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Opinion

Temuri Ketsbaia proving a surprise hit in rollercoaster managerial career

1 month ago
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Whenever Newcastle United made a managerial change in the late noughties and into the following decade, a name that often got linked to the job was Temuri Ketsbaia, the Georgian striker who had a short spell at the club as a player in the late 90s.

Despite being a fairly average footballer, he gained something of a cult following during his time at the club for two reasons.

The first of these was scoring the goal in extra time in the Champions League qualifier against Croatia Zagreb that took Newcastle into the competition for the first time in their history, the second being his extraordinary celebration after scoring the winning goal against Bolton Wanderers in a Premier League match, where he proceeded to kick the advertising hoardings with great ferocity.

After leaving the club in 2000 his playing career petered out, taking in Wolverhampton Wanderers, Dundee United and Anorthosis Famagusta before retiring in 2004.

However, Ketsbaia was determined that his career in football wasn’t going to end there and that management was going to be the next step on his somewhat nomadic football journey.

And while there have been some notable successes during his career in the dugout, he has also been remarkably unlucky at a number of the clubs he has taken charge of.

It all started so promisingly with a spell in charge of the club with whom he finished his playing career, Anorthosis Famagusta. During a five year spell in charge Ketsbaia led the team to two league titles, a win in the domestic cup and a Super Cup victory, as well as taking the club into the Champions League group stages for the first time in their history.

Despite his success being achieved in one of the smallest leagues in world football, it was enough for a number of bigger clubs to sit up and take notice and he was first linked with the Newcastle job in 2008 following the resignation of Kevin Keegan.

However, it was Greek giants Olympiakos that would be his next destination. Appointed in May 2009, he got off to a very promising start, winning five of his first six games in charge and drawing the other.

Unfortunately for Ketsbaia though, there were rumblings of discontent about the team’s defensive style of play from both the fans and the club’s hierarchy and remarkably he was relieved of his duties without ever losing a match.

From there he was immediately back into work, this time with the Georgian national football team, where he spent the next five years trying to mould a team that could see Georgia mount a challenge to qualify for a major international tournament. However, this was something that ultimately he was unable to achieve and he resigned from his post in November 2014.

A year out of the game followed, before returning to Cypriot football as manager of APOEL. Back in a league he knew well, Temuri Ketsbaia was immediately successful, winning 27 of his 43 games in charge and establishing a four point lead at the top of the table with just four games left to play.

However, a defeat in the Cypriot Cup semi-finals saw him relieved of his duties, with his team going on to win the league title without him. Another horrendous stroke of bad luck in a career that continued to promise so much but never quite managed to properly take off.

He remained a manager in demand though and following Gus Poyet’s appointment as manager of Real Betis, Ketsbaia was appointed as his successor at AEK Athens. However, again it was to prove a short-term assignment, lasting just seven matches with his defensive minded style of football once again proving unpopular. Unlike at Olympiakos though, Ketsbaia refused to take this dismissal lying down and he was eventually awarded £100,000 as compensation for his dismissal.

Temuri Ketsbaia then headed to Russia in the summer of 2017 when he was appointed manager of recently relegated FC Orenburg. However, he would only take charge of eight matches before requesting release from his contract to return home to his family, a request the club granted.

What followed was two years out of the game.

However, his career in management would eventually come full circle and in the summer of 2019 he was appointed at Anorthosis Famagusta for the second time. Although he has been unable to add to the two league titles he won in his first spell, he was able to win the Cypriot Cup in 2020-21, the fifth trophy he has won with the club over his two spells in charge.

After losing the Cypriot Super Cup on penalties in July, Ketsbaia is currently preparing his side for another tilt at the league title, while the club will also compete in the Europa League.

While it’s highly unlikely Temuri Ketsbaia will ever find his name mentioned in connection with the Newcastle United job again, there is no doubt that he has enjoyed a surprisingly successful, rollercoaster ride in the bonkers world of football management.

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