FC Sochi manager Vladimir Fedotov interview: team spirit, Kokorin and RPL form

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FC Sochi manager Vladimir Fedotov was recognised for his side’s fine form by being voted Manager of the Month for March. He was asked about the team's unity on their training camps, their RPL performances and the award of Aleksandr Kokorin.

"We rallied the players with work, conversations, and games"

– Did the team congratulate you upon receiving the Manager of the Month award?
– Yes, we have a tradition: when someone celebrates a birthday or wins a monthly award, they run a gauntlet and are given a friendly slap on the back, as they deserve.

– Did you get hit hard?
– No, it was civil.

– Did it take you a long time to get to know the FC Sochi players better?
– We knew the level and potential of the players having seen them in action at other clubs. But it took time to fine-tune interactions and establish personal contact.

During the training camps we worked day by day to rally the team and raise morale. The team was bottom of the table, which didn’t help our optimism. The most important task was to cope with this, so that the word ‘team’ sounded proud.

– What events were held to rally the players?
– Just a few: work, personal conversations, and some games. We needed to become friends.

– Are there any examples of these games?
– After mini-tournaments, the teams that didn’t win were given tasks. Some sang, some danced, and some performed ‘the worm’ while being pelted with balls. It was through these psychological moments that we connected with the players.

– Which songs and dances are particularly memorable?
– Some performed the Dance of Little Swans – something that is familiar to almost all football players. Another group sang "Oh Bozhe, Kakoi Muzhshina”, which was unexpected. However, now I can't remember who exactly did it.

– You mentioned personal conversations. Do you often discuss matters other than football with your players?
– Certainly. As a manager, I should be aware of all issues: what is happening with the player, how things are going in their family. This is not some kind of tribute to tradition – I'm just interested in communicating with the players. I love what I do, and I want the players not to be outsiders in this process either.

The main team is visible, everything is clear with them, and communication with those who have less practice is definitely necessary. They need to be told in time that a chance will arise, they need to be ready to take advantage of it, work hard and not give up.

– Perhaps this group included Kirill Zaika, who previously missed a lot of time due to injury and unsuccessful rehabilitation. What qualities of his ave stood out to you?
– His hard work and powerful character. Without these, there are no such returns. We knew about that period of his career. He was not declared for the first part of the season, he was not in the best psychological condition.

At the training camp, we saw his deep potential. From the first training session, it was obvious that Kirill was ready to work at the highest level. After such a break, it was not easy for him in practice, but he demonstrated the skills that move a person forward.

– How did you prepare him for games, given that he hadn’t played in the RPL before this spring?
– At the training camp he impressed, and special training was not needed. We saw that Kirill was in good condition both psychologically and physically, and was gradually getting into shape. In the first match against Arsenal Tula, he looked confident enough. It didn't take him long to adapt.

"I liked all the games with the attitude and desire to win"

– You said about the defeat against Arsenal that it was discouraging for the team. How did you help the players recover after that match?
– They helped us, too. Everything was good in the game, we dominated, but our mistake prevented us from getting a point. However, taking into account the work done and the results of the last matches at the training camp, we told the guys with such dedication and attitude, they would get points. And the guys reacted well, quickly moving on from the defeat. After all, the next game was close, as we said we hade no time to worry.

– What did the players' help mean?
– They answered with their own business. The guys quickly joined the process and showed their readiness to move on. No one had to be brought out of this trance.

– Which of the three wins did you like the most?
– They're all valuable. The championship has an even composition of participants, and the table has a high density. I liked all the games from the point of view of the team's mood, the charge to win. We had no other options, we had to take the maximum points. Each match was good in its own way.

According to the integrity of the game, I would note the match with Krasnodar. We must admit that the opponent had a couple of chances to equalise, but we could also have increased our advantage.

– After the match with FC Orenburg, you noted that your emotions towards your former club had not yet cooled down. Did they interfere with the preparation?
– No, it was more an internal state. I gave a lot to FC Orenburg; I worked there with pleasure, and there was a very close aura with the fans. I loved the team, and still do.

– Was it easy to turn off these emotions during the game itself?
– As all football players say: with the first touch of the ball, all pre-match jitters go away. And if it's not there, then you're not ready to play. It was the same with me. Before the match, you always worry, and when it starts, you are fully involved with the job at hand.

– Did you quickly recover from that victory?
– Yes, it was easier here in terms of emotions.

"Every player is worth mentioning"

– How much has the team's life changed now due to the RPL’s suspension?
– Yes, we don't have the most important thing – matches. Now we work like this: we train for a few days, then we take a break. We have a closed base with no outsiders; there is an opportunity for training separately from everyone.

This helps you survive all the hardships. This is especially true for foreigners, who did not have time to visit their families. In this respect, we are fortunate.

– How is the progress of FC Sochi newcomers Adil Rami and Gianelli Imbula going?
– Imbula trains in the general group and is slowly gaining shape. He didn't have any match practice for a long time, so he was in average physical condition. It's hard for him, but he's trying. I hope this break will help him get back in line.

Rami has also worked in the general group but he is concerned about a knee injury, and there was a muscle spasm on the other leg while he is in rehabilitation.

– How do they feel in the team?
– It's fine, we have a good team. In terms of communication, I think they feel good. Both have already been working in the same group. We read an interview with Rami about the difficulties of reuniting with his family, and he himself identified this problem. This leaves a negative impression, but everyone is in this situation. We must be patient.

– Your player Aleksandr Kokorin was chosen as Player of the Month. If you had the opportunity, would you have made the same choice?
– Many of the team deserve this award. I would even say that the whole team is worthy of it because of their attitude. Every player, starting with the goalkeeper, made every effort to achieve the results that we got.

But if we talk about Aleksandr, he deservedly received the award after both scoring and assisting. I always noted that Kokorin worked for the team, and in terms of defensive actions, everything was also excellent.

– Is it easy to find a place on the pitch for a player who missed two training camps, while you already had some thoughts about the possible main squad?
– Aleksandr is a versatile player who understands the game both out wide and in the centre of attack. We must give credit to the fact that he came to the training camp in excellent condition. Here everything came together. He came out without skipping a beat in the warm-up match against Dynamo Moscow and understood the game as if he had been in the team for a long time. We didn't have to break anything on purpose.

– You have been asked about Kokorin after every match. When you constantly answer a question about the same player, is it annoying?
– Certainly. We always say that every player, from the starting line-up to the reserve team, has made a great contribution and is worthy of being mentioned in the press. The result is a team achievement.


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