Dessel all end in tears...
#1
02-02-2019, 03:41 AM (This post was last modified: 02-02-2019, 07:37 PM by Cicero84.)
Loaded up an eclectic array of leagues based on my desire for variety, my status as a North American, and undoubtedly delusional aspirations to “climb the ladder” into the Champion's League someday.

Playable Leagues
All divisions:
  • Belgium
  • Mexico
  • United States
  • Sweden
  • Holland
  • Brazil
  • Argentina
  • Portugal

Top several divisions:
  • England
  • Germany
  • Spain
  • France
  • Italy

Seeing as both Frank and Paco are long in the tooth at this point, I consulted Paco's cousin Randomo Numero Generatorio for my assignment. He sent me to the Belgian First Amateur Division to manage KFC Dessel Sport, whose prestigious history included winning the Belgian Fourth Division C once and Third Division B twice in the past three decades.

[Image: Dessel.png]

2018-19: KFC Dessel Sport, Belgian First Amateur Division


Upon arriving, my AssMan informed me that the squad were positively in love with each other, which was re-affirmed when it was revealed that the first pre-season match was a testimonial to club legend Bulldog, a DL who was still on a pricey three-year contract. The squad was composed of a good mix of youth with seemingly decent potential (if the AssMan can be trusted) and a few key elders to keep the young 'uns in line with a healthy mix of through balls and time-honored bromides about the team being more important than the individual. The team also looked decent on the pitch in the first couple friendlies. Right midfield and Goalkeeper looked like the only positions in need of shoring up, so I sent my two scouts to look for some.


Through pre-season we magnanimously offered trials to the plethora of young local lads who showed up at the door peddling their wares and signed two of them - a young GK, Tiger, who might be an improvement on our current keeper Stone Hands, as well as a 19 year-old MC, War Drummer, who looked like he could do a few jobs in the middle. I suspected this team might be able to win promotion this year but played coy with the board, who only hoped to avoid relegation, by acting like my “mid-table” aspirations were a sign of real ambition.


Mid-season we were hovering between 3rd-5th, but that position was a bit deceptive as we were always only a few points ahead of 9th place and always a mile off leaders Liège and R Excelsior Virton. War Drummer got poached 2 months in as I'd neglected to shore him up on a paid contract (this is how we learn), but Tiger did well, especially in his signature move of pouncing on every cross that came anywhere near his vicinity, thus earning his nickname. Strikers regularly got through on goal only to fluff their lines, but my veteran left winger-turned MC Silk and the AM RLC who took up his former position, Crazy Legs, picked up the slack. In January my gambit with the board paid off as, expectations anchored by my early pooh-poohing of our chances, they were absolutely beside themselves at the team's league positioning. I negotiated a two-year extension on my contract on the back of a promise that we'd finish top-half this year.


Heavily utilizing the “put bodies in front of the ball and punt it straight down the field as far as you can if it happens to land near your foot” strategy we won more than our fair share of games, finishing in 3rd. The other three teams in the promotion playoff quickly dispelled any illusions that might have lingered among the squad members that we deserved to be there. Still, great season over all.


Next season's plan: (a) reduce the wage budget by 10-15% as we're leaking funds, (b) sign a striker who can put it in the net, and © find a way to ease aging club captain Bulldog out of the team without destroying squad harmony. He is as slow as a rock but made up for it a dozen times through the season with last-ditch tackles on the same wingers that repeatedly ran right by him at the halfway line. He also calmed a number of potentially disruptive players down in the locker room, giving me street cred with the boys. But his time has passed, which is unlucky as he's on contract for two more years. Maybe I can convince him to put his shiny new Continental C coaching license to work sooner rather than later...


In: 2
Out: 2
Expenditure: 0 Euro


League: 3rd in league, 4th in promotion playoff
Cup: Down in penalties AET to top-flight Lokeren in 6th round


Fans POTY: Silk, classy (for this level) veteran AMLC with 11 goals, 12 assists
My POTY: Bulldog, captain DL who simultaneously created and saved the team from more clear-cut chances than anyone else on the pitch, all while managing more egos than a Hollywood agent off it.


Sidebar: Notable things about the Belgian First Amateur Division
  • Only four(!) bench players per match really motivates managerial creativity
  • At least two players on the matchday squad have to be U-21
  • The promotion system is odd:
    • Top four teams play round-robin
    • Each team starts with ½ the points they earned during the season
    • Top team on total points (½ season's points + playoff points) gains promotion
    • Tie-breaker is (I think) team position at the end of regular season

2019-20: KFC Dessel Sport, Belgian First Amateur Division


In: 6
Out: 5
Net Spend: $0


In a signature fit of panic, signed two strikers in the offseason to overcompensate for last season's profligacy in front of goal. Now the squad has one too many. Also signed a young DLC to share time with Bulldog and a backup GK and AM L/R for depth. My GM took the initiative and signed a U-20 DC (I had given him the wrong instructions; again, this is how we learn) who surprisingly looks like he might be serviceable next year. Also of note is a new youth prospect ST who looks like “one of the best players to ever come through the ranks” of the prestigious Dessel youth recruitment program. I imagine he'll start next year.


Looked good in pre-season and started the season proper by smash last year's bottom-feeders Francs Borrains, who had miraculously stayed up in the relegation playoff despite a -61 goal differential during the season, 7-0 away. I thought we were bound for promotion. An awful run of 8 matches without a win disabused me of that notion and inspired some tactical tinkering and U-21 promotions. A strategically timed team meeting and a heavy dose of ego stroking saw us turn things around at the end of October and by the January break we were sitting 5th, but due to a season of exceptional parity we were only 6 points off the relegation zone. One of the new strikers, Biceps, played well in a deep-lying role and the other was rubbish, transfer-listed by December. Fortunately, one of last year's chance-wasters, Panther, suddenly realized he was playing English football, not American, and started hitting the net rather than aiming over the crossbar. Crazy Legs also pitched in with plenty of goals. Meanwhile, the midfield and defense looked largely solid, including Bulldog who despite being slower than a glacier continues to tackle in a manner that befits his nickname.


We went on an absolute tear at the end of the season, ending with a league record 11-match winning streak, setting the goals record and landing in the promotion playoff. Scarface, the 16-y/o prospect ST I'd been told about last spring got promoted in January and played well in the run-in. He looks like a star in the making; I just hope I can keep him around for a few seasons. Unfortunately, RWDM, who had topped the league all year, started the playoff with a 3-point advantage and we were only able to match their points by the end of the playoff, with them going through on a tie-breaker. I'm not too upset though – I'd started the season only hoping to make the playoff again. Next year promotion might be on the cards.


League: Regular season - 4th, promotion playoff - 2nd
Cup: Out in 6th round 1-0 to top flight side Antwerp
Fans' POTY: Crazy Legs, who won the league POTY and led the division with 15 goals from the ML position
My POTY: Big Kris, my dominant DC, who was a rock all season


Goals for next season:
  • Cut wage budget even more – we're hemorrhaging funds despite having already cut the budget 20% since my arrival two seasons ago.Keep team intact – we've got the quality and cohesion now, I think, to make a title run.Add depth to DM, DR and DC by way of young signings.
2020-21: KFC Dessel Sport, Belgian First Amateur Division


During the summer, Belgium defeated Russia 2-0 to nab the European championship. Well done to my adoptive FM homeland!


At the end of last season, one board member took over the presidency and immediately took out a $1 million loan, temporarily solving our financial problems. In a fit of profligacy the board then finally agreed to spare $800 of it on a coaching course so I can finally get my first coaching certification. Puzzlingly, my players last season were regularly chuffed to be playing for such a “talented” manager, despite my utter lack of reputation and/or certification and my most prestigious football experience being the single goal scored for my high school soccer football club when I was 17. No doubt their excitement says more about them than me.


After two seasons of seeing them in action, I used this offseason to cut out the bulk of the fat that was left from the team I inherited back in 2018, releasing several on frees and selling a few more. Ten players are now left who still play a significant role, so it hasn't been scorched earth policy, but I do feel that finally the wheat has been effectively separated from the chaff. The only nagging remnant is Bulldog, who is too influential in the team for me to risk transfer listing despite his pace rating threatening to go into the negatives any day now. He raised a small fuss when I started out pre-season by replacing him as captain with Murderer, our hard-tackling DM, but things quieted down when his old friend Crazy Legs, who is now vice-captain, gave him a heart-to-heart.


Signings were all depth and future this offseason. Depth and competition at LB, young depth at DC, and a 23 year-old MC who can fill in for Murderer or his more classy midfield partner, Elegant. That should do for new blood, though I'll still keep my eye out for a young keeper to develop and have some hope that one or two U-18 lads will break into the rotation by the end of the season.


In: 3 new, 1 loan
Out: 8
Net Spend: $29k

  • On November 27th, KV Kotrijk Voetbalt of the Belgian top flight offered me a job interview. I was sorely tempted, but (a) the club's “Insecure” financial status along with (b) the inclusion in the offer of the ominous clause “The board wish to make clear they reserve the right to adjust the transfer and payroll budget in the future and without consultation” and © my suspicion that my Sunday-league credentials would be less impressive to pros than to my motley gang of amateurs made me decline. That, and I prefer to build quality rather than join it. At least, that's what I'll tell myself when we fail to gain promotion again at the end of this season... –

As it turns out, this season was magical. As I had expected, the squad kept us around the top all season, with the young ST I promoted end of last season, Scarface, banging in goals left and right. Also, for the first time, we made a cup run, the undoubted highlight (or so I thought at the time) being a completely unexpected 3-0 thumping of Club Brugge on our home ground in the Quarter-Final – and it could have been more – in front of a club-record 4,284 fans. My backup GK's cup performances, combined with Tiger's mediocrity, prompted me to give him a run in the first team. He would keep it the rest of the season, significantly out-performing Tiger.


End of season was a complete two-horse race between us and Lierse Kampenzonen, who had been heavily predicted to win the division. We just nicked them to first place on 66 points to their 65, with third-place coming in at a distant 53. In the playoff round-robin Lierse thumped us on our home ground and we only barely scraped a nervy 1-1 draw in the return leg on an 81st minute corner goal by Scarface. Fortunately, Lierse fluffed their lines in a 3-3 draw against Knokke while we won all other matches landing us in the Belgian Pro League B!


But even more magical was the cup run. After we beat Brugge, we faced KV Mechelen, drew 0-0 on their ground and won 3-2 on ours in the Semi-Final, where we faced a lackluster Cercle Brugge side languishing low in the top flight. Our “shut up shop and thump it downfield” tactic worked to perfection, and when Big Kris banged in a(nother) 81st minute corner for the 1-0 win, the fans went wild. Cercle didn't threaten for the rest of the match. From the third division, we won the Belgian cup! We just about deserved it too, though I'm going to have trouble sleeping at night figuring out what the hell this gang of amateurs is going to do to deal with European football.


More than a touch of fortune blessed us this season. Our cup run was incredibly generous and the two above-mentioned season-altering corners were 2 out of only 3 corners converted this season, for example. Belgium being Belgium, the none-too-prestigious Cup gained us a paltry $112,000, which is nice but still doesn't stop the club's financial bleeding despite my having kept the wage budget consistently around 20-25% below the limit. It seems like it will be difficult to stay up next season, but I'll be damned if I won't welcome the challenge!


League: Regular Season - 1st ; Promotion Playoff - 1st
Cup: WINNERS 1-0 over Cercle Brugge
Fans' POTY: Scarface, with 24 goals in all competitions
My POTY: Biceps, who scored 17, laid on 6, and always seemed to show up just when the rest of the team needed a pick-me-up


Goals for next season:
  • Acquire one player of real quality at every level – Keeper, Defense, Midfield, StrikerKeep heads above waterPray for a billionaire with loose purse strings and a forgiving attitude to take over the club

2021-2: KFC Dessel Sport, Belgian Pro League B


In the offseason, the board expanded the stadium by 736 seats to comply with regulations, costing the club a further $120k (there goes that cup money) but getting finished by early summer. A new kit sponsor quintupled our sponsorship money and then the Europe money came in, all $3.72m of it and well...there go our financial worries. We're well in the black, which I took advantage of to impose upon the board to fund another coaching course, bringing me up to National B level.


The only real quality my scouts found who'd be willing to play for us were a left-winger and a GK, both of which I signed. Also signed was one of the dozens of Argentines who pitched up at the club looking for a try-out, this one a 20 year-old DC who can't use his head for a damn but can put in a tackle that'd put even Murderer to shame. Other signings were mostly a series of frees and two loans to provide depth and competition. At the 11th hour, Biceps tore a hammy and our versatile RB pitched a fit about me turning down a transfer offer from a bigger club, so I told him he good riddance and panic-signed a replacement RB and thinly-scouted two strikers on loan.


In: 7 permanent, 4 loans
Out: 6
Net Spend: -$210k


League, First Phase:


Mediocre and inconsistent. Elegant, still partnering Murderer in midfield, scored a few goals to help us to a middle of the pack position while Baba, our newly signed GK, proved his worth more than once. Finished 5th out of 8, well out of relegation worries.


Euro Cup:


Drew Olympique Marseilles, Astana and AEK Athens in group. We battled to credible draws home vs. OM and away to Astana, but our best showings were thumpings of AEK, whose squad were less than motivated upon learning they'd be facing us, 1-5 at their place and 3-1 at ours. That was almost enough to take us to the knockout rounds, but we lost 0-1 at home to Astana and got thumped 4-0 at Marseilles, while Astana came back from 2-0 down at AEK to score three in the last 30 minutes and advance in 2nd place. I can hardly complain, though, as 8 points in the group was 8 points more than I expected to get, and the gate receipts plus prize money for winning added to our already flourishing finances.


Belgian Cup:


We made a bit of a run, but our draws were less fortunate this time. We managed to weather a 40-shot performance away at Anderlecht and beat them on penalties, but in the Quarter-Final lost away to Club Brugge 1-0.


League, Phase Two:


We started off Phase Two by winning 7 of our first 8 matches, completely defying my expectations. It appears this squad is built for late-season runs, as both previous seasons had included record-setting win streaks as well. Our strikers were struggling but Elegant and Crazy Legs were carrying us on goals. But the real gem was Baba, our new GK, who was an absolute spiderweb between the goalposts. Guts, our diminutive DC, played well beside Big Kris, and Murderer was putting in tackles as if his own life depended on his removing opposing players of theirs. Keep in mind, aside from Baba, all the other players mentioned in this paragraph were part of the Dessel squad I originally inherited.


In January, after a long battle, our star prospect Scarface left the squad with Genk matching the minimum release clause we had to put in his contract to get him to sign a new one in the offseason. I was originally upset, but despite all his athleticism he really struggled in front of goal at this level anyway. Meanwhile, it just so happened that an 18 year-old I'd been scouting for a while was embroiled in a contract renewal dispute with Lokeren, so I bought him up for ½ of the price paid for us by Genk for Scarface. He looks like he might be a more natural striker anyway.


In the run-in it was between us and KV Mechelen for first spot and a place in the promotion playoff. We headed to their place ahead of them by five points but they sent us home whimpering with a 0-4 thumping that could have been worse. My team masochistically enjoyed the verbal reaming I gave them in the locker room, though, and spirits weren't completely wrecked. A nervy away draw 1-1 against Lokeren followed with King, the newly signed 18-y/o ST, scoring against his former club in the dying minutes to salvage the draw. I was worried nerves would see us squander our one-point lead in last match at home against bottom-sitting Eupen, but King scored a hat-trick and Au Naturale, our on-loan ST from AS Monaco who everyone at the club I ask says is someday going to be bigger than Katy Perry, scored the other two. We were into the playoff.


RWDM were our foes. They'd run away with the First Phase both last year and this one only to fade in the Second Phase, so I thought we had a shot. Maddeningly, our club's first-ever full international call-up saw Baba get called in to sit on the bench for Senegal for a World Cup qualifier over a time period that would see him miss the second leg, but his backup was last year's GK who had played well in the big games both then and as a “cup specialist” this year, most memorably in maintaining our surprise shutout of Anderlecht, the same game in which we gave up 40 shots. We shut up shop away in the first leg and Baba's form gave us a 0-1 loss. We came home with everything to play for. Right out of the gate Silk assisted to King and we were up 1-0. On 53 minutes, their MC picked up his second yellow card and we camped in their half for the rest of normal time. That wasn't enough, but King scored another and Silk banged in a third in extra time to see us crowned champions of Belgium's Pro League B at the first time of asking! Belgian top flight here we come!


League: Winners!
Cup: Out 1-0 to Club Brugge in the quarterfinal.
Fans' POTY: Big Kris, a rock at the heart of defense all year. I dare say he'll perform at the next level, too, a confidence I don't share for much of the rest of the squad.
My POTY: Baba, who was absolutely lights-out between the goalposts with the sole exception of his first game, where he let two goals trickle by his left foot with nary a blink. I blame myself, though, as he'd been thrown on the pitch straight out of the airport that brought him to Dessel with not even a chance at a shower.


Outlook:
-I'm scared we won't survive the top flight and will likely sign a lot of players with our surprise EURO money. That said, our cup experiences seem to indicate that there's not a huge gap between the Belgian top flight and the lower levels, so we might be all right.

-Owing almost entirely to having ridiculously been in Europe this year due to last season's cup win, our finances are great. I should be able to sign a number of quality players and get my National A license to boot.
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#2
02-02-2019, 02:43 PM
Great read - inspired me to try and make time for a new save!
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#3
02-02-2019, 07:06 PM
Thanks. I look forward to reading it when you do!
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#4
02-02-2019, 07:30 PM
Amazing start! KUTGW
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#5
03-02-2019, 12:24 AM
Bloody hell. Mrgreen

Well done!
(15-02-2018, 10:50 PM)Rodderas Wrote: Maybe this upset the team? Fucked if I know.



[Image: Ln8uvbH.png]
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#6
04-02-2019, 12:10 PM
The Belgian promotion/relegation/playoff system is so wonderfully wacky. I like it.

kutgw
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#7
04-02-2019, 11:48 PM
As will become apparent in my next few posts, my feelings on the system(s) have evolved over time. Especially when it comes to the top flight system, I at first found it maddening and now love it. I especially like that the top-flight's system makes it so that you have to prove you're able to beat the other big teams in order to be called "champion," though I dislike that a key injury or two at the wrong time could break your season.
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#8
04-02-2019, 11:57 PM (This post was last modified: 05-02-2019, 04:06 AM by Cicero84.)
2022-2023: KFC Dessel Sport, Belgian Pro League A

Season, part 1:

My ability to freely spend due to the surprise European football windfall and promotion gave me confidence we could stay up, and early results seemed to affirm this. Au Naturale, signed for another year on loan, partnered very well with King up front, while the defense seemed very solid with Big Kris, Guts and Baba still performing well. We played what some might call an “old-fashioned” and others might call a “dirty” brand of football, but it got results. By the middle of the season we were mid-table and even flirting with the European playoff spots.

Mid-season Au Naturale tore his hammy and was out for three months. As he’s clearly the best player on the team, that naturally hurt. Meanwhile, the rest of the league caught on to our “Emperor with no clothes” act and began pinning us in our own half. We managed a number of scrappy draws, but entered the break on an 8-game winless skid. Fortunately, we weren’t the only frauds on the league and our good form saw us still comfortable, though playing less impressive football and leaving no doubts in my head that we have a massive job on our hands to (a) consistently stay up and (b) eventually be competitive in this league. By winter break we were 7th, but looking shaky.

Belgian Cup:

We won our first couple rounds and managed to limp into penalties against Club Brugge in the Quarter-Finals, but quality told true and we were out.

League, 2nd half:

My frantic spending had, as I’ve said, resulted in way too many midfielders, and by the re-start we had 7 players on loan at other clubs. Promising for our future, but awful for our finances -- terrible mismanagement by yours truly, though I’ll defend myself a bit by saying that I only spent what the board gave me in the original budget. Still, by January it was becoming clear we were going to go into the red on the current salary level and I’d need to do some house-cleaning. So, I sold the overrated, highly paid LW we’d brought in last season and started paying close attention to the proportion of productivity to wages paid demonstrated by the players. Unfortunately, most of my highest-paid players were brought in over the summer and it was too soon to try and sell them. I’ll try and thin the squad out in winter.

Our form was consistently mediocre and uninspiring to end the season. A heart-to-heart session in late January inspired a temporary rise in form, but afterward we got outplayed regularly and again scraped a lot of draws while looking generally unimpressive. Amidst all this mediocrity, the defense was the highlight along with King, who looks like he belongs on a better squad than ours. Luckily his inexplicable infatuation with me blinded him to that fact and we managed to sign to a new long-term contract with a $7.75 million release clause -- a considerable improvement over the $400k clause in his prior contract, which had been drawing the attention of the likes of Genk and Standard in January.

We had a chance to finish 6th and in the upper bracket of the Euro playoffs last game of the season, but deservedly lost 2-0 away to 13th placed Mouscron, finishing 7th in a temporally disappointing but overall (I suppose) heartening heap of mediocrity.

Useless Belgian Playoff:

In the absurd waste of time Belgium flatters with the title “European Places Playoff,” we were forced by the law of the land to slog through ten additional matches to earn the chance at playing in the qualifiers for the Euro Cup. Despite (or perhaps because of) being led by a manager who had already booked his summer vacation to Bavaria (Tahiti’s well beyond my current salary), the lads almost made it. But a deserved 2-0 thumping away to Kortrijk on the last day put us in 2nd. Even the fans couldn’t muster up a show of disappointment at such an anti-climactic fate, given the meagre stakes.

League: 7th
Belgian Cup: Out at quarterfinal to Club Brugge on pens
European Places Playoff: 2nd, no Europe for us
Fans’ POTY: Big Kris again, still putting in work at the back.
My POTY: Baba, whose occasionally disenchanted games were more than made up for by countless game-altering saves, including a couple penalties. We’ll be in trouble if he ever figures out he belongs in a bigger better place.

Prognosis:
  • We’re bleeding money and the squad’s too big so I’ll try and shift off some players with big salaries quick.
  • Otherwise, plan is maintain and build by keeping the very young squad together and allowing them to improve as players via their time on the pitch since, as best I can tell, our facilities consist of an abandoned hay field with a couple of old tractor tires for weights.
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#9
05-02-2019, 12:28 AM
Not a bad season imo. kutgw
(15-02-2018, 10:50 PM)Rodderas Wrote: Maybe this upset the team? Fucked if I know.



[Image: Ln8uvbH.png]
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#10
05-02-2019, 12:44 PM
I've once written up what it used to be like for Belgium's top league (this has changed a couple of years ago I think):

(17-11-2015, 01:27 PM)Wolve Wrote: * Top 6 go into a champions playoff group
In this group, you play each team twice, and you continue with the points gathered during the season.
The top 4 qualifies for European football (ECC/EC)
The team in 5th place qualifies for the Test Match

* Teams placed 7-14 go into the Europa League playoffs: two playoff groups of 4 teams
In these groups, you play each team twice, but everyone starts level at 0 points.
The winner of each group qualifies for the Europa League Playoff final.
The Europa League playoff final is played over two legs. The winner of this final qualifies for the Test Match

* The Test Match is played over two legs
The winner qualifies for the last remaining EC spot.

* The bottom two teams qualify for "The Playoffs"
The team in 15th place starts with 3 points, the bottom team with 0 points.
The teams play eachother 5(!) times.
The loser relegates, the winner qualifies for the Relegation Playoffs

* The Relegation Playoffs is a group with the winner of "The Playoffs" and three Second Division teams that won that competition's periods.
Each team plays each other twice.
The winner of the group gets to play in the First Division, the rest in the Second division.

Simple, right?
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#11
11-02-2019, 01:19 PM
2023-2024: KFC Dessel Sport, Belgian Pro League A


Off/Pre-season:
At the beginning of the offseason the board game to me with cryptic suggestions of a new stadium to be built closer to home, which they said “would still take some time to plan.” Given the state of our bank accounts and the existence of two loan debts already, I thought about giving them a lecture on compound interest. But no one likes a know-it-all and I like new stadiums, so I kept my mouth shut.

Fighting off some nostalgic tears, I let Murderer go over the summer. At 33, he wasn’t getting any younger and, given the club’s financial situation, I couldn’t justify erring on the side of loyalty. Crazy Legs will succeed him as captain even though he himself is becoming only a bit-part player.

Got into some fights with a couple players in the offseason for trying to sell them, which ended up being entirely useless as no one wanted to buy them anyway. However, Porto came calling for our record-signing DL, Moose, who understandably wanted to go. I had talked him into staying during the winter transfer window, but he had been listless in the run-in and one of my most promising youngsters was a DL who had played well on loan last season, so I let him go for $3 million, a 50% sell-on fee and an agreement that Porto would give us a friendly. That put us in the black and relieved us of an expensive contract.

Only incoming transfer was the loan of an AM RLC for depth.

Season, part 1:

The return of a few players who had played well while on loan gave the side a new flavor. I tweaked my tactics to better suit the talent at my disposal and we started very well. After 8 games we were 3rd on 18 points -- very respectable in my book, and well better than my expectations. Particular highlights among the young bloods were Pious, a playmaker from the DM position with a motor that never quit; Britches, the DL who replaced Moose; and Clubber, a strong DC I’d brought into the youth squad three seasons prior, who got first-team action when Guts went down with an injury and kept his starting spot.

Our good form continued through mid-season. The youngbloods slotted right into the team and to my surprise were in many cases instant upgrades. This was also the year that King, who was already good, began to turn into a star. He scored with impressive regularity and whispers started circulating about an immanent call-up to the Belgian national team. I got a particularly nasty bit of pleasure when I looked up Scarface, our academy-produced prodigy whose defection to Genk had led to our last-minute purchase of King, and saw his development had stagnated and that he had yet to play a match with the senior squad. Serves the ingrate right.

We hit mid-season around the top, but the bipolarity of the Belgian top flight meant that we were about as close to 8th place as we were to 1st.

Belgian Cup:

We did a professional job in the sixth round (our first) against Pro League B side Lokeren, then drew Club Brugge and I thought we’d be out. But an inspired performance in a cracker of a match at home saw us emerge with a 4-3 victory. We met expectations against favorable draws in the Quarter- and Semi-final, then met Anderlecht in the final. Unfortunately, Baba had been practicing so hard he literally broke his back in training, meaning we’d be without our top-class (for this league) keeper for the final. On the other hand, our Dutch backup seemed at least serviceable and we had more or less dominated Anderlecht in our past few meetings.

Anderlecht played much better this game than in our previous meetings. Their striker scored in the 7th minute after Big Kris uncharacteristically headed a ball right to his feet at the edge of the area, but we struck back shortly with Mr. Ed, our tall Lithuanian international striker heading in from a corner. Things stayed even until their right back scored an absolute howler of an own goal on a back pass. We held things tight and in stoppage time Mr. Ed scored again! We’ve won the none-too-prestigious Belgian Cup for the second time in 5 years and are guaranteed a spot in Europe!

Season, second half:

Our good form persisted in the second half as I finally got the hang of the awkward Belgian footballing calendar and rotated my players passably well. In January we signed two players, an 18 y/o ST from Brazil who joined for $230k and  immediately went out on loan and a 19 y/o Belgian right-winger, Golden Boy, who signed $650k after a strategically floated bid we offered even after Lokeren told us he wasn’t for sale at any price inspired him to throw a fit at his former team. Hey, we all know where nice guys finish.

In the run-in it was us and Club Brugge fighting it out. We thrashed them 5-1 at our place in our best match with me as manager with three matches to play, then tamely rolled over for Cercle Brugge the next match at home 0-1. The last match of the season either required Anderlecht to get win at home against Brugge while we won our match, or else Anderlecht to draw Brugge while we won by more than 3 goals. I told the boys to show no mercy and they didn’t, winning 6-1 against Mouscron at home. Brugge went up 0-1 early and held that lead until they gave away a penalty at the death, which meant we won the league! Which, in Belgium, means….

Playoffs, Champions’ Group:

...jack shit. Turns out, the regular season is literally just a precursor to the playoffs. I thought finishing first might mean something, but I was wrong. On top of that disappointment, our physio showed up at the door on the eve of the first playoff round and told me Baba had somehow managed to develop a stress fracture in his vertebra during training and would accordingly miss most of the playoffs. We definitely missed him as we dropped a few points in the first few rounds, falling behind Brugge by four points by the half-way point.

In the run-in Club Brugge sealed the title and we were left battling for the second Champions League spot with Genk. On the last day of the season we needed to win away at Antwerp while Genk lost their match. Golden Boy bossed the game, scoring two goals, and Genk duly obliged by falling to Club Brugge. We’re in the Champions League (qualifiers)!

Our team were littered with plaudits this year. King won both Young POTY and Pro League A POTY. Baba won GK OTY, while yours truly was honored with Manager OTY, padding my reputation nicely. Shalke 04 and AC Milan took notice and contacted me about interviews, but as usual I declined. Milan sorely tempted me, but they have a bad habit of firing managers for finishing in the top 4 and I have no desire to be part of that. Looking forward to taking this club into the (putative) new stadium and building it into a Belgian powerhouse!

League, regular season: 1st
Belgian Cup: WINNERS 3-1 over Anderlecht  Champ

Champions’ Group Playoffs: 2nd, into the Champions’ League Qualifiers 2nd round
Fans’ POTY: Pious, whose 7.32 average rating from midfield topped the league.
My POTY: I have to agree with the fans. Pious was integral to the squad and I’m delighted to have him tied up to a long-term deal with a $14m release clause.

Plan for next season:
  • Keep hold of at least three of Golden Boy, Pious, King and Baba despite what will undoubtedly be avid interest from bigger clubs
  • Strengthen DR and DM
  • Add depth all round
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#12
11-02-2019, 01:25 PM (This post was last modified: 11-02-2019, 01:26 PM by Cicero84.)
(05-02-2019, 12:44 PM)Wolve Wrote: I've once written up what it used to be like for Belgium's top league (this has changed a couple of years ago I think):

(17-11-2015, 01:27 PM)Wolve Wrote: * Top 6 go into a champions playoff group
In this group, you play each team twice, and you continue with the points gathered during the season.
The top 4 qualifies for European football (ECC/EC)
The team in 5th place qualifies for the Test Match

* Teams placed 7-14 go into the Europa League playoffs: two playoff groups of 4 teams
In these groups, you play each team twice, but everyone starts level at 0 points.
The winner of each group qualifies for the Europa League Playoff final.
The Europa League playoff final is played over two legs. The winner of this final qualifies for the Test Match

* The Test Match is played over two legs
The winner qualifies for the last remaining EC spot.

* The bottom two teams qualify for "The Playoffs"
The team in 15th place starts with 3 points, the bottom team with 0 points.
The teams play eachother 5(!) times.
The loser relegates, the winner qualifies for the Relegation Playoffs

* The Relegation Playoffs is a group with the winner of "The Playoffs" and three Second Division teams that won that competition's periods.
Each team plays each other twice.
The winner of the group gets to play in the First Division, the rest in the Second division.

Simple, right?

Eugh, sounds like Belgium was even more confusing a few years back! Here's how the playoffs go now.

Champions Group Playoff:
-Top 6 teams go into "Champions Group Playoff"
-Top 2 teams go into Champions League Qualifiers (which one depends on European coefficients)
-3rd place goes to Euro Cup Qualifiers
-4th place goes to European Places Playoff Final

European Places Playoff:
-Two groups of 5 teams
-Winner of each group play each other to go to European Places Playoff semi-final
-Winner of that match plays 4th place from Champions Group Playoff in European Places Playoff Final
-Winner of that match goes into Euro Cup Qualifiers

The system is quirky and I'm beginning to love it even though my young players consistently choke come playoff time and we're left the worse off for it.
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#13
13-02-2019, 01:20 PM
2024-2025: KFC Dessel Sport, Belgian Pro League A

Pre-Season:

Not much action in pre-season. Signed a young DR and LW for competition and depth on frees. Re-signed key players to contracts including much higher minimum release clauses (apparently a staple of contracts in the Belgian top flight). Brought in a DM and DR on season-long loans. And once again efforts at offloading several high-wage earners were futile. Wrecking Ball in particular is at this point largely deadweight as we have several players who can put in a tackle in midfield but who also know how to spot a pass or two, the latter of which is just not in Wrecking Ball’s game.

We got through Midtylland in the Champions League Second Qualifying Round, then got run over in the Third by Porto. The unlucky draws continued in the Euro group stage as we wound up in a group with Borussia Monchengladbach, PSV and Torino. Ah well. We’ll earn some much-needed money and perhaps claim a first relatively big European scalp.

Season, part one:

With the Champions League qualifying stages gumming up the schedule, the beginning of the season was congested and the league was second on my priorities list. It told, as we drew our first three matches looking far from top form. As things went on, we looked more or less mediocre but managed largely to win at home and draw away, which is good enough for me at this stage. Baba, Pious and King are our mainstays, with Pious in particular absolutely bossing the midfield. It’s times like these I’m thankful he’s on a $14 million fee release clause, which, even if he gets poached, is fully 3 times our total wage budget.

We stuck around the top 4 for the whole of the first half, with Club Brugge (as usual) topping the league by a decent margin. In October we finalized a deal to bring in a 23 y/o German MC for $600k who can hopefully partner with Pious to make us very strong through the center of the pitch. He’ll join us at the beginning of January at the same time our young Brazilian ST, signed last January, comes back from his year-long loan in Brazil. I’m modestly optimistic that will spark an uptick in form.

EURO Cup:

We got a much tougher draw this time than our first go round, landing in a group with Torino, PSV and Borussia Monchengladbach. We thumped PSV 3-0 at their place and gamely drew them 1-1 at home, our club’s best wins to date, but got dismantled by Torino and Borussia to go out.

Belgian Cup:

Breezed through the 6th and 7th rounds against smaller sides, then put in a great game to beat Genk 2-3 at their place. The semis saw us drawn against Kortrijk, who aren’t as good as us but are something of a bogey team. Turns out our cup magic trumps our weakness to Kortrijk, as we beat them by an aggregate of 0-3 that flattered us. The final saw us drawn against Olympique Charleroi, who were sitting around 6th in the league. Not the worst draw, but by the time the final came around we were immersed in one of the worst runs of form in my time as a manager. We conceded a penalty in the 5th minute and looked as tame for the rest of this match as we had the previous ten. Defeated 0-1. Gutted.

Season, part two:

In February our chairman announced he’d be retiring, which saddened me as he’d seen us rise from the amateur leagues. I guffawed at the obligatory rumblings that a tycoon was eyeing up the club, but the joke was on me as the tycoon promptly bought it up and announced he’d be injecting $59m to our once-middling coffers, including building a new stadium (the previous board had never followed up on its cryptic intimations that “eventually” we’d get a stadium closer to Dessel), updating the training facilities (which I’d asked for and been denied for four seasons straight), and granting us a $23m transfer budget! I thought about asking him whether he had confused Belgium for literally any of the countries on its borders, but swallowed my snark. The new chairman asked that we finish among the top of the league, which was worrisome as we were in a bad run of form, but if we could pull out of it we might just have the setup of something special.

Speaking of that run of form, I was on the verge of pulling my hair out. No one was playing well except the stalwart Pious in midfield and Baba in goal. We entered the playoff in 3rd but immediately started hemorrhaging points. Fortunately, Standard and Zuite Waragem, in 5th and 6th respectively, saw our behavior and joined in the fad. The last match of the season saw us matched up against Standard, battling for 4th. Predictably, it ended 0-0, which was fine by me as it left us above Standard on the tie-breaker. I thought we were in the Euro Cup placement playoffs but, Belgium being Belgium, some arcane formula matched us against Genk in something called the “European Places Playoff Final.” I pulled out every trick in the Ego Management book, with all my remonstrations falling on deaf ears except one pair -- those of Golden Boy, who single-handedly pulled us to a 2-1 victory with two wonder goals. Squeaked into the Euro qualifiers just barely, but it was a horrible end to the season.

League, regular season: 3rd
Belgian Cup: Runners-up 0-1 to Charleroi
Champions’ Group Playoff: 4th, into the Euro Cup qualifying rounds
Fans’ POTY: Pious, who was industrious as ever in midfield and always put in a threatening ball on set pieces.
My POTY: Pious too.

Plan for Next Season:
  • Sign better quality to accompany Pious in midfield; a better strike partner for King; a better DL; and a better DC.
  • Offload the 4-5 players who are already deadweight and will be even more so once Chairman Mao’s money starts going into transfers.
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