Sinai Says: Embattled Luzon making strong early impression in Belgium

Luzon has charmed his players and Belgian soccer in general with his infectious passion and enthusiasm while maintaining his extreme hunger to prove all his doubters wrong.

By
September 18, 2013 04:26
4 minute read.
Israel Undetr 21 National Team Coach Guy Luzon

Guy Luzon 370. (photo credit: Uzi Gal)

It was a surreal moment.

With several dozen supporters chanting abuse outside the window and calling for his resignation even before he began his new job, Guy Luzon was introduced as Standard Liege’s new manager.

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The 38-year-old Israeli couldn’t have really started his tenure in a tougher position.

Not only were Standard fans furious with the sacking of the popular Mircea Rednic and the appointment of a manager they had never even heard of, but Luzon also found himself right in the middle of the crossfire between the supporters and hated club owner Roland Duchatelet.

That all happened three months ago, but seems like a far more distant memory.

Luzon’s Liege claimed its 13th-straight win in all competitions since he took charge on Sunday, defeating KV Oostende 4-2 on the road to make it seven wins in seven matches in the Belgian league to maintain a four-point lead at the top of the standings.

Standard has also triumphed in all six of its Europa League qualifiers to advance to the group stage, turning Luzon from zero to hero far faster than anyone could have predicted.

Luzon has charmed his players and Belgian soccer in general with his infectious passion and enthusiasm while maintaining his extreme hunger to prove all his doubters wrong.

Luzon has dealt with criticism from his very first day as a coach.

His appointment as the coach of Maccabi Petah Tikva, the club owned by his uncles, at the age of 26 made him an easy target and he only made life more difficult for himself with his controversial conduct.

He experienced six successful seasons at Petah Tikva, taking the team to the UEFA Cup group stage in the 2005/06 season after finishing in second position in the Premier League the previous year.

Much like in Liege, Hapoel Tel Aviv fans were only waiting for him to fail after he was named as the club’s coach against their wishes ahead of the start of the 2007/08 season. They got what they had hoped for when he resigned following a dismal start to the campaign, with the club winning just one of its first 10 league matches.

Luzon resurrected his career at Bnei Yehuda, but found himself under fire yet again three years ago when he was named by his uncle and Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon as the coach of Israel’s under-21 national team.

His uncle made sure he didn’t have to qualify for the European Championships after Israel won the right to host the U21 Euros earlier this summer.

Nevertheless, Guy found himself targeted before the team even played its first match.

A week before the tournament opener against Norway, Luzon revealed that he had signed a deal to join Standard, infuriating many people with the timing of the announcement.

Israel lost any hope of qualifying for the semifinals of the Euros early on, but even a 1-0 victory over England in a meaningless group rubber ended in uproar after Luzon celebrated the win in embarrassing fashion, jumping, sliding and fist-pumping the air endlessly as if his side had just won the tournament.

However, there was also a positive side to his struggles with the media and unpopularity among local fans as it ensured he would be as ready as possible for life in Liege.

Standard’s 13th straight win to start the season on Sunday broke a club record, with the team getting off to a perfect start in its quest to claim a first championship since the 2008/09 campaign.

Luzon has brought in seven new players, but has only fine-tuned the starting lineup implemented by Rednic last season and has so far rotated his squad to perfection, using 24 different players over the 13 matches.

Indeed, Luzon’s true test will come with Standard’s first losing streak, and that may arrive sooner rather than later, with the team facing Esbjerg of Denmark in its Europa League group opener on Thursday before hosting Lokeren, which is currently in third place in the league, on Sunday ahead of four consecutive road matches in all competitions.

After years of complaining that he is being unfairly targeted, Luzon has finally come to comprehend the eternal truth of the sporting world.

“Every coach is judged according to the results he achieves,” Luzon said when he was presented three months ago.

After all is said and done, it all comes down to results. The shortcuts he has received during his career and his general impetuousness mean Luzon is continually under the microscope.

But wins render everything else as meaningless.

And so far, by that measure, Luzon’s tenure at Standard has been nothing short of perfect.

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