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Ran Ben-Shimon 390.(Photo by: Asaf Kliger )
Ben-Shimon contract dispute looms over K8 success
By ALLON SINAI
02/17/2012
Despite the team’s 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League standings, not all is rosy at Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
You would have thought a 10- point lead at the top of the Premier League standings would guarantee peace and quiet at a club like Ironi Kiryat Shmona.

With the Toto Cup already safely locked away in the trophy cabinet and the side to host Maccabi Netanya in the last 16 of the State Cup, even an unprecedented treble seems possible for Kiryat Shmona, which only won its first ever title last season.

However, the idyllic picture up north was shattered in recent days with ego and money getting the better of the two men in charge of Kiryat Shmona’s incredible season.

The source of the friction is the expiring contract of coach Ran Ben-Shimon.

While Ben-Shimon wants to leave his options open as long as he can, having one eye on the Maccabi Haifa position, owner Izzy Sheratzky is determined to sign a coach for next season before March.

The two met to discuss a contract extension earlier this week and Sheratzky was enraged that no deal was struck, setting a two-week ultimatum for Ben-Shimon while also revealing that the coach had asked for a release clause should Maccabi Haifa come calling.

The two eventually met again on Wednesday and supposedly set their differences aside, indicating that Ben-Shimon will sign a new deal after further discussions next week.

However, Ben-Shimon said on Thursday that there has been no progress in negotiations and that the two only met to clear the air ahead of Saturday’s league encounter at Maccabi Petah Tikva.

Kiryat Shmona could see its lead cut to seven points by the time it kicks-off its match at the Moshava Stadium against a Petah Tikva team which had won three straight matches in all competitions under new coach Moshe Sinai before being thrashed 4-1 at Maccabi Haifa on Monday.

Second-placed Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Bnei Sakhnin earlier in the day, knowing a win could put a little pressure on Kiryat Shmona.

However, while Hapoel is still dreaming of catching the northerners, it needs to first and foremost beat Sakhnin to keep a hold of second place.

Ashdod SC, which visits Maccabi Netanya on Saturday, is only one point behind the Reds, with Sakhnin, which has won three of its past four matches, just a further three points back.

The battle against relegation hits a crucial juncture this weekend, with the bottom four facing off on Saturday.

Hapoel Beersheba, which is in 13th place, one point off the relegation zone, hosts rock-bottom Hapoel Petah Tikva, while 14thplaced Hapoel Haifa welcomes Hapoel Rishon Lezion, which is positioned just below it.

Betar Jerusalem, which is only two points above the relegation zone, will be watching Saturday’s showdowns with interest ahead of its encounter with Maccabi Tel Aviv at Teddy Stadium on Monday in what will be Eli Cohen’s first match in charge since replacing Yuval Naim.

Also Saturday, Hapoel Ramat Hasharon visits Hapoel Acre, while Maccabi Haifa goes to Bnei Yehuda on Sunday.

Saturday on TV: Hapoel Tel Aviv vs Bnei Sakhnin (live on Sport 1 at 4:45 p.m.); Maccabi Petah Tikva vs Ironi Kiryat Shmona (live on Sport 2 at 7:15 p.m.).
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