Ahead of Sunday's clash with Torino, the Crazy Faithful caught up with Torino Blogger Rob Gillman, author of "From Serie B to Bilbao: An in-depth look at Giampiero Ventura's five year reign as Torino coach".
First up, could you tell us a bit about your own interest in Italian football in general and your passion for Torino in particular?
I was always a fan of Italian football when I was younger, as it was my only regular chance to see live football on terrestrial TV in England. I went to Milan on a family holiday in 2005 and went to see AC Milan and Inter play at the San Siro, but being a Southampton fan, I wanted to support a less high profile team. Then I read about Torino’s history, their tale of triumph and tragedy and I was obsessed. After our relegation to Serie B it was difficult to find information in English so I set up my own website and Twitter account for English speaking Toro fans.
Notwithstanding defeats to Inter, Lazio and Juve, Torino have picked up points against the likes of Cagliari, Brescia, Genoa and Fiorentina this season. How would you assess Torino’s domestic form and what are your objectives for the season?
We have been worryingly inconsistent this season, although winning three of our last four games is promising. Had we started the season a bit better, I think some fans would have hoped we could challenge for a Champions League place, but realistically the best we can hope for is a possible Europa League place and maybe a good run in the Coppa Italia.
Torino have enjoyed a taste of European football this season (losing 3-5 against a rampant Wolves in the Europa League). With Atalanta also enjoying a remarkable European campaign, what does European football mean for clubs like Atalanta and Torino?
I was delighted that Toro managed to qualify for Europe this season, the only disappointment was that our involvement ended in August. Torino were extremely unlucky as UEFA’s strange method in making the draw for the Playoff Round before the previous round had finished meant we were unseeded, whilst had they waited for the previous ties to be concluded, we would have been seeded. We then went and got Wolves, which was probably the toughest draw we could have got - I feel we also didn’t play to our full potential in that tie, which was unfortunate. I was happy to see Atalanta progress to the last 16 of the Champions League, as feel for the so called ‘lesser’ Serie A teams, European football means a bit more as it is not something that happens regularly and isn’t taken for granted.
Belotti seems likely to return to action on Sunday. How important is he and which other players would you identify as key threats for Verona on Sunday?
Andrea Belotti is undoubtedly our best player and whilst results have been good in his absence, he has been sorely missed. As our captain, he leads by example and makes everyone else raise their game. Cristian Ansaldi has been a key player in the last few seasons, and managed to get a goal and an assist in the victory v Fiorentina last weekend. Armando Izzo is probably our most consistent defender, and is always a threat from set pieces.
Finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday?
I’m usually pessimistic when it comes to Torino predictions but we do finally seem to be coming into a bit of form. If Andrea Belotti is fit, I’m confident we may be able to get a result. I’ll go for 2-1 Torino.
Thanks Rob. A pleasure speaking to you.
Don't forget you can pick up your copy of Rob's book on Amazon for just £1.99!