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The Bridge of Sighs: F.B.C. Unione Venezia

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The Bridge of Sighs: F.B.C. Unione Venezia

F.B.C. Unione Venezia, formerly Società Sportiva Calcio Venezia, once Associazione Calcio Venezia, and most often and simply Venezia. Venice. An ugly club that fails to represent the world's most beautiful city. Less famous for its football than its many mergers, match-fixing scandals, instances of bankruptcy, and most recently a seemingly irreparable collapse. Twice winners of Serie B (in 1961 and 1966), once winners of the Coppa Italia (in 1941, with a side that would go on to finish third in Serie A the following season), they began the 2011–2012 season in Serie D. D for Dilettanti, or amateurs. Now, having clambered their way back into the Lega Pro Seconda Divisione (Girone A) with a handful of goals from 35 year-old Maurizio Nassi, they find themselves without a manager (for typically controversial reasons, I imagine), and so spendthrift chairman Roberto Fiasco* decides to appoint a retiring player – Irishman John Divney – as a stopgap manager, at least until the club slide back to Serie D as predicted.

Or do they?

Divney was a hardworking midfielder who compensated for his physical defects with a not unimpressive degree of guile – at least for the lower tiers of Italian football. He is not a foolish man. He knows this latest promotion is probably more than the club has deserved. But he is tenacious, and like the city itself, is determined to hang on against the rising waters...

(Venezia, incidentally, hold the honour of being the only club in Italy whose stadium can only be reached by boat.)

The challenge: restore what little glory Venezia have known in their history, and then at last do justice to the sad, magnificent city that hosts them.

Game version is 12.1.1, with no edits or tweaks except for Susie Real Names. 22 leagues are loaded from 9 countries (Argentina, Brazil, England, Germany, Ireland, Italy, France, Netherlands, Spain), but only Italy is playable. The game will be played largely in the manner of LLM, albeit with looser restrictions on scouting. Manager experience is Semi-Professional.

*Seriously. That really is his name.

Timeline

2012: Summer Round-up / Sep / Oct / Nov / Dec / Winter Round-up

2013: Jan / Feb / Mar / Apr / May / Summer Round-up / Sep / Oct / Nov / Dec / Winter Round-up

2014: Jan / Feb / Mar / Apr / May / Jun / Summer Round-up / Sep / Oct / Nov / Dec / Winter Round-up

2015: Jan / Feb / Mar / Apr / May / Title Day / Summer Round-up / Sep / Oct / Nov/ Dec / Winter Round-up

2016: Jan / Feb / Mar / Apr / May / Summer Round-up

2012 Honours

n/a

2013 Honours

Coppa Italia Lega Pro: First Round

Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A: Winners

Supercoppa di Lega Pro di Seconda Divisione: Winners

Miglior Allenatore dell'Anno: John Divney (1st)

Miglior Giocatore dell'Anno: Alessandro Cesarini (1st)

Miglior Squadra dell'Anno: Alesandro Cesarini, Stefano Olivieri

Signing of the Season: Francesco Corapi, €0 (Runner-up)

2014 Honours

TIM Cup: Second Qualifying Round

Lega Pro Prima Divisione, Girone A: Runners-up, Promoted via Playoffs

Coppa Italia Lega Pro: Third Round

Miglior Allenatore dell'Anno: John Divney (2nd)

Miglior Squadra dell'Anno: Andrea Grieco, Emanuele Suagher

Overachievers: Unione Venezia

Signing of the Season: Francesco Ripa, €0 (Runner-up)

2015 Honours

TIM Cup: Third Qualifying Round

Serie B bwin: Winners

Miglior Allenatore dell'Anno: John Divney (1st)

Miglior Squadra dell'Anno: Simone Andrea Ganz

Top Goalscorer: Simone Andrea Ganz (22 goals)

Overachievers: Unione Venezia

Signing of the Season: Simone Andrea Ganz, €0 (Winner)

2016 Honours

TIM Cup: Fourth Qualifying Round

Serie A TIM: 11th

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Awesome! Another one trying the Italian lower leagues! Good luck!!

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Unusually for Venice, the picture isn't pretty.

General Information

Nation: Italy

Year Founded: 1907

Status: Professional

Reputation: Local

Nicknames: Arancioneroverdi (Orangeblackgreens), Lagunari (Lagooners), Leoni Alati (Winged Lions)

Chariman Status: Happy to stay

Legends: Mattia Collauto

Icons: Giuseppe Iachini, Gianfranco Bellotto, Giampiero Ventura

Favoured Personnel: None

Fierce Rivals: Verona, Mestre, Padova, Treviso, Vicenza, Triestina (read: everyone in the northeast)

Other Rivals: Udinese, Bologna, Cagliari, Trento, Parma, Bari, Atalanta, Torino

Finances: Secure

Average Ticket Price: €7.60

Average Season Ticket Price: €79.30

Season Ticket Holders: 1,000

Estimated Value: €1.7M

Continental Competition: - (to the best of my knowledge, Venezia have never played in Europe)

Media Prediction: 14th (optimistic right now)

Squad Personality: Fairly Determined

Captain: - (let's pretend it was John Divney...)

Vice-Captain: William Pianu

Facilities

Stadium Name: Pierluigi Penzo

Location: The island of Sant'Elena, Venice

Rent: €2.5K per year

Capacity: 7,500

Stadium Condition: Good

Under Soil Heating: No

Roof: No

Corporate Facilities: No corporate facilities

Training Facilities: Average training facilities

Youth Facilities: Basic youth facilities

Junior Coaching: Adequate junior coaching

Youth Recruitment: Fairly basic youth recruitment

Budget and Staff

Finances are hovering around the €1.4M mark, which is remarkable, and will probably not be the case remarkably soon. Transfer budget is a more modest but more than workable €210K (I intend to spend none of it), wages are €14.25K (currently ~€7K). Chairman Fiasco has put me on a two-year (!) contract at €1,200p/w, meaning I get paid a sixth of what the whole playing staff do. Expectations for the season are that we 'Consolidate', and given that Fiasco isn't willing to shell out any more cash if I outdo said expectations, I won't push it. For now it's just him, me, and 30 year-old wetnose assistant manager Massimiliano Vicini, who joined up a day before I did.

There are no players. Actual players, I mean. Technically there are eighteen first team players. 'Players' only in the nominal sense. Like, I am pretty sure they have played football at one time or another, possibly for money. Meanwhile, the reserves right now amounts to two individuals, while the entire youth team is a single solitary 16 year-old sitting morosely in the dirt with no one to play with. On the bright side, these rosters have a bunch of grey names on them, which means I'm paying hardly anyone! An early triumph! Whistling cheerily, I confront the first team.

For starters, four of them are teenagers; two of these are 16 years old, one of whom I am supposed to believe is a goalkeeper. Another four are over 30. Just three players are on full-time contracts, and two players are getting paid €2,000 every seven days. That is, two players are taking down more than a quarter of our current wage total each. This will not do. I have to axe them. I have to axe them to death.

The list of those worth keeping does not take long to read. Briefly aforementioned Maurizio Nassi already has too many miles on the clock (he's 35), but he's also a journeyman striker with fantastic determination who is only being paid €400p/w and may represent a cheap coaching option in the future. Central defender (and vice-captain) William Pianu appears dependable, but happens to be 36 and is also one of the two bare-faced thieves mentioned above whom I plan to eviscerate. Wouldn't you know it, the other scoundrel is also over 30: Davide Scantamburlo will be a tolerable left back for this club until I find a way to destroy him. More happily, Gaetano Lamonaca is a flexible if flimsy-looking attacking midfielder who is paid a modest sum and is only 29. Him I will keep. Ditto Matteo Talato, a central midfielder of surprising quality: two-footed, good technique, nice work rate and stamina, a sprightly 26 years old, and not overpaid.

Everyone else is old or bad or both. There's even an Ivorian defensive midfielder here who doesn't speak Italian and who I am pretty sure Venezia were not meant to be able to sign.

I place ads for a coach, a goalkeeping coach, and a scout. Then I call everyone I don't need into my office one by one and tell them the good (bad) news. One of the good things about not having a team, I guess, is that you get to build a team yourself.

From scratch.

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Summer Round-up 2012

Our first competitive game is away to Rimini on 9 September 2012. I was hired on 1 July. This gives me nine weeks or so to produce something like a football team. I start by selling almost everyone at the club, and even take a nasty free transfer hit on Scantamburlo when he refuses a mutual termination. Rot in obscurity, fat man. This €2Kp/w saving and a rejigging of the transfer budget gives me plenty of wages to play with. I even convince Pianu to come down €400p/w on a full-time contract that evaporates next summer. I should mention Lamonaca left because I am hapless and did not notice his contract was about to expire. He could not be tempted back.

The month of July passes in a haze of scout reports, trials, contract discussions, and signings. Soon I have a squad of some 20 full-time players (and even a 17 year-old youth prospect in Prince Addae!), with a pair of twin brothers on loan from Padova to pad out the full-back roles, and space for one more striker to complete a 23-man roster. It's a deep squad, likely deeper than I need, and in the end I found myself throwing cash at fairly average players to complete my defence, but I'm conscious that this is a full 38-game season with at least four Coppa Italia Lega Pro games to boot, the first of which is in late August. I have exactly one incompetent physio, and I don't want to trust my season to him. Besides, I am only spending €16Kp/w on wages, leaving me with a clean €1.5Kp/w left over for boat fare and hookers.

july2012transfers.jpg

The standouts: Matteo Caciagli, a 25 year-old who fits my requirement for an all-around decent deep-lying playmaker; Edoardo Lorenzini a 22 year-old, two-footed left back who is probably too good for this division; Alessandro Cesarini, who will play the fantasista role behind my strikers with a middling degree of fantasy; and Stefano Olivieri, a determined centre-back of 29 who should hopefully cover for Pianu's senior moments. Personal favourite? Divine Fonjock, born in Cameroon, who for €2.5K was willing to come play pacy midfield terrier for me, and will likely get sent off several times before the winter break. I nabbed three of these from Bassano in the division above, so they should be fine for my purposes. I suspect the current squad is competent enough to fill out the 4-3-1-2 that is my preferred formation. Let's see.

Unione Venezia 2 - 2 Torino (Friendly)

The biggest of our preseason friendlies. A remarkably balanced game from the start, though Torino have the better of the early chances, and my ball winner, Divine Fonjack, struggles to keep up with Torino's Marco Verratti in midfield. Then the unthinkable happens. On the stroke of half an hour, Francesco Corapi drifts a corner to the back post, and Stefano Olivieri climbs over two Torino defenders to head Venezia in front. Nine minutes later Liborio Bongiovanni plays a beautiful through pass for Maurizio Nassi, who skips a tackle and slams the ball into the top left corner from the edge of the area. Torino dominate the second half with superior passing, but it takes until the 82nd minute for them to break us down, with Francesco Caputo finally nipping ahead of a tired William Pianu to pull one back, before Marcelo Lorrando robs us of victory in stoppage time. A creditable draw nonetheless against a club that was just promoted to Serie A, and Olivieri is rightly named man of the match.

Unione Venezia 0 - 0 Ravenna (Friendly)

We dominate the first half in possession and passing, but struggle to approach goal. That proves to be the story of the second half, too, with Alessandro Cesarini in particular taking a number of wild shots from distance. Defensively we look solid, though, and our control of the game is such that I kindly tell the players they were unlucky not to win when things finish 0-0. The biggest event proves to be Matteo Talato injuring his knee and ruling himself out for a month.

Unione Venezia 1 - 1 Reggina (Friendly)

Tipped to finish 4th in Serie B this year, Reggina are a reasonably daunting prospect, but we keep the ball excellently in the first half and press almost as well without it. On 24 minutes my front pair combine exactly as they did against Torino and Massi strides ahead of his man to fire the ball across the keeper and into the far top corner. That's twice now that Bongiovanni has played a neat assist when dropping off the opponent's back line in a deep-lying forward role, and I'm pleased the two players are combining well in their first games. The lead doesn't last long, however: Pianu bundles over his man at a corner kick, and Alessio Pasquale Viola (pen.) converts the resultant penalty. The rest of the game is uneventful, but we finish with 61% possession and 79% pass completion against a side that only a few months ago were three divisions above us.

Unione Venezia 1 - 1 Civitanovese (Friendly)

This is meant to be a confidence builder, but we are already pretty confident. Civitanovese are a semi-professional club you will never hear of again. In the first half, Venezia have the ball 69% of the time. And 14 shots. One of which is on target. I have a quiet word with my strikers during the interval. Two minutes after the restart, Bongiovanni curls the ball in off the left upright from 30 yards for his first (unofficial) goal in a Venezia shirt. That'll do. We finish the game with 17 shots, two on target, but Civitanovese pull one back in stoppage time when my central defenders decide to have some sort of unscheduled downtime together on the penalty spot rather than mark Edoardo Parenti, who is 32 and wheezes when he runs. Worrisome.

Played four, drew four. Huh. At least our best performances came against better opposition, so that's promising. We shall see what the Coppa Italia Lega Pro holds.

Montichiari 0 - 2 Unione Venezia (Coppa Italia Lega Pro, Girone B)

We struggle to get the ball for the first twenty minutes against what should have been a slightly inferior Montichiari side, but gradually assert ourselves as the game goes on. On 55 minutes, Alessandro Cesarini capitalizes on a good spell of possession by bursting into the box and sliding the ball under the keeper. From then on the game is ours, and in the 81st minute a cross from substitute midfielder Catilani finds Bongiovanni, who does enough to loop a header into the far corner and seal the win. Still too many wasted chances, but we look comfortable and it's always satisfying to win your debut.

With the arrival of unwanted 23 year-old striker Mirco Bigazzi for €4K from Livorno, my squad is set at least until January. I was left with a slight selection headache up front, but then Bongiovanni was ruled out for four or five weeks when an overexuberant Fonjock broke his ribs in training. He joins substitute goalkeeper Matteo Bartolini, out with a sports hernia.

Unione Venezia 3 - 1 Feralpi Salò (Coppa Italia Lega Pro, Girone B)

It takes just five minutes for Nassi to burst onto a Cesarini through ball and thump in the game's opening goal. There are chances at both ends, but we have the better of it, with right full-back Claudio Grancitelli finding a lot of room to torment the weaker side of the three-man Feralpi Salò defence. We look even better after the break, and in the 64th minute new man Bigazzi lays it off in the box for Corapi to blast into the roof of the net. Ten minutes later man of the match Cesarini finds Nassi again to tuck away a third goal, though there is a suspicion of offside. Two minutes after that, veteran striker Christian Giménez fires home an excellent through ball at the near post to make things more respectable at 3-1. And that's how it ends. Possession 64%, pass completion 81%.

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Cant complain about the start considering how bleak a picture you painted!

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I'm actually not too worried about this stage, as you can outclass teams in the bottom tier within twelve to eighteen months just by beating them to free transfers. But it remains to be seen how the club's finances hold up over the course of the season, which is ultimately what kills you if you don't climb the divisions at a smooth pace. We have a decent stadium, though, and I suspect the support will be good.

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September 2012

Sambonifacese 1 - 1 Unione Venezia (Coppa Italia Lega Pro, Girone B)

A tight and tense game, but Venezia take the lead from a corner in the first half, with Pianu darting ahead of his marker to tap in from close range. Sambonifacese refuse to go away, though, and Alain Faccini levels things on 64 minutes from just inside the area, though Pipolo should have done better in goal. Evangelista Cunzi comes on for a disappointing Bigazzi and sees his trickling shot glance off the far post, but in the end a draw is what both teams deserve, and enough for Venezia to qualify from the group with a game to spare.

1,032 season tickets sold and we don't seem to be hemorrhaging cash just yet; there may be a solid enough base here to build from. Dispiriting training reports concerning Pianu and Nassi follow, but what can you expect from players of 36 and 35? Hopefully they can serve out this season at least.

Rimini 1 - 1 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Rimini were a Serie B team as recently as 2009, so I'm a little wary of them, though a quick scout report suggests our side is better in a number of respects, not least of which is a passing midfield, the key to our good form. We take the lead on 25 minutes: a loose ball at the edge of the box falls to Cesarini, who plays the simplest pass for Nassi to run onto. A goalmouth scramble minutes later could have added a second, but Cesarini fouls his man. Nassi then squirms through the defence to fire wide a third good opportunity, before having a second goal ruled out for offside. The game is finely balanced at half time, with Venezia edging the chances. I try to settle the team down and focus on keeping the ball in the second 45, but a chipped cross finds Capodaglio completely unmarked at the near post. Neither side does enough to go on and win the thing, and we're left with another so-so draw to begin our league campaign.

Unione Venezia 2 - 0 Casale (Coppa Italia Lega Pro, Girone B)

We start strongly and win a succession of threatening dead balls around the area. Finally a Bigazzi shot bounces off Casale defender Vignale (o.g.) and rolls into the net. We maintain our dominance after that, and on the stroke of half-time Nassi releases Bigazzi to slide home his first proper Venezia goal. It proves hard to keep the complacency out of our game in the second half, however, while Bigazzi has to go off early with a knock. We stroll to the top of the group nonetheless.

september2012cilpgb.jpg

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Great Lega Pro Coppa Italia results! And not a bad league start either.

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The cup continues to be good: only one Prima Divisone team drawn in my next two rounds, though it is Taranto, predicted to finish 2nd in Girone A this year. First I will have to beat Fondi away in October. I'm not too pushed about the cup, though, as climbing the league has to take priority.

Unione Venezia 2 - 1 Salerno (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

A flurry of free kicks and a half-volley off the crossbar are the highlights of our first half effort, but it's Salerno who take the lead through their main threat, veteran striker Biancolino. The scoreline is remedied just before halfline, with Cesarini landing a rather tame shot past the keeper. This game is otherwise pretty dull. I make my displeasure known at the break, and the team responds well, turning that enthusiasm into possession and tidy passes. Fonjock finds Cesarini for a second goal and from there we close out the game against the odds with 65% possession, though we could and should have scored more. Lorenzi picks up a knock that will see him sidelined for 12 days.

2012septunbeaten.jpg

Voghera 0 - 0 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

The Voghera boss has the audacity to tell the press beforehand that my squad is weak. In response, I more or less set up camp in his penalty area for the first half of this game, racking up 78% possession. There are goalmouth scrambles. We hit the woodwork twice. Nothing goes in. I make my desire to see Voghera players broken over my knee plain, and we go back out for more of the same. Eventually they give away a penalty, which makes sense given we are basically squatting in their box. Cunzi steps up and coolly misses. I hurl my clipboard.

Unione Venezia 3 - 0 Sambonifacese (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

This is more like it. Attacking midfielder Corapi floats one in from the edge of the area after only 10 minutes, then hits the angle of post and bar from even further out fifteen minutes later. Sergio Carnesalini finds space down the flank to square it for a sliding Nassi finish from inside the six-yard box to make it 2-0 before the break. On 52 minutes, Cesarini skips a tackle and slips in a third from 20 yards. Sambonifacese barely have an effort on our goal. A very solid performance against a team we drew with in the cup less than a month earlier.

That sees us up to the end of September, unbeaten in all competitions and sitting sixth in the league, just inside the playoff spaces. October opens with an away game against leaders Ravenna. For the second month in a row we lose about ~€60K, meanwhile, which is more than tolerable given how healthy our finances are for this level; our % attendance by capacity is also the highest in the league.

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October 2012

Ravenna 1 - 3 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

A scrappy game from the outset, but we hold our own and Nassi has a goal ruled out for offside. Chances are hard to come by, but Cesarini is finding plenty of space between the lines of Ravenna's 4-4-2; he whips in a cross that Ravenna somehow scramble into their own net via Mirco Mainini (o.g.). At half-time I calmly explain my disappointment with our lack of control over the game, and the players respond well. A more composed team move ends with the returning Bongiovanni rolling the ball into the path of Caciagli, who plows it home from just inside the area. Bigazzi adds a third from another Cesarini assist, before Fiorotto pulls one back with an unmarked header from a corner with Pipolo stranded. The keeper redeems himself somewhat by going full stretch to deny a thunderbolt from range, but in the end it's all too comfortable. Ravenna slump to their first league defeat of the year, Cesarini is man of the match for the fifth time this season, and Venezia are now in second.

Unione Venezia 3 - 0 Atletico Arezzo (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Arezzo are on a vicious losing streak and bottom of the league. It takes Cesarini six minutes to unlock the defence, with Bigazzi firing us in front. Flexible defender Francesco Mazzarani (pen.), playing at left back today, adds a second from the penalty spot. Just before the half-time whistle, Nassi gets out wide and pulls it back for a role-reversal goal from Cesarini, his fifth in ten games. The rest of the game passes without incident, and I use the opportunity to get some substitutes playing time. 73% possession, 88% passing, and top of the table for the time being.

Fondi 0 - 0 Unione Venezia [2-0 aet] (Coppa Italia Lega Pro, First Round)

I rest several players for this cup encounter, and it ends up being a thoroughly drab affair, with few chances of note for either team. It drags on into extra time, when Fondi's Vaccaro launches a shot from way out that cannons back off the bar and lands neatly for Merlonghi to pass into an unguarded net. Venezia rush forward in the second period, but then an excellent Alleruzzo free kick seals our defeat. A poor match, but we deserved to lose against the more clinical Fondi. Our first defeat under my management comes after 10 competitive matches and 14 in all.

I schedule a team meeting to congratulate the team on their performances so far this season, and they respond by slapping each other on the back and babbling about how superb they believe themselves to be. Well, at least it raises morale.

Lecco 1 - 1 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Pre-match scouting tells me Lecco are a hard-working side that might cause me problems away from home (fun fact: I have yet to fail to win at Pierluigi Penzo this year; my form on the road is less impressive). We look exposed at right back from the start, and soon enough a cross is drifted in for Temelin to head home. Lecco looks all at sea during set pieces, though, and a Cesarini free kick somehow finds its way to the feet of Olivieri to tap in. We assert ourselves better in the second half, but the opposition defence prove difficult to break down and we scuff our few chances. Temelin has a second goal wrongly disallowed for offside in the 81st minute. Lecco then go down to ten men, but we fail to capitalize. Another 1-1 away draw, nothing more.

Unione Venezia 1 - 2 San Marino (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

I will be providing no more fun facts. Sure, I suspected this would be tough, especially with Fonjock suspended for repeated yellow cards, but I wasn't expecting to go two goals down inside 14 minutes. Both come from a man called D'Antoni, whom I was perfectly cordial about after the game, let me tell you. Despite having the better of things, our finishing lets us down. Nassi finally pulls one back after the break, slamming the ball off the underside of the crossbar from a narrow angle. Yet despite having 70% of the possession in this game, we can't get the goals we need, and end up dropping to fifth in the league as a result. San Marino, meanwhile, have two efforts on goal all game, and both fly in.

To top it all, Talato fractures his arm, and so is set to miss another month of the season at least, while Catinali is out for two weeks with a bruised thigh. Left-back Lorenzini joins them on the table with a strained wrist suffered in training.

Cosenza 1 - 6 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Cosenza are managerless and in real trouble at the moment, so I see this as a good game to get our form back. Cesarini finds Bigazzi after two minutes and we're off. Ten minutes later the two players combine again to find Corapi, who duly buries it. The midfielder returns the favour from a corner kick, finding Bigazzi's head for three, before Verrecchia pulls one back for Cosenza on a counter-attack. If there were any doubts, they are dismissed after the restart, when Fonjock's mazy dribble into the box is interrupted and the ball falls to Nassi. A Corapi through ball in the 75th minute allows Cesarini to add his name to the score sheet. Finally, in stoppage time, Bigazzi nabs the ball off a trembling Cosenza defender to complete his hat-trick.

oct2012thrashcosenza.jpg

A solid end to an otherwise up and down October. Board update reports a similar loss to the previous two months, so I am confident now we'll continue to be financially stable at least this season and next.

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November 2012

Montichiari 2 - 4 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

We put two past this same team in the cup at the start of the season, and although they've improved since then I am still confident of a follow-up league win. Nassi opens the scoring with an assist from Bigazzi, before a nothing penalty is converted easily by Mazzarani (pen.). In the 81st minute Bigazzi heads in a Carnesalini cross and the job looks done. Sadly, Saleri adds a twinge of embarrassment by dispossessing a dithering Pianu and chipping Bartolini in goal. Montichiari finish with ten men, and Caciagli (pen.) converts a second spot kick. Yet straight from the restart Montichiari waltz down the field and add a second through Murano in the game's hectic conclusion. Two away victories in a row, but we still look less than perfect at the back.

nov2012goals.jpg

Unione Venezia 2 - 1 Como (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

It's raining in Venice. Nassi's early goal is ruled out for offside. Contestably. Como are silly enough to try tackling Cesarini in their own box, however, and Mazzarani (pen.) converts his third penalty of the season. Despite our dominance, a long ball catches Pianu out early in the second half and Tramontano has the nerve to equalize. All is ruined. Then, in the 94th minute, a Mazzarani cross squirms across the slippery box and Nassi is the first to the ball ahead of, like, five defenders. The rain stops. How's Lake Como this time of year? Miserable, I bet.

nov2012comosack.jpg

Unione Venezia 2 - 0 Poggibonsi (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

According to the media, Poggibonsi are at the wrong end of the table. But so are we. The rain is back, heavier than before, and the slick surface makes our passing game that little bit harder to assert at first. The mucky pitch also causes a few niggling injuries, and I go into the second half with Cesarini and Bigazzi drying off on the bench. In the end, Poggibonsi prove as incapable of clearing their lines as Como did, and a bobbling pass is smashed home by Nassi on 64 minutes. Not fifteen minutes later, Bongiovanni pulls another loose ball back for Tissone to place his shot and score his first goal for Venezia.

Casale lose their game the following night, and so for the moment we are joint first with Ravenna, though our next game is a top of the table clash away to the former club. Disaster strikes on the eve of the game, as our star player Alessandro Cesarini suffers an ankle injury that will leave him out until Christmas. In answer to the cruel gods, I mercilessly taunt Casale's mediocre goalkeeper in public. Now he is very sad.

Casale 1 - 3 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

The first half of this, our biggest game of the season so far, is a damp squib, and Tissone looks lost as Cesarini's stand-in. Then, straight after half-time, an extended move finds Corapi free for Bigazzi's lay-off. He buries it top corner:

[video=youtube;GCmJBn_E7rg]

All is forgiven in the 55th minute as Tissone pounces on another rebounding shot from Corapi to make it 2-0. The Casale fans abandon their own stadium before the 80th minute, and so miss Bongiovanni playing Corapi in for a second precise finish. He walks off with the match ball, as they say. A late, sloppy Cosimo Tedesco goal from an indirect free kick is the only disappointment. We find ourselves alone with Ravenna at the top of the league.

Unione Venezia 4 - 0 Mantova (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Mantova are strong and possess a superb inside forward in Mirko Barocelli, who's scored 12 times so far this season. Yet four minutes in Caciagli plots a course through a crowded box to slip in the opening goal at the near post, and after that we don't look too humble. Olivieri's free kick from all the way back in our half is lofted over the clueless Mantova defence and Nassi is assured in his finish. Just after the break Nassi places another sharp shot in the bottom corner from a neat Corapi assist. Mantova are one of the few sides we've faced who play a three-man midfield, but theirs simply can't keep up with ours; Catinali is given all the space and time in the world to play an immaculate 30-yard pass for Bigazzi to drift onto from the flank and fire in. Nassi misses a spot kick after Mazzarani is hauled down and can't continue, but this is just about the only flaw in an all-around performance I want to print out and frame on my wall. Mantova finish with an average rating of 5.86 and Barocelli hobbling.

nov2012wins.jpg

Avellino 1 - 2 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Avellino! That's where Tony Soprano's family were from! Andrea Parentela does his best to whack us by scoring his 11th goal of the season, a rolling shot from the edge of the area on 41 minutes that Pipolo really should have saved. We are disappointingly humdrum until late in the game. Bigazzi misses a breakaway sitter in the 81st, but then sets things right a minute later by fouling his man, blatantly handling the ball to control it, and then just about glancing an insipid finish off the inside of the post. Avellino (and their fans) are rightly furious, but then almost score themselves from the restart: a sublime Parentela flick sets Ercolano free, but he can only hit the woodwork. At last, in stoppage time, Moi scythes down Corapi on the edge of the area, and substitute striker Evangelista Cunzi, undeniably our worst player so far this season, floats his free kick just under the bar. Suck it, Sopranos. At the final whistle, I drain my water bottle with a flourish and drop kick it into the crowd.

San Marino beat Ravenna 1-0 at home that same afternoon; we finish an immaculate November three points clear. Well, immaculate apart from the injury list, to which you can add right-back Carnesalisi. He tore his calf muscle against Avellino and is out for at least five months.

Just four games remain now until the winter break.

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December 2012

With the January transfer window fast approaching, I start thinking about how to improve the squad on a shoestring budget. First is the cruel but necessary decision to let Carnesalisi go: his contract isn't worth much, he's out for most of the rest of the season, and I need someone to cover for the centre-back positions since he no longer can. It also means I free up his wages for dealings later in the month. He's been good, mostly at right-back, and I feel bad watching him cross the field at Pierluigi Penzo for the final time. On crutches, of course.

Second, I convince Antoniol, a rotation midfielder I don't think I've ever mentioned before because he is so very innocuous, that we need him off the wage budget. I soon find three clubs willing to pay a little cash for him, which is all the better given he arrived for free. Third, I utterly fail to convince Cunzi that he needs to go as well. He is overpaid and has proved all but redundant save for that free kick goal. Sadly, the clubs around me seem to recognize as much and balk at the prospect of paying him anything near what I already do. I'll try to stoke up some interest again later.

Lastly, and most importantly, I set my scouting team working feverishly and in secret to find out whose contracts are expiring in the next seven months or so, and how much they might need each week to don the sainted arancioneroverdi come the summer. I don't have much to go around, even with the above offloads.

Unione Venezia 0 - 1 Valenzana (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

It's always the nothing sides that get you. We dominate from the first whistle, but 13th place Valenzana sit deep in two rows of four and are content to have us play around them. Nassi's finishing is uncharacteristically dreadful, and in the 75th minute Lazzar scores with Valenzana's only shot of the game. We lose while maintaining 70% possession. The dressing room is very quiet afterwards. At least until I get there.

Unione Venezia 1 - 0 Andria BAT (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Our last defeat and the spectre of January sales have the team a little shaken, so I do my best to calm their nerves. Back on penalty duties, Mazzarani (pen.) makes it four from four this year after Nassi is tripped in the box early on. Olivieri also pounds a header off the crossbar with the keeper beaten. In the end the scoreline doesn't reflect the control we had over this game, but the three points against a team placed fifth are what matters, especially with Ravenna slipping up away to Como to send us clear at the top once more.

Out of nowhere a scout sent to find free transfers turns up Emanuele Suagher, a 20 year-old centre-back, formerly of Atalanta, already as good as Olivieri: fitting cover for my backline today, and maybe even a starter when Pianu's contract expires.

Teramo 0 - 1 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Teramo are deeply entrenched in the relegation zone, so I take the opportunity to keep a few rotation players happy. Talato repays my charity by blazing over from distance no less than three times. For the third game in a row we struggle to find goals; I am now very conscious of Cesarini's long absence, though he's back in training at last this week. Finally, in the 81st minute, a low Grancitelli cross finds Bongiovanni standing almost on the penalty spot, and he just about manages to put it in the corner of the net. Teramo thump the underside of the crossbar late on, but we grind out the result in the end. I have unkind words for everyone except Grancitelli, who is the only bright note in this subpar performance. Ravenna, meanwhile, drop points hosting Montichiari, and we are now five points ahead of them and Casale.

Suagher signs until 2015 after this game, and suddenly I feel more secure at the back; club legend Mattia Collauto even nods his approval from a passing gondola.

Unione Venezia 2 - 0 Santarcangelo (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

In this universe, at least, Santarcangelo are just about pressing for a playoff spot against expectations. A Caciagli corner finds the boot of Olivieri straight away at the far post, much to my relief given our recent performances. After that, though, it's a fairly tedious affair in the drizzle and mud, which is unfortunate given the board have chosen this as a fan day. My side look complacent and all too eager for the three-week winter break; little do they know I've lined up a friendly against Bologna. In the second half, Corapi fires a shot from the edge of the area that slithers in against the near post and we run out comfortable winners with 68% possession. Apologies to Andrea Managerino, wherever he may be.

So ends the first half of the season. Full retrospective and winter break round-up to come.

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Yeah, but that usually means some mid-table nobodies are lurking to bring me down to earth. :p

I bring it on myself, really.

Fantastic start to the season. KUTGW.
Agree with Pangaea!

Thanks for reading!

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Yeah, but that usually means some mid-table nobodies are lurking to bring me down to earth. :p

Well you had that, then went back on a roll.

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Winter Round-up 2012

Table as it stands at the end of December:

2012decleaguetable.jpg

Against all expectations, Unione Venezia are clear winter champions. Our dominance extends into the Girone A player statistics, too:

2012decplayerstats.jpg

And here is the squad in descending order of quality for that period:

2012decsquad.jpg

Who would have thought it would be the 30+ year-olds who reliably played the most minutes? Cesarini's absence was not critical on the whole, so I can't wait to see how we fare with him back in the side.

Turns out there is plenty to resolve during this off-period. For one thing, contracts for some of my staff are up in the summer. I renegotiate the terms of two of my three scouts until 2014 and decide to offer the third mutual termination: it's a tiny fee, but I won't need scouts in earnest until next summer, and it frees up some of the budget. Doubt remains in my mind as to whether to stick with Massimiliano Vicini as assistant manager, too; his stats are all right, he's young, and he's currently paid €375p/w, but is there better to be found out there? It shouldn't be difficult to sew his contract up closer to the time if needs be, so I let him remain the Watson to my Holmes for now.

We have no wages to play with until Cunzi leave the club. Unlike Antoniol, he's accepted a 'buyer': despite my best efforts he's changing clubs for the princely sum of nothing, but since he arrived on a free transfer and was always overpaid, I'm not too distraught. He won't be gone until the transfer window opens, of course, which means I have to wait a few days before firing in offers for whichever I please of the fifteen or so contract expiry candidates my scouts have lined up.

Unione Venezia 0 - 1 Bologna (Friendly)

Bologna are currently sitting 18th in Serie A, but we are still predicted to lose by three or four goals. As we have in just about every game this season, we keep the ball from our opponents and busily pass it around, yet all it takes is one clever Diamanti through ball for Schneiderlin to leave us trailing. It remains a surprisingly balanced game after the interval, and we even have a smattering of chances from set pieces. Afterwards I tell the team I'm pleased with their performance despite the result, and it's true: 65% possession and 87% pass completion in a friendly against any Serie A side, however demoralized, is nothing shameful.

On 1 January 2013, my board approach me with the opportunity to shift expectations upwards from 'Consolidate'. I jump at the chance, telling them I can definitely secure promotion if not the title itself, and they reward me with a slightly increased wage budget and €75K to spend on players. I immediately shunt the latter into a further increase in wages and then pick up the phone to approach some of my transfer targets. For the time being, my wage budget is down about ~€1.5K from what it's been the past few months.

My scouts also turn up another gem: 21 year-old attacking right back Andrea Grieco, formerly of Sampdoria, who has good physical stats and crosses excellently. Como and Avellino are putting in offers too, though, so I take the hit and tempt him with a release clause sweetener that may come back to haunt me. As this is happening, I snatch Como's star striker Francesco Ripa from under them. With 17 goals in 17 starts this year, he's arguably the best marksman at this level, and will join me in July as a replacement for the flagging Nassi. Also arriving will be 29 year-old Nocerina centre-back Marco Pomante, albeit on an exorbitant contract so riddled with clauses I am not sure he will ever see the thing out. But he should ensure our central defence is as good as any other if we make it to the Prima Divisione this year. When accepting, both players admit they were impressed with my league standing. I file my nails, yawning.

Mantova, Andria BAT, Pro Vercelli, and Bassano all join the squabble over Grieco during the following week, but before that deal can be resolved we're back in action in the league, hosting Rimini at Pierluigi Penzo.

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January 2013

Unione Venezia 2 - 1 Rimini (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Starting up front for Rimini, incidentally, is one Evangelista Cunzi; I tell my defence not to be subtle in their tackling. We're soon a goal up, in any case, with Pianu forcing the ball over the line from a corner after an Olivieri header richocheted down off the crossbar. Cesarini's still not fully fit, but he's lively enough to release Nassi for his tenth league goal and his first in as many matches as I can remember. It's just like old times. Although he did just turn 36. Rimini pull one back through Christian Monac (assist: Evangelista Cunzi, that joker) before the break, but the remainder of the game is a calmer affair, and we run out deserving winners. And eight points clear now, incidentally, as Casale ease past Ravenna by a single goal to go second. We have a positive team meeting in which everyone is pleased with themselves, especially me.

Things get even better when Andrea Grieco chooses us ahead of six other clubs, though he makes no friends by immediately describing our beloved club as a mere "stepping stone on the path to stardom". Uh-huh. Son, Venice itself is stardom. You just don't realize it yet. We close out the transfer window by sending one of the Beccaro loan twins back to Padova (I forget which one, but he had played zero compeitive minutes) and bringing in Chievo's 21 year-old poacher Giovanni Madiotto until June as short-term cover up front. Call me paranoid. We're back to a 23-man squad for the time being, anyway, and it's just about time for Suagher to step into our backline, as Pianu turned 37 in December and my coaching staff tell me he's fading fast.

Salerno 0 - 1 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Salerno in the mist. A back and forth contest, but we're edging it by half-time. Corapi plays it forward for Cesarini, who squeezes it in past the keeper from outside the area for goal number seven of the season, and then almost repeats the trick minutes later. We've missed you, Alessandro. In the second period, players start to drop like flies: Grieco and Corapi both limp off the field. We look nervy and Salerno look desperate, even sending their keeper up in stoppage time, but despite possibly committing a foul in our own box we hang on and ride it out. My injured players turn out to be just fine, too.

I then receive the curious news that my coming top of the table clash with Ravenna has been rescheduled for live television coverage. I am to receive €4,500 for this! We've hit the big time, boys.

Unione Venezia 2 - 0 Voghera (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Do you remember lowly Voghera, who clung to 0-0 all the way back in September? They are in my house now. We are 1-6 favourites. They have 11 points from 21 matches, and have conceded more than 40 goals. I will add to that tally. I must. For 40 minutes it's the same story as of old: total dominance, plenty of chances, nothing sticks. Then Corapi gets his head around a flighted Nassi cross and puts us in front. I am elated. I am baying for blood. But complacency creeps into our game, and in the second half Pipolo is forced to make his first save from a Voghera effort across both 'legs' of this tie. I scream abuse from the sideline. I may even gesticulate. At last, on 81 minutes, substitute Bongiovanni strokes in a Corapi through ball, and I can rest. They are beaten. It is done. 13 victories in our last 14 games. And we are now 10 points clear.

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You're halfway up already.

Yep, and I suspect we'll do better in the second half: squad has improved and match preparation is better. Our worst enemy right now is probably the weather, because we're so reliant on short passes and possession football.

Oh, and Cesarini is back.

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February 2013

Sambonifacese 1 - 1 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Replacing the misfiring Bigazzi, Bongiovanni takes 16 minutes to hook a left-footed shot into the top corner from yet another Corapi assist. Neither side excels in this one, but we appear to have enough of an advantage to get away with it. Bongiovanni even has a second goal (correctly) called offside. But then, out of nowhere, what looks like a wild shot by Manfredini is turned in at our far post by Marco Valtulina and we go into the break as we started. A nervousness creeps into our game; it's been a while since we've struggled this much. I bring on Bigazzi, only for him to miss a sitter. It clearly isn't our day, and yet with Ravenna and Casale both dropping points, we still extend our lead to 11 points.

Morale is surprisingly mediocre at the moment, I suspect because of the mounting pressure on the team to sustain this streak and win the league. I do my best to reassure and calm them, even hosting another congratulatory team meeting, but many faces still look glum afterwards. Tissone, not content with the amount of football he's getting, asks to leave. I tell him I'll let him go at the end of the season, and he walks away satisfied.

Unione Venezia 1 - 0 Ravenna (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

This one's on telly. We can move 14 points ahead of Ravenna with a victory at Pierluigi Penzo today, and we need to keep up that momentum, because Casale closed the gap to 8 points in the earlier afternoon game. It's sleeting in Venice, the field is clogged, and none of this should look very appealing for the viewers at home. The football on display isn't much better, with both sides making careless errors in the early stages. Then, from his own corner kick, Cesarini picks up a return pass, dribbles into the box, and threads a low, slow, curling shot inside the near post. He comes alive after that, beating defenders at will, and drawing a full-stretch save from Tomassini. Ravenna have chances of their own, mainly from counter attacks, and for once we're not dominating possession. I try to tempt Ravenna into a congested middle where my players should outclass theirs, but the weather is making it tricky for us to play our usual short passes. It's a less than televisual encounter, all in all, but in the end we are marginally the better team, and the scoreline reflects that.

The result also gives us a much-needed lift in the dressing room, though third-choice goalkeeper Luciani is the latest to request first-team football; at 18 years of age, he has the potential to be better than my other options, so I may give in to his demands within the next month.

Atletico Arezzo 0 - 2 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Poor Arezzo are rooted to the foot of the table with just 8 points; they've been breaking divisional records for games without a win this year. They decide to concede the midfield, line up with five defenders, and brutalize us whenever we set foot in their half. To my disgust, I lose Nassi and Cesarini to injuries inside the first 30 minutes. It then takes 55 minutes to find a way through: a Bongiovanni shot is saved but bounces to Bigazzi, who ends his goal drought by rolling the ball into an empty net. Arezzo respond by seeking out Christian Tissone and kicking him to pieces. We go about our business anyway, with Corapi finding Olivieri from a free kick for a second goal. Bigazzi is taken out when clear for a third, and Arezzo deservedly finish the game with ten men. Tissone, it turns out, is fine. Cesarini will one game with a dead leg. But Nassi has suffered a torn calf muscle and will miss the rest of the season. This likely means the ignominious end to his career in football, so Arezzo no longer have my sympathy. I hope they never return from Serie D.

Unione Venezia 4 - 2 Lecco (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Sloppy Lecco defending allows Bigazzi to win the ball and slash it into the far bottom corner just 16 minutes into this match. Just before half-time, a further comedy of errors in the Lecco box ends with Corapi sliding in to ease the ball over the line and make it 2-0. Despite my best efforts, the team goes into the second half believing the game to be over. On 56 minutes Olivieri gives away a silly penalty for Rebecchi (pen.) to convert. After that, our complacency turns into nervousness. Bongiovanni blazes away a gold-plated opportunity to seal the win, but gets it right in the 76th minute after Grieco slips a superb pass through the defence. The right-back gets a second assist of sorts for a Corapi finish in a crowded box, though the goal is attributed to Tabbiani (o.g.). A drop in concentration means Suriano bags a second for Lecco at the death, but we maintain our 14-point lead over Casale.

Cunzi update: two goals in his first three starts for Rimini. Of course.

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Thats some good form in your last few matches - the win against Lecco must have been a relief afer their second half performance.

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Thanks, guys. The Lecco result wasn't really a relief, just annoying that we didn't shut it down at 2-0 up. We were our own worst enemies mentally, which has been the case for about a month now and I'm not entirely sure why. We're still getting the results at least.

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BOOOOOO (at beating us 2-0 ;) )

Great play otherwise, you look destined for the title!

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March 2013

San Marino 0 - 0 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Bongiovanni spurns a clear opportunity in the 16th minute, and San Marino are having the better of the play generally. It takes some screaming and roaring from the touchline before we get the ball back and end the half as we began. Our best of the game falls to Olivieri, who rockets a header off the underside of the bar from a Talato corner. Sadly, the ball bounces clear. He draws a save from good the San Marino goalkeeper at a second attempt, but this drab game ultimately plays out as a scoreless draw. It disappoints me particularly because it means we have failed to beat San Marino home and away this season. Also, Fonjock picks up a second suspension for his eight yellow cards in the league.

Our game against Cosenza is postponed because of a waterlogged (Venetian!) pitch and will now be played ten days later. That means our next match is the sterner away test at Como. And our frontline starts to look pretty thin, as Bongiovanni pulls up with a thigh strain.

Como 1 - 3 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

I instruct my players to keep a close eye on future Venezia star Francesco Ripa, but we're the ones who start brightest, with an Olivieri header being cleared off the line just eight minutes in. We plot an excellent passing move minutes later, but loan man Madiotto's finish is woeful. At the other end, Olivieri allows a stray pass to bounce through his legs, and Ripa is ready to pounce. Cesarini then levels the score from a delightful Corapi through ball. It's nervy youngster Madiotto who fires us in front after the break, turning in a superb Lorenzini cross with his head. Then he goes down injured and Cesarini is forced to adopt an emergency role up front alongside Bigazzi. Como have little to offer in the second half, and Olivieri surprisingly leads a charge out of defence and redeems his earlier error by squeezing the ball under the keeper for three. He also picks up a yellow card that rules him out of the next match.

2013marunbeaten.jpg

More rain results in the Montichiari match being postponed, too, so our schedule for the next month or so looks draining. Our first youth crop also arrives in this period, and though I wasn't expecting much, there turn out to be three kids with potential that are worth snapping up.

2013maryouth.jpg

I keep getting morose phone calls from journalist Alessio Greco, asking me to respond to the Lega Pro establishment as they have their say about Venezia's unexpected spell of dominance. I dole out a few choice quips, pretend never to have heard of Rimini's spiteful manager, that sort of thing. Alessio is a wily old newshound that smokes Gauloises and cares little for anything that has happened in the footballing world since Italy's victory over Germany in the 1970 World Cup. I can hear the old man tut-tutting to himself as he takes notes down the phone. All this fuss is making his job busier, I admit.

Unione Venezia 2 - 0 Cosenza (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

It's a fairly depleted side that takes to the field. Even Fonjock, back from suspension, is now out with a virus. Cosenza are just outside the playout zone, and although they probably do want revenge for the 6-1 beating I administered way back in 2012, it is not theirs to take. After 28 minutes, Cesarini squares it for Bigazzi to nudge in at the back post with his right foot. Madiotto does the same with his head in the second half from a perfectly flighted Caciagli free kick. Deep in the 92nd minute, 22 year-old Cosenza midfielder Riccardo De Pasquale, place of birth unknown, flights his team's only shot of the game from a few yards outside the area. It is a hopeful hit, sweetly struck, full of ambition and the prospect of joy. For a precious moment it reminds Riccardo of the football of his youth, a simple game as yet unspoiled by the harsh appraisals of scouts and the dour realities of daily life. He thinks of the joy he and his schoolmates could extract from just a simple bit of leather, imagining themselves to be the heroes of their youth: Totti, perhaps, or Del Piero. But Riccardo isn't thinking of those stars, no. He's thinking of Stefano Fiore, who was born in Cosenza, who began and ended his career there, who is a hero to these travelling fans, and who, just once, two weeks before Riccardo De Pasquale's tenth birthday, struck a ball so sweetly and true for his country that the flight of it entered immediately into a young boy's soul and nestled there, preserving him through all the long years and small disappointments that accompany one toiling in the lower tiers of professional football. Riccardo thinks of Fiore's goal against Belgium, yes, and for a moment he can envision his own shot as a mirror image of that one, as a shard of some future as yet unrealized, in which he no longer plays for relegation-bound Cosenza, is no longer a bit-part player released carelessly, callously, by smug Catania, but a midfielder of note and modest renown, one who might one day rise above all the minor calamities of this unfulfilled career and don the jersey of the Azzurri himself. He sees himself spirited away from here, far from the dim lights of Lega Pro Seconda Divisione (Girone A), to a place more magical and yet more real, that footballing world he imagined and adored and raced toward as a child. The ball he has struck flies, and flies, and flies over the bar, still rising, until it lands somewhere gloomy in the stands and is punctured by a vicious thug. The whistle blows. The game is over, and with are finished all of Riccardo De Pasquale's hopes.

Poggibonsi 4 - 1 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

It's dry, hot, and sunny in Tuscany. We have a game in hand over Casale and can go 15 points clear if relegation battlers Poggibonsi will politely lie down and take it. In the 31st minute experienced striker Thomas Bachlechner rids himself of his marker and strokes in a goal for the home side. Bigazzi remedies things by firing in a cross for Madiotto to bury his third goal in as many games. Then Luigi Sala, a 39 year-old centre-back, finds space at a corner to head Poggibonsi back in front. And it's Sala again who nods in their third from a free kick just after half time. Pera strokes number four past a floundering Luciani from outside the area to round off our worst defeat of the season and end a 13-game unbeaten run. My team trudge back to the dressing room in sweaty silence. I close the door behind them, and lock it.

In spite of this horrendous performance, we secure a playoff spot numerically. But my team are mentally shaken and physically tired: the combination of untimely injuries and rescheduled matches is starting to take its toll.

Unione Venezia 0 - 0 Montichiari (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

I rest whom I can ahead of our head-to-head with Casale at the weekend. Also, Olivieri and Grieco talked back to me during my private dressings-down of the defence following the Poggibonsi affair, so they start on the bench. Pietro Pipolo returns to goal; Luciani has had his chance, and pooped all over it. Speaking of which, the pitch is in truly dreadful condition, and I am forced to play more directly than usual, which means we struggle to take hold of the game. The most notable thing, in the end, is the number of cards we pick up splashing about in the mud. Left-back Lorenzini will be suspended for Saturday's clash.

A muted team meeting does little to lift Venetian spirits: despite our towering league performance overall, this month has been exhausting. Ravenna manager Giorgetti doesn't help by sniping at me during a press conference, and when Alessio calls me for comment, I point out that we beat the Leoni home and away this season.

"Mister," he sighs, before hanging up, "there will only be more battles." He almost sounds affectionate.

Unione Venezia 2 - 1 Casale (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

More wet. More wind. Casale dent our crossbar with a free kick after three minutes, then Gambadori powers home a header from yet another poorly defended corner. For nearly half an hour there is only one team in it, but then a Cesarini cross bounces comically off Gambadori (o.g.) at the other end to make things right. My defence looks as shaky as they did against Poggibonsi, and despite my attempts to restore calm during the break, the game resumes with more of the same scrappy fare. Then Casale winger Lillo attempts a scurrilous dive in our box and is shown the game's eleventh yellow card, and his second. Nine minutes later, Natale Gonnella receives yellow number thirteen and also walks. Our heads lift. We push forward, play wider. In the 91st minute, Christian Tissone collects a throw into the box, thumps his shot against a defender's knee, nearly falls over trying to control the rebound, and then tucks the ball under the keeper. 5,500 onlookers won't remember how poor the other 90 minutes were, but they will surely remember this.

15 points clear. Six games remaining. We won't be caught.

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Yeah, that put it beyond doubt, but I am 100% certain we wouldn't have won if they hadn't got two men sent off.

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Ah, I love the Italian lower leagues on FM!

Always wanted to try the challenge with Venezia! This will make a great save, I'm sure!

Fantastic start. Do you think that starting semi-pro has made a difference? I guess you probably won't know but just thought I would ask the question anyway!

KUTGW!

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I'm able to motivate my players reasonably well in this first season (though they still don't always accept, e.g., training criticisms when I put my foot down and tell them they should listen because I pick the team), so yeah, I imagine it's made it easier than starting with the reputation you have. But it didn't make sense to me for a young Irishman who's never even played at Serie D level to take over to be put in charge of a club that once played in Serie A, and as you can probably tell by reading, I like a sense of realistic narrative to a save. I have another career in mind where the goal is to start in the Irish second division and then win a major tournament with the national team (or else do the same for Hungary), and I'll probably start with the lowest rep for that.

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I'm sure you know that I wasn't implying any criticism Shake Appeal. I can see that you have a back story etc. to your save, so no issues with that, and I'm with you on the realism front. :thup:

Good luck with this. I think it's going to be really interesting to see you build the club up. As I said above, I toyed with taking over the same club on FM11 but didn't ever get into the save at the time. So I'm really looking forward to watching your progress!

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No worries, I didn't take it as a criticism. SI have said before that your starting reputation is more or less the game's difficulty setting, so I just see it as starting on level 3 difficulty instead of level 4. I do love the idea of taking on an even bigger challenge, but I think I'm pretty committed to this save (really loving it so far, the club, my team, the new FM) for the foreseeable future.

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Just stumbled across this excellently written thread :thup:

What a great first season you're having in Venice. KUTGW!

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All good stuff so far. Good luck for the rest of the season - not that you'll need it, being top of the pile and uncatchable :)

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Just stumbled across this excellently written thread :thup:

What a great first season you're having in Venice. KUTGW!

All good stuff so far. Good luck for the rest of the season - not that you'll need it, being top of the pile and uncatchable :)

Thank you!

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April 2013

I was about to say we're almost out of the woods with injuries, but then Bigazzi twists his ankle. Out for five or six weeks, also known as "the rest of the season".

Mantova 1 - 2 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Our sixth match in 18 days, and I must be tired, because I get in a hopeless muddle during the pre-match team talk. It doesn't seem to faze Cesarini, though, who breaks away to launch his 10th goal of the season from 25 yards. Then Corapi finds Suagher's head with a corner kick to put us 2-0 up inside 11 minutes. Spinale pulls one back for Mantova in the second period, but then the air goes out of the thing. Suagher comes of age with a man of the match performance.

2013aprpromotion.jpg

Unione Venezia 2 - 1 Avellino (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Game seven in 21 days, curse the rain gods. But this one matters. A point today seals the title for us. If Avellino are looking for compensation for the win we barefacedly stole from them earlier in the season, it's not coming. A Zavagno (o.g.) at one end is cancelled out by an Olivieri (o.g.) at the other, which just about sums up the quality in this truly bottom-tier mudbath. Then Cesarini sets things right after half-time with a sharp left-footed finish. Divney's boys never looked like losing, you might say.

2013aprwinner.jpg

Silverware, and Prosecco for those who fancy it. My scheming mind is already on the summer mercato; I have my scouts quietly preparing a longlist of talented U20s who might be tempted to lovely Venice. Only sour note? Suagher fractured his arm and won't see the final four games. As I consider what we have accomplished, and what lies ahead, a three-word text message arrives from Alessio Greco, the journalist: "Only more battles."

Valenzana 0 - 2 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Nothing much to see here. Corapi thumps us in front early on, before a Montanari (o.g.) compounds Valenzana's misery.

Unione Venezia 1 - 0 Andria BAT (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Andria BAT are in second now following a minor Casale collapse. A rare goal from Tissone is the highlight of the first half, as he powers it in from just inside the area. Andria BAT have a few good opportunities, but we are the better team throughout, even managing 61% possession by the end.

That result leaves us 18 points clear.

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Dude, massive congrats! A great achievement!

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Thanks, everyone. I'd put our rampancy down to two things. The first is what I said before about beating other teams to good free transfers: I think doing this alone will get you out of the bottom tier of any league system if you make your scouts sweat and have a wage budget to spend... which wasn't a problem for Venezia when I took over (although we're burning through our finances rapidly :eek:). The other is that literally every team in this division plays 4-4-2. I am the only one with a three (arguably four depending on Cesarini's movement) man midfield, and usually am superior in passing/decisions to everyone I come up against. So we dominate possession for the most part, no one ever knows who's marking Cesarini, and the results tend to follow. If teams do sometimes exploit the space we leave down the flanks, so be it; they tend to be wasteful out-and-out wide players at this level, rather than tricky inside forwards or pacy outside wingers who would drag my back four around or get to the byline.

I can see the current 4-3-1-2 becoming less effective in the tiers above as we can no longer compete with free transfers alone, and dread coming up against something like a deep 4-3-3 (what the game calls a 4-1-2-2-1) with players who cut inside on their stronger foot (might start working on a tactic where Fonjock plays his natural DM role to deny that space).

Edit: We also outspent everyone in the division (not by much, but most teams spent zero), so maybe that would be the third thing. :p

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Great promotion, but buying your way out of the league? Anyone can do that ;)

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May 2013

Unione Venezia 2 - 0 Teramo (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

Four points shy of safety with two games left? I'm about to break Teramani hearts. Cesarini poaches one in the opening minutes. Then he finds Pianu with a low free kick for what is probably the captain's last goal for Venezia to make it 2-0. By the second half, Teramo are crushed and we are lazy, so that's how it stays.

Bigazzi and Suagher both return to full training after this match, but won't be fit for the final league match of the season.

Santarcangelo 0 - 3 Unione Venezia (Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, Girone A)

A thin drizzle dampens the occasion, and it takes us until the second half to get going. Divine Fonjock, measured and dependable all season long (save for two handfuls of yellow cards), finally takes a shot on goal. It was worth the wait.

[video=youtube;IiFVzK79sxQ]

Corapi and Bongiovanni tack two more on for good measure in what might be our most convincing second-half performance of 2013. A fitting finish to a season that could hardly have gone better. We finish 22 points ahead of Andria BAT in second, and snatch a cool €84.06K in prize money. I send everyone out with pocket money for sweets.

2013mayleague.jpg

2013mayresults.gif

By the by, don't ever sleep on backroom advice, as occasionally one of your coaches will suggest a near-perfect player to you. I was just told about André Möllestam, a 22 year-old Swedish centre-back, who is accomplished as a full-back on either side, is strong with both feet, and is fairly professional, level-headed, and capped at U21 level. And available for free, as his contract at A.C. Lumezzane is expiring. I can't stop smiling. Once I ship out Grancitelli as surplus and Pomante arrives in July, my defence will be set for next season. Also this week: Antoniol agrees a deal with Aversa Normanna, meaning I'll no longer have to put up with his little huffs soon.

Of course, there's one other little bit of business to attend to before the transfer market gets properly underway. The Seconda Divisone Supercoppa, played over two legs between the winners of their respective groups.

Unione Venezia 2 - 0 Paganese (Supercoppa di Lega di Seconda Divisione, First Leg)

Despite a two-game advantage (Girone B has 21 teams to our 20), Paganese have far fewer points and goals scored, having racked up 15 draws this year in a more closely fought title race. They have a few excellent players, but these are old and creaking. Luca Fusco, once a dependable Serie B journeyman, outdid himself as their inspirational centre-back captain this year, but this is surely his last campaign of note. Paganese start the better side, but then Franco Lapore scythes down Corapi in the box and Bongiovanni (pen.) slots in the resultant penalty. The game is free of incident on the whole and we ease into control. Bongiovanni adds a second chasing down a long ball the Paganese defence don't have the legs for, and we go into the second leg looking unbeatable.

Paganese 0 - 1 Unione Venezia [0-3 agg.] (Supercoppa di Lega di Seconda Divisione, Second Leg)

Paganese come out busily in front of their home fans, but don't eke out the goal they need from their few chances. We settle into a nice rhythm of counter-attacks, and in the second half Bongiovanni nips ahead of his man to fire a bobbling ball into the roof of the net for his third goal of the tie. Job done. Wait. Remember my prediction that Fonjock would see a host of red cards before Christmas? Well, he becomes the first Unione Venezia player to be sent off this season, in our last game of the season, for a silly second yellow while I was trying to sub him off. Paganese think this is their chance!

It isn't.

A second sparkling trophy for the once dusty cabinet. And here's how my squad looks on the last day of the season:

2013maysquad.gif

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