Given a media prediction of 18th (last place) and a meagre transfer budget of around €600,000, the odds seem stacked against us! However, the transfer activity and opening competitive matches of the first month in the season have provided some signs of encouragement.
(Just a quick note, click on all the images to enlarge them and be able to see them.)
First of all, here are the in's and out's of the first summer transfer window:
As you can see, I received much more in transfer revenue than I spent, though this is deceiving to some extent; I shifted most of my available transfer budget towards wage budget in order to accommodate the signing of several, good-level free agents.
I am most pleased by my capture of experienced, hard-nosed defensive midfielder Peter Luccin:
My assistant rates the Frenchman as a "quality player" (3.5 stars). Hopefully he will add some steel to my midfield without picking up as many yellow cards as he did when he played for Zaragoza!
A little more detail on my other transfers:
Klemen Lavric A tall, talented Slovenian striker brought in as back-up for starting target man/lone striker Marius Ebbers. (Assistant Rating: 3.5 stars)
Yildiray Basturk Well-known, beleaguered attacking midfielder. Injuries mean he has his best days behind him, but he still has the technical ability to have some impact from the bench. (Assistant Rating: 3 stars)
Thierno Bah Incredibly versatile, 27-year-old Swiss utility player. Should come in handy in times when we are stricken by injuries and suspensions, since he is "Natural" in over 5 positions! (Assistant Rating: 3 stars)
Radek Sirl Czech international, formerly of Zenit St. Petersburg (I think ); signed to strengthen the formerly weak position of left-back, where he will hopefully launch plenty of attacks and provide deep crosses from. Also a useful set-piece taker. (Assistant Rating: 3 stars)
Marko Babic Croatian international , signed as cover for starting left winger Florian Bruns. His experience and high stamina should compensate for a relative lack of pace. (Assistant Rating: 3 stars)
Stars of the Team
Here are some of the stars of my inherited squad (players I did not sign but started with automatically):
Matthias Lehmann - Possibly my best player, and also my captain. Solid all-round attributes, hard worker, excellent team player and possessing a formidable long shot. Although naturally a defensive midfielder, in my 4-5-1 he is currently playing as a central midfielder with the less technically-gifted Luccin as the anchor man. (Assistant Rating: 4 stars)
Marius Ebbers - My starting striker, set to play on his own up front in my 4-5-1 formation. He possesses good heading, strength, jumping and finishing attributes, so should be a capable target man and goalscorer. (Assistant Rating: 3.5 stars)
Gerald Asamoah - Impossible to leave him out of this post! Although my assistant does not rate his ability as highly as that of midfielders Charles Takyi and Florian Bruns, I highly value his larger-than-life personality and wealth of experience at club and international level. His strength and pace will make him a formidable opponent for any left-back, but I am perplexed by his low acceleration attribute...
So, now on to the first few games. With a satisfactory squad in place, we took on little-known team AK Berlin in the First Round of the German Cup (equivalent of the English League Cup):
My heart sank when the underdogs scored first, but luckily my faith was restored by a fine first-half goal from Charles Takyi. We turned it around in the second half and ended up comfortable winners, as our overwhelming dominance of possession illustrates.
Next up, FC Nurnberg in the opening league game; this would be the first real challenge, and I was pretty nervous!
I was very proud, however, of the final result we achieved; a hard-fought draw. It certainly didn't seem like we would be able to salvage anything from the match at half-time; an abject first-half display made me question my team's ability to cope in the Bundesliga, as Nurnberg eased to an early 2-0 lead. However, a fair amount of hairdryer treatment in the halfway team talk brought about a positive change, and skipper Matthias Lehmann opened St. Pauli's Bundesliga account with a magnificent screamer from about 30-yards.
However, with little over 20 minutes remaining in the game and it being still very evenly matched, I doubted this superb goal would provide us with anything more than a consolation... it was to my sheer ecstasy and delight when, in the fourth minute of added time, Lehmann popped up again to clinch a poacher's effort and seal a draw, truly leading by example and winning the Man of the Match award! The fans responded positively to our result; the "rollercoaster ride" of coming from behind to earn a draw warranted a 73% confidence in the performance.
That's all from me and St. Pauli for now - lots of events to take interest in already! Stay posted for the next blog entry, which I anticipate will arrive at the end of the September month (game time, of course); hopefully things will remain positive and we will build on our encouraging start