I started out with nothing and I still got most of it left


January 2018

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The pre-season friendlies don’t go particularly well. Only manage 1 goal in the 4 games, but hopefully just a blip. I had, as with last pre-season, tried to choose teams we could beat and work some momentum into the season proper, but it hasn’t quite worked that way.

My quest to improve the squad continues with another centreback brought in.

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In addition, I take the opportunity to scout the Iceland U21 and U19 squad for the players out of contract. There are a couple to be offered trials and Gunnarsson, CB and Siguirgeisson, ST are offered contracts:

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So its all looking rather good, another 2 good prospects bought in. Daniels has been a reliable player for the team, but his performances towards the end of last season weren't good, so I'm hoping to gradually progress Siguirguiesson through.

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And then AGAIN, the board decide to go behind my back to accept a bid. Leoss was one of the brightest youth prospects the team had, so I’m more than a little irritated.

I had previously only taken in interest in jobs if they had come up, however I am now going to actively look for other jobs and I am definitely going to be thinking twice about renewing my contract.


February 2018

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So this is the squad to start the season with - still 5 months of the transfer window open, so subject to change, but we start with these.
Gyu is clearly the outstanding prospect here. He looks like he could lead this team for years if he doesn't get poached. Elsewhere, I'm trying to retrain Balbi to a WB role and I have 2 strong CMs.

At the other end of the team, 3 of my lowest rated 5 players are CBs, but do have experience so I'm not desperate to get rid of them at the moment. These may be the players to let their contracts run down and replace them then.

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I start the month, assuming the best, and tie down Ortiz, my best player to a new contract.

All friendlies completed, and they’ve been shocking. Despite playing strong teams against weaker opposition in all of the games, I’ve only managed to win once in 6 games and, even worse, only scored twice - not the preperation I was hoping for before heading into the League Cup stages.

I’m not expecting to pull up any trees or win the group, but progress would be managing more than 9 points and finishing 4th as I did last season.

Very nice opening win, Gyu does the business and takes a bit of the burden from Ortiz in terms of the goalscoring duties. Stefansson provides as many assists on his debut as Jennings managed in 21 last season.

The board provide some expectations for the season which seem reasonable and I have some flexibility with the budget.

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I shuffle the team a little for the second game in snowy conditions against IA which may have been a mistake. In any case, a 2-2 draw is not a horrible result, Gyu scores another and Sigurgeisson scores on his debut, both from wide assists. The draw takes me top after 2 games.

Still irked at the board going behind my back, I apply for the 3 jobs currently available. Not convinced I’ve got the experience for any of them, but hey - who knows.

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March 2018

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Disappointing start to the month. Another Gyu goal, but the rest of the team aren’t stepping up with him.

I fail with my applications to Lokomotiv Gorna & Javor “…in light of the strength of the other applicants of the job…”

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Despite these stats, we come away from a very tough game against Valur with a credible 0-0 draw.

I finally hear back from Rudar following my application last season who, again, can’t come to a compensation agreement with my board. I go to the board, and get told this…

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Now, given they have sold 2 of my most promising players in the last few months, I’d very much like to be able to tell them to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.

Something bizarre has happened, since Gyu has started scoring prolifically, Ortiz - top scorer last season and general all round saviour of the team throughout the season, has been unable to hit a barn door. If these two ever get scoring at the same time, we could be dangerous.

We have also returned to our titles as draw masters, with another draw against Fjolnir. On the plus side, my Mongolian (don’t think in my entire FM history I have been able to say that before) striker gets off the mark.

And my application for the Serbian team Pivara Celaravo is also unsuccessful.

Leiknir brings us a very tight win, despite playing 88 minutes with 10 men. Having ‘rested’ Ortiz for some games to try and get him to refocus, I bring him back for this and he gets a straight red after 2 minutes…not impressed but we hold on and the win takes us into second, albeit we can be caught by teams below us with games in hand.

April 2018

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The last game of the league section of the cup, finds us in 2nd
position. To guarantee one of the promotion spots we have to win against KA, sitting in 5th. We could go through with other results, but I’d rather not have to rely on that.

A cracking Jonsson free kick just before half time gives us a narrow win over KA and guarantees progression to the quarter final from the cup group stage - we’ve already improved over last seasons performance, so anything else from now is a bonus.

The quarter final looks like this:

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A narrow 1-0 win and some top quality performances from my back 4 takes us through to the semi final…

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…and we’re pitched against the old rivals. We didn’t lose against them last season before they were relegated, so let’s see how we get on.

Took a nice early comfortable 3-0 lead and promptly started to throw it away, thankfully we managed to hold on to get to a 3-2 victory and we’ve surpassed all expectations to get to the final which seems to have caught the imagination.

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We beat them twice last season, so let’s hope for more of the same…

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All things considered, that was a pretty horrible performance - we were pretty much outplayed, they missed a couple of very good chances, but my keeper Dhaira was outstanding. By the time we got the extra time, I shut the game down, played for penalties and hoped for the best…

We were ridiculously lucky, but hey - I’ll take a cup win any day!!


May 2018

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The board’s expectations for the coming season are a safe mid-table position. Unfortunately, the bookmakers don’t appear to have much faith in that happening and predict a 10th place finish. That would be enough to keep me up, but given the pretty good finish last season, I would have hoped for better.

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Disappointed to lose the opening game of the season as we had held our own and actually had the better of the clear cut chances but conceded a goal in the 91st minute. Not a great start. I started with Ortiz in the hope that he could break his duck, but he just goes another 70 minutes without a goal.

The 3rd round of the cup pitches us away to non league Huginn, to be played at the end of the month.

Ortiz is dropped for Murun in the only change for my first home game of the season against Fjolnir. Gyu is the saviour, after conceding an early goal, he tucks away a penalty and then turns provider with an absolute worldy of an assist for substitute Sigurgeirsson to tap in from 2 yards for his third of the season and he is proving, so far, to be Gyu’s most prolific partner.

A really solid 2-0 away win against IA brings another goal for Sigurgeirsson, a second consecutive win and another 2 goals.

My plan to rest a number of players for the cup game backfires horribly against Huginn. On the plus side, Ortiz ends his goal drought, however he goes from hero to villain committing a foul to concede the penalty they win from.

June 2018

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Gyu provides the only bright spot in an otherwise dull game against Valur althought a 1-1 draw belies the number of chances they had with Dhaira, at still only 20 years old, deservedly being awarded the man of the match award.

The first of 4 home games against Stjarnen provides a good opportunity to lay the foundation for some strong results. Unsurprisingly, that man Gyu delivers the goods with 2 goals to earn the 2-1 victory.

Fram provide tough opposition but Murun supplies the breakthrough and we hold on to get another 3 valuable points.

The game against Vikingur looks like it’s petering out to a dull 0-0 draw until the 68th minute when we’re gifted a penalty which Murun tucks away with ease. Unfortunately, only 2 minutes later we gift them an equaliser with our own defence parting like the red sea to give their striker a straightforward 1 on 1 which he slots home, but the draw pushes us up to 3rd so I’m pleased with that.

2-0 down after an hour and it looked like we were going through the motions to lose…then all of a sudden Gyu decides to pop up with 2 goals taking his seasons tally to 12 in just 18 games. Murun adds the other to ensure we finish with a 3-2 win. I’d like to say I feel a bit sorry for IBV, but I don’t. And that win, remarkably, pushes us into 2nd in the league.

July 2018

Tough opening game to against FH, the league leaders but Gyu leads us to a 2-1 win with both goals - he has scored 8 of our 14 league goals this season and we would be in a much poorer position without him. Delighted to beat the league leaders, this win puts us top for the time being and its difficult to believe these guys are still only semi-professionals.

I do a bit of scouting round for replacements as Jennings hasn’t been doing the business in the AMC role and these two look like the best of the reasonable choices:

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Urbancic has age, versatility and potential on his side, so looks like my preferred option. An away game against Fylkir in 9th gives us the opportunity to regain the top spot and although Murun gives us the lead after 25 minutes, we can’t hold on, eventually succumbing 2-1.

The games come thick and fast and it’s Breidablik, currently a place ahead of us in 3rd up next. Bit disappointed to come away with only a draw as we had led for a considerable amount of time, but not being able to hold on to the lead seems to be a worrying trait at the moment.

And then - out of the blue, I get approached by Bulgarian 2nd Division team Tryavna. Looking at the squad which isn't even complete, this looks like it would be even more of a challenge than the Grindavik job and I'm being paid less…but…they are a professional outfit, have proper training and youth facilities, and it does move me along in terms of the career, so with a partly heavy heart I take the job.

Overall, I’m very happy with my time at Grindavik and the cup win was an outstanding achievement - my Grindavik stats look like this:

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July 2018

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So here we are, newly located in central Bulgaria and having assessed the situation - GULP…it’s worse than it looks and the season preview doesn’t do me any favours.

The team appear to have no history and are newly promoted into this league. There are only 13 players on the books, no reserve squad and no staff so I’ll be virtually building the team from scratch.

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On the plus side, I do have a reasonable amount of leeway in the kitty with lots of the wage budget to play with.

It’s looking as though the tactics are going to be defined by the players that I can bring in - I can’t imagine there is much quality waiting in the wings to come to the Bulgarian 2nd Division and the team itself has very little quality in depth.

First league game is a month away on the 11th August so it’s going to be very busy until then but first things first, and I bring in an assistant manager, Georgi Kostadinov:

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…and a striker, who frankly, looks too good at this level to pass up:

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In amongst all the transfers and team building, there are the issue of a few friendlies. The first against Dimitrovgrad is a proper ding-dong affair - my new striker scores a hat-trick, but we still manage to lose 5-4.

I bring in a chief scout, who is the best available at short notice as I need some scouting reports done pretty quickly.

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I have to strengthen my defence and Zahariev (RB) and Karakostov (CB) come in…

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I change the tactics for the next friendly - albeit slightly - and we lose another one, although only concede the 1 goal on this occasion, so this could be considered a much better result. I am still having to put players well out of position and there is still a real lack of quality, so the friendlies aren’t really giving me much indication of the future of the team although they are getting some fitness.

Another centreback - Karakolev - is bought in along with Iliev (LB) to add some needed depth and, hopefully, quality to the back 4.

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Now reasonably comfortable with the defence, it’s time to bring in the players to improve the midfield. I splurge on defensive midfielders, bringing in 4 new faces…

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The last day of the month brings the 3rd friendly and, finally, a win with a very defensive 4-3-2-1 formation, but it looks as though it’s the one I may stick with as the balance appeared pretty good and matches the players I have in so far, although I am lacking in the offensive department.


August 2018

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I bring in another 2 AM, although with some versatility and able to play CM as well

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The first friendly of the month, despite dominating possession, shots on target, clear cut chances and completed number of passes we end up apparently impotent and lose 2-0.

The mass influx of players continues, with 2 new goalkeepers being drafted into the squad, 21 year old Velkov and the more experienced Ganchev:

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This the formation I’m going to start with, mainly because it fits the players I’ve managed to attract the club:

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And the serious work begins in the league. An opening day draw away to Dobrudzha is a pretty good result even if we couldn’t capitalise on their going down to 10 men after 80 minutes. My shadow striker Dimitrov opens his account.

30 games in the league, and they’re coming thick and fast at the beginning of August. Up next are Tsarsko Selo for my first home game of the season. In front of 343 hardy home (and 1 away) fans, we record our first win of the season. Kore picks up his first from a quality through ball from defence and Zlatanov seals the victory from outside the box in the dying minutes.

The upheaval with the squad continues and despite having brought in 14 new players, I’m still several away from where I want to be. As a general rule I like to have 2 players for each position but this is appearing to be difficult.

The Bulgarian Cup draws us against Lokomotiv Sofia. I’m only expected to be competitive so anything of note in this competition is a bonus.

Despite being deprived of my first choice striker, keeper and 2 centrebacks through injuries and suspension, I pick up a huge away win against Pomorie and the win pushes us into second place with Maksimov opening his account.

Another new CB; Dzharneliov, a ST; and an AM; Apostolov come in to add some depth, though Iliev doesn’t look like a back-up option and looks like he could rotate quite freely up top with Kore.

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I’m concerned that all the players brought in so far have been aging and some youth intake is required so to this end, I start looking at the younger end of the market, particularly as I now have the core of the squad in place.

Disappointing result against Maritsa as I thought we did enough to win the game, but lapses of concentration from corners cost us any points. Particularly irritating as we had the lions share of possession, shots on target and clear cut chances but, for whatever reason, my strikers were unable to capitalise.

Spartak Pleven are up next and Kore pays the price for his wastefulness in the previous game. Iliev comes in to lead the line and a couple of other changes are made for fitness reasons. I also amend the tactics, playing wider and exploiting the flanks to, hopefully, take advantage of the marauding wingbacks. The changes pay off and Iliev scores a powerful header from a left wing cross.

September 2018

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Nesebar away up next in the hope of continuing the good form. A 7th minute penalty from Dimitrov is the foundation for a good away win. Tactics change to defensive after taking the lead and a second Iliev goal follows just before half time. We shut the game down in the second half and hold on for another pretty valuable away win. Kudos to Genchev for a penalty save as well.

We hold on to 3rd and a fifth of the way through the season we’re making a mockery of the pre-season prediction although that may have been in place before I drafted in an entirely new team. The 3 DMs are providing a really solid base, with the 2WB good attacking support to what is, essentially, a front 3. It looks solid, balanced, seems to play well and gives plenty of passing options.

Transfer deadline day is up and I try and address the lack of youth in the squad, bringing in two 20yr old DMs:

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Remarkably, although unsurprisingly given the squad inherited I have brought in 19 new players and, judging by the first few games, they do appear to be settling in quite nicely.

A bit of an acid test coming up next against Sozopol, currently sitting one place ahead of me in 2nd place so a good examination of the team, although it goes horribly. We concede an early penalty, then a disastrous own goal and they score a third. Most disappointingly, we barely threaten, but due to other results we actually move up to 2nd place which is nice.

The cup game gives me the opportunity to blood some of the squad players against a team from the first league. We concede what was, to be fair, to a very well worked goal after 17 minutes. My centreback Dzharneliev powers in from a corner to restore parity and then, having made all 3 substitutions in an effort to win the game, the same player is taken off injured leaving us to play the last 10 minutes with ten men, which they take full advantage of and despite adjusting the mentality and tactics, quickfire goals in the 88th and 90th minutes consign us to a 3-1 loss.

Having lost 2 in a row, we have a home game against Lokomotiv Gorna next, currently sitting in 13th position in the league. Bit of a 0-0 bore draw and in truth we hardly looked like scoring, but it’s another point and stopped the losing rut for the time being.

Scoring goals seems to be our biggest weakness, in 8 games we’ve scored just 7 (joint lowest in the top half of the league). In an effort to do something about this, I change the tactic at the top end of the pitch to 2 up top for the next game, home to Etar who start the game in 9th position.

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…which has no influence whatsoever on our goals scored column, with the game petering out to a second consecutive 0-0 draw with now just 3 goals scored in our last 6 league games.

October 2018

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10th game of the season to Oberishte, and in an attempt to halt the slide we’re currently suffering from I revert back to the original 4-3-2-1 for the away game. I make a couple of changes, altering the strikers role from poacher to advanced forward and change the advanced playmaker from support to attack to try and take advantage of Kore’s relative pace. I also change the mentality to counter with more direct passing, add a ‘pass into space’ instruction and ‘exploit the middle’ to try and encourage through balls that Kore can get on the end of. As it happens, one of my DMs, Dimitrov, scores his first goal of the season to grab a draw.

Another away game, this time to Botev Vratsa, currently sitting in 15th. I keep the changes made ahead of the previous game and Iliev gives us a deserved lead, unfortunately we can’t hold on and concede an equaliser with just 4 minutes left now making it 6 games without a win.

A home game against the bottom placed team should provide some relief, but with our current form, it’s definitely not guaranteed. At the 7th time of asking, we finally record a win through Kolev who scores his first goal for the club. Despite the recent poor form, the win pushes us up to 4th, just 4 points off the top spot.

November 2018

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A home game to another team currently in the relegation zone. Another Dzharnaliev goal gives a very narrow 1-0 win and the tactical changes made seem to have been effective in the last couple of games. Whilst we’re still not scoring many, we’re not conceding all that many either.

I bring in a couple of English youngsters available on a free transfer partly to bulk up my useless reserves team and partly in the hope they can realise their potential.

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An away game to Pavlikeni, currently sitting 2 places below me come up next. Despite having the better of the first half, my RB Zahariev concedes a penalty on the brink of half time althoguh thankfully, Velkov, the young goalkeeper, spares his blushes and saves it. The second half looks like it’s petering out so I make a couple of changes, adjust the mentality and take a gamble, however to no avail as it finishes goal-less.

Home game to Spartak Varna and and outstanding performance from Dimitrov with 2 goals, gives us a comfortable win and he becomes my top scorer for the season. In fact, it could have been far more comfortable as we hit the woodwork on 4 occasions.

Overall, a really pleasing month with 2 wins out of 3 and no goals conceded...not many scored, but enough.

I’ve started to look at the January transfer window and look to bring in a new goalkeeper and attacking midfielder as upgrades to my current squad:

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I also need to look at bringing in new CB and RB, so they will probably be the priority for December in terms of players.


December 2018 - February 2019

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Only 2 games in December and then it’s the winter break until March so let’s hope for a good end to the year.

Tsarsko Selo up first, away. Apostolov has an interesting game, scored his first for the club in the 50th minute, gets sent off in the 52nd and we go to contain the game. Kore, on as a second half substitute adds a second and we seal the win which takes us top of the league.

Kore then tears a hamstring in training and faces 3 months on the sidelines. As it happens, Iliev has been the better of the two in any case, and the injury is over the winter break so will hopefully be fit to return after the break.

A home game against Dobrudzha up next and despite the win only being 3-1, this is our highest scoring game this season. Iliev gets another, Kolev gets one and Angelov taps in from a yard out to get his season up and running. We haven’t scored many compared to other teams in the league, but happily the goals are being shared around the team with 9 different goalscorers so far and 10 players providing assists.

We go into the break top of the league and 4 points clear so the job over the break is to improve squad where possible and renew any contracts that need it.

My scouting team bring my attention to Velinovski, a Macedonian U-21 international centre-back who comes with the instruction to sign whatever the price, so given my lack of depth in that position, I do.

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January brings the board to my door with the offer of a new contract which I accept - another year to see what we can do.

My scouting team also find Shadow Striker, Dimitrov who looks like a talent, so I pick him up for a fee of £5k.

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It now brings the number of Dimitrov’s in the squad to 4 which is starting to get somewhat confusing.

My busy transfer window continues and after bringing in Danish centreback Westmark for a 2 week trial, he does enough to persuade me he’s better than the worst CB, Dzharneliav,so he is brought in.

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Two friendlies before the start provide a straightforward win against Bali 2002 with them lucky not to concede more in a game we dominated. A second match against local team Chindia, doesn’t quite go so well, and we only grab an equaliser after 85 minutes with hardly any chances made during the game.

The transfer window closes at the end of February so all business is done. 5 first team players brought in, all improvements on the current squad, so I’m hopeful the extra quality can provide a push to the end of the season. My aim was to bring in a CB - I managed 2, and a RB - which I couldn't manage, so I am unfortunately weak in this area.

March 2019

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Back to it after the break and 13 games left to see what we can do.

I'm pretty happy with the squad strengthening done over the break and its down to business again.

Home game against Pomorie up first, currently sitting in 9th and an outstanding hat-trick from my AM Dimitrov is the basis for a dominant 4-1 win. My DM Dimitrov scores the 4th and it allows me to blood 2 of the new signings with Westmark and Velinovski putting in solid performances in the back 4. The margin of the win also allows me to give some game time to my 18 year old left back, Dixon for his debut.

The next result brings us crashing back to earth with a 1-0 defeat to Maritsa. In truth, we were never really in it and we were,frankly, beaten by the better team although still stay 4 points clear.

A real top of the table clash next as we come up against Nesebar in 3rd place which gives us a real chance to put some distance ahead of the chasing pack. The game starts horribly with my DM Nedyalkov given a straight red off after just 90 seconds. Given the numerical disadvantage, the final 0-0 result is not a bad one, in spite of having enough chances to put the game to bed.

My RB Zahariev who has been widely ridiculed by my own fans this season scores the first and Kore knocks in a late second to give us a reasonably straightforward win at home to Sozopol.

A look at the difference between my home and away form is quite telling with the results away not being great - this is worrying since the majority of the remaining games are away now.

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I end the month bringing in Senegalese U21 international, Ibrahima Gueye to add some steel to the centre of the park. The fans seem pleased with him and the press are already stating he's too good for the club and will be snapped up by a bigger team - let's just hope he puts in some performances for us first...

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April 2019

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Apprehensive about the number of away games coming up as we haven’t played particularly well away, but we start the month against Spartak Pleven…Gueye has an outstanding debut in the centre of midfield and a stunning last minute strike from Kore rescues a 2-2 draw.

Lokomotiv Gorna, currently sitting in 12th up next. and Kore, having scored 2 in 2 appearances will start. The Dimitrov’s do the business with my DM Dimitrov getting his 2nd of the season and AM Dimitrov putting away his 8th and leading the team to a 2-1 victory in front of just two hardy fans…I hope they travelled together.

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Home game against Oberishte, currently sitting joint top of the league with us but, unsurprisingly, ahead on goal difference given our relative lack of goals scored but despite this, I am asked to take a team meeting to give words of encouragement to ensure our survival - which I did, and it went well, so I'm pretty happy with that.

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Despite an early goal from Kore, we can’t hold on and eventually lose having come under serious pressure…in fairness, we were only the better team in parts and didn’t play well enough over 90 minutes to get anything out of the game. Oberishte take a 3 point lead with 6 games of the season remaining.

The games don’t get any easier and an away match to Etar in 4th place is up next. We utterly dominate but somehow can’t turn this into goals. Kore scores one early in the first half, but that’s it and, whilst we hold on for the 3 points, it would have been nice to converted another couple of the many chances we had. Oberishte win their game, so the gap at the top remains 3 points.

May 2019

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A tight win against Botev Vratsa, courtesy of a Dimitrov goal as the game was nearing an end, gives us a pretty good 3 points. This is made to look even better at the top of the table as a result of Oberishte losing and we’re back to being all square on points again.

Rilski Sportski, currently sitting in the relegation zone up next and yet another away game. I have to change the formation as we’re down on players with suspensions and Gueye being called up for international duty, but hopefully we have enough to get the job done. Kolev gives us the lead within 3 minutes although this doesn’t last long with an equaliser coming after 9 minutes. They score again to take the lead just after the hour although Iliev rescues us a point with a goal in added time after we throw the kitchen sink at them.

A takeover provides a little interest during the month, although the new chairman makes no promises for investment, but on the plus side, he does at least give me a clean slate to work from.

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Away to the bottom team and a comfortable win is predicted, however we still have a number of suspensions and injuries, so it’s hardly a foregone conclusion. A completely frustrating game and we missed a hatful of chances, particularly in the first half, meaning that the game ends 0-0.

100 games up

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Up against the team currently sitting in 2nd position; Pavlikeni who are on a very good run. If we couldn’t beat the team at the bottom…well, we’ll see. A goal fest of a first half means we head into half time at 2 a piece with Kore and Kolev doing the business for us. No further goals, despite a fiesty second half in which both teams are reduced to 10 and making changes to try and nick the win.
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June-July 2019

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Final game of the season away to Spartak Varna in 4th. We’re guaranteed at least a 3rd place finish so considering the pre-season expectation of relegation, this is already a very successful season. Suspensions mean I am missing both fullbacks and a key DM position which does not make this any easier and we just don’t turn up and lose 1-0 and, to add insult to injury, put in a very poor performance…not impressed.

However, we have a second chance, as, courtesy of finishing 3rd we end up in the playoff draw, pitching us against Pavlikeni who we haven’t managed to beat this season. Both Lokomotiv Sofia and Botev Plovdiv from the first division are in the other half of the draw.

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Dimitrov gives us an early lead and Kore adds a second mid-way through the first half. Iliev adds a third with one minute left and despite being dominated in every key area, we pick up a very good 3-0 win. Even more pleasing than the result is my 18 year old left back; Dixon, picking up man of the match courtesy of 2 assists, but the result means a promotion which, as the board acknowledge, is an unbelievable achievement.

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We were expected to get relegated, but having brought in a completely new squad (29 players brought in, alhtough only £5k spent), with some real quality compared to the rest of the league, actually being near the top is probably a fair reflection - although promotion is something of a surprise. I’ve run the finances a bit tight with the contracts, but not gone in excess.

My 20 year old Dimitrov wins the young player of the season award and I’m given the manager of the season which is nice as a personal accolade.

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The promotion means we need some additional quality to be brought in, so it’s looking like another busy summer break and the first new recruit is a CB, Ganev:

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A new RB, Kremenliev is brought into the squad along with a new AM, Penchev, whose stats don’t look great but he is highly recommended by the coaching staff so we’ll wait and see how he gets on;

That addresses the 2 really weak spots we had, so I’m not looking to bring too many more players in unless someone too good to turn down becomes available.

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Probably unsurprisingly, the seasons preview has us favourites to be relegated, although due to the nature of the league, the relegation places seem to be complicated by the league splitting into two groups and then a relegation play-off.

AM Dimitrov and 3 DMs; Zlatanov, Angelov and Nedyalkov get their contracts renewed along with Kore and Peychev.

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August 2019

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So, first game in the relative big time of the Bulgarian First League for Tryavna. Up against Dunav who finished 4th last season, so let’s see how we get on. A 0-0 draw, although we didn’t create too many chances and the chances we did forge fell to the wrong players unfortunately but, still, a point is a point and it gets us up and running.

However, a far harder task is in store next with CSKA Sofia away.
So, with one of the more familiar names in Bulgarian football to contend with, the gulf in stature of the two teams is clear

I play the first half full on contain. Concede an own goal after just 4 minutes, then a second after 33. Had a couple of shots, but struggling to make an impression. I change it to counter in the second half although this plan shortly goes up in smoke as Apostolov gets sent off just 3 minutes after the break. Dimitrov scores one in the 68th minute and, despite having 10 men, the team produce a far improved second half performance so, although we lose, actually that’s not a bad result.

The Bulgarian cup draws me against the so-good-they-named-them-twice Svilengrad 1921 Svilengrad from the 2nd league. Having gone out at the first attempt last season, it would be good to improve on that this time round.

The title holders Ludogrets are up next at home. Kore has been shocking in the 2 games he has started, so he comes out for Iliev and a couple of other changes are made. We restrict them to pot shots from outside the box for the first half hour and thanks to a 31st minute Iliev goal, come into half time 1-0 up. The second half provides no further excitement so, remarkably, we record our first win of the season in front of a record 1,167 spectators who, according to the supporter spokesman were “dancing long into the night” after the game.

Another away game, and Vereya are up next. We concede an earlyish goal on the 19th minute, then Dimitrov equalises with a great direct free kick from 25 yards. Unfortunately we concede another 2 before half time and a fourth shortly after the break. Yordanov completes his hat-trick for Veraya to make it 5 for them and its turning into a nightmare. Kore comes on for Iliev and makes an instant impact scoring in the 71st minute. The 5-2 final score is awful and a reminder to the team of the increase in quality we’re now facing, but I don’t think the scoreline is a particularly fair reflection of our performance as we weren’t that different with the match stats.

Slavia Sprague provide stubborn opposition but we play the game perfectly for 88 minutes, playing on the counter and using Kore’s pace to burst through the middle against their centre-backs. We take the lead on 49 minutes and hold it to the 88th when a horrible goalkeeping error hands them the equaliser when Sashev drops a corner leaving an empty net for the ball to be tapped into.

All things considered, that's not a bad opening month and we find ourselves sitting in mid-table at the end of the month.

September 2019

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I lose Gueye, who has been an integral part of the jigsaw so far this season, as he goes off with the Senegal U20 squad for international matches.

My quest to improve the U21’s continues, with Croation youth international coming in to strengthen the team.

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A two week rest for the international break means only 4 games to play this month with my fellow promotionees (??); Oberishte at home first. The transfer window closes with me fending off bids for Iliev although I do accept bids for reserve player Ivanov who leaves the club.

If we’re to stand any chance of staying in the division, it’s the similar clubs to me we have to get results against, so bearing this in mind I go all out attack for the first half hour of the Oberishte game which brings its rewards as Dimitrov scores on 20 minutes. After that, I shut up shop, and hold on to the win.

A c
up game up next and, while I want to give some fringe players the chance, I don’t want to risk going out too early so I only make 4 changes to the team that beat Oberishte and play safe, starting with a defensive mentality. Apostolov scores early in the first half to give us a great start, then Dixon concedes a penalty shortly after. We don’t create enough chances so I change mentality to counter for the second half and my centreback Karakalov scores from a well worked set piece and we hold on to seal the victory and ensure progress to the next round which pitches us against Oberishte…again…

A home game to Beroe, currently sitting in 2nd place up next. A scrappy mistake filled game with very few chances results in a pretty poor quality goal-less game.

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I’m constantly looking to upgrade the squad, and top of the list is my AM Apostolov to be replaced and Ivanov looks like the favourite, despite being injured. His good, for this league, passing and vision stats are backed up by reasonable work rate and decision which are attributes we are currently short of. Once I’ve adjusted the budget, the issue of affordability should be resolved.

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However, Rozova dolina reject, first, an enquiry then 4 bids, the last of which was £20k as they want nearer £50k.

Away to Levski Sofia, currently propping up the table and Dimitrov gives us an early 3rd minute lead. We ride our luck a bit and they hit the woodwork a couple of times, but we hold out for 3 pretty valuable points.
I'm enjoying this a lot. Looking forward to seeing what's next, I like the premise of your journey!