Building for the future: Al Jazira under ‘no pressure’ from Henk ten Cate to win league title

The Abu Dhabi club may be top of the Arabian Gulf League but manager Henk ten Cate is more concerned about their long-term project.

Henk ten Cate has said he is a "happy boss" following Al Jazira's start to the season. Mona Al Marzooqi/ The National
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Al Jazira manager Henk ten Cate has said his team are “in construction” after defeat to Al Nasr on Saturday prevented the Abu Dhabi club from taking sole lead of the Arabian Gulf League.

A 2-0 defeat to Al Nasr in Dubai was the first of the season for Jazira, who share top spot with Al Wasl on 26 points, albeit having played one match less. Al Ain, the 12-time champions, are third, three points behind but with two games in hand on Jazira.

While Jazira, who had not tasted defeat in the league for 237 days, had always hoped to contend this season, it nevertheless represents an impressive turnaround under Ten Cate given the club were three points above the relegation zone when he took over 12 months ago.

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Jazira’s lofty position has naturally led to talk of a sustained title challenge, although Ten Cate has attempted to lower expectations.

“I kept saying all the time, we are a team in construction,” the Dutchman, 62, said. “We have a lot of young and inexperienced players.

“I am not talking about championships, or whatever. Of course we want to win every game but this is not realistic.

“We have defended well so far, really well. Sixteen games without a loss, which in this league is not so easy. We deserve to be where we are. It was just a bad day for us.”

“Now it is for us to respond next week when we play Al Dhafra. It will be another very difficult game.”

Jazira won their only league title six years ago, and while they are well placed to end their wait for a second championship, Ten Cate has insisted the long-term project is of greater significance than immediate success.

“We don’t put pressure on our players, absolutely not,” he said. “The only thing we are doing is constructing a team which is able in the next couple of years to play decent football and to be one of the better teams in the league. This was my job when I first came here and slowly, slowly our game is changing.

“We don’t want to change our way. We are looking for consistency in the way we play, not just for this season, but for the future.

“Believe me, we will lose more games in this league but so far we did a fantastic job and you cannot forget that. Despite the loss I’m really proud of my team, the effort they put in every game, their willpower.

“I’m a happy boss.”

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