The car pulled up beside a players’ folding tunnel that led into the back entrance of the stadium which, if I’m being honest, was a behemoth compared to the Savon Sanomat Areena in Kuopio. But before I could take in the majesty of the stadium I was ushered out of the car in hast and escorted through the tunnel and down a series of winding corridors to, what appeared to be, a changing room. Whilst gazing around the room individuals were grabbing my hand and uttering words into my ear that I could barely make out. Perched on one of the coat hangers was a navy suit and white shirt with a crimson red tie – I was informed that it was my attire for the afternoon. Following my change of cloths and a quick appointment with the team responsible for my make up I was once again escorted down the corridor to a room where the noise grew louder and louder. Just before a set of double doors the entourage grew to a halt and the representative told us to wait, before disappearing through one of the doors.
I heard him address the crowd before I heard him say.. “Ladies and gentleman, I am proud to welcome C…” and that was my cue. Motioned forward to a chorus of applause I walked up to the stage and shook hands with the representative and what appeared to be the chairman of the club before turning to the cameras. The flash was blinding but I continued to hear the representative.
“Ladies and gentleman, I am proud to announce that Mr Kilmister has been appointed as the manager of…
… Royal Standard de Liege!”
Apoloigies folks for all the mystery but I really, really wanted to establish a narrative for the second chapter of my managerial journey. And boy, what a funny month it has been following my departure from Finland. Despite being rejected from clubs in Scotland, Holland, England, Denmark and Germany I have managed to earn myself a contract with Standard Liege, one of Belgium’s most successful football clubs at domestic level. It was a big surprise to see the job listed on the vacancy board but I immediately declared my interest in the post and was rewarded with a contract three days later.
I’ve managed to receive a massive pay rise, in comparison to my previous £250 a week contract at KuPS. Now that I’m earning £6,250 a week, I’ve only been able to pen a one and a half year contract with Liege, which mean that I am pressed for time to make a lasting impression with Les Rouges to earn a longer stay in Belgium. So before we go any further, let’s see where Standard Liege are…
Prior to the start of the 2017/18 season the media highly tipped Liege to finish fifth in the Belgian Pro League and challenge for the title alongside Anderlecht, KRC Genk, Club Brugge and AA Gent. Despite the finances being ‘okay’ the club has a worrying amount of debt, currently standing at £13m – something I will need to sort out sooner rather than later.
But the finances are the least of my concerns at this point…
Wow! Now I can see why I may have landed the job with Les Rouges, if their league standing is to be taking into account. Despite playing in the Belgian top flight since 1921 this record is now threatened as the club sits in a measly 14th place with 19 points, only five points above the relegation spot. It appears that the club have thrown me into the deep-end on this one – with the coming months set to be a big test on my managerial skills.
What a torrid record of results; no wonder morale among the first team players is low! That sea of red would send chills down the spines of the most confident of football managers. Clearly my predecessor has made my job a lot harder and it will be up to me to change the club’s fortunes for the final eight games of the regular season.
However there is hope yet, and it comes in the form of some truly talented players that are still on the books at Liege – and there are three prospects in particular that I’m looking to for the final set of games.
The 25-year old former Denmark under-21 international is considered a defensive mainstay in the Liege back four, and is widely viewed as a fan favorite – despite the club’s disastrous season. Scholz will definitely have a place in my starting eleven and, despite having a contract until 2019, will be offered a new deal in due course to address fan concerns over his future at the club.
Calabria has arguably been the best player for Liege all season – the full back, who can operate on both sides of the pitch, was signed for a second season-long loan spell from affiliate club AC Milan to shore up a leaky defense. Depending on how he performs for the final set of games he is a player I would love to tie down in the future, but with a £5.5m price tag it could be a case that I submit a loan bid for Calabria in the future.
The second player to be signed on a season-long loan from AC Milan, Manaj currently stands as Liege’s top goal scorer and mainstay striker in the starting eleven. At 20-years old Manaj is already established in the Albania national team and also has a bright future in the game. Personally, I still think he could do with some more development. But given his recent performances he would be a player that I would love to have back at Liege. A competent, all round forward, he could make the difference for our season.
With the formalities completed it’s now time to get down to securing Liege’s status in the Belgian top flight. The road will definitely be rough but I have enough confidence to believe that the club can see it through to the end.