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US Palermo – Looking For Stability February 2017 should have mark the end of an era in Palermo when Maurizio Zamparini stepped down as chairman of Palermo after 15 years in charge with over 40 managerial changes. It was first announced he had agreed to sell his controlling stake to an unspecified Anglo-American fund. But the takeover eventually collapsed after the necessary funds were not in place and Palermo ended the season in 19th place, being relegated to Serie B. The instability continued the next season and probably cost Palermo an immediate promotion back to the top flight. For the 2018/2019 Serie B season, Palermo even found themselves forced to sell a number of players due to financial issues, with Antonino La Gumina sold to Empoli and Igor Coronado to Sharjah FC. This is where I come in or more precisely Giuseppe Iachini, a former player midfielder for Palermo who also coached them two times between 2013 and 2016. During his tenure, he won his personal fourth top flight promotion, guiding Palermo to be crowned Serie B champions five matches before the end of season. The goal will obviously be to repeat this achievement but also to simply survive Zamparini’s madness.
Zion Goodman and Leonida Damone were born in Congo and Sicily, respectively. Both were born to extreme poverty and their biological parents were forced to give them up for abortion. They ended up at the same family in Bordeaux, France, where they were taken good care of by a lovely couple. Goodman and Damone shared a passion for football throughout their childhood and both got their chance at professionalism, but more on that later.
***** "It will be nice to have you around, have a regular life.."....that;s what my wife said to me three months ago when I arrived home shortly after leaving my last job by "mutual consent" at Wrexham aka The Dragons. I could write several paragraphs about the term "mutual consent" and how my departure from a very successful spell at Wrexham came to an end but that is another story. Suffice to say I left with a decent reputation, Wrexham in the Premier League but perhaps not the infrastructure to stay there nor the best of relationships with the Chairman. Anyway...we move on. During my break we decided to take a family holiday to Sicily. Well..a holiday that would also include a evenings work as a speaker at a Sports Conference Dinner which my agent had neatly setup for me. Sicily has been on my "todo" list for a long time. From it's rugged terrain, deep history, it's fascinating people and also it's connections to the darker elements of life so our trip there would certainly create some great memories. The Sports Conference was a three day affair with my slot on the third and final evening with a speech titled "Building the Dream...Harnessing the Passion" or if you want that in more a businesslike way.."Resource Management and Managing Expectation. I think I prefer the former. Now you might wonder how is a Englishman who has managed a Welsh Club for six years going to communicate with a room full of Sicilian's. Well it is easy if you know that for the last two years my No2 at Wrexham (and now the manager) was Italian and helped me learn enough of the language to get by. Family life also has a Italian influence with our home help heralding from Amalfi region. So as a family we would often have conversations in Italian to keep the mind working! So a few days into our break and several practise runs of my speech I was as prepared as I could be for the thirty minute speech I was booked to deliver after dinner. My agent was also in attendance having flown out earlier that day. The speech started well enough as I "broke the ice" with few light-hearted anecdotes about my early days in football management including the one about the fans forum and the West Highland Terrier. I moved onto more serious topics from understanding not only the culture and history of a club but of the area and the people who support it. By forging that connection you can see a bond emerge between the player and club that goes beyond financial reward. With that bond in place the wins mean so much more while the losses can motivate the squad to dig deep and find that extra effort when you really need it. When you see the flicker of passion in a players eyes you can then start to build a dream for them, the club and ultimately the fans. Now that dream might simply be winning two on the bounce or a far grander aspiration. as it became with Wrexham to move up the leagues. When a core group of players share the dream it makes the managers job a little easier as their passion and ambition extend until it envelops the squad. Having a stable core as we did for many seasons at Wrexham allowed us to achieve what we did - play in the world's most demanding league and hold our own against our peers. Bringing the topic of the speech around to everyday realities I explain to my audience that footballers must remain humble and grounded. It's the foundation, in my view, of mental strength. Are we ever more humble than when we admit to making a mistake? Taking responsibility for our actions is a fading trait in the modern world. I would always ask my players to be nothing less than honest if they made a mistake on the pitch or in their personal lives. We all sleep better at night if we know we have done right by ourselves and other people that day - don't we? I never protected my players from the consequences of those mistakes but would support them in dealing with the "fallout" as best I could. My themes of passion, dreams, ambition and mental strength earned a polite ripple of applause as is customary at such events when I concluded my speech. On reflection, my agent told me later, it boarded on standing on a "soapbox" but was well received. In the minutes following my speech I circulated the room with introductions to many people including the current President of Palermo FC who via my agent invited me for a tour of the club later that week. Many handshakes later I sat in the passenger seat of my agents hire car as he drove me back to my hotel. There was a silence but one I had heard before and would be broken by one word from him..."Well.."...he said. I looked across as the motorway lights zipped past. "What?" I replied. "You know they are thinking about getting a new manager in don't you?" I knew enough about the current league position of the club, the Presidents habit of moving managers when things were not going right but the one fact that stood out to me was his commitment to the club. I hadn't been naive enough not to do a little research into Palermo FC before coming on holiday. A little habit of mine was to also understand what football clubs close by a holiday spot much to the frustration of my family on more than one occasion when I mysteriously appeared with a handful of tickets for some obscure match or another. "There is more to it than that." I said. "Much more..for one they have a manager and the family is settled in Wales with school and all." "Interesting..."...just a single word of reply. "What do you mean?" "Well..you didn't say no and already thinking of the barriers to saying yes and no doubt working out how to get over them." "You've known me a long time Frank. You know how my mind works. Let me enjoy the next few days of holiday, bounce this off Jo and have chat before we go down to the club on Sunday?". "Sure. Listen I have to head back to England in the morning but will get a flight back here on Saturday. Let's get together on Saturday evening. In the meantime do you want me to gather some info on the club so we are not completely blind?" "Yeah...no harm in it.." ***** To be continued.
Accademia Rosanero (An Introduction) OCTOBER 1, 2017 ~ TOTALFOOTBALL71 ~ EDIT Welcome to Sicily the home of U.S Città di Palermo and the backdrop for my FM18 save. The Sicillian club have been relegated to Serie B, the 2nd tier of Italian Football after a disappointing season that saw the club finish second bottom in 19th place with just 24 points and a minus 44 goal difference. Quick fire owner Maurizio Zamparini has wasted no time in pulling the trigger and firing manager number 39 since 2002 and appointing number 40, that’s me an English born manager with a life long love affair with Italian Football, however I am under no illusion that the trigger happy owner will be demanding a return to Serie A at the first time of asking meaning I have put together both a short term and long term plan which I will cover later in this article. The Manager For people who already know me they will be aware of my footballing philosophy and influences but for those who don’t here are a few lines about Palermo’s new manager and first Englishman to take the reigns of the Black and Pinks. I was born in Chesterfield although I have never lived there, in the early 70’s (yes I am in my 40’s and yes I feel like I am) and grew up supporting Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest were I developed a liking for passing football “If God wanted us to play football in the clouds, he’d have put grass up there”. With Liverpool, Forest, Ipswich Town, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Aberdeen, Dundee United and Aston Villa having embarked on European campaigns it opened up an whole new World of Football up for me thanks mostly in the early days to the midweek Sportsnight highlights with Harry Carpenter and David Coleman on the BBC, and the coverage of both the World Cup and European Championships I was taking a keen interest in the World game and I liked what I was seeing non less so than the 1982 World Cup hosted by Spain were I developed an affection for the Italian national team. Fast forward a year later I was now watching Serie A and Serie B football thanks to my father’s satellite system and I have been hooked ever since along with my adopted Italian team Milan who back then we’re a Serie B side due to a match fixing scandal. It’s no surprise that I have been influenced by a number of Italian managers and whilst I like my teams to attack on the front foot, nothing gives me more pleasure than a clean sheet. On a personal level I struggled to get anything going save wise on FM17 and it was not for the want of trying but I never admitted the reason but I was struck down suddenly with an illness that not only affected my concentration levels but threatened to change my life and potentially end my working life however with the close support of my family and work colleagues I am now back to something near my best with an horrendous few months behind me. During the whole time I was wiped off my feet literally has I was experiencing Vertigo from between 30 minutes and 12 hours at a time I still managed to interact to the best of my ability with both the game and the FM Community which kept me going through a difficult time. I am now so looking forward to the release of FM18 and committing myself to this save. I will like many use the beta to get to grips with the new features before starting this save on release day on the 10th November. I have put together a brief overview of what I am looking to achieve during the save. Tactics What will I bring to the club? Well I am not going to try to emulate any one manager but what I will do is put together many of my influences to define my own style. In recent weeks with the build up to FM18 you will have heard the word Dynamic mentioned a lot and it’s a word I like very much: Dynamic (noun) A force that stimulates change or progress within a system or process. Dynamic (Adjective) (1) (of a process or system) Characterised by constant change, activity or process. (2) (of a person) Positive in attitude and full of energy and new ideas. A Dynamic system is what I will be trying to create at the club, I have become aware that in football you have to always be looking to make progress within a system with a positive attitude open to new ideas. In FM16 I built a system influenced by Marcelo Bielsa’s days at Athletic Club and called it Verticalita and looking back I think it is the best system that I have created on any FM release and the closest that I could call dynamic. I am looking forward to getting to grips with the new match engine and will be looking to develop a system that incorporates the following: Control the opposition through ball movement Flexibility use different roles and individual mentalities within the same system: example a Deep Lying Playmaker / defend with the ability to change to a deep lying playmaker / support Dominate the central area Build around a conductor Build a strong defensive structure Have the ability to create width in more than 1 way Have a plan B and C Youth Development I will be looking to build a strong youth development system within the club, Accademia Rosanero is the title of this save for a reason and that reason is my aim to create a football factory deep in the heart of Sicily and by that I want us to produce player’s that will not only represent this club but that can also assist the other clubs in this region through strong affiliate partnership. On the whole in the past I have had preference to develop players at the club however on FM17 I experienced the positives of loaning certain players out to give them quality game time so in FM18 I will keep an open mind and access each players needs on a one to one basis. Going back to affiliate club’s I will not only be looking regional I will also be looking to set up an affiliation with a top tier European club and South American club however it will have to be a club who I think will benefit any player who we send them in terms of game time because there is no point in sending a player to sit on a bench. I will be looking to improve the training and youth facilities as soon as possible and will look to bring in the best staff I can on an ongoing basis so we improve year on year. Tutoring our youth will also be high on my agenda with the best possible tutors aiding our development program. Backroom Staff The backroom team are the key to our progress and with rumours of an improvement of the Sports Scientist and Data Analyst roles I am looking forward to building my backroom staff over time. Player Recruitment Whilst my main aim is to develop our own players I will still look to bolster our squad with external players if we don’t have the right quality of player already at the club. So the first option will be to promote within but if we can’t I will bring in the best I can to fill the void. The recruitment ladder : Replace from within the club Recruit an Italian National Recruit an EU player Recruit a non EU player I will be looking to have the best Head of Youth Development coach possible at the club who will be the nearest thing to a Model Professional. The HOYD is the most important non playing member at the club. Scouting I will look to bring in the best scouts possible to build a scouting network that keeps us ahead of our rivals in having the knowledge to pick up the right player at the right time. Scout youth players in Italy Scout youth players in Europe Scout youth players in South America Short Term Goal Like I mentioned above the owner will be looking for us to gain promotion so I won’t be surprised if that’s the expectation in season 1 so in the short I have to look at getting us promoted back to Serie A. Long Term Goals Stability in Serie A Increase the number of Italian nationality players in the first team squad Build a World Class Academy Develop our own players for the first team Field an all Italian 1st team in a Serie A match Field an XI developed in Accademia Rosanero in a Serie A match Break the all time individual club appearances and goals scored records Win the Coppa Italia Win Serie A Win a European trophy Become a club legend by creating a legacy Become Italian National team manager Thanks for reading and if you have any feedback I will more than appreciate you getting in touch. I am open to any ideas that you think I could incorporate in to the save. I will be posting save updates on here as well as my own blog which you can find at www.thewideplaymaker.com Arriverderchi