While undeniably a season of progress, the 2017/18 will be remembered for two standout matches and a rather welcome farewell to my ramshackle old stadium and cabbage patch pitch.
You’ve heard me whine on before about the state of our playing surface and the rather baffling decision of my board to move us to a new stadium, twice the size of the old one, which we struggled to fill one tenth of so I’ll focus your attention towards the action on the pitch rather than that off it.
I’ll start with the bad (the good will come, while the ugly obviously refers to managerial rival Shrew Naldo).
The bad was so bad, so very, very bad. So bad, in fact, that I don’t want to put it on the front page of this fair site. You’ll have to read on, therefore, to explore the full baddy badness of our trip to Calais.
Yes, Calais. Newly promoted into our league and boasting Charles N’Zogbia (on over £10k a week) and our very own Amadou Soukouna the north coast club posed more than our usual self-inflicted problems.
The season had started in typically infuriating fashion. In each of our first six games we dominated the chances stats but had tallied only a point a game. While our luck wasn’t about to change, the level of our performance certainly was.
And that’s all I’m going to say on the matter.
The summer had been fairly productive as I had pruned our wage budget yet again, finding change from the £15k a week the board now gave me, a steep decline from the comparatively lavish £22k I had at the game’s start.
In came five players ready for first team action: Daouda Bassock, Cyril Durrand, Yann Bodiger, Valentin Lamoulie and Calvin Mangan. Only one of them failed, with Bassock scoring two goals in his first appearance before generally stinking the place out and I got so fed up of him that I started using the kids instead.
Durand would score nineteen goals, mainly because his PPMs perfectly fit my advanced forward’s brief for him and also because he’s not too terrible. Amazingly, I had replaced last season’s hero, Amadou Soukouna, with a cheaper and (slightly) less infuriating upgrade.
While Bodiger spent most of the season injured, by the time we did get him fit he was more than capable of filling Cheyrou’s rather old shoes and Calvin Mangan generally did OK in my three man defence.
Lamoulie endured a difficult start, conceding a couple of fifty yard free-kicks that saw him temporarily dropped. However, the France U-20 goalkeeper’s form improved sufficiently for him to steal the slot between the stick’s in the National’s team of the year where he was joined in midfield by mazy dribbler Florian David.
All encouraging stuff.
But while I had pulled off the all-too-infrequent trick of having bought wisely my board is now so parsimonious with the wages that I’m increasingly reliant on youths. Along with Boughanem, Allan Roche, William Moureaux and Asier Diez appeared in the first team on a regular basis. Their £25 a week wages are a welcome bonus and they generally performed adequately for their childhood heroes.
However, after twelve hugely frustrating games (and one that was simply embarrassing) LAP were once again locked in the mire, having garnered just thirteen points. Such a start didn’t prove fatal to our season, but it did prove fatal to our chances of promotion, as we went on to rack up a healthy thirty-seven points from our remaining twenty-one games.
Doubtless some of the upturn can be attributed to our young team’s growing experience, but I don’t think it’s unfair to y the old patch, where there appeared to be no correlation between the in match stats – particularly chances created – and the scoreboard. Gripes aside, the second half of the season was much more fun than the first.
And so we come to the good. The very, very good. The f&cking miraculous.
When we drew Monaco in the cup we had already exceeded our board’s expectations for the competition and my main concern was whether we would lose by double figures at Stade Louis II. The Calais debacle hadn’t been so long ago and I actually had to play midfielder Moulet in our back three due to suspensions. One minute in and Falcao finished clinically, seeming to confirm that my very worst fears were about to come true.
I’ll let you watch the best moment as we toy with Monaco’s defence, although I will give you one (more) spoiler: yes, that is the Lewis Holtby, the Jon Obi Mikel, the Ramadal Falcao and the Matija Nastasic lining up for the then Ligue 1 leaders.
Obviously the fairy tale didn’t last forever and when I played Auxerre in the next round we succumbed to a comprehensive 3-1 defeat. Still, I couldn’t complain: at last I had done something vaguely historic in my time at LAP.
So where does that leave us after five seasons at the top of a mountain in the south of France?
Resources are still extremely limited and most of my players are failed Toulouse academy graduates. My youngsters are beginning to deliver and supertool Zaven Bullet contributed a respectable eight league goals from his now favoured striker position.
While we’re safe in mid-table following a finish of ninth it’s becoming a tougher and tougher job. If I thought I had anywhere to jump to I probably would attempt the leap, but with my reputation still only classed as regional I’m not an attractive option to many clubs even at this level.
And so I’m locked in a war of attrition. Will I manage to conjure up a miraculous escape to the riches of Ligue 2 or will we slowly sink out of the game as my board continue to shrink the budget I can spend on the shockingly small pool of available talent?
Only time will tell.