Eng­land’s White makes mark in ‘ruth­less’ China

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Af­ter making a splash on the tiny, hon­ey­moon is­land of Guam, English coach Gary White is al­ready prov­ing a hit in the cut-throat world of Chi­nese foot­ball.

The 42-year-old, who left the palm­fringed Pa­cific is­land to man­age Shang­hai Shenxin ear­lier this year, has his eye on win­ning pro­mo­tion to the Chi­nese Su­per League next sea­son af­ter sav­ing the team from rel­e­ga­tion.

“I came in June and the club was ba­si­cally in free-fall,” White told AFP in a tele­phone in­ter­view. “Now there will be pres­sure to go up.”

White, who for­merly played for English non-league club Bog­nor Regis, be­gan coach­ing in 1998 when he was liv­ing on a coun­cil es­tate in Lu­ton, north of Lon­don, and faxed ev­ery na­tional as­so­ci­a­tion in the world look­ing for work.

Following spells with the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands and the Ba­hamas be­fore Guam, he ar­rived in Shang­hai, where he was forced to plun­der the re­serves af­ter be­ing told there was no money in the trans­fer kitty.

“I got rid of a lot of dead wood and made some tough de­ci­sions,” he said, af­ter guid­ing his side to a top-10 fin­ish in China’s first di­vi­sion, one be­low the Su­per League.

“The first thing I had to do was get the play­ers to think more pos­i­tively be­cause they didn’t have much be­lief, there was no mo­ti­va­tion,” added White. “It’s been a lot of hard work: get­ting to know the play­ers, tak­ing them for cof­fee to find out what makes them tick.”

White led all three na­tional sides he has coached to their high­est FIFA rank­ing. But at Shang­hai he faces a bat­tle to keep his best play­ers out of the clutches of richer clubs.

“Most clubs in China are just teams where some­body’s gone to the su­per­mar­ket and bought the best in­gre­di­ents,” he said, re­fer­ring to the Chi­nese game’s eye-wa­ter­ing spend­ing power.

“There’s so much money in China, they can get any player they want. A lot of the big­ger clubs are short-term thinkers.” “Shenxin is a long-term think­ing club,” added White, whose billionaire chair­man Xu Guo­liang owns a gold mine.

“A lot of the play­ers in the first team have come through the academy sys­tem. They try to give kids a chance.”

With Chi­nese clubs out­spend­ing their English Pre­mier League ri­vals in this year’s win­ter trans­fer win­dow, top tar­gets such as Jack­son Martinez, Alex Teix­eira, Ramires and Hulk are in­creas­ingly ac­cept­ing lu­cra­tive of­fers from China. “They’re def­i­nitely putting the money be­hind the talk,” said White, who has pit­ted his wits against the likes of Clarence See­dorf and Fabio Can­navaro in China’s League One.

White cred­its his Chi­nese wife Rui and baby son Flash for help­ing to ease the tran­si­tion from is­land life to the hus­tle and bus­tle of Shang­hai.

“It’s a very ruth­less en­vi­ron­ment in China, but my wife has been great with the lan­guage and cul­ture,” he said. “She’s also started to get into foot­ball. “When we beat Can­navaro’s team (Tian­jin) and ev­ery­one was cel­e­brat­ing, she was the first one to say: ‘You need to get fo­cused, it’s just one game!’ She helps me keep my feet on the ground. No mess­ing about!”

White of­fered some tips to young English coaches strug­gling to get a foothold in the game.

“If I had any ad­vice it would be to go and fur­ther your hori­zons a lit­tle bit, don’t sit around wait­ing for of­fers,” he said. “Go into un­com­fort­able ar­e­a­sit’s where you re­ally find out about your­self.” He also be­lieves English coaches have not been helped by the scan­dal that cost Sam Al­lardyce his job af­ter one game as Eng­land man­ager, when he was caught in an em­bar­rass­ing news­pa­per sting.

“It re­ally was dis­ap­point­ing with Sam,” White said. “I think it’s a dis­grace. It doesn’t help the mar­ket for English coaches in terms of clubs look­ing at you.” But he said his ul­ti­mate goal was man­ag­ing Eng­land-which would com­plete quite a jour­ney af­ter his stints in Bog­nor, Guam and Shang­hai.—AFP

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