I’m back folks and it is the end of the first season in Serbia. Why Serbia? Refresh your memory here and join me, hand-in-hand, as we walk through the daisy-filled fields of season one.
Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? How did FK Obilić in my first season as their manager? Well, those of your that have followed the journey so far will know that we were 150-1 to win the league and therefore get promoted. Dinamo 1945 were 1-5 favourites. The media, because the media often take an interest in the goings on in the 7th tier of Serbian football, had us down to finish 8th out of 15, backed up by the board’s request of mid-table obscurity. My own personal minimum for the season was top five, ideally top three.
It was clear within a few weeks that Dinamo were going to win the title. We drew 0-0 with them on the opening day of the season, but from that point they were fairly relentless in their pursuit of saving the bookmakers a fairly substantial loss. They lost once all season, drawing five of their 28 league games winning the title with 71 points. We finished a brilliant second, racking up 63 points having lost three and drawn six. We were 14 points ahead of Radnicki in third place, so I was very comfortable with that and consoled myself by assuming that would have won promotion out of any of the other four Niki 2 groups. I was wrong!
Dinamo were awesome in their promotion campaign but the top three teams in Niki 2/A got more points than us (the top two getting 74 and 77!), Kabel topped Niki 2/B by dropping a mere two points all season and the team in second got 66 points and in Niki 2/D the top side dropped only 4 points! Either those teams were stunning or we were in a very tough group. Who knows? Either way, I am very confident that we should be pushing for promotion next season.
In the previous post I broke the ethos for the club into four sections, so it would probably be wise to review them wouldn’t it?
In my head, I wanted FK Obilić to be a young, hungry squad that were willing to learn and willing to really put the effort in on the pitch. I wanted to create the right environment for them to learn, become tactically aware and technically proficient. I really do think we have made a good start in this area. I was pleased with my backroom recruits, all of which who are on the way to earning better coaching badges. Focusing on determination, motivation and discipline as the key stats initially with anything else a bonus helped me pick up some good characters on the coaching field. In terms of player development, I would say this has been slow progress. Some players are being trained into completely new positions and are still a long way from competent in these new positions, but we do only train twice a week – the tactic, which we have used for 25 out of the 28 games is still only showing as “competent” fluidity, so things happen slower at this level. When it comes to communication with the players, I have kept to my rule of thumb – bollock them where possible and give praise only after a win. It seems to be working, morale was high at the end of the season.
We started the season with the standard #TheArgentineStrikerless approach, and although we were unbeaten and had not conceded after three games I did not feel like we were quite heading in the right direction playing wise. I have to confess, there was no expert analysis, no use of ProZone, no looking at stats, it was a gut feeling. I had noticed that we were susceptible to the long ball over the top. You know the situation, you take 35 beautiful passes to get into their final third then lose the ball. They lump it forward to their lone striker, your central defenders are wider than you’d like your full backs to be and their man has a clear run on goal. Even though we had kept three clean sheets in the first three games I felt this was more down to shocking finishing by the opposition than superb defending. So we changed it up a little, and #TheArgentineStrikerless currently looks like this:
To combat the lone striker issue I was facing, I have put a sweeper in – I did this mainly to try and keep the two defenders central in the hope the centre back would attack, and the sweeper would sweep. It kind of works, we didn’t concede anymore goals from that hopeful punt down the middle. Sure, if their lone striker is intelligent and moves into the channels a bit more they can exploit the space left by our wing backs, but typically the opposition are worse at shooting from an angle than they are when clean through. We concede from crosses still, our most frequent goal against and that can come from the lone man peeling away at the far post and getting a header home but on the whole I am more comfortable with this. If we face two strikers I revert the guys to regular centre backs. If we face three central strikers, which we have come across this season, I don’t really have a plan yet!
I tweaked the full backs from CWB/S to WB/A and WB/S, this seems to have worked – the only real logic for this was that the players available had a more green in the circle than red. They still get up and down the line like I want. Equally the two lateral DM’s have been switched to BWM/S – again this was mainly due to the best players for those slots being full green in that position, and I have set PI’s that still get them involved and passing the ball around in a playmaker style fashion. Up top the enganche has become an AP/A and I am getting better results from them – again possibly due to the full green. No idea why, but playing in overload seems to work best offensively and defensively!
As I said before, in the first season “Searching the Stats” goes out of the window due to a lack of stats. To make things even more challenging, you never really know if a player is going to join you in the Serbian 7th tier. Every player is an amateur, therefore is able to move freely. Every time you approach a player they are typically “interested” or “very interested” but 90% of the time they end up deciding to stay with their current club. So, I can spend an hour searching for the perfect centre back, approach him and get turned down. To combat this I decided to employ a slightly more scatter gun approach. During the season I found about ten players for each position that I wanted to improve and approached each of them. Sometimes I ended up with none joining, sometimes I got one or two. Perfect. On the odd occasion where I got more than two, I would then release the weakest of the lot, or just stick him in the reserves. On the whole, recruitment has been ok and we have a decent core to the squad now. No doubt I will try to make a few improvements over the summer, but with an average age of 21 and plenty to potential to draw out of the group I think I will be sticking with most of them for next season’s title challenge.
Training is the most frustrating part for me at this level, everything takes so long. As I have already mentioned, the tactic is still only “competent” which is crazy after one season which had 12 pre-season friendlies! Players are developing and are improving, but again this is slow – which actually is fairly realistic. I am not going to turn up in real life and turn a bunch of park footballers into professional standard in a season. I would like to think, however, that in the real world I could turn a striker into a decent attacking midfielder after 12 months, or a central midfielder into a defensive midfielder or a wide midfielder into an attacking full back – even if they are only training with me twice a week. I am happy with our coaching set-up per say though. My main coach, now a continental B, is out of contract this summer and is resisting all efforts to offer him a new “deal” which basically means work for free. Hopefully nobody comes in for him, though he might walk away when his contract comes to an end.
Financially, we are £10k in debt at the moment. That is unlikely to improve really, even with the second best attendance in the division. We won’t make any money on players until we become professional and we won’t win any prize money until we win the division so there is no point me worrying about it.
Looking ahead to next season – I’ve had a year to bed in at FK Obilić so winning the Niki 2/C next time round has to happen. I recall that at Clapton FC, Carl Zeiss Jena, Haarlem and Guildford City back in FM15 that I did really well with a core squad that moved up the leagues with me, so I must resist the urge to go signing crazy over the summer. I am very happy with the first choice goalkeeper, and he has two young understudies with a lot of potential. Defensively, I would not turn down two decent centre backs whilst I wait for a couple of talented youngsters to improve but it will not kill us if we start with the same back line next season. I have four very good defensive midfielders, plenty of central winger options and loads of attacking midfielders to chose from – the trick there will be finding the combination that leads to goals. However, if the stats show me there are some proven goalscoring AM’s out there then I will do my best to recruit them.
I’m looking forward to next season, although I am used to winning the league (I won 2 out of 2 at Honved in BETA) it has been an interesting challenge in the first season here.
I have no idea when I will be updating again, I guess it will be when there is something interesting to talk about!