First XI, first transfers, first game, first win, first “Frankenderby” – let’s find out who draws first blood in Part II of “May the Fürth Be With You” (writer’s note: easy on the movie references).
Monday 10th June 2019 – first day in the office for Greuther Fürth’s new look Irish legion of backroom staff who still look fairly raggy after Chairman Niall Quinn reportedly spent the equivalent of the club’s annual scouting budget on Guinness and Jameson in the Irish Cottage Pub in Fürth city centre last Saturday night. Manager MaddFM means business however – there are major decisions to be made as we evaluate our current playing squad based on the team report he found stuffed inside his suit jacket on Sunday morning.
For a club predicted to finish in 10th place this season (bear in mind that Bundesliga 2 has 18 teams) – we do actually have some decent players in our first XI. Our best player by far is Maximillian Wittek, who according one Kleeblätter fan in the pub “has the best left foot you’ll ever see on a football pitch”; he’s obviously never heard of Ian Harte, but wasn’t wrong when singing Wittek’s praises about him being good enough to make most Bundesliga sides. He will be a key player for us and should be good enough to hold down that Left Back spot for years to come as we look to gain promotion to the top tier of German football.
Defensively we have gaps to fill – the combined age of our two first choice centre-halves is 66 meaning there’d be more pace at a Friday night Bingo Hall, so that’s definitely an area of concern in this Greuther Fürth squad. In Midfield Paul Seguin looks to be our best Playmaker, while we also have flair and creativity through the likes of former Bayern players Julian Green and TimothyTillmanalong with the on-loan Marvin Stefaniak who is here for a season from Wolfsburg. Up top is the area that most concerns me however – Branimir Hrgota is a decent option with great finishing, however I’m not convinced he can get us the goals we need if we are to have a shot at promotion this season. Our only other option is Havard Nielsen, who I can only describe as the man Norwegian’s have already forgotten since the emergence of Erling Braut Haaland – it’s easy to see why, his attributes are poor and I don’t see him being here come the end of the season.
Getting our Money’s Würth
We need a Centre-Half, a Centre-Midfielder and at least one Striker – and have €150,000 to do so.
I knew finances at this level wouldn’t be great but despite our healthy overall balance (pints are on Niall Quinn again this weekend), we have little or no room to manouvre in our transfer budget. I am generally against loaning in players unrealistically for short term gain who we know will never stay at the club past the first season, so in order to avoid this our transfer strategy will be as follows:
1. Only sign loan players if we can agree an Optional Future fee which we will activate if we are either promoted or have the funds to do so (assuming the player is a fit and becomes a first team regular)
2. Only Free Agents under the age of 30 will be signed
3. Permanent transfers must all be under the age of 25
4. Every year we will sign at least 1 Irish player to continue our Irish connection with the club
Sounds easy right?
Four days in, we think we have it all worked out and have the perfect plan in place…then I realise three things;
1. Our best player Maximillian Wittek is out of contract at the end of the season
2. He doesn’t want to sign a new one with interest in his services from Mainz, Southampton and Udinese
3. He’s a pr*ck
Five minutes ago we were preparing to build a squad around the lad, and now we are in a situation whereby our new assistant Alan Maybury is advising that we should sell him for fear that he will run his contract down if told otherwise..the beer sweats are well and truly in play at this stage, and soon the inevitable happens:
A classic FM dilemma – do we refuse and hope that he will eventually cave and sign a new contract, or risk losing him on a free at the end of the season? Looking at that Transfer Budget, it’s hard not to imagine what we could do with the cash – let’s see what how much we can squeeze out of Southampton depending on how bad they need a Left Back – Ryan Bertrand won’t be happy.
We asked for six million and got five – considering Niall Quinn is giving us 75% of transfer revenue, that’s about €3.5 million we now have to spend this transfer window. Shit just got real here in Fürth – it’s shopping time.
Suffice to say we are feeling a lot better after completing six transfers before the window closes, putting the Wittek money to extremely good use and our First XI looks a lot healthier coming into our first league game against FC St. Pauli. For the most part we will alternate between a 4-4-2 and a 4-4-1-1 depending on Home/Away fixtures and whether we feel we are the stronger side – a big part of our philosophy will be on possession-based football, therefore we will focus all of our training and tactical efforts on short passing, ball retention, off-the-ball movement and working the ball into the box – more on how we hope to achieve this later.
We open the league campaign with a 1-0 away win at St. Pauli courtesy of a 59th minute Aaron Connolly winner – THE IRISH REVOLUTION BEGINS!! ☘️☘️
This is followed by back to back wins over Regensburg and Hannover 96 and already the Kleeblätter faithful are talking of top flight football next season. Connolly picks up three goals in three games before hitting a dry patch in September and October, however American Striker Josh Sargent starts to vie for the lone Striker position as he quickly moves to become our top scorer after 10 games wherein we sit in 4th place after a couple of draws and our first defeats at Bielefeld and Hamburg respectively.
Das Legendäre Frankenderby
Despite some weaker opposition in this league we still have to compete with the likes of Stuttgart, Hamburg and Bochum all of whom have equal ambitions to gain promotion. Our biggest game of the season however comes in the Frankenderby – a bitter clash between ourselves and local rivals FC Nurnberg. Of the 266 times we have faced off previously, Nurnberg have won 139 times versus our 77 wins so the pressure is on to prove to the Kleeblätter faithful that the Irish can lead their club to glory.
Greuther Fürth are favourites going into the game and rightly so – a brace from that man Josh Sargent either side of half time give us a 2-0 victory and it’s first Fürth Blood to the Kleeblätter – you can imagine this writer’s glee when a guy called Sargent gives us a win and therefore a further John Rambo reference 😆.
By Christmas we sit in 4th place after 20 games played – the other highlight being a resounding 6-0 win over Darmstadt. Although we have been outstanding at times we have had our fair share of slip-ups, however overall we are very much in contention for promotion as we prepare for the business end of the season.
Despite the fact that we were predicted to finish 10th at the start of the season, have completely overhauled our backroom staff to facilitate the Irish revolution, and have pretty much a completely different first XI to what the club would have had last season – our ambitions are high and we will absolutely be aiming for promotion at the first time of asking. This means we will need to finish first or second to gain automatic promotion, while 3rd would mean we contend a playoff with whoever finishes 3rd last in the Bundesliga. A top 5 finish wouldn’t be too bad in terms of prize money, even if it’s a fraction of what promotion in the Premier League can earn a club – however we are going to go in all guns blazing in the hope that we can battle our way into the Bundesliga.
Thanks for reading – I can’t promise much as to whether we can actually gain promotion or offer any significant Football Manager insight during this journey, however I will at least try to (marginally) reduce the frequency of overused movie references next time round 😄.