Bel­gium un­known coach re­vives An­der­lecht

World Soccer - - Contents - John Chap­man

When An­der­lecht plucked coach Rene Weiler from Ger­man sec­ond-divi­sion side Nurem­berg, the im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion of fans and pun­dits alike was: “Rene who?”

In the event, Weiler had a trau­matic year. Ap­pointed in June, he was on the brink of dis­missal in Novem­ber but ended the sea­son by win­ning the Bel­gian league in May.

His ap­point­ment had been a vi­tal one as An­der­lecht had not won the cham­pi­onship since 2014 and the last time the Brus­sels club had gone three sea­sons in a row with­out a ti­tle had been 20 years ago.

Weiler was capped once by Switzer­land but his play­ing ca­reer was ended by in­jury at the age of 28. Yet it had been as a 20-year-old at Swiss top-flight club Aa­rau that he had first shown signs of the shape of things to come by ad­vis­ing coach Rolf Fringer on the tac­tics that the team should em­ploy.

By the time he was 32, Weiler was sport­ing di­rec­tor of Swiss side St Gallen. Mov­ing to Ger­many, he nar­rowly missed out on tak­ing Nurem­berg into the Bun­desliga, los­ing to Ein­tra­cht Frankfurt in the play-offs. Nor­mally a pro­po­nent of free-flow­ing foot­ball, he was crit­i­cised for his de­fen­sive tac­tics against Frankfurt, but he’d done enough to at­tract the at­ten­tion of An­der­lecht.

Now 43, Weiler has a young fam­ily, a de­gree in com­mu­ni­ca­tions and speaks five lan­guages.

Kicker jour­nal­ist Chris­tian Biechele has de­scribed him as “smart”, ex­plain­ing: “He’s a per­fec­tion­ist who is ob­sessed by de­tails. He has a plan and the play­ers have to fol­low it.”

Weiler showed him­self to be a strict dis­ci­plinar­ian on ar­rival. He had a good look at his squad and by the end of Au­gust had en­gi­neered the de­par­tures of Se­bas­tian De Maio and Ste­fano Okaka. De Maio lasted just one month.

The first few months passed with­out in­ci­dent but then An­der­lecht lost at Bev­eren – which is never a good move for po­ten­tial cham­pi­ons. Weiler de­cided to tell some home truths. Stung by crit­i­cism that An­der­lecht had to play cham­pagne foot­ball, he told the press that you can’t score goals with tra­di­tion and, with the play­ers he had at his dis­posal, there were bet­ter teams in the league.

It brought an avalanche of me­dia crit­i­cism – most notably from ex- An­der­lecht lu­mi­nar­ies such as Jo­han Boskamp and Jan Mul­der – who wanted a re­turn to the days when the likes of Rob­bie Rensen­brink, Franky Ver­cauteren and Enzo Scifo strode the Parc Astrid turf.

Weiler stopped talk­ing to the me­dia, but there then fol­lowed a con­fronta­tion with club cap­tain Sofi­ane Hanni. It was all too much for the club’s ad­min­is­tra­tive man­ager Her­man Van Hols­beeck. He said he could sup­port coaches when they de­served it, but there came a time when it had to stop.

De­spite hav­ing the back­ing of Alexan­dre Van­damme, An­der­lecht’s bil­lion­aire ma­jor­ity share­holder, it is likely that Weiler would have been dis­missed if the team had not won the next game: a Europa League tie in Azer­bai­jan.

Weiler made changes, the most sig­nif­i­cant be­ing keeper Davy Roef, the long-time heir ap­par­ent to Sil­vio Proto, re­placed by Frank Boeckx, a jour­ney­man who had been on the dole in 2014. While the charis­matic Boeckx stayed in for the rest of the sea­son, Roef was ban­ished to De­portivo La Coruna.

They beat Ga­bala 3-1 in Baku, and with Weiler in­sist­ing that ev­ery­one in the dress­ing room was equal and would get their chance, An­der­lecht went un­beaten from late Novem­ber to early March.

“He’s a per­fec­tion­ist who is ob­sessed by de­tails. He has a plan and the play­ers have to fol­low it” Kicker jour­nal­ist Chris­tian Biechele on An­der­lecht coach Rene Weiler

The sum­mer sale of Steven De­four to Burn­ley – which Weiler had re­port­edly op­posed – proved a bless­ing as it al­lowed him to fash­ion a team around tal­ented home-grown young­sters Le­an­der Den­don­cker and Youri Tiele­mans.

In the play-offs, the foot­ball was rarely at­trac­tive, but the ti­tle never looked in doubt and it was won on the penul­ti­mate day. Weiler had not de­liv­ered the much-cov­eted cham­pagne foot­ball but pres­i­dent Roger Van­den Stock was moved to say that he had never known a dress­ing room that was so solidly be­hind the coach.

With the ti­tle won, Weiler in­sisted that foot­ball has changed and clubs now have a choice be­tween play­ing at­trac­tively or win­ning points. With pun­dits such as Marc De­gryse con­tin­u­ing to ar­gue that Weiler’s style of play would never please the fans, next sea­son prom­ises to be in­ter­est­ing.

Sig­nif­i­cant...keeper Frank Boeckx

Ups and downs... Rene Weiler ended a trau­matic sea­son by win­ning the league

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