Hunt for coach still on

Several days after suddenly ousting coach Takis Lemonis from his team’s helm, Olympiakos soccer club owner Socrates Kokkalis tried clearing the air yesterday by citing that the lack of discipline among players was the main motive behind his decision. Though Olympiakos has dominated domestic league competition with six consecutive titles – the last two with Lemonis as coach – the club has failed to live up to the expectations of fans and officials in Europe’s lucrative Champions League. This year has been no exception. After trouncing last year’s runner-up, the German club Bayer Leverkusen, 6-2 in the competition’s opening game, Olympiakos has dropped back into the slough with heavy back-to-back losses against Maccabi and Manchester United. While discussing his decision to sack Lemonis, a former player with the club back in the 1980s and early 1990s, Kokkalis also spelt out that additional effort and better results were also expected from the players. Speaking to the squad yesterday, Kokkalis stressed that «you will need to respond to the club’s great expectations with discipline, power, and professionalism.» Kokkalis has had to deal with widespread dissatisfaction felt by fans over his appointment of Yiannis Kollias as Lemonis’s temporary successor, until a longer-term solution is found. Kollias, 69, is known as a good scout and had a successful record with the national Under-21 team but has not coached a top division team before. Detractors argue that what made him popular with young players – his disinclination to be a disciplinarian – makes him unsuitable for a team like Olympiakos. The club attempted to appease agitated fans yesterday by releasing a statement that explained the decision’s motives. «This change, which surprised a large section of Olympiakos’s supporters, was not planned but necessary as a result of the problems that have surfaced in the team, and the need to combat them directly,» it noted. According to sources, Kokkalis is likely to allot the post of coach to an import. Several names are currently being touted. One of these, Mustafa Denizli, formerly the national coach of Turkey, arrived here for talks on Tuesday. However, in comments made to state-run radio ERA Sport yesterday, Denizli denied having had any contact with Olympiakos. But he did not rule out the prospect of meeting with Olympiakos officials by tomorrow, when Denizli is scheduled to return to Turkey. «I’ve had no contact with Olympiakos. I simply visited Greece for business reasons. But a meeting by Friday is not out of the question, which does not mean that I know something,» Denizli said, adding, «I haven’t spoken to my agent over the past two days, but I will do so.»