Filippo Giovagnoli will take his place tomorrow with the elite of Europe as he leads his Dundalk side into their opening Europa League group stage match against Molde.
Another in a long line of successful Italian coaches Giovagnoli will join names such as Gennaro Gattuso (Napoli), Massimo Carrera (AEK Athens) and Stefano Pioli (AC Milan), as the Italian quartet of coaches in the competition.
Giovagnoli spoke candidly about those who influence his coaching style and the production line of storied Italian managers.
“There is a mix of coaches that I like. I think of Italian coaches that I follow from when I was young like (Marco) Giampaolo, like (Maurizio) Sarri, the new coach of Sassuolo (Roberto) De Zerbi, the Italian coaches for sure.
“Then of course coaches from the past like (Arrigo) Sacchi, (Marcelo) Lippi, they build the story of the Italian football. And then, many other coaches such as (Pep) Guardiola.”
However, Giovagnoli believes that one should have their own ideology of how to assess football, taking influence from those you respect and admire.
“You want to learn something from everyone but then you have your own philosophy, your own way to see football but of course you can learn from everyone.”
In 2016, when the Lilywhites were last in the group stage, they acquitted themselves well. They drew with AZ Alkmaar away and defeated Maccabi Tel-Aviv in Tallaght but Giovagnoli would not be drawn into making predictions as to where Dundalk would finish this time around.
“Get points everywhere, perform. Do well, be competitive, show everyone that Dundalk deserve to be there, and they can perform to a high level, this is our objective.”
Speaking on the opposition Molde FK, the Dundalk head coach Giovagnoli said that opposition analyst Shane Keegan and first team coach Giuseppe Rossi have been assessing how the Norwegians will set up.
Molde currently lie second in the Eliteserien and will be without their key Nigerian striker Leke James.
“They are a really strong squad with international players, really good team, I don’t think one player is going to make the difference in their line-up.
“We know what their strengths are, we know the weakness in their team, but we have studied more than one game. They did some things quite well and we saw some things that didn’t quite work for them.”
Similarly, to Dundalk, Molde have struggled to replicate their European form to their domestic form.
They defeated NK Celje in the Champions League route along with Qarabag, both of whom have recent history with Dundalk before falling at the final hurdle of Champions League qualification, losing to Hungarian giants Ferencvaros.
Last weekend Molde inflicted a first defeat of the season on runaway league leaders Bodo/Glimt so they should bring confidence to Dublin.
Representing not just Dundalk, but the country and the domestic league, Giovagnoli knows how important the game is to many football fans in the country.
“It is a big privilege, and we are excited to be here, we just hope to do well for the town, the fans, all Dundalk and all the support they are giving us.”
Dundalk come in off the back of an important domestic win away to Derry and look to consolidate European competition for next season by finishing in the top three spots of the league and are confident of securing a positive result.
“I see them work every day. I see them perform in practice, ready to face this difficult task so I feel really positive that tomorrow (today) we can have a really positive performance and then usually when we perform well, then something good happens in terms of results. I am really positive.”
Legendary former AC Milan and Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi began his career as shoe salesman before embarking on a storied managerial career.
Former Juventus, Napoli and Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri worked in a bank before working his way up through the lower leagues in Italy before he gained his recognition with Empoli in Serie B.
The coaching duo of Giovagnoli and Rossi did not have exceptional playing careers but hope to inspire the next generation of coaches.
“This is when you work hard during your life, you study, you go around the world to learn and sometimes this pays off and now we have our opportunity.
“Many good coaches around the world, all the work they put in doesn’t pay off. I hope that our story can help coaches around the world to have a dream and we are the example that dreams can come true if you work hard.”
Keen to shy away from the spotlight, the Italian maintains that this journey is about his players and not himself.
“My objective is just do well with the team, show that we can perform at this level which is a challenge. The focus is not on me at all, it is secondary to me.
“The way that I think and our philosophy to manage a team which we believe is a family, where we have to work together, where we are to cover each other, I never think about one individual and for sure I don’t think about me in this moment.
“It’s about everyone, it’s about the club, it’s about the town, I think this is a more important thing for all Ireland if Dundalk does well, it’s not about Filippo at all.”
As Dundalk embark on the next leg of their European journey, only time will tell whether this is the start of a prosperous managerial career for Louth’s most famous Italians.
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