The King's New Hand
Robert Baratheon: You're the King's Hand, Lord Stark. You'll do as I command, or I'll find me a Hand who will.
Stuart Baxter can't say he wasn't warned.
At his signing ceremony at Gençler in Ankara a few weeks ago, Mr. Baxter was given a clear statement of how Chairman İlhan Cavcav feels about his managers:
"Four coaches have been replaced, the fifth is coming. If needed, I'll change 17 coaches, for the good of the team," Cavcav said. And the 79-year-old also provided Mr. Baxter with a description of what he looks for in a coach when he discussed the reasons why Mesut Bakkal will never, ever, be seen again at Gençler.
"We were playing the Cup [quarter-final] against Bursaspor," said Cavcav. "We have a player called Uğur Çiftçi. In the season break Karabük offered 650,000 euro for him and we refused. He's very aggressive on the pitch and he got a yellow card in that match. I said to take him off. He [Mesut Bakkal] didn't. He got a second yellow and was sent off. We'd been leading two-nil at the half, Bursaspor won the second half three-two. The money we lost was $250,000. Plus $100,000 match income makes $350,000. If we'd got through we'd be playing Galatasaray which means $250,000. Add it up: $600,000."
Keeping a coaching job at Gençler is pretty simple: follow Mr. Cavcav's instructions and make money.
So when a matchbox appears in the dugout with a scribbled note inside, or when your translator's phone makes that "special" ringtone, it's clear what's expected.
And this week, Mr. Baxter was provided with another warning. Muhsin Ertuğral, a former Gençler assistant who knows Baxter from South Africa, spoke with the candour that comes with distance from Ankara when he commented to the www.kickoff.com website:
Baxter "chose a club which, on average, generally changes two coaches per season,” Ertuğral said. “The owner of the club is not very fond of coaches, and likes to get himself unnecessarily involved. I wish Stuart luck – I know he is a great coach who can adapt to the situation there because obviously the expectations are sometimes really over what an average club can achieve. The demands of this president are really ridiculous, and hopefully Baxter can stay until the end of the season – I wish him that.”
Lasting to the end of the season. High aspirations. What's your over-under, dear reader?