Welcome back. My second full season in Bulgaria is over, somehow, amazingly, last season we won the League, it was an incredible campaign, helped by an amazing tactical change which sent us on an sensational run to claim our first ever league title. So now all I have to do is win the Bulgarian Cup before I can move on to another nation in Tier 4. I came here for a rebuild, it has not turned out that way!
Firstly the out’s, I expected a raft of bids for my key men and that’s exactly what happened. Luckily though, over the Summer I managed to keep hold of nearly everyone. Only Right Back Xiang Pu left from the first team and I was more than happy for him to go.
Other that the Summer was quiet with only a couple of reserve players to go.
Then came the Winter window and once again bids came in thick and fast. Unfortunately I lost one of my best players. I signed CB Mulenessa in the my first season here on a free, he leaves to join Malmo for £3.5m. A deal I couldn’t turn down. I also lost Left Winger Hristo Radev, he really wasn’t playing well and my intake players in that position were doing much better, I decided to cash in and let him for £375k and join Beroe.
So a few outs. I said in the previous post I needed to replace CM Riviore and Striker Mbock who both left last season. With Xiang Pu leaving I needed a new RB and I also needed to replace Mulenesse in the Winter window.
I may have gone slightly mad with signings so bear with me as I introduce all of them!
Paolo Crotti – Right Back – £230k from Zrinjski
With me not being able to use the player search I’m solely relying on recommendations from my scouts and agents. Crotti popped up last season and was instantly shortlisted. A top quality player who will walk into my first team.
Henry Gamboa – Striker – £300k from Independiente Sante Fe
My replacement for Mbock and what a player! Only 20 so has lots of time to grow but already he looks a star and will go straight into my first XI.
Ivan Kolev – Central Defender – £150k from Slavia Sofia
Signed in the Summer just to add some depth to the defence, also helps out with the homegrown quota.
Jack Lee – Striker – Season loan from Fulham
We have affiliation with Fulham and when this lad popped up as a potential loan I had to bring him in. He adds some much needed depth to our forward line.
Teddy Villain – Central Midfield – Free Transfer
My replacement for Riviore, he looks really good but we won’t say much more, he did not live up to what I expected!
Then in the Winter I made more signings!
Todor Temenuzhkov – Central Defender – £500k from Lokomotiv Plovdiv
My replacement for Mulenessa, top top quality and will walk into my first XI, dare I say it he’s even better than his predecessor.
Aleksander Solli – Central Midfield – £115k from Hammarby
With Villain not doing the job I went out and brought another CM to replace Riviore, a big upgrade and a top player.
Morten Mortensen – Defensive Midfield – £850k from Norkopping
A player I didn’t need but when he popped up on my recommendations I had to bring him in. He adds depth to my defence and also defensive midfield.
So some really good signings and our squad is massively improved. Not bring on the season!
But before that, a quick word on the youth intake and once again it was amazing. We had 5 5* PA players that came through, some weren’t as good as they sounded but these 2 really took the eye.
Adrian Kraev – Striker
Wow! No other words needed! A star!
Emil Raychev – Right Back
Again, incredible! He even went straight into the first team as my backup RB!
Winning the league last season meant we went into the Champions League qualifiers and what a run we went on!
In the first round we faced Gotenborg, a tricky tie but my word we were amazing, we drew the away leg 2-2 before beating them 3-1 to go through to face Sarajevo in the second round, where we played amazingly to win 3-1 at home and 1-0 away. Into round 3!
Sheriff Tiraspol stood between us and a place in the playoff round, a tie I expected us to win and we won in style! 3-0 away and 5-0 at home! An incredible run but now it was to get even harder!
We faced Celtic for a place in the group stage and it was just one step too far. They beat us 1-0 home and away and we were out, one round short of a windfall!
What it did mean though was we qualified for the Europa league group stage and we were handed a shocker of a draw. Sevilla, Lazio and Rapid Vienna! A tough draw? It looked it but we were amazing!
We beat Rapid twice, drew Lazio home and away and beat Sevilla at home before losing the away tie. 11 points was enough though qualify in 2nd place to get into the knockout rounds!
Where we would face Porto and just like Celtic it was a step too far, they hammered us 5-1 on aggregate.
What an amazing run though and with the we gained nearly £10m in prize money!
Bulgarian First League
Now to the League and with us not needing to win it, the cup was the most important, I messed about with the team a bit but overall though we were really good. The odd defeat but in the main we played well and were in and around the top of the table all the way through.
We ended the regular season with 62 points from the 30 games and a 1 point lead at the top of the table on Levski.
A great season so far but we still had 5 games to seal another title. Unfortunately it did not go well! We opened with a good 4-0 win over Beroe but then, with more important games to worry about I mixed the team around a bit and results suffered. We ended up drawing our final 4 games, in the final game against Levski we had to win the game. They sat 3 ahead of us but a win would mean we leapt above them to claim the title.
We were 2-0 up at half time but totally fell apart in the final 45 to screw up and bottle the league.
Still though, overall another quality season, especially as I messed about with the team quite a bit, rested key men for the cup and European games and gave some of the youth players a chance.
Now for the big one. Win this and I can move on!
It started amazingly as we eased past Slavia Sofia, Montana and Beroe with relative ease to get through to the semi final. Where we faced CSKA 1948 over 2 legs.
Again we were incredible as we beat them 3-1 at home and away to ease into the final.
So it comes down to 1 match, win and I leave, lose and it’s another season in Bulgaria. Personally I wasn’t fussed with the latter but, for the challenge’s sake I had to win.
We faced CSKA Sofia and as the half time whistle blew we were playing awfully, we conceded early and looked to be going in 1-0 down, that was until Crotti scored a rare goal to level it in 3rd minute of first half injury time.
The lads got a bollocking at half time, we had to play better and we certainly did! We came out on fire, Gamboa scored within 2 minutes before CSKA levelled the tie 7 minutes later, it didn’t last long though as we scored within minute, Budinov scoring a gorgeous curling shot from the edge of the box to make it 3-2. We then took complete control and in the final 13 minutes Gregurina scored twice more to make it 5-2.
All we had to do now was see the game out. The whistle blew! BULGARIAN CUP WINNERS!
And it style!
What an amazing 2 and a half seasons in charge. I’ve loved every minute and kinda upset it’s finished so quickly. There are so many intake players here who I want to see grow, I will definitely be trying to take them me when I move.
But before I leave let’s take a quick look over who my key men were over the season.
Striker Leon Gregurina had another amazing season, he ends as the player of the season and the top goalscorer, 30 goals in 47 games, stunning!
New signing Henry Gamboa was incredible alongside Gregurina, he started quite slow but when I moved him to the main attacker with Gregurina as the F9 it worked a treat. Gamboa ends as the young player of the season and the player with most assists. 20 goals and 20 assists in 45 starts. Absolutely incredible!
The 3rd and final player I want to speak about is 2041 intake star Hristo Kalaydzhev, the left winger was amazing when called upon, even though he doesn’t look that good he was so consistent when played. He ends with 8 goals and 5 assists from 13 starts (8 as a sub).
And here for your perusal is the whole squad.
What an amazing season once again, an incredible European journey, a good go at the League and a Bulgarian Cup win. With us winning the league last season and the cup this season that means my work here is complete and I can move on to pastures new.
Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Israel and Greece awaits!
I’ve loved every minute here, it’s always tough revisiting an old save and trying to find the love for it once again but this move made it all the easier. I will say though I never expected to be moving on this quick, I expected a challenge here, a “rebuild” as such, somehow though it’s all over in 2 and a half seasons!
So now the job hunt starts again, where will I go? Only time will tell!
Thanks for reading.