Jump to content

[FM22] The Fourth Glass, Vol. III: Straight Outta Sagarejo


ManUtd1
 Share

Recommended Posts

April/May 2027.

Some of our success is starting to pay off. The barista I've been admiring for years at the local Starbucks, Tamar? She must've heard about our forthcoming European campaign, because she gave me a little wink when handing me my drink today, a look of recognition in her eyes.

Mat tells me she isn't interested and that it's only customer service. If that's the case, then why did Tamar ignore him? He was right there, but she only had eyes for me.

We talk and flirt a little over the coming days, but I just can't bring myself to ask her out. I don't want to make it awkward. (I already had to stop going to the Starbucks near the house, after I misread a similar situation. There are only 3 Starbucks in town, after all. I can't be banned from 2 of them.)

40576b38bdfe54a2fab567fd9652b19f.png

ef84e254e077b0c5d15322ccc225430a.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Replies 336
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

June 2027 - European Review.

In the Champions League, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United won their 3rd title in 4 years, defeating Didier Deschamps' Chelsea on penalties.

3308a56c3e40a9e3a292075ca127edc4.png

2026/27 Champions League: Overview | Knockout Rounds

Ronald Koeman's Arsenal avenged last year's Europa League final loss with a 2-nil win over Pep Guardiola's Newcastle.

bad966dcfecff8f6336167f07af5f016.png

2026/27 Europa League: OverviewKnockout Rounds

And, in the Europa Conference League, Simone Inzaghi's Bologna not only has a first name, they beat Antonio Conte's Everton, 1-nil.

9e493f4b648bf54773e7dbca0183d759.png

2026/27 Europa Conference League: OverviewKnockout Rounds

In the active leagues: Massimiliano Allegri's Manchester City annihilated the Premier League, though nothing can wash off the stink of the 5-1 drubbing inflicted by Ole's all-conquering United in the Champions League semifinals; Carlo Ancelotti's Real Madrid won their 4th La Liga title in 6 years, following last year's runner-up performance on a tiebreaker (in other words, if we were to aggregate the last 2 campaigns, the Virus and Oscar Lopez's Barcelona would be separated by a mere 2 points); Julian Nagelsmann's Bayern did Bayern things; Brendan Rodgers' Juventus reclaimed the Serie A title; and, Mauricio Pochettino's PS-****ing-G did PS-****ing-G things.

Link to post
Share on other sites

June 2027.

The month does not start off on a good note. Kurdadze throws his toys out of the pram, insisting that he needs to move to a bigger club.

giphy.gif

I'd like to say that I responded to Kurdadze's transfer request firmly. But that would be a lie.

Chikobava is not ready to take over. And the cupboard is bare at the academy.

Alarm bells are ringing, Mat.

In the midst of the fire alarm caused by Kurdadze's almost certain departure in 6 months' time, we are drawn to face Albanian side Teuta Durres in our maiden European voyage. It may not be glamorous, but it is a European tie -- a winnable one, at that. We will take any little bit we can get, in terms of both prestige and financial windfall. In terms of our finances, we've somewhat stemmed the bleeding, but still find ourselves in the red on the year.

(In terms of finances, Dinamo Tbilisi are the only side in the top 2 tiers not to be running a significant deficit. At the same time, Bakhmaro are the only club to have reverted to semi-professional status, thus far.)

1b6861fb743426c48f940cbabef37932.png

fe8da058da41629447f3d8a9d50937d4.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

July 2027 - Europa Conference League, 1st Qualifying Round.

We come out the blocks stumbling against Teuta, nervous. Afraid. But the taste of blood in our mouth once our visitors struck meant we counterpunched with a vengeance. At 5-1, it may not have been the "perfect" European debut. Our passage to the Second Round should nevertheless be booked.

071a5fa06687f0a9bd9bf8c563621a43.jpg

The second leg passes by in a blur, with little action of note even after the home side find a goal in the 2nd half. A 1-nil loss on the night means we progress 5-2 on aggregate.

We will face Lokomotiva Zagreb in the Second Round.

912582b9b39eebe3ba2b5fc5ca19ab6a.png

Edited by ManUtd1
Link to post
Share on other sites

July 2027 - Europa Conference League, 2nd Qualifying Round.

The Croatians are a far tougher task than the Albanians. We are thus more than content to allow the first leg in Zagreb to be a stale, turgid scoreless draw. It meant that back "home" at the Poladi, we could be more aggressive.

We take our chances -- a delicate chip from Apridonidze securing our passage in the 83rd minute.

dbbf5a1ac59b594ead2b13fa052556fc.jpg

We draw Ukrainian giants Zorya in the Third Qualifying Round -- Mat initially scoffs at the suggestion that they are a "big" side, until I remind him that it is all relative.

3b8a5ab68a147a226f4bb4c50646ba32.png

However "unimpressed" we might be at their credentials and pedigree, I'm certain they are even less impressed by ours. And it isn't like we can even argue that we're "on form."

Quite to the contrary.

1808e9bb3d30cda22dbdb7655fe976c7.png

ab4ee64498b530c658a976a18f6cf2e7.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

August 2027 - Europa Conference League, 3rd Qualifying Round.

In Luhansk, it is readily apparent that Zorya's players are of a different caliber.

It is also apparent that they've looked past us. Erkomaishvili strikes in the 6th minute to give us a surprise lead (a surprise, that is, to our hosts and the hipster neutrals watching the stream who only just learned where Georgia is on the map)

Our hosts fight back and draw level, all is set for a draw when we burst into life in the dying minutes. Iskakov in the 87th, to finish off a ruthless counterattack. Then, Aslan in the 89th. I would've bit your hand off had you offered us a draw before kickoff.

But we will be taking a monumental 3-1 win back "home," to the Boris Paichadze.

b4670b48f33ebc76141db529b3fb1cc6.jpg

We expect an avalanche of Ukrainian fury. All bets are off if we can hold the line during the first half, or snatch a goal...

...in the 4th minute, a deft chip from Omarov hits Aslan in stride. 1-nil on the night. Epic.

At the half, we can almost taste it. We have no business being 3 goals to the good, on paper. 45 minutes to play.

On the hour mark, Kirkitadze makes it 2-nil on the night as we break forward at pace, an intricate pass-and-move sequence allowing our diminutive mezzala to hit the gap.

15 minutes later, Zorya's defense dither on the ball in their own defensive third, and then play a square ball across the back -- substitute Ugrekhelidze reads it all day, and punishes them accordingly. Before the Ukrainians catch their breath, Ugrekhelidze has his brace. Mat cavorts in glee in the touchline, but its almost as if no one can see him -- for all eyes are on young Giorgi, who only recently signed on the dotted line to confirm a permanent transfer (on a free) at the end of his contract.

It is arguably the best performance of our tenure.

Belenenses await in the next round.

f91a06e9cdc727d47d5077afe0959709.png

Edited by ManUtd1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

August 2027 - Europa Conference League, 4th Qualifying Round.

Ahead of the trip to Lisbon, we confirm the extension of Bebiashvili and Mskhvilide's loans through the end of the 2028 campaign. Our goal had been to sign them on free transfers -- Torpedo Kutaisi and Dinamo Tbilisi put an end to that, however, by exercising their 1-year contract options. Meaning our plans are simply delayed for a year.

Khachatryan also officially joins after his extended "trial," to give us official depth at right back.

We sit 180 minutes from a possible berth in the Group Stage. We've tried not to talk about it. To dream about it. But it is tangible. Within our reach. In theory, at least.

Like Zorya, Belenenses seem to underestimate the threat we pose. Gigauri disabuses them of any such notions in the 7th minute, stepping in to dispossess Namaso. He lays it off for Nadiradze, who immediately feeds Aslan in the channel. 1-nil.

Again, like Zorya, the Portuguese fight back and bring the match back on level terms. But we are not done for, not against a team that continues to sit deep. Tentative. Wary, at having been stung once by Aslan. And we sting them again -- Aslan finding a second in the 35th after being set free by Erkomaishvili.

Belenenses refuse to break, however, and fight back to secure a 3-2 win. Having twice taken the lead, the final scoreline is a kick in the gut -- not an undeserved one, mind. But still a kick in the gut.

d7968c8b03f4c41a2d1ff1570ffff817.jpg

This run of matches requires full utilization of our squad, with the temporary promotion of Giorgi Bachiashvili to ensure proper rest for the 1st XI.

Our fortunes rest on 90 minutes in Tbilisi. We do not have a squad truly capable of mounting a battle on 2 fronts. Advancing in Europe would be a financial windfall the likes of which we can barely wrap our heads around. Yet, it would possibly come at the expense of finishing in the European positions for next year, as we sit 1 point off Dila Gori in 3rd.

Notwithstanding this practical reality, Mat and I are of one mind about the situation -- as we are about so many things. We will go for it. Better to go down swinging having dared to take a punch, than to surrender meekly.

Less than 3 minutes after kickoff, the first chance falls our way -- Olivera saving from Erkomaishvili, with the rebound falling to Aslan. 10 minutes later, Nadiradze curls one off the post as Erkomaishvili goes close minutes later. We are in a groove.

In the 27th minute, Aslan whips a corner to the near post, where a poor defensive header sees the ball fall to Kirkitadze at the top of the box. He picks out the top corner with an awkward volley to give us a 4-3 lead on aggregate.

I sit back and let Mat take the halftime team chat. With 45 minutes to play, he has the measure of the room -- his brand of righteous, poetic fury striking the perfect tone.

As expected, Beleneses come racing out of the gates -- a wide open match ensues, Erkomaishvili hits the post in the 50th minute. It's a cliche, but the next goal could be everything.

With 20 minutes to play, the tie still hangs in the balance. 2-nil in our favor on the night. The tension rising. Ugrekhelidze enters the fray, to maintain our press and threaten in transition and possession.

In the 81st minute, Vestergaard hammers home a corner to bring the visitors back level on aggregate. We immediately counterpunch, Aslan found in a sliver of space at the back post...only for the goal to be called back for offsides.

And just when it feels like extra time is inevitable, Apridonidze heads past Olivera from close range...the Portuguese are irate, screaming for offsides. Truth be told, it is a close call, but the goal stands. 3-1 on the night, 5-4 on aggregate...at the death.

Belenenses collapse at the final whistle. An epic, historic night.

755424ad7b903daab09ec92ff9aaca3d.jpg

When the team bus arrives back in Sagarejo at 5am, I hand Mat the keys for the drive home. I don't trust myself behind the wheel. I'm still too euphoric.

I close my eyes as we drive in silence. After a few minutes, I ask Mat if he has any plans to deal with the squad rotation over the next few months, as we fight on two fronts. I laugh weakly, daunted by the task in front of us. He doesn't respond. I assume he's just thinking, until I hear horns honking and the unmistakable sound of our dilapidated Lada Niva accelerating rapidly.

I open my eyes to find us careening down the middle of a dark road outside the city, Mat sitting beside me with a wild look in his eyes.

"What are you doing, Mat?!"

"What do you wish you'd done before you died, Rezo?"

Oh ****.

I don't respond. As a car goes flying by, inches from where I sit, Mat repeats the question, shouting this time.

"I don't know, Mat! Paint a self-portrait?! Build a house?!"

Cars continue to fly past us, heading in the other direction. Mat's grin only widens, so I turn the question back on him. He just shrugs.

"I don't know, Rezo."

Now it's my turn to shout. "Get in the right lane, Mat!"

"You have to know, Rezo! If you died now, how would you feel about your life?!"

The eerie, steady calm in his voice is almost hypnotic. If we weren't doing 105 on a dark road, heading straight towards oncoming traffic.

"I don't know, Mat. Nothing good! Is that what you want to hear?!"

"Come on! Not good enough, Rezo."

"Stop ****ing around, Mat! Steer!"

"Look at you, Rezo. Advancing to the Group Stage isn't a weekend retreat. It's not a squad rotation seminar. Stop trying to control everything and just let go!"

Cars continue to fly past on either side, we're inches from a headlong collision.

"Let go, Rezo!"

And with that, he lets go of the steering wheel.

We begin to slowly drift fully into the left-hand lane, as the lights of a truck approach rapidly, horn blaring.

What must have only been a few minutes later, I awake. Upside down in a muddy drainage ditch. Somehow alive, but pinned in the car, as the engine sputters its final breath.

I'd never been in a car accident before. Mat was nowhere to be seen. The passenger door is open, so I figured he'd made his way out.

When I finally manage to extricate myself from behind the steering wheel, I find that we crashed only a few blocks from home.

I stumble in as the sun rises, to find Mat cutting grapefruit in the kitchen. Just as muddy as I am, still with a wild look in his eye.

"That, Rezo, was a near-life experience, yeah?!"

I say nothing. Still in shock, perhaps.

He just claps me on the shoulder amiably and heads off to his room to take a nap.

"Feel better, Rezo. We got Saburtalo on Sunday, and the Chairman called. A big check arrived from UEFA, sounds like."

Edited by ManUtd1
Link to post
Share on other sites

August 2027.

One surreal day after another. The check from UEFA clears our accounts and, overnight, we become the second richest club in the country (behind Dinamo Tbilisi), with more than $3M in the bank.

A strange sense of dissociation washes over me as we watch the draw from Nyon -- and a very favorable draw it is. Though I would have preferred Group B, we avoided the "big" Spanish, German and British clubs, and will face Partizan, Slavia Praha, and Oleksandriya.

adb2e72662ded2ca33a8fb0935c0323d.png

We've vastly over-performed even the most wild expectations on the continent. Our only goal during the Group Stage is thus to not **** ourselves. Literally or metaphorically.

Domestically, we're locked in a 4-way race for 3rd. The 2nd XI will be responsible for all Davit Kipiani Cup matches and certain Erovnuli Liga matches. We may pay the price for this, of course -- the squad lacks the depth that we need to rotate XIs as often as Mat and I would like.

8126c4442fe6af9a164f85539e04e6d8.png

0c6b2031f5467f113873a272da45abef.png

png-page-divider-letterpress-dividers-52

Stepping aside from the narrative for a moment, this qualifying campaign confirms (yet again) something I have firmly believed for years about FM. Specifically, that the AI does not see low-reputation clubs as a threat and often becomes both complacent and incredibly vulnerable to hyper-aggressive tactics in a "David vs. Goliath" situation.

Scanning through the Zorya and Belenenses players, if they'd set out aggressively and tried to take the game to us, they could have steamrolled us. At any time. By sheer force of will. By playing us "straight," it gives us an opening. All we have to do is take it, which is by no means a sure thing.

In contrast, now that we're past our 1st year in the Erovnuli Liga, Georgian clubs seem to do a far better job of nullifying us, in possession, and exposing our weaknesses.

Maybe it is just confirmation bias. But this is how I've played as an underdog in saves for years -- the more aggressive I am, the better it seems to work during this initial phase, when our reputation is far beneath that of our opponents. (Once that gap narrows, we typically enter another phase for 1-2 years, where we are reputable enough for our opponents to take us seriously, but lack the quality to break them down.)

This isn't unlike real-life, where teams are often accused (rightly or wrongly) of looking past smaller opposition. Where, once the first domino falls in a particular game, it is hard to interrupt the pattern.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

September 2027.

9 matches in one month is a big ask. At least they're all at home. Except for the two matches at the Boris Paichazde, which counts as our "home" for the night.

Yet we show up. A 2-1 win over Slavia on Matchday 1 of the Group Stage sees us collect $594k in prize money -- a massive windfall, given our total income in 2026 was $751k -- on top of a record $24k gate receipts. We repeat the feat against Oleksandriya, which allows us to start dreaming about the knockout rounds.

6e9c9fcda1e58c58b19d2e277aace0ca.png

 

06618e1111342f2b9d08210df3d7e49b.png

Edited by ManUtd1
Link to post
Share on other sites

October 2027 - International Break.

I cannot get the club's newfound riches out of my mind. There's only one thing to do.

(No, Mat. We are not asking the Chairman to give us our paychecks in singles.)

Invest.

giphy.gif

Our financial advisor is nothing if not persuasive.

The club agree to the key principles of our Fabrika program, investing in our youth facilities, training facilities, academy coaching, and youth recruitment.

They deny our request to expand the club's scouting range, but no matter. Mat will convince them eventually. One way or another.

Link to post
Share on other sites

October/November 2027.

The November international window arrives at the conclusion of yet another tough stretch of matches.

Hammered in Belgrade -- the 2-nil scoreline not revealing the extent to which we were taken apart. We did the Serbians on Matchday 4, though -- claiming a hard-fought 2-1 win to all but guarantee passage to the knockout rounds.

Utterly surreal, as we simultaneously battle for 3rd and nearly have it in our grasp, notwithstanding a loss to Dila Gori. Narrow margins.

Once again, we are left frustrated by the youth academy graduates -- Amiran Adeishvili being the only player of note this year. It is disappointing, to say the least. It's perhaps time to put someone else in charge...but only when the turmoil dies down, as takeover rumors have once again surfaced.

559d81721cafe8c2197ffd50c1861a58.png

f869224fbe6e079b95520e02c64b259b.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

November/December 2027.

Takeover rumors persist over the course of the final weeks of the campaign. A 2-nil win over Saburtalo secures a 3rd place finish and a spot in the 2028/29 Europa Conference League.

We secure arguably undeserved wins in Prague and then in Politekhnik, along with a come-from-behind 4-2 win over Dinamo Tbilisi to close out the Erovnuli Liga campaign, as our reserves claim the Regional Eastern Zone title on the final matchday. And epic few days to conclude the campaign, which I would like to think serve as a marker for all that is to come...

...even if we have yet to claim a trophy during our tenure.

Notwithstanding all that we have accomplished, Kurdadze remains unwilling to sign a new contract.

8851ca146daae35221a974276f2e380f.png

d249d2f7f532cf3efa6d28b3f93b5847.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

Gareji.thumb.png.d216a08526592e0c3e885a2a38524897.png

Stand Aside & Try Not To Catch Fire If I Shed Sparks Of Genius

Season Review, 2027

There can be no dispute. We have arrived.

Though we haven't won anything (technically), I'd like to think we're winning. At football.

Not actual competitions, no. Winning in a more generalized sense.

(This was the part of my end-of-year dinner speech where Mat threw Cheetos at my head and boo'd loudly, much to the delight of the U19s. I can't blame him. It was a very "unintentional Brendan Rodgers" moment.)

The comedic break was welcome, to be honest. It's all gotten a little awkward, in terms of our inability to claim silverware... Less Brendan-lad, and more "Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before he started winning all those Champions Leagues with United," you know?

Awkward.

The accolades are thin this year despite all we have accomplished. Mskhvilidze wins the Erovnuli Liga Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year, GFF Young Player of the Year and the Ioseb Jughashvili Medal, in addition to be named to the Erovnuli Liga Best XI. All of which explains why we will open the checkbook next summer to sign him on a free transfer, if Dinamo Tbilisi fail to extend his contract.

Ugrekhelidze and Chikobava are named to the Davit Kipiani Cup Next XI -- a less prestigious award, perhaps, but not one to laugh at. I'm proud of them, even if I still refuse to hand the No. 1 jersey to Chikobava for the coming campaign.

Goals for 2028:  Win something. Challenge for the Erovnuli Liga title and Davit Kipiani Cup. Qualify for the 2028/29 Europa Conference League Group Stage.

Squad | Erovnuli Liga | Transfers

Finances | Income | Expenditure | Reserves

ad4d99969b649b932bad000a3417f4f7.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

January/February 2028 - Transfers, Odds & Ends.

Four years.

Zero trophies.

Not acceptable.

Accordingly, instead of an eggnog-fueled holiday romp, this year it was football, football and more football. (I didn't even go by the Starbucks to talk with Tamar.)

The Europa Conference League knockout rounds loom large. While we won't know who our opponents are until late February, we need to prepare. With all of the additions over the course of 2027, however, there is little reason to dig into the transfer market. Instead, we merely look to strengthen the squad as a whole, while saying goodbye to the likes of Kurdadze, Dadianidze, Əhmədov and Lezhava.

(As for Kurdadze, we heard he went for a short holiday in the Maldives while considering a contract offer from Telavi. As a thanks for his years of service, Mat sent him a gift certificate for scuba lessons, with a card that simply read "I hope a shark tries to suck your ****." He'll know who it was from.)

We've signed 4 players to join the squad this year, after the addition of Ugrekhelidze, who completes his free transfer after a wildly successful year on loan where he was our leading goalscorer, despite operating primarily from he bench.

As a replacement for Kurdadze, whom I hope is bleeding out on a beach somewhere, we put in a cheeky bid for Georgian U21 international Luka Macharadze ($52k; Dinamo Batumi). I can't imagine why Dinamo Batumi agreed to sell this lad -- he could be a monster. We had to double his salary, but I do not care one bit about that. He steps directly into our 1st XI.

Vakhtang Kharshiladze joins on loan from Saburtalo, to give us depth in the back line. While he is technically here to play as a wide centerback with the 2nd XI, with Dadianide's departure he will deputize at libero on occasion, and could arguably step into the left wingback spot in a pinch. (It's funny how, in the course of 2 years we've gone from having virtually no serviceable centerbacks to having, if anything, too many.)

Otar Tigishvili arrives on a free from Zestaponi. Ostensibly a central midfielder, Tigishvili was signed to play as a ball-winning midfielder. However, my plan now is to retrain him to play as our left wingback, replacing Nadiradze (who is looking more out of his depth with each passing day) and Harutyunyan (who is little more than a unibrow of unfulfilled potential at this point). Frankly, I'd even thought about retraining Tigishvili to play as a libero or wide centerback, but we have more than adequate coverage in the back 3. Bottom line, if he can retrain successfully, this is an immediate upgrade at left wingback, even if it leaves us with only 1 central midfielder in the 2nd XI.

Finally, Zura "Cheech" Chighladze arrives on a free from Chikhura -- ****ing Chikhura. He's primarily a striker, but will play as an inverted winger on the right, in the 1st XI, with Apridonidze dropping to the bench. When a player like Zura is available, you sign him. It's that simple.

We thus enter the pre-season with a 22-man squad -- the best squad we've ever had, even if we are lacking a ball-winning midfielder in our 2nd XI.

To try and remedy the problem (and prepare for the years ahead), we use the Europa Conference League proceeds to splurge on the worldwide scouting package. The Chairman may not be pleased at the expense, but he's come to trust our judgment. (Well, he trusts my judgment.)

And it isn't long before scouting reports start to roll in on players from around the globe. Sure, none of the players we are actually interested in are interested moving to Sagarejo. In due course, we will change their minds.

png-page-divider-letterpress-dividers-52

Television rights for the Erovnuli Liga rise to $130k per club this year, up from $111k in 2027. Having 2 teams reach the Europa Conference League knockout rounds can't hurt in that regard.

png-page-divider-letterpress-dividers-52

We show relatively well in our pre-season friendlies -- fitness levels are where we want them to be, and we've looked good in our matches even if the numbers don't always pencil out.

When it comes time for the draw for the Europa Conference League Second Knockout Round, I'm hoping for a little luck as there are a number of big teams we need to avoid. We are fortunate, and will face Slovan Bratislava. It is a winnable tie, on paper.

97b230dc6951a6df87bb807a628d4c01.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

March 2028.

Once again, the Board have no confidence in our ability to guide the club towards the top of the table. They claim they'll be happy if we simply avoid relegation.

The oddsmakers have taken note of our exploits, however -- we are 25-1 for the title, with Mskhvilidze named to the media’s pre-season Dream XI.

d94907cbf90299ec3cd305f2b5100834.png

The supporters share the Board's skepticism -- we sell only 212 season tickets, up slightly from last year's 196 season tickets.

In the first competitive match of the campaign, we welcome Telavi to the Arsen. The supporters welcome Kurdadze with a sea of shark costumes dancing out-of-synce to a Katy Perry medley, but Chighladze has a far better present for the man who was once heralded in Sagarejo as a hero -- hammering home the first goal of the year (and his Gareji career) past the traitorous **** in the 5th minute.

We run out 4-1 winners behind a Chighladze brace and three assists from Tigishvili.

giphy.gif

Link to post
Share on other sites

March 2028 - Europa Conference League, Second Knockout Round.

The shine has well and truly rubbed off the apple. If by apple, you mean the warm, fuzzy feeling generated by our curb-stomping of Telavi, as Lokomotivi slap us around on Matchday 2.

Not the result we wanted ahead of the trip to Slovakia. Yet it doesn't seem to affect our spirit, as Iskakov takes the first chance that falls our way to give us an early lead. Aslan doubles our lead just after the break. The dream continues -- a 2-nil win, proving just how far we can go, if the draw continues to work in our favor.

a206437d83c232770acc228a0ebd7a6d.jpg

Back in Tbilisi, we fail to get out of 1st gear until the 2nd half, at which point an own goal (instigated by Chighladze) and a strike from Erkomaishvili complete the job.

4256781cab0ba86fdfaee4957abbe7dd.jpg

The fairy tale continues. But at some point, reality must set in. We've drawn Ricardo Soares' Sevilla in the quarterfinals.

giphy.gif

png-page-divider-letterpress-dividers-52

Mat and I go out for a celebratory drink upon returning to Sagarejo. Though Mat is getting wound up, I retire early knowing that we host Batumi over the weekend and will need clear heads.

I hear him come home late at night -- not alone. But I ignore the sounds from the next room and sleep the sleep of a content, happy man. Everything is coming together. Perhaps I need to get up my courage and talk to Tamar. Now's the time, really.

The next morning, Mat's door is closed. I decide to let him sleep it off, and head downstairs for a cup of coffee and to read the latest scouting reports. After a few minutes, I hear someone coming down the stairs and call out.

When there's no response, I turn...to see Tamar walking into the kitchen, straightening her dress, her hair and makeup all askew.

My thoughts immediately return to the noises I'd heard the night before.

Oh ****. No. No, no, no...

I say nothing, though my jaw must be on the floor. She just looks at me, a saucy look on her face, as she saunters over to pour herself a cup of coffee.

"What a night, yeah? I can hardly believe any of it. The Europa Conference League, the club...after. I haven't slept a wink."

Another sly look as she takes a sip of coffee. A smile that I once would have mistaken for flirtatious.

The words are out of my mouth before I notice, even though I know the answer. "What are you doing here?"

The flirtatious look switches to confused, in a flash. "What do you mean, Rezo...?"

I can feel the anger, the hurt swelling within me, as I shout it out this time. "What the hell are you doing here?!"

She just looks right back at me. And I can see the confusion turn to hurt. Before turning to anger of her own.

"**** you."

She walks out the door without looking back. My heart is racing a mile a minute.

I turn to look up the stairs, and Mat is standing practically behind me, a smirk plastered across his face as he meets my eyes. He chuckles and moves to pour himself coffee. I slump at the table, picking up the scouting reports but not really reading them.

Mat sits down, reclines back into the chair and puts his feet up on the table.

"She's a real piece of work, Rezo. Get this -- I was about to leave the bar last night, and..."

I pretend to read, nodding and grunting amiably at the appropriate moments, even though I'm not listening.

I already know the story before he tells it to me. I just don't want to hear the details.

If only I'd stayed at the bar, none of this would have happened.

We defeat Batumi on the weekend, but I'm still in a daze. I barely even notice when Bebiashvili and Mskhvilidze make their senior international debuts for Georgia, in a 3-1 friendly defeat of Kazakhstan, followed by Iskakov making his debut a few days later. The first time one of our players (three, actually) take this big step, and all I can think about is the hurt look on Tamar's face, just before she left.

05cd79d3e90418bdffb311b9682c2aac.png

2fd2e60d36bb75d51068f1b251fd5472.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

April 2028 - Europa Conference League, Quarterfinals.

We have no business being here. But I just needed to get out of the house.

Being at the house with Mat and Tamar, I'm brought back to my childhood. My parents pulled this exact act for years -- except when they were ****ing, they were never in the same room. One comes in, the other disappears.

The day before the Sevilla match in Tbilisi, I'm ironing my suit for the game the next evening. In my boxers, the television on. I can hear her footsteps coming down the stairs. Alone.

She saunters in, eyeing me warily. She looks incredible.

"You know, I got this dress at a thrift store for one dollar."

I put my head down and resume ironing. "Worth every penny."

Out of the corner of my eye, I can see her moving closer. Her hands slowly raising the dress, as she leans in to whisper in my ear, seductively.

"It's a bridesmaid's dress. Someone loved it intensely for one day, then tossed it. Like a Christmas tree -- so special, then, bam -- it's abandoned on the side of the road, tinsel still clinging to it..."

All of a sudden, I am acutely aware of the fact that I have no pants on.

"It suits you, Tamar."

She leans in even closer, whispering hoarsely. "You can borrow it sometime... I've seen the way you watch me..."

I step away abruptly, uncomfortable for various reasons, not the least of which the fact that she just spent the night cavorting with my closest friend. I glance up briefly to see a hurt look on her face, before she scoffs and stomps back upstairs.

I hear a chuckle from the kitchen, and turn to see Mat in the doorway -- shirtless, clutching a bowl of grapefruit, smirking.

"Get rid of her, will you, Rezo?"

I just shake my head in disbelief.

"We've got a big game to prepare for, Boss! Get rid of her! For the team!"

I sigh. Mat turns back into the kitchen, shouting over his shoulder while wielding a spoon like a dagger. "Don't mention me, though, yeah?"

I just stand quietly for a few moments. In my boxers.

I'm six years old again, passing messages between my parents.

I hear Tamar's footsteps, as she comes back downstairs. She steps into the room, looking for something.

Meekly, I speak up. "I...uhh... I think you should go now."

She just ignores me.

"It's time for you to leave."

She continues to rummage through the mess on table behind the couch, as the sounds of Mat making breakfast in the next room reverberate around us.

"Don't worry, Rezo, I'm leaving."

She finally finds what she wanted -- her cellphone. She steps closer to me, almost in my face. Anger and confusion manifest. "You're such a nutcase, Rezo. I can't even begin to keep up."

She laughs sarcastically and stomps out, slamming the front door behind her. I can only watch her leave.

There's nothing to do but join Mat for breakfast.

"Nice work," he says as I enter the kitchen, passing me a plate of bacon and eggs.

"**** you, Mat."

He just laughs amiably.

"Forget her, Boss. She's a lunatic. Sevilla, yeah? Let's focus."

png-page-divider-letterpress-dividers-52

The lineups are in, in Tbilisi. It's almost comical. We are outmatched. Overrun. The 1-nil scoreline doesn't even begin to reflect the extent to which we were dominated.

The same story unfolds at the Pizjuan -- we are played off the pitch in what proved to be a serene 2-1 loss.

The tie was over before we stepped on the pitch. We never stood a chance. They never took us seriously. Thus, hostilities never began -- it was clear they could have overrun us at any moment, had they bothered to try. Chighladze claimed the only real chance we had.

We know better than to let this get to our heads -- if it wasn't for a favorable draw, we never would have been here. But we are. And thus Mat and I spend the evening wandering the Santa Cruz district, enjoying the tapas and tempranillo, before watching the sun rise over La Catedral

"Next time, Boss. We'll do them, yeah?"

My heavy-lidded eyes are barely open, weighed down by excessive quantities of tempranillo.

"Next time, Mat. Next time."

52e0a425ebc08c70b323265cacc0e1fd.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

April/May 2028.

The fixture congestion catches up to us. With heavy legs, we control match after match, but find ways to drop points from positions of strength for several weeks in a row.

We up the lads' grapefruit intake. And when that doesn't work, we up it even further.

In search of a scapegoat, Mat fixates immediately on Kuznetsov and Khachatryan at right wingback. Kuznetsov has never been consistent, and Khachatryan has not developed.

844d5e6858e5bf1c760708d1cd44bafe.gif

You're not helping, Nikolai.

This is why we invested in the worldwide scouting package. Desire Kourouma arrives in late June -- a club record $100k signing from ASEC, he is an Ivorian youth international that wouldn't give us the time of day 6 months ago, and puts Kuznetsov to shame. He will step directly into the 1st XI. Obviously.

Away to Aragvi in the Cup, we finally break the pattern with a 5-1 win. The next few weeks see a slower pace, allowing us to field the 1st XI consistently, with reasonable downtime in between matches. Once we had our confidence back, we turned it back on.

8090da07e95d089b5b8cda705bb67e17.png

313e4ec886283a2cb3a66b52a3d15a64.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

May/June 2028 - European Review.

In the Champions League, England's dominance continues with Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool defeating Roberto Martinez's Milan, 1-nil.

d8af4906f823617d4e664efea30f475c.png

2027/28 Champions League: Overview | Knockout Rounds

Pep Guardiola's Newcastle claimed the Europa League with a 2-nil win over Thomas Tuchel's Roma, avenging their loss in last year's final.

7d16082a29ff2c828fc0ec16a91d00dd.jpg

2027/28 Europa League: OverviewKnockout Rounds

And, in the Europa Conference League, Abelardo's Everton avenged their loss in last year's final, defeating Pellegrino Matarazzo's Hoffenheim, 1-nil.

315336587ed084fe15a8cccccd0126d0.jpg

2027/28 Europa Conference League: OverviewKnockout Rounds

In the active leagues: Massimiliano Allegri's Manchester City won their 4th Premier League title in 5 years; Carlo Ancelotti's Real Madrid won their 5th La Liga title in 7 years (6 points clear of Oscar Lopez's Barcelona, meaning that a mere 8 points separate the sides, in aggregate, over the last 3 campaigns); Julian Nagelsmann's Bayern did Bayern things, despite a stiff challenge from Jose Mourinho's RB Leipzig, who fell off the pace in the closing weeks of the campaign; Brendan Rodgers' Juventus defended their Serie A title despite losing to Gennaro Gattuso's relegated Parma on the last day of the campaign, by virtue of head-to-head results with Martinez's Milan; and, Mauricio Pochettino's PS-****ing-G did PS-****ing-G things.

png-page-divider-letterpress-dividers-52

When this save started, the Erovnuli Liga sat 104th in the European league competition rankings. The league's standing continues to rise, now sitting 72nd, a hair above the Serie C.

The big rise this year, however, came in our club coefficient ranking -- rising 365 places to 150th. Dinamo Tbilisi are still the highest ranked Georgian club, but we are climbing the ladder. Shamrock Rovers best watch out...

Our run in the Europa Conference League, combined with Dinamo Tbilisi's First Knockout Round appearance, means that Georgia rises 8 spots in the nation coefficients table, meaning that beginning with the 2029/30 campaign, our Europa Conference League entrants will enter at the Second Qualifying Round.

Edited by ManUtd1
Link to post
Share on other sites

June 2028.

With the summer break, the media jackals need something to write about. So when what we initially dismissed as rumors of an impending takeover persist, week after week...maybe there's something in them, this time.

The timing could not be more off. Our star has risen in more than just reputation -- we are putting together our best string of results since arriving in the top tier, sealed by a 3-1 win over Dinamo Tbilisi in the last match before the break. If only our investment in the youth academy would start to pay off...not this year.

No matter. Unless and until something happens, we have to ignore it. Separate and apart from the league campaign, our path is set in the Europa Conference League qualifiers, against Montenegrin side Decic.

46327325bbcf92f93e59b93c7a9bf9c5.png

Desire Kourouma arrives, at long last -- a massive signing. He steps directly into the XI against Shukura after his unveiling. He doesn't speak the language, or know anyone beyond the videos we've sent him. But his quality is such that we cannot ignore him. Glimmers of promise abound, though it is far from a complete performance from the young Ivorian.

f3e6dcadbef2380fe8b9a9c297f5da50.png

66ee2935e9ec6a6a61ce5434ba2330b0.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

July 2028 - Europa Conference League, 1st Qualifying Round.

The Montenegrins pose little obstacle. We smash them 4-nil away and 3-nil in Rustavi, to set up a trip to Dublin for the 2nd round.

a576c5c50b25b0d22c0344577b3e4fd4.png

Mat is already sketching out plans to capture a leprechaun.

The real headlines are away from the pitch, though. We secure funding for improvements to the training facilities, youth facilities, youth recruitment and academy coaching.

We also secure Mskhvilidze's signing on a free at the end of the year, with Bebiashvili signing on an immediate, permanent deal for $85k.

Another long-term target has been Giorgi Bedoidze who signs from Dinamo Tbilisi on a free transfer. The ****s initially demand $85k to sign immediately, which we reject without hesitation. Several days later, however, they let us know that $20k will suffice. Deal. Bedoidze will play from the bench with our 1st XI, and as the ball-winning midfielder in the 2nd XI.

(We also attempted to sign Kharshiladze on a free, only for Saburtalo to exercise a one-year option to extend his deal through the end of 2029. This is why no one likes you, Saburtalo.)

The takeover rumors simply won't go away, either. Truth be told, I'm bored of them by now. It isn't the first time I've said -- put up or shut up, Nuzgar.

Link to post
Share on other sites

July 2028 - Europa Conference League, 2nd Qualifying Round.

The Irish prove little obstacle. We dominate in Rustavi but concede late to leave things open for the return leg. However, in Dublin, Chighladze strikes twice early to end the tie, before Koumoura claims his first goal for the club. 5-1 on aggregate.

We will face AEK Larnacas in the Third Round -- another favorable draw, inching us ever closer to our goal of returning to the Group Stage.

0365228edb9c05ecde7323b1756843b4.png

The 2nd XI have stumbled domestically -- to maintain our title challenge they will need to regain their footing.

We are far more prepared for a two-front battle this year. But we still have to stand up and be counted in the moment.

1d69e413d150b2b7c3b07106e301f2e7.png

40a87b3ec0f96d54892cf8460ef19b6c.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

August 2028 - Europa Conference League, 3rd Qualifying Round.

We welcome the Cypriots to Tbilisi with a far gentler hand than I would have liked. The non-stop run of games is starting to take its toll. We claim a 2-1 win, but are not at our best. The second leg is much more straightforward once we score, however, as they chase the game in the 2nd half, leaving themselves wide open to our attacks -- a 5-nil win is our just result. We are through to face Spartak Moscow for a spot in the Group Stage.

4f324e4fcadc88afac9bb98ccfe55cd9.png

The takeover finally goes through, though little changes other than Nuzgar's desired emphasis on defensive football. This hasn't been our hallmark. We'll see just how serious he is.

Link to post
Share on other sites

August 2028 - Europa Conference League, 4th Qualifying Round.

In Moscow, we have but one goal. Tell our former imperialist overlords to **** off. In footballing terms, of course.

Our legs are heavy, but willing hearts see us run out 3-nil winners to put one foot in the Group Stage.

6df3e6fe2bb3ce7b9ecffd6b0251027c.jpg

We face two matches before the 2nd leg -- and drop points against Saburtalo before a weak, rotated squad are eliminated from the Davit Kipiani Cup on penalties away to Dila Gori.

Fortunately, the Russians have no choice but to come at us in Tbilisi, leaving themselves exposed. Despite heavy legs, we punish them twice early, and then sit back to soak up the remaining hour of play, up 5 goals on aggregate. The match finishes 3-2 in our favor. It isn't pretty. But we're through.

4788ba70e986bb7cf8ed872366e2b876.jpg

We collect another massive check from UEFA, but at what cost? Prioritizing the Europa Conference League qualifiers has left us exhausted, out of the Cup, and falling off the pace set by Lokomotivi.

The Group Stage draw is not kind, despite our status as a 2nd seed. We draw Jose Bargues' Valencia, arguably the best side in the competition. We can expect to do little more than battle Jagiellonia for 2nd.

53fcfee8c62f2d855a5107ee860dc2e9.png

72 hours after the 2nd leg of the Spartak tie, we host Dinamo Tbilisi at the Arsen. We're 4 points off Lokomotivi and cannot afford to fall further behind. We snatch at our chances in a 2-nil loss. A catastrophe, as we were the better side and Lokotmovi conspired to lose to Tevali.

It's a 3-team race in the league, with 10 matches to play. All 3 of us are also battling in the Europa Conference League, which may give Dila Gori a chance to sneak into contention.

After all, we are exhausted. I can't imagine Lokomotivi and Dinamo are faring any better.

e08de3c9bae27e60197e2892576872b1.png

af71a9fe7564df94826aae2d5a2f155b.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

September 2028.

The Group Stage begins favorably -- away to Jagiellonia, then hosting Farul Constanta. Squad rotation is a necessary evil at this point. As Mat would tell you, fighting a two-front battle can often be a war of attrition -- strategic planning, allocation of resources, and minimizing losses are critical.

(He's been watching a lot of the History Channel.)

The scheme is working. We are keeping our heads above water. Barely. We draw away to Jagiellonia, 2-2, and at home against Farul Constanta, 1-1. Meanwhile, for the 3rd time this year we field our 2nd XI against Telavi and -- for the 3rd time -- drop points unnecessarily, to that smug ****, Kurdadze. Our form is not good enough.

We are fortunate that Lokomotivi and Dinamo Tbilisi are also fighting on two fronts. They, too, are dropping points in the Erovnuli Liga.

A big month lies ahead -- hosting Lokomotivi in a title six-pointer, Valencia, and then Dila Gori at the end of the month. The Spaniards are a big match, but a distraction from the more important task. Domestically, we have a chance to steal a march on our title rivals, and stake our claim on the league. If we can win these two matches, it would theoretically allow the 2nd XI to focus their efforts on simply holding the line.

e77b5725f0c2dcacf9b75bcad1906f08.png

24ed722385aba5132b7d494db96f797f.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

October 2028.

The potential title decided kicks off with a bang, as we find the back of the net in the opening moments...only for it to be ruled out for offsides. We maintain our composure, press, harry and dominate...and finally in the 2nd half the floodgates open. A 5-1 win which is matched by Shukura's shock win over Dinamo Tbilisi, and sets Lokomotivi into a mini-tailspin.

We adhere to a partial rotation policy over the rest of the month -- resting players only when needed, adjusting the training schedules such that our defensive positioning session before the Valencia match was done via FIFA 2029 (which is basically an overpriced roster update to FIFA 2025).

It's worth it, though, as we steal a point against Valencia in Tbilisi and grind out a win away to Saburtalo, before closing the month with a draw against Dila Gori. As other results continue to go our way, we sit 5 points clear with 3 matches to play.

It would be our first title, to close out our 5th year at the club. It is so close we can almost taste it.

(It tastes like the exact opposite of our academy, which continues to disappoint.)

ce95161b65b57f0153694811cd1301e2.png

35566766d9c285586b3e9b9af2e0b950.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

November 2028.

The pundits are baffled as we send out the 2nd XI at the Neuvo Mestalla. Desperate times call for desperate measures. The lads give it their all, but we are stomped 6-1. In the post-match press conference Mat verbally assaults any journalist who dares question us, demanding that they show him some respect.

Our gambit pays off 72 hours later, when the 1st XI secure a 2-1 win over Shukura, with Lokomotivi losing away to Rustavi. Meaning that we not only confirm a top-two finish (the best finish in club history), but we sit 6 points clear of Dinamo Tbilisi with 2 matches to play.

Up next? A trip to the Boris Paichazde. Win or draw, and the title is ours. Lose, and it will come down to 90 minutes against Rustavi at the Arsen.

During the international break I go before the Board to ask, once again, for their support -- in building up our facilities. They bite, investing further in our training facilities, youth facilities, academy coaching and youth recruitment.

giphy.gif

The Board don't like it when I dress up like a cranky old man.

Ahead of the title-decider we are generally ready to go. Iskakov is in need of a break, and Bedoidze has a tight hamstring on the bench. Is this our moment?

7e7d380f20db9be7106648dca73f05f1.jpg

Dinamo start strong, Macharadze keeping us level in the 3rd minute. He repeats the feat in the 14th, but Duarte is there to knock the rebound home. Not the start we wanted.

We up the aggression, to little effect. Until the 39th, when we are awarded a penalty when Mikeltadze is shoved in the box off a corner. Iskakov calmly puts it in the corner, to draw us level.

As the 2nd half kicks off, we've fought our way back into the match. All to play for. And again, Macharadze stands tall to deny our hosts. (There's no question that, however the match ends, he has been a more than adequate replacement for Kurdadze, the slapnut ****.)

But Macharadze cannot hold a header from Duarte in the 58th, spilling the ball for the Portuguese U19 international to prod home, the second time around. Down 2-1, Dinamo ascendant. ****. He's been brilliant all-game, but for the one ball.

Chighladze smashes one in the 72nd minute, but the flag is up. We have nothing left. No momentum. No energy.

Dinamo erupt in cheers as the final whistle blows. With 1 match to play, our lead is down to 3 points.

****.

6ea352e49fee8b4b45c81ad0849ff42c.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

November 2028.

The match against Jagiellonia is a must-win. But we cannot risk playing the 1st XI, with the Rustavi match 72 hours later.

The Erovnuli Liga has to take priority.

1 point is all we need. Some of the supporters on social media are blaming Macharadze, as if the 17 year-old hasn't had a tremendous year -- in isolation or comparison to ****ing Kurdadze, based on one mistake.

As a show of support, he will anchor the 2nd XI against the Poles. At 2-nil down, we were dead. We claimed 2 late goals to draw level, only for Kastrati to hit a world class finish to win it. The 3-2 loss sends us crashing out of the Conference League.

Frustration mounting, but still we hold our destiny in our own hands. One point is all we need. And, we own the tiebreaker...unless the corrupt ****s at the GFF decided to change the rules on us. Let's not give them the chance, lads. Leave it all on the field.

We're in complete control, straight from the kickoff. After Rustavi clear 2 off the line, Iskakov buries one in the 16th minute. You can feel the tension release throughout the Arsen.

When Chighladze doubles our lead in the 47th, the supporters start to believe.

giphy.gif

Rustavi don't register their first shot until the 51st minute. Surely they don't have 3 goals in them...

Iskakov hits our 3rd in the 62nd minute, putting paid to any hopes on the part of the GFF to crown Dinamo Tbilisi...moments before word filters through the crowd that Dinamo have missed a penalty.

Rustavi get one back on the break in the 85th, but no one minds. It's over.

Or so we think, until a 95th minute thunderbolt causes some awkward, nervous laughter. For a few moments at least.

The whistle blows at 3-2, the capstone to an epic year, the culmination of our climb from Liga 3.

5ecda3a05f6ab12c2ebb7ae882e83543.jpg

The title celebrations are put on hold, however, as the GFF have to transport the trophy from Gori to Sagarejo -- they claim it was sent to the wrong stadium due to an "administrative oversight." Likely story, you corrupt ****s.

5e3f728b95af39e415127bdaababc785.png

The spent the entire drive trying to come up with an excuse, and that's the best they could do?

In the end, though, they cannot deny us our due. A proper celebration, 5 years in the making.

241b59895b73665f4911125fbca88868.jpg

We will enter the Champions League qualifiers next Summer. A massive step forward for the club, albeit one that is not reflected by the $26.14k prize money we receive from the GFF.

Though we are entitled to -- and do -- celebrate, we do not lose sight of the trip to Romania which will close out the Europa Conference League campaign. A dead rubber, to many. But a chance to lay down a marker, as Mat and I see it.

It's a cold, windy night in Constanta, but we emerge victorious -- 2-1, though we still finish bottom of the Group. A fitting end to a long, hard-fought year.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Gareji.thumb.png.d216a08526592e0c3e885a2a38524897.png

I Will Take What Is Mine With Fire & Blood

Season Review, 2028

Always a bridesmaid, never the bride? No longer.

It may have taken 5 years, but we've done it. A proper title-winning campaign.

We've used our exploits in Europe to help build up the club's infrastructure and profile, leaving us as not only one of the wealthiest clubs in the country, but one adored by the hipsters due to our nature as outsiders, attack-minded tactics, and youth-oriented approach. We must now turn this into long-term success.

The accolades roll in, following our title win. Iskakov wins the Foreign Player of the Year, with Bebiashvili claiming Young Player of the Year. They are joined by Macharadze, Mskhvilidze, Aslan, Ugrekhelidze and Chighladze in the Erovnuli Liga Best XI, with Apridonidze and Bedoidze named to the Davit Kipiani Cup Next XI. Mskhvilidze also retains the Jughashvili Medal.

Goals for 2029:  Defend our Erovnuli Liga title. Make a run in the Davit Kipiani Cup. Not embarrass ourselves in the Champions League qualifiers. Qualify for the Group Stage of a European competition.

Squad | Erovnuli Liga | Transfers

Finances | Income | Expenditure | Reserves

991029ff695d6f3792bc8fef5119ee92.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

January/February 2029 - Odds & Ends; Squad Review.

When the post-holiday eggnog hangover wears off, a new headache arrives.

The Champions League qualifying rounds are on the horizon. 6 months off, perhaps. But still visible.

To help prepare, we welcome 4 signings in addition beyond Mskhvilidze's previously-confirmed arrival on a permanent deal.

c8bdc6ee582ea66b79c142a1b532c8a8.png

We have a 26-man squad that is not as bloated as it might appear at first blush, with an unchanged 1st XI from that which saw out the stretch run of the 2028 campaign.

We continue to play PM Draugrson, the strikerless tactic which fueled our rise from the third tier and is detailed (and downloadable) here: The Night Is Dark & Full Of Terrors.

5050e590a5bd765aed7ac946fdb06837.png

Gareji's 1st XI, at the start of the 2029 campaign.

Every 2-3 years, I like to take a hard, close look at the squad. And while things have not changed substantially from 2028, we have come a long ways from January 2027, the last time we conducted a full-blown review.

So let's dive in.

Goalkeepers.

As frustrated as I was to lose Kurdadze at the end of 2027 due to his perceived need to join a bigger club, there's no question that we're better off with Luka Macharadze as our Number 1. Macharadze not only has greater potential, he compares quite favorably before we even begin to consider the intangibles that cannot be reflected in a snapshot of their respective attribute profiles. As things stand, Macharadze will be our starter for the foreseeable future.

Giorgi Chikobava continues his role as the understudy with unfulfilled potential. There is something of a dilemma was Chikobava, in that he needs minutes but is not good enough to earn them on merit. While I plan to get him more time with the reserves this year, he may simply be one of "those" players who do not develop. I am pleasantly surprised by the potential our coaches see in him (as the squad improves), but he doesn't look like he will ever truly compete for the starting job.

Defenders.

As always, our defense (if not our tactic) revolves around the presence of an attack-minded libero. Daniar Omarov has been a fixture in our 1st XI since his 18th birthday, and will continue as such for the foreseeable future even though his development is progressing more slowly than I would like to see.

While we have previously relied on natural defenders for depth, this year we've brought in an understudy more suited to my preferred approach for the position -- Beka "Jimothy" Jimsheleishvili, on loan from Dinamo Tbilisi, who insisted upon his status as a "squad member." Unfortunately for them, they did not insist upon which position Jimsheleishvili would play, or which squad he would be a member of. He will play in our 2nd XI, but until fixture congestion starts to demand squad rotation he will serve as the libero for the reserves (for whom he has been playing during the pre-season). My scouts saw massive potential in him and saw no real downside; while my coaches seem to disagree on first blush, only time will tell. My plan is to offer Jimsheleishvili a permanent move on a Bosman; if Tbilisi extend his contract before then, I will try to extend his loan as I've done with various other players).

Our centerback pairing is a familiar sight -- Joni Bebiashvili and Giorgi Mskhvilidze. They have been nothing short of brilliant. We have ample depth here, as well -- Vasil Mkhiltadze, Mite Petkovski and Vakhtang Kharshiladze could each fill in without too much of a drop-off in quality. Like Jimsheleishvili, I anticipate Petkovski and Kharshiladze will see extensive time with the reserves during the first half of the season.

At right wingback, I am hopeful that Desire Kourouma will continue the steady improvement he showed after arriving last summer. If he can continue to put his early struggles behind him, he could be a massive player -- and one we need on the right flank. Papuna Lomsadze arrives on a free from Samtredia to take up the role in our 2nd XI, with Gevorg Khachatryan a carry-over from prior seasons. I had once seen Khachatryan as a potential player of the future, but he simply hasn't developed.

On the left, Otar Tigishvili was brilliant in his debut campaign for the club. Demur Kasrashvili arrives on a free from Rustavi to serve as the backup -- taking over for Edgar Harutyunan, another player who has not developed to meet the potential we once saw (and still see) in him.

Central Midfielders.

Our default midfield pairing sees Iurii Iskakov and Archil Gigauri as the mezzala and ball-winning midfielder, respectively. Iskakov had a brilliant campaign last year, pushing his way into the XI. Gigauri was originally signed for strength in depth but has made the right-sided position his own.

Their backups will be Beka "Captain" Kirkitadze (who has never captained the side, even ironically) and Giorgi Bedoidze. This will almost certainly be Kirkitadze's last year with the club -- he simply isn't good enough to carry us forward into an era when we are fighting on two fronts. Bedoidze could theoretically threaten Gigauri's position in time; we will simply have to see how he develops.

(Kasrashvili and Lomsadze can also provide cover in the central midfield, as and if necessary.)

Attacking Midfielders.

Up top, Giorgi Ugrekhelidze will play as our attacking playmaker, with Seyit "The Lion" Aslan and Zura "Cheech" Chighladze as our inverted wingers. It is a strong, productive front 3. Ugrekhelidze took over last year in the 1st XI (having been wildly productive from the bench as both a mezzala and advanced playmaker), with Chighladze also taking over on the right flank. Aslan has been a starter since his arrival; however, he no longer stands head and shoulders above the rest of the squad, in terms of his ability and potential.

Gela "Gelagoal" Keburia (aka "the Georgian Peter Crouch") arrives on a free transfer from Dinamo Tbilisi to join (lead?) our 2nd XI. The Saburtalo academy graduate might be the best player on our bench, even if he has had a rough pre-season. He will have ample opportunity to strut his stuff over the coming campaign. Provided that he retrains quickly and develops, he could take over for Aslan on the left flank.

Joining Keburia in the 2nd XI are long-time members of the squad Givi Erkomaishvili and Omar Apridonidze -- they have both been valuable members of the squad, and will play from the bench with our 1st XI. Whether their contracts are renewed past their current December 2030 expiration is another question entirely.

Finally, we have Temur Vashakidze providing additional depth -- another player who has simply not met his potential, and fell down the depth chart with Aslan's arrival. Barring an injury crisis, Vashakidze will play primarily with the reserves this year and will not have his contract renewed.

Final Thoughts.

As we rise up the domestic leagues and start to challenge for recognition in continental competitions, the one thing I want to avoid is stagnation in the squad. We need to be constantly evolving, growing and improving in order to build a foundation for long-term success.

Thus, while the 1st XI has not been overhauled (or revised) during the Winter transfer window, there are ample signs of progress. (Keburia, in particular, is a massive addition.)

One common theme that has had me worried? The sheer number of players who have not developed to meet their potential, or come anywhere close to it. This is likely due to several factors: (1) the state of our training facilities, which remain "below average" despite 2+ years of heavy investment; (2) a dearth of quality coaches (even though we have what is arguably the best staff in the Erovnuli Liga); and (3) the simple fact that several players need minutes that we can't justify (risk) giving them. I'm looking at you, Gevorg.

My sincere hope is that, as the squad fills out, these struggling players can start to see consistent minutes with the reserves. While it may be too late for some of them to develop and meet their potential, our ability to nuture young players should be vastly improved going forward as we continue to invest in our facilities and staff.

png-page-divider-letterpress-dividers-52

Television rights for the Erovnuli Liga will be $157k per club this year, up from $130k in 2028.

Per usual, we schedule a straightforward slate of friendlies, none of which push us too hard. Fitness levels are good, though we are not facing the same onslaught of matches we've seen the last 2 years. A more steady, sedate pace is welcome...kicking off, of course, with the first Georgian Super Cup in club history against Dila Gori, hosted at the Arsen.

Link to post
Share on other sites

February/March 2029.

The Board have lofty expectations this year, relatively speaking, given their predecessors' insistence that we were relegation-bound -- a top half finish is all they're looking for.

The oddsmakers continue to narrow the odds, however -- we are 14-1 to repeat as champions, though none of our players make the media’s pre-season Dream XI.

8ad32465a5113c8179a8a118dd54f4ce.png

The supporters are also optimistic -- we sell 241 season tickets, up from the 212 sold in 2028, a 13.7% year-on-year increase.

giphy.gif

My attempt to explain compound interest to Mat did not go well.

The Board claims not to care about the Super Cup -- and, truth be told, neither do we. But is a trophy to be won. On our home ground. Before our supporters. I don't want to send them home empty-handed.

Which is why I have to restrain Mat as we waste chance after chance...after chance. Dila Gori played for penalties and got their wish. Sadly for them, Macharadze was equal to the task, saving their 3rd penalty to draw us level (after a bad miss from Mskhvilidze) before casually saving their 5th penalty -- a cheeky dink down the middle, he didn't even have to move his feet -- to secure the match.

The first match of the campaign. In our new kits. In front of a packed crowd.

4e503bdd0f67d51ad310c497b3a7980c.jpg

It wasn't pretty. It didn't need to be, in the end.

Results continue to pour in, as Mat raves about Jimsheleishvili's development, progress in training and performances for the reserves. There's only one thing to do. Give him a run playing from the bench for the 1st XI, in place of Erkomaishvili.

16675b80dd0310447bdc6f42d0dc45d7.gif

"I guess this is my life now."

(Mat's meeting to give him the good news could have gone better; remembering the players' names has never been his strong suit.)

Fortunately, the Board continues to see the value in investing heavily in our training facilities, youth facilities, and junior coaching. Though our facilities are far from world class, we're getting closer to the project Mat and I have long envisioned. Fabrika -- the Georgian La Masia, but more... Industrial.

ac3bbd25898f1a80b1a3eee02926e400.png

f08b8114df6d78eb3dfe67b200a2a608.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

April/May 2029.

Our unbeaten streak stretches into May. It is easily the best run we've put together during our tenure.

Yet warning signs are flashing. We dominated Lokomotiv, Sioni and Torpedo in three straight matches, but could not put them to the sword. 6 lost points.

Though we are eager for the Champions League qualifiers to begin, Mat and I fear what will happen when our squad rotation policy kicks in, in earnest.

61930c45f87c755e9c4a9c5f25f89647.png

b3910957eaa8c5cf8fa3f9e8d98a1cf3.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

May/June 2029 - European Review.

In the Champions League, England's continued dominance has become farcical. Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool successfully defended their title, with a 2-1 win over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United.

1d8de26c775ae110590e5d4ca42d53da.png

2028/29 Champions League: Overview | Knockout Rounds

It is the 6th straight year that an English side has won Ol' Big Ears, and a rematch of the 2025/26 final in Barcelona. Moreover, all 5 English sides reached the quarterfinals.

giphy.gif

I agree. This has gotten a little out of hand.

Steven Gerrard's Atalanta claimed the Europa League with a 1-nil (aet) win over Abdullah Avci's Real Sociedad.

a3d9a0632bca2152382f34d582678419.png

2028/29 Europa League: OverviewKnockout Rounds

And, in the Europa Conference League, Matthias Jaissle's Bayer Leverkusen defeated Thiago Motta's Bologna, 3-nil.

86ba9505e17f656e5a5a9fd490e9acec.png

2028/29 Europa Conference League: OverviewKnockout Rounds

In the active leagues, wild finishes were the order of the day: Didier Deschamps' Chelsea won the Premier League title when Klopp's Liverpool were annihilated by Gareth Southgate's Leicester on Matchday 38; Carlo Ancelotti's Real Madrid won their 6th La Liga title in 8 years, when Oscar Lopez's Barcelona lost to Sergio Conceicao's Atletico on Matchday 37; Roberto Martinez's AC Milan tried to hand the title to Brendan Rodgers' Juventus, shooting blanks on Matchday 38...only for Brendan's lads to also draw, after the title went to a tiebreaker between the two sides last year when Juventus lost their final match; Julian Nagelsmann's Bayern did Bayern things; and, Gerardo Seoane's Lyon held their nerve, finishing 1 point ahead of Mauricio Pochettino's PS-****ing-G, with 4 teams finishing level on 52 points in 4th-7th, with Brian Priske's Marseille the-odd-man-out by virtue of goal difference.

png-page-divider-letterpress-dividers-52

The Erovnuli Liga rises to 61st in the competition reputation rankings, right behind the Portuguese Liga 3.

Gareji rise to 103rd in the club coefficient ranking -- sitting right behind Kobenhavn and AZ, but 43 spots behind Dinamo Tbilisi.

The big news, however, is that Georgia now sits 9th in the nation coefficients table, meaning that beginning with the 2030/31 campaign Georgia gains a 5th qualifying spot, such that: (1) two Georgian teams will enter the Champions League; (3) one Georgian team will enter the Europa League; and (3) only two Georgian teams will enter the Europa Conference League.

7274212ad58ea66a9d1d5509b00f8bbf.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

June 2029.

We recover our form, though Dila Gori manage to steal a draw. The worst part of the summer is that, despite investing literally millions in our youth academy, we get an academy class that can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

8f1f0c795db30693991eaaa6e2e7aabb.png

The good news? We've drawn Zalgiris Vilnius in the Champions League. A very winnable draw.

8509850860c9c1cbe0e5118cce21367a.png

141a04e1a99d07f39d976d70c7938ee0.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

July 2029 - Champions League, 1st Qualifying Round.

We kick off our maiden Champions League voyage in ruthless form -- smashing Zalgiris 6-1 in Rustavi and then 4-1 in Vilnius. The only problem?

We will face Serbian champions Partizan in the Second Qualifying Round.

d16bc97cc330b9749588bc9ef1db697c.png

We acquitted ourselves well when we faced them 2 years ago, notwithstanding the fact that on paper they were (and are) a far more competent side.

Link to post
Share on other sites

July/August 2029 - Champions League, 2nd Qualifying Round.

Though the challenge is steep, I can't help but think that we can sneak a result if the cards fall our way in Rustavi.

In the 4th minute, a card falls. Our way. (In case that wasn't clear.)

Bebiashvili rises to head home a corner from Tigishvili -- it's early doors, but this is the start we needed.

Aslan nearly doubles our lead in the 30th, heading off the post from an oblique angle -- a card that we needed to have fall our way.

Through 90 minutes, and 5 minutes of time added-on, we hold firm. A 1-nil win to send us to Belgrade with a slight advantage.

7577b6352b32b88c1e31b8d04422584c.jpg

This means that Partizan will have to chase the tie. While they will be exposed at the back...they'll be highly motivated to attack with abandon. Which...can't be good.

Mat and I are confident that if we can keep them quiet for the first 15-20 minutes, we will weather the storm. And we've promised the lads a trip to Belgrade's famed Itchy Kitty if they win (with VIP passes to the aeronautics-themed Cock Pit Lounge for all).

20 minutes. That will settle the nerves and quiet the crowd.

20 minutes.

We don't last 2. We melt under the pressure of Partizan's high press like a stick of butter in the microwave. While we are level on aggregate, this does not bode well for the evening ahead.

We needn't have worried long. Being level on aggregate did not last past the 21st minute.

Now, it's our turn to chase the tie.

****.

giphy-downsized-large.gif

Ugrekhelidze hammers the crossbar from distance in the 33rd. Not good enough.

In the 47th minute, however, Iskakov hammers home a Tigishvili corner to draw us level. Epic.

On the hour mark, Mikeltadze and Chighladze enter the fray, followed by Apridonidze 10 minutes later. Partizan are allowing us possession, but they're the ones looking dangerous. Not a good pattern.

And, as karmic payback for the goals we've claimed, they claim a simple tap-in off a corner in the 85th, to go up 3-2 on aggregate.

We are gifted 4 minutes of time added-on. They could have given us 40. It wouldn't have mattered.

72e3d77e4ab67cdb0ee99020f2ef7fa9.jpg

We are out of the Champions League. Not undeservedly so.

No trip to the Itchy Kitty, either. The Cock Pit Lounge is for winners.

We drop into the Europa League qualifiers, and will face Riga in the Third Qualifying Round -- a draw much more in line with our capacities.

0543509176b105262e84901fb3d6021a.png

f267b335837b12d6516bd68f81b70e57.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

August 2029 - Europa League, 3rd Qualifying Round.

The Latvians are nothing if not an accommodating people. Both on and off the pitch.

As to the former, we smashed 6 past a Putin-look-alike goalkeeper at the Skonto. As to the latter, the waitress at the hotel restaurant intervened to steer us away from what we thought was grapefruit at the breakfast buffet the next morning. (We learned later that it was, in fact, grapefruit. It had simply been laced with a certain radioactive substance intended for a visiting dignitary -- and Mat had spent dinner the night before flirting with her shamelessly.)

Back in Georgia, we took our foot off the gas in a 3-1 win before what proved to be a record-setting crowd -- not in a good way, mind, but record-setting nonetheless.

We will face Qurban Qurbanov's Qarabag for a spot in the Europa League Group Stage, with the loser dropping into the Conference League.

9eb7989988e409d205ad953c14711297.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

August 2029 - Europa League, Qualifying Playoffs.

A false sense of security abounds after a big 3-nil win in Baku. We're less than impressive in the 2nd leg. But are coasting to progression when, down 2-1 on the night in the 80th minute (but up 4-2 on aggregate), the Azeris have a goal called back for offsides...a goal that would have brought them within spitting distance of leveling the tie. We scramble. Somehow, we manage to avoid a catastrophic collapse and progress 4-2 on aggregate.

In the Group Stage, we will face Jagoba Arrassate's Monaco, Leonardo Jardim's Athletic, and Lausanne-Sport.

c0dfe16618aeb306688837b2a69cb342.png

Realistically, we have no chance of finishing in the top 2. Monaco and Athletic should annihilate us without breaking a sweat. Our aim has to be for a solid 3rd place finish -- hosting the Swiss on Matchday 1 is thus an opportunity to stake a claim on that spot .

An opportunity to, as Mat would say, "slap a mushroom print, right on their forehead."

I don't get it either.

5818aeda78f575d1c255e04e70318e28.png

098f537f0544a39aed70e02cdc4080d3.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

September 2029.

For years now, Mat and I have discussed it. Dreamed about it. Planned for it.

So, several weeks after the pubic unveiling of our newly-refurbished training and youth facilities, the time has come to christen those facilities -- a moment which coincides with the debut of this year's academy class, which has the most potential of any we've seen to date.

Playing staff and coaches only. Huddled together inside the large auditorium, a muted violet painting the sky as the sun sets over the horizon. The last light of the day coming in through the floor-to-ceiling windows which look out upon a training pitch.

Mat stands at the front of the room silently, as everyone gathers around him informally. The shadows growing with each passing moment, as Mat has decreed that the lights not be turned on -- save for a single, solitary, bare bulb that hangs down directly over his head.

A tad melodramatic, perhaps.

But this is his moment.

He has earned it.

I simply stand at Mat's side, arms crossed, fixing the players and staff with a steady, solemn gaze. No one is watching me, though. All eyes are on Mat, as the staff and players exchange friendly nods and light chatter. The atmosphere in the room is one of eagerness. Determination.

They all know why they are here, on an otherwise normal Wednesday night.

The chatter dies down immediately as Mat calls for quiet, and begins to speak.

"Gentlemen! And ladies."

Pausing for effect, Mat glances around the room, a deadly serious look on his face.

"Welcome to Fabrika."

Nods all around. Fists, held by the side, are silently pumped.

They've been waiting for this moment, too, just like we have been.

Low chatter rises, until Mat raises an arm. A cough. Feet shuffle. Then, utter silence, as Mat begins to speak again, pausing for dramatic effect after each proclamation, layering each word with the full force of his undeniable charisma.

"The first rule of Fabrika is -- you do not talk about Fabrika."

The players and staff nod in understanding.

"The second rule of Fabrika is -- you do not talk about Fabrika. The tactics we learn here, the techniques, the dietary regimen, are for Gareji and Gareji alone."

Sharper nods, this time. Mat's confidence and determination is nothing if not infectious -- in a good, non-brain-eating amoeba kind of way.

"Third rule of Fabrika... Someone yells 'stop,' goes limp from exhaustion or tries to tap out, you pick him up and carry him on your back. We're in this together."

More nods, as the bulb above Mat's hat sways as if buffered by a breeze.

"Fourth rule. Only 11 men to a squad. We'll rotate as and if needed. But no one -- no one -- is bigger than the club, or bigger than the collective. To get where we are going, we must travel this path together."

The swaying of the bulb stops, as everyone turns their heads to glance at the people around them, exchanging nods.

"Fifth rule. One match at a time, yeah? We will get nowhere if we're looking ahead, down the road. The most important match is always the next one."

The focus draws back to Mat, the dying light stretching shadows deeper into the room.

"Sixth rule. No Chikhura shirts, and no mercy for those ****s. Ever."

A few chuckles, but the players and staff who have been around since the early years of our tenure silence them with a glare. We hate those ****s. Always and forever.

Mat chuckles dryly, before continuing on.

"Seventh rule. The seasons will go on as long as they have to. It's a long campaign with few breaks. To get where we need to go, there are no holidays. Christmas? New Years? Not for us. We'll be busy planning for an assault on those arrogant English ****s... The snide Spaniards... Ze Germans with their trendy moustaches... And don't even get me started on the French."

A short, determined cheer rises, which falls quickly silent as Mat raises a clenched fist.

"And the eighth and final rule."

"If this is your first year at Fabrika, you have to sing for your dinner."

Confused looks abound, as Mat gestures to the side. Flourescent lighting, recessed into the ceiling, suddenly washes over us, swirling hues of pink, purple and gold, much to the surprise of everyone but Mat and I -- I knew the lights were there, because Mat knew they were there. The first notes of Katy Perry's Roar fill the room as a deluxe karaoke machine is wheeled in, Mat grabbing the microphone with all the swagger and strutting jackassery of a young Mick Jagger.

We've come a long ways, marked by a big 6-1 win over Lausanne to kick off the Europa League Group Stage. The Erovnuli Liga title is virtually in our grasp. And we've assembled what has to be the most promising academy class the club has ever seen.

Though they are not ready for the first team, the likes of Davit Gelashvili, Manuchar Tvildiani, Beka Rukhaia, Giga Latsabidze, and Levan Japaridze provide some measure of hope for the future of Fabrika and Gareji.

ff2e1e9a1a5e3782bb30c7c9e148b4fb.png

a9891e92b01bd049443609abf0f1d412.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

October/November 2029.

The lads do us proud against the Basques in Bilbao -- though we lose, 2-1, we were no shrinking violets. We play Monaco close as well, though we were lucky to snatch the goal we did -- another 2-1 loss, far better than anyone would have predicted, especially when we lost Macharadze for a few weeks.

What can I say? Success breeds success. The reserves take their cue, claiming the Liga 4 (White Group) title, a feat we duplicate 1 week later away to Telavi, with that **** Kurdadze watching on. Priceless.

We leave it all on the field away to Monaco on Matchday 4, claiming 2 goals against the run of play, but it isn't enough -- a 3-2 loss is (again) a far better result than we could have hoped for. But it is

96d4bccec2fc8286295806c1d141fecd.png

525908fe023b096945c21c132337a4ee.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

November/December 2029.

As the last weeks of the campaign rumble on, we look once again towards the future.

The Board see the promise of Fabrika, and have agreed to further investment in our junior coaching and youth recruitment, although it took some advocacy to make the latter happen.

Our African-based scout has identified a gem for us, as well - Jean Gnahore ($180k, ASEC Mimosas). Young Gnahore will join our 1st XI immediately, partnering with Iskakov, who will shift to the ball-winning midfielder role. In turn, I expect Gigauri to pair with Bedoidze in the 2nd XI, with Kirkitadze dropping to the reserves.

(This assumes, of course, that our midfield remains intact. Porto were sniffing around Iskakov over the summer, but gave up when I rejected their inquiries. I don't expect to be able to keep him for much longer, so we will need to re-think.)

We've also secured the signings of a number of young Georgian players, who will play for the reserves and U19s: Mikheil Kublashvili, Giorgi Beridze, Giorgi Dvalishvili, Vano Vashakidze, Konstantine Shubitidze, and Vakhtang Malania.

Joining these young Georgian talents will be 4 Armenian U21 internationals signed earlier this year, who will join the club on permanent deals when then turn 18 and are on extended trials until then: Arsen Sarkisyan, Harutyun Esoyan, Hovhannes Muradyan, and Arman Avagyan. Our scouts initially saw the most promise in Avagyan -- while he has had a great year, the coaching staff see Sarkisyan and Esoyan as the most promising in the long-term.

Truth be told, beyond Gnahore I don't have high hopes for this lot in terms of becoming first-team squad players. Rather, they are intended to bolster the reserves in Liga 3 next year, in support of our long-term goal of establishing the reserves in the Erovnuli Liga 2 as a "proving grounds" for the lads.

On the pitch, tired legs carry us through the domestic campaign, with strong performances from the 2nd XI even as we underwhelm in Lausanne -- a frustrating performance, but one that sees us confirm passage to the Europa Conference League knockout rounds.

The final match is a dead rubber against the Basques in Tbilisi -- they've already won the Group, we're confirmed 3rd. A stale 1-1 draw plays out -- a good result, albeit one where it feels like they could have run away with it if they'd had any measure of determination.

b57020a5bd6d47c8930401be9c81457a.png

89ec6d4f517288aac153ccfa290ef49c.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

Gareji.thumb.png.d216a08526592e0c3e885a2a38524897.png

Tomorrow Is The First Day Of The Rest Of Our Lives

Season Review, 2029

Another campaign which exceeded the dreams of even our most ardent supporters.

There is a depth and quality to the squad beyond anything we've had, to-date, and it shows in the results. Erovnuli Liga champions for the second year running. Our first Super Cup win. Into the Group Stage of the Europa League. The reserves winning promotion to the 3rd tier. Fabrika, up and running, as we take a firmer hand in the youth operations.

Everything is falling into place.

Macharadze claims the Jughashvili Medal, the first of several accolades to fall his way -- the Golden Glove is also his, and he leads our selection of 11 players to the Erovnuli Liga Best XI, where he is joined by Mskhvilidze, Mikeltadze, Iskakov, Aslan, Ugrekhelidze and Apridonidze, with Keburia, Erkomaishvili and Omarov and Bebiashvili on the bench.

The trick now is taking the next steps in Europa -- making more of a nuisance of ourselves against "bigger" sides, building our reputation and that of the Erovnuli Liga.

Goals for 2030:  Defend our Erovnuli Liga title, scoring 100 goals in the process. Make a run in the Davit Kipiani Cup. Qualify for the Group Stage of a European competition.

Squad | Erovnuli Liga | Transfers

Finances | Income | Expenditure | Reserves

a2edf82e858a10caa16c306b06da31fa.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Deisler26 said:

image.gif.b6ca9f693c7edca2c382070686c24d53.gif

A little further to go before we're caught up... Fortunately, we're almost there... At which point normal updates will ensue.

Edited by ManUtd1
Link to post
Share on other sites

January/February 2030 - Odds & Ends; Transfer News.

The draw for the Europa Conference League knockout rounds is unbalanced -- several giants lurk, amidst a sea of favorable potential opponents. Those to avoid? For now, at least... Rangers, Granada, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray.

When it comes down to the final four, we are still in the pot with Galatasaray, Maribor and Oleksandriya.

I can't watch.

Loud cheers erupt as we draw the Ukrainians, a side we beat twice during the Group Stage, 2 years ago.

d808132b9e15809bb0ada1a013ce279e.png

As one of my ex-girlfriends would tell you, vengeance is a powerful motivator.

We will need to be on our toes.

png-page-divider-letterpress-dividers-52

Our average attendance continues to rise significantly. But we've only just now surpassed Saburtalo -- and, as Mat points out, no one likes them. Literally.

4d172cd779db4216c49cf243aecd6fda.png

png-page-divider-letterpress-dividers-52

In terms of squad building, both Iskakov and Macharadze have asked to leave for a bigger club.

They're both under contract through December 2031. Neither has a release clause.

The reality, of course, is that there may be nothing we can do to convince them to stay. My only hope at this juncture is to make a run in the Europa Conference League, to build up the camaraderie to the point that they sign a contact -- in complete derogation of their own self-interest...

...if only we can avoid ticking them off too much in the interim.

3aede6a3f1c0f649f182815b910a527d.png

Luka, lad. Lorient? You can't even say it without giggling uncontrollably.

png-page-divider-letterpress-dividers-52

An awkward meeting with Zaza and the Board, who want to expand the budget available for Mat's wages.

6e4f15796322b0e158339033d7403e26.png

I don't know how to describe it. There were lots of "air quotes" in places that didn't make sense. Winks. Nudges. As if there was something they aren't telling me.

Whatever. Zaza likes to think he's good with people, but he just came across as if he has something to hide. As if there was something underhanded or shady about the proposal the Board was voting on.

Zaza rubbing ice cream on his face to celebrate the vote didn't help make it any less weird.

giphy.gif

Our Director of Football, ladies and gentlemen.

png-page-divider-letterpress-dividers-52

Television rights for the Erovnuli Liga rise to $193k per team, a 22.93% year-over-year increase from the $157k in 2029.

png-page-divider-letterpress-dividers-52

As the European transfer window closes, Iskakov agrees to a $1.2M move to Napoli (plus a 50% next sale clause), with a loan-back through December 2030.

giphy.gif

LL Cool J gets it. He doesn't judge. He understands.

Meanwhile, Bedoidze throws his toys out of the pram about moving to a bigger club in early January, generating substantial interest. In the end, he moves to Koln for $900k (plus %50 next-sale).

This leaves 2 holes in the midfield, as we had planned for Bedoidze to possibly step into the 1st XI this year, replacing Gigauri. Instead, Iskakov will shift to the ball-winning midfield role, with previously-announced new signing Jean Gnahore ($180k, ASEC) as our mezzala.

Gigauri drops to the 2nd XI, where he will play alongside Salif Karaboue ($250k, ASEC), a player we've been tracking but had declined to pursue given Bedoidze's promise. So, when Bedoidze threw his fit, there was an obvious solution.

(If I'm being honest, I'm relatively certain that our Africa-based scout has only watched ASEC play. Not the worst strategy he could employ, but he's lacking in the "creative thinking" department.)

Gigauri also earns a contract extension through the end of 2031, given: (1) the need to replace Iskakov next Winter, a task likely to be handed to Karaboue; and (2) the need to identify a long-term midfield addition.

At the end of the European window, we have a 22-man squad ready to conquer, and -- for the first time -- something that is beginning to resemble a proper reserve squad. The U19s have a few bright spots -- with 4 players set to join the reserves upon their official signing over the course of the year.

With Oleksandriya looming, we scheduled a straightforward series of friendlies which we romped through, as befitting a club of our relative stature -- increased fitness, camaraderie and confidence, the order of the day.

Link to post
Share on other sites

February 2030 - Europa Conference League, 1st Knockout Round.

The first leg in Tbilisi sees us take a few minutes to find out sea legs. To get acclimated to the pace of a truly competitive match. One of the risks, perhaps, of such a straightforward series of friendlies.

The floodgates open in the 2nd half -- by the time the final whistle blows, Gnahore, Chighladze, and Ugrekhelidze have each claimed a brace as we put the Ukrainians to the sword, 6-nil. (Mat claims not to have seen a 45-minute period so one-sided since his last trip to the Itchy Kitty in Belgrade.)

Despite calls for the 2nd XI to take the pitch, at this stage of the season the lads are like a pack of thoroughbreds. We need to give them the room to romp...though they play as if restrained. It's hard to blame them, though -- the tie was over before we boarded the plane. A 2-1 win sees us through...

...to face Nuno Espirito Santo's Lazio.

7280470303209467d2a0afb5f4aab237.png

It is about as unfavorable a draw as we could have had.

Link to post
Share on other sites

March 2030 - Domestic Campaign Kickoff; Europa Conference League, 2nd Knockout Round.

Ahead of the domestic campaign kicking off, the media have tipped Mskhvilidze and Macharadze for Player of the Year and/or Young Player of the Year -- as if Luka needed any more of an ego boost. (Notwithstanding all of his talk about "needing to move to a bigger club" and refusal to negotiate a new contract, no one expressed even the mildest interest in him before the close of the European transfer window.)

The Board firmly believe that we are primed not for a title challenge, but for a top-half finish.

The oddsmakers continue to narrow the odds -- we are 4-1 to repeat as champions, a substantial narrowing of the odds from last year, with Macharadze and Mskhilidze named to the media’s pre-season Dream XI.

0352b78a88eaa0702f404e0f252a50dc.png

The supporters are also optimistic -- we sell 320 season tickets, up from the 241 sold in 2029, a 32.78% year-on-year increase.

The morning of the Super Cup, we use the pre-match press conference to publicly announce a bid for Mukbaniani with a cheeky, ****-eating grin from Mat -- the midfielder rejected our advances at the end of 2028, choosing instead to join the behemoth that is Dinamo Tbilisi. It isn't a serious offer. Mind games, more like.

If we could pry him away, he would be a surefire 1st XI player. But its the symbolism that matters.

Georgia is ours, you corrupt ****s.

It's also a risk. In that it could engender some measure of solidarity in our rival's locker room.

The match itself does not lack for drama, as we claim a 5-4 win at the Boris Paichazde.

959988d9503ad7226e76a3f4422bf44f.jpg

png-page-divider-letterpress-dividers-52

In Tbilisi for the 1st leg, the outlook is grim. Billy Gilmour is a beast. By all rights, Lazio should play us off the pitch. They do, but we keep it tight. A 1-nil loss -- a scoreline which flatters us immensely -- in front of a record crowd of 3,564, meaning record gate receipts ($95k).

There are worse ways to spend a Thursday night.

Speaking of which, an early goal has a way of brightening the place up...as does a late goal.

But those are the only two good moments of the night -- a 2-2 draw sees us out of Europe, 3-2 on aggregate. The tie was nowhere near as close as the aggregate scoreline suggests. 180 minutes of heartbreak, seeing just how far we are adrift from a mid-table side in one of the "big" leagues.

I wonder if anyone has ever been this unhappy in Rome.

Not even an offer from Sevilla can brighten the mood. The 2nd XI dropping points against Shukura doesn't help, given how many chances were wasted.

f6482878d8c8a80258b1a2cc959f6ad5.png

93e9476f7a3521b2fe30b658946e3997.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

April/May 2030.

A busy April sees us playing 2 matches per week, fully rotating the XI, throughout the month. The 1st XI lose a frustrating match at the Arsen to Dinamo Tbilisi, but we are nearly into calmer waters -- a much slower pace in May. And despite a few slip-ups, we've put ourselves into a good position and -- at times -- are playing truly scintillating football.

Word is getting around. The press officer calls us at the house on the outskirts of town -- 1537 Kaghaldis Kucha, still in desperate need of renovation.

Irakli's news? The Pope has apparently followed Gareji on Twitter.

Well, not the Pope.

A Pope.

Who, according to Irakli, has some rather strong views on the application of Leviticus 4:17 to VAR.

9a4c2f76352c91d8dda155b196e0286b.png

d6bf179d6040bbf7fcdc016afbca9e53.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

June 2030 - European Review.

England's European dominance continues, like something out of a cocaine-fueled, Boris Johnson fever dream.

In the Champions League, for the 3rd time in 5 years, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United squared off, this time in Budapest, with United claiming a 3-1 win.

9730c53ee2684c0cab45cf05aae267cd.png

2029/30 Champions League: Overview | Knockout Rounds

It is the 7th straight year that an English side has won Ol' Big Ears -- a year marked by Liverpool's 11-nil annihilation of Arne Slot's Roma in the semifinals. And there doesn't seem to be an exit sign for this Anglophile merry-go-round.

Peter Ramage's Newcastle defeated Brendan Rodgers' Juventus on penalties to win the Europa League, a mere 3 months after they sacked Sir Pep the Bald, First of His Name, the Once and Future King of Stockport and ertswhile Earl of the Blackpool Central Pier (who promptly rocked up at Inter with his vestigal tail tucked between his legs).

48d5d3b3191afbac9bca4c4461d990cc.png

2029/30 Europa League: OverviewKnockout Rounds

And, in the Europa Conference League, Pellegrino Matarazzo's Everton curb-stomped Rangers, 4-0.

37d3cd71a34fe0898e6dea03c45ca688.png

2029/30 Europa Conference League: OverviewKnockout Rounds

In the active leagues, there was nothing like the drama of recent years: Klopp's Liverpool reclaimed the Premier League title; Oscar Lopez's Barcelona reclaimed the La Liga title, leading to the abrupt, unceremonious end of the 9-year reign of terror overseen by Carlo Ancelotti's mischievous eyebrows at Real Madrid; Brendan Rodgers' Juventus reclaimed the Serie A title; Julian Nagelsmann's Bayern did Bayern things; and, Mauricio Pochettino's PS-****ing-G reclaimed the Ligue 1 title.

png-page-divider-letterpress-dividers-52

The Erovnuli Liga rises to 52nd in the competition reputation rankings, right behind the Irish top tier.

Gareji rise to 63rd in the club coefficient ranking -- sitting right behind Werder Bremen, Malmo and Besiktas, 11 spots behind Dinamo Tbilisi.

Georgia also move up to 13th in the nation club coefficients table (up one spot from last year), 3 spots off of Holland for automatic qualification to the Group Stage.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Spain 2030 - World Cup Review.

Someone has to stand up to the English. Simple as. And in the end, the hosts were tasked with the job at the Camp Nou.

It took 6 rounds of penalties, but Rafa Benitez's Spain did it, defeating Petr Bosz's men thanks in part to a missed penalty from none other than Harry Kane (who nevertheless took credit for the penalties that were scored in the shootout).

5f55beb954ae4e1195193353c7187d3f.png

2030 World Cup: Overview | Knockout Rounds

It was an otherwise unremarkable tournament, for the most part. Cameroon and Nigeria reached the quarterfinals, the only joy I had in watching the matches unfold.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   1 member

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

This site uses cookies - We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.