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.
We were held by Olbia in our first league match, then spent the next week being repeatedly called out in the media by Enrico Ghidini, the manager of Carpenedolo, one of our main promotion rivals and—not coincidentally—the host of our next game. The players were nervous and uncertain before the match, and spent most of the first half getting pushed around, to the point that I had to waste my half-time talk trying to rebuild their self-esteem.
Then, in the 51st minute, Marco Conchione—remember Conchione? The striker whose accuracy I was so worried about in my last update?—drew a foul against Carpenedolo’s Riccardo Appoloni and did this with the ensuing free kick:
After that, we started pushing them around. We wound up winning the match 1-0, and, judging from the players’ morale on the bus ride back to Vercelli, I think they might have enjoyed it:
It’s hard to overstate the importance of an away win like this, especially given what’s happened since the last update: we lost both our remaining friendlies (though we briefly took the lead against Portsmouth and, incredibly, held them to two goals), then promptly dropped our first two matches in the Serie C Cup. The players—most of whom are teenagers, remember, and relatively new to the club—were unsure of each other and struggling to internalize my tactics. Even Walter Colombo noticed a “worrying lack of cohesion” in the squad. I don’t agree with Arsène Wenger that you can never win with unhappy players, but the team’s lack of confidence and dressing-room dissent was turning into a time bomb. Something needed to bring this team together.
Marco Conchione’s goal doesn’t solve all our problems. But it gives us a vital away win, and more importantly, it gives the players something to feel good about. It should grant a little more time for them to learn my tactical system and get used to playing together. Counting cup matches, we’ve now won three of our last four and seem to be improving from day to day.
Up next: Into the league season. A mysterious budget shortfall wrecks our transfer window. More on our tactics. Stay tuned.
by Brian Phillips · December 7, 2008