Some news to report on Omiya Ardija's struggle to find an appropriate place to stage their matches in 2006. With the re-development of Omiya Koen expected to continue for some twenty months from January, it is consequently impossible for the club to register their old ground with the J-League as the official home stadium. Consideration was given to the possibility of using the dreaded 15,000 capacity Kumagaya as the main replacement, but this was quickly dismissed as contravening the League rule which states that the home stadium must lie actually within the club's home area.
The costs associated with using Saitama Stadium to host regular matches for a team with an average gate this year of a shade under 10,000 were felt to be too great - which means that the most likely solution to the Squirrels' accommodation problem is that the majority of their 'home' games will in fact be staged at Komaba, Saitama and Kumagaya having the remainder split between them.
Reports from Nikkan Sports suggest that 20-year-old former Omiya Ardija loan star Leandro - apparently keen to continue re-commence his J-League experience - is on the verge of signing for J2 side Montedio Yamagata for next season.
Vissel Kobe's defensive midfielder Naoya Saeki is the latest player to be linked in the press with a move to Omiya Ardija, as reported on the Sponichi website. Saeki - who has just turned 28 years old - has been a fixture in the Kobe side throughout the 2005 season, but he began his career with Jubilo Iwata where he made a single appearance in 2001, before moving to Kobe during the same year. He has gone on to play a total of 78 J1 games, scoring just twice.
A rival for Marques, Kanazawa, Saito et al? Naoya Saeki of Vissel Kobe
More transfers rumours to be reported on, although this one is being reported in the Yomiuri Shimbun as effectively a done deal. A preliminary contractual agreement has apparently been reached with Gamba Osaka over the transfer of forward Kota Yoshihara, only some minor details remaining to be finalised.
Kota Yoshihara - a baby-faced assassin. Fingers crossed
Yoshihara, who will be 28 in February, began his career in the JFL with Consadole Sapporo in 1996, staying with the Hokkaido-based outfit following their step up to the J-League in 1998. He moved to Gamba in 2000 and has kept up a solid scoring record for most of that time, his J-League stats reading 64 goals in exactly 200 games. However, unsurprisingly he moved down the pecking order in 2005 as a result of the remarkable success of Masashi Oguro and Araujo, being redeployed in more of an attacking midfield role and scoring only twice in nineteen appearances.
The Sponichi sports news site is reporting that Omiya Ardija have made a move for Tokyo Verdy 1969 midfielder Yoshiyuki Kobayashi. Kobayashi, who will be 28 in January, debuted with Verdy Kawasaki in 1999 and followed the club's relocation to the capital in 2001. He's played slightly over 150 games in J1, scoring ten goals.
Not to be confused with Daigo, Verdy's Yoshiyuki Kobayashi
Omiya Ardija have been drawn alongside J1 new boys Ventforet Kofu, Jubilo Iwata, Nagoya Grampus 8 and Cerezo Osaka in Group D of the 2006 Nabisco Cup tournament - the single group to contain five teams. The full schedule has yet to be announced, but the home and away fixtures will take place on 29 March, 5 April, 12 April, 26 April, 10 May, 14 May, 17 May and 20 May. With ACL entrants Gamba Osaka to join at the knock-out stage of the competition, the other groups are as follows:
Group A - Urawa, FC Tokyo, Marinos & Fukuoka Group B - Kashima, Kawasaki, Kyoto & Oita Group C - JEF, Niigata, S-Pulse & Hiroshima
The Nikkan Sports newspaper is reporting that several clubs, including the Squirrels, have approached relegated Kashiwa Reysol regarding the transfer of duo Yukio Tsuchiya and Yasuhiro Hato. 31-year-old central defender Tsuchiya reportedly trained briefly at Omiya with a view to a move last year, but chose not to join the club due to the fact that he would be in competition for places with skipper Seiichiro Okuno and Toninho. He is nevertheless an experienced player with more than 200 J1 matches under his belt, accrued following his 1997 debut for Verdy Kawasaki. Two years later, the instantly recognisable bald Tsuchiya moved to Vissel Kobe, where he spent six seasons in the first team before opting to sign for Kashiwa for 2005.
Calm down, girls - it's Yukio Tsuchiya
Most notoriously, he will be remembered this season by most fans as the player involved in the foul that will most likely keep Urawa Reds' promising young international forward Tatsuya Tanaka out of the game for months - but that aside, he played a further thirty matches for the Sun Kings, controversially picking up no fewer than nine yellow cards and one red.
Ardija fans may also recall that Tsuchiya scored the early opening goal in what turned out to be perhaps Omiya's most important match of the season, when the Squirrels came from behind to win 2-1 at the end of October, bringing to an end their winless streak and so dumping Reysol back into the danger zone at the foot of the table.
Yasuhiro Hato, meanwhile, is a 29-year-old former Japanese international who has spent most of his career with Yokohama F Marinos - and with Flugels before the merger of the two clubs prior to the 1999 season. A right back who debuted in 1995 when still in his teens, Hato moved to Reysol during 2004 and immediately slotted into the first team, bringing the number of J1 matches he has played thus far to just under 200.
The very gorgeous Yasuhiro Hato
The transfer of Washington from Tokyo Verdy 1969 to Urawa nevertheless underlines the dangerous position that Kashiwa and also Vissel Kobe are in, as J1 clubs seek to move in and offer top flight football to the better players of those teams demoted to J2. It's therefore unsurprising that Omiya are not the only club thought to be expressing an interest in experienced players like Tsuchiya and Hato - but neither are Kashiwa's losses likely to stop there, with captain and midfielder Tomokazu Myojin, promising midfielder Mitsuru Nagata and of course international star forward Keiji Tamada all names to tempt rival teams.
No doubt it is Tamada - so far in his career a one-club man - that would most interest Omiya supporters as a potential purchase. A regular in Zico's national team squads and with a burst of pace that puts defenders on the back foot, he would potentially fit in well as a supporting striker, considering his respectable if less-than-breathtaking scoring record of thirty goals in 109 J1 matches for Kashiwa. But in order to take Omiya to the next stage of becoming a stable J1 outfit, it's players such as Tamada and Hato who need to be brought to the club.