Until March 2007 Francky Dury combined part-time coaching with his job as a Belgian police detective. On Tuesday, the new KAA Gent trainer faces a very different kind of case as he leads his side on their UEFA Champions League debut.
Gent's reward for a second-placed finish in the 2009/10 Belgian First League is a maiden foray into Europe's premier club competition, beginning with Tuesday's third qualifying round trip to FC Dynamo Kyiv. Michel Preud'homme was the man who steered the Buffaloes to their runners-up spot, as well as to Belgian Cup glory, yet his subsequent departure to succeed Steve McClaren at FC Twente has left Dury in command.
"After my first meeting with Gent I made up my mind," he said. "I felt it was the right club at the right time. Despite having the fourth or fifth-biggest budget in Belgium, I think second or third place is a possibility every year, meaning you are in the race for a UEFA Champions League or Europa League ticket. I really want to deliver results with Gent. Preud'homme did extremely well and I want to continue that."
UEFA Champions League football marks the latest addition to an impressive CV for the man dubbed the 'Belgian Ferguson', after his Manchester United FC counterpart. His exploits with SV Zulte Waregem – whom he guided from third tier to top flight in barely four years – put the spotlight on a coaching journey that has been anything but ordinary. As with many of his Zulte Waregem players, Dury was semi-professional until about three years ago when he gave up the day job to focus entirely on football.
With Zulte Waregem continuing to flourish in the First League under his tutelage, Gent came calling for the 52-year-old at the end of May. Now, club and coach alike must step up to show they belong in such esteemed company although the challenge of the UEFA Champions League holds little fear for Dury.
"The team are ready for Kiev, though we have to do better in our passing," said the coach, whose charges lost 1-0 to RSC Anderlecht in Friday's Belgian Super Cup. "We have to avoid going behind too often, as happened last season. I have a fantastic squad who have worked extremely hard during the last month and we are ready – we just need a bit of luck."
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