A season 11 round-up

Here’s a single post wrapping up my season 11 of our Journeymen save. I’m no longer manager of France, having dropped the mic as soon as I held aloft the World Cup. So, here we are, still at Montpellier, and still trying to win the Champions League. Although crucially, you might remember, we didn’t qualify for it last season.

Coupe de la Ligue

The board are not interested in this trophy, but my cabinet is bare and I’m hopeful.

We join the competition at the 4th round stage, and go into a tie against Amiens SC. A straightforward 2-0 win follows. It could’ve been more, too.

And that’s us into the Quarter Final, and a game against much tougher opposition: Olympique Marseille.

We scrape through, with a 2-1 victory. OM batter us, but goals from Sandro and Ayao see us through.

The Semi Final is against another of the teams up near the top of Ligue 1: Olympique Lyonnais. This one is slightly more convincing, and goals from Lemos and Febas get us into the final with a 2-0 victory.

To the final!

We’re playing OGC Nice and, I’ll cut to the chase, we win! A fairly underwhelming 1-0 victory sees me pick-up my first trophy for Montpellier in my 5th season of managing them. I’m not sure I would’ve lasted as long in the real world.

Coupe de France

1 Game, in the 9th round; 1 defeat, to lower league opposition.

The board are not happy.

La Ligue

This year’s league form is a tale of two halves. Well, it feels like it.

We start well, with a 4-0 win at home to AS Nancy Lorraine. We then lose two on the bounce, before going on a 5-match unbeaten run.

WLLWWDWW

Around this time, vice-captain Mauricio Lemos decides to go in the huff regarding a potential move away. His mate, Steven Kamphuis joins him, so I throw both of them in the reserves.

Bad move. Squad anarchy. Our next 6 matches look like this, and we end up miles off the pace.

LLDDWD

The two rebels are eased back into the first team fold, and harmony is somewhat returned. In fact, we go on a bit of a run and from December to mid-March, we are unbeaten.

WWWDWWDWWWDWDWW

However, the games we lose are against our title competitors AS Monaco and PSG and, those games aside, we go the rest of the season without losing to anyone else.

That little drop in form early in the season, though. It killed our title challenge. In the end, we finish behind both, in 3rd, and although we quality for the Champions League next year, it doesn’t feel like a successful season.

Speaking of Europe.

Europa League

We escape Group I in 1st position. It’s not as comfortable as it sounds, as we only win 3 of our 6 games. 2 Draws against Dinamo Bucureşti, and an away defeat at FC København make it a whole lot less comfortable than it should’ve been.

The 1st Knockout Stage sees us up against PSV, and we do the business in the Netherlands, winning 1-0 at the Philips Stadion after a Komivi Ayao injury-time winner. It’s 2-2 at home, and we head to a 2nd Knockout Stage tie against West Brom.

Two 1-0 victories make it sound tighter than it was. We’re absolutely superior in both legs and should’ve won by a much larger margin in both games.

The Quarter Final is against SL Benfica and we’re at home for the first leg.

After 8 minutes, we are 3-0 up, following goals from Sandro, Ayao, and Simeone. Easy street. Until they score 2 goals before we get to half-time. The equaliser comes in the 66th minute and we ride out a bit of an onslaught and head to Portugal having conceded 3 away goals.

We’re much more comfortable away from home, it seems. Goals from Ayao and Sandro (2) get us to the Semi Final with a 3-0 victory.

It’s local rivals AS Monaco in the Semi, and we almost beat them. Almost. 1-1 at Monaco, we’re confident going back to the Stade de la Mosson – Mondial 98 (I presume this was built for the 1998 World Cup), but they rob us 1-0. We even contrive to miss a late penalty, during a period in which we are the better team. If only, eh?

Oh well, maybe next year.

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They think it’s all over?

With John winning the Champions League, and me winning the World Cup, I think we can call that a draw.

Only kidding. John was the clear winner here, and congrats to him.

So, what’s next? Well, I’ve already completed season 11, and will post updates here. After that? I think I’ll continue the save, but probably not post on here very often.

Another league campaign ends

I blame myself.

League form to date has been, as you’ve seen, patchy, at best. However, as our time in the Champions League comes to an end, we start to get a few more points on the board. Is it too little, too late?

January starts well, with a 2-1 win at home to Stade Malherbe CaenSavic and Sandro grabbing a goal either side of one from Caen.

A 1-0 defeat at OGC Nice is followed by a couple of wins against Stade Rennais FC (2-1, SimeoneFebas) and AS Saint-Etienne (2-1, Simeone, Romeiro).

February sees a return of our early season form, with a draw, 2 defeats and 2 wins. Those two wins come at the end of the month, against AS Monaco (2-0, SavicLemos) and Havre Athletic Club (1-0, Winking) and heralds the return of last season’s title challenging form.

Those two games are the start of an 11-match unbeaten run – with only two draws along the way. 32 points from a possible 36. An astonishing run of games, and yet…

We’re nowhere near challenging for the league. We finish the campaign on 71 points – 10 points fewer than last season. Worse still, league winners PSG have upped the ante, and finished on 89 points. Worst stillAS MonacoOMand OGC Nice finish on 88, 86, and 79 respectively, pushing us into 5th place and a Europa League spot.

We have regressed! There will be no Champions League next year!

I said at the start that I blame myself and, mainly, that’s because I didn’t bulk up the squad enough for a decent run in all competitions. The team were knackered throughout the season. Honestly, I’m not sure how we managed that final run, but it was probably due to the fact that I had started trusting my second-string and not running the first 11 into the ground.

So, it’s a disappointing end to season 10. However, there is some good news…

The Cups, including the big shiny European one

Let’s get this first one out of the way, before we go any further. The board wanted us to reach the Semi Final of the Coupe de France and, in the two ties we play in Rounds 9 and 10, we win one 1-0, and lose the other 2-0.

Moving on…

Coupe de la Ligue

The Coupe de la Ligue is the one that no-one cares about, but the board still want a Semi Final appearance.

First up is a 4th Round tie against PSG. Can you tell what comes next? Surprisingly, we win 2-1. A bit of a mugging, to be honest. 22 shots to our 8 although, having said that, they only manage one more on target than we do. Second-half substitute Giovanni Simeone gets a couple as we march onto a Quarter Final against Havre Athletic Club.

They’re soundly beaten 4-0, with goals from SandroSimeone (2), and Mattia Franchini.

The Semi Final sees us up against OM, and we’re 3-0 up at half-time. Some of the bigger teams might be resting their players but I’m chalking up these cup wins to my own tactical genius, obviously. OM pull one back in the 89th minute, but earlier goals from Franchini, Emre Can and Simeone see us through to the final.

Now, annoyingly, we should’ve won this. To be fair to OGC Nice, it was a pretty even tie, finishing 0-0 after 90 minutes, but we made enough chances to take it. As it is, we go down to a 99th minute, Extra Time winner, and another chance at silverware goes a-begging.

Champions League

The big one. Never mind those parochial French cups. This is the only thing we want to win etc.

This will be a short post.

Our group stage form carries us into a 1st Knockout Round tie against Arsenal, and we do well. Very well.

At Home, Sergey Savic scores a 69 minute winner that takes us to the Emirates with a 1-0 lead to defend. We take a 3rd minute lead, through Steven Kamphuis, but are immediately pegged back. Midway through the second-half, Arsenal take the lead in the match, 2-1. As it stands, we’re through on away goals.

And that’s how it finishes.

My first ever Journeymen run in the Champions League has thrown up a number of British teams in Celtic, Arsenal and now, Man Utd. A Quarter-Final against the tournament favourites then.

It’s not pretty.

At Old Trafford, we come away with a respectable 3-2 defeat. It’s 2-2 right up until the 80th minute when our young defender Laurent Saizonou puts past his own keeper and we go to the Home leg needing to win. And that’s where it all falls apart.

Actually, to be fair, 3-0 is harsh. Man Utd take the lead early on, and we then get Jeando Fuchs sent off early in the second half. From then on, it’s backs to the wall, counter-attack stuff. But they’re not for budging and, in the end, they bang in a couple of goals in the 82nd and 90th minutes.

The Champions League dream is over for another season.

Season 10 progress, or a lack thereof

Firstly, congrats to John on his Champions League win! Effectively, that’s the game over, but I’ve a few scheduled updates to go, with some fairly big news on its way, so i’ll let that play out.

In my last update, we were 10 games into a Ligue 1 campaign, and had successfully navigated ourselves out of the Champion League group stage. The latter took us up to the end of December, so here’s what happened in the league during that same period.

Inconsistent, is the word I would use. And annoyingly, we’re playing teams we should be easily beating.

We round off October with a home game against Havre Athletic Club, and they hold us to a 0-0 draw. As you can see from the stats, we’re the better team but, as will be the case throughout much of this season (spoilers), we’re not scoring as frequently as we once were. I mean, Sandro and Simeone could only muster a 6.5 and 6.7 respectively. Just not good enough.

Worse was to come as we traveled to Angers SCO. We come away with our tail between our legs having been gubbed 3-1 when, again, we were much the better team. Our solitary goal was scored by young superstar Haris Ahmetovic. Remember that name; there will be a quiz at the end.

November sees us draw two and win two, without conceding a goal. An upturn in form that is very much welcome. Sandro and Ahmetovic grabbing 3 goals between them.

As we close out 2025, and head towards the winter break, we stretch our unbeaten run to 7 games, with another 2 draws and a win, before going down 2-1 to OM.

Our form, from the end October to the end of December then, is:

DLWDWDDWDL

Too many draws, right? I mean, we’ve only lost 4 times in 20 games, but we’re nowhere near the top of the table, and are hovering between 6th and 7th place. PSG, meanwhile, are romping away with it.

So, the January transfer window then. What was the name of that player I mentioned? That’s right, Haris Ahmetovic. We get an offer from Liverpool and he goes. I don’t really want to sell him, but it’s a lot of money, and he’s been injured most of the last year. In the end, he heads to Anfield for £22m, rising to £28m.

We buy a couple of backup players in left-back Hiroki Ogawa, and Advanced Forward Jean-Luc Pons. Neither of them will threaten the team sheet in the short-term, and I don’t think I need to worry about bolstering the first 11.

Although, it turns out I do.

Season 10, and my first crack at the Champions League

John managed to reach the Champions League by season 7 and now, 3 seasons later, I’ve got a chance to prove myself against Europe’s biggest and best. I suspect this will not go well.

Pre-season

In the three pre-seasons I’ve had at Montpellier, I’ve spent £82m, £37.5m, and now £46.5m. This year sees the least amount of players arriving. Quality over quantity, innit?

In come Sergej Milinkovic SavicOscar HiljemarkEmre CanJean-Philippe Gbamin, and Fernando Jiménez.

These are the signings that I hope will allow us to compete across the 5 tournaments in which we’re expected to perform.

  • Trophée de Champions – despite not winning anything last year, we seem to be in the French equivalent of the Charity Shield. The board don’t care about it, and neither do I
  • Coupe de la Ligue – the board want us to reach the Semi Final of the French SKOL Cup
  • Coupe de France – again, we’re expected to reach the Semi Final of this cup
  • UEFA Champions League – reaching the first Knockout Round is the expectation here. I guess this will depend a lot on the draw we get
  • Ligue 1 – qualification for the Champions League is the target.

I realise that pre-season results don’t tell you much, but I’m happy with what we manage to do in the summer of 2025. Lots of green circles in here, as we reach the first real game of the season and the Trophée de Champions tie against Paris Saint-Germain.

Unfortunately, that game sees our first defeat of the season, a 1-0 that we probably just deserved to lose.

Our first 10 league games are nothing to write home about. Our form’s patchy, and we’re a bit off the pace.

DLDWWDWLWW

During this time though, I’m paying a bit more attention to our Champions League form than the domestic league. The group draw wasn’t too bad, and we see ourselves lining up against Atlético MadridSL Benfica, and Celtic. As a Rangers fan, if nothing else, I’ve got to try and beat Celtic, haven’t I?

First up is the home leg against Benfica. It’s not a great start to my Champions League adventure, and we go down 1-0, deservedly so.

Next up, is the away tie against Celtic, and we head to Celtic Park knowing that we probably have to get something from it to progress. We’re helped by the fact that Celtic get a man sent off in the 34th minute for a shocker of a tackle and, truthfully, we only get the 2nd in the 2-0 victory in injury time. But we deserved that win.

A home game against group favourites Atlético Madrid follows. We win 2-0 in a game that we dominate, and it’s probably the best we’ve played all season. We lose 1-0 in the reverse fixture, but other results mean that we’re 2nd in the group and, with 2 games to go, qualification to the next stage is in our own hands.

Benfica are up next, and we travel to Portugal, dispatch them 3-0, and head home, dusting our shoulders.

Our final group stage game is at home to Celtic, and we comfortably beat them 4-1.

And with that, we’re through to the first Knockout Round of our first shot at the Champions League. The board are chuffed.

Now, about the domestic form…

Ligue 1, league glory?

Ligue 1 is the big one, right? It’s one that we all want to win. We’re going to give it a bloody good shot.

We’re looking for a lot from our pre-season signings this year. There’s no chaff; it’s all wheat (kinda), and I expect them to step into the team and take us up a level. And they do, by and large.

We emerge from August and September without having lost a game. A 0-0 and a 1-1 against Toulouse and OGC Nice are the only blots on our early season copybooks.

If I’m being honest, the first big challenge comes in October against PSG, and we fail, losing 2-0. Even worst than that though is that we’d lost the previous game against Havre Athletic Club, too. The rest of October and November are patchy, so that by the time we hit December our form is a bit mixed.

WWDWWWDLLWWLD

December is a bit better, with 3 wins and 2 losses, meaning that we reach the midway point of the season (after an early January win against Olympique Lyonnais) in 4th place.

The new year (2025!) sees a bit of an upturn in form, and we reach the end of February having dropped only 4 points from a possible 18. That sees us leapfrog OGC Nice into 3rd place, with only regular table-toppers PSG and AS Monaco ahead of us.

A few matches later and all three of us are tied on 61 points. And we’re 2nd on goal difference.

A win at Stade Malherbe Caen, is followed by two draws against AS Monaco and FC Nantes, which bookend a couple of victories against Stade Rennais FC and FC Metz. As the league reaches its conclusion, AS Monaco have dropped further points and we’re tied at the top with Paris Saint-Germain.

And so, it comes down to the final game of the season. We go into it having dropped a couple of points and sit on 78, while PSG have 80.

We’re playing En Evant de Guingamp (aren’t we always?) while PSG take on Toulouse. Both of these team are hovering around the bottom half of the table, so the expectation is that we both win.

We win 2-0. Our Shearer and Sutton combo of Simeone and Sandro score a goal each, and I watch the Latest Updates panel as both goals are going in. As the clock creeps towards the 90, PSG are drawing 0-0 (did I mention they’d lost their previous game?) and I can only hope that Toulouse grab a late winner.

But they don’t. It finishes goalless.

We finish 2nd, beaten by goal difference.

Gutted.

On a positive note, next season will see me try my hand at the Champions League for the first timel