The ‘On Board in Person’ event of 11th December 2019 offered Killie Trust members and ‘Trust in Killie’ subscribers the chance to hear from Director Cathy Jamieson (CJ) and Trust Chairman Jim Thompson (JT) on all things Killie, including the club’s AGM, the new ticketing system and a match day volunteering scheme. Those in attendance also heard Manager Angelo Alessio (AA) speak about areas of the team he hopes to improve in January, the decision to send Greg Kiltie out on loan and Stuart Findlay’s return from injury.
In terms of the overall atmosphere, AA and First Team Coach Massimo Donati were brilliant and heartwarmingly grateful. CJ was as level-headed and pragmatic as she always is. That AA offered a fulsome bow before leaving the 1869 Suite was entirely reflective of his attitude as a whole towards the club and the fans.
JT opened the evening with a few remarks. The Trust hope to host the next ‘On Board in Person’ event in February or March. JT highlighted the fact that The Trust are one of the biggest shareholders in the club, and it is hoped that evenings like this will help The Trust to develop further and increase its numbers.
January transfer window
Before the attention turned to the evening’s special guests, CJ said a few words and thanked everybody for their attendance. Given the number of questions that had been sent in on the topic, she first addressed the January transfer window, confirming that even before the arrival of newly-appointed Head of Football Operations, James Fowler (JF), the manager and the team had been looking ahead to January and the summer. It was noted that there had been an increase in the budget. To support that, JF is working on a new wage structure for the club. He has also been working with Academy Director Paul McDonald to look at young players that the club might be looking to bring through to the first team.
Angelo Alessio - the player and the coach
JT spoke to Angelo Alessio about his career so far.
Angelo was born into a large family, with eleven children. “My father says he finished when he had completed the team”, he joked.
As a youngster, his father would buy him boots to play football at school. After impressing while playing at school, he was rather taken aback when he was offered the chance to play the sport he loves, for money. Angelo found himself earning more than his hard-working father, something he described as “unbelievable”.
He started his career with Avelino in the south of Italy, spending three years there. Avelino were a Serie A side at that point, highlighting Angelo’s early potential. He found himself up against the likes of Diego Maradona and Marco van Basten and described the league as “very tough”. During his time at Avelino, the club managed to finish in eight place - their highest ever finish in Serie A.
Angelo modestly described his six goals in his final season at Avelino (still aged just 21) as “not bad”. His potential however clearly caught the eye of Juventus. Angelo described the situation at Juve as “difficult” initially - he was a long way from both his home and his family.
He was sent out on loan to Bologna. The squad at Bologna was very young and Angelo described the experience as “very good”. When he returned to Turin at the end of his loan, the manager at Juventus was legendary Italian goalkeeper, Dino Zoff.
Angelo counts winning both the Italian Cup and the Uefa Cup in the 1989-90 season as some of his greatest memories of his time at Juventus. He scored in the semi-final of that Italian Cup run, in a breathtaking encounter with Roma. Juventus then prevailed in the final over two legs against an AC Milan side who had the same year won the Champions League. That AC Milan side included Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Frank Rijkaard and Carlo Ancelotti. Alessio described the win against AC Milan as “difficult” and “a big result”. The Uefa Cup final victory against Fiorentina was also memorable for Angelo. The second leg of that final was played in Avelino, as the midfielder returned to where it had all begun. He described the resultant celebrations as “crazy”.
When asked about the most difficult opponent he played against, Angelo was quick to highlight AC Milan once again. He also mentioned Diego Maradona - “It is simple for me to say that, no?” he asked, rhetorically. At this point, Alessio recalled with fondness one particular story about the legendary Argentine. Angelo had noticed one of his team-mates looking worried before a tie with Napoli and enquired as to why. “We are playing Maradona!” came the reply.
During his career, Angelo played with Antonio Conte. The two had a lot of mutual friends and lived in the same town. Alessio noted that, some time after finishing his playing career, he was approached by Conte to be part of his coaching staff at Siena. “We started in Serie B. We had a fantastic season and managed to win promotion to Serie A. At the end of the season, we were going to stay. But then Juventus called. It all happened very fast.”
In their first season in the dugout at Juventus, the pair guided the Old Lady to their first Serie A title in nine years. “The first year was fantastic, but far from simple. For the previous two years, the club had struggled. Antonio created the right system with the right players. Going into the last month of the season, we found ourselves behind AC Milan. But we played well, and we won after a photo finish.”
After winning three successive titles with Juventus, Conte and Alessio then took over the Italian national team. “It was a good experience - a different type of job. We didn’t have the same day-to-day involvement,” said Angelo. “The Euros in France was a fantastic experience. We didn’t have top, top players but we created a good team spirit. We did well. We lost against Germany on penalties at the end of the game. I think this competition is remembered fondly. A lot of supporters waited for us at the airport. There was a celebration.”
JT highlighted the range and quality of players that Alessio has coached over the years: Alessandro del Piero, Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba, Carlos Tevez, and Eden Hazard, to name but a few. “These players are top, top players” said Angelo. When asked about Paul Pogba in particular, he commented, “Paul is a good guy. We recognised his talent. He works hard. He works very hard.”
The current squad
After discussing his playing and coaching career elsewhere, AA then spoke about the squad at Kilmarnock. He stated, “We have to grow next year. The football is good. For me, I like to play out from the back. It is important to be flexible. I have had to adapt to suit the players available.”
When asked which positions he would like to improve going forward, AA said, “We have to improve up front. We have a lot of games in a short period of time, and we have a small squad. At this moment, we need a striker.” The manager then highlighted that he has received a lot of support from the board and that they also want to “improve the team”. He noted that, while everybody is looking for a striker, he is confident.
AA then spoke about youngsters Innes Cameron and Greg Kiltie. Innes Cameron suffered a “bad injury”, but it looks like he will be fit again in January. On Greg Kiltie, AA feels it is important for him to play a lot of games, particularly after his injury. He noted that Kiltie has been playing well and he hopes he will continue to play well. AA added that the club have an option to recall him in January.
Stuart Findlay’s injury
The manager hopes Stuart Findlay will be available in January for the game with Celtic. He revealed however that he had spoken with the physio earlier in the day and had been informed that Findlay might not be available until February.
Working with James Fowler
On his relationship with James Fowler, the Italian said “I have a good relationship with him. We work together every day. He knows our situation really well. He can help us to build a good team.”
At this point, AA was asked which television programmes he watches to help him with his English. After noting that he enjoys watching the news and documentaries, the manager revealed, after the most dramatic of pauses, that he also watches Neighbours.
Hopes for the rest of the season
AA said, “It is important to stay in the top 6. Every game is difficult to win. We have to work hard every day in training and show a good fighting spirit in the games.
The manager concluded his contribution for the night by thanking his staff and the Kilmarnock supporters. “My staff have given me lots of support. I thank them and the support home and away. The away support especially is great.”
Recruitment and contracts
After a short break, Director Cathy Jamieson then reconvened the evening. She spoke about the approach going forward. “We know where the gaps are. There is some cash there. But we need to get the wage structure right. We are working on players at the club who will be out of contract shortly. There is an option to bring in players and we have to be realistic.
“We lost our recruitment structure when the manager left. We are looking to build that back up again. James (Fowler) is working on a list of people to put to the manager. We do try to work quite cooperatively here.
“We have to have a sensible wage structure here, one that is sustainable, one that is sensible and one that is harmonious across the whole team.”
CJ was then asked about the profile of the players the club are looking at bringing in. She replied,“We are looking to get players who will do a job for us. We know that we have a lot of players on loan, a lot of older players and a lot of players who will be out of contract soon. One of the things James has been tasked with is bringing in young players, both from our own team, our own academy and from elsewhere. We want the core of a squad with the right kind of age profile.”
CJ then addressed a question on the prospect of Niko Hämäläinen staying on beyond his loan deal. “I don’t know what Niko would be looking for money wise. There are rumours that there are other clubs looking at him. He has done really well. But that’s something James and the manager might be looking at.”
Out of contract summer players
“At the moment, there is work going on. There are ongoing discussions with agents and players; part of the whole discussion around the wage structure. I cannot give information about individuals specifically. We are trying our best to get players who are out of contract at the end of the season to stay with us. The discussions are happening."
Greg Kiltie and the January transfer market
“I would expect there to be some change in January. Greg needed to be out, on loan, playing every week to get his sharpness back. It is an option to bring him back in January, but that will be up to the manager.
CJ then provided some further updates.
“We know we need to invest on and off the pitch: on the playing side and in the infrastructure of the club. There are plans to try and put some additional facilities in behind the Moffat Stand.”
The Club AGM will not be held during the transfer window (not the best use of everybody’s time). It will probably take place in February.
Changes will be made to the Killie Lotto in the not-too-distant future. The new re-named scheme will assist both the academy and KSCT.
Improvements are being made to the new ticketing system. There is a considerable number of people buying tickets online. The club are looking to use the system to get a database up and running.
There will soon be a diagram of the club structure available to view on the club’s website. This will highlight who is who and what roles people have within the club.
The Trust are very shortly going to be launching a match day volunteer programme.
Improving disabled facilities at Rugby Park and other projects
Jim Thomson then spoke briefly. The Trust have ring-fenced money for improving the disabled facilities. This is one of The Trust’s prime objectives. As well as improving the wheelchair section, The Trust are also looking into improving the match day experience of people with hearing and visual impairments.
JT stated that he has spoken to Paul Di Giacamo and they are looking at potential projects such as further developing the fan zone and creating a sensory room at Rugby Park. He has also been in discussions with Paul McDonald about supporting the academy.
Drawing the evening to a close, JT said, “I am so proud of what we have achieved with your help. These sorts of events are here to tell you what is going on. It is open and transparent. There is a real willingness from the club to let us help.”
Report by Alasdair Madden