JOURNEYMAN (TAKE TWO) – PRE-SEASON AND THE EURO CUP 2

Club 2 – Lechia Gdansk

Transfers

We were given a big chunk of change to spend over the summer. iven a big chunk of change to spend over the summer. £4.5 million to spend and a good increase to the wage, I went straight to work and signed Legia’s 20-year-old goalkeeper Cezary Miszta. The young keeper is a significant upgrade on the goalkeeper we were playing and meets the rule of one under 22 player on the pitch, £650k up front rising to £1.4 over time is actually less than I initially offered in the February window when I first went in for him. A very pleasing transfer.

I made another relatively cheap deal at the same time as Miszta and brought in some depth at LWB, Damjan Danicic comes in from Rakow for £250k rising to £500k. Whether the full £500k is ever met while I’m here is yet to be seen.

Other than in goal, which I addressed first, I’m pretty happy with the squad, so without a significant upgrade or opportunity, I wasn’t looking to spend much of the budget we had. We did upgrade at centre-half, with Lorenco Simic coming in for just £150k. Physically excellent, he looks like he’ll be a threat from set-pieces too.

Our final signing of the window was a regen/newgen (whichever you prefer) RB/RWB was a spot that needed a backup, and this guy ticked all the boxes, excellent mentals at just 18. Once trained as a wing-back, Marinko Cerovic will make for excellent cover.

EURO Cup 2

The first round draw saw us pitted against Bosnian Premier Division side, FK Radnik Bijeljina. A quick look through their team suggests we should be okay in this one. With the minimum objective to reach the group stage set by the board, we can’t afford any slip ups in these qualifiers.

We all but wrapped up the opening round inside the first half, 4-0 up at half-time in the opener meant it was a great chance to get some minutes in for some of the squad players. It ended 4-0 in the first leg. A 1-1 draw away with a rotated side sees us still go comfortably through to the next round.

The draw has been, unkind shall we say. A familiar name after beating Man United in the Champions League recently, we’re up against İstanbul Başakşehir F.K. With Bad Dost up front, Kevin Kampl in mid-field, Visca out wide, and former Man Utd player Rafael (to name a few), I feel like we’re up against it in the second qualifying round.

We secure a huge 2-1 victory away in the first-leg. Goals from wingers Duljevic and Haydary give us an excellent platform to take a big scalp in the EURO Cup 2. We manage to pull of a 1-1 draw at home putting us through! A big goal from striker Schettine means we’ve pulled off an early round upset! Up next it’s Torpedo Zhodino of Belarus, 19 games into their season currently top of the league but looking through the side seem a level below what we just played!

A comfortable 4-1 home win leave us in a strong position going into the second leg against Torpedo, goals coming from Duljevic, Sabaly, Kubici and Simic. With a rotated side in the second leg we dropped off in level from the first leg and lose 3-2 away, we go through 6-4 on aggregate, but a disappointing second leg.

In the final qualifier we face off against Austrian giants, Austria Vienna, a side with a better rep than ourselves. A quick look through their side and I’m feeling better than initially at the time of the draw, it looks like it could be a well contested tie.

It was bad news soon after the draw as new first choice goalkeeper Miszta picked up a month long injury, meaning last seasons stand in youngster Mirus will have to stand in.

We pull off a spectacular performance in the opening leg, conceding no away goals feels huge, we win 2-0 thanks to a brace from centre-half and summer signing Lorenco Simic. 90 minutes away from the EURO Cup 2 group stage!

With a healthy transfer budget I went big towards the end of the window. Transfer-listed Raphael Holzhauser comes in to add some quality in the middle of the park. With exceptional technical and mental attributes I feel Raphael can add a certain spark in the side, while also allowing us to have very good depth in the middle of the park

We lose away 1-0 at Vienna, a defensive masterclass from the back 4 which saw blocks and last ditch headed clearances, we are into the group stages! A nice £2.66 million in the bank for securing group stages certainly helps the finances, the group itself looks fun, Standard, Sturm Graz and Krasondar offer us a good chance of qualification, all reputable sides, but by no means the toughest we could have got with the likes of Tottenham and Roma in the competition.

We’ve also been playing in the league, currently 3rd after 7 games we’ve made a brilliant start so far, with Legia and Lech stuttering out of the blocks, we’ve given ourselves a great start at maybe challenging for the title.

UP NEXT… END OF GROUP STAGE & MID-SEASON REVIEW

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