Consadole Sapporo was relegated to Division Two with four more matches remaining in the season — the quickest ever exit from the top division of the J. League.
Sapporo posted a 3-1-22 win-draw-loss record — two wins in the first stage and one win so far in the second stage.
The club from the north will return to the lower division for the first time since 1999 and second time in all. This time Sapporo only managed to stay in the top flight for two years.
Over the season, Consadole made managerial changes twice, from Tetsuji Hashiratani to Radmilo Ivancevic in late June and then from the Yugoslavian to the current manager Chang Woe Ryong in mid September.
Sapporo also reshuffled its team and acquired seven players on loan or full transfer, releasing four players soon after the first managerial change, including four foreign players.
These personnel changes were more than the average for a Division One club and reflect nothing but confusion in the front office.
Hashiratani used to be a good player and he was a strong leader not only for his club teams but also the national team. After hanging up his boots in 1998, he did some commentating for Japanese television and some coaching at his old university team.
But the former Yokohama Marinos and Verdy Kawasaki defender had no proper coaching experience at the top level before Sapporo. He only got the coaching license needed to manage a J. League club shortly before being appointed at Sapporo to take over from Takeshi Okada. The 38-year-old Hashiratani was eventually dismissed with a 1-0-6 record during the World Cup break.
“He forced his ideals onto the players,” a Sapporo club official reportedly said of Hashiratani. But with his lack of coaching experience, the club had known that his appointment would be a big gamble.
On top of that, Consadole released some key players after last season including midfielder Yoshikazu Nonomura and Brazilian forward Will. Will had been loaned to Sapporo from second-division club Oita Trinita and won the 2001 Division One Golden Boot with 24 goals. The team also missed the services of young midfielder Koji Yamase to a serious knee injury halfway through the season. The club didn’t hire new players to fill the gap left behind by them.
Chang, who assisted Okada last season but then was assigned to take care of the satellite team this season, worked hard to rescue his team from relegation after suddenly being promoted to coach of the first team. But the arrival of the South Korean, whose teams have claimed the South Korean K. League title three times, was too late.
Sapporo is not the only club to experience difficulty as a result of making too many changes. Four other Division One clubs changed their manager during the season and three of them are currently in a do-or-die race for survival in the J1.
Kashiwa Reysol is one of those teams and the Chiba Prefecture-based team is currently battling hard under Brazilian manager Marco Aurelio, who succeeded Steve Perryman in mid August.
Reysol dismissed Perryman after the team suffered six successive losses and the club said the players had lost their fighting attitude and needed someone to bring it back to them.
Perryman’s departure was inevitable after its poor run of results but the question remains whether the club acted in the best interests of the team.
Before his departure Perryman lamented that the club didn’t have the professional attitude required of a professional club.
Perryman also said that part of a manager’s job is to point out things that need fixing and to improve the environment for his team so that his players can focus better on their work on the pitch.
But according to the former Tottenham Hotspur player and Shimizu S-Pulse manager, Kashiwa didn’t often respond promptly to his requests or suggestions. For example, Perryman said, the club didn’t repair a leak in the ceiling of the treatment room — a place where the players try to refresh themselves before games — for a long time.
Managers have to be accountable for the results of their teams but their clubs’ front office also needs to take a look at themselves first before putting all the blame on their manager.
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