Franjo’s Heroes (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Ep208)

Bechkoura’s Bottle Boys are taking a thumping!

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“The ball rolls to a stop in front of Kevin on the left wing. What does Kevin do…?” My heart thumps against my ribcage. “He puts in a low cross and the ball falls for Aidir! Aidir surely!” I draw back my trusty forefinger and flick it forwards against the little plastic player, who lurches forward and knocks the ball into the net. “AIDIR SCORES! Franjo’s Heroes FC make it 3-0 and Bechkoura’s Bottle Boys are taking a thumping! Hicham Ai-“

“Can we do it without the commentary?” Asks Bechkoura flatly, picking up his footballers and placing them back into position ready for kick off.

“Yeah absolutely.” I scowl. “And then we can have bacon butties without brown sauce. You idiot.”

“I’m more of a ketchup man.”

“Well then you’re wrong.” I pick up the tiny representation of Hicham Aidir and admire the figure, which is decked out in the PSG 2024/25 home kit. “Did I ever tell you that one of my first ever football shirts was a PSG one?”

“No?” Bechkoura replies. “Which one?”

“95/96 I think. The Opel one with the white collar and the shitty holograms all over it. It might even have been the very first… That or the 95 Everton home shirt.” He nods thoughtfully.

“90’s kits were very… Hit and miss.”

I nod in agreement. “But you could power your house for a year with the static.”

Bechkoura chuckles. “I always liked France’s 97/98 home shirt.” He says wistfully.

“Well I wonder why.” I grin. “I’d like the entire Liverpool catalogue if England won the World Cup wearing it. I’m making a sub by the way: Bart’s coming on for Big Phil. He’s going to slot in between Hurley and Sinbad and add a bit more bite to-“

“They’re all identical.” Growls Bechkoura, struggling to keep the annoyance out of his voice as he cuts me off.

“Oh where’s your fucking sense of whimsey? Come on, it’s your kick off. Again.”

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Subbuteo aside, I do have a bit of real football to oversee this week. As we’re welcoming Roma for a midweek Champions League Group Stage game in a few days, I’m resting pretty much my entire first team for today’s visit from Bastia. Only Kingsley Coman, the man on fire, plays today having also started in our last match. Abe comes in between the sticks, Triponez is in defence with Damir Mijatovic, who’s making his first appearance for me and the pair have Neves just ahead of them. Our wingbacks are Renan and Dobby, Veiga’s in central midfield and Coman, Hutka and Cvitanovic play behind Manuel Bueno.

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Our first chance follows some calm Bastian build up play as Renan Henrique wins the ball from Mehmedi deep in our half. He goes direct to Bueno on the half way line, who in turn releases Coman into the space on the right wing. Coman sprints to the byline as bodies get up in support and whip a cross onto the boot of Cvitanovic, who volleys us into the lead.

A few minutes later we win a left sided throw in level with Bastia’s penalty box. Dobby gives it to Cvitanovic, who cushions the ball down for Michal Hutka. Hutka chips it across to Renan, who’s got himself central and into space just outside the box. The ball bounces just once before our Brazilian international puts his laces through it, sending a vicious half volley screaming into the bottom corner for 2-0.

Not content with our 13 minute cushion, we keep pushing for a third over the next few minutes. First we play the ball out from the back and Cvitanovic chips a pass into the left channel for Bueno, who brings it into the box and forces a good near post save from Michaelsen and then another well worked move sees Bueno play a one-two with Cvitanovic to get behind the defence and then toe poke the ball powerfully beyond the Danish keeper to make it 3-0. 17 minutes in, the game’s as good as over and to say this is practically a second string side, I’m pretty bloody impressed.

Coman gets a rest for the second half and I bring on Coutinho in his place, but it’s Miguel Veiga who bags the next goal. 10 minutes after the break, he picks up the ball in our half and surges purposefully across the half way line and towards Bastia’s box. Veiga passes to Bueno, who has his back to goal 20 yards out and he then lays it off for Cvitanovic, who squares for Veiga, who slides a delicate shot into the bottom corner. Éder gets half an hour in place of Neves, but at the end of 90 minutes it’s PSG 4-0 Bastia.

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It’s nice to know that our whole squad is of sufficient quality that I can play the fringe players in situations like this and be confident that they’ll pick up all 3 points. Silvio Cvitanovic, who I’ve been pretty openly unimpressed with thus far, was absolutely excellent but then so was the entire team. I’m completely, utterly, totally pleased with that performance. Donnarumma is the only player that makes the Team of the Week and didn’t feature, while Renan, Mijatovic, Triponez, Coman, Veiga, Cvitanovic and Burno are also included.

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Kingsley Coman also receives his 2nd Player of the Month award in his 2nd month back at PSG after a quite staggering run of performances. Don’t get me wrong, I’d always rated him for France, but bloody hell he’s gone up to a whole new level this season. Renan Henrique wins Goal of the Month for his scorcher in the Bastia game.

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We have a bit of potentially bad news in the run up to the Roma match: Mateo Kovacic picks up an ab strain and will miss a couple of weeks. On the upside though, captain Marquinhos should be back at some point this month.

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The new stats on the French National team are out and PSG are joint 2nd with Metz on the list of leading producers of France players with 10. The two of us are just behind Lyon, who’ve produced 12 of Denis Renaud’s current crop. Auxerre are still well represented and are joint 5th with 6 players produced, which is more than Monaco. This makes me happy.

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Roma’s arrival in Paris sparks fierce excitement among myself and the players. The thing about managing Paris Saint-Germain that I’ve found so far is that it’s difficult to gage exactly how good you are, as the overall quality of the league isn’t all that good. Of course we’ve already lost against Monaco, but I don’t really count that as I didn’t know the players and we didn’t have a proper system. We will meet them again in what will certainly be difficult encounters, but apart from that we’re not going to meet much stern opposition in the league. The Champions League gives us an opportunity to test ourselves against Europe’s elite and I’m eager to find out how we stack up.

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I’m making 9 changes from the side that thumped Bastia: Donnarumma is back in net, as are Ibarra and Lucas in defence. Neves keeps his place at the base of midfield, but Bologna, Lato and Éder are brought in around him. Coman also keeps his place on the right wing, while Coutinho, Orlando and Kean are restored to the forward line.

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The first shots are fired by Roma and there’s a particularly heart-stopping moment 8 minutes in, when Mo Salah swings a nasty cross in from the left. Lucas manages to head it clear but only as far as Embolo, who heads the ball down for Muñoz. The striker turns, places a shot against the base of the post and we can breathe easy. A few minutes later, we have a chance of our own when Orlando crosses from a corner. Again Lucas is there and the Frenchman flicks the ball on at the near post for Ibarra, who nips in between Legrand and Embolo to volley… Straight at Alisson from 6 yards and the keeper parries it clear.

With a quarter of an hour gone we come forward again. This time our Brazilian contingent link when Éder lays the ball off for Coutinho, who slides a wonderful pass down the right for Coman to chase. The winger leaves Legrand for dead and crosses it first time into the 6 yard box, where Kean arrives and smacks a header against the bar.

Before the half hour we go close yet again. Neves wins the ball from Haksabanovic on the edge of our box and gives it to Éder, who plays a long ball forward to Kean. The Italian striker strides forward on the counter as Roma’s defence back-pedal furiously but he arrives at the edge of their box still in possession and drives a low shot inches wide of the far post. How this match is still goalless is beyond me.

When the breakthrough does come, it’s a lovely goal. In the 2nd minute of first half injury time, we win a free kick 35 yards out. Neves takes it, passing short to Ibarra, who plays it straight on for Éder. Éder hands it off to Lato, who chips it straight past Karsdorp on the left wing and Orlando latches on. Orlando squares it into the centre of Roma’s box, Coutinho touches it on for Kean and Moise Kean places it into the bottom corner from 10 yards. Beautiful football.

We head in for the break having scored at the perfect time. Our confidence is suddenly sky high while the atmosphere in the away dressing room will surely have taken a hit. We come back out for the 2nd half with our chests puffed out and soon capitalise on our newfound momentum. 8 minutes after kick off, Éder has possession in our penalty area and is under pressure, but he coolly makes himself some space and arcs a perfect pass up to Kean on the halfway line. The goalscorer chips the ball down the right and Legrand beats Coman to it for once, but severely underhits his header back towards Alisson. As the ball trickles back towards the Roma box, Coman turns on the thrusters, takes possession, jinks past the outrushing Alisson and passes the ball into the empty net.

A few minutes later, Orlando volleys a chipped pass behind the defence for Kean to run onto in the left channel. Kean takes the ball in his stride and sprints into the box but whiffs his shot, dragging it disappointingly wide of the near post. With just over 20 minutes to play, Manuel Veiga replaces Neves and Éder drops into the deeper position, freeing Veiga up to be the box to box man. I liked the look of Veiga against Bastia and want to give him more chances to show me what he can do.

Only a minute later we have yet another chance when Coutinho plays another nice pass down the right wing. Coman leaves poor Legrand in his dust and dribbles into the box before squaring for Kean, who rifles a shot into the top corner from 10 yards to give the scoreline the gloss it deserves. With respect to København this was our first real challenge in the Champions League and we’ve bloody smashed it.

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But as Cage The Elephant once said, “there ain’t no rest for the wicked”. Although they also said that “money don’t grow on trees” and I recently threw £85M at a 20 year old defensive midfielder, so take those lads’ words with a pinch of salt… Where was I? Oh right, no rest for the wicked. The matches keep coming thick and fast and before we know it the weekend is upon us, as is our trip to Sochaux.

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We’ve now scored 15 goals without reply in our last 4 outings and I want us to carry on both our run of goalscoring and of clean sheets today. My changes for this one aren’t quite as radical as the previous games, with just the 3 personnel changes from the Roma match: Renan, Dobby and young Veiga are all brought in so I can get to know them a little better at the expense of Bologna, Lato and Coutinho.

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The match doesn’t begin like I expected it to, with Sochaux actually having the best of the first 25 minutes. When I finally decide we need to change something we’ve managed exactly 0 shots against Sochaux’s compact 4-1-4-1 while they’ve had 5. We go on the counter to try and lure them out of their defensive positions so they we can use our pace to exploit any gaps that form. At half time, although we have managed a couple of shots, the score remains 0-0 and Im not happy. I decide to make a change: Moise Kean’s been pretty ineffective so I bring on our big Spanish bully in his place. Manuel Bueno will be a target man that we’ll be able to use as a foothold in Sochaux’s half, giving the rest of the team a chance to get up in support while he holds the ball up.

Just under 4 minutes into the 2nd half, a well worked move through the centre of the pitch ends with Veiga threading a pass through to Bueno, who steps away from his marker Bianchi and slams the ball past Leo Gauthier. Somebody bring me my vindication blanket. With 25 minutes to play, Bueno has a potshot from 25 yards sail harmlessly over the bar and the fact that that is “of note” really is a damning inditement of this cagey, frustrating game of football. Neves is replaced by Triponez a few minutes later, Lucas shifts into the hole and then Bueno goes close again with 5 minutes to go, denied a brace only by a last ditch slide tackle from Gnagnon that deflects his shot wide after Éder heads a Coman cross down into a dangerous position.

Bueno’s tally ends at 1 however, as does ours. He improved us in that second half and I’ll take some comfort from that, but otherwise this is a fairly worrying performance and I really need to work out what went wrong. At the end of the day though, 3 points is 3 points and this win both continues our good form and keeps us above Monaco at the top of Ligue 1 on goal difference. That’ll do.

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Episode 209 >

Author: DOgames

Amateur Game Designer, Writer, Artist, Musician

3 thoughts on “Franjo’s Heroes (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Ep208)”

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