On FM Scout you can chat about Football Manager in real time since 2011. Here are 10 reasons to join!

[FM08] American Calcio

Started on 23 June 2015 by tenthreeleader
Latest Reply on 8 August 2016 by tenthreeleader
Sunday, September 2
Sassuolo v Padova – Serie C1A

Mother said there would be days like this. However, I could have picked many other days on the calendar I might have preferred.

We had a two-hour coach trip home this evening to think about a match that was not as close as the score and which could easily have been much worse than it was.

We lost, we lost convincingly and we were lucky not to have been blown right out of the Stadio Enzo Ricci. But I repeat myself.

As bad as today was, we actually managed to get to halftime with a nil-nil scoreline despite having put no meaningful pressure on the Sassuolo goal. But in the second half, we lost our shape, we lost our composure and in the end, we lost the match. At least we didn’t lose our dignity. The only saving grace was that it was a long way from home. Had it been at Euganeo, there might have been issues.

Even the crowd was disappointing – only 1,179 bothered to show up to see the match. Most of them went home happy – and then there was me.

As it stands, I am examining my own preparation in light of all the crap that went on this week in my personal life. I have done the very best I could to keep it all away from me but obviously I have failed.

The players very definitely lost their tactical nous in the second half and the result was sort of like the wheezing noise you hear in the cartoons when an engine conks out. We were not getting any gas to where it mattered and the result was an attack that sputtered at the very best.

We had six attempts at goal in the ninety minutes and only three of them went on target. Defensively we were halfway decent, only making two mistakes. Unfortunately they both wound up in our goal, and that’s what happens sometimes.

The first mistake came three minutes after the break when Roberto Colussi shook loose between Faísca and Sacchetti and slotted home past Orlandoni, who got a hand on the ball but couldn’t shift it onto the post. He rose, angry at himself, but I couldn’t fault Paolo for what had happened. It was a hell of a play to get a hand on the ball in the first place and I chose to stay positive after conceding.

We trained all week with the idea of making sure Colussi was accounted for on the pitch. But despite our best efforts, sometimes the other guy just beats you. This was one of those cases and I was happy to see our players bear down soon afterwards.

That turned out to be a good thing, because Baú’s hustle earned us a penalty soon afterwards. Just three minutes after Colussi’s goal we were on the spot. DiNardo was bundled over in the area by defender Nicoló Consolini after taking a very good entry ball from Baú. Referee Giovanni Fatta wasted no time in pointing to the spot and Baú grabbed the ball.

Unfortunately, Baú then clanged his penalty off the crossbar and over the goal, which hurt a lot. Hurt me, that is. The crossbar seemed to be none the worse for wear. Goalkeeper Geoffrey Barretara never even had to move.

Baú stood on the penalty spot, head buried in his hands, and suddenly it was up to his captain, and to me, to get the side motivated again. Eder had made a wonderful play to get the ball into position, and then muffed the chance. We had momentum and just like that it was gone.

Football, like all team sports, is a game of momentum and from that moment we were on the back foot. Playing away, there’s not much you can do about it, and that was certainly true in our case. From that moment, Sassuolo took the initiative and had us on the back foot all the way to the end. It seemed only a matter of time before they hit us again as we were out of ideas in attack and hanging on in defense.

They earned a penalty of their own eleven minutes from time when Sacchetti grabbed Colussi’s shirt in the area and held him back. Fatta was equally quick to give the penalty, and the Sassuolo striker tied everything up in a nice neat little package by wrongfooting Orlandoni from the spot to kill us dead.

I wanted to see spark and determination from the players down two goals and I saw enough of it to make me stay my hand a bit after the match. Still, we hadn’t played well, our formation work in the second half was quite poor, and they took advantage of that to beat us with ease.

The whistle blew for full time and I shook hands with the Sassuolo staff before figuring out what I was going to say to my players as a losing manager for the first time.

We trudged off the pitch to our changing room and the sting of the loss was already starting to set in.

Baú, ever the professional, was already apologizing as we entered the room, but I put a stop to that by simply motioning everyone to their seats. As one, they turned to face me and I spoke to them in Italian.

“We all need to learn from this,” I said. “Obviously, this was not an acceptable effort and that starts with me. Our first half was decent but the second half was the worst we have been all season. Eder, I appreciate you apologizing for missing the penalty but we had fourteen players get out there and we all lost two-nil. The moment we take individual responsibility for a group loss is the day we take a step backwards. Everyone who steps on the pitch when we lose shares responsibility just as everyone who steps on the pitch when we win shares the credit.”

“I want you to hold your heads up,” I said. “We hold our hands up too, because we didn’t play well, but we have another match at Rovigo on Wednesday and we’ll have to be ready. I want us thinking about playing better on the road because we’ll need to put in the tactics for Wednesday starting tomorrow morning. The good news is we have the chance to get right back out there and fix what went wrong today. Think about how you played on the way home and about how you can play better next time you are out there. Hit the showers and let’s get out of here.”

Sassuolo 2-0 Padova

# # #
With that, I faced our media and repeated what I told the squad.

“It’s good that we get out there again on Wednesday because this leaves a bad taste in our mouths,” I said. “Full marks to Sassuolo for taking the wheels off us, though. They are a good side and we’ll look forward to the rematch at Euganeo. But now I have a group of players who have lost for the first time in their new system and we have things we need to fix.”

“What are those things, besides looking lost off the ball?” I didn’t appreciate the tone of the question but it was one that deserved to be asked based on performance.

“That’s really the biggest one,” I admitted. “Positionally we were absent in the second half and that’s going to get you punished in this formation. When you play three wide across the middle with a holder, everyone needs to be smart or we’re going to get abused. There isn’t a lot of natural width in that formation, so if we want to hold out own there we have to be smart positionally. In the first half we were but in the second half we weren’t and you saw the result.”

“How much did the missed penalty hurt you?”

“They always hurt when you miss, whether you win or lose,” I said. “I’m not ready to throw Eder Baú under the bus for it, though. Misses do happen from the penalty spot. It would have been great to have an instant answer for their first goal and who knows, if we had scored we might have gotten a point out of here today. But on the whole we did not deserve the points and we didn’t get them.”

“Are you thinking of changing formation?”


“Why not?” Now that was a challenging question.

“Because this one has put together a series of victories and hasn’t been defeated until today,” I said. “The players are growing into it but you’re going to have growing pains when you try anything new. I do think that will work itself out over time and I’m optimistic. We have a 100 percent start in the cup and today was the first time we haven’t looked sharp in this formation, so I am not going to ring the changes based on one result.”

The interview ended and I headed back to the coach where the players were starting to arrive in dribs and drabs. Twenty minutes later we were on our way back home and the bus was quiet.

I could hear occasional waftings of music from various mp3 players near the front of the coach but as I looked back I saw players sitting, eyes closed, either resting or thinking. I was hoping it would be both.

# # #
Monday, September 3
The morning media weren’t kind.

Il Padova was less than impressed with Biancoscudati and their whiz kid manager this morning, with the simple phrase “Waste of Time” on the front of their sport section along with a photo of Baú missing his penalty.

That sort of thing is no fun at all and as I welcomed the players back to training this morning I wanted to make sure they understood my feelings.

“We got ripped in the morning papers and we deserved it,” I explained. “We just didn’t play well and we need to do better. You don’t need me to tell you that. But to stop this negativity in the press, we’re going to need a road result. Let’s work on making that result come Wednesday.”

I kept things light today. I want the players to know that the loss hurts, but the loss is done and now we need to get things back to an even keel. I’m also quite interested in making sure my own preparation for a match again drops to what I feel it was for this one. Managers are entitled to personal lives, of course, and they’re even allowed to get beat by a better club once in awhile, but I don’t feel in retrospect that I was good enough. So I can’t and won’t blame my players.

I have mentioned that this culture tends to blame everyone except the person who loses. I won’t accept that and I won’t let my players accept it either. This is where I can make it up to them and help make them better. I want accountability, not finger pointing. I want re-commitment, not sulking. And I am going to start with myself.

# # #

That said, I did get e-mail today which put a smile on my face.

“Sorry things didn’t go well on Sunday. Looking forward to some time with you after the match on Saturday if you can spare it. – Patty”

I wrote her back:

“It’s kind of you to write. I could use a smile this week. I think last week really messed me up. I don’t feel good about my work so something positive will help! – Rob”

While she appreciated hearing from me, my note didn’t have the effect I wanted:

“If you think I’m responsible for that I will stay away. – Patty”

That wasn’t what I had in mind and I took great pains to make sure she knew it:

“I’m sorry – that was not what I meant. Having Kate dredged back up was what did it to me, not the fact that it was you who came to me. You have been sweet, kind and helpful and you are not the problem. If you’d like to be part of the solution, I’d be happy to make my insensitivity up to you. – Rob”

I had to wait until the evening for a reply, and I was starting to get pretty nervous about that. I have never had what I would consider to be a deft touch around the opposite sex until I met Kate and we all know how that turned out. So maybe I’ve never had a deft touch in the first place.

But finally, at about ten o’clock, she answered.

“I’m sorry it took me so long to answer you. Work happened and I spent the evening out with a friend. Yes, I’d love to be part of the solution and I think you could be part of my solution too. We can talk about that Saturday, I hope. Have a good week! – P”

I need to have a good week. Another night Wednesday like I had on Sunday won’t be acceptable at all. The trip is short – just 29 miles separate the cities – so we can make the match day an evening trip. We don’t consider this a derby match, but the rivalry between the clubs is regional so there will be a fair amount of passion involved. We will need to be better than we were yesterday, that much is certain.

# # #
Tuesday, September 4
I heard back from the American Embassy regarding my complaint on McGuire.

It does appear as though I was on their radar screen before today, which was surprising. My position as the only American managing an Italian football club made the higher-ups in Rome take notice.

You never know what sort of person is going to make a stupid statement or worse yet, try something equally stupid.

So they know where I am and really, I hope they aren’t too aware of what I’m doing. That sort of knowledge is a bit nerve-wracking for me. But you never know – I may need their help sooner rather than later.

They did ask for copies of the correspondence I considered threatening, and I sent it along. I’m not thrilled about the idea of strangers getting the lowdown on my relationship with Kate, but I freely showed her letter to Patty at dinner last week so depending on who sees the information, I guess I can live with it.
# # #

But tonight was all business. I watched Rovigo video and put together the team sheet I want to see.

Muzzi needs to be on it. His absence was keenly felt at Sassuolo and when he is in the match he often draws man-marking due to his wonderful ability to strike a ball.

That opens up the pitch for his partner, and if I use Roberto as a target striker, Varricchio seems to be able to play off him well. This is part of learning my team, and I have to pick that up sooner rather than later.

His dead leg appears to be back to normal and he will go back into the side. As punchless as we were against Sassuolo, it seems obvious to me that he needs to regain his place.

Music played well again on the left side of midfield so he will remain in the side. He was about the only consistent threat we had, in fact, with the exception of Baú’s moment where he drew the penalty. So I told Vedin he should plan on playing again, and he was pleased to hear it.

He is determined, more so in fact than even Baú or Crovari, players I consider to be professionals. Paz is that way too, which is what I had hoped he would be when I signed him. Among the other new players, Sacchetti is fitting in well and his quiet leadership is just what I hoped he’d provide in addition to excellent man-marking skills.

There are advantages to having a veteran squad, such as short-term toughness. But to grow we need to get younger and I am starting already to turn my thoughts toward the January window, when we will look to bring in players for the longer-term on expiring contracts.

So today was one hundred percent football. And that was just fine with me.

# # #
Wednesday, September 5
Rovigo v Padova – Serie C1A

I am very pleased with the squad tonight. We rebounded as well as I could have hoped, and even though we had another missed penalty tonight, it didn’t hurt us as we coasted to a very nice away win that has moved us to fifth in the table.

Just about all the changes to the side I made worked out, which has taught me a valuable lesson about application. I was “locked in” to this match and I think the results were plainly visible in the side.

Of course, the players are the ones who have to play and they did that to a much higher level than on Sunday. Positionally we were much better and it showed all the way through the ninety minutes. When we are structurally sound, the 4-1-3-2 is a fluid formation, very good in transition and able to exploit a defensive weakness with pace and passing skill.

It was a much, much better effort, but I again repeat myself. This is the kind of message I would rather repeat.

We got on the coach at Euganeo at 3:00 for the 7:30 kickoff and had a relaxed trip south to Rovigo. When the coach stopped outside the Stadio Francesco Gabrielli, I stepped to the front of the aisle and spoke quickly.

“Remember your assignments and remember how Sunday felt,” I said. “Let it show through in your play. This is a match you can win and I’ll be looking for better than I saw on Sunday. Let’s go have a good warmup and get on the match early.”

With that I turned around and led my team off the bus. From that moment, my players were as locked in as I was and that was a great thing to see.
# # #

Again, we played before a Serie C crowd, which is to say it was small. Just 2,971 showed up and of those, about 300 were traveling fans. And the cities are only thirty miles apart.

Matches like tonight might help us draw a few more supporters, though. Muzzi came through in the first half hour, netting on 28 minutes nearly by accident to get us on top.

Music started the play with a sharp move down the left touchline. When he got to the top of the 18-yard box, still along the touchline, he lofted a ball toward the middle that was actually intended for Varricchio.

Massimiliano was covered by a defender, so he played a terrific dummy right into the path of the onrushing Muzzi, who had slipped past the other central defender on his right. Too late, keeper Igor Massigia saw the danger and raced to cut down the angle, but by then it was too late. Muzzi brought the ball to control with an excellent right-footed first touch, and his second touch slotted the ball past Massigia on his left to get us 1-nil to the good.

It was a heady play by three veterans and I knew it. I reacted with some emotion, thrusting my fists into the air and letting the bench see that the boss was quite pleased indeed. The reaction was good, and the energy we saw from that point on was markedly better than it had been Sunday.

That score held to halftime and we had given Rovigo only one good chance in the entire half. In all, it was a four-star road performance and I communicated my pleasure to the players as they sat for the halftime team talk.

“Take the three points. They’re out there for you,” I urged them. “This is so much better than Sunday I can’t even describe it. Work your lanes, stay positionally strong and see what strong play will get you. This is there for you tonight. Make it happen.”

I was pleasantly surprised to see the team then buck up their ideas in the second half. We retained our shape in a much better way than on Sunday and it was actually quite pleasing to watch.

De Cristofaris, who has been struggling with fitness in training since his loan from Lazio, did get a chance to play today and started the work on our second goal from a corner. He put a useful ball into the box and found Muzzi at Massiggia’s right post. Roberto shot the ball and cranked it right off defender Matteo Rossi’s leg. It changed direction (the ball, not Rossi’s leg) and flew past Massiggia for an own goal on 57 minutes to make it 2-0.

The two-goal breathing space was quite welcome, especially since its scoring made Rovigo come to us instead of the other way around. The next fifteen minutes were plenty spicy and finally we snapped, as Fabio Ceccarelli’s sharply angled shot flew past Orlandoni on 72 minutes to get the home side onto the scoreboard.

Their crowd then got into the match and I pulled back into the flat 4-4-2 to give us a wider presence across the midfield. I wasn’t yet ready to drop a striker, though, and my patience was rewarded thanks to an incisive counterattack four minutes from time.

Muzzi and Baú worked a wall pass to perfection on the right side of the penalty area and Rossi, who had a torrid game, had no choice but to haul down Eder to prevent a goal. The penalty was correctly given and Baú stepped up looking for redemption.

This time, he didn’t hit the bar. This time, he slammed his shot straight into Massiggia’s chest.

His momentary look of shock was abated when the ball came directly back to him, and he slotted the rebound home past the stunned keeper for our third and final goal.

Baú had scored, but missing two consecutive penalties can tell on the confidence. I was very glad to see Eder pick up the goal, even if it did come on the second bite of the cherry. Goals are goals.

The third goal allowed me to change to 4-5-1 for the remaining few minutes and to get Muzzi a well-deserved rest for a match very well played. I pulled him and extended my hand as he neared the bench.

“Well done, big man,” I said, using the American euphemism, and he gave me a puzzled look. I re-translated. “Well done, Don Muzzi,” I smiled, and he laughed at my hackneyed use of the phrase as he walked to the bench.

# # #

“Better in every respect,” I told the media afterward. I then focused on Stefano Emiliani, the reporter who had asked me about changing formation on Sunday.

“Stefano, I know you’re a 4-4-2 man,” I tweaked. “Was that good enough for you? Eighteen scoring attempts tonight away from home, was that enough?”

He took my gentle barb with good grace.

“They had never seen a junk formation before, I suppose,” he said with a smile and we both knew our true feelings were in the middle. 4-1-3-2 is not a junk formation and I know Stefano understands his football. But I had made my point – when these players play their formation, they are pretty good.

“I’m pleased with our ninety-minute effort,” I stated. “They made a very good play to earn a very good goal late in the match but on the whole I can’t find a lot of fault with how we played. I am delighted with how we rebounded from Sunday’s disappointment and I’m hopeful we can keep up our positive momentum heading into Saturday’s match with Manfredonia at Euganeo.”

And with that, I got on a motor coach containing much happier players for the trip home.
Rovigo 1-3 Padova

# # #
Thursday, September 6
The headlines were better today but now we have a new controversy.

Emiliani’s match report and accompanying column in the morning paper contained a heavy suggestion that I should remove Baú as taker of our spot kicks.

I’ve had the same thought myself, and toyed with the idea on the way home yesterday, but our early team success makes me reluctant to change.

Yet, the facts are plain. Eder has missed two in a row and I need to make a decision on whether he’s the right man to score for us when it matters the most.

Eder is the best ball-striker on the club from the penalty spot and it’s not even terribly close. However, in looking at videos of our last two matches, his problems appear to be ones of composure.

You can strike the ball as hard as you want, but if you’re nervous it feels like you’re trying to thread a needle with the ball. I was a decent penalty taker when I played but hardly automatic from the spot so I know how it feels to be under pressure.

The twelve yards from the penalty spot to goal are the longest twelve yards in world sport and I don’t care what anyone else says.

Italians know this as well as anyone, with Roberto Baggio still trying to live down his miss in the 1994 World Cup in Los Angeles that cost the Azzurri the Jules Rimet Trophy.

What people don’t remember here about that World Cup was that Italy was the sixteenth qualifier for that 1994 knockout round, finishing one place behind the United States in the table on total goals. We scored three in preliminaries, and Italy scored two. Italy nearly failed to make the second round, but both nations eventually lost to champion Brazil.

Still, America’s loss was expected. Italy’s loss stunned the nation.

Baggio bears the brunt of the fault for that loss, but Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro also missed from the spot that day, as Italy converted only two of five penalties against Brazilian keeper Taffarel.

It’s particularly galling here given that with Italy’s 2006 World Cup triumph over France, on penalties, this nation trails Brazil in World Cup championships by 5-4.

Nothing would mean more to most Italian fans than to have won the most World Cups. Brazil is an immensely proud footballing nation and the manager of A Seleçao, whoever he is from one year to the next, has the highest-pressure job in world sport. But had Italy been better on penalties that day, they’d be the champion of champions.

Which brings me back to Baú, who will probably never get the chance to score from the spot in a World Cup final.

Whether you are a Sunday League amateur player or a world star like Roberto Baggio, you need to keep your nerve from the spot. If Baú can’t, I’ll need to find someone else.

Emiliani wants to make that decision for me, and was pretty strident about it.

“You get two chances,” he wrote. “If you miss them the manager has to look for someone else. Biancoscudati are fortunate to have been awarded two penalties in successive matches and given that officials keep track of such things as how many penalties they give, the team can’t afford to miss any more when penalties are given. The 4-1-3-2 formation of manager Ridgway is unorthodox enough to confuse many opponents into mistakes, which must be converted when Padova is on the penalty spot. As nice a man as he is, Eder Baú is not that person.”

That will certainly draw an angry reaction from my right-sided midfielder, and understandably so. Nobody likes to be told he’s pants in print, and Baú is certainly no exception.

He wanted to work on penalties in training today and even though it wasn’t a scheduled day, I put him through his paces with Andrea Cano after the workout was over. I took my veteran backup keeper aside and told him what I needed.

“This is for his confidence, Andrea,” I said. “Play hard and don’t worry about what happens. Stop him if you can but it’s nothing to do with you.”

He nodded and assumed his place between the goal sticks. Eder worked him for fifteen minutes and at the beginning missed more than he made. But finally he got into a good rhythm and was pumping home shots from the spot with regularity when I blew the whistle softly.

“That’s enough for today, fellows,” I said. “I think we’ll be all right here.”

Eder simply needed to know that I still trusted him, and my words were enough. He thanked me for the extra time and then he and Cano headed for the dressing room, finished with a job well done.

# # #

I also had a long phone conversation with Patty this evening and it was a lot of fun for me.

She felt the need to explain herself regarding last night’s e-mail exchange and I thought it was sweet of her to do so.

“Paul is a good friend and he’s a sounding board,” she said of the ‘friend’ she had written of. “We went out for drinks last night and it got later than I thought it would. I don’t want you to think I was avoiding you.”

“No, I didn’t think that but I was a little worried,” I said. “I don’t seem to have done much right regarding you.”

“Stop beating yourself up,” she said. “You’ve been fine.”

The thought of her out drinking with a male friend helped shape an opinion in my mind, and actually it didn’t hurt like I thought it might. She is probably taken after all, and that reduces the pressure on me.

The last thing I want is to try to manage a relationship in the midst of all this and knowing she is out with male friends is going to make me less likely to want to start one.

I’m 36 years old and I will eventually want a relationship of some kind. Yet considering what happened to me last week I have good reason to be gun shy. I’m not good enough at my job yet to handle what effect a relationship might have on it, and perhaps less able yet to give either one the attention they would both deserve.

That is really no fun to think about. I want to succeed on and off the pitch. But I have to be smart about it. I could go back to the States and maybe have an easier time, but I don’t want an easy time. I want to earn it.

But then she got an idea of what I meant with my comment.

“You need to know a few things about Paul,” she said. “First, he’s not my boyfriend. He’s a buddy and he’s been very understanding about what has happened to me.”

“You don’t have to explain anything,” I said. “If he’s special to you, that’s fine. We’ve only known each other a little less than two weeks, and I certainly have no right to be poking around like that.”

“I volunteered it,” she said. “Just like you volunteered Kate’s letter.”

I couldn’t argue with that so I didn’t try.

“I wanted you to read it so you’d know what was said about you,” I replied.

“And I wanted you to know about Paul so you’d know what was said about you,” she answered, and I tried and failed to hide my surprise.

She laughed. “I wanted his advice,” she said. “I asked him if he thought I was wasting my time by going to Padova to see you.”

I recovered my composure, and was equal to her words.

“And what did Paul tell you?” I asked.

“He said I should do what made me happy,” she said. “He said I deserved it.”

That sounded an awful lot like Kate talking, actually, and it wasn’t lost on me. “I heard the same thing just recently,” I said.

“I know you did,” she answered, now speaking more softly. “So I’m coming to see you on Saturday, okay?”

“That’s fine,” I agreed. “I hope I don’t disappoint you.”

“Don’t rush,” she said. “You have a job to do and so do I, but I want to learn some more about you. There’s no pressure.”

I’ve said that last sentence to my players already this season and I had a hard time hearing it used to me. It felt strange.

“I’m used to placing pressure, not having it removed,” I admitted. “I really hope I don’t press.”

“I’ll worry about that if it ever happens,” she said. “Somehow I do think I can trust you.”

“An abandoner of women like me?” I asked, with a trace of bitterness toward McGuire.

“No, the man Kate loves,” she said. “And the one she can’t have. You’re a good man, Rob. Let’s have fun and see where it leads – if it leads anywhere.”

“Fair enough,” I replied. “I’ll look forward to seeing you.”

# # #
Friday, September 7
We ought to win tomorrow. So I am faced with the dilemma of how to get that across to my team without blowing them up.

Our opponents, Manfredonia, are an interesting club. Only eight of their twenty-two senior squad players are actually contracted to the club, with thirteen players on loan contracts and midfielder Alessio Cossu co-owned with Serie B Ravenna.

It’s no wonder that manager Raffaele Novelli has had disagreements with his board regarding the club’s ambition.

It’s hard to cobble together a team with that many loan players. In England and Scotland, for example, there are limits on the number of loan players clubs can carry and play. But here there is no such restriction and Manfredonia elected to build a team using other clubs’ players for the most part.

I have had problems enough getting my existing players to jell – but I can at least buy and sign new players if I need them. Novelli evidently doesn’t have that luxury. He has to loan and for a manager trying to build a club with any sort of understanding between players, that has to be immensely difficult.

His reputation allows him to bring in decent players but they need time to come together as a unit and that is a tall order in a league where winning now means everything.

My task is to make Novelli’s task more difficult. Padova doesn’t have a ton of cash on hand but it has more than Manfredonia and I’ve got players under my club’s contracts I can use to do what I need done.

Moral of the story: in this game, everything is relative.

# # #

We are in a stretch of schedule where we play a number of midweek games. Today we also started preparations for Wednesday’s scheduled home match against Chioggia.

For the most part that involved video and a fairly relaxing afternoon, as we were tapering for tomorrow’s match.

So far, touch wood, we’ve been lucky enough to avoid injuries in training, and my goal is obviously to keep it that way. Hard training before a match is silly anyway, because players’ legs won’t recover in time for a full effort the next day.

When we play a Wednesday/Saturday/Wednesday/Sunday schedule as we are presently doing with the second match in that schedule to be played tomorrow, pacing ourselves is vital, as is rotating certain squad members.

Everyone wants to play every game, but when we have a stretch like this, it’s just not possible.

This is one of the things we managers are taught at UEFA’s licensing sessions. I hold the Pro License and got it after a lot of hard work. But I know the theory behind managing a busy schedule now and am getting my first chance to put it in place.

Clubs have so much invested in players nowadays, with so many competitions on offer, that player health and safety is more important than ever. So UEFA is quite insistent that its top-flight managers be educated in this art.

I’m obviously not a top-flight manager at the moment but someday I hope to be, and I plan to be ready if that day ever arrives.

But today was a Manfredonia day after the video session was over. I was honest with the squad about my views on the match and let those views be known before dismissing the team for the day.

“I think we can put up a big number on them,” I said, and then had to explain my euphemism.

“I think we have the ability to hurt them badly. There’s no reason we can’t hit three or four tomorrow because we are better organized, we are in better form and we simply have a better squad. I will settle for 1-0, though, but I do expect you to perform tomorrow.”

It’s rare that I put pressure on players. I didn’t mind having pressure placed on me when I played since I figured that performance expectations were a part of being a player. But the modern footballer doesn’t always like to be told that someone expects something from him.

I guess what I’m trying to do is make performance a matter of rote at this club. The players have done enough to get along in years past and that is why they are still in Serie C.

I want to challenge them. If they don’t make it, and I still have a job, I’ll find new players. If they make it, they’ll be better players and people for having succeeded. Anyhow, they’ll automatically be better simply for having made the attempt.

# # #

I also had a rather remarkable dream this morning, which is causing me some distraction as we prepare for tomorrow’s match.

I dreamed Kate and I were on holiday on an island beach, which was quite a dream in itself. At the end of our seasons in Reading, we would take a holiday together, go to the Caribbean someplace and hide from the world.

I dreamed she told me her marriage was over and she needed me back in her life. I’ve had this dream, or a variation of it, many times over the last few years and I have always put it down to wishful thinking in my sleep.

Usually, the dream ends with Kate in my arms and I wake up alone in my bed. That’s a bit of a comedown. But this dream was a lot different.

I was about to answer Kate but when I turned back to her, she was gone, replaced by Patty.
“Not so fast,” she said. And then I woke up.

So I have been more than a little distracted this evening, as I watch the football preview shows for something to do on my Friday night. Just for the fun of it, I decided to place a call to Venice.

I heard her voice on the other end of the line in a noisy place. “Just thought I’d say hi,” I said, and Patty nearly had to yell in reply.

“Sorry, I’m having a hard time hearing you!” she said. “We’re out after tonight’s biennale event and the nightclub is pretty loud!”

I smiled. “You’re quite the party girl,” I said, and she laughed heartily in reply.

“Hardly,” she answered. “But I’ve been able to go have fun the last couple of nights.”

Just then, it seemed a drink order arrived and she spoke again. “Paul, you didn’t have to do that,” she said.

I heard his voice in the background. “Here you go, honey,” I heard him say, plainly into the phone. She made no attempt to correct him.

Well, so much for that dream.

# # #
You are a fantastic writer and really deserve a SOTM nomination!
I second that as I have been really enjoying this story as a silent reader.
Gentlemen, thank you very much for the kind words and for following along. Both are greatly appreciated!

Saturday, September 8
Padova v Manfredonia - Serie C1A

We did everything I wanted tonight and then some. It was just a wonderfully satisfying win.

Baú was the man of the moment, scoring a hat trick and decimating our visitors with a superb all-around game. The best part of it was that Eder connected twice from the spot, as we’ve now been awarded a remarkable four penalties in our last three matches.

Both our penalties came within the first 25 minutes. We gave the visitors a torrid reception from the 4-1-3-2, which carved them open with some ease.

We created a good chance in the first minute, with Muzzi shooting over the bar from about fifteen yards, but within the first five minutes we were already on the penalty spot. Baú was the creator again, with his corner into the box rather blatantly handled by midfielder Salvatore Burrai.

Our supporters went nuts. I raised both my arms up to ask where the call was. And it wasn’t long in coming, as referee Daniele Doveri gave us instant gratification by pointing to the spot.

Baú wasted no time in grabbing the ball and daring anyone to take it from him. Nobody tried, and Eder’s forceful spot kick cleanly beat keeper Manolo Leacche, who even managed to guess right on the direction of the kick.

So we were a goal to the good five minutes into the match and I was very pleased to see that we kept the hammer down with the lead. We were unlucky not to get a second goal through Rabito before Baú wound up on the penalty spot again on 23 minutes. This time his entry ball for Varricchio was handled by midfielder Salvatore Del Sole, and Doveri again had no choice but to point to the spot.

At least from our point of view. The visitors’ bench went berserk, claiming Del Sole had controlled the ball with his chest. Defender Milan Bortel charged the referee to protest, which earned him an immediate yellow card for dissent, and again Baú took the ball.

Again, Eder made no mistake, driving home his shot with aplomb to give us the two-nil lead. Then he looked at the Euganeo press box, where he knew Emiliani sat, and saluted. He was making his point and I let him do it.

Manfredonia hardly bothered us for the rest of the half and I knew manager Novelli would have a lot to say to his players at the break. So for my halftime team talk, I simply put my fingers to my lips.

We could hear faint sounds of yelling from down the hall. “That’s what your first half is doing in their room,” I said. “Now go out in the second half and make it hurt. Beat them and make that long ride home misery for them. You can do it.”

The looks I got from some of my players were interesting to see. The aggressively minded players got a fair amount of joy from that, while the “coasters” in the group gave looks of comparative bewilderment.

That, in itself, was instructive to me. I have to know who has the “hard edge”, and when I need our boots on some team’s collective necks I want players out there who have no qualms about getting their boots dirty.

Baú was first on the list, and it took him just three minutes of the second half to complete his hat trick before an appreciative gathering of 3,739. His finish from the right side of the penalty area was as sublime as it was effective and everyone in the park knew there was no way back for Manfredonia.

Yet we kept up the pressure. Pablo Paz scored his first goal for the club seven minutes later on a free header from the six-yard box to make it 4-0, and late on even my second-choice holding midfielder got into the act.

Giuseppe Anaclerio, a late substitution for the carded Crovari, finished from a full 25 yards past the beleaguered Leacche after a rebounded clearance wound up on his right boot. It was just one more thing to celebrate on a day filled with reasons to smile.

Finally, Doveri blew for full time and didn’t even use the full three minutes of second half injury time. The match had been over for half an hour but the laws of the game still say you have to play ninety minutes.

I shook hands with a disgusted Novelli, and left him to stew with his players. I know someday I may well be on the other end of that handshake – even though the score was only 2-nil at Sassuolo I sure knew how a hard loss already felt – and I headed to the changing room with my happy players.

There was a lot of cheering and backslapping as I stepped into the room and the players gave me a loud cheer as I entered.

“That’s what I want to see!” I exclaimed, and got another rousing cheer in reply.

“Eder Baú, take a bow!” I said, handing him the match ball for his hat trick. “Man of the match!” His teammates gave him a rousing cheer and I asked for a bit of calm.

“This was an excellent effort in every respect, but don’t forget that we’re right back here on Wednesday against Chioggia and they will notice what you did here today. We’ll need to be ready and I’ll expect you to be ready. Now enjoy your night. You’ve earned the applause today!”

So then I went to face the media, where I heard a rather disgusted Novelli complaining about the second penalty and then using the words ‘footballing lesson’ in the same phrase.

So I suppose he couldn’t have been completely furious, but any team that concedes two penalties in the first 25 minutes of a match is going to have a heart-to-heart meeting when the match is done.

I took my place at the opposite end of the interview area and waited for my turn. Novelli left, and I had my chance.

“Can’t complain about a thing,” I said in English before switching to Italian. “Eder Baú stepped up today and showed his character. Missing two penalties in a row told on him and he worked very hard in training over the last few days to perfect his stroke. He took two very good penalties and I’m delighted for his hat trick.”

“I think we played about as well as we can play at this point in the season,” I added. “Structurally we are starting to get it right and our formation work has been very good the last two matches. We generate good scoring opportunities when this is the case and that is no secret to anyone who has seen us play. So I am hopeful we can keep up our present run of form and play well against Chioggia on Wednesday night.”

Padova 5-0 Manfredonia

# # #

I told the squad they had Sunday off – we’re a tired bunch already – and they seemed to appreciate the gesture. They like football but not every day, and as a result some of them were talking out loud about going out on the town.

It was then that I remembered I was supposed to go out on the town as well, with Patty driving from Venice to meet me.

After last night’s phone conversation, I had to remind myself of what my goals truly were regarding her and what reality in the form of what I heard had dictated my goals could be.

Those goals are modest. I want a friend and if someone comes along whom I might love, then fine. But I won’t go out of my way for it, or for any woman.

I had finally managed to calm down from McGuire’s cheap shot and Patty’s news, and as I left Euganeo I realized I hadn’t thought about any of them all day.

Frankly, I didn’t mind that knowledge.

# # #
I chose the “Q” restaurant and bar in the downtown area for our meeting.

It’s upscale, trendy, fairly easy to find, and about five minutes from my apartment, which are all good points. The fact I was showing up there after a 5-0 win didn’t hurt either.

I had a message waiting for me from Patty when I left the stadium, asking for a callback to get directions. I returned the call and actually drove home, walking to the Q from there.

I arrived before her, so I was shown to a nice table where I ordered a drink to wait for her. Italians don’t do beer very well in my opinion, so I settled back with a Grolsch and wondered what I was getting myself into.

I actually pinched myself, wincing from the pain, and reminded myself that to do what I have to do, I have to be different. I don’t want those feelings again.

After about ten minutes, she entered, looking around for me at the door. The greeter got to her first, and pointed to where I sat.

I raised my bottle to her in greeting and she smiled, walking quickly to the table. “Hi,” she smiled, and I rose to greet her in return.

She gave me a quick but tasteful hug, which surprised me, and we sat.

“Have a nice trip?” I asked, and she nodded.

“Yes, I did,” she said. “Department business today – otherwise I would have come to the match too. I heard the end on the radio. You played well!”

“Can’t complain,” I said, as the waiter put another beer on the table and removed my empty first beverage.

“So how are you?”

I shrugged. “Not bad,” I said. “I’d be a lot different if we had lost, that’s for sure.”

“I overheard some people in Venice talking about you and your team today at lunch,” she said. I smiled.

“Any words you can repeat?” I asked.

“I wasn’t impressed. Let’s just say I know better than they do.”

“Kind of you,” I offered. “How about I buy you a drink for driving all this way?”

“I had hoped to do the same for you,” she said. “It’s nice to see you again.”

I felt odd. Especially after the dream I had, I was feeling strangely about being with her and feeling a bit of a fool after last night’s call. She noticed.

“Suppose you tell me what’s eating you,” she said, with a patient expression. “I think something’s wrong. Do you not want to be here?”

I took a deep breath and downed about a third of my German strong beer before answering. “I do want to be here,” I said. “I’m just not sure how I should act.”

“That’s odd, if you don’t mind my saying so,” she said, but my expression indicated that I felt otherwise. “Do I make you uncomfortable?”

“I’m fine with you,” I said. “What’s bothering me…”

“…is Paul,” she said, finishing my sentence.

“…is Paul,” I finished, taking another drink. “Look, it isn’t any of my business who you see. I just won’t be in anyone’s way again. That hurt way the hell too much last time and I won’t put myself through that again. If you want me to be your friend, that’s just fine with me. I like you, Patty, and you should know that. But I’m not going to get placed in another situation where I don’t want to go. So I guess I don’t know how I should act.”

“Like a gentleman, which you are doing,” she said, and I showed my surprise.

“I’m getting drunk,” I said. “Gentlemen don’t do that.”

“Which tells me how you really feel, despite what you’re saying to be kind,” she said. “Yes, Rob, I think I’ll have that drink. We need to have a real conversation and quit dancing around this.”

# # #

So, we did. The fact that I was talking from behind the mask of two Grolsches loosened things up nicely and it didn’t take long.

“So, you’re jealous,” she said, locking eyes with me.

I hadn’t planned on her being so direct.

“Well, before I answer that, suppose you tell me what’s really up with Paul.”

“You first,” she said, just a little sparkle in her eye as she spoke.

I took a deep breath. “I have no right to be, but yes, a little,” I said. “You are a lovely woman and I have to admit I haven’t thought about lovely women much over the last several years. You kicked me right in my libido.”

She smiled at my phraseology, and I was glad for that.

“As long as you don’t think about lovely men, we’re fine,” she laughed. “Let me worry about that.”

“No chance,” I promised, as the waiter arrived with my third beer. I grew bolder as the alcohol took hold.

“Speaking of lovely men you worry about, out with it regarding Paul, please,” I said, and she smiled.

“I wasn’t lying,” she said. “He’s a friend.”

“Who calls you ‘honey’.”

“You can call me ‘honey’ too, if you want,” she said. “Doesn’t mean I believe everything I hear.”

“So why do you let him?” I asked, and she nodded.

“He really wants me to be his honey,” she admitted. “When I go out with him he keeps talking about ‘us’ and ‘our future’, but what I want from him is friendship. He’s really not my type.”

“Then I’m sorry,” I said. “I drew the wrong conclusion. But can you see where I’d wonder?”

“I can,” she said. “Even though it’s none of your business, right?”

She had me cold. I looked at her.

“Right,” I answered, taking another drink. “Even though it’s none of my damn business.”

The raw emotion was starting to show through and she saw it.

“Look, Rob, we’ve both been hurt badly by that jerk,” she said, impressing me with her candor. “He wrote you to stop you from talking to me. I know the truth about him, and about Kate as well.”

“There’s truth about Kate I don’t know?” I asked. Now it was getting deep and I was almost happy I was buzzed when I asked the question.

“There may be,” she answered. “But really now, Rob, you need to ask yourself if that honestly matters to you any more.”

I thought about that for a long minute. Then I realized Patty was right.

“I’ve let her dominate me for five years,” I said. “And that’s time I can never get back.”

“Well, perhaps the time wasn’t right for you,” she said. “You do need to cut yourself a little slack.”

As we talked, well wishers would occasionally gawk at us, which told me two things. First, it told me the manager needed to stop drinking before he got pickled, and second, the “Q” bar was getting a little too busy for the rest of the conversation we needed to have.

“I think people are staring at you,” she teased, flashing me a wonderful smile.

“I hate being a zoo exhibit,” I replied. “Patty, would you let me take you for a walk?”

She smiled and put down €20 on the table to pay for the drinks. “I thought you’d never ask,” she said. “The drinks are on me.”

# # #
We walked through the streets of downtown Padua, trying to get a little separation from the crowd.

We talked some more but couldn’t get really started in a meaningful conversation due to people still gawking at us. I knew the meeting would be all over town in the morning.

“This isn’t working,” I said, now getting a little frustrated.

“I wish it were,” she said. “You were starting to open up nicely.”

“Is that a concern for you?” I asked, now the playful one.

“Rob, I drove all the way from Venice to be with you this evening and it’s getting late,” she said. “Yes, it’s a concern for me.” This time the look she gave me was different. I knew what I needed to do.

“Patty, how about we go to my apartment for a nightcap?” I asked. “Would that be okay to ask?”

She looked up at me and gave me an expression I hadn’t yet seen from her. Her eyes got a little wider and a very nice smile passed her lips.

“I’d like that a lot,” she said. So, I led the way.

In a few minutes, we were at the door of my building and through the security entrance.

I looked at my watch. I smiled down at her and the expression she gave me set off a little inner chime.

I looked at her with a look of discovery, quite different from the admiration I had already shown. Hurriedly, I looked away and opened the door to my apartment. When I closed it behind us, we were finally alone and away from prying eyes.

“Make yourself comfortable,” I said, and she looked around my living room.

It is very definitely a “bachelor pad”. In one corner, my 53-inch large screen television is hung from a wall, surrounded by my growing library of club DVDs in a surprisingly organized set of shelves.

My laptop sat on a table next to the TV with my office chair set up so I can watch and type quite comfortably. And in true bachelor fashion, I have a small fridge set up within arm’s length of my chair for when I really need it.

“This is a cute little place!” she said, tossing her purse onto the couch and sitting down. I turned on a stereo in the corner and the sounds of smooth jazz filled the room.

“Now, how about a dip into the private stock?” I asked. “What would you like to drink?”

“I don’t need a drink,” she said. “What I need is to make sure we understand each other.”

With that, I turned from behind my kitchen counter and walked over to my easy chair. She sat at the corner of the couch closest to me and we talked.

“Rob, I know you said you wanted a friend and I’m happy to be that,” she said. “I just need you to know that I’m unattached … I’m certainly not attached to Paul, and … well, you just need to know that.”

She looked down into her lap and I knew what she was trying to say.

She melted my heart. My new friend was being plain with me and it had to be incredibly painful to do. After all she had been through, it had to be excruciating. And, I was being a hard man. I hated myself for it.

She stood up. “Well, at least I told you,” she said, thinking I was turning her down.

I saw her now as she really was, not as I wanted her to be. I had made a horrible mistake and now that I had a chance to fix it, I knew what a fool I had been.

What she really was, was vulnerable, sweet, kind, and frankly as beautiful as anyone I had ever seen – Kate included.

I held out my arms and Patty walked in, softly embracing me and leaning her head against my chest.

I held her for a long minute, as we gently swayed back and forth in the middle of my living room. She looked up at me.

“That didn’t hurt a bit,” she said, smiling bravely through her tears.

“For either of us,” I smiled, and she buried her pretty head in my shoulder in reply.

# # #
tenthreeleader's avatar Group tenthreeleader
8 yearsEdited
Monday, September 10

“He’s got a great future ahead. He’s missed so much of it.” – Terry Venables

I welcomed the squad back to training this morning before Wednesday’s match against Chioggia and we were all in a collectively good mood.

The glow of Saturday’s win and the relaxation of Sunday’s day off was still there.

Players are itching to get into the starting squad and I’m quite pleased with the team’s attitude at this point in time. I plan no changes to the tactics and only changing out those players who still aren’t physically up to the challenge of a Saturday/Wednesday stretch of schedule.

The players were in the mood to kid the boss, since more than a few people had seen me out with Patty on Saturday night.

“Are you sure you can concentrate today?” Crovari teased as we went through a set piece drill. “You’re the last holdout among the single coaches.”

He was right. Everyone else on my staff – without exception – is married except for me.

“Feeling the pressure?” my captain added, and I let the teasing go. I was in too good a mood to be seriously angry.

Some managers aren’t like that. I’m not a dictator by any stretch but when my authority is compromised I will come down hard. The players need to know that, but the way they will have to learn it is to screw up. That won’t be fun for any of us, least of all for them.

Yet in a way, Federico was right. My concentration was a little off at times today but not in the way it was two weeks ago. Even though I couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth when Patty was in my apartment, I am happy with how they turned out.

She called yesterday afternoon and we talked for two hours, with me doing my work and odd jobs around my apartment as we talked. She teased me about that.

“You know, if I were over there I could be helping you and I wouldn’t have to be on a speaker phone,” she chided, and I was glad she couldn’t see me blushing.

“I’m glad you aren’t into guilt,” I replied, and her giggle in response was just what I needed to hear.

# # #

I suppose I should make a couple of points about the last five years. It’s not as though I’ve been a recluse. I have not.

In any decent-sized European city, you can’t be a footballer making hundreds of thousands of Euros a season without attracting attention. Of course, when I played in England I made pounds sterling instead of Euros, but you get the idea.

I made good money, especially while playing at Rangers and Reading. My salad days were obviously with Reading, where my last contract paid me £800,000 per season. My first contract paid me £700,000 per season and I made £500,000 per year at Rangers.

My three-year contract with Chicago wasn’t much by comparison and in the salary-capped MLS, money was secondary to my need and desire to play and stay sharp. My Frosinone deal was quite small, but money was no object at all in comparison to my desire to get my coaching badges.

I don’t need money, but money makes you noticeable, which was the whole point of this dissertation.

At Rangers, I liked to go out when it was feasible to do so, though I never hurt the club by doing so. And I did get noticed.

In Chicago, where the game obviously isn’t nearly as big as it is in Glasgow, some people knew who I was.

And even at Frosinone, the eligible ladies in town knew who I was. I wanted a woman who was ready to settle down, but that never happened.

I remember sitting in a watering hole on State Street in Chicago during my last season with the Fire. I was 33 years old and was the club vice-captain. I was enjoying football and frankly enjoying being home even as I thought about going back to Europe.

As I sat with my teammates, a beautiful woman approached, stopping right in front of me.

“Can we help you?” a teammate of mine snickered, and even this didn’t put off the woman. She laid her hand on my shoulder.

“You can’t, but Rob can,” she said, and the exquisite nature of her reply made us all laugh.

Knowing my history, my teammates gave me a respectful amount of space. We started to talk for a bit while my teammates talked among themselves. Finally, I got around to asking what she did for a living.

She smiled at me with an almost wicked expression. “I’m a magician,” she said, and I gave her a quizzical expression.

“To prove it, I’d like to make you disappear for awhile,” she smiled, and it was pretty obvious what she wanted.

But I didn’t feel good about it. The next day I felt empty.

I thought of that night more than once on Saturday when I was with Patty. I didn’t want a repeat – and most importantly, I didn’t want to subject her to the same feelings I had had afterwards.

With the emotional state we were both in, if I had asked her to stay awhile something may well have happened. But the lesson of that night in Chicago is that there are things, which, once done, cannot be undone. She’s not ready for that and neither am I.

# # #
Tuesday, September 11
We are ready for Chioggia’s visit and I will have nearly a full-strength side.

DiNardo will get another shot with the starting eleven tomorrow and I had a lengthy talk with my former teammate after training today. I made sure he understood his squad role, which is important for a couple of reasons.

First, I’m a big believer in communication with my players. I need to be the one who initiates some of it since I’m the one who gets paid to make the decisions. This includes communication with players about their roles and where I see them.

Tonight I watched a wonderful show on GolTV called “Soccer Academy”, which highlights several players who went through the Nantes Academy a couple years back trying to earn professional contracts.

One of the highlights of the show was when youth coach Stéphane Moreau had a blunt meeting with each of his players, telling them exactly what he thought of them and what they needed to do to improve.

That is the kind of meeting I am trying to have with my players though on a more informal basis. Also, I’m trying to do it without the blistering criticism you can sometimes get away with giving a youth player (though I’m not saying you should). The senior squad player often thinks he’s “made it” and is thus usually less receptive to blunt honesty.

The exception to this is a player like Music, who is down on himself after being left out of his national side. He’s looking for advice and today I gave it to him, right as I was done speaking with DiNardo.

“I am missing something from my game,” Vedin began, speaking in Italian.

“I don’t believe you are as far away as you think, Vedin,” I replied, and he looked at me with a puzzled expression.

“The national coaches do not agree and they have the decision,” he said.

“I’m your club coach and if you are willing to listen to a few things maybe the national coach will change his mind,” I said, and the 33-year old professional changed his tune.

“All right, what do you think?” he asked.

“I’ve been extremely impressed with your work rate in the last few matches and that’s going to work for you,” I said. “Where I thought your game lacked last season, from the video I’ve seen, was in the quality of your supply. The last couple of matches I have seen real improvement in how you are moving the ball in from the wing. You know my tactic prefers delivery from the byline but you have shown me that you are also able to get the ball into useful positions in the box from farther up the field. That’s what’s really going to help you. Be looking for good early delivery – in my tactic as well, now that you’ve shown me you can do it – and you’re going to be better off.”

He nodded. “I have been trying to score to impress the managers,” he said.

“Your national tactic is a simple 4-4-2 and doesn’t often need wing players in the box,” I said. “My 4-1-3-2 tactic doesn’t need wingers in the box either, so use the open field you get in my tactic to your advantage. I think you can do this, Vedin.”

He thought it through and it’s plain from the expression on his face that he is not ready to give up international football.

“All right,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

# # #
Wednesday, September 12
Padova v Chioggia – Serie C1A

Over the last eight days, we’ve played three matches and won them all by a combined score of 11-1. Tonight we performed to expectation again, thumping Chioggia with a full ninety minutes of football.

In a way I liked this performance more than the match against Manfredonia, even though we scored fewer goals. We generated some truly wonderful chances tonight and the fact that we took three of them didn’t hurt a generally excellent mood on the part of the squad.

Di Nardo has strongly signaled his intention to stay with the senior squad, scoring our final goal tonight with a sweeping bow toward his bench after the ball flashed home. My former teammate isn’t making it easy on me, that’s for sure – but showing up the manager isn’t going to help him.

As well as we have played this week, the crowd was 1,000 smaller than it was on Saturday. Just 2,781 came to Euganeo for the match tonight and that was very disappointing to me. Obviously, the club is looking for bigger gates to make more money and I would like to be able to provide them through the quality of our play.

Tonight’s match showed that it will still take time. Unfortunately, with the exception of Venezia, most of Padova’s main rivalries are with clubs in Serie B. So we need to get promoted to start to draw like we want to.

Tonight’s match also showed that when we are on our stroke, we’re good enough to play with good teams. The red-hot Varricchio netted again for us just before the half-hour, the even-hotter Baú scored his fifth goal in three matches just before the full hour and Di Nardo scored his “statement” goal eleven minutes from time. To have that many players all striking the ball so well is truly a wonderful thing for the manager and we dispatched our visitors with ease this evening.

Massimiliano took his chance with some authority, firing home from ten yards off a scramble in front of Antonio Tedeschi’s goal to dispel any lingering nerves about getting back on the scoring track.

He has been a real unsung hero – a player I hadn’t even counted upon to make a regular impact in the starting squad just three weeks ago – and he knows the importance of the role he’s playing.

His goal got us to the break ahead 1-nil and I gave the team talk that is starting to become a bit routine. So today, I changed it in mid-stroke.

“You’re playing well enough so I can tell you this,” I told them. “Don’t get cocky or these guys can peg you back. Just do what you’re briefed to do and let’s go have fun in the second half.”

And to my slight surprise, they did, for the second straight match. Baú’s finish was confident, a thing of beauty from the right-hand channel about twenty yards from goal, and Di Nardo’s goal was a powerful header from Music’s corner.

Our supporters were in fine voice from the moment of Baú’s goal and this was a relief to me. Singing supporters are always good to hear, even if they can’t sing. Generally, if they aren’t singing they’re screaming, and that is rarely good for the boss.

However, and I keep coming back to this, the sight of Euganeo ten percent full is starting to grate on me. But with results like these, perhaps the fans will come back sooner rather than later.

# # #

I was feeling pretty good about the squad when I talked with media after the match. Winning three on the spin like we have of late allows me to do that.

“I don’t think we let Chioggia have much tonight,” I said. “I’m very pleased with how we closed them down. I think they only had three shots on target and with Orlandoni playing like he has been playing we should keep more than a few clean sheets when we do that. We deserved the points tonight and we are playing quite well as an eleven-man unit. When we get the full 4-1-3-2 tactic installed I think it’s going to be fun to watch this team play. They’re picking it up and when they do that we are pretty potent.”

The queries from reporters questioning my tactics and my sanity are starting to decrease, which is good. I’m now being asked more about my striker situation where I have several hot players and Muzzi waiting to get into the flow of the offense.

“Di Nardo has scored at this level and he wants to play, as I’d expect anyone outside my senior squad to want to play,” I said. “He’s trying to earn it and his scoring today was noted by the manager. It’s a great problem to have, I must admit. Baú is on fire, Varricchio and Di Nardo are scoring well and Muzzi is stepping into his form so I hope we can have three strikers all on the same sheet of music in addition to Eder. If that happens, we will be fun. Period.”

Padova 3-0 Chioggia

# # #

I then got quite a surprise when I left the stadium.

I exited through the players’ entrance and smiled as I saw the players getting the plaudits from fans they deserved. I turned the corner and saw Patty leaning against the wall of the stadium waiting for me.

“Hey,” she said. “Going my way?”

“Hi!” I exclaimed, and her petite frame soon filled my arms for a happy hug. “What a nice surprise!”

“I thought I’d see if you were interested in a little time,” she said.

“Since you drove all the way from Venice, the answer’s yes,” I smiled, as we turned to walk to her car.

“Did you walk to the stadium?” she asked.

“I did.”

“Well, then how about a lift home?”

“I think that would be perfect,” I said. “Unfortunately, my apartment isn’t as tidy as it was on Saturday.”

“That’s all right,” she answered. “Who knows, maybe sometime we’ll spend a little time with the lights off and if it’s messy neither of us will notice.”

# # #

You are reading "[FM08] American Calcio".

FMS Chat

hey, just wanted to let you know that we have a fb style chat for our members. login or sign up to start chatting.