Old habits die hard. Having succeeded Oleh Blokhin as FC Dynamo Kyiv's chief forward threat in the mid-1980s, Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko is again ready to fill the shoes of the man eleven years his senior following his appointment as Ukraine coach.
Formerly in charge of the Under-21s, Mykhaylychenko steps up after the country's failure to qualify for UEFA EURO 2008™, yet insists he is planning evolution, not revolution: "I do not intend to start from scratch. On the contrary, I am sure we have to thank Blokhin's team for what they have done. I have worked closely with Oleh in the past and we are not only colleagues but also friends, so we will definitely meet and have a chat."
Mykhaylychenko, 44, was a worthy successor to Blokhin at Dynamo. He may not have scored the 211 goals that the latter managed, nor picked up a Ballon d'Or as Blokhin did in 1975; yet three league titles and three cups proved a fair return, and he went on to claim further championship medals in Italy and Scotland. Mykhaylychenko moved into coaching under the wing of Dynamo legend Valeriy Lobanovskiy in 1997, remaining his assistant for five years before taking the reins temporarily following his master's death. He assumed complete control for the 2002/03 campaign and guided Dynamo to two titles and the 2003 Ukrainian Cup before accepting the role of Ukraine U21 coach.
Mykhaylychenko steered his team to the UEFA European U21 Championship final in 2006, as Blokhin, who never returned to Dynamo, was taking the senior side to the FIFA World Cup quarter-finals. Failure to book a place in Austria and Switzerland hastened the end for him and his replacement may need to draw on his own experience with the younger players to oversee a changing of the guard. Olexandr Shovkovskiy, Vladyslav Vaschuk, Serhiy Fedorov, Serhiy Rebrov, Volodymyr Yezerskiy, Oleh Shelayev and Andriy Shevchenko are all the wrong side of 30, and Mykhaylychenko realises change is imminent, saying: "The time has come for the young generation of talented players to prove themselves".
Artem Milevskiy, Dmytro Chygrynskiy and Andriy Pyatov lead the tyros knocking on the door and while the Football Federation of Ukraine is eyeing qualification for the 2010 World Cup, the UEFA EURO 2012™ finals they are co-hosting provide a more obvious target. Mykhaylychenko is determined to make his mark. "The chance to lead an international team – there's nothing more you can dream of as a coach," he said. "I have to prove my value to those who do not believe in me. We have to put in maximum effort, because we represent our country."
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