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It happened after 11

11 league wins in a row, 2 cup wins, then a 0-0 and a 1-0 win in the cup meant we were unbeaten in 15 games heading into the final 9, possibly 10 games of our first season together at Sai Gon / Ho Chi Minh City, which you know can only mean 1 thing…

Khan Hoa game

Yep. We lost. 1-0 to Khanh Hoa. Poor showing really, they scored with their only real chance of the game, and we never recovered from that. We bombed forward and put them under pressure with plenty of attempts, most being hopeful long range efforts but none of our chances were that clear cut and we never got that vital equalising goal.

We picked up win number 12 in the league over Binh Phuoc, which guaranteed we’d finish no lower than second and in the play off places, but we all knew we had enough to push on for automatic promotion

I was maybe a bit naïve to think we’d be able to hang with the current V League holders Ha Noi with my team in its current state, but we tried in vain to get something from the game in the first leg of the semi final, but came away empty handed after being taught a lesson in a 3-0 away loss.

I saw no shame in this loss as they’re the top guys in Vietnam at the minute, and we’re just concentrating on improving for now. We want to be in the V League first and foremost, and challenging for the cup is not really on the agenda for us, not yet at least.

With the cup run seemingly dead and buried, we were in pole position to claim the second division title, and had 6 more games to grab 3 more points to claim the title. We were up against Ca Mau in the next game, who we’d beaten 2-0 already this season.

I didn’t feel the need to say much before this game. We’d been the best team so far all season long, I felt it was just a matter of time before we won the league. Unfortunately Ca Mau went about things differently.

For you see, in the 25th minute they whipped in a cross that flew over everyone in the box, including our keeper and into the net, you know the type of ball, cross-cum-shot or however the commentators describe it. The full back definitely didn’t mean it and even when the ball went in he stood there not really celebrating and just enjoying the moment. Smug twat.

We didn’t get out of second gear, we didn’t even get into first gear in this one! They pressured us from then on and we were lucky to only lose 1-0 in the end

I wasn’t concerned, only a unique set of circumstances was going to stop us winning the league, those being that we’d have to lose our next 5 games all at least 3 or 4 nil, Dak Lak & Tay Ninh both win each their remaining games at least 3-0 and we’d finish second or third, then we’d have to lose the play offs. Not impossible, but highly unlikely. We had Phu Yen up next, at home, and we’ve got a chip on our shoulder

‘Look, we could’ve won it last week, but we didn’t. Now we’ve got the chance to win the league in front of our own fans, in our stadium on our terms. I’ve seen the league officials here, they’ve got the trophy with them, they had it there last week, they know it, we know it and everyone knows that is our trophy. Let’s not wait any longer guys, go out there, dominate like you have all season and get that trophy back here!’

Well it’s not actually our stadium, not sure if I told you or not, but we share it with some other teams based in Ho Chi Minh City, but we’re the best team that uses it of course.

No nerves, no tension, nothing like that. Just straight up dominance in a game we scored a goal just before and shortly after the half time whistle. We invited pressure but none came from Phu Yen and we registered another win, in front of the 2,166 fans that came out and saw the crowing of Sai Gon as second division champions.

I know we were the favourites to win it, but that was part of the challenge, maintaining that consistency to ensure we did win it. We never over complicated things, we went out and for the most part at least dominated as the league favourites should do and came away with what we wanted, and we certainly deserved to win it there’s no doubt about that.

We did it with 4 games to go, and saw out the rest of the season with wins over Dak Lak and Hue, as well as going down 3-2 to Ha Noi in the second leg of the cup semi.

Rounding out a great season for me and Sai Gon, Cruz got the top scorer award with a great 17 in 18 games.

So with that out of the way, we can start to plan to stay in the V League, and hopefully push on from there and maybe, just maybe claim some more silverware. Oh one moment, yes come in…

‘Hi Patrick, this is a welcome surprise, how are you?’

‘Yes fine, look I’ve been thinking, I want to move to a bigger club’

‘Hang on, I’m sure we had this same conversation when I joined the club 8 months ago’

‘Not quite, you guaranteed we’d get promoted, which we did, but now I want to leave’

‘But we achieved hat you wanted, why do you want to leave? I have done so far and am going to be building my team around you next season’

‘I’m not getting into it any more, I want to leave and you need to engineer the move for me’

‘No. I won’t. I aren’t risking my newly promoted side’s chances of survival because you’ve got too big for your boots. Do you really think any V League team will take you? Did you manage to score 17 goals the last time you were in the V League?’ Well done Vince, you’ve managed to piss off your main goal scoring threat

‘You’re going to regret this, wait until the rest of the team hear how you’ve treated the best player in the squad’

With that he stormed out of my office. The prick. He has 1 good season in his full career and it goes to his head. His goals have only come because of how we’ve played. Well as far as I’m aware there’s no one interested in him, and I know for a fact he couldn’t cut it in the V League 3 seasons ago when he got relegated with this team. Okay so he may be a better player now but I aren’t going to cave in to him.

I’ve got the backing of the rest of the squad, I think.

Next chapter – Project survival

Previous chapter – Someone once said winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing

Episode 1 – This is not another European journeyman

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