From The Dugout | Filippo Giovagnoli
To meet the deadline for Thursday night’s copy of the DFC Magazine, we sat down with Lilywhites interim head coach Filippo Giovagnoli on Sunday morning to get his programme notes for the UEFA Europa League Group B opener with Molde. Below are the Italian’s thoughts…
It has been a busy month and our focus has been on the league games but now we are really looking forward to the big European stage which we have worked hard to qualify for. It’s a really competitive stage but we are going to fight to get points. Tonight’s game is in Tallaght. For me, there is no big difference but I know my players are happy about that and that makes me happy too. They feel Tallaght fits us better.
It has been hard to prepare and recover properly for this game. Not just physically, but also mentally because we have had to pay attention and perform in the league because we need the points. You cannot spend as much time preparing the players as you would like. Most of the time is spent on recovery which, in the long run, is not the best. That’s why it was important to have all of the players ready and available to play. Right now we have 20 or 21 players who can perform in any competition which we are happy about. We have worked hard to get here and we want to be here and I think we will perform.
Molde are a really strong European team, very physical but with technical players. They are not afraid to play, they are intense, they are aggressive and they are organised. It will be a big challenge and we will have to prepare tactically and technically and perform to a high level if we want to get some points. They have big players but they have players who like to play football. It’s not like it was before. When you were thinking about teams from northern Europe you were thinking about physicality, hard running and intensity but it’s not like that now. They have a European profile.
It will, of course, be super special for myself and Giuseppe to coach a team in the UEFA Europa League group stages but sometimes dreams become normality and you have to perform. For us, this is our new normality and we are focussed on preparing and performing. We have studied so much to achieve this and I have spent a lot of time coaching and a lot of hours on the field but it has been worth it, for sure, and I am not finished. I want to get the UEFA Pro Licence soon. My learning process will keep going. The day I don’t want to learn anymore, I am going to quit. I learn every day, from coaches, from the environment, from players. Everyone has a process to get better.
I always thought that one day an opportunity was going to come for both of us. When it did come, it was unexpected and thank God myself and Giuseppe were prepared for the challenge. The nice thing for us is that we can use this as a learning process too. We keep on learning every day and this will make us much better next year. Sometimes when we are having lunch or dinner we talk about where we are and what we have achieved and we laugh about it but it’s only for a few minutes because again, this is the normality, and it’s hard to enjoy it now. I’m sure we will enjoy it when we hear the UEFA Europa League song but we don’t spend too much time thinking about it.
Tonight is going to be crazy for everyone back home in Apecchio and also in New York. The people who know us there really support us and they send us messages and are happy for us. Even people who don’t know us from around the world have been sending us messages. I hope our story gives hope to many good coaches around the world who sacrifice their life to study and achieve something. Maybe we can be an example to everyone that you can achieve anything you want if you work hard.
It’s also going to be a special night for my family and it’s nice that my son will see me in the UEFA Europa League. They are more nervous than me. My wife is always asking me ‘what do you think?’ and I have to reassure her all of the time! Unfortunately, my mother is not alive to see it. She was the one who brought me to football when I was young and she went everywhere with me. When I was playing, she went all over Italy to watch me, even when I was a professional. She was a big fan and also my biggest critic! In the car on the way back home, she would tell me if I played a good game – or a bad game – all of the time. She was really supportive of me and I have a lot of good memories of her. I’m sure she would be very proud. I hope to make them all happy but I also want to make the community and town of Dundalk happy, The people here have been very supportive of us and we want the team to do everyone proud. We want all of Europe to hear about Dundalk.
Goditi il Giococo,