Filed: Tuesday, 26th July 2016
By: Preview Percy
Looking forward to the new season? So were we. Then we remembered Preview Percy and suddenly we weren't quite as excited......
Welcome to the Thursday Night League. Thanks to our qualifying on the grounds of finishing in 7th place (as opposed to not kicking too many people up in the air which was the case last year) we now enter the competition at the third qualifying round stage.
After all the messing about with the draw we find ourselves with a trip to the lovely Slovenia, which is much nicer than the Belarus alternative that was a possibility.
We will be playing NK Domzale. Although we were drawn out of the brandy glass first, the ties have been switched around to allow the new-fangled retractable seating to be installed at our new gaff. Furthermore, the away leg has been shifted from their home ground, which has a capacity of about 2,800, to somewhere a bit more roomy in Ljubljana, which is about 10 miles away. Kick-off for the first leg on 28 July will be 7:45pm UK time as will be the kick-off for the return leg on 4 August. I have no idea what the traffic is like in downtown Ljubljana though.
So a new season and a new work experience kid. This one is a pretty young thing, though she does seem to have this habit of wearing t-shirts commemorating bands she has never heard of, mainly because they ceased to be years before she was born. This week it’s the Ramones.
It’s a nice little test for her, finding out something about a club which, without wishing to be impolite, would probably score a negative amount on TV quiz “Pointless” if they ever came up as a question.
Well it transpires they are one of Slovenia’s oldest clubs, having been established in the 1920s under the original name of FC Disk. The subsequent changes of name have removed any chance there might have been of a headline involving the word “floppy” so the journos will have to sort out something original to print.
They have two nicknames. The accurate, if rather dull “The Yellows” and the rather more splendid “The Brigands”. It seems the same person responsible for their first nickname was responsible for the name of their ground: “Sports Park”.
The current modern-day state of Slovenia is, of course what you might call a “new” old country. During WWII the place got carved up between the Italians and the Germans, with a third part being taken over by Hungary. The country lost something like 8% of its population during that spell. A sobering thought indeed. Post-war the country was a federated part of Yugoslavia and was one of the earlier of the former eastern European communist states to start down the road to a more western style of democracy.
Formal independence was gained in 1991 and the country is now part of NATO and the EU and has adopted the Euro as its currency so no need to change those coins left over from Torremolinos or wherever you oiks go these days.
The Slovenian league is then but a babe in arms compared to many starting as it did in the 1991/92 season. That wasn’t the greatest of seasons for “The Brigands” – they got relegated from the top division and spent the next six seasons in the second tier. Their third place in 1998/99 was enough to get them up to the top table, where, apart from a one season blip in 2002-03, they have remained ever since. Indeed, they won back to back titles in 06-07 and 07-08. They were Cup winners in 2009-10, runners up the previous season and have a couple of “Supercup” wins on the honours board, though I’m never quite sure how to think of those in the grand scheme of things.
They have finished in 3rd place in three of the last four seasons which has seen them become regular attendees at the Europa League draws, though this season is the first time that they have actually played in more than one round. They opened up with a 5-2 aggregate win (3-1 home 2-1 away) over our chums from last season, the Andorrans Lusitans. That was followed by the 3-2 aggregate win over Shakhtyor (1-1 away 2-1 at home) that saved us from the pleasures of Belarus. So whatever happens this is further than they have ever gone in the competition.
They are two games into their domestic season. On the opening day they eased their way to a 2-0 win at home to Radomije whilst last weekend they picked up a point on the road with a 1-1 draw at Krsko. At the time of writing this leaves them in third place in the fledgling table. In between the two legs of our match they will play host to Maribor, who lead the 2 game old table with a 100% record.
They are managed by a former player, Luka Elsner, who played over 200 games for the Brigands in two spells with the club between 2004-2012. He comes from a football family – his grandad and dad both played professionally with his dad Markho doing well enough to turn out for Nice, picking up an Olympic Bronze with Yugoslavia on the way. His brother Rok also holds down a job with German outfit Energie Cottbus. Luka took over the hot seat in 2013. In both of the last two seasons Luka has finished third and reached the semi-final of the Cup.
Looking through the squad there is a plethora of nationalities, mostly comprised of the nations that formerly made up Yugoslavia. There are a couple that stick out though.
Wilson Aprecido Xavier Junior is a Brazilian import now in his fourth spell with Domzale. As is the custom with Brazilian players he goes by a nickname which, in this case, is Juninho. In fact his full nickname is “Juninho, No, Not That One” but they couldn’t fit that on the back of the shirts. This current spell in the yellow shirt is the player’s second tour of duty on a permanent basis, the earlier two spells having been loan deals. The two permanent spells were hyphenated by 3-season sojourn to Azerbaijan where FC Baku availed themselves of his services. Azerbaijan? Slovenia? I know the game is global these days but it still seems odd to think of Brazilians playing in some of the quieter backwaters of European football. Juninho was on target in the Radomije match, netting their first of the evening.
The other scorer that evening was the splendidly-named (and we do like a splendid name here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For the Bewildered) Slobodan Vuk. Vuk has made something like 100 league appearances since arriving in 2010, averaging about one in three over that period.
Lucas Horvat is another member of the squad whose presence appears a bit odd at first glance. Horvat is listed as having Argentinian nationality. However, although born in Buenos Aires he is in fact of Slovenian stock, as his name suggests.. Like Juninho he spent a couple of seasons at Baku before returning for another spell with Domzale, though he seems to have been used sparingly since his return.
From up the road in Croatia they have striker Antonio Mance. He’s been capped at under age level by the Slaven’s compatriots in tablecloths but not very much. He notched 6 goals in 20 league matches last season but he’s one of those people who git to pick his own squad number. Thus it is that he will trot out wearing the “coveted” no. 95 shirt – presumably a reference to the year of his birth, rather than a tribute to Wayne Rooney’s IQ.
That’s enough Slovenia. And so to us. We have some new players to welcome. Firstly we say “Hoþgeldin” (or perhaps “wilkommen”) to German born Turkish winger Gorkhan Tore. Tore has arrived from Besiktas on a season-long loan with a permanent deal option. The winger won a Turkish Championship medal with Besiktas last season and played under the managership of Slav when he was boss over there a while back. If, during the coming months you see the phrase “tore down the wing” appear in a match report I believe the law as it stands allows you to throw rotten fruit at the writer. (Note: anything appearing in match previews is excluded from this rule.
One of the earlier arrivals was Havard Nordtveit. The notes provided to me by the work experience kid wearing the Ramones t-shirt without knowing who they are says that Nordveit was born in a vat. Closer inspection of her rather untidy handwriting shows that the player’s birthplace was actually the town of Vats in Norway. The player, whose name contains all sorts of accents and symbols this Remington Glanville typewriter doesn’t contain, has an interesting past. He spent three years on Arsenal’s books having signed from Norwegians Haugesund in 2007. Back in those days he was looked on as a central defender and he never broke through into the first XI at the library. Spells on loan in Spain at Salemanca (no, me neither), in Norway at Lillestrom and in Germany at 1FC Nuremburg followed. It was during his spell with the Germans that he converted from central defence to defensive midfield and his performances for Nuremburg got him noticed by Borussia Monchengladbach who shelled out £800,000 for him. He spent the last six seasons in Monchengladbach, breaking through to the Norwegian international side in the process.
Those of us who struggle with languages other than our mother tongue will have been pleased with the signing of youngster Ashley Fletcher. The will have already endeared himself to the Boleyn faithful by scoring one of the goals that did for Millwall in the play-off final last season whilst on loan at Barnsley. His fee is one of those to be decided – although he joins us at the expiration of his Man Utd contract, at 20 years old he is young enough to warrant a compensatory payment to his former employers.
We’re going to be well off for wingers this season. In comes Sofiane Feghouli from Valencia. Another end of contract free, the Franco-Algerian had six seasons in Spain having started his pro career in the French Alps with Grenoble. It appears that relations with Valencia were a bit strained towards the end of his spell in Spain. He received a club fine and suspension in April after refusing to take part in a warm down after a match. There were also tales of his missing training from time to time. Not the sort of thing Mr Bilic usually stands for as the likes of Zarate and Amalfitano discovered to their cost. And as Sakho might also be about to discover.
The two other signings we have to date are kinda old news really. The arrival of Toni Martinez from Valencia was announced back in April. He is thought of in Spain as “having potential” though at the time of his departure he hadn’t broken through into the Valencia first XI. However, according to the work experience kid wearing a Ramones t-shirt without knowing who they are, that didn’t stop the Spaniards including a buy-back clause in the transfer papers.
We’re still in the market for a striker and a fee has been agreed with AC Milan for Carlos Bacca. At the moment though the player seems to be trying to immerse himself a little too much in cockney culture, apparently using the lyrics of “My Old Man” as a template, such has been the dallying and dallying that has gone on in recent weeks. Alternatively, he may have called the club weeks ago with a decision but is simply stuck in the phone queue with everyone else.
A little over four times the £2.5m paid for Martinez was spent on making the move of Manuel Lanzini permanent. That £10.2m was paid to Al Jazeira of the UAE. Al will probably spend it on new cameras for that tv station he runs over there. It was assumed that the little one will be missing for the pre-season Europa League rounds and the opening weeks of the League season as Argentina has first dibs on his services for the Olympic tournament. Argentina’s last match of the group stages is on 10 August. After that the knockout rounds take place on the 13 & 17 August with the bronze and gold medal matches happening on the 20th. However a knee injury has now seen him cut from the squad. Meanwhile it’s a bit of a shame that the home nations couldn’t sort out their politics enough to at least get a women’s team out to Brazil for this tournament. I guess having the common sense part of your brain neutralised is par for the course when you become a football administrator. A theory that the award of the England Manager’s job seems to bear out.
Then there’s Sakho. There’s a lad with problems-a-plenty. Apparently, having thrown a sickie for the trip to the US, he’s now declined the trip to Austria on the grounds that we are (at the time of writing) trying to sign another striker. Is he mad? Austria is beautiful this time of the year even if you have got to do a bit of running around to earn your crust while you’re out there. You would also think that, even if the player has decided to leave, he’d want to get as fit as possible as soon as possible to make himself more attractive to potential purchasers. You’ve only got to look at the time it took to get Carlton Cole fit that time we re-signed him to see the down side of not having a proper pre-season.
According to rumour Sunderland had an alleged £11m bid knocked back a few weeks back and Sevilla and Hamburg are both reported to have interest in the player, so, with the club taking a hardline on things (basically he’s going nowhere until we have replacements) if that were me I’d be trying to keep myself as match fit as possible so I could slot in wherever I ended up with the minimum of fuss.
We do have others who didn’t feature in the Austria trip. However, unlike Sakho, messrs. Randolph, Collins, Ogbonna and that other chap that “we’ve got” were all a bit busy during the summer. Unlike the likes of Noble, Antonio etc who, with the benefit of hindsight, are probably glad they were well out of it whilst Spurs went and lost to Iceland. The “Euro Four”will be rested for one or both legs of this. And who can blame them for wanting to put their feet up for a bit.
Cresswell, who might also have had reason to be thinking that he may have spent his summer in France, will be missing from this one having come off the worse following a nasty looking two-footer during the Karlsrhue friendly. Knee ligaments and four months is the prognosis. He gets all the best from these quarters.
Through the “out” door, the biggest departure so far was that of Tomkins. Always sad to see someone who came up through the ranks go but he was clearly going to be down the pecking order at the Stadium at The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – henceforth “The Lizzie”. With that in mind he could probably have found a better club than Palace to go to but not one willing to pay us £10m plus add-ons.
We also said “ta-ta” to Joey O’Brien. A good honest pro not first on anyone’s team list (including I suspect his own) but a decent lad who never let anyone down during his spell with us. At the time of writing it appears that he hasn’t found alternative employment as yet but one hopes that this state of affairs doesn’t last too long.
Prediction. Well it’s a sod, isn’t it? An away leg to the back end of beyond followed by a match in a new home we haven’t got used to yet. We will need to keep a lid on certain things. Noble & Reid’s reaction to the Cresswell incident was understandable but is the sort of thing that could easily have seen us getting a red card or two. You will recall last season’s sojourn into the Thursday Night League when canny teams exploited the poor referees that populate the earlier rounds of the competition (all the half decent ones are usually on the beach at this time of the year) to get players dismissed. So if we do want to make progress it might be an idea for Slav to issue some “chill out” instructions.
Despite the obvious obstacles I still reckon that this is a tie that we ought to win. Yes I remember last season, but the squad we have available this season is a lot stronger. There is also the suspicion that we might just be taking things a little more seriously this time around. One rather got the impression that Slav would have preferred not to have entered last year and that few tears were shed when we finally got knocked out.
So, for that reason, the £2.50 I was going to chip in to the “Find The Tottenham Five” fighting fund (last seen walking onto the pitch in Euro 16 before promptly going missing) will be going on an aggregate victory, say 2-0 at their place and 3-0 at ours, wherever that is now.
Enjoy the games!
When last we met. Oh come on you’re having a laugh aren’t you?
Referee ((1st Leg) Mete Kalkavan – Turkey (Assuming he is allowed out – there’s been a spot of bother over there you know).
Danger Man: Slobodan Vuk – to be honest information was a bit hard to come by on their team so I went for Slobs (as his mates probably don’t call him) on the grounds that he has scored already this season.
Percy’s Poser This year I have a brand new feature for you. Oh yes you think I spend the summers just lying around drunk do you? No, the second the final whistle went at the end of last season my preparations for the new season’s column started. Ok, admittedly this did involve a lot of lying around drunk, but the result is that for 2016/17 we will bring you Percy’s Poser – a question loosely based on the upcoming opponents. There’s no prizes for getting it right – I spent the prize budget in the summer lying around and getting drunk and, in any case, some of the answers may be made up. So, here’s your first of the season:
Why is it advisable for men getting married in the church on the island in Slovenia’s Lake Bled to think long and hard about marrying a larger woman? Answer next column….
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
comments powered by Disqus