WE’VE AVOIDED RELEGATION!!!! Whilst we were never really down in the bowels of the SuperLiga, to have stayed up is an achievement. TO HAVE TOPPED THE FINAL STAGE AND FINISHED 9TH OVERALL is a massive OVER-achievement.
The board were happy, I’m understating the case of course. They’ve given me an A- mark which, seeing as they were anticipating a brave battle against relegation that would inevitably end in disaster and delivered a mid-table that never really did any more than flirted with relegation.
The decent season is mirrored by the majority of the starting eleven having a average of over 7 and the rest in and around that mark. Vjestica and Garcia lead the way with 7.20 and Ilic, who only joined in the winter break, close behind with 7.18
The awards follow on the same lines as last year. Kesic is again Fan’s Player of the Year, Top Goalscorer and Most Player of the Match Awards. Teodorovic wins Young Player of the year, which is surprising seeing as Timotic wins the Most Assists Award.
The happy happy mood in the squad is soured as they head out the door for the summer break. Aleksander Ilic storms in and wants to know why I’ve not played him as a central midfielder. He’s been played as a defensive midfielder and averaged a fantastic 7.18 in doing so. I’m not splitting up the central three I’ve got playing there so he’s told, in a roundabout way, to SUCK IT UP BUTTERCUP!!
The attention turns to new potential players as contracts begin to come to an end. It’s mainly just improvements on the back up players that we need. Midfield is a priority. Aleksic is THIRTY-FIVE and whilst he had a stellar season, I don’t want to be beholden to a declining player for my midfield creativity. Then…..out of nowhere…….
The Red Star job comes available!! It’s one of only two Serbian jobs I’ll leave Feniks for and, let’s be honest, I’m not going to get it!!
The End Of Season League Awards are in, AND WE’VE GOT THE BIGGEST OVERACHIEVERS!!!
We’ve also have two runner ups in the Signing of the Season Award. Vjestica and Timotic both play 2nd fiddle to Rubezic. The first transfers in AND OUT are arranged. Kilibarda has agreed terms on a £14k move and coming in is 19 year old Justin Edwards, on a free transfer.
My heart starts to beat a little faster though, AS AN INVITATION DROPS FOR AN INTERVIEW AT RED STAR!!!!
Maybe, just maybe, it’s not such a pipe dream!!!
It’s gone as well as I could expect. The preseason inches closer and closer, my mind is elsewhere though. I’m struggling to make plans when I don’t know if I’ll still be at the club……THEN IT LANDS……THE CONTRACT OFFER FROM RED STAR!!!!
After two seasons with Feniks, it’s time to move on and test myself in EUROPEAN COMPETITION!!!
There’s, obviously, a massive jump in quality here. But, and it’s a massive but, scratch the surface and we’re a little light on squad depth. Those players that we do have in reserve, are either too old or not good enough. BUT on the positive side, I’ve got £8million to spend, PLUS whatever I raise from selling the chaff amongst the wheat.
Staff contracts are next up to deal with. Most seem to be good enough, but there’s a few that’ll be on their way out at the end of the season!! The preseason tour starts and the first friendly comes around. We’re away to Rodopa and it’s time to have a look at what I’ve got to work with!!
MATCH DAY!!!! We almost score straight from the kick-off. Campar racing from midfield to meet a Baba Rahman cross, but his header sails harmlessly over the bar. We keep the pressure on, and have chances cleared off the line in the 20th AND 32nd minute. WE FINALLY GET THE BALL IN THE NET IN THE 38TH MINUTE. THREE TIMES WE FIRED BALLS IN, AND THREE TIMES THE RODOPA DEFENCE DEAL WITH IT. FINALLY THOUGH, RIGHT BACK BJEKOVIC WHIPS IN A CROSS AND JOAO PEDRO NODS IN THE GO AHEAD GOAL!!! 1-0 RED STAR!!! It’s nothing more than we deserve, we ARE the better team and have played as if we are.
SECOND HALF We created a massive 25 chances in the first 45 minutes. Half of those on target. There’s changes for the second period, four to be precise, AND IT’S ONE OF THE REPLACEMENTS, CENTRE BACK DURIC, THAT SLAMS HOME A HEADER FROM THE BJEKOVIC CORNER IN THE 65TH MINUTE!! 2-0 RED STAR!! More changes disrupts the flow of the game and, apart from a Ivanic free kick cannoning back off the crossbar, the game fades to a quiet end. FINAL SCORE 2-0 RED STAR!!
There’s just the one other friendly arranged before the season start in 18 days. It’s an away trip to Polish club Piast Gliwice. We then have a quite interesting fixture in our second league match……..A TRIP TO FENIKS!!!!
The transfer window opens and a raft of OAP’s leave the club. 33 year old’s Sergi Gomez and Cristiano Piccini and 34 year old Slavoljub Srnic all leave for new care homes. Fellow pensioner Baba Rahman comes to pay me a visit, he wants to “explore his options” at the end of his contract. I’m happy to let him go, he’s not getting any younger and his wage will be better spent elsewhere.
The average age of the squad is dropped even further with the signing of 18 year old Belgian striker Matteo Lorenzi.
He’s still developing YET he’s already one of the better attackers we’ve got.
MATCH DAY!!!! Time for the last friendly. It’s a changed squad with an eye to the future. Four changes including looking at the options at left back, with Rahman casting his eyes elsewhere, if his understudy is up to scratch I’ll sell now rather than let him go for free. We’re slow to start, BUT GLIWICE AREN’T!!! A CORNER FROM THE RIGHT CAUSES ABSOLUTE CHAOS IN THE AREA, AND AT THE FOURTH ATTEMPT, A SHOT IS DEFLECTED PAST TRIALLIST GOCMANAC!! 1-0 GLIWIC!!! It’s a early goal, but we don’t let it go to our heads. We keep to the game plan AND GET A WAY BACK INTO THE MATCH IN THE 19TH MINUTE. AGAIN, IT’S QUICK, IN TO FEET, PASSING THAT CARVES OPEN THE OPPOSITION DEFENCE. ILIJIN SMASHING IN AT THE NEAR POST!!! FLAGS UP THOUGH……..WAS ILIJIN OFFSIDE? YES HE WAS!!! NO GOAL! We keep knocking on the door though, Ilijin again forcing a smart save and the following corner is headed over the bar. Half time comes and it’s really not good enough. Behind on possession, chances AND goals.
SECOND HALF Newcomer Lorenzi comes on AND MAKES AN INSTANT IMPACT!!! FIRST HE RECIEVES THE THROW-IN AND HOLDS OFF THE DEFENDER. HIS BALL INSIDE IS PICKED UP BY MATIC. IT’S THEN ONE TOUCH FOOTBALL BETWEEN MATIC, CAMPAR AND ILIJIN. THE LATTER PLAYING THE BALL INTO THE PATH OF LORENZI WHO HITS IT, LEFT FOOTED, FIRST TIME PAST THE KEEPER!!! 1-1 AFTER 2 MINUTES OF THE SECOND HALF!! From then on, it’s ALL Red Star. We keep knocking, and knocking, and knocking. FINALLY, WITH 15 MINUTES TO PLAY, WE TAKE THE LEAD!! STANIC SENDS, RIGHT-BACK BJEKOVIC SCAMPERING DOWN THE LINE. HIS LOW, FIRST TIME CROSS, PICKS OUT LORENZI AGAIN IN THE AREA. HE’S UNMARKED 11 YARDS OUT, MIDDLE OF THE GOAL AND COOLY STROKES THE BALL IN!!! 2-1 RED STAR!! It’s a goal we’ve deserved for our performance since the restart. We’ve turned it around and the cream has risen to the top. IT DOESN’T END THERE THOUGH!! JUST THREE MINUTES AFTER THE SECOND GOAL, CAMPAR DECIDES THAT LORENZI SHOULDN’T HAVE ALL THE HEADLINES AND SMASHES IN AN UNSTOPPABLE SHOT FROM 25 YARDS OUT!!! 3-1 RED STAR!! The ref calls time on a breathless second half, and it’s a complete 180 degree shift between halves. After 45 minutes we were behind in every metric that mattered.
Come full time, We were ahead. Two debut goals from Lorenzi underlined the shift and it really was quite comfortable in the end. I put the change in performance down to the players. Bjekovic, however, puts the credit solely AT MY DOOR!!
Who am I to argue??
Straight after the match, a bid for a familiar face is accepted. Nemanja Timotic agrees to join and is immediately loaned back to them for the season.
The ins and outs continues as the wheeling and dealing hots up. The big money signing is Gonzalo Cardoso. He’s a former West Ham United youth centre back with fantastic ball playing ability.
He’s cost us £7.75m upfront, but if he realises his potential then it’ll be money well spent. Even if he IS a national record transfer fee!!!
The 25 man Europa League squad is named. Two youngsters, Campar and Mijatovic, both first teamers, don’t have to be registered so they boost the squad and allows others to get game time.
The pre-season is over. I’m pretty sure that we’ve brought in all the players we need to, and the squad is in a better place for it.
This is the first season where I’ve been expected to actually perform. It’s my neck on the block if I don’t!!!
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