It hasn’t been a very well kept secret (it was actually announced on 2ch in Mid-November and in the newspapers shortly afterwards) but the new Manager at Avispa has now been officially announced as Masami Ihara.
It is a name which will be familiar to followers of Japanese football as one of Japan’s most famous ever defenders. His record of 122 National Team Capa was only recently surpassed by Yasuhito Endo, and he was the Captain of the Japan National Team which broke through onto the International stage at the 1998 World Cup.
Japan may have been a stalwart of World Cups beyond this point, but had not attended up until this point.
With an Asian Footballer of the Year award (1995) under his belt to boot it is clear that the new investors at the club really wanted to hire somebody with a name known across Japan to be the first manager of their ownership of the club.
While he had a glittering playing career he doesn’t have much pedigree in management, and this will be his first job as manager of a club.
As with any new manager this will come with a risk associated with it, and has been described as something of a roll of a dice rather than wee-thought out appointment.
It is incorrect to say he has no prior experience, he was attached to the Olympic (U-23) team from 2006 to 2008, and has been assistant coach at Kashiwa Reysol since then, a period during which time Reysol got promotion from J2 and won J1, but will still be something of a mystery as to how he will fair.
I would preidct that he will opt for a flat-back 4 having been part of that during his long and distinguished defensive career, and is hopefully someone who will be able to walk into the dressing room and demand respect for his reputation in Japan, but it all be something of an unknown until pre-season (and players for next season) start being announced.
Along with Ihara arriving there has been an almost total overhaul of the coaching staff at the club.
Probably the most important man among this will be the General Manager. Our previous General Manager Jinno did a terrible job and brought in awful players in positions we didn’t really need more players, making the job of performing on the pitch near-impossible.
WIth a new and inexperienced Manager being brought in there will be even more emphasis on the GM to sort out a group of players who will perform on the pitch, and most importantly try to get competition for places in midfield (something we haven’t had in 5 years).
The man brought in to do this is Takehito Suzuki.
This is someone I know nothing about, but am moderately optimistic about for 2 reasons.
Firstly he is coming to Avispa from Albirex Niigata, a club who I consider to be pretty much the best run club in the country. Despite being in an unfashionable area of the country they are one of the best supported clubs in the country, have remained in J1 quite comfortably, and have excellent links to the community and youth development.
The second is that for the last 10 years he has been in a position at the club of co-ordinating scouts, the main area at Avispa which we have been terrible at. I don’t know if we have any scouts, but the players who have come to the club have been awful since our promotion year when someone brought Nagasato and Nakamachi.
If he is able to concentrate on bringing a better set of players to the club, and trying to establish a network of sports clubs and soccer schools like they have at Albirex then the manager should be able to worry about what is going on on the pitch.
While Ihara will catch the head-lines I think that Suzuki will actually be the main player behind the scenes as a new head coach has also been brought to the club.
Replacing the Fukuoka natives who were retained for the last 5 seasons he has brought Fumitake Miura with him from Albirex Niigata to be the Head Coach. As someone who he knows from Albirex, and was able to bring with him it gives me a small indication of where the power will lie in the structure at the club.
Miura has nearly 300 appearances as a midfielder in the J-League, but along with Ihara and Suzuki will be doing a job for the first time at this level.
Avispa have rolled the dice.
Either it is going to work and all our management team will leave to go to a better club in 2 years, or it will go badly and all our management team will leave sacked in 2 years, but that seems to be the style of Avispa.