Date: 27th March 2012 at 11:54am
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“Edinson Cavani!!!” was the chant that erupted aloud, filling the San Paolo stadium with a volcano of noise last Wednesday night as the unstoppable Uruguayan arose his Neapolitan subjects with a powering header to finish off a trademark Napoli counter attack and claim the decisive strike that would send the Vesuviani to their first cup final in fifteen years and guarantee Cavani’s side another European adventure next season, but in doing so at the expense of the side that captured the enthusiasm of a nation in this season’s Coppa Italia, Giuseppe’s Sannino’s super little Siena.

Brave Siena went into the game with Napoli trying to hold onto a slender 2-1 lead from the first leg, a task that proved a step too far for the side that had battled through the tournament against the odds according to Ladbrokes, past the likes of Cagliari, Palermo and Chievo, to within ninety minutes of achieving the fairytale feat of an appearance in their first ever Coppa Italia final, and all in Sannino’s debut season in charge of the Tuscans.

Upon witnessing the miraculous rebuilding job Antonio Conte has achieved  in his debut campaign at the helm of Juventus, bringing the club back to the top of the Italian game this season as  serious Scudetto challengers once-more, and this on the back of guiding previous club Siena to promotion the previous season, you can begin to really understand the momentous task Sannino took on by replacing the former Italy midfielder in charge of the Tuscan outfit, and yet the fifty-five year old has thus far taken the job in his stride as Sannino remains on course to guiding the club to Serie A survival, while the aforementioned Coppa Italia run could be seen as surpassing the accomplishments of his predecessor Conte’s time in charge already.

Not a bad day’s work at the office for the man experiencing his first ever taste of Serie A action after a playing career that spanned ten clubs in the lower divisions and a managerial record that to date has also seen him hold of the reigns of, oddly enough, ten different clubs including his latest adventure with the Tuscan’s Siena.

After a relatively modest managerial existence, Sannino brought to light his worth as a coach in 2008 when he took over at, the then Serie C2 outfit, Varese. It was his second spell in charge of Varese after his first attempt saw him relieved of his duties after just one season in charge of the club that had also provided him the breakthrough during his playing days back in 1975.

Nevertheless it was Sannino’s second spell in charge of the Leopardi that will be recalled in much higher regard than his playing days for the club after he successfully inspired Varese’s rise from Serie C2 to Serie B and the cusp of Serie A football following two consecutive promotions and a playoff place against Padova all in the space of just three years. Unfortunately the high flyers and Serie B revelation’s under Sannino where unable to achieve their third consecutive promotion and lost out to Padova in the semi-finals of the 2010-11 playoffs.

Although Varese where resound to Serie B football for another season, the fate of their coach Sannino was not to be the same and instead he found himself finally reaching the crowning glory that is Serie A as he took over the reigns of outgoing Conte at Siena, a club he had fought against with Varese for promotion the previous season, and has never since looked back.

Not only has Sannino lead the Robur on that aforementioned incredible Coppa Italia run before bowing out to Napoli, but he has also managed to steer the club above their much higher profile Tuscan rivals Fiorentina in the Serie A standings, an achievement that if Sannino can hold until the end of the season will ensure massive celebrations by the fans of the side known as the Bianconeri of Tuscany.

Nonetheless, if that achievement becomes an order too tall with Fiorentina welcoming back the brilliance of world class attacker Stevan Jovetic, then Sannino is still well on course to steering Siena towards that magical forty point mark that usually guarantees safety to stay in the top flight as the club sit just eight points away from the landmark total. What’s more encouraging still, Siena certainly have reason to believe that the point total is attainable as in their last ten games in all competitions Siena have managed to record five wins including three victories on the trot in the league before their recent loss to Novara spoiled their league record.

Yet Sannino’s Siena certainly have their work cut out for them if they are to see the fruits of their impressive work so far come to light and remain in Serie A, be it with or without attaining that forty point safety zone, as they face a very tough close season fixture list including trips away to Inter, Lazio and Napoli, while also playing host to Udinese and Milan.

However once again, Siena tifosi can take solace of the fact that under Sannino, the Stadio Artemio Franchi boys have witnessed some fantastic results against the bigger clubs this season having taken four points off Roma from their two games, drawing with Napoli in their one league encounter so far, while as mentioned, also recording a first leg win over the Partenopei in the Coppa Italia, drawing with Juventus in the league and thrashing Lazio comprehensively by four goals to nil.

Still not impressed or even convinced that Siena can remain in Serie A with a fixture list like that mentioned above? Well under Sannino Siena have devised the sixth best defensive record in the league, conceding just thirty goals all season, the same total as Napoli and three better off than Roma, four on Lazio and a massive fourteen on Inter respectively.

Not exactly relegation statistics are they? Especially when you consider the above also makes for far superior reading when compared to any of the relegation favourites Novara, Cesena and Lecce. That’s not saying Siena are even in a relegation battle though. Sitting six points above final drop zone placed Lecce, and also cushioned above Parma and Fiorentina, Siena still have a healthy margin for error over a number of the relegation contenders and, unbelievably, are actually just three points off the top ten positions in a very delicate Serie A table.

On target to reach their goal for the season of survival, Sannino’s success has bore down to tactical astuteness, as seen with their defensive record mentioned and strong man management skills after Sannino’s revitalisation of former Napoli striker, come Siena hitman, Emanuele Calaio. The striker’s partnership with former Inter Primavera forward Mattia Destro proved potent in grabbing important wins for the Robur, with Calaio particularly impressive, bagging eleven goals to his name.

In any fairytale season though, their must come a nightmare and on the 11th of March Siena where dealt theirs as Calaio fractured his left fibula and was ruled out for the season. In his absence, Siena have succumbed to back-to-back losses in those games mentioned earlier against Novara in the league and in the Coppa Italia against Napoli.

Sannino’s performance as manager of Siena has so far been nothing less than sensational, however if he is to prove himself, as many rumours are circulating, worthy of a big team, then it well depend on whether he can maintain Siena’s strong season and steer the ship to the port that is Serie A survival in the absence of his key component, Calaio.

Destro is the man Sannino will look towards to stand up and be counted from now until the end of the season as the leading striker in Calaio’s absence and the Genoa loaned forward, already the club’s second top scorer with five goals, does possess the potential to lead the line successfully as Calaio’s replacement. However still only twenty years of age, it will be up to Sannino to help the youngster deal with the pressure of becoming the side’s focal point in attack for the remainder of the campaign and help Siena’s cause for, at the very least, Serie A survival.

Siena have certainly caught the eye under Sannino and have proven themselves to be no Serie A pushovers this season. If Sannino can just steady the ship for one final push in the absence of Calaio and mirror the results earned so far in the season by maintaining that defensive solidity his Siena side have become known for going into the final stretch of ten games, then come May, Siena may well be looking back on 2011-12 as a year to remember under Super Sannino.

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