John Gregory embarks on a new Israeli challenge

5 06 2010

John Gregory has been appointed the new manager of Israeli Premier League (Ligat Toto) side FC Ashdod on a three year contract.

Gregory had spent the last six months working at Maccabi Ahi Nazareth on a £67,000 a year contract.  The Arab club was relegated from the Israeli top flight on the last game on the season. This was still seen as a good result within the country however as the team was vastly adrift at the bottom of the league on John’s arrival in December.

John’s contract was only for six months at Ahi Nazareth so he was able to leave the northern club as a free agent to head south west to Ashdod. The Dolphins finished sixth in the Premier League and reached the semi finals of the State Cup (major national cup) last season.

Gregory was also linked with the league champions from 2007 and 2008, Beitar Jerusalem in the local media before taking up his new job but the former Aston Villa boss is sure he made the right choice.

‘I am certain that I have reached the best place in Israel and I wish to steer Ashdod to new heights in Israeli football,’ said the 56 year old.

John will still be earning a relatively modest salary, €120,000 a year (£100,000) plus an apartment provided by the club. While at first glance that looks a good salary for most people, comparing it to Tony Adams’ £1 million each year at Gabala FC it takes on a different meaning. It would appear that Gregory has a real passion for managing and developing Israeli football that must be commended.

Whilst in Nazareth Gregory was seen to use basic Hebrew and Arabic on the training ground and in an interview on Ashdod’s website he has pledged to learn Hebrew as quickly as possible (no direct quotes to avoid misquoting as the piece was originally in Hebrew). John also states his long term ambitions for the club and to not think that ‘championship’ is a dirty word for them.

Anyone outside Israel may think that John failed at Maccabi Ahi Nazareth with the team being relegated but he was working in really testing conditions. The Daily Mail newspaper did a great piece on John Gregory at the club and the conditions he faced which you can read by clicking here. Gregory was still very realistic following relegation and reflective that his original target wasn’t met.

“It is a sad day for me personally and the city of Nazareth,” he stated. “It’s tough but I am still very proud of my players and to get so many points was a miracle. They worked so hard but we didn’t do enough and we were not good enough. Now we have to deal with the reality of relegation.”

The word I would highlight from that quote would be miracle, that really isn’t an exaggeration of what he was able to exact from his former club. Hopefully he can show similar qualities at Ashdod and propel them toward honours in the near future.

Sources: The Daily Mail, IMScouting.com, Haaretz.com, the official FC Ashdod website.

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