Life in idyllic Sardinia had gotten off to a pretty solid start with 4 points from our opening two games as manager of Cagliari. That had us sitting safe in 10th position and with an outside chance of challenging for European places.
But we did those distant hopes the world of good as we went away to Genoa. It was a fairly tame match in which we probably had the best of it and certainly created the most. And it looked to be drifting to a 0-0 stalemate until the very last kick of the game.
I’d thrown on young striker Fuseini Ibrahim with 10 minutes remaining and his first involvement was to latch onto a clearance from centre-back Harlin Cardona. He spun, ran past his marker and coolly slotted home past the goalkeeper inside the near post to seal a 93rd minute winner. 7 points from 3 games, what a great start!
Next up was our senior affiliate and league leaders Inter and we put in a solid defensive effort to only lose 1-0 in a game that they well and truly dominated.
But we got back to winning ways at Brescia with our two strikers leading the way. 6ft 5in forward Thomas De Lucia jumped high to flick a ball on for Jim Wilkes to open the scoring on 6 minutes, then Wilkes doubled his tally with a powerful low shot 5 minutes later. Brescia got back into it just after time, but Wilkes returned the favour for De Lucia to restore our lead. Their striker Salvatore Elia, who is dreadful, somehow scored again to make it nervy but we held on for a 3-2 win.
That win temporarily moved us up into 9th above Napoli, who we faced at home next, but they went and thumped AC Milan 3-0. It did, however, confirm we couldn’t finish lower than 10th this season.
Napoli are still a decent side, so I’m not sure how they’re 9th, and I was relatively happy with us playing out a 0-0 draw – especially without our only fully natural right-back. And I’m sure my board will love that we kept a clean sheet. But there was no clean sheet as we missed a host of chances and lost 1-0 at Bologna, whose goal was scored by my Denmark player Andreas Skov Olsen, which was frustrating.
On the final day I always like to give youth a chance, so new academy products left-back Gianluca Albertini started and striker Filippo Bonci came off the bench after an hour. And the two young starlets got Cagliari fans very excited with aglimpse into the future of the club.
We’d struggled to put our chances away, even against 10-man Udinese. But in the 85th minute Albertini whipped a lovely ball into the box for Bonci to slam home the winner. What a beautiful moment! Albertini also broke the record for the youngest ever Cagliari player at 16 years and 1 day, while Bonci became the club’s youngest scorer at 16 years and 349 days.
We took 14 points from our 8 matches in charge of Cagliari at the end of the season (1.75 points per game), compared to the 43 points in 30 matches of their former manager (1.43 points per game). And I think that represents success. We finished the season where we’d begun in 10th, but did close the gap on Napoli to just 1 point, albeit 9 points off the European places.
I’ve seen plenty of potential in this team but there is a lot of deadwood and players on bloated wages that need clearing out – and we need to find some money from somewhere.
Join us next time as we look to rebuild this Cagliari squad with the aim of moving closer to the European qualification places in 2031/32.