25. The Vultures Are Circling....
It was late at night on the eve of the pre-season transfer window and I was sat in my office, staring at the telephone. I was preparing myself for a busy month ahead, not just making plans for a full on assault on the C-League and Hun Sen Cup, but also wondering how many of my current squad would be wearing an EDC shirt for the big kick off in March, which was three months away.
Starting from tomorrow the transfer window would creak open once more and the vultures will be circling over Prey Veng, ready to swoop for Veasna, Chanraksmey, Ratana, Udom, the other Udom, Etim, Sung Rot, the kit man, the cleaning lady and god knows who else. I had to depend purely upon the loyalty of these players and the happy atmosphere in the dressing room to see me through.
The 'Gang of Six's,' intervention in the scouting meeting had given me hope that these two factors would play a huge part in the majority of my squad wearing an EDC shirt next season. They were not only my best players, but in the cases of Saray and Daravon, the most influential players in the dressing room.
Just five minutes to go until the feeding frenzy will begin..
There was also another reason why I was right to be worried....
Just one week earler on the 1st December 2021, Nen Borey and my recruitment team were pouring over the list of released players in the office. We could not believe our eyes at the names on view.
The ones that stood out were the 5 North Koreans from Vishaka, who one hopes did not go back to their homeland... Naturally I made enquiries about a couple of them as to their availability, but unsurprisingly they were seeking professional contracts and so they politely declined our offers containing some very generous appearance fees.
George Kelechi, who had been a thorn in our sides when we encountered him at Nagaworld had left our rivals to become a scout in his native Nigeria.
Other big players from the major teams in Cambodia had left en masse on 1st December
While the rest of us were cooing at the names we may not have to face next season, Nen Borey sat with a concerned look on his face.
"Boss, this is not good news."
"Why not Nen, George Kelechi has gone home to Nigeria, the North Koreans have gone from Vishaka."
"But don't you see.. these players they will need replacing and whatsmore they will have more wage budget to spend. All the more reason for them to come sniffing around our players offering them more money than us."
Nen Borey was right. Suddenly there were big holes in Vishaka, Nagaworld, Beoung Ket and others squads which will need to be filled to replace the bigger names that have left. They would also have wage money to spend with these professional foreign players now off their books.
A Bit More Staff Recruitment
New Reserves Manager - Khek Veasna
New U21s Manager - Sreng Vandeth
I'm making a real effort this season to improve the Reserve and U21 set up at the club and for them to do better in their respective leagues and provide a clear path to the first team. So far under my tenure both of them have finished near the bottom of their respective leagues and have taken some proper humpings from our rival's reserve and youth teams along the way. Having proper Reserve and Under 21s managers are a step towards improving their fortunes.
A New Scout - Ly Pheng
A scout with some amazing stats. Sorry other scouts but I’m only going to ask one person to judge all new potential signings. Awesome!
Transfer Window Opens
Sok Sengdara (released) – The 32 year old was surplus to requirements and so he has left the club. Hope he finds somewhere else to play.
Sok Panaseth (released) – This left back would be third choice behind Ratana and Leng Sophaon so it made sense to give him a chance to play first team football elsewhere.
Math Voeun – Free Transfer to Senate Secretariat – He was part of a battery of young strikers at the club, but there was too much competition for places and so one had to leave and that was Math Voeun.
Sung Rot- Free Transfer to Phnom Penh Crown – The first big casualty of this transfer window as Sung Rot switches camps to our local rivals. We offered him a good non-contract with a generous appearance fee, but the Crown offered more, so off he goes..
Math Fasal – Free Transfer to Nagaworld
If there was one player I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep hold of was Math Fasal, just because (in his view) I didn’t play him in his preferred ‘Inverted Winger’ role. I couldn’t be bothered with his attitude, so good riddance to you big baby. Hope you warm the bench at Nagaworld and spend the time thinking about what you’ve done… I’ve no time for silly little babies in my team Math..
Um Channou – Free Transfer to Svay Rieng
I’m disappointed about this. I gave this guy another chance in football and after a good season he has joined rivals Svay Rieng. Hope he does not live to regret that decision....
Tum Saray Free Transfer to Boeung Ket
Saray leaves EDC. I’m a bit disappointed because Tum has showed time and again that he can score and create goals, albeit off the bench, so sad to see him go. He is also the first of "The Gang of Six" to jump ship, which is a shame.
Leap Bo (DMC) Free Transfer
Welcome to the club, Leap Bo! A DMC who is back up to Raymond Etim. At just 20 years old there is also room for improvement. Despite his name, he only has a Heading of 3 and a Jumping Reach of 1-5...
Chin Chainuth - Free Transfer from Chlam Samuth
After Um Channou’s untimely departure I have signed a replacement, Chin Chainuth, who is 23 years old and has previously played for newly promoted Chlam Samuth. He comes in as possibly my number 1 with Kong Rafat challenging him, thus strengthening the goalkeeping department.
Seut Bairaing Free Transfer from Phnom Penh Crown
I have signed Bairang on a free transfer and beat off competiton from Nagaworld for his signature. A pacy left back which will take the pressure off young Ratana and Leng Sophahon, the former I may employ more at right back and in central defence.
Registered Players for the 2022 Season
It’s that time of the year again folks, when I get to do the pointless registering of players. Below is my squad of 35 for the 2022 campaign.
Sam Channroeurn (DR)
Ouk Ratana (DRLC)
Mom Veasna (DR)
Ly Chandara (DC)
Maol Daravon (DC)
Khek Khemarin (DC)
Pin Saren (DC)
Run Sokha (DC)
Sok Panha (DRC) (On loan from National Police)
Leng Sophaon (DL)
Seul Baraing (DL/WBL)
Ayoub Joly (DL/WBL)
Raymond Etim (DMC)
Leap Bo (DMC)
Ouch Udom (MC/AMC)
Sann Suhana (MC/AMC)
Ouk Ratha (MC)
Long Rothsery (MLC/AMC)
Suon Veasna (AMR/L)
Math Raksmey (MR/AMR)
Tuy Udom (MR/AMR)
Ouk Dara (AMR)
Mao Mol (AML)
Molly Ummol (Nickname) (AML)
Sok Chanraksmey (ST)
Keo Udom (ST)
Phanny Y Rotha (ST)
Math Rottanak (AMR/ST)
Sam Chamroeun (ST)
Ouch Samnang (ST)
Taing Hai (AML/ST)
Registration Bug Rears It’s Ugly Head
Annoyingly the registration bug has happened once again, which has affected most of the C-League teams, except for us and funnily enough Nagaworld, which is a shame because I may have accidently on purpose forgotten to register their players for them, epecially Mr Fasal.. Joking aside I had to become the manager of all of the affected clubs, register all their players and then retire from them. At least I was ready for it this time and knew what to do, but it still means that most of the C-League clubs start the new season with no manager and it’s still roughly one hour of my life I will never get back…
Friendly 1: EDC 5 - 4 EDC Reserves
Well that was fun! Our annual kickabout with the reserves threw up some interesting performances. Sok Chanraksmey netted four times in half an hour, before I took him off for being too good! In his place I put on the hapless Rotanak who contrived to miss every chance presented to him. At 4-0 up at half time I did the full Sven and made 20 million substitutes, including an uncompetitive debut to my new 18 year old defender, Run Sokha. On ‘theirs’ he came up against our U21 and recent recruit from the youth intake, Ung Samnang (remember the name) who tortured poor Sokha and netted four second half goals to make things a little scary. Amongst this Sam Chanroeun, who always looks the part in an EDC shirt coolly finished off a sweeping move to make it 5-1. Then it was the Samang show as he single handedly pulled the score back to 5-4. Sokha ran after Samnang like Gazza after one too many kebabs. Anyway it’s only the reserves and at the end of the day everybody’s a winner on occasions like these.
Friendly 2: Kandal 3-4 EDC
This was an untidy win, with our defence for a large part looking all at sea against distinctly average opposition. They opened the scoring when Sann Vanny broke clear from our cleared free kick to slam the ball past debutant Chainuth. We equalised when Suhana headed in a free kick, but then Kandal broke clear again and Va Chameroun put the hosts into a shock 2-1 lead. Phanny Y Rotha unleashed a fantastic shot to equalise after good work from Keo Udom, but Kandal would not got away and Sok Uduom restored their lead just after half time. Substitute Sok Chanraksmey tucked away a penalty to equalise and then in the final minute fo the game, new signing Pin Saren nutted in the winner from a corner. The defence must do better than this against the Nagaworlds, Beoung Kets and Vishakas of this world…
Friendly 3: EDC 2-1 Paillin
This was a much better all round performance. Our defence looked more settled and in control, while we attacked with patience and potency. Young left winger Mao Mol opened the scoring after he fired a low shot past the keeper after great work from Keo Udom in the left channel. The second was a powerful finish from K.Udom after a pinpoint ball from his namesake Ouch, who was excellent in midfield. They scored a late consolation, but we looked largely in control throughout the match.
Friendly 4: EDC 3 – 2 Tay Ninh (VIE)
A more solid win than it looked. EDC dominated and deservedly went 3-0 up, with the Vietnamese side posing little threat.
Baraing made progress down the left before delivering a perfect cross onto Chanraksmey’s left foot who sidefooted first time into the net. Baraing then fed Mol in the penalty area who dribbled inside before unleashing a great angled shot into the corner for his second goal in two. A three man move involving Suhana and O.Udom resulted in Veasna hitting an unstoppable low shot into the corner 3-0. They pulled one back when a pinpoint long ball found De Manh Dung who powered it past Chainuth. They rather undeservedly made it 3-2 with a looping header from Van Hung in stoppage time, but we deserved the win.
Friendly 5: EDC 3 - 1 Bati Youth
A good win this. Unmoll finished off a lovely move starting with Khemarin at the back, who played it through midfield to Raksa whose pinpoint pass found Rotha who laid off to Unmoll who finished with a lovely placed shot into the corner of the net.
Sam Chaneroun who continues to impress and he received the ball from Rotha, spun effortlessly past his man before firing home a low shot for 2-0
The impressive Ratha, one of my new youth intake recruits looks the real deal here. He feeds Chanroeun who beats his man on the left edge of the area before squaring from Rotha who finished superbly on the volley for 3-0
We were a bit lacklustre in the second half and they pulled a goal back late on, which was a lovely move that ended up with a simple tap in for Ouk Sok. A good win and a bit of revenge for my first ever EDC match.
Friendly 6- Asia Euro United 0-0 EDC
A bore draw against recently relegated Asia Euro United. I trialled an experimental 5-3-2 formation, complete with wing backs for this one. Playing three at the back may help to negate the threat of two quick strikers which we have struggled against and arguably could have cost us the title last season. It also enables me to match a team playing 4-2-3-1 in the midfield, while also being able to play the dangerous Keo Udom and Chanraksmey as a strike pairing where they can cause mayhem on their day. While it would have been nice to have won, we looked quite solid in this formation and is certainly something I could persevere with. Unfortunately Chanraksmey and K.Udom left their shooting boots at home, otherwise we would probably have won.
Friendly 7 – Wat Phnom 2 -1 EDC
Here’s our customary dodgy pre-season result of the season. I tried to blood some youngesters in my experimental 5-3-2 and quite frankly it didn’t work. To make matters worse I decided to start Long Rothesary, He annoyed me and his lack of pace meant that he kept being caught in posession by Phnom’s tigerish midfield.. He gave the ball away for their Keo Udom who raced into the penalty area, only to be upended by Panha. Perrot slotted away the pen.
Then he got sent off. Not really a way to impress your manager in pre-season. They scored again, it was coming as we looked all at sea. At half time I reverted to a 4-4-2, well 4-4-1, with Veasna and Mol introduced as wide players. We looked a far better side and so I think the experimental 5-3-2 has met its maker for now. We were unlucky as chance after chance was saved, blocked or caught offside, Chanraksmey being the main culprit. Our goal was pretty good though, Ouch Udom fed Veasna on the right with what seemed to be overhit, but the skilful right winger used this to his advantage, like a batsman hitting a boundary off a fast bowler, by placing an unstoppable first time shot into the corner of the net. 2-1. Not a complete disaster and in fact it has made my head clearer about who is going to start in our season opener, which has become a tradition, Vishaka away.
Pre Season Thoughts
As the Transfer window slams shut I breathe a huge sigh of relief that most of last season's squad has remained largely in tact. The biggest losses were Sung Rot and Um Channou, which were both unexpected, but I only lost one of the 'Gang of Six,' Tum Saray, who was mainly an impact substitute. The great thing is though, while nearly every player in the first team were offered contracts from other clubs, most of them decided to stay at EDC, citing their respect for me as the main reason, which was nice!
I start my second full season in charge of EDC with the club in a stronger position than when we started last season. While I am disappointed we did not win any silverware last year and kind of bottled in the second half of the season, that experience will stand us in good stead for the this one. At the time of writing I have also managed to keep hold of most of my key players, except for Um Channou and Sung Rot, both of which had excellent seasons, but have opted to join the larger Cambodian clubs. I have also promised my squad that I will give the younger members of the squad more of a chance this year, partly due to the success of Ouk Ratana, Ouch Udom and Kong Rafat, now probably my number 1 keeper, in stepping up to the first team despite their tender ages. I approach this season with optimism that I can challenge for the title and win the Hun Sen Cup, after coming so close last time. I think the combination between the players who have stayed, plus some promising youngsters can help us achieve this. The board only want a top half finish and a run to the Quarter Finals of the Cup, which I think I can achieve.
EDC start the 2022 C-League campaign with a stronger squad and full of optimism. Can EDC get off to a good start, or will there still be a hangover from the disappointment of last season? Find out next time on The Ultimate Football Manager Game!