Ersun Yanal resigned as Trabzonspor coach late Monday, once again raising questions about Turkish football clubs’ consistency issues.
Yanal’s resignation was hinted last weekend, following the 3-0 loss to Sivasspor, which virtually saw off Trabzonspor’s hopes to win the Turkcell Super League title. After the defeat, Trabzon chairman Sadri Şener refused to comment about his team, and pointed out that Yanal was culpable for it, and simply said, "Don’t ask me how the team is, ask the coach."
That statement was an overt sign that the board was not happy with team’s current performance under Yanal’s helm, but still it was surprising: With five weeks to go, Trabzonspor is still in third position, and will probably win qualification for the Europa League. Losing the title could be a frustration for many teams, yes, but for Trabzonspor, third spot was definitely more than the end of the world.
Trabzonspor ended last season sixth with 49 points, 30 behind champion Galatasaray. Starting the season with an extravagant transfer activity, the Black Sea Storm purchased none less than 26 players last summer, signing a rebuilding in the squad. Apart from half a dozen players, the whole team was new, and as everybody knew, players’ adaptation and forming a team took time.
Back then, chairman Şener seemed to know that Trabzon’s return to the team it once was Ğ the first team out of Istanbul to win the title, the fourth big or the Black Sea Storm Ğ would not happen overnight. He knew that this team and coach had the potential to end the title drought since its last league championship in 1984 one day, but was not rushing things. A statement he made last summer was, "We want to make a team that will challenge for top spots in the league, and win a place for European cups."
’The right man’
Ersun Yanal, who replaced Ziya Doğan in the middle of last season, looked like the right man for that. He was known for helping mid-table teams fight for top spots. He did that in Denizlispor, Ankaragücü, and reached his career highlight during the 2003-2004 season, leading Gençlerbirliği to the third spot in the Turkcell Super League, long after fighting for the top. The following year, he would carry the Ankara team to the fourth round in the UEFA Cup, where it would be knocked out by eventual winner Valencia.
Start of the season was too good for a rebuilding team. Trabzonspor got consecutive victories, and rose to the top of the league, benefiting from the sub-par performances by other contenders Beşiktaş, Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe. It was misleading in a way, as Trabzonspor was not as a complete team as it is required to win the league: it had a limited squad and apart from Cameroonian defender Rigobert Song, who enjoyed league trophies at Galatasaray twice, no player at the squad knew how to deal with winning a league championship.
So, nobody would accuse this team of suffering a period of poor results, especially when the team was built with long-term expectations. But those long-term projects were left on paper, as Trabzonspor failed to win a game in March. With two victories over lowly opponents, it signaled improvement, but finally threw in the towel with the Sivas loss, much to the grief of Trabzonspor fans and board.
However, what is seen as a failure was still better than last year. Sadri Şener, who would probably take third spot at the start of the year, was furious that the team could not win the title. Two months ago, he signaled that season projections changed drastically.
"When we started out, nobody would believe us if we said we would be a serious contender," said Şener. "I still don’t talk about the title, but everybody believes that we will win. You cannot stop it."
Eventually, Yanal was the victim of his own success. He had to resign as he went short of the expectations, which were altered following his own performance. Ironic, but true: This is what a coach has to deal with in Turkish league. Yanal is gone and the papers have already started naming names that will replace him: Louis Van Gaal, who led AZ Alkmaar to its first Dutch league title after 28 years, Erik Gerets, who is having a successful period at Marseille, Vahid Halilhodzic, and many more.
The media is compiling a long list of coaches; maybe one of them will end up Trabzonspor coach and will probably end up being added to another long list of casualty coaches of the Turkish League.