Hello to you. As is often the case when I have “time off” from writing and I just want to write everything. I suppose it’s good I have ideas. Anyway, I will be running a series of short stories, managing a club for a small period of time probably with some sort of caveat. Obviously this is CM9798, a game we all know inside out by now, so I need to keep things interesting.
As many of you will know, I’m a Newcastle fan. I haven’t done a blog save as Newcastle, though I did take on the job in the original save (take 2) to drag them up from Division 2. Some things just need fixing. Anyway, we join the story in July 1997. Kenny Dalglish has guided Newcastle to 2nd place after replacing Kevin Keegan and SIR Kenny has celebrated by selling David Ginola and Les Ferdinand. That’s not to mention Peter Beardsley. But fear not, he’s brought in John Barnes, Ian Rush and Stuart Pearce. To top it all off, Alan Shearer has picked up a long term injury and will miss several months. In best case scenarios, I’ve had him back by November. In other games he’s been gone until March. It’s a pickle.
2nd place in 96/97 earned Newcastle a crack at the Champions League. This is good. Normally, I’d just spend the money on Bakayoko and be done with it. Sit back and watch the good times roll. But this is where the challenge comes in. I’m not going to make any signings in the first season. Basically, I have to make the most of the Dad’s Army Kenny has left me. Oh and Andreas Andersson. Thank goodness.
This is the squad I’ve “inherited.” The problem is, finishing 2nd means expectations are quite high. There’s not an awful lot of pace in the forward positions, so my favourite formation might not work. Still, at least we have John Barnes.
Shearer’s injury stands at 7 months. To make matters even more fun, Pistone has been bestowed a 6 month injury. Oh random chance, how you spoil me.
It’s not a bad squad, really. If you ignore some of the ages. I’m thinking Rush and Andersson as the front two we were so cruelly denied, Tomasson and Gillespie in behind, happy days. Don’t really fancy Stuart Pearce as a wing back but I’m actively considering playing Barnesy there. Or Brian Pinas.
We’re a bit light up front, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Maybe it’s stupid to play two strikers when I have so many decent midfielders. Perhaps I could borrow Adam Turner’s Belgium tactics.
That could work.
It’ll fucking have to.
That’s a nightmare draw, obviously. Can’t wait to see Ian Rush lead the line on his own in the Nou Camp.
The deck is stacked. But before we head to Barcelona, it’s Derby at home. In Adam we trust.
If this is a sign of things to come, we’re ruined. We fortunately go ahead when Russell Houly chucks one in but Gary Rowett equalises. Tomasson and Gillespie put us 3-1 up and everybody relaxes. Obviously, Derby get two goals and it finishes 3-3. I didn’t expect defending to be our achilles heel but really, why did I expect anything else?
Perfect warm up for the trip to Barcelona.
We haven’t exactly got loads of room for rotation but I’m going for experience in the Nou Camp. Warren Barton is in at right back and Barnesy starts after making a decent impression against Derby.
Just don’t embarass me, alright?
Louis Van Gaal and Barca are typically reserved.
We lasted 23 minutes before Luis Enrique got on the end of a free kick. That was bad, but Stuart Pearce being sent off for deliberate handball just before half time was a disaster. Obviously Anderson scored the pen. I decided to put Watson on as a left back for Rush and played without a striker. Modern football. Anderson scored for 3-0 and I started to wonder why I even bothered trying this. But one man had other ideas. Gary Speed kept plugging away throughout and he latched on to a through ball, knocked it past Vitor Baia and it’s game on. Sort of. We’ll have to overturn a two goal deficit in two weeks.
David Batty has broken a toe, too. Anything else? It’s bad enough that I’m going to have to play Andy Griffin against Barcelona, but now Jimmy Crawford is first reserve in midfield.
Blackburn at home is up next after a needless International break. Andersson has recovered, he’s in for Rush. It’s Rob Lee for Batty and we could do with a win. We lose 2-0. It’s rancid. We’re rancid. Barcelona must be terrified.
Now what? We’ve shipped 8 goals in 3 games so I’m not sure it’s really working. I’m going back to the old faithful formation. I’m going to play young Brian Pinas a left wing back because I really hope to write the headline Pinas sticks it up Barca but that’s just the immaturity in me. Primarily I want to make the group stages.
We need to win 2-0 or by three clear goals. We can do it but we’ll need a miracle. Van Gaal has parked a big talented bus in front of Vitor Baia and we need to break it down. Twice.
We are able to do a lot of the pressing because of how Barcelona have set up. Gillespie is put through by Tomasson and my word, he scores. That’s 1-0 and we survive a few scares at our end but offer a small threat at the other. Time is running out but then it happens. Andreas Andersson heads past Baia and the joy of 36,000 is felt. Maybe they should extend the stadium. Either way, WE’RE IN THE GROUPS
Despite all of those heroics, Fernando Couto gets man of the match. For keeping Ian Rush quiet? Stupid.
Our reward is a stupid group. English teams shouldn’t be able to be grouped together but here we are. Playing for second I fear.
I’ll round off part 1 with the last game in August. It’s yet another home game, this time against Tottenham. Ian Rush scores and Darren Peacock gets a 10. I’m not sure which is less likely.
That’s it for part one, we’re actually 17th in the table but we’ve only played three times and every one else has played five. So don’t worry about it. Yet. See you soon.