The Eternal City

So I made it to the summer with Lazio and I didn’t post an update because, to be honest, fuck all happened. When I took over we were in 15th place and the board expected a mid-table finish. During the winter transfer window I tried to get players in but any player I thought was of the required standard was completely over valued by the selling club, so there were no new arrivals.

Instead we had some good young players I promoted (some of whom I had to cancel their existing loan deals) including Bezzy, back from Siena, defenders James Fofana and Andrea Villa and midfielders Davide Paglia and Al Hassan Lamin. Fofana and Bezzy played most of the remainder of the season and Bezzy won the clubs Young Player of the Year award.

In the league our record under me read:

P22 W9 D7 W6

Which was enough to finish 7th, which the board was delighted with as it meant we qualified for the Europa League. However, in a 38 game season we conceded 58 goals and scored only 37 so there is going to be big changes in the summer. We were worryingly short in defence and injuries to only 2 players would’ve meant playing players out of position. I think our strikers are good enough but we need more quality in the wide positions.

Pleasingly the board have continued to allow me to take coaching courses and I’m currently studying for a Continental B Licence. I’ll update after the transfer window closes and I’ve done some business.Table

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“It means nothing to me…”

After the excellent results against the Milan clubs we were brought back down to Earth with a thud. Successive defeats against Entella (H), 2-0, and Atalanta (A), 1-0, did not set us up well for our big derby against Fiorentina. However, they were struggling in the league so we were optimistic. La Viola took an early lead but goals in each half from Samou Sissoko gave us a well deserved 2-1 win. It was also a result that saw the Fiorentina manager sacked and a defeat for Lazio on the same day also saw their manager relieved of his position.

These were proper big clubs, both with 4 star reputations, but in a proper save I wouldn’t have considered leaving The Millers. However, this isn’t a proper save. the point of this is to be the first to win the Champions League and much as though I’ve became found of Siena I feel I’ll have more chance of challenging for trophies at a bigger club. So I looked at both jobs and decided to apply for the Lazio job.

As my application was reviewed we won in the Italian Cup 4th Qualifying Round against Benevento and earned a very credible 0-0 draw with Roma and then, despite my relatively poor reputation, Lazio invited me for an interview. After that we drew 1-1 at home to Chievo and Fiorentina invited me for an interview, even though I hadn’t applied. No harm in going along I thought.

The Chievo game would turn out to be my last for The Millers. The day after the Fiorentina interview Lazio offered me the position of manager. It was too good to turn down and I left Siena with a heavy heart.

My first impression of Lazio is that their squad is fucking massive and, frankly, not good enough. Not one player is a potential 5 star player although they do have 4 or 5 decent prospects in their youth squads, unfortunately they are all out on loan. I’ll probably bring in some staff but I’ve been given a wage budget of £1.2m and a transfer budget of £9m to turn things around. Considering I haven’t spent any money on a player yet that’s nice to have. I’ll get stuck in and do a more detailed update soon.

UPDATE: My first game will be against Siena

Season 4

Let’s have a quick review of the season.

Highest rated players this year are Brandon Domingues and Jérémy Cordoval, but the former only played 5 games, and the latter only has an average rating of 7.26. I told you we didn’t play well this year!

Anthony Derouard is 3rd in that chart, and he also contributed 19 goals to his 33-game campaign. For that tally, he earns the club record for Most Goals in a Season (19) and Top League Goalscorer (15). He also picks up the club record for Most Goals in a Match, with his 4 against Amiens SC.

In contrast to the 3000 capacity stadium at Vendée Herbiers Football, Troyes’ Stade de l’Aube holds more than 20000 and there were regularly crowds of between 15000 and 20000. Those gate receipts, combined with money that’ll come with being promoted make the finances look pretty healthy.

 

My manager stats are looking a bit healthier. And in the time I’ve been at Troyes, I’ve completed my National C Licence, and I’m on the way to completing my National B Licence.

The challenge next season will be to keep Troyes in Ligue 1. I don’t expect to be given a huge amount of money, but the squad’s not good enough, and neither are the coaching staff.

But that’s for the next update. I’m off to find some superstars that will help us stay up next year.

Board expectation: make the playoffs

At the start of the season, I’d expected the board to invite me into their Portacabin and demand that I get ESTAC Troyes promoted straight back up into Ligue 1. I was pleasantly surprised that that they were happy to finish in the playoff positions, but even so, I was desperate to move up a division, and make it to the top flight.

Right up until Christmas our form was patchy, and to that point, I never felt like I was fully in control of the team; I couldn’t quite figure out our best formation, or indeed, the first choice 11.

During the winter break, I organised a few friendlies, with the hope of banging in a ton of goals against some minor teams, and raising the confidence of the squad. It worked, to an extent. 14 goals scored with only 1 reply, across 4 matches. However, our first competitive match after the break ended in a 0-0 draw, so I still wasn’t sure where we stood.

And so we reach the closing months of the season with a battle ahead of us. At the start of January, we’re in 2nd position, miles off the pace being set by Valenciennes CF. We close out the month with another 0-0 draw and a fairly convincing 3-2 win away to Stade Lavallois MFC. Our first competitive goals in what feels like an age come from veteran Marvin Martin, and Tristan Dingomé. The latter scores a brace and then gets himself a summer move to the Belgian side AA Gent, who trigger a release clause in his contract.

Our 4 games in February epitomise the form we’ve had all year. A draw, a loss, and a couple of victories. The 1-0 win against La Berrichonne sees Anthony Derouard score for the first time in a while, but Karim Azamoum gets himself sent off with half an hour to go, ensuring a nervy finish. The 3-2 win away at Amiens FC is a similarly nervous occasion. 2-2 with 15 minutes to go, Amiens concede an own goal on 90+2, and we get loanee Lucas Dumai sent off on 90+4.

We’re still kicking around between the automatic promotion place (2nd) and the promotion playoff (3rd) so it looks like the teams around us are suffering the same fate. In fact, Valenciennes look to be struggling; ourselves and Angers SCO don’t seem to be as far behind them as we were a month ago.

March starts with our 3rd victory in a row, and is quickly followed by a defeat. We were lucky to win that opener; Chamois Niortais FC’s Jérémy Choplin knocking it past his own keeper to give us a squeaky 1-0 win. We win the next game a bit more comfortably. Derouard and Kamel Chergui made it 2-0 after 12 minutes, before USL Dunkerque went on a bit of a kicking spree and got half their team booked.

April’s not good.

LDLLW

That’s the kind of form that sees you drop out of the promotion playoff spot. And it does. The only consolation I take from this period, is that our win is against fellow promotion contenders FC Metz. We beat them 1-0 and weirdly shoot back up to 3rd and into the playoff spot once more.

As we go into May, Valenciennes have dropped to 2nd and the top 3 looks like this:

  1. Angers SCO
  2. Valenciennes FC
  3. ESTAC Troyes

We’re 5 points behind Valenciennes with a worse goal difference, but we play them in the penultimate game of the season. 2nd place means automatic promotion, but behind us in 4th are Clermont Foot, who have just got themselves a new manager and with it, a new lease of life.

First, it’s a trip to Stade de Reims, where we pick up a 2-0 win. Souhail Labyad gets his first goal of the season. He’s a striker, so that’s not a great return. To be fair, I’ve barely played him, preferring Derouard, whose season kinda fell away after a great start. Dumai gets the 2nd goal, and our win comes at the same time as the top 2 draw 2-2.

We’re only 3 points behind Valenciennes, and we play them at home next. If we win by 4 or more goals, we leapfrog them into 2nd.

Labyad equalises their early opener, and then 19-yo winger Brandon Domingues puts us 2-1 up heading into the break. We’re looking good for the win throughout the 2nd half, until an equaliser on 90+2 minutes kicks us in the stomach and robs us of a couple of points.

The final game of the season is away at RC Strasbourg Alsace. We need to win, and hope that Valenciennes lose. Unfortunately, we shrink under the pressure, and stumble to a 1-0 defeat. Meanwhile, Valenciennes draw their fourth game in a row and finish in the automatic promotion spot.

We’re into the playoff. The board is happy and I’m offered a new contract. But all that I’m interested in is the next couple of games.

They’re against FC Sochaux-Montbéliard, who finished 18th in Ligue 1, just 2 points from safety. In theory, we should be the form team. I’m confident.

And I should be. The home leg’s 1st and we batter them 2-0. All the stats are in our favour and they couldn’t have complained if we’d taken 4 or 5 from them. The away leg is only a couple of days later and, although the team are tired, I go with the same 11, and we launch into an early lead. We trade goals until it’s 2-2, and then they get a man sent off. I’m tempted to throw men forward in an attempt to capitalise but the aggregate score will see us through, and we stick with what we’ve got.

We’re heading to Ligue 1.

Winter is coming

My first few months at ESTAC Troyes have not been anywhere near as comfortable as I would’ve liked. For a team that have just come down from the division above, we are making hard work of our time in Ligue 2.

When I last updated, we’d gone through a bit of a barren spell, but looked to be on the up again. Well, that didn’t last long. We’ve not been playing terribly, but we’re terribly inconsistent.

DWWWWDLWLLW

One of the recent losses came in the 8th round of the Coupe de France – a tournament in which we’re expected to reach the 11th round. Not a great result, then.

League form has been good enough to reach the dizzy heights of 2nd place, and then subsequently drop out of the promotion playoff places. Our recent points have saw us edge back up near the top of the table, but we’re 9 points off the top, and only narrowly ahead of Clermont FC, and a bunch of other chasers.

Tactics-wise, I’ve been using the same 4-3-3 formation that served me well at the Herbs, but it’s not been too successful. I can’t quite figure out why. Everyone’s comfortable with it, and occasionally we play superbly, but it’s not quite clicking. I’ve a feeling that it might be a morale thing, who knows? Anyway, I’m currently trying out a rather more standard 4-1-4-1, with much fewer team instructions in an attempt to try and simplify things a little. That formation resulted in a 2-0 win against fellow title-contenders, AJ Auxerre, so I’m going to keep with this for a little bit.

No fixtures for a month, so I’ll likely get a few friendlies lined up against low-league opposition, in an attempt to score a few goals, and get morale up.

Transfer-wise, I think we’re where we need to be, although I might need to get some cover for a few key positions.

Early days at ESTAC Troyes

It’s taking me a while to settle into this new place. The manager’s chair isn’t quite as comfy as the one they’d given me at the Herbs, and the players don’t seem to like me as much.

After a promising pre-season, our competitive matches started well, but form subsequently plummeted. Knocked out of the Coupe de la Ligue at Round 2 (the target was Round 3), our league form wasn’t much better.

WLWLDDDWWLW

Actually, looking at that, it doesn’t seem too bad. But from late August, we go on a run of 5 games in the league and cup without a win. I tinker with the tactics a bit, making sure I know who my best 11 is, and we emerge from those changes with 3 wins out of 4. I then go and arse things up by having a team meeting that results in every member of my squad threatening to disembowel me. That’s how it feels, anyway.

The board are expecting immediate promotion this year – or at least, they’re expecting me to reach the playoffs. Right now, we’re sitting in 5th, 6 points from the top, after 11 games.

Transfer-wise, we got in another few players since the last update – perhaps that’s part of the reason for the poor, early season form. Since we last spoke, we’ve introduce a bunch of new defenders: Digol (now out on loan), PaquiezMartinAloéHuerta, and Silva. Of these, Chilean defender, Valber Huerta has already proven to be a bit of a rock at the centre of defence. Jury’s still out on the others, I must admit.

It definitely feels now that John has drawn first blood in the Journeymen challenge. Successive promotions and a few trophies in the cabinet are just rewards for a fantastic few years at Siena.

Hopefully with ESTAC Troyes I can start to emulate that.

Baptism of Fire

Mind that cracking defensive record I had in Serie B? That has well and truly gone. Things started badly. Really badly. Having strengthened the squad, predominantly in midfield, I was reasonably confident of surviving in Serie A. Then the fixture list was announced. I would start away to Juventus with my first home game coming in the next fixture against Napoli. Understandably we lost both and our third match, away to Sassuolo who had finished 8th the previous season. It was a rude awakening for the team and morale was the lowest it had been during my tenure.

To make matters worse both Carpi and Entella, who had been promoted alongside us, were unbeaten in their first 3 matches. It made our 4th game at home to Trapani vital but, when Trapani scored in the 78th minute to go 2-1 up, we were in trouble. However, we turned it around magnificently and goals from Fabbro (86th minute) and Brasnic (90) gave us a 3-2 win. Massive, massive victory. Annoyingly summer signing Russell Canouse was sent off and that was our third red card in 4 games. Unbeknown to me all my players individual tackling instructions were set to high. Presumably I set this up but as I created the tactic in a previous save I don’t remember doing this. In our first 4 games we received 22 yellow cards and 3 red. In the 6 since; 20 yellows, no red.

Anyway I was hoping we could kick on from that Trapani win and we kinda did. Next was a 3-3 draw away to Palermo, the fans were delighted with this, before a 0-0 draw at home to Sampdoria. I was delighted with this mostly because of the clean sheet. We then lost away to Bologna. Despite some small signs of promise it still meant that after 7 games our form was

LLLWDDL

We were firmly in the relegation zone and I really had to target 6 points from our next to games against Cagliari (H) and Carpi (A) as the two games after those were back-to-back matches against the Milan giants, AC and Inter. 6 points were duly delivered as we produced our most complete performance so far against Cagliari (2-0) and another epic comeback against Carpi (3-2).

AC Milan at home next in a midweek game under the lights. A sell-out crowd came more in hope than expectation, and the Rossoneri were the better team right from the start. However, we did restrict them to efforts from distance and, despite the fact they hit woodwork twice in the opening 20 minutes, at half time we, unbelievably, found ourselves 2-0 up. Samou Sissoko had scored with our only attempts on target. Luciano Vietto pulled one back on the hour mark for Milan but we held firm for a famous victory. The Artemio Franchi was rocking at the end.

Only 3 days later we had to pick ourselves up and head to Milan to play Inter. Inter had had a shocking start to the season, losing 4 of their opening 7 games, but had dusted themselves down and were back up to 5th and had won 3 out of 3 in their Champions League group. The Nerazzurri scored after 15 minutes and should’ve been out of sight as the battered us but, again, our defence was imperious. Russell Canouse got his 2nd red of the season after 54 minutes and the gig should’ve been up but Bezziccheri came off the bench to get us a completely undeserved draw. Remember Scotland in the Parc des Princes? It was like that. Inter were fuming and claimed we were overly aggressive. They should’ve played us before I tweaked the tactics.

Overall a good start. 11 games in and its 4 wins, 3 draws and 4 defeats. Having completed my National B Licence the board allowed me study for the National A Licence.

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