When Andrei Sosnitski replaced long-standing FC Sheriff coach Leonid Kuchuk midway through the season, there were raised eyebrows in Moldova. However, with a tenth successive title secured, it is now business as usual, with the 47-year-old aiming for further success.
By any standards, 2009 was a great year for the Tiraspol club; they won a domestic double as well as the Commonwealth Cup – the trophy contested by champions of the former Soviet republics – and made their debut in the UEFA Europa League group stage. It came as something of a surprise, then, when the architect of those successes was ousted, with Belarussian coach Sosnitski brought in to replace him.
"It was a bolt from the blue," Kuchuk's former assistant told UEFA.com. "Only a few days after Kuchuk had left the club until I was asked to take over. It was not an easy decision. I was sure that Kuchuk would carry on until the end of the season as he definitely deserved to. I called him, discussed the situation and only after that did I agree to take charge."
European success brought its own problems, with international exposure prompting some major players to move on in the winter. Forward Alexandru Suvorov went to Poland's MKS Cracovia Kraków, while defender Abdoul-Gafar Mamah left for FC Alania Vladikavkaz and goalkeeper Stanislav Namaşco joined another Russian club, FC Kuban Krasnodar. Midfielder Andrei Corneencov, meanwhile, moved to Kazakh side FC Tobol Kostanay.
"We had to make a lot of changes," said Sosnitski, formerly coach of FC Dinamo Brest and FC Slavia Mozyr, both of whom he represented as a player. "Some Moldovan internationals left us and they were replaced by 17 or 18-year-olds. They did not have the experience but the most important thing is that they were eager to improve, which I liked a lot."
They duly took the title with four games to spare, to the delight of Sheriff director Nikolai Zyuzin, who told UEFA.com: "We are happy that the coach managed to continue our winning traditions, which were put in place by Kuchuk. He has only been working in his current post for four months, but we are happy with the result."
That title can become another double with victory against FC Dacia Chişinău in the Moldovan Cup on 30 May, but Sosnitski is already looking beyond that, saying: "Apart from winning another trophy we should also be looking to give good performances in Europe and at least to repeat last season's success.
"Discipline is very important," added Sosnitski, who first joined Sheriff as an assistant in 2008, saying of his coaching philosophy: "I like the Dutch total football style. I keep trying to improve along with my players by analysing everything new in the world of football. At the moment I'm keyed up about the World Cup which will give me a lot of interesting information."
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