Saidy Janko On Manchester United, BSC Young Boys, And playing Under Brendan Rodgers At Celtic

Saidy Janko On Manchester United, BSC Young Boys, And playing Under Brendan Rodgers At Celtic

An interview with Saidy Janko, by Callum McFadden for WFi.

You are now in your second spell at Young Boys and are set to play in the Champions League with the club this season. How excited are you to be back playing football in Bern?

“I am loving being back at the club because I won the Swiss league title and Swiss Cup double during my first spell with the club and I am motivated to achieve further success in my second spell.

“The season so far is going well and I cannot wait to play in the Champions League group stage for the first time in my career.

“It is such an achievement for the club to be in such a prestigious competition and we want to acquit ourselves well in each game that we play.

“Added to that, we want to be competing for the domestic title this season and continue to grow our standing in Swiss football.”

You joined Manchester United as a teenager from FC Zurich when David Moyes was manager. What was your time in Manchester like as a youngster?

“It was a phenomenal move for me at the age of seventeen years old but also a little overwhelming because I joined one of the biggest clubs in world football.

“I learned so much from my time training with the first team at Manchester United and I was also able to play for the first team in the League Cup under Louis Van Gaal too which was a proud moment.”

Which first-team players impressed you the most during training sessions at Manchester United?

“As characters, the first team players kept themselves to themselves on the whole but training alongside them was an honour.

“The players that impressed me the most were Nani, Adnan Januzaj and Juan Mata. Their technical skills were sublime and as players, they were a joy to watch and learn from.

“I will also always be grateful to Louis van Gaal for giving me my first team debut at Manchester United but he did not talk to the youngsters like myself in any great degree of depth.

“On the other hand, I have to say that David Moyes was great with me – and the younger players – when I joined the club even though he was under a lot of pressure during his time in charge.

“He always had time for young players and he wanted to join the first team in pre-season in 2014 but unfortunately, he lost his job before that opportunity could come around for me.

“I felt for David when he lost his job because he is showing at West Ham that he is a very good manager and winning the UEFA Conference League is a magnificent achievement for him and for his club.”

You joined Bolton Wanderers on loan under Neil Lennon during your time at United. How much did you learn during that loan spell?

“I learned a lot from my time at Bolton because the club had experienced players such as Eidur Gudjohnsen and Emile Heskey at that time.

“It was great to train with them and hear their stories from their top-level careers. Both of them were top characters who had time for everyone.

“I enjoyed playing in the Championship and we managed to stay up despite a tough season with off-the-pitch stories dominating the headlines for the club at that time.”

You left Manchester United for Celtic on a permanent basis in 2015. What was your initial reaction to joining Celtic?

“I was thrilled because Celtic are also a massive club throughout Europe and across the world.

“I relished the new challenge in Scottish football.

“However, I did not manage to play as many games as I would have liked to because just as I had broken into the team, I suffered an injury in training from a tackle by Emilio Izaguirre.

“That kept me out of action for a long time and halted my progress.

“Despite that, Celtic was a good learning curve for me and I played my last game against Hapoel Ber Sheva as the club qualified for the Champions League under Brendan Rodgers.”

You worked under Ronnie Deila and Brendan Rodgers during your time in Glasgow. How did they compare as coaches?

“Ronny Deila was a decent coach but Brendan Rodgers was a top-class coach and on another level.

“You could tell that Brendan had worked at the highest level of the game with Liverpool before he came to Celtic.

“He made a positive impression on me and the squad as a whole with his man-management style and his tactical awareness.

“The difference between both coaches was massive and it was no surprise for me to see Brendan Rodgers achieve great success at Celtic after I had left the club.”

You played for St Etienne in Ligue 1 and Real Valladolid in La Liga after leaving Celtic. What were your experiences of football in Ligue 1 and La Liga like?

“St Etienne are a massive club and I did not fully realise that until I had joined.

“Ligue 1 is a physical league and every game that we played in was a challenge but I loved the experience as a whole.

“On the other hand, La Liga was not as physical as a league as Ligue 1 was. I had a physical advantage over many of the players that I faced in Spain but their technical ability was fantastic on the whole.

“I really enjoyed representing Real Valladolid but we suffered relegation after my first season which was disappointing for everyone at the club.

“That being said, I have good memories of my time there. Ronaldo Nazario is the owner of the club and he would come to training a few times per month to speak to the players and ask how you were.

“He was a chilled guy and like an uncle to everyone within the club. You could see how much he cared for the team and the club as a whole.”

You experienced another of the top five European leagues at Bochum in the Bundesliga. What was it like to play in German football?

“I thoroughly enjoyed playing in the Bundesliga and for Bochum.

“The club has a unique transfer policy of signing mostly free agents or players on loan which was cool.

“That made it even more remarkable that we managed to stay in the Bundesliga during my time there but there is such a strong mentality at the club.

“The fans live for football and it was a joy to play for the club.”

Finally, Saidy, you represent Gambia at international level and reached the quarter-finals of the African Cup of Nations in 2021. How would you reflect on your time with the national team so far?

“I love playing for Gambia and it is always an honour to represent the nation.

“The fact that we are such a small nation yet were able to reach the quarter-finals of AFCON was nothing short of incredible.

“I hope to have many more experiences of playing for my country in the years ahead and continue to perform as well as I can at club level too.”