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Drago Barišić - Taking over the World

Started on 28 November 2021 by J_ames
Latest Reply on 27 January 2022 by NTBgaming
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Compared to the other poor souls you've hired, this Peschetola kid seems to be quite the addition. And for the level you're playing, Mr. Le'ai seems to be a great signing as well, a nice all-rounder

We were scheduled to play 10 pre-season friendlies, which is quite an astonishing number when you consider that the regular league season is only 14-games in itself. It was a way for us to get the squad beginning to gel, the lads forming some squad harmony, and some fitness also: all the things we wanted out of pre-season. There was going to be semi-regular rotation taking place, to try and manage the workloads of certain lads, and [for the most part] I'm pleased with what I saw from most of the lads.

With that being said: there were a few lads that haven’t quite met my expectations. There were a few dominant wins for us, but it’s the losses that had me thinking “what's going on here!?” at the full-time whistle. Some harsh words were said to the lads, and I reminded them of that was expected of them in the future.

The most satisfying performance of the pre-season came when we playing the Wellington Phoenix, with is being a sold-out game at home for us. To be fair: they didn’t put out a strong squad. With that being said, we seemed to have been clicking quite well, and our fans were happy to try to wind up the Phoenix fans with some of their comments.

I'm pleased to announce that I've passed another coaching licence course, which once again: it was very easy. I'm sure that the next few will be much more difficult, but I'm going to have to wait to apply to the club to attain my “National A Licence” for a while, due to the financial situation of the club looking a bit bleak. Whilst we’re not in a position where we need to be concerned, I do believe it’s imperative that the club does a bit more to find a few more sponsorships, so that the financial burden is reduced on our owners.

I feel there's been noticeable progression in my coaching since I arrived in New Zealand, and to be honest: that’s not a surprise. Moving here has been a wonderful decision, and I'm lucky to be at a club that has allowed me to take the time to grow.

@Tango: Lorenzo looks like he has the potential to become a hell of a footballer, and I've a feeling that his time at Team Wellington will be quite brief. There's no way that a lad as good as him stays in a league of this quality too long, so it's simply a case of giving him the game time to develop, so that we can get as big a fee as possible for him. I think this is the 3rd or 4th consecutive year [FM19, FM20, FM21, FM22] where I've had a save that Raphael Le'ai has played a part.

It seems like your results are all over the place. Formidable wins among shameful defeats with a pinch of meaningless ties... Like a pre-season should be.

We've hit the ground running this season, and I've been pleased with what I've seen from the lads. With them now in a full-time professional environment, we’re [obviously] being able to work more with them more now, and it’s seen us take things from the training ground and be able to execute them on matchdays. We've worked quite a lot on attacking and defending set-pieces, so it’s been pleasing to see us score a lot from them, whilst conceding very few from them too. At times, we’re playing with a lot of swagger and belief, and our performances have seen the fans return to the stands in their droves.

There's such a positive vibe around the club at the moment, and it’s been pleasing to hear my name mentioned as the catalyst behind the club turning its fortunes around. I'm realistic enough to recognize that it’s been a collective effort from everyone involved at the club, but it’s nice to feel that appreciation from the supporters. I know that a lot of them weren’t pleased when I was hired by the club, so it’s now a case of them realizing that the club made the right decision in bringing me to New Zealand.

Below are the results from the first-half of the season:

The results above have the table looking like this:

I'm quite shocked by the struggles of Auckland City and Hamilton Wanderers, but at the same time: I'm not losing any sleep over it. They're both spending more money than us on their respective teams, so it shows that we've identified better players at a better price than they have. With that being said, they both have players that I’d love to bring to the club, but whether or not I can make that happen: that remains to be seen.
I decided to ask the club if I could take the next step in the licence process for me, and I'm pleased they’ve allowed me to enrol in a “National A Licence” course. If it’s anything like the last two courses that I've attended, it’ll be incredibly easy, and I’ll then go for the next licence on offer.

Whether or not the club will allow me to do it: I'm not sure. The more licences I acquire, the more likely that I'm able to get a job elsewhere, so I think I could [eventually] hit a bit of a brick wall in terms of being allowed to attend courses. With that being said: I’ll just keep trying to grow as a manager regardless.

The mid-season transfer window has now opened, and unfortunately for us: plenty of our players are drawing interest. With the current financial state that the club is in, we’re going to have to consider all offers so that we can get on more solid footing, but I’ll admit that I'm concerned that we may fall to pieces if we lose too many pieces to the puzzle. I’d prefer to only lose the back-up players, but I've accepted that there's a chance that we’ll lose key players: it’s the price you pay for being successful.

Regardless, we’ll just keep plugging away, and do the best with the players we have available.

@Tango: Tbf, the assistant is always in charge of the pre-season friendlies, but that doesn't absolve Drago from any of the blame either. With that being said, I do think it's time to [possibly] look for a better assistant manager.

Seems like the squad reshuffle in the off-season has worked wonders as you race up to the top! A well deserved coaching course too.
Let's hope you can hold on to your key players, otherwise you'll fall victim to your own success. Do you think you can build an even better squad from the eventual sales?

As I alluded to previously, a lot of our players were gathering interest, and despite not wanting to lose them: we were somewhat forced to in order to get our clubs finances back in better health. I'm not going to pretend that it wasn’t a bit of a blow to lose some of them, because it was, but at the same time: we let a few lads leave for good fees that I was more than happy to see depart.

The likes of Seth Clark, Thomas Drillien, Liam Higgins, Nikola Bugarčić, and Luka Prelevic were always going to be backup options for us from this season onwards, so it made complete sense to allow them to depart to clubs that were going to guarantee them a lot more playing time than we could. We secured what I felt were reasonable fees, as well as some clauses that could see the club earn a bit more in the future if they do well and secure another move, but I was comfortable with them departing the club. Clayton McPeake is a young academy player that wasn’t going to make the grade, so when Canterbury United came in for him: we allowed them to discuss terms immediately.

I'm not comfortable in the slightest regarding the key departures of Henry Cameron, Matthew Ridenton, and Raphael Le’ai. The only saving grace is that they’ve all headed abroad, and that we got what I believe to be good fees for all three. We could possibly have gotten more for Henry, but it was a good move for him, and we didn’t want him to lose the opportunity to return to English football. In the cases of Matthew and Raphael, our hands were tied: the players were going to kick up a fuss if we’d rejected the offers. In both cases, we rejected the initial offer and waited for the club to come back with an improved offer. In both cases: the player wasn’t happy the initial offer was rejected!

Below is a graphic of all our departing players:

Understandably, the playing group and the fans are quite concerned by the departures. What I wasn’t prepared for was one final departure: Lorenzo Peschetola. Whilst I’d said when he signed that I wouldn’t be surprised if an A-League club came in for him, I hadn’t expected it to happen so soon, with the Wellington Phoenix parting with €375,000 to get him to the club. It’s a huge fee, and once again: our hands were tied. There's only so many times you can reject an offer before you have to finally accept it, and get it over with.

Lorenzo has developed magnificently since arriving here at the club, and he had 10 goal contributions [3g, 7a] in his 13 appearances in all competitions for the club. Replacing him is going to be incredibly difficult, but we’re going to have to try, and as long as we realize that we’re not going to be able to get someone that’s a ‘clone’ of sorts: we’ll be fine.

With the amount of departures that we've had, there's plenty of room in our wage budget, whilst I'm going to try to not spend any money on transfer fees if possible. I do believe that there's capable replacements out there that won’t cost a fortune to bring to the club, but my main concern is whether they can come in and hit the ground running. The last thing we need is a rough patch of form, because the 7-point gap we’ve built ourselves can easily evaporate with a few poor results.

This is my first big test as the Team Wellington manager: I can’t afford to fail it.

@Jack: It's always nice to see a plan look like it'll work out! There was always the risk that it'd take a little while for the players to gel, so I'm glad to see that they're all on the same page already. Getting another licence will [hopefully] lead to a better job offer in the future, but as things stand: we have to win with Team Wellington first.

@Tango: It's the downfall of coaching at this level unfortunately. The moment a player begins to do well, the AI pops up and says 'yep, we'll have him!' and there's not much that can be done about it. Whilst it's great that we've been able to get our finances back under control, I'd have much preferred to have kept the lads here, and focus on winning the league.


As you’ve already seen, we lost a lot of players during the transfer window, and now it was time for me to go out and find the players that could take their place in the squad. It wasn’t going to be easy, and I talked with a lot of people in regard to potential signings, though I did my best to avoid talking with agents. In some cases: it just wasn’t possible. At the end of the day, I feel that we replaced the departing players quite well, and in some instances: improved in that position considerably. Our results in the second-half of the season will tell the true story, but as things stand: I'm happy with the moves we were able to make.

Below are the signings that we made during the mid-season window.

With his fellow countryman departing for Sweden, we returned to the Solomon Islands and Henderson Eels to make the signing of Leon Kofana. They'd accepted our offer of €2,500 and a friendly, and to be honest: I think that’s a steal. Leon is a talented young man, and at just 20-years old: the sky is the limit for him. He's already a full international for his country, whom he also represents at futsal, and I think that he’ll offer us a lot in the heart of our defensive unit.

Leon has accepted an offer of €1,000/month before bonuses for 3-years, with him citing the way we helped Raphael get to Europe as the main reason for him being so keen to sign here. I'm all for it, and I hope to see him develop at the same rate. If he does: the club will net another solid transfer fee if he departs.

Returning for a third spell at the club is Louis Fenton, who arrives after being released by the Wellington Phoenix. Louis is capable of playing as a right-midfielder, and despite being a bit injury prone over the years: I'm confident that the worst is behind him. I want him bombing up and down the right-hand side, and I think he's quite excited by the fact that he’ll have a bit more freedom to attack. On top of that: we beat out Auckland City for his signature!

Louis has signed a 2-year deal worth just €1,500/month before bonuses, and I think it’s a deal that suits all parties. I think he still harbours ambitions to get back to the A-League if possible, but at 29-years old: time is [definitely] running out for him. Regardless, we’re happy to have him here, and his experience will prove quite valuable in my opinion.

Another player re-signing for the club is Cameron Howieson, who returns to Wellington after a little over 5 seasons with Auckland City. He’d elected to leave them at the conclusion of last season, as he wanted to head abroad, only for him to garner no offers and be left clubless. We’d been in talks with him for quite a while, but things had never moved forward, but when Matthew Ridenton departed for Uzbekistan: we pulled the trigger, and got Cameron to the club.

Cameron and his agent did their best to get themselves a big offer, but I wasn’t budging on the €1,500/month before bonuses offer that I’d initially made. He eventually agreed to it, somewhat reluctantly, and although he's signed for 2-years: I've no doubt he’ll be knocking on the door asking for a pay-rise in the near future.

We stunned a lot of people when we announced the signing of Nigel Hasselbaink, with many people believing that the Suriname international is at a level above what New Zealand can offer. And you know what: they're not wrong! Nigel is a fantastic capture for the club, and he arrives here from a 4-year spell in Israel, where he played for the likes of Ironi Kiryat Shmona, Hapoel Be'er Sheva, and Bnei Sakhnin. He's got a lot of experience in strong leagues, and I can’t wait to see the impact that he has for us.

At 32-years old: Nigel’s career is nearly at its final stages. There's been a lot of stories online about his salary demands in the past, but it only took an offer of €1,500/month before bonuses to get him to the club. He accepted the offer, which we’ll renegotiate at the end of the season, though he's been upfront about his intention: he's trying to play his way into securing a move to the A-League. If it helps bring us success: I'm all for it.

The signing of Michael Olaha was actually the first move we’d made, and any ‘eagle-eyed reader’ would’ve noticed that he scored on his debut against the Wellington Phoenix reserves in our final game before we hit the mid-season point. Michael is a wonderful signing, he's extremely ambitious, and he arrives after playing a second spell in Vietnam. He’d moved to Israel from Vietnam, but things hadn’t worked out and he’d returned to the South-East Asian nation, before deciding a move to New Zealand was the next step in his career.

Michael believes he's capable of playing in the A-League, and he's hopeful that if he can score enough goals for us: he’ll get noticed. He took a sizeable pay-cut by signing our €2,500/month before bonuses offer, which impressed me, as it says he's banking on himself to find another move within the 2-years he's signed here for. Honestly: I think he’ll earn himself a move, as he's an absolute nuisance in the penalty area!

Overall: the fans are happy with our signings. For that reason, they're willing to give me some leeway in regard to our departures, but if the newcomers don’t hit the ground running: I'm sure they’ll be on my back in no time! I've got faith in our signings though, and I'm pleased that we've brought them all in on less money than the players that they’re replacing, which again: it helps the clubs finances. I feel like I'm making such a conscientious effort to make sure that they're in good shape, but I can’t help but be somewhat frustrated that the club doesn’t appear to at least be trying to bring in more sponsorship money.

It’s something that the club will need to sort in the not too distant future, as continuity is what the club will need in order to truly build a period of domination.

Whether I'm here long-term or not: that remains to be seen.

You have nailed the badges in no time! Seems like an awesome place to manage, you certainly wouldn't get tired of those views that's for sure. Hope the rest of the season carries on the same way as the first half did, the replacement players certainly look good enough to do it!
Some really handy transfer fees brought in here with arguably some better replacements, too. Just hoping Nigel Hasselbaink can somewhat replicate the talent of his uncle for you :P

I’d received a message regarding the OFC Champions League, and my reaction had been quite straightforward: huh? I just can’t see how our league position has gotten us continental football, and the fact that we didn’t win the playoffs either: it’s just made it even more confusing for me. On top of that: neither Auckland City nor Eastern Suburbs qualified for the competition, even though that would’ve made more sense!

With that being said: I'm not complaining. I'm pleased, and honoured, to be coaching in the OFC Champions League, and I hope to be able to win the competition, just like they did in 2018 under José Figueira: the current Auckland City manager!

Below is our group:

I'm not going to pretend that I know much about our Tahitian opponents, because simply put: I don’t. I've assigned my scouting staff to try and find out as much as they can about them, but so far I haven’t received much information back, which is a bit concerning to be honest. With that being said, I'm reasonably confident that the standard of football in Tahiti is considerably lower than it is in New Zealand, but at the same time: we can’t afford to be complacent. We want to win every group game, and we’re going to have to perform well to beat AS Vénus.

Apparently their best player is Tahitian right-winger Teaonui Tehua, who boasts an insane record of scoring 118 goals in 111 appearances for the club. We’re going to have to keep an eye on him, or he could cause us a lot of grief.

If we know very little about AS Vénus: we know even less about Hekari United! The Papua New Guinean side are the dominant force of their league, and have recently appointed a former player as their new manager. That’s as much as we know at the moment, though not through a lack of trying, and we’re going to be trying to learn a bit more before playing them. There's been a few reports that they play a 5-2-1-2 with wingbacks, but whether or not that’s actually the case: your guess is as good as mine.

The man to keep an eye on is Nigel Dabinyaba, who is a full Papua New Guinea international, and has previously had spells in Malaysia, Australia, and New Zealand. If we keep him quiet: I'm confident they're not causing us any issues.

I think it’s safe to say that North Efate United are our weakest opponents, but take nothing away from them: they're not going to make things easy for us either. The Vanuatuan side are coached by the recently appointed Shane Rufer, who has been talking up their ability in the New Zealand media, though I think that’s just him making some noise so that clubs in New Zealand don’t forget about him. We've been able to collect a lot of information and data on them, and honestly: I'm not worried by them in the slightest. I'm just not telling the lads that!

In the heart of midfield, Jacky Ruben is the man that is the heartbeat of their side. He plays a box-to-box role, isn't shy of throwing his body about, and just grafts non-stop. He's a good player, in a team of very few good players.

In a move that will [ultimately] save travel costs for every side, the OFC has designated Mahina, Tahiti as our ‘host’ for our Group D fixtures. It means that we’ll play 3 games in 7-days to see who will progress to the next round, which is a lot of games in a short space of time when you consider our typical schedule. With that being said, we’re all extremely excited by the trip to Tahiti, and we’ve all been warned to be on our best behaviour whilst we’re there. The club won’t tolerate any scandals, nor will I, and the lads know that we’re heading here to get ourselves through to the knockout stages of the competition. That’s why we’re all at Team Wellington: to win things.

Without wanting to get too far ahead of myself, I’ll admit that I'm glancing around to see if there’ll be any jobs abroad that I may be able to take if we’re able to win the OFC Champions League. Whilst I'm enjoying my time in New Zealand, I know that there's only so far I can get here, and it’s not enough to convince me to want to hang around long-term.

@Maxporto: Tbh, a part of me is disappointed that there wasn't a bit more reluctance from the board. At the end of the day, they've made it quite easy for Drago to get a new job elsewhere! Wellington appears to be such a beautiful part of the world, and if I was a player: I'd be wanting to sign there!

@Jack: The finances are well and truly sorted thanks to the transfer fees, so it's now on the new players to hit the ground running. I'm hopeful that Nigel is able to strike the ball with the same ferocity as his uncle!


There's been a lot going on for everyone involved with Team Wellington, so there hasn’t been much time for us to get distracted! On the pitch, the club’s flying, and it means that we’ve been able to achieve the majority of our goals so far. With that being said, we did hit a slight blip in form, which happened whilst the transfer window was open, when our team was being torn apart and then sewn back together. Our performances in this period were quite disjointed, so it’s not a surprise that there was a bit of a blip, but thankfully: it’s all sorted now.

I really can’t complain about how things are going here, and the future at Team Wellington appears to be quite bright if everyone continues to work as hard as they have this season!

As I alluded to above: there was a slight blip. The loss to Auckland City, and the draw against Hamilton Wanderers were really poor results, and once again showed that if you don’t take your chances: you won’t win football games. We’re at the stage where we dominate the possession stats of every game, and we carve out plenty of opportunities, so we really need to be a lot better in front of goal. Michael Uchebo and Michael Olaha are both two fantastic strikers in my opinion, but I do think that we need to get more goals from them in the league.

Considering our dominance, I'm a bit disappointed with our ‘goals for’ and ‘goals against’ columns this season, as I feel we should’ve scored more and conceded less. With that being said: we finished top! We've gone from scraping into the playoffs by the skin of our teeth last season, to topping the table and going into the playoffs, confident that we can go one better than we did in the playoffs last season.

The final table looked like this:

There's been a bit of a shift in the table this season, with Eastern Suburbs appearing to drop right off, with Waitakere United taking their place in the playoffs instead. I think that if we’re able to keep our team together for the foreseeable future: we could become an even more dominant force within the league in the near future. The state of our finances will dictate whether that’s possible, along with whether or not our players attract interest from better clubs.

We've progressed twice more since the last time this competition was mentioned, with two absolutely dominant wins against amateur opposition. Michael Uchebo and Michael Olaha both enjoyed themselves tremendously in both these games, and wowed a lot of the spectators in attendance. The key for them is to do it against stronger opposition, as some could accuse them of ‘hiding’ a bit when they're up against more competent defenders.

We’ll now play North Wellington in the Fourth Round of the competition, and with the board expecting us to make the semi-final stage: I expect another win. I can’t see us having any problems, but football can be a funny game sometimes.

The board had place no importance on the Charity Cup, and thank goodness for that: we performed poorly in it! What was nice was the fact that Lorenzo Peschetola had been able to score in what was his final game for the club, but we hadn’t been at the races in this game today, and Auckland City punished us for it.

Whilst it’s never nice to go out of a competition, I wasn’t too fussed by it either, due to the board’s insistence that it’s a “nothing” competition.

We breezed through our Group D opposition, just as I’d expected us to, and to top it off: we had a fun time in Tahiti too. I hadn’t been impressed by North Efate United or Hekari United to be honest: they were poor sides. I’d managed to get embroiled in a bit of a ‘war of words’ with Shane Rufer in the post-game press conference, with him saying a few things that I didn’t agree with, and felt needed to be addressed. Simply put: he came across as bitter.

AS Vénus had been an impressive side to face off against, and just as I’d feared: Teaonui Tehua managed to score! It was merely a consolation goal, thankfully, as we’d been able to get ourselves into a strong position via goals from Michael Uchebo and Nigel Hasselbaink. Take nothing away from AS Vénus though: they're a good footballing side, who try to play the game the right way.

Below is how the final Group D table looked:

We’ll now play New Caledonian side Hienghéne Sport in the next round, with the first-leg to be played at home, before we’ll then head to New Caledonia for the second-leg. If we’re able to get by them, we’ll then play either Papua New Guinean side Lae City, or Fijian side Rewa in the semi-final.

@Justice: I imagine that's what the AS Vénus fans sing whenever Teaonui Tehua scores!

Bloody hell, I can't remember the last time I won a game by more than 10 goals, even against amateur opposition. You're flying, and I hope the play-offs don't turn out to be too much of a lottery for you.
Uchebo and Olaha certainly had their fun in the Chatham Cup! Really impressive performances throughout this period in every competition. Nobody can get close to you!

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