Hello folks, welcome back to Ellesmere Port for another update of the Vauxhall Motors Football Manager 2011 story! So, we finished our first ever Premier League season in 9th place, not bad for a club of our stature and a good stepping stone towards the future. My next goal was to finish inside the top six next season and qualify for the Europa League. Well, I was in for a huge surprise…
I was quietly scouting around for new players while waiting quite impatiently to find out more about the transfer budget. I had already planned a few friendly games when something totally unexpected happened. Drum roll… And screen shot! :)
At first I thought that this might be a glitch or a bug in the game, I just couldn’t believe it. Then I investigated the matter and I found the explanation. England has four Champions League spots and three Europa League places, you all know that. So, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United go to the Champions League, everything normal here, but fourth placed Arsenal don’t! Why? Because 5th placed Manchester City have won the Champions League last season so they get that place instead of Arsenal! The interesting aspect is that Arsenal have won the Europa League, so they get a place in next season’s competition, an additional place to the three that are assigned to the Premier League. Liverpool won the FA Cup, so there’s another spot, Manchester United won the Carling Cup so that spot goes to seventh placed Sunderland and Aston Villa get the other spot as they finished 8th. Because 5th placed Manchester City moved up to the Champions League despite finishing fifth that Europa League place was given to us as we finished 9th!!! So we did qualify for Europe on our first ever Premier League season after all!
The downside was that we were not going to have a normal pre-season as we were entered in the first qualifying round of the Europa League. The first game was played on the 30th of June so most of my friendlies were canceled as a result. We were drawn against Latvian side Daugava in that first round, more about that tie later.
The eagerly-awaited moment finally came, the board presented the season expectations options and I admit that I was rather disappointed by their offer. I was expecting a bit more money, especially in the wage budget. Anyway, I promised them that we would qualify for a continental competition and they gave me 19.25 million pounds for transfers and around 40 K to spend in the wage budget.
The bookmakers didn’t share my optimism and neither did the media, their prediction was that we would finish 17th. That’s a good thing though, it’s the very first time that we’re not predicted to finish last since I took over!
With the first competitive game coming on June 30th I only managed to complete one transfer before that match as I brought in experienced winger Andrew Surman for a mere 130K from Greek side Panathinaikos. He is a very good player and surely worth much more than that fee.
On to the opening match of the season then, we were traveling to Latvia for our European debut!
Daugava vs Vauxhall (Europa League 1st Qual. Rnd leg 1)
Starting line up: Dean Bouzanis – Julian Marino, Louis Laing, Mervin Simon, Andrew Surman – Radek Vecera, Mark Brown, Graham Howson, Andrew Driver – Parana, Andrés
Team Talk: You can win today!
I was quite nervous before the game, the opponents were not that good but an European debut is always difficult especially when all the players are lacking match fitness. My worries were totally unfounded though, my boys were home and dry after less than 10 minutes! First Radek Vecera put us ahead after just two minutes by powering in on a corner kick rebound, then he bagged another one four minutes later and Graham Howson made it 3-0 on eight minutes as he met Andrew Surman‘s cross with a perfect diving header. It was an onslaught, we were totally in command and Andrés managed to make it 4-0 later on.
Half time score: 0-4
Half time team talk: Pleased
Half time substitutions: Stephan El Shaarawy for Vecera, Shyamdew Weibolt for Brown, Connor Wickham for Andres
The second half was much more quiet, my lads took the foot off the gas and the home side nearly pulled one back on a corner kick but we were saved by the crossbar. Our European debut ended in triumph and we were almost certain to advance to the next round, the second qualifying round out of the total four.
Full time team talk: Well done!
Man of the match: Radek Vecera
Flop of the match: Julian Marino
The 1st of July came and it was time to bring in the new players that I wanted. You know that my main goal was to bring in two new centre backs and I’m happy to say that I did. Both of them come from Argentina, both are youth internationals and I have been following them for at least two seasons now. First there is Javier Godoy, I paid 6 million pounds for him to Belgian side Club Brugge. He should be a top asset to the club as he is quick, strong and still young. He can also provide cover as a full back on both flanks, I guess any manager would want such a player.
The second centre back was a bit more expensive, I paid 8 million pounds for him to Ukrainian side Dnipro. The funny thing is that I tried to get him last season straight from Argentina but he didn’t get a work permit back then and moved in Eastern Europe. This lad is only 20 years old and I believe that he has a great future ahead of him along with a great present since he will probably be playing a lot of first team football this season. Unfortunately I couldn’t register him for the qualifying rounds of the Europa League since Dnipro already registered him before July 1st.
The last signing that I managed to bring in on July 1st was a Brazilian right winger, he is not a high-profile player but I got him for free from Sevilla to provide some cover on the right flank.
The second leg against Daugava went equally well, we beat them 4-0 again with Elias Kost, Connor Wickham, Pavol Vesely and Thiago finding the back of the net. Then we met Slovenian side Gorica in the second qualifying round and we eased past them, 7-0 on aggregate. Four of my strikers managed to score in those two legs, basically all of them except Andrés. Parana did well to bag a hat-trick in the first leg so I was quite happy. Then we played the only friendly game of our summer which ended in an unlucky 1-0 defeat at the hands of Spanish side Getafe. We played pretty well in that game but we were unable to convert our chances.
We were drawn against Polish side Arka in the Europa League third qualifying round but before that we managed to bring in another two highly-rated players. But we also had to say goodbye to one of our best players, go to the next page to read all bout that!
Go to the next page to read the rest of the story.
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