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

K League Football Manager 2017 Challenges - The Incheon United Project

July finally saw Incheon United record their first win in twelve league games and pick up an unlikely seven points from twelve, partially thanks to the long-awaited arrival of left winger Jaime Gavilan from Suwon FC. Can Matthew Binns' team now push on and move further away from the relegation zone?

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 begins with good news for once! First choice goalkeeper and walking sick note Lee Tae-hee is fit to play again, along with centre-back Kim Hyung-il, bolstering my selection possibilities for the upcoming Gyeongin Derby.

Unfortunately however, as so often has been the case during my tenure, there is bad news to counterbalance the positives. Melbourne Victory have been sniffing around my left midfielder Lee Jin-wook and it seems he has finally had his head turned. I should not be sad, especially as I have just brought in a shiny new winger, but he always came through for me when needed and was a reliable backup. I do my best to negotiate a decent fee, and wish him luck.

FC Seoul are flying high in the K League and are now the favourites to claim the title come the end of the season. Offshore bookies say we should worried, but they seem to have overlooked the fact we played attractive football last month and are a far more threatening proposition than we were in June. Even our scout thinks so, suggesting we should focus on attacking movement heading into this game.

Speaking of scouts, no one has heard from Christian Danalache on his scouting trip to South East Asia for two months. I should really catch up with him at some point.

I take the time in the pre-match press conference to call my opposite number out before the game. FC Seoul manager Choi Jin-han has been rather blasé about our chances so I opt to respond in controversial fashion, claiming "that the pressure is getting to him a bit" and that "he is trying to convince himself that there is less riding on this match than there actually is". Shots fired.

It quickly becomes apparent that my attempt at mind games seems to have had more of motivating effect on FC Seoul's players than my own bunch of ungrateful sods. Despite being advised in the build up to this game to work on our attacks, we are cruelly torn apart at the back. Keeper Lee Tae-hee looks every bit the man who has been out for three months but even he cannot be blamed for the three goals we concede. Adriano headed home from a Takahagi cross after losing his man in our box, before his provider would turn goalscorer, finishing two sublime efforts to put us to the sword.

Sometimes I like to imagine an alternative reality where FC Seoul sell these two star players and fail to replace them, causing them to crash out of all competitions and hover around the middle of the table for a year. They would never be so careless for that to happen though...

And Hong Eun-seo was never welcome in Incheon again

Fans are understandably bitter about the result, but I know the players mustn't dwell on it for too long. Whilst I love getting one over the local rivals as much as the next supporter, we must focus on steering ourselves away from the relegation zone. An expected loss to the league leaders is nothing to worry about, but if we lose to a ninth placed Jeju then perhaps we should be concerned.

I offer Kim Hyung-il a starting berth now he has returned to match fitness and am rewarded with a goal from him early in the second half. Quite how he back heeled it into his own net is beyond me, I am stupefied further when moments later Shim Dong-woon strides into our box unchallenged and squares it across to Marcelo Toscano who makes no mistake about doubling the islanders' lead. The striker then managers to worsen matters with fifteen minutes to go to ensure they fly home comfortable winners. It might be time to hit that panic button.

Cellar dwellers Gwangju are up next, sitting six points below us at the foot of the table and an easy three points. There was no shame in losing to Seoul other than local pride, and Jeju are notoriously inconsistent. While my staff do keep pointing out that we did only muster two shots on target, I tell them not to worry and that I have it all under control. This is all under control. I'm almost certain it is all under contol.

It's quiet on the bus down. Too quiet perhaps. I try to lighten the mood by loading up the coach's in-built karaoke system, hastily altering lyrics to match their player names as I sing, but after a few hours I am two bottles of soju down, alone at the front of the bus, staring longingly out of the window, wailing a tearful rendition of Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" for the fourth time on this journey.

Gavilan isn't in the starting line-up. He isn't injured but he isn't fit either, so I play Jin Seong-wook instead. In a slight soju-induced haze from the coach down, and sweltering in the humidity, I drift in and out of conscious as proceedings get under way. It doesn't matter anyway.

"I'm all out faith. This is how I feel..."

Well that certainly wasn't expected! The karaoke is back out on the coach northwards, but it is party tunes galore. While Velkoski, celebrating a sublime three goal haul, has the whole bus engaged in a rendition of Ghostbusters, I'm reminding myself of the game I may or may not have slept through with the highlights on my phone.

It only took us 19 minutes to break the deadlock, with Velkoski slotting home from six yards after beating the centre back to a low Kim Dae-jung cross. His second would come in the seventieth minute, after substitute Gavilan played a splendid through ball, before capping his performance by scoring a penalty (which also saw Gwangju reduced to ten men) moments later.

There is some bad news though. It seems goalkeeper Lee Tae-hee will be out for two weeks after spraining his wrist in the previous match. He is a promising keeper, but I am beginning to think I will have to move him on in the winter, he is just not reliable enough fitness-wise.

In an interesting turn of events, I am given news that my disillusioned striker Kevin Oris has been granted Korean citizenship, with hopes to be called up to Korean national team! It means that, if the window were still open, I could have registered him as a domestic player. Instead, he is set to leave in December because of our ongoing row. Typical.

We are on yet another long journey south to face Ulsan in the next round of fixtures. I have kept the team mostly unchanged from the side that romped home to victory in Gwangju, although I am forced to change keepers and do opt to start Gavilan now he has returned to full fitness.

Ulsan are a team also struggling for form this season, yet they are one club I am still yet to defeat despite being nearly two years into the job. Coming into this game on the back of such an emphatic victory really gives us the best possible opportunity to put to bed that unwanted statistic, yet sadly it seems the team do not get the message.

Ulsan proceed to get a man sent off early in the second half (Kim Sung-hwan) and then decide to shut up shop. There is very little of note, with our side registering four shots on target to their one. Despite our best attempts to try and spread the play in a bid to create an opening, it ends 0-0 but I try to look at it as a valuable point gained in our fight to stave off relegation.

So our final game of yet another dismal month sees us square off against surprise package Jeonnam Dragons, who have held the second place position for most of the season and seem to only be getting stronger in form. We could really be on the wrong end of a hiding here, but due to an unsent email, my coaches continue to train the squad in a 4-2-3-1, ready to naively attack the visiting Gwangyang side.

After calling security to forcefully remove the supporters sat in front of our bus, we manage to get away from our ground and back to the secure training centre. Four goals to one we lost by, in front of our own fans, with hardly any highlights to draw positives from.

It all went wrong seventeen minutes in when park Dae-han saw a straight red for a foul in the penalty box. With Park Gi-Dong making no mistake from the spot, it was all downhill as any attempt to equalise was met with us getting caught on the counter. Park Jong-jin did look as if he might keep us in it when he pulled a goal back to make it 2-1, but the second half saw us overwhelmed. Perhaps it would've been best just to accept the loss and keep the scoreline respectable instead.

With the month at it's end, there is a knock at my door. It's Kim Byung-ji, but he is sporting a saddened look that is of stark contrast to his usual upbeat demeanour. He doesn't speak, just points down the corridor whilst holding back the tears. He does not need to say anything though. I knew this day was coming. I head off down the corridor, to the board room that awaits me. As I open the door, the chairman and his associates greet me and request I take a seat. I oblige and await the worst.

We come to an agreement that I will have five games to prove my worth to this club, in which the members of the board expect to see me accumulate eight points. I nod, and return back to my office, knowing that we haven't achieved eight points in a month for a considerable while now. Tearful Byung-ji is still there, now joined and being comforted by the rest of the backroom staff. I take a seat behind my desk, pause for a moment of clarity, and then begin to spell out the situation to them. We nod in agreement and I am left to stare at the fixture list.

How can I turn this team around and avoid the sack in just five matches?

You can read the next instalment 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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