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The Jewish coach eyeing glory in English football

Leonid Slutsky is expected to be managing Hull City's fight back into the Premier League next season

    Leonid Slutsky is currently best-known as the former manager of Russia’s national football team whose playing career was ended when he fell out of a tree trying to rescue a neighbour’s cat.

    But the 46-year-old could be on the verge of becoming the most prominent Jewish face in English football if his expected appointment as Hull City manager is confirmed in the coming days.

    The secret behind his potential emergence in the beautiful game in this country? Roman Abramovich.

    The Jewish oligarch owner of Chelsea has been offering a helping hand to Slutsky in recent months, championing his cause, giving him the use of the Premier League champions’ facilities, and encouraging English clubs to take an interest in appointing him as a head coach.

    The fellow countrymen could not be more different, however.

    While Abramovich has kept as low a profile as possible since purchasing the Chelsea 14 years ago, Slutsky is not one to slip quietly under the radar.

    Born to a Jewish father in Volgograd, Slutsky was forced to make his name in the dugout after his promising career on the pitch was cut short in his teenage years when he badly injured his knee after the cat rescue attempt.

    As manager of CSKA Moscow he won three Russian league titles before going on to guide the national team to qualification for last summer’s European Championship in France.

    He has known Abramovich for more than a decade and previously told the media: “He is my friend and is helping me achieve my dream with my career in England. He’s giving me lots of advice about tactics and behaviour and communication with chairmen and owners.

    “He’s a good supporter to have, the best in the world.”

    Roman Abramovich
    Roman Abramovich (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

    Dimitry Federov, a Russian journalist who covers CSKA, claimed fans turned against Slutsky after he appeared in an advert for the Moscow Jewish Cultural Centre last year wearing a tallit and tefillin.

    Mr Federov said: “Protests against Slutsky stemmed from his appearance in the commercial. The fans leading the protests were on the extreme right. They wanted an explanation from him but he refused, feeling that you don’t have to explain things like that.”

    Since leaving CSKA last December, Slutsky has been in London, where Abramovich helped find him somewhere to live, allowed him access to Chelsea’s training ground in Surrey and match tickets.

    In his quest to be English football’s first Russian manager, Slutsky has spent hours learning the language and immersing himself in English culture.

    Hull’s relegation from the Premier League last month may make the club a less attractive option for some coaches, but Slutsky has outlined his willingness to manage outside the top flight.

    Avram Grant was the last prominent Jewish manager in this country.

    But his likely successor may find he has a rather different experience in east Yorkshire to Grant’s Champions League adventure in west London.

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