When Diego met Paul: Part 1

My good friend Ross is back in the guest bloggers chair with his latest idea. It involves Spurs, Gazza and an Argentine character you are all familiar with. I’ll let Ross explain further – enjoy!

Hello, it’s good to be back. Thank you, firstly, for all the positive comments regarding my previous Parma work. After Russia 18 (no one called it that though) I needed an idea. Then I saw this picture…

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Maradona in a Spurs shirt, yes it happened – during an Ossie Ardiles testimonial in fact. So, what if he joined in real (CM9798) life. I made it happen, but he came with an unusual request.

I sit in my office near White Hart Lane, on the other side of the desk is one Diego Maradona. I say to him ‘Are you sure about this?’, ‘Yes’ he replies, ‘or I don’t join’. ‘Ok, I’ll make it happen’. I turn to my assistant and say, ‘Get me Paul Gascoigne on the phone please’.

Inside 3 hours I have a beaming Geordie yelling ‘I’M BACK!’

So, this is the story of when Paul met Diego.

First things first, I need to assess my squad. Diego and Gazza are in their 30’s and the front line will be Jurgen and Sir Les, who are also into their more mature years.

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Diego forgets tell me he is injured. Nothing serious just a heel problem, will clear up in time for the start of the league campaign.

I’m going for a trendy formation, all the kids seem to be using it so I’ll jump on the band wagon to get success.

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Sol Campbell will be the actual captain. Ian Walker wears too much gel to be taken seriously.

Our first game of the season is Chelsea. Been a while since we have beaten them. I tell the team they will need time to bond and it may not happen straight away but to keep it tight at the back.

I’m not sure they heard me…

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Diego sets up one and Gazza was very strong. Our front 5 combined age is nearly 160, but 4 goals is something to keep them feeling young. The fans are happy and surely the board are too.

That same board call me up to say I can only buy when I sell. I can transfer list myself I have to wait for one to go and replace like for like. So far, probably because Anderton is injured, no bids have come in.

I go into the next match not sure what to tell the players. Diego just juggles a ball without doing his laces up during pre-match warm ups. I worry the lad will break his neck one day, or worse, Gazza ties his laces together.

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Wow, what a team I have. Maradona scores, and provides more assists. Dad’s army are sticking them away. Wondering now if we could trouble the title favourites?

In a word, no.

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And we had a goal cancelled out in the 88th min. Fuming I was, fuming.

Important to bounce back but a loss in our next game makes me think this team will be very 50/50.

I notice that we have been missing Steve Carr from those two matches. Maybe I’ve been focusing too much on the 2 big stars and not my little sprinting Irishman.

Leeds are next, Elland Road is never a happy hunting ground for Spurs. But with Carr back and some loud shouting from Diego, not sure what he says as it’s all in Spanish, we are up for it.

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Lovely stuff. Gazza gets 2 and real life future player Richards helps us by lunging into Daveed.

After beating Bolton at home it’s Barnsley at WHL which should be fine…and is

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Ginola playing alongside Maradona behind the front 2 is paying off.

Scales and Campbell are rock solid and David Howells is showing why he should be an England regular.

Blackburn do us in the last few minutes just after I thought we had nicked the game.

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I tell the lads not to worry about it, but Gazza keeps yelling something in Geordie and I just smile and nod.

The next match is the North London Derby. I think Gazza got himself too wound up before the game. But how we lost against 9 men is beyond me.

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I can’t let it go, 9 men vs 11. Adams was sent off early as well.

I’ll end this first part with the table.

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A strong start but Chelsea have a game on hand on us. 26 goals are a lot but I’m worried the defence will cost us.

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At the bottom and Everton and Newcastle have a lot to do. Though I reckon Newcastle will bounce up the league one Wor Al comes back after injury.

I’m still upset, 9 men!!!! Anyway, Diego is doing great and Gazza has promised to stop letting off fire extinguishers in hotels.

Join me next time, ciao for now.

You can follow Ross on Twitter @Riddley82

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One Season In Turin – Part 6

Matt Wills is back with the end of his Turin story. A promotion for Torino was good, but the cast of Italia 90 winning the 98 World Cup would be better. They can’t, can they?! Part 5 is available here.

Here we are, the final part of my Italia 90 meets France 98 odyssey. To bring you up to date, after getting Torino promoted from Serie B with a smattering of former England stars including Lineker and Shilton, I’m now in charge of England, trying not to humiliate myself with the Italia 90 squad. We crept out of our group which included Germany, Cameroon and Japan, Lineker became the alltime top scorer for England and John Barnes got ruled out for 11 months. These aging heroes knocked out Norway in the second round and we are now paired with Tunisia in the quarterfinals.

With you bang up to date, lets get the world in motion.

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A reminder of those other quarter final line ups. Group chums Germany face Nigeria, whilst Brazil and France meet earlier than in real life. Spain vs Italy makes up the 4th slot.

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Quarter Final Match 5 – Friday 3rd July 1998 – Tunisia vs England – La Beaujoire.

Three Lions 98 are at the top of the UK pop charts, Vindaloo by Fat Les is in number two and England are in the quarter finals of the World Cup.

Reality Check – England beat Cameroon 3-2 thanks to two Gary Lineker penalties after almost crashing out of a tie described by Bobby Robson as a ‘bye’.

Tunisia are lining up in a 5-3-2 formation. I must admit, I know little about their team, but they edged out Denmark to qualify from their group behind Nigeria and then put Sweden to the sword in the second round. Sellimi plays for France and Boumnijel is in goal for West ham, but that’s about as far as my knowledge goes.

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I’m sticking with the tried and trusted Direct – 5-3-2 and keep faith with Trevor Steven on the right of my midfield 3. Age is not catching up with anyone yet, but I’m cautiously optimistic.

That all lasts for 60 seconds when Ben Hassan steals in behind the defence to slot past Shilton to put Tunisia 1-0 up. However, Trabelsi sees a straight red 2 minutes later and I encourage the squad to use the man advantage and control the play. We come level on 7 minutes through a break from Lineker, squaring for Beardsley to get off the mark at the tournament. On the half hour mark, Gazza swings in a free kick for Platt to volley past the West ham stopper and we go into half time with our tales up.

I can see tired faces and minds at half time, so to lighten the mood I get John Barnes to do his rap from World In Motion. Gazza then offers to sing ‘Fog on The Tyne’ but luckily the bell for the second half rings and we are saved.

The second half is a cagey affair and Tunisia start to mount pressure and I can see the players flagging. To freshen things up, I bring on Tony Adams for Mark Wright and Bryan Robson for Trevor Steven to control the midfield. The fresh legs force a corner in the lastminute and Butcher rises highest to settle the match. We’re in the bloody semi-finals!!

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We find out our Semi-Final opponents, Brazil. Bloody Hell.

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In the other quarter final matches, Germany beat Nigeria and Italy squeeze past Spain on penalties.

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We’ve got about 5 days to recover from our exertions against Tunisia. So I order plenty of rest and some light training. This doesn’t stop Gazza and Waddle from nipping out for a ‘few beers’.

Semi Final Match 5 – Wednesday 8th July 1998 – Brazil vs England – Stade Velodrome.

The press back home are full of our heroics at France ’98, we’ve surpassed all expectations, including my own, with a team where the youngest players are 31 (Platt and Gascoigne if you’re wondering) and a goal keeper who is 47 and long overdue his pension.

However, this will surely be our toughest test, the might of Brazil and Ronaldo et al in full flow.

Holders Brazil came untroubled through a group including USA, Eire and Ukraine, before dispatching Colombia and holders France to set up a clash with our England faithful’s.

Our exploits might be heralded back home, but other nations are not too impressed with our journey into the latter stages of the tournament, but I just it as fuel to fire my charges up. One game from the final I tell them, you’re here on merit, let’s do it!

A creature of habit, I’m unwilling to make any changes, so England line up like so:

1 – GK – Peter Shilton – Torino
2 – RWB – Paul Parker – Free Agent
3 – LWB – Stuart Pearce – Newcastle Utd
4 – DC – Des Walker – Sheffield Wednesday
5 – SWDC – Mark Wright – Liverpool
6 – DC – Terry Butcher – Torino
7 – RM – Trevor Steven – Bristol City
8 – MC – David Platt – Arsenal
9 – SC – Gary Lineker – Torino
10 – FC – Peter Beardlsey – Bolton Wanderers
11 – LM – Paul Gascoigne – Glasgow Rangers

On the Bench:

12 – GK – Chris Woods – Burnley
13 – DC – Tony Adams – Arsenal
14 – CM – Bryan Robson – Middlesbrough
15 – RM – Chris Waddle – Burnley
16 – SC – Steve Bull – Wolverhampton Wanderers

Kick Off!

Brazil have the better of the opening 15 minutes and Ronaldo takes advantage of aging legs to power through the defence and blast past a stunned Shilton. Stade Velodrome is a cacophony of Brazilian cheering. It lasts for a minute, as England power down the right hand side through diminutive Paul Parker who lofts a ball into the area, knocked out of play by Zetti. From the corner, Gazza finds the head of Mark Wright and England are level, euphoria!

The euphoria lasts for 18 minutes, as England repel wave after wave of attack, but are finally breached when Denilson spots Shilton off his line and lobs him from the edge of the area.

Not to be outdone, Beardsley pulls us level after some good link play by Platt and Gascoigne. The England fans are in full voice 2 minutes later when Ronaldo his hauled off the pitch. Is he injured? Are they arrogant and resting him for the final? Who knows, but it gives us hope when they replace him with Dunga and not Romario.

Sadness sweeps the England half on 44 minutes though, as Lineker fouls Bruno after a through ball from Platt. Its’ a yellow card. Gary’s 2nd of the tournament. He’ll miss the final, if we make it. He starts to well up. Gazza speaks to him and then motions to the bench to keep an eye on him, what a lad.

Half Time.

It’s 2-2. Ronaldo is off the pitch physically, but I fear Lineker might be mentally. Keep your head I tell him, get us to the final. Do it for the fans, do it for Des Lynam. Do it for Willie Thorne!

Gary listens and on the 51st minute, he scores his 51st England goal and puts us 3-2 up in the semi-final of the world cup against Brazil – amazing scenes!

Unfortunately, that’s as good as it gets. These players are knackered, and Brazil flex their muscle, scoring 3 goals without reply to win 5-3. I bring Steve Bull on for Beardsley after the 5th goal, but to no avail. There will be no fairytale ending to this story, but I am beyond proud.

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Reality Check – England suffered the agony of penalties against West Germany but returned to England as heroes, as they will do once more.

In the other semi-final, Italy beat Germany 1-0 to set up a repeat of the 1994 final.

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But what of our England heroes? Well, we have one more game, the 3rd place playoff against Germany to deal with before we head home.

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3rd Place Playoff Match 6 – Saturday 11th July 1998 – England Vs Germany – Parc des Princes.

After the highs of the tournament, this is the game no-one wants to be in, after going so close to the final, but it’s there to be played and a chance for the stars of Italia 90 to exact a modicum of revenge against Germany.

I make a few changes to the line-up for this match, bringing Bully in for the suspended Lineker, move Pearce into the 3 man defence and play Dorigo at left wing back. Finally, Chris Waddle replaces Trevor Steven on the right of midfield.

We give Germany a bloody good game, helped somewhat by Jurgen Kohler getting sent for a very early bath. Wright and Waddle cancel out an early Klinsmann strike but we can’t make the extra player count and with 10 minutes to go, concede to a Stefan Freund free kick and after a goalless extra time, the match goes to penalties.

Unbelievably, Shilton guesses right twice to save from Klinsmann and Thon and look who is on had to smash in our fourth penalty and give us the bronze medals…..?

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Reality Check – At Italia 90, England lost to Italy 2-1 after some awful fumbling from Shilton.

Over to the final, and Italy exact revenge on Brazil, Paolo Maldini winning it for Italy with a golden goal after Del Piero cancelled out Ronaldo in the first half.

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So there we have it. England return to, well, England as Heroes, the stars of Italia 90 not quite going one better than in 1990, but surely doing the nation proud.

I never honestly thought we’d make it out of the group, the 2nd phase at a push, but to finish 3rd was amazing and I’m sad that its all over. Every-time the opposition team attacked, I thought Shilton would let it in, but in some matches, especially Norway, he kept us in it and our defenders popped up with some important goals. The legs held out, the formation worked and Gary Lineker finally became the all-time record goal scorer for England. I can already hear Nessun Dorma being played over the credits…

I hope you enjoyed this blog as much I have playing it, and then writing about it, and hope the twist in the Torino tale was worth sticking around for. Thanks to Dave as always for hosting it and I’m sure I’ll be back at some point to create another new story from this 20 year old game.

‘Loves got the world in motion and I know what we can do…’

My thanks to Matt for bringing us a wonderful save, I hope you’ve all enjoyed it as much as I did. You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills but I’m off to negotiate a contract extension for him

 

One Season in Turin – Part 5

Matt is back with Part 5 of what started as out a fleeting reunion in Turin but has ended in the England squad from Italia 90 re-uniting for France 98. Can Lineker, Waddle and co match their 1990 heroics?

Thanks for coming back – we finished Part 4 with mission accomplished, taking Torino into Serie A spearheaded by the goals of Gary Lineker and a few other England Stars from Italia 90, and then there was the twist. Lead England into France 98 with the Italia 90 squad.

With two friendly games we destroyed Scotland 4-0 at Wembley but then lost 3-1 to Brazil in Rio.

There’s a buzz around the England camp, these are mostly players who thought their England days were long gone. My aim is to avoid whippings and at least get out of the group with reputations intact. The Quarter finals would be a minor miracle.

Our World Cup Group will put us up against Germany, Cameroon and Japan. Given the age of our squad I’m aiming for results against Cameroon and Japan and hope Germany will slip somewhere to take us through.

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Group E Match 1 – Saturday 13th June 1998 – Germany vs England – Stade De France.

We take on Germany in our first game, but will have to do it without the fine hairstyles of Chris Waddle, so this gives me an opportunity to bring John Barnes into the middle of the park with Gazza and Platt playing off him, which suits his new DMC position, not to mention his waistline.

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Germany line up in a 5-3-2 with deadly Klinsmann upfront. I ask our chief scout who will partner him up front.

‘It’ll be Karsten Baron boss. We’re quite surprised it wasn’t someone else.’

‘Who?’ I ask.

‘Do you know Uwe Fuchs?’

‘No, I don’t know Uwe Fuchs, and I don’t care Uwe Fuchs, that’s his business.’

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Silliness aside, it’s not a classic encounter. Klinsmann nets midway through the first half, but it’s only 1 of 2 shots on target out of 5 efforts for them while we muster 1 on target out of 6 attempts. To be honest, I expected to get trounced, so coming away from the Stade De France with a narrow loss is somewhat of a result. Pearce and Gazza pick up bookings, which I hope won’t be costly. I’m not mad though, as they were both bookings for fouls on Andreas Moller.

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The other game in our group also finishes 1-0 in favour of Cameroon,

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Which leaves the table looking like this.

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Reality Check –
Italia 90 – England drew 1-1 with Eire in Cagliari, Lineker being cancelled out by Kevin Sheedy.

Of course they met Germany in that famous semi-final back in Italia 90’

Group E Match 2 – Saturday 20th June 1998 – England vs Cameroon – Parc Lescure.

With a full week to rest my aging stars, the players spend the week relaxing by the pool – it’s like a scene from ‘Cocoon’ – to prepare us for our next match against Cameroon. Luckily Roger Milla is now retired, and I fancy our chances to get 3pts on the board after our brave showing against Germany.

The first half is a cagey affair, but sparks into life after halftime. Misse Misse doesn’t miss on 46 minutes to put Cameroon ahead and facing oblivion, Lineker steps up to the plate to pull us level and in the process overtake Booby Charlton as England’s all time record goal-scorer, 50 on 50, perfect!

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Our backline repels attacking pressure from Cameroon to secure the draw but we suffer two yellow cards for Lineker and Gascoigne.

Reality Check – at Italia 90, England drew 0-0 with Holland, famous for the Gazza’s showcase of skills against the Total Football masters…

In the other group match, Germany put Japan to the sword…

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All of which leaves the group looking like this…

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If I’ve done my maths correctly, we need to win and hope Germany beat Cameroon. Destiny is not in our hands for the final group game against Japan, otherwise we are out.

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We’ll play our last group game against Japan without Gazza after he picked up 2 yellows. That’s his World Cup over if we don’t beat Japan.

Group E Match 3 – Thursday 25th June 1998 – England vs Japan – La Beaujoire.

So, here we go, the final group match, everyone is knackered, but I stick with the same formation and swap in Trevor Steven for Gazza as Waddle is still not fit. It’s all out, or we are out.

We get off to a flyer, forcing Ihara into scoring an own goal and Lineker doubles our lead with his 51st England goal, but we’re pegged back by Maezono to go in 2-1 up. A second own goal in the second half and a Mark Wright header sees us run out 4-1 winners, but will it be enough?

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Yes! Germany do the business against Cameroon,

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And we’re through, just! Now, to find out who we’ll play.

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Reality Check – A Mark Wright goal gave England a 1-0 win against Egypt to set up a second round tie against Belgium.

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Norway, not the worst draw, but they have a decent side. Germany have Austria, whilst France vs Argentina looks tasty.

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We’ll have to do the 2nd round without John Barnes though. His world is no longer in motion for now.

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Waddle will be back soon though, so that’s a diamond light.

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Phase 2 Match 4 – Monday 29th June 1998 – Norway vs England – Felix Bollaert.

We all now the Scandavian players on CM9798 are a decent bunch, so we’ll have our work cut out. They topped ago that eliminated Holland, but in truth it’s a dour affair, only 4 shots each and Gazza gets our only shot on target to take us through to the quarters, but it’s an amazing result in reality as we’re now going further than I ever imagined.

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Even the FA are pleased, which is nice.

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So, we wait to find out our opponents in the quarter-finals.

Tunisia! That’s almost a bye! We’re on our way to the semi’s!

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Look at that quarter-final line up. Dodged a few bullets there! Frances reward for beating Argentina is a painting with Brazil.

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So, join me next week we’ll take on the mighty Tunisia for a place in the semi-finals of France 98, I can hardly wait!

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

One Season in Turin – Part 4

Matt is here with part 4 of his adventure back to Turin, where he has assembled some of the cast of Italia 90 to try and help get Torino promoted. Oh and there’s a twist…

Welcome back to Turin, where the Serie B season is drawing to a close and my Torino side are hanging onto 4th spot and the last promotion place. Will Shilton save the day? Can Terry Butcher lead us to glory? Will McMahon keep his temper? Is bombing down the wing too much for Dorigo? Will Lineker keep scoring? Will Schillaci start scoring? Why did I sign Dave Beasant? Let’s crack on.

With 9 games left to go in the season, I’m keen to put some distance between us and 5th place. We struggle against Salernitana, but it’s a point earned when Shilton guesses the right way and saves a second half penalty from Muoio.

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The stats page tells me all I need to know about drawing a blank.

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Things improve for Torino and Toto in the next game as we beat Castel di Sangro at home…

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….and then away to Padova, we fall behind but English grit from McMahon and Lineker secures us all 3 pts.

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Meanwhile, over in England, Man Utd wrap up the Premier League nice and early. They are stil in the Champions League so will give them some breathing space to prepare for that.

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They really did win at a canter, look at that Goals Against column.

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The UEFA Cup semi-finals conclude and its an all-Italian affair.

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Whilst in the Champions League, Man Utd see off Bayern Munich to set up a final showdown with Serie A champs Juventus.

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The Cup Winners Cup will see Chelsea face off against Betis and their host of attacking talent.

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Back to the league we draw 2-2 at home with Perugia and then require a Lineker double to see off Ancona. With 4 games to go, we host Ravenna in 5th place.

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A win will see us secure promotion. So, of course, we lose!

The same happens to Inter, giving Sampdoria victory in the UEFA Cup Final – poor Ronaldo.

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Our disappointment at losing to Ravenna is obliterated when Verona come to town. Lineker hits 3, Toto gets 2 and former world record signing Lentini is the other goal-scorer. I even let Shilton off for conceding twice.

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Promotion confirmed and mission accomplished. I would have liked to have won the title, but getting promoted with 47 year old Peter Shilton in goal for the whole season is an achievement all of it’s own.

Lineker’s form has captured the imagination back in England, with calls for him to be recalled to the England squad being ignored by Glenn Hoddle. Maybe he should have given Gary the chance to equal Sir Bobby’s record, especially when they lose 3-1 to Spain in a friendly.

One England stalwart who definitely won’t be earning a recall is Steve McMahon who is out for 3 months, that’s his season done and dusted.

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Chelsea reign supreme in the Cup-Winners-Cup

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Middlesbrough celebrate promotion back to the Premier League by beating Leeds in the FA Cup Final. Colombian Freddy Leon with both goals, taking his tally to 32 goals in 34 games for Boro.

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Man United edge out Juventus on penalties to claim their 2nd European Cup

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And that’s the season over, and as the promotion celebrations die down, attention turns to the 1998 World Cup in France, but there’s trouble brewing in the England Camp.
Reports suggest that after the 3-1 defeat to Spain, the England squad took to the Spanish streets to drown their sorrows and were involved in an altercation with a dentists chair and a faith healer.

Glenn Hoddle refuses to accept any blame and the FA swiftly remove him from his position. With the World Cup looming, fans are obviously anxious as to who will lead England in France, especially with Sam Allardyce just being given the boot by Notts County.

The FA speak with the Torino Chairman and it seems our exploits in Turin haven’t just caught the imagination of the press and fans back in England. I’m offered the chance to lead England into the World Cup, but there is one catch – I have to take the players from Italia 90!

The FA have had enough of the tabloid exploits of the current England stars and reckon that the last time England were proud of their team was in 1990 (We’ll ignore Euro ’96 for the sake of this nostalgic fantasy!)

I don’t have much time to prepare and only 2 warm up friendlies before I face off against Germany, Cameroon and Japan.

I’m sure I can get the Italia 90 squad back together, but where are they and what have they been up to?

Well, Shilton, Beasant, Butcher, McMahon and Lineker have all been with me in Turin, but what of the rest? Let’s have a look.

Chris’ Woods and Waddle have just finished 17th in Division 2 with Burnley, finishing 6 pts above the drop zone. Waddle of course is player-manager and helped out with 6 goals and played 49 games to Woods 27.

Paul Parker, Steve Hodge and Neil Webb have all spent the season as unwanted free transfers, so they’ll no doubt be as rusty as Rusty Rustison. While technically Bryan Robson has been on a free, but he’s also managed Middlesbrough to a league and cup double.

Gary Stevens has played 44 games for Tranmere, while Stuart Pearce and John Barnes have been performing for old mate Kenny Dalglish at Newcastle. Des Walker has played 20 games for Sheff Wed and Mark Wright has been at the heart of the Liverpool defence. Gazza is in his pomp at Rangers still and Platt likewise at Arsenal. Trevor Steven has played an impressive 52 games for the less than impressive Bristol City/ Beardsley has 8 goals in 39 games for Bolton and Steve Bull has 19 in 42 for Wolves to compliment Lineker’s 28 in 40 ratio at Torino.

Of course, the Italia 90 squad was a 22 man squad and now the upper limit is 25, so I can add some more faces to this aging side. Of the original call up, Tony Adams, David Rocastle and Alan Smith, all of Arsenal were dropped. Adams and Rocastle are still around, but Alan Smith isn’t, so I opt for those two plus Mark Hateley and Ray Wilkins from Mexico ’86, and why not?

This is the squad I have, and isn’t it a thing of beauty? Steve McMahon you remember is out for 3 months, so he is dicarded, but then Wilkins gets injured and I have left it too late for a replacement, sorry Ian Wright!

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For my first friendly against Scotland, I opt for the line-up which started against Germany in that famous semi-final, which means I have a right wing-back who hasn’t played any football all season, genius!

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Wembley is packed and sensing the enormity and history of his last appearance there, Hendry gets himself sent off for a foul on Gazza after 7 minutes, which surely helps our cause.

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Chris Waddle starts this brave new/old reign with a fizzing shot past Andy Goram, and Platt takes us into half time, two to the good. Wembley is bouncing.

On 48 minutes, Gary gets his 49th goal for England, equalling Sir Bobby C and delighting Sir Bobby R in the stands.

With 10 minutes to go I enjoy the luxury of using all 5 subs and Trevor Stevens wraps things up on the last minute with number 4.

We’re all over the front and back pages of the tabloids the next morning and people are starting to talk up our chances of going all the way, steady on.

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Before all that, it’s the small matter of Brazil and Ronaldo, Romario, Denilson and Rivaldo away.

I stick with the shame formation and line up, but it’s an altogether different result in the Maracana, and not even a sending off and an own goal can help us. Denilson lobbed Shilton twice, 3 minutes from the start and 3 minutes from the end – what is it with England keepers getting lobbed by Brazilians?

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Oddly, amongst the friendlies, I notice that Germany, our first group opponents, lost to our recent foes, Scotland, 1-0, so England > Scotland > Germany means we should beat them, right?

Join me next time to find out, cheers.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

Pain in the ASSE – Part 2

Frank is back with the 2nd part of his St Etienne story. His first task is to get them out of Ligue 2 and then build towards being a superpower, with a squad of all French players. So, can he do it? Part 1 is here

Welcome back to my French challenge with ASSE, with only signing French players.

Last time I left you, we were sitting pretty at the top of Ligue 2 heading into March. Well I can tell you, we ended up running away with the title, scoring over 100 league goals in the process.

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Didier Thimotée carried on his great form finishing 1 goal of the top scorer, but as you can see from his stats, he wasn’t one for fair play, getting his 2nd red of the season on the final day, meaning that he will miss the 1st 3 games of Ligue 1…

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Although Philippe Chirstanval was a coup for Ligue 2, the signing of the season has to be free transfer, Remi Luc (just a shame about his injury record)

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We win Ligue 2 by 16 points, with a much higher goal difference, after an expected relegation battle and still don’t win the Ligue 2 Manager of the Year!

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Now that we have made it to the promised land of Ligue 1, we need to sign some re-inforcements.

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2 fantastic midfield signings means we have a strong chance of survival and maybe even a push for top half in our 1st season.

The fixture generator is kind to us as we start the season at home to fellow promoted side, Nancy. With Thimotée suspended for the 1st 3 games of the season, we look for another hero and the man is Christophe Lagrange, who’s dad just happened to be a huge ZZ Top fan…

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Lagrange doesn’t dissapoint, bagging a brace in his Ligue 1 debut.

Match day 3 gives us our 1st big challenge as we travel to Marseille, Lagrange getting in on the action again…

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Unfortunately, there is bad news for Philippe Christanval…

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Lagrange start his Ligue 1 career well with 4 goals in 7 games, until…

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Didier Thimotée comes back into the side full time and it takes him 7 games to bag his 1st goal of the season…

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10 games into the season and we sit comfortably in mid table, 13 points off the top, but 9 points from the drop zone.

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Join me next time to see if we can achieve our target of finishing in the top half of Ligue 1 in our 1st season.

You can follow Frank on Twitter @FrankHirst84

What If? Part 3: Dia Know What I Mean?

Andy is back with the end of the season with his Gateshead team. The series asks what would happen if Gateshead had been promoted in 96/97 and we’re about to find out. Over to Andy…

It’s the start of February and we enter the home straight with our sole focus on staying in the top 3 as the season draws to a close. So far, we’re top dogs in Division Three’s North-East battle having scored 14 and conceded 3 (with two away days left to enjoy). Thomo and Dia are about to return to full fitness, so the Foreman and the big Bos man can be relieved of their duties. There is a fair amount of unhappiness in the squad, poor players are not getting rotated in; hopefully this doesn’t unsettle our run-in.

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Latest news in the sack race; we’re not going to speculate about reasons at this stage…

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Bobby’s got a brand new swing!

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Dia know what I meaaaaaan yeah yeah! A real struggle against 20th placed Colchester, but we find a way and that, is all that matters.

We can’t afford to pay much, and unfortunately the loan sharks have come to collect Sam Kitchen’s debt.

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A very boring derby sees a 30 yard screamer the dia-ciding goal. Gary Robson has picked up a knock so Justin will have to step up his return from injury and stand in.

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Our first big club release clause nightmare has taken place;

BREAKING NEWS: Gijs Lands In Belgium.

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This time Scarborough are McCain it too easy at the GIS, and despite the loss of the Big Bos man we end February in stunning fashion with the man from Senegal filling his very small boots!

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Here is the table:

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After some great form it’s not so gay at the meadow for us as we succumb to an abysmal defeat at 15th placed Shrewsbury. Dia adds to the injury count and the stand-ins fail to impress…and we don’t get goal number 100 just yet.

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Scraping the barrel now; Bos gone, Harkus out, Dia out. But at least we’ve reached 100 goals! We’ll go into the final run without Harkus and Dia for some of it.

Away to the Donny Soldiers and our away kit gets it’s first outing on the 11th of April, and it is beautiful. Dia-bolically, we only put 2 past 23rd place, a wins a win and we march on.

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And with that, comes the first triumph! The board are “very pleased” (how cordial) and the heed army faithful go wild as we stick two fingers up to the rest of the football league.

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No doubt Hateley will wrack up yet another manager of the month for this against my zero so far this year despite 100+ goals etc…even CM9798 knows the footballing bodies hate us.

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Oh my…

…we beat Mark Loveley’s Hull City 2-1 and that closes the gap to their games in hand, the trophy is ours!

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With games to spare, and despite a horrendous injury spell in the last month we scrape home. Dia has dragged us there scoring 1/3 of our goals. Southampton clearly made a big mistake letting him go. Bloody hell we’ve done it…get innnnn!

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With Cuggy back from his broken pelvis and Harkus back from a broken arm (what do these lads get up to in their time off around Gateshead?) we return to full strength and smash high-flying Cambridge for the laughs. Typically, not many turn up the see the league champions.

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Well…Orient have pissed someone off then…

And we close out the season with a face off of 1st vs. 2nd

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Dia-know where he’s gone? Ali goes missing in the final game failing to get any of his 8 shots on target. Unintentional utility man Pearson gets his 10th of the season.

And here’s the final table:

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The vindaloo approach of scoring one more than you appears to have worked better for me an multiple MotM winner Mark, all Orient needed was an Ali Dia.

So what happened elsewhere?

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Man United cantered to their usual victory…and collected the Worthless Cup for good measure.

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Arsenal won the FA Cup…

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Over in Spain, Barcelona managed a point more than Gateshead;

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And Rangers walked it…

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There were some tasty European Finals…

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And then some not so much…

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Finally, we have lift off…I best re-call that email to the league…

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It’s coming home!

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What an absolute downer…

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The exodus begins…55 games of pro-football at 44 was enough for Steve.

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Kenny handle anymore? In short…no

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And so we’ve taken the journey, the dust has settled. What have we learned?

Gateshead would have more than handled the pressure of league football had the team of 96/97 been promoted. Ali Dia was a diamond in the rough just waiting for an opportunity, and goalkeepers do improve with age like a fine wine…

We pretty much coasted the season, a lot of credit to dropping out all the cups early, and thankfully to the talents of Prince Ali.

Oh, and just for a nice end of season warm-down…

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I hope you have enjoyed the ride, maybe we’ll see how those who hang around handle a further step-up in the challenge (minus retirees, contract rebels, and big-club dreamers). Apologies for a rather long-winded final stage of the season.

I do hope you’ve had fun. See you again soon. And thanks to the heed class of 96-97.

You can follow Andrew on Twitter @KingOfTheRooks

Bettering Stan the Man – Part 1

Please welcome Peter Taylor into the CM9798.co.uk family. Peter, not the former Leicester and one time England manager, is here to bring us his save where he will be Bury in the First Division trying to better the great job Stan Ternent did in the 90s. But don’t take it from me, take it from Peter…

Personal Background: CM 2 96/97 was the first version of the series I played, receiving it for Christmas along with my brother on the first family PC we ever had. Like a lot of 10 year-olds in the north-west t the time, I ‘liked’ Manchester United but had been attending Bury games for quite a while by that stage, and it wasn’t long until the latter club won my affections, doubtlessly helped by regular matchday exposure at Gigg Lane and the subsequent, utterly unexpected title win and second successive promotion in May of the following year. Since then, my affiliation with the Shakers has gone from strength to strength, as has my link with the ever-popular video game franchise, having become the club’s researcher for Football Manager 2018.

In-Game Background: Stan Ternent hitherto had a poor record as manager before taking the reins at Gigg Lane; he was assistant to Mike Walsh, who had taken the south Lancashire outfit to their first play-off final (and Wembley appearance) in the ‘old’ Division Three in 1995, only to wither miserably on the day, falling to a 2-0 defeat to Chesterfield. The subsequent campaign had started woefully, and with the home crowd calling for his head as the players were 5-0 down to Plymouth Argyle. The board duly responded, and Walsh’s assistant took over with Bury in the bottom four in mid-September. He almost immediately galvanised his troops to recovery, taking a little time for his methods to be fully implemented by his squad.

From November onwards, only a handful more defeats were suffered, and the rise up the standings was meteoric, culminating in a dramatic wait on the pitch after the final game for confirmation of third place and automatic promotion. His first full season in charge was even more remarkable – tipped for relegation, his charges confounded the pundits, building ‘Fortress Gigg’ in the process – not a single defeat as hosts happened in the league, and the title was built on grinding out 1-0 wins and creditable draws on the road. Back in the second tier for the first time in over three decades, Ternent understandably believed he had taken them as far as he could, and resigned on a huge high. Enter a complete novice…

Of course in real life, ‘Stan the Man’ did no such thing, instead surviving against all the odds on the final day with a 1-0 triumph at Queens Park Rangers, before resigning to take over at neighbouring Burnley. The premise here is to emulate or better his efforts in the first in-game season by both points and league position – 52 and 17th respectively… whilst not making any permanent signings. That self-imposed condition is immediately put to the test by a cursory glance at the roster.

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Oh dear. Only one bona fide striker, as Rob Matthews is for some reason down as a MC. Matters are not helped by injuries to defensive colossus Chris Lucketti and the engine of Nick Daws in midfield. That said, the talent is at the back, so if I can find a conservative formation that works, I could just manage to match the best manager Bury have ever had…

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It’s already apparent that goals are going to be extremely difficult to come by. The opening game bears that theory out, and Dean Kiely receiving the ‘Man of the Match’ award will become at least as familiar as nil in the goals scored column.

I completely forgot that the League Cup was contested over two legs from the get-go 20 years ago, and it’s a competition that Bury bow out at in the first stage almost without fail. That was no different in the game, although I did muster my first triumph in the second game…

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Wins in the league are always scraped, but two on the bounce has the nascent table looking like this…

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I’d be more than satisfied if that’s how it ends up in May, but with a threadbare squad, some loan signings are required. The likes of David Thompson from Liverpool and Alex Notman from Manchester United come in. Neither player fulfilled their early promise in reality; however, their virtual selves only need to reach mediocrity to help me achieve my aim.

Three goalless reverses on the spin are timely reminders that survival will not come readily, my rustiness at the game that I sank hundreds of hours in after high school finished way back when showing badly. Saying that, I recall vividly just how goalkeeper Richard Wright was talked up at the time at Ipswich Town. In my game, he unconscionably made the move to arch rivals Norwich City and is probably the only custodian in ‘Division One’ whose stats better Kiely’s.

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He did me a massive favour by getting himself sent off, allowing my side to grind out a crucial win. This was the start of a four-game spell of consecutive clean sheets, and the standings a third of the way into the season reads much like it did after six:

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The board are unsurprisingly pleased with my efforts thus far, and in a reflection of the time the game was released, the figures banded about for even the highest value players wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow in 2018. Income streams are largely reliant on player sales and gate receipts, but that didn’t stop them being effusive in their praise of a very small profit.

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Matchday 17 was a trip to Maine Road to face Manchester City. In stark contrast to how things played out in the flesh, Joe Royle’s men are flying high in the standings, and there isn’t a torn season ticket in sight on Moss Side. Paul Butler was the hero on Valentine’s Day in what is still my favourite ever away game – not for the performance, but the result, and what it meant to both sets of supporters. It also remains the only time I’ve been kept back for half an hour after the final whistle blew. Could a repeat performance happen in-game?

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No, but not for want of trying. The defensive unit were resolute, repelling wave after wave of City attacks, but were helpless to prevent Nigel Clough from getting the winner.

Tony Ellis was doing his level best, but he’s not really of the standard required to spearhead the side on his own up top, The game prevents you from making more than five loan signings during a single season, so I had to persist with him. Notman made him look like Robbie Keane by comparison, mind!

Failing to trouble the scoresheet seemed to occur in patches. Four more encounters came and went with nothing for the loyal supporters to cheer about, but they could take solace in the subsequent 2-2 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion, who have threats all over the pitch. Christmas was a kind period to us, four points gained from the two festive fixtures. The customary exit in the FA Cup followed, although losing to Premier League Wimbledon was certainly no disgrace.

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As Part 1 of my challenge comes to an end, it doesn’t look likely as though Bury will suffer relegation, but it’s certain that a second season in Division One is the best the fans can hope for, both in terms of the standings and entertainment. Can I finish the job in Part 2? Find out soon…

You can follow me on Twitter @burymeinexile