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Tykes & Cedars: Diaries of a Lebanese Football Manager


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March 28th, 2022

Dear Diary,

Guess this is the first day I start writing on you, huh? Well, to be honest, I’ve tried to do this many times before. They say it’s great for your mental state, your inner peace and all that jazz. Yet, to be honest, I haven’t been feeling much of that pep in my step lately.

But first, let me introduce myself, just in case some rando gets to read you someday.

You can call me B, just B. Not gonna disclose much in terms of my identity, but I’ve been developing software for over 5 years now, working on all kinds of industries. I’ve seen a bunch, done a bunch, traveled a bit here and there. I’ve been accepted for a new gig in the EU, and as soon as I get that Blue Card, I’ll get engaged to my girlfriend of over a year, grab my bags, and start a new life...

Or at least that’s how I’d have introduced myself had it not been for the past week.

There’s something you need to know about life, especially where I live, here in Lebanon: if you’re born here, you’re born to get screwed over. We’re a dysfunctional mess of a country with kleptocrats for rulers who will stop at nothing to keep us poor, needy and depressed. A perfect cocktail to get your youngsters to either immigrate or grab a couple of guns to shoot each other for a bunch of sectarian nonsense. Except that for the past 5 months, our politicians decided that the best way to get their hard-on of sadism was to bad-mouth every single country on the planet that calls them out for their robberies, kill off the planned elections, and institute extensions to the current parliament and presidencies.

One of those countries they so thoroughly trashed happens to be France, also known as the “Doting Mother” of Lebanon. Well, mommy’s decided to give us some tough love and cut off all ties, and the EU has gone and followed suit in solidarity. That has meant that Lebanese people don’t get a visa, let alone a Blue Card. I’m royally screwed, and I have no idea what to do, to be honest.

Good thing I’ve got them coaching badges going for me. Back at the start of the pandemic, I went hard on studying for some football coaching badges during my free time. I don’t know why, but playing a lot of FIFA Career Mode and Football Manager got me hooked on the idea of becoming a Football Manager. I’m at my AFC B-Level Certifications now, and I’ve started helping out my old school sports coach with his football academy. I’m even playing in Lebanon’s equivalent of the Sunday Leagues.

Alright, I’m tired now. I’ve got to go figure out what the heck am I going to do with my life…guess I’ll leave you with the immortal words of King Eric Cantona; they summarize my current mental state all too well:

“Only accidents, crimes, wars, will still kill us but unfortunately, crimes, wars, will multiply. I love football. Thank you.”

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April 1st, 2022

Dear Diary,

I think one of my friends has started an elaborate April Fool’s joke today. Let me fill you in.

So I’m doing my daily walk around the park near my place, trying to wrap my head around the conversations my girlfriend and I have been having. Do we try to escape to Turkey? Do we get hitched and try to find remote jobs to keep the money flowing? Do we end this whole thing we have between us? Never have I ever felt so lost…

And then the phone rings. A calm but scruffy voice speaks on the other end

“Hello? Is this Mr. B?”

I reply in the affirmative.

“Glad to be reaching you. I hope this is not too early for you to talk. My name is Khaled Al-Ahmad, CEO of Barnsley FC. I have taken a look at your credentials and was wondering if you would be interested in one of our positions.”

I was kind of surprised. What would a football team want to do with a software dev from Lebanon? Maybe they need someone who’s worked on the analytics side of things…

“Uhmm, are you looking for support for your data team? I’m not sure where my expertise as a developer would fit but I’m more than willing to learn!”

 “Actually, I’m calling to offer you the position of Barnsley FC Manager.”

“This is a joke, right? Omz, cut the crap! Bala manyake ya zalame :P”, I interjected. I’m trying hard to keep my composure here, but surely my homeboy’s too old for this stuff

“Ohh my, I just realized. Today is April 1st. Makes sense for you to think I’m pulling your leg. But let me assure you that I am who I say I am, and that my offer is legitimate. I’ve just sent you a Zoom link onto your WhatsApp. Meet me there at 8PM Beirut time, and you’ll have all the information and proof you need.”

Sure thing, Khaled. I’ll bet a thousand dollars that I’ll get into that sesh only to find Omz, Tibz, Kal and the redhead cracking jokes at my expense and then telling me how much of a simp I am. Whatever, let them have their fun. Could sure use a laugh today to be honest.

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April 2nd, 2022


I think I’m a football manager now.

And yeah, I do think I’m starting to lose my mind here. You’re probably asking the same question I am: How in the world does an almost 28-year-old guy from Lebanon get offered to manage an English football club just like that? Well, let me tell you how the call went.

I come back home from work at around 6pm. After food, shower and a bit of FM, I wear a polo shirt on top and stay in my boxers: it’s the boys I’m talking to, and I want to stay comfy. I click the link I received, set up my webcam, and braced myself.

It’s nothing like I expected.

The screen shows a well-built, athletic man with a beard sitting next to a smartly dressed Asian man. I had done a bit of googling to see what Barnsley is all about, but to see these guys on the screen in front of me was, to be honest, pretty surreal.

“Hey there, B. It’s Khaled! Told you I’m real :P Anyways, great to have you with us! I’d like to introduce you to Chairman Lee. Chien Lee. I made sure he’s with us here because I wanted you to realize just how serious we at Barnsley are about offering you this deal.”

“Uhm..but, but why? I’ve never been part of a coaching staff, let alone a manager. All I’ve got is 5 years of dev experience, a few coaching badges for fun and a couple of kickabouts to my name. Shouldn’t you be talking to more experienced folk?”

“Well, here’s the deal. We’ve been tracking you, Mr. B.” Chairman Lee retorted. “As you may know, I own a lot of football clubs all over Europe, and we run these clubs based on loads and loads of data. Usually, we’ve been using analytics to recruit and develop players, but Khaled and I had been discussing if we could use similar methods for managers, specifically identifying people who may have the requisite talent for the job, even without the experience. And that, B, is where you come in. Your scores were off the charts!”

 “Guys can you give me a minute?” I asked, very worried. I could see my face starting to pale. I mean, off…the charts? I could swear this was not real, that I had been sucked into a vortex and spit out into a parallel universe.

“B, are you okay?”, asked Khaled. “I can see you’re gobsmacked, so let me try and make things a little bit more evident. We track everyone in football, from top managers to coaching students like you. We look at their skills, characters, intangibles and everything in between. We know you’ve got no experience whatsoever. But we know you’ve got that moxie, that drive, grit and fire we look for here.”

“Our data shows you’re good at dealing with data, that you’re socially flexible and amenable, and that you’re able to come up with and convey ideas with clarity and precision. These are all skills we need in football managers, and we’d like to have you on board for this experiment.”

Experiment? Tracking? This is starting to sound like some 1984 type of dystopian sci-fi football B-movie or something…

“We’re most likely getting relegated to League One this season,” said Chairman Lee. “This is the perfect time for us to try and Moneyball management the way we’ve Moneyballed recruitment and the pitch. Consider this your foot into the door of football. You succeed, you’re an EFL Championship level coach with a club that’s known for being stable and producing young, exciting talent. Fail, and you still get out of this with the kind of experience that gets you jobs in the world of football no matter what you do.”

“So, Mr. B, are you in, or are you out?”

To be totally honest, they had me at analytics for managers…

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May 7th, 2022

Dear diary,

Yeah, I know. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. It’s been a surreal few weeks and I’m still trying to process. Feels like I’m in some sort of pipe dream that I always thought would be confined to PlayStations and laptops. I had been doing the badges for fun, playing kick-abouts and helping kids for the love of the game. But managing in England? In a Championship team? (well, as of now, anyway...)


To be fair, I had also been running around like a madman trying to get out of a panopticon. Paperwork for England has been hectic, and that’s with the support of Barnsley FC. All that prep for the big move, the packing, the search for a flat that’s not too far away from Oakwell, the goodbyes…ohh god…

And all that’s got nothing on the engagement. Wild stuff, I swear. In Lebanon, the guy’s family has to visit the girl’s family to propose. It’s a whole hoopla with siblings, uncles, aunts, and everyone worth a damn visiting the girl’s place to ask for the girl’s hand in marriage. I had to try and make that happen while also making sure I surprised the bejesus out of her with a proper western style proposal. You know, the whole “kneel down, will you marry me” style stuff at the place we had our first date in.

Yeah, it’s been hectic. But I’m almost done now. All I have to do left Is to read Barnsley’s DNA Booklet that Khaled just mailed me. I think I’ll write a summary of it here. It’ll help me take all I need from it and come up with ideas on how I’ll implement the DNA into the club.

Speaking of the Club, tomorrow’s the day we know for sure whether or not Barnsley stay in the Championship. I think they’re facing West Brom, who are fighting to secure a play-off place. After their defeat against Preston, they’ll be up against it tomorrow. I’ll probably know where we stand by the time I land at the Manchester Airport tomorrow night.

And I guess that’s about it…I leave my country tomorrow, the only place I've ever known, for better or worse, to chase a dream I never knew I’d ever get to chase. I just hope I don’t mess this up.

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May 8th, 2022

Dear Diary,

I'm on the plane now, which is flying at around 31000 feet, or 9.5kms, over the Mediterranean. I'm supposed to transit at the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris before landing at Manchester Airport. Then I'll be taking a 1 hour and a half trip to my hotel room for the night in Barnsley, by which point I'll be totally out of it for the night.

I'm just gonna be sharing with you the summarized Barnsley FC DNA Charter I spoke about yesterday. The Tykes' relegation to League One was confirmed earlier today after a 1-0 defeat to West Brom, with Man U loanee Anthony Elanga scoring the only goal of the day. I've never dealt with crises before, let alone fooball clubs getting relegated, so I'm expecting tomorrow to be a bit of a baptism by fire. Ohh, I also meet the media to announce me as the successor to Mick McCarthy, who was sacked right after the match against the Baggies. I tried to be Captain Fantastic once on FIFA 20 and coached Sunderland for like half a season. Now I'm succeeding him to go and face The Black Cats in League One competition. What a world we live in, I swear...

But enough of me blabbering. I should start with the charter. Here goes nothing...


Barnsley FC DNA Charter

Club: Barnsley Football Club

Division: EFL League One - 2022/23

Club Description & Honors:

Barnsley FC is a football club from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England. They will play at the 3rd level of English Football, the EFL League One, after suffering relegation from the Championship in the 2021/2022 season. They were founded in 1887 and have been playing at Oakwell since 1888.

Barnsley FC have been a bulwark of stability in English Football, spending more seasons in the 2nd tier than any other club in history. They have won one FA Cup and one Football League Trophy, as well as been champions of the 4th tier twice and the 3rd tier three times. They have also been part of the Premier League for the season of 1997-1998, notably defeating Manchester United during the 5th round of that season’s FA Cup.

Mission & Vision:

Barnsley FC (“The Club”) has been at the center of the town of Barnsley for over 125 years. The Club aims to be a source of pride for the metropolitan borough of Barnsley. This will be achieved through:

  • Increasing national awareness and reputation of The Club.
  • Playing football at the highest possible levels in the country, with the aim of consistently competing in the Premier League.
  • Maintaining a balanced payroll to ensure The Club is always in a healthy financial state.
  • Promoting the use of data analytics to find and exploit inefficiencies that can give The Club an advantage at all levels.
  • Creating opportunities for talented young people to come and further their careers at The Club.
  • Developing the potential of our young people to achieve sporting excellence, be it at The Club or elsewhere.
  • Showcasing an entertaining brand of high-tempo pressing football that excites and creates results in equal measure.


Barnsley’s culture is rooted in its industrial heritage, known for producing coal, linen, glass and textiles. Here at Barnsley FC, we like to see that reflected through the bravery, workrate, spirit, ambition and determination necessary for both the high-tempo pressing game as well as for success in general. 

Scouting Policy:

The board has allowed scouting anywhere within Europe. However, while in League 1, and to balance costs, scouting will be limited to the UK and Ireland. This is always augmented by scouting knowledge supplied from our affiliates.

We will be looking mainly for players under 23 years of age. Players under 21 years of age will mainly be recruited for their potential, while players between 21 and 23 years of age will be expected to contribute immediately. There will be no signing of players over 28 years of age, with players between 24-27 years of age being signed mainly for their leadership and personality traits, in addition to their skill on the pitch.

We will mainly be looking for players who are suitable for their respective positions, as well as having the values previously outlined to fit the club both on and off the pitch.

Recruitment Models (Players & Staff):

  • U19s: Mainly youngsters from the youth intake in our community, aged between 15 and 18 years.
  • U23s: A mix of U19 team graduates and recruited players who are not yet capable of fully contributing to the first team. Aged between 19 and 22 years.
  • First Team: Aim to keep the average age of the squad under 28, with players over 23 years of age expected to contribute or be sold/released.
  • Staff: A balance between internal progress and external recruiting. Staff with experience in working with youngsters are especially valued, as well as those good with dat

Player / Youth Development:

We aim to establish a clear development plan with a path towards the first team or a viable football career. All youth teams will play the same style as the first team, with training to be mirrored across all three levels. We aim to bring up at least one player to the first team every year. While all levels will have a mix of technical, tactical, physical, mental and bespoke training, each level’s training will be suitable to its needs:

  • U19s: Mainly focus on the physical and technical aspects of the game, with an introduction to the basic tactics needed through some training sessions and game-time practice.
  • U23s: Mainly focus on the tactical and mental aspects of the game, to further the players’ skill-set and develop their versatility
  • First Team: A mix of all aspects of the game, with individual traits and tendencies being developed, as well as access to mentoring groups led by senior members of the squad.

Future Goals / Achievements:

  • Return to the EFL Championship at the end of the 2022/23 season.
  • Reach the top half of the EFL Championship by 2025.
  • Reach the EFL Championship Playoffs by 2026.

Principles of Play – Playing Philosophy:


Every team at the club should play a 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow formation.

Style of Play:

High-Tempo Pressing Game with a focus on positive, even smash mouth attacking football when the situation demands it. We look to hustle and harry the opposition on defense and take the game to them on offense.

In Possession:

  • Passing Style: We will adopt a mixed passing style, trying to play out from the back when possible but adjusting when the situation requires more direct football
  • Width: We look to keep the pitch compact, creating space on the wings for our wing backs while penetrating through the middle

Out of Possession:

Pressing Style: High, Compact Press up the pitch, forcing the opponents wide where they have relatively limited options.

In Transition:

Counter and Counter Press. Play Quickly and aggressively.

Note: Credit for the concept of a Club DNA in Football Manager goes to Espen from Passion4FM.com. You can find the link that inspired the above DNA charter here; he explains why and how to do this in depth while giving a better example than I could ever come up with: https://www.passion4fm.com/club-football-philosophy/

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An excerpt from the Barnsley Barnacle, a Barnsley FC fan blog:

A Cedar Revolution at Barnsley: Newbie Signed as Manager of Recently Relegated Football Club

by Cameron Johnson

Barnsley Football Club have announced the appointment of one Mr. B as manager of the club, just one day after a dramatic relegation to League One. In a press conference earlier this morning, CEO Khaled Al Ahmad expressed his excitement at having his compatriot, who is running a football club for the first time ever, at the helm:

“Having B as manager and head coach for this club is exactly the kind of jolt we wanted to give both the club and English football. He’s coming in here with a fresh set of eyes, uncompromised by the clichés of modern football, and I believe that his way of doing things, combined with our access to data and his age proximity to the boys playing on the pitch, will give us a unique edge both now and in the future”

Many football fans are excited to see what this experiment will lead to. The people of Lebanon, in particular, are proud of their own son’s sudden success, especially in such turbulent times for the country. However, most are not convinced. A representative of the “Reds in the Community” Fan Trust had his to ask CEO Al Ahmad:

“Mr. Khaled, how do you explain the current signing of Mr. B, a clear novice in the world of football, let alone the English game, as the manager of Barnsley FC? Many critics are pointing to your shared heritage as Lebanese as a sign of nationalist favoritism.”

“I fully understand the concerns being raised. This is surely an unorthodox move we’re making, a gamble that may or may not pan out. But let me be frank with you here: the last year has shown us the need to take radical measures for this club. We have utilized analytical computations that have shown us that the man sitting next to me is the best fit for the job. I am confident that he has what it takes to lead Barnsley FC back to the Championship and help us grow into a side that can reach, and then consistently compete, in the Premier League.”

When asked what he would like to share with the fans at Oakwell, Mr B. had this to say:

“I want the fans to know that we want to make a team that represents Barnsley, that makes the city and the borough proud. This is not going to be easy, and this is not a short-term play. This is a long term project, and I am coming in with that in mind. If we can be patient, use the tools we have, and keep our eyes on the prize, I can promise the fans, the lifeblood of this club, that good things will happen.”

The factors and ideas that motivated Barnsley FC to go with a signing that’s so out of left field remain to be seen. However, one thing is for certain: the revolution at Barnsley may be backed by a combination of Chinese Bamboo and American Hollywood, but at its heart, as of now, it is a Cedar Revolution. Whether Barnsley turns out to resemble the beauty of the country of cedars and its people, or the corruption of its politicians, remains to be seen.

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May 15th, 2022

Dear Diary,

I write to you while I sit down overlooking the morning training session here at Oakwell. Mostly loanees at the end of their spells, U23s and U18s, so I’m looking more at the future right now. A couple of guys caught my eye, though.

Herbie Kane’s a 23 year old versatile all-round midfielder who has been really giving it his all in training the past couple of days. My assistants, Joseph Laumann and Tonda Eckert, say he’s got Championship potential, and that he can help get us back there now.

Another guy that’s seems to be ready to be a part of this season’s squad is Ben Williams: 23 years old, left back, versatile enough to play in the midfield. Noticeably hard-working and has the stamina and physicals needed to play a proper pressing game. He’s not the most technical of players and can lose his concentration a bit at times, but as he gets more game time, I’m sure his game will grow.

In any case, we need all the bright spots we can get here, because quite frankly, the atmosphere at the club has been abysmal since day one! Speaking of day one…

My first day was a proverbial whirlwind of events! The day started with Khaled welcoming me into the club, hastily dragging me over to his office to prep for the introductory press conference. “Apparently the fans are skeptical about your appointment, B,” explained Khaled. “It’s normal; we both know having you lead us is way out of left field. But we’ve got to be ready”.

A few ours of interview practice and we’re called to the press room to meet the reporters. All those flashing lights and cameras had me palpitating. My heart pounded nervously as I looked into the skeptical eyes of the media.

Breathe in, B. Breathe out. You’re a Toastmaster, you can do this.

I let out a big, welcoming smile as Khaled announced me as the new manager. After saying a few words about how big this move is for me professionally and personally, the media had the chance to ask their questions; they absolutely hounded us. I was worried I would lose my temper or that I would make a fool out of myself. But I kept smiling, kept my cool, and the first challenge of my career as a football manager went just fine. I left the media room to take a breath of fresh air, and waiting outside was Noga, my personal assistant.

“Mr. B, some of the senior members of the squad want to have a word with you.”

Senior members? I thought they were all on vacation till the end of June. Weird, to be honest, but I went there anyways, not knowing what to expect. As I arrived to the locker room, I found some of the top players in the club, all looking at me sternly with their agents in tow. Not good.

 There was Mads Andersen and Michal Helik, the Danish and Polish defenders respectively, both physical specimens who held down the fort as central defenders last year. There was Brad Collins, our first choice goalkeeper, Callum Brittain, our undisputed first choice right back, midfield cornerstones Josh Benson, Callum Styles and Romal Palmer, and the lead goalscorer, Cauley Woodrow. As one of the team leaders, Cauley would be the first to speak:

“Mr B, first of all, congratulations on the job. We’re all sure you’re going to do a fine job here. With that being said, all of us here need to leave. I know how tough this is for the club, to go through an exodus, but it’s for the good of our careers. We can’t waste our time playing at the level of competition this club is currently at.”

Most of the other players set a similar tone. Some wanted to compete for international spots, others wanted to further develop their game at a higher level, but the message was, overall, the same: we want to leave. And then Josh Benson’s turn came.

“B, you’re practically Cauley’s age, and you’re in a suit while we’re the ones on the field. You just got your coaching badges and now they’re throwing you here to run this. To be honest, you’re just here because the CEO’s your countryman. Sorry, but I’m not interested in a 2nd rate project.”

I’m gonna be honest, Josh’s words hurt. But he’s not totally wrong. I still don’t know how I got this gig. But I’m not going to let this guy get to me. So I went ahead with my reply:

“Look, I get you guys. You got relegated, you feel let down, sucker-punched. You want to further your careers, and that’s your right. You think I’m some 27-year-old with a suit playing Top Eleven with Barnsley on his mobile, and you know what? You might be right. But give me a chance to prove you wrong. I’ve got a one year contract here. Some of you guys do too, I presume. If you guys go out there on the pitch and show me the footballers you say you are, I promise you, we’re going back to the Championship. If we fail, I’m probably out, and you can leave.”

To be quite honest, I wasn’t going to be able to give much more. I knew that pissing these guys off would turn a hot flame into a club-wide firestorm. So I put my cards on the table. And for the most part, it worked.

“Fair enough, B,” said Cauley. Everyone but Josh nodded. “We both want the same thing. We’ll scratch your back, but you better make sure we’re back to the Championship next year. For your own sake, of course.”

Josh was gobsmacked. “You’re just gonna agree to be coached by an amatuer, Cauley? Nothing to say, Big Michal? Mads? Ohh, I see, you’re okay with this bloke. Well, I sure ain’t. You’ll find my transfer request in your inbox, B.”

As Josh Benson walked away, possibly from Barnsley, possibly for good, I went ahead and shook hands with the rest of the boys, solidifying our covenant: if I bring back Championship football to Barnsley, I potentially retain a club core that can help us stay there.

So that’s day one for you. Rest of the week was calm: a bit of talk about transfers for some of the players deemed unwanted by the club, a few resignings here and there at U23 and U18 levels, nothing major for now. We’re planning for the transfer window a month from now, and to be honest, it’s a bit too much of a load for the staff. My two scouts, Brian Young and Chris England have a lot on their plate already. We're understaffed at both coaching and scouting areas. We barely have cash for transfers since the club’s finances aren’t the best following relegation, and the club atmosphere is so toxic the whole of South Yorkshire’s choking on Tyke poison.

This gig is even tougher than I thought…

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June 9th, 2022

Dear Diary,

Let’s talk tactics. I’ve been thinking of how to apply the club’s vision on the pitch, and I think I have something in mind. The board wants a high-tempo, pressing and entertaining game, preferably with a narrow diamond. I’m a management newbie, so I’m not inventing anything myself right now. So by god, I will give the board the best realization of their vision I can give.

To do so, I went back to the past decade and took inspiration from one of the top teams in the European game, the old lady, Juventus. Conte’s midfield diamond started Juve’s run of 9 consecutive scudetti, so you could do worse for an inspiration.

The configuration we’ll use in the midfield will depend on how direct we want our passing to be: withdrawn wing backs with a deep-lying playmaker in front of the defense if we want to maintain possession, versus advanced wing backs and a ball winning mid in front of the center backs if we’re going direct. Either way, we’re playing fast, positive and sometimes physical football, with a big target man – deep lying forward strike partnership augmented by an attacking mid coming from deep to confuse defenses on attack as well as two box to box mids involved in all phases of play.

We will look to create and exploit space quickly, keeping the pitch compact in order to give the wing backs the space to operate and create. We will play hardest in transition, countering and counter-pressing to keep our opponents on their toes. On defense, we will play a high, narrow press, forcing our opponents outside where their influence will be limited. In time, I will experiment with a sweeper keeper, especially if I find us vulnerable to long balls from deep. Inside forwards or inverted wingers cutting in could also present an issue, so I’ll keep an eye out for how we deal with these situations.

For now, I’m having Brad Collins in goal, Mads Andersen and Michal Hellik at the center of defense, with the crafty Kenyan Clarke Odour on the left and Callum Brittain on the right. The versatile Romal Palmer will probably take the defensive mid spot, playing as a DLP or BWM as necessary. The young Callum Styles and Herbie Kane will work together as my shuttling BBMs, with Big Obbi Oulare as my target man and Cauley Woodrow as a more withdrawn deep-lying forward. He will switch with the attacking midfielder: for now I’m thinking Josh Benson up there, but I suspect he’s out of here by the end of the summer, so I’ll be looking for other options.

Speaking of out of here, Devontae Cole and Luke Thomas, as well as Leya Isaka, are probably heading out, with a bunch of rumors swirling around them. While Cole and Leya Isaka’s transfer processes seem to be going on smoothly, Luke Thomas is pissed at me for not wanting to sell him at a loss. He came in for 900k USD and I’d like to get that kind of money back. Speaking of currency, I really need to learn how to deal with pound sterling…

Jack Walton, our backup keeper, seems likely to leave as well. I had thought Brad was the guy to jump first, and Jack would become my number one. But Jack seems to think it’s time for a change in scenery, so I promised him I’d sell him if I get the right price.

Meanwhile, a bunch of loanees came back to the club, most interesting of which are George Miller and Patrick Schmidt: two strikers who will probably be 2nd choice at the Target Man and Deep Lying Forward positions respectively. With that in mind, Miller’s contract extension clause was triggered, so that I have enough time to look at him. Another interesting returning loanee is Jasper Moon, who I figure will fight with Liam Kitching for the 4th option center back spot. Helik and Andersen are heads and shoulders above the rest there, but if they get injured or sold, things will get interesting.

I’ll be in the market for a backup keeper, a bunch of midfield depth, and a starting attacking mid. I’ll give the scouts some time to do their thing, but if it takes too long, I might just go ahead and pick up some trialists. Not sure how that is going to affect the already toxic atmosphere, but I just hope it lights the fire up the backsides of my players. If I'm going to get this team out of League One, we are going to need everyone onside. Retooling this team seems like the first step for me in that regard.

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June 30th, 2022

Dear Diary,

I’m sorry I haven’t been writing here a lot: I’ve had a lot on my plate to prep for the pre-season with Barnsley. And it’s finally here! The squad’s together! All the usual suspects are here, and I’d like to think the only way for us is up.

It sure better be, because the environment is still as toxic as a nuclear waste dumpsite, and it’s starting to tax my mental state. The boys clearly aren’t enjoying their football, and it shows in the lack of intensity in training. I’ve taken that to heart when setting up our pre-season friendlies: A mix of amateur-ish teams, local sides at around our level and foreign clubs to challenge us should bring back flavor into the boys’ football. Plus, who doesn’t like a drubbing session or two? Plus, all the games are at Oakwell, so it’ll help with the club’s finances.

There’s been a lot of movement in the club in the past three weeks: Devontae Cole’s finally moved, joining Hearts in the Scottish Premiership for a deal that could be worth over £325k (look at me using pound sterling :P ), while Jack Walton joined our League 1 promotion rivals Derby for £350k. Am guessing Walton got himself a starting gig with Wayne Rooney, so good on him. Meanwhile, Carlton Morris, who I was hoping I would keep as my 3rd choice striker, left to Millwall in the Championship for a deal that could reach £140k. Issac Christie-Davies went down a division to League 2’s Swindon Town for a loan fee of £8.5k, while Matty Wolfe moved on loan for an excursion in the NordicBet Liga, Denmark’s 2nd Division, with our affiliates Esbjerg fB.

Meanwhile, we got ourselves the first batch of trialists to look into: our scouts have way too much on their plate to give us timely reports as of now, something I’ll need to work to manage once we’re on more of a stable financial footing. But for now, trialists it is. I wanted to look at some potential signings, including midfielders Jacob Davenport, Jordan Thompson & Regan Slater, as well as crafty Brazillian attacking mid Matheus Santana. So I had those guys play with the squad against our U23s in a practice match, so that I could look at the boys and see how they get on. It was a 3-2 win for the first team, with Davenport holding his own and the kids showing their stuff. All good, overall, though the tactic I’ve devised still looks like a work in progress.

Matheus Santana disappointed, which is a bit of a let down, as I need myself a starting attacking mid and thought Matheus would give us some flair behind the strikers. But let’s see how he gets on against real opposition. I’ve also decided to renew Anthony Gomez-Mancini’s loan here. He’s a French 21 year old on loan from Burnley whom I think can become a cracking deep-lying playmaker. And we’ll see how it goes. Because we’ve got our first friendly in a few days against Barnet. My first game as a football manager. Okay, wow. I need a minute to take this in. We’ll talk soon.

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July 9th, 2022

Dear Diary,

This time last year, my first real attempt at leaving my home country failed. I had spent a whole year doing all it took to get into a Master’s Degree program in artificial intelligence. I believed this was where my future was headed: Machine Learning Engineer in Silicon Valley by 2023. That dream had a real ring to it. That is, until it was shot dead by a US Visa officer with way too much authority.

I remember standing on the edge of my friend’s balcony week, feeling like a failure in the midst of his own engagement, contemplating to just throw myself off the edge and commit suicide. I thought I was worthless, incapable of success in anything but letting my loved ones down and then ending my life on a whimper…

A year on from all that, I’m still standing. Undefeated in 3 honest to god attempts at top level football management.

Now many will say, “Chill out, dude! These are just friendlies.” And they’d be right. But these were my first ever three attempts at coaching a club through football matches. Ever. And I was able to not just survive, but actually do well!

Our first friendly, my managerial debut, was against Barnet FC, a National League side that has sadly been going through a tough couple of years. Just a day before that, Aaron Leya Isaka had left for Sochaux, Aapo Halme left for Nurnberg, and Cauley Woodrow was coming to me to re-iterate he wanted to move to a bigger club. Though I was able to calm him with a monologue on how ambitious we are here at Barnsley, and that with patience, the return to the Championship will come, I thought that the whole squad was having itchy feet; they may not be interested in giving their all this offseason.

26 mins into the game, though, my Tykes would show their stuff. Trialist Jacob Thompson’s lob through Barnet’s defensive line finds Herbie Kane, who smashes it through Barnet’s keeper to make it 1-0 for us. 10 mins later, Thompson was at it again, finding Cauley Woodrow who tried for a screamer of his own, but it came inches wide. We kept the pressure on despite a couple of red cards, and a third cross from Thompson found Woodrow’s head, but Cauley hits it wide. 1-0 to end the half, and although we were attacking well, the end product was lacking.

I went into the 2nd half with one main tactical change: switch the target forward to an advanced role. That seemed to do the trick as Woodrow, leading the line, was able to get himself open for a setup by trialist Santana, before slotting it home to make it 2-0 and celebrating for the fans with a cartwheel. 20 minutes and a penalty for Woodrow later, the game was set, 3-0 for the Tykes!

I was ecstatic! I had won an actual football game as manager!

Then the next day came like a needle to pop my good mood. Michal Helik, club captain and defensive stone, broke his foot in training. He’s projected to be out until Mid-November. In the meantime, I tried to convince Luke Thomas that I value his potential too much to let him go for cheap, but he had none of it. “I won’t let you get away with this,” he exclaimed. We’ll see about that, Luke.

Our next friendly was against 11th division semi-pro side Dinnington Town, a chance to work the boys out and remind them of how fun it is to just play your football. And it worked! Obbi Oulare, John Benson, Cauley Woodrow, George Miller and Luke Thomas got on the scoresheet, securing a 6-1 thumping of the Central Midlands League side.

My real sense of pride and joy, though, comes from today. We welcomed Scottish Prem side Aberdeen to Oakwell in a match that was sure to be our biggest challenge of the pre-season. I’d have been fine with us losing but giving a good account of ourselves.

11 mins in, with Clarke Odour coming down the left, he was tripped by Aberdeen’s Hernandez. Penalty!

Cauley Woodrow steps in to take the pen. Steadies himself, but Lewis, Aberdeen’s keeper, saves it wonderfully! Was that a sign of how this game is gonna go? No it wasn’t, because 10 mins later Odour was at it again, setting up Romal Palmer for a couple of chances at goal. The pressure was on, and Aberdeen was feeling it. Cauley Woodrow with a cross to Palmer, and it’s third time lucky with the devastating counter attack. 1-0 Barnsley.

The game then took a rest until it sprung back to life in the 60th minute. Herbie Kane hit a huge long ball to find Patrick Schmidt, who slotted it home to make it 2-0 for the Tykes. But Aberdeen’s Hernandez was able to cross it to David Bates to get one back for the scots. It was a game now.

We came back at them with a header by Schmidt that went wide, but it was all Aberdeen from there. Ferguson’s pinpoint cross to Ramirez drew in our keeper Brad Collins, and all Ramirez had to do was head it into the open goal to tie the game. 2-2. You’d think we’d collapse as the weaker team, but we kept going, denying them total control and getting a few counter attacking opportunities late in the game. It wasn’t to be as the game ended square at 2-2. But it was a scintillating performance from the boys, who have shown me the kind of spirit they have in them. If we bring that spirit to every League game, the Championship will surely be waiting for us!

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June 23rd, 2022

Dear diary,

I’m starting to feel the goosebumps. Competitive football is getting closer than ever…and I hope my team’s ready.

It looks that way so far, given the performances we’ve been having. The boys are playing well, looking lively, giving their all. The trialists are showing themselves to be great options, and my narrow diamond pressing tactic is coming together nicely.

Our first of the 2nd batch of friendlies was against KV Westerlo, who were just promoted to the Jupiler Pro League, Belgium’s top division. That was the kind of match I want in our pre-seasons, to test our mettle against teams in higher levels. The usual suspects were on the field, and it was also the first game as a Tyke for our newest, and first, signing of this window: Luca Stephenson, an 18 year old ball winning midfielder with great tackling and aggression for his age and level. He’s more of a project for the future than a right-now kind of signing, but I think he can contribute whenever he gets time on the ground.

The game started strong: right from the kickoff, Herbie Kane set it up for trialist Daniel Arzani, who straight up blasted it into the top corner from 30 yards, 20 seconds in. 1-0 for the Tykes. Not 2 minutes later, the boys were at it again: Jordan Williams crosses it to Obbi Oulare from the right, who just dnks it with his left. 2-0. First half would stay quiet until the final 10 mins, with both teams trying their hand at a couple of headers, but that was it. 2-0 Tykes.

The 2nd half was basically more of the same till the 65’s min, where Leshabela’s lobbed through ball to Woodrow could have been a screamer, but went high into the stands. 2 mins later, Westerlo’s Desi missed a header. In the 84th minute, Callum Brittain plays a one-two with Patrick Schmidt, then slips it to Arzani, who scores the final goal of the game. And so it ends; a clean 3-0 victory for Barnsley.

Arzani convinced me he was worth the starting AM spot, so I sent him a full time offer, but he chose to play for Plymouth instead. With that in mind, I decided I’d give another guy a go: Connor Ronan, from the Wolves’ U23 team. His first chance to impress was against semi-pro Albion Sports, and boy, did he take over. A hat trick after getting a pen, which Dominick Frieser scored, capped off a sweet first audition for the lad.

Meanwhile, there was a lot of movement around the club: We signed two backup options in Mathew Hudson and Connor Malley for the GK and AM positions respectively. They’re expected to provide depth and competition whilst also getting their chances to impress. Meanwhile, Esbjerg fB, our affiliates up in Denmark, took on 3 of our lads in the U23s, and Cameron Thompson moved to VNL’s Boreham Wood for around £24k.

We had our final, and arguably most important, pre-season game today, and that was against Crewe Alexandria. This was our litmus test: where are we against the average League 1 squad? The game started tough, with Crewe’s Calum Butcher and our Romal Palmer getting themselves yellow cards. It wasn’t until the 30th minute that we saw the first real chance: A cross from Herbie Kane reaches Obbi Oulare, whose header just scrapes the crossbar. The game went quiet again until just before halftime, when Clark Odour found Woodrow, who banged it in to make it 1-0.

Early in the 2nd half, Herbie Kane tries a long ranger which was closer than anyone would think. But close is not enough, and 5 mins later Crewe’s Woodthorpe finds Martins, who slots it into the botton cornet to tie the game. It didn’t take much for my Tykes and Woodrow to respond, however, with a long through ball by Patrick Schmidt finding him in perfect position to smash it in and make it 2-1. Crewe directly tried to knock on our door again, but this time Martins could not get past our starting keeper Brad Collins, who came up with a crucial save to keep us in the lead. The game then went to a lull until just before the final whistle, where Cauley Woodrow was at the end of Ben Williams’ cross, and headed it home to complete his hat trick and make it 3-1 for the Tykes at the final whistle.

So that’s our pre-season. Playtime is over, the real thing starts in 5 days: A Carabao Cup tie against Rochdale from League 2. A week after that, we start our League One campaign against Shrewsbury.

I’m excited. I’m scared. I’m anxious, nervous, elated, and everything is between. But most importantly, I’m an honest to god football manager.

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August 6th, 2022

“We all follow the Barnsley,

Over land and sea (and Sheffiled),

We all follow the Barnsley,

On to victory!”

Dear Diary,

The voice of the passionate Red Army thundered through Oakwell as I walked out of the tunnel for our first competitive game. Not gonna lie, intimidating as hell. But also invigorating. I had been entrusted with the job of representing this club, its players, and these fans, in the best manner possible. And today was the first step in doing so: a Carabao Cup First Round tie, at home, against Rochdale from League 2.

After a quiet first 13 mins, a corner from Cauley Woodrow was interrupted by Rochdale’s Flint pushing Obbi Oulare, denying him a clear chance at goal. Penalty for us Tykes! And who better to convert than Cauley Woodrow himself, blasting it into the top left corner to make it 1-0. We kept up the pressure, and on the 24th minute, Romal Palmer sets up Herbie Kane, who blasts a venerable howitzer into the crossbar. Almost a goal of the year right from the off. 8 mins later, Rochdale get a close one of their own though, with Newby’s header clipping the crossbar. Aside from that, nothing notable happened, and the half finished a clean 1-0 for the Reds.

I had warned the guys against complacency In the dressing room before the 2nd half, and my fears were confirmed 10 minutes in. Liam Kelly, who admittedly should have been closed down better, hit a bender that fooled our keeper Brad and got in. Thankfully, that was the wake-up call the boys needed, as Herbie Kane’s early cross to Oulare only needed a dink from Obbi to get in. 2-1 Tykes. And then there was the encore: same move, same dink, same goal. Oulare gets himself a brace as Rochdale potentially saw the game run away from them. To be fair to the boys in blue, they had a flurry late in the game as Matty Done grabbed one back in the 88th minute, but it was too little, too late, and we were able to get the job done, 3-2.

Sadly, our first game this season was the last Barnsley game for Cauley Woodrow. Cauley got the offer that can’t be refused: a chance to play in the Premier League. I made sure we got our man’s worth, with 5.75 million pounds added to the balance. But it was saddening to see our top man go, and the fans let us know it, with small protests outside Barnsley HQ singing his song…

“There's something that the Tarn wants you to knooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwww,

The best in the world is Cauley Woodrow.

Our number nine,

Give him the ball and he'll score every time.

Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii senor,

Give the ball to Cauley and he will score.”

However, we did get someone back from Wolves aside from the money: Connor Ronan, a silky, speedy attacking midfielder from the U23s who is going to occupy our starting position at AM and satisfy that need. I have high hopes for this lad; he can become something special for this club. Meanwhile, youngster Archie Brown joins our Danish contingent at Esjberg fB on loan, while Dominick Frieser, who has decided he doesn’t want to stay, leaves the club for pastures new. Probably for the best…

I’d love to tell you more, but our 3 hour train ride is almost here. We start our League 1 campaign tonight in Shrewsbury, a consistently lower-midtable side in League 1. It’s the kind of team we need to get all three points from, no matter the location. But playing away from home is always a challenge, and The Shrews would love nothing more than to get an upset over us to start their season.

Whatever happens though, we’re here. League One action begins in a few hours. Time to see what in the world am I getting into…

Edited by LeonidasFace
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August 14th, 2022

Dear Diary,

I just got out of Chairman Lee’s office, and whew…

I had thought I was being called in for an admonishing right after getting drubbed at home against Wigan. Khaled’s face seemed pale when he told me the Chairman wanted to see me. Thankfully though, it was much ado about nothing: Mr. Lee wanted to personally inform me that he would invest in youth recruitment, as he appreciated my impassioned plea to Khaled about that topic and found my ambition invigorating. Also, the percentage of transfer revenue retained had been increased to 55%, since the Woodrow sale single-handedly lifted the club up to financial security.

I honestly needed the rush of good news, because all I’ve been getting is a barrage of bad ones: 3 starters injured, with my loanee Connor Ronan, the guy I had handpicked as my starting attacking mid, being injured for 5 months. Brad Collins, our starting keeper, was also injured for 2 to 3 months, and star left wing back Clarke Odour’s gone for a couple of weeks as well. The bug’s hitting hard.

And then come the vultures…

Crystal Palace just triggered Mads Andersen’s relegation release clause of £5m. With the knowledge that he wants to stay in the Championship rather than play in League 1, I don’t know how he refuses that deal. And if that’s not enough, Turkish SuperLig side Erzurumspor just declared their interest in our big man up front Obbi Oulare. Things might be falling apart before they begin here at Oakwell.

But how did we get there on the pitch, you might ask? Well, everything was going well until the Derby game…

You remember we were at Shrewsbury last week, to start our League 1 Campaign. And well, we straight up dominated that one. Only 8 minutes in, Clarke Odour gets the ball, starts a speed run on the left flank and crosses it right to Obbi Oulare, who power heads it home. 1-0 Tykes. In the 30th minute, Palmer tried to curl it into top bins, but the Shrews’ keeper Marosi came up with a wonder save to keep his team in it. We kept up the pressure for the rest of the half, with Oulare finding Ronan in a pinpoint lob, but Ronan couldn’t finish. Not 3 mins later, Oulare had a go at testing Marosi, but the Shrewsbury keeper was having a great first half.

The 2nd half would seal the game though, with a corner by Odour finding Hondermarck, who heads it home in the 55th minute to make it 2-0. It was the guy’s first senior goal, so I’m happy for him. Oulare had a go of his own 10 minutes later, but it sailed over the bar, before Hondermarck’s through ball to Schmidt, almost, but not quite, went through Marosi. And, well, that was it for that match. A good win to start our League 1 campaign.

5 days later was the Derby game at home in the 2nd Round of the Carabao Cup. Not gonna lie, I was starstruck seeing Wayne Rooney for the first time. The man was one of my childhood footballing idols growing up, and his form with the late 2000s Manchester United sides with Ronaldo and Tevez was nothing short of scintillating. And here I am, this guy from who knows where in the Middle East, going head to head with a footballing legend in an honest to god football match.

The match was surely eventful. Oulare had an early header go just wide, before Brittain found Oulare with a cross to head it in…except Obbi was offside. No goal. 5 minutes later, it was Derby’s turn, with Buchanan’s cross reaching Campagna, who lays it off to Knight for the tap-in. 1-0 Derby. The Rams kept up the pressure, but we weren’t giving up, as a wide ball to Schmidt sets him up to cross it to Oulare, who’s been itching to score, but can’t get past, well, Jack Walton. Yeah, that Jack. Our old back is now a starter for Derby. Eventually, it was Patrick Schmidt who got the better of him though, volleying a through ball from Brittain into the net to tie the game. 11 mins later, we catch them on the break, and Connor Ronan’s run turns to a cross for Oulare, whose head won’t miss. 2-1 for us Tykes, and that’s the half.

The 2nd half, well, the less said about it the better. 6 yellow cards and 3 injuries between both teams, with Odour and Ronan getting their injuries in that game. Brad Collins would then get injured in the next training session, so yeah. A 2-1 win for us to send the crowd and board home happy, but you’ve got to wonder if I should have rotated the side more. Was this all preventable? Was a 4-1 drubbing by Wigan preventable if I had not given the Derby game that much importance?

I don’t know, but it certainly wasn’t nice to see us this toothless, even if I had rotated for the Wigan game. Our only real highlight was a penalty scored by George Miller. Otherwise, everyone was a downer, with Wigan’s Charlie Wyke and Max Power having their way with our side. Power had two, Wyke had one and assisted Jordan Jones’ goal, and well, it was a 4-1 win for Wigan on the day.

So yeah, I’m just relieved my first loss didn’t immediately send alarm bells to Chairman Lee. But we’ve got to get our act together, because we’re expected to be promoted directly. Top 2 is the goal, and losses like that against Wigan are not going to cut the mustard.

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