“to win, you need to be angry”
At the end of every Serie A season, the arguments between managers and chairman reach their peak. Changes are swiftly made due to the alarming rise in the the number of untenable positions. Then the pack is shuffled; Malesani goes to Genoa and Bisoli to Bologna, Stefano Pioli moves to Palermo and Mimmo Di Carlo heads back to Chievo. The constant recycling of coaches in Serie A can be a rather dull and repetitive procedure, but occasionally a joker is dealt from the pack, inducing a strange sensation. In Rome, Luis Enrique has led to outbursts of joy relating to a new direction. But Siena, too, have appointed in Giuseppe Sannino a manager previously untried in Serie A who has done some remarkable things at lower levels in Italy.
The 54 year old, born in Ottaviano just east of Naples, irked out a 13 year career as a journeyman midfielder in the lower reaches of the Italian football pyramid, most notably with Vogherese and A.C. Fanfulla – winning the Serie C Coppa Italia. After retiring from playing he took up youth coaching for a number of years before taking a first team coaching role at Eccelenza – Italian 6th tier – club, Oltrepo in 1996. From here on in it was a similar story to his playing days, moving from club to club in the Italian third tier and below, rarely staying for more than a season.
Then just 5 games into the 2008/09 season, Sannino was appointed manager of lowly Lombard side Varese. In a heartfelt letter goodbye letter to Varese’s fans, Sannino spoke of how he felt about taking the job.
“As I drove towards you [Varese], I thought about how I was accepting a job at a side rock bottom in Serie C2. However, arriving at Varese I was beginning a journey that has radically changed my life.”
It’s hard to articulate the effect Sannino’s time at Varese had on his life in any other way, it radically changed his career path. When he entered the dressing room Sannino told the players “We’re last, things can only get better”, and that is exactly what happened. He took Varese from bottom of the pile in Serie C2 to Champions of their group and promotion to Serie C1. The rollercoaster ride was yet to reach its peak, and at the end of 2009/10 season they achieved promotion to Serie B via the playoffs. They travelled to Cremona for the second leg of the play off final and overturned a 1-0 deficit to win 2-1. A return to the second tier after 25 years.
An air of optimism circulated around the side before their season back in Serie B after a 2-0 victory over A.C. Milan in pre-season with parallels being drawn with the impressive rise of Cesena, but Sannino attempted to cool this instantly. When asked about the impact Varese were to have on Serie B, Sannino replied “I don’t want to be Cesena” - the Romagnan side had just been promoted to Serie A after one season in B, following promotion from Lega Pro 1 – “I want us to be the Varese of the last few years, which has been a humble and hard working side.”.
Sannino realised just how tough a challenge his first season in Serie B would be: “On paper we [Varese] are disadvantaged compared to everyone else”. They faced many of the biggest teams early on in their campaign, opening their campaign against Torino, followed by games against Serie B big boys Atalanta and Empoli. Amazingly, Varese fell just short of a third successive promotion, and if it wasn’t for, that pesky kid, Stephen El Shaarawy then who knows what may have happened in the playoff final.
Sannino’s incredible run with Varese has been rewarded with a chance to show off his credentials in the top flight. He’ll certainly have his work cut out with the newly promoted side from Tuscany who will be facing the drop straight in the face, but it will be a challenge he will relish.
Sannino is will add an incredible amount of character to a league already bursting with personalty. His coaching style is based heavily around his ethos that “to win, you need to be angry”.
“These boys need to be angry, all the time, but with a smile on their face. Because every component of the squad is gifted nothing, by anyone. We have earned everything we have with our own sweat, in a world where meritocracy languishes. Our philosophy means getting results with what we have.”
Sannino demands anger, hunger and plenty of fighting spirit from his players, and he is no angel himself. When Valenzana came to visit, their president likes to watch the game on the bench with the rest of squad. When Valenzana went a goal ahead, their president – Alberto Omodeo – “celebrated like a child, and in our direction”. Varese soon equalised and eventually went ahead. Sannino took this opportunity to reply in a similar manner. Omodeo didn’t take too kindly to this and marched angrily towards the Varese bench, the referee was required to break up the bout of hand bags and sent Sannino to the stands.
Giorgio Perinetti arrived in Siena as sporting director in January with the promise of building a project, and while Antonio Conte has left for the glamorous hostility of Juventus, Perinetti has continued to build on last season’s success. The man who built a magnificent side at Bari has brought in some decent players in Mattia Destro, Paul Codrea, Daniele Mannini and Gaetano D’Agostino. Siena are expected to field the same ultra attacking 4-4-2 cum 4-2-4 formation that helped Conte take them into the top flight, recognising the fact that goals will be crucial to ensuring survival.
It remains to be seen whether Sannino will be a success, or if he’ll even be in a job at Christmas – if he is he’ll enjoy his panettone – but his successes in the past four seasons suggest that we will be beginning to hear more from him. Remember the name, Giuseppe Sannino.