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[FM08] American Calcio

Started on 23 June 2015 by tenthreeleader
Latest Reply on 8 August 2016 by tenthreeleader
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Sunday, January 20
Padova v Sassuolo – Serie C1A


We did what we came to do. Our unbeaten string continues and we are one point clear in Serie C1A.

We achieved a measure of revenge today by keeping a clean sheet while taking advantage of a nice break to score the only goal of a tight, tense match.

Venezia’s victory this afternoon meant they kept pace with us one point behind, and today’s victory means that after Sassuolo went most of the first half of the season without losing, they’ve now captured only three of the last twelve points on offer.

It was a very good day. And for once we performed before a decent-sized crowd, as 4,742 came to Euganeo this afternoon to see the rematch.

They should have learned all they needed to know regarding our focus from an interview I gave for radio prior to the match.

“We want the points. We’re driven to take the points. We have a point to prove and the loss to them in our first match has asked some questions we believe we are ready to answer. We are a much different side than the one that capitulated in September and we intend to prove it.”

I couldn’t be much more direct short of guaranteeing a victory, something I never do in any event.

We had a goal from the moment we arrived at our stadium and as we prepared for the match I watched my players closely to make sure emotions didn’t pull us away from the concentration I knew we needed.

I saw a very nice blend of intensity mixed with common sense and I chose to let it go. I listed the XI on a wipeboard at the front of our changing room and it contained few surprises.

Players went through their paces and pre-match routines and soon there was nothing else to do but start the match.

In the beginning we huffed and puffed mightily but didn’t accomplish much. Geoffrey Barretara in the Sassuolo goal made one ‘poster save’ on the unfortunate Muzzi, who broke clean through on eleven minutes only to see the keeper save his low drive in spectacular fashion, reaching behind the line of his body to palm the ball around his lefthand post.

I watched my striker closely to see his reaction. Frustration would surely start to tell here, if it was going to tell at all.

Instead, Muzzi slapped his hands against his forehead in frustration and simply got on with his job. He heard a few whistles from the crowd, due I’m sure in no small measure to Emiliani’s piece earlier in the week, but he kept a level head.

Baú and Caputo worked well again together, and for the third straight match the new arrival from Juve Stabia was the best player in a white shirt. I noticed quickly that he and Baú have quickly come to an understanding that ordinarily takes time – and one I did nothing to discourage for the short term, even though it was a significant change to my tactic.

The two would switch sides of the pitch on occasion. Both players are capable of playing either side of midfield, with Baú still on the right and Caputo on the left in today’s starting eleven.

But when they would flip, they would create both space for themselves and confusion among the Sassuolo defenders assigned to man-mark them. I did wish they had asked me first, but since it was working I chose not to make it a big issue for the time being.

I resolved to say something about it on 23 minutes, though, when it led to our goal. Caputo and Baú worked a criss-cross right outside the top of the Sassuolo penalty area, with Caputo drawing a foul when the visitors’ back line couldn’t mark both players at the same time.

Baú took the ball and put it right at the top of the arc while Barretara set up his defensive wall. Eder measured the free kick and released a bender that struck defender Pierluigi Borgetti, the right-most player in the wall as the shooter looked at it.

The ball changed direction and wrongfooted the helpless Barretara, finding the mesh to put us a goal to the good.

Baú still isn’t as happy as I’d like to see him, but damned if he isn’t producing and that’s what matters the most.

The crowd rose as one, the bench erupted in celebration and I accepted a bear hug from Masolini, now into the match in a way I haven’t seen him yet this season. Baú accepted my handshake at the touchline as he headed back up the pitch and we prepared to accept Sassuolo’s return blast as the first half wore on.

Only it never came. Defensively we were absolutely immaculate in the first 45 minutes, holding them to one shot on target and no good chances. It was a solid performance, but we had played reasonably well in the first half on their pitch too, so I was cautious in my halftime teamtalk.

I hardly needed to be, though, as it turned out. We went out in the second half and really took the game to them.

We forced the play, we bossed the midfield, and we did everything we didn’t do last time – while using the same formation that had come to grief on the road.

It was hardly necessary for me to shift to a flat four-man midfield in the latter stages, but doing so served to cement our dominance of the center of the park. Crovari and Baú had Sassuolo’s wing players tied in knots all afternoon, and the superb play of the new arrival turned some heads.

Antonazzo also played the full ninety minutes at right back and did himself proud in his first home appearance. The new boys did themselves proud, and when the full time whistle went we could really feel good about our performance for the first time in a few hard weeks of work.

We left the pitch to a nice ovation from the home support and it was then I found out that Venezia had won at Pro Sesto, to hang with us. As well as we have played – and with eleven wins, seven draws and one loss in nineteen starts for 40 points, I can safely say we’ve played very well – our lead is exactly one point in the league. Venezia is on 11-6-2 for 39 and Sassuolo is now on 10-6-3 for 36.

We are unbeaten in eighteen league matches and we lead by one point. There’s some excellent competition for this team at this level and we’re heading into the part of the season where even one slip can be fatal.

It’s going to be a challenge but my message to the squad after the game was that promotable teams meet these challenges. It’s up to them.

# # #

After my time with the team, I motioned to Masolini to follow me to the media area. I had something I wanted to say and it was media time.

I sat at the table, our covering media placed microphones in front of me, and I spoke.

“I’m going to do things a little differently today, gentlemen,” I said. “I’m going to make a statement on three points, and I will take no questions. First, I was very pleased with how we played. I think we showed we were the better club today, we deserved our points and I think we are in the race for the long haul. Second, I think you people need to lay off of Roberto Muzzi. He’s playing hard, he is creating chances and most importantly he is filling the role his manager needs him to fill. And third, the next person who insinuates that Patty Myers is responsible for any misfortune that may befall this club is going to have trouble with me that he doesn’t want. Thank you.”

Then, I got up and left.
# # #

Patty waited for me outside the players’ gate and this time when we met, there was no talk about ‘bad luck’.

A few people at Euganeo know who she is, and when they saw us together, the rest of the support quickly learned. She has been as frustrated as I’ve been, though, and she was looking for a moment with Emiliani as he left the stadium.

I wanted that moment to be in my company, but he didn’t come out right away. He was writing his story and finally, we moved on to the rest of our evening.

“Let’s not work on his schedule,” I finally told her, and she nodded in reply. He could afford to wait.

If he has a brain in his head – and despite my disagreements with him, I know Stefano is an intelligent man – he would wait us out. Conceding no ground, I suggested that we move along for that day.

“We’ve got better things to do,” she said. “Shall we start with dinner?”
Padova 1-0 Sassuolo

# # #
Monday, January 21
We’ll be on the road this coming weekend, with real expectations on us. Today, we had a light training session and started our work on Lecco.

They are 17th in the table, but to say they pick their moments for brilliance would be an understatement. They have lost twelve of their nineteen matches with only four wins, but they are also the reason we were playing from ahead in the table on Sunday.

One of those four wins was at Sassuolo, which even we couldn’t manage, and another was against Monza when they were a hot team in the league. Playing them is a bit of a banana skin for us. Lecco’s trouble has come against the bottom of the table.

On paper, we should go there, get off the coach and claim the points. Whether it actually works that way is of course an entirely different matter.

They have had a lot of difficulty keeping the ball out of their net, which bodes well for the low-scoring Biancoscudati, but I keep coming back to Lecco’s 1-nil win at Sassuolo as an indication of how well they can play when the chips are down.

That was the match I watched on DVD while the squad was at lunch. I didn’t see a lot wearing their shirt that can hurt us offensively but when they can put men behind the ball they can be quite troublesome to break down.

Positionally, though, I do feel they can be had and I am looking forward to seeing how our “dynamic duo” of Baú and Caputo handles their wing players.

The supporters already love Caputo, and the local fanzine has given him three straight match ratings of “8”. He’s grabbed the attention and that’s a good thing because he already seems to be a player who doesn’t mind it.

Watching him in training today, I’m looking to see if I have to hold him back in any way. I want team-oriented players here and even though Caputo has more than enough talent to excel in this league, the expression of that talent can’t come at the expense of his mates. So far, though, he’s been everything I could have asked for.

# # #

Patty also has to make another decision, one that has nothing to do with me.

As well as things have been going lately for us, she seems to be up and down about whether she wants to resume our relationship. I have been keeping her at arm’s length while she makes up her mind.

I love being around her, but the issue of Paul is still hanging over her head. She also isn’t sure what she’ll do at the end of the month when her duties in the Venice office are concluded. We have made a commitment to each other in one sense, which she mentioned the other night, but now she seems to be scared about having made it.

This morning I was able to talk with her about all of those things and get something else off my chest as well.

“I guess my concern is that if you were interested in me again, you’d have let me know,” I said. “No criticism intended, but after all that’s happened I wouldn’t mind having some idea of where I stand. I know you’ve said you want to rebuild and that’s fine, but I really don’t know where I stand.”

“You haven’t been forthcoming either,” she said. “I know you’ve been trying to give me space, but you guide people for a living. I need you to do that with me.”

“I can’t guide your relationship choice, Patty,” I said. “That wouldn’t be fair and it wouldn’t be right. All I’ll tell you is this: if you want me, let’s be together. No distractions.”

# # #
Tuesday, January 22
Amid the hubbub, I’m still trying to help my bosses run a business and that means sometimes players have to go.

One of those players is Bovo, who could be a nice piece of business for the club. He’s mired in the reserves, wants to leave and whose valuation, thanks to co-owners Palermo, has now risen to €160,000.

Our half naturally amounts to €80,000, which would pay for all my January transfers and leave bottom line money left over at the same time.

The club has lost about €500,000 this season, from an initial bank balance of just over €1,000,000. This shows the importance of getting the crowds back into the stadium and also over getting promoted.

The prize money we’ve received from the Serie C cup has been negligible to this point and to sustain the payroll budget we have at present, we either need to reduce overhead or raise revenue through attendance. It certainly won’t come through prize money.

The board has allowed the payroll budget to remain at its pre-season level, and the renegotiated contracts we did last month with our key players has allowed me to bring in Caputo and Antonazzo with the money we saved.

A transfer fee for Bovo, though, would certainly be nice. And a fee of that size, for a player who isn’t able to break out of my reserves, would be fabulous.

The tricky part of this lies in the uniquely Italian rule of co-ownership. Any bid for a player who is co-owned must of course be accepted by both his clubs for a player to move. For a Serie A club like Palermo, a fee of €80,000 is chump change. For us, it’s a fair amount of dosh and since Bovo is contracted through 2010, I wouldn’t mind being able to collect.

Our initial notification to clubs that we would be interested in entertaining offers for our share of the player met with huge response. Twelve of the twenty clubs who have expressed interest are willing to meet our asking price. It’s now a question of where Andrea would like to go.

That decision is completely up to the player. My only condition was that he not go to a rival, but with the interest that’s being shown in him, Andrea can pick and choose.

As far as other sales go, I really don’t contemplate any. Most of what passes for my reserve squad is out on loan and it’s fair to say a large number of those players won’t be part of the 2008-09 Biancoscudati, if I’m still around to make that decision.

There are a few people in that list I’m watching at their loan clubs, but right now if I felt any of them could truly help me, I’d have considered recalling them.

# # #
Wednesday, January 23
We’re heading west again this week, which means an early day of travel and another overnight stay.

Lecco is in Lombardy, about thirty miles north of Milan, so we’ll be on the coach on Saturday.

The bookmakers have installed us as 1-2 favorites on the road, which brings up all the old caveats about how hard it is to play away from home with expectations. But after the events of the last few days, I’m ready for that expectation.

I’ve brought some of it on myself, by how I answered Emilani at my post-match soiree on Sunday. He threw down the gauntlet and my response picked up that gauntlet and slapped him across his face.

I have to be very careful now. Public feuds are not desirable with the press – at least not for a first-year manager. The big boys in this business can do and say as they like without too much worry, because their reputations insulate them from a certain amount of criticism.

For example, even the British tabloid media, which is notorious for its intrusion and direct style of writing, can’t make a dent in Sir Alex Ferguson. Of course, the former Govan shop steward has the added advantage of not giving a hang what his detractors have to say. My skin isn’t quite that thick yet.

Some of the opposition comes from the fact of my nationality. I am quite certain of that, as Italian football is fiercely parochial and understandably so. I could duck under some of the criticism and note that I’m also part Swedish, but I am proud of my heritage and don’t apologize for it.

I’m also different from what they are used to. I’ve been unsparing of myself when I’ve messed up, and haven’t tried to blame others when things haven’t gone right.

Except for Emiliani. There I had no trouble placing blame, and I called the reporter into my office today after training for a clear-the-air session. I also asked that Sestaro be notified I had a media visitor, and that his presence might be requested.

Emiliani doesn’t spend much time in the club offices. He’s usually either near the training pitch or in a press area someplace during the week and in the press box or around the changing room after matches. His face isn’t familiar to some at the club so he was in an unusual position when he checked in with Christina to see me.

Part of this was by my design. There are places some reporters think they own. My purpose here was to show him that when he comes to the front office he leaves his turf.

I showed him back to my space, and he stepped inside.

“What an orderly office,” he commented, and I made a mental note to thank Christina for cleaning the space on her own initiative. He moved to the door and I shook my head.

“No,” I said. “That door stays open.”

“May I ask why?”

“Because I don’t have closed-door meetings,” I said simply. “Please, have a seat.”

“Again, may I ask why?”

“Because if the door never closes and people can see inside, I can’t be accused of anything that isn’t true,” I said. “Now, please be seated.”

I sat, and he took out his notebook.

“No need for that,” I said. “What I have to say to you is off the record.”

“I don’t work that way,” he said immediately, opening his book.

“Then we’ll have a delay in starting,” I said. “Your choice. As for me, I’ve got all afternoon.” I buzzed Christina, who replied immediately.

“Please have Filippo report to my office,” I said.

“Ganging up on me?” he asked, and I shook my head, maintaining my calm.

“No,” I said. “It’s important to me that this conversation be witnessed.”

Now he looked hesitant. The notebook remained open, though, and as my deputy arrived, I motioned him to a nearby chair.

“Off the record,” I repeated. “This has nothing to do with Calcio Padova.”

Finally, he nodded.

“Good,” I said. “Stefano, you know I’m very upset with you about the article you did about Patty Myers.”

“I write what people think,” he said. “Are you seeing her again?”

“You don’t need to be defensive,” I said, and he showed me a look of considerable surprise. “But I made a promise on Sunday and it is time to enlighten you as to what that promise means.”

I had also glossed over his personal question.

“Very well,” he answered.

“I warned you the first time your paper wrote about Patty,” I said. “At the time you told me you didn’t write the article and I believed you. Now you have written an article, under your own byline. You’ve criticized me for showing too much patience with players such as Eder Baú and Roberto Muzzi but when you get right down to it, I’ve shown the same patience with you that I’ve shown with him. You haven’t criticized me for that.”

I looked at him and spoke calmly, even though I could see little sparks before my eyes as I did so.

“If you ever write another article that hurts her, we’ll see you in court,” I said. “And that is a promise. She has nothing to do with this club, she has nothing to do with the results this club attains, and above all she has nothing to do with you. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”

“You are attempting to censor me,” he said. “I’m not scared of you.”

“I attempt no censorship,” I said. “I can’t control what you write. But I will tell you that words mean things, and that I’m watching your words from today forward. If I see words I don’t like regarding my personal life, there will be consequences. You can write whatever you want about how I manage this club, or any decision I make in my job. But when you next cross the line for something I do that isn’t illegal, I will make you rue the day.”

He looked for a sign of weakness but instead saw an icy blue gaze in return. I spoke again, clipping off my words.

“Do-I-make-myself-clear?”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“You try me,” I challenged. “I can’t censor you and I’d rather not restrict your access, which I certainly could do based on some of the comments you’ve made in previous columns. I’ve spoken with the chairman about this and for the time being we’ve chosen not to approach your superiors. I wanted to have this discussion with you first and foremost. I’m a reasonable man, Stefano. I want you to see reason.”

At that, he stood and his face started to grow red. There are some things you evidently don’t say to hot-blooded Italian men and that was one of them.

At long last, after a bit of trying, I had hit his hot button rather than the other way around and I was curious to see how he would handle it. The answer was not long in coming – it was ‘not very well’.

“You want to tell me what to write, and I won’t do it!” he answered, maintaining his air of defiance as his voice rose. He leaned forward toward me.

“Now, you listen to me, Mr. Manager! I’ll write what I want, when I want to write it! How do you like that?”

So I stood too, and leaned toward him in return so we were nearly nose to nose. But I did not raise my voice.

“But not about whom you want,” I repeated, in the same level tone. “Now, I expect to have no issue with you when covering this team. You write what you want, when you want. But I repeat: you don’t go where you aren’t welcome.”

Now I locked eyes with the reporter and got the last word.

“Ever.”

With that, Masolini showed the reporter to the door.

I don’t think I accomplished much from a reportage standpoint, but I have made myself quite clear. I have an attorney and I won’t hesitate to call him. If he crosses me again, he’ll need a better lawyer than I’ve got to pull himself out of the hole he’ll dig.

# # #
Thursday, January 24
I was curious to see what he’d write today.

He wrote about the club.

That’s fine with me. I know he doesn’t like me at the moment and frankly I don’t care. I don’t even care if he slags me off either in the paper or in his blog. All I want is for him to stay away from Patty while she makes her decision.

Emiliani can hurt me or perhaps even cripple me in this job based on what he writes, and after yesterday, he may well try. I’m prepared to take that risk.

The whole point of my meeting yesterday was to make my conflict with him greater than any conflict he may have with Patty.

It’s an extremely dangerous game, and it may have lasting repercussions on both my future at Padova as well as my long-term viability as a manager.

Yet, I would feel remiss if I didn’t give Patty every inch of room she needs to make her decision. So as I headed off to run training today, I felt good about what I had done.

# # #

The attention I’ve given to Emiliani has also meant a decrease in the media’s scrutiny of Muzzi, who despite his bravado really needs to score a goal.

I haven’t told my players exactly what I’m up to, but I think they can sense it.

I want the pressure to be on me, rather than on them, as we head west this weekend. They’re the ones who have to get the result, and I want them to have as much freedom as I can give them as they pursue it.

We’re going to be in reasonably good health while we make the attempt. Rabito is nearly ready to return to the lineup after his injury, which gives Gentile a push in the center of midfield.

I also spoke with Baú and Crovari about the whole idea of switching positions during play.

“I didn’t care for it so much at times last week because I hadn’t accounted for it in the match plan,” I said. “I like what you did with it, but in future I’ll be the one who plans for that.”

Both players nodded and I could sense an apologetic look from the ever-professional Baú.

“Don’t worry, it’s not like I’m angry,” I said. “It’s just that I’d like to be able to think about how much havoc you two can cause other teams and in the end I need to be able to control that. Don’t think you’ve done a bad thing. You haven’t.”

I also had the chance to work with the defenders on weight training issues today. Now that we are back to a weekly schedule for the next few matches, we can return to more normal types of training.

That means strength, because we’ll need it when March arrives.

We stopped doing real hard physical training long ago, to cope with the rigors of the season, but our conditioning work is as hard as it has ever been to keep the players at peak fitness.

My goal for this kind of work is to give the players a physical base on which they can draw for the end of the season. Right now the players are playing a lot of football and after awhile, the grind of a nine or a ten-month season starts to tell.

So when I can help keep a player physically strong, I will encourage them to do so. It’s for the player’s own good to help avoid injury as well as to the team that needs the player’s services.

Today, after the training session, I gathered Gotti, Faísca, Sacchetti, Paz, Donadoni, Cotroneo and Antonazzo around me for a little heart-to-heart.

“Gentlemen, I’d like to reintroduce you to an old friend. This is a weight bench,” I smiled.

I pointed to the object of my discourse. “We’re going to make sure that before we leave training each day, you’ve all had a little quality time with Mr. Weight Bench here. Nothing excessive, but keeping up physical strength is important and the physios will be looking for you here.”

I heard a chorus of soft disagreements. “Boss…oh, come on, gaffer…why now, boss?” I smiled.

“Because now is the time to do the hard work that gets you a winners’ medal at the end of the year,” I said. “I think you want one of those medals, and I know your bank book wants you to win one of those medals too, for the raise you’ll get next season according to the club contract policy. Right?”

That changed the more mercenary-minded of my defenders to my point of view, and we all did a little lifting before hitting the showers for the day.

Even me. I never know when I’m going to need to tie some reporter in a knot.

# # #
Friday, January 25
With just 48 hours separating us from the last match of January, we got some bad news concerning Bovo’s potential sale today.

Juve Stabia was the player’s selection and the parties agreed terms – but it came out today that the club that sold Caputo to us could not meet the transfer fee and canceled the deal.

That leaves us less than a week to find a new suitor, among clubs who have already made moves for other players after losing out for Bovo. Sometimes there’s no winning for losing – and in this case, we’re the ones who will be losing through not getting a transfer fee for the player.

The money counters aren’t real happy this morning. From my point of view, I have a player I hadn’t planned on having so that makes me happy when it comes to squad coverage. The balance between the two can be the difference between making and losing money.

We have to walk that line now, due to the losses the club has incurred over the first half of the season. It’s not catastrophic by any stretch of the imagination, but the bean counters in the boardroom would rather have more beans to count than less. It’s a business and we can’t forget that.

My media gathering after training was a little tense, but nothing I couldn’t handle.

The squad is in a very good mood as we prepare to get on the coach tomorrow and this is especially true of my strikers. Muzzi retains his optimism and Varricchio wants to go out there to see if he can score again.

Massimiliano’s attitude is perfect. He’s been a real consistent threat in front of goal – perhaps our only consistent threat in most matches of late – and feeding his confidence hasn’t exactly been difficult.

I have a confident, determined group of players who are starting to see that they can grind out results on certain occasions. That’s the spirit I need to see and it’s the kind of play that can keep us in the race for a long time to come.

# # #

Saturday, January 26
Travel day today, but my mind is on tomorrow – and what will come after it.

As for my job, I’ve settled into what will likely be the regular XI for as long as they can last. Gentile starts in the center of midfield, Baú and Caputo are the wing players, and Crovari is restored to the holding position. Paz will slot back into the right full back position and I’ll have my first choice back line intact for the match.

Healthwise we remain in reasonable shape. The rest is up to the players.

# # #

Patty says she wants to come see me on Monday, when we’ll be taking a light training day if we win tomorrow. There’s only one reason why she would want to do that – it’s time to decide.

My uneasy truce with Emiliani is holding, and that is very good news. He made the trip to Milan with us today, though not traveling with the team, and my guess is I’ll be under very close scrutiny tomorrow.

That’s fine with me – let the pressure fall on me instead of my players and let it fall on me instead of Patty. Her e-mail of this afternoon showed me that I need to remove all the pressure I can from her shoulders.

Rob:

Just want you to know, I’m seeing Paul this evening. I have to see him and I know you’ll understand. Looking forward to seeing you Monday.

Patty


Well, at least she’s not feeling pressure about him. Yippee.

# # #
Sunday, January 27
Lecco v Padova – Serie C1A


The goal of every table-topping team is to go to a bottom club and get a big result. So imagine my surprise when less than ten minutes into today’s match we found ourselves trailing.

Again, Lecco did not look like a team fighting to avoid automatic relegation. Rigamonti-Ceppi only had 1,344 paying customers in it today but that didn’t seem to matter much to the home side.

I wish we could come out and apply ourselves like they did to us today. After a gentle notice to the players that they needed to relax, we wound up relaxing the ball right behind Orlandoni to get their fans cheering, get me to the water cooler for an ibuprofen, and put up a number on their side of the scoreboard much earlier in the match than I wanted to see it.

The wrong Massimiliano scored the goal – Vieri, for them, placing an inch-perfect strike past the right arm of the diving Orlandoni from 15 yards right as the clock turned over ten minutes. He had squirmed past Faísca inside the penalty area and the defender, not wishing to concede a penalty, had to back off the shooter.

None of us were terribly happy about that, and the keeper’s look of dismay told Faísca all he needed to know. However, Vasco has been a rock for us all season and Orlandoni knows that all too well. He was also human, when last I heard.

Now chasing the game on the road, I signaled for more direct pressure on the Lecco backline, which I felt was suspect. Gentile agreed with me, getting stuck into Mirko Stefani with a good solid challenge to free up the ball four minutes after Vieri’s goal.

The ball rolled free and it was picked up by Varricchio, who moved into the Lecco penalty area. His path to goal was closed off so he squared the ball – for Gentile, who had popped up from his challenge and very intelligently moved into space.

Andrea’s first touch was a beauty, producing a rising shot from just inside the edge of the area that crashed home to equalize in fairly short order.

That produced quite a reaction from our bench, with the players jumping up as one to salute a very well-taken goal. There would be no lingering doubt as to our intent, as we headed back up the field for Lecco’s kickoff.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to impose ourselves on the game for the rest of the half, despite the huge lift Gentile’s hustle had given us.

We soon learned why Lecco had given Sassuolo such trouble – they did a masterful job of slowing us down. Little things away from the ball – little shoves, little shoulder-to-shoulder charges that technically aren’t fouls on the ball but which can slow a pacier team – we saw them all.

And they got to the break with a 1-1 draw. I elected to be patient with the players, knowing the physical testing they were enduring due to the rising number of fouls whistled against the home team. We sat for the teamtalk and I knew I needed to stay positive.

“They’re trying to push you around, but you don’t need me to explain that,” I said. “I’m proud of how you’re standing up to them and not retaliating. Just use your skill and stay patient. You can do this.”

With that we went back out onto the pitch and struggled mightily to create chances against a packed Lecco defense. Our frustration eventually started to grow and it only got worse when they started to counter us.

First it was just a few long balls over the top of the defense which were easily handled by Orlandoni. Then it was a half-chance for Vieri. Then it was a full-stretch save, again off Vieri’s boot, that my surprised keeper had to palm around his left post.

My guys were starting to lose a bit of composure as the 17th-placed team in the table started to come out of their shell. And that change in tactic finally did in Lecco.

Growing in confidence, they extended themselves at the back and we hit them for pace in the 83rd minute. We caught them in possession at the halfway line and before they knew what hit them, the ever-present Caputo had lofted a dangerous ball into the box for the run of Varricchio, and my top scorer seemed to relish the challenge of catching up to the ball.

So did defender Mirko Stefani, who caught Varricchio just as he entered the area, giving him a shoulder charge to try to dislodge him from the ball. Both players went flying and this time the foul – and the penalty – was given.

Their fans were up in arms as Baú took the ball for the penalty – and flipped it to Muzzi. Roberto looked at me, and I thought it through for a moment before nodding my head. It was a hell of a team gesture to make but also a gamble of huge proportions.

Yet, getting Muzzi on the scoreboard is a priority for the team and Eder knew it. So he gave up the ball.

With a sloppy grin, Roberto put the ball on the spot, waited for the referee’s whistle, and whipped a perfectly taken penalty into the lower left corner of the net to give us the lead.

It was his first goal in over ten hours of football and his relief was obvious. So was mine, frankly, as I signaled for a flat four-man midfield and a deep defensive line that would make us much more stable behind the ball.

Soon it was over, and we celebrated a win we hardly deserved. The coaching staffs exchanged pleasantries and I was left to marvel at how teamwork could win the day.
# # #

This time, Emiliani had nothing to say.

I congratulated Baú in the changing room and thanked him for putting team ahead of self. Now that the pressure is off Muzzi, I intend to use the lesson of today to loosen up the squad.

“What you saw today was the kind of action I want to see between teammates,” I said. “We are in a race for the top of the table and you saw a player give up a goal to get a teammate on the board for a game-winning goal. That is professional. That is a teammate. Well done.”

And that’s just what I told the media.

“Sometimes the guy who takes the penalty isn’t always the best at a given task,” I said, and everyone in the room knew who I was talking to. “Now, I’m not going to insult your intelligence by saying I somehow masterminded this. Eder Baú did that, and he did it because he knew his teammate needed a goal. It just goes to show, in a team game you need to play like teammates to succeed.”

Venezia won again today as well to stay a point behind us. But if we keep giving like this, keep working together like this, we’ll be just fine.
Lecco 1-2 Padova

# # #
First things first ... thanks to the committee for the SOTM nomination for this work. Greatly appreciated!
___

Monday, January 28
I met Paul Marsley today. I didn’t want to, but I met him anyway.

It wasn’t a very good day in terms of emotion. But most importantly, I have my girlfriend back, and it’s because Paul decided to follow Patty to her meeting with me tonight in Padua.

With the squad getting a light day today to prepare for Sunday’s return match against Cavese at Euganeo, Patty set the stage by letting me know how things had gone.

“Not well,” she wrote.

“For him or me?” I answered.

For some reason she didn’t find that especially funny, but she showed up at the office half an hour later so at least she didn’t find it insulting. This time, Christina recognized her and mentioned I had gone to finish the training session so she was welcome to wait.

Patty did as Christina asked, and soon I returned, having been alerted by a text message from my secretary.

I returned to find Patty resplendent in a stylish pink sweater and black pants, reminding me of her habit of appearing physically perfect.

She smiled at my approach and I knew who had had the bad day yesterday. Together we walked to my office where she sat opposite my desk in the same chair Emiliani had used last week. I liked the present view much better.

“I take it you had a few things to deal with last night?” I asked, still with some nervousness.

“Yes,” she said. “I met him for dinner and he made his play.”

“I have to ask,” I said, nearly cutting her off in mid-sentence. “Why did you do that?”

“Because he’s a dear friend who has been with me through all the bad times – including November when you and I split. He’s been there for me, Rob, and I had to tell him what I was thinking in person.”

I was about to commend her for her loyalty when I remembered that she hadn’t extended me the same courtesy back in November.

Despite our talk about getting back together, I realized how much I was still hurting. I put that down to raw emotion, even if I didn’t like it very much. Then she stunned me.

“He asked me to marry him, Rob. I told him no.”

I took a deep breath and let it out with a loud whoosh. “You knew he would ask, didn’t you?”

She nodded. “Yes, I did, and I broke his heart. How do you feel about that?”

# # #

With that, we headed out to start our evening.

We wound up at Q again, and for the first time, we were given some respectful distance.

We had a lovely dinner but I couldn’t help but think about how things had come to this end and worse yet, why she still couldn’t seem to commit to me despite talking a good game.

Finally, though, I thought it might be a better idea to put that all out of my mind. I wanted to enjoy her company and after a glass of wine, she seemed to want to enjoy mine.

Finally, she put down her wineglass and looked me in the eye.

“I love you, Rob,” she said, and I nearly fell out of my chair.

“Would you get up and leave if I told you that you’ve got a funny way of showing it?” I smiled.

She gave me a rueful look in reply.

“No, because I’d deserve it,” she said. “In November I loved you too much, if that makes sense. I saw you holding Kate and I nearly lost my mind. You saved me from a pretty drab existence last fall, and I adored you for it. So when I fell for you, I fell hard. When I fell away from you, I fell harder.”

“Okay, so let me ask this,” I said. “What do we do so this doesn’t happen again?”

“We spend time when we can, we do what we can to help this relationship grow, unlike the last time, when you were away all the time,” she said. “Now I know you have a busy job and you’re gone a lot, but that leads me to the second thing I need to tell you.”

“What now?” I thought to myself before sharply reminding myself that I needed to hear her out.

“If you want me back, I’m going to move to Padua,” she said. “My work in Venice is done and I will look to tide myself over until the end of the football season. That way I can have a fighting chance to see you in the evenings and we can work on making our relationship grow.”

I had to admit – I certainly hadn’t expected that. By making a real commitment, she not only had helped our relationship but she had also managed, in one stroke, to remove a source of real discord between the media and me, that of making trips to Venice to see her.

I smiled and reached across the table for her soft hands. They found mine.

We spent the rest of a delightful dinner rediscovering each other and it got more comfortable with each passing minute.

Finally, we got up to pay the check – and she ran nearly headlong into Paul.

“I figured I’d find you here,” he said breathlessly. “Patty, can we talk?”

She didn’t answer so I did it for her.

“You’re kidding, right?” I asked. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“I think Patty should decide that,” he answered, and I shook my head. Standing slightly behind me, Patty took my hand and held it tightly.

I looked at her would-be suitor and finally said what was on my mind.

“I’ve had about enough of placing myself – and my sweetheart – behind other people,” I said, even as Patty moved subsconsciously behind me while I spoke with Paul. “Now, please excuse us, before I call someone to excuse us for you.”

He tried one last time.

“You know, Patty, back at Biennale I spent some time around an old friend of yours, Peter McGuire. He said you were way too good for this guy.” He pointed at me. “I agree.”

“I don’t,” Patty said. “That person is no friend of mine.”

# # #
Tuesday, January 29
Today was a lot different, at least from my personal perspective. First, though, to business.

Matters at the club are unchanged, the players were in a buoyant mood, still topping the table with a mid-table club coming in to see us, and the only change I’m considering for the eleven is in the ongoing battle in central midfield.

Rabito is back in full training and is itching to play. He’s going to get his chance, though it might not be straight into the starting XI. Today he was bounding around the training pitch like a thoroughbred and obviously it looks like he’s glad to be back.

I also did a fun interview today with the Reading Evening Post, which has evidently learned that one of Berkshire’s adopted sons has been fairly successful in Italy.

Reporter Jill Weatherby is quite a bit different than our local reporters here. For one thing, she’s female. For another, she has never seemed to be out to get me.

We spent about half an hour talking, for an interview story that will appear a week from Monday in their paper.

For me, the conversation provided a touch of “home”, in a way. I did enjoy my time in Berkshire and re-establishing the connection with old friends was quite a bit of fun.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, I then fielded questions from local media regarding Sunday’s visit by Cavese. With seven draws already in our first twenty league matches, the conversation of late has shifted from Padova’s contention for the Serie C1A title to “why don’t they have killer instinct?”

As the late, great Gilda Radner said as Saturday Night Live’s Roseanne Roseannadanna, “It’s always something.” And it is.

Either it’s my girlfriend, or not winning enough, or not winning by enough, or it’s my nationality. It’s always something.

Yet that is part of the challenge. I relish that challenge and so far we are meeting it.

# # #

Paul tried his best today. With Patty back in Venice, he made one more attempt to see her and convince her that she really ought to spend the rest of her life with him.

I finally managed to squeeze us out of the Q last night after about ten minutes of unwanted conversation with him. It nearly took calling the host over to call the police, but finally we were able to escape his persistent questioning.

Afterwards, Patty and I made a couple more decisions. She’s not moving in with me – which frankly is probably for the best – but she’s going to be a lot closer. Patty is preparing to move to Padua, and will do so in a couple of days when her work at the Venice office is done.

Even on our first day as a reunited couple, there was a lot more contact between us than usual and I like that. It is really what we should have done from the start, but our career-mindedness stopped us both from making the attempt.

I do mean both of us in that assessment. I was obviously gone a lot and will be gone a lot in the second half of the season.

She had work to do with Biennale. But now we can make allowances, and thankfully they haven’t come too late to save our relationship. We’re going to try to get serious now, and I’m looking forward to it.

She also brought a bottle of champagne to my apartment tonight. When it was gone, so were our inhibitions.

Before bed tonight, I wrote a letter to England, and I’m going to send it by registered mail:

McGuire:

Per your e-mail of November 19, I’m writing to tell you that I now have the same lady back in my life that I did before your wife cut you off at the knees. It’s too bad – what she really needed to cut off, she must have missed.

Perhaps she couldn’t find it. You know what they say about ‘little men’ – and you will never defeat me.

- Rob Ridgway

# # #
Wednesday, January 30
It does not appear as though the club is going to be able to sell Bovo’s contract so we are watching €80,000 fly out the window.

We could lower our asking price, I suppose, but at this point there aren’t too many teams at or near our level who are able to meet even a lowered valuation. Since the player is under contract for two more seasons, we’ll try again in the coming close season.

The player took it surprisingly well. He wants his chance, and he’s going to keep trying to work for it, but the saving grace for him is that he knows there is plenty of interest for his services in the summer. He won’t have trouble finding a place to play next season.

We are settling into a nice rhythm at the moment, with no midweek games due to the hiatus in the Serie C Cup.

The first day of the week is now primarily for video and light training for player recovery, with the second day a full training session. Wednesday is generally a day for shadow play, where we take our scouting report on the coming opposition and try to get a feel for what they like to do on the pitch.

That was today, where a group of u-20s and reserve players made up what the NFL would call a scout team. Having seen Cavese once already and being armed with video of their recent matches, we had a solid training session today.

Cavese is off to an indifferent start, with six wins, seven draws and seven losses so far. With that record, they ought to be mid-table and they are, in eleventh position. Yet they can hurt us and we are well aware of it.

I’m prepared now to make a more or less permanent change to the starting eleven. I’ve had difficulty finding spots for both Crovari and Baú at the same time while also allowing Music his chance to influence a game.

Now I will move Baú permanently to the left side of midfield since Caputo has shown immense acumen on the right. They will give us the best pair of wing players in the league, without doubt.

My intention is to turn them loose and see what they can do. Cavese will be the first team to see how it works out.

My focus is excellent. Patty is back, my letter is winging its way to England and I could not be happier.

# # #

Thursday, January 31
I’m planning a trip on Monday, to watch Novara again. They will travel to play at Pro Patria and in the long run I think they may well be more dangerous to us than Sassuolo or Venezia.

The reason for this is that they are always a threat to score. On the scoreboard, they seem to like seeing the number four next to their name, and when that is the case they show themselves to be a team I need to scout.

I take a part of that statement back, actually. When I saw them play Venezia they preferred “five” instead.

Sinigaglia and Rubino are scoring freely again and with one match still to play against them in the league, we’ll have quite a bit of work on to stay ahead of them if they keep scoring at anywhere near their present pace.

After training today, I took a walk through the downtown area and watched some of the reactions I got from people. Ordinarily I don’t do that, and after the article on Patty I made it a point to stay out of public view until we got the result against Sassuolo.

Yet today I was curious. We are top of the table and playing decently so I wanted to see if people would slag me off like the paper seems to enjoy doing.

I caught a few people rubbernecking as I passed them on the street, and finally I stopped into a newsstand to pick up a copy of Il Gazetto Dello Sport. I guess I was itching for someone to say something to me, but nobody would.

I know I’m not in a popularity contest, but it’s nice for a manager to receive praise right along with his players. Yet today, that was not forthcoming for me.

Without letting anyone know what I was up to, I paid for my copy of the paper and sauntered back toward my apartment. When I arrived, I found Patty had just called to tell me she was on her way over.

That’s the best news of all. As we rediscover each other, if it has to be two against the world, that’s fine with me.

# # #
Just read the introdution, and this looks wonderfull.
Amazing post, really great writing, takes me back to time I didn't thougt about for a while. I'll be following the story, but I'll take my time to read it since the beggining.
I also will get to your other storys, but I chose this one first :P
Keep it up, this looks amazing ;)
1
Murtagh, thanks so much for the comment and the kind words! Always nice to see new readers and I'm glad you like the work!
___

Friday, February 1

The turn of the month means my monthly meeting with the board and with Sestaro.

Today, though, there was an extra agenda item; my ongoing battle with the local media. This was a concern to my chairman, who obviously wants everything to be wonderful to boost attendance.

My philosophy has been that winning will boost attendance more than positive press. You can’t put spin on the league table, and as long as we’re at the top of it, that ought to mean something. Even the most cynical of reporters have a hard time convincing people how bad things are when there’s nobody in the league with more points.

Yet understandably, my chairman is concerned about how the press coverage will affect the club. My suggestion, which I thought was equally understandable, was to meet with Emiliani and his editors.

“As you know, I’ve already done this to tell him that certain areas of coverage are personally unacceptable to me,” I said. “This has nothing to do with how he reports on the club. I’ve done my level best to keep Calcio Padova out of it and have made it clear that I expect to be judged on my results as any manager would be.”

“I appreciate your discretion, and especially in your telling me when you invited him to speak with you,” he replied. “Of course you understand the club’s needs in this area. Why didn’t you approach me when this first became an issue for you?”

“Because I didn’t feel it was a matter that needed to involve the club,” I said. “The article I found so offensive had nothing to do with this club and everything to do with a personal choice I have made. To drag you and the club into a personal dispute is quite far beyond the boundaries I should think you want set.”

“Correct,” he said. “However, your happiness is important to the club and it’s also important to me. I want my employees to enjoy working for this club and to be totally focused on helping it succeed. I should not like you to lose sight of that. And furthermore, I don’t need to remind you that I reserve the right to make determinations on propriety for myself.”

“Of course,” I said, my ears stinging from his rebuke. “And I haven’t lost sight of results. They’ve been good.”

He corrected me. “Results have been excellent, on all fronts,” he said. “The board is pleased with your management. So we do feel an obligation to help you if we can. Would it be best if I met personally with the reporter and his editors?”

I was smart enough to know when to give in.

“If you would do so, I’d be most grateful,” I said. “I know you have an obligation that goes quite far beyond me. You need to do what you have to do, and I won’t say a word.”

“Then I will arrange it,” he promised. “Keep doing what you are doing and keep helping this club grow. That will be the best service you can perform. And also, focus on what will keep you motivated and happy. That means when you are not performing your duty, you should enjoy life in an appropriate way. I think you are already doing this.”

It was nice to have permission, anyway. Even if I don’t really need it.

# # #
OMG I showed this football enthusiast at work and he was blown away with your writing, keep up the amazing work
1
What a nice comment, VillaFan! Thank you very much. There is much more to come!
___

Saturday, February 2

Sestaro moved quickly.

My chairman met with Emiliani and the editors of his paper today and when the group emerged from the meeting this afternoon, there wasn’t a smiling face in the bunch.

I sat in my office at Euganeo working on the team sheet for tomorrow when the group filed past walking from the board room, Emiliani first and my chairman last. I looked up and noticed that the reporter wouldn’t look at me.

The group passed and then Sestaro stuck his head into my office.

“He won’t bother you anymore from a personal standpoint,” he promised. “Now go and get us some results.”

# # #

Sunday, February 3
Padova v Cavese, Serie C1A

Result number one has been obtained, but the hero of today’s game wasn’t one of our red-hot players.

It was Rabito, restored to the lineup as a late substitute, and he made his return count by scoring the winning goal with the last kick of the match before a delighted crowd of 5,905 at Euganeo.

The attendance was the highest of the season, so I was very pleased to send them home happy. To send them home happy in such dramatic circumstances may bring some of them back.

Having a solid scouting report on Cavese gave us a sense of optimism, but it didn’t stop us from making the first key defensive mistake of the match. Daniele Scartozzi made a great play to find space between Sacchetti and Faísca to head home a solid cross on 23 minutes, where the latter defender was slow to pick up his man.

Sometimes, despite all the training you do, the other guy just makes a great play. The Cavese party exploded with emotion at stealing a march on the league leaders and it was down to me to motivate my players to steal it back.

Thankfully, they didn’t need much motivation. From Cavese’s goal, they dominated their opposition, creating a series of quality chances through Gentile, Baú and Varricchio until Baú finally seized the game by the scruff of the neck.

Ten minutes after Scartozzi’s goal, Eder did what he does so well – use his vision to create a chance for us. His seeing-eye cross from the left flank fell right at the feet of Muzzi, who had a simple finish to get us level on 33 minutes.

After ten hours without a goal, Roberto is suddenly the man in form, and his reaction to a second straight game with a goal showed that he’s feeling good about himself.

The equalizing goal led to more pressure from us, and we had seven shots on target by the time we broke for half.

I was confident too. I liked what I was seeing and reinforced my high hopes with the squad.

“Keep playing like that and you’ll get the points,” I promised. “Don’t forget, let’s get the ball into space and use our pace on these guys. You’ve shown you can score on them, now it’s time to do it again.”

In the second half, it was purely one-way traffic. It may have been our best 45 minutes of team football of the entire season – but we couldn’t find a way past Pierluigi Frattali and his traveling gymnastics show in the Cavese goal.

The keeper was brilliant, making full-stretch saves in both directions within a five-minute span midway through the half. First, a dive to his right robbed Caputo and then a lunge to his left tipped Varricchio’s goal-bound header around the post.

The latter was one of the best reflex saves I’ve ever seen at any level, and after we had received the corner, all Varricchio could do was applaud.

The thought of a second draw with Cavese after dominating the proceedings didn’t appeal to me. With our visitors not showing a whole lot of spark, I moved us to 4-3-3 for the last ten minutes and introduced Rabito looking for a winning goal.

As I brought him on, I had to grab Andrea’s arm to get his attention.

“Get forward, make something happen, and play under control,” I reminded him. “Play off the strikers and look for space.”

He nodded and sprinted onto the pitch as soon as he received permission from the referee. He was ready to play and his high-octane approach paid dividends.

The fourth official put up his board for three minutes of injury time and we were still buzzing. Music was also on as a substitute and was percolating nicely in the left of midfield. He stole the ball deep into injury time and turned ahead, flicking a lead ball ahead to Baú.

Eder raced in, knowing he was fighting the final whistle, and saw Rabito breaking through the middle. He crossed the ball, and the substitute volleyed past Frattali well into the third minute of extra time.

While Rabito went tearing off toward the corner flag and everyone in our colors jumped around like crazy men, two thoughts went through my head: first, the goal had come well past the third minute of injury time and second, Rabito was unquestionably offside.

Yet, the flag stayed down, the goal counted, and we had a victory we had earned by our play but not by the actual goal we scored.

The Cavese staff and players were understandably fit to be tied, creating quite a scene as everyone left the pitch. Manager Renato Cioffi wasn’t taking the loss well and neither was his staff.

Under such circumstances, it’s hard to extend or accept congratulations without some sort of scene being made, but my attempt to make a sporting gesture to the Cavese bench was met with derision. I hadn’t made the call, for crying out loud – I was just trying to do the right thing.

I ought to have realized that there are some things in football, as in life, that simply aren’t meant to work out. That gesture was evidently one of them.

Frowning, I headed to my changing room, not feeling quite as guilty about the winning goal as I had been a few moments before. I gathered the squad around me and spoke simply.

“That is the kind of play that gets you promoted,” I said, with a huge smile. “You overcame adversity, dominated the match and stole the points at the end. I am very, very proud of you. Enjoy it – day off tomorrow and we’ll start at 9:30 Tuesday with video of Legnano.”
# # #

“Yeah, I thought it was offside.”

My frankness in the post-match media gathering was startling to the onlookers. It wasn’t supposed to be like that. I was supposed to claim victory and damn the consequences.

Only I didn’t feel right about doing that, so I chose the more direct route.

“Don’t get me wrong – I feel we were much the better side and we deserved three points,” I said. “But yes, I do think the goal was dodgy. Andrea Rabito might not like to hear me say it, but the goal counts and it can’t be changed now.”

“You generated 25 shots at goal,” a slightly shell-shocked Emiliani said. “How on earth did you manage that?”

“Well, we aren’t completely bereft of talent here,” I said. “Caputo and Baú worked very well together and they aren’t shy about swapping spots on the pitch. They give us new ideas just about every trip down the pitch and even if they don’t all wind up in the goal, they give our opponents something to worry about. I’m very pleased with them.”

“Muzzi has found his form,” another reporter said.

“I don’t know that he had lost it, and I thought I made that clear a couple weeks ago,” I said. “I don’t mean to sound harsh but he was performing other roles when he wasn’t scoring goals. Now that he has found the net twice running, he’s even more valuable to us.”

“What did you say to Renato Cioffi after the match?”

“I tried to tell him that I thought his players played a brave match,” I said. “I guess my opinion wasn’t too welcome.”

“I should say not.”

Then I got an impish smile on my face.

“You’d have thought I told him Rabito was offside or something.”
# # #

There’s plenty more to be happy about tonight. Paganese came up with a big victory, 3-2 at home over Venezia – which means our lead over them has grown to four points.

Sassuolo is suddenly much more pliable as well, as they managed just a 1-1 draw at Citadella, holding down 15th place in the table. So they now trail us by six, and we are starting to open up some space. As we have consecutive home matches in the league now, with the second one coming this Sunday, we have a chance to open up some real room at the top. I don’t want us to waste that opportunity.

Novara plays at Pro Patria tomorrow on television. I’ll be watching.
Padova 2-1 Cavese

# # #
Monday, February 4
I am quite stiff and sore this evening. I helped Patty move into her new apartment today and while the rest of the squad enjoyed a day off, I did some heavy lifting.

Chairs, furniture and clothing, to be exact. The things I do for a relationship.

The hard work had a more important purpose for me, though. It allowed me to spend time with Patty, without pressure, and most importantly without anyone else in the way. She told me where she wanted things in her bright, sunny new place and I obliged her.

And along the way, I watched her move gracefully around the place. Finally, I put down a box of her dishes and admired her for a moment.

She was putting a set of wineglasses into a top cupboard and was standing on tip-toe to do it. Her red hair fell in a delightful little spill over her shoulders and she turned back to look over her shoulder when she noticed my silence.

“Sorry, honey, I was just looking at you.”

She finished her work and turned to face me. “I can see that,” she teased. “But I’m very glad you did.”

I opened my arms and she came to me, nestling softly against me.

“Patty, I’m so sorry I didn’t do what I had to do to keep you the first time,” I said. My emotions were starting to take over and I held her tightly to me.

“Please, don’t dwell on it,” she replied, as she squeezed my arms softly in reply. “I have a few things to be sorry for as well. I could have believed you. What I regret the most is that it cost us time and it hurt us both. I just want you to be happy.”

“I want us to be happy,” I said, as she raised her chin, closed her eyes, and offered herself to me for a kiss.

She melted against me and we stood in the middle of her kitchen. Nothing else mattered.

I looked down at her, and slowly her beautiful green eyes opened wide with emotion.

“I am not leaving you again,” she promised. “I said some things about staying with you before and didn’t live up to them. I feel terrible about that and I want to be what you deserve.”
# # #

It took quite a bit of doing to leave her arms, but we had to get her moved in, so reluctantly I did.

She rewarded me with a wonderful dinner in her newly setup kitchen, followed by getting to watch the Novara match after I had hooked up my housewarming gift to her – a home theater system.

“Now this beats that 19-inch television I was watching,” she smiled as we snuggled on the couch. “The least you should get for this is to watch the match.”

“Maybe I should ask about the most I should get,” I teased, and she cuffed my arm in response.

I grinned, and rubbed my now-bruised bicep as she leaned her head on my shoulder.

“This is nice,” she said, as she turned on the set. “A nice, cozy little place, an overstuffed couch and I’m in your arms. This is how it should be.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” I answered, as we settled in for an evening together.

# # #

As much as I loved the thought of being with Patty for the entire day, Raffele Rubino put the only damper on things.

He raised his goal total to an amazing twenty in all competitions with a brace tonight, as Novara crushed Pro Patria 4-1 thanks to a blistering second half. In a 1-1 draw, he simply took over the match and now Venezia has company four points behind us.

His listed value is €360,000, but if I could ever afford a natural finisher like he is, I’d be in hog heaven. His level of understanding with Sinigaglia is first rate, but he has a touch around goal that is absolutely devastating. He’s also having a career year and I understand that, but he would look wonderful in our colors.

He’s on my shortlist of players to consider if and when the financial situation improves. Scorers like Rubino don’t come around often at this level and obviously his club knows it.

Patty lay peacefully in my arms while we watched the match and every now and then she would gently get my attention with a squeeze of my arm or a soft nuzzle of my cheek.

“You do know I’m trying to do my job,” I teased, and she smiled at me from her contented position against my chest.

“And you know I’m trying to distract you,” she whispered. I couldn’t argue. It was working.

# # #

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