Crouchy's Calcio Journeyman Save - Project 1: Carrarese in Serie C1/A (Season Three at Dei Marmi - 2011/12)
The board wanted a mid-table finish this season and the media expected the same. I have to say that I was a little shocked by this, especially as we were new to the league, having been promoted the season before. Personally, I expected a big struggle this season and I thought I would have a fight on my hands. In the end, I have a very dull tale to tell, as we failed to trouble either end of the table.
The season started with disaster. The club was in financial difficulties when joined but things seem to have become worse and worse during my time at Dei Marmi. Upon gaining promotion, many members of the squad had automatic wage increases activated as part of their contracts. This sent the wage bill sky-rocketing and to make matters worse, the board reduced my wage bill by a few thousand pounds.
This led to huge anxiety on my part and I realised that I would have to part with some members of the squad. I was forced to part with inside forward Michel Cruciani and striker Jonathan Granito as their contracts were up. I managed to sell on quite a few fringe players and reserves for small amounts. In the end, I realised that I had a tiny squad and I worried that I had little chance of staying the division with such a lack of squad depth. I panicked and raided parent club Genoa for any half decent young talent that I could get on loan. I ended up with a few decent players such as Diego Polenta, Nicholas Constantini, Andrea Signorini and Umberto Eusepi, who would all end up leaving Genoa and joining Carrarese at the end of the season, but more on that later. In terms of actual signings, I was unable to make any, and I was also unable to free up any more of the wage budget, with very few sides interested in buying my players.
One benefit of this was that without any newcomers the team gelled very quickly. However, we started the season in typical fashion by getting knocked out of the Italian Cup in the 1st Qualifying Round after being on the receiving end of a 4-1 thrashing by Serie B side Rimini. It was a difficult game in the first place but I was at least hoping for a bit of a fight from my players.
The league started off pretty badly too, as we were beaten comprehensively by Novara in a 2-0 loss away from home. However, this was quickly turned around by a 3-1 home victory against Cisco Roma.
Early on, we picked up the odd point here and there and won ever so occasionally. We didn't really get going until seven games in, where we picked up an amazing 4-0 win against promotion candidates Arezzo. From then on, we were very consistent and stayed rooted in 8th place for over half of the season, neither moving up nor down. We were in no danger of threatening to make a difference to the top or bottom of the league.
In the January transfer window, I was able to sell on no less than 11 players, including Spanish winger Carlos Rodriguez and the Czech holding midfielder Marek Zubek. With the wages that were freed up, I was able to make some big changes, signing some good quality players for our level. Ex-Chelsea youngster Daniel Philliskirk was signed and with his quality first touch and passing, he became our deep-lying playmaker alongside Albert Cano in the midfield. I had signed my first Englishman to play in Italy and there was definitely a little bit of favouritism going on there. I really hoped he would be a success and he did pretty well. Another important signing was Leandro Greco, who turned out to be a quality inside forward cutting inside from the left for us during the course of the season. We signed one or two others who I feel will become important to us next season.
We showed that we were much better than some of the relegation candidates in this league by comfortably beating many of the sides battling at the wrong end of the table. Alessandria were well beaten in December, with a 4-1 win at Dei Marmei and a brace from Umberto Eusepi. Cittadella were also beaten comfortably at home in March in a terrific 4-0 win.
We achieved what was expected in the Serie C2 cup, which didn't last too long for us, and after that it really was straightforward for us in the league, with us never looking in any danger of moving up or down from 8th place. I feel that our home form slightly let us down, as we actually had one of the better away records in the league. We recorded 29 points at home, and 28 away, which probably says a lot actually. I feel that we were unable to break teams down at home, but we also struggled to record wins against the top sides at Dei Marmi. Prior to this season, I was unbeaten at Dei Marmi as manager of Cararese. This season, we lost four games at home.
We finished the season with a fine 3-0 win away at Alessandria, who were already down. It was at about this time that I discovered that the manager of Hellas Verona, who finished 8th in Serie C1/B, had 'insecure' as his status. I immediately declared my interest, much to the disgust of the Carrarese management who had been trying to convince me to sign a new contract for most of the second half of the season. The Hellas Verona chairman said he was interested in me but nothing appears to be coming of it at the time of writing.
League Positions Graph
As you can see from above, we started poorly but then reached a level of boring consistency that saw us in 8th for most of the season!
Italian Cup - knocked out at the first hurdle by Serie B side Rimini.
Serie C Cup - a modest run of four games saw us reach the 3rd round group stages. Unfortunately, we finished bottom of the group and we were even embarrassed by our local rivals from Serie C2, Lucchese. :o
As you can see from above, I signed quite a few loan players from Genoa, only to discard most of them due to them not being good enough. In January, I was able to strengthen the side after selling a number of players. In total, I raised £59k from transfers and solely worked with loans and free transfers.
The squad is pretty decent, with one or two stand out players at this level. It'll need improving quite a bit to stand a chance of promotion though. I'm lucky because several key loan players have agreed to sign from Genoa at the end of the season, including defenders Polenta and Signorini, and top goalscorer Umberto Eusepi.
Diego Polenta - Starting from the back then and Polenta was incredibly important. A quality player with excellent mental attributes, he is going to be vital to our chances of success next season. His contract runs out with Genoa this season and I'm delighted to say that we have signed him on a free transfer.
Olivier N'Siabamfumi - Olivier is the club captain and was at the club when I first joined. He is a no nonsense fullback and not particularly special at this level but he just seems to be a very consistent performer.
Albert Cano - Albert was one of my first signings when I joined the club and once again he has been fantastic. He played as deep-lying playmaker or general defensive midfielder in the 4-2-3-1 this season and his pass completion rate was the best in the league yet again. A talented player at this level and he has made the step up to C1 with ease.
Umberto Eusepi is another marvellous Genoa loan who we have managed to sign up for next season. What a terrific player he is. Ruthless in front of goal, he plays as an advanced forward with support from the attacking midfielder behind him. He scored 20 in 28 in the league, which is a terrific record, and I expect more of the same next season. Glad to have brought him to the club permanently.
This was the team of the season.
Next Season: Having said that I wasn't going to sign a new contract with Carrarese, it now appears that I might well do so after all. I am interested to see how the club will do next season. At the same time, if a move comes up to Hellas Verona, I will be jumping ship immediately, as I would really love to manage the Gialloblu.
Season Team League Position Achievements
2009/10 Carrarese Serie C2/B 6th (Took over after 17 games)
2010/11 Carrarese Serie C2/C 1st Serie C2/C winners & C2 Super Cup winners
2011/12 Carrarese Serie C1/A 8th
Carrarese currently have major financial problems and despite the fact that I am keeping to the wage bill, the situation is not improving. The chairman continues to put in money to subsidise the club but my feeling is that we will not move forward given the current circumstances. However, a new sponsorship deal was signed in the summer so perhaps there may be some progress there.
The wage bill for the new season has been reduced again by another £2k. This puts me in real trouble and I have had to promise the board promotion in order to increase the wage bill to any reasonable amount. I fear that we will still be operating over the budget, even if I let several players go, and next season is going to be a season of huge pressure for me.
At the time of writing, I am thinking of signing a new contract with Carrarese. At the end of next season, the Hellas Verona and Pro Vercelli managers' contracts both expire and those are two jobs I would be interested in biding my time for. I have my concerns about Carrarese though and with the current financial circumstances I may have to jump ship sooner rather than later. I feel that I may well have taken them as far as I can.