The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

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Pro Vercelli: The Terrible Skies Above Us


Why live, if you can’t take aim at blue air?

And that’s doubly true at a club like Pro Vercelli. It’s been quiet around here for too long. This is a club that’s won seven Italian championships—as many as Roma, Lazio, and Fiorentina combined—and yet somewhere in the middle of this crazy 86-year title drought everyone forgot that we’re one of the greatest teams in the world. Football Manager brings the history:


But there’s a retrospective quality to this “past we can be proud of” that we need to fight against. You don’t believe in a sports team till you’re prepared to be proud of tomorrow.

So that’s what I’m working on now. My first step was to take a look at our preseason friendlies. These had been scheduled by my assistant manager, Walter Colombo (whom I despise), and to my complete un-surprise I found that he’d given me a parade of weak Serie C teams designed to carefully nurture our players’ morale and give them “valuable match practice.”

Well, we don’t need match practice. We need money. I canceled all nine million matches he’d set up against Poggibonsi and Gubbio, and got on the phone with some big clubs, hoping to establish Vercelli on the circuit of pre-season tours and fill the stadium cash-box with some fan-friendly exhibitions. (We’d get slaughtered, but we’d also get paid.) Most of the clubs I contacted rejected me immediately—to tell you the truth, it was hard to take from Cluj—but I finally managed to lure some good teams: Dinamo Bucureşti, Blackburn, Portsmouth, and Club Brugge. The Brugge match wound up getting scratched after the schedule for Serie C’s version of the Coppa Italia was announced, but the remaining three could bring in up to €90,000, which would be a massive boost for our bank account.

Next up was my staff. I don’t want to be disloyal, but these men are terrible at their jobs. My two medics have a physiotheraphy rating of six—that’s a combined physiotherapy rating of six. My fitness coach (and why do we need a separate fitness coach?) has in his fitness-coaching career managed to progress to a plateau of four out of twenty. The lot of them are under contract through 2012 or 2013, so sacking them would cost tens of thousands of euros, and assassination in this part of Italy doesn’t seem to be as widely accepted as it used to be. The best I can do is to coax them into signing two-year contracts at the same wage, which they all agree to do after I rumble a lot about mutual termination. Next year they should be infinitely more cuttable.

Fortunately for everyone but Pro Vercelli fans, the club didn’t have any scouts on staff, and so I was able to sign a pair of them after running my own search. They aren’t exactly world-beaters, but they at least have double-digit skills in player-assessment and high mental attributes in general. Let’s just say that in a contest to see who could tie their shoes fastest, they would bury Walter Colombo.

I’ve set Roberto Novello to scout our next opposition and to look around Italy, and Marco Improta to see what he can find in the Netherlands, which is the most exotic country the board will let me explore at the moment. Here’s Marco now:

Last thoughts for tonight: I tried to set up a friendly with Newcastle in a show of solidarity with Daryl, but they had bigger fish to fry, apparently. In any case, it’s good to know from his experience that I’m not the only manager to be given a cretinous assistant.

Up next: Sifting through the squad. Choosing a captain. Devising tactics. The transfer market. Pro Vercelli takes the field for the first time. Check back early tomorrow.

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Pro Vercelli: The Terrible Skies Above Us

by Brian Phillips · December 4, 2008

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