Totti’s Team: Part 1

We’ve got a new series for you today as Rob Tait joins the party. He’s taken over Roma to try and re-live Totti’s glory days. He had many glory days. Without further Freddy, here’s Rob.

The idea: It’s the start of the 97/98 season, Roma have sacked their manager after a 12th place finish last season, they need someone new to revitalise the squad. They have one positive to take from the previous season and that is the emerging talent of a young Francesco Totti. He is Roma through and through and they are looking to build a future around him. For some reason the board decided that the best person for this job is a 35 year old English man with no previous managerial experience. I have two key aims, I want to win the Serie A title by the 2000-01 season, as Roma won the title that year. I would also like to guide Italy to World Cup success and maybe rewrite history with a Euro 2000 victory, however the Euros will probably come round a bit early for me to have secured the national team job. I’ve made one tweak to Totti’s stats and that is to increase his influence stat from 15 to 20. After all he was Roma captain by 22 and the idea is to build a team around him.

In reality Roma had a good season in 97/98 and finish fourth in Serie A so my aim is to match or better this. Totti played 36 matches, scoring 14 goals during the 97/98 campaign, I hoping for a similar performance here as I need European football next season or this could be a very short lived idea as Totti maybe requesting a transfer to move to a bigger club (as has been seen time and again club loyalty doesn’t exist in CM9798) or the board may start to question their left field appointment.

Let us begin, I would rate the squad I inherit as weak medium.


A few good players but a lot of dross. I have ten players who have centre back as one of their positions, WHY?! It’s a squad of 31, not much room for maneuver or whole scale restructuring and there are way to many non-eu players. I shed a few on free transfer and that immediately gets the boards back up so they are less than satisfied and we have not even kicked a ball yet.

I decide on a hybrid of the 2-3-1-2-2 and 4-2-3-1 formations that were reviewed in the tactics section on the website so I need to buy two (narrow) wide players to slot in behind either my lone striker or front two. I really want to buy Denilson but there are two problems, one he is from Brazil so would add to my tally of foreign players and two he thinks we are crap and doesn’t want to sign for us. I’m in turmoil until League Scout 1 suggests Alessio Pirri, swayed by my love of Nandos and the fact the kid is Italian and cheap I buy a left winger. There is nobody else for sale really so I return to and old faithful in Morten Bisgaard to play on the right hand side. After this I add two other signings Tommy Svindal Larsen (who I’m not sure I need) and Marcio Santos who I do need but would really like it if he wasn’t from Brazil but there is such a lack of centre back talent I have to do it.

I arrange three friendly’s to get my eye in, and experiment with this hybrid formation. It doesn’t go well and I lose 2:6 to Barcelona and 1:4 to Atletico Madrid, however I’m boyed by our 5:1 thrashing of Man Utd and I take this confidence into our Coppa Italia 2nd round match.



Not really the start I was hoping for, best focus on the league then.


Umm… it’s not really going to plan. Inter are quality but a draw with Brescia was poor. I ditch the formation tinkering and go back to the old faithful.


The lads really embrace this formation and we turn on the style with three victories on the bounce, best of which came against Juve.


We take our high spirits and world beating attitude to Florence, we can’t be stopped, confidence is flowing through the side.


Petruzzi’s rash challenge brings us crashing back down earth. Maybe we got a little carried away, I think to myself, but the attitude on the training pitch is top notch and the following four games see us win two and draw two, we scored 14 but conceded 9. The neutrals are loving our brand of attacking entertaining football while I’m wonder what our four international defenders are playing at. I then remember three of the four are from Brazil and defending means something different there. I embrace my inner Kevin Keegan and accept that our approach will be if they score three we score four.

Our next match is against Parma, the press are excited, two strong attacking sides going into battle, they are predicting goals and plenty of them.


Well that was a game for the neutrals. After 11 games we are 6th in the league, we have shown flashes of brilliance but are plagued by a lack of consistency and a leaky defense. I’m hoping the team will gel, Old Man Balbo isn’t getting it done up front the coaches tell me his legs have gone. Del Vecchio is in to replace him.

Rob will be back next week but please welcome him to the CM9798 family by giving him a follow on Twitter @Taitanator



Return of the King Season 2: Part 5 – The Final Countdown

I might have called last week’s episode the penultimate edition, but I was wrong. This one is. It looks like Matt Wills is going to take the class of 94 to yet more success, but can he get the job done? You can catch up with the previous episode here

Welcome back to the fifth and final part of Return of the King – Season 2. To give you a brief recap, Eric made a swift u-turn on retirement in the summer of 97 and we reunited the squad of 93/94 to try and win the domestic treble, something they cam so close to in 1994. We also came a whisker away from reaching the Champions League final, only to be denied on penalties by Parma. A few old timers retired and we carried on into this season, with Eric determined to win the Champions league, but our form has been better than our injury list and we’re somehow on course for an unprecedented quadruple, if only the aging legs can last a bit longer…

I left you with a cliffhanger at the end of Part 4, 2-1 up against Ajax in the 2nd leg of the Champions League Semi-final, Cantona leading by example with 2 goals to cancel out Ronald De Boer’s opener to level the tie on aggregate at half time. Let’s pick up the action in the second half…

The teams kick-off the second half unchanged, but it’s a cagey affair. We know another Ajax goal will make it a mountain for us to climb, Ajax sliding the ball around slickly while I pray for no mistakes and no more injuries. Guillermo Amor tussles with Eric on the half way line and Eric shoves the Spaniard who rolls around theatrically. Eric sees a yellow and is led away by McClair. Luckily, and surprisingly, it’s his first in Europe this season, so he won’t miss the final – if we get there.

With 10 minutes to go, Amor is at it again and sucks in Keane who retaliates with a kick to the shin, another yellow. His time it is a second yellow in the competition and Keane will miss the final if we get there – 99 was not his year.

Extra time looms and I start getting nervous. I have two of my main men on yellows and an away goal will finish us. In extra time we pepper the Ajax goal, but Fred Grim, in for the injured Van der Sar is equal to it. I decide against making a change, I don’t want to disrupt anything. Ajax make a change on 115 minutes, Kees Van Wonderen is replaced by Arno Splinter, they’re playing for pens.

And on to the shoot out. I subbed Cantona off in the semi-final last year as he was recovering from injury and we went out on pens, this season, he takes the first and buries it. Arveladze equalises for Ajax and then Beckham puts us ahead. Sunday Oliseh squares things up before Kanchelskis shoots hard and low past Grim’s dive. Ronald De Boer, scorer of the away goal steps up and Schmeichel guesses right and palms it away. Advantage Utd as Giggs steps up. But he balloons it, allowing Richard Witschge to level matters again. Solid, dependable, mystery thriller author Bruce steps up and drills a fine penalty into the top corner – postage stamp accuracy from Mrs Doubtfire’s stunt double. Up steps Mariano Juan – he has to score to keep the tie alive, his shot flies towards the left hand post, Schmeichel dives the same way and gets a fingertip to it and pushes it onto the post, the ball flies across the goal-line and strikes Peter’s trailing heel and the ball bounces safely towards Juan who slumps to his knees.

5 1

5 2

The players run around crazily, Old Trafford explodes into a cacophony of sound and Eric raises his arms and slowly twists round like a conductor direction his orchesta, amazing scenes. Giggs looks relieved, Keane is solemn.

We’ll play Paris St Germain in the final.

Three days later, league action resumes. We’re 4 pts ahead of Spurs in second, with 2 games in hand, but my team are shattered. Only Schmeichel and Sharpe stay in the first 11 and Armstrong scores twice for Leicester before Scholes pulls one back for Utd, but it’s too little to prevent our 7th league defeat of the season and Spurs win to close the gap to 1 pt. We have 2 games in hand still, but the fixture list is pretty congested for us after the international break with all these cup exploits.

5 3

Another injury…

5 4

On the international break, Eric scores for France in a 5-0 win over Malta while England play out a turgid nil-nil draw in a friendly with Saudi Arabia, but thankfully, no more injuries.

Midweek league action and we’re playing game catch up. We’re away to Wimbledon whilst Spurs take on 19th placed Chelsea. Robson’s Middlesbrough looking well placed after promotion

5 5

We squeeze through 2-1. Ekoku cancelled out Kanchelskis, but when Alan Reeves handled in the box, there’s only one man who’s not going to wilt under pressure. We needed that too as Spurs beat Chelsea 3-0!

5 6

The 1st of May comes and it’s the first of 3 games in 4 days as we catch up our two games in hand. The squad will need some serious rotation if we’re going to claim this title and keep injury free for the FA Cup and Champions League final.

First up is Huddersfield Town away who have the Zenga-boy in goal but are languishing in 18th place, a point from safety. My jibs about Zenga are unjust, he thwarts all we have to throw at him (we have 14 corners!), until the 75th minute when I bring Sharpe on for Thornley on the left wing and his mazy run sees him jink past the aging Italian and slot for the games winner. What’s this about leaving it late all of a sudden in 1999?

Spurs beat Barnsley by the same scoreline, so we stay a point ahead but a win in our next game will seal it for us as spurs have one game left. Leeds have faded badly…

5 7

It’s almost a full fixture schedule on Bank Holiday Monday and the relegation battle looks set to be confirmed.

5 8

We’re up against mid-table Barnsley. I play Blackmore upfront with Scholes as I change the line-up yet again, but it’s two Keith Gillespie goals which seal the title for us. At the bottom, Man City, Huddersfield and Chelsea are all down with one game left.

Bryan Robson returns to Old Trafford with his Middlesbrough team and Keane sets up the party celebration before Schmeichel chops down substitute Campbell in the area who scores from the penalty spot. It’s a sea of red, white and black as the Premier League Trophy is presented to Steve Bruce, touchingly by opposition manager and Utd stalwart Bryan Robson, you couldn’t write this stuff…

We finish off the league campaign with a 5-0 drubbing when we play relegated Chelsea. Unfortunately, it is us on the receiving end after I play all the non-regulars to save my best players for the cup finals. Not the way I’d intended to finish the league season.

5 9

This is a shock, he guided them to safety after promotion last season, what’s he meant to do? Lose two cup finals and get relegated to keep his job? John Toshack gets the job, quitting relegated Chelsea.

In Italy, Juventus have done the double, while AC Milan beat Real Madird on penalties to lift the Cup Winners Cup. Athletic Bilbao beat Borussia MGB 3-0 in the Eufa Cup Final.
The eve of the FA Cup Final approaches and we’re off to Wembley to face QPR who just missed out on the Division 1 play offs, still they’ll be in Europe next season as a consolation I guess.

I start to plan my final line up carefully, with one eye on the Champions League final four days later. Keane is he first name down as he’s suspended for the game against Paris SG. There’s a knock at my door. It’s Eric.

‘Big game tomorrow Eric.’

‘Oui, it is. But I don’t want to play….’

See you next week for the cup finals. Can we do the treble again? Can we go one better and win the Champions League? What’s up with Eric? See you then.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

The Stockport Diaries: Season 2 – Part 5

It was going all a bit too well for Matt Porter at Stockport. A couple of defeats to end part 4 shouldn’t over shadow what a great start it has been to their first season at Premier League level, but as we reach November, is this a temporary blip or a permanent road block? Let’s find out…

Well this is going better than I thought, although the last couple of games were a bit worrying, especially in the cup. We need to get back to it and quickly. It’s Chelsea up next and coincidentally they along with Arsenal and Leicester are in for Micky Flynn. With a heavy heart I have accepted 6 million pound bids for him, I can’t stand in his way if he wants to go, he’s 29 and it’s his last chance of a big move.

I return to the league team after the cup disaster, and bizarrely notice that Nick Colgan is ahead of Ed De Goey in goal, mind you last time I said that about a keeper he won the match single handedly for the opposition.


All square at half time, Chelsea the better side and they go ahead early on, but Jardel equalises, and then Dugarry should put us undeservedly ahead on the stroke of half time but misses a sitter.


Well that came to light in the second half! End to end stuff although we are the better side this time, so typically Jody Morris scores, that huge name. Last season we would have collapsed, but we are made of sterner stuff, even in front of 40,000 baying cockneys, and we attack with gusto, and within two minutes we turn it around from 2-1 down to 3-2 up. The away end is delirious and we even grab another at the end. Job done, we are pretty damn good!

I am still going to let Flynn go though, unhappy players have no place here. Besides, letting other crowd favourites go has hardly harmed us so far…


As a Bolton fan I feel somewhat offended by this:


Still top of the league!


It’s a pretty fitting farewell, battering your new employers on their patch. It is wwith a heavy heart I say goodbye to my fantastic captain, but I think I’ve got a decent deal here, especially if Duberry is any good, so I couldn’t really turn it down.


There is dissent in the ranks of the fans, but I ask them to trust me, after all we have gone from relegation candidates from Division 1 to top of the Premier League in a season and a half. I also point out the lack of ‘progress’ from Dinning and Gannon, it seems to make the point. There may be another favourite on the way soon too in the form of Alun Armstrong. He hasn’t had a chance this season and yet is still worth around 3 million, and bizarrely there is a lot of interest in him, so if an offer comes in he is on the way.

Oh for fuck’s sake, that would happen wouldn’t it:


Next up is Liverpool at home, a real tough test of our new found heights, and one that we must attempt without our erstwhile captain. I am nervous of a defensive horror show resulting in murmurings within the home end, after all the seeds of dout can be sown very quickly, but as someone clever (probably) once said, if you aren’t moving forwards you’re going backwards. Actually on reflection that’s complete bollocks, it was probably some management speak on a corporate video said alongside a very boring powerpoint about sales. I’ll stick to football and leave meaningless soundbites to Tony Blair.

Anyway, the game itself, and I shouldn’t worry about the athmosphere, it is buing and Michael Duberry gets a rousing reception. He impresses me so much in training during the week I give him the captain’s armband, future England captain this one I reckon (but then I did think that in real life too). Aside from this, it is the only change as we move onto a stern test, Liverpool have a strong side but there are certainly weaknesses at the heart of the defence.


The first half includes chances for both sides and is a good watch, but thanks to our post stopping Robbie Fowler twice it remains nil nil, although we do have 2 centre backs on yellows.


A fantastic half of football! We lose Heidenstrom, stretchered off after 10 minutes, but after that the fun starts. A couple of chances for either side, a couple of goal saving tackles from our new captain, then Owen goes through 1 on 1 and makes no mistake. No matter though, this side don’t get overawed or let their heads drop, we’re like the Rocky of South Manchester, and a few minutes later Dario Simic pops up to score after a Jarni free kick hits the bar, nothing like your two full backs combining for a goal is there? There is still time for both sides to hit the post (that REALLY does happen far too much on this game), but overall it’s a useful point against a good side, and 4 points from Chelsea and Liverpool going into the international break is not to be sniffed at.

Not ideal news, but could be worse, in effect it’s a month as we have 2 weeks off now for internationals.


Straight after the game I get bids in from Wolves, Man City and Middlesbrough for Alun Armstrong…. My original team is being speedily disbanded. I have put a club record bid of £4 million in the meantime in for Tony Sheridan, a midfielder at Ipswich, and I am bidding against big names of Celtic (who actually are on here) and Arsenal. I feel central midfield is somewhere I can develop, and I want to fight the big boys!

In the meantime Kevin James is being a cock and rejecting a contract extension, which is annoying as he has a big club release clause so I will lose him if anyone makes a bid.

Woohoo! Technically I win on default as Celtic can’t afford the fee and Arsenal withdraw because of an injury to Sheridan, but I don’t care, I win!!


In fairness this is not unexpected:


Next up is Sheffield United away, a nice short trip but one I will have to make without the injured Simic, Heidenstrom, Sheridan, Youngs, McIntosh and Tomlinson. Simic will be replaced by Connolly and Carlita comes in for Heidenstrom, and there is a place on the bench for forgotten man Nick Wright.


Well that start should put the big clubs off, after only 2 minutes Kevin James ‘overhits the chip’ and scores an own goal. What the fuck are you doing chipping the ball towards your own goal anyway Kevin?! After a really poor first ten minutes we grow into the game though and for the second game in a row it is our right back popping up, this time from a corner, to equalise. 1-1 half time, and these are there for the taking.


It’s a cagey second half until the 67th minutes when our skipper gets sent off for a professional foul, that’s more like the Michael Duberry you all know! We batten down the hatches, and although Sheffield United score in the 88th minute it is disallowed for offside, another point gained, I’ll take that, and Matt Bound continues to prove he is a Premier League defender, I will definitely take that!


We’ve dropped off the top now, but we are still well in touch, I think I’d have taken this at the beginning of the season!


Bye bye Alun, all the best! To be honest I don’t think he’s Premier League quality but I’ll keep an eye on how he does for 19th placed Boro (who finished above me last season remember!).


Tottenham up next and Simic is back which spells bad news for Carlita as he drops out because of the EU rule with Bray replacing him, and Connelly drops out too unluckily.


Kevin James again! Dreadful backpass and Spurs score. He is dropped! It is a pity but he seems to have had his head turned and I tell him so at half time. Otherwise very little happens and it is 1-0 Spurs.

I forgot to screenshot halftime, but the second half is excellent. Once again we battle hard but with little end product until I being on Nick Wright for his first appearance of the season. He transforms the game, laying on a goal for Jean Bray who excels on his return to the side, and also hitting the bar and finally earning a yellow card for taking out Ian Walker, although I dispute that ruffling his hair and messing up his curtains warrants this. The hairdryer treatment obviously worked for Kevin James as he gets man of the match, and will probably not be dropped anyway as I think Duberry is suspended for the next match.


So we have gone from the team who hasn’t drawn a single game all season to drawing 3 in a row, but I reckon 6 points is a decent return given the injuries and the tough November fixture list, plus in two of those draws we were the better side and could have won it. We look like we’re in a mini league of 4 as we approach the half way point, and not many people could have predicted those 4 names. Only 4 points to go to that magical 40 point mark…. Didn’t think I’d be saying that at the end of November!

Matt will be back again next week but you can follow him on Twitter @PorterMatt





The Gialloblu Chronicles – Part 3

Monday is Ross day, with his Parma side getting off to a great start in parts 1 and 2 but as we reach Spring, are things going to take a turn for the worse? Catch up with part 2 here

Welcome back my friends. For those new to this, you’re very welcome but please read the first two parts or nothing will make sense.

We finished part 2 entering the winter break second to the mighty Juventus, going strong in the Champions League and very concerned for Kieron Dyer’s affection for all things ‘I’m a Celebrity’ related.

The aforementioned Juventus are our first game back from our mini break, which I took the players on holiday to Norfolk. All was going well till Denilson was almost washed away with the sea trying to play football on the beach. ‘It’s Great Yarmouth not Rio’ I said to him.

We get back to Italy for our biggest game of the season. And for 57 mins it seems the east Anglian weather has done the lads good.


Sadly, this puts to 3rd, and with top 2 going for the champions league I need to do better against the bigger teams.

Napoli are the next team to the Ennio Tardini, and after confiscating a bag full of Yarmouth Fudge off the players they seem calmer.


Decent sized crowd and the two best players so far of the season score.

The quarter final draw for the Champions League is next. I get the squad around the tele to watch. And after 30 mins of UEFA faffing and Dino Baggio squaring up to Dyer after Kieron refused to take a corked rimmed hat off, wWe finally know our opponents.


Paris in the first game. And even though this is pre-oil money PSG they are still decent and will cause us a lot of issues.

Our tough fixture period takes us to Lazio and the Olympic stadium. We are on an unbeaten run since November but not enough wins and to many draws keep us at bay in 3rd. Now wondering if the Glamour of Norwich has gone to their heads


Even a favourable red card doesn’t inspire the team to a win. With steady form in the league im looking for the team to pick the pace up for Paris.


Our 5 fans who travelled to the game will be delighted. Dogged game and really dug deep in the second half. Crespo taking up the senior role up front with Chiesa out. Will this kick start our league form?


Oh yes. Adailton is handy squad player, but the three non-EU rule means it’s hard to get him in the match day squad. The un-sung hero that is Blomquist repays my faith for starting him. And with PSG coming back to our ground in mid-week it should mean we go into the game on form.


Damn away goals. Also, is this the longest surname in the game? By the time Worns scored the guy on the tannoy had just figured out how to pronounce it. Our Euro dream is over for the season. The board are not happy, but I promise we will be back next season.

I sense the anger in the players. And the want fix things. More so for the fans and more so for me. I think anyway, my Italian isn’t up to scratch.

Piacenza feel the wrath of our exit from Europe.


I’m still waiting for us to really tear a team apart. But I’m happy with four and a clean sheet.

A quick look at the top three show Juventus have slipped up a little in the last few games and these two wins have put us above Inter for now.


5 games to go and only 3 points in it. It couldn’t be tighter, well it could we could all be on the same points but you get my drift.

Please come back for the final part of the first season. Can we qualify for the Champs league? Will the board keep me on? And can we keep Dyer away from trying to set up something called ‘Celebrity Cyclone’

Ciao for now.

You can follow Ross on Twitter @Riddley82

New Beginnings

Hello! Welcome to Season 6. I had a great time at Aberdeen, but from the shrill peep of the full time whistle in the Champions League final at the end of season 5, I knew my time was up. The Scottish League has been good fun, but after taking Aberdeen to the title in season 1 we have barely suffered a defeat domestically. With a side good enough to win the Champions League, it is perhaps no surprise that the likes of Motherwell and Dundee couldn’t lay a finger on us – no disrespect. With every trophy in the cabinet, in some cases retained, I had little motivation to carry on. But I like this save, it is nicely poised, so now it’s time for a fresh challenge for the 2002/03 season. But where will I pitch up?


I’ve wanted to go to Belgium for a while – why else would I load the Belgian league? But with none of the top jobs available, 7th placed SV Waregem (now Zulte) is perhaps the perfect club for me. Even if I am ranked as the top manager in the game, I think this might be my spiritual home.

Waregem info

Firstly, the play in a ridiculously named stadium. It even has Regen in the title. I think I’ll call it the roogy boogy. I love that a 15,000 capacity stadium  has only 7,000 seats. Old school. Anyway, as you can see they were promoted in 97/98 and have finished 8th, 7th, 5th and 7th. It’s good, but there’s room to improve. I like that. Here’s the squad:

Waregem squad

The most famous in there is probably Par Zetterberg, a Swede who is an obvious key man. Outside of that though there’s not much to shout about, although a striker called Dammann will lead to lots of opportunities for me to ask just who the man is, whilst this man is called Lesmond.


I’m going to want to put my own stamp on the squad so this will be a slow burner, so I’ll be happy with a top half finish as long as we find a team that works by the end of the season. I want to use the same formation I did at Aberdeen, which will mean signing some players. People like Dan Petrescu and Mark Schwarzer.

Zulte In

Kumar is one of the “super” players I found when I signed David Tucker for Aberdeen – he has 19s and 20s for everything except technique. You can’t have everything.

I lost this guy to Club Brugge – he had a big club release and I am £325k richer at the loss of our Macedonian midfielder.


That is definitely not the strangest signing of the summer though

shearer to palace

Before I get into the life and times of SV Waregem, I need to tell you what is happening at Aberdeen because it’s ridiculous. I like to think the Aberdeen board asked me who I would pick to replace me (please note this reflects purely on the previous exploits of Beardsley on this blog and not on the recent real life allegations against him)

Beardsley to Aberdeen

Chortle. I’ve got a lot of time for Pedro’s approach to transfers, as he immediately weakens his rivals

negri to aberdeen

Then blows £13m on Robbie Fowler

fowler to aberdeen

It’s a time of change in Scotland though, as Rangers smell blood and see this as the chance to dominate again.

Rangers sack Smith

Rangers appoint Kenny Dalglish, it’s not like he spent a lot of his early career at Celtic or anything.

kenny to rangers

Newcastle appoint Walter Smith just to complete job swap. It’s a great time for the Scottish management scene, as Gordon Strachan is appointed at Liverpool, and of course Fergie is still dominating the Premier League. It’s a three way tie at the top of the SPL.

SPL top Nov 02

Poor East Fife. Anyway, enough of that. That’s the past. The future, or at the very least the present, is SV Waregem, and it’s time for our first game away at La Louviere

first game season 6

Lovely stuff.

5-2 win

A typically quiet affair for one of my teams but very encouraging. Maybe everything will work out. Our first game at the Roogy Boogy is against Oostende

4-0 oostende

Who’s Da Man!? Good old Rene. We’re the greatest team ever, as long as we continue to face below par opposition

Sadly Anderlecht are not sub par. They are very good.

anderlecht 3-0

A reality check if ever there was one. We do need more options and the opportunity to loan a man called Casanova is not one to be sniffed at. Can I borrow a feeling?


Can you lend me a jar of love Yordan Letchkov?


The visit of Aalst is a chance to get us back on track.

Waregem 3 - 2 Aalst

Lesmond is a bit of a boy. I like him.

What I don’t like is our goalkeeping situation. I firmly believe it’s the most important position on this game, the way the match engine works. Schwarzer isn’t really very good. A 2-0 loss to Club Brugge – who have Esteban Cambiasso – is another reminder that we are maybe the best of the worst but nowhere near the top clubs.

0-2 brugge

Further defeats to Antwerp and unfancied Harelbeke suggest my honeymoon period is over.

antwerp loss0-2 harelbeke

I’m desperate for a win so when Lesmond puts in a late winner at Lierse I do a lap of the house. It was never like this at Aberdeen.

win at Lierse

I’ve seen enough, it’s time to reinforce. We have a small amount to spend and I revisit Aberdeen to get one of the youth goalkeepers I found. He looks incredible apart from the fact that he is as weak as a kitten.

van fessemmusrri

Musrri has unreal stats and if he can deliver on them, he could be a hero here. There’s no non-EU rules in Belgium, so there are no shortage of options for us if we can find other bargains. We’ve also managed to shift two players for £450k, which means we’re up on fees. I notice we had Dennis Bergkamp in February. I don’t know how they pulled that off but fair play.


Musrri gets off to the best possible start. Him and Lesmond could be great together.

waregem 2 - 1 lommel musrri debut

We get nothing off Standard Liege, who are repeated champions, but it’s nice to see my centre half getting man of the match. Everyone else was rubbish.

standard loss

Always finish on a high

3-1 dessel

That leaves us 8th, with a win/loss record BBC 5 live would be proud of. It’s the usual problems – scoring goals is not an issue, stopping them very much is. Hopefully my new goalkeeper can help that.

Jupiler Leagye top Nov 02

That’s all I have to say but this is sad news from Aberdeen:

Bakayoko injury

That leaves Beardsley with just Nevland, Owen, Fowler, Martin, Tomlinson, Negri, Nalis, Dadason and of course himself to pick from up front. How will he manage?

More to the point, how can we build on this start? Is Musrri the new Salas or is it just a flash in the pan? We’ll find out next time. Sorry for the long update, it’s all happening. See you next week.

Return of the King Season 2: Part 4 – Grim’s Fairytale?

It’s Thursday so Matt Wills is back in your life with the latest from Old Trafford. The band has been back together for nearly 2 years now and it has proved a fruitful endeavour, but can it be capped off with yet more success? You can catch up with last week here

Hi all and welcome back to Return of the King, Season 2. Eric and the class of 94 are going for European Glory, but tired minds and tired legs are causing issues…

I left you at the end of Part 3 with Utd neck-a-neck with Leeds United at the top of the Premier League, holding a slender 2-1 advantage over Real Betis in the Champions League semi-finals, facing an FAC Cup replay and into the League Cup Final against Leicester City. Let’s see how we got on…

4 1

First up in the league, we’re away to Leeds Utd who are level on points with us and beat us at Old Trafford earlier in the season thanks to an Andy Cole strike. Revenge is enacted through a brace from Eric and a third from Big Dion, with a Hasselbaink reply to win 3-1. We move 3 pts clear at the top and Schmeichel gets the MOTM for keeping Cole at bay. Keane is out injured for a few weeks after a coming together with Alf Inge Haaland, some things never change…

4 2

Next up, we travel to Highbury for our sixth, and final meeting with Arsenal this season. With the second leg against Betis looming I rest the main squad I rest the main squad and we lose 2-1, Colin McKee getting our goal (he’s scored in every game he’s played for me over two seasons, 3 games, 3 goals).

The home leg against Betis comes around and we hold a 2-1 lead. Scholes, Keane, Neville and Sharpe are all out injured, although Keane recovers from his altercation with Haaland in time. Giggs and Ince are suspended for the match too, so pickings are slim.

Hughes gets our first and then gets himself booked for tripping up the Betis keeper, Prats – prat. Kanchelskis gets our second to out us 2-0 up at half time and 4-1 on aggregate. Hughes doubles his tally and the rout is complete when Pallister pops up with the fourth. Ajax, Paris Saint Germain and Barcelona are the other names in the hat for the semi’s and we pull out Ajax.

4 3

As we’re through to the Champions League semi-finals and in the final of the League Cup, the quarter final FA Cup replay against Birmingham is being played on Friday the 2nd April, 2 days before the semi-finals!

As March ends, Sharpe, Neville and Blackmore al return from injury, but we lose Paul Ince to a groin injury… the United Physio has a lot to answer for!

The transfer window closes, and I notice Newcastle snap up Philip Cocu from Ajax on deadline day. Leeds lose again, 3-1 to Derby County and we’re now 3pts ahead with 2 games in hand as we head into the League Cup Final against Leicester.

At Wembley I shuffle my pack as we play Ajax in the 1st leg 3 days later and want to keep my aging squad fresh. I basically line up my team for the Ajax game and then systematically replace them for reserves or anyone suspended for the Semi-final. So the only regulars in the first 11 are Bruce, Beckham, Hughes and Giggs. The game is a pretty dire non-event and when I look to the bench for some cutting edge in the final 20 minutes I realise I forgot the 3 subs rule, so have to send Keane on up front for a tired McClair and extra time is needed. Gary Walsh gets himself injured on 112 minutes and Schmeichel comes on to play his first League Cup Final as we enter penalties.

Chris Armstrong misses the first and we’re in control until Keane misses the 4th spot kick, we then match each other for hit and miss until Armstrong contrives to miss his second penalty and Hughes slots his second – the first time I’ve seen the penalties need each player to take one!

4 4

The extra time I could have done without, but we’ve retained the League Cup and the quadruple is still alive!

No time for prolonged celebrations though, as we head to Amsterdam for the first leg of the semi-finals with Ajax. McClair gets us going with a very important away goal, but Arveladze pounces on defensive uncertainty at the back to level before half time. The slick attacking unit that is Ajax retain the ball and pummel us in the second half and finally break our resolve and Mariano Juan puts them ahead with a tap in following a goalmouth scramble. Not the result I wanted, but the away goal might be vital.

4 5

No time to mourn as we arrive two days later in Birmingham for our quarter final replay. I manage to put a fairly strong team together and we’re too much for City, with goals from Hughes, McClair and Cantona from the bench. Our reward is a semi-final against Newcastle Utd – two days later!

Most of the team are on 80-90% fitness so the team gets mixed up again and a Dion Dublin goal is enough to see us through to the final. Alan Shearer was suspended for this game, so it could have been much different. Division 1 QPR beat Sunderland in the other Semi-final 3-2 so we’ll be up against the might of Iain Dowie and Danny Maddix in May.

4 6

Oh yeah, and Schmeichel got injured in the Newcastle game and with Walsh also out injured, Sealey retired, I have no real goalkeepers at my disposal. A bloke called Troy Stevens is our back-up. I remember that Kevin Pilkington and Nicky Culkin were on free transfers the last time I checked, but then I remember that the transfer deadline has passed – damn!

Midweek brings Man City to Old Trafford. City are slumped at 19th in the table, so once again I mix the team up a bit. Sharpe and Wellens at full back, Thornley and Gillespie on the wings. Hughes gets an injury so McClair comes on and opens up the scoring before Cantona continues his purple patch to make it 2-0, which results in an injury to Thornley. Another two for the treatment room, but the bad news is for Hughes, 6 months out with a broken ankle, that’s his season over for sure.

McClair and Cantona are at it again against Everton for a 2-0 win, while Leeds poor form continues and they drop to 3rd behind Spurs. That win is our 6th clean sheet in the last 7 games.

In between the Everton game and the return leg against Ajax, we have a Monday night game against Blackburn to catch up on games. As we’re 4pts clear I play an entirely second string team and coax Scholes back to fitness, but it’s too many changes and we go down 2-0.

4 7

To finish off Part 4, we head into the return leg with Ajax in the Champions League Semi-final. We’re 2-1 down with an away goal, so any Ajax goal will make things pretty nervy, two will make it an uphill task.

I opt for the strongest team I can for the biggest game of the season. Schmeichel in goal, Neville and Sharpe as full backs, either side of Bruce and Pallister. Keane anchoring the midfield with Beckham in the hole and Giggs and Kanchelskis on the wings. With Hughes injured, upfront I opt for McClair to partner Eric upfront instead of Dublin, who settles for the bench.

4 8

Grim is preferred over Van Der Saar in the Ajax goal and things look Grimmer for us when Ronald de Boer scores after 17 minutes. Just when I think it’s Parma all over again, Eric turns up his collar and puffs out his chest. He equalises on 24th minute with a powerful rising strike which grim can only flap at and just as I’m planning my half time team talk, Sharpe sends a looping cross into the box which Cantona volleys past Grim, the tie is all square.

In the dressing room at half time, I remind the lads how far they’ve come and how well they’ve done despite all the injuries we’ve had, we’re so close to the final, it’s theirs to grab with both hands.

The players head out for the second half, and we’ll leave that for next week. In the meantime, here are The Welsh Warrior’s stats for the season – will Silk and Steel ever play together again?

4 10

Matt will be back next week but you can follow him on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

The Stockport Diaries: Season 2 – Part 4

Well this is going rather well isn’t it? Matt Porter is working wonders with Stockport, they’re even calling him the Mersey Mourinho…which is odd considering Mourinho is barely a thing in 1998. Anyway, it’s October, can Stockport continue their ridiculous form? Catch up with Part 3 here

Well….. it hasn’t been a bad start really has it? I thought I’d be battling relegation, and I might still be doing so, but I haven’t half got a head start!! Before we start defending our position at the top of the league (never thought I’d type that in the Premier), we have the second leg of the league cup away to Preston. We won the first leg 1-0, so want more of the same, I’ll have a good go at the cups this year I think.

Micky Flynn and Kevin James are knackered so they drop out, and Bray, Jardel and Heidenstrom are rested, Carlita, Smith and Youngs come in.

Well the first half was an exciting game, loads of chances at both ends, and both Dave Lucas and the Preston legend that is Tepi Moilanen play superbly, however Tepi is beaten once by Tom Youngs and we go 1-0 up.


Another belting half of football in front of an impressive 17,500 fans on a Wednesday night see a goal apiece and some more great goalkeeping, which puts us comfortably through to the next round, job done, very professional performance, what more can I ask for? An away trip to Division 1 West Ham is our reward.

Now a couple of people have asked me about tactics, and I’m no Mourinho, and by that I mean I’m not a complete arrogant prick disappearing up his own arse, so I’m happy to share! My team for our game against Middlesbrough is back to the league



It is a testament as to how far we have come in such a short time that Middlesborough, who comfortably outpaced me in Division 1, are comprehensively outplayed in the first half. We take the lead through Jardel before Boro equalise with their only chance of the half. Bizarrely I take this in my stride, so far superior are we, and the only surprise is it takes us until the 45th minute to get a noses back in front. I feel oddly calm, there is no pressure on me, but I will still keep up those sky high expectations, is it too early to be thinking of Europe?


Another dominant performance, 3-1 win with no alarms. We’re all going on a European tour! Pride comes before a what now? Complacency is the mother of all what?


This looks a bit weird, I mean Sheffield Wednesday in the top 4? So unrealistic. International break now so we have 2 weeks off. 2 more weeks at the top of the league, ahhhhh Stockport is the place to be.


Well Colin, that is very kind of you, but straight back on the transfer list for you, Swansea is a very good club and no reason to change your mind.


After 2 weeks off we have a mini crisis – both Neil Edwards and Carlo Nash have taken knocks in training so in comes – gulp – Ian Gray onto the bench. He comes bouncing into the changing room and after my rousing speech about keeping up our tremendous run he tries a rousing add on of ‘come on lads we can get promotion this year’…. I almost cry. Other than that our team is unchanged though, Simic is just about fit after a knock on international duty, I hope the break won’t interrupt our momentum.


Well wouldn’t you just know it, 20 minutes in the goalkeeper is stretchered off! Ian Gray gets his tracksuit off and prepares to come on, until Sean Connelly tells him that it’s actually Derby’s keeper and not ours that has been injured. The half continues uneventfully to a goalless conclusion.

I didn’t bother screenshotting half time as nothing had happened, however the second half is one way traffic as we find an inspired reserve goalkeeper, but with 10 minutes to go Jardel makes no mistake, no one making fat jokes at him now, and we win comfortably 1-0.


Mark Lawrenson doesn’t really believe in us though and says he will do his analysis on Match of the Day naked if we win the league. Alan Hanson leans so far back he almost falls off his chair and makes a cutting remark about distracting people from the fact he doesn’t actually do any analysis, if looks could kill…

Aston Villa at home next and a bit of a blow as Robert Jarni is ruled out of at least the next two games so young Martin Lauchlan comes in. Neil Edwards is fit again for the bench thankfully, although I do miss Ian Gray’s alternative comedy in the changing room beforehand.


A very uneventful first half, barely any shots from either side, nil nil. We’re keeping it tight at least!


Ahhhhhh that’s frustrating. We are comfortably the better team but let a lead slip to lose 2-1. I was surprised at the beginning to see Michael Oakes ahead of Bosnich in goal, by the end of the game I can see why. He is unbeatable, and we also hit the woodwork 4 times. Don’t let it affect you lads, anyone can have a day like this, and the crowd are happy with the performance if not the result.


Still top though! We are now a third of the way through the season…. Gulp!


The last game of this update takes us to West Ham of the league below in the cup. I am going to make 3 changes to a tired team, Bound Simic and Cavaco are out, Walton Connelly and Youngs in.


Well I hope that is just a wobble, we are dreadful. I have a feeling that the lack of our superb full backs may be the main reason, but I don’t want to dwell on that. Let’s concentrate on the league (yeah I know I said I’d give the cup a good go, but I meant the FA cup, obviously….)


Well it was a great start to the month, and let’s face it I can’t complain given that I’m still top of the league, but that last game was worrying. Still, let’s hope it was a blip, and concentrate on the league, who knows what might happen? Blackburn is about the same size as Stockport and its only 4 years since their triumph.

This is dedicated to Kieron Durkan, a Stockport player of this era who tragically took his own life this week. Rest In Peace.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @PorterMatt