Run Forest, Run – Part 12: Panic

Matt’s here to round off his Forest of the future adventure. He’s achieved a lot in a short space of time with Nottingham Forest but can he round it off in style? Catch up with part 11 here.

Hello and welcome back to the final part of our experiment to make Nottingham Forest a force in England and Europe. We jumped into the hotseat after simming 8 seasons and given Stuart Pearce his P45. In season 1 we came close to winning the league, only to be denied by Watford, but did get us back into Europe where we capitulated in the group stage, but shone domestically to do a Man City style domestic treble. Into our 3rd and final season and we have the chance for the quadruple, but to do so, we’ll have to overcome Joe Royle’s Division 1 Middlesbrough.

League Cup Final day and a chance to defend our trophy. Middlesbrough were reigning Premiership champions when we jumped into the hotseat, but the past few seasons have been unkind to them, but under Joe R’s guidance, they are heading back to the big time and have a chance at a domestic cup.

And that’s the way it seems to be heading when Frank Parkinson heads them into a half time lead. It’s not until late in the game that we settle the scores with Kaye heading in from a corner and whilst everyone was prepping for extra-time, Rubi-gol pops up with a late winner to bring the 3 handled trophy back to the City Ground. Three hands indeed.

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We barely have time to wipe the sweat from our brow and wash the champagne from our underpants as we’re off to the Principality of Monaco to play the first leg of the Champions League Semi final. There’s obviously still some champagne sloshing around our system as we are 2 goals down until Luis Figo/Marco halves the deficit with a valuable away goal.

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While all this was going on, Leeds lost two league games in a row, we’re 5pts behind them and Spurs with 3 games in hand, I can sense a fixture pile up coming.
We won’t have time to worry about that for the moment though, as it’s our 3rd cup game in our 3rd cup competition in a row and this time we take the lead against plucky Boro, only for them to equalise after the break. This time it does go into extra-time but the recently recalled Zizi Debbah knocks in a rebound early doors and we see out the rest of the tie to head into the final against Newcastle United.

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All these cup games mean we’ll have to play in the league again soon. How soon is now? Now, where we welcome Wolves round to ours, where they huff and they puff and they blow our house down. Our league form seems to have dropped off a cliff…

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After our destruction by Wolves, we need to win our next game against 4th place Everton.

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Joyce in the goal repels everything we have to throw at him, only one shot from Inge gets through, and we concede to drop 2pts, not to mention injuries to two of our centrebacks.

2 days later and it’s the bank holiday fixtures and we travel to Arsenal. Our return leg against Monaco is in another 2 days, so it’s another squad rotation experiment.

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Another 1-1 draw and another injury to a defender. I think the experiment went too far again. 2 dropped pts. At this stage, I think we need to forget the league in pursuit of European Glory.

The second league is a tense affair. A goal from Monaco would see us needing 3 without further reply to avoid extra-time, but young Dutch maestro Twan Inge puts ahead on away goals and then as the tension rises, William Sagnol brings down Rubini in the box, gets sent off and Gorgeous Guerrero rolls back the years and sends us into a European Final. Hard luck William, it was really nothing.

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It’ll be the mighty Milan in the final.

Back to the league and Inge and crucial goals go Hand in Glove at the moment. Will that goal be huge at the end of the season? We’re 7 pts behind Leeds with 2 games in hand, we’ve got a chance!

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Sheffield Utd next. They are 20th in the table and there for the taking.

Bigmouth strikes again.

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Lyttle Chef and Ronald MacDonald serve up a beating that drains my soul. Meat is definitely murder in those hamburgers.

A loss to Sunderland away confirms we won’t be retaining the title. In truth we were holding on until The Lizard got sent off and the penalty went in Jancker at the end just rubbed salt in the wounds and heaven knows I’m miserable now.

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Such is life, with the race over, we then go and thrash Burnley in our next league game
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Interestingly, more people came to watch this dead-rubber than to see us dispatch Monaco in the home leg of the Champions League Semi-Final. Go figure.

2 days later it’s another catch up game against Bolton and we are tired and truly awful. We were so bad, even the pitch went off in disgust after 5 minutes.

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I feel like the boy with the thorn in his side. And my girlfriends in a coma. (Certain statements may be untrue – that joke isn’t funny anymore.)

We’ve one last league game to play and it’s against Newcastle, who we’ll play again 7 days later at Wembley in the FA Cup Final. I’m unsure what side I should put out. Save the first teamers for the two cup finals looming and give the squad members one last run out?

There’s intrigue at the top, where Spurs need a Leeds slip up to take the title and at the bottom it’s any 3 from 5 to go down.

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In the end I decide to mix the team up a bit and see what happens.

The story of this game, and stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before, is that we’re crap, they get a man sent off, we rouse a comeback and then we are crap again and lose.

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Rodrigao the man to watch in 7 days time then.

At the top, Leeds drew 1-1 whilst Spurs beat Swindon 3-0 but it wasn’t enough and Leeds take the title having conceded only 2 goals fewer than Spurs, unbelievable Jeff.

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We limp into 3rd. In the final run in, since we lost 3-4 to Leeds, if you include that game, our form was:

P11 W2 D2 L7 – not exactly Champions form was it?

At the bottom, Watford, champions 2 seasons ago, join Bolton and Swindon in the drop, Burnley doing a last minute escape. Joe Kinnear pays the price and loses his job. You can only imagine the swearing, That Charming Man.

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With all that disappointment out of the way, I remind the squad that we have two cup finals to play and some pride to restore to the City Ground Fans. I tell them Cloughie would be spinning in his grave to know we relinquished the championship to Leeds so meekly.

Liverpool end a impressive first season back in the Premiership by sealing the Cup Winners Cup, great stuff by Alan Shearer.

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FA Cup Final – Newcastle United – Wembley.

We’re the holders, we finished above them in the table, we’ve won th League Cup and have a Champions League final awaiting us. We should be favourites, but we’re not. Our form has been woeful, so we’re the underdogs. I tell my players this. I use it to my advantage. It’s mind games son.

The Lizard and Gazza Jnr are suspended so it’s Courtin in goal and Julen Guerrero on the bench.

Newcastle boss, Jimmy Nicholl insists on holding my hand as we lead the teams out ‘I’ve never won this cup!’ says Jimmy to me. Poor Jimmy has some sort of fear of the big occasion it seems.

Fear is only a four-letter word. He’s also called Gareth and plays in midfield for Newcastle United and puts them one up after 4 minutes. But we win the first half, my favourite front two getting a goal each.

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Nelo gets injured early in the second half and the classy veteran Guerrero comes on to replace him. Newcastle have a goal ruled out for offside and Kaye and Courtin combine to thwart Rodrigao and the trophy is coming home with us, happy times!

On a sadder note, Nelo is out of the big one, his injury laying him up for 6 weeks. Is the script written for Julen Guerrero?

Champions League Final – AC Milan – Stadio Olimpico – Rome

Milan have recaptured their invincibility of the late 80’s and early 90’s. A time when Forest were popping up in the odd cup final. Since the start of the save, Milan have won 2 champions League titles and a Cup Winners Cup, 2 World Club Cups and 2 European Super Cups, 5 Coppa Italia’s, 3 Super Coppa Italias and Serie A 7 times out of 11. They have Thierry henry up front, Valerien Ismael in defence and the regen of Peter Schmeichel in goal.

However, they’re not invincible. They’ve finished 17 points behind new champions Napoli in Serie A and lost the Coppa Italia final to two goals from Ronaldo – they can be defeated. If hope is a light, it’s a light that never goes out.

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Zizi Debbah, such an enigma this season, goes down injured in the 4th minute, so young Derek ‘Al Shearer’ Thompson replaces him and slots past the intimidating frame of the Dane, Meedom. We survive a late onslaught before halftime to go in, one nil up.

No need for stirring half time team talks, it’s just as you are and keep your heads.

Advice Tentoni should have had before he hauled down Rubini in the box and received his marching orders. Icelander Gislason has ice in his veins and coolly dispatches the spot kick and we stay firm at the back, Chagnaud in for the injured Bogie getting the MOTM award.

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2-0 at full time, we are champions of Europe, barely 3 seasons after promotion from Division 1.

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Milan, treble runners up. Henry just didn’t turn up.

Confirmation of our trophy haul over 3 seasons

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And our league placings. Our capitulation this season in the league is still a little hard to swallow.

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Goal stats – Rubini amazingly scored no goals in 8 European games and Debbah certainly dropped off from last seasons form. Maybe hitting 30 years old affected him. Really could have done with some goals from him in the run-in.

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A last chance to look at the teams we turned down:

Liverpool – A solid 7th place in the league and the Cup Winners Cup trophy meant a decent return for Shearer’s team to the top table.

Lazio – 5th in Serie A gives them a chance at European football next season

Espanyol – 5th in La Liga and back into Europe for these big-punchers next season.
For completeness, Real Madrid took the title in La Liga, Sevilla the Copa Del Rey and Juventus took the Eufa Cup. I’m disappointed we never faced Juventus who had William Gallas at the back, then I could have used the headline ‘Debbah Does Gallas’, but alas, it was not to be.

As it’s 2008, theres the Euros to be played out and my central defensive partnership of Kaye and Bogie have been called up along with Derek Thompson, who may lead the line with Noel Whelan for Arrigo Sacchi’s side.

England bow out at the group stages. Derek Thompson doesn’t play until the final game, a win over Slovenia, but it’s not enough and they go out on goal difference. Should have had me at the wheel, FA.

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Italy and France overcome Germany and Yugoslavia respectively to set up the final

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A hat trick for Papin’s regen seals the win for France. Milan’s Tentoni and Pelatti are runners up for the 4th time this season, that’s a kick in the Ballacks for sure.

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Well, that brings me to the end of Part 12 and the end of this save. Thanks to all have read, commented and retweeted and I hope you have enjoyed it. I can’t really say I have as much as the Eric Cantona/Man Utd and Gary Lineker/Torino/England blogs I have done previously. I think jumping in 8 seasons down is tricky as normally by that time you have a feel for the game and the characters whereas I felt I was all at sea and Zizi Debbah frustrated the hell out of me.

Special thanks to Dave for hosting me every Wednesday for the past 12 weeks and I look forward to a break and the CM Cup where you’ll find plenty of veterans in my Criterion Club squad, including this blog’s hero, Julen Guerrero.

You can follow me on Twitter where I am intermittently tracing the managerial movements of Alex Ferguson and am currently at Aberdeen awaiting the call from Man Utd once they tire of George Graham. I’m sure I’ll be back at some point with another blog save, interlaced with pop culture references, I just need a good story.

I hope this has been a fitting tribute to Brian Clough. I managed to win all the trophies he did (except the Zenith Data Systems/Simod Cup) but did get my hands on the FA Cup, twice. Cheers Old Big ‘Ead.

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You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

Starting from Scratch – Part 16

Matthew Cooper stands on the verge of a second successive promotion with Altrincham. He still doesn’t have Twitter. Can he finish the season in style? Catch up with part 15 here.

Yay, it’s the exciting part of the season. Or it would be if it were closer, but with an 11 point cushion this should really be a formality. Let’s get it sorted.

The first trophy of the season is up for grabs, and Fergie misses out on it again:

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They’re also out of the FA Cup so the league is their only target left now. It’s a champion’s league place rather than the title they should be aiming for though, as they’re way behind in third

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Their dominance appears to be over, temporarily at least. You may recall Shearer made a blistering start for them with 6 goals in the first 5 games, but he went pretty badly off the boil since and only scored 2 more goals in his next 26. They were dumped out of the Champion’s league this earlier on by Ajax, so it’s been a season to forget for the red devils.

Anyway back to Altrincham, and it’s not the news I wanted to be greeted with

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Curse that sodding big club release clause, that’s the third left wingback I’ve had poached in the 2 seasons I’ve been here. I’ll have to go hunting for yet another one. This guy looks like a decent all-rounder, and at 28 won’t have a need for that accursed release clause thank God

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Eek, it had better go smoothly as we won’t get a second chance

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You can sod off though Ipswich, you’re not big enough to bully me

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It looks like 3rd placed Brighton are going all out to catch up with Millwall, they spent £2m on Jamie Cureton and make another big outlay 2 days later

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Well, at least we wrung another £200k out of them

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His replacement swiftly comes on board so it’s not a complete disaster, thankfully

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Bird is serving a 2 match ban starting with the away trip to Bradford, he kept that quiet when he was signing with us the devious little git. Ah well, Tommo can have another shot at returning to form, in the other change Grossi goes straight into the team to replace Hughes. We should hopefully have enough to get the three points today

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Ah, bollocks. It was going to plan right up to the 89th minute, but we’re sucker punched and have to settle for a point. In truth we’re maybe lucky to get that, as Bradford created a whole host of clear-cut chances but Roberts was in top form and repelled (nearly) everything they threw at him. Ah well, it’s a point closer to the line anyway. Millwall only drew as well so no harm done.

The fairytale FA Cup run is over for Wrexham as they get well beaten by Villa. Wimbledon will be their opponents in the final after overcoming Newcastle

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I really am not having the best of luck with my strikers this season

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At least Bird will be back after the next match. We’re against York at home next, and they’re desperate for points to avoid going down so I’m expecting a frustrating afternoon of their keeper stopping just about everything:

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Am I crap at predictions or what? It’s a seesaw kind of game and the lead changes hands 3 times before we close it out for a narrow victory. N’Diaye’s goals have been vital this season, not to mention his consistent performances. We wouldn’t be in the top spot without him for sure. We secure a playoff place with that win, but as per last season we’re going for the big prize so it means little.

The champion’s League is coming to a conclusion and it’s an all German affair this time as Dortmund and Bayern get past their opponents to reach the final

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Next up is Brighton. They’ve fallen well off the pace despite their £5m+ outlay around deadline day and find themselves in the final play off place despite being two points off second a couple of weeks ago. That doesn’t mean this game will be easy by any means but I’m confident heading into it. Bird is the word as he returns from his ban.

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Fiddlesticks. Brighton are the better side but it’s a game of very few chances and a draw is just about fair on both of us. Unfortunately my new left wingback gets crocked and Palmer sees red so availability issues are about to rear their ugly head yet again.

Still, we’re 9 points clear with only 4 games remaining so we’ll get there even if we have to limp over the finish line. We’ll have to do it without Grossi as he won’t be back until next season

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The next game could be the one that confirms our place in Division 1 next season as we face Stockport at home. They are 7 points adrift from safety so pretty much doomed, but they’ll probably put up a fight.

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I’m right for once, they put up a hell of a fight and we could have lost this on another day. We were in fact staring defeat in the face at 2-1 down until the 80th minute when Bird rescued a point. Ah well, we’ll have to wait at least another game to be mathematically uncatchable.

N’Diaye is doubly unavailable for our visit to Peterborough, being both suspended and also on International duty. Zerrouki replaces him in the middle as we look to seal promotion with a win

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It’s party time as Allardyce blows them away with a 30 minute hat trick, finishing the half with a rating of 10 out of 10. Taggart gets himself sent off towards the end so I opt to sub Allardyce to give him the standing ovation he deserves.

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Hurray! It’s another successive promotion and we’re just 1 league away from the Premiership now.

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Really, just very pleased? Not delighted? You want the moon on a stick you lot.

We haven’t had a look at the fight to avoid the non league trapdoor for a while, and it’s a very interesting situation

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Darlington have climbed off the bottom again and are hoping it sticks this time. Brentford are the ones facing oblivion now but with the table being as close as it is, it might not be resolved until the final day.

We play out our remaining couple of fixtures but with promotion secured, it’s simply a case of going through the motions. We end up winning the final game but it’s pretty lucky as we’re decidedly second-best all afternoon.

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On the final day in Division 3, Walsall have swapped places with Brentford and realistically need a win, as their goal difference is slightly inferior. If they do win though, they can drag 3 other teams into it so it’s a very tense day for all concerned

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It’s a pretty good day in the end for most of the bottom three as Walsall, Brentford and Darlington all win leaving Oxford, the highest placed team going into the fixtures, slipping into the void with a disappointing defeat to none other than the recently promoted Colwyn Bay. Farewell Oxford, maybe we’ll see you again in a few years but for now you’ll have to be content with the FA Cup as your only games all season.

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As you can see from the results, Colwyn Bay confirm their place in the playoffs and have as good a chance as any of going up. It would be a pretty amazing year for them considering the early chaos of their 16-strong loanee squad.

So who’s taking their place in the league? As it turns out, it’s one of the “big four”

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Boro pull off a shock result in the UEFA Cup and get the better of the Galacticos after extra time

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Unfortunately, Colwyn Bay’s season is over after getting a spanking by Mansfield in the playoffs

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Villa lift the FA Cup at the crazy gang’s expense

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Kidderminster opt for Mick Jones to steer them to safety next season. He started off as Plymouth manager and was most recently in charge at Preston before being sacked in January. It’s not a bad appointment really so they should be ok.

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Finally, Bayern Munich take the ultimate prize with a solid victory over Dortmund in the final, which is coincidentally held at their home stadium

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I forgot to immortalise my players last year with the squad stats so here they are for this season

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Finally, it will be Plymouth joining us in Div 1 next season after overcoming big spenders Brighton in the final

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So that’ll be it for this season. See you for the next one, when we’ll be plying our trade in the First Division!

Thanks to Matthew for a great series so far, negotiations are underway to renew his contract for the new season. 

Run Forest, Run – Part 11

It’s the penultimate episode of Matt’s Forest of the future save! He’s tantalisingly close to restoring Forest to their best years but can he keep competing on all fronts? Catch up with part 10 here.

Hello and welcome back to my Forest blog and for the penultimate part. We head into 2008 as defending domestic treble champions and have set our sights on European glory. We’re top of the league, into the quarter finals of the Champions League and League Cup and about embark on our quest t retain the FA Cup.

We’re doing well, but we’re functional and hardly ripping up any trees, which might be best for a team called Forest.

2007 has been a great year for us, and we see it out with a league match against Watford. They have a strikeforce of Giggs, Heskey, Fowler and Owen, but the latter two are injured, which might explain why they are hovering around the relegation places.

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Missing penalties won’t help their cause, nor will Shay Given conceding 4 goals. I’m pleased with that result, we played liquid football.

It’s a complete change of lineup when 3rd Division Bournemouth come to town in the FA Cup 3rd round and Alfonso does what he was bought to do, come up with valuable goals.

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It’ll be Premiership Leeds in the next round at the end of January, but for now, it’s the quarter finals against Man City in the League Cup.

City are down to 10 men early doors, but it isn’t until they score a ridiculous own goal that we take control and book a semi-final spot.

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We’ll take on Arsenal while it’s a north-east derby in the other.

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Jarni Jnr is out for a few weeks, otherwise we are unchanged for the trip to mid-table Huddersfield.

Gifton Noel-Williams. I can say no more.

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The board were as unimpressed as I was.

Time for some redemption against lowly Swindon. Debbah and Rubini shut down any thought of a Swindon comeback.

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We’re quickly back to FA Cup action against Leeds who are chasing us hard at the top of the table. Amazingly they only have Thomas Myhre as a goalie and he’s injured so it’ll be a random fake goalie, who no doubt will be the reincarnation of Lev Yashin.

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Maybe he’s actually the regen of Paul Rachubka. It should have been more than 4 really.

It’ll be Division 1 Portsmouth next time out.

Back to the league and our form has gone to pot.

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With that, Leeds and Spurs jump above us in the table and we’re down to 3rd.

Back to the cups, my lovely cups. They’ll shield me from the inconsistencies of the league.

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Lovely cups. Although conceding 3 away goals isn’t the greatest thing ever.

At least in the cup we entertain…

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Four nil up and cruising and then we let in two silly goals.

Potential banana skin in the next round though…

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Arsenal really should have made us pay for this.

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But they didn’t and it’s another League Cup Final to look forward to

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Back to the league and back to winning ways again, Nice to see Ascensio on the score sheet, he was a Stuart Pearce signing

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All these cup games give us a bit of a fixture pile up in the league and so it’s a midweek date with our title rivals Spurs.

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Rubini is rolling in the goals so much, Fred Durst could sing about him.

This game was duller than a tin of Dulux extra dull matt emulsion

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After a long wait, we’re back into Europe and face Espanyol in the Champions League quarter finals.

The Lizard is suspended so Courtin takes over goalkeeping duties. We weather the storm of baby Keane getting sent off and everyone’s favourite Icelander gives us the lead and a valuable away goal, but the lead is ours for only 3 minutes and we come away with a draw.

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While we await the return leg, we take on Lincoln City in the FA Cup Quarter Final.

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Rubini is currently on fire and only a late lapse lets Lincoln in. We’re into the semi’s and another match up with first division Middlesbrough who we’ll meet soon in the League Cup Final, manager Joe Royle channelling his inner ‘Bryan Robson 1997’.

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We travel to one of Bryan’s former clubs next and come away with 3pts courtesy of 3 goals with no reply. Utd looking a shadow of their former self these days, just like in real life really!

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This win takes us into a table topping clash with Leeds. The scoreline suggest a close match, but in truth, our 3 goals in a 5 minute flurry flatters us and Leeds were cruising to the 3pts. Will this prove vital at the end of the season?

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This run of form is good preparation for the return leg against Espanyol, where hold a slender advantage having drawn 1-1 away n the first leg.

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Thompson puts us ahead and when Gislason doubles our lead I start to relax. Edilson gets one back to set up a nervy last 15 minutes but a Thompson second settles my nerves. Espanyol have a player called Nayim in their first 11, but there are no last minute lobs here and we’ve booked our place in the semi-finals. It was no mean feat defeating a talented Espanyol side, but it gives me confidence that this side can go even further.

The draw is made and we avoid Milan and another trip to Spain. Monaco was probably the best draw we could have had and we’ll pick up the semi-final in the last part next week.

There’s just time for one more league match to finish off this post and we’re away to Villa in 10th spot while we sit second to Leeds by 2 pts but with a game in hand.

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Of course, our form couldn’t last could it? Dukes with the early goal was a definite Hazard.

So, at the end of this part, we’re down to 3rd, our game in hand could put us back 2pts from Leeds at the top, but it’s a big if at the moment.

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At the bottom, newly promoted Chelsea are struggling, as are Joe Kinnear’s Watford, whose job is in danger.

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We definitely need to win our game in hand. I’ll be back next week for the final part of this season and this save, can I go out in a blaze of European glory and make Cloughie proud? See you next time.

Before I go, my customary update on the teams you turned down:

Liverpool – Up to an impressive 8th for Shearer’s team. We beat them in the League Cup and they got knocked out of FA Cup by Bury, but they are through to the Semi-Finals of the Cup Winners Cup after dramatically overcoming Real Madrid 5-4 in the quarter finals to set up a semi-final meeting with Inter Milan. Some chap called Neville the hero in Spain.

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Espanyol – Well, we’ve knocked them out of Europe and they are down to 5th in La Liga but have a Copa Del Rey semi-final with Sevilla to look forward to, so there’s that.

Lazio – Well, they are 7th in Serie A with nothing left to play for, not a sausage.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

Starting from Scratch – Part 15

Twitterless Matthew is here with the penultimate episode of season two. His Altrincham side started last season without a single player but a promotion later, they’re mounting a charge to Division 1. Oh and I’m going to assume the genering greeting is intentional from Matthew rather than an error. Catch up with part 14 here.

<Generic Greeting, Season 2 Episode 7>. Let’s get on with it!

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This isn’t a great start to the update, he’s our most reliable midfielder behind N’Diaye so will be sorely missed for the next 3 or 4 games.

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When it rains it pours. He’s only backup though so we’ll cope

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Aw c’mon! If someone gets the flu next I’m going to scream. Not great timing either as our next match is in the cup against premiership outfit Newcastle. I put out a patched up team and hope for the best, it might be painful though as I’m without a left wingback so Browning’s having to start there

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It’s fair to say that it goes about as well as expected. Only Roberts does himself proud, though Browning does alright to say he’s in the wrong position. 5th round is still a decent achievement and we’ll aim to go one better next year.

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Oh pipe down, look at my injury list you morons. I’m so sorry that we got tonked in the 5th round, which I’ve guided us to for the second season running, you deserve so much better. Why don’t you build some more seats to cheer yourselves up? Besides which, we’re record breakers

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Anyway it’s time to shift our focus back to the league. Who’s next up….oh, what?

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Oh for God’s sake, this is getting ridiculous now. Ferguson is back at least, but I might play with one up front until Tomlinson comes back because we’re out of options up front. Oh wait, Ferguson is bloody suspended so he’s unavailable anyway. Shoot me.

What a perfect time to be visiting the Zoo…err, the Den. Our supporters have been complaining about the lack of phlegm in their hair recently so it’s a great time to go and stock up. I decide against going with 1 up front and give McGarrigle a recall

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We’re quite understandably second best and the scoreline is probably a bit flattering to us really. Let’s just move on, quickly.

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Of course. Things are going swimmingly right now. This cheers me up a bit though

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Colwyn Bay come in for Matthew Bound, who I’m happy enough to offload so I accept their offer

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The loss has allowed Brighton to catch us and we’re second on goal difference. We have the chance to grab first again though with our game in hand, at home to Wigan. Tommo, Ferguson and Hughes are all back so thankfully we can dump the dregs of the team and put out a somewhat stronger side.

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That’s more like it, back to winning ways thanks to the familiar scorers Allardyce and Ferguson. Taggart picked up some sort of knock but it’s not serious, hopefully he’ll be fit for the next game. After the match we bid farewell to Bound and pocket £250k

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3 days later we’re back in action at home to Plymouth, and it’s just one of those games

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We go behind in literally the first minute, and then batter them for 90 minutes without scoring. This happens at least 5 times per season (well, not the scoring in the first minute, you know what I mean) but it’s not going to define the season so let’s move on.

This isn’t too helpful though

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His understudy Heinrich is also out so we don’t have any cover. I think it’s going to be Browning filling the gap again as we don’t really have another option. Allardyce is also suspended for 2 games to piss on my chips further. At least we’re playing the division’s bottom club, Bristol City:

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Well, that was bloody close. We manage to survive the first minute without conceding this time – but we concede in the second, what the hell are my team doing at the start of the game? We quickly take control of the game but can’t find a way past their keeper, who’s having the game of his life. After the break our fortunes change and Tommo stabs one in, before Zerrouki blasts in a rebound and N’Diaye heads in a corner. They pull one back in the last 10 minutes and have 2 chances to level it up, but some excellent last-ditch defending allows us to hold on for the win.

There’s a potential Hollywood against-the-odds blockbuster (or at least a BBC 1 hour-long drama) in the making as 3rd division Wrexham are 90 minutes away from the FA Cup final

17

Heinrich makes a recovery but he’s lacking match fitness for our next game against 19th placed Swindon. I hand him a start but will have to sub him later on, hopefully we’ll be comfortably ahead by that point.

18

Ugh, it’s another match where we lay siege to their goal but fail to score. This is the final straw and I’ve made my mind up to sign a third striker that can hit a cow’s arse with a banjo. No wonder no-one’s interested in taking McGarrigle off my hands, he’s sodding hopeless. I make a £1.1m bid for England U21 and Boro striker Campbell, though he’ll probably be tempted to go with Wimbledon and play in the Premiership so I look for a backup target.

19

Tony Bird is twice the price but he’s been banging them in for Swansea over 3 seasons and crucially isn’t wanted by anyone else, so I put a bid in for him as well.

20

At least Allardyce is available again as we travel to Luton for the next game. They are a couple of places outside the playoff places and probably looking to put a run together to break into the top 6, so this might be a tricky one.

21

It’s actually a bit more comfortable than it looks. We go two up by half time as we run Luton ragged. It really should be 5 or 6 and then of course they go up the other end and score with their first effort on target in the second half. We’re holding on for the last 20 minutes but the defence holds firm and we take the win. I’m impressed with Luton’s old man Wilkins, as player manager he’s been selecting himself for every game at the sprightly age of 43.

Bird gets back to me first, and I doubt Campbell will choose us anyway so I rubber stamp the deal, which is a new club record

22

Jason Harris had all the qualities to be a top drawer striker but it just hasn’t happened, so I transfer list him and look to offload asap although his contract is up in the summer so I’ll dump him for free if I must. Campbell opts for Man City to my relief.

Southend in 8th place are our next opponents, and I give Bird his first start at Tomlinson’s expense – he’s missed so many chances recently I’ve lost count. The entire squad is injury free and fully fit so I pick my strongest team and cross my fingers.

23

Is it a Bird? Is it a pla…oh nevermind, it was actually a Bird. He starts paying back his record transfer fee straight away as his diving header puts us one up by half time. We can’t add to it however and we’re indebted to Roberts for keeping them goalless, as he makes 3 or 4 saves to maintain his clean sheet.

There’s now 7 games left in the season, so I’ll save the rest of them for next week. The table makes for good reading right now:

24

11 points clear with only 21 to play for, we should get over the line sooner rather than later. In the division below, Colwyn Bay are still in the mix but they’ve dropped out of the playoffs at this crucial juncture:

25

They’re only a point behind though so they have every chance of getting there by the end.
The arse end of the table has tightened up somewhat, if you’ll pardon the expression

26

Oh Darlo, you did the hard work and hauled yourself off the bottom earlier this season after being 6 points adrift, but now you’re right back where you don’t want to be. Like Colwyn Bay though there’s only a point (well ok 2, their goal difference isn’t the best) to make up and they’ll be alright.

Come back next time to see how the end of the season unfolds and hopefully see our promotion to Division 1 confirmed. We’ll also follow the division below to see who drops out of the football league. Goodbye!

The B’s of Manchester – Part 11

It’s the end of season two for the Manchester United B team and SupernovaDragon. A late run of form would surely secure a promotion spot as they seek to avoid the dreaded playoffs. Catch up with part 10 here.

Welcome back to the B Team of Manchester United and we pick up where we left off which is 2nd place and looking forward to momentum carrying us onwards to promotion to Division 1 at last.

Our first game of the update is at home to Luton. I tell the lads before they go out that we need to win to get a stranglehold of 2nd. Did that team talk work?

1

I think it’s fair to say that is THE best first half we have ever played. I decided to throw De Bont to start and I am so glad I did. From the 4th minute onwards, we absolutely dominated this half. I tell them to go out and enjoy the second half.

2

I’m very disappointed to have conceded the 3 goals but then I take the blame for that as I took Duncan off because of his booking, maybe I shouldn’t have done that. De Bont was worth his MOTM award.

By the time our next match comes, away to Fulham, Cundy is back from suspension but more importantly, so is Nevland. I was always planning on putting him straight back into the starting line-up but after how well De Bont played, he has to make do with a place on the bench.

At half-time, De Bont has not proven to me he deserves his place. He has wasted numerious chances as we are 1-0 down. I decide to keep faith with him and my lovely Tree equalised and then we go 2-1 down, on comes Nevland and we instantly play better and Nevland almost scored. We then go 3-1 down, Nevland pulls 1 back and in the 90th minute Nevland equalised. Or so I thought, the linesman ruled it out for offside (it wasn’t) and we lost again. I can’t believe how patchy our form is to say we are 2nd.

3

Meanwhile, our parent club are in yet another FA Cup Semi-final. This time playing Chelsea.

Next up, it’s home to Wrexham. Nevland starts again in the only change. Problem was, the defence didn’t play that bad. 2 minutes in and we are 1-0 down, Nevland equalised 5 minutes later but neither team really trouble the goals for the rest of the half. I tell the team to get out there and win this match as nothing else will do.

Second half and we run riot as Nevland got a second, Notman scored 2 and Tomlinson also got in on the act as we won 5-1.

4

Meanwhile, Newcastle are the sole remaining English team left in the Champions League. In the semi-finals against Barcelona. Good luck to the Toon.

5

We then visit Blackpool, not for the Pleasure beach but to play our next match. I leave the entire team as it was and send them on the way. 5 Minutes in and Nevland scored, a minute later and it’s 1-1. Notman then goes off injured and I bring De Bont on, Nevland takes the free-kick and it’s parried and De Bont scored the rebound. On the stroke of half-time it’s 2-2. I tell them to get their act together and get out there and win.

Second half and not a lot really happened until I brought Ferdinand on for Greening, shifting Clegg to the left and within 5 minutes, Tomlinson got given the ball, rounded the keeper and won the match for us.

6

I treat the lads to staying over and letting them go to the pleasure beach the next day.

Bye bye Jonny Macken, you scored a few vital goals for me but I wasn’t standing in your way as I just wasn’t giving you the game time:

7

Not surprised he chose Burnley though, seeing how they got promoted last season and are actually in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

Meanwhile our parent club? Well they got a bargain:

8

I forgot to screenshot but Sheringham left our parent club to sign for Celtic.

Another player that barely ever played, yet did feature in my first ever starting line-up of this experiment has now left us on deadline day:

9

The day after deadline day and we get an injury:

10

Not the ideal player to lose as we still only have Appleton as our defensive midfielder. We also lose Duncan for a few days.

Our next match is at home to Crewe. With the two injures above, I have had to make a couple of changes. At half-time we are leading 2-0 thanks to McGibbon (header from corner) and Nevland (putting it beyond the reach of the keeper.) I tell the lads to keep it together and to get a third. We do end up winning the match 3-2 thanks to Tomlinson netting the 3rd and we then came very close to throwing it away as they pulled it back and then missed a golden chance in the 90th minute.

11

Our parent club win the League Cup. Again.

12

As another month ends, we are closer to the end of the season and the board are very pleased. This is very nice:

13

Not one of ours but this is a very bad injury:

14

Up next for us is a trip to Bristol to play against City. I remind the lads that the win is the most important thing. They appear to not be listening to me as we are 1-0 down at half-time. I tell them to get their heads in the game and start to play. This was a very disappointing result. Why is it we can play so well for matches on a run and then we can lose in this manner:

15

What makes it more disappointing is that, according to the ratings, we played well?

4 days later, on the Wednesday, we are away to Leyton Orient. I talk to the team and I tell them, in no uncertain terms, to get out there and win no matter what. 2 minutes in and we go 1-0 down. On the half hour mark however, we turn it around with a quickfire double, first Mulyrne and then Greening getting us in front at half-time. At the end we won, 5-3, even if it did look like we could have thrown away the win at the end.

16

Our parent club are through to yet another final:

17

Now we are finally in a home match again, this time against Exeter. We’ve got to win this one. In 2 minutes we are 1-0 down, 5th minute we equalise through Mulryne, Notman then lobs the keeper to put us in front on 21 minutes and Mulyrne gets a second on 41 minutes and 2 minutes later we conceded another meaning it is 3-2 to us at half-time. By full-time only 1 more goal is scored, Tomlinson pouncing on a loose ball.

18

A very good all round team performance.

19

That’s that at least, but where we are now, we NEED to be securing 2nd also.

Some more good news, after missing the whole season, the friendly ghost has returned:

20

As long as we get the 2nd place sorted, he will get a game or 2 before the end of the season.

Our parent club get the shock result graphic:

21

Blackburn are in the UEFA Cup final:

22

However, Newcastle cannot find their way past Barcelona:

23

Arsenal have got to their final though:

24

Our parent club win yet another Premier League:

25

Up for us next is Swansea who are top of the table and already promoted. Currently it looks like this:

26

Somehow, if we were to win this, we’d be 1 point behind but played a game more. Can we really beat Swansea though?

At half-time we are 2-0 up thanks to goals from Nevland and Notman, we have played so well so far so I tell the lads to keep it tight and keep going as they are. Within 10 minutes of the second half starting, we concede 1. They then stayed on top of us and attacked but we stood firm:

27

That now brings us 1 point behind with 3 games to go. We can win this league, as long as Swansea suffer defeat in their game in hand.

They win their game in hand, beating Wigan 2-0 away.

We then get to the weekend and we’re away to Gillingham. However we are missing 2 players due to international duty, McGibbon and Mulyrne. We’re definitely going to miss Mulryne. A dour poor game was 0-0 until we opened the scoring thanks to Tomlinson, only for an equaliser to come 10 minutes later. It then stays like that until the 83rd minute when Thornley scored a rebound, only for the referee to disallow the goal. We could, and quite possibly should, have won this match.

28

However, this is the news I have been waiting to hear:

29

It’s been a long hard season. I will give a couple of fringe players a game or 2 at the end of the season.

30

I should think so too.

Let’s get this season wrapped up then shall we, our penultimate game is at home to Watford. After being 1-0 down at half time, we play poorly until I do a sub and then after that we play a lot better.

31

The draw was a fair result.

Final game of the season and this update is away to York. I make quite a lot of changes again, give Ridings a game to finish the season off. The final game is one to see us off in style as we win:

32

Great way to see off the season:

33

In the end we drew too many games but our goals for tally is the best I’ve personally had on this game.

Excluding Ridings ratings as he played the one game:

34

The biggest disappointment was Cantona to be honest. McClair has seen the last of our squad also.

35

As you see, Tom and Nev easily got the majority of the goals and I take back what I said about King Eric. He has brought his share of goals and Mulryne has really shone recently. Langley and De Bont also got in on the act and I am so glad they did, they restored the faith I had in them.

36

As for assists, Tomlinson and Nevland easily lead the way, Eric having got 10 assists

We didn’t really get many Man of the Match awards which is a shame.

37

Blackburn won the UEFA Cup:

38

But their joy then changed to sadness:

39

Arsenal won the Cup Winners’ Cup

40

Nottingham Forest pulled off a bit of a shock in the FA Cup:

41

Barcelona won the Champions League:

42

Oh I am so happy for you 3:

43

You all deserve it.

Meanwhile joining us in the 1st Division:

44

Had a feeling it would be Bristol Rovers.

I should think you are very pleased:

45

Let’s have a take a look back at the two key players who have left, first up Johnny boy Curtis:

46

As you can see, Curtis has played well for Leeds so far, still no England caps though.

What about our other key player, Terry Cooke?

47

He’s only played 9 games for our parent club but saying that, he does have some competition in that team.

It is now that I let you know the board were somewhat surprised I released McClair after we held a clear the air talks after I confirmed to him that he would not be starting any games next season and, to be honest, probably won’t get on the bench either.

I’ve also transfer listed John O’Kane as I feel I won’t be playing him much now either.

We started to start looking at new players for the upcoming season but I failed in my first transfer:

48

He had been released from Real Madrid and would have fitted into our wing back formation but it wasn’t to be.

We will finish this part with the end of season awards:

49

It was a surprise to be to see the Leyton Orient manager get manager of the year for Division 2 as I thought it would be me (somehow) or the Swansea manager but it was also good to see Tomlinson be top scorer.

As we end this part, let’s do another BACK TO REALITY:

Today we look at the career of John Curtis:

Johnny boy Curtis started his his career at Manchester United obviously and was there until 2000 after playing 14 games for the first team. He spent 99/00 on loan to Barnsley. He signed for Blackburn and was there for 3 years until 2003 and spent time on loan to Sheffield United in 2003 before he left.

2003/04 he signed for Leicester City and played 15 times and then signed for Portsmouth for the 04/05 season, played 7 times and went out on loan to Preston North End and played 12 times and signed for Nottingham Forest from 2005 until 2007, played 79 times then started to bounce around signing for QPR (4 games until John Gregory was sacked and got released), John then signed for Worcester CIty just to gain fitness and signed for Wrexham (13 games), Northampton Town for the 09/10 season (19 games) and his final club Gold Coast United, played 19 games and even scored his first goal since he was on loan to Barnsley back in the 99/00 season.

He played 4 times for the England U21’s and 1 game for England B team.

Johnny boy Curtis didn’t live up to anywhere near his potential but at least he played a full career.

Until next part and next season, bye from the Manchester B’s.

SupernovaDragon will be back after the summer break with season 3!

Mission Impossible – Saving Barnsley: Part 3

Andrew is trying to pull off the unlikely scenario of Barnsley staying in the Premier League with the default squad. It’s going quite well but now we’re into the business end of the season. Can he do it? Catch up with part two here.

Ey-up and welcome back to part three of our mission impossible as I attempt to keep the bad boys of Barnsley in the promised land. Previously we cruised through summer and autumn in the top half, but a winter of discontent has seen us slide down to 13th place only 8 points above the drop zone with 14 games remaining. As positives go, we’re above Man Utd in the league and we’re still in the FA Cup (for now, pending a trip to Leeds). The average ratings tell you a pretty good story and a reason why I haven’t diverted from a core number of players, even for the cups, despite the imperative of staying up;

1

Markstedt has been a revelation at left wing back since being introduced despite his absolutely shocking ratings. Meanwhile Liddell has forced his way in with 8 assists so far.

Next up it’s Arsenal and I just can’t get my head around this signing, I’ve never seen anything so bizarre…Lee peaked at Scunthorpe and by 2002 his career was spiralling towards ten transfers across the next ten years…

2

The man from Leek Town just keeps on keeping on. We had several chances to bury the game in the last 4 minutes, but I’ll take that!!!

3

Another Yorkshire derby, another red card and a game thrown away. We had them under pressure until the sending off. Gutted, but at least that’s us focusing on staying up.

4

A chance for revenge goes missing. Must remember dirty Leeds are top, but the ref doesn’t help us. Kewell fouls Redfearn when through on goal…not even a yellow. Wallace commits a cynical foul on Markstedt and again no card and he’s off injured. Nigel gets MoM and that just says it all about our derby day luck!

5

We lose a vital relegation six-pointer against Southampton. We are nothing without Fjortoft as Hristov continues to fire blanks following his lack of competitive action…

6

Things go from bad to worse as we lose to 20th placed Bolton. Shooting boots have gone awol in the last two games.

7

He’s only De Goey’n and let us score a sack full as the floodgates open. As you can see from his 9th MoM award, it could have been a 5-6 loss but for Tony.

8

I am delighted, but Fjortoft gets a 5 and the stats tell the tale of the game. Lucky!

9

Tony, Tony Tony, Tony Tony, Tony Tony Bullock! The man from Leek Town gets his 10th MoM of the season to date and we climb up to 9th place in the table, and reach the elusive 40 pts marker with plenty of games to go.

10

Reality Check: At this stage of the season the real Barnsley had won 9, drawn 4 and lost 18, but were putting up a similar late fight to ourselves. They had conceded 69 and scored 31 and were sat in 18th place with a shot at survival possible. We’re 9 points and 9 places better off.

Elsewhere this save just keeps getting stranger…

11

And stranger…

12

And stranger…

13

And then there’s this…Man Utd sit 4pts from safety with Sir Alex having plumped for this striker from Partick Thistle in pre-season.

14

5 minutes of madness and the Dons go crazy.

15

We can’t repeat that famous night at Anfield with our two attacking midfielders out we had to resort to 4 strikers…so close.

16

We are fading fast and that see’s us drop to within 7pts of the trap door with 4 games left to play.

17

We’ll be without Hendrie, Sheridan, Martin Bullock, and Fjortoft for the next game. Down to the bare bones up top.

18

Whatever possessed Danny Wilson to sign Hristov…I’d like to know who the scout was for that one, a lot to answer for.

19

Twitchy bum time…we are below Man Utd for the first time this season.

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!

20

With two games to spare, victory in a South Yorkshire derby and we’re safe!!! The fans storm the pitch and hold the captain aloft.

21

You absolute beauties. Did not see that victory coming.

22

We’re now fighting for 11th place, top of the bottom half.

Disappointing 79th minute.

23

We tamely fizzle out with a whimper having secured our survival a few games ago.

24

Our rag-tag bunch of, what can loosely be termed, footballers have survived against all the odds and all the history. Here is the final table;

25

And at the top, Liverpool pip dirty Leeds to the title, justice!!!

26

So we closed the season out with 11 more points than Danny Wilson’s Barnsley back in 1998 and we’ve kept that goals against down by 20 odd goals too! I am grateful to the following few who enter the fake Barnsley hall of fame;

Tony Bullock and his 11 MoM’s plus a host of other great games, was our best rated player.

27

Fjortoft sure would have been handy from the start of the season in real life, he is no doubt the difference maker in my survival along with Tony.

28

The man, the myth, the legend. Captain of the relegation favourites and living up to his real life hype he reached double figures.

29

So there you have it. A Yorkshire vintage survival. I just can’t quite believe it. In 20+ years I’ve never seen them survive that season. I can attest to just how hard that was, and I think if I’d had a more punishing spell of injuries during the season I might have failed.

I hope you have enjoyed your stay in Barnsley, I’ll be back soon (hopefully) with another mildly interesting tedious tale to tell.

That’s T’goodbye from me.

My thanks to Andrew for a hugely enjoyable season. You can follow him on Twitter @KingOfTheRooks

Run Forest, Run – Part 10: Stuck in 2nd Gear

Matt Wills is back to get you through hump day. His Nottingham Forest adventure began 8 seasons in but he’s more than caught up now. The glory days are back at the City Ground but are those magic European nights here to stay? Catch up with part 9 here.

Hey you guys, we’re back with our Forest Future save, and well into Season 3 now after a domestic treble last season. We’re 2 from 2 in our Champions League group and have worked our way to the top of the Premier League.

A quick visual reminder…

1

Newcastle chasing us hard, Man Utd looking adrift already. Shocking stuff.

2

AaB dominant with no goals conceded so far.

Whilst things are going quite well, Wee Jimmy wants to go

3

I say no and as The Lizard is injured for a week, put him in the sticks for our away trip to Leeds. He concedes to Chris Woodcock after only 2 minutes. At the other end, we can find no way past Thomas Mhyre and when Bogie hauls down Woodcock in the box and is sent to the dressing room, Timofte converts to make it a bad day at the office.

4

We’ll have to lick our wounds for a week or so as it’s the International Break and it’s costly for our strike force

5

Young Derek Thompson is itching for first team football, so he’ll fill Rubini’s boots for a week or so to keep him happy.

Derek takes his chance against Villa, but we hold the lead for a whole minute before Mark Low equalises. It’s more injury woe as Debbah goes down hurt, so old man Alfonso steps off the bench to take his place and helps set up Fisher for the winner 2 minutes later.

6

Debbah’s out for a few weeks, so we’ll be relying on youth and experience for our goals when we take on Aab in our 3rd Champions League group game.

We take an early lead, but Aab come back strong to equalise but we cannot find a winner.

7

The Match Stats tell the story – only 4 shots on target. I need my injured strikers back pronto!

8

They are still out injured however when we take on Wolves and although we go in front, this time it’s for less than a minute when Richie Wellens scores. Inge secures the three points with a second half strike but in truth we were holding on until the red card. We’re certainly not fluid at the moment. Last seasons hero Guerrero has gone right off the boil this time out, but still remains a vital squad member.

9

We find some striking form when we take on Kettering in our defence of the League Cup and although we score five, I’m disappointed to concede 2 to a Division 2 side, still, we’re into the next round to take on Kidderminster Harriers. Nelo and Inge getting the goals from midfield which is always a bonus.

10

Really not understanding our lack of goals at the minute. I know Debbah and Rubini are out, but surely we can score a few at against Bolton, no?

No.

11

At least The Lizard kept a clean sheet. Somehow we’re still top of the league. Bolton finished 6th last season, so it’s not that much of an upset.

Our 4th Champions League game sees us travel to Rosenborg and Trujillo from Metallica is invloved again, our winner coming from the unlikely left wingback position through Jarni Jnr.

12

That gives us 10 points from 4 games and one more win from our last 2 should see us through to the quarters.

Despite that, it feels like the wheels are coming off a little in the league. Not sure where to start with our away game against Everton. Baksa scores again and Thompson had a goal ruled out for offside in the last minute. We should have done better against 10 men. I think Ron Butcher is the regen of Ian Wright, who always used to like scoring against Forest.

13

I think my problem is that my summer recruitment strategy means we haven’t had a settled side as I try to find my best 11.

While I’m pondering all that, England have qualified for Euro 08 with a perfect record and know their group for the finals. Noel Whelan helping out with 3 goals in 8 games.

14

England will probably finish bottom of their group after such a fine qualifying campaign.

We’re up against Arsenal next, who are top and amazingly we are 2nd. So we aren’t that entertaining at the moment, but maybe we are becoming resilient and Debbah celebrates his return with the winning goal and send us back to the top of the pile.

15

Back to our European campaign and we’re cruising to our required 3 points in our match against CSKA until The Lizard gets himself sent off, but summer signing Davide Courtin keeps them at bay after conceding the penalty.

16

We have 13pts but qualification isn’t confirmed yet.

We’re away to Martin O’Neill’s Man City in the league next.

17

Substitute Thompson saves us a point, but really its two dropped and we’re back down to second in the league.

It’s a complete change in the starting 11 for the League Cup as I give some of the fringe players some game time and we squeeze through after 120 minutes against Kidderminster. Our defence of the trophy marches on.

18

The story of our next league match against Sunderland can be told in the space of 4 send half minutes.

19

We seem to like winning 2-1 at the minute.

It’s our last Champions League group game up next and we do just enough to finish top.

20

I just want to avoid Milan in the next round.

21

Well we did, but not much better.

22

23

Our group mates AaB draw Milan out of the hat and we’ll pick that thread up in the next post.

As we head into Xmas its all very routine away to Burnley

24

Boxing day is an absolute bore draw against Newcastle which I won’t even post details of it was that drab, but it keeps us top at Xmas, but it’s getting tight

25

Liverpool doing well after promotion, but it’s a different story for Chelsea who came up with them

26

The next, and penultimate blog post will pick up with our defence of the FA Cup and the quarterfinals of the Champions League, but before we go, and quick round up of the teams I avoided.

Liverpool – 12th in the Premier League following last season’s promotion. They are out of the League Cup, losing to Man City, but have the 3rd round of the FA Cup against Bristol City to look forward to in the new year, as well as a two-legged affair with Real Madrid in the Quarter Finals of the Cup Winners Cup. Alan Shearer is doing some good work at the helm.

Lazio – Midtable in Serie A, with not much than pride to play for where the bugger story is Napoli leading the table, 7 points ahead of the mighty Milan.

Espanyol – Our next opponents in Europe are 4th in La Liga, only 3 points from the top and into the quarter finals of the Copa Del Rey.

Also a quick mention for Stuart Pearce, the man I usurped from the Forest hot-seat took over the reins at Bradford City and got them promoted to Division 1 in his second season where they are now fighting against relegation.

See you next week as we enter the business end of our final season.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills