The Welsh Gull

Torquay United, the Football League and other stuff

FM13 at Mladost: 2013-14 Preview

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My second season at Mladost beckons. My application for CFR Cluj failed, which isn’t such a bad thing as the wage budget I was given was enormous compared to the players I can realistically attract, meaning I have a massive block of wage budget which I haven’t used – the 25 player limit to squads means I probably won’t use it for anything other than the mass of contract extensions towards the end of the season. I’ve also been allowed to bring in more staff to help with training – the players had been upset all year about the fitness training, so I’ve now signed two excellent fitness coaches which should help the players last during matches, something that was a bit of an issue last season.

But even though I’ve been allowed this spending, thanks to the larger prize money, increased sponsorship and TV money from playing in the top division, it still feels like a bit of a gamble – obviously there’s no guarantee we’ll stay up. I’m predicted to finish 15th, though I don’t think that this has anything to do with the signings I’ve made.

At the end of last season, I allowed 6 players to leave, including my captain and club legend Radojica Vasic, attacking midfielder Ivan Jovanovic, and both my goalkeepers, Slobodan Jankovic and Vladimir Lukic. This had always been planned even if I hadn’t been relegated, as most either weren’t up to the task or weren’t good enough any more – Jovanovic and Vasic’s performances dropped over the course of the season and my coaches were telling me they were past their peak. Meanwhile Jankovic, my regular keeper, made several mistakes and was probably out of his depth even in the First League. Further to that, I also sold midfielder Nemanja Stojanovic and left-back Joseph Kizito, who made the First League Team of the Year, for a combined total of £54,000 as neither were really cut out for the SuperLeague.

Some of these moves have been quite controversial with the fans, particularly allowing Vasic and Jovanovic to leave and selling Kizito. Perhaps I should have given them a chance, Kizito in particular, but I feel I have enough depth in those positions, and I’m restricted to 25 players in any case – I can afford better now.

And better is what I’ve got. I’ve concentrated on free signings and in particular more technical players. With the foreign player limit in the SuperLeague being 4 players in the match day squad (as opposed to 2 in the First League), I went a bit mad signing South Americans. In have come Argentine playmaker Roberto Carboni, Brazilian winger Edson Barbosa, Brazilian midfielder Alex Silva, and Brazil-born Bulgarian international midfielder Tiago Silva. I also signed young Russian keeper Andrey Zaitsev to be my new number 1, which means I can only pick three of the above in a squad at the same time, unless I go with Velimir Zdravkovic, my experienced number 2 keeper, whose kicking is excellent but reflexes are a bit shit. I’ve also strengthened my young defence with a couple of experienced centre-backs, Darko Savic and Milan Bogunovic, while young Partizan left-back Stefan Milosevic has returned for a second loan spell.

But all of this is relatively low key compared to my most recent signing. I didn’t really need another striker, as Grujicic, Washington and Betolngar are already OK and competing for 1 spot up front. But then I noticed that Serbia international Marko Pantelic was a free agent, having been released by Olympiakos, and seemingly no one was interested. The scout report suggested he wouldn’t be interested, and when I opened negotiations, he did the usual “this is going to have to be an amazing offer to persuade me to join”. But amazingly he accepted my offer.

Pantelic is vastly experienced, having picked up 44 caps and represented Serbia at the 2010 World Cup. He’s 34, so he is past his peak physically, but his finishing is still very good for this level. This is actually the first time he has played in Serbia since 2005, when he left Red Star for Hertha BSC. He’s easily the most renowned signing this club has ever made, and I’m a bit disappointed that it hasn’t sparked the usual surge of shirt sales that you often get from hiring big-name players. Whether or not he starts banging in the goals is going to make the difference to how well we do this season.

My aims for this season are to avoid relegation and do reasonably well in the cup – the board has set an aim of the quarter-finals, which might be tough considering we have to start at the Second Qualifying Round again. But if we can avoid the drop, which I’m confident we will (we need 8 wins, which, given the quality of player we have, shouldn’t be a problem), I’d quite like to push on and finish mid-table, though because it’s such a short season and competitive league, it may be close anyway – 9 points separated 9th with relegated 15th last season. This is a season for stabilisation, before a crack at the European places the following season if we stay up.

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Written by James Bennett

June 2, 2013 at 12:50

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