Newly appointed Celtic FC Women manager Elena Sadiku spoke to the media about her arrival for the first time since becoming the Hoops’ new head coach and the first female head coach ever at Celtic. The Celtic Star attended the press conference at Celtic Park this afternoon. Here’s what the new gaffer had to say to a very busy media conference. Jessica Elliott reports…
🔊 LISTEN: “The King of Kings, right? Maybe I can become the Queen of Queens”.
🍀 New Celtic women’s head coach Elena Sadiku says fellow Swede Henrik Larsson was her role model growing up. pic.twitter.com/tgqndQSBvm
— Clyde 1 Superscoreboard (@ClydeSSB) January 18, 2024
Q: What are your thoughts and feelings now that you sit here as the head coach of Celtic Women?
Elena Sadiku: “I think I’ve been saying in many words so far. I’ve been saying I’m thrilled, excited, over the moon. I think I’ve been overwhelmed with all the feelings. Obviously Celtic is a huge club and we look forward to what’s ahead so I’m just really excited to get going. And tomorrow, it’s the first test so that’s going to be amazing.”
Q: Give us an overview of your career so far. What has led you to where you are right now?
Elena Sadiku: “I’ve been playing football since I was 10, and that’s 20 years of experience. I was 23 when I started coaching and where I am today it’s been going really fast. But I also think I’ve worked really hard to be where I am today so it’s not a coincidence. I’ve been doing really well and hopefully I can continue to do that at this club.”
Q: You take over from a very energetic coach but how would you describe your coaching style?
Elena Sadiku: “I would say that I’m very passionate. Right now, I’m very calm but it’s because on the pitch, I’m very passionate, I love football. I’m very passionate about developing players. On the pitch, I’m on fire. Outside, I’m more calm.”
Q: You can’t come in to a bigger game than the one tomorrow, against Celtic’s biggest rivals. How excited are you?
Elena Sadiku: “It’s a final tomorrow. Either we win or lose, and if we lose, we’re out. It’s a huge game to start with and I’m really excited.”
Q: How much have you been around the team, and have you implemented a style already?
Elena Sadiku: “I had my first session Tuesday and its Thursday today, so it’s about trying to keep the same but also put my style as well. It’s not that big of a change because it’s mid-season and there’s a game on Friday but I think it’s going to come more and more as time goes on. That’s how I’ve been working, it’s been really intense. I think it’s just about trying to get to know the players as well because I’ve never seen them before, just on videos, so it’s been a good two days.”
Q: You mentioned implementing your style, how would you describe the style you want to bring to Celtic?
Elena Sadiku: “For me, it’s about dominating the game. To dominate the game, you need the ball because that’s how you score goals. If we have the ball, it’s going to be harder for opponents to score. It’s about the transition as well, if we lose the ball, we want to counter press, if we win the ball, we want to go forward.”
🍀 “Celtic is about winning every game…that’s what I’m trying to achieve”
New Celtic Women manager Elena Sadiku is excited about the project ahead as she targets victory over Rangers in the Sky Sports Cup on Friday night 🔽 pic.twitter.com/qGTK7uGwS3
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) January 18, 2024
Q: How did you view the landscape of football in Scotland before you came here and what are you hoping you can add to it?
Elena Sadiku: “The first time I met a Scottish team was Glasgow City in 2016. We played them in the Champions League at my former club in Sweden. Obviously, you can see how much its progressing because Glasgow City was a big part of the history before but now Rangers and Celtic are also coming into that. Hearts and Hibernian as well. I think everything is going forward and that’s an exciting thing to be a part of.”
Q: Are you confident you can bring silverware to Celtic?
Elena Sadiku: “Absolutely. If you look at my history, I’ve been in China, Denmark, Sweden, England. I have a good network. I’m also very keen on developing young players who I’ve seen we already have in the team. Like I said, I’m very thrilled at what’s coming next.”
Q: What have you prioritised in training this week?
Elena Sadiku: “It’s about not changing too much. The players need to understand what they need to do on the pitch to win against Rangers. So, it’s more about getting myself and my touch of it and that’s what I’ve been trying to do in these last two sessions.”
Q: Have you thought about the pressures of being the head coach at Celtic?
Elena Sadiku: “I come from clubs where you need to win. I feel that this is something I’ve signed for. Winning the league, winning the cups, being successful out in Europe. I know about that, but I don’t see that as a pressure, I see that as something I look forward to, to come out and help to make that achievable. So, do I see that as pressure? Not right now. Not really.”
Q: Can we get an update on the status of the squad?
Elena Sadiku: “I think players that have been out are still going to be out. Lucy made her comeback and she’s still part of the squad.”
Q: What was it about Celtic that convinced you it was the right step for you?
Elena Sadiku: “The ideas and what they look forward to. For me, it was so important that I signed for a great project and the project that Celtic brought up was to be successful going forward. Winning the leagues, winning the cups, and being successful out in Europe. But also, about building this academy so we can work with the players we have in the academy and make them better so they can compete in the first team. So that was the idea I fell in love with but to be honest, I also really like that during the process, I got to know really good people around the team and the club. It made my choice much easier because the first day here, I feel very welcome and already feel like a part of the big family here. I’m just really happy about wearing the badge.”
🏆🔦 Be there tomorrow as Elena Sadiku takes charge of the Hoops for the first time!
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) January 18, 2024
Q: How eager would you be to get the girls playing at Celtic Park?
Elena Sadiku: “Wherever we play, it’s going to be huge, but the first time I stepped out there and looked at the arena, I got really overwhelmed. I can’t wait to see the fans because I’ve heard very good things about them. I can’t wait to see them tomorrow night but also when we’re going to play here. Wherever we play, I want them to be behind us and support us.”
Q: You replace Fran Alonso in the dugout. How significant was the work that he did at Celtic?
Elena Sadiku: “What I like is that they play the same sort of football I want. I want to have possession; I want to be attacking. I want to go into high pressure. That’s my style of play as well, so it’s just some parts that are different, but otherwise I think that’s something that’s going to suit me really well.”
Q: What did you take away from the game against Montrose?
Elena Sadiku: “That we have good potential in the team, we have very good players. At that game, we were very good at scoring goals, but I also see something we can improve and that’s something we’re doing this season. I saw both good and something we need to improve.”
Q: It’s a tough start for you with both Rangers and Glasgow City in quick succession. Do you relish the challenge?
Elena Sadiku: “I like challenges. I’d rather be challenged than be comfortable, so I think it’s a great start. It’s two of the best teams in the league so I’m really excited.”
Q: What did your injury do for you as a person? Does it make you hungrier to succeed now as a coach?
Elena Sadiku: “I have a lot of history with injuries. The last injury gave me sepsis and I almost lost my life. That gave me a different appreciation and made it easier to go away from playing football. When I stopped playing, I was 23 and, in my head, I was only thinking that I wanted to be the coach that I wished I had. So, I can help players to fulfil their dreams and that’s something that I’ve been living by since then. I love to perform to win games but my biggest passion comes from developing players so they can fulfil their dreams. I think that was something that made me love my job.”
Q: You mentioned that part of your brand is to develop players. How big is the youth setup going to be during this next era with you as manager?
Elena Sadiku: “It’s something that I’m going to talk to people around the club about, like how we’re going to move forward. My only focus right now has been Rangers and next week, it will be Glasgow, so I think we need to plan about when to do what. We haven’t been talking too much about it yet because my focus has been this game and trying to get to know the players because they’re the most important right now. But we have some ideas and I think you all will know soon enough.”
Q: Have you spoken to any of the senior players about this fixture and what it entails?
Elena Sadiku: “Of course I’ve been talking to all the players but not particularly about this game because for me, it’s just a game that we need to play, to win. It’s not about the opponents or anything like that. I know that there’s rivalry between many of the Glasgow teams, but I haven’t really experienced it. So, for me, it’s just a game. It’s a semi-final, we need to win it to go to the final, so not really. Maybe I should though. Maybe I will today.
Q: Celtic have yet to win a league title in Scotland. Is that one of your main ambitions?
Elena Sadiku: “I’ve already written history at this club and next, it would be amazing to write history and win the league for this club. That’s what I want to dream about.”
Q: Celtic have a long association with a particular Swede. Do you remember much of Henrik Larsson growing up?
Elena Sadiku: “He was my role model when I was young and when he was playing at Celtic. I know pretty much all about his time here. The King of Kings, right? Maybe I can become the Queen of Queens.”
Q: Have you ever come across Jo Potter (theRangers manager) in your career before now?
Elena Sadiku: “Not that I remember, but I know who she is.”
Q: Could some success in the Sky Sports Cup be the first step to building a dominant side?
Elena Sadiku: “Yes. Hopefully yes.”
Q: When did you first hear of Celtic’s interest and how quickly did the deal move along?
Elena Sadiku: “The first time was before travelling for my vacation, and I had my first meeting during my vacation. It’s gone really fast after that.”
Q: In the past, you’ve spoken a lot about wanting to control games with and without the ball. How has that changed since your first job as a head coach?
Elena Sadiku: “I need to adapt sometimes. I went to Eskilstuna and was playing a low block, counterattack. I had to slowly try and get into what I wanted to do, because going from low block, counterattack to how I want to play games would be a big difference and I didn’t want them to do that change really quick. Because Fran is the former manager and he had the same style of play as me, I can just get my ideas in pretty quick. I’m also from Sweden and you know if you’ve seen Sweden play that it’s about defending and trying to score, so I have that structure in me, but I also have the other one, and that’s attacking.”
Q: How much did you know about the Scottish Women’s Premier League before coming here?
Elena Sadiku: “First of all, I’m not that old so I know many players. I’ve heard of it before, when it was part-time almost, but now how it’s been successful. When I was coaching Eskilstuna United, we played against a player that came from Celtic and if you can get those kinds of players from Celtic, then you know there are good players playing here. And now that it has become a professional league, it will only go forward.”
Q: You spoke in an interview about how you love Dua Lipa. Are you going to have that blasting in the changing rooms?
Elena Sadiku: “I think I will wait with that. We take it step by step. But Dua Lipa, she’s good.”
Q: You have experience in Beijing, is it a good advantage coming here with two Chinese players?
Elena Sadiku: “China gave me a great experience because the people there are so kind, they’re so polite and that’s exactly the same feeling I get from both Shen’s. My Chinese mandarin is not fluent, but I know some words and I try to joke with them a little bit. They get surprised every day when I say a new word. Hopefully, they can teach me more and I can teach them some Swedish.”