PETRESCU ANGLING FOR ROMANIA JOB
Former Chelsea wing-back Dan Petrescu is currently seeing UAE side Al Nasr through a somewhat decent season. After leading the Dubai-based club to a pair of wins in March (a 1-0 home win to Al Sharjah and a 4-0 away victory at Al Shabab), Petrescu’s team sit in 6th place in the 14-team Arabian Gulf League.
Al Nasr are 12 points outside the top three, meaning they are unlikely to finish the season in a qualifying spot for the all-important Asia Champions League. Though Al Nasr are not one of the region’s top squads, Petrescu’s tenure with the team (which he joined last October) has been a little underwhelming.
Petrescu’s contract with Al Nasr expires on June 30th and it seems that he isn’t banking on being offered a renewed deal. This month, Petrescu stated publicly that he was interested in taking over the Romanian national side if (when?) current coach Christoph Daum gets the sack — the 63-year-old journeyman recently received the dreaded vote of confidence from the Romanian FA.
Romania are currently in an uphill battle to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. They were held 0-0 at home by Denmark on March 26th. The result left them 4th in Group E. Whether Petrescu takes over as national coach in the summer is yet to be seen — it’s not a move that would be popular with all, such as the legendary Gheorghe Hagi — but Petrescu’s comments signify that it is very unlikely that he’ll be in the United Arab Emirates much longer.
If we were giving out Manager of the Month awards, it would be hard to deny Fulham’s Slavisa Jokanovic. The midfielder who briefly donned a Chelsea kit saw his Cottagers climb higher in the Championship table in March on the back of two wins and two draws. On March 4th Fulham confidently put away Preston 3-1 at home, before drawing with promotion-chasing Leeds 1-1, also at home. On the 11th they had one of their best wins of the season, a 3-1 away win at league leaders Newcastle. However, they were held 2-2 by relegation strugglers Blackburn and beaten 3-1 by Wolves after that. Their first game in April was a 1-0 win away at Rotherham. Thanks to this form Fulham have entered the play-off zone, though Sheffield Wednesday are only a point behind them.
At the other end of the table, you’ll find Gianfranco Zola and Birmingham City; who have slipped all the way to 18th and are now only 6 points clear of the relegation places. Zola’s March was awful; the Brummies lost at home to Leeds (3-1) and Wigan (1-0) and drew with Ipswich (1-1) and Cardiff (1-1) away. They did hold Newcastle to a scoreless draw at home on the 18th though.
In Scotland things aren’t slowing down for David Hopkin, whose Livingston team have pretty much sewn up League One (Scotland’s third tier). They were held 1-1 by Queens Park on March 4th and they lost to East Fife 1-0 on the 11th, but they won their other four games in March with a combined score of 9-2. On April 1st Livi beat Brechin 2-0 away to improve their lead at the top to 13 points.
On the other side of the planet, Gus Poyet and Shanghai Shenhua kicked off a new season in the Chinese Super League. Shenhua’s opening game was against Jiangsu Suning, formerly managed by Dan Petrescu. Poyet’s men pounded Jiangsu 4-0. Among the scorers was Carlos Tevez, who slotted home a penalty in the first half. To makes things worse for Jiangsu - who were missing Ramires due to suspension - Alex Texeira was sent off in the 93rd minute. Poyet’s second league game in charge was an underwhelming 1-1 draw to Tianjin Quanjian, at home on March 11th. That game saw Alexandre Pato miss a penalty for Tianjin and veteran Shenhua midfielder Qin Sheng get sent off in the first half. The third game for Poyet was even worse: a 2-1 away loss to Bejing Guoan, a side that’s notable for not having any big name superstars. The 1-1-1 record has Shenhua sitting 9th in the 16-team league.
Back in England Ritchie Hanlon and Paul Hughes are still fighting for survival with Hayes and Yeading in the Southern Premier League. Their team lost half their games in March, including a 6-0 drubbing by Biggleswade Town. They did pick up wins over St. Neots and Cirencester though. Despite that, the team are stuck in the relegation zone, four points from safety.
Below Hanlon and Hughes, in the Spartan South Midlands Football Leagues’ Premier Division, Micky Hazard’s Hadley are also in the bottom three. They went winless in March, but did beat FC Broxbourne Borough 2-1 on April 1st.
In International competition, Didier Deschamps and France are in pole position to qualify for the World Cup. They easily beat Luxembourg 3-1 away on March 25th and are three points clear of Sweden atop Group A.
Andriy Shevchenko’s Ukraine have more work to do if they want to get out of Group I. They lost to group leaders Croatia (1-0) on March 24th. The team are third in the table, two points behind Iceland and 5 off of Croatia.
All of our rumours come from the International scene this month.
In February, it was reported that Marcel Desailly was being considered by the Ghanian FA to take over the role vacated by Avram Grant. In March more calls came in from both fans and football establishment figures for the French World Cup winner to take over the team. But the Ghana-born Desailly has remained coy about his future plans. A rare public comment on the issue came on March 2nd, when he tweeted ‘Lots of Pressure on me to position my self for the Ghana Black stars Job’, which accompanied a picture of a fan holding a banner calling for the ex-Chelsea captain to return to Africa.
The Ghana job is still vacant, despite Harry Redknapp applying for it, per The Sun.
Desailly’s old teammate Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has also been suggested for an international job posting. Danny Blind was sacked as manager of The Netherlands after his Dutch side lost to Bulgaria 2-0 in late March. Writing for The Express Joe Short outlined why JFH should be the man - instead of Ronald Koeman - to take over the role. Since being fired from QPR, Hasselbaink has reportedly turned down jobs at both Charlton and Coventry. Would coaching a European power-house be enough to tempt him back to the dugout?
VIDEO OF THE MONTH
With Dan Petrescu, who is affectionately known as ‘The Badger’ in his homeland, positioning himself for a run managing the national team - this month’s video is the highlights of perhaps the greatest game Romania has ever played. At USA ‘94 Petrescu and his teammates surprised many by winning their group, which included Switzerland, Colombia, and the United States. In the round of 16 they were drawn up against an Argentina side that boasted Diego Maradona, Gabriel Batistuta, Fernando Redondo, Ariel Ortega, and Diego Simeone. Despite Romania fielding their own ‘Golden Generation’ of footballers - starring the criminally underrated Gheorghe Hagi - Argentina were the heavy favourites for the game, which was to be played at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl stadium.
See how the thrilling back-and-forth encounter played out below, courtesy of Legendstuff on YouTube: