In Part 2 of our interviews with Lynx, we talked to new manager Allen Bula about the challenges ahead for him, his thoughts on the national team (before the Cyprus game) and much more.
Firstly, we asked the former Gib manager what about Lynx made him decide to come back into football management.
“I did previously say that I had been offered jobs by other teams abroad but a club, before it takes on a manager, that manager has to tick all their boxes, and vice versa. The manager, before he goes to a club, that club has to tick all the boxes, and it’s not always about money. Lynx, I know the owner, I know Mr Parody for many many years, I know his vision and his goal, but I also know the board that he has got, the goal they have for this club and it’s great to see where they want to be and what they’ve done, and were they want to go. It was an easy decision for me; Lynx I previously came in for a short period as sporting director but I was finishing the Pro License so I spoke to Mr Parody and said I needed to concentrate on that, which I finished. SO I knew about the club, and everything about it including the philosophy. So for me, Lynx ticked all the boxes and I’m honoured to be here.”
More teams are coming into money in the Gib league, so we asked Bula what he thought the clubs realistic aims could be next season:
“At the moment it is early stages, you know I’m not going to say like, we’re one or two or three signing away from, it’s early stages you know. We’ve got to look at the budget, all I can say at the moment is that Lynx finished sixth, so we have to finish above sixth. That’s my target at this time, I’ve spoken to the owner and he just wants to carry on the team as it’s going. It can change (the targets) within a couple of days. Yes it’s going to be a tough season – there’s more clubs getting investors in, and there’s more money coming in. Can it be good for Gibraltar? At the short term it can, long term Gibraltar could struggle. How can we compete with the bigger clubs that have lots of money? Well if we’re not careful and only two of three clubs are bringing in a lot of money which they are paying big money to players – an investor is putting money in quickest way, and easiest way to get back the profit. If they see that Gibraltar already has three or four big clubs who are becoming millionaires, then investors are not going to come in, so the rest of the clubs are going to struggle.”
Bula continued “If we’re not careful, and something isn’t done very quickly to have a balance within the clubs – I’m not saying every club should have the same money, I’m saying every club should have the chance to compete financially. We could find a risk that if the top league falls below 8 teams, then there could be no Champions League. That’s the rules, the same with local players. There’s more restrictions with regards having to play local players which is fine, it probably should have been done at the beginning (2013 when Gibraltar joined UEFA). The local players, some of them, are asking for a lot of money so only the big clubs can get them. So again, clubs like Lynx, we are mid-table, we can hit problems as we can’t be fined week in week out for not having local players. What’s going to happen is that those looking at the league as a short-term plan, can shoot themselves in the footy eventually and that’s reality. We could win a lot of money, but once the Champions League is out, who’s going to win the money?”
Bula’s youth record is well noted, most notably he helped bring through current Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic while working at Kosice in Slovakia. With money perhaps not being as freely available at other clubs, how important would it be for Bula to bring through kids at Lynx?
“It’s always very important. Me, I’m a great believer in bringing up academy players, using them because it does save the club a lot of money. As long as you are bringing up players, then the money that is there can be used in different areas. With Kosice, we managed to get 82% of academy players coming through and I know that the owner and the board are big believers of bringing players up through the ranks. Then again, we go back to the same thing – where do we get the players from? Can we pay ridiculous money that some of the younger players – not all of them thank god – are asking for? It’s a difficult task but it’s something that we will work on.”
Bula kept an eye on the league while out of management, and has seen the evolution of the local game including the influx of a number of foreign players. We asked what his thoughts were on the progression of the local game on the pitch.
“It would have grown regardless, once there’s money, although it can’t make a Messi or Ronaldo, but it can help to make them, and that’s reality. So eventually the league would have gone stronger and stronger, it may have taken a few more years, but players would have started to realise what they needed. The national team wouldn’t have suffered, that’s a reality, players would have been available. Just need to bring in a balance for your team, don’t overdo it.
Again, all of a sudden, local coaches, there were there one minute the next they were gone. They were good for so many years, thank god the only local coach left in the top league was Albert Parody – he’s done wonders with the team. If you look at it, and not just the managers, it’s the technical teams, even second dvision. It would have grown – I have not seen a major impact from the players who have come in, especially for the money they are being paid. If we would have half the budget of the big teams, you would see the difference of player Lynx could bring in. It’s helped some teams progress and win, but I haven’t seen anything to say “wow, those players are 20x times better than what we had”, the difference was those players had been developed and the local players were short of a couple of years of development.”
We asked Bula, before the 2-1 defeat against Cyprus, about how their campaign had gone so far under Jeff Wood, to which Bula responded: “It’s difficult, and these kind of questions when you’ve been a former manager of the team are difficult to answer. Obviously the players that I had, they are not getting any younger which is making it more difficult for the national team. As long as you’re realistic and you’re truthful, and you do things for the best of your country and the team that you’ve got – not just for a few individuals, then that’s the way Gibraltar has got to go. A lot of people criticised me for being too defensive, but let’s be realistic; like I always said first we have to learn how to defend before we have to attack.
We don’t even have professional players – the managers after me, straight away, maybe to keep some people happy, decide to attack. Fine, go out and attack but the ones that suffer are the players you know, unless you get it right. The fans suffer – you’ve got to get things right. You’ve got to be realistic, and go out there and try your best – Cyprus is a team that is there to be taken point. It’s difficult, as long as you prepare well at the back, then you can go forward. But not because it’s Cyprus, you’re going to go out and play 3-5-2. These teams, you can get points as long as you are more clever than them; Estonia the same. Points are there to be taken, you have to be very clever, not listen to just a few who make the noise of how you must play. Play at the strength of the players that you have.”