EvilDave

Soviet Sensation or Russian Write-off?

61 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

Coat_of_arms_of_the_Soviet_Union_1923_1936_.thumb.jpg.5b0b53f91c9adbb64402021e8bb3dbfa.jpg

"Oh, go to hell!"

With Austria leading Chile in Moscow, Russia needed a win against the US in Moscow to make it into the knockout rounds. Of their home World Cup. As a seeded team. Progression is the bare minimum in those situations, surely?

Not for Russia. Leading 1-0 through golden boy Sasha Kokorin and with just five minutes later, all was well. Until, of course, Danny Williams stabbed home a corner to get the previously pointless USA on the board, and knock the hosts out at the earliest opportunity. Stanislav Cherchesov was not a popular man.

"Surely anyone can do better than that? I mean, how hard can it be to get 11 men to play something resembling football?"

Failure on the big stage was hardly new for Russia. In fact, for 28-year-old Valeri, it was what he had grown up with. Andrei Arshavin's brilliance at Euro 2008 aside, he'd seen his country flop as one of the worst sides at Euro 2016, get dumped out of the last World Cup at the group stage, miss out on the knockouts in 2012 - the list was endless. It wasn't jus Russia either - all around the former Soviet Union, football was in a fairly dire state of affairs.

"You know what, I reckon I could do better. And it's not like my current job is worth keeping hold of. Damn it, it's time to let the world know us Russians can manage!"

And so, with a resolution made to no-one in particular, Valeri Soldatkin vowed to do just that - to become a football manager, and to finally restore a sense of footballing honour to the Russian nation. He didn't care whether it was with club or country, at home or abroad - success was all he craved.

Not until the World Cup was over, mind. I mean, you've got to watch every kick when it's in your own country, haven't you?

Oh, the result? France beat Chile on penalties in the final. Not that Valeri particularly cared.
--

So, that's the somewhat tenuous backstory to my latest attempt at a career. Youth-only in Armenia died with my laptop (although I had got seven seasons in and was a Europa League regular, which was frustrating), so this time we're going for something more expansive.

Using claassen's excellent edits, I'm running the leagues of every country in the former Soviet Union (except those hyper-Westernised Baltic states of course. Two divisions in most, the third in Russia), as well as England, Italy, Germany, Spain and France (to keep Europe interesting). The plan is, after starting unemployed and with no qualifications, to work my way as high as possible, thereby restoring some much-craved Russian pride. I've also holidayed to the end of the 2018 World Cup, in case you couldn't tell.

Oh, and as long as I remain in the former USSR, I won't be signing anyone from outside of it. Because who doesn't love an arbitrary transfer policy?

Some loose goals that would be nice to tick off, in vague order of short to long term:
- Win a trophy (Russian PFL - Yug (3rd tier), 2019/20)
- Win a league title (Russian PFL - Yug (3rd tier), 2019/20)
- Win a top flight league title
- Be headhunted by a 'bigger' club (FC Orenburg, March 2020)
- Be headhunted by a foreign club (Heidenheim, March 2020)
- Be offered an international job
- Win the Russian Premier League
- Win a European trophy
- Have a player named as World Player of the Year
- Win every top flight in the former USSR
- Win a major international tournament with a former Soviet state

Other than that, we're ready to go - next up, we'll find out which unsuspecting team is willing to take a punt on an unqualified nobody from Volgograd...

Edited by EvilDave

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Tremendous intro! Looking forward to seeing how this goes!

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Very interesting! 

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Now this, is my kind of career - a good old Iron Curtain save. Will definitely be following this one.

Word of advice, playing with a Soviets only transfer policy may make things considerably harder once you reach the top level and want to fight for the Champions League - quality players become rare and it then becomes a rush to poach them whilst young, before the Real Madrids pick them up. This was my experience when I did something similar, hiring only Eastern European players. But that's all part of the challenge. Apparently lots of people around here even play careers where they don't hire a single player... you crazies :idiot:

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15 hours ago, ManUtd1 said:

Tremendous intro! Looking forward to seeing how this goes!

 

14 hours ago, Keano16 said:

Very interesting! 

 

3 hours ago, noikeee said:

Now this, is my kind of career - a good old Iron Curtain save. Will definitely be following this one.

Word of advice, playing with a Soviets only transfer policy may make things considerably harder once you reach the top level and want to fight for the Champions League - quality players become rare and it then becomes a rush to poach them whilst young, before the Real Madrids pick them up. This was my experience when I did something similar, hiring only Eastern European players. But that's all part of the challenge. Apparently lots of people around here even play careers where they don't hire a single player... you crazies :idiot:

Thanks chaps, glad to have you on board! I'll bear your advice in mind @noikeee, best to get a world-class scouting system in place nice and early. That said, I can't imagine I'll be either finding many world-beaters in Kyrgyzstan, nor worrying about Europe for some time yet!

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"Bloody hell, the situation is worse than I thought. I didn't actually expect people to be interested in my services. More fool them I suppose. I mean, some of these teams have history and everything!"

A month after France's World Cup win, Valeri was a man in demand in the football world. Which is a surprise, because in any other world he was very much not. Not only that, but with no experience and qualifications, he hardly looked like the next Mourinho or Guardiola. 

"I need to be careful here though. No big a club, and the pressure will be on from the start. Not to mention the whole moving abroad thing. But if I start too small, will anyone ever see me? I can't hurt to meet these people..."

As it turns out, there were plenty of people across the post-Soviet space willing to take a punt on Valeri. From the far-flung corners of Central Asia to Moldova via the Russian regional leagues, everybody wanted a piece of Valeri. And not all of them just wanted to laugh at the latest chancer.

"Kazakhstan, Georgia, Armenia - my CV must be absolutely brilliant. I'll have to arrange the interviews for Skype - can't have them know I've no way of actually getting to these places. Besides, it'll paint me as a modern, forward-thinking, tech-savvy kind of guy. They'll love it."

And so, creating a separate email address and sending off replies from his 'personal assistant,' Valeri orchestrated a series of online interviews with clubs thousands of miles apart. One of them would be foolish enough to take him on.

He made sure he replied just before 11am on each occasion. He didn't know why, but it seemed to be the done thing. 

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This is indeed very evil, Dave!

Definitely gonna follow this one. l've been managing in Russia in my current save and trying to focus heavily on Russian talent and eastern Europeans. I've actually been seeing and snapping up some really good young Russians. But yeah, competition for them is often intense because of the rules in Russia.

Very curious to see where you land.

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7 minutes ago, Bigpapa42 said:

This is indeed very evil, Dave!

Definitely gonna follow this one. l've been managing in Russia in my current save and trying to focus heavily on Russian talent and eastern Europeans. I've actually been seeing and snapping up some really good young Russians. But yeah, competition for them is often intense because of the rules in Russia.

Very curious to see where you land.

Thanks for your kind words - Russia is one of my favourite leagues in play in precisely because it forces you outside the box at times, so heading to a top club there is definitely on the cards at some point (assuming Valeri isn't totally inept). As for the first club, all will be revealed...

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Posted (edited)

Mashuk.thumb.png.648300d7f9d9bc9028c9ac93a9effdce.png

"I still can't believe I'm a football manager - and within a month of trying as well. I mean, it's hardly Zenit, Spartak or Shakhtar, but everybody's got to start somewhere, right? Even if that somewhere is only half a day's train journey from home."

Valeri had done it - after a raft of Skype interviews, conducted in his one-bedroom Volgograd apartment in the best suit he could rent, he'd convinced an actual chairman of an actual professional football club to give him an actual job as an actual manager. For real.

Even the local newspaper took notice, putting up this in the sports section:

58caa1dfb2cb8_ValeriSoldatkin_Inbox.thumb.png.d7df111bc3b762f4bd92e901ee353f0f.png

"They want top half, which seems reasonable - I mean, they were 4th two years ago so there must be some quality there. The stadium looks good, and that Nesterenko is a tasty player. KamAZ can do one if they think we're letting him go on the cheap."

Mashuk sat 9th on Valeri's arrival, with the board only looking up. By a cruel twist of fate, his first match in charge would be in a fortnight's time against the latest iteration of his boyhood club, Rotor Volgograd. It would be in Pyatigorsk though, so he would need to hurry up and move out.

"I've always dreamed of Pyatigorsk you know. There's just something about the Caucasus, something poetic. Lermontov lived and died there you know.

"You know, Mikhail Lermontov? Герой навего времени? The classic of Russian romanticism? You never were the most cultured kid in the class, were you?"

Valeri had, of course, never read Lermontov, but a quick Google search for Pyatigorsk had brought up all he needed to know. He was confident a passing knowledge of 19th century literature would help him win over the locals.

Edited by EvilDave

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"Is that a good point, or two dropped? How am I supposed to know? I suppose it isn't great, given that we're above them in the league, and at home. Hmmm..."

Two weeks in the job, a revamp of the backroom staff - some of them were worse coaches than he was - and Valeri finally had his first match, a home game against Rotor.

It was entertaining to say the least, although how much control over his side Valeri exercised is debatable. A quick response to an early setback and a well-worked second goal were all well and good, but the fact is his men had conceded twice from set-pieces, the second coming with his goalkeeper dropping a routine cross. It was a point, but it should have been more.

"I hope they don't cotton on to the fact I'm a Rotor fan, they'll start spreading rumours. I'd be better off with a new keeper I think - either that or smear his gloves with superglue next time."

58cabad67a39a_MashukvRotor-Volgograd_OverviewOverview.thumb.png.032677eeed656e308c42c7616ea52dfa.png

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"Bring on Barcelona, that's what I say. I don't know why more people don't try this management lark, it's easy money. No wingers? No problem, just run a midfield box that no-one can get around. Seriously, why is no-one else playing it?"

Valeri, was confident, and with good reason. With only a teenage right-back on loan from Anzhi brought in as back-up, his Mashuk side were unbeaten through his first month in charge, and looking good too.

58cb0851b6a05_Mashuk-KMVPyatigorsk_SeniorFixtures.thumb.png.4cf44e89a5673d0b55b9cee15368f6e4.png

"I can see others are already noticing. The staff overhaul brought in some of the best this level has ever seen - they know this is something special."

After years of middle management at a Volgograd pharmacy, Valeri knew the best way to hide your inadequacies is behind the skill of others. Nobody really knew why one of the best youth developers in Russia chose to leave a well-funded Moscow academy for the Mashuk post, but it did wonders for Valeri's ego.

"Maybe he didn't like Moscow. I mean, nobody really likes Moscow, do they? Too big, too expensive, full of Muscovites. Reminder me not to take the Spartak post when they come calling."

Spartak had not come calling. Nor was there any way Valeri would turn them down if they did. But it sounded good, and for now he could just about get away with thinking it.

58cb0853d21fa_PFL-YuzhnyjOkrug_OverviewProfile.thumb.png.d9e660352e03c26832e0665fc7312362.png

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This looks like it will be a great read and great save.

Russia was actually my first step into the waters of FM, and I had a blast there. It got me hooked on FM, so happy to see someone enjoying the country too. :) 

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I actually hated managing in Russia itself! It's kind of like the Premier League, lots of money but hugely overpirced players. The surrounding nations are loads of fun though.

Great start. The Soviet revolution has started. Only some 999 steps to go now.

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On 3/17/2017 at 01:58, majesticeternity said:

This looks like it will be a great read and great save.

Russia was actually my first step into the waters of FM, and I had a blast there. It got me hooked on FM, so happy to see someone enjoying the country too. :) 

 

On 3/17/2017 at 12:27, noikeee said:

I actually hated managing in Russia itself! It's kind of like the Premier League, lots of money but hugely overpirced players. The surrounding nations are loads of fun though.

Great start. The Soviet revolution has started. Only some 999 steps to go now.

Thanks guys, hope this keeps you entertained! One of the things I enjoy about Russia is the fact that, while unlikely to produce a full-blown golden generation, there's always the chance of a real superstar. Whether one pops up at Mashuk, however...

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"Useless, useless men - my old five-a-side team were better than some of these."

October had not been kind to Valeri's men. A win over bottom club Chaika was followed by three successive defeats, the first of his managerial career, none of which saw his Mashuk team score a goal. The losses saw his side slide back down the table from a high point of 2nd.

58cd32cb742c7_Mashuk-KMVPyatigorsk_SeniorFixtures.thumb.png.9e6d2495d29230052ce8285377e264bd.png

"It can't be the system, it must be the players. I'll have to make sure the scouts are working doubly hard in time for the winter break. Bring in a few new faces, light a fire under some of these lazy so-and-sos.

"Besides, I do feel like I need to sign someone. Loan deals from Anzhi aren't going to win us promotion."

Valeri did indeed have his scouts out - in Russia, Georgia and Kazakhstan - but drawing people to a nothing team in the regional leagues of Russia was no easy sell. He'd have his work cut out alright.

"First things first - we need another win soon, or I'll be out of a job!"

Valeri was learning.

58cd32cdc3440_PFL-YuzhnyjOkrug_OverviewProfile.thumb.png.1a154c2145b6240aed1ba0e06a2cdc86.png

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"Christmas. Time for family, friends, and figuring how the hell to win football matches. Once in two months for heaven's sake, this is awful."

Valeri was not in a good place heading into the winter break. Two more defeats - including a galling last-gasp goal for Krasnodar's reserves - had put an end to Mashuk's faint promotion hopes, and his concern was mainly about keeping his job. A convincing win in Rostov will have helped.

58cd442395e0a_Mashuk-KMVPyatigorsk_SeniorFixtures.thumb.png.fd1dd2325e5d43e299946856dedcba0b.png

"Maybe the system does need changing. Nothing spectacular, obviously, but a minor tweak here and there. Maybe they'll tell me what to do on my course."

Valeri had convinced his employers to pay for a coaching course for him - a step in the right direction if this was going to be a full-time job. Whether or not the same could be said for the British, thousands of miles away and now cut off from Europe, remained to be seen.

"I don't really know how they expect us to play in January - the pitches are going to be a right state. Better here than in Siberia I suppose - do they even play football in Siberia?"

Mashuk's winter break would be short - just one month compared to three for top-flight sides. And yes, they do play football in Siberia.

58cd442509341_PFL-YuzhnyjOkrug_OverviewProfile.thumb.png.392fc624eec2b4be8041ef7b9e9a2629.png

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Posted (edited)

"I don't bloody believe it. After all I've done for this club, after I hauled them up the table by the bootstraps, this is what I get? It won't even make a dent in the sodding debt!"

Spring had come to Pyatigorsk, and yet Valeri was not happy. Artur Alukaev, his defensive midfield anchor, had been sold off against his wishes to FNL side Fakel for a pittance, and he had a whopping 5% of the income to spend on a replacement. He didn't bother in the end - turns out the Anzhi teenager on loan could pull a shift there too.

"If it weren't for the fact I can't afford to, I'd walk. Idiots running the show, the lot of them. Can't even get a decent bunch of kids to turn up to trials.

"Still, the current lot aren't doing too bad - mainly because I'm a sodding genius. Switch the midfield to a diamond and hey, six straight wins. Six straight wins. That's six, in case you didn't hear. Even if the league is trying to kill us with two weeks between matches and games in the depths of winter. You don't get this is the big leagues, do you?"

Credit where it's due - Soldatkin's men had done well. Yet to lose in 2019, and with five games to go that top half finish was all but nailed on. He'd even signed a player.

58cda41081eb1_Mashuk-KMVPyatigorsk_SeniorFixtures.thumb.png.94591d01d124cfb1a916fa53b1c82ee1.png

"Shame the season isn't five or six games longer to be honest. If they let us play til August, we'd be going up."

I'm not sure that's quite how it works...

58cda4120c8a5_PFL-YuzhnyjOkrug_OverviewProfile.thumb.png.6f08847277e436b83f79158626430230.png

Edited by EvilDave

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"So, 11 games unbeaten and six places higher than we started, not bad for a first year in the job eh? Even if the board did insist on selling Alukaev without my consent. Jammy so-and-so ended up getting promoted with Fakel, he'll be in the Premier League next season."

Valeri's first year at Mashuk had ended well. Two draws in the final five games were not enough to stop his side climbing into the bronze medal position, and complete a successful first season as a fully-fledged manager.

58cebb2ebc332_Mashuk-KMVPyatigorsk_SeniorFixtures.thumb.png.03f5d3c0c2898b85cc15d6b6a9af1eca.png

"I had half a mind to jump for the Sochi job, you know. Fancy winning promotion and running off the Kazakhstan. Idiot. Even so, I made so the board knew I was thinking about it, and they threw another deal at me pretty sharpish. A small pay rise, but I made sure I kept the compensation down. Got to keep your options open after all."

A new contract, and a squad keen to build on a solid season. Striker Perchenok had excelled as a defensive forward, while loanee Isaev - who wasn't coming back from Tomsk for another spell - was a rock at the back. Surely Valeri was happy?

"There'll be signings this summer for sure. I reckon a left-back, defensive rock, anchor man and playmaker ouught to do it. Oh, and a striker or two. I want quality across the board, otherwise we'll end up back in midtable."

Big ambitions there from the rookie manager. But he'd definitely be staying at Mashuk?

"I tell you what though, if that board robs me of one of my stars again, I'll be out the moment a decent job comes up elsewhere. Loyalty works both ways in this game."

It had only been a year, but our Valeri had become a cynic.

58cebb305e034_PFL-YuzhnyjOkrug_OverviewProfile.thumb.png.428c8934950710e2c3abdcf3952c5b67.png

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"We mean business, in every sense of the word. Those numpties running the show may not know when to keep hold of a decent player, but they at least know a manager when they see one. Good to see there's some faith there."

Valeri had still not forgiven his board for the Alukaev affair, but was happy to enrol on another coaching course at their expense. A small sum in exchange for his best player seemed fair.

"I'll be fending off bids for the new boys by the end of the year too - what a bunch of players! I called it earlier didn't it - left-back, anchor, playmaker and a couple of strikers? Plus a couple of centre-halves on loan from Anzhi for the year. We're set for promotion - I can feel it."

Ever the modest one, Valeri neglected to point out that promoted Sochi came calling for fifth-choice striker Djatiev - their second tier survival bid didn't look promising.

"We're better than Sochi already, and they went up last season. If we don't go the season unbeaten I'll be disappointed, especially with two fewer games this year."

Yep, modest. Or something like that.

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Are you allowed to sign foreigners on this level? IRL clubs on 3rd tier and below are restricted to fully Russian squad, but maybe that data file has other rules.

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14 hours ago, Koetzer said:

Are you allowed to sign foreigners on this level? IRL clubs on 3rd tier and below are restricted to fully Russian squad, but maybe that data file has other rules.

You raise a good point, and something I'm meaning to address with the Russian regional leagues. The RFN update does a good job in a lot of ways (Anzhi instead of Anji, man that wound me up), but it seems all they've done is open up the third tier without really adding any rules - no foreigner restrictions, inconsistent scheduling (the smaller leagues are done by Jan/Feb), games through the winter etc. 

As soon as I either get promoted or get a job outside those leagues, I'm going to remove them. The FNL and PL are working fine, so it shouldn't have too much of an impact from then on. If I hadn't got the career going, I'd probably be starting again by now...

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Oh, I didn't realise you were actually on the 3rd tier.

I imagine playing in January and February in Russia is quite a challenge to keep your players warm. Any away trips to Siberia?

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Posted (edited)

18 minutes ago, noikeee said:

Oh, I didn't realise you were actually on the 3rd tier.

I imagine playing in January and February in Russia is quite a challenge to keep your players warm. Any away trips to Siberia?

Yep, third tier - five regional leagues of varying sizes, all with a single promotion spot, which makes it tricky to get into the national divisions. Mercifully, I'm in the southern part, meaning Siberia is well off-limits at the moment!

Edited by EvilDave

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I'll follow this, I've always liked managing in the ex-USSR myself because of the challenge.

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1 hour ago, Sir_Liam said:

I'll follow this, I've always liked managing in the ex-USSR myself because of the challenge.

Thank you kind sir - I see you're enjoying a Moldovan stint at the moment, you never know I may be following you before too long!

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"Watch out FNL, Mashuk are a-coming! Top of the league, unbeaten, playing some of the best football outside of Barcelona - this is our year,  I can taste it!"

Although a little carried away, Valeri had a point. Barcelona was an exaggeration, but there was little doubt his team was playing some neat football, and the results couldn't be argued with. A quarter of the way through the season, things looked good for Mashuk.

58cff09559ddc_Mashuk-KMVPyatigorsk_SeniorFixtures.thumb.png.b6bbf5777e7e08245c4503e03bed93cd.png

"Mordovia are going on the hitlist though, what an awful draw that was! Relegated RPL side at the first hurdle - we'll get 'em next time.

"Honestly though, who are going to stop us this season? Chernomorets? Nalchik? There's no way Biolog are going the distance. This one's ours, you wait and see."

So convinced was he of his impending success, that Valeri was casting half a glance at the vacant seats on the managerial merry-go-round. Nothing awe-inspiring yet, but he'd keep looking.

58cff093e9ec0_PFL-YuzhnyjOkrug_OverviewProfile.thumb.png.4f43711707a782ede569df6704489c1a.png

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Enjoying this already, ED. Looking forward to seeing where the path takes you. 

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Going well this season!

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2 hours ago, withnail316 said:

Enjoying this already, ED. Looking forward to seeing where the path takes you. 

I second that.

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6 hours ago, withnail316 said:

Enjoying this already, ED. Looking forward to seeing where the path takes you. 

3 hours ago, majesticeternity said:

I second that.

 

5 hours ago, Keano16 said:

Going well this season!

 

Thanks chaps - hopefully we can keep up the good start and get ourselves into a proper league!

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Posted (edited)

"It's almost cruel at times. If this were any other sport, they'd have called it off by now, thrown in the towel, invoked some sort of mercy rule. We're storming this, and there's nothing anyone can do about it."

For once, Valeri's confidence was well-placed. Two more points was all the league had managed to take off his Mashuk side, and at the midway point the title was well on it's way to Pyatigorsk.

58d0539a499c7_Mashuk-KMVPyatigorsk_SeniorFixtures-2.thumb.png.e82955a543d6a6185eb63f9861fb5f3a.png

"Can you believe Spartak had the nerve to offer me the job? I knew it would happen, I mean a man of my talents can't go too long without being noticed. I turned them down, obviously. The board loved that - we are record breakers after all - and immediately put me on the next coaching course. More badges than the Chief Scout, me."

Spartak being, of course, Spartak Nalchik, sitting below Mashuk in the table. Moscow is still a long way off. The coaching badges will help though, that's for sure.

"I wonder what the record for the earliest league win is in this division. We must be in with a chance, surely?"

58d05397ccccd_PFL-YuzhnyjOkrug_OverviewProfile-2.thumb.png.6828179b0858f666242e49b55b004be1.png

Edited by EvilDave

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"Utter, utter domination. How many games in advance? Five. Five games of a 26-game season that we don't need. Still undefeated, still on fire, still going strong. Promoted."

The title win came a week later than it might have done, second-place Nalchik injuring both starting strikers and stealing a late draw in the previous match. Even so, Soldatkin's Mashuk saw off Stavropol with the late show next time out, and that was that.

58d0645015ff4_ValeriSoldatkin_Inbox.thumb.png.41994cc49bfe3c3b0d40cf6580dd6b3a.png

"A year left on the deal - we'll have to see if the board can do anything about that. With this sort of record, I'll have them eating out the palm of my hand."

Over-confident as he was, Valeri was indeed in a strong bargaining position with his employers. He wanted more glory, but first there was the small matter of five dead rubbers to work through. Then he'd have his fun.

58d0645139fab_PFL-YuzhnyjOkrug_OverviewProfile.png.1a28a3d95d4971d6fe03d83f6ee8060a.png

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58d0674bee69c_ValeriSoldatkin_Inbox.thumb.png.d8f01aed06ae38ea13245af3d50be1ff.png

"That'll be Premier League FC Orenburg to you. Talent like mine can't stay hidden forever you know."

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58d069a48b5e0_ValeriSoldatkin_Inbox-2.png.f045b5e7f0193e60f500d193dc0e3b18.png

Perhaps the Messiah complex isn't for everyone, Valeri?

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58d06d969dabd_ValeriSoldatkin_Inbox-3.thumb.png.39ff860f9518d12edfc1f2fb321f1d85.png

"Germany? Not yet - there's plenty of work back in the old Union yet. One day, when I'm ready, I'll aiming higher than Heidenheim..."

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Seems like you're (s)mashing the opposition pretty easily this season.

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2 hours ago, noikeee said:

Seems like you're (s)mashing the opposition pretty easily this season.

Very good - we have found it surprisingly easy this season, not that I'm complaining!

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"No unbeaten season - the good-for-nothings are Biolog and Chernomorets go on the hitlist for that - but what a year nonetheless. Absolute carnage, and we win by an embarrassing margin. We'll pass Sochi on the way up as well, the useless bunch only won six games all season. We could do that in a month."

Regardless of how well Sochi did, Mashuk cruised to the 2019/20 title. Two away defeats ruined a perfect year, but otherwise Valeri's men were untouchable, romping to glory and giving the confident young manager the first title of his career. Now, he felt, he had finally arrived in his chosen profession.

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"The stars? Well, other than my own tactical genius, it has to be the two Georgians. Both ever-present, both far too good for this pitiful division, Shelia at the back and Jordania in the hole were superb all year - bigger teams could do a lot worse than look at our squad.

"Not that I'm too fussed by all this record-keeping, but two years is 50 games, and to be honest it looks pretty sweet. Won 34, lost just eight - I make that nearly a 75% win ratio. Not bad for a newcomer."

Valeri was right - his win record was good. Very good, in fact - even if it was only in Russia's regional leagues. He was pleased to be escaping those, as anyone would be.

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"I'm not sticking around in Pyatigorsk forever though - much as I'd love to take them all the way to the top. Constantly in debt, no transfer budget, a board that sells off top players for pennies. No, I'm on the move.

"It made sense when it came in, too. Not too far away, a step up, a chance to restore them to glory. Mashuk's own parent club, for heaven's sake - they obviously did their homework on me. I talked them into two years by offering not to take a huge rise, and they went for it. I bring my own staff with me, and they play with millions, not thousands. 

"The board didn't like it - in fact they begged me to stay. I told them where to stick their new deal - the same place they stuck Alukaev's last year - and walked. It's been nice knowing you, Mashuk, but Valeri Soldatkin is playing with the big boys now."

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"This is a world away from Pyatigorsk. The wage budget for starters is 10 times what it was at Mashuk, even if they aren't the title challengers they once were."

The Anzhi Valeri took over was a far cry from the Anzhi of Guus Hiddink, Roberto Carlos and Samuel Eto'o. Gone were the days of European football and challenging for titles - in 2017/8 the Dagestani side were relegated to the second-tier FNL, and had since finished 8th and 10th. Valeri would be the fourth permanent manager in as many years, meaning he would have to start quickly to keep hold of his job.

"They want me to bring the kids through - no problem, not with the facilities here. They haven't told me what else they want yet, but I imagine promotion isn't too far from their thoughts. With a club this size, we should be finishing a lot higher than 10th, that's for sure."

The Anzhi board, and fans, were not expecting miracles, but they did expect progress. The squad was overpaid and underperforming, and the owners wanted results. Valeri would have to provide them.

"Finally, a club with a bit of faith in me. They'll praise the day they hired Valeri Soldatkin, mark my words."

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Really enjoying the thread, man. Great stuff, and I'm looking forward to seeing how you get inn at Anzhi!

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Nice step up! Anzhi are an interesting club. Tons of potential. In reality, they are one of the dysfunctionally run clubs in Russia - they seem to fundamentally change club focus about once every 2-3 years. Hope that doesn't carry thru for you.

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23 hours ago, ManUtd1 said:

Really enjoying the thread, man. Great stuff, and I'm looking forward to seeing how you get inn at Anzhi!

Thanks - it's a big step up, and it looks like I've been brought in as the fall guy for a couple of old but excellent players leaving on a free. Something I've noticed that may snooker me is that there's a league salary cap of £925/wk (with one or two exceptions I haven't figured out, maybe two players?). This doesn't apply to players who got relegated with the club, or loanees, but what it does mean is a) the longer we stay in the FNL the harder it is to get back, b) players who would improve the squad aren't interested because of the wage issue, and c) there's a big scramble for loans from the PL sides.

On the other hand, low wages (for contrast, the striker about to leave is on £17k/wk!) should mean more money to spend and invest in the long run.

21 hours ago, Bigpapa42 said:

Nice step up! Anzhi are an interesting club. Tons of potential. In reality, they are one of the dysfunctionally run clubs in Russia - they seem to fundamentally change club focus about once every 2-3 years. Hope that doesn't carry thru for you.

Cheers, and interesting is certainly the right word! They seem to have swung from world superstars to local players, to more imports and back again in the blink of an eye - hopefully I can bring some sort of stability...

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"Was I worried for a second? Did I have any doubts that Anzhi were going places under my management? Did all the players in and out the door sow a seed of hesitation?

"I was. I'll admit it. This was a big step up. Operating on a level I'd never seen before. A team with a whole people living every win and loss, not some no-mark provincial outfit. This was the big time.

"Now I see it. I understand.

"I am a genius. Upheaval, chaos, crowd favourites leaving for nothing, and yet. Four games, both of the teams dropping down from the Premier League, and four wins from four. Mordovia didn't know what hit them. We go again, we go hard, and we go up this year."

Valeri was in gladiatorial mood after a spectacular opening month. It was impressive, that much was true - a couple of hard-fought battles in there with the Mordovia thrashing - but four games into a 38-game season seemed a little early to be opening the champagne.

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"I'm glad Mashuk aren't doing too badly either - I like to think I left them well set. As if getting promoted wasn't enough. We'll finish way ahead of them, though."

He was probably right - but then again, he did have the advantage of several millions, a huge squad, and another coaching badge behind him.

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3 hours ago, EvilDave said:

Cheers, and interesting is certainly the right word! They seem to have swung from world superstars to local players, to more imports and back again in the blink of an eye - hopefully I can bring some sort of stability...

I don't think Anzhi and stability are things that can happen together lol. Don't know if you actually follow Russian football, but Anzhi have become rather notorious for making drastic changes in focus. They have also had some interesting owners, including one who decided to have built an 80-foot statue of a Lamborghini.

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32 minutes ago, Bigpapa42 said:

I don't think Anzhi and stability are things that can happen together lol. Don't know if you actually follow Russian football, but Anzhi have become rather notorious for making drastic changes in focus. They have also had some interesting owners, including one who decided to have built an 80-foot statue of a Lamborghini.

Yep, I used to blog about Russian football so Anzhi's antics are familiar indeed. Hardly a surprise that things don't work out when you move the goalposts every 10 minutes. I'm half expecting to have half my players sold at any given moment and replaced with local schoolkids!

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"We're still in this. Rome wasn't built in a day, and they didn't have the sodding Muscovite elites conspiring against them while they were at it. Bloody Torpedo, with their backward romanticism. Streltsov wasn't Pele, get over it already. There's a reason they've not won anything in decades."

A surprise 3-0 home reverse to the aforementioned Torpedo put the damper on a decent month for the new-look Anzhi, an away defeat at relegated Arsenal more palatable. Still, they were through to the next round of the cup, flying high in the league and with facilities being upgraded, so Soldatkin was surely pleased?

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"Speaking of the establishment trying to get a man down, who did they pull out against us in the next round of the cup? Only bloody Zenit, I mean it couldn't have been anyone else really, could it?

"And again, what are Dinamo's reserves even doing in this league? With their internationals on several thousand a week - we can't do that! I swear, this country..."

Maybe not...

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From my experience reserve squads usually struggle and get relegated from FNL in 1-2 seasons, so quite surprising to see Dinamo doing so well.

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3 minutes ago, Koetzer said:

From my experience reserve squads usually struggle and get relegated from FNL in 1-2 seasons, so quite surprising to see Dinamo doing so well.

Yeah, I'm surprised to see them up there. On the one hand, they've got some very good players for this level. On the other, it's frustrating being bettered by a reserve squad! I guess the positive is that I only need to finish 3rd to go up automatically...

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"Half way there. A couple of frustrating blanks on the road - I don't think Neftekhimik would have known what to do had they crossed the halfway line - but we're on the move. Krasnoyarsk was horrific - I had half a mind to make the players walk home from Siberia. Next time I won't be so kind.

"Zenit were Zenit. We had one disallowed, but you didn't need me to tell you that. I don't know why we bother."

Anzhi were performing well, that one obvious aberration aside. It was their only league defeat in two months, and a dominant draw at leaders Dinamo-2 did their confidence no damage whatsoever.

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"A handful of games, then the break. An actual break, three solid months - not like the fortnight I got at Mashuk. I don't know what they'll do with it in Pyatigorsk, poor guys will be all confused. We'll have to offer them a friendly or something."

Valeri was looking forward to his holiday. He hadn't really had one since his career change, and he had some homework to do.

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Edited by EvilDave

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"Two wins from five? Two sodding wins? For a team looking to go up, it's pathetic. Yes, Tom and Mordovia are decent sides, but we're better - simple as. Play and that after Christmas, and we're more likely to slide down the table than top the damn thing.

"The positives? Sokol must be sick of us, and Kuban were seen off with 10 men away from home. More of that, and we're home and hosed."

Going down to 10 men was something Valeri was getting used to - six red cards and almost 50 yellows had been shown to his Anzhi side since the start of the season. That wasn't helping them pick up wins consistently, and it had shown itself a real problem in November.

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"The best thing about this - watching everyone else struggle. Dinamo's seconds have hit the wall with us, and we're better than we are - we have to be, and the board know it. Just 14 games when we pick up again in March - 14 games we need to win, win well, and win more than the others. We've got this."

Is it me, or does it sound to anyone else like our Valeri is trying to convince himself?

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Edited by EvilDave

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