Hello folks! #TheMatelianoMission is back and having done the double in our first year in existence I am now taking the team through the pre-season. There is good news and bad news, particularly on the financials. If you want to catch up on the story so far, click here and here.
The good news was that we were given £1m for winning the league, fantastic I thought. That was until the tax man popped round for his slice – as it was £1m profit we had to pay a tax bill of £625k! That was a little gutting. The other good news was that before that bill, I had convinced the board to part with £250k to upgrade the youth facilities – the only thing I have been able to get out of them so far.
There is also good news and bad news on the transfer front – my top, top, top targets (to join a Jamie Redknapp phrase) don’t currently want to join a double winning side that is about to embark on a Champions League adventure. That might change by the end of this update though. The good news is that we have secured a few young talents which excite me, so I will also be letting a few of my squad go.
Fifteen days before the first qualifier I felt my transfer business was done – seven in, six out and the six that came in were all more comfortable playing in the shape we play in – apart from a 6ft 5 right back that I am going to train into a centre back. Our first competitive match was going to tell me a lot about how far this save will go.
The Champions League qualifying draw gave us a trip to Armenia, and Shirak. I would imagine this was going to be a tough fixture – they won their first qualifying round last season. A friendly defeat to Calcio didn’t inspire me at all!
If we did beat them, however, a date with Steaua Bucharest awaited us. Now that is what I am talking about! Suddenly I was interested…
Well, we competed brilliantly in the first leg played at New Wembley (our ground is too small). Sure, we lost 2-1 but we went ahead and we had a few chances to level the game. They missed a hatful of chances but we were not outclassed by any means. Our lack of match fitness showed, and I am not really sure what I could have done about that as I didn’t know when the game was going to be so couldn’t really arrange any friendlies. Either way, the trip to Armenia was going to be fun.
So, there are ten minutes to go. We are winning 2-1 on the night so therefore level on aggregate. This is the comeback of comebacks. Twice in a minute we are clean through, 1v1 with their ‘keeper. Twice we shoot wide, no!! The game went to extra time. And we took the lead! New signing Conti fired home from a great counter-attack. 4 minutes were left when our centre back Valentini was shown a second yellow, this was stressing me out. It didn’t matter though, was he notched the fourth!! We had comeback from 2-1 from the first leg, 1-0 on the night therefore 3-1, to win the tie 5-3 on aggregate. What a bloody performance, without doubt my greatest victory on FM15 to date. This means more to me than getting Jena to the Bundesliga in successive seasons, wow.
That meant our next fixture was going to be against 1986 European Champions, Steaua Bucharest. Crazy times, our FA was only formed in 2013 and last season was the first time the Mateliano Football League played an official league game. All with a totally random formation that I used in CM93/94!
The first leg was going to be away. Playing the National Stadium of Romania was a little different to playing in the national stadium of Mateliano, New Wembley and even more different to playing at Malfa. 18,000 were expected, and I imagine that is not far off the population of our tiny island. As expected, they were a little bit better than us. We lost 5-1, but we did compete up until the last ten minutes. All I wanted now was to put on a decent show at home, then crack on with the league season.
Any chance of the second leg being a decent spectacle was removed when Segni got a red for a daft challenge. Their boy up front, Tamuz, pulled us apart over the two legs. He followed up his brace in Romania with another brace and two assists. We lost 5-0, 10-1 on aggregate but the fact we were even in the next round was incredible for our first attempt. Still, we earned another £384k which boosted the coffers considerably.