Since 2000, Real Oviedo have had an interesting period as a football club, to say the least. They started the 2000/2001 season by moving into a brand-new 30,000-seat stadium, ready to compete with the best La Liga had to offer, however by the start of the 2003/2004 season they kicked off the campaign in the 4th tier of Spanish football. A severe economic collapse, coupled with a profound lack of institutional support from the city’s government, resulted in the team’s inability to pay its players.
The following 10 seasons consisted of bouncing between the 4th and 2b tier of the (frankly confusing) Spanish league system. For the start of the 2015/2016 season, however, they finally made it back to the second tier and here is where my story begins; a 31 year old (if only thanks to the game being a year behind at this point) unproven manager who has only ever tasted football at the lower league level as a player, now thrust into the hot seat at Oviedo (for the purposes of this series, my playing career was tragically cut short due to injury).
As with all great managers, my first order of business is to set up my tactics that will take me all the way. For this, after assessing the squad available to me, I have decided to go with an in-vogue 4-3-2-1, with the two being deployed as wingers and the left sided of these two set as an inside forward. This save begins with my star striker Mamadou Kone sidelined by a cruciate ligament injury for the next month, and then my second-best striker, 32 year old veteran and last season’s top scorer, Miguel Linares is struck down with another cruciate ligament injury, forced out of action for 9-11 months. All this within the first two days at the helm…this could be harder than I thought.
“To the transfer market” is my immediate thought, but a quick look at the club’s coffers suggests otherwise, with the £92,000 transfer budget being an issue. So I call my assistants together and we decided it would be best to move out star central midfielder Jon Erice, he’s a valuable player but he’s in the final year of his current deal. So we send out word of his availability to clubs around the world, and almost immediately Sheffield Wednesday come in with an offer that initially is under what we want, but following a bit of hard negotiating we settle on £450,000 upfront, with a further £190,000 to come in future fees based on appearances. The board graciously give me £300,000 of this to spend on a reinforcement, and with this cash burning a hole in my pocket I immediately splash £210,000 of the this on former Rangers goal machine, and current Preston shot shy striker, Andy Little. And with needing a new central midfielder to replace Erice, I look at the free agent market; a pair of 33 year olds in the shape of David Gonzalez and former Portsmouth terrace hero John Utaka. The window slams shut just a few days after the Gonzalez deal is wrapped up, so that’s all the business done. For a few months at least.
Our pre-season has been a success, we are unbeaten in all 6 games, with the highlight coming in the shape of a 2-0 victory over Italian giants Lazio. You may recognise a FM classic strategy in bringing in some much-needed income by playing bigger teams at home in pre-season. The team tactics I employed early on is working well, we are creating a lot of chances unfortunately we are also missing a whole lot of them, but wins are wins and the signs of successful tactics are there.
The season starts with a 1-0 home win over Lugo, but this is followed by a disappointing 1-0 loss away at Alaves, where we failed to even register a shot on target. Up next is another 1-0 in the win column over Albacete, meaning the league season is off to a pretty good start. We get a 3-1 away win at Girona in the cup next time out, with 3 wins and a loss in our first 4 games showing a positive start to this story.
And that’s where we will leave it for this time, though join me again soon as I continue to conquer the Spanish second tier.