Who is Diogo?

We met with Diogo at Athletic Newham’s new Training Ground at Bobby Moore Sports Hub and asked him five questions to better understand the man and coach.

1) Who is Diogo?

I am a very focused person, that never needed anyone to tap my back or ask me to work harder, because my motivation comes from within. I don’t play videogames, I’m not on social media, don’t go out at night and every day I fight to be better. I believe I have a talent and I will not waste my time in vain things. Hopefully I can influence the life of several youngsters from our community, that like me one day had a dream, and will never quit until they reach it.

Long time ago, I was born and raised in Lisbon’s South suburbs, the “famous” Margem Sul, a working class, very multicultural zone, full of football talent. Like all the kids of my generation we grew up playing street football and dreaming of being pro players. I was always different of my friends in terms of, I ‘ve never quit my studies even when I got transferred to Estrela da Amadora academy (one of the biggest of Portugal in that time) and thanks God I didn’t because few years later my playing career finished too early because a sequence of events I couldn’t control.
When that happened I was even more willing to work in football regardless, so I did my degree in Sport’s Science, my UEFA badges and with 23 years old became the youngest coach in the national leagues in Portugal, back in 2009. Few good seasons granted me a contract to work in Scandinavia where I had to push myself daily to adapt to a new culture, learn new languages, different type of football. The first year was tough, but after that we achieved 4 consecutive promotions, which is still a national record nowadays in the country.

I think all that defines me as a person: I’m highly ambitious, perseverant and adapt fast to any reality, and Indirectly, that eventually makes me a winner – a coach that finds always a way because push himself so hard.

I don’t drink or smoke, I work 24/7, don’t let myself get distracted and my only hobby is reading; all for the simple reason: in pushing myself to the maximum of my potential, I feel that I am respecting myself. I will not accept the idea that I might one day regret that I did not push myself as far as I could. Our time on this Earth is short. I want my time to be intense, rich in emotion, powerful. I want to be proud of what I have accomplished, and hopefully the players and directors of Athletic Newham get “infected” with the virus of passion, as myself.

Many years ago I had a dream (when I couldn’t even speak English and was just a kid from Margem Sul) one day I would coach in England, the country of football, the country of the passion for football…I am now living my dream, and will try to inspire the players to follow me in our way up.

2) In your view, what does 2023 stats say about ANFC?

I would rather prefer to focus in our future, than what was done last year(s). I believe that’s a question for the chairman to answer, not the new manager. I’m preparing very well the future, and trying to do my best in the next seasons, and be responsible for the stats then. But I don’t think is my place to comment the stats of last years.

3) How do you intend to transition, exploit space, and pivot the point of attack during the game?

I believe we win the modern game of football during the transitions, teams who react strongly when gaining or losing possession normally are closer to win more often. So first and foremost we ll prepare the team for when in possession, be already set for when losing the ball, through covers and compensations according the position of the ball on the pitch. After that is easier to coach defensive transition, and our guidelines when losing possession will be: strong reaction to the loss/change of mentality, difficult the opponent’s organization, recover the ball the closest point from where we lost it, and finally and the most important gather the 3 lines in a compact block. When we are not in possession, we need to battle and be obsessed to conquer the ball back and then in attacking transition when we recover it: quick location of spaces for ball progression, select the most efficient way to move the ball out of opponent’s press, without rushing, using lots of communication to decide well and maintain ball/control. Same time attackers need to give different solutions moving out of the ball using deep and width.

About exploiting space, my way to work is simple: the creativity of the players will be key, and they will have a good level of decision making, within our game model and principles. Me and my technical staff will create “open drills” where players will learn how to decide in function of the game, connect and build collective memory with teammates. But same time build accountability, understand where can they risk a dribble, a different move or where they are forbidden to do it, because I cannot guarantee any cover. Basically I want to see first what they can do, without saying the A goes to B, and the B needs to play to C. I want to fully know my squad, and the capacity of my attackers with ball and without it, and build a system around them and their strengths, because in the end of the day, the players play, the coach just watch, so they have to be comfortable executing our game plan.

4) Please offer insight to how you intend to increase player development whilst winning games?

Is a very interesting question. There are lot of mistakes done by teams that supposedly want to develop players, and through 11 kids same time into a competitive league, some of them not prepared and the others who are, don’t have the guidance required, or a leader to help during the bad moments. That normally never ends well.

In my conversation with Athletic Newham chairman, I explained that my idea was different. First and foremost to contact the older players that have been the spinal cord of this team in the last years and make sure they understand how vital they are. My idea is to build around them, and not replace them. When you have a squad with experienced players that love the club, and step by step you bring in youngsters with talent to play side by side with them, it becomes a sustained growing up process. The older players will act like leaders, mentors and accelerate the process of building trust within the youngsters and therefore create a perfect platform for them to develop in a perfect environment. This is what Benfica has been doing for years…hiring veterans like Otamendi, Di Maria, Rafa, Joao Mario, so they help in the development of top talented youngsters like Antonio Silva, Joao Neves, Goncalo Ramos, Joao Felix ( few examples last 2 years). It becomes a perfect balance

Also means that we will enter in every game with a winning mentality, with players that know what they are doing, in a league they know well, protecting and guiding the youngsters, who then can use all their flair, energy and talent to bring something new to the table, creating trouble to the opponents.

That’s my view of player development, youngsters growing up as better players and persons, side by side, with experienced players, creating a winning mentality, where everyone pushes each other with different objectives but with same desire: the older players who want to still win a league and leave their legacy, and the youngsters that want to prove themselves and get promoted to better levels. In any of the cases having a champion mentality is key, when developing youngsters.

5) What should ANFC expect to achieve with you at the helm on 24/25?

ANFC should expect that in every single match of the year we will enter to try to win. With our model, with our way of playing, our own style, not copying nobody, or changing our game model because of an opponent, that I can clearly promise.

Now, of course no coach can ever promise victories, it doesn’t depend only on us. But I can definitely promise we will enter in any pitch believing that we will win, playing against any opponent. Hopefully that mentality that we will build, plus the ambition of the technical staff, and the good organization of our system during the year, where the players will know exactly what to do in the 4 moments of the game, will give us an advantage in most of the games.

More concretely speaking: my friends are telling me it would be difficult to get to the playoffs immediately in my first year as manager, and with no budget, but I love challenges, and did some miracles in the last years, so I want to push myself and the team, to agree on finishing on the top 5. That’s my dream for the next season and I can guarantee me and the technical staff will do everything what we can to achieve that!

One comment

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *