Los Coladeros, Episode 25: They Call Him Mr Monastic

< Episode 24

Having taken a minute to sit down and compose several angry texts to the board that are then safely stored in my Drafts folder, I consider what has just happened. They’ve cancelled two of the transfers I’d agreed because, months later, they arbitrarily decide that they don’t think they’re good value. Now, I do understand that our coffers are looking considerably flimsier than they were a couple of days ago, and I may well be on the verge of running the club into the ground financially with all my extravagant spending… but I really wanted them! I wanted more new shiny things! Give me all the things I want!!

The reality is, I don’t really need either of them. I’ve got Victory and Kalogeras as my left-backs so Fernando was just a youth option, and I now have five strikers vying for one position up top, where it’s pretty obvious that Tsigalko is going to play whenever he’s fit. So, actually, I won’t send these texts to the board — the players they’ve cancelled weren’t really necessary. Fair enough. I can live with it. I do still need a DMC though… but there’s no time to get anything sorted out. No sooner have my new lads arrived than they’re being introduced to Chugger for the first time — Mike Duff seems to be having PTSD flashbacks for some reason — and we’re off on the road, and for a change, we’re heading south today, to the sunny coast, where we’ll meet Málaga CF for the first time in our history.

They’re doing well in D2 having been relegated from La Liga in 19th place last season, so you’d expect them to still have a bit of quality floating around. Between Francesc Arnau, Albert Ferrer, Darío Silva, Kiki Musampa, Litos and Edgar, they certainly do, and I have a terrible feeling about Arnau in particular — he’s exactly the kind of goalkeeper who could ruin what ought to be a glorious afternoon by the sea where my new signings strut their funky stuff.

Our side features a pair of debuts at either full back: Duffman is clearly better than Daniel Ung, so he starts on the right, and with Jamie Victory still injured, Paul Underwood sent to a farm upstate, and Benoit Assou-Ekotto busy promoting a new line of discount aftershave, Giannis Kalogeras will take up the reins of plundering down the left flank and chucking balls into the box for Tsigalko to head in. With 20 for Crossing, he ought to get plenty of assists. Cherno Samba also takes his place on the bench as my new second-choice striker, though I also keep Abreu in el banco just in case I need some serious extra firepower.

It’s a tough game against a dogged opponent. Absolutely nothing happens for the opening half an hour — literally, the clock skips from 1 to 30 with no commentary at all. At that point, Sergio Sestelo manages a volley from inside the box that Arnau saves, but otherwise, the uninspiring start continues until half time.

Three minutes later Arnau is flicking a Moukoko thunderbolt over the bar, then saving spectacularly once again from Bergtoft’s header from the corner. We are finally on top, but can’t make the breakthrough before the half-time whistle sounds. It’s a stern first test for my shiny new toys.

The second half starts and Málaga come out like an explosion in a fireworks factory. Jorge Campos, thank goodness, manages to keep them out after they have three gilt-edged chances in the opening ten minutes, including one that should be a tap in for Silva after the Mexican spills a long-range shot at his feet, but he rises from el muerte to pad the ball out to Mike Duff, who takes it away down the right. After that flurry of chances, though, Málaga are back on the defensive, and it’s actually Duff who carries most of our threat — regularly getting down the right and putting cross after cross into the box that Tsigalko, Sestelo and Moukoko can’t quite get on the end of well enough to beat Arnau in the home nets.

Kalogeras is incredibly disappointing at left-back, missing all his tackles and headers and only successfully completing just over half his passes; he also doesn’t attempt a cross in the entire game, so eventually I get tired of him and drag him off, putting Bergtoft in as an auxiliary full-back for the last five minutes and chucking Abreu and Samba up front in the hope that one of them will steal the points with a last-ditch strike. However, as the clock has been flying by the whole game, I’ve been forced to leave it a bit late, and in the end, we have to pack ourselves back aboard Chugger with a solitary point. It’s not the end of the world — Duff is excellent, Arnau is impenetrable, and while we could have won this game, we also could have lost it quite easily. A draw will do.

Sadly Valladolid continue their devastating winning run with a 4–1 victory over Compostela to extend their lead at the top to four points, with two of their goals coming from December signings Aron Winter and Jesus Seba. Must be nice.

Nástic, however, are finally falling apart at the seams, losing again, this time to Osasuna, to give us a nice cushion in second place.

My DMC position finally gets some backup. I unfortunately fail in a bid for Marcel Mahouvé, whose wage demands are sadly outside my price range — plus someone has encased him in foam and bubble wrap since I last saw him. Tackling 11? I don’t think so. Forced to the free transfer market, I’m fortunate enough find another African defensive midfielder who leads with his studs but wants paid roughly a third of what Marcel was demanding — don’t tell him I said that, please. A contract is sent, a signed copy is returned, and as I wander down to reception, my new charge rips the revolving door off its hinges and strides over to shake my hand. Two broken fingers later, I welcome him to Seville. Bienvenido, Amdy Faye!

He’ll do at least until the end of the season. I’d much rather have someone with 20 for Aggression. Again… don’t tell him I said that, please. He also goes straight into my squad for the visit of 8th-placed Xerez, replacing Leandersson on the bench, while there are also two more changes. The newly-fit Jamie Victory is in for Kalogeras after his pretty horrible debut — he’ll have plenty of time to improve — and Teddy Lucic is sadly out after he got injured in training during the week, so the… let’s say experience of Henning Berg returns to be the, ahem, wise old head alongside the youthful exuberance of the War God Tobros. The last time I saw Berg play he helped his national side Norway to a 4–0 pasting at the hands of France, so… yeah. It should be ok. Tobros is not of this world and has the strength of at least seven men; I could probably play him by himself at centre-half and not concede. That’s perhaps an experiment for another day.

I’m a little concerned by the presence of various familiar names in the Xerez squad, including Gustavo Cañizares, Julio Pineda and Ariel Zárate, but even still, in front of our adoring Ultras, I feel good about this.

Tsigalko and Alonso are already exchanging passes as the game ticks into minute one. The two eventually lay the ball off for Moukoko on the edge of the box, who spots Mora off his line! MOUKOKO WITH THE CHIP! OOOoooohhhh, it clips the top of the bar and goes over! What a goal that would have been!

Minutes later, Cañizares lofts a ball forward but it’s intercepted by Berg, who heads it away to Duff at right back. He passes to Alonso again, the Spaniard spins on the ball in midfield, and clips a perfect diagonal ball to the back post… where Jamie Victory is arriving! VICTORYYYY! HNNGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL COLADEROOOOS! Jamie Victory returns to the team and is straight onto the scoreboard!

We continue to attack for the next twenty solid minutes, but can’t trouble Mora in the Xerez nets — and before too long, a familiar sting jabs us right in our butts. Left wing-back Park Joo-Sung skips away from Mike Duff and whips a ball into the box, Pineda beats Campos in the air, and heads home the equaliser — and five minutes later, Zárate puts a free-kick into the box and Cachorro also gets above our diminutive stopper to put the visitors into the lead with — you guessed it — their only two chances in the game so far.

We’re behind, but in every other statistic, we’re ahead. Twas ever thus. My team, to their credit, don’t stop trying to redress the balance — led by Mikel Alonso, who drives the team forward with his incisive passing and also hits an absolute pinger at goal that Mora has to turn around the post. The referee’s assistant holds up the board for added time as Mora scrambles the ball away from a Mike Duff cross, but only as far as Alonso once again. He searches out Moukoko to his right, he goes wide to Jamie Victory, who whips a first-time cross into the near post — Tsigalko is there! TSIGALKO! GOAL!! IT’S THERE! MAXIM TSIGALKO DRAWS US LEVEL! He’s not accustomed to scoring before the hour mark, but needs must, and it’s 2–2!

I’m scribbling my half-time notes as we enter the 45th minute and my players are back on the ball. Alonso finds Victory in the box, who unleashes a volley straight at Mora that the keeper pushes away. Tsigalko then flicks up for Moukoko to half-volley just wide under pressure from the away defence, Mora takes the goal kick, and Bergtoft pumps a header forward to Alonso. The referee’s whistle sure to disturb this attack, Moukoko sets off towards goal before he gets the chance. Unleashing all 19 of his Dribbling, Moukoko chops past Gerard, skins Dani Pedín, and smashes the ball goalwards! MORA CAN’T GET THERE! GOL GOL GOL GOL GOL GOL GOL GOL GOL! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOL MOUKOKO! Tonton makes it 3–2, on the stroke of half time!

My god. What a game it’s been so far. The players are buzzing at half time having retaken the lead, and I dish out my instructions quickly: altogether sick of the sight of the Xerez wing-backs, I tell Duff and Victory to mark them tightly and kick them in the kneecaps whenever the ref isn’t looking. I also sic Bergtoft on Zárate, put an arm around the broken Jorge Campos while waving Pinheiro on in his place, and shove the rest of the players onto the pitch for the second half.

Big Hugo is tested immediately by a Dani Pedín free-kick, which he saves and holds, but after that, to the relief of everyone inside La Cartuja, the Rainmakers click into gear and bring some serious thunder to Xerez. Alonso clips the outside of the post with a curling shot from the edge of the box; Mora turns a Tsigalko header over the bar; Amdy Faye, on for Sestelo to provide a bit of steel in midfield, slaps the crossbar with a header from a Victory corner. The storm is surely too much for Xerez to withstand, and after more than half an hour of constant battering, eventually their back doors are blown in. Alonso yet again finds feet inside the box, this time those of Jonas Lundén, and the Swede swivels inside the box and flicks the ball up for Maxim Tsigalko to annihilate the back of the net with a whomping volley from just nine yards out — and that’s game, set and match. We manage a few further chances on goal which Mora saves, and honestly, when he finishes on a 6, it’s a crime — we end up with 14 shots on target in the game, of which he fields ten, but it’s not enough. At the other end, Hugo makes three saves and somehow gets a 9 — but whatever. As the final whistle sounds, we head over to the stands and applaud our wonderful Ultras and celebrate a crushing 4–2 win.

Absolutely incredible stuff, it really is. The killjoys over at Valladolid maintain their absurd start to the season with a 3–0 home victory over Real Unión, but even still, we’re just four points behind them with 17 games gone, and have extended our lead to six over the stuttering Nástic in third. However you look at it, we’re unbeaten in eight games since that loss to Valladolid, and if that’s not the kind of reaction you’d want after a defeat to your title rivals, I don’t know what is. Make no mistake, Pucelanos: we’re coming for you.

In the aftermath, Wigan Athletic manager Paul Jewell calls me and makes a £325k offer for Garry Monk, who I think I remember seeing in a broom cupboard somewhere. I accept, and before I know it, he’s gone; the question is, if a Garry Monk is sold in the woods, but there’s no-one around to see him leave… was he ever really here? I suppose we’ll never know.

Episode 26 >

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Mike Paul Vox

Hi team, I’m Mike Paul. I’m a voice actor, narrator, and writer of various football adventures — Welcome to my Medium. http://www.mikepaulvox.com/