#TheJenaJourney – Season Three
Welcome back folks to my attempt at beating Paul to the Bundesliga with FC Carl Zeiss Jena. As you may know, I have been promoted twice in a row and find myself in 2.Bundesliga in my third season in charge.
My first game of the day was a match against a team that really shouldn’t be in this division, Hamburg. In many ways, I was delighted to be playing them as it was a sign of how far we have come as a club in two short seasons, in many other ways I was dreading it as, by rights, they should hammer us. Amare Conde’s worrying form at the start of the season led me to the decision to give Arsenio his first start, as our right winger.
There was nothing in the opening twenty minutes to concern us, then bang, 1-0 down in the blink of an eye. We switched to our overloading style and were knocking on the door. Eventually we got level – Conde, on for injured Arsenio, put in a beautiful cross and Erhurt tapped home. Minutes later, Tino fired us ahead from a corner. I switched to the counter attacking style straight away, I wanted to hang on to this. Twenty to go, and we were in heaven. A wonderfully patient move, something I see a bit of when we go to counter, led to Lux laying it on a plate for Tino. 3-1! We saw the game out without a single worry, this was by far my best win as Jena manager.
By the time the Greuher Furth match rocked round, we were still sitting 4th in the table and my scouts had found me a briliiant Ghanian central midfielder on a free. He wanted sensible money so I offered him a deal, which probably means I will need to offload Van Baast and Baleani as neither of them are as young or as good as this lad. I had Macuilt and Luirink both available to me again, but I chose to name an unchanged starting eleven, keeping faith with Gmeiner, Schyrba and Arsenio.
It was a rubbish game, we controlled it from start to finish and they didn’t get a shot on target. The problem was, we did for them and Schryba had one of those rare games where he scored at both ends. It finished 1-1, and it shows how far we have come very quickly that I saw it as a missed chance to move into the play-off places. Furth were bottom, we should have won that.
We were next in action against Union Berlin, who were in 6th. I still cannot believe, albeit very early in this third season, that we are in 4th place and have not lost since the first day hammering where I made the mistake of throwing too many youth team players into the fire, and they got very burned. A win against Union would probably push us up into third place, a massive, massive high for our small club. Geisler picked up a heel injury in training, so would be replaced by Pezzin.
We started well, Sustersic hitting the post early on and then Lux got his 7th of the season with a lovely finish from the edge of the penalty area. Then Lux showed the other side of his game, putting another measured through ball in behind for Erhurt to run on to. The Austrian’s shot was blocked and cleared, but then Pezzin volleyed it back from fully thirty-yards into the top corner. Goal!! They got one back just before half time so I had the decision to make – continue pushing for another goal or sit back and try and contain them and sneak the win? Well, we got this far playing aggressive attacking football, so we tried that. It worked, Tino heading home for 3-1! 3-1 became 3-2, this was becoming proper end to end. We shut up shop early, Berbig made an awesome save in injury time. It was another incredible win, what a start to the season. I think taking seven points from Hamburg, Furth and Union Berlin is more than respectable for a little club like FC Carl Zeiss Jena.
Next on our travels was going to be Fortuna Dusseldorf, who were sitting in second place. The team seemed motivated in the team talk, and we definitely started the brighter of the two sides, Erhurt hitting the bar after ten minutes, the ball coming down fractionally in the favour of Dusseldorf. Lux hit the post with a first time volley from Conde’s cross and I started to wonder if it was going to be our day or not. It wasn’t looking good when Conde missed a one-on-one and they went up the other end and scored. We switched to overload, and Tino had one cleared off the line. Not our day? Injury time and Tino unleashes a beauty from 25 yards. 1-1! They way we played today, we deserved all three points. But we have just gone to a club that has a 54,000 seater stadium and come away with a point. Incredible, incredible.
We were back and the newly renovated Ernst-Abbe for our next match, which was against Aalen. The backroom boys were putting me under pressure, again, to bring Arsenio for Conde. I’d already had him in the office asking for a chance in the side, but last time I put him in he didn’t exactly set the world alight. Geisler was back from injury, so he came in for Pezzin. Camara and Malcuit were still travelling back from international games, so were unavailable.
We took a beautiful lead in the 33rd minute, some clever passing and a wonderful link up between Fox and Erhurt saw the Austrian clip home his 4th goal of the season. We had the absolute dream start to the second half, Conde to Lux, Lux to Schmidt and Tino made it two-nil with a super cool finish. I switched to our counter approach and we saw the game out easily, a lovely 2-0 win. The only downer was the on-loan left back Fox pulling a hamstring which meant he was out for a few weeks. He had played really well since coming to us from Charlton, so I hope it doesn’t affect us too much.
We headed off to Munich for the fixture with 1860 who, surprisingly, were all the way down in 14th. This was a false position as far as I was concerned, they were another big side in this division, and hopefully another big scalp. It was going to be my first trip to the Allianz-Arena in FM15 and I was looking forward to it. Camara and Macuilt were back in. We went crazily close to taking the lead in the first minute, Lux bringing the ball down superbly but hitting the post. It mattered not, three minutes were on the clock when Lux dropped deep and threaded the ball through to Tino, running past him as usual. Tino finished brilliantly into the bottom corner. Having battered them for the whole half, we switched off in injury time and the scored from a corner. It made me consider putting a man on the near post, I feel like we concede a few here. I couldn’t believe it when we went 2-1 behind, we were killing these guys and they were getting lucky. Fair play for their third goal, best free kick I had seen so far this season. Sustersic pulled one back for us, Conde then hit the post. We lost 3-2, absolutely gutted as we played some of our best football of the season.
I was keen to get the Eintracht game in before dinner, I hate leaving on a defeat like most of the FM world. Gmeiner was in for the injured Eismann and I finally gave in to Arsenio and chose him ahead of Conde. When you lose, good sides bounce right back with a win. We are a good side, we won the game 2-0. Goals from Erhart and Sustersic meant that we finished this little run of games sitting in second place of 2.Bundesliga. Yes, second place.
Tomorrow we start with the cup game against St Pauli. Can we continue this dream run? I think so!
Follow me on Twitter: @comeontheoviedo
Author of the “Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager” series – available on Amazon
Read the first chapter of “Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager: The Second Season Syndrome” at www.chrisdarwen.com