The Last Word: The Ardiles revolution is yet to begin

This reporter was surprised to find a distinct lack of opulance at the Ardiles press conference.

There seems to have been far less hype over the arrival of new Betar Jerusalem manager Ossie Ardiles than there was in November last year when the less well known Frenchman Luis Fernandez was presented as Betar 'General Manager'. This might have had something to do with the fact that Fernandez was one of the first acquisitions of then-new Betar owner Arkadi Gaydamak, and the Frenchman's arrival came at the start of the season. Nevertheless, this reporter was surprised to find a distinct lack of opulance at the Ardiles press conference, which took place in the same room at the David Citadel Hotel as last year's. This time there were no fancy hors d'oeuvres before it started and attendees were definitely not treated to a three course meal at the expense of Mr. Gaydamak after the conference finished. Instead Ardiles spoke to a much smaller audience who had only a few biscuits to munch on before proceedings began. However, the difference between the two unveilings was obvious from the start. Ardiles appears to have both a game plan and buckets of enthusiasm - two things Fernandez never seemed to have even thought of. While Fernandez's short time at Betar was characterized by his constant shrug of the shoulders, Ardiles spoke carefully and somewhat excitedly about how he intends to transform Betar into league champions. In one sentence at the end of his first meeting with Israeli journalists Ardiles made his intentions very clear. "Which of the two greats of Argentinian soccer management would you compare yourself to?" one reporter asked him. "Carlos Bilardo or Cesar Luis Menotti?" Menotti was the legendary flamboyant coach who led the Argentina squad, including a young Ardiles, to the famous 1978 World Cup final victory over Holland. Bilardo also won the World Cup as the Argentina coach, playing the unorthodox 3-5-2 system in the 1986 finals in Mexico. Ardiles took a moment to think, and then looked up. After explaining how much he clearly respected the methods of Menotti and Bilardo, the new coach didn't mince his words. "My team will play football the Ardiles way," he stated. The question, of course, is what is the Ardiles way, and how succesful can the softly spoken South American be in the Israeli league? Ossie, as he is known, spent much of the press conference talking about how his team will play "beautiful", "elegant" and "dangerous" soccer in the coming season. There's no doubt that although he is experienced, the Argentinian's managerial career has not been the success he may have hoped for. It has been an astonishing 17 years since Ardiles took the reigns at Swindon Town in what was then the English second division where he won delighted fans by winning promtotion. Since then his record has been less than impressive (he even managed to get Japanese side Tokyo Verdy relegated a year ago) but with the players Betar has, as well as those coming in, it shouldn't be too hard for Ardiles to bring the league title to Teddy. The fact is the Israeli league really isn't very good. Betar came third last season despite dropping many easy points. The 3-0 home win over Maccabi Haifa showed that the greens are far less than unbeatable and the signings of Roni Gafni and Shimon Gershon will only strengthen the team. With the impending arrival of Michael Zandberg more than making up for the loss of Maor Melikson, and who knows which foreigners to come, don't be surprised if you see Ossie celebrating an ineffable victory in front of hordes of Betar fanatics in June next year.