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Franjo: A Journeyman Story (New Episode Every Week Day!)

My Name is Franjo. And I will be a Football Manager.
Started on 8 May 2017 by Wtfranjo
Latest Reply on 6 May 2018 by Wtfranjo
Year 2 World Roundup (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode

After saying my goodbyes and wishing the players well, I leave the Angrense training ground for the last time. I had called everyone together for one last kick about before I left. We didn't train, we didn't run drills or split into groups or practice anything in particular. We just played football. It was fun. I discretely took a few of them to one side and asked if they would be open to joining me in Katowice. It wasn't exactly the most ethical move but I thought I may as well ask. A few of them were open to the idea and a few of them sadly weren't. More on that later.

For now, I've got a plane to catch. I stop at the flat to pick up Meatloaf, Burnie, and my suitcases, we get into a taxi and leave for Lajes Field Airport for the final time.

Goodbye Angra do Heroismo. Goodbye Hero Creek. Goodbye Terceira. Goodbye Volcano Island.

As it turns out, the flight from Terceira to Katowice is not an easy one. It's an overnight journey, and we'll initially travel from Terceira to Lisbon, Portugal. From Lisbon, we'll fly to Warsaw, Poland. And from Warsaw, we'll zip over to Katowice, our final destination. It'll take 18 hours all told, except that it won't, will it, because what are the odds that all 3 of my flights are on time? What are the odds that 1 of them is? I fucking hate flying.

Anyway, the flight to Lisbon isn't all that bad. We arrive at 40 minutes past midnight, but now we have a 9 hour wait in the airport. Of course we do. I reach into my rucksack and pull out my laptop. We're here for the long haul, so we may as kill some time hadn't we? Let's find out what's been going on in the World of Football.

The Liga Nos title was retained by SL Benfica, but just barely. They won 79 points, which was only 2 more than rivals Sporting. Braga were a further 3 points behind, and Porto weren't even close. 4th place with 64 points. Benfica boss Rui Vitória won the Manager of the Year award, which was quite a surprise given that Arouca were predicted 13th, but crept into the Europa League places thanks to the guiding hand of Jorge Castelo, who was the runner up for the award.

There's been a plethora of great performers in the league this year, starting with Porto's André Silva, who did one better than last season and scored the most goals in the league, ahead of Braga's Hassan. Álex Grimaldo of Benfica was again one of the most consistently excellent performers, along with Thiago Maia of Sporting, and Pedrinho of Ferreira and Fejsa of Benfica bagged the most assists. SLB's Ederson retained the Best Goalkeeper award.

Speaking of retaining titles, Arsene's Arsenal have gone and done it again. They blitzed the Premier League and won 91 points, the exact same tally that they racked up last year. Again, they finished 9 points clear of Mourinho's United side and again good old Arsene took the Manager of the Year award.

Oddly though, the top performers in the league were all from Arsenal's rivals. Sergio Aguero's still got it, as evidenced by his 22 league goals. Chelsea's £69 Million 2017 Summer signing Mauro Icardi bagged 20 - the 2nd highest total. United's Juan Mata, City's James Rodríguez and Spurs' Dele Alli all had fantastic seasons, as did United's De Gea, who won the golden glove again.

Sacking Mick McCarthy and Steve Clarke didn't save Ipswich or Forest, who are going straight back down to the Championship under the stewardship of Neil Harris and Javier Aguirre respectively. They're joined by Crystal Palace, who are managed by Laurent Blanc, because obviously.

The trio will be replaced in the big time by Chris Hughton's Brighton and Hove Albion, Mika Lehkosuo's Fulham, and incredibly, Steve McClaren's Derby County!

In La Liga, Zizou and his Galacticos stomped their Madrid neighbours back down from the thrown, running away with the league on 94 points, which is 15 clear of Simeone's Athletico Madrid and 16 ahead of Enrique's ever-underachieving Barcelona. Quique Sánchez Flores won the Manager of the Year award for heroically guiding Espanyol to 5th and only 1 place off the Champions League spots, despite their predicted finish of 11th.

Luis Suárez of Barça and Simone Zaza of Valencia lead the way in terms of scoring goals with 23 and 21 respectively, but Lionel Messi unsurprisingly turned in some great performances. He was by far the highest performing player in the league, followed from a distance by his team mate Gerard Piqué, and he recorded the joint most assists with Real Sociedad's Recio. Real's Keylor Navas deservedly won his 2nd golden glove in as many seasons.

Moving onto the Bundesliga, and it's very much as you'd expect. Bayern held Dortmund at arms length to retain the title with 91 points. Dortmund were completely isolated in 2nd, 10 points behind Bayern but 19 points clear of 3rd place Bayer Leverkusen. Bayern's Carlo Ancelotti won the Manager of the Year award for demolishing the Bundesliga.

Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the most goals, just ahead of Dimitris Diamantakos, who seems to have single handedly prevented Karlsruhe from dropping straight back down to the 2nd tier. Mats Hummels and Jérôme Boateng put in consistantly excellent displays for Bayern, while Roberto Lewandowski racked up the most assists, just pipping Freiburg's Vincenzo Grifo to that honour. Neuer was unsurprisingly the top goalkeeper in the league. Wolfsburg are coming straight back up too, along with Braunschweig.

My God, I would not want to be Leonardo Jardim right now. The former Monaco manager moved to Juventus in December after Massimiliano Allegri took up the Manager's role of the Italian national side. My intuition tells me that Jardim might not be in his new job for very much longer, because Juventus drew with the already relegated Spal on the final day of the season. That in itself might not have been so bad, but it allowed Roma to leapfrog the reigning Champions into first place. So after winning the Serie A Title for the last 6 years running, Juventus end the season on 75 points with Inter, and they pass the baton on to Roma. Nobody will argue with Roma's Luciano Spalletti being handed the Manager of the Year award, I'm sure.

Paulo Dybala and Leonardo Bonucci both had fantastic seasons for Juve too. Dybala scored 21 and was the Serie A top goalscorer too, 4 goals ahead of Torino's Manuel Pucciarelli, who was signed from Empoli last summer. The top assisters were Milan's Andrea Bertolacci and Roma's Diego Perotti and Inter's Samir Handanovic won the golden glove.

The rest of Europe really wants to embarrass Juve too. As well as Benfica, Bayern and Arsenal, Monaco have also successfully defended their title with 99 points in Ligue 1, having promoted their former coach José Barros to Manager to replace Jardim. PSG weren't that far behind on 93 points, but their reign of dominance seems to be well and truly over. Although they were some way behind the top 2, Bordeaux performed well above expectations and nabbed the last Champions League spot, earning Manager Jocelyn Gourvennec the Manager of the Year award.

PSG's Edinson Cavani scored the most goals, just in front of Monaco's Valère Germain. Bernardo Silva and Ángel di María had excellent seasons, Dijon's Nabil El Zhar nabbed the most assists, PSG's Thiago got the 2nd most, and Monaco's Danijel Subasic won the Golden Glove.

Something I neglected to mention last year was the European Competitions, so here you go. Last year, Monaco beat a heroic Leicester side 2-1 in the final, meaning that the Jamie Vardy movie will probably have a pretty bad ending, and Man City beat Leverkusen, Barça and Juve to get to the final, and then recorded a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Madrid to clinch the Champions League.

This year however, Napoli won the Europa League, ensuring that there would be no chance of a London-based winner by knocking out West Ham and Tottenham on the way. They drew with Inter 0-0 in the final but won 5-4 on penalties.

Athletico Madrid won the Champions League, knocking Juve, Chelsea and Bayern out on the way before beating poor Barcelona 1-1 in the final via a penalty shootout in which Messi and Rafinha missed from the spot.

I should probably mention Poland too, shouldn't I? We do need to start learning about the Polish Leagues. In the Lotto Extraklasa, Legia won the League on 69 points with Lech, Jagiellonia and Lechia qualifying for the Europa League. Bruk-Bet Termalica finished safely outside the relegation zone on 30 points, which I make a mental note of for later.

Ślask and Arka weren't so lucky. They dropped down to the 2nd tier and will be replaced by Piast and GKS Katowice (Us). We, by the way, were promoted by virtue of having a goal difference of 8 while Wisła Puławy's was 6. It looks like it got pretty tense towards the end there. My predecessor, Krzysztof Debek, who I don't have anything against... For now... was poached by the aforementioned Bruk-Bet Termalica, which seems like a bit of a sideways move if I'm honest.

Anyway, how much time has that killed?

10 minutes.

Fuck it, I'm taking a nap. Someone watch my cats.

PS - As the new Fantasy Football season is upon us, I thought I'd create myself a team and a League, which you can come and join! If you don't play Fantasy Premier League but want to join, then follow this link (, create a club and enter the code below to join my League. If you do already play, then you probably know the drill! My League code's below.



No. 1, Radzinski's (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode

Night has fallen by the time my plane touches down. Thick droplets of rain hammer against the window as I attempt to make out the outside world. I can see bright lights of some kind, but they're distorted through a wall of water. I walk out of the arrivals gate at Katowice International Airport to see a line of individuals holding signs that bare names, just like in the films. I scan across them: "Dean" ... "Campbell" ... "Mendes" ... "Franjo". Ah, here we are.

Upon spotting my greeter, my first impression is that he's quite a scrawny man. Short, thin and he looks like a good gust of wind would knock him clean over. His face though heavily resembles some kind of cartoon rodent, maybe a Biker Mouse from Mars. His features are pointed and sharp, except for his ears that are large, round and protruding. One of them has 3 hooped ear rings clinging to his ample lobe. But his most distinguishing feature is a messy black goatee, flecked with strands of pure white.

As he watches me approach, his eyes narrow and his lip curls with disdain, as if I'm strutting all over his new carpet in wellies that I use exclusively to kick around animal faecal matter.

"Cześć!" I announce enthusiastically as I get nearer to the sign man. Cześć, as I understand, is 'Hello' in Polish. Never accuse me of being unadaptable. Although it is currently the only word that I've learned. Without uttering any sort of reply, sign man turns and shuffles away, dropping his sign on the floor. I quicken my step slightly to make up the ground between us, picking up the sign as I go.

We exit the airport and climb into a small black car. I squeeze into the passenger seat while sign man gets behind the wheel. He turns the key in the ignition, and with a cough and a splutter from the engine, we shudder out of the parking bay and out of the airport car park.

A good half an hour of uncomfortable silence later, we pull up outside a cosy looking hotel on a quiet road. This is the hotel in which I've arranged to stay and it looks very nice indeed. The only part of it that I don't like is the sign on the door, that google translate tells me reads "Closed For Refurbishment". Not ideal, is it.

I get back into the car and ask sign man to take me to a bar where I can take out my frustration and fatigue on some Polish beer, while I find another place to stay.

We pull up a short while later outside a small, grubby pub, with a large battered sign over the door that reads "Radzinski's". I step out of sign man's car, and as soon as the door closes, the car's engine starts up and sign man drives away around the corner, leaving me quite alone.

I make my way inside Radzinski's to find that I am still very much alone. There are no rowdy patrons. There is no bartender endlessly rubbing a glass with a cloth for no reason. The place is dark, dingy and deserted. Is every building in this City closed for fucking refurbishment or something?

But seeing as I am still alone in a new city with nowhere to go, I take a seat on one of the barstools. I then turn around to have a proper look at the rest of the establishment. There's a pool table in the corner that looks like it's had a pint or two spilled on it at some point. Lining the wall are several booths that presumably provided quite comfortable seating at some point, but now the tables are scratched up and the seats are ripped and stained. Against the far wall is a dart board, and I can tell that it's been there for a while. The black sections have faded massively, while the white sections have collected decades worth of dirt and grime, meaning that the once clear alternating pattern is now just a big greyish circular mass. The red and green bits have been similarly affected, and now form solid purpley-brown bands across across the aged board.

I sigh as I turn back around, and nearly leap out of my skin when I notice sign man standing behind the bar, rubbing a glass with a cloth for seemingly no reason, and staring straight at me.

I chuckle at how easily I startled, and exclaim "Christ, you scared me half to death!". Sign man continues to stare at me without a trace of amusement as he rubs the glass. His lip curls with disdain again. "You work here, do you?" I ask airily.

Sign man immediately reaches for one of the pumps and pours out a pint under the bar. He then plonks the glass onto the bar and pushes it towards me, but with my keen perceptive eye I realise that the contents of the pint glass don't really resemble beer at all. The liquid inside is clear and colourless, and smells like it could quite easily strip the paint from a car. I hold out a hand to refuse the drink. "No, no. Could I have a beer please mate?" I ask politely.

Sign man nods and continues to try to force the glass towards me. "Wodka." He utters. I keep my hand out on the bar, pushing back against the glass of 'wodka'.

"No, no. Could you pour me a... Wait do you keep your vodka in kegs?"

"Wodka!" He growls, somewhat more aggresively. His thick eye brows curl down into a frown as he continues to push.

I grasp the glass begrudgingly and hold it up to my mouth. I can feel the hairs in my nostrils burning away from the scent of the stuff.

"No beer?" I plead. Sign man shakes his head adamantly. "Just... Pints of draft... Wodka?" He nods solemnly.

He watches me curiously and silently as I nurse my bizarre and potentially lethal beverage. And you're bloody right I nurse it, I don't drink this stuff with mixers, let alone straight out of a pint glass. And from a keg, no less. Welcome to Poland I suppose.

I have no idea how I'm still upright by time I finish my drink. To be honest I have no idea why I felt obliged to drink it in the first place. As I eventually put the empty glass down on the bar, sign man twists his thin lips into a smile of sorts and holds out a hand. "Radzinski" he mumbles. With a small pang of embarrassment that I hadn't already figured this information out for myself, I take his hand and shake it, which as it turns out requires a surprising amount of effort and concentration.

"You can stay up there". He nods towards a staircase visible through the door behind the bar.

"I can? There's a flat up there?" I ask hopefully. Radzinski nods. I'm taken aback by the sudden offer, and I can't help but feel like I've just been weirdly initiated into something, but I immediately accept. "We do papers tomorrow" he says as he hands me the keys.

"And you speak English?" I enquire cautiously. Radzinski nods once more.

"I am very proud." He mumbles. "But, it isn't rocket surgery." I don't really have a response to that, so I just smile and nod.

I get up and walk through the door that he gestured towards, leaving Radzinski stood behind the bar, still rubbing the same glass with his cloth, and make my way up the creaky staircase. Before I reach the top, I see the room that is to Become my new lodgings. Placed in the middle of the wood is a faded brass number "1". But just as my foot hits the landing, a strange thought comes to mind and I start to walk back down. "Wait, do you not work for GKS Katowice? If you just own this place, why was it you that picked me up from the..."

As I reach the bottom of the stairs and step back through the door to the bar, Radzinski is nowhere to be seen.
Who To Choose (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode

I let out a sigh as I sit in my new, extremely plush GKS Katowice Manager's office, in my new, extremely comfortable office chair. I need to think, and to think I need to move. I stand and pace across the room, glancing out of the window to see the sun setting behind the training pitch that my new office looks out upon.

After discovering that pacing isn't really helping, I sit back down at my desk, interlocking my fingers in front of my mouth. I stare down at the 6 pieces of paper laid in front of me. Shortly after arriving in Poland, I put the word out that I would be looking for a new Assistant Manager, and 6 eager applicants have thrown their names into the ring. I have no idea which one to choose. And the really interesting thing, the thing that makes me realise what a drastic step up I've made in taking this job, is that I've heard of them. I've heard of all of them. And although I respected most of them as footballers, I remain unconvinced with their non-playing prospects.

Option number 1 is everybody's favourite dreadlocked, goggle wearing Dutch maestro, Edgar Davids. Now, I had a great deal of respect for Edgar when he was playing, and I respected his decision to drop down the English ladder to try to start a Managerial career at Barnet, but... I heard things about Davids' stint down there. Things like he wouldn't attend matches that required him to spend the night in a hotel. Things like when he was Player-Manager, he (As a central midfielder) took the number 1 shirt in order to try and "Start a trend". I need to find someone who's 100% committed to being my second in command, and I need someone who doesn't arse about. Davids is out.

Could that someone be Peter Enckelman instead? A Finnish former reserve goalkeeper who most notably "played" for the likes of Aston Villa and Cardiff City? A solid pair of hands he may be, but I feel slightly uneasy about my right hand man having amassed only 150 appearances over a 20 year playing career. Where's your ambition, Peter? No, I don't think so.

Next up we have Brede Hangeland, of Fulham fame. Now here's a man who I'm fairly sure has the commitment, bravery, and brick-shithouseness required to run through walls for his employers. In another life I might've hired him, but I would like somebody with a little more experience than he currently has. Sorry Brede.

Option number 4 is Emile Heskey.

Number 5 is Paul Konchesky, the journeyman left back who represented some decent teams like Charlton and Leicester, but I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea of him either. I have no doubt that he'd try his best and if I was looking for a coach I might've given him a shot, but an assistant manager? I don't see it.

Finally, option number 6 is John Arne Riise. Another left back, and another former Fulham player. If I wanted to hire someone to play on my behalf in some sort of free-kick-off, then absolutely I'd hire him. The man had one of the most vicious left foots that I've ever seen. But an assistant manager? Again, he doesn't really have any experience to speak of and I'd like someone more qualified. It's a no for Riise.

So, I think as I place the final application on the "No" pile, Out of 6 candidates, I... I don't really want any of them. Where does that leave me? It leaves me grabbing the application forms and heading down to Radzinski's for a drink.

As I walk through the door into my new and extremely local watering hole, I see something unexpected. I see another Patron at the bar, nursing a beer. I knew that bastard Radzinski had beer. Beer man turns towards the sound of the creaking door and sees me, and I see him. And I recognise him. I'm not sure why, but I definitely recognise him.

As I sit at the bar, Radzinski appears behind it, and after a bit of an argument he begrudgingly pours me a beer. I start talking to beer man, only to find out that he's Dennis Lawrence, former Swansea player and Wigan and Everton Coach. He most recently had a poor spell as Trinidad and Tobago Manager. He's been in the country for an interview and has wound up drowning his sorrows right below my new flat. That's got to be a sign, right?

"Look", I begin, as I sway slightly on my stool, "I need an assistant. Come work for me. I need someone with your experience." Dennis delightedly accepts and I hire him on the spot. And I wasn't lying, he really does tick all the boxes for me: He's a good coach, he has experience in good quality leagues, albeit under a poor quality manager, and he has international experience as both a player and Manager. In short, he has everything that I'm missing. Plus he doesn't have that unsettling "Wildcard" characteristic that Davids and Riise do.

I ceremoniously burn the 6 application forms right there on the bar, prompting Radzinski's lip to curl with disdain once again, but it's not like this place can get any more beaten up, is it? Mind you, these sudden acts of reckless spontaneity could just be the effect that 2 pints of Polish beer has on normal unsuspecting lightweights like me.

Either way, with my number 2 in position, I think I'm ready to meet my squad.
A New Challenge (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep51)

It seems like an age since I left the Angrense training ground, and it feels good to tie up the laces on my boots and get my feet back on soft grass. Today, as I watch my new club's first training session alongside my newly appointed assistant Dennis Lawrence, the excitement and optimism that comes with a new challenge is steadily building.

Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to GKS Katowice.

Górnicky Klub Sportowy (Miners Sporting Club) Katowice are a 54 year old club also known as GieKSa. We're based unsurprisingly in Katowice, a city in the South West of Poland. We've not won a trophy since 2006, a record that would be nice to break, but the more pressing matter this season will be survival. After scraping promotion thanks to a goal difference 2 higher than 3rd place Wisła Puławy, we're now comfortable favourites to drop straight back down.

As I did when I arrived in Hero Creek, I've chosen a preliminary starting XI so that I can see what we have and where we need to improve. Here's our team as it stands:

Goalkeeper - No. 82 - Sebastian Nowak

Sebastian is currently our best option in net, but it remains to be seen how long that perception lasts. He's 36 years old and could decline pretty quickly. He might already be declining, I'm not too sure, but I'll be keeping a close eye on him. Still, he's 6'6", solid, determined, and a good leader. He is predictably quite slow though.

Right Back - No. 2 - Tom Scheffel

Tom is seen by many as one of the best players in my new side. He's German, he's incredibly rounded and determined, difficult to get past at 6'2" and he's got plenty of time to develop at 23 years old. I have high hopes.

Centre Back - No. 5 - Damian Garbacik

Damian is probably our best centre back currently, and that's not so much a compliment on his ability as it is an inditement on our lack of natural centre backs. I intend to play him as he's a very good player, but I'd rather play him as a defensive left full back. Anyway, he's strong, good in the air, another sizeable defender at 6'1", and another with plenty of development to do at just 22 years old.

Centre Back - No. 3 - Dawid Abramowicz

As I said, we're short on natural centre backs. Dawid looks like he will provide very solid cover at both full back positions. He's in his prime at 27, another tall drink of water at 6'1", and he's a long throw specialist which is interesting. Oh yes, and he's well rounded. Have I ever mentioned that I like that in a player?

Left Back - No. 12 - Stjepan Geng

Stjepan is most likely going to play second fiddle to Tom Scheffel at right back, but he's another versatile player and can play at either full back spot or in the centre of midfield. He's Croatian, a good age at 25, by far the shortest player I've mentioned so far at 5'9", but mentally he's pretty good. His decision making and leadership are particularly impressive.

Central Midfield - No. 6 - Bartlomiej Kalinkowski

There is no doubt in my mind that Bartlomiej will be the beating heart of my Katowice side. He has absolutely everything that I look for in a central midfielder. He's a great age at 23, a great height at 6'0", extremely rounded and mentally excellent. In particular he's a determined, hard working team player that reads the game well and positions himself brilliantly. My hopes are very high for this lad and I'm excited to work with him. To be perfectly honest though, I'm not exactly pumped at the prospect of writing the name Bartlomiej Kalinkowski over and over again, so say hello to Bart.

Central Midfield - No. 13 - Mario Gregurina

In Mario, we have another Croatian player and another very well rounded midfielder. He's got experience at 30 years old which will help with our fairly young team, he's 5'11", and another hard working and athletic team player. He's maybe a little bit too similar to Bart though, so he may end up providing backup to him.

Right Wing - No. 16 - Pawel Mandrysz

No offence to Pawel or either of the next 2 players, but this is where we come a bit unstuck. Pawel's certainly versatile and young enough to improve, but I just don't think he's ready for this league. He's shorter than a lot of the lads at 5'9", which is fine for a winger, and what he lacks in technical skill he makes up for in his mental and and athletic prowess. He's pretty aggressive, determined, hard working and quick, so he may still play a part.

Attacking Midfield - No. 8 - Tomasz Foszmanczyk

Tomasz is a decent playmaker, and probably my current first choice for the number 10 position, but we also have a couple of promising young players who might push for his place. The thing that will work in Tomasz's favour is his brilliant versatility. He's able to play off either wing, behind the striker, in central midfield or even in front of the back 4, so I've no doubt he'll get a fair bit of game time. He also has plenty of experience at 31, and is pretty short at 5'7". Similarly to Bart, I don't want to commit myself to writing his name too often, so I've taken the liberty of naming him Fossy.

Left Wing - No. 17 - Andreja Prokic

Prokic is another that I think may be a couple of levels behind the kind of quality we need. He's a 5'10", 29 year old Serbian and he could be a decent option on either wing. At least he's built in the right mould: His determination, speed and stamina might be handy, as well as his flair.

Striker - No. 7 - Grzegorz Goncerz

If we're to make any kind of push for safety this season, Goncerz will be crucial. He's very, very similar to Cristiano Magina. A pretty good age at 31, can take care of himself at 6'1", and he's extremely rounded with great all round mental attributes and good balance and finishing.

So I think we'll all be pretty much on the same page now. We need 2 new centre backs and 2 new wingers. We absolutely need them. A good back up Goalie would be nice too in case Nowak shows signs of being past it. We're well stocked in terms of full backs and battling central midfielders but we could also do with a good backup striker. If I'm still rolling in cash after buying that lot, I may also go in for a better attacking mid, but as I say, we've got a couple of young players that could break through in that position. We have up to £1.1 Million to sort out our team, which compared to the sort of budget I'm used to makes us Multi-Billionaires.

I think I've got some work to do.
Lotto Ekstraklasa 101 (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 51.5)

You've met my new assistant. You've met our new club. You've met our new squad. Now meet the teams that form our new League, the Polish 1st tier, Lotto Ekstraklasa (LE).

Bruk-Bet Termalica Nieciecza

From: Nieciecza

Ground: Nieciecza

Last Season: 14th in LE

Predicted: 11th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: N/A


From: Krakow

Ground: Cracovia Stadium

Last Season: 5th in LE

Predicted: 7th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Wisła Kraków (Fierce, Local), Legia (Historic)

GKS Katowice (Us):

From: Katowice

Ground: Bukowa

Last Season: 2nd in First Division, Promoted

Predicted: 16th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Wisła Krakow, Legia, Zagłębie Sosnowiec (Local)

Górnik Łęczna

From: Lublin

Ground: Arena Lublin

Last Season: 9th in LE

Predicted: 10th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: N/A

Górnik Zabrze

From: Zabrze

Ground: Ernesta Pohla

Last Season: 11th in LE

Predicted: 15th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Legia (Fierce), Piast

Jagiellonia Białystok

From: Białystok

Ground: Białystok City Stadium

Last Season: 3rd in LE

Predicted: 4th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Legia (Historic)

KGHM Zagłębie Lubin

From: Lubin

Ground: Stadion Zagłebia

Last Season: 10th in LE

Predicted: 8th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: N/A

Korona Kielce

From: Kielce

Ground: Kolporter Arena

Last Season: 13th in LE

Predicted: 13th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Wisła Kraków (Competitive), Legia (Historic)

Lech Poznań

From: Poznań

Ground: Inea

Last Season: 2nd in LE

Predicted: 2nd

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Legia (Fierce, Historic), Pogoń (Historic), Lechia (Historic), Wisła Kraków (Historic)

Lechia Gdańsk

From: Gdańsk

Ground: Energa Gdańsk

Last Season: 4th in LE

Predicted: 3rd

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: N/A

Legia Warszawa

From: Warszawa

Ground: Józef Piłudski City Stadium

Last Season: 1st in LE

Predicted: 1st

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Lech (Historic), Wisła Kraków (Historic)

Piast Gliwice

From: Gliwice

Ground: Stadion Piast

Last Season: 1st in First Division, Promoted

Predicted: 12th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Górnik Zabrze (Local), GKS Katowice (Local)

Pogoń Szczecin

From: Szczecin

Ground: Floriana Krygiera

Last Season: 8th in LE

Predicted: 5th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Cracovia, Lech, Zagłębie Sosnowiec

Wisła Kraków

From: Krakow

Ground: Henryk Reyman City Stadium

Last Season: 6th in LE

Predicted: 6th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Cracovia (Local), Legia (Competitive)

Wisła Płock

From: Płock

Ground: Kazimierza Gorskiego

Last Season: 7th in LE

Predicted: 9th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Legia (Local)

Zagłębie Sosnowiec

From: Katowice

Ground: Bukowa

Last Season: 12th in LE

Predicted: 14th

Rivals in Lotto Ekstraklasa: Pogoń (Fierce), GKS Katowice (Fierce, Local), Górnik Zabrze (Fierce, Local), Cracovia (Fierce), Lech (Fierce), Wisła Kraków (Fierce), Piast (Fierce, Local)

The League rules are not all that different to what we've become used to in the PT Championship, although for the first time our squad is restricted to no more than 2 non-EU players in the starting lineup. That shouldn't be a problem though as we don't currently have any players from outside Europe.

Anyway, there are 16 teams in the Lotto Ekstraklasa who play each other twice, which is 30 matches. The top 8 teams qualify for the Championship Group and the bottom 8 go into the Relegation Group. Seem familiar?

In both the Championship and Relegation Groups, all teams start with all of their stats from the first Stage, like goal difference, goals scored, conceded etc. All teams also start with 50% of the points they've accrued. Apart from that it's very simple: The bottom 2 teams in the Relegation Group are relegated, the top side in the Championship Group qualifies for the Champions League and the next 2 sides qualify for the Europa League.

So that's all you need to know about the Lotto Ekstraklasa. It's a big step up and avoiding relegation will be massive ask, but with the right additions anything can happen... Right?
Pre Season 2018/19 (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep52)

Do you remember Stefan Andersson? I wouldn't blame you if you didn't. Stefan was a Swedish youth player that I signed for FC Höllviken. He played pretty well at centre back considering his age (16 at the time) and I subsequently moved to make him my first signing at SC Angrense. Sadly, he never managed to break into the first team there, putting in fairly solid performances for the U19's but not really making a case for a call up to the senior squad. He was released by Os Heróis this summer and snapped up by Sporting Ideal, a PT Championship side.

Anyway, I mention Stefan because he was the only player that I managed to bring with me from Sweden to Portugal. He was the only one that wanted to step up with me and take on a fresh challenge. This time I intend to do better. I want to bring the players I know and trust along for the ride. I want to bring in my Heróis.


I get the ball rolling just a couple of days after my arrival, moving quickly to bring in Angrense youth squad's best player, Rodrigo Silva. Considering the money I now have at my disposal, the holding midfielder is a snip at £2.5k and becomes my first Katowice signing.


The next day I'm on the phone to Borba again. Never one to hold out for a good fee for any of his players, he snaps my hand off when I put £18k on the table for Hurley. This deal won't be tied up so quickly though: Hurley will take a few days to decide whether he wants to leave his home nation for the first time.


I'm not really a patient man though, so while my main transfer target has a think, I wrap up a deal for Délcio Azevedo. He'd been released by Angrense and although Nowak will be my first choice Goalkeeper, Azevedo provides a solid and trusted alternative.


My first knockback comes the day after when my £16k bid for my former side's promising striker Renato Silva is accepted, but the man himself tells me that he has no interest in relocating. I'm disappointed as we could do with a good young striker, but I wish him well all the same.


Then comes the big one. I ring Borba once again and offer a whopping £75k for Cristiano Magina. And my old employer rejects it. You bastard, Miguel. You horse's arse. The only explanation I can think of is that for some reason his balls had been in the drawer of the desk in my old office all this time, and whilst rummaging around for spare change and forgotten possessions that day, he'd stumbled across and reattached them. This isn't over.

But it is for now while I focus on our first pre season friendly against Frydek-Mistek, a Czech second division side. My inherited star striker Grzegorz Goncerz goes all out to prove that we don't need CM9 and has an insane match, scoring 4 goals including a penalty, missing another penalty and getting injured. Food for thought there at least.


But anyway, if I'm gutting my beloved Angrense's squad I may as well do it properly. An £18k bid for Kevin is lodged and accepted as we desperately need quality on the wings. Like Hurley, he'll think about it. This isn't going very well, is it.


On the 7th comes our second pre-season friendly against Hungarian Division III side BKV Elöre. Goncerz sits the game out after his knock against Frydek-Mistek but we still come out with the win with goals from battling midfielder Mario Gregurina and 17 year old 6'4" striker Mariusz Stryjek. Left winger Andreja Prokic shows some promise by providing the assists for both goals, before promptly getting injured for 2 months with shin splints.

Oh, but who's this waiting at our training facility when we return from Hungary? It's free agent Olivier, recently released by Angrense and here to run lovingly back into my arms. We desperately need central defenders and I can't think of anyone that I'd rather bring in to fill one of those roles.


The day after the first friendly is a big day. 2 big blows land with the news that firstly, Cristiano Magina does not want to join Katowice following my improved £90k offer, but then Renato Silva gets his wish of staying in Portugal by joining Nacional da Madeira for a fee rising to just under £17k.

I also get knocked back after a monumental £425k bid for Everton's versatile and transfer listed forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin is accepted. I'm willing to offer a lot in an attempt to convince him to join us, but in the end he takes the biscuit. As glad as I would've been to bring in someone of his quality, versatility and potential, I'm not paying him 3 or 4 times as much as anyone else in the squad.

So you might be thinking that the 7th of July 2018 has been a bad day for us... But has it?

Gonçalo Reyes is in the building, ladies and gentlemen.



Another blow today. My £22k bid for the new Elano, Jeferson Paulista, is accepted but the Brazilian knocks me back, saying that he's only been with Angrense for a few months and doesn't want to move straight on.


Another friendly arrives and we take on another Czech second division side, Olomouc - Holice. Worryingly, it's quite an even game, but Goncerz is back in the side to grab us a draw.


DCL has moved, but not to us. Barnsley have picked up a fine player there, but in the end it's probably a good thing I didn't blow the whole budget on him isn't it.

Our fourth friendly pits us against Odra Opole, a Polish second division side, in our 4th consecutive away friendly match. This time, young secondary striker Michael Tarnowski gets the only goal and secures the win.


The good news is that Kevin has arrived! Perhaps swayed by Hurley, Olivier, Rodrigo and Délcio, perhaps not, but my God it's good to have him. Our front line suddenly looks a lot, lot better.

The bad news is that Kevin's arrival has prompted an uncomfortable line of questioning from our Chairman Wojciech Cygan, who hired me under a couple of assumptions: That I would save GieKSa from relegation, that I would keep our Director of Football, Dariusz Motala, in place, and that I would sign high profile players. So far I've only signed 5 players from a former Portuguese Championship side, so he's not best pleased.

We need a ringer. We need a big name. A superstar that'll sell shirts and set Polish tongues wagging. It's safe to assume that we don't have the pulling power or financial backing to attract a World Class name like Messi, Ronaldo or Neymar, so who's on the next level down? The just-about-World-Class players like Aguero and Kane are out of reach too. So are the incredibly good players. And the really good players. And the fairly good players. And the pretty decent players.

Oh shit, who can we actually attract?


If there's one thing that I've always said about Alan Hutton, it's that he's a real class act. A hard working, no nonsense, old fashioned defender. And that's what we really need isn't it. In many ways, I think I'd turn down the opportunity to sign one of these up-their-own-arse mercenaries like Sissoko or Lukaku. I'd say: "No way Romelu, I need someone who's willing to rip out his own heart and throw it in front of the ball to save us a goal if he needs to. I need a professional. A solid, dependable Glaswegian who'll lead by example and kick seven bells out of far more skilful players in order to scrape us a point."

So yes, I've brought in the man known in some circles as "The Scottish Tony Hibbert". And the good news is that the signing of a former Tottenham and Aston Villa stalwart has appeased Wojciech's thirst for star power.

The bad news is that at 33 years old and at a price of £43k, Wojciech doesn't seem to see value for money in the Hutton deal. There's no pleasing some people is there?

Our final friendly is the only one that I actually arranged and it's going to be great. My first time overseeing a match in our home stadium, Bukowa, and we're taking on David Moyes' Premier League Sunderland side. Overall, I come away extremely pleased. In what turns out to be a very even match, Victor Anichebe opens the scoring on the hour, but Goncerz gets the decisive equaliser 7 minutes from time.


Fresh from what I am adamant is a massive success for the club, I lodge a loan bid with Bournemouth for Ben Whitfield, a skilful, nippy and versatile young winger that's spent pre-season on trial with us and impressed.


While we wait for Ben to decide whether he wants to join us, I go out and bring in another familiar face to our U18's backroom staff. Maybe my decision is partly driven by sentiment, but a lifelong hero of mine, Leon Osman, has a great deal of potential as a youth coach so I bring him in.


Ben Whitfield is flying to Poland! To join Zagłebie Sosnowiec, our local rivals with whom we share a stadium. He'll regret that when we come up against Zagłebie and Alan Hutton starts breaking ankles.

Behind the scenes, I've also completely revamped Katowice's backroom team, bringing in about double the staff we had and more importantly, bringing in more quality.

I'm not done on the transfer front, although we're almost out of funds. We've got our trusty backup Goalie, we've got both of our centre backs (If Hutton can hold his own there against Sunderland he should be fine in the Lotto Ekstraklasa), we've got Hurley, who can provide the passes while Bart does the midfield dirty work, and we've got Kevin in on the left wing. So we only really need another winger and a backup striker. I'm lining up a couple of loan signings to provide the finishing touches, but they'll have to wait. It's time to start our League Campaign, and we begin our Season against Jagiellonia, who qualified for the Europa League last Season.

Here we go, GieKSa.
2018 World Cup - Russia (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 52.5)

Let's take a second to talk about the 2018 World Cup. I'd completely forgotten about it this Summer, what with everything else that's been going on, but it seems like it's been a pretty interesting tournament.

Italy were the biggest side not to even qualify after finishing 2nd in Group 7 of the European Qualifiers and getting knocked out of their play-off match by the Netherlands. The tie finished 4-3 on aggregate after the Netherlands turned it around with an impressive 3-0 win in the second leg.

England were the only side to qualify from the UK & Ireland, and promptly finished bottom of Group A below the Ivory Coast, Australia and host nation Russia, whose home advantage didn't save them when Australia, who had an identical record to them in the group, were automatically chosen to proceed to the knockout stages at Russia's expense.

There were some surprise faces in the Group Stage too. Uzbekistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Qatar all made it to Russia, but were all sent packing before the knockout stages began.

Without any other major surprises in the Group stage, the second round got underway. The USA, Spain, France (After extra time) and Portugal all progressed at the expense of Australia, Austria, Switzerland and our new resident nation Poland, while the 2 biggest South American nations, Brazil and Argentina, both went out against the Netherlands and Belgium respectively. Uruguay went one better than their neighbours, beating the Ivory Coast to progress to the quarter finals, but Belgium knocked them out too. Elsewhere in the quarters, Germany beat the Dutch, Spain knocked out the USA and France took a second extra time win in as many games against Portugal.

Germany got themselves past Belgium and France beat Spain to set up a tense final in Moscow, which France won on penalties despite Dimitri Payet's 92nd minute red card.

So yeah, France are World Champions for the first time in 20 years. Man United's Paul Pogba, who scored the champions' only goal in the final, also won the competition's Best Player award. Real Madrid's 2017 £87M signing Eden Hazard and Chelsea's N'Golo Kanté came 2nd and 3rd respectively.

The Best Young Player award went to Portugal's and PSG's Gonçalo Guedes, an extremely talented young man who scored 3 goals and set up another 3 in only 4 matches.

Thibaut Courtois won the Best Goalkeeper award despite his Belgium side conceding 11 goals in 7 games in a style that's being described globally as "Classic Martinez".

And Edinson Cavani won the Golden Boot with 4 goals, but ahead of Paul Pogba by virtue of playing fewer matches. Guedes was in 3rd place.

The Dream Team doesn't hold many surprises given everything that I've just told you, apart from the fact that Guedes is only named on the bench. But then, he had some serious competition. 6 of the 8 defence and midfield spots are made up of French players: Djibril Sidibé, Samuel Umtiti, Laurent Koscielny, Paul Pogba, N'Golo Kanté and Antoine Griezmann. Raphaël Guerreiro of Portugal and Dortmund takes the other spot in defence, while Eden Hazard is the other man named in midfield. Courtois is in net of course, and Cavani is picked up front with his chompy compatriot Luis Suárez.

So that's the 2018 World Cup then. Vive la France. I very, very nearly forgot to tell you about it but that's just what happens when you spend half your Summer on the phone to your bastard of an ex-Chairman, and the other half getting peer-pressured into drinking pints of draft Wodka in the pub below your flat.
Optimism (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep53)

Let me level with you. I'm worried. Very worried. There have been times this Summer when I've questioned my decision to join Katowice. Off the back of a hugely successful season with SC Angrense, maybe it would've been more sensible to take a job in the Slovenian or Czech 2nd tier. I could've taken over at one of the big hitting clubs in a division like that and maybe continued to build up my reputation with another promotion. Instead I took the biggest job I could find, and possibly the most difficult one too.

There's every chance that this squad won't cut the mustard in the Lotto Ekstraklasa and that I'll be back on my arse in 6 months having been sacked, with GieKSa rooted to the foot of the table.

I'll be back where I was 18 months ago, trying to convince anyone who'll listen to take a punt on a Manager who's effectively relegated 2 clubs.

But enough of that. Optimism is the way forward now. We line up against Jagiellonia in our new look Project: Burnie MK II, a simple counter attacking 4-1-2-3 system. Vice-captain Nowak will start in goal, with Scheffel, Hutton, Olivier and Garbacik in front of him. I'm giving Rodrigo Silva a chance in front of the defence too. It's a risk, but his potential is excellent and I want to see if he's ready. Bart and Hurley are our midfield partnership, Mandrysz will take the right wing while Kevin cuts in from the left, and Captain Goncerz leads the line.

We start on the front foot, and Goncerz shows a glimpse that he can fashion chances, holding the ball up well and playing it through for Hurley, whose shot is straight at Stachowiak, the Jagiellonia keeper.

The rest of the half is quiet but we start the second 45 promisingly too. Mandrysz plays a long ball over the Jagiellonia defence almost straight from kick off and Goncerz latches onto it, but he drags his shot wide of the far post.

Less than 10 minutes later, the deadlock is found. And not in the way that I'd hoped. Khomchenovskyi squares the ball from the left side of our penalty box and Jelic drills it past Nowak from close range.

5 minutes later, Khomchenovskyi's corner is headed back to him and he crosses it in again. Cernych rises and heads the ball against the bar. I keep a poker face but this is a nightmare. The little momentum we'd built up from the chances we'd made has evaporated with the opening goal. We've gone all wobbly while Jagiellonia are growing in confidence.

2 minutes later, another Khomchenovskyi corner comes back to him and he crosses the ball back in to the far post. Gabacik swipes at the ball but can only clear it as far as Frankowski a few feet away, who puts it past Nowak for 2-0.

I tell the boys to attack and to play in a more structured way, but we're getting battered. Less than 5 minutes after the second goal, Frankowski plays the ball in to Jelic in the area and luckily for us, he skies it.

I decide to just go for it. I withdraw Silva. I feel quite bad that I started him today in such a big game, I shouldn't have put so much pressure on him. We go 4-2-3-1 and I bring on Machalski, an attacking midfielder, in Silva's place.

A couple of minutes later though, Jagiellonia's Scottish full back Ziggy Gordon swings a cross in from the right and Jelic volleys in his second. The match ends 0-3.

Huh. I don't want to sound like an arse hole, but I'd sort of forgotten what this felt like. To be beaten so soundly. To be torn apart by a far superior team. If I had to guess, I'd say the last time this happened to me was the first time Angrense played Caldas.

It doesn't feel good. I was worried before the match and I'm worried now. We offered up very little in terms of attacking threat or defensive solidity and in all honesty, Jagiellonia should've beaten us by 4 or 5. Our counter attacking was minimal. Our creativity was non-existant. We need to improve massively if we're to survive this year. Or come to think of it, if I'm to survive past Christmas.

So the road to survival with GKS Katowice is indeed going to be long and gruelling. We've gotten off to the worst possible start and we're already down at the foot of the table. Let's hope we don't stay there for too long.
Going Dutch (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep54)

Well, our first match was a bit of a downer, I won't lie. But what better way is there to raise spirits back up than with a couple of brand new exciting loan signings from big clubs? I have taken roughly 100 wingers on trial this Summer (I'm not even kidding) as we did still need reinforcements there, and to be honest, aside from Whitfield who we missed out on, the quality of the available players hasn't been great, but we've signed 2 pretty promising young Dutch lads to bolster our ranks.

First to arrive is Vitesse's Aaron Kwarko. I signed him for a few reasons, but mainly because he's a... I don't know if there's a term for what he is, so I'm going to call him an Anti-Winger. Wingers are traditionally small and nippy, and burst past defenders purely through pace. Anti-Wingers are tall and strong, but still quick. They bully defenders and surge past them with power, and will be useful in a physical league like the Lotto Ekstraklasa. Kwarko is an excellent example of an Anti-Winger as he's 6'5", has good acceleration, speed and strength, as well as technique and crossing ability. He's only 19 but he can be a different option to what we already have, and he's also perfectly comfortable on either wing.

Our other signing is Feyenoord's Shurendo Janga. He's also a big lad at 6'2" but prefers to play through the middle as a striker or attacking midfielder, although he's also comfortable on either wing. At 20 he's another young man and he has a good touch, good technique, and he's quick, agile, skilful and strong. He's got the makings of a very good player there.

Our next match is a Polish FA Cup match away at our First Division neighbours Rozwój Katowice. Today is a very good chance for us to pick up our first win, and it's also a good chance to see what the rest of my squad can do. I'll try my second string with Project: Meatloaf and see how they do.

Azevedo makes his debut in net, with Geng, Pluta, Abramowicz and Franczak in defence. Silva and Fossy start as our midfield duo, and Janga and Kwarko make their debuts either side of Baran, with Tarnowski up front.

My new signings are almost vindicated in the 12th minute when Janga drills the ball into the box low from the right. Kwarko collects it in the centre but drags his shot just wide of the mark.

On the 20 minute mark, the ball's up the other end. Sobotka blasts a free kick from just outside our box, and it flies over the wall, past Délcio Azevedo and into the net. Bollocks.

At half time, I pace up and down in front of my team as they stare blankly back at me. I don't know what words to use. And even if I did, I don't know how to say them in Polish. I feel like this Country, this League, and this club are showing early signs of rejecting me like a transplanted kidney. The most frustrating part is that I've brought this on myself, playing the kids and reserves instead of the first team was a mistake. I should've known that.

I stop my pacing and turn to face the poor rabble, glaring at each of them in turn. I decide that the best course of action is to just open my mouth and let words happen.

"Bollocks! I'm a fucking kidney..." I blurt out. I feel myself go bright red. Did they understand that? A couple are smirking. This is awful. I lower my head into my hands. "Just... Just don't... Just win!" I sigh in desperation, before walking shamefully out of the door and away from the room full of confused and demotivated footballers.

Shockingly, those footballers come out swinging for the 2nd half. Less than 2 minutes after the restart, Tarnowski plays the ball into the box for Kwarko, who places it first time past Slowik and into the net. What's not shocking though is that the linesman's flag was already up and we're still 1-0 down. And in deep trouble.

On the hour, I decide to just stick to the original plan. I may as well give a couple more kids some game time. Kamil Karwot, a 16 year old left winger, and Mariusz Stryjek, the 17 year old striker who scored for us in pre season, replace Baran and Tarnowski.

But to be honest not a lot happens in the remaining half hour. Azevedo makes a good save from Zak, I beg the team to attack and even bring on Wilk as a makeshift second striker in place of one of our centre backs, but to no avail.

Listen, I know I fucked up by not playing my first team. I know I fucked up again by trying to solve the problem by bringing more youth players into the equation. But these are the stupid decisions that get made when you're panicking, and I am absolutely panicking. This is feeling more like Höllviken with each passing day. I feel like I've turned up to the battle of Minas Tirith on the back of a 3 legged Shetland pony equipped with a pea shooter I got free with a copy of the Beano. And no peas.

But no more. No more will I let fear rule my decisions. No longer will I listen to Nuno's voice saying "You fail, Inglês! You fail, Inglês!" as I fall asleep at night. Katowice will not become another black mark on my CV next to Höllviken. We've had a bad start, but we've punched above our weight before in Portugal and we'll bloody well do it again here. Starting...
GieKSik (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep55)

...NOW. And do you know why we're starting now? Because we're playing KGHM Zagłębie at home. They lost their first match too, 2-0 against Wisła Kraków, so they're only 1 place above us in 15th. I know that league places are meaningless at this point but it's still a bit of a confidence booster.

As I walk towards Stadion GKS Katowice's home changing room, I get my instructions for the players ready in my mind. We'll play an incredibly standard and flexible 4-2-3-1 and we'll work the ball into the box. That's all. No messing about.

As I turn the corner though, I see something that sends shockwaves of pure terror through my entire body. Walking towards me is a man. A huge, horrifying man, with skin as white as snow and lifeless eyes as wide as saucers. His jet black hair is slicked back and his mouth is wide open, the corners curled into an unsettling smile.

"Powodzenia", says the scary man in a gruff, muffled voice. His lips don't even move.

"Are you a vampire?" I ask quietly, as he really looks like a fucking vampire.

"I am GieKSik", he replies, somewhat more chirpily but still muffled. He continues walking towards me until he's very very close, and then stops, holding up his massive hand for a high 5. I don't move. I stay perfectly still. He seems to get the message after a few seconds and I sense a touch of sarcasm in his gruff voice as he says "Well we could talk until the cows freeze over, but I have to go." As he skirts around me he drops a business card into my suit jacket's right pocket, before striding around the corner that I've just come from and out of sight.

Once I'm sure that the obvious vampire's gone, I take out the business card and have a look. It reads:


Maskotka GKS Katowice"

He's a mascot. Of course he's a bloody mascot. And of course I already knew that. And of course I wasn't really scared.

Anyway, there's a link to GieKSik's Facebook page on the card too, because obviously. I make a mental note not to have a look later because I'd like to sleep tonight.

I walk into the changing room as the lads are chatting amongst themselves and announce in my boomiest voice "Right lads, thank you." The room falls silent.

"Are you OK boss?" Asks Dennis Lawrence, a look of concern on his face.

"Fine thank you Dennis", I reply.

"You're all white, you look like you've seen a ghost".

"No I don't. Right then."

"Can anyone smell piss?"

"RIGHT THEN, KGHM Zagłębie", I boom, feeling the colour flood back to my cheeks.

The team that I name for this match is the same as the team that faced Jagiellonia, with the exception of Fossy replacing Rodrigo Silva and playing behind the striker. After relaying my minimal instructions and making my way to the dugout, the match begins. And it's not a good one. The only first half action is an early shot from KGHM's Vasilef which flies high and wide, followed by a quick game of pinball in their box which we're unable to capitalise on.

The second half is no better, but as the match begins to wind down, I realise that I'm OK with it. Our first point on the board is not a thing to be sniffed at in our position. We might even move out of 16th place.

With 15 minutes to go, Bart finds himself with the ball in KGHM's half and plays it out to Kevin, who's cutting in from the left. He takes a touch, looks up, and drives the ball low into the far corner of the net.

Kevin is mobbed by his teammates, in particular his fellow former Heróis Hurley and Olivier, but he wriggles free and runs over to me in the dugout and I give him a high 5, as our resident scary bastard, GieKSik, watches on enviously in the background.

A couple of minutes later, Bart nearly makes it 2-0 when Goncerz lays the ball off for him, but his fizzing shot across the ground is just wide of the post.

Thank fuck for you, Kevin. I know that one swallow doesn't make a Summer, but that goal gives us a bit of vital breathing room. From being mid-meltdown last week, we've now scored the first goal of my tenure, kept our first clean sheet, picked up our first points and our first win, and that is not bad for a day's work.

So let's keep this momentum going... Against the team that finished 2nd in the Lotto Ekstraklasa last season... And are predicted to do so again... Well let's at least try. Lech Posnań have so far won 1 and lost 1 but as they're favourites to beat us in the same way that the Death Star was the favourite to beat Alderaan, we'll be playing a cautiously standard and flexible variation of Project: Burnie MK II, with Gregurina coming into the team in place of Fossy as a holding man, and Janga replacing Mandrysz on the right wing.

Less than 10 minutes in, Jevtic stings Nowak's hands with a low drive, but the veteran keeper can only parry it as far as Jozwiak, who thankfully smacks the ball into the side netting.

A few minutes later Lech are dominating, and Mbemba plays a good long ball forward to Galán, who dribbles into our area - And is tripped by Olivier. My heart sinks. The referee puts his whistle to his lips and runs over, pointing to the spot.

Jevtic stands at the edge of the area as the ref blows his whistle again, and the attacking midfielder runs forward to hit the ball from the penalty spot. He places the ball low to the left - And Nowak goes with it, tipping it behind for a corner, the beautiful bastard.

Before the 20 minute mark, just as things are starting to turn our way, Olivier under hits a back-pass to Nowak. Hutton tries to get to the loose ball before Galán, but he's not the quickest off the mark. Galán gets to it first and smashes it past our helpless keeper. Oh Olivier. Poor, sweet Olivier. Today is not your day, my friend.

Lech's pressure does not let up. A couple of minutes after the opening goal, Mbemba dribbles forward and hits a hopeful shot well wide, and a few minutes after that, Jevtic's free kick is shoved away by Nowak and Galán rifles the rebound against the post.

At half time, I tell Janga to position himself more centrally as he and Goncerz have been quiet so far, and I'm hoping having Janga as more of a secondary striker will bring both players into the game.

We start to drag ourselves back into the game after the break, and 10 minutes into the second half, Scheffel hits a good pass over the Lech defence and Goncerz runs through on goal, slotting the equaliser past Lis, the Lech keeper.

Spirits are high after that, but only temporarily. On the hour mark, Radut swings a free kick in from the left, Jach gets up above poor Olivier and directs what I would describe as a "Bobbling header" towards goal. It is utterly without pace, and Nowak should save it really, but he doesn't. 1-2. I suppose the penalty save balances out that horrendous mistake though, so I'll let him off.

5 minutes later, Baran and Fossy come on for Gregurina and Janga and we change to a fluid counter attacking system to try to catch Lech out again. It nearly pays off immediately when Hurley runs the ball into the box, but he puts his shot just over the bar.

With 10 minutes to go, Majewski swings a Lech corner to the near post. Galán nods it on, and their debutant centre back Valente is unmarked at the far post to head past Nowak. We go attacking, but the game's over.

You know what? Fine. I'll take that. On another day, Olivier is his usual solid self and doesn't give away a penalty, under hit his backpass, or get beaten in the air for their second. On another day we keep our focus from that late set piece and mark Valente. We were no doubt beaten by the better side, and I have no problem with that, but on another day we might have scraped a draw. I can live with that result though. And I can live with 13th place too.

Although there is one thing that's troubling me. Something that's been eating away at me for the last week, actually.

Why does GieKSik need business cards?
Bartbeat (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep56)

Some might say "Franjo, could you leave SC Angrense alone now please?"

To those people I say that technically, Angrense released Amonike in the Summer and we've signed him on a free transfer, so I'm not exactly raiding them. Any more. They didn't want him for some reason, and I do. Welcome back, my friend.

I've been vocally unhappy with my options on the wings since I joined Katowice, hence the signing of Kevin and the loan signings of Kwarko and Janga, but I see Kevin as a left inside forward, Kwarko as more of a late game destroyer substitute, and Janga as a utility squad player. I needed a first choice right winger, and hopefully, once he's back to full fitness, Amonike will be just that for me once again.

Anyway, Amonike will get a place on the bench today as we take on Legia Warszawa. Our previous opponents Lech Poznań finished 2nd last season are predicted to do the same again this year, but 3 guesses where Legia finished last season and where they're predicted to finish again? Top of the bloody pile. This should go swimmingly.

Having done my homework on Legia, I'm seeing that they usually play quite narrow in a 4-2-3-1 with 3 central attacking midfielders. I'm quite pleased with this if I'm honest, because if we can just deny them space in the centre we might be able to nullify them entirely.

We'll be going for our Project: Burnie MK II system again, which has become a standard flexible system in the past few weeks as oppose to the counter attacking system we tried to play against Jagiellonia Białystok. We'll also be playing the same line up we played against Lech. I will be making a couple of crucial tweaks for this match though, considering Legia's play style. We'll be fairly narrow, restricting space in the middle, and we'll exploit the flanks where they're weakest.

The game starts with lightning pace. First Chukwu plays a good ball through for Costinha, whose low, central shot is saved by Nowak, then at the other end Goncerz plays a similar ball through for Hurley, ans his considerably better shot has to be tipped behind by Majecki.

Then in the 6th minute, Jedrzejczyk's cross into our box is headed clear by Alan Hutton. Janga gets to the ball on the right and plays it down the line for Goncerz, who surges forward as reinforcements arrive to his left. He dribbles forward and skips over a dangerous and malicious challenge from Hlousek, before swinging a cross to the far post. The ball hurtles towards Kevin, who decides not to go for goal, and instead uses his head to cushion the ball down for Bart, who lashes it on the half volley - Into the back of the fucking net.

I keep my poker face once again, as I don't want to celebrate now and look daft in 10 minutes when we're 1-4 down, but inside my heart is hammering and I'm fighting a losing battle trying to hold back the massive grin that's appearing on my face.

A couple of minutes later, Scheffel swings a cross in from deep on the right and it falls perfectly for Hurley at the far post. He pokes a volley at goal, but it doesn't have much power and Majecki keeps the ball out.

It all goes pleasingly quiet after that and we are indeed nullifying Legia, until 10 minutes before half time when Szymanski's drilled cross is turned towards goal by Chukwu, but he hits the near post.

Before half time, Goncerz, who I'm beginning to think likes setting up chances way, way more than he likes scoring goals, plays the ball to Hurley, who drives forward to the edge of the area and shoots, but Majecki catches it with a degree of comfort.

Half time comes and goes, and as we pass the hour mark, not much else has happened. I stand up and catch Amonike's eye. "Warm up mate", I smile. We'll bring him on for young Janga on the right. Except we won't. Because before the ball goes out of play, before our substitution can occur, our goal scorer Bart, the beating heart of GKS Katowice, or Katowice's Bartbeat if you will, trips Hämäläinen from behind. He was already booked in the first half and receives his second yellow for the trip. We're down to 10 men.

I scramble, telling Amonike to sit back down and gesturing instead to Fossy and Machalski. Our central midfield duo come on replacing Janga and Kevin, the 2 wingers, and we'll change to a flat 4-1-3-1 to make us as solid as possible. I also get the message out to go even narrower.

With quarter of an hour to go, we're more than holding on. We're pushing for a second! Goncerz again plays hurley through, but the midfielder's shot is just wide. There's a real partnership developing between these 2, I just wish Hurley would put a couple of these chances away.

We enter the final 10 minutes still relatively untroubled by Legia. With 8 minutes to go, Hurley plays a lofted ball forward and Goncerz takes it down and turns well. He tries to chip the ball towards the far top corner, but it goes just over the bar.

I don't think I'll forget today in a hurry. I love a good giant killing. The exhilaration when the ball hits the back of the net, the relief of the full time whistle. We're really onto something now. This is starting to feel a little less Höllviken and a little more Angrense. Today was a very good day. The final score: Predicted title winners Legia Warszawa - 0, The 10 men of predicted cannon fodder GKS Katowice - 1.

And do you know what? I won't forget Bart's contribution today, nor will I begrudge him that second yellow. A journalist asks me immediately after the match if he'll need to sit out of a couple of matches to learn his lesson, and I want to tell them not to be so fucking stupid.

It's not him that makes the team of the week though, it's Olivier! Aside from his off day against Lech, he's adapted really well to his new league. He's mainly been very solid, and of course, he played a big part in completely nullifying the champions.

So all we need is to keep spirits high, keep the players happy and try to build on this platfo... Oh bollocks, Baran wants to leave. So basically we've just received 2 bids: Up to £40k from Verona for our 16 year old left winger Kamil Karwot, which I reject, and up to £165k from Genoa for Ryszard Baran, our young and incredibly talented playmaker, which I also reject.

Instantly, Baran is banging on my office door, demanding he be allowed to move to Genoa. I tell him, very reasonably, that he can go if someone comes in with more money. In the next few days a bidding war erupts between Saint Etienne, Bologna, Cagliari and Bordeaux, and I allow Bologna to enter contract discussions as they bid the most: £400k and 50% of his next transfer fee. I'm not happy with this situation at all, Baran's been a little brat about it, but we'll just have to wait and see how that develops.

For now, Cracovia are my sole focus. They're an upper mid-table side and call me crazy, but I reckon if we can turn Legia over then we turn these over too. As the home side we'll return to our incredibly standard 4-2-3-1 and bring Fossy in for the suspended Bart.

Nearly a quarter of an hour in, Gregurina runs forward and sprays the ball out to Kevin on the left wing, and he crosses low to Goncerz on the edge of the box. Our selfless striker touches the ball straight on for Gregurina, who rifles the ball into the bottom corner for 1-0. What a start.

The rest of the half is cagey, not that I'm complaining. The second half begins tentatively too, and our first chance comes when Kevin chips the ball over the Cracovia defence and into the path of Goncerz. Goncerz dribbles out to the left hand side of the area before skimming a low cross into the centre, which Fossy converts from close range.

We're 2 to the good! Against a pretty good team! I'm over the fucking moon! I consider belly bouncing Dennis, but think better of it.

10 minutes later, Kwarko and Amonike are on for Janga and Kevin, and we're still playing the best football I've seen us play. An excellent passing move on the right hand side culminates with Fossy sending in a low cross from the right. A quick game of pinball begins as Osyra deflects the ball with his outstretched foot, sending it towards Goncerz, who's only a few feet away from goal. Before it can reach him though, Kotula slides in with a perfect tackle but only succeeds in knocking the ball away as far as big Aaron Kwarko, who stabs in his first Katowice goal just minutes after coming on.

3-0! Bloody 3-0! We're cruising! This is absolutely not what I expected from Cracovia. I expected them to take 1 point at the very least, but they're rudderless. They're helplessly throwing sandbags in front of their doors as the tidal wave of our fantastic football crashes into them. The gentlemanly thing to do would be to kill the game and take our 3 points without trying to humiliate Cracovia, but as far as I know gentlemanly conduct has never saved anyone from relegation, so we press on.

With a quarter of an hour to go, Fossy hits a hopeful ball forward from deep in our half. It falls to one of Cracovia's centre backs, Kornel Osyra, but it falls awkwardly and he miscontrols it, knocking it backwards towards his own net. Goncerz runs through and collects the loose ball, takes aim, and smashes it against the bar. It bounces back and into the grateful arms of Sandomierski.

I decide to bring Goncerz off and replace him with Michel Tarnowski. Tarnowski hasn't scored in 15 matches and today seems like the day to end that run, given Cracovia's capitulation.

A couple of minutes later, Scheffel's cross is cleared as far as Garbacik on the half way line. The left back thumps the ball straight back into the box, and as the defence snoozes Tarnowski acts quickly, losing his marker and nodding the ball over the onrushing keeper and into the net.

With a couple of minutes of the match to play, Cracovia's Ferraresso attempts to justify his side's decimation by getting himself sent off. "10 man Cracovia hammered 4-0" makes for a slightly less embarassing headline I suppose.

I don't think that I've had a more satisfying victory in my short career. We were immense. Everything we did came off for us. Fossy, Tarnowski and Gregurina all got off the mark for the season and Kwarko got off the mark for Katowice full stop. What a bloody day.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to tilt my head back and pinch my nose to prepare for the inevitable nosebleed. We're sat in 4th place in the Lotto Ekstraklasa.
Deadline Day - Summer 2018 (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 56.5)

It's that bizarre time of year again. Marital aides are being removed from their drawers and taken down to football stadia with those select few fans that feel like spending their day standing behind journalists, looking half excited and half ashamed. Jim White's fucking yellow tie has been clipped onto his collar, the colour merging with his fake tan to create a nice sunset effect. It's a biannual international holiday when copious amounts of unjustified excitement is followed swiftly by disappointment, anger and reluctant acceptance.

Transfer deadline day is upon us, ladies and gentlemen.

We start off by shedding a piece of self entitled dead weight named Ryszard Baran. It's Genoa in the end that stump up £500k and a promise of 50% of his next transfer fee, trumping the previous frontrunners Bologna. He has real potential so I'm happy that we'll get a chunk of what might be a big future fee. It's just a shame that the club was already about £1.5m in the red from inherited debt, so we'll only see 25% of the cash, but it's better than nothing.

Anyway, Baran's got a bad attitude and I think we'll be better off without him. I tell him as much actually, before he leaves. Ta ra, Ryszard. Don't let the door hit you on your way out.

Our first incoming of the day is a possible replacement for Baran's position in the squad. Vladan Savanovic signs on a free transfer, well, for £8k compensation, from a small Bosnian side called Vlasenica.

Vladan is an 18 year old Bosnian midfielder. He's by no means the finished article, but he has potential. Good technique and leadership, along with great speed, balance and aggression are particular highlights.

My final incoming transfer of the window is a familiar face, but for once it's not one of my former heróis. Danny Wilson puts pen to paper after being released by Glasgow Rangers in the Summer.

I've always been a fan of Danny, ever since he came through Rangers' ranks as a youngster. In my opinion he took too big a step too quickly and paid a steep price. He's not convinced since moving back North of the border in what many saw as his last chance, but I still think he can make it. He's got everything a centre back needs: He's determined as all hell, a great leader and defender, fine on the ball, tall and physically excellent.

The one drawback to this deal is that Danny's agent insisted upon a £240k release fee for foreign clubs, but my thinking is that if he does well enough to make someone activate it, we'll have had a solid defender and we'll have made a profit.

"I'm recruiting so many Scottish warriors, it's like I'm Braveheart, isn't it Danny?" I ask enthusiastically in his first training session with the rest of the squad.

"Nae really" replies Danny Wilson, bluntly and without looking at me.

"Oh." My face drops slightly. I turn to Alan Hutton. "What do you reckon Alan, I'm a bit like Braveheart aren't I?"

"A wee bit, aye" replies Alan, who seems slightly annoyed by the question. I'll take it.

The last deal of our window is for our promising young centre back and central midfielder Arkadiusz Pluta. I turn down a potential £140k offer from Brentford, which naturally pisses Pluta right off, so after a bit of haggling, Brentford become the 2nd team of the day to sign one of our young players for £500k and 50% of the next fee.

I don't really mind. With Danny Wilson joining fellow scotsman Alan Hutton, the trusty Olivier and our regular left back Damian Garbacik, we've now got 4 players who'll do good jobs at centre back if needed, so relieving our debt a bit more for a youngster I had no intention of playing is a no brainer.

And with that, the day is done. The Sky Sports camera crews all pack up and head home from their respective stadia, the marital aides go back in the drawer, the yellow tie is unclipped and Jim White is put back in frozen carbonite where he'll remain until January.

The sun has set on deadline day, and our squad is finally complete.
Knock On Wood (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep57)

I've got to admit, August was a bloody great month. After a shaky July start to life in Poland, we picked up 9 points from a possible 12, including a win over the Champions and the thrashing of a pretty good team. I've been awarded 3rd place in the Manager of the Month award behind Lech's Nenad Bjelic and Lechia's Waldemar Fornalik, which is excellent. Everything's coming up Franjo.

Anyway we kick off September with a visit to Wisła Płock, and having studied their start to the season, it seems that they play a very solid looking withdrawn 4-2-3-1 with defensive and wide midfielders. In most of the matches they've lost so far, their opponents lined up with a 4-2-3-1 with defensive midfielders, leaving Płock's attacker and number 10 isolated and outnumbered. This makes sense, so I'll do the same. I withdraw Hurley from the starting line up and bring Bart back in following his suspension to form a defensive midfield partnership with Mario Gregurina. Danny Wilson takes a seat on the bench.

In under 5 minutes, Reca's low cross bounces off Olivier's shin and Basca thumps the loose ball into the roof of the net.

We go on the counter after half an hour, and then on the attack after an hour, but both sides struggle to create quality chances. With 15 minutes to go, I bring on Kwarko and Hurley for Janga and Gregurina and tell the boys to be more direct. Hurley will add some good passes from deep and Kwarko will be a target to aim at further forward.

Thankfully, that does the trick. Hurley passes to Kevin, who puts a good ball into the path of Goncerz, who in turn slides the equaliser into the far bottom corner of the net.

I throw Amonike on for a cameo appearance, but the only other "decent" chance comes a couple of minutes later, when Szewczyk gets behind our defence and literally hits the corner flag with his shot. This has not been a great match.

I then get another one of those "Wow, I'm at a big club" reminders, as the International break actually disrupts our schedule. None of our players are internationals though, so we just get a 2 week rest.

Our next match is Lechia away. I had planned to bring Hurley back in and give Mandrysz another chance to impress on the right wing, but they both pick up knocks just a few days before the match. They're still lacking fitness when I pick the team, so Gregurina stays in and Amonike makes his full GieKSa debut on the right.

Just over 10 minutes in, Goncerz lays the ball off for Bart, who drives it left footed from the edge of the area and into the bottom corner of the net.

We don't get to hold the lead for long though. Only a few minutes later, Olivier fails to properly clear a Wolski cross and can only bobble the ball away as far as Gajos, who hammers it over Nowak and in.

Not uncommonly for one of our matches, everything dies down until just after the hour mark. I bring on Kwarko for Amonike, who's been quiet today. I'll put it down to the fact that he's still settling in. Not long after the sub, Gregurina chips the ball onto the left wing. Kevin rises well and nods it perfectly onto Goncerz's left foot, and he unleashes a thunderbastard of a volley - That smacks the top of the bar and balloons away.

With under 20 minutes to go, Kupisz lays the ball off for Kadlec, who lashes his low shot against the foot of the post. I decide to bring on Tarnowski to see if he can get another late goal, and Abramowicz as Garbacik has made a few mistakes today.

In the 82nd minute, the woodwork is struck once again when Takacs' free kick cracks against the bar. This time though, Kadlec is there to follow up and puts the rebound away. I feel sick.

To add insult to injury, the goal goes down as a harsh own goal for Alan Hutton. If the ball touched him, it must have grazed his shorts and it was on target anyway.

The goal only spurs my boys on though. Straight from kick off, Tarnowski plays a good ball through for Kevin - Who hits the bar. Ever get the feeling that it's not your day?

A couple of minutes later, Gajos' ball over the top is nearly converted by Kadlec, but he puts it just wide. Gajos tries again instantly though, passing it through for Makuszewski, who rolls the ball into the bottom corner. GG WP, Lechia. For fucks sake.

Look, we've been here before. This isn't new territory. "The Gods of Football blah, blah, blah". We came close a few times to scoring more, but so did Lechia. In the end, they finished their chances, and although I think we played well, we didn't finish ours. Today hurts. Luckily I know a place that serves pints of draft Wodka.
Gesundheit (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep58)

Someone's knocking at the door. At my office door. It's a quiet, meek knocking, but it's clearly audible, cutting through the thick silence that hangs in the air. I stand, stride over to the doorway, and wrench the door open to see little Ben Whitfield stood on the threshold, looking up at me with wide, terrified eyes. I tower at least 3 feet above him.

"Please, Franjo", he whimpers, in his generic Southern English voice, "Please let me join GKS Katowice!"

Tears are welling in his eyes as he begs to join the tremendous GieKSa. We're on top of the league with a 100% record, while Ben's team, Zagłębie Sosnowiec, the team whose name sounds like an elaborate sneeze, have managed to be relegated 13 times this season already.

"I'm sorry", he continues as his voice cracks and the tears begin to roll down his cheeks, "I never should have passed up the chance to work with such a great team, and such a world class manager. I was wrong!"

My right hand reaches slowly down to the nunchucks attached to my waist, and I meet Whitfield's eyes. "Who do you play for again?" I purr.

Perplexed, Ben Whitfield answers "Zagłębie Sosnowiec", and with my lightning fast reflexes, I grab the nunchucks and swing them at his head, knocking it clean off. His decapitated body slumps to the floor as I turn back to my desk.

"Gesundheit." I quip, in sunglasses.

I jolt awake in bed. Shit, that was a dark one.

Shaking myself well and truly back to reality, I reassure myself that I did not actually decapitate Ben Whitfield, and that he will in fact be joining us today at the Stadion GKS Katowice as we take on Zagłębie Sosnowiec.

Contrary to my dreamtime beliefs, Zagłębie Sosnowiec have actually made a decent start to the season, sitting in 4th having won 4 and lost only 1 of their first 7 matches. Also, Ben Whitfield's been a bloody revelation, scoring 4 and assisting 2 in his first 8.

Apart from bringing Hurley in for Fossy to accommodate a 4-1-2-3 formation, I wasn't planning on making any changes from the previous game, but Alan Hutton is injured the day before the match and that forces my hand. Danny Wilson will partner Olivier today on his debut appearance.

Just over 10 minutes into the match, a Hurley corner starts a game of pinball in the Sosnowiec penalty box, and eventually it's Kevin's shot that's deflected in off a defender to open the scoring.

In the 23rd minute, Ben Whitfield, who remember has not been the slightest bit decapitated, curls a corner in towards our near post. Makengo nods it on and Mills is waiting at the far post to get a shot away, but Garbacik gets a heroic block in, sending the ball out for a corner.

If that was a warning, I missed it. Only a couple of minutes later, another Whitfield corner is headed in at the near post by Mills to equalise.

To try and take a foothold back in the match and end Sosnowiec's growing dominance, we start to retain the ball, which succeeds in the sense that nothing happens at all. For the rest of the match.

We go route one towards the end, throwing Fossy on for Gregurina to hit some good passes towards Kwarko, who comes on for Amonike, but to no avail.

I'm fine with a draw, I think. They're a handy side. Plus, if we were to draw every game this season we'd probably survive. As long as we aren't losing, I'm happy.

Górnik Zabrze are next at their place. They're not enjoying quite as good a start as Zagłębie, or us for that matter. They're sat in 14th having lost half of their 8 league matches and won only 1. We should have these! We go unchanged.

Unfortunately, and for all my optimism, we start poorly. Just after the 10 minute mark, it's Arcon who turns in Grendel's low cross to put Górnik Zabzre ahead.

We show some spirit though and about 5 minutes later, Adrian Garbacik stabs home the equaliser after Hurley's corner is nodded down for him by Mario Gregurina.

At some point, I really need to sit down and have a good long think. I need to scratch my head and work out what it is about my management style, or system, or formation, or players, that makes it so that the 40 minutes leading up to the hour mark are so bloody uneventful.

Luckily, when something does happen just after 60 minutes have passed, it's a GieKSa goal. Bart fires the ball down the right wing for Amonike, who whips in a good cross for Goncerz, and the big man heads us back in front.

With the lead back in our possession, I swap us to a defensive 4-1-4-1, keen to kill the game again. I bring on Fossy for Kevin and sit back to actually enjoy a dull half hour of time wasting.

Within 2 minutes, Mraz lays the ball back for Matuszek, who cracks a shot against the bar. 5 minutes later, it's Mraz that's pulling the strings again. He floats a cross to the far post and Konrad Nowak heads it into the side netting. This "killing the game" thing isn't working as well as I'd hoped.

With about 15 minutes to go, Macierzynski equalises for Zabzre. My fist clenches involuntarily and my eyes narrow as I glare at nothing in particular. Throwing leads away is quickly growing tiresome.

In a considered risk, we swap to our 4-2-3-1, with Aaron Kwarko coming on in place of Bart and going to the right wing, while Amonike goes to the left and Fossy takes his place between them. It nearly pays off within 5 minutes when Goncerz's floated cross is headed just wide by Kwarko.

The last 10 minutes is tense and frustrating, but as we enter injury time we win a corner, prompting a roar of encouragement from the 300-odd travelling fans. Amonike swings the ball in, and it's cleared, but only as far as Fossy who's stood just inside the area. Everyone in the stadium holds their breath as one as Fossy lets it bounce, picks his spot, and drills it into the bottom corner.

The final whistle blows. That'll do, I think as I applaud the players, listen to the cheers and songs of our fans, and let the relief wash over me. It was a close game. Very close. But just then a thought occurs to me. Maybe I've not fully adapted back to Managing an underdog yet. Maybe I've expected too much from these players at times so far. Maybe I've not savoured the wins enough. Maybe I've taken too many of our dropped points to heart. We've already picked up enough wins to give me hope that we can beat the drop, so fuck it. I'm going to savour this one. The pizza's on me tonight, lads. Dilly ding, dilly dong.
Climb Or Fall (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep59)

The league table is starting to get extremely congested in the middle. We're in 9th place on 14 points, a respectable tally. We could well climb above Bruk-Bet Termalica to 4th if we win our game in hand, which would be incredible, but we're also only 2 points clear of 12th placed Cracovia, and only 4 clear of today's opponents Korona Kielce, who are in 13th. My point is that we could climb or fall very very quickly in the next few matches, and we need to rack up all the points we can.

I'll be making a few changes for the Korona game. I'm going to do something I never thought I'd do, and drop Olivier. It's nothing against him, but I want to see if there's anything to be gained by having an all-Scottish centre back pairing of Hutton and Wilson. I also bring in Fossy and Janga for Gregurina and Amonike. We're at home and we're going 4-2-3-1.

It doesn't even take Cebula 5 minutes to unlock our defence with a through ball. Klups takes the ball and places it well into the far corner and we're behind already. In the 12th minute things threaten to go from bad to worse when Klups dinks a free kick in from the left wing, but Arak's near post header comes back off the angle.

Just after the half hour mark though, we're put in our place. Klups crosses in again, this time from open play on the right wing, and Arak heads this one in. Changes must be made. I tell GieKSa to go control the tie and I tell Hurley individually to change from his deep lying quarterback role to his preferred attacking central midfield role.

As half time looms, my players start to push back. Fossy plays a direct ball to Goncerz on the edge of the area, and the brilliant bastard lobs the onrushing keeper to pull one back a couple of minutes before the break.

I encourage the lads at half time, sensing that spirit might be just enough to get a result today. It nearly pays off quickly. Fossy chips another ball to Goncerz and he shoots towards the near post, but Gostomski flings out his big gloved paw and bats the ball behind.

We go attacking, we go route one, I even throw Wilson up front as a makeshift target man towards the end, but apart from a Zubrowski shot that Nowak saves, the second half is drab and actionless.

In the spirit of not taking dropped points too hard, that was not the worst match I've seen. We were OK, but that first half hour when Korona played out of their skins killed us. Also, Goncerz was named in team of the week! His chipped goal was doing the rounds on social media too.

And also, remember in the final days of SC Angrense when I convinced Borba to pay for my National C license? I've kept it all a bit hush hush for the most part, but I just completed the course. I'm not sure if this is a good thing to announce 2 years into a Managerial career, but I finally have a professional coaching qualification!

OK, so let's pick ourselves up and go again. Bruk-Bet Termalica away promises to be a tough game. We're 11th and still only 3 points behind them in 7th, but they've won their last 4 games by a single goal and we've now picked up 1 win in out last 5 matches.

Olivier comes back in to partner Wilson at the expense of Alan Hutton, as we've picked up 4 points in the 2 games that those 2 have played together. I'm also trying something a little different going forward. Amonike plays on the right, Kevin on the left, and Janga in between them as an attacking midfielder. I'm sacrificing Fossy's playmaking role in the hopes that Janga can link up with Goncerz and get some runs in behind the defence. Goncerz seems to really like holding the ball up and playing others in, so let's lean into it.

We start off OK, but neither side is able to fashion any chances of quality. By time the first real chance comes for either team, there's only 10 minutes to play before the break. Janga has the ball, he flicks it skilfully to Kevin and sets off sprinting into the box. Kevin finds him to complete the one-two, and Janga stabs the ball home for his first GieKSa goal. As I watch him peel away towards the travelling fans, I feel something soft and warm on my shoulders. The feeling wraps itself around my torso and arms, and then my entire body: Swaddling me from head to toe. It's my Vindication Blanket. Hello, old friend.

We go on the counter attack after that, hoping that the trailing home side come out at us and leave gaps that we can exploit on the break.

5 minutes before half time, we have bodies forward following a free kick. Olivier lays the ball off for Garbacik and he rifles it in for 2-0.

Bruk-Bet come out swinging for the second half, though. Holownia swings in a perfect cross from the left wing, right in that awkward spot between defence and goalkeeper. Kiepura launches himself forwards to reach it and heads it home. I have to applaud that one, it was an all-round great goal.

About 10 minutes later, Gergel swings a corner in for Bruk-Bet. We're right on the back foot so far since the break. Putivtsev gets his head to the ball and powers a header at goal. It's going just wide until Hadascok glances it into the net. All square once more.

The game dies off once again. We bring on Kwarko and Tarnowski for Amonike and Goncerz, but can't find the winner. I'll take a draw there. It's always disappointing to lose a 2 goal lead, but both sides deserved a point in the end.

On the other hand, that's now 1 win from 6. 6 points from a possible 18. The league table is still congested in the middle, and we could find ourselves slipping further and further down towards the relegation spots unless we start to turn some of these draws into wins. It feels like we just need that extra 10%, to finish our chances and to stop the sloppy mistakes. I feel like I'm getting to know this squad well though. I'm getting to know their character and their ability. They'll turn this around. I know they will.

You are reading "Franjo: A Journeyman Story (New Episode Every Week Day!)".

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