Season 15 – Udinese, Serie B
Board Expectations: Promotion
Players In: 18
Players Out: 26 for £5m
During the summer I decided to do a bit of wheeler-dealing, and once the out of contract players had left and a few were sold – £5m in total – I was down to 12 first team players.
This worked well as it pretty much gave me a nice clean slate which I found way easier to get my head around. I had a good few transfer targets in mind, all were of course young and keen but I knew I would need some experienced players if we were to make a serious push for promotion
Once my squad was complete I had signed no less than 10 players although 26 were gone. Leaving me with a lean 22 man squad with coverage for every position.
With the abundance of youth I felt this was a squad for next season as I was sure that there would also be gelling issues with a team so changed but i remained optimistic.
After these wholesale changes were finished I had cut the wage budget down from 410k to 270k. The chairman also pumped in another 5.25m (to be added to the loan bill – worked out to 100k a month which was serviceable, especially since I was saving them 140k on wages)
When it came to expectation and budgets I was shocked, they expected promotion (media 5th). I didn’t think this was feasible with my current crop but fingers crossed.
They gave me a wage budget of 450k, so I was running at half of the wage budget which was great and could always be adjusted for transfer funds in the January window.
This turned out to be the longest pre-season I’d ever done (almost a day in real-time) and no games played but it was my team now and I was really excited to see how my new charges would perform.
We started off great and my side were playing well, definitely more of a team, no star players here, just good honest pros albeit with long fancy Italian haircuts (although I had a bald Lithuanian and German, in the interests of balance).
There was little or no points separating top and 8th spot and a win or loss could see any team slide down or go up that far, this played havoc with my board confidence and squad harmony but by the winter break we had put a 5 win run together and we were top for the first time, a lovely way to finish the first half of the season.
By this point all of the goals and assists were evenly distributed around the team, again adding to the feeling that there were no real stars just a good unit.
Things started up and down, going between 6th and 2nd as Treviso at the top started to pull away.
Morale took a hit as a few players took a dislike to each other (this is becoming a running theme for me) and the squad harmony meter thingy was at its lowest point.
The main protagonist seemed to be my central defender/captain so I took a risk and dropped him stripping him of the armband too, giving it to my centre mid Spaniel.
It paid off and everyone was happy with the decision except the ex-captain who promptly put in a transfer request.
Another saving grace was a nice little strike partnership that developed between Brazilian Flat-Top and Englishman curly and whilst neither was prolific their performances and general contribution to play were superb.
There was also speculation as to whether I would be offered a new contract (6th in the table at this point) but after one win I was offered a two year deal (after leaping to 2nd)
One of my players said he was glad I was staying, a week earlier he had lost confidence in my ability. Football’s a fickle game.
With a game to spare we were promoted, sitting in second place, one point off the league leaders who duly smashed the second from bottom team in the final game to take the title.
I was more than happy with second.
Messages of congratulations came from the board, with the tone of “we had expected promotion anyway so you’re lucky you got it else you’d have been out on your ear”.
A thoroughly good season all in all and I was really up against it as the board, fans and players at various points in the season seemed to hate me.
I would really be at pains to leave after gaining promotion to the top flight but there just aint no love for me in Udine.
I’m gonna have to mull it over.
Serie B – Finished 2nd (Promoted)
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