Rumori di Spogliatoio

Zenjov to Jalka: Jose Riga wanted me at Blackpool

Angelo PalmeriComment

The following interview appeared on the only Estonian football magazine available in the country, 'Jalka'.
The author, Siim Kera, has kindly accepted for a translated version to appear on 'Rumori di Spogliatoio'.

All the pictures (unless otherwise stated) are taken by Peter Ian Mowbray from Live In Blackpool and granted in exclusive for Estonia to Rumori.

November's 'Jalka' is still available in shops all over Estonia at 2,20€

You can find old copies in digital version here.

Notes from the author are marked as SK. Notes from Rumori are marked as AP.

Translation from Estonian into English by Angelo Palmeri.


Sergei at Bloomfield road on the day of signing (BlackpoolFC.co.uk)

Sergei at Bloomfield road on the day of signing (BlackpoolFC.co.uk)

The last Estonian footballer that before you landed in the Championship was Tarmo Kink (Middlesbrough –AP).
Did you ask him any advice?

Yes, of course. I called him immediately and asked him what did he knew about both Blackpool and English Championship. He told me all the time that it is a very physical football, and I was scared that probably it didn’t suit me. I wanted to know his thoughts.

What Tarmo said?
He said the level is very good, if there is a chance, I shall still try. However he was not able to tell me whether it was suitable for me or not.

So you were scared a bit?
Of course. All the time. And if I were not to go, I was still scared I was making the wrong choice.

Can you already say it was the right choice going there or not then?
I am learning some lessons there anyway. I have understood this is a very good level. Very good football. Powerful and quick, the players there are very strong physically.

The start of season cannot make you happy…
Of course it can't. It hasn’t been going very well with the team and I haven’t got myself enough playing time. I think everything will fix. We train hard and fight, we try to fix it ourselves. I’d always like to play, ten minutes it’s really little time. You come on the pitch and you can already hear the final whistle.

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For me it’s always a bit strange to see players sent on the field in the injury time.
This I don’t understand at all. Let’s say it is good to waste time, however if you win or lose 4-0 and the coach makes some changes, then I don’t get it. You cannot even sweat in that short time.

Did they investigate about what place Estonia at all is?
Yes, they asked, ‘where are you from?’. I answered, from Estonia. Nobody asked where it is. Probably they knew (smiles –SK). They rather asked me where I was playing before.

Did you have any other offer besides Blackpool?
Some real option, that I could have left the day after, not. There were some, but they didn’t suit me.

Did you accept Blackpool’s offer immediately?
I thought about it for a week, then I went to Blackpool. I had this thought in mind all the time that something better could have come. Then it was already time for me to start training again (Zenjov reached Blackpool as free agent –AP). I thought that if nothing comes, then nothing comes. I thought a little bit more and then I accepted the offer.

So you wanted to get to a better league?
All the time one wants. Every person always wishes only for the best. If you stand in one place, then you cannot improve as a footballer. Why playing then?

Is it the level there stronger than Ukraine?
This is a new level, I am happy with it. Here everything is so fast, you can never think when you have the ball or even stop. You have to think and play very quickly. You must be powerful and tough. This is the biggest gap in comparison. In Ukraine I felt much at ease. When I came here, I realized that what I have it’s not on the same level as here.

At the moment, is the level in the Championship too high for you?
I don’t want to think like that, I just need to work. I see now what kind of work I needed to do additionally in Ukraine and in Estonia.

Which work?
I need more power.

Do the big English central defenders haunt you?
Here there are strong central defenders. In our club there’s one, he is on loan from West Bromwich Albion (Donervon Daniels –AP). He’s 20, however he looks like he is 30! 100 kilos, only muscles.

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Four years ago you told us: ‘my English is not so good, and in Europe it would have been harder’. How it goes now?
Their English is so hard, they don’t even understand each other. They have very different accents. When I came and I heard people speaking, then I thought this was not English language, I didn’t understand a word. Now I try to listen more and I understand better too. I try, I learn. In any case, English language skills are needed. If the coach (still Jose Riga at time of the interview –AP) speaks, then I understand everything. He is Belgian. When English people speak, then it’s hard. They speak so fast too and I have to tell them to speak slower all the time.

Meanwhile, Blackpool Gazette says Englishman Lee Clark shall become the new Blackpool FC coach.(AP)

Then I guess there's no football communication with your teammates either?
At the moment it would be hard to communicate with them. I try to speak a couple of words. Besides that, there are few teammates living in Blackpool. Everyone lives either in Manchester or Liverpool or elsewhere. Everyone goes his own way after training.

Have you gone to Manchester or Liverpool?
Yes, of course. Andres Oper (Estonian all-time international topscorer –AP) lives a thirty-minute drive from me, we’ve met. He has watched my games on TV so he told me his impressions.

Which were those?
Now I cannot remember.

Blackpool is a seaside resort just as your home-town Pärnu…
Now I live in a nearby town named Lytham St.Annes. It’s a small town where old people live. When the weather is good, you can see a lot of people on Saturdays and Sundays. During the day they are on the sandbeach, in the evening they return home. I have an apartment by the sea, there’s a nice promenade. When wife and baby will come, then we can have a walk. They are both in Tallinn right now, I saw my son Nikita just after the game against Slovenia (9th of September, 1-0 for Estonia -AP). It’s good to wait for the national team games, then I can also see my son.

You seem very happy when talking about your child.
Certainly, I always think that I have this little human being. I watch his picture every day. It makes me happy. When he smiles, I smile too. It’s good that there’s such a person that one day waits for you, comes and screams ‘Dad! Dad!’. This will make me very happy. Every day I see him on Skype. Good there’s such a possibility. When he sleeps or walks, then my wife shows him to me. I’d like to bring them to England in November after the international break.

You are so far from your son, do you feel this 'being a father’s feeling?
Still I don’t know what this feeling is. When we start living together, then I will understand. Maybe this will come when he says for the first time ‘dad’. At the moment he eats and sleeps.

Blackpool at the moment has collected 2 points in 8 games. How real is retaining the Championship’s place?
I’d like to think that time is needed to build our game. I think there’s always time needed to practice the game and that it will get better. It must! In the recent games there’ve been chances of winning.

After 14 games, Blackpool have managed to win just one and draw another with the club sitting at the bottom of the table with 6 points (AP).

Do Blackpool dream bigger than staying in the Championship?
Two points in eight games. At the moment I just think about staying in the Championship.

Didn’t you start to think, in what kind of situation have you found yourself?
Yes, anyway you do, however I want to think that this is a moment for learning something.

Is it making you happy the fact that you signed a one-year contract with option for a second one, then?
I don’t know. Let’s see what happens. Maybe it goes better for us. I don’t know if it’s better or worse.

Was the short contract yours or club’s request?
Initially they offered two, then they changed mind for one and this suited me better.

What are the states of mind at the club?
Everyone wants to win. Everyone thinks positively and each game goes better. For sure we will rise however, losing is hard. Every game behind, this is very hard psychologically and affects very badly.

As I have heard, you get along well with the coach (Riga –AP).
Yes, actually he wanted me at Blackpool. He was the one to see me, neither the chairman nor anyone else did. He gives me a chance all the time.

You were seven seasons in Ukraine (Karpaty Lviv -AP). Did you get tired of it in the end?
Certainly, I think this was too long time in the same team. Especially abroad. If it was home, it was another thing. I wanted to change. I wanted to try myself elsewhere, to check whether I was ready for another environment. I thought about moving earlier. If someone had wanted to purchase me, then I’d have gone, I was thinking. However, at the moment it’s quite a hard situation in the transfer market. Even as a free agent is quite hard to get anywhere, because free agents are so many.

In your last interview with us, you said that Karpaty Lviv’s fans sing under your window and they don’t let you sleep. Was it the same in the recent years?
When the club was going well, it was so. I was living in a place where close to me there were 10-15 fans living. If the game went good, they set up a party and sang. All for the honour of the club, I still don’t know whether they knew I was living there or not.

Was in Lviv perceived what was going on in Ukraine?
When the TV was working, then I watched. What was going on in Donetsk was awful to see, very bad feelings. In Lviv nothing was perceived. If I was not watching the TV, then I couldn’t understand there was a war going on.

What is your position regarding these events?
I don’t want to talk about this at all. Everyone does. Everyone’s got his own opinions and everyone talks for their own benefit.

In Lviv you studied physical education, did you manage to complete your studies?
Yes, I managed. I studied for 5 years, now I have a degree (smiles –SK). Since I got my BD, I can teach kids.

Will you be a coach in the future?
Now I think not. Time will tell.

If a new coach is hired in place of Jose Riga, how hard will mentally be? Will you start to think whether you are in his plans or not?
Time will tell this more. Each coach has his own thoughts. Whether he likes me or not, whether I suit his own game plan or not. Every player thinks about that. Also the papers wrote about the club looking for a new coach (this refers to the start of September -AP ) however, they didn’t find anyone.

They don’t tell these things to the players.
At all, no one tells us anything about what will happen to the coach. Footballers must play football and not think what happens above them. Maybe the captain (Tony MacMahon –AP) knows more.

By Siim Kera for ‘Jalka’


Blackpool will take on Ipswich Town at home on the 1st of November. Kick-off time at 17:00 EST
You can follow all the Estonian players abroad in our special section 'Estonians Abroad'