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From Winnipeg, with love. Memoirs of a football manager

Started on 3 August 2020 by bigmattb
Latest Reply on 12 June 2021 by Karter Mitchell
Pretty gutting to lose in a cup final but lessons will be learnt from it. I'm not surprised there was reported interest from Lincoln given the season you had. It speaks volumes about both the progression of the club and the management.
Love the way you dealt with Duarte, no man is bigger than the club and despite the loss in the final, the results following his dropping showed. A great season, I wonder what will come next.
2020-08-10 11:27#276995 ScottT : Pretty gutting to lose in a cup final but lessons will be learnt from it. I'm not surprised there was reported interest from Lincoln given the season you had. It speaks volumes about both the progression of the club and the management.

The aim is always progress.
2020-08-10 21:51#277012 TheLFCFan : Love the way you dealt with Duarte, no man is bigger than the club and despite the loss in the final, the results following his dropping showed. A great season, I wonder what will come next.

Yeah Duarte was always one to rub people up the wrong way, good riddance, although he may be back in the frame before long.....
I'm on board! Good story so far!

Also, Chris? Winnipeg? Le Champion?

Bit of a wrestling fan?
2020-08-11 18:24#277044 MidKnightDreary : I'm on board! Good story so far!

Also, Chris? Winnipeg? Le Champion?

Bit of a wrestling fan?

YES!!!! Someone's got the reference finally!!!!

Thanks for being on board man!
Chapter 7 – New signings

This coming season was all about at the very least replicating our showing from my first season in Gibraltar. New singings were a must as 8 players all left after not renewing their contract. My main players, as in the guys I built the team around this season thankfully signed on for another season. Garica, 21 goals in all competitions, Verdejo who had found a new lease of life up front, Steven and Carlos our 2 starting central midfielders and Veras the center half and first name on the team sheet. Goalkeeper Felix had left so we needed a new keeper.

As the whole scouting and signing player’s thing was new to me, I had a meeting the clubs director of football Angel Jose, an ex footballer turned scout turned director of football. He suggested a few players who were interested, so we arranged trials for them and I was impressed. From the trials I managed to sign attacking midfielder Raul Segura who was a Lynx FC player last season. We also managed to sign full back Miguel Tirado who can play at the left or right back position, and signed goalkeeper Jamie Robba who was last season back up keeper at Torquay United in England, as well as having 7 caps for Gibraltar to his name, he brought some good experience with him.

It wasn’t long before the team was taking shape, when the availability of a player was brought to my attention. Attacking midfielder Liam Walker, capped 25 times by Gibraltar, had left College Europa at the seasons end. This was quite a big thing really, as he was one of the so called better players in the Gibraltar national side, and had played 2 seasons at Lincoln, winning the league twice of course, when before then he’d played in Israel, as well as making 30 league appearances for Portsmouth in England after starting his career in Spain. All in all he’d made over 250 league appearances, and at 29 still had a lot to offer, especially in the Gibraltar Premier League. His tally of 5 goals and 11 assists were decent enough numbers in the side that pipped us to the Rock Cup last season, and I thought instead of letting the director of football know what I was going to , I just did it. I spoke to my assistant Javier Casquero and asked him his opinion on approaching Liam, and he was all for it. He said he knew Liam’s agent, a man name Roque Marquez who had a number of players on his books, most being based in Spain. I found his number on a document held in the clubs books and gave him a call.

When his office answered I explained who I was, what club I was calling from and left a message. Not long later, maybe 10 minutes, he rang me back. After the pleasantries were over, he said Liam was actually interested in speaking with me and the club and they were going to be contacting us in the future, so it was a nice surprise I called them. I didn’t believe it to be true, but I thanked them for the interest and we agreed to meet for a face to face to discuss him signing for us.

We met in a small café right on the Gibraltar / Spain border, it was a nice quaint little café and the meeting went well. His agent asked what our plans for the season were, I confirmed we’re looking to match the second place finish in the league as well as hopefully, with a bit of luck, winning the Rock Cup this year. They asked about his minutes and what position I saw him best in, I confirmed in no uncertain terms he would be in our starting 11, probably playing behind the striker, as Verdejo, as much as he’d impressed late on last season probably wasn’t going to be up to 27 league games, plus the cup games at 36, and that I was toying with the idea of playing 1 up top with an attacking midfielder behind him, all being that midfielder being Liam Walker. The agent confirmed they’d discuss it between them and get back to us. On my way out I told Javier I thought the meeting went well and that they seemed keen, Javier was more concerned about us approaching a player without telling the club or director of football, but I wasn’t concerned. If we pulled this signing off, no one will care as he is a quality player, if not, well then I’d address that at the time.

I was confident that with the players we’d already signed, as well as a couple of youth prospects coming through we’d have at the very least a season like the one that had just finished. It was a couple of days after speaking to Liam’s agent and they’d not got in touch. I did ask the director of football how long these things take, when he replied that Liam had signed the deal and was on his way to us that afternoon! I couldn’t believe it at first and asked him why I wasn’t informed. The agent was just following the protocols he’d been used to by contacting the club and not the manager, but I wasn’t concerned. We’d signed a great player and one I genuinely thought could turn our fortunes around, not that we’d had a bad time of it, we just needed that spark I thought to get us over the line, and maybe get our hands on that Rock Cup.

From then the usual pre season stuff came out from the media and as for the 13th straight year Lincoln Red Imps were overwhelming favourites to win the league, despite a new boss in charge. As well as that, despite our cup run and subsequent second place finish last year, the press had us finishing fourth, 2 places above the sixth place finish from last seasons predictions. I thought it was a bit insulting really, but I didn’t let it bother me, it was probably due to Duarte spitting his dummy out and leaving that we weren’t predicted higher, but with Garica playing well all season last year, with Walker coming in, Verdejo looking like the best impact player we could’ve asked for, a solid back line and an experienced goalkeeper, I felt this season was going to be a good one.

Before our first game against Mons Calpe, I told the team exactly what our starting 11 would be, assuming no injuries, suspensions or loss of form. The team I set up with was going to be 4-4-1-1.

GK Robba
RB Moto
CB Heras
CB Remorino
LB Tirado
RM Yepes
CM Lopez
CM Segura
LM Catinzano
AMC Walker
ST Garcia

This was the strongest starting 11 I felt we could field. Verdejo was happy to be an impact player and genuinely was a model professional for me. We had 2 young lads, forward Ghio and winger Warner, both Gibraltan who came though the youth ranks, and they were on the bench. At the time I lied to them and told them I wanted to integrate them into the team, but really they were there as we needed a minimum of 6 home grown players in the match day squad, and I only had 4.

However, as time went on, they would certainly get their chance to impress.
Chapter 8 – Second season syndrome?

It didn’t take long for my initial thoughts of a good campaign, and Liam Walker being integral to them to play out. 15 minutes into our season opener against Mons Calpe (who thumped us 8-0 last season) and Liam was on the score sheet. A bit of build up play resulted in him getting the ball, inside left channel and curling an incredible shot around the keeper into the far corner. We doubled our lead when Walker and lone striker Garcia linked up well, last season Garcia was the small man in our big man little man combo, but this time he received the ball 40 or so yards out, passed to walker and moved around the defender, as he did walker dinked the ball over the top, Garcia took a touch to steady himself, then buried the ball under the keeper. 2-0 and we’re cruising. The icing on the cake was when our new man hit an absolute worldie to make it 3-0 and game over. Edge of the box, he’s unmarked, Garcia this time turns provider and is doubled teamed but manages to squeeze the ball to Walker, he doesn’t even look up and hits it with his laces, keepers in no mans land and the ball nearly took the net with it! If there was ever a debut to show your new team mates what you’re all about, this was it!

If you remember from previous chapter, I mentioned about changing up my team talks, well on this day, I decided just to tell the lads how well they’d done, and that naming my intended starting 11 was justified with that win. Before leaving I said if we carry on like that, we’ll have a good season.

We then went on a good run to kick off my second season in Gibraltar. We gained a draw against Manchester 62, before getting wins over Galcis (3-0), Gibraltar United (5-1), drew with Lynx (0-0) and beat Gibraltar Phoenix 4-0, before the first of 3 league games against Lincoln Red Imps.

Before the game I was approached by the new manager Albert Parody who told me, in the most arrogant way possible, that he was always Lincolns first choice as manager once Julio Ribas had decided he was going back to Uruguay. I laughed it off and told him confidence is sky high at Saint Josephs, and if he hadn’t noticed we’re the leading scorers in the league with 15 goals in 6 games. He just gave me a smile with his shit eating grin and walked off.

I was nervous about this game, yes we beat them last time in the league last season, but they were still the big boys and were again unbeaten coming into this game. But a funny thing happened again. We were both unbeaten before the game, we were 4-2-0 and they were 5-1-0 with a slightly better record. They were top, we were second. But after the game, the record read 5-2-0 and 5-1-1. Once again we’d stopped Lincoln Red Imps unbeaten record. For the moment at least we were sitting top of the Primera division, and it was a good feeling.

Following beating the champs were wins against Gibraltar Lions (4-2) and College Europe (3-2) which gave me my third manager of the month award in 14 months as a manager. Things were looking good and we were top of the league, closely followed by Lincoln and Europa Point. But that old saying all good things must come to an end kicked in, as Mons Calpe beat us 2-1 in a game where we were second best all over the pitch. Drastic measures weren’t needed as we were all annoyed by this result, and we bounced straight back with a win over Manchester (2-0) that saw us sitting second in the league, 11 games played and on 26 points.
College Europa were sat top of the league, Lincoln had actually lost the 3 games following the defeat to us and were in 4th place at this time.

As January was nearly here, it meant that the upcoming transfer window was opening, and it wasn’t long before I was approached by someone as a potential signing.
A fantastic start to the season epitomised with the victory against Lincoln despite the Imps performing below their usual standards. Walker was a real marquee signing and has lived up to expectations and beyond.
The man of a 1004 tactics! Happy to be on board with ya!
2020-08-12 12:12#277077 ScottT : A fantastic start to the season epitomised with the victory against Lincoln despite the Imps performing below their usual standards. Walker was a real marquee signing and has lived up to expectations and beyond.

Yeah he's been a real gem of a signing for Chris so far.
2020-08-12 18:25#277092 MidKnightDreary : The man of a 1004 tactics! Happy to be on board with ya!

Hahah, imagine having 1,004 tactics! There might be some people that make the list in this career as well....
Chapter 9 – A familiar face

Before the draw for the Rock Cup was made, I received a phone call, it was a number I had saved so I knew who it was, but I was surprised by who was ringing.

I answered, and a familiar voice spoke to me. He seemed sincere enough in his tone, and was asking for 2 things. The first was the opportunity to train with us, I asked why, he said he’d not been able to secure a contract at another club so was out of shape, and the second thing he asked for was the opportunity to prove himself, and hopefully win a new contract with us. The voice was none other than John-Paul Duarte. The same John-Paul who assured me that the reason he wasn’t singing a new deal with us last season was because Lincoln, the same Lincoln that we’ve beat twice now, were close to signing him on a deal that we surely couldn’t match. I had a million responses in my head that I wanted to say, ranging from fuck you, to oh you’ve come crawling back, but I held my tongue and I told him the truth at first.

I told him we simply didn’t need him. Liam Walker had come in and been our star man so far, Garcia was banging goals in left right and center, and our midfield was playing well there was no way I could drop any of them, or change things up to accommodate another striker. He then went off on one, claiming I’m riding the coat tails of my father and that I’m nothing of a manager and my luck would soon run out. I responded by telling him, defiantly, that nobody promised me anything, and we’re where we are on merit, nothing else. He then just hung up the phone.

Moving away from the absurd, we were drawn in the Rock Cup second round against Europa Point who were relegated last season, but were top of the Second Division. We took bottom of the league  Glacis lightly though as our first game in the New Year ended with a 2-1 loss to them, the only bright spot being a goal from Verdejo, but we were 2 down and it was the last minute of the game. After the game he approached me and explained that he’s decided to call it a day and retire at the end of the season. I wasn’t expecting it, but only he knows if it’s the right decision, and he assured me he’d be giving 100% from now until then, and he certainly proved that as the months went on.

Leading up to the cup game we beat Gibraltar United (3-0) and played a 3 all draw with Lynx FC. I made it clear to the team that we’re not taking either Europa Point, or this cup lightly. We did run out 2-0 winners, Verdejo proving his point by grabbing both goals. We were drawn against Lincoln in the quarter final. Usually, drawing Lincoln would be somewhat of a worry, but they’ve been poor this season, not to mention the 2 wins we’ve taken from them already. I was confident heading into that game.

Until then though, I kept this to myself, but it was around this time (end of January) that I genuinely believed we could win the league. We went on another great run, taking points from Gibraltar United, Gibraltar Lions, and leaders at the time Europa College and then Mons Calpe. Then we had the semi against Lincoln Red Imps. Historically Gibraltar’s biggest team. Currently 4th in the league, disappointing for them, and we came in to the game both in good form (5-1-1) as well as beating Lincoln in the last 2 games we’ve played.

The game itself was what you’d call a good cup game. Both of us wanted, nay needed the win. We took the lead through another Verdejo goal, a lovely ball over the top by Walker and Verdejo hit it first time. They equalised on 78 minutes and all the while looked like going to penalties. I remember screaming at Liam Walker to do something, anything to get this win, and in the final minute, he got the ball just past center circle, went on a mazy run, wrong footing 2 defenders and slipping the ball into Garcia’s path who buried it! 2-1 and we’re into the semi final!

That win was bitter sweet in many ways. Sweet because we’d got the win, and we’re 1 step closer to the cup final, but bitter because that game was Albert Parody’s final game as Lincoln boss, as they sacked him on his way out of the stadium. Football can be a ruthless business sometimes. As I made my own way out some time after everyone else, I’m hounded by a couple of reporters who are saying I’m once again linked to the job. This happened at the start of the season, I’m linked to the job, apparently they’re put off by my release clause, but this time I just told the reporters that I’m happy we got the win, I’m disappointed for Albert, but he’s not get the results this season, and that I’m happy at Saint Josephs. And just like the first time they apparently wanted me, nothing came of the interest. Their loss really.

We were drawn against Gibraltar Lions in the cup semi final, a team we’ve not lost to in the last 3 meetings between us, and we rounded out March with a 1 all draw with Manchester 62.

With only 2 months left in the season, I was offered, and accepted a new 1 year deal to stay with Saint Josephs. It was a no brainer really. Privately I thought we’ve got 1 hell of a chance to win the league, we’d just have to catch College Europa first, and we’re well on course to get to the cup final again.
Chapter 10 – The end is near

We had 5 games left to go in the league by April, and the cup semi was also coming up. Good form was a must, and the boys didn’t disappoint. A 3-0 win over Gibraltar Phoenix preceded a 6-0 win over Lynx FC that didn’t flatter either of us as we were fantastic, Gibraltar Lions felt the follow up as they were battered 5-1 by us, the Walker/ Garcia combo working wonders as usual then we played the same team in the semi of the cup.

That 5-1 drubbing had me confident we would win in the cup against Lions, but it must’ve lit a fire under them because they came out swinging in this game. They held no punches and for the first time since going down to Glacis at the start of the year, we were put under some serious pressure. I’m not kidding, they were by far the better team. I thought complacency had started to creep in, but at half time there was a heated exchange between Frank Heras, my center half, Liam Walker and full back Moto. Harsh words were exchanged, threats made but the bottom line was the team, all 11 of the players on the field were in unison, we’d been poor. Frank made a costly mistake early in the first where he mis-controlled a routine sideways pass and in his attempt to recover tried passing back to Robba in goal, but he was off balance and the ball trickled away, with Daniel Pinot, one of their front 3 on the day, picked it up, pelted toward goal and tucked it under Robba’s feet. From the restart myself and Javier Casquero were screaming at the players, and really one of us should’ve taken charge there, and as it transpired during the same heated conversation in the dressing room myself and Javier had our first real bust up. He blamed me for not organsing the defence, I told him come on, it was a simple mistake by Frank, I was sticking up for him as best I could. He’d been there for me since I came here and was my most trusted player on the field, and I told Javier he should’ve left me to relay instructions. Of course we were in agreement our bickering on the side-line had confused the team, and low and behold we were 2-0 down before half time.

During the break, once we’d all calmed down, we decided to match them like for like formation wise. Verdejo was to go up top with Garcia, and Walker was to start in the forward position but drift in and out between striker and attacking midfield. These 3 were going to be key for us if we were to get something from this game. The 3 in the middle were to be Sequera, who I told to try and dictate play, Carlos and Yepes were to be the runners trying to get the ball back. Under no circumstances were the back 4 to stray forward, we had to be structured at the back. On the way out for the second, I pulled Frank aside and told him he was unlucky for the mistake he made, he just smiled and went out on the pitch.

The second half was the Frank Heras show, really it was. Straight away they were obviously going the route one way, and time and time again we lost possession and they hoofed it forward to their strikers, but time and time again there was Heras to head the ball away, punt it out of play or head it down towards Nixon his center half partner. Nothing got passed him in the first 10 minutes of the second half. From one of those long balls, Heras nodded down to Nixon who in turn passed it back to him, Frank looked up, spotted Verdejo making a run to left and played a long ball of his own over the top, Verdejo controlled it, faked going inside and went straight for the byline. The defender had no chance, and Verdejo whipped in a low cross which the keeper got a touch to, but it fell straight to Garcia who smashed it home, 1-2 and game on!

We kept plugging away, bombing forward but when we got caught and they attacked, there was Frank to clean up each and every time. By the time the fourth official put up the board to indicate 3 minutes of extra time, it looked like we were going to luck out. We’d not had any corners in this game but managed to get one right before full time. Walker whipped in an in swinging corner but it got cleared. Moto, edge of the box opens his body up to shoot, but instead he catches everyone off guard and plays it back out to Walker who’s still on the right wing. As every one of our players was offside they stepped back, as they did Walker swung the ball to the far post and there was Frank who was still forward from the corner, rushing in, eyes on nothing but the ball and plants a picture perfect diving header into the net to take us to extra time! It was nothing short of magical, and for the first time this season I really jumped out of my seat in celebration.

Extra time literally came and went in this game, both teams were out on their feet, neither of us committed men forward, and penalties seemed likely. When the ref blew the whistle, I named the 5 men who would be taking penalties, Verdejo, Walker, Yepes, Garcia and Moto. I told them it was up to them what order they took the penalties, but it was them 5 no one else. Robba in goal stood with us and told us which order they were taking the kicks. He seemed confident.

Both teams missed their first pens, Walker hit the post and Franci for them skied it.

Yepes stepped up and buried his, Perez for the hit right down the middle but Robba’s leg was there to stop it going in.

Garcia, buried his, Verdejo’s effort was save, and Sayers wrong footed Robba for them.

Last 2 now, and up stepped Moto who smashed his into the net, 3-2 on pens and they had to score.

Munoz for them stepped up, did a stupid little Pogba-esque slow run up, tried to do that little stumble trick but Robba was on to him, he hit the ball to his right and Robba’s left, and Robba guessed right and not only saved the shot but held on to it as well, it was a weak effort really, and we’re into the final of the Rock Cup again!

Our reward for that semi win is a final against bottom of the league and relegation threatened Glacis United who beat us the last time we played. We have to be confident, but wary of them.

Our penultimate game of my second season was our final meeting of the season with Lincoln Red Imps, and what has become custom in our meetings, we beat them 2-1, and at the same time Glacis beat league leaders College Europa 2-0, and this was significant for us.

Going into the final game the league looked like this:

1 – College Europa 57 points

2 – Saint Josephs 55 points

Meaning if we win our final game, coincidentally against College Europa, we’d win the league. If we failed to win, they would win the league. It was all to play for.
Brilliant that Durate came running back and even better you told him where to go. You are really showing him he isn't needed and with three more good performances, it's a league and cup double. Come on!

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