Without an actual contract and with a board willing to fire me anytime they fancy, would the adventure in sunny Spain be over before it ever got going? No is the answer as there have been some small improvements along the way…
So I played a whole season. Yeah. There’s actually a good reason as I began to really enjoy and get addicted to playing this save. It’s become something of a labour of love now. Gone was the frustrating first season full of average, underperforming players and in its place came a team that I felt was my own. A team of characters that I had hand-selected to lead us to glory. But to really understand why I loved them so much, we have to go back to the beginning…
Now as you may remember from last time, I did my best John Carver impression to try and lose my job. Thankfully FM doesn’t fire you when your deal runs out and I just kind of hung around without a contract. So I thought, “what the hey? Let’s just make a good go of it right?” So I did.
As you already know, I decided to add and add a lot to the side. The already revealed ins – Elton Martins, Keko, Florian Trinks, Dejan Stojanovic, Yaw Yeaboah and Jonathan Parr – were not the only players to join. I realised that I was short at centre back so after much scouring I settled on Italian centre back Simone Benedetti from Cagliari for £150,000. He’d had a rough time of it in Serie B and Cagliari wanted rid of him so I took him in on the cheap very gladly. We also brought in a new striker on loan in the form of Malaga youngster Kuki, someone with loads of potential but would benefit us immediately. They were joined in January time by Ivorian Bobley Anderson and Alexis Larriere (whom my Head of Youth Development signed out of nowhere). On the outs, Tano eventually left us on loan after rejecting at least five permanent moves away in the summer while I sold Adrian Colunga to Numancia for £15,000 because he was rubbish and annoying. Unai Garcia also left in January for Castellon on a free while Juan Carlos Menudo went to France with Stade Brest on loan and Adrain Cruz joined Toledo to get first team football. Exciting I know.
So, with all the new blood, how did we fare? Well, in the cup, we won a game. In fact we didn’t just win one, we won three. Heady times at El Sadar indeed. We managed to beat Ponferradina 2-1 at home in the second round, a scoreline which doesn’t reflect our dominance in that game. Two goals up at half time thanks to Keko and Benedetti before we cruised home despite Ponferradina scoring in stoppage time. The third round gave us another home game, the derby against Zaragoza. It was a cagey affair we were in control of but we couldn’t find a goal in normal time despite Zaragoza getting a man sent off. Extra time it was and infuriatingly Elton Martins scored within thirty seconds. Typical. Zaragoza and nothing left and got another man sent off as we got into the Fourth Round where we met a struggling Real Betis side. A tense home leg saw a late goal from sub Matej Pucko give us a 1-0 lead but it wasn’t to be as a 93rd minute Xavi Torres header gave Betis a 2-1 aggregate win in the second leg. Tough to take but promising indeed.
Which just leaves the league to talk about. So, anything would really be an improvement on last season’s 16th place, and we did improve. Improved right into promotion! Yeah, I can’t quite believe it myself. It’s not all perfect. We were 2nd for a huge portion of the second half of the season and managed to throw it away with stupid draws and defeats in games we should have won. Still we’re up and we beat Real Oviedo so everything is great in my world. In fact, it could have been so different had we not won three of our first five as I forgot I had promised the board nine points in five games. They gave me a new deal not long after as well. Great times all round. Highlights of the season include the double over Zaragoza and the 4-1 pastings we gave Racing and champions Elche. In fact, we were in with a shout of automatic promotion with a couple of games to go but inevitably we managed to lose both. Still, to get through the play-offs and rattle four past Oviedo and Sporting is certainly welcoming but now the hard work starts in earnest. Oh and our final three play-off games were played with 17 year old Jesus Maria Martinez in goals because Mario was injured and Stojanovic was busy sitting on the Macedonia bench. Madness.
We should not move on however without at least discussing some of the men that have brought us to this point. Our top scorer this season was Kuki with a very respectable 16 goals. He was inconsistent at times and missed a few gilt edged chances but he always came up trumps when it mattered most and scored some big late winners for us along the way. The highest average rating in the side belonged to Keko with a 7.17 with 8 goals and 8 assists and he was outstanding and has nailed down the right wing as his own. Elton Martins and Matej Pucko both were outstanding and bagged ten and nine goals respectively at big times as well. It was in fact Pucko’s goal that gave us the important two goal cushion against Oviedo. Parr and Benedetti both averaged over 7 as they became stalwarts in the defence while Oier shunted the disappointing Javi Flano out of the side. Special mentions go to Adrian Otegui, who has been attracting plenty of attention, and Jurgen Mossmer who were superb in central midfield throughout the season.
I should also mention that I have changed system again, this time to a possession 4-2-3-1. Bit risky but it’s served us well so far.
This summer is going to be a big one for us. I don’t have a lot to work with financially and the squad is not exactly littered with incredible quality. I think we can make a good fist of La Liga but I don’t know if we can stay up. We will be doing it without the Flano brothers and Alex Sanchez whom are all out of contract this summer as is Maikel Mesa who has spent the season in the B team after doing a decent job for us in season 1. A cult hero if there ever was one. We also have striker Luis Fernandez joining from Deportivo on a free although time will tell if he’s up to scratch or not.
Anyway, can I keep Osasuna up? Will we avoid getting pasted? Can I not lose my mind in frustration at this season ahead? Probably not. But until then, I’ll see you all next time.