LEO
By Robert Nichols
Tuesday 10 Sep 2019 16:59:00
Browse all Interviews articles
 
There is a familiar face back on the bench at Boro. A man that simply oozes passion for the game and for Boro. There is a special relationship, a real bond between Boro fans and Leo Percovich.

Here is an interview that was originally published in the first issue of the fanzine this season. An interview with a guy that has gone through so much and someone that we have taken to our hearts. He will be giving everythnig for the cause this season, there is no question of that. An inspirational man.

Fly: What is it like to be back at Middlesbrough. What does it feel like to be back?

Leo: It feels like everything I have felt before is real. It wasn't a dream. The love, the passion I feel for the club, the love, the passion I feel for the city. I feel so grateful to everyone here and that makes me feel like I am back home.

When they say, welcome home and I say I am back home, I feel like that. I feel like I am a son of this town. I said yesterday at the Meet The Coaches evening you were born in a place and you have to say you are from that place, not many people have the opportunity to choose and to say because you are very welcome and you feel very good, in a different country and a different continent I can say I am at home. I feel very, very welcome and the only way I can say thank you and give a value of this moment is to give my best again, to give a feeling of hope and to make the dream that we will all go to the Premier League again together.

Fly: You have experienced that here and been part of a team off the pitch that got us to promotion and I imagine you know from that the team off the pitch is as essential as that on the pitch.

Leo: Oh yes. Very, very important. We have a path now. We left a path here of course we upgrade everything. We are doing with the same spirit because it is very important that you have to stay together. We have a very good union in the coaching staff, we linked together very quick, the chemistry was fantastic. And all this gives to us the confidence to work, the confidence to believe we are going to give everything we have to do the best. So we have a tremendous potential manager in Jonathan Woodgate. We have a tremendous assistant manager in Robbie. We have a tremendous goalkeeping coach, who was at the club before, in Danny Coyne. We have the best fans in the league, no question. We have one of the best groups of players here, it is our group. So we need to believe now that the players that come in and we bring in from the Academy can fit in this group and then we are altogether again and very strong and we can be connected and do the job like we have to do. So it is very important that we have to stay together outside and inside the pitch, no question.

Fly: The last time we were promoted we had a blend of experienced and young players. Is that blend always important?

Leo: Yes, it is very important that mix because you cannot put all the responsibility on the young players and you also can not put all the responsibility on the oldest players because they can not do the job alone. This is a team. We work as a team. And the team will have a family spirit. In a family you have young brothers, you have the older brothers and you have your parents and here it is the same. And here if something is missing in experience in the players we have a lot of experience from the manager as a player, and as a coach who was working with different managers and learning a lot. We have tremendous experience in the assistant manager, Robbie. I have a lot of experience too in working with young managers, older managers and working in different countries. So, we make a good mix. The most experienced person we have supporting us is our chairman, he is the pappa. So, we have the best support and the biggest experience from him. If there is anything where we have any doubts we talk to him and he will give the best advice for us.

Fly: Last time you were here you were a goalkeeping coach but you seemed to be far more than that?

Leo: Yes because in the format to fit inside the coaching staff there was a position of goalkeeping coach but before I came here I was working as an assistant coach. So I came here and I did my job as a goalkeeper coach but I did a lot of other jobs behind the scenes and also in training as an assistant. As a personal assistant of Karanka at that time. A lot of people recognised my work here because they saw me working every day at the training ground. A little part as a goalkeeping coach and a big part as an assistant too. Then when you go on the field you do the other part on the bench. Every single detail outside the field counts, the fourth official counts, everything. Small details. So you have to be aware of all of that. That is the way you can help bringing your talent on this.

Fly: You have just said to me that you did a double coaching session now. At the Meet the Coaches evening Robbie Keane was saying about how everything you do in coaching relates exactly to what might happen on the pitch. Real scenarios for people shooting at goal for instance.

Leo: Woodgate’s philosophy or methodology is not opening a book and copy the exercise and do it. No. When as assistants the manager gives us the possibility to lead a part of the training session then when we present it to him we need to fit the exercise or the movements into the style he wants to play. So there is no opening a book because there are thousands and thousands of exercises but they don’t fit for us. You have to make that work for your style of play. And to adapt to that week because it is a different opponent. So maybe you need to adjust some things. So this is part of the job. The good thing is that it is easy because we all have the same idea and the gaffer is very clear in what he wants. So it is easy to understand and to try to do the best that you can offer to him to help and for support.

Fly: We have been told that we are going to see a pressing style of football and we are going to have a go at teams. Is this something we fans can get excited about?

Leo: Listen, yesterday at the Meet the Coaches I didn’t have the opportunity to say this as there were too many questions and beautiful moments. But today I have the opportunity to say what I wanted to tell yesterday. When I came for my first day in Austria in the pre-season I came from Brazil where there are a lot of talented players and the team where I work Fluminense especially like to play possession as a team building up from the goalie. So when I came here, the first training session in Austria I was panicking because in Brazil you have to say to the players, give the ball, give the ball because they keep the ball too much. They enjoy the ball too much and keep it too much and you have to say hey lets go quicker, move it forward.. But when I came here my first impression was wow I am panicking because the ball was like a hot potato. Then you see they don’t want the ball. It was the first training session we have. Then the gaffer started to work on this, we have to start to enjoy to have the ball. And then it is a process. You can not change this on the first day. But what you can change and the gaffer did, was to change the mentality. You have to want the ball and to get the ball you have to be confident with the ball. And then you have to have the right movement to receive the ball and pass the ball to the right space. So, it is a process. We have started to change the mentality to enjoy it. And now we go week by week. And after a few weeks now you see the team enjoying the possession of the ball.

The second thing I saw that was distinct. When we lost the ball before in pre-season for two years they play in a different style. I don’t say that was wrong or not good but we changed the style, the gaffer changed the style. The change to enjoy the ball was very important and you can see now the team now enjoys the ball and possession. And now we have to change how we react when we lose the ball because the team before was losing the ball and everyone drops back. And that was in their mind for two years, it is a style of defending and now they lose the ball and they need to press quick. As soon as you lose the ball you have to react. So the gaffer was working on their minds. React.. React.. React.. That takes time and already after a few weeks we are getting better and better and better.

So we changed two very important things enjoy the possession of the ball, do the right movement to receive and to pass and then react when you lose the ball and go and press high. Don’t press like crazy, you have to synchronise the movement because you can create the hole for the other team to pass through. So, it is a compact movement, a synchronised movement that we are working on. The gaffer is doing a great job on this. The starting point of all of this was the mentality. If you don’t change the mentality and make them believe the work you are doing and what we want and where we are going then it is impossible to do the next steps. So, the gaffer did a very good job on that and changed right away the mentality. Now they started to enjoy the possession of the ball and we have started to react and you see. It is a very brave thing to do. We want to keep our fans on the edge of their bench because this way defines the true character, the attitude of this city, who we are, we are winners and we want to go back to the Premier League and in the best way, playing good football.

So, you have to believe and you have to support because you will see one thing we can promise, the attitude, the winning attitude, fighting for every ball, trying to play every ball well and with good football. It is fact. Win or lose will be the consequence of all of these things. But for sure we can promise now, the attitude will be the best every game because in the training session every day it is better and better.

There are no comfort zones of dropping back. There is responsibility, you have to do the right movement, you have to be clever, you have to think fast, you have to be aware. So it will be the same in training as in the game.

Fly: You have joined us from Fluminense in Brazil a very big club so this must have been a really big decision for you to return to Boro?

Leo: Well, Fluminense is a very big club. Six million fans around Brazil. Massive. Marcelo from Real Madrid came from there, Kenedy, Richarlison and Thiago Silva who was at Paris St Germain and Milan. A lot of players came from there, it had a big academy. Fluminense sold a couple of players to Watford now, Joao Pedro, a very young talent, striker. They always have very good players and play in the Maracana stadium, a massive stadium and that is Fluminense home stadium.

But when I got the message from Boro, I had a big derby that night, so I can’t fly that night as I was already committed for that game but I promised tomorrow I would take the first flight the next day. I didn’t even ask permission, if the club say no I go, if they say yes I go too. So it was very clear in my mind this opportunity to come here to help the club and to come for an interview I don't want to throw out and not because I was desperate for a job because I was in a very good position there and had a very good reputation. People take care of me a lot there I have a good story in the club. So I was very comfortable there but it is not about being comfortable it is about real life, this is the place like I feel it is real life. I brought all the family and they support me straight away to come back and then we are really thankful to Flumininse for all this time they gave me the best. But you know your home is your home. And you are always looking to get back home and I am here.

Fly: It is fantastic to hear you say that. There is a special bond between the fans and you that is going to last forever and it is so good we are all back together again.

Leo: Yes, yesterday it was funny we came before the Meet The Coaches and we walked around the stadium with the coaching staff to visit all the departments at the stadium and you have all the different sides, North, South, West, East. It is funny because every side has a different view. You can see the Transporter Bridge, you can see the new buildings from the west and then from the East you can see the Steel complex. People say it is a great view of the Transporter Bridge but when you go to the other side and you see the complex and factories for steel and metallurgy and everything and I say well I think you have the best view of the city. They say that is how we are. Hard workers. We build the city from here and from here we get to the other side and to the new buildings. Because everything started there in our factories, in our steel, in the different complexes. That is our roots. So, I think you have the best picture from the stadium to see outside because you will remember every day how hard work all the people do there and from there they come into the stadium and support the club. So I think it is a great view to have to remember from where we have come, where we are and where are we going?

So I enjoyed that moment because you don't see this in postcards. They always put the Transporter Bridge. But that is the biggest side from where we build the city it came from there. That was a very good moment to remember all this.

 

 



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