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

My Name is Franjo. And I will be a Football Manager.
Started on 8 May 2017 by Wtfranjo
Latest Reply on 6 May 2018 by Wtfranjo
All Hands On Deck (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep70)

Ah, the sweet relief of avoiding a loss. It's a bit disappointing that results like this are cause for celebration nowadays, but we are where we are and it is what it is. A strange and disturbing thought crossed my mind after the Wisła Kraków match when I was informed that our 12 games without a win was a new club record. It crossed my mind that "Achieving" that record, along with the one for our 6 straight defeats a couple of months ago, means that I may well be the worst Manager that GKS Katowice have ever had.

It's a really unsettling thought, but put into perspective, we're actually overachieving. Remembering that we were not only heavy favourites to go down, but to finish bottom of the league gives me some comfort.I suppose it's all about context. For example, I still think of my stint at FC Höllviken as the biggest failure in my career to date. I saw the team through 3 wins and 5 defeats in 8 matches. That's far, far better than we're currently doing. The difference of course is that in the first half of this season with Katowice, we bought ourselves some much needed breathing room, whereas at Höllviken we had no such luxury. It's strange comparing my stints with the 2 clubs in that way. It makes you think.

We welcome Pogoń to Katowice today. This is our last chance to put some points on the board before our tally gets halved and we head into the relegation stage. We're without our Bartbeat as he serves a 1 match suspension for collecting 8 yellow cards. Hutton replaces him at centre back. I'm also making a couple of other changes as we swap to a 4-1-2-3 formation with which we'll try to control the game. Fossy comes out despite his excellent game against Kraków as we aren't using a number 10, which I've found is the only position he can successfully play. Rodrigo Silva replaces him as a holding man, fresh from scoring his first professional goal in extremely dramatic circumstances. I'm also bringing Jaworski out of the team. We gave it a go but he's not ready and I feel like putting him through this with the first team is slightly unfair. Franczak will drop back to fullback, while Tuovinen takes his place on the right wing.

I'm not entirely vindicated in my decision to start Tuovinen when he loses possession in Pogoń's half 5 minutes in. What comes next is a brilliant, high tempo counter attack culminating with Rudol placing a cross straight onto the forehead of Jaroch, who directs the ball into the far bottom corner.

You'd think we'd fight back. You'd think we'd keep peddling. Especially when we go on the attack at half time. Apart from a Gyurscó pot shot just after half time though, the match fizzles out. None of Jaworski, Machalski or Karwot can turn the tide when they're brought on with half an hour to go. It's a gutless performance and I'm thoroughly disappointed.

What a wasted opportunity. We'd brought a losing streak to an end with a dramatic 92nd minute equalising penalty to draw a match level at 4-4, and what do we do next? We throw away our chance of gathering momentum. We finish 14th in the Lotto Ekstraklasa league stage, marooned between Wisła Płock, who are 7 points above us, and Korona, who are 6 points below.

Everybody's points will now be halved as we enter the relegation group, meaning that on the upside, we're only 3 points behind Płock, but on the downside we're only 3 points ahead of Korona in the relegation zone.

I'm sick of dropping people. Overall it's a motivational strategy that's had little to no impact and who knows, may have even cost us points. Everybody will come back into the fold for our next match. Clean slates all round. We'll absolutely need points to avoid relegation now and we need all hands on deck to make it happen.
One Of Two Ways (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep71)

"I won't lie to you, I'm nervous." I say quietly. "We need to win at least a couple of matches out of the 7 we've got left, or we're going down. We've not won a match in 5 months, so that's going to be a bit of a challenge."

Burnie stares back at me silently from my lap, watching with vague interest as I think aloud.

"I'm bringing all of the players I dropped back into the first team, but that could go one of two ways." I press on. "They could come back with something to prove, having learned their lesson. They could come back determined and aggressive." Burnie continues to stare at me curiously. "Or..." I let out a sigh. "... They could come back resentful and apathetic. They could decide that they don't care about the fate of GKS Katowice, or that they just don't want to play for me anymore. I wouldn't blame them to be honest."

Burnie yawns widely, showing his many tiny feline teeth as he seems to unhinge his entire jaw, like a cobra about to chow down on a whole cow or whatever it is they like to eat. He stands, stretching his legs, and plops gracefully down onto the floor, before wandering away in the direction of his food bowl, leaving me quite alone.

The one player we'll be without today is Hurley, who's serving a 1 match suspension for accruing his 4th yellow card. We'll play 4-2-3-1 and we'll sit deep before hitting Cracovia on the counter attack. Nowak plays behind a back 4 consisting of Scheffel, Olivier, Wilson and Garbacik, Bart and Gregurina form the midfield duo, with Janga, Fossy and Kevin behind Goncerz.

Right, I think as I get to my feet and reach for my trusty grey coat, let's do this.

After quarter of an hour, Forsell chips a free kick into our box from the right. Adamczyk goes for goal on the volley, but his shot deflects off a crowd of bodies and bounces to the far post. Covilo acts faster than Tom Scheffel and gets to the ball first, directing it past the helpless Nowak and into the net.

5 minutes later, it's us with the set piece. Our corner is cleared as far as Tom Scheffel, our last man, who takes 5 full seconds to think about where he wants to play the ball. Unfortunately, that's plenty of time for Apostolovic to tackle him and play a quick ball ahead of Platek, who dashes through on goal and clips the ball easily past the outrushing Nowak. 0-2 down after 21 minutes, we quickly change to a more attacking playstyle.

Right on the stroke of half time, Janga intercepts a rogue Cracovia pass in our half and powers down the right wing. He does brilliantly, leaving the defenders for dead and drilling a low cross in to Goncerz, who bundles the ball into the net from close range. The goal gives us something to be optimistic about during the break.

With 25 minutes to play, we still trail Cracovia by a goal. Tarnowski and Kwarko come on for Fossy and Kevin. Just a few minutes later, Platek gets the ball and runs directly at our centre backs. Olivier sticks out a foot and trips him, conceding a free kick and earning himself a second yellow card and thus a red. Luckily, Cetnarski hits his free kick straight at Nowak, who catches it cleanly.

With just over 10 minutes to go, our 10 man team collapses. First, Apostolovic receives the ball from Dabrowski and drives down the right, getting himself a yard clear of Garbacik and drilling in a cross. Platek lays it off for Adamczyk, who's unmarked and finishes calmly. Then almost straight from kick off, Garbacik decides to lump the ball forward and hand possession back to Cracovia. Another exquisite ball from Damian Dabrowski finds Adamczyk on the left wing. He gets clear of Scheffel and chips the ball into the centre, where Platek is waiting to tuck the ball into the net. Game well and truly over.

I don't think I've got it in me anymore to just shout at them. I don't know what good it'll do. I walk straight from the dugout out of the ground and onto the team bus, forgoing the team talk. I sit at the front, alone, and wait for the players to troop on silently, filling up the seats behind.

But hey, need something vaguely resembling good news to pick you up? Me too! So congratulations Sebastien Nowak for becoming GieKSa's oldest ever player!

And congratulations to Zagłębie Sosnowiec's Ben Whitfield for being shortlisted for the Lotto Ekstraklasa Player of the Season award. Just take my vote and get out of my sight.

And finally, I'm sure it won't surprise you to learn that I've been casting an eye elsewhere lately, resulting in an interview with Ajax Cape Town in the South African Premier Soccer League. I attend and it goes quite well. I've been wanting to get out of Europe for a while now and I'd relish the challenge of managing in South Africa. I'll keep you posted.

Anyway, next up is Jagiellonia at our place. They remind me of a happier time as they were one of the last teams we defeated before we embarked on this horrific run of games.

Scheffel and Olivier are both suspended for one match, so they miss out. Gregurina, Janga and Fossy are all left out too as I bring in Jaworski, Hutton, Hurley, Amonike and Tarnowski. We'll try to get on the front foot and control the game.

Just over 5 minutes in, Ngombo comes forwards with the ball, drawing Hutton out of position before playing a pass into the space for Starzynski. He shoots with power but the ball flies just wide.

The rest of the half is tightly contested, but the best chance comes a few minutes before half time when Garbacik throws the ball down the line from a throw in. Tarnowski is on the receiving end and lays it off for Kevin, who's stood 25 yards out from goal. Kevin plays the ball on first time for Goncerz, who holds it up well before sliding the ball across to Amonike. The winger just needs to place it into one of the corners, but only manages to pea roll the ball straight into the arms of the keeper from 12 yards.

With almost an hour gone, Garbacik wins the ball from deep in our half and hoofs it towards Goncerz on the halfway line. Our striker takes it down and dribbles forward into the Jagiellonia half, before playing it across into the space outside the area for Bart. He takes a couple of touches and shoots, but his effort just grazes the top of the bar as it goes over.

We win the ball back quickly after the goal kick though and Bart spreads it out to Amonike on the right wing. He thinks about attacking the fullback and going down the line but instead turns inside and crosses with his left foot. The ball falls to Goncerz in space at the far post and he takes it down brilliantly, before sliding it into the bottom corner with his left foot. 1-0.

I'm skeptical at this point of our ability to hold onto a lead, and rightly so. Not even 5 minutes after Goncerz's goal, a nice move from Jagiellonia leads to Kucharczyk laying the ball off for Jelic, who smacks it into the bottom corner to equalise.

With a quarter of an hour to play it's still all square. Bart wins the ball in out half and finds Tarnowski, who plays it on first time to Kevin on the halfway line. Kevin looks up and sees Goncerz running through the central channel beyond the defenders. He picks him out superbly, lobbing his path over the defenders, and Goncerz takes the ball down. He runs through on goal with the defenders snapping at his heels. He looks up to see the keeper coming off his line to close the angle. Goncerz picks his spot and shoots left footed - And the net ripples as the ball flies into the top corner.

Every member of my coaching staff and all of my substitutes are instantly up off their feet, cheering and applauding, but there's still 15 minutes to play. As I say, I'm skeptical nowadays.

"Calm down," I bark, silencing them all at once. "Mario, warm up." Gregurina comes on replacing Michal Tarnowski and we swap to a 4-1-2-3 formation. We go all out defence. But Jagiellonia are throwing the kitchen sink at us now. We go into injury time still ahead. The 92 minutes are almost up and Jagiellonia are in possession of the ball. Canouse has it 25 yards from our goal.

Come on, I mutter under my breath. Just once. Just once, let us win.

Canouse looks up, takes aim and smashes the ball - Just over the top of the bar. The referee blows his whistle. That was the last kick of the game.

I get straight to my feet this time, beaming from ear to ear. Dennis grabs me and ruffles my hair. In the words of Mr Burns, it's a little overfamiliar, but I'll allow it. I stride over to Piotr Szendzielorz, the Jagiellonia manager, and offer him a trembling hand.

"Well played," I smile.

"Well done, friend" he smiles back warmly and takes my hand, shaking it firmly. I think my immense relief must be showing on my face.

Our winless nightmare is over. It's finally bloody over.
Mr WT Franco (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep72)


Thank you for your interest in the position of MANAGER at Ajax Cape Town.

We regret to inform you that on this occasion, your application has been unsuccessful, but we'll keep your CV on file should any MANAGER positions become available in the future.

Warmest regards,

Ari Efstathiou

Ajax Cape Town Chairman

"Mr WT Franco". I read the words over and over. "Mr WT Franco". "Mr WT Franco". "Mr WT Franco".


Well I've made a sworn enemy today.

I crumple the letter in my hand and throw it roughly in the direction of the bin. It's nice to know that I was seriously considered for the job. I mean, I had an interview for fucks sake. He called me Franjo in the interview! ... Didn't he? Maybe he called me Franco and I instantly shrugged it off and forgot about it, assuming that he misspoke or that I misheard.

Well in any case, I hope you're pleased with yourself Ari, because you just made my list. You will know my name. You'll curse my name as your empire crumbles around you.

I've got to get myself to South Africa.

Anyway, that'll have to wait. For now, Grzegorz Goncerz has won a place in the team of the week for his 2 goals against Jagiellonia in our WIN!

That's right, our fucking WIN last week! That monkey's been on our back for 5 long and painful months, but against Jagiellonia we grabbed it by it's stupid little primate face and threw it into the Baltic sea. Our fight to avoid relegation has officially begun.

Our victory also prompted Wojciech Cygan to offer me a new one-year contract, and here's the thing... I signed it.

I do realise that I'm sending out mixed messages, but the long and short of it is that I don't want to be unemployed. I do want to leave Poland this Summer, but if nobody wants me I'm willing to stay in Katowice rather than have another few months on the dole. Of course, there is still the chance that we'll be relegated in 5 games time, in which case I'll be chucked out on my arse anyway. Another upside to my new contract is that I demanded that the need to sign high profile players be removed as we just don't have the resources or the pull, and Wojciech accepted.

A trip to Lechia awaits us today, a team that have already beaten us 3-0 and 1-0 this season. I really would like to kick on and get another win, so I've been doing extra homework this week. The thing about Lechia is that they play with that really annoying withdrawn 4-2-3-1 that is incredibly difficult to break down. Our usual wide 4-2-3-1 would be useless against it, as their block of 4 central defensive players would isolate our 2 central attacking players without breaking a sweat, and they aren't particularly vulnerable on the wings either with their fullbacks supported by withdrawn wide midfielders.

So my solution is a new, bespoke system just for them. It closely resembles a narrow diamond formation but with the fullbacks pushed up as wingbacks. This way, we have 2 strikers (Tarnowski and Goncerz) and an attacking midfielder (Fossy), and 2 central midfielders (Bart and Gregurina) with specific instructions to push forward through the centre. We'll outnumber their defensive block 5 to 4. The wingbacks (Scheffel and Garbacik) will provide width and support attacks, while we have our own defensive triangle (Olivier, Wilson and Silva) to keep us safe. We'll play a fluid, counter attacking game and focus all our play through the centre where we have the numeric advantage. It's a ballsy system, but I think it's just ballsy enough to work.

I'm practically smacking my lips as I walk into the away dugout, but once the players come out onto the pitch and line up, my eyes widen with terror. They aren't playing the annoying, withdrawn 4-2-3-1 after all. They're playing a bog standard 4-1-2-3. All of my preparation for nothing. This side is delicately balanced to counter their usual system! The system they use every pissing game!

Captain Goncerz turns to me from his place on the centre spot, narrows his eyes and shrugs. He too has obviously spotted the 4-1-2-3. I give him a thumbs up and mouth "It's fine". This seems to reassure him and he turns back around, ready to kick off. We're so fucked.

7 minutes in, Cermak swings a corner in for the hosts. Gregurina's there at the near post to head the ball away, but only as far as Cermak again. He crosses a second time and this time Grozav gets his head to the ball, directing it into the net.

With a quarter of an hour gone though, Bart plays a great chipped pass over to Scheffel on the right wing. He turns inside and crosses for Goncerz, who volleys it sweetly past the keeper.

After another 10 minutes, a free kick right outside the box is smacked against the bar by Lechia's set piece specialist, Cermak. It's a narrow escape for us.

The first half ends with the scores tied, but to be honest our new system has worked quite well. It's kept Lechia guessing and played some quite nice football. We head back out unchanged.

5 minutes later, Fossy drifts a free kick from the left wing into the box. Olivier rises above his marker and nods the ball over the stranded keeper, who had come to claim the ball. It loops over his head and bobbles slowly over the line, giving Olivier his first GieKSa goal.

Another 5 minutes pass before Wolski chips a cross in from the left, Kadlec lays the ball off and Grozav shoots for the bottom corner, but Nowak gets down to parry it behind. We change to Project: Burnie MK II to try to protect our lead. Amonike replaces Michal Tarnowski to balance the side.

With just over 15 minutes to play, Cermak chips the ball across for Remmer on the right, who volleys it brilliantly into the 6 yard box for Kadlec, who bundles it in to equalise for Lechia.

Each team has a decent chance in the final 10 minutes. First, Amonike drives down the right and shoots into Kuciak's arms, and then Grozav runs through on goal but puts his shot over the bar. All in all, we'll happily take a point from that game, but more pleasingly, I suspect that Lechia will too.

I'm especially happy for Olivier. He doesn't threaten from set pieces too often, so it was great to see him on the scoresheet today. He even earns himself a place in the Team of the Week.

So a win and a draw in 2 matches. I honestly pity the fools that have to try and stop this runaway train now that it's picking up speed. Step on up, Korona.

Korona visit us today as the team that are bottom of the league. That feels good. However, they're only 4 points below us, which, if we take our eye off the ball, could easily turn into 1 point. Then we'd be right back in the thick of it.

We'll line up in a counter attacking 4-2-3-1, with Hurley replacing Gregurina in midfield and Janga replacing Fossy in the hole. It's make or break time.

It takes less than 10 minutes, and I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Amonike runs down the right wing and swings a peach of a cross to the far post. Kevin leaps to meet the ball with his head and heads it straight against the bar. For a second, everything stops. The ball rebounds back into the 6 yard box. Who'll reach it first? Kevin wants it. So does Goncerz. Unforunately it's right back Mateusz Mozdzen who leaps in to ensure he gets to the ball first. Fortunately though, he knocks it straight into his own net.

It really is a horrible half of football. There are no more quality chances, just 22 men kicking 7 bells out of each other. The bookings flow like draft wodka. Silva comes on for Janga at half time to drop back in front of the defence, and we prepare for a scrap.

Just after the hour mark, a long Nowak free kick is aimed towards Amonike, but Tomasevic challenges him for the ball in the same way that a wrecking ball challenges the structural integrity of an old abandoned building. He flies through our winger and earns himself a second booking and an early bath.

With 10 minutes to go, we go all out defend, and I tell the lads to keep the ball in order to kill the game, but it doesn't make the last 10 minutes any less vicious. We make it until the 2nd minute of injury time, but then Hurley collides with Zubrowski. Both players were already on a booking and to be honest I thought it was an old fashioned 50:50, with both players having just as much blame as the other. The referee disagrees though and shows Hurley his second yellow. He heads down the tunnel for a ever so slightly earlier bath than everyone else. In the moment though, I couldn't care less. The final whistle blows. 1-0.

Now this is pod racing, my friends. My lads have finally come through. That's 7 points from our last 3 matches, and if we keep up that kind of form for the final 3 games, we'll be well clear of relegation.
KGHM: Resurgence (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep73)

There are 3 matches left of our season, and most likely of my Lotto Elstraklasa career. 3 measly matches. It seems like nothing, doesn't it. But these 3 games are everything. In our relegation group of 7 teams, Korona are 8th and have become the first team to be relegated, with 14 points and 2 games left.

KGHM Zagłębie have been on something of a resurgence of late after winning the Polish FA Cup, beating Bruk-Bet Termalica in extra time in the final. It's quite an achievement, and they've since beaten Cracovia 2-0, Wisła Kraków 3-2 and Wisła Płock 2-1. We really need to look out for them because their late winning streak has meant that the second relegation place is very much up for grabs. They sit in 7th place on 21 points but have played one more game than us, and we'll play them in our final game.

Wisła Płock on the other hand are without a win in 6 weeks, but we've not beaten them in our previous 2 meetings this season, which worries me. They sit in 6th place, also with 21 points but with 3 games left, and we'll play them today.

You know as much as anyone how we've fared lately. We've had a torrid time followed by a sudden upturn in form, and here's hoping that continues. We sit in 5th place with 22 points.

Wisła Kraków have had a bit of a mixed bag of late, but interestingly they've only won once in the last 3 months. They sit above us in 4th, also on 22 points but with only 2 games left.

Jagiellonia are in 3rd with 22 points but we've already played them, and I'm going to ignore Lechia and Cracovia completely as they're pretty much nailed on for the top 2 places.

But do you see how much these next 3 matches mean? Wisła Płock, Wisła Kraków and KGHM Zagłębie are our direct relegation rivals and if we lose against them all, we're down. We need to get a win as quickly as possible to take some of the pressure off of ourselves, so let's do it today against Płock, shall we?

We've been forced to make a few changes today. I was planning on using Project: Burnie MK II anyway, but Hurley is both suspended (1 match) and injured (8-10 days with a strained wrist), Silva would have started but he's out for 3-6 days with a bruised head, and Olivier has blisters and is only fit enough for a place on the bench.

Savanovic, Gregurina and Hutton will start in their places. Also, Tuovinen has been impressing the coaches lately with his application in training and his matches for the Reserves, so he's in too, taking the place of Amonike.

The match starts slowly as the teams work each other out and it's not until 10 minutes before half time that either side creates a decent chance. It's Płock's Aurélio that gives the ball to José Kanté on the edge of our box. Hutton sticks in a foot but Kanté hurdles it, before turning and thumping the ball into the top corner of the net. It's a fine goal to be fair.

It all goes quiet again, and on the hour mark I decide to try to take control. We go to a controlling 4-2-3-1 with Tarnowski replacing Gregurina. We improve instantly, putting a good passing move together. Savanovic ends up with the ball and passes it to Goncerz, who holds it up before playing in Tarnowski. The substitute shoots low but Kielpin saves well.

We seem to grow in confidence over the next few minutes, but it's a feeling that's abruptly cut short when Bart trips Kanté and receives his second yellow card. We go down to 10 men and I adjust our tactics again, bringing off our 2 wingers Tuovinen and Kevin and replacing them with Olivier and Fossy. We go to a narrow diamond with a single striker and Hutton as the holding man.

With a quarter of an hour to play we go attacking, and very fluid, trying to recapture the hope that we so briefly showed before Bart's red card.

A few minutes later we do show it. We counter after a Płock free kick breaks down, with Fossy passing inside to Tarnowski, who's stationed in our half. He looks up, gets the ball out of his feet and plays a brilliant ball over the defence for Goncerz, who chests the ball down, runs through on goal, and shoots straight into the grateful arms of Kielpin.

The clock keeps ticking on and we approach the end of 90 minutes, still trailing 0-1. It doesn't stay that way for long though, because Kun's near post cross from a corner is nodded on across goal by Reca, and turned into the net from close range by the unmarked Kanté.

I won't lie, that's a really disappointing result and a really disappointing second goal. The marking by Goncerz on Reca was sloppy and the marking by absolutely anyone on Kanté was non-existent. Otherwise, I was pretty pleased with our performance. We went behind to a great strike, forced their keeper into making a couple of brilliant saves and held our own with 10 men. It's at this point of the season especially though that pleasing performances just aren't good enough. Points are the only thing that matter, and Wisła Płock have just separated themselves from the pack with that win.

Next up then is Wisła Kraków, another away match. Garbacik and Bart are both suspended because of their 8 cumulative yellow cards and 1 red respectively, while Olivier, Silva and Hurley are all fit and available to start, so changes are made. Olivier, Abramowicz, Silva, Hurley and Amonike replace Hutton, Garbacik, Bart, Savanovic and Tuovinen. KGHM played these away recently and won. They played 4-1-2-3, so we do too. Admittedly though, they also had the bounce from that FA Cup win. We'll be disciplined, we'll stick to our positions and we'll go direct, with Hurley acting as our main creator in a deep lying playmaker role.

The sight of players like Vidémont and Morrell make me shudder slightly. They were both very good going forwards the last time we played Kraków in that insane 4-4 draw. Indeed only 3 minutes in, Vidémont passes to Morrell just outside our box and he shoots towards the bottom right corner, but Nowak just manages to tip the ball against the post. It rolls back across the line and thankfully Danny Wilson is there first to hoof it away.

Near the end of the half, Maczynski sends a corner in towards our near post. Goncerz heads it away but only as far as Malecki, who takes it down and drills it towards the bottom left corner. Amazingly, Nowak gets down again to tip the ball onto the post. The ball rolls across the line again and this time Olivier clears it before anyone can knock it in.

2 minutes later though, Wisła Kraków get the breakthrough that I think we can all agree they deserve when Morrell lays the ball off for Maczynski and he slides the ball under Nowak.

10 minutes into the second half we've still barely had a sniff, but then Hurley breaks forward on the ball and plays it to Gregurina, who's promptly tripped by Popovic. He's shown his second yellow and we'll play against 10 men for the remaining 35 minutes.

With half an hour to go, Fossy comes on replacing Silva and we change to a 4-2-3-1 with wing backs. Kraków have gone to a narrow diamond so we'll have our wingbacks and wide men double up on their fullbacks, overloading and exploiting the wide areas.

We're still failing to break through over the next 10 minutes or so. The only shots are speculative efforts from Morrell and Mak, both of which go well wide. We go attacking.

With 5 minutes to go, our misery is compounded when Brlek's free kick is met by Czerwinski, who directs his header into the bottom corner of the net.

The first shot that I can remember us actually having comes from Hurley in injury time, but it goes wide. This has been a toothless performance and the best team have definitely won.

Nounkey, the Cameroon boss, was in the stands again today. How much do you need to see of Olivier before you make your mind up, Nounkey? You're like the bloody kiss of death for my defence, you never turn up for a win.

Anyway, here's the situation following that shambles: Jagiellonia, Wisła Kraków and Wisła Płock have all dragged themselves out of the relegation battle. Our final match will be against the only team apart from ourselves that can take the second relegation spot: The resurgent KGHM Zagłębie. We sit a single point above them, so if we win or draw, we'll stay up. If we lose however... Bye bye, Lotto Ekstraklasa.
SuperFran - Part 2 (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 73.5)

When I was a player, albeit a pretty awful one, I had two strings to my bow. I could defend, and I could run. Defend and run. Run and defend. That was my game. We'd win the ball and I'd run into space to provide a sideways or backwards option. We'd lose the ball and I'd run back, closing down, man marking playmakers, tackling or shutting off passing lanes. I'd get the ball, I'd play it straight on. My left foot was pretty decent, although my right was non-existent. Oh, and I couldn't shoot. Not at all. Not even a little bit.

I think my point is that in my playing days, I didn't care about being the star player, or the goalscorer, or the superhero. I was never the name on the back of the fans' shirts. I approached the game in the same way that I'd approach being helpful in any other situation:

Just do as many little things as you can. Make it as easy as possible for everybody else.

You can't go far wrong with that philosophy in any walk of life. Do the boring things. The unglamorous things. The repetitive things. In the end, you can end up being a superhero to someone without scoring a bicycle kick against your rivals. Without guiding your relegation threatened team to a shock title win. Without saving your team from relegation full stop. Sometimes it's not the results of our actions but our actions themselves that make us superheroes. Maybe not to everyone, but to someone.

I've done my best with my time in Poland. I can say that with my hand on my heart. I've made mistakes, but I've tried to learn from them. I've tried different formations, different systems and different players. I've tried being nice, I've tried being harsh, I've tried dropping near enough my entire first team, and for one reason or another, here we are. With a winner-takes-all match that'll result in one of the 2 participating sides getting relegated.

We have the advantage, definitely, as a draw will keep us up, but I am not playing for the draw. I never have done and I never will. Sometimes you can look back on draws as acceptable. Sometimes you accept that a 92nd minute equaliser to level a match at 4-4 is the best that you could have hoped for in the circumstances. But we'll play this match to win it, and during my deceptively short career I've found one system in particular that can save me when I'm in a bind. One philosophy in particular that can secure the win and achieve the impossible.

We won't sit back and wait for the game to come to us. We will be the aggressor. We will be meatloaf. We will be fucking superheroes.
Us Or Them (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep74)

I didn't sleep at all last night. I spent the hours that I should've been resting for the big game going back and forth on my decision to bring back Project: Meatloaf. We tried it once here in Katowice, and it went poorly, but we need to play for the win and the element of surprise could give us that extra edge. I know that this system works, and my squad is more tightly knit than it was earlier in the season. They're bound together by our collective failures and subsequent fight back from the brink. I believe in Project: Meatloaf, and call me daft, but I believe in GieKSa too.

In the build up to the match, I offer a new 1 year contract to our rarely called upon goalkeeper Délcio Azevedo. If I end up staying here another year, I'd like to have a goalkeeper that I know, and Nowak's already decided that he's off to enjoy retirement. The delicious Avocado accepts the offer and then promptly breaks his toe, ruling him out until next season.

Garbacik and Bart both come back into the side after completing their suspensions, along with Janga and Fossy. Abramowicz, Silva, Gregurina and Amonike are the ones to drop out for this crucial match. I keep my team talk short and sweet. The players know what they need to do. They know what I expect. "Go and keep us up" I tell them with a grin, before they troop out of the changing room to line up in the tunnel.

KGHM come out with fire in their bellies. They start quicker than us, and look the more threatening of the sides. 23 minutes in, El-Bouazzati plays a long ball forward to Klimala. Klimala dribbles forward to the edge of our box and shoots, but it's straight at Nowak and he catches the ball, which is greeted by applause from the home fans.

On the half hour, KGHM get a throw in level with our box. Nobody goes short, and the taker Warcholak takes a long run up, ready for a long throw. He launches it into the box, and into the crowd of players at the near post. Nowak comes out to claim it, but he can't. It's Uzelac that reaches the ball and nods it on. It bounces off Nowak's shoulder and he dives back towards his own goal, clawing at thin air. He can't reach it. In agonising slow motion, the ball bobbles across the line and into the net.

I get that feeling again. The one that I've felt just once before. That unique feeling of being hit in the face by some kind of heavy, blunt weapon, but being oblivious to the pain. The numbness has taken my body. I can't even feel myself standing. This can't be how my time with Katowice ends.

We haven't been in the relegation zone since Saturday 4th of August, which is just over 10 months ago. We climbed out when we won in our 2nd league game against... Any guesses? Yeah, of course it was KGHM Zagłębie. We beat them to escape the drop zone after finding ourselves there after our first game, a thrashing against Jagiellonia, and now with an hour left of the season, they've put us back. As it stands, I'm taking GKS Katowice down to the second tier of Polish football.

In first half injury time, we come forward with purpose. Fossy plays a nice through ball into the path of Amonike, but the winger shoots straight at Polacek, the keeper, who catches the ball with ease.

As the players trudge down the tunnel at half time, I turn to Dennis, stood next to me in the dugout. He looks tired and worried. I'm glad I'm not the only one. We go in after the players and walk into the changing room.

I shut the door behind us, and let the silence permeate the room, broken only slightly by faint laughs and excited voices somewhere outside.

"Do you all know who I am?" I ask eventually. I get no response. I turn to Tom Scheffel. "Tom, what do you know about me? About my career?"

"You were unbeaten in Portugal somewhere?" He replies sheepishly.

"Correct, but what about before that?" I ask. Amonike pipes up.

"You were in Sweden." He says. "The news in Angrense said that you beat a top Swedish club with a tiny one." I give him a broad smile.

"Yeah, I remember that." I grin. "The news labelled me as some kind of genius. As a giant killer. I couldn't really afford to correct them at the time." My smile fades. "But that match was a tiny, insignificant speck in my extremely short time with FC Höllviken." I can feel everybody's eyes on me now. I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing. It's a bit of a Hail Mary.

"We were relegated." I continue. "It was between us and the team we were playing in our final match, just like today. We went behind to an early goal, just like today. We just couldn't find a way back after going behind." The silence amongst my players is palpable. Maybe it's pity, or worry, or resignation that my history will repeat itself.

"Once was enough." I say quietly. I actually feel confident. I feel conviction in my words. I feel different than I did in late 2016. My Höllviken team was a bunch of misfits. The best set of vaguely talented footballers I could get at the time. This is Katowice. This is the top tier of Polish football. These are professional footballers.

"One team gets relegated today. It's us or them. WHO'S IT GOING TO BE?"

"THEM", comes the reply.




We go out for the second half a different team. Buoyed, confident and determined. When we kick off, we're faster, tougher, more aggressive. I make a double sub too, with Amonike and Tarnowski replacing Fossy, who picked up a knock in the first half, and Goncerz, who has been ineffective.

With an hour gone, we're the side in control. Project: Meatloaf is in full effect. Tarnowski plays a great ball through for Amonike in the area, similar to Fossy's at the end of the first half. Amonike hits it, but it's always curling just wide of the far post.

5 minutes later we go on the attack and immediately we look even more dangerous. We win a corner on the left, which Amonike swings towards the near post. It's headed away by Zlicic, but only as far away as Janga, who heads it back into the area. Garbacik plays it on for Hurley, who shoots - But Zlicic stands firm and blocks it and the ball bounces away as far as Garbacik again. He can't control it and the loose ball rolls to Bart. As Bart strikes the ball, Stadion GKS Katowice falls silent. As the ball ripples the net in the top right corner, it's anything but.

I allow myself a fist pump and a smile, but then my thoughts are back on tactics. Do we drop back and invite KGHM back into the match, or do we keep going on the front foot, pegging them back? For now, we'll stay as we are. It crosses my mind that this may turn out to be the worst mistake that I've made in my career to date. It's a thought that I could do without.

With 20 minutes to play, Kevin gets the ball on the right wing. He drills the ball across the ground into the area, and Bart gets on the end of it. He goes for his second - But the ball hits the post and it rolls back across the line. Modica is the first on the scene and he hoofs it - Against his own bar, but then clear nonetheless. I decide that now is actually the time to drop back. We can hold them out for 20 minutes, I know we can. We go to an all out defensive 4-1-4-1, with Gregurina replacing Janga.

We last until the second minute of injury time, and there's only time for one more attack. KGHM are on the ball. Their own 4-1-4-1 looks more like a 3-4-3 as they pile men forwards in search of a goal. El-Bouazzati passes to Vlasko 30 yards out and he turns towards goal. He gets the ball out of his feet, takes aim, hits it - Way, way over the bar. The referee checks his watch, and blows his whistle.

We've done it. We've survived. By the skin of our teeth, and carried through in the end by our Bartbeat, we've held on and avoided the drop zone by a solitary point. The weird thing is though, it feels pretty hollow. 2019 so far has been exhausting mentally. I think as soon as the final whistle went, all of the adrenaline that had been keeping me powering through all this time just dissipated. The Sword of Damocles has been hanging over my head, getting lower and lower as we've approached the end of the season. I'm relieved that I've jumped out of the way at the last second, of course I am, but it's left me with mixed feelings.

I just want to get this Summer done with. I want to see where I'll be at the start of next season. Who'll want me? Who's been watching apart from the bloody Cameroon boss? The relegation favourites have stayed up against all odds, my job here is done, and the world's my bloody oyster.
Itchy Feet (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Ep75)

Summer 2019 is a blur. Because of the winter break, the Lotto Ekstraklasa season starts in late July and it doesn't feel like long enough of a break when your last match is in June. Nevertheless, the Summer actually starts off really well. I'm on the shortlist for Manager of the Year, which is a bit of a shock, but flattering.

I don't win it of course, Piotr Jawny of Piast does. He guides his side to 4th place in the league after they were predicted to end up 12th, so he's a good choice to be fair. I vote for rival manager Jacek Paszulewicz of Jagłębie Sosnowiec, as he's overachieved too in 5th.

Then comes the inevitable pitter-patter of itchy feet, and not just from me. First Olivier, who wants to move to Sporting Gijon. In all fairness, they're going up to La Liga and I'm not going to stand in his way of playing in such a great league. He's earned it. After some arguing and low ball bids, I eventually let him go to Alanyaspor for £375k, rising to £620k plus 50% of the next fee. It isn't exactly what I signed up for, as I thought he was going to La Liga, but the Süper Lig is a good one too, with some top clubs. I wish him the best of luck and I'm genuinely saddened to see him go.

The next person to attract interest from elsewhere is actually my assistant, Dennis Lawrence. Relegated Korona offer him the job of manager but I convince him to stay with GieKSa because of our good working relationship. I also tell him that he might have a shot at the Katowice job as I'm looking to leave, so he may as well stay for a while.

Then comes the hammer blow - Our Bartbeat knocks on my office door and tells me that he wants to leave. Cracovia are showing interest and he wants to jump ship. I tell him that Cracovia would have to make a bloody good bid for me to accept, but that he can leave if somebody activates his £375k foreign club release clause. Ironically, if he hadn't scored that goal against KGHM and saved us from relegation, Cracovia would have been able to snap him up for £200k, the value of his relegation release clause. I don't share my thought with Bart. I don't think he'd find it funny.

It's at this point though that I start to become completely disillusioned with the idea of staying in Poland for another year. No Olivier, no Bart, and barely any money to replace my 2 key players. I start looking around again, sending my CV in for the top jobs at Pohang in the K League Classic, USA U23s, and Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Israeli Premier League.

Sebastien Nowak and Jakub Wilk then call time on their careers. I don't think I played Wilk more than twice at most, but fair play to Sebastien. He's had a couple of bad moments this year but on the whole he's been a solid number 1.

I don't offer him a role as goalkeeping coach, because frankly the one we already have, Janusz Jojko, is far better. And as I found out when speaking to a GieKSa fan* once, he's actually a bit famous in Poland too. Janusz made a spectacular blunder in his playing days that some still remind him of today.

But then finally, a bit of good news. Janga and Kwarko both agree to extend their loan deals by a year. They've been decent this year. I've used Janga a fair bit more out of the 2 and his performances have reflected that, but I'm glad that they'll both be staying.

I then make a huge decision. I make the decision that me and Cristiano Magina are done professionally. I mean technically, he decides it for me by rejecting the chance to join us again, this time for a £60k fee. He's had a decent year with Os Heróis (More on them in another episode) but sometimes you need to know when to take the hint, and that's what I'm doing. Good luck, CM9.

When the time comes for friendlies, I'm actually quite excited. Our new shirt sponsors are a Polish... Wodka company named Wodka Wyborowa, and amongst a host of highish profile matches, I help to arrange the first annual Wodka Wyborowa Cup.

4 teams are involved: Us, CSKA Sofia, AA Gent and Ingolstadt, and our season gets off to an absolute flyer when we finish in 4th place, losing 2-4 to Sofia in the Semi-Final and 0-2 to AA Gent in the 3rd place play off. Still, at least we're actually testing ourselves.

I keep my CV circulating outside Europe. I apply at Minnesota United in the MLS, or Min United as I hope they're nicknamed, Santos FC in the South African Premier Soccer League, Plaza Colonia in the Uruguayan First Division, Millionarios in the Colombian First Division, Belgrano in the Argentinian Premier League, Busan in the K League Classic, and most optimistically, the Argentinian, Chilean and Colombian national team jobs.

I get a couple of interviews that go quite well, but meanwhile we keep plugging on with the friendlies, losing to Honvéd 0-1, beating Bohemians 1905 2-1 despite having Danny Wilson in net for most of the match, beating Ahi Nazareth 4-1, and finally losing to Hull 1-3. It's a mixed bag but overall, I'm pretty pleased with where we are and how we've performed against quality teams.

Unfortunately, as Azevedo is injured throughout pre-season, our only goalkeeper is young Kacper Gajdemski, who spent last year in the reserves. He does fine really, but then breaks his collarbone against Bohemians 1905, ruling himself out for 7-9 weeks and forcing me to delve into the transfer market. I sign a third Scotsman for my collection: 25 year old keeper Jack Hamilton from Hearts for near enough £100k. He's pretty good, but there's not much value in the market for us this Summer. He's not worth £100k, but nobody else that we could realistically sign is good enough to play.

Hurley strains his knee ligaments in our final friendly against Hull and will miss the first 2 months of the season, but on the upside, Cracovia are no longer interested in Bart and I offer him a new 3 year deal and he seems content to stay. Danny Wilson is made the new club captain, with former captain Grzegorz Goncerz demoted to his deputy, and we're a generous 1000-1 to win the league.

All I keep thinking about though is how much my heart is not in this job anymore. I want out so badly. I wanted out months ago, and we're now days away from the start of the 2019/20 season. I get back to Radzinski's in a mood after finding out that Kamil Karwot has broken his arm in training and will be out for a couple of months.

I walk through the door to see GieKSik stood behind the bar. I freeze like a rabbit in headlights. I've heard that his vision is based largely on movement. He turns towards me though so I'm fairly sure I've been spotted. "What are you doing here?" I ask, trying to play it cool. GieKSik takes his head off and places it down on the bar, revealing a much smaller, much more familiar head beneath.

"I've just got back", sighs Radzinski. "Went to give a talk on the dangers of excessive drinking at a primary school on the other side of town."

"That seems unnecessary." I reply, perplexed. "And hypocritical." There's a few seconds of awkward silence. "You're GieKSik." I ask, but as more of a statement. Radzinski scrunches up his face.

"Of course I am. You didn't know?" My mind is racing.

"I just thought that all Polish people were awful at using English idioms." I say quietly. Radzinski sighs.

"That's an offensive old sterotype." He looks at me like a parent that's disappointed with their child. I think for a moment.

"I don't think it is..."

"You missed a phone call this morning, a Goolam Allie?" He interrupts. My pulse quickens. Allie is the Chairman of Santos FC, the South African side that I interviewed with.

"What did he say?" I ask, again trying to play it cool.

"He said..." Radzinski ducks below the bar and rummages around for a few seconds before emerging with a tiny sheet of paper, on which a message is scrawled.

"He said... Save us, Franjo."

* Cheers to @GralingradPL on Wordpress for letting me know about Jojko's ridiculous throw way back in episode 52!
Another Year Over (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Meta-sode 75.5)


Well... That last 6 months has been bloody exhausting! The good news though is that I've already started playing through the league with our new club Santos FC, so in terms of gameplay I'm ahead of where I usually am at this point in the season. There is however still the small matter of writing everything down, so I'm going to take 2 weeks without dailies to get everything sorted and that should be plenty of time.

As usual, there'll be 3 or 4 mini-sodes over the next 2 weeks where you'll find out where we'll review the year, have a look around the world and maybe do some kind of wacky pure story mini-sode, and then daily episodes will be back on 25th September!

As always, if you've got any feedback, either negative or positive, feel free to email me at [email protected]

Thanks for sticking with me as we've scrapped and scraped ourselves through a tough year in Poland and genuinely, thanks for reading and for all your feedback. Have a great couple of weeks!


so this seems to be something of a hidden gem of a story: I really like your narrative style make, it's been a hell of a journey so far!
Love this Mate. It has inspired me to do a Journeyman save. Started unemployed. First Job I got after loads of attempts was Wuhan Zall in Chinese 2nd Div. Got them promoted. I then managed Shijiazhuang YongChang in the Super League. Won it in the first season and moved to Club Coronel Bolegnesi in Peru. Spent a couple of seasons with them. Currently at Kaiser Chiefs in SA in 2021. Keep the Good writing up!!
2017-09-08 19:32#246235 InfraRed : so this seems to be something of a hidden gem of a story: I really like your narrative style make, it's been a hell of a journey so far!

Thanks very much mate, that's really kind!
Hope you keep enjoying in South Africa :D
2017-09-11 12:08#246261 Shortie_H4H : Love this Mate. It has inspired me to do a Journeyman save. Started unemployed. First Job I got after loads of attempts was Wuhan Zall in Chinese 2nd Div. Got them promoted. I then managed Shijiazhuang YongChang in the Super League. Won it in the first season and moved to Club Coronel Bolegnesi in Peru. Spent a couple of seasons with them. Currently at Kaiser Chiefs in SA in 2021. Keep the Good writing up!!

Cheers bud! Really rewarding type of save isn't it, this is my first proper journeyman save so sort of working it out as I go along haha.
That's a great start to your journey, I've been eyeing China up for ages, would love to get over there at some point. Peru's not in the default database right? Did you have to add custom leagues or am I being daft?
Keep me updated bud, would love to know where you end up!
Year 3 Review (Franjo: A Journeyman Story - Mini-sode 75.5.5)

I don't think it'll surprise any of you to learn that I'm immensely pleased to be leaving Poland. It's been a real slog of a season, especially since Christmas, but in the end I did my job. I did what I set out to do. Let's have a look back on year 3.

GKS Katowice

Final Position: 14th

Record: W9 D10 L19

Key Player(s): Sebastien Nowak, Jean "Olivier" Sumo Kingue, Bartlomiej "Bart" Kalinkowski, Grzegorz Goncerz

Highlight: Our 4-0 win away at Cracovia in August

Lowlight: Our record breaking runs of losses and games without a win

I realise that I've been incredibly negative about GieKSa, especially in the last few months when things weren't going very well. Don't get me wrong, I'm incredibly happy that I was given the opportunity to move to the Polish top tier as it was a big step up for me. And I've showed the World that I can (Just barely by the skin of my teeth) do a job at this level.

Lech Poznań's Hadi Sacko won the Lotto Ekstraklasa Player of the Year award. I was a bit surprised to see that he'd clinched it as from what I saw there were plenty of players in the league that looked better, but he had a pretty good year by the looks of it, racking up the most assists out of anyone in the league, so fair play to him.

The Katowice Football Post summed up my overall feelings about this season. "They will be delighted to have finished with their heads above water", and yeah. Pretty much. I'm still disappointed though that we lost to Rozwój Katowice in the first round of the FA Cup though. At some point I'd love to have a proper cup run, but I suppose it would've only been a distraction this year.

Our player of the season and young player of the season took me a bit by surprise. The fans voted by quite a distance for Tom Scheffel, but I often found myself disappointed with him. I was tipped off by the coaches upon joining GieKSa that he was one of our best players, but in my opinion he was mainly fine and sometimes awful. Bart came in second, and Mario Gregurina, who could easily be overlooked as he wasn't a nailed on starter for us, came in third. Those two I do agree with. Also, our best eleven for the season was quite predictable, with Nowak in net, Scheffel, Olivier, Wilson and Garbacik across the back, Bart and Hurley in the middle, and Janga, Fossy and Kevin behind Goncerz.

Our goal of the season was a very good choice. Grzegorz Goncerz's effort in our December win over KGHM Zagłębie might be the best goal that any team's scored under my stewardship. It was not only a fantastic strike, but a great team goal.

Olivier on a free was our signing of the season, and for good reason. He attracted a lot of interest and eventually got his move away thanks to stats like these:

He made the joint second most key tackles (13) in the divison, behind Kornel Osyra.

He made the second most key headers (115), just behind Pape Djibril Diaw.

He made the most interceptions in the league (592) by a country mile.

Grzegorz Goncerz, although he received a fair bit of flack from me at times, was a decent enough striker for me. He was the joint fourth top scorer in the league with 13 in 32, and was obviously our top scorer too. Grzegorz also assisted more than any of our players. He only got 5 though, so I think that says more about the rest of the attacking players than it does about him. Finally, nobody won more Player of the Match awards for us than Grzegorz (4).

Overall, Bart had the highest average rating throughout the season, which is no less than you'd expect from the Bartbeat of the side. He had the best pass completion percentage out of everyone in my squad with 88%, and unfortunately but unsurprisingly, he got the most yellows (11) and reds (3) for us too. He also made the second most (4.00) tackles per game, coming in just behind Korona's Vanja Markovic.

In other vaguely impressive statistical news, Hurley covered the seventh most distance per 90 minutes (8.85 miles), and Kevin made the joint seventh most key passes (25) in the league.

And finally, Olivier and Kevin were inducted onto the GKS Katowice Best Eleven sub's bench. Good job lads.

I think the reason that I've not fallen in love with GieKSa in the same way that I did with SC Angrense is that with Angrense, we made a tweak here, a good signing there, and it all just slotted into place. I was spoilt. We had a bloody unbeaten season! With GieKSa, I feel like I tried everything in that second half of the season and nothing worked. Every crushing defeat was another punch in the face. I was powerless. It was incredibly frustrating.

I wish them all the best and I sincerely hope they can stay up again next season and establish themselves as a Lotto Ekstraklasa club, but I had to get out. Incidentally, so did Bart. He left just 5 days after I did, joining Russian Premier Division rookies SKA Khabarovsk for £275k.

Former Clubs

SC Angrense

I'm absolutely delighted to see that SC Angrense have had a very successful season. They were one of the clubs tipped to go back down to the Portuguese Championship, but finished 16 points clear of the drop zone in 9th place. The man that Os Heróis chose to replace me last Summer was Pedro Amora, who I had faced off against 4 times (Winning 3 times and drawing once, I might add) the previous season when he was in charge of Barreirense, and he's done a fine job in the second tier.

Their squad is already pretty unrecognisable, with the frustratingly immovable Cristiano Magina, the heartbreakingly underused Benjamim, and O Capitão Jaime Seidi the only familiar faces on their roster. Lassina Touré was the vice captain until he was released this Summer.

FC Höllviken

Höllviken are difficult to find details on at this point, as they're still in the 5th tier of Swedish football. Captain Wani Mukoko, Vice Captain Mattias Andersell, Lawrence and Stefan Bouvin are all still knocking about though.

So all in all, it's been a year that I'll be happy to leave behind, but one that I'll hopefully learn from. Here's to a better one at Santos FC in Cape Town, South Africa.
Hi Franjo,

this story is amazing keep inspired and keep up the great work, it has made me sign up to this site just so I can follow the topic and say thank you for the entertainment. I now have 4 days off work and I feel a journey man save coming on! loved Nuno shame he is no longer an active character but I'm sure more will come in due course
Cheers mate, that's really kind! You'll have to let me know how yours goes and where you end up :)

And re: Nuno, I'm sure he'll be back...

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