On the verge of greatness

‘So Vince, here you are, taking your unfancied ARC Oleiros team into the Champions Play off game against Freamunde. Just how do you feel knowing you could win the league in this game?’ The reporter asks as I make my way into the estadio do fontelo, home of Viseu

‘Hard work and committed players really. I always told the team to believe that we can win any game and this season there’s been no pressure. I’m happy with where we’re at, we’ve got promotion in the bag, winning this game and the trophy that comes with would be the icing on the cake, but as I say, we’re happy with what we’ve done so far’

‘Can you win the game? Freamunde come into this off the back of winning the last 2 games and are the overwhelming favourites’

‘All season long we’ve been the underdogs, nothing in that regard is going to change. The pressure is all on Freamunde to win the game. We can play our natural game and with confidence. Thanks for your time’

I make my way into the dressing rooms, the players are all there getting ready for the game and Ruben Parraga is explaining something to Dentinho and Nilson, our 2 starting forwards

‘Just don’t do it, leave the space where it is, they’ll have to commit men forward, oh hi Vince, I’m just telling the boys how to exploit the gap in defence we scouted last week’ he says

‘Great stuff, their center halves don’t like pace coming at them, like Ruben says they’re going to have to commit men forward, we’ll exploit that with both of your pace’.

After naming the starters and giving a small team talk basically saying go out there and have fun, the pressure is all on Freamunde, if we win the game great stuff, it’s not going to define our season. Call me unprofessional, but I’m treating this game as a pre-season friendly. All the hard work has gone into securing promotion, Freamunde should be winning this game, so with that in mind I’m not nervous or worried. Whatever will be, will be.

Everything that has happened this season led to this moment, this one moment that made me realise, despite by my own admissions this game was a hiding to nothing, that I’ve achieved something incredible here this season.

To say we didn’t deserve this would be an understatement. We went 2 goals up in the first half and never looked back. Freamunde just didn’t look like getting into the game at all. Were they complacent? Who knows but what I do know is we are the champions!

With that the season comes to a close. I set out to bring silverware to this club and I’ve done just that. We won the division despite being favourites to get relegated. End of season awards sees Farinha grabbing player of the season, Edivandio gets goal and signing of the season too.

Just as I head off for my own break, the chairman calls me into his office

‘Firstly Vince, absolutely fantastic season for us, you’ve done something incredible this year’

‘Thanks, it’s just…’

He cuts me off ‘Keep it up, as next season it’s going to be even harder, I just want you to know the only thing I’m asking of you is that you give it a go, try not to be outclassed, and fight bravely against the drop’

‘We will I can assure you of that, and that we’ll take nothing for granted’

As we’re now in the division above, we’ve taken a loan out to enable us to turn the club fully professional’

‘That’s fantastic news, believe me I’ll do everything I can to keep this club in the league next season!’

‘That’s good to hear, we’ve also started work on expanding the stadium as well. There’s regulations in the division so we’ve got that being completed to look forward to as well’

‘Great news’

‘One last thing before you leave, here is the offer of a new contract. As we’re now full time your’s, as well as the staff and players contracts have all been changed to reflect the extra days you’ll be here’

‘Of course I’ll sign. Thanks for the support’

Things are certainly looking good for the future. I know I won’t have the funds to attract top level quality players, but if I can get a couple of players in to complement the team already here, we may have a good chance of staying up next season.

I came into Oleiros with an idea of getting my foot in the door in the management game, and now after 2 short seasons the people of this small town call me O rei de Oleiros, the king of Oleiros.

Previous episode – Is an unlikely promotion on the cards?

Is an unlikely promotion on the cards?

‘First of all Vince, I’d like to say how delighted the board are with your running of the team’ Miguel Martins, the club’s chairman says

‘Thank you for that Mr. Chairman’ I reply

‘No I mean it, you’re doing a fantastic job. I also wanted to say, that no matter what happens in the next stage of the league, this season has gone down as a fantastic one’

‘Well I’m trying my best to make sure we finish as strongly as possible. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect us to be where we are right now’

‘That’s the spirit, now the only thing I will say to you, and don’t take this the wrong way, but you can go out there and continue on this season without any pressure on your shoulders. We’re not getting relegated and no matter where we finish, it will be the highest league finish in Oleiros history’

I’m pleased the chairman is backing me, and why shouldn’t he? We’re overachieving, long may that continue, and if I left today I can leave knowing that I’m the reason behind ARC Oleiros having their best ever season.

As the good feedback from the chairman comes, so does some disappointing news, with confirmation that father time has caught up with Philip Chidi as he announces his retirement. The decision was obviously based on his season ending injury sustained a couple of months ago, but when you know it’s time to call it a day, then you can’t really argue with that. His 12 goals in 17 league games really propelled us not only this season but his goals helped keep us up last season. He will be missed.

As for the clubs form, we certainly continued showing we’re a force to be reckoned with this season. Of the 12 games out of the remaining 14 we played, we lost 2, drew 4 and won 6, not only cementing our place at the top of Group B, but leaving us only 1 more win to secure an unlikely promotion.

Pre game team talk

‘You’ve all done magnificently to get this far, as you know we need 1 more win to guarantee promotion to Ledman Liga Pro. If we don’t get it today there’s no need to panic, no matter what we’ve given this club it’s best ever finish to a league season, not only that but there’s 1 more game to play, and there’s a very high chance we’ll get in the play offs anyway. But be professional, don’t get complacent, we’ve already beaten Mafra 3-1 away this season, let’s do the job at home yeah!’

The team go out to the corridor and wait for the ref and linesmen. As they do I walk out to the pitch alone, the Oleiros fans either side of the tunnel are cheering and clapping, I can sense the excitement in the air already. As I make my way to the dugout, I look around, and as usual this small stadium isn’t full, it hardly ever is, maybe when we get promoted we’ll actually see a sell out? Who knows, all I know is I want to win this game.

I’ve got to guide this team to a win here, or if not here we must win our final game and hope Uniao Sintrense, and their manager, West Ham reject Luis Boa Morte don’t win their final 2 games. We finish in the top 2 and we’re promoted, but if we finish top we get to play in the Champions Play off game, and if we win that then we’ll officially have won this division.

We really took the initiative in this game. The first half whilst you could say was even all round we had a higher number of shots and overall more possession, it’s just we couldn’t make the breakthrough and went in at the half still drawing nil nil.

Half time

As the team are sat in the dressing room, I stand outside with Ruben Parraga ‘ Do you think we should even change anything at all?’

‘No, we should keep plugging away as we have they’ll crack eventually’ he replies

‘I’m wary of counter attacks though’

‘I’m not, we should keep at it, we’re the stronger team here, they won’t want to get beat 3-1 again’

The second half was much like the first, we dominated for long spells of the game before grabbing a well deserved goal in the 75th minute

‘What now Vince? Do we keep attacking or sit back? Ruben asks

‘Drop 1 of the forwards, get Miguel on the pitch in the water carrier role’

‘The what?!’

‘The water, hang on you’ve never heard it called that before?’

‘No, what is it?’

‘I’ll explain why it’s called that some time, but it’s the defensive midfield role in front of the defenders, the anchor man’

‘Ahh right got ya’ and with that tells Miguel to get on the pitch.

Since the goal Mafra get back into the game, and have a couple of half decent chances that go wide. The players are nervous, I can tell.

I’m screaming tighten up & concentrate constantly to the players. We’ve not got long left, we can hold on for this.

In the 88th minute we nearly fell apart. The ball was played long, one of those awful hanging balls that defenders hate. We half clear it but it falls out wide, then get swung in and unbelievably they had a man wide open just a yard or so away from the penalty spot.

He jumped and heads the ball, when really he could’ve controlled it and took a shot, but he heads it towards goal and Carlos Espinoza pulls out an absolute worldie of a save to his left hand side to keep the score at 1-0.

The ref blows for full time, we’ve done it. We’ve done it! We’ve only gone and got promoted to the Ledman Liga Pro!

‘Carlos, absolutely incredible save there, you’ve won the game for us with that’

‘Thanks boss’

‘We won’t address the fact they had a man wide open near the end, just enjoy today, you’ve absolutely earned this don’t let anything take that away, what we’ve done is unbelievable! Go and enjoy yourselves tonight’ I say to the rest of the team.

Unbelievable. Unreal. Amazing. These are just some of the things going through my mind now. I am not getting ahead of myself, but there’s a chance we could end up playing in the Champions play off game, and we could win the whole league. But no, not yet, I’m going to enjoy this promotion, and whatever happens will happen.

Next episode – On the verge of greatness

Previous episode – It’s within reach

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End of the season – mini-sode 2

‘See look, Braun Strowman is at least 6 foot 7, and has just choke slammed Roman into the mat, you can’t tell me that wouldn’t hurt not even a little bit?’

‘But they know how to land. There’s no way they’d let someone else actually hurt them for real’ Ruben replies

‘But even you can see that getting slammed onto a hard surface is going to hurt isn’t it!’

‘Well the ring is padded, no way it’s made of wood or anything’

‘Really, you really just said that. Look at the size of the wrestlers, both at least 6 foot 5, even the refs not small, you’re telling me the ring is padded and can hold all that weight?’


‘You’re an idiot’

‘You watch wrestling’

‘Do you want to find yourself a new job?’

‘Okay you win’

‘No, I mean it, do you want a new job?’ I say in a downbeat sort of way

‘Not really, I like it here with you we can do some good things’ Ruben replies

‘Well I haven’t told anyone but Rafael has left as my assistant manager, so I need a new one, and I can’t think of anyone better than you’


‘Yes really. The coward didn’t even have the balls to tell me to my face he was leaving, I had a reporter approach me on the way out yesterday, I gave him some dross about respecting Rafael and that we got on really well, but we never got on well at all’. Just as I say that Braun Strowman gave Roman Reigns a second power slam to beat him in the main event of the Payback pay-per-view. ‘Look, now Braun’s hitting him with steel steps, and before you say something stupid like they’re plastic, these are the same steps these wrestlers used to walk into the ring’

‘Yeah well there’s something in them that stops it from hurting when they get hit’ Ruben replies

‘You really are something you know that’

‘It’s fake Vince, anyway look I’ve got to go somewhere, if you’re serious about me being the new assistant sort the details out, I’ll happily stay’

‘Cheers Ruben’ As he leaves I get confirmation of the team of the year as voted by the fans, and Santos gets player of the year, Drogunov is both signing and young player of the year, which is disappointing as he is on his way out of the club

With that I’m heading back to the training ground to address the squad and hopefully improve where we can.

Next episode – Season number 2, here we come

Previous episode – The run in, can we stay up?

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The run in, can we stay up?

‘Not 1, not 2, not even 3, but 4 goals!! Outstanding play today Philip, you were incredible’

‘Sim amigo, obrigado’ Philip Chidi replies, who scored 4 goals in this must win game. I don’t think he understands English, he must’ve assumed by my reaction I was happy. We absolutely dominated that game, the players really showed up in this one.

From then on we went on a run of 2 wins and 3 losses to see us finish 4th in the relegation stage of Group E, and avoiding relegation.

At our end of season team talk I tell the players 2 words, and only 2 words – mission complete! We set out to get 1 thing done and that was survive, and we did by a good 9 point margin too. It turned out to be a good season all things considered, and I am confident we can better this season’s finish and dare I say, push on for a top 2 finish, enabling us to play in the promotion stage?

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here, but I think with the right mentality, we might just do something good next season. We do need address the wobbly form though, we seem to win a game, lose a game, win a couple lose a couple. If I’m really serious about our chances of a really good season we need to get some consistency in. I need to get the mentality that we’re too good for the drop in this team, and I need to get players in that fit the bill, and are first team ready.

Just as I’m leaving for my own end of season break, Vlad Drogunov has once again rejected my offer of a new contract. I’m a little disappointed as he’s been good for us this season, but we’ll go in again and if he says no then so be it.

Season one of the journey is in the bag, and all things considered, it’s been a good season for us. Expected to finish at the bottom of the league to survive quite comfortably really is definitely a positive. We’re going to look at everything in the off season, players leaving, who to target to bring in, tactics, training the lot. I want to go all out next season and see where that takes us.

For now though, I’m going on holiday.

Next episode – End of the season Mini-sode 2

Previous episode – Relegation group stage

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Relegation group stage

There’s no 2 ways about it, we could go down. The media had us down to be relegated in the clubs first season in this division, but we did well enough to only miss out on a place in the top 2 by a few points, but there’s been times when we hadn’t looked like winning. The best chance we have of staying up, I think, is to go on the attack from the off. We’ve got 12 games to play, and even though we’ve had some half decent results up to now, they all count for nothing as a few bad showings from now could see us drop into the bottom 3 of this division.

‘Comece como pretendemos continuar’ I say to Ruben Parraga, in Portuguese no less

‘Sim amigo, devemos procurer obter algo bom desde cedo’ he replies

‘Sorry Ruben, I’m not that good at Portuguese yet, I heard we should look to get, but that’s as far as I got, I’m still learning’ I reply with a smile

‘At least you’re picking it up boss. I said we should look to get some good form early on’

‘I think after our last 2 games and the way we played, a good result against Lusitania isn’t out of the question’

‘Sim chefe, vou preparer a equipe’ he replies and heads off toward the training room

I head yes boss but other than that I don’t know what he said. My Portuguese is basic at best, but I’m learning and if I can carry on picking it up, I feel my effectiveness will improve.

Half time team talk

‘Nos fomos o melhor time aqui’ I say to the team, however I ask Ruben to tell them we need to press on and continue being the better team as we’ve had the better of the chances in the first half.

Ruben relays my message. The team seem confident in their demeanour. I tell Ruben to instruct the lads to get out on the pitch 5 minutes early and carry on warming up. If Lusitania see us out there early hopefully it will have a psychological effect on them, and give us a slight advantage going into the second half.

As the second half went on we found ourselves in front when Nilson buried a snap shot just inside the area. It was no less than we deserved as we’ve been the better team. Shortly after we got another, this time Dentinho buried a close range shot. I turned to Ruben and told him I knew these 2 would work well playing together. Dentinho grabbed his second and our third when he connected with a header from a cross. We did allow them a consolation goal not long before full time, however we even managed to get a 4th goal, and completing his hat trick was Dentinho. After the game I pull Dentinho to 1 side and say in broken Portuguese ‘parabens pelo hat trick, estou muito satisfeito’

‘Obrigada Vince, apenas fazendo minha coisa’ he replied.

No idea what he said, I got Vince, but that was it. He seemed happy enough though and we as a team definitely are with this win.

We won our next game 2-0 at home to Operario dos Acores, then went on a bit of a bad run which saw us get 2 points from 4 games which saw us slip down to 5th in Group E.

Pre game team talk Atletico Alcanenense

‘Nao se enganem sobre isso, est um jogo deve ganhar’ I say in a very slow way. I hope my broken Portuguese is understandable

‘Sim amigos, Vince esta certo, devemos vencer este jogo’ Dentinho responds

‘I’m Sorry, Ruben please tell Dentinho I only understood Vince is right, but thank him for agreeing with me’

Ruben speaks to Dentinho, who smiles and nods back. I get the feeling he appreciates my trying to speak in Portuguese

‘We must win this game, we cannot afford to slip up now, Lusitania & Gafetense are only 3 points behind us, we really can’t rely on them slipping up to keep us in the league’.

Once my message was relayed to the team, they head off towards the pitch. I’m starting Dentonho & Chidi up front in this one, both have good pace and positional sense, we need to win this game to better our chances of staying up.

Next episode – The run in, can we stay up?

Previous episode – Mini-sode 1

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Mini-sode 1

‘I don’t know why I like it, I just always have’

‘It’s fake you know’ Ruben Parraga replies

Sigh, that statement again. ‘It’s not fake’

‘It is’

‘It really isn’t’ I say through gritted teeth

‘It really is though, they know what the other person’s going to do’

‘Ruben, if it’s so fake, let me powerbomb you through that coffee table over there’

‘WHAT?! Are you mad, that’ll hurt like hell!

‘So it can’t be fake then can it!’

‘But it is, they know what to do and when to do it’

‘Ruben, soap operas aren’t real either, but you still sit and watch them don’t you!’

‘Yeah but…’

‘But nothing! Wrestling is scripted, as in they know the outcome of the match, but to say the moves they perform are fake is just wrong. See look, Kevin Owens has just done a frog splash from the top rope, onto Roman Reigns on the outside of the ring, through a fucking table! Tell me how the guy getting jumped on, by another 6 foot something and about 16 stone fully grown man doesn’t feel that, as it’s fake?’

‘Well they know how to land don’t they’ Ruben remarks. The smug twat.

‘Right, I’ll ask you again, let me jump off this sofa, onto you through that table over just like you’ve seen on the telly’.

He shakes his head.

‘Don’t wind me up. It’s not fake, they really are throwing each other about. Now piss off will you I’m trying to watch the rest of the Royal Rumble’

With that he leaves my flat. I can now watch the Rumble from the other night in peace and quiet. Even at my age I’m still very much entertained by wrestling. Just as the Kevin Owens versus Roman Reigns match ends, my phone vibrates. It’s a text from the clubs owner:

Vince, Philip Chidi signing confirmed, he’ll be at the training ground tomorrow. Bye for now.

So we’ve managed to sign Philip Chidi, winger / forward who is experienced at this level, and has scored 8 in 34 games for Brito. I think with his experience and decent all round stats for this level, he can come in and contribute to our staying in the league. With this signing, along with the good performances we’ve had already I am quietly confident of staying in the league. Right enough of work, I want to watch the end of this Royal Rumble.

Next episode – Relegation group stage

Previous episode – It happened after 10

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Game day 2

With that late victory in our first game, we entertained promotion favourites Benfica a Castelo Branco in my first home game as a manager.

During the afternoon before the game, I’m approached by Rodrigo Boaventurea, the clubs director of football and first team coach Ruben Parraga

Rodrigo says something in Portugesue, Ruben translates

‘We’ve got the signing over the line boss, the young left winger Vladislav Drogunov has joined from Desportivo das Aves’

‘Great stuff, thank you Ruben, will he be here before the Benfica game?’

‘Unfortunately not Vince, he’s driving down from Vila das Aves so won’t make it for today’s game’

‘Not to worry. We best get get prepared for the game tomorrow’ I say as we head off towards the training pitch.

Home game v.s Benfica a Castelo Branco

As I get out of the taxi and head towards the stadium, I’m greeted by a crowd of people, some wearing our home shirt and the majority cheering and waving at me.

I struggle to make it through the crowd of people as they’re all trying to get photos and autographs with me, they’re all speaking in Portuguese and whilst this is nice to get this kind of attention, I have literally no idea what they’re saying

‘Bora Oleiros’

‘Boa sorte Oleiros’

‘Nunca desista’

These are all things I hear them saying, but I’ve no clue what they mean. I smile and wave as eventually I get to the entrance of the ground and make my way to the training room

‘Ruben, tell the team that despite some defensive wobbles in the second half in the last game, we’re setting up exactly the same as last time, except this time we’re going to go out and attack’

‘But Vince, Benfica are a top team and they’ll tear us apart’ Ruben replies

‘Not if we control the game. The way I see it if we’re going to get anything out of this game we’ve got to put them on the back foot, take it to them they won’t be expecting it’

‘Okay you’re the boss’

As I lead the team out at Estadio Municipal de Oleiros for the first time, there’s not many fans here, at first glance I’d say a couple of hundred at a push. I can’t deny it I was expecting more, but this is a small town with a small population, let’s hope I can get more people in this stadium watching the team.

Things didn’t get off to a good start as after 8 minutes we were 1 down. They had the ball whipped in from the wing and it was a good header that got their goal, but I felt we could’ve been a bit more confident in defence. From then on though we dominated the game. We had a number of half chances but right on half time the ball was passed around their area before Gomes, who made a couple of mistakes in the last game managed to bury the ball home eventually.

From the restart we took the lead from a well worked corner routine. The ball came in and Manuel found his header go straight into the net. From then on we didn’t sit back and took it to Benfica. We increased our lead when Jackson buried a close range shot in before adding his second and our fourth by beating 3 players before striking the ball home. They did pull 1 back late on but the game was dead and buried by that point.

After the game I’m sitting with Ruben in the dressing room, the players have all left for the day after a good result

‘Told ya’ I said

‘Told me what?’ Ruben replied

‘Told you if we took it to them they’d crumble, and they did’

‘Okay I will admit you got it right today, but don’t get ahead of yourself boss’ he says with a smirk on his face

‘Oh I won’t pal, but it’s been a great start 2 wins from 2 and if we can keep this performance up we won’t have to worry about relegation from this division’

Just as we get up to leave 1 of the press room attendants walks up to Ruben and speaks in Portuguese

He turns to me and says ‘The new lad just arrived, he needs to get registered to play in the next game, the office will see to it. Do you want to go greet Drogunov, or shall I?’

‘Well he speaks English so I’ll go’

I meet him at the entrance to the stadium ‘Afternoon Vlad, how was your journey?’

‘Erm, hi again Vince, I mean boss’ he says in a very nervous way. ‘The drive was okay. Do I need to get to training or anything today?’

‘No son, get yourself settled and unpacked, and meet me at training tomorrow. Don’t know if you saw but we won 4-2 this afternoon’

‘Oh that’s good, but does that mean I won’t be in the team for the next game?’

‘Not at all, I signed you for the first team and that is exactly where you’ll be. See you in the morning’

Rounding out my first month as a football manager is another away game, and another victory. This time we won 1-0 away to Carapinheirense with new signing Vladislav Drogunov impressing by getting the only goal early on in the game. After the goal it wasn’t quite end to end but there were some nervy moments where we could’ve conceded the equaliser, but we held on for our third win in 3 games.

That brings an end to my first month as a manager, and I am currently rocking a 100% record. It’s not going to be plain sailing all season, but if we can get some more points on board early on we may just have enough to keep us in the league.

Next episode – It happened after 10

Previous episode – Game 1 of the journey

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