Note: this blog post was originally published on a different blog back in January 2020. Between a new baby arriving home and a pandemic shutting down the world, it’s been a while since I’ve been in the virtual dressing room at the Arena Garibaldi. But I’m back.
My Italian might be a little rusty, so Pisa fans will have to forgive me, but I’ve landed in Serie B.
After a few months on the sidelines and failed interviews at Serie C sides Rende and Fermana, I’ve found myself with bags packed on the first Ryanair flight to Pisa. Thankfully it’s a direct affair.
When I land, I’m greeted by chairman Giuseppe Corrado who’s fairly quick to remind of the terms of our agreement.
The basics of it are easy enough though – avoid relegation at all costs and manage with what you’ve got for the moment. It’s a two year deal but we’ll see how things are looking at the end of the season.
The (new) Italian Job
For FM20 I was keen on getting a gig in Italy. One of my favourite saves from years ago (ten at least at this stage) was a few years with Fiorentia, part of me left with a love for the club to this day.
But I’m out of touch with Italian football, least of all from an FM point of view, so this should be a good learning experience.
Rather than jumping in with the club of my choice, I took the bold step (that I’ve never taken) to start unemployed and see what’s on offer around some of the lower leagues in Europe.
Fermana and Rende in Serie C were both hiring in July, both offered interviews and both times I was sent a PFO.
The former were “satisfied with the plans you put forward in your interview” but ultimately decided that Willy Sagnol was the man to steady the ship there.
It turns out that Rende were after him but when it came to me, they were unwilling to accept my league expectations. Heaven forbid I propose we can do a bit better than finish bottom of the table and avoid the relegation playoff.
So begins the wait.
I've never been unemployed my entire working life.
So far this morning though I've failed two Serie C job interviews (damn you Willy Sagnol) and I'm watching the entire summer tick by without the sniff of a job.#FM20
— KENMC056 | Ken McGuire (@KENMC056) January 2, 2020
It’s funny watching the summer tick by, again, something I’ve not done in Football Manager over all the years.
The transfer window comes and goes, the Premier League gets under way. Champions League football kicks off. The days are getting shorter, the nights getting longer.
Then, it’s trouble in Pisa.
The club have only just come up from Serie C having finished third in Serie C/A for 2018/19 and making it through the playoffs.
12 games into the season, however, and things aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
On the first weekend in October Luca D’Angelo is relieved of his duties. This is the chance I’ve been waiting for.
It takes another three weeks, just after the bank holiday weekend, to get called for an interview. There’s a followup on the first weekend in November and on Sunday 3 November the job is mine.
Barring a quick visit to Serie B in 2016/17, it’s been a rollercoaster decade or two for the Tuscan side.
Bankruptcy and expulsion from the league has seen the club reform in 1994 and again as recently as 2009.
Having finally made it back to Serie B last season the wheels have come off Luca D’Angelo’s two-season stint on the sidelines.
Media predictions put the club in the bottom three at seasons end with Empoli favourites for the Serie B crown and a return to the top table.
Pisa’s Current Predicament
Despite a relatively positive preseason, there’s been three wins from 12 games to start the season, leaving the club back in 15th with a negative goal difference.
There’s a huge amount of loan players in my books, youth isn’t exactly spectacular and as a result there’s over 30 contracts up for review inside the next 12 months.
Performances haven’t been dire, like desperate dire.
An early season home win over Juve Stabia was followed up by six defeats in seven. Two wins on the bounce over the October bank holiday weekend were short lived as Perugia took the last game before my appointment.
There’s £1.3m, give or take, in the bank with £250k available for squad improvements. There’s another £10k spare in the wage budget in case anyone needs to come in, but recruitment even at this stage will be scant.
I’m loving the new club vision and five year plan, setting a framework for a longer saves and hopefully a bit more forgiving gameplay.
The dressing room atmosphere needs to be improved and maintained. Director of Football Roberto Gemmi also needs to stay in place, which should be interesting.
Outside of that, this season is about avoiding relegation – cement a spot in Serie B for next season. Then we spread our wings, look at aiming for a mid-table finish in 20/21, become an established side.
From 2021 on, the club want to see top half finishes – no pressure there.
I’m at home to Entella in six days time, a side that beat Pisa 1-0 in the preseason. There’s six matches to go to the winter break. Six games to pick up a few points, make my presence felt and see how we get on.
Time for a fresh navy suit, a slice of pizza, a bottle of Peroni and a session with the notebook.