The arrival of coach Ioan Andone and a couple of Romanian players has sparked hopes of a major upturn in fortunes at PFC CSKA Sofia as they bid to capture the domestic double in Bulgaria.
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Ioan Andone is setting his sights high as he leads a Romanian revolution at PFC CSKA Sofia, saying of his plans for the Army Men: "Our aim is to win the domestic title. We may also do the double."
January was a dramatic month at CSKA, with legendary striker Luboslav Penev dismissed despite leading the club to second at the halfway stage of the A PFG season, four points behind PFC Litex Lovech. The arrival of his replacement, the 49-year-old Andone, was heralded by the signings of two of his countrymen from FC Terek Grozny: Daniel Pancu and Florentin Petre, who scored 22 goals in 52 games and won the 2007/08 title in a previous spell at CSKA.
"CSKA are the most successful club in Bulgaria and their targets are always high," said former Romania central defender Andone. "The club's vision chimes with my own. Our aim is to win the domestic title. We may also do the double; I did that in Romania with Dinamo Bucureşti and CFR Cluj. I worked with Petre for three years at Dinamo and know all about Pancu's quality, but there are other good players here."
Andone is only the second Romanian coach to venture south of the Danube to coach a Bulgarian club, following Mihai Stoichiţă's brief spell at Litex at the start of the 2000/01 campaign. Players, however, have been more common: Petre Grigoraş headed to PFC Dobrudzha Dobrich in 1992, and later represented PFC Levski Sofia and PFC Lokomotiv Plovdiv. Eugen Trică played for Litex and CSKA while Florentin Petre's first spell at CSKA augured well for the current regime.
However, while Romanians will be leading the line, Andone says there will be no coup d'etat at CSKA as he bids to create "a genuine team with the required discipline and organisation". To that end he has also signed Olympique de Marseille winger Elliot Grandin, FYR Macedonia defender Igor Mitreski, PFC Minyor Pernik forward Rumen Trifonov and PFC Pirin Blagoevgrad midsfielder Boris Galchev.
The work of molding those new players into a team has barely begun. "We have mainly worked on fitness and now the focus will gradually shift to tactical aspects," said Andone at CSKA's winter training base in Turkey. Ştefan Covaci, Emeric Jenei, Anghel Iordănescu and Mircea Lucescu have set a high bar for Romanian coaches; it remains to be seen whether Andone can keep up the standard in Sofia.