ANTONIO Conte has earned a well-deserved reputation for being a slightly unhinged individual during his years in the dugout with Bari, Atalanta, Siena, Juventus, Italy and Chelsea.

But it was the firebrand coach who was left questioning the sanity of Angelo Alessio when his close friend and long-time assistant turned down the chance to join him at Inter Milan last month in order to pursue his dream of becoming a manager in his own right.

Having since agreed to take over from Steve Clarke, who led Kilmarnock to their highest top flight placing in 53 years and back into Europe after an 18 year absence last season before moving on to Scotland, Conte may well have had a point.

It will be a tall order for Alessio, who was officially unveiled by the Ayrshire club yesterday afternoon, to replicate the extraordinary success that Clarke has enjoyed in the past two seasons in the 2019/20 campaign and beyond.


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The 54-year-old, though, is in full possession of his faculties. He is grateful to have landed the position and is determined to flourish in his new role. The fact he will be at Rugby Park instead of the San Siro is of little concern.

“It’s a big challenge to replace Steve Clarke, but I’m ready,” he said. “Antonio offered me the opportunity to follow him to Inter Milan and he told me I was crazy not to go. But after eight years together the moment has arrived where you want more. You want a new challenge and for that reason I told him of my desire to be my own manager.

“People might think it’s a strange decision, but Kilmarnock is also big. I was born in Avellino. The club has very passionate fans and it’s the same here. Avellino is a modest club in Italy and now play in Serie C. It’s similar to Kilmarnock. I have to work more at Kilmarnock. Not harder, but more.

“I think this is a great opportunity for me to start a new career. In the past I trained a team for four years in Serie C in Italy and then I started my work together with Antonio Conte. I have built up a lot of experience and I think I am now ready for this job.”

Alessio, who helped Juventus win three consecutive Serie A titles during his time in Turin and then lifted the Premier League title and FA Cup in his two seasons in England with Chelsea, is unfamiliar with the unique demands of Scottish football.

However, he has appointed Massimo Donati, the former Celtic and Hamilton midfielder, to his coaching staff and has talked at length to Paolo Vanoli, the former Italy defender who spent two years at Rangers and now works as a coach at Chelsea, about the game in this country.


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Billy Bowie, the Kilmarnock majority shareholder, admitted he was impressed by the Italian’s knowledge of the team he has inherited during his interview.

“I spoke with a friend who played in Scotland before,” said Alessio. “It was Paolo Vanoli, who I knew because he joined Conte’s staff. He is staying on that staff. He explained to me what type of football I would find here.

“But I think the Scottish Premiership is changing. Over the last five years I think it has improved. Step by step, I think it will continue to get better.”

Alessio is an entirely different character to the more volatile Conte, who is played with at Juventus in the 1990s, but there are definite similarities between the two men. His compatriot was notorious, even by Italian standards, for being a hard taskmaster in training. He, too, will demand a great deal of his charges in sessions. But having watched them in action under his predecessor he is confident he will get the level of commitment he wants.

“I am not the same (as Conte), but I am still passionate,” he said. “I learned in this time with Antonio that if you want to win, and continue to win, you have to work hard every day. You have to work on every detail to improve the performance of the players and the team. Of course, you can have good players with ability. But if you want to improve you must work hard every day.

“I have watched a lot of games and I have my own idea of football, of course. Here, we have a lot of good players. Steve played 4-3-3 at times, sometimes 4-2-3-1 and in the defensive line 5-4-1. I want to follow this idea, but, of course, I have my own methods. And some things will change. It may be more attacking. The most important thing is that every single player has to know my ideas and what they do on the pitch.


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“It is about finding the right system for the players I train. I have watched a lot of Kilmarnock games and studied a lot of the players. They are good players. They use their head, heart and feet and they make me believe I can do good work with Kilmarnock.”

Alessio was in the Juventus dugout when the Serie A club took on Celtic at Parkhead in the last 16 of the Champions League back in 2013 and celebrated as they recorded an emphatic 3-0 triumph. The Europa League games next season against Connah’s Quay Nomads and then, should they win that double header, Partizan Belgrade, hold no fear for the former UEFA Cup winner.

“In the season Juventus played Celtic, I replaced Antonio for three games in the Champions League, against Shakhtar Donetsk, Chelsea and Nordsjaelland, in the dugout,” he said.

He understands, however, it will be more difficult to Kilmarnock to beat Celtic than it was for the star-studded Juventus side he worked with. But Clarke excelled in games against the Glasgow club and their city rivals Rangers and he intends to pick his brains in the coming days.

“At Juventus we won against Celtic in Glasgow and it was a great performance for us, but in Scotland Celtic are on a different level in terms of budget. At the same time it will be a challenge for us. I haven’t met Steve before, but probably I will speak with him in the next week.”