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Silver_blue just bit me!


Donners

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It was a lovely day by Melbourne standards. We had only gone through two snap thunderstorms between the hours of blazing sunshine. If only things were as calm on the training track.

Coach Ruckus, having grown tired of the players’ refusal to follow his commands (particularly new recruit JonoJB, who sat drooling on the touchline), was chasing several of them around with a baseball bat (why he had such an object at soccer training, I did not dare to question). They were soon forced to flee a different foe, as Alias Hunter v.4.0 – our android striker – had apparently escaped Kris Dorey’s control. Again. I had thought having a striker with super-human strength and the ability to breathe fire on opponents would be useful, but I doubted the groundskeeper would be too pleased when the saw the damage AH had done to his precious pitch.

Things were not much better in the stands. Scores of our loyal fans – “The GQersâ€, as they called themselves – brawled with each other and, occasionally, with themselves (think of Jim Carey in Liar, Liar). I took a few steps closer to discover what the problem was this time, but just as I made out the words “bugsâ€, “dud patch†“SI are gods†and “Freddie Aduâ€, I felt a hand grasp my shoulder. It was my lumbering assistant coach Raptor, who looked quite upset.

“Silver_blue just bit me!†he exclaimed, rubbing his neck.

Once again my coach had confused his fantasy life with reality. I noticed him standing some distance away and called out to him, but with a swish of his cloak and a barely audible hiss, he turned away.

I moved to follow him, but was interrupted by a stream of players running towards me. Fearing they would lead AH in my direction, I prepared to run with them, but stopped as I heard a deafening “GRUNT!†The players, having also heard this, stopped running and turned to watch another epic battle, in the style of various crazy Japanese movies, between AH and KEANEZILLA, who was already growling something along the lines of “ROBBIE PANSY SAVAGE GRUNT!â€

I sighed. The saddest thing was that this was the best training session we’d had.

Hello and welcome to my third story in CMS – and first without CM 00/01 and Rushden. I’m not quite sure how to explain the opening. I came up with an idea for an effort that was somewhat more creative than my previous ones, but as you can see I probably went a bit too far. Not only did it take me a fair while to write, it’s also filled with assorted OTF references that many here simply may not get. As such, the rest of this story will be written in my usual style. Admittedly, this renders the opening rather pointless, but I just wanted an excuse to keep that title. icon_wink.gif

Since my previous two stories covered a 21-season reign at Rushden, ended only by a corrupted save game, I’ve decided to go for something totally different here. I have decided to manage Ancona, an apparently semi-professional side that has snuck into Serie A. I’ve never heard of the players or club and don’t know any of the Italian league rules, so this should be a learning experience if nothing else. Considering IRL they haven’t won a league game to date and are only averaging a goal every second game, this hopefully won’t be as easy as a couple of practice CM 03/04 games I ran through…

I’m writing this as I play, and since I’m new to the game and team, this may be a bit of a mess for the first couple of days. I’ll try to stick to roughly the same format as my previous stories, without being too restrictive.

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It was a lovely day by Melbourne standards. We had only gone through two snap thunderstorms between the hours of blazing sunshine. If only things were as calm on the training track.

Coach Ruckus, having grown tired of the players’ refusal to follow his commands (particularly new recruit JonoJB, who sat drooling on the touchline), was chasing several of them around with a baseball bat (why he had such an object at soccer training, I did not dare to question). They were soon forced to flee a different foe, as Alias Hunter v.4.0 – our android striker – had apparently escaped Kris Dorey’s control. Again. I had thought having a striker with super-human strength and the ability to breathe fire on opponents would be useful, but I doubted the groundskeeper would be too pleased when the saw the damage AH had done to his precious pitch.

Things were not much better in the stands. Scores of our loyal fans – “The GQersâ€, as they called themselves – brawled with each other and, occasionally, with themselves (think of Jim Carey in Liar, Liar). I took a few steps closer to discover what the problem was this time, but just as I made out the words “bugsâ€, “dud patch†“SI are gods†and “Freddie Aduâ€, I felt a hand grasp my shoulder. It was my lumbering assistant coach Raptor, who looked quite upset.

“Silver_blue just bit me!†he exclaimed, rubbing his neck.

Once again my coach had confused his fantasy life with reality. I noticed him standing some distance away and called out to him, but with a swish of his cloak and a barely audible hiss, he turned away.

I moved to follow him, but was interrupted by a stream of players running towards me. Fearing they would lead AH in my direction, I prepared to run with them, but stopped as I heard a deafening “GRUNT!†The players, having also heard this, stopped running and turned to watch another epic battle, in the style of various crazy Japanese movies, between AH and KEANEZILLA, who was already growling something along the lines of “ROBBIE PANSY SAVAGE GRUNT!â€

I sighed. The saddest thing was that this was the best training session we’d had.

Hello and welcome to my third story in CMS – and first without CM 00/01 and Rushden. I’m not quite sure how to explain the opening. I came up with an idea for an effort that was somewhat more creative than my previous ones, but as you can see I probably went a bit too far. Not only did it take me a fair while to write, it’s also filled with assorted OTF references that many here simply may not get. As such, the rest of this story will be written in my usual style. Admittedly, this renders the opening rather pointless, but I just wanted an excuse to keep that title. icon_wink.gif

Since my previous two stories covered a 21-season reign at Rushden, ended only by a corrupted save game, I’ve decided to go for something totally different here. I have decided to manage Ancona, an apparently semi-professional side that has snuck into Serie A. I’ve never heard of the players or club and don’t know any of the Italian league rules, so this should be a learning experience if nothing else. Considering IRL they haven’t won a league game to date and are only averaging a goal every second game, this hopefully won’t be as easy as a couple of practice CM 03/04 games I ran through…

I’m writing this as I play, and since I’m new to the game and team, this may be a bit of a mess for the first couple of days. I’ll try to stick to roughly the same format as my previous stories, without being too restrictive.

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The Game

I’m running CM 03/04 with the 4.1.4 patch and “Debug Modeâ€, using the CMD database update with many of my own corrections to try and get it accurate up to February 1. My nationality is Australian and my favourite club is Rushden.

The following leagues are active, with a Medium database:

England (D3+)

France (First League only)

Germany (First Division only)

Italy (C1/A+)

Spain (2D+)

The game will use the English start of 13/7/03 to give me time to get familiar with my side.

The Club

Ancona is at National level, but is apparently only regarded as semi-professional. Our stadium, Del Conero, has a capacity of 23,983. We have £2M in the bank, with £1.6M available for transfers. I have been advised to battle bravely against relegation.

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The Squad

Wage Budget: £100,000

Total Weekly Wages at 13/7/03: £151,882

Frighteningly enough, Ancona has 97 players in the squad. Considering this is my first serious CM4 series game, this is pretty overwhelming, especially when I don’t know any of them. Being £50K over the wage budget is not an ideal situation either.

Here are profiles on those who seem to be part of my first team plans at this point (early June 2003). Naturally there may be additions or subtractions to this list over the pre-season, but I thought it best to give you an overview of what I have started with, so you understand my transfer strategy in the pre-season.

Goalkeepers

Magnus Hedman [30, GK, SWE – 53/0] *On loan from Celtic until 29/6/04

Unfortunately, our #1 keeper is only on loan. Hedmanis a very, very good keeper – solid, agile and reliable. Unfortunately, he is on £18K per week, which is a fair chunk of our budget. If I do decide to hang on to him, he will have an important role helping us to avoid relegation. However, it is important we don’t become too dependant on him, as he will be gone at the end of the year.

Sergio Marcon [32, GK, ITA]

Our backup keeper is also reasonably solid, but not as talented as Hedman. Most of his experience comes from clubs below Serie A, so his ability to handle the goalkeeping position in a fight to avoid relegation is questionable.

Defenders

Dario Baccin [26, D/DM RLC, ITA]

A versatile player, but not a particularly talented one. He will likely be used only to fill holes at the back when necessary.

Bilica [24, Sw/D C, BRA]

A tall and powerful centre back, the briefly named Bilica has spent his professional career in Italy, so at least there won’t be any problems with him settling in. Unfortunately, he is regarded as rather unsporting [thanks, Debug Mode] and is quite aggressive, so run-ins with the referees may be frequent. He does at least like striker Milan Rapaic.

Drazin Bolic [31, D RC, CRO – 7/0]

The Croatian international defender is tall and strong, but it’s hard to see him finding a regular spot in the side. Right and centre back are already well covered, and he is not a particularly able player.

Marco Esposito [23, D LC, ITA]

A quite pacy player, left back seems the most likely spot for Esposito. He has no experience in Serie A, so it is unclear how well he will cope in the big time.

Mauro Milanese [31, D LC, ITA]

One of our better players, Milanese has plenty of experience and is tough, strong and still reasonably quick. He is the most obvious choice for a centre back position alongside Bilica or Sartor, and will likely be the side’s captain in the absence of any stand-out contenders.

Luigi Sartor [28, D RC, ITA – 2/0]

Sartor is an important player in this side. He has been a semi-regular at the likes of Inter, Parma and Roma for the last few years, and has two Italian caps to his name, clearly making him an important part of our defence. Much of our fate will depend on his performance.

Sean Luca Sogliano [32, D RC, ITA]

A hard-working dendeer, Sogliano is an admirer of striker Milan Rapaic (like many others in the side) and is one of the few players in the senior side to be signed up on a reasonably long contract (until 2006). A rotation role at the back is likely.

Luciano Zavagno [25, D L, ARG]

Holds an Italian passport, so there are no work permit issues (if, indeed, there are any in Italy anyway – I really wouldn’t know). He is not especially talented, and will probably be behind Esposito in the contest for left back. Zavgano also thinks determined defender Mauro Milanese takes himself too seriously, which is a bit of a worry. We need all our players, especially the defenders, to try their very hardest this season.

Midfielders

Daniele Berretta [31, DM RC, ITA]

An experienced and reasonably well-rounded midfielder, Berretta will probably struggle to hold down a place at Ancona due to the number of very similar players already at the club.

Davide Carrus [24, DM RC, ITA]

Another well-rounded midfielder, Carrus is much younger than Berretta but will likely also struggle to hold down a spot. He is certainly behind the two on-loan midfielders, at least.

Daniel Jerry Andersson [25, DM C, SWE – 30/0] *On loan from Palermo until 1/7/04

A reasonable midfielder, Swedish international Andersson is a hard-working professional who should be a reliable part of our midfield this season. He will be the first choice to take penalties.

Dino Baggio [31, DM C, ITA – 60/7] *On loan from Lazio until 1/7/04

Baggio is unfortunately a very difficult player to deal with. While with experience at the likes of Inter, Parma, Juventus and Lazio and plenty of international caps to his name he should be a very useful player to have in our fight to avoid relegation, we are also stuck paying £28.5K per week for his wages. Considering we are £50K over the budget with not much money in the bank, this is a huge concern. I have yet to decide what to do with him, but will look at other options both within the club (seeing how other midfielders go in the friendlies) and without (seeing if I can loan a decent midfielder for less).

Daniele Daino [23, D/DM RL, ITA]

A reasonably good young player, Daino disturbingly wants a better contract (he is only on £725K per week) already. We seem to be quite strong on both sides of defence, so a wing role may be more appropriate for him.

Roberto Goretti [27, DM RC, ITA]

Yet another defensive midfielder at the club, Goretti is probably the pick of those not on loan. He doesn’t have much pace and isn’t overly skilled, but he has enough stamina and creativity to be a useful part of our midfield.

Giampiero Maini [31, AM LC, ITA – 1/0]

Though past his prime, Maini is still a tough, dependable midfielder who could be useful on a rotational basis.

Goran Pandev [20, F RLC, MAC]

Though better suited to a forward position, our excess of players there combined with Pandev’s versatility may result in a role in the midfield. Unfortunately he isn’t much of a passer, but is determined and has a bit of pace.

Marko Perovic [31, DM C, SER – 3/0]

The Serbian midfielder is rather sluggish, but can always be counted on to put in a good effort. You need a bit more than that to succeed in Serie A, but it is at least a start.

Vincenzo Sommese [27, AM RC, ITA]

Another player who could wind up on the fringe of the side, Sommese has pace and works hard, but doesn’t really have the class I want to see in my midfield.

Forwards

Christian Bucchi [26, S C, ITA]

One of the better players at Ancona, Bucchi is a very useful target striker who could put through plenty from set pieces. He’s gone through a number of clubs in only a few years, but hopefully will stay here long enough to make an impact.

Daniele Degano [20, F LC, ITA] *Co-owned by Parma until 17/6/05

Uh oh, the co-ownership thing I know nothing about has reared its ugly head. It looks like I’m able to use Degano, but he’s not really first team material yet. He’ll start the season in the Under-20 side.

Mauritzo Ganz [34, F LC, ITA]

Ganz was on the transfer list when I arrived, but I’ve taken him off and moved him into the senior squad. Though he hasn’t really been a good scorer for the better part of a decade, he still seems to possess enough ability to contribute on occasion to the side. With our limited forwards, that’s actually a pretty strong endorsement. One of the more likely choices for captain in a pretty weak field.

Corrado Grabbi [27, S C, ITA]

A veteran of a number of clubs, Grabbi is another reasonably talented forward who will have a lot of work to do for Ancona this season. It’s hard to see him putting through too many goals in Serie A, but for £13.5K per week, he’d better do something.

Jardel [29, S C, BRA – 6/1] *On loan from Bolton until 29/6/04

Like Hedman and Baggio, Jardel leaves me in a very difficult position. On the one hand he is a very talented striker with an incredible scoring record. On the other, he costs £30K per week – almost 1/3 of my entire wage budget. I’m still not sure which way to go on any of them.

Paolo Poggi [32, F RLC, ITA]

A veteran with a fairly low scoring record, Poggi is not likely to be among our frontline strikers. He does still have a bit of pace, but that’s about it.

Milan Rapaic [29, F LC, CRO – 31/4]

A favourite of many players in my side, Rapaic has an important role as a key forward for Ancona. Unfortunately, he is known to be unsporting and is not a good finisher. He is, however, very good when it comes to set pieces, and is on a mere £180K per week.

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All Up…

It is, unsurprisingly, a pretty weak squad I’ve been left with to try and survive in one of the strongest leagues in the world. I’m quite happy with the two goalkeepers I have, but the fact that one is only on loan (and may need to be returned) is a problem. Defence is probably our strongest aspect, and it will certainly need to be with the likes of Nakata, Inzaghi, Vieri, Recoba and Del Piero running around. Our midfield is okay, but with two of our key players there on loan, we will be in a lot of trouble should they be recalled (or, in the case of Baggio, sent back due to excessive wages). Up forward is the worry, While our back half may be good enough to hold opponents to only a few goals, I really doubt we can score enough to win many games. We have a lot of forwards who are decent players, but nobody outside of Jardel who is really good enough to take control of a game. Sporadic scoring from them is likely the best we can get.

The Likely Side:

(Playing with a straight 4-4-2, and assuming Baggio and Jardel are returned)

GK – Magnus Hedman

LB – Marco Esposito

CB – Mauro Milanese

CB – Bilica

RB – Luigi Sartor

LM – Giampero Maini

CM – Vincenzo Sommese

CM – Daniel Jerry Andersson

RM – Daniele Daino

CF – Milan Rapaic

CF – Christian Bucci

Sub – Sergio Marcon

Sub – Dario Baccin

Sub – Maurizio Ganz

Sub – Davide Carrus

Sub – Roberto Goretti

Sub – Corrado Grabbi

Sub – Luciano Zavagano

The Staff

Antonio Vallongo (Assistant Manager)

Andrea Mazzantini (Coach)

Stefano Protti (Coach)

Massimo Persico (Coach)

Paolo Casale (Coach)

Carlo Tebi (Coach)

Aureilo Pinazza (Coach)

Marco Bozzi (Coach)

Antonio Rota (Coach)

Mauro Minnozzi (Coach)

Paolo Minciotti (Physio)

Salvatore Gnisci (Physio)

Massimo D’Ambrosio (Physio)

Oscar Alberto Bernardini (Scout)

Pozzo (!) (Scout)

Erling Andre Basile (Scout)

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Thanks, my lumbering assistant. icon_smile.gif

The Strategy

All I am concerned with in the 03/04 season is survival. If we are still in Serie A in 04/05, then I have done my job. Whether we can do it or not is unclear. I will not be overly defensive in the first few weeks, since my forwards need opportunities to score, but if we are getting hammered early, then I may switch to defensive tactics, possibly pushing a central midfielder back to defensive midfield.

As for the transfer market, I don’t think I will be too busy. We are too far over the wage budget to be thinking about buying anybody, and besides with survival the focus, I would need to get somebody who could make an immediate impact. Considering we’re in Serie A, that somebody wouldn’t come cheap. Loan signings are my best bet, but they would have to be pretty cheap. If I were to get a player on loan, a striker would be my first target, followed by a central midfielder.

Pre-season, 2003/2004

My first order of business was to clear up some of my roster, starting with players on loan. 19-year-old forward Goran Pandev, 26-year-old defender Stefano Lombardi, 19-year-old defender Marco Di Porzio, 18-year-old midfielder Andrea Di Tora, 16-year-old forward Tancredi Strocchi and 16-year-old keeper Massimo Zallocco were returned to Inter, Inter, Roma, Inter, Ravenna and Maceratese respectively. I’m not interested in buying young players with such a large squad already, and these players would not have had a place in the first team side. Their wages were insignificant, but at least they clear up a bit of room.

Wow, three hours in and I finally get to hit the “Continue†button! My first external action was to make a loan approach for young Romanian international midfielder Tiberiu Ghioane of Dinamo Kiev as a replacement for Baggio. Unfortunately, while my offer was accepted, the player rejected the move. Rats. The biggest problem was that there really were no obvious targets after Ghioane. Leicester’s Matthew Jones and Middlesbrough’s Carlos Marinelli were the only notable midfielders up for loan after Ghioane, and they did not really appear good enough to justify bringing them over for the season. The worst bit is that I had two good midfielders in my squad already – Francesco Montervino and Damiano Moscardi, but they were out on loan for the season and couldn’t be recalled. Argh!

Nonetheless, I finally decided that there was no point retaining Dino Baggio and Jardel on loan. While they may well have been very useful, there is just no justification for two players taking up more than half of the wage budget. I sent them back to Lazio and Bolton respectively and continued to look for replacements. Amazingly, we’ve gone from being £50K over the wage budget to £9K under in less than a week. At least now I have some room to move, though my side is weaker without those two players. I have managed to hang on to Hedman, which should certainly help.

My first signing for Ancona was a rather interesting one – a promising youngster by the name of Freddie Adu.

Freddie Adu [14, AM/F C, USA]

Is he just hype or can he be a valuable player for the club? On a youth contract of just £350K per week, I really can’t go too wrong. He agreed terms with us over Betis, Lazio and Real Madrid, at least partly thanks to a promise of first team football. That may have been a bit of a fib on my part, but I think he may get a run. He’s only here on a one-year contract, but hopefully he’ll have a good time here and will be willing to re-sign. The manual said something about getting money for bringing up young players, so hopefully this will be profitable in the long run even if he does move on. If somebody could tell me how this works, it’d be much appreciated. I know it seems a bit cheesy to sign somebody like this, but I did it fairly, and since the odds are totally against me (not aided by the ridiculous wages of some of the on-loan players at the club, not to mention the fact that I can’t recall my own players), I’ll take any advantage I can get.

My next signing was a rather more conventional one – midfielder Alessio Scarchilli on a free transfer.

Alessio Scarchilli [30, AM LC, ITA]

Picked up on a one-year contract for just £550 per week, I’m hopeful Scarchilli will be able to contribute something to the side. My assistant, Antonio Vallongo, was lukewarm on the deal, but you can’t really go wrong with such a low wage. Scarchilli is very, very good when it comes to passing, and should be able to create a few chances for our forwards which other midfielders wouldn’t be able to. In the “likely sideâ€, you can make him a direct swap for Sommese, as I expect him to be a first team midfielder in spite of my assistant’s objections.

I also had a go at Italian forward Arturo Di Napoli, but he wound up agreeing terms with Genoa ahead of us. Similarly, Romanian international defender Iulian Filipesco decided to join Salamanca rather than Ancona. Meanwhile, Reggina was unwilling to let us have Brazilian midfielder Mozart without paying a significant part of his wages, so I gave up on that deal. Finally, Middlesbrough’s striker Massimo Maccarone and Dinamo Kiev’s midfielder Badr El Kadouri made it quite clear they didn’t want to come over on a loan to Ancona. The senior squad list, in order of position at the side:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">1st in Italian Serie A

Squad Screen

| Pkd | Inf | Name | Squad Status | Basic Wage | Contract Expiry | Offer Options | Asking Price |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB6 | | Adu, F | First Team | £350 | 31.8.2004 | None | N/A |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| MR | | Daino, D | First Team | £725 | 30.6.2006 | None | £1.2M |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DL | | Esposito, M | First Team | £325 | 30.6.2007 | None | £450K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| GK | | Hedman, M | First Team | £18,000 | 29.6.2004 | None | £1.6M |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DC | | Milanese, M | First Team | £3,300 | 30.6.2005 | None | £500K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| FC | | Rapaic, M* | First Team | £180 | 1.7.2005 | None | £3.1M |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DR | | Sartor, L | First Team | £12,500 | 30.6.2004 | None | £1.2M |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| FC | | Bucchi, C | Rotation | £700 | 1.7.2005 | None | £2.8M |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB4 | | Goretti, R | Rotation | £5,000 | 30.6.2004 | None | £900K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Pandev, G | Rotation | £475 | 30.6.2007 | None | £900K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| MC | | Scarchilli, A | Rotation | £550 | 31.8.2004 | None | £220K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Sommese, V | Rotation | £3,700 | 30.6.2007 | None | £2.1M |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB5 | | Zavagno, L | Rotation | £6,000 | 30.6.2007 | None | £625K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| MC | | Andersson, D | Backup | £5,000 | 1.7.2004 | None | £1.5M |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB2 | | Baccin, D | Backup | £425 | 30.6.2005 | None | £325K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Berretta, D | Backup | £8,000 | 30.6.2004 | None | £525K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DC | | Bilica | Backup | £500 | 30.6.2006 | None | £1.1M |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Bolic, D | Backup | £50 | 30.6.2004 | None | £325K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Wnt | Carrus, D | Backup | £575 | 30.6.2005 | None | £950K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB3 | | Ganz, M* | Backup | £700 | 30.6.2004 | None | £120K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB7 | | Grabbi, C | Backup | £13,250 | 30.6.2007 | None | £1.4M |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| ML | | Maini, G* | Backup | £650 | 30.6.2004 | None | £975K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB1 | | Marcon, S | Backup | £250 | 30.6.2004 | None | £500K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Perovic, M | Backup | £475 | 30.6.2004 | None | £450K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Poggi, P | Backup | £5,000 | 30.6.2005 | None | £210K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Sogliano, S | Backup | £1,900 | 1.8.2006 | None | £230K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

Did I mention how much I hate the new printing system? It looks ugly and doesn’t provide anywhere near as much info as the old one did. If I could customize what was shown (ie. selecting which specific columns were displayed rather than a general category), then it could be useful, but no. Why should the user actually be given any practical say in what they can produce? The old system may have not allowed much variation in tables, but at least they were comprehensive. Why stuff around with something that worked perfectly well? Sigh… Oh, and just while I’m complaining, the next two months have been written three times. The first time I was going reasonably well, and played for around three hours, writing over 1,000 words. I finally quit the game in mid-September, and clicked on “Yes†out of habit, not realising until it was too late that the screen that had come up when I tried to quit did not contain the usual prompt to save the game, and thus I lost all that work. It saved normally the next few times, so when I got to mid-August the second time and went to quit again I automatically clicked on “yesâ€. Bang went another two weeks of game time – thankfully I hadn’t been playing too long this time, or it would have been much worse.

Anyway, my first match in charge of Ancona (this time around) was a friendly against Serie B side Venezia. Bilica was lucky not to get a card for an elbow to the face in the opening minute. Good old 4.1.4 – that would have been a patch a few weeks ago. It’d be nice if they came up with another cardable offence though, because I seem to see that one all the time. Midfielder Giampiero Maini was injured just before the end of the scoreless first half. Paolo Poggi scored a tip-in just after the break and Corrado Grabbi gave Maurizio Ganz the sealer in the final minutes. Thankfully, Maini turned out to only have a minor knee injury.

We had a chance to match that decent showing with a game against another Serie B side, Napoli, but it turned out to be a dour 0-0 draw with nothing of note occurring.

A rather easier game, against Serie C1/A side Padova followed. Christian Bucchi scored early and that was the final result. Worryingly, we had plenty of chances but did not convert them often enough. Against a Serie A powerhouse, that will really hurt us. Not a bad trifecta of friendlies, with one more to go, but things will be very different once we face off against the monsters in the league.

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August, season 2003/2004

At last, it’s time for the real stuff. Well, not quite. We’re actually starting the season with the Italian Cup. Our first match was against Piacenza, a Serie B side. Just 11 minutes in we were in trouble, with temperamental defender Bilica sent off for a second yellow card. Piacenza took advantage and hit the opener in the 30th. For the final twenty minutes I brought on Corrado Grabbi for Giampiero Maini with Grabbi playing as a striker and Rapaic moved to attacking midfield. It almost had an immediate impact, with Rapaic firing in a shot from inside the box, but he was on a tight angle and the ball went just past the outside of the post. It looked like we were headed for a 0-1 loss, but with just two minutes left in the game, Rapaic sent out a long pass to have Grabbi one-on-one with the keeper, who had run out of the area. The keeper tried to run back, but Grabbi flicked it over him for a dramatic equaliser. 1-1 the final score.

We managed to sneak in a friendly against Fiorentina between the cup games, where I gave some of the fringe players a run. Less than twenty minutes into the game they’d scored two wonderful goals. The first came about in the 11th, with Bolic, Berretta and Carrus passing the ball back and forth before a lovely through pass for Ganz to finish the move. The second also involved Berretta, who turned and drilled in a perfect through ball for Ganz, who this time passed off to Daino for the simple finish. Fiorentina looked much better in the second half, putting through two in as many minutes early in the half, though the latter was ruled offside. Freddie Adu came on in the 64th and scored Ancona’s third six minutes later, sealing the result despite a second to Fiorentina. A good 3-2 with some beautiful moves. The only downside was a minor foot injury to Adu, putting him out for a week.

As a result of that game, Drazen Bolic and Daniele Berretta both got a chance to start in the side that played against Avellino in the second match of the Italian Cup. Vincenzo Sommese went off injured in the otherwise uneventful first half, and was replaced by Davide Carrus. Ganz came on mid-way through the second half and had a shot saved, but that was the closest either side came to scoring. A disappointing 0-0 draw, leaving us with a lot of work to do just to progress.

The bookmakers did not appear too impressed by this start. Odds of 2000-1 to win the title do not indicate much confidence in Ancona this season. However, my focus is on survival, not winning the title, so this is not a major concern. I made a loan offer for Manchester United striker David Bellion just before the end of the transfer period, but while my offer was accepted, he turned down the move. I’ll have to do a lot of work improving the image of the side in order to lure decent players to the club. Something tells me I won’t be able to get the likes of Jardel, Baggio and Hedman to the club as easily as the club does in real life, if I can’t even get somebody like Bellion.

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icon_biggrin.gif Thanks for the vote of confidence. icon_wink.gif

September, season 2003/2004

Our first game in Serie A was not an easy one – at home to AC Milan. We held on for the first half and Rapaic even managed a shot on goal early in the second. It was parried back to Grabbi who had a large portion of the goal open, but for some reason he hit it straight at the keeper and the chance was wasted. Freddie Adu made his debut in the 70th minute with the scores still 0-0, but with Milan launching shots from long-range, our players were too busy defending to give him much of the ball. We held on for a draw, which was a good result against such a strong side. Unfortunately, Ganz suffered a broken rib late in the match, putting him out for the rest of the month.

Fortunately, our next game was seemingly a bit easier, as we played the third game of the Italian Cup against Venezia. Daniel Andersson, Goran Pandev, Marcus Hedmanand Milan Rapaic missed through international duty, so some of the lesser lights in the side got a run. Bilica sent in an audacious long-range effort from just inside our half that barely went over, while a header from Bucchi was just tipped away. Venezia took control in the second half, and only a clearance off the line from Sartor and fine save from Marcon kept them from scoring. It was another poor result in the cup which saw us knocked out thanks to a 3rd place finish, despite our lower division opponents.

Returning to the league, our second game was another challenging one, away against Lecce. However, we started off with a magnificent move, with Daniele Daino finding Christian Bucchi perfectly with a huge pass that went half the length of the pitch. He passed it on to striking partner Milan Rapaic, but his shot was saved. Rapaic and Bucchi forced five saves between them in the first 20 minutes, but just couldn’t break through. In the 24th minute, it seemed like a move from earlier was being replayed. Daino hit the ball ahead for Bucchi, who ran forward a bit before passing off to Rapaic. This time Rapaic made no mistake, slamming it home from the edge of the area for Ancona’s first goal in Serie A. Our joy didn’t last very long. Lecce scored an equaliser just four minutes later, leaving the scores level at half time. In the 59th minute, Rapaic repaid a favour from earlier, hitting the ball ahead for Bucchi to run onto. This time it was the younger man firing it in, and he drilled it home for Ancona to retake the lead. Lecce went for another quick equaliser three minutes later, but Bilica did well to clear, getting the ball ahead to Rapaic. Again he and Bucchi went forward, and again the Croatian international found his Italian partner with a great pass. Bucchi tried to get around the keeper, and while he got his hands to the ball, all he could do was deflect it in. 3-1, and it looked like being a fine win for Ancona. Hedman held off some late challenges, and that was the final score, with Bucchi Man of the Match.

Still pumped up from that unexpected win, we faced Modena at home. Rapaic headed through a goal in the 13th after a great pass from Bucchi, but it was disallowed. We dominated the opening half, but several chances went over. In the 36th, however, Rapaic charged down the left and flicked the ball into the area. There on the goal line was Bucchi, who tapped it in for his third in two games. We held the lead at the break, but lost winger Giampero Maini to injury after a tough Modena challenge. Scarchilli, his replacement at half time, took just five minutes to be involved in our second goal. His corner was headed straight back to him, and his resulting cross was met by the head of none other than Christian Bucchi, making it four goals in two games. Scarchilli kept the Modena keeper busy with some powerful strikes, leaving us free to walk out with a simple 2-0 win. It came at a bit of a cost, with Maini out for three weeks with broken ribs, but with the form we’re in, he will hardly be missed.

The again, with our final league match of the month against Roma, going out with anything less than a full-strength side is dangerous. Bucchi almost scored a wonderful early goal with a great chip from outside the area, but it went over. Hedman saved an incredible curling free kick from Totti and again pulled off a top save in the final minutes of the half when Totti broke free of the defence. Rapaic went on one of his trademark runs down the left in the 60th and ended it with another trademark – a pass in front of striking partner Christian Bucchi. Bucchi charged after it, but it was hit just a little too hard, and a Roma defender was able to put it out for a corner. Sartor did very well to cut off the resulting Roma counter-attack, even starting a move which led to a shot on goal from Rapaic, which was saved. Unfortunately, there was no saving a powerful Totti strike from inside the area in the 64th which put Roma one-nil up. Bucchi blasted a shot over in response, and that was the last of our chances. A 0-1 loss to a club like Roma is no disgrace, and there is no denying that September was a promising month for Ancona.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Holders - Juventus

| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D.| Pts |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | | Inter | | 4 | 2 | 0 | 0 | 6 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 3 | 2 | +7 | 10 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Lazio | | 4 | 2 | 0 | 0 | 4 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 3 | 2 | +5 | 10 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Juventus | | 4 | 2 | 0 | 0 | 4 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 5 | 6 | +2 | 9 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Milan | | 4 | 2 | 0 | 0 | 4 | 0 | 0 | 2 | 0 | 0 | 0 | +4 | 8 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Ancona | | 4 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 2 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 3 | 2 | +3 | 7 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Chievo | | 4 | 2 | 0 | 0 | 8 | 4 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 3 | +2 | 7 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Sampdoria | | 4 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 4 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 4 | 5 | +2 | 7 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Brescia | | 4 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 3 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 3 | 0 | 7 |

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| 9th | | Parma | | 4 | 2 | 0 | 0 | 8 | 2 | 0 | 0 | 2 | 0 | 4 | +2 | 6 |

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| 10th| | Bologna | | 4 | 2 | 0 | 0 | 4 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 2 | 1 | 5 | 0 | 6 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th| | Roma | | 4 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 3 | -2 | 4 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th| | Perugia | | 4 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 2 | 2 | 7 | -4 | 4 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th| | Modena | | 4 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 3 | 2 | 0 | 0 | 2 | 0 | 6 | -5 | 4 |

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| 14th| | Udinese | | 4 | 0 | 2 | 0 | 3 | 3 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 3 | -2 | 3 |

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| 15th| | Empoli | | 4 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 3 | 4 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 2 | 3 | -2 | 2 |

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| 16th| | Reggina | | 4 | 0 | 0 | 2 | 4 | 7 | 0 | 2 | 0 | 3 | 3 | -3 | 2 |

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| 17th| | Siena | | 4 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 2 | 0 | 0 | 2 | 2 | 5 | -4 | 1 |

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| 18th| | Lecce | | 4 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 2 | 4 | 0 | 0 | 2 | 0 | 3 | -5 | 1 |

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| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |

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October, season 2003/2004

October started with a reasonably tough match against Udinese. Maini was still out injured, but he was the only first team player unavailable. Daniele Daino snuck forward to tap in a Scarchilli free kick in the fifteenth minute, giving us an early lead. We retained that at the break, and early in the second the team of Milan Rapaic and Christian Bucchi took control again. Rapaic won a contest for a header just outside the box, sending it wide for Bucchi, drawing the keeper down to the right of the pitch. He took it and chipped the ball back into the area for the Croatian to tap it into the open goal. 2-0, and I just love this striking team. Udinese put a simple shot wide in the final minutes, and 2-0 is how it remained, with Daino Man of the Match. For the third time in the last four games, my chairman spoke out in praise of the performance.

Unfortunately, Daniele Daino picked this point to speak out publicly against his contract, stating he could get a better one at another club. I’d known he was upset at his £725 per week contract from the start (indeed, I mentioned it in his profile), but didn’t expect he would speak out publicly. My assistant suggested I should refuse to give him one, but he also said it wouldn’t be worth signing Alessio Scarchilli, and he’s been one of our better players. Then again, he contracted himself in the “offer contract†screen, suggesting I should offer him up to £6.25K! How many patches has this game had already? Sigh… I eventually decided to promise him a better one if he plays well within the next month, which he seemed happy with. Nothing like a little financial incentive to bring out the best in a player…

Giampeiro Maini returned on the bench for our game against Juventus. We had an early escape when Trezeguet missed a sitter in the 6th minute, but two goals to Juventus late in the half left us reeling. Two more goals in the second left us with a 0-4 hammering, and there was not one Ancona player who could be proud of his efforts. Daino, supposedly working for an improved contract, rated just ‘3’, and was at ‘2’ for while. Rapaic and Bucchi also had unusually poor games. Despite some fine showings last month, it’s clear we have a lot of work to do to even be competitive against the big sides.

Next up was an away encounter with Reggina. While it looked to be a reasonably easy match (certainly compared to the last one), they repeatedly attacked the goal in the opening minutes and were unlucky not to score. Against the run of play, Bucchi took the ball in the area in the 16th minute and was promptly upended. There was no doubting the penalty, which was slotted home by Daniel Andersson. A nice cross from Scarchilli found Bucchi in the area ten minutes later, and he performed his role as target striker well as always, heading home our second. Reggina made it 2-1 moments later, but we were unlucky not to pull further ahead when Andersson tackled the ball away from an opponent and fired in long-range shot in the same motion. It went just over, while a close-range shot from Rapaic was disappointingly sent straight at the keeper. Bucchi missed a shot from directly in front of the goal just after the start of the second half, but he wasn’t the only embarrassed player – Reggina’s top striker Emiliano Bonazzoli deflected the ball into his own net soon afterward. Hedman did well to hold Reggina off while Sommese wasted a chance when one-on-one with the keeper, putting it well over the bar. Reggina pulled back a goal in the 83rd and mounted a huge fightback. Magnus Hedman pulled off a couple of fine saves and the defenders, especially Bilica, did well to get the ball clear. That, combined with poor shooting, kept Reggina at bay, though one of their players did hit the back of the net in the final minute. However, it was a second own goal scored by a Reggina player, this time a cross from Sommese headed into the net. 4-2 was the final result, which didn’t really reflect how well they played.

We have now scored 11 goals in 7 games, which is more than Ancona have scored in real life in nearly triple that number of games. It’s one heck of a start, but for how long can we continue this form? Bucchi and Rapaic have played some way above what I’d expected, which is certainly very welcome. I had planned to rotate a number of players through the striking positions, but these two seem to work well as a team and look to be automatic selections there.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Holders - Juventus

| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D.| Pts |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | | Inter | | 8 | 4 | 0 | 0 | 9 | 1 | 2 | 2 | 0 | 5 | 3 | +10 | 20 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Milan | | 8 | 4 | 0 | 0 | 9 | 1 | 1 | 2 | 1 | 2 | 1 | +9 | 17 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Juventus | | 8 | 3 | 1 | 0 | 7 | 3 | 2 | 0 | 2 | 9 | 7 | +6 | 16 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Lazio | | 8 | 2 | 1 | 1 | 7 | 4 | 2 | 1 | 1 | 8 | 8 | +3 | 14 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Roma | | 8 | 3 | 0 | 1 | 6 | 2 | 1 | 1 | 2 | 6 | 6 | +4 | 13 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Ancona | | 7 | 2 | 1 | 1 | 4 | 4 | 2 | 0 | 1 | 7 | 4 | +3 | 13 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Bologna | | 7 | 3 | 0 | 0 | 5 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 3 | 3 | 7 | +1 | 12 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Chievo | | 8 | 3 | 1 | 0 | 11 | 6 | 0 | 2 | 2 | 4 | 9 | 0 | 12 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Parma | | 7 | 3 | 1 | 0 | 12 | 4 | 0 | 0 | 3 | 1 | 8 | +1 | 10 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th| | Perugia | | 7 | 3 | 1 | 0 | 7 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 3 | 2 | 8 | +1 | 10 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th| | Modena | | 7 | 2 | 1 | 0 | 7 | 2 | 1 | 0 | 3 | 2 | 9 | -2 | 10 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th| | Sampdoria | | 7 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 4 | 3 | 1 | 1 | 2 | 7 | 9 | -1 | 8 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th| | Brescia | | 7 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 3 | 2 | 1 | 1 | 2 | 2 | 6 | -3 | 8 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th| | Udinese | | 8 | 1 | 2 | 1 | 7 | 7 | 0 | 1 | 3 | 1 | 7 | -6 | 6 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th| | Empoli | | 7 | 1 | 1 | 2 | 7 | 6 | 0 | 1 | 2 | 2 | 5 | -2 | 5 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16th| | Siena | | 7 | 1 | 1 | 2 | 4 | 6 | 0 | 1 | 2 | 4 | 7 | -5 | 5 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 17th| | Lecce | | 7 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 4 | 4 | 0 | 0 | 4 | 0 | 9 | -9 | 4 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th| | Reggina | | 8 | 0 | 1 | 3 | 8 | 13 | 0 | 2 | 2 | 3 | 8 | -10 | 3 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

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November, season 2003/2004

Sergio Marcon took over in goal for our first match of the month, at home to Siena. He was put under plenty of pressure by an undisciplined defence, with one free kick hitting the post before a second went into the net to put Siena ahead in the 24th. We struggled to make an impact, and as the game reached the final 20 minutes it looked as if it was all over. Cue Luigi Sator, who took a pass from Daniele Daino outside the box and launched it into the corner with a volley for a 76th minute equaliser. Four minutes later Christian Bucchi ran into the box and was promptly brought down by a defender. Daniel Andersson was on hand to take the penalty, and he drilled it in to give us the lead with ten minutes to go. Four minutes later, Paolo Poggi, fresh off the bench, took control of a clearance from Marcon and chipped the keeper. The ball went agonisingly slowly as the keeper raced back to get it, but it just trickled over the line before he could get there. Sommese and Bucchi were unlucky not to score in the final minutes, but the 3-1 scoreline was flattering enough.

A much greater challenge faced us next as we faced Inter away. Could we continue our good form, or would this be a repeat of the match against Juventus? Christian Vieri hit the upright with a chip in the 18th, but it was only thanks to Kallon missing a sitter that we got through the first 45 unscathed. Unfortunately, Inter finally scored in injury time, leaving us 0-1 down at the break. However, a great cross from Daniele Daino was met with an even greater volley from outside the area by Alessio Scarchilli, levelling the scores in the 54th. An 81st minute chip from Adriano gave Inter the lead back and a long-range strike from Emre sealed the result. 1-3 in the end, and for a change the result was actually unfair to Ancona considering the balance of the play rather than our opponents.

Brescia came next, and after just four minutes we had the lead. Bucchi was tripped in the area and Daniel Andersson took advantage with his third successful penalty of the season. Bucchi made it 2-0 in the 20th after intercepting a pass between Brescia defenders, easily drilling it into the net. He almost had a second eight minutes later, but it was ruled offside. Ancona simply dominated the first half, and probably should have been up by more than two at the break. The second half was not quite so good. Milan Rapaic and Luciano Zavagno both suffered injuries requiring them to leave the pitch. Thankfully, they were only minor knocks, and Daniel Andersson was able to seal the game with a great shot from 20 yards out. 3-0, and yet another win on the board for Ancona. It occurs to me that I could make a lot of money betting on Ancona to win games against any but the top couple of sides…

Though the injuries to Rapaic and Zavagno were quite minor, I decided to rest them both for the match against Sampdoria. Davide Carrus, Marco Esposito, Sergio Marcon and Maurizio Ganz got rare runs. Davide Carrus ran onto a long pass in the 12th minute and went straight towards the goal. He tried to run around the keeper and sneak it through, but it came back off the post. Bucchi wasn’t able to get there before a Sampdoria opponent, but that defender obligingly knocked it straight into the net. Sampdoria hit back three minutes later, and then took the lead in the 29th through a ridiculous shot from about half-way into their area which drifted straight over Marcon’s head. Now I know why I normally go with Hedman… Thankfully, captain Mauro Milanese hit back with a header from a Scarchilli corner just before half time to level the scores. Milanese almost repeated the move early in the second, but it was parried by the keeper. However, he got revenge on the goalkeeper through another ridiculous goal, this one a free kick from about half way which went over substitute Paolo Poggi’s head and rolled into the corner of the net without the keeper even moving, despite the fact that the ball was right next to him! Milanese completed an eventful game by being sent off in the 79th minute for a second yellow. It would prove very costly indeed. Sampdoria levelled the scores once again in the 82nd with a simple tap-in from a cross. Three minutes later, they went forward on a counter-attack and sent a fourth past Marcon. Suddenly, we had gone from leading to being a goal down, with only 10 players on the pitch and eight minutes left. Freddie Adu came off the bench and took the ball forward in the 88th, sliding it to Scarchilli. The midfielder ran at the keeper and launched it at the keeper, but it went off the crossbar and bounced to Sampdoria’s defenders. Our last chance was a 55-yard pass from Scarchilli 30 seconds from the final whistle that would have put Bucchi one-on-one with the keeper, but it was headed clear by the defence and 3-4 was the final score. A good effort with several regulars out, but to lose after holding a 3-2 lead with ten minutes to go is very disappointing. It certainly doesn’t help when players can score from half-way, but it worked for both sides, so I can’t really complain (well, I can about the realism, just not the result).

I began working on contract re-signings with the Bosman period approaching, but Giampero Maini was the only player who signed in November, agreeing to a one-year extension. I offered Daniele Daino a contract after a couple of weeks of decent performances, but he turned it down. He is demanding a wage of more than five times his current amount, which seems a but much to me. I’m willing to go to £3K, but that may be the limit.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Holders - Juventus

| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D.| Pts |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | | Inter | | 11 | 6 | 0 | 0 | 15 | 2 | 3 | 2 | 0 | 8 | 5 | +16 | 29 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Milan | | 11 | 5 | 0 | 0 | 12 | 1 | 3 | 2 | 1 | 6 | 3 | +14 | 26 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Roma | | 11 | 5 | 0 | 1 | 13 | 3 | 2 | 1 | 2 | 9 | 7 | +12 | 22 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Juventus | | 11 | 4 | 1 | 1 | 12 | 7 | 2 | 1 | 2 | 10 | 8 | +7 | 20 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Ancona | | 11 | 4 | 1 | 1 | 10 | 5 | 2 | 0 | 3 | 11 | 11 | +5 | 19 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Lazio | | 11 | 3 | 1 | 1 | 9 | 5 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 10 | 12 | +2 | 18 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Perugia | | 11 | 4 | 2 | 0 | 8 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 4 | 6 | 11 | +3 | 17 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Sampdoria | | 11 | 3 | 1 | 1 | 12 | 7 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 10 | 13 | +2 | 15 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Parma | | 11 | 4 | 1 | 1 | 16 | 7 | 0 | 2 | 3 | 3 | 10 | +2 | 15 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th| | Brescia | | 11 | 3 | 2 | 1 | 7 | 3 | 1 | 1 | 3 | 2 | 9 | -3 | 15 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th| | Bologna | | 11 | 3 | 1 | 1 | 7 | 4 | 1 | 1 | 4 | 3 | 8 | -2 | 14 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th| | Modena | | 11 | 2 | 2 | 1 | 9 | 6 | 2 | 0 | 4 | 4 | 13 | -6 | 14 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th| | Chievo | | 11 | 3 | 1 | 1 | 12 | 8 | 0 | 3 | 3 | 5 | 12 | -3 | 13 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th| | Lecce | | 11 | 3 | 1 | 1 | 9 | 7 | 0 | 0 | 6 | 0 | 14 | -12 | 10 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th| | Udinese | | 11 | 2 | 2 | 1 | 10 | 7 | 0 | 1 | 5 | 2 | 12 | -7 | 9 |

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| 16th| | Empoli | | 11 | 1 | 2 | 2 | 8 | 7 | 0 | 2 | 4 | 4 | 11 | -6 | 7 |

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| 17th| | Siena | | 11 | 1 | 3 | 2 | 5 | 7 | 0 | 1 | 4 | 5 | 13 | -10 | 7 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th| | Reggina | | 11 | 0 | 2 | 4 | 9 | 15 | 0 | 2 | 3 | 3 | 11 | -14 | 4 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

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I know! The ***** is taking up 1/9th of my wage budget and is stuck there for years! I was quite happy to update my side with the latest transfers, thinking with the likes of Baggio, Jardel and Grabbi I would actually have a decent chance to doing well. Now, of course, not only are the star loan players gone, but Grabbi seems utterly worthless. Yet somehow we're still doing well. Go figure...

December, season 2003/2004

The Daino saga continued into December, with the defender refusing a deal of £3.4K per week. Considering he’s only on £750, that’s a pretty good deal, but he still won’t accept. My assistant suggests I should go up to £6K, but he also said signing Scarchilli wouldn’t be worthwhile… He’s contracted for three more seasons, so he’d better either accept an offer or stop whinging.

Ancona’s first match of the month was away to Bologna. Mauro Milanese missed through suspension from the Sampdoria game, but aside from that we returned to full-strength. Bucchi almost ended his goal drought after being on the end of a move involving Zavagno and Rapaic, but his shot was tipped aside and came off the post. Rapaic went off injured early, and was replaced by Maurizio Ganz. A great strike from Amoroso gave Bologna the lead in the first half and Zavagno joined Rapaic on the bench after taking a knock from an opponent. We had a couple of chances in the second half, but they came to nothing. This was the first time all season we’d lost two games in a row.

Things weren’t any better off the pitch. I failed in several attempts to sign players, while young forward Daniele Degano spoke to the media claiming that he was ready for a first team spot. Any chance players could actually speak to me before the media?

That was not the ideal lead-in for our match against Lazio up next. Midfielders Vincenzo Sommese and Alessio Scarchilli fired in a few shots early, but it was a wonderful 55 yard pass from Scarchilli that gave us our best early chance. Bucchi ran onto it and raced away from the defenders. He had a go at goal, but the keeper got a hand to it and was able to gather it before it trickled away. Two minutes later he was on the end of a long goal kick from Hedman, but this time his shot was tipped over the bar. The first half ended scoreless, though with Ancona surprisingly dominant. Immediately after the kick-off, Bilica launched the ball forward. Rapaic took it and volleyed it through to give Ancona the lead. Lazio attacked to try and regain parity, but wasted their chances. In the 74th minute, substitute Daniele Berretta sent a lovely pass down the left of the pitch. Rapaic smacked it back into the middle and Bucchi was left with a simple finish. Lazio did not respond, and we finished with our most impressive win of the season. Five months ago I was thinking only of survival. Now perhaps it’s time to start thinking of a fight for the top few places of Serie A.

Daniele Daino decided to speak out against the club once again, claiming that he was disappointed by my failure to offer him an improved contract after his good recent performances. Firstly, his performances weren’t that good. Secondly, I offered him three improved contracts, but he rejected them all. I decided to transfer list him for £725K, but there was no interest shown.

I left him out of the side for our match against Chievo. A wonderful run down the wing from Scarchilli in the 33rd minute left us with both strikers running clear of the defence. Rapaic’s shot was saved, but Bucchi was able to gather it and slot it home. Bucchi and Rapaic had nine shots between them in the first half, but that one goal was all they could manage. This proved very costly, with a Chievo player rising above Hedman to head home an equaliser in the 72nd. Despite our absolute dominance of the game, we simply could not hit the back of the net again, having to settle for a 1-1 draw. The stats told a tale – 17 shots (10 on target) for only one goal. Our opponents had half that, yet still came away with a point. Worse yet, left back Luciano Zavagno suffered a torn groin muscle in the final moments, putting him out for two months. Marco Esposito should take over at left back over this period. He was originally my first choice for that position, but somewhere along the way in the early part of the season Zavagno took over left back and did well enough to hold it down until this injury. Hopefully Esposito can show the ability that had him at the top of the list a few months ago now that he has his chance.

At the end of December we were 5th in the league, with a shot at the top couple of places clearly within our reach.

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January, season 2003/2004

I busily searched for Bosman signings at the start of January. With several fringe players likely to leave the club and two players outside the first team squad having announced their retirements, I should have room to sign a couple of players. The biggest worry about re-signings is Luigi Sartor, since my board will not give me enough money to match his current wages (he’s on £12.5K and they’re only giving me £9.5K). This seems quite ridiculous to me, since I have so much room under my budget and would only be paying the same amount he’s already on, but there’s a lot of stuff in this game that doesn’t make sense… At any rate, because of this likely loss I focused on defenders, but also had goes at players for a variety of positions. Like my attempts to loan players at the start of the season, I was spectacularly unsuccessful. Uruguayan striker Ivan Alonso of Alavés decided to join Osasuna over us, while players like attacking midfielders Jesus Arellano and Tieme Klompe were out of our financial reach. Another attacking midfielder, Ibrahim Ba, decided to stay at his current club, as did young defender Erminio Rullo.

I did manage some success eventually, though. Key defender Luigi Sartor was good enough to accept a pay cut from £12.5K to £9.25K with the aid of a pay-per-appearance bonus, while Partizan’s speedy right back Milivoje Cirkovic agreed to join at the end of the season. I’d actually approached him as a replacement for Sartor, but will hopefully be able to find a spot for him next season. He is an international for Serbia and Montenegro, but unfortunately countryman Marko Perovic is likely to be released at about the same time Cirkovic arrives.

After that, the transfers seemed to fly in. Reggina’s veteran centre back Stefano Torrisi agreed to join, as did Empoli’s right back Manuel Belleri. I thought strongly about cancelling the signing of Belleri since I’d already grabbed Sartor and Cirkovic for the same position. However, I decided you can’t go wrong with a few options for a position, especially in defence, and went through with it. Young goalkeeper Pier Graziano Gori re-signed with Ancona until 2006, but backup keeper Sergio Marcon rejected my first offer of a new contract. With Hedman back to Celtic soon, I need to find another goalkeeper. My first option for a new goalkeeper, Bo Andersen, received unanimously negative reviews from my assistant and scouts, so I will have to keep looking.

Eventually we came to a match, and a pretty tough one too – Parma at home. Though they were sitting 12th in the league compared to our 5th, there’s no denying the strength of their side. The first half was uneventful aside from newly re-signed defender Luigi Sartor being forced off after a minor knock. Midfielders Daniel Andersson and Vincenzo Sommese took a couple of unsuccessful long-range shots in the second half, but by the 84th minute scores were still level. Rapaic received a throw-in and sent it straight across the box in the direction of Bucchi. He looked to have hit it too hard as it went some way past him, but the Italian had enough time to gather the ball up and squeeze it between the keeper and the post. 1-0 with only six minutes to go, which proved to be not long enough for Parma. Another win on the board for Ancona, though we stayed in 5th spot.

There was some disappointing news after the game, with Mexican international goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez rejecting my third contract offer. It was the highest amount I could offer (£9.25K), but this apparently wasn’t good enough. A bit odd for a player who is only on £4.5K at his present club, but that’s the way it goes. Young Belgian goalkeeper Jean-François Gillet re-signed with Treviso, removing another attractive replacement for Hedman.

Captain Mauro Milanese finally returned to the senior side to face Empoli after an absence of more than a month. I’d left him out after he was suspended for one game at the end of November, and Drazen Bolic and Bilica were so solid at centre back that I simply forgot about him. That’s what happens when you rush through the game in order to get the next post of a story up in time… Christian Bucchi opened the scoring with a header from a Rapaic cross in the 31st in what is becoming one of our trademark moves. Rapaic gave Bucchi another two chances in the second half, but both were saved. Empoli put up a decent fight but never really threatened Hedman until the final 25 minutes. He pulled off three fine saves, but was finally beaten for a 74th minute equaliser. Dario Baccin was sent off in the final minute for a second yellow (which seems to be the only way people are sent off in this patch), but it was surely too late for Empoli to take advantage. Or so I thought. The resulting free kick was headed in, leaving us a goal down in injury time. Our attack from the kick off was halted and there was no time for another. 1-2 in a game we really should have won.

There was at least some good news off the pitch. 32-year-old Colombian international keeper Miguel Calero agreed to a Bosman transfer from Pachuca. He was certainly not my first choice, but looks to have some talent. I also loaned out angry defender/winger Daniele Daino to Como after they made an approach. They initially offered a straight loan, but I added in the option for them to buy him for £750K. It’s a bit less than he’s worth, but I’d be happy to receive it for a clearly unsettled player. The only disappointment was missing out on young English goalkeeper Lee Grant, who decided to re-sign with Derby rather than join us.

Dario Baccin missed the following away game against Perugia with a one-game suspension. Perugia started powerfully, and it was no surprise to see them ahead after only five minutes. However, we answered from the kick-off, with a great long pass from Maini helped along into the net by Rapaic. Perugia continued to attack well, and eventually broke through Magnus Hedman’s solid keeping to regain the lead in the 29th. A third in the 34th minute to the same player – young Brazilian international striker Luis Fabiano – had us reeling. Right on half time, Hedman pulled off three successive saves in a desperate attempt to keep us in the game. However, on the end of the third rebound was good old Fabiano, who put it through for his fourth in the half. And this from somebody who had six goals in twenty games up to this point! I had no idea how to combat him, so simply the two central midfielders back to defensive midfield. It seemed to work, as neither he nor Perugia scored in the second half. Then again, nor did we, with the game finishing in a 1-4 hammering. That’s probably more like what I would have expected out of this season at the start, so it’s not that devastating, but it does impact on our chances of a particularly high finish.

Our next match was a re-match of our very first game in Serie A, against current league leaders Milan. We got away with a scoreless draw in that last encounter at home, but how well could we go in an away game with Daino and Zavagno out? In the very first minute, a magnificent one-two between strikers Rapaic and Bucchi saw the Croatian slam the ball into the net. How’s that for an answer? As you might expect, Milan launched a massive attack after that. Hedman and sloppy shooting combined to keep them at bay for a while, but the situation was complicated with Hedman picking up an injury. He was able to stay on the pitch, but clearly wasn’t at full fitness. Nonetheless, I couldn’t risk having any less than my best keeper out there unless it was absolutely necessary. Milan still put one through anyway, chipping it over Hedman in the 35th (3rd placed in the Goal of the Month award) They clearly dominated the second half, but again a combination of good work from Hedman and weak finishing helped save Ancona the one point. This left us in 7th spot at the end of the month (sorry, I forgot to print the table again).

The only other transfer action of January was learning our fringe defender, Croatian Drazen Bolic, had agreed to join Venezia on a Bosman at the end of the season. With three defenders coming in, this is not much of a loss, though he was on a mere £50 per week. I got Freddie Adu to sign another youth contract, keeping him at the club until February 2005, but Alessio Scarchilli rejected my initial offer of a two-year extension. I offered striker Corrado Grabbi to Bologna for free, but they didn’t respond.

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Thanks, Terk. icon_smile.gif The worst bit is that Grabbi has a 15% yearly wage increase, so he actually costs me more money as he becomes even less useful (if that is possible...). icon_frown.gif

February, season 2003/2004

The month kicked off with Ancona hosting Leece. The customary exchange of passes between the strikers occurred in the first few minutes here, but for a change Bucchi put it wide. However, in the 9th minute Milan Rapaic was shoved over in the area. Daniel Andersson took the penalty with his usual confidence, but unusually it was saved, and the defenders cleared the ball before an Ancona player could grab it. Giampiero Maini was forced off injured soon after and was quickly joined off the pitch by fellow midfielder Alessio Scarchilli. The first half ended scoreless and the only real chance of the second was a wonderful curling shot from outside the box by Luigi Sartor. Unfortunately, it just went wide, leaving us with our fourth straight game without a win. At least the injuries to Scarchilli and Maini were very minor. However, Vincenzo Sommese suffered a broken toe at training a couple of days later, leaving me without my first-choice right wing for two weeks. Daino wound normally have been the replacement, but he’s out on loan and I don’t want to bring him back for only a couple of games. Davide Carrus thus took over on the right against Modena. Carrus did well with two corners that were headed at goal by the strikers, but both were saved. There was no saving a Modena shot in the 29th minute which was one-on-one with the keeper thanks to a lenient linesman. We were still down at half time and lost Rapaic to a knock shortly into the second half. A good run down the right from Carrus in the 68th set up Maini for a shot on goal which was parried straight to Bucchi. Despite the absence of his regular striking partner, Bucchi kept his composure well, scoring his 11th of the season. That was all we could manage, and our run of games without a win extended to five. Alessio Scarchilli signed a contract to keep him at Ancona until 2006 for a moderate wage increase after the game.

We did not look to have much chance of getting back amongst the winners with a match against Roma next. Alessio Scarchilli went off injured early, just like Luigi Sartor did after he re-signed with the club. The first half was otherwise uneventful, but the deadlock was finally broken with a goal to Roma in the 74th. In a game of few chances, it looked like we had no chance of coming back. A 90th minute free kick from Maini that dropped straight into the keeper’s hands seemed to confirm this, but suddenly the linesman’s flag went up. A Roma defender had committed a foul in the area, and a penalty was awarded. Daniel Andersson, who missed his last penalty attempt, stepped up with just seconds to go in the game and put it straight into the corner. 1-1, and a very lucky escape for Ancona.

Could we break our stretch of games without a win against Udinese? Maini missed the game, having reached the yellow card limit, but Vincenzo Sommese returned from a broken toe to start in Maini’s place. It took just 29 seconds for our opening goal, with yet another fine exchanges of passes between Milan Rapaic and Christian Bucchi finished off by the Croatian. This later finished 3rd in the Goal of the Month award. Udinese hit a great 25-yard curling shot to equalise mid-way through the first half, and a powerful strike in the 38th put them a goal up. So much for our dream start… It took until the 68th minute for us to respond, with a neat pass from Bucchi finding Rapaic past the defence for a simple finish. We had our chances to regain the lead in the final minutes, but our best chance – a header from Rapaic just a couple of yards out – was easily saved by the goalkeeper. 2-2 for another single point to Ancona.

Luigi Sartor was out with a one-game suspension for the tough match against Juventus, but midfielder Giampiero Maini and defender Luciano Zavagno (injured for the last two months) both returned to the side. Rapaic had a good chance in the 17th when a loose defensive header put him through on goal, but his shot was saved. He suffered a minor injury after that and had to be replaced. Corrado Grabbi came on as his replacement in the 42nd minute for his first senior game in around five months, and just before half time he, Bucchi and Sommese were charging toward the goal after Sommese managed to take the ball off a defender. Sommese’s shot was blocked, but Bucchi was able to latch onto the rebound on the right side of the area and hit it over to Grabbi on the left. He seemed to take forever to turn on the ball, giving the keeper enough time to start moving in his direction. After an agonisingly long time, he fired it in just as the defenders were about to reach him. The shot went straight past the keeper and into the right side of the net for a dramatic opening goal to the game. Juventus began the second half in an attacking mood, but constantly put the ball over the bar. They looked to have a great chance in the 74th when a weak Bilica clearance left a striker with an open goal, but the shot went wide. Hedman saved two late Juventus chips and somehow we held on for a fine win. Rapaic’s injury turned out to be a dislocated jaw, putting him out for two weeks. This should at least give Paolo Poggi and Corrado Grabbi a rare run in the next few games.

Not only did I remember to print the league table, I’ve also added in a table showing the senior stats which should give you some idea of how the players are going.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D.| Pts |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | | Inter | | 23 | 10 | 1 | 0 | 25 | 4 | 6 | 4 | 2 | 19 | 11 | +29 | 53 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Milan | | 23 | 9 | 3 | 0 | 23 | 3 | 5 | 5 | 1 | 10 | 3 | +27 | 50 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Juventus | | 23 | 8 | 1 | 2 | 24 | 8 | 6 | 2 | 4 | 21 | 13 | +24 | 45 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Lazio | | 23 | 7 | 2 | 3 | 20 | 11 | 6 | 2 | 3 | 21 | 17 | +13 | 43 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Sampdoria | | 23 | 9 | 1 | 3 | 29 | 14 | 2 | 3 | 5 | 14 | 17 | +12 | 37 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Roma | | 23 | 8 | 0 | 3 | 22 | 14 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 17 | 15 | +10 | 37 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Perugia | | 23 | 9 | 4 | 0 | 26 | 3 | 1 | 2 | 7 | 9 | 23 | +9 | 36 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Ancona | | 23 | 6 | 3 | 1 | 14 | 6 | 3 | 4 | 6 | 19 | 23 | +4 | 34 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Bologna | | 23 | 8 | 2 | 1 | 15 | 6 | 1 | 3 | 8 | 5 | 18 | -4 | 32 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th| | Brescia | | 23 | 7 | 2 | 2 | 15 | 7 | 1 | 3 | 8 | 4 | 21 | -9 | 29 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th| | Parma | | 23 | 7 | 2 | 3 | 23 | 12 | 0 | 3 | 8 | 6 | 25 | -8 | 26 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th| | Udinese | | 23 | 5 | 4 | 2 | 22 | 12 | 1 | 3 | 8 | 8 | 22 | -4 | 25 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th| | Chievo | | 23 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 21 | 17 | 0 | 4 | 7 | 5 | 23 | -14 | 23 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th| | Modena | | 23 | 3 | 5 | 2 | 14 | 11 | 2 | 1 | 10 | 9 | 33 | -21 | 21 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th| | Siena | | 23 | 3 | 6 | 3 | 15 | 15 | 1 | 2 | 8 | 11 | 25 | -14 | 20 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16th| | Empoli | | 23 | 3 | 6 | 3 | 15 | 15 | 0 | 4 | 7 | 8 | 20 | -12 | 19 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 17th| | Reggina | | 23 | 1 | 5 | 5 | 13 | 20 | 2 | 4 | 6 | 10 | 21 | -18 | 18 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th| | Lecce | | 23 | 4 | 4 | 4 | 17 | 20 | 0 | 2 | 9 | 2 | 23 | -24 | 18 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| </pre>

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">8th in Italian Serie A

Squad Screen

| Pkd | Inf | Name | Apps | Gls | Asts | MoM | Pass | Tck | Drb | Sh Tar | Av R | Value|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| MC | | Andersson, D | 25 | 5 | 0 | 3 | 73 % | 3.79 | 0.36 | 64 % | 7.24 | £1.2M|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| ML | | Scarchilli, A | 25 | 1 | 3 | 0 | 66 % | 1.87 | 1.07 | 46 % | 6.72 | £300K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| FC | | Bucchi, C* | 24 | 11 | 10 | 7 | 63 % | 1.44 | 0.80 | 71 % | 6.92 | £3.6M|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Sartor, L | 24 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 68 % | 3.56 | 0.70 | 50 % | 6.88 | £1.1M|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| FC | Inj | Rapaic, M* | 23 | 7 | 9 | 0 | 70 % | 0.65 | 1.40 | 73 % | 6.96 | £2.6M|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DC | Yel | Milanese, M | 22 | 2 | 0 | 0 | 68 % | 1.61 | 0.05 | 100 % | 6.64 | £170K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| MR | | Sommese, V* | 21 (2) | 0 | 2 | 0 | 64 % | 3.81 | 2.00 | 33 % | 7.22 | £3.4M|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DC | | Bilica | 21 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 69 % | 2.48 | 0.25 | - | 6.43 | £475K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| GK | Lst | Hedman, M | 21 | 0 | 0 | 3 | 42 % | - | - | - | 7.00 | £1.7M|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| MC | | Maini, G | 14 (4) | 0 | 2 | 0 | 66 % | 2.29 | 0.38 | 66 % | 6.39 | £325K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB5 | | Zavagno, L | 14 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 69 % | 2.54 | 0.54 | - | 6.50 | £475K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DL | | Esposito, M | 11 (2) | 0 | 0 | 0 | 68 % | 3.68 | 0.60 | 100 % | 6.00 | £275K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DR | Trn | Bolic, D | 11 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 74 % | 2.18 | 0.09 | 100 % | 6.82 | £110K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB3 | | Marcon, S | 5 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 50 % | - | - | - | 6.80 | £170K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB1 | | Berretta, D | 3 (5) | 0 | 0 | 0 | 80 % | 2.47 | 0.25 | - | 6.50 | £275K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Carrus, D | 3 (3) | 0 | 1 | 0 | 61 % | 3.90 | - | 33 % | 6.00 | £400K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB7 | Wnt | Grabbi, C | 3 (2) | 2 | 0 | 0 | 78 % | 0.61 | 0.61 | 80 % | 5.80 | £700K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB2 | | Ganz, M | 2 (4) | 0 | 0 | 0 | 59 % | 0.97 | 0.32 | 75 % | 6.50 | £35K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB4 | | Baccin, D | 1 (4) | 0 | 0 | 0 | 70 % | 3.12 | 0.39 | - | 5.80 | £275K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Pandev, G | 1 (1) | 0 | 0 | 0 | 71 % | 4.50 | 2.25 | - | 7.00 | £575K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB6 | | Poggi, P | 0 (8) | 1 | 0 | 0 | 75 % | 2.39 | 0.48 | 66 % | 6.75 | £80K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Adu, F | 0 (7) | 0 | 0 | 0 | 80 % | 0.80 | - | - | 6.29 | £0 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Goretti, R | 0 (2) | 0 | 0 | 0 | - | - | - | - | 6.50 | £180K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Perovic, M | 0 (1) | 0 | 0 | 0 | - | - | - | - | 7.00 | £70K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Lst | Sogliano, S | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | ---- | £55K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | | | | | | |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

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Cheers, Juni. icon_smile.gif Terk, there doesn't seem to be any interest in Bucchi at the moment, and even if I did receive a reasonable bid of £4.5M+, I doubt I'd accept it. I'm doing pretty well financially as it is, and don't really have another target striker at the side.

March, season 2003/2004

With Milan Rapaic out, Corrado Grabbi had a rare chance to start in the game against Reggina. However, it was midfielder Giampero Maini who made an impression early, scoring a wonderful 30-yard strike (2nd in the Goal of the Month award) right through the keeper in the 22nd minute. Vincenzo Sommese scored a similar goal ten minutes later, leaving us with a comfortable two goal lead at the break. Reggina were unable to mount much of a fight back and Christian Bucchi knocked in a deflected Sommese shot in the 89th minute to seal the result. Two wins in a row for Ancona, putting us back in the hunt for a high Serie A finish.

Siena came next in the league. After just three minutes, Luigi Sartor headed through a great free kick from Vincenzo Sommese to give Ancona the lead. Bucchi and Sommese both tested the Siena keeper in the following minutes, but he held on well and our lead was only one goal at half time. Siena missed a great chance early in the second, as did Ancona’s Giampero Maini, who hit the ball over an open goal. Tore Andre Flo finally put one through for Siena in the 74th, but it was clearly offside and disallowed. Daniele Degano, a young forward co-owned by Parma, came on in the final minutes for his senior debut, but the action was at the other end as Daniel Andersson slid through an opponent in the Siena area. The penalty came back off the crossbar, but in his attempt to gather the ball, Hedman somehow put it into his own net! 1-1, and Degano lasted about two minutes on the pitch before being forced off with an injury. There’s one of the most useless debuts on record… His replacement, Paolo Poggi, found himself running at goal in the final minutes, but while he managed to sneak the ball past the goalkeeper, it went inches wide. The draw did not seem a fair result, but we had our chances to put the game away.

Milan Rapaic returned from injury to reunite with partner Christian Bucchi against league leaders Inter. For a change, it was our opponents with a good start, leading after only three minutes, A successful 26th minute from Daniel Andersson made it 1-1 and Bucchi headed home a great Scarchilli corner just before half time for the lead. Just ten minutes into the second half, all four of our defenders had yellow cards and Rapaic had been forced off with a minor injury. Poor handling from Hedman handed Inter an equaliser with a simple tap-in with barely twenty minutes to go, but a magnificent cross in the 70th from right winger Sommese handed Bucchi his second in a very similar move to his first goal. Not even Inter could come back from that, and our biggest win of the season was on the board.

Still on a high from that unexpected win, we faced Brescia in the final game of March. A great run and pass from Sommese left Rapaic with a simple tap-in for the first of the game after twenty minutes. Brescia hit back well with a similar move nine minutes later and scores were level at half time. Brescia scored a second in the 60th through Di Biagio, and we unfortunately did not manage a single shot at goal after that. It was a disappointing end to the month, especially after such a great win in the previous game. Still, 6th place at the end of March is far better than I could have imagined at the start of the year.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre"> Holders - Juventus

| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D.| Pts |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | | Milan | | 27 | 12 | 3 | 0 | 32 | 5 | 5 | 5 | 2 | 10 | 5 | +32 | 59 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Inter | | 26 | 11 | 1 | 0 | 28 | 4 | 6 | 4 | 4 | 23 | 18 | +29 | 56 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Juventus | | 27 | 10 | 1 | 2 | 30 | 8 | 6 | 3 | 5 | 23 | 16 | +29 | 52 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Lazio | | 27 | 9 | 2 | 3 | 28 | 12 | 6 | 2 | 5 | 23 | 22 | +17 | 49 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Perugia | | 27 | 11 | 4 | 0 | 29 | 3 | 1 | 3 | 8 | 10 | 26 | +10 | 43 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Ancona | | 27 | 8 | 3 | 1 | 20 | 8 | 3 | 5 | 7 | 21 | 26 | +7 | 41 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Roma | | 26 | 9 | 0 | 3 | 26 | 16 | 3 | 4 | 7 | 18 | 21 | +7 | 40 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Sampdoria | | 27 | 9 | 2 | 4 | 31 | 17 | 2 | 4 | 6 | 15 | 19 | +10 | 39 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Bologna | | 26 | 9 | 3 | 1 | 19 | 8 | 1 | 4 | 8 | 6 | 19 | -2 | 37 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th| | Brescia | | 27 | 9 | 2 | 2 | 19 | 9 | 1 | 5 | 8 | 4 | 21 | -7 | 37 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th| | Parma | | 27 | 7 | 4 | 3 | 23 | 12 | 1 | 3 | 9 | 8 | 29 | -10 | 31 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th| | Udinese | | 27 | 6 | 5 | 2 | 25 | 13 | 1 | 3 | 10 | 8 | 28 | -8 | 29 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th| | Lecce | | 27 | 5 | 5 | 4 | 21 | 22 | 2 | 2 | 9 | 6 | 25 | -20 | 28 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th| | Siena | | 27 | 4 | 7 | 3 | 18 | 16 | 2 | 2 | 9 | 13 | 28 | -13 | 27 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th| | Chievo | | 27 | 6 | 4 | 4 | 23 | 18 | 0 | 4 | 9 | 6 | 30 | -19 | 26 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16th| | Modena | | 27 | 4 | 5 | 3 | 17 | 13 | 2 | 1 | 12 | 9 | 39 | -26 | 24 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 17th| | Empoli | | 27 | 3 | 7 | 4 | 16 | 17 | 0 | 5 | 8 | 8 | 22 | -15 | 21 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th| | Reggina | | 26 | 2 | 5 | 5 | 15 | 20 | 2 | 4 | 8 | 10 | 26 | -21 | 21 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

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April, season 2003/2004

April began with a number of prompts to re-sign staff members. Unfortunately, almost all, particularly the coaches, demanded ridiculously large wage increases that I was simply unwilling to pay. I did at least re-sign backup goalkeeper Sergio Marcon for two seasons, but I look likely to lose most of my coaches and possibly all my physios and scouts at this rate. I signed unattached coach Gilberto Vallesi , who has ‘20’ in coaching goalkeepers and working with youngsters so I’ll at least have *one* coach next season. Sigh…

With just seven matches to go in the season, our home encounter with Sampdoria was clearly important. Our last match against them was a 3-4 thriller, and with Mauro Milanese (injured) and Luciano Zavagno (tired) missing from the side, it looked like we were in for a tough match. We lost Rapaic in the first half due to yet another minor knock, which he seems to have a remarkable habit of picking up. Maini barely missed a free kick just after the resumption of play while Christian Bucchi had a powerful shot saved minutes later. The game petered out from there but in five minutes of injury time Sampdoria attacked heavily. We wound up conceding four corners in that time, but managed to keep Sampdoria from scoring a late winner.

After this game, I signed scouts Rob Campin and David Jarrett and physio Alberto Lugli with my current staff members still refusing to sign contracts below their ridiculous demands. Even offering double their current wages apparently isn’t enough.

Our match against Bologna looked to be heading for a scoreless half despite hard work from Sommese and Daniele Berretta in a rare starting role. A foul on an Ancona player in the area just minutes before half time seemed to change this, but only an indirect free kick was awarded. Nonetheless, Giampiero Maini’s pass gave Daniel Andersson plenty of chance to put the ball into the net, but his shot went over and the half did indeed end 0-0. The second half went back and forth, but neither side took advantage of their chances and we finished with a second straight 0-0 draw.

Next up was a game away against Lazio. We won our last encounter 2-0, but lost Luigi Sartor for this one due to a training injury. A great pass from Milan Rapaic gave Christian Bucchi his 15th of the season after only a couple of minutes, but we soon lost Drazen Bolic (Sartor’s replacement) to a straight red card. Despite the numbers advantage, Rapaic and Bucchi repeated their move from earlier for a 2-0 lead in the 17th. It was a great start to the game, but it didn’t last long. Lazio hit back 12 minutes later and a 35th minute penalty put them level. Lazio then snuck in a third just before the break to leave us a goal down at half time despite having a 2-0 lead only twenty minutes earlier. A fourth just after the break made things worse, and a fifth from the resulting kick-off confirmed this game was an outright disaster for Ancona. I brought on an extra defender and switched to a purely defensive style in a desperate attempt to prevent this from being totally embarassing. It worked for forty minutes, but a sixth to Lazio in extra time completed an absolute hammering. Bolic picked up a three match ban for his late tackle, as if the result itself wasn’t bad enough.

Sartor returned to replace Bolic while Marcon got a go in goal and Grabbi replaced the out-of-form Rapaic in an attempt to recover from the belting of the previous game. Unfortunately, our game against Lecce featured few moments of interest and it ended in a tame scoreless draw. Still, it’s a welcome relief after the Lazio game to have a defence which actually functions.

I had been looking at a place in the top-5, but after that month I think a top-10 finish will be satisfactory. I’m not really sure when went wrong, since it was the same side as we’ve had for most of the season, but Rapic has hit a form slump and the side simply didn’t play well in many of April’s matches.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Holders - Juventus

| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D.| Pts |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | | Milan | | 31 | 13 | 3 | 0 | 35 | 5 | 7 | 5 | 3 | 16 | 7 | +39 | 68 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Inter | | 30 | 14 | 1 | 0 | 34 | 5 | 6 | 4 | 5 | 24 | 20 | +33 | 65 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Juventus | | 31 | 11 | 2 | 2 | 35 | 9 | 6 | 4 | 6 | 23 | 18 | +31 | 57 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Roma | | 31 | 12 | 0 | 3 | 36 | 19 | 5 | 4 | 7 | 24 | 24 | +17 | 55 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Lazio | | 31 | 10 | 3 | 3 | 35 | 15 | 6 | 3 | 6 | 24 | 25 | +19 | 54 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Perugia | | 30 | 11 | 4 | 0 | 29 | 3 | 2 | 4 | 9 | 12 | 27 | +11 | 47 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Sampdoria | | 31 | 9 | 2 | 5 | 31 | 19 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 20 | 21 | +11 | 46 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Ancona | | 31 | 8 | 6 | 1 | 20 | 8 | 3 | 5 | 8 | 23 | 32 | +3 | 44 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Brescia | | 31 | 10 | 3 | 2 | 21 | 10 | 1 | 7 | 8 | 4 | 21 | -6 | 43 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th| | Bologna | | 31 | 10 | 4 | 1 | 23 | 8 | 1 | 5 | 10 | 7 | 22 | 0 | 42 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th| | Parma | | 31 | 8 | 5 | 3 | 28 | 13 | 2 | 4 | 9 | 13 | 31 | -3 | 39 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th| | Lecce | | 31 | 6 | 5 | 5 | 26 | 26 | 2 | 2 | 11 | 7 | 34 | -27 | 31 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th| | Udinese | | 31 | 6 | 6 | 3 | 25 | 16 | 1 | 3 | 12 | 9 | 35 | -17 | 30 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th| | Reggina | | 31 | 4 | 6 | 5 | 21 | 22 | 2 | 6 | 8 | 11 | 27 | -17 | 30 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th| | Siena | | 31 | 4 | 7 | 5 | 19 | 20 | 2 | 3 | 10 | 14 | 33 | -20 | 28 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16th| | Chievo | | 31 | 6 | 5 | 5 | 25 | 23 | 0 | 5 | 10 | 8 | 34 | -24 | 28 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 17th| | Modena | | 31 | 5 | 5 | 5 | 22 | 20 | 2 | 1 | 13 | 10 | 41 | -29 | 27 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th| | Empoli | | 31 | 4 | 8 | 4 | 17 | 17 | 0 | 5 | 10 | 9 | 30 | -21 | 25 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

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May, season 2003/2004

Just 57 seconds into our game against Parma, we were on the board with a goal to Rapaic. He actually put through a second in the fourth minute, but it was ruled offside. This was certainly a promising start, but after our last “promising start†against a powerhouse side wound up in a 2-6 loss, there was no chance of overconfidence here. Thankfully, though, this match did not go the same way. Parma were decidedly unimpressive for almost all of the game while we were probably unlucky to only finish with one goal. Unfortunately, it took just one move to change the shape of the game, with a great exchange of passes in the 91st minute leaving Parma with a late equaliser. There was no fairytale end to this one, and though we played very well in this game, we could only grab one point. It seems pretty odd to be annoyed at “only†getting a draw against Parma with a side that was considered virtual certainties to be relegated at the start of the season. Still, that’s the beauty of an unexpectedly successful season – it turns what would have been positive results into disappointments. I suppose that’s good in a way, since it shows how far the club has come in a short time, but it does put the poor manager under a bit of pressure.

After this game, I made a rather audacious bid for Chelsea’s Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. He was valued at just £110K by the side which finished 9th in the Premier Division (!) and my bid was accepted, but unsurprisingly he wasn’t interested in moving to Ancona. It was worth the try…

Ancona’s second-last game of a remarkable season was at home to Empoli. Though they have struggled this season, fighting to avoid relegation can bring out the best in a side. Bucchi almost gave us another early goal with a powerful strike from close range, but it went well over the bar. Rapaic came close with a 37th minute header, but it was barely tipped away. A great cross from Sommese a minute later was launched at goal by left back Zavagno, and while his shot was parried, Rapaic was there for a simple finish. Empoli had a couple of chances after that, including some that they really should have scored from, but as is often the case with a struggling side, they just didn’t come off. 1-0 in the end, and a chance for Ancona to end the season on the high. Nonetheless, my focus was not entirely on matters on the pitch. I sent new scout David Jarrett to South America to have a look at some of the players there, and wound up purchasing Brazilian Under-21 defender Carlos Henrique from Vitoria for £100K. This looks to be a bargain based on the high praise given to him by Jarrett and my assistant, so I look forward to him joining the club at the end of the season.

Speaking of which, our final game of the 03/04 season was at home to Perugia. They belted us 1-4 in our previous encounter, so there was an element of revenge to this game if nothing else. Mauro Milanese and Vincenzo Sommese missed through injury, but they had no such problems with forward Luis Fabiano, who scored all four against us last time, starting on the pitch. It took him only 31 minutes to be involved in their first goal, but thankfully this was only providing an assist to Jay Bothroyd. I don’t think I could handle a player scoring five goals against me in two hours of play… We were lucky to avoid conceding a second in the final minutes, but were so busy keeping Perugia out that we didn’t really have a chance to level the scores. A 0-1 loss to end the season, leaving us in 8th place at the end of 03/04. This will be enough to put us into the Inter-Toto Cup, which should be an interesting experience.

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The season in review

Summary

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Holders - Juventus

| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D.| Pts |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | C | Inter | | 34 | 14 | 3 | 0 | 34 | 5 | 8 | 4 | 5 | 29 | 21 | +37 | 73 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Milan | | 34 | 14 | 3 | 0 | 37 | 5 | 7 | 6 | 4 | 17 | 9 | +40 | 72 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Juventus | | 34 | 13 | 2 | 2 | 40 | 11 | 7 | 4 | 6 | 26 | 18 | +37 | 66 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Lazio | | 34 | 10 | 4 | 3 | 36 | 16 | 8 | 3 | 6 | 28 | 26 | +22 | 61 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Roma | | 34 | 13 | 0 | 4 | 43 | 26 | 5 | 4 | 8 | 24 | 26 | +15 | 58 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Perugia | | 34 | 11 | 4 | 2 | 30 | 8 | 4 | 4 | 9 | 18 | 31 | +9 | 53 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Sampdoria | | 34 | 10 | 2 | 5 | 34 | 19 | 4 | 5 | 8 | 23 | 26 | +12 | 49 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Ancona | | 34 | 9 | 6 | 2 | 21 | 9 | 3 | 6 | 8 | 24 | 33 | +3 | 48 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Bologna | | 34 | 12 | 4 | 1 | 27 | 9 | 1 | 5 | 11 | 8 | 24 | +2 | 48 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th| | Brescia | | 34 | 10 | 4 | 3 | 22 | 13 | 2 | 7 | 8 | 6 | 21 | -6 | 47 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th| | Parma | | 34 | 8 | 6 | 3 | 29 | 14 | 3 | 5 | 9 | 14 | 31 | -2 | 44 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th| | Reggina | | 34 | 5 | 6 | 6 | 22 | 23 | 2 | 7 | 8 | 12 | 28 | -17 | 34 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th| | Lecce | | 34 | 6 | 5 | 6 | 26 | 29 | 3 | 2 | 12 | 9 | 36 | -30 | 34 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th| | Udinese | | 34 | 7 | 6 | 4 | 26 | 17 | 1 | 3 | 13 | 9 | 38 | -20 | 33 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th| Pl | Chievo | | 34 | 7 | 5 | 5 | 27 | 24 | 0 | 5 | 12 | 8 | 37 | -26 | 31 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16th| R | Modena | | 34 | 6 | 5 | 6 | 25 | 23 | 2 | 1 | 14 | 11 | 43 | -30 | 30 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 17th| R | Empoli | | 34 | 5 | 8 | 4 | 19 | 18 | 0 | 6 | 11 | 9 | 31 | -21 | 29 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th| R | Siena | | 34 | 4 | 7 | 6 | 19 | 22 | 2 | 3 | 12 | 16 | 38 | -25 | 28 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre"> 8th in Italian Serie A

Squad Screen

| Pkd | Inf | Name | Apps | Gls | Asts | MoM | Pass | Tck | Drb | Sh Tar | Av R | Value|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| MC | | Andersson, D | 36 | 6 | 0 | 3 | 74 % | 3.54 | 0.28 | 57 % | 7.14 | £850K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| FC | | Bucchi, C* | 35 | 16 | 13 | 8 | 60 % | 1.42 | 0.84 | 76 % | 6.94 | £4.2M|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| MC | | Scarchilli, A | 35 | 1 | 4 | 0 | 67 % | 1.91 | 0.84 | 42 % | 6.77 | £300K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DR | | Sartor, L | 33 | 2 | 0 | 1 | 67 % | 3.30 | 0.63 | 60 % | 6.88 | £1M |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DC | | Bilica | 32 | 0 | 1 | 2 | 68 % | 2.84 | 0.19 | - | 6.59 | £600K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Sommese, V* | 31 (2) | 1 | 6 | 1 | 60 % | 3.47 | 2.10 | 42 % | 7.15 | £3.9M|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| GK | Lst | Hedman, M | 31 | 0 | 0 | 3 | 43 % | - | - | - | 7.03 | £1.7M|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| FC | | Rapaic, M* | 31 | 10 | 11 | 1 | 70 % | 0.79 | 1.24 | 74 % | 6.84 | £2.3M|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Inj | Milanese, M | 29 | 2 | 0 | 0 | 68 % | 1.60 | 0.03 | 100 % | 6.62 | £130K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| ML | | Maini, G | 25 (4) | 1 | 2 | 0 | 67 % | 2.16 | 0.42 | 50 % | 6.52 | £325K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DL | | Zavagno, L | 23 | 0 | 2 | 0 | 69 % | 2.56 | 0.64 | 50 % | 6.39 | £375K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DC | Trn | Bolic, D | 15 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 73 % | 1.98 | 0.21 | 100 % | 6.67 | £85K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB5 | | Esposito, M | 14 (2) | 0 | 0 | 0 | 67 % | 3.47 | 0.54 | 100 % | 6.13 | £275K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Grabbi, C | 6 (2) | 2 | 0 | 0 | 68 % | 0.51 | 0.51 | 87 % | 5.75 | £500K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB3 | | Marcon, S | 6 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 54 % | - | - | - | 6.67 | £150K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Wnt | Berretta, D | 4 (6) | 0 | 0 | 0 | 80 % | 2.67 | 0.19 | 50 % | 6.50 | £120K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| MR | Wnt | Carrus, D | 4 (3) | 0 | 1 | 0 | 61 % | 3.70 | 0.44 | 50 % | 6.14 | £525K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB4 | | Baccin, D | 2 (9) | 0 | 0 | 0 | 69 % | 2.90 | 0.22 | - | 5.82 | £240K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Ganz, M | 2 (6) | 0 | 0 | 0 | 59 % | 0.79 | 0.26 | 75 % | 6.50 | £20K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB1 | | Pandev, G | 1 (1) | 0 | 0 | 0 | 71 % | 4.50 | 2.25 | - | 7.00 | £500K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB6 | | Poggi, P | 0 (14) | 1 | 0 | 0 | 76 % | 2.25 | 0.32 | 50 % | 6.64 | £55K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Inj | Adu, F | 0 (7) | 0 | 0 | 0 | 80 % | 0.80 | - | - | 6.29 | £0 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB7 | | Degano, D | 0 (2) | 0 | 0 | 0 | - | - | - | - | 6.00 | £1M |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Goretti, R | 0 (2) | 0 | 0 | 0 | - | - | - | - | 6.50 | £120K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB2 | Wnt | Perovic, M | 0 (1) | 0 | 0 | 0 | - | - | - | - | 7.00 | £24K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | | | | | | |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

Wow. While I commented on how easy this game was in my brief practice games, I really expected to have a fight on my hands to avoid relegation. We got off to a good start and just went from there. Aside from a late slump, it was an exceptional performance from a side that really doesn’t have a fraction of the class of most other Serie A sides. To not only survive but succeed in Serie A while staying well under the wage budget and actually making a profit over the season of around £2M is a great achievement.

Much of the credit must go to our strikers Milan Rapaic and Christian Bucchi who scored 26 goals between them over the season. I initially thought I would have to rotate a number of players through the striking positions, but these two took them and held onto them all season. The midfield was also quite strong, particularly wingers Alessio Scarchilli and Vincenzo Sommese who provided the aforementioned strikers with plenty of opportunities.

The side is likely to change significantly with a number of players and staff (quite annoyingly in the latter case) about to leave, but I’ve retained most of the people who helped ensure our good performance this season. Hopefully we can build on that and put on an even better showing in 04/05.

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Wrapping it up

Several Ancona players announced their intention to retire at the end of the season, though forward Maurizio Ganz was the only one of them to have played senior football. In short, their retirements won’t hurt us at all.

Como made a ridiculous bid of just £150K for Daniele Daino at the end of his loan. I tried to negotiate it to £500K – still £250K less than the agreed price at the start of his loan – but they refused to pay. I guess he will be part of the side next season.

I was offered the chance to make bids on two of my co-owned players – forward Daniele Dagano, who played a couple of senior games late in the season and midfielder Patrick Kalambay, who is based at Milan. I had not really seen enough of either player to make a bid, so I delayed both for another year.

We received a mere £150K for our 8th place finish, which did not give us much room for signing players. Young Brazilian defender Bilica complicated matters by complaining to the media that he wasn’t being paid enough. Whatever happened to players actually talking to their managers about their concerns? I offered him a quite generous new contract with triple his current wage (though half what he asked for), but it was rejected.

My staff also continued their irritating refusal to re-sign with the club, with some even turning down offers of five times their current wages was “unacceptableâ€! It’d be amusing if it weren’t so damned annoying.

Around the world: major awards and results

Ancona Supporters’ Player of the Year:

Christian Bucchi

World Player of the Year:

Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

World Footballer of the year:

Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid)

England:

Arsenal

Spain:

Valencia

Champions Cup:

Arsenal

UEFA Cup:

Ajax

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The Transfers

Transfers In

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">| Date | Person | From | Fee |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6.8.2003 | Adu, Freddy | Free Transfer | Free |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7.8.2003 | Scarchilli, Alessio| Free Transfer | Free |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Total | | £0 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------| </pre>

Transfers Out

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">| Date | Person | To | Fee |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4.2.2004 | Rocchini, Francesco| Free Transfer | Free |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4.2.2004 | Iaconeta, Domenico | Free Transfer | Free |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4.2.2004 | Bordoni, Claudio | Free Transfer | Free |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4.2.2004 | Senesi, Diego | Free Transfer | Free |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6.2.2004 | Trapanese, Vincenzo| Free Transfer | Free |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Total | | £0 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------| </pre>

Loans Out

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">| Date | Person | To | Fee |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 27.8.2003 | Donzelli, Elia | Pro Patria | Loan |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16.1.2004 | Daino, Daniele | Como | Loan |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Total | | £0 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

Staff in

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">| Date | Person | From | Fee |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4.4.2004 | Vallesi, Gilberto | Free Transfer | £0 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6.4.2004 | Campkin, Rob | Free Transfer | £0 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8.4.2004 | Jarrett, David | Free Transfer | £0 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10.4.2004 | Lugli, Alberto | Free Transfer | £0 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Total | | £0 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------| </pre>

I HATE THIS PRINTING SYSTEM! icon_mad.gificon_mad.gificon_mad.gificon_mad.gificon_mad.gificon_mad.gif

I wasn’t too busy in the transfer market last season, but what I did seemed to work reasonably well. Scarchilli became a regular in the side, and for minimal wages that’s a pretty good deal. Freddie Adu didn’t have much impact, but I’ve signed him with a long-term goal in mind so that’s no problem. The difficulty is just to keep signing him every year until he reaches 17. The staff I picked up seem quite talented, and they will certainly come in handy with so many of my other staff gone.

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Cheers. icon_smile.gif

Pre-Season 2004/2005

The season began with an assortment of interesting news. I received £3.6M in TV rights, but my board decided to add 5,660 seats to the stadium (almost half the capacity is unseated) and also upgraded the club’s training facilities. I was given a budget of £2.5M (up from last season’s £1.6M, which I didn’t use) and was again told to battle bravely against relegation, despite our good showing last season. The fans actually have somewhat larger expectations, wanting a mid-table finish. What with sponsorship and early sales of season tickets, I now have over £8M in the bank.

Coach Andrea Mazzantini and players Pasquale Luiso (34-year-old forward who spent the season on loan), Daniele Berretta, Marko Perovic and Roberto Goretti left the club at the ends of their contracts on the 30th of June (irritatingly in the last case, as I’d just received a £95K bid for him), but this was nothing compared to the following day.

I was presented with no less than 64 pieces of news on the first of July, which is rather overwhelming. Apparently my signing of Milivoje Cirkovic is likely to cause a “sharp increase in revenue from shirt salesâ€. I know I’ve whined about this game a lot already, but I love little touches like that. There was some disturbing news though – Carlos Henrique’s move fell through, as I can only sign one non-EU player from abroad per season. Apparently I have already done that. How the hell am I supposed to know who’s part of the EU and who isn’t? This is a big blow, as Henrique is regarded as a huge prospect and I had signed him for next to nothing. Guess I’ll have to wait until next season…

Bolton offered me Ibrahim Ba for £1.1M, but I was not really interested and turned down the offer. Thirteen of my staff left at the same time, including all but the coach I signed last season, which leaves me with a hell of a lot of work to do over the pre-season. Not one coach re-signed with the club. Seven players in total also left, but at least three players had already come in on Bosmans. I also got a hell of a lot of players back from loan. I didn’t even know I had that many out on loan! Yet another task in this pre-season will be to sort through them and see if any are worthy of a spot in the first team.

I’d expected that was enough of a challenge. Then four thoughts struck me:

1. I’ve just had a transfer cancelled because I can only sign one non-EU player from abroad per season.

2. Colombia is not part of the EU.

3. My new goalkeeper, who was supposed to walk into Hedman’s spot, was both Colombian and from abroad.

4. Oh crap.

Sure enough, the deal for Miguel Calero fell through. This is what I meant when I said at the start of the story that not knowing the Italian league rules could prove to be a challenge.

I hastily signed 37-year-old former Italian international Gianluca Pagluci on a free transfer. It’s a short-term solution, but will tide us over until I can find another player. Better yet, he is a great coach, so I signed him as a player/coach to try and kill two birds with one stone. He only costs £650 per week, so this is a great deal. Best of all, I get to see somebody give themselves *****! icon_wink.gif

I also grabbed coaches Roberto Bocchino and Roberto Corti as my attempts to rebuild the club’s staff after the June 1 exodus continued. I managed a quite impressive player signing, with former Manchester United winger Luke Chadwick joining on quite reasonable wages. We are already quite strong on both sides of midfield, but there’s nothing wrong with adding a couple more options, especially with Daniele Daino still angry over not getting a new contract. Speaking of Daino, Como came in with an offer to loan him for another season, and having signed Chadwick I readily accepted. However, this was bettered by a £500K bid from Perugia. While it was still a bit less than he was really worth, he was obviously unhappy at the club and I saw no point in retaining him.

I returned to my failed Bosman signings of a few weeks back to see if I could salvage the move. Apparently the signing of Cirkovic was considered to have been done last season, and thus my spot of one non-EU player signed from abroad was open. I hope so, anyway. Miguel Calero had already signed with his club until 2006, so he was out. Thus, I went for young Brazilian defender Carlos Henrique, who had not yet done so. He happy agreed terms, and will join in January. Hopefully.

Unfortunately, I’d forgotten how early Inter-Toto Cup games are, and by the time Ancona’s first game against OFI was announced as being a week away I was still yet to arrange any friendlies. I hastily arranged a game against my reserves (a cool little feature by the way) in hopes of both giving many players match fitness and getting a look at how well some of the fringe players did in comparison to the more established seniors. For what it’s worth, the seniors won 1-0 through an own goal. It didn’t really teach me anything about any players, but at least they got some semblance of match fitness. Since I have a few new players in the senior side, I’ll skip ahead to the squad section so at least you’ll know who I’m talking about during the Inter-Toto games.

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The Squad

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">1st in Italian Serie A

Squad Screen

| Pkd | Inf | Name | Squad Status | Basic Wage | Contract Expiry | Offer Options | Asking Price |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DR | | Cirkovic, M | Key Player | £6,000 | 31.7.2006 | None | £2M |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB5 | | Belleri, M | First Team | £3,000 | 31.7.2006 | None | £750K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| MR | | Chadwick, L | First Team | £3,300 | 31.7.2007 | None | £1.4M |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| MC | | Maini, G | First Team | £625 | 31.7.2005 | None | £300K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DL | | Milanese, M | First Team | £3,300 | 30.6.2005 | None | £130K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| GK | | Pagliuca, G | First Team | £650 | 31.7.2006 | None | £45K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| FC | | Rapaic, M* | First Team | £200 | 1.7.2005 | None | £2.3M |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DC | | Sartor, L | First Team | £9,250 | 31.7.2006 | None | £1.1M |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB7 | | Torrisi, S | First Team | £3,600 | 31.7.2005 | None | £65K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| FC | | Bucchi, C* | Rotation | £700 | 1.7.2005 | None | £4.5M |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DC | | Esposito, M | Rotation | £375 | 30.6.2007 | None | £275K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| ML | | Pandev, G | Rotation | £550 | 30.6.2007 | None | £500K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| MC | | Scarchilli, A | Rotation | £1,000 | 31.7.2006 | None | £300K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB3 | | Sommese, V* | Rotation | £3,700 | 30.6.2007 | None | £3.6M |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB2 | | Zavagno, L | Rotation | £6,000 | 30.6.2007 | None | £375K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Baccin, D | Backup | £425 | 30.6.2005 | None | £240K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Unh | Bilica | Backup | £550 | 30.6.2006 | None | £600K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB1 | | Bruno, S | Backup | £675 | 30.6.2005 | None | £700K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Loa | Carrus, D | Backup | £650 | 30.6.2005 | None | £500K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB4 | Loa | Grabbi, C | Backup | £14,500 | 30.6.2007 | None | £475K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB6 | | Marcon, S | Backup | £230 | 31.7.2006 | None | £150K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Montervino, F | Backup | £110 | 30.6.2006 | None | £500K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Loa | Poggi, P | Backup | £5,000 | 30.6.2005 | None | £55K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Triuzzi, G | Backup | £325 | 30.6.2006 | None | £425K |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

Wage Budget: £90,000 [yep – do well in the league and make £6M profit, and I lose £10K from my budget]

Total Weekly Wages at 25/7/04: £72,432

Please note that from this season the number of seasons games and goals for Ancona during my reign will be listed after each player’s details (except new signings, for obvious reasons).

Goalkeepers

Gianluca Pagiliuca [37, GK, ITA – 39/0]

Something of a short-term solution following the collapse of the deal for Miguel Calero, Pagiliuca will act as both a coach and first-choice goalkeeper. Though he is certainly near the end of his career, he had a good season for Bologna in Serie A last season (indeed, he was their Supporters’ Player of the Year) and should still be very useful at Ancona. He’s a model professional and will act as captain for this season.

Sergio Marcon [33, GK, ITA] – [1, 6, 0]

Only played six games last season but did reasonably well in those matches. He’s not a very good keeper but should be able to hold on for a couple of games against lesser Serie A sides if necessary.

Defenders

Dario Baccin [27, D/DM RLC, ITA] – [1, 11, 0]

Though I normally like versatile players, Baccin did very little last season. I have enough players to cover the defensive positions, so he may not get a game at all in 04/05.

Manuel Belleri [26, D R, ITA]

Belleri comes over from Empoli after playing just seven games in a season for a relegated side – not a promising sign. Indeed, I cannot quite remember why I signed him because he is at best a well-rounded player. It was most likely due to what I thought at the time was the impending departure of Sartor. Oh well… He’s not a bad player, and should get a few games.

Bilica [25, D C, BRA] – [1, 32, 0]

Still unhappy at not receiving a new contract and coming off a pretty poor and undisciplined season, Bilica will have a reduced role this year. He’s still a pretty good player as far as I can tell, but that means nothing if he doesn’t perform on the pitch.

Milivoje Cirkovic [27, D/DM R, SCG – 15/0]

The biggest “name†of any of my new signings, Cirkovic is a very quick player who should slot into right back. He’s more of a wing back than a defender like Sartor, who previously held that position, but should be an equally important player.

Marco Esposito [24, D LC, ITA] – [1, 16, 0]

Esposito did not get much of a go last season after Zavagno took over his left back spot, and did not do overly well when he did play. He could be an interesting partner for Cirkovic on either side of defence as both players are very quick, but he will not be a first-choice player.

Mauro Milanese [32, D LC, ITA] – [1, 29, 2]

Milanese drops the captaincy to Pagliuca but should hold onto his first team spot. He was not one of our better players last year, but Bilica’s current state of unhappiness may provide him with a spot at the back. Perhaps left back may be a better option than centre back now that Sartor and Torrisi will be moving into the middle.

Ancona captain 03/04

Luigi Sartor [29, D RC, ITA – 2/0] – [1, 33, 2]

One of our better players last season, Sartor will likely move from right back to centre back with the signings of Cirkovic and Belleri. He was good enough to accept a pay cut to re-sign with the club last season and will hopefully continue to be an important player.

Stefano Torrisi [33, Sw/D C, ITA – 1/0]

A fringe player at Reggina, Torrisi is a solid and experienced defender who should take on a rotational role at the back this season.

Luciano Zavagno [26, D L, ARG] – [1, 23, 0]

Zavagno took over the first team left back spot, but still did not play overly well. There’s a bit of competition for left back, especially now that Milanese could be moving there, so he will have to fight hard to keep his place. He will likely be the first choice penalty taker when he is on the pitch.

Midfielders

Davide Carrus [25, DM RC, ITA] – [1, 7, 0]

After having very little impact last season, Carrus is listed for loan with no takers as yet. He is unlikely to play any senior games.

Luke Chadwick [23, AM RL, ENG]

Another new signing, Chadwick was contracted to Manchester United but was on loan to Burney for the season, playing reasonably well. It would have cost £2.1M for me to sign him from Man U, but thankfully he was released from the club, freeing me from the need to pay compensation. Pace is his biggest strength, but he possesses enough overall ability to rotate between the wings.

Giampero Maini [32, AM LC, ITA – 1/0] – [1, 29, 1]

The veteran did not quite have the impact I was hoping for last season, and wound up being mostly overshadowed by the other midfielders. I don’t really have many options in the centre of the pitch now that Andersson is gone, so I hope Maini can really step up a notch. Unfortunately, that may be asking a bit much at his age.

Francesco Montervino [26, DM RC, ITA] – [1, 0, 0]

When I spoke last season about my frustration at having good midfielders at my club out on loan, Montervino was one of the players I was talking about. He spent the year in Serie B with Napoli and played just two games, which is not a promising sign. However, he is pretty quick and works hard, and in the absence of any stand-out players in the middle, he may get a run. He has spent many years at Ancona.

Damiano Moscardi [30, DM C, ITA] – [1, 0, 0]

Moscardi is the other player I was referring to. He had little impact in Serie B last year and is behind a number of other players for a midfield role. However, he may get a run if injuries take their toll.

Alessio Scarchilli [31, AM LC, ITA] – [1, 35, 1]

Scarchilli looked a decent player when I picked him up on a free transfer at the start of last season, but he actually turned out to be a quite important member of the senior side. He held down the left wing well and was involved in several quality moves. He also launched a number of great long-range efforts, though he had little success with them. Chadwick may reduce his role, but he should still get quite a few games this year, particularly in the centre of midfield.

Vincenzo Sommese [28, AM RC, ITA] – [1, 33, 1]

Together with Scarchilli, Sommese made the wings one of the most dangerous aspects of Ancona’s side. He set up six goals and regularly created other opportunities with his runs down the right. He should continue to do so this season, regardless of whether he is paired with Scarchilli or Chadwick.

Forwards

Salvatore Bruno [24, S C, ITA] – [1, 0, 0]

It’s unfortunate for Bruno that he spent last season on loan to Bari (11 goals in 24 games), because he would likely have been my first choice as a partner to Rapaic. Instead, he finds himself behind Bucchi in the pecking order, but he may well get a rotational role. Bruno’s reasonably quick and strong, but not quite tall enough to be a target striker – certainly not as effectively as Bucchi, at least.

Christian Bucchi [27, S C, ITA] – [1, 35, 16]

Sixteen goals and thirteen assists for a player I only reluctantly chose as a first team player in the absence of other options is a fair effort. He teamed brilliantly with Rapaic and rather than just playing the role as target striker, he also gave plenty of chances to his partner with some sharp passing. Another big season from him would be very useful.

Supporters’ Player of the Year 03/04

Corrado Grabbi [28, S C, ITA] – [1, 8, 2]

Don’t you just hate those players you can’t get rid of? Grabbi is on £14.5K per week and is contracted until 2007, with a yearly wage rise of 10%. Considering he only played eight games last season, this is not a good deal for Ancona. My attempts to unload him have failed, so I guess I have no choice but to stick with him. It’s hard to see him finding a regular spot in the side.

Paolo Poggi [33, F RLC, ITA] – [1, 14, 1]

Like Grabbi, Poggi is only still at the club because nobody else wants him. He had little impact last year, coming off the bench 14 times for only one goal, and will not have much of a role this season. At least, unlike Grabbi, his contract ends soon.

Milan Rapaic [30, F LC, CRO – 36/7] – [1, 31, 10]

He did not dominate the forward half as I expected, but that was more due to Bucchi stepping up than Rapaic disappointing. It’s pretty hard to fault somebody who scores 10 goals and makes 11 others. He’s still quick, but his finishing could use a lot of work. Both Rapaic and Bucchi have contracts expiring at the end of this season, and it may cost me quite a bit to re-sign them both.

Gianluca Triuzzi [25, F C, ITA] – [1, 0, 0]

Another player who spent all last season on loan (16 goals in Serie C1/B), Triuzzi is quite quick and possesses a brilliant long-range shot, but doesn’t really seem to possess the ability or scoring record to be a first team player.

Freddie Adu, Daniele Degano and Goran Pandev will spend most of the season in the Under-20s due to the excessive number of forwards at the side.

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Thanks. icon_smile.gif From past experiences, a seemingly stronger side than one which overperformed the previous year can suddenly tumble in results, so I'm going to be pretty nervous in at least the early part of this season...

All Up…

This is probably a better side than I had last season, though there is still a bit of deadwood to be cleared out. My main worry is with the goalkeeping, as Pagiliuca is still something of an unknown for me. He looks to have ability, but whether he can hold down the number 1 spot for a season is not clear. If he isn’t able to, I’m not sure if Marcon will be able to hold his own for very long.

Aside from that, our most glaring weakness is in centre midfield. I did not sign a replacement for Daniel Andersson, and while Montervino is like a new signing in that he wasn’t available last season, he is not really of the same calibre. A signing during the season for his position may be appropriate.

Otherwise the squad looks reasonably good. I have plenty of options up forward and down back (arguably too many, as some players won’t get much of a go), and if the players at both ends of the pitch perform as well as last season, we should do quite well.

The Likely Side:

(Playing with a straight 4-4-2)

GK – Gianluca Pagliuca

LB – Marco Esposito

CB – Luigi Sartor

CB – Stefano Torrisi

RB – Milivoje Cirkovic

LM – Luke Chadwick

CM – Giampero Maini

CM – Alessio Scarchilli

RM – Vincenzo Sommese

CF – Milan Rapaic

CF – Christian Bucci

Sub – Sergio Marcon

Sub – Bilica

Sub – Mauro Milanese

Sub – Salvatore Bruno

Sub – Francesco Montervino

Sub – Corrado Grabbi

Sub – Luciano Zavagno

The Staff

Antonio Vallongo (Assistant Manager)

Gilberto Vallesi (Coach)

Roberto Bocchino (Coach)

Gianluca Pagliuca (Coach)

Roberto Corti (Coach)

Alberto Lugli (Physio)

Salvatore Gnisci (Physio)

Massimo D’Ambrosio (Physio)

David Jarrett (Scout)

Rob Campkin (Scout)

Looking Ahead

It’s hard to know what to predict after such an impressive season. Expectations don’t seem too high, so as long as we survive in Serie A I should be fine. It is no longer just a matter of survival, though. We’ve shown we can compete with the big boys, and I would like that to continue. We have a good chance in the Inter-Toto Cup to make a name for ourselves outside Italy and we have what I think is a stronger side to try and better our 03/04 performance in Serie A.

After a season which blew away all predictions I am reluctant to guess what might happen, but a position in the top-10 in Serie A and a decent showing in the Inter-Toto Cup would be a quite reasonable expectation.

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July, season 2004/2005

Our only senior match of this month was the first leg of our 3rd round Inter-Toto Cup match with OFI Crete, a Greek side. I went with the side I listed as the “likely sideâ€, though unfortunately I did not have one player near full fitness. Despite this, we managed to put together a great move in the 10th minute. Milan Rapaic looked for a pass to Bucchi as usual, but he hit it a bit too hard for Bucchi to fire in a shot directly. Instead, he centred the ball for Scarchilli to slam it into the net with a great strike. Bucchi went with a great chip twenty minutes later that just barely went over, and we finished a dominant half 1-0 up. Chadwick in particular had been impressive on debut. OFI put up a bit more of a fight in the second half, but Chadwick and Rapaic teamed up well down the left to keep them busy defensively. An OFI handball in the area from a Chadwick cross gave Bucchi his first with a 56th minute penalty, pretty much sealing the game given OFI’s limited attacks. Bucchi wasted a chance to set up a third late in the game with a wild pass to substitute Salvatore Bruno, but a 2-0 win is good enough to leave us firm favourites to progress. Pagliuca kept a clean sheet on debut while Chadwick, Torrisi, Bruno and Cirkovic also looked pretty good in their first game for the club. Unfortunately, it was not all good news. Scorer Scarchilli suffered a torn hamstring during the game, sidelining him for two months. Francesco Montervino may have to take over in the middle unless I can sign a replacement.

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August, season 2004/2005

Our second leg encounter with OFI came with the knowledge that the winner would face Kaiserslautern in the semi final. Having played against the likes of Inter and Juventus, that isn’t too intimidating, though it is a bit tougher than I’d expected. Nonetheless, we did have a game to take care of beforehand. I’d found no midfielders I really wanted to sign as short-term replacements for the injured Scarchilli, so Francesco Montervino took his spot. An early injury to Milan Rapaic saw Corrado Grabbi on (he may as well do something for his excessive wage), but it was midfielder Vincenzo Sommese who hit the game’s opener with a fabulous 25-yard curling strike into the corner of the net. A 3-0 overall lead in the 33rd minute of the season leg pretty much assured our progression to meet Kaiserslautern, and a scoreless second half confirmed it. Montervino did well in the centre of midfield, as did his second-half substitute Davide Carrus.

That left us just three days before the semi final game away to Kaiserslautern. I had to rest a number of key players including Rapaic, Sommese and Luigi Sartor, which was not what I wanted against a reasonably strong side. Cirkovic moved to the right wing and Manuel Belleri debuted at right back. An 8th minute goal from a free kick to Kaiserslautern was also not what I wanted and a second in the 40th was very worrying. Christian Bucchi had the chance to respond almost immediately, but after getting one-on-one with the keeper, he put his shot over the bar. He made amends in the 52nd after Salvatore Bruno ran onto a long pass from Carrus and crossed it in for Bucchi to head home. We could only manage that one goal in response, but at least we put through an away goal and now have seven days to recover from the game.

The second leg did not start too well for Ancona, with Milan Rapaic missing two gettable shots in a scoreless first half. The second half started off much better, with a ball finding Rapaic up forward and unopposed only seconds after the kick-off. He headed the ball to Bucchi, who fired the ball at the goal with the keeper unable to get to the shot in time…and hit the post. A goal out of nowhere to Kaiserslautern in the 62nd pretty much ended out chances of a win, and a goal to Rapaic from a 94th minute free kick was just too late. We didn’t even have time for the resulting kick-off. A 2-3 aggregate loss to a side like Kaiserslautern isn’t bad, but I had really hoped for a bit better.

Ah well, at least the players managed to get some fitness from that competition. With almost 20 days still to go before the first Serie A games, I had a quick look around for some late signings. I managed to get a loan offer for promising young Serbian international striker Andrija Delibasic accepted, but the player rejected the move. I did, however, grab coach Giacomo Tafuro and scout Julian Carrera.

Thanks to the Inter-Toto Cup, I only needed the one friendly. We took on new Serie A side Fiorentina and defeated them 4-0 with goals to Chadwick, Bucchi, Rapaic and Bruno. Curiously, we did not have any Italian Cup games, so it will be straight into Serie A next month.

That ended the pre-season, and aside from loaning out a bunch of players (most notably defender Dario Baccin) I had no more impact on the transfer market. I received a few bids for midfielder Davide Carrus, but nobody reached my asking price of £500K so I rejected them. Since I have more than enough money in the bank anyway, I see no need to let him go for less than his true value.

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September, season 2004/2005

Interestingly, our odds went from 2000-1 last season to 150-1 this season. At least somebody took note of our good performance.

Our first Serie A game of the season was against Piacenza. Though it was not the toughest opening to the season, it was made harder when key midfielder Vincenzo Sommese joined Alessio Scarchilli on the sidelines with a training injury. As such, Milivoje Cirkovic actually played on the right wing in his Serie A debut, with Manuel Belleri at right back. A very weak clearance from new defender Stefano Torrisi almost handed Piacenza a 4th minute goal, but Gianluca Pagliuca did well to keep it out. Milan Rapaic and Christian Bucchi went forward in the 22nd minute, but while Rapaic managed to get around the keeper for a simple shot on goal, he tried to go for a more fancy move by passing off to unmarked partner Bucchi. While Bucchi was able to put it into the net, he was offside, and the goal didn’t count. What a waste. Fortunately, Rapaic performed the move much more effectively eleven minutes later, leaving Bucchi with an easy finish for our first Serie A goal of the season. A great run from Luke Chadwick almost gave Rapaic a goal of his own just after the break, but it was tipped over. Rapaic did get one in the 67th thanks to a nice header from substitute Francesco Montervino and he returned the favour six minutes later with a beautiful centring ball for Montervino to slam home. A comfortable 3-0 win is certainly a nice way to start the league season.

Thanks to a few international games, we had a quite significant break between that match and our next one against Brescia. Vincenzo Sommese returned from injury but started on the bench, as he lacked match fitness. Disturbingly, we lost goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca only half an hour in, but thankfully I at least had backup Sergio Marcon on the bench. He managed to come away with a clean sheet, but our forwards lacked penetration and the game finished in a scoreless draw. Thankfully, Pagliuca’s injury was only minor, and he won’t miss a single game.

I brought young Serbian international forward Goran Pandev up to the senior side after some exceptional performances in the Under-20s and he started on the bench against Udinese. A great pass from Cirkovic gave defender Belleri a great chance to score in the first half, but with only seven goals in 193 matches, it was no surprise to see him put it over. A great exchange of passes between the midfielders gave Bucchi the first of the game in the 52nd minute but Udinese hit back quickly after a forward beat our defenders to a loose ball in their area. Goran Pandev came on and managed to bet the goalkeeper to a ball at the edge of the area in the dying minutes, but his shot went well wide. Not only did we only come away with one point, Vincenzo Sommese (who only came onto the pitch in the second half) suffered a groin strain, putting him out for three weeks. I guess Cirkovic will have to hold onto right wing for a bit longer…

He did indeed do so in our final match of the month, away to Juventus. Not the sort of game you’d want to be missing two key midfielders in. Juventus managed a shot in just the first twenty seconds after Luciano Zavagno gave the ball up at the back shortly after the kick-off. It went over the bar, but it was a worrying start. Only good goalkeeping and sloppy finishing kept Juventus from scoring in a 25-minute onslaught at the start of the game, but three goals in quick succession just after the break put an end to any hopes we might have had of stealing a win. Pagliuca actually did a pretty good job in goal, or the scoreline could have been much worse. Christian Bucchi actually managed a quite remarkable final rating of ‘2’ in the 0-3 belting, though Juventus probably deserved at least another two goals. Despite the two players we had missing and the obvious gap in class between the sides, there’s no excusing such a weak performance. Only Pagliuca could be remotely pleased with his efforts, and even then he let through three goals.

Not the best month for Ancona, though it really isn’t that far away from the performance bookmakers and even the board seem to expect. Cirkovic is doing very well on the right wing, but I’d like to see Sommese and Scarchilli back as soon as possible.

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October, season 2004/2005

I made a number of changes to the side that took on Lecce in our first match of October as a result of fatigue from our previous game against Juventus. Damiano Moscardi was among the players to come in, making his senior debut for Ancona. I did retain my usual striking team, and when Rapaic was fouled in the area, Christian Bucchi took the 15th minute penalty. Unfortunately, he blasted it straight over, and worse yet Lecce took the lead four minutes later. Bilica, in his first league game of the season, headed home a 30th minute equaliser from a Cirkovic corner and just minutes later Chadwick intercepted a Lecce throw-in and ran all the way to the goal for a finish from close range. Our lead lasted just two minutes with a second to Lecce, but Rapaic was unlucky not to regain it from the kick-off, hitting the post with a nice strike. Bucchi put a free kick just wide minutes later, but it was a case of third time lucky in the 42nd with a classic move – a Rapaic pass across goal for a Bucchi tap-in. 3-2 at half time and we were looking good. Unfortunately, after being our best player against Juventus, goalkeeper Pagliuca was actually looking like the weak link against Lecce. However, it was a magnificent pass from Pagliuca that sealed the game in the 69th. The ball travelled 3/4 of the pitch and landed perfectly for Milan Rapaic to run onto. He charged at the keeper and chipped it perfectly over his head, making it a fine 4-2 victory for Ancona.

Next was an away game against Chievo. Alessio Scarchilli finally returned from his torn hamstring and started on the bench. Bucchi sent in a few shots early, but they were easily handled by the Chievo keeper. At the other end, Pagliuca was not able to save a shot fired past him, but thankfully it hit the post. At least, thankfully until it bounced back, hit Pagliuca and rebounded into the net to give Chievo a lead in the 25th. Milan Rapaic hit back shortly after that with a 25-yard strike and a scramble in the area three minutes later after Bucchi tackled the ball away from a defender saw a Chievo player knock the ball in for an own goal. The 64th minute saw a great Ancona break, with Bucchi running at the keeper with two defenders chasing after him and Rapaic well clear by himself. Unlike his partner, Bucchi decided to go with the shot himself rather than pass, and though it trickled towards the goal after the keeper got a hand to it, he was able to get there before Rapaic. A wasted chance thanks to some selfish play. We were very lucky it wasn’t more costly, as Chievo actually scored minutes later only to have the move ruled offside. Rapaic showed no bitterness by giving Bucchi yet another simple tap-in late in the game, which thankfully meant that a second to Chievo with a couple of minutes to go meant nothing in the end. 3-2 was a fair result, but it could have gone either way.

Pagliuca is conceding a few too many goals for my liking, and I may have to look for a replacement during the transfer window. Speaking of which, I managed to get 21-year-old striker Marco Vianello of Milan to agree to join on a free transfer. Thankfully he was actually listed for free, or it would have cost £1.2M in compensation to sign him. It may seem a bit odd to be picking up yet another forward, but my current senior forwards are getting on a bit in years and many (including both Rapaic and Bucchi) have contracts expiring this season. Vianello was a goal machine in Serie B last season, so hopefully he has a good future ahead of him.

Vincenzo Sommese was available for the next game against Inter after his injury, but despite the strength of our opponents, the fact that he suffered injuries in his last two senior games ensured he started on the bench alongside Scarchilli. A 12th minute penalty to Inter was the last thing we needed, gifting our opponents an early lead. A good exchange of passes just before the break between Montervino, Cirkovic and Maini resulted in our only chance of the first half, but Maini’s shot was comfortably saved. Inter scored a second minutes into the second half and 2-0 was the final score. The only positive was that Sommese and Scarchilli managed to come away unscathed after 20 minutes on the pitch. Pagliuca is genuinely struggling and we may be in a lot of trouble if he doesn’t start showing some good form in the next few weeks.

Sergio Marcon took over in goal against Roma, but while we managed to get through the first half without conceding any goals, it was purely due to poor shooting from Roma. They eventually headed one in from a corner in the final twenty minutes of the match to leave us with a 0-1 loss, and just to make the day worse we lost Milivoje Cirkovic to a broken wrist, putting him out for three weeks.

Vincenzo Sommese replaced him on the right wing against Perugia. Marcon actually pulled off a few good saves in the first half, which ended scoreless. Maini barely missed a free kick just into the second half and that turned out to be our last chance of the game. A pretty dull 0-0 draw, but at least Marcon got a clean sheet and the side grabbed a point.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Holders - Inter

| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D.| Pts |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | | Inter | | 8 | 3 | 1 | 0 | 10 | 0 | 3 | 1 | 0 | 6 | 2 | +14 | 20 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Lazio | | 9 | 2 | 1 | 1 | 5 | 4 | 4 | 1 | 0 | 10 | 2 | +9 | 20 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Roma | | 8 | 2 | 1 | 1 | 8 | 2 | 3 | 0 | 1 | 9 | 5 | +10 | 16 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Udinese | | 9 | 1 | 4 | 0 | 5 | 4 | 2 | 2 | 0 | 5 | 3 | +3 | 15 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Parma | | 8 | 4 | 0 | 0 | 8 | 1 | 0 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 5 | +4 | 14 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Milan | | 8 | 4 | 0 | 0 | 9 | 0 | 0 | 1 | 3 | 2 | 7 | +4 | 13 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Juventus | | 8 | 1 | 2 | 1 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1 | 1 | 6 | 4 | +3 | 12 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Sampdoria | | 8 | 3 | 0 | 1 | 11 | 4 | 1 | 0 | 3 | 2 | 7 | +2 | 12 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Ancona | | 9 | 0 | 3 | 2 | 1 | 4 | 3 | 0 | 1 | 10 | 7 | 0 | 12 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th| | Verona | | 9 | 2 | 0 | 2 | 8 | 9 | 2 | 0 | 3 | 2 | 8 | -7 | 12 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th| | Brescia | | 9 | 3 | 1 | 1 | 9 | 3 | 0 | 1 | 3 | 1 | 7 | 0 | 11 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th| | Perugia | | 9 | 2 | 1 | 1 | 5 | 3 | 0 | 4 | 1 | 1 | 3 | 0 | 11 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th| | Bologna | | 9 | 2 | 1 | 1 | 7 | 3 | 1 | 1 | 3 | 5 | 11 | -2 | 11 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th| | Fiorentina | | 9 | 2 | 0 | 2 | 4 | 5 | 1 | 2 | 2 | 8 | 12 | -5 | 11 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th| | Reggina | | 8 | 2 | 3 | 0 | 9 | 6 | 0 | 1 | 2 | 1 | 5 | -1 | 10 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16th| | Atalanta | | 9 | 1 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 5 | 1 | 2 | 1 | 5 | 5 | -3 | 10 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 17th| | Lecce | | 9 | 3 | 0 | 2 | 10 | 6 | 0 | 1 | 3 | 2 | 12 | -6 | 10 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th| | Napoli | | 9 | 2 | 1 | 1 | 7 | 4 | 0 | 0 | 5 | 0 | 11 | -8 | 7 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 19th| | Chievo | | 9 | 1 | 1 | 3 | 7 | 10 | 0 | 2 | 2 | 2 | 4 | -5 | 6 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 20th| | Piacenza | | 8 | 0 | 0 | 3 | 2 | 8 | 1 | 0 | 4 | 5 | 11 | -12 | 3 |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |

| -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

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November, season 2004/2005

Sergio Marcon retained his place in goal against Atlanta, while Christian Bucchi took a rare break, replaced by Salvatore Bruno. Surprisingly, Atlanta dominated the first half, and Ancona’s cause wasn’t helped with the loss of both Milan Rapaic and Luke Chadwick to knocks. Giampero Maini drilled through a free kick just before half time to give us an unlikely lead. Marcon played pretty well, but weak defending allowed Atlanta to get players one-on-one with him in the second half twice in three minutes, scoring on both occasions. A great ball from Vincenzo Sommese gave substitute Christian Bucchi a chance to equalise with three minutes remaining, but his shot went well over the bar. A magnificent run from young forward Goran Pandev saw him take the ball from mid-pitch to the area, but while his angled shot beat the keeper, it hit the post and rebounded out. That was all for Ancona, with sloppy defence and weak finishing costing us a game we should have won.

Chadwick recovered in time for the next game, at home to Reggina, but Rapaic was not yet over his stubbed toe. Come to think of it, that injury has always been overpowered in CM. With Cirkovic and Zavagno also out injured and Pagliuca still on the bench due to his form slump, we were some way away from being at full strength. Having Marcon knock a cross into his own net late in the first half was not the ideal start in these circumstances. However, while we were missing Milan Rapaic, we did have our leading scorer Christian Bucchi on the pitch. In trademark fashion, he headed a Scarchilli corner neatly into the net for our first with 20 minutes left in the game. The scores were still level in the 84th minute, leaving us looking at our fifth straight game without a win. A ripper of a pass from Montervino, however, put Bucchi past the defence and through on goal for a simple finish. 2-1, but could we hold it for six minutes? In the end, we did better than that. Just minutes later, a wonderful pass from Bucchi after he intercepted a defensive clearance found substitute Corrado Grabbi in space. He charged at goal and launched the ball into the net from 20 yards for his first of the season. A nice 3-1 win to get back on track, though we were still far from convincing.

I brought back both Rapaic and Pagliuca for our game against Parma. Pagliuca repaid my faith with three excellent early saves but Vincenzo Sommese was the only player to provide any fight at the other end. Parma snuck through a goal in the 43rd and scored another just into the second half. Not even a nice late Carrus cross met with a Bucchi header was enough to get a goal on the board for Ancona as we went down 0-2. At least Pagliuca put up a pretty decent performance.

Both Zavagno and Cirkovic returned to the side that faced Sampdoria. A neat series of passes between the strikers gave Rapaic a goal in the first 15 minutes and Bucchi caught the goalkeeper out of position for a second another 15 minutes later. It was still 2-0 at half time and despite several chances to each striker, they only finished the game with one apiece. However, both sides scored late in the game (Ancona through a cross from Chadwick which was headed in by Sommese) to finish with a 3-1 result. Both Zavagno and Cirkovic got through their returns okay. At this point, I might note that Manuel Belleri has done an excellent job at right back this season. I only expected him to play a minor role, but with Cirkovic playing on the wing in place of the injured Sommese and then injured himself, Belleri has played at right back all season and has done well.

The next game, against Napoli, was only a few days later, so both Zavagno and Rapaic were rested. Napoli scored through a direct free kick mid-way through the first half and we lost defender Stefano Torrisi to an injury (which turned out to be minor) shortly after that. We were still down at the break and the best we could manage in the second half was a curling long-range effort from Scarchilli which went wide. Goran Pandev fired in a shot in literally the last minute of the game, but it skimmed the bar as it went over. Yet another loss on the board.

Our final match of the month was not an easy one – at home to Lazio. It was all about holding on for the first half, and we managed to do that well. Our only chance came when Bucchi somehow managed to sneak behind the defence for a shot on goal, but it was a poor effort that went well over. Lazio got one through after a corner in the 50th and we did not get a single shot on goal in the second half. The rather spiteful match (six players received yellow cards) ended in a 0-1 defeat for Ancona.

Being November, I had plenty of contracts to worry about before the Bosman period. I decided against re-signing first team squad members Paolo Poggi, Giampero Maini, Salvatore Bruno, Stefano Torrisi and Mauro Milanese. Torrisi and Maini are the only ones to have played reasonably well in the senior side, and they’re just getting a bit too old to be re-signed when many other regular players will be demanding increased wages.

I did manage to re-sign Milan Rapaic until 2006 and Freddie Adu for another year on a youth contract but both Davide Carrus and, disturbingly, leading scorer Christian Bucchi rejected their offers. I have offered both new, improved deals, but we shall have to wait until next month to see if they accept. I gave 23-year-old Finnish defender Tuomas Aho a trial at Ancona, and while my coaches were very impressed with him, his wage demands of £4.6K were a bit too much for me. He rejected a lesser offer and soon left the club.

It occurs to me the league table is probably a bit easier to read with just overall results rather than home and away, so unless anybody has any objections, that’s what I’ll use from now on.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Holders - Inter

| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | | Roma | | 15 | 11 | 2 | 2 | 35 | 10 | +25 | 35 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Inter | | 14 | 9 | 3 | 2 | 23 | 8 | +15 | 30 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Parma | | 15 | 9 | 2 | 4 | 19 | 10 | +9 | 29 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Lazio | | 15 | 8 | 4 | 3 | 21 | 13 | +8 | 28 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Juventus | | 15 | 7 | 6 | 2 | 22 | 10 | +12 | 27 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Milan | | 14 | 7 | 2 | 5 | 21 | 15 | +6 | 23 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Sampdoria | | 15 | 7 | 1 | 7 | 27 | 21 | +6 | 22 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Brescia | | 15 | 6 | 4 | 5 | 22 | 20 | +2 | 22 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Lecce | | 15 | 6 | 3 | 6 | 21 | 24 | -3 | 21 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th | | Udinese | | 15 | 4 | 8 | 3 | 17 | 18 | -1 | 20 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th | | Ancona | | 15 | 5 | 3 | 7 | 18 | 19 | -1 | 18 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th | | Atalanta | | 15 | 4 | 6 | 5 | 15 | 17 | -2 | 18 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th | | Reggina | | 14 | 4 | 5 | 5 | 17 | 20 | -3 | 17 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th | | Verona | | 15 | 5 | 2 | 8 | 18 | 28 | -10 | 17 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th | | Napoli | | 15 | 5 | 2 | 8 | 11 | 21 | -10 | 17 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16th | | Perugia | | 15 | 2 | 8 | 5 | 11 | 14 | -3 | 14 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 17th | | Bologna | | 15 | 4 | 2 | 9 | 17 | 27 | -10 | 14 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th | | Chievo | | 15 | 3 | 4 | 8 | 17 | 24 | -7 | 13 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 19th | | Fiorentina | | 15 | 3 | 3 | 9 | 13 | 32 | -19 | 12 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 20th | | Piacenza | | 14 | 3 | 2 | 9 | 15 | 29 | -14 | 11 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | | | | | |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

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December, season 2004/2005

December started off well with Davide Carrus and Christian Bucchi both re-signing with Ancona until 2007. Better yet, I also secured two more players to join in January – 21-year-old Milan striker Marco Vianello for free and Portsmouth’s 16-year-old Thai striker Supat Rungratsamee for £210K compensation. The latter represents the first time I have spent money on a transfer, and believe me, it’s worth it. The kid is something special, and though he will only come over on a youth contract, I can’t wait to sign him to something long-term. Thankfully, he also has an English nationality, so I don’t have to worry about Carlos Henrique’s arrival next month screwing up the deal.

Somewhere amidst all the contract issues we managed to sneak in a game against Verona. We really struggled to score, especially with Rapaic forced off with a knock. When a second-half header from Bucchi hit the outside of the post and Verona took the lead with 18 minutes to go, it looked like we were headed for another loss. However, Bucchi managed to set up Rapaic’s replacement, Corrado Grabbi, for a tap-in five minutes later to level the scores. They remained level until the 85th minute, when Verona scored from a 35-yard curling strike out of nowhere. We couldn’t hit back and finished with the 1-2 loss. It was probably a fair result considering the balance of play, but it is always frustrating to have freak goals like that (the Goal of the Month, in fact) go against you. With Ancona now sitting in 12th place, this season is shaping as much more of a challenge than the last.

I added another player to my imports, this one for the end of the season, agreeing terms with lightening quick Dinamo Kiev winger Badr El Kadouri. Unfortuantely, the 23-year-old is Moroccan, and I’m not sure if he will be unable to join due to the signing of Carlos Henrique. Guess we’ll have to wait and see…

We finally played our first match of the Italian Cup (the second round) at home against Bologna. I rested several players and Freddie Adu came up from the Under-20s after some excellent performances there. Bucchi scored a 15th minute penalty (his 10th goal of the season), but Bologna hit back in the 64th. It was still 1-1 at full time, with Pandev having a very good chance late in the game saved by the keeper. Time to work on his finishing, methinks… Not a great effort against a pretty mediocre opposition, but acceptable considering we had a number of regular senior players rested.

The major reason for resting those players was that our next match was against Milan. We were dominated, but did well to hold them out until the 71st minute, when Seedorf slid one through from an impossible angle. A creditable 0-1 loss.

Next came a Serie A game against Fiorentina. Bucchi had a close-range shot saved in the opening 30 seconds and we dominated the first half. However, Fiorentina took the lead in the 52nd minute thanks to a penalty. A loose Zavagno header almost gave them a second moments later, but thankfully Pagliuca saved from the one-on-one battle. Fiorentina continued to attack strongly after that and we did not get another chance until the very final seconds of injury time when Zavagno played Bucchi through. The striker ran at the goal as the seconds ticked away, but his shot from just outside the area went wide and the final whistle blew. 0-1, which was a far from creditable result this time.

The return leg of our Italian Cup tie with Bologna followed these two losses. Having conceded an away goal in the 1-1 draw last time, we had to score here. A long pass from Pagliuca in the opening minute drifted over a defender’s head, giving Rapaic an open run at the goal. The Croatian made no mistake for a dream start to the game. Rapaic was very busy in the first half, but while his shots were kept out, Bologna managed to scramble one in late in the half to level both the game and the aggregate. Rapaic hit the side netting with a free kick in the final minute of the half, and scores were still tied at the break. Rapaic was playing an excellent game, but he had to be substituted mid-way through the second half due to fatigue. Unfortunately, that was just minutes before Bologna scored from an excellent move, leaving us a goal down with 17 minutes to go. I brought on Scarchilli and went with an all-out attack. It was Scarchilli who found Freddie Adu with a short pass in the 84th minute. The youngster flicked it straight on to fellow young forward Goran Pandev, who came on for Rapaic earlier. He charged into the box and finally made a crucial shot count, putting us ahead on away goals with five minutes to go. Straight from the kick-off Bologna charged forward, and eventually a high ball was sent into their crowded area. It looked like Stefano Torrisi headed the ball clear, but apparently he was holding onto an opponent as well, and a penalty was awarded. It was put through with ease, taking us in one minute from an away goal lead to an aggregate deficit. With only two minutes to go, the players attempted to replicate a successful move from earlier. Freddie Adu took the ball in our half and found Scarchilli, who in turn came forward and passed to the running Pandev. The Serbian came forward into the box again, sent in a shot…and this time put it yards wide. A terrible finish, seemingly ending our hopes of a win. Cirkovic sent a free kick into the box in the dying seconds, but it was headed clear and the final whistle blew. The 3-4 aggregate defeat knocked us out of the Italian Cup, but at least some of the young up-and-comers put up a fight.

The month was not a total write-off, despite the poor results on the pitch. I re-signed everybody I wanted to and got a couple of good players to agree to join Ancona. I added to that group 20-year-old Italian Under-21 defender Alessandro Potenza, who will come over in March, and have a few more players I am in negotiations with at the moment. Under-21 caps don’t seem to mean too much in this game, but Potenza does look useful and together with Carlos Henrique, the future looks quite bright for our defence. However, the short-term future of the club is a bit of a worry, with Ancona now precariously placed in 16th spot.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Holders - Inter

| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | | Roma | | 18 | 13 | 3 | 2 | 42 | 12 | +30 | 42 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Inter | | 18 | 11 | 5 | 2 | 31 | 12 | +19 | 38 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Lazio | | 18 | 11 | 4 | 3 | 28 | 14 | +14 | 37 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Juventus | | 18 | 9 | 6 | 3 | 27 | 13 | +14 | 33 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Milan | | 18 | 10 | 3 | 5 | 25 | 15 | +10 | 33 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Parma | | 18 | 10 | 3 | 5 | 23 | 14 | +9 | 33 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Sampdoria | | 18 | 8 | 2 | 8 | 32 | 27 | +5 | 26 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Brescia | | 18 | 6 | 6 | 6 | 23 | 23 | 0 | 24 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Lecce | | 18 | 7 | 3 | 8 | 25 | 29 | -4 | 24 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th | | Udinese | | 18 | 4 | 9 | 5 | 19 | 27 | -8 | 21 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th | | Verona | | 18 | 6 | 3 | 9 | 23 | 34 | -11 | 21 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th | | Fiorentina | | 18 | 6 | 3 | 9 | 19 | 35 | -16 | 21 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th | | Atalanta | | 18 | 4 | 8 | 6 | 17 | 20 | -3 | 20 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th | | Perugia | | 18 | 3 | 10 | 5 | 14 | 15 | -1 | 19 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th | | Chievo | | 18 | 5 | 4 | 9 | 22 | 25 | -3 | 19 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16th | | Ancona | | 18 | 5 | 3 | 10 | 19 | 23 | -4 | 18 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 17th | | Reggina | | 18 | 4 | 6 | 8 | 21 | 27 | -6 | 18 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th | | Napoli | | 18 | 5 | 3 | 10 | 13 | 26 | -13 | 18 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 19th | | Bologna | | 18 | 4 | 4 | 10 | 17 | 30 | -13 | 16 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 20th | | Piacenza | | 18 | 3 | 4 | 11 | 17 | 36 | -19 | 13 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | | | | | |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

The senior stats at the end of December 2004 also follow:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">16th in Italian Serie A

Squad Screen

| Pkd | Inf | Name | Apps | Gls | Asts | MoM | Pass | Tck | Drb | Sh Tar | Av R | Value|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| ML | | Chadwick, L | 24 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 68 % | 3.39 | 2.69 | 42 % | 7.21 | £2.8M|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| FC | | Bucchi, C* | 23 (1) | 10 | 4 | 6 | 61 % | 1.24 | 0.87 | 72 % | 7.29 | £4.6M|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| FC | | Rapaic, M* | 20 (1) | 6 | 4 | 2 | 69 % | 0.94 | 0.99 | 59 % | 6.76 | £875K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| GK | | Pagliuca, G | 20 | 0 | 2 | 0 | 43 % | - | - | - | 6.30 | £18K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Sartor, L | 20 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 71 % | 2.16 | 0.21 | - | 6.45 | £625K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DC | | Torrisi, S | 19 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 73 % | 2.22 | 0.06 | 50 % | 6.26 | £26K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB6 | Inj | Belleri, M | 17 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 65 % | 3.76 | 1.01 | - | 6.82 | £500K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB7 | | Maini, G | 16 (3) | 1 | 0 | 0 | 74 % | 2.25 | 0.06 | 72 % | 6.84 | £140K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DR | | Cirkovic, M | 15 (3) | 0 | 1 | 1 | 67 % | 4.29 | 0.32 | 100 % | 6.61 | £1.8M|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| MR | Yel | Sommese, V* | 13 (5) | 2 | 0 | 1 | 59 % | 3.84 | 2.10 | 27 % | 6.89 | £3.6M|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB2 | | Montervino, F | 13 (3) | 1 | 4 | 0 | 69 % | 2.24 | 0.33 | 77 % | 6.50 | £600K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB4 | | Milanese, M | 11 (3) | 0 | 0 | 1 | 69 % | 1.91 | 0.18 | - | 6.43 | £35K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB5 | | Scarchilli, A | 10 (5) | 1 | 1 | 0 | 67 % | 2.15 | 0.75 | 33 % | 6.67 | £120K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| MC | | Carrus, D | 8 (7) | 0 | 0 | 0 | 77 % | 3.49 | 0.45 | 37 % | 6.87 | £775K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | Esposito, M | 8 (2) | 0 | 0 | 0 | 71 % | 1.49 | 0.37 | - | 6.30 | £220K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DL | | Zavagno, L | 8 (1) | 0 | 0 | 0 | 66 % | 2.20 | 0.61 | 100 % | 6.56 | £400K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| DC | Unh | Bilica | 7 (6) | 1 | 0 | 0 | 69 % | 2.40 | - | 100 % | 6.69 | £375K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB1 | | Marcon, S | 4 (1) | 0 | 0 | 0 | 46 % | - | - | - | 6.00 | £90K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Loa | Bruno, S | 3 (3) | 0 | 1 | 0 | 63 % | 0.58 | 0.29 | - | 5.33 | £230K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| SB3 | | Pandev, G | 2 (4) | 1 | 1 | 0 | 72 % | 0.54 | 0.54 | 37 % | 6.50 | £600K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Req | Moscardi, D | 2 | 0 | 2 | 0 | 73 % | 3.15 | - | - | 7.00 | £130K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| MC | | Adu, F | 1 (2) | 0 | 1 | 0 | 66 % | 0.65 | 1.30 | - | 7.00 | £1M |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Loa | Grabbi, C | 0 (7) | 2 | 0 | 0 | 89 % | 0.91 | 0.91 | 80 % | 6.71 | £550K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Loa | Poggi, P | 0 (1) | 0 | 0 | 0 | - | - | - | - | 7.00 | £18K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Lst | Castaldo, L | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | ---- | £14K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Lst | Gentili, F | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | ---- | £65K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Lst | Peccarisi, M | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | ---- | £275K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Lst | Sogliano, S | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | ---- | £28K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Loa | Triuzzi, G | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | ---- | £425K|

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Inj | Vadacca, M | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | ---- | £6K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | Lst | Vives, G | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | ---- | £7K |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | | | | | | |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

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January, season 2004/2005

We welcomed three new signings to Ancona at the start of the month, who are all profiled below:

Supat Rungratsamee [16, S C, THA]

The first player to be deemed worthy of a transfer fee by yours truly, Rungratsamee is an exceptionally talented young player. He is lightening quick and possesses stunning ball control. Some great runs are a given. He scored three goals in eight games (seven of those off the bench) at Portsmouth in the English First Division, and better yet put through 14 in 12 in the reserves. He is 17 in April, and I hope to sign him to a long-term contract. He may well play senior football before then, though.

Carlos Henrique [21, D LC, BRA – 6 U21/0]

More of a long-term prospect, Carlos Henrique played a few games at Vitoria in Brazil but neither his performances nor his attributes are particularly impressive. One of my scouts suggested he had a hot future and he does have Under-21 caps for Brazil, but it may take him a while to develop.

Marco Vianello [21, S C, ITA]

Vianello played five games off the bench and scored two goals with Milan this season, so there’s no denying his promise. He also put through 17 on loan in Serie B last season. Vianello is a similar player to Rapaic in that he’s reasonably well-rounded, and should get a go in the senior side this season.

I immediately sent Carlos Henrique and Vianello to the Under-20 side, but kept Rungratsamee in the seniors. I dropped Paolo Poggi and Salvatore Bruno to the reserves to clear up the squad a bit, since they aren’t likely to play any more senior games. Corrado Grabbi is also unlikely to play with the good form of Goran Pandev and Freddie Adu and arrival of Rungratsamee, but I kept him around just to keep the numbers in the squad even. It looks so wrong with an odd number somehow…

If those three young signings weren’t enough, I added three potential immediate senior players set to join at the end of the season. Milan’s 24-year-old forward (yes, another one) Andrea Rabito, Serbian Under-21 forward (!) Mirko Vucinic from Leece and Brescia’s Italian Under-21 goalkeeper Federico Agliardi all agreed terms for moderate wages. I think I’m going to have to play a 3-2-5 formation next season to fit all those forwards in… Speaking of which, Vianello debuted for the Under-20 side against Lazio and hit two goals with a perfect ‘10’ rating. Wow.

None of the new players were in the senior side that hosted Bologna. It was a critical match considering our dangerously low league position, and considering our opponents were in 19th place, I was looking for three points. Bucchi almost scored a fluke goal with a wild cross, but it was hurriedly saved. He did manage to put through a more conventional goal just before the break, albeit in a bit of a mad scramble in a crowded area. Nonetheless, it was a welcome lead. It didn’t last long, though – a defensive header from Vincenzo Sommese from a free kick trickled into the net for an own goal moments into the second half. A late Bucchi header from close range was held by the goalkeeper and a chance for three points went begging with the 1-1 draw.

Having fallen to 18th after that draw, our game against bottom-placed Piacenza assumed even more importance. We threw away two points in the last game, and couldn’t afford to here. Sergio Marcon took over in goal, and his job was made easier with Milan Rapaic squeezing the ball between the post and keeper for a goal in the first ninety seconds. He actually added a second six minutes later, but was ruled offside. Luke Chadwick’s long-range curling shot in the 29th went wide and Piacenza had a great chance to take advantage of the single-goal difference with a 34th minute penalty. However, Marcon – in just his sixth senior game of the season – saved both the penalty and the follow-up for Ancona to retain the lead at half time. We dominated the second half, but a Piacenza shot out of nowhere with twenty minutes to go beat Marcon. Thankfully, it came back off the crossbar and was cleared, but it was a scary moment. Somehow we held on for the final minutes, finishing 1-0 winners with Marcon Man of the Match.

I signed yet another player on a free transfer to join at the end of the season – 29-year-old Spanish international Pedro Munitis, an attacking midfielder at Deportivo. His wages of £6.5K were a bit excessive for me, but since he’s currently on £15K, that’s a pretty good deal. It will be a vastly different Ancona senior side next season, but which division will we be in? I also signed unattached Norwegian Under-21 left winger Michael Bertensen, who is a long-term prospect.

Marco Vianello slammed through a hat-trick against Brescia for the Under-20s, making it five goals in three games. Wow again. Luciano Zavagno suffered broken ribs in training, putting him out for three weeks, so Mauro Milanese started at left back for the senior game against Brescia. Supat Rungratsamee started on the bench. The first half was dull aside from a number of yellow cards, and the best we managed in the second half was a painfully slow Rapaic lob. Marcon did well to block a powerful shot from close range as the game headed for a scoreless draw. The final twenty minutes saw both Rapaic and Bucchi forced off with minor injuries, leaving Ancona with surely one of the youngest striking teams in Serie A history – 15-year-old Freddie Adu and 16-year-old Supat Rungratsamee on debut. Marcon managed another top save from close range in the 77th after the ball slipped past a couple of Ancona defender, but an injury to Freddie Adu with all three subs used left us a man down with six minutes to go. Somehow we managed to come forward moments later, and after a great exchange of passes Chadwick took a shot, beat the keeper…and hit the bar. All the injuries were thankfully minor, but the 0-0 draw was a disappointing result.

I swapped Freddie Adu and Marco Vianello after the game, in order to give Freddie a bit of a break from senior football and reward Vianello for his great Under-20s performances. Adu has looked very good in his couple of senior games this season, playing mostly in the midfield, but there’s no point burning him out this early. I received an interesting bid for Davide Carrus from Perugia - £600K plus Fabio Filippi. Filippi, a 32-year-old midfielder, wasn’t of much interest, but the £600K wasn't bad. I decided to reject it though, as Carrus has played well in his 18 senior games and is making quite a challenge for a regular role in the midfield.

Though we’d climbed to 14th spot after the last few games, it didn’t make our home match against Juventus at the end of January any easier. A penalty to Ancona in the 5th minute, however, did. Bucchi put it straight in for a very useful lead. Marcon held on against several Juventus attacks, keeping us in front for the first 45. Unfortunately, as so often happens, our opponents scored just after the break. A forward easily outpaced our defenders to get in a shot, and while Marcon saved that, the rebound went straight to another Juventus player for a simple finish. Rapaic and Sommese, as happens all too often, were forced off with minor injuries. Vianello debuted in Rapaic’s place and should have received a pass from Bucchi when they were two-on-one with the keeper in the 71st. Unfortunately, Bucchi went for it himself and it was easily saved. Just as it looked like we could still come away with a point, Juventus went into their area with 30 seconds to go in injury time. Davide Carrus made a good tackle on the player in possession, but Luigi Sartor was apparently spotted shoving another Juventus player. The penalty was awarded and scored from, and we didn’t even have time for a kick-off. 1-2, with a crucial point taken away in literally the final seconds.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre"> Holders - Inter

| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | | Roma | | 22 | 15 | 4 | 3 | 51 | 17 | +34 | 49 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Inter | | 22 | 14 | 6 | 2 | 37 | 12 | +25 | 48 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Lazio | | 22 | 14 | 5 | 3 | 40 | 15 | +25 | 47 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Parma | | 22 | 13 | 4 | 5 | 33 | 17 | +16 | 43 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Juventus | | 22 | 11 | 8 | 3 | 32 | 16 | +16 | 41 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Milan | | 23 | 12 | 5 | 6 | 31 | 17 | +14 | 41 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Sampdoria | | 22 | 10 | 4 | 8 | 40 | 30 | +10 | 34 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Atalanta | | 22 | 6 | 10 | 6 | 23 | 21 | +2 | 28 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Reggina | | 22 | 7 | 6 | 9 | 33 | 32 | +1 | 27 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th | | Perugia | | 23 | 5 | 12 | 6 | 20 | 19 | +1 | 27 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th | | Brescia | | 22 | 6 | 9 | 7 | 27 | 30 | -3 | 27 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th | | Chievo | | 22 | 7 | 4 | 11 | 31 | 35 | -4 | 25 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th | | Lecce | | 22 | 7 | 3 | 12 | 28 | 41 | -13 | 24 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th | | Ancona | | 22 | 6 | 5 | 11 | 22 | 26 | -4 | 23 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th | | Napoli | | 22 | 6 | 4 | 12 | 17 | 33 | -16 | 22 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16th | | Verona | | 22 | 6 | 4 | 12 | 25 | 42 | -17 | 22 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 17th | | Fiorentina | | 22 | 6 | 4 | 12 | 21 | 47 | -26 | 22 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th | | Bologna | | 22 | 5 | 6 | 11 | 21 | 35 | -14 | 21 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 19th | | Udinese | | 22 | 4 | 9 | 9 | 19 | 37 | -18 | 21 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 20th | | Piacenza | | 22 | 3 | 4 | 15 | 19 | 48 | -29 | 13 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | | | | | |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

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It's only fun if you finish *above* the drop. icon_frown.gif

February, season 2004/2005

Luigi Sartor was dropped from the senior side that faced Udinese after weeks of poor performances, capped off by costing us the game against Juventus by conceding a penalty. Speaking of penalties, we again conceded one, this time through a push from Cirkovic in the 42nd minute. Thankfully, this time the ball hit the post and went out. Just one minute after the resumption of play, though, Udinese scored after Sergio Marcon wasn’t sure whether to go out to an oncoming striker or stay back, and wound up just hovering there as the ball was put past him. Bucchi seemed to equalise in the final 10 minutes, but Marco Vianello was ruled offside and the goal was disallowed. I went for an all-out attack, but that only opened up numerous chances for Udinese, forcing Ancona to spend most of the final minutes on the back foot. However, a defensive header from Stefano Torrisi (replacing Sartor) set veteran midfielder Giampero Maini off on a run in the 90th minute. He passed well to Vincenzo Sommese and the winger took the ball all the way into the area, hitting an angled ball straight into the net. The three minutes of injury time went back and forth, but the end result was that the game finished in a 1-1 draw. Bilica and Man of the Match Sommese picked up one-match bans as a result of reaching the yellow card limit in this game.

This was not good timing, with a game against top-placed Roma next. They both missed, but Alessio Scarchilli and Luciano Zavagno returned from injury to fill their spots on the bench. Manuel Belleri started the game off with an audacious shot from mid-pitch went over the bar, but it was Marcon with two early saves who was the hero for Ancona. Roma simply dominated the half, finally putting through a header in the 23rd and a second moments later. Sartor (replacing Bilica) conceded a penalty (again) right on half time for a third to Roma, leaving us set for another hammering. We did at least hold them scoreless in that half, but were still hugely outplayed in the 0-3 loss.

Scarchilli didn’t actually play in that match, but at training just a few days later he tore his groin muscle, putting him out for three months. Just what I needed… At least there was some positive news, with Marco Vionello called up to the Italian Under-21 side.

I again dropped Sartor for the game against Leece. The first half was uneventful, but Sommese was tripped in the area immediately after the break for a penalty to Ancona. Luciano Zavagno put it through and amazingly received another chance five minutes later after Bucchi was knocked over in the same place as Sommese. This one was saved, which proved all too costly in the second minute of injury time when Leece scored out of nowhere to equalise without any time for a response. Yet again we lost points in the final seconds of a match, finishing with a 1-1 draw in a game we should have won.

When in the lower portion of a league, games against similarly positioned sides assume additional importance. Thus, our match against Chievo, one spot above us in 14th, was pretty close to a “must win†game. Gianluca Pagliuca returned in goal, more to give him match fitness than through poor form from Marcon, and was beaten after only nine minutes. Luckily the ball came back off the post, but it wasn’t a promising sign. The first half was scoreless, but Chievo hit the opener in the 54th minute. We hadn’t had a shot all day to this point, so our chances of coming back were pretty slim. Luke Chadwick sent a magnificent headed pass forward to Christian Bucchi in the 79th, and while he was able to run onto it and get clear of the defence, his shot went well wide. He made amends in the best possible way, curling in a 25-yard free kick with literally 10 seconds of injury time to go. Considering that we’ve lost points in those final seconds recently, that finish to steal a 1-1 draw was more than welcome. We still haven’t won in six games and I would have preferred a win against a side just above us on the table, but every point counts.

We finished the month in 15th place, but are only two points clear of the relegation zone.

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March, season 2004/2005

Disturbingly, my first piece of news in March stated that recently signed Brazilian Under-21 defender Carlos Henrique spoke to the media about being annoyed at being left out of the first team. This seems pretty ridiculous given that he was signed as a hot prospect and has only played two Under-20 games, but unfortunately I apparently couldn’t respond along those lines. Thus, I simply told him he would be selected when the time is right. My coaches and scouts have talked him up, though his attributes aren’t at all impressive, so he may get a go eventually. It just seems a bit silly for him to be demanding a first team spot after two months at the club, especially when he was clearly signed as a prospect!

At any rate, Milan Rapaic missed our dangerous game against Inter in early March through suspension, giving Marco Vianello his first senior start. Inter actually started slowly, but goals on either side of the break and a third in the final minute sealed the 0-3 result. We did manage something of a victory over Inter though, completing the signing of their Italian Under-21 defender Alessandro Potenza.

Alessandro Potenza [21, D C, ITA – 8 U21/0]

Yet another of the players coming over in my attempt to plan for the future, Potenza is a reasonably tall but rather sluggish young defender. He spent last season on loan at Parma and actually played eight senior games, which is a fairly impressive achievement. I signed him as a prospect, but with Sartor having a terrible season, he should walk into a centre back spot.

Potenza debuted at centre back alongside Bilica in our game against Atlanta. Milan Rapaic returned from suspension to form his usual partnership with Bucchi up forward. The first half was scoreless, and the second half didn’t look like being much better when Montervino missed two shots early. He finally decided to pass rather than shoot, hitting a great ball to Rapaic who sent in a sharp shot. It was saved, but the ball rebounded straight to Bucchi. Bucchi went for the tap-in that he has scored from so many times, but somehow the keeper got back in time to save it. That was our last chance, with the game ending 0-0. Potenza was unremarkable on debut, but at least Gianluca Pagliuca finally put in a good performance as the goalkeeper.

I rested Luke Chadwick for the next game against Reggina. While he wasn’t tired or out of form, he had played 34 senior games, which is a bit much. Reggina hit the post early from a tight angle while Montervino ended a good run with a wide shot. A weak kick from Pagliuca gave Reggina their first goal in the 24th minute and they added a second four minutes later. Chadwick’s break only lasted 44 minutes, coming on to replace the injured Giampero Maini. The game petered out after that; the 0-2 loss sending us down to 17th, only out of the relegation zone on goal difference. That was our ninth straight game without a win.

Udinese, the side we were ahead of on goal difference, played an additional match at the end of the month, drawing with Fiorentina and moving ahead of Ancona by a point. While we still have a game in hand, this is a very disturbing development. With Scarchilli still injured, Sartor in poor form and Rapaic on something of a goal drought (around two months, I believe), we could be in serious trouble.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Holders - Inter

| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | | Lazio | | 30 | 20 | 6 | 4 | 54 | 18 | +36 | 66 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Roma | | 29 | 20 | 5 | 4 | 63 | 21 | +42 | 65 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Inter | | 29 | 19 | 8 | 2 | 53 | 16 | +37 | 65 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Juventus | | 29 | 15 | 9 | 5 | 48 | 22 | +26 | 54 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Milan | | 29 | 15 | 7 | 7 | 38 | 21 | +17 | 52 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Sampdoria | | 30 | 15 | 6 | 9 | 55 | 36 | +19 | 51 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Parma | | 29 | 13 | 8 | 8 | 36 | 28 | +8 | 47 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Perugia | | 29 | 8 | 12 | 9 | 26 | 26 | 0 | 36 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Chievo | | 30 | 10 | 6 | 14 | 41 | 43 | -2 | 36 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th | | Reggina | | 29 | 9 | 8 | 12 | 38 | 40 | -2 | 35 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th | | Lecce | | 29 | 10 | 5 | 14 | 39 | 50 | -11 | 35 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th | | Atalanta | | 30 | 6 | 14 | 10 | 29 | 36 | -7 | 32 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th | | Brescia | | 30 | 6 | 14 | 10 | 31 | 39 | -8 | 32 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th | | Bologna | | 29 | 7 | 9 | 13 | 29 | 43 | -14 | 30 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th | | Napoli | | 29 | 8 | 6 | 15 | 27 | 43 | -16 | 30 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16th | | Fiorentina | | 30 | 8 | 6 | 16 | 27 | 60 | -33 | 30 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 17th | | Udinese | | 30 | 5 | 13 | 12 | 25 | 46 | -21 | 28 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th | | Ancona | | 29 | 6 | 9 | 14 | 25 | 37 | -12 | 27 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 19th | | Piacenza | | 30 | 7 | 5 | 18 | 32 | 62 | -30 | 26 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 20th | | Verona | | 29 | 6 | 6 | 17 | 31 | 60 | -29 | 24 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | | | | | |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

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April, season 2004/2005

April had the potential to have a massive impact on our fate with four of our nine remaining games. As if a game against Parma wasn’t a tough enough start, Milan Rapaic had to go off injured in the early minutes. I’m starting to regret re-signing him due to his numerous injuries and lack of goals in recent times. The first half was scoreless, though Parma had their chances. An innocuous clearance from Bilica in the 56th found Christian Bucchi along the touchline parallel with the edge of the area. He ran to the goal line, still very wide, and sent in a rather pointless ball that was neither a shot nor a pass. Nonetheless, the Parma keeper chose to punch, hitting it straight to Luke Chadwick on the edge of the area. The former Manchester United winger blasted it straight back for a shock opening goal. I went on the defensive after that, but a curling Bucchi free kick from 25 yards out with 20 minutes to go gave us a stunning 2-0 lead against our powerful opponents. For once, Parma had no answer, and we came away with three valuable points.

Our next game was against mid-table Perugia. Rapaic and Chadwick had to be rested, with Corrado Grabbi coming in for a rare game. I’ve sent all my young forwards to the Under-20s to keep them match fit, as I always go with Bucchi and Rapaic up forward where possible, and other players don’t get much of a run. Like the previous game, our opponents had their chances in the first half, but it ended scoreless. With ten minutes to go, it was looking like the game would finish scoreless. However, a good centring ball from Grabbi sent Sommese on a run straight down the middle of the pitch. He made it into the area, tailed by three defenders, but just as it looked like he was about to be tackled, he fired off a short pass to Bucchi who had snuck down his left. Unmarked, the forward hit it straight into the net for his 15th of the season. Pagliuca did well to hold on for the final minutes and we finished with our second straight win. We’re still only three points clear of relegation, but it’s a heck of an improvement on our previous form.

Rapaic and Chadwick returned to face Sampdoria. Rapaic missed a good chance for a goal after only 28 seconds, and we were made to pay with a goal off the post 11 minutes later. Pagliuca did brilliantly to keep it to one goal for Sampdoria and Bucchi did his job at the other end, scoring in the 50th after a goal kick floated over the defence for him to run straight at the keeper. Unfortunately, Sampdoria replied a few minutes later and scored again in the 89th to seal it.

With Rapaic continuing his form slump, I recalled 17-year-old Thai striker Supat Rungratsamee to the seniors after several goals for the Under-20s. Having turned 17, I also offered him a full time contract until 2010 for just £375 per week. He happily signed, which should be very useful for Ancona in the future. I also re-signed veteran midfielder Giampero Maini until April 2006 due to his solid performances and my lack of other options in the middle.

Rungratsamee started on the pitch against Napoli, with Rapaic on the bench. Just three minutes in, he had his first goal. Milivoje Cirkovic found him on the edge of the area, and displaying his famous pace and ball control he charged at the keeper and hit an angled ball straight into the net. Napoli levelled the scores in the 31st and snuck in a second a few minutes later to have us suddenly reeling. A knock to Chadwick which forced him off the pitch didn’t help, and nor did Sommese constantly missing long-range shots in the second half. A goal from a free kick to Napoli in the 79th ended our chances of a fightback and a fourth with moments to go just rubbed it in. Bucchi scored our second after a wonderful pass from Cirkovic, but it was far too late. Not only are we back down to 16th spot, several sides below us have a game in hand.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Holders - Inter

| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | | Roma | | 32 | 22 | 6 | 4 | 68 | 23 | +45 | 72 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Inter | | 31 | 20 | 9 | 2 | 57 | 17 | +40 | 69 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Lazio | | 33 | 21 | 6 | 6 | 56 | 23 | +33 | 69 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Juventus | | 31 | 17 | 9 | 5 | 52 | 23 | +29 | 60 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Sampdoria | | 33 | 17 | 6 | 10 | 61 | 40 | +21 | 57 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Milan | | 32 | 16 | 8 | 8 | 47 | 25 | +22 | 56 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Parma | | 33 | 14 | 8 | 11 | 42 | 39 | +3 | 50 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Chievo | | 33 | 13 | 6 | 14 | 48 | 45 | +3 | 45 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Reggina | | 33 | 11 | 8 | 14 | 43 | 47 | -4 | 41 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th | | Perugia | | 32 | 9 | 13 | 10 | 32 | 28 | +4 | 40 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th | | Atalanta | | 33 | 8 | 14 | 11 | 35 | 39 | -4 | 38 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th | | Lecce | | 33 | 11 | 5 | 17 | 45 | 62 | -17 | 38 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th | | Napoli | | 32 | 10 | 6 | 16 | 33 | 47 | -14 | 36 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th | | Udinese | | 33 | 7 | 13 | 13 | 28 | 51 | -23 | 34 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th | | Brescia | | 33 | 6 | 15 | 12 | 33 | 44 | -11 | 33 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16th | | Ancona | | 33 | 8 | 9 | 16 | 31 | 44 | -13 | 33 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 17th | | Bologna | | 32 | 8 | 9 | 15 | 32 | 48 | -16 | 33 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th | | Piacenza | | 33 | 9 | 5 | 19 | 38 | 64 | -26 | 32 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 19th | | Fiorentina | | 33 | 8 | 6 | 19 | 29 | 68 | -39 | 30 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 20th | | Verona | | 32 | 6 | 7 | 19 | 34 | 67 | -33 | 25 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | | | | | |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

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May, season 2004/2005

With just five games left in the season, can we ensure our survival? An away match against Lazio was not the ideal way to start the month. A magnificent free kick from 30 yards in the 37th minute which went straight into the top corner, however, was. The taker was Supat Rungratsamee, in just his fourth senior game. We held the lead at half time, but a professional foul from Mauro Milanese just after the break resulted in both a red card and penalty. Perfect. I brought on Luigi Sartor (ironically, considering his record of giving away penalties), switching to a 4-3-2. The penalty was scored, levelling the game in the 50th minute. Bucchi came forward in the 65th, but was cleanly tackled in the area by Jaap Stam. The ball trickled away…straight into the path of his fellow striker Supat Rungratsamee. The 17-yard-old made it three in two games with a nice finish, but Lazio hit back in exactly 33 seconds. Ouch. We tried to give them the same treatment, coming forward straight after the kick-off. Lazio hit the ball clear, but Sartor headed it straight back into our half. Christian Bucchi headed the ball into the path of Rungratsamee who ran clear of the defence, moved into the penalty area and scored a ripper. A hat-trick in his fourth senior game – and against the side placed third in Serie A, no less. Lazio again attacked hard after the goal, but despite their advantage in numbers and skill, they just couldn’t get another on the board. The defence held up well, but Rungratsamee was clearly the star. Already my £210K compensation looks like an incredible bargain. Not only did he get us a win against a top side, but he may also have helped keep us in Serie A.

This positive start on the pitch was met with a negative off it – recently-signed Itlaian striker Marco Vianello complained to the media that he should be in the first team. Are the words “backup to the first team†really that complex. That’s what he was signed as, and it seems ridiculous for him to be complaining about not being in the first team only a few months in. I told him he would get his chance when the time was right, which happened to be the following game against Verona, with Rungratsamee on international duty with Thailand for the World Cup qualifiers. Vianello started on the bench with Rapaic partnering Bucchi, and possibly playing for his future as a regular senior player. Against the bottom-placed side, anything less than three points would be a disappointment. Therefore, conceding a goal 12 minutes in was certainly not the best start we could have hoped for. Sommese missed a few shots from long-range (as usual) and disastrously Verona scored a second just before half time. The second half was scoreless, sending us tumbling to a terrible 0-2 loss. What a difference a week makes – from an incredible comeback against Lazio away to a dismal performance against Verona at home.

Pagliuca was particularly awful in that loss, but retained his spot for the third-last game of the season, against Milan. Alessio Scarchilli finally returned from injury, starting on the bench. We were on the back foot for most of the first half, with Milan scoring their first in the 23rd and a second ten minutes later to pretty much kill off any chances we had of coming away with a point. The best we could do was hold Milan scoreless after that, but even then it was more through wasteful shooting than good play from Ancona that gave us a scoreline of “only†0-2. It’s a bad situation when a 0-2 loss is actually hugely flattering considering the balance of play. Speaking of bad situations, these last two losses left us precariously placed in 17th spot, ahead of 18th placed Piacenza only on goal difference (albeit by 11 goals). Our last two matches are against Fiorentina (20th) and Bologna (14th), and the term “must win†has rarely been more justified.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Holders - Inter

| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | | Roma | | 36 | 23 | 7 | 6 | 73 | 30 | +43 | 76 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Juventus | | 36 | 22 | 9 | 5 | 64 | 26 | +38 | 75 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Lazio | | 36 | 23 | 6 | 7 | 62 | 27 | +35 | 75 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Inter | | 36 | 20 | 10 | 6 | 60 | 25 | +35 | 70 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Milan | | 36 | 19 | 8 | 9 | 54 | 30 | +24 | 65 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Sampdoria | | 36 | 17 | 6 | 13 | 65 | 48 | +17 | 57 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Parma | | 36 | 14 | 9 | 13 | 44 | 44 | 0 | 51 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Perugia | | 36 | 12 | 13 | 11 | 40 | 34 | +6 | 49 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Chievo | | 36 | 14 | 7 | 15 | 53 | 49 | +4 | 49 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th | | Reggina | | 36 | 12 | 9 | 15 | 46 | 50 | -4 | 45 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th | | Napoli | | 36 | 12 | 7 | 17 | 40 | 52 | -12 | 43 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th | | Atalanta | | 36 | 9 | 14 | 13 | 39 | 45 | -6 | 41 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th | | Lecce | | 36 | 11 | 7 | 18 | 48 | 66 | -18 | 40 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th | | Bologna | | 36 | 9 | 11 | 16 | 39 | 53 | -14 | 38 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th | | Brescia | | 36 | 7 | 16 | 13 | 35 | 48 | -13 | 37 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16th | | Verona | | 36 | 10 | 7 | 19 | 43 | 67 | -24 | 37 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 17th | | Ancona | | 36 | 9 | 9 | 18 | 34 | 50 | -16 | 36 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th | | Piacenza | | 36 | 10 | 6 | 20 | 42 | 69 | -27 | 36 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 19th | | Udinese | | 36 | 7 | 14 | 15 | 31 | 58 | -27 | 35 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 20th | | Fiorentina | | 36 | 9 | 7 | 20 | 30 | 71 | -41 | 34 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| | | | | | | | | | | | |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

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Here we go...

There was finally some good news with hugely in-form striker Supat Rungratsamee returning from Thai international duty just in time for our match against Fiorentina – and just in time to dislocate his jaw in training the day before the match, putting him out for two weeks. ARGH! Luciano Zavagno was suspended and the horribly out-of-form Rapaic and Pagliuca were benched, replaced by Esposito, Vianello and Marcon respectively. Christian Bucchi looked to have scored from a 21st minute free kick which curled right towards the corner of the net, but somehow it hit the post and went directly ACROSS the goal without ever crossing the line. Sommese’s usual long-range shots were saved, leaving us with a scoreless first half. The second half was no better, finishing with no real chances to either side. The 0-0 draw was disappointing, but at least the other two sides behind us lost (Piacenza 0-6 and Udinese 1-6). Vianello was disappointing, while more worryingly Luke Chadwick picked up a fifth yellow card, putting him out of Ancona’s final match.

It all came down to our encounter with Bologna. A win would see us stay up, but a draw or loss could result in a finish as low as 20th. As if I didn’t have enough to deal with, I had to keep an eye on Fiorentina vs. Parma, Piacenza vs. Reggina and Udinese vs. Chievo, as a win to any of those sides could see us into the relegation zone unless we got the three points ourselves. Brescia vs. Atlanta was also important, as Brescia were ahead of us only on goal difference (just two goals, in fact). Thus, a loss to them and a draw or win to Ancona would see us move ahead of them, allowing us a bit more breathing room. Now I know what “extended†highlights and “very slow†were designed for… Ancona’s line-up was as follows:

(Playing with a straight 4-4-2)

GK – Sergio Marcon

LB – Luciano Zavagno

CB – Mauro Milanese

CB – Bilica

RB – Manuel Belleri

LM – Giampero Maini

CM – Vincenzo Sommese

CM – Davide Carrus

RM – Milivoje Cirkovic

CF – Milan Rapaic

CF – Christian Bucci

Sub – Gianluca Pagliuca

Sub – Marco Esposito

Sub – Alessio Scarchilli

Sub – Marco Vianello

Sub – Francesco Montervino

Sub – Alessandro Potenza

Sub – Luigi Sartor

Belleri conceded a corner early, but it was well cleared. There was good news from another game, with Parma taking an early lead against Fiorentina. Chievo led after only two minutes against Udinese, but Udinese equalised by the 7th. Rapaic looked to set off on a run in the 9th after being put through by a header from Bucchi, but was tackled as he approached the area. Bologna looked for a chilling moment in the 16th to have scored, but it was ruled offside. There was another chilling moment that was for real three minutes later – Piacenza took the lead against Reggina, sending us down to 18th spot. A second to Piacenza in the 21st made matters worse, but thankfully Atlanta scored against Brescia a minute later, putting them into 18th and pushing Ancona back to 17th. Phew. Marcon managed a decent parry in the 31st, and thankfully Bilica beat an opposing forward to the ball for the clearance by barely a second. The first half finished scoreless here, but the other relevant games were more interesting, particularly with Reggina scoring right on the break:

Brescia 0 – Atlanta 1

Fiorentina 0 – Parma 1

Piacenza 2 – Reggina 1

Udinese 1 – Chievo 1

What does that mean? Piacenza have moved from 18th to 16th, leapfrogging Ancona, while Brescia have gone down to 18th. A draw or win to Brescia with only one of Piacenza, Fiorentina or Udinese winning will send us down into the relegation zone, and even a loss to Brescia will see us into the relegation zone if we lose against Bologna. With 45 minutes to go, anything can happen…

Bologna hit the side netting with a shot from just outside the area soon after the break and very sloppy, confused defence saw them get a shot on goal in the 56th after three Ancona players touched the ball in the area without clearing it. Marcon was forced to tip the ball over, and the corner was successfully defended. Just 10 minutes into the second half, a stunning turnaround had occurred at two other games. Reggina, having scored in the 45th minute, added another two within six minutes of the start of the second half, taking the lead against Piacenza. Unfortunately, at the exact same time as they took the lead, Udinese scored a second against Chievo to lead there. This meant Ancona moved to 16th, with Udinese 17th and Brescia, Piacenza and Fiorentina in the relegation zone.

With just 35 minutes left, all we have to do is hold on, unless things take another dramatic turn…

Marcon held a nice long-range shot in the 61st, but Udinese complicated matters by scoring a third and fourth against Chievo to assure them victory. Two goals to Piacenza or Fiorentina, or just one to Brescia, and we are in a lot of trouble. The scores in the 65th minute:

Brescia 0 – Atlanta 1

Fiorentina 0 – Parma 1

Piacenza 2 – Reggina 3

Udinese 4 – Chievo 1

Bucchi went off with a knock in the 74th, replaced by Vianello. The scores at the other games were still the same as above, but could they stay that way for 15 more minutes?

With just seven minutes to go, Bologna came forward. A series of sharp passes took the ball into the area, where star forward Julio Ricardo Cruz took the shot from close range. It was parried, but straight back to the Argentinean international who gathered the ball and slotted it straight into the opposite side of the net. My heart stopped for a moment as I contemplated a season destroyed in the final seven minutes of a match until the words “But it won’t count†popped up. Apparently Cruz was offside when he scored. I honestly hadn’t seen the flag, but I have never loved those words more than I do right now. Bologna had a dangerous free kick a minute later, but though it was hit with power, it cannoned off the wall and was cleared. Five minutes of regular time to go.

A minute later, Milivoje Cirkovic, who’d had a terrible game, intercepted a throw-in mid-way in Bologna’s forward half and immediately whacked it forward ahead of Milan Rapaic. It went over the top of his marker, and the out-of-touch Croatian international led the race to the ball. He took it right into the area, and sent over his classic short pass across the area to his striking partner Marco Vianello. Unfortunately, he hit it too hard, and rather than a simple tap-in, Vianello had to run some distance past the goal to collect it. He snapped off a shot from tight range, but the keeper was able to get a hand to it. The ball trickled toward the goal, but rolled out agonisingly close. The corner was cleared, leaving just three minutes to go in regular time.

The final minute of regular time saw a strong attack from Bologna, but Zavagno was able to clear the first time and Bilica the second. However, both times they hit the ball to opponents, and on the second occasion they sent a ball from the left side of the centre circle over to the right-hand edge of the area. The ball was crossed from there to Cruz, who beat Bilica to the ball inside the 6-yard box, spun around the Brazilian…and scored. There was no offside this time – we were a goal down and in 18th spot (behind Brescia on goal difference of two) with three minutes to go. I brought on Scarchilli and attacked as hard as I could, but to no avail. Vianello was ruled offside twice and the final seconds ticked away without a reply from Ancona. The 0-1 loss sealed our fate. With Ancona finishing just two goals away from survival thanks to a Bologna goal in the 90th minute, the cliché “so close and yet so far†seems to apply perfectly here.

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Wow, holding out for replies normally works much better than that. :\

The season in review

Summary

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Holders - Roma

| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | C | Roma | | 38 | 24 | 8 | 6 | 81 | 33 | +48 | 80 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Juventus | | 38 | 23 | 10 | 5 | 67 | 27 | +40 | 79 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Lazio | | 38 | 24 | 6 | 8 | 64 | 29 | +35 | 78 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Inter | | 38 | 21 | 10 | 7 | 63 | 29 | +34 | 73 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Milan | | 38 | 20 | 8 | 10 | 57 | 33 | +24 | 68 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Sampdoria | | 38 | 17 | 7 | 14 | 66 | 50 | +16 | 58 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Parma | | 38 | 16 | 9 | 13 | 47 | 45 | +2 | 57 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Perugia | | 38 | 13 | 13 | 12 | 41 | 35 | +6 | 52 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Reggina | | 38 | 14 | 9 | 15 | 51 | 52 | -1 | 51 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th | | Chievo | | 38 | 14 | 8 | 16 | 54 | 53 | +1 | 50 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th | | Atalanta | | 38 | 11 | 14 | 13 | 46 | 45 | +1 | 47 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th | | Napoli | | 38 | 13 | 8 | 17 | 42 | 53 | -11 | 47 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th | | Bologna | | 38 | 10 | 11 | 17 | 40 | 54 | -14 | 41 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th | | Lecce | | 38 | 11 | 8 | 19 | 50 | 69 | -19 | 41 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th | | Verona | | 38 | 10 | 9 | 19 | 43 | 67 | -24 | 39 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16th | | Udinese | | 38 | 8 | 14 | 16 | 36 | 65 | -29 | 38 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 17th | | Brescia | | 38 | 7 | 16 | 15 | 36 | 51 | -15 | 37 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th | R | Ancona | | 38 | 9 | 10 | 19 | 34 | 51 | -17 | 37 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 19th | R | Piacenza | | 38 | 10 | 6 | 22 | 44 | 79 | -35 | 36 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 20th | R | Fiorentina | | 38 | 9 | 8 | 21 | 30 | 72 | -42 | 35 |

| ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

|