We are the Champions, my friends…

I’ve been playing FM, in all it’s guises, since it was first released in 1992 and I can never remember having such a tight, nerve-wracking league campaign. With 8 games to go there were 4 teams separated by only 2 points. We were in pole position but had 5 away games in the remaining 8, including visits to Bari, pre-season favourites for the title, Novara and, at this point, 5th placed Entella. It was imperative I win my home games and those against lower opposition.

8

And that went out the window straight away. Consecutive 1-0 defeats away to Verona and home to Foggia dealt us a major blow and the Bari game was now must win. We smashed them. Inspired January signing Samou Sissoko, Michael Fabbro and a Marc Brasnic double gave us a much needed, confidence boosting 4-0 victory and put us back on track. we followed this up with a nervy 1-0 home win over Ternana with Brasnic again on the scoresheet. At this point all 4 of the promotion pushing teams were dropping points so with 4 games to go it was still just as tight.

4

After beating Spal 2-0 away we were travelling to Novara for a massive game at the top. Novara (this game aside), Carpi and Cesena had no games left against top 10 opposition while all 3 of my matches were against top 10 teams. This was must win. We lost. They scored after 22 minutes and I don’t think we had one highlight in the game. We were in 3rd and even 2 victories in the last 2 games might not be enough for automatic promotion.

Our final home game of the season was against Avellino and started badly as Dario Del Fabro was sent off for a viscious foul after 27 minutes. I was fuming. He was fined 2 weeks wages and accepted the fine which tells you how bad the challenge was. But the team rallied round. Brasnic and youngster Mirko Antonucci both scored twice as we swept Avellino aside in a 4-0 victory. Unbelievably the other 3 teams were also dropping points in this spell so going into the final match we were down to 3, gunning for the 2 automatic promotion places, with Cesena now out of it.

1

Entella had jumped Cesena in the table and that was where we had to go on the final day. A win guarantees us the title. Anything else could mean the playoffs. We started brilliantly with Fabby scoring after only 2 minutes. Brasnic doubled the lead and continued his excellent end-of-season form and we were looking comfortable at half-time. However, Entella clawed one back after 64 minutes and then had another ruled out for offside. My wee arse was in tatters. As Entella pushed for an equaliser we broke away. We broke away with pace and beauty. Every pass was inch perfect. Every run was timed to perfection. And as Janis Cavagna finished off the move of the season, no, the move of the decade, I cheered as if I had just scored the winning goal in the World Cup final. I went all Marco Tardelli. although Entella pulled back another one we knew that was it. We had won Serie B.

Table

It was a remarkable achievement that was built on an outstanding defence. We conceded only 22 goals in 42 games and if I had to nit pick we never really scored enough. If we were able to turn just 2 or 3 of our 8 0-0 draws into victories then things would’ve been much more comfortable. We also had a shocking discipline record receiving 9 red cards and 135 yellow (33 more than any other team), something we will need to work on during the summer. No idea how to do that as our tackling is set to ‘normal’. Our 8 defeats were all 0-1 so it shows that no team pumped us, indeed only Entella (3-2) and Vicenza (2-2) managed to score more than 1 against us in the league (Juventus were the only team to score more than 2 against us all season). Marc Brasnic won Striker of the Year, Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year. Joel Pereira won Goalkeeper of the Year. I won Manager of the Year and Managers’ Manager of the Year. Pereira, Alessandro Bastoni and Brasnic were all included in the team of the season.

I’ve renewed the loan deals for Bastoni, Adarabioyo, Sissoko, Franchini and Bezzicheri as their coach reports all say they are Serie A (or potential Serie A) quality. I’m sorry to see Maggiore and Gerli leave in particular as they were immense throughout the season but we need Serie A quality players so I’ll have a busy summer ahead. Before the Serie B campaign we brought in lots of quality players at the start of the season, players that were, frankly, too good for us, but they all came with minimum fee release clauses so I’ll have to renew those contracts and try and get rid of those clasues. The wage budget has been increased to £107k pw but everyone wants a new contract so that’ll disappear quickly. Lots of work to do.

PS I got my National C Licence and the board have now sent me on a course to get my National B Licence.

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