Ming Chuan University FC. A small club in a small place. Perfect for a no name manager like me to get started.
After checking out the usual first day on the job things like catering, training ground and so on, I’m presented with an overview of where the team are. Currently sat 4th of 8 in the closing stage, and the chairman has made it clear he expects a top finish to qualify for the Confederations Cup. Nothing like pressure from the get go.
I try to use some of the skills I’ve gained from Uni to try and relate to the team. I find out pretty quick that they don’t speak English which is a big negative.
‘Right, my name is Vince, but you can call me boss. I don’t know any of you, and you don’t know me. We all want 1 thing from this closing stage, and that’s a top finish to get into the Asian Europa League’
The clubs solitary member of staff, Ngyuen Minh, assistant manager tells me something in Chinese maybe? Is Taiwanese a language? So I ask the player liaison officer to translate ‘They hate you already Vin..Boss’
I won’t even bother assessing this lot until we’re a couple of games in to the season, but thinking about it, we’re only going to play 14 games, and they’ve done 2 already, a loss and a win. I’ll assume this is a poor bunch for now, until they change my mind.
Which they actually do in my first game as a manager. We were up against NSTC at home. The team are suited to playing a flat 4-4-2 so that’s what we went with to kick things off.
I told them just to attack from the off, but I got no response from the team, which I assume is either because they don’t speak English, or they’re still mad at me for being so blunt? Either way, the goal came from a long ball from out wide. I couldn’t tell you who played it in, no offence lads but you all look very similar and all your names are pretty much the same too. Anyway the big fella nodded it down for the smaller fella to stroke it home not long before half time.
In my first half time team talk, I said well done and keep it up lads, in that stupid dumbed down way English speaking people speak to non-English speakers. ‘Weeeeelllll dooooonnnnneeeee lads’ ‘Keeeepppp iiiittt uuuupp’ I said whilst wearing a stupid grin.
As for the second half, well the team didn’t keep it up, they barely held on. NTSC attacked over and over again, but whilst they never really threatened our keeper, it was constant pressure. The team held on and I got a vital 3 points in my opening game.
There’s nothing to this management gig. It’s a piece of cake.
If the new manager effect worked in our first game together, it had certainly worn off by the time we travelled to play Taiwan Power Company, absolutely fantastic team name by the way. Do the Taiwan Power Company actually own the club? Who you talking to? Oh no one in particular.
Back to the game, and a player by the name of Jenny, no not Jenny like the girl in Forrest Gump, it’s Jen-I, like Jen Eye. Oh right, I just saw the score pop up on my phone and it said Jenny. I really need to learn my players names. Anyway so for the second game in a row we scored a goal shortly before half time, and I thought we’d hold on during the second half and maybe grab another. But of course my optimism was soon crushed when literally right from the kick off our opponents powered forward (get it?) and in a swift move played around 5 passes and it was in the back of our net. Great goal actually, just wish it was us that scored it. Not to worry though, we’ll hold on for half time and then, oh for fuck sake. They’ve scored again! We kicked off and Jin, Jen or Jan whoever I don’t know they all look the same, anyway one of them played it back to the keeper but he was in la la land and didn’t react quick enough, then the same player that had just scored, I only know it was the same guy as he is wearing number 12, he ran onto the ball and tapped it in the net. 2-1 and we had taken the lead literally 2 minutes ago!
So by now the players should be thinking hold on to the break, get to half time and regroup, NOPE! Again from kick off, for some reason I’ll never know the team tried going back to the keeper who’s already stuffed up 2 back passes and once again just walked toward the loose ball, that same guy that’s scored twice, I think it’s him, can’t quite see the number on his shirt this time, anyway he gets the ball and in the blink of an eye it’s 3-1. 3 fucking 1! The best stats so far? They’ve had 3 shots, 3 on target and 3 goals.
I told the team during the break ‘what the fuck was that?’ and Ngyuen translated, or at least I think he translated this to my team. Silence. Nothing from them.
‘I think they’re all on board with you boss’
In the second half, we at least tried to get back in to the game, but really we were just playing out the inevitable. 3-1 and it flattered my new team in the end.
For most of my third game here, it wasn’t pretty. We sat back and played long balls up top. We managed to score a goal in the first half for the third game in a row, but it was ruled out. The linesman and my assistant manager were talking about it, I don’t know what was said, my assistant just shrugged his shoulders and the game carried on. Royal Blues Taipei FC, another great team name by the way, were the dominant side and 0-0 flattered us again and they could’ve had at least 2 goals if they brought their shooting boots with them.
3 games in and 4 points for our troubles. We’re 4 points off that top spot the chairman wants us to get.
In my desperation to get a job, I’ve made a promise to the chairman I may not be able to keep. Nah don’t be so negative Vince. I’m confident, or am I naïve that we’ll make it? There’s some kinks to iron out for sure, but I think we’ll be alright. Yeah, we’ll easily win the remaining 9 games and win the closing stage.
Next episode – From a whisper to a scream