By Jeremy Walker
TOKYO (August 8)--Manager Eddie Thomson and Sanfrecce Hiroshima
will part company at the end of the year.
The 53-year-old Scotsman made the announcement on Tuesday after
holding talks with the club's owners. "Basically, we decided the
time was right for a change, so I will leave Sanfrecce at the
end of the season by mutual agreement," said Thomson. "The club
has been great to me and I wish them all the best in the future,
but I feel I have taken them as far as they can go. "If I'd have
stayed next year, too, that would have been five years, and after
so much time either the club changes the personnel or the manager
if they want to make progress. "They haven't the money to change
the players, so I have decided the time is right to move on. "I'm
happy with the job I've done and I would be very interested to
stay in Japan if the right offer from the right club, a more ambitious
club, came along." Thomson, who played for Aberdeen and Hearts
in Scotland before heading to Australia to continue his playing
career, was in charge of Australia at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona
and also the national team.
He joined Sanfrecce--a combination of Japanese and Italian
words meaning three arrows--for the start of the 1997 season but
inherited a club with a huge payroll and dwindling support. By
releasing established Japanese internationals such as Takuya Takagi,
Hiroshige Yanagimoto and Ryuji Michiki, plus South Korean Noh
Jung Yoon and Brazilian Santos, Thomson reckons he saved the club
some 700 million yen ($7 million). With the finances tight, however,
he could bring in only free transfers from other clubs or promote
youngsters, but he created a bright new team with a good spirit
after the previous squad was riddled with "cliques and trouble-makers."
When Sanfrecce reached the final of the Emperor's Cup--Japan's
equivalent of the FA Cup--last season, Thomson viewed it as a
reward for the progress the players had made since he took over.
Even though Sanfrecce lost the final 2-0 to a Dragan Stojkovic-inspired
Nagoya Grampus Eight, hopes were high for the new season, but
Sanfrecce once again are going nowhere. They are too good to go
down but have not the financial backing to mount a challenge for
the championship, and Thomson knows this. "We have some very good
young players in the team now, and whoever takes over will have
a strong base to work from. "We have reduced the budget every
season while keeping the club going forward, so I'm happy with
my record. But it's time for someone new to come in."
Under Thomson, Sanfrecce goalkeeper Takashi Shimoda and striker
Tatsuhiko Kubo have both played for Japan's national team, and
attacking midfielder Chikara Fujimoto has represented the Olympic
under-23 team. Thomson added: "I am still enthusiastic and will
stay and fight and try and win every game, but at the end of the
season I will move on."
Under Thomson, Sanfrecce finished 10th and 13th of 17 teams
in the two stages of 1997; 13th and ninth of 18 in 1998; and sixth
and eighth of 16 in 1999. This year they finished 10th of 16 in
the first stage and are eighth after eight of the 15 games in
the second stage.