We still can’t believe it. Greuther Fürth are in Europe. After 6 seasons and 13 blog posts, our highest ever finish in the Bundesliga (6th) last season means that sh*t just got real here in Bavaria and we have a huge task on our hands if we are to take this squad to the next level especially knowing that squad depth and quality has been an issue, as well as our somewhat limited means and commercial income as a club.
There’s no time to dwell on that though – it’s time to shop for a new outfit as we prepare for European football for the first time in the club’s history.
It doesn’t seem like a lot and that’s because it isn’t – unfortunately our negative balance of minus €17 million at the end of last season means that we again have limited means with which to strengthen the squad. €21 million transfer budget means we should have around €30 million which isn’t at all to be laughed at – main objectives are to sign a Right Back with Lee O’Connor not really strong enough to play at the next level in Europe, a backup keeper with Sascha Burchert having retired, as well as find another Striker to compete with Noel Bilic particularly with Josh Sargent still out for the rest of the year due to that horrific cruciate ligament injury – I’ll say it now, if we lose Bilic this season we are f*cked. If we can fill those slots and bring in a few additions to bulk up our squad depth, then we should hopefully be in a good place to kick off Season 7.
It’s at this point when reviewing our squad as a whole that we reach a startling realisation:
ONLY ONE OF OUR FIRST XI IS GERMAN.
For six seasons, this has not been an issue at all as Bundesliga rules are quite lenient when it comes to squad registration and home grown players etc. Europa League is a different kettle of fish however:
Things just got a bit more interesting…as it stands our current squad looks as follows:
With only 4 “homegrown” players in our squad and a minimum of 8 European squad places required to be allocated to homegrown players – looks like a slight change to our transfer policy will be required; with a squad of just 17 players on the books, we need at least two more German / Homegrown additions in this transfer window so off we go:
At just 24, German full back Simon Asta looks a quality signing and I’ll be surprised if we don’t get him capped for the national side before long. Speaking of the national side – as we continue our slightly more refined search for homegrown players, we are given an unexpected surprise which will greatly benefit our quest to meet Europa League registration rules:
Not only is he now a German citizen but he can also be called up to the German squad having never been capped for Spain as yet…new save objective anyone? 😀 This means that with Asta and Blesa we now have 6 homegrown players in the first team squad – knowing the Europa League registration is 25 players and with a squad of only 18 – even with a few additions we will probably only register 22 or 23, meaning the two vacant spots can act as the two additional homegrown spaces…this might give us a bit more leeway in the transfer market…
Our First Newgens ❤️
When I say our first newgens, I mean we have signed our first ever newgens. This is always a sign that you are well and truly down the rabbit hole in a save, that point where a lot of the top players from current real life have now retired and newgens are starting to take over the world. I’m fine with it though as our first newgen signing comes in on a free transfer after his contract ended at FC Nantes:
Le Lay is followed through the Fürth revolving door by another newgen who we sign on loan from Bilbao to provide cover for Noel Bilic up front – we tried to sign him permanently but as is the case with most Basque players in the game, Bilbao wanted about €700 million to sign him permanently (closer to €50m but still) so we settle for signing him on loan but happy as it gives additional depth up top and as an Inside Forward if needed:
From there it’s a case of bulking up our squad seeing as we have just added a minimum of 6-8 games to our already busy calendar and still only have a squad of 20 to choose from:
No major call-outs however we receive an offer that we can’t refuse as Werder Bremen sign Lee O’Connor for a hefty €8m – not bad considering we signed him as a free agent a couple of seasons back. The hardest part of that deal was saying goodbye to a fellow Irishman, however we continue to maintain our save goals (signing at least 1 Irish player each season) with the arrivals of backup keeper Peter Walsh from Birmingham, and Irish/German midfielder Ryan Johansson who will also help our homegrown requirements. Aside from that I’m secretly quite happy with the free signing of the wonderfully named Fin Back from Manchester City, especially after discovering he is actually a real player! With Paul Seguin not getting any younger, he might be able to stake a claim for that Half-Back position we have grown fond of implementing over the past few seasons.
Defenders: Ryan Porteous, Nicolo Armini, Scott McKenna, Marko Djira, Simon Asta, Zinho Vanheusden, Joao Ferreira, Vitaly Belyakov
Midfielders: Ferran Torres, Paul Seguin, Fin Back, Luca Connell, Josh Cullen, Maxence Caqueret, Alex Blesa, Edon Zhegrova, Pascal Le Lay, Ronan Curtis, Ryan Johansson
Forwards: Josh Sargent, Noel Bilic, Mikel Martinez
With that business done, it’s almost time to kick off Season 7 for the Kleeblätter – before that though, there is the small matter of the Europa League draw and admittedly the excitement levels start to rise for this slightly overenthusiastic Football Manager blogger, namely because having managed the likes of Southend and Newcastle before this, European Football has become quite the fantasy until now.
I definitely wouldn’t call it easy…away trips to Rome and Merseyside will most certainly prove challenging, but if we can escape the group we might just have a chance when looking at the remaining teams in the competition – Arsenal are the standout favourites but aside from them I feel we can give any of these teams a run for their money which is exactly what we tell the media when asked :D.
So, without further Freddy Adu (because that’s a saying) – let’s kick off Season 7 at Greuther Fürth.
We start like a house on fire with 7 points from our first 3 league games, after which things got a bit rocky to say the least. Pascal Le Lay picked up 5 goals 4 games and then decided he was done for the season, and only the goals of Blesa and Bilic kept us going throughout the first 3 months of the season. Our first Europa League adventure could’t have gone better, a 2-0 win at home to Lazio putting us top of the group, until a trip to England saw us lose 3-1 away to Everton – thankfully we managed to beat Brugge in Belgium, keeping our qualification hopes alive for another while at least.
Evidently our European exploits do appear to have an impact on our League form – despite a cracking win over Dortmund and a draw against Bayern, we pick up 4 defeats in our first 10 games, which leaves us hovering in 10th position by the end of November. Have we embarked on European football too soon? One thing’s for sure – if we don’t pull our socks up, there won’t be any more of it next season…