Leonid Slutsky Appointed Head Coach of Hull City – Becomes Historic

Leonid Slutsky when he was in charge of the Russian national team. Photo: Светлана Бекетова

Leonid Slutsky when he was in charge of the Russian national team. Photo: Светлана Бекетова

Former CSKA Moscow and Russia national team head coach Leonid Slutsky has made history by becoming the first Russian to take charge of an English club after being confirmed in the hot seat at Hull City. His appointment follows speculation over the past week – with Sunderland also said to have been interested in capturing the 46-year-old – and months of acclimatisation to English football, language and culture.

After his predecessor Marco Silva left the club having failed to save them from relegation from the Premier League, Slutsky becomes the third appointment in a year, after former Manchester United assistant Mike Phelan was left the unenviable task of picking up a squad that at one point only had 13 senior players on the books. His move is still to be ratified subject to international clearance, but this is expected to be a formality. He has already been involved in deep discussions over planning the transfer window – in which he could theoretically have access to 40 million in parachute payments – and pre-season training schedules.

The fact that he will be joining a Championship club may come as a surprise to some observers, but it is consistent with the sensible approach he has thus far taken to moving on from his native country. Keeping a relatively low profile for half a year under the watchful eye of long-time acquaintance Roman Abramovich, who Slutsky referred to as “the best agent in the world” in reference to the Chelsea owner’s connections and assistance to his integration, has served to prepare him for the rigours of English football.

Four hours a day of private English language tuition is just one measure of how seriously Slutsky has worked at laying the groundwork for this position, but the breadth of immersion into all aspects of life in England has been impressive. “I am like an Englishman now,” he told the Telegraph in April. “I travel on the Underground every day and to games [which Abramovich has personally assisted him in watching]… I have been to five or six musicals [including Book of Mormon], I probably understood 60% of it.”

Access to Chelsea’s Cobham training ground to study the first team, academy side, the under 23s and under 18s has played a large part in his methodical studying of what it will take to adapt to an entirely new footballing culture. One criticism lazily slung at foreign managers is an apparent lack of understanding of the English culture and game, but this is not something that can so readily be directed at Slutsky.

After a remarkably successful career in charge at CSKA brought a Champions League quarter final and three league titles, dropping into the cut-throat world of England’s second tier with the crowded schedule will be a major challenge. “I understand for English people and English football, it’s more important to have inside experience than outside,” he admitted to the Telegraph. “For example, maybe one successful season in the Championship is more important than my old titles in Russia and 50 matches in the Champions League because inside experience is vital. I understand and I’m ready to play by the English rules.”

His preferred tactical approach has been a relatively unadventurous 4-2-3-1 formation centred around an experienced back line, but given both the increasing tendency for modern clubs to venture into different systems – particularly a three-man defence – and his awareness of the need to adapt, a different on-pitch style could well emerge. One criticism that has been made of him is his perceived reluctance to renovate the old guard of Vasiliy Berezutskiy and Sergey Ignashevich – along with Igor Akinfeev and Berezutskiy’s twin Aleksey, Slutsky inherited a defensive core that he relied upon for a decade, and in the unforgiving world of English football he will have to be open to change.

Author: Andrew Flint

I moved out to Russia in 2010 to teach English because it sounded like fun, then I met and fell in love with FC Tyumen (and my wife!) and decided to stay. Surprisingly, I turned out to be the only English person remotely interested in a Siberian third-tier club, but then who wouldn’t fall for a grizzly Georgian midget, a flying Brazilian and Tyumen’s 93rd most influential figure…

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