Bent Gent receiving Rednic repairs
Stats are a funny thing in football. Mircea Rednic’s win percentage as Gent manager is now 50%, he has won his last five matches in all competitions and together these statistics paint a pretty picture for AA Gent. The reality has been much, much different though for the Pro League’s perennial underachievers.
For a long time Gent have been considered as one of the ‘big five’ of the Belgian football scene along with Anderlecht, Standard, Club Brugge and Genk but while those four prosper, Gent have only floundered. Moving through managers at an unseemly pace it is there, not in the rosy looking stats, we find our narrative.
Trond Sollied was manager heading into the start of last season but his third spell in charge soon began to unravel and he left in October 2012. Manu Ferrera took over as interim coach but it wasn’t long before Bob Peeters was put in charge, sparking some interesting comments over the appointment.
There is no doubt that Bob Peeters is a likeable coach and it may be his amiable nature overshadows his limited nature as a coach. That he took over as manager of one of the biggest clubs in Belgium, having just come off the back of essentially consigning Cercle Brugge to a relegation play off was somewhat bemusing. In contrast though his good spell at Cercle should be remembered fondly as he gave the club some good times, but the situation he left the club in seemed to juxtapose with his new, high profile job.
It’s all very good in hindsight though. Just over two months in charge and his reign was cut short, much to the relief of the fans. Peeters achieved only one win with his side, a penalty shoot out victory over Lokeren in the cup and picked up just four points, pretty much ensuring that the new manager could only improve the side.
Victor Fernandez came in next after a three year stint without a club, and his initial fortunes improved the club’s overall standing and he guided them to a European Test match with Mircea Rednic’s Standard Liége side. Three managers in a year would soon become four as Fernandez didn’t last long into the current season and in came the man who bested Gent in the aforementioned European Test match.
Rednic was sacked following a 7-1 aggregate win over Gent. Seven. It was a rather inexplicable decision but then Roland Duchâtelet’s decision making is often questioned quite vociferously from the media and fans. Rednic returned to Romania where he took control of CFR Cluj and managed just one win in two months before agreeing to leave his post in what seems suspiciously a ‘jump before we push you’ situation. He soon returned back to Belgium, his second home, and was brought in as manager of Gent, in the hope that the success he brought Standard could be transferred to his new side.
At first it looked like Rednic might be able to get the job done. His first match in charge saw his team take a 1-0 lead against Genk thanks to a goal from new signing Sloan Privat, but the side soon succumbed to a 2-1 defeat as Jelle Vossen and Kalidou Koulibaly secured the win. A home loss isn’t ideal losing to Genk is no massive shame. In the next match they secured a 2-2 draw away to Lokeren courtesy of a 93rd minute goal from Yaya Soumahoro before another draw – this time at home to Cercle Brugge, in which was arguably the only match where Gent should definitely have won.
A loss to last years runners up Zulte Waregem before a narrow 1-0 defeat to former club Standard meant after five matches Rednic had picked up just two points as manager of his new club. The famous statistics did not look too good for Gent’s new manager, a win percentage of zero was hardly the start he would have envisaged but similarly playing four of last year’s top six was never going to be straightforward.
It would be the next set of fixtures when Gent would finally discover if their new manager has what it takes to get them back to the right end of the table. A narrow 1-0 win against an inconsistent Sporting Charleroi side who are struggling to find their rhythm was just the tonic they needed before another clean sheet in a 2-0 win against strugglers Waasland-Beveren. Mechelen were next up and Gent duly saw them off in a narrow 1-0 win to make it three in a row. But despite those consecutive successes, none of the score lines had been overly convincing thus far, though the defence seemingly being patched up to an adequate standard.
OH Leuven were next to visit Gent’s new Ghelamco Arena in the Belgian Cup and were duly thumped 3-0. Everything appeared to finally click for Gent. They kept their fourth clean sheet in a row as Pedersen, Renato Neto and Privat all netted. With news of Standard, Anderlecht and Club Brugge all falling in the round, there may well be some silverware in Gent’s immediate future. In their most recent match with Lierse, Gent were finally breached, just five minutes from time, ending their 355 incredible minutes of defensive protection for Sergio Padt in the Gent goal. The match had well and truly been put to bed though as Gent once again scored three.
Are things back on track for Gent? Yes. Or at least it looks like they might be. They are beating the teams they expect to beat and are doing it with some flair and panache, while losing to the tougher teams in the league. Having been horrendously mismanaged for a period of time over the past year, it was never likely Gent would magically be fixed. The oft-mentioned ‘new manager syndrome’ is usually more myth than fact; when a team changes their manager, the problems generally run a bit deeper than the players needing a lift from a new face in the dressing room and that is the case with Gent.
Anderlecht are the next opponents for Gent, a tough test. A loss would not be disastrous and in all honesty is probably quite likely. Yet a defeat would not be the end for Gent. Their recent run has put them on the periphery of the Play Off 1 spots, and with Kortrijk to follow the league champions, it is those sort of matches where Gent will define their season.