Welcome back! A new season means a new save and a new save means a new idea. The Academy is a tough act to follow. That was probably my favourite of all the saves we’ve done. The CM Cup was a nice break and a keenly fought contest. Now though we need a new idea. Where have I not been? Where could I go?
We’ve got a great array of guest writers who have covered the continent pretty quickly. There are only 9 leagues after all. I’ve therefore decided to pitch up in France – my only previous experience was a few seasons as Auxerre manager back on the first ever blog save. It crashed after 13 seasons, by which time I was Deportivo manager. I enjoyed my time in France though, and other than a very brief blog from Frank Hirst as Saint Etienne manager, that’s all we’ve ever done in France. But who to manage?
The state of play in France is that Monaco are really rather good. They’ve just won the league by 12 points from PSG. Both squads are insanely talented, but Monaco’s stadium is a touch on the small side so they can struggle with finances if they drop out of the Champions League places. Both of those teams will be rather easy to play as, I’m after something a little longer term.
Nice were relegated but will play in the Cup Winners Cup thanks to winning the, er, cup, so that’s an idea. However, I want to go as low as possible. Propping up the Ligue 2 table in 1997/98 were FC Mulhouse Sud – Alsace. That sounds a bit like Milhouse and I can have some fun with that. Arsene Wenger played for them in 70s so that probably bodes well.
In 1997 they have a thoroughly uninspiring squad. Future Celtic centre back Bobo Balde is here, however he’s an inexplicably creative winger.
Other than Bobo the bear there’s very little to get excited about. Jean-Paul Gautier in the centre of the park will keep things fresh. Ait Alia is already wanted by a bigger club which is useful as he also wants to move to a bigger club. We have a generous £1m in the bank which will need to stretch.
To give you some indication of our standing in world football, Tomlinson has turned us down. He doesn’t even turn Doncaster down. No, instead we’re going to have to cast the net a bit wider than normal.
Olivero arrives on a free from Uruguay. I feel like I’ve had him before, or somebody has had him, but he looks good.
Graham Kavanagh, the silver fox, has never had 20 for pace in my view but here he is.
Andrew Duncan, an obvious favourite. I predict I’ll have him about 2 months before somebody comes and takes him.
Louis Saha arrives on loan from Metz. We’re going to be a quick team if nothing else.
I signed this man because I needed a left sided option but also because he sounds like a 1930s footballer.
There’s a deal on the table for one more player but he hasn’t arrived in time for the big kick off, and by that I mean a home game against Niort. They are managed by a man called Albert Rust which really writes itself.
Here’s the team for day one. I know very few of the players so many have been picked on comic potential.
Larry David will be trying to curb the opposition’s enthusiasm. Let’s FOOTBALL.
The early signs are that this will be a lot of fun Olivero and Saha are a particularly potent duo who both score but there’s an early concern about the quality of our goalkeeper who is beaten by a free kick. Van Kets were something I was warned as a kid not to accept. Anyway, Larry David made it 3-1 and the Stade de I’lll, whatever the heck that means, go in happy at half time.
Andrew Duncan gets sent off but it finishes 3-1. Woo and yay.
A week later and we’re off to Lorient, coached by Christian Gourcuff – Father of Yoann. See, you always learn things here. I suspect this will be a much tougher game.
The next few days brings mixed news.
This man signs. This is good.
This is bad.
Duncan is banned for the visit of Nancy, who can of course boast Tony Cascarino up front. It’s a filthy game which big TC settles with a rasper from 30 yards. This is going to be every bit as hard as I feared.
I need to fill the Saha void and I’ve decided to take a punt of one of my Academy lads. You might remember Chris Pearson – he was lethal in Division 3 and 2, then he was less good and moved to Clyde where he was terrible. Can he hack it in French Ligue 2?
He can debut at Nimes away and once again, the opposition lose their heads but they are so much more clinical than us. Our goalkeeping situation is becoming urgent.
For crying out loud. For those wondering, Pearson had 9 of those shots.
It’s time to find a new goalkeeper and I don’t care what it costs. Well I do, I have just over £1m to spend.
Another week passes and my search has been unsuccessful. A home game with Red Star (not Belgrade) promises to be an entertaining affair. Graham Kavanagh scores his first goal for the club before going off injured. It’s 2-2 and with GK off injured, Pennyfather climbs off the bench to score the winner. He doffs his top hat to the crowd and we leave with the points.
Three months out for Kavanagh may mean we see more of old Pennyfather. We’ve also pocketed £900k for David Rincon, so that’s nice.
Martigues away is one for the ages. The hosts plunder 25 shots on goal but despite conceding three, our keeper has a good game and comes away with man of the matches. That’s a bit harsh on old JV, who nets a hat-trick including a late winner in yet another filthy game. We score four goals from five shots on target, so it’s a smash and grab in many ways. Having said that, Pearson managed 5 shots and hit the target once. He is not good enough.
That late flurry sends us up to 8th after just six games. There’s rather a long way to go yet and we need to sort out our goals against column. For now though, we’ll settle for being in the top half. It’s a 22 team league so there’s ages to go yet.
It’s good to be back. I’ll see you next week with more.