Pambos & Omonoia: A dream that ended too soon...
AGONAsport’s Marios Antonious discusses Pambos Christodoulou’s short stay at Omonoia and the dream that ended too soon for the club and its fans.
Earlier this year, I discussed the performances of the Cypriot national team under coach Christakis Christoforou and how the team failed to reach the expectations that were established when Pambos Christodoulou was in charge. Pambos’ return to the national team seemed a popular option, however the Cypriot coach signed with Omonoia before any further developments could occur. The “Prasinoi” of Nicosia were looking to recover from another mediocre year that did not see them qualify for a European competition this season. English coach, John Carver, along with former Greek international, Nikos Dabizas, who was the club’s athletic director, failed to lead Omonoia to success and both Dabizas and Carver were sacked last season.
The club’s administration decided Pambos Christodoulou was the best option to build the “new” Omonoia. The agreement between the two sides brought excitement and hope to the discouraged Omonoia fans, hope that the new year would be different.
Pambos was given plenty of time to build his new squad looking for players from his beloved Portuguese market, as well as South America. Keeping key players and young talents from the “old squad”, Pambos began building the new Omonoia. Taking into account the success he had in building new teams (key example being AEL’s title run in 2012), the fans were awaiting similar success with the Nicosia club. Without the obligation of European qualifiers, Omonoia had extra time to focus and prepare themselves for the challenging league season ahead.
Of course, it is not easy to build a team that starts from zero, however Pambos had plenty of time to build his dream team, Based on his previous work, he was expected to create a competitive team that could challenge the league title. The fans were in full support of Pambos and the two sides built a quick bond. The story, however, would not have the happy ending that the fans dreamed of.
The season started with two back-to-back derbies against AEK Larnakas and Apollon Limassol, but both games were postponed due to the European qualifiers. Omonoia’s first league game of the season came on September 9, where the Prasinoi earned a 2:1 win over Ethnikos Achnas (currently the league’s last placed team). The good start was quickly put to an end as one week later, Omonoia lost with the same scoreline away to Pafos.
Omonoia bounced back with an impressive 5:2 win over current league leaders AEK Larnaka in their postponed fixture from matchday 1, but Omonoia’s momentum was once again halted after two draws against newly promoted Alki Oroklinis (2:2) and Olympiakos Nicosia (1:1), These results brought out the first thoughts of doubts about Pambos’ work with the club. A 1:2 loss to Ermis did not help matters, however a salvaging 1:0 win over AEL Limassol brought some confidence back to the club. Omonoia continued the season with an easy away win over Nea Salamina (1:3), but yet again, two stalemates against Anorthosis (1:1) and Aris (2:2) saw Omonoia drop points, putting them further behind in the tile race.
A 1:3 loss to APOEL in the big derby followed before recording a narrow 1:2 win over Doxa. At this point, Pambos was in the hot seat and a 5:0 thrashing at the hands of AEK Larnakas sealed his end as Omonoia’s boss. The day after the embarrassing loss to AEK, Omonoia decided to part ways with Pampos.
Pampos set high goals at the beginning of the season, but his reputation and his previous success in the league were not enough this go around. His teams have always focussed on defence first and he was a specialist in training teams to not concede goals. In 13 matches in charge, Omonoia conceded 23 goals (while only scoring 22), statistics far from what were expected when Pambos was appointed. Needless to say, those numbers are unacceptable for a team that is regarded as one of Cyprus’ most successful clubs.
On two occasions, against Olympiakos and Anorthosis, Omonia were the overall better side in the 90 minutes of play, but could not hold on for the three points, conceding goals in the final moments of the game. The players could not find the composure, passion, or experience to kill these games off and hold on in the dying moments for important wins.
The choice of Pete Velthuizen as the backup goalkeeper was one of the many issues that surfaced during Pambos’ reign, which had to do with player selections during the summer transfer windows. Pambos did everything in his power to bring the goalkeeper player to Omonoia, but the Dutch player never showed his wroth when called to replace Konstantinos Panagi due to injury. During that time, Omonoia lost valuable points due to his sub-par performances.
Despite the high expectations, none of Pambos’ summer signings made a significant impact to the club’s displays. In retrospect, this proved to be another factor in the Prasini’s disappointing results.
Another factor in the equation, was Pambos’ open criticism about the performances of his players. In the past, Pambos always created a strong team spirit and a good locker room atmosphere. This time around, things were not the same. With the team unable to grab results that were promised, internal problems arose, making things worse. All these pieces to the puzzle led to Pambos’ dismissal in such short time.
Pambos departs Omonoia due to his inability to bring results that were expected by the administration and the fans. It could be that expectations were set too high due to Pambos’ successful past. His call to lead Omonoia was the most demanding and promising job of his career, however he fell short. His decisions did not play out like he planned. The fans rightfully showed their disappointment as they expected to see Omonoia match evenly with the league’s best teams while contesting the league title.
Surely, Pambos will not have difficulty finding a new job when the time comes. However, for Omonoia, the real concern remains: when will the club finally see a team that can fulfill the fans’ expectations after a disappointing few years. A team were fans are proud of when wearing the Trifylli on their chest.