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Thread: You Can't Win 'Em All ....

  1. #526

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    The Confederations Cup on the horizon but first some confidence building in winning your three friendlies including wins over your home country and then your biggest rivals Argentina. You make light work of your group winning all your games and scoring 11 in the process, to set up a plum semi final tie with Australia which was over and done with early, hopefully you were saving the other goals for the final.

    To the final then and familiar opposition in Ecuador, this is becoming quite the occurrence now When I was younger me and my mate would play against Ecuador on Pro Evo and when they lined up for their national anthem we played Sash - Ecuador You take a deserved lead but then concede late on and it's all looking a bit familiar in an International final against Ecuador. No disaster this time though as you come alive in the additional thirty minutes to score not once but twice to seal the trophy

    Ecuador again in the WC Group Stage, better get that Sash CD out again

  2. #527

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    Sandu looks the sort of winger to carry on the history of great wide men at the club, while Vandevelde should orchestrate things in the middle of the park for you. Jhon repaying you with his move up front while others chipped in as you won the Championship without having to play a playoff final, nice work indeed

    You were free to leave and that Belgian club (not going to write their name ) was a great opportunity but you'll do anything to keep Thistle the dominant force in Europe and so you turned it down so your beloved Jags could lift another CL trophy, I hope you're happy with yourself

    The wait for a new club continues then as you head into a World Cup on home soil, no pressure at all! Bizarre stuff with the postponement of that final group game, even more so when Jamaica beat you! Thankfully it didn't matter as you'd won your two other games including a romp over them buggers Ecuador.

    Once again you avoid Italy in the next round and so it would be Senegal you would face, let's hope they don't pull off another shock like the 2002 WC opening game against France! It was indeed a tough game but it doesn't matter how you win them just win them and you did thanks to a set piece. Cameroon in the quarters, reminds me of WC 90 when they gave England a fright before Lineker turned it round after Milla's heroics, but there were no such problems in your game as you ran out comfortable winners.

    The business end of the tournament now and two massive semi finals, I bet you're glad you didn't face Germany in fear of a possible 7-1 defeat A nice early goal against the French settles any nerves and then you run riot, and whoever you faced in the final must be worried after a performance like that!

    That opponent would be rivals Argentina, a massive game just got even better, hopefully it's not like WC 50 when Uruguay beat Brazil to lift the trophy thanks in part to a howler from the Brazil keeper. Not the time to run into a super keeper then, especially when they score with their first attack just before half time! It looked like you'd never make the breakthrough but finally late on you grabbed an equaliser, no more than you deserved either. What a dramatic ending though, looking like extra time in a final once again for you but then a penalty to you - some cojones (or money) that ref must have, and Moreira makes no mistake, some balls from him going for a Paneka too!

  3. #528

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    Quote Originally Posted by AMC View Post
    You were free to leave and that Belgian club (not going to write their name ) was a great opportunity but you'll do anything to keep Thistle the dominant force in Europe and so you turned it down so your beloved Jags could lift another CL trophy, I hope you're happy with yourself
    To be fair, I hadn't won the state championship when I got the offer (still 3 games to play), so It was more about landing the title in Brazil. There will be more chances to win the Champion's League.
    The artist formally known as The Eejit

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  5. #529

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    Chapter 98 - Deniz the Meniz




    Denizlispor

    Denizlispor (due to current sponsorship Yukatel Denizlispor) is a Turkish sports club based in Denizli in South Western Turkey. Denizlispor Kulübü was founded on May 26, 1966 as a merger of two smaller youth sports clubs, Çelik Yeşilspor Gençlik and Pamukkale Gençlik. They joined to form what is now Denizlispor. This union was then registered with Turkish football's governing body and joined Turkish football's 2nd division for the upcoming season on July 14, 1966.

    There best finish has been 5th in The Super Lig, twice in 2001–2002 and 2003–2004 seasons and 2 cup semi finals. Denizlispor's form declined after 2004–2005 season and struggled avoiding from relegation until 2010 when they went down to the second tier. They won the 1. Lig last season and are again a top flight club for the 2019/20 season.


    They have become something of a yo-yo team with 10 relegations and 10 promotions in the intervening years. There best run was a 24 year stint in Super Lig which resulted in 3 league titles in 5 years, including a domestic double and 2 further cup wins. Last season they were promoted again and will start the season in Super Lig, exactly what I need to win.

    I had been hoping for better than a newly promoted club, especially as Turkey has some very good club sides who usually go deep into the European Competitions. Kayserispor (3 times), Manisaspor and Basaksehir have all won the Champions League and their clubs have claimed 7 Europa Leagues. This will need a massive effort to win at the first attempt with Denizlispor, however there is the attraction of an £18m transfer kitty to sweeten the deal. Besides, you've got to be in it to win it and I'm in the perfect place to move to a bigger club if the chance arrives.

    For now, the Denizlispor did have some pretty decent players. There wont be many better defenders in this league than Samet Ceylan, however he was one of 6 leading players who had agreed transfers before I joined. Fortunately I did still have Mustafa Akdag who knew where the back of the net is and scored 19 last season on way to the fans player of the year.


    The big problem was a lack of balance in the side. There were some great defenders and a host of decent attackers, but a virtual vacuum in midfield and a collection of so called goalkeepers that would make you wince. Turning this into a competitive squad was not as simple as opening the chairman's cheque book. Because of the 11 foreign player restriction, I had only a couple of places available there until I could make some sales. And getting Turkish players in was also not easy. Few clubs were willing to sell anyone that I would want, and when I did find someone and managed to agree an overpriced deal, there would be a sudden flood of offers from other clubs and inevitably I would lose out.

    In the end I managed to bring in 11 players, mostly midfielders, spending £6m in the process. I was helped by one of the pre arranged deals falling through, but I still brought in £17.5m from the 8 departures that were completed. I didn't have high hopes, especially when Bursaspor taught us a lesson in the the difference between 1. Lig and Super Lig in the opening fixture.


    Gradually we found or feet and worked out a formation and personnel which worked. It helped when I abandoned my preferred squad rotation and adopted a fixed 1st 11 who would start when fit. The trouble was that when (baring a few exceptions) I had to play anyone outside of that 11 we struggled badly. The January transfer window couldn't come soon enough as we had been very lucky with suspensions and injuries. That said, I'm not sure that I was ever going to be able to do anything about a phenomenal Bursaspor squad. Third for me at the half-way stage looked to be a damned good effort.


    Having managed to shift the last of the unwanted foreign players, I was now able to bring in some much needed quality and no surprise that I went to Brazil to find it. 4 Arrived from Brazilian clubs, including a Bissau-Guinean winger from Sport Recife who carried a Turkish passport from 7 years spent at Istanbulspor.


    Although we played better and at times looked like challengers, the results didn't quite match the play we deserved. The red cards we had avoided in the first half now cost us, as well as some stunning goalkeeping performances. Even if we had carried our luck, nothing was going to stop Bursaspor who had such a big lead that it wasn't worth looking at the job market in Turkey. I did have a sniff at the Inter de Lages job when they were second in Campeonato Catarinense and a chance to complete Brazil, but I believed that I had a base to build a winning squad for next season. Bursaspor could not be as good again.

    Besides, I knew they were beatable. The reserve team had made it through 3 rounds of the cup and now faced Bursaspor in the semi final over 2 legs. A late goal earned us a 1-1 draw from the home leg, so it was all to play for. I resisted temptation and played the reserves again. It was backs to the wall, but some stunning saves from 33 year old Ugur Civelek kept us in it, although Bursaspor did have the away goal advantage. 8 minutes remained and there looked to be no danger as Çetin was forced wide on the right. He still made room to whip in a cross to the far post where Trinidadian winger Conrad Edwards was unmarked and he hit it first time into the Bursaspor net.


    I kept faith with the reserves who went on to beat Ankaragücü in the final.


    I did say earlier that Turkish sides had a good record in Europe. As it happens, Bursaspor made it all the way to the Champions League final in Copenhagen, which will be an all Turkish affair. On the eve of their semi final first leg against Thistle, their manager bunked off to a relegation challenge in Russia. Managerless, they won the semi final 2-1 on aggregate to set up that date in Denmark.

    Question is, do I stick, or do I twist ?







    International Update



    Brazil

    A year of friendlies before the Copa America, but the first of them was a replay of the World Cup final. Argentina would be the visitors for the chance to say a final goodbye to captain Eduadro Gonçalves. He was retiring from internationals to give a final contract at Zaragoza his full attention


    It is fair to say that this Brazilian team can be accused of a lack of effort at times. Get a couple of goals up and they go into cruise mode, trying to find the perfect goal with minimum effort. It is also true that when they want to, they can turn on the style. For Eduardo's farewell, they turned on the style. It took just 12 minutes for Moriera to open the scoring, and Eduardo's replacement in midfield, Diá made it 2-0 on 22 minutes. Normally that would be that, but not today. Moriera added a 3rd before halftime


    The second half was only a few minutes old when Marlon was scythed down and the referee pointed to the spot. With the crowd calling for Eduardo to take it, Moriera grabbed the ball and tucked away the penalty. Never has a home hat-trick in the Maracanã been greeted with so many boos ! Eduardo did have his moment, a lightning turn in midfield made space for him to gallop into and he had the vision to pick out a pass for Diá to run onto for 5-0. The master giving the apprentice a lesson. But there was more, despite getting jeered every time he touched the ball, Moriera was left unmarked at the far post and had an easy tap in for his 4th of the match.

    6-0 the final score and both Eduardo and the Brazilian fans could go home happy. It was followed by a routine 1-0 win in Colombia, then back at the Maracanã we again went on the goal trail. Diá again scored twice in a 5-0 romp.

    This summer would be the Copa America and we have drawn Chile, China and Bolivia. To warm up we played Argentina again, home and away and again we were easy victors, 4-1 and 2-0. It is all set up for a thrilling summer. Can we add the Copa to the World Cup and the Confederation Cup ?
    The artist formally known as The Eejit

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  7. #530

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    A new club job then and from the sounds of things in a very tough league, not going to be easy as a newly promoted club but thankfully there's some money to strengthen, but also nice to have a striker who knows where the back of the net is too which you've inherited with Akdag.

    You managed to make some signings but not as many as you like, nor your first choice picks, and maybe this showed in your first game as Bursaspor humbled you. Still a good first half of the season as you find yourself in 3rd, a shame that Bursaspor already have a bit of a buffer. More players moved on and no surprise you take to Brazil to bring players in, that is one hell of a winger you've brought in too! Hell of a run with the reserves to win the Cup too, a bit more wheeling and dealing and I'm confident you'll be lifting the trophy next year.

    Wow what an offer though, they've already beat Partick so you don't have to worry about stopping your beloved winning yet another trophy, surely too big an opportunity to turn down, but I fancy you want that Turkish title over Bursaspor and will stay.

    I'm guessing you forgot to make Eduardo Goncalves penalty taker for his farewell game?

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  9. Take it! You could win the Champions League and then next season take the Turkish League with them...

    I mean I think you've been building Denizlispor nicely and could take the League with them next reason but if it was me I'd gamble for bigger glory!

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  11. #532

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    Quote Originally Posted by James_y View Post
    Take it! You could win the Champions League and then next season take the Turkish League with them...

    I mean I think you've been building Denizlispor nicely and could take the League with them next reason but if it was me I'd gamble for bigger glory!
    Except that I need to win each title with a different club, so if I were to win the Champions League, I'd be starting from scratch with another Turkish club.
    The artist formally known as The Eejit

  12. Quote Originally Posted by Kingsley View Post
    Except that I need to win each title with a different club, so if I were to win the Champions League, I'd be starting from scratch with another Turkish club.
    My bad, I missed that stipulation... hard call then... but I'd probably still go and if you fail to win CL then you'll still have a shot at the Turkish League next year

  13. #534

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    Chapter 99 - A No Brainer




    Gençlerbirligi

    Gençlerbirliği Spor Kulübü, is a Turkish sports club based in Ankara. Formed in 1923, Gençlerbirliği are nicknamed Ankara Rüzgârı (The Wind of Ankara) or simply Gençler (The Youth). The football team currently plays its home matches at Eryaman Stadium, following the closure of the Ankara 19 Mayıs.

    Gençlerbirliği were founded in a slightly different way compared to many other football clubs, having been established by students from a high school, Ankara Erkek Lisesi. The students in question had failed to be selected for their own school team, and asked one of their student friends, Asim, to talk with his father about setting up a football team for them to show how well they could play. On 14 March 1923, Asim's father, the member of parliament from Muş Province, established the team for his son and his friends. Since all the members of the team were students he chose the name 'Youth Union' (Turkish: Gençlerbirliği). Subsequently, these young students wanted to play against the school team which had not selected them. Gençlerbirliği won the game, 3–0. According to these young rebellious players this victory forged the identity of their new team.

    Domestically, the club have won the Turkish Cup twice, in 1987 and 2001. They have also won the former Turkish Football Championship twice and the Ankara Football League a record nine times. In Europe, Gençlerbirliği's greatest success came in 2004. The club reached the fourth round of the UEFA Cup before losing to eventual champions Valencia.

    They currently play in Super Lig having been promoted last season. Geremi and Isaac Promise are both products of their youth academy



    Gençlerbirligi have established themselves as one of the top clubs in Turkey, having won the league title 6 times and the cup 5 times (one domestic double). This will be their 3rd Champions League final, having lost both of their previous visits. They also lost their only Europa League final. Some famous names have graced the managers office, including Sergio Busquets, Mesut Özil, Ilkay Gündogan and most recently Anôtonio Carlos Filho who I released on my first day at Imperatriz !

    It really wasn't a hard decision to move from Denizlispor. 2 league games to warm up for a Champions League final and even if I didn't win that, the squad was already a better building block than Denizlispor for next season and I had more money to spend and twice the wage budget. I bit their hand off. It was a massive 49 player squad, so I would have some work to do if I have to, but there were some very good players, especially in defence where not many were going to get past Bernhard Hopfer and Dávid Gál




    In total 12 players had international caps, including leading scorer Medhi Belahmeur (Benin) who had 28 goals this season and Semih Pamuk (Turkey) who was on 18. The only real issue was wide midfield, so as the transfer window is closed will force me into a narrow midfield formation.

    Against Ç. Rizespor I started 4-3-3 and switched to 4-1-2-1-2 at half time when our dominance wasn't converted to goals. We finally found a winner 2 minutes from full time. Çengelköy was a similar story, starting with the diamond and getting a first half goal and ending with a more attacking formation. We looked better with the diamond, so I went with that for the final. I was not expecting a goal-fest from either side.

    We were unchanged from the starting 11 v Çengelkoy as I went for the diamond formation to start with. Bursaspor had a couple of injuries, but were very attacking with a 4-3-3 line-up. Not surprisingly we were on the back foot as Bursaspor attacked from the kick off and they won a series of corners in the opening minutes. Our defence survived this onslaught, but buy the 24th minute we had still not had a shot on target. Still Bursaspor came at us Henriques played a freekick to the far post where Ay climbed above his marker and watched in disbelief as his rocket header rebounded off the woodwork. It was still shaking when Sow collected the loose ball and squared for Maidana who's shot hit the post before going wide.


    And then we had our first attack, which ended with Belahmeur heading wide. Back on the defence and we were getting rather desperate, Hopfer being particularly luck to avoid a yellow card before the referee had finally had enough. Another free kick was headed clear and Buruk launched the ball into the Bursaspor half. Zyro got to it first and suddenly we had 3 on 2. de Oliveira was the man in space, he squared for Durmas who had the simplest of finishes to put us into a scarcely believable 1-0 lead.


    That goal took the sting out of Bursaspor and we had a lull, until just before half time, this time it was Cláudio who hit our woodwork for the third time in the half.

    Into the second period and another huge let off. Hopfer clattered Maidana as he was about to pull the trigger. Despite huge appeals, the penalty was not given. Had it been awarded it would surely have been a second booking for the defender. Bursaspor's main threats were from Henrique's free kicks, of which there were many, 19 in total, however Jacobsen in our goal was equal to anything that made it past the defensive wall.

    Hopfer again survived another penalty appeal, but the ball broke to Ay who's first time shot again hit the woodwork before being cleared out of play. We were restricted to occasional breaks, but nearly grabbed a second goal were it not from a double save by Yasser. And that was it. We had expected a final throw of the dice from Bursaspor, but they had run out of ideas. We passed the ball across the midfield and maintained possession for most of the last 10 minutes and saw the game out without any further incident.

    I'm not sure that we were the better team (2 shots on target to their 12), but we had man of the match Thomas Jacobsen who got his gloves to every one of them. Gençlerbirligi were European Champions.







    International Update



    Brazil

    Venezuela were the hosts for the Copa America and were grouped with Chile, China and a Bolivia side which was a shadow of their former selves. We were hardly tested, winning all 3 (2-1, 2-0 and 3-0) and faced only 3 shots on target over the 3 games. Quarter final opponents Paraguay were little better and after going 2-0 up it was cruise control to the end of the game. So far it had been like training games.


    Surely Argentina would mount some resistance in a major semi final. The world number 1 ranked side. It appears that we have some sort of spell over them as they barely laid a glove on us and a hat-trick from Cláudio (the same guy that played for Bursaspor in the CL final) saw us record our 8th win in a row against our arch rivals.

    And that left Uruguay. It may have been a pathetic tournament, but at least we could turn on the style for the final, especially as after 17 minutes the winners were no longer in doubt. An Ernani Moreira penalty and a Marlon header had put us 2-0 up. Ribeiro made it 3-0 on the stroke of half time and allowed us to take our foot off the gas for most of the second half. We ramped it up for a final flourish in the last 15 minutes which saw Santana Jr make it 4-0 and Moreira, with his 50th goal for Brazil in just 63 caps, completed a 5-0 thrashing.


    I hope that the Scotland manager is sacked soon so that I have some sort of challenge. It will now be friendlies until the Confederations Cup, although I might take the Olympics seriously so that I can complete a grand slam.
    The artist formally known as The Eejit

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  15. Ah doesn't matter if they were the better team, you did it and the gamble was well worth it!

    So where next!?

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  17. #536

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    I do love it when a superkeeper works in your favour !

    Where next ? .... Turkey, Scotland or Sweden would be the preferences as I have unfinished business there.
    The artist formally known as The Eejit

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    Disappointed in you leaving mate Understandable though, and a chance of a very quick stop.

    Hopefully it's third time lucky for them (and you) in the CL Final, always good to have a sound centre back partnership and it looks like that's what you have inherited.Familiar opposition in Bursaspor in the final then, Copenhagen took over by a Turkish invasion, for a couple of days anyway.

    Under the cosh right from the off, but you weathered the storm somehow and then grew into the game before finally taking the lead Once again though you're left thanking the frame of your goal for keeping your advantage heading into the break. The second half was more of the same, some desperate defending at times and more woodwork being hit by Bursaspor, before you controlled the game and saw it finish without any further incident, and the trophy was yours, congrats!

    Does the Copa America get any more straight forward than that? Who cares though as you lift another trophy. May as well go for that grand slam while it's on offer unless the Scotland job comes up again.

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  20. #538

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    Chapter 100 - The Case For The Defense




    Ç. Rizespor

    Çaykur Rizespor Kulübü is a Turkish professional football club based in Rize, in the eastern part of the Black Sea Region. The club play in the Turkish Süper Lig, which is the top tier of football in the country. The club was founded on May 19, 1953 with green-yellow as club colours, but later changed to blue-green. Since 1990, the team has been sponsored by the Turkish tea company Çaykur, hence the name and the image of a tea leaf on the club's logo.

    Despite being predominantly a top flight club, they have only ever played 1 European tie. In the 2001 Intertoto cup, they lost both legs to FK Pobeda of Macedonia.


    The early years were a bit of a roller coaster with frequent relegations and promotions between the top 2 leagues. However I take over for the start of their 28th consecutive Süper Lig campaign. During this spell, they have won the league 3 times and the cup three times. There has also been a Champions League quarter final and three Europa League semi finals.

    I actually rejected a couple of jobs in Turkey before accepting this challenge. Newly promoted Besiktas had no money to spend and Orhangazi Bld. Would have required a total rebuild without much to spend. Huddersfield might have been an interest project as they have recently struggled in the Premier League, however Ç. Rizespor looks like a good match, being 5th last season and offering a whopping £42.5m for me to spend on new players.

    On reviewing the squad, one player stood out, French striker Guillaume Fournier. I'll admit that he is no world beater, however he has scored just 5 career goals in 88 games which must make him among the most under achieving players ever.


    Despite his lack of goals, he was on paper one of my better forwards and I was determined to get something out of him. I did have some better players, mainly in defence, and in club captain Ibrahim Kalkan, the sort of do everything player that you can only dream of landing. Despite interest from other clubs, he was going nowhere.


    I still had 4 weeks of the transfer window remaining. My main problem was a lack of width to the midfield and I could use some firepower up front, however with 13 foreign players already in the squad, I'd have to move some of them on first, or recruit home players and this was the problem. I was also concerned about relying on 2 keepers who would both be 36 years old before the end of the season.

    I managed to get rid of 4 of the foreign players (2 released), but I totally failed to find any midfield width. I did bring back a Haitian striker who had been released by the previous manager and half a dozen Turkish players who I thought might improve the squad, but I was resigned to be playing with a narrow midfield again. Bursaspor had been spending heavily, including that amazing Bissau-Guinean winger from Denizlispor. I expected them to be my biggest threat, so it was important to get out of the blocks fast.

    Get out fast is what we did, winning all 7 of our opening league games. Despite being unbeaten last season and spending big in the summer, Bursaspor lost 2 and drew 1 of their opening 7 and so we had build a decent 8 point gap over our closest rivals for the title. They had closed the gap by a point at the half way stage of the league, but I couldn't have asked for more.


    Khamis Bessière, the Hiatian striker was proving to be a godsend, with 11 from 17, but Fournier failed to find the net in any of his 7 starts and was transfer listed, however it would be criminal of me not to put forward the case for the defence.

    No, this is not the one about a rabbi, a Hindu, and a lawyer in a car that breaks down in the countryside one evening. They walk to a nearby farm and the farmer tells them it’s too late for a tow truck but he has only two extra beds and one of them will have to sleep in the barn. The Hindu says, “I’m humble, I’ll sleep in the barn.” But minutes later he returns and knocks on the door and says, “There is a cow in the barn. It’s against my beliefs to sleep in the same building as a cow.” So the rabbi says, “It’s okay, I’ll sleep in the barn.” But soon, he is back knocking on the door as well, saying, “There is a pig in the barn, and I cannot shelter in a building with a pig.” So the lawyer is forced to sleep in the barn. Shortly, there is another knock on the door and the farmer sighs and answers it. It’s the pig and the cow.

    The goals against column says all you need to know.


    Just 4 conceded in 17 games and 7 consecutive clean sheets for veteran keeper Mehmet Cihan. As well as averaging 7.58 from his 19 starts between the sticks, he also picked up his 120th International Cap.


    Into the second transfer window and I moved on 6 of the foreign players, including Fournier who went to Antalyaspor and promptly scored against us (one of just two for them in 18 games). That allowed me to bring in the wide men that I craved, and an outstanding Uruguayan striker who I thought would take us to the next level. Perhaps the best £825k that I have ever spent.


    Playing with wingers may not have been as effective, but is was far more exciting to watch. With Bursaspor continuing to stutter, we didn't have to be so good and with Rodríguez leading the line we were never put under any pressure for the title.


    With 5 games to play we needed just a point away to Antalyaspor for the title. Starting in the 21st minute, Rodríguez slammed in a 7 minute hat-trick, then after the interval, made it 4-0 from the spot and banged in 2 more, 6 in the game, in a 7-0 party. What a way to claim a title !




    I did hope to find one of the Campeonato Catarinense leaders looking for a new manager, but no such luck this year. It is something that I will be keeping an eye on and would like to get that finished without the grind of a full season in Brazil. Instead I was focused on Scotland and Sweden, with one eye in case there was an interesting project in one of the other nations where I was looking for a job. It was a top flight club in Sweden that was the first to give me a chance and so I packed my bags and headed north.



    International Update



    Brazil

    Nothing to report but the usual round of friendlies, Uruguay twice, Columbia and Paraguay. All were routine wins. There are a couple of events worth noting for later in the year. Firstly the Olympics where I would like to complete a grand slam of International titles. We have been picked alongside Netherlands, Nigeria and New Zealand for the tournament being held in U.A.E.

    Secondly, the Brazilian blazers have set up an away friendly with Gibraltar (currently ranked 170th by FIFA. Brazil 1st) Anyone want to guess what the score might be ? Has to be a chance of double figures or maybe they have a super keeper.

    The artist formally known as The Eejit

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  22. #539

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    Denizlispor -

    The 'Cocks' of the Turkish League.
    Good you left them hen.
    Even though I guess the fans didn't Roost that decision.

    Ç. Rizespor

    I better leaf them alone.
    Though you've certainly plant-ed your mark there.
    Turkey done, time to par-tea.


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  24. All worked out perfect, got your Turkish League anyway this year plus the added bonus Champions League last year. The risk played out perfectly

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  26. #541

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    Quote Originally Posted by ZanSnake View Post
    Denizlispor -

    The 'Cocks' of the Turkish League.
    Good you left them hen.
    Even though I guess the fans didn't Roost that decision.

    Ç. Rizespor

    I better leaf them alone.
    Though you've certainly plant-ed your mark there.
    Turkey done, time to par-tea.

    I'd stick to the day job. I'm not sure that Wordsworth or Byron will be restless in their graves !
    The artist formally known as The Eejit

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    Chapter 101 - Breaking The Monopoly




    AFC Eskilstuna

    Athletic Football Club Eskilstuna is a Swedish football club located in Eskilstuna. The club has previously been known under the names FC Café Opera and Väsby United before switching ownership and their identity again in 2012 to AFC United. During the 2016 season it was once again decided that they would switch their name, identity, as well as locality. Choosing to move to Eskilstuna, about 110 kilometers west of Stockholm, they are since known as AFC Eskilstuna. They compete in Allsvenskan, the top tier of Swedish football. They have once been runners up in the league and made 1 cup final which they lost.


    Despite the appalling state of the finance for most Swedish clubs, AFC have survived relatively unscathed, with just 2 seasons spent outside the top flight. They have won the league 11 times and the cup 12 times (3 domestic doubles). Only twice have they made it past New Year in Europe.

    That success has been some time ago as the domestic scene had been dominated by Kongahälla, Varbergs BoIS and Helsingborg. This season looks to be no different with Varbergs BoIS already looking out of sight.


    That said, Varbergs BoIS finances are in a horrific state and even after a boardroom coupe, they are still considered to be insecure. I fail to see how they can rack up this sort of debt while being successful !


    Our finances are much better, with £380k in the bank and £50k available for me to spend. Not much, but superb by Swedish standards. The squad is also not bad. It lacks width in midfield and there is a reliance on veterans which I'll try to resolve. The other issue is in the goalkeeping department, summed up by the surname of my number 1.


    There was no hope of winning the league this season, so the only objectives were to stay in the cup for a shot at the start of next year, and to build the basis of a title contender for next season. With that in mind, it was not the usual wholesale changes, although 17 of the squad left being deemed surplus to any requirements. Only 3 of them received a fee and it is amazing the dross that will be snapped up in Sweden if the price is £0 ! Just 7 arrived to replace them, mainly to beef up the midfield as I failed to find any wingers willing to join at a wage we could afford. I did get a Norwegian goalkeeper on loan to the end of the season, which removed 1 piece of Käck from the starting line-up.

    Originally starting with the 4-1-2-1-2 diamond midfield that had worked in Turkey, I only had 3 strikers in my squad, so when one of them was sidelined for 4 months, I reverted to a 4-1-3-1-1, rather than trying to play both strikers for 90 mins every game. In terms of results, it was job done. From the 19 league games, we recorded 14 wins and 3 draws and the 2 cup victories, against Kullavägen and Eriksberg resulted in 10 goals and none conceded. Not enough for any prizes yet, but the foundations are in place.


    As for the rest, the Kongahälla, Varbergs BoIS and Helsingborg monopoly was finally broken and I can claim some of the responsibility for that. 3 years ago I had a short stay at Jonsereds IF before landing the Botafogo job. I didn't have much impact, but I did clear out the dross and brought in 8 players. My successor, Felix Abraham built on that, winning the cup at his first attempt and then again earlier this season. He also had them well placed to take advantage of a collapse by Varbergs BoIS to land their 4th Allsvenkan title.


    Next season will start with a cup last 32 tie away to Hogaborg, but first there is a 5 month winter break, which will burn through virtually all of the £600k prize money.



    International Update



    Brazil

    Once again it was just friendlies for the senior squad, but that did include the random game in Gibraltar. I have to say that the 7-0 win was a bit of a disappointment and probably just par for the course. I did have hope of making double figures from this one. Edinaldo Jr. bagged a hat-trick.

    Of more interest was the progress of the U21 squad who were sent to the Olympics in U.A.E. After beating last times silver medalists Netherlands 2-0 in the opener, our progress was hardly in doubt. It was confirmed with a 2-0 win against Nigeria, so the 0-0 draw with New Zealand was hardly relevant.


    USA did provide some resistance, or at least their keeper did, but once left back had beaten Brian Olsen to get his head on a corner, the deadlock was broken and although we didn't add to the score, were comfortable winners. I then expected more of a challenge from Spain, but they failed to turn up and 2 goals in each half, plus a red card for their captain was as easy as a semi final can be.

    And so, without really having to get out of second gear, the U21s had found themselves in their first Olympic final for 40 years. Could Italy be the ones to stop them ? Quite honestly, that never looked likely. We were not at our best in front of goal, however the shear pressure that we put on their defence just had to break them. Wilson was one of 3 substitutions after just 25 minutes and it was he who was left in space on the right to fire in a low shot that gave us the lead. 3 minutes into the second half, we were reduced to 10 men when right back Edson was stretchered off, but that made little difference, Alan de Lima bagging us a second goal cushion that all but ended the contest.



    Brazil …. World, South American, Confederations Cup and now Olympic champions.[/size]
    The artist formally known as The Eejit

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  29. Nice back in Sweden and after the start they had to the season you did very well to come 3rd... next season the title challenge will be on!

    World domination for Brazil!

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  31. #544

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    So after your CL win you decide to stay in Turkey, and a decent job with plenty of money to spend. Unfortunately you couldn't shape the squad as well as you liked for the season ahead but still made a blistering start, and at the half way point you had a healthy lead over Bursaspor, with a very miserly defence.

    Some fine tuning to the squad then and one hell of a signing in Cavani's regen (or regen IV whatever iteration it is ), and what a way to secure the title in a thumping 7-0 win with Rodrigues bagging six of them! Securing your next job in Sweden so quickly is also a bonus.

    Brazil v Gibraltar I'll go 8-0, hope you can complete the sweep with the Olympics as well.

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  33. #545

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    19 points behind the leaders then at your new club, looks like the league is beyond you this season unless it has some funky format where there are different phases or something which would allow you to still challenge for it.

    As you say then a case of strengthening the squad ahead of next season, while also enjoy a good cup run. 45 points from your 19 league games in charge, Champions Jonsered could claim exactly the same although they played a game extra, but that still bodes extremely well for next season. A 5 month winter break in Sweden, I hope you remembered your thermals!

    Ah one goal off the Gibraltar result, I also didn't think you'd hit double figures but you'd maybe get a little closer. Clean sweep completed thanks to the u21s doing the business in the Olympics, time to move on for sure.

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  35. #546

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    Chapter 102 - It's All About The Money




    AFC Eskilstuna

    It is a long winter break in Sweden, 5 months gives plenty of time to plan the transfer activity. I wasn't planning many changes, the 4 loans would need to be replaced and an extra striker would come in handy, but mostly it would be removing the deadwood. I even managed to get hard cash for 5 of my rejects, which helped to fund releases for a further 3. Added to the 4 loans, that made 12 departures from the squad that finished the season and despite the long break eating into the prize money, a tidy £250k to make additions. That is a relative fortune in Sweden.

    The first 2 names were both familiar faces, goalkeeper Arne Vindheim and winger David Gustafson making their loan deals permanent. I snapped up a Bosnian to replace the on loan left back, and he had the advantage of being able to play either flank and finally a Dutch free agent to replace the loaned right winger. The one addition that I had planned was an extra central defender as I thought we were short on numbers in that department. Just £65k spent and I was ready for that cup last 32 tie with Högaborg.

    Except that I wasn't. During pre-season training, defenders started to go down like there was a plague. For a while the defence was transferred to the local hospital ward and not just trivial injuries. My first choice central defensive pair ended up out for 3 months and 4 months with a fractured skull and a broken leg. Back to the transfer market and 2 additional central defenders were brought in to steady the ship. That took the total spending upto £110k.




    With the main target being the Svenska Cupen, it proved to be money well spent with a straight forward progress to the last 16. The game was nicely poised at half time with us leading 2-1, but in a 15 minute burst, just after the hour, we scored 3 times and even missed a penalty. As a bonus, we drew a third tier side in AIK for the last 16.


    It was form which carried through to the league as we blew apart all comers, winning 6 out of 6, scoring 19 and conceding just the one goal. Plan B, winning the league, was well on track, but I wanted to land Plan A and that was still on track. AIK were eliminated with another 5 goal thumping, Austrian striker Dominik Prokop netting a hat-trick. Then it got a bit tougher. At home to Helsingborg in the semi final, we scored early in the first half, but it took a late goal to finally settle the tie and see us progress.

    Norrköping in the semi final ended with the same 2-0 score, but done very different, scoring both goals early then surviving an onslaught to claim our place in the final. Kongahälla would be our opponents and as luck would have it, we played them in the league on the Sunday before the final on the Wednesday. I decided to rest all of my first 11 for the league game and paid the price with a pretty dismal performance that ended the 100% record. We still had a tidy lead in the league if I needed to resort to Plan B.


    The gamble on resting players paid off. While some of the Kongahälla players looked tired after their league exploits, our boys looked 100% ready for the battle. That difference in fitness was clear from the start. After the initial skirmishes, a Kongahälla attack broke down with our rightback Rasmus Gren winning the ball and finding captain Robin Pärson in space in midfield. We broke with pace and numbers so that Pärson had several options. He picked out his midfield partner David Marklund who had all the time in the world to pick his spot past their keeper. 5 minutes later it was 2-0. Pärson cross, Prokop header, simple as.


    There was no way back for Kongahälla now. We were content to keep it tight at the back, and they were restricted to just one shot on target in the entire 90 minutes. We didn't create many more ourselves, however when our dutch winger got clear on the right, it was another quick break and he found the other striker, Vegard Erikson in support and in space. The keeper again had no chance.




    There was barely time for a party before I was driving my Volvo south for the next part of the story in Sweden.





    GAIS

    Göteborgs Atlet-och Idrottssällskap (meaning Gothenburg's Athletics and Sports Association) is a Swedish football club based in Gothenburg. Fans also refers to the club as Grönsvart (green-black) or Makrillarna (the Mackerels) because of the traditional shirt colours.

    GAIS is one of the oldest football clubs in Sweden. The club was a founding member of Allsvenskan and also the first champions of the league. They have won a total of four national championship titles, five league championship titles and one national cup title. Even though GAIS have played 49 seasons in Allsvenskan they only spent six years in the top division during a 30-year period from 1976 to 2005, with another six seasons of that time spent as low as the third division. The club thus gained the reputation of being a yo-yo club, constantly going up and down through the league system. After their promotion in 2005 the club played seven straight seasons in Allsvenskan which was a feat not achieved since the degradation in 1955. After relegation in 2012 they finished seventh in Superettan in 2013 and has remained there since.


    GAIS have continued to yo-yo between the 2nd and 3rd tiers, even spending 2 spells outside the senior leagues. Their best season was a 4th place finish in Superettan which they managed twice and a cup final which they lost. In the 86 years that this adventure has been running, I am only the 8th manager to be appointed (although I am the 2nd this season !)

    Lets not beat about the bush and be up front about the elephant in the room. The chairman told me that the finances would not look pretty, however I think that they might have underplayed the severity.




    £2.06B in debt is more than "a cause for concern" in my books. It also bothered me that there were some huge sums being transferred through the accounts, but the numbers just didn't add up. A look at the details didn't help to clarify the picture


    The income streams are pathetic. No season tickets or gate receipts all season ! And while the wages and maintenance are rather high for a second tier side, the interest payments are eye-watering. What sort of loan shark is funding this shower ?

    Whatever shady dealings are going on behind the scenes, it is nothing that I could do anything about and the bottom line is that I have nothing to spend and a maximum wage of £1,300. I just had to get on with it. Interestingly, later in the year there was a boardroom coupe which cleared over £2B of the debt, but within a week, we were landed another whopping £2.1B interest payment. I suspect that there is a corruption of some sort that is affecting the finances of some clubs (Varbergs BoIS, Motherwell, Salernitana keep cropping up in messages), but after 85 years, if that is the worst bug then I'll not complain.

    Ignoring the finances, I am here to win Superettan and I'm not disappointed by the starting position. Lets be honest, I wouldn't be here if I didn't think there was a decent chance.


    The squad consisted of 30 players without any real stars. We looked strong in defence, but lightweight upfront, which the goals for/against would confirm. I had 6 games to survive before I could make any changes and I just wanted to stay within 6 points of the leaders at that point to give me a good chance. It was also a useful period to bring in several players for trials. However, it didn't work out quite like that.

    Starting with a huge 6 pointer against the leaders Örgryte which we won 2-0, we won all 6 of the league games as others dropped points, so when the transfer window opened, we had a whopping 7 point lead over the pack. Young Argentine striker Pablo Núñes had scored 6 in 6 proving my decision to promote him from the reserves to have been a good one


    Despite the amazing form, I did still make some changes. Most significantly at right back where I had been forced to play my best left back (can play either side) and that in turn had forced my best central defender to play left back. This one change at right back improved the defence right across the pitch. I also got a left back on loan, as a third choice although he never actually played. The other improvements were in central midfield where I brought in a couple to bolster the numbers. I did get rid of 4, bringing in £75k which made not a jot of difference to the finances.

    The changes just underlined what a pathetic league it is in Sweden. The winning run just went on and on, 18 league wins in a row, plus 2 cup wins landed us the title by a massive margin.


    Add to that 6 league and 5 cup wins for AFC Eskilstuna, the only defeat in 32 games was when a reserve team was fielded. The opposition in Sweden really is pathetic.




    In a perfect world there would be an Allsvenskan job available, but as AFC Eskilstuna have that virtually tied up, I decided to head back to Brazil where there was an available job in the one regional league that I still need to complete.




    Inter de Lages

    Esporte Clube Internacional, commonly known as Inter de Lages, is a Brazilian football team based in Lages, Santa Catarina state. In 2019, it plays Campeonato Catarinense Série B, the state of Santa Catarina's second league.

    The club was founded on June 13, 1949. It'sone success came in 1965 when they won the Campeonato Catarinense. They have won the Second Level 3 times and Third level once. The club returned to the national competitions in 2015, when it played the Campeonato Brasileiro Série D, the fourth tier of the Brazilian football.


    Inter de Lages have spent much of the past 80 years alternating between Serié B and Serié C with just 2 seasons in Serié A and a best placed finish of 14th. They have won the state championship 3 times and are considered to be one of the top 4, along with Avaí, Chapecoense and Joinville, the latter 2 currently being Serié A sides. Three times they have made the quarter final of the Copa do Brazil, but never progressed further. Not unexpectedly, I take over the hot seat with the club in a spot of trouble. I have 12 games remaining to save their bacon


    And it is not just on the pitch where there are problems. The finances show a debt of £11.5m, although the board are still offering a transfer budget of £450k. Not that I can use any of that just yet as the transfer window is closed, although I can still sign loan players provided that they have not played in Serié B this season.

    The 24 man squad does show some promise and includes a world class defender in Pedro Maldonado Jaimez Junior, who is very unlucky to have not made it of the bench for the national team.


    Over all, there is a decent first team, but the quality drops off quickly in the second string and there are some gaps in the cover. The 2 foreign players add nothing to the squad and both were immediately transfer listed, along with 4 others who realy shold consider an alternative career. That left a squad of 18 who would be given the chance to fight for a place next season, and they were bolstered by 5 loan deals, mainly in midfield.

    Although we quickly extracted ourselves from the relegation zone and never looked to be in serious trouble, we hardly set the jungle on fire, winning 8, drawing 1 and losing 3 of the 12 games played.


    Clearly there is a great deal of work that needs to be done if we are to compete with Chapecoense and Joinville when the Campeonato Catarinense season kicks off in 12 weeks time. Worryingly we lost badly, 3-1, to a poor Avaí side. I possibly have 12 players that are upto the standard that I would like for starting a match and some of them are fighting for the same position. There are maybe 3 more who could be used in an emergency. That means at a minimum 10 good players will need to be recruited over the winter break.





    International Update



    Brazil

    There really was nothing left to achieve with Brazil. We had won the lot, World Cup, Copa America, Confederations Cup and Olympics. This was great for the reputation, but repeating the exercise didn't fill me greatly with enthusiasm, especially playing friendlies most of the time. So, after thumping Peru 4-0 in yet another pointless friendly, it didn't take much thinking to accept the ultimate job at the 9th time of applying.



    Scotland

    164th in the FIFA rankings. Of European nations only Wales, Gibraltar and Cyprus are lower in the rankings. In the last 5 years they have won only 5 competitive fixtures. Low points would be a 0-0 draw at home to Andorra, a 1-1 draw at home to Luxembourg and losing 2-0 in Armenia. This team is seriously under performing.


    The FA are still expecting us to qualify for the World Cup, although that would need us to win all 3 remaining games (including France at Hampden) and for Ukraine to lose all 3 (including at home to Luxembourg). That is not going to happen.


    Looking at the players available, my predecessor Andy Aitken, must have been trying hard to achieve such bad results. We failed to qualify for the last 4 World Cups (and won't make this one) and failed to make the last 4 Euros. This is despite having World Class defenders and a Striker who would all have been in contention for a place in Brazilian squads.






    (As far as I can tell, they are all regens of virtual nobodies … Jamie McCart (Alloa), Morgyn Neill (Stranraer) and Callum Hendrie (St. Johnstone))

    The rest of the squad is pretty decent with cover in most positions, except for goalkeeper. None of the options looks great, although Norwich have a 38 year old who looks as if he might have been decent, but has lost all the physicality for international football.

    It was fully 3 months before my first match, France at home is almost as tough a test as you can get. I sent out a very strong 4-4-2 that had 10 uncapped players in the squad and 6 changes to the starting 11 from the Luxembourg win. All 3 keepers in the squad were uncapped. I was looking more for performance than result as a builder to the Euro qualifiers next year.

    Scotland started brighter and forced a couple of easy saves from the French keeper, but after 25 minutes, a simple chip over the top of the statuesque Scotland defence allowed Marques time and space to pick his spot for a French opener. 4 minutes later and Scotland keeper John Davidson flapped at a cross and Sissoko fired home their second. That was a mountain to climb, but fair play, heads didn't drop and we kept plugging away without creating any real chance. Into the second half and Chris Jack was given an opening from a Donaldson cross. His shot cannoned off the crossbar. McLean picked up the rebound and put it back into the danger area. Kennedy won the aerial battle and it broke nicely for Jack to volley home. We were back in the game.


    France were now on the back foot and we continued to plug away, looking for another chance, but equally being cautions not to be exposed by a quick break. At a french corner I made all 3 substitutions and successfully defended for a goal kick. Davidson took it quickly, punting long for McLean to run onto. He beat the defender and was then pulled down as he went round the keeper. Stonewall penalty and no dispute about the red card. They brought on their reserve keeper who's first job was to pick McLean's penalty out of his net.


    And we almost snatched an unlikely winner, Johnson's low drive being ruled out for an offside decision against McLean. It may have ended any qualification hopes, never-the-less, this was the first points dropped by France in qualifying and a clear signal that the Tartan Army were on the move again.

    That was followed up by a 3-0 win in Northern Ireland (Cowie 2, Crawford) and a 2-0 win in Kazakhstan (McLean 2) despite McLean being sent off 12 minutes from time. There was some respectability to the final table.


    I was slightly worried that I might be sacked for failing to qualify, but the job was never in doubt and I'll be going forward to Euro qualification where we will face Portugal and Sweden along with Estonia, Malta and Northern Ireland. I will accept nothing less than a playoff.
    Last edited by Kingsley; 06-03-20 at 09:45 AM.
    The artist formally known as The Eejit

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  37. Nice to tick off 2 Swedish cups, shame you’ll have to go back there one day to complete the job. And back to what seems to be your second home in Brazil!

    You know you’ve made it in your career now Scotland manager! Can you repeat what happened on my save

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  39. #548

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    After a long break you were back to playing football but having to contend with a crisis at centre back which meant additional signings which you didn't plan on. It didn't affect you though and you soon got to demolishing everyone in sight which saw you clear at the top of the league and what you really wanted that cup win.

    No time for hanging about though and so you move on to another Swedish club in GAIS, and what financial problems they're in! Definitely a bug, I had similar in a save where Albion Rovers where over £2 billion in debt too and that was after about 40 years, I remember someone saying you could easily buy the whole of Coatbridge for that

    On the field though they're in a very good position though and you're well in the title hunt, and what a magnificent start with them 6 straight wins, and it carried on from there as once again you decimated all before you on your way to the title.

    Back to Brazil then to pick up one of the State Championships you're missing, but first a relegation fight as you battle against the drop from Serie B. More financial worries but obviously not as bad as you had with GAIS, but you've always been able to spot a bargain and with a raft of loan signings as well I'm sure you'll strengthen the squad.

    Relegation worries easily banished and only four points off the top 4 and the playoffs, if only you got there a little bit earlier! Plenty of wheeling and dealing ahead of the State Championship kicking off, hopefully you can bring in the players you want to especially with a lack of transfer funds.

    Finally the Scotland gig is yours Looks like the SFA are on the button as usual, it'd take a miracle to qualify for the World Cup, but I'm sure the Euros is definitely on the radar for you. Great work so far with the draw against France in your opening game and then wins over Northern Ireland and Kazakhstan. Euro draw done, I expect a 3 horse race between yourselves, Portugal and Sweden, are Northern Ireland in danger of becoming the new Ecuador with the amount of times you play them?

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  41. #549

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    Chapter 103 - The End Of An Era. The Start Of A New One



    Inter de Lages

    It was an easy decision to make.

    The close season was not going well. The usually reliable Brazilian free agent factory had fallen fallow and those who were available and of the standard needed were choosing to join rivals, even when we offered higher wages. I had managed to half the debt by offloading 8 players, but with 2 weeks before the season opener, I still had 3 first team places to fill with no obvious targets, all the foreign player slots filled and several loan deals failing to come through. We were probably ready for top 4 in the State Championship, but taking on Chapecoense or Joinville, both who have Brazilian internationals, would need an act of faith.

    Salvation came in the form of an offer to return to Sweden.




    Norrköping

    Idrottsföreningen Kamraterna Norrköping is a Swedish professional football club based in Norrköping. Formed on 29 May 1897, IFK Norrköping dominated Swedish football in the post war era and won the first division 11 times in 20 years, ending with the league triumph of 1963. It took the club another 26 years before adding championship title number 12 to the trophy cabinet. In 2015, IFK Norrköping won their 13th championship title, the second time in a row they had to wait 26 years between titles. The have also won the Svenska Cupen 6 times. The club currently play in the highest Swedish tier, Allsvenskan.


    Norrköping are probably the only club in Sweden to have played the entire time in the Allsvenskan, with a 12th place finish being the worst recorded. They have won a further 10 league titles and 8 cups and were 5th placed last season. Europe, however, has been a challenge too far. Just 3 appearances in the Champions League Group stages and only once beyond new year in 36 Europa League campaigns.

    The bonus, that made coming here a no brainer, was a transfer kitty of £110k. Not a fortune, but more than most Swedish clubs can offer. The squad was in reasonable shape, with a decent striker in Fredrik Hammar, while winger Daniel Issa had been on loan at GAIS last season. The best players were all in defence where David Larsson and André Hermansson were the standouts




    There were even 2 random internationals, a Somali and a Lesothan. The only huge gap was at goalkeeper where all 3 options looked poor at best and 2 over 35 year old midfielders who were way past any best that they might have once had. With the exception of the keeper, this was easily fixed with 5 new faces arriving and 13 departing. It was left to the last minute to decide on a keeper, manly because I couldn't find or loan a decent one, and Masimo Corsi was the least bad available. He has been without a club for 6 years after making 8 starts for Lazio in the previous 3 seasons.


    I was quietly confident, but expecting a strong challenge from the likes of defending champions AFC Eskilstuna, Varbergs BoIS (2nd for the last 4 seasons) and big spending Jonsered (£2.3m spent since I left). The first 2 of those sides we met in the opening 3 games, Varbergs BoIS claiming a 0-0 draw, which was about the only resistance that we faced in the first half of the season. Even by the low standards of Swedish football, this was pretty pathetic. We conceded just 2 goals in those 13 games and were one of only 3 sides to score more than a goal a game




    And then there was a surprise invite to the Europa League Qualification (FKA Intertoto Cup). It's a tournament that is hard to win with half fit sides, but this is right in the heart of the Swedish season and therefore worth taking seriously. Rapid Vienna looked to be a tough first roung, but we ended up winning both ties and then did the same against Faeroese outfit EB/Streymur, Orhangazi Bld. From Turkey and Keshla from Azerbaijan. (Not quite, but close enough to put up a picture of someone here's fave !)


    Somehow we had found ourselves in the final without having to try very hard. But that is where the adventure looked to have ended. PEC Zwolle are hugely talented and have far greater resources at their disposal. That showed as they dominated the first leg, our home tie, and will have been very disappointed to go home with nothing more than a 1-1 draw. Charbel Sachs finding the net with one of only 2 efforts we had on their goal. The writing was on the wall.


    There was no point in defending as we needed to score, so we went with our usual 4-4-2. For most of the first half it was the same story. Zwolle on the front foot, but not converting their chances. Just before the interval, in a rare attack it was Sachs who again broke the deadlock, cancelling out that away goal. And then Pec Zwolle imploded. Their captain made a poorly timed 2-footed challenge and was sent off, which prompted their gaffer to bring on an attacking midfielder to plug the gap ! Minutes later and Agustín Maza appeared from rightback to put us 2-0 up, so from nowhere, the 10 man Dutch side had to score 3 !


    To cut a long story short, they didn't, but Fredrik Hammar did get a 3rd for us and so we join the Europa League proper. Nothing gets awarded, so I can't claim this as another title. What I do get is a tie with last season's beaten Champions League finalists …. Partick Thistle.

    The Jags reign was finally ended after 18 titles in a row by Deveronvale. Last season they dropped to 3rd with Threave Rovers taking the title, hence their lowly entry in the Europa League. They are still a very big club with huge European experience (6 CL finals, 3 wins), so this will be tough.

    Meanwhile, back in the league, a 13 point lead with 13 to play was never likely to be reeled in. It was a question of when, not if we took the title, and could we see out the season unbeaten. Varbergs BoIS and AFC Eskilstuna took us close, both managing draws, but in the main it was a Norrköping battering ram crushing allcomers


    The title was finally won with 6 games remaining, away to former side Jonsered. It was a game where we fell behind early, fought back to lead 3-1 then were left with a nervy last 5 minutes when Söderqvist got his second for the hosts. It was the first time all season that we had conceded 2 goals.




    There was just time for one more match before I left Sweden for good. That Europa League first leg at home to Partick Thistle. It was a game that we dominated from the first whistle to the last and I was disappointed to see just how poor a side this was. The one player to shine was italian veteran keeper Alessandro Ghinassi who single handedly kept them in the game. Mathias Clausen finally beat him just 4 minutes from time.


    Mathias Clausen with an unremarkable 12 goals from 24 games was the highest scorer and Somalian winger Nim Yat Minchev achieved the most assists, 7.




    Monterosi

    Monterosi FC is a little known Italian football club from the comune of Monterosi, about 40km north of Rome. They currently play in Serie D.


    This will be Monterosi's 80th consecutive season of senior league football in Italy. It included 1 season in Serie A, but in the main they have yo-yoed between Series B and C1. They have won C1 twice and C2 three times, along with 3 Copa Italia Serie C and 2 Supercopa di Serie C. As I take over, they have made a slow start to the season, however there is a long way to go and plenty of time to recover.


    For those who are not aware, Italy has the second highest number of titles to win, with 11. In addition to 7 leagues (Serie A, B, C1A/B and C2A/B/C) there are 4 cups. Copa Italia is for Serie A and B clubs while the lower leagues compete for Copa Italia Serie C. In addition, Serie A and C1 both have supercups which will be awkward ones to win. Monterosi are already out of the Copa Italia Serie C, so we have only the league to play for this season.

    Financially, we have a debt of around £800k, which is manageable, but I'm unlikely to be able to sell enough players to generate any transfer funds, which is a shame as I'd like to sell the lot, but no way I can replace them with freebies and loans, especially as the transfer window is closed.

    The only player with any talent is veteran right back Nicola Stefani, but I'm not sure that I can rely on a guy who is 36 next month to get up and down the flank for 90 mins each game. His younger brother Paolo plays on the left wing on the occasions when he's not injured.


    Most positions are covered in some form, however there is a problem at full back and the goalkeepers are a total nightmare. In addition, every player is an Italian national and I'm going to maintain this restriction while I'm here.

    For my first game, away to Perugia, I tried a 3-1-4-2 and were thrashed 3-0 without mounting any sort of threat. That clearly failed, so for the home game against Arezzo I sent a DML out at left back in a 4-4-2. We did much better, drawing 2-2, but it would have been a win were it not for some calamitous goalkeeping.


    And then I struck lucky. I had a few players on trial, and offered a left back a permanent deal. He accepted and was allowed to join immediately. It appears that the transfer window in Serie C is not closed for free agents. I quickly snapped up a right back, a utility defender and a striker, but sadly no goalkeeper worthy of the name.

    The team was transformed and we rapidly climbed the table, still throwing away valuable points from some terrible keeping. I eventually decided to give one of the 3 keepers a longer run to see if that would help. I'm not sure that it did. The highlight was going to Troina and ending their 100% start, hanging on to win 3-2 after being 3-0 up.


    It was part of a 5 game winning run for us, while they lost their next 3, so what had been a 13 point deficit from the leaders became 7 at the mid-season break. It maybe only 1 point closer to the lead from where I started, but it feels like more of an improvement than that.


    I've not found any more free agents who would improve the squad, but when the transfer window opens, I hope to bring in some loans. A GK, a central defender and a left wing would be the priorities.


    International Update



    Scotland

    We start the year 155th in the FIFA rankings, which is up 9 places in the 6 months since I joined. That was further improved with friendly wins against Ireland and Norway, both by the same 2-1 scoreline. After watching Portugal win their second World Cup (2038 and 2106) it was time for the Euro qualifiers to start and a tough looking opener away to Sweden

    However, as we know, Swedish football has a very soft underbelly and I was there to exploit it. 3 first half goals (Gallacher (pen), McLean, Johnston) gave us a dream start and any recovery from the Swedes ended when Mansson was shown a straight red card. Best possible way to start.


    There was no mercy shown to little Malta. Chris Jack banged in a hat-trick as we racked up a 6-0 victory, but then it was World Champions Portugal, in Lisbon. They were just a bit too good, scoring early and getting a second just before half time. We mounted a better challenge in the second half and came close, but didn't manage to break down a very tight defence. Lets see how they get on at Hampden.


    The final qualifier for this year saw us host N. Ireland who I have already beaten in a WC qualifier. We gave them the same medicine this time with a 3-1 win. Portugal only got a point in Sweden, so the fight for top spot is still very close.


    Estonia's next 2 are against the top 2, while we play Sweden again after travelling to Estonia. The picture should be clearer after these games. Meanwhile, a 2-2 friendly draw in Poland showed that we don't really have the strength in depth that I would like. It was mainly uncapped players and although we led 2-1 after falling behind, we were always second best and the equaliser from the Poles was the least they deserved.
    The artist formally known as The Eejit

  42. The Following User Says Thank You to Kingsley For This Useful Post:

    AMC

  43. Finally he’s made it to Italy! And you should get Scotland to a playoff so hope for a decent draw there to make the majors

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