Guest blogger Rick Elliott reflects on the ending of a union…
Divorced. Freed from the shackles of misery. No more superiors to answer to. A new future to start building. No, this is not another Brexit bulletin. It is the current position ex-Mantova head coach Lucio Brando finds himself in. That’s right; he has been sacked!
After being given the responsibility to take Mantova back to the professional ranks of Serie C, the don has been relieved of his duties after only 6 months. The ex-Fiorenzuola manager has suffered the consequences of a poor start to the second part of the season following 3 draws from 4 games. The final straw came last week against lowly Sammaurese, who earned a point with a 94th minute equaliser, their only shot of the game. The board have seemingly lost patience with conceding late goals, dropped points from leading positions, an inability to cut out costly defensive errors and some odd tactical decisions.
This despite Mantova remaining unbeaten after 21 games and leading the division. But it’s a lead of only 3 points, having been 9 just before the winter break. Sporting Director Emanuele Righi and President Ettore Masiello have bitten the bullet and taken swift action to try and stop a supposed rot. Performances haven’t been great, granted. A more pragmatic approach has been taken this year after last year’s free-flowing football under Massimo Morgia. But voices of discontent in the dressing room have filtered through and the early season momentum has clearly been lost.
Mister Brando has ultimately paid the price for not dominating the league as expected. Six times they have lost a lead and drawn, several times after tactical substitutions were made. Last week’s draw clearly upset his bosses, who publicly criticised him for the first time after substituting the front trio. It’s a shame he hasn’t been able to redeem himself. He deserved that much at least.
Italian football can be cut-throat and changes to managers and players are frequent when things start to turn sour. Whacky owners have a habit of change when they feel like it. But Maurizio Setti, Hellas Verona’s owner and major stakeholder in Mantova, and his board room are measured and thoughtful owners and don’t make decisions lightly. It seems that disharmony between Righi, Masiello and Brando has been brewing in the background for a while. The time was felt right, with 13 games still to play, to give a new management team enough time to steady the ship and lead the troops over the line.
The reins have been handed to youth team coach Matias Cuffa and Gianluca Garzon, Brando’s assistant. Argentinian Cuffa only retired from playing last season at Mantova and became youth coach at the start of this season. He is seen as the motivator. Garzon is quieter and will take training and work on player development. However, the pressure is unbearable with promotion the only acceptable outcome. President Masiello openly stated during the week’s announcements that he was totally fed up of the Serie D nightmare after three torrid years fighting to get out. This decision was a war cry to players and staff; the club cannot afford to not get automatic promotion.
First up for the new management team was Sasso Marconi, a small town just south of Bologna famous for Guglielmo Marconi. He was a Nobel prize winner and pioneer in wireless communication, credited as the inventor of the radio. As with most clubs in this D division, Sasso Marconi are a semi-pro club helping the Italian football system in producing players and providing them with regular football in the hope of becoming full time professionals at bigger clubs. They should be taken to the cleaners by big spending Mantova. But football doesn’t work like that, even at semi-professional level.
They are another team in great form, just like Calvina several weeks ago. After a poor first half of the season they have leaped into mid-table after 3 wins and a draw from their last 4 games. And for more than an hour it looked like it was going to be 4 wins from 5 and a first defeat for Mantova.
The hosts took the lead midway through the first half. A poor pass from right back Davide Galazzini fell into the path of Sasso’s on loan SPAL striker Demba Sek. He nipped the ball past Marco Carminati, who turned and raced for the ball but was outmuscled and outsprinted, before rounding Mantova’s young Greek keeper Athanasiou to slot home. It was another embarrassing defensive episode.
The first 60 minutes from Mantova was arguably the worst performance of the season so far. The kick up the backside didn’t work. They were lethargic, lacking ideas and looked a team under pressure. And once again, the strikers didn’t do their job in sticking the ball away. Luigi Scotto had a great chance in the first half, but shot straight at the keeper. And Guccione had a couple excellent chances in the second half, but a combination of poor finishing and fine goalkeeping stopped him from adding to his tally of 15 goals so far.
Somehow, Sasso didn’t kill the game off late on, with Demba smashing a shot over from close range, and they were ultimately made to pay. Lots of Mantova pressure for the last twenty minutes finally took its toll on the home side and the equaliser came on 89 minutes. Some neat play on the edge of the box forced a through ball to Simone Minincleri who was subsequently tripped in the box to give Mantova a stonewall penalty. Up stepped Gigi Scotto to coolly slot home and give the biancorossi a point. The cigarette I saw him smoke 90 minutes before the match with a Sasso Marconi player obviously calmed his nerves!
That’s now 4 draws from 5 games and with Fiorenzuola losing it means the lead is up to 4 points. The board claimed it to be a vital point. Would it have been so important had Fiorenzuola not lost and the lead been down to one point? Was this a case of them trying to back up their season-defining decision? With a run of tough games coming up, we’ll soon see in the coming weeks.
Teams: Sasso Marconi 1924 1-1 Mantova 1911
League: Serie D Girone D Matchday 22
Date: 2nd February 20200
Attendance: 550 (250 away)
Prices: €15 (€10 normally)
Stadium Info: “Campo Carbonchi”, Via Ca’ de Testi 2, Sasso Marconi (BO)
Travel Info: Ground 5 minutes walk from train station. Trains from Bologna on the regional line.
- Rocchetta Mattei, a stunning castle transformed by Count Cesare Mattei
- Villa Grifone, home of Nobel Prize winner in Physics Guglielmo Marconi
- The area of Sasso Marconi is one of the most noted for the resistance and liberation of Italy against German troops during the 2nd World War
- Sasso Marconi is the gateway to The Appennines bewteen Bologna & Florence. Many walking trails start in the area. Most famous is the German Defence walk, the Linea Gotica – https://www.infosasso.it/ita-linea-gotica
- Tourist Info for Sasso Marconi and surrounding areas – https://www.infosasso.it/home
Next Stop: Sporting Franciacort