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"It's What You Do With It That Counts"
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  1. "It's What You Do With It That Counts"

    Following nearly eight weeks of toil and suffering since the release of FM2013, I am finally in a position where am moderately happy with a tactic (and variations of) that I believe can bring success to me as a manager. After trying to create stories in the past which have crashed and burned, I'm more determined than ever to see this one out. Starting in July 2012, set as a semi-professional and starting unemployed, given the variable nature that we now have with FM2013, this could either see me become a success in front of those that follow the story or become an absolute failure. With that short introduction I bring you.........

    "Possession isn't everything, it's what you do with it that counts"


    Aged only 32 and a relative novice when it comes to management, Darren Porter does have a small amount of playing experience, twelve appearances at Semi-Professional level with Harrogate Town in his early twenties before a serious knee injury forced him to hang up his boots. Not content that this would be the end in football, Porter then went on to become involved with Gateshead FC in a coaching capacity before spending nearly five years in the Netherlands as a youth team coach with Fortuna Sittard whilst working towards his coaching qualifications.

    Following the departure of Wim Dusseldorp as head coach at Fortuna Sittard in 2011 and the subsequent staff restructuring by new manager Tini Ruys, Porter was released from his post and remained in the Netherlands for several months, but failed to find further employment in a coaching role. Returning to England downhearted, Porter went on to coach players at a local youth outfit in the North of England and was always hopeful that he could return to the game at a higher level given the contacts he had gained whilst working in mainland Europe.

    After several unsuccessful applications to clubs of varying size and stature within England, Porter was starting to become disillusioned and realised that any return to the game would probably only become available abroad. Applications commenced in earnest, a new agent was appointed and just as before, employment seemed light years away until an unexpected offer was received on 18th September 2012...........

  2. The Offer

    It started with an email from my agent, then a phonecall. At first I thought it was some kind of joke, I mean, I'd built up several contacts around Europe, some had even become very good friends, but none were from Germany. But it was true, FC Energie Cottbus had recently sacked their manager Rudi Bommer after an uneventful start to the season which had seen them, winless, rooted to the bottom of the German Second Division and with a German Cup exit at the first hurdle.

    "It's What You Do With It That Counts"-darren-porter_-news-inbox.png

    And it was me they wanted to turn this around, the young and inexperienced coach from the North-East of England. Not only did they want me, they wanted me without even speaking to me first, there was just a concrete offer on the table, and one that was also lucrative to me for a man in my position. I couldn't refuse the opportunity and jumped on the first available flight to Germany in order to accept and sign the contract. I was eager to get started.

    My Club

    "It's What You Do With It That Counts"-fcenergie.png

    Earlier called BSG Energie and then renamed FC Energie in 1990 following German reunification, the club is not littered with great past successes with their only noteable achievement to date being runner up in the German Cup in 1997. Currently residing in the second tier of German Football, in 2001 FC Energie became notable for becoming the first Bundesliga club to field a side made up of 11 foreign players.

    The Situation

    "It's What You Do With It That Counts"-german-second-division_-overview-stages.png

    Everything has happened so quickly. I am currently sat in an office at the Stadion De Freundschaft, it's my office I think, I find myself surrounded by boxes with no clue as to what is in them and whether they are mine, or those of the last manager. I met the players for the first time this morning and they seem like an honest bunch although it's hard to tell, the language barrier is certainly going to have an effect in the coming weeks.

    The situation we find ourselves in is quite simple, we are bottom of the league and for whatever reason, the players have not been good enough so far. One advantage we do have is that it is very early in the season and I have made it clear to the players that the season starts now. We have five days between now and my first game in charge, away to 1860 Munchen and I feel that this is enough time for me to form an understanding with the players and won't be requiring my current assistant, Markus Feldhoff to take charge of team affairs. I shall be meeting with Markus and the rest of the first team staff later this afternoon in order to discuss the best course of action for this coming week. But first, I have the task of my opening press conference where I will be introduced to the local media.............

  3. i like the story...will be reading
    Darandio likes this.

  4. Press Conference

    As I sat in the press room at the Stadion De Freundschaft, I was flanked on my left by the chairman Ulrich Lepsch and on my right by club captain Markus Brzenska. The room wasn't particularly full, I half expected it to be honest, I'm not particularly "big fry" and the club doesn't hold much stature these days either. The chairman seemed to be very jovial though, he's obviously dealt with this group many times over the years.

    There wasn't even a television camera to record events, I never even noticed a dictaphone, just half a dozen people from the local rags with notepads, feverishly scribbling. After a short but seemingly triumphant introduction from my chairman, he handed over to me in which I made clear my intentions for the club and the coming season before asking the audience if there were any questions. They didn't have any for me though, they were all more interested in speaking to the chairman, asking the obvious questions about my appointment, why I was appointed, why a more suitable candidate hadn't been found, again, this was all expected.

    The press conference ended and I realised just what a task lay in front of me here at FC Energie. I knew I was the unexpected candidate, I knew the position we were in and I knew that I had to win the fans over as soon as possible. What I didn't realise was the power of the media, the feeling of isolation they had given and I now knew that I would have to win them over as well. I know full well that the media in England can make it uncomfortable for a new appointment, I'd even go as far as to say the media over there can have an influence over your job and whether you keep it, I was now worried this was the case here as well.

    I couldn't dwell on this though, I had a meeting planned with my staff immediately after the press conference and we had a lot to discuss.......

    The Team

    I felt that the first thing to do would be to make it clear to all staff about their future at the club, they would be understandably worried. I assured them that whilst I would be looking to bring new staff in, all staff would keep their positions until at least the end of the season, it made no sense to completely tear apart the current setup and risk alienating the players, things would be done gradually and on merit. The same would go for the playing staff, it made sense to give everyone a chance to prove themselves worthy of their place in my team.

    That said, the reports given to me by my assistant made it quite obvious that there were shortcomings in the squad, this was made even more apparent when I outlined my philosophy and the system I wanted to adopt. I won't pretend that my ideas were not met with scepticism, I fully expected it, but they are going to have to trust my judgement on this. Despite the shortcomings, it's clear that there is talent in the team.

    "It's What You Do With It That Counts"-daniel-adlung_-overview-profile.png"It's What You Do With It That Counts"-daniel-brinkmann_-overview-profile.png"It's What You Do With It That Counts"-martin-fenin_-overview-profile.png

    I'm happy that there is a core to the squad and the most talented players are of a good age, not too young and not approaching the end of their career. Although I really like the look of Martin Fenin, I worry about his confidence. He signed last summer from Frankfurt and although he has the credentials to become a very good striker, he has not found the net for Cottbus in 16 appearances. Further to this, Leverkusen are also very interested in signing Martin, and I worry even further that this may be a detriment to his confidence at Cottbus, his head may have been turned.

    Despite my happiness in the core of the squad, there is an obvious lack of depth and injuries will affect us should they happen. In certain positions we do lack in quality as well, especially in the full back department, an area of the pitch that my philosophy and tactic heavily relies on, this will have to be addressed as a matter of urgency. We also have the issue of the transfer window, it's now closed until the new year and we don't have an infinite pot of money anyway, around £700,000. I'll have to work the market a little if I am going to bring anyone in that can improve the quality of the squad, I'll have to take a look at the free market initially and see if I can pick up any bargains ready for January.

    Although important, signings are at the back of my mind at this moment, I know there are now only going to be three full days in which to get to know my players better and get some work done on the training ground. We play away at 1860 Munchen on Sunday, so will be departing on the club coach at around lunchtime on Saturday. I was really confident this morning, but now realise that I have so much to do and so little time to do it, this week is going to be a baptism of fire........

  5. Saturday 22nd September 2012

    Following three good days of intense training, I am happy with the ideas conveyed between myself, my staff and the players, there seems to be an element of understanding already. What matters is tomorrow though, we have a near 6 hour coach journey this afternoon and that is only if the traffic is kind, a 563km journey to Munich and our hotel for the night. It's going to be an enormously difficult week ahead because we have three games in the space of seven days. Following the game tomorrow, we return home and will have to make an assessment of the players on Monday morning because we have a game at home to Duisburg on Wednesday. Ideally I want to get another two days training in before that game, but we will have to see how it goes tomorrow and with the resulting journey home, I cannot risk overworking the players this early in the season.

    We then have a similar situation after the game on Wednesday due to the following game which is away to Sandhausen on Sunday, this again involves a long coach journey, this time at a distance of around 646km. It's only after these three games that I will really have a better understanding of the capabilities of my squad and their ability to respond to what will be a congested week. Despite our current position, I am targeting 6 points from the first 9 and that in turn will hopefully restore some much needed confidence to this group.

    Given all that has gone on in the first four or five days here in Germany, and despite the amount of effort and hours put in to the team on the training pitch, the lack of quality in certain positions is still clear to see. Following our team meeting, my intention was to start scouring the free market once our game against 1860 Munich was over, however, given our extremely busy schedule this coming week, I decided to start earlier and have spent three evenings this week on the hunt for potential targets.

    Those three evenings have been less than fruitful, if anything it has made me realise even more just how much of a task I have here. Although I have not made any concrete offers, I have spoken to several players, all of whom have declared no interest in coming to the club, not even for a trial, these are not even what I would consider to be marquee players. I even spoke to Owen Hargreaves yesterday and although he was very sympathetic to the situation we find ourselves in, he still feels that he can play at a higher level and I understand that. I even spoke to Owen about a monthly rolling contract, he could use FC Energie as a platform to show his fitness but he still isn't interested, he obviously prefers to use his method of posting Rocky-esque videos on Youtube but I wish him all the best.

    I'll keep trying though, I still need to make a better assessment of both the U23 and U19 players, although they are both very light in numbers at this moment so there isn't much for me to fall back on should the senior group of players not produce. I'm sure, given time, that if we can improve our league form and show some intent in the German second division that we will be able to attract the right kind of player. For now that will have to wait though, departure time is rapidly approaching and I have 6 or so hours of German rock music to look forward to. Apparently the club captain Markus Brzenska has the monopoly over what music is played on the coach and I hear he is a big fan of the music of David Hasselhoff, should be fun..........

    "It's What You Do With It That Counts"-fc_energie_cottbus_mercedes_benz_travego_o_580-17_rhd_team_bus-_2010_-_flickr_-_sludgegulper.jpg

  6. The Managerial Debut

    "Possession isn't everything, it's what you do with it that counts"

    Never was a truer phrase spoken. You will hear it a lot from me in the coming weeks/months/years, it's the philosophy that I hold and forms the basis for how I expect my team to play. Granted, it is not for everyone, many prefer to see a team dominate possession and have a high workrate with the ball. Don't get me wrong, I set my team up to have a high workrate as well, but I prefer that workrate to be used in frustrating the opposition, letting them have as much of the ball as they want but only in the areas I want them to, in their own half where they can't do any damage. I want my players to hassle the opponent, tire the opponent out and strike only when necessary, conserving their effort for when it counts.

    "It's What You Do With It That Counts"-1860-m%C3%BCnchen-v-cottbus_-pitch-split.png

    It was a strange situation in the Allianz-Arena, Munich, eerie in fact, a great arena that holds 71,000, only graced by a crowd of less than 19,000, it was a very strange experience. It was my first match in charge, I had less than a week to learn everything I could about the club, the players and even the culture, the press had me and the team on a hiding to nothing for this game. Even the biggest newspaper in Germany "Bild" surprisingly ran a story in their Saturday edition, confidently predicting there was no place for me at the club and that I would be gone by the end of October. To compound matters, after our arrival in Munich the evening before, we took a short training session in the arena and had three short five-a-side games from which Martin Fenin picked up a gashed leg. On the morning of the match it was determined that this injury would keep him out for 10-14 days, hampering the plans I had created during the week.

    As it turned out, the match could have been a lot, lot worse. We were a team with new ideas, playing away at a team that are arguably a better side both man for man and collectively. We started the game very brightly, the players seemed to have taken on board much of what I had said to them and allowed 1860 Munchen to have the ball in their own half, breaking up any play which they tried to develop in our own. After around 10 minutes, we started to get the ball down and play our football and our patience was rewarded after 18 minutes when Stiven Rivic took hold of a short pass from Marco Stiepermann and stroked it past the keeper. Although the shot was on target, the slight deflection from Maximilian Nicu meant that it was credited as an own goal, maybe the dubious goals panel works slightly different here in Germany.

    The team managed to stick to my philosophy for nearly an hour after the opening goal, but following a raft of substitutions, things started to change, the 1860 wide men knew that we were struggling in the full back positions and started to try and exploit this which culminated in a 74th minute equaliser from Ismael Blanco. It wasn't particularly deserved, we controlled the pace of much of the game as well as controlling how 1860 used the ball but we contributed to our downfall, lacking concentration in the final third when it mattered most. The players did respond well to the equaliser, once again nullifying any threat that 1860 had after that and the game was closed out to a creditable draw for ourselves. I would have much preferred a win, but it was also equally as important not to start with a defeat, it provides a platform, however small, to build on in the coming weeks.

    In other news, whilst returning on the coach on Sunday evening, I received a call from former Bochum full back Philipp Bonig, in response to my offer of a trial. Phillip was very interested in partaking in the trial and arrived on Monday morning where he was assessed both on the training ground, by the medical department and by my technical staff. However, I don't believe that Philipp offers anything different to what we already have here at the club and I won't be pursuing a deal for him at this moment in time.

    "It's What You Do With It That Counts"-philipp-b%C3%B6nig_-overview-profile.png

    As previously mentioned, we have a home game coming up in midweek against Duisburg so after an assessment this morning, the players will be coming in for light training this afternoon in preparation for this game. Duisburg have made a solid if not unspectacular start to the season so should provide another tough test for the squad.

  7. Mixed Emotions

    "It's What You Do With It That Counts"-cottbus-v-duisburg_-pitch-split.png

    I'm pretty certain I should be ecstatic this morning. It was my first home game as manager of FC Energie and we picked up three points yet I am still troubled by aspects of the performance. It was a game that we effectively dominated, certainly a game that we deserved to win but I have been watching the dvd this morning, and cannot get past the 2nd minute of the game where we conceded. Once again, it was simply down to concentration and for the remaining 88 minutes, we were in control and reduced Duisburg to long range efforts, none of them really troubling the goalkeeper.

    Of course it was fantastic to go on and win the game. Much of our play was exactly as was planned on the training ground and the players have really responded well to this tactic which is unfamiliar with them, I have to give them great credit for that. But they cannot make silly mistakes like they did there, especially at this moment in time when we don't seem to be able to close out games despite creating the chances to do so.

    "It's What You Do With It That Counts"-ivica-banovic_-overview-profile.png

    Ivica Banovic was outstanding last night, contributing both a goal and an assist, it was a really impressive performance, even more impressive given Ivica plays a holding role in front of the back four. The bloke really does seem to have been around forever, starting his career in his home city of Zagreb before moving to Germany in 2000, where he has remained ever since.

    Another thing that has me troubled is the crowd. Last month, before I arrived, we played in front of nearly 21,000 here at the Stadion De Freundschaft. Last night, in my first game we only had a crowd of just over 9,000 and that is far too much of a drop to just attribute to bad form, or opponent. It must be me, it has to be, I understand that they may not be happy about the appointment, I'm an outsider to them but I also want them to support the team, we need them, they will play a pivotal role in the team turning around their fortunes.

    Much like after the 1860 Munchen game, I don't have much time to work with the team before the next game on Saturday which is away to Sandhausen, again featuring a long coach journey. As was the case last night, I fully expect to name an unchanged line up for that game barring any unforeseen problems that arise between now and then. Nothing has changed on the transfer front either, it's going to be really difficult to improve the squad before January but after the performance last night, I do hold more hope towards the group I currently have.

  8. following
    Darandio likes this.

  9. Not Quite Right..... Yet

    "It's What You Do With It That Counts"-sandhausen-v-cottbus_-pitch-split.png

    If I have to take a positive from the opening three games in charge, it would be that we are currently unbeaten. I cannot look at positives at the moment though, my thoughts are more towards three games and no clean sheets and that really troubles me. Once again, our full back deficiency was shown to full effect in the game away to Sandhausen, with both goals coming from the right flank in some way, shape or form. This is something that needs to be addressed urgently, but it will have to be done by bringing someone in, there just isn't someone at the club good enough for that position.

    I am fully aware that even with the resources I do have at my disposal, we should be winning against Sandhausen, regardless of whether we are away or not. I can take positives though, once again we were impressive on the ball and were able to control possession for long periods. Rivic and Adlung were in particular impressive, both play behind the front two but are encouraged to get forward at any opportunity and reflected this today by getting on the scoresheet.

    We now have a few days before our next game, on Friday at home to St Pauli, another match that we really should be winning, my hope is that the game has a much better turnout. Martin Fenin might well be available for that game but his fitness will have to be assessed beforehand so we may well have yet another unchanged line up.

    So that is September over with, with my arrival on the 18th and then three quickfire games in which we have remained unbeaten, I cannot really complain at the start of my time here. We have also made progress in the league table, slight but still relevant and I am looking to oversee an extension of this unbeaten start.

    "It's What You Do With It That Counts"-german-second-division_-overview-stages-2.png

  10. Doing It The Hard Way

    "It's What You Do With It That Counts"-cottbus-v-st.-pauli_-pitch-split.png

    I feel much like I did after the game against Duisburg, I should be delighted at picking up another three points and reaching another milestone, we are out of the relegation zone. I'm still not happy though, we are conceding far too cheaply and having to work much harder to rescue the game. What I am impressed with is the attacking play, we are very dynamic and using many of the ideas we are working on in training, this at least shows that the players are taking note.

    I also made a couple of changes for this game, with Guillaume Rippert coming in at left back to try and address the issues on that side, he had a solid game. A change was also made up front, with Sebastian Glasner replacing Marco Stiepermann, however, an injury early on for Boubacar Sanogo meant that the new strike partnership didn't last for very long. As it turns out, the substitution ended up for the best with Stiepermann scoring the winner, he hadn't looked like scoring at all in the previous three games, hence being demoted to the bench. It's worth making special mention once again of Daniel Adlung, another goal and assist resulting in a man of the match performance, this kid is a special talent.

    We also saw the return of Daniel Brinkmann to the bench and he came on to make his debut later on in the game, it was interesting to see Daniel in competetive action for the first time as he is a player that really does impress me. Unfortunately, Martin Fenin wasn't declared fit enough to take his place on the bench so his first performance under my stewardship will have to wait along with what will hopefully be his first goal.

    Finally, my plea for the fans to return was listened to, over 15,000 turned out last night and they were in full voice throughout, even when we fell behind, I cannot thank them enough for that. Football fans are generally knowledgable, they can see our current defensive frailties as well and with 6 goals conceded in 4 matches, that has to change. What I hope they could see was the ideas, philosophy and commitment from the current group, they couldn't be faulted in that respect.

    Our next game is now a week away, a tricky fixture away at Paderborn but I am hoping that we can welcome more players back this week in order to have a much more healthy group to pick from. Maybe Martin Fenin will recover enough to finally score his first goal for the club, given the topsy turvy nature of the game last night, I've seen enough already to know that anything can happen.

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