will likely field a front two of Ken Tokura – the best striker in the division – and Yoshihiro Uchimura – a player who ALWAYS scores against us. Not an easy task first up.
Still here’s hoping a fresh face can invigorate Gifu. Goodness knows they need something to happen for them, and soon. Supporters want to see a winning, coherent team. That’s all. For all the off field stuff, what is really important for the health of a football club is what happens after the white line. Yoshida needs to get it together and start to produce results, otherwise it is going to be a very, very long autumn in Gifu. But have faith! As supporters, we now need to get behind the team as much as possible.