Conquering Croatia – #0 – Welcome to Gorica

FM23 is here, DP-FM is in full flow and it is time to kick off a new save in a country I have never managed in! I’m off to Croatia where there is outside influences and a story behind why I chose HNK Gorica as the club to kick things off.

The Reasoning

Now usually when I pick a save, those close to me in the Football Manager community know I research the perfect club to play as thoroughly and usually back it up with some targets to achieve. This one however, came about in a unique sense…

I am recently married (thank you in advance) but with any marriage there is of course the stag do proceedings. My best man booked me and a few others a glorious trip Zagreb, Croatia. All of us football fans, one activity was to actually go and watch Dinamo Zagreb…which would make sense. This was a few days after they beat Chelsea in the Champions League 1-0.

On that weekend, Dinamo were away facing HNK Gorica which was only a 15-20 minute drive from the city at the Gradski Stadion, which holds around 5,200 at full capacity.

A very European looking stadium which despite only having two stands, brought a great atmosphere on a rain soaked night. Myself and the boys sat in the home stand but it didn’t matter too much, as there were Dinamo Zagreb fans in there as well due to the locality. There seemed to be common respect between the two clubs. The Zagreb Ultras were in full force on the night singing from start to finish.

Stunning scenes in this beautifully planned tribute. It was a drab game in the most part but at the time, second bottom HNK Gorica were holding their own on the counter and definitely deserved something from the game. However, popular Croatian Mislav Orsic scored in a heartbreaking 92nd minute for the team at home.

One thing I will say is, atmosphere in these places are unmatched, there was a buzz through out. Even when Dinamo were struggling and their ultras started throwing flares on the pitch, it made for this beautiful image which you may spot in the thumbnail.

As I got back in the taxi before heading back for what can only be called as a movie of a Saturday night in Zagreb, I couldn’t add up how Gorica were so low in the table, they played admirably. However, at this moment of time it’s an even worse viewing of the table.

They languish bottom (15-Nov) and are slipping further away in the one place you don’t want to be. This gives me more motivation to improve this club’s fortunes.

Now you know the reasoning, let’s have a quick overview of the club themselves.

HNK Gorica

Now, don’t be fooled by the club being founded in 2009. It is actually a merged club of NK Radnik & NK Polet who both had long lasting football traditions and were competitive in the third tier of Croatian football. They joined forces to become more competitive and move up from the third tier.

This only took two years as they gained promotion in the 2010/11 season. Against all odds in 2011/12, HNK Gorica then win the second division meaning what should have been promoted to the Croatian Premier – HNL League. This didn’t happen due to their top league licence being revoked after HNL League side Istra 1961 appealed the promotion, as HNK Gorica used NK Radnik’s history despite being a merge of two clubs. The team remained in the second tier due to this…Istra 1961 are one team I’ll want to beat for sure on this save.

Promotion to the HNL League did happen finally in the 2017/2018 season and HNK Gorica have been a solid midtable team finishing 5th and 6th alternatively for the last four seasons. It’s clear there is potential here to grow.

Save Premise

This one is quite simple but there is a lot to do. It is time to dethrone Dinamo Zagreb who have won the HNL League 23 times out of 31 seasons and it needs to be stopped. I very much doubt we’ll topple the 23 title wins however, domestically Dinamo will be challenged and beaten.

Building on from there to compete in Europe and hopefully secure the club their first ever European trophy. From there, once I feel HNK Gorica have been pushed to high end European reputation, the national team will come next to go for the Euros and then the World Cup!

Like I say, the premise is simple – dominate! This is a long term project for sure and it won’t be myself leading the charge, a familiar face is back on FM23 to shake things up…

The Manager – Yves Lemaire

If you followed the GOAL FC save – Le Methode de Lemaire on FM22, you will know all about this man. A proud Frenchman who was a popular footballer in his time between the 2nd-4th tier of French football.

In his last season at GOAL FC, he sent the club to Ligue 1 for the first time ever but some news that hurt Yves was that former Chairman Joceyln Fontanel sold the club after their triumph. The two became great friends over the years there and Yves just couldn’t come to terms with it…so he left on his own accord.

Manager Profile

  • Name – Yves Lemaire
  • Age – 42 (D.O.B 21-April)
  • Place of Birth – Lyon, France
  • Favoured Clubs – Olympique Lyonnais (Supporter), GOAL FC (Manager), Niort FC (Player), Le Mans FC (Player)
  • Career Apps – 535
  • Career Goals – 289
  • Languages spoken – French, English (Fluent)

It was very unexpected that this is where Yves would end up, as he has never played or managed outside of France, let alone leave his home country to live. A massive culture change for his wife and two children, no knowledge of the language, the way of living and everything else that comes with a move like this. After his success at GOAL FC his family felt it was only right to back him after all his years of providing for them during his career.

Yves garnered quite a few of his coaching badges at GOAL FC and sits with his continental B licence but there is still development to be done.

The Arrival

The announcement sent shockwaves around Croatia, HNK Gorica fans very split down the middle. Some recognise his ability to bring excitement to the football played, others are wary that his comfort zone is solely French football.

Regardless, he’s a confident man and this challenge suits him right down the ground, the first task though is meeting the Croatian press for the first time…

What’s Next?

Firstly, that very press conference will land as the first part of the save will kick off. I will be going back to half season updates and as you can probably tell, there will be a narrative element to this save.

Pre-season, the squad, any signings, tactics and of course the competitive season is all to come next time as the adventure starts with Yves Lemaire.

FM Beth, FMG & FM Zane have all dropped their opening instalments on the site so please make sure you check them out as they’ve got some great concepts going!

It’s a pleasure to be back and I can’t wait to get this one going, it will be long term and it’s sure to be some ride! Take care and I’ll catch you all soon.

DP-FM’s Scott

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