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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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Funny that you seemed to have it easier against Hekari than against this North Efate that I had never heard about

I don't think you'll be surprised. As usual, you'll get to the final to face whoever is the other New Zealandese side
Seems like you're flying! And your new signings are adapting quickly and scoring goals already which is great! Let's hope you can do well in the play offs and the latter stages of the OFC Champions League!

I've been really enjoying reading the story and seeing all the beautifull pictures!

It’d been good to be able to give the lads a fortnight off to recover from their exertions of the season so far, and it was a decision that we made in order to be as fresh as possible for our playoff game against Waitakere United. My record against their manager [Wynton Rufer] was mentioned in the lead-up to the game, with it being brought to my attention that I've never lost to him before in 3 attempts. It’s a nice statistic, but honestly: not one I'm paying any attention to.

The game is being played at Porritt Stadium in Hamilton, which meant that we’d flown up the night before, and stayed at a motel. I wasn’t leaving anything to chance, and wanted to give us the best chance possible to win: something the board was happy to accommodate.

The lads were bouncing off the walls in the lead-up to the game, with their nervous excitement being infectious. We all were perfectly aware of what we needed to do: we just needed to get out there and do it! We got off to the best start possible when Michael Olaha opened the scoring with just 3-minutes gone, and our confidence was boosted even further when he doubled our lead with 16-minutes on the clock. We were already well in control of the game, and the Waitakere United players were looking incredibly frustrated. I told the lads to maintain their focus, and to keep playing the way they were: this game was already there for the taking. If we could kill it off before half-time: it’d be perfect.

My team-talk during the interval was quite straightforward to be honest, and I tried not to put too much pressure on the lads. It was simply a case of reminding them of their responsibilities, and then sending them back out.

The second-half was nowhere near as interesting as the first-half, with the lads seeming to be in ‘cruise control’ at times. Whilst it wasn’t ideal, I wasn’t annoyed either, and the scary thing was: Waitakere never looked like troubling us, despite us being a bit lazy. With 66-minutes played, Cameron Howieson completed the goalscoring action, with a left-footed strike that nearly burst the netting. It was a thunderous effort, and a hell of a way to cap off what’d been a magnificent performance from the lads.

When the full-time whistle went: elation set in.

I was impressed by our performance today, and it was a giant shame that the game was played in front of 354 fans: of which 79 had travelled from Wellington. We played some mesmerizing stuff at times, and stretch our opponents all over the place, which highlighted just how good we are as a team. The talent within this squad is incredible compared to the squad I’d initially built upon taking over, so I'm hopeful that we can go on and win the final this time around.

Once again: we’ll play Auckland City in the final. What's strange about the final this season is the fact that we’ll play it in 3-days’ time, unlike last year when we played the final a week after the semi-final. I'm not going to get caught up in any drama surround the decision-making, but I'm relieved that we were able to get the win against Waitakere United without the game going to extra-time.

We’ll give the lads 2-days off now, and hope that they're fresh enough for the final: also to be played at Porritt Stadium!

@Harleygator: It was one of those games where everything just clicked, and my goodness... it was a thing of beauty! Those half chances that you typically miss, those long shots that usually hit the crossbar: they all hit the back of the net instead. I'm not sure if I'll see a performance like that again during the save, but I'm hopeful I do!

@Jack: Uchebo [friend] and Olaha [acquaintance] are two people that I'm well aware of irl, and in Uchebo's case: someone I correspond with semi-regularly. Things like that are what make FM fun for me, and I just hope they continue to bang in the goals!

@Tango: I was surprised by how poor Hekari United were, and it was kind of disappointing considering they're quite a good side irl. Maybe SI just haven't got their ratings right, which is understandable considering football in Papua New Guinea isn't very mainstream.

@NTBgaming: It was a relief that they hit the ground running, especially when you consider how many new players went into our starting-11! Thanks for the kind words, I'm just fortunate to have landed a job in such a beautiful city!

Let's hope you can beat Auckland City this time around! You surely come into the game on a rich vein of form with your strikers being confident in front of goal. This is as good a chance as ever to win the playoffs!
Good luck trying to bring down the Kiwi Bayern

We’d elected to stay in Hamilton, rather than travel back to Wellington, which saved the club money on travel costs, but at the same time: they were on the hook for accommodation costs. It’s always a bit of a juggling act with financial decisions, and I'm never sure what I should and shouldn’t ask for, so it’s always welcomed when the board just makes a decision for me. With them eager to see us lift the trophy: they were happy to do whatever they could to make our job that little bit “easier”.

I get the feeling that I'm edging towards the end of my time here in New Zealand, though that could all change if we’re unable to win the playoff final or the OFC Champions League. Everything hinges on winning them, but if we’re able to: I’d see it as a case of “mission accomplished” at Team Wellington.

We kept our routine in the days leading up to the final as routine as possible, with the lads receiving a bit of a boost when they saw home many Team Wellington fans had travelled for the game. There was roughly 1,759 tickets sold for the final: 876 of which had been sold to our fans. Auckland City had dominated the decisions in last year’s final based off the back of how vocal their fans had been: they wouldn’t have that advantage this time around.

The early stages of the game was quite a cagey affair, with our opposition conceding a lot of ‘tactical’ fouls that went unpunished, though it didn’t stop us from dominating the possession stats. At the end of the day, those stats mean nothing if you don’t use the ball to punish your opposition, and we fired a few efforts that could be classed as ‘warning shots’ if anything. We weren't that convincing in the attacking-third in my opinion, but a penalty with 33-minutes on the clock that Michael Olaha comfortably dispatched fired us into the lead. Then, just 9-minutes later, Michael Uchebo doubled our advantage with a perfectly placed header from a set-piece, that had our fans out of their seats, and making an obscene amount of noise!

Having a 2-goal buffer at half-time was such a boost to us, though I warned the lads to not get complacent: Auckland City were going to come back at us in the second-half. If we invited pressure on ourselves: they'd punish us. Some lads were listening: some weren't.

I’ll admit to being a bit disappointed with our performance in the second-half, with us giving Auckland City plenty of opportunities to get themselves back into the game. Emiliano Tade got one back for them just before the hour-mark, and that revitalized his side: they became even more of a nuisance after his goal. Thankfully, we were able to hold on, but it wasn’t convincing in the slightest. In the coming days, I’ll remind certain lads that the game is 90-minutes long, as they seemed to just switch off in the second-half.

Regardless: we won the final!

I'm pleased to have been able to capture some more silverware for the club, and we can take great pride in being able to give our supporters another chance to celebrate.

It’s already been a wonderful season for the club, but with us still in the ASB Chatham Cup, as well as the latter stages of the OFC Champions League: we’ve still got plenty to play for. Whilst I'm aware that the players are already looking forward to their off-season break, it’s crucial that we all continue to work hard towards winning a few more pieces of silverware. I never expected to be in this position when I accepted the job here last February, but I'm delighted that we are: football is so much more enjoyable [for everyone: the fans, staff, board, players] when you're winning!

With that being said, I have been casting a few glances at job vacancies to see what my options are, and admittedly: I don’t have many at the moment. I could take some time off to recharge my batteries at home in Italy whilst surrounded by family, and apply for jobs elsewhere wherever possible. There's plenty of risk attached to doing things that way though: the main one being that you can be easily forgotten if you're not working anywhere.

@NTBgaming: I feel like SI haven't captured just how dominant Auckland City are irl, which is good [if you're a league rival!] but also takes away some of the realism too. I'm delighted to have overcome them, but I'm surprised by how quickly we were able to do it.

@Tango: I was extremely nervous in the second-half, and they had quite a few chances to equalize, and if they had: I think they would've gone on to win. They overpowered us at times, and I felt it was 'touch and go' if we were going to win. Thankfully: we did.

just for curiosity, how big was Auckland's sequence before you beat them?

There was no time to enjoy our successful playoff campaign: it was time to get back to work. With that being said, I'm pleased that we’ll be facing New Caledonian side Hienghéne Sport, though I’d have preferred that we play the second-leg at home, rather than having to travel abroad. It is what it is though, and we’ll just play with the cards that we’ve been dealt. If we can secure a strong result in the first-leg: we can ‘semi-relax’ in the second-leg. I'm not sure that it’s even a word, but I think you’ll know what I mean!

How successful our season will be judged as hinges on our participation in this tournament, and I'm eager to achieve success in it. This is the one competition I’d go as far to say that I'm ‘desperate’ to win it if I'm completely honest!

Our aerial dominance has been mentioned quite a lot at times over the course of the season, with numerous managers suggesting that our team is built on ‘size’ rather than ‘talent’. It’s a silly suggestion: we’re just better than them. I have a team that’s capable of scoring all types of goals, though we've practiced quite a lot of set-piece routines this year, as I feel that’s a part of the game that we should do well in.

I've found Jorge Akers to be a frustrating figure at times this season, with my frustration being due to the silly cards he seems to pick up. His hattrick for us today highlighted just how talented he is, but it was undone by the fact that he’ll now be suspended for the second-leg due to accumulating too many bookings. It’s the one area of his game that I feel he needs to work on, because it’s what's stopping him from going to the next level.

Regardless: a strong win at home was secured!

I rotated the squad as best I could for the second-leg in New Caledonia, and the lads that came into the starting-11 did well enough that it was barely noticeable that they hadn’t started many games this season. A goal to youngster Johnny Higgins, who’d come into the side for Jorge Akers, was quite pleasing to see: as was the goal from Michael Uchebo just before half-time. Michael is such a good striker: we’d be so much worse off without him.

The second-half was all about not suffering any injuries, and although the xG stats suggest that Hienghéne Sport played well: they didn’t. They might’ve scored more ‘fake’ goals than us, but we put the ball in the back of the net more times, with Nigel Hasselbaink closing out the goalscoring action just before the full-time whistle, after Anthony Kaï had halved the deficit on the night. Another solid win, and a 6-1 win on aggregate.

We’re now through to the next stage of the competition, with us to face Papua New Guinean side Lae City in 7-days’ time. We’ve nearly got where we want to be: now we need to not bottle!

@Tango: They'd done a 3-peat [2018-18, 2019-20, 2021-22] which doesn't sound like much. Of the 18 seasons of the league's existence, they've got 9 titles, finished runners-up 5 times, and finished third 4 times. So they've never finished lower than third! It's an incredible record really. Early on in the league's existence, Waitakere United were a very strong club, but that's not longer the case.

A great set of performances in the cups. Good to see Akers spearheading your QF win over Hienghene in the First Leg too, certainly made things easier for the Second Leg!

Going back to what you said about leaving depending on success in the OCL, that time could be fast-approaching! :P

Our tie against New Caledonian side Hienghéne Sport had been a great boost of confidence to us all, though you can see that some of the lads are exhausted, and are ready for their off-season break. I think it speaks volumes as to how much football they play [or don’t] in New Zealand, and it’s something that they should look to fix in the future. Players need to be playing at least 24 games in the league in my opinion, and if they did that: there'd be more opportunities for youngsters too. Regardless, we’re in the semi-final, and I've told the lads to be ready for it.

With us getting to this stage of the competition, I can’t help myself: I ‘expect’ to win it now. When you match us up against any of the remaining teams… we’re noticeably better in my opinion.

I can see the lads are excited to be at this stage of the competition, and that they're desperate to go further. I challenged them to kill the tie off in the first-leg. What I witnessed in the first-half was nothing short of spectacular: we hit the back of the net 7 times! This game highlighted just how good of a striker that Michael Uchebo is, and we’re so lucky to have him here, as when I look at the A-League: he's the type of striker most clubs could really use.

Our second-half performance was incredibly lazy, so we were fortunate that our opposition were that crushed mentally that they couldn’t take advantage of it. I've no doubt that Lae City will head home, lick their wounds, and give us one almighty battle in the second-leg to make up for this embarrassment. We’ll need to be careful: this tie isn't over.

We’ll now head to Papua New Guinea with a strong lead on aggregate: it’d take one hell of a capitulation for us to now be eliminated!

I’d debated as to whether or not I should rotate my squad for the second-leg, as there were a few lads with tired legs in the squad, and after much deliberation: I decided to. It was the first time in my career where I feel like I made a big mistake, and I'm lucky that we had a 7-goal advantage in the bag already, so my mistake wasn’t punished as much as it should’ve been.

Our problems in this game weren't in the attacking-third: it was defensively we were poor. I’d left Michael Uchebo in New Zealand to rest after his first-leg efforts, and his Nigerian compatriot took the goalscoring load for us admirably. It was in the second-half we were poor, were punished, and to add insult to injury: Leon Kofana is suspended for the final after receiving two silly yellow cards.

We’ll play Fijian side Lautoka in the final, with them receiving the added bonus of hosting the final. I'm quite baffled by the decision if I'm honest, but we’ll just have to go to Fiji and do our best.

@Jack: We're quite reliant on the two Michael's [Olaha & Uchebo] for our goals, but it was nice to see someone else come up 'big' for a change. It'd be great if we could spread the goals a bit better across the squad, but as long as the ball's hitting the back of the net: I'm not too worried.

It'd be nice to knock over Oceania quickly, and if I do manage it, it'll be tough working out where to go next.

As always, your stories are a great read.
The form going into the Final is simply nuts and with both Michaels scoring for fun, surely it's there for the taking. I'm intrigued to see what your possible next destination will be!
J_ames's avatar Group J_ames
6 monthsEdited

We flew into Fiji 2-days early, so that we’d be well rested, and well prepared, and the accommodation that the club had organized was more than acceptable. The lads were relaxed, confident, and ready to perform on the grandest stage that the Oceania region has to offer. I've got an ambitious squad here, many of whom are trying to earn moves to a better league, and winning the OFC Champions League will give them a bit of a ‘buzz’ to then put their name about.

In the days leading up to the final, I received some good news: I’d passed my ‘National A Licence’ course. I'm now able to apply to undertake my ‘Continental C Licence’ course when possible, and I hope to be able to enrol in a course soon.

I could sense the tenseness in the lads in my pre-game talk, so I did what any decent manager would do: I tried to help the lads relax. It was simply a case of reassuring them how good they are, and lighting the fuse. As they got ready to walk out onto the pitch, it felt as though they could run through brick walls, and any fears that I had: they were gone.

Straight from the offset: we were in the ascendancy. Michael McGlinchey got the goalscoring action underway with just 5-minutes on the clock, and from then on: the floodgates opened. Nigel Hasselbaink [12’], Michael Uchebo [20’] and a Kolinio Sivoki own-goal [30’] essentially wrapped the game up after just a half-hour. We were playing a fantastic brand of football, and the nearly 7,000 fans in attendance were showing their appreciation: despite us tearing Lautoka to shreds. Michael Olaha [34’] completed the goalscoring action of the first-half, as they began to engrave our name on the trophy.

My half-time talk consisted solely of not overloading the lads with too much information or confidence, as I tried to calm them down. With that being said: it was easier said than done. Adrenaline was taking over my body, and it was such a rush I was about to experience. This is what managing a club is all about!

I don’t remember much of the second-half if I'm honest: the adrenaline rush from the first-half had taken over me. We scored a couple more goals via Jackson Brady [81’] Michael Olaha [82’], with the referee putting the Lautoka lads out of their misery by blowing the full-time whistle not long after. I could see the deflation in their ranks, and I felt bad for them, but I was also just so damn proud of my lads too. We acknowledged the fans that had traveled here from New Zealand, before thanking the home support for the hospitality that they'd afforded us these past few days.

As we lifted the trophy, I knew in my heart that there was nothing here in charge of Team Wellington that could come close to being any better, and that it was now time to look at moving on.

@bigmattb: Thanks for the big compliment mate. There's always a lot of effort and time put into my stories, so it's always pleasing to hear someone say that.

@NTBgaming: The two Michael's are just too good for this level. They're the kinds of players that this is where they look insane, but if they're to move: that might not be the case. Wherever I go, I may try to take them with me, although I'd prefer to leave my previous clubs untouched if possible, so that they can continue my 'legacy' after my departure. Obviously: there'll always be exceptions to that!

is there anything else to achieve in OFC? If not, off to Straya m8

My job at Team Wellington wasn’t done yet: we were still in one final competition. Admittedly, this one seems to have dragged out quite a lot, which I've found to be quite annoying to be honest. On the plus side, it also allowed to give the lads a fortnight off, where they were free to do as they pleased with their friends and family. We gave them a few guidelines to follow so that there wouldn’t be any issues upon their return from their breaks, and off they went.

I was able to conduct a piece of transfer business in the time off, with Vanuatu international central-defender Brian Kaltak joining the club. He’d been clubless since leaving Auckland City, and with him being one of the best Oceanic talents: I wanted him at Team Wellington. He's signed a 2-year deal here worth €1,500/month, and we’re delighted to have him.

Despite not being convinced that I have a long-term future at the club, I asked the board if I could apply to undertake my ‘Continental C Licence’ course, which they’ve allowed. Some might see it as taking advantage of their good nature, but considering what I've been able to help the club achieve: I think it’s only fair.

As you can see, the fixtures have been spaced out far too much, which has seen this competition drag on for two or three months longer than it should’ve. With that being said, we’ll just continue to deal with it the best that we can, and I'm reasonably pleased with the way that we've played. Could we have played better? Undoubtedly. At the end of the day, all that matters is the end result, and thankfully: we've made our way to the final.

The final is an all-Wellington affair, which is great to see, with us to play Wellington Olympic at Westpac Stadium on August 23, 2023. They beat Auckland City in their semi-final, which was a major shock, though when you consider that most of the lads in the Wellington Olympic side are former Team Wellington players: it’s less of a surprise in a way. It’ll be an interesting game, and it could very well be my final game in charge of the club.

Below are our most recent results in the competition:

The Chatham Cup final at Westpac Stadium was going to be quite special to be honest, with 5,378 tickets sold for it. I haven’t told anyone of my intentions just yet, but this could possibly be my last game in charge of the club, so I was quite desperate to secure a win, and go out on a high.

I think if you ask anyone who attended the game, they’ll tell you one thing: it was an attacking clinic. Neither side paid much attention to the other defensively, which was a bit concerning to see at times, whilst we had a stupid amount of efforts on goal. We opened the scoring via Nigel Hasselbaink with 23-minutes played, and from there: I expected us to push on and kill off any hopes of a comeback that Wellington Olympic might’ve had. Unfortunately: it didn’t work. We took a narrow lead into the break, and I had to find the right words to say.

It was blatantly obvious that we needed to be more clinical in the attacking-third, so I spent the majority of half-time talking to the likes of Nigel, Michael O, and Michael U about what I wanted from them. Che talked with the other lads, and tried to spark some life into them.

What I saw in the second-half was an absolute rollercoaster. Michael Olaha [54’] doubled our lead, and Michael Uchebo [58’] seemed to have put us out of sight by giving us a 3-0 lead: there was pandemonium in the stands! Then, just like that: the ecstasy was gone, replaced by despair. Full credit to Wellington Olympic: they took their chances. It was back to the drawing board, and despite our best efforts, extra-time loomed.

I was annoyed with the lads at full-time, and I let them know that, with their response in extra-time being to hit the back of the net 3 times to shut me up. We were the fitter side, so it was to be expected that we’d overrun them, but I was left wondering why we couldn’t have done this during ‘normal time’. Wellington Olympic got a consolation goal for themselves, but it was yet another trophy that we were adding to our cabinet.

When the final whistle went, I felt a sense of satisfaction, though there was still a tinge of annoyance in my emotions too. Regardless: it’s another good moment!

@Tango: Oceania is done, there's nothing left to try and win. It's now time for Drago to try and find a new job, but the key thing is: where? I very much doubt he has the reputation required to get a job in the A-League, so it might be a case of '1 step back, to take 2 forwards' so to speak.

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