Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1285, (3 - 9 March 2016)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1285, (3 - 9 March 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Martin Jol, Alex McLeish take over

Big names become the new coaches of Ahly and Zamalek, reports Marawan Zayed

Al-Ahram Weekly

New thrilling chapters started for Egypt’s two biggest clubs this week as both giants appointed huge names in the world of football as their new managers. Former Tottenham boss Martin Jol who coached both Hossam Ghali and Mido during their time in the English club, officially took over at Ahly in what is considered a massive coup by the Egyptian club given the huge reputation of the veteran Dutch coach.

As for Zamalek, they also signed a winner in Alex McLeish who was the catalyst behind one of the biggest shocks in the history of English football when Birmingham defeated Arsenal in the final of the Carling Cup in 2011.

Jol is best remembered for the massive work he did at Tottenham as he transformed the club from a mid-table outfit to a team that fought for a Champions League place every season since. He finished fifth in two consecutive seasons, only one place short of Champions League places.

He had another successful spell at Fulham where they finished ninth in his first season, collecting 52 points, a record tally for them. He also spent a season in Germany where he managed Hamburg and guided them to the semi-finals of both the German Cup and the Europa League, the first time they qualified to two semi-finals in the same season since the 1980s. Hamburg also finished fifth in the league that season.

After his short and successful time at Hamburg, Jol returned home as he accepted to manage Dutch giants Ajax in May 2009. Unlucky is the least you can say about Jol during his time with Ajax. They ended the season with the league’s strongest defence and the fewest league goals conceded by any Dutch team in five years, including just four conceded at home all season. Even more remarkably, they scored 106 league goals – an average of more than three per game – the most any Dutch side has scored since the 1997-1998 season.

 This meant that Ajax ended the season with a goal difference of +86. PSV, who had the next best goal difference in the league, had only half of this with +43. Jol’s side did not drop a single point after January, winning their final 14 games of the season. This meant that they finished with 85 points, a 17-point improvement on the previous season and a tally that would have been enough to win the league in all but two seasons since 1995 when the rules of the Eredivisie changed to award three points for a win instead of two.

They were beaten to the title by one point, however, by Steve McClaren’s FC Twente who won their first-ever Eredivisie title. However, Jol did manage to win the Dutch Cup as well as qualify to the Champions League for the first time in five years.

Jol and Ahly captain Ghali shared a famous incident that all but ended Ghali’s time in London. The Egyptian midfielder was substituted only 31 minutes after coming on and reacted angrily to his substitution, throwing his shirt to the ground in disgust and heading straight down the tunnel much to the wrath of the fans who never forgave him for that incident even though Jol himself forgave him and understood his frustration.

In fact, Ghali was the first player Jol called when he received the offer from Ahly as well as calling Mido. Both players had positive conversations with the Dutch tactician who made it clear he was very excited to get going.

Meanwhile, McLeish describes the Carling Cup victory as the biggest achievement of his managerial career despite winning the domestic treble with Rangers before that. In fact, McLeish won the Super Cup and the Scottish Cup during his first season with the Scottish giants with the league title lost before his arrival.

He went one better in his second season, winning the domestic treble before Rangers’ financial situation went from bad to worse by time, eventually leading to very poor results that saw McLeish step down from his position in 2006. However, he is still remembered only for the good he did at Rangers even though he himself admitted he was hurt by how things went to the complete opposite in his final few months with the club.

McLeish had other short and unfruitful spells with Aston Villa, Genk and Nottingham Forest. However, he’ll always be remembered fondly by Birmingham and Rangers fans, especially the former as he guided them to arguably the best moment in the club’s history.

Both Jol and McLeish take over from Egyptian temporary coaches Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Shafei and Mohamed Salah in Ahly and Zamalek respectively.

Ahly currently lead the league table with 41 points, three points ahead of defending champions Zamalek with 15 games left apiece.

The one thing we’re sure of now is that we’re in for a very exciting battle between Ahly and Zamalek led by the new high profile managers.

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