CONSIDERING his predecessor’s number of games in charge of Leeds United was the lowest of anyone in the club’s history, Darko Milanic could be expected to be already feeling the pressure.
Nothing, though, could be further from the truth as the 46-year-old prepares for his home bow as the new man at the helm of the Championship club.
“I don’t feel under pressure,” said the affable Slovenian ahead of tonight’s Elland Road match with Reading. “But I am very excited about my first home game.
“I played and was the coach for very important games. It is not something new for me. But I am coach and I get to see for the first time the fans of Leeds United at home. I find that exciting.”
Milanic’s first game in charge of Leeds ended in a disappointing defeat at Brentford.
It was the first game the Yorkshire club had lost since Dave Hockaday was shown the door by president Massimo Cellino at the end of August.
Hockaday, a former full-back with 600 career appearances to his name, had been in charge for just six competitive fixtures when the axe came.
It is a tally even Brian Clough exceeded during his infamous 44 days at Elland Road in 1974 and the lowest in United’s history.
Cynics may suggest that the clock will be already ticking for Milanic due to Cellino’s tendency to get through coaches at such a swift rate in Italy, 36 having been in charge of Cagliari during his 22-year tenure.
Drawing parallels between Hockaday, whose only previous managerial role had been in the Conference, and Milanic is unfair with the Slovenian having won countless honours both as a player and coach.
That said, transmitting the Midas touch that brought nine trophies in five years as head coach of Maribor in Slovenia to the Championship is not a given. Which is why Milanic, until a little over a week ago in charge of Austrian Bundesliga outfit Sturm Graz, is soaking up as much Championship knowledge as possible.
“Before the game against Brentford, I had only three sessions with the team,” said Leeds’s head coach. “You cannot do a lot. I want to train with the team, as then I can give them my ideas.
“A big experience for me was Saturday’s game. It is a much better way to get to know the players. Championship games are a good way to see how we are doing on the pitch.
“After Saturday, I feel to know more about the players. It will make it a little bit easier. Maybe after 30 games, better, but after every game easier.”
Milanic felt his new charges lacked a sufficiently high tempo at Griffin Park to be able to claim they deserved reward from the game.
Rather unusually, Cellino watched the defeat to Brentford from the away end, but the president and his new head coach did meet on Sunday to talk through the 2-0 loss.
“I talked to him after the match,” said Milanic. “We had a meeting and, like I said before the game at Brentford, he accepts things. He is very intelligent. It was a very constructive meeting.
“He said to me when we met for the first time that he wanted to give me time to improve the squad. That is my job. But if I don’t win the games, that is normal for the coach. I am prepared.
“We talked to each other and he said to me that I have to improve the squad and that I have to win. I know this. I want to win (tonight), I want to win the games. Then we are all happy and then you have energy to do everything. If you win, everything is okay. Against Reading, we have a very difficult game but I hope we do it.”
Changes could be made tonight with Milanic having had three extra training sessions in which to assess the players he inherited from Hockaday.
The Slovenian, whose side host Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend, added: “It is not easy. I know it is not easy to make a lot of changes in one moment. I have to do it slowly. I am used to training in another way but I have to put a little bit today, a little bit tomorrow. Not everything in one day.
“I have to do a lot of work but that is normal. You say I have a lot of work but if you want to play a good game then you have to look also at the little things that happen in games. We have to improve and we have to do better in each segment of the pitch.
“I am prepared for the next game. I have been focused on playing Reading.
“The first thing we have to do better is bring a lot of energy.
“We must be a team and think like a team. I know that Reading are very quick and dynamic and we have to play with a lot of tempo.
“In football it is difficult to explain. Why you have tempo today but tomorrow you have none, it’s very difficult to explain. We have to prepare for this game better and we have to put ourselves in it 100 per cent.”
Last six games: Leeds United LWDWWL, Reading WWWLLD.
Referee: T Harrington (Cleveland).
Last time: Leeds United 2 Reading 4; March 11, 2014; Championship.