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Diary of a Season: St. Mary's Redemption
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  1. Saturday 27th May, 2023

    6:00am: I lay in the bath in my hotel room, contemplating my tactical options now that the loss of Diego Reyes from my Champions League Final squad is confirmed.

    With Mario Pugliese suspended and Reyes due to be in international airspace when the match kicks-off, my plans to play the 4-5-1 Assymetric system are in tatters. Shane Westley and Mark Ardean-Webb can both play as a defensive midfielder, but it isn’t either player’s preferred position and I don’t want to throw such young players into positions that they are not entirely familiar with. Phillip Kaminski can also play there, but he doesn’t have the passing ability that I need of my central midfielders.

    Javi Rico noted that Porto are vulnerable to 4-4-2. The 4-4-1-1 system usually works well against teams that don’t like 4-4-2. I think about Porto’s squad and try to guess what they will do to cover the loss of Di Martino in midfield. Lucas Evangelista? The Brazilian is more creative than combative and rumour has it that he’s lacking match fitness. Maybe they’ll change their shape altogether to accommodate him.

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    With 4-4-1-1, I could put Ward-Prowse into the Ball-Winning role. He’s not a tough tackler but he knows the role. Stangoni can go to Deep-Lying Playmaker and Jose Pinho - a former Porto starlet - can go into the Shadow Striker role; all 6ft4in of him. The Porto centre-backs are tall but Pinho is taller; and the boy can jump! We play to the flanks and send crosses over. He can start to become the new Jay Rodriguez, as I have always intended for him. I don’t want to lose Stangoni’s running power in the final third, though - his ability to dribble at players and have them commit and leave gaps behind themselves.

    Bloody North American Gold Cup! Sounds like a yachting contest!

  2. Saturday 27th May, 2023

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    Before we leave the hotel to board the coach for Wembley Stadium, I take Mark Ardean-Webb aside and break the bad news that he will not be included in the 18 for the European Champions League Final. As the 19 year-old tries to fight back the tears and maintain the impression to his manager that he understands my decision, I realise that this is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my entire career in football management.

    I tell him that he has been nothing short of excellent all season, but in the absence of both Diego and Mario, and with James Ward-Prowse playing an unfamiliar battler’s role, I need some steel in reserve and Shane Westley has the edge when it comes to the rough stuff. My statistical analysis shows that Shane Westley has an 87% success rate for tackles made in Champions League and Premier League matches only, as opposed to Mark’s 80%.

    I cut the conversation short when I can see that the player is about to lose control, and signal to my Director of Football Max Eberl - who I brought with me for this conversation, knowing that Mark has a good relationship with him - to look after the boy until the match begins. As I walk down the corridor to the sound of a young man realising that his dream has been shattered, feeling like an utterly heartless b*st*rd, I puff out my cheeks and go looking for Mullers. He’s bound to have some stupid problem, like an ingrown toenail on the reserve goalkeeper, that I can distract myself with.

  3. Saturday 27th May, 2023

    European Champions League - FINAL
    Wembley Stadium, London; Att: 90,000

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    SAINTS Team News - 4-4-1-1: Abdel Aziz Ibrahim is in goal; Roel Rutten and Tin Jedvaj are the centre-back partnership; Luke Shaw and Buti Ndou are the full-backs; James Ward-Prowse is in the Ball-Winning Midfielder role, alongside Giammarco Stangoni who captains the team from a Deep-Lying Playmaker position; Elias Migliorini gets the nod over Tom Ince on the left of midfield, with Kostas Kabastanakis on the right; Jose Pinho is the Shadow Striker with Christoffer Jorgensen up-top as the Deep-Lying Forward; I don’t have a goalkeeper among my subs - Kaminski, Hrustic, Westley, Ince, Jorginho, Powell and Lucas make up the 18.

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    Porto - 4-2-3-1: Helder Correia is a quality goalkeeper who has out-performed our strikers on at least one occasion in the past; I’m surprised by the selection of Brazilian veteran defender Maicon at centre-back - his lack of pace and poor jumping reach could offer us something, here; I had expected Eliaquim Mangala to be in the middle of defence, but he starts at left-back; 18 year-old Brazilian midfielder Sandro (not the ex-Spurs man) comes in for Di Martino in central midfield - Juventus are interested in this youngster; Sergi Roberto, formerly of Barcelona, is in the No.10 role; we know all about Cosentini, Lanzini and Alberto Cerri - but stopping them is going to be tough, nonetheless; Waleed Farhan, the man I scouted in Spain back in August, is among their substitutes, despite a lack of fitness; Igor Tsiganenko looked good in the Taca de Portugal Final last week, so I expect him to feature at some point.

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    I instruct normal tackles and manage to encourage the players as they head for the Wembley tunnel. Ticker tape is plumed into the air as we take our positions for the national anthems. Mullers turns to me: “Nervous?”; I shake my head slowly: “Yes! Absolutely!”

    1st Half Highlights
    - 1sec: Porto kick-off the 2023 European Champions League Final here at Wembley stadium, attacking from right-to-left.
    - 4mins: Kostas Kabastanakis runs at Mangala for the first time and gets the cross in, but Correia catches the ball unopposed.
    - 5mins: Roel Rutten has to hack the ball clear as Roberto tries to keep alive a partially cleared Porto corner.
    - 8mins: A promising move down the right involving Jorgensen and Ndou is scuppered by Kabastanakis screwing his shot well-wide of the far post.
    - 10mins: Jose Pinho flicks-on Migliorini’s long pass, to Christoffer Jorgensen who controls and pushes it wide to the left flank to Migliorini. He lays it wider still to Luke Shaw, who is hugging the touchline and swings a high cross into the box. Maicon heads behind for a corner on the left-hand side. Kabastanakis sends the ball low to the near post and Jose PINHO arrives late to strike left-footed past Correia from the left side of the 6-yard box. Southampton have taken the lead in the European Champions League Final! 1-0.
    - 13mins: Kabastanakis takes a throw-in to Pinho and then, from the return pass, attacks the right-wing corner flag before wriggling his way inside Roberto and Mangala at the byline and cutting the ball back to Giammarco Stangoni just inside the area. His ferocious left-foot whallop stings the palms of Correia as he pushes the ball over the bar for another Saints corner.
    - 21mins: Lanzini steps-up to take a free-kick from just behind the D on the edge of Southampton’s area. His shot goes over the 5-man wall and is parried into the air by Ibrahim, hitting the front of the crossbar on its way down and deflecting into the grateful arms of the Egyptian goalkeeper.
    - 22mins: Lanzini delivers a free-kick from the right-hand side, midway inside Southampton’s half. The ball drops among a ruck of players and Buti Ndou slides in to block Cosentini, before the Argentine can even get his shot away. The ball squirms past Kabastanakis to Stojanovic who knocks it forward to Roberto. As Kabastanakis tries to get in the way, the former Barcelona man lets fly, thudding the right-hand post with Ibrahim beaten-all-ends-up - but Ndou is able to hack the ball into the stand beyond the far touchline. A let-off for The Saints!
    - 29mins: Another free-kick from deep for Porto leads to a bizarre equaliser. From 15-yards inside the Southampton half, just left of centre, Manuel LANZINI launches his right-footed free-kick into the air, aiming for the cluster of blue-and-white striped shirts in the penalty area. But the ball loops over everybody, bounces 3-yards from the goal-line and deceives Ibrahim for an equaliser hardly worthy of the occasion. 1-1.
    - 32mins: Migliorini’s cross from the left is headed out by Mangala, but Stangoni collects just outside the Porto area and passes short to Ward-Prowse who picks out Kabastanakis on the right side of the penalty box. As Mangala comes to challenge, Kabastanakis steps infield onto his weaker, left foot and shoots for the far corner. But the shot goes wide.
    - 41mins: Ward-Prowse back-heels the ball to Luke Shaw who twists away from Cosentini’s lunge to feed Migliorini on the left corner of the box. The Argentine turns 270-degrees and crosses to the centre; Jorgensen stretches but can’t reach it with his head, but does enough to distract Correia as the Portugal goalkeeper misses it completely - the ball hitting Mangala on the arm to predictable shouts of “penalty!” from at least 50,000 voices. The referee shakes his head as Maicon boots clear for Porto before Pinho can capitalise.
    - 44mins: Yellow Card for Oliveira, the Porto right-back.


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    Of all the matches to concede a goal to a flukey overhit free-kick! Oh well, we have to put that behind us and get on with it. We were the better team at the beginning and the end of the first-half, but Porto unsettled us with some high balls into our box even before Lanzini’s massive slice of outrageous fortune. The Match Stats are quite even, as is the scoreline, so it’s still anybody’s trophy at the moment. My attempt at a passionate rabble-rousing half-time speech was a bust, so I ended-up talking to each player in-turn and assuring them that I have faith in their ability to get the result here tonight.

    2nd Half Highlights
    - 46mins: The Saints get the second-half underway. Shaw takes a throw from the left and finds Migliorini inside the area, close to the byline. He cuts it back to Stangoni about 14-yards out and the Italian tries a right-foot-side-foot effort that hits Pinho on the 6-yard line and bounces to the right where Mangala has to tussle with Kabastanakis before he can knock it behind for a corner.
    - 47mins: Maicon gets a strong header in to clear Kabastanakis’s cross from under the crossbar.
    - 49mins: Luke Shaw shoots from a free-kick just left of the D but Correia saves it, diving to his right.
    - 50mins: Oliveira catches Shaw in possession near halfway and attacks down Porto’s right wing. Cosentini makes the run infield and receives the ball from Oliveira’s dissection of Shaw and Rutten. Sergio Consentini jinks away from the retreating Stangoni but then rushes the shot from the edge of the area and drags it wide of the far post.
    - 53mins: Elias Migliorini stops on the ball and just allows Cosentini to take if from him. He surges past Luke Shaw and crosses to the far post where Alberto Cerri goes down like he has been harpooned, with Tin Jedvaj looking non-plussed at the referee. From all of 40-yards away, Herr Brych awards the penalty to Porto. Jedvaj sprints to the official to remonstrate, but after all the yelling, the decision - of course - still stands. The ball is against an advertising hoarding on the left side of the pitch, and for what seems like an age, Alberto Cerri strolls over to collect it himself, no doubt playing in his mind where he is going to put the spot-kick…
    - 54mins: …And when the waiting is over, Alberto CERRI strokes his 10th Champions League goal of the season into the bottom left corner, despite Ibrahim guessing the right way. 1-2.

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    - 54mins: I decide to throw caution to the wind: Phillip Kaminski, Shane Westley and Andrew Powell all step off the bench together to replace Buti Ndou, Elias Migliorini and Christoffer Jorgensen as we switch to 3-5-2 and hard tackling. It’s DO OR DIE!!

    - 56mins: Lanzini intercepts a poor goal-kick by Ibrahim and exchanges passes with Cerri to get into the left side of the area and attempt a delicate chip over Ibrahim, but The Saints goalkeeper is too streetwise to fall for that one. Then Luke Shaw coughs up possession cheaply and Rutten is booked for a foul on Cerri as he tries to get it back. Yellow Card for Roel Rutten.
    - 57mins: Southampton cannot get the ball out of their own half. Oliveira sends a high angled pass from the left up to Cerri on the edge of the area, Rutten misjudging the flight of the ball and getting caught underneath its trajectory. Cerri lays it off to Lanzini who forces Ibrahim to parry at his near post.
    - 59mins: Porto start to take control of the midfield and Lanzini feeds the ball into the inside-left channel for Gaal whose well-struck shot from the left corner of the area is acrobatically pushed over the bar by Ibrahim.
    - 62mins: Consentini threatens to get in on the right-hand side for Porto but Jedvaj gets back and blocks his shot.
    - 64mins: More acrobatics from Ibrahim to prevent Stojanovic’s far post corner dropping straight in.
    - 65mins: From Lanzini’s left-wing corner, Xulu rises at the near post, just 2-yards out but heads over the top. Half the ground thought the match was over!
    - 66mins: Porto pass the ball among themselves on halfway but a mistake by Roberto gifts the ball to Powell, who passes into the patch of Jose Pinho. But the Saints goalscrorer’s progress is curtailed by a trip by Xulu. There are other covering defenders, so Herr Brych opts for the lesser punishment. Yellow Card for Siyandu Xulu. The free-kick is worked wide to the right but Kabastanakis’s cross lacks pace and Pinho’s header floats harmlessly wide of the far post.
    - 71mins: Yellow Card for James Ward-Prowse for a trip on Stojanovic.
    - 73mins: Stangoni and Ward-Prowse lead by example by initiating a passing move through midfield, brining Westley into it to set Stangoni on a run at inside-right. He passes to Powell on the edge of the area who gets half-a-yard from Maicon and tries a lob to the far post. Correia has to back-peddle quickly to get under the flight of the ball, but grasps it on the goal-line.
    - 76mins: Porto begin piling on pressure again and even when Southampton regain the ball, they can’t move it out of their own half of the pitch.

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    - 79mins: I shift Stangoni into a more advanced No.10 role and tell Luke Shaw to attack more down the left-hand side.
    - 82mins: Westley tussles for the ball in midfield, eventually winning to from Stojanovic and passing left to Shaw. His first-time ball puts Pinho in-behind Oliveira, but he hesitates over whether to cross or shoot, decides on the latter and rushes his effort into the side-netting as two Porto defenders close him down.
    - 85mins: Tin Jedvaj storms forward from defence and passes to Pinho in the final third. He threads the ball through to Stangoni going through the centre of Porto’s defence, but Stojanovic makes an impeccable sliding tackle. Shaw collects the loose ball on the left of the area, beats Oliveira and crosses to the back post, but Mangala wins the aerial duel with Powell. Ward-Prowse heads it back to Shaw on the left, and he wins a corner off Roberto.
    - 86mins: Ward-Prowse, Stangoni and Pinho thread passes together through the middle but Pinho rushes his shot from the edge of the D and it drifts away to the right of goal. Time is running out for The Saints.
    - 88mins: Westley beats Roberto to a loose ball in midfield and passes to Ward-Prowse on the edge of the centre-circle. His forward pass finds Jose Pinho and he in turn plays Stangoni in on the left of the D, but with substitute Tsiganenko tracking his run and making a sliding tackle 12-yards from goal. Shaw is again the recipient of a loose ball which he centres but Mangala hooks it away before it can drop in-front of Andrew Powell on the 6-yard line…
    - 89mins: …Consentini chests the ball down on the Porto right and aims it for Cerri, next to the centre-circle. Roel Rutten takes the ball away but then dithers, allowing Cerri to win it back and pass back to Gaal. A square pass to Roberto encourages Kabastanakis to make a tired lunge, as the Spaniard frees Manuel Lanzini down the left-hand side. Rutten and Kaminski both go across to confront Lanzini, but both are beaten by a sudden change of pace that leaves Kaminski on his backside. When the cross comes over to the middle of the goal, it’s a 2-against-1 in favour of the attacking team; Tin Jedvaj marks Cerri but can do nothing about Santiago CONSENTINI volleying into the net at close range - and putting Porto’s name on the trophy. 1-3.
    - 90mins: Pinho pulls the ball back from the left to Jedvaj on the edge of the Porto area but his shot hits Stangoni and bounces down for Consentini to clear.
    - 90mins+1: Stangoni gets in near the right sided byline and lays the ball out wide for Kabastanakis to cross. Powell flicks it over four Porto defenders but Pinho can only nod it wide from 6-yards with just the goalkeeper to beat.
    - 90mins+2: The Porto fans sing “Ole!” as their triumphant players pass the ball around in midfield. Southampton win it back briefly but Lucas Evangelista receives a clearance and takes it out to the left wing, checks inside, glances to the referee - and then falls to his knees as Herr Blych confirms that Porto are the 2023 European Champions.


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    Left-Winger: 1 goal; 1 assist.

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    It all seemed to be going to plan in the early stages when Pinho opened the scoring for us. Porto got back into the game with an over-hit free-kick that fooled everybody in the penalty area and then a penalty that looked like a dive by Alberto Cerri. They took control of midfield during the second-half, though, and frustrated us out of possession. By the time we got to grips with them again and started to create a few chances, they had worked out how to exploit us on the break. But after that fluke equaliser, their other two goals both relied on us giving up the ball cheaply in midfield. I don’t know that we wouldn’t have done that had Diego Reyes been there, but I certainly feel that his loss was a massive blow to our chances of winning that game. At the same time, though, I know that we had the European Champions League trophy in our grasp when Jose Pinho scored… and then we lost it.
    Last edited by rocheyb; 17/07/2014 at 02:14 AM.

  4. Saturday 27th May, 2023

    I send Mullers up the Wembley steps to collect my runners-up medal while I stand on the pitch, leading the applause for my players where I know the whole world can see me on the live global television broadcast. A female pitch-side reporter clutching a SkyTV branded microphone nervously approaches, unsure as to whether it might be too soon to make me face up to this failure before millions of viewers. So, as the final straggler among my players trudges across the presentation platform to receive a medal he doesn’t really want, I turn to the reporter.

    rb: “Ready when you are.”

    The young woman waits for her cue from her cameraman and his assistant; the 5-4-3-2-1 countdown begins and for a moment I consider trying that formation during pre-season - before I realise I’d have to name a starting team of 16 players to pull that off! I don’t think Mullers would approve. The reporter’s tone is every bit as hesitant as her approach a moment ago, but she manages to inject some sympathy into her question:

    Sky: “Not the result you wanted against a very strong Porto side, but you must be proud of your players to have gotten this far?”

    rb: “These lads will be hurting right now, but in the coming days and weeks they will come to realise just how close they claim to winning the whole lot this season. And they’re young - a good number of them are, anyway - just kids, some of them, and they’ve got their whole careers ahead of them. It was a frustrating and difficult match today but with the kind of performances these boys have produced this season - week-in, week-out - and with the quality of player that we are now in a position to attract to the football club, there is absolutely no reason why we can’t be back in another Champions League Final next year, the year after and the year after that. Some of these boys are going to become the most decorated players in the history of English club football. You mark my words: These boys are something special and this was only just the beginning…”

    Sky: “The equalising goal was fortunate for Porto, to say the least, and the boys in the studio say that Tin Jedvaj barely touched Alberto Cerri for the penalty - so do you feel hard done by, today?”

    rb: “My aim is always to build teams who can take that sort of bad luck in their stride and render it obsolete by sticking more goals in at the other end! We’re not quite at that stage yet, at least, not where the best in Europe are concerned. But we’ve laid down a marker tonight and every top club in Europe now knows exactly who we are and what we’re about, if they didn’t already. That will bring challenges in-and-of itself. But as sure as the ball is round, they’ve got more to fear from us than we do from them, because these lads have something special that only comes along once in a generation.”

    Sky: “So what do you think… - “

    rb: “ - …And I’ll tell you something else; we are going to win the Premier League next season and we’re going to have another go at this one, too. So tell all the top players and all the top managers that you speak to during the summer and at the start of next season, in the Premier League and all over Europe: they’d better run and hide, because The Saints Are Coming!

    And with that, I stride off in the direction of my players; a sorrowful, tear-stained rag-tag group of dejected athletes who can barely bring themselves to watch the Porto players and staff receive their medals, jigging about on the presentation platform in nervous anticipation of being handed the big-eared silver trophy by Zinedine Zidane. As I move from one player to the next, shaking each man’s hand and putting a consoling arm around the more emotionally distraught among them, I make a quiet resolution to myself that I will bring the European Champions League to St. Mary’s Stadium. These players deserve it; our fans deserve it; I bloody deserve it. And I will have it.
    Last edited by rocheyb; 17/07/2014 at 07:39 AM.


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    Last edited by rocheyb; 17/07/2014 at 02:26 AM.

    - Updated

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    (Seasons/years highlighted in bold type indicate trophies won under rocheyb's management)

    European Champions League
    Runners-up: 2023

    Europa League
    Winners: 2019

    European Super Cup
    Runners-up: 2019

    Premier League
    Champions: 2018/19, 2020/21
    Runners-up: 1983/84, 2019/20, 2021/22
    3rd place: 2014/15, 2022/23

    FA Cup
    Winners: 1974, 2016, 2018, 2020, 2023
    Runners-up: 1900, 1902, 2003, 2022

    Capital One Cup
    Winners: 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023
    Runners-up: 1979, 2014, 2018

    Community Shield
    Winners: 2016, 2019, 2020, 2021
    Runners-up: 1976, 2018

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    Johnstone's Paints Trophy

    Winners: 2010
    Last edited by rocheyb; 09/08/2014 at 03:22 AM.

  7. THE
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    Last edited by rocheyb; 17/07/2014 at 02:42 AM.
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  8. not bad, m8. Congrats om giving Southampton their first CL
    rocheyb likes this.

  9. Great story. Incredible detail. Sad to see it end.
    rocheyb likes this.


    After that drastically disappointing night at Wembley in 2023 - two years ago now - when Porto came from behind in the European Champions League Final to put The Saints to the sword to the tune of 1-3, I vowed that my young team would be back to fight another day.

    Despite the Premier League title still eluding us thanks to Chelsea amassing 94pts in each of the last two seasons, we did pick up this little trinket the other day...

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    Last edited by rocheyb; 26/08/2014 at 07:41 PM.

    - I'm updating this post every time I win a trophy; currently up to and including 2025/26

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    (Seasons/years highlighted in bold type indicate trophies won under rocheyb's management)

    Club World Championship
    Winners: 2025

    European Champions League
    Winners: 2025
    Runners-up: 2023, 2026, 2027

    Europa League
    Winners: 2019

    European Super Cup
    Winners: 2025
    Runners-up: 2019

    Premier League
    Champions: 2018/19, 2020/21, 2025/26
    Runners-up: 1983/84, 2019/20, 2021/22, 2023/24, 2024/25, 2026/27
    3rd place: 2014/15, 2022/23

    FA Cup
    Winners: 1974, 2016, 2018, 2020, 2023, 2025, 2026, 2027
    Runners-up: 1900, 1902, 2003, 2022, 2024

    Capital One Cup
    Winners: 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024, 2025
    Runners-up: 1979, 2014, 2018

    Community Shield
    Winners: 2016, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2023
    Runners-up: 1976, 2018, 2025, 2026, 2027

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    Johnstone's Paints Trophy
    Winners: 2010
    Last edited by rocheyb; 15/03/2015 at 02:19 AM.

  12. Absolutely amazing! Best thread i ever read. The attention to detail is amazing and will help and inspire so many fm players!
    Couldnt stop reading from the very first page. Outstanding work!

    Look forward to seeing something similar for FM15? :-O :-)
    rocheyb likes this.

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