Bourg-en-Bresse have barely crossed my mind this season if I’m honest. Last year we had a pretty intense rivalry going for the majority of the season but it’s only since our good run of form a few games ago that they’ve actually come onto our radar at the bottom end of the table. I hate that they’ve had such a stable campaign so far though. Bourg were able to make a slew of signings in the Summer, shelling out over £2M, including the £375k signing of Hervé Fernandez, who’s gone on to score 16 goals for them.
And us? Well… Corentin Tirard’s back in full training. Hoo-fucking-ray.
We’re making a few changes today to try and prevent 2 straight losses from becoming 3. Our skipper Captiste is suspended so Mike Kakuba comes in alongside his old mate Sohna, while Celsiney makes way for Issa Samba at right back as he’s the best leader we have in Captiste’s absence. In all fairness has always done me proud with the armband when called upon. I’m also dropping Alessandro Bassani from the squad entirely, putting Foden back on the right, Florian Ayé up top and Tirard on the bench. If things are really desperate maybe he’ll finally be able to show his worth. We’re going on the counter attack from the start, which is why I want big Florian up front and we’ll play direct to him.
Sissako rattles the bar with a stinging volley in the opening minutes after Hikem sets him up with a cross from the left, but before the 10 minute mark Bourg work the ball back into our box after Sohna fails to clear a Tsvyatkov cross and Fernandez turns it into the net.
The rest of the first half is tight with no real chances to speak of and Fomba tweaks his hamstring just before the break. At half time I decide to bring him off and give McCarthy a run out as a playmaker. I don’t hold back with my team talk either, giving the lads an absolute bollocking. They’re a determined bunch of course, so they head back out looking determined to show me something else.
20 seconds into the 2nd half, Mike Kakuba shows me that he’s actually a little bit too pumped up by my half time rant by hacking down Fernandez with 2 feet just outside the box. The referee brings out his red card and I would not be surprised if that’s a season wrap for Kakuba. As a man on the fringes he needs to take chances like this and he’s fucked it.
A change in system is required so Loïc Goujon and Joël come on in place of Vidal and Zoun. We go to a narrow 4-3-1-1 with Goujon in defence and Foden behind Ayé. This is not how I wanted this second half to start but the saving grace is that Fernandez smacks Bourg’s free kick over the bar.
With 25 minutes to go and with no change to the scoreline we ditch our cautious approach and go on the attack, resulting almost immediately in a levelling of the playing field when Hikem surges inside from the left and is tripped by Bodin, who was already on a yellow and gets another for his trouble. Nevertheless the final whistle brings an end to a poor but even game and we’ve now lost 3 on the bounce.
Mike Kakuba gets an earful in my office the next day. I tell him how disappointed I am and how much he needs to up his game if he wants to play regularly at this level. I also slap the obligatory 2 week fine on him, which he accepts without comment.
A few minutes after Mike leaves, a knock on my office door makes me jump. It opens and Crouchie walks in, shutting the door behind him. “Can I have a word, Boss?” He asks, pulling up a chair. I gesture for him to sit down.
“Hull City…” He begins. I start to laugh.
“Mate, we’ve been over this. I’m not interested. Besides, they got someone. John Kennedy, isn’t it? He was at ours the other day. Wants to sign Celsiney, apparently. Good luck with…”
“He wants to sign me too.” Crouchie mutters. I stop laughing and look up from my notes. He avoids eye contact.
“I see.” I say after a moment, hearing the surprise in my voice. “And do you…”
“I’m thinking about it.” He says. There’s a long, awkward silence.
“Well look,” I begin, selecting my words carefully. “If it’s about money…”
“It’s not.” He cuts me off. “I told you Boss, I want to be back in the Premier League. I want to go home.”
“Now? You want to go home now?! We’re on a bloody knife’s edge here mate and you want to leave us to it?” Crouchie sighs and shrugs.
“I don’t know.” He says. Another awkward silence follows.
“OK, well… Thanks for letting me know. I’ll have the club offer you an improved contract, so… You know.” He nods, then gets to his feet and walks out of the office, closing the door behind him again.
The timing of Nancy Lorraine’s offer of an interview is poor. I tell them the same as I told Sylvania: Not interested.
The main reason I didn’t want our 2 match losing streak to become 3 and the reason I’m so fucking annoyed at Mike Kakuba is that I wanted to give us a glimmer of hope before we entered our next 3 matches: PSG in the French Cup, then Monaco in the league, then PSG in the league. This could be a bloody confidence destroying couple of weeks.
It is what it is though and as I say, we’ll start by welcoming Paris Saint-Germain to Stade l’Abbé-Deschamps for our French Cup 11th round tie. As our “lump the ball up to the big man” experiment failed completely last match, we’re going back to our standard Project: Burnie Mk V, with short passing, patient play and low crosses into false 9 Phil Foden. Bassani comes back in for Ayé on the right, while Captiste and Goujon replace Kakuba and Sohna, who are both suspended but for entirely different reasons.
We don’t get off to a good start when the clouds part and rain comes hammering down, making our short passing game more difficult due to the muddy surface. We don’t get much time to dwell on that though because after 20 minutes, Orlando leaves Samba for dead on the left wing, crosses from the byline for Vandecasteele, who volleys in the first of what I can only imagine will be quite a few goals. We ditch the short passing and go into attack mode. Let’s at least go down swinging.
We do give Pep and his cronies something to think about from that point on and manage to scrape through to half time with the score still 0-1. In classic fashion though within 5 minutes of the second half, Rolón Martinez is felled in the box by Arturo Vidal, who’s actually lucky not to receive a second yellow card.
Verratti’s the man to place the ball on the spot and he shoots to the left of goal, but it’s a good height for Xavier Lenogue, who continues his remarkable penalty saving run and keeps us within touching reach of the visitors.
With half an hour to go we finally threaten, working the ball up the pitch with a nice move. Fomba lays the ball off for Zoun on the left, who tries to curl it into the far corner of the net but doesn’t bend it as much as he’d like to and misses the target.
McCarthy, Ferhat and Tirard all make appearances not long after but soon after the changes, Verratti controls Martínez’s cross on his knee and half volleys the ball viciously from the edge of the box, rattling the post.
With 20 minutes to go the game’s effectively put beyond doubt when Martínez steps away from Goujon, creating half a yard of space that te Argentine uses to clip the ball perfectly into the far corner of the net.
I’m not proud to say this, but I’ll take a 0-2 loss against a team like PSG. If the next 2 games finish 0-2 I won’t be complaining too much. 0-2 isn’t comfortable, it’s just functional. It’s a functional way of knocking us out of the French Cup. We’ve suffered a routine, functional loss. Hoo-fucking-ray.