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Lights out at Sampdoria

Forza ‘doria! Forza Sampdoria
Ogni partita una festa sarà.
Forza ‘doria! Forza Sampdoria
In ogni angolo della città.

Go ‘doria, go Sampdoria!
Every game will be a party.
Go ‘doria, go Sampdoria!
in every corner of the city.

The refrain of Sampdoria’s club anthem will have boomed, ironically, around the ground before the Genoa side’s home games. It was not a season that Sampdoria’s fans will care to remember with any fondness. On May 15 2011, in the penultimate game of the season, Sampdoria were relegated to Serie B. Their relegation came, rubbing salt in the wound, just 364 days after they had qualified for the Champions League playoff. To suggest they had sunk like a lead balloon would be a huge understatement, so what on earth went wrong in Genoa?

Cassano celebrates a would-be winner against Bremen

Cassano celebrates a would-be winner against Bremen

It is fitting that their relegation should have been sealed by Mauricio Pinilla’s goal in the 86th minute, after all, it has been late heart break that has epitomised their insipid season. Going back to the Champions League play off second leg, they were winded by Markus Rosenborg’s 93rd minute equaliser – almost the last kick of the game – and Claudio Pizarro dealt the killer blow in extra time.

In the Europa League they were, effectively, eliminated by Ola Toivonen’s 90th minute winner against PSV Eindhoven knocking them out of Europe altogether. In Serie A, Sampdoria conceded late goals against Brescia in an epic 3-3 draw and then a winner to their city rivals, Genoa, in the 97th (NINETY SEVENTH) minute – Premier League flop Mauro Boselli scoring that one.

By the time Pinilla had calmly put his passed the ball into the net and walked back to the half way line – foregoing a celebration out of respect for the home fans and players’ predicament – everything had been said and done. The pictures that followed pulled at the heart strings of many. Sampdoria’s captain, Angelo Palombo, in floods of tears was helped by members of the coaching staff to walk to the home fans. Once there, he knelt in tears and begged the fans for forgiveness.

Palombo begs tearfully for mercy

Palombo begs tearfully for mercy

Fans can point the finger of blame at a number of reasons, and people. First of all, the club had a summer transfer window in 2010 that, in hindsight, crippled the club. Sampdoria lost the manager and sporting director that had taken to the Champions League playoff, Gigi Delneri and Beppe Marotta. Another understated departure – also going to Juventus – was goalkeeper Marco Storari.

Despite the possibility of Champions League group stage football, Edoardo Garrone showed no desire to build a squad capable of competing in Europe. The only additions were Stefano Guberti, Gianluca Curci, Guido Marilungo and Massimo Volta – none of whom could provide European any real experience.

Another obvious answer lies at the feet of Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini – or their departure, more accurately. Cassano’s ignominious departure spiralled further into the surreal when the club had to pay Real Madrid in order to give him to A.C. Milan, for free. The fans were left with Jonathan Biabiany, approximately €12m and a complete lack of a potency in front of goal. They were replaced with Massimo Maccarone and Federico Macheda, both of whom failed to make any significant difference.

Cassano: The one that got away

Cassano: The one that got away

The last nail in the ‘Dorian coffin was the sacking of Mimmo Di Carlo, who had battled valiantly all season to keep a side bereft of confidence and creativity in a reasonable mid table position. When Di Carlo was given the push, Sampdoria were fourteenth having dropped from fourth. His replacement, Alberto Cavasin, has been living off the fading glory of his ‘panchina d’oro’ (golden bench) award in 2001, was completely uninspiring after taking charge.

The man at the centre of the blucerchiati’s demise is undoubtedly the club’s owner, the oil rich Edoardo Garrone. He has sat by and nonchalantly allowing matters to slip so far that the club now find themselves in the depths of Serie B. It is he who will shoulder the majority of the blame.

Garrone is the man who has to shoulder the blame

Garrone is the man who has to shoulder the blame

They will be able to maintain their fan base for the first season but if the club fail to re-emerge then there are no parachute payments and the fans will soon begin to find more important things to do on a Saturday afternoon – Piacenza, Perugia and Venezia provide frightening parallels.

The good news, though, is that the club have appointed Pasquale Sensibile as sporting director, who joins after being a part of the back room staff that have led Novara to a double promotion. As well as former Reggina manager, Gianluca Atzori, and better still is that Angelo Palombo will be foregoing the riches of the top flight to attempt to save the club of his heart from drowning. If all goes well, next season the blucerchiati fans will be partying once more.


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