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Excuse me, are you going to Vietnam?

DAD! No one wants to hear your stupid Vietnam stories!

Show some goddam respect kid!

Sorry uncle Lou but we’ve all heard them a million times!

‘Okay but how many of the yellow bastards did you kill eh? How many tours of Vietnam did you go on?’

Dude I’m like 10, I ain’t never been to no war

‘Precisely. Now sit down, shut up and listen to your old man tell us how got on over in Vietnam’

That was a family video that always seems to get played at my parents house every year when we get together for my dads birthday. That cheeky young boy is Joey who was 10 at that time and about to become an older brother, as our mother was pregnant and ready to drop me at any time. Stanley is our dad, a Vietnam veteran having served 3 tours there during the 1970’s. After he’d returned home from the war in ’75 Joey was born in 1980. 10 years later and Vincent Stanley Lloyd was born.

My dad had actually entered the war as ground infantry in the US invasion of Cambodia in 1970. At 20 years old he was one of the younger troops in his squadron. Having survived the Cambodia invasion and subsequent tours of Vietnam, he never had much time off during the 5 years he spent between serving in the marines during the war and R & R in Japan and Thailand. He eventually returned and stayed at home to Cleveland, Ohio in late 1975 relatively unscathed, which couldn’t be said of most of his comrades.

He never suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, and coped relatively well with the aftermath of the war. He enrolled into Ohio college and earned a degree in law in 1982, and by the late 80’s was the district attorney for the state of Nashville. Despite being the age of 40 in 1990 he and his wife, my mother, were about to have their second son. But as his birthday went on, my dad as usual recalled the 5 years he spent during the war, starting with his landing in Phnom Penh in Cambodia in 1970 and the many victories, losses and memories he has. But little did he know that more than 40 years after fighting in Vietnam he would be returning there, but not for a war of the military variety, no, this war would be waged on a different type of battlefield.

I knew a lot about Vietnam despite never having actually gone there. I knew all about military tactics, some of the street names in places like Hanoi and Da Nang. I heard stories of men dying and being saved as well as stories about how they dug fighting holes and slept in hooches during the war. But during the playback of that video, I decided I’d ask my father about Vietnam again, except for a specific reason this time.

‘Dad, what can you tell me about Sai Gon?’

‘Well for one thing son, it’s not there any more’

‘Are you sure?

‘Positive. It’s still there physically, it’s just called Ho Chi Minh City now. They changed the name of it after the war ended’

‘Ahh right, well my next question is do you want to go to Sai, I mean Ho Chi Minh City with me?

‘I wouldn’t say no, why, are you going there for a break? Has 18 months as a manager worn you down son’ he said with that hearty laugh of his

‘No, not exactly. I’ve got a new job as a manager, and it’s in Vietnam’

‘Oh wow that’s great son, I’d love to come with you, except this time I hope I’m not getting shot at’

‘I hope not too’

I was telling the truth by the way, I did have a new job. During the final weeks of my time at Ming Chuan, I was contacted by a football agent working for the Vietnam national team. The chairman of Sai Gon FC was looking for a new manager, as they’d been relegated from the V League, their Premier League if you will, to the second division and missed out on promotion this time around, and the manager had left.

Before I accepted anything and we discussed things, I actually felt going to Sai Gon was the perfect thing for me. See the thing is, they’re favourite’s to win the second division, and if we do that then great, I get a league title on my CV and we get to the top division. Then in the top league our only aim, I assume it will be the only aim, would be just to stay up and we push on from there, and if we do stay up then we’ll have over achieved I reckon. Again another notch on my CV.

Not only that, but my name was actually being mentioned in the press in Vietnam even before I spoke to Huynh Van Dai, the chairman.

This club really, and I mean REALLY appealed to me. Firstly they sought me out, which catered to my ego from the get go. Then they’ve got this striker, Patrick Cruz, that is far too good for this league so we’ll be building our side around him. Also a bit of housekeeping, technically the club were formed in 2011. They used to be called Ho Chi Minh FC, but due to that club being liquidated they reformed and named the club after what the city used to be called, hence Sai Gon FC. Ho Chi Minh City is the biggest city in Vietnam, but Ha Noi is actually the capital.

The chairman had said to me on my first day there ‘Vince, we have no staff. You must bring your own team in’ and handed me an overview of the the wage budget, and I knew I could do something here.

So I called Mo. He came in straight away. He told me all the best managers have their own back room team, and we should look to start building ours, so we did.

He might be a bit weird, but he’s had my back during our time in Taiwan, and I remember him saying he had contacts in the Ivory Coast that will help him, so I’m hoping we can touch on that at a later date. I also knew 1 coach I wanted to bring to Vietnam, Steve Stewart who I knew from our days back home in Australia, and I knew he’d be a great asset to the team

I didn’t think we’d need to sign anyone for the upcoming season. We had a striker that could bang some goals in, and the club missed out on promotion by losing in the semi of the play offs. So this season we’ll be working on getting the ball up top into Patrick Cruz whilst playing smart on defence, which isn’t actually going to be hard. The club is over encumbered with players that can play central defence, defensive midfield or central / attacking midfield.

All of the players it seems are comfortable in those positions. There’s a few full backs, couple of keepers and Cruz up top. My only real concern is if Cruz gets injured or suspended, but we’ll deal with whatever happens. Oh, speak of the devil. ‘Patrick, nice of you to come to my office, how’s your day going?

‘Yes fine, listen I won’t waste your time, I need to move to a bigger club. I’ve been here 2 seasons now and there’s been no progress, we’ve actually been relegated and failed in the play offs, so I want out, and I need you to engineer a move to a V League side’

Arrogant twat. If you were so good you wouldn’t have got relegated would you. Yeah you tell him. But we really need him, he’s very good from what I’ve seen in training and some of the highlight videos.

‘Erm, boss, Vince? Are you there?’

‘Yes Patrick sorry. Right, well, erm, it’s obvious you’ve got talent, and you’re an important part of the team, of my team, because it is a new start and things will be different around here. What can I do to change your mind?’

‘I need you to assure me that we can get promoted to the V League, this season’

‘I share your ambition, and I can assure you of 1 thing, if we don’t win the league this season and become a V league side, then I will sanction your transfer but as I will have failed to live up to my own promises, I will leave aswell’ There you go again Vince you silly twat, saying stupid things as again. It’s worked hasn’t it, he’s on board with us. Well yes I guess he is for now.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the tactics. So basically we’re overloaded with central players, and I am happy with what I’ve seen so far in training, so we’re going with the following set up, it’s a 5-2-1-1 kind of formation. The basic premise is to overload the central areas, get the full back stretching the play and getting the ball into Cruz up top.

As we’re the favourites this season, naturally we’re going to be hard to break down, and the chap in defensive midfield will be asked to support the runners in front of him. Our go to formation is aptly titled Operation Hope

As already mentioned, we’re the favourites for the league title and automatic promotion to the V League. As well as that Cruz is the expected star striker this term as well.

Training has been good. The players seem on board with me in these early stages and everyone seems raring and ready to go. Unlike Ming Chuan, I genuinely get a real sense of something here, this feels like a club where I can build something and push on to winning silverware, which is only going to help all of us isn’t it.

However that kind of talk is for the future, I’ve got 22 league games to go to ensure promotion first, then after that, who knows?

Cẩn tắc vô ưu

Next chapter – When you go to Vietnam be sure to wear flowers in your hair.

Previous chapter – The beginning of the end, or the end of my beginning?

Episode 1 – This is not another European journeyman

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