Return of the Mighty Magyars?

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Hungarian Cup Final

We are nearly there. The Hungarian Cup was low on my list of priorities, and up until my quarter final tie against Ujfest I saw it more as a chance to play my fringe players. But then an unlikely dream emerged, a dream to make it to the final, a dream to win a trophy.

Gyirmot stand in our way and it's as monumental for them as it us for us - it's their first cup final as well as ours. Whatever happens, there will be a new name engraved on the trophy.

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We travel to the Groupama Arena, the home Ferencvaros and the national team, and we take a full strength team. My Ukranian quartet who have become so important over the last 2 months all start. I decide to go all out this game - I'm not taking on a counter attacking formation, I'm not gonna wait for the moment to strike and take advantage. **** no! This is our moment, our time, we are going to control this game, we are going to dictate the play, we will play like we are the favourites.

Half an hour in Lazslo Lensce picks up the ball outside the penalty area. He spots Balashov making an overlapping run round the outside of the full back and plays a smart through ball in to his path. Balashov takes one touch before smartly slotting the ball in to the near post. 1-0.

6 minutes later it's with Lensce again, this time 30 yards out. He advances forward, skipping over a lunging challenge from a Gyirmot defender before firing a daisy cutter in to the bottom corner from 18 yards. 2-0. We are in control.

We continue to control and could, and probably should, have more. But the final whistle goes. The players raise their arms, the subs stream on to the pitch, the fans are in raptures.

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We have done it! The Hungarian Cup is ours!

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It caps a memorable, almost unbelievable season for the club and for myself in my first year in charge. The Akademia have done the double!

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There's something else I had not considered when going in to this game, but the win actually takes us in to Europe! We will enter the Euro Cup/Europa League at the First Qualifying round. For a team that started the season with a 13k p/w wage budget and £48 transfer budget just qualifying for the competition will be a huge boost to the club coffers.

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It's been an amazing season, and exceeded all expectations. Next season we will play in the top tier and also in Europe. The team has done fantastically well, but I am under no illusions that the next season will be a real challenge and it will be a huge summer for us.

I can't wait!
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So my first season in charge of Puskas Akademia has come to an end. I'm pleased we got ourselves promoted, but we were favourites at the start of the season so that's par for the course. The cup win, and subsequent European competition qualification, is far above any expectations I had. It's a huge achievement for the club and the players and I hope it's the start of something special.

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We receive £20k in prize money for winning the Hungarian Division II. Well, that'll pay for the wages for one week.

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Better than my prize for winning the cup - no prize money awarded whatsoever!

Even though we won the league, I was a little disappointed in our form - I saw 6 losses and 10 draws as a little poor. Turns out, that form was pretty special and I have actually broken the wins record for the division!

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The Manager of the Year award is named, and I come 2nd place behind Balmazujvaros' manager Tamas Feczko. I suppose that's what happens when you manage the favourites.

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Now, all season I have been praising my Ukrainian contingent at the club as the stand out players for us. Imagine my surprise when the Team of the Season is named and not one of these players is picked in the squad. We get 3 players named, but they are all Hungarians. Hegedus, Vanczak and Forro have played most games and have been solid if unspectacular but they've obviously done well enough to impresses the judges.

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Next up, the club hold their own End of Season Awards. Ochigava wins both Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season, with Kuzyk winning Signing of the Season. Must have been a different board of judges for my awards!

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The board deliver their End of Season Confidence Review, and they're clearly very happy with the performance. They do pinpoint the signing of a Teixeira as a disappointment. When you only cost £7k and you are still seen as a poor signing, I think it's clear that your time at the club is numbered.

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The club send me an overview of the commercial activity for the previous season. No broadcasting revenues, £47k of match day revenue, £12k corporate and hospitality, £36k prize money - it's disappointing reading.

Hold on a second, what's this? A telecommunications company has obviously been impressed with the team this season and have decided to sign up to a 3 year deal worth £3.7m! I was not expecting that!

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I check the clubs bank balance and I am loving it! From starting last season with pennies, to now exceeding £2.2m! The wage budget has more than doubled, and a £500k transfer budget makes my eyes bulge. That money will be so useful as I look to rebuild the squad and prepare for the tough season ahead. It brings pressure though; I have to get my spending right here, I can't afford to waste this money.

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Couldn't really have asked for more in your first season - Cup double along with promotion and Europa League!

Good luck on recruiting ahead of next season!
Couldn't really have asked for more in your first season - Cup double along with promotion and Europa League!

Good luck on recruiting ahead of next season!

Yeah, it far exceeded my expectations. Really wouldn't have seen a cup win in the first season. It's a huge pre-season for me and the club - big exciting things ahead!
Pre Season 2017/2018
Part I - Transfers

Pre season at The Pancho Arena. It's a massive summer for the club. We are about to embark on a top flight campaign, and will also compete in Europe for the 1st time in our history after our sensational cup win. I can still barely believe it.

The club have come in to some money after a large sponsorship deal and have given me £600k to spend on players, with the wage bill more than doubling in size. The recruitment this season is a massive job. We are too laden down with either non-EU players or average Hungarians. I set myself 2 main targets for the transfer window, along with the obvious one to improve the quality of the squad:

- increase the number of Hungarian players in the squad
- ensure the number of non-EU players in the first team squad does not exceed the competition limitations

Hungarian National Signings

I spend the majority of my budget on Hungarian players, to add quality and depth.

First up is the young centre midfielder Balint Vogyicksa. With Teixeira a stop gap signing and a disappointment to the fans and the board, this is a key priority. Vogyicska will not be an automatic starter but will add depth to the squad and should improve in the future. He joins for £325k.

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I also pick up Botond Barath, a strong but steady left back. I pick him up for a bargain £80k from the recently relegated Honved. He will take Forro's spot in the starting 11.

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Next up, Endre Botka joins from Ferencvaro's. He's a top quality right back who played 21 times for the champions last season. I am amazed I was able to sign him for what seemed to me to be a bargain price of £250k.

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I also improve in the attacking areas, signing Krisztian Adorjan on a free transfer. He was released by Italian Serie B side Novara, and was interesting a number of English Championship sides. He can play anywhere in the attacking midfield positions.

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Non EU players

At the end of the season, I ended with 3 non-EU players - Kuzyk, Boldenkov and Balashov. Additionally I have CB's Ochigava and Emerson on loan. The rules in the Hungarian I Division allows 5 non-EU players so I initially I feel that the number of non-EU players I have is fine. Then my loan players return.

As I mention when I started, due to relegation Puskas Akademia had loaned out a number of their higher earners to save money. They were now all back and at the start of the season I had 8 non EU players. I see no point in keeping this many players, as at any one time 3 players cannot even be in the squad. I make a decision to reduce this number to 5.

Boldenkov was solid at the back for the second half of the season so he stays. I want to keep either Emerson or Ochigava (who were both on loan last season) so make bids for both to see what happens. Emerson is only willing to join on loan, and although I have an offer accepted for Ochigava he doesn't feel I can offer him what he wants o he decides to join Illichevets in Ukraine instead. He will be missed but I wish him all the best. I will certainly keep an eye on him in the future. Emerson rejoins on a season long loan. That's 2 non-EU players, both CB's.

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Branislav Danilovic returns on loan from Debrecen, and is a top quality goalkeeper. He is a vast improvement to Hegedus, so he remains as my number 1 keeper. 3 places filled.

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Branko Pauljevic is back from Mezokovesd and I like the look of this guy a lot. An explosive attacking full back who adds real place to the team. He takes spot 4.

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Now the 5th spot is up for grabs between Kuzyk and Balashov, my 2 rampaging Ukrainian wingers. Balashov has been fluttering his eyeslashes at AEK Lanarcas and has been throwing a few strops during pre season training. It makes my decision easier. I accept a bid for him and keep Kuzyk as my 5th non-EU player. He's a good boy. I like well behaved good boys.

To replace him his quality on the wings I bring in Robert Vilceanu on loan from Steaua Bucharest.

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Additional signings to add quality include Jordan Botaka on a free transfer from Leeds, as well as the Bence brothers Mervo and Biro rejoining on loan to play backup to Lensce up front.

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I also want to pinpoint this guy. He is a non-EU player but is an exciting prospect for the future. In truth I would have been tempted to have signed him for his name no matter what his ability, but he looks like he could be star going forward.

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There are no major outgoings, with the exception of Balashov. A number of fringe players leave, along with some returning loan players who were not up to scratch. No takers on Teixeira yet...

I like the look of my squad now. We have more Hungarians, we have limited our non-EU players down to 5 (in the first team at least) and the overall strength and depth has improved. I am cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season.

Next up - pre-season friendlies and the start of our European adventure...
Pre Season 2017/2018
Part II - Friendlies and Europe

Our last league game of the 2016/2017 season was played on 3rd June. Our first pre-season friendly was played on 17th June - so early that it actually appeared in the previous seasons fixture list. The players had less than a 10 day break before they were required back for training.

Very early on the draw for my maiden journey through Europe was made, and we are drawn against the Danish side Midtjylland in the 1st Qualifying Round of the Europa League. It's probably one of the toughest draws I could have had. I could have been drawn against all manner of teams from small nations like Malta, Lithuania, Luxembourg etc. but I get a team boasting the likes of Manucho and Rafa Van der vaart.

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The 1st leg is played on 29th June. As my players only returned from a short break less than 2 weeks ago they are so short of match fitness, with every single player having a Sharpness rating of 'Tired'. This will make the game incredibly tough.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will also have noticed that the timing of the match is unfortunate for a further reason - the transfer window does not open until the 1st July. This means that my previous post that details all my transfer dealing actually occurs after this game. I therefore start the tie with a team of exhausted and average players.

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Given the circumstances I am fairly happy. A 1-0 loss is not the end of the world. I do have to be disappointed that we didn't get an away goal but with them reduced to 10 men for 40+ minutes we could have done so much better. Oh well, I will rest the 1st team players during the friendlies that occur before the 2nd leg.

The return leg sees The Pancho Arena host its 1st very European tie and it is a bumper crowd of 3,500 - a sold out crowd. This time we have a rested team, but the signings that have been made since have not been able to be reigstered for the 2nd leg. This will still be tough.

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So close! So very close. It looked like things would be incredibly difficult when we conceded a penalty in the first 10 minutes. However, the ex Ajax, Real Madrid and Tottenham midfielder van der Vaart sees his penalty tipped around the post. We battle and battle and Balashov (in his last game before we allow him to leave) puts us level in the tie. My players then decide that that's enough for today, and let in a goal straight from kick off. The away goal knocks all confidence from the team and we can't recover.

We're out. Out at the first hurdle. I was so excited to see where our European adventure would take us but the answer was "Denmark", and that's it.

We make a little bit of money from the tie, but I was hoping for a bumper payday.

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Oh, here's some more dosh.

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Given the swollen coffers of the club I decide to ask the board to improve both the youth and training facilities. They agree, although I do wonder where that money is going to come from.

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Winning the Hungarian Cup last season has also seen us drawn in the Super Cup against league champions Ferencvaros.

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We now have a match fit team, a much better team with all pre season signings available. I make 7 changes from the Europa League game and improve the quality of the team considerably. It's a big test and we are undoubtedly the underdogs, but in a one-off game you never know.

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Again, so close! It really couldn't have closer. It's a cracking game to be fair with the tie going back and forth - we go ahead before 2 goals in 5 minutes see them take the lead. We get a late equaliser and the tie enters extra time. They go down to 10 men but it is too late in the game for us to take advantage. A cruel penalty shootout sees us lose with poor Emerson missing the vital kick.

It's been a really disappointing pre season. I am happy with the signings and the quality of the squad but we did not win a friendly, crashed out of Europe and lost in the Super Cup.

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On the eve of the new season the board make clear their expectations - Europa League qualification. This means a top 4 finish. And they want a semi final cup run as well. No pressure then! Have they not seen how **** we were in pre-season?

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JULY 2017

We start our season with a home game against our fellow promoted rival Balamazujvaros, and we're at home. It's the sort of game that I really wanted first game of the season - it should be a relatively straight forward game, allowing us to settle in the league and get 3 points under our belt.

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Well. That's not quite what I was expecting. We were so dominant throughout, with 19 shots to their 7 but we come away with nothing as their only shot on target goes. Our poor pre-season form continues; I was cautiously optimistic. Now, I am simply cautious.

Next up with travel away to MTK. This will definitely be a test as MTK came 3rd the season before, but they did lose their first game of the season 4-1 away to Ferencvaros - no disgrace there, but maybe their confidence is a bit low.

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It seems they had all the confidence of a 14 year old versions of myself when an attractive girl started talking to me in school. They are abysmal, but we are majestic. 6-1 away from home as we this time turn our dominance in to goals. I'm also delighted to see that Lensce has shown that he can cut it at a higher level as well - we hadn't strengthened upfront so I am under no illusion that this goals will be key this season. The wonderfully named Stipe Bacelic-Grgic, a returning member of last seasons loan brigade, also lights up the game with a thunderbastard.

The 4 goal haul of Lensce (and yes, it is a haul) sees him set records for both The Akadamie and the Hungarian I Division. Not bad.

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Our 3rd and final game of the month sees us continue on the road facing Ujpest. We saw them off in our cup run last season so confidence is high, especially after scoring 6 the week before.

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It's another win. Not as dominant, but I guess we can't be perfect every week. Heffler misses a penalty, before Prosser curls home a pearler to give us the lead. Late on Kuzyk scores a classic counter attacking goal as they push for an equaliser.

July comes to an end with us sat in 4th spot - we're meeting the boards expectations! I'm delighted; after losing the 1st game at home it could have all gone wrong for us with 2 tough away games. But 8 goals scored in those games has gone some way to convince me we can cut the mustard in this league.

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In a first for me in my Football Manager career (which spans over 20 years), we get a 1, 2, 3 in goal of the month! We don't just score lots of goals, we score lots of beautiful goals. "The Entertainers"...has a nice ring to it.

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In other news I complete my National B license, and I'm straight back in to the boardroom demanding they let me study for the National A license - "you need to feed this football brain!". The board agree and send me off with a cheque for £600. How nice of them.

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We begin August by returning to the Pancho to host Haladas. We've looked great the last 2 games on the road, can we bring the form back home?

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The answer is unequivocally yes! It's another dominant performance and we continue to turn chances in to goals. Robert Vilceanu, the LW on loan at the club, scores a wonderful hat-trick before Boldenkov slams home from a corner and Pekar slots home a penalty.

I take try to take advantage of the great feeling at the club at the moment by cheekily requesting an expansion to the Pancho Arena. To my surprise, the board agree! I love my board; the seem very open to suggestions and very rarely tell me no. It's only a small increase of capacity by about 500 extra seats but hopefully it's the first of many.

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The next game is away to Mezokovesd, and it's another win - 4 in a row. It's not a vintage performance by any means, and we have to rely on an own goal to help us on our way, but a win is a win is a win. Can't complain with 3 points.

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Before our next game, the Hungarian Cup First Round draw is made. We are away to the non-league side Hodmezovasarhelyi, who I think are trying to break a world record for the number of syllables in a team name. Again, I intend to use the early rounds as a chance to give the fringe players a run out.

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We're back home next, hosting Vasas. It's 0-0. Nothing else to report. Even "The Entertainers" can have an off day.

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The final game of the month is our biggest game of the league campaign so far, away to the powerhouses of Ferencvaros. We gave them a **** of a game in the Super Cup and that was with a makeshift team coming off the back of a disappointing European exit. We are more settled now, better morale, better players and in good form. Can we come away with a good performance and 3 points?

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No. We do well in the 1st half, creating chances and matching them all over the pitch. At half time I tell the players to keep doing; keep it up and a goal will come. They didn't listen. The 2nd half we are awful and to be honest are lucky to get away with only conceding the 3 goals. It shows me how far away we are from competing at this stage.

We finish the month in 3rd place. It's been a good month really, I know I shouldn't let the loss at Ferencvaros bring us down. 3rd place is a great start to the season.

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There's an international break at the start of the month that means we have a nice little gap before our first game. It'll give us time to work out what when wrong against Ferencvaros and how we can improve. Interestingly, the Hungarian national team are having a bit of a nightmare and currently sit 5th in their World Cup qualifying group. The manager, Bernd Stock, is under pressure. I'll keep my eye on this; with only 2 games left they can't qualify for the World Cup and it could just be that they are waiting for the campaign to be over before moving on.

We start the month away at Diosgyor. Time to get back to winning ways.

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And we do win. It's nothing spectacular, but it's pleasing to see young Emerson get his name on the score-sheet for the first time.

The next week we host Gyirmot at the Pancho - the team we beat in the cup final last season.

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We continue our good form against them. In truth it was a much tighter game that the scoreline suggests, but we were just more clinical in front of goal. A pleasing double by Lensce, and another goal from a centre back - our corners seem to be working well at the moment.

The first goal from Laszlo Lensce was scored after just 17 seconds, setting a new club record in the process.

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We start our cup defence, facing up against Hodmezovasarhely. It's a second string team that takes to the pitch, but the quality in depth that we have now means this team should still win comfortably.

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Well, we won. I'm not sure comfortable is the word I would use though. I was hoping the reserves would cause me some selection dilemmas but it only reaffirms my faith in the first choice eleven. Side note - the wonderfully named Laszlo Kiss scored against us. I'd sign him, if he wasn't absolute gash.

The draw for the next round of the cup is made afterwards. It follows a similar theme to the last round, another away tie to a non league team. This team we face Tatabanya, we'll be looking for another "comfortable" win.

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We return to league action against Videoton (I think they previously called Radioton... sorry). They've been through a fairly successful period recently but struggled in the previous campaign coming 8th.

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We draw 1-1. I'll take that. It's a game more notable for the return to the team of Gabor Gyomber, who has finally recovered from his broken leg that ruled him out for 6 months. Lensce scores for the second game in the row after a bit of a lean spell.

We end the month away to Debrecen, another team that will be a strong contender for the title.

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It's a great win against a tough team. The loss to Ferencvaros may have dampened my confidence in the team but we have really bounced back this month. 3 wins and a draw in the league keeps the pressure up on Ferencvaros with us only a point behind them after 11 games. It's been a great start to the season, and my initial goal of staying up already seems have been achieved. I'm feeling a lot more positive than I was this time last month.

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As we move in to October, we start with another international break. Hungary lose their final 2 qualifying games for the World Cup, and the FA decide to dispense with the services of Bernd Stock.

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One of my objectives was to get appointed to the national team and look to improve the standing of the team. I notice that my name has been linked with the post so I sit down, write out my C.V. and job application and run to the mailbox to deliver it just before the team bus leaves for the game away to Balmazujvaros.

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We get revenge for the loss we suffered against them in the opening game of the season. It's a tough battle this time, but young loanee Bence Biro comes off the bench to win the game.

When we returned back home, I receive a phone call from the FA. They liked my application, especially the tactical drawings I did in crayon, and want to offer me the job. I wholeheartedly accept, and a new life as a national manager is born. £14.5k a week is pretty sweet too.

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The FA then lay out their expectations for the role. They expect us to be competitive in the World Cup qualifiers. Seeing as these have literally just finished, and the team came 5th, I don't really know what they want from me. I'm now wondering if I can work for an organisation that can't even make plans. Anyway, I'll start with a couple of friendlies in November, home to Paraguay and away to Austria.

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For the meantime it's back to the day job. I can't let the demands of the national team distract me from the league campaign with the Akademia. We face MTK at home, the team we demolish 6-1 away earlier on in the season. They're still struggling so I'm hoping for a comfortable win.

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A 3-0 win will suffice. It could've been more but 9 goals in 2 games against them is a pretty decent return. Bence Biro scored after being given a start after his winner in the last game. The pleasing thing at the moment is that the goals are coming from all over the squad.

Tatabanya in the 2nd round of the Hungarian Cup is up next and the second string get another run out. It's a fairly straightforward game, not pleased about conceding the goal though.

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The next round has us drawn away for the 3rd round in a row, this time against Kazincbarcika.

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Our last league game of the month has us back at the Pancho Arena facing Ujpest. It's only a draw, and not much too it but we're starting to pick up a lengthy unbeaten record now. We're doing well and we're hard to beat.

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At the end of the month we finish on top of the table, ahead of Ferencvaros by 2 points. We have the best goal scoring record in the league and the 2nd best defence. It's looking really promising; but only time will tell if it's just a strong start to the season or a start of genuine title challenge.

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4 games for the team this month, 3 in the league as well as the 2nd round in the cup. We're top of the table; can we continue in this run of form.

We begin at Haladas, who have been struggling down at the bottom of the table.

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2-0, Lensce at the double. We now have a settled first 11, and that familiarity seems to be working well. We prevent them from having a shot, but 2 goals from 20 shots isn't great. I feel we should be putting more teams to the sword.

We host Mezokovesd next and it's a similar story to the last game. 24 shots to their 3, but only winning 2-1.

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We also have to rely on the the goals coming from my fullbacks. Lensce has been great this season, but I can't help but think he could have even more.

The 2 wins in a row have kept us at the top of the table, but Ferencvaros have won their 2 games this month as well. And that's who we face next in a huge top of the table clash. Win, and we go 5 points clear. Lose, and they take a single point lead. We were poor last time we face them, but we have been unbeaten in the 11 games we have played since. We are in good form, we're at home. We can do this!

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No. No, we can't. We SHOULD have done; again we dominated in shot and chance creation but can't make our dominance count. We go 1-0 up in the first half through Lensce, but they peg us back just before half time. We continued to dominate throughout the 2nd half but once we got in to the last 5-10 mins without taking the lead, it almost seemed inevitable that they would score. And they did.

Our league games are done for the month, and the loss to Ferencvaros was crucial as we relinquish the lead at the top. Long way to go though...

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Before the month is over though, we have our 3rd round cup tie against Kazincbarcika to deal with. In the days preceding the tie I receive news that I passed my National A coaching license.

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Knowing the friendly nature of my board, I ask to go on the next course. They agree, and I now start my path towards my first continental license.

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Now it's time for the cup tie. As is tradition, we play our second string team. As is tradition, we win but don't impress and have to rely on a penalty to sneak a 1-0 win.

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The 4th round of the cup is drawn, and we face a fellow Hungarian I team in Haladas, albeit one who is struggling at the bottom of the table. This is when the competition changes to 2 legs, and we'll look forward to playing the tie when we return from the mid season break.

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At the start of the month, I take charge of my first game for the Hungarian national team. I name my squad for the friendly double header - Paraguay and Austria. It's my first chance to analyse the squad and the quality of players that we have.

It's a mixed bag. Balazs Dzsudzsak is a good player and still the best one for the team, but he's getting on a bit. Willi Orban, the centre back at RB Leipzeig, is also of good quality but there are clearly some gaps in the squad, specifically up front.

With these games being friendlies I have a number of players either pull out with injury or join up with match restrictions. It makes it quite tough to pick my "first choice" team against Paraguay, but I put a motley crew together and take to the pitch.

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It's not too bad, a pretty evenly matched game. Adam Gyurcso, a winger who plays for Pogon in Poland puts us 1-0 up. We can't stay ahead for too long, and we are pegged back a few minutes later. A string of subs are made in the 2nd half, before we concede a penalty to lose 2-1.

We then travel across the border to play Austria in our 2nd friendly. This is actually a tougher game than the Paraguay one, and a better peformance and result.

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Again we take the lead, but we can't seem to hold on to them. Nemanja Nikolic got the goal for us; he's been a goal machine in the MLS for Chicago Fire. I'm hoping that he can bring some of that form to the national team.

Overall, the results and performances aren't great; we didn't play well but we weren't blown away either. I'm not sure I can take much from the friendlies though, and it'll be some time before I can get the measure of the squad.

For the meantime though, the national rankings are going the wrong way...

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Just a short update as there are only the 2 games this month for the Akademia, both away in the league. After that it's time for the mid-season break. We're only the 1 point behind Ferencvaros at the moment, and I want to go in to winter close on their tails.

We start away to Vasas and come away with a 2-0 win. Lensce continues his goal scoring run (he's now the leagues top goalscorer), but again we should have had more. They played the majority of the 2nd half with 10 men and we didn't score. Am I expecting too much?

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Next up it's Gyirmot. Can we go in the break on a high?

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No. It looks close but this game was not a high point of the season. In all honestly it could have been worse, they missed a penalty as well. Seems the players had their minds on their holidays already. Disappointing.

Ferencvaros won one of their games and drew the other, meaning they extend the lead to 2 points.

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I can't really be too disappointed; I would not have expected us to have done so well and be close to the top when we reached the winter break. It will be an important couple of months for us before we return in mid February, I have some player recruiting to do!

We break up mid December and will not be playing a competitive game until the middle of February. I take this oppurtunity to try and improve the quality in the squad where I can, albeit with a low budget.

In the summer I signed a young goalkeeper on a free transfer, Alassane Cisse from the Ivory Coast. I had placed him at loan in the Hungarian II division at Vasas, and he had done a good job down there. I decided it was time to recall and place him in the first team squad.

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Obviously being from the Ivory Coast Cisse counts as a non-EU player. This means that I need to trim one from the squad and the best way to do so would be to sell on Danilovic, my current non-EU goalkeeper. He's been getting interest from Nancy, so off he goes.

2 days later, I get the following report from my physio.

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FFS. Unbelievable. Now I'm back to Hegedus as my strongest keeper, with only youth for back up. It's not good enough for a potential champions so I scour the free transfer list and pick up Mikkel Anderson.

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At the same time, Branko Pauljevic is not willing to sign a new contract and then agrees to Mirandes at the end of the season. I manage to negotiate to sell him now to get in some money. ****, it's only £24k but it's better than nothing.

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I search high and low for a replacement RB. I have Martin Kelly, ex-Liverpool and Crystal Palace player, on trial at the club with a view to a free transfer. He turns me down for FC Utrecht in the Eredivisie - seeing as they offered him £8k more p/w than me I can't blame him. No other decent right backs can be found for my budget, so I'll have to soldier on for the rest of the season.

I do manage to improve my central midfield options, and considerably. It's been my weakest aspect for a while, but I think this guy will make a difference. Ladies and gentleman, please welcome, ex-Chelsea midfielder...George Saville!

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Yeah, I've never heard of him either. He never played for Chelsea and spent most of his time there on loan, but he is top quality for us and will be a certain starter going forward.

That's it for signings in the break, although we do sign a deal with a new parent club, Legia Warsaw. It's not worth a lot in the bank but I hope they can provide us with some good youth players on loan at some point.

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The friendly fixtures we play aren't too bad. We don't lose any games, and score a good number but it's against weak opposition. However, it's all about fitness and getting Saville integrated in to the team.
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We now need to push on, the 2nd half of the season awaits us. How will our title push go? Is it a title push? We will soon find out.

We return from the winter break in the middle of February. We're in to the business end of the season now where every game matters, every dropped point is crucial, every slip up is a potential end to the title challenge.

We start with the 1st leg of our 4th round cup drawer away to Haladas. They're bottom of the table, but as we don't have another game for 8 days I decide to field a strong team. Anderson and Saville come in for their debuts, elsewhere it's business as usual.

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Ah. That's not great. They score with their only two shots on goal; and away goals count as well. We have left ourselves a mountain to climb in the 2nd leg if we wish to retain the cup. Although, an early exit would allow us to concentrate on the league more.

Next up we face Debrecen at home. Tough game, they're 4th in the league and playing well. Boldenkov has been imperious at the back but is out for a couple of weeks with a calf strain, which puts pressure on the back 4.

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Phew, that was a tough one! It appears we do not like having a break in the middle of the season. It takes us some time to get back up to speed. It was a bit of a battle this one, and a draw would have been fair to both teams. It took the Debrecen keeper fumbling a weak header by Vilceanu to make the difference.
We remain at the Pancho Arena for our next league game against Diosgyor. We're still not in the groove yet.

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Vilceanu scores for the second game in a row to give us the lead. In the 2nd half Kuzyk literally pushes over an opponent to give away a penalty and give them the equalizer. And that's that. There's a late red card for Diosgyor but it's too late for us to fully take advantage. We need to pick up some form, and soon.

Our 3rd league game in a week is another doozy - away to 3rd place Videoton. This has been a tough week of fixtures, and we've had to rotate a bit here due to tiredness. Still no Boldenkov though.

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That was a write off. Worse performance of the season so far. Ferencvaros may have beaten us by more, but at least we gave them a game. Here we pretty much rolled over and presented ourselves to them. Jordan Botaka did draw us level at one stage but a goal by Yaya Sanogo (yes, that Yaya Sanogo) saw them clear.

It's been a poor month so far; a terrible loss in the cup before picking up just 4 points from 9 in the league. This isn't the title challenge that we wanted, this isn't the title challenge we had been preparing for over the winter break. As we reach the end of the month, we are now 5 points behind Ferencvaros. That's gotta be it, we're too inconsistent at the moment to close that gap down.

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Before the end of the month, we have our 2nd leg against Haladas in the cup. We're 2-0 down, pretty much out. I take the decision to field a full strength team this time. I had toyed with the idea of fielding the 2nd string team, but given our league form I wonder if the cup is the best chance for success.

At half time, we're 1-0 up with Botaka slotting home. We've been good so far but need to step things up a bit. We move in to the last 15 minutes, still needing 2 goals to go through without extra time. Youngster Bence Biro has come on to replace Lensce, who has really struggled today. He latches on to a ball over the top from Bacelic-Stipe, tears away from the defence and slots home to give us the equaliser. We have a chance!

91st minute. As we put pressure on the Haladas penalty area, passing around, looking for the opener, Bacelic-Stipe decides that he's had enough of looking for perfect opening and when he receives the ball on the outside of the box, he just smashes it. And it's in! We've done the impossible and overturned that dreadful 1st leg. We're through to the quarter finals, and the cup run continues.

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We face Balmazujvaros in the next round, which gives us a really good chance of progressing further.

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MARCH 2018

March is the busiest month of the season so far. We have 6 games at club level, as well as 2 friendly matches with the Hungarian national team.

We start at home to Balmazujvaros (you would have thought I would be able to type this by memory now, without having to look up how to spell it. I can't.). It's a strong performance and turns in to an easy win. Lensce adds a couple to his seasons tally, with Orest Kuzyk snatching the other one.

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We're away at Ujpest next, and it's a cracking game. They take the lead from a fantastic freekick from Diarra, before we roar away in to a 3-1 lead before half-time. Lensce scoring another brace, and Kuzyk adding another. However the 2nd half is a different matter and the players completely switch off; we end up coming away with a
3-3 draw.

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The busy month continues, as 3 days later we continue on the road this time at MTK. For the 3rd game in a row we score 3, and Lensce and Kuzyk both score again. They are in great form this month and if they keep this up we can certainly take this title challenge to the end of the season, pushing Ferencvaros all the way.

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We're back at the Pancho facing Haladas - hopefully they are still reeling after our comeback in the cup at the end of February.

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We decide to take it easy them and play our 2nd string team (the fixture congestion plays a big part too). We're nice like that. A 2-0 win. Nothing more to say really - except we show that we can score if Lensce or Kuzyk aren't on the pitch.

Its Balmazujvaros (still had to look it up) up next in the Hungarian Cup quarter final. The first leg is away, but as they are struggling in the league we go second string again.

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It's not a vintage performance. We go 1-0 up early thanks to a Pekar penalty and then don't really threaten too much until space opens up late in the game as the players tire, before Bence Mervo scores. We even have time for Adorjan to miss a penalty at the end.

Our last game of the month is back in the league, away to Mezokovesd but before the game I recieve some troubling news from the physio.

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Emerson has broken his shoulder and will miss 4-5 weeks of the season - the biggest 4-5 weeks of the season as well, when it's business time. He will be a massive loss - him and Boldenkov have been so good at the back together and my back up centre backs Fodor and Vanczak are either not great or too old. Hopefully it won't impact us too much - we've scored a lot so hopefully we can just outscore the opposition and not have to rely on the defence.

Back to Mezokovesd and back to the norm. Lensce and Kuzyk score again, meaning they have scored 6 and 4 this month respectively. We win 2-1 to finish the month unbeaten.

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It's been a terrific month for the Akademia and we have now moved a point clear of Ferencvaros. We've hit form at the right time, and whilst I am concerned about Emerson's injury I am hopeful that the form on Lensce and Kuzyk will see us through.

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The board are clearly very happy with my peformance - and so they should do. They offer me a new contract and a nice little pay rise. I sign with a smile on my face; my job here is not done yet!

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At the Hungarian FA headquarters, I sit down and scour the national pool looking to make my selections for the two friendlies we have this month. We appear to have a full strength team to pick from now, so I select the best team available to me.

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My assistant manager, Andreas Moller the former German international, has set us up with 2 friendlies that seem fairly straightforward - away to Cyprus followed by Montenegro. They are below us in the world rankings so I will be hoping for a couple of comfortable victories.

Our game against Cyprus is a classic. We race in to a 2 goal lead in the first 15 minutes as both Gyursco and Nikolic score. We are pegged back to 2-2 only 8 minutes later and it stays that way until half time. A string of changes in the 2nd half brings us two more goals, Lovrencsis (from my rivals Ferencvaros) and Sallai (my ex-player) both scoring. It's a 4-2 win in the end, we're a work in progress.

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We travel to the intimidating Pod Goircom stadium in Podgorica as we take on Montenegro. I choose a much changed starting lineup for this one, and it's clearly a mistake. We can't seem to cope in the fierce atmosphere, and I've clearly got our tactics wrong. I'm attempting to use the same tactics I do at club level, a 4-3-2-1 with incutting wingers and overlapping fullbacks but I don't think it suits the players We are 4-0 down at halftime, completely blown away. Wholesale changes are made at half time, including the removal of keeper Adam Bogdan. It's a better performance, we end the game with the same number of shots and actually more possession, but we can't score.

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Not a great couple of friendlies really. Hopefully we can step this up otherwise there is no chance we can qualify for the Euros, and my job could be a short one.
APRIL 2018

We move in to April, the penultimate month of the season. Its another busy month for the club, and such an important one; at the end of the month we will have just the 1 league game left, and the cup games will depend on how we do this month.

The month starts with some good news - I complete my Continental C coaching qualification. I am flying through these! Ever the glutton for punishment I approach my board. They must of none I was coming - the room is empty with just a cheque for £1.2k and note saying "Yes".

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The first game is the Hungarian Cup Qtr Final 2nd leg tie against Balmazujvaros. We're at home, and won the away leg 2-0 so we are in a strong position to go through. Due to the business of the month coming up, we field the back-up.

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Its a straightforward win, more so in terms of the game rather than the result. We go behind first, but only 2 mins later we equalise through Prosser. We then control the game without showing a killer instinct before Bacelic-Grgic slots home a penalty.

We're through to the semi's now - and we face Gyirmot, the team we faced in last seasons historic final.

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We head in to our final 6 league games, starting at home against Vasas. They are down near the bottom but are safe and have nothing to play for. We're at the Pancho, this should be a foregone conclusion.View attachment 80740
Sigh. It's not. We only come away with a 1-1 draw. We should have done so much better than this but to be honest we were lucky to get a point. We just didn't ever look like winning it and the confidence of the players seemed to drop so quickly - we were ponderous and lacking creativity. It reminded me of watching the recent England World Cup Qualifiers. It took a late long range strike from captain Sandor to get the draw.

Next up, it's Ferencvaros. It's our 4th game against them this season, and our 3rd in the league. We've lost each one so far. I am under no illusions - we need to win this one. If we lose we go 4 points behind with 4 games left.

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Why did I think things would change? Will we ever beat this lot. It's a close game, we always seem to play well but either don't have the quality to put away our chances or the luck that they seem to get. We lose 1-0; and there's more bad news as George Saville gets frustrated in injury time and gets sent off. He'll be missed in the next game and makes our task even harder.

The games keep coming quick and fast, next we're at home to 5th place Gyirmot (our 1st of 3 games against them in the coming weeks).

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It was tough on paper but not on the pitch. Despite the absence of Boldenkov, Emerson and Saville we run out comfortable winners and enjoy a 3-0 victory. I had to start 17 year old Atilla Bartus - a promising academy prospect but he put in a performace to bely his years. Lensce, Pekar and Prosser all grab one to keep the title challenge going.

We're on the road again 3 days later, facing Diosgyor currently 5th in the league. Let's keep this good form going and keep the pressure up on Ferencvaros.

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What a performance! I thought this title challenge was over after that loss to Ferencvaros but the boys seem to have rallied and are intent on pushing them the whole way. Botaka puts us ahead before a calamitous own goal by Gravenbech gives us a 2 goal cushion at half time. Two 2nd half goals by Pekar and Vilceanu give us the 4-0 win.

We take a break from the league in our next game and face Gyirmot in the 1st leg of the semi-final of the cup. The league title challenge is back on, so we roll out the back-up players once again.

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A double from Bacelic-Grgic gives us the win. It puts us in a strong position for the 2nd leg and means we have won our last 3 games, scoring 9 and conceding 0. We're in great form now, but we need to keep this up to have any chance of winning the league. In other good news, I use this game to bring Alassane Cisse in to the 1st team. He's back from injury and gives us more solidity at the back as we approach the final stretch.

Back to the league, and we're on the road again. It's 4th place Debrecen now in our penultimate game.

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Eeesh. That's not good. Any other day we would probably take a draw away to Debrecen but not today. We get the luck of an own goal to give us the lead late on and I hope that's it. But the nerves start to show and we let in an 86th minute equaliser from Divine Naah. A divine name but not a divine result. Is that it for the title challenge?

Amazingly it isn't. Ferencvaros seem to be feeling the pressure. They've only picked up just the 4 points from the last 3 games, meaning we go in to the last game of the season only 1 point behind them. But it just makes it even more frustrating that we only drew the last game - a win there would have put us in pole position.View attachment 80733
MAY 2018

So, it's the final month of the season. We have just the one league game left, along with the 2nd leg of the cup semi final and hopefully the final. If someone had offered me this position at the start of the season I would have bitten both of their hands off!

Our last game is at home to Videton. They're 3rd, and it means that in the last month we have played each of the top 5 teams in the league. I'm not pleased with those responsible for putting the fixture list together - I would definitely have preferred an easier run in, but if you're going to challenge at the top you have to cope and win against this level of opposition.

We are only a point behind Ferencvaros meaning I need to win and hope that they slip up in their last game. They have Mezokovesd who are pretty much relegated. It's going to be such a tough task, but you never know.

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Well, some of you will have known as I accidentally uploaded the result of this game in the last post! This probably means it was as anti-climatic for you as it was for me. It's a stinker of a 0-0 draw. The players looked like they were already resigned to their fate and we didn't really have a chance.

Ferencvaros win their game 2-0 and it's all over.

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We finish the season in 2nd place, 3 points behind Ferencvaros. Although it is gutting, I am still incredibly pleased and proud. I still can't help thinking about what could have been. We lost all 3 games to Ferencvaros and drew my last 2 games and the difference was only 3 points. We COULD have won this. Next season, I am so determined to get a victory over them.

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We get a nice little financial bonus for coming 2nd.

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We need to put this disappointment behind us and move forward, and we have a great chance to do that as we face Gyirmot in the 2nd leg of the Hungarian Cup semi final. We won the 1st leg 2-0 so we are in a strong position. I take no chances though and decide to play my full strength team. I feel bad for some of the fringe players who have got us this far, but this is all we have to play for now this season and I am not about to let this slip.

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It's not a classic performance but it's enough to give us the win and a place in the cup final for the 2nd consectutive year. Stipe Bacelic-Grgic scores again - he loves this competition and that's his 5th goal of the tournament.

We get Diosgyor in the final - I was half expecting with the way that the season had gone that I would get Ferencvaros but hilariously they went out of the competition in the 1st round to Balassagyarmat.

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We have a long wait till we play the final, 2 weeks. In the time that passes, the squads for the 2018 World Cup are named and I am shocked and delighted to see that one of the squad is off to Russia.

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Alassane Cisse has been picked by the Ivory Coast. It's a piece of great news for both him and the club. It did not look likely when he got injured in January but he has battled back after 4 months out and won his place in my first team squad. Good on him - although I am cautious that this may draw attention to him from other clubs.

So, it's Cup Final day and we're at the Groupama Arena, the home of Ferencvaros. I have mixed feelings about this ground - it's the scene of our historic cup victory last season, but also a ground where we have suffered loss after loss to Ferencvaros. I'm confident today though - let's retain the cup boys!

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We do! We come out of the traps so quick and fast and storm into a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes with George Saville scoring his 1st goal for the club. Buoyed by the news of his World Cup call-up, Cisse also saves a penalty from Kovacevic which at the would have seen Diosgyor level. They get a late goal and push on for an equaliser but that's all she wrote. We have retained the cup!!

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All in all it's been a great season. We've won the cup again and pushed Ferencvaros all the way. We're back in Europe for next season as well. I am under no illusions though that we need to improve the quality in the squad if we are to push on and improve. We may be saying goodbye to see big players in pre-season - I can't afford to be too loyal if this story is to go the way I want it to.