Hello again and welcome back to the ‘Forza Siena’ series. This is the review of my 7th year in charge, if you missed out on the 6th then please click here, if you’re new to this then here is a link to the introduction and if you’d just like to revisit any of the previous posts then here is a link to the series homepage.

Summer activity

After qualifying for the Europa League the club was in buoyant mood and it was a great place to be as I got together with my staff ready to plan how we’d go one better in the league and qualify for the Champions League, whilst competing in Europe at the same time. Currently I had a really good first 11, whilst some back up was more than capable of filling in, some of it wasn’t so the summer would be spent ensuring that we had 2 decent options for every position. This proved to be really tricky and I’d actually say it was my most frustrating summer yet. My existing players wanted wage increases now that we were in Europe and understandably so but this ate into the money I had to spend meaning that I had to continue to look for cheap signings as we didn’t have the money to go big. When I say cheap, I was spending more than we had previously but we were now at a level where our competitors were spending more than our entire budget on just 1 player.

Left back Didier Nogbou had a £5m minimum fee release clause which had been enforced on us by his agent, this was activated by Almería who had only just been promoted to La Liga. Surprisingly he opted to move despite the fact we had European football to look forward to, this emphasised the difficulties I was facing in the transfer market. I could only sign players who had potential, anyone with real current ability wasn’t interested as they wanted a more reputable club. I replaced him with Amir from FC Zürich and also added Pavol Macek from our bogey side Brescia, he was a right back that I needed as Brandon Soppy had damaged his cruciates and would miss most of the season.

In midfield I needed better competition for Salvatore Pezzella, I allowed Marco Bertini to leave and replaced him with the young Belgian playmaker Guy Guillaume. Out wide I needed reinforcements and Filip Ristanic replaced Joelson Fernandes on the left to provide better competition for Vincenzo Millico. On the right I was more than happy with Yayah Kallon who has been excellent since joining from Genoa but Suf Podgoreanu just hasn’t been good enough and needed to be moved on. A number of deals fell through as players rejected my offers and signed new contracts with their current teams. On deadline day I finally looked to be getting one over the line, Kayky is at Man City in real life but has joined Santos during this save. With a deal about to be complete I allowed Pudgoreanu to leave only for Kayky to do a u turn and sign a new deal at Santos. I clearly hadn’t learnt my lesson from what had gone on already that summer and with just a few hours to go before the deadline shut I was left scrambling around for a Pudgoreanu replacement. No permanent transfer could be achieved so I was forced to break my transfer policy and bring in Uroš Kabić on loan.

Up top I extended Heyler Vergara’s loan for another season, so although Chelsea signed him from me a year ago, he still hasn’t left Siena so I’m still not classing this one as breaking my transfer policy!

Please see a full list of the summer transfer activity below.

For the first time in the save I promoted a youth intake player to the first team which feels like it should be a celebration moment but it really isn’t. Luca Laghi is the best player produced so far and he isn’t very good which shows how bad our youth intakes have been. He has been promoted purely to help meet the European squad regulations. I don’t actually have a screenshot of him at the start as he wasn’t rated as one of my ‘top talents’.

Despite having spent more than we’ve ever spent before, we still aren’t spending anything like our competitors. This is emphasised by the wage expenditure table that shows despite us finishing 5th last season and being in the Europa League, we have the 2nd lowest wage budget in the division. We are clearly overachieving and are going to have to continue doing so for a while yet!

As with most summers I hired a lot of new staff, I’m going to call out one significant one as I allowed my Head of Youth Development to leave. I replaced him with the former German international Per Mertesacker who will hopefully produce some technically sound, hard working youth prospects with the potential for the first team. Sadly I fear he may produce slow centre backs instead but only time will tell!

The first half of the season

As ever we wanted to make a good start to the league campaign and an away trip to Spal allowed us to do this as we secured all 3 points. A tricky test at home to Napoli followed and despite being the better side they held us to a 1-1 draw, they had just pipped us to the last Champions League spot the year before and it showed that there still wasn’t much between the 2 sides.

In September the fixture list was really unkind, Bologna away was followed by Milan away, Roma at home and then Juventus at home. It was a run of fixtures that could make or break our season! The lads played out of their skin and remarkably made it 4 wins from 4 and sent us straight to the top of the league, we’d beaten 3 of our biggest rivals and sent a message out to the rest of the division. Our European campaign also got under way, we were drawn in a group with FC København, Sporting CP and Dijon, it was by no means an easy group but I still fancied us to qualify. We took our league form into Europe and beat the Danes away and the Portuguese at home. What a season it was shaping up to be!

Our league fixtures for October were much kinder and we cruised to 3 victories over Empoli, Cagliari and Sassuolo maintaining our position at the top of Serie A. I decided to play a weakened side in Europe as we faced Dijon at home and it turned out to be a bad decision as we lost 3-2 at home. We were still in a good position to qualify but I’d got over confident and it reminded me that there was no such thing as an easy game!

Each season we seem to have a month where our form goes completely out of the window and that month was November. A draw away at Fiorentina was followed by defeat away to Udinese and then a draw at home to Lecce. We had slipped off the top of the table and were in a slump that needed to be stopped immediately. In contrast our European form was spot on, we got revenge away at Dijon before annihilating Sporting CP in their own back yard securing qualification with a game to go.

Getting back on track domestically was essential but Inter at home followed by Lazio away weren’t the nice straight forward fixtures we were looking for. Despite that the lads sorted themselves out, a comfortable 2-0 win over Inter was followed by a good point in Rome. We then won successive away games against Torino and Atalanta which left us in 2nd place, just a point behind Napoli as we headed into the winter break, In our final Europa League group game I made 11 changes as FC København came to town, they beat us 1-0 but we’d already won the group meaning that we went straight into the second knockout round.

It had been an excellent first half of the season, with the Coppa Italia to come in January we would be fighting on 3 fronts in the second half of the season, the league would be our main focus but I’d still be trying to take the side as far as I could in the cup competitions.

I decided to ask the board to improve the youth facilities, junior coaching and youth recruitment but they refused. Rather than just accepting defeat, I informed them how important I felt all 3 were and due to our strong form they agreed to listen to me and further improvements were made.

Throughout this save I’ve been approached by numerous teams regarding managerial vacancies, I’ve always declined as this is a one club save but I feel I need to mention one that happened in November. Graham Potter was sacked as Juventus boss and they wanted another Englishman to take over him, that Englishman was me. I politely declined and Sérgio Conceição was the man they turned to instead. Being approached by The Old Lady shows just how well I’ve done during my time at Siena, but I didn’t want that time to end just yet.

The January Window

At right back I had 3 options as Brandon Soppy returned from injury towards the end of the month, Ki-Jana Hoever was 3rd choice so I allowed him to leave for Brescia for £1m which was double what I’d paid for him. I wanted an extra body in midfield, someone with good versatility who could come in and do a job in a couple of positions but also had the potential to cement down a starting berth in years to come. Mignon Makumbu was that man, the young French midfielder joined from Bordeaux on deadline day for an initial £6.25m which could rise to £7.5m dependant on appearances. That was all my business done, the squad was in good shape and I didn’t want to change to much whilst we had such good momentum.

The second half of the season

January saw us enter the Coppa Italia at the 3rd round stage, we faced fellow Serie A side Sassuolo at home and were able to overcome them with a 2-0 victory. In the league we needed to keep the pressure on Napoli at the top, we did that and they buckled. Whilst we won 4 games and drew 1, the draw was away at Napoli, they only won 1 game, drew 3 and lost 1. We were now top with a 4 point cushion over AC Milan who we faced next!

We had home advantage for the top of the table clash but it didn’t go well, Erik ten Hag’s men were just too much for us on the day and dispatched us with a 3-1 win, bringing the gap back to a single point. We bounced back with victory over Bologna before a 2-2 draw away at Roma, successive victories over Empoli and Torino followed but our last game of the month was a real tricky one, Juventus away who were rejuvenated with the new man in charge. Twice Juve took the lead, twice we pulled them back and that’s how it stayed, a solid point which could make all the difference at the end of the season. Milan played a game less than us so the gap was now at 4 points, we’d had some tricky fixtures but were still top of the table, the title was now in our hands. We also had the small matter of a Coppa Italia quarter final during February and it was a really tough tie away at Roma. My boys served up a a classic counter attacking display and we secured a 2-0 win to set up a semi final with Juventus.

March started with the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi final and it would be played in Turin. A Yayah Kallon opener was cancelled out by Dušan Vlahović but Kallon had the last laugh securing a 2-1 victory for us and giving us the advantage heading into the second leg at home. Bizarrely the second leg wasn’t scheduled in until mid April meaning there would be quite the wait. In the league we played 3 and won 3, it was coming to the business end of the season and we were well into our stride, Milan lost their game in hand meaning the gap was at 4 points with both sides having just 8 games to play. Our European adventure picked back up and Red Bull Salzburg were our opposition, we got the job done in Austria winning 4-0 meaning I could make 11 changes for the return leg which finished 2-2 and we cruised into the quarter final.

As we hit April we still had the chance of winning a treble, this mean that our fixture list was congested. The league was our main focus and after a relentless few months we slipped up, losing 1-0 at home to Udinese meaning they had completed the double over us. A draw away at Lecce followed and it looked like the wheels had fallen off just at the wrong time. Lazio came to town next and held us to a 1-1 draw before we headed to the San Siro to face Inter and out of nowhere smashed them 4-0 to turn our form around. A 3-0 victory away at Sampdoria ended the month and somehow we were still top! Milan’s month had been even worse than ours but Roma had played 6 and won 6 and were now level on points with us. We had the better head to head record and goal difference though, Napoli were just 2 points behind us both and ready to sneak past if either side slipped up.

In Europe we faced Spurs in the quarter final, the first game in North London was a classic and ended 3-3 putting us in a good position for the return game in Italy. It was a famous night in Europe as we smashed them 5-1, setting up a semi final with Villarreal. This time we were at home for the first leg and it was 0-0 going into the last 10 minutes before both sides struck meaning the tie was level before the return leg in Spain next month.

We also played the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi final, we couldn’t beat Juventus on the night but a 2-2 draw was enough to send us through to our first ever final where we would face AC Milan.

All 3 competitions had come down to May, what a season it had been, would it end in heartache or would it be a month of triumph?

Up first was the return leg against Villarreal, we started the scoring through January signing Mignon Makumbu but a Gerard Moreno penalty cancelled it out. They then proceeded to throw everything at us but we stood firm and continued to create chances on the break. In the 73rd minute Vergara ran at the Yellow Submarines skipper Harry Maguire, leaving him for dead before coolly slotting home to give us the advantage. This caused a further onslaught from the Spaniards but with 3 minutes to go we again hit them on the break and Uroš Kabić made sure that we were through to our first ever European final, what a night!

There was no time to celebrate as we had a trip to our bogey side Brescia just 3 days later, a 2-0 win kept us top but Napoli and Roma also won meaning it was still incredibly tight with just 2 games to go.

Our 3rd game of the month and our 3rd competition, next it was the Coppa Italia final which was played midweek against AC Milan. Their bad form had continued so I really fancied us to go and get the win despite the fact we were playing every 3 or 4 days and the players were getting extremely tired. A 14th minute Martín Padilla goal suggested I’d been right to be confident but Jérémy Doku goal cancelled it out on the stroke of half time. The second half started extremely cagey, both sides were making mistakes as nerves were starting to settle in, I made a number of changes and suddenly we found our rhythm. We started to create chances but it wasn’t until the 72nd minute that Portuguese striker Joãozinho found the bottom corner and restored our lead. Milan tried to come back at us but we were holding onto the ball well and Vincenzo Millico added a 3rd in the 90th minute to all but secure our first Coppa Italia win. The lads then took their eye of the ball and allowed Milan to pull one back but it was too little too late, we were the Coppa Italia winners!!

Our focus switched straight back to the league, Torino held Napoli to a draw meaning that they were out of it but Roma and ourselves both won meaning we were neck and neck, so the title would be decided on the last day. Roma had to better our result, we had goal difference and the head to head record on our side.

Both sides were at home, Roma faced Torino whilst we were up against bottom of the league and already relegated Perugia. We couldn’t have asked for an easier fixture but at the same time it had potential banana skin written all over it.

Roma weren’t messing about and were 2-0 up inside 7 minutes instantly putting the pressure on us. We responded well, Uroš Kabić giving us an early lead and it would stay 1-0 up until half time. Back in Rome there were more goals but this time not for Roma! Torino fought back and just before half time made it 2-2, as things stood we were champions!

Both games went quiet before we were awarded a 59th minute penalty that Joãozinho duely converted. The pressure seemed to be getting to Roma and Nelson Semedo lost his cool, going straight through the back of a Torino player and they were down to 10 men. Roma had to win and hope Perugia could peg us back. Despite the sending off Roma did their bit and added 2 goals in the final 10 minutes to secure a 4-2 victory, they’d won their final 9 league games, it had been some effort. There was still time for more action in our game and there was another goal but it was another goal for that man Joãozinho who after a poor first season had been electric this time around. He made it 3-0 and that’s how it would finish, we’d not only won the Coppa Italia, we’d won Serie A too, an Italian double! The question now was whether or not we could make it a treble?

We headed to Vienna for the Europa League final which was being played in the Ernst-Happel-Stadion. Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side that had just finished 2nd in the Premier League and won the FA Cup stood between ourselves and our first every European trophy. We didn’t turn up, we could have played for weeks and we still wouldn’t have scored. The only saving grace is that Arsenal didn’t look that much better, the only difference was that they were able to make a set piece count in the 70th minute when a free kick from Maxime Lopez was headed home by former Rangers youngster Leon King and that was that. As the old saying goes ‘1-0 to the Arsenal‘, it had been an incredible season, but what a disappointing way for it to end.

Season Overview

Unlike in previous campaigns there hadn’t been 1 or 2 players that had really stood out, it had been a collective effort where the mass majority of the squad had performed. Martin Padilla won the player of the season award, he had been a rock at the back but his partner Vuk Kekić ran him incredibly close. Joãozinho only managed 3 goals in his first season, this time he got 23 making him our leading goal scorer, he is really developing and will be one of the best players in Europe in a few seasons time. Yayah Kallon and Filip Ristanic were tied on 13 assists each making them our joint lead assist makers. Kallon also managed 17 goals with Ristanic getting 16, I’d managed to get a front 3 firing rather than just relying on the number 9 which had helped us no end. Finally our number 1 Sébastien Hervieu had another great year, its amazing that we managed to sign him on a free.

Youth Update

Having been relegated to the second tier the season before, our under 20 side bounced straight back and will be playing in the top flight next season. To make things even better our under 18 side won the Italian Under 18s competition, a phenomenal effort and a result of our improved intakes. Even if they haven’t produced a star yet they are stronger across the board than they previously were.

The biggest cause of celebration was the fact that we didn’t have a single youth player poached during the entire campaign. Our improvements off and on the pitch are improving our reputation and finally it looks like our best prospects want to stay with us.

Now onto the youth intake and the preview yet again gave us hope stating that it was expected to be an ‘Excellent group of players’. This time however it didn’t disappoint as that’s exactly what we got, big Per Mertesacker delivering the goods! For the first time we produced an elite talent and Patrice Boyomo looks to be just that, he will definitely go onto be a Serie A goalkeeper.


When I set out on this journey I stated that the aim was ‘To successfully implement a club culture at Siena that leads to them becoming the best side in Italian football’ and having just won the Italian double I feel like I have done just that. The club is set to move into a 23,638 capacity stadium in 2030 which is fantastic news although its bit of a kick in the nuts that they’ve not named it after me!

The clubs infrastructure has come on no end and it is now set up for success to be achieved for years to come.

The youth side took longer than I anticipated but its now finally starting to deliver, I think our on the pitch progress is probably why it took so long as we moved so fast on it, it took a while to catch up off it. Our reputation still needs more work but that will come if Siena stay at the top of Italian football for a sustained period of time which I believe they are set up to do, especially with such a young squad.

I have come to the decision to end this series here as I want to leave with us at the top of Italian football. I bow out having being branded a Siena club legend!

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read and interact with this series. If you’d like to find out what happened to Siena when I holidayed 5 years into the future then please read on below!

5 years in the future

28/29 Season: Well lets just say it didn’t really go to plan from the outset. The man they replaced me with was Zsolt Hornyák, the manager of Slovan Bratislava. In his attempt to retain the Serie A title that I had just won for Siena, he guided them to an 11th place finish. In Europe they were knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages despite being in a group they should of qualified from containing Dortmund, his former side Slovan Bratislava and Getafe. They did manage to finish 3rd which meant Europa League football however Dijon beat them in the first knockout round. The Coppa Italia didn’t bring much joy either as they entered and left at the 3rd round having been beaten at home by Torino. So how did it go so badly wrong? In the summer he sold player of the season Martín Padilla to Leipzig for just £13m, right back Pavol Macek left for Dortmund for £20m but the bit that really p!ssed me off was that they sold Salvatore Pezzella for just £2m to Brescia in January, no wonder they did so bad! They never actually replaced the right back and instead played centre back Maro Katinić out of position. They also decided to stop playing Joãozinho who had been our leading goal scorer. On top of this I signed them 3 wonderkids before I left to help them out so imagine how bad he’d have done if I hadn’t! This image just looks so wrong and makes me really sad…

29/30 Season: During the summer the Siena board opted to stick with Zsolt Hornyák despite the drop off in results. Another big player left as Goalkeeper Sébastien Hervieu moved onto Fortuna Düsseldorf who are now a Champions League side for £34.5m, he would go onto become the Belgian number one and move to Barcelona a couple of seasons later. They chose to not sign a new right back and instead continued to play a centre back there. So how did it go? Well as they broke for the winter break they were 7th, which was an improvement on the year before. Young Steeve Malsa had been a squad player for me but he was now starting to really develop, he had been their best player but in January they sold him to Koln for just £8.25m. They also lost Portuguese winger Gerson Cristo to Man City for £46.5m, he was one of the wonderkids I lined up before leaving. How did this impact their season? They dropped one place to 8th, just missing out on the Europa Conference League. In the cup they again were knocked out at the 3rd round stage.

30/31 Season: This time Siena managed to go one better and for the first time since I left they qualified for European football by finishing 7th and entering the Europa Conference League. They signed some experienced quality by bringing Raphinha and João Cancelo in on free transfers, they would be vital in mentoring the younger players. They also had a little run in the cup where they made the quarter finals but were beaten by Lazio. None of their first team players left this season which helped although some players who I’d valued when in charge did in Joãozinho and Yayah Kallon.

31/32 Season: Having qualified for Europe the season before there was an opportunity for Siena to build on that and become a mainstay in the top six. Instead they opted to sell Mignon Makumbu who had joined during the January of my last season and was now one of the first names on the team sheet to rivals Lazio for £33.5m. He was a big loss and they stuttered to an 11th place finish, after 2 years of progress they have faltered. In the Europa Conference League they had a good run, making it to the quarter finals before Newcastle United and all their millions knocked them out. They went one further in the Coppa Italia and made it to the semis where Napoli overcame them.

32/33 season: The 5th and final season of our look into the future. We’ll start with a positive, 4 players from the intake from my final year in charge were promoted to the first team squad. The elite talent Patrice Boyomo, along with Giovanni Caronia, Gioele Lapadula and Marco Risi. This illustrated how the improvements to the youth setup were finally starting to pay dividends. In the league they made a slow start and found themselves in 10th at the turn of the year. January reinforcements made a real difference and a run of 11 wins in 14 games shot Siena into the European places as they entered May. It all went horribly wrong and 3 defeats and 2 draws in the final 5 games saw them slump to 9th and they missed out on European football by just 2 points.

At the end of this 5 year look info the future its clear that whilst I have improved the infrastructure and setup, Siena have taken steps back since I left. They are an established Serie A side now and I think calling them midtable would be fair as they haven’t ever been drawn into a relegation fight since I left but equally have only qualified for Europe once. They have now been in the new ground for 3 seasons and the only other change to facilities is that the youth facilities have been downgraded from excellent to great.

Thanks again for taking the time to follow this series, the support is much appreciated.


The Last Throw.

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