After breaking our transfer record on the €4.2m signing of Noel Bilic from HJK Rijeka which pretty much depleted our entire budget for our first season back in the Bundesliga – we were welcomed back to the Bundesliga with a bang with 3 defeats in our opening 3 league games of the 2021/2022 season. Defeats to Koln, Wolfsburg and then a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Red Bull Leipzig highlight the gulf in class between our young Fürth side and the more tenured clubs in this league – RBL’s €37.5m signing Marco Asensio from Real Madrid getting on the scoresheet, for context that’s 7x our entire transfer budget 🤦♂️.
The same gulf is clearly evident when it comes to income and expenditure – we are literally minnows in this league, the lowest earners and spenders when it comes to commercial revenue and player salaries – Chairman Niall Quinn must actually be squandering all of our budget down at the Irish Cottage pub in Fürth City Centre.
OK OK WE GET IT – YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR LEAGUE IN THIS DIVISION. Being honest I don’t think we completely are – even though we had minimal budget and are relying on the same players that got us promoted, we were definitely too good for Bundesliga 2 and the additions of Bilic and Marin along with renewed loans for Sargent and Armini should hopefully give us enough quality to avoid going back down in our first season in the top flight.
I mentioned Antonio Marin – most of us will know this kid from FM19 and although I don’t think he is as strong in this year’s version, he settles into the Inverted Winger position beautifully, picking up 3 goals in his first 3 games which kickstarts our season as we go from losing our first 3 games to going 8 games unbeaten. JoshSargent starts to look more like a Bundesliga quality striker while Branimir Hrgota, Alex Blesa and Ronan Curtis all start to show they can compete at this level.
10 games in and we find ourselves in 10th position – we’ve not even faced Dortmund or Bayern yet 👀.
That classic dilemma of what we can do to make this squad a bit more competitive, in a particular facing off against teams that are far superior to us. Tactically I am happy with how we are playing albeit conceding too many goals – personnel changes aren’t really a luxury we can afford with our current squad size so the only other option we have is to have a slight review of our mental state and in particular our aggression/determination levels for this youthful side; bearing in mind we have turned this club into an Irish legion, there’s only one man to turn to when it comes to becoming more aggressive:
This coupled with an increased training focus on Defending Engaged and a more frequent instruction to “Get Stuck In” appears to have an immediate effect – not only do we manage to subdue both Dortmund and Bayern holding each to a draw and almost doing the same away to RBL – we also manage to pick up 3 red cards in 7 games with George Bello, Ronan Curtis and Nicolo Armini all earning themselves an early bath during this period. The Roy Keane effect?
For good or for bad our increased aggression and more combative approach does not go unnoticed…
Think of the Children
We dream of an Irish Wonderkid here at Fürth – praying for an Irish Newgen with each intake that comes around. Season 1 saw our best youth candidate come in the form of a Finnish Newgen we nicknamed Johnny Bravo due to his glorious hairstyle, while in our second season we had Bosnian twins with little or no potential along with the wonderfully eyebrowed Daniel Lange who we nicknamed a young Jack Nicholson for his efforts. All are still at the club however have not really flourished – third time lucky perhaps?
A Turk and an Angolan are the latest overseas Newgens on a production line containing an Irish Owner, Irish Manager, Irish Head of Youth Development and entire Irish U19 backroom team. We have repeatedly tried to establish an affiliation with an Irish club to boost our chances however Niall Quinn’s negotiation skills seem limited at best – that is until the moment our Youth Intake for this season ends upon which a miracle happens:
Will this affiliation be the final piece in the puzzle to help us on our quest for Irish Newgen greatness in Germany? We’ll have to wait another year to find out…
A 2-0 victory over Wolfsburg in February means that suddenly we find ourselves in the DFB-Pokal Cup Quarter Final and wouldn’t you know it we are drawn against holders Bayern Munich who themselves have had a spell of bad form dropping from 2nd after 10 games to 6th after 20.
Needless to say this coincides with an injury to our main Striker Josh Sargent – cue the biggest game of 19 year old Noel Bilic‘s life as he leads the line against the German Champions on their own turf at the Allianz Arena.
Despite the strength of this slightly aging Bayern side, we put on a defensive masterclass with Armini and Porteous nullifying Lewandowski completely, and Bilic’s 15th minute first goal for the club is enough to see us through to the Semi-Final. Is silverware somewhat unexpectedly on the cards in our first season back in the Bundesliga??
Our reasons for being pessimistic about this draw are not just down to the fact that RBL have already beaten us twice this season and have arguably the best squad in the division; by the time April comes along, their dominance combined with Bayern’s continued downfall in form mean that after 28 games they have wrapped up the league title. On a more positive note – our own form also picks up along with this cup run, picking up 5 wins in 6 league games before the Semi-Final comes around. 30 games in and this is how the table looks:
Greuther Fürth vs Red Bull Leipzig – DFB Pokal Semi Final – 20/04/2022
After Bilic’s heroics in the Quarter Final it’s only right that he starts the Semi – we are under no illusions about how difficult this tie will be even if we do have home advantage – to add insult to injury, RBL have signed Carles Alena from Barcelona since we last played, he was immense in my Tenerife save for FM19 and no doubt the Gods of FM might fancy some poetic injustice today 👀.
Despite going a goal down thanks to a Marcel Sabitzer finish on 28 minutes, we put in a really solid performance and even though we end up with more shots on goal and on target, unfortunately the combination of Upamecano and Konaté in RBL’s backline prove too strong and it’s our opponents who progress to the final.
So close! It’s not all doom and gloom however – this cup run has done wonders for our bank balance as we pick up over €2m for reaching the Semi-Final:
The Final Lap
Four games to seal our fate – not only were we originally favourites to go down – we find ourselves on the brink of European qualification for the first time in the club’s history. Three of our last four games are at home however wouldn’t you know it, two of these are against Bayern and Dortmund….what would Roy Keane do?
Despite a brace from super-sub Noel Bilic to give us a 2-0 win over Hoffenheim, we completely run out of steam in our last 3 games with narrow defeats to Bayern and Dortmund and a lacklustre scoreless draw at home to Paderborn which in turn secures their place in the league for next season (writer’s note: aren’t we kind). The squad with which we kept faith in after gaining promotion lead us to a still very impressive 8th place finish (just as Reading did back in 2007 under similar circumstances), however we end the season just outside the European places. It’s not all bad news though:
€59 million!!! Suffice to say that we have a very interesting Summer break ahead of us – I am determined to keep this save as credible and realistic as possible, and having come this far mainly through the repeat loan signings of several players (e.g. Sargent, Armini, Bello etc) the plan is to try and make these guys permanent additions to the squad before delving into the transfer market to see what calibre of player we can attract and afford. Suffice to say – whatever business we do will be far more authentic, realistic and sensible than this:
Thanks for reading – feel free to recommend some summer transfer signings in the comments below!