Matt Wills, like Alice Deejay, wants you back in his life. The man who brought you Return of the King is back in time for the new season with another crazy concept. He’s off to Turin…but why?
World Cups, England and Nostalgia have such an interwoven narrative. Every 4 years, England’s hopes of a successful tournament seem to be constantly compared to Euro 96, Italia 90 and 1966. It’s inescapable, so why not embrace it, and this year, England too our hopes as far as 1990 and the semi finals again.
Italia 90 was the first tournament I can remember and watching the semi-final against Germany on TV is still a vivid memory, only enhanced by YouTube clips of Parker’s back, Shilton’s Stumble, Linker’s ecstasy, Gazza’s Tears and Waddle’s Penalty. We can relive One Night In Turin as much as we like, but nothing will change, but CM97/98 gives us the chance of ‘What if?’. Dave did it excellently with his books (obligatory plug). If you followed my ‘Return of The King’ blog, pondering what would have happened had Eric Cantona not retired in 97, you’ll know I like to heap nostalgia on nostalgia, so got me thinking about my next blog theme – how about more than a night in Turin, how about a Season?
I’ve looked past Juventus for this and opted for Serie B’s Torino – The Old Lady’s Little Sister, if you will. Torino living in the shadow of Juve, finished 5th in 97/98 and missed out on promotion after a playoff defeat. Back in the 1940’s Torino won 5 titles in a row, provided the backbone of the Italian national team, tragically decimated by a plane crash in 1949.
In 1997, the team consists of a smattering of promising youngsters, seasoned pro’s, journeymen, and a member of England’s Italia 90 squad, Tony Dorigo.
There’s a lot of centre backs in this squad, a lot of left wingbacks and no holding midfielders. This team may need a bit of surgery. Tony will be staying though.
Before I can make a start though, Jimmy Nicholl frees himself up for a future management move.
My first order of business is to sign a 3rd goalkeeper for my squad. I opt for someone who should know Turin well. I had to fight off some stiff competition for the 47 year old, but I got my man.
Next up, I need some competition for Ferrante and Carparelli. Gary swaps the Match of the Day studio for Turin via a lucrative contract (£2k a week) and some fiddling with the editor. Hey, if it’s good enough for Cantona…
That gap in the middle of the field concerns me, so I opt for Steve McMahon, another Italia 90 stalwart.
And whilst I don’t need any more centre backs, I wasn’t about to let Terry Butcher play for a Welsh team.
With my team of Italians and England stalwarts, I set up a few easy friendlys to get to know my team and it seems Lineker didn’t leave his shooting boots in Japan…
Bobby jumps before he’s pushed.
Our first game of the season is away to Como in the Coppa Italia. We’re heading out until Lineker pounces to take the game to penalties and then tries a Paneka with our first spot kick, but we prevail. McMahon showing him how to do it. Shilton, even though he waits to see which way the kicker goes, saves the decisive spot kick.
Our joy is short-lived though, as we go out on penalties in the next round, Lineker again trying that bloody chip-penalty. Tony Dorigo missed and Shilton got no where near Genoa’s 3 penalties, unsurprisingly.
So, it’s just the league to concentrate on now, and aiming for automatic promotion.
I try a few formations out, starting with the 2-3-1-2-2, but given the amount of centrebacks I have at my disposal, I settle into a 5-3-2 attacking formation, which seems to work…
Lineker and Ferrante forming a formidable partnership, Shilton leaking the goals though…
Meanwhile, England draw with Moldova and Italy in their France 98 qualifiers so have to negotiate a playoff with Greece…
The first leg puts them in control, and Robbie Fowler finishes the job in the away tie.
The draw places England with Cameroon, Germany and Japan – shades of Italia 90 there for Glenn and his men…
Back to the league, and after 10 games, we’re sitting pretty in second, with plenty of goals scored…
Most of which are down to this man, who still knows how to sniff out a goal, in almost every game it seems. Butcher and McMahon are marshalling the defence and midfield around them, although Shilton isn’t as mobile as he was in the 70’s. The Italian youngsters and journey men are gelling well with the class of Italia ’90, so hopefully you’ll follow me in seeing if we can get them to Serie A.
Thanks for reading and I’ll leave you with Gary’s stats. You’ll see he’s picked up the first yellow cards of his career, maybe setting his aggression at 7 was a little high… Ciao for now!
For more from Matt don’t forget to follow him on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills