Genk lose patience with Been, Ferrera appointed to steady ship

Following weeks and weeks of underwhelming performances and the results to match, the Racing Genk board have finally put Mario Been out of his misery, disposing of their coach following the 2-0 defeat to strugglers Waasland-Beveren.

Late on Sunday evening, Been was relieved of his duties, after a fifth straight home defeat in the league. The board said the decision came with some regret but they could wait no longer for the turnaround. Been is the seventh coach to depart his club in the Jupiler Pro League, but the axe had been looming over his head for some time. After taking three points from a possible 27 over November and December, the rot looked to have set in at the Cristal Arena. The Genk players have for several months now been going through the motions, looking devoid of confidence.

Racing have an impressive strikeforce on display, but in practice, none of have really lived up to their reputations. Jelle Vossen in particular has looked a shadow of himself in the past few months, having found the net just twice in his last 13 league games. There are direct parallels between Genk’s poor run of form and Vossen’s, with eight of the Belgian international’s strikes this season coming before November 2nd, the date where Genk’s barren patch began. Benji De Ceulaer has offered little, scoring just twice in 23 appearances domestically and in the Europa League, while Ilombe Mboyo hasn’t yet hit his stride after returning from a long injury lay-off, with no goals to his name in six league appearances. When your second top-scorer is Julien Gorius, a midfielder with tendency to find the goal from long range, it becomes apparent that there’s an issue with the attack.

To the board’s credit, they gave Been ample time to turn around the fortunes of one of Belgium’s biggest clubs, and he rightly deserved the chance to do so. The Dutch coach led Genk to a respectable third place finish in his first season, as well as lifting the Belgian Cup with a final victory over Cercle Brugge. Though in the Pro League things haven’t been going well for Genk, they were far and away the only Belgian side this season to make a decent stab at a European campaign, comfortably navigating their Europa League group into the knockout stage. A 0-0 draw with Anzhi in Russia isn’t particularly a bad result to take back to Limburg, but given the turmoil going on at that club, not scoring an away goal could come back to haunt Racing. Yet, the odds are in their favour to make it to the next round.

During his tenure, Been had made Genk hard to break down. Players like Kalidou Koulibaly and Bennard Kumordzi were applauded for their tenacity and ruggedness but this season have looked fallable, as have those around them. Despite playing some sparkling stuff in the earlier rounds, this quickly subsided. Thomas Buffel is perhaps the only player this season to come out of the campaign with some credit, proving to be a menace down the right-hand side for some sides. The former Rangers man is enduring an Indian summer of sorts, but even then, his consistency hasn’t been there. Been’s side have lacked ideas in many of their matches, playing fairly prosaic football. It can only take you so far. Plenty of creative talents have left the club in recent years, such as Kevin De Bruyne, for big profits. There doesn’t seem to many left in the wings to take up the mantle. Faith now has to be placed in players like Pieter Gerkens, the 18-year old defensive midfielder given plenty of playing time in 2014 so far, and Siebe Schrijvers, a 17-year old striker, to breathe life into this side.

Genk lie perilously close to missing out on a coveted Playoffs 1 spot and sit a huge 22 points behind Standard at the top. Fortunately for them, the sides chasing them for it have all stuttered. Kortrijk are winless in five games and look to have blown their chance, but Gent have finally got their act together, unbeaten in five. The 3-2 victory over leaders Standard, their first home defeat of the season, could be the catalyst to spur them onto glory.

The man entrusted to make sure that doesn’t happen is Emilio Ferrera, appointed less than 24 hours after Been had driven off into the sunset. Ferrera, who was asssistant to Michel Preud’homme at Saudi Arabian side Al Shabab before taking the reins himself in September 2013, has been around the block somewhat in his relatively extensive managerial career, even though he is just 46. He has plenty of experience with Belgian clubs too, having managed Lierse, Club Brugge and Lokeren to name but a few.

Ferrera has already said he wants to bring back the identity of Genk from a few seasons ago and likened the job to his experience at Club Brugge in 2006/07, though said the roster available to him this time round is of a greater quality.

“This is a big club with very good players,” he explained in his opening press conference. “The situation is not nice right now, but I am going to try to build up a good team again. I know I do not have much time, but in football there is never a lot of time.”

Ferrara says he believes in the current crop of players to retain Genk’s sixth place position for the playoffs but to also continue their European exploits, but will face a big challenge to lift his players for the remaining games against Anderlecht, Mons and Kortrijk.


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