Optimism (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Ep53)

I’m worried. Very worried.

Start from the start with episode 1

< Mini-sode 52.5

Let me level with you. I’m worried. Very worried. There have been times this Summer when I’ve questioned my decision to join Katowice. Off the back of a hugely successful season with SC Angrense, maybe it would’ve been more sensible to take a job in the Slovenian or Czech 2nd tier. I could’ve taken over at one of the big hitting clubs in a division like that and maybe continued to build up my reputation with another promotion. Instead I took the biggest job I could find, and possibly the most difficult one too.

There’s every chance that this squad won’t cut the mustard in the Lotto Ekstraklasa and that I’ll be back on my arse in 6 months having been sacked, with GieKSa rooted to the foot of the table.

I’ll be back where I was 18 months ago, trying to convince anyone who’ll listen to take a punt on a Manager who’s effectively relegated 2 clubs.

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But enough of that. Optimism is the way forward now. We line up against Jagiellonia in our new look Project: Burnie MK II, a simple counter attacking 4-1-2-3 system. Vice-captain Nowak will start in goal, with Scheffel, Hutton, Olivier and Garbacik in front of him. I’m giving Rodrigo Silva a chance in front of the defence too. It’s a risk, but his potential is excellent and I want to see if he’s ready. Bart and Hurley are our midfield partnership, Mandrysz will take the right wing while Kevin cuts in from the left, and Captain Goncerz leads the line.

53 1 formations.png

We start on the front foot, and Goncerz shows a glimpse that he can fashion chances, holding the ball up well and playing it through for Hurley, whose shot is straight at Stachowiak, the Jagiellonia keeper.

The rest of the half is quiet but we start the second 45 promisingly too. Mandrysz plays a long ball over the Jagiellonia defence almost straight from kick off and Goncerz latches onto it, but he drags his shot wide of the far post.

Less than 10 minutes later, the deadlock is found. And not in the way that I’d hoped. Khomchenovskyi squares the ball from the left side of our penalty box and Jelic drills it past Nowak from close range.

5 minutes later, Khomchenovskyi’s corner is headed back to him and he crosses it in again. Cernych rises and heads the ball against the bar. I keep a poker face but this is a nightmare. The little momentum we’d built up from the chances we’d made has evaporated with the opening goal. We’ve gone all wobbly while Jagiellonia are growing in confidence.

2 minutes later, another Khomchenovskyi corner comes back to him and he crosses the ball back in to the far post. Gabacik swipes at the ball but can only clear it as far as Frankowski a few feet away, who puts it past Nowak for 2-0.

I tell the boys to attack and to play in a more structured way, but we’re getting battered. Less than 5 minutes after the second goal, Frankowski plays the ball in to Jelic in the area and luckily for us, he skies it.

I decide to just go for it. I withdraw Silva. I feel quite bad that I started him today in such a big game, I shouldn’t have put so much pressure on him. We go 4-2-3-1 and I bring on Machalski, an attacking midfielder, in Silva’s place.

53 machalski.png

A couple of minutes later though, Jagiellonia’s Scottish full back Ziggy Gordon swings a cross in from the right and Jelic volleys in his second. The match ends 0-3.

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Huh. I don’t want to sound like an arse hole, but I’d sort of forgotten what this felt like. To be beaten so soundly. To be torn apart by a far superior team. If I had to guess, I’d say the last time this happened to me was the first time Angrense played Caldas. 

It doesn’t feel good. I was worried before the match and I’m worried now. We offered up very little in terms of attacking threat or defensive solidity and in all honesty, Jagiellonia should’ve beaten us by 4 or 5. Our counter attacking was minimal. Our creativity was non-existant. We need to improve massively if we’re to survive this year. Or come to think of it, if I’m to survive past Christmas.

So the road to survival with GKS Katowice is indeed going to be long and gruelling. We’ve gotten off to the worst possible start and we’re already down at the foot of the table. Let’s hope we don’t stay there for too long.

53 league.png

Episode 54 >

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2018 World Cup – Russia (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Mini-sode 52.5)

Let’s take a second to talk about the 2018 World Cup.

Start from the start with episode 1

< Episode 52

Let’s take a second to talk about the 2018 World Cup. I’d completely forgotten about it this Summer, what with everything else that’s been going on, but it seems like it’s been a pretty interesting tournament.

Italy were the biggest side not to even qualify after finishing 2nd in Group 7 of the European Qualifiers and getting knocked out of their play-off match by the Netherlands. The tie finished 4-3 on aggregate after the Netherlands turned it around with an impressive 3-0 win in the second leg.

52.5 1 italy playoff

England were the only side to qualify from the UK & Ireland, and promptly finished bottom of Group A below the Ivory Coast, Australia and host nation Russia, whose home advantage didn’t save them when Australia, who had an identical record to them in the group, were automatically chosen to proceed to the knockout stages at Russia’s expense.

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There were some surprise faces in the Group Stage too. Uzbekistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Qatar all made it to Russia, but were all sent packing before the knockout stages began.

52.5 3 WC groups152.5 3 WC groups2

Without any other major surprises in the Group stage, the second round got underway. The USA, Spain, France (After extra time) and Portugal all progressed at the expense of Australia, Austria, Switzerland and our new resident nation Poland, while the 2 biggest South American nations, Brazil and Argentina, both went out against the Netherlands and Belgium respectively. Uruguay went one better than their neighbours, beating the Ivory Coast to progress to the quarter finals, but Belgium knocked them out too. Elsewhere in the quarters, Germany beat the Dutch, Spain knocked out the USA and France took a second extra time win in as many games against Portugal.

Germany got themselves past Belgium and France beat Spain to set up a tense final in Moscow, which France won on penalties despite Dimitri Payet’s 92nd minute red card.

52.5 4 stages

So yeah, France are World Champions for the first time in 20 years. Man United’s Paul Pogba, who scored the champions’ only goal in the final, also won the competition’s Best Player award. Real Madrid’s 2017 £87M signing Eden Hazard and Chelsea’s N’Golo Kanté came 2nd and 3rd respectively.

52.5 5 best player.png

The Best Young Player award went to Portugal’s and PSG’s Gonçalo Guedes, an extremely talented young man who scored 3 goals and set up another 3 in only 4 matches.

52.5 6 best young player.png

Thibaut Courtois won the Best Goalkeeper award despite his Belgium side conceding 11 goals in 7 games in a style that’s being described globally as “Classic Martinez”.

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And Edinson Cavani won the Golden Boot with 4 goals, but ahead of Paul Pogba by virtue of playing fewer matches. Guedes was in 3rd place.

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The Dream Team doesn’t hold many surprises given everything that I’ve just told you, apart from the fact that Guedes is only named on the bench. But then, he had some serious competition. 6 of the 8 defence and midfield spots are made up of French players: Djibril Sidibé, Samuel Umtiti, Laurent Koscielny, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté and Antoine Griezmann. Raphaël Guerreiro of Portugal and Dortmund takes the other spot in defence, while Eden Hazard is the other man named in midfield. Courtois is in net of course, and Cavani is picked up front with his chompy compatriot Luis Suárez.

52.5 9 team.png

So that’s the 2018 World Cup then. Vive la France. I very, very nearly forgot to tell you about it but that’s just what happens when you spend half your Summer on the phone to your bastard of an ex-Chairman, and the other half getting peer-pressured into drinking pints of draft Wodka in the pub below your flat.

Episode 53 >

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Pre Season 2018/19 (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Ep52)

I want to bring in my Heróis.

Start from the start with Episode 1

< Mini-sode 51.5

Do you remember Stefan Andersson? I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. Stefan was a Swedish youth player that I signed for FC Höllviken. He played pretty well at centre back considering his age (16 at the time) and I subsequently moved to make him my first signing at SC Angrense. Sadly, he never managed to break into the first team there, putting in fairly solid performances for the U19’s but not really making a case for a call up to the senior squad. He was released by Os Heróis this summer and snapped up by Sporting Ideal, a PT Championship side.

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 18.46.41.png

Anyway, I mention Stefan because he was the only player that I managed to bring with me from Sweden to Portugal. He was the only one that wanted to step up with me and take on a fresh challenge. This time I intend to do better. I want to bring the players I know and trust along for the ride. I want to bring in my Heróis.

30/6/2018

I get the ball rolling just a couple of days after my arrival, moving quickly to bring in Angrense youth squad’s best player, Rodrigo Silva. Considering the money I now have at my disposal, the holding midfielder is a snip at £2.5k and becomes my first Katowice signing.

52 6:30 silva joins

52 6:30 silva

1/7/2018

The next day I’m on the phone to Borba again. Never one to hold out for a good fee for any of his players, he snaps my hand off when I put £18k on the table for Hurley. This deal won’t be tied up so quickly though: Hurley will take a few days to decide whether he wants to leave his home nation for the first time.

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 18.53.01.png

2/7/2018

I’m not really a patient man though, so while my main transfer target has a think, I wrap up a deal for Délcio Azevedo. He’d been released by Angrense and although Nowak will be my first choice Goalkeeper, Azevedo provides a solid and trusted alternative.

52 7:2 azevedo signs

52 7:2 azevedo

3/7/2018

My first knockback comes the day after when my £16k bid for my former side’s promising striker Renato Silva is accepted, but the man himself tells me that he has no interest in relocating. I’m disappointed as we could do with a good young striker, but I wish him well all the same.

52 7:3 renato silva not joining.png

4/7/2018

Then comes the big one. I ring Borba once again and offer a whopping £75k for Cristiano Magina. And my old employer rejects it. You bastard, Miguel. You horse’s arse. The only explanation I can think of is that for some reason his balls had been in the drawer of the desk in my old office all this time, and whilst rummaging around for spare change and forgotten possessions that day, he’d stumbled across and reattached them. This isn’t over.

52 7:4 magina rejected

But it is for now while I focus on our first pre season friendly against Frydek-Mistek, a Czech second division side. My inherited star striker Grzegorz Goncerz goes all out to prove that we don’t need CM9 and has an insane match, scoring 4 goals including a penalty, missing another penalty and getting injured. Food for thought there at least.

52 7:4 frydek mystek post.png

6/7/2018

But anyway, if I’m gutting my beloved Angrense’s squad I may as well do it properly. An £18k bid for Kevin is lodged and accepted as we desperately need quality on the wings. Like Hurley, he’ll think about it. This isn’t going very well, is it.

52 7:6 kevin bid.png

7/7/2018

On the 7th comes our second pre-season friendly against Hungarian Division III side BKV Elöre. Goncerz sits the game out after his knock against Frydek-Mistek but we still come out with the win with goals from battling midfielder Mario Gregurina and 17 year old 6’4″ striker Mariusz Stryjek. Left winger Andreja Prokic shows some promise by providing the assists for both goals, before promptly getting injured for 2 months with shin splints.

52 7:7 bkv friendly post.png

52 7:7 striker

Oh, but who’s this waiting at our training facility when we return from Hungary? It’s free agent Olivier, recently released by Angrense and here to run lovingly back into my arms. We desperately need central defenders and I can’t think of anyone that I’d rather bring in to fill one of those roles.

52 7:7 olivier joins

52 7:7 olivier

8/7/2017

The day after the first friendly is a big day. 2 big blows land with the news that firstly, Cristiano Magina does not want to join Katowice following my improved £90k offer, but then Renato Silva gets his wish of staying in Portugal by joining Nacional da Madeira for a fee rising to just under £17k.

52 7:8 magina not joining

52 7:8 renato silva moves

I also get knocked back after a monumental £425k bid for Everton’s versatile and transfer listed forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin is accepted. I’m willing to offer a lot in an attempt to convince him to join us, but in the end he takes the biscuit. As glad as I would’ve been to bring in someone of his quality, versatility and potential, I’m not paying him 3 or 4 times as much as anyone else in the squad.

52 7:8 dcl talks break down

52 7:8 dcl

So you might be thinking that the 8th of July 2018 has been a bad day for us… But has it?

Gonçalo Reyes is in the building, ladies and gentlemen.

#WitamyHurley

52 7:8 hurley signs

52 7:8 hurley

9/7/2018

Another blow today. My £22k bid for the new Elano, Jeferson Paulista, is accepted but the Brazilian knocks me back, saying that he’s only been with Angrense for a few months and doesn’t want to move straight on.

52 7:9 paulista rejects.png

10/7/2018

Another friendly arrives and we take on another Czech second division side, Olomouc – Holice. Worryingly, it’s quite an even game, but Goncerz is back in the side to grab us a draw.

52 7:10 olomouc post.png

13/7/2018

DCL has moved, but not to us. Barnsley have picked up a fine player there, but in the end it’s probably a good thing I didn’t blow the whole budget on him isn’t it.

52 7:12 dcl to barnsley.png

Our fourth friendly pits us against Odra Opole, a Polish second division side, in our 4th consecutive away friendly match. This time, young secondary striker Michael Tarnowski gets the only goal and secures the win.

52 7:13 odra opole

52 7:13 tarnowski

14/7/2018

The good news is that Kevin has arrived! Perhaps swayed by Hurley, Olivier, Rodrigo and Délcio, perhaps not, but my God it’s good to have him. Our front line suddenly looks a lot, lot better.

52 7:14 kevin signs

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 19.22.56

The bad news is that Kevin’s arrival has prompted an uncomfortable line of questioning from our Chairman Wojciech Cygan, who hired me under a couple of assumptions: That I would save GieKSa from relegation, that I would keep our Director of Football, Dariusz Motala, in place, and that I would sign high profile players. So far I’ve only signed 5 players from a former Portuguese Championship side, so he’s not best pleased.

52 7:14 confidence obj

We need a ringer. We need a big name. A superstar that’ll sell shirts and set Polish tongues wagging. It’s safe to assume that we don’t have the pulling power or financial backing to attract a World Class name like Messi, Ronaldo or Neymar, so who’s on the next level down? The just-about-World-Class players like Aguero and Kane are out of reach too. So are the incredibly good players. And the really good players. And the fairly good players. And the pretty decent players.

Oh shit, who can we actually attract?

16/7/2018

If there’s one thing that I’ve always said about Alan Hutton, it’s that he’s a real class act. A hard working, no nonsense, old fashioned defender. And that’s what we really need isn’t it. In many ways, I think I’d turn down the opportunity to sign one of these up-their-own-arse mercenaries like Sissoko or Lukaku. I’d say: “No way Romelu, I need someone who’s willing to rip out his own heart and throw it in front of the ball to save us a goal if he needs to. I need a professional. A solid, dependable Glaswegian who’ll lead by example and kick seven bells out of far more skilful players in order to scrape us a point.”

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So yes, I’ve brought in the man known in some circles as “The Scottish Tony Hibbert”. And the good news is that the signing of a former Tottenham and Aston Villa stalwart has appeased Wojciech’s thirst for star power.

52 7:16 confidence obj

The bad news is that at 33 years old and at a price of £43k, Wojciech doesn’t seem to see value for money in the Hutton deal. There’s no pleasing some people is there?

52 7:16 confidence hutton

Our final friendly is the only one that I actually arranged and it’s going to be great. My first time overseeing a match in our home stadium, Stadion GKS Katowice, and we’re taking on David Moyes’ Premier League Sunderland side. Overall, I come away extremely pleased. In what turns out to be a very even match, Victor Anichebe opens the scoring on the hour, but Goncerz gets the decisive equaliser 7 minutes from time.

52 7:16 katowice 1 - 1 sunderland.png

17/7/2018

Fresh from what I am adamant is a massive success for the club, I lodge a loan bid with Bournemouth for Ben Whitfield, a skilful, nippy and versatile young winger that’s spent pre-season on trial with us and impressed.

52 7:17 whitfield bid

52 7:17 whitfield

19/7/2018

While we wait for Ben to decide whether he wants to join us, I go out and bring in another familiar face to our U18’s backroom staff. Maybe my decision is partly driven by sentiment, but a lifelong hero of mine, Leon Osman, has a great deal of potential as a youth coach so I bring him in.

52 7:19 osman signs

52 7:19 osman

21/7/2018

Ben Whitfield is flying to Poland! To join Zagłebie Sosnowiec, our local rivals. He’ll regret that when we come up against Zagłebie and Alan Hutton starts breaking ankles.

52 7:21 whitfield moves

Behind the scenes, I’ve also completely revamped Katowice’s backroom team from this:

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 20.23.55.png

To this:

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 19.30.53Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 19.31.06

I’m not done on the transfer front, although we’re almost out of funds. We’ve got our trusty backup Goalie, we’ve got both of our centre backs (If Hutton can hold his own there against Sunderland he should be fine in the Lotto Ekstraklasa), we’ve got Hurley, who can provide the passes while Bart does the midfield dirty work, and we’ve got Kevin in on the left wing. So we only really need another winger and a backup striker. I’m lining up a couple of loan signings to provide the finishing touches, but they’ll have to wait. It’s time to start our League Campaign, and we begin our Season against Jagiellonia, who qualified for the Europa League last Season.

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Here we go, GieKSa.

Mini-sode 52.5 >

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Lotto Ekstraklasa 101 (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Mini-sode 51.5)

Meet the teams that form our new League

Start from the start with episode 1

< Episode 51

You’ve met my new assistant. You’ve met our new club. You’ve met our new squad. Now meet the teams that form our new League, the Polish 1st tier, Lotto Ekstraklasa (LE).

51.5 1 brukbet

Bruk-Bet Termalica Nieciecza

From: Nieciecza

Ground: Nieciecza

Last Season: 14th in LE

Predicted: 11th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: N/A

51.5 2 cracovia.png

Cracovia

From: Krakow

Ground: Cracovia Stadium

Last Season: 5th in LE

Predicted: 7th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Wisła Kraków (Fierce, Local), Legia (Historic)

katowice.png

GKS Katowice (Us):

From: Katowice

Ground: Stadion GKS Katowice

Last Season: 2nd in First Division, Promoted

Predicted: 16th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Wisła Krakow, Legia, Zagłębie Sosnowiec (Local)

51.5 4 leczna.png

Górnik Łęczna

From: Lublin

Ground: Arena Lublin

Last Season: 9th in LE

Predicted: 10th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: N/A

51.5 5 zabrze.png

Górnik Zabrze

From: Zabrze

Ground: Ernesta Pohla

Last Season: 11th in LE

Predicted: 15th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Legia (Fierce), Piast

51.5 6 jagiellonia.png

Jagiellonia Białystok

From: Białystok

Ground: Białystok City Stadium

Last Season: 3rd in LE

Predicted: 4th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Legia (Historic)

51.5 7 kghm.png

KGHM Zagłębie Lubin

From: Lubin

Ground: Stadion Zagłebia

Last Season: 10th in LE

Predicted: 8th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: N/A

51.5 8 korona.png

Korona Kielce

From: Kielce

Ground: Kolporter Arena

Last Season: 13th in LE

Predicted: 13th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Wisła Kraków (Competitive), Legia (Historic)

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Lech Poznań

From: Poznań

Ground: Inea

Last Season: 2nd in LE

Predicted: 2nd

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Legia (Fierce, Historic), Pogoń (Historic), Lechia (Historic), Wisła Kraków (Historic)

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Lechia Gdańsk

From: Gdańsk

Ground: Energa Gdańsk

Last Season: 4th in LE

Predicted: 3rd

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: N/A

51.5 11 warszawa.png

Legia Warszawa

From: Warszawa

Ground: Józef Piłudski City Stadium

Last Season: 1st in LE

Predicted: 1st

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Lech (Historic), Wisła Kraków (Historic)

51.5 12 gliwice.png

Piast Gliwice

From: Gliwice

Ground: Stadion Piast

Last Season: 1st in First Division, Promoted

Predicted: 12th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Górnik Zabrze (Local), GKS Katowice (Local)

51.5 13 szczecin.png

Pogoń Szczecin

From: Szczecin

Ground: Floriana Krygiera

Last Season: 8th in LE

Predicted: 5th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Cracovia, Lech, Zagłębie Sosnowiec

51.5 14 krakow.png

Wisła Kraków

From: Krakow

Ground: Henryk Reyman City Stadium

Last Season: 6th in LE

Predicted: 6th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Cracovia (Local), Legia (Competitive)

51.5 15 plock.png

Wisła Płock

From: Płock

Ground: Kazimierza Gorskiego

Last Season: 7th in LE

Predicted: 9th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Legia (Local)

51.5 16 zaglebie.png

Zagłębie Sosnowiec

From: Katowice

Ground: Stadion Ludowy

Last Season: 12th in LE

Predicted: 14th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Pogoń (Fierce), GKS Katowice (Fierce, Local), Górnik Zabrze (Fierce, Local), Cracovia (Fierce), Lech (Fierce), Wisła Kraków (Fierce), Piast (Fierce, Local)

51.5 0 league

The League rules are not all that different to what we’ve become used to in the PT Championship, although for the first time our squad is restricted to no more than 2 non-EU players in the starting lineup. That shouldn’t be a problem though as we don’t currently have any players from outside Europe.

Anyway, there are 16 teams in the Lotto Ekstraklasa who play each other twice, which is 30 matches. The top 8 teams qualify for the Championship Group and the bottom 8 go into the Relegation Group. Seem familiar?

In both the Championship and Relegation Groups, all teams start with all of their stats from the first Stage, like goal difference, goals scored, conceded etc. All teams also start with 50% of the points they’ve accrued. Apart from that it’s very simple: The bottom 2 teams in the Relegation Group are relegated, the top side in the Championship Group qualifies for the Champions League and the next 2 sides qualify for the Europa League.

So that’s all you need to know about the Lotto Ekstraklasa. It’s a big step up and avoiding relegation will be massive ask, but with the right additions anything can happen… Right?

Episode 52 >

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A New Challenge (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Ep51)

Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to GKS Katowice.

Start from the start with episode 1

< Mini-sode 50.5.5.5.5.5

It seems like an age since I left the Angrense training ground, and it feels good to tie up the laces on my boots and get my feet back on soft grass. Today, as I watch my new club’s first training session alongside my newly appointed assistant Dennis Lawrence, the excitement and optimism that comes with a new challenge is steadily building.

Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to GKS Katowice.

51 gksk51 gksk2

Górnicky Klub Sportowy (Miners Sporting Club) Katowice are a 54 year old club also known as GieKSa. We’re based unsurprisingly in Katowice, a city in the South West of Poland. We’ve not won a trophy since 2006, a record that would be nice to break, but the more pressing matter this season will be survival. After scraping promotion thanks to a goal difference 2 higher than 3rd place Wisła Puławy, we’re now comfortable favourites to drop straight back down.

52 0 competitions expectations

As I did when I arrived in Hero Creek, I’ve chosen a preliminary starting XI so that I can see what we have and where we need to improve. Here’s our team as it stands:

Goalkeeper – No. 82 – Sebastian Nowak

Sebastian is currently our best option in net, but it remains to be seen how long that perception lasts. He’s 36 years old and could decline pretty quickly. He might already be declining, I’m not too sure, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on him. Still, he’s 6’6″, solid, determined, and a good leader. He is predictably quite slow though.

51 1 nowak.png

Right Back – No. 2 – Tom Scheffel

Tom is seen by many as one of the best players in my new side. He’s German, he’s incredibly rounded and determined, difficult to get past at 6’2″ and he’s got plenty of time to develop at 23 years old. I have high hopes.

51 2 scheffel.png

Centre Back – No. 5 – Damian Garbacik

Damian is probably our best centre back currently, and that’s not so much a compliment on his ability as it is an inditement on our lack of natural centre backs. I intend to play him as he’s a very good player, but I’d rather play him as a defensive left full back. Anyway, he’s strong, good in the air, another sizeable defender at 6’1″, and another with plenty of development to do at just 22 years old.

51 3 garbacik.png

Centre Back – No. 3 – Dawid Abramowicz

As I said, we’re short on natural centre backs. Dawid looks like he will provide very solid cover at both full back positions. He’s in his prime at 27, another tall drink of water at 6’1″, and he’s a long throw specialist which is interesting. Oh yes, and he’s well rounded. Have I ever mentioned that I like that in a player?

51 4 abramowicz.png

Left Back – No. 12 – Stjepan Geng

Stjepan is most likely going to play second fiddle to Tom Scheffel at right back, but he’s another versatile player and can play at either full back spot or in the centre of midfield. He’s Croatian, a good age at 25, by far the shortest player I’ve mentioned so far at 5’9″, but mentally he’s pretty good. His decision making and leadership are particularly impressive.

51 5 geng.png

Central Midfield – No. 6 – Bartlomiej Kalinkowski

There is no doubt in my mind that Bartlomiej will be the beating heart of my Katowice side. He has absolutely everything that I look for in a central midfielder. He’s a great age at 23, a great height at 6’0″, extremely rounded and mentally excellent. In particular he’s a determined, hard working team player that reads the game well and positions himself brilliantly. My hopes are very high for this lad and I’m excited to work with him. To be perfectly honest though, I’m not exactly pumped at the prospect of writing the name Bartlomiej Kalinkowski over and over again, so say hello to Bart.

51 6 kalinkowski.png

Central Midfield – No. 13 – Mario Gregurina

In Mario, we have another Croatian player and another very well rounded midfielder. He’s got experience at 30 years old which will help with our fairly young team, he’s 5’11”, and another hard working and athletic team player. He’s maybe a little bit too similar to Bart though, so he may end up providing backup to him.

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Right Wing – No. 16 – Pawel Mandrysz

No offence to Pawel or either of the next 2 players, but this is where we come a bit unstuck. Pawel’s certainly versatile and young enough to improve, but I just don’t think he’s ready for this league. He’s shorter than a lot of the lads at 5’9″, which is fine for a winger, and what he lacks in technical skill he makes up for in his mental and and athletic prowess. He’s pretty aggressive, determined, hard working and quick, so he may still play a part.

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Attacking Midfield – No. 8 – Tomasz Foszmanczyk

Tomasz is a decent playmaker, and probably my current first choice for the number 10 position, but we also have a couple of promising young players who might push for his place. The thing that will work in Tomasz’s favour is his brilliant versatility. He’s able to play off either wing, behind the striker, in central midfield or even in front of the back 4, so I’ve no doubt he’ll get a fair bit of game time. He also has plenty of experience at 31, and is pretty short at 5’7″. Similarly to Bart, I don’t want to commit myself to writing his name too often, so I’ve taken the liberty of naming him Fossy.

51 9 foszmanczyk.png

Left Wing – No. 17 – Andreja Prokic

Prokic is another that I think may be a couple of levels behind the kind of quality we need. He’s a 5’10”, 29 year old Serbian and he could be a decent option on either wing. At least he’s built in the right mould: His determination, speed and stamina might be handy, as well as his flair.

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Striker – No. 7 – Grzegorz Goncerz

If we’re to make any kind of push for safety this season, Goncerz will be crucial. He’s very, very similar to Cristiano Magina. A pretty good age at 31, can take care of himself at 6’1″, and he’s extremely rounded with great all round mental attributes and good balance and finishing.

51 11 goncerz

So I think we’ll all be pretty much on the same page now. We need 2 new centre backs and 2 new wingers. We absolutely need them. A good back up Goalie would be nice too in case Nowak shows signs of being past it. We’re well stocked in terms of full backs and battling central midfielders but we could also do with a good backup striker. If I’m still rolling in cash after buying that lot, I may also go in for a better attacking mid, but as I say, we’ve got a couple of young players that could break through in that position. We have up to £1.1 Million to sort out our team, which compared to the sort of budget I’m used to makes us Multi-Billionaires.

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I think I’ve got some work to do.

Mini-sode 51.5 >

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2017/18 Fantasy Premier League (League Code 103559-27627)

Who To Choose (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Mini-sode 50.5.5.5.5.5)

I put the word out shortly after arriving in Poland that I would be looking for a new Assistant Manager

Start from the start with episode 1

< Mini-sode 50.5.5.5.5

I let out a sigh as I sit in my new, extremely plush GKS Katowice Manager’s office, in my new, extremely comfortable office chair. I need to think, and to think I need to move. I stand and pace across the room, glancing out of the window to see the sun setting behind the training pitch that my new office looks out upon.

After discovering that pacing isn’t really helping, I sit back down at my desk, interlocking my fingers in front of my mouth. I stare down at the 6 pieces of paper laid in front of me. Shortly after arriving in Poland, I put the word out that I would be looking for a new Assistant Manager, and 6 eager applicants have thrown their names into the ring. I have no idea which one to choose. And the really interesting thing, the thing that makes me realise what a drastic step up I’ve made in taking this job, is that I’ve heard of them. I’ve heard of all of them. And although I respected most of them as footballers, I remain unconvinced with their non-playing prospects.

Option number 1 is everybody’s favourite dreadlocked, goggle wearing Dutch maestro, Edgar Davids. Now, I had a great deal of respect for Edgar when he was playing, and I respected his decision to drop down the English ladder to try to start a Managerial career at Barnet, but… I heard things about Davids’ stint down there. Things like he wouldn’t attend matches that required him to spend the night in a hotel. Things like when he was Player-Manager, he (As a central midfielder) took the number 1 shirt in order to try and “Start a trend”. I need to find someone who’s 100% committed to being my second in command, and I need someone who doesn’t arse about. Davids is out.

50.5.5.5.5.5 davids

Could that someone be Peter Enckelman instead? A Finnish former reserve goalkeeper who most notably “played” for the likes of Aston Villa and Cardiff City? A solid pair of hands he may be, but I feel slightly uneasy about my right hand man having amassed only 150 appearances over a 20 year playing career. Where’s your ambition, Peter? No, I don’t think so.

50.5.5.5.5.5 enckelman

Next up we have Brede Hangeland, of Fulham fame. Now here’s a man who I’m fairly sure has the commitment, bravery, and brick-shithouseness required to run through walls for his employers. In another life I might’ve hired him, but I would like somebody with a little more experience than he currently has. Sorry Brede.

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Option number 4 is Emile Heskey.

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Number 5 is Paul Konchesky, the journeyman left back who represented some decent teams like Charlton and Leicester, but I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea of him either. I have no doubt that he’d try his best and if I was looking for a coach I might’ve given him a shot, but an assistant manager? I don’t see it.

50.5.5.5.5.5 konchesky.png

Finally, option number 6 is John Arne Riise. Another left back, and another former Fulham player. If I wanted to hire someone to play on my behalf in some sort of free-kick-off, then absolutely I’d hire him. The man had one of the most vicious left foots that I’ve ever seen. But an assistant manager? Again, he doesn’t really have any experience to speak of and I’d like someone more qualified. It’s a no for Riise.

50.5.5.5.5.5 riise.png

So, I think as I place the final application on the “No” pile, Out of 6 candidates, I… I don’t really want any of them. Where does that leave me? It leaves me grabbing the application forms and heading down to Radzinski’s for a drink.

As I walk through the door into my new and extremely local watering hole, I see something unexpected. I see another Patron at the bar, nursing a beer. I knew that bastard Radzinski had beer. Beer man turns towards the sound of the creaking door and sees me, and I see him. And I recognise him. I’m not sure why, but I definitely recognise him.

As I sit at the bar, Radzinski appears behind it, and after a bit of an argument he begrudgingly pours me a beer. I start talking to beer man, only to find out that he’s Dennis Lawrence, former Swansea player and Wigan and Everton Coach. He most recently had a poor spell as Trinidad and Tobago Manager. He’s been in the country for an interview and has wound up drowning his sorrows right below my new flat. That’s got to be a sign, right?

“Look”, I begin, as I sway slightly on my stool, “I need an assistant. Come work for me. I need someone with your experience.” Dennis delightedly accepts and I hire him on the spot. And I wasn’t lying, he really does tick all the boxes for me: He’s a good coach, he has experience in good quality leagues, albeit under a poor quality manager, and he has international experience as both a player and Manager. In short, he has everything that I’m missing. Plus he doesn’t have that unsettling “Wildcard” characteristic that Davids and Riise do.

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 21.08.45

I ceremoniously burn the 6 application forms right there on the bar, prompting Radzinski’s lip to curl with disdain once again, but it’s not like this place can get any more beaten up, is it? Mind you, these sudden acts of reckless spontaneity could just be the effect that 2 pints of Polish beer has on normal unsuspecting lightweights like me.

Either way, with my number 2 in position, I think I’m ready to meet my squad.

Episode 51 >

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2017/18 Fantasy Premier League (League Code 103559-27627)

No. 1, Radzinski’s (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Mini-sode 50.5.5.5.5)

The place is dark, dingy and deserted.

Start from the start with episode 1

< Mini-sode 50.5.5.5

Night has fallen by the time my plane touches down. Thick droplets of rain hammer against the window as I attempt to make out the outside world. I can see bright lights of some kind, but they’re distorted through a wall of water. I walk out of the arrivals gate at Katowice International Airport to see a line of individuals holding signs that bare names, just like in the films. I scan across them: “Dean” … “Campbell” … “Mendes” … “Franjo”. Ah, here we are.

Upon spotting my greeter, my first impression is that he’s quite a scrawny man. Short, thin and he looks like a good gust of wind would knock him clean over. His face though heavily resembles some kind of cartoon rodent, maybe a Biker Mouse from Mars. His features are pointed and sharp, except for his ears that are large, round and protruding. One of them has 3 hooped ear rings clinging to his ample lobe. But his most distinguishing feature is a messy black goatee, flecked with strands of pure white.

As he watches me approach, his eyes narrow and his lip curls with disdain, as if I’m strutting all over his new carpet in wellies that I use exclusively to kick around animal faecal matter.

“Cześć!” I announce enthusiastically as I get nearer to the sign man. Cześć, as I understand, is ‘Hello’ in Polish. Never accuse me of being unadaptable. Although it is currently the only word that I’ve learned. Without uttering any sort of reply, sign man turns and shuffles away, dropping his sign on the floor. I quicken my step slightly to make up the ground between us, picking up the sign as I go.

We exit the airport and climb into a small black car. I squeeze into the passenger seat while sign man gets behind the wheel. He turns the key in the ignition, and with a cough and a splutter from the engine, we shudder out of the parking bay and out of the airport car park.

A good half an hour of uncomfortable silence later, we pull up outside a cosy looking hotel on a quiet road. This is the hotel in which I’ve arranged to stay and it looks very nice indeed. The only part of it that I don’t like is the sign on the door, that google translate tells me reads “Closed For Refurbishment”. Not ideal, is it.

I get back into the car and ask sign man to take me to a bar where I can take out my frustration and fatigue on some Polish beer, while I find another place to stay.

We pull up a short while later outside a small, grubby pub, with a large battered sign over the door that reads “Radzinski’s”. I step out of sign man’s car, and as soon as the door closes, the car’s engine starts up and sign man drives away around the corner, leaving me quite alone.

I make my way inside Radzinski’s to find that I am still very much alone. There are no rowdy patrons. There is no bartender endlessly rubbing a glass with a cloth for no reason. The place is dark, dingy and deserted. Is every building in this City closed for fucking refurbishment or something?

But seeing as I am still alone in a new city with nowhere to go, I take a seat on one of the barstools. I then turn around to have a proper look at the rest of the establishment. There’s a pool table in the corner that looks like it’s had a pint or two spilled on it at some point. Lining the wall are several booths that presumably provided quite comfortable seating at some point, but now the tables are scratched up and the seats are ripped and stained. Against the far wall is a dart board, and I can tell that it’s been there for a while. The black sections have faded massively, while the white sections have collected decades worth of dirt and grime, meaning that the once clear alternating pattern is now just a big greyish circular mass. The red and green bits have been similarly affected, and now form solid purpley-brown bands across across the aged board.

I sigh as I turn back around, and nearly leap out of my skin when I notice sign man standing behind the bar, rubbing a glass with a cloth for seemingly no reason, and staring straight at me.

I chuckle at how easily I startled, and exclaim “Christ, you scared me half to death!”. Sign man continues to stare at me without a trace of amusement as he rubs the glass. His lip curls with disdain again. “You work here, do you?” I ask airily.

Sign man immediately reaches for one of the pumps and pours out a pint under the bar. He then plonks the glass onto the bar and pushes it towards me, but with my keen perceptive eye I realise that the contents of the pint glass don’t really resemble beer at all. The liquid inside is clear and colourless, and smells like it could quite easily strip the paint from a car. I hold out a hand to refuse the drink. “No, no. Could I have a beer please mate?” I ask politely.

Sign man nods and continues to try to force the glass towards me. “Wodka.” He utters. I keep my hand out on the bar, pushing back against the glass of ‘wodka’.

“No, no. Could you pour me a… Wait do you keep your vodka in kegs?”

“Wodka!” He growls, somewhat more aggresively. His thick eye brows curl down into a frown as he continues to push.

I grasp the glass begrudgingly and hold it up to my mouth. I can feel the hairs in my nostrils burning away from the scent of the stuff.

“No beer?” I plead. Sign man shakes his head adamantly. “Just… Pints of draft… Wodka?” He nods solemnly.

He watches me curiously and silently as I nurse my bizarre and potentially lethal beverage. And you’re bloody right I nurse it, I don’t drink this stuff with mixers, let alone straight out of a pint glass. And from a keg, no less. Welcome to Poland I suppose.

I have no idea how I’m still upright by time I finish my drink. To be honest I have no idea why I felt obliged to drink it in the first place. As I eventually put the empty glass down on the bar, sign man twists his thin lips into a smile of sorts and holds out a hand. “Radzinski” he mumbles. With a small pang of embarrassment that I hadn’t already figured this information out for myself, I take his hand and shake it, which as it turns out requires a surprising amount of effort and concentration.

“You can stay up there”. He nods towards a staircase visible through the door behind the bar.

“I can? There’s a flat up there?” I ask hopefully. Radzinski nods. I’m taken aback by the sudden offer, and I can’t help but feel like I’ve just been weirdly initiated into something, but I immediately accept. “We do papers tomorrow” he says as he hands me the keys.

“And you speak English?” I enquire cautiously. Radzinski nods once more.

“I am very proud.” He mumbles. “But, it isn’t rocket surgery.” I don’t really have a response to that, so I just smile and nod.

I get up and walk through the door that he gestured towards, leaving Radzinski stood behind the bar, still rubbing the same glass with his cloth, and make my way up the creaky staircase. Before I reach the top, I see the room that is to Become my new lodgings. Placed in the middle of the wood is a faded brass number “1”. But just as my foot hits the landing, a strange thought comes to mind and I start to walk back down. “Wait, do you not work for GKS Katowice? If you just own this place, why was it you that picked me up from the…”

As I reach the bottom of the stairs and step back through the door to the bar, Radzinski is nowhere to be seen.

Mini-sode 50.5.5.5.5.5 >

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2017/18 Fantasy Premier League (League Code 103559-27627)