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

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
Give Me Strength (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep60)

Andreja Prokic has left Katowice. "Who?" You may ask. Prokic was the left winger who I voiced my concern about shortly after arriving in Poland. He had a good pre season friendly where he set up 2 goals, before promptly injuring himself, and I'd be surprised if I've mentioned him since. He's gone out on loan to Icelandic Premier League side KR for the remainder of the season after telling me that he wanted first team football.

Anyway, let's talk about Piast. Piast were the other side to get promoted to the top division last season and are in front of us in the Lotto Ekstraklasa by a nose, sitting in 11th place on 16 points. We're in 12th on 15 points, so this should be a close match between 2 evenly matched sides.

I'm told that Piast's manager, Piotr Jawny, is a bit of a game player though. A bit of a shit stirrer. You know the type. And low and behold, he goes out in front of the press in the build up to our match and singles out veteran goalkeeper Nowak as GieKSa's weak link.

Now, I'll let a lot of things slide. Bragging, delusions of grandeur, even sometimes direct insults. But a lack of respect for a stalwart of the game is something that I will not stand by and watch. Piotr, you've pissed off a man that will hold a grudge at the drop of a hat, and you are going down. And Nowak will start in net. And I'm half considering doing that hilarious thing where I offer you my hand for a handshake, but then pull it back at the last second and run it through my hair instead. Prick.

Also, the only change we make is bringing Tarnowski in for Janga. The Janga plan worked last week but I want to see how Tarnowski does in that role.

An early chance goes Piast's way when Janicki's corner is nodded on by Polczak, before being glanced wide by Banasiak. 10 minutes later they're still pressing forwards. Wilson fails to clear his lines after a cross and Bart clatters recklessly into the back of Kurminowski, giving away a spot kick. Bollocks. Wieteska's penalty is pretty close to perfect, right into the bottom corner with plenty of power. Nowak, annoyingly, has no chance.

We have a chance to draw level on the half hour mark, when Amonike's cross from the byline is met by Goncerz, but he hits his shot into the side netting.

I'm very used to our matches dying off for a bit before a frantic finish, but this one just sort of... Dies. We try to control, we try to attack, we use all 3 subs, but it's a nothing match.

I said a few weeks ago that because of the congestion in the middle of the table, we could either climb or fall very quickly. As it turns out, we're falling. We're now in 12th place and my ideal finishing position (within reason) is 8th so that we're safe from relegation. But surely today's the day that we turn it around. Wisła Kraków are having an absolute shocker of a season. They we're predicted to be in or around the race for the Europa League places, but as it stands they're 15th, they've won 1 of their 12 matches and they have below half of our points tally. The only side doing worse than them are KGHM Zagłębie, who are yet to win this season.

I'm going off-menu for this one. We need to assert our dominance as the home side and as the favourites. Give me 4-2-3-1. Give me fluidity. Give me dreamies. Give me strength, we're breaking out the fucking Meatloaf.

We start off on the front foot. 20 minutes in, Hurley passes to Goncerz, who squares the ball for Fossy. He's been returned to his number 10 role today as we're trying to play a nice brand of football that a tidy player like him can often help to facilitate. Fossy's shot has power and precision, but a good diving save from Carlos keeps the scores level.

After half an hour, I've seen some warning signs, but in the 33rd minute, we collapse. Garbacik heads the ball needlessly to Mak, giving possession away. The ball goes to Llonch, who is closed down by Olivier, but also Scheffel. This leaves space for Vidémont to move into on the left. He receives the ball, at which point Olivier and Scheffel both abandon Llonch to chase him instead. Vidémont pokes the ball back through for Llonch, who side foots it past the keeper from close range.

I am incandescent with rage. Everything about our defending was wrong. I seem to remember similar teething problems after introducing Os Heróis to fluid football, but I won't accept that 3 of our back 4 forgot the very basics of defending because I gave them slightly more freedom. What a fucking shambles.

But in for a penny, in for a pound. We're going attacking but we're staying fluid. There's every chance that the rest of this match will be about us trying to break Kraków down while they cling to their precious goal, and we'll be best off doing that with fluidity. Instantly, Amonike cuts in and hits a pot shot from 25 yards, but it goes just wide of the far post.

Just before the break, Malecki's corner is curled into the 6 yard box, but Maaczynski heads the ball just over the bar.

The second half is just as frustrating as the first. Nothing interesting happens until Grzegorz Goncerz has to be brought off with a broken nose in with just under half an hour to go. Michal Tarnowski replaces him up front and Shurendo Janga comes on for Fossy.

With quarter of an hour to go, I'm sat in my seat in the dugout with my notebook open, silently fuming. In a bid to finish the game off, Popovic plays the ball behind our defence for Ondrasek, who runs through on goal and shoots, but the ball clatters back off the far post.

A minute or so later, we're finally stringing some passes together though. Tarnowski dribbles forward and feeds Janga in the area, who takes a touch, picks his spot, and buries the ball in the bottom corner. I leap out of my seat, sending my notebook flying through the air as I pump my fist. This match just got interesting.

5 minutes later, Hurley's on the ball. He spreads it onto the left for Amonike, who turns inside and chips the ball into the centre - And Michal Tarnowski's there to volley it left footed into the bottom corner. No time for fist pumping now. We fall right back. Mario Gregurina comes on for Kevin. We see the game out.

Well, we definitely made hard work of that, but a win is a win is a win. Tarnowski picks up the player of the match award despite only playing for 27 minutes, which should give you a good idea of the overall quality displayed by both sides. He scored one goal and set up another for fellow substitute Janga, and colour me impressed with both of them. Goncerz has yet to fully convince me that he deserves to be our undisputed striker, and I'm starting to wonder why it is that a couple of other first team regulars keep getting games too. These boys have both just done their chances of a run in the team the world of good.
Taking A Winter Break (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Meta-sode 60.5)

So, what I didn't really consider at the start of the season is that a Lotto Ekstraklasa season contains a rather large (2 Month) winter break. It's taking a while to play through so there'll be no episodes next week while I get everything sorted. We'll come back strong next Monday (14th) and hopefully try to climb into the top 8 by the end of the season!

As always, thanks for your patience, thanks for your feedback and thanks so much for reading.


Keep going! Would like to see how this pans out.
Wtfranjo's avatar Group Wtfranjo
6 yearsEdited
Tough Opposition (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep61)

I am blinded. I'm blinded by the lights, and I'm blinded by the pain. The ground is cold and unforgiving against my back. The sudden silence is broken only by the scurrying of feet across the turf towards me. This can't be the end. Not now. Not like this.

I awake in a cold sweat. My heart is hammering in my chest and my left leg is aching. I feel sick. I've not had that dream in a long time. I hate that dream. I dread it. Dragging myself out of bed, I force myself to think of something else. To think of Katowice. The aching starts to fade.

The half way point of the first stage of our season is fast approaching. 13 out of the 30 matches have been played and the final 2 games before we start playing our 2nd round of matches are against 4th placed Górnick Łęczna and 2nd placed Pogoń Szczecin, both away. I'm obviously expecting 2 tough matches, but we'll have plenty of preparation time for them as they're the only 2 matches we've got in the remainder of November.

Surprisingly, Górnik aren't in great form. They're 4th, but they recently had 3 0-1 losses in a row, followed by a 0-0 against underperforming Wisła Kraków and a 1-0 win against Jagiellonia. We aren't making many changes today, but we are absolutely dropping Project: Meatloaf in favour of our usual, less fluid 4-2-3-1. We learned the hard way last time out that this team is not currently equipped to play fluid football. We're also bringing in Gregurina to replace Bart, who's picked up 4 yellows - A one match suspension in this division.

10 minutes in, Olejarka stretches his legs and dribbles forward powerfully. He reaches the edge of our box and shoots, but the ball flies comfortably wide.

Kevin dribbles forward himself on the half hour and springs Amonike, who's got himself goal side of his marker on the right. His shot's tame though and straight into the arms of Berkovec.

It's another scrappy and even match, and nothing much has happened by the time I make my 67th minute double sub, bringing Aaron Kwarko and Michal Tarnowski on for Amonike and Grzegorz Goncerz.

5 minutes later though, Spiaczka plays a pass over the top for Grzelczak, who places it past Nowak and into the bottom corner of the net. With not much time left, we need to put our game faces on. We go attacking.

It only takes a few minutes to claw our way back into the game. Fossy receives the ball from Tarnowski and plays a great pass over the top for Kwarko. The towering winger takes the ball down and pokes it under the keeper to equalise.

With momentum on our side, we keep attacking in the hopes that we can find a deciding goal, but with 5 minutes to go, Grzelczak plays a clever pass through our defence for Dzalamidze. His low shot is tipped behind by Nowak, and I take the hint. We go on the counter and take our point.

I'll take that. Despite their poor form, Górnick Łęczna are a good side and we're hardly in a position to turn our nose up at a point against the likes of them.

As we stare down the barrel of another international interruption in which not one of our players will participate, I arrange our first transfer of the upcoming February transfer window. 17 year old Finnish Under 19 International Ari Tuovinen will join us on a free when the window opens from Finnish amateur side PKKU. He's an interesting little player; A very aggressive and lightning fast right winger with decent levels of fitness, flair and work rate. He needs to develop the technical side of his game a lot but I reckon I can mould him into a solid winger.

I use the International break as an opportunity to keep fitness levels high and make sure we don't take our eyes off the ball. Premier League strugglers Fulham make the trip to Stadion GKS Katowice for a friendly match. We'll be facing the Cottagers without Alan Hutton though, who'll miss 2-3 weeks with a groin strain.

It's a good match to be fair. Bart drills us ahead on the stroke of half time, but 2 late goals from Aluko and Woodrow turn it around for the away side.

It's not the end of the world, that. The thing that frustrates me much more than Fulham's second half turnaround is the sharp increase in medical attention that my squad requires during the build up to the Pogoń match. First, Kevin comes in with a strained neck, and will be out for 5-6 days. Then Tom Scheffel limps in dragging a dead leg, and he'll be out for 1-2 days. Mario Gregurina strolls in with a bruised jaw and is out for 3-6 days, and finally Michal Tarnowski wanders in clutching his gashed head. He's out for 1-2 days. I realise that all of these injuries could have been a lot more severe, but I do worry that a couple of the players won't be back to full fitness for the weekend.

Pogoń are 4th in the league but could actually move up to the top if they beat us by 5 goals and other results go their way. There's no doubt in my mind that they'll be tough opposition but I'd rather they didn't end the match as league leaders.

Bart comes back in after serving his suspension. He'll replace Gregurina and will play next to Hurley, with Fossy deployed behind them as a deep lying playmaker. Janga also comes in on the right wing in place of Amonike. At some point I'm hoping that someone will stake a claim to be our nailed-on starting right winger, but until that happens you can call me Lazy Susan, because I'll keep rotating.

The match is slow to start, and the first real chances comes 10 minutes before the break, when Olivier's free kick bounces off the wall and back to him. He passes to Janga, who's tripped by Sebastian Rudol on the edge of the box. We're given another free kick, which Olivier hits wide, but more importantly Rudol sees his 2nd yellow and we'll play against 10 men for the remaining 55 minutes.

Just minutes after the second half kicks off, Pogoń's day goes from bad to worse when yet another Olivier free kick is chipped into the box from the left. Gregorz Goncerz goes for the ball but is shoved by Senic. No card's shown this time but the referee points to the spot without hesitation.

Goncerz won the penalty and he steps up himself to take it. He runs up, smashes it towards the left, and the ball crashes in off the bar as the keeper dives the wrong way. We've taken the lead.

From that point on though, Pogoń seem galvanised and determined. Tuszynski leaves Wilson for dead as he sprints towards goal, only to thwack the ball wide of the near post. We go on the counter.

With 20 minutes to go, Danny Wilson makes a pig's ear of clearing the ball after Augustyn's cross, and can only get it away as far as Bargiel, who hits the ball over Nowak and into the back of the net.

We can't let this match go without picking up 3 points. We've had a penalty against a 10 man team, we can't fail to capitalise on good fortune like that. We change to an attacking 4-2-3-1, bringing off Fossy, replacing him with Kwarko, who moves onto the right wing and switches with Janga, who'll run from deep positions to link up with Goncerz.

With 10 minutes to go, Kwarko squares the ball across the edge of the box for Goncerz. The striker takes aim for the top left corner, but his shot comes back off the bar. Amonike comes on for a late cameo, but the match ends 1-1.

Through gritted teeth, I'll accept that result too. It is frustrating, don't get me wrong, to fail to get the result against 10 men, but we just need to keep pressing on. We're now at the half way point of the league stage, we're well clear of relegation, and we're close to the top 8. I'll take that.
Ziggy Plays The Ball (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep62)

Humiliated. Found out. Out of their depth.

These are just some of the words and phrases used by the local media to describe GieKSa after Jagiellonia ripped us apart in our first Lotto Ekstraklasa match. But it was one thing defeating us in their own back yard, sweeping aside a shambolic thrown-together mix of half-fit players managed by a fresh faced and naive manager. Beating us again today will be a completely different proposition.

I went into our last match completely petrified. Scared stiff by the nagging worry that I had made the wrong decision. That my career was over. That I had put all my eggs in an extremely precarious basket. But GKS Katowice are no league's whipping boys. We aren't the cannon fodder we were expected to be. We are spirited and determined. We are strong and skilful. We have learned to be somewhat efficient, and our Portu-Polish side has become much more of a unit, as oppose to the 2 halves of a team that it was. We all speak decent Polish now. We have better quality depth in our squad. And most importantly, we're all hungry for revenge.

Jagiellonia are having a decent season. They're sat 1 place and 1 point above us, sitting in 9th with 21 points. Interestingly, with 15 games played, we've won 5, drawn 5 and lost 5. We go unchanged today.

To give Jagiellonia credit, one of their players has the best name I've ever seen. Their Scottish fullback, who I remember from his contribution in our first encounter, is brilliantly named Ziggy Gordon. What other name could remind you so succinctly and vividly of both David Bowie and Brian Blessed? Maybe Brian Bowie would, but it's definitely not as good a name.

Ziggy plays the ball. Running good past Kevin and Hurley, for Jagiellonia. Crosses from the right, but crosses too far. Then Khomchenovskyi heads, but can't get it in the net.

GORDON'S A LIVE... wire all through the first half (Sorry) and we're kept pinned back a lot while he leads Jagiellonia forward from the right fullback spot. Indeed, with a couple of minutes to play before the break, he gets up and clips in a low cross towards Romanchuk and Guti. The ball reaches neither of them and instead deflects off Fossy and into our net. Luckily, both Romanchuk and Guti were stood in offside positions when Ziggy crossed the ball, and were deemed to be interfering with play enough for the goal to be chalked off. That was a huge stroke of luck.

At the break I tell my team to go back out and control the game. We've not looked like the home team so far and I'm well aware that our last encounter with Jagiellonia was 0-0 at the break, before we promptly lost 0-3.

In the first 15 minutes back on the pitch, Hurley chips a pass over the top of the defence and into the central channel for Goncerz. He takes it down and fires a venomous shot straight at Stachowiak, and the keeper tips it over.

I bring on Kwarko and Tarnowski in place of Janga and Fossy. Kwarko has become my go-to second half substitute to bully the tiring defenders with his immense physical presence, and Tarnowski tends to do quite well off the bench with his pace and intelligent runs.

A few minutes later, an exquisite passing move that includes most of Jagiellonia's players culminates with Frankowski at the right byline. He crosses to the far post and Khomchenovskyi puts it away. I'm having flashbacks. It's happening again.

As I said before though, we're a better side now. We show our composure and refuse to instantly capitulate like we did last time. With 20 minutes to play, we go on the attack.

7 minutes later, Hurley plays a carbon copy of his earlier pass, over the top and into the central channel. Goncerz takes the ball down again and expertly holds it up, luring 2 defenders out of position before slipping in Tarnowski, who drives it home to equalise.

A couple of minutes later, we're pushing for a winner. After a good move, Tarnowski plays a slick one-two with Goncerz and then slams home his second from the edge of the area, the brilliant bastard.

I bring on Gregurina for Kevin and shut up shop. We change to a 4-1-2-3, with Tarnowski playing as a just-left-of-centre attacking midfielder instead of a left winger, in case he fancies completing his hat trick. He doesn't, but I couldn't give less of a shit. We've held on. We've won. We've got our revenge.

Tarnowski's fantastic cameo not only won him the player of the match award, but also a place in the Lotto Ekstraklasa team of the week, alongside Goncerz, who did my confidence in him the world of good with those 2 clever assists.

KGHM Zagłębie are next at their place. I don't want to paint them as the worst team in the league, but in my defence they've done that themselves. After finishing 10th last season and being predicted to finish in the top 8 this season, they've lost 12 of their first 16 matches, drawing the other 4. Needless to say, I would be mortified to lose today.

We make 2 changes - Abramowicz comes in for Garbacik, who is suspended having picked up his 4th yellow card of the season against Jagiellonia, and Tarnowski comes in for Fossy as our number 10. He's earned it.

We get off to a surprisingly quick start when 6 minutes in, a near post Tom Scheffel corner is nodded into the net by Danny Wilson. The Scotsman celebrates his first GieKSa goal passionately with the travelling fans. Well in, Danny.

2 minutes later, Abramowicz whips in another near post corner from the other side. Wilson gets there again and nods it across goal, but Janga's subsequent header is cleared off the line by Uzelac.

That's pretty much the only action we see in what is a dominant first half display. That is until Olivier is caught in possession on the right and robbed of the ball by Badía. Badía dribbles down the left wing and crosses to the near post, where Nespor is waiting to turn the ball in from close range.

There's a sombre atmosphere in the changing room at half time, as is always the way when you concede just before the break, but a passionate plea to keep doing what they've been doing sends the players back out with smiles on their faces.

10 minutes later, we score a fucking beauty of a goal. Tom Scheffel stands over a free kick 35 yards out, and passes short to Olivier. The centre back turns and finds Bart, who plays it on first time for Janga, who plays it on first time for Goncerz on the edge of the box, who shapes his body and crashes the ball first time - In off the bar.

That goal really was a thing of beauty, and KGHM's manager certainly seems shaken. So shaken in fact that he throws me a curveball with extra mustard. KGHM change to a flat 3-5-2 formation. As I watch their players take their new positions, my face scrunches up as I try to process what to do now. Weirdly, I suddenly realise that I've barely played against such a formation during my Managerial career and it poses us several problems.

The first and most imminently dangerous problem is that their strikers are now 2 on 2 with our centre backs. I like our 2 central defenders, but they've proven themselves susceptible to clever movement that pulls them out of position, coupled with runs in behind.

The next problem is that our central midfield duo is now outnumbered by 3 KGHM players, so we'll be dominated in midfield.

And finally, our strike force of Goncerz and Tarnowski, because he is playing as more of a striker than a midfielder, are now outnumbered by 3 centre backs. The entire central column of the pitch belongs to KGHM and if I don't act fast, they have the potential to turn this back around on us.

So I roll the dice and do something that I don't think I've ever done before. I go with a back 3. Our 2 wingers Janga and Kevin come off and are replaced by Alan Hutton and Mario Gregurina. We change to a 3-5-2 as well, but with Scheffel and Abramowicz as wing backs. Hutton slots into the defensive line with Olivier and Wilson, Gregurina takes his place alongside Bart and Hurley in a formidable looking midfield trio, and Tarnowski joins Goncerz as a second orthodox striker. I've never played a back 3 before. I'm quite excited.

With 25 minutes to go, Gregurina plays a long ball into the left channel, and Goncerz does what he does, calmly placing the ball in front of Tarnowski to set him up with a great opportunity. Tarnowski takes a touch too many though, and by the time he shoots the keeper is off his line to close down the angle and block it. Promising signs nonetheless.

5 minutes later we're still winning the battle of the 3-5-2's. We break quickly following a half-hearted KGHM attack and Tarnowski chips a cross from the right wing towards the back post. Gregurina arrives and volleys it, but the keeper saves well. The rebound falls to Goncerz though, and with the keeper still stretched out on the floor, he has the whole goal to aim at. 3-1.

We go on the counter after that and KGHM have no response. I even have the luxury of bringing on young Stryjek for a bit of game time in place of Tarnowski. We see out the game with ease.

Our second half of the league stage begins with 2 wins. A few more and we'll be flying towards the top 8 and away from the prospect of relegation. Oh, and who was watching from the stands today? Cameroon Boss Joseph Onana. We might be a player light come the next international break. Today was a good day.
Back To Reality (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep63)

God, it feels good to be King. I hope that doesn't come across as big headed or anything, but I'm working wonders at Katowice. The press can't believe it. Neither can the players, staff or board for that matter. To be fair, neither can I. We're now unbeaten in 5 matches and edging closer and closer to a top 8 finish which would guarantee our survival.

Dependable right back Tom Scheffel, the possible future Cameroon International Olivier, Scotland's forgotten man Danny Wilson and the quite enigmatic Grzegorz Goncerz all get a place in The Lotto Ekstraklasa team of the week after we thumped KGHM. God, it feels good to be King.

We welcome Lech to Stadion GKS Katowice today. At their place in August, they put 3 past us and missed a penalty in a performance that we all, especially Olivier, wanted to quickly forget. This time though, we'll meet them in good form with our chests puffed out. We go unchanged, because why change a winning side?

The groundsmen have done a good job keeping the snow at bay before the match. It's been falling heavily and settling across Katowice since yesterday and shows no signs of letting up before kick off, but the pitch is green for the most part.

20 minutes in, the party atmosphere that we've been cultivating in recent weeks comes to an abrupt end when Gumny's floated far post cross is met by Jozwiak, who rises above Tom Scheffel to head the visitors in front.

Less than 10 minutes after the goal, Radut and Sacko press Kevin to win the ball from him. Our left winger has already had a frustrating afternoon thanks to Lech's aggressive closing down and has picked up a booking, so his sliding lunge at Sacko is ill-advised, and not only because the grass is frozen solid. He goes straight through the Lech player from behind and thoroughly earns his 2nd yellow. I ignore Kevin as he trudges off the pitch and instead turn to one of my coaches. I instruct him to follow Kevin into the changing room and restrict his shower or bath to cold water only. Prick.

Anyway, there's no point whining about it. Let's try a narrow 4-2-2-1 formation, with Janga and Tarnowski playing off Goncerz.

We hold Lech off until half time, but not a minute more. Another fine Gumny cross just after the restart is put in at the far post by the unmarked Jevtic. 5 or so minutes later, Janga works himself an angle just outside the box and shoots low towards the corner, but Putnocky gathers it easily.

We have a free kick in a decent position a couple of minutes later, but it breaks down and Lech counter. Sacko gets to the byline and chips the ball into the centre, and Vázquez compounds my misery with a nice volley. We go attacking and I give our 2 full backs license to push up on the overlap.

Just after the hour, Janga squares the ball for Bart who shoots from 20 yards. Putnocky gets to the powerful shot but can't hold onto it, and Goncerz nips in to bury the rebound. I look over to the linesman though, and sure enough, he's stood there looking infuriatingly smug with his flag-arm outstretched.

Over the next 20 minutes I bring on Hutton, Fossy and Garbacik for Scheffel, Tarnowski and Abramowicz, but I think the lads realised long ago that it wasn't going to be our day. Sacko does excellently to get clear down our right hand side with 5 minutes to play, but then makes the bizarre decision to shoot (And it was a shot) from a ridiculous angle way out on the right wing, sending the ball into the side netting.

It doesn't lift my spirits much to see Bart put Goncerz through in injury time, as Putnocky makes another good save to deny him. The match ends 0-3.

It's been one of those days. We faced a good side, didn't put our chances away, and to be fair, got absolutely torn apart. It's a reality check, definitely. Don't forget who you are, Franjo. Don't forget who you are, Katowice. Don't forget what's expected of you all.

There will be no palette cleanser though. No home tie against a league minnow. We'll have to try to bounce back against the mighty Legia Warszawa Away. We beat them in a thoroughly satisfying match at the start of the season but they've since found form and propelled themselves up to the top of the league. Repeating our winning performance today will be a tough ask. Mind you, we're only 7 points below them despite the fact that we're down in 10th place.

Tom Scheffel's yellow card against Lech was his 4th of the season, so he'll be donning his suit in the stands along with Kevin as they serve their 1 match suspensions. Hutton and Kwarko will come in to replace them, but Kwarko will start on the right wing with Janga taking the left. Garbacik and Gregurina are also in for Abramowicz and Tarnowski as we revert to our slightly narrow, flank exploiting Project: Burnie MK II that beat these in Katowice.

20 minutes in, Trinks drives forward into our half. He then passes to Costinha, who runs to the edge of the box and shoots powerfully towards the top corner, but Nowak pulls a save right out of the top drawer to tip it over the bar.

Familiarly, our free kick breaks down a couple of minutes later and Legia counter. Well I say Legia counter, but it's really only Trinks that counters, dribbling the length of the pitch before running into trouble just outside our box. He's forced to pass to Ritzmaier, who slots it through for Szymanski, who slides the ball under Nowak. It's a great goal.

As the second half arrives we go on the counter to try and stop Legia being able to counter quite as effectively, but 20 minutes after the restart, Szymanski swings a corner into our box. Rzezniczak barely has to move to lose Hurley, his marker, and nods the ball on towards the far post. Chatziisaias is waiting there, having barely had to move to lose Olivier, his marker, and he nods it in to double his team's lead. Game over.

The introductions of Amonike and Tarnowski don't help, and just to add insult to injury, or more accurately to add injury to a poor performance, Shurendo Janga comes off with 4 minutes to go with a potentially serious knee injury. Luckily he'll have the whole winter break to shake it off.

Well, consider me brought back to reality. 2 comprehensive losses against 2 good sides will do that. I still maintain that a top 8 finish is within reach and that will continue to be my goal, but for now, as we enter my first Winter Break, I'll look at the 8 point gap between us and Korona in the relegation zone and smile.

God, it feels good to be King.
Dennis Arranges Some Friendlies (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 63.5)

"...And so the penguin says: 'Dude, he's not an eggplant, he's retarded!'" I raise my eyebrows expectantly at Radzinski, but he looks puzzled as he absent-mindedly rubs his glass with a cloth for seemingly no reason.

"I don't get it." He says blankly.

"Oh", My face drops. "Because the penguin..."

At that moment, Dennis Lawrence pushes open the door to Radzinski's, revealing the thick snow that's settled outside. He steps in from the frigid cold to join us, looking extremely pleased with himself.

"I've done it!", he exclaims triumphantly, waving a sheet of paper in his hand.

"Done what?" I enquire.

"Arranged our friendlies for the winter break!" He beams, offering me the piece of paper. Excitedly, I snatch the sheet and scan my eyes down the list of teams and dates. My face drops.

"Who are these?" I ask. Dennis looks taken aback.

"They're... they're our opposition." He offers weakly.

"There's a million of them... And these are all bloody Polish Second Division sides! Third tier sides! How are we meant to prepare against these? And come to think of it, why are you arranging the friendlies? I didn't ask you to do that." Dennis looks crestfallen as I barrage him with my scathing, negative logic. I continue to scan the page. "And here, look! 7 matches in 16 days? Are you insane?" I bat the sheet of paper with my hand and give it back to him. "And these are all confirmed, are they?" Dennis nods, avoiding eye contact. "Perfect." With that, Dennis shuffles back out of the bar and into the snow as I glare after him.

After a short pause, I hear "Bit harsh." In Radzinski's gruff voice. I sigh.

"Yeah you're probably right." I acknowledge. "I'm going to see if I can catch him up, get him back in for a pint." Radzinski smiles darkly. "Of beer. A pint of beer." I clarify, narrowing my eyebrows and throwing back the dregs of my Polish lager. "Nobody wants draft wodka, you maniac. Watch the cats will you?" He nods. There's not much to watch to be fair, they're both curled up in one of the old booths with bellies full of wet food. They aren't going anywhere.

"Piece of icing on the cake." Radzinski says thoughtfully, as he gazes at Meatloaf and Burnie.

"Great, thanks." I laugh, as I don my trusty grey coat.

As I open the door, I hear "Franjo". I turn to see him still rubbing the glass with the cloth for seemingly no reason. Still staring vacantly at the cats. "Merry Christmas." He mumbles.

"Merry Christmas, mate." I smile. And with that I step out into the cold.
My First Winter Break (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep64)

"Please can we take a break, Boss? We're knackered." Asks Alan Hutton, between deep, gasping breaths.

"What did Święty Mikołaj bring you, Alan?" I call.


"What did you get for Christmas?"

"Oh. New boots, Boss." He grins.

"Ah, very nice. Did you get 90% of them or did you get 100%?" Alan rolls his eyes. I suspect he knows where I'm going with this.

"100% Boss."

"Right, well pay it forward, you lazy bastard! Give me 100%!" I'd been waiting for someone to ask to stop. I really wanted to use that line.

The lads are currently running cross country as a part of my winter high fitness training schedule, which should help carry us through until the end of the season. What certainly won't help is all of the bloody useless friendlies against weaker opposition that we've got lined up.

Janga won't be joining us for at least a month after straining his knee ligaments in the Legia match. He could be out for as many as 7 weeks, but other than that we're all looking good.

2 Months Later...

This has been my 1st winter break. As a player, a fan, or a manager. I've got to say, I'm not a fan. Maybe it's just that we've not done it properly. Maybe we should have arranged some kind of warm weather training camp, played a few top clubs to test ourselves, and that kind of thing. As it stands we've barely trained because we've had shit friendlies almost every other day. (I've realised that at some point I must have given responsibility for organising friendlies to Dennis for whatever reason, but I've made it abundantly clear that I'll be arranging them in future). In short, it feels like we've just stagnated. We've had a massive amount of disruptive, small, niggling injuries throughout the squad but nothing serious. It's just been quite a frustrating couple of months.

Sebastien Nowak tells me not long after the Legia match that he's hanging up his boots at the end of the Season. I try to convince our vice-captain to reconsider, but his mind's made up. He's had a good career and I'll try and get him to stay on as a coach, but we'll deal with that at the end of the season.

I also have quite a few conversations with Carmine Gautieri, Manager of Verona, as his club once again pepper me with offers for Kamil Karwot, our promising left winger. They start with an insulting bid that could rise to just under £80k and I reject it without hesitation. They make another, slightly better bid, and as much as I try to negotiate, they never get close to my asking price. Their 3rd bid is accepted - By Wojciech Cygan, our Chairman. It could rise to £275k, but as I may have already mentioned, Chairmen who go over my head with transfers can fuck right off. I talk him into backing down. Their persistence eventually wears me down though and I negotiate the same deal I give all of the clubs that come around trying to poach our young players: £500k and 50% of his next fee. We finally agree a deal. Days later though, Karwot turns down the chance to join Verona and instead signs a contract extension, because he's a bloody good lad. The Verona saga is finally over. Until the Summer, I'm guessing.

And then there's the small matter of these friendlies that I've been bleating on about for so long. We win most of them, but I don't learn anything. We don't test ourselves. We don't get anything out of them aside from match sharpness and that's very frustrating.

Polonia Bytom:

Olimpia Zambrów:

KS Polkowice:

Liptovsky Mikulas:




MKS Kluczbork:



One of the most curious stories that pops up in Polish newspapers over the break is the one linking me with the vacant Wisła Płock job. When asked, I quickly distance myself from the story.

As we enter February, the transfer window opens, allowing promising winger Ari Tuovinen to finally complete his transfer from PKKU.

We don't have the finances to do any more business, but I do allow Pawel Mandrysz to join Bruk-Bet on loan until the end of the season. It makes me feel slightly uneasy that a better club want him when I don't, but he's young and maybe some much needed game time will show me what he's made of.

Stjepan Geng also wants to leave, and I have absolutely no objections to him doing so. He's nice to have as a versatile backup, but I've barely needed him. I put him on the transfer list.

The final piece of "transfer" news is that Jakub Wilk decides that he'll retire in June. In all honesty I had tried to release him from his contract just days before his decision, so I won't lose any sleep over it. He strikes me as a player who never quite fulfilled his potential, and at this point he's past the point of being able to do so.

As our match against Wisła Płock draws closer, Maciej Machalski and Rodrigo Silva both rule themselves out for 5-6 weeks and 3-4 weeks respectively through injury, but I doubt that either of them would've started anyway. We've got to put our best foot forward if we're going to reach the top 8 by the end of the League stage. We'll be going full strength. We'll be fighting tooth and nail. I just hope it'll be enough.
Is This Good Enough? (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep65)

So. Wisła Płock. It's strange in a way watching them disembark from their team bus. If I'd answered the press differently about the rumours of me moving there over the winter break, maybe it'd be me getting off that bus. I'd be getting ready to play my first match, poetically at Stadion GKS Katowice. I stand by my decision to deny interest though. I might go as far as to say that they've got a marginally better squad, with players more used to playing in the Lotto Ekstraklasa, but my team is made up of players that I know, and for the most part, players that I've brought in. I trust my team and that's not a thing that should be understated.

It's snowing again as I make my way back inside and into the home changing room. We'll line up with the extremely standard 4-2-3-1 that's often served us so well this season, with no real surprises in terms of personnel. Nowak starts in net with Scheffel, Olivier, Wilson and Garbacik in front of him, Bart and Hurley in midfield, with Janga, Fossy and Kevin behind Goncerz.

10 minutes in, a hoofed goal kick flies into our half. Reca nods it on for Guinean striker José Kanté, who dribbles easily away from Bart and fires just wide.

A few minutes later, the 2 almost connect again when Reca swings a cross in from the left towards Kanté, but Olivier heads the ball clear. Fossy goes for the header but aerial prowess is not his strong suit. Wlazlo beats him in the air and heads it back to Kanté, who makes himself a yard of space and places the ball into the bottom left hand corner. We immediately try to get on the front foot and try to control the game. By the end of the first half, we're full on attacking Płock, but we remain behind as the whistle blows to signal the break.

5 minutes after the restart, Reca plays the ball to Aurélio just inside our half. He dribbles forwards with purpose and gets to the edge of the box, before lashing a shot towards the bottom corner of our goal. Luckily, Nowak is on the ball and tips the ball behind. Zgrablic's header from the resulting corner is wide.

I am growing concerned about our chances of not conceding a second though. Płock have had 3 good chances, all of which have involved them exploiting the space between our defence and midfield. I drop Bart back to a holding man position in an attempt to close that area off.

The response is almost immediate. We start a pretty clunky counter attack after a spell of possession for Płock breaks down. Kevin passes to Hurley, who chips the ball into the box first time for Janga. The young Dutchman takes it down as the keeper rushes out, and powers it past him into the back of the net. I feel my vindication blanket flop down onto my shoulders once again.

With 23 minutes to go, Płock are venturing into our half again. Wlazlo catches Olivier out with a pass in behind him, into the path of Kanté. Olivier recovers with an inch-perfect sliding tackle, but in doing so, knocks the ball straight back to Wlazlo, who smashes it in off the bar.

I bring on Kwarko and Tarnoski for Kevin and Goncerz to try to give us the physical advantage against Płock's tiring defenders.

With 15 minutes to go though, our bottle seems to have gone. Aurélio drives the ball against the foot of the post, but the clock ticks away and the whistle blows, signalling a 1-2 loss.

We've now lost 3 on the bounce but 2 of them were against very good sides. Am I disappointed? Yeah, of course. Am I worried? Not really. We'll sort ourselves out.

And who better to sort ourselves out against than Cracovia? I had low expectations at Stadion GKS Katowice, and we came away with a well deserved 4-0 win. Now we'll go to their place and hopefully pick up another 3 points to end our miniature slump.

The good news is that Gregurina is back in full training. The bad news is that Tarnowski comes down with the flu just a couple of days before the match. I was considering giving him a start but he's only fit enough for a place on the bench. Therefore, we go unchanged.

20 minutes in, Cracovia are retaining possession well, presumably to kill off any early "We can turn these over again" spirit we may start with. It's the home side that get the first chance when Platek slips through Adamczyk, but his shot goes into the side netting.

Some worrying news comes in the 24th minute when Goncerz suffers a chest injury after a particularly rough challenge. He's able to play on though, so he does.

Before the half hour mark, Jendrisek sprints away down the left wing, leaving Scheffel for dead. He gets to the byline and crosses into the centre, and Platek's there to head it in. 0-1. We change mentality and try to control the game.

At half time, I sacrifice Fossy and bring on Kwarko, who moves to the right wing. This frees up Janga to move up front with Goncerz in a 4-2-4. He'll play as a false 9 to try to link our midfield to Goncerz.

With not even a minute of the second half gone, Adamczyk releases Platek, who's through on goal, but his shot comes back off the post.

The next 10 minutes are all Cracovia, and in the 54th minute, Forsell curls a brilliant 20 yard free kick over the wall and into the top corner. This will not do. We go attacking and we'll try to be more fluid.

Just after the hour, Kevin plays a good ball into the centre of the pitch for Janga, who runs it to the edge of the area but shoots just wide.

A few minutes later, Adamczyk, one of the best performers today, feeds Nagy, but his shot is saved well by Nowak. We go fairly narrow to try to limit the number of through balls cutting through us, and we'll close down slightly less to keep our shape.

With about 15 minutes to go, Goncerz plays a nice ball into the left channel for Kevin, who's cutting inside. He toe pokes it into the far corner of the net, but as I'm in quite a critical mood, the keeper should have done better. In a final roll of the dice, Stryjek comes on for Janga, and will be the poacher while Mr. Link-up, Goncerz, will play as the target man. We go more direct as we've now got 2 big players up front.

I do bring Savanovic on for a late cameo, but we can't turn the tide. Another match ends 1-2. I go into the changing room and wait silently while the players trudge in.

"In our last 4 competitive games, we've conceded 9 goals and scored 2", I seethe. "Do you think that's good enough?" I ask nobody in particular. No response. All eyes are on the changing room floor. "What's so fucking exciting about that floor?" I snap, prompting the players to snap their heads up towards me. I turn to Tom Scheffel. "Is it good enough, Tom?"

"No, Boss", he says monotonously. I turn on Grzegorz Goncerz.

"Is it good enough, Grzegorz?"

"No, Boss", he echoes. I can sense that I'm getting through, but I need to make this hurt. I wheel around towards Hurley, Kevin and Olivier, who are sat side by side, looking nervous.

"What about you 3?" I demand. "I brought all of you here because I thought you could step up to this level and make this club better. Was I fucking daft?"

"No, boss", they reply in unison. I turn back to address the room.


"NO, BOSS!" Comes the slightly more enthusiastic reply. The words echo against the tiles for a second or so.

"No, it's fucking not." I sigh, grabbing my trusty grey coat and walking out of the changing room. I don't hear a single word as I stride down the corridor. I think I got through to them. My old manager at Worksop Town would be proud. Something tells me that spurring the players on won't be enough though. I desperately need to make some changes, and as far as I'm concerned, from what I've seen lately, nobody's place is safe in my squad.
No Video Highlights For A While (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Meta-sode 65.5)


Quick heads up that there'll be no more video highlights for a while. I know that most of you just read the scintillating story and don't watch them, but I thought I'd let you know anyway.

In case you're interested, the reasons for this are that:

A) If you try to export highlights from a Mac (The save is on a Mac), it doesn't work properly. The highlights are unwatchable and from what I've seen from the forums, this has been a bug ever since exporting highlights was introduced to the game.

B) Because of that, I've always sent the save to my PC to export the videos, but the poor old thing's fallen on hard times recently and is currently incapable of doing certain things that I want it to do, such as exporting videos, powering on or being even remotely useful.

So yes, it's broken. While my PC's out of commission, there'll be no video highlights. If I get it working though I'll add them all retroactively.

Thanks for reading, have a great week.


Welcome To GieKSa (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep66)

Today is the day of the annual youth candidate match. After our recent unimpressive run, it'll be a perfect palette cleanser and an opportunity for our latest band of young footballing wannabes to show me that they deserve to join the mighty GieKSa.

I've been told to pay particularly close attention to a number of players. Firstly, young right back Tomasz Jaworski. At 15 years old, it's already clear that he's a great athlete, a born leader, and that he's as brave as a lion. That's a very good recipe for an aspiring footballer.

Next, 15 year old left winger Filip Glen. He's quick off the mark and full of tricks, with a decent cross to boot.

And finally, Michal Grzybek, a 16 year old striker. He's pretty good with his feet and a decent athlete, but his real quality is his mental strength: He's another born leader and is remarkably mature for his age.

As per usual, I let the members of my first team that need game time play for the Under 18's, making it more of a B Team, so the youth candidates are in for a tough time.

Grzybek actually goes close early on when he breaks through the Katowice B Team, but he can only put his shot from a tight angle into the side netting.

Just after half time, Koj pushes Amonike in the area and gives away a penalty, and Gregurina steps up to confidently put the B Team in front. Machalski's free kick is headed home by Krawczyk 15 minutes from time to give the Under 18's a 2-0 victory, but I'm pretty impressed that the match was so close.

Interesting, that. I hope to be given reason to promote a few of the new lads to the first team over the next few months. Welcome to GieKSa, boys.

Anyway, back to first team news! Kevin's earned himself a place in Team of the Week for his consolation goal against Cracovia.

But please hold your applause. Sit yourself back down, Kevin. We aren't in this for personal glory. His accolade is meaningless because we've now lost 4 matches in a row. In an attempt to halt our recent decline, I'll be trying out a new system at home against Lechia today: The gracefully named "Falling Counter" system. It's essentially a variation on Project: Burnie MK II.

Our back 4 will stay the same personnel-wise but our full backs will be encouraged to fly up the wings on the overlap. A holding midfielder will be deployed just in front of the centre backs to offer stability to the side. Bart and Hurley will stay as the midfield duo, but Hurley will be given freedom to roam and to run into channels in the final third. Our front 3 will consist of Tarnoski, our right-of-centre attacking midfielder who will also run the channels, Kevin, our familiar left-sided inside forward, and Goncerz, the spearhead.

So the idea is that we'll have a defensive triangle of Olivier, Wilson and Hutton, who I'll be trying as a makeshift holding man, with Bart winning the ball in front of the 3 of them and starting counter attacks. Hurley and Tarnowski will get forward through the channels in support of Goncerz, with Kevin also cutting in providing support, while Scheffel and Abramowicz bomb up the wings, with strict instructions to stay as wide as possible, providing the width. They aren't ideal candidates for this, but I reckon they've got enough about them to give it a go.

Annoyingly, Goncerz isn't yet fit to play following the chest injury he picked up against Cracovia, so he won't feature. Janga starts in his place, and will play behind Tarnoski.

The match never really gets going if I'm honest. Janga hits a long shot in the first 5 minutes that's easy for Kuciak to catch. After 40 minutes we change to short passing and attempt to work the ball into the box.

With around 15 minutes to go, we go on the offensive. Kwarko and Fossy come on in straight swaps for Kevin and Hutton as we try to find the breakthrough. In the last 10 minutes though, the cost of my changes becomes clear. First, Jorge Diaz slams a shot against the bar, which I should have seen as a warning. Then, from a 91st minute Gajos corner, Kadlec heads home the winner. Nobody deserved to win this match. It's so, so cruel.

The bad news, apart from the obvious, is that Hurley twisted his ankle in the last 5 minutes and will miss the next 2-3 weeks. The good news however, is that I was really quite impressed with Alan Hutton's first ever (That I know of) performance as a holding man. He did a fine job, and I'll be training him to play there.

OK, now we really need a win. Or a draw. Why didn't I shut up shop and take the draw? Next up is a trip to our local rivals Zagłębie Sosnowiec. Gesundheit. Hurley's injured, Goncerz is fit again, and let's face it, Abramowicz is awful. Fossy, Goncerz and Garbacik come into the side. Hurley, Janga and Abramowicz are out.

With just over 10 minutes played, Fossy loses the ball in Sosnowiec's half and they counter. Fast. A move that I might have found quite easy on the eye in other circumstances sees Makengo tee up Mystkowski, who chips the ball on for Mills, who volleys it deftly past Nowak. 0-1.

It's another eventless match but nevertheless, we're somehow on the back foot again. With half an hour to go, nothing has happened and I see nothing to convince me that we'll turn it around without a change. Kwarko comes on for Kevin and we go attacking, and more direct.

5 minutes later, Tom Scheffel's... Direct... pass is cut out, and Sosnowiec counter. Fast. Makengo's glancing header from Pawlowski's pacey cross is saved well by Nowak, but our keeper is left badly positioned a split second later when Mills passes the rebound into the empty net. 0-2.

Not even 3 minutes later, Goncerz loses the ball high up the pitch and Sosnowiec counter. Fast. Or they would do, but Mills is tripped just into our half by the already-tightrope-walking Bart. He receives his marching orders. I'm about ready to walk down the tunnel myself. Amonike comes on and will spray crosses towards the big men from deep on the right. Tarnowski comes off.

But then, 5 minutes from time, it clicks. I don't know what it is, but it just clicks. Fossy's chipped free kick comes back to him and he tries another cross. It evades the defence and Goncerz is there to help it past the keeper. And the linesman's flag is up.

Sorry, did I say it clicks? I meant to say that I hate everything. I hate the linesman, I hate winter breaks, I hate wodka, and I hate Zagłębie bloody Sosnowiec. Goncerz does blast an injury time consolation goal in, but it's too little, too late.

The new Cameroon boss, Yves Nounkeu, was in the stands today watching Olivier. Why anyone would travel from another continent to watch any of my defenders at the minute really is beyond me. We need radical change and we need it now.
Turn The Tide (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep67)

“Here’s the thing,” I begin, pausing to take a drink of my unnecessarily strong Polish lager, “I’ve not taken any confidence whatsoever from the falling counter system. We’ve lost both of the matches that we’ve used it.” Dennis listens quietly, a worried look spread across his face. “The far more vexing thing at the minute though is that I’m genuinely losing faith in the players.” I continue. “I know they can play better. I know they can be better. But they just aren’t rising to the occasion."

“It’s only been 2 matches though.” Dennis pipes up. “The players will get comfortable in the system given time."

“We don’t have time though, Dennis. We need to stop losing. We need to pick up some points or we’re going to get dragged into a relegation scrap.” Dennis nods with reluctant acceptance. “Korona away is a must win game. They’re second bottom. We need to turn the tide. Another loss here today would be catastrophic.”

“It’d be a league record too”, he says quietly. “7 losses in a row.”

“Excellent, thanks.” I reply, covering my face with my hands in exasperation.

“With 6 in a row, we’ve already set a club record”, he continues, unhelpfully.

“Right, well I’d rather not go down in Lotto Ekstraklasa history as the guy who can’t stop fucking losing.” I snap. We both take a long drink.

“So what do we do?” Asks Dennis, breaking the silence.

“We catch Korona off guard." I reply thoughtfully. "They stick religiously to their 4-4-2, so we go 3-5-2. We outnumber their strikers and midfielders and we dominate the game.”

After more scheming and more of that lager that I suspect might have been originally manufactured as a weapon, we settle on our team. A back 3 of Olivier, Hutton and Wilson, with Hutton playing a stopper role, Scheffel and Garbacik as the wing backs, Gregurina and Fossy playing in the midfield 3 either side of our full debutant Vladan Savanovic. Goncerz and Tarnowski are up front.

I signed Savanovic as a possible replacement for Baran when the young playmaker left at the start of the season, and I feel like now is as good a time as any to give him a try. He’s young, hungry and unpredictable. He might just give us that unknown factor that'll secure the win against Korona.

3 minutes in, Tarnowski releases Scheffel down the right wing. Tom whips a cross straight into the box, and straight onto the boot of Goncerz, who simply helps the ball into the bottom corner. 1-0. We’re winning. We’re actually winning.

The rest of the half is awful, but I’m fine with it. We completely nullify Korona. The only downside is that Savanovic hasn’t really been in the game at all, so we’ll go more direct in an attempt to create chances without him. Fossy moves into the central midfield spot as a deep lying playmaker to facilitate the change.

Almost 15 minutes after the break, Korona do actually threaten. Rovcanin crosses from the left but it’s awkwardly behind Palanca, and his header reflects that. The ball flies well over. Suddenly though, the whistle blows. The referee comes sprinting over and points to the spot. I’m flabberghasted. What possible reason could he have for giving Korona a penalty? A quick, friendly chat with the 4th official reveals the decision was made because Alan Hutton shoved Mitsanski in the 6 yard box. Neither player was anywhere near the ball. It was just a random act of violence from our centre back. I hate everything again.

Palanca steps up to hit the penalty - And Nowak saves brilliantly to his left! You brilliant old bastard, Sebastien. Wilson clears the ball following the save, but Korona smell blood now. It comes straight back at us via a Markovic ball over the top. Rovcanin latches onto it on the left and shoots at the near post. The ball ripples the back of the net. I have no words. We go control.

With 20 minutes to go, Garbacik and Tarnowski are replaced by Kwarko and Stryjek as we try to push Korona back and snatch another goal, but to no avail.

With a couple of minutes still to play, Tomasevic plays the ball over the top of our defence down the left wing. Olivier gets to it first but is tripped by Mitsanski. The referee waves play on and my fists clench. The red mist is descending. Mitsanski is one on one with Nowak and shoots, but our veteran keeper saves brilliantly at the near post. I’m still incensed. The ref’s extraordinary eagle eyes didn’t catch that one, did they?

I have a pop at the officials in my post-match interview. We nearly went into the history books in a really shitty way thanks to that late decision not to award us a free kick for the foul on Olivier and I would’ve gone full on Mourinho if we had done.

Let’s move on swiftly though. We’ve dropped down to 14th. We’re 1 place and 5 points above the relegation zone. Górnik Zabrze visit us next and they’re 13th, on level points with us but with a much, much better goal difference. This is another match that we just can’t afford to lose.

We’re changing system again. The 3-5-2 was specifically for Korona as they play a 4-4-2 and I don’t want to go back to the falling counter, so we’re trying a 4-4-2 of our own. We’ll attack Zabrze, focus down the wings where we’ve got power and pace in Kwarko and Janga, pass into space and float crosses into the box for the aerially proficient duo of Stryjek and Goncerz. We’re the home side. We should have enough about us to win. This may be some of these players’ last chance.

The first half is predictably dull. Towards the end I instruct the wingers to hit early crosses in towards the strikers. But it’s not actually until after the hour mark that we see any action, when Goncerz plays a one-two with Stryjek and gets himself into the box, before forcing a good save from Bolten. Kevin comes on replacing Stryjek and heads out to the left wing, while Janga accompanies Goncerz up front.

With 15 minutes to go, Gregurina and Goncerz are also replaced by Hurley and Tarnowski. It so nearly pays off in the last couple of minutes when Hurley’s through ball finds Tarnowski in the box, but his shot comes back off the post. The match ends goalless.

The good thing about draws is that they’re not losses. The bad thing about drawing the matches we have done is that we were playing against teams that in my eyes we should have beaten. At least we can take solace in the fact that we’ve picked up a couple of points, but I really am losing patience with some members of the squad, and I might have to start mixing it up and bringing in some new faces to keep it fresh. Who knows, my job may depend on it.
Tricky Janicki (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep68)

"Let's play a game shall we?" I ask the squad in the changing room. "This", I gesture to the whiteboard sat on an easel next to me where my team is laid out in formation, "Is our starting 11 today. Nowak, Scheffel, Olivier, Wilson, Garbacik, Bart, Hurley, Amonike, Janga, Kevin, Goncerz." I point to each of their names as I reel them off. We're going with our 4-2-3-1 and the exact lineup that took a 2-0 lead against Bruk-Bet in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, before we came away with a slightly disappointing 2-2 draw.

"If we fail to win today", I continue, "The 3 players who I deem to have played the worst will be... Out." Wilson raises his hand.

"Out, Boss? Out of the side?" He asks.

"Out of the squad, Danny." I reply. "If we do not come away with 3 points today, then 3 of you will be dropped." The changing room starts buzzing with disgruntled murmurs. I raise my voice accordingly. "If we then do not come away from our next match with 3 points, then 3 more of you will be dropped. Etcetera. Understood?" I smile around at them. I know that I'm being a dick, and I know that this plan has the potential to backfire horrifically, but I honestly don't know what else to do at this point.

"I'm not asking any of you to become Ruud Gullit. This isn't a 'If I take on the entire Bruk-Bet team and score, I'm safe' situation. This is a 'Do what I fucking pay you to do' situation. Of course, the silver lining for anyone who does get dropped is that if we don't get a win soon, we'll be relegated, I'll be sacked, and you'll get a clean slate under your next Manager in the First Division. Good luck." And with that I walk out of the stunned dressing room, through the tunnel and out into the dugout.

God, I hope that works. I need to assert my authority now more than ever. Aside from the fact that we haven't won in 8 matches, I'm apparently the favourite to take over at Korona after they sacked Dariusz Wdowczyk. The stories of my departure have been doing the rounds this week, piling more uncertainty into a squad that's already undeniably broken. It's mildly flattering to be linked with them, but the way this 2nd half of the season has gone so far, I have my doubts that I'll be staying in Poland beyond the end of the Season whether we go down or not.

Bruk-Bet get off to a flier when Budzyn hits a 25 yard free kick straight into the top corner. My heart sinks. The sensation's becoming all too familiar. Budzyn comes close to doubling his tally less than 10 minutes later when he's released by a Gutkovskis pass, but his shot comes back off the post.

After the half hour, Amonike swings a corner into the box. Janga gets up to direct a header towards the far corner of the goal, but Misal's there to clear the ball off the line.

In the second half, we try to control the game, but we fail to fashion any decent chances. With 20 minutes to go, Kwarko and Tarnowski replace Amonike and Janga, and with 10 minutes remaining we go all out attack. We still create nothing until the 90th minute, when Goncerz finds himself with space on the left and has a shot, but the keeper makes a routine save. Bruk-Bet go straight up the other end, with Kiepura playing in Gutkovskis, but he skies his effort.

I follow through on my pre-match promise. Unsurprisingly, the 3 players that I deem to have played the worst are 3 attackers. Goncerz, Amonike and Janga are dropped. We have a 2 week gap before our trip to Piast, so that's 2 weeks to figure out who's going to come in for them. I eventually decide on Tarnowski up front, with Fossy behind him and Kwarko out on the right.

7 minutes in, the seemingly inevitable happens when Janicki's free kick is cleared as far as Kurminowski. He gives it back to Janicki, who rifles the ball into the back of the net from the edge of the box.

20 minutes later, we have a corner on the left. Hurley swings in a good cross and Kwarko nods it down towards the near post. Danny Wilson's there to blast it, but it's blocked by the goalscorer Janicki, who's stood on the goal line.

Right on the hour mark, we're looking threatening. Scheffel splits Piast apart with a great through ball, which Tarnowski runs onto. He sprints through on goal but is forced onto his left foot by the back-peddling defenders and skews his shot wide. We go on the attack shortly afterwards and bring Kawot and Stryjek on for Kevin and Tarnowski. Kawot should give us more width as a natural left winger.

With just under quarter of an hour to play, we come forward again. Hurley dwells on the ball for too long though, and Piast counter attack. Niezgoda ends up with the ball and pokes it through for bloody Janicki, who buries it in the bottom right corner of our goal. I can't say that I like Tricky Janicki all that much to be honest.

In the final couple of minutes we're still coming forward, but Hurley loses the ball again, this time on the left wing. Piast counter once more, culminating in Kurminovski laying it off for Tricky Janicki. The bastard aims for the top left corner, but his shot flies just wide. The fact that he fails to bag his hat trick brings me a small but hollow moment of happiness.

We have 3 matches left of the league stage and we're 6 points clear of 15th placed Korona. When the Relegation Group stage begins, every team's points tally will be cut in half, meaning that we're actually only 3 points clear. Ambitions of finishing in the top 8 are now a distant memory. Our new goal is picking up as many points as possible in order to avoid the second relegation of my career. I'll keep my chin up, I really will, but we need to fix this before it's too late.
Chin Up (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 68.5)

Our eyes meet as I turn the corner towards the home changing room. He's walking towards me from the other end of the corridor and we're on a direct collision course. I avert my eyes sheepishly and step to my right, but as I do, he steps to his left. I see him in my peripheral vision. We're still heading straight towards one another. I quickly step back to my left, but he steps back to his right at the exact same time, like he's my mirror image. My horrifying, vampiric mirror image. GieKSik starts to laugh. "We seem unable to avoid each other," comes the gruff, familiar voice from behind the dead eyes and the joyless, unmoving smile.

I look up and give the kind of facial expression that every Englishman perfects over his lifetime; The eyes roll in a full circle, as if to say "What are we like?". The head shakes back and forth, and at the same time tilts ever so slightly upwards, to ensure that eye contact absolutely cannot be made. The lips curl up at the corners, in an attempt to convince our new foe that we feel something other than pure, unbridled fury towards them and the situation that they alone have caused and inflicted upon us. The whole thing is brought together by a short "Tsk" as the tongue clicks against the roof of the mouth. For such a tiny noise, it packs a hell of a passive-aggressive punch.

Content that I've made my point, I continue to walk, stepping to my right so that I can pass GieKSik. As I do though, he stops and places a huge padded hand on my shoulder, stopping me in my tracks. I instinctively look around for something that could be used as a weapon. A ready-made wooden stake perhaps? A clove of Garlic? A vial of Holy Water? I see none of them lying around. Just my luck.

"You have flies up your nose, my friend." He says softly.

"I beg your pardon?", I ask, taken aback.

"You are troubled. What is wrong?"

I smile wryly. "It's no secret," I tell him. "We're losing. I'm failing. We're in relegation form at the minute and I can't turn it around."

GieKSik considers this for a moment. I mean, I'm not great at reading the body language of vampiric sports mascots, but he does go quiet. "You've had some bad results, Franjo, but it is no use crying over sliced bread."

I nod slowly. "You know, you really butchered that idiom, but I do appreciate what you're trying to get at."

He claps me on the shoulder. "Chin up", he says slightly cheerily, before walking past me and rounding the corner. Feeling slightly confused, but slightly buoyed, I continue walking in the opposite direction towards our changing room. A weak smile creeps across my face.
All Downhill From Here (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep69)

It's all going to be OK. It's all going to be fine. Somebody once told me something that really resonated with me. They said "It's all downhill from here." It's not an uncommon phrase, and I'd heard it many times before. But it wasn't the words that resonated with me, it was the perception of the meaning behind them that I hadn't heard before.

If you're riding a bike up a steep hill, then going up is the tough part. You pedal, and pedal, and pedal. It's exhausting and it's painful. But once you've pedalled enough, once you've put in the work and the pain, once you've shed enough sweat and tears, you find yourself at the top of the hill. And it's all downhill from here.

Recently, we have been pedalling and pedalling and pedalling and I have to hope that we're coming close to the top of the hill. What I'd give at the minute to be able to just hold onto the handlebars, keep my feet steady on the pedals and let gravity take care of the rest.

Today we take on Górnick at home. Last week we travelled to Piast and were unravelled by Tricky Janicki, and so I must drop 3 of my players. As the lowest performing players in that match, Tom Scheffel, Danny Wilson and Adrian Garbacik will be the ones to make way. Wilson's suspended anyway after picking up 4 yellows, but I want it on record that he'd be sat in the stands even if that wasn't the case.

To be honest, I had hoped that this new self-imposed rule would spur my players on to pick up a win, but I think that all I've succeeded in doing so far is cutting my nose off to spite my face. The upside though is that I have the chance to freshen up my squad with new or rarely seen faces.

I had hoped that Alan Hutton could replace compatriot Danny Wilson, but he picked up a bruised head a couple of days ago and so is not fit to play. I know, I don't get it either. I thought he was Scottish. I doubt that Duncan Ferguson's head was ever completely unbruised, but he still racked up 98 career goals. I'm willing to bet that at least 95 of them were with his head too. Anyway, Hutton is out of contention, so Bart will drop back into the centre of defence, with Gregurina replacing him in midfield. Abramowicz replaces Garbacik and 15 year old Tomasz Jaborski replaces Scheffel. He'll set a Lotto Ekstraklasa record as the league's youngest ever player.

I know what you're thinking.

"You've lost it, Franjo!"

"You're out of your mind!"

"I have a tattoo of your half-robot face on my thigh!"

Maybe you're right. Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe I'm mad. Maybe I'm extremely photogenic and an excellent choice for anyone's thigh tattoo. But my squad is failing. I expected them to bounce back by now and they haven't, and yes, a lot of the blame for that is on my shoulders, but this kid's mind is fresh. He's untroubled by our recent failure. If he can play with a smile on his face and a couple of the lads follow suit, my gamble will have paid off.

10 minutes in, we go close. Kevin plays a well timed cross to Aaron Kwarko, but his header bobbles wide. A few minutes later, Kwarko gets into the box again, this time on the end of a pass from Fossy on the right. He shoots with power, but Berkovec saves and does well to hold onto it.

Alas, our promising start unravels before the 20 minute mark. Peyrzak's corner is headed clear by Gregurina but only as far as Dzalamidz, who toe-pokes the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

We try to control the game after half an hour, but we just can't find the equaliser. 10 minutes into the second half, Mackiewicz has the ball on the left wing for Górnick. He skips down the line past young Jaworski, who sticks out a foot and brings him down for a penalty. I bury my head in my hands. I've picked a young lad in the team to add some optimism into the squad, and within an hour he's set a new record for "Youngest ever player to give away a penalty in the Lotto Ekstraklasa".

Vukobratovic's penalty is near perfect. Power, accuracy, straight into the bottom corner. Nowak dives the right way but gets nowhere near it. With an hour gone, I break out a rare triple substitution. Gregurina, Kwarko and Tarnowski are replaced by Machalski, Tuovinen and Stryjek.

Within minutes, the extremely unfit Machalski is looking lively and wins the ball from Olejarka. He hoofs it onto the right wing for Ari Tuovinen, who breaks away down the line. I feel my vindication blanket drawing closer... Until Tuovinen makes the absurd decision to shoot from way out on the right wing. The ball goes nowhere near the goal. I am displeased.

We go attacking, but the last chance of the game goes to Mackiewicz following a Dzalamidze free kick. His shot is caught comfortably by Nowak. 0-2 it ends. I guess we'll just have to pedal that little bit more.

The GieKSa press officer, Michal Dabrowski, is sending me weekly updates on how long it's been since we last won a match, which is really fucking helpful and appreciated.

Next up in my fully immersive nightmare is a trip to Wisła Kraków. After their terrible start to the season, Kraków have picked themselves up for the second half of their campaign. Good for them. They currently sit above us in 13th place with 4 more points. We risk really isolating ourselves in the relegation scrap if we lose to them.

In terms of our inevitable personnel changes, Kwarko, Kevin and Tarnowski are dropped. Franczak, Glen and Stryjek are all in. With no disrespect to these guys, I'm really scraping the barrel now. Jaworski stays in the lineup because I want to give him another chance to prove himself.

It takes just over 10 minutes for Malecki to hoof a cross in from the right wing, and for Morrell to slip into space between Bart and Jaworski and nod the ball home.

Another 10 minutes passes before Morrell receives the ball again, this time skipping effortlessly past Gregurina and Hurley and into the box. He shoots, but drags his shot wide of the far post.

5 minutes later, Ondrasek crosses from the right. The ball flies over Bart's head once more and Vidémont's there to volley it in at the far post. 0-2.

I can barely believe my eyes though when within 2 minutes, young Stryjek releases even younger Glen on the left wing. The nippy youngster takes it forward and clips a lovely cross to the far post, where Franczak arrives to apply the finish. My fist flies into the air so fast that I nearly dislocate my shoulder.

Straight from kick off however, Kraków come back at us. This time, Bartosz crosses to the near post and Ondrasek is there to volley the ball into the bottom corner, restoring his team's 2 goal lead almost instantly.

It's actually quite impressive that with 25 minutes gone, we were losing 0-1, and with 30 minutes gone, we're losing 1-4. Kraków's 4th comes just 2 minutes after their 3rd, when Morrell dribbles into the box and up to the byline, squares the ball for Ondrasek, and he blasts his second past Nowak.

I watch my players' body language as they troop back to their positions, heads down, shoulders slumped. I watch the travelling fans, those who've shown up at least, as they boo and shout and throw their hands up in despair. I don't know if I can do this anymore, GieKSa. I think I'm done.

In the 32nd minute though, Bartosz is caught in possession outside his own box and Fossy nicks the ball away from him. I look up hopefully from my current position, slumped back in my seat in the dugout. Fossy lays it off for young striker Stryjek, who shoots from just outside the box - And the ball flies into the top corner. 2-4. All I can manage at the minute is a smile though. Good for Stryjek, I think. Maybe I'll try to sign him on loan for my next, far inferior club after I'm sacked in disgrace.

With just under 10 minutes to go until the break, Abramowicz takes a throw in, launching the ball down the left wing and into the box for Fossy to chase. Fossy does chase it, but just as he gets close to the ball, he's tripped by Maczynski. My heart skips a beat. He was inside the box. The referee blows his whistle and runs over, pointing to the penalty spot.

Mario Gregurina places the ball at 12 yards and measures his steps backwards. The referee's whistle blows. Gregurina takes a step, and another, and runs the last few, before striking the ball, and placing it comfortably into the bottom left corner. 3-4. I do stand this time, feeling hopeful enough to fist pump once more. The bastards are pedalling. They're pedalling furiously against the steep incline, against the force of gravity, against wind resistance. Just keep going, I beg them silently, just pedal a little further.

Half time comes and goes. I urge the lads on in my team talk, convincing them that the next goal will be ours. That they can still get a result. I think they believe me. I hope they do.

Nearly 10 minutes after the restart, my group of lovable misfits are playing with their chests puffed out. Fossy is having the game of his life and he plays a nice through ball into the box for Stryjek, who should shoot first time but takes a touch instead, allowing Lis to close down the angle and save his shot. The crowd are on board now though, cheering the players on. Kraków are getting scared, mistakes are becoming more and common among their players.

With a quarter of an hour to go though, they break. Sylwestrzak gets away down the left wing. He crosses the ball into the centre and Ondrasek meets it with his head - But the ball cracks against the bar. He was inches away from his hat trick. We go on the attack.

5 minutes later, I opt once more for a triple substitution. There's only 10 minutes to play and the fresh legs can only be good for us. Off come Gregurina, Hurley and Glen, on come Rodrigo Silva, Machalski and Karwot.

But it's no use. The clock keeps ticking on. 90 minutes pass and the 4th official signals for 2 minutes of injury time. We've not gotten close since Stryjek's chance in the 54th minute.

But then Stryjek finds himself with the ball, 20 yards out. He holds it up well. I get up from my seat, along with the travelling fans and my coaching staff. Stryjek lays the ball off for Rodrigo Silva, who's bombed on from his regular holding man role, arriving just outside the box. He shoots low, and the ground goes silent. The whole stadium inhales as one as the ball fizzes towards the bottom corner - And is saved by Lis. I make an involuntary agonised noise as I watch it bobble onto the right wing, away from goal.

But we aren't done. Franczak picks the ball up on the right, turns and swings a cross towards the far post. Kamil Karwot leaps to reach it, but he can't. He ends up in a heap on the floor. Because he was pushed by Malecki. The referee's whistle goes as he once again runs over, pointing to the spot.

After a split second of realisation, every single person affiliated with GKS Katowice lets out a cheer or a scream or a shout of delight. Apart from me. Not yet. Not until I see 4-4 up on the score board.

After a few seconds, the delight turns into worried murmurs and I think I know why. Mario Gregurina, our usual spot kick taker who has already put one away today, has gone off. And we're left with, quite frankly, a bunch of kids to choose from to take the second.

And then I remember. I remember a moment that seems like it was played out a whole lifetime ago, but in reality was only just over a year ago. A moment when I watched a 16 year old boy step up for a team of youth candidates, unfazed by the prospect of taking a penalty against a goalkeeper twice his age. He rifled the ball into the net from 12 yards then, and he can do it again. I catch Silva's eye as he trudges back towards the half way line, and point towards the box. "Take it Rodrigo!" I shout.

Dennis turns to me with a look of confusion on his face. "Rodrigo, Boss?" He asks.

"He'll be fine." I reply, as Silva starts jogging back towards the box. I sound a lot calmer than I feel.

Silva does look slightly more worried than I remember in that youth candidates match last March though, as he steps up and places the ball on the spot. He, like Gregurina, counts his steps back. The referee blows his whistle, and Rodrigo breaks into a jog, before hitting the ball - Nay, fucking twatting the ball - Straight down the middle of the goal, past the flailing feet of the goalkeeper as he dives out of the way to his left. 4-4.

Euphoria ensues. I don't think I've ever celebrated a point more. The players are piling up on top of Silva in the corner where the fans are sitting. The travelling fans that have finally been rewarded; Bouncing, singing and cheering as their heroes gather below. Dennis leaps into the arms of one of the coaches like he's Scooby Doo, laughing hysterically while the rest of the staff high five, hug and laugh.

I just stand outside my dugout: Applauding, breathing a sigh of relief, and wearing the first genuine smile I've worn in a long time.

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

FMS Chat

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