THE JOURNALS OF ERIC BACKLUND – EPISODE 2

This is the second episode by guest author Lee Rothery.

EPISODE 2 – MY FIRST YEAR IN CHINA

Dear Reader,

The last time I was with you I had just joined Chinese side Dalian A’erbin FC and I was telling you how I got here due to family connections however a lot of time has elapsed since then.

2057/58

This was my first taste of proper football management and it was not easy having to rely on my interpreter to get my points across but I was fairly impressed with what I saw in those remaining 8 games as we ended the season in 5th falling just shy of an Asian Champions League place but due to our media prediction being 2nd it came as a shock when my personal assistant advised me that there were rumours I could be fired for under performing. Quite how I could be judged on five games I will never know but thankfully in the off-season I was able to sit down with our 44-year-old Chairman Mr Alfio Carrizo. I was so thankful for him letting me stay on as I already had my own dossiers on the players and had ideas on who I wanted to keep and who I wanted to get rid of.

Even though I’d only been in charge for just 8 games, I could already see that Juan Pablo one of our foreign allowances was not going to cut it. When I joined he was sold to me as being one of our key players but there was no way I saw that so off he went to Shenua for no transfer fee but we saved £12k a week in wages pretty much instantly so it was a decent start to pre-season.

2058/59 – FIRST DAYS BACK IN THE OFFICE

I had called each player into my office for the first day of pre-season to tell them face to face where their future lies, I have always been a believer in having transparency between management & staff. It’s what my Father used to always teach me when I was a young boy. You simply don’t stab people in the back, you stab them in the stomach and look them in the eye. I hope it was just a metaphor!

I decided to gather my newly formed backroom staff (again with my tireless interpreter) to tell them what we want to achieve and what training plans they had to adhere to if we were going to be a success. My plan here is to establish a real sense of a club DNA focusing on the following at all costs,

Determination, Teamwork, Work Rate – ESSENTIAL

Passing, First Touch, Composure, Stamina, Pace – DESIRABLE

I will look for this in all players and especially the first three attributes if someone does not want to work hard for himself and his teammates he can go. We only want professional & determined characters here which is all good and well in theory but the summer was spent with myself and my 1 scout searching as best we could. He took care of China as I had no idea about football here and I gave up any ideas of a holiday instead deciding to go to Europe and build up as many contacts as possible.

TRANSFERS – OUTS

In total thirteen players had left the club a full week before we even played our first league game, the most significant of these were:

  • Chu Chang-Yub (£120k) – Shandong
  • Zhang Xu (£135k) – Rehne
  • Niu Henguin (125k) – Rehne

TRANSFER – INS

In total we signed 14 players most of these were domestic players but I would say the special ones out of the crop were:

  • A 22-year-old French midfielder who I picked up on a free called Mounir Messaoudi, very accomplished on the ball and full of flair – he ended up finishing the season just gone with 8 goals from 18 starts from the AMC role – he will be here again this year that’s for sure. He’s had a poor career only ever playing for French club, Lemans FC before coming to China. £2.8k a week.
  • Next up was 17-year-old Chinese centre back Ma Zhiqiang, he’s had a decent season featuring no less than 18 times for us, at 6’4 he is fantastic in the air, as brave as a Lion. He has performed to a very reasonable 6.82 this year with us but I did feel towards the end of the season his development started to slow, certainly something I will need to keep in check . £135k & £160 per week.

Below is the business we did

IMAGE 1

FINANCES

Now this is interesting because despite us playing in a huge 60,000 arena you’d be forgiven for thinking we’d be secure however this is certainly not the case as we average 13,400 each home game which simply isn’t sustainable and indeed the season just gone we lost £4.02m which is not a good sign. However, (spoiler alert) as we’ve just qualified for the Champions League I hope this can really put us on the map and claw back some of that. Only time will tell, I hold my hands up that I made some mistakes but the way the board presented me with the financial projections I was led to believe I had a huge war chest but this is not the case and I will need to work smarter going forward.

At the present moment we are well under our wage budget but as we’re not getting much in way of revenue streams it may sound nice but it doesn’t tell the full story and indeed I do feel the Chairman somehow deceived the shareholders at our recent meeting, the last time I spoke to our accountant this is what he had shown me:

£ Per Week
Budgetary Allowance 216, 321
Current Spend 77, 845
% of Budget 35.9%
Target 40%

 

Now the target of 40% is a personal target I have set myself but it may not be enough so this may have to be squeezed down to the 30% mark as I look to trim any deadwood but again it will need careful planning and once more I will be inviting each and every player to my office for their annual appraisal. Before I do that I will be carefully analysing a few things but in particular the voice in my head will be asking ‘does this player justify this wage given his age, status & Key Performance Indicators’.

This leads me nicely onto my next point as you saw earlier I want us to have certain attributes which will serve as the absolute core of our whole philosophy irrespective of whether you’re our fancy false 9 on £10k a week or if you’re our kit man you need to show me Determination, Teamwork, Work Rate at the very least otherwise I will be letting go of you. It’s so simple, in order to establish this club and to get results there can be no place for any sentimentality.

However, as I have now been here a full season I am introducing something new to the club which is Key Performance Indicators which look at how well a player is doing his job for the role I have given him. I will be setting the standard using Squawka which a fellow Manager Chris Darwen advised me to check out but it’s rather simple, you will be judged on:

GOALKEEPER CENTRE BACKS WING BACKS DMC MC AMC/ATT
average rating Tackling Ratio Passing Ratio Tackling Ratio Passing Ratio SOT Ratio %
Conceeded per/90 Heading Ratio Cross Completion Ratio Passing Ratio Tackling Ratio Passing Ratio
Interceptions Distance Per 90 Interceptions Key Passes Key Passes

LEAGUE PERFORMANCE

As I write this it’s November 1st, 2059 and we have just finished the 2058-59 season and I feel we did rather well playing our part in some very memorable games and giving Guangzhou a run for their money. To finish just six points behind them in the league is no mean feat either considering they have won this competition seventeen times now in a row. Here is the overall league table:

IMAGE 2

In total, we started with playing twelve friendlies mostly against lower level opposition as I wanted to get the team gelled as fast as I could however, a week before the season started I’d arranged to play the much fancied South Korean side Gangwon and watching us come back from 1-4 to draw 4-4 showed me we had fought in us even if was a friendly.

Our first eleven games saw us lose five and I was partly to blame, overall I tried various ideas and we never really settled on one style. I know that has to change this season and we have to believe in what we’re trying to do here which again goes back to our DNA.  

The months of June-August saw us really climb the league playing twelve in the league and losing just once but the absolute best moment of the season saw us turn over Guangzhou 3-0 at home with my summer recruit young Portuguese forward banging in two for us. We ended  the season not so well and we bottled under pressure losing three games in which if we had of won we really would have been breathing down their backs but alas it wasn’t to be.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Before the players come back to training I will be doing a few things:

  1. Asking the board for more members of staff
  2. Analysing KPI’s and setting benchmarks for next year
  3. Spotting gaps in my squad and streamlining any under performers.

I doubt there are going to be another 14 players coming in as that was just a short-term fix but I’ll be working with my coaching department to try our level best to get the players to be the best they possibly can.

In my next update, it will be at the end of season 2059/60 where I will tell you about how pre-season went, any transfer activity and of course to see if we can improve on our 2nd place finish.

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