Journeyman – 18 – Bordeaux – Little by little

This is one episode of a wider series. To instead start at episode one, please click here.

We gave you everything you ever dreamed of?

The Brasserie St Once has a nice calm ambience with only the odd clink of glasses and rumble of quiet conversation piercing the silence. Nicolas, the maître d, shows me to my seat, opposite our president, Joseph.

Mr DaGrosa. Looks pleased.

We swing between 5th and 6th in Ligue Un. We’ve just put Monaco out (on penalties) to set up a tie against relative minnows Clermont Foot in the Coupe de France 11th round. Committed defender Vukasin Jovanovic sealed the victory with the all important spot kick.

The penalty hero.

Mr DaGrosa is delighted with progress. Both on the pitch and off of it, I imagine primarily financially.

I breathe a deep sigh of relief and take a large gulp of a beautiful red wine I haven’t been served here before.

Our report card makes for great reading.

Things are going well. I should be delighted.

Yet there is something needling away at me. I can’t quite describe what it is.

Maybe it’s that I’ve not yet truly settled into that giant apartment? Maybe I think the team is playing at their limit and can’t get much better? Maybe Bordeaux doesn’t truly feel like home?

Maybe it’s nothing that dramatic.

I think it’s time to accept that the fringes of a European qualification position is probably as good as we’ll get this season, and fresh blood is needed.

I go to the market and sign up four players to join us at the end of the current campaign.

Albert Ejupi, 31, Lillestrøm, £26,000.

An emotional purchase more so than a footballing one. Ejupi was my captain way back at Varbergs in Sweden, and I brought him to Norway with me when I went to Lillestrøm. With my support level across the Bordeaux team fairly non-descript, I felt that having another experienced head in the dressing room who is fully behind my managerial methods, is a sensible move. Not quite of the same quality as the other three players I brought with me from Norway (Ng, Nordås and Gyökeres), but Ejupi is a player I trust, and I know trusts me.

Nicklas Strunck, 24, FC Groningen (currently on loan at Ado Den Haag), Free Transfer.

Given the system I like to play with the three players across the defensive midfield line, reinforcements in this area are always welcome. Strunck gives me just what I like in there. An exceptionally hardworking and determined, aggressive team player, the Dane is also a good tackler and passer of the ball. Mentally very strong, I think Nicklas will be key next year.

Antonin Barak, 29, Galatasaray (currently on loan at Toulouse), Free Transfer.

With the wonderfully gifted yet underperforming Franco Cervi doubtlessly heading back to Young Boys in Switzerland after his loan spell, I needed a replacement. For all his qualities, Cervi just hasn’t delivered. There is a clause that would allow me to sign him for Bordeaux permanently, but it’s £8.25million, and he just hasn’t shown me enough to suggest that he’s worth that kind of money.

So in will come Barak at the end of the season. Equally adept at playing right through the central midfield spine, I will require the 6′ 3″ Czech to mainly play at number 10. Strong in all areas, Antonin looks like a fantastic find. Throw in his heroic leadership qualities and imposing physical stature (17 jumping, 16 strength, 16 balance) and I think we are getting the right man in for the job.

Andreja Martinovic, 20, FK Partizan, £825,000.

Oh what joy it brings to find a young player like Martinovic. Even more so when you realise his release clause is less than £1million. The 20 year old Serbian is destined for big things in football. Yes he has his deficiencies that need worked on over time (concentration, workrate, teamwork) but his quality is absolutely unbelievable for his age. 15+ for first touch, technique, aggression, anticipation, composure, flair, acceleration, agility, balance and pace, along with solid dribbling, finishing, heading, decisions, determination, strength and off the ball movement (writer’s note – breathe mate!), it’s safe to say I am excited about his arrival.

Departure – Linus Wahlqvist moves on with my blessing to Al-Shahab for £1.3million after an underwhelming 21 appearances in two years for Bordeaux.

Wait a minute, what’s this?


Why on Earth would I be anywhere near the sack race favourites? I know it’s 18-1, so not exactly worth a punt, but still a concern!

The apartment in Bordeaux.

I arrive back ‘home’ and sit down on that welcoming sofa, picking up my copy of Inverting the Pyramid (nice Christmas present from the wife by the way) and lean back to try and relax.

It’s time to see out the season, wait for the new arrivals and go again, pushing for that exciting next step of competing in a European competition.

Our captain Loris Benito, contributes in another action-packed match, an impressive 3-1 home win against strugglers Montpellier.
Mercurial Brazilian Neymar cuts a frustrated figure as Bordeaux hold runaway league leaders PSG to a 1-1 draw in Paris. He’s part of a curious PSG 2024 front three alongside Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane.
To see if I can get an extra 10% out of my players, I design three new training schedules. The boys seem to be enjoying them.

The thing with journeys like this is it’s all about the steps you take to greatness, every rung of the ladder that takes you there. Bordeaux has been an incredible move so far, and little by little, I am getting closer to fulfilling my destiny as a top manager in world football.

I just need to knuckle down, remain patient, and good things will come to me. European potential, better players, better facilities, more opportunity.


Oh wait a minute. It wouldn’t be a giant leap, but maybe a little step towards greatness? Would it be a good move for me after around a year at Bordeaux? Answers on a postcard, please!

Thanks for reading.

FM Stag.

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