Championship’s ‘unbelievable’ unpredictability stuns Slutsky

Worrying times for Hull City boss Leonid Slutsky
Worrying times for Hull City boss Leonid Slutsky
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HAVING left his post as manager of CSKA Moscow in the wake of defeat at Wembley against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League late last year, Leonid Slutsky quickly set his sights on hanging around in England.

The Russian, winner of three league titles back home during seven years at the helm of a club linked with the Army during the old days of the Soviet Union, turned to friend Roman Abramovich for help.

Installed in one of the Chelsea owner’s London properties, Slutsky embarked on an intensive language course that sometimes stretched to eight hours per day.

He also, crucially, immersed himself in every facet of English football, attending as many matches as possible in the hope an opportunity would arise sometime in 2017.

Hull City’s relegation from the Premier League and the departure of Marco Silva brought that opening in June, and Slutsky hoped his months of cramming would pay off.

Five months on, however, and he admits to having been surprised by the unpredictability of the Championship.

“The Championship is unbelievable,” said the 46-year-old, whose Tigers side sit perilously close to the relegation zone after three successive defeats.

“There are a lot of situations like Leeds United. They had six matches in a row that were won, but now they lose six matches in a row.

“Leeds have the same team, the same coach, the same principles and, for me, the difference in results is unbelievable.

“In the Championship, you can very quickly change your mood because you don’t have a choice. That is the situation for every coach.”

Slutsky, as affable a character as can be found among the coaching ranks in the Championship, has certainly learned the hard way about how quickly moods can swing in the second tier.

Victories by the resounding margins of 4-0, 4-1 and 6-1 brought fleeting lifts amid what has been an otherwise tough introduction to life in East Yorkshire.

The flipside to those heavy wins has been the introspection caused by equally emphatic defeats, Slutsky’s face betraying the pain caused by losses such as the one at Sheffield United a fortnight ago that left captain Michael Dawson admitting Hull are embroiled in a relegation fight.

“No one can help me,” he added. “No one knows my team like me, no one knows the possibility of my players. So it is difficult, but a lot of people in England support me and try to help change my mood.

“We had a meeting with seniors’ fan club and there was a lot of good words about me, which I don’t deserve.

“This is extra motivation for me because they are very friendly and open people who live in Hull and Yorkshire. It is like extra energy.

“Of course I worry, but this (support) is extra motivation. I understand everyone here supports me and they will be very disappointed if their expectations are not realised.”