Napoli who suffered successive relegations falling from Division 1, to Division 3 then finished 12th in division 3 in their first season, find themselves top of the table after 9 games into 16 season, which is a remarkable turn around of fortunes. Manager Glen Mullan who inherited a team in steep decline has stuck at it, and is currently bringing a whole level of optimism around the place. We caught up with the chairman today who had these words.
“Napoli is a big big club, reaped with history and tradition. Over the last few seasons a big dark cloud has hung over the club, through some poor manager appointments and terrible business in the transfer market. Four seasons ago we were rock bottom of Division 1, 20 points from safety with relegation all but guaranteed. We tried to get a manager in, but no one wanted to take this task on. Glen Mullan was approached, who had a little unknown to top100, but if we scratched under the surface has a CV as good as anyones in SM. 11 years a manager, 126 trophies, which range from play offs, promotion champions, cups, League titles, European titles and of course World Cups. We gave him full autonomy to start the rebuilding process, and to try and halt the decline. We had at best a Division 5 squad, yet we were in Division 1. I suspected we’d go down again and probably again to Division 4. Over the last 4 seasons we’ve probably turned over nearly 200 players, attempting to trade our way to some form of stabilisation. Internal trades until this summer have been hard to do, given we had no assets to trade. I’d say 80% of our business on the whole has been external. Last season finishing 12th, with good defensive figures, gave us something to build on during the close season. We knew our weakness was scoring goals, but even with that weakness we agreed to sell our best Striker in Bamford before his transfer ban was even up. Trading your biggest asset is always a gamble, but one the manager convinced me was right for us. After all when the manager came in, having players like Bamford seemed so far away. So we need to trust the manager, his judgement, and I think we’ve done that. Its seen results improve, the squad look significantly different to those dark days of division 1.
Being top of the table after 9 games is an incredible turn around of fortunes. Nothing is won after 9 games, but the lift around the place is phenomenal. We set ourselves a 15 point target from the first 10 games, and we are 6 ahead of that with 1 game to go. We have set ourself increment targets to aid the teams growth, and to allow the new players time to bed in. We watched the latest pod cast a couple of weeks back and noted the panel wouldnt want our squad, and didnt think us bringing in the likes of Moutinho and Vidal was a positive move? I strongly question those remarks, we are top of the table, both of those players are amongst the top performers in the division, and yes although they are at their end of the careers, the last time I checked winning football matches is the name of the game. Would those managers have achieved much better with the starting block which Napoli had 4 seasons ago? I very much doubt it!!! How do you get a better squad when your best player was 87, the next 10 or so were 86/85 and either over 30 or late 20s and the remainder were either early 20s below 80 rated, or low 80s mid 20s. We are in a gameworld where cash is not relevant, trading is how you get players, but only if you have something to trade. We spent months making contact with managers offering the whole squad for a trade, but was always met with “you haven’t got anyone.” We then went external with players with any rating 86 plus pretty much gone. It was a case of trusting the manager in signing players from obscure places and hoping one or two could become an asset to start a chain which could restart internal gameworld trading. We got to that point at the end of last season. We didnt have lots of stars, but a few players with potential and the odd player like Bamford where we could possibly get 2 players in for who would improve our best 11. We’ve not littered the team with over 30s, although I admit our key players right now are of that age. However we’ve rebuilt the youth somewhat, and in there i know we have a couple of gems that others dont realise yet, but will as time progresses. We parted with 5 or 6 young players over the close season who we’d aquired the previous 3 seasons, they were internal trades, so I know our business model is beginning to work. On the pitch results have improved dramatically and are going hand in hand with good performances. We are still pretty tight at the back with just 7 conceded from 9 games. However we are also scoring goals with 14 so far which is much better than last seasons average of less than a goal a game.
We will review our position after the next game and but will stick to our season objectives. Internally we wanted to improve on last seasons finish and break into the top 10. We felt with a bit of luck we could sneak into the play offs with a potential 6th place finish. With 8 games to go last season, we were being tipped to go down, so on that basis to reach our target would be a tall ask. We were given odds before the season started of 28-1 to go up, so again externally we were not given very much credit, and were literally written off. It’s these knocks, which are spurring us on, its why we constantly remind people of the journey Napoli are on, and its why the manager wont rest until this club is back in division 2 as a minimum. We know his disappointment at being totally overlooked for every position which became available over the summer. It made no sense in his mind, what people were expecting from Napoli. Everyone have and continue to write us off, you’d think a 12th place finish and major stabilisation job was a massive success and achievement? We watch with a keen eye other clubs, we watch the favours in the transfer market, which makes other managers appear better in building teams, when in reality they are getting a steriod boost from mates on transfers unavailable to 85% of the gameworld. Yes they certainly know their stuff, but lets not kid ourselves from the reality, its always easier when you are getting a clear leg up. This is something which cannot be thrown at Napoli, and to be honest, its not how we operate. The best managers, build success and win trophies regardless of how poorly the cards are stacked. We’ve learnt very quickly, there is no favours for us, and it will be grit and hardwork which gets us to where we want to be. Had our Manager been in these circles, im pretty sure he wouldnt be our manager now as the panel would of given him a leg up to a better team.
Where now for us???? Well we are still the underdog, the underrated, but hey we dont actually care anymore. We will do our own thing, its working for us right now and we are certainly on the right path for our club.