“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

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

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Millers Go Marching On

As the winter transfer window slams shut it has been an excellent first half of the season for The Millers. In the 13 league games since the last update we won 7, drew 5 and lost only 1 to leave us joint top of the league with 44 points. Marc Brasnic is top goalscorer in the division and we have conceded the least and scored the 3rd most in Serie B.

We are also, first the first time since I took over, in the black. Ettore Mendicino got his wish and was transferred to Verona for £1.2m and backup full back Roberto Masullo moved to Pescara for £230k. This income also allowed me to finally go on a coaching course so hopefully will see an improvement in my stats soon.

Unfortunately injuries have robbed us of two key players. Tosin Adarabioyo tore his knee ligaments and will be out for 4 months. Given the number of centre halves we have we should be able to cope with this one. More serious was Daniel Bezziccheri damaging his achilles tendon and his season is now over. This meant I had to delve into the transfer market, which I would prefer not to do in January. Samou Sissoko has came in on loan from Roma to replace Bezzy and we also brought in Kevin Collins, a young central midfielder, from Liverpool as I felt we struggled in there when Giulio Maggiore was injured earlier in the season.

The Italian Cup gave us two cracking games against top flight opposition. In the 4th Qualifying Round we faced Trapani and despite having a Dario Saric sent off after 59 minutes we managed to hold them to a 2-2 draw before winning 4-1 on penalties. The reward for this was an away trip to Turin to play the mighty Juventus. We were mighty in the game. 52% possession and 21 shots to their 16 in a frantic tie. Paulo Dybala had given Juve a first half lead before a quick fire double from Bezzy and Fabby put is in front. Juve equalised through Lemina before Bezzy picked up his season ending injury. We continued to threaten in extra time but Juve got a 113th minute winner to break our hearts. That’s a bit melodramatic as I don’t really care about the Italian Cup, a bit like everyone else in Italy, but it was still an impressive performance.

It’s back to the league and the push for promotion.

Table

Fixtures

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Finances

In the Summertime…

It was always going to be a busy summer. The squad would need to be rebuilt with no money and every member of the backroom staff was out of contract and I was also keeping an eye on the job market. First decision was on my own future. I felt if I was looking to move I wouldn’t be overly committed to rebuilding the team and staff. Given that Siena gave me a job I decided to repay their faith and commit myself for the season and, so, I signed the new contract I was offered.

Next step was backroom staff. Long story short I replaced everyone. New assistant manager, coaches, director of football, scouts, physios, data analysts, head of youth development. Everyone. A change is as a good as a rest.

Changing your staff, however, is pointless if you don’t get good players in. We needed players who were good enough for Serie B. We managed to extend the loan deals for Alessandro Bastoni (touted as the next Franco Baresi), Giulio Maggione, Fabio Gerli, Michael Fabbro and fan favourite Daniel Bezziccheri. All of their coach reports said they were Serie B standard so they were a no-brainer.

However, the step up a division meant that some players were no longer of the required standard so new players would be needed and selling a few would be good to try and balance the books. In came Mattia Franchini, an advanced playmaker, on loan from Porto and Tosin Adarabioyo, a central defender, on loan from Man City. We also signed Joel Pareira a goalkeeper who had been released from Man Utd. These last two are outstanding signings as I had them both in a previous save and they went on to become world class players. Them alone made me confident for the upcoming season.

We also managed to get in Stefan Simic and Dario Del Fabro, both centre halves, on free transfers. I signed them both as I fully expected someone to meet Mattias Andersson’s release clause and I’ve been bitten by that happening on the last day of the transfer window in the past. And then no-one came in for him. This has left me with 5 first choice centre halves so squad management is going to need to be vital to keep them all happy. The final main signing was Marc Brasnic, a 21 year old Croatia U21 striker. I’m not sure if Mendicino is going to be able to make the step up to Serie B.

There wasn’t a raft of players leaving but we did make a little bit of money. I transfer listed Andrea Doninelli and Bari paid £675k for him. Along with a board injection of funds this has eased the financial worries.

Transfers

As I dealt with all this my new assistant manager, Daniel Bartsch, was taking control of an encouraging pre-season. We went unbeaten, including a 1-1 draw with Napoli, scoring 28 goals in 8 games, conceding only 5. The competitive fixtures started with the Italian Cup, where our target was the 3rd Qualifying Round, which meant we only had to beat Serie C side Parma. Which we duly did, 2-0. We were then drawn against Serie A side Atalanta (surely it isn’t a qualifying round if they Serie A sides are in it?) and produced an outstanding performance to spank them 4-1, away from home.

There was no way I was going to have as good a start to the league season as Ronnie but it was hugely promising nevertheless. We won 4 of our opening 6 games, drawing the other 2, to sit on top of the pile before we travelled to Pescara. Here we would suffer our first defeat of the season, 0-1, despite ridiculous match stats:

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Our 2nd defeat of the season would come in game 9 after Vassallo was sent off after 30 minutes for a straight red card but it too was only 1-0 so I’m pleased with how our defence is shaping up. In the final game of this update we had to play a league game despite having 6 players on international duty. Pretty annoyed about that and we drew 0-0. So after 10 league games we have won 5, drawn 3 and lost 2 and sit in 5th place. We have the best defensive record in the league but i would like to see us take more of our chances as we are generally dominating teams. Overall though an excellent start.

Downsides are that we lost Maggiore for 4 months through injury and Mendicino has been transfer listed. He wanted a new contract, which I offered, but his demands were ridiculous and we couldn’t match them so he has spat the dummy and demanded to be transfer listed. It’s a shame but fuck him.Squad Table

Fixtures

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.

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