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Alpha Romeo Metaphor IV

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“Enrico, what is wrong with you? Why haven’t you been returning my calls? I’ve been trying to reach you for days! I’ve sent you nearly a million texts!”

“Forty two, actually,” I replied.

“Yes, exactly. Forty two, a dozen, a million. It shouldn’t matter. You are killing me. Killing me. How am I supposed to represent you when I can’t even get a hold of you.”

“Yup, eleven messages.”

“Eleven, one hundred, two thousand, you insane maniac! Why don’t you reply, call, write a letter, send a pigeon?”

“Do you just want to yell at me?” I said. “I’ve really been enjoying the quiet up here..”

“You are insufferable. Up where? Why do you think I’ve been trying to reach you you drunken cheese monkey! What do you mean up here? What’s that noise in the background? Seagulls? Are you in Cadiz? I know you love the beaches there. They have great cell reception there. You’ve been ignoring me you sweaty bastardo, haven’t you.”

“You hear a motorboat docking. And, yes, seagulls though I’m not in Spain.”

“Oh, now you want me to play lets screw with Luca and not tell him what in the **** is going on?” his voice wailed out of the phone as I held it arm’s length so the seagulls could hear, too. “I work hard for you. I’ve gotten you all those contracts. You’ve done well. Really well to be honest and your thanks is to ignore then torment me. You are a horrible man, Enrico Pucci.”

“I can’t disagree with you,” I said.

“Clearly, you’ve had too many concussions. How soon can you get back to Germany?”

“That could take a while.”

“What do you mean ‘that could take a while?’” Luca yelled. “Where are you, Tibet? Vietnam? Argentina?”



“I’m in the far north of Sweden in the Arctic Circle. Gwen was sick of me moping around the house. She told me to go hiking, told me there would be a lot of type two fun. A lot of suffering. Said it’d be pretty up here. Hooked me up with a guy she knows who was about to hike the Kungsleden. I’ve bought a couple thousand euros worth of gear. Its been all of that. I’m not sure this village has a name. At least I don’t know it. I just happened to walk into this village today and just happened to check my phone. There is absolutely zero cell reception up here. Except just now, apparently.”

“What?” Luca exclaimed. “Hiking? Arctic Circle? Where? Sweden? Get your **** down here. Do you want to work again?”

“I dunno. I guess.”

“I guess?” he yelled. I held the phone away from my ear again “I don’t know? Who f***ing kidnapped Enrico and replaced him with this … this … this … s**t-eating f***tard.”

“Are you swearing in German now, Luca? This is a new leaf you’re turning over. I’ve been hiking for fifteen days now. Nothing but sleep, eat, p*ss, s**t and walk. I’ve been thinking everything over. Everything. I guess it depends upon who wants me. Lazio and Eintracht didn’t go all that well.”

“Well, I know you like to suffer,” Luca said. “This club has been suffering for a while now. I know you like difficult challenges and Sweet Mary Mother of God this one is a challenge.”

“Out with it. Who is it?”

“Kaiserslautern.”

“You don’t say,” I mused. “You don’t say.”

“You wouldn’t even have to move,” Luca said.

“Yes, it sounds ideal,” I agreed. “As I said, I’m above the Arctic Circle. I have to get a shower then get a ride down to the nearest town with an airport. Maybe an overnight train is better. We’ll see. Then I have to fly out of Stockholm.”

“So how long will this take?”

“Schedule it for Friday.”

“I’ll meet you in Frankfurt,” Luca hung up.

I sighed. So much for finishing my arctic summer adventure. I sat gazing out across the lake at the distant, barren mountains and listened to the single car engine approaching the village from a distance.
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My Alfa Romeo used to be a metaphor for my life. I guess it still is. When it was running, it roared and purred. When I bought my first one, I was living the dream. I was playing in Serie A for Bologna, married to a gorgeous woman that turned heads everywhere we went and we had all the trappings associated with the lifestyle. When the economy collapsed in 2008 and 2009, so did everything else. My knees disintegrated ending my playing career, my restaurant closed, the loans I’d taken out to invest in Spanish apartment blocks were called in, and my wife left when I couldn’t support her cocaine and high fashion habits.

All I had left was mountains of debt including to the Italian mafia and a broken down car.

Bologna saved from me from destitution by offering me a job coaching their youths. Then I got a job managing Cadiz in Spain’s El Segundo, their third division. My experience with El Submarino Ammarillo was much like the American baseball movie ‘Major League’ because I was undercut at every turn. The Swiss Consortium that had just bought the club fired me during the play-off push.

Next I traveled to England and London where I managed AFC Wimbledon which is a fan-owned club. I met my wife Gwen there. I got them promoted into League One, England’s third division. However, my past caught up to me just as we were starting to look like promotion contenders. My ex-wife was the child of a boss in the Camorra. The Camorra are Napoli’s mafia. They had forced me to throw a match in Spain and when the authorities began investigating, Wimbledon sacked me. Charges were eventually dropped though I was not exonerated.

Bologna saved me yet again by appointing me youth team manager. As the senior squad got relegated, my boys nearly won the U18 league. Bologna then appointed me manager and I got them back into Serie A on the first try, winning the league. I then kept the club in Serie A (finishing eighth) despite the internecine warfare going on inside the club.

Lazio called when I’d just gotten into an argument with the Chair and Managing Director. I was angry enough that their offer seemed too good not to accept. I was tasked with rebuilding the Biancoceleste and getting them into the Champion’s League. I had a healthy budget, a friend and former teammate as my Managing Director and everything I could possibly want to succeed. Two fifth place finishes weren’t good enough and I got the boot.

Eintracht Frankfurt were next and yet again I had everything I could ask for. Somehow success was so close yet so far. We didn’t pick up enough draws from losing positions or turn enough draws into wins. It only takes a couple of baffling losses and draws we should have won to end your hopes of European qualification. The board tired of my excuses and sacked me after two seasons.

A year of moping around the house and Gwen sent me off to the Arctic Circle.
 
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“Luca, how are you?”

“Just barely enough time. Nervous. We have seventy five minutes before the interview.”

“Did you …”

“Yes, Enrico,” he interjected. “I stopped by, kissed your lovely wife on the cheek, talked a bit with your kids and got you a suit, you’re not going like that, you uncultured neanderthal.”

“Charcoal suit, red tie, nice,” I remarked. “Is that Kaiserslautern red? Let’s go find a bathroom so I can change.”

“Do hurry,” he said. “We haven’t got much time. I can’t wait here. I'll drive back around.”

Within moments we were hurtling south on the A63 in my Audi S7 towards Kaiserslautern.
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“Have you followed the club recently?” Luca asked as we barreled along in the leftmost lane. “Reach into my bag in the back. I’ve got a dossier of everything I could pull together about the club.”

“Only that they’ve been stuck in the third league for a few seasons now,” I pulled out a folder crammed with printed pages.

“Well, its more than that. First there’s the World Cup stadium upgrades they were still paying for with third league revenue. Then they sold the stadium to they city but they’re still screwed. They nearly got relegated from the third and have gone through managers faster than David Hasselhof goes through cheeseburgers.”

“Why do you hate Hasselhof so much?” I asked as I flipped through the pile of papers.

“What?” Luca said veering around a slower vehicle. “Pay attention you caveman in a suit, I’m trying to get you a job. They’re going to talk a bit of **** about playing with style, building from the academy and the usual nonsense. Just remember that the only thing that matters is getting them into the Two Bundesliga. Don’t get distracted. Just talk to them about delivering results.”

“I don’t even know anything about the third league,” I said. “I’m not even sure I’ve scouted any players from the league.”

“Well don’t say that, you infernal savage” Luca said. “Talk about maximizing the strengths of the current squad, working within budgets.”

I read for the remainder of the drive.
 
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Friday, 9 July 2021

11am

“Well if it isn’t the infamous Enrico Pucci,” Rainer Keßler said offering a handshake. He’s chairman.

“Nice to meet you,” I replied, smiled and shook. “I’m glad my reputation proceeds me.”

“I’m Thomas,” Thomas Hengen said as we shook hands. He’s the Technical Director. “I’m both pleased and surprised you’re willing to talk to us.”

“I’m Soeren Voigt,” said the third man. He’s the Managing Director. “I always thought you were bigger.”

“Ah, ja, nice to meet you,” I replied as we shook hands. “Those camera angles are so flattering. No, seriously. My video guy at Lazio pulled together a mashup of my behavior on the sidelines. It was very informative. Gut in, chin out and they’ll always take that flattering, upward shot of you.”

“As far as I remember, you were borderline criminal your entire career,” Hengen said as we stood awkwardly in the lobby. This is how they break the ice? Okay. “I caught a few of your matches on the TV back in the day.”

“I can’t dispute that,” I said. “I did everything I could to make up for my inadequacies.”

“I don’t know about that,” Hengen replied. “You ran the midfield pretty well. You could play a pretty pass.”

“Why thank you,” I said.

“Shall we go into the board room?” Keßler said. I followed Hengen in.

“So what do you think of Germany?” Hengen asked as we sat. “I mean you’ve stayed after Eintracht.”

“Ja, its good,” I said. “I’m anonymous here and so’s my wife. She’s a model, you know. No anonymity for us in England or Italy anymore.”

“Why Eintracht?” Hengen asked.

“They called,” I replied. “Lazio just didn’t pan out. I was really frustrated. I’d gotten the players I wanted, asked for. Beautiful apartment with a view in the hills plus it was near the training ground. Everything just seemed set to hoist the Scudetto. I guess I thought a change of scenery would do me good. I arrogantly thought I was primed for glory.”

“Your German is rather good,” Voigt said. “You’ve only been here three years, ja?”

“Ja and thanks,” I said. “Honestly, I just stumbled into a really great class. Maybe I have a talent for languages, I guess. I did study hard. I don’t know, this is my fourth language.”

“Well we are really pleased you’re here,” Keßler said. “Wouldn’t this be a step down for you?”

I told them how Gwen booted me out of the house and exiled me to the Arctic Circle to hike the Kungsleden. I explained how I’d thought everything over. I explained how much fun I’d had with Wimbledon after they rescued me from the Spanish El Segundo. How rebuilding Bologna was an amazing rollercoaster ride. How I really preferred type two fun.

“Sorry, what is this type two fun?” Keßler asked.

“Oh type two fun may not be fun while its happening but in retrospect you realize it was a blast,” I replied. “Like hiking for fifteen days in the Arctic Circle. Like dragging a club like Kaiserslautern up through the leagues back to where it belongs.”

They all nodded and smiled.

“First, I just want to say that I want to stay in football,” I said. “I still think I have what it takes to be a manager. I’m desperate to prove I still have it.”

“You think you can get the club promoted on very tight finances?” Voigt said. “I don’t want you to think you can buy promotion. If you want to change the personnel …” He trailed off.

“The big clubs are always releasing players that could tear up the lower leagues and get noticed,” I said. “The trick is convincing them to do it. I think I’m pretty persuasive and I’ve done it at Cadiz, Wimbledon, and Bologna.”

“Talk to me about club culture,” Hengen said. “What do you think you’d bring to the changing room?”

“Hristo Stoichkov’s mantra was ‘mas fuerte,’ work harder,” I said. “He was incredibly gifted and yet never let anyone outwork him. I think that’s Catalan, but maybe Spanish. I don’t know really. But I remember seeing an interview and him talking about work ethic. You play the way you train. Train hard, play hard. It pays off. It did for me. You may think I was a talented midfielder, Thomas, but I didn’t. I knew I had to work harder than anyone. So I did. I’ll bring that to your club. Your current crop haven’t tasted what its like to play top league football, face the living gods of the game. I know what its like, I know what it takes. I know the kind of desperation it takes to succeed.”

“Talk about desperation more,” Thomas said.

“Take Luis Suarez,” I said. “He is so desperate to succeed, he’ll do anything. Obviously, the whole biting thing with Chiellini was his desperation taken to an extreme. That and Chiellini is a master of the dark arts and I’m sure he was winding Suarez up. Anyways, Suarez has always seen each chance to score, each defender to beat as what’s standing in the way of him escaping poverty in Uruguay. Each duel is life and death. He isn’t just chasing a through ball, he’s being chased by death with the reward of life and untold riches awaiting him if he scores. Each defender wants to send him back to poverty.”

“Sure there are plenty of guys in the top leagues who are so gifted its disgusting,” I continued. “Some of them are my friends even. But I’m just a kid from the Washington DC who grabbed his chance and worked harder than anyone.”

Thomas nodded that i should continue.

“I’m going to guess that most of your players failed out of a big club’s academy or never got a chance with a big club,” I said. “The only difference between me and them is that the first choice defensive midfielder was out injured and the back up was suspended and the center back who could step in had to play at the back due to other injuries and all the other midfielders were too artistic and the reserve team defensive midfielder had blown his chance so they had no choice but to take a risk on the acne-scarred American kid. I grabbed my opportunity as I knew I wasn’t going to get a second chance. That’s a chip on their shoulders I think I can exploit. Even better if they got their chance and blew it or didn’t impress. I think its a matter of finding the right way to wind up each player so that they’ll run through walls to score that late equalizer or protect a lead.”

“Hah!” Hengen laughed. “I’ve always thought the Italian clubs relied on their academies.”

“Yeah, they do,” I said. “But I saw the writing on the wall. Maybe I was hallucinating from the acne meds they had me on, but I wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass me by. I jumped to the line to the front, knocked a few complacent adults out of my way. I’ve always been like that.”

Hengen was snickering and trying to hide it behind the water bottle he’d raised to his lips.

“Klose told me he was something, Rainer,” Hengen said after he’d taken a sip. That would be former German international and living legend Miroslav Klose who I’d managed at Lazio and who broke through at Kaiserslautern. “What have you learned from Lazio and your time at Eintracht?”

“Building a playing system that accounts for mistakes and acts of genius,” I replied. “No coach can account for the thirty meter free kick a dead ball specialist curls into the upper corner. You couldn’t defend against Messi in his prime or against Mo Salah right now. But you can build a system that accounts for the typical kinds of mistakes players make, train the players how to avoid the common ones and make teams beat you with luck or brilliance.”

The three of them looked at each other.

“The reason I’d get your club into the Bundesliga is you’re not going to face many game changers in these lower divisions,” I continued. “A system that reduces mistakes and only concedes lucky goals wins clubs promotion.”

“Okay, what about the offense?” Voigt asked. I nodded to indicate I was about to get there. Then I looked at Hengen. Did he smirk? Did he know where I was going?

“Its just in inverse of how my squads defend,” I explained. “Wherever the ball is on the pitch when the opposition has it, my system guarantees they’ve got to get past three, four even five players before our last line of defense the keeper. So I run an offense that works to create overloads and exploit the common mistakes that most teams make. There are always soft points. The trick is to get your players to play the ball quickly to find the seams, force the defending team to overcompensate and make mistakes. I’m always shocked by how much ball watching goes on even at the top levels. How many runs from deep go unnoticed.”

“Primarily, that’s what I’ve been thinking about since Eintracht Frankfurt sacked me,” I said. “I’ve been watching a ton of matches in my free time and pondering. I think I’ve thought about it enough. I think I’m ready to put it into action.”

“So a year of pondering?” Hengen said.

“Ja, I replied.

“Ja, I think this concludes your interview,” Keßler said.

“Shall we tour the facilities?” Voigt said, pushing his chair back and rising.
 
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“F***. Enrico.”

“Ciao Jörg. Its really me, Enrico.”

“F***.” This was a long, drawn out exclamation of both realization and surprise.

“Have you already guessed why I’m calling?”

“Ja,” Jörg replied. “I’m in.”

I probably need to explain Jörg Weber to you. First, he’s a man of few words. Those word are primarily “f***,” “is,” “s***,” and “this.” He does occasionally use other than these few four words. Like he’ll yell a one or two words instruction during training sessions. But generally, he makes these four words go a long way.

Secondly, he’s a madman. He dresses like several cliches mashed together. Its like he’s the offspring of an Italian gangster and a hardcore gangsta rapper from America as imagined by a German teenager. He only wears a track suit and always has a gold chain around his neck. He’d chipped a front tooth back in his playing days and had that chip filled in with gold. He has corn rows because of his love for American Gangsta rap.

He’s a massive human, too. He’s 1.98 meters or 6’6” with huge shoulders, gorilla arms, and gigantic hands. He was a journeyman defender in his day, playing primarily in 2.Liga but spent his last four in the third division. During his seventeen year career he accumulated twenty nine red cards, one hundred and forty seven yellow cards, and seven goals. He still holds the record suspension for violent conduct among the professional ranks at twenty matches. He spent several months in jail on three differnet occasions for fights at nightclubs. Some of which he started.

Two year before he quit playing, he sobered up. I met him by chance in Paris. He was a bodyguard for a model Gwen knew. We got to talking football and I realized despite his limited vocabulary that he and I thought about the game in nearly the same way. He’d gotten several coaching jobs but never lasted all that long.

He was my Assistant Coach at Eintracht. They sacked him at the same time I got the boot. He’d signed on at Karlsruhe as a coach, but only lasted six months there. Apparently, his limited vocabulary once again got him into trouble and he was incapable of changing his ways.

Despite his foul and uncouth ways, he’s actually really great with the youth players. They really like the swearing and they really respond to him. The adult players respect him because he’s a f***ing legend and they all know he’s sober now. Almost all pros have heard tales about his escapades.

You don’t want to face him on a Monday morning after you’ve shipped soft goals on a Sunday afternoon
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“The club is Kaiserslautern, Jörg.”

“They’re s***.”

“Now you see why I called,” I said.

“F*** ja,” he replied.

“I’ll contact your agent and we’ll get it all sorted out for you. See you in a few days.”

Click.
 
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It has been a long time. Its good to be back.
Jesus wept I didn't realise it was THAT long! I was a teenager the last time you posted!! :eek:
For anyone that doesn't know/wasn't here for the stories previous I STRONGLY recommend you read the previous installments so long as FM Base's updates didn't mess around with the attachments. Quite a story that gets told!
 
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Welcome to the Rötlich und Teuflisch podcast number 8.41. I’m your host Werner. Joining me is my good friend Jakob. How are you Jakob?

Jakob: I’m fine. The weather is marvelous. Its summer.

Werner: Ja, summer.

Jakob: And it will be summer for a while I’m told.

Werner: Oh? You’ve been told this.

Jakob: Yes, my sources have told me.

W: Now that we have the weather forecast out of the way, like and subscribe. We need more than just Jakob’s mom subscribing. There is some Kaiserslautern news, ja?

J: Ja. The club have a replacement for the fired Marco Antwerpen and he is former Eintracht Frankfurt coach Enrico Pucci. Maybe this is somewhat surprising after Marco saved us from relegation into the amateur ranks but maybe they just don’t see him leading Die Roten Teufels forward.

W: Pucci didn’t do all that bad with Eintrach, ja?

J: Its more that he didn’t do well enough. He couldn’t get the club into the Champion’s League places and paid the price. They finished seventh and ninth with him in charge. Decent enough defense but not much in the attack department. They caught the injury bug really bad.

W: But he’s an odd appointment, isn’t he? He’s an American after all. His name sounds Italian. Played in Serie A for Bologna. Never got called up to the US Team or anything. Were there no Poles or Slavs or maybe a Bulgarian available?

J: Something like that. Maybe its because Jesse Marsch has done well with Leipzig. And Stuttgart have the Italian-named guy … urm … Matarazzo. Pellegrino Matarazzo. I don’t know how Voigt, Klitzpera and Hengen have done it, but they’ve convinced a real manager to drop down into the lowest rank of professional football. He’s managed Bologna, Lazio and our northern neighbors after all. He got Bologna promoted back into Serie A straight away.

W: Or what top coach in his right mind would agree to this?

J: Ja, it could be he’s totally mental. Cracked.

W: Lazio and Eintracht broke him? But seriously, how can we afford the salary of a top coach, Jakob? That is a real concern.

J: I doubt that the club would pay him that much mainly because we don’t have two euros to rub together. I’ve heard he’d stayed in the area after Eintracht and now I’ll get to the other reason they may not be paying him much; his wife is supermodel Gwen Thompson. They met when he led Wimbledon, he got them promoted, by the way, she’s English. The word is that they live only a few minutes drive to the Frankfurt airport which makes it easy for her to get flights to whatever exotic location she needs to go. Furthermore, this location is not that far north of here and they have small children and didn’t want to move.

W: I just googled her. Oh, my. Yes, I’ve seen her in magazine ads. How’d an ugly guy like him …?

J: I say more power to him …

W: You’ve got a point there. We ugly people need to stick together and feel proud when one of us does well.

J: The press release says that he likes a challenge. He likes the bad odds and difficult circumstances.

W: We certainly have plenty of that to go around.

J: Ja, don’t we. He’s built good squads without spending much of anything. He totally rebuilt Bologna after he got them promoted. Same thing at Wimbledon though that was in the lower divisions.

W: So he is our knight in shining armor?

J: Apparently, the board and management think so.

W: Let me ask you this; ja, we’re a founding member and, ja, we’ve won the league four times but we’re not a big club in a big city. We are a smaller southwestern city bordering on France, we have our backs against the forest with bigger cities on the the other sides. Those good times were long, long ago. Our heroes are aging not to mention retired. Our current squad is mostly ****. We deserve to be in the the third league and, lets just be honest, lucky to still be in professional football …

J: There’s a question there somewhere …

W: We have this stadium I don’t know how we’ll ever fill regularly and we’re not going to get the matchday revenue from it anymore because we don’t own it anymore. I know it sounds like I’m just complaining but these are the realities in which our beloved club exists …

J: I think I know where you’re going …

W: Ja, sorry. The question is how can one man, one American, really save us?

J: Right, ja. That is the question. His record in Spain, England and Serie B are great. Really great. He had Serie B sown up by the winter break. His winning percentage in the lower divisions is three out of four. That’s winning percentage not wins plus draws. A good number of the staff left with Marco so he’ll bring his people in. The rumors are swirling about who he’s asked to be his coaches. I won’t speculate …

W: Its Klose isn’t it.

J: … won’t. Not going to. But I will say he managed Klose in Rome. Klose just left Bayern. I’d love just love to scroll through the list of names on his mobile. What I’m trying to insinuate is that we’re going to get some top rank coaches which has surely got to help. I mean, if our squad is getting good coaching to begin with and are legitimately frightened of losing a match at home …

W: You’ve got to talk more about that …

J: I’ve just heard stories that you do not want to be fit for training on a Monday morning after a poorly played loss for this manager. He’s an intense personality. Volcanic, I’m told. But also there’s his ability to recruit. He digs up these gems that everyone else ignored. I mean in Italy he has absolutely robbed the big clubs. And for some reason he really really hates Chelsea.

W: How so?

J: Just that he nabbed Gael Kakuta and Dedryk Boyata from them. Kakuta had a great season under Pucci but not much after. Boyata’s with Hertha now. He picked him up for cheap. He’ll get the most out of some random player that nobody else ever will. Take Shawn Parker. Everyone knows him, right?

W: Who?

J: Exactly. He utterly tore up Serie A for one season under Pucci. He loaned him from Augsburg. Fifteen goals. He was a one season wonder. Never panned out at Augsburg or Nürnberg or Greuther Fürth. Never really scored any more goals at any level, either.

W: That’s good to hear. Hey, we have a question to answer.

J: Did my mother email you again?

W: Ja, pretty much. Your mother, twitter name @Tomas1FCK, asks ‘are we going to sign anyone? Will we even have a transfer budget?

J: I think we all know the answer to that question, Tomas … I mean mother. As much as we two have in our savings.

W: Not much.

J: Honestly, Pucci has a tough job.

W: Well on that happiest of happy notes that all we’ve got to talk about.

J: So go away now.
 
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Ulf_Kirsten_2019.jpg
“Hello Ulf, this is Enrico Pucci.”

“Hello, how are you? I was expecting your call.”

“Great. How much did your agent tell you?”

“Not so much,” Ulf Kirsten replied. “Klose was a bit more persuasive.”

“Well, I’m going to owe him in a big way,” I said. “I won’t sugar coat it. Kaiserslautern have been a mess for a while and I signed up to rebuild it. I’ve got to get the club promoted and when I saw in the DFB’s site that you were still listed, I immediately called your agent. I mean, you’re a f***ing legend and I think you’d have a massive impact on our chances of getting back to where this club belongs.”

“Ja, you’re probably going to owe Klose a lot,” he said. “So Hengen is still there?”

“Ja.”

“Olaf?” He played with Olaf Marschall on the 1998 World Cup team. Olaf ran the Scouting Department.

“Ja.”

“Ja, you know …”

“Its going to be hard work,” I said. “These forwards aren’t top class. But who wouldn’t listen to you? Its going to be a bit of mountain climbing, but the summit of the Bundesliga will feel pretty sweet when we get there. Of course, we gotta keep them there.”

“Ja, I think I would welcome a challenge like this.”

“The pay will be third league pay, but we’ll bet you a big raise for promotion and a new contract once we’re back in the Bundesliga.”



“You’re pretty confident of promotion then?”

“Ja, I know how to get clubs promoted and keep them there,” I replied. “I did it in England with AFC Wimbledon and with Bologna. I mean, promoted to League One for Wimbledon…”



“Did you get to meet Vinnie Jones?”

“I did actually. Great guy. Speaking of that, I’ve already brought on Jörg Weber.”

“THE Jörg Weber? He was your number two at Eintracht, ja? I played against him in the Cup once. That was painful. I scored twice, though.”

“There can be only one.”

“Well, Klose said you’re a total nutter and if you have that insane maniac on board, I guess I’m interested.”

“Awesome!” I exclaimed. “We’ll get you a contract right away.”

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"Going through managers like Hasselhoff and cheeseburgers" :LOL:

Been ages since I was in these parts but looks like I've arrived just in time to see the legend of Enrico Pucci grow a little larger. Good luck mate. Great start, looking forward to this!
 
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Sunday, 11 July 2021

8:04am

“Welcome, Enrico,” Hengen said. A tiny, nervous-looking young woman stood next to him in the staff car park. “This is Gisela Wortsmahler.” I shook both their hands. She looked like she was thirteen, no more than fifteen maximum. “She’s second in command of logistics and operations. I apologize but I have to run, business to attend to. I leave you in her very capable hands.”

“Hi,” she said. “Welcome.”

“Nice to meet you,” I said.

“How was your drive?” she asked. I smiled and nodded. “Great. I’m in charge of travel, hotels, I coordinate the food on the road and troubleshoot any problems. If you have a crisis, call me first. Since most managers spend a month or two in a hotel when they start, I’m guessing you’re quite happy to sleep in your own bed and all that, ja?” Smile, nod. “You got the general tour before, but now you need the real tour to see how the club really works before you watch the training session.” Smile, nod. “Do you need a coffee or a tea or something?”

Smile, nod.

“Then let’s start in the cafeteria. This way. I didn’t really follow football then all those years ago when you were at playing. I was too young. But I asked my Dad and he remembers you. He says you were a maniac. I think he meant both in a good way and a bad way.” We stepped into the elevator. “He doesn’t like you.” She pressed three. “Yes, he remembers you at Bologna. He loves the Italian game. I watched some of your old matches on YouTube. I mean no offense but I get what he says about you being a maniac. You did throw yourself about the pitch and all that.”

“Gisela, I have a question.”



“Yes, anything.”

“You talk when you’re nervous?”

“Oh my god, ja,” she replied. “Its your first day and all that. You know, I want to make a good impression. You’re my new boss. Well, I mean Soren’s my boss, but you know what I mean. I’m just here, my job is to make things go smooth for the club, the squad and all that. Here we are, coffee is over there. They’ll make it any way you want.”
espresso.jpg


I sat with Gisela at a table with my double espresso.

“I think first I should show you the news reports of your appointment,” she said. “Um, if you don’t want to know about or read the papers, I totally get it, but here we go.” I shrugged. She slid her iPad across the table to me. “Süddeutsche Zeitung has the announcement way down the page, here. Only two paragraphs.” She showed me. “Frankfurter Allgemeine same. Stuttgarter Zeitung has five paragraphs straight out of our press release. Even made the Saarbrücker. Just swipe to switch.”

“Glad to see I’m already making an impact.” I scanned the articles as I sipped. “How long have you worked here?”

“Two years,” she replied.

“How does someone get a job like this?” I asked as I scanned the next article. “I’ve always wondered. I mean, you’re the person at the club that fixes everything. What kind of CV do you have to have? What was your last job?”

“My father runs a small hotel and I worked at it growing up. I studied economics at University. After University, I got a job brokering cargo shipments for Maersk.” I stopped reading and looked up. “That was wild. Essentially, I had to make sure that every truck or train was always moving something, that trains were never going somewhere empty.”

“I can’t even imagine what that entails,” I said.

“Its a bit like high stakes poker and a bit like transfer deadline day except every day,” she said. I laughed and nodded. “This job is easy by comparison.” I finished my espresso. “Shall we continue?” I nodded. We stood.

Talking non-stop, Gisela showed me the kitchen, introduced me to the kitchen staff. Then kit room and the laundry once again meeting the staff there, too. Then security, IT (where I got a laptop and iPad), the janitors and stadium engineers. Finally the grounds crew.

“Thomas has scheduled your first staff meeting after lunch,” Gisela concluded. “Now let’s head out to the training fields.” While we walked, she explained that we would take buses or trains to away matches because of the club's tight finances. For longer trips, we'd travel the day before and stay in hotels.

“Ja, thank you for the tour, Gisela.”

“You’re welcome,” she replied and left.

“I’m Alex Bugera, I’m manager of the youth team.” We shook hands. “I’ve been helping out with the training as we’re it.” He motioned to the three of them.

MeetTheSquad3.jpg
“I’m Günther Kern. I’m the Fitness Coach.” We shook.

“I’m Frank Döpper,” the third man said as we shook. “I’m one of the last remaining coaches.”

“How’s their conditioning?” I asked. They all shrugged.

“Ja, you know,” Günther said. “Its alright. They’re all excited to impress their new boss.”

“Let’s introduce you,” Frank said.

They introduced me. I said something stupid which I don’t remember. I watched them do the following: sprints with the ball, sprint-walk-jog laps around the perimeter, four-v-two one touch squares, sprints through a course of cones emphasizing footwork then forty five minutes of five-v-five small side games while keepers worked with Günther.

Then the three coaches and I walked to the cafeteria. I had a nice schnitzel and salad for lunch then Hengen was leading me to the team room or as German’s call it, Die Kabine, trailed by nearly everyone.

“Here we are and I’ve got the new boss with me,” Hengen said. “As Enrico requested, we’ve got a series of meetings for the rest of the afternoon. First up is all coaches. Then scouting. The medical and performance analysts are tomorrow morning as I don’t want to overwhelm Enrico and scare him away. I want him to come back for his second day.” Snickers around the room. “Enrico?”

“Thank you, Thomas,” I began. “I’m not one for speeches. I’ll be brief. As a player I was committed. I gave everything I had. I’ll give everything here. First here in the morning, last to leave until things get settled. We’ll go over the systems this afternoon. All three teams will play the same system. I intend to make sure each and every one of you knows your role and all the things you’ll be doing. My favorite managers had open doors. I’ll be the same. Let’s get this club back in the Bundesliga. Questions?”

“What’s your plan or philosophy for the young players?” Alex asked.

“Great question,” I replied. “First, all three teams will play the same system. If we catch the injury bug, I want the second team player to be able to step in. If a young man suddenly blossoms into a real prospect, I don’t want to have to retrain him in any way. I want him to just slot in.”

“Furthermore, I believe in the Ajax system of SPIT when it comes to young players. Speed, personality, intelligence and technique. We can’t teach speed and quickness but I we can help a player reach their peak physical condition. The Bundesliga is fast and we’ll need some youths to step up for us to compete long term. We can help a player develop their personality, but I want players with strong personalities. We’ll talk a lot about how to encourage players to express themselves. The top teams have many players with strong personalities on the pitch. Some players are just born with great footballing brains. For the rest of the mortals, those 99% of us who were not born footballing gods, we will teach them how to think about all aspects of the game. We can make our players smarter. Finally, we can teach them technique. The younger the player, the less technique matters. So as we all evaluate our young players, this is what I want you to consider.”

“What’s your training philosophy?” Günther asked.

“Train hard, play hard,” I replied. “You play the way you train. Endurance is everything. By the time the players show up, it’ll all be clear. Our jobs are to show our players what maximum effort and maximum commitment is and encourage them to push past it. To accomplish the feat of getting this club back into the Bundesliga we will need players who will run through walls to score that late equalizer, go ahead goal or defend a lead.”

“Before Enrico begins explaining everything, let’s break up into the first meeting,” Hengen interjected before I could continue. “Let’s start with all the coaches.”
 
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Can't believe you're back writing!! Remember the Bologna days. Great stuff as always, can't wait to see where this goes
 
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godzilla.jpg

A small face bobbed along into view as the garage door closed and I heaved a massive sigh of relief. I rolled my window down.

“Hi, Dad. Mechagodzilla can punch punch harder than Godzilla can punch hard but it doesn’t matter know why?” I shook my head. “Cos Godzilla always wins always wins that’s just how it is.”

“That’s good to know,” I told the back of my son’s head as he disappeared back into the house. Yeah, just like Bayern. I heaved another tremendous sigh, rolled up the window and got out of the car. I heard noise in the kitchen. It was Elke cleaning. We smiled and waved at each other.

“How was your first day my newly-employed weisswurst of a man?” Gwen asked from the living room couch.

“Am I daft for thinking I can rescue the club?” I asked.

“Probably,” she said whacking the cushion next to her indicating I should join her. “But are you crazy?”

“Ja that is the big question,” I said in German. Then in English. “Allie is napping?” She nodded. “I kept my speech brief. It seemed like my coaches get the basics of my system. Not a bad first day.”

“Not much happened today,” Gwen said as she leaned over and gave me a kiss. “Lots of Godzilla today. Allison talked non-stop. As always.”

“So does the Assistant Director of Logistics,” I said. I told her about Gisela.

“Maybe those two should meet?” Gwen said. I nodded then sank down deeper into the couch. “I have a decision to make about this next shoot. I know you’re going to be up to your neck in it so I’m considering taking the kids with me.”

“The south of France in late July?” I mumbled. “frigid temperatures, desolate landscape, howling winds, s*** food … I don’t know. Tough call. Do they have any beaches? Maybe if you brought Elke you could just maybe survive?”

“Smart @rse.”

“Dad?” my son said as he ran up holding up Godzilla in flight mode. “If Godzilla attacked France, would he win?”

“Doesn’t he usually defend Tokyo?”

He ran off into the kitchen so Godzilla could defeat some appliances or Elke or something.

“Godzilla,” Gwen said.

Screen Shot 2021-11-11 at 1.55.37 PM.png
“I just got done talking to Lorenzo,” I said. “Just as I pulled in.”

“Lorenzo from Lazio, right?”

“Yeah, that Lorenzo.” Lorenzo D’Anna had been my defense coach at Lazio. We’d played against each other when he was Captain of Chievo.

“So? Is he leaving Italy for here?”

“Yes! I’m stoked. Really really happy. I mean, he’s a great guy to have around. Few know the dark arts like he does.”

“Harry Potter dark arts?”

“Yeah, sort of,” I said chuckling. “But not really. Its how to commit GBH without getting carded, how to pull your man’s shirt so the ref won’t see, how to step on someone’s toes just right, all the soft spots in the body where if you jab a finger it really hurts …”

“Oh, that sounds nice …”

“… and the Italians have taken it to the level of art. And he f***ing agreed, Gwen. I can’t even believe it. Its like I’ve signed up a wizard to join my quest not some street magician or card trickster.”

“Well aren’t you persuasive my sexy little persuader of a man.”

Screen Shot 2021-11-11 at 2.02.15 PM.png
 
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Monday 12 July 2021

8am

“Espresso is life,” I said toasting everyone with my cup. Then I sat and had a sip. “How are your hotels?” Jörg grunted, Ulf and Lorenzo nodded. “I see you have your iPads and laptops. Good.” Switching to Italian. “Lorenzo, you should be getting an email from my German instructor. He’s really great. Everything good with your hotel?”

“Ja und danke,” Lorenzo said.

“Wolfgang Wimmer will be arriving today or tomorrow,” I said. “He’ll be our goalkeeping coach. We worked together at Eintracht.”

“He’s the s***,” Jörg said. His gold tooth gleamed in the cafeteria’s light.

“I’ve made an offer to Filip Trojan,” I continued. “He’s Czech. He’ll be coaching technique. Uwe Scherr knows him from their playing days at Schalke.”

“You’re going to like working with him,” Uwe added. Uwe is Head of Youth Development. “Great guy.”

“Here’s our situation. By the way, I’ve already told Lorenzo this in Italian. Today is Monday the twelfth. Our home opener is the twenty fourth against Braunschweig. We have one friendly day after tomorrow away to Ajaccio. So we’re flying to Corsica that morning and flying back that night. We’ve got twelve days to pull this squad together because of our late start to the preseason.”

“You can think about it this way,” Günther said. “At least we’re two weeks into training physically. The squad is in decent to good shape.”

“Ja, we’ll still be getting them all on the same page well into the season,” Ulf said. We all nodded.

“Hopefully, we’ve got enough quality in the squad to carry us through until we’ve gelled,” Frank Döpper said.

“So we’ve got to evaluate our players quickly and decide if we want to pursue some loan signings or off trials to some free agents,” I said. “If we need a someone I need to know as soon as possible because of our limited time frame. Right now I’m concerned about left back and defensive midfield. Alright, I want to do skills trainings after either sprints or distance running. Let’s talk through today’s session.”

1fck_training_ground.jpg


Players were stretching and chatting. A few stragglers were walking out onto the training pitch.

“F*** this s***!” Jörg yelled. His voice echoed crazily off the stadium walls. “On time is f***ing ten minutes early and warming up.” I looked at my phone. It was 8:59am. “Get your s*** together.”

The players hustled over and encircled we coaches.

“With the shouting out of the way, let me introduce myself,” I began. “I’m Enrico Pucci your new manager. You’ve already met my assistant Jörg.” I introduced the rest of the coaches. “There’s one other coach on his way as we speak. At least I hope he’s here by tomorrow.. Filip Trojan will coach technique.”

“We’ve got twelve days before the season kicks off. We have a lot of work to do, a lot to go over. So let’s get straight to expectations. Our job is to get promoted. What do you guys think?”

“We should aim for automatic promotion,” Jean Zimmer said. He’s the captain and right back. “I think I speak for the whole squad when I say we should have done better in the league last year.” A bunch of players all nodded in agreement.

“Great,” I said. “A cup run would be nice, but that isn’t the priority. Lets just all hope for Bayern or Dortmund at home, ja? We could use the income.” Everyone nodded in agreement.

Screen Shot 2021-11-11 at 2.53.09 PM.png
“Did you all get the code of conduct?” I said. Everyone nodded. “Its pretty standard except for one part: yellow cards. Pretty lenient, ja? I just want to be clear that I want to play aggressively, play on that line or over the line. Of course, pretty standard consequences for red cards, ja?”

“That looked good,” Zimmer said. “I think we’re all on board with that.” More nodding.

“Since we’re short on time, every single drill is designed to prepare for Braunschweig and so you all can learn my system. We’ll play a back four with wing backs, a defensive midfielder with two midfielders in front of him. We’ll play with one winger who will attack the weaker fullback. Two strikers. I expect late runs from the midfielders and the wing backs will be essential to us winning. I think my defensive system is easy to pick up and we’ll walk you through every aspect of it in the coming days. Let’s get started with four-v-two passing squares.”

Later, I was working with the midfielders on tactics when I heard Jörge bellow “f*** this!” from across the pitch. I turned to look.

“He’s Ulf f***ing Kirsten,” he shouted. “He played four hundred and f***ing forty six times for Leverkusen. He scored two hundred and f***ing thirty eight goals for them. Top scorer in the f***ing Bundesliga three f***ing times. He has fifty one caps for Die Mannschaft and scored twenty times. He’s got a f***ing hundred caps overall when you count the GDR. He’s been to two f***ing World Cups and the 2000 f***ing Euros. When he f***ing talks, you f***ing listen.”

Then Ulf resumed explaining the drill. And people accuse Ulf of being gruff and grumpy.
 

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1FCK_pressRoom.jpg
I panicked as I followed Thomas Hengen into the empty press room.

No, it can’t be empty. No f***ing way. Where are the … I’m going to be the first professional manager to hold an introductory press conference without any … oh … there they are over by the windows. Humiliation averted. The press room had been redesigned for the World Cup. It could seat fifty with room for TV cameras. It felt gargantuan and totally the wrong size for me and four journalists.

The journalists walked up to the front, set their phones down on the table where I’ll sit and then spread out across the seats.
1stpresser2.png


“Morning, hello how are you?” Thomas said. “Here he is, Enrico Pucci, our new manager. Let’s get started.”

“I’m Jakob Böttcher with the Kaiserslautern Express. Can you share your thoughts on what it means for you to lead Kaiserslautern?”

“I’ve spent a year away from football,” I began. “And I’ve thought over everything. One of the things that I really love is massive challenges. I like climbing mountains, so to speak. I loved all the challenges I faced at Wimbledon and Bologna. I got both of those clubs promoted. Kaiserslautern should be in the Bundesliga. This club faces many hurdles. This is my biggest challenge by far and I’m really looking forward to it.”

“I’m Florian Carre with OneFootball. Why Kaiserslautern?”

“I already mentioned the huge challenge. Secondly, I don’t have to move. I’ve got small children and we can stay in the house we moved into when I took the Eintracht job. I tend not to overthink things. This feels right because of the massive potential in this club.”

“Dennis Friedel, Sportbuzzer. Any reservations about taking the job?”

“Are you familiar with level two fun?” Dennis shook his head no. “Well, its the kind of fun that doesn’t seem all that fun at the time but you realize afterwards how satisfying and fun it was. Bologna was like that for me. Wimbledon was like that for me. This looks like that same kind experience and I’m really looking forward to it. Also, all the stuff I already said.”

“Niklas Boll with Kicker. What made you take this job?”

“Hi, Niklas. Can I get you a coffee? An espresso? They make a really good espresso in the cafeteria here. Wake up, man. Check your recording later and you’ll find I’ve already answered your question.”

“You are a noted polyglot, how useful will your multilingualism be in today’s playing culture?” asked Florian.

“Polyglot?” I said. “I don’t know that word in any language. But seriously, we are continually reminded that the world keeps getting smaller. Its the same for football. I think its an advantage. I think that when we bring in Italian, Spanish or English speaking players, I can communicate with them.”

“We’re led to believe that you’re quite heavily focused on the integration of younger talent,” Niklas asked. “What does this mean for your day-to-day coaching.”

“If a young player starts looking like he has the potential to contribute, I intend to give him opportunities to show me what he can do,” I replied. “I would like to avoid dropping a teen into the deep end of the swimming pool with the sharks, so to speak. Some may be like me and thrive under that kind of pressure. Some need to be brought along. The youth and reserve teams will both play the same system as the first team. They should be able to just slot into the first team during friendlies or for a few minutes at the end of matches.”

“What do you think of your squad?” Florian asked.

“I’ve had one training session,” I said. “I’ve watched videos from last season. I think we have enough quality in this squad to get promoted. I intend to add a few free signings and loan signings to make sure we have the quality we need in each position.”

“Follow up,” said Florian. “So no money for new signings?”

“Ja.”

“This doesn’t worry you?” Florian asked.

“No. This club has a plan to rebuild our finances. I’ve built good squads without any money before. This is the reality of Kaiserslautern’s situation. I am prepared to work within the constraints we face.”

“So you haven’t met the players, yes?” Dennis asked. “You’ve missed a bit of the preseason.”

“Our U19 Manager Alexander Bugera has been running them hard,” I replied. “I would like a full preseason but this is where we’re at.”

“So only the upcoming friendly against the French side AC Ajaccio to evaluate the squad?” Jakob asked.

“Ja.”

“That must concern you,” he said.

“Ja, but what can I do?” I replied. “I don’t think my system is hard to grasp. We will grow into it. We will have to learn as we go along.”

“Isn’t there a huge risk with experimenting as you go?” Jakob followed up.

“Obviously,” I replied. “As we say in America, this isn’t my first rodeo. The squad will gel. We will work hard on the training ground. That hard work will pay off eventually. I think we have enough quality in this squad to get through this learning phase.”

“What would you like to say to the supporters?” Dennis asked.

“I have had great relations with the fans everywhere I’ve gone,” I said. “I’m hoping … uh, no … I’m going to have a meeting with the Ultras. I hope to play exciting football and when I can’t to at least get results. While I report to the club’s board and General Manager, I work for the fans. They’re my real boss. I want to make them happy and there is two main things I believe will make them happy. Those two things are two promotions.”

“All of the previous managers have sat where you sat and said they intend to get this club promoted,” Florian said. “The press release talked about promotion. Please comment.”

“I got Bologna promoted despite warfare amongst two factions vying for control of the club,” I replied. “With the chaos of a potential new owner hanging over our heads the whole time. Once back in Serie A, I rebuilt the squad once again so we could thrive back in Serie A. I rebuilt a squad at Wimbledon to first avoid relegation and managed to get us promoted instead. Look at my track record.”

“Alright, that’s all the time we have for questions,” Thomas said.

“Thanks, nice to meet you guys,” I said.
 
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I'm usually deterred from reading an FM story with a lot of text (mainly due to time) but gave this a read and am now completely invested in this venture! Literally just been sat procrastinating at work and am not disappointed - Great work!

May even have to have a read through the previous stories if I get a chance.
 
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I'm usually deterred from reading an FM story with a lot of text (mainly due to time) but gave this a read and am now completely invested in this venture! Literally just been sat procrastinating at work and am not disappointed - Great work!

May even have to have a read through the previous stories if I get a chance.
Thank you.
 
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“Well that went pretty well, ja, Enrico?” Thomas said as we walked back towards our offices.

“Ja, and the players survived my first training session,” I said. “I have some concerns, though. I’m not sure we have enough options at left back. And I’m also concerned about depth at forward. I’m going to talk to Olaf about loan signings. But I figured you could get me a few free agents on trial in those positions.”

“I’ll get right on that.”

“Yes. For the fullbacks, I’m looking for the usual; speed, tackling, crossing, dribbling. For the forwards I want speed and strength. Once they’re here I’ll evaluate how composed they are and how good their off-the-ball running is.”

“How are you settling in?” he asked.

“Good. How long until Trojan gets here?”

“Ja, soon I hope. Getting everything processed through the DFB is always exasperating.”

“Isn’t it,” I agreed. We’d reached his office. “Alright. Thanks. I’m off to see Olaf.”

I strolled two door down and knocked.

“Come in, Enrico,” Olaf Marschall said. He played eight seasons with the club and was on the squad that won the Bundesliga in 1997 after getting promoted. He was the top scout for the organization. “We finally get to talk, how can I help?”

“I want to explore loan signings.” He nodded. “Left back, forward, central defender and defensive midfielder.”

“Sure. In that order?” I nodded. “Okay, what skillsets are you looking for?”

He had a large monitor on the wall. We walked through options at each position. I picked a bunch of players for his scouts to investigate.
 
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