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EvilDave

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  1. If there had been any question marks whatsoever over Bright’s abilities as a footballer, he had move quickly to erase them. Despite missing both of the first three months of the season, he had taken the chance given to him against Villa with two hands, and after just 15 minutes of our league encounter had the St Mary’s faithful singing his name in celebration of a special footballer. He had already opened the scoring minutes earlier, providing Sidibe with a shooting opportunity and then following in the Ivorian’s shot to tap home the spilled ball. His second on the quarter hour was somewhat more spectacular, the England man leaping several feet off the ground to control a ball over the defence from Woodward, bringing it down as he landed, and almost in the same motion lofting a clever toe-poke into the top corner of the Villa net. It was a moment of sheer brilliance, and we were glad to have him back. He was not alone in impressing for my Saints, and we caught the Villans out in a classic Southampton blitz which extended through much of the first half. Not content with Bright’s two comeback goals we pressed on, and shortly after the half hour we made it 3-0, summer signing Harry Eggen leaping highest at a corner to send a powerful header flashing beyond the keeper. Four minutes later, with the visitors having to come forward to have any hope of salvaging a result, we found ourselves with men over on a lightning break, and Kenan Kus took full advantage with a blistering strike from the corner of the area to make it 4-0. That was the score at the break, and the game was over. We weren’t done though, and eight minutes after the interval we executed the script perfectly for Adam Bright to walk away with the match ball on his return from injury. The goal itself was rather different to the his spectacular second – his first-time effort from Iglesias’ pull-back somewhat scuffed into the corner of the net – but he was clearly delighted with the hat-trick, and made a point of celebrating with me and my coaching team on the touchline, which was a nice gesture. Before the game was out there was time for two more goals – the first a penalty coolly converted by substitute John Ruane, and the second a disappointing consolation from a late Villa corner to make the final score 6-1. It was an emphatic performance from the entire team, and while we would face tougher opposition than the visitors over the course of the season, our ninth consecutive league win was perhaps the most spectacular of them all. We were growing in confidence, I was growing in confidence, and I needed Rachel to keep me grounded. She duly obliged. “Darling, your Saints are playing pretty well at the moment, aren’t they?” “They certainly are, probably the best they’ve played since I’ve been here.” “Do you think you can win the league?” “If we can keep it up, I think we can. Some of the football has been exquisite.” “Can I ask you a favour, darling?” “Of course my love, what is it?” “Please remember it’s only October. Enjoy the wins now, but don’t just assume they’ll keep coming. You need to keep working, and not get carried away – and when you lose, don’t let the world cave in.” She was right, and I knew it – but keeping myself and my players grounded was going to be far easier said than done.
  2. EvilDave

    [FM17] From Humble Beginnings...

    So, we've been busy. Very busy in fact, with enough players joining to give us a completely new starting XI. Not that we'll be making such radical changes, but we've spent money and we expect returns. Let's start with the foreigners. Aiazhan will start as our shadow striker, sitting behind the two forwards and looking to make late runs into the box. I'm expecting goals and assists from the little Kazakh. G'iyosov is the holding man, with capacity to drop into the centre of defence if we need him to. He's not quite the physical monster I was looking for, but he's a cut above anyone playing a similar role in Turkmenistan. Pavlenko is our full-back extraordinaire. He'll line up mostly on the right with Makan Saparow on the left, and between the two of them we should have the best defensive flanks in the country. Nikita here is clearly too good for the Yokary Liga, and it wouldn't surprise me if he doesn't stick around all that long. Onto domestic matters now, and Owekow is the big one. A club record buy from Altyn Asyr, he'll sit alongside G'iyosov with playmaking duties in front of the back four for years to come. He fits our mould perfectly, and weakens our biggest rival in the process. Negotiations were not easy, but eventually we got our man. Orazmammedow is the other first-teamer to come in, and is another to come from the champions. He was third-choice there and will get more time with us - he's got a keen eye for goal, is good in the air, and should cause opponents plenty of problems. Again, it's another step to weaken Altyn Asyr. The rest of the incomings are mostly squad players to bolster what were pitiful numbers, and a couple of youngsters who may or may not prove their worth in the long-term. Quite frankly, the long-term is very secondary to the here and now at Balkan - the president wants the title, and my hope is that the five players shown here can go a long way to use getting it. We'll start the year with a mixture of friendlies and AFC Cup qualifiers before the league begins, and it'll be our Asian adventure that is the real test of where we are as a team. There are two preliminary rounds before we enter the group stage, and that has to be our aim. Beyond that, we'll simply have to wait and see...
  3. EvilDave

    [FM17] From Humble Beginnings...

    You know, there may be more similarities than you think! I'll be intrigued to see how we get on - I've little to no idea of the standard of opposition to be honest!
  4. “Congratulations on another Champions League victory Owain, your side has taken very well to the competition.” “It would appear so, but I don’t think that’s a huge surprise. We’re used to playing top opposition every week in the Premier League, and with the experience we acquired in the Europa last season, we’re used to having to perform in the big games.” “You finished up 2-0 winners in the end, which reads like a comfortable scoreline. Were there any doubts in your mind when Benjamin Blanc put his penalty wide?” “Did I doubt the ability of my team to see out the game? No, definitely not. However, did I think it might be one of those days? Of course. We started well with Callum’s goal, but when you get a chance from the spot against a team like Shakhtar you’ve got to take it. Ben knows he should have done better, and they did come back at us for a few minutes afterwards, but in the end our bench got us another goal and that was enough for us.” “With PSG picking up their first win of the campaign against Krasnodar, your Southampton are in a strong position to qualify for the knockout rounds now, with just a single point required. Are you surprised at how the campaign has gone so far?” “No, I think that would be unfair on my players. Of course we’ve benefitted from the other sides taking points off each other, but we had an excellent win in Paris and two very professional performances at home, so we’ve done the hard work. There’s still more to do, beginning in a fortnight’s time in Donetsk, but we’ve given ourselves every opportunity.” “The other teams in your group each have three points, and you’ve now played each of them once – do you have a prediction or a preference as to which team progresses with you?” “First of all I’ll repeat that we haven’t qualified yet, although obviously I understand that we’ve favourites to do so given our position. Secondly, all the teams in this group are capable of qualifying – that’s why they’re in the Champions League to begin with – and it’s not for me to pick a favourite. If you go by seeding and history it’s hard to see past PSG, but they’ve struggled at times so it really it wide open. That’s the beauty of the competition.” “Finally Owain, we saw a brief run-out for Adam Bright this evening, is he now ready to play a full part after his injury?” “Yes, our medical staff have given him the all-clear and he’s raring to go. Adam has been unlucky with injuries so far this season, but he’s conducted himself very well and has been thoroughly professional in his rehabilitation. He’ll be considered with everybody else for a start against Aston Villa at the weekend, and hopefully he’ll steer clear of the treatment table for a long while now.” Adam Bright’s 10-minute cameo had capped off another good Champions League night for us at St Mary’s, with a brief spell of Shakhtar pressure after Blanc’s missed penalty the only time our early lead looked under threat. Once Escalada wrapped it up, I’d been comfortable enough to throw our England international on, and he’d looked as good as he could have done in a short space of time. I wasn’t about to announce my proposed line-up to the press several days in advance – I’d seen it backfire enough times in the past, and never understood why coaches in other sports felt the need to announce their intentions in such matter – but I was indeed planning on starting Bright against Villa. He’d worked hard to come back from two injuries now, and on his day was undoubtedly one of our best players. Against a side in the lower reaches of the Premier League, he’d have every chance to show what he could do.
  5. Bethan was getting stressed, and with the international break almost at an end, there was frustratingly little I could do about other than lend us a fatherly ear in an evening. Here was my first child, my eldest daughter, aged just 13, and worrying about the rest of her life because of the choices she felt she was having to make. The source of these worries was, of course, school, and specifically the fact that she now found herself in the final year of education before having to choose which subjects she would study at GCSE level – successive governments having tampered with the names and natures of qualifications before settling on the old system for the time being. It wasn’t that Bethan wasn’t doing well academically – in fact, she was positively flying in some classes – but that she was overly worried about closing the wrong door and never being able to open it again. Rachel told me she knew where she got it from, and I had to admit she was right. As work ramped up again, and I found myself unable to put myself in the shoes of a 13-year-old girl, all I could advise her to do was to trust her judgement and go for the subjects she enjoyed the most. To someone who has been through it all before, GCSEs barely seem significant – to someone going through them, they were the most difficult decision of Bethan’s young life, and she was struggling. Rachel was the one able to keep her calm, and privately arranged a meeting with her form tutor to discuss the issue. While all this was going on, I was preparing my side to take on Sami Hyypia’s Chelsea, with my players returning from their respective national sides in varying degrees of health and fitness. By the end of the week I had almost a full complement to choose from for the trip to London – barring the injured trio of Clarke, Shaw and Bright – and we made the trip confident of getting the Finn’s spell in charge of the Blues off to the worse possible start. When we arrived at Zola Park, it was clear that the home fans were going to make it difficult for us – our bus was rocked about as it arrived at the stadium, with one or two of the rowdier supporters taking the opportunity to throw stones at the vehicle. No damage was done to either the bus or my players – other than one or two being a little shaken up by the experience – but I was curious as to what had possessed to fans to target Southampton of all teams. We were not a traditional rivals of the Blues, and so I could only suspect jealousy to be the motive – something which brought a wry smile to my lips as I contemplated it. On the field, the hosts were about as welcoming, a couple of early ‘reducers’ reminding us that as table-toppers we were marked men. Hyypia seemed instantly at home in his new dugout, pacing the technical area and gesticulating at length, and his side seemed to be responding. 15 minutes in, Rafinha smashed in a low shot through a crowd of bodies after we’d done a poor job of clearing a corner, only for the referee to rule that a team-mate had been obstructing Beraldi’s view and give us a free-kick. It was a reprieve we barely deserved. Shortly after the half-hour mark, we were not so lucky. A mistimed challenge from Vandinho on the left allowed the hosts access to our area, and the ball was cut back from the dead ball line for Agustin Leroy to sweep past our Italian keeper. Zola Park erupted in cheers, and it was no less than they deserved. It was somewhat cruel to those fans then, that on the stroke of half-time a speculative shot from Jacobson looped up off the back of a defender and over the goalkeeper, and that was as good as it got for Hyypia’s men. We emerged for the second half with a sense of urgency, buoyed by our good fortune and eager to take advantage. Just eight minutes after the restart, Ross Ifan played a pass through which his countryman Jacobson was able to take in his stride, his first touch taking his round the goalkeeper and his second stroking it into the unguarded net despite the desperate slide of a defender rushing back. Once we had the lead, we were not about to give it up easily, and it cannot have done my Finnish counterpart much good to see Ange Sidibe come off the bench with 25 minutes still to play. His pace and eagerness to get on the ball at every opportunity caused no end of problems for the Chelsea defence, and in the end our Ivorian newcomer got the goal his cameo deserved, a quick give-and-go with fellow substitute Collins on the edge of the box providing the space he needed to fizz a shot past an unsighted and therefore static goalkeeper to seal the match three minutes from time. That gave us eight wins from eight, and confidence was high as we prepared for another Champions League clash, this time hosting Shakhtar in the first of back-to-back games with the Ukrainian champions. A win here, and we would be a single point away from the last 16 – we were determined to make it.
  6. EvilDave

    [FM17] From Humble Beginnings...

    So, I'm allowed to stay. Allowed is perhaps the wrong word - 'encouraged' might be better, in an odd turn of events. Let me explain. At the end of the season, Altyn Asyr's manager left his post, moving upstairs into a Director of Football role after a successful spell in the dugout. Out of nowhere, and without me making any moves, the national newspapers begin to ask whether 'impressive young talent' - they all used the same phrase - Bahtiyar Saparow might consider leaving his job at Balkan Balkanabat and moving to the capital. It was, of course, nonsense - I have less than a single season of experience - but it was enough to spook my own president into keeping hold of me. However, expectations are high. Nobody has told me I need to win the title - 'around the top of the league' is what is officially expected of me - but I've been told to make sure we're in the AFC Cup again next season, and the only way we can do that is by winning silverware. Or by finishing second to Altyn Asyr is every competition going again. Elsewhere, I've been busy in the transfer market. Very busy in fact. I'll introduce you to my new signings soon enough, but suffice to say it'll be a very different Balkan side that lines up for our first game of the season...
  7. EvilDave

    [FM17] From Humble Beginnings...

    It is a big ask indeed - have to hope Altyn Asyr slip up a bit as well as improving ourselves...
  8. Leicester City were back in the Premier League after winning through the Championship play-offs last season, and under the management of Malky Mackay were thoroughly enjoying themselves in the top division. A couple of good wins early on had them firmly in midtable and clear of the early relegation scrum, although at this stage in the season it only took one or two bad results to see a team drop like a stone through the pack. Even so, they were confident and we had to be alert to the danger. The King Power Stadium was in fine voice, but unfortunately for the Foxes, crowd noise does not win points in the Premier League – or indeed any other division you care to name. It did not take us long to hit our stride, the unstoppable Gidon Cohen getting on the scoresheet after 10 minutes with a goal for the ages. It had seemed inconspicuous enough, a pass back towards the home goalkeeper on the edge of the area with nobody nearby to challenge, but the keeper’s kick was badly sliced, dropping to the feet of Cohen. Just inside the Leicester half. His first touch controlled the ball, and his second sent it straight back over the stranded keeper and into the back of the net. Our Israeli star simply lifted his hands to the heavens in celebration – he knew he’d done something special. He was in top form at the moment, his audacious strike marking the fifth game in the row in which he had scored, and midway through the half he doubled his tally, his time turning in Vandinho’s cross from an altogether more sensible distance. Five minutes after the interval we wrapped up a routine win with a curling strike from the boot of Jacobson, and the newly-promoted side had been taught a harsh lesson. On the other hand, we had made it seven wins in a row, and indeed the only two games we had failed to win in the first two months of the season had been the Community Shield and Super Cup games against Manchester City, neither of which I had taken particularly seriously. It was still far too early to be taking the league table seriously, but our perfect record gave us a four-point lead over fellow unbeaten side Liverpool at the top. Perhaps the bigger stories were further down the table, where both Manchester United and Chelsea found themselves in the bottom half after the opening few games – a position dire enough for the Londoners to dismiss Phillip Cocu and replace him with former Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia ahead of the upcoming international break. We would be the Finn’s first opponents as Chelsea boss, and would be trying to get his new job off to the worst possible start. Interestingly enough, they were not the only big names in trouble. Diego Simeone had no doubt earned himself years of support from the City board after all his success, but perhaps the biggest shock of all was that the reigning champions, the team who had swept aside all comers last season, had won just three of their first seven fixtures. With two defeats already to their name, the Citizens were already a full 10 points off the pace we found ourselves setting and with plenty of work to do to get back into the race. They would surely improve as the season went on – a squad of such quality could do nothing else – but without the spectre of the champions looming right behind us, our position at the top of the table felt a whole lot better. For all my complaining of fixture congestion, we were now treated to a second international break of the season to coincide with the end of September, our next game not taking place until October 14th away at Chelsea. With Bethan and Rebecca back at school, the extra daddy-daughter time this afforded would not be truly maximised until the weekends, but it did mean entire days spent in the company of no-one but my wife as I left those yet to gain international honours in the capable hands of Terry McPhillips and the coaching team. It was wonderful to have such interrupted time with Rachel, and while the questions raised at Center Parcs were broached once or twice, for the first week of the two I was simply her husband, rather than the manager of the team topping the Premier League table. I told myself on a number of occasions that the latter was not something permanent, while the first very much was, and as such it made far more sense to invest my time and emotions in my marriage than my work. It was easy to say on a break, more difficult to enact in the heat of the league season, but I was determined to try nonetheless. Rachel appreciated that. She had seen my attempts to juggle work life and family time first-hand, and would certainly have said something had the balance drifted too far away from my family. On several occasions, her combination of gentle wisdom and straight-talking had dug me out of a hole, and I was regularly reminded just why I had fallen in love with her all those years ago. For all my complaints, the life of Owain Williams was a good one – and I was beginning to realise it.
  9. Indeed, it's already causing trouble and the season has barely started! A new test for Owain to deal with... -- “Owain, congratulations on the win today, you must be pleased with the performance. A hat-trick from Callum Jacobson out there too, how much of a message does that send a manager?” “It sends the message that we have excellent strength in depth at the club – having Callum in good form along with Lucio, Ange, John, and Boyd Clarke once he’s recovered gives us the ability to keep the side fresh as we compete across competitions. Callum played a great game today, and he’ll keep his place in the side for Krasnodar on the back of it.” “In the past you’ve not had the most comfortable of relationships with John Terry – do you take extra satisfaction in beating his Wolves team so emphatically?” “John and I haven’t always seen eye to eye, but on a professional level you’re never going to, so you can’t let those differences of personality get to you. My job is to get Southampton winning football matches, and today we won 5-2, so of course I’m satisfied.” “Do you wish to comment on Terry’s assertion that Southampton are unlikely to repeat last season’s success?” “I’m not going to get dragged into a war of words, and if I were John I’d be wanting to focus on my own team. What Southampton do and don’t achieve this year is not something he can affect, and in much the same way my comments have no bearing on Wolves’ season.” “You face Krasnodar on Wednesday night, which will be the first Champions League match to be held at St Mary’s. With both clubs having won in the opening round of fixtures, what are you hoping for from the game?” “Krasnodar are an excellent team, there’s a reason that they were seeded second and they put in an excellent performance against Shakhtar in the first game. It’s going to be a hugely exciting night hearing the Champions League anthem come to Southampton, but we’ll go into the game with confidence. A win for either side puts them in a strong position to advance, and we want to make sure that we’re the ones to take the three points.” “Finally, you’ve been making multiple changes to your line-up in almost every game so far this season – is this something we will see again on Wednesday, or are you beginning to settle on a first-choice side?” “I’ve said before that I don’t really believe in a first-choice team, and when you’re involved in as many competitions as we are I don’t think you can afford to. I made nine changes against Spurs because it came two days after our previous game, and while we’ve got a bit longer this time it’s important to keep the players fresh. That’s why we have a squad of players – everyone has their role to play, and while some may play more than others, everybody has to be ready to go at any moment. It’s likely that there will be changes again for Krasnodar, but the team I pick will be one I have confidence in to get the job done.” Rotation was becoming more and more of issue, and not just for myself but managers around the league. I had to admit to being a little smug after our 5-2 thumping of John Terry’s Wolves, as well as pleased that we had managed to keep our former striker Nestor Mina off the scoresheet – even if he had set up the second of Enes Unal’s goals. But it was Krasnodar who were the opponents in the biggest game of the week, the side managed by former Arsenal full-back Oleg Luzhnyi arriving in Hampshire for the next round of Champions League fixtures. They were something of an unknown quantity – although my advance scouts had pulled together plenty of information on them – and we were not entirely sure of what to expect, but a goal after just 75 seconds from Cohen, the Israeli finishing off a move that began almost at our own corner flag, certainly settled the nerves. When Jacobson was chopped down in the box on the 10-minute mark, allowing Carlos Henrique to drive home the penalty, we were in complete control. The Russians and their Ukrainian manager were shell-shocked, and to compound their misery Jacobson drove in a third from the edge of the box with 10 minute still to play in the first half. We reached the break 3-0 up and cruising to victory, with only an aberration standing between us and the win. Fortunately for my players such a catastrophe never threatened, and instead we added to our lead, a Jacobson shot heading well wide until being deflected into the net by defender Sergei Khugaev. Krasnodar did get on the board late on, midfielder Jean Carlos heading in from a corner, but the result had long been settled. The one dampener on our mood was a big one however. With 20 minutes to go, Luke Shaw had pulled up when sprinting back to make a challenge, and it was immediately clear that he would be unable to continue. Our medical staff took very little time to diagnose a hamstring tear, and that would mean around three months on the sidelines for the Saints hero. Not only that, there was a real possibility, given his age and the effect such an injury would have on his pace, that his days as Premier League full-back had just been ended. It was a sobering thought, but one we could not dwell on for too long – we had to ready ourselves for newly-promoted Leicester at the weekend. For now however, we could look at our Champions League table with some satisfaction – a shocking performance from PSG in Donetsk had resulted in a 3-0 win for the hosts, leaving the Parisians pointless after two games, the two Eastern European sides tied on three points apiece, and my Saints clear at the top with a maximum six. Our next two games in the competition would be the double-header against Shakhtar, and if we won both, we would be through with games to spare.
  10. EvilDave

    [FM17] From Humble Beginnings...

    We end the season in mixed form, two meaningless but satisfying wins over Altyn Asyr tempered by more away day pain, this time at Asgabat and Sagadam. We need to be better outside of Balkanabat if we're to challenge the champions next season - on both occasions this month we were comfortably in control and failed to take advantage. Altyn Asyr are clinical - we must be too. 30 points. That's the gap we need to make up if we're to lift the Yokary Liga next time round, which seems like a huge jump in a short space of time. However, that's what I'll be expected to do, so I need to find a way. What's become apparent is that most of our current players aren't really good enough. We can overcome teams 3-9 more often than not, but Altyn Asyr are a class above, and we need the men to match them. The best player during my spell wasn't easy to pick out - Owekow probably edges it - but the harsh truth is that if he's our creative fulcrum next year, we can only hope for second. This is the good news, however. Altyn Asyr's inevitable double means we grab Turkmenistan's second berth in the AFC Cup, allowing us to test ourselves against the best of Asia's second-tier nations. With the squad registration deadline coming very early in pre-season, a lot will depend on how early we get our business done, but I'd like to think we can at least make it to the groups. After that, there are too many variables to take in. Either way, things are hopeful here in Balkanabat. We haven't been at our best this season, but the areas for improvement are obvious and we have the funds to make that happen. This is what I got into football management for - it's time to prove myself. -- The one thing Bahtiyar elected to omit was the fact that despite his optimism, there was no guarantee he would survive the off-season. Not in a literal sense - President Berdimuhammedow was yet to take issue with our young hero - but the president of Balkan was placing some of the blame for his club's sub-par season on his shoulders. Budgets were in place and no moves had been made - at least, not in public - but there were rumours that Saparow's tenure might be one of the shortest in the club's history...
  11. EvilDave

    [FM17] From Humble Beginnings...

    Go for it! I've managed in most of the old Soviet nations by now (apart from the Baltics I think) and they're all great fun. I'll certainly follow along if you go down that route.
  12. With the wind in our sails after our Parisian victory and strong start to the season, it was finally time for us to enjoy familiar surroundings once again, our home clash with Brighton just our second game at home of eight so far, if you included the two one-off cup games against Manchester City. Of course, it meant that the second half of our season would see us back at home a little more frequently, and in a league as close as the Premier League such fine margins had the potential to make all the difference. We needed to make St Mary’s a fortress, and pick up as many points as we could on the road if we were to take full advantage. Brighton themselves were by no means easy opponents, having put together a late surge last season to qualify for the Europa League and followed that up with seven points from their first four games of the new season. They were a club on the rise, even if not as spectacular or rapid a rise as my Saints, and we were to take them lightly at our peril. They had taken bigger scalps than Southampton last season, and we had no desire to be added to their list. With such warnings ringing in their ears, my men took to the field confident but cautious, which felt appropriate. Harry Eggen made his first league start for the club along Hodge in the centre of defence, while Lloyd Collins got his first league appearance of his season alongside Adam Bright. Indeed, it was the Welsh teenager who came closest to breaking the deadlock in a tight first half, his curling effort from the edge of the penalty area requiring both the goalkeeper’s fingertips and the outside of the post to prevent it going in. The whistle blew with us on top but goalless, and that was a dangerous place to be if we were not careful. But while we were not blowing teams away, it did appear that we had learned the art of the patient build-up, and after slowly increasing the pressure on the visitors, we finally struck just before the hour mark, Collins sliding a ball between two Brighton defenders for Escalada to curl first-time beyond the dive of the goalkeeper. Five minutes later however, I was left cursing our luck – just two matches after returning from an ankle injury, Adam Bright was forced from the field clutching his arm. It looked broken, and Gidon Cohen was called into action from the bench. Despite the disruption our midfielder’s injury caused, it did not knock us off our stride, and in fact it was left to Bright’s replacement to seal the victory, his electric pace allowing him to beat his man to the outside, check back and send a skidding shot across goal and into the bottom corner with 10 minutes to play. Brighton had no answer, and we had our fifth straight league win. Cruelly, there would be little over 48 hours before we kicked off in our next fixture, the League Cup draw sending us back to New White Hart Lane for the third round of the competition. Like us, Spurs had also been in action on Sunday, so the 7.45pm kick-off on Tuesday night necessitated multiple changes from both sides – only Eggen and Collins kept their places for Southampton, and the result was left largely up to chance. Neither manager can claim to have had a gameplan, and the scoreline proved as much. We were fortunate, in that while the league fixture had been a tense 1-0, this game was much more open from the very beginning, and as such we were able to catch our hosts in a classic Saints blitz. Gidon Cohen, fresh from his goal in the league, struck twice in the opening seven minutes to get us underway, before setting up Jacobson for our third 20 minutes in. Spurs pulled one back before the break, but fine strike from back-up right-back Rodrigo Acuna put us 4-1 up with 15 minutes to play, leaving a late double from Bright Choma as little more than consolation. The fans had no doubt had a great time watching the goals fly in in North London, but I took about as little pleasure in a 4-3 cup win as is possible for a manager. It was only September and we were already finding ourselves with players struggling to recover in time for their next match, with fixtures coming thick and fast across the competitions. So far, we had already lost Bright and Clarke to injury – I was worried that by playing so many matches, we would simply wear our players out long before the business end of the season. We had stumbled over the line last year – if we genuinely going for the title this time round, we could not afford to do the same again.
  13. EvilDave

    ***FMS Awards 2018 Preliminary Round Voting***

    Votes sent and claimed - I too have had a fair bit to catch up on!
  14. EvilDave

    [FM17] From Humble Beginnings...

    After the highs of September, a miserable month. We blew a two-goal lead against Merw only for Owekow to rescue us late on, and then three defeats either side of the international break all but end our chance of silverware for the season. Altyn Asyr sealed the league stupidly early, and a 2-0 defeat in Asgabat means the odds of us lifting the cup are slim to none. We'll need them to win the final - assuming we don't perform a miracle in the second leg - to clinch an AFC Cup berth now. The league is done - Altyn Asyr are champions once more, we should have second place sealed, and Lebap are as good as down needing to make up seven points in just five games. To be honest, the focus now turns to next year. We need more players, younger players and better players - it's the only way we're going to get anywhere near the top and challenge the champions. -- Three goals in four games doesn't sound too terrible, but when they all come in the first match of the set you've got problems. Bahtiyar would have expected defeat away to Altyn Asyr, but losing to university club Yedigen and rock-bottom Lebap, even away from home, is unacceptable for a club of Balkan's stature. Our young manager may be thinking about next season, but the fact of the matter is that the club president is a demanding man, and isn't overly impressed. Saparow's status has slipped to 'insecure,' and while he has another year on his contract, there's no guarantee he'll be given the chance to see it out. A strong end to the season may be necessary to prevent an early exit...
  15. EvilDave

    [FM17] From Humble Beginnings...

    Thank you! Altyn Asyr look a class above at the moment, but I'm hoping a good transfer window or two and we'll be up there.
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