For the glory of Hellas

Athe~

Member
Jan 7, 2011
5,572
0
0
Prologue.

Midway through the 2010-11 season, after a string of bad results in the League, Héctor Cúper resigned from his position as Aris manager. Even though the team didn’t perform to expectations in the league, his tenure was not completely unsuccessful, as he managed to qualify from the EL group stages eliminating Atlético Madrid, and achieved certain success in the Cup, finishing as runners-up in the previous season. But his performance in the League had been below par and he felt resigning his position was the way forward for the club.​



However, after a few changes in management, results didn’t go as expected, and although the team finished in a comfortable mid-table position, no manager secured the position for the following season. Club president Thanasis Athanasiadis decided to call Cúper and ask him to take the reins once again, but the Argentine declined, as he had already agreed to fill the managerial vacancy at Racing Santander. Cúper did, however, put a name forward: One of his assistants, a 24-year-old coach by the name of Alejandro Perna, whose promising football career had ended at the tender age of 17 after tearing his cruciate ligaments in both knees.


After the doctors told Perna he shouldn’t pursue a career in football, he entered a deep state of depression, but Cúper, who had just signed him at the time, decided to offer him a job as a coach. The youngster took it as his last chance to make a name for himself in the sport he loved, and took his offer with both hands. Seven years later, after becoming his mentor’s most trusted advisor and assistant manager, he was finally a signature away from his first managerial job.



 

Athe~

Member
Jan 7, 2011
5,572
0
0
Chapter I – For the glory of Hellas

‘If you need anything, anything at all, just give me a call’. Those had been Héctor’s last words when I left Santander, but they were still in my head when I got to Thessaloniki. After that journey I was as nervous as one can be, but I was also excited and overjoyed to finally be here. I was sure this would be a moment I would cherish forever.

As soon as I walked through the door of the Kleanthis Vikelidis Stadium, I heard a feminine voice behind me - ‘This way, Mr. Perna, the press conference is waiting for you to begin’. As I looked back, a girl with short brown hair and a pair of glasses was walking towards me. ‘I’m Anastasia Stavrou, the club’s press officer. This way, please’, she said, and I followed her down a corridor.

After a short walk, we entered the conference room. There weren’t many journalists, but there were enough to make me nervous. I had been here before with Héctor, but this time it’d be me answering the questions, and for a second, it scared the **** out of me. In a matter of seconds, though, Anastasia grabbed the microphone and addressed the journalists gathered there. ‘Mr. Perna will now be answering your questions. Remember gentlemen, only one question at a time. If you deem it necessary you may ask Mr. Perna for permission to reformulate the question or to ask a follow-up question’. Noticing I was nervous, she turned to me and said in a quiet voice ‘You don’t have to answer more than one from each of them, just try to give them a headline and it’ll be over before you notice’. I turned to the journalists, and the conference began.

‘Pirmin Rapillard, Goal.com’ said a short guy with a heavy French accent. ‘This being your first job in management, how do you feel about starting your career with a club like Aris?’

‘I think it’s great. I’m really grateful to be given the opportunity to start here. Aris is a big club, it may not be a household name in Europe but it’s a big club with a great history in Greece, and it’s certainly an offer most managers would consider, let alone a new one such as myself’.

I barely had time to drink some water before the next question. ‘Dimitris Papadopoulos, SPORTDAY. As far as I know, the club is quite short-staffed, and three or four members of the current staff are expected to leave in the coming days. Will you be bringing any new faces in the coming days?’.

There was an awkward silence, as I nervously put the glass of water back on the table. A single thought invaded my mind. ‘I’m an idiot. A ****** idiot’. I hadn’t even thought of that, but I had to improvise an answer quickly or my managerial career was dead before it even started. ‘Of course, I can’t run a club on my own, that’s for sure’. The journalist quickly came up with a follow up question: ‘Why didn’t you bring anyone with you, then?’. He had barely finished asking the question when Anastasia reached for the microphone. ‘I said one question at a time. You need not answer that, Alejandro’. Of course I needed to answer that, she knew it, but she had just bought me a few extra seconds to think. ‘Dimitris, right?’, I said. He nodded, and I continued with my answer. ‘Considering I have little experience and little knowledge of the language, I decided to hire locally. I’ve got a list of Greek coaches and other staff members, and you should be seeing a few additions shortly. I also intend to hire a few foreign scouts to increase our knowledge of other regions and secure the signature of young, talented players’. ‘Not bad for a beginner’, I thought. ‘Not bad at all’.

‘Panagiotis Chonos, NovaSPOR. Since you intend to sign young players, I assume you’re planning on staying here for the long term. Considering you’ve only been hired because of your friendship with Héctor Cúper, what makes you think you will last long here?’

Anastasia was about to intervene when I interrupted her. ‘Look, I know I’m new to this. I don’t have any delusions of grandeur. I’m young, but I’ve spent the last seven years learning from a great manager such as Héctor and I’ve picked up a few things, and I intend to learn even more here. But above all things, ever since I started playing football I wanted to make a name for myself in the sport. After my injury, this was the only way to go. And I will not fail. I owe it to myself, and I owe it to Héctor. I will try my hardest to bring success, domestic and European, if I can. For me, for the glory of this club, and… and why not, for the glory of Hellas.’

I stood up, thinking ‘There’s your headline’. In the background, I could hear the press officer’s voice ‘…conference is now over’, but my head was already focused on tomorrow. I was going to meet the team, and I had to start looking for new staff and players. The fun was about to start.

View attachment 209607
 

Athe~

Member
Jan 7, 2011
5,572
0
0
Chapter II – Assembling a team

July 2, 2011.

Kleanthis Vikelidis Stadium, Thessaloniki.

With our first pre-season friendly due on the 16[SUP]th[/SUP] of July, I had a fortnight to make a few calls and put together a competent coaching staff. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own, so I sent Héctor an e-mail asking for advice. A mere few hors later, I checked my inbox and I had two new messages.

We’ve been off Greece for a while so I can’t possibly tell you who to hire as I don’t know who’s available, nor how much money you are willing to spend on staff wages. But I know for a fact that Meletis Persias is looking for a job as an Assistant Manager, may be worth giving him a call, and you can probably discuss any other possible additions with him later. He’s an honest man and a hard worker, you won’t regret it.


PS – I got a surprise for you, I hope you like it.

A surprise? What was he talking about? But then I looked at the other e-mail. It was from a certain… Tino Asprilla. I sat back, eyes wide open, and skipped through the formalities.



…Héctor told me you were looking for a scout in South America. I’ve been looking for a job closer to home for a while and I’d be delighted to take up the position if you’re interested. I’m not looking for a huge salary, just a job to keep me in the game and earn me an honest living. My CV…

I stopped reading right there. I didn’t need no CV! Not for Tino Asprilla. If he could spot someone half as good as him then we’d have a gem in our hands. I called the chairman and asked him to sign Tino as a scout as soon as possible, while I called Meletis Persias to offer him a position as my right-hand man. He quickly took up my offer, and in a few days we had assembled a competent staff, on par with that of every top club in Greece, for a fraction of their wages.


But then came the issue of the playing staff. The club had a 3m state loan to repay, and club president Thanasis Athanasiadis informed be that bids had been accepted for star players Danijel Cesarec and Ricardo Faty, which would bring €2.6m to the club. However, both players would be paid for in instalments, which meant I wasn’t going to see any of that money. A few fringe players were also sold or released to clear some of the wage budget. Another player to leave was Giorgios Katidis, on a season long loan to Doxa Dramas. Katidis was probably the only promising youngster at the club, and getting a few games under his belt would do him no harm.


Contract extensions were handed out to Michel Garbini, Karim Soltani and Giorgos Katidis, but captain and star player Michalis Sifakis, who had attracted interest from several clubs, was currently uninterested in renewing his contract, which was due to expire at the end of the season. Luckily for me, a formal bid wasn’t made, as the chairman would’ve accepted it in a heartbeat and we’d be keeping him at least for another year.


Not every transfer news was bad news, though. Although I had no money to spend, the club was willing to sign new players on free transfers and loans, and I managed to secure the signature of internationals Ioannis Amanatidis and Vangelis Moras, one time international Filippos Darlas, and former youth international Giorgos Galitsios. I also secured a two-year loan deal for Henrique, a promising Brazilian striker from São Paulo, who would provide competition and backup for Amanatidis. A season-long loan deal was struck for Moroccan winger Faouzi as well, to provide cover for the aforementioned Karim Soltani.


~~~~~~

It didn’t take long for the team to settle, and when our pre-season friendlies started on the 16th, we scored a 4-0 victory over Beta Ethniki side Thrasyvoulos. This would be the start of a successful pre-season, during which we won every game and conceded only two goals. But these were only friendlies, the real test was yet to begin.
 
Last edited:

Athe~

Member
Jan 7, 2011
5,572
0
0
I liked this and will be following. Keep up.
Really nice start mate. Nice to see another well written "Block-text" story.

If you have the time, give mine a read:
http://www.fm-base.co.uk/forum/football-manager-2012-stories/85955-prodigal-son-manchester-united-story.html

KUTGW :)
Really good start Athe~, I'm following :)
Thank you, I'll try not to dissapoint.

@ Danny and fbp - I've just read both of your and they're really, realy good. Will be following!
 

Athe~

Member
Jan 7, 2011
5,572
0
0
Chapter III – A long march begins


August 27, 2011.

National Athletic Centre, Kerkyra.


As we walked towards the dugout I could feel cold sweat making it’s way down my forehead. It was my first official game in management, and the nerves were killing me. I had hoped to leave that behind after pre-season, but I guess my body had other plans. Yesterday afternoon, I had to send assistant manager Meletis Persias in my place to the pre-match press conference, as I was feeling unwell. I could barely get any sleep last night, but it didn’t matter. At the moment, all I had in my mind was the 90 minutes ahead of us.


The chosen eleven were Sifakis, Neto, Moras, Kouloucheris, Michel Garbini, Vranjes, Kapetanos, García, Soltani, Amanatidis and Castillo, in a traditional 4-3-3, with Vranjes acting as the most defensive amongst the trio of midfielders, and Castillo and Soltani as a pair of attacking wingers. It was an extremely offensive tactic, but I had promised goals and I would try my hardest not to disappoint.


Back at the dugout, I sat down and wiped the sweat off my face. ‘Alejandro, are you alright?’ said Meletis, after sitting next to me. ‘You don't look too good’. ‘I'm fine, it's just…’ I couldn't finish the sentence before he interrupted me. ‘You're nervous, I know. I've been there before. The feeling will soon go away, there's nothing to worry’, he said. ‘We've worked hard and I'm confident the players will repay our faith in them’. Feeling somewhat relieved, I stood up to watch the game kick off, and before long, Meletis was proven right.


On the 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] minute of the game, Amanatidis' run was stopped by a foul by Florin Lovin just outside the box, and Neto’s inswinging free kick found Vangelis Moras' head, who nodded in from close range. It was the beginning of a night to remember for both of them, as Castillo was fouled on the left and Neto once again found the centre-half unmarked in the 6-yard box, and he promptly added his second on the 9[SUP]th[/SUP] minute. After Castillo was fouled once more, Neto's set piece prowess was put to the test yet again, and his free kick made it's way to Moras' head for the third time, to complete an unlikely hat-trick on the 15[SUP]th[/SUP] minute.


But there was more to come on the first half, as Amanatidis scored his first goal for the club in the 32[SUP]nd[/SUP] minute with a very well placed finish after a great through ball by Ronald García. The half-time team talk was as simple as they get – more of the same please!


And more of the same it was, with Karim Soltani scoring his first goal in an Aris shirt on the 59[SUP]th[/SUP] minute, getting on the end of Nery Castillo's low cross, and Ioannis Amanatidis completed the rout by scoring a well placed penalty in injury time. ‘6-0 away, not bad for a debut’, I thought as I made my way towards the dressing room, struggling to hide the smile on my face. I was ecstatic. Not even in my dreams had I expected such a good start to the season. After a short chat with the boys, I was interrupted by someone banging on the door. ‘PC in 5', don’t be late’.

~~~~~~~~


As I was preparing to enter the conference hall, I was intercepted by our press officer, Mrs. Stavrou. ‘I was expecting you to show up yesterday. On the pitch it's all doing pretty well apparently, but you have a job to do beyond the pitch and this is part of it’, she said, angrily. I didn't know what to say. ‘I'm… I wasn't feeling all that well, Mrs. Stavrou. I'm sorry, I guess’. ‘You guess? You better be sorry. I expect to see you before and after every match from now on. And stop calling me “Mrs. Stavrou.” It makes me feel old, and we're about the same age. You can call me Ana. After all, we're going to be seeing each other every week, aren't we?’. ‘This girl is going to be a pain in the ****, isn't she…’ I thought. I nodded in agreement and stepped into the room to face the horde of journalists…
 

Athe~

Member
Jan 7, 2011
5,572
0
0
Chapter IV – Title contenders?

Our rout of Kerkyra had put us back in the Greek football map for the first time in a while. It had been an impressive performance, and many were already considering us an outside bet for the title. It had been 65 years since Aris last won the league, and over 40 since they last won a trophy. The oldest fans were excited at the prospect of seeing their club victorious one more time before they were gone. The younger ones were eager to feel what their fathers and grandfathers once felt, so that they would have stories to tell their own children one day.

But the reality check came soon. In our second game of the season, on the 6[SUP]th[/SUP] of September, despite dominating throughout the match, a lucky header from a set piece meant AEK beat us 1-0 in Salonica, and many believed their hopes and dreams were beginning to fade away.

They would quickly be reassured, however, as our next match was a 3-0 victory over Panaitolikos, and although Ergotelis managed to ****** a draw in the following match, we would go on to win the next 5 games played in October, – including our first game in the Greek Cup - to the delight of our fans. We were now 2[SUP]nd[/SUP], a point behind leaders PAOK and tied in points with Olympiakos, but with a greater goal difference.


Not everything was good news, though, as star striker Amanatidis, with 9 goals in as many games, was sidelined for 2 months with a torn groin muscle, an injury suffered in our last game of October against Atromitos, in which he had scored a hat-trick.

The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time. Our next game was Panathinaikos, 4[SUP]th[/SUP] in the league, and with a better and larger squad than our own, second only to that of Olympiakos. It was time to see what the brazilian kid we had signed on loan, Henrique, was made of.
 

Athe~

Member
Jan 7, 2011
5,572
0
0
Chapter V – 90 minutes of joy


November 5, 2011.
Kleanthis Vikelidis Stadium, Thessaloniki.

I couldn't hide the nerves as I left the conference room. I had let myself get carried away by all the hype surrounding our good start to the season, and I saw us in the title race. This clash against PAO was more than just another game now – it could prove decisive come the end of the season.



The next day, as we walked onto the stadium, I could see the excitement on the fans' faces. They wanted the title, perhaps even more than I did, and we would strive not to disappoint. I sat at the dugout with Meletis at my side as the referee blew his whistle.



Our boys knew what was at stake, and they took the game by scruff of the neck. Only 14 minutes after kick off, Kostas Kapetanos unleashed a tremendous curling shot from 30 yards out that found the top right corner. We were dominating at will, and before the first half was over, Henrique got his first goal for the club with a tidy finish from close range.



Going in 2-0 up, my task at half time was easier than expected. ‘We've done well so far boys, but don't let the scoreline deceive you – this game still has 45 minutes left and anything can happen. Don't get complacent, keep going forward and finish them off!’, I said, while Meletis pointed a few things out to Soltani, who was having a field day against their left back.



The half-time talk seemed to work, as Nery Castillo quickly got on the end of Soltani's low cross to put us up 3-0. It was a good counter-attacking goal and I was really pleased. We were looking tidy at the back and still dangerous in the counter, and as time went by their players were getting tired, nervous and desperate. 20 minutes before full time, after a silly foul inside their box, Michel Garbini put the game to sleep with a powerful penalty. I couldn't help getting up, fist raised in celebration. We were destroying them, and we were sending a message. ‘We're in for the title’, I murmured to myself.



They would pull one back after Kouloucheris scored a bizarre own goal, but it was too little, too late for them to mount a comeback, and we went home with a 4-1 victory in the bag to delight the fans and to climb to 1[SUP]st[/SUP] place in the table along with Olympiakos, as PAOK could only manage a draw against AEK. The fans were ecstatic, and so were the players. If we could keep playing at this standard, the title was ours, there's no question about that.
 

Athe~

Member
Jan 7, 2011
5,572
0
0
Chapter VI - Bittersweet


We were facing fierce rivals PAOK next in what would be a heated derby, the first time in years both these clubs had been fighting for the title. It was still early days, but AEK and Panathinaikos had fallen short of expectations, and Olympiakos and both of the Salonica clubs seemed to be the only ones in the title race. A victory would see us stretch our lead over our rivals to four points, and after our thrashing of PAO the fans were relishing a clash against our neighbours.

The match would not end well, though. In what could be seen as a replay of the AEK match, we dominated, then fell behind to a header from a free kick. But that was not the worst part. Soon, Bolivian midfielder Ronald García, one of our key players, was injured, and minutes later Michel Garbini was sent off. During the second half, despite creating many chances with 10 men, we couldn’t find an equaliser and a goal in the 70[SUP]th[/SUP] minute put the game to sleep.


It was a gutting moment. I couldn't hide my disappointment, and for the first time since I took charge, I released all my anger on the players. They simply didn't turn up to one of the most important matches of the season. They had become complacent after the victory over PAO and we were paying the price now. Furthermore, we were back down to 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] now, as Olympiakos claimed a victory over Panaitolikos.



After my rant was over, I asked the players and the staff to leave, and sat on a bench in the dressing room, alone. ‘I don’t want to settle for Europa League qualification’, I thought. ‘I won't’. ‘It's still early days, and we're only three points behind, but now we have to beat Olympiakos twice or hope they drop points along the way if we want to win. And then there's a score to settle with PAOK…’ The sound of the door opening interrupted my thoughts. It was Ana, just what I needed. A press conference. ‘Are you alright?’ she said. I looked at her and smiled ironically. I made no effort to hide my anger: ‘Do I look alright? I've lost my first derby and possibly one of the most important games of the season. Go away, I'm in no condition to give a press conference’. ‘I know. That's why I had Meletis answer a few questions for the journos. I was just checking up on you. By your tone I gather you're well enough…’ she said, as she turned to walk away, leaving me feeling like an idiot.



I stood up and grabbed her arm before she closed the door. ‘Wait… please. I'm sorry. I'm just… frustrated. I don't take these things too well, I guess. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have reacted like that’. ‘It's OK. Come on, cheer up. There's more than half a season to go, you can do it. I have faith in you. But you really need to learn to handle disappointment, that was really, really childish. 'Go away'? What are you, 5?’. She smiled at me, and all of a sudden she looked pretty. Maybe I hadn't noticed because she was always troubling me with ****** press conferences and interviews, but she was pretty. And nice. And she seemed to like me, too…



‘I'll see you next week’, she said, walking down the corridor. My mind was screaming ‘Say something, you fool!’, but I didn't know what to say. I opened my mouth, knowing that I would regret it. ‘Ana, uh, would you like to, eh, like, I don't know, eh, have a drink… like, whenever you want, not now… unless you want to go now… it’s OK if you want to go now… it's OK if you don't too, you know, now… or not at all’. I immediately wanted the ground to open up and swallow us both, me for being an idiot, and her because she was the only witness. But no. She looked at me, a smile on her face, and calmly replied. ‘I guess football isn't the only thing that makes you nervous, huh? There's a nice pub a few blocks away from here, and my house isn't too far either’. Maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't be such a bad night after all…
 

Athe~

Member
Jan 7, 2011
5,572
0
0
Chapter VII – A glimmer of hope

December 10, 2011.
Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, Piraeus, Athens.

It had been a month since our defeat to PAOK, and we were still on the chase. We had won our following game against OFI, only to fail miserably in breaking a determined Panionios defence to miss a golden chance of gaining ground on our neighbours who had lost their match against Ergotelis, but in our third game after the PAOK fiasco we destroyed Doxa Dramas 6-0 with Henrique scoring a hat-trick. We were back in the form that saw us praised by fans and pundits alike in the first few games of the season, and we were facing Olympiakos next.

Olympiakos had only managed a draw in their previous fixture, a derby against AEK, and PAOK had drawn against PAS Giannina – it was a golden chance to show the country we were in for the title, and we would not settle for anything less. Olympiakos had other plans, though.

Right from the start, the hosts were pushing as back - helped by an extremely hostile atmosphere as over 25000 of their fans had shown up today to support their team - and the ball didn’t leave our own half until five minutes into the game – and only because we were forced to resume play from the middle after Yeste headed home from a corner by Ibagaza on the 4[SUP]th[/SUP] minute. I knew it would be a struggle but I hoped we could hold them back till half-time, but clearly it wasn’t the case.

‘Faouzi!’ I shouted. ‘Come here. Holebas is their weakest link in defence, get the ball and run at him’. The Moroccan nodded in agreement and ran back to his position. For the following ten minutes we were attacking down our right flank almost exclusively, but Faouzi’s crosses weren’t accurate enough and most of the time the ball was cleared easily by the defenders. However, on the 15[SUP]th[/SUP] minute the ball bounced off Holebas for a corner, and when Kapetanos floated the ball in both they made a mess trying to clear the ball and Papasterianos blasted the ball to the back of the net, to the delight of our travelling fans.

As play resumed, the hosts renewed their continued siege of our goal, but we managed to hold on to the draw until the whistle was blown and the first half was over. ‘Well done boys. If we can’t win this then we must not lose.’ I told them back in the dressing room. ‘They are in Europe as well and they may slip up yet. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to park the bus, but you have to be tight at the back. Attack as much as you can but don’t let them get the better of you at the back, whatever happens, don’t let them take the three points!’

The second half was much like the first, with them looking for a chance to take the lead and us defending for our lives. But that man Yeste would pop up yet again and after a good play down our left flank, scored with a well placed shot on the 62[SUP]nd[/SUP] minute. It was a very good goal, and as much as I wanted to blame someone, it had been pure brilliance from the Spaniard and I had to swallow my anger. While they celebrated, I talked to a few of the boys and told them to push for an equaliser.

And push they did. Only five minutes later, a terrible backpass by Torosidis was spotted and intercepted by Henrique, and although Papadopoulos managed to tackle the ball away from the young Brazilian before he could shoot, veteran centre-half Efthymis Kouloucheris, himself a former Olympiakos player, headed home from the ensuing corner, and the bench exploded in celebration.

The last 25 minutes, though, we were forced to park the bus and hope for the best. They had most of the possession and shots on goal until the end of the game, but our boys held firm, and when the referee blew his whistle, we knew our fate was in our hands – if, come the end of the season, the title race was still between us and Olympiakos, we would play the decisive game at home, with our fans backing us.
 
Top