José Riga: Relationship with Blackpool chairman was immediately difficult
José Riga had just steered Charlton Athletic out of a tricky situation in the summer of 2014 – but that was a walk in the park compared to his next job at Blackpool.
In his first managerial job in the UK, Riga guided Charlton from fourth from bottom when he took over in March to comfortable safety in the Championship, only to be let go at the end of the season.
A 3-0 win at Blackpool on the final day clearly garnered the attention of Karl Oyston, though, as the Seasiders chairman made an approach to Riga after his contract at The Valley ended.
If Charlton’s final position of 18th had been precarious, Blackpool in 20th and just two points from relegation was edge of the cliff stuff.
Riga inherited a side that released 17 players during the off-season, but he had fallen in love with English football and didn’t hesitate to take on the mammoth task.
“You go from one stadium to another and they are all beautiful,” he says of his appreciation of the English game. “They all have their own history and their own respect for you.
“That was what really impressed me, you see so many different ways of playing, different cultures with managers there from all around the world.
“I accepted the challenge (at Blackpool) because I loved English football, but it wasn’t possible to do what I wanted to do there.”
‘A difficult club’
That is an understatement. Riga managed to build a squad, virtually from scratch, but one win in their first 14 matches saw Riga sacked and replaced by Lee Clark at the end of October.
It did not take long for the Belgian to realise he had taken on an impossible job, and he ultimately left Bloomfield Road with only regrets.
“I was told it was a very difficult club but what I would do there would be a hundred times more valuable than what I could in another club,” he says.
“From the beginning it was really difficult. I came with my ideas. but if you want to put them into play you need the players. It became immediately a difficult relationship with the chairman.
“I explained we had to find the right balance between money and players. We weren’t Man City or Man Utd. I tried very hard, but it was quite impossible.
“It’s a pity because the fans were good and the players were good. I liked the atmosphere during the game because it was a small stadium and the supporters could push the team.
“It was difficult to leave and let the fans down, they were really amazing, but day by day it became more difficult.”
Perhaps surprisingly, despite his experiences with Blackpool and Charlton, Riga has retained his love of English football and would love to return for another job in the country.
“I would come back, for sure,” he says. “It’s the place I saw the most passion about football. If somebody thinks my knowledge or experience can help I’m ready.”
By Rich Laverty