SCENE: Football manager’s office. It is an office of two halves. The half nearer the window is dominated by a tatty desk from the 1970s. On the desk are in, pending, and out trays, with paper spilling out of them. There are also various other piles of paper: from the looks of things this manager rarely sits at his desk. There’s no pen in sight, but there is a phone. Behind the desk is a wonky, dilapidated, blind which is stuck in a half-closed position.
The half of the office nearer the door centres on a small round table, which has a five office chairs (of various vintages) around it. On the table are some glass tumblers and a couple of jugs of tap water.
The door is open.
CAST: Sitting round the table are four members of Chernomorets Balchik’s staff:
- Grigor Pasha (Manager)
- Svetoslav Atanasov (Head Physio)
- Lyubomir Petrov (Chief Scout)
- Kalina Ivanova (PA)
As the scene begins, Velin Dimov, the club’s goalkeeping coach, walks in. He closes the door behind him and sits on the remaining chair.
PASHA: Morning, everyone. As you know, the purpose of the day is to review the squad and to make some strategic decisions concerning talent development and acquisition.
My plan is to do this twice a year — once in November and once in April. I’ve decided to hold these conferences outside the windows, so that we focus on the medium term, more than the short.
We’ll start with the goalies and then move onto the defenders, when Elin Minchev will take Velin’s place, and in due course we’ll move onto midfield and attack.
To keep things as brief and businesslike as possible, the rule is: don’t feel you need to say something about every position; only say something if it hasn’t been said and it has implications for action.
Kalina here will take minutes.
So, goalkeepers first. As you know, we’ve recently been giving a run to our third choice keeper, young Kovachev. Thoughts?
ATANASOV: I have no problems with that. The boy’s naturally fit. He’s had no injuries to date.
DIMOV: I wouldn’t want to have to rely him. He’s not the finished article. He’s not good with the ball at his feet. And he can get ruffled. But there’s something about him; somehow he performs better than expected. And the team seem to do better too.
PASHA: Yes, we’ve given him a chance and he’s taken it, so I’d like to stick with him while he’s playing well. He’s certainly developing.
Now, what about the two who have become his understudies?
DIMOV: Dobrev, we have a problem with. He came here on loan expecting to play and he’s getting disenchanted over lack of game time.
PASHA: Yes, he came to see me about that. I told him I was planning to use him. But I have an uneasy feeling that might not happen. I guess we might have to terminate his loan during, or even before, the winter break.
DIMOV: It’s a shame because he trains very well and he’s got talent. But we gave him some chances and he didn’t take them. He conceded at a rate of two a game. Not all his fault, of course, but…
PASHA: And actually some of it was his fault. I mean, he’s not good at organising the defence which, let’s face it, often needs some telling what to do. OK, I think that, barring injury to Kovachev, we’ll be saying goodbye to Mr Dobrev. Not the end of the world, I guess. At least it will free up three grand in annual wages. And so, what about our third goalie, Hristiyan Hristov?
DIMOV: I feel a little for the guy. I mean, we made him vice-captain and he looks a decent player — good shot-stopper, for one thing — but it’s while since he played for the first team.
PASHA: Yeah. I certainly haven’t written him off. His performances weren’t wonderful, but he did keep one clean sheet and he’s got a lot about him. If Kovachev loses form or gets injured, I won’t feel concerned about turning to Hristiyan. But What’s his mindset like?
DIMOV: I don’t think he was expecting to play every game. His training’s OK-ish. But it’s been so long since his last match, I think he’s losing faith with us.
PASHA. Hm, tricky. I’ll certainly make sure he’s on the bench, rather than Dobrev. And when Dobrev leaves, then Hristov won’t feel like no. 3. I don’t know there’s much else we can do, other than make sure we’re monitoring Kovachev’s performances rigorously.
ATANASOV: At least Hristiyan keeps himself fit, so if there’s an opening, he should be able to take it.
DIMOV: [Looking at Petrov] What other options are there?
PETROV: We’ve been focusing our scouting on goalies. But, because of the league’s registration rules, in the break we could only bring in either someone on a free transfer or an U21 loanee.
There’s not a lot out there. Not of any quality, that is. Over the last few weeks I’ve watched a lot of goalies you wouldn’t want anywhere near a Bulgarian Second league team. The only one I think has any potential is Svilen Notev, who used to play down the coast, at Sozopol. Grigor, I sent you a report…
PASHA: Yes, thank you, I shared it with Velin, We’ve invited him in on trial. I think he could replace Dobrev — the three grand should cover it — though then his advent might disconcert Hristov still further. All part of the juggling act I suppose.
Longer term, it looks to me as though there’ll need to be some movement here. Kovachev’s sown up with a long term contract, but I guess we might see Hristov’s restlessness resulting in a second exit, so we’ll need to get our ducks in a row. So, whatever else we decide, Lyubomir, it looks as though you’ll need to keep on watching goalies — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Kalina, have you got all that.
IVANOVA: Yes, I think the action points are:
- Persist with Kovachev; monitor his performance rigorously.
- Prepare to say goodbye to Dobrev.
- Establish Hristov as, in effect, the number 2: have him, rather than Dobrev, as the number 2.
- Decide while Notev’s here on trail whether we offer him a contract.
- Continue scouting for replacement goalies.
There is, though, one other thing. [Atanasov, Petrov, and Domov look at Ivanova, a little surprised.] Well, I mean I know I don’t really know about football and that, but I was wondering whether we could ask the board whether they’d pay for Hristov to go on a leadership course. I mean, if you don’t mind me saying, I think the current captain’s near the end of his career, at least at this level.
PASHA: Yup, good point, add it to the list.
Oh, and rather more urgently, while we’re waiting for Elin, I believe you said you’d discovered where the catering staff keep the board’s supply of jammy dodgers…