‘Mr Consistent’ takes over Turkish football’s hottest seat

‘Mr Consistent’ takes over Turkish football’s hottest seat

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
‘Mr Consistent’ takes over Turkish football’s hottest seat

Abdullah Avcı. AA photo

Abdullah Avcı beat out the likes of experienced trio Şenol Güneş, Mustafa Denizli and Ertuğrul Sağlam to be named the new coach of the Turkish national football team.

The respected gaffer was given the tough task of succeeding Guus Hiddink, and working consistently at Istanbul BB helped his cause.

The Istanbul BB coach was named the new coach of Turkey yesterday, only a day after Hiddink’s contract with the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) was ended with mutual consent.

TFF chairman Mehmet Ali Aydınlar briefly announced the decision to the reporters before entering the national football’s governing body’s headquarters in Istanbul.

“We spoke [Nov. 16] with Abdullah Avcı about our offer to him and he was positive. We agreed on terms,” Aydınlar said, before going into a formality meeting where the board would have the final say on the manager.

Avcı was among the three candidates for the job, along with Bursaspor coach Sağlam, Trabzonspor coach Güneş and veteran manager Denizli.

Sağlam made history by leading Bursaspor to its first national title last year, while Güneş was at the helm when Turkey enjoyed its greatest success by finishing third at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Denizli, meanwhile, has the most decorated background of all Turkish coaches, being the only Turkish gaffer to win the national title with three different teams, and leading Turkey to its first quarterfinal success in Euro 2000.

Gençlerbirliği boss İlhan Cavcav, however, criticized the TFF for choosing Avcı.

“If I were the federation, I would have considered Ertuğrul Sağlam. He made history by winning the title with Bursaspor,” he said. “But apparently, the distance between Bursa and Istanbul is a lot bigger than we thought.”

Avcı, however, has worked consistently at his team for much longer than his peers. The 48-year-old has been at the Istanbul BB helm for six seasons now, enough to make him the longest-serving coach in the top two divisions.

Following a not-so-bright playing career mostly spent as a forward toiling at lower-division clubs, Avcı made his start as a coach with İstanbulspor in 1999 after his retirement. However, his breakthrough came in 2004, when he was appointed the coach for the Under-17 national football team. The following year, he led the youth-level side to the European title and a fourth-place finish at the World Cup.

In 2006, Avcı was appointed as the head coach of Istanbul BB. He took the reins at the League One side, helping them gain promotion to the Super League in his first year. Beating a star-studded Fenerbahçe side on its Super League debut, Istanbul BB would earn a name as a hard team to beat. Fenerbahçe would not be the only one: Avcı would be deemed a “giant killer” due to his victories over big teams such as Beşiktaş, Galatasaray and Trabzonspor.

Those performances may be seen as a key reason why Avcı was chosen as the new national team boss. He showed he could match any team on a given day and his tactical knowledge will mesh well with a national team in which he will find much more time to prepare for the games. Although Istanbul BB has not finished higher than sixth in any of its five years in the top league, it has always been a tough team to beat for the big sides. Istanbul BB, meanwhile, was also the runner-up in the Turkish Cup last year.

The group of players Avcı will have under his command should also prove to be a huge asset. The new coach will be able to call upon the services of Nuri Şahin of Real Madrid and Caner Erkin of Fenerbahçe, both of whom were members of his squad during the illustrious U-17 2005 campaign.

However, Avcı will now find himself under pressure that he has never experienced before. Istanbul BB is a rootless team that was founded just two decades ago by the Metropolitan Municipality. On a good day, it attracts a few hundred supporters to its home, the 83,000-seat Atatürk Olympic Stadium. With no media and fan pressure beating down upon him and a wisely patient board that has always backed him, Avcı has always been able to focus solely on the game.

Now, he will have the challenge of his life, becoming the sixth Turkey coach in a decade. The level of his success and whether he can live up to the “Great White Hope” tag will be determined by his ability to adjusting to the new situation.