Serhiy Kovalyov: We’re developing our playing style

Head coach of Shakhtar U19 has talked about his appointment and preparation of the team for the new season.

- Serhiy, how did you react to your appointment as U19 coach?
- First of all, it's a big responsibility for me, the coaching challenge. Last season, Shakhtar U19 reached the final of the UEFA Youth League, and it's incredibly high bar for the entire club Academy. The current team consists of boys who were born in 1997-1998. That is, it generally includes U17 players of the last season. But there are those who have already felt the taste of the Youth League - in particular, Grachyov, Pikhalyonok, Fursov. Their experience will certainly come in handy.

- Are you satisfied with the work done at the training camp?
- Yeah, we worked well. We were training at the base in Schaslyve, side by side with the youth team. A direct connection between the U19 and the reserve sides benefits, because of yesterday's boys from U17 team are actually moving to senior football. And by looking at the older club mates, finalists of the UEFA Youth League League finalists, they know what to aspire to and how to get to the next level. There is a lot of work to do. And the task of our coaching staff is to develop our own style of play. We are trying to instil the team with combination football.

- Who is part of the U19 coaching staff?
- My assistant coach is Gennadiy Orbu. We have known each other for a long time now, we played for many years at Shakhtar, worked in the club’s scouting department, coached teams of all ages in the Academy. At one time, Gennady has also helped me at Shakhtar-3. We have excellent personal and professional relationships, full understanding. Orbu has invaluable experience with the Premier League clubs, and his knowledge can be very useful. Our goalkeeping coach is Oleksandr Kupalnyi and experienced professional Volodymyr Rashevskiy is responsible for fitness training. There is a constant contact with a coordinator of the Academy and U21 head coach Miguel Cardoso. Last season, I was helping him in youth team, we have developed normal partnership relations between each other.

- Changes regarding the format of the UEFA Youth League are surely affecting the preparation of the team, aren’t they?
- Really, there is nothing we can plan now. I would not want us to fight for the last-16 place through play-off matches - the so-called path of champions. We want to play in a group, so we are passionately rooting for the first team and believe that they will make it to the group stage of the Champions League! It will be simple and clear there: three opponents, six matches. However, this time only the winner of the groups reaches the last-16, and the second placed team will play in the play-offs with the teams of the parallel tournament. However, I am pleased that the Ukraine U19 League is there now. There won’t be finals anymore, 16 clubs will play a standard double round robin tournament.

- What is known about future opponents in the Ukrainian championship?
- There is little information, we will get it already during the season, including the analysis of videos with our opponents’ games. Naturally, Shakhtar set the highest tasks. We are gearing up to show a good game starting from the first round, get the result. The U19 boys are aware of our requirements: discipline at home and on the football field. In addition, the training is focused on the intensity, quick work with the ball, developing the boys’ thinking and playing skills. We make every effort so as not to lose our face. And we look forward to the start of the new season!

We would like to remind you that on 2 August Shakhtar U19 will face Illichivets Mariupol in the opening round of the Ukrainian championship. The game will take place in the Schaslyve settlement of the Kyiv region at the Knyazha Arena stadium. The game will kick off at 18:00.