Chengdu Blades have a turbulent history which has been covered before for Wild East Football. This year the club found themselves in a nail-biting relegation scrap, with the Sichuan side surviving relegation by virtue of a superior head-to-head record over local rivals Chongqing.
Despite keeping Chengdu in the CL1, Belgian head coach Patrick Aussems exclusively tells Wild East Football why he has decided to leave the club. He also discusses his past experience in France with SC Angers and Evian, as well as how doing a stint as head coach of Benin prepared him well for Chinese football,where he started out coaching Shenzhen Ruby followed by Chengdu Blades.
Talking with ‘s Peter Davis, Aussems makes several interesting revelations and finds time to say what lessons China can learn from the surprising rise of the Belgian game.
Patrick thanks for talking to Wild East Football, getting right to it was the split mutual from the club?
Since Tiancheng got involved with the club, the problems began, things were really not clear and there was no plan for the future. They wanted to manage a football club like a normal company and for me it was impossible to continue in such an unprofessional way. Chinese clubs should be more professional and more respectful of a contract, that’s the most important step to continue to growing in a professional way.
It could very nearly have been relegation for Chengdu, are you happy to have avoided it or is it still disappointing?
The target was to stay in China League One so it was a success. I brought in Brice Jovial to Chengdu and he scored 10 goals in 14 games which really helped. Jovial and Aleksandar Rodic really helped the young Chinese players to improve and it’s a very good experience for the future of these young players. So the target was reached, that’s the most important thing.
Where did the quality lie in the current Chengdu Blades squad and where are the weaknesses?
When I arrived there, the club was in a very bad situation, they only had one point in six games and no organization. Since then we got 16 points in 14 games [Ten away from home] and we found a way to play. I had a young team with players I have not experimented with except the foreigners and Wang Kai so they really need to play high level matches to improve. The last two or three years Chengdu Blades had some financial problems so they sold all of their good players. The young players do their best and work hard even if their technical and tactical level is average due to problems in youth football education in China.
Chengdu Blades have a good fan base, are you sad to leave them behind?
I really appreciated the attitude of the fans during the season, they were always behind the team and supported the players no matter what. Unfortunately the club didn’t care enough about them, they don’t believe fans are important and I think it’s a big mistake because players, coaches and managers change easily but fans support only one team in their lives. So I really hope that Chengdu’s fans will have the team they deserve!
You spent a good amount of time at Shenzhen Ruby, did that give you the right taste for Chinese football?
I think that now I know Chinese football well, with Shenzhen and now Chengdu but I also follow games on TV so I have a good idea of the Super League and League One which gives me some ideas for improvements.
Did your time in Benin, Cameroon and France help you adapt to China?
My international experience is a great advantage to work abroad. In Europe, football is professional football at all levels, in Africa there is everything to build but the basics quality are there and China is between these two sides so my time in Africa and Europe helped me and gives me a faster adaptation on and off the pitch. Here we have everything to succeed, the infrastructures, stadiums and pitches but, generally clubs focus too much on the 90 minutes and not everything around it. There is not enough professionalism and football culture but our job is to bring them this mentality.
Chengdu Blades have an interesting past with a massive deal with Sheffield United, what is the situation there and why does the club still use the ‘Blades’ name with the relationship ended?
It’s only because the club’s new name has not been registered at the CFA yet.
Belgium had a bad period around 2002 but have really improved in recent years. Considering the situation in Chinese football, how could the changes in Belgium also work in China?
10 years ago Belgium was really in bad situation because they didn’t prepare youth football like France did 20 years ago. They decided to build some academies and all clubs focused on the ages of 14 to 18. It’s this development which made Belgian football improve ; a young generation of players begins to grow: Kompany, Hazard, Debruyne, Benteke, Lukaku .China should think to create and develop youth football in order to have better players with football culture in 8 – 10 years . Sure it takes time but this is the only way to have a strong national team and a strong domestic league in the future.
You are now free from the club, what does the future hold for you?
I really would like to stay in China, I have big international experience as player and coach but in China I have never had the opportunity to manage a club from the beginning of the season so far and that is my goal.
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