The most successful coach in the history of the independent Belarus, and the youngest trainer in UEFA Champions League history, Viktor Goncharenko's credentials as the Belarusian Sir Alex Ferguson will receive a stern examination at FC Kuban Krasnodar.
The Russian UEFA Europa League contenders' first season in European competition has hardly gone to plan: a poor start in the Russian Premier League combined with defeats in both of Kuban's opening Group A fixtures spelled the end for boss Dorinel Munteanu after less than three months in charge. A return to the kind of form that earned Kuban a fifth-placed finish last term would be something of a dream.
Goncharenko, though, is a dreamer. "There is no such thing as an impossible task," said the 36-year-old, who was just 31 when he led BATE into the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first of three times. "If you want to talk about the big tasks that we are working towards, then we want to play attractive football and win. I think Kuban have good players and we can do what we have set out to do."
Persuading Goncharenko to leave Belarus was an achievement in itself; at the BATE helm since 2007, the club's former defender showed little interest in heading abroad when in the midst of a stunning run of five straight Premier League titles from 2008–12. However, with BATE having a more challenging season than usual, losing in UEFA Champions League qualifying to Kazakh outfit FC Shakhter Karagandy, it seemed he was suddenly open to a change.
Goncharenko tendered his resignation in the wake of that second qualifying round defeat by Shakhter but was persuaded to carry on by BATE owner Anatoli Kapsky. However, when Kuban came calling the weekend before last, Kapsky refused to stand in his way. "We were offered money to release him, but we thought it would be very shabby to make money this way," he said. "There is no business here. We parted on good terms. Viktor knows BATE will always be his home."
The challenge now is to make Krasnodar, not far from Russia's Black Sea coast, his home too – not something other coaches have found easy, given Kuban have been through 14 of them in the last seven years. With his new side mid-table after 13 games, Goncharenko faces a job turning the ship around, but Kapsky for one is rooting for him. "I think he will succeed," he said. "We will be right behind him and be worrying for him. He is very special to us."