Monday, December 10, 2018

The Luigi De Canio Interview

Our latest Q&A is with former Rangers’ first team coach Luigi “Gigi” De Canio. Although only in charge for a short time he tells us how he always looks back on his time at Loftus Road with great fondness and some small regret.

QPRnet: You had managed for nearly 20 years in Italy before joining QPR was it a big decision to move to England?

LDC: It was the biggest decision I’ve ever made for sure but the opportunity to improve my professional knowledge in another country and at a prestigious club like Queens Park Rangers was too good to turn down. On top of that the challenge of trying to succeed in a competitive league like The Championship was really attractive to me, to give me the chance to measure and test myself in that contest and see how well I could do in England.

QPRnet: You built your reputation in Italy on bringing teams up from lower divisions to Serie A. With QPR being in a similar position in 2007 did that make you the ideal man for the job?

LDC: I think I would say, with all possible modesty of course, that I was the ideal man in that moment. Certainly the future objectives of the club and its owners were to progress QPR from the second tier into the top flight and I believe I was a good choice to try and do that for them.

QPRnet: Did you have any concerns about moving to a foreign country and coaching English players?

LDC: Not at all no, in fact once I had made the decision I felt incredibly excited and it was amazing project to be a part of and experience firsthand. Of course it was something very different to that which I’d become used to in Italy but I embraced the challenge and took it on full of hope and expectation.

QPRnet: The director of football and Chairman (Paladini and Briatore) were both Italian, did that make your day to day life easier?

LDC: For sure it did, especially because they really knew and understood all my methods and my football philosophy. They gave me a platform of certainty and honestly some really strong support to build and improve the team and its fortunes.

QPRnet: You hear all sorts of stories about the level of involvement Flavio Briatore had in the club and on the coaches, how was your working relationship with him?

LDC: Flavio Briatore is a sports man with real vision, and he was a very charismatic Chairman. He knows how to recognise good qualities in his colleagues and his working relationships are founded on building his team with trusted people capable of achieving his dreams. Of course he had expectations and he believed they should be achieved.

QPRnet: What was the plan for the future, were you given targets to achieve or a date to get us promoted by?

LDC: Yes, everyone in all forms of employment must have objectives to achieve; that is very important. Unfortunately because of very pressing and personal reasons I did not have the time to complete the project. That I had to go away as so soon has been a real sorrow over the years as I really believed I was the right man in the right place.

QPRnet: When you arrived the team had only won twice all season, how quickly did the players take to your new ideas and methods?

LDC: When I arrived the team was stuck near the bottom of the table but I was confident we could improve things. I wanted to impress on the players that my task wasn’t to work any instant magic but to bring my professional experiences to the training ground, capture theirs and help them improve day by day whilst slowly improving the team’s fortunes.    

Once I got my message across and I saw the players start to apply it in games I believed that not only did we have the chance to save the season but perhaps we could push onwards, open some new doors and reach even higher goals.

QPRnet: The fans quickly approved of your attacking style of play, was that part of your brief or have you always tried to get your teams to play in that way?

LDC: It wasn’t so much what I was told it was simply that is how I believe football should be played. I was delighted that the QPR fans appreciated the way we played and really touched that they took me to their hearts. It didn’t take me long to build a very constructive and fond relationship with the fans and that will stay with me forever.  

QPRnet: You made seven new signings in the January transfer window, did you pick the players to buy or did you identify positions to The Director of Football and he found the players?

LDC: I worked in very close synergy with Gianni Paladini for all player recruitment. I knew he was an expert in English football and its players so the way we worked together helped greatly to improve the quality of the team at the time, much more than I could have managed on my own. The squad got better and helped us look good for the future as well as achieving our short term ambitions of stability in The Championship. 

QPRnet: We struggled to get consistency as we moved through 2008, for example in January we lost 3-1 then won 3-0 and 3-2 then lost 4-2. Lots of goals and entertainment for the spectators but was that frustrating for you?

LDC: When a team plays well it is obviously pleasing however sometimes you play well but still lose and then you really can’t show any frustration towards the players. I always believe it’s more important to keep the team heading in the right direction, the direction you believe in, and sooner or later the victories begin to grow and grow. Keeping the players focused and positive with a sense of cohesion can only help you get through a negative week or even a slightly longer period than that.

QPRnet: As the season came to a close we finished safely in mid table, were you satisfied with your season in charge or did you feel we could have achieved more?

LDC: At the end I considered myself pretty happy with it simply for the reason that we achieved our goal which was to stabilise the club after a bad start. Unfortunately in the final weeks some of our best players were injured, this only made things harder for us and perhaps without these problems we could have achieved an even better position.

QPRnet: Would you ever like to return and manage in England again the future?

LDC: I would really love to have the opportunity one day. I am settled in Italy again at this time but in the future I would love that chance to present itself. If it does I’d also like to have a longer stint without having any personal problems bringing things to an early end.

QPRnet: You were only in charge for a short period of time but are fondly remembered by the QPR fans, do you look back on your time here with good memories?

LDC: I have only wonderful memories of QPR and I often find myself thinking about the time I spent with the club. Living in a fantastic capital city such as London with such a huge cultural mix was incredibly exciting and although I was fully focused on my work priorities I loved my time there.

Mostly though I will remember the QPR fans, the fantastic way they treated me and how welcome they made me feel. I still have a recording on my phone of the fans signing that song “Gigi De Canio, Bernie and Flavio”, I play it to myself often and it always makes me smile.

I feel really honoured to have been so well regarded in such a short time at the club and will always have a special place in my heart for QPR supporters. I was delighted when they finally got back to The Premier League, firstly because I played a small part in the early stages of that but mostly for the fans of the club as they really deserved the success.

We’d like to thank Gigi for his time and Dino Storace at Genoa football club for helping co-ordinate this interview. 

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