Filippo Giovagnoli met the press on just his second day at the helm at Dundalk FC on Wednesday afternoon – and vowed that he would not tolerate interference with his team selection.
Speculation that the club’s owners had tried to put pressure on former boss Vinny Perth on such matters have been rife in recent weeks.
The Italian, 49, has signed a contract with the Lilywhites until the end of the season and is joined by long time associate Giuseppe Rossi at Oriel Park. The duo were shock appointments on Tuesday, after Vinny Perth’s dismissal on Thursday of last week.
Perth was sacked last week after the Lilywhites’ 0-3 reverse to Slovenian side Celje in the UEFA Champions League. That result followed a dismal restart to the league campaign in which the Lilywhites failed to win their opening three games and fell well behind leaders Shamrock Rovers at the summit.
Following his dismissal, John Gill and Alan Reynolds oversaw a 1-3 reverse to Sligo at the Showgrounds at the weekend. Gill left the club on Tuesday.
When asked whether he would allow his authority to be undermined should any board members attempt to influence team matters, the Italian stated; “I don’t think it’s going to happen. This is not a deal that we have. No, I’m not going to take words. I’m the boss. They hired me to do the job. ”
Giovagnoli’s background is not one you would associate with your average League of Ireland manager. A former player who played for lower league clubs in his native Italy, the Apecchio-native has coached a number of non-league and youth sides in his home country, including a spell as Under 19 coach at Serie C outfit AS Gubbio 1910.
Having also spent time working as Technical Director of AC Milan’s summer camps at home and abroad, he moved to New York a number of years ago to take up a position as Director of Coaching at the Metropolitan Oval Academy in New York.
The academy develops young players for clubs such as New York City FC, of Major League Soccer. His appointment has been met with alarm by many Dundalk fans, who see the left field appointment, coupled with rumours of team interference and a seemingly scattergun approach to recruitment under Peak 6, as a betrayal of the good work done at the club in the last seven years – a period during which the club have become the dominant force in domestic Irish football.
But, Giovagnoli was bullish when speaking to the press on Wednesday afternoon.
“If you do well, you get an opportunity. This is my mission. I have to do well because then I get the job again. That’s why I talk about a kamikaze mission,” he said.
He told the press that once he was first approached about the Dundalk job, he was “very excited” and suggested that excitement may be what prompted the club to pick him over other names reportedly in the hat.
“I think they had a lot of people. You read about super big names. They asked a lot of questions of me maybe to understand what was my personality. I was super excited. Maybe they saw that. Maybe that’s why they picked me”
“It’s a big, challenge. I understand the success the team had in the past. If I wanted to do a good job and I start to think about what they did before, that will affect me. What I have to do in the short amount of time is work hard and do the best I can.”
Giovagnoli acknowledged that players and supporters may be concerned about the unknown quantity that has been handed one of the biggest jobs in Irish football but said he believed the players were with him and the fans can soon follow.
“I have a big connection with the players. I really enjoy it and they really enjoy it too. They work really hard. We try to work towards the tactical and technical objective day by day. What we plan, we achieve. It’s been good.
“The players are the same everywhere. The players want to play and have success. It doesn’t matter if you are Maradona or Filippo.
“This is a strong group of players and they are really professional. They showed me. They worked like animals. What we are doing now – we are building. We are building a team. When you arrive at a team, you can not be magical and change everything. If you think someone is going to come and change everything in two seconds, nobody is going to do that.
“I think the players were concerned but when we started to work, they understood and they know what we are doing. I get good feedback from them. When someone comes and he starts to work with you and he knows what he is doing, then you just work. It’s simple. Yeah, the players are with me. 100%. I have a good connection with the players, trust me.”
The new Lilywhites boss, who flew into the country on Monday night and took his first session with the players on Tuesday morning, is keen to remind people he played professionally – and isn’t new to the game, regardless of how much a surprise his arrival to Louth may be.
“I was a player too, even if it was in the third division (Serie C),” he said.
Giovagnoli said he believed the club were in talks with Shane Keegan to continue on at Oriel Park and work alongside he and Rossi, but said he was unaware of any talks with Alan Reynolds, who also remains at the club following Perth and John Gill’s respective departures in recent days.
With Dundalk nine points off Shamrock Rovers with only nine league games of a truncated season left to play, their FAI Cup tie away to Cobh Ramblers takes on extra significance. They also await a draw in the UEFA Europa League qualifiers to come. What demands have been placed on him for the remainder of the season?
“They ask me to win every game. It’s as simple as that”, he said. Can they catch Rovers? “Everything is possible. Nine points is nine points. We have Shamrock here. If they do well, the title is in their hands. But if they rest a little bit, maybe we can have fun at the end.
The former Metropolitan Oval Academy director was also asked whether he felt he was only given the job considering that Peak6 could only bring in someone from Ireland or one of the Green List countries that Ireland currently facilitates travel from.
“I hope not. I hope they picked me because they feel I can do the job. But I have no problem, even if they did.”