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yatesiboi37

[FM19] European Journeyman - Season 1: FK Smiltene (Latvia) - End of Season Review & Awards

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Hello everyone! Some of you may know who I am (although I am sure most of you do not). I most recently wrote a story on this forum from last years version of the game where I managed Mount Rich in Grenada alongside the Kenyan national team

That save was possible thanks to the excellent work of @claassen and his brilliant updates which allowed previously unplayable nations to be playable in game. He has been back at work again this year and has recently completed a European Megapack for FM19. I have downloaded this and decided that the focus for this save will be a European journeyman, where I start unemployed and attempt to pass through as many of these new nations as I can. 

There is no real main aim for this story, although I will be keeping track of Hall of Fame points and of the number of trophies (if any) that I win along the way. The primary focus is going to be to experience a number of different leagues and set-ups that I previously never have on FM, whilst at some point looking to win the UEFA Champions League final.

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1. The Worldwide Managerial Hall of Fame:

Current Leader: Sir Alex Ferguson (Score: 4890)

Currently 20th: Udo Lattek (Score: 1868)

Current Nation Leader: Roman Grygorchuk (Score: 80)

Current James Yates Score: 0

 

2. Trophy Cabinet:

 

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THE STORY SO FAR:

2018 - FK Smiltene Komanda.lv Pirma Liga

 

Edited by yatesiboi37

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So I loaded up a number of different leagues, most of which were new ones made playable course of the excellent updates created by @claassen. I applied for number of jobs but my lack of previous experience (Sunday League Footballer) and no coaching badges meant that there were very few clubs interested in my services. I did receive a few job interviews in the likes of Estonia, Andorra and Moldova but I was unsuccessful in all of these!

I eventually did find a suitor that felt like a suitable fit for James Yates. I would therefore like to introduce you to my very first managerial job as I embark on this European adventure. Welcome to FK Smiltene.

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Club Background:

FK Smiltene are a semi-professional football club based in the Baltic nation of Latvia. They are situated in the northern city of Smiltene and were founded recently, in 2006, meaning they have a very limited footballing history. They are yet to win any significant piece of silverware and have never competed in the top division of Latvian football. Their league season had already begun when I joined, the club having already played six league games. 

They currently hold a 0.5 star, regional, reputation rating, making them one of the least known footballing teams in the whole of Europe. 

Facilities:

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My new club play their home games in the 1,875 capacity Tepera Stadium. Despite a fairly sizeable capacity and the fact that the club do actually own their own stadium, the ground itself is in a poor condition. The pitch is actually in a very good condition but it is of a synthetic nature as opposed to the more traditional grass fields. 

In terms of other facilities, there is not much to write home about. The senior and youth teams training facilities are both classed as poor, so I cannot imagine that we will be seeing too many improvements to players through training sessions. I also do not have too much hope for our youth intakes in the near future as our junior coaching (minimal) and youth recruitment (limited) are both way below where I would like them to be. 

Competitions:

The main reason I prefer playing these types of saves, using previously unplayable nations, is because I get to experience competitions that I previously have never heard of. Arriving in Latvia, this season will see me get to manage in two, brand new, competitions. 

The first of these is the second domestic league of Latvia, the Komanda.lv Pirma Liga. The Latvian second tier is currently ranked as the 163rd best division in Europe, below the likes of Czech Republic 4th Division and the third tier of Belarus - the standard of football here is not very impressive. The league itself consists of 12 teams who all play each other twice across the course of the season, for a total of just 22 league games. The top four teams qualify for the promotion playoff, the winner of which gains promotion to the top division of Latvia. Only one side goes down, with just the side finishing bottom being relegated. The league campaign runs from April to October, with the offseason occurring over the winter months. 

In terms of league rules, there is only one that might limit selection. The first is that only five foreign players are allowed to be registered at any one time, not that I imagine I will be attracting too many of those to the second tier of Latvia. 

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The past few seasons have seen a variety of clubs perform well in the Latvian second tier, although of few of these no longer exist (for a number of reasons). Of the recent winners, both Babite and Gulbene are now actually playing in the lower leagues whilst Valmiera are currently battling against relegation in their first ever season in the top division. The one success story has been that of 2015 champions Riga FC, who have not only kept themselves in the top division but they are currently pushing for a first ever title. 

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The 2018 Komanda.lv Pirma Liga has already kicked off and things are not going too brilliantly for us. The media had predicted an 11th placed finish and we are, unfortunately, living up to expectations having one just once in our first six league games. The aim for me will be to avoid relegation and then rebuild over the course of the coming offseason. All the clubs in this division are semi-professional but most have mixture of players on full-time, part-time and amateur contracts. 

My first league game will see me take on 2nd placed Auda, in a game that has the potential to be very one sided...

The other competition that we will be entering into is the Latvijas kauss, the main domestic cup competition in Latvia. This cup runs from June through till October and follows a very simple knockout format. 30 teams enter into the first round and, with no replays, a winner is decided by extra time and then a penalty shootout if scores are level after 90 minutes. We have received a tough first round game, as we missed out on a non-league opponent and instead were drawn against fellow league side Alberts. 

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This cup competition has been won by top division sides over the past five years, with Ventspils holding the current record number of cup victories with 7. It is also worth noting that the winners of this cup competition get to qualify for the Europa League. 

Latvian Football:

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As previously mentioned the standard of domestic football in Latvia is pretty poor, with the top division of the nation being ranked the 98th best in Europe. The most reputable side is the aforementioned Ventspils but the next best teams are probably RFS and Spartaks Jurmala. 

International football in Latvia is also nothing noteworthy unfortunately. The senior national side are currently ranked 129th in the FIFA world rankings and are in Group D of the UEFA Nations League. They have never before qualified for a World Cup and have only reached the European Championships on one occasion, back in 2004. 

The senior squad is currently managed by Finnish national Mixu Paatelainen, formerly of Dundee United and Kilmarnock in Scotland. There are a couple of decent veteran players in the team, led by 38 year old goalkeeper Andris Vanins (FC Zurich, Switzerland). 24 year old forward Davis Ikaunieks (FK Jablonec, Czech Republic) and 20 year old striker Roberts Uldrikis (Sion, Switzerland) are two of the brightest youngsters in the side. 18 year old central defender Roberts Veips is probably the most exciting player to come through the national set-up in a while and he is currently contracted to Sampdoria in Italy. 

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So that concludes my introduction to my brand new managerial position at FK Smiltene in Latvia. I am expecting this save to be a little bit different from the other things I have done before on FM so I am excited to get going.

I am worried that I have selected a very tough place to begin my journey, given the clubs semi-professional status and seeming notion that I will only be able to hand out amateur contracts at this stage. I really hope you guys are looking forward to this save and, as was the case last year, I will be including a fair amount of detail in every update!

I will be back soon with a club preview detailing players, tactics and everything else that you need to know going into my first season with FK Smiltene. 

Edited by yatesiboi37

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Hooray, you're back! I loved your travels at Mount Rich so this is exciting indeed. You have a good eye for obscure but fun leagues.

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9 hours ago, Minuy600 said:

Hooray, you're back! I loved your travels at Mount Rich so this is exciting indeed. You have a good eye for obscure but fun leagues.

Yay! Thanks for the comment Minuy. I am hoping that this adventure can be as exciting as that one had in Grenada!

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Update 1: June 2018 (Midseason Break)

Club: FK Smiltene
Division: Komanda.lv Pirma Liga

So, by coincidence, I happened to join FK Smiltene right as the midseason break occurred. This was only a three week hiatus but it did see the transfer window open which meant I could have a look around for some squad additions and sort out a tactical system that suited the misfit bunch of players that I had inherited. 

As you may recall, we are a semi-professional team but it seems that most players are only willing to sign non-contract agreements, which is not very helpful with regards to player retention. I will use this update though to highlight the squad in an overview and have a look at some of the key players going into the second half of the league season. 

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BOARD ROOM:

First off, lets take a look at the financial aspects of the club. The overall club balance is just over £8,000, which is not very impressive, but at least we are not in debt. Unsurprisingly, our poor financial situation means I have almost nothing in terms of a budget to work with.

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I have no idea how I am spending £429 pw on wages when all my players are on youth contracts or non-contract agreements. I am assuming that figure must include staff wages? Anyway, zero pounds in the transfer budget and a lowly wage budget of just £639 p/w, which is due to be reduced to just £475 p/w upon the start of next season.

Board Objectives (2018)

Komanda.lv Pirma Liga - Avoid Relegation 
Latvijas kaussReach the Eighth Final

Fortunately the board seem understanding of our financial limitations and have therefore set some fairly realistic goals for this coming season. In the league the aim is to avoid relegation which, given that only one team goes down, is definitely something that I think I can achieve. In the cup competition the board wish for me to reach the Eighth Final (which is essentially the last 16). This is definitely going to be more of a challenge, especially as we avoided non-league opponents and were drawn against a fellow Komanda.lv Pirma Liga side in the opening round. 

CLUB STAFF:

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Here is where my wage bill seems to be being spent... 

When I joined the club I had an assistant manager, a physio and a single scout. I did some research and was able to formulate a reasonable backroom, adding a Head of Youth Development and coaches for both goalkeeping and fitness. Everyone, apart from myself, is a Latvian national and I am the only one who does not speak Latvian or Russian... 

THE SQUAD:

The squad when I arrived was appalling. It was full of very average newgens and a whole host of terrible youth players. I managed to do a bit of scouting around in Latvia and found a number of out of contract players that I was able to sign (I actually added 10 new faces). I will not list all the transfers separately here but I think it will be quite obvious who is new when you see the squad overview below. 

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So this is the squad that I will be using to oversee our final 16 league games for this season (providing none of our non-contract players are lured away). As you can probably see, it is a proper mixed bag of talent with some decent looking players and some horrific individuals. Almost all of the good players were signed by me over the past few weeks but we still have no depth and a 5 star talent does not mean too much in comparison to the rest of the league. 

Goalkeepers: There are just two goalkeepers in the main squad and neither is that exciting. 25 year old Andrejs Skrebels is looking like my first choice but he is really poor; he has a rating of 5 for handling. The only other shot stopper I have is 17 year old youth academy player Deniss Visockis, who has plenty of potential but is definitely not ready for first team football right now. 

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Andrejs Skrebels profile.

Central Defenders: Alongside our goalkeepers, this is one of the weaker areas of the squad. I will be starting a pair of 16 year olds in the heart of our defence in the form of Deniss Krizanovskis and Dmitrijs Varpins, two of the more talented youngsters in the squad at the moment. The youth pairing will likely appear alongside the newly acquired Viktors Jurkovs in the first eleven. Jurkovs was a free agent having recently left RFS, from the top tier of Latvia, but the 20 year old is yet to make a professional appearance. It is likely that he will quickly become an important player for us. The only depth we currently have is Aleksandrs Soloha, and the less he plays the better I think. 

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Viktors Jurkovs profile

FullbacksThis is another position where we have very little depth behind the two starting players. On the right side we will be starting the newly signed Sergejs Vasiljevs, who is another former top tier youth academy product who did not make it in the big leagues. He previously played for FS Metta, making 9 top tier appearances over the course of three seasons. He is one of the more talented players in our squad right now and starting opposite him will be another new signing, the excellently named Vjaceslavs Deruzinskis. Our two back-ups fullbacks, 20 year old Vladimirs Sorokins and 25 year old Vitalijs Lusins are nothing special. 

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Sergejs Vasiljevs profile

Central MidfielderIn the centre of midfield we have one standout player supported by a number of very average looking players. The key man here is definitely 20 year old Arturs Biders. The youngster joined on a free transfer recently and previously was on the books of FS Metta in the Latvian top league. He failed to make an appearance for his previous club but should become an integral part of our side. Behind him we have defensive midfielder Kaspars Sinelnikovs, who we recently signed from fellow league side Balvu. We again do not have much depth here, with teenagers Davis Ikaunieks and Aleksandrs Prohorenkovs providing some support. 

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Arturs Biders profile

AttackersThe area of our squad which is probably the strongest is the front line. I was able to sign a very talented attacking midfielder in the form of Aivars Emsis, a 20 year old who we signed from fellow league side JDFS Alberts. The youngster has 12 previous professional appearances and scored his first career goal earlier in the year for his former club. Alongside him I managed to sign a decent pair of forwards. Firstly I picked up 19 year old Daniel Kursietis who we signed on a free transfer from the Latvian lower leagues. We also were able to add Matiss Miezis, another former FS Metta player who will lead the line for us this year. The 22 year old is yet to score his first professional goal but I am hoping that changes soon.

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Matiss Miezis profile

TACTICS:

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With no available wide players whatsoever, I had to develop a tactic that utilised a centralised nature. 

I am going to be using a fairly basic looking 4-4-2 Narrow Diamond, not something that I have utilised before but it is something born out of necessity given our squad makeup. I have previously used wingbacks to great effect on FM, overlapping and firing in crosses at will so this sort of narrow-minded approach is defeineitly a step into the unknown for me. 

I am going to play primarily on a cautious mentality, given the lack of skill in comparison to the rest of our division, but I do want to try and utilise a different nature because I am going to need some movement in the middle of the park in order to create any sort of attacking threat. I have also added a number of different team instructions, which you can see above, but the main aim is to soak up some pressure and catch opponents on a quick, central breakaway with lots of players breaking forward.  

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So that concludes my introduction to life in Latvia. I am not overly looking forward to utilising a squad that relies entirely on non-contracted players because they are so easily poached by other clubs. I have a feeling that this venture into Latvian football could be a disaster! On paper, our squad is massively less talented than some of the bigger sides in the division and, without the ability to securely hold on to our better players, could prove tragic!

I will be back very soon however with an update for the first few months of my time in charge! Hopefully you guys are looking forward to something a little different. 

 

Edited by yatesiboi37

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Update 2: June & August 2018

Club: FK Smiltene
Division: Komanda.lv Pirma Liga

Having made a number of new signings during the midseason break I was now ready to get kickstarted with my first competitive games in Latvia. The komanda.lv Pirma Liga has a fairly short season length, with just 22 games, and when I joined the club six of these had already been completed. The main aim for this coming season would be to avoid relegation and hopefully hold on to the numerous non-contract signees that have recently joined. 

I have no probably playing with a semi-professional team but having to sign players to amateur contracts provides no squad stability and I am not sure how much I am going to enjoy this start to this save. 

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Komanda.lv Pirma Liga RESULTS:

W = 4, D = 0, L = 4

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What a mixed bag to start my journey in football management as we record four wins and four defeats.

We opened my managerial reign with a tough encounter away against a talented Auda side and unfortunately fell to a 2-1 defeat. I recorded my first victory in the following game as we played excellently at home against Alberts. There were just two matches to end July and we kicked things off with a thumping away to an excellent, and overpowered, RTU FC before bouncing back with a 3-0 win overly bottom side Balvu. August saw us again fail to maintain any consistency as we opened the month with another game where we conceded five goals. We then recorded back to back victories for the first time as we battled to a fortuitous win away against Rezeknes FA followed by a third straight home win against Daugavpils/Progress. We ended August with a first home defeat and a first game where we failed to score a goal to complete my horrendously mixed start. 

Over the course of this eight game span we were pretty effective in front of goal as our trio of tainted attackers proved effective in this division. We netted 16 times in just eight matches but unfortunately our defensive displays were not quite as positive. We did manage to keep two clean sheets but then in the other six fixtures we conceded a whopping 17 goals. 

Latvijas kauss RESULTS:

Alongside my league exploits I also saw my Smiltene side enter into the first round of the domestic cup of Latvia, the Latvijas kauss. As you may recall, the first round saw us drawn against fellow league side Alberts, the team that I recorded my first ever competitive victory against. This cup follows some simply rules, with all ties being played over a single leg (with extra time and then penalties) and the board were hoping that I could somehow reach the last 16. 

First Round: vs JDFS Alberts Riga (Komanda.lv Pirma Liga)

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So my first ever cup game certainly did not go to plan. We had beaten these guys in the league a few weeks before but we put together a shocking display at home and crashed out of the cup competition at the first attempt. 

We fell behind early; following a push in our box a penalty was awarded and the Alberts attacker easily slotted home from the spot. We were only behind for about 45 seconds though as, almost instantly from the kickoff, we broke through the centre and our talented young forward Matiss Miezis rifled home from inside the area. Unfortunately we fell behind again midway through the first period when we failed to properly clear a corner kick (our defending of set pieces has been pretty disastrous through our first few games). We tried our best to battle back in the second period but could not find a second goal and as we went more attacking we were caught on the counter attack late on as our opponents netted a third, decisive goal. 

There were plenty of non league sides entered into this round of the competition so to come up against someone from our division was unfortunate but this was still a disappointing end to my first cup campaign. 

PLAYER STATISTICS:

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Our mixed league form has resulted in a similarly mixed bag of individual performances through the first two months of my time in Latvia. We currently have just two players who hold an average rating of 7.0, with a further three averaging above a 6.8. 

The star man thus far has easily been forward Matiss Miezis (7.14). The 22 year old has been excellent in front of goal and has managed five goals in his seven competitive appearances, with his 10 shots on target being the most in the squad.

Our defence has been pretty woeful this season and this is unfortunately reflected in some poor individual ratings. Our young goalkeeper Deniss Visockis (6.92) has actually played quite well despite conceding a whole host of goals. The rest of the defensive unit has been pretty lacklustre with the best performers being the newly signed fullback Sergejs Vasiljevs (6.66) who is averaging 2.81 tackles/game and central defender Viktors Jurkovs (6.64) who leads the way with 26 interceptions. 

In midfield, no-one has really stood out but everyone has played fairly solidly. Youngster Aleksandrs Prohorenkovs (6.84) has provided a positive spark off the bench whilst central duo Arturs Biders (6.62) and Davis Ikaunieks (6.63) have both played pretty well with the former leading the team with 10 key passes played. 

In attack we have been pretty efficient and teenage forward Daniel Kursietis (6.89) has provided an excellent one-two punch alongside Matiss Miezis up front, netting three goals of his own and a team-leading three assists. Shadow striker Aivars Emsis (6.77) has had a pretty decent season thus far, netting a goal and completing 72% of his passes. 

STANDINGS:

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When I joined Smiltene we were in 11th position in the league but our four victories have seen us climb to a respectable 6th place. 

My aim was to avoid relegation this season and it looks as though I should be secure in achieving that given that only one team go down and Balvu are yet to win a league game. Elsewhere at the foot f the division things are all pretty tight with just one point separating us in 6th and Suer Nova in 9th. Staicele and Daugavpils are both seemingly struggling but should avoid the drop, my aim for now will be to ensure I finish above both of them at the very least. 

Finishing any higher than 6th is looking to be a much more difficult prospect as there is already an eight point gap between ourselves and 5th placed Grobinas. At the top the race for the first spot is incredibly close, but the four teams who qualify for the promotion playoff look set in stone, with RTU FC, Auda, Tukums and Rezeknes FA losing just a combined seven games all season.

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So that concludes my first update from my time in Latvia. We have been unable to put together any sort of consistency in terms of performances but we have been exciting for the neutrals to watch, with our eight leagues games producing a total of 33 goals. As of right now we have managed to maintain all our non-contract players although some are starting to receive interest from other clubs. 

We have just eight games left in the league competition this year and it looks as though I shall be achieving my aim of avoiding relegation. I will be doing my best to finish as high as possible, as the higher we go the more prize money we receive. I hope you are enjoying this story so far. I am not sure how long I will want to stay in Latvia, or this league, but is there anywhere else you would like to see me manage? 

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Update 3: September & October 2018

Club: FK Smiltene
Division: Komanda.lv Pirma Liga

My first two months in football management resulted in some very mixed results as we struggled to discover any sort of defensive consistency. I had so far managed to keep all my non-contracted players at the club but with growing interest in some of our better players the obvious worry is that not many of these names would be around come next year. 

That being said we still had eight league games to play in this league campaign and, having now likely avoided relegation, the aim was to finish as high up the table as possible to secure some decent prize money. 

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Komanda.lv Pirma Liga RESULTS:

W = 3, D = 1, L = 4

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Having lost four of my first eight games at Smiltene, my second two months of management resulted in a very similar looking record. 

We opened September with a fine away victory against the lowly Staicele before we played out the first scoreless match of my career, as we managed to hold on for a point against a decent Grobinas side. We then embarked on a run of four straight defeats which started with a very poor display against fellow strugglers Preilu. We were then thumped by high flying Auda in a 5-3 thriller before another high scoring game saw us come up just short against Alberts, the side who knocked us out of the cup earlier in the year. A 2-1 home defeat against RTU FC meant our poor run continued into October but we ended our winless streak with a 3-1 victory against bottom side Balvu. We completed the league season with a fine 1-0 victory over playoff contenders Tukums. 

Similarly to last month, we had no problem in finding the back of the net through these two months as we recorded 16 goals scored in just eight games. Unfortunately, our defensive frailties were just as obvious. We did somehow manage to keep a pair of clean sheets but the other six games saw us concede an embarrassing 16 goals. 

PLAYER STATISTICS:

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Our continued mixed form unsurprisingly meant that many of our players struggled on a individual basis. We did however manage to have two players who held an average rating of 7.0 come the seasons end, with a further three having a rating over 6.80. 

Our star man throughout the short season was undoubtedly Matiss Miezis (7.20). The young forward had an excellent first season with us and netted an impressive 11 goals in just 15 team appearances. His two Player of the Match Awards tied for the most in the squad and it was clear that he was playing at a much higher level then everyone else in this team. 

Defensively our struggles were highlighted throughout the season and no-one had that good a particularly good year. Young goalkeeper Deniss Visockis (6.86) actually played pretty well despite conceding a whole host of goals. Left fullback Vjaceslavs Deruzinskis (6.76) emerged as a pretty handy player through the final two months of the year, contributing three assists and playing 17 key passes. Teenage central defender Deniss Krizanovskis (6.75) also had a decent last eight games and led the team with 43 defensive interceptions in his 14 appearances. Right fullback Sergejs Vasiljevs (6.65) tied for the team lead with four assists. 

Our midfielders were less than impressive throughout the season but teenager Davis Ikaunieks (6.77) had a decent first year. The youngster had a solid all-round campaign, collecting three assists and averaging 2.25 tackles/game. Arturs Biders (6.72) also had a good season having joined at the beginning of the year and led the squad with 26 key passes played. 

Our attackers were easily the best unit in our squad this season. Daniel Kursietis (7.01) played excellently and formed a potent attacking pairing with star man Matiss Miezis. The 19 year old contributed nine goals of his own and added a team high four assists. Playing just behind our strike duo was Aivars Emsis (6.87) and the young shadow striker had a good season, netting four goals and leading the team with a 78% pass completion rate. 

STANDINGS:

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Despite our mixed form we managed to maintain our league position and hold onto a 6th placed finish. Things got pretty close at the end and defeat in our final game would have seen us finish in 8th. We were never in danger of getting relegated but that was mainly due to the fact that Balvu endured an absolutely terrible season themselves. 

The gap between ourselves in 6th and 5th placed Grobinas was a whopping 17 points, highlighting the difference between hose sides able to sign players on part-time contracts and those who, like us, can only get players on amateur deals. I was happy to finish above Alberts, who have quickly developed into a personal rival of mine - after beating them for my first ever managerial victory back in June they then knocked us out of the cup and then beat us 4-3 in the return league game. 

Audi finished atop the division and are definitely promoted to the top tier. RTU FC look favourites to join them but they will need to overcome Rezeknes FA and Tukums in the promotion playoffs to have the shot at gaining promotion. Our goal difference of -8 sat roughly in the middle with regards to the league average but the aim for next year will be to shore up our defensive unit. 

OTHER NEWS:

I have a few bits of other news from the final two months of the season that I wished to share with you before wrapping up my first season in Latvia. 

Youth Intake

September saw us receive my very first youth intake in Latvia and overall I was pretty happy with how this went. Given our facilities I was not expecting much but we received a few players who should be able to contribute straight away next season. 

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There a lot of players here who have almost no current ability but we did receive three who should be able to contribute to the first team squad next season. Sergejs Korsakovs is a defensive midfielder who could easily compete for a spot in our starting eleven given the lack of depth there. Andrejs Zizilevs is a decent looking goalkeeper who is probably more talented than our number one from this season. The final player who I like the look of is central defender Jurgis Snarskis who my assistant believes could be one of the best players in the squad already. 

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He has some pretty poor attributes but defensively he is pretty sound, with solid ratings for heading, marking and tackling. His physicals are also not too appalling for a player in this division and I think he could be a key man for us next season. 

I signed all three of the aforementioned youngsters as well as central midfielder Aleksandrs Nazarovs, who looks like a decent rotation man, and a couple of the players with five star potential ability - not that I expect them to ever reach that level...

Club Records

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Our 5-3 defeat against Auda became the record highest scoring game in the Komanda.lv Pirma liga. It would have been nice to have been on the winning end of such a record but at least it highlights our ability to be exciting for all the neutrals watching. 

Finances

When I joined the club our overall balance was just over £10,000 but our decent performance in the league the season saw us improve that somewhat. 

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Our 6th placed league finish saw us receive a hefty prize fund of just over £12k. This has improved the overall club balance to £33k and should put us in a positive financial position going forward. I am not sure how to change the fact that I can only offer non-contract agreements but surely building up my bank balance is not going to hurt!

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So that concludes my first season in Latvia with Smiltene. I will be back soon with a proper season review, including player awards, but for now I will leave saying that this first year has been somewhat successful. We easily avoided relegation and played some very nice attacking football. Defensively we were incredibly inconsistent and, if I am able to hold onto our better players, I will definitely need to address this in the offseason. 

Again, I hope you  guys are enjoying this story thus far and looking forward to seeing what I can achieve here in Latvia. 

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Update 4: End of Season Review 2018

Club: FK Smiltene
Division: Komanda.lv Pirma Liga

I began my first managerial career at a small, semi-professional team in Latvia. Despite no previous experience or coaching badges I was hired to try and help my new club avoid relegation, an aim which I surpassed superbly. We ended the season with a highest ever league finish and far exceeded the expectations that were laid out when I joined. My first season in Latvia is now complete and I am going to use this update to review everything that happened so far, concluding with this years club awards. 

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COMPETITIONS:

Komanda.lv Pirma LigaFinal League Position: 6th

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Played: 22 (W = 8, D = 2, L = 12)
Goals Scored: 37Goals Conceded: 45Goal Difference: -8
Points Total: 26

I joined the club after six league games and managed to steadily climb the table, finishing in a very respectable 6th position. Despite being tipped for relegation by the media and by the board we were able to battle way above those expectations and this resulted in a very successful first year in charge. The reason for our success was our potency in front of goal. Our 37 goals scored (almost two per game) was a figure good for the fourth best scoring record in the division. The difficulties came on the defensive end where we conceded a whopping 45 times, giving us the fourth worst defensive record in the league. 

In our 22 league games we were held to just two draws and our eight games won the sixth best win percentage in the league. In the end though our final standing might be a bit misleading as we finished just four points above 10th placed Preilu. Auda had an excellent year and they finished atop the division, gaining promotion to the top division of Latvia. RTU FC ended the year in second and just missed out on promotion having recently lost their playoff game. Rezeknes FA and Tukums were the two other sides who reached the playoff stage but they ended the year in 3rd and 4th. The point differential between ourselves in 6th position and 5th placed Grobinas was a staggering 17 points; which is a tad worrying when we consider the aim for next year would be to improve my league position. 

Latvijas kaussFinal League Position: First Round

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Played: 1 (W = 0, D = 0, L = 1)
Goals Scored: 1Goals Conceded: 3Goal Difference: -2

This was the first time that I had entered into this competition and it could not have gone any worse. This tournament is essentially the only domestic cup competition in Latvia and follows a very straightforward format, with games being played over a single leg. 

The first round saw us drawn against fellow league side Alberts Riga but we unfortunately were unable to take advantage of a home tie and fell to a 3-1 defeat. The board had hoped that we reached the eighth final stage (essentially the last 16) but we got nowhere near this and I will definitely be looking to improve on this performance next season. 

PLAYER STATISTICS:

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We finished the season with a lowly two players holding an average rating of at least 7.0 or higher. A further three players managed a rating of 6.80 but the individual statistics definitely reflect the inconsistent team form that we endured throughout the season. Below are some key stats from my first Latvian campaign:

  • Matiss Miezis finished as the clubs top scorer, netting 11 times throughout the course of the season. The only other two players who managed to record more than one club goal were Daniel Kursietis, nine goals in 15 appearances, and Aivars Emsis, four goals in 15 appearances. 
  • Two players tied for the leader in assists, both recording four, and they were right fullback Sergejs Vasiljevs and forward Daniel Kursietis. Young midfielder Davis Ikaunieks and left fullback Vjaceslavs Deruzinskis both recorded three assists each. 
  • Forward duo Matiss Miezis and Daniel Kursietis tied for the lead with two Player of the Match Awards alongside midfielder Davis Ikaunieks
  • Defensive midfielder Kaspars Sinelnikovs led the team with an impressive average of 4.04 tackles/game in his 15 appearances. Central defender Viktors Jurkovs led the way with 44 defensive interceptions. 

All-time Best XI:

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Given that Smiltene had no-one listed in their best XI prior to this season, it was unsurprising to see my most used side being named in the all-time side. Most of these players average ratings are not all that spectacular but the dynamic forward duo of Matiss Miezis and Daniel Kursietis have the potential to became historical great if they decide to stick around for long enough!

PLAYER AWARDS:

1) Player of the Year: Matiss Miezis (ST) - 15 matches, 11 goals scored, 2 assists, 21 shots on target, 2 PoM Awards, Ave Rating: 7.20

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Signed on a free transfer at the beginning of the year, Matiss Miezis was easily the clubs best player throughout the course of my first season. The 23 year old had a superb first season with Smiltene and netted 11 goals in just 15 club appearances. He converted over 50% of his shots on target, demonstrating a high level of finishing for this division. 

The youngster has very good ratings of pace and acceleration for this level of football. His technical attributes are nothing to get excited about but he has solid levels of dribbling, finishing and heading. He is pretty good off the ball and this leads to him causing headaches for defenders in the Komanda.lv Pirma Liga. 

2) Defensive Player of the Year: Deniss Visockis (GK) - 12 matches, 24 goals conceded, 3 clean sheets, Ave Rating: 6.86

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Given how embarrassing our defensive performances were it was very difficult to nominate anyone for this award but the most effective performer in the unit was young shot stopper Deniss Visockis. The 17 year old managed three clean sheets in his 12 appearances and, despite playing in front of a horrendous backline, he put in some solid performances between the sticks. 

As far as his attributes go, he is nothing special. He has poor agility and his goalkeeping stats are less than ideal. His handling is pretty good which helped to limit the amount of goalkeeping errors in that department but other than that, this is probably a position I should be looking to upgrade. 

3) Midfield Player of the Year: Davis Ikaunieks (CM) - 15 matches, 1 goal scored, 3 assists, 15 key passes, 9 crosses connected, 2.25 tackles/game, Ave Rating: 6.77

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Another teenager who stepped up and had a pretty good season was central midfielder Davis Ikaunieks. The 17 year old was given a starting role in the middle of the park and he grew into a very competent performer throughout the course of the year. He finished with a trio of assists and played 15 key passes in his 15 appearances, leading to him being the best playmaker in midfield at the club. 

He has pretty solid stamina which allows him to play at a high level throughout the course of every game. He is a very decent at free kicks, converting one this season, but he also has decent levels for passing, technique and vision, making him a pretty good playmaker at this level. 

4) Attacking Player of the Year: Daniel Kursietis (ST) - 15 matches, 9 goals scored, 4 assists, 16 key passes, 16 shots on target, Ave Rating: 7.01

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Playing alongside Matiss Miezis upfront, 19 year old Daniel Kursietis had an excellent first season at the club. The teenager scored nine goals in his 15 appearances but also played an effective role as a playmaker, contributing a team high four assists and playing an impressive 16 key passes. Only seven of his shots on target over the course of the season failed to find the back of the net, demonstrating a high level of forward play. 

Kursietis has an exceptional level of finishing for a team in this league. This coupled with his impressive dribbling and heading levels have made him a superb forward for our club and he helped to form one of the most devastating strike duos in the division this season. 

5) Under-21 Player of the Year: Aivars Emsis (CAM) - 15 matches, 4 goals scored, 2 assists, 15 key passes, 78% pass completion, Ave Rating: 6.87

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Given that most of the squad I used last season were probably aged under 21 this award could have gone to a number of players. The best remaining player who qualified for this honour though was definitely Aivars Emsis. The young shadow striker played a important role behind our formidable front two this season and collected four goals of his own whilst also completing 78% of his passes, demonstrating a superb ability to get the ball forward to our strikers. 

The 20 year old does not have much in the way of positive attributes, with just five categories being rated in at least double figures. He does have good natural fitness and a reasonable level of pace. His finishing is pretty decent but there are plenty of things that the youngster could improve on. 

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This was a historical successful first season for FK Smiltene and we achieved a highest ever league finish in the Komanda.lv Pirma Liga. We looked very good going forward and finished with a very positive attacking record. The biggest struggle this year was keeping the ball out of our net, a weak defensive line was consistently exposed and our goalkeeper is not really up to the standard of playing football as a career. 

Some of our key players, including our dynamic front pairing, have received a great deal of interest over the past few weeks from other clubs. Given their amateur contract status, my ability to keep my star players at the club for next season is looking more and more unlikely. If we were to lose some of our main squad players we could be looking at a very tough season next year. 

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For now though I will stick around at FK Smiltene, for next season at least, and see what we can do if I can keep my star player around. If we are to lose some of our key men then I think we could be in for a long, hard year in Latvia unfortunately.

This first season has to be marked as a success though! We managed to exceed expectations and ended the year with a solid mid table finish whereby we easily avoided relegation. 

I hope you are all enjoying this series thus far and it is great to see so many superb stories on this forum this year!

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