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FM 14 - Confessions Of A Megalomaniac

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"Football? It's big business down here in Zim. I make more money from Masvingo than I do from anything else. If you don't count the gunrunning, that is."

Mike Matterhorn, Chairman, Chief Executive, Director of Football, Manager, Head Coach and star striker for Zimbabwe's Masvingo FC, 2009.

How times have changed. Once a leading light in the Zimbabwean football industry, Matterhorn is on the run. A 'disagreement' with one of the more unsavoury members of Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF means that nowhere in the country is safe, and settling anywhere for long periods of time is going to be dangerous. But who cares about long term stability when you're a football manager?

Matterhorn is used to a certain level of lifestyle that not many jobs can provide for, and the 'obvious' choice for him was football management. They don't call him Mad Mike for nothing...

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Leagues loaded & database:

Large database, with additional players from all top clubs

Argentina

Australia

Brazil

China

England

France

Germany

Holland

Italy

Norway

Portugal

South Korea

South Africa

Spain

USA

I wish my PC good luck!

Rules, Aims & Objectives:

I've never done a journeyman career before, and want to give it some structure, so I'm laying down a few rules that I'll try to play by:

  • Never stay two full seasons at a club team
  • Be loud, passionate and generally obnoxious to any manager who interacts with me
  • When possible, always be managing both a club and international team
  • Take any opportunity to manage Zimbabwe!

The aims are simple: money, glory and power, in that order! Mike is all about the money all of the time, so my career moves are going to be primarily dictated by how much money I can earn!

The Career So Far:

Chapter I: Is This The Way To Almere City?

Chapter II: Spicing Things Up With The Chilli Boys

Chapter III: Mad Mike Does Dallas

Chapter IV: Small City Syndrome?

Sub-Episode Alpha: £300 Per Week, And An Unlimited Supply of Um Bongo

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Thanks, Deisler... I'll do my best!

So, Mad Mike has spent the first three months of the game on the run, desperately applying for any and every job that has come up. Rejected by clubs in Korea, Germany, Spain and Norway, I began to get a little disheartened. That is, until I was then rejected for the NAC Breda job in Holland. They decided to poach the delightfully named Fred Grim, manager of little Almere FC. Now, Rene ter Borgh, Almere chairman, was an old business associate of mine - we traded diamonds for Russian automatic rifles. No prizes for guessing which way the trade went! A few handshakes later, and the ink was drying on my first management contract.

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It was only a measly £1,000 a week, and the contract was only until the end of the season, but it was something. According to Rene and the rest of the board, I had to finish in a 'respectable league position', whatever the hell that means. They gave me a transfer budget of just under half a million, not that I could use it in early October, and a wage budget that was a pathetic £500 per week above what we were already spending. Jesus, I couldn't even afford half of another me! Time to talk to some journos...

'Some' was perhaps the wrong word, as only the Almere Football Express even bothered to turn up to my first press conference. Still, Michael van Wijk got a reasonable scoop, as I spoke pretty honestly about how I couldn't care less about the previous incumbent, or what the fans thought about him leaving. What caused most consternation were my comments about the board, however - I said that 'the powers that be' had decided the goals for the season, and that I really didn't know where we'd finish!

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We were actually doing reasonably well under Mr Grim - the team sat comfortably in 5th after nine games, but the issue was scoring goals. We had just eleven, and no individual had scored more than 2! My first game was away at top of the league Sparta, who had already qualified for the promotion playoffs somehow. They'd won their last five games (and 8 from 9), so I wasn't really expecting much from this.

There wasn't much notable about our squad, to be honest - the most exciting thing was having Ronald Koeman as an 18 year old amateur goalkeeper - so I stuck to a pretty basic 4-4-2. We did have a couple of lumps who played up front but were slow yet good in the air, so the plan was to bomb down the wings and get my goals through headers, or from knockdowns to a poacher.

Things didn't start well, with Sparta bombarding our keeper for the first half an hour, but we scored with our first attack of the game. As I'd planned, long ball up to my target man, who flicked it on for Jason Oost to run through and score. We held out till half time, but two goals in 6 minutes for Sparta around the hour mark made things difficult. However, 5 minutes to go, and up pops Oost again to equalise with a header. Very happy with a point in game number one, and the fans are happy too!

Sparta 2 - 2 Almere City (Oost x2)

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October 2013

Almere City 3 - 3 Achilles '29 (Serrarens 15, Boldewijn 53, Receveur 63)

This should've been a good chance for me to get that first win - Achilles were deep in the relegation mire already. I went into the game with an attacking mindset, hoping to get a decent result to boost morale and goal difference. That dissipated when Achilles took the lead early on. We equalised pretty swiftly afterwards, but they then scored twice more to send us into half time 3-1 down. I unleashed my first 'hairdryer' team talk at half time, and the team responded well, dragging us level by the hour mark, but we couldn't find the final breakthrough and it was 2 draws from 2.

Telstar 3 - 1 Almere City (Janssen 78)

Outplayed, outmuscled and outgunned. Two early goals left us shellshocked, and the hairdryer didn't work so well second time around. Janssen scored a peach to get us back into it, but as we poured forward Berghuis caught us on the counter and it was game over.

Almere City 1 - 3 Willem II (Plet 85)

Ditto. Except they got the third before we pulled back our consolation. Wasn't so disappointed with this one, as Willem are one of the bigger teams in this league.

So we were dropping down the league like a stone - 4 games played, 2 draws and 2 defeats. Not exactly the dream start to my managerial career...

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November 2013

FC Eindhoven 2 - 1 Almere City (Janssen 73)

This one was a real kick in the teeth. We bossed possession, created far more chances than Eindhoven and still managed to lose. They took the lead in the 71st minute through a misplaced backpass, we equalised almost instantly, and then conceded again to a wondergoal four minutes later. And that was that.

Almere City 2 - 2 De Graafschap (Browne 53, Oost pen 89)

Brilliant result. De Graafschap are flying high near the top of the table, and when they took the lead after just 5 minutes our supporters were fearing the worst. And it only got worse - Hulst doubling the visitors' lead just before half time. Out came the hairdryer once more, and it worked a treat! Rashid Browne scored a wonderful individual goal, dribbling in from the left hand side, and Oost converted the penalty that he won in the last minute. Had we reached a turning point?

Almere City 2-3 FC Oss (Oost 28, Toet 45)

Nope. This was a shocking turnaround. After conceding almost directly from the kickoff, we turned things around with Oost coolly finishing a one on one before centre back Toet headed home from a corner. But we fell apart in the second half, after they scored straight after half time, and sealed the win with five minutes to go. Gutted.

Fortuna Sittard 4 - 2 Almere City (Edu 57, Tadmine 86)

Oh dear. 4-0 down after 50 minutes, we managed to salvage some degree of respectability through two great goals. Edu (who I'd spent the last of the wage budget on following the depressing defeat to Oss) scored a screamer on debut, and Tadmine's was a fine team goal. Not enough though, and I was beginning to feel the pressure.

Helmond Sport 2 - 1 Almere City (Busse 87)

And again. One down after half an hour, they thought they'd won it when they doubled their lead with ten minutes to go. Busse got us back in touch with a header from a corner with three minutes to go, and I thought I'd got a point when we were awarded a stoppage time penalty. Oost blazzed it, however, and we went home empty handed.

Record so far: P9 W0 D3 L6. I was starting to feel that staying in Holland much longer wasn't going to work!

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December 2013

Almere City 2 - 3 FC Den Bosch (Oost pen 7, Janssen 37)

Absolutely fantastic game - as many of our defeats have been - but another defeat. After taking the lead, Den Bosch pegged us back with two goals in quick succession. We equalised just before half time and absolutely peppered the Den Bosch keeper for the eight minutes until the interval. After my passionate words of encouragement, my goalkeeper inexplicably decided to play a short goal kick straight to their striker, who accepted the gift gratefully, and sent us home with no points again.

Almere City 1 - 1 Jong Ajax (Serrarens 18)

I'd been looking around for other jobs for a while now, as this was getting incredibly frustrating, but this was the straw that broke the camel's back. Not only did we fail to win at home against one of the few teams who were still below us in the table, but I also spotted a number of Zimbabwean looking gentlemen in the crowd. I don't think my lack of success warrants an Almere City fan club popping up in Harare, and given their menacing builds I assumed that they were friends of my former associates back home.

FC Emmen 2 - 0 Almere City

Oh dear. My mind wasn't really on the game, and a grand total of 0 shots on target suggests that my players didn't bother either. I laid into them at the final whistle, questioning both their passion and their ability, and was summoned to the boardroom the next day. A somewhat awkward conversation followed, with raised voices on both sides. Nothing was really resolved, and there were a number of media reports the next morning that I was close to the sack.

Almere City 1 - 3 FC Dordrecht (Edu 64)

Last game before the winter break, and no respite from the dreadful run of form. Edu's goal wasn't much of a consolation, and I'd been on the Job Centre website all evening (who knew there was such a thing for football managers?) Having pinged off a few applications, I was summoned once more to the Chairman's office, and was fairly outspoken in refusing to apologise, and I was within a cat's whisker of the sack.

The media jumped on this the next day, and I told it like it was, and was inevitably delivered an ultimatum by the board. I ignored the ultimatum, instead choosing to hand deliver my resignation letter to the chairman's office. Taking inspiration from Uruguayan master Gus Poyet, the letter wasn't the only thing left on the chairman's desk! The only bitter pill I had to swallow was that Almere were actually going to get some compensation for losing me. Never mind, it's not my money...

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So, after 3 painful months in Holland, I was out, and off to sunnier climes closer to home. Much closer to home. Dangerously close to home, some might say. I'd thought long and hard about managing in South Africa, but in the end I just didn't have much of a choice. I didn't fancy being unemployed again so soon. Oh, and when a team nicknamed 'The Chilli Boys' offers you the job, there's just too much pun potential to turn down. Apologies, readers, but it's going to be brutal: 'peppering the goalkeeper', 'turning the heat up' and 'firing up the team'!

Anyway, back to business, and the most important thing: Chippere United were giving me a pay rise! Must be due to my stellar performance with Almere (?), but a 10% payrise to the princely sum of £1,100 per week was much appreciated. And I'd get a bonus if we got promoted, but we're in 13th place at the half way stage, we've lost the last four (all 2-1), and I've never won a game as a manager. I'm not getting that bonus!

Here's the squad:

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Lots of injuries, and lots of loanees... The stand out player is captain Doctor Mampuru, who looks pretty solid for this level, but there's reasonable depth everywhere. First job is to end this run of successive defeats. Let's have a pep talk with the squad...

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Loving this, good luck with world domination!

Chippa Utd always seemed to do ok in my save, hope you have more luck than in Holland :thup:

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Good luck with Chippa, fingers crossed for a better start than in Holland.

I can see the two full seasons rule being limiting, especially when it comes to continental competitions, no room to build a team into those but will make for an interesting journey around the world.

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January 2014

I'd decided to go with a different formation to the 4-4-2 that had failed so dismally in Holland, and tried out a 4-5-1 instead. Two pacey wingers, with a big man up top to win flick ons to them. First game was against the league leaders, Jomo Cosmos...

Chippa United 4 - 2 Jomo Cosmos (Panandetiguiri 1, Shumana 23,47, Ngebo 87)

Immense. Nothing else I can say to that. Not one win in 13 in Holland, and we beat the league leaders first time out in SA! We got off to a flying start, with my almost unpronounceable right winger scoring after a flick on from the big man. Then came a frenetic three minute period when they equalised, we retook the lead, and they equalised again! Then the game calmed somewhat, before my wise words at half time led to my other winger grabbing his second just after half time. Time to batten down the hatches, and we took a bit of a pummelling before lone striker Ngebo scored on the counter to seal my first win in management. YES! Ruined a nice suit with the di Canio slide though when that last goal went in...

Thanda Royal Zulu 2 - 2 Chippa United (Panandetiguiri 18,63)

An even game in the statistics and the scoreline - they were marginally ahead on the possession, but we edged it on chances. we took the lead twice, but sadly it was not to be. I was really enjoying how lethal my wingers were on the counterattack, however - I seem to have found a system that suits the South African First Division. More by luck than good judgement, methinks...

Chippa United 5 - 2 Sivutsa Stars (Panandetiguiri 11, Taaibos 36, 42, Akpablo 63, 67)

The boy cannot stop scoring! We took the early lead, before four goals in 6 minutes meant we went into the break 3-2 up. I told the team to concentrate, and it worked a treat, target man Akpabio capitalising on some deadly counterattacking to complete a comfortable win. We were hot stuff!

Chippa United 2 - 2 Baroka FC (Shumana 40, Akpabio 42)

Having woken up with somewhat of a hangover after that 5-2, I was hoping that Baroka might provide me some light relief (geddit?).. All was looking good at half time, having cruised into a 2-0 lead against the new league leaders, but they pulled one back on the hour. Shumana missed a penalty in the 89th minute, and our hearts were broken when Masilela slid the ball home in the 93rd. Bit of a downer to end the month on, but unbeaten in 4 under Mad Mike.. Things are pretty good!

So having suffered from minor depression in Holland, I'm feeling much more Chippa in South Africa!

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February 2014

I had decided to stick with the squad I had for now, so my only involvement on deadline day was to reject a host of loan bids from Premiership sides for my utility full back, who then promptly got injured. Ungrateful sod!

African Warriors 2 - 2 Chippa United (Taaibos 56, Panandetiguiri 85)

Another late equaliser conceded. African Warriors were just above me in the league, so we could really have done with a win. Our fans were jubilant when we took the lead for the second time in the 85th minute, but their star striker popped up to equalise two minutes later.

Roses United 1 - 4 Chippa United (Panandetiguiri 4, 16, 18, Maponyane 55)

This boy is hot stuff, and is going to get my assistant manager fired! A natural defensive midfielder who has the ability to play at either full back or wide midfield, he was pushed into a winger role due to an early injury crisis, and has taken to it like a duck to water! Despite an 18 minute hattrick, my assistant, like clockwork, suggests that we might do better if we didn't play him out of position. Tit. Anyway, we dished out another mauling (their one coming as a last minute consolation), and were really pushing onwards and upwards.

United FC 0 - 3 Chippa United (Panandetiguiri 55, Maponyane 79, Shumana 81)

Well, United FC's midfield were about as creative as you'd expect from their team name! The only thing unexpected about this game was how long it took us to break through, but that man popped up again to give us the lead, and we pushed on after that...

Chippa United 3 - 1 FC Cape Town (Akpabio 53, Dolly 75, Rhode 90+1)

And we march on... A great victory, absolutely dominating a team who were previously above us. My heart was in my mouth after they pulled one back in the 85th minute (can't be doing with any more 2-2 draws!), but Rhode came off the bench for his first appearance under my management and scored a beautiful chip when through one on one.

So here we are, 8 games to go and 7 points to catch up to get in the promotion spots... Promotion would be absolutely huge for us - we are haemorrhaging money like there's no tomorrow. It looks like the club were relegated last season, and are still paying a Premiership wage bill. Get the feeling that it'll be cut horribly should we not go up, and that'll mean losing the best of my team.

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March 2014

Chippa United 5 - 0 Milano Utd (Akpabio 2, 14, 70, Okuwosa 9, Panandetiguiri 24)

Too easy. Milano, languishing in boring lower mid table, were absolutely blown away. 4-0 up inside 25 minutes, including a super hat trick from my target man, gave me a chance to sit back and take it easy, letting the players take their foot off the gas to save energy for the next battle.

Chippa United 3 - 2 Black Leopards (Shumama 11, Dolly 56, Okpako 57)

The first of the tough games - Black Leopards were in second at this point, and the relentless form of the teams above us meant that we were going to have to win pretty much every game to have a chance at sneaking into the promotion mix. After a bit of a scare, Dolly scored one of the best goals I've seen on FM (a Paolo di Canio style volley) to level the score, and Okpako headed home a minute later to give us the lead. We managed to hold on to take a huge three points, and nudge closer to that top 3.

Witbank Spurs 1 - 3 Chippa United (Taaibos 11, Mampuru 57, Akpabio 72)

A fairly routine win - Witbank's goal coming in the last minute after we were assured victory. Taaibos was magnificent, with a goal and two assists, although the assist for Mampuru's goal consisted of him nudging a free kick before Mampuru lamped it into the top corner.

Maluti FET 1 - 2 Chippa United (Shumana 55, 66)

The worst team in the league, and boy was I scared we were going to screw this up. A goal down at half time, having not had a single shot on target, I laid into the team. It seemed to do the trick, although once we took the lead they switched off again, giving me a very nervy last twenty minutes.

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This left it pretty tight at the top! I had Santos to play next, and my last game would be against Jomo Cosmos (with two mid table drongos in between). 4 wins gets me to 57 points, and I have the best goal difference in the league. Very much squeaky bum time!

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Chippa United 3 - 0 Santos FC (Akpabio 46, Shumana pen 50, Makgothi 66)

A nervy first half against the team one place ahead of us, but we relaxed after the break and it ended up pretty comfortable. This lifted us into fourth with three games to go.

Chippa United 3 - 1 Blackburn RSA (Akpabio 7, 21, Shumana 59)

A simple win against a team looking destined for relegation. Akpabio scored a bullet header, and tapped in on the goal line after a horrific mix up between the centre back and keeper. Shumana sealed the points on the hour, but I was a little peeved when we gave up the clean sheet in the 92nd minute.

Vasco CT 1 - 3 Chippa United (Panandetiguiri 42, Shumana 54, 82)

Huge, huge win coming from behind. They took the lead early on despite our dominance, and Madi P finally returned to goalscoring form to level just before the break. Shumana has been on fire on the other wing recently (and is now our top scorer), and he ensured we took home all three points.

Best of all, in the big game between Jomo Cosmos and Baroka FC, Baroka thumped them 5-0. This leaves the league as tight as I've ever seen at the top. No room for errors!

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Last day fixtures:

Jomo Cosmos vs Chippa United

Roses United vs Black Leopards (Roses are in a relegation battle almost as tight as the one at the top - 3 teams are on 27 points, and Roses have a -18 GD rather than the other 2 on -19)

Thanda Royal Zulu vs Baroka FC (Zulu are in mid table - could rise to 6th, could fall to 8th, but it doesn't really matter)

So, if I win, then I at least get into the playoffs. Anything else, and I don't. Pretty simple, really...

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The week between the game passed very slowly, with me beating off offers with a stick for a few of my players. You'd think it would be Shumala, Panandetiguiri, and Akpabio, as they're the ones scoring all the goals, but in fact it's my keeper and two defenders. Doctor Mampuru proved so popular that his agent decided to visit me to ask for an improved contract given he was so in demand. I called the Doctor into my office for a quick chat, and a few minutes later he left the building with neither a new contract nor an agent! Being a hardass is going rather well in SA - who'da thunk it! I also laid into the Cosmos manager before the game.

South African First Division: Race For Promotion

We start the day with four teams chasing the three spots at the top of the table. First place equals automatic promotion, and second and third will enter the promotion mini league (god knows how that works though!). Chippa United are 3 points behind Jomo Cosmos, Baroka FC and Black Leopards, but with a far superior goal difference.

'10 - GOAL! Thanda Royal Zulu 0 - 1 Baroka FC

Baroka FC		60	+21
Jomo Cosmos		58	+20
Black Leopards		58	+20
Chippa United		55	+29

'22 - GOAL! Roses Utd 0 - 1 Black Leopards

'24 - GOAL! Thanda Royal Zulu 0 - 2 Baroka FC

'26 - GOAL! Jomo Cosmos 0 - 1 Chippa United (Makgothi) - Cosmos fail to clear properly from a corner, and Makgothi is allowed time and space to rifle home

Baroka FC		60	+22
Black Leopards		60	+21
Chippa United		57	+30
Jomo Cosmos		57	+19

'30 - GOAL! Thanda Royal Zulu 1 - 2 Baroka FC

'34 - GOAL! Thanda Royal Zulu 1 - 3 Baroka FC

'39 - GOAL! Jomo Cosmos 1 - 1 Chippa United

Baroka FC		60	+22
Black Leopards		60	+21
Jomo Cosmos		58	+20
Chippa United		55	+29

HALF TIME - With regards to the promotion race, Baroka are in pole position for the title, with Chippa set to miss out. Milano have the edge in the battle at the bottom, with their 0-0 draw better than the 1-0 scorelines by which Blackburn and Roses Utd are trailing by.

'49 - GOAL! Roses United 1 - 1 Black Leopards

'54 - GOAL! Jomo Cosmos 1 - 2 Chippa United (Akpabio) Stunning goal, coming from an innocuous-looking throw in on the left. The ball is played in to his feet, and Akpabio spins the defender before belting it from fully 25 yards into the far corner!

Baroka FC		60	+22
Black Leopards		58	+20
Chippa United		57	+30
Jomo Cosmos		57	+19

'56 - PENALTY APPEAL! Jomo Cosmos' King goes down after a challenge from the Chippa keeper, but he receives a yellow card for his troubles!

'56 - GOAL! Thanda Royal Zulu 1 - 4 Baroka FC

'59 - GOAL! Roses Utd 1 - 2 Black Leopards

Baroka FC		60	+23
Black Leopards		60	+21
Chippa United		57	+30
Jomo Cosmos		57	+19

'85 - GOAL! Jomo Cosmos 1 - 3 Chippa United (Akpabio) Clinical. Taaibos latches on to a misplaced pass, plays a great ball through to Akpabio, and the big man keeps his cool to sidefoot home. Almost there now...

'88 - GOAL! Roses United 1 - 3 Black Leopards

Baroka FC		60	+23
Black Leopards		60	+22
Chippa United		57	+31
Jomo Cosmos		57	+18

FULL TIME - So Baroka take the title by having a goal difference one better than Black Leopards, and Chippa United sneak into the promotion race at the expense of Jomo Cosmos after their showdown. Blackburn are the unlucky ones at the bottom - Milano held on to their 0-0 with Santos, and Roses edged to safety by just one goal!

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Thanks, iHeadHunta. That coding tag for the tables makes everything so fiddly!

So, that 3rd place finish took us into the promotion playoffs. We would face Black Leopards, who finished a place above us, and Polokwane City, who were second bottom in the Premiership. The playoffs​ consisted of a mini league, with each team playing each other home and away. The top team would be promoted to the Premiership.

The schedule:

28/5 Polokwane City vs Chippa United

1/6 Black Leopards vs Polokwane City

3/6 Black Leopards vs Chippa United

5/6 Chippa United vs Black Leopards

7/6 Chippa United vs Polokwane City

10/6 Polokwane City vs Black Leopards

Pretty hectic! I'd be playing 4 games in 11 days, but at least getting the away fixtures out of the way first.

In the meantime, however, the bids for my players continued apace. My goalkeeper was out of contract at the end of the season, and I received an offer that was too good to refuse for a player with six weeks remaining on his contract. And star man Doctor Mampuru also departed - a Qatari team offered £500k plus 50% of next sale, which was over ten times our previous record sale. This left us a little threadbare, but I hoped that our form and morale would be enough to get us through this...

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Polokwane City 1 - 3 Chippa United (Panandetiguiri 36, Akpabio 59, Shumana 82)

After falling behind to the team from the higher division after just 2 minutes, I thought we might be in for a long afternoon. Madi P equalised half an hour later, and after a few choice words of encouragement at half time, we opened them up, with all of my stellar front 3 scoring.

Black Leopards 1 - 2 Polokwane City

Black Leopards 4 - 1 Chippa United (Panandetiguiri 19)

Not good enough. Not by a long chalk. They raced into a two goal lead early doors, before we pulled one back. It stayed at 2-1 till half time, and my rollicking clearly had the opposite effect to what I intended. We capitulated, and I wasn't confident about having to play them again just two days later. Amazingly, this was my first defeat as Chippa manager, five months after joining!

Chippa United 1 - 0 Black Leopards (Shumana 64)

An incredibly tight game won by a magical goal from Shumana. He took the ball down the left wing, beating two players before cutting inside, beating two more, and firing home.

Chippa United 3 - 3 Polokwane City (Feindouno 26, Okpako 34, Shumana 70)

We started appallingly in this game, conceding two in the first fifteen minutes. New signing Pascal Feindouno (yes, someone we've actually heard of from real life!) scored on debut after a stunning cross from Shumana, but they made it 3-1 moments later. Okpako rifled in from the edge of the area, and we were back to one behind. The second half was much cagier, with Shumana nabbing us a point with a completely mishit cross that nestled perfectly into the top corner. Not the way I wanted our last goal of the season to go in, but it'll do.

This left the table looking like this:

	P	Pts	GF	GA	GD


Chippa Utd	4	7	8	8	0


Polokwane City	3	4	6	7	-1


Black Leopards	3	3	5	4	+1

So I decided to watch the Polokwane vs Black Leopards game, knowing that anything but a Polokwane win would see me promoted, and even a 1-0 or 2-1 win would be just about OK (I've always wanted to be promoted based on alphabetical order!)

'29 - GOAL! Polokwane City 1 - 0 Black Leopards

Level on points now, and goal difference, but one ahead on goals scored...

'30 - GOAL! Polowkane City 1 - 1 Black Leopards

Back to being 2 points ahead...

'57 - GOAL! Polokwane City 2 - 1 Black Leopards

Only ahead on alphabetical order...

'74 - GOAL! Polokwane City 3 - 1 Black Leopards

Bugger....

FT: Polokwane City 3 - 1 Black Leopards

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As I trudged disconsolately back to my car after the game, my mobile buzzed. The chairman's number. Oh good. So, was this my verbal P45 or the news about the slashing of our budgets for next year?

"Evening, Mike"

"Evening"

"So, the board and I wanted to ring you to congratulate you on getting us back to the Premiership at the first attempt."

I was somewhat perplexed. Had I missed something?

"You did know, yeah? They work it out on head to head results. They could've won that game 25-0 and it wouldnt've mattered a jot."

So why wait this long to call me? We played our last game three days ago. Oh well, guess I better get preparing for life in the Premiership...

But first of all:

Mad Mike's Season Review: 2013-2014

Overall Career:


Games Played        33
Games Won        15
Goal Difference        +17
Win Ratio        45%
Total Earnings        £43,500
Honours            Promoted from South African National Division 1 (2014)


Almere City:


Games Played        13
Games Won        0
Goal Difference        -14
Win Ratio        0%
Weekly Salary        £1,000
Honours            None
League Position        5th when arrived, 17th when left, 13th at season end


Chippa United


Games Played        20
Games Won        15
Goal Difference        +31
Win Ratio        75%
Weekly Salary        £1,100 plus £20,500 promotion bonus
Honours            Promoted
League Position        13th when arrived, 3rd at season end

Top Goalscorer: Shumala

Most Assists: Akpabio

Fan's Player of the Year: Shumala

'Mad' Mike's Honest Assessment: Let's ignore the debacle that was Almere City and focus on my stellar record with the Chilli Boys! Ending the regular season with eleven straight wins to get us into the promotion playoffs on goal difference, then just sneaking through that mini league to get Chippa back in the big time was fantastic. We played some really exciting, direct football, and I'm really looking forward to the Premier League!

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Mad Mike's Dodgy Dealings!

As you can see, I have been a busy bee!

m4k3RQW.jpg

We'll start with the leavers; most of those who left on frees were First Division standard players on Premiership wages (probably why we were struggling when I got there!). The only exception to that being Mzimele, my keeper, who refused a new deal. I managed to get a bid in of 0 plus 50% of next sale with just six weeks remaining on his contract! Very happy to get £65,000 for Peterson and Sithole (careful typing that!), who were beyond awful, but less happy to see the other three go. Mampuru, Makgothi and Okwuosa were key parts of the promotion winning team, but sizeable bids with big sell-on clauses turned both their heads and mine. Looking at the South African market, it seems relatively easy to pick up talent on the cheap and flog it on to the Middle East or Eastern Europe for 10x the price, so that should be the business model here.

The papers commented that I 'was the most active manager during the transfer window,' and how right they were! No less than 17 new players arrived at the Phillipi during July and August, although Akpabio and Maponyane had been here on loan the season before, and Mokoena would spend the next year on loan at former owners United FC. I won't go through each individual signing, but I feel confident now that we have a couple of players for every position, and we won't be as reliant on the same front three as last year. Let's hope they can blend in reasonably quickly...

Onwards with the season!

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August 2014

Swallows 0 - 2 Chippa United (Shabalala 34, Akpabio 66)

Fantastic start to life in the top flight! We comprehensively outplayed the Swallows on their own patch, winning pretty much every stat battle there is. With regards to the most important one, Shabalala gave us the lead from about 50 cm out after their centre back decided to head an innocuous looking corner back towards his own goal. Akpabio sealed it with a simple finish after super work from Sekotlong down the left wing, and there was no coming back for Swallows once Nyadombo was sent off after two yellow cards in 3 minutes.

Chippa United 1 - 3 Kaizer Chiefs (Akpabio 1)

After a dream start - my first FM 14 goal without the opponents having touched the ball - the Chiefs showed their class, pulling level by half time. A very dodgy penalty was followed up by a great goal by SA international Bernard Parker, and we were back down to earth with a bump/

SuperSport United 1 - 1 Chippa United (Akpabio 37)

The sort of game which screams 'bug'! SuperSport were infinitely the better side - 25 shots to our 5 - but we managed to sneak a point. Maponyane was magnificent, and Akpabio scored again. So glad that he was ready for the step up to the Premiership; he's looking like an absolute steal.

Chippa United 1 - 0 Black Aces (Maponyane 30)

Tedious as sin, but we'll take three points at home, even if it's a dire match settled by a near post header from a corner! That lifts us into 5th after August, although this is skewed by the fact we've already played four games. Most teams have played 3, but Orlando Pirates have only bothered to turn up for one (and a boring 0-0 at that!)

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Great to see you in the top flight. Not a bad start to the new season too :thup:

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Sorry for the delay, chaps - been a busy week! Fair bit to update y'all on now though...

September 2014

Ajax CT 4 - 0 Chippa United

Well, the less said about this the better. 4-0 in the Cape Town derby is not the best way to endear myself to the Chippa fans. Particularly when we weren't even worse than them. More possession, more shots on target, but FOUR fewer goals. Oh dear!

Chippa United 3 - 2 Baroka FC (OG 8, Ary 60, Shumana 74)

Back with a bang, and we needed to be - Baroka had come up with us last season and were favourites to be relegated, so 3 points would be hugely helpful in avoiding the drop. I feared the worst after they took the lead four minutes in, but a spectacular own goal gifted us an equaliser. They retook the lead shortly afterwards, and I gave the lads a rollicking at half time. Ary tapped in after Akpabio hit the bar, and Shumana ran 30 yards before winning the game for us with a rocket.

Just the two games this month - very up and down!

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October 2014

Chippa United 0 - 1 Golden Arrows

Immensely frustrating. 12 shots, 6 on target, but not one proper chance. And we conceded from a corner. Bah!

Chippa United 7 (SEVEN!!) - 2 Orlando Pirates (Sekotlong 13, Ary 18, 35, Akpabio 47, Panadetiguiri 76, Rakhale 87, Eugene 90)

Phenomenal. And we got their manager sacked! Playing 3 at the back doesn't work against my winger-focused formation, it seems. 33 shots and 20 on target against one of the best teams in the country. All of my starting front three scored, I replaced them at 4-1 up and all their replacements scored too! And Ary missed a penalty for his hat trick. My best career result to date by a mile!

SA KO Cup 2nd Round: Golden Arrows 0 - 2 Chippa United (Simandla 16, Paizo 90+2)

A nice chance to take revenge, and to progress in the SA Knockout Cup. I played a weakened side, and Simandla really took his chance, finishing calmly after a spectacular mazy run. Paizo wrapped things up in stoppage time with a mishit cross that drifted past the keeper.

Sundowns 2 - 2 Chippa United (David 25, Akpabio 48)

Away at a top side, conceding early doors was far from ideal. David scored a crackerjack from distance to open his account for the club, and Ary's sublime through ball gave Akpabio an easy chance to give us the lead. We couldn't hold out for a win, but I was still very happy with a point to finish another topsy-turvy month

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November 2014

Platinum Stars 3 - 0 Chippa United

Hopeless again. 3-0 down after 20 minutes, and from then the game just fizzled out.

SA KO Cup Quarter Final: Chippa United 1 - 3 SuperSport United (Taaibos 40)

Too easy for SuperSport - the result didn't flatter them, as we scored with our only chance of the game, and managed just 38% possession at home. That brought our short-lived cup adventure to an end.

Chippa United 2 - 1 Maritzburg United (Eugene 15, Ary pen 40)

Good, solid win against a team one place below us in the league. Eugene finished neatly at the near post, and won the penalty that Ary converted to put us in control. Kumalo missed a golden opportunity from the spot to seal the points, and my nails took a nibbling after Delron Buckley scored a superb free kick. But we managed to hold out, and get a much-needed three points.

The fixtures seem to be coming in peculiar bursts at the moment - those three games were within ten days, and now we have no more games from the 11th until the 3rd of December. Must be due to the cup carrying on, I guess.

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December 2014

Bloem Celtic 1 - 2 Chippa United (Simandla 13, Appolis 70)

Away at the league leaders, and a superb counterattacking win. They took the lead early on, but a simple break left Simandla with a one on one which he duly dispatched. Appolis nabbed the points coming off the bench with a superb low drive.

Amazulu 2 - 2 Chippa United (Ary 6, Appolis 75)

Almost exactly the same story, except a less happy ending! In this case, we took the lead - Simandla with a stunning ball for Ary to tap in. They equalised with a sloppy goal just before the hour mark, but Appolis scored his second in two games and we retook the lead. Heartbreak in stoppage time however, as Diouf stole a point for Amazulu.

Chippa United 2 - 1 Wits (Simandla 44, Akpabio 45+2)

Super end to the month, with another counterattacking win off the back of just 37% of possession! Appolis played a stunning ball for Simandla, who took it very well, and Ary did the same for Akpabio just a couple of minutes later to give us a nice lead at the break. They pulled one back with ten minutes to go, but we held out well to end the month unbeaten, with 3 wins from 4.

Incidentally, that 87th minute goal against Amazulu cost me the Manager of the Month - fecking SuperSport winning all their league games!

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Mad Mike's (almost!) Mid-Season Review:

The league table is looking pretty sweet! 14 points clear of those relegation places, and fellow promoted club Baroka haven't even managed a win yet! Looking like we should comfortably avoid the drop - as soon as it is officially confirmed then I will start looking for a new club.

cKGu23m.jpg

The board are keen to tie me down to a new contract, but only offered a measly £850 per week. I nearly swerved my car off the road in disgust!

Leading Lights:

1. Walter Maponyane. The summer signing and former loanee has been a rock at the back.

2. George Akpabio. Also a former loanee, the big man up front is top scorer and has laid on a few too.

3. Ary. The little Angolan winger has been superb, really picking up as the season has gone on.

Mad Mike's Muppets:

1. Xolani Mdaki. I'd hoped that this guy could replace Doctor Mampuru at right back, but has struggled after an atrocious start

2. Vozinha. The new keeper has begun to get better over the past couple of games, but may well see himself replaced in January.

3. Vincent Mokoena. Not really his fault, but managed one game after signing and being loaned back to United FC before crocking his hip.

Transfer grading:

A:

Walter Maponyane, Ary and George Akpabio as mentioned above.

B:

Loyiso Simandla and Daylon Appolis started slowly, but have really picked up over recent weeks. Angolan midfielder David and South African counterpart Sibusiso Kumalo have been solid but unspectacular, and almost ever-present. Paizo has been very up and down at left back.

C:

Keegan Ritchie hasn't managed to really provide Paizo with much competition at left back as yet. Thabo Rakhale has been distinctly average whenever he's come on; Thokozani Sekotlong has looked much brighter, but he has spent too much time on the treatment table.

D:

Vozinha and Xolani Mdaki have simply not been as good as they should've been. Thabo Rakhale was a star for Black Leopards last season, but has failed to live up to that as yet here, not really featuring much. Lindokhule Nkambule and Vincent Mokoena have been injured for almost the entire season thus far.

Aims for the rest of the year and beyond:

  • Keep the club on track to make the top 8
  • Sign a South African keeper if there is one of sufficient quality available
  • Hold on to our best players
  • Find a new home for myself, preferably with a payrise!

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January 2015

Chippa United 0 - 0 FS Stars

Should have won this pretty comfortably, but their keeper was inspired and our strikers just weren't good enough.

Kaizer Chiefs 2 - 0 Chippa United

I expected nothing from this tie against the league leaders, and boy did I get it! Insipid performance, and 2-0 did not flatter them.

Chippa United 0 - 1 Swallows

Still no goals this month, and we really should have done better in what was a pretty even game.

Chippa United 2 - 3 SuperSport United (Akpabio 38, 73)

Well, at least we scored! Twice, even! We led twice, each time only for about five minutes, and they slotted a winner in stoppage time. Gutting.

So there it was: a shocking end to a shocking month. The only bright spark was the agreement to sign South Africa U20 goalkeeper Brandon Petersen at the end of his contract from fierce rivals Ajax CT.

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February 2015

Black Aces 3 - 3 Chippa United (Akpabio 44, Rakhale 70, 72)

Now this was more like it! The boys really showed some heart after a very lacklustre January. We went behind early on, but Akpabio beat a man and coolly finished to bring us level at half time. A quickfire double from Black Aces left me fuming - these guys were battling with relegation - but Rakhale tapped in to get us back in touch, and Akpabio's sublime through ball gave him another simple finish. We kept pressing, but couldn;t quite manage the breakthrough for a winner. Encouraging, though.

Baroka FC 1 - 2 Chippa United (Akpabio 15, Simandla 22)

This was the perfect opportunity to build on that point - Baroka were rock bottom, without a win all season, and their morale was in the toilet! A quick double from Simandla (first as provider for Akpabio, secondly with what FM described as 'an audacious attempt' from the corner of the box) left us cruising, and we won it despite a stoppage time consolation after a mistake by Gilbert.

Chippa United 1 - 1 Ajax CT (Sekotlong 84)

The chance to get revenge for our thumping at their place earlier on in the season. We didn't take it, but boy did that draw feel like a win! A wonderfully open game that somehow stayed 0-0 till just past the hour, when Ajax took the lead. Sekotlong scored a screamer with five to go to secure the point.

After not winning in January, we didn't lose in Feb! The topsy-turvy season continues - our ability to be inconsistently consistent is quite impressive!

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March 2015

Golden Arrows 3 - 6 Chippa United (Rakhale 20, 66, Akpabio 26, 28, 44, 64)

Ridiculous! The game started slowly, but once Rakhale gave us the lead after 20 minutes we went berserk. 4 goals in 24 minutes, swiftly followed by a reply from Golden Arrows meant that we went into the break 4-1 up. Two more goals in the next ten minutes worried me somewhat, but 2 goals in 2 minutes put us back in control, and we closed it out from there. That meant there had been 9 goals in 44 minutes, and none in the 46 on each end!!! Akpabio was phenomenal!

Chippa United 1 - 1 Platinum Stars (Eugene 3)

After a flying start, we switched off completely, letting them equalise on 33 minutes. The second half was incredibly tedious - not even a single chance for either side.

Orlando Pirates 1 - 2 Chippa United (Taaibos pen 53, pen 66)

We played to hit them on the counter, and the first half played out relatively uneventfully. They took the lead in a nightmare start to the second half, but we hit back with two penalties. A fully deserved win, and continuing our hoodoo over the champions!

SA Cup 1st Round: Bloem Celtic 0 - 2 Chippa United (Akpabio 33, Ritchie 74)

Akpabio got us off to a grand start, with a magnificent header from a ridiculous angle. We controlled the game against a team who should have been far better than us, and Ritchie sealed the win after Shellar headed a corner down. Super victory!

A short month, but a happy one! To cap it all, I was crowned Manager of the Month

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April 2015

Maritzburg United 1 - 0 Chippa United

Shocking performance. We offered nothing going forward, and had just one shot on target. We deserved nothing, and we got it.

Chippa United 2 - 4 Bloem Celtic (Maponyane 24, Rakhale 87)

A fantastic last twenty minutes for the neutral! Maponyane scored from a corner to give us the lead, and that was how it stayed until the 75th minute. Mhango leveled for them, before a quickfire double from Buchanan put us 3-1 behind. Rakhale gave us a chance, before a stoppage time penalty sealed it for the visitors.

Chippa United 1 - 1 Sundowns (Akpabio 54)

A tedious first half, followed by a tedious second half, albeit punctured by two messy goals. Akpabio gave us the lead, but they equalised just five minutes later.

SA Cup Second Round: Kaizer Chiefs 0 - 3 Chippa United (Simandla 58, 80, OG 66)

Superb result in the cup, to balance a poor month in the league. The cup draw seems designed to keep the top teams playing each other as much as possible! We went to Kaizer Chiefs with a specific gameplan to draw them in and counter quickly, and it worked a treat. They had all the possession, but we had all the goals! Two magnificent runs from Simandla were punctuated by a hilarious own goal by the appropriately named Lolo!

SA Cup Quarter Final: SuperSport United 1 - 6 (SIX!) Chippa United (Akpabio 1, 19, 21, Shumana 22, Kumalo 27, Taaibos 47)

Sensational, and we got another manager sacked! Akpabio got us off to a flyer in the first minute, and somehow completed a hat trick within 21 minutes! Shumana and Kumalo added to our lead and we were 5 up away at the league leaders at half time. Taaibos completed our scoring just after the break, and Ritchie gave SuperSport a consolation with a late OG. The stats were just unbelievable - 43 shots, 17 on target and 73% possession. I'd love to take credit for masterminding this, but in truth I didn't do an awful lot differently - just came out very attacking and then picked them off on the break once we had the lead.

A miserable month in the league, but the cup wins kept me happy! Amusingly, the SuperSport manager won the Manager of the Month award despite being fired. Hell, that's football!

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May/June 2015

Chippa United 1 - 2 Amazulu (Akpabio 43)

Awful start to the game - we were 2 down inside 7 minutes - but we did not deserve to lose this. Akpabio pulled one back before half time, and we besieged Amazulu for the remaining 45. How we did not score again is beyond me!

Wits 4 - 0 Chippa United

I rested a few players ahead of the cup semifinal; we'd already confirmed survival and weren't really going to achieve anything else. Still, I didn't expect us to be this hopeless! We conceded early, but kept it to one until the break, and proceeded to collapse afterwards.

SA Cup Semi Final: Orlando Pirates 0 - 1 Chippa United (Shumana 88)

And our hoodoo over Orlando continues! Stunning defensive performance, topped by a superb free kick from Shumana with 2 minutes to go. The vaguaries of the draw meant that this was in effect the final - the other semi being between a non-league side and a mid-level Division One side.

FS Stars 5 - 3 Chippa United (Appolis 8, 22, Kumalo)

And so concludes a very disappointing second half to the league season. Four goals in the first ten minutes left us shellshocked and 3-1 down, and despite a super performance from Appolis we couldn't bring it back.

SA Cup Final: Chippa United 5 - 1 KwaMashu All Stars (Appolis 5, Eugene 11, 78, Maponyane 47, Shumana 73)

Easy. We took the lead early on, and negotiated their good patch when they pulled it back to 2-1, before accelerating to an easy win in the second half. I let Taaibos have the armband for his final career game, and he lifted his first trophy!

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Season Review: 2014 - 2015

Career to date:

Overall Career:

Games Played		70
Games Won		31
Goal Difference		+25
Win Ratio		44%
Total Earnings		£93,000
Average Annual Salary	£46,500
Honours			Promoted from South African National Division 1 (2014), South African Cup Winners (2015)


Almere City (2013):


Games Played		13
Games Won		0
Goal Difference		-14
Win Ratio		0%
Weekly Salary		£1,000
Honours			None
League Position		5th when arrived, 17th when left, 13th at season end


Chippa United (2013-2015):


Games Played		57
Games Won		31
Goal Difference		+39
Win Ratio		54%
Weekly Salary		£1,100
Honours			Promoted (2014), SA Cup Winners (2015)
League Position		2013-14: 	13th when arrived, 3rd at season end (Promoted through playoffs)
		2014-15: 	10th

South African Premiership:

Well, after a pretty bright start, the season somewhat petered out towards the end. Of the four periods, we came 7th, 6th, 10th and dead last 16th. Admittedly, by that last period we were guaranteed safety and were focusing on the cup, but still... 10th place is still better than the board were expecting (and a club record!), but at the half way stage we really should have pushed on to make that top 8. Kaizer Chiefs regained the title they lost to Orlando Pirates last year, after beating SuperSport United on a dramatic final day. Baroka were comfortably relegated, not managing a win until May - astonishingly winning 3-2 away at the Kaizer Chiefs! That was the only game they won in a miserable season (aside from a penalties win in the KO Cup). Black Aces dropped into the relegation playoff, but emerged victorious against Santos and Thanda Royal Zulu.

OpROAar.jpg

The Cups:

After a good win at Golden Arrows, we exited the KO Cup courtesy of a 3-1 home defeat to SuperSport. They went on to lose in the semis to eventual winners Kaizer Chiefs.

In the FA Cup, we were nothing short of phenomenal! Our route to the final involved us knocking out the top three in the league (all away from home), before dumping last year's league champions out in the semis. An easy win followed in the final to give me my first trophy in management!

YuwysKu.jpg

The Squad: Awards 2013-14

South African Young Footballer of the Season:​ George Akpabio

My Player of the Year: George Akpabio - 20 goals in 28 games, as well as 7 assists and comfortably the highest average rating made this easy.

Top Goalscorer: George Akpabio (20)

Top Assists: Ary / George Akpabio (7)

The team were also the 'Overachievers' in the SAPL this season

The Rest of the World

  • My former employers Almere City were relegated, coming dead last in the Jupiler League by some margin
  • Nothing hugely amusing or weird has happened in the rest of the football universe, barring England beating Germany in the 2014 World Cup Final (unfortunately not on penalties)!
  • Oh, and Arsenal decided against giving Wenger a new contract. The new manager? Rafa Benitez :D

My Future:

My rules state that I can only spend two years maximum with each team - this gives me till December at the latest to find a new job! I've actually grown quite attached to this bunch of players, to the extent that I was strongly considering saving this separately to continue on a different thread. That being said, I think now is the best time to move on - my contract expires at the end of June, and the board are refusing to renew it even at the rate I was on before. This will also give the new manager a full preseason to bed in. Irritatingly, I applied for a couple of jobs in Asia, but apparently the compensation required to take me would be too much. Am I not worth even £4,000 in compensation?

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The aims for this thread are brilliant. Great idea for a career. As you just mentioned becoming slightly attached to your current squad, do you not fear even further down the line there may be a club you really don't want to leave?

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Having left Chippa at the league reset date, I started looking around for new opportunities. I interviewed for roles in South Korea and China, but neither quite worked, so I switched my focus to a different continent. As the MLS season came to a close, there were three vacancies that popped up:

Houston laughed off my application, then gave me an interview, but in the end turned me down.

Montreal Impact had finished the last season rock bottom, seven points adrift. A turnaround job was tempting (as was the Canadian aspect), and they had managed to bring in former Villa, City and Stoke man Stephen Ireland.

FC Dallas had finished in seventh the previous league, and they offered something that could trump any other offer. Cold, hard, cash. A hefty payrise saw me earning more than double my previous salary. £2,700 per week was much more than Montreal could offer, and made the choice pretty easy!

I was tasked with playing direct football, and signing young players for the first team. Perfect - and the board would find me a parent club, too.

My new squad:

6PL75sq.jpg

Pretty solid, but no real stand-out players to be perfectly honest. I need a goalscorer - not one of my players managed double figures last year!

I have £900,000 to spend, and a wage budget of £65,000 of which I am currently spending £48,000

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The aims for this thread are brilliant. Great idea for a career. As you just mentioned becoming slightly attached to your current squad, do you not fear even further down the line there may be a club you really don't want to leave?

Thanks :) The difficulty will be where I feel that I'm on the verge of something really good as the 2 year deadline approaches. We'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it!

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Seconded, this is an excellent thread! :thup:

I would have been tempted for one more season in South Africa, but, still, good luck with Dallas!

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Seconded, this is an excellent thread! :thup:

I would have been tempted for one more season in South Africa, but, still, good luck with Dallas!

Time to take over America! Good luck with Dallas mate :thup:
Good luck at Dallas mate!
Great writing style and some good progression after a faltering start. Look forward to your exploits in Dallas!

Thanks all - I was quite tempted to stay in SA, but rules are rules...

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Pre-season Review: FC Dallas 2016

oc1yu18.jpg

I still didn't really understand the draft, but simply picked up the players that my scouting team rated the highest, and signed up a couple of my youth players. None of these would really feature much this season, assuming that all goes to plan. The people that would feature, however, all came in later on in the window:

Eyong Enoh's agent approached me, and at 29 he is really at his peak. He was available for nothing, and seemed like a no-brainer.

Gustavo Campanharo is a young Brazilian attacking midfielder with good potential and, most importantly, a good Brazilian name! He won't start every game, but I'm expecting some exciting cameos.

Stephen Beitashour will be first choice right back, and is an American that I brought home from Sephahan, which is apparently in Iran. My fans all think that he's a terrorist, but he was born in San Jose, so I'm sure it'll be fine...

Randall Azofeifa is a 31 year old Costa Rican veteran, who will provide some much needed calm and creativity to the midfield.

And the big signing is 31 year old Vagner Love... He's not even that far past his prime!

We're going for a slightly peculiar formation - we had no right midfielders older than 19, and there were just no options worth bringing in. Hooray for assymetry!

Cx4fQ1Z.jpg

We start my career in the US with a home game against Chivas.

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March / April 2016

FC Dallas 3 - 2 Chivas USA (Cooper 10, Steele 37, Azofeifa 45+2)

Great start to my career in the US - Cooper performing exactly the role I wanted him to, heading home from a Steele cross early on. They equalised, but Steele rifled home to make it 2-1. As the game was ticking on towards half time, Azofeifa drilled it into the bottom corner from the spot to make it 3-1. They pulled one back just after the interval with a penalty, but we held on to secure 3 points in the first game of the year.

FC Dallas 1 - 2 Seattle (Campanharo 46)

Gutting. They took the lead early on through Clint Dempsey, who is far too good for this level, and were comprehensively outplaying us. After a half time rollicking, Campanharo scored a beaut from the edge of the area, but we couldn't hold out for a point - Olascoaga firing home in stoppage time.

Colorado 3 - 1 FC Dallas (Cooper 74)

We were dominated this game, and fully deserved to lose. Enoh was sent off just before half time, when we were already a goal down, and Cooper's consolation was the only minor positive that I could take.

Following this pretty disappointing defeat, I decided that a change of tactics were needed - we'd lost 2 and squeaked past Chivas, who weren't exactly doing well. I reverted to a traditional 4-4-2, albeit with a diamond to make the most of Enoh's defensive capabilities and Diaz or Campanharo going forward:

7pkQt7H.jpg

Chicago 0 - 3 FC Dallas (Cooper 50, Vagner Love 67, 82)

Oh, I felt smug... A fantastic performance, really playing Chicago off the park, and the only surprise was that it wasn't more. We were a little subdued in the first half, but Cooper headed home to give us the lead and Vagner Love finished both his chances on the break coolly to make it comfortable.

FC Dallas 0 - 3 New York

And back down to earth with a bump! This game was actually quite even, but we simply couldn't make the breakthrough, and Anangono was clinical in scoring a magnificent hat trick. Moor added to my misery by getting sent off pointlessly in stoppage time.

Sporting Kansas 2 - 3 FC Dallas (Diaz 8, Vagner Love 18, Anibaba 45)

We raced into a two goal lead early on, with Diaz scoring a worldie and Vagner Love keeping his cool again. He is settling in really well, and feeding off of Cooper's knockdowns. They pulled one back, but Anibaba powered a header in from a corner on the stroke of half time, and their second was very much a consolation.

Portland 1 - 1 FC Dallas (Steele 25)

A solid performance away against a team who are flying at the moment! I feared the worst when they took the lead early on, but we hit back almost instantly through a crisp finish from the corner of the box from Steele, and kept calm to keep the Timbers out.

FC Dallas 4 - 1 Vancouver (Vagner Love 35, 90, Stephens pen 75, Steele 78)

A win that was nowhere near as comfortable as it looked. They replied instantly after Vagner Love had given us the lead, Drew Moor heading into his own net on his return from suspension. Stephens converted a very questionable penalty after 40 nervy minutes where the game could have gone either way, and we opened up with goals from Steele and another from Vagner Love.

LA Galaxy 1 - 1 FC Dallas (Cooper 34)

Another away game against one of the top sides, and another solid result. The game was very similar to the Portland match to be honest - Keane scored a stunning goal, but we kept our heads up, and Cooper's equaliser was the least we deserved.

FC Dallas 3 - 2 San Jose (Vagner Love 29, 34, Rodriguez 47)

Another fantastic result against one of the better teams in the division. A quickfire double from Vagner Love, who simply cannot stop scoring now he's bedded in gave us the advantage at half time. Rodriguez headed home just after to seemingly seal the points, but two goals from Wondolowski and Gordon meant that we had to hold on in a decidedly nervy last ten minutes. But hold on we did, and that meant we ended April unbeaten.

The table (I'm still not sure how it works come the end of the season, but we'll see):

GUDbHMG.jpg

So looking pretty rosy - 4th in the Western Conference, and 5th overall. My reading of the rules is that we need to get top 2 of the overall table to qualify for the NACL (the other 2 places going to the winner and runner up of the MLS Cup). To qualify for the playoffs, it's the top three to get straight into the semi-finals, and then the 4th/5th playoff. Simples!

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