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The #KLeagueFM17 Challenges: Citizens Unite! [May '17]

K League Football Manager 2017 Challenges - The Incheon United Project

Despite the increasingly difficult situation the club find themselves in off the field, on the pitch Incheon United are showing signs of promise. As finances begin to tighten, and injuries to an already depleted squad begin to mount, can manager Matthew Binns continue to steer his side to a top-half berth?

The Challenge: 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, Pre-Season '17 [Part 1], Pre-Season '17 [Part 2], March '17, April '17

May commences with a thud as we find out that goalkeeper Lee Tae-hee has once again been seriously injured in training, this time with a hip problem that will see him sidelined for up to four months. It looks as if Cho Su-hyuk will be called upon again to man between the sticks, but the real issue will arise when I am trying to count under 23 players in my match day squad.

Besides the keeper however, I keep the same team that I fielded in our previous game, the 2-0 dismantling of Busan. With performances slowly beginning to look better towards the end of April, I see no reason to change, especially when up against mid-table military side Sangju Sangmu who we are expected to defeat comfortably.

I have hardly had time to order my data analyst to collect my box of fried chicken, open my beer and sit down before the first goal is scored. Ju Min-kyu decides to deliver a rocket from the edge of the area, leaving the Sangju keeper with no time to garner a reaction. Ten minutes later and it's two, with Krste Velkoski running the length of the pitch, outpacing two defenders and slotting it past the keep at the far post in what could easily prove to be goal of the month.

Any celebrations prove short-lived however as the army side decide pull a goal back through Kim Gun-hee. His low shot from the edge of the box caught everyone by surprise, with the keeper choosing to stand and watch the shot trickle into the net rather than make any kind of attempt to save it. We somehow hold on until half-time though, where I cautiously advise them to guard against complacency to a mixed reaction.

They at least heeded my advice for 30 minutes, but shortly after removing starlet Song Si-woo through injury, Kim Gun-hee deals us another cruel blow in almost similar fashion, bringing the scores level. At least time the keeper dived for it this time. Despite Jin Seong-wook heading against the crossbar in the 91st minute, we are forced to accept the draw and move on.

To add to my post match frustrations, my physiotherapist pipes up on the long bus ride back and tells me Song will be out for three weeks, and that I will need an U23 player to fill in for him. Unfortunately, due to his recent inclusion in my match day squads, Nam Min-woo has been called up to the U20 World Cup squad, meaning I will have to source other prospects. I promote a number of decent young names to train with the adults, promising them that one of them will be treated to a starting place before being substituted early on from the pitch. I feel like a Korean entertainment company.

With the FA Cup 4th round looming against fellow league competitors Busan, I need all my players focused for another shot at winning this cup. With that in mind, their presence is needed in training the next day for shuttle runs. Keeper Cho Su-hyuk has apparently muted my group chat messages and barrage of Kakao Friend emoticons though and decides not to show up. He is fined a week's wages and is forced to help out the coffee boy with his data analysing.

At least there is some positive news. Krste Velkoski has supposedly ended speculation about his future by accepting a contract extension with the club, raising his salary to £4.8k week. It seems that I will definitely be offloading Oris as soon as I can find a suitor in order to make way for the incoming Gavilan. Oris is currently been offered around for free but no one is willing to take a punt because of his ridiculous wages. Whose stupid idea was it to give him such a high salary...

Fortunately the U23 rules do not apply to the FA Cup, meaning that Park Jong-jin can come into the squad for Song Si-woo without my hand being forced into fielding a youngster. I also have to keep keeper Cho in between the sticks as he is the only option I have.

The game does not really get going until the second half. Velkoski looks to have scored in the 53rd minute but it is declared offside by the linesman. The bad luck then continues as Kim Gyeong-min is stretchered off, with Kim Dae-jung coming onto the field in his place. Fortunately, Jin Seong-wook spares us the slog of extra time with a headed winner four minutes from the final whistle. We've overcome the first obstacle on the road back to inevitable FA Cup Final humiliation.

Returning our attention to the league, we have a tricky fixture against Pohang and it looks like I am going to have to finally promote some youth players so I can field a team. I select a handful, but also ensure they are still available for the high school and reserve teams to ensure they are suitably sharp for this clash.

Unfortunately, my decision backfires spectacularly when they all are selected for a weekend High School game on Saturday morning, meaning they are unavailable for the first team. It seems no one is. As I begin to panic, frantically asking for my data analyst’s shirt measurements, my assistant points out the reserve youth keeper did not play. He suggests we can always pick the 16 year old Kim Chang-hoon and put him on the right wing and hope for the best. We pull up outside the school and haul him into the team coach to much confusion and alarm, then order the driver to put his foot down if we're going to make it to the other end of the country in time for kick-off!

The players get changed on the bus and I deliver my team talk moments from arriving at The Steel Yard. The lads get straight off and onto the pitch, just in time for a few stretches and laps prior to kick off.

While the right wing might be questionable, the left certainly isn’t! Early into the game, Jin Seong-wook beats his man, takes the ball to the byline and pulls it back to Velkoski to tap in at the near post. I then remove the young keeper turned winger and replace him with Park Jong-jin to instant effect. Park’s cross is met by the head of Velkoski who sends the ball crashing against the bar. Pohang quickly counter though, with Yang Dong-hyun scoring to bring proceedings level. Velkoski, playing like a man enjoying his shiny new contract, scores three minutes later. The half ends with us leading 2-1.

I desperately urge the lads to not get complacent; we could really do with staying in the top half this year, even if it’s only May. They seem to heed my advice, scoring straight from kick off. Park Se-jik pounces on a cleared Velkoski chance, sending an absolute rocket into the goalmouth, leaving the net bulging (It is later awarded goal of the month).

As we reach the hour mark, I start hauling off attackers and bringing on defenders to shore up the result. In stupidly doing so, I disrupt the flow and Pohang score twice more, to draw the game three apiece. Perhaps I should be grateful though, we only took six shots apparently (although it felt like more) in comparison to their 25.

The FA Cup is being drawn today for both the fifth round and quarter final. Why the KFA doesn’t pick one round at a time baffles me. Alternatively, if you’re going to determine so many ties at once, then do them all. That way, at least I could get a decent looking wall chart out of it to cover up all the graphs my barista keeps sticking on the white board.

Anyway, I attend the draw and let Byung-ji and co prepare the team for 10th (tenth!) placed Jeonbuk. There’s no way I am going to miss a free buffet and possibly entertainment. The draw isn’t bad either. The fifth round will see us place non-league Gimhae and, assuming we progress, we will face the winner of either Goyang Zaicro or Ansan Mugunghwa. Surely, we’re on course for our third consecutive final!?

Sitting on line 1 back to Incheon, breath tinged with celebratory shots of soju, I check my messages to see Song Si-woo will be available for selection, despite not being match fit. Still, it’s likely a better decision to field him than a reserve high school keeper again.

On the day though, my concern for the wellbeing of my player gets the better of me. I tell Song to sit on the bench, choosing to field Park Jin-sung as my U23 player. Song does not have to wait there for long though. Within thirty minutes, both Jin Seong-wook and Ju Min-kyu are brought off injured, so Park Jong-jin and Song Si-woo are called upon to take their place. It looks as if the youngster will be getting most of the ninety minutes.

The game is fairly uneventful though, with both sides perhaps too cautious to actually attack. Jeonbuk do break the deadlock near the death with a Choi Kyong-rok tap in from a rebounded clearance, but fortunately, injury time sees the recovered Song Si-woo sends a screamer from the edge of the area beyond the hapless Kwoun Sun-tae to secure the point and make it three league draws in a row.

Speaking to the physio after the game, he reckons both Ju Min-kyu and Jin Seong-wook will be out for around two weeks. Two days later and the physio is back in my office to explain the freshly recovered Ahn Jae-joon has a hernia and will need another five weeks to recover. To worsen matters, Kim Dae-jung will also be out for five weeks meaning we have hardly any fit defenders available for selection. Seongnam are going to have a field day...

And so they do. We recover from the first goal we concede via a Park Se-jik beauty, but we go on to concede twice more through two defensive errors. Not only that, we suffer even further injuries with Kim Do-hyeok breaking his ankle (out for five months) and Gwon Wan-kyu suffering an abdominal strain to rule him out for five weeks. I might have to consider disbanding our high school team and bringing them all in full-time at this rate.

The month ends with a semi-bollocking from the board. Apparently my wage budget control is still not good enough despite playing kids and they have decided to reduce the already small budget to £59k per week, although they do still at least fondly remember my thrashing of Jeonnam the previous month. This could scupper the upcoming Gavilan deal if I am not careful. I really need to offload Kevin Oris but the only way is looking like a contract termination with hefty compensation, something I do not think the board will take too kindly to.

Fancy having a go yourself? Why not sign up here and show us what you've got!

The form and style of this piece takes it's inspiration from the fantastic Championship Manager series written by Iain Macintosh on The Set Pieces website. You can read that particular series here.

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