Torino are setting the pace in the Italian Second Division. Charles Ducksbury writes on the return of a marauding Granata.
For a club with the history of Torino, suffering the indignity of yet another season in Serie B was too much for many supporters on the final day of last term. As Padova won 2-0 in Turin to secure their play-off place at the expense of Toro, Ultras from the Curva Maratona invaded the pitch, smashing advertising boards and chanted against eccentric President Urbano Cairo.
Tension was rife and Torino seemed in a genuine crisis. Fast forward just over six months, however, and things are looking up. The Granata are sitting top of the League and dreaming of a return back to Serie A for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
Former Bari boss Giampiero Ventura was hired to replace the hapless Franco Lerda over the summer and the veteran tactician has impressed, with Torino playing some scintillating attacking football and only losing one game so far this season – away at Gubbio – sitting four points clear of second placed Verona.
The squad Ventura possesses contains quality all over the pitch and, in many instances, players who are performing well below their true level. Defender Angelo Ogbonna is starting to develop into a regular for Cesare Prandelli’s Azzurri squad, whilst any Italian football follower will be aware of Stefano Guberti’s quality. The former Roma and Sampdoria wide man is a difference maker in Serie B, which when combined with bomber Rolando Bianchi’s continuous stream of goals, Torino have a forward line to fire them to promotion.
The Granata again showed on Saturday why they are favourites to make Serie A. Pescara were hot on their heels in the standings, but Zdenek Zeman's side were dispatched 4-2 in a ferocious attacking display, particularly in the second half.
Ventura is keen to share the credit for his team’s excellent start, stating after the Pescara game: “I thank the fans for their support of me, but more importantly the squad. I'm glad they're enjoying what we are doing. After today, I can only say good things of the team.”
Torino must play the remaining 14 minutes of an abandoned game at Padova in December, starting 1-0 down to their promotion rivals, but the pressure of being pursued by the rest of Serie B is something that Coach Ventura is savouring. “Every game is a challenge, every second we don’t concentrate we will be punished. But we are enjoying it and the pressure isn’t from one side but six or seven. We relish that fight.”