Hello! Or maybe that should be hola! I’ve pitched up in Seville to manage Real Betis in the latest short story series. Why Betis? Well, just look at this squad!
Alfonso and Oli, Finidi and Fernando, Jarni and…Prats. It’s got the makings of a title winning side. But can they do it? Can this lot upset the traditional big clubs and win La Liga? Let’s find out.
I’m going to try and improve the squad first. I’ve identified that we need a centre back, a right wing back and probably more. Obviously the game plan is to get Alfonso and Oli amongst the goals as soon as possible…
I wanted a different centre half to the usual Curtis/Page/Worns/Richards/Rufus cycle and this guy is a bit of a maverick.
Such high passing for so little flair. But 20 for heading, tackling, positioning and pace. 19 for strength. He should be good. £3m looks a reasonable deal.
I like Soren Colding for his versatility, so his arrival for £3.8m makes sense.
Nenad Bjelica gets injured for three months a week before the season starts so I’ve opted for the equally versatile Corentin Martins to fill in. He’s 28 but with high adaptability I think he’ll be ok. He’s cost us £4m which leaves little room for manouvre but I’m sure it’ll be fine.
That panic buy secured, it’s time for the season to begin. The famous 2-3-1-2-2 is deployed, thanks to our good friend Antonio, so let’s hope it goes to plan. There’s a tiny arrow missing from Moulin which I added on after the screenshot, but seemingly didn’t feel it worthwhile to take the screen shot again. You can almost smell that Football Blog Award sometimes.
We’re away to Oviedo which could be worse, let’s be fair. It’s going swimmingly as Finidi scores twice but Alfonso departs on a stretcher. FFS. His replacement is former Barcelona player Cuellar, who scores before Oli smashes in a fourth. It’s a rout. But all eyes are on Alfonso.
It’s a calf strain. Phew. Nevertheless he misses the visit of his former club Real Madrid and we really miss him.
We held our own but couldn’t score. All we’re meant to be able to do is score. This is bad news.
It gets worse as he also sits out our trip to Espanyol. We’re on the back foot pretty much throughout and deserve to lose. This is going well.
Valladolid away is a chance to get things back on track. Oli scores before half time and it’s a professional performance. A 1-0 away win would be lovely but Eusebio equalises. Presumably not the Eusebio but it’s a blow. Boo to it all.
It’s Cup Winners Cup o’clock and Kilmarnock are…good opponents for us. I can’t disguise that. I’ve decided to go pretty much full strength to try and get some unity which is a great idea when we’re 3-0 up after 24 minutes but a worse idea when Oli departs on a stretcher. We win 5-0.
6 weeks out for Oli. That’s a pickle.
Our budget isn’t massive and we’ve got our non-EU quota, so all I’m saying is, don’t judge me.
The equaliser has arrived.
He partners Alfonso Ribeiro and all I’m saying is, he’s the perfect foil. The Sheringham to his Shearer. The Cole to his Yorke. The fries to his Big Mac. I could go on.
The scheduling of the Spanish league is already starting to annoy me. We play Valencia at home on the same day Spain play a World Cup qualifier. FFS. Alfonso and Prats go off to play for them whilst the lads slug it out with Valencia. Thankfully, it doesn’t matter as Sean Devine is an adequate replacement for Oli (still) and Cuellar comes in for Alfonso.
That’s 6 weeks without Jarni. This whole squad is made of glass. We’ve got that momentum going now and Bilbao are just about beaten. Devine has scored on every appearance for us. You don’t see any “Dave is a dope” t-shirts now do you?
Devine isn’t allowed to play in Europe. It’s not a talent thing he just signed too late. Oli returns from injury and Alfonso gets a rest so Cuellar can continue to impress. It’s only 4-1 this time but a 9-1 aggregate win sets up a 2nd round clash with Germinal Ekeren.
It actually turns out Devine is banned for 3 matches for reaching 21 disciplinary points. It’s barely October. A pure animal.
Deportivo away is a real test of how far we’ve come. Turns out, really far. Get in!
Even Nenad Bjelica is back in action now, but it’s an International break. When we return, Mallorca is not only a nice holiday destination but a good place to stop off for 3 points.
With our great form we’re expecting a thrashing at home to Sporting Gijon but they’re a plucky bunch and eventually we manage to find a way through. Points are points.
Guess who plays for Germinal Ekeren? Tomasz Radzinski. Admittedly I didn’t give you any chance to guess that but it’s quite an open question. Anyway, it’s a 2-0 win. It’s not great but it’s a clean sheet and it allowed us to rotate a bit.
Why am I rotating? Well, it’s Atletico Madrid away. It’s another huge test, which this league seems to be full of. Our task gets harder with an early red card…MOULIN ROUGE. Thank goodness that happened earlier. Anyway, Juninho blasts the pen over the bar and we score two goals from corners against the run of play. This was more of a war than a match. Great result though.
Just a week for Martins and two weeks for Oli. Could have been worse.
Devine returns from suspension for yet another competition. The Copa del Rey has drawn us against Celta Vigo and it’s two legs. More games. Alfonso settles our nerves and it’s a useful first leg win. Former Celtic man Jorge Cadete takes the gloss off a little.
Manager of the month! October was our month. However the 1st of November sees Barcelona as our visitors and they are the runaway leaders. Uh oh.
Martins and Oli are still out but Jarni is back. Today’s nonsense is that we play the same day as the World Cup playoffs so Bjelica is playing for Croatia. ‘sakes. A reshuffle sees Fernando start in centre midfield with Cuellar joining Finidi behind Alfonso and Sean Devine. What is life.
We’re 2-0 down and going nowhere fast until Fernando tells Effenberg his hair looks like a wig and gets thrown to the ground for his troubles. Against 10 we soon get one back but a scramble from a corner makes it 3-1. Boo. Not to be denied, Sean Devine reduces the arrears before Moulin goes on a marauding run and sees his shot parried for Finidi to equalise. It’s a well celebrated draw.
England lose 3-0 to Scotland in the 1st leg of the playoffs and Hoddle resigns. I’ve never seen him resign in November 97, that’s remarkable.
Back to our business though and we’re in Belgium for the second leg. It’s an easy night, 4-0 doesn’t flatter us and I’m pleased to be in the hat for the last 8 where we’ll play Vicenza. That won’t be easy.
That brings this bumper update to an end. After roughly a third of the domestic season, we’re 4th, just 4 points off the pace. There’s plenty of work to be done to catch Barcelona but at this stage I’m just pleased to be in the race after a rocky start.
Hopefully you’ve stuck with me to the very end of these 1200 words but I will be back next week with part 2 as we try and break that Barcelona/Real Madrid stranglehold. Is 4 points a strangehold? Who knows. See you then!