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[FM18] - I've had one Gap Year, yes, but what about second Gap Year?

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A blue light blazes out of the upstairs window of a house in a small town in Leicestershire. Inside a devilishly handsome, brilliantly intelligent and somehow unemployed 20-something man stares at his computer screen in disbelief.

"Sacked again on the international stage, I knew I should have waited to until I could take the Atlético job. Or even stayed at Schalke. But even so, getting to a major final shouldn't get me the sack..."

As he continued to stare at the screen and realising he was talking to himself, a sudden thought hit him, why not solve his unemployment by becoming a real football manager? He'd taken some national coaching licenses at Uni, but that was as a dare (Ok, it was to impress a girl. Somehow.), was he really ready to do it for real?

"It beats searching grad sites!"

Shouting as he jumped from his seat to grab the nearest clothes to throw into a kitbag. He knew had to get to the nearest airport as soon as possible. He didn't know where in the world his first management job would be, but he needed to be ready to leave at any moment. One foot out of the door and a hastily thrown on jacket hanging from his shoulder, he was ready to start his adventure. Just as he was about to slam the door his brother called down the stairs.

"Where are you going? And why are you shouting the house up at 1 a.m? Go to bed, you moron!" 

It was a good point, but the idea of starting this new exciting career had gripped his imagination, he had to start as soon as possible! But maybe it is a good idea to actually get a management role before deciding to live in an airport. And perhaps to actually pack first. He thought back to his hasty packing and was pretty sure he'd only packed dirty pants, a t-shirt and some old pyjama bottoms. He was also only wearing one shoe. Yeah, packing properly is a good idea.

He went back up to his room and sat at his PC, He closed his FM17 and decided to quickly whip up a CV he'd send off tomorrow morning to any football club that would listen. Then he went back to Jamie Oliver's twitter pages. His last FM save had stirred something in him.

"Why don't you tag your location on your Instagram Jamie? Ahh, you'll be my real assistant one day..."

And with that creepiness done, he went to bed, ready to start a real, footballing Gap Year.

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I had a load of fun with my career thread from the last game, and as I'm not quite willing to accept the real world just yet, I thought I'd go on another virtual gap year, this time with added narrative and more Jamie Oliver obsession!

 

Game Setup

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Pretty much the same as my last thread but with a couple nations like Slovenia and Slovakia taken out to improve speed. I might add some more like China or Mexico if I fancy shaking it up.

The Manager

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Starting off as an unemployed, devilishly handsome, 23-year-old with Sunday League experience and a National A Licence.

 

Personal Rules

To help my career be as realistic as possible and to ensure I stay interested, I have set myself some rules I will adhere to:

- I will not take the Villa job, unlike the last thread. This is because I have another thread detailing my Villa career and I don't want to tread over old ground/bore myself with two saves at the same team.

- On the same note, try to avoid clubs I managed in the last thread (Eastleigh, Oxford, Burnley, Schalke) to try to keep the thread interesting. Mainly Schalke though as I spent so much time there.

- I will not take jobs I would not take in real life (i.e. Birmingham, I wouldn't cross the city divide unless it was my only choice)

-  If I take an International job I will resign from my club

 

Hopefully I can go on for longer than the last thread and I can keep it interesting for you guys. Enjoy!

Edited by VillaSmith

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Year			|Club/Nation            		|Division		    	        |Position       |Notes
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2017-2018		|Excelsior Virton			|Derde Klasse				|4th		|Champions through Promotion Playoff, Cofidis Cup 7th Rnd
2018-2019		|Excelsior Virton			|Proximus League			|4th		|2nd in 1st Phase, 5th in 2nd Phase, 4th in Euro Playoff, CC 7th Rnd
2019-2020		|Excelsior Virton			|Proximus League			|1st*		|1st in 1st Phase, 6th in 2nd Phase*, Cofidis Cup 6th Rnd, *Left 01/01/20
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2019-2020		|KAA Gent				|Jupiler Pro League			|6th		|1st in Championship Group, Joined 01/01/20
2020-2021		|KAA Gent				|Jupiler Pro League			|1st		|1st in Championship Group, Cofidis Cup Winner, CL RO16, Belgian Super Cup Winner
2021-2022		|KAA Gent				|Jupiler Pro League			|1st		|1st in Championship Group, Champions League Winner, BSC Winner, CC Winner
2022-2023		|KAA Gent				|Jupiler Pro League			|		|BSC Winner, UEFA Super Cup Winner

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*Correct as of 30/06/22

 

Honours

Spoiler

Club

Champions League (KAA Gent - 2021/22)

UEFA Super Cup (KAA Gent - 2022/23)

Jupiler Pro League (KAA Gent - 2019/20, 2020/21, 2021/22)

Cofidis Cup (KAA Gent - 2020/21, 2021/22)

Belgian Super Cup (KAA Gent - 2020/21, 2021/22, 2022/23)

Derde Klasse (Excelsior Virton - 2017/18)

International

:( 

Personal

Belgian Manager of the Year: (KAA Gent - 2020, 2021)

Manager of the Year: Derde Klasse (Excelsior Virton - 2017/18)

 

 
 
 

 

Edited by VillaSmith

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2017-2018 Season

Job offers from Carmarthen Town (Wales), Tamworth, Bognor Regis (both National League Regionals), Geel (Derde Klasse) and Veria (Greek Football League), but in the end, I decided to start this Gap Year off properly by moving abroad to Excelsior Virton in the south of Belgium.

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Not a too shabby looking place! And I get to add one more country to my Gap Year visit list by flying to Luxembourg.

 

Club Details

Nation - Belgium

League - Derde Klasse (3rd Tier) 

Stadium - Stadium Yvan Georges

Capacity - 4,087 (2,534 Seated)

Training Facilities - Below Average

Youth Facilities - Good

Junior Coaching - Good

Youth Recruitment - Above Average

Media Prediction - 3rd

Transfer Budget - £0

Wage Budget - £9,000 p/w

Current Wage Bill - £8,100 p/w

Expectations -

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Squad

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A decent looking and fairly young side, but it's a bit thin on the ground. I haven't got much budget to play with so I'll look for some loans and free transfers just to get some bodies in there. Not too bad in terms of balance, but I do need some CMs and CBs.

 

Key Players

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Samuel Fabris - Probably my best player by some margin. On loan from Cercle Brugge in the division above and it's clear he is from the Proximus league. Capable at fullback, and both central and defensive midfield, his versatility will be a huge plus, but he should provide some sturdiness in central midfield.

 

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Alexandre Harvey - A great defensive RB for this level which will allow me to play Fabris in his natural CM position. Capable at CB too and at only 22 he has some room for improvement too.

 

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Jérémy Serwy - A quick, hard-working and tricky winger is always a good thing to have at the lower levels, and add on top of that Serwy free kick taking, I reckon Serwy could be a real asset to my team this season. With my small squad, versatility is a must currently, so being able to play all three AM positions is great as well as being ok in the midfield too.

 

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Luigi Vaccaro - A well-rounded midfielder that can play both CM and DM naturally. Vaccaro adds a bit more steel to my midfield, with more of a physical presence about him than Fabris he can provide some more, needed stability that is required at this level. As a testament to his ability, Vaccaro is currently attracting interest from League One Charlton in England.

 

The team has the ability to get into the Playoffs (I think I need to take a few hours to try to understand Belgium's league system, it is ridiculous), and the board only want me to get top half this season, so it should be a fairly good season. My only concern is the squad depth, but I'm casting my net out to try to find some players.

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July - September 2017  -  Excelsior Virton

 

Transfers

In

Willem Ofori-Appiah - Free Transfer. A pacey LB/LW and he fills a position (LW) I didn't really have any decent options for. Leaves a bit to be desired in the technical attributes, but his pace should make up for it.

Cédric Mingiedi - Loan from Mechelen. There was about 5 players on the transfer/loan list that were interested in joining me, and Mingiedi filled a gap in the defence. I'm not sure how much he'll play, but he's versatile and provides some depth.

Manuel Castronovo - Loan from Chatelet. I wasn't sure if I should include Castronovo as Chatelet ended up terminating his loan in late September, but he basically filled the same purpose as Mingiedi, but not as good. No big loss that he was recalled in the end.

Dries Vanhove - Free Transfer. A signing for the future and as a backup for Harvey. He looks ok for a 16-year-old and adds some depth at RB.

Daniel Canda Lubunda - Free Transfer. An ex-Waregem youth player that can play CM and DM, a decent rotation option and some decent potential on him too. He should do well at this level.

Niccolo Bettini - Free Transfer. Same deal as Vanhove here, but I reckon Bettini may just pip him in terms of quality as it seems Bettini has the higher ceiling potential wise.

Benito Sonck - Free Transfer. Probably the best young player I signed in this window, he's a great finisher with some good attributes for a 16-year-old and bags of potential too. Will likely be a backup, for now, maybe he can break into the first team soon enough.

Ewan Geneste - Free Transfer. Another young player brought in to add some depth. Looks like he has some decent potential and could be a decent backup in DM.

Tibe Lambert - Free Transfer. A good physical player with some good potential. Not sure how much playing time he'll get this season as he isn't developed as much technically as some other signings, but he'll be a decent backup if needed.

Ayoub Zuidhoek - Free Transfer. A good finisher but that's it right now. He has some potential but will probably be in the U21s this season, maybe I'll loan him out too.

Carlos Dimitriou - Free Transfer. A good finisher like Zuidhoek but with the added versatility of being able to play LW, so he may get some more playing time as a backup. Good potential too, I'm hopeful he'll be a good signing.

Kenneth Andersson - Free Transfer. More added depth to midfield and decent passer. I reckon with some retraining that Andersson could make a decent playmaker and he has good potential too, will be a decent back up this season.

Jurica Rendulic - Free Transfer. A decent CB option that I reckon could challenge for the starting XI. He has some good core defensive abilities and some good potential on top, he will be a good option for this season.

 

Cofidis Cup

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A good couple of wins against non-league opposition Bocholter and Derde Klasse side Dessel to start my tenure at Virton. The performances left a bit to be desired but it set up a home tie to Jupiler Pro side Lokeren and after some heroic defensive efforts, I managed to pull off a fantastic upset to get through to the 7th Round against Oostende.

 

Derde Klasse

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A poor start but I managed to get a couple of good wins to end September in a decent position. Heist was a frustrating game as I came from behind to lead 2-1, but ended up 5-2 down until Sonck's last minute effort. Lommel was another frustrating game as I conceded in the last minute but as they're one of the best teams in the league it's not that bad of a result. The team finally clicked against Geel with a big win but I think my flat 433 may need some tweaking as it can be a bit unreliable and sloppy in defence, but it is quite good in attack which is a big positive. I'm hoping I can start to put some good form together and start to challenge near the top of the table and get myself in a good position for the playoffs.

 

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October - December 2017  -  Excelsior Virton

 

Derde Klasse

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I carried my good form over from September and managed to go 7 games unbeaten (8 including the cup) and put myself firmly in the playoff picture and even though I narrowly lost to top of the table Seraing I bounced back quickly to keep everything looking positive up until mid-November when I was firmly in the playoff places and looking to possibly overhaul Seraing. Then my season was completely derailed in the run-up to the winter break. Losing 4 out of my last 5 games of the year led to me plummeting out of the playoff picture and I was desperate for the winter break to come just so I'd stop losing. There were no major injuries or suspensions to contend with, just poor, poor form and performances. I can't really explain what happened, we just seemed incapable of imposing ourselves on to the games, maybe it was fatigue or I possibly approached these games to cautiously which invited the opposition to attack me. Despite the poor end to the year, Arenate and Serwy have been magnificent so far and been my most important players. I'm hoping I can come back from the break refreshed so I can put pressure on the playoff places but whilst 6 points isn't insurmountable, it's looking like it'll be a tough ask, and then I have to navigate the playoffs on top of that.

 

Cofidis Cup

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This game came right as I was hitting my poor form. I was hoping it might be a distraction that I could get a bit of a morale boost from, but Oostende just had way too much quality for me. Outclassed in every aspect and it just added more misery to the last few games. It was a good achievement to get this far though, and there's no shame in losing 2-0 to a side 2 divisions above you, plus I never had any hope of doing anything in this competition. One small, albeit clichéd, positive I can take from this is that I'll have fewer games to worry about after the winter break and can concentrate fully on the league.

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January - March 2018  -  Excelsior Virton

 

Transfers

In

Victor Oliseh - Free Transfer. Just the one signing in January in Oliseh. A decent looking RB with some decent potential that was recommended by my Chairman/DoF. Probably will go straight to my U21s as I've not had to deal with injuries to much this season, fortunately, but a good player for the future.

Out

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And just one player out too, and I was devastated. Sonck was on a Non-Contract deal due to the clubs tight finances, and I hadn't realised he was getting interest from Sheff Wed otherwise I'd have tied him down to at least get some compensation, but as it is, my obliviousness has allowed a potentially Premier League standard striker to leave for absolutely nothing :( As a result, I tied every player that would talk to me down to a part-time contract so I didn't get burnt again.

 

Derde Klasse

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Seems I was right to wish for the winter break! We were fantastic after the break, everything seemed to click. The defence was much more solid whilst not coming at the expense of scoring goals, however, I could have really done with a talismanic striker as most goals ended up coming from the midfield. Importantly, we managed to beat teams like Heist, Lommel, Seraing and Aalst which allowed us to claw our way into the playoff positions and firmly make that 4th spot mine. It was disappointing not to beat Berchem and Dender in the run to put myself in the best possible position for the playoffs, but at least I'm in there. Also, it's brilliant to be on such a long unbeaten run, it's now a record for both the club and the league which is magnificent. Arenate and Serwy have continued to be fantastic for me and will be vital in the next 6 games. Which leads me to...

 

Derde Klasse Playoffs

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For those of you not familiar with Belgium's absolutely mental league structure, this is the Derde Klasse Playoff Group. How it works is that every team has their points total from the regular season halved, and then this new points total is the starting point for the Playoff Group. Each team plays 6 games (play each other team twice) and most frustratingly, the only league sorting rule is seeding, meaning that as I start in 4th, I'll have to get more points than the other teams to finish above them. 3 points to catch Seraing, but realistically 4 to jump above them, it's doable but will be a tough ask.

 

Youth Intake

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This youth intake was labelled as a "Golden Generation", and I can see why! I'm not going to get too carried away and it relies on my coaches ability to judge players, but I've never seen so many 4-5 star players in one intake. Admittedly that is 4-5 star for the Derde Klasse, but still pretty good. It looks like Laurent and Boudon will be the better players due to how they're already fairly well developed, but I'm excited to see how they progress.

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And it seems my U19s didn't like the new competition...

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:(

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Loving your choice of club! Those league rules really are something, but I guess that's what you get when your country is known for good beer and horrible politics (I was born 2 miles from the Belgian border, so I'm allowed to say this :D).

And that Laurent injury... sounds like a horror film.

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April - June  2018 -  Excelsior Virton

 

Derde Klasse Promotion Playoff

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An unbelievable end to the season! I went into the playoffs with the mindset that I had to not lose to Seraing whilst beating them at least once, and then hope Lommel and Heist slip up a bit too, or at least for them to take points from Seraing too. I couldn't believe my luck when Seraing lost the opening game and then everyone kept drawing with each other! It was frustrating not being able to quite take advantage of the other teams stumbling by only managing to get draws, but it was enough to keep me in with a shout. As it looked like I was getting back to winning ways against Heist, Serwy got injured with a concussion for the rest of the season which knocked me out of my rhythm, but I stayed in touching distance. Then I decided to give Ben Schmitt his first start of the season, and boy, what a decision! He got an important equaliser and then a late winner against Seraing to put me top for the first time this season thanks to a draw between Heist and Lommel, and putting me in pole position for the final game. We went into the final game needing to at least match Lommel's result as if we lost whilst Lommel drew, they would have gotten promoted due to the league sorting rules, but we were up to the task and eased past Heist, securing Excelsior Virton's return to the Proximus League, or at least Belgium's second tier.  The best part about promotion, however, has to be saying goodbye to only being allowed to name 4 subs, who's bright idea was that awful rule? Thank **** I'll be able to name 7 subs again.

 

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Just a look at the final table.

 

I'm not sure if I want to stay at Virton for next season, for a few reasons; First, our finances are terrible. I've stayed pretty close to the wage budget and not had any players coming in for a transfer fee, but this is how the finances have looked this season

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Frustratingly for me, this also means I can't get further coaching licences at the minute and there's no real indication that the finances will improve. Secondly, we'll probably be the worst team in the Proximus League, so it'll be a tough ask to stay up, I may try to move on whilst my stock is high. And finally, and probably most importantly, my contract expires at the end of June, and there's been no indication of a new contract being offered. I kind of want to ask for a new one, but I'm also of the mindset that I just got them promoted, I shouldn't have to beg for a new contract! Anyway, we'll see what happens, there are some interesting jobs available currently so I might see what I can get. 

 

Squad and Season Review

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Awards

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Derde Klasse Team of the Year

 

 

Notable Players

 

5. Mehdi Lazaar - Typically I wouldn't consider a rotational player for a notable player spot, but Lazaar filled Serwy's shoes brilliantly in the Promotion Playoff, and it was always great having a player of his quality coming off the bench or to start when players got tired. 4 goals and 14 assists is a brilliant return despite only starting 16 times with 15 sub appearances, will be an important squad player for next season. Maybe he should be higher since he has only 1 goal and 1 assist less than Serwy for around 1,000 minutes less playing time?

4. Willem Ofori-Appiah - A fantastic signing that ran rampant down the left flank with his pace. 13 goals from the wing is nothing to be sniffed at and his goals came in handy with none of my strikers really delivering goals wise on a regular basis, not to mention he managed 7 assists too. His capability to fill in at LB also helped immensely, especially with the 4 subs rule, and he provided a threat from deep when playing there too. Hopefully, he can make the step up, but with his pace, I'm sure he'll be fine.

3. Samuel Fabris - A solid midfielder that showed his quality at this level. He was important to the balance of my midfield, as he allowed the more attacking minded players to get forward, whilst also being able to contribute himself and pass the ball about fairly well at times. 9 goals and 5 assists from midfield is a decent return for any midfielder, but for one that's a bit more defensively minded is superb. His contract is up in the summer, so if I stay he'll certainly be top of the shortlist.

2. Jérémy Serwy - Serwy was fantastic this season. All my attacks went through him, and his crossing was brilliant, which is why he has so many assists whilst Ofori-Appiah has so many goals, the two linked up so well with crosses from the right wing to the back post. His 5 goals and 15 assists were vital in keeping within touching distance of the playoffs, and I'm hoping he'll stay next season, but he's attracting attention from Scotland and making noises about possibly leaving, so it may be tough to hang on to him.

1. Alexandre Arenate  - Arenate got all those awards for a reason, he was the absolute heartbeat of my team, dominating games from CM, scoring for fun at times and starting moves off with ease. He was brilliant, and he's still only 22 so he has plenty of improvement to come. Without him, we looked a different team, so I'm glad he managed to stay fit for the majority of the season. He just made us tick, and that is so vital for a CM, not to mention how he dictated so many games with ease. No one comes near him for Player of the Season.

 

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15 hours ago, Timetxu said:

Loving your choice of club! Those league rules really are something, but I guess that's what you get when your country is known for good beer and horrible politics (I was born 2 miles from the Belgian border, so I'm allowed to say this :D).

And that Laurent injury... sounds like a horror film.

Thanks! I thought it would be more interesting than just sticking in England as I usually tend to.

 

The Derde Klasse is the tip of the iceberg, the Proximus League has about 4 or 5 different phases and playoff groups that I'll need to get my head around.

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Oh, sweet Jesus, that one's brilliant. An eight team league that splits up in a promotion play-off for the best teams, and actual European qualifiers for the rest! It's like a birthday party where all the kids get to ride go-karts and the birthday boy only gets a ball of slime.

Edited by Timetxu

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5 hours ago, Timetxu said:

Oh, sweet Jesus, that one's brilliant. An eight team league that splits up in a promotion play-off for the best teams, and actual European qualifiers for the rest! It's like a birthday party where all the kids get to ride go-karts and the birthday boy only gets a ball of slime.

1

And the best teams are determined by the league splitting into two phases, with the winner of each phase qualifying for the promotion playoff. It's just bonkers.

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After interviewing for the Crewe job to get them back to the Football League after relegation from League Two, and applying for jobs across Europe, Phillipe Emond (the chairman) offered me some stay at club talks...

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:D

I didn't want to leave that much, but I just wasn't being offered a contract so I forced their hand. Just a one-year extension, but I want the chance to try to keep Virton in the Proximus League, but I'm not sure if I'll put up with the club running my contract down again. Now onto next season!

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July - September 2018  -  Excelsior Virton

 

Transfers

In

 

Samuel Fabris - Free Transfer from Cercle Brugge. An absolute no-brainer. Was very good for me last season, and Cercle Brugge weren't renewing his contract, so keeping him just for consistency sake was good enough, but he's also easily one of my better players.

Emeka Ezeh - Free Transfer from FC Ebedei. Last season, one of my main struggles was not having a consistent striker, so when Ezeh was suggested to me by my DoF ( ? May have been one of the scouts), it was an easy decision. He looks great for this level, a few kinks that need to be worked on, but he looks to be potentially a very good player at a much higher level.

Stéphane Laurent - Free Transfer from Knokke. I actually tried to sign Laurent last season, but Knokke beat me to him. So after getting promoted and noticing he was interested in joining, and that my new scouts rated him highly, I thought I'd get him in as a backup. Fairly good for this level already and only 17, looks a tidy little signing.

Brandon Hess - Free Transfer from Albuquerque Sol. I found Hess whilst trawling through the US lower leagues, and he looks very good already with some decent potential too, so I decided to get him in to challenge Dupire for the #1 shirt. He's missing some key attributes, but he looks a good shot stopper with his high agility and reflexes with decent one-on-ones. A bit rough like Ezeh, but I reckon I could make a player out of him.

Don Bowen - Free Transfer from St. Louis Lions. Found in a similar fashion to Hess, Bowen looks a decent LB. Fantastic physical attributes that give a great base to work from, and ok looking everywhere else for this level. He needs to be improved a bit but with seemingly no glaring issues and some decent potential, he could be a great player for Virton. He's either footed too which is a huge plus, maybe I could retrain him to play RB too.

Fré Van Aerschot - Free Transfer from Heist. Signed by my DoF, but he looks a decent player with some potential, especially since he's free. Will probably be the third choice GK and/or shipped off to the U21s.

Ángel Gauna - Free Transfer. I found Gauna when he offered his services to me, so I took a look at him and thought he'd be a pretty good addition to my back 4. Never signed a player through that feature before, but I think Gauna looks like quite a decent signing.

Robin Vanreusel - Free Transfer from Oosterzonen. Another signed by my DoF. Looks an ok signing, with a bit of potential, but I can't see him featuring this season, so he'll probably be straight into the U21s.

 

Out

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Serwy asked for me to accept an offer from Hamilton in a private chat, and considering the clubs financial situation, I didn't really have a choice. £250k is a decent price I feel, but it doesn't dent the finances massively. It's a shame to let him go, but Lazaar will have to step up to replace him. The rest were loaning players out to get first-team football as well as releasing a player at the end of his contract.

 

Expectations

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Proximus League - 1st Phase

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I set up originally to just be hard to beat, expecting to be in for a long and tough season, but we've been much better defensively than I expected and then we started to click in attack to start edging teams out. Ezeh has been fantastic, showing why a good striker was my missing piece last season, and Lazaar has stepped into Serwy's shoes brilliantly. The highlight has probably been beating Cercle Brugge, a team that is probably good enough for the Jupiler Pro League and lost in last seasons Champions Playoff. They've only conceded 3 all season, so to have scored 2 of those is great, and since it's now looking like I may be challenging them to get 1st in the 1st Phase, to get one over them early on is a great boost. 5 games to go of this phase, and I reckon I can push Cercle Brugge and Sint-Truidense to the end, but it'll be a tough ask. Most importantly though, I'm looking like I'll put my self out of the relegation picture which will be fantastic, but there's still a long way to go.

 

Cofidis Cup

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The first two rounds came as great distractions as I was drawing every game, and allowed me to build morale and get some wins under my belt, and then for the second year in a row, Lokeren rocked up to Stade Yvan Georges for the 6th Round, and got played off the park. A brilliant defensive and counter-attacking performance shut Lokeren out and grab the needed goals. It looks like I'm fast becoming Lokeren's bogey side, and if I somehow get promoted, that's at least 6 points I'll get ;)

I have Charleroi in the 7th round, and they're not doing well at the minute, so I fancy my chances at another upset.

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October - December 2018  | Excelsior Virton

 

Proximus League - 1st Phase

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A frustrating end to the first phase, we were in touching distance of finishing top but we just couldn't finish teams off, and with Cercle Brugge struggling too it was all the more frustrating, especially when we didn't take the chance to beat them. On the last round of fixtures, Brugge scored twice in a game for just the second league game that season to win 2-0, which meant I had to go into the Roeselare game needing a 2 goal win, and it looked hopeful when I turned the game around to go 2-1 up, but I kept pushing for goals and I was punished. It's frustrating, but second is still a respectable position, and it gives me healthy lead from the relegation playoff which is decided by the overall table.

 

Proximus League - 2nd Phase

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An OK start to the second phase, but more frustrating draws, especially to Brugge again who scored 2+ goals for the third time this season when we drew. With Cercle Brugge doing so horribly this was perhaps a chance to take the second promotion playoff spot fairly unopposed, but I haven't taken the opportunity. It's still close however so if I can start turning these draws into the wins I'll shoot up the table. Fortunately, I'm still not losing too much, so I should be safe from the relegation playoff for now. My major worry is with January coming up, some players are attracting interest, and I may find it difficult to keep my squad together.

 

Cofidis Cup

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Charleroi were just too good for me. I was hoping that I could carry my league form over and at least give them a game, but they were clearly a better side in every way. I didn't really create anything and to be fair I did well to keep it down to 2-0, perhaps an indication that not getting that promotion playoff spot is a good thing as Charleroi aren't exactly doing well in the Jupiler Pro League.

 

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Quite a good Brexit result, will make English football easier if I ever return.

Edited by VillaSmith

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Cercle Brugge sacked they manager after starting so poorly in the 2nd Phase, and I got offered an interview. An opportunity for a guaranteed promotion playoff spot and Brugge are definitely one of the better sides in the league.

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January - March 2019  |  Excelsior Virton

 

Transfers

In

Ties Claes -  Free Transfer from Heist. The first of two signings made by my Chairman/DoF in January. An okay looking CB for the division below, with a bit of potential, but not a whole lot. Maybe he could do a job as 5th/6th choice, but for now, will play for my U21s.

Mathieu Troonbeeckx - Free Transfer from Heist. Again, a decent player for the division below and he could perhaps do a job as a backup player but will be straight into U21s. He's got a bit more potential than Claes, but I'm not holding my breath.

 

Out

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A frustrating sale, but I couldn't do anything about it as the board accepted it without my input. I couldn't protest the sale either, but as he didn't really play, I wouldn't have anyway. One bonus is a 30% of the profit from next sale clause, and since Lazio bought him for nothing, that means the club will pretty much get 30% of any decent fee he's bought for. Let's hope for Virton's sake he becomes a brilliant RB.

 

Proximus League - 2nd Phase

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As you can see, I didn't get offered take the Cercle Brugge job in the end, but I managed to beat them and finish above them in the second phase. Overall, it was a poor end to the regular season, we struggled to score, and when managed to bulge the net, we struggled to keep the opposition from doing the same. Luckily our form from before Christmas meant that we still managed to finish firmly mid-table, which considering the overall quality of this team is a great achievement, in my opinion. Winning those two games though were vital, as it meant we didn't finish bottom and more importantly helped impact our position in the final, overall table. My biggest problem the last few months have been Ezeh. He was fantastic before the winter break, but he's been attracting interest and asked to leave, but since no one would offer a decent fee, he didn't leave and he kicked up a fuss whilst consistently having stinkers. Hopefully, I can sort it out soon, but I may be forced to sell in the summer.

 

Proximus League - Overall Table

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4th is a good finish, and it meant I finished just 2 points above the relegation playoff. I had thought this position would be a type of limbo position, where I finished my season in early March and didn't have to play again until August, but turns out that 4th also gets a spot in the European Place Playoff, not just 2nd and 3rd of the Second Phase like the rules state. I still have no idea how this league system works. I have a fairly tough group for the playoffs, but of the 3 Proximus League teams in it, 2, including me, are in my group, so hopefully, I'll get some decent results. I know have to wait until April for the next stage to begin.

 

Youth Intake

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Another "Golden Generation"! And this time with even more players that could become quite decent. I'm hoping that these players are even better than last year since those star ratings are now compared to a Proximus League side, but then again, I'm not that good so I'm not holding my breath. Turzo and Hajji are two already decent looking players, hopefully they and some others can make the step up some time soon. At the very least, it looks like the future is bright for Excelsior Virton

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April - June  2019 -  Excelsior Virton

 

Jupiler Pro League European Places Playoff

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Not a terrible end to the season, but not a great one. We didn't embarrass ourselves which is good since we were up against mostly higher division opposition. I was honestly expecting to be the whipping boy, maybe getting some points against Sint-Truidense, but to get wins against Kortrijk and Mouscron whilst drawing with Lokeren and not losing to Sint-Truidense is pretty good, and I reckon I can actually be happy with my performance in this playoff as it would have been a ridiculous achievement to get into the Europa League. I'm hoping now that with some new faces in the summer, I can make a push onwards in the league next season and get one of the promotion playoff places, and maybe even get myself into the Jupiler Pro League.

 

Squad and Season Review

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Awards

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Proximus League Team of the Year

Ezeh clearly made a splash for the League, but for me, I just didn't rate him too much, in the end, his attitude was rubbish and I think he scored 2 goals between November and May which is dreadful. He's still attracting a lot of attention, and whilst he's a good player, I think losing him may actually be a good thing.

 

 

Notable Players

 

5. Brandon Hess - It was a solid first season in the sticks for the young American. A few howlers here and there, but he's young and inconsistent so it can be forgiven, and there were some games that he kept me in it single-handedly too. I also think he saved something like 4 or 5 penalties that he faced this season and conceded just the one, and a GK that can do that is always a good player to have. Hopefully, he can kick on next season and start to realise his potential some more.

4. Don Bowen - The second of my American contingent, and he had a decent season. His athleticism allowed him to get up and down the line which always gave me an option when attacking, plus it allowed him to get back and do some good defensive work. He's progressed a bit too this season which is great, but with 1 year on his contract and clubs circling, it may be hard to keep him.

3. Alexandre Arenate - Another good season from Arenate. He was made my captain this season and he took it in his stride to keep performing well even after a step up the divisions. Towards the end of the season, I did start playing him out wide instead of centrally as I gradually began starting Laurent instead. Next season he may be relegated to an off the bench role.

2. Mehdi Lazaar - Lazaar was given the task of replacing Serwy at the start of the season, and he did a great job. He didn't quite hit the numbers Serwy did, but it can be forgiven since we were promoted last season. Lazaar also filled some gaps up front when needed but by the end of the season, he had become a backup again as I moved Arenate out wide. One of two players to get an Average Rating that was higher than 7, so he was a really important part of my team this season.

1. Willem Ofori-Appiah - The other player to get an Average Rating higher than &, and the only player to do so in the league for me. Ofori-Appiah was a great player for me this season, filling in at every position down the left in various different tactics, and chipping in with goals and a couple of assists too. He's a great utility player to have, and on his day can be a great player, and fortunately, he did it fairly consistently this season which is why he's #1 on my list as a lot of my other players just couldn't do it on a consistent basis.

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July - September 2019  |  Excelsior Virton

 

Transfers

Out

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The major transfer news out this season was Ezeh finally getting his move. And at £2m, his sale pretty much wipes out all my financial worries, plus with a Friendly and a 20% Profit clause, the sale should continue to help the club in the future. It is frustrating to lose such a good player, but he was not performing towards the end of last season, and I think selling him will end up being a net gain for the club and squad as a whole. Also going out during this window were some players that I couldn't really see getting into my team anytime soon as well as some youth players on loan to get some experience.

 

In

 

Anthony Graham - Free Transfer. I noticed this guy in Australia's U19 team and without a team, so I offered him a trial and he looked pretty decent. He has some good potential and he'll be an able body as cover, but I've sent him on loan to get some experience for now.

Cameron Martin - Free Transfer. He was also without a club in the Australia U19s with Graham, and whilst he isn't quite as good, he still looks ok with decent potential. I've also sent him on loan for now.

James Oyewole - Free Transfer from  GEE LEC Academy. I actually signed Oyewole in my first season and had completely forgotten about him, so it was a nice surprise when he joined. He's a decent looking CM that can do a job as a backup for now, and he has a bit of potential too. I may look to loan him out too, but it doesn't seem like there are many takers currently.

Robert Jandrek - Free Transfer. I feel like my biggest weakness last season was my wide players, so I signed Jandrek as an attempt to fix that. He looks a good player, fairly well rounded and decent at pretty much everything a winger needs. At £2k p/w, he's now my highest paid player and I think I may be giving him a bit too much money, but if he helps make me more threatening in attack and challenge for the title, it'll be worth it.

Max Hollis - Free Transfer from Carolina Dynamo. A good looking CB I found whilst scouring the US. A bit limited to purely defensive stuff, and even then lacking a couple of key attributes, but for this level he's more than good enough and with his potential too, he could be a very good player for the future as well. Plus with that leadership, he could be a future captain, though his determination is a worry.

Emeka Ashton - Free Transfer from Toronto FC III. I was initially drawn to Ashton as he had the same first name as Ezeh, and as I'd never heard the name Emeka before, I thought it weird I noticed two regens with it so soon after each other. Then I took a look at him and he turned out to be pretty good, so I snapped him up. He's a pretty good winger, fairly pacey and a good crosser, he'll probably be a backup to Jandrek for now, but he looks a very good player for that. He has some decent potential too, so he's a player for the future too.

Anthony Maisonnial - Loan from Saint-Etienne. This was the first season that any decent player wanted to join me on loan, so I took full advantage. With Dupire wanting to go out on loan for first team football, I got in Maisonnial to serve as a back up to Hess. I've had him on previous FMs and he's been decent, so I reckon he'll be a great backup at this level.

Pervis Estupiñán - Loan from Watford. I signed Estupiñán as a backup player to fill in all down the left flank. He's not great, but he's still ok and I think he does add a bit of the quality I've been lacking down the wings, especially since I don't have to pay anything towards him. He's a decent option to have.

Yusuf Sari - Loan from Marseille. Another signing to bolster my options on the wing. Sari offers the bonus of being able to play on both wings, so he'll be a good option from the bench. Not sure he'll start, but his versatility is a great thing to add to my squad to provide cover.

Gauthier Langlois - £11.5k from Colomiers. My first ever transfer fee! My scouts said he had a lot of potential and that he was cheap, so, facilitated by Ezeh's sale, I decided to get Langlois in as one for the future. And why not, now that I have cash I've loaned him out for now, and hopefully, he'll impress in the Derde Klasse.

Ruan Café - Loan from Standard Liege. One of my replacements for Ezeh. Liege is my senior affiliate, so I looked through their reserve players to see what I could get, and Ruan Café looked a decent option. Plus he can play on the wings so the added versatility is always nice. I'm not sure if he'll start, but he's better than my backups from last season, so it's nice to improve that area too.

Prince Eze - £275k from Plateau Utd. My main replacement for Ezeh, and not just because his name is so similar! My scouts recommended him and he was attracting some interest from some decent clubs, plus he has some decent potential so it seemed a no-brainer to me. I had been interested before, but I couldn't sign him as the compensation was too high, but with the money from the Ezeh sale, I could just about afford it. A bit better well rounded and suited to a striker role than Ezeh, but his mental attributes let him down. Overall he's not quite as good, but he still looks a cracking player for this level.

Jarno Deleu - £27k from Creteil. A young, pacey, hard-working and technically well round Belgian winger, what's not to like? My scouts recommended Deleu and he looks a great player that will really solve my quality issue at LM/LW. He has tons of room to improve too, I think he'll be a really great signing.

 

My Chairman/DoF also signed a bunch of players, but they were mostly rubbish players from the league below, so I've just dumped them all together below. Avetisov, Kerkour and Vandecasteele all look like they could be ok backups, but there's not much to shout about here.

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Expectations

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Proximus League - 1st Phase

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Firstly, it should be noted that the table is a couple games off, and is taken after the Roeselare game. I forgot to take a screenshot at the end of September and had to go back to an Autosave and that was the closest point I could get to the end of September. Since I picked up only 1 more point in my last two games before this update, I fell down to 2nd with Lierse in 1st on 20 points, and Waregem and Leuven breathing down my neck with just a couple points separating us.

It was a good start to the season though, a bit frustrating to let Lierse go top, but I have them soon so I will have my chance to catch up on them. I've been mostly grinding out wins thanks to my great defence so far this season, with my front three of Jandrek, Deleu and Eze being really threatening on the counter. Whilst it has been a good start to the season, it's starting to look like I'll rue dropping some silly points, with last minute equalisers in the first Sint-Truidense game and the Lierse match, as well as scoring two own-goals in the second Sint-Truidense game. If I'd held on in for the win those games I'd still be top by 3 points, instead, I'm chasing by 4 points. I have a few games to turn it around with the aforementioned Lierse game soon, and with how well I've been playing, I feel confident I can catch Lierse.

 

Cofidis Cup

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A fairly standard first two rounds, with my backups doing the business in the 5th Rnd so my first team could get some rest, but unfortunately I got knocked out a round earlier this season as I didn't get to play Lokeren. I actually missed a penalty in this game and my late equaliser was thoroughly deserved as I went toe-to-toe with Anderlecht all game. We held out in extra time to take it to penalties where I lost 3-0 :( I missed 4 penalties in this game! There's no shame in losing to Anderlecht though, and it'll allow me to concentrate on catching Lierse and making a good start to the 2nd Phase too.

 

Miscellaneous

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An improvement in my Junior Coaching budget thanks to the Ezeh sale, which will hopefully allow me to produce some players good enough for the first team or to sell on in the future.

Edited by VillaSmith

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"Hey, boss. Since we managed to make some money off of Ezeh, d'you reckon there's enough left over to let me go on a coaching course? Any improvement I get can only improve the team"

"Sure, things are still a bit tight, but we should be able to manage"

"Thanks a lot, boss, I've been desperate to do this for ages!"

"I'm glad you want to improve, here's the £1000 you'll need"

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:seagull:

"£1000!!! I could have paid that you tight little *****!"

 

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October - December 2019  |  Excelsior Virton

 

Proximus League - 1st Phase

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Woohoo! A place in the Champions Playoff at the end of the season! I hit some fantastic fantastic form at just the right time as Lierse seemed to be unable to drop points, so I needed to keep winning as drawing just one of those wins would've handed the 1st Phase to Lierse. The pivotal game was Lierse at home, and we played them off the park, beating them comfortably and it seemed to derail their form a bit too as they lost the next game to Westerlo. It came down to the last game, I was 2 points ahead and a win would secure the Playoff Place, but I had to come from behind twice against Roeselare to get the draw, and with Lierse playing later that day, I thought I'd blown it, with Lierse having to win by 3 goals at home against mid-table Leuven. I was convinced they'd do it. And they only went and bloody drew! :D I'm delighted I could string this brilliant form together, and delighted I could get into the Playoff. Now I just need to keep the morale and form at a good level through the 2nd phase, so that I'm in a decent position for the playoff, and over two games, I'm sure I can beat anyone in this league. I think with the way the league works, I just need to ensure I finish in the top half of the Overall table now so that I avoid the relegation playoff if I lose.

 

Proximus League - 2nd Phase

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A bit of a rough start to the second phase, but we started off with a run of tricky away games, so it's not too bad. As mentioned above, I'm not too fussed about where I finish in the second phase, as long as my morale and form aren't too badly affected. It would be great to get the top spot again, but as I say, not massively important. However, despite my poor-ish form, I'm still only 4 points behind Tubize, so it's not unreasonable to think I could still finish top, I just need to get some consistency. It should be noted that my front three of Jandrek, Deleu and Eze have been fantastic recently and the main positive from this run just before the winter break, and seems to be the main difference from last season, I really did lack that quality going forward which those three are now adding.

 

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And the first game of the Second Phase saw me play my 100th game! It was a shame I couldn't mark it with a win though. And it's a miracle given my last career thread that this came at my first club!

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2019 - 2020 Season  |  KAA Gent

 

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Club Details

Nation - Belgium

League - Jupiler Pro League

Stadium - Ghelamco Arena

Capacity - 20,000 all-seater

Training Facilities - Superb

Youth Facilities - Excellent

Junior Coaching - Adequate

Youth Recruitment - Above Average

Media Prediction - 3rd

Transfer Budget - £6,836,026

Wage Budget - £299,720 p/w

Current Wage Bill - £256,627 p/w

Expectations -

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Squad

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A good looking side, perhaps a bit weak defensively, but overall, Gent are one of the better sides in Belgium currently, I think with a few additions, this could be a really good side that I can challenge for the title with.

 

Season So Far

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Gent are way off the pace. The immediate goal is to get up to at least 6th so that we can get into the Championship Group, and then see how we go from there. I think winning the title is way off at this point, but there is still 33 points to play for and I reckon if I can get 21-25 points, I should be in a decent position for the Championship Group.

 

Key Players

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Lovre Kalinic - A solid GK for most top leagues IMO, he should be a brilliant asset to have here in Belgium. He's a dominating presence in goal and it's nice to think I don't have to worry about strengthening such a vital position just yet. The only worry is that he's 29, young for a GK, but old enough that he might be thinking about moving to a bigger and better team/league.

 

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Giorgi Chakvetadze - Only 20 years old and this guy looks a real talent, I'll probably look for him to be my creative spark in this team, the only question is do I try to fit him in as a ST or a CM as I don't really like playing with AMs. He could do a job out wide too, which is a bonus. He is attracting interest from Schalke though, so it may be difficult to hold onto him, hopefully, he'll stick around long enough for me to break into the Champions League at least.

 

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Franko Andrijasevic - A similar player to Chakvetadze, except not quite as dynamic. I feel that getting Andrijasevic back to full fitness as quickly as possible will be important to how I finish the season.  He looks like he'd be a good link up option up front, or perhaps as a more creative player in midfield. Again, it's good to have the options.

 

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Stefan Mitrovic - My best CB, and he looks very good. His decisions could be better, but overall I really like the look of him. Hopefully, he'll be a rock in my defence that I can build my team upon.

 

Ones For The Future

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Issaka Ayew - I actually had my eyes on Ayew in the summer, I wanted to loan him at Virton, but Gent wouldn't let him go. And I can see why. Very well developed for 16, he can do a job in the first team already, and he has bags of potential too, I'm hoping he'll anchor my midfield for many years to come.

 

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Nicolas Raskin - I didn't actually notice this guy right away, but he seems a great little player for the Jupiler Pro already. Only 18 he has plenty of room for growth, and he looks a good playmaker that I could really use in this team. I want to focus more on possession with Gent, so players like Raskin are going to be important.

 

The board want a title challenge this season, though I'm hoping that just means qualify for the Championship Group, otherwise that could be quite difficult. Gent have a good squad here, and I reckon I could develop them into a title winning side that may be able to progress through the Champions League. Maybe.

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A screenshot from my first game, my winger got injured whilst we were scoring, and this happened...

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I think I need to talk to my physios and explain that dragging my injured player into my half of the pitch doesn't constitute adequate treatment. Also, what's the ref doing allowing Anderlecht to kick off whilst one of my players is rolling on the floor injured?

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On the tarmac at Brussels Airport at the bottom of the private jet's stairway, a youngish looking blonde man holds a sign that reads "Meneer Smith"

Sam Smith: Can you believe it, Isabella? He only interviewed me a few weeks ago and he thinks my name is Meneer. Why did he hire me if he doesn't even know my name?

Smith and his exasperated personal assistant, Isabella Brown, make their way down the stairway as Isabella frantically tries to explain for what feels like the 1000th time that they, in fact, speak Dutch in Northern Belgium, not French.

SS: ... Ahh, Bonjour, mon frère! Although I must remind you that my name is Sam, not Meneer! It should be easy to remember, Samuel!

Samuel Ernst: You are mistaken Meneer Smith, Meneer is just a title, similar to Mister in English. And I hope you have been brushing up on your Dutch like I suggested.

SS: Why would I do that, we're still in Belgium, not Holland, I'll be fine with French.

SE: But you see, we speak Dutch in Ghent, you are in Flanders now, not Wallonia. Well, technically we speak Flemish, but one step at a time, eh?

SS: Dutch!? Isabella, why didn't you tell me? Jamie Oliver would have told me. Probably whilst serving me Belgian Waffles...

IB: I did tell you, in fact, I've been telling you for 2 and a half years, pretty much at every away game we've played. I think we've only played about five teams from Wallonia come to think of it.

SS: Hmmm, Waffles... Huh, you saying something Isabella? Anyway, Samuel, let's go, I want to see my new stadium and office.

And Smith marched off into the terminal to collect his bags, as Isabella gave a beleaguered look to the Gent chairman.

IB: Luckily for you, he's less scatter-brained when it comes to football. Not much though, mind you.

And with that, a new chapter begins.

 

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January - March 2020  |  KAA Gent

 

Transfers

In

 

Ivan Sunjic - £2.6m from Stuttgart. One of the things I felt Gent were really missing when I joined was a proper defensive midfielder. There were plenty of players that could play there, but not many in a defensive manner, mainly as playmakers. There was Ayew, but he isn't ready to start yet. So I brought in Sunjic, who was transfer listed at a reasonable price. He's a tad slow but other than that he looks to be a very good, well-rounded midfielder, and should do the dirty work in midfield well.

Dusko Jankovic - £1.7m from Partizan. My scout suggested Jankovic to me, and when I looked at him I saw he'd scored 7 goals in 13 league games for Partizan, and at 18 that's not a bad record. His attributes look really good for 18 too, so I just couldn't turn him down at that price. Plus, up front was similar to the problem I mentioned above, lots of options, not many of actual strikers though, so I needed someone to lead the line, which Jankovic should do perfectly. He has a lot of potential, so could become even better!

João Félix - Loan from Benfica. I felt I needed more attacking quality in midfield, and Félix was on the loan list, so I thought he'd at least plug a gap until I can properly assess my options in the summer. He looks to be a pretty good player too, hopefully, I can get him permanently in the summer to alleviate that potential headache.

Emeka Ashton - £1.3m from Excelsior Virton. As soon as I joined Gent, I instructed my scouts to look at pretty much every player at Virton to see if any were deemed good enough for Gent, and Ashton was one of those that got a great report. I also felt that I could now help Virton's financial situation by knicking some players. As part of the deal he's been loaned back to Virton for the season, but hopefully he'll progress soon enough to get into my squad.

Stéphane Laurent - £1.9m from Excelsior Virton. Another player I pinched from Virton. Laurent also got a good report, and I reckon at the very least he can be a good backup at this level. As with Ashton, he's staying at Virton for the rest of the season.

Pablo Maffeo - Loan from Man City. The defence was the major weak point in Gent's squad, with now real out-and-out RB as a backup for Thomas Foket, and with Foket kicking up a fuss about wanting to join Standard Liege, I was suddenly in need of a first team quality RB. And with Maffeo available on loan, it was a no-brainer. I'm hoping to keep him more long term as I reckon he's probably better than Foket, and his contract is up in 2021, so I'll be looking to extend his loan in the summer so I can perhaps get him on a free when he's available.

Out

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No real clear out as I'm yet to properly assess the squad, just some loans for now.

 

Jupiler Pro League

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A brilliant start to my tenure with that win against Anderlecht, but unfortunately my away form has let me down in my quest to climb as high as possible. Admittedly, having only dropped 9 points I couldn't have gotten that much higher, but it's still disappointing. Overall though I'm very happy with this end to the regular season, we're in the Championship Group and we've been playing some fantastic football. My first team signings have all made great impacts to the team and I've now got a platform to really build this team on. I reckon I'm not very far away from having a title winning side here.

 

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This is the Championship Group starting positions. I'm only 7 points from Genk, it's not an unreasonable tally to overhaul in 10 games, especially if I can beat them twice. In fact, if I win all 10 games (A huge ask I know) I'm almost guaranteed the title, so it's doable! But to be honest, I'd be happy with 3rd at the minute, finish strongly and provide a platform for next season.

 

Youth Intake

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No golden generation this season :( Only Filip Raes to really shout about and he looks pretty decent to be fair, he's probably better than anyone I got through at Virton considering the quality difference between us. Hopefully, I can get some better players through in the years to come.

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Back at Excelsior Virton

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:cool:

I'll be returning to Virton next season! I'm delighted they managed to get promoted in the end, although slightly sad I didn't get to do it myself but I certainly played my part by getting them to the Playoff!

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It comes down to the final day...

 

10th Minute: And news is coming through from Genk... And Genk have scored a penalty!

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Liege are now 4 points behind Gent, they need to come from behind and hope that Brugge can do them a favour.

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14th Minute: The ball is crossed in by Riveros towards Sylla. Sylla knocks it down for OLAYINKA!!!

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Olayinka's 20th goal of the season extends Gent's lead at the top

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39th Minute:  And Standard hearts are breaking in Genk as the lead is double by Naranjo.

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No change in the table, but Liege's mountain is getting higher.

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Half Time: As the ref blows for half time, Gent are firmly in the driving seat here, both in this game and the title race.

 

49th Minute: A glimmer of hope early in the second half for Standard Liege as Hamon puts the ball past his own keeper.

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The complexion of the table hasn't changed, but Liege are looking to put the pressure on Gent.

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60th Minute: That glimmer for Standard just got a little bit brighter as Svanberg provides them with the equaliser

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Gent still lead by 5 points but they'll have to hold their nerve now.

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70th Minute: What a comeback by Roberto Mancini's men! Standard Liege take the lead in Genk through Toko Ekambi!

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Gent still lead in the table, but the pressure is well and truly on now!

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85th Minute: Genk have a free kick on the edge of the D. Svendsen steps up! GOAL! An almighty explosion of relief at the Jan Breydelstadion as Svendsen smashes the ball past the Brugge Keeper.

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And what a time to score, just as news is coming through of Standard's 4th of the game.

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It's looking like Standard might require a miracle now to claim the title.

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Full Time: The final whistle blows and Gent are crowned champions!!!

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A win secures them their second ever title, and in their fierce rivals back yard too!

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Edited by VillaSmith

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22 minutes ago, john1 said:

You can do it :cool: 

Cheers :cool: Club Brugge helped a lot by not having a shot on target :p 

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After he kept bad mouthing me in the media, I pipped him to the title and he lost his job! :D Also, he denied interest in the Celtic job just 4 days ago, which Standard Liege were delighted about. I guess they really wanted to fire him :lol:

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April - June 2020  |  KAA Gent

 

Jupiler Pro League - Championship Group

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Amazing form to end the season and to win Gent's second ever title! We really started to play some fantastic football and my front three were in red-hot form with all of them getting 8 goals in the last 10 games, which made up for our defence that got a bit sloppy at times. I had thought that losing to Standard Liege early on had messed up my chances but we bounced back brilliantly and then when they came from 2-0 down on the final day I was convinced that Club Brugge would comeback against me too, but we held on for a win to win the title away to our fierce rivals! I'm hoping I can hold onto my key players for next season and have another run at the title as well as hopefully progressing as far as possible in the Champions League, maybe even see if I can win the Cofidis Cup too. And hopefully next season I won't have to sneak into the Championship Group. 

 

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Squad and Season Review

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Awards

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Team of the Year

 

Bloody hell, they have a lot of awards in Belgium!

 

Notable Players

 

5. Pablo Maffeo - Maffeo was a brilliant RB for me this year. As I tried to move to a more possession-based tactic that utilised the full backs, Maffeo was perfectly suited and he did fantastically, always provided an outlet and popping up with the odd assist too. I want to keep him for next season, but Man City want to try him in the first team. Hopefully, he'll be back on the loan list soon enough because he really is a fantastic RB.

4. João Félix - Another loanee making it on to my top 5 players, and another I'll try desperately to keep for next season. Félix really added a creative spark to my midfield and really helped me retain possession. Most of my attacks went through him too, and he was vital to the build-up play of most of my goals. He perhaps could have gotten more goals or assists, but he was mostly brilliant so I'm not complaining too much.

3. Tobias Svendsen - Svendsen was brilliant for me playing out on the right wing, a position he's not massively familiar with, getting 14 goals and 12 assists in the 21 games I was in charge of this season, he was absolute dynamite when cutting in onto his left foot as well as getting down the wing to cross the ball. And at only 20 he can only get better. I think Svendsen will be integral to any future success I have and I'll need to tie him down sharpish.

2. Dusko Jankovic - He may look like he's permanently drunk, but Jankovic has been amazing since I brought him in in January. 13 goals in 19 games and only 19 years old, he has a big future ahead of him. He was integral at linking up my midfield with the wide players and often caused a nuisance in the box. At just £1.7m he's looking an absolute steal, I'm hoping he'll become a real star for me.

1. Peter Olayinka - Just wow! I was thinking that LW might be a problem for me, but Olayinka was just ridiculous. 14 goals and 15 assists, and he missed a couple of games too! He just seems perfectly suited to the Inside Forward role I play him in, and I've already tied him down to a new five-year contract. Whatever Svendsen provided on the right, Olayinka proved even more of from the left, the two proved to be a really explosive duo out on the wings, but Olayinka managed to be a bit more consistent whilst Svendsen occasionally went missing.

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It may only be one day into the season, but Excelsior Virton are top of the Jupiler Pro League! It's nice to see them doing well.

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July - September 2020  |  KAA Gent

 

* Thwip * A dart flies into a picture of Roberto Mancini that is taped to the dartboard in the Manager's office. Mancini had been in the news again, this time to peddle his conspiracy theory. Apparently, the "Big Wigs up at City Hall" - I presume he means the FA - didn't want another Standard Liege title, so they told Brugge to let Gent win the title. Why a team would lose on purpose to their fierce rivals to let them win the league, I'll never know. He ended his theory by stating that "The Man" couldn't handle him, and wanted him gone. Roberto was in the news a lot this summer, with the highlight being his sudden appearance on Sky Sports News just a week after his sacking, admitting that he did actually want the Celtic job, and it was just that Standard had strong-armed him into staying. He's now suing both clubs, I'm not exactly sure what for, probably conspiring to "keep him down".

* Thwip * The second dart hits the nose.

Anyway, it's been a good summer. It was nice to actually control transfers for once, no more random non-league players suddenly appearing at training, no more scrounging around Europe for young talent and an actual cohesion between the management and the board. Not to mention if I ever got fed up with Luc D'Haenens, the Director of Football, I could get rid of him, as he isn't the owner of the club, unlike last time. It's been smooth.

Although strangely, my scouts and board have been recommending a lot of Colombians for me to sign. They've been good suggestions, but it's odd. First, Samuel Ernst, the Chairman, suggested I get in a Colombian scout that used to work for Man United, Juan Mauricio Echeverria. Then we bought four teenagers from Colombia, with more to come apparently. Not totally unusual, but I'd begun to notice a pattern. Shortly after the signings were confirmed, Samuel insisted I went with him to pick the players up from the airport. Not from Brussels as I had assumed, but from a place that looked like it might have been an old, abandoned airstrip in the middle of the night. The players got off from their small prop plane and were accompanied by a big, burly man in his forties called Jesús Carabalí, or Boris for short, that claimed to be Juan's "Uncle", although Juan insists he's never met the guy. He said he was the agent for all our new players, and that he wanted to set up a small Guava business in Ghent. Why did he wink everytime he said that? An odd encounter indeed, made even odder by Samuel's admission that he wanted to set up a link to a Colombian club and Boris was helping him, all in return for helping his Guava business. Hmm

* Thwip * The third and final dart land right between Mancini's eyes. That's got to hurt.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

   Transfers

In

 

Will Mannion - Free Transfer from Hull. A good young GK whose contract was expiring in the summer, so I snapped him up as a backup. He's got good potential but at 22 he might need game time fairly soon. Luckily I have a packed schedule this season, so he should get some even if he's playing second fiddle to Kalinic. And hopefully soon he can push for the number 1 spot.

Don Bowen - Free Transfer from Excelsior Virton. What was a headache for me at the start of last season, was an opportunity when I joined Gent. His contract was expiring and he wouldn't renew when I was at Virton, so when I joined Gent in January, I pre-signed him before any other teams could get a sniff. Not sure he's good enough for me just yet, so I'll look to loan him out for experience for now.

Gauthier Langlois - Free Transfer from Excelsior Virton. When I joined Gent I sent my scouts to have a look at almost every Virton player, and I added a few to my shortlist. Then, just a couple days after adding Langlois to my shortlist, my DoF had signed him on a pre-contract. A good young talent, hopefully, he can make it at Gent, but I'll loan him out to my new affiliate - Lens - when he's old enough to be loaned out of the country.

Denis Zyulev - Free Transfer. I noticed that this guy was in the Belarus squad without playing for a club at 17, so I thought I'd take a risk on him. He looks ok, and I'll loan him out, for now, to see how he does.

Hassan Warsama - Free Transfer from RAAL La Louviére. The one random non-league signing made by my DoF, I couldn't fully escape it! He looks decent enough, but I don't think he's well progressed for 21, so he's been sent back to La Louviére for the season.

Jason Smith - Free Transfer from Nottm Forest. An exciting prospect that came through the Forest youth system, and with his contract up, I snapped him up. He's got good potential, but at 21 it may be too late to realise it. Another that was straight out on loan.

Adrien Bongiovanni - Loan from AS Monaco. The Jupiler Pro League requires at least 6 Homegrown players in the matchday 18, which I occasionally struggled for last season, and with Champions League football this season, I needed more Homegrown players. So I got Bongiovanni in to bump up the homegrown numbers, but it turns out the League and Europe have different Homegrown definitions, so he's not Homegrown for the Champions League :seagull: He'll be a useful player to have for the League though.

Roberto Díaz - £650k from Junior. Colombian #1. A very good CB, probably good enough to start, and with bags of potential too and at only 18. Suggested by my scout, I immediately liked the look of him and got him in, and at what I think is a pretty great price too. I'm just hoping I can hold onto him for a while.

Paulo Teixeira - £2.5m from Academica. I was worried about the LB position this summer as Riveros' loan had finished and I don't think Bowen is good enough to start yet. So I chased Teixeira for most of the summer. He may be younger than Bowen, but he's better technically and a little better developed in my opinion. A fairly big price for him, but he's got good potential too and will hopefully become homegrown here so I think it's worth it.

Miguel Villa - £550k from Deportivo Cali. Colombian #2. Another exciting CB from Colombia. Not quite as good as Diaz, but he'll be a more than able backup. He also has great potential too, but he has more growth to go, so he'll probably stick around a little longer than Diaz.

Sergio Díaz - £2.4m from Girona. I decided to shift my backup wingers in this window, and Díaz was one of the replacements I brought in. A decent looking player that was transfer listed at Girona, and he has some potential too. Will probably be nothing more than a rotation player, but with his versatility, he'll be useful

João Félix - Loan from Benfica. Félix was put up for loan again in the summer, and after his performances last season, I had to get him in. He fits the system and is very good for this level as he proved last season, which made it an absolute no-brainer.

Alec Georgen - Loan from PSG. Signed by my DoF, and he looks a very good player. Unfortunately, a bit of a downgrade after Maffeo left, but he certainly makes the blow less severe. Not sure if he'll get ahead of Foket, but he's a good option to have.

Thibaud Verlinden  - Loan from Stoke. Signed for the same reasoning as Bongiovanni, and the same mistake was made. Just like Bongiovanni, he'll be a useful player to have for domestic competitions.

Jurica Rendulic - £1.2m from Excelsior Virton. I didn't really want to raid Virton too much, but this was a slight panic buy as I knew he was decent. At the start of the season, injuries and the Olympics meant I only had 2 CBs available and was struggling for Homegrown players in the league, and Rendulic was a decent option that fulfilled my needs. Now he's my 6th choice though and I've loaned him to Lens for the season.

Miguel Escobar - £650k from Atletico Nacional. Colombian #3! And even more suspicious, he's an Escobar... A decent looking GK with loads of U20 caps and some good potential, but he's firmly down the pecking order currently and has been sent to Lens for experience.

Eduardo Lozano - £625k from Atletico Nacional. The fourth and final Colombian (of this window)! Lozano might be the best of the Colombians, a great looking striker that may even push Jankovic out of the team. At the very least he's a great option off of the bench. Great potential too, I may have to move to a 2 striker formation soon, or retrain Lozano or Jankovic to play on the wing!

Sander Berge - £9.25m from Genk. A massive signing to end the window. Berge was transfer listed at Genk and he's homegrown in Belgium, domestically and in Europe, and is probably one of the best players in the league. I may have overpaid slightly, and he's on big wages, but Napoli were sniffing around too so I needed to give him a good contract, plus at 22 he's got room to grow as well as potential sell on value, so not quite as risky as it first seems.

 

Out

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I've had quite an overhaul in the summer, I wanted to really mould the team how I wanted it, and it meant shifting out a lot of fringe players which generated a lot of funds for me. Lots of loans out too.

 

Expectations

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Belgian Super Cup

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My first trophy of the season! A commanding win against Charleroi that never really looked in doubt, whilst mainly playing fringe players thanks to injuries and the Olympics. It was also a good chance to play young players like Ayew, and he had a great game in particular. A good result and a good way to get my first win of the season.

 

Jupiler Pro League

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A difficult start that I somewhat stumbled through, but I managed to find some form and started to put some good performances together, and in the end, I've started off really well. Unbeaten so far and I've already played 2/3 of the teams that I'll be fighting for the league this season. Some of the performances were a bit stunted, but towards the end of September we really hit our stride and started playing some great football, such as in the Beveren game where we smashed them. With the form I'm in, I'd have thought I'd be top, but I'm chasing Antwerp for now, but I'm confident I can catch them, and I'm hoping that by the end of the regular season I can be so far ahead that the Championship Group is something of a formality. It probably won't but it's what I'll aim for.

 

Cofidis Cup

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A fairly straightforward draw against RFC Tounai from the Derde Klasse and we managed to get past them playing our backups without breaking a sweat. Sylla was fantastic from the right wing and gave me food for thought for the league games. Another Derde Klasse team in RWS Brussels awaits in the next round which I should be able to win.

 

Champions League

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A fairly good draw in my opinion. I've avoided some of the bigger draws and gotten some more favourable 2nd and 3rd seeds. Monaco is certainly the one to worry about, but I reckon I can finish above Besiktas and Spartak.

 

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A good start to the group, top after 2 games. To be honest, Monaco outplayed me massively, and the equaliser was completely against the run of play, I didn't really deserve much from the game, but I'll take it! The Besiktas game was much better and something of a statement of intent to the group I feel. Next up is the Spartak Moscow games, which will be tough but I reckon I can get at least 4 points from. It's looking like I should get 3rd at the very least, whilst 2nd looks likely. Or even first at a push?

 

Club Upgrades

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Some upgrades for the club from over the summer, which will help the club grow. I'm hoping with the Youth upgrades we can get some good players come through that will help with the Homegrown numbers, and a stadium expansion is always welcome.

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September - December 2020  |  KAA Gent

 

Jupiler Pro League

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A fantastic few months as I managed to slowly pull away from Royal Antwerp and began to make it look like I might go the season unbeaten and with close to maximum points, but alas, the magnificent unbeaten run - 23 games, stretching back to the Standard Liege loss in the Championship Group last season - came to an end against Beerschot-Wilrijk, who at the time were rooted to the foot of the table. It was a really frustrating game as I completely dominated them but created very little whilst they had one decent chance that they stuck away early on. A bit of a wake-up call as we had begun to almost sleepwalk through our most recent wins without much threat towards us. A good win followed against Standard and we looked to have gotten back on the horse, but then we went and almost lost to Charleroi to go into the winter break on a really frustrating note. Despite the frustrating end, we're 10 points clear, and I'm confident that I can at least keep that sort of gap if not extend my lead to give myself a better platform for the Championship Group.

 

Cofidis Cup

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Two straightforward and commanding wins in the cup to reach the Semi-Finals, with my backups making light work of both RWS Brussels and Charleroi. The Semis pit me against Royal Antwerp, and I'm more than confident I can beat them over two legs. I'm really liking my chances in this competition, although the other Semi-Final is Standard Liege v Eupen, two sides I've struggled against in the past, so it's certainly not going to be easy.

 

Champions League

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A pretty good showing for my first Champions League campaign, albeit slightly disappointing I couldn't nab first. Fairly routine wins at home to Spartak and away to Besiktas, whilst the away game in Russia was frustrating. We should have won but we didn't take our chances, but a point is still a decent result. The most frustrating result has to be at home to Monaco though, as they scored 2 penalties and then the third late on with their only shot of the second half. We were on top for much of the game and a draw would've put us through in 1st, but we made too many mistakes at the back. All in all though, a good group phase.

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And this is why getting 1st is so important, I'm not sure there's a single good draw I could have had, in fact, PSG may be the best, them or Arsenal I reckon. Whereas I reckon over two legs I could get past 3 or 4 of the 2nd placed teams. It'll be ask to get through, perhaps it's time to concentrate on the league.

 

Awards

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Even more awards! Olayinka thoroughly deserves the award, even though he plays in a lesser league, surely with those sort of numbers he'd be considered a top-class winger? And finally my brilliance is being recognised! I actually voted for that award in May, no idea why the voting takes place so early, but nice to have another personal award.

 

Misc

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And look who's back! I can't decide whether he's just ignoring his accusations of Brugge losing to me on purpose or if he's "taking down the man from the inside", I'll see I suppose. Only a few days in charge and he's already started a war of words with his replacement at Standard Liege, Marc Brys, and then beat them 1-0 in his first game :D

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After a year of pursuing intricate, possession-based, fluid football, I decided to give the fans a real footballing treat in the first leg against PSG...

ENHiUrQ.png

A truly beautiful performance! I'm sure the fans delighted by this visual spectacle!

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38 minutes ago, VillaSmith said:

After a year of pursuing intricate, possession-based, fluid football, I decided to give the fans a real footballing treat in the first leg against PSG...

ENHiUrQ.png

A truly beautiful performance! I'm sure the fans delighted by this visual spectacle!

:lol:

Good luck in the second leg!

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1 hour ago, VillaSmith said:

After a year of pursuing intricate, possession-based, fluid football, I decided to give the fans a real footballing treat in the first leg against PSG...

ENHiUrQ.png

A truly beautiful performance! I'm sure the fans delighted by this visual spectacle!

I was so enthralled reading this thread that I didn't even realize that I caught up to present day.  Aww man, I gotta know if Gent can pull it out in the second leg against PSG or, at least, put up a respectable showing and get a standing ovation from the crowd.

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19 hours ago, ManUtd1 said:

:lol:

Good luck in the second leg!

Cheers, I think I'm gonna need it! :lol:

18 hours ago, jwchriste said:

I was so enthralled reading this thread that I didn't even realize that I caught up to present day.  Aww man, I gotta know if Gent can pull it out in the second leg against PSG or, at least, put up a respectable showing and get a standing ovation from the crowd.

Thanks a lot, man! Great to know you're enjoying it, hopefully we can pull something off, but it's not looking too likely, and I'm happy just getting this far anyway.

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I was worried that this new Colombian connection might bring trouble, and whilst Boris is certainly an unnerving influence - he challenged me last week to a "Coconut off", I don't want to know what that is - it does seem to have worked out quite well.

At the very least, the South American music in the dressing room has lifted everyone's spirits. Walking into dancing and Shakira blaring from the sound bar is better than the discussions of which sauce goes best with chips. Apparently, Mayo and Tomato Ketchup at the same time was a completely unacceptable answer which earnt me a few training sessions of the silent treatment. Weirdos.

Ed Lozano still seems to be on the fringes, spending most of his time outside Boris' Guava van, doing tricks with a size 3 ball from the club shop, painted green to look like a Guava. Ed maintains it's just a marketing gig. Although, the team have welcomed him in a bit more after that story broke of him and Dua Lipa. Unfortunately, it also reignited the sauce debate, the dirty bastard.

So a couple more could be a good thing, perhaps it can distract from this Guava craze, although it may fuel it as Boris informed that his new players were bringing a fresh batch of Guavas with them, as well as a couple Coconuts just for us...

 

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January 2021 - Mini Update  |  KAA Gent

 

Transfers

In

 

Déiner Camacho - Free Transfer from Aguilas Pereira. A signing by my DoF at the end of his contract. A decent playmaker with a fair bit of potential, he could be a great player for this level if he can fulfil it. Loaned him out for now though.

Fabio Ortíz - £575k from Ind Santa Fe. A suggestion from my scout that my DoF then signed, Ortíz is quite a good little DM. Loads of U20 caps and a lot of potential, he could be a great signing but may need to be loaned out soon to get first-team football.

Andre Nijhuis - £475k from Emmen. A young GK my scouts found with tons of potential, I originally was going to get him on a compensation deal, but then I realised that Emmen would accept about half of what the compensation was. Looks very good for a 17-year-old and I've already loaned him to the Derde Klasse to get some minutes.

Timothy Castagne - £3.4m from Leeds. I half-heartedly chased Castagne in the summer, but Leeds wanted way too much, so I was delighted to see him on the transfer list in January. Luckily, I failed in my original negotiations with him as when I went back in for him, Leeds had knocked about £2m off the asking price! Castagne a good RB and most importantly, Homegrown in Belgium for the Champions League, which was a major driving force behind this signing.

 

Out

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Mainly loans and the sale of a guy I didn't even know we had! Gent had signed Evjen last season for £200k and had been in the U21s, I'd never really noticed him as he isn't that good, then out of nowhere I'm being informed the board had accepted a bid. I feel I've kind of robbed Rosenborg here, as he really isn't that good. He may be good for the Norwegian League, but still not nearly good enough to be worth £5m. Oh well, more money in the bank for Gent I suppose :)

 

 

Squad

I thought I'd just add a quick squad update here to showcase the players I've got in the team and out on loan, as I realise that outside of my signings, it may be interesting to see how good the players that were already here are too.

 

Goalkeepers

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Defenders

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Midfielders

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Strikers

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Dynamics

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Edited by VillaSmith

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Just caught up from the beginning, fun thread. You're smashing it in Belgium! Climbed the managerial ladder in absolutely no time!

Belgium is one of my favourite leagues, the playoffs look funky but just give lots of goals to fight for as the season goes on, regardless of whether you're top, midtable, or bottom. Been a long time since I last played there actually... maybe one of these days.

Keep up the strong showing with Gent. Turning the 2nd leg around vs PSG looks very tough, but with a bit of luck... and ref bribes...

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I didn't think it would take much to turn Gent into a winning side when I joined, but I never imagined it would be quite this easy. Maybe it's too easy, maybe I need a new challenge? Or perhaps I could turn Gent into my next challenge? Try and disrupt the European Elite? We blew Standard out of the water this season and they spent over £60m, why not compete in Europe?

Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, but it's a great bunch of lads here. We've really clicked after the winter break, playing some beautiful football and like we have a point to prove, but maybe that was my promise that I would indulge Boris with his Coconut Off challenge if we won the League and Cup double. Apparently, it's just husking a Coconut with your teeth and whoever does it the fastest wins. But Boris manages to make it seem so filthy...

And as for the Champions League and PSG, well, you mess with the Buffalo and you get the... do Buffalo have horns?

In other news, Jamie Oliver was in Brugge to film something for his new cooking show, and I only missed him by a couple of hours. I'll get him to join my staff one day, perhaps we could do with a new Team Chef...

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January - March 2021  |  KAA Gent

 

Jupiler Pro League

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Amazing form to end the regular season with some absolutely belting results, winning by four or more on 5 occasions, including a massive result against Club Brugge in the derby. The Anderlecht draw was frustrating as it was the game before the first PSG game, and I had to come back from 2-0 down, it would have been nice to be able to take winning form into the Champions League. Finishing 15 points clear going into the Championship Group puts me in a fantastic position, meaning I'll start with an 8 point lead, which I'm confident I should be able to see through.

 

Jupiler Pro League Championship Group

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Cofidis Cup

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A tough Semi-Final, but I managed to see it through and get to the final. Antwerp managed to put me under quite a lot pressure, especially in the second leg, and I really thought they might break through my defence. In the end, though it was my firepower up front that saw me through, with my front three being the difference. Standard Liege await in the final. We should've played the final already actually, but it got postponed twice to mid-April because of the International fixtures, and now I have to play Standard twice in a week.

 

Champions League

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Wait do you mean away goals?

Sadly I couldn't overturn the first leg deficit, despite winning in Paris. Looking back, I wish I'd played more on the front foot in the first leg as PSG barely bothered me in the second. Maybe that's because they were winning on aggregate though. I think if I could play them again I'd have gone with my possession based 433 at home whilst going defensive in Paris. Oh well, it was an achievement to get this far, hopefully, I can build on this and have a longer run next season. I think I'm guaranteed a Champions League spot next season, still not 100% on the Belgian League system.

 

Youth Intake

Unfortunately, there was nothing of note this season, not even a decent 3-star player :(

Edited by VillaSmith

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21 hours ago, noikeee said:

Just caught up from the beginning, fun thread. You're smashing it in Belgium! Climbed the managerial ladder in absolutely no time!

Belgium is one of my favourite leagues, the playoffs look funky but just give lots of goals to fight for as the season goes on, regardless of whether you're top, midtable, or bottom. Been a long time since I last played there actually... maybe one of these days.

Keep up the strong showing with Gent. Turning the 2nd leg around vs PSG looks very tough, but with a bit of luck... and ref bribes...

Cheers :) 

Yeah, it's really fun in Belgium, I'm really enjoying it, I think my biggest problem with it early on is that the game doesn't really explain it very well in the rules section, for example, the game thinks winning promotion from the Derde Klasse gets you into the Jupiler Pro League.

And apparently, PSG's bribe was bigger :( 

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I'd second that - Belgium is good fun :cool:

Odd that, Jamie Oliver being in Brugge... His character in the In Bruges director's cut was great, shame it was left out of the theatrical release.

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