Hannah screamed, and so did Julia. The pounding on the door was loud, it sounded like someone was taking a sledgehammer to it.
“Stay here,” he said, looking at them. He approached the front door warily, took a deep breathe and opened it.
“Did you know about this?” Coach Schmidt was young, but he was angry.
Klaus shook his head. “He told us nothing. It was a surprise to all of us. If we had know about it beforehand rest assured the supporters club would have protested.”
“It’s done. The paperwork has already been signed.”
Coach looked ready to curse, hands going to his head and inhaling deeply, the he held that breath, shut his eyes, and counted silently. After about ten seconds, he opened his eyes again.
“We have a good relationship, that is the Supporters Club and the staff, yes?”
“Of course Coach, you’ve done an incredible job, we couldn’t be happier, back to back promotions? You’re a hero. You aren’t to blame for what happened, we all know that.”
“Then one day, in the future, I am going to call in a favor.”
The door to the General Managers office flew open so hard, so fast, it almost came off it’s hinges. Behind Coach Schmidt his secretary stood, scared out of her wits.
“When I signed my contract, I was assured that this was a partnership, that we were partners. Did you lie to me, Robert?”
Chairman Ammerbach swallowed, and stood up.
“If you’ll let me explain-“
“Explain what Robert? Explain why you thought the best time to do this would be when I was away and not answering my phones or emails for a week? “
“Coach, Nicholas-” Robert stopped when Nicholas held up his hand.
“We are not friends Chairman. You will address me as Coach, I will address you as Chairman, and when the cameras are on, we are on the same team. But if you think for a minute I am going to forget what you have done with this announcement-“
“It’s a new Stadium-“
“It’s 26 MILLION EUROS of debt we cannot take on right now. You put in almost 500K of your own money last season just to keep everybody’s bank accounts in the good. Now we are in 2 Bundesliga with a team that would have a hard time getting out of the Regionalliga. We have been lucky! I have been able to make bricks with just dirt and straw, and now you saddle us with this? The difficult I can do, the impossible? Just what do you think will happen?”
“Who’s going to sign for us? I need to put together a squad that will keep up up, and I am already against the payroll, and no one worth their salt is going to want to come here because they think we’re going back down.”
“We needed a stadium-“
“We could have rented, like we are doing now. I know Hohenschonhausen doesn’t meet the Bundesliga 2 requirements, but instead of just renting this year, now we are renting, and paying out a loan fee.”
“We’ve needed a new stadium for awhile, you know that, it’s been one on e the Supporters Club’s biggest complaints for years now-“
“Which is why you hid this from them, eh?” Schmidt took a step forward, and Ammerbach stepped back, until he hit his desk, and swallowed.
“It was now or never, Coach.”
Schmidt looked at him, and then shook his head.
“We have a vision for this club. We have a plan, we have goals. We talked about this before I even signed. Assurances were made, on both sides. At no time was a new stadium ever mentioned. I would have told you then what I am telling you now, the club is in no financial position to undertake such a thing, and yet, you did. I don’t know how, I don’t know which bank or other institutions agreed to loan you the money, and I know the only thing of value you could have put up as collateral was the club itself, but that’s not my concern anymore.” Coach Schmidt stopped talking, then pinched the bridge of his nose.
“I am going to do everything I can to keep this club up. You will back me 110%, because if you do not, this club goes into administration, and if that happens, you will lose everything. But that means everyone is going to be keeping an eye on you as well Chairman.”
“You’ll lose it all too Coach,” the Chairman said.
Nikki held up a hand, all five fingers extended.
“Hannover.” Down went thumb. “Hamburg.” Down went the forefinger. “Kaiserslautern.” Down went the pinky. “FK Austria Vienna.” Down went the ring finger. “Sparta Rotterdam.” Coach turned his hand around, and showed the Chairman his remaining finger.
“I will have plenty of options available to me. I just took a team with next to no resources to back to back promotions, and those are just the interview requests I’ve turned down this year. I’ve made a splash, and I am confident that I can go to any of those clubs and succeed. But-” he inhaled deeply.
“I made a promise. The only person who can get me to break that promise is you, so you know what’s going to happen now?” Nicholas had stepped forward, invaded the chairman’s personal space, and after given the appearance of brushing lint of his jacket, grabbed him by the lapels.
“We are going to be a United front. But that means no more parties, no more new cars, now more jetting off to Marbella to have a nice weekend with the mistress. We are not going to fail on the field if I have anything to say about it. But when we stay up, when we get our League money and television revenues, if we somehow manage to avoid relegation and administration, when I come to you and say “We need new training facilities, I need another scout, the U19 team could use another coach, you are going to smile, nod, and write me a check. Do. You. Understand?”
Coach’s voice had gone so quiet near the end. the Chairman had a hard time hearing him. But the look in coaches eyes had him nodding quickly.
I couldn’t make this up if I tried. I knew our stadium was old, falling apart, and needed an upgrade. I also knew getting promoted meant we’d be renting a stadium until we had our finances sorted out. The season ended with BFC getting promoted, we had the team meeting, and then this comes across the inbox:
It has been a long term objective of the club to get a new stadium built, but now? 32M Euro’s we don’t have to build a 15K seat stadium, while renting a stadium in Cottbus…our net debt jumped to 42.2M Euro’s
Then, not even two weeks later, comes this bit of delightful news:
Ammacher is lucky he is a Newgen.
We’re in Bundesliga 2 now. Armenia Bielefeld, 1. FC Koln, Kaiserslautern, Nurnberg, Regensburg, and other teams that are not only bigger than us, but financially more stable. Hell, even Ingolstadt and Hansa Rostock have better finances than we do, and they’re tipped to be relegated as well.
Suljić’s goal took the like out of Weiche. They played what can only be called “lackluster” football the rest of the game, and Ogbaidze’s goal in the 91st minute was the final nail.
Back to Back Promotions.
Winning the Berliner Landepokal again was lost in the excitement and joy of beating everyone’s odd’s and expectations for the season, including my own.
I was not prepared for this, I was not expecting this. I am certainly not upset, but it just made the next season harder.
There were two types of being drunk. One was the happy drunk, celebrating to your hearts content, lving it up with friends, family, and strangers.
The other type of drunk was the one where you were sitting on the floor next to the commode thanking it for being cold.
The line between the two was often blurry.
“I don’t mean to sound sexist,” Tobias said, watching as Sasha sat down against the wall, holding her head, “But we need to get another woman in the group.” “Why?” Hans asked, handing Sasha a glass of water. She thanked him weakly and took a sip, then a couple of seconds later lurched back to the toilet. Tobias leapt forward as well.
“Because,” he replied, looking over his shoulder as he crouched down behind her, “I’m getting tired of holding her hair everytime she gets this way.”
“Have I told you how much I love you guys,” Sasha said, flushing the toilet and then standing up on shaky feet. Eventually her hand found Tobias’s arm, and she held onto it tightly.
“Yes, but not as much as you love the club, right?” Hans said. As Tobias moved away, Sasha on his arm, he checked to make sure there wasn’t a mess on the floor, then followed them out. The bar wasn’t nearly as packed as it had been, but it was still crowded. Sasha was jostled hard enough a couple of times Hans thought for sure she was going to throw up over Tobias, but she held it together.
“I need a drink,” she said.
“You need food, Hans replied, grabbing her coat and her clutch. “Come one, down the street, I’ll buy you something there.”
“In a few, in a few,” Sasha said. “I want to sit her for a minute.” Hans sighed and sat down, Tobias had already moved to his own chair, the others were up and mingling with the crowd.
“I just may name my first born Shalva,” Sasha said.
“How many names is this kid going to have?” replied Tobias. “Nicholas Andreas Damion Shalva-” he stopped talking to dodge the pretzels thrown in his direction.
“Keep that up and I’m not holding your hair again the rest of the night,” he said.
The initial budgets weren’t too bad. I see a lot of loans in our future. We’re going to fight like hell to stay up next season, but I would not be surprised if we ran into a relegation battle.
The fans were ecstatic, the board was happy, I was happy, I had some very good players turn in some very good performances, some of which I was not expecting:
No Max Weiß, no promotion. It’s as easy as that. The loan player from Karlsruher FC was easily the best keeper in the league, with 27 goals allowed in 36 appearances, 14 Shutouts, a 7.24 rating, a 4 Player’s of the Match awards. Your keeper usually gets a PoM when he “plays out of his boots”, stops an incredible number of shots and makes some incredible saves. Getting 1 in a season is hard enough, but getting 4?
He lost a step over the course of the season, but his contributions to the club as a whole cannot be denied. Usually playing the midfielder role, his accurate passes and decision making were critical to the team. The question now is the next level going to be beyond his capabilities?
He wasn’t a scoring threat, he was more of a facilitator than anything else, and it was his ability to push forward and draw the double team from the opposing side that let other players exploit the holes he created. Players like Breitfeld are often unnoticed and underappreciated by many, because they don’t score a a lot of goals, or assist in a lot of them either, but with out players like him on your squad, it’s going nowhere fast.
Every squad has a defensive rock, this season Chris Dreher was ours. I had the wrong analytics chosen when I took the screenshot, because defensively, he was top notch, and offensively he was very productive, and made few mistakes, and he did a solid job of occupying and frustrating the attacking side. Was he beaten from time to time: Of course, but over the totality of the season, easily our best D(C).
Marvin is never going to be a goal scorer. What his is though is a quick agile wingback who is capable on the defense and a decent passer, and working hand in glove with Breitfeld, gave the opposing teams fits. Creatively speaking, he was the best WB(R) in 3.Liga.
Easily the best overall defender we had this season, out loan player from Bayern was everything I wanted him to be, and more. Safe to say he was a “Boy amongst men” this season, starting almost every single game for us and easily finishing as one of the 3. Liga’s best defenders. He didn’t score from set pieces though, and while that’s worrying, the bigger problem is that I may not be able to get him back next season, he did such a good job for us other teams are already trying to get his services for next year.
I have mixed feelings about Amar. His attributes tell me he should be a very good on the cusp of great player at the 3. Liga level. 14 goals and 1 assist in 25(4) games isn’t topo bad, but I will admit my judgment is clouded by the fact he missed quite a few games due to injury. Were my expectations of him too high? Maybe, but I know I was frustrated enough with his lack of performance on the field I brought in help in the January window.
Until injured he was having the best all around season on the squad. A versatile player that is quite useful for a team like us at the lower levels, he was a very good player on the field for us. Teams were looking at him at the end of the season, and keeping him is going to be a tough choice.
Tim Meyer, Andreas Hirtlreiter,Shalva Ogbaidze :
Tim Meyer got more starts than I had originally intended, and he did not disappoint. Tall and lanky for a wingback, he gave smaller player’s fits, and was very good started the teams offensive movement up the field.
Andreas Hirtlreiter I had wanted to be a “Jack of All Trades”, and it turned out he was a “Master of None”. He started the season next to Suljić up top, but was constantly flummoxed by opposing defenders. When I moved him back to AM(R), the drop off between him and Geurts was noticeable. At the end of the day, he was a roleplayer and came of the bench, and that was a role that suited me more than him. You need a few of these players on your roster, because when you don’t have them that’s when you will need them the most. In the back of my mind though, I am thinking if he wasn’t good enough at the 3. Liga level, can he compete at the next level? Is that something I am willing to find out?
Shalva is one of those players who’s just good enough to make you believe he’s capable of doing more. And maybe he is, but somehow I don’t think if he had 34(0) instead of 17(17), he would not have 18 goals and 6 assists. He’s a solid player, but when you aren’t looking for a solid player…
Andreas Pollasch,Phillip Schulz:
The 4-2-4 I play requires two good players in the midfield, as they are the pivots going forward and backwards. Alexander Siebeck had a lock on the DLP role, Andreas and Phillip rotated thruout the season, and they did a very capable job. Andreas was one of the best defending midfielders in the 3. Liga this season, and Schulz was one of the most creative going forward with the ball.
Mihailo Ivanović, Damion Downs:
At the winter break, we were sitting near the top of the league. While I was unsure of being promoted, I knew we wouldn’t make the playoffs unless we strengthened our attack up top. I needed a supporting Forward who could do a credible job of occupying a defender or two, and an attacking forward who could take advantage of the opportunities created for him. Mihailo filled the TF/DLF role quite well, and Damion showed me what he could do in half a season I am going to try and get him on loan next year to see if he can replicate it in the next level. I did a fair amount of scouting and research before bringing these two in, and they weren’t my first choices, but sometimes everything aligns and it all works out. And it did so here.
I cannot be happier with how the season went. I wasn’t thinking we would get promoted until the very end, and even then I kept doublechecking to make sure.
2. Bundesliga, here we come.
“Nikki, it’s Jakob Mueller. Call me as soon as you get this message, day or night.”
“Nikki, it’s Jakob. Call me soonest.”
“Nikki, call me, please, its urgent.”
“Niiki, it’s Jakob, there’s been a decision made, I can’t stop it. I’ve tried, but they are going to do it anyways. You need to get back to Berlin now.”
“Nikki, there’s no time left. 24 hours, tops. Where are you?”
The season started of well, you beat a team like Magdeburg like that in their own home, you try not to get to excited, and the fact we lost by one to Dynamo Dresden (das Schweine) was a quick dose of reality. Beating 1. FC Köln in the Pokal, in extra time, was more luck than coaching, as much as it pains me to write that, but why look a gift horse in the mouth?
I’d like to think if we hadn’t gone a man down against BMG II in the 32 minute, we would have held them to a draw, which is what we did against the BVB II squad about 4 weeks later. The one piece of not so great news was that Suljić twisted his ankle badly right before the FC Viktoria Köln game, he was going to be out a minimum of 4-6 weeks, which meant Hirtlreiter was my primary striker for the time being. I wasn’t to enamored with my depth at Advanced Midfielder to mover either Geurts or Ogbaidze up, in fact the first few times I played Ogbaidze he didn’t exactly light the world on fire. So I dropped to a 4-3-3 system because it was the next best formation I could put a player in and have them do a respectable to good job.
We won 2 and drew 1, and I thought we were doing well, but back to back losses against Verl and Freiburg were frustrating. Suljić announced his return from injury with a hat trciks worth of goals against TSV 1860 München, and I thought the formation was working, why mess with a good thing? Oldenburg was a match we dominated in almost every statistical category, but it took a 79th minute goal to win. Bochum was in the Relegation Zone when we played them in the Pokal, but they had more than enough to send us out of the tournament, mostly because injuries and fatigue forced me to play a squad that wasn’t my strongest up top.
November and December were decent months, the two losses we had we both on goals after the 75th minute, and while we were doing well from a statistical point of view, we were failing in the one area it counted: Scoring.
The bar was a bit quieter, most of the supporters had already left, excerpt for the usual crowd in the back. While it was the Christmas season, it didn’t go all out with the decorations, there was a small tree on the corner of the bartop, and someone had strung some lights, and that was about it.
“We need another attacker,” said Ulrich.
“Two would be better,” replied Hans.
“You think Bayern would send us Copado? Or Demircan?” asked Hans.
Tobias shook his head. “Probably not. They’ll pull the ‘We want them to play with better quality player team mates.'”
Sasha snorted, then sighed. “You have to admit, they are doing good this season. There’s a decent chance we won’t get relegated.”
“I would be quite OK with that,” replied Fritz.
“How many fans you think are going to ask Santa to help keep the team up this year?” Sasha asked after finishing her beer.
“I’m not,” Hans said. Everyone looked at him with varying degrees of shock or surprise.
“I am going to ask him for the same thing I have asked him for the past ten years: The opportunity to be Santa for a day.”
“Christmas Day?” Fritz asked.
“Maybe?” Hans said.
“Why?” Tobias asked. He had a look on his face that conveyed more than a little confusion and wariness, as if he was afraid of asking the question for fear of getting an answer.”
“Look at this logically,” Hans said, sitting back and smiling. “One: He only works one day a year. Two: He has a workforce that does most of the heavy lifting for him, pun intended. Three, he’s loved all over the world. But that’s not the best part.” The table was silent, until Ulrich finally sighed and asked.
“What’s the best part about being Santa?”
“Are you kidding me?” replied Hans with feigned shock on his face. He smiled and took a drink of his beer, aware the table was watching him.
“Santa has a list of where all the naughty women live. What young man wouldn’t want that information?”
The twinkle in his eyes lasted for just a few brief seconds, Sasha had leapt out of her seat and started to chase him around the bar while he ran away trying not to spill his beer.
Treten auf den Boden rennen
I spent almost all of January looking for some help up top, and one of three things happened when I made an offer to a club for a player:
The club didn’t want to loan him to us for “reasons”
The club accepted our inquiry, then wanted some very outrageous fees in addition to some salary demands agrred to before even considering accepting the offer
We f found a player whose club wasn’t demanding a Kings Ransom for the player, and they player turned the loan offer down.
Finally, right near deadline day, we found a couple of players who I think are going to help us out:
Mihailo Ivanović didn’t cost me anything. I promised Vojvodina he could have all the first team playing time he wanted, and they said “Sure.” But to be honest until he agreed to come I was a bit wary of it ever happening. He doesn’t have any real weaknesses in his attributes, and at only 19 years old I suspect by the times he’s 23 he will be quite a bit better in some area’s, but for the level of football we are playing at right now, he’s at least as good as most of the strikers we will be facing, and that’s all I can ask for.
Damion Downs comes to us from 1. FC Köln, and while I like his Ball Control, Movement, and Physicals, I’d be lying if I said his Positioning, Bravery, and Vision weren’t a bit troubling. But at 6′ 4″, I am expecting him to dominate many a smaller DC, receive a pass/cross and put it away. He’s also here on a ‘free’ loan.
On the out’s not a lot of activity, Dominic Duncan went to El Paso for a small sum of money, Robin Fuhrman and Erlind Zogjani both went out on loan. Those two I could have kept at the club, but they needed more consistent playing time, and they weren’t going to get that here.
Ein Neuanfang im neuen Jahr
As you can see, January was OK, because I (and other coach out there) will definitely take draws over losses.
With the transfer window closed and everyone registered, it was apparent that while Ivanović and Downs were not World Beater’s, they were definitely game changers, and that’s what we needed.
Ivanović in particular had the ability to pull at least one, and in some case more, defenders out of position to cover him, leaving whomever he was teamed up with that day up top to try and exploit the gap. While the number of goals we scored wasn’t increasing, our overall shots and shots on target were, with the rare exception that we laid the proverbial egg against the opposing team, like against Furth.
When the whistle blew at Mannheim, we were undefeated since the year began. 11 Wins, 7 Draws, no losses. We were challenging for promotion.
I have no idea how.
I don’t tinker, I don’t “experiment”, I set the formation, set the roster, click start game, and I’ll make some in game adjustments, but that’s it. Maybe change a PI every now and then to take care of an opening, but we were doing great on the pitch. I didn’t want to touch anything and jinx it.
But there were some behind the scenes things happening that gave me pause:
I’ve cut scouting to the bare minimum. I didn’t even do my usual January Scouting boost, where you go big/bigger for the month to get a larger pool of who might be available in six months time.
I’ve turned down the creation of the Dynamo II squad. And yet we’re still losing money, to loan payments.
We had our Youth Intake, and it was…middling:
Die Bank des Haufens
Fuchs is…intriguing. Where he’s lacking he’s really lacking, but where he’s good he’s above average. If his position, strength, balance and vision get anywhere near double digits while the other area’s improve as well, he won’t be a full time starter, but could be a solid contributor.
Simões has the potential to be better than Fuchs, I think he will be, it’s just a matter of what attributes improve the most, and which stay the same. It’s one of the frustrating things to see when you get a good youth player with potential, and after five years of training and games his Balance goes from 4 to 7…I don’t think Simões is in that boat, but…
For every good attribute Najem has, there are two bad ones. I think in a perfect world he could be a very good DLP type of player. But with so many low attributes, it’s hard to see him ever getting a start for the club.
It’s May, last month of the season. We’ve made it to the Berliner Landspokal again, and we play Weiche, Rott Weiss Essen, and Offenbach. The best we can finish is 2nd place, but BMG II squad is in first, and they can’t get promoted. A Win or draw again Weiche and we win, a loss and we still have a chance, another loss after that and we could be looking at 3rd place.
This season has been a rollercoaster, and I would hate it if it all came off the rails at the end…
“I can’t tell you how disappointed I am,” Sasha said, looking around. “A 12000 seat stadium, and we can’t get 1500 people here, and we could be promoted?”
“I can’t explain it either,” Hans said. “As active as the forums have been, the supporters club and all of that, you think there would be more.”
“Well, that just means we will have to yell louder, right?” Sasha said, checking her face paint in her makeup mirror once more before putting it back in her clutch. Then she she stuck her fingers in her mouth and whistled, loud and long. “LETS GO DYNAMO!” she yelled when she was done.
“Sasha!” Ulrich said, putting a finger in his ear and wiggling it theatrically. “It’s a half hour before kickoff.”
“Pace yourself,” Ulrich replied.
Sasha looked ready to argue, but Ulrich’s raised eyebrow stopped her short.
“Fine,” she said “But when we win first round is on you.”
“Das Schwierige, was ich jetzt tun kann, das Unmögliche wird sieben bis zehn Werktage dauern…”
Jakob Mueller was tired, and it showed as he walked out of his office, slouched, briefcase hanging haphazardly from his hand, jacket over one shoulder and the knot in his tie down to the second button on his shirt. The board was expecting some sort of miracle, and he had to provide one, legally of course, but the job was proving to be tougher than he thought. Not that he didn’t like a challenge, but at the end of the day, 1+1 still had to equal 2 at some point.
“Jakob!” he heard a voice call out. He turned around, and saw a door open.
“Coach?” he asked. “What are you still doing here?”
“Scouting reports to look over, analysts reports to look over, contracts to look over…I am seeing numbers and charts when I close my eyes, I am not sure that’s a good thing.”
Jakob smiled slightly when Coach finished talking. He liked Nicholas, he was young, but he was very upfront in what he didn’t know, and was willing to listen to you until you showed you had no idea what you were doing. That one Recruitment Analyst lasted all of a week before being shown the door.
“How are Elise and the kids?” Coach asked.
“Missing their Papa, but that is not unusual this time of the year. How is the team looking?”
Coach shrugged. “Losing to Dynamo after thrashing Magdeburg was a gut punch, I am not going to lie. Facing Koln in the First round of the Pokal is a tough ask, but I am optimistic. Not because I have to be, but because I want to be. We have a good chance of staying up I think. I know the guys will fight like hell to stay up. How are things on the financial side?”
“Tight. But if we are careful, we’ll scrape by.”
“Actually I was hoping to talk to you about that,” Coach said.
“The travel budget is maxed out, Coach,” Jakob sighed. “I am out of apostles to rob for you.”
Coach stopped short, then smiled. “My mother used to say that from time to time when things were tight. What if I said I can get us another hundred thousand euros a year for the next few years?”
Jakob stopped slouching, then heard a beeping noise. Coach looked at his wrist and hit a button. “Ach, I didn’t realize it was this late. Elise finds out I kept you here, she’ll thump me at the next Family Day.” You didn’t realize how young Coach Schmidt was until he smiled.
“Come on, I’ll walk you to the door and tell you on the way,”
A few minutes later Jakob was standing in shock, trying to process what Coach had told him. They had walked outside, and Jakob had turned towards the parking lot.
“So the rumors are true,” he said, and Coach nodded in reply.
“It’s either that, or we start robbing banks,” Coach said.
“Well…”Jakob said, and Coach looked at him with an arched eyebrow.
“There some things we can do on the accounting side, but they aren’t things you want to keep doing. At some point you do run out of apostles, and then you’re looking at doing something criminally stupid, or stupidly criminal.”
“Not on our watch, yeah?” Coach replied with a smile, and then Jakobs phone rang.
Sighing as he looked at the screen, the accountant answered it.
“Yes Honey. At the offices still. Yes I know how late-” He stopped talking, because coach had taken the phone out of his hands.
“Frau Mueller, it Coach Schmidt. I am doing well, thanks. Listen, Jakob is here because I kept him here, and I want to apologize for that, I asked him to go thru some financials with me and I lost track of time.” He paused to listen for a moment.
“Well, thats because I don;t have a wife half as good as you at home to help-” He paused for a moment and looked at Jakob. “Your second cousin, eh? Well, tempting though it is I am married to my job to much at the moment to inflict my sort of lifestlye on someone who deserves more.” He smiled, then laughed, and walked back over to Jakob.
“He’s getting in the car right now, I promise. Tell Lukas and Markus I am sorry for keeping their Papa so late, and I will make it up to them the next Family Day, OK? Bye now.” Hanging up, he put the phone back into Jakob’s shirt pocket.
“We’ll talk more tomorrow. Go home to your family,” He said with a smile.
“Sure. Make sure you tell Elsa about this, she finds out last-“
“Ja, Ja, hell to pay, I know, I know. Home Jakob.’ Coach made a shooing motion with his hands, and went back inside. Jakob stared at his retreating back for a minute, then turned and began his walk to the car park.
The club finances weren’t the best when I took over. Promotion, while unexpected, means a stronger league, better money, and I think a couple of years in the 3. Liga could be good for us, let us build a foundation for future success, because right now, we don’t have the finances for it:
The 2.4 million Euro expenditure is the club putting in underground heating. Why they chose to do that, I am not sure, because they stadium we are in is on the wrong side of “Run Down” if I am being honest. I didn’t think we were going to be busy in the transfer market, because
Everybody going full time means our payroll is definitely going up, and we have to be careful who we pay for and what.
We are still a bit understaffed for my tastes, but at this point I am not going to complain. The people I have are OK< and if I am being honest, if I were to let them all go there’s no guarantee the people I could hire in their place would be any better for the same price.
We received €752K for TV rights, which helped out, frankly anything extra is nice at this point.
The 3. Liga rules are pretty straightforward:
The League prediction looks good for us as well:
Until you realize Borussia Dortmund II, BMG II and Freiburg II can’t be promoted, which means the teams below them can certainly be demoted, and that’s what the pundits think is going to happen to us this season. And Dynamo Dresden are the odds on favorites to get promoted…grrr.
The transfer window was pretty quiet. I did a lot of scouting, but more than one player who was willing to talk contracts had some outrageous demands. Why someone thinks I am going to pay €400K a year for their services in 3. Liga is a bit beyond me, but then again I just play FM…
Transfer wise, we did some good business I think. I was really looking to strengthen our defensive backs, and I think I did pretty well:
Max Weiß, Keeper
Kevin Sommer was a good Keeper for us last season, I can’t deny that. But if we want a fighting chance of staying up, of staying out of the relegation battle, we needed someone better. I spent a decent amount of time looking at Free Agent Keepers and the few I thought were good wanted to much money. The transfer listed Keeper’s I looked at either wanted too much money, or didn’t want to come to the club. The loan listed keepers I looked at, well, their teams wanted upwards of €150K a month in fee’s, and that’s before I paid 80% of their salary as well. Then I lucked out and found Weiß listed for loan from KSC. No monthly fee’s, I just had to cover part of his salary, and instantly upgraded our keeper position. He’s quite good for this level of football, and that what I am looking for.
Robin Fuhrmann, Tim Meyer, Tim Kircher, Defender’s
Depth and rotation, two things that are hard to come by in the lower leagues. One thing I am slowly resigning myself to is that at this point, having one good player backed up by several average player’s isn’t going to be an option everywhere, at this point I am working on having a couple of good above average players at some positions, players who I feel comfortable rotating knowing the drop off between them skills wise is minimal at best. Furhman is a good example of this, he has the most upside of the three I brought in, and is a solid player now, and with playing time and training will grow into a good player. At what position I have no idea at the moment, for now it’s D(C), but the fact he can play wingback on either side is a plus.
I’ve high hopes for Meyer. At 18 years old he’s already quite good for this level of football, and if his Off the Ball and Bravery improve, he can be very good. As it stands right now, his ball control, crossing, and passing and quickness make him the starting WB(L), but his lack of marking and composure could hurt us sometimes.
Kirchner is what I call a “Lunch Pail” type of player. He doesn’t excel in any one area, he’s average/above average in most others, and he doesn’t have a real weakness in his game. Sure, he has some low attributes, but nothing horrible. He has a job to do, he knows what it is, and he’s going to do it to the best of his ability, and not a lot more beyond that. I brought him in because he was on a free, he can play anywhere on the right (for the most part) and I don’t have to worry about him making too many mistakes when he is playing. I also know the chances of him doing something extraordinary or out of the blue are going to be rare as well, and sometimes that’s all your looking for.
Shalva Ogbaidze, Andreas Hirtlreiter, Attacking Midfielder’s
Geurts and Breitfeld are decent attacking mids, but I didn’t have a lot behind them, so I was looking to do what I could to shore this area up.
Hirtlreiter isn’t the strongest, nor the bravest, but he’s quick, agile, has above average off the ball and technique, and above average flair as well. I brought him on board because he can play AM(R) and ST, and M(C) in a pinch, and while I wouldn’t comfortable with him being a full time starter at any of those positions (a few areas would have to come up a bit for that) coming off the bench on a rotation basis to spell Breitfeld is a good fit for him.
Shalva Ogbaidze is a slightly older, slightly better version of Hirtlreiter, but will be coming of the bench and starting more at ST than anywhere else. Not the strongest, but with good quickness, agility, first touch, passing finishing and flair, he’s got enough to do a job up top.
Tobias had taken one look at the weather forecast and declared he wasn’t going to watch the team get beat in the rain, so they ended up at the bar with about a hundred other fans. The game itself had been a muddy, messy affair, and FC Köln’s quality was proven that as the extra time whistle blew, they could outrun the Dynamo attackers, but they couldn’t break the lower line of engagement and back four. Reher, Siebeck, Schulz and Pollasch had been above average defensively, but Weiß had the stadium, the fans at the bar, and Sasha in particular, gushing over his performance. Köln has pressed all game, 34 shots, 17 on target, but after Demorovic had scored in the 20th minutes, he had been an impenetrable wall. Covered in mud, he was clapping and yelling, directing the defense, who were listening well. The only person more animated than Weiß was Coach, who had been warned on more than one occasion to stay in his area, and had ventured out more than enough times for the ref to finally take him aside and threaten him with a Yellow. A smile and a clap on the referee’s shoulder, Schmidt had promised he would stay in the area, and did a pretty credible job.
The bar held it’s collective breath Sebastian Andersson stepped up to the spot, approached the ball and kicked it high and left. A short second later, the ball hit Weiß’s outstretched hand, and everyone was yelling and screaming. Siebeck stepped up to the ball, the clubs most reliable penalty taker, and struck it hard, almost in the exact same spot as Andersson had, but a bit higher. Jonas Urbig, all 188cm of him, got just enough of a hand on it to misdirect it, where it also went wide left. The crowd groaned, Tobias sighed loudly, Sasha said something about Siebecks mother before the beer Ulrich handed her got her to quiet down.
Demirovic’s shot went in, Zogjani equalized, and Eric Martel stepped up. He took his time, ran forward…and tapped the ball as softly as you pleased right down the middle, where a standing Weiß caught it neatly and looked at him, and expression that in no uncertain terms said “What the F**K was that?” The camera panned to Coach Jaissle, who was seen yelling something similar before the camera panned away. A couple of minutes later, Geurts stepped up and struck it hard left, Urbig guessed wrong, and the ball hit the back of the net.
Dynamo had just beaten Köln in the First Round of the DFB-Pokal.
A half hour later the bar was still celebrating, singing, laughing, and watching the highlights. The initial interviews had been formalities, Coach Schmidt congratulating his players for their efforts, most of all his keepers, who had been awarded Man of the Match for his efforts between the sticks. Some player interviews had followed, Siebeck thanking the rest of the squad for the team picking him up after his miss, and then the formal interview afterwards in the press room. Most of the interview was the usual banal stuff, the interesting bit of news came at the end.
“How far can the team go coach?”
“As far as they can. If it’s the next round, it’s the next round, if its the final its the final. No matter what happens I am proud of them, of their efforts on the field.”
“Coach, rumor has it you signed another player today, who couldn’t play in today’s game because of registration issues, can you talk about that?”
“Yes, I can, we have an agreement with FC Bayern, they have agreed to send Justin Janitzek to us on a loan until the end of the season. Once he clears the medical screening in Bayern, the remainder of the paperwork will be filed tonight, and Justin will arrive here tomorrow.”
“Our defense just got that much better!” Hans said, finishing his beer.
“He’s not bad,” said Tobias, looking at his own beer. For Tobias, that was high praise. The rest of the bar had started talking as well, loud enough that the reporters question had been missed.
“He’s not costing us anything,” Coach Schmidt said with a smile, “Because in addition to signing him this afternoon, we also signed an agreement to become a lower league affiliate for FC Bayern.”
“WHAT DID HE SAY!” Sasha yelled, loud enough that everyone in the bar who didn’t know her turned to look at her.
“He said they signed an agreement with Bayern to become an affiliate,” Tobias said.
“I heard that!” Sasha yelled back at him.
“Then why did you ask…never mind,” Tobias sighed again, and looked at his mug of beer.
“Bayern. We’re an affiliate for Bayern,” Sasha all but spat.
“Looks like it,” Ulrich replied.
“Could be worse,” Hans said, only to dodge out of the way when Sasha turned around on him.
“How?” she asked. Sasha hated Bayern with a passion. There was only one team she hated more in all of Germany.
“Could have been a Hertha affiliate…”
Sasha took a deep breath, as if she was preparing to argue, then sighed and nodded.
“Yeah, you aer right. Get us another beer please?”
Eine Kugel ausgewichen?
Janitzek is an instant upgrade for us at Defender, tall, above average in most every category that matters, I am really hoping he will add to an already strong part of the squad.
I know this season we aren’t going to be able to run and gun our way thru the league, there are too many quality teams we are competing against, but if we can stay close to a net positive goal differential, and draw some of the teams we are supposed to lose to, I’ll count a non relegation finish a success.
I am worried about the team financials though…
Next up, a look at the season, how we are handling scouting, and trying to build for the future.
“He said he wasn’t coming. The last time he came to a game because we convinced him to, we lost to Cottbus,” Joachim said. “He thinks if he’s here in person the team will lose again…”
“I have a hard time figuring him out,” Hans said to noone in particular.
“He’s weird. He’s not going to change,” Sasha said.
“Do you want him to change?”
“Will that mean he stops buying the occasional round?” she replied.
Sportforum Hohenschönhausen wasn’t all that full, maybe 4500 people, but the Bayern Fan Club had shown up in decent strength, 1500 boisterous fans at the other end of the stadium.
“What do you think?” Hans asked, leaning over to Ulrich.
“It’s like Coach said, If they give it their best, he’ll be happy with the result either way. They’re on a win streak, they’re playing well.”
A whistle was blown, and the teams headed off the field, to get ready for the game.
They were all hoarse. On Paper, and when compared one on one really, Bayern’s II squad was faster, more athletic, but if they were anything else, it was overconfident. Poor passes, bad decisions, the only thing loder than the fans at times seemed to be Coach Demichelis as he yelled and gestured at his player.
Amar Suljić’s goal in the 12th minute was a thing of beauty, as was the long pass that let him split the defenders and tap it in over the keeper, but the Wanner had scored for Bayern II two minutes apart in the 66th and 68th minutes. What enthusiasm the Dynamo fans had went flat, as Bayern sat back, invited the attack, and foiled every Dynamo attack.
“I can’t watch” Sasha moaned, burying her head in Ulrich’s arm. The game was well into extra time, with maybe a minute left. The team had given their all, but Bayern’s quality had come thru the last twenty minutes of the match, as every BFC Dynamo attack was frustrated.
Bayern chose that moment to try and put Dynamo on the backfoot, but a bad pass allowed Reher to get the ball, and after a few seconds of back and forth between Sommer and the defenders, Klump ended up with the ball. The roar of the crowd got louder, as Klump dropped the ball of to Ekailie, who then after a brief moment passed it to Schulz, who drove forward into two defenders. Pavlovic dispossessed him, and everyone started to groan when his short pass to Harold was intercepted by Klump, who flicked the ball backwards, turned around, and at the line lofted a ball towards Suljic, who was fighting to break thru two defenders…
They charged into the bar, cheering and chanting, happier with a draw than they had been in recent memory.
“That was amazing!” Ulrich said for what had to have been the hundredth time since they left the stadium.
“We know!” Sasha replied. “We were there too!”
“You think we have a chance?”
“Of winning? I like our chances now more than I did two hours ago…” said Hans.
Five days later, Stadion an der Grünwalder Straße was rocking. Literally, the stands were swaying back and forth under the Dynamo faithfuls feet as they screamed and cheered the entire match. Although outnumbered by the Bayern fans, a travesty Ulrich had mentioned enough times that Sasha had threatened him with violence if he didn’t shut up about it, they had given their all. Hans had yelled himself to near death apparently, the coughing fit he had after Suljić’s 19th minute goal came back after Zvonarenk had scored for Bayern three minutes later. A Beck goal right before the end of the half had sent the crowd into a frenzy.
All the Dynamo fans, and the announcers, were surprised when the team came out on the front foot. While not as aggressive pushing the ball up the field as they had been the first half, defensively speaking they were stepping up more, crowding the Bayern players more and forcing them to make mistakes. Bayern did have a couple of chances, but they were rushed, and the Dynamo defense was holding strong.
In the 84th minute, taking advantage of a misplay by a Bayern defender, the team surged forward, and a brilliant effort by Klump was denied by an even better effort from Schenk, who deflected the ball out of bounds. Gathering the ball up, Klump went to the corner as the rest of the squad sorted itself out, and after a few seconds, lofted the ball towards the back.
The only thing louder than the referee’s whistle was Sasha yelling “THAT’S A PENALTY, YOU AREN’T BLIND, CALL IT!”
Referee Michels pointed to the spot, the Bayern fans groaned…
To 3. Liga.
In our first season.
Well…crap. I wasn’t expecting this, but I wasn’t going to sabotage it either.
The board did what they could with regards to the wage bill and the transfer budget:
And while those numbers look OK, there’s this to take into consideration as well:
I am not going to say no to that, it just means I have to renegotiate all my players contracts, and since the ones I want to keep just won themselves promotion, it could be difficult to meet some of their wage demands.
Financially speaking, I think we did quite well, considering we were a Regionalliga team:
This pretty much says it all:
Beck and Suljic with 76 goals between them?
Geurts with 11 goals, 16 assists; Pollasch with 17 assists? I am pretty sure I could play this season over again 10 times and not get anywhere near those numbers
It was a really close competition in the League though as we almost played our way out of 1st Place:
But, our numbers more than speak for themselves:
The success of the season went the boards head as well, because they decided to spend some money I am not sure we have:
Which leaves our finances looking like this:
3. Liga awaits. We’re a pro Squad now, with not a lot of money, a smart bet would put us down as relegation candidates. Because of the finances this year I haven’t been able to scout like I have wanted to, and we may not have enough in next years budget to scout extensively either, which means we are going to have to get….creative with the scouting. And the accounting.
There was a polite knock on the door.
“Enter!” Nicholas called out, and a second later Frau Gerstner opened the door.
“Christian would like to speak with you?” she asked, her face telling him “No” would not be an appropriate answer.
“Of course,” he replied with a smile, and a few seconds later Beck stepped in, and sat in one of the chairs across from the desk.
“And how is my Northeast Player of the Year?” Nikki asked with a smile. Beck smiled in return, but it didn’t reach his eyes.
“I’m retiring coach,” he said with a sigh. “I am going to make it official tomorrow, but I wanted to let you know in person.”
“Are you sure?”
“The mind is willing, but the body…” Beck gestured towards his legs. “Besides, I don’t think I will ever have a season close to what we had this last one, especially going up a level. And I would rather go on top as a player who scored 36 goals, won a Pokal and promotion, than a guy who spent the last seasons of his career on the bench in the 3.Liga. And I can’t go down to a lower level, there’s just no money in it. No, it’s time.”
Nikki nodded, sitting back in his chair.
“Plans for the future?” he asked.
“I’ve though about coaching,” Beck replied with a smile, which Nikki returned with a smile of his own, then stood up, and stuck his hand out.
“This is going to sound trite,” he said, as Beck stood and grasped his hand, “But it’s true. You’ve been a fabulous asset to the club. We would not be where we are today without the example you set on the field the past two seasons. You ever need a job, call me and I’ll help.”
“Thanks Coach.” A firm shake of the hand, a nod, and Beck turned and left the office, shutting the door behind him.
Wie weit können uns zwei 34-jährige Beine bringen?
I don’t know what it is with the saves I’ve picked this season. They have all been interesting teams, they have all been fun to play, but they all have one thing in common: The finances are…suboptimal. I knew this when I was looking at BFC Dynamo and it’s background, but stil:
If those are OK finances, then I’ll take it, because I’d hate to see the alternative.
This is something I think a lot of managers will overlook when they get to a club. They’ll look at the roster, look at the transfer budget, look at the coaching, and the “Mutually Terminate” the contract of every coach/scout/Manager/Director that doesn’t meet their standards.
Then, 1 of 3 things will happen when you go to hire new staff. The new staff members who are better than your old staff members aren’t going to sign with you because:
Your Club Reputation isn’t good enough, or
If you club reputation is good enough you can’t afford their salary
Which result in you spending 10 minutes terminating the contracts of everyone, then spending eight hours finding replacements who are no better than the ones you fired, and in some cases more expensive salary wise.
I had a bit of wiggle room. As a Semi-Pro team, I didn’t need a huge scouting budget, in fact, I took it to the league only level. My Chief Scout is going to look at the next opponent, and I’ll hire another scout to look at those player who crop up in the market.
We are also up against it with the team payroll, and with no transfer budget, the only way we are lowering that is selling players, and unfortunately the Regionalliga is not exactly a “Seller’s Market.”
Ein fliegender Start
“They can’t keep this up,” Tobias said around a mouthful of food.
“Why are you such a pessimist?” Sasha asked, glaring at him. The bar was quieter now that most of the rowdier folks had left. They had claimed their table in the back, and were going over the details of the game against Erfurt.
“It’s not pessimism, it’s realism. Beck had 23 goals for us last season. He’s got 12 in 9 already. He can’t keep that up.”
“Suljić can pick up the slack,” Hans said.
Tobias sighed and sat back, finishing the bite of food he had taken before he started speaking. “He’s had 15 goals in 3 seasons at Schweinfurt . There’s a reason they let him go.”
“He’s got 11 now,” Sasha said. “He’s beaten Chemnitz, they made Cottbus earn that victory. These guys are playing harder than I have seen them play the past few seasons. They keep winning the way they are, I don’t care who’s scoring.”
“How far you think they’ll go in the Landspokal?” Klaus asked.
“Not that far,” sighed Tobias. Hans grabbed Sasha around the waist as she leaned over the table to smack him. Tobias didn’t move, he was used to such outbursts by now.
The only loss was to a very good Cottbus team. Chemnitz, Lokomotiva Leipzig, Carl Zeiss Jena and Cottbus are all former Oberliga teams, so there’s history there. And as a club we want to make history by getting promoted to the Bundesliga before they do.
I really wish I could take all the credit for the wins, but I would be lying. I literally set the team for the game, hit start, make a tweak every once and awhile, make substitutions when required, and let the game run it’s course. I am not of a meddler tactically, being in the school of “If it’s working well Tinkering is only going to make it worse”, and it’s a lesson I have learned well. But to say I was surprised at the teams performance would be an understatement, it wasn’t that we were winning games, it’s that we were doing so by large margins for the most part. The game against Erfurt though, that hurt:
I wasn’t too upset about Beck missing the penalty kick, the keeper made a very nice save. The two extra time goals though, the last of which came on a stupid penalty…Reher somehow jumping up in the scrum during a corner kick and getting a hand on the ball for the penalty.
Lass die guten Zeiten ruhen
“I swear by all that is holy Tobias, you even try to pour water on my mood I am going to kick your teeth in!” Sasha barely came up to his chest, but the finger she wagged in front of his face had a pretty wicked looking nail on it, and he had the good sense to be quiet.
“You said they couldn’t keep it up after Babelsburg, then it was doom and gloom after Hertha II, then when we lost to the idiots from Leipzig I couldn’t tell if you were more upset we lost, or happy we finally did. What gives?”
“You mean other than spending the night in lockup because you started a fight with the Leipzig Ultras.” He sighed as he took his seat, and motioned to the barmaid, who nodded and smiled at him.
“Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa,” Hans said, putting his own beer down hard enough to make it spill some. “She did not not start anything with those Ultras. She congratulated them for a good win and a well played game.”
“And what did I get for being nice? Insults. Verdammte sächsische Idioten. Thanks Elise,” Sascha smiled at the barmaid, who brought a whole tray of drinks out.
“Well, to be fair, you did say you hoped they liked third place,” Hans said.
“To be fair they said I’d come in fourth place in a three lady beauty contest,” Sascha replied.
“You called him a Hasslehoff wannabe.”
“He called me a whore!”
“You said his mom counted with her hoof!”
“Can you prove she doesn’t? Besides, I reimbursed you for the fines.”
“You should have been there with us.”
“Look, I have always maintained that if there is trouble, I don’t have too run fast to get out of it, I just have to run faster than you…”
For a job well done, so far, we were rewarded:
It’s not a bad deal really, but even I am starting to channel my “Inner Tobias” and am wondering when the wheels may fall off, or slow down. For the moment, it’s a three team race to the top, and we have our work cut out for us.
The one blemish in a remarkable run of games was the Leipzig game. 3/4’s of the team decided that this game would be the one they wanted to take of, and Beck’s legs can only take the team so far, it’s up to the other players to help as well, and this game, they didn’t. It was the first time I yelled at the all season. They responded quite well.
Our Youth Intake preview was quite promising as well. Yes you have to take this with a huge gran of salt considering where we our, our facilities, and the level of competition, but this is not a bad preview:
Neues Jahr, gleiche Ergebnisse
Cottbus is the one team we cannot shake. And the one team we cannot beat apparently. Also teams from Leipzig have been giving us trouble as well, but for the most part the teams has been performing very well. I don’t want to say we are on cruise control, one slip up and we find ourselves behind Cottbus looking for a playoff spot, but I remain confident in the guys. They’ve taken us this far.
The Youth Intake
The preview was actually not too far of the mark, we have a decent youth intake, ands a couple of them have some potential as well.
Our best prospect, an already “Above Average” player in many areas: Pace, Fitness, Technique, Flair, Finishing. Sure, he has some holes in his game, but there is plenty of time to improve them, and his Resolute personality and 16 Determination will go a long way in getting those lower numbers up. The game says he’s a winger, I am going to retrain him as a Striker.
He’s got potential. The question is how am I going to get him the playing time to improve, and if I do get him the playing time, how much is his unambitious personality going to affect those improvements. As much as there are some things to like, the Reflexes, Decision making, Handling, Agility and Fitness, everything else is way too low, and most likely won’t improve without some luck. Which is about par for the course for a lot of newgens at this level.
I think Ott could be better than advertised. His aggression worries me, as does his strength, but with those Fitness, Determination, Dribbling, Technique, Passing, Flair and Finishing attributes (which if they don’t go up are still very good for this level of football), he will be a very solid player in the years to come, and if the opportunities work out for him, he could be better in the long run than Hamzic.
Eine Trophäe in der ersten Saison heben
The Berliner Landespokal is a regional competition, in this case the region being the city of Berlin, with the Berlin Football Association running it. There’s no money for winning it, instead you get a spot in the following years DFB-Pokal. While it’s possible, likely really, you are going to be a minnow in the first round, the appearance money is 183K, which is not an insignificant sum for a team that wins. And if you do make it to the Second Round, the money there is another 366K.
The good news is, we kept up our winning ways, and made it to the Landespokal final.
VSG Altglienicke on paper was not a team as strong as we were, but they caught us at the right time, tired, coming of some niggling injuries, and they had lost in the finals the two previous years, and we definitely putting their best feet forward. We however, played out game, and despite Pollasch going down with an injury in the 43rd minute, a Suljić goal in the 33rd minute, and a great keep away defense ensured we won, and put a new trophy in the display case.
The last two games of the season were key. Cottbus was well within reach off us, Lok Leipzig had fallen behind Four points was what we needed to ensure a first place finish in the League, and we got it, by beating the aforementioned Saxons 4-0 in the final game of the season. It was off to the playoffs.
The bar was crowded, to the point Hans was questioning whether or not the fire marshal stop by and force a few people out. It was loud, it was raucous, songs were sung, beers were spilled, everyone was having a good time.
Hans saw Tobias force his way thru the crowd, work had kept him late and he couldn’t make the game, but as he sat down between Hans and Ulrich, the look on his face didn’t change. He was dejected.
“Someone kick your dog, Tobias?” Ulrich asked, passing him a beer. Tobias looked at it briefly, then drank it all in one chug, wiping his mouth.
“Last of the Regionalliga games was played today.”
“We know,” said Sasha, her words a bit slurred.
“We’re playing Bayern II in the final.” Tobias said, sitting back and slouching.
“Bayern II?” Sasha all but shouted. Tobias nodded.
“Well, Scheisse,” Ulrich said to noone in particular.
“Yeah,” Tobias said.
Coming up in a couple of days, the result of the Promotion Playoff, a look back at the season and some of the players who made it possible, awards, statistics, and plans for the offseason. If you don’t see it in a couple of days, feel free to remind me about it on twitter.
“Come in!” The voice on the other side of the door sounded distracted, and when Andreas Pollasch opened it he could see why. The office was organized chaos, but still chaos. Photo’s on the wall, piles of paper on the desk, left over lunch plate on the corner. The only personal item he saw was a small photo in a heavy frame, a couple holding a baby, wearing older BFC Dynamo scarves.
“You wanted to see me Coach?”
Nicholas looked up from the laptop, smiled and nodded, gesturing to the chair across from the desk and asking him to shut the door. When Pollasch sat down Coach held up one finger in a “just a second” fashion, and then almost exactly a minute later, sighed, shut the laptop, took his glasses off with one hand and ran his other hand thru his hair.
“Everything OK Coach?”
“Yes and No. Here’s the deal Andreas,” Nicholas said, putting his glasses on and sitting forward, elbows on the desk. The action showed Andreas two things, one was the Coach had an aura about him, confidence, willpower, you name it, he had it. The second was that he was still younger than a lot of guys on the squad.
“When the door is shut, and it’s just you and I in the room, it’s Andreas and Nicholas, OK?” “Not Nikki?” Andreas asked with a small smile, which was returned briefly with a nod. There was quiet for a moment.
“I am sorry I lost touch with with you,” Andreas said. “I know we weren’t the closest of friends on that team, but I want you to know that.”
Nikki nodded, and Andreas noticed him glance at the photo.
“I appreciate that,” Nikki said. “I have a problem, and I need your help with it.”
“In my capacity as Captain?” Andreas asked.
“No, in addition to your position as Team Captain. You are a good one, The guys listen, and you appear to have bought into the program bought in as well. I expect you to do everything a Captain does, and all of the little things a Captain isn’t supposed to do but does anyways. I have not been disappointed in that regard. Thats the problem, and it’s a good problem to have but its a problem.”
“Do you know why I was hired?” Andreas shook his head.
“Ownership wants the team to get promoted. To Bundesliga 2, in seven years. I told them I could do it in five if they backed me up in certain things, player moves, contracts, things like that. In return for those considerations I promised I would not interview with any other clubs while Coach here, no matter where we are in the standings and who comes asking.”
Andreas was quiet for a moment. A lot of ocaches in the past had used Dynamo as a stepping stone, several players as well. If the club did good, they could do up, but if Nikki had tied himself to the club only to see it fall as spectacularly as it were to rise, it didn’t bode well for his future.
“Do you think we can be promoted this season?” Nikki asked.
Andreas shrugged, then thought about it for a few moments.
“I think we can contend for a promotion spot. I think we can get into the playoffs, and once there anything can happen.”
“But we are a Semi Professional team whose best attacking option is 34 years old and is clearly on his last legs,” Nikki said in a matter of fact voice. “True, but if he knows we are going out a winner, he’ll give you everything you ask him for and more.”
“Can I expect that of him? Can I demand that of him?
Andreas was puzzled for a moment, thinking before answering.
“I think you could. Assuming others are brought onto the plan as well. Schulz, Breitfeld, Sommer.”
“That’s what our meeting tomorrow is about.”
“Than why am I here?”
“Because I need a friend who will talk to me openly and honestly, a friend who will tell me what others won’t, a friend who knows that I am doing the best I can for the team, even if it means letting that friend go at some point in the future. That friend has to have some influence in the team, something to provide cover for what he is going to say and when he says it. As Captain you and I will agree on everything even when you are wrong,” Nicki said with a smile. “But there needs to be a time in place where you and I sit down and we are not Coach and Captain, but Nikki and Andreas, and whatever we say stays between us.”
“The coaches-” Andreas started to say, before Nikki cut him off with an upraised hand.
“I haven’t earned their respect yet. Give them credit though, they are trying, they are good coaches for the most part, but this untested youngster comes in and wants to shake things up, they are waiting to see what happens. On one hand I don’t blame them.”
They sat in silence for a moment.
“I am young, I realize that. I can be friendly with the guys, but I can’t be their friend. I am their coach first. I have to be. I can wrap that up in as much velvet as I can, but at the end of the day it’s still covering the fist that will whack them upside the head when they screw up, still the man who’s going to let them go, and possibly end their career or dream.”
“Are you looking for validation?”
“No, just honesty. And maybe a few moments from time to time where I can be human.” “We all know you are human Nikki,” Andreas said. “We all know you have a lot to prove, and frankly so do a lot of us here at the club. I want to play as long as I can, we all do, but at the same time, I am a realist, we are all realists. You don’t play at this level for this long without realizing that.”
Two hours later there was a knock on the door, and Frau Hoffman, the club secretary, stepped inside.
“Coach, you asked me to tell you when it was 6PM. It’s 6:07, and I am leaving for the day.” She smiled and nodded, and then left, leaving the door open.
Andreas stood up, wondering where the time had gone. The past couple of hours had been the two of them sharing stories, mostly game related. Anytime Andreas tries asking about family Nikki deflected it, but it was time well spent.
As he shrugged his jacket back on and walked to the door, Andreas turned around.
“Coach,” he said, and Nikki looked up at him.
“You remember when you ran Goetze into the ground, that U19 match?”
Nikki responded with a small smile and nod of his head.
“Show that sort of drive and dedication to the team, and it will be rewarded, I promise you that.” With a smile and nod of his own, he left, reaching for his phone to call his better half and to let her know he was headed home. He ran into the secretary as he was leaving, and held the door for her.
“I hope he doesn’t stay the night again,” she said as they walked out.
“Coach Schmidt. Since he arrived, he hasn’t gone home but four or five times, and I suspect that’s for a change of clothes. He’s been working since he arrived.” “Doing what exactly?”
“Watching film, reading reports, studying. If he’s not careful he’s going to burn himself out.”
Older, Experienced, Solid, with a couple of youth players to be excited about as well. The average age is 26.1 years old, and that’s not exactly a concern, but the ago of some of my better players is. An unexpected surprise in some ways, but there are holes to fill, and future seasons to prepare for.
The preseason is going to be all about which senior keeper get the job. Hamrol is taller, Sommer is better skill wise in some areas, but there’s a phrase that goes something like “If you have solid option, you have no great option either.” And that is the theme of this squad, solid players who can do their job quite well, the issue is can they do better when required without falling flat on the face and hurting the team? Hainke and Kaidru are emergency options at best for first team play, I am hoping the experience they get at the U19 level will help them improve, because if they don’t we are going to have to look elsewhere for help between the sticks.
I think this is a good group of players for the level of football we are playing at. We’re the 4th league of German Football, and to be honest I think anything over 15 for an attribute is either going to be a gift, or an anomaly. At this level of football, you aren’t looking for players who are “Good” at everything, you are looking for players who are “Good” in those areas their position demands of them. What I mean is this:
A Centerback (CD(De)) needs to have solid numbers in the following attributes (I call them Role Requisite Attributes. It will catch on eventually. 🙂 )
Secondary Attributes to look at are
Then there are whatever attributes you as a manager look for as well. Because I know the formation we are going to be playing, and the style of football, I’d like my players to have decent
Taking into consideration the level of football we are playing at, for Requisite Role Attributes, I would say a minimum of 10+ is the requirement. Secondary Attributes, 8+. For my preferred Attributes, while I want to say 10+, I have to be realistic, and say that as long as the majority of them (3 out of 5, depending on the 3), are higher than 6, I’ll be a happy Manager. Now, I am realistic enough that I know that at this level of football almost all of my players are going to fall short in many of the secondary attributes required for the position, and for my preferred attributes as well, and in some cases one of their Requisite Role Attributes as well, but considering who and where we are playing, and that almost every other team at our level is facing the same problems, it’s not a big deal. At least it shouldn’t be, sometimes that lone digit in red just stands out so much it makes your eyes start to twitch and you’re looking to move them on…
Anyways, here is what we are looking at from the Central Defenders Point of view:
Reher and Blum are good solid players. Duncan, his negatives outweigh his positives. The fact he is probably the most athletically gifted of my defensive backs doesn’t do enough to cover the role weaknesses he has. Brandt is the best player we have for the D(C) role, but we’re going to have to bring in some depth as the youth squad leaves a lot to be desired.
I am planning on Breitfeld and Klump being the starters at the wingback position, with Kleihs being their primary backup, but their versatility, and other players versatility as well means they could be playing and contributing in other positions as well. Meyer is young and has potential, while Ekalle is older and has probably reached his potential, he can still contribute off the bench.
Probably the best group of players we have on the team, and it helps that we have other players like Brandt who can step in and play with little drop off as well. Siebeck doesn’t have a weakness in his game, which means he isn’t really excelling in anyone area either, but that makes him versatile and reliable, and at this level of football, that’s not a bad thing. Pollasch is the number 2 midfielder on the team ability wise, and the team Captain will be a full time starter. Schulz is also a very good midfielder for this level. What I would like to try and do is set up a rotation where Pollasch is starting every game with whomever isn’t starting next to him coming off the bench. Siebeck’s versatility could mean he’s starting games at positions other than M(C) though, but with Schulz there to take his place I still have a quality midfield duo in my opinion.
Geurts is probably the only natural Attacking midfielder we have on the squad, and that’s fine. Suljić is also a fine attacking mid, but he play the same position as Geurts, and seems to be better suited to playing forward. Advanced Midfielder is going to be one of those positions that is going to see some rotation probably, as neither Franke, who comes in on loan, or Walther are good enough (yet) to be starters. But I do have players capable of playing attacking mid.
Christian Beck is the only pure forward we have on the squad, and he is very much your prototypical Target Man, and that’s the good news. The bad news is that he is 34 years old, and as he and the other attacking players go. so does squad. If he stays healthy, and if his attributes don’t start to fall off a cliff, I like our chances. That’s a lot of if’s though. On paper Euschen is our 2nd Forward, but I have other players with better numbers in the Requisite Attributes. His versatily does make him useful, but I don’t know how much he will contribute this season.
Spoiler Alert, this was taken at the end of the season
I settled on this formation for a variety of reasons:
It allowed me to play my best players
It allowed me to play them in their best or second best position
Because of my players versatility, it left me very few weaknesses if I had to move players around.
Attribute wise, they look like this:
And when you keep it to just the guys who are the Starting XI more often than not, and exclude the Keeper (Sorry Sommers), you get this:
Doesn’t look like much at first glance, but consider this: The Green Highlighted Squares are their Role Requisite Attributes. The Blue Highlighted squares are those Attributes that I am looking for the team as a whole to be decent in. At first glance, and second and third and all of them really, you have a squad that’s slightly above average, so you have to look at where they are the strongest.
With 4 decent header’s and 4 decent backline passers, we could play a 4-4-2 long ball type of defense. Likewise, a 4-3-3 with one at the top could also be a viable formation, but I like have two strikers at the top.
My defender are all decent, although my D(C)’s could hit the weight room a little more often, and they are OK passers as well.
My wingbacks can cross a ball, but they can’t dribble it worth a darn, but they are both quick and pacy, and they are OK passers, and average defenders.
My midfielders are solid, and my Advanced Midfielders are better than average Acceleration and Pace wise, with decent off the ball movement and good First Touch.
My Forwards are typical of the role they play. So what else am I looking at?
My Wingbacks and midfielders have good work rate and decision making, but their lack of dribbling leaves a lot to be desired. With OK first touch, they would appear to be decent one touch passers.
My midfielders are much the same, decent Passers, OK Decision Making, but their vision is also better than average as well.
My Advanced Midfielders are fast, agile, with decent off the ball movement, decision making, technique and first touch.
So what do we have at the end? Slightly better than average crossers, not the best dribblers, average first touch, passing, technique, anticipation, composure, and concentration; better than average decision making and determination, OK Off the Ball, positioning, team work, work rate, vision, and better than average Athletically speaking.
However, I am a big believer in risk mitigation. The more risks you take in game, the more chances there are for things to go wrong, and when things go wrong, they usually don’t go well, so why leave it to chance?
We are going with short passes, and as the squads dribbling as a whole is less than average, we want to not dwell on the ball, keep it moving in shorter, simpler passes that leave less room for error. That means very short passing at a very high tempo. From the centerback, who give it to the Midfielders, to the wingbacks overlapping on either side, who receive the pass, and either try to whip it in the box for my forwards and advanced midfielders to go for in the air, or they pass it to them directly, and with the arrival of the midfielder to the box, we have the numbers to overwhelm the defenders who are going to be tired of chasing after all of our short passes.
The Proposed Movement
The Proposed Outcome of the Plan
It also means out two midfielders are the pivots, which means the passing should break down like this:
It certainly briefs well, doesn’t it?
But that is all theory. Sure, anyone can draw up a tactic and do what the can to mitigate it, but the FM Gods are a fickle bunch, and as I am fond of saying “Custer had a plan too.” For those of you wondering about that, I suggest reading this.
Up next, in a couple of days, a look at the first season!
Thanks for reading, and if you want to see how well I can screw things up on video, come watch me try an rebuild Saint Etienne here.
Note: A lot of the names and all personalities in the conversations are made up. Any resemblance to an actual person is a stroke of genius and luck on my part, and means I should throw away this Lotto ticket…
The house was cozy, tastefully decorated, and usually quiet, but with seven full grown men in it, the noise was finally getting to be too much.
“It’s not like you all have to watch it at from the same location,” Sommers wife said as she brought in another platter of food. “Spread out. Sit, eat, Kevin will move out of the way when it’s on,” she said, pulling one of the men back to the chair by his arm. A few of the others drifted back over as well, reaching for the sandwiches she had made.
At the desk, Kevin Sommers sat, hitting the refresh button on his keyboard every so often, waiting for the online press conference to start. Benbennek had been a solid coach, but his falling out with ownership and a run of poor results had sealed his fate in April, and the club had been quiet ever since. Rumors popped up every once and awhile, but the board, and most of the supporters club for a change, had been quiet.
“It’s going to be Backhaus,” said Siebeck around a mouthful of food. “Friend told me he interviewed really well.” “He did a decent job at Rot-Weiß Koblenz,” Sommer said, still absentmindedly hitting the refresh button. A phone buzzed with an incoming text, and Andreas Pollasch pulled his out. He looked at it quietly for a few seconds, not noticing everyone else around him had stopped what they were doing, even chewing.
Putting his phone back in his pocket, he took a bite of his own sandwich.
“Refresh in about a minute, Kevin,” he said, and the keeper nodded to him in reply. Pollasch looked at the faces of them men who were still looking at him.
“It’s not Backhaus,” he said, taking a bite of his own sandwich.
The screen refreshed, and the video feed started. Herr Vier, the General Manager, stepped up to the podium, and started to read.
“Hello Ladies and Gentlemen, and I thank you for attending, watching, or listening to this evenings announcement. When the board and I started looking for a new head coach, we decided that we did not want to go the usual route as it were, instead we wanted someone not only with a passion to win, but a passion for the game, for the town, and for the club. Although we started with quite a list of very qualified candidates, as we conducted our initial interviews, and then follow-up interviews, myself and other members of the board were continually impressed by one young man in particular. His passion for the sport, his passion for the club, the fact he was born and raised not too far from here were all positives, but in meeting with him and talking with him, it was apparent to all that his vision for the club meshed with ours very well. Please allow me to introduce the new coach of BFC Dynamo, Herr Nicolas Schmidt.”
The Zur Insel was the clubs bar, a stones throw away from the stadium. It walls were adorned with old shirts, old photo’s, old banners of the clubs heyday back in the 80’s when it was dominating East German football. Tonight was a quiet night, but there were about fifteen hardcore fans watching the TV.
“Who the fuck is Nicholas Schmidt?” Hans was drunk, but no so drunk that he could point at the TV with his beer and not spill a drop.
“He’s young,” remarked Phillipe, still sipping on his first beer.
“Does he even has coaching experience?” asked Klaus.
“If you’d all shut the hell up so we could hear, maybe we can find out!” Sasha’s voice was loud and hard enough that the others quieted down.
“But seriously,” Hans said, waving his beer around some more. “Who the Fuck is he?”
“Who?” Sommers turned around and looked at the others in the room.
“Nikki,” replied Pollasch after swallowing the last bite. “Except he’s “Coach” now.”
“You know him?”
Pollasch nodded. “He was in Hertha’s Youth System, midfielder,” he said, gesturing at Alexander. “I once watched him run Goezte into the ground during a U19 friendly in 2012. Stayed in the mans hip pocket the entire game, nutmegged him on the way to the winning assist. And I mean ran him into the ground, Goetze was begging to come off after sixty.”
“His mom got sick, he stopped playing. Club was willing to help him apparently, but his dad had been hurt on the job, so he went and got a job to help. Mom passed away in ’13, his dad a year later I think?”
Sommers was looking at his laptops screen again.
“Joined Hertha as a Youth Coach in ‘18. Went to Kaiserslautern as a coach for the II Team in 20.”
“And know he’s here,” Siebeck said.
“Must be,” replied Sommer, refreshing the page. “His Wikipedia page says he’s the head coach, so it must be true.”
“HA!” yelled Phillipe, thrusting his phone into the air.
“What?” asked Sasha.
“I beat Gregor to the punch, and updated his wiki page before club did!”
“I find it interesting you think thats something to be proud of,” Sasha replied, rolling her eyes. “Great,” Hans said, looking up at the screen as Herr Vier stepped aside to introduce him. “He’s young. Probably never coached a day in his life. How much you want to bet he just some FM player and this is all a PR stunt.”
“If that were the case they would have hired me,” said Klaus.
“What?” the others asked together.
“Look, anyone who can take Energetik-BGU from the bottom of the Belorussian Premier League to winning the Champions League in seven years deserves at least one interview, that’s all I’m saying.”
“I swear to God you mention Energetik one more time my beer stein is going to get all Energetik upside your head!” Hans did menacing quite well sober, drunk was when he meant it. Klaus hunched down and ordered another beer.
“Well, he said all the right things,” Sommer said, shutting the laptop down.
“They all do,” Siebeck said, standing up.
“When do you think he’ll announce the team meeting?”
Pollasch phone rang, and he looked at it.
“Guess we will find out in a few,” he said, swiping as he held it up to his ear.
This is going to be an interesting save. It’s been awhile since I started at a club that was Semi-Professional, and that means adjusting the first year (if not more) of my playing style. I’m sure I’ll go over this again in the next post, where we introduce the team, the plans for the season and so on, and then the third post will be the first season, but the facts are this:
We are a Semi-Pro Team
We have next to no transfer budget
We have next to no payroll budget
We have next to no staff payroll
Our stadium is old.
We have no affiliates
Our facilities are not the best.
Winning the League is not enough to get promoted, you have to win the playoff afterwards as well
The club could be doing better financially. We aren’t at the point where we are raiding the furniture for loose change, but any immediate success I have is going to be off trials, youth players, and or loan players.
We are going to have so much fun with this save…
I plan on going into a bit more details in this save, how I approach certain things, how I look at certain things, maybe some spreadsheets even.
And there will be some more stories every once and awhile as well. 🙂
From 1979 to 1988, Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga 5 times, and in the other 5 years never fell below 4th. And impressive win streak thats been superceded in recent years by an impressive run starting in 1998, when they have won the League 18 times. In 2022, they won the Bundesliga for the 10th time in a row. It was a spectacular accomplishment.
But they weren’t the first German team to do that…
In Berlin, in the borough of Lichtenburg, the quarter of Alt-Hohenschönhausen is home to Berliner FC Dynamo. Playing in the DDR-Oberliga, Berliner FC won their League 10 times in a row, with a core group of players that not only led them to local success, but European success as well. In the 1979-80 European Cup, they went all the way to the quarterfinals, becoming the first German team to beat an English team in England, when they beat Brian Clough and Nottingham Forest 1-0. With a stellar Youth system, bringing in players such as Bernd Schulz, Frank Rohde, and Christan Backs, and a solid core of verteran players, they reached the quarter finals of the European Cup again in 1982, losing to Aston Villa. In the 1983-1984 season, their loss to FC Karl MArx Stadt broke a 36 game winning streak, and again made it to the quarter finals of the European Cup before losing to Roma. A bit of trivia for those of you out there, each team Berliner lost to went on to win the Cup. In the 1984-1985 season they scored 90 goals, but some of their wins were not without controversey.
The DFV conducted a review in the 1984-1985 season and found the club was given fewer yellow cards, and other non call led to the conclusion that they had gained at least 8 points in 26 matches to to clear referee errors on the pitch. While the East German Stasi support of the club was well know, and there were flgrant instances of referee bias in favor of the club, such as the game against SCG Dynamo Dresden in the FDGB Pokal, there is no evidence that the referees were ordered (or bribed) to favor the Berlin club. In fact complaints against the bias club received led to the General Secretary of East Germany getting involved directly, and while several people were removed from their positions, they did little to assuage a lot of the publics beliefs of what was going on. Players and coaches on many teams believed that the Berlin club didn’t need any of the help they had received, because an excellent youth system, and solid player moves such as Thomas Doll from Hansa Rostock, ensured the quality of their sqaud was better than the teams they faced. The culmination of the clubs run was a last day win against FC Vorwarts Frankfurt that clinched the League on goal difference.
The Fall of the Berlin Wall meant changes for every East German club, but BFC Dynamo was among the hardest hit. The disbandment of the Stasi meant the club lost one of its main sponsors, and the East German Ministry of the Interior said it would support the club until the end of the 1989-1990 season and that was it. In an attempt to distance itself from it’s former sponsor, they rebranded as FC Berlin, but players leaving for greener pastures meant the team lacked the solid foundation and cohesiveness it had relied on during the 80’s. After finishing in 11th place and losing in the 2. Bundesliga playoff, FC Berlin was relegated to the the NOFFV-Oberliga, but despite dominating the 1991-1992 season, they again missed promotion to the 2. Bundesliga, and the last of their former players left. Depending on who you ask and what you use for sources, the entire roster of FC Berlin changed over twice in the three years since the Wall fell.
Despite making millions on playere transfer in the early 90’s, and competing in the Regionaliga Norst, the team was losing money and sponsers. Relegation to the Regonalliga was followed by insolvency proceedings, and it was found that the club was at least 7 million DM in debt. Supporters started fundrasing, former players came back to help, and a new presidum would take control of the team in 2002. After two years of close calls, with Team President Mike Peters funding the club directly, the club was promoted back to the Oberliga, and more importanlt, the insovlvency proceedings against it were settled.
The next few years were close run, as the club bounced between the Regionalliga and Oberliga while struggling to stay solvent. On more than one occassion one of the clubs main sponsers had to step into save it, and during the latter half of the 00’s the clubs financial situation improved.
The club rebranded itself as BFC Dynamo, and in 2009 adopted its new crest. In 2010 the club starting climbing back up the standings, winning promotion to the Regionalliga in 2014, and winning several Berliner Cups the following years, and despite some financial struggles put together some good sqauds, one of which missed out promotion to the 3. Liga at the end of the 2022 season on goal difference, which led to the dismissal of Coach Bennbenneck.
At the start of the 2022-2023 season, the club finds itself struggling. Its vaunted youth system is no longer in place, and while the squad has some good players on it, they are aging. The team is semi-professional, doesn’t have great finances, and promtion to the 3. Liga is tough, finish first in the Regionaliga gives that team a place in the playoffs, which you have to win in order to be prmoted. In addition, the clubs stadium is aging, and the finances are such that making the repairs required or building a new one is just not possible now.
Meanwhile, Hansa Rostock is in the 2. Bundesliga, and has a decent chance of finishing top half. SC Dynamo Dresden is in 3. Liga, having recently been relegated.
Into this situation step Nicholas Schmidt. The Berlin native and once promising Hertha Berlin youth midfielder left the game after the death of his father in 2014, and returned to the game as a junior coach with Hertha Berlin a year later, becoming a youth coach in 2018 before taking a coaching role with 1. FC Kaiserslautern II in 2020. While not the Supporters club first choice, he obviously made an impression on Club President Norbert Uhling to hire him.
“Nikki?” His father called out. The house was mostly quiet, except for the beeping of the medical devices. “I’m here Papa,” he replied, grasping his fathers hand. Those hands had been large once, and strong, a builders hands. His father used to say how proud he was of the fact the 3rd best thing he had ever done as a builder was to help tear down the Wall in 1989. His father coughed, and asked for water, which was provided to him via a glass his son held. “Can I ask you a sentimental question son?” Nicholas Schmidt blinked, hard enough he thought his father might have noticed. “What is you’re favorite memory of us?” “Playing football with you in the park Papa,” he replied honestly. “Which time?” “All of the times Papa. You would come home from work, check my homework, and we would make dinner than go to the park and kick the ball around. You showed me how the game was played, you gave me a love for the game, a passion for the game-“ “I took you away from it by getting sick.” “No, Papa, you didn’t. I love the game, I will always love it, but I love you more.” His father gripped his hand briefly, and the room was quiet, save for the beeps. “I’m sorry I didn’t take you to more games,” his father said. “You were working Papa.” “Not always…” was the reply, and Nicholas sat up. “In the closet, on the top shelf, behind the suitcase,” his fathers voice was quiet, but firm. Nicholas went to the closet, now empty of clothes, but found the box he was told to find. He opened it up at his fathers direction, and saw the scrapbooks. “The top one,” his father said, coughing again. Nicholas opened it up, and saw two tickets, for a game between Berliner FC Dynamo and Carl Zeiss Jena, dated 1977. “I met your mother at that game,” his father smiled. “She arrived with another young boy, but we left together.” Nicholas had fleeting memories of his mother, who had passed away when he was not yet four. “We couldn’t afford to go to a lot of games, but we would gather with friends and listen, and other times we would be by ourselves and listen.” As his father talked he flipped thru the book, pulling out old tickets, yellowed newspaper articles, gameday pamphlets. “She was a huge fan of the club, and I became one as well. I first kissed her at a match, when we beat Dresden. At least that was my excuse for kissing her, but in my defense, she didn’t object at the time.” He heard his dad chuckle, then cough. “After we married, we couldn’t go to as many games as we liked, what with my travelling for work, but she would write me letters.” Nicholas set the first book on the nightstand, and pulled out the second. Inside were more tickets and pamphlets, and letters. Neat, precise handwriting, going into great detail about the game she had watched. From the way she wrote, she either took notes as she watched the game, or wrote the letter immediately when she arrived back at their apartment. Putting the second book down, he saw there were two more in the box. “You never told me this before Papa,” he said softly. “The Wall fell, things got tough. Money, work, the team fell on hard times as well, all the eastern teams did. Plus there was the clubs history, it didn’t set to well with a lot of people, but she watched loyally until we couldn’t afford to buy tickets. Then the club rebranded, all the players left…” Nicholas listened as his father talked about the club after the Wall came down, as he read newspaper articles about their 7th consecutive league win, their 8th, their ninth. A letter from his mom, who wasn’t in the best seat in the house but saw Reich’s header go into the net for the win, and reading her description of the crowds reaction he felt as if he were there. He opened the last book, flipping thru the pages, and stopped on the last one. It was a photo of the family. His dad with his arm around his moms shoulder, as she held a small boy who was clearly unhappy to be there. “Nikki?” his father asked, noticing his sons silence. “A photo Papa, all of us at a game.” He saw his dad smile. “That was a good day. The team didn’t win, but we had a good time.” Papa was silent for a moment. “It was the last game we went to as a family, Marie became ill a few months later.” And eighteen months after that gone, to cancer. Nicholas flipped thru the books a few more times, then set it down and picked up one of the ones he had set down previously, and found himself reading newspaper articles from the early 80’s, when the club was winning everything. “Nikki?” “Yes Papa.” “Do you love the game?” “Yes, Papa.” “Then I want you to stay involved with in in some way. Playing, coaching, both, it does not matter. You stay involved. It does not have to be a career, but stay involved. You love it, don’t let me be the reason you walked away from it, OK?” Nikki smiled, and wiped a tear away from his eye. “Can you read me a letter?” his father asked after a few moments. “Of course Papa,” he replied, and with care, he lifted one of the letters from the book, and began to read. Tens of letters later he was reading softly, his mother was furious at the loss to FC Karl Marx Stadt, which had broken the clubs 36 league match winning streak. She wrote with emotion, her handwriting became a little sloppier usually when she was mad, and he read it as best he could. He didn’t remember his moms voice, but his dad had smiled earlier when she railed against a player from Hansa Rostock who’s two footed lunge could have hurt Backs quite seriously, and while he could not speak in her voice, her tone was unmistakable. He looked up from reading to ask his father a question, when he realized there wasn’t any beeping from the machine anymore. Setting the letter back in between the pages, closing the book and setting it back in the box, he stood up, and with a careful hand brushed back the thinning hair from his father forehead and kissed it. Albert Schmidt had never been a demonstrative man, but Nicholas had known he was loved, and the way his mom wrote he knew his father had been loved as well. He leaned down next to his fathers ear. “Go with God, Papa. When you see Mama, tell her I love her and miss her, and when I see you both again, I will be bearing a trophy with BFC Dynamo’s name on it. The Bear will Roar again, I promise you both. I love you. Thank You for everything.” He kissed his fathers cheek one last time, then left the room to call the hospice nurse.