More Massimo Madness as Milanic Gets Leeds Gig

After much speculation and pondering, Leeds United president Massimo Cellino revealed the successor to the six-game reign of Dave Hockaday this week by appointing Slovenian Darko Milanic as the new head coach at Elland Road.

Many a Leeds fan would be forgiven for asking the question who he is, just as they did following the hiring of former Forest Green manager Hockaday in the summer. Milanic is relatively unknown in England, and with numerous former players having being linked with the post at Elland Road including Robbie Fowler and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, the appointment of Milanic will be underwhelming for some.

Neil Redfearn’s spell as Caretaker sparked a revival for United in the Championship as the side notched up 10 points out of a possible 12, but he has been demoted back to his Academy role at the club.

Redfearn sparked a revival in United's difficult season, but was overlooked for the job. (Image: Zimbio)
Redfearn sparked a revival in United’s difficult season, but was overlooked for the job.
(Image: Zimbio)

What will be more disappointing for supporters is that such a prestigious club like Leeds, who have experienced tough times after more than a decade out of the top flight, could not attract a more established manager who understands the rigours of the English game.

Casting that aside one must look at the credentials of the new man that Cellino will be hoping can bring some degree of stability to the club. The eccentric Italian and former Cagliari owner, who bought Leeds earlier this year, responded to questions about the Slovenian’s qualities in characteristic fashion by calling him a ‘very cool guy’.

Cellino had better hope that Milanic has the grit and determination to go with his calculated demeanour if he is going to win over a cynical and vociferous Leeds faithful. Milanic is a former Yugoslavia and Slovenia international and enjoyed much success as the boss of Maribor, leading the Slovenian heavyweights to nine trophies in five years.

In the 1990s Milanic was the star defender of Austrian side Sturm Graz, winning eight titles during his time there. However, under his stewardship the side were relatively poor – a fifth-place finish last year in and elimination in the Europa League will do little to excite Leeds fans. However, many people in Austria believe that due to poor backing from the board and lacklustre players at his disposal there was not much more Milanic could have done at Sturm.

If the 46-year old found Sturm Graz a tough gig, he’s going to find the situation at Elland Road even more strenuous, and the mismatch of a side he inherits at Leeds will surely prove challenging to manage.

The 15 imports brought in by Cellino and his associates seem to be bedding in rather well in Yorkshire after a tentative start. Marco Silvestri is proving himself in goal, Stephen Warnock looks to have rejuvenated his spiralling career and youngster Lewis Cook looks a decent prospect Milanic can work with.

Milanic has a track record of developing a fatherly relationship with his players and follows a strict and determined work ethic. Although he failed to spark improvement out of a squad which lacked ability in Graz, Leeds’ prospects such Sam Byram and Alex Mowatt could prosper under his stewardship.

With an eclectic mix of nationalities on the training ground, a man like Milanic who is proficient in five languages including English should not be hamstrung by communication problems. Pundits such as Phil Neville have baulked at the appointment.

‘I think it’s a disgrace Leeds have brought in this guy from Slovenia that I’ve never heard of… in Neil Redfearn they had someone with quality and experience.’ – Phil Neville, BBC Sport

The inexperience of Milanic on English shores can’t be denied, but to his credit he was so enthusiastic to join Leeds he bought out his contract in Austria with 20 months still left to run and seems eager to to get stuck into the Championship.

Cellino declared a bizarre take on a famous Forrest Gump quote back in April: ‘Managers are like watermelons; you don’t know what you’re going to get until you open them’. The long suffering supporters at Elland Road will be hoping that this particular one will provide rich pickings for a club starved of the taste of success.


Rhys Stevens

Main image courtesy of Salzburger Nachrichten

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