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Time for another crack at this.

Just wanted to comment and say how much I am enjoying your story. Wretched end to last season but I can see you kicking on to be a serious title challenger next time round!

Would I be right in saying that if you win the league you will unlock Macedonia, Latvia and Georgia?
Keep it up DNZY!
Eredivisie lover since 1996. Susie discord mod.
@Dan - What are you on about? I haven't lost a game yet!

@Revans - Very nice to hear that, thanks for the support! I have already unlocked Latvia and Macedonia but Georgia will be the next nation up once I win a top division or domestic cup in the nations that I've not yet conquered.

@Dmeister - Cheers bud, finally seeing you active on the forums for a change.






Continuing our unbeaten form with victory over Hajvalia. A game that threw punches but nothing was landing, except for two which really looked soft. The Hajvalia keeper guarded his near post very poorly where both goals circulated from; Ercegovac in the first half with a deft header while Nikola Mitrovic somehow struck from a tight angle to leave him as red as Hajvalia's kit.



Solid display against another opposition below us in Drenica. Julian Agolli sprung up from the back to beat the keeper to an aerial ball deep into first half stoppage time which proved to be the winner. How Agron Krasniqi didn't double our lead, I will never know - Ercegovac placing a perfect centred ball for a two yard tap in...ends up hitting the post. The red card for Memaj confirmed the three points.



Against the odds we outmuscle Trepça with ten players. The home side really bottled this, we looked rather shaky for a change and handed them a penalty on the half hour which Braha got his mitts to to maintain integrity as the game went on. When Agron Krasniqi got his marching orders, we feared the worst - except one man up top. Ercegovac becoming the go-to guy for goals, especially with his trait of shooting with power - winning the game with power to ping one home via deflection in the final quarter.


Kosovo agreeing with the DNZY blueprint it seems.




BULLSH*T DID WE LOSE THIS! Totally dominated 2 Korriku, so why does the scoreline not agree you might be asking? I'll tell you why - Gentian Braha. Two brainfart goalkeeping errors led us to this point, although at least he made an effort to keep out the first goal, flapping to keep the first effort out but with useless, lazy defending on the follow up - Kapllani said thank you very much. It hurt how many times we came close; Ercegovac the unluckiest man on the field to hit the inside of the post and watch the ball roll on the line before 2 Korriku cleared their lines. The Croat had numerous efforts but finally equalised with another powerful effort. With us on the front foot we should have turn the game on it's head...WRONG...Braha's positioning was dire from a long throw and Dejan Ciglar couldn't miss to condemn me to my first Ferizaj defeat. Totally unjustified.


I mean at least he's honest about the situation.



Recovering from the misdirected bruising by holding the league leaders at their own park. Flamurtari much the stronger of the two, hitting the post in the second half and threw away a peach towards the end, heading over from inside the six yard area to give us a mighty scare. Ercegovac came closest for our boys, failing to compose himself during a one on one breakaway and only hitting it straight at the man between the sticks.




Damn, there goes my chances of silverware for another year. Ferronikeli's only shot on target decisive to the result, Djordje Djuricic booting home in the 83rd minute of what was an unbearable ninety minutes of quote unquote "action".


Great. More things to worry about.



A strong start to the month thwarted by a bitter ending, the 2 Korriku travesty really denting our confidence within. I mean without Ivan Ercegovac accumulating consistent performances up top with a few goals to boost, this could have ended a lot worse.



I hate to break this to the diehard CJL fans...I don't think we'll be winning the league this season. In fact 7th place might even be the ceiling for this season.

Three cynical victories and then that unfortunate defeat saddened us! It is a pity to leave the cup but now it's almost time to focus on the new season... Go Ferizaj!
Fino alla fine




Prishtina let off the hook big time. The Ferizaj boys came out of the blocks strong and immediately harassed their penalty area, how Kastrati headed onto the post from 2 yards out I'll never know. Ercegovac continued to be the live-wire, firing a free kick onto the crossbar and spurning a glorious late chance to leave the game deadlocked. Our finishing so needs improvement.



Sparked a much needed second half comeback to spare blushes against struggling Gjilani. Despite taking control of the opening half, a well hit first time effort from an inswinging cross from Sokol Dosti had us laying on our backs. One real issue we have is hitting the target; 5 from 19 shots is very poor, but thankfully two bulged the net. Ercegovac knows how to put power behind his shots, firing an unstoppable hit to restore parity. Debatable penalty followed three minutes later, not that Besnik Lekaj or myself will mind. Might put some balance on our recent wobbles.



Nope. Unflattering scoreline against our arch rivals. The 3-0 makes it look worse than it did, we actually played adequately - Trepça'89 on the other hand played far better. Horrendous defending gifted the visitors an advantage, explaining it would cause me to drop a few IQ points. Lekaj so nearly shed light on a dark and depressing home performance but denied by the inside of the post with three minutes left. Not one, but two injury time completely sucked the life out of us - Hasa and Xhafa putting the nails in the casket.



Didn't redeem revenge on Ferronikeli following our cup exit to them, but at least we left them vexed in a hard fought draw. I say hard fought, this was a dreadful game with only one key highlight. Gentian Braha dived low to claw out a cheeky close range effort off the line. Is playing on the defensive the only option now?



We just can't catch a break. Veli Berisha terrorised us all evening and scored twice via crosses, on the brink of a hat-trick too as our performance bordered on an omnishambles. Thank the Lord we have a striker who can hit balls harder than a prime Mike Tyson, Ercegovac delivering his 11th goal of the season. Unfortunately it was in vain, despite late pressure we couldn't squeeze another out of him to level it up. Sinking closer to a potential trapdoor.



Three defeats in four, what the F is going on?! Crosses are just kryptonite for us, simply can't defend from them - guess what kind of assist provided Suti's early goal? Addressing the issue again, we can't hit a barn door nowadays. 19 shots, this time only 3 on target - not one of them close enough to cause Liria any problems. The Arpagjik't fortified themselves superbly and deserved this win. Time to rethink our strategies.



April was a miserable pile of rat droppings. One win in nine games now, and even that was against a side destined for the drop. If it weren't for Ercegovac, we'd be long gone by now and even he is inconsistent at times. It's not as if we're not creative, our finishing is just woeful.



Getting a little precarious now; although we've a game in hand over a few teams, a defeat could plunk us into the relegation playoffs. What makes things worse, here are our next four opponents: Hajvalia (H), Drenica (A), Trepça (H), 2 Korriku (A). Based on our form, they'll relish facing us in four massive six pointers. *gulp*

@Dan - Stop that now, we're doing just fine.






That's more like it! A far more ebullient display ensured a comfortable win at last. Rocked Hajvalia's world in the first half with an early burst of pace down the right channel as Mitrovic squared it onto the head of Ercegovac for 1-0. The chances flowed in; twice denied by the woodwork and Endri Krasniqi denied by the keeper. Mitrovic made runs of a stallion all afternoon and set up another cross which the keeper flimsily punched to the path of Lekaj to make it two. A darting run from Camaj earned his first of the season and putting it out of sight. Amazingly Hajvalia had a rush of blood with four clear cut chances in the final 20 minutes, but Braha stood firm to claim a well deserved clean sheet.



OH PISS OFF NIKOLA! One masterclass performance and he thinks he's Messi, do me a favour.



I don't know whether to laugh, cry or throw my laptop out the window. Defensively absent at both ends, we somehow fought from 3-0 and 4-1 down to remarkably nudge into a 5-4 lead before more defensive calamity ended the game all square in a heart stopping five-a-piece. But don't take my word for it, the highlights package will show how events unfolded. Some absolute corkers from Ercegovac and Lekaj in the mixture and some absolute 'You've Been Framed' style highlights. Yep, the game had it all.




Just when I thought everything was turning up roses again, Trepça urinated all over our garden. I'm livid with Denis Mehmeti in particular who was absolutely shocking with a 5.3 rating after his shambolic positioning and lack of concentration led in a cross to the scorer Christopher Olsson, needless to say he got smacked with a fine post match. It wouldn't have mattered either way, one shot on target all game and didn't even look close to open our account. A defence splitting pass caught us out again to hand Olsson his second and putting a cease to this ugly performance.



The curtain closer brought nervous tension after a commanding first half. Cruised into the dressing room with three goals under our belt; Ercegovac on fire assisting for Josko Grcic before rolling in two of his own in a 10 minute spell. Could and should have been out of sight but back came 2 Korriku with lifelines, two long range efforts from sub Esad Naziri had us quaking in our boots during the final quarter. Despite the teetering and tottering, a well earned win to shut the book on a rather forgettable season.



An improvement yes, but seriously our rearguard needs hours of fine-tuning. Nine goals conceded in four games is appalling, blemishing the stat of scoring eleven. Ercegovac really is somebody to lock down, Mitrovic too - though Mitrovic talking to me face to face is a challenge within itself.





Finished with our heads well above water, six points in fact as we broke forty points. Trepça '89 stole the league crown from under Flamurtari in last day drama, while at the other end Gjilani and Hajvalia departed to the second tier. The sides in 9th and 10th stayed up by virtue of winning their playoffs matches. Lots and lots of work required to bounce back strongly next season....if I'm even staying at this club next season.

OMG what a game against Drenica! Heartbreaking!
The next season, with some good transfers, will be our season. C'mon!
Fino alla fine
@Dan - You should know me by now.

@bcsaulJ - I'll be planning some big moves if given enough funds for the next year, otherwise I'm outta here!




The Croatian saviour Ivan Ercegovac is definitely indispensable to our fans, winning just under half the vote of fans' player of the season ahead of Grcic and Mitrovic (who'll struggle to remain here). Should he go, he'll leave with a fine memento - blasting home goal of the season against Hajvalia at the beginning of March. Gobeljic sealed signing of the season, despite me doing no transfer business. Do I rate him? Might pale in comparison to Grcic, but a handy backup. Ercegovac's youthful 23 years earned him 'young' player of the season also.



Ercegovac brought a lot to the table in goals, seemed like he was the only one capable of scoring - bagging 17 and also won the Superliga golden boot (despite it not existing). Although he didn't average above 7, nor did anyone else...that's how mediocre our season as a whole finished. Mitrovic will be missed if he's to leave at the end of his contract in June, serious thrusters on this guy's boots down the right hand channels and helped set up 7 goals as our top assist maker. Arjan Gjoni in defensive midfield impressed me towards the end, good control and precise passing might just earn him a place in next season's starting XI. Discipline may be investigated, three reds this season needs fixing.


Bet190 got it spot on - for a team of our strengths, our season was wretched and certainly underachieved. Perhaps a bit harsh on Mehmeti (though he rarely impressed) and Pivovarov didn't do a single thing as our 'super sub' striker. Fortunes need to change massively.

I apologise for the lack of updates, try working 21 consecutive days (and yes, that includes weekends too).



Nation: Macedonia
Media Prediction (Odds): 4th/10 (15-2)
Expectations: Continental football/challenge for the league
Pros: Stronger squad than Ferizaj. Played against them enough to know their weaknesses. Better chances of getting into Europe.
Cons: Competitive and unpredictable league. Balance six figures in the red.



Don’t think the fans gave me a vote of confidence to begin with. Guess I’m stuck with Ferizaj.



A complete overhaul to our transfer policies come next season. We welcome Tomas Juska back to the save with open arms, taking his role as director of football to perhaps eye up some offers for players while it goes back to me for final approval. Also announced an affiliation with French second tier club Red Star to wire over an annual fee, plus also outlining plans to loan us a couple of players to develop.


Who ever said we’d see the last of Conor McParland? Signing of the season as he settles into his new coaching role alongside me. Unbreakable bond. <3




Stripped down the excess in our wage budget payments, notable exits for Topi, Mario Sinani and labelled as ‘worst signing of the season’ last year Pivovarov. With new additions to midfield and enough playmakers to work with, decided to loan out Gobeljic to newly promoted Istogu while receiving a monthly fee that’ll amount to £20k for the loan duration. Shrewd.



Loans were the primary focus of our business over the summer, tried to get a late swoop for cash but there few too many obstacles to get the handshake in agreement. Our new parent club came in handy should all else failed. Cheap and cheerful.


Aleksandrs Rajeckis – D(R) – season long loan from Levadia

This is why Juska came in to be the second pair of eyes to a good deal. The Latvian right back looks ripe and ready for first team action – strong and athletic and with okay crossing and technique might be useful should he layer out on the overlap. Concerns me slightly that he only played seven times last season but I suppose that’s why we got him on loan.


Vavá – AM(C) – season long loan from Lusitans

Va va voom. Despite the Andorran league getting bugged out, Lusitans still churn out some little pearls with their Portuguese influences. Competition for Camaj and has the fountain of youth on his side, lots of green attributes to boost too. Obviously his mental game needs a bit of broadening out but I enjoy a gamble. £50p/w loan is a steal.


Ilir Abazi – GK – unattached free agent

Don’t read into this one too much, Juska decided to add a bit of depth to our goalkeeping so I threw him a bone. I’d feel a lot more comfortable with a 29 year old 1.5* in between the sticks than a 16 year old with potential and no game experience. Better safe than sorry.


Cyril Moran – season long loan from Red Star

Not only does he have flawless facial head that doesn’t match his hair colour, it’ll give more motivation to Ercegovac keeping a place in the first team. More a rotation option, aiming to change the game if Ivan underperforms or requires a partner. Quick and roams well theoretically with strong finishing – the cliché poacher minus a lack of composure. A poacher version of Olivier Giroud essentially.


Cédric Granier – season long loan from Red Star

Definitely the star signing, looks quite exciting despite his woeful run of form recently. With Gobeljic out on loan, I've two choices to make; two playmakers in the middle or use Grcic or himself as a secret weapon to bring off the bench? Partial to the set pieces and definitely the most technically gifted in the squad, he'll surely sprinkle some magic and influence to the team (hopefully).



Mixed bag, but can take a lot of positives out of it - especially toppling Skënderbeu. Will we be reliant on Ercegovac again?




And of course what would pre-season be without getting slightly screwed over before the first game of the season?


Cédric Granier – season long loan from Red Star

Definitely the star signing, looks quite exciting despite his woeful run of form recently. With Gobeljic out on loan, I've two choices to make; two playmakers in the middle or use Grcic or himself as a secret weapon to bring off the bench? Partial to the set pieces and definitely the most technically gifted in the squad, he'll surely sprinkle some magic and influence to the team (hopefully).

He does look good mate, hopefully be a big player for you! Absolutely cracking read this, what's your computer spec? Also how quick is your game running this far into the future? Is that the Virtex skin?
Welcome back Dnzy!
Some good transfers that will help us winning the league!
Fino alla fine
@bigmattb28 - Thanks for the positive comments. Medium database with select number of leagues running on an i7 processor. It is indeed the Vitrex skin, the best skin ever to grace FM.

@bcsaulJ - Fingers crossed!






Didn't deserve to lose, but we did. Neither side got out of the blocks until the final fifteen minutes, Ercegovac bottling a free ticket and not even hitting the target to back. Then came the ol' switcheroo; in the space of thirty seconds we came charging in on the 2 Korriku goal, only to be counterstriked by a sucker punch that luckily ricocheted to Neziri after the original effort hit the post. Not the start I hoped for, but we'll build on it.



A second half retort so nearly grabbed us the maiden three points of the new season. Some things never change with set pieces, Gentian Braha getting nowhere near Driton Mehmeti's header from a corner. Besnik Lekaj brewed up a storm after the restart, 35 seconds in from the whistle he casually curled home the equaliser from just inside the area. We built on the pressure, Idrizaj denied by the inside of the post before being awarded a key penalty as the game faded into the last quarter. Lekaj took, Lekaj didn't conquer - straight at the keeper. Should have won but we're getting there.



More like it! First win of the season, yet again fighting from a goal down. Rajeckis really looked like a fish out of water when Prishtina broke free on the counter, exploited on the left flank completely and Bicaj tapped in from the resulting cross. One man could save us - Ercegovac. Used his target man abilities to beautifully flick a header over the keeper's head to level play and with injury time activated, the young Croat utilised his feet as a poacher to turn the game on it's head. Exponentially improving game on game.



That was until Ferronikeli dampened everything. Only one shot on target compared to their eight, the visitors in green brought the pain in the final third of the match. Kastrati got caught in possession, our right back area yet again at fault to which Mullici couldn't miss. Dritan Jaupi missed our one and only good effort, beating the keeper but not the post. Mullici punished our stretched centre backs to beat Braha with ease. Arguably the best team in the division so we won't be too disheartened.



Total disaster against newly promoted opposition in Istogu. Setting up with a 4-3-3 Istogu were zealous in their approach, knocking us down twice in the first half due to unforgiving defensive mistakes. Second half needed some fire in the belly and Ercegovac looked like the only one to give a damn to peg them back on the hour. Rajeckis improved from the Prishtina game but gave away a soft penalty to further tighten Istogu's grip on the game. Thankfully Braha had other ideas with a brilliant stop. All in vain as we lose our third game of five.



A picture that says a thousand words. HOW DID WE NOT WIN? Drenica sat back all game and couldn't take advantage. Managed only a half chance in the first half as Camaj hit narrowly wide and second half was no better but for a sitter from Idrizaj, missing a header from four yards onto the post. This worrying lack of goals really has me questioning my future at the club.



Honours even against our rivals. With a pitch as long as my schlong, direct football was the strategy and got the ball rolling early with Ercegovac unselfishly setting up Lekaj to stun the home crowd. Didn't last too long, Oxhallari beating the offside trap from a free kick and beating Braha at his near post. Perfectly poised for a third goal which could have gone either way. Both keepers at full stretch, Mitrovic and Ercegovac both denied by Trepça'89's Rashica and Gentian Braha delivered an unbelievable point blank save to keep us from falling behind. Great watch for the neutrals.



Bloody hell this is getting rather problematic. Slow reaction speeds, lack of spatial awareness, ingredients for allowing Albi Kurti a free header looping over a befuddled Braha. We threw away some important chances but Besnik Lekaj took full advantage of Idrizaj's cross to sweetly rasp it into the top corner. Took a lapse of three minutes to completely sink, both crafted by Oliver Felber including a bullshit penalty (imho) and left us chasing a 3-1 deficit. Morin and Idrizaj missed further huge nuggets that would have dragged us back into the game, and even with Ventura's late hit - we simply weren't good enough.



A total dumpster fire of results after two months. One win in eight games, only seven goals to show - really disappointing. Besnik Lekaj is at least balancing the workload from Ercegovac but Cyril Morin having real struggles to gel in this team. New boy Granier showed glimpses of talent, but only glimpses. McParland really needs to toughen his defending training regime.



Already a good twelve points from the top, slipping into the drop zone with only six points. Boy, we need to turn this around hastily.






I'm ready to hurl this laptop into orbit. Trepça looked like they were pinned against the ropes from 11 rounds with their saviour Cvek Sekuljica keeping his clean sheet in tact. Fingertipped a header from Julian Agolli over the bar and in the resulting phase Ercegovac had been denied also. If that weren't bad enough, Lekaj scored late...only to realise he was a yard offside. The cream on top of this cake of disaster came in injury time; Krasniqi with a needless foul in the area, penalty given, gets sent off for a second caution, Matovic sinks it. Done. So done.



I won't celebrate this, winning by two goals against Llapi was a minimum requirement to end our miserable run of form. Some good passing in midfield and a creative opening by Ercegovac into Lekaj triggered an early opener and Lekaj returned the favour to Ercegovac on a breaking counter and the Croatian striker couldn't miss the one on one. Even with an early bath for Grcic, it made no difference to the scoreline or the balance of the game - Llapi are bottom of the table for a reason.



Revenge for the opening day defeat. Neither side totally dominated this evenly fought affair, it boiled down to who could finish better. Ivan Ercegovac finished straight out of the top drawer to have us leading before the half hour mark. The second goal seemed to be marred by controversy as an injury to a 2 Korriku player went unattended during the build up, instead of putting it out of play Mitrovic took full advantage of the situation and buried it in the top corner. Alan Nowak rescued pride for 2 Korriku in injury time but left empty handed.



Blooming heck, can we not get a run together? Rattled the home side's confidence, especially down the left flank which Kastrati revelled in space and assisted twice to Ivan Ercegovac to firmly hold the cards entering the second half. Things took a slippery course; poor marking and awareness left Fatmir Ajazi an invitation to spark life into the Flamurtari crew. With Ercegovac missing a big chance for a hat-trick, our foundations collapsed with ten minutes remaining - Kaptina rallying the comeback. Kastrati was a nightmare all game on the wing, sadly didn't mark it with a goal late on and hit one down the throat of the keeper. A draw that never felt more like a defeat.



Totally marooned by Drita, awful home performance. No creativity, overrun, poor control of possession, yet another penalty given away, yet another red card, when will it end? Veli Berisha sending it straight down the middle and handing us a sixth defeat of the season. Digging our own graves at this rate.





No trouble edging past second tier Vllaznia, although Cyril Morin continues to fail finding the back of the net. Mitrovic perhaps starting to enjoy life at Ferizaj again with a double, an own goal from Muhamed Berisha and a late bonus from Ercegovac off the bench easily secured passageway to the second round.



Squaring up to Trepça, having a little score to settle.



Imperceptible improvement in form, however two defeats either side of the month isn't great. Three consecutive wins should have been four if we held our bottle against Flamurtari but when do you ever expect anything from this team? Aurel Kastrati has put in excellent shifts recently to link in with Ercegovac notching up five goals this month. Rest of them need a hard look at themselves.



No chance of a title surge this year, if anything we're fighting for our status. Four from absolute safety with only three wins on the board. Shocking stuff.





Absolute state of this game. Not sure if it were football or mixed martial arts they were playing but the referee was having none of it. Game itself was an absolute farce with neither side bringing anything to the keepers. Feared the worst when Camaj saw red to issue a tough second half but Prishtina blew it. Two reds in five minutes had it 10 against 9 in a bizarre twist. If that weren't bad enough, two pens were awarded to us either side of us falling to nine men ourselves with Mehmeti joining the early bath club. Endri Krasniqi took both and scored both to put this turgid game to rest.



The gulf in quality was staggering in this brawl, heavily defeated by the runaway leaders. Two own goals pretty much set the tone for the game, two more followed and Endri Krasniqi got himself sent off. Jesus Christ man, can we go one game with eleven men on the field??


Somebody call NASA, we've a bunch of rocket scientists over here.



Rebounded to a slender victory over Istogu, this time looking a bit more comfortable. The travelling visitors barely gave Braha any trouble as Ercegovac's close range finish just before half time brought us a much needed three points. Let's ignore the fact that Istogu's keeper had a busted wrist going into this game.

...and before I go any further...


Nation: Latvia
Media Prediction (Odds): 3rd/8 (5-1)
Current Position: 3rd
Expectations: None
Pros: Battling for European football. Seven figure balance. Not Ferizaj.
Cons: Massive gulf in quality within Latvian league. Drop in quality of players compared to those in Kosovo.



F*CK! Even brown-nosing them didn't work. Really wanted this post.


Nation: Latvia
Media Prediction (Odds): 7th/8 (65-1)
Current Position: 5th
Expectations: None
Pros: Assured safety for next season. Very generous wage bill offer. Again, not Ferizaj.
Cons: Quality of squad much worse than Ferizaj at face value. High chance of battling relegation next season.



Man, this is a tough decision. Do I take the red pill and drop down to a poorer side or stick around to either watch Ferizaj reach safety or watch them suffer a relegation dogfight?


Wow, a very tough decision! If you are tired of Ferizaj, you have to accept the offer from Gulbene; the Latvian championship is better than Kosovo and maybe, with a little luck, you can build something good over there!
Fino alla fine


Leaving Ferizaj wasn’t exactly a hard decision to make given recent form, packing my bags as soon as the pen dropped to sign my name with my new club. Two out of three Baltic states are out of the way, the third and final quest brings me to the Latvian town of Gulbene. For a relatively small club, they were entangled in serious controversy in 2015 after receiving an expulsion from the Latvian top flight on the suspicion of match-fixing. The club reportedly still exist, but down in the much lower depths of the Latvian pyramid with no results recorded since June 2017. The crest features the swan from the Gulbene coat of arms and dress themselves in a light orange kit with black trim.

Fun fact; the club’s website is now a Japanese dietary supplement company (I’m not even joking - check http://fbgulbene.com).


Gulbene lies in the north-eastern pocket of Latvia around two and a half hours away from the capital Riga, equidistant to the borders of nearby Estonia and Mother Russia. The town is the largest in its municipality but doesn’t even scratch the surface of the nation’s overall population of 2 million, inhabiting just over 10,000. Many landmarks feature within the town, including the Gulbene railway station and the Church of the Most Holy Sacrament. I wouldn’t say you’ll need to spend more than a day here to see everything that there is to see, it’s pretty ordinary. [i]


[i]Gulbenes Stadions houses the crowd for the club (I say house, it’s basically in the middle of a track and field course). One erected stand carries the bulk of the horde with a capacity of 1500. Built in 1970, it isn’t actually the main sporting team that plays here – Gulbene’s basketball team play indoors within the sporting complex right next to it, also furnished with a gymnasium and even a rock climbing wall.[i]


[i]Success definitely hasn't been ingrained in Gulbene's DNA since their 2005 starting point, only picking up two Latvian First League trophies in 2010 and 2014 but ever since, the club's name has been tarnished by a massive red flag in 2015. After 5-0 and 6-0 defeats to Skonto and Spartaks respectively, the Latvian Football Federation (LFF) came to the conclusion of match fixing and deliberate manipulation of these results. All of Gulbene's results from that year were expunged and were expelled from the Virslīga. It rather overshadowed their previous league season, winning the Latvian First League with a phenomenal 84 points tally out of a possible 90 and +117 goal difference. Post FM era hasn't exactly brought groundbreaking achievements - instead they just yo-yo up and down the divisions.



At face value, sure it looks like a solid team but bear in mind the Latvian league are full of potato farmers compared to the rest of Europe. I mean no offence to any Latvian readers, but I've definitely had better squads in my career. The recent form definitely gives the hint of a mediocre side.

KEY PLAYER: Andrejs Vazarinskis - D(R)


Yikes. If this is our best player in the squad, we definitely need to strengthen when the transfer window hits. Only one blue stat in his technicals worries me massively, even his mentals are underwhelming. With an aggression level three times more than his concentration indicates to me that he'll use blind rage in his tackles - praying he doesn't get red carded too often.




Stayed up comfortably this season gone, not too far away from Europe either and earned them the 'overachievers of the season'. Note the point difference between second and third, the Virslīga reminds me of the Armenian league monopolisation with two teams streets ahead of the rest. Midfielder Pavels Nalivaiko definitely one to preserve for next year - tallying 16 assists, higher than any other player in the division last year. Holy guacamole.





In a bizarre twist, Slovenia U19's had a vacancy and I thought to myself...why the hell not?!

But more on that at a later date.






The ONE player I absolutely NEEDED to hold onto has left for the Latvian capital to join Riga FC, despite me offering him a new deal with a pay rise. 16 assists, 13 man of the match awards last season, good luck to the mercenary. Numerous others left on frees to Metta/LU and Babite, nothing too heart dropping as they were dead weight to us.



Went wild with the wealth to recruit seven newcomers and add as much quality and depth as possible without completely dismantling the current squad. However, the Latvian market is about as mouth-watering as window shopping at Oxfam.


Saving the best two for last, let’s delve into the other four (well, five).


Jurijs Plukaitis – ST(C) – unattached free agent

Definitely think I overcompensated in the wages, however with experience at a strong club in Spartaks it definitely helps. Physically flawed but a solid finisher and holds excellent leadership…if it weren’t for his shocking teamwork. If he scores goals, he’ll be worth it in the short run.


Pavels Fatkulins – D(C) – free transfer from Riga FC

Tit for tat with Riga, not much to brag about but he’s better than most available options. Hoping his tallish build and heft gives him the advantage in aerial combat. Another strong leader to potentially keep our backline in check. Cheap as chips too.


Vitalijs Osipovs – GK – free transfer from Ilukstes NSS

Leaving his mentals out of the picture, I see a lot of potential in this youngster. Tall, agile, flexible and another on the cheap. The low determination part is an issue, especially with no tutor available. Just gotta ride the wave with Vitalijs.


Jevgenijs Sillers – D(L) – free transfer from Alberts

Stats don’t jump off the page, but to reiterate – this is practically a monopolised league with very few wanting to join a side like us. If he can deal with the bare minimum as a guard on the left I’ll be satisfied. If he’s up against a quick right winger, forget about it. He’ll just have to wing it (see what I did there?).


Nikolajs Apins – M(C) – unattached free agent

Felt we didn’t need to dabble for a central midfielder, but with Nalivaiko exiting this became an urgent task. Apins pales in comparison and is mediocre at best but to stand out as a team player might have tipped the scales in signing him. May retrain him as a playmaker because I’m doubtful this guy can defend the middle.


Onto the juicy recruits..


Ruslans Gutkovskis – ST(C) – free signing from RFS

I mean what’s so special about him? 16 finishing, that’s what. Almost unheard of in Latvia. Just a classic number 9 with good anticipation and off the ball manoeuvres. That’s good enough for me.


Jurijs Ivanovs – D(C) – free signing from Metta/LU

Don’t hold your breath in finding the ‘perfect’ centre half in this league but Ivanovs is an outright steal for only £25 a week. Pretty garbage in the air despite his jumping reach and underwhelming tackling with bravery of 18, the only way is up for this 22 year old. Some really good performances under his belt will no doubt make our backline much more stabile compared to what we had.



To avoid boring you all to tears, one win and one draw against lower opposition. Is it a bad omen? We'll soon find out.



Three competitions to sink our teeth into, be great if we can take home any piece of silverware no matter how unlikely. Avoiding relegation is vitally important in an eight team league but with a revamped squad it should work itself out. Quarter finals of the Latvian cup is doable and the Winter Cup? No idea how that works.




From the gist of things, here's how it works..the top four Latvian teams dogpile into Group A while the inferior four slapfight in Group B - including ourselves. The winners of each group play in the cup final, second placed sides go to a third place playoff and so forth. Babite, Liepaja, Riga, let's have ya!

Great news, you made the right choice!
The squad (with the new transfers) is good enough to avoid relegation, maybe you can push the squad even further...
The Winter Cup looks funny, never heard of that! Go Gulbene!
Fino alla fine
@bcsaulJ - The signings I've made have given me a lot more faith in staying up. How far we'll be up the table come October/November is the real quiz.

@Dan - They'll be coming in hot, don't worry!








I mean talk about arriving on the scene. Battered Babite for six on their own turf, half of the goals coming from defenders. Centre back Fatkulins glistened on his debut with a brace along with two from midfielder Edgars Knapsis, one from Dobrecovs and substitute full back Kikans also got involved in the melee. Babite were total trash and fluffed a glorious one on one to wrap up their miserable day. An apéritif to the main course.



One shot on target, 2-1 winners, two wins from two, gg Riga FC. In rather opaque, snowy conditions it's very easy to make mistakes but Kaspars Gulbis will be the first to tell you that, casually losing the ball in his own six yard area and handing Derbakovs an easy first. Riga weren't immune from mistakes either and we were on level ground just eight minutes later when Korzans got in the way of a cross. The decisive third goal of the game also came from an error in goalkeeping, Ivanovs taking full advantage of a fumble from a free kick to turn things around. Clenched our holes till the final whistle to hold on. Fair game Riga for prying Nalivaiko away from us.



Two big losses to our final group game.



Only a point was necessary thanks to our far superior goal difference against the other side chasing to top the group, Liepaja. Even encounter with our defensive shape holding really strong. Did have to rely on a super stop from Osipovs to keep it that way while at the other end Gutkovskis blew a major match point as he blazed wide on a one on one situation.



Loving life at Gulbene already. Very unexpected group victory, mainly boosted with that 6-0 pounding of Babite. On course for a piece of silverware already?



Definitely a David versus Goliath situation with Spartaks meeting us in the final. Praying this won't be a demolition job.



Injury forcing out our only left sided midfielder Klimasevics, Andrejs Petersons is drafted in as an emergency.


Andrejs Petersons - AM(L)/M(L) - free transfer from Jelgava

Pretty much cut from the same cloth as Klimasevics in terms of his quickness and crossing abilities. Only difference is that Petersons has youth on his side at only 19 with plenty of headroom to grow. The drawback is his technique which is only half of his competition but as mentioned this was a signing in a rush. What better way to start his Gulbene career than a forthcoming cup final.




Can we pull off a major upset here to lift our first major trophy in nearly half a century.


I really hate this game sometimes. I'll admit Spartaks were definitely the better side but dissecting the game, they never made Osipovs quake in his boots. The desperation of hitting long range efforts was Spartaks only game plan while we just went with the flow. Olegs Bacis was on the cusp of being the town hero to take a 75th minute penalty to potentially win it there and then; beat the keeper, not the upright. Extra time was bossed by the league champs, Osipovs saving our skins while they also hit the bar from a free kick. After 120 minutes of deadlock, penalties was our last hope. Seven perfect kicks each, Knapsis was the first to choke and left it to Pedrag Djordjevic to win the trophy for the boys in red. No shame at all in this defeat.


As for the league odds, the bookies have improved our odds to 50-1 to win the league and to have our heads above water. If we play like we did in this cup, survival is almost a guarantee.

Noooooo what a cruel match! One step away from the glory
Positive signs, now let's start winning in the league!
Fino alla fine




Didn't quite outlast Spartaks this time and a brace from Nigerian prince Vincent Abah in either half got us off to the worst possible start. Varazinskis' outstretched leg catching Subochev to which Abah granted Spartaks a deserved lead. Threw together five shots on target, including two half chances but being realistic - we were never winning this. Abah's second validated that fact.



Light powdery snow glazed over a cold Skonto surface in a low quality spectacle. Jurijs Ivanovs the unfortunately casualty of an own goal, on the losing side, yet somehow picked up man of the match - summarises how tinpot Latvian football can get. Skonto also missed a penalty with Osipovs standing tall to deny Verpakovskis. Don't even ask about what we created.



It looks bad but bear in mind we've been pitted against two tough teams in the opening two. The wintery conditions aren't helping matters and I'm not trying to excuse our lack of conviction in both midfield and attack, leaving us pointless and goalless so far.


* for some reason due to the unusual Latvian diacritics in-game, whenever I screenshot the league table month by month it just overwrites the file. But yeah, we're bottom of the league.






Injuries have plagued a lot of key young players in the selection, massively in the centre back area. Of course not having familiarity with this squad clouds my judgement if I've picked a strong enough squad. Not entirely sure what tactic to roll out either. Decisions...

KEY PLAYER - Miha Tukrus - contracted to Maribor


Promising looking striker with an abundance of goals already with his club Maribor, albeit their B squad. Let's hope he can bag one or two in a difficult enough group.



Well...this was totally unexpected. Travelled to a wet and miserable Nantporth and escaped with a massive win. Wales were surprisingly lacklustre while we took control - Nejc Markic denied by Aeron Allen and Tukrus came closest, only denied by a last ditch tackle to put it behind for a corner. Incidentally, the only goal came from one. A scrappy clearance followed by a deflected shot by Markic trickled into the net. Bosnia up next and feeling hopeful.



Okay..this could actually happen. Bosnia failed to convert a sitter early on, hitting the crossbar instead of the net as Široki Brijeg striker Mirza Ducic beared down on goal. Moments later they fell behind, wonderful 25 yard free kick by Gorica's Marko Pirc which proved decisive. The rest of the game dragged into a paint drying convention but with 6 points from 6 heading into our final group game, are we about to cause a seismic shockwave?



Absolutely effing not. Portugal far too good for our young cubs and should've won by more. Putting things in perspective, the scorer Cláudio Ferreira is a product at PSG and completely turned Vranicar inside out before shooting a bullet into our torsos. Portugal did have the ball in the back of the net for a second time, thankfully it was ruled out. Would have taken a miracle to take them down.




I tell you what, second place in this group is a super achievement. Beating Wales in Wales is a tough feat but conquered them quite comprehensively. We can look back proudly on that.

A difficult start in the league but the opponents were tough!
Nice work with Slovenia, keep it up!
Fino alla fine





Took a bite out of Babite to kickstart our season. Gutkovskis finally popped his Gulbene cherry twice after eighteen scoreless appearances. Our sluggish start paid off when we reeled them in to a three pronged attack, Gutkovskis with his first as the half settled. If it weren't for Dobrecovs missing sitters we could've replicated our earlier 6-0 win but Plukaitis and a second from Gutkovskis were enough to fit the bill and a first league win.



Not the kind of game that'll reside in the brain. Perhaps it'll haunt Liepaja's Aleksejs Pihockis who glanced a close range header across the mouth of the goal. Zero shots on target, yet escape with one point.



The tables turned after our scalp win over Riga in the Winter Cup as the visitors returned to the land of vindication. A single screamer from Jermolajevs earned their fortuitous victory in an otherwise insipid performance. I for one came away feeling robbed, this was definitely for the taking but our finishing left a lot to be desired. Tough start in Latvia's top flight.


News I didn't want to appear in my feed. Leaves me with a bunch of third rate centre backs for nearly over a month.



First real match we were truly humbled in. Ventspils were frightening going forward so to only concede one was a bold achievement. Liquid movement of the ball had circles run around us and Cekulajevs pounced on an easy tap in from the resulting cross. Damage limitation became our new tactic and if it weren't for Juris Oss straying offside, 2-0 was almost a certainty. Credit to us we absorbed but didn't throw any hooks back - Plukaitis coming closest but keeper Mazalovic guarded his front post safely.



Third clanger in a row. A pathetic excuse of a first half; Jelgava taking full advantage of our weak defending to lead 2-0 at the break, leaving us to climb a mountain on roller skates. Admittedly we looked a different kettle of fish after a little lecture in the dressing room - Plukaitis curling a beauty seconds in but twas to be in vain. I swear, if it weren't for the flaming woodwork denying us not once, not twice but three times during the course of the game we'd have pulled something out of this game, but no...leaked another soft goal for Jelgava to savour.





Lionhearted display, quite possibly the best display since my arrival to deservedly reach the semis. Not sure why we play so poorly in the first half of matches, Jurijs Sokolovs failing to mark Pedro Murillo tight enough for a half time lead for Skonto. Totally different animal after the restart. Plukaitis delightfully restoring parity from a free kick which brought on extra time. Exerted a serious amount of pressure and eventually the city boys cracked, Dobrecovs went for power and almost tore a hole in the net to quench his goal draught. Guess cups bring out the best in us.



A score to settle with Spartaks, bad news is that it's over two legs.



Survived the harder of the two legs to take it back home with everything to play for. Half baked ideas from both sides on an obscenely long field, neither side deserved victory.



Good heavens our league form is gutter trash. A win over Babite was great sure, but only one goal in our following four league games - alarm bells. I won't poop on us entirely, two valiant displays in the cup with a second leg of the semi waiting in anticipation. Need to step our game up.


* - see March 2054 (I'll get this sorted next month for sure).





The second of three meetings with Spartaks in the space of a week, gut-retchingly close to stealing a valuable point. All credit must go to Klimasevics on the left who schooled their right back and crossed in for an unlikely lead through the boot of Dobrecovs. Once again we commit too many men forward for set pieces and were pegged back on the counter, finished cleanly by Lawrence Boateng. The flow became a Spartaks current as we did everything to battle the tide, however a late penalty eventually swept us away - Boateng again, sending Osipovs the wrong way.




Another coulda, woulda, shoulda won game but luckily didn't come away empty-handed. Ten times the amount of shots on target from our boys Kazakevics between the Skonto sticks chose today of all days to put on a spectacular goalkeeping display. The singular Skonto shot on target hit the back of the net as we switched off in the box to give Abubakar a rather simple finish. Plukaitis bailed us out late doors with an explosive finish into the top corner. Six without a win though, lady luck needs to shine on us soon.



Just in the nick of time. The league's punching bag did their job as we coasted to an overdue victory near the coast. Olegs Bacis will never take a penalty again, blazing one wide just 90 seconds in. Babite nearly punished us minutes later but also fluffed a key opportunity. We began turning the screw midway through the first half as Plukaitis composed himself on the break, and also set up a second for Dobrecovs with a beautiful assortment of passes in the build up. A second spot kick was handed to Varazinskis who made no mistake with a powerful finish for three. Five clear cut chances, we rocked their world.



Back to back wins for the first time since the end of January. Dobrecovs and Plukaitis really gelling together now, combining for the only goal of the game. The match itself was a scrappy do, nine yellow cards in total with very little inspiration. No complaints here.




Spartaks break our hearts for the umpteenth time this season. Looked so out of depth in the first half, but what else is new? Ricards Stolcers handed a crucial away goal to the visitors and should have been out of sight before the interlude as they smashed the woodwork twice. A stern teamtalk did all the work for a massive contrast in the second half. Olegs Bacis was a villain in the Winter Cup final but redeemed himself with a first career goal to level the playing field. Spartaks could barely contain ourselves and one of the goals of the season turned the tie right around - Dobrecovs on the half volley left the crowd in pandemonium. Never celebrate too early though, back came Spartaks who caught us out on the break and Stolcers' second nudged Spartaks ahead again on the away goals rule. All our good work in vain, we had nothing left in the tank. A second cup final slips through our fingers.


Puskas worthy.



Far better month with a few wins on the board. Plukaitis and Dobrecovs looked completely in sync with each other up top, grabbing goals they wouldn't have last month. Was a shame about being cucked in the final moments to miss out of a cup final with Ventspils but next time they might not be so lucky.



The two wins take us out of the bottom two to sixth place, but it's a tall order to get any higher without a consistent run of results. Will it spark a massive U-turn come July? We take a month break to recover and hopefully start a successful second half of the season.

I hope the second part of the season will be better, there is still time to improve. C'mon Gulbene!
Fino alla fine




We said our goodbyes to Pavel Klimasevics who accepted a contract offer to Rezeknes FA out of the blue. Slightly disappointed as I thought Pavels did play a key role in the wide areas, shame he's dropped to the lower tiers.




Oh yes, oh yes. Nalivaiko is back in Gulbene colours after only making seven full appearance and not getting anywhere near his form when with us. One further acquisition comes in as replacement for Klimasevics that cost us a drop in the ocean.


Pavels Nalivaiko - M(C)/AM(C) - free transfer from Riga FC

Four goals and sixteen assists last year, no wonder. He's the only one who can playmake in the middle of the park. Lots of improvement will be made as he grows older, hoping to improve his composure and his flair over time. Delighted to have him back.


Vladimirs Kozlovs - M(L)/AM(L) - £3k from Auda

Definitely a step up from Klimasevics and Petersons on the left. Almost completed his development at 22 with excellent first touch and rather quick for this division's standards. Mentally, his game lacks substance apart from flair but definitely looks a bargain for the price on face value.


As for the right wing...got stung with an injury to Bacis as the window just about shut. Typical.




Nalivaiko's return to Riga didn't turn out as well as planned. Not enough initiative and creativity on our part with only two half chances, but to be honest Riga weren't much better. The clinching goal from Zenkovs was a powerful hit from a cross, failing to mark him tight enough while Osipovs' wrists weren't strong enough to keep it out. Far from an ideal return after a relaxing break.



Well this was unexpected. Scrapping our standard 4-4-2 for an asymmetric 'gegenpress' which worked beautifully to stun Ventspils. Conceding an early penalty was probably a blessing as it kicked off a wave of dominance. Despite Nalivaiko coming close, our persistence warranted an equaliser when Dobrecovs broke free of two defenders to finish coolly into the left hand corner. A winner was looming and Fatkulins should've taken advantage of a free header with five minutes left. Ventspils lived up to the 'spils' portion of their identity, their keeper failed to collect an aerial ball and instead landed at the feet of Knapsis to win the game in injury time. S C E N E S!



To think I believed it would incur a turning point to our season, then this kind of thing happens. Dobrecovs was a live wire but missing two absolute sitters didn't help him spark. If Jelgava's defence were short on confidence, then new boy Kozlovs may want to fall off the edge of the Earth - answers on a postcard to how he missed this in the clip below. Inevitably, we ended up shooting ourselves in the foot with a twenty yard hit by Satskihs catching out Osipovs in net and surrendering three points to the visitors.




Too easy for Spartaks, pretending that we knew the fundamentals to defending. Couldn't mark goalside, couldn't mark full stop - a brace from Stolcers on top an easy tap in from Subochev ended this pitiful Saturday afternoon. Gutkovskis so unreliable when presented with a glorious chance yet again.




Meeting face to face with Klimasevics' new club in the cup.



On the end of a giantkilling to fall miserably short of expectations in the competition. I'll admit we made a couple of changes but the defending was inexcusable for all three Rezeknes goals. We were on the front foot for the majority and deservedly equalised via Gulbis...only to be countered with some of the worst positioning I've seen to fall behind again. Klimasevics may not have scored, but his corner created the third to crash out spectacularly.



OOF, what a painful month. Makes the heroics against Ventspils look redundant. I know we're predicted for the drop but I would expect a bit more fight in our squad and to seize the moment when presented with goalscoring chances.



Just over halfway through the season, it looks bleak I agree. The defeat to Riga was costly but still within our range of catching...can't say we'll finish any higher than sixth by the looks of the table.

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