Filippo Giovagnoli gives echoes of Trapattoni on Dundalk unveiling

Italian manager is aware of the scepticism surrounding his Oriel Park appointment

On early evidence, there's more than a touch of the Trapattonis about Dundalk's new manager, Filippo Giovagnoli. It seems to have been much the same sort of outlook that brought the two men to Ireland and to judge by the press conference held to mark his appointment, Giovagnoli employs humour in much the same way to get his message across.

It’s as well the new man come equipped to make his case. He has, he readily accepts, a fair bit convincing to do.

Some of the differences between the pair are all too obvious too, though. The former Italian international used to draw on experience from his time at Milan and Bayern Munich. Out in the sunshine at Oriel Park, Giovagnoli sought to persuade his audience not to underestimate his role working with kids at the Metropolitan Academy in New York.

“Trust me, you have pressure” he said. “Here you have fans, there you have parents.” Here’s hoping that wasn’t a key element of his opening address to the title winning team he has inherited.


Giovagnoli can certainly talk, though, and it turns out that in his day he could play too, which isn’t such a bad combination to be kicking off from.

“I was semi-professional and then I played professional but even when I was playing semi-professional, it was professional,” he says. “In Italy, if you play fourth division, it is really good; trust me, especially when I was playing. When I play in third division, Serie C, even there, teams were good. I played with (World Cup winning central defender, Andrea) Barzagli. Many players that were young when playing with me had a big career.”

Er, let’s go back to that bit about Barzagli? “We were at the same same club (Roninella),” he says, breaking into a grin. “The first time he played centre-half it was with me, I was moving him like a baby. He was really good.”

The smile grows broader when he is asked what sort of player he was himself: "I was an animal!" He exclaims, his assistant Giuseppe Rossi, nodding good naturedly in agreement. "I was a killer. If I was reborn I want to be born here in Ireland. He (Rossi) was telling me today: 'You were perfect for this, defenders, big strong, fast, fighting, amazing.' I really like here."

His retirement was eventually prompted by an opportunity to do some coaching and though he started to take the traditional route into working with men's teams, there was the chance to work for a while in New York for AC Milan at the summer camps they ran. From that came Metropolitan and now, eight years on, this. He is, he says, a man who jumps at the chance to do something new when he feels the time is right.

"I was surprised," he says of the unexpected approach from Dundalk. "I was at home (in Apecchio, Italy) waiting on my visa to go back to New York to do my job. But I'm quick to change my mind set. I started to think like I was a manager. I learned that when I left Italy to go to work in New York, work's fast and you have to make decisions fast.

“But I have nothing to lose here; I just want to do well. I have a three-month contract. To do well is the only way for me, the only way for me is to build something for the future. So that is my mindset. They have somebody here who is going to work so hard with the players to get the job done. That’s it, finish. If I have people close to me who want to interfere then I am not going to accept it.”

The last bit was in response to repeated questions regarding how he might react to any interference in team selections from the club chairman, Bill Hulsizer.

“To be honest, I don’t even believe that, I don’t even know if a president is coming to me and telling me ‘this is the player who has to play’. I’m going to be surprised if he does that.”

The more obvious concern is getting the players to perform for him. He joked, sort of, that he had the basic instruction he had been given was to “win everything” but if he is going to achieve anything at all then he will have to take the players with him.

Their collective scepticism is understood to have been considerable when his coaching credentials were first mentioned publicly but there is talk that some, at least, have been impressed by his commitment and hands on approach.

“They want more than me,” he acknowledges. “There is nothing (in terms of medals) that I can show. The only thing I can show them is that I have knowledge and the only way that we have here to convince the players is when we go to the pitch. But when the work is good [and] the message is clear the message is clear then the players start to collaborate.

He has studied how many of the best Italian coaches work closely he says, and pays particular attention to Maurizio Sarri, who he considers "a genius". When asked if the 61-year-old is an inspiration because of the journey he has made in football at his age, Giovagnoli simply replies: "Bingo".

And can he believe this latest twist in his own developing tale? “No, but yes,” he says. “Sometimes when we woke up, we were like ‘Okay, we’re here.’ But this is not making us confused. We are really focused, this is the mission, it’s not a problem where we are. We just really focus on what we are doing.”

Worthy of the great man himself.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times