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The end of the season is so close we can almost taste it

July started off with a nice argument with Patrick Cruz. Apparently I’m holding his career up by not accepting a loan move to Londrina, but why should we be covering his wages when it’s him that’s refusing to play? I ask them to pay the wages, and they withdrew the offer, hardly my fault is it?

We’ve done well enough without him, none of the other players are falling for his antics either, they’re all firmly on board with me, which I’m delighted about. As they all know, I’ve told them enough times recently, that the last thing we need is any reason or excuse to falter now. We’ve done extremely well so far and don’t need any distractions.

The games kept on flowing, as we smashed our way into the semi final of the cup after seeing off Thanh Hoa 3-0, 7-2 on aggregate to put us 2 games away from the final.

Before then however, were two 3 goal showings from us, as 3 were scored against Gia Lai, but we had also conceded 3, and another 3 goals scored against Quang Nam, despite conceding 2 I felt we had some good form heading into the first leg of the semi.

But Can Tho, who were our first opponents this season proved to be stern opposition, as they frustrated us by sitting with 10 men behind the ball for most of this game. Surprisingly, we had been the favourites heading into the match, but 0-0 was good in 1 respect, they didn’t get an away goal, which is used in this cup.

Da Nang, current holders of the V League were thumped 5-0 in their first leg, which tells me 2 things. If we manage to get to that final, Da Nang if they can overcome that deficit will be favourites and rightly so. But if Dong Nai can put 5 in against the champs, well we’re going to have to have some luck on our side. Also, remember this paragraph, it comes in handy later on.

‘Nearly 2 years into my time in Vietnam, and things have gone better than I had imagined. I expected, don’t tell the lads this please, but I was expecting to be scraping for points at the bottom of the league’

‘We are the opposite boss’

‘Yes Mo we are. The fans here have made us feel very welcome, the chairman welcomed us with open arms, and the most best thing about it all, that the players have taken everything I have asked for and exceeded everything haven’t they’

‘Yes boss, we are really improving at every turn’

‘Mo, I think I’ve asked you this before, but do you just agree with everything I say?’

‘No boss, I do not’

‘Right, well let me ask you something then, taking everything this season so far into account, how would you approach this match against Can Tho in the semi?’

‘First off all I’d name Cruz as a substitute and then….’

‘Whoa hang on there, why?!’

‘Because he’s a spoilt self centured entitled prick boss, that’s why’

‘Wow Mo don’t hold back mate say what’s on your mind!’

‘I just did, I don’t like him or his attitude’

‘Mo you’re really hard work some times, that was a figure of speech, but I agree with you, he’s not done anything to help the team has he, I’m happy leaving him in the reserves’

I’m not getting ahead of myself, but when we conceded early on in the second half against Can Tho, I thought that was the end of our cup, little did I know that right at the death, following wave after wave of attack from the players of little ol’ Sai Gon FC, Patrick Cruz was sat on the bench and watched on as his replacement Noh Heyong placed the ball into the bottom corner with an perfectly delicate touch in the 89th minute to level the score.

The look on Cruz’s face told the whole story as I stood on the touchline with a wry mile of my own.

The away goal rule helped us out as that goal in the final minute of the game confirmed our passage to the final of the Vietnamese cup! Sai Gon FC, promoted last season, who’s star player has spat his dummy out, are in the cup final, albeit very unexpectedly.

Before we could attempt to win the cup in a 2 legged final, we have 5 league games left, and we kept on gaining valuable points. We won 2 of the 5, losing the 2 of the others. Remember that paragraph above? Well we most notably lost our penultimate game against Dong Nai who would be our opponents in the cup final, but we’d managed to finish the season on a high really, as a 4th place finish was never even thought of at the start of the 26 games, survival achieved and a cup final to boot!

I now have a team of players who had been expected to struggle to survive in the league to get ready for a cup final. What do I say, do I tell them we’ll smash it and not to be worried, or do I tell them that actually, I’m worried as Dong Nai held us to a draw early on in the year and beat us most recently, and both times they were the much better team? Oh I don’t know I just…

‘Oh hi Mister Chairman, how long have you been here?’

‘5 minutes or so, I thought you were on the phone?’

‘Oh no I was, erm, thinking out loud’

‘Right. Anyway, the reason for my visit, I want to offer you a new contract. You’ve done an amazing job here, I was hopeful we’d just survive in the league, but to finish fourth and get us in the cup final, I am absolutely overjoyed with how you’ve done’

‘Thanks, I will happily sign a new deal’ I don’t even need to think this one over, I am absolutely loving life in Vietnam, and there’s no way I’m leaving this team, my team, not now at least.

Next episode – I might be down for a moment but I always come back

Previous chapter – Project survival

Episode 1 – This is not another European journeyman

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