Season 2 round-up

Players

Best performing players this year were Ramalama, Belloc, Bouriaud, two of whom feature in the league’s end of season awards.

Loanees Bouriaud and Basila – both of whom were absolute rocks this year – look unlikely to be in next year’s team, as it seems that FC Nantes want them back.

Board

Obviously, the board were delighted with our performance. So much so that they offered me two contracts, one within the space of a week of the other. I presume I’m only being paid once, but I’ll need to check the ol’ #FM17 bank account.

I’m looking forward to seeing next season’s expectations, but I presume that they’ll mainly consist of, try not to get relegated.

Finances

Winning the league brings in over £500000 in prize money, but a big chunk of that is paid out in bonuses and salary clauses. Overall, bank balance looks a lot healthier than it did at the start of the season, with projections for the bottom line now trending upwards.

We’re going to struggle next season, though. We’ve got very little in the way of assets that we can offload for serious cash; and our stadium only holds 3000 (and only has 500 seats). Speaking of stadiums, as one season ends and another one gets ready to start, I receive the following message in my inbox.

The board have indicated that they cannot afford to meet the league’s recommended stadium specifications this season but plan to address the problem again this time next year.

It looks like any money we might be planning on acquiring would have to be ploughed into a fund for expanding the stadium (from 500 to 5000 seats!) next year. Unless we go straight back down, in which case we’re back to where we started.

What’s next?

I won Manager of the Season, and my stats seem to have crept up a little, but I’m still not a full 1-star manager, yet.

I’m also in the position where the board are still not allowing me to go on any coaching courses. To be honest, if an offer came in for a solid Ligue 2 side, I’d jump. As it stands, I don’t want to rock the boat by applying for anything so I’ll stay put for a bit. I’m keeping my eyes peeled, though.

Nice to know that I’m now fluent in French, too.

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Kind of a big dill

Dill, deal, geddit?! Sorry.

At the end of the last update, the Herbs were struggling with form, in what looked like a bit of a mid-season slump. Actually, January hadn’t been too bad, but we struggled a lot during February and March.

What does April, May and the close of our second season in charge have in store for us?

Out of the cup by late February, it’s time to focus on the league and bolster our 1st place position. As April starts, we’re clear of 2nd place US Créteil-Lusitanos by just 1 point, having previously been 11 in the clear.

I’ve only just realised how front-loaded this season seems to be. By the time March ends and April starts, we have only 4 games remaining. 4 games to win the title.

Having not won in the past 6 league games, we go into an away tie against an AS Béziers team who had, earlier in the season, been up among the favourites for the title. By the time we face them, they’ve slipped to mid-table, but our form is so poor that we can’t take anything for granted.

Obviously, we want to keep it tight. Obviously. I mean, who wants to concede an own goal after 6 minutes, and then go 2-0 down after 13? No-one, that’s who. Fortunately, Derouard pulls one back after 18 minutes, and Belloc equalises on the stroke of half-time. Game on.

With just over an hour gone, Belloc gets his 2nd of the game, and we’re in front for the first time. It doesn’t last though, and Béziers make it 3-3 with 18 minutes to go. 5 minutes later, left-back Quentin Bonnet slots home what proves to be the winner, and we park the bus for the remainder of the match to win 4-3.

Créteil-Lusitanos draw 1-1 against relegation threatened US Avranches, and suddenly we’re 3 points clear at the top, with a better goal difference.

Up next, a home tie against another mid-table team, this time EFC Fréjus Saint-Raphaël. A 1-1 draw is disappointing, but C-L’s game finishes with the same scoreline. Stalemate.

Our penulitimate tie is against 2nd-bottom of the table US Saint-Malo, while C-L take on GF-38. We’re 3-0 up by half-time and I feel as confident as I have in a long time that we can do this! Sure enough, we see out the game 3-1, while C-L grab only a point.

We draw our final game, while C-L lose theirs, and we’re champions by 6 points!

 

Siena – Serie C Champions!

Was there ever any doubt? Well, yes, there was but in the end we saw the job through. The start of the 8 game run-in started poorly with two 1-1 draws but a draw and a defeat for Cremonese put us back to the top of the table. From there on we played some of our best football of the season and won the remaining 6 games. To be fair to Cremonese they won 4 of the remaining 5 but a 2-1 home defeat to Tuttocuoio (an affiliate of ours) meant we would win the title by 3 points.

First of all I’m delighted to be avoiding the nightmare of those playoffs. However, we did have the joy of the Serie C Super Cup where the 3 league winners playoff in a mini-league for, frankly, no reason wahtsoever. Victories over Reggiana (1-0) and a draw with Foggia (1-1) meant we finished the season on a 12 match unbeaten run. Ettore Mendicino managed to claim our top goalscorer award with 23, 3 ahead of both Bezzy and Fabby.

I signed a new contract with The Millers but it’s going to be a massive summer. i assume we’ll have to sell Mattias Andersson but that won’t be enough to get us back in the black. The board are going to need to invest money but I don’t think they will. if they don’t my position may become untenable.

The Unravelling (part II)- Siena Style

Matchdays 19 – 30 were always going to be a tough run of fixtures and I would be satisfied if we were still top come the 31st fixture of the season. It started well enough with 2 victories over Tuttocuoio and Pro Patria (which included another Mendy hat-trick) taking us into the winter break. Having assessed the squad I decided not to strengthen it in the winter transfer window. I already have a few players grumbling about a lack of first team opportunities and I am happy with what I have at my disposal anyway. Bologna showed some interest in young centre back Mattias Andersson but we managed to stave it off. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll be able to keep him beyond the summer especially with a £1.1m release clause. Someone will take a punt on that.

We thumped some shitey amateur team 9-0 in a friendly that was arranged just to keep the fitness up before a massive run of three games against Como, Livorno and Cremonese who were sitting 7th, 2nd and 3rd, respectively. If we could go through that run unbeaten then the dream would start to become a reality. It started well enough with a 4-1 away thumping of Como with young starlet Dario Saric banging in a hat-trick. A bumper crowd of over 7,000 would watch a cagey 0-0 draw with Livorno that put us 4 points clear. So far so good. Then the wheels came off and I blame on loan left back Luca Barlocco.

‘Barmy’ Barlocco managed to get himself sent off in the 9th minute against Cremonese for a ridiculously stupid challenge from behind. On the half way line. With the attacker going away from goal. In the fucking 9th minute. It was basically the same as Rob Kiernan’s red card against St. Johnstone. It was always going to be uphill after that and we held out till the 54th minute before Cremonese snatched the only goal of the game.

A comfortable 4-2 victory over Pro Piacenza followed before we faced 17th placed Campodarsego. Mendicino put us 1-0 up in a game we were dominating before Barlocco managed to get himself sent off AGAIN in the 41st minute. As you can imagine I was furious. Campo equalised straight after the red card before then snatching a 91st minute winner. Barlocco would be dropped. Indefinitely.

We again bounced back well from defeat, beating Carrarese 2-0 at home, but then lost to 5th placed Bassano, 1-0. No red card this time, just a piss poor performance. It also meant we lost top spot in the table for the first time since matchday 9. Back at home we would beat Viterbese Castrense 1-0 in a game where we had 20 attempts to their 1 but still needed a 91st minute winner by Michael Fabbro (I actually shouted out when that hit the back of the net). This game also secured us the minimum off a play-off spot so we’ve reached our pre-season expectations but we have much loftier ambitions now.

Before the final game of this update we lost Dario Saric for the remainder of the season which also happened last season. Pretty irritating. Another Fabby wonder strike gave us a 1-0 win over Bra and although we dominated an Andrea Doninelli red card (for a vicious foul) made it a nervy last 15. Overall it was a tough run but with 8 games left we are only a point behind Cremonese and 7 ahead of Livorno who are surely out of it now. We only have two games against current top 10 teams in the run in compared to 6 for both Cremonese and Livorno, who still have to play each other. It’s gonna be tight as fuck.

squad stats

fixtures

table

Liga Pro A – The Halfway Point

After a fantastic start to the season it was unlikely that The Millers would be able to keep that form going. However, keep it going we did, more or less. We laboured to a 2-0 away victory over relegation battlers Bra (they’re full of tits) thanks to second half goals from captain Marius Stankevicius (who became the clubs oldest ever goalscorer and player) and Bezzy. Next was a home tie against another relegation threatened team at home where we disappointingly dropped 2 points in a 1-1 draw which was followed up with our first defeat of the league season. Arezzo, also battling the drop, were well worth their 1-0 win.

I had targeted 9 points from those 3 games against teams at the wrong end of the table so to only get 4 was irritating, to say the least, and the performances were worrying. However, we showed tremendous bouncebackability as a Mendy scored another hat-trick in a 4-0 home victory against Lucchese before a remarkable first half against Prato saw us awarded 3 penalties (one of which we missed) and score 5 unanswered goals. 2 wins and 2 draws in our next 4 games keeps us on top of the table but in truth the run of 9 games were all against opposition we could, and should, beat so I was hoping for more than a 2 point lead at the top, although obviously I’m still delighted to be top. In our next 10 league fixtures we will play the teams currently sitting 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th so I suspect this’ll define our season.

In the Serie C Cup we had 2 titanic battles. In the 2nd round we faced Perugia and needed a 117th minute, extra time winner from Tommaso Ghinassi to get through. In the 3rd round we faced Venezia away who were fielding Cristian Bunino in attack who had been with us on loan last season. The media expected us to lose comfortably but we looked to have secured an unlikely victory before Bunino scored an 85th minute goal to make it 2-2 and take the tie into extra time, again. Venezia went 3-2 ahead before 2 goals in 2 minutes put us 4-3 up. Unfortunately, before I had time to react and go a bit more defensive Venezia equalised through, yep, you guessed it, Bunino and we were heading for penalties. Not one player in our squad has more than 11 for penalties and so it showed as Venezia ran out 4-1 winners. Bunino scored the winning penalty. Prick.

fixtures

table

The unraveling

If the first half of the season was a joy to behold, recent form has suggested that I’m not quite as good at this game as I thought I was. January to March sees a slip of title-threatening proportions.

Coupe de France

Having met the board’s expectations by December, I was secretly hoping that we could go a bit further and give maybe even give a Ligue 1 team a scare.

The round 9 draw is favourable, and we chalk up another victory against lower league opposition, scraping through 3-2 aet. Round 10 sees us up against Ligue 2’s FC Nantes, and given the previous tie’s performance, I’m not looking forward to it. Pfft, why was I worried? We pump them 4-1 in one of our most impressive performances of the season!

Round 11 fixtures come up around the end of February, and we’re playing Ligue 1 team, Angers SCO. This is where we should be testing ourselves, and that’s certainly what we do. We go down 3-2 aet in a game that the stats said we should’ve won.

Championnat de France National

And that’s where the good news ends, I’m afraid.

The defeat to Angers SCO is the second game in a run of 7 consecutive fixtures without a win. 6 of them are in the league, meaning that the lead we’d built up – we were 11 points clear at one stage – is now down to a measly point, with only a handful of games remaining.

DLLDDDL

January’s form was fine; it’s February and March that have broken us. And a couple of morale-destroying team talks have not helped.

Ultimately, we’ve done enough to more than exceed board and media expectations – I think the worst position we can finish now is 4th – but to not get automatic promotion after the form of the first half of the season would be a disappointment. Although, we’re still a part-time team who only draw crowds of around 300, so we’d likely come straight back down again.

It’s in our own hands. We can still win the title. We just need to win a game or two…

Winter transfer window – some new faces

The French transfer system is a strange beast. In between the Summer window closing on Aug 31, and the Winter window opening on Jan 2, there is a “Joker” system, where you can sign players from clubs in the same division, or below.

As such, I picked up Alister Bizolon (backup defender) from Le Mans FC in mid-October. I didn’t try to sign anyone else, but from reading online, it seems that there are further restrictions, i.e. the player must be French, and you can make only one signing. I’ll try and exploit this more, next season.

The biggest (this term is relative; everyone arrived on a free transfer) signings of the window are Anthony Derouard and Guillaume Dugain, both of whom will bolster the midfield / attacking midfield positions. I have high hopes for Derouard and he seems to enjoy playing alongside Teddy Bouriaud already. Nae pressure, mate.

The rest of them are promising youngsters: Bettaieb, Dagorn, Thébault, Inzoudine, although Franklin Wadja has already made a couple of promising appearances from the bench.