It's time for glory. It's time for someone to stand up and make that last push, put in the extra percent. It's time for someone to be that one little bit better than their opponent and make all of the difference. It's time to put in just that little bit more effort more than huge prize. And it's time for victory. 3 losses from 2 just won't cut it.
Welcome one, welcome all to the 2018 A-League Grand Final. My name is Mark Schwarzer and it's time to decide just who is Australia's best. We have back-to-back minor premiers Sydney FC, who tasted bitter defeat in last year's decider. And we have their fiercest of rivals, Melbourne Victory. Some may argue the Wanderers are, but ever since the Kelling incident last season it's pretty evident that this game is one of the most charged in Australia. The Grand Final atmosphere is sure to add to this rivalry in what should be an absolute cracker of a game.
Here's the Sydney FC line-up for today. We've got Usai in goals, still subject to some bids from Italy but you'd imagine he'd stay if they win this. The 3 centre backs, Jurman, Ryall and Batten are the regulars and then Petkovic and Grant on the flanks to provide the width. Dimitrijevic is obviously missing so we've got Terry Antonis filling in alongside De Silva and Irvine in that vital midfield 3. Ander Bergara will play alongside Josh MacDonald up top and it certainly looks like a very threatening team.
Then we've got the challengers, Melbourne Victory. Nathan Coe between the sticks, and then a very, very defensive back 5. Traore is really the only attacking player there at left back, and then you've got DeVere, Ansell, Duzel and Wilkinson spread across defence. Youngsters Jon Durand and Chris Cristaldo provide the speed on the flanks and then there's the deadly foreign pair in central midfield. Jonathan Romein and PSG product Abdullah Yaisien will cause some headaches for Sydney FC and Argentinian loanee Diego Varisco is one of the most talented strikers running around the nation.
I listened to Schwarzer drone over the loudspeaker in the rooms. Some managers like to keep their players focused on the game, block out all criticism, all praise, anything that could mess with their heads. But I prefer them to hear everything, to know everything. Because I know if one of these lads can't handle the pressure, the expectation, they don't belong on my team.
OK, it's time for kick off. Sean-Paul Lodovico and Mike Mulvey shake hands at the dug out and you just know it's gonna be a great battle between these 2. Bergara rolls it to MacDonald, we're underway in the 2018 A-League Grand Final.
Now, I knew we had crafted a good side over the years. Dani De Silva, Seb Usai, Jack Batten and Ander Bergara had been incredible since joining the club in the last couple of years, and we had truly become a force to be reckoned with. But I didn't want to be too optimistic against the Victory. I would probably have gotten away with it though.
DeVere hoofs the ball clear, Victory not taking any chances. They know just how potent Sydney can be, especially after that demolishing of Seoul FC in the ACL. The ball is with Bergara now, they'll be a tad nervous because this guy is creative, oh my word what a ball! It's MacDonald with all the time in the world, drags Coe out and there it is, he's scored the first.
"Can you taste it Sean-Paul? We're looking deadly man!" piped a familiar voice.
"Shut up Emile, it's only the 4th minute for pete's sake!" But I began to smile as I looked across at Mike. He was unsettled. His side was unsettled. And he knew it.
"It's the young Varisco on the ball, and oooh, that's a nasty challenge. Jack Batten pack your bags son, that's your second yellow. No hesitation from Queffelec."
Batten trudged off, scared to make eye contact with me. "Jackson, go to centre back!" I yelled, looking to reshuffle my line up but then I turned to young Jack, a 22 year old Englishman who lived with Emile.
"Listen mate, don't worry. Don't put the owness on yourself. The kid is quick. the bloody Argentinian. It was always going to be hard. The first yellow was a bit harsh as well, but don't dwell on it. OK, so I've put Jackson in centre back. I want you to give me pointers on where he can improve. Understood? It's OK, we can still win this thing." He looked better now at least, but I sure hoped we did win. The disappointment would be unbearable for young Jack if we didn't.
OK so we've got a deadball situation. No prizes for guessing who's taking it, it's everyone's favourite Spaniard! Pretty dangerous situation for the Victory, about 20 yards to the right of the penalty area, and we all know how good Bergara is at free kicks. Here it is, swinging in nicely, meets the head of Jurman, it's a flick on to Irvine... oh nice save by Coe...HOLD THE PHONE!!! HORRIBLE MISTAKE BY NATHAN COE, IRVINE TOEPOKES IT IN! 2-0 Sydney, who needs 11 men anyway?!
Now the emotions came out. I hugged Emile and Matthew, my trusty right hand men, and then Jack Batten who suddenly had a weight lifted from my shoulders. Mulvey was tearing up his notes across at his dugout and the larrikin in me just couldn't pipe down.
"Oi Mikey! Do you want me to take another off?!"
Those balled up fists were all the satisfaction I needed.
"Half time. Halfway to glory. OK, let's not dwell on the red OK fellas? Jack, don't worry about it. Jackson, great work going back there and great goal fine sir. Josh and Ander, you're tearing them to pieces. Seb, keep it up back there. No changes boys, let's keep it up, keep doing what we're doing because it's bloody working."
"Offside! You're f**king kidding me!" An angry look from the fourth official shut me up but oh lord that was close! MacDonald almost got his second, on the back of Bergara again, but no. It's the 52nd minute and it's still 2-0. Can't complain I guess.
"OK, what are we thinking Emile? Who's looking tired?"
"Everyone Sean, we've only got 10 men!"
"Haha of course, of course... Well, let's see. Aaron, Josh, Joel you're up." The 3 subs jumped up, ready to see some action. "Just go out there and enjoy yourselves boys, this is your time."
4- MATTHEW JURMAN 12- AARON CALVER
8- DANIEL DE SILVA 44- JOHN ANDREWS
17- TERRY ANTONIS 16- JOEL CHIANESE
"Sydney FC are pushing forward once more, they're still hungry and they're down to 10 men! Victory are dead in the water as the young Andrews marauds down the middle of the ground. He lays it forward to MacDonald, who stops and props. Duzel loses track of Bergara and now it's played to him, has a pop, but that's a great second effort by Duzel who gets back to block the shot."
"Hey Emile, tell them to settle the hell down. Enjoy the moment, pass it around. Let everyone have a taste of it."
"Don't jinx us Sean, there's still at least 3 minutes to go."
I beckon over to the Victory dug outs. "Yeah, like he's gonna engineer a comeback."
We both look over at Mulvey sulking on the bench and laugh, revelling in our glory.
"The referee has blown for full time, this is it! Sydney FC have...."
But Schwarzer was drowned out by the sound of the Sydney FC faithful, the 35,000 who had packed Allianz Stadium today and spurred their team to victory. They cheered, they chanted, they danced and they cried. And so did Sean-Paul Lodovico.
All of this goddamn failure. Rugby career ruined. Getting so close in my first year, to throw it away at the last hurdle. Humiliation in my homeland. The bitter taste of a failed season and then another Grand Final loss. I almost wondered if I should just give it all up. But no. Finally. Finally I have tasted the glory....
As Rhyan Grant and Milos Dimitrijevic lofted the trophy high, for all the Sky Blues to see, Sean-Paul cried. And when he got up there on the podium himself, and finally felt the silverware he had been chasing all these years. He felt content. He felt alive.
And So It Ends
Oh, what a start it was. That banner is just, just.. despicable would be the word. But here we are now, 4 months later. Over 700 replies later, over 25,000 views later and a Story of the Month win. I started the story with a gung-ho attitude, not even stopping to think about what would happen if I didn't like the save. I just went with it and got lucky I guess. It's a luck of the draw thing, sticking to a save, and I stuck to it to the point where it would be my all-time favourite FM save. Believe it or not, but I made it to La Liga (albeit briefly) and now I'm managing in Poland again! It's just that kind of save I guess, I just roll with it.
The reason I'm ending this story is that my love for the save had overtaken my enthusiasm for the story, and I found myself having to go back substantial amounts of time to write updates. I found myself years ahead of the story and I don't like to work like that, I'd much rather just drop the story and continue the save. Besides, it's time for the new generation of FM15 stories to entertain you readers!
I'd like to thank a few people who have helped me along this journey. First and foremost, my closest friend on the site (Neal
being a close second don't worry Neal
) in Walter
. If you went through my entire story you'd probably find that he is responsible for about 150 replies, and his renewed support and enthusiasm (despite constantly pestering me to leave the A-League) really helped me keep going. He was also the creator of 2 of my banners, and on that note I'd like to thank Ziechael
for their graphical skills in this story. Justice
gets a little mention for giving me the name and I'd also like to give shout outs to all the members that were at some stage regular commenters.
You guys kept the story running, as did everyone who had a look now and again. I'd also like to thank the people who voted for me in Story of the Month, and delivered me a coveted win. Thankyou
So, the Lodovico journey ends here. He's had a couple of runs, a couple of goes, but I think his time may have come. It's time for me to kick back and enjoy the amazing stories around the forums, and wait until December when I get FM15. Then, who knows what might happen? Maybe a familiar face will return....
Edit- I got FM15 earlier than expected (well, the demo anyway)