KASHIWA, Chiba Pref. — Kashiwa Reysol manager Nelsinho is eager to see how far his team’s momentum can take it on returning to the J. League first division after only one season in the second tier.
The Brazilian arrived at Hitachi Stadium too late in the 2009 season to save Kashiwa from relegation, but his steady hand on the tiller steered a safe passage back to J1 at the first time of asking as Kashiwa finished 10 points clear of nearest rival Ventforet Kofu.
Now Nelsinho wants to see his players keep their form going into the new campaign, and is undaunted by the caliber of opponent they will face there.
“Thanks to everyone’s efforts we were able to have an excellent 2010 season, and we want to do all we can in 2011,” he said as the club began preparations for the new campaign on Saturday night. “We’ve been able to tie some important players to new contracts, and we’re in good shape going into the new season.
“We want to build a winning team, and we’ll be putting all our efforts into doing so. The teams we will be playing this season will be of a higher level than last year, but I believe we can rise to the challenge. I can promise everyone that we will put all our efforts into being successful.”
The new arrivals include former Shimizu S-Pulse captain Akihiro Hyodo, Brazilian midfielder Jorge Wagner and North Korean international An Young Hak, who is reunited with Nelsinho after one season together at Nagoya Grampus in 2005.
“It was an easy decision to come here when I knew I would have the chance to work with Nelsinho again,” said An, who returned to Japan a day earlier following North Korea’s first-round exit from the Asian Cup. “The image I had of this club was one with a lot of very passionate fans, but I was still taken aback by the reception we got.
“I’m a player who runs a lot and never gives up, and I want to show the fans what I can do. First of all, though, my main aim is to win my place in the team.”
Injury means Hyodo will have to wait before he can train with his new teammates, but the Chiba Prefecture native is happy to have the chance to play in front of his home crowd.
“I’m wearing a new uniform and playing in front of new fans, so it’s a challenge for me,” Hyodo said. “I was very grateful to get the offer from Reysol, and it means something to me to be playing in Chiba.
“I’m a hardworking player and I like to get on the ball and take control in midfield. I’m still injured, so my first priority is to get better day by day, and from there try to win my place in the team.”
Reysol scored 71 goals against second-division opposition last year, and Nelsinho believes his side is well equipped to continue in the same vein when the new season begins on March 5.
“I think we have more quality now than we had last season,” he said. “We have six or seven players who can play in attack, and that gives us options there. The most important thing we can do is put in good performances from the start and build up as many points as we can.”