Slaviša Jokanović told uefa.com he did not expect to reach "such a high level so fast" after replacing Miroslav Djukić as coach of Serbian giants FK Partizan.
With Djukić moving on to take charge of the national team, 64-times capped former Yugoslavian international Jokanović was a wild-card choice to succeed him. The 39-year-old played for Partizan, Real Oviedo, CD Tenerife, RC Deportivo La Coruña and Chelsea FC, among others, yet was hardly anticipating such a prestigious first coaching post.
"I planned to stay in football as a coach, and put my name down for the course to earn a pro licence, but really had no idea I would be at such a high level so soon, especially at Partizan," he said to uefa.com. "Partizan are my club, I know almost everybody there, so I had no doubt about my decision. Also, I have self-confidence and am optimistic about it all."
Six points clear
With the 41-year-old Djukić at the Serbia helm, and the 35-year-old Aleksandar Janković coaching Partizan's arch-rivals FK Crvena Zvezda, the big names in Serbian management are increasingly young. "We have all been given a chance and now we must take it," said Jokanović. With Partizan six points clear at the top of the Serbian Superliga, he has a strong starting position.
"Our league placing is brilliant but we must keep going," said the former midfielder. "There are so many matches to go and the smallest lapse in concentration could have catastrophic effects. It is always the same – you can be great for 90 per cent of a competition before a few lapses leave you with too much to do. We really don't want that to happen."
A handful of winter signings have strengthened Jokanović's hand, though he will have the toughest possible debut when Partizan's season resumes away to Crvena Zvezda on 1 March. For the first time in history, the big Belgrade derby will be held behind closed doors with the hosts being punished for the misconduct of fans in an earlier match.
"Football without supporters loses its soul, its passion, its urgency – all of its positive aspects," said the Partizan coach. "I cannot comment because I was not here when the decision was made and this is an official matter. It will be curious, empty, not like sport, and I hope it never happens again. But once the game starts, tactics and points will be the only things in our heads."
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