Pelifilosofia hyvin samantapainen kuin Bielsalla - uskoo työn, juoksemisen ja hyökkäämisen voimaan.Täytyy rehellisesti myöntää että tää kaveri on kyllä meikäläiselle täysin tuntematon suuruus.
Initial assessment of the first week on the job?
The last week has been a bit of a whirlwind. I've taken over enough manager roles in enough places to know that in the first couple of days there can be a million things in your mind, and then over time things start to slow down a bit. You can start to understand how you can help whatever team you're going to be working with, get to know the club, the people, the players. So, I would say the adaptation process here has been incredibly smooth because the people are so amazing. Everything from working with Victor Orta and Angus Kinnear then what it's been like here in our training centre, working with all the people around the team - and then the players. Honestly, I've worked with some incredible teams and good young men and this group here are remarkable. It gives me hope that we can adapt things quickly and I can help them be successful.
When you say this group is remarkable, what is it specifically?
In all moments what will be apparent with me is that I will always be respectful of what has happened here in the past three-and-a-half years because of the accomplishments that the club has had and the type of coach that Marcelo is. I think, even talking to Victor Orta, he felt I was the right type of person to come here and take over the team and take the next steps. I think that my way of communicating and having relationships - and I can only speak about what it's been with individual, what video sessions have been like and how attentive the team have been, how much they're eager to adapt and learn quickly, obviously because we know we don't have a lot of time and have to find success quickly. It's also so much more than that, it's about the character of the players and the character of the people here. Again, that makes me optimistic.
Announced backroom staff today - what will they bring to the club?
Starting with Frankie Schiemer, we know each other really well. He's very connected with me in terms of what our philosophy is, what our playing style is, how to implement it day-by-day so I think clearly that will be a big advantage. Cameron Toshack is the type of person who is very observant, understands how to inject himself in the right way, understands the kind of tactics and ideas we have behind our football and has a good way of relating with people. I can tell you it's only been two days with Mark Jackson but it's like we've known each other for years - Jacko is an amazing guy he's very flexible and adaptable. He reminded me, which I didn't know, Leeds took a summer trip for pre-season to America in 1997, yeah, long time ago, we apparently played against each other. I asked him if I'd fouled him at any point because I was good at that, but he said he couldn't remember that much.
As a manager in a new league, what pressure is there to hit the ground running particularly given the position in the league?
Pressure is what you make of it. I understand this is a big league in a big moment and we have to find ways to get points, get results, that this club deserves to be in the Premier League - I understand all those things, but if I focus on that it doesn't help anybody or help me do my job. My entire focus is on what we can control and what's important for us [so that] we can get us to where we think we deserve to be. It's about the daily work, it's about investing in the process here, it's about investing in the people and the players and helping them understand how they can be at their best. A big part of my job right now is instilling confidence in the group that the way that I want to help this team move forward is the way that can help us get to be where we want to be and how to communicate that every day. Again, very positive start, but still a lot of work to do.
How do you go about making a team more solid that's conceded 20 goals in its last five league games?
It's a lot of things, it's not one thing. A lot of teams had developed match plans against the way the team had played here that was starting to become very successful and easier and easier to implement. So, clearly it's not just saying we need to defend better that's clear, but it's more about what are the tactics to try and manage the situation effectively so that we can make sure in all moments we're doing things as a group and making it as difficult as we can for opponents, and that includes not just open play but set-pieces and dead ball situations, so we've worked through, and in the end to add to that, of course I have a million things on my mind that I want to implement. But, what's important for me is to understand how to make the simple things the clearest right now and to add complexity as we go on. Getting that balance right not to overload the players but making it clear to them what's important and allowing them on matchday to go out and be their best.
Have you got return dates for the likes of Phillips and Bamford - how important will they be?
I can only tell you that Monday we met with the medical team and they introduced a whole myriad of injury situations to me. There's been a little bit of a cycle here where guys have been fighting through injuries and often playing with injuries and it means they've sometimes picked up other injuries and put themselves more in danger of missing minutes. What I need to do is help guys recover as quickly as possible but not overload or endanger them. To put them in situations to further be in danger and then make sure that we have a long term vision in place for what that's going to mean. I said this before, it's 12 games, it's not three games or four games, and I know that we need points but we need to make sure we're getting stronger as we move along, not weaker. On that note, Patrick Bamford was in training today, Kalvin [Phillips] and Liam [Cooper] are both making progress but they won't be ready for the weekend, but they're on the pitch, they're working every day. They're getting closer and closer to being in team training. Then we have a bunch of other guys who have missed a little bit of training this week and we're trying to evaluate what are the risk and rewards of all the different players and how many minutes are appropriate for them to perform on Saturday.
What was your initial assessment of what needed to be done first and what is your remit here?
Yeah, clearly the adjustment of tactics is number one. And so making it clear to what our playing style is going to be moving forward and communicating that and implementing that on the pitch every day, even so when not every player's been available. We've had video sessions every day and the attention span, the concentration you can see there's excitement about the opportunity to try some new things. And then the investment in the people, if you talk about me as a manager, that's what I care about the most: I love tactics and I love football, but I really love working with young men and helping them understand how to continue to improve and be the best version of themselves. So, had a lot of individual conversations, had a lot of conversations in front of the group and I think they're getting to understand me more and more every day.
You're the man the Board see taking the club to the next level - what level is that?
You're right. I appreciate the club was so convinced by me, that they were willing to make a long-term commitment. When I was considering what my next options were, it wasn't about what my biggest opportunity was from a financial perspective it wasn't about what was the biggest club I could possibly work with, it was about finding people that I felt like cared about the same things I care about and I felt that in the last weeks and months talking to the people associated with this club and after being here for three days, and it's hard to believe it's been three-and-a-half days, I can say that it's in a difficult situation, it's been a joy. Now, the project is three months and then we have to start some processes now but know that the real development process will start taking place a little in summer but we build the foundation for what's important now. Again, focusing on what's important now is more about is making sure that game to game we improve and that we are clear and clearer and that we can fight in every second and every moment for as many points as we can.
Who's stood out in training as a leader for you?
There's been a bunch of great young men. Speaking with Liam Cooper and Luke Ayling it's easy to see that they are comfortable in front of the group, comfortable in leadership roles, I think Adam Forshaw has been also fantastic, there's a guy like Patrick Bamford has a lot of personality. I want to challenge Kalvin Phillips to take a bigger and bigger role within the team, and he's obviously so important, getting him healthy but also getting him to take a bigger role in the team I think will be massively important as well. Stuart Dallas for me is one of the hardest workers and strongest young men who is clear with himself and clear with how to work for the team every day. Rodrigo; an intelligent young man who wants to help in every way. Then there's a lot of positive energy in a lot of the young guys and a lot of what I've done in my managerial career is about managing young players and helping them achieve their highest potential, so I have excitement in the group and excitement in being here.
How difficult is it walking into the shoes a living legend?
I mean I said this in one of the first interviews that I did: I've followed living legends everywhere I've been. I think being secure with the fact that the predecessors did a lot of really good things well. Marcelo changed the mentality of the club and the team, helped create a winning, successful mentality here, understanding the things that he did well and how to stay true to some of those things, but in the end also knowing I don't have to be Marcelo Bielsa, it's more important for me to be me and to provide what this team needs in order to continue to get better and to grow. I've said already I followed Marcelo's career, I've watched him closely, I've respected so many of the things that he's done, I've learned things but clearly I am different, I am my own person and I have my own ways, and it's important they understand me and they know what those things are and appreciate them but in the end what's most important is the team can appreciate each other and go on the field together knowing they can do everything they can.
On Saturday what will we see?
The thing I loved about this team in the past is their fight, their ability to run for each other, to do whatever it takes on a day no matter what the result was. This will have to remain a big part of our DNA. Certainly, modifying out tactics, having a clear understanding of what we're trying to achieve, what our strategies are, the clarity to work as a group and not just as individuals in certain situations and transforming that tactical understanding and group mentality into something that will benefit us now and in the future. Those are the things I think are important but I think my ethos fit well with this club and the community here in Leeds. I think even where I'm from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it kind of reminds of what Leeds is. I come from a hard-working family, my father worked in a factory for 32 years. I only know working hard and giving everything I have, that's all I know. I will do that here I promise that and we will make sure that when we step on the field that that's what we show.
Do not play with fear, said Mike Grella - will that be the motto?
Yes always. I used to have an equation, Mike Grella will know this: fear to fail = failure. The way we play, our style of play is fearless, I think we have a lot of fearless young men here, we have to tap into that fearlessness, it will help us in a situation like this. The way we play is making mistakes is never a bad thing because being aggressive to win the ball back, we're aggressive to impose our will on the opponent at all times, and then to help educate the players and the team exactly what that means on every given day and how to use it as a strategy to be better than the opponent, that's what it is. I miss Mike Grella, I miss another guy like Lloyd Sam, they were great players for me and great young men and I've been lucky to have a lot of good connections with people like that.
Followed Leeds over last couple of years - how did you feel when you took your first steps over the threshold at ER?
I understand what a big job it is, I understand how important it is to the fans, to the community here. I've followed football history for years. When Jacko reminded me I'd played against Leeds, I'm very aware of what this is. I'm happy to be here, it all happened very fast, as much as we talk about it, it's been a couple of years I've been following Leeds because of Victor, this all happened very, very fast. I've had to wrap my brain around exactly what it is and what it needs to be and that's entirely my focus now. Clearly I'm emotional and excited, I just want to channel that energy into things that can help the team.
How low was confidence?
I honestly didn't feel it because the young men are so energetic, positive, also united, it's a group you can tell that's already been through a lot. My focus is how to help them channel those energies to make them better. I know it's a big opportunity I know there are factions of people who may not accept me so well because of their love for Marcelo. In the end, I just want the team to show how good they are and to show that as good as Marcelo is and was, that the team is good too, and the players are good. That will be a lot of my focus to help these guys express themselves.
Quicker impact because your styles are similar to Marcelo's?
This is the reason I'm here I think. I certainly didn't have the coaching career or managerial career that Marcelo had before he came, but anyone who is in change of the sporting side of a club should do a really good job of figuring out the processes and succession plans for players, for staff, certainly for managers so the transition from one phase of a club can be as smooth as it can possibly be. When I sit and talk with Victor at different moments and he explains the reasons why he thinks that I'm the right person, you can't help but be attracted to that kind of analysis and also energy. I believe as well that's the reason I'm here is because I believe in many ways I can be the right kind of fit and it can be the right kind of fit for me.
How do you assess the relegation battle in the Premier League?
My focus is entirely on day-to-day and that is the endpoint.. Of course I did watch Leicester Burnley game, I would love to tell you it was just to scout Leicester but that's not true, I'm very aware of the fact other results can impact us. Most important thing for us is the thing we can control and that we do the job ourselves, so that's entirely my focus.
How tough a first test is Leicester?
First, I think Brendan Rodgers is a very good coach, he's flexible but also I think has a very clear playing style. They also have a very good team with Vardy back, that's a boost to them. We'll see if he starts or not, I think based on his performance on Tuesday, I'd expect him to be a good option from the start. They're a team that plays well with the ball and against the ball. We will have to have a clear match plan and understand the ways they can make it difficult for us and ways we can make it difficult for them. It's a very, very difficult one being an away match, a very difficult first start, but whatever, fearlessness we've talked about so we better be in this moment.
How do you view the intensity of training?
If you look at the running data from the season they're pretty much easily the most intensive team in the league. This week has been about not overloading them. Obviously I know a new manager comes in and they all want to make an immediate impression on the pitch that they all want to go 100% all the time, I'm very aware of that. I know I have to manage the situation mentally, physically, emotionally so I can give them the best chance to adapt and learn and grow into what I want them to become day by day. And I can tell you effort does not need to be reinforced here, these young men are hard workers they give everything they have, it's about how to channel those efforts in the right way.
Talked about myriad injury situations - are any in danger of missing Saturday?
It's a little bit difficult to say, we'll evaluate Patrick, see what that means - can he be on the bench or does he need a few more days? He's close, I can tell you that, he's close. Diego Llorente was not in training today, and he's questionable for the weekend, obviously with Liam and Kalvin we've already spoken and there's a few others we're just going step by step, making sure we can prepare them as best as possible but we're not pushing too hard.
U23s and way Marcelo approached that was a big part of his legacy here - how are you integrating that and meshing it together?
This is the fun for me when you're a manager of a club it snot just about managing the first team for me it's about being the leader for the entire sporting side. In te moment when I talk about prioritising what we need to do that connection is probably a little bit on the back burner but in the long term process it'll be very clear that we have a good connection and we have a good way of instructing the type of football at the first team level and what that's like to try and develop that on a daily basis at all the age groups and levels. I don't know exactly how Marcelo did everything, I've had some communication and some of the things he did. he did a lot of really positive things; the biggest thing was just the mentality to incorporate young players, to invest in them. Clearly whether you talk about the work that was done with us at Salzburg or at New York, our connection with the academy was a benefit for all involved and certainly was for the first-team manager.
What are your early thoughts on this squad - particularly wide options?
I think that first of all we have lots of positional flexibility. In long term I think that'll help us adapt in games and adjust. In short term want to try and give them clarity on principles and tactics and clarity on strategies in the match, what we're trying to achieve so let's see. I've been working with one formation with them this week, I'm not gonna say what that is. However I'm trying to step by step, I've also had Leicester in mind, thinking about how to put a process in place to help the players adapt and what it would mean for this game, and then we'll have to go step by step through every game and again try to make complicated things as simple as possible for the players to execute.
How important was the continuity of having Mark Jackson on the coaching staff?
I think he's been vital and it's not just about his experience, it's about the type of person he is. Honestly, I feel lucky that Jacko is so willing and so committed. I think we were here last night until 9pm talking about tactics and adjustments and what has been done and done well and what we think needs to change moving forward, he's been fantastic. So, certainly that connection I can also tell you Rob Price has also been incredibly helpful looking at how to deal with all the physical situations, that has been fantastic. Everyone - and that's what you see, the club has been so much more than one person, it's really, there's a lot of positive energy and people want to help as much as they possibly can.
Any U23s in particular who's caught your eye?
I'm just getting started. I think if you count Joffy [Gelhardt] as the younger group then yeah, he's been good. I think Crysencio's been good in the group, I think Charlie Cresswell comes every day and works really hard, but again I know those players, I know Joffy a little bit from watching the 23s games and first team matches but I need to get to know these young players more to understand what their qualities are and how they can continue to grow.
Last job was a big club in a major European league - did Leipzig teach you to do anything differently?
The Leipzig situation is difficult for me to explain, clearly. On paper it was the right move, because it was inside of our company and in theory a similar type of playing style. Getting there on the ground I could see a lot had changed from a lot of perspectives and I had major concerns from the start on whether the things I wanted to implement were going to work. Unfortunately those feelings played themselves out. I was perfectly acceptable to say that this wasn't going to work. I should also say we had a corona [outbreak], I was in quarantine, and before that time we were in 5th place, we had just beat Dortmund, it seemed like we were moving in a positive direction and it all fell apart. What I learned from that and this is why I apply to why I want to be here in Leeds is what's most important is the connection of people and the similar mindsets on what we want to be, how we want to play, how we want to communicate, how we want to work everyday, that connection among people inside of a club and within a community is what's important and again this what led me here.
What specifics have you looked at tactically?
Certainly getting away from the man-marking. Also with the ball, creating tactics that don't expose us to transition moments as much. The clarity of the tactical model, without going so deep into every little detail, it's introducing important topics, I can say it's an intelligent group, they can understand and put into practice. That has been in the end that's been the focus this week. Continuing for them to understand my personality and how we're going to move forward as a group. These are the short term challenges. But I told them yesterday after training, some of the things that we did in training, I'd worked with teams for six months and they didn't perform the topics on the pitch as well as this group had done. That's a very positive sign.
How much of this week has been managing them emotionally?
We've seen an incredible positive response in terms of the energy of the group, the positivity, the excitement they have. Of course this was a very difficult decision for everyone to make. There was big emotions on Monday when Marcelo and his team said goodbye, I was very aware of that the first time I spoke to them [the squad], I didn't want to go on Monday into a million things, just a quick introduction of myself and who I am. Then I just tried to be positive myself, bring energy everyday and allow them to have some freedom to express themselves within the group and within their relationship with me. Even the energy on the pitch today is a very positive sign. It's got to add up that when they go on the pitch on Saturday they're as committed if not more, they're running for each other, doing everything they can to fight for the result in the ways that they have and the combination of enjoying the process, but yet the discipline and execute on game day and go after the game in every day is what will help us get to where we want to be.
Message to the fans who also had that connection with Bielsa who also love their club?
I've seen a lot of people, I'm not out in the community that much but here at the hotel and the people I've seen at the hotel, they've all come up to me and said: 'we want you to succeed, we want you to do well, obviously it was hard to say goodbye to Marcelo but we love this club, we're so happy to be in the Premier League, we're behind you, do everything you can'. My message is: I'm here for all the right reasons, I'm not here for myself, I'm here for this club, I'm here to work within a club atmosphere and to maximise the potential of everything we do and I'm here to enjoy the process with the fans as well.
Stigma around American coaches?
I think there's probably a stigma. I'm not sure Ted Lasso helped. I haven't watched the show, but I get it. People hate hearing the word soccer. I've used the word football since I was a professional footballer. I think more and more in the States we're adapting to what the game is here in England and our connecting with what the league is and what the culture of the sport is in this country. I can understand that they don't think we have the experiences that can be created here in Europe, and frankly they're right. It was the reason I came to Europe, it was the reason I learned German, it was the reason I tried to adapt to new cultures, this is the fifth country I've coached football in. It takes me out of my comfort zone each time. It challenges me to grow and develop an to learn new things, I'm very open to that, I'm very cognisant to the fact I'm not perfect and don't want to be, and all I can say is the only way I know how to do things is to go all in, to give everything I have, to believe in who I am, to believe in the people I work with and to maximise what we do every day and I find if you can do that effectively, you can be incredibly surprised with the human spirit and what you can achieve - so, that sounds like Ted Lasso from what I've heard.
Will there be a deceleration in the workload now that you've come in?
I don't think that working hard and run performances in training or games has been an issue. The key for me of changing these demands is that we maintain or actually build upon what that idea of what football is and what character and what hard work for each other is. So, that's the balance really, is to create a different process of how we relate to each other but maintain and build upon this intensity and belief that this is what can make us different and what can make us good. I've communicated that, I will continue to communicate that with the team that I know that I'm not as intense in terms of the daily process as Marcelo is, but the key is that the performances on the pitch include that and my goal is to access their spirit, their hearts and minds more and more so they can perform bigger and better than what they have.
Will you be here long term regardless of what happens at the end of the season?
Andrea asked me if I would come if at the end of the season they'd be in the PL or Ch'ship. I said if I felt the project was right, it absolutely didn't matter. When they came to me eight days [23 February] ago it was time to show I meant that. I didn't want Marcelo to have to go out like this. I wanted to see him continue and to finish his legacy, keep the team up. I wanted to make that argument with Victor when he called me, but I could see the group was suffering. Then I had to wrap my mind around doing it now. My focus entirely is not on the Championship, it's on finding ways that we'll be in the Premier League. In the end, I'm committed to being here no matter the situation because I believe in it so much.
Have you spoken to the owner and Victor about retaining key players this summer?
Whenever you work for a club you know that there's things that you can suggest and try to work through, but you also know there are situations you have to accept. Every manager would tell you, and I say this in general, good players make good managers not the other way round. Every manager will tell you he wants as good a player as you can give him but you also have to understand for the health of the group and every individual situation, you have to respect possibilities of what is all out there. I'm the type of manager, I try to control what I think is within the boundaries of what this role is, and I try to work very diligently and carefully with the people around me but I trust the people in their roles to do things effectively. And I certainly know that with somebody like Victor Orta, someone with his expertise, his communication style, his ability to help build a roster and a squad and a club in a really good way is really impressive. We will have a really close, strong relationship as time goes on, but I certainly trust in his way.
Mentioned your father, what did your father do and what did you learn from him? Rangnick too?
My father's balance between hard work and enjoying life is as good as anyone I've known and I think that's what I've learned the most from him. He was very clear to me when I was young, what hard work was. He worked in a tractor factory, Case tractors for 32 years, and he worked on the assembly line. He was also an incredible hard-worker, he was innovative like built houses and my parents got married very, very young because of me. My mother would probably not want that information out there, but they fought for everything their whole lives to achieve and succeed and they have. I think my work life balance has always been pretty good but I also know how to enjoy the people around me. We will do that here, the past three days have been fantastic, and then Ralf Rangnick, he really introduced complex football tactics and ideas to me in a way that really ignited my passion for being a top manager. Very thankful for that relationship, I'm also thankful we're not playing them down the stretch, he sent me a little note. Just a congratulations and good luck.
Zonal marking, will this apply at set-pieces, as well as more generally?
We'll have set pieces strategies, too. I understand one of the strengths of the group is this idea of locking in on players at the right moments. Even if we talk about the way I like to think about football, there are moments when we are in man-marking phases and man-marking moments, and our ability to attack the moment is really important for the adaptation of the way I want the team to play. Again, I'm not going to give too much away.
Dallas doing too many jobs at once vs Spurs?
I've played against teams that are man-marking tactically and what we've tried to do is create counter movements and play behind and this is what you've seen, the strategy of playing against Leeds in the past weeks. The way we play, it won't be as simple, it won't be as easy and we won't rely on one player to follow one other player, it will be about how we adjust and shift as a group and still come down to defensive moments that we can come up big.
Club's potential, what's your take on Leeds as a whole?
I think knowing football history and what Leeds has been in the past. And knowing this is a one-team city and knowing the supporters are so big not just here but internationally, I think it this club has incredible potential to continue inching itself forward, as a bigger and bigger club here in England. We're in a big moment right now, where we have to fight for everything to try and stay in the top league, and then we can hopefully continue the process again as we continue to move forward. I want to make it clear with the 49ers, I met them they're incredibly intelligent people, they're very clear in terms of what has made them successful in terms of strategies and how to manage organisations, and I think there's a lot to be learned from them, but I also want to make it clear, that's not the main reason I'm here. To say there's an Americanisation of this club would be inaccurate. Everyone from Andrea to Angus to Victor are very clear, they have a distinct vision for what this club is and what it will become. The talk that the 49ers, or me, or the players, that this is sort of a side note in the process. I will say I think the balance overall from the conversations that have been had in the ownership group and the leadership group of this club, are every intelligent, very careful and will make the club stronger and stronger as the club goes on.
Were you ready to try and convince Victor that keeping Bielsa until the end of the season would have been best possible option?
I said that, I think I was ready to say that. Go back even two weeks, I wasn't 100% sure I was definitely the next coach of Leeds United. I hoped based on conversations and our positive exchanges that that was going to be a high possibility but I wasn't sure. I know what it's like, I just left a team halfway through a season, it's never a good feeling, I've learned in this business jealousy is a terrible thing, trying to judge people for successes and failures is never good. Finding a good fit and being in a good situation where you vibe with everything around you is often what determines success for a manager. Again, I wanted Marcelo to finish on a high note and the club to finish on a high note with Marcelo and the fans. Then if that was going to be a possibility for me to be the next person to take over, then obviously I was going to be very open to what that idea would mean.