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The #KleagueFM17 Challenges: Challenge Champs [Pre-season '16 Part Four]

Steve Waddell has successfully negotiated his planned pre-season schedule at E-Land but still has a month to kill before the seasons starts. Will he spend the whole time in the pub or will he finally track down Kevin and get an update on the K-Pop cheerleader situation? 

Catch up on Part One Part Two and Part Three here

Whoever planned pre-season obviously hadn’t quite thought it through. We’ve had 6 games to get us ready for the season and are raring to go. Unfortunately we have 30 days left until our opening game and the prospect of a month with nothing to occupy us other than soju and samgyeopsal sounds like a recipe for disaster. If not for the players then definitely for their manager. I think I might need to see if I can arrange another match or two just to keep things ticking over.

It would be good to get some morale-boosting goals under the belts of the strikers before the first match proper and I’m pretty sure I know how we can achieve just that. A quick phone call to my friends in Nowon and Seoul Martyrs are booked for a Friday night match at Jamsil the weekend before the season starts.

I quite like the idea of Friday night games to keep me out of trouble so I book in Jungnang Chorus Mustang for another one. My final idea is a stroke of genius if I do say so myself. We’ll have an Independence Movement Day E-Land Spectacular on March 1st. The first team will take on the reserves, we’ll re-open the all you can drink for 15,000 won bar and most important of all we’ll unveil Sistar. I’m sure Kevin will have come through by then.

Everything seems to be coming together nicely for the new season. I even remember to hire a scout. He’s not been in the game for 23 years and is closing in on retirement but he seems to know his stuff. At least more than the other candidates. He’ll have to do.

The squad is pretty much in place. My backroom team is in place. Kevin is, erm, somewhere and Sistar are no doubt on their way. A successful couple of months. I decide to get the staff together for a bit of a look over how things have gone so far.

The blowhards are quick to tell me that we have one of the best coaching teams in the league although their credibility is dented somewhat by also telling me that we have one of the best scouting setups in the league (despite me not having told them yet that we’ve managed to hire one). 

We look good down the left though. 5 of 9 assists have come from the left hand side and we’ve got 3 good left-backs apparently. On the downside we have lost 4 out of 7 goals in the last 15 minutes of matches. Clearly a fitness issue, Dan. They do complain that we only have Lee Kyu-ro who can play right-back. Which I personally think is a bit harsh on our other right-back, Kim Tae-eun. The chairman pops in to remind me that I’ve spent the transfer budget, that we are over the wage budget by a small amount and that expenses are rapidly getting out of control. He makes a point of stressing that there are to be no more team nights out in Itaewon for a while. We just can’t afford it. I decide he doesn’t need to know that the team didn’t come to Itaewon with me for that one.

Choi Tae-uk pipes up that he thinks Joo Min-kyu isn’t justifying his wage. I’m starting to think that this guy wants to get sacked. I don’t respond and head off to find the scout to see what he thinks about Mustang.

Apparently, he’s never heard of them. He says he does have a dossier of information on another competitor though and he hands a battered looking old folder to me proudly. Yukong Elephants, 1987 it says on the front. I bin it on the way back to my office. Looks like it’s down to me again.

Anyang have given up on trying to sign Jeon Min-gwang and have moved on to Yang Ki-hoon. Neither of them I particularly want to sell. I’ve got too many players in the squad though so I think about loaning one or both of them out. I spend the afternoon on the phone to a nice young lady from the Korean Football Gazette who seems to have an unusually strong interest in an offer for a reserve centre-back from one second division team to another. In any case I get her number and tell her I will keep her informed of developments.

I put my mind to the team for the Mustang match and decide that it will be all out attack. The whole point of the game was to get some goals for the strikers so a 4-1-5 formation is the order of the day. Kim Young-kwang is fit again as is Tarabai so they can get some minutes under their belts. The defence is formed of guys who need some game time. I’m hoping they won’t have much to do.

I’ve somehow ended up with another three trialists (that post-it note seems to have gone viral) but I don’t plan to sign any more players. Still I’ll give a couple of them a shot. 

JCM go with 5 at the back with the wonderfully named Boo Ki-boo at the heart of the defence. I’m hoping for double figures here.

We go in nil-nil at half-time. Shambles. Maybe Lee Seung-woo can make a difference. I chuck Hwang In-beom on as well.

Within 2 minutes we are behind. Omnishambles. I switch back to a more orthodox 4-4-2 to try to avoid embarrassment. Tarabai bangs in an equaliser thanks to a lovely assist from Seung-woo. 30 minutes left.

It ends 1-1. Not happy with that. For the first time I lose my temper with the team. I’m not sure they understand the content of what I’m saying but nonetheless the message gets home. Sort it out or else.

Talking of sorting it out, nothing yet from Kevin. I’ve had enough of being surrounded by incompetents and decide if you want something done right do it yourself. We’ve an E-land Festival to put on and we need some K-Pop cheerleaders otherwise we might as well not bother. A quick Google of ‘K-pop bands who need a bit of extra cash’ reveals Happy Face Entertainment are just up the road in Chungdam-dong and I’m on the subway within minutes. Dalshabet are booked as half-time entertainment for the big day by lunchtime. That’s how it’s bloody done, Kevin. I’m taking the next two days off. I’ve earned it.

On the big day it’s good to see that the club haven’t managed to screw things up too badly in my absence. The place has been done up nicely, the craft beer is flowing from the bars, the media is in full attendance and most important of all Dalshabet have turned up on time. I see Kevin hasn’t bothered to get them shirts let alone iron their names on to them but at least someone found an E-Land board from them to stand in front of for photos. Party time.

I tell the girls to set up in front of the fans but Woo-hee motions towards the 69,000 empty seats and asks me to be a bit more specific. She’s got a point. "Here will be fine, then" I say pointing to a spot about 2 feet from the home dugout. If you get bored you can have a go on Dan’s warm-up bikes.

45 minutes later we go in 1-0 down to the reserves. Choi Tae-uk has taken charge of them and he looks just a bit too pleased with himself. He’s skating on thin ice now that guy. Annoyingly, it’s Choi Oh-baek that’s scored the goal. I consider telling Tae-uk to put the third choice keeper in for the second half but that would be childish even for me so I leave it for now.

When we’re still 1-0 after 70 minutes I tell Tae-uk to put the third choice keeper in. I think he sees right through my ploy but he says nothing and does as he’s told. In 75 minutes Ahn Seong-bin bags the equaliser. Thank God for that! 1-1 is how it finishes at the end. I try to look at the positives. At least we have some decent back-up in the squad it would appear. The first eleven have to do better than this, though, and I remind them of that at full time. We have 10 days to prepare for the Martyrs. We’d better win that one.

I’m asked to submit my squad numbers for the upcoming season and it’s only then that I realise I have a 35-man squad. That seems excessive. Some culling is required before the window closes. The top goalscorer odds are also published and none of my players are amongst the favourites. Hopefully they take this as a challenge and set out to prove them wrong. It’s good to see Yoo Byung-soo doesn’t feature either after his snub. Christian Danalache looks like the one to watch for me, though Gyeongnam have signed so many forwards he might not even get a game. 

Our scout informs me that he has never heard of Seoul Martyrs but advises me to keep an eye out for a young up and coming striker by the name of Hwang Sung-hong. I think this guy might be getting his info from the Panini World Cup ’86 sticker album. Another great help.

For the Martyrs game I don’t make the same mistake of fielding a weird and wonderful lineup but I reckon we can do without the sitting midfielder so Sin Il-soo comes out for Choi Dong-ho. I encourage them to run at the defence and take more shots. We need to a result here and no mistake. The Martyrs have at least managed to bring a full team and more fans than I have expected have turned up for this one. I hope they weren’t expecting Dalshabet as I branded them a jinx following the last game and didn’t invite them back.

It takes 17 minutes, but when we go ahead it’s a beauty. Seo Beo-min swings in a cross and Tarabai bullets home a header. The second is an own goal just before half-time when a hapless Martyr knocks a corner past his own keeper. A third comes in 67 minutes this time from Kim Heung-il. He seems to have a habit of finding the net when I give him a chance so he might have played his way into the side for the opener. As has Ahn Seong-bin who created the goal from the left flank.

Martyrs pull one back. Slightly embarrassing but they’ve probably deserved it. 3-1 is how it ends. Not exactly the rousing victory I was hoping for to inspire us into the season but still a win and a reasonable performance. I wonder exactly how bad the Bluewings must be though, we totally outplayed them in our match and yet we’ve struggled to put away semi-pro opposition in subsequent games.

With a week to go until the big kick-off I give the guys a couple of days off to recover and get their heads straight for the season. It’s been a mixed bag of a pre-season and I’m still not sure what our best line-up is. This season could really go either way and a lot will depend on whether we get off to a good start in the league. I’m slightly nervous about the trip to Busan...

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