More than 150 members gathered in the Dug Out for our November meeting when we had our Head Coach, Leonid Slutsky as our special guest speaker.
To start with our Chair, Dave, covered a few pieces of information for members. First members who had booked to visit Bramall Lane on Tuesday 14th Nov. were reminded that the coach leaves the KCOM Stadium at 9.30 am. The pre-Christmas Luncheon for members is booked for Thursday, 7th Dec and due to the high number of bookings will be held in the Circle Restaurant, overlooking the pitch. Allen, our former Club Chaplain, will also reprise those Christmas Carols that used to take place at half time during the nearest to Christmas match.
Barbara was asked to update on the Outings for the New Year. January’s trip to Lincoln (Hemswell Market & the new Bomber Command Memorial) was full but a few extra seats have now become available by booking a larger coach. The price has increased to £21 but this now includes a Buffet Luncheon at the Dambusters’ Inn. There are still some places left for the Sunderland trip in February and some extra places have been created for the oversubscribed trips to Grosmont (March) and to the Boat Lift in April. Further details from Barbara, who expressed that the enthusiastic response had “blown her mind!”
The Chair introduced our January meeting, which will follow a different format. It will be a Memorabilia Day when members are welcome to bring along some of their treasures from earlier days following the Tigers. A number of key collectors had already promised to bring along their special collection. In time we hope to launch our Senior Tigers Memorabilia On Line collection.
Finally for the pre-ambles it was mentioned that 4 members of our Walking Football team had been offered free travel and tickets for a forthcoming England International at Wembley. Their names were drawn by raffle.
Our very welcome guest was now introduced and received a wonderful & warm round of applause. Leonid Slutsky is the first Russian to manage within the English League. Alongside him for our meeting was the recently appointed Head of Club Strategy, Oleg Yarovinsky. Hopefully these notes will reflect the conversation although translation may suffer along the way!
Our Head Coach began in his introduction by saying that our action is to Support the team whilst his action is the get Results! He also mentioned that we are his Energy Machine!
Leonid was born in May, 1971 and growing up in the former Soviet Union he said that there was plenty of opportunity for Sport whilst he was at school He had joined a football club at 8 years and during his days in the schoolboy soccer he team had beaten Manchester United in Russia and followed up with a 2-2 draw in Manchester. That wonderful glint sparkled in his eyes as he mentioned this! It is well documented how his playing days were to be cut dramatically short but he recounted the sorry tale. Just 2 years into his professional contract, he was a Goalkeeper, he very kindly offered to help rescue a neighbour’s cat from up a tree. Sadly he fell from the tree and suffered horrendous injuries resulting in a full year in hospital. With that twinkle he said that he no longer likes Cats – except Tigers!
Oleg Yarovinsky was born in Moscow 35 years ago and was playing Ice Hockey from just 4 years of age and played the fast game for many years. He made the move to football in 2005 when Leonid invited him to join him at FC Moscow. There were three very successful years with the team finishing 5th, 6th and 4th. They also broke Russian tradition by bringing the 2nd Team players to train alongside the 1st Team – revolutionary for them.
He then moved to CSKA Moscow and during his six year tenure he led them to three Russian Championships, during one of those runs his team kept 15 consecutive clean sheets, a record. In 2010 CSKA reached the knock out stages of the European Cup for the first time and made the Quarter Finals before losing to Inter Milan. In 2015 he succeeded Fabio Capello as Coach of the Russian National Team and took them all the way to the Euro 2016 Finals during which they frustrated the England team! All through this period Oleg has been alongside him.
Asked whether coming to England was a challenge he responded saying that Russian football is really good but England is so much more. Asked whether Leonid has always walked up and down during matches Oleg quickly responded with “Yes!” He added that he was also famed for rocking on his seat and ruined every seat in due course! It was also suggested that as he strutted about he was probably killing kittens in his mind!
He stood down from the national team after their elimination from the Euros in 2016 and resigned from CSKA shortly after. He felt he had achieved everything he could and needed a new challenge for his career. England would be that challenge. Asked how long he had known Abramovich he said 15 years and went on to say that he had created a seed change in the English game when he took over Chelsea – wages for players would now rocket to the heights they now command. He spent six months as a guest of Abramovich with the challenge to learn English and understand how the English game works. Was it easy learning English, he was asked, “No, it is not an easy language to learn and explained some of the frustrating eccentricities of English grammar!
He shared how difficult it was starting at Hull City with so many players leaving as he arrived and only 18 players to start the season with but he did not complain. Seven or eight had joined after the season started and he then had to get to understand them, how they react to instructions and decisions etc. Oleg, for his part, watches matches from the top of the stands to get a better view than that from the dug out. He then feeds information to Leonid during the halftime break. Asked for comparisons they agreed that there is more passion in the English game but because players will take more risks there are also more mistakes. With Chelsea not doing so well this season did they think Abramovich would look to sell … and buy Hull City? “I’ll ask him on Sunday” replied Leonid!
He was asked how he relaxed and admitted it is very difficult, he is always thinking about the team. He did sometimes go cycling or play squash. When cycling he would travel 70/80 kilometres into the Yorkshire Wolds. He currently has a problem because someone had stolen his bike! Did he end up in a pub? “Sometimes, and sometimes Fish n’ Chips!” He had been spotted recently at Hull Fair and was asked for his opinion of this great local tradition. He had clearly enjoyed the excursion and felt it would help him to understand us. His favourite moment was on the Horse Races but then he admitted he lost 8 matches on the spin! “I hope I get the chance to go again!”
He was asked whether he always smiled in the dressing room and Oleg responded by saying his smile can be a delusion! He was, in fact, one of the most demanding coaches he had known. Apart from the break through of Jarrod Bowen & Max Clarke did he see any more under 23’s knocking on the 1st Team door? “Hopefully in time” he replied and mentioned that 4 or 5 were regularly training with the first team players.
Did he intend to keep playing Squash? He said yes, because he was hoping to improve! He said that he had also tried playing golf and said that the next stop was cricket!!
Finally he was asked whether he enjoyed British culture. “I have to if I am able to manage the players here”, whilst Oleg responded by saying that he was proud to be Russian. “There is much here to be praised but I don’t want to change but be a Russian in Britain”.
Wow … what a session but let no one think he is merely here to do a job. He is here to succeed and we can only hope he has the time to reach that target.
Elsewhere you will be able to read Dave Osgerby’s wonderful poem in salute to Leonid Slutsky.