CEO Vincent Mannaert oversees the crisis in Bruges and the change of trainers: “We couldn’t let it ripple, could we?”

Can you explain why you decided to stop Carl Hoefkens?

“Well, for starters, you know that if you become head coach, one day it will stop. We had that conversation beforehand, because Carl was also able to continue working perfectly in his previous role. The intention was to make it a longer story, but the start was difficult. We didn’t play football well, there was that non-match at Eupen, in short: there was pressure early on. Then came the turnaround at OHL, followed by that fantastic Champions League campaign, but at the same time we struggled in the competition due to the succession of matches. We ended up in a negative spiral in which both the game and the results were disappointing. At Ghent, for example, we showed no resistance at all and against Union and Antwerp we gave away a double lead. We had thorough talks during the break and hoped for a strong resumption after the World Cup, but despite a lead against Sint-Truiden, we completely slipped away. The next day we put our heads together one more time, but against OHL things went wrong again.”

The decision seemed to have been made before that match.

“No. I would say so if that were the case.”

So with a 1-0 win, Hoefkens was still a trainer?

“No, not necessarily that either. Because it goes beyond getting a goal against. It was in the general dynamics. The intentions were there, but the drive was gone, the spirit, the grip.”


You had consciously chosen to promote him from assistant to T1. Has it ever been thought of giving this ‘experiment’ at least a full season? Especially if you’ve done so well in Europe?

“But we were underdogs in Europe and we were able to play more on the switch – even though we took our chances. In Belgium we became champions three times in a row and so we had copy-paste matches where we had to disrupt a low block. It was difficult to do that, to the extent that the smaller clubs got the idea: there is something to pick up in Bruges. We definitely wanted to give Carl time, but a season is a long time. If you achieve structurally lesser results and take 15 out of 30 in the competition, while you knock out Patro Eisden in the cup with your heels over the ditch and then fly out against Sint-Truiden, you can’t just let it ripple because you have a calculated took a risk? But we also look at ourselves. If you make the decision to fire your trainer after six months, it shows that you’ve done a bad job. You misjudged things. At a time like this you also have to hit mea culpa.”

Is there a crisis at Club now?

“Yes, well, if you stay below your level for too long – in all areas – then you can say that. We are only fourth in the league, aren’t we?

And the supporters have also moved quite a bit in the last two matches. Are you scared of that?

“Gosh. If you are in that negative spiral, it is not unusual for them to express their displeasure. But that also has to do with our successes in recent years. People get used to that. And their expectations are getting higher and higher.”


Now it’s up to Scott Parker: how did you end up with him?

“Well, we always try to be prepared and have a working list of interesting candidate trainers, on which his name circulated. We have of course spoken to several candidates, but some we found less opportune, others were not available. Parker was and gave us the feeling that he can bring us more stability in the short term. It would be crazy to think that in a few days everything will change for the better – his first game, in Genk, is also the most difficult one -, but we do think that he can turn things around in the coming weeks.”

What does he stand for?

“For dynamic, enthusiastic football. But he is a bit more un-English than most English coaches, in the sense that he opts for a footballing structure – albeit with an acceleration at the right time and always with a finality. He has also shown that at Fulham and Bournemouth. And there he was able to force promotion to the Premier League under great internal pressure and scorching competition. It has not always been crescendo, he has also suffered disappointments at the highest level, but I always find that an advantage. That is enriching. Everyone we spoke to about Scott Parker – including Denis Odoi, who raced under him – was positive.”

Is he sufficiently informed about the Belgian league?

“It was too early for an analysis of the opponents, but that is analogous to Alfred Schreuder a year ago. It is also up to us to provide him with the necessary information.”

And do you think he can still give Club the title?

“Last season we also made up a big deficit, so as long as you are in the race you have to keep believing. But the most important thing now is that we are going to play better football. Then I also look at the players individually. Because there are those who have performed below their level in recent months, or who have failed to show a reaction when necessary.”


Will Parker become a trainer based on the English model, who will help arrange the transfers?

“No, our organization is there, he can really focus on the team. He will of course be able to indicate it if he sees a need somewhere after two or three weeks of analysis. But the belief is present that we are in the right place in terms of quality. Especially if, for example, a Yaremchuk first becomes injury-free and then returns to his old level.”

And do you fear a departure from a stronghold genre Skov Olsen?

“If you want to improve football and the results, it’s important to keep your better players, isn’t it?”

Finally, about Hoefkens. How did he deal with his resignation?

“Of course those are not easy conversations, but he was very correct. We also talked about his future. Within Club there is always room for people like him, but he has clearly indicated that he wants to continue as head coach. All understanding. Incidentally, one of the factors for choosing him in May was that if he didn’t get that position, he might have left. We appreciated his work so much that we decided to take a calculated risk. Unfortunately, you never know how it will work in practice.”

And what about your personal connection?

“Well, when I arrived at Club twelve years ago, Carl was captain. We immediately clicked and later I convinced him to come back. We have built up a good relationship, but I assume that it will remain intact.”

Scott Parker wants to dot the i’s and cross the t’s at Club Brugge: “I ask for one million percent dedication”

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