As part of Sky Sports' League One spotlight, Rachel Griffiths catches up with Swindon's Italian Raffaele De Vita.
Last Updated: 27/05/13 11:36am
Raffaele De Vita: Targeting back-to-back promotions with Swindon
The 2012/13 campaign is about to enter the final straight, with promotion pushes and relegation battles now in full swing.
Here at Sky Sports we continue to take you to the very heart of the Football League, with our Spotlight features intended to give you a greater insight into the clubs and players that keep us on the edge of our seats.
We are hoping to bring you the views and thoughts of a representative from each of the 72 teams over the course of the season, with those involved asked to give their take on the division they compete in, the club that pays their wages and those we should all be keeping an eye on.
Swindon's Italian forward Raffaele De Vita is next in the hot-seat as he discusses the Robins' hopes of securing back-to-back promotions and where his future lies with Rachel Griffiths.
"I think we're up there and we've proved that on our day we can beat anyone, so I don't see why we shouldn't compete for promotion until the end."
Raffaele De Vita Quotes of the week
Swindon are in the fight to go up again this season following promotion from League Two last year. Are you happy with how things are going?
There's been ups and down this season. I don't think we started as well as last year, when it wasn't great at the very start but we managed to go on a decent run. This year has been good because we've just been promoted but there have been a few patches during the season where we've struggled. The problem has been that playing at home last year it was a guaranteed three points, while this year we've been struggling a little bit and we've not managed to put many wins together. Saying that, we've not lost a game since the end of November, so we're always hard to beat. But I think we need to get more wins in the next few games. At the moment we're in a good position and everything is looking well for the next few months.
You're sixth in the table and three points off the top spot ahead of Tuesday night's trip to Tranmere. Can you secure back-to-back promotions?
There are many teams that are at the same level, pretty much. There are also some teams at the moment who are in really good form. Bournemouth and Yeovil are getting some wins together and the big teams like Sheffield United and Doncaster are doing really well. But I think we're up there and we've proved that on our day we can beat anyone, so I don't see why we shouldn't compete for promotion until the end.
It's a competitive league this year with several teams vying for promotion. Are you expecting a tight finish?
I think so. In this league anyone can beat each other and I think it's going to be really tight. It's really strange; you win two games and find yourself near the top and then lose two games and you're out of the play-off spots. There's only 14 or 15 games left and I don't really see anyone running away with it so it will probably be decided at the end.
Would you settle for the play-offs or is automatic promotion the main focus?
Obviously the play-offs would be better than nothing but at this stage I don't think we should be trying for anything else other than automatic promotion. We're in a good position and we have enough depth in our squad to challenge for that.
You're out of contract at Swindon in the summer. Have you made any plans for beyond that?
Not really, no. The gaffer doesn't really want to speak about contracts until the end of the season because obviously he wants everyone focused on the league. So it's not the right time. It's not just me; some of the other lads' contracts are also up at the end of the season. I think it's not the right time to concentrate on that. The next few games are so important and then maybe after that we can start planning for next season and see what happens.
But would you personally be happy to stay?
I think Swindon is one of the best clubs in League One so I definitely wouldn't rule out staying. I like it here; I like the club, the people that work here and the environment in general. So I'd love to stay here.
You were born in Rome and moved to England as a 15-year-old with Blackburn's youth academy. How different is it plying your trade over here?
It's very different. I was 15 when I left and growing up in an academy like Blackburn was very good for me. There aren't many academies at that level in Italy, even at the top clubs. At the moment I think is England is the best country in Europe to play football in and for a young boy to grow up here is just perfect. Italian football is really struggling at the moment, especially in the lower leagues. In England you get 10,000 people coming to watch Swindon games and at the same level in Italy you wouldn't get more than 1,000. When I speak to my family and my mates back home, they can't believe you get so many people following the club and turning up for games everywhere. Everywhere we go we get 1,000-2,000 people turning up, even on a Tuesday night, which is incredible. I think it's definitely the right place to play.
Do you think the bigger attendances are a reflection of the club's ambition?
Since the gaffer came in at Swindon the people have been really excited about the club and realise the club is always trying to get better. We've just got promoted from League Two and instead of just trying to survive in League One the club have built a team to try and get promoted. That's probably why everyone is getting carried away and, as I've said, they follow us everywhere.
You played in Scotland with Livingston for three seasons between 2008-11 - how was that?
It was a difficult time. At the start I really enjoyed it because the club was taken over by some Italian businessmen and they tried to do things really professionally but they ended up spending too much money and eventually the club ended up having some really bad financial problems. But apart from that it was a good time. It's a nice little club but compared to England there's not many people going to the stadiums and the weather doesn't help because there are many games called off during the winter. In general in England you get noticed a lot more and feel like you're playing on a bigger stage. There's still many good clubs in Scotland and it's generally a good place to live and play. But I worked hard to come to England so I'd love to stay here as long as possible. When I left Italy when I was 15 and came to Blackburn I always said I wanted to stay there as long as possible so once I got the chance to move again from Scotland to England I realised this was the place where I wanted to play.
As a Lazio fan you've made no secret of your contempt for city rivals Roma. (Raffa's Twitter profile states "I hate A.S. Roma"). Living away from Italy hasn't dampened your passion?
Hate is probably a strong word. Obviously in Rome there's a big rivalry, I think it's one of the biggest in the world. It's similar to Rangers and Celtic, even though it's not religious. The rivalry is so big it's like a lifestyle. The lifestyle is different from our fans to their fans and it's hard to get on with each other.How have you found it working under fellow Italian Paolo Di Canio at Swindon?
For me it's like nothing I've ever experienced before. His professionalism and his knowledge of the game is second to none, and it's hard to believe he's only been involved in management and coaching for two years. The way he prepares for games and the detail he gives you every weekend is unbelievable. You go on the pitch and you know absolutely everything about the opposition. His training sessions are to a really high standard, he covers every single aspect of the game - tactics, shape, everything you can name. For me he's helped me to grow up as a player. I've been really lucky to have worked with him for two years.
Do you believe he's the main factor behind Swindon's success?
I think he's obviously played a major part and also what I was saying about the fans' loyalty, I think he's also a major factor in that. There's always something happening when he's involved. That's why the fans are probably getting attached to this team and to the manager. You don't see many characters like him. The difference between him and other managers is that what he says in the changing room he also says publicly, where some other managers might try and talk to the press in a different way. But he just says what he thinks and I think most people appreciate that.
"I think Swindon is one of the best clubs in League One so I definitely wouldn't rule out staying. I like it here; I like the club, the people that work here and the environment in general. So I'd love to stay here."
Raffaele De Vita Quotes of the week
Di Canio has deployed you largely as a winger rather than your usual position as a striker. How are you finding the change?
I came as a striker but then he thought it wasn't my natural position so he moved me onto the left. To be fair I've played many games there now so I'm starting to feel like a proper winger, even though at the start it was a little bit hard because I didn't really know what he wanted from me. But I think I've got used to it quite quickly. I definitely enjoy it. We play some good football so when we attack you get involved in the attacks a lot more than in other teams. You always get a lot of balls. We're not the type of team to kick the ball forward and hope for something, we try to build chances from the back.
Do you have a goal target in mind this season after netting eight already?
At the start I didn't really have a target, I just wanted to play a lot of games. But now that I'm on eight goals I really hope I can get to double figures as soon as possible and then keep playing games. That's what every player wants. You just want to help the team as much as possible.
Swindon travel to relegation rivals Tranmere on Tuesday - how important will that game be?
It's a big game. It's been called off already so we've been waiting for this game for a long time and I think they have as well. When they came to our place they lost 5-0 so I think they'll be trying to get us back. It was a really hard night for them. So they'll have been waiting for this game as much as us. I think the fact that we didn't play at the weekend and we've got a few more days to get ready is going to help us a lot. We're getting fired up for the game and we've prepared in the right way.