INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: GAUTHIER GANAYE
After a strong start with 9 out of 12 and some good results against Anderlecht, Cercle, Beerschot and STVV, KVO is now in a slump: 0 out of 15 is the verdict of the last five games. Executive President Gauthier Ganaye pleads for calmness: "I fully understand the frustrations of fans and sponsors, but we know the qualities and the flaws of this core and there is no reason to panic. But we do have to take this zero point fifteen seriously.
Saturday we play the last game of the first round against Eupen. How do you look back on the first half of the season?
"We started the season relatively well after the disappointing result against Charleroi. After that we had a lot of player changes due to incoming and outgoing transfers, injuries, form etc. We are now going through a very difficult period with five defeats in a row and 10 goals against in the last two games. This is a situation we all need to take seriously, but the last thing we need to do is panic. We need to stay true to our style of play and keep supporting each other. "
Where can we do better?
"It's clear we are giving away too many chances and conceding too many goals. That has to do with stability at the back but - a cliché but true - we also have to defend with the whole team, that has to be a mindset. Pressing at the right moment so the defense doesn't get under pressure, for example. In general, we have to do better in every line. I have the feeling we are too quick to be satisfied now. We have to crawl back into that underdog position and realize that we have to fight hard for every point."
With Jack Hendry we lost a born leader at the back. Add to that the departure of Arthur Theate and you lost a lot of defensive stability.
"You can't deny that. It was our intention to keep Jack Hendry here for one more season, but if a club lifts the clause, you're powerless. But then again, without that clause Jack would never have signed here. Arthur Theate would have been untenable. It was better for both the club and himself that he left. And he's proving that in Bologna now."
Which club can replace theate and hendry? Maybe CLUB or genk but not kvo?
Steven Fortes and Zech Medley were supposed to be their replacements but that hasn't quite come out yet.
"Actually, we shouldn't compare with last season. Which club can replace a player who is now a strongman with the best club in the country and performs in the Champions League on the one hand and someone who was recently called up for the 'Red Devils' and performs week in week out in Serie A on the other? Maybe teams like Club Brugge or Genk but not KV Oostende?
Steven Fortes made his debut at Club, until he got the red card. After his suspension, he struggled with an injury and was not fully fit for a long time. With his experience and presence, we brought him on to be the leader at the back. We expect more from him, and he realises that too.
Zech Medley on the other hand is only 21 years old, living and living somewhere without his family for the first time and still has a lot of progression margin. He works hard at training to make that progression as well. Everyone compares him to Arthur Theate but he is a totally different type of player. Not everyone goes through a fairytale like Arthur Theate, that is the exception rather than the norm. We just need to give young players the chance to develop. Just look at Frederik Jäkel, for example. Last season was his first season as a professional and now he's performing at a fairly constant level."
"I thought Fortes made a very strong debut but then his suspension and injury followed."
Besides Theate and Hendry we lost a lot of quality with Bataille, Hjulsager, Vandendriessche and Sakala.
"Look, I'll come back to the players who left one more time, but after that that's done and we have to focus on the present.
Hjulsager didn't want to sign more, so we had to sell him. Also with Jelle Bataille we couldn't come to an agreement so we had to sell him as well. Fashion Sakala didn't want to negotiate for a new contract and unfortunately he left for free. Kevin Vandendriessche was offered one extra year with the guarantee that he could stay for another year after a good season. It's our philosophy not to offer long-term contracts to older players. Kevin could sign for two years at KV Kortrijk and that's his right, Brecht Capon accepted one year extra. But anyway, there's little or nothing we could have done differently. Players come and go, that's modern football more than ever. Fans have to live with the fact that players often don't stay at the same club for ten years. But then it's my job to get full-fledged replacements. Especially in defence that was a difficult task, but I think we succeeded overall. That might sound strange after a zero out of fifteen, but I remain convinced of our players and they will show that. If I could do the transfer period over again, I wouldn't change much. I'd also like to mention that the players mentioned above aren't having an easy time getting back to their level of last season either, except maybe for Vandendriessche."
Evaluate the incoming transfers.
"I don't like to talk about individual players, but we already talked about the defenders, so I'll start with the midfielders. Kenny Rocha started the season very strongly and immediately proved his worth. He's having a bit of a relapse now, but that's partly due to international duty and the long flights. Alfons Amade is a solid midfielder and I expect a lot from Vincent Koziello. We only got him because he wasn't playing for his club due to injuries and illnesses. Otherwise a player of his calibre would never have come here. But he missed the preparation and was therefore not fully fit for a long time. He needs to play to gain match fitness and that's starting to happen now. I'm convinced that, with a good Vincent Koziello, Maxime D'Arpino will be able to play much better again."
"From Vincent Koziello I expect a lot more in our colours".
Up front, Ambrose came on as Sakala's replacement.
"Thierry is a different type to Sakala but he has incredible qualities. He just needs to become more regular in his performances. That has been a problem in his career so far and he needs to work on that. But if Ambrose plays to his qualities he can form one of the best attacking duos in the Jupiler Pro League together with Makhtar Gueye, I'm convinced of that."
gueye and ambrose can form one of the best attacking duos in first division, i am convinced of that.
Gueye was already very important with his nine goals.
"When we got Makhtar, we knew he had incredible potential but there was still planing to do. That's what we do, get young players who still have huge growth potential. Makhtar has proven that this season, and I'm sure he can do even better. He has been struggling with a slight injury in recent weeks but he will still be very important for our team this season."
Indeed, we were not helped by the injury burden yet either.
"Certainly not. We count three long-term absentees. Indy Boonen started the season strongly and confirmed his good form from the Play-offs. Unfortunately fate struck and we lost him for months. His revalidation is going well though, so hopefully we can still count on him this season. Cameron McGeehan also had a lot of bad luck in 2021 but hopefully he will be back in 2022. He's a profile we can definitely use right now. Our youngster Manuel Osifo has also been out with medical problems, which is a pity as he was an extra option in our defence. Hopefully he can rejoin soon. We also have Tanghe and D'Haese who have been struggling with injuries.
We deliberately choose to have a narrow core and a low wage bill. Then, of course, when you have several players who are out long-term, it's annoying."
What can we expect in January?
"I don't want to talk too much about the transfer period, because it's mainly the players of today who will have to do it. But OK, it goes without saying we will strengthen. We've already done that with Kyle Duncan, who will be a huge asset on the right. He will certainly not be the last newcomer. But there's no point in bringing in two more players on 31 January, as there will only be nine games left to play. So ideally the newcomers should be there in the first week of January when we go on training camp. But to be clear, we won't be taking on half a new team. We're all convinced of the qualities of our current players. They have to get us through this difficult period.
Of course there will be reinforcements but we won't get a new half team either.
And the coach, of course. Last season 'Coach of the Season', he must be in demand by many clubs.
"Of course there is interest in Alex but we know that too. What applies to a player also applies to a trainer: if you perform well, you will eventually make a transfer. But for now Alexander Blessin is still trainer of KVO and we are happy about that. Last summer everyone expected his departure and he is still here. He works hard every day to get the maximum out of the group. For any coach it's hard when you don't win but I'm sure he will find solutions."
"For any coach it is difficult but I am confident he will find solutions."
Critics say that other investor-owned clubs are not doing well either. How do you respond to that?
"First of all, I want to make it clear that I can only speak about Nancy and KVO, the two clubs where I work. Nancy was a special case because of the difficult financial situation and a transfer ban. Because of that, we had a difficult start, but we're on the right track now. I think, based on the last five or six games, we are eighth in the league. I also see that my ex club Barnsley is struggling this season but last season they were on the verge of promotion to the Premier League. Football is always about snapshots and things can change so quickly. Anyway, I'm convinced that our way of working is the right way and that with hard work we will go far."
Finally, Saturday is going to be a very important game, isn't it?
"All the matches coming up are important. Also tomorrow's cup match. I still maintain: if we're good, we can beat anyone. That's what we have to start from and I'll tell the players that too. We have to boost the confidence and then everything will be alright. In Ostend - I think more than anywhere else - people understand that when there is a storm, we all have to work together to bring the ship safely into port. Now more than ever players, staff, fans and sponsors have to pull together to achieve success. Together we can do it!