Play It From The Beginning

Duruji Kvareli – 2037 Open Thread


December 2036 / January 2037 – Odds & Ends.

The pomp and pageantry of the Champions League draw is always something to behold. I, for one, never would have expected Peter Crouch doing Frank Sinatra songs, but…somehow…it worked. Must be the casual gyrations of his hips. It was very erotic. Trust me. I know.

The draw itself is anticlimactic. We are steeled for the worst. (Literally. Shaw fashioned a shiv out of a screwdriver he found in the men’s room.)

We will face Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan. A side we know all-too well, having squared off against them in the 2030 and 2032 Group Stages, claiming 2 wins and a draw. It is a tremendous chance to show them just how far we’ve come.


The Erovnuli Liga also announces that each club’s respective share of the television revenue for 2037 will be $13.58M, a respectable increase from $11.72M in 2036.


January 2037 – Transfers Out.

In anticipation of a detailed squad review, I began giving some serious thought to which senior players needed to move on, and who would replace them. As if on cue, Ntombela threw a fit when we rejected a desultory transfer offer…leading me to start scything through the senior squad wherever I saw dead wood.

In the end, 3 senior players leave during the winter transfer window, with a 4th player set to leave in the summer.

Siyabonga Ntombela has been a perennial disappointment — initially failing to perform, then failing to develop, I consider a $4.9M fee (plus a 50 percent of next sale) to be a good deal.

Miroslav Mickovski has been a fixture in the 1st XI for years, but his time has come. He will join Sevilla in the summer for $2.6M (plus fees, including 50 percent of next sale).

Similarly, Hristijan Hristov is a long-term 1st XI player who needed to move on. He will join Ntombela in the Chinese Super League, for $2M (plus fees, including 50 percent of next sale).

Jiri Rak is a youth academy graduate who threw his toys out of the pram during the winter window, first demanding “important player” status and a pay packet that he simply didn’t deserve, and then demanding a transfer. He is off to Saudi Arabia for $4.2M (plus fees, including 50 percent of next sale).


February 2037 – Squad Review.

It has only been 2 years since our last squad review (in 2035), the point at which I felt we were close to being able to make a run in the Champions League. Well, we have yet to do that, but I will count the 2035/36 Europa League win as its rough equivalent.

We’re still playing PM Draugr, the strikerless tactic detailed in The Long Night Is Coming, And The Dead Come With It. While I might normally be inclined to change things up, in all honestly I’m enjoying the football we’re playing way too much to give it much thought.

We are carrying a 22-man senior squad after (as noted above) selling 4 senior players, one of whom will not leave until the summer.

Goalkeepers.

In goal, the 2-man battle we once had for the number 1 jersey has been resolved, with Aimilios “Amy” Nikolaou our undisputed starter. Youth academy graduate Tornike Shkirtladze is our more than capable backup, who will likely become frustrated sooner rather than later at not having a more significant role in the squad.

That’s ok, though, because we have 2 brilliant players in the youth setup. Guga Iashvili is a 2036 youth academy graduate who looks to be the business. I don’t like his composure, but am hoping that in due course it will rise. If he can meet his apparent potential, he will push for a role in the first team.

We also have Walid Boubaker, a young Tunisian recommended by my scouts who has signed on a free. He will officially join the club on his 18th birthday in December 2038; until then, he is simply on trial.

If either Iashvili or Boubaker develops, we’re set in goal for the long-term.

Defenders.

At libero, we still have the duo of Ghayas Vikskjold and Milosz Banach. The only change from 2 years ago is that Banach has grown immeasurably, while Vikskjold’s development has been somewhat stagnant. They’re both tremendous players for our tactics. That being said, I could see selling Vikskjold in the future — Banach has claimed the starting role as his own, and Vikskjold will eventually outgrow our 2nd XI. We would simply need to identify a capable youth prospect to groom for the position.

Flanking Banach in the 1st XI will be vice-captain Kjartan Stefansson and Frank “the Danish Cannavaro” Daugaard. These two have been mainstays in the squad for the last 2 years, and I simply can’t see that changing.The Scandanavian trio at the heart of the defense is solid, and I have nothing but the highest of hopes for Daugaard. The backups here are Mafa Kouakou and Skerdi Shiba, who has been getting restless.

Waiting in the wings is Sergei Khasenov, a Kazakh U21 international who will formally join the club on his 18th birthday in December 2038. As with Boubaker, above, he is at the club on a trial in the interim. I had initially tinkered with the notion of playing Khasenov as an inverted left wingback (given the difficulty we’ve had in signing players), but moved on — not only is he better suited to be a centerback, with Mickovski moving to Sevilla in the summer, we cannot wait nearly 2 years for Khasenov’s arrival.

We also have Irakli Arveladze in the U19s — another 2036 youth academy graduate. Irakli is a natural defensive midfielder, but I see him as more of a centerback in our system.

Our starting wingbacks are still Guram Oniani on the right and the soon-to-depart Miroslav “Mickey” Mickovski on the left (inverted). As predicted by our scouts, Franck Kessie and Richard Danso have solid potential — they’re our backups for now, but Danso will move into the 1st XI when Mickovski departs and Kessie has potential to take over on the right.

To slot in as the inverted wingback in our 2nd XI, we’ve confirmed the signing of Bienvenu Mbabu ($6M; Seattle Sounders). This American-Congolese dual national has earned 2 caps with the United States’ U20s, and seems to have the potential to take over in our 1st XI, in due course. I’m very excited to watch his development.

Midfielders.

Our starting mezzala is one of my favorite players in this save — club captain Magnus Oliver Hjaltason. He’s a massive player who will stay at Duruji Kvareli as long as I can keep him. His backup is still Marius Dahlen — a dual-national we poached from Dila Gori.

The right-sided midfield position is our ball-winning midfielder. Michael Kyei takes over for the recently-departed Hristijan Hristov, who had been our starter for years. Gela “Diggy” Dighmelashvili is a youth academy prospect who has spent the last 2 years on loan with Dinamo Tbilisi. He is more of a mezzala than a ball-winner, but will deputize in the ball-winning role for the coming year. Decisions will need to be made about

Dahlen and Dighmelashvili are perfectly good players, but I don’t see either one of them challenging for a spot in the 1st XI. Fortunately, we have options.

Volodymyr “He Who Shall Not Be Named” Shevchuk is a 2035 youth academy graduate who seems to have the potential to eventually join the squad as a ball-winning midfielder. He will spend the year on loan at Saburtalo.

Soso Bokhiashvili (a 2036 youth academy graduate) is a natural ball-winning midfielder in our U19s . If he can develop, he could challenge for a spot in the first team squad.

The player I really have my eye on, though, is Dariusz Sapa, a Polish U20 international who will join us from Legia in January 2039 ($900k, plus fees). This kid could be epic. I am extremely excited for him to arrive, for all of the obvious reasons. He will immediately take over as Hjaltason’s deputy.

My scouts seem to think that young Dariusz will be the Polish Bruno Fernandes. Who am I to disagree?

Attacking Midfielders.

With the departure of Siyabonga Ntombela, I have something of a dilemma in terms of who will start as our deep-lying targetganche. The battle is between Jalal Hosseinpour, who has been playing with our 2nd XI, and new signing, Bulgarian youth international Toni Panchev. There is little between them, but I am currently leaning towards Panchev even if he will be spending much of the next year learning the PPMs we need him to gain, to get the most of him in our system.

At inverted winger, our undisputed starters are Miroslaw Libicki and Valdas Freidgeimas. Not much to be said about either, as their quality is readily apparent. Freidgeimas is a club legend, having won the supporters’ Player of the Year in 5 of his 6 full campaigns with the club (2031-36). (Truth be told, I was surprised it went to Jiri Rak last year. Nothing against Rak, but Freidgeimas claimed 32 goals and 25 assists in 34 matches (all competitions)).

The 2nd XI faces the departure of Jiri Rak — a homegrown player and club icon. To replace him, we signed a player I’ve coveted for a long time — Vladimir Danko (Dunajska Streda; $1.5M). Danko is a player we didn’t need to spend money on before, but now that we have an opening…he’s exceptionally talented player and has bags of potential. He will feature for the 2nd XI and also play from the bench with the 1st XI.

The other inverted winger in our 2nd XI is Goga Tabukashvili — a youth academy graduate who was a solid presence last year. Goga may not ever be more than a squad player, but he is a handy squad player.

In our U21s, we also have Pavle Dartsimelia — a pacey option for us on the wings, but not a player who has much more to offer. He has untapped potential. His failure to develop is partly my fault, of course, as I have not given him any taste of first-team football or sent him out on loan.

Beka Kurghanashvili is another U21 player who, at one point, I thought might have a role to play in the squad. At the age of 20, he’s heading out on loan yet again — he simply has not developed and is not good enough.

Final Thoughts.

I know in my head that we’ve improved over the last 2 years, since our last squad review. We’ve romped through our pre-season friendlies, are heavy favorites to win our 11th-straight Erovnuli Liga title and seem ready for Inter who sit 11th in the Serie A.

In anticipation of a successful season, our season ticket sales rise to 514, up from 476 in 2036. (Ticket prices are still the very picture of modest in our final year at the Tsentraluri — $31.48 per match, $211 per season ticket.)

Our transfer moves over the last 6-8 weeks are not focused on the short term. Rather, we’ve taken a long-term view. And, we’ve raised the “ceiling.” The players we’ve recruited are arguably on par with the players they’re replacing — however, they have potential for further growth and development.

That being said, last year’s Europa League title demonstrates that we’ve made definitive progress, with two-legged victories over Betis, Liverpool, Villarreal and Leicester — teams that would have taken us apart, historically.

I’m thus hopeful that we can start to progress in the Champions League. Antonio Conte’s Inter are a side both well-known to us and struggling. We can get a result, here.

So, let’s get to it.


February 2037 – Champions League, First Knockout Round (1st Leg).

We arrive in Milan and take the lads for a walkthrough at the pitch. Shaw makes a big show of having the lads measure the goals and penalty box.

He then gathers the team around him, speaking softly. Earnestly. “8 feet high. 8 yards wide. 12 yards to the penalty spot. 18 to the top of the box.”

The team all look at each other. Utterly baffled.

Shaw pauses, looking down. Then picks his head up, and slowly begins to speak, taking time to look each player in the eye. Deadly serious. “I think you’ll find that’s the exact same measurements as our pitch back in Kvareli.”

Shaw nods, mistaking the lads’ confusion for an appreciation of the seriousness of the moment, mixed with steely determination for the task at hand. (Clearly, none of them have seen Hoosiers.)

Regardless, the lads are motivated. We smother the Italians in the 1st half, killing all life in the match. It may not be pretty, but it is effective.

The 2nd half isn’t much better, as we squander several chances to claim a vital away goal. Regardless, we’ll take a scoreless draw.


March 2037 – Champions League, First Knockout Round (2nd Leg).

Days before we take to the pitch in Tbilisi, the furor surrounding Conte’s tenure at Inter reaches a fever pitch. However, instead of sacking Antonio Conte with Inter sitting 11th in the Serie A, Inter announce his promotion.

Once I’ve had our press officer confirm that there hasn’t been a mistranslation, I can only sit in wonder. Far from resigning (or being sacked) in disgrace, the powers-that-be at Inter have instead promoted Tony to Director of Football.

You tell me, Chris. I always assumed that Tony was here for the right reasons.

In the end, the Italians put up much more of a fight than we expected. A dire first half makes it seem like extra time is inevitable. Neither side is creating anything.

But, as the clock ticks down towards the final whistle, a spark of life. Finally. Daugaard claims a wayward clearance, feeding Libicki, who in turn plays Hjaltason breaking forward at pace…who finds Freidmeigas cutting inside, a step ahead of his man. Freidmeigas buries it. 1-nil, with just over 10 minutes to play.

Inter push and probe, exposing themselves at the back. Neither side can find another breakthrough. We claim a 1-ni win on aggregate, by the thinnest of margins. As if it matters. We’re through.

For the first time, we will advance to the Champions League quarterfinals. A veritable “who’s who” of footballing royalty await us in the draw. Without question, we are seen by the 7 remaining clubs as the “easy” draw. The one they want.

We are the last team drawn out of the hat. We will face Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid, the two-time defending La Liga champions who sit 1 point off Atletico in the table, and have won ol’ Big Ears no less than 17 times. 2 years ago, Zidane’s men eliminated us 5-1 (agg) in the First Knockout Round.

While I hope that we can improve on that result, our chances of reaching the semifinals appear slim to all but Shaw, who sees the bookies’ early line (heavily favoring the Spaniards) as a personal insult.

We have scant time to plot. To scheme. To lay traps for the thunder****s from Madrid. For the first time in years, I consider substantive changes to our tactical setup…but even I question whether we have the time to implement those changes ahead of the quarterfinal tie.


April 2037 – Champions League, Quarterfinals (1st Leg).

Once we’ve started plotting, the madness is intoxicating. Contagious. Like syphilis.

The 2nd XI test it out away to Telavi, and romp to a 5-nil win. We tweak and adjust. In hopes that our preparations for Real Madrid are not in vain.

The Givi Chokheli in Telavi, home to our regional rivals. And, perhaps, birthplace of a footballing revolution.

In Madrid, we are all nerves in the tunnel. Implementing the lessons from the Telavi match will require that the lads trust us. Be bold. Is bold the right word?

In the 6th minute, Libicki bursts into the Madrid box from deep, and is scythed down in a panic. Freidmeigas casually steps forward to hammer home the ensuing penalty. 1-nil.

In the 19th minute, Panchev finds the back of the net after an incisive build-up which tore the Madrid backline to shreds. 2-nil. The traveling support, high in the nosebleed section, are euphoric. As well they should be. But there is a tremendous amount of football left to play, and the Spaniards are anything but pushovers.

The Virus claim a goal, a simple tap-in after Nikolaou fails to hold a firmly-hit shot, the ball squirming loose 3 yards from goal. All too easy.

But in the 69th minute, we again unlock the Madrid defense — launching forward at pace, Libicki casually wrongfoots the onrushing keeper, then dinks it past him for a 3-1 lead.

Chaos ensues. To their credit, the Virus refuse to read the writing on the wall. We concede in the 81st, another soft goal that Nikolaou should not concede.

Through 5 minutes of extra time, we bend. But we do not break.

Some will call it lucky. Some will call it fate. Either way, our gamble has paid off through the first 90 minutes of the tie. We will take a 3-2 lead back to Tbilisi for the second 90.

[Edit: PM Haaienvuist, the tactic initially deployed in Telavi and against Real Madrid, is now detailed in A Kiss With A SharkFist Is Better Than None.]

April 2037 – Champions League, Quarterfinals (2nd Leg).

Back in Tbilisi, we know that the Virus will attack relentlessly. And we are ready for them.

The first half might just be the most mind-numbingly dull 45 minutes of football in history. They are aggressive, but run straight into a wall of defenders. Whenever we gather the ball, we launch forward en masse.

For more than an hour, we deny Zidane’s mercenaries a shot on goal, while looking dangerous in transition even if we are still not on the same page in the attack. It is, after all, only our 4th match playing in our new tactic.

Finally, Madrid find a breakthrough in the 80th minute. A lapse in concentration allowing Andrada to slip through in the channel. Madrid lead 1-nil on the night, but still trail on away goals.

Do we sit back and defend? No. We do not.

We charge forward, pushing, probing. And in the 83rd minute we are rewarded when Kyei hits an unstoppable thunderbastard from 20-plus yards, into the top corner. No goalkeeper in the world would have touched it. 1-1 on the night. Madrid need 2 goals.

But in more than 10 minutes of football (including 4 minutes of extra time), they register 2 shots, neither of which is on target, one from 30 yards.

The final whistle blows. We are through to the semifinals. Madrid are eliminated. Humiliated.

As we go to shake hands with the Madrid coaching staff, Zidane flinches when Shaw fakes a headbutt at chest. A melee ensues. Shaw will undoubtedly be banned for the semifinals.

But the glint in his eye afterwards — coupled with the bloody lip — is all I need to know that he thinks it was worth it.

That, or he’s heavily concussed. Six of one, half dozen of the other…


We draw Mauricio Pochettino’s Manchester United, who sit atop the Premier League (which they’ve won 5 out of the last 6 years), having also claimed the Champions League title 3 times in the last decade.


April 2037 – Champions League, Semifinals (1st Leg).

Our first visit to Old Trafford, other than on the stadium tour we took on vacation, led by some guy named Jesus Lingard or somthing. Shaw acted like Lingard played for United once, but I think he was just pulling my leg. Didn’t look like a footballer that guy. Not one bit.

Having eliminated both Inter and the Virus, there is no question that United will be ready for us. Ready for our tactics. Truth be told, they’ve probably analyzed them more than we have. But I’m not interested in moral victories tonight. Tonight, we will do what we always have done in Europe — try to punch our opposition straight in the teeth, and see what happens.

We’ve been soaring domestically, but United are a horse of a different color.

United strike first in the 10th minute, but we punch right back as our hosts fail to clear a corner. Oniani finds Freidgeimas at the back post, and he smashes his header home. 1-1. We need to take our chances tonight, as they may be few and far between.

Just before the half, United are caught in possession by the high press. Panchev and Freidmeigas know what to do. Go for the jugular. And they strike home with a vengeance to give us an improbable lead, 2-1.

No words need be said at halftime. Instead, we just watch Gladiator and shout our defiance at the UEFA mafia who are no doubt spying on us. They’re everywhere, that lot.

United draw level just after the restart…did we leave it all in the dressing room? We regain our focus…but in the 70th minute, catastrophe strikes. A whipped cross smashes off Oniani, past Nikolaou. United have the lead. 6 minutes later, we are reduced to 10 men as Stefansson hobbles off with a knock, all of our substitutes have been used.

United look to press their advantage. Yet we remain defiant, pressing high and looking for an equalizer. We nearly claim it, but must be satisfied with a 3-2 loss on the night.

We will have it all to do back in Tbilisi, in 6 days’ time.


May 2037 – Champions League, Semifinals (2nd Leg).

Kouakou has been tasked with replacing Stefansson on the biggest night in club history. While we must chase the tie, we are in the mix for a spot in the Champions League final. On merit. Yet, we dare not dream of a night at the Luzhniki.

Once again, United strike first — this time, on the counter in the 9th minute. But still we look dangerous. If only that alone would suffice. We cannot find the back of the net and — trailing 1-nil on the night at the half — must take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to us.

But United once again come out for the 2nd half ready to go, striking on the counterattack. Down 2-nil, we need a miracle.

The dream dies in the 83rd minute, when Kouakou deflects the ball past Nikolaou during a goalmouth scramble. Minutes later, we are again reduced to 10 men, as Hjaltason has taken a knock.

It is a bitter, cruel end to our journey. We’ve gifted United 2 goals over the course of the tie. And, forced to chase the game on both nights, we’ve exposed ourselves to their counterattacks.

It is a harsh lesson in the realities of European football.

It will be an all-Manchester final in Moscow. I hope their ****s fall off.


May 2037.

We pick ourselves up off the turf in Tbilisi and get back to work. Tinkering. Adjusting. Tweaking. Working to find the right mix for our tactics.

Part of the problem being that — while we adjust our tactical setup — many our players are not prepared to play in this new fashion. We’re playing players in unfamiliar positions, some of which are utterly new to them in every possible respect. I plan to use the summer transfer window to continue reshaping the squad to meet our revised tactical needs.

The results are there — we are dominant, even if we occasionally leave our finishing boots in the locker room. And we conclude the month in the best possible way — smashing our biggest domestic rivals on their home turf, 6-0.


May/June 2037 – European Review.

In the Champions League, Mauricio Pochettino’s Manchester United beat Ralph Hassenhuttl’s Manchester City, 1-nil, to clam their 4th title in the last decade.

Imanol Aguacil’s Lazio win the Europa League title on penalties, defeating Ilzat Akhmetov’s Villarreal on penalties.

In the Europa Conference League, Steffen Baumgaurt’s Tottenham beat Mario Hermoso’s Hertha Berlin on penalties, after a 2-2 draw.

In the active leagues, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid claim their 3rd straight La Liga title; Pochettino’s Manchester United reclaim the Premier League title after losing out last year on the final matchday; Patrick Vieira’s PS-****ing-G won their 5th straight Ligue 1 title; Ruben Amorim’s Roma won their 3rd Serie A title in 4 years; and, Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern did Bayern things again.


We receive an additional $7.42 million and $18.25 million from the UEFA mafia (the latter being a substantial year-on-year increase in coefficient ranking pool money), with which we will fuel our (anticipated) summer transfer spending spree. However, the coefficient gains are what interest me the most after we reached the Champions League semifinals for the first time.

The Erovnuli Liga rises to 23rd in the UEFA competitions rankings, up 4 spots from last year, overtaking the 2nd tiers in France, Germany and Italy, and closing in on the top tiers in Scandinavia and Poland. Duruji Kvareli rise to 13th in the club coefficients table, up another 7 spots.

More importantly, Georgia climb to 10th in the nation club coefficients table, sitting just behind Holland.

Meaning that, beginning with the 2038/39 European campaign, the Erovnuli Liga winners will automatically qualify for the Champions League Group Stage. (We will need to climb to 6th to have 2 clubs qualify directly for the Group Stage — overtaking Holland, Scotland, Portugal and Austria.)


June 2037.

Per usual, the start to the summer is a quiet time — a time for reflection, and to prepare for the battles that lie ahead. We dominate the handful of matches we play, as our tactics begin to settle into a familiar rhthym.

The annual assessment of our youth system leaves much to be desired. At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have cause to be excited about two of our signings — Bienvenu Mbabu, an American-Congolese dual national ($6M, Seattle Sounders), and Victor Munteanu ($3.3M, Puskas Academia).

While both will play for our 2nd XI to begin with, it is readily apparent that Mbabu may challenge Kyei for the position of roaming playmaker in our 1st XI. Munteanu will take over for Mickovski as our left wingback.


July 2037.

The tactics are coming together.

The primary impetus behind our decision to adjust our tactics was to tighten up the defense. We knew it would blunt our attack. And we won’t be able to fully appreciate the extent to which our attack is blunted until the European campaign begins in earnest.

For now, though, we’ve played 14 matches since our elimination at the hands of Manchester United, winning all 14, scoring 70 goals without conceding.

In the 24 matches we’ve played in the tactic now known as PM Haaienvuist, inclusive of our early efforts before any meaningful adjustments were made, we’ve won 20 matches, drawing 2 and losing 2, scoring 99 goals while conceding 10 — 9 of which were scored by Real Madrid and Manchester United, 2 of the biggest clubs on the continent.

[Edit: PM Haaienvuist is now detailed in A Kiss With A SharkFist Is Better Than None.]

In short, we’re making progress. We will soon learn just how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go.

The squad revisions continue, as Dighmelashvili joins Spezia for $9M (inclusive of future fees, plus a 50 percent next-sale clause). We have also reached an agreement with Lille for Stefansson to leave in January for a club-record $36M (inclusive of future fees, plus a 50 percent next-sale clause).


August 2037.

The Champions League Playoff is our return to continental competition, with a date against Swiss champions Basel. It is not even a contest, as we stonk them 4-nil at St. Jakob-Park, before another 4-nil win back in Tbilisi. Over 180 minutes, they register 2 shots, only one of which is on target.

Since our elimination at the hands of Pochettino’s Manchester United, we’ve now won 21 straight matches, with 98 goals scored. Conceded? None. Not a single one.

But that none of that matters. As a second seed, we draw a nightmarish Group — Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern Munich, Gary Cahill’s Monaco, and Russian champions CSKA Moscow, with a trip to Bavaria on Matchday 1.

The only other ripples on the pond? Takeover rumors surface early in the month, and then again after the Champions League draw. Given our $90M profit year-to-date, I can see why investors would be attracted…but why would the current owner sell?

Shaw has various suspicions. Few of which are remotely plausible. None of which are logically consistent.


September 2037.

We take the pitch at the Allianz Arena having won 22 straight matches in all competitions, a stretch in which we’ve kept the ball out of the back of our net for more than 2,000 minutes.

13 months earlier, ze Germans had played us off the pitch in the 2036 Super Cup. We kept it respectable, but the difference between the two sides was readily-apparent even to the most ardent Duruji Kvareli supporter.

This year? The inevitable happened. We conceded. And, we lost. 1-nil. But we more than held our own. If Lady Luck had been a bit more generous, we would have taken something from the match. I won’t go so far as to claim this as a “moral victory,” but…

Uhh… Ok, full confession. I don’t know how to finish that sentence without sounding like Brendan Rodgers.

Meanwhile, our annual youth intake arrived. It speaks for itself. Paata Jalaghonia, Charlie Thompson and Stoyan Gospodinov are the “best” players. And I use that term loosely.

NPH gets it. NPH understands.

On Champions League Matchday 2, we host Monaco in Tbilisi. Our finishing is subpar, but we nevertheless claim a comprehensive 3-nil win over Gary Cahill’s men. It is a sexy, saucy demonstration of what we are capable of against a team that was heavily favored.


September 2037.

In case you missed it, the post detailing our new tactic, PM Haaienvuist, is now live at A Kiss With A SharkFist Is Better Than None.


October 2037.

Another 5 matches, another 5 wins. Set them up, knock ’em down. A man could get used to living like this.

The worry being that we become complacent, as we were against CSKA — we claim a 2-nil win, but our finishing is utterly disastrous. 3 points are 3 points, but this cannot become a trend.


November 2037.

Away to Moscow, Shaw and I are both nervous. Did the lads pack their shooting boots? Did anyone drink the tea the bald, shifty-looking fellow so kindly delivered to our locker room?

Seconds after kickoff, Banach feeds Kessie, who cuts inside and unleashes a thunderbastard into the top corner from 25 yards. We run out 3-nil winners to inch closer to a spot in the knockout rounds.

In the next match, away to Dinamo Tbilisi, we concede for the first time in the league in nearly 6 months, a record-streak of 24 matches. It is only the 2nd goal we’ve conceded in that 6-month period, but I am still furious at our lack of concentration. The fact that we won 5-1 is cold comfort; only Shaw’s last-minute intercession prevents me from fining the entire squad a week’s wages.

Shaw is right, of course. I tell him as much. But, just to make sure it doesn’t go to his head, I call him “Liam” in the process. It doesn’t even register. ****. He may be too thick (both literally and figuratively) to insult.

But I cannot worry about Luke/Liam. We must focus. Bayern visit Tbilisi on Matchday 5, and we owe ze Germans. To keep Shaw occupied (and away from the lads, lest he try to impart them with any “wisdom”), I give him a very specific mission. Find out what sartorial masterpiece Herr Nagelsmann will wear during our match, and buy an exact copy.

Mind games, savvy?

During the pre-match warmups, Shaw is kept in the locker room, getting a last-minute haircut and waxing. He only emerges at the first whistle, dressed and coiffed in Nagelsmann’s exact image, dressed in an impeccable, stylized grey suit that I assume is the height of hipster high-fashion. (I am curious as to the cause for Shaw’s insistence on such intricate, intimate man-scaping. However, discretion being the better part of valor, I leave that mystery alone, and chalk it up to Shaw’s commitment to the task at hand.)

His task is simple. Stalk the technical area for 90 minutes, mimicking Nagelsmann’s every move in a fun-house-mirror pantomime of Nagelsmann’s visceral, Bavarian sexuality, shouting gibberish that sounds vaguely German at the players — both theirs and ours.

At first, Nagelsmann is bemused. Pleasantly befuddled, he applauds Shaw. Shaw applauds back, at which point Nagelsmann scowls, realizing that the game is well and truly afoot. Good lad that he is, Shaw scowls right back, earning a massive cheer from the home supporters.

The early minutes belong largely to ze Germans, as Nagelsmann and his Shaw-pplganger stalk their respective technical areas.

The match begins to open up. We nearly find the back of the net through Libicki in the 36th minute, but ze Germans clear and counterattack — in turn, we counterattack with Libicki bursting into ze German box at pace, with Panchev an option in the middle…only to be cruelly hacked down from behind. The referee calls it, and VAR confirms — penalty to Duruji Kvareli.

Nagelsmann is incandescent with rage, arguing with the fourth official. Shaw approaches, shouting incomprehensive German-esque noises, before literally ****ting himself, the stain visible even from a distance, the scent undoubtedly wafting closer with each passing moment.

Nagelsmann gags at the stench, missing Kemoklidze (Bayern’s French-Georgian dual-national keeper) saving Freidgeimas’ penalty. Shaw, fully committed to the moment, mimes a gag while tossing a casual, cheeky wink and nod to the home support.

As Nagelsmann stalks to the locker room at the half, visibly irate, Shaw trails 2 steps behind him, in full-blown Monty-Python “Ministry of Silly Walks” fashion. Somehow, I doubt even John Cleese had the courage to **** himself in the name of his art.

Nagelsmann’s men have controlled possession, but have nothing to show for it. They’re lucky to be level and still playing with 11 men.

An hour gone, and the patterns remain the same. Bayern control possession, while we bide our time. Nagelsmann removes his jacket; Shaw responds in kind, to the delight of the home support, who are in full voice.

For all of our commitment, however, disaster strikes in the 62nd minute. We have a sustained period of pressure, from which Bayern launch forward with Timothy Melake in full flight, beating 2 men at pace before firing home. 1-nil to ze Germans. Nagelsmann pumps his fist in celebration, dropping to his knees, only for Shaw to jubilantly mount him from behind, gyrating wildly and pumping his fists. It takes several UEFA officials to remove him, at which point no one can miss the family-sized tent in Shaw’s soiled trousers. Say what you will, but that boy is packing heat.

We respond, pushing for an equalizer. Libicki fires just over in the 68th. The margins are thin. Mbabu, Danko and Danso are brought on, to try and change the tide.

In the 87th minute, Kemoklidze once again denies us, stopping Kessie from close range. As Nagelsmann calls for his side to focus, Shaw berates them — wild-eyed, spittle flying with the pronunciation of each and every hard consonant.

We leave everything on the pitch. Literally. At the final whistle, as the victorious Nagelsmann turns to shake my hand, his side having claimed another hard-fought 1-nil win, Shaw gives up any last remaining pretense of dignity, ripping his soiled pants from his body in a Herculean feat of strength before chasing Nagelsmann down the tunnel with said pants held aloft, like a battle standard of yore, shouting abuse in faux-German, before later appearing (unwashed, unflappable) at the post-match press conference.

Shaw’s forthcoming, lengthy ban will be worth it. While we did not claim victory on the night, this was a statement of intent. Another shot across the bow of the elite. We’re coming for you. With ****-stained trousers and our blades bared, no quarter will be given.

With 2 matches to play in the campaign — the Davit Kipiani Cup final and a decisive match away to Monaco — we need to finish strong. The Cup final against Dinamo Tbilisi will be our last match at the Kvareli Fortress, before we take up residence in The Goose. We need to say goodbye in style.

[Note: FM crashed after I clicked continue to leave the match in Moscow. I IR’d the replay, winning 4-nil; hence the discrepancy in the fixtures screenshot.]

December 2037.

Takeover rumors are renewed on the eve of the Davit Kipiani Cup final. Ridiculous.

But nothing can distract us from this moment — our final match at the Tsentraluri. By some poetic circumstance, it will be my 800th match in charge of Duruji Kvareli. With the match against Monaco in 72 hours, the 2nd XI will carry the club’s honor on their shoulders. They take care of business, claiming a 3-nil win over our biggest domestic rivals.

Nearly 16 years on from my first match, in the depths of the 5th tier, our 2nd XI curb-stomps our rivals to claim a sixth-straight Davit Kipiani Cup title. I’ll take it.

We’re exceptionally poor in Monaco, but nevertheless earn a 1-1 draw to secure a 2nd place finish and passage through to the knockout rounds.


December 2037 – Season Review.

This was one of those years where you can feel the trajectory changing. While we were growing in strength, slowly by slowly, our tactical approach in big games was a potential weakness when facing the European elite, who remain a step ahead of us on pure talent. We needed to implement a bit of graft to take them down, given the (ever-narrowing) talent deficit.

By implementing PM Haaienvuist, we gave ourselves a tactical advantage. We closed the gap. In time, we can be less structurally defensive. But the reality is that our attack was not blunted anywhere near as much as I had feared.

Against compact, determined defenses in Georgia, we still claimed an absurd 147 goals (4.08 per game, on average), while conceding a record-low 7 goals (only 3 of which came after our tactical change at the start of April).

Following our elimination at the hands of United in May, we conceded 6 goals over 39 matches, in all competitions. A truly absurd run of defensive form.

In the attack, Freidgeimas claimed an absurd 34 goals and 24 assists in 35 appearances, earning his 6th Player of the Year award in 7 years, with 3 other players scoring more than 20 goals — Hosseinpour, Panchev and Tabukashvili.

We need to make a statement in the knockout rounds. Prove to the world that our run to the semifinals was not a one-off fluke.

Goals for 2038:  Make a run in the 2037/38 Champions League knockout rounds. Qualify for the 2038/39 Champions League knockout rounds. Identify/sign promising youth who can take us to the next level.

Squad | Erovnuli Liga | Transfers

Finances | Income | Expenditure

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 Duruji Subsequent ThreadSave is explained here.  Just need to catch up? Each installment in Levan “Goose” Akhobadze’s attempt to take over the football world, starting from the Georgian Regional Leagues, can be accessed through the Duruji Subsequent ThreadSave Archive.


2 thoughts on “Play It From The Beginning”

  1. I finally read the whole save and it was an amazing read as expected. Munteanu looks like he could be the best wingback in the world in a few years.

    Also, how do you always end up with questionable assistant managers.

    1. Munteanu could be the business! High hopes for him and Mbabu.

      Truthfully, re assistants, I came close to hiring one with better attributes but had to go with Shaw for REASONS.

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