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

My Name is Franjo. And I will be a Football Manager.
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Wtfranjo's avatar Group Wtfranjo 2017-11-07 07:09
00 138 posts 3 likes joined May 08, 2017
Mr WT Franco - Part 2 (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep82)

What’s the worst thing about having a 24 day gap between matches? Is it the fact that the momentum from your 2 wins beforehand will inevitably have evaporated by your next game? Is it Emil Sambou starting a World Cup Qualifier for Gambia and being hooked after 45 quiet minutes, before his team triumphs over Ethiopia without him?

Or, and this is my vote, is it the fact that Nathan Gertse waits 20 days before damaging his foot and being ruled out for up to 3 weeks?

Oh well. The time has come for my very first SA KO Cup match and today we host Bidvest Wits. They’re a good side but I’d like to try and dominate today as the home side, so we’ll go with the controlling variant of Project: Foxy. I also want to give match fitness to a couple of the lads who need it. Left winger Sello Japhta, for example, has returned to full training but is lacking match fitness so he comes in for Aiden Jenniker. Unless he really impresses today though, Jenniker’s going back in for the next match as he’s had a good couple of games in Japhta’s absence.

Sullie also comes in replacing Carl Lark, and I’m giving Khat a run out up front. He deserves it for bearing with me so far this season. Captain Cele comes in replacing the injured Gertse at centre back and Ryan Moon replaces Richards to build his fitness back up after shaking off that bruised thigh.

A quarter of an hour into the match, Alexander backheels the ball to Myeni on the right side of our penalty area. Myeni crosses to the far post and Dutiro’s there to head the ball back across goal, but it’s so off target that it doesn’t even go out for a goal kick and ends up back with Myeni. He starts the routine again, picking Dutiro out at the far post, and this time Dutiro scrambles it into the net, but the linesman’s flag goes up against him and the goal doesn't count.

With half an hour gone though, Hlanti runs down the left for Wits and drills a low cross into the 6 yard box, and Mkatshana’s there to tap it in. 1-0 Wits. I take the opportunity to encourage my lads to play quicker and run at the opposition defence. Our passes aren’t getting through their well organised defence as they’re standing off us and keeping their shape well.

On the stroke of half time, Japhta runs forwards with the ball. He squares it for Sullie, who takes it past Dutiro and passes to Sinbad in space. Sinbad moves forward to the edge of the box and shoots, but the ball flies comfortably over the bar. To be fair, at least they took my instructions on board. That's the most dangerous we've looked so far.

7 minutes after the break, Hlanti swings a corner into the centre for Wits. Yende leaps to beat Japhta in the air, nodding the ball on for Mkatshana at the far post, who heads in their 2nd goal of the day. With very little to lose, I urge the team to attack to try and find a way back into the match.

5 minutes or so later, Dutiro powers forwards unchallenged through our half. He gets to the edge of the box and shoots wide, but I'm worried by how easily he exploited the space in the left side of central midfield there, so we change to a 4-2-3-1, with Gogotya coming on replacing the holding man Diale and slotting in alongside Sinbad. While we’re at it, I replace the once again quiet Sullie with Saileg Richards, who’ll play on the right wing with Moon coming inside to play behind Carl Lark, who replaces Khat.

With a quarter of an hour to go, we win a free kick on the edge of the box, just right of centre. Japhta hits it over the wall towards the right hand side of goal, and although the keeper gets a glove to the ball, he can’t stop it from rippling the back of the net. We're back in the game.

As we enter the final 5 minutes, Japhta’s still trying to claw us level. He plays the ball inside for Ryan Moon 30 yards out, and the stand-in attacking midfielder runs towards goal, jinking past Miambo. He shoots towards the top right corner of the net but can't quite find it. The ball flies inches wide.

The final whistle blows, confirming our exit from the SA KO Cup at the first hurdle. If I’m being perfectly honest, it wasn’t that much of a priority for me this year. The first thing I need to do realistically is make sure Santos don’t get dragged into a relegation scrap. Still though, it’s not a great feeling. Luckily, not many fans had to share that feeling with us as we attracted a record low attendance of 3,862 people to the game.

Now then, THIS is the real quiz. 3 days after our SA KO Cup exit we face Ajax CT at home in the league. There are quite a few layers to this match, the first one being that we’re on 13 points in the league and just 1 behind the top 2, so we could actually go top with a win. Ajax CT are trailing with just 9 points so far. The second layer is that Ajax CT are our fiercest rivals due to the 2 clubs’ close proximity. The clash is known as "The Old Cape Town Derby", and I’m definitely not interested in losing my first derby.

The final and far more personal layer to this match is that letter. That fucking letter I received whilst managing GieKSa. Cast your mind back to the rejection letter addressed to "Mr WT Franco". Straight from the desk of Ari Efstathiou, Chairman of Ajax Cape Town Football Club. I can just picture it now: After we kick Ajax’s arse on the pitch, I’ll shake the hand of the man who did get the Manager’s job, Serame Letsoaka, and then I’ll walk into the stands, straight up to Ari and I’ll say "Hey, Ari". He’ll turn to see me, regret plastered all over his face, and I’ll say "It’s Franjo." And then if I can arrange it in time, shades will just appear over my eyes and somebody will play a sick guitar sting as I walk through the ecstatic home fans, high fiving them as I go.

So that’s the plan for after the match, but what about on the pitch itself? Well, for one thing we’ll stick with the controlling variant of Project: Foxy. We’ll tweak it slightly though, going with a higher tempo and harder tackles. If this is a derby match I want to give these fans a derby match. I want it to be all action, blood and thunder. Japhta actually keeps his place ahead of Jenniker on the left as he was arguably our only player to have a good game against Wits. I also give Maloka a chance to wow me in place of Sullie, Sambou comes in for Khat, and Tlali comes in to make his first appearance of the season as Moe has sadly not found form yet.

Nearly 5 minutes after kick off, we're looking good. We're dominating these extremely early stages. And then Lebysa loops a cross into our box, over our goalkeeper Komo, and onto the bonce of Doutie, who cushions the ball into the net.

What happens next is no surprise. In fact, It's becoming choreographed. Just over 10 minutes after we concede our first, Phohlongo plays in Chideu in our box, and he rolls the ball under Komo to make it 0-2. We're capitulating and there's so much more of the match still to play. After spending only a couple of months here, I fear for the mental fragility of my squad. It seems that we can be so quick to fold if we concede in the first half.

At half time, I give the team a good old fashioned bollocking. 0-2 down against our fiercest rivals, and we've got no chance of pulling it back. We aren't even playing! 4 of the 5 shots that we've had were taken in our 5 minutes of dominance at the start! I tell them to pull their fingers out, get back down the tunnel and attack, attack, attack.

At the hour mark, they've done nothing of the sort, and my misery is almost compounded when Phohlongo squares the ball to Mdabuka on the edge of our box, and he leathers it against the bar.

I make some changes, bringing Gugu Gogotya and Sullie on for Japhta and Maloka. We change to a narrow 4-3-1-2 and I want the full backs bombing forwards on the overlap as we focus play through the centre.

With 13 minutes to go, I feel like I'm bashing my head against a brick wall. We've still offered nothing at all. Lark comes on replacing Sambou. 5 minutes later, Ajax go close again when Nyambi's played in by Losper, but Komo parries his shot behind for a corner.

The last few minutes are a bit of a blur. First, the fourth official signals for a minimum of 2 minutes of stoppage time, then those minutes pass, then Ajax win a free kick 25 yards out, and then Doutie bends the ball into the top corner of our net. We finish my first Old Cape Town Derby match having had 7 shots, 4 of which were in the first 5 minutes. I'm really, really unimpressed.

I suppose we can take solace though in the fact that at 20,836, the match's attendance was actually a record high for us. I wonder if we've just broken a record for breaking both attendance records in such quick succession.

But to be honest, it's not much of a consolation. It's back to the training ground for this lot, because we've obviously got a lot of work to do.
Wtfranjo's avatar Group Wtfranjo 2017-11-07 07:12
00 138 posts 3 likes joined May 08, 2017
Joseph’s The Future (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 82.5)

As the lads troop in after training, I knock on for Goolam Allie, the club Chairman.

"Franjo!" He exclaims as he opens his office door. "How’s the reaction?" He asks this after every post-defeat training session. It’s a very good question to ask to be fair. I can tell that he actually cares about the team, which is sadly a sought after trait among Chairmen nowadays.

"Not bad", I answer in a non-committal kind of way as I follow him to the large ornate desk at the far end of the room. "But we’ve got a problem."

"Oh?" Allie raises his eyebrows. "What kind of problem?"

"A big, long term kind of problem." He gestures for me to go on. "This squad, generally speaking, has a losing mentality. There's barely any determination at all in that dressing room." Allie raises his eyebrows even further. "Look at our matches so far", I continue, "If we can keep the game goalless, we have a good chance of snatching a goal in the second half." He nods in agreement. "But on the other hand, if we go behind in the first half, it’s not just that we can’t get back into the game, it’s that we stop playing altogether. This squad, with the exception of the Highland Park match, cannot cope with going a goal down and that’s a big problem."

He leans forward, resting on the desk. "So what do you suggest?"

"We need to bring in players that will fight back after going behind."

Goolam gives me a knowing smile. "Franjo, we aren’t a club that throws money at our problems, that’s why we’re so financially solid..."

"I know, I know, but I’ve found a lad", I interject. "Not only is he the kind of player that we need to stop the club going backwards, but he would arguably be our best player at 19 years old! 19!" There’s a pleading tone in my voice that I don’t really like, but I really am convinced that this signing is a crucial one. "His name’s Joseph Ekwalla. He’s a central midfielder. Clifford spotted him playing in Cameroon..."

"Well there you go", laughs Allie, "How many times has he played for Cameroon?"

"He’s played for the Under 20’s..."

"Zero." Says Allie, with a rather more stern tone now. "So it’s a non-issue. He’ll never get a permit anyway."

"We can try and get him in as an exceptional talent, he’s brilliant!" I retort, feeling myself becoming more and more frustrated. "Joseph’s the future of this club. Him and players like him."

I can tell my persistence has won his attention now. I’ve not really asked him for anything since arriving in Lansdowne and I’m hoping that goes in my favour now. "How exceptional a talent is he?" He asks.

I play him the DVD that our scout Clifford Maphutha made for me. A highlight reel showing Joseph’s touch, his skill, his attitude, passing range and fitness. When it ends, Goolam smiles at me, genuinely this time. "How much do you need?"

"We can get him for free but his agent wants £5k", I reply. "Non negotiable."

"Fucking agents", he sighs. I shrug and nod.

"You’ve got your £5k", he smiles, holding out a hand. I shake it and beam back at him. "Go and sign that lad before somebody else does."
Wtfranjo's avatar Group Wtfranjo 2017-11-08 08:53
00 138 posts 3 likes joined May 08, 2017
Smoke Me A Kipper (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep83)

"Right then lads", I begin, "All I want you to do today is keep in mind what I've been telling you this week. What should be going through all of your heads when the scores are level?"

"We can win this", replies the dressing room in monotonal unison.

"What about if we take the lead?"

"We can win this", they reply, a little louder.

"And can anybody tell me what should be going through your heads if we happen to concede a goal?"

"WE CAN WIN THIS", they shout.

Thanda Royal Zulu, like our last opponents Ajax CT, have rejected my application to become their manager in the past. I don't forget a thing like that you know, and aside from my pride, I want us to redeem ourselves for our poor derby performance by beating these today. Having come up from the First Division last season, they're one of the favourites for relegation, so nothing but 3 points will do.

I had a thought recently that I should tweak Project: Foxy, as nobody that I've given a chance as the attacking midfielder in the system has put in a decent performance yet. As well as that, fairly often we find ourselves outnumbered and dominated in midfield if a team is playing a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-1-1 formation. I'm going to give this one more try today, but if we fail I'm changing things up. Young centre back Gary Havenga will make his first appearance of the season, replacing Tlali while Cele reverts to his most comfortable position on the right side of defence.

Elsewhere, Aiden Jenniker is coming back in for Sello Japhta on the left wing, Sullie gets one more chance behind the striker, and Carl Lark replaces Emil Sambou up front. I do consider dropping Komo as we've been shipping a fair few goals in the last couple of matches, but my coaches and I agree that he's really developing at the moment as a result of his exposure to first team football, so he stays in. We'll be looking to Ryan Moon to make things happen on the right wing today as TRZ have a very solid looking deep midfield triangle, so playing through the centre probably wouldn't work.

10 minutes in, Lark forces a mistake by centre back Ngidi and robs him of the ball before running clean through on goal. The goalkeeper Peters shows good awareness though, running out to close down the angle and making it difficult for Lark, who can't find a way around him.

It's a quiet first 40 minutes in the way of chances, but we're really dominating the play. Smelling blood, I urge the players to start downright attacking 5 minutes before half time. 2 minutes before half time, and during one such attack, Sullie loses possession and TRZ counter attack. Ngcepe holds the ball up well just outside our box and lays it off for Hadebe, who lashes his shot into the top corner from 25 yards. Bloody hell.

10 minutes after half time, Ryan Moon spots Lark running through the central channel. He plays a brilliant long ball over the defence and Lark takes the ball in his stride. As Peters comes out again to close down the angle, Lark stabs at the ball and it rolls under the keeper, hits the right post, rolls across the line, hits the left post and eventually settles in the net. Thanks, Lady Luck.

The hour mark passes and I haul Sullie off the pitch. I don't know when he'll get back on it to be perfectly honest, all I know for now is that he can fuck off home. Khat comes on but he's also running out of time to impress. Almost immediately afterwards, we put together a good move that culminates with Khat chipping the ball out to Jenniker on the left. He tries a low cross but its blocked by Mkhize... And so begins another counter attack. May plays a long diagonal through ball behind our defence and Ngcepe latches onto it in the box, before blasting the ball past Komo. Why did I tell us to keep attacking after watching how well they counter attack? After knowing that counter attacking football is their only option as they try and scrape enough points to stay in the division? Because I'm just a regular person, albeit with half a robot face. I put my trousers on one leg at a time like anyone else. And sometimes people are fucking stupid.

Nevertheless, we'll keep attacking. We can either pull level or we can concede again and lose 1-3, and at this point it won't make much difference to ship 1 extra goal. I do make a couple of changes though, bringing on Gogotya for Sinbad and Japhta for Zulu, dropping Jenniker to full back to accommodate the winger.

As we enter the final 10 minutes, Thanda Royal Zulu's free kick breaks down and now it's our turn to start a counter attack. Carl Lark gets the ball and surges forward against the back-pedalling defence. He then makes the unfortunate decision to have a bash from 30 yards and the ball flies well wide. They make counter attacking look so easy.

A couple of minutes later, Japhta gets the ball on the left wing. He swings an excellent cross into the box from a deep position and Peters comes out to claim it, but he's beaten in the air by Carl Lark, who loops a header over the keeper and into the far top corner of the net. I'm relieved, but this isn't a time to celebrate. It's a time to drop deep and not over extend ourselves.

A couple of minutes later however, Ryan Moon plays a through ball behind the TRZ defence and perfectly into Lark's path. All he needs to do is pull the trigger, complete his hat trick and earn us the 3 points, but he takes a touch allowing the defenders to catch up and when he does shoot, Mkhize is there to block it.

Let’s be honest, a draw isn’t ideal, is it? Fair play to Carl Lark, he really pulled us out of the shit there, but overall I still want more. I still expect better. We have a 17 day break before we host Chippa United in our next match, and I’ll be using that time to work on something different.

Project: Foxy MK II isn’t designed to be in any way groundbreaking. It’s designed to address the issues that we’ve found in Project: Foxy. First of all, we’re going with a standard 4-1-2-3 as oppose to the asymmetrical 4-1-2-2-1 that we’ve been using. The benefits of this are twofold in that firstly, we’ll be tougher to break down in midfield, something that has been a problem with the old system. Secondly, it gets rid of our attacking midfielder problem. Khat, Sullie and to a lesser extent Maloka have failed to impress me in any way, shape or form behind the striker, so we’re binning the role entirely, at least until we can bring in someone better. You may be thinking that this will leave us short at the front, but to make up for that, Sello Japhta will play in a very similar way to Ryan Moon does on the right, acting more as a wide forward than a winger and giving us essentially a 3 man attack.

The overall system is designed to keep us tight, keep the scores level, and have enough going forward to nick a goal. Focussing on defence seems like the sensible thing to do with a squad that has a fatal allergy to going a goal down at any point ever. We’ll keep ourselves extremely narrow to prevent teams from playing straight through the middle of us, which has also been a problem so far this season. We’ll sit deep, remain compact, and congest the middle of the pitch, forcing the opposition to head out onto the flanks, where we’ll close them down, win back possession and hit them on the break. Well, that’s the theory anyway.

We work on our shape, our discipline, and most of all our defending throughout the break. In other news, Keenon Blignaut tells me that he needs to leave the club for first team football and I tell him that I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. He’ll be sold as soon as a bid comes in.

Khat tweaks his hamstring in the build up to the match whilst playing a reserve friendly against Grassy Park. He’ll miss the next couple of weeks, but I don’t think we’ll miss him all that much.

I also complete my National B License qualification that I started when I first arrived in Lansdowne, and seeing as the European Championships qualifying stage is over, I chance my arm by sending my CV to the Football Associations of 2 nations thay have sacked their Managers after not qualifying; Liechtenstein and Iceland. Because why not?

Finally, we’re still waiting on news of Joseph Ekwalla’s work permit. Terms have been agreed and graciously funded by Goolam Allie, but as usual we have to wait a full month to see if he can join us. It really is a piss-take.

When the match does arrive, I name quite a changed side, with the recently recovered Gertse restored to the starting line up along with Moe, Gogotya and Japhta. It’s time to see how our new formation fares.

Straight from kickoff, Gogotya picks out Moon on the right with a great sweeping pass. Moon speeds down the line, past Ngcobo and crosses from the byline. Carl Lark gets his head to it but is denied by a great save by Akpeyi.

Quarter of an hour into the game, Seanego whips in a dangerous corner but Adolph heads it over the bar from the edge of the 6 yard box.

After 20 minutes they really start putting us under pressure. First, Seanego forces a good save from Komo with a powerful header, and then when the ball’s worked back around to the edge of the area, Ace Sali tees up Langwe, but his low drive towards the bottom corner is tipped behind by Komo.

With half an hour gone they’re still on top, and Gogotya makes the fatal error of leaving his man to close down Ace Sali, already being marked by Sinbad. This leaves a Langwe-sized hole in midfield, and Ace Sali picks him out. Langwe has all the time in the world to play a first time pass through for Seanego, who knocks the ball past Komo and in. I promptly make it unequivocally clear that I want Sinbad and Gogotya to stick to their positions and not leave the exact same giant gaps in midfield that I’ve just spent 2 weeks trying to get rid of.

With 7 minutes to go before half time, Seanego’s corner is flicked on by Ngobe and nodded into the net by Kama at the far post. 0-2.

But then, a miracle. An absolute bloody miracle. My team collectively decide that we can win this match. Straight from kick off after the goal, Sinbad plays it back to Moe on the half way line, he plays a long arcing ball over the top, and Carl Lark’s there once again to nod the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper. We aren’t done yet. I’m so proud.

Less than 2 minutes into the second half, Cele receives the ball on the right wing and whips a cross in first time to the edge of the area. Lark arrives, Lark heads the ball, Lark finds the bottom corner of the net. I feel faint.

It’s an even game from that point on. With 20 minutes to go, we go on the counter to make sure we don’t concede late on and ruin this fantastic fightback.

With 15 minutes to go we win a corner. Japhta steps up and curls it into the box, but it’s headed clear - As far as Sinbad, 25 yards out. Sinbad gets the ball out of his feet, keeps his head down... And drills the ball straight into the bottom right hand corner. I join the 7 odd thousand Santos supporters in leaping to my feet, arms raised in jubilation. What a comeback. What a match. So long, Langwe. Sayonara, Seanego. Smoke me a kipper, Ace Sali, I’ll be... Oh for fucks sake, it’s been ruled out.

I mean yes, Gertse, Moe, Gogotya and Moon were all stood in offside positions as the defenders moved away from goal and Sinbad took the shot, but they werent really interfering with play. It clearly wasn’t supposed to be a pass to any of them. They weren’t in the keeper’s way or even his eye-line. Oh well, still 2-2.

5 minutes later, Ryan Moon chips the ball up for Carl Lark in the box. He tries to make it a hat trick of headers, but this one doesn’t have much pace and is easy for Daniel to catch. I give Maloka a late cameo in place of Sinbad, but the game ends 2-2.

I think overall there are definitely positives to come from our last 2 matches. I’ve bemoaned the lack of determination in the squad but they’ve certainly shown some to come back from 0-1, 1-2 and 0-2 in the space of 2 matches. You could even make an argument that we should’ve won that last one, but I’m not too sure.

That evening, no sooner do I get back to Geen Rook Nie, get up to my flat and fall into bed, than my phone begins to ring. I lazily dig it out of my pocket and look at the screen. It’s Keith America, my assistant. My greeting is half frustration, half confusion. "Hello Keith?"

"Boss", he says breathlessly, "We’ve just had a call from the LFV!"

"The Liechtenstein Fussballverband, AKA The Liechtensteiner FA, sure." I say, incredibly learned in the names of the Football Associations of foreign nations.

"Wait... Fuck off."

"Do you want to be the manager of a National side?"

Wtfranjo's avatar Group Wtfranjo 2017-11-08 09:03
00 138 posts 3 likes joined May 08, 2017
Franjo: The New Glenn Hoddle (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 83.5)

Everyone’s got an earliest football memory. Everyone who loves football at least. Everyone remembers that moment that grabbed them and made them fall in love with the game.

Not uncommonly for an Englishman born before the Millennium, when you could arguably describe our national side as "Good", my earliest football memory is of an International Tournament. Strangely though for someone who became a lifelong Everton fan, it was a Liverpool player that ignited my love for football. My earliest football memory is from when I was 6 years old, very soon to be 7. On 30th June 1998, I watched on an awful old CRT television the scenes unfolding at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint-Étienne, when David Beckham chipped the ball through the centre for our promising teenage striker: England’s no. 20 - Michael Owen. He paced past an Argentine defender, then skipped past a second, and with the goalkeeper rushing out to close down the angle, he found the far top corner of the goal. Weirdly, and thankfully, I don’t remember too much else from that World Cup 98 match, but I do remember we had an assembly at School the next day about the dangers of being a stupid, petulant little floppy-haired let down.

In recent years, especially since Euro 2004, England’s World Cup and European Championship performances have gotten worse and worse, but the great thing about International football... Well, the great thing about International Tournaments is that if your own nation hasn’t qualified or hasn’t performed, you can forget all about them by watching any number of other matches. You can watch The Spanish, The French, The Brazilians, The Germans and The Welsh. Root for someone else, anyone else, and it’s just as good. The World Cup for many fans is the absolute pinnacle. It’s non-stop football every day with endless twists and turns, followed invariably by The Germans lifting the trophy.

I say all of this because I want to be a part of this World. I want to do for some young Liechtensteiner kid what Glenn Hoddle once did for me. I want one of my players to do for them what Michael Owen once did for me. I want to make Liechtenstein fall head over heels for the beautiful game.

And I know what you’re thinking: "But Franjo, Liechtenstein is a primarily German-speaking doubly landlocked principality in the Eastern part of Central Europe. Their population is small and their land is largely mountainous, causing them to favour the winter sports above a good old game of footy."

Fair point, but what brings a nation together more than cheering their national team on at a major international tournament?

"But Franjo, Liechtenstein have never qualified for a major international tournament. In fact since they started entering the qualification stages in 1996, they’ve finished bottom of nearly every group and had some horrendous results, including an 11-1 loss to Macedonia in a qualifier for France '98."

Yeah, OK, but...

"Franjo, Liechtenstein are currently ranked 160th in the FIFA World Rankings, and the highest they’ve ever ranked on that list is 150th. They even slid down as far as 190th in recent years."

But with a little hard work...

"I think the tattoo of your half-robot face I had done on my inner thigh is becoming infected".

Great. Look, the way I see it, by the law of averages, Liechtenstein will get to a World Cup or a Euros at some point. Yes, we’ve failed to qualify for the 2020 Euros, which prompted the LFV to sack long suffering manager Rene Pauritsch and hire yours truly, but that gives me time now to get to know my players and prepare for qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Canada, not forgetting the European International League that we’ll be playing next year.

And our European Championship qualifying campaign wasn’t even all that bad. I mean, yes we got thrashed by Belgium and Bosnia & Herzegovina... And Scotland... Twice each... But we did do the double over Andorra, ranked 202nd in the World, scoring 5 and conceding 0 in the process. So you know, that’s something.

I’ve lined us up against some varied opponents next year: Friendlies against the Faroe Islands, Denmark, Estonia and Russia should give me a good idea of what I’m dealing with here.

I move quickly to put together some International experience in my backroom staff. In the days following my appointment, I appoint former PSV Eindhoven and Netherlands centre back André Ooijer as my assistant, swiftly followed by former Spanish internationals David Albelda and Marcos Senna, amongst many less well known names.

The good thing about a national side like Liechtenstein’s is that it doesn’t come with all the baggage and expectation that comes with one of the big ever-presents. If we do anything, if we even reach a play-off for a major tournament, we’ll be written into Liechtenstein history. But I don’t want to just do anything.

I’ve never shied away from a seemingly insurmountable task, just ask the poor citizens of Vellinge. I want the phrase "Nicht Können" removed from the Liechtenstein dictionary. I want all 36,000 of the good people of Liechenstein to put down their fucking skis and book themselves a flight and a hotel in Canada.

Let’s take Liechtenstein to the World Cup.

Wtfranjo's avatar Group Wtfranjo 2017-11-09 10:08
00 138 posts 3 likes joined May 08, 2017

It feels good to be an International Manager, and to some extent I’m buoyed by the fact that I’m getting plenty of practice trying to make a mediocre bunch of footballers play well in my day job. I’ll need to do it all over again when I pick my first Liechtenstein squad, but that’s about 4 months away, so for now let’s focus on South Africa.

Bloem Celtic are our next opponents. We travel to their place fairly pessimistic, as their last match was at home against Kaiser Chiefs and they won 1-0. I’ll say that once more, they beat Kaiser Chiefs in their last match.

Mind you, we’re feeling pretty good ourselves. The squad seems to be making good progress. We could have capitulated in both of our last 2 matches, but we didn’t. We kept going and came away with a point from each, which is promising.

Bloem Celtic love to play through balls to unlock defences and hopefully we’ll fare better than most with our narrow, compact Project: Foxy MK II system. We make no personnel changes from our last match. Let’s get at them.

The first half, on the whole, is a quiet, scrappy affair. 2 moments stick out for me though: Firstly, the free kick that Lakay bends into the top corner in the 23rd minute, and then just before half time when Khasipe’s cross is volleyed in at the near post by Chapman. We go on the counter, optimistic that we can pull the game back in a similar way to our last match, but we can’t. The second half is just as quiet and just as scrappy as the first. Despite me telling the full backs to push forwards in the 55th minute, despite bellowing well worn clichés from the touchline like "PUSH UP!", "GET FORWARD!", "GIVE HIM AN OPTION" and "SELLO YOU WANKER, HOW HARD IS IT TO COMPLETE A PASS?!", neither team creates anything of note.

It’s a straightforward win for Celtic and an instantly forgettable game. I intend to forget about it instantly.

As we pass into December, Khat comes back into the fold after his injury and I wait on tenterhooks to find out whether our potential new star Joseph Ekwalla will be joining us. 

The decision will be made on the 2nd, but before that I need to choose the Liechtenstein captain and vice captain. I decide, very boring of me I know, to keep the existing ones in place as I don’t know the squad too well just yet, although I did go and watch Lugano take on Vaduz the other day.

There weren’t many stand out performers if I’m honest and it was a dull sort of game. Several players impressed for Lugano but it’s a real shame that none of them are Lichtensteiner.

 Anyway, versatile defensive player Sandro Wieser keeps the armband and Burnley’s excellent holding midfielder Marcel Büchel stays as vice captain. That’s right, I’m coaching a bloody Premier League player.

 We'll get to know them better a bit later on.

Then comes the hammer blow. Ekwalla’s work permit is rejected. I appeal the decision immediately, citing the fact that he’s an excellent young footballer. The powers that be will sleep on the decision and inform me tomorrow morning, right before our match against Orlando Pirates.

The next morning, I’m up at 5 O’Clock. I’m checking my phone every 2 minutes, waiting for the final verdict. I’m not sure why. It’s not like they’re going to text me. They’ll ring, and I’ll hear them ring because I’ve checked about 20 times and my phone is definitely on loud and on the highest possible volume. Nevertheless, every 2 minutes like clockwork.

Just after 9, the call finally comes. The transfer of Joseph Ekwalla... Is ON! Punching the air, and ending the call as soon as my ridiculous in-built English politeness will let me, I ring Joseph’s agent and tell him to get our new player on the plane. We’ve had one ready at an airport in Garoua, Cameroon since yesterday morning. Joseph’s hastily flown over, plonked in front of his contract, which he signs to make the move official, given a Santos FC tracksuit and lead into the dressing room to meet the other lads, who are already changed and ready for our home match against Orlando Pirates.

"Lads, this is Joseph", I announce, quite out of breath as we barge through the door just minutes from kick off. "He’s a new signing from Cameroon and he doesn’t speak much English. He’s on the bench today, make him feel welcome, yeah? Does anyone speak French?" My question’s greeted with silence. "Parlez vous Français?" I ask hopefully, and no doubt incorrectly.

"Oh sorry, I do", pipes up Emil Sambou.

"Right, yeah. Emil, sit with me and Joseph on the bench today, I don’t want him just sat silently on his own."

The only change today is that Issouf Paro is fit enough to replace Moe, who is dropped to the bench after once again failing to impress. Joining him on the bench is the fit again Khat and of course our new no.25 - Joseph Ekwalla.

For the first half hour, we look good. We dominate, have a couple of half chances and generally pin Orlando Pirates back. Right on the half hour mark though, Rakhale plays a nice pass around the corner and into our box for Happy Jele, who shoots towards the near post. Komo gets down to it but let’s the ball squeeze past him and into the net.

5 minutes later, Nyauza sets up Qualinge, who’s cutting in from the left wing. He takes a touch and hammers the ball into the top corner. I let out a quiet groan. We’ve already lost. Again.

At half time and after my inevitable rant at the players, I bring on Ekwalla for Diale, who was on a booking anyway. Sinbad will drop back as a playmaking holding man and Ekwalla will have license to get forward and just play his natural game.

5 minutes into the second half, a floated Jele cross is glanced in off the head of Ndora and the game is well and truly over. I throw Khat on for Gogotya and we go to an attacking, structured 4-2-4, because why not.

With 20 minutes to go, Emil Sambou comes on replacing Carl Lark, who’s had a quiet game.

Almost 10 minutes later the cherry is placed on top of the Pirates’ performance when Qualinge drives forwards with the ball and tries to drill a low cross into the box, but it deflects off Jenniker’s foot and sneaks in at the near post, wrong footing Komo. 0-4.

Fully resigning myself once again to the fact that my team aren’t going to claw back even a consolation goal for us, I start to just watch Joseph Ekwalla. I had to ask the Chairman specifically to green-light his transfer, so I want to know that he was worth it. Now baring in mind the fact that he’s been thrown in at the deep end, moved to a new country with a new club, started to learn a new language and on the same day has been thrown on when we were 2 goals down, what strikes me is how un-phased he is.

There’s one point where he stands 30 yards from their goal, smack bang central, and plays the ball to a player in space. They run into trouble and need to look for a pass and who’s open? Joseph is. Still right there, available for the pass. He gets it back and instantly knows who’s in the best position for the next pass. He plays it straight away, but they too run into trouble, and he’s there again. And then again. It’s a small thing, but it’s so, so promising. He’s there having flown in this morning, keeping us ticking over, providing an option, identifying the next pass and playing it, cool as a cucumber.

I once said of young striker Renato Silva that if I one day made it to a top club, he could follow me. Maybe that was rash, but with Joseph... there’s a hell of a footballer in there is all I’ll say. I think he’s got a big, big future.

If you don’t find the positives on a day like this you’ll drive yourself mad, and our new signing is definitely one. Hopefully in January we’ll be able to pick up a couple more promising young players, but for now all we can do is keep plugging away, trying not to let our season disintegrate as badly as our squad’s confidence does after conceding.
Wtfranjo's avatar Group Wtfranjo 2017-11-10 08:19
00 138 posts 3 likes joined May 08, 2017
Half Time (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep85)

We need players. More specifically, we need my kind of players. Hard workers, fighters, scrappers. Reliable footballers who know what it takes to win. I’ve been harping on this for a while but the winter break’s on the horizon and we need to think about who can come in and help to change the personality of this squad. To start with, let me introduce you to free agent Sony Norde, who’s actually been on trial with us and playing in our Reserves for about 3 months.

Sony is a versatile attacking midfield option, is great technically and physically and has about as much determination, flair and work ethic as the entire pre-Franjo Santos team combined. He’s also an experienced international for his native Haiti. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need him in this squad, so I offer him a contract and he signs immediately, qualifying almost straight away for a work permit thanks to his inclusions in recent International matches. The only problem and the reason I’ve taken so long to sign him is that as a senior player he can’t be registered in the squad until January, so he won’t be a part of the 3 matches we still have before the break. He’ll continue playing in the reserves and getting his English up to speed for now.

Sundowns are our next opponents and they represent a significant challenge for us. While we’ve spent the past few weeks free-falling down the PSL table, Sundowns have been enjoying a steady start to the season, sitting 4th with 6 wins in 11 and a game in hand over pretty much everyone below them.

I’m taking Komo out of the firing line today. It’s been about 6 weeks since he went a match without picking the ball out of the net at least twice, although to be fair the rest of the team haven’t helped. Unsurprisingly, it’s also been 6 weeks since our last win. If we’re not careful this could turn into another GieKSa situation, so let’s try and get back on track, shall we? Also coming into the squad are Gary Havenga, Siyabonga Zulu and Joseph Ekwalla for his first start, at the expense of Cele, Japhta and Gogotya.

It takes 36 seconds for Nxumalo to latch onto Mosadi’s low cross and boot in the opening goal. 36 seconds. Moving on...

Almost 25 minutes in, we see promising signs from young Ekwalla when he receives the ball from Moon in our half and surges forwards past 2 Sundowns midfielders. He then takes a shot from 30 yards that flies wide, but still.

That run seems to remind the team that you can still play football even if you’re losing, because within 2 minutes we score probably the best team goal I’ve seen from one of my teams; An 18 pass move starting deep in our half and ending with a whipped cross from Jenniker and a point blank header from Moon to equalise. Brilliant football.

10 minutes on, Ekwalla surges forward once again and plays a perfect ball through the defence for Lark, who times his run brilliantly but tries to place the ball in the top corner and puts it just wide.

Half time passes and we come out well in the second half. We win a corner in the 52nd minute and Moon whips it in. Gcaba slices his clearance and the ball bounces off Havenga before falling perfectly for Diale, who thumps it past the keeper to put us ahead.

We last for all of 8 minutes before Monare’s long ball is pumped into our penalty area, Nxumalo rises above Zulu to nod it on and Ntuli is unmarked at the far post to volley the equalising goal past Visser. It was nice while it lasted though.

The game fizzles out out a bit after that. Sundowns don’t seem to want a winning goal too badly and our heads go down, resulting in a bit of a stalemate. I bring on Japhta and Sambou, replacing Zulu and Lark shortly afterwards, and then Cele on for Gertse who’s on a booking about 10 minutes from time.

2 minutes before the end, Motupa runs forward powerfully and shoots from the edge of the box, but it’s well wide of Visser’s net. Once the 90 minutes are up, Ekwalla intercepts a pass meant for Nxumalo and the South African International sees red in every sense, sliding through the back of our Cameroonian prodigy and earning himself a very slightly earlier bath than the rest of his team.

I can live with that result. We gave as good as we got against a good side and that puts me in a pretty good mood, which turns into a very good mood the next day when Goolam Allie agrees to invest in our youth facilities. I really like Goolam. He’s a smart man, a fair man and he really does want what’s best for his football club.

Now then. Today is a very big day because today the World Cup European Qualifying Groups are drawn. The matches won’t actually start until March 2021, but I’m exciting to see which teams we’ll be going up against. It’s one of these situations where I don’t know whether I want a tough or easy group. A tough group would give us the chance to go up against some of the biggest names in world football, whereas an easy group would give us a better chance of qualification. We’ll see. Oh, and we’ve been seeded 6th, which isn’t all that surprising.

Group 4

1st Team: Liechtenstein (Ranked 160th)

Now seems a good as time as any to tell you properly about how Liechtenstein did in the qualifiers for the last 2 major tournaments. In our qualifying group for World Cup 18, we finished dead last, admittedly in a tough group with Spain and Italy, but we only picked up the 1 point from Israel. We did slightly better in our Euro 2020 qualifying group as I've mentioned before, finishing 5th out of 6.

2nd Team: Lithuania (Ranked 137th)

Interesting. I’ll admit, I don’t know too much about Lithuania. Former defender Marius Stankevičius’ name rings a bell, but I don’t remember him well at all. They kept things relatively tight against their World Cup 18 qualifying group, sneaking 2 1-0 victories over Malta and 3 1-1 draws; 2 against Slovenia and another against Slovakia, finishing stranded in 5th, 8 points below Scotland and 9 above point-less Malta. In Euro 2020 qualifying, they finished dead last in their group of 5, picking up a solitary point against Macedonia.

3rd Team: Montenegro (Ranked 75th)

Montenegro could be a dark horse in this group. They’re a small nation but they’ve got some well known players, such as Inter centre back Stefan Savic and Torino striker Stevan Jovetic. In their World Cup 18 qualifying group, they finished in a respectable 4th place, with 2 wins against Kazakhstan, another against Armenia and a draw with Denmark. They did OK in the Euro 2020 qualifiers too, finishing 3rd in their group, but to be fair a long way off 2nd placed Romania.

4th Team: Finland (Ranked 55th)

Finland are an interesting team. Like us, the 3rd best team in our group actually finished bottom of their World Cup 18 qualifying group, even below newly eligible nation Kosovo. They had a frustrating Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, drawing 5 of their 8 games and finishing 4th out of 5 teams. There’s also every chance that by the time we take them on, 34 year old captain Niklas Moisander, 32 year old vice-captain Tim Sparv and 32 year old key player Roman Eremenko could have all retired. Could we have drawn them at just the right time?

5th Team: Russia (Ranked 25th)

OK, I’ll take Russia. There are some very good teams in this tier and I think we’ve avoided some big hitters by drawing these. Fun fact: The hosts of World Cup 18 were actually dumped out of their own tournament on Alphabetical Order in the Group Stage by Australia. They've made short work of their admittedly quite weak Euro 2020 qualifying group though (That also contained Montenegro), winning 8 matches out of 10. Also, we have a friendly scheduled against these next year and that match has just got a lot more serious.

6th Team: Poland (Ranked 14th)

Wow. OK, this is, dare I say it, the “easiest” group we could’ve asked for. I say "Easiest" because we still realistically stand little to no chance of finishing higher than 5th. Poland are a good team, of course they are, but bearing in mind we could’ve had France or Germany, I’ll take that all day long. They had a mixed experience in qualifying for Euro 2020, finishing 2nd out of 5 on 13 points, just 1 above Israel. Manchester United’s Robert Lewandowski actually retired from International Football after Poland were dumped out of World Cup 2018’s Second Round in a 2-1 defeat against Portugal, which is a boost. They’re still a very good team though and hand on heart, they’ll probably beat us comfortably. Twice.

Of course, the aim of these qualifiers is to... well, qualify. So that’s what we’ll be looking to do. The top team from each group qualifies for the World Cup, along with the best 3 2nd placed teams. I’m really looking forward to this. It’s a shame the qualifiers don’t start for another 15 months really, isn’t it.

And... Oh good, we’re now ranked 170th in the world. Already we've fallen 10 places under my leadership. We’ve not even kicked a ball under the new regime yet, FIFA!

Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, Santos FC. We’ve just signed Sony Norde but he’s ineligible for the time being. Next up is Maritzburg United at their place, who are struggling even worse than we are


There’s only 6 points between us and them at the minute though. A loss today would bridge the gap between us and the bottom 4, which I’m not too keen on doing. We set up almost identically to the Sundowns match, except with Japhta replacing Zulu and Jenniker dropping back to defence.

The first half is predictably quiet, with the exception of Mnyamane’s goal after 13 minutes; a far post header from a Nkanyiso Cele cross. Oh dear.

After 15 minutes of moping, orange slices and yet another bollocking from me, we head back out refreshed and rejuvenated for the second half. On the hour mark we also go on the attack.

With 20 minutes to go, Radebe’s corner is met by Shandu, who rattles our bar with a header. With 7 to go, Zulu and Sambou replace Jenniker and Lark. In injury time, a Sinbad volley grazes the top of the bar. It’s another one of them. Even though we played OK, the result is nowhere near good enough.

OK, we're 2 days before Christmas. Let's tie this half-season up then with a trip to Bidvest Wits. They beat us handily in the SA KO Cup but now we're better equipped to stop them... Sort of. We're ready... Ish. Let's just get this done, eh?

I've made the executive decision that Visser is as much as a fucking liability as Komo, if not more, so we may as well let the young lad get some experience. He's still improving after all. Khat's back on the bench at the expense of Emil Sambou, who has been shocking so far this season. He's out of the squad altogether today.

3 minutes in, Ryan Moon charges down the right wing like a man possessed. He whips a cross in towards the edge of the 6 yard box and Carl Lark, who's impressing me more and more for his natural goalscoring ability, stoops to head the ball over the line.

The ball's straight up at our end after kick off and Alexander floats a dangerous cross into the box. Gary Havenga heads it clear but only as far as Tshabalala, who nods the ball down for Scott on the edge of the area. Scott whallops it towards goal and the ball crashes off the underside of the bar, off the line, against the post and finally caught by the grateful Komo.

10 minutes in, Hlanti swings a corner in for the hosts. Komo claims it well, rises and plucks the ball out of the air. The referee blows his whistle though. Issouf Paro, captain for the day in the absence of Cele and Sambou, pushes Alexander in the area, allowing his keeper to make the catch. Wits have a penalty. Sikhakhane steps up - And powers the ball low past Komo to equalise.

10 minutes or so later, we have a dangerous looking indirect free kick, but the cross isn't great and Wits clear. They counter attack through Harrison, who takes the ball through our half and onto the right touchline, before crossing for Mkatshana, whose header crashes in off the bar. Within 17 minutes, we've gone from winning to losing. To be fair, we haven't played that badly, and I tell the lads that at half time. We're genuinely quite unlucky to be behind.

The second half starts slowly, and is quite uneventful until the 68th minute when Wits win another corner. Hlanti whips it in again, Rodgers nods the ball on from the edge of the 6 yard box, Mkatshana lays it off and Sikhakhane gets his second goal of the day with a drilled finish from 8 yards. I'm saddened that we've gone from 1-0 up to 1-3 down, but that was a fantastic corner routine. We go on the counter to try and draw them out so that we can hit them on the break.

A few minutes later we win a corner of our own. Japhta's cross comes in but the ball's headed clear. Sinbad takes it down 25 yards out and runs to the right side of the box before attempting a cross. None of our players manage to get to it, but it does deflect off Hlanti and wrong foot the keeper, pulling the score back to 2-3.

So there we are. Half time in the Premier Soccer League and we're a respectable but unexciting 12th in the table. Look, the performances aren't that bad. Most of the time. Some of the time. The results are the problem, as they so often are in this business. We've got about 6 weeks now to get back on the training pitch, get some new bodies in, tighten up our leaky defence and start playing as a unit. If I've learned anything from GieKSa, it's that the second half of the season is crucial. In a way, even more crucial than the first. I intend to make the second half of this season a bloody good one.

Wtfranjo's avatar Group Wtfranjo 2017-11-10 08:24
00 138 posts 3 likes joined May 08, 2017
Winter Break (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Meta-sode 85.5)

Morning all,
It’s time for another winter break. I’ll take a week to get everything together and then be back to go through a signing-heavy (I hope) winter break and then our very first International squad selection for Liechtenstein’s friendlies against the Faroe Islands and Denmark, where there’ll obviously be plenty of new faces to meet.

I never really said it before, but cheers for sticking with the story after I took some time out. The Katowice fiasco was thoroughly unenjoyable to write towards the end and it sort of knocked me for 6. It took a while to get excited for the story again but now I’m relishing the challenge of sorting out Santos and Liechtenstein and really enjoying writing about it again.

So yeah, thanks! I hope you’re excited for the prospects of rebuilding a truly frustrating squad in South Africa and a World Cup Qualifying campaign with Liechtenstein as much as I am.

See you in a week!


Shortie_H4H's avatar Group Shortie_H4H 2017-11-10 15:43
gb 3 posts 2 likes joined Sep 02, 2017
2017-11-10 08:24#247115 Wtfranjo : Winter Break (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Meta-sode 85.5)

Morning all,
It’s time for another winter break. I’ll take a week to get everything together and then be back to go through a signing-heavy (I hope) winter break and then our very first International squad selection for Liechtenstein’s friendlies against the Faroe Islands and Denmark, where there’ll obviously be plenty of new faces to meet.

I never really said it before, but cheers for sticking with the story after I took some time out. The Katowice fiasco was thoroughly unenjoyable to write towards the end and it sort of knocked me for 6. It took a while to get excited for the story again but now I’m relishing the challenge of sorting out Santos and Liechtenstein and really enjoying writing about it again.

So yeah, thanks! I hope you’re excited for the prospects of rebuilding a truly frustrating squad in South Africa and a World Cup Qualifying campaign with Liechtenstein as much as I am.

See you in a week!



Glad you are sticking with the story mate!! Knew Santos was gonna be a struggle. How long is it gonna go? What with FM18 out now. I got Champs League with Girona and got to the semi's our first season and finished Runners Up in La Liga. Was looking to stay and continue to build but I was only given 4 million transfer budget and Real Madrid came knocking. After 10 years of working my way up I couldn't say no. In Mar 2027 now and my first season with Real is going well. Top of the League, knockout rounds of Champs League and got the Final of Copa Del Rey. Resisting starting again with FM18, enjoying this too much!!
Wtfranjo's avatar Group Wtfranjo 2017-11-10 19:17
00 138 posts 3 likes joined May 08, 2017
Bloody hell, well done mate :D up to Real in 10 years!

I’m still planning to keep going with this for a good long while, might even skip this FM. It’d be the first time since CM99/00 haha

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