Henning Berg has been sacked after almost 22 months in charge of Legia Warsaw. His successor, Stanislav Cherchesov, is perhaps an unfamiliar name to many. Rightbankwarsaw gives the floor to Toke Møller Theilade, editor-in-chief of the excellent English language website dealing with Russian football, Russian Football News for an insight into the new occupant of the biggest job in Polish football management. Will Cherchesov be able to turn Legia’s fortunes around?
A quick look at Stanislav Cherchesov’s personal website tells a lot about him as a person. First of all the website is available in Russian, English and last but not least German, which are all languages the former Spartak Moscow goalkeeper speaks. This is in itself is unique by Russian standards where most coaches only speak Russian – something that makes them dependent on either foreign players learning Russian or, more realistically, translators.
Born in Alagir, in what was then known as the North Ossetian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, Cherchesov started his playing career as a goalkeeper at the big club in the region Spartak Ordzhonikidze, a club that later changed its name to the more famous Alania Vladikavkaz and won the Russian championship in 1995.
By the age of 21 Cherchesov took what would turn out to be the most important step in his career as he joined the mighty Spartak Moscow after Spartak coach Konstantin Beskov discovered him. During Cherchesov’s first four years as a Spartakovtsy he stood in the shadow of the legendary Rinat Dasaev. Even though Cherchesov learned a lot from Dasaev, and thus developed as a goalkeeper, he had to go elsewhere to get regular playing time.
Luckily for Cherchesov he didn’t have to travel far to find the needed playing time, as city rivals Lokomotiv took him in in 1988 and made him their first choice between the posts. While Cherchesov got the experience he needed with the Railroaders, it became legal for Soviet clubs to sell players to the West, which led Spanish side Sevilla to pay $2 million to Moscow in exchange for Dasaev’s services.
With Dasaev gone, the road back to Spartak was left open for Cherchesov, and after only one year with Lokomotiv he returned to the Red-Whites, who he helped win four league titles, two Soviet and two Russian, before he once again followed in the footsteps of Dasaev, as he left Moscow to try himself in the West. Cherchesov went to play for Dynamo Dresden in Germany in 1993 after helping Spartak win one last league title. Cherchesov played for Dresden until 1995 when the club was relegated, despite Cherchesov doing everything he could to keep them up. When the season was over the Russian goalkeeper had a higher rating in the German football paper Kicker than both Jens Lehmann and Oliver Kahn.
Stanislav Cherchesov in goal for Spartak Moscow in 1989
After Dynamo’s relegation, Cherchesov returned to Spartak on loan, before moving to Austria in 1996 to join FC Tirol Innsbruck, where he won three league titles during his six years as first keeper. In 2002, he returned to Moscow and Spartak for the last time, before finishing his career at the end of the year. Apart from his successful club career Cherchesov was also an important part of the Russian national team, as he took part in the 1994 and 2002 World Cups as well as the 1992 and 1996 European Championships.
Cherchesov’s one and only World Cup final appearance in 1994 vs Cameroon
After finishing his career,Cherchesov went into coaching, and it quickly became clear that his philosophy was based on the values and thoughts that had represented Spartak over the years. He started his coaching career in Austria where he first took over Kurfstein before getting the job as manager of FC Wacker Tirol. Here he learned his craft, before, in 2006, he was ready for his biggest challenge yet, as he became the new sports director for the struggling Spartak.
The Spartak Cherchesov joined this time was far from the one which had dominated the Russian league in the 90s and early noughties with 9 championships between 1992 and 2001. The Red-Whites were having a hard time and after only one year as sports director Cherchesov had to take over as head coach after Vladimir Fedotov lost an important away match against FC Moscow and was sacked.
With Cherchesov back on the coaching bench, he once against tried to implement his tactical ideas, which were based on dominating games through ball possession and aggressiveness, or as is formulated on his website “Forward without fear and doubt”.
Unfortunately for Cherchesov and Spartak, he failed to turn the boat around and just one year later he was sacked after Spartak only managed a 1-1 draw at home to FK Khimki, who were second from bottom at the time.
After his Spartak stint Cherchesov had a couple of minor jobs as he first took over Zhemchuzhina Sochi, before taking Terek Grozny to their best ever finish in the Russian Premier League with eight place in the 2012/2013 season. During his time in Chechnya Cherchesov’s defensive tactics were developed, and he managed to build a team that was very difficult to beat, something that was proven by the fact that only Lokomotiv, Zenit, CSKA and Dinamo managed to beat them in Grozny.
After Terek’s impressive finish, Cherchesov decided to go for a new challenge as his contract expired, and later in the summer of 2013, he moved to Zvezda Stadium and the ever-struggling Amkar Perm. At Amkar we once again saw Cherchesov go with a defensive and patient strategy, something that made Amkar one of the biggest surprises of the 2013/2014 season. By the beginning of April, the Perm based side was ranked seventh, only six points from a Europa League spot, and on top of that they had defeated several of the big boys – sides like Spartak and Dinamo.
Ankar’s good form made Cherchesov a wanted man and, when Valeri Karpi was sacked by Spartak Moscow, the Red-Whites once again called their old servant for a job interview. Unfortunately for Spartak, they weren’t the only club who wanted Cherchesov, and after his interview with Spartak he went across the city to their arch rivals Dinamo’s office to talk with them about taking over after Dan Petrescu. This wasn’t received well at Spartak, and they immediately withdrew their offer, and not long after Cherchesov was presented as Dinamo’s new head coach.
At Dinamo Cherchesov finally got to work with a side that could challenge the best teams for the title, as Dinamo had invested heavily in players after Anzhi Makhachkala’s firesale. Dinamo finished fourth after Cherchesov took over, and in the summer of 2014 their squad became even stronger with Mathieu Valbuena, Tomas Hubocan and Alexander Büttner, among others, all joining the former police club. With the new signings adding to a squad which already had stars like Russian internationals Yuri Zhirkov, Aleksandr Kokorin and Igor Denisov, as well as Christopher Samba and Kevin Kuranyi, it was expected that Dinamo could challenge Zenit and CSKA for the title.
Cherchesov managing Dinamo
Despite the big name signings, a strong squad and a good first half of the season, Cherchesov’s Dinamo failed miserably in the spring. The White-Blue’s went into the winter break in third place, two points behind CSKA who were in second and nine behind Zenit, but in the spring they imploded. Dinamo only got eight points in their last eight matches, and they fell to a disappointing fourth place when the season was over.
Even though they had one of the strongest squads in the league, they were heavily dependent on magic from Valbuena, while their defense had as many holes as a sieve, and the fourth place finish was considered very unsatisfactory to the club’s owners. Because of this, it was surprising when sports director Guram Adzhoyev assured everyone that Cherchesov would get another season in charge of Dinamo, as he entered the last year of his contract.
Things would however turn out differently, and after Dinamo were kicked out of Europa League for breaching UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, Adzhoyev and later Cherchesov in the summer of 2015 were forced to leave the club.
To this day Cherchesov remains a coach who has done good work with smaller clubs, but hasn’t managed to meet up to expectations when he was given the chance on the biggest stage. He led Dinamo to an impressive Europa League campaign in 2015 which ended in a defeat to Napoli in the last sixteen, but his two fourth place finishes in the league was worse than what was expected with the squad material he had.
Is Cherchesov what Legia need after Henning Berg’s departure? Perhaps the quality that Legia most revere in the Russian is his reputation as a disciplinarian – something that Berg most certainly wasn’t. He has had several high profile spats with players over the years, including not tolerating insolence from Dinamo’s Russian international midfielder Igor Denisov earlier this year. When Denisov criticised Cherchesov’s team selection, Dinamo’s coach called Denisov a ‘clown’, and Denisov was promptly suspended, transfer listed and fined. Legia’s board and fans will hope this kind of strong-arm tactics will allow the club to achieve the kind of results a club of their budget and stature requires.
Thanks to Toke, you can follow him here