My PC still has dozens of College and University essays on it. Thousands of words discussing the history of Europe. And from those essays, it seems to have drawn certain conclusions.
So when I started a save with Baltika in the Russian First Division, my computer remembered. It dug through those texts and it decided to act.
It destroyed my save. There was no popup, but I knew what it wanted to say.
“Don’t go to Russia, in winter, with dreams of conquest.”
So I went to Malaysia instead.
England (to L2)
The team I chose were known as “The Panthers”. Penang, a second-tier side playing out of a British colonial port. Looks like I wouldn’t be the first Englishman to pitch up on their shores, dreaming of gold.
Season 1 – Penang, Malaysian Premier League
Media Prediction – 4th
That’s right, the Malaysian second division is called the Premier League. The one above it is the Super League. Who knew?
Anyway, it turns out Penang were a recently relegated team looking to bounce back. Despite the fact I usually start with strugglers, I took the job on. Promotion or bust.
Young DR (free)
Exciting AMC (free)
Promising DL (free)
The season started badly. I had a first 11 in mind, and was completely mindfucked by the fact that you need at least one U20 in your lineup. Wedging one in destroyed my balance.
An opening day hammering by Johor wound me up (not least when they finished with nine men), was followed by a scrappy 1-0 win and a string of draws. As January drew to a close, we languished in 8th. Couldn’t score, couldn’t keep a clean sheet.
So as February started, I bought a former Malaysia international keeper for £44k, and promoted my star U20 striker. One kept clean sheets, one struck up a partnership with my first choice striker.
Three straight wins later, we were back in the promotion spots heading into the FA Cup break. And I was manager of the month.
We resumed league duty mid way through March, 5 points off the top with a game in hand. Two wins later took us to four straight league victories – and only goal difference was keeping us off the top spot.
March ended with us three points clear at the top, and on a six game streak. I kept steeling myself, waiting for the inevitable blip.
April 1st. We were fooled. Johor came from behind to beat us 2-1 at home (for the second time this season), and Sarawak took advantage to reclaim top spot on goal difference. A brilliant home win against Perak in the cup put us in prime position to bounce back in the league.
A late Polis equaliser stopped us getting back to winning ways. The league would have to take a back seat though – as the FA Cup was getting interesting…
1st Round, ATM: Two one-all draws and a penalty win.
2nd Round, PBDKT: Higher division opposition. 4-2 home win, battling 0-0 rearguard action away.
Quarter Final, Polis DRM: 1-2 away win courtesy of a 94th minute dodgy penalty, 1-0 home win courtesy of a bolt-on penalty.
Semi Final, Perak: Higher division again. A battling 2-0 home win gave me hope of a cup final. A 0-0 away draw meant that only MSL mid-table also-rans Terengganu stood between us and glory.
Malaysian FA Cup Final:
Terengganu vs Penang
I’d love to say I was confident, but I wasn’t. Still, we were the Panthers and they were the Turtles. Unless they Terengganu was Malaysian for “Teenage Mutant Ninja”, Panthers should be able to eat Turtles.
After 4 minutes, a Terengganu shot beat the keeper, bounced off the left post, into the right post and out. I had kittens as we finally cleared it. Our keeper claimed cross after cross as we were penned back, before breaking and screwing a shot right at their goalie.
On the brink of half time our prodigy broke the Turtles’ offside trap. One on one…
Half time, 0-0.
Straight from the kick-off, our AMC beat the entire Terangganu team and wasted another chance. Our star DC had a diving header cleared off the line from a free kick, before it was hacked out for a corner. The cross floated in to our other DC – foul! Penalty! Up steps our prodigy… One nil to Penang! His 4th penalty of the season!
We wasted chance after chance – another corner off the line. Could we throw this away? A Terengganu shot fizzed past the post with three minutes to go, and the crossbar saved or bacon in the 91st. Just two minutes to go. We had to hold on…
Piece of cake. Panthers eat Turtles. Penang had done it. A second division side had won the FA Cup!
Now if only we could grab promotion too. After all, we’d just qualified for the Asian Confederation Cup.
Malaysian Premier League (continued)
Three days after the cup final, we faced league leaders Sarawak. As a Leeds fan, I was raised on tales of throwing away the league when the FA made us play a title decider two days after the 1972 final, so I was hoping to buck a historical trend.
One diving header, one lovely chip and a right-footed drive exorcised that demon, and a 3-0 win put us in the driving seat with 8 games to go.
Four to go, and we faced 2nd placed USM, needing just ten points to guarantee promotion. A 1-0 win left us 6 points ahead of 3rd place, and 4 clear at the top.
We swashbuckled to a 3-2 win in our next match, and results went our way. We looked to be up on goal difference, but a sole point in our last two games would seal promotion and the league title.
My prodigy’s 6th penalty of the season put us ahead against Sime Darby – and his strike partner’s 10th goal of the season sealed the win.
The win, promotion and the double. What a way to announce myself!
Malaysian Premier League
Penang P22 W14 D5 L3 F37 A15 GD+22 Pts 47 – 1st
However, the season wasn’t over. After the league season finishes, the Malaysia Cup begins. Could I make this double a treble.
Our free-scoring first half of the stage was enough to send us through to the quarters as the best third-placed side, where we’d face ATM – the other remaining MPL side. A 4-0 aggregate win put us through to the semis. Who else could we face but our FA Cup final and Malaysia Cup group stage opponents. Terengganu. The damned Turtles.
At the third time of asking, they finally beat us. 3-4 on aggregate. Terengganu had their revenge.
The season was done.
All things considered, I couldn’t complain. Season 2 would see us in the top flight, defending our FA Cup and, most excitingly, playing in a continental tournament.
Top Scorer: Young Prodigy ST (20, all competitions)