Sunday, 5 December 2010

Sunday News Round-up: Suzuki, Rafael, Chun Soo & More

The days immediately following the end of a J-League campaign are always among the busiest of the year for clubs and their supporters, and after Saturday's triumph over Yokohama F Marinos the staff in the Squirrels' office have certainly been getting done a lot of chores. The purpose of this post is to pull together news of all the stories announced so far - top of the list being that coach Jun Suzuki will remain in charge for 2011. Suzuki came in at the beginning of May when Jang Wae Ryong stepped down and the former Albirex Niigata coach steered Ardija to safety, with a record that saw the team win a respectable 37 points in 26 games. There may be debates about how he has used individual players, but overall the fact that Suzuki is staying at Omiya has to be considered great news.

One assumes that Suzuki will now be given the opportunity to bring in more of his own backroom team, given that two key members of the coaching staff associated with the Jang regime are leaving: head coach Hiroshi Ohashi and goalkeeping coach Kiyoto Furushima are both now looking for new jobs. The most significant departure, however, is that of so-called Technical Director Haruo Yuuki, responsible for coach and squad hiring and firing but closely associated with Jang and the discredited presidency of Seigo Watanabe. Fans will be most aware of Yuuki in relation to his by all accounts atrocious performance at the infamous supporters' meeting in June last year, in which brushed aside the concerns of many of those in attendance and gave his backing to the patently ill-equipped Jang. And if new president Shigeru Suzuki had overseen only the departure of Yuuki and coach Suzuki's contract extension, he would have been doing the sort of competent, intelligent job that seemed to be beyond Watanabe.

But he has also delivered more good news on the playing side, with the announcement that winger Lee Chun Soo and star forward Rafael have both agreed to stay at Omiya for another year; Rafael will also be attending the J-League Awards dinner in Tokyo on Monday, an indication that he has a chance - however slim - of gaining a place in the Best XI of the year. Some fans will be disappointed that tough-tackling midfielder Lee Ho is to leave Ardija, but surprise success of 2010 Shusuke Tsubouchi has made permanent his loan from Vissel Kobe. The next step is for the club to confirm details of which Japanese players will be released and at this point we enter into speculation - and, in some instances, hope. But there is room for optimism on the basis of announcements made on Sunday that the Squirrels are moving forward.



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