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

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Yeah, SPAL have caused me a few headaches throughout the years.

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October 2014

Only a very minor loss (~€6K) is reported for the month, so we're looking good, and there were only two home games in September.

Unione Venezia 1 - 3 Chievo (Serie B bwin)

We go out against newly-relegated Chievo with vim, and enthusiasm, and concede a goal after two minutes, as Moscardelli beats Ingrassia at his near post with a belted finish. The referee all but puts the game to bed before the 20-minute mark, deeming Marsili to have 'fouled' in the box; Granoche (pen.) does the honours. We steady the ship after that, but look unambitious going forward. In the 76th minute, Grieco picks out Cesarini in the area and we can glimpse a way back, but then Sergio Pellissier, still a force at 35, stamps on any fledgling hopes until they are dead. The FIGC are conspicuously silent when I spit vitriol about the penalty decision after the game.

Grosseto 4 - 1 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

A worsening drizzle plagues the early going. On 24 minutes, Arturo Lupoli peels off the shoulder of the last defender to slice it into the bottom corner. The lead is short-lived, though, as Coralli chests in a wayward Ganz cross. Yet our hapless defending continues, and Vincenzo Coluccio (o.g.) redirects a sprawling Ingrassia save into the empty net. If we had any ideas about clawing our way back into this one, Florian Klein dispels them with an excellent drive from outside the area, and Giovio adds another minutes later as our defence spontaneously combusts. Grieco hits the bar and the post with a single effort, the glowing highlight of the worst half of football I have witnessed under my reign.

The egregiously bad players from this performance file into my office one at a time the next morning to receive their dressings-down. Only Coluccio bucks, and when he starts to throw a tantrum about his (more than deserved) fining, I politely ask him to leave and shut the door behind him. A serious black mark against his character, but he is still young. A team meeting follows in which some of the older players lead the way in cheering the squad up. Only Nicolò Fiorucci is not present, as he is away with the Italian U19s, making him our first international player.


Livorno 1 - 2 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

We manage to drain the life from this encounter early on, like some sort of vampiric beast that survives by lapping up fun and good football. We get to half-time, at least, without conceding a goal. On 63 minutes Marsili dings the crossbar with a free kick and Coralli is quickest to react, heading it home past the stranded keeper. It takes Livorno four minutes to wipe out our lead, and it comes, inevitably, from a corner, as Simone Dell'Agnello is first to the ball. An air of calm descends after that; we start to relax and keep the ball intelligently. After an extended spell of passing, Alberto Baccarin chips it into the path of Rispoli for the striker to open his season's account. Our incisive finishing is the key to a much-improved performance and a vital win, our first in five games.

Pomante begins full training for the first time in five months, albeit as a shadow of the player he was before. He represents a significant cost to the club at this point, and clearing him out has become a top priority. His elephantine wages will be an impediment, though.

Unione Venezia 0 - 0 Piacenza (Serie B bwin)

Our first Serie B match to be featured on television. Piacenza's Franchini has a diving header ruled out for offside early on, but otherwise we have the better of it, though our efforts to take charge of midfield are disappointing. After half-time, Libertazzi's header past an open goal is the best of the chances, but in the end we grind out another important point amid mounting nervousness.

Padova 0 - 1 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

A televised game against our local rivals and fellow relegation battlers. What could go wrong? As it turns out, not much, though the first half is about as boring as a football match can be. Neither side can get hold of the ball or shoot it at goal. Ganz, having missed at least one sitter, is half-fouled in the box on 75 minutes, and Cesarini (pen.) just about steers it past the keeper from the spot. Despite an incredible six minutes of stoppage time awarded to the home side, we pull through to pick up our 12th, 13th, and 14th points of the season, and our second consecutive clean sheet.

Following this game, Padova manager Alberto Malesani fires off a remark in the press about our poor chances of overcoming Bologna at the weekend. Alessio Greco, of course, wants to know my opinion of this. I care little for Malesani's opinion, of course, but when he sees I am reluctant to comment, Alessio begins scribbling furiously on his notepad anyway.

"What are you writing?" I ask.

"Your response, mister."

"But I haven't given one."

"You have not," he admits, adding a final flourish with his pencil. He smooths the ends of his moustache. He smiles. "Consider this intelligent correspondence on your behalf."

"Are you working for me now, Alessio?" I ask, grinning.

"No, John. Only those angels who protect you."

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November 2014

The first day of November is usually the one I choose to take my first hard look at the league table. To my surprise and pleasure, we are 13th, though just three points separate us from Reggina in 20th, the first relegation spot. We have also broken even for the month financially.

Unione Venezia 1 - 0 Bologna (Serie B bwin)

A magnificent start: Coralli and Ganz combine up front, and the younger man slides the ball into the bottom right-hand corner. We look firmly in control by half-time, with the possession in our favour and Bologna having had just one opportunity to level the score. The second 45 is less comfortable, with Bologna banging on the crossbar from range, but our rising confidence and much improved defending over the past few weeks continues today. We're now unbeaten in four matches, improbably.

Reggina 1 - 1 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

The busy Serie B season means this game comes just three days on the heels of the last one, but as we have more chance of picking up points here than against Cremonese at the weekend, I start the best side I can. We begin poorly, but Reggina are in little shape to take advantage. Although Maurice Gross is rampant at times, no goals follow. Mesto has a effort scratched off for offside early in the second half, but still the Amaranto don't feel threatening. Yet on 68 minutes Fabio Ceravolo puts his head through a well-aimed free kick, and suddenly we're behind. The goal proves the spur we need to get ourselves into the game, and we build a series of clever attacks until Suagher rises at a corner to correct the scoreline and nick a point.

Unione Venezia 2 - 0 Cremonese (Serie B bwin)

I'm expecting this to be a difficult game, but Cremonese seem timid in the opening period and we are gradually able to assert a passing game over them. Ganz dinks yet another neat finish off the inside of the right post and we're away. The rest of the game passes much the same, with few startling opportunities for either side. There's a moment of worry late on when Taddei has to limp off with all our substitutions made, but in stoppage time Ganz seals a good victory with his second goal, getting on the end of a Caciagli through ball while Cremonese's keeper looks on in confusion. Defying any and all predictions, including my own, we rise to eighth in the table.

Taddei will miss the next two months, unfortunately. This is our first injury in a while, and reminds me, if I had forgotten, of how quickly fortunes can change in football. Still, by my rough estimates, we're halfway to safety with only a third of the season played. With fans and board alike singing my praises, I take my latest demands to Chairman Fiasco: increase the junior coaching budget once again. He duly does so.

Modena 2 - 0 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

A less punishing schedule and our recent good form means we go into this match in reliable shape. In what proves to be a tightly contested affair, we concede a goal from a corner (if you can believe that): Prince Oniangué heads Modena into the lead with the game on a knife's edge. As we press for an equalizer the game starts to open up, and the opportunities flow for both sides. In the end, it's Modena who get the next goal and so decide the result, with Giuseppe Greco (no relation) getting on the end of a high, looping cross from the left wing. Ganz hits the post at the death, but that won't stop us slumping to 10th.


Unione Venezia 1 - 0 Foggia (Serie B bwin)

Foggia pipped us to promotion last season, and have since clawed their way up to a dizzying fifth in the league. Monachello blows the easiest goal he'll ever score from point-blank on a breakaway, and then lands a header on the post before 12 minutes are up. Our best effort, meanwhile, is Cesarini thumping it into the back of Ganz when the latter is standing offside, though Suagher has an effort saved from a corner just before the whistle blows for half-time. The rain is pouring down harder when we resume, and Foggia might finally have gotten their goal if the slick surface hadn't caused Inglese to put his shot onto the woodwork. In the 87th minute, Ganz is barged off a through pass, and the referee points the spot. Coralli (pen.) blazes it into the top corner, and we wriggle away with the points.

Crotone 1 - 3 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

After just 8 minutes, Ganz lopes onto a long through pass and squeezes in his tenth goal of the season. He almost has another in identical fashion 12 minutes later. Leonardo Terigi trips Cesarini (pen.) in the box, and our captain capitalizes on the penalty. The 2-0 scoreline is harsh on Crotone, but we aren't complaining. On 43 minutes, Bigazzi beats the field with a single pass along the ground that leaves two defenders panting after Ganz. He steals in for number three. Crotone get one back, at least, through Strestik's header a minute later. But after all of that, the second half is perhaps understandably anticlimactic. What is notable is yet another execrable performance by Coluccio. Again he doesn't take kindly to a reprimand, so I allow him a week's leave to get his mind right and make plans to loan him out somewhere. As it is, he's a liability whenever he plays.

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December 2014

Unione Venezia 2 - 0 Varese (Serie B bwin)

One full-back to another as Möllestam finds Lorenzini in the box for a header that all but floats into the far corner. Varese are short on confidence and we aren't helping. Fiorucci opens his account for the club when the ball lands at his feet from a corner. By all rights Ganz should grab the game's third, but he slams a Lorenzini cross into the angle of post and bar. The second half is calmer, though we have enough chances to double the score.

We are an incomprehensible fifth in the league. Alessio Greco provides me with an interesting statistic at the post-match press conference: Unione Venezia conceded 18 goals in the first nine league matches of the season, and then four in the following nine. How did I turn around our defensive performances in such a short space of time? Do I attribute our success to a switch to more counter-attacking football?

"No," I say, granting him a sage nod. "We are merely flirting with humility. Next question."

Frosinone 0 - 3 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

After four minutes, Caciagli finds Baccarin finds Ganz. We're in superb form, but strangely that's our only shot on target in the entire first half. Four minutes into the second, we repeat the trick. Same players and almost the same goal as Ganz bags his thirteenth of the season so far. The 21 year-old poacher has been an almost flawless acquisition for us; we create relatively few chances, but the Heir to Maurizio can be relied on to poach them as they arise. Coralli guides in our third goal at the near post, though it is credited to goalkeeper Jacopo Furlan (o.g.). An intoxicating team performance provides a fourth straight victory.

Coralli goes down with injury for a month or so, giving Bigazzi an opportunity to prove his worth in the deep-lying forward role.

In bigger news...


Unione Venezia 1 - 0 Pescara (Serie B bwin)

Under the shadow of the club potentially being sold, we begin our final match of 2014 at home, under a cold drizzle of rain. After 30 minutes of tidy enough football, Ganz seizes on a well-flighted Caciagli pass to slip in the opening goal, his fifth in his last four matches. This rouses Pescara into actually putting some passes together, but our defence is its more typical self (organized, that is, rather than a leaky mess). Our focus in the second half is on possession and quietly seeing out the remainder of play until the winter break. We look less than impressive, but it's enough to see off a largely docile Pescara.

Although we are still in fifth, this result leaves us just two points behind top of the table Chievo. Relegation is no longer a real possibility. The question being asked across Venice, indeed across Italy, is just how far this side can go against the odds? With a wage budget one-seventh that of second placed Catania, the only team we have yet to face, how much longer can we sustain this startling run of form?

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You've had a really good last couple of months in terms of form.

What Im really happy about is your the defense - they definitely seem to be the backbone of your club right now. How are your top defenders doing in terms of form/stats?

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Nice work to get to fifth. I reckon you can do it.
Nice work mate, Hope it can continue!
Great December.

Thanks, all.

You've had a really good last couple of months in terms of form.

What Im really happy about is your the defense - they definitely seem to be the backbone of your club right now. How are your top defenders doing in terms of form/stats?

Not that amazingly, actually. I mean, they're fine, don't get me wrong, but our recent run has more to do with our midfield. The 3 in the 4-3-1-2 just keep the ball amazingly well. You'll see when I post the stats for the winter round-up that my central midfielders all do well on Hdr R, Tck R, and especially Pas R (a number of them are hovering near 90% pass completion over 1,000+ minutes of football). It also helps that Ganz is scoring at will up front.

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Winter Round-up 2014

It's been a superb first half-season in Serie B, far beyond my expectations.


Detailed squad stats for this period.

Simone Andrea Ganz, in particular, has been a revelation, but my young defence (Silvestri, Grieco, and Lorenzini are all in their early twenties; and now I am introducing teenagers Fiorucci and goalkeeper Tonani) are starting to gel behind a formidable midfield.

The annual hunt for contract expiries slowly narrows to a shortlist of 14 names.


I am also approached by Juve Stabia in the division below. It's an almost insulting offer, though I am glad the footballing world is starting to realize I exist. And the board and fans alike are pleased when I make it clear I have no intention of leaving Venezia for the foreseeable future.

First, I send Davide Cais packing; he was taken up on loan before I secured Coralli's signature, and hasn't played a minute. Second, I finally convince the board to buy out the remainder of Pomante's contract. At 32, he will never recover from the damage wrought upon his knees over the six months or so he was out of commission, while his disgusting wages are an obstacle to contract discussions at this time of year. Speaking of which, I arrange for three players to join us in July. The first is Lukas Zima, a 20 year-old Czech goalkeeper who will replace Pipolo when the latter departs at the end of the season. He's spirited, unflappable, more talented than the man he's replacing (already capped multiple times for his nation's U21s), and will arrive on a lesser wage. Second is Marco Cuomo, a defensive midfielder who I view as a long-term replacement for ball-winning Fonjock (who is only turning 29 this year, but has seemed less sure of himself since returning from injury). Cuomo will require retraining slightly further up the pitch, but he already looks accomplished in that role and is a professional about his work, so I'm optimistic he can adjust to our game. Third, we pick up 17 year-old Renzo Locci, another colossus stopper in the same vein as Fiorucci. He's too potentially talented to ignore my scouts' unprompted recommendation. We miss out on one or two exciting young strikers who re-sign for their clubs, but on the whole I'm excited about the progress we're making.

I also extend Coralli's contract another year, with a modest wage increase. He's proven himself an important player for us up front, and at 31 shows no sign of slowing down just yet. For the time being our wage budget has decreased from what it was in September, but we've started to lose money again, and I'm very conscious of the red number at the bottom of the balance sheet.

The spectre of takeover hangs over the club throughout this month, and an inopportune embargo makes our dealings for contract expiries more difficult than they need to be.


I call Alessio Greco in the hope of getting more insight into this "local" businessman, but for once, strangely, there is no reply. Perhaps he is sick? The club administration, too, respond to my queries only via email during the ghostly first week of January. Even after it emerges that there will be no takeover, that the bid has been withdrawn, Roberto Fiasco is eerily cheerful with me, responding to my endless demands and requests with less of his usual cynicism. I get the sense that whatever did not just happen has only be postponed, and will raise its head again sooner rather than later.

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January 2015

Catania 0 - 1 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

A big game against a top club, and our early play is tentative with good reason. Catania's clever build-ups, however, devolve only into wild shots from range. When a goal does come, it's a Venetian one, on the counter-attack; we're getting very good at this. Cesarini drives a ball up the middle between two defenders, and Ganz leaves everyone gasping to plant the ball in the bottom corner, opening his account for 2015. It's his twelfth in the league and fifteenth of the season, and it turns out to be the only one in this, our sixth straight victory. This recent run has seen us concede just a single goal, and our success is starting to appear unfathomable, even to me, while the national press have begun to hound me for quotes and comment.

Nocerina 0 - 3 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

Nocerina are dead last, with 14 points from their first 21 games, and don't look confident on the field. We are able to revert to our more typical passing and possession game (as opposed to the counter-attacking system we've been using to great effect in recent months), albeit with little end product to show for it. It takes 42 minutes for Ganz to find the net, and again it comes from a Cesarini through ball. Nocerina are matching our shape but little else, and after the break Cesarini turns his man and lofts it into the far corner to get a goal of his own. Fiorucci nods in a third from a well-worked short corner three minutes later. Nocerina finds their feet again after this one-two punch, but they never recover, and play the last quarter of the game with ten men following Margarita's injury. Next.

Unione Venezia 2 - 1 Ascoli (Serie B bwin)

It's snowing gently in Venice when we host Ascoli, who inflicted four goals on us the last time we met. It's Ganz who has the first word in this match, though, lashing the ball home with atypical force from the edge of the area on 12 minutes. We successfully keep Ascoli boxed in for much of the first half, and even in the freezing cold I am warmed by the sight of my players playing the fluent football I have taught them. Another involved move ends with Grieco chipping it onto the foot of Cesarini almost inside the six yard box. He rolls it home with nonchalance. Ascoli eat into our possession in the second half, but nothing much comes of it until a corner breaks down and Steve De Ridder pounces at the back post. It's their only shot on target all game.

We are top, at least until Chievo play their game in hand. Not bad for the team with the lowest salary per annum in the league now. What's most remarkable about the Ascoli result, however, besides it being our eighth straight victory, is a good stint by Coluccio in the left-back role. I am determined the son of a bitch will reach his potential after abysmal beginnings in the arancioneroverdi.

Spal 1 - 0 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

For the first 45 minutes Spal manage to strangle the life out of our passing game and limit opportunities on the break. Meanwhile, they get to the byline with alarming frequency and even smack the crossbar on a couple of occasions. Ganz has a quiet game throughout and ends up making way for an underused Rispoli. It takes 82 minutes for Spal to actually land a firm shot on Tonani in goal, but then just when it looks like this one is going to finish as a bore draw, Sesay of Sierra Leone pulls out a near post finish despite being surrounded by our black shirts. This happens in the 94th minute. There is no time for reply, and with wins for Chievo and Catania both, we drop to third in the table. I wish Spal were dead, or better yet dying, so that I could hold their mouths shut as they breathe their last, and they would know it was me what did it.

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February 2015

Unione Venezia 0 - 0 Sassuolo (Serie B bwin)

Still relegation-bound against expectations, Sassuolo should be an opportunity for us to hop right back in the saddle. Yet a solid half of controlled possession football makes few in-roads into their defence, and a congested midfield more often than not means we're passing around them, rarely through. For the second game in a row, Ganz looks outmuscled up front. Cesarini is desperately unlucky not to win it at the death, as his vicious shot is turned onto the underside of the crossbar, but it finishes a disappointing draw in which we had 71% of the possession, but almost no penetration.

Tonani joins Fiorucci in being called up to the Italian U19s, but then injures himself in training. Out for five weeks.

Empoli 0 - 0 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

A thoroughly disappointing season for Empoli has them in 16th with little visible hope or happiness, but we still struggle to break them down, and Ganz is continuing to misfire. In a game where Empoli never once look like mounting an assault on our goal, we nonetheless can't bring ourselves to score. A second 0-0 has me asking questions of our attacking play; against sides that play to draw, the breakaways Ganz feeds upon are scarce.

Our next match against Siena is called off because of a waterlogged pitch at Pierluigi Penzo; the postponement puts it three days after our next fixture, a promotion (!) clash with leaders Chievo. I had been on the verge of starting Rispoli ahead of Ganz for that game, but then the former goes and twists his ankle. On the day of the Chievo game, officials deem the Marcantonio Bentegodi surface as unplayable too. This turns the schedule for the next few weeks into something quite punishing.

Unione Venezia 2 - 0 Siena (Serie B bwin)

The pitch at Pierluigi Penzo is looking the worse for wear, but at least the weather is dry today, and we can do what we want with the ball. Indeed, we put together 16 passes before Caciagli plays it into the path of Cesarini, who lets it run through his legs for Ganz to collect and score. It proves to be our only shot on target in a balanced and somewhat boring first half (though Coralli wastes a penalty over the bar), but that efficiency has been key to our success this season. In the 78th minute, Marsili bends in his first Venezia goal from a free kick, and we can relax.

The result puts us back in second, and the board reluctantly pays out €18K to Ganz for reaching 15 league goals this season (18 in all competitions).


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March 2015

Despite slashing the wage budget we're still bleeding every month, and are now half a million euro in the red. With an average attendance close to the capacity of Pierluigi Penzo, and eight stadium sell-outs this season, I'm not sure what's within my power to improve.

Our clash against Chievo proves ever-elusive, this time postponed as a result of heavy snow and rescheduled for the middle of March, between matches against Livorno and Piacenza.

Unione Venezia 2 - 0 Grosseto (Serie B bwin)

Constant sleet makes this an unpleasant game to play, and to watch, though it settles into a typical rhythm: we have more possession and fewer but better chances than our opponents. Caciagli pops up with his first goal of the season, a shot from just inside that takes a slight deflection past the keeper. Cesarini fires a penalty onto the left upright, before Silvestri raps it a second time from a corner. Grosseto improve in the second period, only to have Ganz kill the game with another well-timed run onto a Cesarini through pass. Another polished team perforamnce, and Coluccio is man of the match at left back. A wonderful reply to the 1-4 drubbing we received at the beginning of the season.

Fonjock will miss the next match through suspension, and appears to take his frustration out on poor Fiorucci in training, fracturing his ribs and ruling the kid out for two months. Infuriating. Lorenzini also clatters Milani, and suddenly our midfield is looking thin.

Unione Venezia 0 - 0 Livorno (Serie B bwin)

A drab, depressing home game where Livorno turn our own counter-attacking philosophy against us. We get into the break looking defeated and nervous, and I give far from my most comforting team talk. Simone Dell'Agnello, who tormented us the last time we played Livorno, has a headed goal from a corner ruled out for a questionable foul, but that proves the extent of Livorno's threat. Yet despite the balance in the game, nervousness creeps through the Venezia ranks to the extent that we seem resigned to merely playing things out, rather than pushing for the goal the game demands.

The youth intake this year is strong, perhaps reflecting the investment we've put into junior coaching over the past year. 15 year-old Simone Bortone in particular looks perfect for the ball-winning Fonjock role in midfield if he can improve his physicality.


Simone Bortone at the age of 15.

Chievo 1 - 0 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

We go into this much delayed and much awaited title (!) clash with growing nerves about the expectations being placed on us, and Bostjan Cesar doesn't help matters by heading Chievo in front after 23 minutes. Stevanovic then nearly puts a hole in our crossbar from a counter-attack minutes later. We go into the interval deserving to lose, and do little to help our cause in the second half, though Chievo are largely wasteful, heading chance after chance well over the bar. Mustering just one decent effort on goal all game, we politely opt out of the unlikely title race; we're now seven points off the leaders.

Piacenza 2 - 1 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

Rescheduling forces us to play this third match in seven days, and we're in no mood or condition to do so. After seven minutes, a Hollywood pass from the Piacenza right-back meets the laces of Raffaele Franchini, who duly controls it and converts. The jitters are back. On 25 minutes, Möllestam allows his man down the line, and the cross is bundled in by Silvestri (o.g.) after Ingrassia can only palm it away. Piacenza almost repeat the trick minutes later. First Cesarini hobbles off with an injury, and then Coralli. We get a goal back against the run of play when Lombardi (o.g.) turns in a Ganz pull-back. Both sides play slapdah football, riddled with errors, and Piacenza go down to ten men when Zirilli receives a silly second yellow. Bigazzi lands a header on the crossbar, and then has a goal whistled away for offside, but it's questionable whether we even deserve a point. Our players are psychologically feeble by the end, and so I just about manage to be charitable in the dressing room.

Even a cautious team meeting in the aftermath does little to lift our spirits, having dropped points in six of our last eight fixtures. Promotion, though, is still very much within in our reach.

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April 2015

It's a terrible time to be playing third-placed Bologna, and rescheduling also decrees this will be our third straight away game. I receive a series of text messages from Alessio Greco detailing exactly what Bologna boss Devis Mangia is saying about us and our chances. It ends with a winking smiley. How does the old man know what smileys are? I'm surprised he can even work the phone. It feels like months since I've had one of my long chats with him; he's been suffering from an unpleasant chest ailment that's lingered on since the bad weather in February, and his daughter insisted he go to the doctor and get it seen to. I've missed his surly face at our recent press conferences.

Bologna 1 - 2 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

Coluccio fires in a perfect cross on 13 minutes for Ganz to nab a rare headed goal, but after that the ball belongs to Bologna and they won't give it back. Luckily, or game plan doesn't depend on that, and a smart counter sees Baccarin eviscerate Bologna's backline with a single through pass. Coralli makes it two. Now I'm seeing smiles. Ingrassia even makes a good save. Bologna get one back when Diamani's free kick finds Amaya's head, and we go down to ten men when Coluccio has to go off toward the end, but we see it out.

Back in third now, with a game in hand that could see me leapfrog Modena in second.

Unione Venezia 0 - 2 Padova (Serie B bwin)

We return to a mucky Pierluigi Penzo for a down and dirty rivals match. And so-called Calcio Padova are pernicious little upstarts: after half an hour a cross into our box turns into a kicking, scratching mudbath by the near post, only for Wilfred Osuji to force it over the line. What sort of a name is Wilfred, anyway? We look short on ideas and clumsy at the back, and Padova could have had another before half-time. I make my expectations, and those of the fans, very clear to the team at the break: we must not rest until we have pulled Padovani spinal columns out via Padovani throats. That sort of thing. Five minutes after the restart, Padova score again, with a goal that somehow outdoes the first one in awfulness. Boots churn the mud. Defenders barge defenders. Zlatan Muslimovic digs out the ball and squirrels it under Tonani in goal. By 60 minutes it would be difficult to point out any player on our team and describe him honestly as a 'footballer'. Caciagli, maybe. Or the goalkeeper, bless him. Fonjock adds two yellow cards to his not inconsiderable collection and walks. The Venezia supporters follow before the game is over.

The press conference following this catastrophe is long and tiring. I get home late. There is a message on my answering machine from Greco, and suspecting it to be a wicked diatribe about my failings, both tactical and personal, I do not listen to it until the morning. But I should have. Greco didn't even watch the Padova match, it turns out. Because he had just been diagnosed with lung cancer.

Unione Venezia 0 - 0 Reggina (Serie B bwin)

It's been a horrifically mid-table season for the club tipped to finish first, but it's essential we don't underestimate Reggina today. We have the better of the first half, but fail to find the target, with Ganz anonymous. My speech at half-time is solemn, dispassionate, and bitterly disappointed. The team go back out with fires stoked in their bellies, but the outcome is more of the same: plenty of possession, no chances to speak of. In fact, we leave our own field with no shots on target, and with whistling from a few fickle fans shrill in our ears. I switch off my radio in the car, and drive to Alessio's house in silence.

Three points shy of Catania in second; six points behind leaders Chievo, who have a game in hand.

Cremonese 1 - 0 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

Ganz starts on the bench tonight, with Rispoli preferred because of the former's sputtering form. And things look promising: Baccarin is sent through within 30 seconds, only to put his shot wide of the post. That turns out to be our best effort of the first half, though, as the game devolves into a scrappy affair in which our defence doesn't help our build-up play by spraying the ball away wildly. We clearly want to do better, but for all our bluster this one is a fizzling squib that never quite goes off until the 80th minute, when D'Ambrosio leaves Lorenzini in the dirt and places his cross on the head of Giacamo Casoli. There's no danger of us coming back after that.

Fifth in the league. With one win in our last seven games, Italy's notoriously feverish press asks whether we are in 'crisis', forgetting that they themselves said we would finish bottom as few as eight or nine months ago. We are not in any immediate danger of falling out of the playoff places, as we still have six points on seventh placed Foggia (also newly-promoted, also defying predictions), but the slide has to be arrested, and soon. I hold a team meeting, and make the facts of the situation very clear to the players. Seven games remain. We have a chance to do something unprecedented in Venetian footballing history. We can't afford to start conforming to expectations now.

Unione Venezia 3 - 1 Modena (Serie B bwin)

Now here is the Venezia you might remember from our mid-season run. On 21 minutes, Grieco stabs a pass through the defence and Ganz sweeps it into the net. On 29 minutes, Cesarini plays a teasing ball between the two central defenders and Ganz jogs past them to score his second. On 39 minutes, Ganz is let free in the channel and whips it across to meet the diving head of Cesarini. Modena, who were in fourth place before this game began, are whimpering by half-time. Someone must have calmed them down quickly, though, because Giuseppe Greco (no relation, you may remember) curls a free kick into the top corner of our net to get one back for Modena immediately after the restart. But that's all they get.

Modena manager Alfredo Aglietti tells the press he can't see a better team in the promotion battle. I can see several, but perhaps none as plucky.

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May 2015

Foggia 0 - 2 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

We're back in good spirits after the Modena result, and that translates into a strong start. Ganz has a wickedly looping header disallowed for offside; Coralli has another similarly ruled out on 17 minutes. Monachello even has one crossed off for a foul at the other end, too, though that one really should have stood. Somehow we get to half-time without either side actually being awarded a goal. The second half follows the same pattern: after Ganz goes off with a knock, Rispoli is twice set free, only to hit it straight at the keeper. Rispoli finally gets it right in the 72nd minute, controlling and finishing Grieco's quick cross. There's mercifully little time left for Foggia to rouse themsevles, and Rispoli makes the scoreline even more reflective of the play with his second goal at the end of stoppages.

Baccarin will miss most of the remainder of the season through injury. With May now underway, I start making plans for next season. With money still pouring out of the club despite packed houses and some television revenue, I set about cutting the wage budget. That means extending contracts on players now instead of next August or September, when their growing reputations or newfound agents may demand greater increases. This also allows me to renegotiate deals without killer promotion clauses, on the off-chance we make it into Serie A this year. I also make the hard decisions to sell Suagher and Ingrassia: both players seem to have peaked somewhat this year, and are fighting for their first team slots with two 18 year-olds; both are arguably overpaid as it is, and eager for further increases; both have potential replacements arriving in July for less money; and both already have the interest of potential buyers.

Unione Venezia 2 - 0 Crotone (Serie B bwin)

One minute, 49 seconds. That's how long it takes for Ganz to find the net, popping in Coralli's unselfish pass when the pair break onto a long ball. That makes 20 for him in the league this season, and 23 when you include the cup. Crotone have little to offer by way of response, and Olivieri heads in Marsili's free kick cross for two. A steel-plated performance by our backline means Crotone never even hit the target.

Joint second. One point off first. Four games left: Varese (A), Frosinone (H), Pescara (A), Catania (H). The first three are in the drop zone or close to it. Catania, however, are a point behind us.

Ingrassia agrees terms with Atalanta, and will leave in July for €30K, saving me €2.3Kp/w (and more, potentially). That's a lot less than I probably could have got for him, and represents a loss overall, but the deal was quick and easy, and that's what I need right now. I have a title race to run.

Varese 0 - 1 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

A corner after five minutes gifts centre-back Luigi Silvestri a tap in at the near post for his first goal in arancioneroverdi. He's been ever-present this season, and improving all the time. We dominate this game throughout, especially in possession terms, but the second goal doesn't arrive, and late in the second half a certain fearfulness pervades; only the offside flag can halt Varese's Hoxha when he's sent through on goal. Yet Silvestri's goal is enough.

Chievo drop points away to Frosinone, leaving us clear in second, still a solitary point behind Bologna. I gather the players after the next training session and hold an impromptu team meeting right there on the pitch. Just a few more games, I say. Just a few more wins to reach Serie A, and to complete a rise more meteoric even than A.C.F. Fiorentina's a decade ago, on a fraction of their finances. I can't believe we are here, I tell them. I thought this would take five, or six, or seven seasons. It has taken three.

Nocerina settle Suagher's future contract this week. He will join them in July in exchange for €35K (distributed across four years, unfortunately, but that can't be helped, as he refused an up-front offer from Modena). This move is far more of a wrench than the Ingrassia deal, but it's also a financial imperative. And with Silvestri and Fiorucci already forming a strong partnership, Olivieri providing experience and tutoring, Locci arriving in the summer, and Möllestam already rarely getting a chance in his natural centre-back role, I have an overabundance of players right now for that position.

With impeccable timing, Roberto Fiasco chooses this moment to announce his intention to step aside as chairman sooner rather than later. In a press conference ahead of hosting already-relegated Frosinone, I inform the assembled journalists that my players are professionals, and will not let the uncertainty affect their performances. That's before Bologna are thrashed 0-3 by Modena. If we win our game in hand, we will be two points clear. At the top, that is. Two points clear at the top.

Unione Venezia 3 - 1 Frosinone (Serie B bwin)

10 minutes: Grieco's short corner is sent over by Marsili for Fiorucci to head home. 28 minutes: a more direct Grieco corner is volleyed home by an unmarked Fiorucci. 45+3 minutes: Grieco, Marsili, Fiorucci. The 18 year-old central defender's hat trick, from a hat trick of corners. 75 minutes: a frantic corner at the other end is turned in by Bellato. 90+4 minutes: the final whistle blows, and the Pierluigi Penzo erupts.


The game that sees us clamber into daylight at the top of Serie B also happens to be Cesarini's 100th appearance for the club. We are two points clear, with two games left. That means we can win the Serie B bwin title in our very next game, if results elsewhere go our way.

Pescara 1 - 2 Unione Venezia (Serie B bwin)

Having not yet survived relegation (Sassuolo, Nocerina, and Frosinone are down this year, but the fourth place is undecided), Pescara still have something left to play for. In better news, Bologna concede an own goal just seconds into their away game against Foggia, and as things stand, we have a three point lead at the top. And the pressure is showing; only Ganz and Cesarini look properly motivated for the task at hand. No surprise, then, that it's Ganz who puts us in front, picking up a Grieco pass on his way to scoring his 24th goal of the season. Almost simultaneously, Bologna level the score in Foggia; we're four points ahead. Our lead has settled the team down, though, and when Cesarini finds Ganz for a second on 24 minutes, our hopes begin to soar. Pescara press forward and win a succession of corners, but to no result. It takes a quick turn by Del Papa to get them back in it, as Fiorucci (o.g.) slide-tackles the nimble forward and inadvertently puts the ball in his own net. The nerves are back. Ganz misses a golden opportunity for a hat trick with the keeper stranded. Then the half-time whistle blows, and we know we're 45 minutes away from promotion and the Serie B title, provided the scores here and in Foggia remain the same.

The second half is calmer than the first, and we're in better control, though both our centre backs looks on edge; I soon send on veteran Olivieri for Fiorucci to lend a guiding presence. Then Benassi trips Coralli in the box, and we have a penalty to surely put the game beyond doubt. Ganz steps up and smacks the top of the post. The ball bounces clear. The game goes on. It's still 1-1 in Foggia. In the 72nd minute, Ganz breaks onto a Grieco ball from deep and again draws a save when he should have scored. Bologna take the lead against Foggia, and it's as you were, with two points separating us. Tonani beats away a shot at the near post. The clock ticks into stoppages. Somewhere, I know, Alessio Greco is meeting with his oncologist, sighing, and fussing with his moustache, perhaps even checking his watch. The score, the score, he will be wondering. What is the score?

2-1, Alessio.


Hmm, what else?

Oh yes.

The Serie B title will go down to the very last day.

And there's just one black cloud in the sky.

It's this.


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Congrats on the promotion!!! Good luck with Serie A!
Smashed Serie B, well done :thup:
Serie A awaits!
Fantastic performance! Serie A awaits, and on a shoestring budget no less =)

You make old man Greco smile.

Thanks, everyone. It was a very streaky season but we peaked just when we needed to.

Well done mate! Time to wrap that title up now I think

I saved that last game for this evening. I realized I probably shouldn't play title deciders after midnight when I've already been playing for a few hours. ;)

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Title Day 2015

Unione Venezia 1 - 0 Catania (Serie B bwin)

Stadium: Pierluigi Penzo, Venice

Date: 31 May 2015

Time: 20.45

Weather: Dry, 13°

Referee: Andrea Padovan

Bologna are hosting 15th place Crotone; we can't rely on anything less than a win to secure the title.

We plan to start in our usual 4-3-1-2, with André Möllestam replacing the injured Silvestri in central defence; the line-up is otherwise predictable, with Caciagli, Marsili, and Fonjock across central midfield. Catania's 4-4-2 will be missing Morimoto and Scacchetti through suspension, while Mirko Antenucci has not recovered from a hip injury. In the press conference beforehand, half-dazed with preparation, I think to myself my, there are an awful lot of journalists here. Serie A has finished up already, of course, with Inter being declared victors more than a week ago. Serie B is the only show in town between now and the summer holidays, and Unione Venezia's rise has all the eyes of Italy upon it. I sit. I clear my throat.

"I'll take a few questions."

It doesn't take us long to get our passing game going in and around the rigid, deep-lying Catania formation. The gulf between their midfield and Aveni and Bergessio up front is huge when without the ball, and it's clear they've set their stall out to defend, though they can finish third with a win here today. Grieco is carded on 13 minutes for a needlessly rough challenge on the edge of the Catania area; during the opening minutes we dominate possession and territory both.

There is a moment of unadulterated, stomach-gnawing horror for the home fans when goalkeeper Tonani is deemed to have collected a long ball just outside of his area, but the referee only waves a yellow card. Ganz betrays the nervousness at the heart of this perfomance when he plays a stray backpass that allows Pettinari to break through the defence, but the ever-dependable Grieco gets back and makes a superb sliding challenge to rescue the situation. Catania are getting more of the ball now, and Petrzela is a constant threat down the right flank, with Lorenzini struggling to keep pace. Möllestam becomes the third Venezia player to see yellow when a long ball over the top forces him to hold back Aveni. A dull and scrappy half finishes 0-0, while the Bologna fixture is also scoreless. Two points continue to separate the sides going into the final 45 minutes of a 42-game season.

In the dressing room, I inform Olivieri he's coming on for Möllestam; the veteran defender, who will turn 32 next month, only nods calmly. To the room at large, I express my disappointment at the performance, telling them I am not happy with the quality of our build-up play, or the ease with which Catania's wingers have received the ball and taken on our defenders. For Coralli, however, who is staring at the floor in an almost catatonic state of nervousness, I have a word of kindness: there is no pressure on him today. A single goal will do it. One kick. That's all anyone is asking for, I tell him.

It's a dry day, sunny but not warm. As I straighten my tie on the sideline, waiting for the second half to begin, I take in the packed stands of the humble Pierluigi Penzo stadium, the banners, the sea of black and green. You can taste salt on the breeze. The whistle blows, and we're off again, for what feels like the thousandth time. I think of Alessio Greco propped up in his hospital bed with notepad and pencil, about to receive his first dose of chemotherapy. I think of my face displayed for a moment in miniature on his television screen. I think of everything a football fan hopes for in those moments when the game is still alive.

The whistle blows again, and I blink. The stadium is frantic. Claudio Coralli is rushing for the distant corner flag, and for a moment I wonder what he has done that has caused all of his teammates to chase him there. Then it occurs to me: he has scored. I will not see the goal until later that afternoon, on a hospital television, and so the memory of it is always in slow motion, and silent, though I have seen it a hundred times since. A minute after the restart, Caciagli sweeps a pass between the two central defenders; Caciagli collects it, hurdles the challenge of Francis Dickoh, and plows it past Sclopis in goal. 1-0 Venezia.


Five minutes later, Ganz stings the keeper's gloves to earn a corner. In my mind, I am teasing apart that oldest of questions, the one no manager at any level has ever completely solved: how do you best protect a one-goal lead? Possession is my answer, and I shout it out into that tiny park, again and again. Simple passes. Keep the ball when you have it. Harry them when you don't. My assistant, Centurioni, leans in to tell me it's still 0-0 in Bologna. I don't want to hear it. One match will decide this season, if we can ride it to the end. On 72 minutes, I send the more defensive Milani on for Caciagli, who's flagging in midfield. Catania are still without a shot on target, and yet I cannot help but be restless, fearful. I try not to let the contagion spread to my players.

A murmur of discontent goes around the stadium. Bologna have scored at last, and suddenly our lead is just two points again. If we were to finish level on points, results between teams would mean we still win the league, yet that seems little comfort with twenty minutes still left to play.

Sclopis goes full stretch to deny Ganz when the latter steals onto the end of a speculative Grieco pass. Fiorucci heads well over from a corner. There is a strange air of calm about the game, as if it were any other Sunday, as if we were languishing in Serie D again, with no expectations, no hopes. I want to scream at my players, hurry them on... and yet there is no need. I realize they know what they are doing better than I ever will.

Cesarini goes down injured in midfield, and though capable of playing on, I opt to replace him with Baccarin, just to be safe. Avani, meanwhile, has a shot charged down at the edge of the area before the referee's assistant announces four minutes of stoppage time. I patrol my technical area, pace it, count the steps. Bergessio robs Lorenzini and tears down our left flank, spies Aveni's run, and whips it into the middle... where Grieco cuts out the pass and puts it behind for a corner. Fonjock rises to head that clear. In the 94th minute, Fiorucci boots away another wayward cross.

Another minute passes, and another. I can hear Centurioni losing his temper with the assistant on the touchline, roaring for the final whistle to be blown. Doesn't he know it won't matter? Catania cannot score twice in this, the 97th minute. Bologna cannot undo their defeats to us. Silvestri's leg cannot be unbroken. And the cancer in Greco's lungs will not wither and die. This game, this sport of ours, is just passing theatre, and for what? What is it we're struggling over?

Catania's Calello trips Olivieri on the edge of the latter's own penalty area, and the referee blows into his silly little whistle not once but thrice. Three long, leisurely, lovely blasts.

As the team around me surges forth onto the field as one, the answer to my own question comes to me; I remember the very first word of Italian I ever learned.

"La pallone."

The ball.


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Summer Round-up 2015



2014-15 Season: Squad Statistics / Italian Summary

The top Serie A sides indulge in their annual dismissal of young talent, so I pick up a few of their leavings on trial, hoping to find an overlooked footballer or two in the bunch.

The club is awarded €2.77M for our final placement in the league; even after €775K of that is paid out to the players, there's enough left to put us into the black and then some.

Ganz wins top goalscorer in the league with 22, and is named in the team of the year. I claim the Serie B bwin Miglior Allenatore award. Bongiovanni, forgotten on loan with Treviso, wins the Capocannoniere crown in the Lega Pro Prima Divisione (Girone A) with 17 goals, to everyone's astonishment including his own.

The takeover talks go back and forth for weeks, until I no longer care. It will have a profound effect on the future of both the club and myself, of course, but for the time being I am content to let it play out. I spend my time hiring new backroom staff ahead of our return to Serie A: additional fitness and youth coaches arrive to swell the ranks. This is the closest thing I've had to a holiday in three seasons.

Our new main kit sponsorship deal is €1.3M for the coming two years, over four times what it was previously. The board set provisional wage and transfer budgets of €83Kp/w and €266K respectively; I hardly know what to do with myself. Roberto Fiasco even blasts the club's potential buyers in the media, demanding they make their decision so that I can get back on with the business of strengthening the club in the coming transfer window. I feel a warm pulse of love for that man.

The season review, fixtures list, and so on all arrive before the deal is done, however. The transfer market opens with us unable to make any new moves into it. The board's expectations are that we avoid relegation, yet this verges on the impossible if I am unable to bring in any new players.

Zima, Locci, and Cuomo, meanwhile, all arrive on their pre-agreed deals; Ingrassia and Suagher depart, the latter to some consternation from club legend Collauto. I know what I'm doing Mattia, you Serie D nobody who could never even land a job coaching a youth team.

Another additional kit sponsorship deal will bring in €187K per annum for two years. Bigazzi signs for Aversa Normanna, bringing in €50K and slashing the wage budget further. The board announce profits of €1.9M, a healthy 23 percent of turnover. Fiorucci is called up to the Italian U20 World Cup squad. On 13 July, it is widely reported that the takeover bid is struggling again. A sudden wave of frustration hits me, and I hurl an empty coffee cup at the back of my office door, leaving a dent in the dark wood. As it stands, I can't even offer suitable contracts for the youth players I have on trial, as their demands are higher than current constraints will allow. The following day, the papers say the bid is "close" again. I stop reading the news after that.

On 19 July, a full five days later, I have an email waiting in my inbox.


So long, Roberto Fiasco. Disappointing there's no investment, but Capecchi is eager to improve our fortunes, and eager to listen. On my advice, he increases our junior coaching budget to something exceptional, and promises to devote €1.1M to improving our youth training facilities by 5 January next year.

Once we have the ability to buy players, we move quickly. 19 year-old right back Mirco Ghiglia arrives on free transfer to play understudy to Grieco. 28 year-old Argentinian striker Christian Chávez agrees to fulfill our deep-lying role ahead of the inconsistent Coralli, albeit on a steep wage. At least the transfer was free.

Sampdoria 2 - 1 Unione Venezia (Friendly)

Sampdoria finished second in an historic and unlikely Serie A campaign last season. They've also already reached a state of fitness that far surpasses our own, so this is an early indication of how far off the pace we are, exactly. Unsurprisingly, then, Nick Viergever heads them in front from a corner before 20 minutes are gone. Drouin adds a second under similar circumstances. We improve dramatically in the second half and have chances of our own, but the gulf in class is unbridgeable. Ganz seizes on some confusion in the Sampdoria defence to put some respectability on things, and Rispoli misses a chance to tie the game at the death.

19 year-old Diego Baronti deepens our goalkeeping options, while Marco Donadel, 32 years young and previously of Fiorentina and Napoli, arrives to do a job for us in midfield on a costly one-year contract.

Sacilese 0 - 2 Unione Venezia (Friendly)

Our annual friendly. It takes until the second half for us to find a way through the Seconda Divisione side, with Nicola Milani curling in a rare goal. New kid Locci heads in a simple Donadel cross on 65 minutes. It's a pleasant stroll in the park on a nice, warm day, and everyone goes home happy.

We sell half of youngster Zago's contract to Reggina for €160K; he'll remain at Unione Venezia until 2017. Marsili agrees to move to Piacenza on loan, likely for the remainder of his contract, which ends next June.

Libourne 1 - 3 Unione Venezia (Friendly)

The board has sanctioned a trip to sunny France. Caciagli opens the scoring toward the end of the first half with a curling free kick. Argentinian Chávez adds another for the break, collecting the rebound of his own stray pass to roll it in at the near post. Olivieri adds a third from a Caciagli corner. Libourne grab a late consolation goal via Seguin. Yawning in the sunshine, I pack up a case of Bordeaux to take back with us to Venice.

Trying to resolve our ongoing left-back problems, at least for the time being, I splash €200K to bring in Lorenzo Laverone from Siena. His volatile and confrontational nature is a profound concern, but there are simply no credible alternatives in terms of talent. With that deal done, I move Coluccio on loan to Treviso in order to guarantee him first-team football.

Cesena 0 - 2 Unione Venezia (Friendly)

Another friendly on the road, this time against a side who we may find ourselves embroiled in a relegation battle with. There are promising indicators when Baccarin plays in Rispoli just before half-time, and in fact we have more and better chances throughout. Cesarini releases Coralli for a second goal 15 minutes from the end, and there are smiles all around on the bus home.

Forgotten goalkeeper Luciani agrees a loan deal with Siena, including a €100K option to buy. Youth starlet Gabriele Cazzola joins Coluccio at Treviso.

Unione Venezia 0 - 0 Espanyol (Friendly)

The highlight of our preseason calendar is hosting the Spanish side who finished 9th in Liga BBVA last term. Espanyol look thoroughly uninterested at the prospect, and we are the ascendant side throughout. We don't score. But neither do Espanyol. The weather was lovely, thanks for asking.

Young defender Penazzato is the third Venezia player to go on loan at Treviso this year. It's a strange situation given they are one of our nearest rivals, but I also know their manager, Andrea Cano, is excellent at working with young players.


Unione Venezia 0 - 0 Karlovac (Friendly)

NK Karlovac is a Croatian football club based in the town of Karlovac. They play in the Prva HNL, the country's top division, having been promoted to top level at the end of the 2008–09 season. Karlovac play their home matches at the 12,000-capacity Stadion Branko Čavlović-Čavlek. Traditionally lower-level minnows, the club's most successful period in the Yugoslav football league system was in the 1970s when they competed in the Second Yugoslav League. After the breakup of Yugoslavia and the formation of the Croatian football league system in 1992, Karlovac spent most of the time playing in Druga HNL and Treća HNL, the second and third levels. Led by manager Igor Pamić, Karlovac won consecutive promotions in the 2007–08 and 2008–09 seasons, which saw them join the top level for the first time in their history. In this game, their striker, Dino Poljak, scores with Karlovac's only shot of the game on 44 minutes. It takes quite a few minutes before Ganz puts things right. They are not happy minutes. Fonjock finds Chávez before the end, and Unione Venezia, an Italian football club based in the city of Venice, are spared some unkind words from their manager, John Divney (born in Ireland).

Cesarini continues as club captain; teenage goalkeeper Stefano Tonani, dubbed variously as the new Viviano or De Sanctis, is appointed vice-captain.

Unione Venezia 2 - 1 Varese (TIM Cup, Third Qualifying Round)

We start strongly against these Serie B upstarts, and things get better when Ibrahima Sory Camara sees red just 21 minutes in, though he walks off the field with a chunk of Andrea Grieco's leg still clinging to his studs. It's Varese who open the scoring, though, and in embarrassing fashion: Locci fails to control a simple backpass, and Giuseppe De Luca pounces. We have all of the ball after that, but little goalmouth action. And then Laverone's clumsy tackle leads to a penalty, mercifully skied by Nicola Madonna. In the second half, Varese are content to defend with ten or eleven men stationed around their own box. Chávez eventually finds a way through with a sidefooted debut goal. Three minutes later Chávez puts us in front, scoring into an empty net when the Varese keeper comes to claim a through pass and the ball bobbles free. He's all that stands out in our disappointing performance against ten men from the division below.

Season tickets have nearly doubled since last year, up to 3,023 from 1,681. I only hope they aren't too depressed by what they watch this year. We will get underway at Brescia.

Brescia 0 - 1 Unione Venezia (Serie A TIM)

It's a baking late summer's day, and I'm not quite sure our players are ready for the heat, or the packed houses of Serie A. Our few chances come on the break, amid sustained periods of opposition pressure. Remarkably, though, we're the ones who open the scoring, when a chaotic move from our throw-in down the right ends with Massimiliano Taddei being able to pick his spot from just inside the area. It's his first goal for the club, and seems to deflate Brescia sufficiently that the game is tedious after that. At least until the 68th minute, anyway, when Stefan de Vrij is sent off for appearing to put an arm across Coralli's throat during a breakaway. That does away with what was left of Brescia's endeavour, and we walk off sweaty and victorious.

The best possible start.

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Awesome! The title too!

Yeah, it's unreal. When I've done bottom-to-top runs in Italy before I've managed back-to-back Lega Pro titles a few times, but it's always taken at least a couple of seasons to adjust and win promotion from Serie B. Was not expecting this at all, and now we have zero infrastructural or other development going to the big show.

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September 2015

My scout in Eastern Europe turns up two superb young Romanian defenders. The first, Petre Bubu, is sadly out of my price range, though he's a model professional who can play with both feet in any position across the backline. The second, 18 year-old Zlatomir Munteanu, is a natural right-back who can play on either side of defence with a reasonable left foot, and will arrive in Venice in January for the princely sum of €210K.

Unione Venezia 0 - 0 Napoli (Serie A TIM)

The fun stops here, I guess. Or it should. Napoli don't quite show up in the first twenty minutes and we look the more exciting side. But then they did just sell Cavani and Hamsik this summer (to Man City and Atletico, respectively) for a combined ~€75M, and are resting several players who are paid more each week than my entire squad. Alberto Aquilani has a goal ruled out for a clear offside at one end, while Chávez suffers the same fate at the other. In the second half, Cuomo thumps the bar from distance, while Destro heads wide from a pinpoint cross. It finishes goalless, with not one of Napoli's 12 shots hitting the target. Walter Mazzarri has kind things to say about us after the match, but then he would, wouldn't he?

Federico Rispoli and I have a bitter falling out over his lack of first-team football. I've been expecting this for a while, as Ganz more or less kept him out of the team most of last year, but it's an irritating diversion from a player who doesn't merit the fuss.

Palermo 0 - 1 Unione Venezia (Serie A TIM)

Again our superiors seem in no great rush to destroy us, and despite controlling the game in terms of possession and passing, Palermo are losing in the tackle and conceding more shots on goals than we are. By half-time, my team are positively nervous with the state of affairs, and I do my best to settle them down for another long 45 half of underdog football. Then Cesarini opens his Serie A account, a little over three years since signing for a Seconda Divisione team. It's a special goal, too, with Cuomo carving the defence open with a single pass and Cesarini charging through to chip it goalward; Tzorvas can only palm it further into the top corner.

Unione Venezia 1 - 1 Fiorentina (Serie A TIM)

Another day, another enervating battle against the odds. Alberto Rodriguez sees red for Fiorentina with three minutes played for holding back Ganz when the poacher is through on goal. This allows us to take charge of the game, though it's still Fiorentina who come closest, pinging the angle of post and bar from distance. This effort came from Mauro Formica, and he must have been sighting for his second shot, minutes later, which flies straight and true into the top corner. There's nothing to be done about it, and I am sympathetic with my team at the break. Eight minutes after the restart, four passes bring us down the field before Coralli finds Cesarini and Cesarini finds Ganz, who coolly sidesteps the keeper before blazing in the finish. It's his first of the new season, and worth waiting for. Fiorentina look tired and stretched, having used all their subs by the 60 minute mark, and so I send on Baccarin to run at the defence. We continue to tease and taunt Fiorentina with our passing, but no chances come. A creditable result.

A superb start to the season. No team has ever been relegated in recent years with our target of 40 points, and we're already a fifth of the way there after four matches.

Genoa 0 - 1 Unione Venezia (Serie A TIM)

Genoa are performing below expectations in these early games, and sit just outside the drop zone. It takes just under a minute for us to stretch them far enough that Taddei can slip Cesarini the ball for 1-0. Ten minutes later, though, Lorenzo Laverone has to go full sprint to clear the ball off our line. Full credit to the left-back; he's been solid so far, despite my reservations about his temperament. Genoa inexplicably go to a 5-2-3 in the second half, prompting me to simply retreat into midfield and keep the ball. We have the lead, you numskulls. Chávez dropping off the line causes all sorts of problems, as hoped, and he times his run on 55 minutes to perfection, though Eduardo nearly keeps the ball out. Nearly. Genoa persist in having, like, three men at once mark a lone Rispoli until the whistle blows. Someone should tell them he isn't any good.

Luis Enrique, Genoa manager and tactical mastermind, is the latest to lavish praise on my scrappy upstarts. In more serious news, Luigi Silvestri is back in training, and according to my near-constant monitoring over the past months, it hasn't set him back irreparably.

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Wow! Great start! Just beware the drop off :(

Very aware of the drop-off. My first seasons in top divisions are always unbalanced: either I'll start strong and collapse, or start collapsed and get better. But I never manage to be consistent.

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WoW great job in getting promoted with a team thats about as good as a pile of s**t!

P.S---- Zlatomir Munteanu pls could we have a screenshot?

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October 2015

Unione Venezia 2 - 0 Roma (Serie A TIM)

It's still a wonder to see the familiar crests and colours of these big clubs flashing around the humble Pierluigi Penzo, which is rammed to capacity every week now. As much of a wonder as seeing our doggedStefano Olivieri share a field with the likes of Daniele De Rossi. Not quite as much of a wonder as seeing Roma centre-back Rhodolfo clatter his own keeper chasing a long ball, leaving it for Chávez to collect and stroke home. Or Fiorucci powering a header toward goal from a Grieco corner, only to have Daniel Osvaldo (o.g.) help it in at the back post. By the end, I am speechless. The crowd is on their feet. Roma hurry off to their bus, hoping not to encounter their own travelling fans.

Coralli is out for three or four weeks with a damaged knee cap, but that's the only problem in sight. After six games, we have the meanest defence in Serie A, having given up a single goal, and that a piledriver from distance. What makes this more astounding is that, for all their promise, our young defenders are meant to be among the league's worst.


We're second, by the way. Second.

Torino 2 - 2 Unione Venezia (Serie A TIM)

Our second goal conceded this season comes 16 minutes into the first half, as Federico Moretti squeezes a shot off from the tightest of angles in a crowded box. When we get our own back, Fiorucci is again desperately unlucky not to be credited, as the officials instead deem goalkeeper Alberto Frison (o.g.) to have punched the corner into his own net. We gradually improve from a poor start, and could have gone into the break with the lead if Ganz wasn't wasteful with his chances. It's a game neither side deserves to win, but Fiorucci at least deserves a goal, and he gets one on 77 minutes, heading in Grieco's free kick at the back post. Still only 18, he has been immense so far this season. Just when it looks like he's secured another three points, however, Torino pull one back in the dank, dark depths of stoppage time, when Brahimi's cross from the right flank makes it all the way over to António Rodrigues on the far side of our penalty area. Caught napping.

18 year-old Piero Marino, released by Frosinone despite being dubbed the next Massimo Maccarone, arrives on free transfer after this game as a potential replacement for backup striker Rispoli, who looks increasingly likely to see a January exit.

Unione Venezia 1 - 0 Milan (Serie A TIM)

Tonight one of the titans of world football visits our house, though they're in raggedy shape with Rafa Benítez in charge, finishing a staggeringly poor 16th last season. That's no reason not to be wary, yet despite a spate of yellow cards and little possession, it's Venezia who take the lead with their very first shot of the game. Simone Andrea Ganz, son of the more famous Maurizio, scores against the side he was abandoned by several years earlier. It's a humbling moment for one of Italy's elite clubs, and a pleasing moral tale about trusting in youth and so on and yadda yadda. Some such nonsense. Milan set about kicking my team to bits in retaliation. Controversy then strikes on 83 minutes, when Diego Costa, having already cannoned his shot off the bar with Tonani beaten, floats in the last of a series of Milan headers. But the goal is scratched off for a nonexistent foul. Better to be lucky than good.

Unbeaten in eight games.

Unione Venezia 0 - 1 Parma (Serie A TIM)

After the teams we've faced so far this year, second from bottom Parma should be easy beats, right? Not on the evidence of the first half, when they have the lion's share of possession. The best chance, though, as is typical, falls to Venezia, when Chávez sets the right upright quivering from just inside the area. I'm less than satisfied at half-time, and the team goes back out snarling and ready to tear hot, bloody chunks out of the Parmigiani. Then Modesto finds Jorge utterly unmarked at the back post, and the ageing Spanish centre back boots it in. The goal is game-changing, as Parma start to unpick our back four with greater ease. I'd like to say we come back into it late on, but that's simply not the case. With 35% possession and no shots on target, we are deserving losers.

In better news, Luigi Silvestri starts his first game for the Venezia reserves, scoring and winning man of the match in a 2-1 win over amateur side Cordignano. Warms the heart, it does.

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Great win over Milan! You should be in the Europe spots by now?

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