Good news and bad news from Vercelli, where our favorite Italian strugglers have lost virtually all hope of winning the league this season—they’re 11 points down with Christmas just around the corner—but can at least look forward to some significant returns from injury and a January infusion of new talent. To help bring you up to speed with our October and November, I’ve prepared an Autumn Digest. . .
- It’s all over for Marco Palombi. Sometime in late October our would-be inspirational leader hit that point in every player’s career at which his skills drop like they’re standing on quicksand. We simply can’t play with a goalkeeper whose reflexes are rated at three out of 20. Unfortunately, our backup is 16 years old, and help won’t arrive until January.
- Maicol Musumeci, our just-turned-18 center forward who’s been taking giant steps over the past few weeks—he scored his first hat trick in our 4-0 win over Pavia—has gone down with a hip injury and will be out for two months.
- Paolo Mengoni, our captain-in-waiting, has a blossoming addiction to getting double-yellow-carded, and no matter how much I’ve fined him or how softly I’ve told him to tackle, he’s been powerless not to get suspended. Not getting suspended literally gives him the shakes.
- Our chief scout, Marco Improta—one of the few employees of any description whom I’ve managed to bring to the club—has been tearing it up in Holland, and we have four new players coming in in January. Including a goalkeeper, thank God, who was born after Woodstock but before Lollapalooza.
- We really are making progress on the teamwork, cohesion, and tactics fronts. It’s just not showing in our results yet because the auld onion bag is so resolutely unbulged by us.
- I’m not despairing. It’s worse than I’d expected. But this is the time when great managers draw on that icy shard of Margaret Thatcher in their souls, throw a hard stare into the abyss, and tell it they’re not leaving. And I’m not.