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The #KLeagueFM17 Challenges: Citizens Unite! [The Board Ultimatum]

The K League Football Manager 2017 Challenges: The Incheon United Project

It seems that after just over eighteen months in charge, the Incheon United board have finally lost patience in their manager, setting him the task of collecting eight points from the next five games or face the sack. Can Matthew Binns steer his relegation threatened side in an upwards trajectory before his head winds up on the chopping block?


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 '17, June '17, July '17, August '17

The mood amongst my backroom staff has been somewhat sombre since the boardroom meeting. We made the decision not to tell the players though, partly because we fear the detrimental effect it could have on their already fragile morale. We also refrain because we fear some quarters may very well commit mutiny and turn in some bad performances to overthrow my regime.

Fortunately, the fixture gods have given me eight days reprieve to try and prepare the squad for an away trip to reigning champions Suwon Bluewings. Fortunately for us, things have not been going well at The Big Bird of late, with recently employed manager Yoon Jung-hwan unable to arrest the slide his predecessor has sent them on. They have just one win in their last five and need three points against us to remain mathematically possible of reclaiming the league trophy.


Reminded of our heroic semi-final display last season against the Bluewings, where boys became men, I opt to employ similar tactics, with the emphasis on sitting back and trying to find something on the counter. Fortunately for us, their star player Fraga has wound up warming the bench, meaning we only have to find a way to stifle former RB Salzburg man Hwang Hee-chan instead.

We dig deep and entrench ourselves in our half, firing the odd speculative long ball over the top in the hope of Velkoski latching onto it. He does come close on a couple of occasions, but the real heroes are to be found in midfield. Tobias Kainz, camped between both trenches of midfield and defence is leading his troops by example, making tackle after tackle to keep the enemy at bay. Hell continues to rain down on us but we stand firm.

Then, in the eightieth minute, a long ball breaches our back line. Hwang Hee-chan finds himself through on goal poised to put us cruelly to the sword. Real heroes do not wear capes however, they wear goalkeeper gloves. Lee Tae-hee does not go to ground and closes down the angle, making a low save to his left to see out the threat. We hold on to a well ground out goalless draw, claiming our first point of the required eight and ending Suwon's chances of the league title. If I have to tumble, then at least I will have bloodied the nose of the Bluewings on more than one occasion as I fell.


We have ten days until our next fixture, against a Busan team three points below us in eleventh place. It seems even the KFA are doing their best to give me time to prepare. With Busan probably being the easiest of the known fixtures (the fifth game will be post-split), I have to take all three of the points here. There can be no excuses.

With that in mind, I revert back to my 4-2-3-1 formation but tinker slightly with the instructions, encouraging my team to push forward more and really bring the game to the visitors.


With the line-ups out, I notice Busan are mimicking my 4-1-4-1 recent employed in the Battle of the Big Bird. They have come to shut up shop and stifle my attack. It is almost as if someone has leaked our tactics to them. We struggle to keep possession as Busan are closing down heavily and trying to force errors from my side. That said, we make it to half time with them having one hopeless shot.

We need to stretch the play in a bid to try and create space. They are just too compact at the back. I move my full backs up and turn them into overlapping wingers, and encourage Song Si-woo to attack more. For the most part, we do look better, but they continue to contain us. In throwing everything at them, their striker Willian Popp breaks loose, but yet again we are saved by the heroics of Lee Tae-hee. It seems Byung-ji must have him doing double training sessions. The game is yet another 0-0, but this certainly feels like two points lost. We tried so hard but could not find a way through. It's our second point out of eight I suppose, but we could really come to rue this missed opportunity.


Whilst focusing solely on my upcoming match to Sangju, I completely forget about the FA Cup draw. We are paired with Ulsan in the semi-finals, which will mean that, if we survive this mission from the board, I could potentially fight to tee up a final with FC Seoul.


I also receive an email from former Incheon player and goalkeeper coach Kim Yi-sub offering his support and backing me in the press. That's very nice of him, especially as I sacked him within my first month into this job.



Given that Sangju are fifth, and pose quite the shooting threat with Kim "Gunny" Gun-hee, I revert back to my defensive formation with an eye to switching it up later on depending how things go.

Surprisingly, they get off to a very good start. Velkoski tests the keeper with a long range effort within just three minutes, before Song Si-woo, played through by Ju Min-kyu, runs into the box a minute later and cooly slots the ball into the back of the net. All we need to do is hold for another 86 minutes. We continue forward though. Velkoski stings the palms of the keeper yet again, before missing a one on one opportunity around the half hour mark. Gunny then decides to get involved. Rather than equalise though, he hands us a penalty just before half time. Velkoski somehow misses it, calmly passing it to the keeper. It's as if he is trying to get me sacked.


I tell the lads not to get complacent during my half time team talk. We really need to focus. Displeased with his efforts, I take off Velkoski and replace him with Jin Seong-wook. We continue to attack, so much so that they seem to be cowering in a bid to limit the damage. On the hour mark, Lee Han-saem sees a second yellow, all but wrapping the points up for us. We win only by the single goal, despite having fourteen shots on target to their four. Five points acquired with two still to play. Win once, and my job is safe.


Next up is the final game before league split and we have been handed the task of overcoming third placed Pohang Steelers at The Steel Yard, a tall ask even without my job riding on it. I am advised to drop Velkoski because of poor form, which I completely agree with. I opt for the defensive line-up as well, thinking that if there is going to be a shock result, it will come from nicking a goal and hanging on.


Any hopes of a solid defensive display come crashing down after just thirteen minutes. We fail to pick up Kim Song-woo on the edge of the area who was given plenty of time and space to drive it past Lee Tae-hee. The keeper perhaps should have done better but, given the pace of the shot, the real fault lies with the defence, which is a shame considering we have kept three clean sheets coming into this game.


Despite the goal however, there are not many shots from either side. Jin Seong-wook and Gavilan both have great chances to equalise yet lack the ruthlessness to get the ball over the line, often opting to hit the ball straight at the goalkeeper instead. The score remains 1-0 despite our best efforts to get forward, meaning I have to engineer a win in the next match to keep this position.


A look at the table after the game and it seems my fifth match will be against one of Gwangju, Busan, Jeonbuk, Ulsan or Jeju. Ideally it will be Gwangju, but the fixture gods are never that kind. They like to manipulate melodrama and this will be no different. The following Monday, the fixtures are announced. For my fifth match, I will need to defeat the club I support, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium.

We have eleven days to come up with a plan. Unfortunately, a 4-1-4-1 is out of the question as our defensive midfielder Kainz is suspended after picking up a yellow card against Pohang. We also need to win, which that formation is less likely to deliver. I train my squad in their default shape but with more emphasis on retaining possession. This after all, is not the Jeonbuk of years prior, they did not make the split for good reason. This is the Jeonbuk team we scored three against without reply in our opening game. Surely, we can muster a result here.

Unsure if I will be back again, I take the time to walk aorund the stadium once more the day before we head south to our fate. I meet with my staff there and we reminisce about the highs and the many lows over several bottles of makgeolli and a variety of side dishes. We even try to FaceTime our scout Christian Danalache in South East Asia but he doesn't pick up, so we resort to prank calling Kevin Oris late into the evening instead. As we get ready to leave, we all vow to try our utmost against Jeonbuk, knowing that most of our careers may well be over by next week.


I look around the dressing room and deliver what I hope will not be my final team talk. The players head down the tunnel and I take my seat on the bench with the rest of the staff.

Five minutes was all it took for me to stand back up. Jeonbuk, playing like a team possessed, manage to thread a ball through to Hwang Ui-jo who has no hesitation in slipping the ball under Lee Tae-hee. We need to muster up two goals from somewhere. I toy frantically with the tactics, pushing up wing backs and moving the wingers to inside forwards. We are nearly saved when Jin Seong-wook nearly equalises just before half time but his shot is just inches over.

I get them in at the interval and do my best to rouse them but when Park Se-jik asks me why I am crying, I send them all back out to train on the pitch whilst the home support are enjoying their chicken giveaway competition.

Perhaps pitying me, or buoyed by the fact Gavilan ended up winning a box of fried chicken in a big screen dance off, they seem fired up in the second half. Ju Min-kyu shoots narrowly over ten minutes before a chance falls to an unmarked Velkoski in the box. I'm out of my seat, arms aloft! He turns, faces the keeper and strikes the ball with venom.

Quite how Velkoski hit the stadium hoardings from there I will never know. I haul him off and send on Gavilan who has polished off the remaining chicken. Then, nothing happens. Absolutely nothing. I'm screaming but every moment forward stalls, every pass is misjudged and each tackle mistimed. The clock keeps counting down to my fate.

Then, with ten minutes left, my former player Kim Chan-hee breaks down the right, into our penalty area, and chips the ball into the path of an unmarked Lee Seung-gi. I'm barking every word of Korean I know at the defence but it is too late. The midfielder jumps up to head it.

I close my eyes. I know how this ends.








Thank you for taking the time to read this particular series. This will draw to an end the #KLeagueFM17 Challenges on this site, but there is no reason why you can't show us your best efforts at trying to succeed at where I failed. Just use the hashtag on Twitter with a screenshot, or notify us of your challenge by signing up here.

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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