In the previous instalment of City Building, I had managed to take my newly promoted Sichuan Jiuniu side to a very respectable fourth-placed finish in their first-ever Super League season. Most managers would have their jaws dropping at such performances, knowing that it is the effects of a honeymoon period. Not I. I wanted to take full advantage of this high finish and ensure our name was respected across Chinese football.

My first step in achieving this was recruiting quality Chinese players to strengthen our hold on the league’s domestic players. The difficulty of this, however, was our lack of financial muscular flex. Despite playing in the Super League, we lack the financial backing our competitors have, so we would have to be smart in our approach to this task.

9 new arrivals were through the door before the season started in March, and 8 of them were Chinese. Shen Yijiang was more for the future and not an immediate fix to improve the squad. John Hou Sæter arrives on a free from division rivals Beijing Guoan and we certainly got the better end of the deal here. In his prime and coupled with being a Chinese internationalist, we have a player on our hands for the middle of the park, and his quality will certainly help take us that extra mile.

Joining from our city rivals Chengdu Rongcheng, Hu Jing arrives on a free transfer as an emergency backup in the centre of defence. This deal was struck prior to the arrival of Tyias Browning, and I couldn’t cancel it down, but no harm in having an additional option for the defence should it ever be called upon. Poached from JIA League side Liaoning Shenyang Urban, Yu Libo arrives to aid with league registration rules for the foreseeable future. Even at that, at the age of 18, he has more than enough potential to become a key player for the first team in the near future. Of the same age, but a higher pedigree, Wang Weiping joins the side on a pre-contract also from division rivals Nantong Zhiyun, and what a steal this boy is. A full internationalist to go with his young age, we are in for years of success if we can get him clicking in the heart of midfield, and with Sæter to learn from, he will only get better.

Further youngsters, Li Min & Liu Lei join from Busan IPark & Shanghai Port costing £42K and £275K respectively. Li Min will continue his development in the youth side to begin with due to the impressive form of Kim Yu-Song from last season, whereas Liu Lei will join up with the senior side to help out as a left-back cover. Chinese goalkeeper tax hit us badly this season in our next singing. Luo Junzhou cost us £975K from Qingdao Manatee, and whilst I have overpaid for his services, he is certainly a quality option at a fraction of the price that some of the other Super League sides pay for their goalkeepers. Finally, for a measly £35K, Samuel Renel arrives from the French side Nirot and will certainly support Yu-Song for the upcoming season.

With the squad improved vastly over the course of the January window, it was time to get to domestic business and show that we are a force to be reckoned with.

In terms of laying down a marker, we certainly achieved that in the months of February to April. We beat all teams we were expected to beat and were racking up goals in the progress. Kim Yu-Song continued his fine scoring run of last season, whilst new signing Sæter was chipping in with goals when possible. An unbeaten start to the season was always promising, but it was a matter of keeping this up. We have started off on the right foot, now it is imperative that we continue to march on as we mean to continue.

May once again proved to be our busiest month of football, and I felt that if we could navigate this month of all months, we would be in with a chance of a successful season. We got off to the worst possible start with a narrow defeat to Beijing Guoan. We had to set things straight immediately, and we recorded three wins in a row, including passage to the Fifth Round of the FA Super Cup. Importantly, we defeat Shanghai Shenua, a team we had previously struggled with and it felt good to get one over them and hopefully set the record straight for the future.

Where we dropped a team we struggled with, another one popped up – Changchun Yatai. This was yet another game we struggled against them in, and much like the earlier Beijing game, we succumbed to a narrow defeat. Thankfully, the dropped points did not leave us too far behind the pack, and we made up for lost points by holding out for an impressive draw against Shanghai Port, before rounding off the month with straight-forward victories.

The good times kept rolling until a very shocking and uncharacteristic defeat at the hands of Zhejiang, particularly on the back of a mightily impressive win over Shandong Taishan. This was followed up with a second defeat at the hands of Changchun Yatai, proving that we just seem to have a psychological block over this side. However, it was all about your reaction, and we responded beautifully recording important wins over Dalian Profession and Kurshan, before finishing unbeaten over Shandong Taishan through a 1-1 defeat.

With an all-important Quarter Final tie against Shandong Taishan in the future, a rotated team played against Henan and was just edged out in a tight match. However, the rotation was, in the end, worth it, as we recorded a huge 2-1 victory in the Quarter Finals, before seeing out 120 minutes just 6 days later against Beijing – Sichuan Jiuniu were in their first-ever domestic cup final!

Following our achievement of reaching the cup final, we continued our fine form into September and the first game of October where we secured our first-ever league title! A truly remarkable day for the club as the first major trophy now sits in the boardroom, glistening in all its glory. Step one of two was achieved with Sichuan Jiuniu; winning the nation’s top-flight division, and it is now on us to represent China in the Asian Champions League.

Despite the league campaign finishing up, we still had one small matter to take care of. The Chinese FA Super Cup. One that had been eluding us until this season, we are appearing in our first final – could this be a sign. The only problem? We had to square off against Changchun Yatai.

Now given that nearly 20 points separated us in the league positions, it should be a straightforward match. However, we were 0-2 against them this season, and I knew they could be dangerous. We were given the luxury of a home tie for the first leg, and I knew we had to make it count.

Annoyingly, the goal in the 95th minute was enough to make this an interesting contest for the second leg; had we not conceded that I believe the tie was going to be all but over for Changchun Yatai, it would have just been played as a formality. Nonetheless, we had to do a professional job in the second leg, but we did answer a few questions concerning our mental state against this opposition.

Well. It wasn’t a pretty showing, but we did enough in the final 5 minutes to get one goal back and restore our one-goal advantage on aggregate. And that goal from Xu Hui was enough to see off Changchun Yatai and secure a historic double for Sichuan Jiuniu.

In what is the club’s most successful season, I have managed to tick off one competition on my agenda for completion in China before setting sail for Uruguay. The Chinese Super League can elude some quite easily, but we have managed to grab it in our second season in the division.

It will be a massive off-season as we prepare and await our Champions League draws, this will be carrying into seasons 2026 & 2027. Recruitment must be spot on so we can continue to dominate China and have enough depth and quality to safely rotate the team.

Roll on the continental campaign!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s