Coffee House Heroes | 2.3 | Heading West

Welcome back to Austria! In the previous post (which you can read here) I took the opportunity to apply for four vacancies after bottling the title with St. Florian. Out of the four available managerial jobs, one offered me an interview, which I attended and then gladly accepted when offered the chance to take the reins. After a 442 day tenure at St. Florian, it was time to move on and experience life at another team in the Austrian lower leagues. For my second job on this Austrian journey I would be heading approximately 300km west of Linz, to Innsbruck where my new club FC Union Innsbruck are based. Still in the fourth tier of Austrian football, this is definitely a sideways step, nonetheless I am very excited to get started!

Innsbruck:

The fifth largest city in Austria and capital of Tyrol (Western Austria). The city is on the River Inn (a tributary of the Danube), with a population of approximately 133,000. Due to its location between mountains in the Alps, Innsbruck is a popular ski resort which has hosted the Winter Olympics on multiple occasions.

FC Union Innsbruck:

Founded in 1965 the semi professional club play their home games at the Sportplatz Fennerkaserne, a 1500 capacity stadium that is surrounded by impressive views of the Alps. The club was formed under the name Union of Catholic Youth by the leaders of the parish (Heinz Renk and Manfred Zabernig) who had the desire to create a place for young people in the community. In 1980 they merged with MK Innsbruck to form Union Innsbruck and since 2009 the club has been a permanent fixture in the Tyrol League.

Upon my arrival at any club I like to assess the staff just to see what the standard of each department is. Whilst as always expected at this level, there is a real mix of styles and abilities, for the most part I was impressed. The staff do seem to be a cut above those at St Florian despite the clubs being at the same level. The coaching department is very good and requires no changes in my opinion, whilst the medical and scouting departments could do with slight upgrades if possible but the current staff are certainly suffice for the near future at least.

The first (and only) thing required of me this season is to not get relegated. The club has been desperately underperforming this season, sitting precariously just above the relegation zone as opposed to challenging for the title which is where they were predicted to be. My predecessor opted for a 4-4-2 formation that had little effect as the defence seemed to be leaking goals throughout the season. It’s fair to say that there are goals in this team as they have been scoring in the majority of games, however it is the lack of defensive proficiency which is extremely problematic.

Having a quick look around the data hub in the lead up to my first game in charge, it becomes clear that my initial thoughts were correct. The Team Defending polygon shows that we have a higher than average xG against and are making significantly fewer clearances and tackles per game. Going forward we are by and large performing in line with the league averages, so if we can start to fix some of the defensive issues we *should* be relatively okay, at least to secure survival.

The Squad (including first team and youth team players):

Goalkeepers: Not a bad group of keepers on the whole. All have quite good handling for this level, Kevin Kovacs is the experienced option while 18 year old Maximilian Unterkircher looks to have good potential for the future.

Defenders: 20 year old Josip Steko appears to be out best defensive option, he possesses all-round good attributes for this level. To partner him in central defence I think we have three good options in Pandurevic, Gacs and Kofler. Our best youth prospects in defence are Christopher Klostermann and Mario Kurti. Despite the defensive issues in the performances we actually seem to have fairly adequate defenders, one can only assume the previous manager’s tactics did not suit the team, coupled with some serious under-performances from the important players.

Midfielders: This is undoubtedly our strongest area, Sihad Thahir and Nenad Markovic are the two players that I deem to be our ‘best’ midfielders. However I am very interested in developing Emir Bosnjak, Simon Seitz and Markus Fellmer, the latter having already cemented a place in the first team. If we can develop these players our midfield may be sorted for a number of years to come.

Forwards: 16 year old Dejan Hodzic is already the best striker at the club and a player I would like to build the team around next season. If we can get him scoring goals, I think we could be in for a very good season!

The three highest potential players (in my opinion):

Tactics:

The Wunderteam tactic is back! Let’s see if Innsbruck can adapt to the attacking formation, the idea being we begin and remain on the front foot in order to not expose our defensive frailties. It is a high risk tactic I grant you, playing two Centre Backs in a team that has been incapable of defending thus far could backfire, however I am keen to make use of our midfielders as they are our best players. The alternate tactic is the 4-1-4-1 which I am a big fan of, I think this should offer us more stability should we require. It’s likely I will develop a match plan where we switch to this formation for 10 minutes after going in front.

April 2023:

Three days after my appointment, I was in the dugout for my first game at home to WSG Tirol. A very pleasing performance meant we sealed a comfortable 2-0 win, this was followed up with a 1-1 draw against fellow relegation battlers SC Mils. Next was arguably our best performance of my very short tenure so far, a comprehensive victory at home to St. Johann, another team around us in the league. First month in charge, two wins and a draw – I was happy with that, what was also very pleasing were the performances from Hodzic and Fellmer, both youngsters were already starting to prove I was right to put my faith in them.

May 2023:

In May we faced SK Ebbs who were vying for the title, despite enjoying the majority of possession we struggled to find the net as we had to rely on a penalty from Markus Fellmer to bring a point back to Innsbruck. The final game of the season saw us play out a drab 0-0- with mid table FC Zirl, an apt way to bring this shambolic season to a close perhaps. Still we had guaranteed survival which was the most important thing. The club has not lived up to expectations this season, however from the five games I have been in charge, I am pleasantly surprised by the quality of players and quietly confident looking ahead to next season.

After securing our safety in the division for another season, the board updated our budgets meaning we have some freedom going into the transfer window. The new wage budget will be especially useful as we have eight first team players (including all three goalkeepers) categorically refusing to renew their contracts so subsequently will be departing from the club.

I’m absolutely loving this save, and I’ve developed quite the affinity with Union Innsbruck during my short time here. I’m really looking forward to building this team and hopefully embarking on a much better campaign next time around.

Thanks for reading!

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