Welcome back to the Salernitana Story where we’ve been in Italy for nearly three seasons now without getting out of the second tier. So, with my sanity and my patience beginning to wear thin, can our plucky underdogs finally achieve what we’ve all been longing for?…
How do you recover from another promotion heartache?
It’s a question that I’ve contemplated too many times during this past season. This horrible, tense, miserable, brilliant, bonkers season. One where we’ve never quite been good enough to win the league but too good to finish in the play-offs. One where we’ve had glory in our hands for fleeting moments before we bottle it.
In truth, I can’t be that disappointed. The fact of the matter is that this squad is a middling group of Serie B players that have spent two years performing minor miracles. While other clubs have spent money on stars to fire them into the promised land, my boys have developed a bond, a unity that is unmatched anywhere else in the league. Around half of the squad have been here since the first summer and there’s been gradual addition ever since.
Anyway, I think the big question on your mind right now is, “why is this called ‘Choke-levision’ and how badly did you choke?”
Let’s take a look shall we?
The Promotion Push
When we left you last, we were sitting fourth in the table and primed for a push towards automatic promotion. I definitely did not want to go through the play-offs again like last year.
We continued our solid run of form, going 13 games unbeaten including a draw against an Atalanta side that clearly had enjoyed their break too much and had forgotten how to win and second place Alessandria who were proving to be a real contender for promotion. We also managed to beat Crotone and Brescia with Nicola Dalmonte beginning to show little sparks of his scintillating form of last season.
Then, the wheels started to fall off. A trip to Benevento saw us sloppily lose 2-1 to a team I now despise before we lost at home to mid-table Frosinone. Some tactical tweaks were made and we just about beat relegation strugglers Cosenza and Bassano before we began to really choke our run-in. We were comfortably seen off at Entella leaving us third and with Trapani closing in behind. We hosted them next and I made a bold choice to go attacking with youngsters Lorenzo Castellani and Gaetano Rustichelli making their debuts. Castellani gave us the lead at half-time but we stopped playing in the second half and Trapani ran out 2-1 winners.
We threw away another lead at Verona to draw before eking out a win over Spezia. Fortunately, we were still right amongst it with both Trapani and Alessandria above us struggling for form themselves. Two wins would have been enough with each having to face teams with play-off hopes while we were facing lower mid-table teams. Naturally then, we lost 1-0 at Pro Vercelli. Advantage Alessadria and Trapani. Alessandria were playing on the Sunday.
Trapani were playing on the Monday night.
They lost too.
That meant the table was left looking like this:
2. Alessandria 73
3. Trapani 72
4. SALERNITANA 72
We faced Livorno at home on the final day with a win the only way we have a shot at going up. We then had to pray that Pro Vercelli and our old pals Benevento could stop Alessandria and Trapani from bettering our result.
Eight minutes on the clock – Nicola Dalmonte floats one to the back post and, at the second time of asking, Massimo Coda scores the opener. We’re doing our bit. No news yet elsewhere.
Twenty one minutes – Ball pulled across the area and Coda does it again. We’re two goals to the good and both Alessandria and Trapani are still 0-0. As it stands, we’re going up.
Half time – no change. I tell the boys to not get complacent. I want this so badly. So do they.
Fifty nine minutes – we’re comfortable when a notification pops up from Alessandria. Mattia Aramu has put Vercelli a goal up. I get a little bit giddy.
Seventy six minutes – Michele Castagnetti decides his own future at the club by getting sent off just five minutes after coming on as our final substitute. Shut up shop and see it out now.
Ninety one minutes – Alessandria have equalised but it might be too late for them. Trapani have been strangely quiet but I dare not look. The live table says we’re going up.
Ninety two minutes – Vercelli score to win at Alessandria 2-1. We win at home 2-0 to finish above them. I don’t know about Trapani yet.
Do the team talk. I’m proud of the boys for their effort tonight.
Trapani 0-0 Benevento.
WE’VE ONLY GONE AND DONE IT! Salernitana have stolen the other automatic promotion spot in the most ridiculous of circumstances. We are a Serie A side as of next season!
I’m genuinely shocked and little bit proud of this. I feel sorry for Alessandria who lost their star man towards the run-in with a broken leg and fell off as a result before losing in the final of the play-offs to Benevento. But, importantly, we are going up to play with the big boys next season.
On a side note, for achieving promotion I was awarded Manager of the Season and Manager’s Manager of the Season which was a nice little bonus.
For once I won’t really disagree with that Team of the Season for us. It’s been a strange season for player performance. I haven’t found it to be especially brilliant with the odd exception. There are some real concerns and issues moving forward which I will touch on.
Vinicius – 41 appearances, 3 goals, 4 assists, 7.23
What a season this man has had! Undoubted player of the season and was as good defensively as he was going forward. Constant threat down the left and his three goals were all beautiful free kicks.
Pietro Terracciano – 33 appearances, 14 clean sheets, 7.04
Voted Serie B’s Goalkeeper of the Year and for good reason. Saved us in a lot of tight games and kept a clean sheet near enough every two games. Was in and out of the team towards the end of the season with the emergence of Gustav Olsson but will get his shot at Serie A level.
Joao Silva – 34 appearances, 9 goals, 4 assists, 6.81
Could easily have been joined by Massimo Coda had it not been for his promotion winning goals but Silva has really been very disappointing. Top scorer last season, he had a purple patch in January/February time where he got six in six games but never scored for the rest of the season. Will likely be sold this summer.
Michael Kouame – 13 appearances, 6.58
I just expected more from him overall. Likely to be sold as well.
Mihai Balasa (Free) – 32 appearances, 1 goal, 3 assists, 7.04
Solid and dependable on that right flank, Balasa was a target of mine last summer but I wasn’t totally sold on him. Now I am and he’s the nailed on first choice at right back now. 8/10
Jherson Vergara (Free) – 21 appearances, 1 goal, 6.66
A curious one. He’s not done as badly as the rating suggests but he’s not done anything brilliantly. He was, however, once subbed with a 4.1 rating so that should maybe sum that one up. 4/10
Michele Castagnetti (Spal, Loan) – 18 appearances, 6.86
He was a bench warmer and useful depth when needed. That red card against Livorno soured me on him though. 5/10
Fabio Monti (Monza, £10,250) – 1 appearance, 6.80
One of the better players in a poor Under 20 side, Monti seems to be developing away quite nicely. May be moving up to the first team sooner than you think. 6/10
Luigi Bevevino (AlbinoLeffe, £18,250) – 1 appearance, 6.80
Had a game during an injury/suspension crisis and did well. Maybe joined at the wrong time to be a regular for us however. 6/10
Gustav Olsson (IFK Goteborg, £1 million) – 10 appearances, 3 clean sheets, 6.82
He’s only just turned 20 and did OK in his 10 games for us. Sure, there were a couple of costly mistakes but a penalty stop and some solid saves have certainly shown he’s one on the cusp of great things. 6/10
Improvement from last season but this Under 20s side was packed full of the original youth team from when I took over and, frankly, they are crap. Top performers were my signings in Marco Cessellato and Fabio Monti.
A stellar effort from the young lads but Trapani were different class throughout the season. Midfielder Maurizio Capasso was the driving force for that side while centre back Marco Guglielmi played over 70 games for both teams through the season.
Nothing much to report from the intake once more. Wingers Francesco Barile and Alberto Schettino were the most exciting but they of course don’t fit into our tactical system which is super useful.
Not much to report in loan news either. Riccardo Franchini finished with 17 goals as Grimsby’s season tailed off horribly while Mattias Andersson finished strongly at Juve Stabia.
So that is all from this update of the Salernitana Story. I’m quite excited ahead of this new season although I get the feeling that a sacking could be in my future. There’s not masses of money to spend either so I don’t want to go all out and plunge the club into tonnes of debt just to stay up for a season.
Let me know what you think of our promotion. Are you shocked? Delighted? Worried? Also, what should I do with the likes of Joao Silva and Massimo Coda? Do they deserve a shot at Serie A? Let me know on Twitter, Slack (#thelongballfm for the channel) or in the comments. We’ll see you in Serie A.