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EvilDave

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  1. EvilDave

    [FM17] Trials and Triumphs of a Turkmen

    The final month - six games to settle our European fate, or lack thereof. And it got off to the worst possible start, travelling to champions elect CSKA and returning on the end of a comprehensive beating which served only to lower morale and give us one game less to work with. Back home to Armavir we took the lead through Remchukov only to concede within two minutes of scoring, and we then failed to break down the relegation-threatened side, dropping two more crucial points. We'd had our sights set on the next game for a while - at home to Krylya. For 88 of the 90 minutes it looked like two more points thrown away until loanee Pavlov popped up off the bench to grab the winner, and nine days later in Perm he repeated the trick to hand us back-to-back wins when we needed them most. Midweek at Khimki he started but didn't find the net, instead allowing Rudenko to steal the spotlight with a double. With three wins under our belt, we welcomed Spartak hopeful of taking our first points off them, only to fall far short. But would it be enough? Yes, it would. Not only did we jump Krylya, but also Dinamo - the side nearest CSKA all season picking up four points from their last six and missing out on the Champions League. A top four finish represents a best ever for the club, secures us Europa League football, and signals our arrival at the top table of the Russian game. To wind up two points behind Zenit and ahead of Krasnodar represents an excellent year, and if there were ever any doubts as to the club's potential, we have erased them. Around the league, CSKA ended Spartak's three-year reign at the top convincingly, with the deposed champions recovering to second place. Our city rivals miss out on Europe, while at the bottom it's Khimki and Armavir who drop to the FNL, with Rostov and Amkar left to tackle the play-offs. Lokomotiv again end up in the wrong half of the table and look troubled, while Krylya - despite their late-season slump - are the other overachievers. For next season, we go again - looking to improve further, and perhaps even dare to dream of a title challenge. We'll see what the summer holds. The men who made it happen. We featured a slightly larger squad this time round, having added numbers in the summer, but once again there are some obvious key performers. Muravjov was excellent at the heart of our defence, repelling wave after wave of attacks against all but the strongest sides. Nosnikov was ever-present after his free transfer in the summer, and proved a top acquisition with his creativity and goal threat. Beyond him, Morozov shone up front, crucially so as Kozlov seemed to have an off year, and if we can get both of them firing we'll be a real threat next year. Of course, next year poses a number of questions. Can we repeat the trick? Can we ever get a result against Krasnodar, Spartak or CSKA? How will Europe affect our squad? I have no idea, but I do know we'll be recruiting with a view to success on multiple fronts. That has to be the goal, and it's what I'll be working towards. -- Once again, Bahtiyar exceeded expectations. With the pressure on during a crucial run-in, Kuban pulled out all the stops to finish inside the top four, qualifying for the Europa League in the process. There were undoubtedly gaps in the side - and our young hero would look to address them in the summer - but it was undoubtedly a great achievement. Around Russia and elsewhere, Saparow was garnering yet more attention. The young Turkmen had succeeded in taking a side from the second tier into Europe, and the question on everybody's lips was how far his next step would take him. Was it really conceivable that Kuban could become champions of their nation? Would he have the chance to make it happen?
  2. EvilDave

    [FM17] Trials and Triumphs of a Turkmen

    Back into action with four March matches, and while we remain unbeaten in the new decade, we also have just the one win to our name. Surprisingly, that victory came against second-place Dinamo, the Muscovities running out of steam in the second half as we hit two in eight minutes to grab the victory. We also earned a point against perennial contenders Zenit, twice going behind to the visitors and twice finding a reply. However, with our lofty position taken into account, it is hard to see draws with lowly Lokomotiv and midtable Rostov as anything other than missed opportunities. We conceded late to share the points with Loko, and threw away a lead on the road as well - we need to be more ruthless if we want to continue our push up the table. The table continues to look good, and if we win our game in hand over Zenit we'll leapfrog them into 5th and potentially 4th. That's likely to be good enough for Europe, and that has to be the aim. If we want to set out sights even higher, Dinamo's second place is still up for grabs - but for now establishing ourselves in the top grouping is enough. For now.
  3. EvilDave

    [FM17] Trials and Triumphs of a Turkmen

    A solid midseason run of friendlies, with opposition ranging from the minnows of Melilla to the giants of Tottenham - the North London side lured here in a Europa League break thanks to a clause in Polyakov's contract. We've scored plenty of goals, barely conceded aside from the game against Spurs, and look good to continue our pre-Christmas form. Job done. No transfers in or out of the first team, but the arrival of a very exciting group of academy grads. There is almost boundless potential here - five players rated very highly indeed - but the cream of the crop is without a doubt Vladimir Polyakov. A dual citizen courtesy of his Belgian birthplace, he's the kind of playmaker I can see the Kuban faithful getting very excited about in years to come. He's good enough for the second tier now, and I'd be surprised if he didn't make his debut next season. He isn't the only bright talent either - Demidov and Frolov have the makings of a long-term centre-back pairing, Tkachev will go far if he gets his head sorted, and Kuznetsov needs to choose a position and go for it. The conveyor belt is producing the goods here in Krasnodar, and these are exciting times indeed.
  4. EvilDave

    [FM17] Trials and Triumphs of a Turkmen

    We've made it to the winter break and the halfway point of the season, and with a single exception away at Spartak we've been playing very well. Amkar are in danger of cutting cut off at the foot of the table, but we put in a thoroughly professional performance to see them off with a goal from each of our Ukrainian forwards. The next time we were in action we needed to come from behind to snatch a 2-2 draw with Krylya - who are having a good season by their standards - but Nikolaev's leveller was no more than we deserved. Then came another break, and a trip to the Otkritie Arena to take on Spartak. We've not really looked like taking anything from them yet, and this time was no different - the hosts netted early and cruised to the win from then on. December then saw us finish the year strongly, two goals in the final 10 minutes turning a point against Khimki into all three, and then a chilly trip to Siberia resulting in an easy win against a poor Yenisey outfit. We're out of action now for a couple of months, and hopefully we can maintain this form when we pick back up again. We're past halfway, and we're looking very good. Four defeats in 16 games, and three of them have been to sides above us - CSKA, Spartak and Zenit - and the fourth was the derby against Krasnodar. That suggests to me that we're accurately placed as the best of the rest, not quite capable of a title challenge - CSKA are dominating the league this season - but genuine contenders for a European berth. If we can chase down just one of the sides above us, we'll guarantee just that. Elsewhere it's clearly CSKA's title to lose after Spartak's slow start to the season, and the European fight will be between the sides from surprise challengers Dinamo down to Krylya. Amkar look dead and buried at the bottom, Khimki are down there too, and then everybody from Rostov down risks being dragged into the play-off dogfight. Our goals for the rest of the season are twofold - not to drop below our current position, and to push on if at all possible into the top four. Easier said than done, but there's no point settling for less.
  5. EvilDave

    [FM17] Trials and Triumphs of a Turkmen

    Just the three games for us this month, our lack of cup activity combined with another international break making October a somewhat abridged affair for us. Not that we're complaining at all - given how many sides these days complain about players playing too much, I'll take an easy schedule whenever we have the chance. Our trio of matches produced every possible result, unfortunately getting worse as time went on. Our only away day of the month saw us overcome Armavir in an end-to-end affair, the sides trading goals until substitute Pavlov settled things inside the final 10 minutes. We were then held at home by Rubin in a game we should have won, conceding a late penalty after Nikolaev put us in front, and were then taken apart by league leaders CSKA in what was a pretty abject display all round. They've only dropped four points all year, but we have to put up more of a fight. While CSKA may be running away with the competition, we're doing our level best to stay with a group of several teams - everyone from Zenit to Krasnodar - with ambitions of European football. We're ahead of our city rivals for the time being, which must feel good for our fans, but we're also under no illusions as to how difficult it's going to be to stay up here. At the other end of the table, there is no one team cut adrift at this stage - but we shan't be focusing too much on the action down there.
  6. EvilDave

    [FM17] Trials and Triumphs of a Turkmen

    A more mixed month this time round. Terek were seen off at home courtesy of another goal from new arrival Nosnikov, but after the subsequent international break we were unable to hold onto the momentum, losing a close game in St Petersburg to a second-half strike that gave Vasilenko with no chance - our first meeting with a top side, and our first defeat of the season. That was swiftly followed up by a second in the home derby against Krasnodar, but our biggest disappointment came three days later in the cup. While on the one hand we were drawn away in Vladivostok, one of the longest possible trips, but our rotated side failed to live up to expectations and found themselves dumped out at the first hurdle by the second-tier side. Embarrassing is the only word for it. Fortunately, our final game of the month saw us get back to winning ways, travelling to Ufa and seeing both of our Ukrainian hitmen on the scoresheet to pick up an overdue victory. A 50% record of the month isn't ideal, but it's better than it could have been. A quarter of the way through the season, and we're back in the 7th position we finished last year in. We're definitely looking up rather than down - we're level on points with Spartak, which is little short of miraculous - but it's clear that we're just a little short of the very top sides. It's possible we'll be able to recruit to bridge the gap over the winter, but for now we need to cling on to their coattails and see if we can't sneak past one or two of them.
  7. EvilDave

    [FM17] Trials and Triumphs of a Turkmen

    A long pre-season with eight games thrown in over the course of July, and with the exception of a particularly poor performance against Ukrainian side Illichivets, we've done as expected - a 5-0 thrashing of Iranian giants Esteghlal the highlight before we returned to Krasnodar to take on local sides - and the new signings have gelled nicely. The squad has undergone some significant changes over the summer, and I feel like we're just about ready to cement our position in the Premier League. As I mentioned, a lot of business. Once again we managed to make a profit on our summer dealing, sending out a number of youngsters on loan and bringing in several more for the future. Alongside all that, we've brought in several players that are likely to be competing for first team positions - hence the large number of friendly games. Beginning with the outgoings, Yenisey swooped in to snap up first-choice goalkeeper Fedorov along with back-up left-back Zimin, leaving us needing cover in both positions - especially when Armavir then moved on our other senior keeper Gavrilov later in the window. The other big sale came right as the window closed, and it was not one I wanted to make - Polyakov had impressed both on loan and in his one permanent season here, but when Spurs came calling with a good amount up front and several tempting add-ons, we couldn't stand in his way. To bolster our ranks, we've replaced the two outgoing keepers with former CSKA man Vasilenko, who represents an upgrade between the sticks. Improving on Zimin at left-back is Spartak alumnus Shapkin, with his former team-mate Remchukov and the hugely professional Shabaev fighting for the start in the centre of defence. Ahead of them in the midfield screen is Beznyak stepping up from the second tier, while Ufa's talented attacking midfield star Nosnikov joins as a key part of our attacking line-up. Up front we've brought in two - young Pavlov on loan from CSKA as backup and Ukrainian Morozov joining countryman Kozlov as a likely starter. In Polyakov and the two goalkeepers we've lost some talented players, but Remchukov, Nosnikov and Morozov in particular are of a higher standard than we've had access to before, and our reputation is finally beginning to catch up with our league standing. We're looking forward to the season ahead, looking forward to proving that last year was no fluke, and looking forward to setting our sights on city rivals Krasnodar and the European places.
  8. EvilDave

    [FM17] Trials and Triumphs of a Turkmen

    The final month of the season, and seven points is a good enough haul for me. Our games against Loko was a genuine thriller that neither side deserved to lose, and so when Nazarov fired home a late equaliser it was the right result. We followed that up with another end-to-end clash in Samara, and in the 10 minutes either side of the break we turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead which we just about managed to hold on to. A much more sedate game followed in Moscow against relegation-threatened Dinamo, but Nazarov - enjoying a run in the team after Zhamaletdinov dropped out of the pecking order and perhaps ended his top flight career with a nasty injury playing for the under-21s - bundled in the only goal of the game to set up us nicely for the derby game on the final day. Unfortunately we couldn't hold on after taking the lead, and once again Krasnodar got the better of us. We aren't far away from them though - they're becoming a realistic target for us to aim at. That's it. 30 games, a whole Premier League season done and dusted, and we've finished in the top half after setting out just to dodge relegation. We did it comfortably in the end - 11 points clear of Amkar in the final play-off spot and 20 of Tambov in 15th - and ended up much closer to he European positions than the bottom of the pile. To finish my debut season in the top flight with a positive goal difference and more wins than losses is no mean feat, and we'll be looking to go even better next time. Elsewhere, Spartak wrapped up a third title in as many years ahead of CSKA, while at the other end Nalchik endured a torrid year with just two wins all season - neither against us, fortunately. Tambov's wealth couldn't sustain them, while Amkar and Dinamo both survived the play-offs and live to fight another day. We won't be favourites for the drop next season, and that should release a huge amount of pressure. Once again we ran with a large-ish squad but a relatively small core to the side - more often than not we ran with Fedorov in goal, solid rock Muravjov and Polyakov flanked by Shengelia and captain Boiangiu at the back, Maksimovs and Kucher behind Zangiev and Rudenko as the midfield four, and star man Kozlov up front with Kamehschikov. There were plenty of others that contributed, and all in all we're well set. Not only that, but our youngsters had a truly phenomenal season in their regional league, winning all but one of their matches. That to me suggests that we have a wealth of talent to develop and deploy in the future in addition to the players that we will no doubt be bringing in over the summer. My key targets are another full-back, a defensive midfielder to go into the starting line-up, and a partner for Kozlov - Kamehschikov was something of a disappointment and Zhamaletdinov's injury has all but ended his top level career. All in all, it's been a great year. Next year needs to be better - there's no room to stand still in the Premier League - but for now we can enjoy this. We've done well, and people are taking notice. -- Saparow and Kuban had exceeded all expectations, reaching 7th place in their first season back in the top flight after being dismissed by many as relegation candidates. Vadym Kozlov and his goals fired the Krasnodar side into the top half of the table, mixing it well with the bigger sides in the league - getting one over Zenit being a particular highlight - and Bahtiyar's new signings brought real quality to the side. Again, the Turkmen on the sideline was attracting attention from elsewhere, but Kuban could be confident in keeping hold of their man. For the first time since his days at Balkan, our young hero was heading into a third new season at a club without casting glances elsewhere - Russia had plenty of challenges left for him, and he wasn't about to abandon his charges just yet.
  9. EvilDave

    [FM17] Trials and Triumphs of a Turkmen

    April brought with it six of our final 10 matches, and while our star striker Kozlov was in fine form, netting four times across the month, on the whole we did not particularly look like a side with European aspirations. That's partly because we aren't, but it's still disappointing when we've climbed so high. In the first three games of the month, defeat in Kazan was all but inevitable - as was our home beating by CSKA - but we should have taken three points against Armavir, another late goal forcing us to split the points. In the second half of April we fought well against Zenit but ultimately came up short - another 10 minutes and I'd have fancied us for a draw - before an evenly-matched game against Ufa saw up split the points courtesy of a Polyakov header. We then saved our best til last, travelling to Rostov and completing the double over them for the season with an emphatic 4-0 win to end our barren streak, Kamehschikov again on the scoresheet against his old club in a perfect first half. One month to go, and we need to carry this with us. With 12 points left to play for we could theoretically finish as high as 4th and as low as 13th, but we're mathematically clear of automatic relegation and in all likelihood will wind up somewhere between our current position of 7th and the 10th place held by Ufa. Our final four games are relatively kind - Lokomotiv, Krylya and Dinamo before a final day derby against Krasnodar - and so we'll be looking to finish with a flourish. As I've said on several occasions now, we need to build on this next year, but the hard work of survival is so very nearly finished. We've done ourselves proud, and the end is finally in sight.
  10. EvilDave

    [FM17] Trials and Triumphs of a Turkmen

    We're back in competitive action, with my first visit to the Otkritie Arena as a manager doubling up as my 500th game in charge of a club. Unfortunately the champions were too much for us, full-back Nikolaev getting our only consolation. We took on another Spartak next up, travelling to Nalchik and dismissing the bottom side 2-0 to continue their miserable season. Our second pair of matches both ended in draws, blowing an early lead to settle for a point at home to Amkar and then relying on a late Rudenko penalty to snatch a draw away at Tambov. That's twice we've failed to beat the side we beat to the FNL title last season, and we should be doing better - but with the season we've been having, I can't complain too much. Despite winning just one of our four matches, we hold onto our 6th place after two thirds of the campaign. That was good enough - we're shattering preseason expectations - for the board to offer me a contract extension which was gratefully accepted, and so I can now focus on both finishing this year strongly and then strengthening over the summer. In terms of this year, we're still not entirely safe from relegation as we're nine points clear of Armavir in 13th, but with the sheer volume of sides beneath us we should be absolutely fine. There's still an outside shot of Europe - we sit five points off Krasnodar in 4th - but it's hard to see how we could possibly view our current position as a disappointment in any way, shape or form. It's been a good year, and we need to finish accordingly.
  11. EvilDave

    [FM17] Trials and Triumphs of a Turkmen

    The long winter is finally over - we get ready to go again in just a few days - and our midseason break was a thoroughly successful one. We made a single change to the squad, bringing in young Latvian midfielder Ricards Kozacuks for £100k from Skonto Riga, and then enjoyed a couple of weeks on the Crimean peninsula. Without a UEFA-approved league there, the standard of football is pretty low, but four big wins have given us a big boost nonetheless. February also saw the arrival of the youth graduates for the year, and while this year's intake lacks the depth we might be looking for, there is definitely potential at the top end. Young winger Murad Aliev is the most developed player to emerge, albeit in a position we don't utilise, but the one with the brightest future is young centre-back Maximov, who has a real shot at going all the way. The facilities here at Kuban are the best I've experienced thus far, and I'm hoping that we can start a real conveyor belt of talent here - Maximov is a start, we had a handful last year - I'd love to see a team with several of these in the side years down the line.
  12. EvilDave

    [FM17] Trials and Triumphs of a Turkmen

    October has been and gone, and thankfully we've picked up. The first game of the month was by far our best of the season so far against Zenit, as we shocked the St Petersburgers with two Kozlov goals. Striking at the beginning and the end, we limited the visitors to mostly long-range efforts and thoroughly deserved the win. Unfortunately, we then hit an international break, losing all of the momentum gained, and on our return went down by a solitary goal in Ufa. We then hit a special moment against Rostov, with Kamehschikov grabbing the winner against the side that agreed to let him go for nothing over the summer. The cup brought rotation and predictable disappointment against Zenit - a completely different performance to the one three weeks earlier - before a tough, scrappy draw at home to Krylya. We had aimed for a win in that one, but not allowing them to draw closer to us is a bonus nonetheless. We're approaching the halfway point of the season, and we find ourselves right in the middle of the table. If the season was to end here, I'd take it in an instant. To be fair, we're looking well clear of the bottom two - Nalchik have just the one point and Dinamo three - and we're two games ahead of Krylya in the last play-off place. Equally, we're only eight points behind the European spots, although the chances of us getting much higher than our current 8th place is low, unless one of Terek or Amkar tank. Still, we've already proved we can cope at this level - we just need to keep proving it.
  13. EvilDave

    [FM17] Trials and Triumphs of a Turkmen

    Well, the honeymoon period didn't last very long. We should have beaten Tambov - the side we beat by 18 points in the second tier last season - but they set out their stall to get a point and managed it. Then we welcomed Rubin to Krasnodar and set ourselves up to avoid defeat, only to be hit late on and fall short of our solitary point. We had a chance a few days later to build some momentum with a cup tie away at third-tier Metallurg Lipetsk, only for me to over-rotate the side and watch as we needed extra time to scrape into the next round by the skin of our teeth. Then came arguably our biggest test so far, away at perennial title challengers CSKA in the capital. Zangiev got his first for the club and Shabanov nodded in in stoppage time, but we were thoroughly outclassed and let five in at the other end. One point in the month, the bare minimum in the cup - we need to improve. The table now seems a little more realistic. The big guns have pulled away - by virtue of actually collecting points - while the sides around and below us are likely to be the teams to beat for the rest of the year. Nalchik are still pointless, Tambov are a team we know we're better than, and after that we need one more. Dinamo and Krylya both flirted with relegation last season so shouldn't shoot past us, but regardless of who we're down here with, it's going to be a grind.
  14. EvilDave

    [FM17] Trials and Triumphs of a Turkmen

    Welcome to the Premier League. We started the season away at Terek - a side we knocked out of the cup last year on home soil - and while new man Kamehschikov got off the mark late on, we were badly beaten by that point. Fortunately, the fixtures had us hosting fellow promotees Nalchik at home next up, and few summer signing Kozlov opened his account with a goal in each half. Up and running. Following that was the visit of defending champions Spartak, and whereas last season we had escaped with a 2-0 cup defeat, this time an early Kozlov goal was mere consolation in a 4-1 hammering. But we're made of stern stuff, bouncing back to snatch a late, late win away in Perm before putting in our best performance thus far at nearby Armavir. Three first-half goals, including an own goal from our former captain Zotov, put us on the way to a big win, with Kozlov bagging his sixth goal in five games - not bad for a newcomer in a newly-promoted side. Three wins in five is no bad start at all - if we can keep this up we've be more than comfortable. Of course we're at a very early stage - although the top flight is only a 30 game season as opposed to the 38 we played last time round - but a seven-point margin to both the automatic and play-off relegation places looks very good at this point. We're breathing rarefied air up with the likes of city rivals Krasnodar and big hitters CSKA and Zenit, but quite frankly anything higher than 13th I'll be happy with. Even at this point, Nalchik look in deep trouble, so we need to beat three other teams. It sounds simple, and we've started well, but this won't be anything other than a huge challenge.
  15. EvilDave

    [FM17] Trials and Triumphs of a Turkmen

    After what ended up being a reasonably short summer break, we are back with an intense pre-season schedule. None of our opponents were particularly challenging - Croatia's Rijeka the only club of note venturing to Krasnodar - the lower quality of competition saw us rack up some impressive wins and, just as importantly, allow the new faces in the squad to get to know one another in a positive environment. To be honest, 37 goals scored and just four conceded sounds a lot better than it is given the list of opponents, but it's what we needed. This was not the year for expensive overseas tours or testing ourselves against the cream of Europe. We stayed at home, we gelled together and we won big. Crucially, I feel like we're ready. All of our business was done before the final friendly fixture, but there was an awful lot of it. We brought in 16 new players over the course of the summer, and while there are a good number of them - the five from Togliatti plus Pryanikov from Zenit - who were brought in with one-and-a-half eyes firmly on the future, that still leaves almost an entire starting eleven worth of players for the here and now. Starting with those leaving us for fees - the list of contract expiries, releases and loan isn't worth starting with - and the big deals out of the club this year were in midfield. Fellow promotees offered us seven figures for Timofeev, which was too good to turn down and funded almost all of our signings, while Dorofeev chose to stay in the second tier by moving to the Far East. Kondryukov wouldn't cut it in the top flight and heads to Georgia, while we collected an unexpected windfall from the sale of Anisimov, a man who only once featured in my starting squad and whose potential is questionable at best. Arriving, we have bolstered every area of the team. Between the posts, CSKA releasee Gavrilov will give Fedorov a reasonable challenge for the gloves. In front of them, an old friend joins from Dila in the form of the ever-improving Davit Shengelia, Polyakov signs permanently after a loan spell, and Muravjov will fight with him and Shabanov for a central defensive berth. Further on again, Kucher will replace the departing Dorofeev in front of the defence, and then behind the strikers we welcome our second Muravjov of the summer and Zangiev, who is a bit of gamble having brought him in from a poor Ural side. Finally we made reinforcements up front to ensure we stay among the goals, snapping up the top scorer in the second tier last season in Vadym Kozlov and taking a potentially expensive punt on the experience of former Rostov man Kamehschikov. If there's one area of the squad I'm not sure about it is our strikeforce - Zhamaletdinov led us admirably last season, but has a track record of struggling at this level - but on the whole we're a much better side than we were 12 months ago. We'd have to be, but the additions have given me confidence that we can make a fist of survival. The board expect no more than an avoidance of the drop, but with the play-offs also in play, we need a 12th-place finish or higher to guarantee safety. Last year's cup runs make me believe we can make that happen, but scrapping for points is not something I've had to go before. It will be an interesting season, an exciting one - and I have no idea which way it's going to go.
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