Interview with Wolves boss Walter Zenga - One of a kind

It's safe to say Wolves have never had a boss like Walter Zenga before.

Interview with Wolves boss Walter Zenga - One of a kind

A wide spectrum of personalities have sat in the Molineux hotseat over the years and decades,

writes Tim Spiers

.

From the strict disciplinarian that was Stan Cullis, to the straight-talking and affable Mick McCarthy, or the methodical, eccentric Stale Solbakken...Wolves have pretty much seen them all.

But a fiery, red-blooded, charismatic, short-tempered, passionate workaholic who parties in Ibiza with his glamorous wife and once appeared in an Italian soap opera? That's definitely a new one.

The initial reaction to Zenga's appointment as the 29th man to permanently manage Wolves was, it's fair to say, mixed.

Many couldn't see past his chequered recent record, or the lack of an English club on his extensive CV.

Early positive results – and Zenga's heart-on-sleeve management style – soon curried favour with a fanbase desperate for excitement and success.

But a surprising 4-0 reverse to Barnsley and a couple of disappointing defeats to Wigan and Norwich have seen the tide turn slightly.

And a report in a Sunday tabloid which speculatively suggested Zenga could already be only a couple of bad results from the sack raised a fair few eyebrows, especially as the Italian has still only been in post for a couple of months.

Such is modern football.

Not that Zenga's not used to being under the microscope. At 56 years old, he's seen it all before. That's why it's not a surprise to see him in such a good mood after he grants the Express & Star an interview at Wolves' Compton Park headquarters. A newspaper report here, or a bit of fan dissatisfaction there, are nothing new.

Pressure, what pressure? Zenga, full of self-belief, embraces it.

And he's also satisfied with the job he's done at Molineux so far, considering the many changes at the club.

"We arrive at the club, new owner, new coach, new everything," he said. "Then new players. But it's not important to just buy a good player – the most important thing is that the players play good together. And this isn't simple.

"But we've played for two months and I haven't seen a team dominate us. And I've seen the team, except the last 15 minutes against Barnsley, fight to the last whistle."

That fighting spirit has quickly been instilled into Zenga's Wolves team. The passion, fire and spirit that Zenga readily shows has been reflected by his players. The victories at Blues and Newcastle were deeply impressive, while home wins over Reading and Brentford were conclusive.

Zenga has shown his weaknesses, too. His team selections have at times been questionable, and there was tactical naivety in that Barnsley defeat. But overall there have been more positive signs than negative.

All Zenga is asking for is time.

"It's not one defeat that creates problems for us, or a win that says we have arrived...it's a long season. We have to arrive in May.

"And you never give up...because you never know how close you are to reaching your achievements. Never give up.

"Never say 'it's all wrong'. In two months we've given an idea, and we have to continue to do this."

Zenga admits he's 'obsessed' with the finer details when preparing his team, implementing a rigorous training schedule that sees no stone unturned when it comes to analysing the opposition.

Not even a trip to Dubai last week to see his wife and children (they still live there, with Zenga residing in a Wolverhampton hotel) saw him switch off from matters at Molineux.

He said of his attention to detail: "Just an example – I record all the training sessions and today I showed to the players what we did yesterday in one three-minute clip. Today we repeated that exercise – but without the mistakes.

"It's something that, in my opinion, you cannot say to someone 'you remember when you make this mistake?'. You tell the players, show the players, then make with the players...it's the best option you can have.

"I'm obsessed about the details. It's hard to switch off.

"Even now I take some time to see my kids and my family – my wife was there and she was asking me 'where are you?'. I say 'what'?. She says 'I know that you're thinking about something different'. And it was true!

"In that moment I was thinking about how can I give help to players like Jed Wallace, George Saville, Paul Gladon and Ola John. My brain is all the time in work. But the coach job is an amazing life."

Have his training methods changed over the years?

"The change happens every season," Zenga added.

"It depends more on the quality of your player. For example, if you become the coach of Barcelona you can't think to play defensively. If you're the coach of some other team you're feeling there is a different style depending on the quality of the players, the squad, the positions of the players, what you want to do in your career.

"Don't forget that today is October 11...it's only two months I'm here. It's like now I'm finishing my pre-season. Pre-season in Europe is 45 days. And you're always looking for something to help the team be better.

"That doesn't mean just to win the (next) game, it means that in the long term you build one big team.

It's a pleasure to spend time in Zenga's company. He's engaging, amusing, charismatic - and just loves talking football.

Can he bring success to Molineux? We're about to find out. But Wolves certainly hope that Zenga's hard work pays off in the form of promotion.

That's an ambition that Zenga is fiercely determined to achieve. Even at his 16th club he's still holding nothing back, still riding that emotional rollercoaster.

"We're human – sometimes we wake up in the morning with sadness or nerves," he added. "And my position is more exposed to these situations because my family is not here. And I wanted to be top of the ranking with 33 points!

"My dream is still the same – full stadium and bring the team in the position they deserve to stay, which is in the Premier League.

"We achieve this in three months? Wonderful. We achieve this at the end of the year? OK. We can do it next year? OK. But we arrive. I don't know when, I cannot promise tomorrow, but we will arrive."

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