The #KLeagueFM17 Challenges: Citizens Unite! [Pre-Season '17 - Part One]
Citizens Unite! Stand up to the Korean Chaebols by leading a citizen club to title glory.
Previous Instalments: Pre-season '16 [Part 1], Pre-season '16 [Part 2], March '16, April '16, May '16, June '16, July '16, August '16, September '16, Post-Split '16, FA Cup Final '16 [Preview], FA Cup Final '16
It's a bitterly cold Incheon I land in after some much needed time away. As I switch my phone back on after a month overseas, I am heartened to read a message from my assistant manager Im Jung-hwan that scores of Incheon United fans have caught wind of my flight number and are awaiting my return. As I progress through customs and into the arrival hall, my appearance is met with showers of yut (Korean toffee) and mostly unclear chants that definitely include my name. I am flattered. I thought this was an honour only bestowed on Korean national teams and their managers.
My data analyst, barista and recently appointed chauffeur Lee Kung-hoon does not let me stay to bathe in their adoration for long (presumably because he's parked his mum's car in a short stay space) and bundles me out of the airport and into the back seat with my suitcase on my lap.
Buoyed by their welcoming overtures, I decide to power through the jet lag and quickly get back to my office to greet my team. Perhaps it was my elated mood, but I told them we will be top half contenders next season. The response I received was fairly negative so we compromise instead on a mid-table finish.
I also receive an email from the board with an ominous subject header reading "budgets". I hastily open it to see what kind of war chest I have been supplied with, only to find that my transfer budget will be £0 and my wage budget will be £69,000 per week, a full £11,000 less than what I'm currently spending.
I quickly pull up a spreadsheet of players and sort it by highest salary first. Cho Byung-kuk, my 35 year-old left back heads the list at £7.25k per week. He is immediately transfer listed and I set about looking for other players over 30 who do not feature regularly, listing striker Song Je-heon, captain Kim Tae-su and last year's marquee buy Choi Hyo-jin in a bid to get a grip on my ever-declining funds. I receive no interest however, so it looks as if I am stuck with them for now until I can convince someone to come in for them.
Striker Krste Velkoski also wants out, and my coaching staff are advising I should let him go. His head has been turned by Chinese side Quanjian but, remembering how fragile Oris was last season, I suggest he can only leave if my £375k release clause is met. The player, valued at £250k, throws his toys out of the pram and is apparently in no way happy with how I have dealt with this. Fortunately his discontent does not seem to spread.
Elsewhere, Seongnam are trying to loan Ju Min-kyu which I swiftly reject and offer the player a pay packet that reaches the limit of what I am permitted to give him. Meanwhile, Jeonbuk have offloaded Kim Bo-kyung to FC Seoul and are now seeking a replacement. They initially go for Kim Yong-hwan, a player I quietly sent out on loan last season to Gyeongnam where he did well. My scout's see him as a quality player and, after realising he can be used in a wing back role, a potential replacement for the expensive Choi Hyo-jin. I refuse to much protestation from the player, knowing that a run in the first team this season will probably subside his anger towards me.
I am also given a clearer picture on our finances. Our losses totalled £4.2 million last season (198% of our turnover), with £4.1m being spent on player wages. Perhaps my eyes were too set on the lure of continental football that I got ahead of myself. Hopefully if our friendlies go well, we can increase our season ticket sales and advertise some of the deadwood to desperate buyers.
We have a training camp planned in China where we'll face the likes of continental powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande and both Sahnghai teams. I also accept invitations from North Korea to face Pyongyang City at the Kim Il-sung Stadium as well as hosting April 25 FC a week later. No doubt a win against the whipping boys that are my Incheon side will do wonders for boosting their regime's domestic image. Perhaps I should have really thought about the moral dilemmas posed in such a trip before clicking accept to everything in my inbox.
Before we head across the 38th parallel however, we first have an upcoming fixture at home with big spenders Shanghai SIPG. I decide to try something a bit different to accommodate the wing back position I want to offer to Kim Yong-hwan. We go for the on trend formation of 2017, the 3-4-3, and hope it will prove more successful than the stale combination of 4-1-4-1 and 4-2-3-1 we ended the season with.
It doesn't, yet we do somehow manage only to lose 2-1, which is probably a good result considering their far superior strength. Elkeson put the away side up just before the half hour mark and Conca consolidated the lead in the 67th minute. Velkoski did pull back a consolation in the 92nd minute but it was far too late by that point to overcome the Chinese side. What was promising was our resolute defending, even though our final ball to the attackers left something to be desired. It might be a formation worth persevering with for the next few friendlies.
Having been turned away in attempts to sign Kim Yong-hwan, Jeonbuk have retaliated by going for one of the jewels in my loose-fitting crown; Kim Chan-hee. I also flat out refuse and the player demands to know why. The players are also angry he's been denied a move, which I have to calmly explain to them as if they are screaming children that we will be significantly poorer without him in our squad to which they begrudgingly agree. The player and I come to a conclusion that if we can receive £220k from Jeonbuk that I will let him leave. Jeonbuk clearly get wind of this though and swiftly offer a deal of a £170k plus bonuses to take it up to £350k. After much negotiations, and a considerably heavy heart, I allow him to leave for an initial fee of £230k rising up to in excess of £400k in add-ons.
Guizhou Zhicheng then swoop in for Choi Hyo-jin. Again, it wasn't necessarily a move I wanted to make, and there is a small loss considering we only get £85k up front for him, but his wage is weighing us down.
This is followed by the shocking revelation that newly promoted Busan purchasing Park Se-jik for £71k. I had no intention whatsoever of selling him given the form he produced over 2016 yet it seems the board had deemed the offer to good to refuse and made the decision for me, giving me 24 hours to make my protests heard.
And heard they were! Here I am painfully selling off key assets, and the board is gutting my team of the average players who I intended to keep. I protested that he was a key figure in my plans and they eventually backed down, cancelling the transfer. Who knows if they'll try it again at some point though.
We head into February primed with our passports and special invitations as we begin a long-run of friendlies. First stop, Pyongyang. I just hope the board doesn't try to offload any more players before I get back!
Read the next part here.
In another Football Manager reality, Suwon Bluewings have announced a new managerial appointment in Evan Lim, with eyes on claiming the treble. You can follow Evan's plight on his Twitter page by clicking here.