Aleksandar Janković, 35, is the youngest coach in FK Crvena Zvezda's 63-year history. Yet despite misgivings among commentators, Slavoljub Muslin's protégé is determined to use his immaturity to his advantage. What better way to prove the doubters wrong than by overhauling FK Partizan's six-point lead once the Superliga resumes in March?
Burden of youth
According to Greek physician Asclepiades, youth was a burden, but then this was a man weary of living by the age of 22. The effervescent Janković is a different animal. A former Crvena Zvezda player and son of Dobrivoje, a revered Serbian football journalist, Janković was working as a scout before his elevation to the hot seat last month. "I am a child of Crvena Zvezda," he said. "I know some people think I am not experienced enough, and I accept this is my first role as head coach, but I believe in myself."
Confidence is a prerequisite for any Crvena Zvezda coach. Janković's predecessor, Milorad Kosanović, lasted just three months before quitting in the wake of the Serbian champions' 3-0 UEFA Cup defeat by Greek side Aris Thessaloniki FC on 8 November. "My advantage is that I understand the club structure, the people, players, supporters and obligations, which means I have a full overview of every aspect of club life," said Janković, who was Muslin's assistant at 'Red Star' in 2002/03. "And I know the players – some from the past and all of this season's squad.
"I believe in systems – systems of work, systems of play and a system of football life," he continued. "I need to tell my players that we have hard work ahead and we have to change things." Janković must get his message across quickly, because any hopes of overhauling Partizan may rest on the meeting between the teams on 1 March. "League and cup doubles are my target," insisted Janković, who has been boosted by the signing of FK Rabotnicki's F.Y.R. Macedonia striker Ivan Trickovski. "Last season we claimed a double-double for the first time in our history and although Partizan are six points clear, it is only half-time. I am optimistic." Time will tell whether that is youthful optimism or not.
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