It’s Friday 8 June, Ruslan has been formally appointed the manager of Anzhi Makhachkala. He has met the board, who were equally keen to meet the man appointed by the Kremlin to take over their club. In the distance, a car bomb explodes killing nine and injuring twenty more, mainly police. It would prove to be the largest attack in months. Ruslan knew it was happening, but a government double agent was involved, so he advised against any intervention. Besides, a Russian government think-tank recently concluded that a top-notch club, loyal to the Kremlin, could change attitudes in the region. Another bomb attack would help strengthen this view amongst key decision makers. Forcibly installing Ruslan as manager, along with an 80 million Ruble sweetener, was a small price to pay for a shot at stability in the Caucasus.
Ruslan wasted no time stamping his mark on the club. He demanded full reports on all players, from the limited backroom staff that remained after the Kremlin’s ‘purge of the traitors’. Director of Football, Olexandr Tantsyura, while remaining in place was under no illusion that he was now a mere figurehead, a glorified scout if you will. Ruslan made it clear this was no democracy, there would be no transfer committee, no press conferences, and he alone would run training with an iron fist. His rule was absolute, it was tough and those who can’t, or won’t, follow would be ‘free’ to leave.
“Death is the solution to all problems – no man, no problem.” (Joseph Stalin)
Straight after meeting with the board, where he told them of his expectations, Ruslan left the training ground and drove to his favourite service station, just outside town. He felt at home there, free from distractions to plot his next moves. Journalists had already been left stunned by the announcement that from now on there would be no pre-match interviews, no press conferences and no mixed zone in the tunnel. The press is, after all, “the enemy of the people” and Ruslan knew better than to feed that particular crocodile. From now on the only information coming out of the club would be through the Anzhi Football Club quarterly release. No press will be welcome near the training pitch, nor in the club and passes were revoked en massé, with immediate effect.
Sitting in the service station that Friday Ruslan felt a strange sense of calm. In these familiar surroundings his favourite Barista, Robyn (or sometimes Janet) knew his order and kept his coffee topped up. She was a loyal comrade, listening to coffee shop gossip and reporting it to the local operatives, of which Ruslan used to be one. They had spent a night together once in the late ’90s. Ruslan recalls it fondly, although his memory is tempered somewhat by the knowledge that she had been testing him. Would he reveal any secrets during a weak moment? He didn’t, he was too strong for that, so she left and took her dirty towel with her.
Ruslan settled in for the day, opened the team report, it was worse than he feared.
Tactical philosophies will have to wait for another day. With no money and a transfer embargo placed on the club, (a clever distraction initiated by the Kremlin) Ruslan was perplexed. How can this bunch of idiots survive? Failure in this mission would almost certainly see Ruslan exiled and he wasn’t ready for that; yet.
With no option but to use the players already at the club, Ruslan turned to the personal files he was given on each player by the FSB just before he left Moscow. Only unwavering loyalty to him, and to the Russian cause would be accepted, he needed a strong and stable inner circle. Key influencers were highlighted, social groups mapped, and political inclination towards the regime was assessed. Key for Ruslan would be to ensure no dissenters become “team leaders” in the group. Any traitors making their way up this particular pyramid would be hastily removed without question.
In lieu of good players, Ruslan needed backroom staff he could trust. He made sure he had the best staff available to him, hiring a total of 12 staff members to fill every vacancy within the club. He would be calling on their expertise and support soon enough.
Having spent most of the day on the telephone to old comrades arguing over 10k Rubles per week, Ruslan turned his attention to his five-point plan for success, each of which will be explored further in upcoming posts.
- Financial Security – “A fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work.” (Thomas Carlyle)
- Develop a tactical identity – “it’s better to go down with your own vision than someone else’s.” (Johan Cruyff)
- Impose a transfer policy and effective scouting network once the embargo is lifted – “circle of transfers.” (FM_Samo)
- Improve the club facilities, especially youth training and recruitment – “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.” (Adolf Hitler)
- Spread his influence across the world – “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” (Vladimir Lenin)
It was time to head back to reality. Ruslan headed to the training ground to meet his players. From his team report, two players stood out. First, left back Evengy Grapon, Ruslan loves attacking fullbacks. By allowing forward players to tuck inside he finds it easy to create overloads on either flank provided he has a fullback capable of doing it. Grapon could potentially do this with his good work rate, quickness, stamina and reasonable crossing. Factor in his player traits of knocks ball past opponent and runs with ball often, Ruslan was hopeful Grapon could be his Roberto Carlos.
The second player to catch his eye was the militant centre back Dmitry Belorukov, a loyal comrade. Ruslan couldn’t wait to work with him and immediately instilled him as vice-captain. While a little slower than he’d like, Belorukov made up for it by excelling in, concentration, bravery, heading and strength. His player traits of tries long range passes and likes to switch play to the other flank could also add a nice dynamic to the side, helping Anzhi catch teams on the counter.
Ruslan finally noticed Guram Tetrashvilli was not listed as a comrade in his dossier, yet he was a highly influential member of the squad. It would be important to keep any potential threats close. In a rather Machiavellian move, Ruslan awarded him the captaincy, much to the consternation of a number of the playing squad.
The dear reader should know, however, Ruslan cares little what people think. He answers to only one person.
Comrade! If you have made it this far thanks very much for reading. If you haven’t clue what is going on you can read earlier posts here. My next post will outline how Anzhi have performed in the first half of the season as well as discussing how I plan to secure the club financially.
You can also follow Ruslan Chepiga on twitter.
Over and out FMEadster!