Firstly thank you to the guys who have read this blog up until now, it is much appreciated.

I am just posting this as this save is getting shelved for the time being, I’m not stopping this I am actually carrying on however there is another challenge I would like to do in the mean time, which will be played alongside this save.

I have actually completed a lot more of this save up until now and just need to write out the story and progress, but the thing is I’m just not having as much fun progressing with this save at the minute.

As I say this hasn’t stopped, I just want to play another challenge for now. I am also blogging that one too, as it is 1 close to my heart. If you don’t mind, you can follow my new blog and challenge here

Once again thanks to those guys who have followed, shared and commented, I hope you’ll also join me on my other blog which I have started today.

Thank you.

Can we hit the ground running?

Here is my first starting 11 for the new season:

Goalkeeper, Mr. Reliable, my right hand man and club captain Carlos Espinoza

Right full back Illyas Lee

Center halves Rusyaidi Salime & Helmi Mohamad

Left full back Shaiful Esah

Right midfielder Nazrul Nazari

Holding midfielders Fabian Kwok & Josh Barker-Daish

Left midfielder Nasrul Taib

Strikers Shahfiq Ghani & Antoine Viterale

I’ve got faith in this line up. For this league we’ve got a quality goalkeeper, solid back line, work horses in midfield and hopefully a front 2 that can feed off each other.

As for our first game, I can’t moan. I would say we were the better team overall, Carlos didn’t have too much to do in goal and despite not having as much of the ball, we tested their keeper more. A decent result I want to build on

As for building on that result, we stole a victory in my first home game. The fans saw us get absolutely battered in this game as when we had the ball we didn’t do much with it, they could’ve taken the lead with any of the clear cut chances, but that rock in goal Carlos kept them out, I’m at a loss as to how we wasn’t man of the match, but we got a goal on the counter and held on for the 3 points

Polar opposite time now as we dominated Young Lions. Every time we got the ball we took a shot it seemed like, and only took the lead right on half time. They were down to 10 men early on but the concerning thing for me in this game is that despite having well over 12 shots on target, we only converted 1. Definitely something to work on.

My first loss came in our home game against Geylang. Not a lot to say here except we pulled a goal back late on but again we just couldn’t take all of our chances.

We made amends however with a victory over Balestier. We were again the better side and deserved this win.

Back to back 1-0 wins over Albirex and Warriors took us to our penultimate game of April, which was against DPMM and Steve Kean

Pre-match press conference

‘I won’t lie, there is a lot of animosity there between myself and Steve Kean, he doesn’t like me and I don’t like him. Thing is, I’ve not lost to him in the last 2 games we’ve played each other, and I can’t see that changing tomorrow’ That was the Hougang manager Dmitri Tarasov speaking ahead of the game with DPMM tomorrow, he’s certainly not holding back. We transfer live to the DPMM press conference where Steve Kean is speaking….

‘I don’t like him no, he’s an arrogant self centred person, and he should show managers like myself who have been around longer some respect. I’ve been in this league before and I know what it takes to win’

‘Do you feel Dmitri Tarasov has got under your skin at all…’

‘He does have a way of winding me up yes, but that won’t affect me or my team’s planning for this game’

‘The words of Steve Kean ahead of DPMM’s game against Hougang United. There is history between Keen and his opposite number Dmitri Tarasov, tomorrow’s game looks set to be a fascinating one’.

Tactical briefing

‘Look, lads, I know you’re not entirely impressed with me or on board just yet, but please, if there’s any game early on in the season I want, no NEED you to perform in, it’s this one. Their manager is a bitter person stuck in his ways, who thinks he’s better than me and everyone else. I want you to go out there with no fear and if you give 100%, there’s no reason we won’t win this game’

I’m still a nobody to these guys, not Carlos, Carlos has my back, but the rest of the lads aren’t very supportive of me yet. Hopefully they can rally together and continue playing as we have.

Post game press conference

‘I don’t think I need to say anything else really, Steve didn’t shake my hand before or after the game and the game itself was pretty special from us. We had a midfielder score 4 goals in a dominating performance. I can’t give my team any more praise than I already have. Maybe now Steve Kean will believe I’ll always have the better of him’

Epic performance. The early goal really sent us on our way. Despite some defensive work that left a lot to be desired, they pulled it back to 3-2 before imploding by having a man sent off, we added 3 goals to really hammer home the point that we were the better team.

We’ve looked really good this month and with 1 loss we end my first month here at the top of the league. It’s going to be tough staying there but if these past games are anything to go by, this season may just turn out to be a good 1.


Previous episode – The next leg – Singapore

The next leg – Singapore

Out of the frying pan, into the fire. An odd saying but it rings true here I think. I’m stepping into a club I know nothing about, a club that has been on a downward spiral ever since its inception a decade or so ago. I can’t wait to get stuck in, so lets get this show on the road!

The first thing I’m presented with is a report from my new assistant manager Mohd Suhaimi, who tells me that Omar Daud is our brightest youth prospect at center half, and Shaiful Esah is our best overall player at left back. Both look decent enough for this league and I expect both will have a part to play this season.

After reading through the team reports I’m greeted by a young nerdy looking guy, who tells me he is the clubs data analyst

‘Dmitri, based on last seasons stats, of all our shots at goal 20% of them were on target, of those shots on goal only 13% of those were turned into goals’

‘Right. Speak to me in basic terms please’

‘Basically, we need to be more lethal up front’

‘Right. What about defence’?

‘You mean lack of. We conceded worse than a goal per game as this club struggled again’

‘Got ya. So basically, we need to work on putting the ball in the net at 1 end of the pitch, and keeping the ball out of our net. I know just the player to help us keep the ball out. Thanks for your time’

As I walked to my office, I’m trying to myself I know 1 player I want to sign, and if reports in Malaysia are to be believed, he’s not best pleased I got sacked.

I make the call

‘Hello?’

‘Carlos, it’s Dmitri, how are ya?’

‘Boss! Yeah am fine, pissed off with how you were treated though. The new guy doesn’t seem all that good. How are you?’

‘Good Carlos, I’m good. Look I know this may be seen as tapping up, but it’s not. You don’t have an agent so I’m asking, I’m going to be going in with a bid for you, and as you’re out of contract next season I think we’ll be able to get you for a minimal fee, that’s if joining me here would appeal to you?’

‘Boss, are you for real? Of course I’ll come to Singapore, this club’s not the same without you here. Put the offer in, I’ll sign today!’

‘Patience Carlos. These things take time. As soon as we can we’ll sit down and get the deal sorted. Speak soon’

The offer goes in. A trusted comrade and I’m sure he’ll win this team points on his own. Now I just need to assess the team before making any moves.

Training. Day 2.

Just as training finishes my phone rings, it’s my friend and assistant Ilja

‘What’s up Ilja?’

‘You’re never going to believe this, but DPMM, they’re a team in Singapore, their manager has left’

‘DPMM? Hmm, where do I recognise that team from?’

‘That documentary in your flat last year, it was where Steve Kean was managing’

‘Ahh yes, now I remember. So their manager leaving, why does that concern me?

‘Well, the name being touted by the press to take over is Steve Kean!’

‘Haha, really? Oh good, I hope he does go there, it’ll be very intersting’

I get back to my office and start making calls. The offer for Carlos is in, the contract is there he’s just waiting for Penang to do the process their end, it’s a done deal just about. Now I need to make sure the defence in front of him is solid, I speak to a number of agents and people within the league and sign defenders Helmi Mohamad, Rusyaidi Salime and box to box fielder Jake Barker-Daish, all 3 of who will be starters.

The next day the fixture list is announced, along with pre season predictions

We’re playing the champs and Hougang’s former manager in our first game. We’re also predicted to finish 6th this season, which is a 1 place improvement on where this club finished last season

Before we get the season underway I confirm to the board that I am aiming for a top half finish and to be competitive in the cups. As well as that the singing of Carlos Espinoza is confirmed!

Pre match Press conference

‘You take charge of your first game tomorrow, are you excited about managing in Singapore?’

‘Yes I can’t wait, everything is set up to go, I’m confident of getting a win tomorrow’

‘As for this club itself, they’ve struggled haven’t they. Are you the man to turn things around?’

‘I don’t want to talk about the past, it’s a new beginning for me, the club, the fans everyone connected with Hougang. If I can make my mark here and win something then I can be happy with that, but I’m not getting ahead of myself, I will keep expectations to a realistic level’

‘What is your feeling after singing Carlos Espinoza? Will he start tomorrow?’

‘I’m absolutely delighted to have signed Carlos again. He was a rock for us at Penang last season and I am confident he will be a key player here this season. He was bought to be in the first team and that is exactly where he’ll be’

‘Are you concerned the Penang fans are unhappy with this transfer?’

‘As much as I feel for their fans, the new manager made it clear to Carlos he wasn’t wanted, he wanted to bring his own team in which is understandable, and personally after the way the board acted with me I don’t care what anyone at Penang thinks of me or this transfer. I will have the last laugh. Thank you that’s all for today’

On my way out of the press room, I get a notification on my phone

Well well well, this is interesting. It was just speculation but he’s actually gone back. Well now I definitely can’t wait to play DPMM. Our rivalry continues.

The first game of the new season is here, and I can’t wait to get stuck in. Whilst I’m only looking to improve the clubs 7th place finish last year, I would like a decent cup run but realistically, it’s all about building towards improvement, baby steps if you will.

We’ve got the champs first, and their new manager is who I replaced here. If there’s a good test to start off with, its Home United.


Next episode – Can we hit the ground running?

Previous episode – What happens next….

What happens next….

‘He deserved to be sacked, he over promised and under delivered’ – Those are the words of Sarawak manager Steve Kean as the news comes out of Penang that they have sacked their manager Dmitri Tarasov after he failed to deliver on his promise of promotion. Speculation persists on who will replace him, we’ll keep you updated.

As I watch the news on my telly, I sat in my living room, thinking what do I do next? A failed Sunday league footballer sacked from his first management job. Was I too naive to think we wouldn’t get promoted? Was I too confident in the team’s ability to see it through? We had a couple of draws in the run that we dominated the games and if 1 of our chances had gone in, we’d have been promoted.

What was my downfall? I don’t want to think it’s my ability that hindered us, we had some bad luck along the way. Either way whatever the reason is, it just wasn’t meant to be this season. My phone rang just then..

‘Hello?’

‘So you got sacked, don’t worry about it, this is part and parcel of the life of a football manager. Look at Steve Bruce, he always gets sacked yet ends up in another job, same with Fat Sam and Alan Pardew. Keep your head up’

‘Who is this? Is this the guy that sorted out the deals for Katende and Carlos?’

‘Yes, your guardian angel. Listen, keep your ear to the ground, there’s going to be an opening very soon, like today that you should put your name in for. It’s not a massive club but somewhere you can make your mark’

‘Really, where at?’

‘Remember what I said Dmitri, just put your name out there, the jobs yours’

Click.

Who is that? He always rings and leaves these messages, but he’s always been right so far. I put the telly on and I switch the channel to Astro Supersport who cover football in Asia, there’s a reporter standing outside the ground of Hougang United who play in Singapore

‘That’s right, the manager of Hougang Saswadimata Dasuki has made the move to league champions Home United, this is despite another poor season for Hougang who finished a disappointing 7th in the league. Home United manager Vincent Subramaniam has retired from football after leading the club to the league championship. Either way Dasuki has landed on his feet as he leaves a struggling team and takes over a championship winning side at Home United. News from around the league suggests Hougang are keeping their cards close to their chest on potential replacements, with rumours coming out that the chairman has identified 1 leading candidate for the job who he wants to bring in. More on this as we get it’

As soon as I hear that there’s an opening in Singapore I get straight on the phone

‘Hello’

‘Ilja, it’s Dmitri. Can you make the media aware of my interest in the Hougang job?’

‘1 step ahead of you pal, I’ve already circulated your name to the media.’

‘Wow, cheers. How did you know I’d be interested in that job?’

‘I’ve known you all my life, I know you better than you know yourself. Plus it’s the perfect opportunity for you, small club in a lower rep league, not too big ambitions and when you achieve success there your stock will increase. Plus I think it’s the ideal place to building your rep’

‘Cheers man. Just another question, you didn’t ring me earlier did you?’

‘What, no you just rang me?’

‘Oh okay, no worries, speak soon’

The next day a report from the Singaporean Football Gazette ran with my name being touted as the favourite for the job. As I made my way to the gym in near my apartment in Penang, I’m asked about the speculation

‘Look I’m happy to be considered for the role, and I am definitely on the lookout for another management position, but the club has to be right and I have to be right for the club. Saying that you can take this a confirmation that I am interested in taking over at Hougang’

The next 2 days went by without anything of note happening. I kept thinking about getting sacked from Penang, thinking about my tactics and if I should concentrate on other formations, I rewatched a lot of the matches we played last year to try and figure out what I could’ve done better. Just then the phone rang with a number I don’t recognised calling

‘Hello?’

‘Dmitri, my name is Bill, I am the chairman of Hougang United. Can we meet?’

The interview

‘I can assure you that any promises I made at Penang were made with the intention of being met, we had a squad that was good enough to win the league, there were 2 stupid games against the bottom 2 that we just didn’t score, we did absolutely everything but in both games we just couldn’t convert’

‘I understand that, I’m not even concerned about you over promising, I thought you did the right thing. My only concern is how would you feel taking over a team that, let me be blunt, is poor. We’ve not won a single competition and have struggled for a long time?’

‘It will bring the best out in me. I know my track record of promises isn’t too good, but I promise I won’t leave this club of my own accord until I’ve won something here. That trophy cabinet is dying to be filled’

‘I like that attitude. Let me go away, speak to the rest of the board and I’ll come back to you shortly’

That interview felt more like an informal chat. As far as interviews go that was probably the easiest I’ve ever had. It’s all of 2 hours later that the phone rings..

‘Dmitri, welcome aboard’

Hougang United

Well here I am in Singapore. Hougang to be precise. This is a club that has only been around since 2010 and has won absolutely nothing in that time but has been runners up 3 times in the league cup.

Last season they recorded another 7th (out of 9) place finish, winning 6 games all year

This poor performance can be summed in by 1 player, apparent star man Jang J-Yoon who is a natural center forward, yet played all season at center half last year

At 31 he is someone I’d like to keep around next season, so I arrange a meeting with him.

‘Jang, hi, I’m the new first team manager Dmitri Tarasov’

‘Hi Dmitri, look I’m not going to waste either of our time here, I want out of this club, I’ve grown to hate it, I hate being here and I’m leaving when my contract runs out at the end of the month’

Well that went worse than I had imagined. Good riddance, I don’t want players here that don’t want to be, this is a new start, and trust me I’ll have the last laugh.

This brings an end to an eventful couple of weeks. I got sacked by Penang, then the mysterious guy rang me and told me I’m lined up for another job, then I get offered that job and here I am in Singapore, looking to continue to build my rep.

It might not be pretty, but by hook or by crook, before long they will know the name Dmitri Tarasov!


Next episode – The next leg – Singapore

Previous episode – The day after (mini-sode)

The day after (mini-sode)

‘Hey boss, have you heard, you’re the front runner for the Pahang job, they just got relegated from the Super League’. Keith tells me as I approach the building

‘Oh, great, I guess.’

‘What’s up?’

‘I’ve got a meeting with the board. I’m not confident, look if this is my last day here, thanks for your help’

‘Oh no, well you know I’ve got your back’

‘Cheers’

The boardroom

‘Look, maybe I was a bit to confident..’

‘Cocky more like’ the chairman cuts me off

‘I was just trying to get the team confident and ready for this season. We’ve had some rotten luck, a few of the games we just couldn’t take our chances, any other day we’d have won’

‘But you didn’t. I knew it was a risk taking an unknown manager on, but I wanted to give you a chance. The longer we’re out of the Super League the bigger chance of never getting back. We’re the laughing stock of Malaysian football Dmitri, people are laughing at us, at ME!’

‘Let me put this right. Next season will defintiley be the season we go up’

‘No. I can’t. You promised me this time last year we’d go up, you gave me, the board, the fans assurances everything was in place to go up. I can’t take the risk Dmitri, I’m sorry but I wish you well in your future endeavours, you’re fired’.





Next episode – What happens next….

Previous episode – The final 2 games (part 2)

The final 2 games (part 2)

I’m nervous, worried even. It’s the excitement as well as the hope that’s the worse. It’s putting your faith in 11 players to try and get the job done. We’ve got 1 game left this season to achieve promotion, something I’ve promised we’ll get. If we fail at the final hurdle, could it be the end of my stint as manager of Penang? That’s not something I want to think about right now, because right now I’ve got to get this team prepared for the biggest match of the season

Pre match tactical briefing

‘Right lads, this is it, the biggest game of the season. I hope none of you are already thinking about the break after because we cannot afford to lose this game, we have to win this match, because you know as well as anyone, if we do that we’ll be promoted to the Super League’

Mohd Sukri translates my message. ‘They understand the importance of this game boss’

‘Thanks. Tell the team that despite Terengganu winning the last 5 in a row, we’ve got to be confident of getting something here, with any luck they’ll already be on the beach, figuratively speaking, as they can’t get promoted, so they are there for the taking today no doubt about it’

My message is relayed. My plan is also relayed to the team, get the ball out wide, run at their defence and get the ball into Katende quick and often. We’ve got to put them under pressure and pressure them early.

Pre match press conference

‘How do you feel going into this game knowing that you may not achieve promotion, despite promising it at the start of the year?’

‘I knew the risk of guaranteeing promotion at the start of the year, but I’m confident we can see this through’

‘Do you fear for your future if you don’t get promoted today?’

‘That thought hasn’t crossed my mind, as I said I’m confident we can achieve my aim today’

‘Terengganu have won the last 5 games, can you break their streak?’

‘I’m confident we can. I know if we play as we can do then there’s no reason to think we can’t win today. Thank you’

The final game of the season vs Terennganu 2

Here we go then. Nerves, excitement, worry, confidence, any other emotions there are are running through me today. This could go 1 of 3 ways today, we win, get promoted and we prepare for next season in the Super league. We don’t win but PKNP also don’t and we go up from third place as Terengganu 2 can’t be promoted. We lose, PKNP take our place in third and we live to fight another day. I want option 1 or 2.

We start the game on the front foot and have an early shot which is well saved. On 4 minutes we gave away a free kick out wide on the left. From the free kick the ball is swung and falls kindly to Sabri who is closed down by our keeper Carlos Espinoza, but he can’t get his feet straight and the ball is placed under him

4th minute of the game

‘Carlos, CARLOS! What the fucking hell was that?!? Why didn’t you dive at his feet?!?’

Carlos looks at me in disgust and waves his arms towards the defence. Where were you fuckers I read from his lips. The players in the box drop their heads.

‘Lads, this isn’t the time to feel sorry for yourself, there’s 85 minutes left. Get back at it and stop pissing around’

21 minutes in

Aroon Kumar has gone into the ref’s book for dissent. He doesn’t seem happy with the decision to award Penang a free kick.

Play resumes with Seung-Jo on the ball just inside the Terennganu half, he’s closed down by Aroon Kumar but manages to get just by him with the ball at his feet, he’s looking for options in the middle….

What a bad tackle there by Kumar, bloody hell he’s gone in really hard there and Seung-Jo is on the ground holding his ankle.

Kumar’s telling the ref he got the ball…….

It’s red, it’s a straight red card, he’s off, Terengganu are down to 10 men, this is a great chance for Penang to get back into the game

‘Kang, get the ball in towards the penalty spot, remember what we worked on in training, our center halves are good in the air’ I tell Kang whilst gesturing with my hands, his English isn’t so good. This is where we get back into this game I silently tell myself…

Kang is stood over the ball here, he’ll be looking for a good delivery, Penang’s full team bar Carlos Espinoza are in the Terengganu half.

Here’s Kang with the ball in, and it’s a poor one as it doesn’t reach any Penang player….

Terengganu get the ball out quickly, and here’s Asha’ri on the wing with the ball he’s running forwards

He’s beat Kang who went to ground! He’s in the Penang half all alone with just Espinoza to beat….

Espinoza doesn’t know what to do, he’s racing backwards towards goal, oh wait he’s coming out to meet Asha’ri

Asha’ri knocks it past him, he’s free and he’s got an open goal in front of him…

He’s run right up to the goal and taps it in, it’s 2-0 to the 10 men of Terennganu.

I can’t believe what we’ve just seen, less than 2 minutes ago Terengganu had a man sent off, from the resulting free kick they countered and now it’s 2-0 and Penang’s game plan has come undone, can they salvage anything from this game?

What is going on?!? How the hell are we 2 down to a team with 10 men?

‘Right Kang, get the ball and hoof it forward, nothing fancy just go route 1, Katende, I’m expecting you to win those long balls, knock it down for the 3 in midfield’. Hopefully me message gets across……

From the kick off here’s Kang Seung-Jo in the middle of the park and he plays a give and go Yong

Who plays a long ball over the top

Katende is there and knocks the ball down into the path of the oncoming Seung-Jo who takes a touch, it’s in it’s in the back of the net, Penang are back in the game 2-1!

We managed to get to the half at 2-1.

‘We’ve not been good enough. They’re down to 10 men, how are we letting them still be in this game?!?’

Little respone from the team. I can tell they’re deflated, but if playing against a team with a man sent off and promotion at stake doesn’t inspire you, then nothing can.

79th minute of the game

Penang have clearly been the better team here, they’ve tried everything they can to get the equalising goal, I’m sure they’re aware that PKNP are winning their game

Hang on here comes Katende now inside left channel, he’s looking for support

There’s nothing on, he’s having to hold the ball up

Oh great defending there as the ball rolls out for a throw

Katende is going absolutely mad down there, he’s frustrated there was no support, even the manager Tarasov is hurling abuse at the players

94th minute of the game

Terengganu are in no rush to take this throw in deep in their own half

There’s the final whistle, and the Penang fans are booing and hollering at the team. What an absolutely poor second half from them today.

They know they’ve not gained promotion, in fact they’ve now finished 5th in the league. There’s going to be some serious questions being asked at that club this off season.

I don’t even speak to the team. I grab my bag and I leave the stadium. I’m hoping I don’t bump into any fans as I know the amount of grief I’ll likely get.

I failed. I over promised and under delivered. I’m absolutely devastated at this, we had the perfect chance to win that game and stuffed it.

Next episode – The day after (mini-sode)

Previous episode – The final 2 games (part 1)

The final 2 games (part 1)

2 games. 2 games to get this club promoted back to the Super League. Just like last season we had to save our season and stop the potential relegation, this season it’s the opposite, we’re looking to get promoted out of this league. It’s quite the turnaround from possibly being relegated to now being a short step away from promotion. First up is Kuantan at home.

I tell the team that I expect nothing more than a win here, I’ve got to take the tough approach, lose today and our promotion hunt ends.

We start off okay as we kept the ball well enough without really threatening to score. As I thought to myself we’re comfortable here we gave away a stupid penalty. From then on whilst we saw enough of the ball we didn’t do much with it. Half time came and in an aggressive tone I asked the team where was their passion, and do they even want to win this game!

Despite most of the team responding well to my rallying call it took until the 74th minute to get the equaliser. Whilst it was a good finish from Katende the team didn’t create much else and the game filtered out. A disappointing draw all things considered.

Post match press conference

‘Despite being overwhelming favourites for this match, do you think the pressure got to your team?’

Mohd Sukri translates to me

‘Look, we’re still in with a shout of promotion. We’ve got 1 game left and I’m confident we can win the game. The season isn’t over yet’.

‘Potentially you are just a draw away form promotion, how are you going to approach this game?’

‘As we would any other game. I want to win every game but I’m not going to rely on PKNP not winning their game to help us out. It’s in our own hands and we’ve got to see it through ourselves. That’s all for today thank you’

Next episode – The final 2 games (part 2)

Previous episode – You take the rough with the smooth….

You take the rough with the smooth….

May 2019

Half way through my first full season in charge of a football club and we’re right where I expected us to be, second in the league and playing well. Okay so we lost 3 league games but in those games we were clearly the better side but just didn’t take our chances. We held leaders PKNP to a draw but they’ve got a 5 point cushion above us. We’ve got to play hard and take our chances to keep the pressure up.

In the first game of May we avenged our cup loss to Johor 2 by beating them 2 at their place. A great all round performance from us with 2 early goals they never got back into the game.

Back to back victories as we beat Perlis 3-0 at their ground. Whilst they are a promoted team looking to stay in the division, they put up a good fight but we took our chances, something we didn’t do just a few games ago.

As I walk towards the press room in our stadium my phone rings

‘Hello’

‘Right laddie. I avoided you last time as I couldn’t be bothered with your gloating, but this time, this time mark my words son, you’re going down. And this will be the start of your downfall this season’

I recognised that Scottish accent straight away, that husky bitter voice on the other end was Steve Kean

‘Sorry  Steve, you just sound bitter. I promised you I’d get the better of you and I did, this young inexperienced manager besting the old guard’

‘Take nothing for granted bonnie lad, when the season is over and done with, you’ll look back on this match as the beginning of the end’

Click.

Sounds like sour grapes to me, anyway who is trying to kid the beginning of the end? Can he see into the future?

We’re overwhelming favourites going into this match against Sarawak, and why shouldn’t we be, we’ve been on a roll recently and Sarawak have been average at best so far.

Right, where to start with this one. We had more shots on target, more clear cut chances but less possession. Well it was more of the same really, we had chances but didn’t take them, the opposition did take their chances. Same old story.

On my way out of the stadium Steve Kean is stood there, a grin as wide as he big stupid bald head. He looks me in the eye and says 2 words – ‘Told ya’ and walks off. The prick.

We had Sabah at home next and we didn’t deserve to win this 1 and we didn’t. A poor game matched the result.

In between this the groups for Malaysian league cup are drawn, and we’ve got fellow second division sides PJ Rangers & Negeri, as well as Super League team Kuala Lumpur. The cup kicks off when the league season ends.

Negeri Sembilan Press conference

‘Dmitri, your Penang side have struggled in the previous few games, despite this your name has been linked to not 1, but 2 jobs in the Super League, Perak and Felda. How do you feel knowing you’re struggling at Penang yet higher division teams are interested in you?’

‘Look, we’ve only had a couple of poor results, it’s not as if we’re hitting panic stations just yet. And on the speculation stuff, firstly until something concrete comes up I’ve no further comment, however I will say those 2 teams currently occupy the relegation places, and say I’m blowing my own trumpet but I have a good record of saving a team from relegation don’t I?’ I say that last part with a smirk on my face

‘But what is more important in your mind, taking this team up to the Super League, or keeping a team already there in that division?’

‘As I said, I’m not making any further comment on the speculation, as that is all it is for now, and unless you have any more questions about Penang and our upcoming game this presser is over. Thank you’

Perak and Felda, really? They can’t be interested in me. We beat Felda not that long ago, plus I’m barely a year into my life as a manager. It must just be paper talk. Just then my friend and personal assistant Ilja approached me

‘Hey man, you’ve had 6 calls whilst you were in the press conference, you really need to ring them back, like ASAP’

‘Okay, who was it?’

‘Well Abdul Puhat, that Perak president rang 4 times and Ghani Mohd rang once, I said I’d get you to call them back’

‘Okay who was the other call?’

‘Don’t know, some guy, he said something about being an angel? Anyway he’ll call you back later he said’

‘Thanks man’

Wow, so the speculation is true. I better get on the phone.

Later that day

‘Dmitri, look thanks for taking the time to do a Skype interview at short notice, I know you’re a busy man. Like I said we’re just considering our options at the minute, and we’ll do what we feel is best for Perak FC in our attempts at avoiding the drop’

‘No thank you for taking the time to speak to me Mr Puhat’

‘We’ll be in touch’

Perak are a big team in Malaysia, certainly bigger than Penang at the minute. Maybe I’ve neglected my current team taking time to speak to Perak, but I don’t think they’ll hang around for me. I’ll ring Felda back now.

A short time later after speaking to Felda, I’ve arranged a meeting with them to take place in 2 days time. I just hope this doesn’t get out, it might cause some concern with my current squad. Anyway enough of that lets get this game with Negeri out of the way

Once again another poor result. This one is especially hard to take as it was 0-0 right up until moments left in the game. 6 minutes of injury time and right at the death their player hit an absolute worldie of a goal that flew straight past Carlos in goal with the last kick of the game.

We have got to turn this around soon, I’ve promised promotion and the longer this poor form goes on for the less likely promotion will happen. I’m not too concerned, but I am starting to doubt the teams resolve. The transfer window is open after the PJ Rangers game, I may just look into signing someone.

As for the game itself, we went behind in the first and were easily the worse team and deserved to be losing going into half time. I went absolutely nuts in the locker room, the last few games worth of frustration came out as none of the team were expecting it from me, they all perked up and we took it to PJ in the second half. We drew level with half an hour to play but the same old story of not having that cutting edge came through again as we were held to a 1 all draw.

As I make my way to my office to get ready for my interview with Felda, my phone rings, it’s the president of Perak

‘Dmitri, I won’t take up too much of your time. We’re not going to offer you the job, whilst we were happy with your proposed vision, we’ve gone with a more experienced manager to lead us to safety. Thank you for your time’

Ahh well, Perak may be a bridge too far right now. At least I can try and get the Felda job.

I attend the interview and despite feeling confident going in, I’m actually not sure if I want to go there. I mean we beat them early on this season and they’re rock bottom of the league. I feel like have a better chance of taking Penang up and keeping them there then keeping Felda in the league. We’ll see what the outcome is.

In the build up to our next league game against league leaders PKNP, murmurs of poor dressing room atmosphere surface. I’m not concerned, this type of stuff gets reported all the time, we just need a good performance here to keep our hopes of promotion alive.

A decent performance it has to be said. We went behind early on but equalised before half time before adding 2 more goals late on to kill the game. A very much needed win.

After that we went back to struggling to kill the game off. Another game, another performance where we just didn’t take our chances. 1-1 with bottom of the league Mifa is definitely a poor result.

To add salt to the wounds, not only did we struggle to put anything past second bottom UKM, who are by all accounts probably going down with Mifa, but I got an email telling me I didn’t get the Felda job.

Well this has been a very rough period for us. With 2 games left of the season, we need to win both games to have any chance of going up. With Johor & Terengganu having their B teams in this division, if either of those finished in the top 2, the next placed team would get the promotion spot, but as Negeri & PKNP are above us, we’ve got to rely on ourselves getting the job done. We’re 4 points off top and just a point behind PKNP, so realistically we’re looking at finishing second. Do I have faith that we can finish second, yes I do, but judging by this recent run am I confident? Secretly no I’m not, but I’ve promised the club, the fans and the players promotion and I’ll give it everything I’ve got going into the final 2 games.

‘Hello?’

‘I told you when we beat you that would be the start of your downfall. We may not be above you, but at least you’re struggling. You won’t go up this season, you’re too arrogant. You over promised with your guarantee of promotion, and now you’re under delivering. You’ll be lucky to be there next season’

Click. That twat. But he’s right, when we lost to Sarawak that was the start of our poor run. Fingers crossed we can pull this off……


Next episode – The final 2 games (part 1)

Previous episode – How’s it looking (mini-sode)

How’s it looking (mini-sode)

As the Malaysian season starts in February and finishes in November, the European leagues all finish part way through our season around mid-May / June time, so lets take a look at how the top divisions ended.

England

Despite getting hammered 5-1 away at Chelsea on the last day of the season, Liverpool won the league due to Man United’s draw with already relegated Huddersfield

Spain

Big shock in Spain as Valencia pipped Atletico Madrid to the La Liga title. I’m going to assume this is based on head to head results as Atletico’s goal difference is better than Valencia’s.

Germany

Portugal

No surprises in Germany or Portugal

France

Somewhat surprising in France is that Lyon won Ligue 1 over PSG

Italy

Finally normal service in Italy as Juventus claim yet another Serie A title

‘Who do you support Keith, I don’t think I’ve ever asked you?’

‘Well no one really. I’ve always followed any football I can, I mean the team I like to see do well is AC Milan, no other reason apart from I like their kits. You?’

‘Well where I’m from in Moscow there’s 4 top teams, CSKA, Spartak, Lokomotiv & Dynamo Moscow…’

‘Ahh right, let me guess which you support’

‘Haha okay go on’

‘Lokomotiv?’

‘No’

‘CSKA?’

No’

‘Dynamo?’

‘No’

‘Gotta be Spartak then hasn’t it?’

‘No’

‘What do you mean no?!?’

‘You never let me finish. Those are the 4 big teams in Moscow, however I follow the little brother of those teams, Torpedo Moscow. I was a season ticket holder for 11 years, went all over Russia to see them. It was my dream to play for them’

‘You never did?’

‘Nah, I wasn’t good enough. But if I ever return to Russia I’d love to manage them’

‘Would you manage any other Russia team?’

‘Yes of course, saying that I’ve got a soft spot for Amkar Perm, I managed them once on an old Football Manager game, 2015 I think it was. But I’m ambitious, I want to manage all over the world. If I could manage on 5 continents I’d be very happy’

‘I’m sure you will boss’

‘Thanks, hey if I ever get to North America, would you come back with me?’

‘We’ll see boss. I’m happy where I am for now’

‘Well there’s a lot we’ve got to get through. Lets go down to the training pitch’


Next episode – You take the rough with the smooth….

Next episode – Taking the initiative

Taking the initiative

‘We can’t take the cup for granted. Sure we’re not going to win it, but if we put a decent run together, the momentum from that will hopefully carry on in the league and we’ll be right up top…’

‘Injuries boss! The extra cup run will cause jadedness and we’ll have a higher chance of players getting injured. I stick to what I said, we should play the youth and fringe players in the cup, let them get game time but tell them we don’t expect much from these games’

‘Surely that relaxed attitude isn’t going to inspire confidence Keith?’

‘I know boss, but I’ve got your back here, you’ve promised promotion to the Super League this year, and whilst a cup run is good, I think we should be keeping expectations to a realistic level’

What do I do here then? Do I put a strong team out and hope we keep a good level of form and momentum together and hope it carries over to our league campaign? Or put some bench and reserve players out against Felda, who are a Super League team? My head says put our first team out and see if we can’t go toe to toe with them, but my heart says give my fringe guys a run out? To hell with it, our strongest team plays….

What an end to end game. Both teams went all out for this one, and we came away winners and progressed in the cup. My decision to play our strongest 11 paid off as we held our own and edged this game against top tier Felda.

We’re drawn against another Super League team in Kelantan in the next round of the cup, and I’m not even discussing team selection with my assistant, the same 11 that beat Felda are starting this game.

‘I told you all at when we started pre season training that set plays would be key to our success this season, and my word did they pay off today. Dominic, excellent diving header for our first, more of that please. And Subri, absolutely top drawer free kick for the second there’

We rode our luck a little bit in this game. We took a 2 goal lead heading into the second half and gifted them a goal shortly after, but we soaked up the pressure and rode out the full half more or less and we now take ourselves into the quarter final of the FA Cup against Johor Darul 2, who we smashed 4 nil at the start of the season.

A short month in terms of fixtures as we ended March with a bore draw at home to league leaders PKNP. The game was pretty even but neither team had that cutting edge.

Still it’s good to be unbeaten this month and we’re sitting pretty in second place in the league after 7 games. We’re going to have to be on our toes as Steve Kean and Sarawak are hot on our heels after ending their month with a massive 6-0 beating of Sabah, now where have I heard the score line before…..

April 2019

We continued on with our FA Cup run with a draw to Johor Darul 2. Whilst avoiding defeat is a plus this was a game I felt we could get something from.

In the league we carried on with our good showing as we recorded back to back victories over UKM & Mifa to keep us at the right end of the league.

Our league form continued albeit with a draw against Terengganu 2 which preceded 2 poor results

First we were the better team overall and did not deserve to lose the second leg of the quarter final in the cup to Johor 2. We had chance after chance to put the game to bed but just couldn’t convert any until they took they’re only proper chance late on to knock us out.

Then the hangover from that poor cup loss took us to a defeat against Kuantan who again took their only clear cut chance. Another game where we failed to convert any of the good chances we created.

 ‘Keith, what’s your take on the dressing room atmosphere at the minute?’

‘Well the players are all united, they’re a close knit bunch’

‘That’s good to hear, do they all believe in my aims for the season?’

‘I’d say definitely, they’re all happy you’re the boss and are all on board with you’

‘Thanks. My only concern at the half way point of the league season is we’re creating plenty of chances, just the last 2 games we’ve not taken any. Do you think we should shake it up a bit, maybe try 2 up top?’

‘Personally, no. I’d say leave it as it is, we’re playing well just the last 2 games we weren’t clinical enough in front of goal. Don’t worry, we’ll get back to winning ways’

‘Hope so, I’ve promised promotion this year since literally the end of last season. Let’s get back to it’

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Previous episode – Here we go