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My name is Franjo, and I will be a Football Manager.

Discussion
Been on holiday for a week so just caught up with all this! Congrats on qualifying and in such a manner!
Sometimes you have to stand in the shadows; to see the light.

OYSTON OUT
No Fuss (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep37)

Miguel Oliveira is off in the Summer. I thought I'd rip that bandage off as quickly as possible to spare you the heart ache. I lost faith in Miguel's ability about 5 or 6 matches after I arrived and was not planning on offering him a new contract, so Panachaiki have swooped in and arranged to whisk him away to Greece on a free transfer. Good luck to him. If he throws plates half as well as he throws away his marking responsibilities he'll be fine.

Annoyingly, having just played Barreirense in Barreiro last week, we're now playing Fabril do Barreiro in Hero Creek. We could have stayed through and had a nice holiday there if we were playing at their place, but never mind.

Fabril are the team that play with that narrow diamond that prompts us to focus our play down the wings, so that's what we'll do. Diogo Coelho is better at going forward than Mauro Aires, so he comes in at left back, Fernando Batista keeps his place on the wing after helping to rescue a point for us last week, and Renato Silva starts. I want to give him another chance seeing as the benched Cristiano Magina is sulking.

After half an hour, nothing has really happened. I'm getting quite tired of our poor first half performances, so I tell the team to attack. We may as well go for it against these.

5 minutes later, it's clear that our right back, Vitor Miranda, has received the message. He finds himself on the edge of the Fabril box and chips the ball to Hurley. With 2 touches, Hurley brings the ball down brilliantly and skilfully uses the outside of his boot to send the ball fizzing in off the post. That man just oozes class. I take a deep swig from my water bottle. The water tastes sweet. Almost like vindication.

When half time rolls around I tell my Heróis to drop back slightly stop attacking quite as often. We have the lead now and all we need to do is protect it. I don't want us leaving ourselves open at the back.

The 2nd half is a quiet affair. On the hour mark a Coelho corner is headed in by Olivier to double our lead in the simplest way possible. I bring on Rúby and Ávila shortly afterwards but they don't have much of an impact. We happily let the clock tick away and leave with another 3 points.

https://youtu.be/SuxX9LdLuJ8

That was one of those matches that just sort of happens. We got what we wanted with no fuss whatsoever. I'm fine with that at this stage in the season. Let's hope for a carbon copy away at Amora.

What won't be a carbon copy though is our lineup. Aires comes back in for Coelho as we don't want our fullbacks pushing quite as high seeing as we're away. Rúby starts in place of Benjamim, who I think could use a kick up the arse as his performances are dropping. Amonike and Bruce Ávila start as a pair of orthodox wingers in place of Batista and Kevin, and Magina comes back in to lead the line. Watching the last match, I forgot that Silva was playing.

Quarter of an hour in, Magina releases Amonike down the right wing. The winger gets his cross into the 6 yard box where Ávila is arriving, but he gets it all wrong and heads wide from close range. I make a mental note to myself not to drop Kevin in future.

5 minutes later, Zé Miguel swings a deep cross from the right over to the far post. Afonso gets to the ball ahead of Miranda but can only cushion it unthreateningly into Azevedo's arms.

Just as I'm wracking my brains for something constructive to say in my half time team talk, Zé Miguel gets in the thick of it again, but this time he pulls Lassina Touré's shirt in the Amora area, granting us an injury time penalty. Magina steps up and confidently strokes it to the bottom left.

That actually makes my half time team talk incredibly easy. I tell them they look alright and ask them to go and get another to kill the game off.

Not 2 minutes later, Hurleys pass is knocked on first time by Amonike, and Magina places it into the bottom corner. Ask and you shall receive. I surely can't let Magina go.

With just over an hour gone, Zé Miguel lays the ball off and Vaz strikes it very sweetly from the edge of the area, but his shot cannons back off the bar.

That'll do as a warning. We revert to Heróis Original, Jaime Seidi replaces Hurley and joins Rúby in our withdrawn double pivot.

Rúby is jumping for joy now that Seidi is by his side. Unfortunately, you could describe the kind of jumping he's doing as "At Vaz's shins", and "With 2 feet". He's already booked but he picks up a straight red anyway.

I don't look at Rúby as he wanders towards the tunnel. I'm too busy talking Thiago up. He's nervous, and rightfully so, but I have faith that he'll do a job. He and Kevin replace Antunes and Ávila and our shape changes to more of a 4-2-3 with wingers.

We still have chances to further our lead after Rúby's red. About 10 minutes later, Amonike dances past Pardal and runs through on goal, but Ascenso saves well.

Just after that, our resident penalty magnet Lassina Touré gets brought down again, this time by Machade, and Magina has a chance to bag his hat trick. This time though, his penalty is tame and not far enough into the corner, and Ascenso gets to it pretty easily.

https://youtu.be/N_6boRYCw2U

I don't really care, the only difference as a result of CM9 missing that 2nd penalty is that he has to buy his own ball. We picked up another win, kept another clean sheet, and built up another bit of momentum to take with us into the Promotion Stage.

Now the only team that stands in the way of out unbeaten phase is "Boring, Boring Pinhalnovense". If it weren't for them we might be on for a 100% record in the first phase, and I want my revenge.
Treppenwitz (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep38)

Do you want to know what my favourite German word is?

Of course you do. It's Treppenwitz. It translates literally as Staircase Joke, and it's the word for that moment when you think of the perfect joke, but a few minutes too late. The moment has passed and the conversation has ended, but bloody hell, it would've been good if you'd thought of it at the time. But Treppenwitz also has other applications. It can be the comeback to an insult that comes to you too late, or the showstopper in a huge argument that you lose because you didn't think of it. And today, just between us, Treppenwitz is the word that you use when you think of the perfect way to hammer a snotty little Portuguese football club into the ground, but too late. They've already bored you to death and snatched a point. But today is special. Today we get another chance.

Pinhalnovense have made themselves a special space in my brain, a space usually reserved for Big Brother, the last season of Scrubs, and everybody who plays the drop-in matches in FIFA Pro Clubs. I don't just want to beat them, I need to. I need this. I need Pinhalnovense fans up and down the land to recoil whenever they hear my name. I need their Manager, João Sousa, to leave under a cloud, and to be booed down the street wherever he goes forever more. I need our handful of travelling fans to shower me with confetti and dub me the King of Portugal.

So what's the secret formula? What's old Franjo going to pull from his sleeve and lay on the table?

Nothing.

Bear with me.

For the home tie against Pinhalnovense I should have told us to attack more. We should have been more open and committed more men forward to break through the bus that was parked across the goal line. As the away side, I'm not going to have us attack. I'm going to play our bog standard Meatloaf. Pinhalnovense, being the home side, will do all the adjusting for us. They'll come out at us as home sides generally do and open themselves up, letting us waltz right through.

It's beautiful isn't it? We're adjusting to their playstyle by not adjusting at all. Of course, they could just do exactly what they did in Hero Creek, in which case we will actually have to adjust. Also, Magina is on the verge of another record. This time he's about to get a record number of Player of the Match awards

Within 2 minutes of the match kicking off, Amonike gets away down the right and drills a cross in for Antunes, who smashes us ahead.

10 minutes later Pinhalnovense are actually making a game of it though, and a good passing move is capped with a Grou through ball and a tidy Fidalgo finish.

Half way through the first half we're back ahead, when Benjamim sends Kevin through on the right, and the vie captain runs inside before slotting the ball under the keeper. Back ahead and this is the polar opposite of the last time these teams met.

As the half goes on, we pull away more and more from Pinhalnovense and we start to run rings round them. As we approach the 40 minute mark, Magina chips the ball to Kevin on the right, and he whips a ball from the byline to the far post, where Amonike easily makes it 3-1.

Pinhalnovense, who are actually starting to earn back my respect, soon close the gap though. From a well worked free kick, Pires passes short to Outtara, who dribbles forward to the edge of the area and hammers the ball into the top corner.

At half time I encourage the team. I want more goals. But we don't fashion another chance until there's 15 minutes to go, when Olivier drills the ball forward and Magina runs through on goal, but his low drive is blocked by Melo.

A few minutes later, Kevin is brought down on the right wing, just outside the area. Amonike whips a cross in and Lassina Touré guides a good header back across goal to score our 4th and hopefully put the match to bed.

In the dying minutes, Magina puts Hurley through and the attacking midfielder runs powerfully through on goal, but he skies his left footed shot.

https://youtu.be/XSXBNTAfBs8

When the final whistle goes, I shake Sousa's hand and smile, before applauding our 2 fans that have made the journey, and then the hundreds of Pinhalnovense fans. I'll give them that one. That was a great game with some quality football and I've gained a great deal of respect for our opposition.

We finish the first phase of the Championship undefeated, with 48 points out of a possible 54. Now there's just the small matter of the Promotion Stage to deal with.
Franjo Vs Borba - Part 2 (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 38.5)

I received a phone call this morning from Carlos Antunes. I'm not sure what it could be about and we've got no training today, but it sounded urgent so I've come into our training facility to meet him. I'm there a few minutes before him so I pour a couple of glasses of water and wait in my office.

"Carlos!" I smile when he enters the room. "What's going on mate?" I cringe slightly at myself. I suddenly feel like the kind of teacher who sits backwards on his chair in order to "relate". Carlos looks uncomfortable as he sits down.

"I would like to ask your permission to join Guimarães." He blurts out.

I'm taken aback. I didn't expect this. "Ok." I say, after a short pause. An awkward silence engulfs the room for a few moments. My mind's gone blank. "Big club!" I say eventually, to break the tension. He nods. "I get it," I tell him. And I do. "All I would say is take your time." I say seriously. "You're our starting number 10, you're at the top of the pecking order here. Why don't you stay until the end of the promotion stage, keep playing and developing, and then we'll have a look at Guimarães in the summer?"

"But I want to win trophies" he replies immediately. He's almost pleading.

"Being a key player in a championship winning side would be a great thing for a young lad like you to have on your CV."

"I want to win real trophies!" he blurts out again. I don't really have a response to that.

"Look, I'll let you go in the summer Carlos."

"But I want to..."

"Carlos!" I cut across him sternly. "I am your Manager and you are an SC Angrense player. You'll go in the Summer." He looks angry. He looks like he's about to cry. "I'll see you at training tomorrow" I tell him, as kindly as I can. Carlos storms out of the room.

The next morning as I walk into training, I look for Antunes. I want to apologise. I think I could have handled our conversation better than I did. But he's not at training. He's the only one missing. Now this really annoys me. It's one thing wanting to move for your career or trophies, but I won't tolerate players being unprofessional. Whether he's late or making some kind of stand, it's not on. I head inside to look for him but Nuno stops me before I get to the door.

"Idiota Inglesa!" He looks genuinely quite annoyed.

"Not now, Nuno. I'll talk to you later." I mutter as I squeeze past him and through the door. I start to walk down the corridor.

"Why do you sell the kid, Inglês?" Nuno calls after me. I stop in my tracks and turn back to him.

"Excuse me? What kid?" I demand.

"The kid, Carlos! You sell our best players Inglês!"

I don't wait for him to finish his sentence, I march to Borba's office door and throw it open. Borba doesn't look up. He's doing some paperwork at his desk. "Where's Antunes?" I ask, trying to stay calm.

"Guimarães." He says lazily, still not looking up. "I told you Franjo, this is my..." His words fade away as I walk back down the corridor. I don't look at the players as I walk past the training pitch. I don't acknowledge Pedro as he tries to stop me at the main entrance of our training ground. I don't look back as I walk through the car park, and out into the world.
Draaaaammmmaaaa!!
Sometimes you have to stand in the shadows; to see the light.

OYSTON OUT


The drama doesn't stop today!
A Lot To Think About (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep39)

My immediate urge once I left Angrense's training ground was to jump on a plane. I'm livid. After initially backing down in January, The Chairman has followed through in selling one of our brightest young talents behind my back. I very nearly resigned, but I'm going to take our week off as an opportunity to think. I'll make a decision on my future before the Promotion stage starts.

In the meantime, I give Pedro the reigns so that I can sort my head out. He'll take control of training this week, and of the friendly I've set up against Norwegian Premier League side Fredrikstad on Sunday. The only thing that I need to do this week is sign a replacement for Antunes in case I decide to stay. I've also told Hélder Arruda he can leave in search of first team football, but I'm not answering the bloody phone. Borba can sort that for him seeing as he's so keen on shipping my players out.

I spend most of the week before our friendly wandering around Hero Creek, doing nothing in particular. I arrange a few trials for different players, which probably means that I'll need to show up at training at some point to assess them, but that can wait.

I decide to watch our friendly against Fredrikstad. It's a home tie so I may as well. I don't want Pedro or the team to know, so I get Nuno to sneak me into Estádio Municipal de Angra do Heroismo without anybody seeing. I want to watch the team not as a Manager, but as a fan. I want a sign. Something to tell me what I should do.

When the stands are partially filled and the teams come out onto the pitch, I look through them one by one. This is the first time I've given Pedro control over team selection and I'm interested to see how he'll line up.

Serginho in net, fair enough. Miranda, Oliveira, Olivier, Coelho across the back. Bit of a weird choice playing the man who's already agreed a move, but OK, I'm onboard otherwise. I'm then surprised to see that Pedro has opted for a midfield entirely made up of trialists. Starting in the double pivot are the short but ferocious box to box midfielder António Gonçalves, whose parent club Sheffield Wednesday have allowed him to join up with us for a few weeks, and Nicolas Garmendia, a skilful playmaker on trial from Udinese. In front of them from right to left are Al Hassan Lamin, a big powerful winger from Lazio, Domingos Quina, a quick and tricky playmaker from West Ham United, and Asumah Abubakar, a similarly quick and tricky striker or winger from Willem II. Hélder Arruda leads the line. This should be interesting.

It's a good match from an Angrense point of view. We dominate entirely. I expected us to struggle against a side from the top tier in Norway, but we play well, especially the trialists.

Al Hassan Lamin scores an excellent goal to break the deadlock in the 2nd half, dribbling round a couple of defenders before placing the ball into the far corner from outside the box. Abubakar doubles our lead after he runs behind the Fredrikstad defence, latches onto a Garmendia pass and slots the ball home. Armstrong pulls one back with a superb volley, but we hold on for the win.


I'm impressed, but more importantly the match excites me. I find myself still jumping up when we score, still pumping my fist and singing Vamos Heróis with the fans. I still love this place. I just don't know whether I can carry on at the helm. This has given me a lot to think about.

For now though, I want to bring in a few of these trialists. They're all at comparatively huge clubs and we've got no chance of signing them permanently, so I make loan bids for Al Hassan Lamin, Domingos Quina and Asumah Abubakar. I consider bidding for António Gonçalves, but to be fair we've already got Rúby in the same mould and his game time is limited as it is. All 3 bids are accepted but in the end, Hassan Lamin and Abubakar reject the opportunity to join us, leaving Domingos as our lone loan signing. He's the important one to be fair. We needed an attacking midfielder most of all.

As we move towards the first match of the Promotion Stage, and with my decision looming, I get a phone call. It's Pedro. He's heard from one of the board members that Borba has sold Fernando Batista. I sigh. I'm not at all surprised, but he may have just made my decision for me.
Heads up anyone who uses Reddit - I made a subreddit dedicated to Football Manager stories!

Come subscribe and share your FM stories!

https://www.reddit.com/r/FMStories/?st=J48O2VCR&sh=9454ef2c
The Decision (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep40)

I've thought long and hard about where my future lies over the last couple of weeks. Miguel Borba has made it impossible for me to stay in the long term. His interference in the transfer market has cost us 2 fantastic, young, home grown footballers. And for a fraction of their true value. Yes, if Carlos Antunes makes it then Angrense might see some more cash. At least his deal includes several clauses and a big chunk of the next transfer fee. The thing that makes this so much worse is that he accepted a bid for Batista that is not only £20k less than other bids we have received, but also includes no future clauses whatsoever. In his greed he's potentially cheated Angrense and himself out of a lot of money.

Borba has set a precedent. I'm pretty sure that it's a matter of when, not if, he accepts derisory bids for star striker Cristiano Magina, his potential replacement Renato Silva, and all of the other players that are in demand. This makes my long term future absolutely impossible.

Having said that, I have unfinished business with this club. I want to see them through the promotion stage. And I need to be smart. I was so, so close to resigning, but who's going to want me right now? I'm pretty sure the best case scenario is a sideways step to a similar club and I'll have to get to know them and shape them all over again. The worst case scenario is another few months on the dole, and then a move to a worse club.

So here's the plan: I'm going to stay. I'm going to keep well away from Borba and get Os Heróis promoted despite him. After promotion I will be headhunted by a bigger side. And when I accept their offer, I'm going to bid pennies for Magina, Hurley, Silva, Kevin, Benjamim, Olivier and all the other good players at this club. And Borba's going to accept my offers because he's a stupid, useless arse hole.

Of course, this all hinges on my ability to win promotion. I've made my mind up: I will let my contract run down and I will leave at the end of the season. If we go up, I should be fine, but if I fail to win promotion my future may still be bleak. Yes, we've won 15 out of 18 matches in the first phase of the Championship, but as I said way, way back at the start of the season, our group was weak. Astonishingly weak. We're now going up against the best teams the Championship has to offer, and we need to finish in the top 2 in our group of 8.

Am I apprehensive? Yes.

Will I relish the challenge? Yes.

Do I back us to pull it off? Fucking right I do.
PT Championship - Promotion Stage Group B (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 40.5)

So my decision has been made. I'm staying with Angrense. I'm pretty sure I've made the right decision, but of course if Borba sells Hurley and Magina in the next couple of days I'll feel like a bit of an idiot.

Because I'm staying, we'll need to get to know our new group: The Promotion Stage Group B.



Barreirense

From: Barreiro

Ground: Campo da Verderena

First Phase Position (Out of 10): 2nd in Group G, behind us

Last Season: 3rd in Relegation Stage Group G

Predicted: 6th

Rivals in Group B: N/A



Caldas

From: Caldas da Rainha

Ground: Campo da Mata

First Phase Position (Out of 10): 1st in Group E

Last Season: 1st in Relegation Stage Group F

Predicted: 8th

Rivals in Group B: Leiria (Fierce, Historic)



Camacha

From: Camacha

Ground: Complexo Desportivo da Camacha

First Phase Position (Out of 10): 2nd in Group H

Last Season: 1st in Relegation Stage Group B

Predicted: 7th

Rivals in Group B: N/A



Casa Pia

From: Lisboa

Ground: Estádio Pina Manique

First Phase Position (Out of 10): 2nd in Group F

Last Season: 2nd in Promotion Stage Group B, Lost 2-3 on aggregate to Sporting B in Promotion Play off

Predicted: 5th

Rivals in Group B: N/A



Leiria

From: Leiria

Ground: Estádio Municipal de Leiria

First Phase Position (Out of 10): 2nd in Group E

Last Season: 5th in Promotion Stage Group B

Predicted: 2nd

Rivals in Group B: N/A



Mafra

From: Mafra

Ground: Campo Dr. Mario Silveira

First Phase Position (Out of 10): 1st in Group F

Last Season: 4th in Promotion Stage Group B

Predicted: 3rd

Rivals in Group B: N/A



União da Madeira

From: Ribeira Brava

Ground: Centro Desportivo da Madeira

First Phase Position (Out of 10): 1st in Group H

Last Season: Relegated, 20th in Liga Pro

Predicted: 1st

Rivals in Group B: N/A



Oh, this is delicious. I have a few months left in Portugal and if I could have had my pick of any side to be put in a group with, do you know who I'd pick?

Of course you do.

I'd pick Caldas.

Caldas are more than an opposition team for me. They're more than a rival even. They're a metaphor. They are my Everest. My predecessor Eduardo Almeida couldn't beat them and they are the milestone that I set myself last year to prove that I was a worthy manager at this level. A win over Caldas would represent how far we've come and how far I've come. Last year they demolished our relegation stage group and they demolished us. But this time, to misquote Baddiel, Skinner & The Lightning Seeds, We are strong. We have grown.

Caldas are predicted to finish last in the group and we're predicted 4th, which already speaks volumes, but I want to see the official result in black and white when we beat them. I never got to become Franjo, Who Crushed Caldas, but I still can.

Remember when I took this job I made a slapdash overview of how the leagues work? I'll link it here so that you can get a refresher on how the promotion stage is structured.

https://wtfranjo.wordpress.com/2017/05/09/our-new-league-101-franjo-a-journeyman-story-ep12-5/

In short, we need a top 2 finish. Anything below that means we stay in the Championship, which seriously dampens my chances of being snapped up by a bigger side. A 2nd place finish means we'll play off against one of the Liga Pro sides for promotion, and a top place finish means we win promotion and we play off against the winner of group A to determine who wins the Championship.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go and listen to Three Lions and Three Lions '98 on a loop for a few hours.
Project: Burnie (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 40.5.5)

So this it it, I think as I sit on my tiny bed in my studio flat. My last 14 matches in Portugal (Or 15/16 if we do well). So far in my Angrense career, we've mainly gone up against lesser sides, but not anymore. I reckon, despite the media's predictions, that Barreirense are the weakest club in this group. Well, they're there or there abouts, admittedly I don't know enough about most of the other teams. But look at last season: Caldas and Camacha topped their relegation groups, União da Madeira were a Liga Pro side, Casa Pia lost in the Promotion play off, and Mafra and Leiria finished mid table in their Promotion Group. We finished 2nd in our relegation stage group and Barreirense were 3rd in theirs, so we'd probably be considered 2 of the weakest sides here. And our matches against Barreirense this season have been no walk in the park: They went ahead twice in Hero Creek and probably should have beaten us in Barreiro.

My point is that I'm worried. We'll face tougher opposition in the next few months than we have at any point during my Angrense reign and we need to be prepared for that. We start with a home match against Camacha. They're no doubt formidable opposition but I have to admit I've already got one eye on the following match - Away at Caldas. I feel like we'll need to go off-book for that match, and for a few other matches in this league, what with us being against some of the best Championship clubs and all.

I look around my flat to see that Meatloaf and Burnie are scrapping again. They're always scrapping. I've mentioned before what an arse hole Meatloaf is, in fact in a weird way I've built a career on what an arse hole he is. But every now and then, passive, patient Burnie has his day. Every now and then, while Meatloaf has the poor lad pinned down and dominated with his aggression, Burnie strikes back, catching his brother off guard.

Can you see where I'm going with this?

It's time for Project: Burnie.

With Project: Burnie we will play on the counter, luring our opposition into a false sense of security and dominance, and then striking quickly on the break with our claws out.

Our back 4 will be a wall in front of Azevedo's goal, as it has been for much of my time in Hero Creek. Their job will be simple in that I will not be asking them to do anything other than defend. To win the ball and hoof it clear. Miranda, Touré, Olivier and Aires will start as the most solid defenders I have at my disposal.

Our midfield will consist of a second bank of 4, because nothing says solidity like 2 banks of 4. The central midfielders, it won't shock you to know, will be Hurley and Benjamim. Hurley has proven in the past that he can play as more of a deep lying playmaker than an attacking midfielder, staying back to help out the defence, so that's what he'll be doing. Benjamim next to him will be doing what Benjamim does - Running his heart out between our box and theirs, being a nuisance and an option in equal measure.

Either side of our dynamic duo will be Amonike on right wing, taking on defenders and swinging crosses in like he does, and Kevin on the left, building up play less agressively. I want him to look to switch the play to Amonike, or play killer passes to one of our two strikers.

That's correct. Two strikers. I've rarely utilised a striking partnership in my career so far, but I feel like giving it a try. I have 3 good centre forwards at my disposal and it's about time I pair them up. Plus it's no good being solid at the back if we aren't equipped to threaten at the other end.

I pick Magina and Arruda. They're both able to do any job required of a centre forward: They can both link up play, run channels, get behind defences, hold the ball up and bring team mates into play. But I want their jobs to be clear in their mind, so Magina will lead the line and Arruda will be the deeper lying second striker, carving out chances and linking up play.

So there it is: Project: Burnie in all its glory. A more direct, higher tempo 4-4-2. We're going to need to hit some of these teams on the break, and this should do the job purrr-fectly.

OK fine, but if Meatloaf and Burnie were here they'd be laughing their little feline faces off.
Back Pocket (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep41)

I barely slept last night. I have absolutely no idea how the next few months are going to play out. The thing that I keep reassuring myself with is that we are in incredible form. But the thought that always immediately follows is that we've been playing against bad teams and now we're going to be playing against good ones.

When I did finally sleep, I had that same old dream again. I walk up the gravel road towards Monte Brasil under the dark red clouds, and continue up the winding path towards Pico das Cruzinhas. Half way up, a glum looking golden retriever drags himself along behind me, before disappearing in a puff of smoke. When I reach the top, I get the same sense of foreboding that I always get, and I see the same thing that I always see.

Miguel Borba is standing at the viewpoint, at the top of the hill overlooking Angra do Heroismo, and he's throwing my players off into the darkness one by one. I stand there, eyes wide in horror, but I'm paralysed and unable to help, or speak. When he's thrown the last of my team into the inky abyss, he grabs me by the collar of my trusty grey coat and throws me after them. And then I'm falling. And the ground is rushing up to meet me. And I jolt awake again, sweating through my Angrense branded pyjamas.

But today is not the day to be worrying about that, today is the day of our first match. And at least we'll start off at home. Camacha are coming to town and I decide to keep largely the same team that I used for most of the first phase. We'll keep Project: Burnie in our back pocket for now as we're the home side and I don't want to start on the counter. We'll use Project: Meatloaf as per usual.

Obviously Antunes and Batista are no longer available, so Amonike and new loan signing Domingos Quina start, and the ever reliable Jaime Seidi comes in for our suspended centre back Olivier.

Before 10 minutes have passed, Rúben leaves our crossbar shaking with a well struck free kick from just outside the area. I tell Os Heróis to abandon any ideas about controlling the match and just play our most standard game instead.

25 minutes in, we hit Camacha on the counter attack and Benjamim squares the ball for new boy Quinos, but the West Ham midfielder floats his shot over the bar when he really should've hit the target.

The rest of the half is tight and action-less, and our next opportunity comes when Kevin lumps the ball over the top of the Camacha defence with 10 minutes of the second half gone. Magina runs through on goal, takes aim for the top left corner, but his execution is slightly off and the ball flies just over.

Our 2 chances so far have come on the counter, so for the last half hour we set up to play exclusively on the counter. Rúby and Silva come on replacing Quina and Magina, with Rúby dropping back and allowing Hurley to take up the number 10 role.

Just a couple of minutes later, Rúby runs forward from deep and has a good crack at goal, but Jesus saves it well.

With 10 minutes to play, Renato Silva plays through Benjamim, and the box to box midfielder has a shot from inside the area, but the ball cracks off the bar. The match ends goalless.

In my book, an opening day draw is never a bad thing. A loss in your first match of any league can really put the side in a bad place mentally, but a draw, especially a draw which you were unlucky not to turn into a win, is fine. It inspires hope and optimism for the games ahead.

Caldas are next. I've been looking forward to this ever since we found out who we'd be playing against in the Promotion Stage. I reach into my back pocket, and pull out Project: Burnie.

The first half is tense and quiet, as first halfs often have been this season for us. It's not until the 52nd minute that the first chance is carved out, when Caldas' Cruz completes a patient passing move by passing the ball into the area for Rodrigues. The attacking midfielder slots it in to put the home side ahead.

We fail to fashion any noteworthy chances. We have a few decent shots but with 5 minutes left to play, we're staring down the barrel of our first defeat of the season. I withdraw Arruda and bring on Renato Silva.

In the 90th minute, we win a free kick on the right. My staff, our 2 travelling fans and I watch on with silent anticipation as the Caldas fans whistle and boo. The atmosphere is hostile and I don't know about the players, but I'm extremely nervous. We need to rise above it. We need a goal and we need it now.

Olivier steps up and curls it into the box, and Touré goes for the ball. He doesn't get it though. He doesn't get it because Juvenal charges in and pushes the centre back to the floor. The referee blows his whistle and points to the spot.

The whistles and boos from the home fans grow louder and louder as Cristiano Magina places the ball on the spot. He is focussed and he is confident. Our prolific striker steps up - and smashes the ball into the top left corner.

https://youtu.be/uxqqseInY2s

I don't celebrate the goal. The players celebrate, as do my coaching staff, Pedro and both of the fans. But not me. I've failed today. I thought that a new system would freshen us up and allow us to finally clinch victory over Caldas, but it didn't. We got let off and we keep our unbeaten run going thanks to some bad defending. It doesn't feel good.

It's back to the drawing board as far as Project: Burnie is concerned.
A 4-4-2 counter attack? Are you Tony Pulis in disguise?
Sometimes you have to stand in the shadows; to see the light.

OYSTON OUT
Uh.... *Removes cap*... no of course not
Instant Impact (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep42)

"Franjo!" Pipes up a short, heavily tanned fellow towards the back of the room. "Diário Insular", he continues once he sees that he has my attention. "Do you see Paulista as a direct replacement for Carlos Antunes?"

I think for a moment, before replying "Things have changed in Hero Cr... I mean, Angra do Heroismo in the last couple of months. Our priorities have changed and I thought that we needed someone who could make an instant impact. I believe Jeferson is that someone."

It saddens me slightly to say it, but it's the truth. The priority for me is no longer playing the long game or giving the youth of Angra a chance, the priority is short term success. We need someone who can slot straight into the team and give us a boost. We've drawn our first 2 matches, which isn't awful, but I'd rather we start picking up enough wins to get promoted.

"And what about Domingos Quina? Did you not bring him in to be a first team player?" Inquires the Diário Insular reporter.

"Domingos is still in my plans," I say firmly, "But it would be unfair of me to ask him to take up the mantle of being our main creator alone. Now we have good competition for the number 10 spot, which is never a bad thing."

Jeferson Paulista, to state the bleeding obvious, is our newest signing. He's yet another player that we've brought in from Santa Clara, after Serginho and Coelho last year, but unlike those 2 he cost us £3k and become my record signing. To be honest though, I think we've bagged ourselves a bargain.

Do you remember Elano at Manchester City? Jeferson reminds me quite a lot of Elano: A skilful and technically brilliant Brazillian who's also capable of the odd screamer. He's a true number 10 at the top of his game and he should be much more comfortable behind Magina than Hurley or Quina have been.

And while we're talking transfers, I've accepted a £2k bid for Hélder Arruda from Penafiel, a Liga Pro side. He's currently negotiating a contract with them.

Anyway, we follow up our last gasp draw away at Caldas with a trip to Leiria, and then a trip to Barreirense. It's hardly ideal to have 3 away matches in a row but I suppose it should at least give me a couple more chances to find the winning counter attacking formula that I've been looking for.

Leiria also present a different sort of challenge today as they play a narrow 4-3-3. I'm not sure off the top of my head how many times I've played against teams in this formation, but all it reminds me of nowadays is Husqvarna. And relegation. And unemployment.

I resist the urge to have a traumatic flashback and go about setting my side up in a tweaked version of our Heróis Original system. We'll focus our play down the wings like we sometimes do with Project: Meatloaf, we'll play on the counter and we'll play slightly narrower in the hopes that we'll deny Leiria space to play in the middle. We'll also have Coelho come into the side, using his attacking prowess to overlap Kevin on the left. Jaime Seidi comes in for Arruda to fill the holding man role and Hurley keeps his place behind Magina. My new number 16 is ready and waiting on the bench though.

Also, we're on the brink of an Angrense record for number of wins in a season. So far we've won 15 matches, the record as it stands is 17.

Azevedo picks up a damaged shoulder early in the match. This isn't ideal, as I never have keepers on the bench, but luckily it's just a knock and he plays on.

It's Leiria who start the game well: Bernardo crosses to the near post after 5 minutes and Allef cracks the ball off the woodwork. A couple of minutes later, our corner is half cleared and Seidi squares it for hurley on the edge of the area, but his shot is straight at Leiria's keeper, Bonet.

A few minutes after that chance though, we break the deadlock. Amonike's cross from the byline deflects through to Benjamim. His shot is saved well by Bonet but Magina is on hand to boot in on the rebound.

We still don't stop coming forward, another minute or so passes before Amonike chips the ball into the near post and Magina rifles in his and our second. We seem content after that to take our foot off the pedal and aside from a booking for Miranda just before half time, we play out 60 extremely quiet minutes.

I bring on Paulista for his debut, replacing Hurley in the Brazilian's favoured number 10 role, but with about 15 minutes to play, Leiria go close twice when Asprilla's shot is charged down by Touré, and from the resulting corner, João Almeida boots the ball just over.

To see out the last 10 minutes I drop us back to a deep 4-2-3-1, with 2 holding men and 3 across midfield. Rúby comes on for Kevin and joins Seidi in front of the defence, and Paulista heads out to the left wing where he's also pretty comfortable.

Before you could say "Don't fuck this up" though, Miranda picks up one of his patented meaningless red cards after a second yellow, but Serpa replaces Benjamim and moves to right back and we see the game out with some degree of comfort.

https://youtu.be/HiAo_kLxGFg

The win is a massive relief. We were good value for it and we've now got 5 points from 3 matches, which is probably about as good a start as we could have hoped for.

So, despite the fact that our next match is another away one, it's Barreirense. I think if we want to have any hope of making the top 2 we need to win both matches against Barreirense. Having said that, Azevedo will be out for 2 weeks with his shoulder, despite the fact that he struggled through the Leiria match, keeping a clean sheet in the process. Miranda also misses out having received an automatic 1 match ban for his red card, and Benjamim makes up our missing trio when he picks up the mother of all stubbed toes in training, which will keep him out for an entire week.

In other news, although Magina has been on 9 assists for what seems like the entire season, he's now been joined on that tally by Amonike, so both of them are only 1 away from equalling Medeiros' record.

They'll both get the chance to pull level today as they'll both unsurprisingly start. Serginho and Serpa come in as like-for-like replacements for Azevedo and Miranda, and Hurley drops back into Benjamim's central spot as an attacking central midfielder. This leaves a space behind Magina, so Jeferson Paulista starts for his full debut.

Sometimes the Gods of football are completely and unapologetically shit. You know what I'm talking about. That time that the team you support hit the bar 3 times and lost 1-0. That time that your club's new signing broke his leg in his first training session. That time when your club got knocked out of the Cup Semi Final by a goal that shouldn't have stood.

But sometimes, just sometimes, the Gods of football are on your side. And when they are... It's just the fucking best.

8 minutes into our mach in Barreiro, we win a free kick in a central position, right outside the penalty area. Jeferson Paulista steps up on his full debut - And strikes it perfectly. It fizzes over the wall and so far into the top corner that I momentarily wondered whether it was possible for the ball to get stuck between the post and crossbar.

I am ecstatic. So ecstatic in fact that I try to awkwardly belly bounce Pedro for the first and probably last time. God I needed that goal. My passion to manage this club certainly didn't disappear after Borba's transfer hijinks but it definitely took a knock. I needed a moment like that to remind me what it's all about. I asked for an instant impact from my new number 10 and an instant impact is what he's had. And in case I wasn't clear, what a bloody goal.

Alas, the feel-good atmosphere is short lived. Almost 5 minutes later, Felix's powerful drive is tipped onto the post by Serginho, and Severino reacts quickly to get to the loose ball, before driving it low into the far corner of the net. Shortly afterwards, Severino plays a pass behind our defence, giving Caraballo a golden opportunity to give the home side the lead, but he shoots straight at Serginho from 8 yards out.

Under a minute later, Magina does the same for Hurley, playing a good pass in front of him in the penalty box, but his shot is saved well by Elói's outstretched hand.

It all goes a bit quiet until shortly after the break. Barreirense's corner is cleared by Paulista and we counter quickly. Amonike gets the ball on the right and plays it inside to Hurley, who squares the ball to Kevin in acres of space. Kevin unselfishly knocks the ball forward a few yards so that Magina can blast the ball into the back of the net, giving us the lead. To be honest though, from where I was sitting he was definitely offside.

Barreirense come back at us with the kitchen sink, forcing me to bring back our nice withdrawn 4-2-3-1. Rúby replaces Kevin to once again form the holding man partnership with Seidi, but the chances keep coming for the home team. Breimyr drives forward and shoots just wide and Altaír Júnior rifles the ball against the post with 15 minutes to play. I try to make us more solid, more narrow and less inclined to close the ball down and open space for Barreirense. Silva comes on for a late cameo, and in the 91st minute, Severino too smashes a low shot against the post.

https://youtu.be/cjo5AFMdOzc

It may not have been pretty, it may not have been convincing, but 3 points is 3 points is 3 points. We've risen up the top of the league with 8 points, but something tells me that staying there is going to be the difficult part.
Miniature Heróis - Part 2 (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep43)

As I make my way up to a good vantage point in the stands of Estádio Municipal de Angra do Heroismo, I turn and look at the players warming up. My eyes scan their faces, searching for someone I've been told to look out for.

"Where is he then, Vitor?" I ask, as I turn to face Vitor Azevedo, SC Angrense Head of Youth Development and no relation to our goalkeeper.

"There he is", he smiles, pointing out a young lad in the middle of the park.

There's a real buzz amongst the youth staff about Rodrigo Silva. He's a 16 year old local lad and has already been offered a contract with the Under 19's squad. This match is a mere formality for him. He's a holding midfielder with a growing reputation for making the right decisions and being difficult to push off of the ball.

Silva and the other candidates will face up against our Under 19 side. Well I say that, but it's pretty much an Angrense B team. Most of the side is made up of players who've had a run in the first team at some point. In fact, in their defence is 3 quarters of the defence that our started for the first team last season, so it'll be a tough test for the young ones.

The Under 19's take the lead early on in fortunate circumstances when Leão's deflected shot runs through for Thiago, and the centre midfielder pokes the ball past the keeper.

The 25th minute gets my nostalgia tingling when O Capitão and Under 19's Manager Gonçalo Valadão hits the post with a powerful free kick, but then after half an hour, goalscorer Thiago pushes Ribeiro in the box and young Rodrigo Silva confidently wallops the youth candidates' penalty into the net.

Before half time Xéxé's low cross is bundled in by Arruda to put the Under 19's back in front. They hold onto the lead through the 2nd half despite the youth candidates dominating. Andrade hits the woodwork and Serginho is forced into good saves by Amorim and Rodrigo Silva, but they fail to find the equaliser.

https://youtu.be/J0UcSEaArQ0

Promising stuff from the youth candidates. They went down swinging against a much more experienced side and I'll be keeping an eye on them. Rodrigo, the jewell of the side, faired very well in the "Benjamim" role of Project: Meatloaf. He showed a willingness to get forward to support attacks and did well defensively, as well as staying composed for the penalty.

In terms of our first team, it's time for Casa Pia to come to town. Casa Pia are the side that lost in the Promotion play-offs last year after finishing 2nd in Group B. They're one of the favourites to go up along with União da Madeira, who we play in a couple of weeks.

We'll set up with Project: Meatloaf with focus down the wings, as we do when a team sets up in a narrow shape like Casa Pia's narrow diamond. That means we keep Coelho in at left back for his ability to attack. In fact, the only change we make from our victory over Barreirense is that Vitor Miranda comes back in for Luciano Serpa as his suspension has ended.

Oh, and another record is looming for Cristiano Magina! Unsurprisingly, he's on course to break the record for Number of goals in a Portuguese Championship season. And he wanted me to sell him for £30k.

The first half is largely uneventful until Casa Pia's right back João Damil gets free and whips in a cross for Rodrigues, who controls the ball and finishes calmly to put the home side ahead with 5 minutes to play before the break.

The only action in the 2nd half comes about just after the hour mark when Kevin, making his 200th Angrense appearance, releases Diogo Coelho on the left wing. Coelho swings the ball into the area and Magina rises above the centre backs to power the ball home.

We try to play more methodically around Casa Pia's penalty area, we try to attack, we try to pass the ball into space and we try roaming with more freedom from our positions, but nothing I tell us to do breaks the deadlock.

https://youtu.be/mFdf_5uuZis

The game fizzles out, we keep our unbeaten run going with a credible draw, and Magina edges closer to a league record. I think we'll take that. We do slip down to 2nd in the League behind Mafra, but I'm not too concerned. Partially because with each match that passes we're proving more and more that we've got what it takes to go up against anyone in this division, and partially because we play them next.
Prank Calls (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 43.5)

I'm awoken by the sound of my mobile ringing on my bedside table. In my half asleep state I fling out an arm to reach it, but with the zero coordination I possess in the moment, my poor hand smacks straight into the side of the table. Cursing loudly, I swing my legs out of the bed and sit up, grabbing the phone violently like it'd just personally inflicted my injury. I look at the phone to see that the call is coming from a withheld number. The time is 1:34am.

"Hello?" I snap irritatedly.

"Och Aye", chirps the ambiguously accented voice on the other end of the phone, "It's Sir Alex Fergietime, I just wanted to tell you how much I look up to and admire you as a Manager" the voice says, seemingly through a fit of giggles.

"Who is this?" I bark. The line goes dead.

Annoyed, I settle back down in bed, and after a few minutes I start to doze. Shortly afterwards though, my phone rings again. This time I leap out of bed and grab it instantly. Seeing that the number is blocked again, I answer aggressively.

"What?" I shout.

"DILLY DING DILLY DONG" Squeals the equally unrecognisably accented voice in reply. "It's me, Sir Claudio Ranieri. I want you to take over Chelsea when I leave because I respect you so, so much" The layers of sarcasm coming through the phone are so thick that I'm afraid they'll drip out onto the floor.

"How long has it been since you've followed football?" I ask with a sigh. The giggles on the other end are very clearly audible. "And Ranieri's not even a..."

"Hey it's me, Fat Sam", says the suddenly incredibly gruff attempt at a Northern English accent.

"Fat Sam yeah?" I ask flatly. The voice goes quiet. "It's Big Sam, and you sound like Bollo, you dick."

"Who?" Replies the voice. I'm taken aback. There's a familiarity to the accent now. I don't think this one's put on. It's the kind of voice that makes you want to start kicking water bottles and flipping tables, so that the connect 4 sets that sit on top of them go hurtling towards the ground.

"Roger?"

The line goes dead.
Interview (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep44)

"Why should we hire you, Franjo?" Asks Gian Carelse. I was expecting this question, of course I was. Who doesn't expect this question in a job interview?

"Well," I begin, "In the past 15 months I've transformed my Angrense side from a Championship Relegation Stage side into a team that are currently 1 point off the automatic promotion spot. I've spent under £10k, I've brought players through from the academy, some of which have been..." I shift uncomfortably in my seat. "...Sold on for club record fees. We're unbeaten in 25 league matches and I think that I can bring similar success to your club" I conclude. My morning rehearsals paid off. I sound very impressive.

Gian's expression doesn't change. He continues to look at me coldly, almost like he's studying me. "You only have 18 months experince..."

"I know! Imagine how good I'll be in a few years!" I joke. I realise almost immediately that I have made the wrong decision.

"...And you have already experienced relegation" As Gian finishes his sentence I feel myself turn red. I begin to flail.

"Uhhhhh... No. Well yes, but..."

"The Black Leopards are currently in danger of relegation. Do you really consider yourself well equipped to save us?"

It's a good question. Do I? Although Angrense were in the Relegation Stage when I arrived the quality in the squad meant that relegation was never a real concern. I've only had one shot at a survival race and I blew it. Höllviken is going to haunt me forever.

The Black Leopards, by the way, are a South African 2nd tier club that are currently 13th out of 16 clubs, and as Gian said they are in real danger of relegation. I applied for the vacant Manager's position for a number of reasons, but mainly because I think they have the best name out of any football club. And to a lesser extent, I'd quite like to try my hand outside Europe.

The interview hasn't gone as I had hoped though. I told Gian that I wouldn't be able to join at the minute due to my hopes of Promotion for Angrense. I said that I'd be available at the end of the season. The Black Leopards' Chairman, for whatever reason, didn't take kindly to that. I suppose he wants a manager that's able to join in time to prevent their relegation, which is probably fair. I don't have high hopes that I'll get the job.

Anyway, let's fast forward a few days and focus on the matter in hand. I still have a top 2 finish to secure and our next 2 matches will be very big ones indeed. We play Mafra today, the League leaders, and then União da Madeira next week, who are almost certainly going to be in the mix for the top 2.

More records are waiting to be broken today too: Magina's now 3 goals away from a Championship record, a win today would be a new Club record, and avoiding defeat would make this a record unbeaten run in the Championship. No pressure though, eh?

I'll be making a few changes for today's game. Délcio Azevedo's shoulder has mended so he'll come back into the first team, along with Maurp Aires and Domingos Quina. I almost forgot about the West Ham man since Jeferson Paulista arrived, but Kevin's been quiet lately so he'll be dropped to the bench, Paulista will play on the left, and Quina can have another crack at the number 10 spot.

Magina bruises his thigh in the opening minutes, which is not at all ideal. This is a big match and we really need to be firing on all cylinders.

Within quarter of an hour, Varão has a close range shot saved by Azevedo and Jimmy rattles the post with a drive from 20 yards, as the pessimism continues to be poured onto the occasion. We disband plans to control the game and retreat to a more standard mentality.

That does the trick, sort of. The next thing I know, an hour has passed and I'm bringing Kevin on for the ineffective Quina.

With 20 minutes to play, Amonike floats in a cross from our corner, Rafael Golano heads the ball away, but it falls perfectly for Jeferson Paulista, who crashes a half volley in at the near post. My jaw drops as I watch it happen. We really are unstoppable.

Not keen to let the lead slip, I swap us to a counter attacking 4-1-2-3 system, bringing Seidi on for Magina and shoving Kevin up front for possibly the first time so that the big man can rest his bruised thigh.

With full time approaching, Rúby comes on for Benjamim and we go to our trusty withdrawn 4-2-3-1. We see the match out, and in doing so, write ourselves into Angrense and Portugues Championship history. We are unbeaten in 26 league games and we've won 18 times in the division this season. Vamos bloody Heróis.

https://youtu.be/qQiJYKKUdvY

Magina misses training for a few days but he's back in plenty of time for our next match.

Miguel Borba calls me during the week and asks if I'd like to open contract talks, but I politely decline before hanging up and insulting the shit out of him. Unfortunately, Gian Carelse calls just minutes later, to give me the bad news. I won't have the enviable title of Black Leopards Manager next season. My search for a new club continues.

I think I'll just leave the job hunt for now. I'll finish the season here and then start applying again. Nobody's going to want to hire me if I can't join instantly anyway. Anyone that might want me at the minute will most likely be stuck in a relegation scrap and will want their manager in pronto.

The rejection of a South African minnow with a really cool name is not the only annoying thing that's happened either. União have climbed above us in the League, despite us sitting in 2nd and beating 1st place Mafra. So now we're still in 2nd behind União. I suppose we just have to do to them exactly what we did to Mafra.

We'll play on our new counter attacking Heróis Original system, which I may or may not rename to something more apt at some point. Hurley is suspended after picking up his 10th yellow against Mafra, but thank fuck for Portuguese league rules, it's still only a 1 match ban. Kevin also comes back in for Quina as my experiment last week fell flat on its face.

Our title challenge takes a knock instantly. With under a minute gone in the match, Olivier trips Wangler in the box. It could be the start of a horrific 90 minutes, but Flávio Silva's powerful penalty is well saved by Vitor Azevedo. We breathe a huge sigh of relief.

And within 5 minutes, the tables are completely turned on União. After such a promising first minute, the breakthrough goes to us. Kevin breaks down the right wing and drills it in towards the near post, where Amonike arrives to tuck the ball into the net.

About 15 minutes later it's all square again when Wangler's free kick deflects off Benjamim in the wall and sends Azevedo the wrong way, but within another minute Benjamim's shot deflects through to the far post, and Magina gets there the fastest to put us back into the lead. It's been a breathless opening 25 minutes.

The next 25 minutes are not so breathless. Half time comes and goes without incident, and it's not until the 53rd minute that Magina squares the ball to Benjamim in front of an empty net. It's an opportunity that our midfielder doesn't waste and he puts us 3-1 up.

I take the opportunity to thank our lucky stars, and then retreat to the relative safety that I keep finding in our withdrawn 4-2-3-1. We go all out defence.

Kévin Rodrigues' 2nd yellow for a trip on Amonike makes União's day go from bad to worse, and helps us to secure our precious, precious points.

https://youtu.be/xmvdBRTf5R4

The last 8 days could not have gone better. We've picked up 6 points against 2 teams who were at the top of the Championship Promotion Stage Group B, and we now find ourselves back at the top and 2 points clear. Roll on April.
Beep Beep (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep45)

It's that time again. I've long since forgotten how my long running one sided feud with former SC Angrense Manager Eduardo Almeida started. All I know is that I've got one more chance to beat him. And the way that I beat him is by beating Caldas.

In other monumentally exciting news, Lassina Touré made his international debut in Burkina Faso's home friendly against Tunisia the other day. He came on at half time when the game was deadlocked at 0-0 but sadly he put in a sub-par performance and Tunisia ran out as 2-1 winners. I'm a bit gutted for him, but the silver lining is that he's a bloody international footballer now!

I've also had to swat away another attempt by Miguel Borba to get me to sign a new contract. I suggested that we instead invest in our youth academy. It was a very subtle dig that I think went over his head. He rejected my counter offer.

Anyway, Caldas. Caldas, Caldas, Caldas. I've laid awake for the last few nights thinking, plotting and a few times even scheming. In my 3 attempts at beating Caldas in the past, I have used Project: Meatloaf, and lost, I have used Heróis Original and drawn, and I've used Project: Burnie and drawn again. This makes things tricky as I'm pretty sure that there's nobody else in the Portuguese Championship that we've played against and not beaten at some point, well apart from a few teams in this promotion stage group, but we've still got another chance against them all. And what concerns me is that against Caldas, none of my systems seem to work.

We'll line up with a tweaked version of Project: Meatloaf today. Tweaked in the sense that our shape will be a 4-1-2-3 instead of 4-2-3-1. We'll show them respect, but we'll still try to control the game and beat them.

We've ran into a spot of bad luck too, as both of our usual full backs are suspended for this match. Vitor Miranda and Mauro Aires both picked up a booking against União, taking them both to 5 for the season.

Nevertheless, I've seen enough of Coelho to convince me that he's a solid option, so he'll jump in on the left. Luciano Serpa is a man who I've not really played since signing him in the Summer, as Vitor Miranda is a difficult man to shift from my starting XI when he isn't hacking down opponents. I don't have a choice though, so he starts too. Hurley actually returns from his suspension and he'll come in replacing Kevin, while Paulista starts on the left wing.

And as is becoming commonplace with this band of excellent bastards, we're still on the verge of some records. Benjamim has entered the race with Amonike and Magina to beat Jordanes Medeiros' assist record, but Magina leads the way having already equalled it. We're also level with our club record unbeaten run in all competitions, and avoiding defeat today would set a new one of 16 matches without a loss. Bloody Belenenses.

"Why today?" I ask nobody in particular in the dressing room at half time. "We need to make something happen against these. We need to." Nobody makes eye contact. That first half was one of our drabbest on record. Absolutely nothing happened. "Go out there, keep the ball, get a foothold in this match, and beat bloody Caldas!" I say assertively, before turning on my heels and marching back to the pitch.

They do seem to take my words to heart. With almost an hour played, Amonike swings a free kick in towards the near post. Benjamim takes it down and has a shot, but Paulo makes the save.

With 15 minutes to go, I throw on Kevin and Renato Silva for Paulista and CM9 in the hopes that their fresh legs will make the difference.

And then it happens - With 5 minutes of normal time to play, Amonike curls a corner to the far post. Renato Silva gets up to nod it back across goal, where Olivier heads it from a tight angle - Off the post. Goal kick.

I stand on the touchline with my hands on the back of my head and my fingers interlocked. I know that in the grand scheme of things, a draw against Caldas is fine. Yes, they're one of the weaker sides in this group, but I'll take every point I can get in our hunt for promotion. But I just wanted to finish this before I left. I just wanted to get the win over them. Just once.

In the 92nd minute, David Brás brings the ball forward threateningly for Caldas, and my heart jumps into my mouth. But Touré tackles him. Surely not. Touré plays the ball to Kevin on the right, who dribbles forwards and lays it back to Serpa. Surely not. The ball goes inside for Seidi, then back out for Benjamim, then down the line for Kevin. Surely not. Kevin slides a low cross towards the penalty spot...

I've done a lot of things wrong in my career so far, but I've also done a lot of things right. The day that sits at the pinnacle of the good decision pyramid in my mind is the 31st of January 2017. It was only a couple of days after I joined Angrense, and it was the day that I parted with £1,500 to secure the signature of Gonçalo Miguel Reyes Dias from Operário Lagoa. My most trusted Lieutenant. The footballer that I swear I will take with me wherever I go next. The man whose nickname was a gentle nod and a wink towards a large lovable character from a TV show that most people look back on with derision.

He only needs one touch. Hurley looks up and strokes the ball into the bottom corner.

As he comes sprinting towards the dugout with his arms held aloft, I feel a familiar wide smile stretch across my face. I hold my hand up for a high 5 as he sprints past, and Hurley does not leave me hanging. He never does.

https://youtu.be/5WeEb8x6Ix8

It gives me great pleasure to draw a line through "Beat Caldas" on my Angrense bucket list. I'm sure that wherever Eduardo is, he couldn't care less, but it would have left a sour taste in the mouth if I'd left without doing it. And now that that's out of the way, everything else seems easy. We can beat Camacha away. We can beat anyone. We can win this fucking league.

We're going classic Project: Meatloaf. Back comes Kevin, who's now also joined the assist record race, along with Miranda and Aires. Out go Seidi, Serpa and Coelho. Move out of the way Camacha, Os Heróis are coming through. Beep Beep.

Specifically Amonike is coming through when Magina plays the ball into his path 10 minutes in. The winger runs through on goal, but his shot fizzes wide of the far post. Nearly quarter of an hour later, Kevin chips the ball to the far post from the left, and Amonike's there again, but his header is saved by Jesus.

Half an hour in, he's in the thick of it again, swinging a corner out to the far post. Kevin gets there and cushions a header down to Cristiano Magina, who shapes his body brilliantly as he, how can I put this, absolutely twats the ball into the top corner on the volley. Beep Beep.

A few minutes later, Camacha's Camacho drives forward on the ball but shoots just high and wide of our goal, and then just before half time, Paulista breaks from a Camacha corner and plays the ball over the top for Amonike on the left. He gets level with the box and whips a cross in to the far side, where Kevin is waiting to take the ball down and slot it past the keeper. Beep Beep.

I'm a very happy man at half time, and rightly so. Vitor Miranda though is developing an annoying habit of ruining my good time. Within 2 minutes of the restart he pushes Roberto in the box and gives Camacha a penalty.

Luckily, for every Vitor Miranda there's a Délcio Azevedo. He saves the centrally placed penalty and maintains our 2 goal cushion. I don't know the exact number of penalties that he's saved this season but that's certainly not his first.

With 20 minutes left to play, Neto plays a good ball over our defence for Belo, who cracks a half volley against Azevedo's bar. We respond by swapping our system to the new Heróis Counter and throwing Seidi on for Hurley.

In the dying minutes, Paulista tries to set up our third. First he tees up CM9 for a long range shot that Jesus saves, and then he plays Amonike through on the left. The winger chips the ball over to the far post and Magina's close range header clips the bar as it goes over.

It doesn't matter. The 3 points are ours. The 3 points are always ours.

Beep Beep, Camacha. Beep Beep.

https://youtu.be/SBSIDiIB1yU
Prank Calls - Part 2 (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 45.5)

As I walk home from training, planning my evening around watching our next opponent Leiria's last match and being shunned by my 2 cats, my phone starts to ring. I dig it out of my pocket to see that I'm being called by a withheld number. In light of recent events, I'm suspicious. I answer the call and hold the phone up to my ear. "Hello?" I say tentatively.

"Hello, is this Franjo?" Says a heavily accented voice on the other end.

"Yep" I reply curtly.

"Franjo, it's a pleasure. This is Slaven Bilic. I'm calling to..."

"Oh, go fuck yourself" I reply, before hanging up. Roger has been unemployed for a full year now and is obviously struggling to fill the days. But should I feel bad? If you work in football you've got to learn how to deal with being sacked haven't you. It's not my fa... My phone's ringing again. Withheld number. I answer.

"What is it, Roger?"

"This is Slaven Bilic", spits Roger. "You go fuck yourself, you insolent little man."

"Find a job and leave me alone" I plead.

"I have a job! I loaned you my player and you have not held up your end of the deal!" A long silence follows. Surely not. "You agreed with my staff that Domingos Quina would be a first team player. That's why we allowed him to join you!" I feel the colour drain from my face. I try to reply but the most I can manage is to repeatedly open and close my mouth like a goldfish. "WELL?" He barks.

"SLAVEN BILIC" I yelp, unhelpfully.

"Yes." He mutters, irritatedly. "Look, please could you stick to our agreement and play Domingos in your team?" He continues, as I whimper down the phone. This isn't Roger. This is a Premier League Manager. This is a former Everton player. I had a fucking picture of this guy on my wall when I was a kid! My first contact with a big name in football and I've just told him to go fuck himself!

"I am hanging up now." Says Bilic wearily. "Please stick to our agreement in future." I continue to whimper as the line goes dead, before the whimper evolves into a high pitched, maniacal laugh. I sink down to a squatting position, still holding the phone to my ear, and pull my Angrense jersey up over my head. I need to be alone and I need to be invisible. I just made a complete arse of myself and I've got nobody to blame but... Roger.
Bilic Be Damned (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep46)

With 5 matches to play, we are well and truly coming up to crunch time. I'm not sure how seriously I took our promotion chances at the start of the season, but there's no doubt that we'll be in the mix now. Today we host Leiria, a side that we beat 2-0 in our last meeting, and a repeat performance would be just great.

With Big Slav's request still ringing in my ears, I decide to bring Domingos Quina back into the fold and give Jeferson Paulista a rest. He's been a revelation since he arrived in Hero Creek, but we've got some huge games coming up that I need him to be fresh for.

Amonike has drawn level now with Medeiros' and Magina's assist record of 10, but Kevin is catching up. There's plenty of players in the mix for this record, which just speaks volumes about this squad.

We start brightly. It takes less than 4 minutes for Magina to put the ball through to release Amonike, but the winger's first time shot, although seemingly destined for the bottom corner, is turned behind well by Bonet.

On the approach to half time I tell Os Heróis to push forwards and attack. We're nearly punished in injury time when Bernardo's corner connects with Santiago, who powers his header against the bar.

It's been another one of those halfs. Another one of those halfs that leave me more underwhelmed than 2008 Robinho when he realised who he'd actually signed for. I give the starters 15 minutes of the 2nd half to impress me, which they don't, before bringing on Silva and Paulista and hauling off Magina and Quina. Bilic be damned, I want to win.

Over the next few minutes, both teams come close. Silva hits a tame shot into Bonet's arms and Pereira's ball over our defence is latched onto by Allef, who goes one-on-one with Azevedo but can't find a way past our pint sized Keeper.

Keen not to keep our defensive line unnecessarily high and invite Leiria to have another go at that, we go back to trying to control the game. It nearly pays off a few minutes from time when we win a corner. Amonike swings the ball in, Olivier nods it on at the near post and Touré gets his head to it at the far post, forcing an incredible reflex save from Bonet.

Ah well. There's no argument here to say that either side should have won. In the end, both teams will gratefully take the point, the clean sheet, and then never speak of this match again.

Hopefully though, we can find our form again away at Casa Pia. We drew 1-1 with them at our place so we're all itching to get the 3 points today. Casa Pia usually line up with a narrow diamond, so we'll focus our play down the wings. Paulista comes in for Quina, and after his recently outstanding form for our Under 19's (After bagging 5 goals in his last match, he's now scored 26 in 26), Wilson Dias gets an actual real life start in place of Magina, who's had a couple of quiet matches.

We start brightly once again when after just 5 minutes, Paulista strides forwards on the ball and cracks a shot against the bar from 20 yards. Just before the half hour mark though, he steps up to take a free kick in a very similar position to the one that he scored on his full debut. Obviously he powers it straight into the top corner again, because that's exactly what Elano would have done. 1-0. Vamos Heróis.

Moments later, Hurley lays the ball off for Amonike, who forces a good save from Paulo in the Casa Pia net.

We head out after the break full of piss and vinegar. Paulista continues to pull the strings from the number 10 spot, playing the ball to Dias, who in turn feeds Benjamim, but Paulo is on form again to turn our midfielder's shot away.

Quina comes on with half an hour to go in place of Kevin, and then Magina replaces Dias with 10 minutes to go. Paulista takes a bit of a knock, but that seems to be all she wrote.

Until the 93rd minute. When Hurley's sloppy pass goes straight to Marques. Marques plays the ball to Ribeiro, who splits our defence with a through ball, and Rodrigues pokes the equaliser past the on-rushing Azevedo.

Bollocks.

https://youtu.be/8Diun1BqTe0

Again, I can't be too critical. I genuinely think that this may be the first time Hurley's messed up in an Angrense shirt, and it's cost us a cheap goal and 2 points. But that's just how it goes sometimes. 2 points in 8 days isn't the worst tally in the world, although it is slightly annoying. It's just been a bit of a "Meh" week.

But the only thing that matters to me now is that we still sit at the top of the league. And with 3 matches to play, we're a nose in front of Mafra in 2nd, but an entire 5 points ahead of Barreirense in 3rd. And somehow we've still not been bloody beaten.
A lot of drawers of late it seems! Hopefully they start to turn into victories and not defeats.
Sometimes you have to stand in the shadows; to see the light.

OYSTON OUT
Five-A-Side (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep47)

"Dele Alli, definitely. Then Gary Cahill, Jordan Pickford, Harry Kane and... Probably Adam Lallana. You?"

Nuno smacks his leathery lips as he trundles his mower across the pitch alongside me. "Cristiano Ronaldo..." He begins, "Rui Patrício... Bernardo Silva... João Moutinho..." He deliberates over the final name. "Pepe." He concludes. I chuckle.

"You'd have Pepe in your Portuguese 5 a side team?" I ask, incredulously. "You need skilful players for 5 a side. Players that are good on the ball and handy in tight spaces. He's a bit of a bull in a china shop isn't he."

"If Pepe plays so rough that your team runs away crying, I win, Inglês."

"Fair point", I concede. And then after a short pause, "I still think my team would win though."

"Os Ingleses", he laughs.

Just then, I notice Pedro striding across the pitch towards us. I give him a nod, which he returns.

"Message for you, Boss" he says sympathetically, "Tuks called. They've hired someone."

I sigh. "Oh well. Cheers Pedro." He nods and starts walking back off the pitch.

I decided that I would apply for one more job. I had an interview with University of Pretoria (Known as "Tuks", a South African top tier side the other day. I don't know what chance I thought I had when a South African second tier side rejected me not that long ago. It can't be helped though, I don't think South Africa's ready for me yet. I'll have to find another destination. Maybe I'll stick to Europe for another year or 2 and then conquer the World.

Anyway, now that Nuno's got our pitch nice and playable, we're ready to host Barreirense. I have no particularly special plan for this match as I fully expect us to beat Barreirense at this point. We go Meatloaf, and we go full strength.

We start well. It takes Magina only 17 minutes to clip our opening goal into the far corner of the net, after a good pass from Hurley. And less than 10 minutes after the goal, our day gets even better when Barreirense's star striker Caraballo has to be stretchered off with an injury. He's scored 17 in 27 so far this season so it's certainly comforting to watch him be carried from the field. I do feel quite bad, but not bad enough to stop me subtly pumping my fist in celebration.

Before the half hour mark, a brilliant Heróis passing move ends with Magina returning the favour for Hurley, setting the midfielder up so he can slot the ball between the keeper's legs and double our lead. It could be 3-0 shortly afterwards, but Paulista smashes one of his excellent free kicks against the post.

In first half injury time however, Hurley turns brilliantly to lose 2 defenders, and then plays a perfect pass around the corner for Amonike, who does slot in our 3rd. Game over.

The 2nd half starts fairly slowly. Magina and Zé Francisco both have outrageously speculative long range shots just after the restart, but neither troubles either keeper. Lagoa then plays Zé Francisco through on goal, but he shoots straight at Délcio Azevedo.

With about half an hour to go, I bring on Quina, Dias and Renato Silva. They could all do with a run out and I feel like I can afford to give Kevin, Paulista and Magina a rest. The decision does threaten to backfire on me though. First, Félix latches onto a Severino cross and volleys at goal from close range, only to be denied by Azevedo's fingertips, and then Santos finds Lagoa with a well practiced free kick routine, but his shot is charged down by Olivier.

The final whistle goes and we record a 3-0 win over Barreirense. And not only that. We've also gone and secured ourselves a top 2 finish.

https://youtu.be/ah3tSj1D6-I

I receive a call a couple of minutes after full time from Miguel Borba. Not one to take a hint, he asks once again if I'd like to discuss a new contract. Just like I did a few weeks ago, but with more sarcasm, I tell him to invest in our academy instead. He declines. And he still doesn't get it.

I do also find out shortly afterwards that Caraballo tore his hamstring during our match, so I hereby withdraw my celebrations and fist pump. Poor guy.

These next 2 matches are arguably the biggest of our Season. First up is União at home. União have surprised me slightly in the way that they've slid out of reach of the top 2. I expected them to be in the mix for the top spot until the very end but I can't help feel that they've underachieved. In fact, they could condemn themselves to another Season in the Championship if they don't beat us today. We on the other hand, could secure ourselves the top spot and make next week's trip to 2nd place Mafra a dead rubber, which would be very, very helpful.

The yellow card that Hurley picked up against Barreirense was his 15th of the Season, so he's banned for today's match. Jaime Seidi replaces him in our lineup and will be the holding man in a slightly adapted Project: Meatloaf. Otherwise, we're unchanged.

Hey and here's yet another record within our reach: We've scored 62 goals so far this season. The record for a team in this division is 66. I'd definitely back us to break that in our 3 or 4 remaining matches.

The first half is an end to end encounter. Paulista sees a low shot turned behind by Rodrigo Antunes, before Amonike cushions down Kevin's cross and Magina executes a Di Canio esque volley from close range, but sends the ball crashing against the bar.

Flávio Silva gets the ball in the net for União after Marakis nods on Bica's looping free kick, but the linesman's flag is raised. Silva was offside and the game remains deadlocked. 5 minutes before the break though, Martins drills a cross in from the right and Flávio Silva is there again. And he's onside. 1-0 União.

At half time we change to be a little more attacking, but we can't get close to the equaliser. But then, 20 minutes after the break, Sérgio Marakis slides into Magina from behind. It's an ugly, ugly challenge and he's shown a deserved straight red. I see our opportunity and instruct Os Heróis to play the ball quicker and into space. We need to make the most of our extra man.

With 10 minutes to go we change again. This time to a 4-2-4 formation. We're throwing everything forward in search of the equaliser. I absolutely don't want our season-long unbeaten run to end with only 2 or 3 games to go. Aires picks up a gash on his leg, so he comes off along with Seidi. Coelho and Dias come on as more offensive alternatives.

5 minutes before the end, Coelho overlaps on the left wing and swings a cross deep into the box. Kevin nods the ball back across goal and Magina pokes it in. It's an ugly goal, and it's not the first time this Season that our unbeaten run has been saved thanks to a red card for the opposition or a late goal, but I'll take it. Rúby comes on to sure us up in a 4-3-1-2 system, and we see the match out to claim a valuable point.

https://youtu.be/yaeO_jbnOXA

That was far too close. Don't get me wrong, I'm over the moon to have guaranteed a Play-off spot, but I would be gutted at this point if we didn't achieve automatic promotion. Failure to grab an equaliser in that match would have not only ended our unbeaten run in a "He was only 2 days away from retirement" kind of way, but it also would have put us level on points with Mafra.

I had hoped to get Promotion wrapped up today, but in all fairness, where would be the fun in that? Instead, it'll all go down to the last day, when 1st takes on 2nd in a winner-takes-all encounter. The victor will be elevated instantly to the dizzy heights of the Portuguese 2nd tier, while the loser will have to get through a grueling 2-legged play off against a team from the division above.

Let's find out what we're made of, shall we?
Vamos Heróis (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep48)

I stare, unblinking, across the pitch. It has all gone horrendously, hideously wrong. Correct me if I'm misremembering but I don't ever recall us being 2 goals down at any point this season. But here we are. 37 minutes in. Mafra 2, Angrense 0. What a great fucking time for this to happen.

45 Minutes Earlier...

"Now remember", I begin, "A loss today does not mean that we've failed. If Mafra beat us, all that happens is we pick ourselves up and go again in the play offs. But if we win..." I look around the changing room as I let the word sink in. I watch the players' body language. A clenched fist here, a flicker of a smile there.

"If we win", I repeat in a soft tone, "You will be legends in Hero Creek. You will be true Heróis." With that, a wave of calm optimism seems to wash over the players. "I'm not one for massive speeches lads," I continue, "but I'd like to remind you of some advice that a friend once gave me. A piece of advice that I passed on to those of you who played for me and for Angrense when I first arrived in Hero Creek." As my Heróis turn their eyes towards me, a wide smile stretches across my face, and I grasp the handkerchief in my left trouser pocket.

"Don't overthink it", I wink.

We're so fucking ready for this match. I've never known these players so excited, or so focussed. Mafra Away could arguably be described as the toughest match of our Season and there's a strange poetry to the way that it's come about on the last day to decide who wins Promotion. But to be honest, I wouldn't want it any other way. This match deserves to be an occasion and my players deserve to be the ones who win it.

We will line up today in a counter attacking 4-1-2-3 variant of our Heróis Original system. We will be solid, we will soak up pressure, and we will hit Mafra quickly on the break. Rúby starts as the holding man as Jaime Seidi is suspended and Diogo Coelho starts in place of the injured Mauro Aires. Jeferson Paulista starts on the left wing, leaving Kevin on the bench.

The first goal comes 13 minutes in when Varão lays the ball off for Bruninho, who belts it into the top corner from just outside the area. It's a hell of a strike to be fair. I react rashly, telling the players to abandon our plan of counter attacking and to attempt to control the game instead.

In the 37th minute, Carvalhas swings in a free kick from the right wing and big centre back Rafael Goiano heads the ball past the flailing Azevedo.

Do you remember when I mentioned the Gods of football? When I explained that they can be incredibly cruel and vindictive arse holes? Well how about getting beaten for the first time on the last day of the season? That's them. This is their doing. They're laughing their celestial tits off at me right now.

But suddenly, we come alive. The 2nd goal seems to flick a switch and it's only a couple of minutes before Amonike drills in a cross from the right wing, which Guilherme helpfully deflects into his own net.

My players smell blood. There's a real spring in their step now. In the 44th minute, as I consider what kind of approach I'll use in my team talk, Amonike gets free down the right again and puts another low cross in, but this time Guilherme does not score on our behalf. He doesn't need to. Because Benjamim arrives at the near post to score the equaliser.

If there's one thing that I've really grown to love in away matches, it's the silence. I don't know if we're a special case or if the whole division is the same, but generally you can count the number of away fans that attend these matches on one hand. Whether we're the home or away side, it's always the same: A couple of away fans amongst a sea of hundreds of home fans. And when we're on the road, and you could hear the sound of a pin dropping on the other side of the ground, it's one of the best feelings a Portuguese Championship Manager can have.

At half time, as it turns out, I barely need to say anything. A quick comeback before half time builds an awful lot of momentum and I only ask that the players carry it into the second half. Unfortunately they don't. Aside from a ridiculously optimistic long range shot from Bruninho, the first 25 minutes are quiet and tense.

Mind you, that may not be the worst thing in the world. After all, as it stands, we're going up. I don't want to rock the boat by making big changes, so I just drop our wingers back to form a 2nd bank of 4. We'll play our standard game in a 4-1-4-1 and try to scrape through to the end.

I'm clock watching now, which is never ever a useful thing to do. It only makes time go more slowly. It makes you feel every tick, and experience every tock. I'm watching the pot and expecting it to boil, but I can't help it. Into the final 10 minutes we go, and all we need to do is not fuck this up.

In the 83rd minute, Hurley chips a beautiful pass into the Mafra box for Magina, who chests the ball down - And half volleys into the bottom corner. My heart's pounding. This it it. Have we won it? We've surely won it. An equaliser wouldn't be enough for Mafra, they need to beat us. I promised myself I wouldn't, but I try to belly bounce Pedro again.

I needn't have worried about a Mafra equaliser. They may as well raise a white flag from their dugout. They're dejected and they're done. Pretty much straight from kick off, we get forward again. Magina squares the ball for Paulista and the Brazilian puts the cherry on top with a low finish into the bottom corner.

4-2. It's 4-2. The final whistle blows and it's still 4-2. I can hear screaming and cheering from my staff behind me and my players in front of me, and it's still 4-2. We've won. We've done it. We've been fucking promoted.

https://youtu.be/Fl4weyhM9os

I'm laughing, or crying, or something in between. It's difficult to tell. All I know is that I'm sprinting as fast as my legs will carry me onto the pitch towards the pile of Heróis in the far corner, along with Pedro and my staff. Even Nuno's caught up with us. He's running alonside me, beaming as tears streak down his cheeks. "VAMOS HERÓIS!" I shout, throwing my arm around his shoulder. Nuno looks up at me and just starts wailing with happiness. "VAMOS HERÓIS, INGLÊS!" He sobs. What a game. What a comeback. What a year. What a club.

As I join in the celebrations with the players, a golden retriever that's obviously sneaked through the turnstiles somehow, and the 2 travelling fans, who by the way have staged the smallest pitch invasion in the history of football, I feel a slight pang of regret. I've brought this team up to the LigaPro, but I won't be here to lead them through it. I'm starting to wonder whether the decision I made is the right one.

At that moment I notice Miguel Borba striding across the grass, looking straight at me. I can tell from his face that he can tell from my face exactly what I'm thinking. He keeps walking until he's stood uncomfortably close to me, and then he leans in towards my ear and whispers: "I will ask you one more time, and your answer will be final. Will you stay with Angrense, Franjo, or will you go?"
That needed an EastEnders beat to end it!
Sometimes you have to stand in the shadows; to see the light.

OYSTON OUT
That needed an EastEnders beat to end it!


😂 Bloody right!
One More Time (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep49)

The last couple of weeks has been a bit surreal. We won promotion from the Portuguese Championship and for a moment I thought that our Season was over, completely forgetting that we've still got to face off against the winner of Group A to determine who wins the Division. So in the end, our celebrations didn't last very long. We've still got 1 more match to play before we can claim to have gone the entire 2017/18 season unbeaten, so there's still work to be done.

We've had 2 friendlies against 2 small sides (The biggest teams that would play us right at the end of the season, frustratingly) to prepare us for our match against Cinfães, the winners of Group A. First, we eased past Guadeloupe at home. In a rotated line up, Seidi opened the scoring, Quina bagged goals either side of half time and Kevin put the cherry on top as we ran out 4-0 winners.

https://youtu.be/wlsYLR7qj5I

For our 2nd friendly I thought it best to play an away match as the play-off will be hosted at a neutral venue. To be specific, we'll be playing at Liga Nos side Nacional da Madeira's stadium, Estádio da Madeira. So we travelled to Vitória do Pico and played the exact same side that I plan to play against Cinfães. It was our dress rehearsal, if you like. Anyway, I hope the real match goes that well. Kevin opened the scoring before Sobral got the equaliser, and then Kevin gave us the lead again. Magina, Aires and Hurley all scored to get us another convincing win.

https://youtu.be/DbOEiun_04A

But it's one thing trouncing teams like Guadeloupe and Vitória do Pico. Trying to take a win against Cinfães will be an entirely different proposition.

The line up that I played in that second friendly, and the line up that I've picked today, is as standard and as predictable as it could possibly be. I don't know what to expect from Cinfães, except for a tough game, but we'll end the season the only way that feels right. We'll set up to dominate. We'll embrace the spirit of my arse hole of a cat one more time. We will of course go Project: Meatloaf.

Goalkeeper - No. 1 - Délcio Borges Azevedo

He has been solid if unspectacular over the last 18 months. Serginho took the gloves for a spell at the start of this season, but eventually Délcio won back his rightful place between the sticks.

Defensive Right Back - No. 13 - Vitor Hugo Alves Miranda

It's never even crossed my mind to replace him while I've been here. Yes, he's been known to have the odd lapse of judgement, but overall he's been solid defensively and decent at supporting attacks.

Centre Back - No. 26 - Lassina Touré

A free signing in the Summer, Lassina blossomed this season, even winning his first cap for Burkina Faso against Tunisia. He's been a solid upgrade on last year's centre backs.

Centre Back - No. 12 - Jean Olivier Sumo Kingue, AKA Olivier

Take everything I just said about Touré and multiply it by 10. Well, apart from the international cap thing. Olivier has been an outrageously good capture for us. A complete centre back, a danger from set pieces, and one of the unsung stars of my Heróis side.

Defensive Left Back - No. 2 - Mauro Aires Brasil Reis

Another man brought in during my defensive overhaul a year ago, Mauro has been a defensively solid option at left back. He's been OK going forward but I've generally left him out in favour of Diogo Coelho when I've wanted us to attack down the wings.

Box to Box Midfielder - No. 17 - Benjamim Pimentel Melo Vicente, AKA Benjamim

When I first saw Benjamim, I described him as a man who 'would have a good shot at winning the "Most Average Player in the World" award.' I was dead wrong. He's one of those players who is far more than the sum of his parts, and he makes the team more than the sum of it's parts too. He's the kind of footballer who is often overlooked, but who is so very crucial in every successful team. And that goal against Torreense, eh?

Attacking Central Midfielder - No. 11 - Gonçalo Miguel Reyes Dias, aka Hurley

I think I've already said everything that needs to be said about Hurley. He's gotten us through so many clutch moments with goals, assists and key passes. He is an excellent footballer and he'll be in my team next year. Also fun fact, his agent's name is Hugo. Make of that what you will.

Right Winger - No. 20 - Hugo Fernando Teixeira Bogas, AKA Amonike

I was dead wrong again. When I arrived, I overlooked Amonike. I overlooked him because he isn't blessed with great pace, or great skill, or even a fantastic end product. He spent most of the first 6 months of my Angrense career warming the bench while Aurélio stunk up the right wing. But just like Benjamim, Amonike as a footballer... Well, he just works. All of his semi-decent qualities just come together to make a fine footballer, and a regular in my side.

Advanced Playmaker - No. 16 - Jeferson Anti Filho, AKA Jeferson Paulista

As I once overheard an enthusiastic Angrense fan say, "Paulista doesn't know how to score tap-ins, does he?"* And they were right. Of the 4 goals Paulista has scored for us in his short time here, 2 have been free kicks, one has been a volley, and one has been a tidy finish. The man once described as "The new Elano" came in and added genuine quality to our front line, and he made an instant impact.

Left Inside Forward - No. 7 - Pedro Daniel Santos Aguiar, aka Kevin

Kevin has been an extremely reliable performer since I came in. He started my first season incredibly well, shining a light on Aurélio's poor form because of his brilliant goal scoring and chance creation. I've said before and I'll say again that if we find ourselves with a genuine goal scoring chance, I'll be shocked if Kevin hasn't played a major part in creating it.

Advanced Forward - No. 9 - Cristiano Toste Magina

My first impression of CM9 was that he reminded me of a 16 year old Wayne Rooney. He came deep to collect the ball, jinked and powered past defenders, before trying to score wonder goals from 30+ yards. But Project: Meatloaf made him an entirely different player. With Medeiros, or Antunes, or Hurley, or Paulista playing just behind him, he no longer needed to collect the ball from deep. Instead he became the focal point up top. He became the man who held the ball up and created chances for players around him, the man who got on the end of crosses, be it with his head, feet or chest, and the man who scored a shit tonne of goals. He's a complete modern centre forward and I'm positive that despite his advancing years, he's still got time to make it at a much, much higher level.

I struggle for a while to think of what to say to my players before the match. What's our motivation to win today? If we lose 10-0 to Cinfães, we're still going up. That makes this match feel on the surface like a meaningless fixture. But we can't lack motivation now. There's still silverware to be won. We're still breaking records. We're still unbeaten. These are the things that are still to play for. In the end I keep my team talk short and sweet. "Go and make history", I tell them, before walking out of the changing room, through the tunnel, and out into the dugout.

I suppose I should have seen this coming. If I have a complaint about this season, and I shouldn't, it's that too often we've failed to make an impact in the first half of games. Too often we don't start playing until after the break. Today is one of those days. Apart from Joel Silva's half volley rippling the side netting 10 minutes before half time, nothing really happens.

"One last push." I say to the team once we've all shuffled silently back into the changing room. "One last push and you'll go down in Angrense History. Vamos Heróis!" The players scream our motto back to me in Unison, and we head back out with our chests puffed out and our heads held high.

It takes less than 2 minutes for Aires to spot Hurley darting onto the left wing and pick him out. Hurley takes the ball and fizzes a cross in towards the near post. And CM9 turns it in. Of course he bloody does.

The goal only spurs Cinfães on though. Less than 5 minutes later Joel Silva gets on the end of an Alves cross and volleys in the equaliser.

The game momentarily seems to have come alive. Before the hour mark, Magina gets in behind the Cinfães defence and shoots from a narrow angle, but Diego Silva saves. The entertainment doesn't last. The final whistle blows with the scores tied, and our season will carry on for at least another 30 minutes.

I withdraw Hurley before extra time begins. Quite frankly, it's been a long season and he looks as if he's scaled Monte Brasil. He's shattered. After thinking hard, I decide to replace him with Bruce Ávila. If I'm bringing on fresh legs they may as well be on the wing where we can stretch the opposition. Paulista will take up Hurley's midfield position and Kevin will play behind Magina.

The rotation of positions very nearly pays off instantly, but when Kevin's excellent through ball is picked up by Magina, the big man uncharacteristically skies his shot.

4 minutes from the break, Bruce Ávila dribbles down the left wing and crosses in for Magina at the near post. CM9 doesn't mess around this time. He blasts the ball on the volley and it flies into the net. As my coaching staff celebrate, I go into full lockdown mode. We'll swap to a 4-1-2-3 shape, Seidi will come on for Amonike, and Kevin will take the right wing. We go all out defence.

Or, we should do. But the thing is, if you're defending a lead in a match like this, the other team should attack. That's just how it is. That's how it works. But Cinfães don't get the memo. They don't have anything left in the tank. They sit back and we come forward again in the 117th minute. It's fitting that Hurley's replacement, Bruce Ávila, is at the heart of it once more, creating chances in his absence. Ávila plays the ball inside for Paulista, whose shot across goal brushes Silva's fingertips as it flies in.

And that's it. That's all of it. Renato Silva has a 2 minute cameo in Kevin's place, but the game is already won. The league is already won.

https://youtu.be/2cW6TL5qSC0

We are euphoric. We are record breakers. We are undefeated. We are Champions.

We are Sport Clube Angrense. Vamos fucking Heróis.

*The enthusiastic fan is Sammuthegreat on fm-base.co.uk! Cheers for the constant feedback and support mate!
Final Answer (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 49.5)

13 Days Earlier...

"I will ask you one more time, and your answer will be final. Will you stay with Angrense, Franjo, or will you go?"

I think for a moment as Borba takes a step back. And then I let out a sigh.

"This decision... would be a lot more difficult if we had a project here, Miguel." I explain. "But there's no project. There's no stability for me here. How am I meant to build a LigaPro squad while I'm looking over my shoulder, expecting my players to be sold over my head?"

Miguel studies me silently, his brow furrowed as he slowly nods. Then he holds out a hand. "I wish you luck then." He says coldly.

I take his hand and shake it firmly. "You too." I reply.

As our handshake ends he adds: "Just make sure you beat Cinfães. Your contract runs out at the end of June. You aren't gone yet."

"I've been gone for months Miguel." I chuckle. "We'll be fine."

He turns away and begins to walk back to the stands. I really do wish him the best of luck. Not for his sake, God no, but for the sake of Angrense. I've no idea how it's only been 18 months but I've really come to love this place. The fans, the players, the staff - Well, most of the staff.

But I'd be a fool to overstay my welcome. The time is right for me to move on to pastures new. I wonder whose attention I've caught this Season. I'm not sure Bayern will be hammering on my door, but I reckon I should be able to make a decent step up to a bigger club.

I guess we'll find out in the Summer.
The Next Chapter (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep50)

I'm very, very pleased with the position that I'm leaving Angrense in. Yes, I still plan to come back and pluck the best Heróis for my new team, but still.

The latest piece of big news is that Angrense have gone professional! This is a massive step forward for the club. It should enable them to keep up with the rest of the LigaPro, get players in on full time contracts, hire more staff, upgrade the facilities, the infrastructure, the quality of prawn sandwiches and all that good stuff. Borba has also decided to add 370 seats to Estádio Municipal de Angra do Heroismo, taking the seated capacity to 1306.

So all in all, the future is bright in Hero Creek and I can leave to start the next chapter of my career with a clear conscience and a spring in my step.

And bloody hell. What a difference a title winning undefeated season makes. 18 months ago, I withstood rejection after rejection after rejection, with the exception of the handful of English clubs that tried to bring me home. This Summer is... Different.

I send my CV far and wide to see who needs a new top dog, and at first the response is lukewarm. I decline LigaPro side Farense's offer for an interview, as well as Vanarama National side Morecambe. Not a good start, I think. Offers from 2 of the only countries that I'm not currently interested in plying my trade in. I want to move on from Portugal and the time still isn't right to go home.

I then turn down interviews with Budapest Honvéd Futball Club, a 2nd tier Hungarian side, and Union Sportive Concarnoise, a French 3rd tier side, as neither club represent a step up from Angrense. I'm willing to be bullish about this, I do want a step up. I'm not moving sideways.

Chester City in the Vanarama North can jog on, too. As can Vác FC, another Hungarian 2nd tier team. But the next email I receive is intriguing. Wojciech Pertkiewicz, Chairman of Lotto Ekstraklasa (Polish top tier) side Arka Gdynia wants me in for an interview. Now we're talking. The Lotto Ekstraklasa would be a significant jump up the managerial ladder for me. We make the arrangements and I interview for the role of Arka Gdynia manager.

I do hope for an even bigger opportunity to present itself, but I'm swiftly disappointed. Freamunde, another LigaPro side and Scottish 3rd tier side Arbroath both get in touch, but neither fit the bill. Get me an interview in Glasgow, Scotland. Then we'll talk.

I do reluctantly attend an interview with Vlastimil Gabriel, Chairman of Czech 2nd tier side Varnsdorf. To be honest though, I attend mostly out of boredom.

Gonçalo Valadão officially retires from football. He's done well with Angrense and I imagine he'll have a job for life there, unless he becomes a good coach, in which case I might pinch him.

After deleting an email from Vanarama South side East Thurrock United, offering me another pissing interview in England, I stumble across another from Vlastimil Gabriel. He wants me to take the Varnsdorf job. I stare at the email for a few minutes, before sending a reply in which I courteously decline. I feel like I lead him on a bit by interviewing, but especially as Gdynia is still a possibility, I want to set my sights higher than the Czech 2nd tier.

I reject interviews from Spanish 3rd tier side Tudelano and Slovenian 2nd tier side NK Komenda over the next few days, but I'm starting to sweat. My contract is up in less than 2 weeks. I do have the brainwave of getting Borba to pay the £600 for my National C license studies though, so that should set me up nicely if the worst should happen and I find myself unemployed in a few months.

I do have to laugh when Torreense throw me a cheeky interview offer. They finished 4th in their PT Championship Relegation stage group this year but you've got to admire their ambition.

I also decline interviews from Serbian 2nd tier side FK Temnic 1924 Varbarin and Slovakian 2nd tier side Slavoj Trebisov, before attending one with Turkish 2nd tier side Adana Demierspor and their President Melik Toprak. If I'm going to move to a 2nd division side, being 1 promotion away from the Süper Lig wouldn't be a bad shout.

In another pretty funny turn of events, after I turned down Farense's offer for an interview at the start of the Summer, they hired the manager of PT Championship Runners up Cinfães, Arlindo Gomes. So naturally, Cinfães send me an invitation. Naturally, I say no.

With about a week to go before my contract expires, and having rejected 2 more offers from Serbian 2nd tier side Buducnost Dobanovci and Spanish 4th tier side Palencia, I receive another email that catches my attention.

It's Wojciech Cygan, Chairman of Another Lotto Ekstraklasa side, GKS (Górniczy Klub Sportowy) Katowice. In 6 weeks time, they start the new season as heavy favourites to be relegated, having only just been promoted and having a weaker squad than the majority of the division, but I think I'm just about ready for another relegation scrap. I accept Wojciech's offer for an interview and fly back to Poland for another crack at a top tier job.

29th June 2016: 2 days before Angrense contract expires

[Email]

From: Wojciech Cygan, Chairman of GKS Katowice

Subject: Save Us, Franjo
That Time Again (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Meta-sode 50.5)

Witajcie przyjaciele,

It's that time again I'm afraid. My God I've enjoyed this season and I'm very grateful to my FM save for seemingly going out of its way to create drama for us.

I've been playing this by ear for the past 73 episodes, mini-sodes and meta-sodes and I still am. Even after taking a week off after episode 25, it's been difficult at times to keep up with this story. Not that I'm complaining. It's been a lot of work but it's been entirely worth it.

But with that in mind, I've decided to take a 2 week break from daily episodes ahead of our first season with GKS Katowice. This should give me time to sort out our new squad, get to know our new club, our new league, our opposition, etc. I've got ideas for 3 or 4 mini-sodes throughout the next 2 weeks, so my thinking at the minute is that I'll release them on the next 2 Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then daily episodes will be back on the 24th of July. This might change but I shouldn't think it will. I'll let you know if it does though.

A huge amount of thanks once again to everyone who's been reading and getting involved by leaving feedback, I really do massively appreciate it.

Anyone wanting to leave me feedback, please leave a comment or message on the medium of your choice or email me at [email protected] !

Also, I set up a subreddit a few weeks ago specifically for FM stories. If you use reddit, then come subscribe and read some stories/post your stories/talk about your favourite stories! At the time of posting I think we've only got 4 contributors including myself so anyone wanting to post about their FM experiences is very welcome to.

Anyway, I'd better run. I've got a flight to Katowice to catch. Have a great couple of weeks.

Cheers,

Franjo

Vamos... Katowice?

I'll work on that.
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