My first full season in charge of a football club is about to get underway. I have my starting 11 set, tactics for the season are set. We’re sticking to Operation – Fundamentals as our go to tactic, a rigid 4-4-1-1 set up.
Here’s my first 11 that I hope will bring me promotion:
Goalkeeper and captain, Carlos Espinoza
Right full back Mohd Azrul Ahmad
Left full back Mohd Raimi Nor
Canter halves Ugo Ukah & Kamarul Kamaruddin
Right midfielder Yong Kuong Yong
Left midfielder / winger Mohd Fitri Shazwan
Central midfielders Mohd Syukur Saidin & Kang Seung-Jo
Playing in the hole behind the striker will be Mohd Faiz Subri
Finally lone striker Jerome Katende
This is my starting 11 assuming there are no injuries or suspensions, but of course the team will be rotated when those arise.
Game number 1. Malaysian Premier League 2019 season
‘It’s a clean slate today. Nothing from last season matters, this is a fresh start. Stick to my game plans and we’ll do well. No messing around today either lads, I want us to get off to a good start and get the 3 points in front of our fans. That will set us up nicely at the start of the season’
‘The boss is right lads, we can win this today, have no fear’ Carlos yells to the team, who have no idea what he just said.
‘Carlos, I get you’re enthusiastic, but I was relaying that message to Mohd Sukri so he can translate to the team. You are the captain but with the language barrier we’ve got to get our message across in a different way than you’re used to’
‘Sorry boss, I just want to win this game, and as captain I need to give my team as much confidence as I can’
‘That’s a good mindset to have Carlos. Now let Mohd tell the team what we said, and lets go win this game!’
As soon as the whistle goes for kick off we’re at them in a flash. They couldn’t handle the runners from our midfield and foul Seung-Jo within 3 minutes of the game and we’re given a penalty, which Seung steps up and buries! We strike early on and wait for inevitable attack from their side.
We do withstand a bit of pressure but nothing comes of it really and we look good defensively. We then doubled our lead with a neat finish around the 25 minute mark, could this be game over already?
After the restart they pressed forward but we stood firm and again scored another goal, this time Katende getting his first of the season with a great header to give us a 3-0 lead going into half time. My half time team talk was pretty much telling the team I’m happy with how it’s gone and to keep the pressure up.
Second half came and we’re given another early penalty which Seung buried, 4-0 and that is game set and match with 40 minutes to go.
They didn’t muster anything up of note and we rode out the rest of the game. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come!
After the game I speak to Kang Seung-Jo to congratulate him on a great performance, however he has something of his own to tell me
‘So Sanna is hinting he wants to leave? I could’ve done with his pace from the bench really. What’s your take on the situation? I ask our translator to ask Kang.
‘Kang says – Well he’s got pace, but he’s very selfish. A number of times last season he let us down by trying to do too much on his own. In his head he’s bigger than Penang and thinks very highly of himself’
‘Thanks Mohd. Tell Kang that I haven’t actually seen that much from Nyassi, I’ll happily let him go, I aren’t going to push the move though he’s got to do that himself’
Nyassi steps in and Mohd translates ‘I’ve been thinking for a while now that I’ve outgrown this club, I want a move to a bigger team’
‘Well firstly thanks for your honesty. Second, there’s no one interested in you as far as I am aware. Third, you’ve done next to nothing in my time here to suggest you’ve outgrown anything, you could’ve done more to help us last season’
‘Look I’ve been professional enough to let you know my feelings, I want out and I need you to help me get my move’
‘Not a chance, not a chance in hell. You want out of this club, you’re going to have to sort that out yourself. No way am I wasting my time dealing with a player that can’t be bothered to put in the work at a club that pays his wages. You’re on your own with this’
He storms out, pathetic really. He’s quick, that’s about it. He can rot in my non-existent youth team for all I care.
Coming in for our second game of the new season I locked horns with that twat Steve Kean and Sarawak. As soon as I got to their pathetic excuse for a stadium he greets me at the players entrance
‘Hey up laddie, looking forward to getting beat again today?’
‘Shut up. You’re lot are going to be lucky to get anything from this game. I can see the hunger in my teams eye, we’re winning this one today’
‘Cute talk kid. All this nonsense about getting promoted has gone to your head, we’ll be bringing you back down to Earth very soon’
He irritates me that bloke. As for the game itself, well I let my team do the talking for me. Despite Sarawak clearly playing to catch us on the break, we absolutely battered them all over the pitch. They took an early lead but our training ground work on set pieces paid off as we got a goal from a corner to equalise. We were by far the better team all over the pitch but just couldn’t get the break through. Steve Kean must’ve thought they’d got away with a draw as right until the 89th minute it was still 1 a piece, that was until Katende buried a low shot to make it 2-1 to us! Back to victories to start the new season.
After the game I try to catch up with Steve but he’s conspicuous by his absence and I can’t find him anywhere. I wasn’t going to gloat, I would’ve like to tell him I made good on my word that we’d beat his team the next time we played them, and we did.
Following on from me putting Steve Kean in his place, I did the same to the Perlis manager who tried to question our resolve and showed them just why I think we’re going to get promoted this year, as once again we bossed the game and came away with another 2-1 win. As expected from a promoted team battling to stay up they showed a lot of desire and worked hard chasing every second ball, and whilst we were losing going into the second half, they did defend well and were good for their lead. The game changed when they had a man sent off for a 2 footed challenge, the free kick given we scored from. We then got the winner later on to give us 3 wins from 3. Hopefully this puts the rest of the league on notice that my assessment of my team and confidence of going up is shown to be true
But in football things can change quickly, as Sabah avenged that 6-0 drubbing we gave them in my third game last season as we went down 1-0 away. It was an even game and either of us could’ve won but we won’t dwell on this.
Back home we entertained Negeri in a game neither team deserved to lose, but ultimately we did. 2 all going into the full time whistle and they managed to grab a late winner on 91 minutes. The most frustrating thing was we switched off defensively at the end and in my mind that late goal could’ve been avoided.
We end the month on a high however as we beat PJ Rangers 2 nil to finish February in second place. A good all round month all things considered, the 2 losses were avoidable I feel and our work on the training ground will continue.
‘There’s a long way to go, but I think we keep this up and my prediction of a top 2 finish will come in. What’s your assessment?’
‘Agree with you completely. We worked hard on set pieces in training and have scored a few goals form them in game, and always look threatening from set plays. We could do some more work on the defensive end however’ my assistant Keith Gumbs says.
‘Right then, this weeks training will be set piece attacking, then defending, followed up with ground defence. Weeks 2 and 4 will set piece delivery, aerial defence and week 3 will be about keeping possession, how’s that sound?’
‘Noted boss, I’ll get the schedules together’
Next episode – Taking the initiative
Previous episode – Attack. Defend. Hope….