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[FM22] The Ruins of Pompey - The Ballad of Benjani - Phase 2 - Put the Wind in Your Sails!


13th Man
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On 10/11/2021 at 13:17, Hootieleece said:

Who will be directing? and will real over-the-hill Soccer stars be in your movie ala "Victory" with Michael Caine, Pele, Bobby Moore and a terrible American Actor.

These are all very important questions that I need to answer.  I'll get back to you when I have the cast and director lined up!  I think Benjani needs to be played by Denzel Washington, but he's a bit too old now, sadly.  Think Michael B Jordan would also kill it, but...too young.  Maybe with the magic of ageing/deaging CGI (I do have Mickey Mouse backing this production) we can make one of those work.

3 hours ago, Djecker said:

Love it - the underlaps are a great tweak.

They've been massive in getting the type of play Benjani's looking for.  Still not quite there yet, but Benjani will keep tweaking...and he's got some other issues to deal with over the holiday period...

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Scene 5 - The Christmas Special!

[Is it way too early to talk about Christmas?  Yes it is.  Does that stop anyone?  No it doesn’t.  And this is a Disney story so…

Also, I looked at the screenplay formatting on mobile and it’s brutal to read. Might bring it back, but it’s also a pain to format,so…here’s a creative writing/imagined film.]

 

A soul bassline drops with bells ringing as we fade in and we hear Darlene Love’s voice.

 

🎵The snow's coming down

(Christmas) I'm watching it fall

(Christmas) Lots of people around

(Christmas) Baby please come home🎵

 

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“A fascinating battle continues between Wigan and Portsmouth in League 1 as we enter December. Wigan have edged in front after Portsmouth drew with Lincoln, but only by the grace of their game in hand…”

 

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“Having progressed in both the FA Cup and the [Godawful Pizza] Trophy, Portsmouth face a stern test as Sheffield Wednesday come to Fratton Park hoping to claw their way into automatic promotion contention.  They’ll do so without Lee Brown who has been arguably Portsmouth’s best player this season…”

 

OLIWuNT4xWkI3ofi7W6dtpO-lAJJp9LxZBtO_1H5DEsmR3y0_nCFOggkMcPXrK95bjmEQ_kiAt_606es9jtliadMd483gRIe71OnBXkNQL0eWQjtf-LQHVbrs3SGvqQQbNmI8w6m

 

December

[9 matches in 29 days!!!  ]

 

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🎵The church bells in town

(Christmas) All ringing in song

(Christmas) Full of happy sounds

(Christmas) Baby please come home🎵

 

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"A second half brace for Marquis helps Portsmouth overcome Sheffield Wednesday in what turned into a dominant performance..."

 

“The left side of Portsmouth’s defense will be even more short handed as they host Morecambe on Saturday as center back Robertson has come tested positive for COVID and will be out for at least the next three games. There’s no indication that any other squad members were exposed…”

 

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“They now feature only Ogilvie to play both left back and left wide center back, though academy product Hackett-Fairchild can play on the left side as an attacking wingback.”

 

🎵(Christmas)🎵

 

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🎵(Christmas)🎵

 

“Portsmouth just about manage a win against AFC Wimbledon, and reclaim the top spot in League One following Wigan’s draw with Ipswich…” 

 

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“...The side look exhausted, with the already small squad stretched to the limit by injuries, and this afternoon saw them lose another defender, this time right wingback Romeo. They’ll have to hope that Romeo’s injury is not serious as they have already been forced to play midfielders out of position in the back line on several occasions He'll certainly miss the midweek game against Wigan, but Benjani will certainly hope his injury problem doesn't get any worse. Soon we might be seeing some youngsters forced onto the field simply to make up numbers…”

 

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🎵(Christmas)🎵

 

Music fades.

 

Benjani walks out onto the youth training pitch and greets the u18 manager, Liam Diash.

 

“Boss,” Benjani calls out.

 

“Boss!” Diash laughs as they shake hands, “Welcome back!”

 

“How they looking?” Benjani asks as he turns to watch training.

 

Cut to a teenager's face. He’s at full sprint. Zoom out until we see him, in a Portsmouth training kit, ball at his feet. He drives at a defender, does a step over…and the defender easily sticks out a foot to stop the ball. The attacker faceplants over the ball and the defender makes a tidy pass upfield…but the striker he passes to’s touch is so bad it almost makes it back to the defender who groans and rolls his eyes as he sprints towards the ball.

 

Cut back to Benjani. He turns to the Diash, who gives Benjani a look.

 

“Same as it was six months ago, then?” Benjani sighs. “Some decent defenders and…”

 

A player carries the ball in front of the coaches, trips over himself and the ball rolls out of bounds.

 

“Same as it was six months ago,” echoes Diash.

 

“So much for hoping for a Christmas miracle,” Benjani shrugs.

 

Diash lets out one mirthless laugh in response before turning back to the pitch.

 

“Stevens!!! Who are you passing to??? There's no one within 20 yards!”

 

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🎵(Christmas)🎵

 

“It’s a top of the table clash tonight at Fratton Park, with first placed Portsmouth taking on Wigan. The sides are level on points with only goal difference separating the two. The reverse fixture ended with a hard fought 1-0 victory for Portsmouth at DW Stadium, and since then Wigan have only lost once and are in strong form after a crushing 3-0 victory over Oxford at the weekend. Portsmouth are literally hobbling onto the pitch, suffering from a bad streak of injuries which have left them unable to give players any rest…”

 

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Cut to the locker room, where we see players hunched in front of their lockers putting on their boots. There’s some muted chatting but otherwise the room is quiet.

 

“I know you are all tired,” Benjani begins, “and while most of Europe enjoys a break, we’re still here playing more games than ever. It’s been a long, long December already and we still got two more games before it’s done. But listen, we beat Wigan today and we can really make a statement. There’s a lot of football left to be played, but we can really take command of the league tonight…”

 

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“They’re going to be looking for revenge after we beat them in Wigan, don’t let them have it. Leave it all on the pitch today. I know we got Oxford at the weekend, but I don’t want you to worry about that tonight. Three points today mean more than three points this weekend, and even more so against Wigan. This is a six-pointer, this is a big big game. It’s not a disaster if we draw or lose, but it will be huge if we win.”

 

Cut to the pitch.

 

“Ogilvie [WB] carries the ball up the left flank and cuts it back to Wisdom [WCB] in the left channel. Wisdom plays it in to Harrison’s [IF] feet in the box. Harrison tries to turn but he’s surrounded by Wigan defenders. Turnicliffe is at the edge of the box…Harrison lays it back to him and he one touches it across the D to Morrell. Morrell’s in a yard of space here…he takes a touch and…ooooo it’s a beauty. What a goal by Morrell! It’s 1-0 to Portsmouth after a wonderfully crafted move. Morrell’s shot from distance was a perfect combination of power and placement…”

 

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Referee’s whistle sounds.

 

“And that’s it! Morrell’s excellent strike is enough to give Portsmouth all three points in a game that really could have gone either way. They looked stretched in the later stages of the second half with the team looking spent…"

 

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“…but they managed to keep Wigan out and get their noses ahead in the title race…”

 

UP NEXT - The Wars or maybe some midseason stats?  We'll see

Edited by 13th Man
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Portsmouth does seem to be having a dream season. Perfect for a Disney Movie. Just need to find a way to add a "Princess" to the cast and you would have checked all the boxes.

Stats are good, but detract from the story line.

This isn't the movie "Moneyball"!

 

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8 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Portsmouth does seem to be having a dream season. Perfect for a Disney Movie. Just need to find a way to add a "Princess" to the cast and you would have checked all the boxes.

Stats are good, but detract from the story line.

This isn't the movie "Moneyball"!

 

The results have been good! A princess would be nice, but Benjani’s married with teenage kids…definitely looking for the inspirational sports film angle though.

But yes, this is meant to be the anti-moneyball, even if moneyball worked so well for Liverpool (Andy Carroll + Stewart Downing = success!!!:p). That said, Moneyball does hold a place in my heart for reasons that I’ll divulge in my next save…but a showman must never reveal his secrets until just the right moment.

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7 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Looks like the tactic is working well. Are you getting good performances from the WCBs as desired?

Loving them.  I have them both on support so they're not flying down the flanks, but they do exactly as advertised - they support!  When the balls in the final third, they hang about 5-10 yards outside the top of the box waiting for cutbacks.  As much as with the ball, I love what they do when Pompey's not in possession.  In FM21 with Livorno, wide forwards would cause all kinds of trouble by sitting in the pocket of space inside the wingbacks but ahead of the CBs.  They could often receive the ball, turn, and run at the CBs at pace. The WCBs sit a bit higher so that there's no more uncontested balls, and my philosophy has always been to give the other side nothing easy.

I'll be doing a full on tactical write up before too long I think, but it's been fantastic.

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Scene 6 - The Wars

The first sharp but mournful chord of the second movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony rings out and slowly fades [as heard during the big speech from, well, The King's Speech], and the low, trudging line in the strings begins.  It slowly rises throughout the scene.

 

Close up of Benjani, eyes closed.  The camera zooms out very slowly.

 

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As we just begin to see Benjani’s office text fades in over the screen and we hear an announcer, overdubbed…

 

Brighton 1 - Portsmouth 

9 January 2022

FA Cup

 

“And the applause rings down from Fratton Park despite Portsmouth losing this one against Brighton in the FA Cup. The League 1 leaders went punch for punch with the Premier League side and it took a set piece goal for Brighton to win the tie. The future is bright for this side however if they can keep this kind of play going!”

 

We can see Benjani’s torso now and the picture of his family behind him on the wall.

 

MK Dons 0 - Portsmouth 0

16 January 2022

League 1

 

“Oh and it’s a horror challenge by Turnicliffe!!! It’s a straight red! That’ll leave Pompey short handed and surely he’ll be suspended another two games as well!”

 

We can now see Benjani’s desk and the glow of his laptop.

 

We hear the sound of training…a call for the ball…a coming together and a horrifying crack along with a man’s deep, visceral cry of agony.

 

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Cross fade to another training, we hear another coming together, another cry of pain.

 

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“And Portsmouth have managed to break a run of four games without a win in all competitions, but they lose another key player to what looks like a nasty foot injury that will put Lee Brown on their sidelines for another lengthy spell…”

 

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The camera has zoomed out until we can see the Assistant Manger and the Director of Football in Benjani’s office.

 

A phone bings with an incoming text.  Benjani opens his eyes.

 

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“White chose Millwall,” Greg Miller, the assistant manager sighs heavily. “But we got Williams, so we’re covered on the left.”

 

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Benjani nodded, “do we have anyone else on the list that we can get in on loan?”

 

“We could get in, uh...Matthew Graig.  He’s another Tottenham youngster.  Eighteen.”

 

“What do we know about him?”

 

“Not much boss,” Miller sighs again.  “Not as good as White.”

 

“So what are we doing then?” Benjani squints. “That’s it, you know what?  Cancel the Hoever deal with Wolves too.”

 

“What?”

 

“We’re going to make do with what we got.  I don’t want any more loan players in here.  We absolutely need Williams on the left with Lee [Brown] out....again, but in midfield and on the right we’ll just make do.  Ryan [Turnicliffe], as long as he doesn’t make any more of those horror tackles, he’ll be fine.  What a time to do that too!  Man.” He shook his head.  “Right.  But hey, we’ll be fine. Call off the deals.  We’re done.  I didn’t want to sign anyone today anyway!”

 

Benjani laughs without much mirth, gets up off his chair.

 

“That’s it?” Miller asks.

 

“We’ve got training to attend to,” he shrugs. “Oxford at the weekend.  Got to get revenge...For the league not the cup, they did us a favor in knocking us out of the League Trophy…”

 

Cut to Sky and a pundit.

 

“Portsmouth have, surprisingly, only signed one player this window, bringing in young leftback Dylan Williams from Derby.  It was understood that they had no funds whatsoever, but with the long term injuries to several players it was expected they might bring in several players on loan just to fill out numbers.  Instead, the League One leaders look set to carry on without Lee Brown, Kieron Freeman, and Louis Thompson for the next few months.  Maybe Benjani will make good on his early promises to promote youth players whenever possible?  Or maybe he looks to the table and can see that his side have taken control of League 1 since beating Wigan in December, a win that seems to have sent their former challengers into a tailspin…”

 

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Edited by 13th Man
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Tactical Interlude

[I’m very much enjoying my Disney story, but also want to get into the tactical side here and there. So the term I stole from @Hootieleece(I think) was never more apt!]

 

Portsmouth were expected to be one of the better teams in League 1, but by the halfway point it started to look like the only thing that could stop them was themselves. The league was struggling to deal with Pompey’s varied and highly flexible attack and was rarely able to find a way through their high and consistent press.

 

Portsmouth had a bit of a down spell in January, but with fifteen games in just two months and a slew of injuries, players were exhausted and jaded which led to a lack of sharpness. With the games coming once a week, for the most part, Portsmouth again exploded to life in February.

 

Part of that explosion was the added rest the players were able to get, but some of it was a subtle but important tactical tweak by Benjani, continuing his gradual honing of his base 5-2-3/3-4-3 shape.

 

Initial Tactic

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At first, Benjani had looked to overload the flanks while always having two players back and one extra holding midfielder to protect against the counter. The right side, especially featured an overload that any team would struggle to contain - with a WCB, WB, carillero, and IF all in the channel and right wing areas.  The idea was to keep it simple for his players by giving them a simple task - attack and defend the open spaces.  If the inside forward cut inside, the winback could overlap and drive to the byline for a cross or cut the ball back to the wide center back.  If the wingback cut inside, the wide center back could provide width, and this was how Portsmouth’s first league goal of the season was scored. 

 

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WCB Ogilvie (#16) overlaps Brown (LWB #3) and puts in a cross to the far post which Harness (IFs #10) attacks and sidefoots into the net.

 

The problem was that it led to far too many crosses - over 45 crosses per game. While the crossing was accurate (31%) and the goals flowed early on, they were never high xG shots.

 

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As teams began to sit deeper and crowd the box, these already low percentage shots (low xG) became even harder to finish as the wingbacks tended to be at the byline before crossing into a box with set defenders. Portsmouth were getting tons of shots and high overall xG, but each shot was poor and often too easily defended - lofted balls to the far post that forced the striker to generate power on their own and often to wide of goal. Needless to say, these were usually catching practice for keepers.

 

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If nothing else, it wasn’t a balanced and varied attack. Benjani tinkered, looking for a solution (see “Scene 2 - Stop Using Your Head"). He tried early crosses - didn’t work. He narrowed his formation, instructed players to work the ball into the box (to avoid constant crosses) and to play out of defense (to pull the midfield a bit deeper and focus on keeping possession), and finally to focus play into the middle, hoping to catch opponents with switches of play or when they’d over committed to one side.

 

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These tweeks helped, but in a 1-0 defeat against Cheltenham, Portsmouth lost despite controlling the game because all the chances they created were easily defended crosses. 

 

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Benjani went back to the drawing board and realized what he’d been missing. His formation naturally created wide overloads, but where it was dangerous was in the channels. When the wingbacks pulled the ball back to either the carillerro or the WCB, they could drive into the box for a give and go, or the underlapping player could combine with the inside forward, or switch the field by playing it across.

 

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The difference was huge.  

 

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On the left is the Cheltenham game and the right is the following game against Bolton (won 4-1 by Portsmouth). The player positioning isn’t all that different, and despite playing deeper, the players were in more dangerous positions in the channels rather than at the byline near the corner flag.

 

This underlap TI led to an instant improvement.  November and December saw a great run of form until the nine games in December and injuries began to take their toll, and Benjani’s physically demanding tactic didn’t help.

 

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Here is the goal that won the game against then challengers Wigan.  WB Brown (#3) chooses not to drive to the byline and pulls the ball back to LCM Thompson (#23)...

 

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Thompson squares it inside to WCB Ogilvie (#16)...

 

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Who finds CF Marquis (#9)...

 

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Who finds CAR Morrell (#21) in space just outside the D to take a touch and hit a shot home from distance.

 

From the first screenshot you can see how deep the DL is, and so if Brown had gone to the byline and crossed, inside forward Harness (#10), who is not especially great in the air, would have had little room to attack the ball and generate the power needed to beat the keeper - if he even won the header.  By cutting the ball back, Brown not only started a move which would give Portsmouth 3 points, the move also pulled the DL forward so that if someone had come to close down Morrell quicker, he could have played in Harness with a chance to score from close range.

 

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What surprised Benjani the most, however, was how well the tactic held up against Premier League side Brighton in the FA Cup.  While it was at Fratton Park, and Brighton played a somewhat rotated side, but Pompey more than held their own in a narrow 1-0 loss.  Benjani had decided he had little to lose, so he kept with his usual tactic and to be fair, had the better of the chances, especially early on, registering more shots on target.  It was only a set-piece goal that knocked Pompey out, and Benjani felt no shame in that!

 

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But still Benjani wasn’t satisfied.  Through January, as his players tired, he began to see an issue in his set up.  He’d constantly thought about how to attack space and where to pull defenders, but he hadn’t put as much thought into how his side would score.  His leading scorer, Harrison, was a player that he’d initially wanted to spearhead the attack, but was finding much more success as the attacking inside forward cutting in from the left.  Not only did his height and jumping ability make him a mismatch for opposing defenders, he had a decent turn of pace as well.  

 

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By the end of January, Harrison was second in scoring in League One and had solidified a starting position.  How did this factor into the tactical equation?  Benjani realized that he wanted to give Harrison the space and opportunities to continue scoring, and he could solve another pesky issue as well.

 

The two man midfield in the 5-2-3 often struggled against holding midfielders.  Occupied by the attacking midfielders and deep strikers, Portsmouth’s middle two couldn’t mark three man midfields, so the deep players could easily recycle possession.  Benjani decided to drop hard working forward Marquis into a deeper pressing role [PF(s)] and have him harass the midfielders rather than the centerbacks - unless they tried to carry the ball into his zone. 

 

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Not only did Marquis effectively break up opposition possession, but he became far more involved in the link up play and allowed Portsmouth to play more through the center rather than relying on the wide areas.

 

"Current" Tactic

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The forward’s form improved to a surprising degree.  After failing to score or register an assist for seven games, in the first three games of February Marquis scored three times and assisted three more goals before also being injured. In the same period, Portsmouth scored three or more goals, three matches in a row.

 

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As if to show the importance of Marquis in his new ‘support role’, Portsmouth labored to two draws and a narrow win in Marqui's absence. While Crewe sit in 9th, Shrewsbury and Fleetwood languish in and around the relegation zone.  Benjani certainly missed Marquis’ tenacity in those matches against sides that wanted to sit back and waste time.

 

On the plus side, Harrison also scored four in February, despite being rested against Burton.

 

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To wrap up the interlude, we see that Portsmouth has taken control of League One with Wigan’s form continuing to fall off a cliff.  They were even on points with Portsmouth before their visit to Fratton Park in late December, but by the first of March they are thirteen points back.  As it stands, Ipswich are the closest contenders, but are still nine points back...

Edited by 13th Man
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6 hours ago, SixPointer said:

It always a pleasure to read your updates. Even more so when your talking tactics and how they have evolved! 

Always my favorite part - even if I’ve enjoyed the drama in this save. Other than problems with injuries, though, the drama has worn off a bit since beating Wigan just before the new year…

 

1 hour ago, Muttley84 said:

Great read as always.

many thanks and always good to have you aboard.

 

6 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Great Update! See playing through the middle works. It would work even better for me IF my players weren't trying out for the NFL!  How many of yours are? (long and short shots over the net)

It does. Benjani likes having both options - flexibility, fluidity and physicality are the 3 f’s (sort of) for Benjani’s Pompey Project.

Haven’t had much in the way of skying chances, actually (thought you meant rough challenges and the like at first). Still too many headers, that’s my one complaint. 🎵Makin a tactic, gotta make a tactic🎵
 

 

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Scene 5 - Trust the Process

Marquis [CF] puts the ball on the spot, the jeers of the Ipswich supporters raining down from all around. The scoreboard says 2-0 to Ipswich with ten minutes remaining, but it’s a chance to get back in the game.  Marquis takes a few steps back, takes a deep breath…

 

Cut to Benjani and his assistant manager Dunne. A moment later the home crowd erupts in celebration. Benjani closes his eyes and his shoulders suddenly seem much heavier.

 

“How'd he save that???” Dunne groans, “It was a good penalty! It is a curse, it has to be a curse. Ides of March! Isn’t that a thing?”

 

Two games in a row, Portsmouth found themselves coming up against man-of-the-match winning keepers. When they got past those keepers, they’d hit the post or somehow manage to miss from point blank range. The strange thing? Pompey were playing fantastic football.

 

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First it was against an Accrington side that had kept Portsmouth out of the playoffs the year before.

 

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In the first twenty minutes, Portsmouth were cutting through so smoothly that Benjani expected to put two or three past them. A fully fit Marquis was pulling the strings in his deeper forward role, linking up with the midfield and playing in the inside forwards.

 

But instead, Accrington’s keeper earned himself a man of the match award and Portsmouth just couldn’t put the finishing touches on any moves.

Then came new challengers Ipswich. Win and Portsmouth were all but guaranteed the League, but lose and Ipswich were within four points.

 

The match was eerily reminiscent of the previous one, but Ipswich blasted the quality to hurt Pompey as well, and did. Somehow, a very even game in which Portsmouth were largely better…ended 2-0 to Ipswich.

 

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It wasn’t as if Ipswich stole the game, but Portsmouth didn’t deserve to lose, and certainly not by two. Their passing and movement was excellent, and they created chances but the final pass or their finishing kept letting them down.

 

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Suddenly, after seeming ready to run away with the league, Portsmouth’s lead had dwindled from nine to only four points in just two games.

 

Yet after the game, as a discouraged squad trudged into the locker room, Benjani told them to trust the process. It didn’t seem to go over well, with the players looking even more discouraged. To Benjani though, it was the opposite of earlier in the season - they were playing great football but the results were poor. Like the players, the media inquired whether it was time to go back to the drawing board. Benjani told them in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t about to change a tactic now that his side were finally playing the way he wanted.

 

Next up was a decent Wycombe side that had fallen off their playoff challenge but were still dangerous. Benjani kept the same tactic, the same lineup. The result?

 

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Complete domination and a comfortable 4-1 win, with Wycombe’s goal coming deep into complacency time. Benjani was relieved more than anything. Finally, Portsmouth were able to find those final passes and finish their chances.

 

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March was rounded out with a narrow win away to Bolton in a game which was inexplicably not postponed despite three Portsmouth starters being away on international duty.

 

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Heading into the final six games, Portsmouth once again have a commanding lead in the title race.

 

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Of those final six games, three will be against sides in playoff contention - with Sheffield Wednesday just outside - and the other three against relegation-threatened sides. Rotherham especially could prove a tricky challenge, but Benjani expects them all to battle hard - though it’s possible that Morecambe and Gillingham will only be playing for pride by the time they face Portsmouth.

 

UP NEXT - Team Building Interlude

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Team Building Interlude - Part I - Roll Call

As the League 1 season entered its final month and Portsmouth looked set to win League 1 - or at least achieve automatic promotion - Benjani began to look to the future. In his first season and with no transfer budget or room in the wage budget, there hadn’t been much that Benjani could do.  His choice to let a good winger (Jacobs) go so that he could sign Wisdom had proved an astute choice, with the centerback performing well in the right sided WCB role, and considering Portsmouth's relative depth up front.  Nothing changed in the January transfer window, so he was only able to bring young Dylan Williams in on loan to cover the left wingback role with Lee Brown out for a while and Ogilvie needed to rotate with Robertson at left WCB.  

 

As Benjani looked towards the 22/23 season (all but surely) in the Championship, he had several challenges to overcome.  Prior to his arrival, Pompey had seen a massive amount of player turnover and he wanted to avoid a repeat in the summer of 2022.  Problem was, only seven first team regulars were signed beyond 30 June 2022, mostly in the backline. Center back and club captain Robertson and fellow left sided WCB (who also could play wingback) Ogilvie were joined by Benjani signing Wisdom and wingback/cover WCB Freeman

 

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Beyond defense, only central midfielders Morrell and Tunnicliffe and inside forward Curtis were signed through the next season. Other than that it was youngsters and backup keeper Alex Bass.

 

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So, if Benjani didn’t act, he would only have enough players to fill out a backline - if backup GK Bass was included - minus one leftback, and only one player in the front three. Not to mention literally no depth. Before he could even thing about new signings, Benjani decided to focus on players currently at the club.

 

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Sign Them Up!!!
Center back Raggett [the tower] had been massive for Portsmouth’s defensive solidity, winning everything that came his way in the air, and a fair few in the ground as well, meaning teams struggled to keep hold of the ball. Benjani made it a priority to tie him down to a longer term deal early, and he signed a new contract in February.

 

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Another key player - though he was increasingly out injured - was aging Lee Brown.  The left wingback was one of the better players on the team when fit, but was also thirty-one.  Still, his veteran leadership was something Benjani very much valued and Brown had the kind of mentality that he wanted to promote and encourage at the club.  The first time they met, however, Brown wanted a three year deal. Benjani didn’t feel at all comfortable signing an older player to that kind of deal.  In April, however, they came back together and managed to compromise with a two year deal.  Benjani fully expected Brown’s role to recede over those two years, but there was value in keeping veterans around and he would serve as useful depth even as he began to fade.

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While Benjani had initially felt a wash of panic when he saw how many players in his squad were either on one year deals or had contracts expiring at the end of the season, he was relieved when he was informed that six had one year extension options.  He hesitated at first, knowing he had time to consider, but once it became clear that Portsmouth were on their way to the Championship and after their struggles with injuries, Benjani knew that he needed to make sure he kept hold of competent players.Rather than negotiate with half his squad, Benjani decided to trigger extensions on all six players, all of whom had contributed effectively in some way or another.

 

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Marquis and Harrison [as noted previously] were thriving in Benjani’s evolving system, so it was a no-brainer to extend those two. 

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Thompson had been a steady if unspectacular player in midfield before breaking his leg in training. Just as importantly, he had the kind of mentality Benjani wanted to see in his players. A broken leg was a brutal injury with a long recovery, but actually tended to be straightforward and rarely led to ongoing problems. He might not be ready until after preseason, but he could hope to have him ready for most of the 22/33 season.

-co5rzckhUViW7aZqGkfLWN-RdOJgbrPS17_jmgKOaF_8WCGARQkQmh4yRm-HKNfmz9Z0KOTsJWMVsLkug5vk53B0aZLHS15nrjYJmaEHhS73axQKAhW0GisrryRtdqxQXcjze5Q

 

Harness’s form had been good early on but had faded around the new year. He was still a useful player.

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Hackett-Fairchild had yet to convince Benjani, and was lacking technical ability and intelligence, but he’d scored up and scored some great goals at crucial times. His combination of speed and aerial ability along with his left-footedness meant he brought something that no other Portsmouth player had.  At twenty-three he also had the potential to get a good bit better.

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Finally, rightback Callum Johnson was extended despite spending the season on loan - something which had frustrated Benjani during several injury crises.  He wouldn’t set the world alight, but he was solid enough and worked hard.

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One player that Benjani planned to release was Shaun Williams.  He was a fine player, but at thirty-five, his legs had almost nothing left.  Benjani would have loved to have worked with him a few years prior, but he couldn't justify re-signing a slow player at the end of his career unless he needed to make up numbers…

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Loanees 

Benjani hoped to extend Bazunu’s loan from Manchester City, but Benjani’s old club demanded £450k/m for the loan. The young Irish keeper had been excellent for Portsmouth, but it would be folly to pay that much for a loan player. Alex Bass was decent for the League 1 level, but Benjani felt he would struggle in the Championship. Benjani hoped to send Bass out on loan, but now that would only work if Benjani could find another keeper.

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Question marks lingered over Romeo’s future.  He’d been a great asset to the club in his loan, with his devastating speed allowing him to blow past defenders with the ball and recover defensively, but it wasn’t clear if he would be good value for money.  If he could negotiate a reasonable deal for him from Millwall, Benjani would love to keep him, but there were a lot of areas of need and he didn’t want to spend too much money on any one position.

 

t2_zkudqDoutzuPejvuqLz9a8UK_0SuQeKCe7cPUZByUPHxR6XbwntWCG1VS7SP5MszU_bVz4YAwVwcGQVIYWmlyzNILplXNvNyxfpxv6B9mAtlgVfGhJCjAb3DHYnThG2nRX0UZ

 

Next up, midfield loanee Azeez.  The Arsenal player had been a decent rotation option and had a few excellent performances, but he wasn’t really the kind of player Benjani wanted - especially not at the cost.  He didn’t expect Azeez to want to move to the south coast either, with his playing time limited other than during selection crises.

 

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Areas of Need

With the core of the side signed for at least another year, Benjani would spend the rest of the season focusing on finding players to bring in and fill out a thin squad.  Benjani had hoped to look to the youth teams for some depth, but there was not one player who was ready to play in League 1, much less the Championship. The youth intake (coming soon), showed little promise either. Benjani would be hoping to bring in youth players with any extra funds he might have after filling holes in the first team.

 

Once he got a sense of the transfer budget he could actually start to make moves, but for the moment, he gave a list of assignments for the scouting department.  While he felt that he, baring a keeper, had a first 11 that could potentially compete in the Championship, he needed a lot more quality depth if they were to last the season.

Top Priority

GK (starter) - Benjani didn’t have confidence that Bass was good enough, at least not yet, so he needed a first choice keeper to replace Bazunu and allow Bass to go out on loan.

High Priority

Areas where Portsmouth would need depth

WCB - Benjani needed another reasonably technical player to play on the right side of the back three.  He hadn’t been able to rest Wisdom or Raggett for large portions of the season, and had been forced to play central midfielders here on multiple occasions. He needed additional depth.  

 

Left wingback - Brown and Ogilvie had been good on the left, but Benjani found out how thin they could get when Roberston and Brown both had spells out forcing Ogilvie to play without rest. Then when Ogilvie himself was out for a few weeks it was really challenging as there was no backup for either Brown or Robertson. Benjani actually hoped he already had this player at the club in Dylan Williams.  Only 18, he was mentally tough, hard working, and quick.  Benjani had been consistently impressed with how he played his heart out every match, and never seemed to fall victim to anxiety or complacency. It was a matter of negotiating with Derby to see if they’d let him go for a reasonable fee.

 

_FZ32TqIH3VyzafTJXaKs0cyYzQylkavRo_Chf75yxCZIMJHxfx7qDXXyQv5vHYoqdyEJa0R0XvSLheT63VaXl_gCsN_e6mnDSNMZquAKTefs-OvSUisNxE1XpDrESnNcrc5l1Ok

 

Central Midfield (2) - With Shaun Williams likely to be released and Azeez returning to Arsenal, Benjani would need to add depth in this position.  Though neither had been called on regularly, there would have to be rotation here.  Of course, he would look to add a starter here if he found a good one, but he felt that a combination of Turnicliffe, Morrell, and Thompson (when he returned from injury) could do the job in the Championship. Three players for two positions simply wasn’t enough, however, as any long term injury would be catastrophic.

Additional Areas

Right wingback - Though the Romeo situation was still up in the air, with Freeman and Johnson at the club, Benjani at least had decent players to fill the role.  Ideally, he’d improve upon this position, but it wasn’t an absolute need.

 

Center forward - The front three were rarely stretched, but Benjani would like another hard working center forward that could fill in for Marquis when needed. Harrison and Cutis could play the role, but they didn’t have Marquis’s mentality and hadn't been nearly as effective.

 

Right Inside forward - While Curtis, Harness and Hackett-Fairchild were all able to play here, none were especially convincing, and only Hackett-Fairchild was left footed. If Benjani could somehow fill in the squad and get a left footed inside forward he’d be thrilled.

Summary 

Benjani knew he’d be looking forward to a busy summer as he’d need to make at least four or five signings just to make up numbers in the squad - and that was only if there were no departures.  At the same time, he wouldn’t be surprised if some of the players started angling for improved contracts after promotion, but at least he knew he’d have the players tied down.

 

In terms of his strategy, other than at the goalkeeper position, Benjani was hoping to sign younger players and depth options over bringing in starting caliber players. This was a financial strategy and it was because he hoped to start the 22/23 season with a reasonably settled squad that knew the tactic well. But it was also because he believed in giving players the chance to show their worth rather than proactively replacing them. Of course, if the right player came along at the right price, Benjani would make a move, but that would not be the focus.

 

Team Building will return in “Team Building Interlude Part II - Put the Wind in Your Sails!”

 

UP NEXT - The First Hurdle

Edited by 13th Man
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Hope this is not were the Disney plot twist appears, when a disgruntled and ambitious son was expecting Benjani to fail to finally take over and now facing Benjani success will try to undermine him by plotting to give a small budget.

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5 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Benjani certainly has a well thought out recruitment plan. Hopefully he is given a decent budget up lift 

That’s one of the things I’ve appreciated about writing up saves. I used to always go into the transfer window like an overeager ball winning midfielder - sure I “won the ball” (got good players/deals) a lot of the time, but I wasn’t in control. Doing the write ups gives me a chance to step back and coming up with a plan. Trying to be more of a DLP…or something…

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18 minutes ago, MadCatPT said:

Hope this is not were the Disney plot twist appears, when a disgruntled and ambitious son was expecting Benjani to fail to finally take over and now facing Benjani success will try to undermine him by plotting to give a small budget.

Oooo, that would be some drama. There have been a few “takeover talks not to be believed” rumors, so that’d be a twist too.

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Scene 8 - The First Hurdle 

NFYM60XgPnZeEl69Cex0IFul3q8L-_Y4IPu1G8qDlChZVnwNhHeWXxViLxNnVDijqYHczlzyp9WEJJTpsUFE8GYJRqfaA_mZyWONpYBpevQp6Ow0q-x5KDSfnAFCHWIhLed6tSup

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Sky coverage of League One…

 

“Wins over Rotherham and Cheltenham,” the pundit continues , “have put Portsmouth in pole position to come away with the League 1 title, and all but ensured their promotion to the Championship.  Ipswich are six points back, ready to pounce if Portsmouth slip up, but with a challenging final four games it will take a mighty surge by Ipswich and a major collapse by Portsmouth for the south coast side to give up their lead in the title race...” 

 

Cut to the team in the locker room, with Benjani going over the match plan.

 

“Lincoln are a good side,” Benjani continues, “they held us at arms length at their place, but I don’t see any reason we need to…”

 

Benjani’s phone dings in his pocket with an incoming message.

 

“Sorry!” He chuckles before opening his mouth to continue.

 

But then phones throughout the room begin to buzz and ding and when Benjani looks at Dunne (assistant manager), the Scotsman pumps his fist as he looks at his phone.

 

“Ipswich just beat Rotherham 1-0!” He says, “It’s official, we’re headed to the Championship!”

 

Benjani closes his eyes and smiles widely and clenches his own fist as the players cheer and celebrate.

 

“Okay,” Benjani begins again after the celebrations die down, “you all earned this, you’ve been brilliant this season. Let’s beat Lincoln and then really enjoy ourselves. We’ve been promoted, but I’d still like the title to go with it! Need six more points for that unless Ipswich slip up.”

 

A bit of a cheer goes up before the players get situated again in their seats, eyes back on Benjani…

 

z0di9QeeFp1ThIvkFiKtmwrnIVxCyRGp0r6k9H43CeJ9X7RSwNcoUo6iQeRLcQrv1EKftw1kwn0FNrwnMjAXVSF7rcOXC9t4uHh8r72e41v9XCXh6VQ1_m2Xb57S81SvaOo0KUjx

 

Fade in to a match in progress-

 

18 April 2022

Mazuma Stadium, Morecambe

 

“And Portsmouth get us underway here in Morecambe.  Marquis [CF] plays it back for Ogilvie [WCB] who sends a long ball down the left for Brown [LWB] who’s in acres of space. Oooo, this is opening up for Portsmouth in these opening seconds...Brown drives to the byline and puts in a low cross.  Harness [IF] has slowed his run and is in a pocket of space in the box, he takes a touch….OOO!  He’s put it into the back of the net with a sweet finish from eight yards out with only fifteen seconds gone!  What a goal and what a way to open the game here for Pompey!  I don’t know if that’s a record but it has to be close!  And hold on...as the teams return to midfield to restart, I’m just receiving word that Ipswich have also scored in their game against Wigan!  Both of League One’s leaders have gotten off the mark quickly here today…”

 

Crossfade to later…

 

“...oh and that’s a clumsy challenge to bring down the goalscorer Harness and it’s a penalty for Portsmouth!  Harness was through on goal after being released by a lovely through ball from Morrell [CAR]  so the Morecambe defender might have felt as if he had no choice…

 

[Morecambe v Portsmouth]

kziaoPrzr_OtGR7h6iyC_kfwhjVFcPJ44jZrq6_QneuE0L3ijjHX6xOrBHw0q_7M1qpQDpvGuQ6eqX9_9BftHLULz8yaJU84Fwx61YmjTeU2BkyWDww_U6nd-9J8qAn2JYGjcGU4

 

[Ipswich v Wigan]

“It’s a penalty to Ipswich and a chance to take a commanding lead over struggling Wigan…”

f5WU0bunPcT97IHzHnMwj6koshvBxc_Mk1-40EkuVcObjrp18EsI6WmMOorFgwTNGP8_oIJU7XDsife8ofSkC6qyDYm5L3ZM6sEI6MT5EfTbbFT-XnT92dtfi-zvLwwBb-ntrMe8

 

[Morecambe v Portsmouth]

“...Ogilvie [WCB] picks up the ball at the halfway line and drives forward.  Morecambe are slow to close him down...ooo Curtis has made a fantastic run and Ogilvie spotted him...Curtis [IF] is through on...another goal for Portsmouth and again Ogilvie is involved, this time with a perfect through ball for Curtis to run onto! Right at the stroke of halftime Portsmouth go up three-nil!”

 

[Ipswich v Wigan]

“Wigan have a free kick at the edge of the area.  This is a difficult range, to be fair.  You have to get the ball up over the wall and back down in time to get it on target.  Humphrys steps up...AND IT’S IN!!! Wigan are back in it just a few minutes before the half!  That’ll make Richardson’s half time team talk that much easier!”

Twt0p27DAMJWV0c2txGcvdPzW5vayc722QdXzodaQgkskkzsK_1XuIYR7plvl8q-9TREeL9Juqia9MeI0hizKcu0m92PmDlSmCvpOQURjErLcvA5vTta7Jmf3KhjW7stZ1cYdAMo

 

[Morecambe v Portsmouth]

“...Freeman [WB] receives the ball back from Curtis [IF].  He’s got some space here on the right flank and he drives into the penalty area.  He crosses and here comes Harrison [IF] to meet it with a...ONE TOUCH INTO THE FAR CORNER!  Portsmouth are enjoying themselves today!  Four-nil to the visitors!”

sT-0jcZ-qOlTnfBJe1Hh5kFS9K1x1rwmit34xYcOrNN4igUCks0t4I_jToSHbDkpO9VROtLy8h9I1-8NG3QtuHk2MRtPqP_SG2ZhOne58qG8R748E8geY8Gl_tANKE_cFc_z1LwL

 

[Ipswich v Wigan]

“...Wigan attack down their left.  McClean plays in Humphrys, but his pass is a little too late and the forward is forced wide.  McClean continues into the box and Humphrys lays it off...McClean puts the ball across the six yard box to...PHILOGENE-BIDACE IS LEFT UNMARKED ON THE FAR SIDE FOR A TAP IN!  Ipswich have turned off here, with everyone moving to the right to try and close down McClean they leave the back post completely open.  Wigan are level here in the seventy-fifth minute!”

 

QkT26_Oskm2HcEhiMRCIqKUdPKaF9Ck0ljAK-Qey3HaKeL_j5UFqmYgYmzh-sfUF_Dt4MVSwigquRTtiOmx_8HR3twZSTmyuLLgY10maM06y5fE5D2W2IZw7fM-isbbaJi7HtJFe

 

“...Ipswich are again in disarray as Bockhorn brings the ball down the right hand side.  Ipswich are far too narrow and Bockhorn is driving into the penalty area with hardly a blue shirt in sight.  He squares it to Humphrys...ooo, Burgess gets a crucial foot in there.  But it’s back to Bockhorn and...GOAL!!! On the second time of asking Bockhorn plays in Humphrys and this time no one in blue can get close to it.  Humphrys finishes the move and Ipswich’s title hopes are now gone if they can’t find a way to at least get a goal here!”

 

_5jpXm8zf7852klh_znoygYV8keFcFTGz10WKsZ_zM6MLjcXfG_9TH6d9RfvYg1jr7-JFc25PRENeCqu3huelcP9mMTK3laTY1-LFss3fGYlTiPEvSiS4kMaHHu1QfHV1teSp6f_

 

[Morecambe v Portsmouth]

The stands are mostly empty other than the Bay Radio (west) stand where a thousand or so fans in blue are singing and dancing as the final whistle blows.

“BENJANI! WHOOOOOA! BENJANI! WHOOOOOA! HE COMES FROM ZIMBABWE, HE GOT US THE LEAGUE TODAY!!”

The players stand around awkwardly, the starters drinking water and stretching while the reserves buzz around excitedly…waiting….

“Ipswich and Wigan?” Benjani asked Dunne.

“Still 3-2 Wigan, they have five minutes of added time…”

 

[Ipswich v Wigan]

“...This free kick has to be Ipswich’s last chance to get something out of this game and keep their title hopes alive here in the ninety-seventh minute.  Celina sends the free kick into the box.  Coulson is alone...AND HE BEATS STOLARCZYK AT THE NEAR POST TO LEVEL THE SCORE!!! But wait!  The flag is up!  No goal!  And there’s the final whistle! Wigan, early season challengers until Christmas, but who have suffered a horrible second half of the season, have just come from two down to beat Ipswich and hand the League One title to Portsmouth!”

 

[Wigan’s form since January]

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[Morecambe v Portsmouth]

 

Salty language rains down from the west stand and the singing and cheering dies down.

 

“Ipswich scored,” Dunne sighed.

 

Benjani shrugged, “We still only need one point from three…”

 

“OFFSIDES!!!” came a yell from the stand.

 

One thousand five hundred voices sounded like ten times their number as a huge cheer went up. The players hugged each other and pumped their fists.

 

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“Ten years after falling out of the Championship Portsmouth win League One in commanding fashion and return to England’s second division. Benjani has this side playing fantastic football, and if it weren’t for a lot of tough injuries Pompey may have won the title even earlier. Now the focus turns to next season, where Benjani will look to ensure Portsmouth’s survival. Time will tell if his attacking tactics will be as effective at the next level or if he’ll be flexible enough to adjust should his side struggle…”

 

UP NEXT - Team Building Interlude Part II - Put the Wind in Your Sails!

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Cutting Room Floor 

Here are a few bits that didn’t make the final movie and so ended up on the cutting room floor (as in, back when people actually cut and spliced film). Rather than do a season review with all the stats and such, I'll probably come back to all that for a tactical plan for the coming season. At the moment, I’m working on another team building interlude that has turned into a massive post that might end up needing to be two posts, but wanted to tie up the season...

 

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All of Portsmouth’s first choice players averaged at least a 7.0 season rating other than Harness who missed the mark by 0.03.

 

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Portsmouth ended the season with a 1-0 win over relegation bound Gillingham and a 4-3 victory over Sheffield Wednesday - which was 4-0 after 68 mins!  It was a nearly an incredible collapse, and one that would have been a bit worrying if the game had mattered.

 

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 In the end Portsmouth amassed 103 points and finished well ahead of their title rivals Ipswich.

 

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Portsmouth and Ipswich go up, and Wigan and Lincoln are (in game) about to compete in the playoff final.  In a tiny preview of the next post - Benjani has two potential targets at Rotherham, so he was pleased to see them fall to Lincoln in the playoff semi-final.

 

I considered going statistical here with all the cool new stuff, and I might later as Benjani looks ahead and reviews the tactic but for now here’s the standard stuff.

 

07RpF1P3T-VBB6gsfSx4XYi1U3wNm-GaMRWvgY9HrQWaZQXXfFDhfGUfNlQ-p5zBpIcN_HTAQAiCDXWhFh4pM9BEthIRXYvbk4HizaiuRmQ-9OU7YPGZ_WBpRdS4sTvYCiRMcfRL

 

Sean Raggett was the clear standout player and was a key part of Portsmouth being the top defensive team in League One.  His jumping and heading ability were massive at this level (17 and 15 respectively), and he was always in the right place at the right time. Harrison stole the starting position left IF role from Curtis and went on to be League One’s second top scorer. Marquis went from being a player who did a lot without much to show for it, to a hugely important player when Benjani simply instructed him to play a bit deeper. Of his eleven assists, seven came after the switch in February (and he scored a lot too!).

 

h1JZsn3uCG50Wz5UpG9rwsvY6Ru1rnbVJP2mg3HHZhR3RDErQomuSOn5uSmiS3htXirfqpUKV1FRMUgiedM9TQ3XE9UvYSgSRBD-ivGIDbYvbUR6EC3LKOW9Sp-UtEd1J1GDH16m

 

UP NEXT - A long post about team building/transfers that might actually take two cause it just keeps getting bigger...

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11 minutes ago, SixPointer said:

Congratulations on the title win! And done in some style. 
 

do you expect tactical tweaks for moving up a league? How’s the new budgets looking?

Thanks! 
In terms of budgets and tactics…I have a massive post (probably several) going into detail on the recruitment process, club DNA goals, and then we’ll get into tactics and looking forward.

All will be revealed in time…

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12 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

That is a wrap for the First Film in true Disney Fashion!

Congratulations on the League Title!

So, what is the working title for the Sequel?

Thanks and...funny you should ask...

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End Credit Scene (Think Marvel Movies…)

[I was going to put this at the beginning of the transfer/team Building post, but figured I should but it in a separate one in case there are those that don’t like all this waffling about…]

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Fade in to a view of Portsmouth from the water - the city on the right with Gosport on the left - the Spinnaker Tower rising into the sky.  

 

“Put the wind in your sails with a trip to Portsmouth this summer!” 

 

We hear a young woman’s smooth but full voice, and as the narration begins we see various parts of Portsmouth - beaches, the Gunwharf Quays shopping center, a couple walking hand in hand on the Millennium Promenade by the water with the Spinnaker Tower in the background.

 

9veGeD-_e97Jv1DylPJuKWv6jvrPrwfaIP8K_P8xkHzA2AgMMhqUOih9DVuo36CXqhlWGhjzFWradLHZnDW9Nyin7GFqiGKtTh53QylRGbZTATXIggmfIrZU16-YBBI9o4E9sWpW-7TmVq4ynD657XlHfNNqgNeRtHRM_kmlv1MEN4Rs791HOeWIN_FIeoVsRBFzAVekRn-UxgaRICv-OspQKmALynhX7BzlSE5ZKs1qdz6fuysK3GdcHEaI32gyeFDZ8yaGSEwP_TxH

 

“With fresh sea air, plenty of open spaces and loads of great things to do, Portsmouth is the ideal place for you to put the wind back in your sails.”


XzzPze0j34e3FWIN44tugCMdo4UGyfzzP7del68aUJOz1E6CUUU6uNlv7EgoBIxsx4i-yayVdQTTkzvQoiucJM_ZSH3fjaCxhuNeMalMsDuwwJ0p1Mj5vPYnz_RWfFEaAZ_AMwKVNFVRTb0eeQWbuxqZCS-BAvxJ4h7dY1vQRBXnLBPNpDmjx00aNcrlXslVQWa_i-k9DIBEX2bLg9n2EN5sFeV1xVc5qDNlNxaj_cTeUad_-CbRSeh36uLMNaXMnRHGsEic3DbRb0ZY

 

As the advertisement closes, we pull out of the screen and realize that we are in a dark office.

 

“Get planning your summer now, with a trip to the UK's only island city!”

 

The voice now sounds as if it’s coming out of speakers and as it fades out, the screen turns off and the lights come up.  The camera pans to Michael Eisner and his sons as they turn with a smile to Benjani - who quickly puts on a smile of his own to replace the quizzical look he wore a moment before.

 

“So,” Eisner begins, “Benji, You’ve done well to win League One and get us promoted to the Championship, but now the work truly begins.”

 

Benjani nods thoughtfully.

 

“So let’s get to work,” Eisner claps his hands, “first off, Drew, let him know the budget…I admit, I still think I’m dollars!”

 

“We’ll have a transfer budget of £3m and a £40k per week increase to the wage budget,” CEO Andrew Cullen says.

 

“Seems pretty good, huh Benji?” 

 

Eisner laughs then leans forward, his hands coming together in a power pose. His eyes twinkle, as if he’s about to come to a very profound point.

 

“So tell me, Benji, what’s your plan to stay in the Championship?  How are you going to put the wind in our sails?”

 

Benjani points to Eisner with a nod, and then takes a deep breath and leans forward himself. His eyes harden with steely determination and even Eisner seems affected by his energy. We zoom into his eyes until it’s all we can see.

 

“I’m glad you asked…” Benjani says.

 

[three big musical hits then silence]

 

CUT TO BLACK

 

Benjani will return in…

 

The Ballad of Benjani - Phase II

 

Put the Wind in Your Sails

 

[Que Afrobeat music]

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7 hours ago, Netm said:

I've said it before, but it bears repeating, I love your write ups. And congrats with the league win and promotion!

Thanks and thanks! Always glad to hear when someone (other than me) enjoys my ridiculousness.

6 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

The movie angle really makes your write ups standout.... I wish I had about 1/5 of the imagination!

Thats why I stay with barebones AAR's and just report gameplay.

KUTGW!

 

Funnily  enough it was not my original plan or anything. I was always going to go story but between the Eisner - Disney thing and a few comments from you and others that made me go that route and I’m glad for it! Helps me stay focused on save goals too…

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The Ballad of Benjani - Phase II - Put the Wind in Your Sails! (aka, the Benjani Club DNA Project)

[Afrobeat music along with a triumphant theme on horn that may or may not mesh with the rest of it.  But actually Disney’s been doing a good job of having proper music in the last ten years]

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Scene I - Once there was a man…

...and his name was Benjani. And he had a plan…

Save Principles

As he truly began to build the squad, Benjani would focus on two things - loyalty to his players and mental and physical toughness in his squad.  These two principles would come into conflict at times - such as when his players didn’t live up to his expectations - but he would make his choices on a case by case basis.

 

Loyalty

 

Benjani had sworn to himself that he wouldn’t treat players in the way Harry Redknapp had treated him. As long as players could play at the required level, Benjani would stick with his players until they no longer were good enough or when they wanted a move. He wouldn’t keep picking players that underperformed and he’d always pick the best possible eleven, but he wouldn’t shove players out the door, for instance, to fund acquisitions and would give players plenty of chances to prove their worth. 

 

For this reason, Benjani wanted to be very careful about players he brought in. Once they were in the door, they were part of the family and Benjani did not take that lightly.

 

[This is something that will be a challenge for me as I tend to be a ‘wheeler dealer’ for any players other than a few that I, for whatever reason, get attached to.]

 

Toughness

 

Benjani required his players to be mentally and physically tough, with an emphasis on the former. As he looked to building the club, Benjani wanted players who would fight to the final whistle every single game, no matter the scoreline. He also wanted players who could fight to the last whistle and to physically impose themselves on the opposition. Especially considering his commitment to loyalty, there were certain traits that Benjani would require in his new signings, though he’d likely need to be flexible at times.

 

Youth Development

 

In order to create a culture from top to bottom at Portsmouth, Benjani hoped to use the youth set up to bring players imbued with a certain ethos.  This would take time and require a lot of investment in the academy.  A disappointing youth intake in 21/22 certainly put a dent in this plan, but with most of the players unlikely to ever be good enough for the first team, he decided to focus on the culture by signing determined, mentally tough players to remain on in the academy, even if they were otherwise poor players.

Requirements (aka, club DNA)

Players at the club would not be subjected to these tests (see - loyalty) but any incoming signings and, to a lesser extent, players looking to break into the first team from the youth set up, would need to at least “pass” the club DNA tests.  Benjani did expect, however, for many of the players who didn’t match the club personality would naturally move on over time.

Primary

 

Determination

[13+ desired, absolute minimum 11]

Mental toughness was of absolute importance to Benjani.  He wanted a team that would fight to the end no matter what.  He wanted players that refused to give up, not players that put their heads down after conceding a goal.  

 

Workrate/Teamwork

[13+ desired, minimum 10. More flexible than Determination, but if a player is below 10 in either category, then they must be above 13 in the other category]

The system required players that worked hard and worked for each other.  Players needed to be in constant motion to create space, and then be willing to run and exploit that space.  The fluid movement of the roles would be for nothing if the players are willing to actually do the moving.  Without the ball, the players also need to be willing to put in a shift from front to back.

 

Stamina/Natural Fitness

[14+ desired, minimum 12]

Considering the need for workrate and running, he’d need players that could run all day and then do it again a few days later.

Secondary

Bravery/Aggression

[10 + desired]

Benjani hoped to have brave, aggressive players who were willing and able to impose themselves physically.

 

Acceleration/Pace

[12+ desired, 9 + absolute]

Benjani didn’t need all lightning fast players, but the system wasn’t suited to slow players. It needed fast, constant movement and speed across almost all positions.

 

Passing

[10+ (for now)]

Benjani’s system relied on passing and movement to create chances, so any player to join needed to be at least a competent passer of the ball.

 

Decisions

[13+ desired, 10 absolute, unless under 21]

Benjani didn’t need geniuses, but he needed players who knew how to make the right choice at the right time for his system to function properly.

DNA Note

Notice that the only technical element here is Passing.  Benjani would obviously be looking for players with technical ability, but his focus is, first, to create a culture and that will be the priority.  There are obviously attributes that various positions need, but overall, incoming players must pass the above ‘tests’ (or most of them), Benjani would use DNA as a way of choosing between two players if not much else separated them.

Example

Dylan Williams

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Position - Left wingback (ML AML, CM)

Club DNA - Determination 18, teamwork 13, workrate 15, fitness 16,  stamina 13. Aggression/Bravery (<10)

Cost - £1.3m (£500k up front and £700k over three years)

Wage - £2.9k/w

Status - Squad player

Training program - Wingback (support), focus on ball control at first, then possibly moving to defensive positioning later if it doesn’t naturally develop.

 

As discussed in the last team building interlude, Benjani had been eager to sign loanee Williams permanently. He was exactly the kind of player Benjani wanted to bring in. The young man showed mental toughness far beyond his age and worked hard. He was very much a raw player, but at only eighteen he had plenty of time to grow and improve, and had already become a much better player in just three months at the club. As soon as Benjani got the initial transfer budget from the board, he made an offer. Williams signed almost instantly, eager to stay on the south coast, and he would back up Brown on the left - though Benjani honestly expected the young man to earn a starting place before long! 

2022/2023 Season and the 5 year plan

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Benjani may not have been at the club long, but Eisner and the board seemed to have embraced his style.  The changes to the club culture were all completely in line with Benjani’s philosophy and system.  He would hope to, at the very least, ‘fight bravely against relegation’ - he was seeking a mid-table Championship finish, though he’d never tell Eisner that.

 

 With a transfer budget of £2.9m and £39.9k/w added to the wage budget, it would be his first window with room to maneuver - and Benjani felt that it was more than enough to achieve his goals. It was a golden chance to begin to build his vision for the club.

 

With a small squad and a fair number of players at the club on loan in the 21/22 season, it would be a busy summer for Benjani. If he played things right, however, he felt as if he could set the club up for sustained success and begin to transform the club from top to bottom over the coming years. 

His priority would be the first team. First of all, he could control it, and second, the financial health of the club was dependent on the success of the first team - and the infrastructure of the club needed significant investment. If Portsmouth could comfortably establish themselves in the Championship, then further progress could be made off the pitch. 

 

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This was made even more apparent when Eisner turned down his request to improve the training facilities.  He’d put almost £3m in the transfer budget, but wouldn’t invest in facilities - and that told Benjani all he needed to know.  He needed to focus on the first team squad for the moment.

 

UP NEXT - Put them to the test!

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  • 13th Man changed the title to [FM22] The Ruins of Pompey - The Ballad of Benjani - Phase 2 - Put the Wind in Your Sails!

Put them to the test - 22/23 Offseason/Team Building

The foundations first

Benjani wasn’t surprised when the majority of his side came to his door asking for new contracts. Most of them were on League One contracts without promotion clauses, so Benjani couldn’t blame them either.

 

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Considering he’d need to know the available wage budget before going too deep into the transfer market, Benjani decided to start on the contract talks.

 

Talks with obvious first choice and important players all went smoothly. Benjani tried to negotiate better deals and usually managed to get £1k/w or more off but the contracts were already taking a bite out of that extra £40k/w in the wage budget.

 

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Harness, Harrison and Tunnicliffe all signed for two years.  Freeman [WB/WCB] also extended his contract - and was happily only a slight raise and a squad player status.

Unfortunately, club captain Robertson and fellow WCB Ogilvie both demanded to be considered important players despite neither being clear first choice, and Curtis also had the same sticking point even though Harrison had clearly taken over his starting role. Benjani would continue to work with them and hoped to come to an agreement, but he wasn’t going to hold up the club’s progress in the market.

“Book your trip to Portsmouth today!!!”

Having extended enough contracts to keep the core together, Benjani had sent his scouts out on specific, targeted assignments and narrowed their reports down to a “short-list” of targets.

DNA review 

DNA KEY

[kind of combining @SixPointer and @Deisler26’s approach here with my own twist as well…see above post for more detailed breakdown]

Excellent

Desired level

Pass minimum threshold 

Fail 

Primary Attributes 

Determination, workrate and teamwork - at least 10, desired 13+

Stamina and natural fitness - at least 12 and desired 14+

Secondary Attributes 

Aggression, bravery, pace, passing, decisions

Needs

The situation was unchanged from the last team building post, with one exception - LWB - and Benjani would need 4-5 signings to fill out the squad

 

Starting Keeper - Top Priority.

 

1-2 center backs - ideally one right WCB and one rotation option for Raggett, who was “jaded” the whole second half of the season.

 

1 Left WB - with Brown aging and injury prone and Ogilvie needed as CB depth, he’d need another body here. Signed, Dylan Williams!

 

1-2 CMs - Four CMs would be the minimum as Benjani had discovered when Thompson broke his leg while Tunnicliffe was serving a three match ban. He was hoping to bring in a rotation option and a youth prospect.

Hopes

1 RB - Freeman and out-on-loan Johnson were both decent players, but Benjani would hope to retain Romeo or bring in someone else. Johnson was an unknown and Freeman was only a decent rotation option in League One, and often disappointed at that level. As much as Benjani wanted to be loyal, he wasn’t sure Freeman could cut it at the next level.

 

1 CF/IF - There were four good forwards at the club who were all versatile enough to play in a variety of combinations, but no one could quite do what Marquis did, and only the raw, fifth option Hackett-Fairchild was left footed.

 

After signing Williams, Benjani still had £2.5m to work with and his attention turned to the top priority - a starting goalkeeper. 

Targets

- Goalkeeper -

 

This was the only spot where Benjani was looking for a clear starter.  Alex Bass wasn’t ready - the three goals he let in against Sheffield Wednesday in the final thirty minutes showed that. Benjani’s search eventually narrowed to two targets, both of whom had played in League One in 21/22.

 

Stolarczyk was contracted to Leicester City but on loan at Wigan and Johansson was contracted to Rotherham. Both, unfortunately, were a step down from Bazunu, but the Manchester City player was simply too expensive to retain even on loan [£450k/m!!!].

 

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Both were relatively young - Stolarczyk was 21 and Johansson 23 - and had room to grow. Johansson was probably the better keeper at the time  - better handling, overall intelligence, and physical presence. Stolarczyk, however, did have a lot going for him. Not only was he quicker off his line, but he also tended to make the right choice more often than not and the scouts seemed to think he had the potential to be a Premier League player, while Johansson’s ceiling was expected to be the Championship.

Decision - Stolarczyk

Reason - Cost and Potential

 

It was a tough choice, but one factor made the decision easier - Stolarczyk was available for a much lower cost. While Johansson was expected to go for at least £950k, Leicester agreed to a fee of £225k up front, with another £400k spread over three years.

 

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The young man agreed to a reasonable deal and put pen to paper shortly after. Benjani expected plenty of mistakes from the young keeper as he grew, but if he realized his potential Portsmouth would have its keeper for the future - or a hefty profit of about £5m (considering Leicester would get their 40% cut of the profit if someone activated the £10m release clause).

 

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Club DNA - Determination 13, Decisions 16, decent throwing (12) to make up for not great passing (8). not physically fit (6 fitness, 6 stamina) but a keeper so less important.

Cost - £225k up front, with another £400k spread over three years.

Wage - £2.6k/w

Status - backup (will be first choice)

Training program - sweeper keeper (d). Intelligence is the weakness so likely defensive positioning.

 

This turned out to be a very good choice, as Johansson would later move...for a very different price tag £4.5m!!!!

 

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- Inside Forward -

Bryan Fiabema

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Club DNA - Determination 15, Physical (fitness 14, stamina 13, pace 14, acc 15)

Not unlike Williams, Fiabema caught Benjani’s attention. Even though the reinforcements for the front three weren’t especially urgent, the young man had the makings of a great player in Benjani’s system. While he was limited in a lot of ways, he had pace and determination about him and a lot of potential. He was also a consistent performer, which was another sign of his mental strength.

 

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Position - left IF(a) (AMR, CF)

Cost - £250k from Chelsea

Wage - £7.5k/w (maybe a bit much for a squad player but he was a high potential player who had enough about him to be useful right away)

Squad Status - squad player

Training - Inside forward attack, with an emphasis on attacking movement to improve his off the ball.

- Central Midfield -

This was a tricky situation for Benjani. He had three midfielders that he really liked in Morrell, Tunnicliffe and Thompson, but he knew he’d need reliable rotation options here. The only two in the center in the primary 5-2-3 shape, anyone here would need to have to exemplify the core DNA attributes of workrate/teamwork and stamina/fitness.  Depending on who was available, Benjani wanted either a standout player, a veteran with a good personality, or a youngster who could backup the first three and develop mostly in the u23s. 

Top Player

Cameron Brannagan 

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Club DNA - Determination, teamwork and workrate 15, stamina 15, fitness 16, passing/vision 13, decisions 13. 

 

Brannigan was a player Benjani would love to bring to Portsmouth. He’d slot right into the carillero role and could fill in at holding midfielder if needed. He was a well rounded player who had all the traits to be an excellent player in Benjani’s system.  The problem?

 

Cost - £2.3m

 

Perhaps Benjani could come to an agreement for less up front, but he’d still be a big investment. There would also be the issue of him likely pushing a player down in the pecking order.

Richie Smallwood

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Club DNA - Determination 15, teamwork 17, workrate 19, fitness 15, stamina 14. 

No one could argue that Smallwood did not embody the ethos Benjani wanted to bring to the club.  He was a squad player at Hull City, so wouldn’t cost much, but he was very technically limited - as if he should have been born a bit taller so he could be a commanding centerback.

 

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Club DNA - passes on all but barely, other than 14 workrate.

 

Korey Smith did not fit the club DNA like Smallwood did, but he ‘passed’ the test and not only was a much better technical player than Smallwood, but also a much more offensive minded one.  With Thompson and Tunnicliffe both good in the holding role, Benjani was looking more for depth in the carillero role, and Smith would be better here.  An end of contract signing, he wouldn’t cost anything in transfer fees.

Jaakko Oksanen

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Club DNA- Determination 15, otherwise pass

Oksanan was an okay player across the board and while determination was his only standout quality, he’d fit the bill of a player who could provide competent backup without pushing anyone out of the team. He’d also be an end of contract signing and likely require a relatively low wage.

Decision - Brannagan

 

There are four players, each have their pros and cons. Benjani decides to go in for Brannigan though. He’s the kind of player that could make a massive difference for Portsmouth and checked all the DNA boxes. Oxford accepted a bid for him that included £1m up front, £1m over three years, and another £200k based on appearances for a total of £2.2m. It was all looking good for Benjani, with the agent previously saying he’d expect a wage between £5.5k and £7.5k/w.

 

However his agent’s opening offer was £16k/w. A lot of established Championship clubs were interested, and it appeared that he’d require a large salary to lure him to Portsmouth - a club returning to the Championship after a ten year stint in the lower leagues. With his transfer fee already hefty, Benjani tried to negotiate down, but there was too much distance.

 

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Thwarted for the first time, Benjani was forced to look elsewhere. The problem? He wasn’t convinced by any of the other targets. He decided to retreat and lick his wounds, figure out the defenders and then come back, seeing what kind of transfer and wage budget he’d have left. The scouts had also found a few decent young prospects that Benjani wanted more time to look at.

Decision - Brannagan

Decision - deferred

- Wide Center Back Right -

 

After picking up Wisdom on a free and having good players for the role in Ogilvie and Freeman at the club at the beginning, Benjani underestimated how difficult it would be to find another WCB to sign, despite working since the turn of the year to find a suitable player. By June of 2022, he did feel as if he had a decent shortlist.

Loic Mbe Soh

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Club DNA - Determination 13, Workrate 15, Fitness 15, stamina 14. Strength 15

 

Soh looked like a solid player, and though he wasn’t great technically, at 20, would grow as a player. At potentially just £275k, Benjani went in with an offer.

 

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Nottingham Forrest’s counter offer, however, was over £6m. Even if that was just a starting negotiation, it was clear that Portsmouth couldn’t afford him. Benjani moved on.

Loic Mbe Soh

Hounoulang Mendes 

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Club DNA - Determination and teamwork 12, workrate 14, stamina/fitness 15

 

Mendes was a player that the scouts looked at late in the season as he was out of favor at Watford. A good all around player he’d also be a decent option for the right wingback role.

Jamie Hamilton

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Club DNA - Determination 12, teamwork/workrate 13, fitness/stamina 13, decisions 7

 

The young Scotsman had caught Benjsni’s attention as a player with potential. He was a wonderfully technical player and would be excellent going forward. His intelligence was suspect, but Bejani wondered if he could be trained up tactically. At a potential price of £375k he looked worth looking into.

Josh Knight

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Club DNA- Determination 16, teamwork 14, workrate 15, aggression/bravery 15. Decisions 10, passing 10.

 

Josh Knight seemed to check all the right boxes. At £275k he was a bargain as well as he looked to escape relegated Peterborough. At 24, he had some room to grow mentally, but was mostly the player he would be. Along with being a good option as a wide center back, he could also play in midfield. Benjani was a bit hesitant as he was not good in the air for a center back or a good passer of the ball.

Decision - Knight

Reason - Club DNA

 

Peterborough agreed to a deal of £275k for him and the player agreed to a reasonable £7k/w deal. He would be able to play in the right WCB role and provide cover in midfield…

 

Only Benjani had second thoughts. He expected to be an important player but as Benjani looked at the squad he worried about how he’d keep everyone happy. Knight was likely to compete with Wisdom as well, and the latter was better in the air, a better passer, and, importantly already at the club (loyalty). The player’s only basic passing ability also went against him as a  midfield cover option.

It was a tough choice but Benjani decided to back out of the deal.

Decision - Knight

Decision - Mendes, then Hamilton

Benjani decided to first try to sign Mendes, then go try for Hamilton. With the interest being shown in Mendes, though, Benjani expected a similar situation to the one with Branaggan. A £450k fee was agreed with Watford, and the player even agreed to a reasonable £9.25k/w deal which gave Benjani some hope. As a player who could play center back and wingback, Benjani felt he could play in both regularly, and as such, not push anyone out of the team. In the end, however, Mendes chose to go to Bristol City.

 

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Benjani wasn’t surprised or even especially disappointed. Funnily enough, Benjani felt as things had turned out for the best despite him only getting his “third” choice. Hamilton was a player he’d liked and wanted from the moment he’d seen the reports. He was cheaper, would happily rotate into the side as needed, and would hopefully develop into a very good player. The young man had some work to do before he was a truly reliable option, but, if nothing else, he would be fun to watch!

 

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Signed - Hamilton

- Right Wingback -

 

Benjani had hoped to bring back Romeo on loan, and tried to do so, but Millwall wanted to offload him and insisted on a mandatory future fee of £2.4m. Benjani decided to see if he could buy the player outright instead. Happily, a £2.5m deal was struck, with the usual differed payments.

 

Romeo, however, had other plans. He wanted £20k/w. Obviously this was far too rich for Benjani's taste, and though he tried to talk Romeo down, the player choose another year at Millwall at £6k/w over two years at Portsmouth at around £10k/w. His loss!

 

Benjani would make do with what he had unless something magical worked out...

 

- Central Midfield -

 

It was time to return to the center of the park. Thompson would return to the lineup partway through the preseason, but Benjani needed another body here. The transfer budget still had plenty left, but the wage budget was under duress after three more first team players agreed to new contracts - all as regular starters rather than important players as they’d all previously demanded.

 

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To make the finances work, Benjani had to move a lot of the transfer budget into the wage budget, but with most of the business completed, he wasn’t overly concerned.

Several players came in on loan as Benjani looked to bring in a backup relatively cheap, but none impressed.  With Smallwood lacking in technical ability and Smith only an okay fit for the culture that Benjani wanted to build, he came back to Oksanen.

 

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WIth his contract with Brentford expiring, Benjani offered him a chance to play a part in the first team at Portsmouth - even if his chances would be limited.  He agreed to a £1.7k/w contract and as Portsmouth began their preseason, Benjani fully expected the young Finn to head down the A3 to the south coast before long.

Needs

Starting Keeper - Top Priority. 

Signed - Jakub Stolarczyk

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1-2 center backs - ideally one right WCB and one rotation option for Raggett, who was “jaded” the whole second half of the season.

Signed - Jamie Hamilton

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1 Left WB - with Brown aging and injury prone and Ogilvie needed as CB depth, he’d need another body here. 

 

Signed - Dylan Williams!

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1-2 CMs - Four CMs would be the minimum as Benjani had discovered when Thompson broke his leg while Tunnicliffe was serving a three match ban. He was hoping to bring in a rotation option and a youth prospect.

 

Still needed but likely backup/rotation player Oksanan

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A decent backup.  Benjani didn’t want to use him much, but hopefully he’d develop in the u23s and get some game time here and there.

Hopes

1 RB - Freeman and out-on-loan Johnson were both decent players, but Benjani would hope to retain Romeo or bring in someone else. Johnson was an unknown and Freeman was only a decent rotation option in League One, and often disappointed at that level. As much as Benjani wanted to be loyal, he wasn’t sure Freeman could cut it at the next level.

 

Romeo’s wage demands were too much, and other prospects too expensive. Freeman and Johnson would have to do...

 

1 CF/IF - There were four good forwards at the club who were all versatile enough to play in a variety of combinations, but no one could quite do what Marquis did, and only the raw, fifth option Hackett-Fairchild was left footed.

 

Signed - Fiabema

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Not necessarily the player Portsmouth needed but he would provide cover across the front three and, if he realized his potential, could become a fantastic player.

Summary (As of the start of preseason)

 

With four signings finalized and a fifth likely to be confirmed before long, Benjani was happy with the summer’s business.  So far, there were no signs of outgoing activity beyond a likely loan move for Hackett-Fairchild, who needed to develop further if he had a chance to play a more significant role in the first team.  The only player attracting interest was center midfielder Morrell who was attracting interest from MLS side San Jose.

 

In the end, Benjani felt as if he’d done well by his principles too.  All the players brought in both fit the player profile he wanted and would likely add depth to an already settled first eleven rather than push any players out of the team.  His only worry was the right wingback position, where he felt a bit thin, with only Johnson and the adequate Freeman able to play there.  Central midfield was also a major injury away from problems, but new signing Dylan Williams could play there if required.

Edited by 13th Man
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I find it is always hard to keep from spending money frivolously to "upgrade" a settled XI, with players who are marginally better than what you already have. 

The Deadline Day module ups the pressure on me to spend!

Good job not pulling a me!

 

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7 hours ago, SixPointer said:

Lovely recruitment update. 

Thanks!

 

5 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

I find it is always hard to keep from spending money frivolously to "upgrade" a settled XI, with players who are marginally better than what you already have. 

The Deadline Day module ups the pressure on me to spend!

Good job not pulling a me!

 

Deadline day is a ways away. There’s still time!

A lot of it is also that there were a lot of holes to fill. Also, something I forgot to mention - no loans in the current squad which was a Benjani goal…

 

5 hours ago, MadCatPT said:

Really loving the detail intertwined with the main character.

Still waiting for the "Making a tactic" single though.

Not going to lie, I am very tempted to record it.

Edited by 13th Man
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2 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Great update on the transfers, like the amount of thinking going behind each decision. Which I am sure will be well rewarded! Keep it going 

Thanks! Would have done things differently if I hadnt done the write up, so I’m glad I did! 

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Scene 1 - The Collective

Benjani’s Afrobeat track plays in the background. Tracking shot as Benjani and the press officer walk into the press room.

 

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Cameras flash as Benjani sits at the table, microphones and phones in front of him. His posture is perfect, his eyes clear - he looks much more comfortable than he did a year before.

 

“Here we are again,” Benjani smiles, “A new season, I’m excited.  Alight, let’s start with Richard.  You look ready to ask some tough questions, yeah?”