Episode 8 – Suit Up!!!

So I’m just starting out at the Mestalla, home of Valencia. I have spent 2.3m on Timothy Nederburgh, a wing back from Bayern who I’m hoping can be trained to play the wing back role in the full back position, otherwise I’m a bit screwed this season! My star man Danilo demands a move to play continental football, so I break down in tears and begrudgingly sell him to RB Leipzig, who are now a top 4 club in the Bundesliga, for his release clause of 36m. I loan in centre mid Raffidine Abdullah to provide some cover in midfield, because Sebastian Rode is 32, Giacomo Bonaventura is pushing 33, and without them I’ll have to put in some of the kiddies from our B team. There are some promising youngsters here who might get some game time, Jorge Ruiz, 21, and Jorge Sanchis, 19, both play in attacking midfield, where I might put one of them if they can learn the trequartista role I’m planning on using. Our defence is solid enough to withstand a girly pillow fight, with Eric Bailly and Carlos Badal my first choice centre backs. Aymen Abdennour is on the bench, but he has aged badly. I feel guilty paying him 66k a week to bench, so I loan him out to Serie A side Torino, where he’ll get some game time and wind down his contract. My full backs look good, with Kostas Stafylidis performing well since my arrival, and novice right back Nederburgh having the stats to be a leading right back, whether he adapts or not is another matter. Otherwise, I have high hopes for wingers Pione Sisto, Jese and Rong Qifel, who will have to rotate as I can’t afford another winger. Up front Andres Renteria is my goal threat, by the end of last season he already has his own goal chant.

Pre season goes poorly, only managing one win against Palermo, but in my defence, the team are still adapting to my new tactics. I’m going for a short passing style that focuses on getting the ball to my wingers who will attack the box by dribbling in or crossing in for Renteria. With 15 finishing and 12 heading, he’s not exactly perfect for this style, but I’m limited on funds, as the bigwigs in the office keep reminding me by constantly changing the amount of transfer revenue I can keep.

Getafe and Atletico take full advantage of our steep learning curve and beat us in the first two games of the season, but we dominate our next game at home to Betis, winning 3-1 thanks to a Rong Qifel hat trick. Apart from Qifel’s performance, I’m keeping an eye on our rookie right back. With an average of 7.56 in his first 3 La Liga games, Nederburgh looks to be adapting splendidly, despite my assistant predicting his imminent failure.

Only losing one of our next 6 games, including a 5-0 demolition job at Real Sociedad, Nederburgh is inspired. His ratings are 7.4, 9.3, 8.6, 8.0, 7.2 and 8.9, then a few games later pops up with a 8.4 when we shock the Galacticos of Real Madrid with a 2-0 win. Real chairman Inigo Azuaga mutters something about forcing manager Rudi Garcia to sign goalscorers Jorge Ruiz and Rong Qifel and is chauffeured away from the sound of our celebrations in a Bentley.

A loss to Celta is quickly forgotten when we whip Barcelona at the Mestalla. Qifel gets another goal while Sisto pops up with two and the man of the match award. Nederburgh is still in top form with a 8.6, despite my assistant giving him only half a star for suitability at right back. I warn my assistant about bullying my wonderful Dutch prospect, who along with backup right back Fran, is getting rather miffed about me praising Tiny Tim. The joke being that he’s 6 foot tall.

I doze through the winter in a haze of victories. We get through to the Spanish Cup semi final, where we sneak past Levante with a 2-1 win at their place. Renteria gets his 14th goal of the season, and youngster Fermin gets the winner to send us through to the Final!!!

Before I dig out my suit, I have the Champions League to think about. We are sitting pretty in third place behind Barcelona and Sevilla, but Real are creeping up behind us in 4th, and have bolstered their defence in response to our rise to prominence by signing Lucas Digne from Monaco for 9.5m. If only I could afford such luxuries as overrated Frenchmen…..

My January transfer dealings are a lot more modest. I get sick of reserve right back Fran begging for a chance to replace Nederburgh, and sell him to Club Brugge for 1.1m. To replace him, I bring in someone who I know will happily sit on the bench without complaining, ancient ex German international Andreas Beck, still plodding along at 35 years young. I sign him from Besiktas for a song, and 450k cash. My only other signing is Tiago, a Brazilian 15 year old who’s been talked up by all my scouts. I pay a 2.5m fee with add ons up to 3.3m, and promise to come over to Brazil in the summer for a carnival and a friendly game in Botafogo. He’ll stay there till he turns 18, thanks to the under 18 transfer rules in Brazil that have foiled me many many times over the years.

March turns into the month of hell, we visit Sevilla and Real Madrid and leave with 3-0 defeats, and morale falls rapidly. Sebastian Rode, who took the captain’s armband after Danilo’s eyes were opened to Champions League football, comes into the office asking to go home to Germany. Considering he signed in the summer of 2018, and its now 2023, I don’t buy it. I take him to a sauerkraut restaurant and cheer him up. Andres Renteria is another problem. Now that he’s scored a few goals, he thinks he’s some big shot and deserves to play continental football. Even though we are 4th in the league and pretty much guaranteed a spot in Europe, barring a 13 point disaster with a month to go, he doesn’t think we’ll qualify. I soothe him and lie straight to his face, telling him he’ll be sold if someone puts in an acceptable deal. He walks away happy, not knowing that to me, an acceptable deal means activating his 67m release clause.

Our slim chance of winning the title, which I’d never really considered all season as Barca have been miles ahead, vanish when the new Spanish champions manage to get one goal past my specially designed bus parking 4-4-2, despite Tiny Tim Nederburgh putting in his usual performance, this time making 16 tackles and 13 interceptions, winning 90% of his headers, deservedly getting a 9.0. Two matches later, a nightmare occurs when over aggressive Cordoba target Tiny Tim, kicking him up and down his right flank all game. He holds them off manfully, contributing a 8.1 rated performance to our 3-0 win, but eventually succumbs to injury and has to be replaced by the Grandfather, Andreas Beck. My assistant leans over and whispers in my ear “I told you he was too soft to be a right back.” I rage at Cordoba in the post match press conference, adding swearing and abuse in the comments section. I don’t get warned or fined, showing that I was in the right all alone.

This means of course, that I am without my standout defender for the Cup Final, where we face Malaga. This means someone other than Barcelona will win the Cup for the first time since 2016. Barca’s run of 6 consecutive cup wins is over, which means it’s time to suit up! Of course I put on my finest suit, which as yet doesn’t have a Valencia badge sewn on, but if I stay a while, who knows?

To compensate for losing Nederburgh, I revert to my anti Barca 4-4-2 formation, but sneakily set it to counter attack to catch out Malaga. Playing with two up front means Ione Gomez, who’s only played 8 games all season, starts up front with Renteria. I also drop star player Rong Qifel, which shocks the media. I just think playing Fermin, who’s a bit more defensive minded out wide as a wide playmaker rather than a out and out winger like Qifel, will make us harder to break down than Chelsea in the days of Roberto Di Matteo.

I take my seat and settle in for an enthralling 90 minutes of football. Within 5 minutes, I’m up on my feet again. One thing I cannot do is sit and watch a final. I always start jumping around the room, gesturing to my players and shouting abuse at the officials.

We absorb a lot of Malaga pressure in the first half, 11% of their possession being inside our defensive third. We create one or two half chances on the break, and the Malaga defence starts pushing up and the full backs join the attack, assuming we are defending for the whole game. How wrong they were….

A quick change in mentality at half time yields instant results. Outcast Ione Gomez, who’s already agreed a move to QPR in the summer, scores inside a minute of the second half. I celebrate like Jurgen Klopp against Arsenal, jumping and fist pumping galore. Malaga panic and pile forward even more, giving my front two of Gomez and Renteria as much space as they could want.

Crosses from left back Stafylidis, who is overlapping Fermin constantly now, and right midfielder Pione Sisto, give us the chances we need to kill off the game. Gomez scores his second in the 73rd minute, and I can finally sit down and enjoy the spectacle in the 89th minute when Renteria fires in a volley to make it 3-0.

This is my second piece of silverware in this FM, and I’m enjoying this one especially, as I’m really not very clever tactically, but this time my plan has come off perfectly!

The very next day, Ed and George from The Deep Lying Podcast (if you don’t listen, I sincerely recommend you start listening, they’re on iTunes and Soundcloud as well, and my inspiration for starting this blog) were discussing how gutted I would be to lose a final after dressing up in a suit and putting in all the effort for 90 minutes. Well lads, I can tell you now that I would have been devastated to lose, especially to a so called weaker side like  Malaga, but I had faith in my team, even without Tiny Tim!

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