Enjoying his first full season on the FK Grbalj bench, Aleksandar Nedović has made a seamless transition from recently retired player to top-flight coach.
Nedović, the youngest trainer in the Montenegrin First League, has steered the coastal side to mid-table safety, but greater rewards could yet lie ahead for the club who experienced UEFA Intertoto Cup football in 2007 and 2008. "We are in the semi-finals [of the domestic cup] and I am sure we can make a step forward and fight for the trophy," said the 34-year-old.
Moving into the dugout was always a natural progression for the former Yugoslav youth international midfielder, who turned out for FK Budućnost Podgorica and FK Partizan in his playing days. "I always had an affinity for coaching," said the 2007 Montenegrin footballer of the year.
"When I was near the end of my career, I realised I was thinking about tactics more than my performance on the pitch. Thanks to Grbalj, I immediately got an opportunity in the top flight and I want to grab that chance."
So far so good for sixth-placed Grbalj, a small seaside club whose pre-season aim was to stay clear of the relegation zone and to promote young players to the first team. "We are close to fulfilling our goal in the championship and exceeding expectations in the cup," explained Nedović. "We have already achieved our second objective. Our young striker Nemanja Nikolić signed for Russian top-division club FC Rostov, which makes me very proud."
Nedović is not a one-off – he believes others like him will soon be making their mark in the technical area. "It's not easy for a young coach to reach the highest level, but a new generation is coming, one that is educated and has modern ideas. We are a small and young football nation and we need new blood, both on the pitch and on the bench.
"I will try to learn as much as possible, to educate myself in every way, and I hope one day I will have a chance to work abroad. I know it is not easy to have a coaching career from Montenegro, but who knows? I must be prepared for possible future challenges."
A No10 in his day, Nedović has moulded his side into a cohesive unit – Grbalj have conceded just seven goals in 18 matches, comfortably the best record in the 12-team league. "Defence is the core of the team, but we are not playing catenaccio," he stressed. "Put simply, I have players with better defensive instincts, although we always try to attack with at least five players. We are tough to beat."
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