From to B M Tel Aviv bombs Brighton belles

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - CHRIS DUNLAVY

RE­MEM­BER when Arsene Wenger walked into High­bury in 1996? An­gu­lar, debonair, and ut­terly un­her­alded, it seemed the Gun­ners had lost the plot.

Arsene Who? screamed the pa­pers, and they weren’t alone. “At first, I thought ‘What does this French­man know about football?” re­called for­mer Arse­nal skip­per Tony Adams in his bi­og­ra­phy.

“He wears glasses and looks more like a school­teacher. He’s not go­ing to be as good as Ge­orge Gra­ham. Does he even speak English prop­erly?”

Two years and one scin­til­lat­ing dou­ble later, of course, Adams and the rest of us had been made to look rather fool­ish.

It is a tale that must ring pretty fa­mil­iar to Os­car Gar­cia Jun­yent, the new man­ager of Brighton & Hove Al­bion.

A lit­tle over 12 months ago, the for­mer Barcelona mid­fielder was shoved be­fore the Is­raeli Press and greeted by a sea of scep­ti­cism and mis­trust.

Did two years coach­ing kids at the Nou Camp re­ally equip him to end Mac­cabi Tel Aviv’s ten-year wait for a ti­tle? Could a man with no man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence ever ex­pect to win the re­spect of Is­rael’s most fa­mous club?

As if he wasn’t sweat­ing enough, a power fail­ure – a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence in the Is­raeli cap­i­tal – then knocked out the lights and air conditioning.

But, when the bulbs flick­ered back to life, Jordi Cruyff, Tel Aviv’s di­rec­tor of football and a long-time friend of Gar­cia, came to the res­cue.

“Let me tell you,” he said.“Os­car has a vast knowl­edge of the game and we are lucky to have him. I think that a year from now we’ll all be sit­ting here with a broad smile on our faces.”

Cruyff’s pre­dic­tion was spot on. Gar­cia – known sim­ply as Os­car – romped to the Is­raeli ti­tle in his first sea­son, then quit cit­ing per­sonal rea­sons even be­fore the Cham­pagne had gone flat. N Poyet at the A prove his cre

So what if Guardi­ola, Ro­mario at B was ap­proac gium and Brighton?

Ask any pu 40-year-old S the boots of P un­spec­i­fied hav­ing led th Cham­pi­onsh

Os­car kno too, that his miles from Poyet was bu stud­ied and Uruguayan’s

Yet if he re­plac­ing the er, it should c

This, af­ter a

Now, af­ter re­plac­ing Gus Amex, he is be­ing asked to den­tials all over again. he played along­side Pep Michael Lau­drup and arcelona? Who cares if he ched by top clubs in BelMex­ico be­fore join­ing


un­dit and the view is that the Spa­niard will strug­gle to fill Poyet, who was sacked for gross mis­con­duct in May he Seag­ulls to fourth in the

ip. ows that of course. Knows, per­son­al­ity is a mil­lion his pre­de­ces­sor. Where uoy­ant and brash, Gar­cia is d calm, Bun­gle to the Zippy. doesn’t seem fazed by e for­mer Chelsea mid­field­come as no sur­prise. all, is a man who lived in Tel Aviv dur­ing the Pales­tinian rocket at­tacks of Novem­ber 2012, a man who saw pro­tect­ing his play­ers as get­ting them to a bomb shel­ter, not keep­ing a lid on dress­ing room fric­tion.

“It was a re­ally tough time,” he says from Brighton’s Falmer train­ing base, where the only threat on the sky­line comes from the grey clouds rolling in off the South Downs.

“Here in Europe we are not used to th­ese things. For seven days, you did not think about football at all.

“Did I feel in dan­ger? Only twice – the first day and the last day. On the first day you are see­ing things on the news, hear­ing the first rock­ets.You don’t know how bad things are go­ing to get so you are ner­vous.

“And the last day, when a bus was bombed and ex­ploded in the city. That made you re­alise that you aren’t al­ways pro­tected.

“It was hard, but it helped that many of the play­ers were lo­cal. I saw that the Is­raeli play­ers were calm and, in ad­di­tion, I saw peo­ple still go­ing to cafés and walk­ing around the city. For them it was nor­mal, so I felt OK.

“But apart from that week, the whole time was very spe­cial. Tel Aviv is an amaz­ing city with amaz­ing peo­ple and for the rest of the time I was very happy there.”

Now Os­car is hop­ing to build a sim­i­lar affin­ity with the folk of Brighton af­ter be­ing talked into the job by the Seag­ulls’ Span­ish con­tin­gent – An­drea Or­landi, David Lopez, Inigo Calderon and full­back Bruno.


“I spoke to all the Span­ish play­ers here and I knew be­fore I ar­rived that it was a great club and a very nice place,” he says.

“They all said very good things about the club and the am­bi­tions to im­prove. And th­ese first weeks I have been very im­pressed with ev­ery­thing I have seen.

“When I talk about Brighton, I ex­plain to my friends that it is a big club – maybe not so fa­mous out­side of Eng- land but a club who wants to get big­ger. That is the main rea­son I am here.”

So what can Brighton fans ex­pect? One is more slick football from a man who learned at the hand of Jo­han Cruyff and Bobby Rob­son.

“I was a player who wanted to learn about ev­ery­thing,” he says.“I watched the coaches, the staff, the man­agers. Now I am try­ing to do some­thing like them.

“Ev­ery man­ager has his way and I am try­ing to change the team. I have watched the team a lot on DVD and the main thing is to score more goals.

“The team had many chances last sea­son and did not take them. That is one thing I am try­ing to im­prove, but I can’t tell you the oth­ers or ev­ery­one will know.” They’ll also get loy­alty. “Club Brugge of­fered me a lot of money to leave Mac­cabi,” he ex­plains. “Three or four times more than I earned, and it would have taken care of my fam­ily for life. But I turned it down. The pro­ject at Mac­cabi and the fans were more im­por­tant.”

And new sign­ings? Scant so far, but Os­car is de­lighted with the cap­ture of MK Dons defender Adam Chick­sen and, in par­tic­u­lar, play­maker Kemy Agustien from Swansea.

“Kemy is not yet ready to play 90 min­utes but he will help us a lot,” he added. “He wants the ball all the time, uses it very well. He has played in the Pre­mier League.

“I want eleven lead­ers on the pitch, not just one or two. And then I want an­other seven lead­ers on the bench. I want my team to be strong and Kemy is a leader.”

Just be­fore Os­car left that first Press Con­fer­ence in Tel Aviv, Cruyff spoke up. “Os­car is one of the most ex­cit­ing coaches in the world,” he said. “And within five or ten years we’ll be proud to say he started here.”

So with that in mind, is Brighton sim­ply an­other step­ping stone.

“I never think long term,” he in­sists. “Right now I am man­ager of Brighton and we are in the Cham­pi­onship. At this mo­ment, my only am­bi­tion is to do my best for them.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

CALM AND COL­LECTED: Os­car is a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter to pre­de­ces­sor Gus Poyet


: Arse­nal man­ager Arsene Wenger and Pat Rice in 1996 and Kemy Agustien in ac­tion for Swansea PEDI­GREE: Os­car Gar­cia play­ing for Barcelona

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