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

Discussion
Mr WT Franco (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep72)

To MR WT FRANCO,

Thank you for your interest in the position of MANAGER at Ajax Cape Town.

We regret to inform you that on this occasion, your application has been unsuccessful, but we'll keep your CV on file should any MANAGER positions become available in the future.

Warmest regards,

Ari Efstathiou

Ajax Cape Town Chairman



"Mr WT Franco". I read the words over and over. "Mr WT Franco". "Mr WT Franco". "Mr WT Franco".

Huh.

Well I've made a sworn enemy today.

I crumple the letter in my hand and throw it roughly in the direction of the bin. It's nice to know that I was seriously considered for the job. I mean, I had an interview for fucks sake. He called me Franjo in the interview! ... Didn't he? Maybe he called me Franco and I instantly shrugged it off and forgot about it, assuming that he misspoke or that I misheard.

Well in any case, I hope you're pleased with yourself Ari, because you just made my list. You will know my name. You'll curse my name as your empire crumbles around you.

I've got to get myself to South Africa.

Anyway, that'll have to wait. For now, Grzegorz Goncerz has won a place in the team of the week for his 2 goals against Jagiellonia in our WIN!

That's right, our fucking WIN last week! That monkey's been on our back for 5 long and painful months, but against Jagiellonia we grabbed it by it's stupid little primate face and threw it into the Baltic sea. Our fight to avoid relegation has officially begun.

Our victory also prompted Wojciech Cygan to offer me a new one-year contract, and here's the thing... I signed it.

I do realise that I'm sending out mixed messages, but the long and short of it is that I don't want to be unemployed. I do want to leave Poland this Summer, but if nobody wants me I'm willing to stay in Katowice rather than have another few months on the dole. Of course, there is still the chance that we'll be relegated in 5 games time, in which case I'll be chucked out on my arse anyway. Another upside to my new contract is that I demanded that the need to sign high profile players be removed as we just don't have the resources or the pull, and Wojciech accepted.

A trip to Lechia awaits us today, a team that have already beaten us 3-0 and 1-0 this season. I really would like to kick on and get another win, so I've been doing extra homework this week. The thing about Lechia is that they play with that really annoying withdrawn 4-2-3-1 that is incredibly difficult to break down. Our usual wide 4-2-3-1 would be useless against it, as their block of 4 central defensive players would isolate our 2 central attacking players without breaking a sweat, and they aren't particularly vulnerable on the wings either with their fullbacks supported by withdrawn wide midfielders.

So my solution is a new, bespoke system just for them. It closely resembles a narrow diamond formation but with the fullbacks pushed up as wingbacks. This way, we have 2 strikers (Tarnowski and Goncerz) and an attacking midfielder (Fossy), and 2 central midfielders (Bart and Gregurina) with specific instructions to push forward through the centre. We'll outnumber their defensive block 5 to 4. The wingbacks (Scheffel and Garbacik) will provide width and support attacks, while we have our own defensive triangle (Olivier, Wilson and Silva) to keep us safe. We'll play a fluid, counter attacking game and focus all our play through the centre where we have the numeric advantage. It's a ballsy system, but I think it's just ballsy enough to work.

I'm practically smacking my lips as I walk into the away dugout, but once the players come out onto the pitch and line up, my eyes widen with terror. They aren't playing the annoying, withdrawn 4-2-3-1 after all. They're playing a bog standard 4-1-2-3. All of my preparation for nothing. This side is delicately balanced to counter their usual system! The system they use every pissing game!

Captain Goncerz turns to me from his place on the centre spot, narrows his eyes and shrugs. He too has obviously spotted the 4-1-2-3. I give him a thumbs up and mouth "It's fine". This seems to reassure him and he turns back around, ready to kick off. We're so fucked.

7 minutes in, Cermak swings a corner in for the hosts. Gregurina's there at the near post to head the ball away, but only as far as Cermak again. He crosses a second time and this time Grozav gets his head to the ball, directing it into the net.

With a quarter of an hour gone though, Bart plays a great chipped pass over to Scheffel on the right wing. He turns inside and crosses for Goncerz, who volleys it sweetly past the keeper.

After another 10 minutes, a free kick right outside the box is smacked against the bar by Lechia's set piece specialist, Cermak. It's a narrow escape for us.

The first half ends with the scores tied, but to be honest our new system has worked quite well. It's kept Lechia guessing and played some quite nice football. We head back out unchanged.

5 minutes later, Fossy drifts a free kick from the left wing into the box. Olivier rises above his marker and nods the ball over the stranded keeper, who had come to claim the ball. It loops over his head and bobbles slowly over the line, giving Olivier his first GieKSa goal.

Another 5 minutes pass before Wolski chips a cross in from the left, Kadlec lays the ball off and Grozav shoots for the bottom corner, but Nowak gets down to parry it behind. We change to Project: Burnie MK II to try to protect our lead. Amonike replaces Michal Tarnowski to balance the side.

With just over 15 minutes to play, Cermak chips the ball across for Remmer on the right, who volleys it brilliantly into the 6 yard box for Kadlec, who bundles it in to equalise for Lechia.

Each team has a decent chance in the final 10 minutes. First, Amonike drives down the right and shoots into Kuciak's arms, and then Grozav runs through on goal but puts his shot over the bar. All in all, we'll happily take a point from that game, but more pleasingly, I suspect that Lechia will too.

https://youtu.be/DK5-M7QxcPc

I'm especially happy for Olivier. He doesn't threaten from set pieces too often, so it was great to see him on the scoresheet today. He even earns himself a place in the Team of the Week.

So a win and a draw in 2 matches. I honestly pity the fools that have to try and stop this runaway train now that it's picking up speed. Step on up, Korona.

Korona visit us today as the team that are bottom of the league. That feels good. However, they're only 4 points below us, which, if we take our eye off the ball, could easily turn into 1 point. Then we'd be right back in the thick of it.

We'll line up in a counter attacking 4-2-3-1, with Hurley replacing Gregurina in midfield and Janga replacing Fossy in the hole. It's make or break time.

It takes less than 10 minutes, and I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Amonike runs down the right wing and swings a peach of a cross to the far post. Kevin leaps to meet the ball with his head and heads it straight against the bar. For a second, everything stops. The ball rebounds back into the 6 yard box. Who'll reach it first? Kevin wants it. So does Goncerz. Unforunately it's right back Mateusz Mozdzen who leaps in to ensure he gets to the ball first. Fortunately though, he knocks it straight into his own net.

It really is a horrible half of football. There are no more quality chances, just 22 men kicking 7 bells out of each other. The bookings flow like draft wodka. Silva comes on for Janga at half time to drop back in front of the defence, and we prepare for a scrap.

Just after the hour mark, a long Nowak free kick is aimed towards Amonike, but Tomasevic challenges him for the ball in the same way that a wrecking ball challenges the structural integrity of an old abandoned building. He flies through our winger and earns himself a second booking and an early bath.

With 10 minutes to go, we go all out defend, and I tell the lads to keep the ball in order to kill the game, but it doesn't make the last 10 minutes any less vicious. We make it until the 2nd minute of injury time, but then Hurley collides with Zubrowski. Both players were already on a booking and to be honest I thought it was an old fashioned 50:50, with both players having just as much blame as the other. The referee disagrees though and shows Hurley his second yellow. He heads down the tunnel for a ever so slightly earlier bath than everyone else. In the moment though, I couldn't care less. The final whistle blows. 1-0.

https://youtu.be/RjjfgpewicA

Now this is pod racing, my friends. My lads have finally come through. That's 7 points from our last 3 matches, and if we keep up that kind of form for the final 3 games, we'll be well clear of relegation.
KGHM: Resurgence (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep73)

There are 3 matches left of our season, and most likely of my Lotto Elstraklasa career. 3 measly matches. It seems like nothing, doesn't it. But these 3 games are everything. In our relegation group of 7 teams, Korona are 8th and have become the first team to be relegated, with 14 points and 2 games left.

KGHM Zagłębie have been on something of a resurgence of late after winning the Polish FA Cup, beating Bruk-Bet Termalica in extra time in the final. It's quite an achievement, and they've since beaten Cracovia 2-0, Wisła Kraków 3-2 and Wisła Płock 2-1. We really need to look out for them because their late winning streak has meant that the second relegation place is very much up for grabs. They sit in 7th place on 21 points but have played one more game than us, and we'll play them in our final game.

Wisła Płock on the other hand are without a win in 6 weeks, but we've not beaten them in our previous 2 meetings this season, which worries me. They sit in 6th place, also with 21 points but with 3 games left, and we'll play them today.

You know as much as anyone how we've fared lately. We've had a torrid time followed by a sudden upturn in form, and here's hoping that continues. We sit in 5th place with 22 points.

Wisła Kraków have had a bit of a mixed bag of late, but interestingly they've only won once in the last 3 months. They sit above us in 4th, also on 22 points but with only 2 games left.

Jagiellonia are in 3rd with 22 points but we've already played them, and I'm going to ignore Lechia and Cracovia completely as they're pretty much nailed on for the top 2 places.

But do you see how much these next 3 matches mean? Wisła Płock, Wisła Kraków and KGHM Zagłębie are our direct relegation rivals and if we lose against them all, we're down. We need to get a win as quickly as possible to take some of the pressure off of ourselves, so let's do it today against Płock, shall we?

We've been forced to make a few changes today. I was planning on using Project: Burnie MK II anyway, but Hurley is both suspended (1 match) and injured (8-10 days with a strained wrist), Silva would have started but he's out for 3-6 days with a bruised head, and Olivier has blisters and is only fit enough for a place on the bench.

Savanovic, Gregurina and Hutton will start in their places. Also, Tuovinen has been impressing the coaches lately with his application in training and his matches for the Reserves, so he's in too, taking the place of Amonike.

The match starts slowly as the teams work each other out and it's not until 10 minutes before half time that either side creates a decent chance. It's Płock's Aurélio that gives the ball to José Kanté on the edge of our box. Hutton sticks in a foot but Kanté hurdles it, before turning and thumping the ball into the top corner of the net. It's a fine goal to be fair.

It all goes quiet again, and on the hour mark I decide to try to take control. We go to a controlling 4-2-3-1 with Tarnowski replacing Gregurina. We improve instantly, putting a good passing move together. Savanovic ends up with the ball and passes it to Goncerz, who holds it up before playing in Tarnowski. The substitute shoots low but Kielpin saves well.

We seem to grow in confidence over the next few minutes, but it's a feeling that's abruptly cut short when Bart trips Kanté and receives his second yellow card. We go down to 10 men and I adjust our tactics again, bringing off our 2 wingers Tuovinen and Kevin and replacing them with Olivier and Fossy. We go to a narrow diamond with a single striker and Hutton as the holding man.

With a quarter of an hour to play we go attacking, and very fluid, trying to recapture the hope that we so briefly showed before Bart's red card.

A few minutes later we do show it. We counter after a Płock free kick breaks down, with Fossy passing inside to Tarnowski, who's stationed in our half. He looks up, gets the ball out of his feet and plays a brilliant ball over the defence for Goncerz, who chests the ball down, runs through on goal, and shoots straight into the grateful arms of Kielpin.

The clock keeps ticking on and we approach the end of 90 minutes, still trailing 0-1. It doesn't stay that way for long though, because Kun's near post cross from a corner is nodded on across goal by Reca, and turned into the net from close range by the unmarked Kanté.

https://youtu.be/HY5LtrfA9JM

I won't lie, that's a really disappointing result and a really disappointing second goal. The marking by Goncerz on Reca was sloppy and the marking by absolutely anyone on Kanté was non-existent. Otherwise, I was pretty pleased with our performance. We went behind to a great strike, forced their keeper into making a couple of brilliant saves and held our own with 10 men. It's at this point of the season especially though that pleasing performances just aren't good enough. Points are the only thing that matter, and Wisła Płock have just separated themselves from the pack with that win.

Next up then is Wisła Kraków, another away match. Garbacik and Bart are both suspended because of their 8 cumulative yellow cards and 1 red respectively, while Olivier, Silva and Hurley are all fit and available to start, so changes are made. Olivier, Abramowicz, Silva, Hurley and Amonike replace Hutton, Garbacik, Bart, Savanovic and Tuovinen. KGHM played these away recently and won. They played 4-1-2-3, so we do too. Admittedly though, they also had the bounce from that FA Cup win. We'll be disciplined, we'll stick to our positions and we'll go direct, with Hurley acting as our main creator in a deep lying playmaker role.

The sight of players like Vidémont and Morrell make me shudder slightly. They were both very good going forwards the last time we played Kraków in that insane 4-4 draw. Indeed only 3 minutes in, Vidémont passes to Morrell just outside our box and he shoots towards the bottom right corner, but Nowak just manages to tip the ball against the post. It rolls back across the line and thankfully Danny Wilson is there first to hoof it away.

Near the end of the half, Maczynski sends a corner in towards our near post. Goncerz heads it away but only as far as Malecki, who takes it down and drills it towards the bottom left corner. Amazingly, Nowak gets down again to tip the ball onto the post. The ball rolls across the line again and this time Olivier clears it before anyone can knock it in.

2 minutes later though, Wisła Kraków get the breakthrough that I think we can all agree they deserve when Morrell lays the ball off for Maczynski and he slides the ball under Nowak.

10 minutes into the second half we've still barely had a sniff, but then Hurley breaks forward on the ball and plays it to Gregurina, who's promptly tripped by Popovic. He's shown his second yellow and we'll play against 10 men for the remaining 35 minutes.

With half an hour to go, Fossy comes on replacing Silva and we change to a 4-2-3-1 with wing backs. Kraków have gone to a narrow diamond so we'll have our wingbacks and wide men double up on their fullbacks, overloading and exploiting the wide areas.

We're still failing to break through over the next 10 minutes or so. The only shots are speculative efforts from Morrell and Mak, both of which go well wide. We go attacking.

With 5 minutes to go, our misery is compounded when Brlek's free kick is met by Czerwinski, who directs his header into the bottom corner of the net.

The first shot that I can remember us actually having comes from Hurley in injury time, but it goes wide. This has been a toothless performance and the best team have definitely won.

https://youtu.be/SMcUS4vk8gM

Nounkey, the Cameroon boss, was in the stands again today. How much do you need to see of Olivier before you make your mind up, Nounkey? You're like the bloody kiss of death for my defence, you never turn up for a win.

Anyway, here's the situation following that shambles: Jagiellonia, Wisła Kraków and Wisła Płock have all dragged themselves out of the relegation battle. Our final match will be against the only team apart from ourselves that can take the second relegation spot: The resurgent KGHM Zagłębie. We sit a single point above them, so if we win or draw, we'll stay up. If we lose however... Bye bye, Lotto Ekstraklasa.
SuperFran - Part 2 (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 73.5)

When I was a player, albeit a pretty awful one, I had two strings to my bow. I could defend, and I could run. Defend and run. Run and defend. That was my game. We'd win the ball and I'd run into space to provide a sideways or backwards option. We'd lose the ball and I'd run back, closing down, man marking playmakers, tackling or shutting off passing lanes. I'd get the ball, I'd play it straight on. My left foot was pretty decent, although my right was non-existent. Oh, and I couldn't shoot. Not at all. Not even a little bit.

I think my point is that in my playing days, I didn't care about being the star player, or the goalscorer, or the superhero. I was never the name on the back of the fans' shirts. I approached the game in the same way that I'd approach being helpful in any other situation:

Just do as many little things as you can. Make it as easy as possible for everybody else.

You can't go far wrong with that philosophy in any walk of life. Do the boring things. The unglamorous things. The repetitive things. In the end, you can end up being a superhero to someone without scoring a bicycle kick against your rivals. Without guiding your relegation threatened team to a shock title win. Without saving your team from relegation full stop. Sometimes it's not the results of our actions but our actions themselves that make us superheroes. Maybe not to everyone, but to someone.

I've done my best with my time in Poland. I can say that with my hand on my heart. I've made mistakes, but I've tried to learn from them. I've tried different formations, different systems and different players. I've tried being nice, I've tried being harsh, I've tried dropping near enough my entire first team, and for one reason or another, here we are. With a winner-takes-all match that'll result in one of the 2 participating sides getting relegated.

We have the advantage, definitely, as a draw will keep us up, but I am not playing for the draw. I never have done and I never will. Sometimes you can look back on draws as acceptable. Sometimes you accept that a 92nd minute equaliser to level a match at 4-4 is the best that you could have hoped for in the circumstances. But we'll play this match to win it, and during my deceptively short career I've found one system in particular that can save me when I'm in a bind. One philosophy in particular that can secure the win and achieve the impossible.

We won't sit back and wait for the game to come to us. We will be the aggressor. We will be meatloaf. We will be fucking superheroes.
Us Or Them (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep74)

I didn't sleep at all last night. I spent the hours that I should've been resting for the big game going back and forth on my decision to bring back Project: Meatloaf. We tried it once here in Katowice, and it went poorly, but we need to play for the win and the element of surprise could give us that extra edge. I know that this system works, and my squad is more tightly knit than it was earlier in the season. They're bound together by our collective failures and subsequent fight back from the brink. I believe in Project: Meatloaf, and call me daft, but I believe in GieKSa too.

In the build up to the match, I offer a new 1 year contract to our rarely called upon goalkeeper Délcio Azevedo. If I end up staying here another year, I'd like to have a goalkeeper that I know, and Nowak's already decided that he's off to enjoy retirement. The delicious Avocado accepts the offer and then promptly breaks his toe, ruling him out until next season.

Garbacik and Bart both come back into the side after completing their suspensions, along with Janga and Fossy. Abramowicz, Silva, Gregurina and Amonike are the ones to drop out for this crucial match. I keep my team talk short and sweet. The players know what they need to do. They know what I expect. "Go and keep us up" I tell them with a grin, before they troop out of the changing room to line up in the tunnel.

KGHM come out with fire in their bellies. They start quicker than us, and look the more threatening of the sides. 23 minutes in, El-Bouazzati plays a long ball forward to Klimala. Klimala dribbles forward to the edge of our box and shoots, but it's straight at Nowak and he catches the ball, which is greeted by applause from the home fans.

On the half hour, KGHM get a throw in level with our box. Nobody goes short, and the taker Warcholak takes a long run up, ready for a long throw. He launches it into the box, and into the crowd of players at the near post. Nowak comes out to claim it, but he can't. It's Uzelac that reaches the ball and nods it on. It bounces off Nowak's shoulder and he dives back towards his own goal, clawing at thin air. He can't reach it. In agonising slow motion, the ball bobbles across the line and into the net.

I get that feeling again. The one that I've felt just once before. That unique feeling of being hit in the face by some kind of heavy, blunt weapon, but being oblivious to the pain. The numbness has taken my body. I can't even feel myself standing. This can't be how my time with Katowice ends.

We haven't been in the relegation zone since Saturday 4th of August, which is just over 10 months ago. We climbed out when we won in our 2nd league game against... Any guesses? Yeah, of course it was KGHM Zagłębie. We beat them to escape the drop zone after finding ourselves there after our first game, a thrashing against Jagiellonia, and now with an hour left of the season, they've put us back. As it stands, I'm taking GKS Katowice down to the second tier of Polish football.

In first half injury time, we come forward with purpose. Fossy plays a nice through ball into the path of Amonike, but the winger shoots straight at Polacek, the keeper, who catches the ball with ease.

As the players trudge down the tunnel at half time, I turn to Dennis, stood next to me in the dugout. He looks tired and worried. I'm glad I'm not the only one. We go in after the players and walk into the changing room.

I shut the door behind us, and let the silence permeate the room, broken only slightly by faint laughs and excited voices somewhere outside.

"Do you all know who I am?" I ask eventually. I get no response. I turn to Tom Scheffel. "Tom, what do you know about me? About my career?"

"You were unbeaten in Portugal somewhere?" He replies sheepishly.

"Correct, but what about before that?" I ask. Amonike pipes up.

"You were in Sweden." He says. "The news in Angrense said that you beat a top Swedish club with a tiny one." I give him a broad smile.

"Yeah, I remember that." I grin. "The news labelled me as some kind of genius. As a giant killer. I couldn't really afford to correct them at the time." My smile fades. "But that match was a tiny, insignificant speck in my extremely short time with FC Höllviken." I can feel everybody's eyes on me now. I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing. It's a bit of a Hail Mary.

"We were relegated." I continue. "It was between us and the team we were playing in our final match, just like today. We went behind to an early goal, just like today. We just couldn't find a way back after going behind." The silence amongst my players is palpable. Maybe it's pity, or worry, or resignation that my history will repeat itself.

"Once was enough." I say quietly. I actually feel confident. I feel conviction in my words. I feel different than I did in late 2016. My Höllviken team was a bunch of misfits. The best set of vaguely talented footballers I could get at the time. This is Katowice. This is the top tier of Polish football. These are professional footballers.

"One team gets relegated today. It's us or them. WHO'S IT GOING TO BE?"

"THEM", comes the reply.

"WHO'S GOING DOWN?"

"THEM!"

"MAKE IT FUCKING HAPPEN!"

We go out for the second half a different team. Buoyed, confident and determined. When we kick off, we're faster, tougher, more aggressive. I make a double sub too, with Amonike and Tarnowski replacing Fossy, who picked up a knock in the first half, and Goncerz, who has been ineffective.

With an hour gone, we're the side in control. Project: Meatloaf is in full effect. Tarnowski plays a great ball through for Amonike in the area, similar to Fossy's at the end of the first half. Amonike hits it, but it's always curling just wide of the far post.

5 minutes later we go on the attack and immediately we look even more dangerous. We win a corner on the left, which Amonike swings towards the near post. It's headed away by Zlicic, but only as far away as Janga, who heads it back into the area. Garbacik plays it on for Hurley, who shoots - But Zlicic stands firm and blocks it and the ball bounces away as far as Garbacik again. He can't control it and the loose ball rolls to Bart. As Bart strikes the ball, Stadion GKS Katowice falls silent. As the ball ripples the net in the top right corner, it's anything but.

I allow myself a fist pump and a smile, but then my thoughts are back on tactics. Do we drop back and invite KGHM back into the match, or do we keep going on the front foot, pegging them back? For now, we'll stay as we are. It crosses my mind that this may turn out to be the worst mistake that I've made in my career to date. It's a thought that I could do without.

With 20 minutes to play, Kevin gets the ball on the right wing. He drills the ball across the ground into the area, and Bart gets on the end of it. He goes for his second - But the ball hits the post and it rolls back across the line. Modica is the first on the scene and he hoofs it - Against his own bar, but then clear nonetheless. I decide that now is actually the time to drop back. We can hold them out for 20 minutes, I know we can. We go to an all out defensive 4-1-4-1, with Gregurina replacing Janga.

We last until the second minute of injury time, and there's only time for one more attack. KGHM are on the ball. Their own 4-1-4-1 looks more like a 3-4-3 as they pile men forwards in search of a goal. El-Bouazzati passes to Vlasko 30 yards out and he turns towards goal. He gets the ball out of his feet, takes aim, hits it - Way, way over the bar. The referee checks his watch, and blows his whistle.

https://youtu.be/zUSZ-d0D3JI

We've done it. We've survived. By the skin of our teeth, and carried through in the end by our Bartbeat, we've held on and avoided the drop zone by a solitary point. The weird thing is though, it feels pretty hollow. 2019 so far has been exhausting mentally. I think as soon as the final whistle went, all of the adrenaline that had been keeping me powering through all this time just dissipated. The Sword of Damocles has been hanging over my head, getting lower and lower as we've approached the end of the season. I'm relieved that I've jumped out of the way at the last second, of course I am, but it's left me with mixed feelings.

I just want to get this Summer done with. I want to see where I'll be at the start of next season. Who'll want me? Who's been watching apart from the bloody Cameroon boss? The relegation favourites have stayed up against all odds, my job here is done, and the world's my bloody oyster.
Itchy Feet (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep75)

Summer 2019 is a blur. Because of the winter break, the Lotto Ekstraklasa season starts in late July and it doesn't feel like long enough of a break when your last match is in June. Nevertheless, the Summer actually starts off really well. I'm on the shortlist for Manager of the Year, which is a bit of a shock, but flattering.

I don't win it of course, Piotr Jawny of Piast does. He guides his side to 4th place in the league after they were predicted to end up 12th, so he's a good choice to be fair. I vote for rival manager Jacek Paszulewicz of Jagłębie Sosnowiec, as he's overachieved too in 5th.

Then comes the inevitable pitter-patter of itchy feet, and not just from me. First Olivier, who wants to move to Sporting Gijon. In all fairness, they're going up to La Liga and I'm not going to stand in his way of playing in such a great league. He's earned it. After some arguing and low ball bids, I eventually let him go to Alanyaspor for £375k, rising to £620k plus 50% of the next fee. It isn't exactly what I signed up for, as I thought he was going to La Liga, but the Süper Lig is a good one too, with some top clubs. I wish him the best of luck and I'm genuinely saddened to see him go.

The next person to attract interest from elsewhere is actually my assistant, Dennis Lawrence. Relegated Korona offer him the job of manager but I convince him to stay with GieKSa because of our good working relationship. I also tell him that he might have a shot at the Katowice job as I'm looking to leave, so he may as well stay for a while.

Then comes the hammer blow - Our Bartbeat knocks on my office door and tells me that he wants to leave. Cracovia are showing interest and he wants to jump ship. I tell him that Cracovia would have to make a bloody good bid for me to accept, but that he can leave if somebody activates his £375k foreign club release clause. Ironically, if he hadn't scored that goal against KGHM and saved us from relegation, Cracovia would have been able to snap him up for £200k, the value of his relegation release clause. I don't share my thought with Bart. I don't think he'd find it funny.

It's at this point though that I start to become completely disillusioned with the idea of staying in Poland for another year. No Olivier, no Bart, and barely any money to replace my 2 key players. I start looking around again, sending my CV in for the top jobs at Pohang in the K League Classic, USA U23s, and Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Israeli Premier League.

Sebastien Nowak and Jakub Wilk then call time on their careers. I don't think I played Wilk more than twice at most, but fair play to Sebastien. He's had a couple of bad moments this year but on the whole he's been a solid number 1.

I don't offer him a role as goalkeeping coach, because frankly the one we already have, Janusz Jojko, is far better. And as I found out when speaking to a GieKSa fan* once, he's actually a bit famous in Poland too. Janusz made a spectacular blunder in his playing days that some still remind him of today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubuytNCrp0E

But then finally, a bit of good news. Janga and Kwarko both agree to extend their loan deals by a year. They've been decent this year. I've used Janga a fair bit more out of the 2 and his performances have reflected that, but I'm glad that they'll both be staying.

I then make a huge decision. I make the decision that me and Cristiano Magina are done professionally. I mean technically, he decides it for me by rejecting the chance to join us again, this time for a £60k fee. He's had a decent year with Os Heróis (More on them in another episode) but sometimes you need to know when to take the hint, and that's what I'm doing. Good luck, CM9.

When the time comes for friendlies, I'm actually quite excited. Our new shirt sponsors are a Polish... Wodka company named Wodka Wyborowa, and amongst a host of highish profile matches, I help to arrange the first annual Wodka Wyborowa Cup.

4 teams are involved: Us, CSKA Sofia, AA Gent and Ingolstadt, and our season gets off to an absolute flyer when we finish in 4th place, losing 2-4 to Sofia in the Semi-Final and 0-2 to AA Gent in the 3rd place play off. Still, at least we're actually testing ourselves.

https://youtu.be/dL-4QJ2QRyM

https://youtu.be/4ecyThvnMhw

I keep my CV circulating outside Europe. I apply at Minnesota United in the MLS, or Min United as I hope they're nicknamed, Santos FC in the South African Premier Soccer League, Plaza Colonia in the Uruguayan First Division, Millionarios in the Colombian First Division, Belgrano in the Argentinian Premier League, Busan in the K League Classic, and most optimistically, the Argentinian, Chilean and Colombian national team jobs.

I get a couple of interviews that go quite well, but meanwhile we keep plugging on with the friendlies, losing to Honvéd 0-1, beating Bohemians 1905 2-1 despite having Danny Wilson in net for most of the match, beating Ahi Nazareth 4-1, and finally losing to Hull 1-3. It's a mixed bag but overall, I'm pretty pleased with where we are and how we've performed against quality teams.

https://youtu.be/3p9yNMiprYQ

https://youtu.be/xZSbMgRYCAo

https://youtu.be/thaGSU6YZ-Y

https://youtu.be/aJkl735CmfA

Unfortunately, as Azevedo is injured throughout pre-season, our only goalkeeper is young Kacper Gajdemski, who spent last year in the reserves. He does fine really, but then breaks his collarbone against Bohemians 1905, ruling himself out for 7-9 weeks and forcing me to delve into the transfer market. I sign a third Scotsman for my collection: 25 year old keeper Jack Hamilton from Hearts for near enough £100k. He's pretty good, but there's not much value in the market for us this Summer. He's not worth £100k, but nobody else that we could realistically sign is good enough to play.

Hurley strains his knee ligaments in our final friendly against Hull and will miss the first 2 months of the season, but on the upside, Cracovia are no longer interested in Bart and I offer him a new 3 year deal and he seems content to stay. Danny Wilson is made the new club captain, with former captain Grzegorz Goncerz demoted to his deputy, and we're a generous 1000-1 to win the league.

All I keep thinking about though is how much my heart is not in this job anymore. I want out so badly. I wanted out months ago, and we're now days away from the start of the 2019/20 season. I get back to Radzinski's in a mood after finding out that Kamil Karwot has broken his arm in training and will be out for a couple of months.

I walk through the door to see GieKSik stood behind the bar. I freeze like a rabbit in headlights. I've heard that his vision is based largely on movement. He turns towards me though so I'm fairly sure I've been spotted. "What are you doing here?" I ask, trying to play it cool. GieKSik takes his head off and places it down on the bar, revealing a much smaller, much more familiar head beneath.

"I've just got back", sighs Radzinski. "Went to give a talk on the dangers of excessive drinking at a primary school on the other side of town."

"That seems unnecessary." I reply, perplexed. "And hypocritical." There's a few seconds of awkward silence. "You're GieKSik." I ask, but as more of a statement. Radzinski scrunches up his face.

"Of course I am. You didn't know?" My mind is racing.

"I just thought that all Polish people were awful at using English idioms." I say quietly. Radzinski sighs.

"That's an offensive old sterotype." He looks at me like a parent that's disappointed with their child. I think for a moment.

"I don't think it is..."

"You missed a phone call this morning, a Goolam Allie?" He interrupts. My pulse quickens. Allie is the Chairman of Santos FC, the South African side that I interviewed with.

"What did he say?" I ask, again trying to play it cool.

"He said..." Radzinski ducks below the bar and rummages around for a few seconds before emerging with a tiny sheet of paper, on which a message is scrawled.

"He said... Save us, Franjo."



* Cheers to @GralingradPL on Wordpress for letting me know about Jojko's ridiculous throw way back in episode 52!
Another Year Over (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Meta-sode 75.5)

Hey,

Well... That last 6 months has been bloody exhausting! The good news though is that I've already started playing through the league with our new club Santos FC, so in terms of gameplay I'm ahead of where I usually am at this point in the season. There is however still the small matter of writing everything down, so I'm going to take 2 weeks without dailies to get everything sorted and that should be plenty of time.

As usual, there'll be 3 or 4 mini-sodes over the next 2 weeks where you'll find out where we'll review the year, have a look around the world and maybe do some kind of wacky pure story mini-sode, and then daily episodes will be back on 25th September!

As always, if you've got any feedback, either negative or positive, feel free to email me at [email protected]

Thanks for sticking with me as we've scrapped and scraped ourselves through a tough year in Poland and genuinely, thanks for reading and for all your feedback. Have a great couple of weeks!

Cheers,

Franjo
Really enjoy stories that are written like this mate! Keep up the good work pal
Cheers mate! I appreciate it
Year 3 Review (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 75.5.5)

I don't think it'll surprise any of you to learn that I'm immensely pleased to be leaving Poland. It's been a real slog of a season, especially since Christmas, but in the end I did my job. I did what I set out to do. Let's have a look back on year 3.

GKS Katowice

Final Position: 14th

Record: W9 D10 L19

Key Player(s): Sebastien Nowak, Jean "Olivier" Sumo Kingue, Bartlomiej "Bart" Kalinkowski, Grzegorz Goncerz

Highlight: Our 4-0 win away at Cracovia in August

Lowlight: Our record breaking runs of losses and games without a win

I realise that I've been incredibly negative about GieKSa, especially in the last few months when things weren't going very well. Don't get me wrong, I'm incredibly happy that I was given the opportunity to move to the Polish top tier as it was a big step up for me. And I've showed the World that I can (Just barely by the skin of my teeth) do a job at this level.

Lech Poznań's Hadi Sacko won the Lotto Ekstraklasa Player of the Year award. I was a bit surprised to see that he'd clinched it as from what I saw there were plenty of players in the league that looked better, but he had a pretty good year by the looks of it, racking up the most assists out of anyone in the league, so fair play to him.

The Katowice Football Post summed up my overall feelings about this season. "They will be delighted to have finished with their heads above water", and yeah. Pretty much. I'm still disappointed though that we lost to Rozwój Katowice in the first round of the FA Cup though. At some point I'd love to have a proper cup run, but I suppose it would've only been a distraction this year.

Our player of the season and young player of the season took me a bit by surprise. The fans voted by quite a distance for Tom Scheffel, but I often found myself disappointed with him. I was tipped off by the coaches upon joining GieKSa that he was one of our best players, but in my opinion he was mainly fine and sometimes awful. Bart came in second, and Mario Gregurina, who could easily be overlooked as he wasn't a nailed on starter for us, came in third. Those two I do agree with. Also, our best eleven for the season was quite predictable, with Nowak in net, Scheffel, Olivier, Wilson and Garbacik across the back, Bart and Hurley in the middle, and Janga, Fossy and Kevin behind Goncerz.

Our goal of the season was a very good choice. Grzegorz Goncerz's effort in our December win over KGHM Zagłębie might be the best goal that any team's scored under my stewardship. It was not only a fantastic strike, but a great team goal.

https://youtu.be/kplZ5AcA0qE

Olivier on a free was our signing of the season, and for good reason. He attracted a lot of interest and eventually got his move away thanks to stats like these:

He made the joint second most key tackles (13) in the divison, behind Kornel Osyra.

He made the second most key headers (115), just behind Pape Djibril Diaw.

He made the most interceptions in the league (592) by a country mile.

Grzegorz Goncerz, although he received a fair bit of flack from me at times, was a decent enough striker for me. He was the joint fourth top scorer in the league with 13 in 32, and was obviously our top scorer too. Grzegorz also assisted more than any of our players. He only got 5 though, so I think that says more about the rest of the attacking players than it does about him. Finally, nobody won more Player of the Match awards for us than Grzegorz (4).

Overall, Bart had the highest average rating throughout the season, which is no less than you'd expect from the Bartbeat of the side. He had the best pass completion percentage out of everyone in my squad with 88%, and unfortunately but unsurprisingly, he got the most yellows (11) and reds (3) for us too. He also made the second most (4.00) tackles per game, coming in just behind Korona's Vanja Markovic.

In other vaguely impressive statistical news, Hurley covered the seventh most distance per 90 minutes (8.85 miles), and Kevin made the joint seventh most key passes (25) in the league.

And finally, Olivier and Kevin were inducted onto the GKS Katowice Best Eleven sub's bench. Good job lads.

I think the reason that I've not fallen in love with GieKSa in the same way that I did with SC Angrense is that with Angrense, we made a tweak here, a good signing there, and it all just slotted into place. I was spoilt. We had a bloody unbeaten season! With GieKSa, I feel like I tried everything in that second half of the season and nothing worked. Every crushing defeat was another punch in the face. I was powerless. It was incredibly frustrating.

I wish them all the best and I sincerely hope they can stay up again next season and establish themselves as a Lotto Ekstraklasa club, but I had to get out. Incidentally, so did Bart. He left just 5 days after I did, joining Russian Premier Division rookies SKA Khabarovsk for £275k.

Former Clubs

SC Angrense

I'm absolutely delighted to see that SC Angrense have had a very successful season. They were one of the clubs tipped to go back down to the Portuguese Championship, but finished 16 points clear of the drop zone in 9th place. The man that Os Heróis chose to replace me last Summer was Pedro Amora, who I had faced off against 4 times (Winning 3 times and drawing once, I might add) the previous season when he was in charge of Barreirense, and he's done a fine job in the second tier.

Their squad is already pretty unrecognisable, with the frustratingly immovable Cristiano Magina, the heartbreakingly underused Benjamim, and O Capitão Jaime Seidi the only familiar faces on their roster. Lassina Touré was the vice captain until he was released this Summer.

FC Höllviken

Höllviken are difficult to find details on at this point, as they're still in the 5th tier of Swedish football. Captain Wani Mukoko, Vice Captain Mattias Andersell, Lawrence and Stefan Bouvin are all still knocking about though.

So all in all, it's been a year that I'll be happy to leave behind, but one that I'll hopefully learn from. Here's to a better one at Santos FC in Cape Town, South Africa.
Year 3 World Roundup (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 75.5.5.5)

Do you want to know the worst thing about being a journeyman manager?

All the packing. I hate packing. I despise it. I'm the kind of person who'll pack very begrudgingly the night before going on holiday, and then live out of my suitcase while I'm there so that I don't have to unpack and then pack again a few days later. I just can't be arsed.

It's for this reason that my suitcase currently lies empty on my bed. Well I say empty, but Burnie's decided that it's a damn fine place to have a sleep, so he's curled up in there. Right now though, that's my excuse for not packing. Let sleeping cats lie, right? Right.

Let's procrastinate. Let's have a look at what's been going on around this big blue football we call Erf, shall we?

It's become increasingly clear over the last 3 years that Arsene Wenger has been the victim of an "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" style abduction. Because there is no way that the Arsene Wenger we all know and love has guided his team to a third successive title! Not only that, but he's Manager of the Year once again!

Compared to his Arsenal side's last 2 title wins though, this one was a bit trickier. They came out a solitary point higher than Conte's Chelsea in 2nd place. Admittedly though, they wrapped up the league with a match to spare and had their flip flops on when Mark Warburton's Newcastle visited on the final day, allowing Chelsea to close the gap and save face.

The big 6, none of whom have changed their managers in the last 3 years, were all once again in the top 6, this time joined by Brendan Rodgers' Leicester City in the final European spot. Walter Mazzarri's Watford now seem to be establishing themselves as a top half club, while West Ham plummeted down to 15th after successive top 8 finishes in the last 2 years, despite the £40m signing of Christian Benteke. My old pal Slaven Bilic was sacked in March and replaced by Maurizio Sarri. The mighty Toffees seem to be getting closer to relegation with each year that passes, but they sacked Ronald Koeman at the end of the season, so hopefully new manager Michael Laudrup will bring about a change in fortunes.

In terms of relegation, Mika Lehkosuo couldn't keep his job after taking Fulham straight back down, despite being the one who got them up there in the first place, and has been replaced by Robbie Neilson. Another of last year's promoted sides, Derby County, went straight back down too, costing Steve McClaren his job by the end of 2018. Up and coming Scottish Manager Stevie Crawford took over the Rams, but couldn't charge them out of the drop zone. The last team to be heading for the Championship is Sunderland. They actually let David Moyes off the hook for relegating them in 2017 and he got them back up the next season. Taking them straight back down again though was seen as an excessive amount of failure by the Black Cats' hierarchy and they've curiously appointed former Wales International and lower League One side Wycombe Wanderers' boss Rob Page as his replacement. I'm interested to see how he does.

Anyway, Chelsea's Mauro Icardi was the Premier League's top scorer this season with 22, just ahead of Bournemouth's Callum Wilson. At 27, Callum's scored 54 goals in his last 3 seasons and is now worth £32m, which is great to see for an English lad. He's only made 1 appearance for the national side somehow though, despite the fact that Eddie Howe was appointed England Manager last year.

Mesut Özil and Nathaniel Clyne both had outstanding seasons for their clubs, while City's Ilkay Gündogan and Sunderland's Oriol Romeu got the most assists. Alexis Sánchez, still at Arsenal of course because he's incredibly loyal and content, was voted Players' Player of the Year and Footballer of the Year, while Dele Alli bagged his 3rd Players' Young Player of the Year award in 4 years and his Spurs teammate Hugo Lloris picked up the Golden Glove.

The team of the year exclusively features players from the top 6, with Arsenal's Özil and Sánchez, Chelsea's Aymeric Laporte and Icardi, Tottenham's Lloris, Alli and Eriksen, Liverpool's Clyne, City's Otamendi and De Bruyne, and United's Daley Blind.

Coming up to the Premier League are Brian McClair's Southampton and Burnley, who were brought up but then abandoned by the Goodison-bound Michael Laudrup. Both sides are back up at the second time of asking, and are joined by Crystal Palace, who sacked Laurent Blanc in February and replaced him with Claude Makélélé, who successfully guided them to and through the play offs. If I was a betting man, I'd put my money on Patrick Vieira to be Claude's eventual replacement. I think I see a pattern emerging. Shout out to Brian Deane too, while we're on the Championship. He saw that his beloved Sheffield United were in trouble and leapt into action, taking over at Aston Villa and sending them down to League One instead of the Blades. Now that's dedication.

En España, the top 2 have finally been broken up, allowing the perennial underdogs FC Barcelona to get their moment in the sun. I actually feel really sorry for their fans, having not seen their side win the league since 2016, so good on them. And fair play to 'Manager of the Year' Luis Enrique's side, the title race was not close. They finished 16 points ahead of Simeone's Atleti, and 18 ahead of Zizou's Real Madrid. Zidane got the sack at the end of the season, which is really disappointing for the footballing world, but the massively experienced Marcelino has left Porto to take over.

Luis Suárez had a great season, scoring by far the most goals, putting on consistently excellent performances, and even pipping Leo Messi to the Player of the Year award; an accomplishment only equalled once in the last 9 years by Cristiano Ronaldo. Simone Zaza of Valencia scored the second most goals, while Celta Vigo's highly rated young midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur got the most assists, followed by Real Sociedad's Recio. Real's Keylor Navas won the Goalkeeper of the Year award for the 3rd straight season.

Surprisingly Cristiano Ronaldo is only named on the bench in La Liga's Team of the Season, and there's no place for Simone Zaza at all! Navas is in net, with Athletico Madrid's £35m 2018 signing Alessandro Florenzi and Real Madrid trio Sergio Ramos, Raphaël Varane, and Nacho across the back. Across midfield, Bentancur, Recio, Messi and Neymar are the picks, with Suárez and Sevilla's Franco Vázquez up front.

The German Bundesliga has surprisingly dropped below the Premier League and Serie A in the European standings recently. Unsurprisingly though, Carlo Ancelotti's Bayern Munich won the league for the 7th time in a row. I've got to tell you though... 'Bundesliga Manager of the Year' Thomas Tuchel's Borussia Dortmund were so, so close. With 33 out of 34 matches played, they sat in 1st place, with Bayern a point behind them, and then they went and lost to Hertha bloody Berlin. At home. And Bayern won away at Mainz to snatch the title.

Roger Schmidt's Bayer Leverkusen couldn't quite keep up with the top 2, despite having the 2 highest goalscorers in the league: £24m signing Timo Werner and Javier "Chicarito" Hernández. As usual, Bayern put on a defensive masterclass, with Players' Player of the Year David Alaba and Mats Hummels the standout performers. Leverkusen's Kevin Kampl and Red Bull Leipzig's Naby Keïta were the top assisters and Manuel Neuer was unsurprisingly the top keeper.

The Team of the Year was made up mainly of Bayern players, with Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez, Mats Hummels, David Alaba, Douglas Costa and Renato Sanches all making the cut. Naby Keïta, Marco Reus, Mario Götze and Timo Werner made up the rest of the team.

Serie A went pretty much back to normal this year I'm afraid. Spalletti's Roma, following their dramatic last gasp title win last year, reverted to type and got in line behind the Champions: Jardim's Juventus.

Udinese were the surprise package in the league, snatching an unlikely European spot and earning manager Luigi Delneri the Manager of the year award. A big factor in the achievement was their equally unlikely strike partnership of Stipe Perica and Jay Rodriguez, who bagged 30 goals and 12 assists between them.

Perica finished a not-so-close second in the goalscoring charts though, with Paulo Dybala having another scintillating season in front of goal. Dybala won the Serie A Player of the Year award and shone in a Juve side that also benefitted from the stunning defensive form of Leonardo Bonucci and Gigi Buffon's replacement, Gerónimo Rulli, who won the Goalkeeper of the Year award.

The team of the year's back 6 consisted of 5 Juventus players; Rulli, Bonucci, Sami Khedira, Alex Sandro and William Carvalho, along with Cristian Ansaldi of Inter. Napoli's Jorginho and AC Milan's Giacomo Bonavetura are in midfield, and there's a front 3 of Roma's Mo Salah, Juve's Dybala and Fiorentina's Federico Chiesa.

Paris Saint Germain have taken back their throne in Ligue 1, with manager Unai Emery winning the Manager of the Year award for finally pegging José Barros' AS Monaco back. Edison Cavani's 25 goals helped, as did £31.5m signing Gianluigi Donnarumma's Goalkeeper of the Year winning performances.

Monaco were 10 points behind the Champions in the end, but still had a good season thanks to the goals of Alexandre Lacazette and the incredible performances of Bernardo Silva, while left winger Kylian Mbappé won the Player of the Season award. PSG's £74m 2017 signings Thiago Alcântara got the most assists in the league, followed by Lyon's Sergi Darder.

The Team of the Season was made up almost entirely of players from the top 2, with PSG's Donnarumma, Serge Aurier, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Thiago Alcântara and Edison Cavani joined by Monaco's Fabinho, Thomas Lemar, Bernardo Silva and Mbappé. Marseille's Ludwig Augustinsson rounds out the numbers.

It's funny looking at these leagues. They may as well all be taking place on a different Planet they're so far away. But one day I'll manage in one of them. Maybe all of them. One day.

My attention is caught by Burnie, standing and stretching, before stepping out of the suitcase and plopping onto the floor. I'd better start packing I suppose. Next stop - South Africa.
Stevie & Chappie (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 75.5.5.5.5)

I've never been outside Europe before, you know. Never. I've always wanted to though. There's certain countries that I've always been wary of visiting, like Australia, purely because it seems like it's designed specifically to eat, poison, or just generally kill humans, what with all the sharks, spiders, snakes, stingrays etc, but I'd still go. I want to explore these places. I want to see them all. The thought does cross my mind though, as I sit quietly like a brave boy and receive my jabs for Diphtheria, Cholera, Hepititis A and B, Rabies, Tetanus and Typhoid, that I may be jumping right into the deep end here.

My flight from Katowice takes 15 hours, with a quick 90 minute stop in Frankfurt, before eventually touching down in Cape Town. From there, I catch a train to the small and relatively quiet suburb of Lansdowne. My new home.

Maybe it's the fact that I'm so drastically unenlightened to life outside of my European bubble, but I'd sort of expected Africa to be a 24/7 safari. I'd heard that Cape Town was inhabited by Otters, Seals, Wildebeest, Mongooses, Porcupines, Aardvarks, Leopards and Baboons, so to find my new digs on a quiet suburban street with no herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the main road is a huge disappointment.

I've rented a 5th floor apartment in quite a small block of flats, set back slightly from the road behind a mesh security fence. It's a fairly nice building, with a sign next to the door that reads "Geen Rook Nie". I assume that this is the name of the building. It sounds pretty exotic.

After a few minutes, I'm joined outside the security gate by a man that I recognise to be my new landlord, Stevie. He's a tall, heavily built bloke with bronze skin and a friendly look about him. His hair's braided into cornrows and he's wearing the 2019/2020 Santos FC Home shirt, which was only released yesterday. Trotting alongside Stevie is a dog; Some kind of collie cross by the looks of it, although my dog breed knowledge has never been fantastic. She's panting excitedly at Stevie's heel as she watches me.

"There's your keys, bra", he says, with probably too much enthusiasm for such a mundane event. He hands me a trio of keys on a ring: One for the gate, another for the Geen Rook Nie building and a third for my flat.

"Cheers", I mutter. "Want me to sign that?" I gesture to the Santos shirt.

Stevie grins. "Let's see how you fare first, bru, eh?"

"Probably fair enough" I grin. "What's you dog's name?" I glance down at the Collie-ish dog, who is still watching me with interest, her tongue lolling out as she pants.

"She's called Chappie. Say hello Cha..." Stevie is cut off as Chappie lunges towards me, almost knocking me over. She jumps up and rests her front paws on my stomach, supporting herself with just her hind legs, and I give her a stroke and a scratch behind the ear. It's only now that I appreciate just how big Chappie is; she's almost as tall as me now that she's stood up on her hind legs. After getting a good look at me, Chappie lowers herself back onto four feet and goes back to Stevie's heel. I smile as I watch her, then I look back at Stevie.

"Nice dog", I smile. He smiles and nods. "So you're a Santos fan then?" I ask, pretty redundantly.

"Ya, nee, all my life, bru." He replies proudly.

"Go on then, what have I let myself in for?" I ask, anxious to get a fan's perspective on my new club.

Stevie thinks for a moment. "Santos is the people's team, bru. We aren't the oldest club in the world, but we're proud, you know?" His face suddenly turns very serious. "If you want my honest opinion bra, the players we have aren't great. They aren't bad, but they aren't great. We stayed up last year, but it could still be tough trying to keep us up."

I furrow my brow. "So what would you do if you were me?"

"Ag man, unless you can buy a whole new team..." Stevie scratches his chin and sighs. "You've got to get more out of them", he concludes unconvincingly. It's not the helpful and insightful 'voice of the fans' that I'd been hoping for.

I thank Stevie, give Chappie another scratch behind the ear, and make my way through the gate, into the building and into my new flat. My cats, Meatloaf and Burnie, are already in there. For a moment, I question how that's actually possible, but then I just accept it as the explanation is probably dull and not worth thinking about too much.

After initially dismissing Stevie's words as unhelpful, I find myself going over them in my head that night. How do you get the best out of what you've got? How do you lift mediocre players to the point where they can challenge the best in the league?

I've got some ideas.
Quick note:

Sorry guys but time's been tighter than usual the last couple of months, hence me delaying episodes so much. Daily eps will start again NEXT Monday now (2nd October)

Cheers,

Franjo
http://images.virgula.uol.com.br/2015/02/Chappie-Daystune-1-1.gif
Sometimes you have to stand in the shadows; to see the light.

OYSTON OUT
So, I know I said that I was pushing the story back just a week, but I’m aftaid it’s going to be a bit longer. I can’t get it sorted at the minute and instead of being enjoyable it’s only serving to stress me out. I will be back, but it’ll be at least another week.
apologies, speak to you all soon
Franjo

That link isn’t working for me mate but I’m really curious what it was! I can only guess from the URL that you caught one of my ultra-cryptic references
Oh, it worked for me originally but doesn't seem to be now either...

Just a Chappie gif lol.
Sometimes you have to stand in the shadows; to see the light.

OYSTON OUT
Oh, it worked for me originally but doesn't seem to be now either...

Just a Chappie gif lol.

Ah fair enough! I’ll have to be quicker next time
Brexit (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 75.5.5.5.5.5)

I glance around my flat, searching for something to do. Something to talk about. Anything. Anything at all. I’m so bored. There’s nothing new with Meatloaf and Burnie. Meatloaf’s still a dickhead and Burnie’s still the lovable scaredy cat. I’ve currently got no tactical decisions to make, no transfers on the horizon, no drama at all in fact, footballing or otherwise. I take a deep breath and let out a long sigh... Fine, let’s talk about Brexit.

The United Kingdom is, to quote Graham Chapman, a silly place. It’s a silly place where rich silly people tell poor silly people to vote for laughably silly things. The poor silly people, just to compound the misery of everyone involved, then proceed to vote for the laughably silly things. The upshot of this is that the Kingdom is basically fucked. The silly people will stay imprisoned in a jail of their own making, breeding with other silly imprisoned people and creating silly imprisoned children, who will grow up and vote for an entirely new generation of silly people and laughably silly things, thus completing the silly circle of life in the United Kingdom. Anyway, I’ve decided to stay very neutral, journalistic and professional about the whole thing as I tell you all about how Brexit has played out back in Great Britain.

In truth, the warning signs were there for all to see in early 2018 when Theresa May resigned her post as Prime Minister due to a lack of support and a publicity stunt by bookmakers BetFred went horribly wrong when the public voted in Robbie Savage as her replacement, narrowly beating Alan Curbishley in the polls. Robbie Savage, to give him his dues, was a pretty horrific footballer but a decent defensive midfielder. He was actually like a “Premier League standard” version of me in my playing days, so I can’t really have a go in that regard. Since retirement, he’s been a regular presenter on the BBC’s pit of unrelenting toxicity known as the 606 phone in, and more recently the Fletch and Sav show, which to be honest I’ve never watched, so I can’t really comment. The Welshman was faced with a sink or swim round of negotiations to determine the fate of the UK and their relations with the EU, and much like in his playing days he went diving into the metaphorical ocean with 2 feet and studs raised, dropping like a sack of spuds deep beneath the waves. To put it simply, it turns out that Robbie Savage is unable to negotiate. My homeland was left with a ridiculously confusing and long-winded deal. Mind you, it just wouldn’t be political negotiations if the outcome wasn’t wordy, confusing and needlessly complicated, so here we go...

So whether a non-domestic player is signing for an English club with or without a pre-existing work permit or even if he’s just renewing his contract, the rules that determine if a permit is granted are the same, in as much as he must have played in a certain percentage of his nation’s recent International matches. If his national team is in the top 10 in the FIFA World rankings, he must have played 30% of their recent matches. If the nation is in the top 20, then it’s 45%. In the top 30 it’s 60% and in the top 50 it’s 75%. To be honest I’ve no idea what happens if the poor bloke made the unfortunate decision to be born and raised in a nation outside the top 50, but I would imagine that they’re just out on their arse. If the work permit is not granted, the club must wait 120 days before applying again.

Of course, the club could choose to appeal the decision. If the club appeals, then the decision is postponed and a work permit can be granted as long as the player ticks enough of the boxes to convince the powers that be that he deserves a chance to come over and play football. The boxes are as follows (Player needs 4 points to gain a work permit on appeal):

3 points are given if the transfer fee paid for the player is in the top 25% of Premier League transfers in the last 2 windows. Currently in the Premier League the bar to beat is £9.25M, but I imagine that fees will increase to beat that figure, driving the average up, and hence raising the bar that needs to be beaten. This could get messy. 2 points are given if the fee is in the top 50% over the same period (Currently £3.7M).

Another way to bag 3 of the 4 points required is if the player’s proposed wage would put them in the top 25% of the 30 highest earners at the club. Again, 2 points are given if they’ll be among the top 50%.

1 point is given if the player being signed is currently an “active player” for a club playing in the top 6 leagues in Europe or the top 2 leagues in South America. “Active player” is an extremely ambiguous description and will undoubtably lead to arguments. In other words, it fits perfectly into the football rule book.

Simple, eh? Of course not. You got ripped off, Savage. We all got ripped off.

So let’s just think about the fallout from the deal that the former Blackburn Rovers midfielder made with the European Union. Firstly, because of the work permit appeal system, the teams with money will still be able to get any player they want, giving them another advantage over the rest. Just tack an extra few million onto the fee and an extra £15k onto the weekly wage and you’re sorted. I hate this. I hate this with a fucking passion. The gap between the rich clubs and everyone else will grow exponentially because of these bloody rules, making the Premier League more predictable, which is the worst thing it could be.

Secondly, I’ve already mentioned the fact that everyone tacking on a few more million every time they want to sign a player will raise the average transfer fee, which will mean that everyone needs to tack a few more million on. The same goes for wages. These rules are going to accelerate inflation in football! Accelerate inflation! As if it needs any bloody help! As if the amount of money swilling around the game isn’t already utterly laughable.

Finally, as I’ve mentioned, throwing yet another ambiguous rule regarding “Active players” into football that’s “At the discretion of XYZ” will only end in tears and will ironically make the 606 phonelines that Savage used to abide explode with furious football fans, just itching to give their “controversial” 2 cents about the direction in which the game’s going.

By the way, I understand that this doesn’t affect us at the minute, but my career is only just beginning. I guarantee you I will head back to Blighty eventually, and when I do I’m going to have to deal with all this shite. For now though I’m going to settle into my new job and my new flat in Lansdowne and let Mourinho, Guardiola and co deal with it.

So to summarise, top level football is going to be more predictable, even more advantageous to the rich and even more ambiguous from now on. Fuck you, Savage. Fuck you, Brexit.
Welcome back
Sometimes you have to stand in the shadows; to see the light.

OYSTON OUT
Procrastination (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 75.5.5.5.5.5.5)

What kind of Manager am I? I stare at the two sheets of paper on the desk in front of me. Well I stare past them, really. I stare at the desk. I stare at the spot in the desk where somebody’s taken a big chip out of the wood, right in the centre, so that when you put the paper down and write on it your pen goes through, and you need to go and get another sheet and move it to the side of the chip. What kind of Monster would do such a thing? What kind of arse hole takes a chunk out of the centre of the writing desk in a furnished flat, just to spite the next tenant?

I stare at the sheets of paper again. I force myself. I procrastinate far too often for a grown man. I feel like I’m trying to study for my GCSE’s again. I’d have my Biology textbook open on the same page for about 5 hours while I watched Gavin and Stacey “In the background”, forcing myself to look down for about 10 seconds every half hour or so, so that the only thing that sinks in is “Osmosis is the net movement of water particles through a partially permeable membrane from high to low concentration.” Never even came up in the exam. It never came up and here I am 10 years later, able to remember that sentence but not the names of vague acquaintances that I’ve met more than enough times for them to sink in. I’m able to remember that sentence, but I can’t remember to take my bags for life back to the pissing supermarket. I must have spent at least a grand on 50p carrier bags since their introduction. I’m the exact opposite of an eco-warrior. I might as well be dumping toxic waste into the sea. I might as well be kicking sea-lions directly in the face.

It happened again didn’t it. Focus, man. This is important. After a year like I’ve just had I need to come up with a tactical plan so brilliant, so groundbreaking, that the name WT Franjo is catapulted into the spotlight of world football. As a success, not a failure. That’s important. So why is it so difficult? I’ve had my first training session with Santos, I’ve made my notes on all the lads, and I just need to write down eleven names and a shit tonne of arrows. And then do it again. I need more than one system after all.

So what kind of Manager am I? Am I the kind of Manager that imposes a system on the players he inherits? The kind that imposes a system and buys a load of new players to fit it? Or am I the kind of Manager who gets the best out of what he already has, maybe with one or two adjustments? Am I Type 1, 2 or 3?

With Höllviken I was type 3, although that was rather imposed upon me. I only made signings to get 11 names on the team sheet. With Angrense... My beloved Angrense... I was type 3 again, surely. Yes I signed Hurley, but that first half season I largely made do. With Katowice, I’d have to say that I was type 2. I did need to sign centre backs because we didn’t have any, but I then proceeded to go a bit mad, signing a raft of new players and expecting them to gel with the existing ones.

So overall, I’m type 3. There is no type 2.6666666 so I’m type 3. I’ll make the most out of what I have. Now if I can just figure out what that is, I’ll really be onto a winner.
Foxy (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep76)

Life in Lansdowne is off to a promising start. The players are enthusiastic and optimistic, and they're adapting to my new systems well. My adopted assistant manager, Keith America, seems to borderline know what he's doing, and best of all, I've found that Santos are a very sensibly run club, which means that on the downside there's not much money for me to spend on the squad, but on the upside I've started my National B License course, authorised by the Chairman Goolam Allie and funded with Santos’ pretty decent bank balance.

My landlord Stevie was onto something with regards to the players. They aren't terrible, but they aren't great. They're a bit so-so. My new systems are designed to get the best out of them. As is customary, allow me to introduce you to my preliminary starting XI.

Goalkeeper - No 31 - Dino Visser

I should probably mention straight off the bat that the quality of players here in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) is lower than it was in Poland, mainly due to strict Homegrown quotas and work permit regulations. So with that in mind, our new shot stopper Dino Visser is what I would describe as "The bare minimum". He's tall with good reach, handling, reflexes and agility. As we get to know the league it might turn out that he's on par with the other clubs' goalkeepers, but for some reason I doubt it. The good news though is that at 29 he's just coming into his prime and has some good experience behind him.

Right Defensive Full Back - No 4 - Jino Moeketsi

Moe is exactly the kind of full back that I like. I've never managed at a big club that can afford fancy attacking wingbacks, so I like my fullbacks to be tall, defensively minded and solid. Moe is just that.

Centre Back - No 15 - Issouf Paro

I don't want to toot my own horn, but I've got a 100% record of getting the best out of Burkinabe International centre backs. This gives me hope for the thrice capped Paro, who is strong technically and physically, but could be prone to switching off and making the odd mistake.

Defensive Centre Back - No 23 - Nathan Gertse

Nathan has played most of his career at right back, I presume because of his pretty decent pace, but for me he's a centre back. He'll form a very physically imposing partnership with Paro.

Left Defensive Full Back - No 13 - Aidan Jenniker

I could just repeat what I said about full backs a second ago, but you get the idea. Jenniker is solid and defensive, with the added bonus that he's not bad going forwards either.

Ball Winning Defensive Midfielder - No 12 - Marothi Diale

It will become clear in a second when I talk about the system why I see Marothi as a potentially important player for us. He's energetic, defensively excellent and aggressive enough, but like a lot of the others he lacks determination, which worries me.

Deep Lying Playmaker - No 8 - Sandile Sibande

The only 2 things that annoy me about Sandile are that his decision making is poor, and that his surname is just not quite an anagram of Sinbad. But you know I'm going to call him Sinbad anyway. Other than those 2 things, he really is a Rolls Royce of a player for a team like us. He's great on the ball, good defensively, and an excellent worker and team player. Remember the name, because Sinbad is going to be an extremely important player for us.

Left Winger - No 6 - Sello Japhta

Sello is going to be important for us too. You can have all the good defensive players you like, but you also need an outlet to start counter attacks. Sello has pace, flair, and times his runs well, on top of having a decent end product.

Right Winger - No 9 - Ryan Moon

Ryan's an interesting player. He says that his best position is up front, but I see him as a right winger. Like Sello, he's pacy and has some tricks up his sleeve, but with Ryan it's all about the end product. He's got great technique, a wonderful first touch, can dribble fantastically and has a hell of a shot on him.

Attacking Midfielder - No 11 - Suhayl Allie

I've chosen to cut out the middle of Suhayl Allie's name, and he'll be addressed as Sullie. He's one of the younger players in this fairly old team at just 24 and I'm not entirely sure if we'll be able to depend on him, but for the time being he's the best attacking midfielder we have. He's pretty good on the ball, with good technique, first touch and passing, he's very physically fit and has decent pace and flair. Watch this space, because he could be our star player... Or he could be a complete flop.

Poacher & Vice Captain - No 10 - Emil Sambou

Finally we need a goalscorer, so say hello to Emil Sambou. He and Paro are the only non-South-African players to be in my preliminary XI. Sambou is a Gambian international, who plays alongside the fairly well known former Swansea and now Preston North End striker Modou Barrow at International level. Emil is great off the ball, has decent enough pace and can finish with his boots or his head. As a traditional poacher I think he'll do very well indeed.

Captain - No 5 - Philani Cele

It would be remiss of me not to mention our skipper, Philani Cele. As you'll probably have gathered over the last 3 years, I'm not someone who will charge into a new club and just give the armband to whoever I like. I like to keep the existing captain in place for at least a season, but for the first time having joined my new club, I'm not sure whether the captain will have a guarenteed spot in my starting XI. Luckily, Philani is a bit of a utility player who's comfortable on the right side of defence or midfield, as well as at centre back and defensive midfield. He's pretty good defensively but technically limited, which isn't a huge problem for those positions. He's mentally strong and physically imposing at 6'3", and although he's not in my preliminary lineup I'm sure he'll get plenty of football when the season gets going.

I found inspiration in 2 very different places when coming up with our new systems: Firstly, for the preliminary lineup that you've just seen, I looked at Claudio Ranieri's 2015/16 Leicester City side, hence Project: Foxy:

There are similarities between us and that Leicester team, definitely. We have pace in the final third, tonnes of it, which means that a counter attacking playstyle may be our only option at the minute. We have solid defenders, a vicious ball winning midfielder, a quality ball player, a good balance between attacking impetus, creativity and willingness to keep the shape on the wings and a (hopefully) decent enough strike force to tie it all together. I just need to make sure that the team is well drilled and make us as difficult to beat and as lethal on the counter attack as Ranieri's side was.

The other place that I found inspiration was... In fact, I'll keep that to myself for now. You'll see Project: CO in due course.
South African Premier Soccer League 101 (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 76.5)

Here we go then. We’ve met some of our new players, we’ve met my new assistant Keith, and now it’s time to meet the 16 sides that make up the South African Premier Soccer League.



Ajax Cape Town

From: Cape Town

Ground: Cape Town Stadium

Last Season: 9th

Predicted: 6th

Rivals in the Premier Soccer League: Cape Town City (Fierce, Local), Santos FC (Fierce, Local), Kaizer Chiefs (Competitive), Orlando Pirates (Competitive)



Bloemfontein Celtic

From: Bloemfontein

Ground: Dr. Rantlai Petrus Molemela Stadium

Last Season: 12th

Predicted: 8th

Rivals in the Premier Soccer League: N/A



Cape Town City Football Club

From: Cape Town

Ground: Cape Town Stadium

Last Season: 5th

Predicted: 7th

Rivals in the Premier Soccer League: Ajax CT (Fierce, Local), Santos FC (Local)



Chippa United Football Club

From: Port Elizabeth

Ground: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium

Last Season: 8th

Predicted: 11th

Rivals in the Premier Soccer League: N/A



Golden Arrows Football Club

From: Durban

Ground: King Zwelithini Stadium

Last Season: 10th

Predicted: 10th

Rivals in the Premier Soccer League: N/A



Highlands Park

From: Johannesburg

Ground: Highlands Park Stadium

Last Season: 11th

Predicted: 15th

Rivals in the Premier Soccer League: N/A



Kaizer Chiefs Football Club

From: Soweto

Ground: FNB Stadium

Last Season: 2nd

Predicted: 1st

Rivals in the Premier Soccer League: Orlando Pirates (Fierce), Sundowns, Supersport United, Ajax CT



Maritzburg United

From: Pietermaritzburg

Ground: Harry Gwala Stadium

Last Season: 7th

Predicted: 9th

Rivals in the Premier Soccer League: Golden Arrows



Mthatha Bucks Football Club

From: Pietermaritzburg

Ground: Harry Gwala Stadium

Last Season: Champions in and promoted from the South African National First Division

Predicted: 13th

Rivals in the Premier Soccer League: N/A



Orlando Pirates

From: Johannesburg

Ground: Orlando Stadium

Last Season: Champions

Predicted: 3rd

Rivals in the Premier Soccer League: Kaizer Chiefs (Fierce)



Polokwane City Football Club

From: Polokwane

Ground: Peter Mokaba Stadium

Last Season: 14th

Predicted: 14th

Rivals in the Premier Soccer League: N/A



Santos Football Club

From: Lansdowne (Cape Town)

Ground: Athlone Stadium

Last Season: 13th

Predicted: 12th

Rivals in the Premier Soccer League: Ajax CT (Fierce)



Mamelodi Sundowns

From: Pretoria

Ground: Loftus Versfield

Last Season: 3rd

Predicted: 2nd

Rivals in the Premier Soccer League: Supersport United (Fierce), Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs



SuperSport United

From: Pretoria

Ground: Lucas Masterpieces Moripe Stadium

Last Season: 4th

Predicted: 5th

Rivals in the Premier Soccer League: Sundowns (Fierce), Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates



Thanda Royal Zulu FC

From: Richards Bay

Ground: Umhlathuze Central Sports Complex

Last Season: 3rd, promoted from the South African National First Division

Predicted: 16th

Rivals in the Premier Soccer League: N/A



Bidvest Wits

From: Johannesburg

Ground: Bidvest Stadium

Last Season: 6th

Predicted: 4th

Rivals in the Premier Soccer League: Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Supersport United, Sundowns



So the good news is that after surviving the Portuguese Championship and the Lotto Ekstraklasa where the Leagues started splitting up and going into little mini-leagues, the PSL is actually pretty straightforward. 16 teams play each other twice, so 30 games in all. The top 2 in the League qualify for the African Champions League Preliminary Round, the 3rd and 4th placed sides qualify for the African Confederation Cup, depending on who wins the SA Cup, and the bottom team is relegated. I mean, yes the team that finishes 2nd bottom goes into a play-off mini-league with the 2nd and 3rd placed sides from the 2nd tier, but still. Overall it's quite a straightforward system.

And I actually feel pretty good about this league. Am I wrong? Am I just naive, or does this feel OK? The board expect us to stay clear of a relegation scrap. Santos have had 2 solid seasons back in the top flight, and that was without me! Under the guidance now of a practically never relegated Manager like me, I feel like this club can not only avoid the drop but really push on up the League.

And the other thing is that if we can push towards the upper echelons of the league, it actually looks pretty open. Kaizer Chiefs won it in 2017 with Supersport United, Sundowns and Ajax CT well behind them, then they won it again with Sundowns, Supersport United and Orlando Pirates chasing, and then last year Orlando Pirates won it, closely followed by Kaizer Chiefs, Sundowns and Supersport United. There seems to be a fair bit of fluctuation up there. Ajax CT have plummeted down to 9th place in the last 2 years, while Orlando Pirates finished 6th and 4th before winning the league. If you ask me, there's room for anyone to break into the top 4 club, and I don't see why it can't be us. Eventually.
Here we go then, another new league and another new adventure. Franjo may soon be known worldwide, maybe not for tactical genius but just managing in every country!

Looking forward to this as always
Sometimes you have to stand in the shadows; to see the light.

OYSTON OUT
Haha I’ll take that as a compliment cheers bud!
The Chosen One (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep77)

So now that I've met my team and have a vague idea of what they can do, it's time, weirdly, to start my second pre-season of the summer. It kicks off in quite baffling fashion when backup goalkeeper Keenon Blignaut knocks on my office door after our first training session. He's clearly wound up and wants to discuss his lack of first team football. I fix him with a quizzical look, wondering momentarily whether he's gotten his hands on my preliminary lineup, before reassuring him that if he works hard there's no reason why he can't push for the first team. Just between us though, I'm looking for a first choice keeper to replace the average Dino Visser, and Dino's comfortably better than Keenon.

Our first outing with Project: Foxy goes very well as we take on South African second tier side Stellenbosch FC at our own Athlone Stadium. Left winger Sello Japhta and attacking midfielder Sullie are the standout performers in a 4-1 victory, with the former bagging a goal and setting up another and the latter grabbing 2 goals. Striker Emil Sambou gets the other goal while right winger Ryan Moon sets up 3!

https://youtu.be/lgcgN7AV7ik

As I told you when I arrived, as well as Project: Foxy, I have delicately crafted a mysterious secondary system that I've named Project: CO. However, I know that for Project: CO to work, I need to add an all round top quality player to the squad. Therefore, I make a bid to spend £70k of my transfer budget on none other than Newport County's Joss Ladabie.

My scouts aren't too familiar with Joss, but I know from reputation that he fits the bill. We agree terms and there's just the formality of a work permit to be granted so that Joss can join us, but I nearly spit my morning coffee out when I realise that the decision on whether to grant his work permit will be made on the 22nd of August. Today is the 23rd of July. Getting a quality foreign player may not be as simple as I first thought.

Our second friendly sees us travel to our semi-professional affiliate club Zizwe United. We do them the favour of showing up and flaunting our second string and I assume that they’ll be too awestruck to put in a performance, so imagine my surprise when they send us back nursing a comprehensive 0-2 defeat. It’s an uncomfortable afternoon.

https://youtu.be/CFN9YyNH5QI

I knew when I bid for Ladabie that the deal had a chance of falling through, so at the same time I made a £2.5k bid for an old friend.

Benjamim is an all rounder. I know this and you know this. We had a year apart when I moved to Katowice, although I would have brought him with me if I hadn't already had 2 comparable midfielders in Bart and Mario Gregurina. I want to sign him not only because he's so rounded, but also because he's been criminally underutilised since I left Volcano Island. Like with Joss however, we'll have to wait a full month to find out whether Benjamim can join.

In the meantime, we’ve got more friendlies to play. We host Grassy Park next, a semi-professional club from the Northern Cape Division 2. Again, we line up with Project: Foxy, and we come away with a narrow win. The only goal comes just into the second half when right back Itumeleng Tlali’s long ball forward is nodded over the keeper by young midfielder Sakhile Maloka.

https://youtu.be/MCWWJ5kPj0Y

With not much else to do except wait on Benjamim’s and Ladabie’s work permits, we press on, focussing on our fitness and system familiarity in training. We then travel to Gauteng Division 2 side Ga-Rankuwa United in another friendly. A Ryan Moon penalty and another goal for Sakhile Maloka earns us a 2-0 win.

https://youtu.be/WWRnL1yS2d4

At this point, I'm getting worried that my bids for Joss Ladabie and Benjamim will be derailed, as I'm not sure how generously South African work permits are handed out. Therefore, we need to find a top quality all rounder with a South African passport. And I think we have.

Kingston Nkhatha has arrived. I dub him Khat, partially as an homage to Danny John-Jules' Red Dwarf character of the same name, and partially because we'll need him to roam around doing whatever he wants, similarly to my 2 feline travelling companions Meatloaf and Burnie.

Having said that, I should probably explain my secondary system, Project: CO at this point. During my flight over from Katowice, I listened to Ruud Gullit's pretty condescendingly named audiobook 'How to watch football'. Aside from being a really good listen (Or read, if you're not as lazy as me), it really opened my eyes to the idea of the Libero; an extremely rarely utilised role in the modern game. A libero is ideally an extremely smart, technically gifted and physically dominant footballer, much like prime Gullit, who positions himself behind the central defenders when the team is off the ball, but then roams up the pitch when the teams wins possession, becoming an advanced creative outlet and potential surprise goal threat.

That is what Project: CO is all about. If we have an average team, why not have one player that can be the last line of defence, main creator and goalscorer all wrapped into one? Someone that can make everyone else 10% better by being there to call the shots and make everything happen. The instructions to the team are minimal as I only want them to create a disciplined framework for Khat to operate inside.

Before you call me mad, bare in mind that we can't afford to gut this team and rebuild it this Summer, and frankly I wouldn't want to if we could. We need to live within our means, and for me, that once meant playing a goalkeeper as a target man. Today it means playing a 33 year old journeyman striker as a Libero. I know we've only just met, but I believe in Khat. I believe that he can be our Libero. He can be our Ruud Gullit. He can be the main player in our Project: Chosen One.

On the downside, he's been around the block a bit, and at 33 isn't the ideal age to dramatically change his position, but on the upside he’s got a South African passport despite being Zimbabwean, so we can snap him straight up without having to wait a full bloody month for a work permit.

Cape Town All Stars are up next. It’s quite an ironic name for a second tier side because there are quite a few top flight clubs from Cape Town, and our names all contain a wee bit more humility. We fire up Project: CO for the first time and teach the "All Stars" a lesson in a 2-0 win used to honour the career of their centre back Howard Davids. Ryan Moon continues his good preseason by setting up both goals, one for Sello Japhta and one for Emil Sambou. Khat has a very solid game, which for a striker playing his first game behind the defence is extremely promising.

https://youtu.be/vblMWxFs6OU

We carry on our pre-season with 2 more solid wins against First Division sides. Sullie gets us the only goal in a 1-0 win over Steenberg United...

https://youtu.be/d36pogBKaMI

... And our incredibly named backup left back Siyabong Zulu and new signing Khat get us the win away at FC Cape Town.

https://youtu.be/IBZs64bT5Lw

And then comes the big one - in our final match before the Season begins, young winger Salieg Richards and Emil Sambou get us a win over BARCELONA.

Now, does it matter whether it’s Lionel Messi’s FC Barcelona side from La Liga, or Gerardo Cozzolino’s Barcelona FC side from the South African Regional Leagues? Not to me, lads. Not to me.

https://youtu.be/f-y_vtSMIZA

Sadly, Joss Ladabie's work permit is then rejected, which isn't ideal. We appeal the decision, but we won't know whether he's joining until after our first league match. What we can do though is sign staff. Lots and lots of staff. My backroom team has grown dramatically this Summer.

My first competitive match as Santos FC Manager is at home against Cape Town City, who’ve finished in the top 8 4 times in the last 4 Seasons. We’ve got our systems now. We’ve got our players, our staff, and of course we've got our chosen one. We’ll be ready.

It's good to be back.
Not Like This (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep78)

"Ready?" I sit myself down next to Khat on the bench. He nods. "Remember, no sprinting about, you’re an old man", I grin. "What’s your job off the ball?"

"Drifting", he replies confidently.

"Roaming, not drifting", I correct him.

"What’s the difference?"

"Well, people who fall asleep on little inflatable rings will drift out to sea, whereas a Lion will roam around looking for other animals to rip apart and eat." I narrow my eyes, trying to work out if I’ve been clear enough. "Do you see my point?"

"There’s no current on a football pitch", he replies happily.

"Exactly. Probably."

We’re all feeling the nerves a bit today, and if there’s one person I’ll forgive for being more nervous than me, it’s Khat. I’m asking him to throw out everything he’s learned in the last 20 years and pretty much learn the game from scratch. A lesser footballer would’ve told me to fuck right off, but I can tell that Khat wants to give it his best shot.

We’re setting up today with our controlling Project: CO. Visser starts between the sticks with Khat in front of him. Moe, Paro, Gertse and Jenniker make up the back 4, with Sinbad starting in midfield alongside tough midfielder Gugu Gogotya, the man clearly named by a newborn baby. Moon and Japhta are on the wings and Sambou’s up front.

"Come on then, lads!" I cry, clapping my hands together as I stand and walk towards the changing room door. With the cacophony of 18 sets of studs clacking against the concrete floor, the players get to their feet and follow me, clapping and cheering with anticipation of the great game of football to come.

When we trudge back inside for half time, I’m shellshocked. What just happened? Somehow the score’s still 0-0 but we could be 3 or 4 down. We’ve not managed a single shot, while Cape Town City have huffed and puffed but somehow our little straw house is still standing. By now, they should really have been able to blow our door down, cave our roof in and piss in our fridge for good measure. That was completely one way traffic. Although saying that, our back line was pretty resilient and fair play to them for keeping the scores level.

For now, we’ll go a little more structured. I’m drawing a blank. I don’t know what else to do. Maybe with a similarly resilient defensive display in the second half we’ll escape with a point.

15 minutes after the break that’s exactly what it looks like is going to happen. But then I decide that no, you know what? That’s not how I’m starting off my career in Lansdowne. I usually say that an opening day draw is fine, but not like this. We go attacking.

A few minutes later, Manyama collects the ball just outside our box and dribbles out onto the left wing. He swings a cross in but Gertse gets there first. Our centre back volleys the ball and it travels about a couple of inches before hitting Ramagalela right in the face. It bounces back towards goal - And bobbles just wide.

With 20 minutes to play, we look nervous. I’ve never seen a team look so nervous during a match. I stand on the touchline and bellow words of encouragement. I also send on striker Carl Lark for Sambou, who’s been a spectator for the last 70 minutes.

In the 77th minute, they’re still all over us. De Jongh passes short from a free kick 35 yards out to Matsi and he squares it for Manyama, who takes the ball forward and smacks it against the bar.

With 10 minutes to go, Paro wins the ball outside our box, breaking up yet another Cape Town attack and prompting a huge sigh of relief from me and my assistant Keith. The Burkinabe defender plays it out to Ryan Moon on the right, who gets it out of his feet before playing a long ball over the top. Suddenly, Carl Lark takes it down and he’s through on goal. He shrugs off the centre backs, bursts through into the box and blasts the ball into the back of the fucking net. Football, eh?

Captain Cele replaces the more attack minded Ryan Moon on the right wing and we go to a defensive 4-1-4-1 formation. We cling on, and I’m happy, but my God we’ve got to reconsider this system. That match has not exactly gone as I had planned.

https://youtu.be/kmMCNOePmHA

In the next few days it’s made clear that the transfers of Joss Ladabie and Benjamim are dead in the water. So too are late attempts to bring in Paro’s compatriot Lassina Touré, who starred at centre back for my SC Angrense side, and Délcio Azevedo, because of high wage demands and work permit issues respectively. We reject a couple of loan offers from Thanda Royal Zulu, one of our relegation rivals, for Tiali and Gertse, and with that the transfer window closes.

I’m left with a knot in my stomach. Even though we’ve picked up an opening day win, I’m already seriously doubting Project: CO as a system and any attempts I’ve made to bolster the quality of my squad have been promptly shot down.

It’s going to be an extremely challenging year for a whole bunch of new reasons. It’s lucky I love a challenge really, isn’t it?
One More Try (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep79)

You know when your team’s fixtures come out for the new season and you see that in your first few fixtures you’re playing Chelsea away, or Barcelona away, or Paris Saint Germain or Bayern away? At first glance you see that and think "Oh no, how unlucky, what a terrible start". But then you think "Well we are more than likely going to lose, so we may as well get the toughest match of the season over and done with right at the start so we don’t have to dread it all year". That’s how I feel today. I feel like that because today I oversee the 100th match of my career, and we’re playing Kaizer Chiefs. Away.

When I realised that this was my second match, did I think "Oh my god"? Yes. Did I predict a riot? Sure. Did I sit down for far too long and try to work out how to work the word "Ruby" into a question about my hundredth career match? Most definitely. But the thing that really matters is the match itself and how we intend to set up against arguably the best team in Africa on their own turf.

The safe, and some would say sensible thing to do would be to park the bus. Maybe play a flat 5-4-1 or a 4-5-1 or a 4-1-4-1. Or maybe replace the nomadic striker at the heart of my defence with an actual defender. The thing is though that my faith in Project: CO as a system that we can use at home to dominate a match has been so violently shaken by our smash and grab battering against an average side like Cape Town City that I’m just about ready to pull the plug on it already. The only thing that’s stopping me from doing so is the thought that maybe, just maybe it can be a good counter attacking formation. We have men behind the ball when we don’t have possession, we have outlets on the wings, so why not? And what better match to test out my theory than right now? We’re as unfavoured today as we will be all season so let’s have one more go at making it work.

So that’s what we do. We play a counter attacking variant of Project: CO. We keep the same lineup from our last match.

The match starts slowly, and while the Kaizer Chiefs keep possession for the first half hour they’re unable to break us down. Promising stuff. I tell the boys to stick to their positions to make us even more difficult to break down and play at a slightly higher tempo when we get the ball.

The first warning sign comes 3 minutes later when Mahlangu tests Visser with a shot from the edge of the box, but Dino Visser catches it comfortably.

3 minutes after that, Morena skips past Jenniker skilfully on the right and swings a fantastic cross to the far post. Khutlang gets there but his close range shot is tipped onto the post impressively by Visser and cleared by Paro.

A further 3 minutes passes before Kaizer Chiefs start going through the gears. A brilliant passing move ends with Khutlang playing a nice through ball to Mekoa inside the box. He has a go but once again the shot cannot beat Visser.

Seeing that they’re cutting through us using the channels, we go slightly narrower and I tell the isolated Emil Sambou to close their defence down much more to try to force a mistake.

We’re only a minute away from half time when out resolve is broken. Mahlangu’s corner is headed away at the near post by Sinbad, Morena takes the ball down on the edge of the box and shoots through a crowd of bodies. Visser sees it too late and has no chance. The home side leads.

At half time, I tell the team to speed up play even more when on the ball. Exploit the flanks and pass into space to give our wingers a chance of breaking. In defence we go much narrower, drop the defensive line deeper and close down much less to stop them from passing through us.

10 minutes after the restart, Gogotya plays a direct ball up to Sambou, who turns, drives forward to the edge of the box and shoots, but he puts it wide.

For a few fleeting moments I think that we may be able to put together a few more chances like that and maybe bag an equaliser, but less than 5 minutes later Mekoa’s low cross deflects off Moe and falls perfectly to Abraw on the edge or the 6 yard box. He buries it for 0-2.

I opt for a triple sub, to give a few players a chance to impress more than anything else.

Gertse, Japhta and Sambou are replaced by skipper Philani Cele, young winger Saileg Richards and last match’s winning goalscorer Carl Lark.

7 minutes later, Mekoa toe pokes a brilliant deep cross towards the far post and Abraw’s there again to tuck in the third. Khat joins Lark up front for the last 20 minutes as we change to a 4-2-4 formation, but the match ends 0-3.

https://youtu.be/N3IeEbMtS54

I’m OK with that to be honest. We knew realistically that we’d be comfortably beaten and for now at least I can put Project: CO to bed secure in the knowledge that I gave it a shot both home and away, but the performances have been pretty awful. Or... I might give it one more try. One more. Next match is Highland Park at home so it’ll be a good to see if we can dominate now that we’ve had a couple of matches practice. Can you tell that I really want this to work?

The South African Knockout Cup (SA Cup) draw is made midweek, and we draw Bidvest Wits, but I can’t be thinking about them now. By the time that match rolls around I want us putting in good performances and getting results to match. That starts against Highlands Park.

Before that though, Santos agree an Affiliate link with the wonderfully named "The Magic Football Club", or just "The Magic".

They’re a Western Cape Division 2 side and we’ll share our training facilities with them them and play a yearly friendly in exchange for having first dibs on any young South African stars that push through their youth system.

Speaking of stars, our International contingent are in action before the next League match. Issouf Paro comes on for the last 13 minutes of Burkina Faso’s friendly loss against The Ivory Coast, preferred to Lassina Touré and facing the likes of Mainz’s Wilfried Zaha, Atalanta’s Emmanuel Latte and Besiktas’ Jonathan Kodija. Good experience for him I’m sure.

Emil Sambou plays the last 35 minutes of Gambia’s 4-2 friendly win over Libya, scoring instantly from a Modou Barrow assist and scoring again with a deflected shot 15 minutes from time, earning him the man of the match award. I intended to give Carl Lark his first start of the season against Highlands Park as Sambou’s not really offered anything in our first 2 matches, but I’ll give him one more chance after that performance.

And then comes a hammer blow. A few days before the match, Dino Visser picks up a gashed leg in training and will miss the match. Not only that, but his frustrated understudy Keenon Blignaut rules himself out 2 days later with Achilles Tendonitis and will miss 3-4 weeks. As much as I’ve lamented the quality of my 2 senior goalkeepers, Visser actually had a really good first half against Kaizer Chiefs, and it leaves me scratching my head wondering who I’ll play in goal for the match. I think Khat’s worried that it’ll be him.

But no, say hello to 17 year old local lad Sthembiso Nkomo. He’s a bit wet behind the ears, but he has tonnes of potential. He seems nervous and excited when I break the news to him, after all this is every youth goalie’s dream: All of the senior keepers getting injured at once, thrusting them into the first team.

"It’s just for this one game", I tell him after training one day. "The physios say that they should be able to rush Dino back for the next one, so don’t worry."

"Do I get a nickname?" He blurts out. "Like Khat and Moe and Sinbad?"

"You’ve got to earn that, mate" I grin, "I don’t just go around handing them out to everyone."

I sort of resent the fact that after a 15 day gap we now have 2 games in 3 days. The physios do say that Dino should be fit enough to get through the next one away at Golden Arrows, but it’ll be close.

Marothi Diale replaces Gogotya in midfield as I want to give him a chance to steal the ball winning position, but otherwise we go unchanged.

24 minutes in, Shellar receives the ball on the right hand side of our box, and lays the ball off for Shikweni, who places it perfectly into the bottom corner of our net. To be fair to the debutant Nkomo, he had no chance with that and I doubt that Dino or Keenon would have got to it either. 0-1.

I tell the lads to retain possession and get a foothold in the game. We’re the home side after all and we need to start controlling the play. Just 2 minutes after the goal however, Senamela wriggles into space on the edge of our box and shoots towards the bottom corner, but Nkomo gets down well to catch the ball, drawing a great ovation from the home support.

His goal kick reaches Sambou, but the striker’s dispossessed and Highland Park come forward again. Senamela plays a great ball through for Sekola, who has a go, but Nkomo catches it again, prompting another great ovation.

Over the next 10 minutes, we do indeed get a foothold in the game. We keep possession well and play some nice football. 10 minutes from the break a brilliant move culminates with Japhta whipping a cross to the near post and Emil Sambou, fresh from his heroics for Gambia, glances a header past the keeper to equalise. I punch the air. This is more like it.

Unfortunately half time comes and goes and the match gets a bit scrappy again. Both teams look pretty even and you get the feeling that it could go either way. With 25 minutes to go we hand a debut to Project: Foxy, but we'll keep trying to retain possession, and play a fluid controlling game. We also make a double sub; Paro tweaks his hamstring slightly and is replaced by Cele, and Sullie comes on for Khat to play behind the striker Sambou.

With 10 minutes to go, Mavimbela releases Thobela on the counter attack. He plays a pass through the centre backs for Thobela to chase and he goes through on goal, but luckily Gertse's pace allows him to recover, getting back in time to block Thobela's shot and sending the ball out for a corner. We drop our defensive line back slightly because frankly I don't want that kind of thing to be a recurring theme between now and the final whistle.

With 5 minutes to go, Carl Lark comes on for Emil Sambou, who gets a hearty clap from the home fans. I'm hoping that Lark'll be the difference like he was on opening day, and with 3 minutes to go, we get a corner. Ryan Moon swings it in towards the near post and Jenniker meets it, nodding it towards goal. The keeper dives and can't reach the ball, but Thobela's on the line to head it away. It only goes as far as Lark 8 yards out though and he swings his left foot at the ball, mis-kicking it, but still doing enough to make it pea-roll into the net. Get in.

All out defence time. We go to 4-1-4-1 and I tell the team to get it into the corners and waste time. 3 minutes of injury time are given as the clock ticks towards and then passes the 90 minute mark.

Jenniker’s throw in goes to Japhta on the left wing, who takes it straight over to the corner flag. "Good lad", I mumble under my breath, throwing a nervous glance the way of the clock on the North stand. 1 minute of the 3 added on is nearly up. Japhta looks penned into the corner by Mendes and Senamela, who are keen to win it back before he can run down the clock too much. Just then though, our left winger steps over the ball and skims it across the turf towards Sinbad, who looks up, picks his spot, and hits it first time with his left foot. The keeper gets a glove to it, but he can’t keep it out. 3-1. That's Sinbad's 1st goal since October 2016 and the 2nd goal ever in his 12 year, 175 game career.

As the final whistle blows and the 8 and a half thousand Santos fans erupt in jubilation, I stand for a moment on the edge of the pitch, soaking it all in. This is what I’ve missed. A good well earned win that sends you, the staff, the players and the crowd all home with smiles on your faces.

https://youtu.be/R7caDwcjyIc

I shake hands with Highlands Park boss Kosta Papic before jogging over to our young debutant keeper. He’s trembling and beaming, the relief plain to see on his face. I’ve searched all through the Summer for a first team goalkeeper, but why on Earth shouldn’t Sthembiso Nkomo get a chance to keep his place now?

I wrap an arm around his shoulders and we start to walk towards the tunnel. "Well played tonight, Komo", I shout over the noise of the fans. "Same again on Tuesday please".
Febreze (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep80)

So what did we learn from our match against Highland Park? We have to figure it out quickly as the Boffins at the SAFA have scheduled us 2 matches in 3 days after our 15 day break.

I think the most obvious thing to take from the match is that it’s time to bring in Project: Foxy. We used it for about 25 minutes and scored twice just before the end, and that was with a controlling variant of the system, which I’ll try again today seeing as we’re at home. I’m going to keep using Project: CO in training though. Maybe when Khat becomes more familiar as a Libero we’ll have better success with it.

Today we take on Golden Arrows at their place and I’m anxious to see what kind of performance I’ll get using Project: Foxy. I’m dropping Moe because he’s been pretty underwhelming so far at right back while our captain Philani Cele has been on the bench, so he comes in. I also drop Khat even though he’s comfortable playing behind the striker and bring in Sullie to be our number 10, as he’s more natural there and I want to give him a chance. Otherwise we remain unchanged.

With less than 2 minutes on the clock, Emil Sambou slips Ryan Moon through and the winger strokes the ball under the outrushing keeper, moving us up to 1st place in the PSL!

I think it’s fair to say that we’ll be seeing Project: Foxy quite a bit. The players look absolutely inspired. Only 2 minutes after the goal, Sullie launches the ball forward, Sambou latches onto it and shrugs off the centre backs before running through on goal, but he shoots just wide. What a start though.

After 20 minutes things just keep getting better when Nonyane goes through the back of Moon and earns himself a straight red card.

We react with a sublime passing move, at the end of which Sambou slips Moon through on goal again, but his near post shot is held onto by the keeper.

We don’t let up either. Golden Arrows are having a nightmare start and when Komo launches a goal kick deep into their half, the defenders panic and don’t deal with it properly. The ball’s headed meekly back as far as Moon and he sprints down the line and shoots from a tight angle, but can’t keep it down and the ball flies into the stands.

And then, after half an hour, Shozi passes to Mothiba just inside our box, and with thudding inevitability he loops it over Komo, perfectly into the far top corner of the net.

Changes are made instantly. Golden Arrows are currently persevering with their 4-4-1-1 without their sent off left winger, so Cele pushes up as more of an attacking wing back on the right and we focus all of our play down that side. I also tell Diale to man mark Shozi, who had far too much time to set that goal up; and to stay tight to him.

At half time, Golden Arrows do change formation, making me rethink again. They opt for an asymmetrical 3-2-2-1-1 system. A classic, I think we can all agree. Seeing this, I change us to a 2-3-1-2-2 formation, leaving just the 2 centre backs at home with Diale marking their number 10, and allowing both wing backs to push up to help the the wingers feed our striking partnership of Sambou and Khat, who replaces the largely ineffective Sullie.

10 minutes into the half, Khat sweeps the ball beautifully over to the right for the overlapping Cele, who lays it inside. The enthusiastic... Maybe overly so at this point... Ryan Moon aims for the far top corner, but a fingertip save by Mabokgwane denies him.

In the next 15 minutes Golden Arrows start to dominate. They take advantage of our single file 2 man midfield and pass it through us at will, forcing a couple of good saves from Komo.

I replace Sambou with Gogotya, who drops back alongside Sinbad to form a midfield triangle. The attacks stop coming, but apart from Moe replacing the knackered Diale and Cele moving to the holding man spot, nothing else happens. It’s 2 points dropped in my eyes.

https://youtu.be/uOs5syzipfs

We look to move on swiftly with Supersport United at home. Dino Visser, although he could have been risked in the last match, is now fit again, although I don’t think Komo deserves to lose his place just yet. He’s been undone twice, but only when our opponents have placed the ball perfectly into the corners, giving him practically no chance. He’ll stay in the team for now.

Under the previous regimes, Santos have lost their last 5 matches against Supersport. For this reason, we’re heavy favourites to lose today, which is probably fair enough. We’re currently 4th in the league on 7 points and Supersport are 6th on 6, so they’ll overtake us if they do get the win.

We line up with the true Project: Foxy for the first time today. We’ll sit back, soak up the pressure and smash them on the break. As I’ve already said, Komo keeps his place, as does Cele at right back, and I’ll have Diale man marking Lakay, Supersport’s attacking midfielder from the start. Come on boys.

The first 20 minutes are reminiscent of the 55th-70th minute period against Golden Arrows. We are absolutely dominated and as far as I can tell, the reason is the same. They have a midfield triangle and we don’t, so their spare man in the centre is able to link up play and bring Diale and Sinbad out of position. If only we had Ngolo Kante, he made this system look so easy.

I make a tactical change at the 20 minute mark and Khat doesn’t seem to like it. I replace him with Gogotya, who drops into the middle of an orthodox 4-1-2-3 formation with Sinbad. It’s not ideal, but Khat’ll just have to get over it.

Minutes later, Supersport respond by creating a chance down the left wing. Twala robs the ball from Cele and sprints down the wing, chipping it inside for Mthembu, but his low shot is saved by Komo.

10 minutes later, Gogotya works himself some space 25 yards from goal and plays in Ryan Moon, but his shot goes just wide of the far post.

And then a few minutes later, Lakay plays Moloi through, who’s questionably positioned in the box. "OFFSIDE!" I bellow, looking at the linesman, and then the referee. But the flag stays down, the whistle doesn’t blow, and when I look back, Moloi’s wheeling away towards the touchline and the ball’s nestled in the back of our net. To be fair, it was extremely tight and I can’t blame the officials for getting it wrong. But they did. They did get it wrong.

At half time, I tell the lads that they’re unlucky to be trailing. Sambou instantly switches off so I tell him to go and get changed. Carl Lark comes on in his place. I also put an emphasis on retaining possession in the second half to see if we can string some passes together.

With nearly an hour gone it’s still Supersport that are looking the more dangerous of the sides though. Morton’s shot from the edge of the area forces a good save from Komo, who gets down well to his left to tip the ball behind for a corner.

We try to control, we then try to attack, we then go to a balls-out 4-2-4 with Saileg Richards replacing Diale, but the match ends 1-0.

https://youtu.be/uIXvwiaH17U

Of course I resent coming away empty handed from a big team that we’ve now lost to 6 times in a row, thanks to an offside goal. Of course I do. But sometimes Lady Luck smiles on you, and sometimes she kicks down the door to your house, barges into your living room and takes a shit on the rug. Hopefully at some point this season we’ll ride our luck. We’ll get a scrappy goal deep into injury time and I’ll put it down to my mastery of the tactics white board, or a brilliant never-say-die attitude by the goal scorer. But really it’ll be her. It’ll be her, flashing those pearly whites, saying "Sorry about the Supersport match" and making amends. Tonight though, I need to buy some Febreze on my way home.
Half Moon (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep81)

"We’ve been unlucky in our last couple of matches", I say sympathetically to the team. "We got robbed of 2 points against Golden Arrows. We were by far the better side. And but for that ‘goal’ against Supersport we would have picked up a point against them too."

It feels like one of those moments in a season where we just need something to go in our favour. We just need a little luck or a win and we’ll hopefully be able to put together a run. After all, we’re playing well enough since we switched to Project: Foxy. Of course, what doesn’t help today is that we’re going to be without one of our key players. Although Sello Japhta’s yet to really get going this season, it's frustrating to hear that he’s suffered an abdominal strain and will miss the next 2 weeks.

Nevertheless, the show must go on. Mthatha Bucks are our opponents today and I’ll be tweaking my personnel slightly for this one. Obviously Japhta’s injured, so I’m going to give our left back Aiden Jenniker a try on the left wing, with Siyabonga Zulu replacing him at the back. I think that Jenniker on the left may actually benefit us as his defensive inclination should balance out Ryan Moon’s gung-ho play style. Elsewhere, Sullie will take the number 10 spot at Khat’s expense, and Carl Lark will get a long overdue run out ahead of Emil Sambou up front. We focus down the right wing. It’s all on you, Ryan Moon.

35 minutes into a quiet first half, Ryan Moon pulls up clutching his thigh. I let out a long sigh. I know it’s early in the Season, but he’s been by far our most dangerous player, so I’m pretty torn. Do I sub him off as a precaution with the game still tied and perhaps leave us short going forwards, or do I keep him on and risk aggravating his injury? After much deliberation, Moon stays on. I keep my fingers crossed for the next 10 minutes until the ref blows his whistle to signal half time.

It’s been a nothing game so far played out by 2 equally ineffective teams. I keep my team talk simple, just encouraging the lads to keep going.

It takes less than 2 minutes of the second half for us to win a central free kick just outside the box, and for who else but Ryan Moon to curl the ball into the top left corner. I’ve not felt the embrace of my vindication blanket for quite some time, but it’s as warm and comforting as ever as I watch Ryan sprint away and get mobbed my the rest of the team.

10 minutes later, Sinbad receives the ball, looks up and sees Moon making a typically dangerous run down the right flank. Sinbad plays an absolute beauty of a pass over the Mthatha Bucks defence into the winger's path and he takes it down, but his angle is narrow and Hoffman parries his shot across goal and away.

With 20 minutes to go, I hand a debut to young attacking midfielder Sakhile Maloka, who comes on in place of Sullie. You may remember he briefly impressed in pre-season, scoring in 2 consecutive friendly matches. Maloka’s a promising little player, and I mean that literally. At 5’4 he’s not going to win many aerial duels, but he’s 2 footed, skilful, and extremely comfortable on the ball.

I do eventually replace Ryan Moon for the last 10 minutes, bringing captain Cele on to help shut the game down on the right side of a defensive 4-1-4-1. We do so. I’ve no problem scraping 3 points while we’re getting going, and a first clean sheet for Komo is a great bonus.

https://youtu.be/bMHftD6Fbgo

Unfortunately, Ryan Moon only has a 50:50 chance of making it back in time for our next match away at Polokwane City. His bruised thigh may keep him out of this game, but on the upside he’ll certainly be back for the one after. Keenon Blignaut is back in full training, but I’m sure he won’t be too pleased when he finds out that he’s now slipped to 3rd in the goalkeeper pecking order.

The match against Polokwane City does indeed come around too quickly for Ryan. I stick him on the bench in case we’re desperate, but Saileg Richards starts in his place. Khat also comes back in for Sullie as I continue to wait for someone to claim the attacking midfielder spot for themselves by putting in a decent performance.

It takes a quarter of an hour for us to see any kind of noteworthy chance, but unfortunately it’s at the wrong end of the pitch. Khumalo hits a central free kick towards the right side of our goal and Komo does well to tip the ball onto the post, before catching it at the second time of asking.

With a few minutes to go before the ref calls time on quite a mundane half of football, Sekela Gajana leaps to challenge Khat for a header just inside our half. He’s already on a yellow card and blatantly handles the ball, earning himself a red. Now at this point I’m eager to actually capitalise on this advantage, especially as we were unable to do so when faced with a similar situation in our match against Golden Arrows. Polokwane City change to a narrow 4-3-1-1, so we push our fullbacks up and exploit the flanks.

When half time arrives, the game’s still deadlocked at 0-0, so we go on the attack for the second half, although after 15 more minutes of football, Polokwane change to a more solid 4-4-1 system, seemingly happy to try to hold on for the draw. We respond with a 4-1-1-4 system, hoping to overload their defenders with our 4 attacking players.

With 20 minutes to go, we finally start clicking. Saileg Richards crosses in well from the right wing and Khat takes the ball down on his chest, before slipping a pass through for Aiden Jenniker. The stand-in left winger takes a shot, but he snatches at it badly and the ball trickles wide of the far post.

Shortly afterwards, Issouf Paro picks up a slight chest injury, so I take the opportunity to make a triple substitution. Cele, Sambou and the half-fit Ryan Moon, or "Half Moon", come on replacing Paro, Lark and Richards. It’s a risk for Moon, but the injection of quality, leadership and experience may just be worth it.

With under 10 minutes to go, the ball goes out for our throw in on the right hand side of Polokwane's penalty area. Moe throws the ball in to Sinbad, who slides it down the line first time for Moon. Moon cuts the ball in first time to the edge of the box and for a minute it looks like nobody’s there. But then, arriving late from the left is Siyabonga Zulu. The rampaging left back takes it on his right foot and shoots towards the far bottom corner - And scores!

My hands are in the air before I know what’s happening, and they stay there until the final whistle blows. We’ve done it. We’ve scraped it again, but we’ve won. The comparisons to a poor man’s Tony Pulis have been thrown at me a fair amount so far in my short career, but I don’t care. As much as I once berated a Portuguese Championship team for their Pulis-esque brand of negative football, I’ll settle for boring 1-0 wins all season thank you very much.

https://youtu.be/9zcz0TwjQAQ

There’s still work to be done, don’t get me wrong, but at the minute we sit 3rd in the league, Komo’s starting to keep clean sheets and we’re picking up points. That’ll do just fine for now.
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