It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you

The new board clearly didn’t fancy me. After getting ESTAC Troyes promoted, and then more than exceeding the expectations put in front of me, the new guys clearly have someone else in mind.

Oh well, I wonder if John’s looking for an assistant at Arsenal?

More job news as I get it.

Update: My coach at ESTAC Troyes, Luis Entonado, has taken the managerial job. I told you I needed to keep my eye on him!

Takeover season

Our performances in February continued to the end of the season. Neither great, nor terrible; but good enough, it seems. And, to be honest, with the amount of failed takeover bids that we’ve been through this season (four!), I’m surprised the players have been able to focus on the games at all.

We rounded off February with a win against En Avant de Guincamp (it feels like I’m always playing them, and headed into March where our inconsistency continued. April was much the same, if even a little worse, and we started to slip out of European contention.

DWLDLW

By the time May comes round, we’re back and forth between 6th and 7th, and we need to face 2nd and 3rd in the league. In the end, we draw against AS Monaco, but lose to Olympique Marseille while we get 3 points against 10th place Racing Club de Lens.

So we finish in 7th place, which is a couple of places back from where I’d hoped we would end the season. It’s worth remembering (at least, that’s what I tell myself) that the media had predicted we’d finish 19th, and were 1000-1 outsiders for the title. All the board wanted was for us not to get involved in a relegation battle. All in, we can be pleased with our performances, but we have struggled against the bigger teams, and I’ll need to try and rectify that, if I stay next season.

The cup competitions were another success. In the Coupe de France, we were expected to reach the 11th round, and exceeded those expectations by reaching the semi-final and being knocked out by eventual winners AS Saint-Etienne. In the Coupe de la Ligue, we did what we were supposed to, and reached the 4th round.

Finances are not great, despite me not getting anywhere near the upper limits of either the transfer or the wage budget. When the season closes, I get notification of the fact that I will be able to spend £291k on players next season, and that our facilities have been down-graded. Quite frankly, it seems like this club is being run by crooks!

Shortly after this news, takeover number 5 concludes successfully, and a “consortium led by London-based investor Kelvin Thomas” ousts former Chairman Francesco Becchetti.

I don’t have a clear view yet of where the club might go under new leadership and therefore I’m a little uncertain about things“, is what I tell Luca Raynal of the French Football Free Press when he comes looking for a quote.

 

Still exceeding expectations

At the end of the last update, ESTAC Troyes were sitting in 5th place, defying early season predictions that we would be relegation fodder. With two-thirds of the season gone, not much has changed – on the pitch, at least.

October to December saw us keep up our early season form, and after our first defeat at the hands of PSG, we saw out the rest of that first month unbeaten in the league. Wins against En Avant de Guincamp, Toulouse FC, and a 1-1 draw with LOSC kept us in contention for the European places.

November saw us hit our first sticky patch, which continued into December. A win against Stade Malherbe Caen was followed up by 7 league games that included only 2 wins. We were drawing as many games as we were losing, so we – just about – managed to keep in touch with the teams at the top. All except PSG, who are strolling away with the league title – in fact, they’ve won Ligue 1 every year in this save.

During this time, rumours of a takeover began to circulate again. Last time that happened, there was talk of me losing my job, so my mind began to wander.

At the very least, it meant that the Winter transfer window was going to be a non-event. Just as well I had already lined up a new signing, and in came Yassine Benrahou from Bordeaux for a cool £875k. Some of the squad had been moaning that the midfield isn’t strong enough, so he’d help to placate them, hopefully.

Fortunately, the takeover fell through, just in time for me to make another few Winter signings, all of them youngsters. Aurélien Tchouameni, Bruno Brochard, and Emanuele Cavallini will be stars at Troyes some time in the future.

So my job is safe. But, what’s that? Everton are looking for a new boss?

I throw my hat in, and get granted an interview.

In this save, they’re a 4-star club (versus Troyes’ 3.5) in the highest rated league (Ligue 1 is 5th). They’re also Rich (Troyes’ finances are Okay), which doesn’t sound like real-life Everton, at all. It makes sense to move.

But they don’t want me. The bastards. Instead, they plump for Roger Schmidt, who leaves Celtic to takeover the Goodison reins.

The very fact that I got an interview makes me think that others will take a punt on me, so I’m now very much on the lookout for a 4-star rated club that I can get to the Champions League.

Anyway, all that aside, we’re back in the midst of a league campaign and January looks pretty good. A draw and 3 wins takes into a bit of a mixed bag of results in February – DLWL.

Right now, we’re sitting 5th, which is good enough for a Europa League spot, albeit at some early qualifying stage.

 

 

 

 

This time last year

While John ups the ante with his all-conquering Lazio side, ESTAC Troyes have been quietly improving from last season’s relegation escape. After 9 games last year, we were hovering around the lower reaches of the table, on 7 points. This time around, we’re doing a bit better: we’re 2nd in the league.

A bit of a dodgy start, and then we were up and running.

DDLWWLWWW

I’ve also found out that Olympique Lyonnais boss, Marcelino hates me, for some reason. Good job we went out and pumped them 3-0 at their own ground.

After that, we fall 3-1 to league leaders PSG, but as far as it goes, that’s a decent start to our Ligue 1 campaign.

I mean, look how happy the board are. 100% confidence in me. Doesn’t that mean I’m getting the sack in the morning?

As you might expect with the higher league position, the players are performing much better than they were last season. I’m particularly impressed with 23-year old DR Congo international Warren Tchimbembe, who has 7 goals in 10 games.

All that said, I’m very conscious of the fact that John is moving ever closer to the Champions League, and with it, a chance to win the bloody thing!

A better place

Mentally, I mean. Physically, I’m still at ESTAC Troyes.

I realised at the end of last season that the players I had bought were just about good enough for Ligue 1. That is, they were good enough to keep the team from getting relegated, but not much more than that. I needed to be signing much better players, and to do that, I had to sell some youngsters.

Robin Daval (20) and Predrag Stanojevic (21) are two young starlets that spent last season out on loan. They did alright, and this season they might’ve started to make their way into the first team. With only £400k in the transfer budget though, their days were numbered as soon as the first bids started to appear. In the end, Daval went to FC Porto for £1.8m (rising to £2.4m) and Stanojevic took the shorter trip to FC Metz for £1.7m (rising to £2.1m). A bunch of other sales helped take in £5m and I was able to buy a few players who will legitimately make an impression on the first team squad.

As it happens, I only spent £675k, but those that have arrived are certainly better than what we have currently – or will hopefully grow into their roles.

Adam Goetz, Martin Terrier, Antonin Lelievre, and Mattias Käit are all youth signings that I hope will come on in the next season or two. Wheras Aly Ndom, Ardit Curri, Moussa Benali, Dylan Bronn, and Omer Atzili are all, pretty much, first team picks already.

Chelsea also offered me £1.8m for 15-year-old Ourdy Kalonji, but he doesn’t join them for another 2 and a half years. I’ll hopefully get some game time out of him before he goes, but shortly after signing the deal, he got a knee injury, so maybe he’s a bit injury prone. Honestly, I didn’t even know he was in the squad until Chelsea and Arsenal came sniffing around.

I’m pleased with the transfer activity, but I probably would’ve got involved in a bit more, had it not been for this message, pre-season.

For a period after that, I wasn’t allowed to make any transfers, and to make things worse, I soon saw this rumour in the local press.

ESTAC Troyes will name Luis Entonado as their new manager should the consortium’s bid to take control prove successful.

Who the hell is Luis Entonado when he’s at home? He’s only one of my own coaches!

Fortunately, the takeover bid failed, and I still have a job. But it means that I’m constantly looking over my shoulder waiting for Luis to stab me in the back. If it wasn’t for the fact that he’s quite a good coach, he’d be long gone.

As it is, his card is marked.

It wasn’t pretty

32 points is what I thought it would take to avoid the relegation playoffs. This year, 32 points took you straight down to Ligue 2.

By the time we reached December, my target had been – rather optimistically, it now seems – shifted upwards to 44 points. I can tell you right now that we did not achieve 44 points.

I haven’t updated much throughout the second half of season 5, because we’ve been so teeth-grindingly awful. Our record from January thru February is pretty bad, but we’re not falling back into the relegation places so I’m still fairly confident.

WLLWDLWLW

But it’s March where the wheels really come off. In fact, we don’t win another match until the penultimate game of the season, against mid-table Montpellier.

DLDLDLLDWL

Fortunately, we do manage to grab the occasional draw, and by the time that win comes, we’ve already managed to secure our position in Ligue 1, to the delight of the board, and the fans. And to my relief.

Our final position is 16th. Most of the season was spent bouncing between 11th and 15th, so it was a bit disappointing to drop to 16th as the season closed. Still, the media had us finishing 18th, and we were 950-1 for the title, so I’m just happy we didn’t get relegated.

None of the team feature in the end of season awards, nor do they appear in any of the top Player Stats lists. In fact, only a few players managed to get an average rating of > 7 all season.

So, it’s back to the drawing board next year. And with a vastly reduced transfer budget, too. I’ve no idea where all the money’s going, since I was under both the transfer and wage budget last year, but we’re now carrying a bunch of debt and I’ve been given 400k to spend in the transfer market. On top of that, last year’s signings weren’t great, so I’m going to have to do better this year.

My own profile is not looking too bad, though. This year, I managed to get both my National B and A Licences, and as soon as the season finished, the board allowed me to start studying for my Continental C Licence. I’ve also reached double figures in a few Coaching attributes: Attacking, Technical, Mental, and Motivating.

Next year’s going to be another struggle, I feel. And if I can’t do much more with Troyes than save them from the drop, it might be time to look elsewhere at the end of season 6.

On track, just about

I seem to be stretching a wee bit ahead of John here, given that I’m halfway through season 5. But I’m definitely falling behind in terms of the competition. A nice new job at SS Lazio is a massive step in the right direction, and I have some catching up to do. In stature, if not in games played.

The first thing to say is that my first season in the top division did not start well. Not at all.

The opening 4 games were all tough, and I managed a solitary point, in a 4-4 draw on matchday 4. Nice bit of numerology there. Prior to that tie, we’d lost 2-0, 5-0, and 3-0, giving us a worryingly poor start to the season, and a goal difference of -10. Not really what we were hoping for.

A couple of wins against Stade Rennais FC (1-0, Karim Azamoum with the goal) and OGC Nice (4-1, Isaac MbenzaBilly KetkeoGiuseppe Panico, and an OG) gave us 7 points from the opening 6 games, and allowed me to breath a slight sigh of relief.

It didn’t last long, though, and we then went on a run of 3 straight defeats, scoring only one goal in a 4-1 defeat against AS Monaco – Warren Tchmimbembe scoring for us). This run of games saw us lose to an aggregate score of 9-1 and gave me cause for concern all over the pitch.

A couple of tweaks to the formation, and a run of games in which I tried to keep to the same 11 followed. This seemed to help, as we reach the end of November after a further 6 games, all of which were unbeaten, apart from an unfortunate 1-0 defeat at home to Bordeaux as the month ended. That run included 2 wins and 2 draws in the league. Toulouse FC, 3-1 (Panico 2, Hugo Rodriguez); FC Lorient, 0-0; Angers SCO, 2-1 (Simone Edera, Tchmimbembe); and AS Nancy Lorraine, 2-2 (Edera, Rodriguez). On a side note, I spotted now 33-yo Marouane Fellaini plying his trade for Toulouse. He didn’t do much in the game against us, except get himself booked.

During this run, we also managed to squeak through to the 4th round of the Coupe de la Ligue, in a penalties victory against Racing Club de Lens. They’d beaten us 4-0 in one of those early season games, so this felt like we’d turned a corner. The 4th round was the board expectation, so we’re on track here. We’ve since drawn Paris Saint-Germain, so we ain’t going any further.

Another thing to point out is that every game we’ve played this season, league or cup, has been televised. I’m not sure what the attraction is, but it’s helping the bank balance to the tune of £1m per month.

As December starts, we’re 12th in the league, on 15 points. Last season, FC Nantes survived in 17th place on 32 points. We’ve played 13 games, so if we continue at this pace, we should finish with around 43 or 44. Last year, that was good enough for 13th.

Now that we have a 44-point target in mind – a more difficult one than the board have, since they’ll be happy with me finishing 18th – that’s what we’ll aim for.