Parma, 8 May 2021 – Ahead of Parma-Atalanta, which starts at 15:00 tomorrow at Ennio Tardini Stadium, Parma Calcio Coach Roberto D’Aversa met with journalists. Here’s what he had to say:

From a morale stand-point, since the game in Turin, I have found it very difficult, but I think that is to be expected. The verdict is in on an objective that we’ve failed to meet: we have been relegated; I still find it difficult to admit and to accept. Beyond the professional aspect, what really disappoints me is the emotional aspect, because I truly believed in the project and you all know how much energy and work went into this season to try to ensure that this club could stay where it belongs. We must remain professional nonetheless and, parking that, we have to be men, both when things go well and when they go badly.”

“We have to honour the stature of the league, and carry ourselves in a professional manner. Although we have made mistakes, although we have come up short this season, we cannot allow ourselves to manifest situations that go against our profession: we must never fail to show commitment. Every time we take the pitch, we go there to win: even if the match cannot change our fate. We have three games in a week with a limited number of players available, so there has to be a real desire from the boys to understand that there are challenges like playing Atalanta (a game that has been brilliant for a few years on the bounce now), then going to Rome to play Lazio. I think you have to realise how lucky you are to play games like that.”

As regards where I may have come up short, I have already told you: my squads in the past have shown that they have, in their very DNA, that desire to take home the three points at all costs. I think back to the away game at Genoa, in our first year in Seria A. We all remember the line-up: with so many players missing through injury, we won 3-1; I still remember having two players who ended the game bleeding, with bandages around their heads. That spirit is a characteristic that the team has always had, in Serie C and probably even in Serie D before my arrival here. From that point, there has always been a common goal and atmosphere within the whole club (the supporters, the board, the players) to climb the mountain. We built this hunger that allowed us to get results that went beyond our limits. I blame myself, as I have said in the past,  for not instilling that feeling that we had in the past into this current group. The idea of never giving up, because, for me, the game is still not over even after the final whistle. Probably, I thought I had re-found my usual type of group when, really, I ought to have built a different way to work with this bunch. However, it is too late now – this year has to serve as a learning curve; I am talking candidly with hindsight about the whole situation. In this profession, winning can help you grow but I think this year’s experience will help me a lot, more even than years gone by.”

Before taking up this profession, I was a player. Not at the very highest level, but I played 98 times in Serie A. I first played in Serie A aged 27, so no one handed anything to me. As such, I don’t believe that we can take the field and belittle the importance of the game just because we are relegated. We wear a beautiful shirt. We have made mistakes, but we still have to give everything. Tomorrow, we play against an Atalanta side that, on paper, are much stronger than us – but no one can take the field influenced by that. My future? I repeat, for the third time, that at the end of the year I will meet with the Club and we can discuss the future. Right now, I have a year’s contract, I am tied to Parma but those links are not due to the contract. My return to Parma was not based on a contract. My return to Parma, for right or wrong (because we can always judge one way or the other with hindsight), was based on the fact that I am indelibly linked to all that we’ve done in these past 4 years. All that we have done in those 4 years is a sort of job protection, but I am gutted that we have not succeeded this year. I do not regret returning, as – when I made that decision – I was sure of it, I was hopeful of saving this side. I am saddened that I was not able to do so because of my links with Parma and all that we have been through together but, in football, you cannot rest on the past.”

“Having had some of my best professional moments with Parma, Monday evening against Torino was probably the worst. The fans? Of course, they might show their sadness with banners, relegation is a huge disappointment. I have been to many stadiums and seen many fans.  The sense of togetherness that I have seen in Parma is difficult to find elsewhere. What is obvious from both this and last year is that, without our fans, the results at home have been bad: their presence has been fundamental in this journey. They showed that in Serie D, Serie C and the final in Florence that I will never forget. The fans have always been fantastic, and I know how much the team means to them. Sometimes, they have made us feel, more than their dis-satisfaction, their desire for us to honour the badge. I hope that Parma, for the history of the club and the amount of fans that the club has always had, can get back to winning ways and bounce straight back to Serie A – the whole environment of the club merits being in the top league.”

“The sadness and anger is normal after some of these games; myself and the boys feel it too, especially when, with our performances, we often deserved more from games. What happened here in the space of six weeks, would take 6 years to happen elsewhere. We were two goals up and got pegged back, then in Florence we led until the 91st minute and lost the lead in the 93rd, in Cagliari we were 3-1 up then lost despite leading in injury-time. I do not want to blame the team, even though mistakes have been made. In good and in bad times we are all responsible. I have always credited the boys for our victories, because the Coach can do nothing without his raw materials. I don’t see this as a squad that had to get relegated. Being able to work with the group from the start might (or might not) have made a difference, but that is not to criticise the previous management. Having so many nationalities in the squad – and, therefore, problems with communication – means things take longer. I do not like losing, so you can imagine how I feel right now, not only owing to the outcome but to my responsibility for it.”

We have three games in a week, with 23 players – and there will be chances for many of the guys this week. However, no Coach makes decisions on game-time to be nice to some players and mean to others. A Coach judges based on training and must make tough decisions on which players to pick. I do not want to single people out, but I can say that Dierckx has started most games: do you think that I like him more than others? If they show it in training, they play. Valenti? He started against Lazio when I arrived, got injured, I brought him back immediately against Spezia and then he got injured again against Inter. When making judgements or giving opinions on things, you have to know the facts; it is not my fault that Valenti has not played. My job now is simply to focus on Atalanta, a big team in not only the Italian but the European game. I praise their Club, because they have shown over the years that with hard work, sacrifice and solid foundations, a team from the provinces of Italy (not just one from Milan, Rome or Turin) can have an important role to play in the game.”