At the start of the J2 2021 season, Montedio Yamagata were one point above the relegation zone and had just two wins from their first ten games. Following a 3-1 loss with V-Varen Nagasaki on the 21st April, it was announced that then manager, Kiyotaka Ishimaru had been dismissed from his job due to poor performances and results. Just 9 days later, it was announced that former Australia, Yokohama F Marinos Assistant Manager and ex-Shimizu S-Pulse manager, Peter Cklamovksi, was to take over at Montedio Yamagata. Despite the situation the club were in, Cklamovski revelled in the challenge.
Since Cklamovski took over for his first game against Ehime FC, he has managed 11 games, winning 10 and drawing 1. His side, have moved from 20th in the table to 5th and have since scored an incredible 21 goals, conceded 5 and kept 6 clean sheets.
To turn the club around in such a way is credit to Cklamovski's progressive footballing philosophy, attacking mindset and man management skills. But credit also has to be given to the players. They have to buy into the coach's philosophy and style of play and have the task of bringing it to fruition on the pitch. The Cklamovski effect has certainly paid dividend. But something else to note is that Montedio is not necessarily a club in the J.League which has the most talented players, big name players or depth in their squad. Their only foreign players are Spanish goalkeeper Víctor Ibáñez, Korean goalkeeper Seong-Jun Min and Brazilian forward Vinícius Araújo. So for Peter to achieve what he has done at the club in such a short space of time and in a year which is still plagued by covid, is nothing short of a miracle.
The 42 year-old, was Ange Postecoglou's right hand man for almost a decade and it is clear to see that Cklamovski inheritied some of Ange's philopsies and football style. It is clear to see when watching Yamagata play now, that they run at the defence from the first whistle. Not letting up, manipulating space, playing out to the wings, challenging high up the pitch and play with an emphatic fast tempo. They dominant in possession and constantly look for an opening, using intricant passing play, use of space, on and off the ball movement. Their empahsis is defending from the front with a good attack, constatntly seeking to create chances and score goals where possible. They have succeeded thus far in achieving exactly that and it certainly makes incredible viewing, with matches being thoroughly entertaining to spectate. The players play with a fierceness, desire and intensity which wasn't there a few months ago. They look a completley different team under Cklamovski and are evidencing such with impressive performances and contuning to climb the table. Montedio are currently 5th in the league and are only 6 points off Kyoto Sanga in 1st place. Whilst promotion would have been a big stretch several weeks ago, the continued form and dogmatic intensity shows that this side could well be in contention for promotion hopes. Knowing Peter and his drive, that is excatly what he will want and believe his team is capable of doing.
Montedio and Cklamovski are both ambitious. Montedio are a side which has spent some time in the J1, although they are usually short stays in the division. The club was last in J1 back in 2015, however only lasted one season in the topflight before finding themselves relegated to J2, where they have remained ever since. However, the club are growing with each passing year. In their first few seasons back in J2, they were finishing around midtable in 14th, 11th and 12th place. But over the last couple of years, they have finished higher and have tried to re-enter J1 by snagging a promotion playoff spot. This year, the task is much harder. Due to the ramifications of the covid-19 pandemic. It meant that no teams were relegated from J1 last year and only two J2 teams went up automatically, as opposed to the usual three. Unfortuantley due to this, the 2021 season is similar in the fact that only two J2 teams go up automatically, with no promotion/relegtation playoffs for 3rd place with the 16th placed J1 team, as four teams will be coming down from the top division in order to even out numbers in both leagues once again.
Peter is just as driven, wanting to prove to Japanese football fans as well as Asian football fans that he is a good manager, after his less than successful season with Shimizu S-Pulse last year. After being under the tutelage of renowned and respected coach Postecoglu, Cklamovski will be wanting to break away from his ties and become a well respcted and renowned manager in his own right. With how he has turned things around at Yamagata, he is certainly on his way to do that. Considering that the talks between the club and manager were at first about Cklamovski keeping them up. We now have the exicting prospect and conversation being had about whether promotion is on the cards.
He has been rewarded for his hard work and achievements recently, by picking up the J2 Manager of the Month for July. Whilst his 25 year old winger Hikaru Nakahara, has also been rewarded for his work, by picking up the J2 Player of the Month for July.
With season past the half way mark, Yamagata's upcoming fixtures are very favourable, particularly games right at the end of the season. However, they do have some battles which will be hard fought and could mean gaining the advantage over other promotion rivals. Playing the likes of Kyoto, Albirex Niigata, Ryukyu and Kofu in the next few weeks.
Their next game is against 3rd placed FC Ryukyu next weekend (Sunday 22nd) and will be sure to have fireworks both on and off the pitch, as the team celebrates with a Summer Festival for the fans.