Duruji Kvareli – 2023 Open Thread
I asked for it to be delivered in singles. The Chairman thought I was kidding.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him the truth. I just wanted to frolic around in it. For 20, maybe 30 minutes. I’d even consider keeping my pants on…
In all fairness, I assumed that the Chairman was kidding when he passed along the Board’s demand that we win the Davit Kipiani Cup this year, even though we’re in Liga 4.
Alas, the look on his face told me he was not kidding. I put my pants back on.
Frankly, this has to be a bug of some sort, somehow associated with the 5-tier extension file. I can’t think of any other reason why the Board would be looking for a top half finish in Liga 4, but insist on winning the Cup.
The reality is that we aren’t that far off the clubs in the tiers above us. I’ve been thinking we’ll have a shot at it in 2024 or 2025, if we can keep progressing. But let’s be honest.
We are not going to win the Cup this year. So, we’ll just have to cross this bridge when we get there.
I don’t mind getting sacked, even for arguably unjust reasons. In my narrative-heavy saves, a sacking can often be the “best” thing to happen. But this is just silly season.
I have not decided how I want to handle it. I’m not particularly interested in moving to another club, such that this save becomes a “revenge” mission. Assuming that we’re otherwise meeting/exceeding the Board’s expectations, I’m considering 2 options: (1) retiring upon being sacked, and adding Giorgi Amirani 2.0 to take over the club; or (2) temporarily ticking the “unsackable” option in the editor. I’m leaning heavily towards (2) right now, if only for the sake of continuity/statistics over the course of the save.
All that being said, the media are predicting a second-place finish, behind SK Rustavi’s reserves.
Let’s get stuck in, lads.
I’ve decided to stick with the side from last year, which was too good for the 5th tier, generally held their own with teams in the leagues above us, and are predicted to finish 2nd.
We did make 2 signings, though, both on free transfers: (1) Giorgi Tskhadadze, who will start in goal after being released from Liga 3 side Guria; and (2) Giorgi Tebidze, who made 21 appearances for Telavi in the Erovnuli Liga last year, and will start as our right-sided centerback.
One thing I’ve noticed is that almost every club is operating in the red. I’m not surprised. There’s little if any income. If we can continue to pick up scraps and extend our own contracts whenever possible, we’ll keep this train rolling. The quality of players isn’t particularly high. We just need to make sure we spend what funds we have wisely.
Case in point — Mamuka Lobzhanidze is our starting libero, and most expensive player on $475/week. We signed him on a free last year, after he was released from fellow Regional Leagues side Iberia-2010. After our promotion campaign, the Board auto-accepted an $18k transfer bid from Erovnuli Liga side Samtredia for Lobzhanidze…but he rejected their contract offer. Samtredia’s average wage is only $272/week, so I can only conclude that they offered him less than what he’s currently on.
When I signed Lobzhanidze last year, I knew I was probably paying him too much for the 5th tier. But we didn’t have any players. He was also willing to sign a contract and looked better than the other players available on a free. I did not realize I was arguably overpaying him, when scaled against Erovnuli Liga wages.
Awkward conversations in the Georgian 4th tier.
The pre-season friendlies wrap up on a high note.
How is an ugly, scoreless draw a high note, you ask? Aragvi are an Erovnuli Liga 2 side.
This was also after we had stomped Telavi, who were relegated from the Erovnuli Liga in 2022, 3-nil.
They’re only friendlies. But it shows, once again, that the margins are thin in Georgia.
All aboard the Promotion Train…
A stonking debut from young Gela “Gelagol” Jishkariani, who takes the field in the 64th minute only to claim a brace, one of which was a beautiful (*cough*), curling free kick. Welcome to Liga 4, lads.
The hype train has not caught on with the locals it seems, as we are stuck on 30 season ticket holders. Perhaps it is because the club raised the price of a season ticket by 42.84%, from $9.01 to $12.87.
One third of the way through the season, and we have every reason for optimism. We’ve only dropped points against Rustavi’s reserves and Mertskhali, who remain unbeaten. We lead the league with 18 goals scored and only 4 conceded.
The second front opens in a few days, though, with our first Cup match.
We finish the month on a 31-match unbeaten run, top of the table, 2 points clear of unbeaten Mertskhali. And a big match against Liga 3 side Guria, up next.
The month starts with a massive 3-2 win over Guria, who sit 2nd in Liga 3. A huge result.
But we draw Erovnuli Liga side Dinamo Batumi in the 4th Round, and will host at the Kvareli Fortress. Dinamo Batumi won the Erovnuli Liga in 2019, and have finished in the top 4 the next three years. They’re currently bottom of the table, though, so this is as favorable a draw as we could hope for against a top-tier side.
Ironically, Dinamo Batumi promptly invited me to interview for their vacant manager’s position. This is the first job interview offered by a top-tier Georgian side, which was offered a mere 3 minutes after we received an invitation from Shukura, the first second-tier side to try to tempt me away. No, thanks, fellas.
We followed up that win with a 2-1 win over Martskhali, dealing the visiting side their first loss of the league campaign…only to lose oure starting left wingback, Irakli Javakhishvili, for up to 5 months with torn knee ligaments. Konstantine Pilla was intended to deputize in his absence, but we landed Mikheil “Maggie” Maghlakelidze on a loan for the rest of the year.
We also spent time renewing contracts, to ensure that key players would be able to stick around through the 2024 campaign, regardless of how this one ends.
June 2023 – European Review.
A quick look at results around the continent…
Senol Gunes’ Chelsea claimed the Champions League title with a 2-1 win over Diego Simeone’s PS-****ing-G.
In the Europa League, Erik ten Hag’s Lazio beat Gerardo Seoane’s Hoffenheim on penalties, after a 1-1 draw.
In the Europa Conference League, Luis Enrique’s Athletic beat Christian Streich’s Freiburg, 4-nil.
In the active leagues, Albert Celades’ Valencia won La Liga, by the thinnest of margins. Carlo Ancelotti’s Manchester City won the Premier League. Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus won Serie A. Luciano Spalletti’s Bayern won the Bundesliga. And, finally, Diego Simeone’s PS-****ing-G did PS-****ing-G things in Ligue 1.
June 2023 – Youth Intake Preview.
I’m trying not to get too excited about this. Mainly because my Assistant Manager is… Well, let’s just say that judging player ability and potential is not his strong suit. Because literally nothing is his strong suit.
We didn’t cover ourselves in glory against Dinamo Batumi, but we didn’t embarrass ourselves, either. A tough, 2-nil loss. To an Erovnuli Liga side.
We also set an attendance record, with 269 packed into the Tsentraluri (“Fortress”). We also had record gate receipts, totaling $1.5k. Cash. Money.
The better news? The Board is “disappointed” but “understand.”
This whole “play 2 matches per month” schedule is going to drive me insane.
The good news? We’re on the verge of securing promotion, 15 points clear of Rustavi’s reserves, with 7 matches to play.
2 matches. 2 wins. Promotion secured, and our next match will likely determine who wins Liga 4.
The board is bumping our wage budget to a massive $8k/week, which we need to spend wisely.
Here’s my thinking. We’ve scored the 2nd highest goals in Liga 4 this year (39 in 22 matches), with the best defense (only 10 conceded). We need to score more goals. We’ve struggled to put teams away this year, due in no small part to the fact that our two shadow strikers are not goalscorers. Ivane Shilakadze is our starter, with Gela Jishkariani coming off the bench. My top priority heading into 2024 will be bringing in someone who can lead the line in Liga 3 or, at the very least, someone who has potential to do so.
October 2023 – Youth Intake Review.
I’m not sure it counts as a golden generation, but I’ll take it.
Lasha Bregvadze appears to be the most first-team ready of the bunch, who I will likely retrain as a centerback due to his size and lack of technical ability…his pace/agility are a massive liability, but we’ll work on it.
3 matches to play, as we lose away to Mertskhali. We continue to dominate teams, but not turn that control into goals.
I’m not too bothered about whether we finish 1st or 2nd. We’ve promoted. That’s the most important thing.[Edit: had a crash and had to replay the Kolkheti match.]
A draw on matchday 26 seals the title, thanks to Mertskhali’s loss away to relegated Varketili. We’re going up, lads.
December 2023 – Season Review.
What is there to say? A solid campaign, even if a more ruthless finisher in front of goal would have made the margins more comfortable in individual matches.
I’d like to think we can fight for promotion from Liga 3 in 2024. But we need a shadow striker. Luka Bagalashvili appears to have potential, but who knows if he’ll even meet it. I figure we need a left wingback, as well. It’s honestly hard to say, given the quality at this level.
Loanee Mikheil Maghlakelidze has signed for Saburtalo in the Erovnuli Liga. Interestingly, he would signed for us, but for $800/week. Which we can’t afford, even with our wage budget increased to $8k/week for 2024. This underscores a real problem in the Georgian leagues — virtually every team is deep into the red. As a result, the transfer market is virtually non-existent. If we can keep picking up bargains on a free transfer (or loan), we can keep putting together a squad capable of continuing to move up the pyramid.
Of course, I said as much to the squad…and now they’re made at me. Come on, lads, have some ****ing faith.
I’d be lying, though, if I said i wasn’t looking forward to the day when I can begin to build a proper squad. We’re a few years off from that point, though, as I think it will take an influx of money from European competition to allow us to truly do so. I’m hoping to improve the quality of my backroom staff before the next campaign begins…although I have no idea if that will be possible.
Goals for 2024: Keep the Promotion Train chugging along, and push for a top-2 finish in Liga 3.
God leaned over to the Devil, drew him close and declared, “those who will drink three glasses of chacha may be on my side. After that, they are yours.”
If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are finding yourself a bit confused, the basic concept behind the Fourth Glass save is explained here. Just need to catch up? Each installment in Giorgi Amirani’s attempt to take over the football world, starting from the Georgian Regional Leagues, can be accessed through the Fourth Glass Archive.