Kilmarnock finished third and secured passage into the Europa League qualifiers last season, but the less said about how that went the better.
You have to admire the Killie fans who, despite defeat to part-timers Connah’s Quay Nomads a few weeks ago, took the trip they had booked to Belgrade for the following round anyway, and by the looks of things had a lovely time.
Still, they march into the new campaign with a new manager, after Steve Clarke was dragooned into the national team job earlier this year.
Their new man has some pedigree too, having been Antonio Conte’s trusted right-hand man ever since the early days of his managerial career. But his previous attempts at being a number one didn’t go brilliantly, so there will be inevitable concerns about how he will fare at Rugby Park.
So who is Angelo Alessio, and will he work for Killie? Who better to ask than our resident Italian football expert, James Horncastle.
“He was a trusted assistant, because he would pretty much go where Conte did,” James told this week’s edition of the Totally Scottish Football Show, “and was there pretty much from the start. He was a deputy at Siena, then went to Juventus, Italy and Chelsea.
“He was someone Conte could bounce ideas off, reflected the tone he wanted to set in training. Alessio was someone who would look to back up Conte’s iron will. He’s quite measured, quite able to control his emotions. His work ethic can be taken as read: that’s what you’re going to get with him.”
But what sort of manager will he be for Kilmarnock?
“He’s known as a training ground coach,” said James. “Conte is very hands on – he wouldn’t quite put the cones out, but he’d be right there in the thick of it taking training. Alessio would be there to back him up, so we are talking a coach’s coach.
“I think [being an assistant] is something he’s been comfortable with. After his first managerial experiences in the early parts of this century, at Imolese, Massese and SPAL, he was ultimately more comfortable being a coach, rather than the guy who was front and centre, the figurehead of the team. With all the modern attributes and accoutrements that we expect of coaches today – great communicators, someone who is able to pitch and sell ideas – it will be interesting to see how able he is to do that.
“He could have come back to Italy to work under Conte at Inter, he could have taken a job with Juventus’s Under-23s team, and yet he’s chosen Killie.”
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