Few national coaches have risen from relative obscurity to unprecedented success
Few national coaches have risen from relative obscurity to unprecedented success quite so fast as Turkey's Senol Gunes.
Before the start of the World Cup in Korean and Japan, Gunes was under the kind of pressure that could make grown men cry, lambasted in the Turkish press for being too weak for the job and for choosing the wrong players for the country's first appearance in the finals for 48 years.
Even during the early stages of the competition, when Turkey struggled to click into gear, Gunes was given a roasting by a national press anxious to avoid the humiliation of an early return home. His notoriously uneasy relationship with Hakan Sukur, didn't help. Hakan was a national hero and the general consensus was that if it came to the crunch, the coach rather than the captain should be forced to step down.
In a sense, the national scepticism towards Gunes was easy to understand. In contrast to the extrovert Fatih Terim and Mustapha Denizli, his two predecessors, Gunes was a thoughtful, somewhat reticent character, not from capital Istanbul but a former schoolteacher from the Black Sea resort of Trabzon. His press conferences at the World Cup were often rambling affairs, a mixture of tactical platitudes and low-key yet deep patriotism. He was also a former goalkeeper, having spent 15 years with Trabzonspor where he gained 31 international caps, and the Turkish media were quick to point out that rarely had the transition from goalkeeper to coach been successful.
Not only that. Denizli, who had taken Turkey to the last eight at Euro 2000 before leaving to join Fenerbahce, was a hard act to follow. When Gunes' team lost their opening World Cup game to Brazil and could then only draw with Costa Rica, the hawks began to swirl above his head as he was criticised for a series of tactical blunders and an alleged lack of motivational skills.
But to his credit, he kept his cool, never lost sight of his own ability and in the end proved the sceptics wrong as, just as he had predicted many times, he watched his team surge their way through the competition to take their place in World Cup history.
To what extent Gunes was personally responsible for Turkey's remarkable Far East campaign, having inherited a golden generation of players, is still open to question but his achievements cannot be denied.
As he goes into Wednesday's match with England, Gunes, who commendably has lost none of his modesty, has the whole of his country behind him after so many years of watching others succeed on a stage where the Turks once feared to tread.
Click here for match information:
ENGLAND v TURKEY
WEDNESDAY APRIL 2nd
EURO 2004 QUALIFIER IN SUNDERLAND