PFC Neftçi coach Hans-Jürgen Gede is determined to make amends for the club's poor start to the Yuksek Liqa and has called for patience ahead of the resumption of the Azeri top flight next month.
Though Gede replaced Anatoliy Demyanenko in September Neftçi have continued to struggle and are ninth in the 14-team league at the midway point of the season. Supporters have grown accustomed to success having watched their side win the title five times since independence in 1992, but it is three years since their last triumph and patience is wearing thin.
Gede, a former assistant to Berti Vogts with the Azerbaijan national team, understands their frustration and insists he is laying the foundations for long-term success. "It's a big honour for me to work with Neftçi," the German said. "People at the club are aiming for success and good results. Of course, we can't accept being so far behind at the halfway point of the season, but that just gives us further incentive to perform better in the second half."
Unlike some of his rivals, Gede believes Neftçi will solve their problems by recruiting locally. "While working in Azerbaijan I have pointed out that clubs hope to improve by signing players from abroad. We on the contrary are trying to create a mix of talented local and foreign players. The main problem is in the lack of pitches and football infrastructure."
Having released a number veteran players, Gede is investing in youth to turn the club's fortunes around. "The board has backed my decision," he said. "Those players had been in the team for several years, but did not achieve any results of note. Suffice to say Neftçi haven't been champions for several years. There were high hopes for those players, but they underachieved badly in the first half of the season. We could have got those results with a much younger squad, so we decided to part with some experienced players. By doing that we freed some space for youth and refreshed the team."
He added: "The roots of the current slump are obvious to everyone. We have to build a new team almost from scratch. The squad has become much younger and that happened spontaneously. Our young players have big potential, but only a few of them are now ready to show their worth at the highest level. They need more experience." Joe Kendrick and John Tambouras have already signed from Drogheda United FC and Gede is still on the hunt for new faces. "Personally I want the team to consist of more locally trained players," he said. The pressure might be on, but Gede is convinced that the signs are good. "It's important that Azeri football is moving in the right direction. Results will come. We just need to be patient and work hard."
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