Fergie Time

As Aberdeen prepare to party like it’s 1999, it’s fair to say these are great times at Pittodrie. Champions League football has been secured and, perhaps more remarkably, looks set to continue into the latter stages. We have a good, young squad who will only improve and yes, some of the better ones are booting off about playing for little old Abderdeen but I’ve told them to ask Andrew Mainwaring about what happens when you leave too soon. That’s shut them up. More importantly, we’re proving we’re the best in Scotland. Let me show you how…

We’ve definitely got Rangers’ number at our place, though why they persist with Gordon Durie is a mystery to me.

3-1 Rangers

However, the real fun can be found at Celtic Park, where Mark McGhee has made Celtic…even worse.

2-6 Celtic

Nevland’s 15 minute hat-trick is always a welcome sight.

We were on the verge of securing our pathway to the Champion League quarter finals last time we spoke. I’m pleased to say the last two games went by without incident

FC Croatia3-1 Gornik

Despite being the first team to concede to Gornik we battle back to finish with 5 wins and a draw, which leaves nothing to chance

Group E

Comfortable qualification ensured, we’re in with the real big lads now. There’s no such thing as an easy draw, but there’s also Fergie returning to Aberdeen…

CL QF Draw

That’s going to be quite the story, and we’ll see how that goes later in the update.

Our league form is serene, we’re able to brush aside most teams with alarming ease.

motherwell 0 - 5

Even when we’re throwing away leads, you can usually rely on Erik the Nev to come up with something.

Hearts 2 - 3 Aberdeen

We even help ourselves to another 6 points off the Old Firm

aberdeen 3 - 0 rangersAberdeen 4 - 1 celtic again

We’re unbeaten at Pittodrie, you’ll be glad to know. Celtic came into that match off another 4-1 loss…

Clydebank Celtic

I’m honestly not sure how Mark McGhee is still employed

1-4

If the papers didn’t use a ‘Grim Rieper’ headline then something is awfully wrong.

We’re still in the FA Cup, unlike Celtic. Rangers remain an obstacle though.

Cup QF draw

So onto the main event and our trip to Old Trafford. Their squad is insane

MUFC squad

We are given a boost though by the fact Peter Schmeichel has a broken skull and will miss both legs. Yes, really. I’m not above signing their two other goalkeepers. Don’t think I won’t do it.

With that information in hand though I know it’s worthwhile sticking to my attacking guns, as away goals are there to be had

For once, I was right. Eventually.

mufc 3 - 2 aberdeen

Ex-Man Utd academy man Graeme Tomlinson nets two late goals to leave things finely poised. You’ll have to come back next week to see if we can complete the job.

That defeat is our first in 23 games…

fixtures 1fixtures

A remarkable run. We’ve opened up a healthy lead at the top of the table, it’s clear that we know where the goal is.

league top end of feb

A 10 points lead with 9 games to go? We should be able to hold on to that. We have double the amount of points Celtic have, who are closer to the bottom than the top. Greenock Morton are terrible.

The squad is a thing of beauty, and the players have good prices on their heads

squad values

Nevland is of course the kingpin in all of this. The SPL can’t handle him!

Nev record

Although Rob Page is the top performer, thankfully him and Mulryne have dropped their requests to leave. I’ll probably look to upgrade wingbacks in the summer, and if I’m being greedy I want Bakayoko to partner Nevland but he’s not keen on Scotland right now.

average ratings

Over in England and it’s 1995 all over again.

Prem top March 99

Champions Arsenal are 16th and £3m in debt. The front three of Shearer, Wright and Bergkamp have not fired.

prem bottom 99

The Belgian league is a two horse race between Club Brugge and Standard Liege. The latter have Kinkladze, so fair play for that.

That’s all I have for this week but do join me next week if you can for the final update of this season and indeed this year. Toodles for now.

CM Books for Christmas? Take a look at our selection

Advertisements

Return of the King: Part 3 – Cap-ton Marvel

Matt Wills is back with the Man Utd squad of 93/94 trying to relive the glory days in 1997/98. Get caught up on what this is all about in parts 1 and 2

We left Part 2 with the regrouped United squad sitting 5th in the Premier League and the board grumbling over my performance. To keep the domestic treble dream alive, things had to improve….

Back to the league campaign and Sheff Wednesday are beaten 4-1 at Old Trafford with goals from Cantona (2), Hughes and Irwin. Bryan Robson getting a start and rated an 8. Kanchelskis gets injured in the 12th minute so Keith Gillespie steps in on the right wing. Our closest challengers in 93/94, Blackburn are up next, but without the SAS we take a 2-1 win with goals from Cantona and Ince.

4-1 Sheff Wed

The Crazy gang come to Old Trafford an early ‘reducer’ from Vinnie Jones croaks Bruce in the 2nd minute. Paul Parker is on the bench but I opt for the physicality of The Dube and be plays a blinder in the centre with Pallister, getting a 10, while Ince, Hughes and Cantona get the goals in a 3-0 win.

Next it’s back to the Champions League and a date with Leverkusen. I significantly shuffle my pack and Paul Scholes scores the goals (well one) in a 1-1 draw, their keeper playing a blinder, but we only manage 6 out of 15 shots on target, which allowed them to grab a point with an 80th minute equaliser. Still, given that I had Les Sealey in goal and Mike Phelan anchoring the midfield, I mustn’t grumble!

Along to Upton Park and West Ham. Tim Breacker gets himself a red card in the 8th minute and I’m hoping the man advantage will help continue our recent good league form, but again, 13 chances and only 6 on target means we must settle for a 2-2 draw and a MOTM award for their keeper.

Time for the League Cup to start and an away trip to holders Leicester City in the 3rd round. I go against type and play my usual 11 minus an injured Giggs and Kanchelskis, but welcome Bruce back in defence. Steve Claridge gets a goal mid-way through the first half but Ben Thornley pops up with an equaliser. The 2nd half is a stalemate, so we head into extra time. I completely forgot you only get 3 subs in the league cup, so my options to rest tired legs are Clayton Blackmore and Mike Phelan, neither of whom you would call super-sub. Not to worry, as Gillespie slots home on the 97th minute and we take the tie. Both goals from the stand-in wingers, but again 15 goal tempts and only 8 on target, with Kasey Keller getting MOTM. We draw City out of the hat for the 4th round in early December, which should be a tasty tie, looking forward to that one!

Leicester 1-2

No league game on the following Saturday as it’s the international break and England play the first leg of their World Cup Play-off against Yugoslavia. Neville, Ince and Beckham all feature in a 1-1 draw, with Ian Wright getting the goal – finely poised for the return leg in a fortnights time.

November begins with a home game against PSV in the Champions League and an inspired performance from Cantona with two goals sees us win comfortably 3-0. Paul Scholes takes the other strikers role and scores the 3rd goal, with Nicky Butt and David Beckham also playing.

The league programme resumes with a trip to the Dell and a returning Giggs scores on the 9th and 27th minutes. Hughes scores a third on 39 and we are coasting at half time. Straight after the re-start, Pallister gets sent off for a reckless challenge. Neville replaces Gillespie and drops into defence and Cantona moves to the right wing. Ostenstad scores a consolation on 80 minutes, but it’s job done by then, thankfully.

Soton 1-3

The international break sees England play the return playoff leg against Yugoslavia. However, it’s not held in eastern Europe, instead both teams head for the sun of The Maracana in Brazil. The warmer climes inspire England to a 2-0 win through Tony Adams and Sir Les. Gary Neville ad David Beckham play while Paul Ince and Gary Pallister both come on in the 76th minute to shore things up. Dion Dublin warms himself on the bench in the Brazilian heat.

The world cup groups are drawn and England will face Germany, South Korea and Norway – not the easiest of groups. Wins against Norway and South Korea will be vital and give it a go against the Germans.

WC group

Host France pull the USA, Scotland and Australia out of the hat and there are a few cries of host favouritism labelled against FIFA, which frankly I am shocked at. FIFA are nothing but honest, integral and upstanding aren’t they? Anyone?

France group

Villa are beaten 1-0 in the league next with an early Cantona goal the difference and then Derby visit Old Trafford. Concerned about the ‘shots on target’ ratio, I switch from a 4-4-2 diamond to the recommended 2-3-1-2-2/Direct tactic and we score 4 with no reply. Hughes gets 2 and the MOTM award, with the other goals from Cantona and Beckham. We’re coasting so well, I bring on Parker, Robson and McClair for the final 15 minutes, who all enjoy their run out.

Our penultimate Champions League game is away to Brondby and I shuffle the team and give some playing time to some of the non-regulars, with only Giggs and Bruce retaining their spots. For some reason that I can’t quite recall, I make John O’Kane captain for the night.

We leave it late, but the senior players come up trumps, with Robson and McClair coming up with the goods on 73 and 75 minutes. This win puts us top of the group with a 2pt lead over PSV with a game to go, so a good result against Leverkusen in the last game will see us still in Europe after Xmas.

brondby CL

The Brondby game was actually one of my favourites of the career save so far, and let me explain why (and for that awful pun title for the update!).

When I was a kid growing up in Cornwall, with no local team on any repute, everyone at school supported a ‘big club’. In the late 80’s this was either Liverpool or Arsenal, as they were winning most things. United weren’t. So on a rainy Sunday 8th April, unable to partake in our usual game of ‘3 and in’ in the garden, me and my best mate Steve, watched the Man Utd vs Oldham FA Cup Semi-final on tv. Neither of us had aligned ourselves to a particular club, so we both agreed we would start to follow the winner of the semi-final. I remember Robson getting the first goal and generally being impressed with his all action displays in the 3-3 draw. Utd won the replay, but some say Oldham should have won it in the first game but for Nick Henry’s shot which was adjudged to have not crossed the line – I doubt that I would have followed Oldham if they had won, but who knows.

Anyway, Robson – Captain Marvel – became my hero. I watched him score in the 1990 FA Cup Final, and was gutted when he was injured at Italia ’90. However, I saw him lift the Cup Winners Cup, League Cup and finally the Premier League. The 93/94 season was his last for United and he bagged a goal in the first league game of the season against Norwich. His next goal that season was against Oldham, in an FA Cup Semi-Final again, this time a replay after Hughes had saved the day at Wembley. It wasn’t the most graceful of goals, coming off his thigh from a Giggs cross, but it was goal 99 of his United Career and I was gutted he never got to 100 goals.

He didn’t feature in the FA Cup Final squad against Chelsea as Fergie wanted to get the youngsters involved, but I think this was a big mistake to a true servant. When Ince passed to McClair on a rain-soaked Wembley surface to make it 4-0, I remember thinking ‘That should have been Robson tapping that in and scoring his 100th goal for United.’ So as much as this is about the return of Cantona, there’s a big part of me that is delighted that Robson has his 100th goal for United.

Sorry for the detour into football nostalgia, but hey, this is what this blog is all about, right?

We finish the month with a 3-0 win over Bolton, Silk (1) and Steel (2) combining up front once again, which pulls us to the top of the league by a point over an unbeaten Arsenal. Newcastle are in third with two games in hand, and then Blackburn in 4th and Tottenham in 8th are only separated by a point.

On to the League Cup clash with Man City. City are in Division 1 this season, so won’t be meeting them in the league. Back in 93, the league fixture at Maine Road finished 3-2 to Utd, Cantona gets 2 to cancel out Niall Quinn’s two early goals, with Keane popping up with a late scrambled winner. The line up that day was – Schmeichel, Parker, Bruce, Pallister, Irwin, Kanchelskis, Ince, Keane, Sharpe, Hughes and Cantona, with Sealey, Giggs and Robson on the bench. I decide to revel in the nostalgia further and play the exact same team. However, Kanchelskis is out with a hip injury for a few more weeks, so I bring Giggs in on the left, switch Sharpe to the right and put Dion Dublin on the bench with Sealey and Robson. Ian Brightwell goes close in the first half and then Bruce has a penalty claim waved away. Keane pops up with a goal at the end of the first half to maintain some synchronicity with reality, and Maine Road goes quiet at the interval.

Sharpe is struggling with fitness, so on comes Robson in the middle and I push Keane further forward to steady things up with Uwe Rosler threatening, but with no more goals in the second half, Keane again has the winner away at City. Perfect.

City cup tie

We draw Sheffield Wednesday away in the quarters. In 93/94 they were beaten 5-1 over the two legs of the semi-final, but Aston Villa are out, so definitely no repeat of the 1994 final.

Our next league game is against unbeaten Arsenal and it’s already got the makings of a title showdown, with them a point behind us in the league. Just before the game Colin McKee requests a transfer, but he’s going nowhere!

I stick with the same team that beat City, but rest Sharpe for Gillespie. However, I am fearful of Platt, Wright, Bergkamp and Overmars.

United take the game to Arsenal from the off and have 5 chances within the first 15 minutes, but Seaman is impervious. Arsenal grow back into the game and Pallister blocks a shot on the line, but it’s honours even at the break. I’m just hoping we haven’t thrown all our punches already.

We haven’t! Cantona breaks the deadlock on 56 minutes and we press for a second. I bring Sharpe and Robson on for Irwin and Keane and the games turns when Keown is sent off in the 83rd minute and two minutes later, Cantona gets his second to settle the match. We go 4 points clear at the half way stage and Arsenal are no longer ‘Invincible’.

Arsenal 0 - 2 Man Utd

For the final game of Part 3, we’re off to Germany and the final group game against Leverkusen, knowing a win or a draw will put us through for sure. I go with a strong line up with Neville, Butt, Beckham and Scholes all coming in. An early sending off for Leverkusen settles the game down but it’s not until Scholes breaks the deadlock after the break that we settle down. 2 minutes later and another red card and a penalty dispatched by Butt sees us in control and a further Beckham goal means we can start to celebrate. On comes Sealey and Dublin and immediately Ulf Kirsten pulls one back, but a Beckham freekick seals the deal. Topping the group and unbeaten to boot, lovely stuff. It’s AS Monaco in the quarters for us.

Leverkusen 4-1

So there we go, half way in the league programme and top by 4 points, still in the League Cup and European Cup and the FA Cup begins soon against Hartlepool.

prem top 19 games

West Ham, Wimbledon and Barnsley prop up the table, with Liverpool now 6 points clear.

prem bottom 19 games

I’m pleased about where we are in the table and potential progress in Europe is a bonus, but I realise I can’t ‘auto-pilot’ games, there’s too much at stake for this team. Every game is going to be a cup final from now on, to reuse a well-worn football analogy.
So we’re half way through the season, having played 19 league games, but how are we really doing so far? Here’s my mid-season report on the regulars and the best of the rest:

1 – Peter Schmeichel – an almost steady 7 in the league for the 34-year-old Dane. In fairness he’s not had much to do and has been busier in his 3 European games. I’m taking into account this was his penultimate season for Utd in reality – I think the reason Utd were renowned for scoring so many late goals in the Treble season was because the statuesque Dane was letting so many in early in games, still, we can just remember his penalty save from Bergkamp and the cartwheels at the Nou Camp can’t we? Don’t have to remember he did a season at City either…

2 – Denis Irwin – This should be Paul Parkers spot, but to be honest, I think he’d ruin it, so I’ve got Mr Reliable at right back. A steady 7 average and the odd goal and assist will do me.

3 – Leee Sharpe – Another boyhood hero of mine. This boy played with a swagger that wasn’t just reserved for his goal celebrations. Sitting behind Giggs on the left wing, I’m hoping he can play his way back into the England Squad soon.

4 – Steve Bruce – He’s probably on his last legs and I do worry about him, but with 20 for tackling, influence, heading and determination, he’s getting the job done so far

5 – Gary Pallister – Playing better than I thought he would, but with Peter giving him 90 minutes of earache every game, there’s nowhere to hide. 2 assists and 2 motm awards is good going so far

6 – Roy Keane – I’m playing Keane as my holding midfielder and certainly getting stuck in, yellow cards in half the games he’s played tell the story. Surprised he’s only scored once though. Even more surprised he’s not been sent off yet…

7 – Eric Cantona – Le Roi – the centre point of the team and boy is he doing it now. 14 goals in 21 domestic games and 2 in his single European game, he’s definitely getting his mojo back. 3 goals in 3 games for France is also looking interesting.

8 – Paul Ince – The Guv’nor – he’s playing ok, but him and Keane only have 3 goals between them from central midfield and this does worry me.

9 – Andrei Kanchelskis – He’s been curtailed by a hip injury, but he wasn’t flying really before this. Since his injury we’ve played better with Gillespie or Beckham on the right wing. Back in a couple of weeks, I hope he improves.

10 – Mark Hughes – The Steel to Cantona’s silk. Cantona once said Hughes will get you 15 goals a season, well he’s done that by early December already, 16 in 20 in the league and cup is superb from the 34-year-old – just need to keep him fit.

11 – Ryan Giggs – Aside from the odd hamstring injury, doing the business on the wing. The only problem is when he scores he does that silly celebration thing with Ince. Can’t he take a look at Sharpe and do the ‘Giggsy Grind’ or something?

Of the rest of the squad, I feel I am wasting Neville, Beckham, Butt and Scholes away, so they are playing cup games and in Europe, but I may have to be a bit more ruthless as we get to the business end of the season. Elsewhere, Gillespie and Thornley have been ample deputies on the wings and McClair and Dublin has contributed the odd goal here and there. I’m not really sure who Whitworth and McKee are to be honest….

Not only did Robson get his 100th United goal, he’s also found time to get Middlesbrough up to 2nd in Division 1.

Boro

Join me for the next instalment where we head into the festive fixture jam and begin our assault on the F.A. Cup. See you soon.

Matt will be back next Thursday but in the meantime you can follow him on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

 

The Stockport Diaries – Part IX

Matt Porter brings you Stockport’s 97/98 season from his view in the dugout. Catch up with part 8 here. I regret doing the titles in Roman numerals…

December 1997

Well November was decidedly wobbly with only one win from 5, and there is concern from the media that the wheels have fallen off. Mark Lawrenson makes a terrible pun about hats being blown away in autumn winds (we’re the Hatters you see), Robbie Savage acts like the wannabe cool kid at the school disco turned down by the fit lass, ‘I never fancied them anyway’, and Paul Merson? Well Paul Merson didn’t realise we were in this division.

Still we will battle on, and regain that confidence, we are still flying high and I don’t want us to be undone by our own success. We start the month with a pretty uninspiring FA cup draw, but with Watford a division below I would hope we could progress.

1

Saturday rolls around and we have a huge boost in the return of our club captain Micky Flynn. How long he will be around for I’m not sure, but right now his return is timely given our poor defensive form. I resist making many other changes, just Flynn for Bound and Kishishev for Woodthorpe. I hope we can return to winning ways, or at least keep it tight at the back now, and I’m glad Mike Salmon who was so good against us at Edgeley Park is only on the bench.

2

Its nil nil at half time but only thanks to Charton being truly hopeless in front of goal. I cannot leave it like this, so I ring the changes and change the system. Christmas tree formation, well it is December….

3

Well after 5 minutes of constant Charlton pressure I tweak and change to 4-4-2, and low and behold we play far better, we are comfortably the best team, but of course Charlton get one chance and of course Charlton fucking score. We hit the bar twice, are denied two clear penalties and I’m fuming. At least we showed some guts though, and Micky Flynn gets man of the match, but this bad run is in danger of turning into a proper slump.

Having to get back through London and the Blackwall tunnel on a Christmas shopping day does not lighten my mood, especially as the only VHS we have for the return journey is Neil Edwards’ copy of Get Shorty, bought for him by Carlo Nash. The boy will get a complex….

4

We’re slipping…

5

I get the side working on 4-4-2 through the week in preparation for the home game with Oxford. I think we are going a bit stale and it’s time for a change, we’ll go a little less direct as well and switch to a passing style. I bring Matt Bound back in alongside Flynn, and Woodthorpe returns as both McLauchlan and Kishishev are on international duty. Tom Bennett returns to the side in place of the third centre half, and I give Alun Armstrong the week off as he looks absolutely knackered recently, with Andy Mutch coming in. It’s a gamble and could be construed as panic, but at the end of the day its just 4-4-2 so not exactly controversial.

6

A far better first half for us but once again goalless, we have the better of the game but only one chance of note when Tomlinson forces their keeper into a great save. More of the same lads let’s get that Edgeley roar back.

When it’s not going your way it really isn’t going your way on here. We batter Oxford, by far the better side, and yet of all people Darren ‘clodhopper’ Purse executes a beautiful curling shot from 30 yards to beat us 1-0. Darren Purse. Darren Purse! I am still muttering it in disbelief when I get into bed that night, much to the consternation of my better half who thinks I may be considering a serious lifestyle change. Darren fucking Purse! No chance love, mind you I’d have said no chance he’d ever do what he did today on that pitch. She tells me I need to chill and stop moaning, its only a game after all. I end up sleeping in the spare room.

7

Well yes it was, thanks for that, I would have been out on the champagne if you hadn’t told me

8

Underachieving Norwich away next, it is hard to see where our next goal is coming from let alone win at the moment. Extra work on the training ground needed, plus a hope that the week off will see Alun Armstrong return refreshed.

Armstrong and Kishishev are the only changes, coming in for Mutch and Woodthorpe. I would take a point gladly if it was offered now, it’s a tricky place to visit.

Well I forgot to screenshot before the game, too preoccupied with a tough and motivational pre match team talk. Both teams seemed to sense this and were very obliging in doing absolutely nothing in the first half. Literally nothing. Pretty much fell asleep, just one off target shot between them, still as the away team I’m not too bothered by that. The only thing of note is Craig Bellamy being a prick in the centre of midfield for them. On second thoughts, why on earth would that be ‘of note’?

9

A slightly more lively second half thankfully, but Tomlinson spurns a couple of chances and that’s that, a nil nil draw. We still haven’t managed to score this month and our next game is Boxing Day, but in fairness we have been pretty solid at the back, conceding only 2 goals in 3 games. The Keegan-esque dream is out of the window, this is more like Tony Pulis but at least we have stopped the rot.

10

We really have faded badly and are looking over our shoulders, everyone has to have a bad patch though, I just hope this is ours and it is about done with.

11

Not a lot happens in the run up to Christmas, everyone is busy getting ready for the festive season. Ian Gray buys me a set of cut whisky glasses but drops them on his way into my office, ah well it’s the thought that counts. Christmas Day is spent working out how I can pull us out of our slump, and our home game with Huddersfield on Boxing Day soon comes around.

I give the out of form Tomlinson a rest for this game and bring in Nick Wright, otherwise it is the same team from the credible draw away at Norwich.

12

It’s a game of two halves, we are rubbish in the first half and are deservedly behind 1-0. Sod 4-4-2, I don’t like it, never have. I revert to the Keegan way and instantly play far better in the second half, drawing 1-1 and we should win. Lesson learned, we do not play 4-4-2. Merry Christmas!

13

Two points from 4 games is a pretty awful December, but we can take comfort in the face that we only lost by the odd goal in both defeats. We need to find a way to start scoring again and fast. FA cup first up in the new year and I will give a few fringe players a chance to impress. Something has to give!

14

Keep the faith…

You can follow Matt on Twitter @PorterMatt

The Current Premier League Managers in CM9798

If you’ve ever wondered what the current crop of Premier League managers were up to on CM97/98, congratulations! You are as stuck in the past as I am. To celebrate, here’s a run through of who you can find on a game from 20 years ago

Eddie Howe

1 Howe

Rewind 20 years and you’ll find Eddie Howe exactly where you’ll find him now. Some people just like to stay on the south coast, alright? Before Howe was a manager though he was a promising defender, racking up more than 200 appearances for Bournemouth and even featuring for the England Under 21s. Much like his managerial career, he briefly left to try something else, didn’t like it and went back to being a Cherry. It wasn’t that long ago that Howe was being linked with every job that became available, though that now falls on Sean Dyche to deal with.

Arsene Wenger

We all know where Wenger is. Even on 9798 you’ll find Wenger struggling to zip his coat up in the dugout, albeit at Highbury rather than The Emirates. Steve Bould is sat next to him as a substitute rather than an assistant, though.

Chris Hughton

Sadly, there’s no sign of Hughton on 1997/98. Having retired from playing in 1993 he joined Tottenham’s coaching staff, and there were no place for coaches in the CM2 series.

Sean Dyche

2 Dyche

Current flavour of the month Sean Dyche has Burnley flying high in the Premier League at the moment, but back in 1997/98 Dyche was a versatile player apparently capable of playing on either flank in defence or attack. Sadly there is no stat for how gravelly a voice somebody has, or that would be a certain 20 for old Dychey. He did however get to play with the most suave man in football Paul Tisdale and Shaun Goater during his time at Bristol City, so it’s not all bad.

Antonio Conte

3 Conte

If you aren’t familiar with the Juventus side of the mid 1990’s, I can heartily recommend you look them up. They were quite good. Conte was an integral figure in the heart of the midfield as Juventus won 5 Serie A titles and the Champions League, among other things. Conte is of course now the Chelsea manager, and he lead the Blues to the Premier League title in his first season in England. A lot of Conte’s traits as a player can be found in his management, he’s arguably as all action in the dugout as he was in midfield, but we’ve also seen the intelligence and tactical versatility to switch Chelsea to a 3-4-3 last season to take them on an 11 game winning run.

Roy Hodgson

Dear old Roy was managing Blackburn 20 years ago, which really shows you just how long the Crystal Palace manager has been in the game for. Managers don’t have profiles on CM9798 so here he is in the editor

4 Hodgson

Fair to say that ‘passing’ playing style disappeared over the years, but he’s doing an admirable job at Crystal Palace in my view and he may yet keep them up. It was around 1997 that Hodgson’s reputation was at its highest having been Switzerland and then Inter Milan manager, which makes it all the more remarkable that he’d go on to manage his country 15 years later.

David Unsworth

When I wrote this, David Unsworth had been caretaker boss for what felt like forever. It was more like 6 weeks, and results had been mixed at best. As the enormous shadow of Sam Allardyce loomed and eventually eclipsed old Unsy, I’d already written this, so bear with me. Back in 1997/98, he had just signed for West Ham ahead of a one season stay. He’s going to need all of that 20 for determination if he’s going to make Everton a decent side again, but I suspect his influence is already well below 15.

5 Unsworth

A bit like Eddie Howe, Unsworth always returns like a homing pigeon and a move to Aston Villa lasted one month before he returned to Everton. He can expect a similar shift back to Everton’s Under-23s. Anyway, it’s not our problem now and Big Sam is in charge. Back in 97/98, he was at Notts County and basically a blank slate, still to learn the term “get it in the mixer.”

5a Allardyce

David Wagner

6 Wagner

The eagle eyed amongst you will spot some errors with above CM9798 screenshot before we’ve even started. Firstly, the date of birth is wrong. I mean, it’s not even close. Wrong month and three years out. Also, Wagner was representing the USA by this point, as despite being German by birth and representing Germany’s youth sides, Wagner held an American passport and was given his first cap in 1996. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s not him at all, but he was at least at Gutersloh in the 1997/98 season so I’m putting it down to dodgy researching. His stats are extremely average but at least he won’t get injured.

Claude Puel

Puel retired from playing in 1996 and took his first management job in 1999, so he’s nowhere to be found in CM97/98 I’m afraid.

Jurgen Klopp

7 Klopp

Klopp spent 11 years as a Mainz player before getting the management job towards the very end of his playing career. He was actually a striker in his early playing days but reverted to being a defender, like a German Dion Dublin. In reverse. Either way, with strong heading and tackling he’s not a bad centre half. I think that aggression needs upping though. You won’t like him when he’s angry.

Pep Guardiola

Long before Pep was a managerial genius, he was dominating the centre of the park for Barcelona

8 Pep

Pep spent most of his playing career with Barcelona before going on to manage them (after a spell in charge of the B team). Of course now find Pep at Man City, bringing his unique brand of pass and move football to the Premier League. As a player, it’s no surprise to see high marks for creativity, passing and technique, making him one of the best central midfielders on the game. As a manager, you don’t need me to tell you what he’s about!

Jose Mourinho

It’s well documented that Mourinho didn’t play at a particularly high level, and indeed he retired 10 years before CM97/98. By the time of release, Mourinho was assistant manager to Louis Van Gaal at Barcelona following the departure of Bobby Robson. Again, as there are no coaches in the game, Mourinho can not be found in CM97/98.

Rafa Benitez

In 1997, Benitez could be found managing Extremadura as a young manager trying to build a reputation. He would go on to guide them to promotion from the Segunda Division, but they only survived one season in the Primera. Here’s his editor stats for your entertainment

9 Rafa

It’s funny to see his reputation being so low compared to Hodgson’s that we saw earlier, but that’s just how their stock was in the football world 20 years ago. Benitez is now at Newcastle hoping to go one better than he did at Extremadura, having gained promotion he is now looking to keep them in the Premier League.

Mauricio Pellegrino

Southampton’s manager Pellegrino was actually a player for Rafael Benitez during their time at Valencia, which is not only a fact but a beautiful link from one manager in this list to another. Back in 1997 though and Pellegrino was still in his native Argentina, playing for Velez Sarsfield.

10 Pell

He played in both Champions League final defeats for Valencia (under Benitez), even missing the decisive penalty in the shootout in 2001. Benitez forgave him and signed him for Liverpool, though his best days were gone by then. Looking at his playing stats, he looks a decent if unspectacular centre half, that low positioning rating would be problematic, especially without great pace to recover.

Mark Hughes

11 Hughes

It’s easy to forget what a wonderful career Mark Hughes had. He’s in the twilight of his career by 1997, but that injury proneness of 1 highlights how he managed to play on for another 5 years after this. I think the fact that he is a very irritating manager clouds the fact that he played for Man Utd, Barcelona and Bayern Munich – obviously no mean feat and he was still very useful in 1997. As manager of Stoke, he’s completed his usual objective of making a team very mid-table, which is fine at Stoke but was less good at Man City.

Paul Clement

Clement played non-league football until 1994 and then concentrated on getting his coaching qualifications whilst working as a PE teacher. He was a long way from the CM radar at this point.

Mauricio Pochettino

Step forward the man who has made Spurs rather good, most of the time anyway. Pochettino can be found in 97/98 at Espanyol, with the seemingly customary high aggression rating for Argentinian defenders. His vital stats for a centre half are actually pretty good, though a 14 for tackling might explain why he fouled Michael Owen for England’s penalty against Argentina in 2002.

12 Poch

Marco Silva

It’s probably not unkind to say Marco Silva didn’t really reach any great heights as a player. He played in a total of two top flight Portugese league matches and only really finding a permanent home at Estoril, where he spent the final 6 years of his career before becoming their manager in 2011. Back in 1997 though and Silva is a pretty promising right back, with stamina, strength and pace actually being a pretty good description of the Watford side he currently manages.

13 Marco SIlva

Alan Pardew

Mr Popular is back in the Premier League, with West Brom being the latest to be taken in by the large amounts of hot air coming from his face. Bias aside, Pardew has a knack of getting results when he first arrives at a club and he’ll almost certainly keep West Brom up, so maybe not a bad appointment in the short term. Back in 1997 and Pardew’s playing career was just about to grind to a halt.

14 Pards

Having been player-coach at Barnet in the 1996/97 season, Pardew moved to Reading with Terry Bullivant in 1997. His profile is still on CM97/98 as a player as he was technically still registered as a player. As a special treat for you, here he is at Barnet on CM2 96/97 season:

14a Pardew

Personally, I feel 6 for intelligence is a bit high.

David Moyes

He will probably tell you we’re saving the best until last, but it’s just alphabetical by team David I’m afraid. Anyway, remember back in 1997 when Moyes was English?

15 Moyes

He’s certainly shown that 20 for adaptability, as he adapts from life at mid-table Everton to high flying Man Utd and then very low flying Sunderland and doing a terrible job at both. Still, with heading of 20 and tackling of 19, it’s only a matter of time before he limbers up alongside Winston Reid at West Ham, with pace of 5 he’s still quicker than James Collins.

Get a Championship Manager Book on your Christmas list! Check out both books available here

Dons Roll the Dice

It’s fair to say season one went far better than I could have imagined. I turned up at Aberdeen, replaced most of the squad with CM legends and strolled to the title despite two of those legends leaving on transfer deadline day. Yes, it’s fair to say the only way from here is down.

But first, the main perk of winning in the Scottish League is that you enter the Champions League with access to riches Scottish clubs can normally only dream of. Except Rangers, they’re pretty flush…for now. Anyway, the negative is we have to enter the Champions League at the preliminary stage

CL Draw

That doesn’t leave us long to prepare and get some fresh blood in. I secured the signature of blog-friend Bjord Heidenstrom during the World Cup

heiden signs

Add to that young Robbie Keane who will be going out on loan, it’s good to know that if a Devine situation happens again I’m not left without anyone.

robbie keane signs

A striker for the here and now is most important and I’m delighted to land Nevland from Man Utd.

Nevland signs

He arrives on the day of the first leg, but it’s two of my title winners who get the job done

CL qualifier

The away trip though is a great time for not just the Nev but the whole of Aberdeen. Just hope for an easy draw in the final qualifying round

CL qualifier L2

Sadly though another has flown the nest. Darren Young started complaining last season and as he won’t sign a new contract, it’s no surprise he nips off to Rangers at the first opportunity.

Young to Rangers

Silly boy. Still, some people would rather go to Ibrox than face Henry, Trezeguet and friends

Aberdeen draw Monaco

Bloody hell.

Monaco squad

Still, at least John Collins is leaving. That’ll help. Also, why?

Ince to Barcelona

You know I don’t think they need Paul Ince. Arsenal have managed to snare another England International though

shearer arsenal

Shearer nearly always signs for Man Utd so this is a bit of a surprise, but Ferguson isn’t one to be denied. He spends £6m on…Steven Pass.

S Pass Man Utd

I’ve never been happier to be in Scotland, away from this madness. Speaking of which, our domestic season gets underway with a draw, which I’m quite pleased with having been two down inside 15 minutes.

opening day draw

That is just the prelude to the main event. Aberdeen welcome Monaco to Pittodrie and I’m sure it’ll be a wonderful experience.

These boys though. A famous night in front of a strangely not full stadium

2-1 Monaco

The problem is, Monaco will be rampant at home. That away goal might be crucial.

Or it could be the greatest night of my managerial career

0-0 in Monaco

We’re in the groups! Our reward is Ajax, who I know a thing or two about, but also two clubs I’ll fancy taking 12 points from

CL Group

We’ll revisit our European tour later.

Back on the domestic front and after a couple of draws to start the season, the first win is a welcome one, if not without incident.

1st win

Ridiculous scenes. Though not as ridiculous as the Nev netting five times away at Dundee.

nevland 5

It’s official though, Celtic are not a threat.

4-0 celtic

THIRTY-FIVE shots. Celtic were lucky to get nil.

There’s a hint that Rangers are on the wane

rangers ayr

However it turns out first division sides have built an unbreakable forcefield around their goal, as we find out in the semi-finals

SF pens

Yes, their keeper saved those three pens. I didn’t want to win it anyway.

Still, we might not be able to beat St Mirren but Ajax…

win over ajax

We even managed to draw in Amsterdam earlier in the group

2-2 with ajax

We look well set to make it through, we’ve plundered goals against Zabrze and FC Croatia in the two meetings so far, so let’s hope for more of the same here.

CL group 4 games

A few other bits and pieces. Marc Emmers is paggered

emmers 3 months

That’s given an opportunity to young Ricky Gillies, who has recovered from whatever massive injury he sustained last season. Likewise Martin Lauchlan, who you may recall as the 16 year old whose pelvis we shattered in training, is back and playing left wing back after Young left.

It’s not all good news though. My suggestion that Rangers are on a downward spiral couldn’t be more wrong

rangers defeat

Losing your keeper after two minutes is less than ideal.

Jim Leighton left, somebody actually paid for him

Leighton leaves

I pinched Hearts’ goalkeeper to make sure we have backup for Dida

hogarth signs

And despite things generally being as good as they could get, some people are never happy

Page bigger clubmulryne exit

Good luck finding another Champions League club. Let’s look at what happened to two others who chased the glory

mainwaring career

Devine Nov 98

Having said that, Chelsea are at least top of the table

prem top nov 98

Looks like Dalglish has scrubbed the entertainment out of Newcastle.

We are not top of the SPL. So maybe Devine has a point?

SPL table Nov 98

Long way to go yet. We’re going to win the Champions League anyway…

See you next week.

Get yourself a Championship Manager book for Christmas! Details here

Return of the King: Part 2

What’s all this then? Get caught up with part 1 here

My first order of business is to set up some friendlies before the Charity Shield showdown with Chelsea, so I opt for Celtic, Brondby and Kaizer Chiefs, just as Utd did in 93. I also check on players contracts expiring at the end of the season, as if this goes well, I might have a crack at the other treble with these players. Robson and Hughes aren’t keen, but King Eric signs on until 2002, good lad.

We kick off against Brondby at home, with the ‘Classic 11’ minus Pallister who is out for a few weeks with a facial injury, so GNev gets his ‘debut’ next to Steve Bruce in the middle of defence.

Hughes grabs the first when he nutmegs his marker on 22 minutes and blasts one in, and Giggs hits the second just before half time to take us in, 2 to the good. I’m pleased with that. Kanchelskis grabs a 3rd on 60 minutes, so it’s as good a time as any to ring the changes. On comes Sharpe and Robson to thunderous applause, replacing Irwin and Bruce. Brondby pull one back from a corner on 79 mins, but feeling satisfied, I bring on Sealey, McClair and Dublin for the final 10. Eric trudges off after a subdued return. It finishes 3-1, so a good start, but no stand out performances from the players yet.

Brondby friendly

Kaizer Chiefs are dispatched 2-0 with goals from Hughes and Giggs. Cantona plays a 7 and no goals, it seems his mojo is still in Marseille – we did all this for you Eric!

In the final friendly, Celtic hold us to a 2-2 draw, with Dion Dublin and Darren Ferguson getting the goals for Utd.

Onto the Charity Shield and FA Cup Holders Chelsea are dispatched more easily than I imagined, 3-0. Sharpe, replacing the injured Irwin, nets the first, a header from a Giggs corner, before Hughes scores against his old club, and Giggs rounds things off with a third. Eric, again plods through with a 7. Robson and McClair come on for the final minutes and Robson is back lifting silverware at Wembley. Hopefully more to come at the end of the season.

CS 97

In the league, we start with a 2-1 home win against Spurs, Hughes grabbing a brace. Next up is Liverpool away. Cantona gets his first goal of his return just before halftime. Pinned back, Schmeichel keeps us in it until the 80th minute when Riedle equalises.

In the International Break, Eric gets called up for France and scores 2 in a 4-1 win versus Croatia. Pallister and Dublin also make substitute appearances for England in a 5-0 friendly win over Cyprus.

Back to the league and Everton come away from Old Trafford with 3 pts, Terry Cooke being the first ‘Cantona Castoff’ to exact revenge with one of the goals.
Next up, a trip to Selhurst Park and 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace – more unhappy memories for Eric here as Utd slump to 16th in the table.

The Champions League draw puts us in with friendly favourites Brondby, Bayer Leverkusen and PSV Eindhoven. On paper it looks like a good chance for us to be in Europe after Xmas and a welcome respite from current league form at least!

Another 3-0 win over Chelsea gets us back on track, a brace from Cantona and another Giggs effort sees us win comfortably. For this game I switched from a flat 4-4-2 to diamond formation, pushing Ince forwards and brought in Sharpe at left back and moved Irwin to righback and dropped Parker – I think his legs have gone.

Utd travel to Leicester in early September and come away with a 3-1 win, Dublin coming on for the injured Keane and netting at both ends. Another loss for Chelsea and Vialli is the first major managerial casualty after the de facto Bobby Gould/Wales parting (Howard Kendall jumps into the Welsh hot seat). Fergie for Stamford Bridge? No. In goes John Toshack, leaving Turkey and Besiktas behind him.

Another international break and another cap and goal for Eric in a friendly win over the USA – could he lead France to World Cup glory next summer?

A 1-0 win against Barnsley gets us back up to 6th in the table before we start our European adventure in Eindhoven. I shuffle my pack and bring in Neville, Butt, Beckham and Scholes, Neville getting the goal in a 1-0 win.

There’s no way past Steve Ogrizovic at Highfield Road and disappointing 1-0 loss bursts our mini bubble. Next up, table topping Newcastle come to Old Trafford and Hughes and Cantona combine to put Utd 1 up, before a late David Batty consolation goal.

A 1-0 away win at Leeds (Hughes) and then 1-1 draw against Brondby in the Champions League takes us into October.

board confidence

The board aren’t happy with the kid from Cornwall and we’re even losing money. I turn down a £3m offer from Lazio for Nicky Butt and David Beckham looks restless with only Champions League outings so far.

However, it’s not all looking too grim, we’re 5th in the league, only 3pts off Arsenal at the top, although Newcastle’s games in hand look threatening.

prem october

At the bottom, Liverpool look uneasy, and we play second bottom Leicester in the next round of the League Cup.

prem bottom october

Some thoughts so far –

I’m not sure how long Bruce, Parker and Kanchelskis will last over the season.
Robson is being used sparingly, but Sharpe is a revelation at left back, feeding Giggs on the wing.

Cantona isn’t quite performing as I’d hoped but overall the team is doing better than I expected.

Keeping the Class of 92 happy is going to be tricky, so I may have to field a ‘weakened team’ in the League Cup to keep them semi-happy, but we’ll see.

Before I finish this part, time to see where the ‘Cantona Cast Off’s’ have ended up.

short list october

Best friends Cole and Sheringham are separated by the England/Scotland border, pitching up at Leeds and Rangers respectively, while Phil Neville is training with Ronaldo, Zanetti and Djorkaeff!

John Curtis and David May are in the Prem while the Baby Faced Assassin is at Champions League holders Dortmund. Terry Cooke is getting regular games at Everton while Erik Nevland is banging them in at home in Norway. Wes Brown and Alex Notman are down in Division 1, along with Philip Mulryne, whilst Jordi Cruyff has popped up at Anderlecht. The biggest shock is at the bottom of the list. No, not reserve keepers still on a free! It’s Norwegian centre backs plying their trade in South America, looks like they needed to get as far away from Eric and Old Trafford as possible!

That’s all from Matt for this week but he’ll be back next week with part 3.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

The Stockport Diaries – Part VIII

Matt Porter is back to guide you through the happenings at Stockport County in November 1997. Are their early season exploits starting to catch up with the surprise promotion contenders? If you need to catch up with part 7 you can do so here

Great news to start the month, Luis Cavaco has signed a new 3 and a half year contract! I shake his hand firmly and tell him he’s made the right decision, and then offer him a celebratory whisky. He declines and asks for a mineral water, I tell him it was a test and he passed, but still have a whisky myself anyway. Sod the new order, this is Stockport, I bet Andy Mutch wouldn’t turn down a whisky.

It’s a far nicer schedule this month of a mere 5 games and all on a Saturday, so hopefully I can play a more settled team. I also have the bonus of 4 of them being at home, so it could be a really vital month to consolidate. Far too many changes to list so here is the team as they start, Jim Gannon is away on international duty but the rest of the absentees are knackered, especially Alun Armstrong.

1

2

Bradford’s Brazilian Edondo Edinho is the man to watch for them, but we could really do with bouncing back.

Not a huge amount to report in the first half, a few half chances but ultimately forgettable. The crowd are still in good voice and why shouldn’t they be? Relegation favourites we do not look like, although I am determined to keep a lid on expectation and carry on playing with freedom, the Keegan way.

One of those days unfortunately, opposition goalkeeper plays well (unusually not a veteran, old keepers seem to do the business against us), and we get hit on the counter late on. Frustrating, but the crowd greet the final whistle with support for the players and that’s all I can ask for.

3

In the meantime Jim Gannon is helping Eire to a surprise first leg win against England, possibly aided by the bizarre inclusion of Michael Duberry in the England side.

4

Well surprisingly we are still top as Sheffield United failed to win, and it seems at this early stage to be potentially 2 from 3 for the top spots, although we’re not even at half way so there is no room for complacency, especially after a run of 3 defeats in 5 home games.

5

Next up is the huge Manchester derby, before the Arab millions this was THE big game for City away at Edgeley (well, maybe). Only long term absentee Micky Flynn and the returning but not quite fit Tom Bennett are unavailable, otherwise everyone is 100% fit so it will be our first choice team out and battling.

6

An absolutely belting first half in front of a packed house, but for some reason our shooting boots desert us and we find ourselves one nil down, however we nick an equaliser just before half time with our 7th shot but our first on target from Graeme Tomlinson and the crowd go mad, Edgeley has never heard such a roar. Half time team talks are difficult in an unusual way here, we are so far ahead of expectation it is difficult to be too critical, but I keep my sky high expectations of the team and have a bit of a go about their wastefulness.

The second half is an absolute non-event, I mean literally nothing happens. The fans enjoy goading the opposition, which is quite easy for a club with such lofty thoughts of themselves but who boast a midfield pairing of Michael Brown and Neil Heaney. Neil Edwards has to bail us out a couple of times in the second half and gets a deserved man of the match award, I’m pretty happy with the point if truth be told especially given our recent home form.

7

We drop to 2nd, but I am still happy and am confident I can pull us out of our mini slump, and the board are delighted.

8

I have decided to dip into the transfer market for a defender, I am leaking goals which of course is in part to my gung-ho style of play, but I can’t help but feel I am a centre back short. Flynn, Bound and James have been superb but Sean Connelly has faded and would be better suited to wing back. I’ve had a look around and settle on two targets, Michael Walsh from Scunthorpe and David Walton at Shrewsbury. It turns out Walsh is out of my price range but I fancy Walton more anyway (I know I know, they all say that), and so I go for it.

910

A late bloomer maybe, but I’m confident in my scouts, and so for the second time this season I break my transfer record.

Saturday has flown around once more, and once again I thank my lucky stars that I am a football manager as my missus goes off to Ikea for about the time a Tony Pulis side goes without scoring an away goal, I shudder to imagine the horror and am glad of our trip to Birmingham. Sorry love, I don’t fancy going around a furniture shop the size of Belgium with no bloody staff.

Kevin James and Jim Gannon are on international duty, James in an u21 friendly but Jim Gannon is in a massive game for Eire against England. Tony Dinning moves to right back with the fit again Tom Bennett coming into the side, and I drop my record signing David Walton straight in for Kevin James.

Well the first half was boring, nothing happened, I think it could have done with Blowers from Test Match Special talking about pigeons or buses passing by.

11

Well in all honesty I’ll take that, it was boring but they were far better than us and we are indebted to our superb goalkeeper Neil Edwards for keeping it at nil nil. Carlo looks glum, he will have a job claiming the jersey by the look of it.

12

England are so lucky, and I feel very sorry for Shay Given missing the vital penalty. Jim Gannon shows he has some nerve though, scoring a penalty that if he had missed would have sent Eire out.

13

Back on the domestic front we are doing pretty well it has to be said, but we are definitely wobbling at the moment. What is encouraging though is that we are taking points when we are playing terribly, a sure sign of a good side and I’m proud of the players.

14

Well it is a massive blow but I feel we are going a bit stale at the moment so I’m going to take the gamble. Goodbye Jim, despite your somewhat hostile moments you’re a County guy and I’m sad to lose you, but 1.9 million for an average right back who is about to turn 30 is a good bit of business, so off he goes to Stoke.

Get in!

15

I am not hanging around to replace our Jim, with the little known Bulgarian full back signing up for only 20k, however I’m looking for another player too, fingers crossed I get him, can’t leak to the media who though yet…

16

A matter of hours later the main target signs up too, last seen at Roma and a seasoned international, I am hoping this is the coup we need…

17

Saturday rolls around and its Port Vale at home, and hopefully a good chance to get back to winning ways. I belatedly realise my mistake in signing two players with names that are tricky to spell when writing a blog, but I throw Tetradze straight in for Bennett with Dinning reverting to midfield, and Kishishev is on the bench. Elsewhere there’s a recall for Kevin James in for the declining Sean Connelly. This feels a really key game and there’s anxiety around the ground, hopefully we can get off to a good start and release that tension.

18

A few chances for each side in the first half and once again we are indebted to Edwards in the last couple of minutes of the half to keep it level. Just relax and play your natural game lads, don’t get tense.

19

Well it isn’t a classic by any means, but a win is a win. The second half is a massive improvement and the player ratings shoot up, an impressive debut from Tetradze too in front of a packed house. We aren’t really back to our best, but it is a step in the right direction and the full house are sent home happy.

It’s the halfway point of the season and we are still in the automatic promotion places, phenomenal but it will count for nothing if we fade, I’m determined that won’t happen and I see plenty of faces in the dressing room with that same steely look in their eye.

20

We have yet another week off and so I go cap in hand to the chairman asking whether we can go on a mini training break to the sun and escape the miserable Greater Manchester weather. Unsurprisingly he refuses, despite my protestations that Middlesbrough are doing exactly that and we are their rivals. We have to settle for a somewhat second choice of his suggestion of a cracking owl sanctuary in Norden as a teambuilding day out, truly the finest in the Rochdale area but not quite what I had in mind. Still, we all have a good laugh when a tawny owl lands on Gordon Cowans’ nose, and somewhat disappointingly Ian Gray manages to drop the bag of bird feed no less than three times, how he has the gall to complain about not being in the team amazes me.

Refreshed and bonded we have our opening day opponents once more in the shape of Wolves to finish the month. Steve Bull is still the danger man along with Simon Osborne who appears to be a star in this reality. Somewhat unusually I name an unchanged 14, Micky Flynn is just not quite fit yet but should be back to boost the defence next match.

21

Get your head out of the owl sanctuary boys. That was comfortably the worst half of football of the season. I rip them to shreds at half time and throw Nick Wright on for Cavaco. System stays the same for first ten minutes and we’ll see if the rollicking does the trick. I am not happy.

Well if I wasn’t happy before I’m absolutely raging now. It all starts well, first five mins we pull a goal back and they aare reduced to ten men, then shortly after we equalise. There can only be one winner can’t there? We’re all over them, but then as soon as we equalise we go to sleep for no apparent reason, Wolves score and to be frank if it wasn’t for Edwards and Walton we would be trounced. Those two can go have Sunday dinner with their families, the rest are in for extra training. My laptop is dangerously close to going out of the window, this game infuriates me sometimes.

22

Well the month ends with a delighted board but I am less so, we have dropped out of the automatic promotion slots, the return of the skipper from injury could not be more timely, assuming I keep hold of him as he’s still on the transfer list by request. December could be make or break….

23

Matt will be back next week with part 9 and he can be followed on Twitter @PorterMatt