At the end of my last post, found here, I said I was fearful of the season ahead due to the huge gulf in resources, and that wasn’t just in comparison to the teams at the top of Serie B, but also the likes of Pordenone who were the lowest placed team to avoid relegation who were spending more than quadruple our wage budget. We shouldn’t be able to compete financially which in turn should see us struggle on the pitch, shouldn’t it? Let’s see how we got on!
As has been custom since we started this journey, there was no money to spend in the transfer market. Once again meaning a reliance on finding suitable loanees and players discarded by their previous clubs, which is something we have become pretty adept at doing.
We renewed the loans of several players who had served us so well last season. Staying for an additional season were Roma wonderkid and NXGN top 30 talent Alberto Fabbri, his Roma teammate Ricardo Castorina, AC Milan striker Francesco Nigi, young Inter defensive duo Federico Trivulzio and William Garghentini.
The above 5 players have all been at the club last season or in some cases like Fabbri, this is their third year at the club. We had an outside chance of signing Garghentini when his contract hit the final six months but he opted to join Roma instead.
There were a lot more transfers both in and out of the club but of all those to arrive, only Albanian internationalist Arlind Ajeti, Italian fullback Alex Arnofoli joined on a free after being at the club on loan back in both 2023/24 ad 24/25 seasons and Sampdoria loanee Alessandro Bruno made an impact in the first team. None of the others even made it to double figures in appearances.
There were some big players heading out of the club. One of last season’s best players Fiete Arpe took the huff at being played out on the wing instead of as a striker and demanded to leave, heading back to Germany signing for Erzgebirge Aue in 2. Bundesliga for £185k. Merveille Papela was another heading back to Germany joining Nurnberg in the Bundesliga for £400k one year after arriving in Italy on a free transfer.
The final shoutout I’d like to give is to Irish defender Ryan Nolan. He joined the club as one of my very first signings back in 2021/2022 after being released by Arezzo. At that point, nobody would have thought he would go on to make 183 appearances in all competitions over a 5 and a half seasons leading the club to three promotions taking us back to Serie B in the process.
He wasn’t fazed or put out by each step up through the leagues and never seemed out of place but ultimately he hit his ceiling and wasn’t quite good enough for this level and when he came asking to leave I couldn’t say no. At 27 years old he made his first foray into Irish football, joining Sligo Rovers for £41k.
We kicked off the campaign with 6 points from a possible 9 in August, winning against fellow new boys Vibonese and Bari who had recently been plunged into administration whilst the loss came against promotion hopefuls SPAL. This put us in the mix with the bigger sides in the league in the playoff spots.
Following the international break, the squad returned and our results on the pitch were almost perfect, picking up 3 wins and a draw to push us into 2nd spot. An early indication that we were punching above our weight for sure.
Our good form continued into October with maximum points, including an unexpected win over title favorites Brescia. Keeping 3 clean sheets over the 4 games was also huge. We ended the month top of the table.
A defeat to Ascoli, our first loss in 9 games saw them leapfrog us in the table into 1st spot. Despite picking up points against Padova and Cremonese it was a poor month and it was rounded off with another defeat, losing at home to Frosinone
An action-packed December saw us play 5 matches. While we remained undefeated over the course of the month it was still another disappointing spell on the pitch as we dropped points against Pisa, Perugia, and Benevento. Despite the ropey form, we ended the calendar year in 2nd place and our early season expectations of relegation battles were firmly behind us. Instead, there was an unlikely sense of optimism that we could do the unthinkable and get back-to-back promotions.
Into 2027 we rolled following the winter break with 3 games in the latter half of January. Consecutive victories over SPAL and a huge 6-0 thumping of Bari, took the unbeaten run to 7 matches. A run quickly ended by Venezia.
The matches were coming thick and fast now as we recovered from the defeat against Venezia with 5 wins on the trot, steamrolling our way over the opposition to keep in the hunt for an unlikely title win. Despite the wins, we were starting to show some weakness at the back as we failed to keep a single clean sheet.
Victories over Pordenone and Brescia had shockingly moved us to the top of the table with 2nd placed Ascoli up next, we had a chance to ease the pressure and give ourselves some breathing room in the table. It was not to be as we suffered defeat against them for the 2nd time this season, both occasions seeing them leapfrog us into 1st spot in the table.
Defeat against Padova allowed Ascoli to extend their lead at the top to four points as they disposed of SPAL. All we could do now was try to keep as close to them as possible and hope they would slip up. We picked another win over Cremonese to keep in touch.
Gameweek 34 saw us play our match the Monday after everyone else had played theirs on Sunday. Due to results elsewhere landing in our favour, promotion had been confirmed and there was still an outside chance of a title win. We kept in touch with victories over Frosinone and Pisa.
With 3 games left and everything still to play for, Ascoli suffered defeat at the hands of Lecce in the Saturday matches, we had the chance to go top, albeit on goal difference, but Ternana held firm and held us to a 0-0 draw. to keep us trailing in the table by 2 points. Gameweek 37 saw Ascoli beat Salernitana while we disposed of Perugia to take the race for the title to the final day of the season.
It was out of our control, we had to win and hope that Ascoli failed to win. If they lost and we won, we’d go top by a point. If they drew and we won we would go top due to our superior goal difference. If we failed to win the title was theirs.
As it happened Ascoli won their match against Pro Vercelli, so our result didn’t matter but we once again bottled it when things mattered. The season ended in defeat losing to Benevento. Despite the failure to win the title, we could not be happier in finishing 2nd. Getting the club back to Serie A, from the 5th tier in 6 seasons.
It was a very short run out for my first ever time competing in the Coppa Italia. After disposing of Pescara in the preliminary round, in a comfortable but not flattering scoreline of 1-0, we were drawn against Serie B promotion hopefuls Venezia who made short work of us, running in out 2-0 victors in a game which could have seen us concede a lot more.
Following the performances of the team on the pitch this season I don’t think I can use a lack of resources as a potential excuse for not doing well as we look towards next season. Finishing 2nd in the league gave us 2.4m in prize money. This pulled us back into the black and once the end-of-season bonuses had been paid out left us with a yearly profit of 1.9m.
We have also been given a £4m transfer budget as we head into Serie A, which I think will more than likely be shifted over to the wage budget giving us room to play about in the free market as we bid to strengthen the squad ahead of the new season. Tinkering with it will allow me a £150k wage budget with a £1m transfer kitty if we choose to go down that route.
Much like the season before, this season far exceeded my expectations. I was 100% expecting to be in a relegation dogfight for the entire season, not pushing for the title on the final day of the season but luck and a good few loan deals got us there.
It is going to be a busy summer as we look to strengthen both on and off the pitch in a bid to make sure our stay in Serie A is not a fleeting one.
As always, thanks for taking the time to read my FM ramblings. I hope you enjoy and I look forward to any interactions that come my way off the back of it. Whilst you are here I suggest you check out the following bloggers @RocksendFM , @coxie84, @fm__addict, @fmstag, all the lovely bloggers over at @dp-fm and lastly, please check out the @TheFMLibrary very own Discord server while you are at it!