Season 8 – Dinamo Minsk, Belarusian Premier League

Same old, same old over the winter window – shite out the door, brought in a few kids and one or two experienced defenders to try and steady the ship as last season we were a bit of a shitshow when the heat was on. I did lose my captain and a few other senior pros, but I was happy with what I got. The Iranian/Russian finally chose a country (oddly enough he was born in Stockport) and decided to represent Iran. He came back for another year along with a talented Ukrainian winger on loan.

Weird season, really. 4-0-2 was my record in the first month of the season, but I almost resigned in a strop after the second loss in a row to Nemen Grodno. We picked up a good win against Dinamo Brest right after a shocker*, which would define the bizareness of the season at hand for me. PSV pumped us out of Europe in August after beating Honka in the round before, but we kept the heat on Dinamo Brest and Shakhter Soligorsk.

We did take top spot a few times, but it felt like a game of who could bottle it the worst at one stage. The worst moments were on the run in. Not only did a 4-1 fucking away to Dinamo Brest make me think we’d blown it, but then we had opportunity after opportunity to leapfrog them. Another year the bridesmaid, I thought.

Then it happened. We gave a 4-0 hiding to relegation fodder Arsenal Dzerzhinsk while they could only draw, opening the door to the title. On the final day of the season, we just had to match their result. And we did. There were only four points separating us, Brest and Shakhter, but I’d finally won my first league title.

We made the Cup final this year, beating Vitebsk and Torpedo along the way. Of course, it would be Dinamo Brest we’d meet. We took an early lead, and they equalised midway through the half before taking the lead a few minutes before half time. We equalised not long after the break then they gave us a proper rogering, lifting the Cup after a 6-2 win.*

My players swept the board with the awards, we were outstanding at times. The guy I signed from Wisla is absolutely incredible.

I still haven’t actually moved off my rolling contract here, and I’m happy with that for now. I’ve had a few interviews around the continent, and I was actually offered one that didn’t feel right. Part of me is hoping the Wisla job comes up so I can finish what I started, as they’re very much one of the big boys again. My title win seems to have massively raised my profile. We’ll see.

Season 8.5 – Dinamo Minsk, Belarusian Premier League

As you can probably tell, I ended up making a decision on my future. But more on this when I get to it.

I brought in a few kids from Russia and I managed to bring back the Iranian again, as well as the Ukrainian. Otherwise, nothing major for once.

We got off to a great start, only dropping points twice before round 12. We sailed through the quarters and semis of the Cup and won on penalties against Shakhter, but we lost the Super Cup (the season curtain raiser) to – you guessed it – fucking Brest. I got interviews from Sparta Prague of Czechia, as well as an old flame in the form of Wisla Krakow who wanted me to go back and finish the job. I opted for…

Season 9 – Sparta Prague, Czech First Division

The board basically pointed at what I’d done with both Wisla and to a greater extent, Dinamo Minsk, and said “do it again”.

That meant an enormous rebuilding job because the squad I inherited was not capable of playing Newbie-ball. Out went most of the squad’s major characters in a bald former Barca manager style move and in came a number of the Wisla diaspora, and a couple of lads from Dinamo I knew were up to it. Some would work out to be indespensible, others ended up being stand-ins, but capable ones.

I also for the first time had the luxury of a B-team, so I went a bit mad with signing kids who could be the next big thing. Some slotted right in and the rest would get men’s football for the first time in a lower league. Oh, and the board wanted the title immediately. No pressure.

We cocked up immediately as we lost the Czecholovak Super Cup which is for the winners of both countries’ Cup competitions, where we lost to Slovan Bratislava.

The first league match didn’t do much to inspire confidence either, as we threw away a 4-1 lead to draw 4-4. After that, we’d only fail to win 7 more from 30 games before the league split in half – two of them to Dukla Prague who did the double over us. I have a feeling I’m going to hate them.

We went on to set league and club record win and goals scored tallies, and a few of my players picked up awards to go with their medals – we won the league by four points. Bitter rivals and last year’s champions, Slavia, finished 4th.

Speaking of Slavia, we’d also meet them in the final of the Czech Cup. That was a bit of a ding dong affair, proper end to end stuff. We raced into a 2-0 lead, but Slavia finally pegged us back by the hour mark. Preparing myself for extra time, a lazy overpaid loanee from Liverpool scored what I assumed would be the winner after 88 minutes before striking again on 90+3 to seal the deal. He’s out of contract in the summer too…

In the Europa League II, we got all the way to the quarter finals where we got punted into touch by Red Star Belgrade. Only fair, I suppose, since we raided half their best players both senior and otherwise.

A few will be moving on this summer, as I’ve decided that they don’t really fit the bill in this country, and their replacemenets are already on the way so we’re fucked if I can’t shift them. I did manage to upgrade facilities and slightly expand the ground, and we have a healthy bank balance, so we should be fine – especially if I can make headway in the Champions League qualifiers. Rangers are making the eyes at me, and while I’d fucking love the job, I think it might have come up at the wrong time.

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