The tactician also emphasized on several topics ahead of venturing into Indian football for the first time in his career.

Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Kerala Blasters recently announced the appointment of new head coach Ivan Vukomanovic. The tactician will replace Kibu Vicuna, who was in-charge of the club during the 2020-21 season. The Yellow Army went through a difficult season last time and will hope that the new coach may bring in much-needed change in fortunes.

Vukomanovic was under the spotlight recently with television presenter Khuri Irani during a candid session organized by the club. He spoke about several topics pertaining to his appointment at the club and more. The fans also came to know more about the new man in charge and found out the qualities he will bring to the table.

Here are the excerpts from the conversation.

Why Kerala Blasters?

Ivan Vukomanovic began with an honest insight as to why he chose Kerala Blasters as his next destination.

“From the very first contact with the club, I recognised a very professional approach, honesty and good people. That attracted me the most,” he revealed.

“If we talk about the army of fans, the energy around the club, for me it was an absolutely yes. It was very easy for me.”

Thoughts on the fans

Vukomanovic also talked about the fans in particular during the conversation. “When you see that army and when you see the energy they are pushing into the stadium, they are like the 12th player. I was educated at a club where there was the same energy so as a player and as a coach, this attracts me the most. That yellow wave of people pushing their team, I want to be a part of that,” he expressed.

The tactician also opined whether the support from the fans will have extra pressures on him to perform.

“As a young player, it gives you something extra. I would actually prefer to play every week in those kind of games where you have many people pushing you and having that kind of adrenaline.”

What should be expected from him?

The 44-year-old also spoke about his style of coaching and what he will be offering to the club.

“I like to work with players with the correct mindset and mentality. Especially when you talk about Kerala Blasters, having a kind of obligation that you have to ‘make your jersey wet with sweat’ in front of those fans.

I am the coach that likes to improve players, to show them how they can become better. It (working with several players in different countries) gave me an insight to how to improve, especially when we are talking about young players,” he said.

“I would like to try to help the young players become better, trying to coach a team which will allow it to be better and achieve good results. That’s the goal for everybody at Kerala Blasters. If you look at all the top national teams, you will always find the mix of young and experienced players. All these experienced players when they are showing the right example, the youngsters will follow.” he added.

Need to be mentally strong

Ivan Vukomanovic emphasized on being mentally strong. “All the top teams need to be mentally strong. Talent in football is like starting five percent and then you have to work hard to improve yourself physically, tactically and technically.

Sometimes you have to caress a player, tell him nice things and sometimes there are players, you have to shout on them and that would be the motivation for them. As a coach, you (also) have to adapt to many different mentalities and characters,” he explained.

Recruitment based on need of the hour

Vukomanovic was quizzed on the possibility of recruiting players, considering the options in the squad and the kind of gameplay which will be adopted.

“Of course, there is a possibility to sign certain profiles, we will attract and sign those players which will make a difference. Me as a coach, I like to play offensive football, I like to play hard, quick but everything later depends on the material you have.”

The missing element

Kerala Blasters have never won the ISL in their existence. Speaking on what is it that the southerners have been missing, Ivan Vukomanovic quipped, “Winning trophies is kind of a process. I cannot tell what was missing in the past years, as I was not part of that team. ISL is kind of interesting because it’s short, to act and be ready immediately the moment it starts.

I think with the right approach and the right kind of work, we could make something special,” he commented.

The leadership aspect

The Serbian also spoke on the need to have leaders on the pitch. “As a coach, you are kind of a leader of the team, not only in sports but any other business or aspect of life, leaders are good if they are able to create more leaders. Its important to have these characters that can absorb the pressure and guide the young players in certain situations,” he felt.

Vukomanovic also spoke about being friends with former Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic and gave an example of Cristiano Ronaldo in mentality.

“We are born in the same city, we used to play together (talking in reference to Vidic) and I remember MUFC winning that Champions League title and the first thing Cristiano Ronaldo does (upon returning) is hit the gym.” 

Importance of a good pre-season

The last few years, former Kerala Blasters head coaches have often complained about not being able to have a good pre-season. Speaking on that context, Ivan Vukomanovic felt it is the most important thing ahead of the forthcoming season.

“That’s the most important thing. Preparing yourself not only physically but in every other aspect is very important for the whole season. Our idea is to come even earlier to India to start working on certain things.”

Message to the fans

Ivan Vukomanovic concluded the conversation with a parting message to the supporters of the club.

“We can promise we will work hard, be capable of trying to make great things, trying to achieve good results. All the fans of Kerala Blasters deserve it. We should be glad and proud of being part of that club.” 

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