That Escalated Quickly

Hello! Welcome to the final update of 2017, and as luck would have it, the final update of season 2 of this Aberdeen adventure. Having won the SPL, we battled through Champions League qualifying against Monaco and came through a group featuring Ajax. Our reward was a reunion with (not yet Sir) Alex Ferguson, and we came away from Old Trafford with a 3-2 defeat. We’ll see if we can turn that around shortly, but first, white hot Scottish Cup Quarter Final action

1-0 Cup QF win

Phew. What’s more is we get the plum draw of Albion Rovers in the Semi-finals, no doubt due to the “hot ball/cold ball” theory that some conspiracy theorists subscribe to.

cup SF draw

I’ll play Rangers any time, as even if we give them a two goal advantage, we’ll get the job done.

rangers 3 - 4 aberdeen

Sometimes I think it’s a switch that the front 4 just flick on when they fancy. Three goals in 8 minutes in the hardest away game of our domestic season? No bother.

Now though it’s time for the second leg, and it turns out Fergie has lost the plot. Meet David Beckham, the sweeper.

man utd tactics

I’m not ashamed to admit I tried to buy both their keepers, but only Kevin Pilkington agreed to join. You’ve made a very powerful enemy, Nicky Culkin

aberdeen 2 - 0 man utd

Get it up ya! Dida is magnificent to preserve our clean sheet and a goal in each half past Macaulay Culkin secures our spot in the semis. What a result!

CL SF draw

Oh bloody hell it’s Barcelona.

They arrive at Pittodrie full of talent and Paul Ince.

aberdeen 1 - 0 barca

But they leave empty handed, Marc Emmers scoring an early goal as we seal a famous win. Now we’ve just got to go to Barcelona and get a result!

There’s like a million games between now and then though, and we smash past Albion Rovers to ensure at least one cup final

fa sf results

Scenes. We’ll see Rangers in May.

Thanks to Erik Nevland, we should have the title secured by then.

nev 4 - 2 hibs

He really hates Celtic. Honestly, how we manage to routinely put the Bhoys to the sword is nothing short of brutal.

celtic 1 - 5 aberdeen

The win at Celtic Park is doubly sweet as it actually secures us a second consecutive league title with 3 games to spare.

leagye won

I would like to get 100 goals but my enthusiasm for that will depend on what happens in Barcelona.

Gillespie’s early goal opens the door and after Abelardo is dismissed, it’s in the bag. Sonny Anderson makes it interesting but Barcelona can’t find the two extra goals they need and the rest is history.

barca 1 - 1 aberdeen

Aberdeen are in the Champions League final!

It’ll be Ajax who we meet there, who we’ve already beaten in the group stages. Though that was in Aberdeen…

With the league won, we continue smashing the goals in and we finish with a win at Hearts

last game of season

Those were goals 102 and 103. Nice!

Final table 99

That leads us in nicely to the showdown with Rangers. I really wish it was Celtic.

cup final defeat

There’ll be no domestic double, a really blot on our copybook. But they are Rangers, they’re not just going to let us win everything. We’ll be back, Walter Smith.

Still, at least I lost with dignity.

Belgian cup finak

Oh so that’s where Gerard Wiekens is. It’s no wonder Dortmund sacked Bosz if he captains his side to cup finals in this manner.

Time for the real deal then, Aberdeen vs Ajax part 3 – this time in the San Siro.

3-0 up after half an hour…

CL final WIN

A little wobble towards the end but we did the damage early on. We’ve won the bloody Champions League!

To be honest, I expected this to take a lot longer than it has but er…great, I guess. I’ll look forward to trying to crown us the best club side in the world next season.

Oh Nev, you are everything to me

Nev record 99

GOALS

goals 99

RATINGS

ratings 99

Don’t worry though, this save isn’t anywhere near done. I’m enjoying how things are playing out and I still have Belgium to explore, or better yet trying to unseat this Aberdeen side with another club. All to look forward to. Let’s tie up some loose ends

Man Utd regained the Premier League, with Blackburn joining them in the Champions League. We’ll also be there and we shouldn’t even have to qualify this time.

prem top 99

It’s bad times for Sunderland, Spurs and Leicester who are relegated. Arsenal really recovered their situation!

prem bottom 99 final

Standard Leige are dominating Belgium, Anderlecht are well off the pace.

Belgian top final 99

The most important thing though is that Erik Nevland is getting the credit he deserves

Nev awards

Oh and Jonny C too

JC Awards

I pick up the manager gong which, without being big headed, is not a surprise

Awards 99

Maybe I should sign Clarence Seedorf. If we can get Nev to win European Footballer of the Year, then we’ll know we’ve done a great job.

english awards 99

So that’s it for this update, a golden time in Aberdeen but can we improve on this? Is this as good as it will ever get? We’ll find out in the new year. I’m straight on the phone to Bakayoko who is mulling over whether he wants to swap the South of France for Aberdeen. Champions League winners, Ibrahima.

I’ll most likely post something soppy before Christmas but if you’re not into that, thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the new year. All the best

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Return of the King: Part 4 – Domestic Cup Drama

Matt Wills is back in action, trying to re-live Man Utd’s glorious 1993/94 season but in 1997/98. Confused? Here’s part 1 to explain what’s going on, or if you need to see the previous edition, here’s part 3

I left you in Part 3 having taken Utd through the Champions League Group stage, to the top of the Premiership and with the domestic cups getting going. We head into Xmas on a roll, but will it last?

Mid-December ’97 and the Class of 94 are at the summit of the Premier League, through to the knockout rounds of the Champions League and ready to take on the domestic cups in our quest to go one better than the Utd team of 93/94 and win the domestic treble – with the team of 93/94, albeit a little bit older and a little bit slower!

There’s a gap in fixtures while the international friendlies are played. England beat Sweden away 2-0. Scholes, Dublin, Ince, Beckham, Neville and Pallister all feature, with Wright and Scholes scoring for England. France beat Norway by the same score line. Cantona doesn’t get on the score sheet, but does collect a yellow card.

Back at the United camp after the break, some players are not happy with the current regime…

scholes req

That’s turned down, and so is this…

butt req

The last Saturday game of 97 takes Utd to White Hart Lane. Hughes is injured while training with Wales, so Paul Scholes deputises for the Welshman to keep him happy. To keep the Welsh quota up, I bring in Clayton Blackmore on the right wing for a run out and give a recall to Paul Parker at right back.

An early Scholes goal is cancelled out by Nicola Berti. We have 13 shots on goal, but only 2 on target – worrying.

On to Boxing Day and a visit to Old Trafford of old rivals Liverpool whose recent run have seen them climb the table. McClair comes in for want-away Scholes and Kanchelskis comes back to the right wing having recovered from his hip injury. The first half is a cagey affair, but after the break, we turn the pressure into goals, with McClair getting his first of the season, followed by Ince against his old/future club. Bruce makes the game safe in the 81st minute, so I use the cushion to bring on Sealey, Gillespie and Dublin for the last 10 minutes. Paul Parker gets an 8, happy days.

The Third Round of the FA Cup starts, with Utd away to Hartlepool, who are midtable in Division 3. After the Liverpool win, I’m feeling confident with the squad so make a host of changes. Neville, Butt, Beckham and Scholes all start, with Walsh, O’Kane, Casper, Whitworth, Wellens, Wellens, McKee and Ferguson joining them. Wellens gets an early goal, but a 2nd alludes us. Hartlepool equalise in the second half and I start to question my selection policy. Going out of the cup here would be disaster. Thankfully, Colin McKee rescues me on 71 minutes and we’re into the hat for the 4th Round Draw.

hart 1 - 2 mufc

What did I tell you in Part 3? It was almost inevitable…

FA 4th

4 Days later and it’s the Quarter Final of the League Cup and we’re at Hillsborough to play Sheffield Wednesday. In the build up to the game, the press are trotting out the standard cliché’s ‘in a replay of the 1991 League Cup Final, Utd will be looking for revenge against The Owls…’. This gets me thinking, why not let the players from the 1991 final get some revenge? I pull out my Rothmans and check some facts.

Utd were defeated by Div 1 Sheff Wed, led by Ron Atkinson, 1-0 to a John Sheridan goal. The only thing I really remember from that game is Les Sealey ripping open his knee after diving low for a ball with a Wednesday player. Checking the squad from the day, Utd lined up as below…

lineup

Webb and Donaghy aren’t in my squad, having both left the club by the 93/94 season, and Alex is picking up his unemployment benefit. Webb is still in the game, on a free transfer having been released by Grimsby, but I’m not tempted to sign him up, as I have no space in the squad and I don’t want people missing out on their post. Donaghy is nowhere to be found. Looking at the Wednesday squad, I can’t see any survivors from that game, but note that they have the son of Showaddywaddy guitarist Trevor Oakes, Scott, in their ranks – true fact.

I decide to start with Mike Phelan on the right wing in place of Webb. On the bench I put Lee Martin and Ryan Giggs. Now with 3 subs, I opt for Gary Walsh just in-case Sealey rips his knee up again. Hold onto your hats, this cup-tie turns out to be a cracker!

Andy Hinchcliffe puts the host ahead in the 11th minute, but a minute later, McClair is through on goal and gets taken out by the advancing Kevin Pressman. I leap from my seat in the dugout and shout at the ref to send him off. The ref points at the spot and after talking to Pressman, produces no card. I almost explode. Up steps Bruce and Pressman saves it! There’s no justice.

13 minutes later, Wednesday advance and Les Sealey brings down Andy Booth. The ref points to the spot and talks to Sealey. I fear the worst and tell Gary Walsh to warm up. The ref looks over at me and then puts his black book back in his pocket – no cards. My relief is short lived as Booth shows Bruce what to do from the spot and we’re 2-0 down. I’m beginning to think my romantic nostalgia is a bit misplaced!

Phelan makes a clumsy challenge on the edge of the box, but Wednesday waste the freekick and then Pallister does likewise. This time yellows are shown. Having seen enough, I don’t wait until half time and bring Giggs on for Phelan. I can’t afford to lose a player or another goal. The words I say at half time are not appropriate for this blog, but crockery was broken.

My words ringing in their ears, the tide is turned, first by Giggs, and then by Hughes. We’re level in the space of 2 second half minutes. After this it’s end to end action, but neither team can get the third. Sealey keeps us in it and at the other end, Pressman literally fills the goal. Then on 87 minutes, Sharpe rises highest to a Giggs corner and heads past Pressman, we’ve done it, what a comeback! We’re into the two-legged semi final and we draw Liverpool out of the hat. It’s a Tyne-Wear derby in the other semi.

sheff wed 2 - 3 mufc

With that being probably my favourite, and most intense game of the save, we go back to the league and play Everton ‘in a repeat of the 1995 FA Cup Final’…. I revert to the classic line up and an entertaining first half ends 2-2, with Pallister getting the winner in the second half. We follow this up with a 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace ‘in a repeat of the 1990 FA Cup Final’ (I must stop this!), a result which the board describe as ‘Abysmal’ but at least Eric comes through unscathed.

Next, it’s back to the FA Cup and a 4th Round date with Oldham Athletic and a repeat of the 1994 FA Cup Semi-final. I can see it now, Hughes volley in the last minute to take it to a replay, which Utd win 4-1, with Robbo getting his last Utd goal by dicking in a cross from Sharpe.

I get my Rothman’s out again and look up the squad for the 1994 semi-final (In fact I had to pause the highlights on Youtube this time). I believe Cantona was suspended for this game but was surprised to see Dublin starting upfront, McClair in midfield and Butt on the bench. Andy Ritchie was the only survivor from the 94 semi-final in the Oldham squad that I could see. Utd avoid giving me the Sheff Wednesday palpitations, and in a repeat of the ’94 semi-final replay, beat Oldham 4-1 with goals from Sharpe, McClair (2) and Dublin. I bring on Robson for the final 20 minutes, hoping he might chin one in, but to no avail. McCarthy gets their goal and Andy Ritchie comes on but fails to make any impact. We’re through to the 5th round where we’ll play the winner of Bury vs Crewe.

mufc 4 - 1 oldham

In the final game of this Part we play Chelsea (in a repeat of the 94 FA Cup Final – seriously, stop it now!). Hughes and Kanchelskis both score twice and get a 10 rating in a 4-0 win (Just like the cup final), which takes us 8 points clear of Arsenal at the top of the Premiership. United’s fine form also sees me named Manager of the Month for December and January, but the club is still losing money, strangely – I think the board had to give big contracts to some of the returning stars.

The recent cup games have kept me on the edge of my seat for this part of the blog and I’m now fully immersed in my objective of winning the treble with the class of 93/94. I’m even enjoying not having to look at the transfer market! The whole squad have played at least one game now this season, with their ratings below, but not everyone is happy, not even Lee Martin.

mufc squad

In next part we take on Liverpool in the League Cup Semi-final and find out if it’s Bury or Crewe in the FA Cup, hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am, and will join me again.

I’ve given Matt the rest of the year off but Return of the King will be back in the New Year. You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

The Stockport Diaries – Part X

Matt Porter is back with the final update of the year, but can Stockport rediscover some form as they enter 1998? Catch up with Part 9 here

Well the Christmas period was pretty poor, following on again from a poor November, but there were some slight rays of sunshine through it, I feel we may turn a corner. Then again I am pretty confident every year that we will have a great summer, and I live in the north.

First up is Watford in the cup and I am going back to the tried and trusted Keegan way. I shouldn’t have betrayed my belief in attacking football, Terry Mac would not be impressed. A pretty much full strength side against the team from the league below in the hope we might actually start scoring, but I do want to give Carlo Nash a run out, and Sean Connelly comes back in. Matt Bound and Tony Dinning are injured and David Walton is cup tied.

1

Well the entertainment factor has certainly returned with this formation, half time is one all thanks to a Cavaco equaliser but it is a proper cup tie, which we ought to be winning but we still can’t hit the target with decent chances.

2

The second half isn’t particularly memorable, Nash makes a couple of good saves to keep us in it, both stemming from Kevin James’ errors so I can only assume the man of the match was given by a sponsor who decided to stay in the hospitality suite for the second half drinking champagne and listening to Elton John records. It isn’t terrible but it isn’t great, our wait for a win goes on and we have an extra game in the form of a cup replay. When they talk about the magic of the cup, that game is not it.

This is however:

3

A pretty uninspiring 4th round draw, should we get there:

4

Away at Crewe next, the glamour just keeps on ramping up, and I want to try and keep a reasonably settled side so only make 3 changes. Tetradze drops to the bench for Walton, Nash gives way to Edwards and Tomlinson got injured during the week so Charana gets a start. I could do with a result here, no win in 6. Its cold, its damp, it probably isn’t the best place for pretty football so we are going direct and we are going for the jugular, if my strikers could wear football boots instead of clown shoes it may help.

5

The entertainers are back! We have a massive 13 shots in the first half after going behind early on. Unfortunately my strikers display all the prowess of a stoned sloth, but Luis Cavaco shows them how its done with 2 well taken goals, and if it wasn’t for the superb (and underappreciated) Jason Kearton we would have more.

6

Fantastic game, fantastic result, I celebrate a little bit too much, but I don’t care, we’ve finally won a game! 22 shots, a striker who finally scores a goal, what’s not to love? We concede another towards the end but I don’t care, 4-2! I do notice that this win is the first game I haven’t played my two foreign signings, so let’s gloss over that fact, every manager is allowed to sign a crap player or 2.

7

Well we are miles off the top 2, but we did need that, and there’s plenty of time to chase them down, at least one of them will go on a bad run. Now we have the midweek cup replay and I could really do without that to be honest.

8

I still feel we are a bit stale, so I decide to make a bit of a surprise move in the transfer window, die hard Stockport fans look away now, but I decide to sell Tony Dinning. You may look aghast but bear with me, he started the season well but has been rubbish recently, he’s valued at about half a million and I get just shy of a million for him, it just makes sense! Now to find a replacement… (forward planning not massively apparent).

9

A few changes for the cup as there are some tired legs, it would be nice to have a cup run and we have 2 winnable home games which would take us to round 5, but I can’t have a knackered team for Saturday. It’s a juggling act, which ironically would be better than the pre match ‘entertainment’ served up which involves a local boy band (Take Hat, we’re the Hatters you see) murdering songs that are crap even when sung properly. At least the crowd are treated to some genuine comedy in the form of Ian Gray’s warm up routine, please don’t get injured Carlo.

10

I feel like a man who has just bought a DFS sofa for full price. How the hell did we lose that one? I mean seriously? We absolutely battered them, Chris Day played like a superhuman, we hit the post SIX times, they did absolutely naff all for the entire game except score. Then we get a penalty in the last minute, Andy Mutch puts it over the bar, and yet still has time to miss a one on one before the full time whistle. I hate this game sometimes, but ‘at least we can concentrate on the league’. Urgh, I hate saying that.

11

No time to delay, we need a boost, and where do second tier managers always go when they need a boost? Well, Angola naturally.

12

It’s a bit of a gamble but I need something different in midfield, and maybe this is what we need. I have an eye on a couple of other players too, and I know my last two foreign signings haven’t been very good, but I’m going for it.

A reasonably local derby next against Bury, and our efforts in midweek have caused some fitness issues so I have to rest a few players. Thankfully I can recall the fit again Matt Bound though, so it doesn’t weaken us too much. Carlita goes straight onto the bench, and I hope to give him a run out. Bury are still bottom but in recent weeks have improved massively, winning 5 out of 7 and drawing the other 2, so we will have to play well. I am pleased to see them making a fight of it, but hope we can be the blip in that run today. It seems a key game for both teams, there is tension in the air.

13

Another great first half, only tempered by a sloppy goal conceded and a couple of guilt edged chances missed meaning we only go in one goal in front. I try to keep things relaxed at half time and remind the boys how well we are playing. We also get a bit of a collector’s item for the last couple of months in the form of an Alun Armstrong goal, hopefully this will open the floodgates!

14

A comfortable win and I’ll take that, a good performance too, although we did take a foot off the gas towards the end which is concerning, but a win is a win so I’m not complaining, we need to keep this up, and we have a fortnight off now to recharge the batteries. No owl sanctuary this time, just a couple of days off training and then back hard at it for the next match on the last day of the month.

15

We are back within touching distance of the top 2, I’d have taken this at the beginning of the season:

16

I have felt for a while we are lacking a bit of experience in the midfield, and so I have gone for a bit of a left field signing. He is technically a defensive midfielder and so doesn’t really fit my system, but I think he’ll be very useful, and he’s got into the Arsenal team a couple of times this season so can’t be bad!

17

I do feel sorry for Kiko Charana, every time he gets a bit of a run of form he gets injured and now is no different, out for two weeks with a stubbed toe. He therefore misses out on our final game of the month, away at playoff hopefuls Sunderland. Apart from Charana, McIntosh and the suspended Andy Mutch I have a full strength squad to choose from, and so Charana aside this is probably my first choice eleven at the moment.

I am so glad to be back to football after a Saturday off, doing all those jobs I’ve been promising to do for months, finally taking the Christmas decorations down, painting the spare room, wishing I’d put a stronger team out for the Watford game so I didn’t have to do all this crap…

18

Some extremely dubious refereeing in the first half is the main talking point. There are no goals and few chances but Lee Clark gets sent off after 8 minutes for ‘hauling down Martin Lauchlan’, and given that Neil Edwards took the resulting free kick I am guessing it was near our box, so seems harsh to say the least. Tony Coton then ‘takes out Garde when through on goal’, which of course should be a red card and a penalty, but nothing doing, and then Coton rubs salt into the wounds by brilliantly denying Garde and Cavaco before half time. We have to be confident of beating ten men though.

19

Well that was frustrating. Alun Armstrong again showing he has completely lost his touch since the beginning of the season, I am tempted to drop him but replacements don’t seem too good either. We have a few chances, they muster up one, and bizarrely that gives our champagne swilling sponsors the idea that Neil Edwards should be man of the match. I would probably have taken a point beforehand but playing almost the whole game against ten men makes it seem like two points lost.

20

So we have managed to steady the ship after a couple of terrible months and I’ve also managed to get my spare room painted, but we are still not where we were earlier in the season. Hopefully we can keep building momentum and take that into the play offs if needs be or else sneak into those automatic spots. February could be key…

21

Matt is having a well earned rest but will return with The Stockport Diaries in the New Year.

Follow Matt on Twitter @PorterMatt

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

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.

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