Good day to you all and welcome to the second of the Fannie Licker interviews with managers from the successful Top 100 world founded by Frank Hirst. The first interview with Mark Phelps was well received as we learned a bit about Mark and also his time in the Top 100. Today, we have the second in the series and we move into Division 3 and the Italian side Sassuolo, managed by Bob ‘Groucho’ Sal. Bob has been an SM player for as long as I can remember and was one of the first managers that I noticed when I became a gold member. He is always a tough opponent, as I am sure you all know, and I always feel I am the underdog when going in to games against him. Anyway, let’s get on and before the interview, here is Bob’s personal profile:
BOB ‘GROUCHO’ SAL – PERSONAL PROFILE
Full Name: Robert «Bob» Saletti
Born: More than half a century ago in Switzerland from Italian parents but I lived practically my whole life in Montreal
Height: 6’1’’ (1,85m)
Marital Status: married
Favourite Sports teams: American football
Favourite food: pizza
Favourite drink: red wine, whisky
Favourite band/singer: Allman Brothers Band, Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton, Miles Davis
Favourite Colour: green
Favourite animal: dog
Favourite film: Citizen Kane / Apocalypse Now / Seven Samourai / any Buster Keaton movie
Your Car: VW
Best Friend: André whom I’ve known for four decades, with sports and music as centrepieces of our relationship
What phone do you have: none
Best sport to watch: american football (if you forget the ads which, I agree, is hard to do),
What scares you most: losing my memory
Phone, iPad or laptop to play SM: Macbook pro
Embarrassing moment: There were quite a few of thoses I must say. Here’s one I can tell : being late at the hospital to pick up my wife after she had a miscarriage, the reason being I watched the 1994 World Cup final between Italy and Brazil up until the end and since the game was decided by penalties… And Italy lost, a real bad day at the office overall!
Ever won anything on the lottery : I don’t play games when I don’t have a reasonable chance to win.
If you could have any job in the world what would it be: one that gives me time to do other things ! Seriously… jazz musician.
Who would you most like to meet (dead or alive): Barack Obama
If you could attend any sporting event in the world what would it be: the World Cup Final or the Super Bowl… with my son.
Good afternoon, I’m Fannie Licker and this is the second in my series of interviews with Top 100 managers. This week I have been in hospital to have implants put in my bum. The operation was a success and below you can see how I now look, well, below. I am very happy and you must admit it is very impressive. I also don’t need a cushion for my seat anymore since I now have a built in cushion for my own seat (giggle),
So on to today’s interview and I have with me a guy who has had a great first season with his club Sassuolo, winning promotion from Division 4 and being a good egg overall. It is Bob ‘Groucho’ Sal.
FL: Welcome Bob, you have been in charge of Sassuolo for 54 games now and have already won promotion from Division 4 in your first season. Has your time in charge went as you expected it to go or do you feel you are overachieving?
BS: Last season was fantastic as we battled it out all season with Hamburg and Besiktas only for us to lose the title by one point. Overachieving ? Let me put it that way : we didn’t overachieve, we were just better than everybody thought we were !
FL: Italy are well represented in the Top 100 with Sassuolo probably being the least known. How do you feel about all the publicity sides like AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan get while Sassuolo are virtually ignored? Does this aggrieve you?
BS: Not aggrieved at all, they deserve it based on their illustrious past. Anyway I like being the underdog. The more overlooked we are, the better we feel. The day a city of barely 50,000 people (half the people of Sassuolo can have a seat at Mapei Stadium!) will compete with the likes of AC Milan and Juve would mark a colossal achievement. This day may be not that far away although our small budget will always impede us to some extent.
FL: With the success you had in Season 1, do you worry that the board and most certainly the fans expect to have this success continually and that if the standard drops they will be expecting your head on the chopping block?
BS: Yes, expectations are higher this season and we’ll be hard-pressed to reproduce last year’s performance… and we haven’t so far. As long the players play hard though, I won’t complain and neither should the fans. As far as chairman Gino Corleone is concerned, that might be another story though
FL: When we look at your squad, there are no real star players but one thing that is noticeable is that the squad seems top heavy with defenders. Does this represent the Sassuolo style of play or is there any particular reason for this?
BS: That’s the team I inherited. We play mostly 5-3-2 or 5-2-3 as these formations fit our personal, and since we have success with it… We made minimal changes since I’ve have been in charge, mostly getting younger players to give some competition to our veteran ones. I believe in ‘conceptual continuity’ as my mentor Francesco Zappa used to say.
FL: As already said, there are no real stars in your squad. Is this deliberate? Who in your squad would you say was the most inspirational to the rest of the squad and is there anyone that, if injured, would affect the club’s form?
BS: Well, we had one star –Berardi- and we traded him for two very good players (Zaza and Durm) that made us better and more balanced, that tells you the story. We are as team-oriented as a team can be. Sometimes defying the odds but so be it. Our inspirational leader is certainly our savvy keeper Consigli who’s been with the team for a while. We probably could not afford to lose him to injury as we are a little thin at the position. The underrated Paolo Cannavaro at the back and Francesco Magnanelli in midfield have also been great leaders. Versatile fullback Sime Vrsaljko has been playing tremendous football and has been consequently the target of some other teams but we refuse to let him go.
FL: It’s been a difficult start to the season and you have lost 4 of your last 5 league games. What is the target for the season and have you found it much tougher than you expected in the higher league?
BS: Sadly we’re already out of the Cup and the Shield competitions, so we’ll concentrate on the Top 100 season and the Youth Cup. There’s a lot of football to be played. As we speak, we’re a middle of the pack team but I feel confident about our chances to move up the ladder and be near summit at the end. We’re still aiming promotion to Division 2 this season, but next season is probably more realistic. Anyway, we have our work cut off for us as the Top 100 league is best in the world and any division is a great challenge.
FL; Is there anyone in your youth squad that you think we should keep an eye on for the future?
BS: Certainly our two young African midfielders Godfred Donsah and Naby Keita. The Guinean Keita could become a starter on a first team pretty soon.
FL: Finally Bob, if you could manage any club in the Top 100, who would you choose and why?
BS: Since my parents were born in Cremona near Milano, AC Milan and Internazionale would have been natural landing spots in my career. Sassuolo is a mere 2 hours drive away from Milano, so I still feel somewhat at home. Getting the better of those Milan teams will be very special when it happens… and it should come sooner than later!
FL: Thanks Bob and good luck for the season
So, that’s it for interview number two and I thought Bob gave good honest answers and is definitely a good intelligent manager who knows what he wants to do and believes in his capabilities of being able to deliver.
Next week is the Thursday Blog and then I will be back the following week with the next in the interview series but who will be my next subject I will decide that over the next couple of days. Look out for a PM in your mailbox as it might be you.
Thank you for taking the time to read.