Twenty-four hours after stepping up from managing the AS Roma Under-15s to replace Claudio Ranieri as head coach, Vincenzo Montella said that turning the Italian club's season around is all in the mind.
The 36-year-old begins his reign at Bologna FC on Wednesday in a rearranged Serie A fixture which Roma must win in order to return to the top six. The immediate goal for Montella is to end a run of four defeats, including the 3-2 UEFA Champions League round of 16 first-leg loss to FC Shakhtar Donetsk, and the former striker is confident of effecting a revival.
"I am starting off with great enthusiasm because I'm convinced I have the opportunity to coach great players who are just going through a difficult time mentally," Montella said. The Giallorossi wasted a three-goal lead to go down 4-3 at Genoa CFC on Sunday in Ranieri's final match, and 'L'Aeroplanino' is happy his new charges have an instant shot at redemption.
"It's good we have the chance to play immediately and it's also good that we play away because the players will probably feel less pressure than in Rome," the ex-Italy forward added. "I think the first step is to remove that pressure. I trust the players and they have the spirit to get through this tricky situation as quickly as possible. I will talk with every one of them."
Having retired as recently as 2009, Montella may have the task of leaving out former colleagues, yet he insisted: "I think it was more difficult to make team selections with youngsters who were eager to play. We played in a final to win the Under-15 national title and I was very sad I had to leave some boys out of the team. Here it is different. I want everybody to be ready when they are called on, knowing a player can decide a game even by playing only 30 minutes or less at this level."
Although his contract runs only until June, Montella has a long-term mindset. "I'm here to bring a serious approach, full commitment and technical know-how," he said. "Rumours about other coaches taking charge next season won't disturb my work. I don't feel like a caretaker, I just want to achieve good results until the end of the season. I'm perfectly aware that things change very quickly in football."
He certainly hopes that will be the case when Roma visit Shakhtar for the round of 16 second leg on 8 March. "My main job will be to get our best players to express themselves in the best possible way," Montella said. "Then there is defending, which is an important part of the game, but the key thing is how quickly you change from defence to attack. This transition is a vital factor in modern football."
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