“Let’s play a game shall we?” I ask the squad in the changing room. “This”, I gesture to the whiteboard sat on an easel next to me where my team is laid out in formation, “Is our starting 11 today. Nowak, Scheffel, Olivier, Wilson, Garbacik, Bart, Hurley, Amonike, Janga, Kevin, Goncerz.” I point to each of their names as I reel them off. We’re going with our 4-2-3-1 and the exact lineup that took a 2-0 lead against Bruk-Bet in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, before we came away with a slightly disappointing 2-2 draw.
“If we fail to win today”, I continue, “The 3 players who I deem to have played the worst will be… Out.” Wilson raises his hand.
“Out, Boss? Out of the side?” He asks.
“Out of the squad, Danny.” I reply. “If we do not come away with 3 points today, then 3 of you will be dropped.” The changing room starts buzzing with disgruntled murmurs. I raise my voice accordingly. “If we then do not come away from our next match with 3 points, then 3 more of you will be dropped. Etcetera. Understood?” I smile around at them. I know that I’m being a dick, and I know that this plan has the potential to backfire horrifically, but I honestly don’t know what else to do at this point.
“I’m not asking any of you to become Ruud Gullit. This isn’t a ‘If I take on the entire Bruk-Bet team and score, I’m safe’ situation. This is a ‘Do what I fucking pay you to do’ situation. Of course, the silver lining for anyone who does get dropped is that if we don’t get a win soon, we’ll be relegated, I’ll be sacked, and you’ll get a clean slate under your next Manager in the First Division. Good luck.” And with that I walk out of the stunned dressing room, through the tunnel and out into the dugout.
God, I hope that works. I need to assert my authority now more than ever. Aside from the fact that we haven’t won in 8 matches, I’m apparently the favourite to take over at Korona after they sacked Dariusz Wdowczyk. The stories of my departure have been doing the rounds this week, piling more uncertainty into a squad that’s already undeniably broken. It’s mildly flattering to be linked with them, but the way this 2nd half of the season has gone so far, I have my doubts that I’ll be staying in Poland beyond the end of the Season whether we go down or not.
Bruk-Bet get off to a flier when Budzyn hits a 25 yard free kick straight into the top corner. My heart sinks. The sensation’s becoming all too familiar. Budzyn comes close to doubling his tally less than 10 minutes later when he’s released by a Gutkovskis pass, but his shot comes back off the post.
After the half hour, Amonike swings a corner into the box. Janga gets up to direct a header towards the far corner of the goal, but Misal’s there to clear the ball off the line.
In the second half, we try to control the game, but we fail to fashion any decent chances. With 20 minutes to go, Kwarko and Tarnowski replace Amonike and Janga, and with 10 minutes remaining we go all out attack. We still create nothing until the 90th minute, when Goncerz finds himself with space on the left and has a shot, but the keeper makes a routine save. Bruk-Bet go straight up the other end, with Kiepura playing in Gutkovskis, but he skies his effort.
I follow through on my pre-match promise. Unsurprisingly, the 3 players that I deem to have played the worst are 3 attackers. Goncerz, Amonike and Janga are dropped. We have a 2 week gap before our trip to Piast, so that’s 2 weeks to figure out who’s going to come in for them. I eventually decide on Tarnowski up front, with Fossy behind him and Kwarko out on the right.
7 minutes in, the seemingly inevitable happens when Janicki’s free kick is cleared as far as Kurminowski. He gives it back to Janicki, who rifles the ball into the back of the net from the edge of the box.
20 minutes later, we have a corner on the left. Hurley swings in a good cross and Kwarko nods it down towards the near post. Danny Wilson’s there to blast it, but it’s blocked by the goalscorer Janicki, who’s stood on the goal line.
Right on the hour mark, we’re looking threatening. Scheffel splits Piast apart with a great through ball, which Tarnowski runs onto. He sprints through on goal but is forced onto his left foot by the back-peddling defenders and skews his shot wide. We go on the attack shortly afterwards and bring Kawot and Stryjek on for Kevin and Tarnowski. Kawot should give us more width as a natural left winger.
With just under quarter of an hour to play, we come forward again. Hurley dwells on the ball for too long though, and Piast counter attack. Niezgoda ends up with the ball and pokes it through for bloody Janicki, who buries it in the bottom right corner of our goal. I can’t say that I like Tricky Janicki all that much to be honest.
In the final couple of minutes we’re still coming forward, but Hurley loses the ball again, this time on the left wing. Piast counter once more, culminating in Kurminovski laying it off for Tricky Janicki. The bastard aims for the top left corner, but his shot flies just wide. The fact that he fails to bag his hat trick brings me a small but hollow moment of happiness.
We have 3 matches left of the league stage and we’re 6 points clear of 15th placed Korona. When the Relegation Group stage begins, every team’s points tally will be cut in half, meaning that we’re actually only 3 points clear. Ambitions of finishing in the top 8 are now a distant memory. Our new goal is picking up as many points as possible in order to avoid the second relegation of my career. We need to fix this before it’s too late.
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