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Dugout Blues: Andriy Shevchenko hired as manager for Ukraine

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A former Chelsea striker landed his first ever manager gig. Elsewhere, other former Chelsea players are rushing to bolster their squads ahead of a fast approaching new season.

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Day Three: The Championships - Wimbledon 2016 Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

SHEVA LANDS TOP JOB

After suffering one of their most humiliating tournaments in recent history, Ukraine have promoted assistant coach Andriy Shevchenko to manager. Shevchenko joined the national set-up ahead of EURO 2016, under then-manager Mykhaylo Fomenko. In France, Ukraine lost all three of their games (to Germany, Northern Ireland, and Poland) and failed to score a single goal. They were the only team in the entire tournament not to register a goal. The bigwigs at the Ukrainian FA will no doubt hope that Shevchenko, a legendary striker in his prime, will be able to bring goals back to the national side.

Shevchenko spent the bulk of his playing career at AC Milan (two spells), where he scored over 175 goals in just over 300 games (and won the Ballon d’Or in 2004). In 2005 Shevchenko signed for Chelsea after a £30million transfer lured him away from the San Siro. The fee was a record for British football at the time. Like many big-name strikers who came before and after him Shevchenko struggled in front of goal while wearing a Chelsea kit. The Ukrainian sniper netted just 9 league goals in 47 appearances (30 starts). In other competitons ‘Sheva’ bagged 13 more goals, but that wasn’t enough to stop Chelsea shipping him back to Milan on loan in 2008. Shevchenko retired as a player in 2012, while playing with Dynamo Kyev (the team he started his career with).

For the national team, Shevchenko made over 100 appearances and scored 48 goals. That makes him Ukraine’s all-time leading goal scorer. The feel-good-factor seems to have played a part in the decision to hire Shevchenko for the nation’s top job. The 39-year-old is an extremely popular character in that country - despite his failure to get elected to the Ukrainian parliament in 2012. However, Shevchenko’s popularity won’t count for much if the national side continue trending downwards. It will likely take a great deal of coaching prowess to improve the country’s competitiveness in the short-term and this could be too big an ask for a man taking his very first managerial role.

ELSEWHERE

Though their results were not as embarrassing as Ukraine’s, France - under Didier Deschamps - suffered a grander disappointment after slumping to a 1-0 extra-time defeat to Portugal in the EURO 2016 final. The host nation had stormed into the final after confidently besting Germany, and hammering Cinderella-side Iceland in the previous rounds. Despite the loss, which prompted Deschamps to decry that his team had “failed the nation,” it would appear his job is safe with Les Bleus for the foreseeable future.

In Spain, one of Deschamps’ former Chelsea teammates continues to re-enforce his side ahead of the coming La Liga season. This week Gus Poyet’s Real Betis pulled off somewhat of a coup in landing Roma striker Antonio Sanabria. This is despite Spurs (boo) offering £12.8m (which was reportedly more than Betis offered) for the 20-year-old, according to The Daily Star. The Paraguayan international’s agent had spoken with Spurs (boo), but ultimately Sanabria opted to stay in the comfortable confines of Spain (he had spent last season on loan at Sporting Gijon). In a pre-season game Betis walloped lower-league side El Palo 7-0 on July 15th.

Dan Petrescu and FC Kuban are back to playing competitive football. The Russian First Division kicked off last week and in their first game Kuban were held to a 0-0 draw away to Spartak Nalchik. In their second game, they drew 1-1 at home to Luch Energiya. Those two points are good for 11th place in the 20 team league. Though it’s very early days, Kuban fans would likely be disappointed in their team’s inability to pick up an early win. The team was relegated from the Premier Division last term and the bookies expect them to bounce back this season.

In Scotland David Hopkin also saw a competitive game. On July 16th his Livingston United lost 3-2 away to St. Mirren in the BetFred Cup (Scottish League Cup). That cup competition features an initial group stage. Livi’s loss puts them fourth in Group G, ahead of Hamilton, and behind Ayr, Edinburgh City, and St. Mirren. In prior pre-season friendlies Hopkin’s men drew with Morton and St. Johnstone.

The trio of former Chelsea players in the English Championship are all hard at work recruiting new players for the forthcoming season. At Fulham, Slavisa Jokanovic landed Chelsea youngster Tomas Kalas on loan. The Cottagers also picked up Belgian defender Denis Odoi. On July 9th, Fulham bested Cork City - in Ireland - 3-0. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is trying to lure new talent to Loftus Road, but he seems set to miss out on Lille forward Sehrou Guirassy, who seems to fancy a more esteemed league. QPR may be able to raise some decent funds for Hasselbaink’s transfer war-chest though, rumour has it that Bournemouth are planning a £15million raid for both Steven Caulker and Nedum Onouha. QPR are currently touring the Netherlands, where they faced the two teams Arjen Robben played for before joining Chelsea. On the 8th they beat PSV 1-0 and on the 11th they lost 3-1 to Groningen. Aston Villa and Roberto Di Matteo are currently shopping for a new striker, with GianlucaDiMarzio.com reporting that the Villans are among a host of British clubs chasing Islam Slimani, who scored 31 goals for Sporting Lisbon last season. Goals haven’t exactly been hard to come by in pre-season, though. Aston Villa beat both Worcester and Telford on July 16th, prior to this they thrashed Austrian side Grazer 8-0.

Lower down the leagues, Kevin Wilson and Nuneaton had mixed friendly results. On July 9th they lost 2-1 away to Coventry. On the 12th they beat Northampton 1-0 at home.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK

To celebrate Andriy Shevchenko getting an opportunity to change his country’s footballing fortunes, let’s watch all 22 goals he scored in a Chelsea shirt (thanks to YouTuber LP&CFC). Although, it’s a little depressing to see what could of been, had the Ukrainian been able to bring such quality finishing and poacher’s instinct to an extended run of games.