Christmas in the Vendée

As September turns to October, and the leaves begin to fall, can we keep the Herbs’ form going towards Christmas, the winter break, and the transfer window?

October sees us enter the Coupe de France at the 5th round stage – reaching the 9th round is a board requirement – against lower league opposition. Last year, we reached round 8, but all of the early success was down to Frédéric Reculeau, the previous manager, and we only needed to win one game under my management to satisfy the bigwigs upstairs.

Lower league teams US Palaiseau, and Etoile de Clisson are dispatched 4-0 and 9-2(!) respectively, as we reach round 7, and an away tie against AJ Auxerre. In the past, Auxerre produced such footballing goliaths as Eric Cantona, Laurent Blanc, and Rangers leg-end Basile Boli, but they’ve now slipped down to Ligue 2 – one league above us.

An incredibly nervy match ends 3-3 aet, and we take the victory on penalties, with Gaëtan Courtet the villain for Auxerre.

As we make our way into the Christmas period, we batter Stade Briochin (another lower league team) 4-0, to tee up 9th round match against lowly Stade Olympique Romorantinais in January.

As far as the cup is concerned, we’ve met our board expectations, but I hope to go further, especially since we’re favourites for the next tie.

None of our players feature in the stats charts, but Ramalama‘s got 4 in 4, Belloc (who missed a few games through injury) has 2 in 2, and Ba got a hat-trick in the 9-2 game against Etoile de Clisson.

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In the league, the form in the three months leading up to Christmas has been well above expectations: 9 games; 7 wins, 2 defeats. During that time, we chalk up victories against (at the time) league leaders US Créteil-Lusitanos (2-0), and perform really well against those teams in the top half of the table.

Our two defeats come against Calais Racing Union Football Club – who are fighting against relegation; and EFC Fréjus Saint-Raphaël, whose victory against us comes as part of an 8-match streak where they lose only 1 match, and who are steadily making their way up the table.

Calais RUFC batter us; the game finishes 2-1, but they seem to be a much more physical team than we are able to cope with and we were lucky to lose by only 1 goal. You can see their main Strengths, including Jumping, Heading, Strength and Aggression. Perhaps these are attributes that I’ll need to think about when signing new players.

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Pleasingly, the highest performers are those that I brought into the club during pre-season. Belloc, Ramalama and Chergui have the highest ratings in the squad, all 7.54 or above for the first half of the season.

The team’s success thus far has been achieved with very little squad rotation – aside from the occasional injury or suspension, the first 11 picks itself – and that’s resulted in a few players beginning to grumble about first-team opportunities.

With the transfer window coming up, there may be a need to offload a few players, as well as strengthening in a few areas.

But before all that, check out this league table! 4 points clear after 18 games, well above expectations (board: top half of the table; media: 5th). As a result, the board fucking loves me. 99% approval rating for the league competition – I’ve never been close to that before, something will go wrong, soon.

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