Could this be one last hurrah with the team I have grown fond of for the last 5 years? Or will we be back in this position in a year? A lot of football is to be played over a short period, and if we could keep the squad intact, then we should be in a position to be able to deal with the football.

Li Teng was the only arrival into the club with real purpose as he would be joining up with the senior team to assist in midfield. With Sæter ageing, and Sebastian Caceres leaving the club at the end of his contract, we needed another option here to strengthen our hold on the midfield battle. A highly sought-after Chinese prospect, worth a lot of money, Li Teng felt Sichuan offered the best development for him given how well they were performing in the Champions League prior to the New Year. Wuhan would lose him for free, and that is a sore one to take from a financial point of view.

Last season, our pre-season was a bit short with the introduction of the Super Cup. It gets worse this season. Thanks to the Champions League schedule, our Second Round tie against FC Seoul – yes, we were drawn against them once again! – is the 10th and 17th of February, meaning we will only have 3 friendlies on either side of these games to get up to speed with things. Not to mention the small matter of a Chinese Super Cup to be played out against Henan Songshan Longmen who overturned a first-leg deficit against Shanghai Port, to secure the cup.

Pre-season or not, we started off in tremendous fashion recording a massive first-leg victory over FC Seoul at home to suggest that we could beat anyone in front of our own fans. An early red card for the visitors set the pace of the game, but we were professional enough to put the game just beyond doubt knowing that if we were to grab a goal away from home it will be difficult for the Koreans.

And that is exactly what we did. Against the run of play, Samuel Renel grabbed the all-important goal to just take the game beyond FC Seoul, and we secured passage into the Quarter Finals against Australian opposition, Sydney FC.

The Super Cup did not elude us this year, as we comfortably ran out 3-1 winners over Henan. That victory means it is a clean sweep of Chinese competitions, and with one continental cup still up for debate, this was the perfect winning mentality start I could have asked for.

We were brought back down to earth from the highs of the Super Cup success with a slim 3-2 defeat in Australia. We played very well throughout the 90 minutes, so to lose the game late on, I felt was an injustice. The biggest bonus from the game was the 2 away goals, meaning all we had to do was be clinical and solid at the back. Which is exactly what we did. Sydney FC had no response to a Kim Yu-Song hat-trick and we comprehensively won the home leg 3-0 to secure a semi-final spot, where we would be up against yet another Korean side, Suwon Bluewings.

Domestically, we had rotated the side accordingly as it was early on in the season and players were still trying to find their full fitness. Heilongjiang Ice City, unfortunately, were given a cruel lesson on the opening day of the season, as we set a new league record for the highest win. I elected to rest key individuals for the 0-0 draw against Wuhan given the effort from the players against Sydney just days before, but we did resort to winning ways with an emphatic win over Qingdao Manatee.

April was going to be our biggest month with the Semi-Final games scheduled in amongst games against Shanghai Port and Henan Songshan Longmen, but with a mark of champions, we knew there were no easy games of football. We would get on with it.

A heavy defeat at the hands of a resurgent Shanghai Port left me questioning my priorities for the short term. I wanted to keep building Sichuan Jiuniu to be a force that China shouldn’t mess with, but with my ultimate goal being the Champions League, I wanted to give us the best possible opportunity.

Kim Yu-Song did enough to put the Koreans to the sword in our home tie, but that away goal was massive for the Bluewings. It meant that we had to travel to Korea and score, something we are capable of, but this was a step up compared to FC Seoul. Thankfully, Yousef Salech found a breakthrough and squared the game on the night for us, negating the Korean’s away goal. All we had to do was hold out, and fortune favoured the bold as we cleared one off the line in the dying seconds of the match.

This was a remarkable result for Chinese football, as we record our first-ever final appearance at this level of competition. All that stood in our way was Moussa Marega and his employer, Al-Hilal.

My focus was fully on this final and ensuring player safety during the league games. A massive defeat to Henan was completely unacceptable, but it was the price I was willing to pay to ensure our players would be safe and sound for the home leg against Al-Hilal. They were a superior side compared to ourselves at this stage, but with a bit of luck, anything was possible – we just had to take full advantage of the home leg…

A final first leg that really didn’t live up to its billing. The attacking quality on the night was sub-standard if anything, with both teams, only managing 3 shots on target between them during the duration of the match. Al-Hilal were showing their quality with sheer domination of the ball, something we tend to do to other teams, but they couldn’t find a way to break down our strong and stubborn defence.

With everything to play for in Saudi Arabia, this was the biggest match of my life.

Samuel Renel grabbed the opening goal and I already knew at that point it was going to be a historic night. The advantage of an away goal so early on in the game was crucial in calming our nerves down, but it also meant that Al-Hilal would have to open up and we had the players to hit them on the break.

The goal was a well-worked goal, with the movement of Renel something to behold and a vital lesson in don’t watch your pass after making it.

Collecting the ball deep inside his own half from Zhu Chenjie, Renel played it into his striker Yu-Song and made his run beyond knowing that the team were lacking in striking options at this point. Because this run was made, Yu-Song was able to play a switch out the touchline, and some intricate passes then gave Li Teng the opportunity to find Renel inside the box, and he duly slotted home past the onrushing Al-Hilal keeper. A real team goal, and one of the simplest you will see.

Some might say that it is route one football, but if that is what gets you goals at any level of football, then I do not care. A well-worked move found Dai Wai Tsun free on the right wing to pick out Yousef Salech inside the box for a free header, and he directed his effort goal-bound, beating the goalkeeper.

The fans couldn’t believe their eyes. The players were stunned also. That stunned that Marega did score immediately after kick-off. However, that isn’t why we are here, as Marega’s goal never amounted to a complete comeback, Sichuan Jiuniu held out against the massive Al-Hilal to secure their first-ever AFC Champions League trophy.

We had done it. A feat that was deemed impossible by the Chinese media, heck even by some of the players themselves. Sichuan Jiuniu, Asia’s champions. It takes some getting used to, but it was a fact.

I had managed to complete my goals of taking this small club from Chengdu and making them one of Asia’s elite clubs. We dominated our city rivals. We dominated the Super League. Now, we had dominated the continent.

My task was done at this point. I had achieved all I had set out to achieve. One Chinese JIA League trophy. 1 Chinese FA Super Cup. 2 Chinese Super League trophies. 1 Chinese Super Cup. 1 AFC Champions League.

With a heavy heart, I tendered the board with my resignation with immediate effect on the back of that glory, and they invited me to stick around for the week of partying that soon followed – it would be rude to decline a party.

I can tick off China from my list now. I packed my bags and left the keys with my estate agent to sell the apartment. I won’t be needing it.

I made my way to the airport. My journey has lifted off.

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