Well, we left it late didn’t we. There was something so extraordinarily “Franjo” about the way we fucked up just enough to allow the season to end in such dramatic fashion. There were definite hints of Katowice about it all and I’m not talking about the amount of wodka I went through towards the end. Let’s have a look back at year 6.
Association de la Jeunesse Auxerroise
Final Position: Champions
Record: W27 D5 L11
Key Players: Xavier Lenogue, Issa Samba, Baptiste “Captiste” Aloé, Mamadou Doucouré, Phil Foden, Joël Soumahoro, Hicham Aidir
Highlight: The 4-0 win against Bourg-en-Bresse after Christmas
Lowlight: The end of season dip in form
It’s been an odd old year, hasn’t it. This is the second time I’ve experienced a title win, the first being in my 2nd year as a manager with SC Angrense. Maybe I’ve just got rose-tinted specs on, but I remember that one seeming a lot more straight forward – Hurley to Kevin, Kevin to Magina, Magina scores. Repeat infinite times until victory. This one’s been a lot more up and down. We’ve spent a lot of time playing second fiddle to Bourg-en-Bresse, who really were worthy adversaries and kept me on my toes. We’ve also been by no means infallible, which is a major difference between Auxerre and Angrense. Angrense it seemed could do not wrong but this year we took it right down to the wire, climbing up to the top 4 minutes before the end of the season thanks to another club’s goal. Next year there’ll be 2 divisions separating us and our saviours USBCO. Nevertheless despite all the off-field stuff, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a year in management quite as much as I’ve enjoyed this one.
I’ll be honest, it disappoints me a little to see that Ruben Aguilar is voted our Player of the Year by the Auxerre faithful. He’s not been awful by a long stretch but he’s not even been in my first team for most of the season. Fair play to him though, he stepped up when called upon to play at the unfamiliar position of left back and he does have an incredible relationship with the fans, which I’m sure helped him to win a third of their votes and edge out Hicham Aidir and Mamadou Doucouré. I’ve got no complaints about Adama Ba’s thunderbolt against Nîmes winning the goal of the season however and I absolutely can’t argue with Hicham Aidir picking up both the Signing of the Season and Young Player of the Season awards. I forget that he’s only 21 and still improving. Bloody hell.
As we know, Hicham also had the highest average rating, most Player of the Match awards and scored the most goals for us this season. His 30 goals is a new Auxerre record and one that I think only he himself has a chance of breaking. Joël Soumahoro set up the most goals with 14, while Abdoulaye Sissako completed the highest percentage of passes and Loïc Goujon picked up the most yellow cards and a single red, along with Raf and Fomba. I’m proud of Loïc. He had to keep his head down a fair bit until the last few months of the season, but unlike our Player of the Season he didn’t moan about it and when he did get a chance to come in he did extremely well. I’ve let him fly under the radar a bit when I should’ve praised him, so good lad, Loïc.
So let’s crunch some numbers. Some of the stats about Auxerre come as no surprise given the records our players have picked up this year: We’ve scored the most goals (70), Kept the most clean sheets (19) and fouled more than any other team, something that’s inexplicably becoming a sort of calling card for my teams.
We’ve also, not really surprisingly either, had the most shots on target (251), conceded the 2nd least in the league (31) and completed the 4th most dribbles per match (21).
But then there are some stats that few would have predicted and they may well hold the secret to our success this season. As you know I favour mental strength, work ethic and physical dominance above all things in footballers, so we do have a lot of aggressive, never-say-die types and that’s probably why we’ve fouled so bloody much. But we also have a very tall and powerful squad (Not counting Joël and Phil) and that’s been a major strength of ours at both ends. Auxerre have completed the 5th highest percentage of crosses (11%) in the league, scored the 4th highest amount of goals from corners (5), the 2nd highest from indirect free kicks (8), won the 2nd highest amount of headers (2078) and we’ve not conceded a single goal from an indirect free kick, a statistic only equalled by Stade de Reims, who’ve had the best defence in the league.
In terms of individual players I’ll start from the back and move forwards. Firstly though, this team have been extremely impressive on the whole. I’ve banged on and on about some of them but they really have impressed me that much. 6 of our players were in the top 7 in the league in terms of their average ratings. In order: Hicham Aidir, Mamadou Doucouré, Issa Samba, Captiste, Joël Soumahoro and Phil Foden, take a bow, you magnificent bastards. Five of our own are selected in the Domino’s Ligue 2 XI of the Season, with Doucouré, Joël, Phil and Hicham joined by Faouzi Hikem, while we also had five in the presumably completely different Domino’s Ligue 2 Stars Team of the Season, where Joël, Phil and Hicham are joined by Issa and Captiste.
Xavier Lenogue ended up being the 2nd best keeper in the division after our late drop off in form. He was beaten by Stade de Reims’ 34 year old stopper Johann Carrasso, who kept the same amount of clean sheets as our man but conceded 6 fewer goals in 1 less appearance. The veteran deservedly wins the Domino’s Ligue 2 Star Goalkeeper of the Season award, with Xavier Lenogue coming in… 3rd after Angers’ ex-Sunderland goalie Mika. Never mind.
Mamadou Doucouré was one of the top anticipators in the division, ranking 5th in the amount of interceptions made (544).
Phil Foden (10) is also 5th in the assists rankings with goals laid on for his team mates, while Joël Soumahoro (12) is joint 1st alongside FC Metz’s Stéphane Diakité, who takes the award for Most Assists by virtue of having played 4 fewer matches. The Ivorian is the real winner in my eyes though as he had a pass completion percentage (88%) that was 21% higher than his counterpart’s and he also played the most key passes (43) in the division. It’s been a truly outstanding year from the playmaker and I’ll gladly eat humble pie for doubting him. Again.
And now I’d advise you to make yourself a coffee and buckle in, because we’re going to talk about Hicham Aidir and there is a lot to say. We’ll start with the easy ones: Hicham has scored the most goals (29), won the most Player of the Match awards (11) and has the best average minutes per goal (104.52) out of anybody in the division. If I may make a couple of small complaints though (And I absolutely shouldn’t as he’s been a God among men this year), he’s only set up 1 goal and has been caught offside (53) more than anyone else too. Areas for improvement, definitely, but they’re more minor niggles.
The unstoppable Moroccan has claimed not only the Top Goalscorer award, but the Star of the Season, the Revelation of the Season and the Players’ Player of the Season awards too. What a man. What a team. What a year.
Oh, I almost forgot the most important award of them all! The First Annual Franjo Award For Unappreciated Excellence. Your votes have been tallied. Here’s how the FAFAFUE finished:
2.4% (Other) Ruben Aguilar
4.8% Xavier Lenogue
9.5% Mamadou Doucouré
11.9% Issa Samba
19% Captiste & (Other) Joël Soumahoro
33.3% Phil Foden
It gives me great pleasure to present The First Annual Franjo Award For Unappreciated Excellence to Phil bloody Foden with a full third of the votes. Unfortunately I forgot to have an actual trophy commissioned for this and I had to go shopping last minute, so instead Phil can jet off on his holidays secure in the knowledge that he’ll be able to have a hearty breakfast each morning with this Family Size Box of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes! Congratulations on your gr-r-reat season, Phil… Also, sorry.
Santos Football Club
I’m a bit disappointed by Boebie Solomons’ approach to this season to be honest. For such a well run and financially stable club, I expected them to do a bit more with the £1.5M windfall I gave them last summer than 2 signings for a combined £69k, 2 free signings and 6 free loans. True, it was always going to be difficult to replicate last year’s 5th place finish without the likes of Kakuba, Sohna, Soumahoro and Aidir, but I would’ve thought that if he then let the likes of Sambou, Norde, Molekwane and Nkili go there would’ve been more of a rebuild. As it is though, Santos slipped all the way back down to 12th this season, 7 points off relegation with 30 points from 30 games. I’m genuinely disappointed and hope that Boebie will do a better job in the market this Summer.
The Principality of Liechtenstein
That’s right, Liechtenstein get a quick shout out. After I unceremoniously dumped them for Auxerre last year, Mario Frick was brought in at the helm (No relation to Yanik Frick, the striker). Since my last match in charge of Liechtenstein, the 1-1 draw away at Lithuania in March 2021, Mario’s had an even more miserable time than I did. His side have lost 10 of their 12 matches, drawing the other 2, while scoring 8 and conceding 29. Liechtenstein ended up finishing dead last in Group 4 of the World Cup Qualifiers with just 3 points from 10 matches. I honestly wish Mario the best of luck for the future. He’ll certainly need it.
Górniczy Klub Sportowy Katowice
Speaking of miserable stretches of my managerial career, Katowice have had a pretty decent season. Tomasz Kaczmarek was unable to replicate last season’s 4th place finish and was sacked in November to be replaced by Tomasz Mazurkiewicz. The latter Tomasz finished the season strongly and guided GieKSa to 2nd in the LOTTO Ekstraklasa Relegation Group. Damian Garbacik’s still plugging away for Katowice in defence and up front a young Finnish lad named Ari Tuovinen that I signed in February 2019 has become a key player for them. I ask my scouts to give both of them a look, but they aren’t too impressed.
I also want to say a word on my old assistant Dennis Lawrence, who I left in charge of Katowice when I went over to South Africa. After failing to secure the top job with GieKSa he has gone on to have a nice little stint in Polish football, first taking over Polish First Division side Pogoń last April when the side were looking unlikely to bounce straight back up to the LOTTO Ekstraklasa at the first time of asking. He inspired Pogoń to win their last 6 matches, carrying them back up to the top flight easily. He then left them on New Years Eve to take over at Jagiellonia Białstok, the first side we went up against together and had a decent second half of the season, leading them up to 3rd in the Relegation Group, just behind Katowice and just ahead of Pogoń. I’m intrigued to see how he fares with our old rivals next year.
Sport Clube Angrense
Ah, the ones that got away: My beloved Angrense. After last season’s 15th placed scare, they’ve been back in form this year, finishing 5th in the LigaPro. Manager Hugo Carlos Pereira is obviously a good influence on Os Heróis and has built a good team, but sadly after this Summer I won’t recognise them at all. Cristiano Magina has been the last remaining member of my undefeated side and at 34 years old the iconic striker is hanging up his boots, 16 years after first arriving at the club. Despite his advancing years he still bagged 7 goals in 11 starts this season and he’ll be a loss to Portuguese football. I’d bring him on board as a scout or a coach, but his skills could use a fair bit of development first. Enjoy your retirement, CM9.
Football Club Höllviken
Unfortunately it’s been another year of the same for Höllviken and I’m worried that they’ll never find their way back to Swedish League football again. Speaking of retirements, I neglected to notice that at some point over the last few years Joakim’s officially stopped looking for jobs and retired from football altogether. He could’ve joined me at Angrense back in the day but refused and I’m saddened that he’s out of the picture.
But let’s bring this excellent season to a close with the words of AJ Auxerre’s prolific Moroccan goalscorer:
It has been a good year. Thanks Hicham.