Statistically, there is no such thing as a trainer effect. Damir Canadi provides practical counter-evidence: The 50-year-old was in office for four days when his Altachers won 1-0 in Wolfsberg last Sunday. The primary goal on the way to avoiding relegation is to stabilize the defensive. “The ship has to stop shaking before we can take it in the right direction,” says Canadi, who successfully looked after Altach between 2013 and 2016. After moving abroad at 1.FC Nuremberg and twice at Atromitos Athens, Canadi has returned to Austria. While the Viennese was voted “Coach of the Year” in Greece in 2018, the second term in Athens ended with his dismissal in early February. In an interview with the “Wiener Zeitung”, Canadi speaks before the home game against LASK (Saturday, 5 p.m.) about why he signed in Altach, what he has already been able to change and which decisions are to be accepted in times of the pandemic.
“Wiener Zeitung”: Mr. Canadi, at the start there was an immediate victory. What have you changed in the short term?
Damir Canadi: I don’t know if I’ve been able to contribute so much to that. Above all, we talked to the players. The team has gotten a lot of goals lately, so we set out to be stable and play to zero. That was a success. In the first game we had the advantage that our opponents couldn’t analyze us in advance. It’s different now against LASK.
You are back in Altach after more than four years. It will be difficult to be as successful again as the first time. Why are you doing this to yourself?
The club asked me to help in a difficult situation. The timing was perfect after the release shortly before in Athens. For me it is also an opportunity to give something back to the club. I really started my career in Altach. Now our short-term goal is to stay in the league.
You could barely see your family recently due to travel restrictions. Is that why you returned to Austria?
Yes, Corona also played a role here. A few factors went well together.
You have already mentioned the end of Atromitos. Why was the collaboration ended?
Atromitos has an important role in my career. Both sides have benefited from each other. The second era was a little different. In Greece you are financially very dependent on the president. And business did not go as expected, probably also due to the pandemic. As a result, transfers were not as good as in the past. And the president’s mood was different too. Unfortunately, the separation was then decided on the basis of emotions, although the team was currently in upheaval.
“I see the new play-off mode very positively because it will stay exciting for a long time thanks to the division of points.”
With Atromitos you have consistently achieved remarkable results against favorites like PAOK Saloniki or AEK Athens. But there were often disappointments against smaller teams. What do you attribute that to?
After the renovation in the winter break, we also achieved better results against smaller clubs. I increasingly built in my own young players who performed well. However, the short-term results were rated higher. The president puts the main focus on money, and if he pays players who cost more, then they have to play. Unfortunately, after my departure, everything has now collapsed if you look at the results.
How has the Austrian league changed during your years abroad?
I see the new play-off mode as very positive because it will stay exciting for a long time thanks to the division of points. It is never decided at an early stage who will be relegated, who will make it to the European Cup or who will become champion. The league has also developed really well in terms of sporting level. LASK and WAC can surprise in the European Cup. Red Bull Salzburg contributed a great deal to this increase in performance – also with the loan players.
In Altach, a lot has happened in terms of infrastructure with the stadium renovation during your absence.
The club has made a giant leap. You have to go along with it, otherwise you have no chance in the long term. There is a lot of potential here for good further development. The stadium is partially ready for the European Cup and will soon be completely.
Is it your long-term goal to move into the Europa League with Altach?
Developing the team in this direction would be a big dream. Why not? The WAC and Hartberg show it. At the moment we are still a long way from that. Now the only goal is to stay in the league.
You have taken your Spanish company from Atromitos, Manu Hervas, with you. What does he bring in?
He takes on a lot of responsibility, keeps an eye on training management and organization. He does that really well. Manu is a young aspiring coach who lives 100 percent for football. That works out well because I work the same way. He brings a lot in the offensive, playful area. The Spanish football school has shaped him. In the tactical area, it’s a decision made by the boss, but there are things that I also like to hand over.
“These decisions are in some ways dubious. The pandemic is causing such steps to be taken. This development is difficult to understand, but it seems like the only way forward.”
Most recently, Altach has focused on purchases from old stars such as Sidney Sam, Chinedu Obasi and Neven Subotic. How does the composition of the squad fit your philosophy?
In principle, that doesn’t bother me, but the names are not decisive. It’s only performance that counts. This applies to every player, regardless of where someone has been in their career. We need a good mix. Each team has different roles, and players like Obasi or Subotic can help develop young players.
You have always been heavily involved in the planning of the squad. Will you change a lot in the summer?
Of course, the squad planning runs parallel to the relegation battle. The squad is very big, maybe even too big. The deliberations begin now so that we can make the right decisions this summer.
You are returning to a time when fans are not allowed in the stadiums due to the Corona crisis. How are you doing with that?
We would all like fans to be in the stadiums. The atmosphere is missing. But we’re also happy that we’re allowed to play football at all. Of course, I can see how much the fans want them to be back in the stadium. Hopefully it will be ready in summer.
In the middle of the pandemic, European Cup games are being played between English and Portuguese teams in Greece, and the WAC received Tottenham in Budapest. Has the football business without contact to the fans finally lost touch with reality?
Yes, these decisions are dubious in a way. The pandemic is causing such steps to be taken. This development is difficult to understand, but it seems like the only way to get these competitions to the end. It’s not great fun, but we accept that.
In 2004, as a fourth division coach, you set the goal of wanting to be in the Bundesliga within ten years, which you achieved with the Altach promotion in 2014. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Planning is difficult in football, but my goal is to train the best teams possible. The present is the Austrian Bundesliga. I hope we hold the league and then we’ll see how it goes from here. It would be nice to coach teams that play in international competitions. It is only up to your own performance whether and how you get there. The coach needs the team’s success so that he can make his way.