I’m growing to learn that having a great academy is both a blessing and a curse. We’re getting closer to the end of the transfer window and the volume of bids for our young stars is getting huge. What makes it even more infuriating is that the majority of bids we’re getting are just staggeringly low. I’m only going to mention DONE DEALS from now on because there are certain teams from Ligue 1 who’ve wasted enough of my bloody time this Summer. So the first DONE DEAL of the week is versatile Texan full back Ed Bolton, who joins FC Chambly-Oise for the year. Good luck, Ed. Hopefully he’ll come back having played regularly and will be all the better for it.
There are no more DONE DEALS in the run up to our home match against recently relegated Stade de Reims, but we do have a fresh injury to deal with. Mike Kakuba is going to miss 3-4 weeks with shin splints. He’s made a good start to life in Auxerre so this isn’t ideal.
Stade de Reims have had a shocking start to the season and they seem to have brought their relegation form into this season, which is excellent news for us. They started off by losing 0-3 away to Valenciennes and followed that up with a 0-1 home loss to Bourg-en-Bresse, but have since won their cup match against fellow Ligue 2 side FC Metz and a league match against USBCO, so actually they might be just now coming into form, which is not excellent news for us.
I’m making a few changes from the side that very nearly beat Bourg-en-Bresse. A couple of them have been forced upon me, what with Mike Kakuba’s injury and the fact that Loïc Goujon’s been suspended for picking up 3 yellow cards in his last 3 matches. The rule in Ligue 2 is that 3 yellows in a player’s last 10 matches earns them a 1 match ban, but I think Loïc’s set some kind of record there. Mamadou Doucouré and Abdoulaye Sissako come in to replace them. We’re playing Project: Meatloaf and I’m also bringing in Phil Foden to replace Zoun and he’ll be playing off the right, but I’m putting him in a more central position today while he gets the hang of it, while Aguilar overlaps up the right wing. Corentin Tirard starts on the left wing in Adama Ba’s place to give us more width.
We get off to a bad start when Mohammed’s corner in the 8th minute is nodded into the net by Mafuala, who was being double marked at the near post by Sissako and Aidir. I’m not best pleased. Just after the 20 minute mark we nearly go level when Hikem’s long ball over the top is missed by centre back… erm… Michael Hector. The error by the former Reading and Chelsea man and veteran of the Jamaican national team allows Hicham Aidir to run in behind and go one on one with the keeper, Carrasso. Carrasso comes out to narrow the angle though and Aidir’s shot deflects off his shoulder and goes out for a corner that comes to nothing.
After half an hour Mohammed gets free down the right wing and drills the ball into the middle, where Iloki arrives to double the visitors’ lead. Still less than impressed I decide that we may as well go for it. We’ll attack, be more fluid and roam from our positions. It makes no difference though and we’re 0-2 down at half time, although to be fair the first half has been extremely even. I toy with the idea of bringing off Foden and Aidir, who’ve both been poor today. Foden’s been poor in all of his appearances so far actually, which isn’t a great sign. I stick with them for now though and we’ll go out to control the second half.
Only a few minutes after the restart Doucouré takes a terrible touch and allows Iloki to nick the ball and run through on goal and shoot, forcing a good save from Lenogue. After the hour and with no comeback in sight I bring on Zoun and Ba for Foden and Tirard and we’ll go back to a normal 4-2-3-1 with Zoun providing the width and Ba cutting in. The changes almost pay immediate dividends when Fomba’s shot from 20 yards deflects through to Ba, but his shot is denied by another save from Carrasso. The keeper’s having a great game to be fair.
Andre replaces Aidir with 20 minutes to play but we don’t manage to find a way back, succumbing to our first league loss of the season. Weirdly by the time the final whistle blows I’ve got no complaints about the team’s performance. We matched Stade de Reims in the first half and actually came away the more dominant team overall. Goals are the things that matter though and I’ve got to say that certain players have let us down today. I’m starting to think that Phil Foden might have been a bad buy although he does still need time, Corentin Tirard is showing none of the qualities that made him a key player last year and Hicham Aidir’s had an off day. The day that I lose faith in that man is the day that I walk away from management.
Phil Foden actually bruises his head in training during the week. He should be back for our next match but I’m not entirely sure I want to play him.
We do however have another DONE DEAL. I feel like Jim White. 19 year old central midfielder Chancel Kasongo has joined Belgian Pro League B side Tubize on loan for the year. You remember Kasongo, back when I first joined Auxerre I threw him in at the deep end, playing him in all 3 matches as we avoided relegation. With Joël coming in though and with me having more than enough central midfield options, Chancel will go off to test himself with regular football in Belgium’s 2nd tier. Good luck mate, let’s see if you can do well enough to win back a first team place when you get home.
Our match against rivals ESTAC Troyes has been postponed because Adama Ba, Hicham Aidir and Mamadou Doucouré are all off on international duty and would’ve missed it. We were due to play them after our next match against USBCO, but we’ll now play Troyes in a couple of weeks.
Speaking of USBCO, the predicted relegation strugglers are living up to expectations at present. They’ve played 5 matches in all competitions so far, losing 4 and winning 1 – A 1-0 win over Red Star FC, which is also the only goal they’ve scored so far. I feel for them, but I feel like we’re starting to lose our way and a home match against a team in this sort of form represents a great opportunity to get back on track.
We’ll be lining up with Project: Meatloaf Mk II, with Goujon coming back in for Sissako after his suspension and taking the holding man role where he’s excelled so far. I’m also bringing in Zoun and Ba for Foden and Tirard because frankly they’ve both been awful. Our young loanee Brahim Ferhat starts on the left wing for the opposition today. I made sure that both him and Isaac Sohna at Nîmes had it in their contracts that they were allowed to play against us because I want to see how they do against their parent club.
I really do feel for USBCO. The first thing of note that happens is almost half an hour in when Fomba’s tripped by Arnaud Loquet, who just happens to be the only person to be booked thus far. He earns a second yellow and a red, leaving the underdogs more underdoggish than ever. Joël hits the free kick from 30 yards but it deflects through the wall and goes out for a corner.
With 10 minutes to go until half time we counter after USBCO’s corner breaks down. Adama Ba runs the ball from our penalty box all the way into the final third. He release Zoun on the right wing, who turns and whips in a low cross. The ball could not be any more on a plate for Joël Soumahoro, unmarked on the penalty spot, but his shot is weak and straight at Thuram-Ulien, who parries it and then smothers the ball before Ba can follow up. Poor from Joël. I want us to make more of our extra man so we need to control the game. We’ll play much wider, much quicker, pass into space to use the pace we have up front, we’ll be more fluid and we’ll close down much more to win the ball back faster and force mistakes from our opposition. Needless to say my changes have no immediate effect and we go in for the break goalless.
At half time USBCO change to an odd 3-2-3-1 formation, with Brahim Ferhat coming off to accommodate the tactical shuffle after a quiet first half. We’ll respond by really overloading them at the back. Foden comes on for Zoun and will cut in from the right as Ba does the same on the left, allowing our fullbacks to attack attack attack into the space they leave on the wings. I also bring on Sissako for Goujon to be the ballwinner in midfield.
5 minutes later we string some passes together following a throw in level with USBCO’s box. Sissako passes across the edge of the area to Fomba, who lifts his head and plays it on first time through the defence. Phil Foden is in space and is played just onside by one of their centre backs. The young Englishman swings his left boot at the ball first time and finds the net as I let out a huge sigh of relief. Maybe he’ll be alright after all.
With 20 minutes to go we win a free kick 30 yards out. Foden passes it short to Sissako, who plays a pass through to Hicham Aidir in the box. Our striker is in far too much space and he punishes USBCO with a deft finish into the near top corner. Andre replaces Ba not long after but the match ends 2-0. Despite our advantage I’m very satisfied with that result.
That result puts us 4th in the league, which I’m more than happy with. We still do have transfer deadline day to deal with though and while I’m not looking to bring anybody in, I think it’s going to be a long day of low-ball offers and frustration. The first youngster to leave is Robin Faivre. After some mild interest earlier in the Summer I eventually agree to Marseille’s offer of £750k for the 15 year old. We’ll also get a big chunk of his next sale as per.
The next lad to leave is Esteban Mercier. Like Robin there has been interest for Esteban before but I hadn’t received what I would call any “Serious” offers until AS Nancy Lorraine came in with half a million for the 15 year old midfielder.
I then pick up a knife and fork and get ready to eat my words, because I didn’t think I’d be bringing anyone in today but somebody happens to have caught my eye. Bilal Souabni is a player that I’ve seen before, playing for Morrocco’s U20’s with Hicham Aidir. He’s a 19 year old left back that plays for FUS Rabat in his home country and he’s available for free. He looks promising: Pacy, agile, well balanced and able to run all day. He’s also a hard working team player which as you’ll know is right up my alley. His technical attributes need some work but I’m willing to gamble on the fact that we can get them sorted out. A contract is duly offered which would see him join us on the 1st of December after his current contract expires.
It doesn’t take long for Bilal to agree to my offer and what’s more, FUS Rabat are willing to let us buy him out of his contract for only £11k so that he can join us now. I willingly pay up.
I quickly dub the young full back Billy and place him on the loan list. I’d put him in a similar category to Isaac Sohna: A young player with undoubted potential but who is not going to get enough football under me this year to progress.
Quite a few bids come in straight away for Billy, most of which are from Ligue 2 sides. I’m half tempted to send him out to Nîmes Olympique so that he can play next to Sohna, but there are a couple of offers on the table that I just can’t turn down – Belgian Pro League A sides Eupen and KV Kortrijk, both of whom want to give him first team football. I’ll let him choose between them.
He opts for Eupen, who we played in pre-season. It’s a solid choice and I look forward to seeing how he gets on in Belgium’s top flight.
The next DONE DEAL as we creep closer to the end of the window is another of our 15 year old midfielders, Olivier Lenglet. He’ll move to Marseille for an initial £350k rising to £550k with additional fees.
I’ve spared you a lot of the details over the last week or so, but suffice to say that Bordeaux have been bloody hounding me for Abdoulaye Traoré. With 2 hours to go before the deadline I try to negotiate them up to half a million for the striker but they refuse to pay up. With 45 minutes to go though they bid the half a million. I negotiate them up to £750k for wasting my fucking time. The window closes before they can send the paperwork through anyway though, so the deal’s cancelled. What a mess, Bordeaux.
But then I let out another huge sigh of relief. The window’s closed. I can finally get some peace without constant phone calls asking if I’ll let my academy’s top prospects go for a fiver and half a Snickers. There’s nothing to focus on now but football.