Red Review: Krylya given some wind beneath their Wings

In the run-up to the start of the Russian Premier League there were grave concerns over the financial status of a couple of clubs. FC Moscow were forced to pull out of the league when their main benefactors withdrew funding and a similar fate lay in store for one of the country’s most established and best supported clubs – Krylya Sovetov, or the Soviet Wings as they are more commonly known.

In 2009 the Wings plodded home in their customary mid-table finish, boasting Czech internationals Jiri Jarosik and Jan Koller amongst their cohorts, but, as in a similar fashion to FC Moscow, their participation in this year’s competition was threatened by a red bank balance and a store of unpaid debts. In a stance which renders the situation of Portsmouth FC in the English Premier League even more shambolic, all Russian clubs are subject to mandatory financial audits prior to the commencement of the new season to make sure their house is in order – if this financial sustainability cannot be proved, the clubs are not granted a ‘licence’ by the FA to compete. It is effective governance, but leads to an abrupt closure if clubs are operating insolvent. It was enough to do for FC Moscow, and Krylya almost ceased to exist too before the intervention of Prime Minister Putin, who ordered the government to provide immediate funds to keep the Wings operating.

That cash injection allowed the club to kick-off the season and gave them a platform to implement a new ownership format. In a similar way to the ‘people power’ involvement that Manchester United are now craving, acting chairman Viktor Razveyev has announced the proposed new set-up will give Krylya fans the opportunity buy shares in the club amounting to a 20% ownership stake, with the remaining 80% going to a new corporate sponsor. At present – due to outstanding unpaid fees – a transfer embargo has prevented Krylya from signing any new players, and with a host of last season’s squad having departed due to contractual wrangles, the Wings have started this term with a threadbare squad, desperately in need of refurnishing. This week, the league once again refused to allow the club to sign any players, but with a takeover imminent and the remaining debts set to be settled, a large scale immigration to Samara is about to happen. Manager Yury Gazzayev has revealed the club currently has eighteen players waiting to sign having assembled the motley crew for a mere $1m. The quality of these replacements awaits to be seen, but what is certain is Krylya are in desperate need of some air beneath their Wings, currently languishing at the foot of the table.

Krylya have had a tricky and unwelcome start to the campaign after a tumultuous pre-season. They have already gone down to Zenit on the opening weekend and followed that up with a 3-0 loss to Lokomotiv next time out, but with new funding and a host of new players afoot, things are finally looking up. The beginning of the 2010 Premier league was a gentile affair with only eleven goals scored in eight games – fortunately the goals and the action picked up in the last round. The biggest game was at Petrovski Stadium, home of Zenit who hosted the much-decorated Spartak – reeling from an opening day defeat to Dinamo Moscow. The attendance of 19,450 was the largest of the round, and saw Nicolas Lombaerts equalise for Zenit after last season’s top-scorer, Brazilian Welliton, had put ‘The Meat’ in front. Elsewhere, in another one of the many Moscow derbies, Champions League quarter finalists CSKA were held at home 0-0 by the resurgent Dinamo and champions Rubin Kazan kept up the league’s only 100% record with another narrow victory over Siberians Tom Tomsk. The first managerial casualty of the season happened after just one game when Anzhi Makhachkala’s Coach Omari Tetradze jacked it in. The incumbent, Haji Hajiyev, took charge of his new team via the phone from holiday in Dubai for the 1-1 draw with Amkar Perm, although Hajiyev will now have to return from his jollies to take control of matters in a more physical format, albeit in the less luxurious surroundings of Dagestan.

The start date of the Russian league means they have a different transfer window to the rest of Europe and as such runs up until April. This of course throws up its own problems as players are often reticent to leave their current destinations as their own league campaigns reach a climax. Nevertheless it does not stop transfers being arranged for after the conclusion of those leagues, and rumours are constantly abound about which players will be next to step aboard the Russian gravy train. After falling out with Rafael Benitez at Liverpool, Spanish winger Albert Riera is said to be available for purchase and this circumstance has pricked the ears of CSKA, still looking to bolster their own attacking options. Also, the affluent and every ready Dinamo are planning to lessen the weight of their cheque book, with German striker Kevin Kuranyi in the cross hairs. Another purchase from the Bundesliga could be Anatoliy Tymoschuk, the former lynchpin of Dick Advocaat’s successful Zenit side who is now surplus to requirements at Bayern Munich.

This weekend’s fixtures see a coming together of Zenit and Dinamo – the two richest clubs in the country, whilst the seemingly weekly Moscow derby sees Spartak – without a win so far – host Lokomotiv. Rubin will hope to make it three wins on the bounce and retain their place in first spot when they visit Saturn.CSKA visit Anzhi on Friday, ahead of their meeting with Internazionale on Wednesday when the Army Men, led by the ‘Russian Mourinho’ Leonid Slutsky, welcome the real ‘Special One’ to the Luzhniki.

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