Champ Man & Me: @FPLHints

What I love about running this blog is that I speak to people who are heavily invested in various topics but it all leads back to one game: Championship Manager. The latest in this line of guests is @FPLHints, or as I call him, Chief. FPL, if you’ve somehow managed to avoid it, is Fantasy Premier League, and I’ve been speaking to the Chief about his love for it, his 90s memorabilia  and of course Championship Manager.

Thanks for joining me, Chief. Tell us all about your website fplhints.blogspot.ie please

I set up my blog in 2011, a year after I became a fully fledged fantasy football addict. It began innocuously when I posted my latest team on a weekly basis, as well as my recommended player for the weekend. My weekly team post became a mainstay and a reoccurring feature for five consecutive seasons. Due to other commitments, I don’t post weekly on my blog anymore and instead divert my attention to social media via Twitter. In addition, over the years, I have also been privileged in having guest writers that have also provided quality content on the blog.

So, presumably you’re quite good at FPL! How is this season going and what’s your best ever finish?

I guess I got remarkably lucky in my first year of blogging when I finished 110th during the 11/12 Fantasy Premier League season. Going into the final Gameweek I was ranked 73rd in the world and had a very good chance for a Top 50 global finish. Unfortunately my transfer, Juan Mata, didn’t play and was rested as Chelsea were due to participate in the Champions’ League final the week after. I was on course for my lowest haul of points for that season until the final minutes when my captain, Sergio Agueroooooooo, scored a famous winner against QPR to seal City’s first ever Premier League title. I managed top most of my mini-leagues and also finished as the No.1 Newcastle United fan for 11/12.

_64900083_aguerooooo

Actual footage of the Chief in 2012

Do you only play the official FPL game? Or do you dabble in the others too?

In terms of fantasy football, I used to solely play FPL. But over the years, I have tried out an assortment of other fantasy football games too. I finished 9th in the world in PlayTogga’s inaugural Perfect XI game and finished 61st in Football Survivor’s first ever public league. More recently, the latest one that I have taken an interest in is MyLittleNuts. This game has a more informal vibe than other fantasy football games and is ideal if you want to play among mates, rather than millions of random managers.

When did you get into the CM games? Do you think CM led you towards FPL?

I got involved with CM when a school friend introduced me to it during the late 90s. Prior to that I had dabbled with Ultimate Soccer Manager and FIFA Manager. They were also good football management games, but I always felt they lacked something in terms of realism. CM 97/98 was the first version of the game that I played. It led to a CM/FM addiction covering three decades that lasted from 1998 through to early 2010.

I noticed you firing CM9798 up recently on Twitter. Is CM9798 your favourite version of the series?

CM9798 always conjures up nostalgia in my mind. It was also the game that made me realise that football was more than a game where you kicked a ball, could get a way with a dodgy haircut and wear flashy boots. I grew up with this game. It’s definitely one of my favourite CM games, even if it lacks in game play, staff recruitment, training and contract negotiations. I must also give an honourable mention to CM01/02 which addressed some of these concerns. But unfortunately, the best thing to happen to CM was when they had the ‘great split’ – FM 2005 remains one of my favourites from the CM/FM series.

Everybody has at least one CM save that took over real life – what’s yours?

I have two CM saves that took over my life. One was with CM01/02, a year before university (ideal timing!). I ended up managing for over 100 years. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep any screenshots but I managed countless teams and clubs, as you would expect. The second time was with FM 2005. This came about after my first every FPL season (07/08) didn’t go according to plan, which meant I decided to rededicate myself back to FM. Again, I ended up managing for over 100 years (just under a year and a half in real life). For this save, I managed to get a few screenshots and later wrote about the experience.

Do you ever get the chance to play the newer FM games?

I recall owning FM 2009 but hardly played it. The final FM game that I probably owned was FM 2012. Fortunately, I documented some of my adventures from that game on my blog as I took ‘Team GB’ to Olympic glory. I haven’t owned a newer version of FM since then. Why, you may ask? Life commitments have taken hold. The same life commitments would frown upon both an FPL and FM addiction – something had to give.

It seems to me that the popularity of FPL has gone through the roof in recent seasons, why do you think that is?

The number of FPL managers has effectively doubled since the 11/12 season. Fantasy football has gone mainstream. The Premier League’s rising popularity around the world has been a massive factor in the influx of FPL managers. Also, office leagues seem to be more competitive with the numbers of prizes at stake. But more importantly, the online ‘FPL community’ has also been a reason for the growth of the game. It’s been the difference (along with various apps) between ‘casual’ managers evolving into ‘addict’ managers. With this in mind, I have no doubt had social media been around in the mid-to-late 90s that CM would have been even bigger and more mainstream than it was.

FPL

Look at that total players figure! Ignore the rest…

I am a little bit sad and I have a motto that changes from season to season for FPL. This year it’s “you can’t have everybody so stick to your guns and it’ll be fine.” Can you suggest a more sensible approach for me to adopt please?!

‘Form is key, class doesn’t matter’. That’s been my FPL motto for the past 6 or so years. FPL in essence is about gauging form and predicting it. If you’re able to nail that and commit to the game from August to May there will be nothing to stop you from securing a top 1% finish.

If you could make one change to the official FPL game, what would it be?

Good question! Plenty has changed in FPL over the years, such as the additional wildcard and ‘chips’. However, I think FPL needs to do more to keep managers engaged with the game throughout the season. The sad fact is that by May, almost 80% of managers become inactive. One way FPL can address this is to have a ‘Mulligan Chip’. If someone has a shocking score during one Gameweek, they should have the option to have it wiped out and instead have the average score for that weekend replace it instead. It may sound simple, but something like this would definitely keep some managers playing the game for a little bit longer rather than packing it all in after one bad weekend.

I heard a rumour you collect 90s football memorabilia. Tell me more…

That’s right! Apart from my ex-FM and current FPL addiction, I am an avid collector of football memorabilia. The bulk of my collection is from the 90s, ranging from albums, stickers, cards, pogs and autographs. I also have some items from the 00s. I like to cultivate my collection. If your readers are interested in buying or selling, I’d be more than welcome in having a chat with them.

Toughest question of all to finish – I need one name. Who is your favourite CM player of all time?

There’s too many! And that’s the truth. But if I am asked to pick one, it would oddly enough be a non-CM player – Fernando Cavenaghi from the FM 2005 era. He was an uncapped Argentinian in this version of the game. It didn’t matter whether I bought him when managing in the top tier of Scotland or England, he always seemed to deliver. I remember one time I managed Reading and got them promoted to the Premier League. Cavenaghi was the first player that I signed. He ended up as the top scorer in the league and secured us a creditable league position. Glad to see him eventually being capped in real life for his national team, just a shame he was unable to get a chance with a top European club. Apart from that, honourable mentions must also go to Freddy Adu and Cherno Samba. And of course, To Madeira if we want a CM legend!

Thanks again to the chief for chatting to me and allowing me to combine two of my favourite things. Make sure you follow the chief on Twitter @FPLHints – I’ll be back on Sunday with the CM9798 Cup semi finals.

Don’t forget we’re giving away France 98 Monopoly tomorrow so you best enter as soon as you can!

 

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The CM9798 Cup: Quarter Finals Part 2

Welcome back! The CM9798 Cup got underway last weekend, and we gave away our first prize in midweek. You could say it’s hotting up, but I won’t as it’s October and it’s actually starting to get a bit chilly. Temperatures aside, I’ve got two more quarter finals for you. But first, a look at the tournament so far

Cup Graphic after2 games

Yes, I updated Mark’s Twitter name. Please keep your names people, I’m very lazy. Anyway, let’s get on with it.

PSG vs Juventus

Before PSG were owned by a nation, they had a smattering of superstars that made them a difficult proposition on CM9798. The random draw saw @StackingtonCMFC be paired with the French giants – Stacko will be bringing you a blog on his custom tactic in the near future, but here’s his vision for this game

stacko scribble

Sadly there are no quotes from Stacko at this point in time, but if I get them I will edit them in later. Here’s the squad:

PSG squad

In the black and white corner, which is a thing, is long time supporter of the blog @riddley82. Juventus are a strong side from back to front and went from losing Champions League finalists in 1997 to losing Champions League finalists in 1998. Still, I’m sure Ross can work with that…

Ross, you must fancy your chances having been given Juventus?
I’m very happy with Zidane, er I mean Juventus. Defence is very strong and as long as my attack can poach the odd goal we are up there with the favourites.

Talk us through your wildcard picks – opposite ends of the spectrum I think!
Worns from Germany fits nicely into my three at the back formation. He was a legend on the game. Then I picked Shearer – Super Al scores goals and I need a hit man for Del Boy and ZZ to feed off. Plus with the host being a Geordie I’m hoping for some brownie points. Yeah?

We’ll see. Who’s going to win it?
Man Utd are my favourites, they are strong in all departments. But saying that, Barcelona are just as good.

Juventus squad

It should be pointed out that any players who started with an in-game injury had their name altered to free them of their injury hell. In Ross’ case, that meant Al Shearer was a great pick…

Shearer injured

This was on the final ‘done’ before the game too! PSG were more or less at full strength, formation and all, whilst Inzaghi for a reprieve for Ross.

PSG line upJuve 11

PSG were dealt an immediate blow as Marco Simone departed on a stretcher 5 minutes in. Things went from bad to worse as on 37 minutes Del Piero opened the scoring after Davids put him in behind the defence. Thus commenced the great Italian shape, defending and time wasting like their lives depended on it.

player ratings

A goalkeeper in inspired form, despite Paul Le Guen running the game from the sweeper role (sweeping the entire pitch) the French side couldn’t find a way through, so it was Ross who advanced to the semi finals…

FT Stats

…somehow. Peruzzi is one of the best goalkeepers in the game and it really showed. Stacko ended up playing this formation trying to find an equaliser

PSG final formation

Afterwards, Stacko said: “So many chances but it wasn’t to be. I am a Juventus fan for the semis!”

Meanwhile Ross couldn’t quite believe what had happened. “Wow, how Italian was my team? Unlucky, Stacko”

As the pair embraced in a cuddle that lasted a little too long in length, I headed off to Germany for the remaining quarter final.

Borussia Dortmund vs Manchester United

Dortmund are an odd side. They’re the reigning European Champions but they’re a bit average. It’s not helped that in the original game they had Paulo Sousa, but he moved to Inter by the time the game was patched and Dortmund were weakened by his absence. Still, @winkveron (Dan, to you and I) has two wildcards to try and improve them, so what’s to worry about?

Ricken

Look at the date! The game hadn’t even shown me the home screen and Ricken is…stricken. But what does the manager think?

Dan, are you looking forward to working with Dortmund?
I’m happy enough with Dortmund although feel that their squad, on paper at least, doesn’t look like defending European champions.

How did you decide to use your two wildcards?
I immediately identified the need to strengthen up front and in net, so was delighted to get Barthez and Ronaldo, my first picks in each position. I’ve got a very experienced team and although it’s perhaps light on youth, hopefully will be enough for a short tournament format.

Name me a winner…
I’d say Barcelona or Juventus are favourites.

Dortmund squad

Sure, Ricken is a big loss, but how about this?

Beckham injured

@TomReedwriting would have to manage without the future England captain on his quest to topple the European champions. The wildcards were already in the bank by this point too…

Talk us through your transfers Tom, there’s a lot of young talent at Man Utd but what have you done for the here and now?
Bakayoko speaks for himself as a legend of the game and a complete powerhouse. The bloke is a monster of CM 97/98 instantly improving any team so I’m going with the ‘blast the opponents’ out the park route with a strong forward line and just hope on the rest.

My other wild card is a sore point with Alfonso, another Champ Man legend being injured for the 1st game with a stubbed toe of all injuries. I never managed to sign him when I played before and I hope I get through and his visit to a toe specialist pays off.

If Man Utd aren’t the favourites – who are?
I’ll go PSG as I know what a strong team they have with the likes of Patrice Loko, Paul Le Guen, Jerome Leroy and Rai.

As Tom mentioned, Alfonso was only bloody injured…

Man Utd squad

So neither team was at full strength but there was still an awful lot of talent in the 22 fielded. Dan opted for the popular 5-3-2 attacking whilst Tom stuck with tried and tested 4-4-2, with Terry Cooke the main beneficiary of Beckham’s injury.

Dortmund lineupMan Utd formation

Standby for an absolutely mad first half…

half time overview

Forgive the picture quality on this one, it’s a long story. Anyway, I guess the real talking point here was Barthez was only booked for conceding the pen. We were in for a belter of a second half

FT ratings

Nope. Nothing happened. Dortmund controlled the second half and Schmeichel actually kept Tom in it at times.

full time stats

Was this a shock? It’s hard to say, take Beckham and Alfonso out of any team and it will make a difference. But it was Dortmund’s day.

A very happy Dan said, “Shut up shop second half #Mourinho”. There is some debate about whether the word hashtag was actually uttered.

Tom took the defeat in good grace, adding “I’m selling Alfonso on a free if anyone wants him, the sick note”

Our semi-final lineup is in place

SF Draw

Join me next week to find out who will be competing in our grand final. Keep an eye on Twitter during the week as we are giving away France 98 Monopoly!

France 98 Monopoly

 

The CM9798 Cup is sponsored by Classic11.com
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WIN! Mystery Prize Giveaway

As we continue to celebrate CM9798’s 20th anniversary, it’s finally time to give away a prize to one ‘lucky’ reader. We’re starting with a mystery prize to get you in the prize winning mood – consider it a starter, an appetiser, the undercard…I could go on. All I’m saying is, please take this in the spirit it is intended – a bit of fun from the 90s.

How do I win?

If you follow us on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll know I quite often play guess who where I present you with a profile of a CM9798 player and cover their date of birth and ask you to guess who it is. We’re doing that for tonight’s prize, all you need to do is:

  • Correctly identify the four players
  • Like the tweet/Facebook post

The tweet can be found here:

 

The competition closes at 9pm with the winner announced tonight (Wednesday 11th October). I’ll also reveal the prize when the competition closes, because everybody likes surprises.

Terms (in case anybody is taking this seriously):

  • Your first guess will be taken as your answer, no multiple guesses
  • One entry per person
  • All correct entries will be entered into the prize draw and a winner will be drawn at random
  • Entrants must like the tweet – this is not for vanity but it just makes it easier to see who has entered
  • Please note this prize has NOT featured in any of my tweets or blog posts to date.
  • There will be more competitions throughout the month. This isn’t it.

Good luck!

Dave

The CM9798 Cup: Quarter Finals Part 1

It’s finally here! CM9798 turns 20 this month so we’re having ourselves a little tournament to celebrate. If you didn’t read the preview last week, this will make little sense to you. Read it now and pop back, we’ll wait for you…

Caught up? Good. I’ll be bringing you the first two quarter finals today, or the top half of the draw as it should really be known. Here’s the draw in full:

Draw

Remember, every manager has two wildcards to add to their squad. Let’s get straight into it.

Barcelona vs AC Milan

Barcelona are managed by @KingOfTheRooks, a long time follower of the blog always full of helpful hints. Let’s learn a bit more about his plans for this Barcelona team.

Barca squad

You must be pleased with getting Barcelona, right?
Overall Im pleased with Barcelona. All the squads have their strengths and weaknesses and I guess you just have to build something that fits the players you’ve got.

You’ve made your two transfers, can you talk us through them?
From a wildcard perspective, Denilson was an absolute punt. I’ve had saves where he has been shocking and others where he’s been unplayable. Old Denis [Bergkamp] was purely to fit the formation – normally I would steal Pires from Metz but we dont have the time for him to develop. Plus, I’m of the Kevin Keegan school of thought, I’d rather lose 4-3 than win 1-0!

Who do you make favourites to win the CM9798 Cup?
Favourites, I’d say my opponents Milan, theyve got the complete squad back to front #mindgames

That beautifully segways us into the other half of this match, AC Milan. They are managed by our guest blogger @SeagullShouts – can he repeat his success with Third Division Brighton? Here’s his Milan squad

Milan squad

Talk us through the Milan squad – is it a good fit for you?
I’m very happy with my team. Solid at the back, the GK who is a Man Utd and Prem legend for that goal conceded through his legs by Le Tissier and George Weah!

What about your wildcards then?
Always had a thing for Brazilian WBs and with Leonardo already in the squad there was one name that came to mind right away: Cafú. Secondly I wanted someone solid in the centre with Albertini and Thomas Gravesen looked good and is quite young in this version of the game. Always solid 7 or 8 ratings when I’ve used him before.

If you were a betting man, where would your money be going?
My favourite to win has to be AC Milan. You’ve got to be confident, right?

The lineups:

Barca 11Milan 11

Let’s FOOTBALL.

This was actually a really tight game, where Milan kept missing the target before falling behind to Denis Bergkamp’s 14th minute goal – their only shot of the half.

half time

However, Milan couldn’t find a way through and were indebted to Taibi keeping it 1-0 in the end. It’s Barcelona who advance to the semi finals!

full time ratings

But who would they play in that semi-final…

Ajax vs Real Madrid

This match saw a battle between two Champ Man & Me guests, Mark Carruthers and Chris Darwen. Both talk a good game, but how would that translate onto the pitch or er, screen?

Mark was given Ajax in the draw, but would he draw inspiration from my save with the Dutch giants or would he go his own way? He had two wildcards first…

Right then Mark, you’ve picked Javier Zanetti and Gabriel Batistuta. Two fine choices. Talk us through them please?
I was desperate for a right back as I didn’t actually have one in my squad. Zanetti is a Championship Manager legend and exactly the sort of player I wanted. Batistuta though… I have a lot of strikers in the squad but none that really excite me. I love Jari Litmanen and wanted a top class player to go alongside him. Batistuta was one of the great strikers of this era.

Do you think you can take Ajax all the way?
Ajax were a great side in the 90s but I always felt were on their way out by 97:98. It won’t be easy, especially against the side I think are favourites to win it

Ajax Squad

So why does Mark rate Real Madrid as favourites? Well, they actually won the Champions League in the 1997/98 season, so that seems fair enough. But what does Chris think?

Chris, you’ve picked Martin Djetou and Mickael Landreau. Will they improve a Champions League winning squad?
Djetou was going to be more Marcel Desailly than Marcel Desailly, wasn’t he? In real life he was going to become part of a world that had Desailly, Viera, Petit and, er, Lebouef leading France to World Cup 98 glory. That’s why. Meanwhile, Canizares always had a Mignolet moment in his locker, and Landreau (I seem to recall) matured quickly in the game. Hopefully by mature quickly we mean in time for the semi final after we see this lot off. 

You must be pleased with Real Madrid though?
It’s blatantly fixed. I mean, what are the chances of me getting the squad that won the actual Champions League that season? Yes, I am happy except Real Madrid go against everything I care about in the real world. Galacticos my arse. They have Christian Karambeu for crying out loud.

Can you get the job done here?
Carruthers likes to think he knows the CM land because he’s mates with Bjorn Heidrenson (or whatever he was called). That means nothing once you’ve ghosted the great Johnny Cooper’s memoirs. Ajax’s day went after all their players buggered off to better clubs. Like Real Madrid for example. We will win, and we will win well.

Strong words there. But also a strong squad

RM Squad

Mark rolled back the years and played 4-4-2 whilst Chris went for good old wingbacks.

Ajax Starting 11RM starting 11

I have to say I was surprised to see a 17 year old Cambiasso lineup in central midfield for Chris but anybody playing 4-4-2 on this game is brave. As it turned out, a wildcard stole the show

Full time

Ajax’s first two goals were headers from corners, before Batistuta added a third from the spot just before half time. Although Real Madrid rallied when Ajax went down to 10, it didn’t last long and Hierro’s red card for a last man foul on Batistuta sealed the deal.

Ratings

Real actually managed more shots but with a less than clever conversion rate.

Stats

As Chris picked up his things muttering about UEFA, conspiracies and Ajax playing 4-4-2 and scoring from corners, Mark will advance to the semi-finals where Ajax will face Barcelona.

Cup Graphic after2 games

Keep an eye on our Twitter during the week as we’ll be giving away out first prizes, and be back here next week for the two remaining quarter finals. Cheerio!

The CM9798 Cup in conjunction with Classic11.com

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The Stockport Diaries: Part IV

Matt Porter is our guest blogger this week, managing Stockport in Division 1. Can he maintain their positive start?

Part 4: September (Part A)

1

First day of September, no transfer window in 1997 which is not necessarily the best for me given my want-away stars, however I indulge myself with another striker, not that I need one, but it is too good to miss.

Norwich at home to start the month, will the curse come true? Charana is injured so Wright keeps his place alongside the returning Armstrong, and despite his man of the match award against Bury Martin McIntosh is replaced by Sean Connelly who has been excellent this season.

2

Half time and it’s a comfortable game so far, 1-0 up thanks to a Cavaco tap in and it should be more…. The crowd are chanting ‘Porter, sign him up….’ I bloody would if I could!

Full time, and that was really really easy, what manager of the month curse?! 3-0 just after the hour mark and I could even withdraw a few key players towards the end and rest them. I haven’t played this game in well over a decade, but I swear it was harder last time. What’s that? Pride before a what now?

3

We are top of the league say we are top of the league…

4

Games still fly around and I have Forest away next, a few knackered players so Jim Gannon and Sean Connolly again (seriously, how unfit is this lad) sit out. I don’t trust DaCosta so Smith comes into midfield and I drop Dinning back to right wing back.

5

Worst half of football so far this season. 3-1 down and we’re luck its only that. Why hasn’t Pierre thrown his toys out of the pram and gone on strike yet?! And less said about Andrei Silenzi the better, apart from the fact he’s the eternally obscure nswer to the quiz question ‘who was the first Italian to play in the Premier League.’ Still, they’re tearing me a new one, but we pulled a goal back so the next goal will be key…

6

Better second half but we just couldn’t get a goal, and even when we did in the 89th minute it as disallowed. Its not the defeat but the way we react…. I remind the boys that we have had a great start and to move on from it, we’re still top of the league!

7

Well this is a bizarre decision, having just beaten top of the league, what more could he do?

8

A midweek home game with relegation threatened Crewe should be a good opportunity to get back to winning ways, big test of character though. Aside from Charana I can put a full strength side out, and I will. I’m strangely nervous before this one, can’t get rid of the nagging doubt that my bubble has burst, I should be more confident than this. In other news, I am very relieved that despite them being on the transfer list, Jim Gannon and Micky Flynn haven’t attracted any offers.

9

Turns out my fears are unfounded, an utterly dominant performance in which for some reason my bang average left back Colin Woodthorpe suddenly becomes a strong attacking option, scoring and hitting the woodwork twice. Forest is just a blip, and a total sell out of Edgeley Park, is it too early to start dreaming of the Premier League?

10

I tempted fate…. Sheffield United are in for Jim Gannon and there are some bids for Flynn too. I can turn them down, but with Gannon the price for a 29 year old is very decent indeed so I reluctantly accept.

11

Before Sheffield United can sort terms out though, I have Stoke away. I can field a rare unchanged side, although bring Graeme Tomlinson onto the bench. I’m just glad it isn’t a wet Tuesday night in Stoke, rather a bright Saturday afternoon.

It’s a pretty poor first half but we go in undeservedly behind, compounded by the fact I forgot to screenshot the beginning of the match. Nick Wright has a bit of a ‘mare, Carl Muggleton saving well from him twice before he is stretchered 8 minutes from the break, and there is still time for Muggleton to deny his replacement, debutant Graeme Tomlinson. Don’t panic lads, more of the same….

Can we kick on? Can we hell. Carl Muggleton is awesome, and even though we do equalise we have a poor second half and despite taking Cavaco off to try and shore up the midfield we soon concede and it could be more at either end. On the plus side Tomlinson and Armstrong link up well, the competition for the striker berths is ferocious, but we seem to be a bit leaky at the back away from home at the moment. Still, no panic yet…

12

There’ll be more from Matt in the coming weeks. In the meantime, follow Matt on Twitter @PorterMatt

The CM9798 Cup starts this Sunday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stockport Diaries: Part III

Part 3: August (part B)

August is ludicrously busy with 8 games in the month, so with the last 4 coming in 11 days starting with Tranmere in the cup and a healthy lead from the first leg I choose to rest a few players and bring in some youth, Ian Gray looks decent in goal, Nelson Da Costa at right wing back, and new signings Smith and Wright get a go, Keegan tactics carry on.

1

Well you certainly get your money’s worth watching Stockport. An absolutely ridiculous first half somewhat assisted by neither goalkeeper actually saving ANYTHING meant that we go in all square at 3-3. Second half a bit dull in comparison, only 3 goals and a sending off for Tranmere. A big plus was Nick Wright’s man of the match performance, on the other hand I don’t think Neil Edwards will be quaking in his gloves. Onward to three league games in a week, and they have the nerve to complain about fixture congestion in the Premier League!

2

And the reward is a big draw, but of course 2 extra games, why did they think it a good idea to have 2 leg ties so early on?

3

Huddersfield away next, a comfortable win such as the one in pre-season would be very welcome, however a few players are knackered, should have rested more against Tranmere, so a bit of a rejigged team.

4

I can’t really leave Nick Wright out, but the front two have been excellent all season so I’m going to give him a go behind them.

A really dull first half, we have the better of it, but the words ‘cow’s arse’ and ‘banjo’ spring to mind.

In the crowd Stan the unlucky but fanatical Stockport fan has his Bovril at his seat at half time, and endures a pretty boring first 14 minutes of the second half before feeling nature taking its course and decides to pop down to relieve himself, after all, bugger all has happened for almost an hour, so he won’t miss much.

5

As soon as poor old Stan retakes his seat, normal service for this match resumes and we all go back to snoozing. Still, Stan goes home semi-happy with 3 points at least, a man of the match performance from Alun Armstrong in an otherwise pretty boring match. The travelling support got their money’s worth at Tranmere so they’ll have to endure the odd game like this, keep the results coming and we might do a little more than stay up though so they won’t mind too much!

Games are coming thick and fast as they do in this division, but everyone has recovered so we revert to the ‘full strength’ side, Cavaco returns for Wright who was a bit rubbish behind the front 2, but his time will come. Charlton will be a stiff test, but then again every game is.

6

Another pretty terrible first half, but Alun Armstrong is a class apart and thanks to Luis Cavaco’s 4th assist in 4 and a half games we have our noses in front. The second half is far more entertaining and it is all 1 way traffic, it looks like It might be one of those games, Mike Salmon leaping all over the place to deny my strikers, but Jim Gannon pops up late on to make the game safe. Disappointing crowd of less than 9000, I assume that the people of Stockport have all taken their kids off for the last week of the summer holiday, either that or Corrie was particularly gripping this evening, this being the era of Les Battersby after all…. Maybe he could do the half time draw for us next week.

7

Just another 42 games to keep this up:

8

We’re top of the league Luis, top of the bloody league, just sign up dammit! Out of contract at the end of the season too, but I’m going down the Arsenal/Sanchez route, gambling on him doing the job for us rather than cashing in. Who knows, he might change his mind, I reckon a trip to the Stockport Hat Museum will swing it.

9

Manchester derby against Bury this Saturday, and half my squad are knackered. Having said that, Bury have a tiny squad, are bottom of the league and have an injury crisis with only 1 fit striker, so knowing this game we will get battered. Heidenstrom, Gannon, Armstrong and Connelly have to drop out, I am trying to sign a couple of reinforcements but no news on those yet, so its Smith, Da Costa, Wright and McIntosh in. Da Costa is a bit of a worry really, but I don’t have many other options at right wing back with the other fitness issues, and given the form of the team I am loathed to change the system.

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Well that went well, considering the changes forced upon us the replacements did well. Anything Bury did came through Gordon Armstrong on their left, Da Costa struggled, his time may have come and gone. The squad depth up front is far better though, with both reserve strikers scoring. Routine wins are becoming the norm at the moment, if this lasts I’ll be a very happy County manager…. 3 points clear!

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The injury Charana sustained in the game isn’t too bad, although the cover up front means I don’t worry too much.

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Isn’t this traditionally a kiss of death? I am ever the optimist….. but we shall see in the next instalment, another very busy month to come.

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You can follow Matt on Twitter @PorterMatt

The Stockport Diaries: Part II

Matt is our guest blogger this week – you can catch up with part one of the Stockport Diaries here

Part 2: August 1997 (part A)

August kicks off with my second and final friendly, again at home on a Friday night to Huddersfield. This should be more of a test and I make just 2 changes, veteran keeper Eric Nixon coming in for Neil Edwards who has picked up a knock, and Heidenstrom in for the injured Bennett. Once again the town is buzzing and over 10,000 come to a friendly, very impressive for ‘little Stockport’ as the press annoyingly brand us.

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Huddersfield line up the same as us, but playing a more passing style. I am confident that our pacy frontline will do some damage though with Armstrong (pace 18) and Charana (pace 19) comfortably having the legs on their defence.

The first half is cagey, and for cagey read boring. Not a lot happens until around the 40 minute mark where we suddenly come alive and have 6 shots in 6 minutes, but veteran keeper Steve Francis is equal to them all, with Charana particularly guilty of missing. I am not too displeased, my blood pressure not up to what it would be if this match actually mattered, so I keep things the same for the second half, and within 7 minutes of the restart we are 2 goals up, both from threaded passes setting away the fast strikers, and once Armstrong has shown him how it’s done, Charana follows suit. The rest of the game is pretty much a non-event, but I’m pleased with my defence as Nixon doesn’t have a shot to save.

A bit of a worry financially is that we have almost filled Edgeley to capacity for a friendly, so we are going to lose out on a lot of potential gate receipts, but it’s too late for that now, it’s time for the new season, and I stroll out of my office cautiously optimistic for the coming weeks.

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We have a full week off before the start to the season, but the vultures are already circling, and I won’t stand in his way if we get the right money for him. If a player doesn’t want to be here then off they go.

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Thanks to season ticket sales I have a little bit of money, so sign Kevin James from Falkirk for 250k as a pre-emptive replacement for Flynn who’s head has been turned by Crystal Palace and Sheffield United.

Matchday comes around against Wolves and thankfully I have had no bids for any of my want away stars, but Jim Gannon has added himself to the list of ‘wants to move to a bigger club’. Jim, this is your level, in fact this is probably above your level, so stop whining and play. He hasn’t handed a transfer request in yet so maybe my pep talk worked, I might need to be a bit more positive in future though, don’t want to demotivate the lad. Still, it worked for Cloughie so why not for me?

Wolves away, the first of 3 away league games in a row, thanks fixture computer, with a 2 leg League cup tie against Tranmere mixed in. There is a dangerous mix of youth (16 year old Robbie Keane) and experience (32 year old Steve Bull) in the Wolves squad, but I am going to continue my Keegan-esque style and not be cowed. There is only one change to the team that beat Huddersfield as a fit again Neil Edwards replaces Nixon. New signings James and Smith are still not match fit, and long term absentee Brett Angell won’t be available for a couple of months.

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That Keane and Bull strike force worry me a bit….

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Well the first 28 minutes are not what I expect, we are first to every ball, absolutely dominate the game and are good value for our 1-0 lead that Charana has given us, indeed it should be more but Hans Segers is rolling back the years and stopping everything.

It is of course then inevitable that Steve Bull should be presented with a chance, and even more inevitable that he puts it away. We are rocking for five minutes, I shout to Luis Cavaco to drop back and help in midfield, but we are still indebted to Edwards for making a couple of great saves to keep us level. I contemplate changes but decide to hold my nerve, and a few minutes later the storm passes and we wrestle back control, Armstrong again running through and popping it away with aplomb. Half time and we deservedly lead, am I going to sit back and try and hold on? No chance.

Well that’s annoying. Wolves brought on Keith Curle and played ultra-defensive for the second half despite being 2-1 down at home, and played on the counter attack, and it bloody worked. A quick long ball caught us out and Steve Corica left Edwards with no chance. Then on 86 minutes exactly the same thing happened as we pushed forward, but as I threw my jacket down in disgust at the daylight robbery and sheer injustice, the linesman flagged very late and it was disallowed. 2-2 it finished away from home at Wolves thanks to an exceptional stop in injury time by Edwards, I’ll take that, although I may rethink my strategy when I’m winning away.

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Games come thick and fast so early, Tranmere in the cup next but I’m not resting players, we were semi-finalists last year after all. Just one change as McIntosh comes in for a knackered Sean Connelly.

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Well that was comfortable. Both of us in the same division but there seemed a gulf in class. Two each for Heidenstrom and Armstrong, and maybe I will rest a few for the second leg. I still can’t get my head around why Leyton Orient wanted to get rid of Heidenstrom, their loss is my gain. 12 goals in 3 home games are keeping the crowds happy, only a few hundred off a full house, they’ll be chanting my name before long…. I just hope it isn’t followed by ‘is a wanker…..’, early signs are good.

My mood is soured somewhat when straight after the game Gannon comes back and requests a transfer. I stare him cold heartedly and say ‘fine’, but my heart is weeping, this team is going to be unrecognisable by Christmas. Curse you Murdoch and your billions, poor little Stockport can’t compete with that.

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Oxford away next, and given they are a smaller team there is no way I am changing tactic from the Keegan way, even if it is on the road. Connelly returns in place of McIntosh, and new signing Smith gets a place on the bench. Record signing Kevin James is still not fit. Oxford are 442 merchants, with an unusual tactic of throwing Darren Purse up front for the beginning, I think this may be somewhat of a long ball fest.

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A quiet first half with just a goal from Alun ‘with a u’ Armstrong. I’m away from home, 1 goal up, Micky Flynn implores me to play more defensively in the second half but I ignore the treacherous letch and carry on gung ho.

Take that Flynn! Within a minute of the restart we are 2-0 up, and despite being denied a clear penalty we get 2 more and manage to miss one, but no matter we win comfortably. If only these want away players would have faith who knows where we’d be? At least Kiko Charana doesn’t want to leave. Stockport evidently reminds him of his home in Madeira, and he’s on fire at the moment. Now let’s see if we can get to the next game without a transfer request.

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You can follow Matt on Twitter @PorterMatt

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