Coming off the High
6th December 2017
Seven years since leaving Zenit Saint Petersburg and joining CSKA Moscow, Luke had claimed eight major trophies, most notably his three Rosgosstrakh Russian Football Championship. He had also met the woman he had fallen in love with. Having celebrated his first Domestic title, Luke met Lada Lebedev, a Russian teacher, who was a year his junior.
The pair began a relationship in the winter months of 2013 and had been happy together ever since, with Lada moving into Luke's home in early 2015. Something that had always been apart of Luke’s life was uncertainty. His move to Europe aged 19, before then being moved onto Russia a couple years later. More uncertainty followed with a freak injury in the 2010 World Cup, causing Luke’s departure from Zenit.
Uncertainty and a lack of stability was the one consistent in Luke’s life, until his move to CSKA. Now seven years in, fluent in the language, Luke shared an incredible connection with the fans. Featuring in 181 league games and contributing 73 goals and 61 assists in his time at the club. Clubs became interested in Luke, but for the first time since he was a child, especially having met Lada, he was happy with where he was and turned down every advance each time. Finally happy with where he was, success continued to follow for the South African.
But in 2016 the bubble of success that had surrounded the Moscow based club, was popped without much warning. Former winner of the Russian Premier League Championship MVP, after his terrific performances in the 2014-15 season, Roman Eremenko, was found guilty of testing positive for crack cocaine. Eremenko, a key cog in the CSKA side that had been playing so well, was initially banned for just 30 days. However, with further investigations, the Finland international, was banned for two years.
The initial shock of the reports jolted a good start to the CSKA season. Having played nine and losing just once before the news of Eremenko, CSKA went on a run of two losses in three in the league as well as losing twice more in the Champions League, following his ban.
With a turnaround in results in the league, things were looking more positive at CSKA, and with a final match of 2016 to be played tomorrow against Tottenham Hotspur, the CSKA players were in buoyant mood sitting in the conference room to go through final preparations for the game.
“Good Morning guys,” manager Leonid Slutsky began. “We have a big game to end the year with tomorrow. I know we haven’t put in the performances we would of liked so far in the Champions League, but a win against Tottenham will get us Europa League football, so I want to see it,” Slutsky explained, as he would with most games giving his objectives.
“However, I do have some news for you all. Tomorrow will also be my final game as this great clubs manager.” announced the departing coach.
Silence surrounded the room.
Leonid Slutsky had been in charge of CSKA Moscow for seven years, having taken over the role from Juande Ramos. Slutsky had taken the club through one of it’s most successful periods, winning seven trophies in his time at the club. Despite being given the role of Russian head coach in 2015, he had stayed in the role at CSKA alongside it. To leave now was a shock to everyone.
Since Luke’s arrival at the club, back in 2010, everything had been stable, the departure of the man who gave him his second chance was disappointing. It was a part of the game and something Luke knew would happen eventually, but despite this, it didn’t feel real.
The uncertainty of the past felt like it was slowly creeping back into Luke’s life.
...Do you see what you started...
Luke's wish of beating Zenit finally came true and even better he pulled!
I wouldn't know Jim as I do not drink!
Griffo & MJK:
At this point I am regretting the name!