3-Horse Race (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Ep27)

This had better not be an omen. I bloody hate omens.

Start from the start with episode 1

< Mini-sode 26.5

I stand on a gravel path, wearing my trusty grey coat, a rucksack weighing heavily on my shoulders. Ahead of me lies a long, winding road that wraps itself around a distant mountain, the top of which is obscured by clouds in front of a blood red sky. The clouds turn from blue to red as I watch them, swirling and twisting, breaking apart and reforming.

“Franjo…” a booming voice echoes. “FRANJO!”

I jolt awake to see a familiar face just inches from my own. It’s Pedro Botelho, my assistant Manager. He beams as he sees that I am awake. “Ah, apologies for waking you my friend but we are landing soon.” He says as he removes himself from my personal space and sits down in the seat next to me, buckling his seatbelt.

We have arrived in Moura to play our first opponents of the new season: The efficiently named “Moura”. I don’t really know what to expect from them, which worries me slightly. They had a torrid campaign this time last year, finishing 8th out of 10 teams in their group in the first stage and looking like a relatively safe bet for relegation. But then they had an excellent Relegation Stage, finishing 2nd in their group like we did. Now they’re predicted 4th so I just don’t know how good they’re meant to be.

27 moura pre match

With this in mind, I will opt for the safer of the 2 systems I’ve created here so far: Heróis Original. Although it will be tweaked slightly as I have mainly picked the team that have most impressed me during pre-season.

Azevedo starts between the sticks, but Serginho will have the chance to impress me in our next match. Our back 4 is almost unrecognisable, with Vitor Miranda the lone survivor alongside Lassina Touré, Olivier and Mauro Aires. I’d rather have Miguel Oliveira as backup than a starter and Santos has recently decided he should be allowed to move for free so he’s the latest player to enter my bad books. Rúby partners Jaime Seidi in a withdrawn double pivot, although Rúby will be getting forward to support attacks. Amonike and Kevin start on the flanks, with Hurley trying his hand at the number 10 role between them. Antunes is back in full training but is not quite fit enough to start. Magina starts as the lone striker.

I walk out through the tunnel and take a deep breath. The summer break is such a bloody long time, I say to myself as a broad grin stretches across my face. The players take their positions, the referee blows his whistle, and our new season gets underway.

27 moura formations

Almost quarter of an hour in Moura are pushing, but we break forward on the counter: Moura have their defensive line far too high, it’s pretty much on the half way line. Magina holds the ball up just into the Moura half before releasing Amonike on the right with a good pass behind the defence. Amonike sprints to the byline, chased by a couple of defenders but he’s too quick for them. When he reaches the edge of the pitch he cuts the ball back to Hurley, who sends the keeper the wrong way from 10 yards.

Pedro and I leap to our feet, punching the air. For all the preparation and research that went on this Summer, there was always a voice in the back of my mind saying “You don’t know anything about these teams, they could all be better than anyone you faced last season. You could be a few goals down in the first half of the first match”. Well we’re back and we’re refreshed, and right now I’d back us to beat anyone.

The rest of the half flies by without either team creating anything of note, until straight from kick off in the second half when Magina releases Hurley with another good ball through the defence. Hurley tries to double his tally but his shot goes wide of the near post.

I did ponder at half time whether I was comfortable with having 2 defensive midfielders on the pitch, both of whom were on yellow cards. I decided that…yes. Yes I was comfortable with it. Needless to say with almost an hour played Jaime Seidi sees his 2nd yellow for a silly trip and earns himself an early bath. I won’t be too harsh on him, that’s the first black mark on his record for me. I decide to drop Hurley back slightly and play a 4-1-1-2-1 formation.

And to be fair, it works. The game dies down once more and again, nothing happens until the 83rd minute, when a good Moura passing move ends with N’Goy releasing Lopes, whose shot flies just wide of the near post.

In an attempt to freshen up our attack I bring on a couple of youngsters. Batista replaces Amonike and Silva replaces Magina to make his debut.

With 92 minutes and 30 seconds played I’m perched right on the edge of my seat, glaring at the referee. Blow your bloody whistle, I silently urge him. This match has not been comfortable.

Just as I think that, Kevin lays the ball back for Mauro Aires, who’s on the left hand side about 15 yards into our half. He looks up, and in a moment of brilliance, smacks the ball into the left channel, over Moura’s defensive line. As he does, Renato Silva makes a diagonal run from the left wing, losing his marker. The ball falls perfectly into his path and he only needs 1 touch of the ball to stroke it into the far bottom corner on the half volley.

I fall backwards into my seat and breathe a massive sigh of relief. The broad grin returns to my face. There’s something about this boy. His intelligence, his movement, his finishing, his composure. The sheer arrogance to effortlessly score such a goal on his debut at 16 years old. He’s got it all. I know time will tell whether this is just a good pre-season and a good debut or genuine quality, but… I don’t know where I’ll be in 10 years. The optimist in me says Barcelona, Manchester United or Bayern. Somewhere like that. And call me crazy but I reckon I could take this lad with me.

27 post moura

After another week or wearily declining daily offers for Antunes, Batista and Silva, it’s time to welcome Aljustrelense to Estádio Municipal de Angra do Heroismo. Our first home game of the season and a chance to put down a proper marker. I’ll let us off for not exactly making this place the isolated island fortress I wanted it to be last season. We were adjusting. If we lose here in any of our first phase matches now though, I’ll be furious.

pre match 2

Aljustrelense lost their first match of the season and if someone else in this league can beat them, then so can we. That’s a philosophy I feel like I’ll be adopting for all of our league matches.

pre game

We are at home, we are the favourites, and we are the better side, so here comes my feline formation, Project: Meatloaf. Seidi is suspended after his red card so Hurley drops back into midfield. Antunes takes his place behind Magina. In all fairness that change would’ve probably happened even if Seidi had been available. Aires will be encouraged to attack down the left and overlap Kevin or Amonike. Serginho starts.

formations

It takes nearly 10 minutes for us to carve out our first chance. The ball is cleared following our corner and Lassina Touré finds himself on the ball with his back to goal on the edge of their area. He lays it back for Antunes, who curls it first time in front of Amonike on the left. Amonike’s first touch takes him down the line past a defender and he drills in a low cross that finds Magina 8 yards out, but Runa manages to get a foot in and scramble the ball away to the edge of the area. Our new left full back Mauro Aires controls the ball before smashing it against the left post. The ball bounces away and is cleared.

Less than a minute later Benjamim cuts out a Dias cross and clears the ball to Magina on the left wing, just inside the Aljustrelense half. He makes one of his patented powerful runs with the ball diagonally towards the edge of the penalty area but is thwarted once again by Runa, who clears the ball. Touré picks it up on the half way line though and plays it onto the right for Amonike, who whips a cross into the 6 yard box and Magina’s volley somehow crashes off the bar. Runa clears and we’ve struck the woodwork twice in the first 10 minutes. This had better not be an omen. I bloody hate omens.

The rest of the half is quiet. It feels like we’ve become nervous after wasting those 2 chances. I tell the lads that they’ve been unlucky at half time. We’ve made 2 good chances but we’ve just not had the rub of the green. I send them back out, hopefully with a bit more self-belief and confidence.

Just over 5 minutes after the restart, Miranda throws the ball to Amonike, who’s level with the Aljustrelense penalty area on the right hand side. He passes well to Magina just inside the box, who turns and lays it off to Hurley. Hurley takes a touch, looks up, and fizzes a shot into the far bottom corner.

The relief in the team is clear, for a while it felt like one of those matches where it just doesn’t happen. At least we’ve got the breakthrough, now we just need to protect it.

With an hour gone I replace Aires, who has been booked and is looking nervous, with debutant Luciano Serpa. Serpa will play on the right and Miranda will come over onto the left. Nerves cost you in situations like this, and they also make people do silly things, like send your team down to 10 men for the second match in a row.

With just over 10 minutes to go, we revert back to Heróis Original and Miguel Oliveira comes on in place of the goalscorer Hurley as he’s apparently an adept holding man. It does the trick and we completely kill the match. We come away with a not-so-convincing 1-0 win, but I’ll take 3 points and a clean sheet any day.

post

Only at this stage of the season can you have a 100% record, 0 goals conceded and still drop down the league. The table is pretty meaningless this early on but you can already see a 3-horse race starting to emerge. Pinhalnovense have come out for the new season looking extremely dangerous. They’re the only other team that are yet to concede but they’ve already racked up a +9 goal difference. We’ll have to keep an eye on them.

league

Episode 28 >

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PT Championship – First Phase Group G (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Mini-sode 26.5)

I don’t want to pile more pressure onto myself, nor do I want to play down any future achievements, nor do I want to tempt fate. But I’m going to do all 3.

Start from the start with episode 1

< Episode 26

I know what you’re thinking.

“I can’t wait for you to box Vilafranquense’s ears again Franjo!”

“I can’t wait for the Caldas matches, you’ll really show them this time!”

“I have a tattoo of your half-robot face on my thigh!”

But no! You’re mistaken and confused. That’s just not how the Portuguese Championship, or my readers, roll. Our opponents for this first phase will be drawn randomly out of the pool of 80 clubs. We’ve been dropped into Group G. Here are our new friends:

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 19.38.53

Aljustrelense

From: Aljustrel

Ground: Estádio Municipal de Aljustrel

First Phase Position (Out of 10): 6th in group H

Relegation Stage Position (Out of 8): 3rd in group H

Predicted: 6th

Rivals in Group G: N/A

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 19.39.24

Amora

From: Amora

Ground: Estádio da Medideira

Last Season: Promoted from 4th tier

Predicted: 9th

Rivals in Group G: Barreirense (Competitive)

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 19.39.51

Barreirense

From: Barreiro

Ground: Campo da Verderena

First Phase Position (Out of 10): 3rd in Group G

Relegation Stage Position (Out of 8): 3rd in Group G

Predicted: 3rd

Rivals in Group G: Amora (Competitive), Fabril do Barreiro (Historic, Fierce), Pinhalnovense (Local)

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 19.40.02

Despertar

From: Beja

Ground: Complexo Desportivo Fernando Mamede

Last Season: Promoted from 4th tier

Predicted: 8th

Rivals in Group G: N/A

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 19.40.22

Fabril do Barreiro

From: Barreiro

Ground: Estádio Alfredo da Silva

First Phase Position (Out of 10): 7th in group H

Relegation Stage Position (Out of 8): 5th in Group G

Predicted: 7th

Rivals in Group G: Barreirense (Local, Fierce), Amora (Local)

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 19.40.31

Juventude Évora

From: Évora

Ground: Estádio Sanches de Miranda

Last Season: Promoted from 4th tier

Predicted: 10th

Rivals in Group G: N/A

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 19.40.40

Moura

From: Moura

Ground: Estádio do Moura Atlético Clube

First Phase Position (Out of 10): 8th in group H

Relegation Stage Position (Out of 8): 2nd in Group G

Predicted: 4th

Rivals in Group G: N/A

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 19.40.58

Pinhalnovense

From: Pinhal Novo

Ground: Campo de Jogos Santos Jorge

First Phase Position (Out of 10): 3rd in group H

Relegation Stage Position (Out of 8): 1st in Group H

Predicted: 2nd

Rivals in Group G: Barreirense (Local)

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 19.41.07

Sp Viana Alentejo

From: Viana do Alentejo

Ground: Campo João Branco Núncio

First Phase Position (Out of 10): 10th in group H

Relegation Stage Position (Out of 8): 6th in Group G, Beat Malveira 5-2 in Play-off 1st Round and Sernache 2-1 in 2nd Round

Predicted: 5th

Rivals in Group G: N/A

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 19.39.42

You’ll notice that I’ve included these clubs’ predicted positions for the phase ahead. You’ll also notice that one position has been omitted. That’s because it’s our position. It’s because I, Franjo, am widely expected to lead our Heróis to a 1st place position in the first phase.

Am I apprehensive? Yes.

Will I relish the challenge? Yes.

Do I back us to pull it off? Fucking right I do.

It’s an interesting position to be in because I’ve so far been in charge of the massive underdogs and relegation favourites in Vellinge, and then a bit of a big fish in a small pond, dropped into the relegation stage by no fault of my own in my first half season here. Now a brand new season is dawning, and we’ll achieve anything we achieve off our own backs. And if we fail there will be absolutely nowhere to hide.

And I don’t want to pile more pressure onto myself, nor do I want to play down any future achievements, nor do I want to tempt fate. But I’m going to do all 3.

This is a weak group. 3 of the teams have just been promoted from the 4th tier and you’d expect them to be cannon fodder. Sp Viana Alentejo only survived relegation after dragging themselves through the play-offs. Barreirense and Pinhalnovense are the teams to beat as they narrowly missed out on going to last season’s promotion stage, but apart from them, our opponents all had pretty poor seasons. I will expect a series of very, very good performances from our team this year.

26 league end

Episode 27 >
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Pre Season 2017/18 (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Ep26)

Who stays? Who goes? Who’s been on fire? Whose days are numbered?
Welcome to Angrense: 2017/18

Start from the start with episode 1

< Mini-sode 25.5.5.5

What a Summer. Aside from destroying the confidence of an imaginary ex-Everton flop I have actually also been swamped with real footballing matters.

I’ll start by telling you that one of the first things I did when I was appointed Angrense Manager was put out an advert for a Manager for our under 19’s side, as we didn’t have one. And do you know how many applications have been sent to me in the last 6ish months? Zero. Goose egg. Nenhum. So this Summer, after reaching the sad conclusion that our 36 year old captain Gonçalo Valadão’s playing days are coming to an end, I offered him the job. He accepted happily and is now Player/Under 19’s Manager. His attributes are… not good, but I’m hoping that he’ll increase in competence as we go.

26 valadao

At the end of June, Miguel Borba sprung quite a pleasant surprise on me: A new affiliation with Italian Serie B side Vicenza. In the future we may have the opportunity to sign a couple of young Italian stars on loan, which is obviously an exciting prospect.

26 vicenza link

26 vicenza

Experienced goalkeeper David Dinis retired, and left the club along with some other players who had no place in my squad for the new season. Marco Aurélio, João Borges and Ivanildo Reis were the only ones who played any part in the first team for me, apart from Jordanes Medeiros, who completed his free transfer to Waasland-Beveren.

26 released

We’ve had our fair share of transfer sagas this Summer too. Cristiano Magina, for example, asked me to sell him for £18,000 in June after an insulting £12k bid from Romanian Top Tier side FC Vitorul. I refused and slapped a £100k price tag on his head. Admittedly this would be a ridiculous fee for a club of our stature to receive, but I have no intention of selling such a fantastic goalscorer. When they heard the news, the Angrense players grabbed their pitchforks and marched to my office to demand that I release him. Confused and annoyed, I simply said to them: “But he was the division’s 2nd top scorer last season. Do you not think we’d be weaker without him?” To which they all just sort of nodded and shuffled back out of the room. Magina was also subject to bids from the Portuguese Premier League, the Cypriot top tier and the Eredivisie, but eventually, and much to my relief, he decided to stay.

26 magina staying

Another player to throw a tantrum was 19 year old forward Silveira, who I had been looking forward to working with after he spent last season out on loan. He was upset that I rejected a… and I’m not exaggerating… £0 bid from CS U Craiova, also in the Romanian top tier. He spat his dummy out and I sent him to train with the kids and trialists (of which there have been around 100 over the course of the break). Craiova eventually came in with a £5k bid, rising to £10k with add ons, plus a friendly match. I negotiated them up a further £5k and got rid for a club record fee. They instantly cancelled the friendly. Twats.

26 silveira

26 craiova friendly

I’ve laughed off a plethora of bids for our players. A few thousand for Seidi, Benjamim, Kevin, Oliveira, Miranda and Santos isn’t really worth my time. I’ve been bombarded all Summer with insultingly low-ball bids for top prospects Batista, Antunes and Silva. None of these bids topped £1k until August when comparatively massive money started to be put on the table. I was never going to consider £10k, which was the most we were offered for Renato Silva, for reasons that I’ll explain in a moment, but I really had to to think about Dinamo Bucharesti’s Batista bid. It could have reached upwards of £35k, plus 50% of the next sale. I rejected it though as we don’t particularly need to sell and I’d like to give him more football this year. Greek Super League side PAOK and Ligue 1 outfit FC Nantes spent all Summer bidding for Antunes but never strayed North of £2k.

But enough about that, I’ve got 6 new players to show you. Last season I was impressed with our attacking play but I wasn’t always so convinced about the defensive side of our game, so that’s where the reinforcements have come in so far.

Last season we had 4 Goalkeepers. 3 of them were pretty awful so I let their contracts expire and that left us requiring backup. 34 year old Serginho will not only provide able backup but he may even have the ability and experience to push Azevedo out of the side.

26 serginho

He was released by Santa Clara in the Summer after having a decent season for them, conceding 26 goals in 19 games in the LigaPro, which is the Portuguese 2nd tier and the division above us.

Ivan Santos was only OK last year and I winced every time the ball went anywhere near Oliveira, so I’ve brought in 2 new centre backs. The first of these is Olivier Kingue. He likes to just have “Olivier” on the back of his shirt, so that’s what I’ll call him.

26 kingue

He’s a big, tough and fairly quick Cameroonian. His intelligence could do with development but he’s 21 years old and so has plenty of time to learn. His contract had expired with Cameroonian side Nkufo Academy so we picked him up for free. If you’re wondering how we spotted a player in such an obscure league, he gave a good account of himself on loan last season at SC Olhanense in the LigaPro, so I think we’ve grabbed ourselves a bargain.

The 2nd centre back we signed was Lassina Touré from Burkina Faso:

26 toure

His reach isn’t as high as Kingue’s but he’s better developed both technically and mentally. We signed him on a free as well, as his contract with our rivals from last season Sporting Ideal expired at the end of the season.

I said last year that this team needs more dynamic wing backs, especially on the left hand side. As we released Reis on a free and I don’t think Valadão has much left in the tank, I’ve signed us 2 new left backs. The first is Mauro Aires:

26 aires

Another young player at 21 years old, I paid £240 to prise him away from our fierce rivals (Who we’ve sadly not actually played yet under my regime) Praiense. He’s ok defensively and not awful going forward, but his real strength is his pace. He is very very quick and may be able to add width with forward runs down the left.

The 2nd left back I brought in is Xéxé:

26 xexe

You might remember that I mentioned my interest in him when we played Sporting Ideal last season. My January target Chileno wasn’t available this Summer so I brought Xéxé in for £240 to rival but probably understudy Aires. He’s also 21 and he’s fairly quick so he’ll be a decent option.

And finally I picked up a backup right back, Luciano Serpa:

26 serpa

He’s another player we picked up on a free and just like Aires we’ve picked him up from rivals Praiense. He’s very well rounded: he can defend, attack, he’s quick enough and he’s got a good head on his shoulders. I’ll have no problem giving him a chance in the side and he may even rival Miranda for a place, but he’s missed most of pre-season through injury and won’t be ready for our first match.

In terms of our pre-season, things have gone very very well. The highlight of our friendly matches was undoubtably our 2-0 win against Sporting Lisbon, the lowlight was our only loss, which came against lower league side Prainha. It was our 2nd string that played that match in fairness but we still should’ve won comfortably. Our last friendly was a ridiculous but entertaining 6-5 win over Tenerife.

26 friendlies

The player that’s impressed me most through pre-season might surprise you: 16 year old striker Renato Silva has been on fire. He started pre-season playing for the under 19’s but after a couple of matches in which he decimated the opposition defence I promoted him to play with the first team. He’s scored 7 in 7 games, including 3 as a sub, and at one point he even made me give serious consideration to the possibility of giving in and letting Magina go. But young players often lack consistency, so he will most likely make his appearances from the bench this year. Nevertheless his form is certainly encouraging and I’m sure that he’ll make his first team bow sooner rather than later.

26 silva

Who’s impressed me the least? Gonçalo Valadão, I’m afraid to say. I’ve said before that I wish he had 10 years left in him but he just doesn’t. I don’t even think he’s got 1. When he’s appeared in these friendlies he’s often been the worst player on our side and I just can’t see him getting a game this year, especially as I’ve heavily bolstered the full back positions.

26 valadao player

I will just give a couple of mentions as well to players that have impressed me: New signings Touré and Olivier have looked solid in defence, Antunes has looked so skilful and composed that I think he’ll begin the season as our starting number 10 despite his tender years (Although he will miss the first game through injury), and Hélder Arruda has taken to his new role of backup attacking midfielder very well. He’s been arriving into the opposition area late and bagging a fair amount of goals despite not being fully competent in the position.

And one more player that you should be aware of is Bruce Ávila. Like Silveira, he spent last season on loan at a lower league club, but unlike Silveira, he’s come back for pre-season, kept his head down, worked hard and impressed me. He’s an out and out left winger which is a good option to have. Last season we only played Kevin, Amonike and Aurélio on the left and they all liked to cut in on their right foot. He’s also 20 years old and a very rounded young footballer.

26 avila

I should probably mention that I did consider my future this Summer. I did consider looking for pastures new, a new club in some wacky new league, but I want to see what I can do with this Angrense side. There’s potential here. I want to see if I can finally do what Eduardo couldn’t, and take Os Heróis up.

I think partially I want my next club to come to me. I want to have impressed enough to be headhunted. Plus, I’d rather not send out 15 copies of my CV and annoy Miguel Borba, because frankly I don’t want to end up back in the job centre.

26 league end

Mini-sode 26.5 >

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Year 1 World Roundup (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Mini-sode 25.5.5.5)

I’ve been so preoccupied with my managerial duties that I forgot that football is happening everywhere.

Start from the start with episode 1

< Mini-sode 25.5.5

I awake extremely early the next morning. Pushing myself to a sitting position, I can feel the numbness on my cheek where the pattern of the grass has been impressed after several hours of contact. My phone has run out of power and I’ve got a banging headache in the aftermath of my dehydration yesterday. This is not how good days start. I get to my feet and start to make my way back down the hill on which I accidentally stayed the night. Back down the gravel paths I walk as the sun starts to rise in front of me, painting the now fairly cloudy sky red and orange.

It’s late morning by the time I make it back to my flat. I fall through the door and throw myself onto my bed face down, as Meatloaf and Burnie watch on in vague interest.

I decide to take a look at what’s been happening throughout the world of football. I’ve existed in a bubble for the last year. I’ve been so preoccupied with my managerial duties that I forgot that football is happening everywhere.

I pour myself a glass of water and sit down with the laptop to see how the season’s gone elsewhere in the world.

25.5.5.5 liganos

I start off by looking locally at the Liga Nos. Our one time Parent Club Benfica took the title, 6 points clear of Sporting and a staggering 17 points clear of a disappointing Porto side. Manager of the Year was FC Paços de Ferreira’s Vasco Seabra, who guided his side to 4th and a Europa League spot, 8 places above their predicted finish.

Sporting’s Bas Dost scored the most goals with 19, just ahead of Porto’s André Silva. Benfica’s defence drew a massive amount of admiration, as Álex Grimaldo and Lisandro López were rated the top 2 players in the league, while Ederson won the golden glove. Pizzi was also instrumental for them, racking up the most assists in the division. Arouca’s Nuno Valente got the 2nd most. Now there’s a name that sends a shiver down my spine.

25.5.5.5 prem

Back home in Blighty, obviously no eyebrows were raised whatsoever as Arsene Wenger’s side smashed their way to the title for the first time since their invincible 2003/2004 season. Arsenal finished on 91 points, 9 above José Mourinho’s Manchester United, winning Wenger the Manager of the Year award in the process. The big under performers had to be Michael Laudrup’s Southampton, who finished 18th on just 35 points.

25.5.5.5 champ

They’ll be playing Championship football next season, unlike Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle, Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Town and Steve Clarke’s Nottingham Forest, who are all promoted to the Premier League.

In the Premier League, United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the highest scorer, closely followed of course by West Ham’s Jonathan Calleri. Arsenal’s Mesut Özil and United’s Juan Mata both had very good seasons, with plenty of assists and player of the match awards between them. David de Gea won the Golden Glove.

25.5.5.5 laliga

Again, nothing to see here: La Liga was won fairly comfortably by who else but Diego Simeone’s Athletico Madrid! 6 points ahead of Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid and a further 5 points ahead of Luis Enrique’s Barcelona side. Simeone deservedly won the Manager of the Year award for his efforts.

Antoine Griezmann was the top scorer this year, just ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi and Neymar both had excellent seasons for Barca. Real’s Keylor Navas won the Golden Glove.

25.5.5.5 bundesliga

There really were no surprises in the Bundesliga as Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern Munich obliterated the rest of the division. They finished 16 points clear of Roger Schmidt’s Bayer Leverkusen, who were themselves more than comfortable: 11 points clear of Ralph Hasenhüttl’s Red Bull Leipzig in 3rd. Hasenhüttl still picked up the Manager of the Year award for reaching the Champions League.

The season was a disaster for Dieter Eilts’ Werder Bremen team but even more so for Bruno Labbadia’s Wolfsburg. Both sides fell well below expectations and will be playing Bundesliga 2 football next season.

Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Manuel Neuer took the plaudits for their efforts in Bayern’s defence, but it was Bayer’s Kevin Volland and Leipzig’s Yussuf Poulsen who impressed at the other end of the pitch, scoring 24 and 20 goals respectively. Hamburg’s Lewis Holtby and Freiburg’s Vincenzo Grifo racked up the most assists.

25.5.5.5 seriea

The title race was surprisingly close in Italy, but Massimilliano Allegri and his Juventus side eventually took the title on 81 points, breaking Inter hearts as they were only 3 points behind. Their striker, Mauro Icardi, was the league’s top scorer, with his Milan rival Carlos Bacca coming in 2nd. The golden glove went to Gianluigi Buffon but just like in the league, Inter’s Handanovic made it a close race. Leonardo Bonucci and Paulo Dybala also had excellent seasons for Juve, while Dries Mertens and surprisingly Ledian Memushaj of relegated Pescara were the top assisters. Sampdoria’s Marco Giampaolo won the Manager of the Year award for performing above expectations, although they narrowly missed out on a European spot.

25.5.5.5 ligue1

Monaco managed to overthrow Paris Saint-Germain, who are known globally as “The Celtic of Ligue 1” to top the charts in France. Radamel Falcao’s return to the club played a huge part in Monaco’s league triumph, as he racked up 22 goals, 2 more than his rival Edinson Cavani. Thiago Silva and Bernardo Silva were the standout players this year, while Bernardo was also by far the top assister ahead of William Vainqueur of Marseille. Benoît Costil had a magnificent season for Stade Rennais and kept the most clean sheets in the league, but he lost the golden glove award to Danijel Subasic. Leonardo Jardim of Monaco won the Manager of the Year award for ending PSG’s stranglehold on the division.

What a strange year. All of that just goes to show it doesn’t really matter who the team is, anything can happen. With the right or wrong Manager, Players and System, Arsenal can win matches after February, Forest can win promotion, Southampton and Wolfsburg can go down, Atleti and Monaco can win titles that usually have “Reserved” labels on them…

I hope that at some point I can achieve that level of unexpected success with an underdog. But there’s also a pretty good chance that I’ll relegate a good team. What an exciting and terrifying thought.

Episode 26 >
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Monte Brasil (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Mini-sode 25.5.5)

I’ve not been able to appreciate this place since I got here and I think that it’s about time I start.

Start from the start with episode 1

< Meta-sode 25.5

Do you know what I realised after our match against Caldas?

Here I am in the picturesque City of Hero Creek on beautiful Volcano Island and I’ve done nothing but scheme and worry and stress and glare at Roger for the last 4 months. And before that? Before that I was freezing to death, watching my dreams shatter before my very eyes in Southern Sweden.

I deserve a rest.

There is no training now. There are no matches in the foreseeable future. I have some players in mind that I’d quite like to add to the squad but I’ve got time to relax for a bit before I dive into all that.

The good thing about living in Hero Creek is that I’ve already essentially arrived at my holiday destination. I’ve not been able to appreciate this place since I got here and I think that it’s about time I start.

I take a look online at potentially interesting things to do around the city. The Festas Sanjoaninas look interesting and they’re happening on my doorstep: Parades, eating, drinking, bull fighting… I’m not a big fan of bull fighting… They don’t start until the end of June anyway and I’ll be busy by then.

In the end I decide to visit Monte Brasil, a peninsula just south of Hero Creek formed by several eruptions worth of dried lava from THE Volcano Island volcano, The Guilherme Moniz Volcano. You’re supposed to be able to get a great view of Angra do Heroismo from on top of a hill called Pico das Cruzinhas.

I don’t don my trusty grey coat, because if I truly wanted to roast I’d wrap myself in tin foil, and that comes with several negative connotations. Instead I opt for a full SC Angrense home kit that I received free of charge from Miguel Borba when I arrived at the club, I put on my sun cream and sunglasses, and complete the look with a pair of red and white sandals, because I’m an Englishman.

Meatloaf and Burnie both look curiously up at me as I pack my rucksack full of refrigerated bottles of tap water. I reach down and give them each a scratch behind the ear. I consider for a moment bringing them with me, but I think they’re all set. They’ve got everything they need right here for their endless schedule of eating and sleeping and nothing else.

I set off walking down an Asphalt path towards Fortaleza de São João Batista (St. John the Baptist’s Fortress). The sun is especially intense today and I’d broken a sweat by the time I’d walked to the end of my street, but I press on.

After an hour the dehydration is setting in. I thought I had come prepared, bringing all those bottles of tap water with me, but after an hour in my rucksack they’re all warm and unsatisfying. I’ve drunk one of the bottles already. I hope theres a corner shop on top of this pile of dried lava.

After 2 hours I’m staggering. I’ve only got half a bottle of water left. I’ve kept plodding on down asphalt and dirt paths but the sun, although it’s beginning to sink down behind the horizon, is still draining. I meet a large dog, a golden retriever, and for a couple of minutes I forget the heat and smile as he trots happily alongside me, spurring me on, before he barks and runs back the way we came, out of view. My smile fades. I’m alone again.

And then, not half an hour later, I arrive on top of Pico das Cruzinhas. It’s considerably less light than it was when I set off but it’s still incredibly hot and humid. I feel dizzy. Sweat is pouring down my face. But I’ve arrived at the viewpoint.

I set down my rucksack, full of empty water bottles, sit down on the patchy grass and look out over the city. Over my city. The view really is stunning. I can see the docks, the rows of little white stone buildings, Estádio Municipal de Angra do Heroismo… I can see everything. I can see the entire city bathed in the red and orange glow of the setting sun. And it’s all spinning. I feel sick.

“You look a little burnt there” says a loud, booming voice from somewhere above me. I almost jump out of my skin. I look upwards and the light seems to seep away all at once. The only things I see are clouds.

I look down again, wiping the sweat from my brow. I must have imagined the voice. It must be the heat. “Must it?” Booms the voice again. This time my eyes dart straight upwards, looking for the source of the voice. Again, all I see is clouds… but they look different to before… different shapes, different colours… and then the clouds start to shift. They start to move and interlock, break apart and come together again, before at last they take human form.

“Recognise me?” Rumbles the voice. The outline in the clouds is blurry, but definitely human. And then slowly, very very slowly, detailed features start to draw themselves across the figure’s face. I squint a little to make them out… Eyes, nose, mouth, and then a bleached blond goatee.

“Abel Xavier?” I ask, hearing the disappointment in my own voice. Xavier laughs a deep, thunderous laugh.

“It is I, Abel Xavier. I have come to guide you, Franjo.” He says theatrically. “I…” he pauses for dramatic effect, “…Am your spirit guide.”

“Oh.” I reply, making no attempt to hide my disappointment now.

“But what is wrong?” He asks, seeming slightly hurt.

“I don’t know. I get that if I’m going to have a hallucinatory Spirit Guide he may as well be Portuguese, but wasn’t Cristiano Ronaldo available?”

“No.” He snaps.

“Deco?”

“No!”

“Even Nani would do…”

“NO” He booms, quite frighteningly. Then he lowers his voice again to an overly-theatrical whisper. “I, Abel Xavier, am your spirit guide, and I have appeared because I need to tell…”

“But I don’t even like or respect you” I interject, in quite a whiny way. “You were shit at Everton and then you moved straight to Liverpool… And then you were shit for them, you’re the worst.”

“SILENCE!” He shouts. ” I NEED TO…”

“Sorry”, I interrupt again, very purposefully, “But I’ve wanted to get this out for 15 years and this is the first chance I’ve had.”

After a fairly long and uncomfortable silence Xavier composes himself and takes a deep breath. When he speaks, he’s whispering again. But his voice is shaking.

“Franjo, you must listen. I…”

“Are you related to Rikishi?” I ask loudly. Xavier sighs. “You’ve just always reminded me of the wrestler Rikishi, and vice versa. I think it’s your hair. Your dumb hair.”

“I don’t have to take this”, Mumbles the formation of clouds resembling Rikishi’s probable relative Abel Xavier, “I’m the Mozambique head coach now, you know. I’m only appearing to help you.”

“I think I’m probably further up the Managerial pecking order than you already then.” I say coolly.

The form of Abel Xavier swirls and breaks apart and after a second or so I’m just looking up at the clouds once more. I wonder what he needed to tell me. It can’t have been that important, he was only a figment of my imagination. And I’m pretty sure if it was an important message I would’ve imagined someone more impressive.

I sit there for a while, watching the street lights flicker into life around Hero Creek. It’s an impressive place, you know. A brilliant place. I lie back on the soft tufts of grass and close my eyes.

Mini-sode 25.5.5.5 >

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About Next Week (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Meta-sode 25.5)

I apologise but next week I will not be releasing daily episodes. Let me explain why…

Start from the start with episode 1

< Episode 25

Olá meus Amigos,

I apologise but next week (29/05/2017 – 02/06/2017) I will not be releasing daily episodes. Let me explain why…

5 weeks ago when I started to write about managing FC Höllviken, I had episodes ready about a week or more in advance. This meant that being the crazed perfectionist that I am, I had plenty of time to tweak and change episodes before I released them. For example, Mini-sode 10.5 was very nearly an incredibly shit mini-sode in which Alexander offered me a new contract and I refused… Roll credits. Luckily I had time to realise how awful it was and change it into something more fleshed out and satisfying.

In retrospect I should have taken a break after I left Höllviken, as the unemployment break, combined with learning about Os Heróis and choosing tactics, making transfers, picking a squad etc ended up taking a long, long time. Because of that I’m now writing most episodes about 1 or 2 days before I release them.

I want to get back out in front of the story like I was at Höllviken. I want to be able to tweak and change again to make this story the best it can be. We’ve now got a summer break, which is going to take a while, and I’d rather take a week off and come back with some bloody good episodes than keep up the routine and half-arse the start of next season.

Daily episodes will start again on the 5th of June, although I’ve already written a couple of mini-sodes that I’ll release on Tuesday and Thursday.

I’ve also been messing around a lot with the formula for these episodes lately, like having a couple of matches per episode, varying the amount of actual story that I write into episodes and things like that. If you have any sort of feedback about what you like, what you don’t, what your favorite episode has been, or anything, then let me know by email at franjofm23@gmail.com

By the way I’m still enjoying the hell out of writing this and I’d like to take this opportunity to say a massive and genuine thank you to everyone that’s been following the story so far.

Cheers, and have a bloody great week.

Franjo

Ps. VAMOS HERÓIS!

Mini-sode 25.5.5 >

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Year 1 Review (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Ep25)

Let’s just catch our breath and take a look back on how this year has gone.

Start from the start with episode 1

I’d advise any new readers NOT to read this episode as it contains major plot spoilers!

< Episode 24

What a year. That’s right, it’s only been a year. Well, less than a year, I started my journey at the end of July and it’s only May. It feels like it’s been a lot longer.

Let’s just catch our breath and take a look back on how this year has gone.

3 club

11/08/2016 – 22/10/2016

Club: FC Höllviken

Final Position: 13th

Record: W3 D0 L5

Key Player(s): Niklas “The” Hammer, “Big” Simon Henningsson, Joakim “Joakim” Nilsson Ingves

Highlight: Our Penalty Shootout cup win over Hammarby IF

Lowlight: Losing our crucial last match against Husqvarna FF, which lead to relegation and the termination of my contract

4 league

I was hired by Alexander Lundgren of FC Höllviken with the brief “Save us, Franjo”, and I failed. I had 8 matches to save a club that seemed doomed and I genuinely fancied my chances. We put together a squad that should have been good enough and I still believe that with that squad and a full season I would have laughed at the thought of relegation, but in our situation it just wasn’t enough.

Incidentally, Höllviken’s choice of Manager to replace me was Stefan Lundqvist, who somehow lead the club to prop up the 4th tier of Swedish Football by a distance. I was very sad to see that happen as I had hoped for more from the squad following our relegation. Höllviken duely sacked Lundqvist and are currently being lead by a caretaker manager: One Joakim Nilsson Ingves.

 

13 club

28/01/2017 – Present

Club: SC Angrense

Final Position: 2nd

Record: W8 D3 L3

Key Player(s): Gonçalo Valadão, Benjamim, Gonçalo “Hurley” Reyes, Jordanes Medeiros, Pedro “Kevin” Aguiar, Cristiano Magina

Highlight: Benjamim’s last second winner at Torreense in our 2nd match

Lowlight: The 0-0 draw against Vit Sernache

14 league

Following my Höllviken dismissal I was employed to steady the ship at SC Angrense, who had dismissed my predecessor for failing to guide the club into the Promotion Stage of the Portuguese Championship. We had a rocky first half of our relegation stage campaign as I found my feet but we’ve finished the season strongly, winning 5 times in the second half of the stage.

Angrense have actually been named as the biggest overachievers in the Taça de Portugal, with our win over FC Porto named as the Best Match, but I can’t really take any pride in that because it wasn’t my Angrense.

25 cup review

Team of the Season is pretty much as you’d expect: Jaime Seidi makes it into central midfield at the cost of Hurley, but to be fair he played a lot more for us over the season, especially under Eduardo. The departing Aurélio makes the cut, presumably by virtue of having played for the vast majority of the season. The rest I think speak for themselves.

25 team of the season

Cristiano Magina has been voted player of the season by a comfortable margin by the Angrense fans. It’s unsurprising as he has been consistently good, and towards the end of the season he’s absolutely caught fire.

Speaking of Magina, obviously he is SC Angrense’s top scorer and he has accumulated the most player of the match awards for us this season. He’s finished as the 2nd top scorer in the Portuguese Championship, racking up 21 goals in 30 appearances: just shy of Sousense’s Nenê Apeú and his 23 goals in 32 appearances, although in terms of minutes per goal Magina is top of the league.

25 goals

25 minutes per goal

The goal of the season award goes to Gonçalo Valadão for his free kick against Torreense in April, and young player of the season is the lesser spotted but undoubtably promising Rúben “Rúby” Miranda.

The other Miranda, Vitor, was rated our best player for the season. Apart from the attempted murder of Sadio Samba towards the end of the season he has been exactly what I expected: A solid, no nonsense, no trouble full back. The kind of player that the media and I will rarely mention because there’s no need to. He does his job and that’s that.

25 stats

Kevin racked up the most assists with, but in terms of overall contribution to the build up to our goals I’d say he’s been the most influential. As I’ve said before if we get a good chance in the area I’ll be shocked if he hasn’t played a part in creating it.

Rúby was our tidiest player, completing 83% of his passes and further reinforcing that he’s one to watch.

Jaime Seidi picked up 8 yellow cards, the most in the team, but in the role he plays I’m fine with that tally, and Vitor Miranda was the only player to pick up 2 red cards, the less said about that side of his game the better.

We’ve also had the highest percentage of headers won out of the 80 teams in the Division, which I am impressed by. One of the first things that I noticed upon arriving in Hero Creek was that the spine of our team is full of big, physically imposing players: the centre backs, Seidi in the holding role, Benjamim in the middle, Magina up front. So it makes sense, but I’m impressed nevertheless.

25 headers won ratio

Overall I am very very pleased. About my time with Angrense, not Höllviken. I inherited a better group of players than I expected and on the whole they’ve been brilliant. Certain players that I consider deadwood will be leaving very soon, and certain players will come in to bolster the squad. That is if I stay. But barring a noticeably bigger club coming in for me I think I will stay for a bit. I’m happy here and I think we could have a fair crack at reaching the promotion stage next Season. I’ll see you then.

Meta-sode 25.5 >

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