Welcome back for part 2! In part 1 we met the CM01/02 Aces and after a successful pre-season, we begin the season with a Coppa Italia tie at home to Cesena…
We’re without Frey, Pinheiro, Kerr, Robben and Hersi, who are all on international duty, so it’s the same team that started against Stabæk but with Chiotis in goal, and Källström in for Kerr.
It’s a great start as Madeira scores inside 10 minutes, but joy turns to frustration on half an hour as Tsigalko is sent off. That’s four red cards in as many games, this team are a fiery bunch.
It’s level just before the hour, and Cesena make their extra man count on 74 as Comandini wins it. The red card didn’t help, but we only managed three shots on target in the game, and after a short-lived cup run, the board are understandably disappointed.
An international break follows, involving half our squad, some senior and some Under-21’s.
Our first league match is at home to Torino, which should be tough. They have Leeds legend Tony Dorigo in their ranks, but he doesn’t play. Frey and Kerr are back in for Chiotis and Källström. Tsigalko is suspended, so Lundén starts up front.
We start well again with Madeira putting us ahead after 5 minutes, and Lundén scoring between two disallowed goals on 19 and 30 minutes. Kerr is injured and replaced by Källström, and we lead 2-0 at half time.
Madeira gets his second just before the hour, and Aghahowa makes it four soon after, and him, Madeira and Hofland all get 10/10 ratings. I think it’s a great result but the board aren’t as easily pleased.
Kerr is out for a month and Parma try their luck for Hofland with a £5.25m bid.
We’re away to Monza next, who lost their opening match to Cagliari. Tsigalko returns from suspension but is on the bench, and Nikiforenko replaces Kerr.
Madeira likes an early goal, and scores twice inside 20 minutes, and it only takes him 10 minutes of the second half to get his hat trick. Selakovic gets in on the act 4 minutes later, and it’s another 4-0 win with Samba and Bakircioglü getting some minutes late on.
Hofland is out for a few weeks with a broken toe, which is gutting as him and West have been solid so far.
Next to visit are Reggiana (not to be confused with Reggina), managed by Francesco Oddo, father of Massimo. They’re on maximum points as are we, so something has to give today. Klompe comes in for his countryman Hofland.
It’s a tight first half with chances and injuries for both teams. We lose Said, who I replace with Prutton before Lundén breaks the deadlock on 40 minutes.
Nikiforenko isn’t performing so I bring on Källström. Frey gets injured on 75 minutes so on comes Chiotis. Reggiana have been all over us this half, and it’s no surprise when they equalise and then seemingly complete a late smash and grab win, but Lundén rescues a point in stoppage-time.
We stay joint top on 7 points. Frey and Said are out for a couple of weeks, but this’ll give me a chance to see Chiotis and N’Diaye.
In England, relegation contenders are put on red alert as Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis are sacked by Notts County and Gillingham respectively.
An away trip to 12th-placed Ancona is next, and there are a couple of enforced changes, with Chiotis and N’Diaye in for Frey and Said, and Källström gets the nod in central midfield ahead of Nikiforenko.
We draw first blood after 34 minutes through a Selakovic penalty as Ancona keeper Orlandoni is sent off, and we keep the lead until half time. The strikers are struggled, but I’ll give them until the hour to wake up.
The second half doesn’t start ideally as Ancona equalise from a corner. Lundén is off for Tsigalko and Selakovic is injured and replaced by Bakircioglü. With the final whistle close, Ancona score what looks like a late winner, until Tsigalko gets his first Aces goal to equalise a minute later, and just as I’m retaking my seat, up pops Taribo West to snatch all three points. Football, bloody hell.
Only Verona are level with us now, and we play them soon. Selakovic is out for a few weeks after suffering a fractured wrist in that match.
One of the players I gave an 01/02 stats upgrade to is Wilfred Bouma, and he’s reaping the rewards as Real Madrid sign him for £3.9m. You’re welcome, Wilf.
I accept a loan offer from Wigan for Cherno Samba, and hopefully it can be the start of a bright future for him.
Next up it’s third-placed Lucchese. Frey, Kerr and Said have all recovered but aren’t fully fit. Lundén starts on the right wing, and Tsigalko is up front.
It’s goals aplenty in an action-packed first half as we lead 3-1 via a brace from Lundén, who’s loving life on the wing, and a Tsigalko strike. Lucchese pull one back with 15 minutes left to send our nerves jangling, but we see out the game, with Moukoko making his debut for the last 10 minutes.
Risp is injured for a month, Frey and Hofland get senior international call-ups, and on a personal note, I scoop the September manager of the month award, which is nice.
Salernitana are our next opponents, and hopefully their league position of 13th isn’t an unlucky omen. They own future Man City legend, Danny Tiatto, and have held onto Marco Di Vaio, who may cause us problems. Kerr is fully fit and replaces Källström, and I gamble on Frey who’s 83% fit.
After a few good starts, we were due a bad one and trail 2-0 at half time. My gamble on Frey has backfired, so Chiotis is on for the second half. Lundén is injured and replaced by Bakircioglü. We pull one back through Aghahowa on 56, but comeback hopes are dashed as Di Vaio gets his second on 61 before completing his hat trick in stoppage time.
So that’s the first league defeat out of the way, but we stay top. Lazio are the latest team to bid for Selakovic, but I’m not selling.
A chance to immediately bounce back now as we welcome lowly Ravenna, who Roberto Baggio’s younger brother Eddie plays for. We’ve conceded ten goals in four games, and this has coincided with Hofland’s injury, so I’m glad he’s back today for Klompe. Frey is back in goal, and João Paiva is amongst the subs for the first time.
It’s 2-0 at half time, with goals from Aghahowa and Lundén. The second half is much the same as Aghahowa gets another, and Madeira scores his first in five matches. Aghahowa is man of the match with a 10/10 rating, and Paiva makes a late debut. The defence definitely felt the Hofland effect.
Some others to benefit from stats upgrades are Watford’s Tommy Smith, who joins Fulham for £4.1m, and Luca Toni who Milan sign from Brescia for £9.75m, what a difference four years makes.
Verona have slipped to 10th. Their star man, Jonathan Binnotto used to get snapped up by a big club in the original version, but doesn’t so much on the patch. They also have Paolo Vanoli, who will go on to join Rangers. Selakovic returns so Lunden moves up front to replace Madeira, who has a fractured wrist.
It’s a quiet first half despite twelve efforts on goal from us. Verona lead early in the second half, and despite a further five attempts, we can’t score and are made to pay in the last minute as Verona score again. The loss sees us dethroned on goal difference by Padova.
Selakovic is clearly a man in demand as Inter bid £9.75m, but my stance doesn’t change.
A chance to get back on track at home to Reggina (not to be confused with Reggiana). Their midfielder, Simone Perrotta has a fantastic career ahead of him where he’ll play for Juventus and Roma, and even win the World Cup! but I won’t tell him and ruin the surprise. Madeira returns to partner Lundén up front and Tsigalko moves to the bench.
Our opponents take an early lead and it could easily be two or three by the time we hit back with three goals in as many minutes to lead 3-1 at half time. It takes Madeira just 15 second half minutes to complete his second hat trick of the season, and the last action of the match is a red card for N’Diaye just past the hour. A great win nonetheless.
Struggling Fidelis Andria are our last opponents of this episode. Their young centre back, Gianmarco Frezza usually becomes a good player, but I’m unfamiliar with the rest of their squad. We’re unchanged from the Reggina rout.
Selakovic puts us ahead from the spot on 3 minutes, and Lundén strikes on 20 to double our lead, and the score stays the same for the rest of the match. There really is nothing else to report. Two goals, a clean sheet and three points, beautifully simple!
So we top the table after ten games, two points clear of Cagliari and Verona. We’re leading the way on goals scored, and our goals conceded column looks about par for the course, so I’ll take that.
Madeira has the most goals (10) and assists (4) for the team. His value started at £750k and is now £1.3m, so he’s improving. Hofland and Aghahowa are our top performers, with average ratings of 8, and Samba has scored two goals for Wigan in nine games with an average rating of 7.33, so he’s doing ok.
So that’s it for part 2. We play rock-bottom Venezia next, but then face Genoa, Padova and Cagliari all in a row, which will definitely be a test. See you all next week!