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[FM21] An Englishman's adventure abroad - If we reach the Caspian Sea, are we even in Europe anymore?


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Alex Laradze - January 23rd 2022

Well, my plan was to come to the edge of Europe/Asia and manage miles from the beaten track. I never once imagined I would be jumping over to Asia but when they offered me the job instantly, I knew I had to take the "White Wolves" on. I'll be totally honest, the nickname swung it for me!! Into Asia I go, managing FC Urartu in Armenia and Uzbekistan National Team. The big draw was the World Cup only 11 months away, the hard part with qualifying is done so the chance to get my name out to the whole world is one I cannot turn down.

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Side note - As Uzbekistan was a rival of Kazakhstan, I have the League database downloaded so will be loading that up to potentially prolong the time managing here. This will be "live" from 20/12/2022. A full Uzbekistan update will come later on.

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Alex Laradze - March 1st 2022

That is more like it, 5 games, 15 points and now back on top by 2 points. The pace has gone from crazy games to hardly again games once more much really makes it hard to keep the form going but we just have to keep winning from here. The biggest game was the 2-0 away victory over Pyunik which was the difference between first and second place at thus point and could be what decides the title. With just 6 games left, we see if it goes to the wire.

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For March we have 2 international friendlies which gives me the first chance to get all my National Team players together. We will face Iraq on the road before welcoming Japan. They should be great tests of what the squad is made of with Iraq 64th and Japan 29th. A tough task to start with.

 

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Alex Laradze - March 27th 2022

2-0!!! Lets me say that again, 2-0 against the Japanese and the team looked in great form!! The expectations were low coming into the game after the 1-1 draw with Iraq and that Japan are a top 30 team in the world. Over the moon with the result and how well we played. The starting line up I am sure on already and there really not much to separate them from those behind them, but after that display they will all get more chances. 

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This was a huge match against Japan and really has boosted morale with all the players ahead of the World Cup at the end of the season!

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In the Armenian League we just had 2 games and we only gain 2 points. Hugely disappointing performances. Fortunately we are still 1 point ahead but if we keep playing like this, it is unlikely that we shall be the ones lifting the title this season. All very much to play for and I have a feeling that draw to Sevan FC may be one we regret later on. 

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Alex Laradze - March 29th 2022

Yikes! No-one gave me the memo, we are not into the World Cup yet... We have a playoff to contend with. Balls! 

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I think we are on par with Canada and New Zealand but Colombia may just be too good for the other teams here. Hmmmmm, good job I bought refundable tickets to Qatar!

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Alex Laradze - April 2nd 2022

Well, a job has come up for that I would be foolish to not want to go for in Georgia - FC Saburtalo.

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Both previous managers have been sacked with around a 45%, however a 6th place last year and this year currently 7th with 2 games to go. They could still qualify for Europe but 2 loses in a row was what got the manager sacked. The board could be demanding

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The facilities and especially Academy Coaching/Recruitment is hugely appealing and could be a club to spend many years at and build a "Georgian Revolution". 

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Alex Laradze - May 1st 2022

Total Domination this month but Pyunik have just won the Armenian Cup and can still technically win the title. If we lose and they win big, they can overturn the goal different required for the title. With 3 big wins, I expect nothing less in the final game of the year and to win back to back Armenian Titles!

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Season 2 Review - FC Urartu Does a different Double in Armenia

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Final Table        League Positions        Transfers        Finances         Champions League        Europa League

The season started with a bang in Europe, somehow qualifying for the Europa League Group Stages after a long qualifying campaign. An historic play-off win over Irish side Shamrock Rovers put Urartu in a position to welcome some of the largest clubs in Europe here and ended with a shock win over Real Betis. This European run lined the bank with money which will hopefully enable to the club to grow, improve facilities and start to be a regular fixture in Europe.

In the League it was a slow start with all the games in Europe and for a long time, it looks like Pyunik would be the ones to lift the title. A crunch game between the two sides was the difference as Urartu came away with the victory and would not lose the top spot after that. It would also be a great year for Urartu Reserves as they won the Second Division Title, they cannot be promoted however as they cannot play in the same League and the First Team. Overall, the only let down was an early exit from the Armenian Cup but maybe, just maybe the treble is on for next year?

Your 2021/22 FC Urartu First Team Squad

Player Awards                  Shirt Sales - 96                   Best 11 Season                    Best Overall 11

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We have a much larger squad now but may still need some more for the new season. Only 4 foreign players in the League matchday squad hurts but we need them for each European campaign and there are just not any better Armenian players. We will have a large transfer budget for next season so we will try and get any of the better ones we can. 

Tigran Petrosyan was the signing of the season and he came in and has looked the part the whole season, chipping in with 8 goals and 15 assists which led everyone. Artur Miranyan may have led all scorers with 18 but he bagged 5 in one game. We still lack someone to give us a bit more up top. We have a few mid-season signings (which will talk about more in next years preview) earning much more than others, but we need to spend to get better and that includes with the wages!

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A few upgrades and extra money

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We managed to get a second increase on Junior Coaching as the season drew to a close, hopefully when we can this can be improved once more. I was not expecting anything else but the gift that keeps on giving with another huge chunk of money!! I hope to have a few million to spend next year as I want to be quite aggressive for once in the transfer market.

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Alex Laradze - June 3rd 2022

World Cup play-off football as Uzbekistan heads to Canada for the first leg in what is set to be a tight and thrilling game. The reverse fixture will be in 4 days time, which does not give either team much time to recover and make the long journey half way around the world!

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And it is advantage Uzbekistan after an absolutely thrilling first leg which saw 7 goals (2 own goals) and a hat-trick for Eldor Shomurodov, including the final goal of the game. It would be hard to see a 2-0 lead be pegged back but the team fought for the whole game and the result is just about a fair one (not according to XG). In the other game, New Zealand will be the happier with the 1-1 draw in Colombia and both games are in the balance in the return legs.

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Alex Laradze - June 7th 2022

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No pressure right? Only a full stadium and the hopes of a Nation depending on these 90 minutes ahead. That one goal advantage wont mean much if we cant hold onto it. We will play cautious and put men behind the ball and see if we need to change tactics as we go through the game!
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And we did it! We had another one disallowed but we finally equalised and that was enough to send us through. The game was balanced and either team could have got a winner, but for today, Uzbekistan are off to the World Cup!!!! What a game and now we look forward to playing some of the bigger teams in the world!

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Alex Laradze - June 10th 2022

After a few days away on "business" in Uzbekistan.... Ok, ok I was getting drunk with the staff and some well to do VIP's. I was all set ready to get to work with the scouts and team to look over all our prospective transfer targets when I see this in the local news.

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It was on the cards as the Club Vision stated over the next 5 seasons they were looking to sell the club, it has just potentially come early!

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Alex Laradze - June 16th 2022

Last year we drew The New Saints which looked a great match-up for us, this year I think with the draw we may be on the other end of it. Romanian Cluj 1907 are a good team and are a much stronger team on paper. It could be a First Round exit from the Champions League this season after the great showing last season!

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But what we did last season is fresh in the mind and is shown with a huge jump in the ranks to 402nd place. 

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Alex Laradze - July 1st 2022

Finally, but weeks late to make a splash before the first games in Europe we have the takeover complete! We can now begin to spend some of the additional money they have made avaliable from the £7,000,000 in the bank! Will see if they will let me upgrade anything else whilst they are new to town!

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Alex Laradze - July 6th 2022

Champions League - Champions Path - First Qualifying Round - First Leg - Blimey, what a mouthful that is. Maybe it be better to just say those teams no-one knows playing way before the Big Boys even have to think about playing football?? Anyways, off to Romania we travelled and back to Armenia we came with the victory and 2 away goals!

It would be a night to remember for young Bosnia & Herzegovina Hamza Gasal as he scored both goals in the game. The first was a driving run into the box which he finished well with the second a long range strike from Tigran Petrosyan which he followed up and put it in from a really tight angle! Cluj had shots but ended up with none on target and now have it all to do on the reverse leg in a weeks time in Yerevan. 

I think the thing I'm most proud of is the 60% possession on an away game which is always pleasing to see, along with the lack of clear cut chances they created. Now we have to do the business at home next week and not let this lead slip. 

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Alex Laradze - July 13th 2022

We came out flat and they hit us in the mouth early on and probably deserved to get level over the two games, how we did not concede another in the first half I will never know. We looked much better in the second half and finally put some pressure on their goal but it was a tense final 10-15 minutes. But, we have overcome the larger team and we are pleased to be through to the next round! I'm really not sure the stats look anything like the game I saw. No-one really played well, all the ratings are terrible yet we did enough. Football is a funny game at times.

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As if the first round was not tough enough, feel like we have drawn an even tougher game with Norwegian team Molde FK. Similar to Dinamo Zagreb last year, despite a brave fight against them, I don't think we we get past this round again. 

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Alex Laradze - July 21st 2022

We have too many players and not enough slots to change them over with just 1 change between rounds. The squad is too large and this will need to be trimmed but it is damage limitation until that can happen! But that's what a manger thinks about on the long plane journey to Norway as we get ready to face Molde. Can we pull off another huge upset? 

Despite literally being played off the park, we somehow managed a draw as we were awarded a late penalty. The game should have been dead and buried by then but they didnt get that second goal despite 27 shots. We will take that, an away goal and at 1-1 heading home where we have a good record at.

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Alex Laradze - July 21st 2022

Here we go again, underdog mentality. Molde have made the long trip here and after letting us back into the game last week, they will be out to stomp on us! We have to play cautious and see how the game pans out!

And what a start! 2 minute in and Peruvian Jeisson gets his first goal as he nods in after some great work and cross from Bruce El-mesmari. That really will be a shock to the Norweigans! They would be all over us after that and would be level before the 20th minute and now 1-1. They had the advantage now if they score one more. They would score again and now looked like the flood gates would open but somehow we score from a long range screamer from Hamza Gasal just before the half, 2-2 and well, all to play for once more.

Time ticked on at double speed and before I knew it, 70 minutes were gone. 2-2 in the game but 3-3 overall and they were going through on the away goals, sounds similar to last year. We had to push so attacking we went. And blow me down, from a nothing ball Jeisson would get lose, beat the defenders and slot home just just inside the box. 3-2 to us on the 78th minute. This last 12015 minutes would be hell I'm sure.

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We head to the 89th minute and I think there will be 2 minutes added on, but no, 5!! 5 more minutes to hold on from Molde who are throwing everything at us!

And we have done it, some how, some way we managed to beat Molde, it is a massive underdog win for us. I cannot believe it one bit the boys from Armenia have the victory!

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And we could have got Shamrock Rovers but we get Young Boys, another really strong team who will be heavy favourites once more.

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Season 3 Preview - Treble or Bust - Contract Year for Laradze

We are 2/9 favourites to win the title & with a different double the past couple of season all there is left for me to do is to win the treble. Reaching the Europa League Group Stages again would be huge for the Armenian Team but I have my doubt's if I can ever take them any further. Urartu Board does not want to focus on youth, and with millions in the bank, why would they? We can pretty much buy now the best Armenian players but that is the problem, unless the other clubs start to produce English Premier League standard players, I am not sure we can attract other big names players. Our very modest wage budget and around £1,500 a week max will not be enough to draw bigger players here where wages are already in the thousands. This could well be my last season in Armenia unless something changes, I don't think I can improve the League much more. A shame, but we shall see. From where they was to now, they are set up to dominate for years to come!

2022/23 Playing Squad - I "may" have gone a little crazy on signing players 

We did not have enough players last year to deal with the amoutn of games at the start of the year, we do not have that problem this season! I have gone a little player mad, but with the quality between players so little, we need to see which ones will work for us and try and move on the others! Still, non of these players cost anything with the exception of record signing for me, Armenian Artur Manukyan from Pyunik. He is the only real bright spark I have seen come through the ranks in the last couple of years so he was a steal at £200,000. Jeisson was brought in to challenge for the striker role as we will need more goals in Europe, the Peruvian winger is also lethal up front and will hopefully boost our goal scoring threat. 

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And now we look at the squad. We haven't changed our keepers since I have been here and I don't see the need to use a Foreign player in this position when we have the two Armenian keepers in our squad. Anatoliy Ayvazov is the number one and cant see why he wont be for another 5 years at least. That is about where it ends with easy choices.

We have a few too many centre backs now but slim pickings with local ones for the League as Hayk Ishkhanyan is now 33 and won't be around for many seasons. Angelo Meneses looks to be the best player on paper and literally could be anyone of 5 players next to him. Very disappointed that Artem Sokol is not as good as the scouts first thought, he has room to improve but at 25 I am not sure he will ever get there now and commands a large wage for it. Dominik Dinga I hope can come in and take a starting role at only 24 so we can look to move some of the older players on whilst they are commanding a good fee. Petr Ten is one of my favourite players and always puts in a good game on the right and it is Armenian Mher Avagyan on the left.

We often drop the attacking central midfielder for a defensive minded one so when National Team player Matthieu Ezikian came up on a free, we had to add him in for his ability and being Armenian. Jasmin Celikovic looks set to have a bright future but again has a large wage so needs to justify it.

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We move onto the midfield where many of the Armenian players are there because I need them and they count for my 4 home grown by club players for European Registrations. They are not good enough to offer much now but they serve their purpose in the league. That cannot be said for Tigran Petrosyan who has been wonderful since signing and commands a starting spot. We could have all all Armenian attacking wingers in Artur Manukyan and Bruce El-mesmari which is great for the League, but Hazma Gasal is a must play playerin every game he can. He really is a difference maker and pops up with plenty of goals. 

Samvel Hakobyan is the future up front but he is just not progressing as quick as we would like so hopefully Jeisson will come in for a few season and score goals. Artur Miranyan has been our top scorer for the past few seasons but will soon be passed by other options and could really do with another Armenian player long term.

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Finances

We have plenty in the bank and expect this to just keep growing! We are £3,000 under the weekly wage budget still so room to move there plus selling players if needed.

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Alex Laradze - 10th August 2022

What a crazy week this was with 2 games against Young Boys of Switzerland and the "Sowpergavat" Cup final vs Pyunik in the space of just 8 days. This was a tall ask for even the large squad to take on a team the size of Young Boys and get a result. So, lets start with the good news!!

Sowpergavat Champions - 1/3 of Treble completed

In a pretty one sided game we saw Artur Manukyan score 2 past his former team. 2-0 up at the break the game was never really in doubt and we claimed the easiest of the 3 in the treble to start the League season off with a trophy!

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0-5 games against Young Boys derails Champions League but home leg victory eased the pain

It was a pretty humbling game to lose 0-5 and they could have had 10. Maybe they rested some players or we just play much better at home, we managed to get the 2-1 win but we never looked like scoring 5 or 6 that we needed. We had one big win against Molde, it was just too much and Young Boys were too good in the end!

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I was over the moon when the Draw for the Europa League Play-offs was drawn. Shamrock Rovers once again. This is a great fixture that I am sure we can beat them again to progress in the Europa League once more. Let's put it this way, we need to beat them, nothing else will do.

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Alex Laradze - 18th August 2022

This was not in the script. Maybe I got to confident from past results and played too attacking as they take a huge 1-3 lead into our second leg. This is going to be difficult to overcome, even at home. Nothing seemed to click at all. Jeisson scored a wonder goal too, if not for that we could be 0-3 and really up against it. We need to bring our top game now to qualify!

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Alex Laradze - 25th August 2022

1-3 down we needed to put the pressure on early and not concede to stand a chance. They play a narrow formation so we are going to attack wide and try and stretch them out. 

6 minutes in and a dream start, penalty awarded and confirmed by VAR. Petr Ten as he does so often from the spot scores, straight down the middle and we are back in this! Great start now to put the pressure on!

32nd minute and a simple free kick into the box, second defender of the game scores as Angelo Meneses rises up above all to firmly plant the ball into the net. 2-0 before the half and we are all level and we have the away goal to our advantage. We just have to not let them score now. However, I don't think we should sit back so we will continue to be positive and try and score again.

Plan changed, they ended the half with several shots and looked to be getting on top, we may move the AMC to a DM at 60 minutes if they are still on top and try to hit them on the counter rather than full attacking football.

58th minute and where did that come from Mr Petr Ten?? Cutting in from the right hand corner of the penalty box, he smashed it past the diving keeper who was never getting there. Maybe the finest goal of his career and Urartu are 3-0 and now with a little room to breathe. However, they score and it is back to all tied. We have 3 goals from only 4 shots.

We move the AMC to a DC to play 5 at the back and take no chances for the last 20 minutes. We didn't get many more chances but we limited them to long rang shots which didn't really challenge the keeper. And the final whistle went, we only went and done it!!!! 1-3 down to 4-3 up and we turn the tables on the Irish side. What a performance from our defence! 

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20 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Great upset of Molde!

 

It was a shock, they are a more talented side then we are!

9 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Massive result, but another tough tie now. Good luck!

Young Boys just too good, that first leg was brutal. Shamrock was much more our level despite the first leg scare!

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Alex Laradze - 29th August 2022

Group Stages of the Europa League again and that is huge, another £3,000,000 minimum in the bank and I feel Urartu FC are set up for life. I think this season will be my last, I do not see much more future here at the club as I am more of a develop players and making lots of signings just gets me in trouble it seems. 

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At the end of the season I had done some analysis on teams into the Group Stages of the Champions League and Europa League. Here were the results for the 3 seasons in the game. The Big 4 were dominating with 19-20 teams making it and that was to be expected. I expected France to be a little closer and Holland to be a little higher but the surprises might be Austria and Ukraine so far up the table. Switzerland with only 4 in 3 years surprises me so maybe down the line that is an option along with Poland with just 1 appearance so far! The Balkans only have Croatia and Serbia with a few appearances and the Baltics have 0 from 3 nations. I'm not sure if the Baltics have much more to offer than here especially seems Georgia has had 0 also as neighbours. 

The biggest one for me was Slovenia had 0, so that League was loaded up as a possible point to venture and initial signs were looking good. Some good teams and facilities, a place I have visited in the past and loved so maybe able to get my teeth into it more? I will maybe add a few more leagues for the new year if nothing comes up!

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Alex Laradze - September 4th 2022

As I head to 100 games in Management, it has been a blistering start to the career. Right place, right time, right club. I expected to have to start at a much smaller club but when an opportunity comes up, you have to take it. I did also manage to persuade the Board to let me go on another coaching course. They were fearing this would lead me to be leaving for a bigger job....

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Alex Laradze - November 7th 2022

We head into the unusual break in games for November as it is World Cup Time in Qatar. I will be taking my Uzbekistan team there but before that, lets highlight the past few months in the League and in Europe. A busy set of fixtures as always but the squad was large enough to handle it.

Lets start in Europe when we picked up 4 points from the group, including a huge last minute winner against Rangers but the 1-1 draw with Lazio was probably the bigger achievement. We certainly were not phased by the bigger teams and we always play well at home and it showed with 4 points from 9 at home. A great effort by the whole team and we were unlucky to finish bottom on goal difference. 

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In the League our struggles with 2 losses are there and not dominating the League as we probably should be. We have some unhappy players due to low playing time and the 4 foreign players in the match-day squad is starting to take its toll on me and the team. Maybe the break will do them good and come back to win the League?

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Alex Laradze - November to December 2022

World Cup 2022 Champions = ENGLAND

Uzbekistan had a tough group with Italy, Argentina and Wales and we came away after a performance that was more than expected. Disappointing to not get more than a point from the 3 games, when really not losing by a high number was the real victory. We pushed every team as much as we could and the performances were excellent for the players we have. Overall, we certainly surprised a few nations and can come home with our heads held high!

The highlight was an 84th minute goal to steal the late draw from the 23rd ranked Welsh team who would be also knocked out. A proud moment for all our supporters to enjoy at the World Cup. 

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Alex Laradze - 25th December 2022

Merry Christmas everyone! And what a Christmas present I got when I got the call below. Ok, so it is a pay cut from Uzbekistan, but its Les Elephants! A wonderful opportunity I just could not turn down and an upgrade on the players I had with the White Wolves.

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With the African Cup of Nations and we are hosting the event, expectations are extremely high but I hope we have the squad that can win it. There was other options in Europe I may have been able to get like Hungary, but this seemed the best opportunity for now.

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Alex Laradze - 15th January 2023

So there have been a few job openings come up in Slovenia. I applied for a couple of 2nd League ones but they could not pay the compensation, Brezice might be able to now as we nearer the end of the season. The three top level teams look interesting and could be well worth going for and then see if I can take over at the end of the season. Olimpija Lublana are a one of the big teams in Slovenia so may be best to avoid them for now until proven in that country!

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8 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Ivory coast is always a really fun country to manage! Although would have been nice to see you join the Magyars too :)

Someone has a great save going in Hungary so it didn't feel right at the minute:cool: They have a tough Euro Qualifiers with Spain, Sweden and Ukraine and the aim was the qualify and I'm just not sure they will. Ivory Coast seems a great option to try and win something in Africa!

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Alex Laradze - 15th January 2023

So Nogometno Društvo Mura 05 had the interview with me. They were worried about my media handling and that I have applied for a few jobs. Hello, 2 Armenian Titles, long runs in Europe and a lot of money in the bank?!? They would allow me to remove some staff members but I have no-one of note and what they have seems ok for now. I feel this is the right way to go (besides starting down in the 2nd division and building a team up). They have a rivalry with Mairbor and Celje which is ideal to get some good matches going and either to take on to the best team in Slovenia or able to build them up and take a larger job.

Since the League was formed in 1991, Maribor have been the dominant team with 15 titles, followed by Olumpija Lublana with 7 (4 as Olimpija now defunt) and Gorica with 4. Beyond that there has only been Domzale (2), and Celje and Koper with 1 each.

In real life in the 2020/21 season Mura actually did win the League title for the first time so this seems quite fitting to take them over! I feel the below club vision is realistic and not demanding success from day one and can build the team up which I want to do and really get involved with this journey. A healthy transfer budget is there also it seems.

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I was happy with the wage but managed to knock the relegation drop down to 20% from 35% due to the below. I do not take over until the end of the season and there is a chance they could be in the second division as currently in 9th place. But the League us very tight, a couple of wins and you are in Europe. It was a risk to leave it until the end of the year but I did want to lead Urartu FC to one more League Title and complete the treble if possible before I go and become Armenia's best ever.

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A full team review and League review will be out once I take over but for now, I have a League and Cup to win in Armenia before I leave!

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Alex Laradze - 1st March 2023

No transfers, no contract discussions for me. Literally just allowed to take training sessions and speak to the media and that is it. I guess that is to be expected as I am leaving at the end of the season but still, we are in this to win the treble this year and set FC Urartu up for decades to come as the force in Armenian Football. 

So the days are dragging waiting for football and we only lost one game, it would be against Pyunik in the League. However, I will take that as we beat them in extra time in the Armenian Cup Semi-Final a few days before that so the treble is still on, and we sit 2 points clear at the top of the table. With 7 games to go, we are in control of our destiny this season.

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As we can see on the right, my new club Mura are doing all they can to be relegated as the sit bottom, but they are 2 points behind 8th and just 6 points behind Celje in that 4th Euro spot. This league is tight, well except Maribor who are cruising to another league title. Come on Mura, lets stay in the top flight!!

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Alex Laradze - 15th March 2023

It will go down to the wire and I've pencilled the game vs FC Van as the one that we cannot mess up on if we want to retain the title! In fact, the last 3 games will all be a challenge to lift the title. They have a similar schedule but end with two games that they should win easily so we have to go into the last 2 games ahead on points as I cannot see them slipping up.

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Alex Laradze - 26th April 2023

2 down, 1 to go! My time is closing fast at FC Urartu but I am holding my end of the deal, to try and bring an historic treble to the club. In honestly, the game was on sided and how we didnt put 5 past them I will never know. But they had a red card in the 65th minute and never looked like scoring after that. Armenian Cup, for the 2nd time since I've been here, belongs to FC Urartu.

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Alex Laradze - 6th May 2023

Final day of the season, we are 2 points ahead. We play on the road against Ararat Armenia who are 4th and Pyunik play Sevan FC who are 10th. Let's face it, if we drop any points here we do not win the title as Sevan will not be able to hold Pyunik back. Win and we win the title, anything else and I leave my time here with a bitter taste in my mouth.

The game went to plan, scoring early on but we just did not put the game away. With literally the last kick of the game, a long hopeful ball into the box was headed in in the 93rd minute and just like that, from literally starting to put the name on the trophy, the title went to Pyunik. Absolutely stunned is not even the words. The treble was there, we had the trophy in our hands and we go down on goal difference. I guess this is life, there are no reloads in football.

This is not the way I saw this going down and ending my time at FC Urartu!

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There we have it ladies and gentleman, 68 points and no title. Well done Pyunik on your win. In Slovenia, Mura are out of the bottom 2 with 2 games to play. Could just be about save and going to avoid the drop this year, although that may have made the challenge even more exciting next year!

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I will do a small end of FC Urartu review next with just a week before I leave the club. What a start to football management in a most unlikely place of Armenia.

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Alex Laradze - 10th May 2023

After 1025 days in charge as I pack up my office here in Yerevan there is a sense of regret in the air. Regret we did not win the League this year, regret from the staff that I was leaving although they did understand wanting to move on and try my hand elsewhere in Europe. Players came individually, some came in groups as we talked about the past 3 years, the 6 trophies that we had won and the stories of European adventures that had bound us together. There might have been a few tears, a lot of hand shakes and for some players, this is probably not the last time we hear about them as I head to Slovenia. 

But for me, the rule restrictions to 4 Foreign players, the lack of game changing players who will come to Armenia and the board unwilling to keep upgrading youth facilities and coaching so we could produce our own talent was enough for me to say I have (hopefully) made the right decision. I have left them with over £9,000,000 in the bank and a squad who can challenge for years to come. My fluent Armenian will not get rusty I am sure as I will always be a FC Urartu fan. As I close the door one last time and walk out of the offices, players, staff and friends gathered to say one last goodbye. Thank You Armenia, I know I have left you better than I found you and maybe we will meet again in Europe one day.

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4 Cup Victories and 2 League Titles will always be a fantastic return which I may never get to repeat in my career for a long time.

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These are some of the players I may look to take with me if they are good enough in Slovenia. Hamza Gasal I still think is able to step up will be the first I look into from there.

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My scouts were working hard to find young talented players from around the world. It would be shame to waste this knowledge as Lunga Mahlangu looks one for the future!

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Goodbye FC Urartu, it has been a blast!

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Alex Laradze - 11th May 2023

Spineless? I guess we cannot all be loved all the time. That will change again I am sure. But now, we move from FC Urartu in Armenia to Mura in Slovakia. I have joined with 2 games left in the season, no time to get to know the team with a game in 2 days against ND Gorica in 3rd place before a showdown with NK Koper in 8 days time.

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Alex Laradze - 26th May 2023

Well, we have some work to do with this team. We only gained 1 from 6 points in our final two games and then almost got relegated and needed a penalty victory to stay in the top flight. Embarrassed to say the least, this is not how I expected to start here in Slovenia. Basically, we do not have a goal scorer as the 34 goals scored on the season is a record low. This will need fixing in the off-season and need a proven scorer up top. The squad looks pretty weak mentally so it may be a larger overall job then expected and many of the more establish players are on the larger wages. Could really have done without the African Cup of Nations as I need to start from the bottom here, oh and find an Assistant Manager also as the old one left with the old Manager.

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Alex Laradze - 23rd June 2023

With transfers not coming easy in Slovenia, I have left the scouts busy in Czechoslovakia and Slovakia looking for young prospects to help the club in the next 2-5 years. For now, it may be a case of using what we have and trying to bolster with known players to slowly improve the team. Anyways, we are not here for that... it is time for....

The African Cup Of Nations 2023

Game 1 - Mozambique (109th Rank)

We got the job done and my first game with Ivory Coast, is a victory. We left it late to seal the win over the 109th ranked team. However, they only had 2 shots the whole game and we probably should have won by 4 or 5, which would have got the home fans really behind the team. Egypt beat Zambia who we face next so a win against them and we qualify from the group.

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Game 2 - Zambia (75th Rank)

We go into the game knowing a result here would be enough to get out of the group stages with the toughest game left to play. And what a result it was, an absolute demolition of Zambia with goals flying in all over the place. It was all over by the half and we showed the finishing touches that was missing in the first game. A dominant performance from the host nation. 

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Game 3 - Egypt (57th Rank)

We went into the game full of confidence against one of the better teams in the tournament and we can away with the morale boosting win to top the group unbeaten. Going behind early was a good test of the team who came back and out lasted the Egyptians and finally put the game to bed late on to win and score a large number again.

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Group B - Final Table

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3 teams would qualify from the group and you have to feel sorry for Mozambique to go out with 1 goal difference from going through. With only 8 teams going out from the 24 playing, there was no big names crash out at this stage. The draw for the next round is Tunisia which is one I think we can win but potentially having to play Ghana in the quarter final is not what we wanted to hear, especially when winning the tournament was the aim. No more easy games from this stage!

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Alex Laradze - 8th July 2023

African Cup of Nations - Ivory Coast vs Tunisia

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For a game we dominated and went 2-0, it was poor to see them score 2 goals in the last 5 minutes take a draw from the game. Did we get complacent? We did the magic in penalties but we should have sealed the win way before then as we peppered the goal with 25 shots. Frustrated but we go through, maybe we will peak again in the next rounds?

We wont have much choice as we face the the top team in the competition, World Ranked 13th Ghana! If we can get past this round we have a great chance to get to the final, and if not I have a great chance to be fired. Talk about everything riding on one game....

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Alex Laradze - 12th July 2023

African Cup of Nations - Ivory Coast vs Ghana

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This may have just saved my International job as we put in the best performance so far in the tournament to beat Ghana in a dominating fashion. We once again had almost 20 shots and managed to put 3 away this time and were rock solid at that back. We looked like we could win against anyone if we play like this, 2 more games and we can lift the trophy. We now head to the Semi-Final where we play Senegal for a place in the Final.

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Alex Laradze - 18th July 2023

African Cup of Nations Semi Final - Ivory Coast vs Senegal

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We are into the Final, I can hardly believe it!! I knew Ghana was the big game but Senegal are a great team and to win the las two games without letting a goal in, it is a joy to behold. We have outplayed and created so many more chances than anyone we have faced and deserve to be in the final. We will play the same way, the same style and hopefully the same result will happen. Can we win the African Cup of Nations?? I believe we can!!

In the other semi final it would be Algeria who would beat favourites Nigeria to get to the final. They fought back from 0-1 down to take a commanding 3-1 victory. The World ranked 17th team will be looking to win the competition that they won in 2019. It is set up to be a fascinating final.

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