‘The situation was just too bad’ – Kerala Blasters sporting director Karolis Skinkys explains Kibu Vicuna decision

‘The situation was just too bad’ – Kerala Blasters sporting director Karolis Skinkys explains Kibu Vicuna decision

Kerala Blasters sporting director Karolis Skinkys has said that Kibu Vicuna’s departure will not affect the club’s long-term project…

After coming on board as the sporting director at Indian Super League (ISL) Kerala Blasters, Lithuanian Karolis Skinkys put together a long-term strategy to not only bring success to the club but also add stability to the way it functions. 

He was heavily involved in every sporting decision that the club arrived at and one of the decisions that he had to make was the appointment of a new head coach. Eelco Schattorie’s contract wasn’t renewed following an injury-hit season,  Blasters appointed their ninth different manager since their inception when they brought on board I-League champion Kibu Vicuna. 

Vicuna, who perfected his Mohun Bagan team in pre-season by playing a lot of games, lost just one league game in their journey to the title last season. However, with expectations riding high, the Vicuna era also ended in disappointment as Blasters dropped to the eighth position on the league table after 18 games. The inevitable happened, Kerala Blasters once again parted ways with their manager. 

The decision part ways with Kibu Vicuna was met with confusion and disappointment from the supporters, especially as it came after a heavy 0-4 defeat to Hyderabad that confirmed the team’s exit from the top-four race. In an exclusive conversation with Goal, the sporting director himself shed light on the situation that led to the club making such a difficult decision. 

“It (the decision regarding the coach) is not related to the result against Hyderabad.  It is related to our position on the table after 18 matches. Many different circumstances negatively affected results, but we underperformed more than expected. I hear different opinions about the cycle of coach, etc. but ultimately, this team did not play to the best of their abilities. The club and its supporters should not compromise on this,” Skinkys explained. 

Blasters have now changed coaches nine times in seven seasons and this managerial merry-go-round could be considered as a threat to the execution of long-term projects. However, Skinkys reassures that the vision of the club does not undergo any changes despite the departure of the head coach. 

“The plan is the same as the vision is to build long term. The head coach is a very important detail but, changing him does not mean that the vision of the club is affected. We have several talented players under long term contracts that form a core part of our team. So, now is the time to evaluate what style of football they are best suited for and start from there.”

Kerala Blasters recently extended the contracts of their promising Malayali stars Sahal Abdul Samad and Rahul KP. They have also extended the deals of Prasanth Karuthadathkani, Sandeep Singh and it helps in the formation of a core group of players at the club. 

While the Coronavirus pandemic affected the club’s pre-season preparations, there were departures of key players like Sandesh Jhingan and the club’s all-time topscorer Bartholomew Ogbeche that weakened the squad.

“Now we can tell that it (the departures) affected (the team) a lot. The departure of important players affected the fact that we lacked leadership in the team. It took a lot of important time before we became a team. The necessary real connections and links between the players were established only after the initial matches,” Skinkys said. 

He added, “That being said, these departures paved the way for youngsters like Sandeep, Jeakson to emerge so, we’ll take these positives and build on them.”

The common doubt for a lot of supporters regarding the whole situation at Kerala Blasters is how long can the chopping and changing of the squad and the staff go on. In Skinkys’ opinion, this season’s changes were inevitable. 

“The core of young talented players we have is the evidence of the long term potential of the club. About changes, I can’t comment on what happened at the club during the previous seasons because I wasn’t here. I can only assure you that the change of coach was not planned and an expected process this season. 

“But looking at the context, the whole situation was just too bad. We had a lot of chances to get back into the fight for the top four, but a disorganized defence – due to which we lost 18 points from winning positions – denied us that opportunity.

“I clearly feel that supporters of Kerala are tired of changes, but, I disagree with the opinions that change is bad. Changes are not needed if you are moving in a good direction, but this season I did not feel it because of disappointing results. So, I would like to ask supporters not to worry about this situation. Long term plans and vision of the club does not change after a changing of the coaching staff. Kibu is a great coach but, his experience in this environment was not successful. It was a very difficult year to work. I have great respect for him.”

The sporting director also shared his target for the next season’s squad. He wants Kerala Blasters to be a well-organized team that is mean and mature and also one that is prepared to sacrifice and suffer.

“As for next season, we must find a way to become a well-organized team. This will be a task for the new coaching staff. Players should step up as well and accept that not everything in football will be fun. If we want to achieve something, we need to be more ‘mature’ and ‘mean’ and be prepared to suffer and sacrifice a lot as well.

“The league is very equal and has two parts – in the first half the teams with the best energy and attitude usually win. In the second half of the season, the best-organized team with fewer mistakes rise.”

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