Baptism of fire

By Skip Bandele

Portimonense FC were training behind closed doors at the Amendoeira Golf Resort and Dois Irmãos practice ground earlier this week as the team tried to come to terms with life after Litos.

The once successful manager, who had enjoyed a vote of confidence from club directors as recently as the pre-Christmas week, was summarily dismissed upon his return from holiday last week.

“I am forced to accept the decision,” a somewhat surprised ex-coach said after being shown the door. “I was hoping to be in charge of the team upon our return to our own stadium and I am still convinced it can hold its class once reinforcements arrive.”

The man who has been chosen to replace Litos is long-time club President Fernando Rocha’s friend, Carlos Azenha.

The 44-year-old from Lisbon worked as assistant at Porto and Boavista before stints in Egypt and China, finishing last season in charge of Vitoria Setubal where a single point gained after four games led to his dismissal.

Ironically it is the very same Setubal that Portimao is facing today (Friday) at 8.15pm. At the helm of the visitors is one Manuel Fernandes, the manager in charge of the Leiria side which sealed Azenha’s downfall last season.

“I understand that there are some doubts regarding my last experience at Setúbal,” Azenha said at his official presentation, “but I have worked in football for 22 years. I have had plenty of experience with many situations relevant to this one.”

Later tonight fans and players will know if the man chosen by the President, in keeping with an old promise, is able to save the club.

Although only one game, and his first one as manager of Portimão at that, the result against a direct relegation ‘rival’ four points to the good and at home to boot is going to be vital.

It may decide the course of the remainder of the season. Television cameras will be present at the Stadium of the Algarve and it will be impossible to escape the close scrutiny of those very much concerned with the future of the club.