Du Malone writes: The word is that, after five years at FC Farul Constanta, our manager Grigor Pasha’s motivation is waning.
They’ve been five good years. After three years in Liga 2, the club was promoted to Liga 1, where it’s consolidated its position without difficulty.
Pasha’s match record reads as follows: P202; W87; D49; L66. Win percentage: 43%.
The success off the pitch has been, if anything, more marked. The club is highly profitable: indeed it’s just been hit with a sizeable corporation tax bill. A couple of years ago it invested £1.5 million in training facilities and it’s now doing so again.
The current wage bill of just over £0.5 million equates to less than a quarter of the budget available. On top of that, the club has £3 million available for transfers, which equates to over four times the amount that Pasha has spent in total over his first five years.
In Constanta now, everything goes from good to better. The roses are in bloom.
The forthcoming season (2024-25) ought to be the season when the club kicks on to challenge for a European place.
So why’s the old man lost his verve?
An important element in the attractiveness of many games is finishability.
When you play Monopoly, someone ends up owning all the properties and the games comes to an end.
When you play chess, you reach either checkmate or stalemate.
But in FM there is no such finishing line. Even if you get sacked, you can pick up somewhere else.
Indeed, there is something in the structure of the game to make you keep on keeping on.
The locomotive that drives the FM addiction is the unsolved problem. There’s always at least one. You’re left-back has broken his leg and you urgently need to find a replacement. Send of the scouts!
By the time that problem’s solved, another one will have arisen. One of your goalies is spreading discontent because he’s not getting the game time he feels he deserves.
And so it goes on. In FM there is not resting place — never a time when there isn’t a voice in your head bothering you about some unsolved problem.
And so the principle that FM is built on is the something like the opposite of finishability. The model is more like perpetual motion.
Yet as you watch Grigor walk along the prom by Eforie beach, making for his usual table at the Hotel Acapulco, you notice there’s no spring in his step. Somehow he looks older now. What can the matter be?
Knowing Grigor as I do, I think two psychological factors have kicked in.
In his early life, life in Varna for the Pasha family was tough. For one thing, Mr Pasha was rarely to be seen. For another, when he was, his presence wasn’t necessarily an unqualified blessing. During those years Grigor developed an ethic that has never left him: an ethic of survival. Life wasn’t about aiming for the big prizes: it was about getting through the week. It’s no surprise, therefore, that when he turned to football management, his personal goal had more to do with survival than triumph. Specifically he set himself the goal of becoming the longest-serving manager in the league. But now that he has achieved that aim, comfortably, what is there to drive him on?
And the club is not what it was. At the start of his managerial career, there wasn’t much money around — or talent either. It was a question of being canny, making the most of what he had. Finding a bargain on the transfer market; filling a hole in the team by converting a player from one position to another; and, once his financial prudence started to have an effect, ringing out of the board permission for for an extra coach. In short, scrapping — something Grigor’s good at.
But now the scenario is no longer going-from-mediocre-to-good. It’s going from good-to- great. And resources are no longer scarce: the challenge is no longer finding ways to enable goodish Liga 2 players to keep their heads above water in Liga 1.
But Grigor fears he’s too old to change — too locked in a scarcity mindset.
‘Well, Grigor,’ Mariya (his half-sister) said, on her annual vacation in Constanta, these two teenage Senegalese strikers that you brought in at Christmas have created a real buzz. The whole town’s talking about them.’
‘Yes, especially the boy Thiam: 13 goals in 19. The boy’s got talent. And there’s a boy from Zambia who’s arriving next Christmas — another striker: he’ll keep the Senegalese two on their toes.
‘But, you know, Mariya, I don’t even know where Senegal is. I just know it’s not on the Black Sea.’