The coach of Levski – Stanimir Stoilov, gave a special interview to Gong.bg nearly 36 hours after the Blues were relegated from the Conference League following a penalty shootout defeat by Malta’s Hamrun Spartans. Murray talks about the result of the match, the conclusions of the participation in the European tournaments, the upcoming battle for the title with Ludogorets, as well as the future of the club.
The conversation with the coach of the capital city was arranged even before the rematch with Hamrun, but the team’s relegation from Europe changed its direction…
– More than 24 hours have already passed since Levski was dropped from Hamrun Spartans. Have you taken a more serious look at why the “blues” were eliminated?
– Levski should not have been relegated in any form after a victory in the first match with Hamrun. We have brought sadness and grief to our supporters, and that hurts me the most. I don’t want them to have negative emotions, but football is an unpredictable miracle. Analysis is very difficult after such a match. Both meetings did not suggest that Levski had problems in his game actions on the field, did not suggest that he would lose. Levski was the more active team, the better. We made one or two errors in the attack phase and one or two errors in the defense phase in both games. They should not have been allowed. Maybe fate is telling you that you’ve come this far after such an unfortunate fall and something needs to change to move forward. In game actions, it is clear that there is room for improvement, especially in the finishing phase, and not to allow individual actions in defense. It is difficult to see and attend such two matches and in the end you are eliminated. I’m mostly sorry for our fans, to whom we only want to bring joy and enjoyment of football.
– Since the beginning of September last year, you and the team really bring only joy to the fans. Is the full stadium in every game Levski’s biggest win to date?
– Yes, this is one of the biggest victories – the unity that exists between the supporters, the club, the team, the presence in the stadium. The incredible help that the left-handers give to the club. Especially after the New Year, when we changed part of the team, this team had no dips in performance. The strongest thing that Levski has achieved in these seven months is consistency in the game. There is no opponent who outplayed Levski and Levski was ashamed. The team already has consistency in the game, it has its own ambitious game plan. Naturally, there are also 2-3 losses. Levski played every single match as a final, because every loss threw them out of the fight for Europe through the championship or cup, and then every loss threw them out of the European tournaments. There was one loss and you saw that we were out of Europe. Persistence is already there, details need to be improved. I put this team under enormous pressure in terms of the demands I had on it, especially for results. Lately, we play more for the result because of the importance of each match to qualify for the European tournaments, to win the Bulgarian Cup, to continue in Europe, than to develop our playing style. So far, the team has managed to withstand the pressure and the expectations that both I and the people have. The fact that he collapsed was a football misfortune, not at all pleasant for us, the leftists. It wouldn’t hurt as much if the opponent was better. For me, Levski was the better football team in both matches. We must look for our problems, remove them and let Levski move forward. I said it that in football no one can promise results. I promised a job. Perhaps fate turned its back on us that day. Levski showed tremendous cohesion during these 8-9 months. It’s the best win ever and it needs to continue with double strength right now.
– Before the matches with Hamrun, you warned that this is a very good team and it will not be easy for Levski. But it seems to me that we journalists, fans did not accept Hamrun as a team that could cause problems for Levski. It seems that in Bulgaria we continue to live with the thought that teams of a similar caliber will almost certainly beat themselves…
– In the last 10 years, in terms of achievements and performance, Levski has been transformed into a Maltese team. We were either eliminated immediately, or we didn’t qualify at all. The fact that after my arrival people saw new “blue” stories is good, because Levski was stable on the field. Hamrun made a very good impression on me when I watched them for the first time after the win over PAOK. They are a scientific, combinational team that knows what it wants on the field. It doesn’t have the class of PAOK, but it is a team that is well trained to play combinational football. I say, and whether people believe my words is a separate matter. I’m not one to lie. We must carry our cross after falling away.
– You have repeatedly said that Levski is a fragile team. Did these four games in Europe help to strengthen more as a spirit, collective, character?
– This team has the spirit of a winner. They have only played finals since February. Winning so many finals is not easy. The team needs to develop its playing connections just a little bit more and at least clean up individual mistakes both in attack and defense. This Levski team was created with minimal financial resources, compared to other leading teams in Bulgaria. This should not sound like an excuse, but rather a strict financial discipline because of the debts and the stupid things that have been done in the last 10 years. Now we have to swallow the negativity, losses and some not so loud transfers and results, so that we can fix all the nonsense that was created on the back of Levski. Only then can we go the way of the rich.
– Is the purely financial loss really serious after the relegation, since even more serious financial resources could have entered the club’s coffers when Hamrun was removed? Now might Levski have to sell football players?
– No one had calculated these revenues. Perhaps only the first round was counted as revenue, especially after the draw. The other was a gift that was to continue with Hamrun. Victory was a must. The team, with its performances, contributed to a large part of the financial income of the club – both with its games, and with the attendance of the fans on the fans, and with the sales. This is a major credit to the players who played well. If there is a good offer that suits the club and the player, there could be a sale. We don’t have too many players to sell. We will continue to develop this team. Some of the young players will also need to develop. We train them and hope their time will come. It cannot be massive, because then the playing power of the team will be visibly weakened. Everything has to be earned on the pitch.
– What conclusions did you draw about the team and the players after these four matches in Europe?
– I have been trying for two days to find purely tactical mistakes in the team’s game and our football problems. Levski played extremely organized in the defense phase in these four matches. Our opponents had a total of 3-4 chances over the four games, which shows that there is some progress in our tactical defensive discipline. We scored five goals, which is not a bad achievement, but not enough. We had some moments that we had to realize. In Europe, the first or second situation you have to have self-confidence or confidence to realize it. This gives you an advantage. We made one or two elementary mistakes, which threw us out of the European tournaments. I don’t see anything worrisome in Levski’s playing behavior on the field. I see things that need to be improved for Levski to be the leading team both in the championship and in Europe. There is no game tragedy on the field. Levski never felt weak on the pitch in my opinion.
– Do you have any concerns that the loss to Hamrun may affect some of the players purely psychologically, since most of them do not have much experience in Europe?
– Yes, I have such concerns. The players were extremely motivated and ambitious to move forward in Europe. I’m worried about them losing those very things. We will try to move forward with work and talks. We need our fans who are in the stadium. They always keep the team in maximum concentration and ambition. This is very important. Full stands keep the players playing at their maximum. I hope that with the joint efforts of the club and the fans, we will keep the players at the top level. This alloy he has is supposed to get us out of the situation.
– Do you see Levski as a team that can stop the hegemony of Ludogorets this season?
– I can hardly say, but I am sure that this team can play as a draw with any opponent in our championship and especially against the leaders. If we don’t make mistakes in certain games, as was the case with CSKA 1948 when we lost with 10 men, we can cause problems for all the leaders. Why not hope? Levski is strong in that he has the faith and support of his supporters throughout Bulgaria. Wherever we go we feel like hosts. There’s a Johan Cruyff quote that I try to paraphrase in my head mostly: “I haven’t seen money play on the pitch.” Years ago there was a very cheap class, but now money is clearly a major factor in football.
– In the last year, the team literally flew under your leadership. Now, after one loss, a number of “specialists”, who were not there before, have appeared to express their opinion and give evaluations. How do you view such people?
– Levski has not had a match in which it was totally outplayed or embarrassed since I have been a coach. Levski has his own style of play. The coach is always to blame for both the positives and the negatives. I do not run away from my responsibilities in any form. I would be worried if the team alternated between strong and weak games. In Europe, Levski stood European on the field. I accept criticism when it is not personal. We are there to fix things. It’s hard to wait a long period for someone to fail before you can tell how bad they are. On the field, you can see how bad Levski is, if you have eyes to see. That the result is like this, fate tells you that there are things to improve or change. We will look for these things. But fate, not game failure. Levski has never failed in any way. There are things to improve, but Levski has created a playing behavior on the field. The funds used to create this team, which is a plus for the entire club, are very minimal. We can’t even compete with the first two teams in the standings. This cannot be an excuse for us. I would like to be the team with the most financial opportunities, with the most expenses for the purchase and sale of football players. I would be most happy if we save Levski from the situation it has fallen into and we have a new stadium soon. This will be my greatest joy.
– Levski requested a replay of the rematch with Hamrun because of a gross violation of the rules by the head referee. Do you think there is an option for the match to be replayed?
– We, the sports people, lost the battle on the field. If the club can get a replay of the match, it will be a chance for us to correct our mistake. What I see is a violation of football fair play because the Hamrun player is actively involved in the goal. There are people to judge. If we are given a chance, we will try to win. However, I have already accepted purely sporting defeat. I congratulated the colleagues from Hamrun for the victory.
– How do you see Levski’s future?
– People should not lose confidence in this team, their presence in the stands and support for the players above all. This is the most important.
– A serious controversy arose over Levski’s desire to postpone several matches from the championship…
– We wanted to do the best from a psychological point of view for the team so that we could get to the front. We are sorry for the inconvenience we caused our opponents. Now we give them the opportunity with the BFS to choose the most convenient dates for them to play these matches. We will comply with their wishes. It’s not a problem to play in two or three days.