The manager of Sivasspor, who started his sporting career as a wrestler, now seems set to wrestle Anatolioan football to the top of the Turkish game.
Until the age of 14, Bulent Uygun was a wrestler. This was mainly because of his father who was a wrestling coach. One day Uygun went to watch his friends playing football as they usually did, but on this particular day one of the teams was missing a player. The coach of this team managed to persuade Uygun to take this boy’s place. After the game, the coach called his father and said: "If you push him to be a football player, he is going to be star." Uygun’s father heeded the coach’s advice and the youngster’s wrestling career was over. What many don’t know is that Uygun still feels emotional about this change of career. He was a successful wrestler and felt he could have achieved great things in the ring.
Young Bulent Uygun’s football career began at Sakaryaspor in the junior team when he was 14. Whilst at Sakaryaspor Uygun was capped 32 times for various Turkish national youth teams. When the youngster realised that his playing time with Sakaryaspor was limited, he transferred to Ankara Şekerspor, when he was 17. After one year at Ankara, he moved on again to Kocaelispor in 1989. This is the club at which he truly begun to shine.
Uygun became the conductor of Kocaelispor’s successful orchestra between 1989 and 1993. In the 1992/1993 season, when Kocaelispor played very good football and finished the year at the top of the table he scored seven goals. When he learnt that Fenerbahce wanted to buy him at the end of the season, he didn’t give 100% and his performances tailed off, the reason for this is that Uygun was desperate not to be injured and put his transfer at risk,-he made this confession years later. Partly through this Kocaelispor lost the chance to be champions for that season and finished the table in 4th position.
After he transferred to Fenerbahce with his speed, dribbling ability and cool finishing in front of goal, he scored 22 goals for that season and became the top scorer in the Super Lig. He was the first top scorer to be anything other than a striker. During this season he also became well known for an unusual goal celebration, the salute of a soldier.
Uygun’s career at Fenerbahce ended in the middle of the 1996/1997 season when then president Ali Sen decided he wasn’t able to reproduce his form of old for the side. In later years Ali Sen would admit that this decision was the worst mistake of his period in office.
Bulent returned to perhaps his first love Kocaelispor; however fate was not kind to him and hopes of recapturing the form of his earlier spell at the club were quickly ended with a broken leg picked up in his very first game.
Afterwards he was never the same player for Kocaelispor and continued his career as a journeyman player, playing successively for Çanakkale Dardanelspor, Trabzonspor, Göztepe, Zonguldakspor, Kilimli Belediyespor and Anadolu Üsküdar 1908. In his last season he played at Sivasspor, where he finished his career as a professional football player in 2004.
After his playing career ended he started to work at Sivasspor as Executive Manager, a role he performed for 3½ years. In 2007 he took the control of the team as Technical Director-Manager in the 12th week of the season and immediately enjoyed success with victory against Besiktas. He finished his first season with Sivasspor in 7th place, quite an achievement considering he took control of the team when they were rooted to the bottom of the Super Lig.
The following season saw Sivasspor begin with a series of impressive home performances. After the first period of the league Sivasspor were amazingly at the top of the table. After this success everybody started to believe that Sivasspor could even win the title.
Despite this progress Uygun constantly changed his opinion as to whether the side could win the title from game to game. He himself seemed shocked by their performances and continual victories. The side though suffered a wake-up call when they lined up against Fenerbahce at home. A good performance from the visitors saw Sivasspor crushed 4-1. Until this game Sivasspor had been unbeatable at home and everybody believed that at least they could take one point from the game. But Bülent Uygun appeared to get his tactics wrong, failing to motivate the side and failing to deflect the focus from his side by making many many statements before the game to the press.
However in the coming weeks Fenerbahce, Galatasaray and Besiktas all dropped points. Once again Sivasspor could win the title, this despite losses at home to Fenerbahce and Beskitas (the visit of Galatasaray is to come).
The achievement of in keeping Sivasspor in the title race despite injuries to key players like Pini Balili lies with Bülent Uygun’s tactical knowledge. In the Turkish 4-4-2 magazine he says that to improve his management skills he slept in front of the door of Fatih Terim to talk about his experiences with the national team, Galatasaray, Fiorentina and Milan. Uygun further said that he adopted many of the training programs that he saw Terim use. He also talked with the Basketball manager Aydın Örs to learn about zonal marking, and driving a man behind the defence, and he says that he is not addicted to any tactical arrangement like 4-4-2, and always changes his tactics in every game to outwit the opposing team. But I have to say that he really failed in this regard against Fenerbahce because they didn’t play like they had played before and as a result didn’t get success.
Bülent Uygun’s success has really been based on waiting for the opposing team to make a mistake, and then counter-attacking with pace. It is a tribute to this hot property in Turkish management that Sivasspor are in the title race with just two games to go! If they can somehow manage to take the Super Lig championship it will be a very big success for Anatolian football, and of course Bülent Uygun.