When Diego met Paul: Part 4

Ross is back with the fourth and final part of his experiment. Would Spurs have been better with Maradona and Gazza rather than Christian Gross? Two opposite ends of the fun scale there. Part 3 is here if you need to get caught up.

Hello, and welcome to what we all have dreaded. The final part of this story of when a lad from Lanus and lad from Newcastle met at a club in north London. It makes sense if you have read the previous three parts.

Any-hoo. When we last left you, the title was more or less gone, United on this game are a monster in the first few seasons, and now Diego wanted to follow in Ossie Ardiles’ shoes and win the cup for Tottingham.

First game back and it’s a tasty one vs those lot from Woolwich. Our first signing Bakayoko gets a start and doesn’t do half bad.

1

There will be dancing in the streets of White Hart Lane. Also, nice to see Iversen score a few.

Back in the days Newcastle paid a lot of money for players,

2

I don’t tell Paul, had to refuse this or this last part would just be called ‘When Diego met…’ not the same twang to it.

3

Came from him wanting more first team football, this means I have a spot free.

So, who to go for? Denilson? Thuram? Shearer?

4

Well done for anyone who guessed this lad. He was universally recommended by all three league scouts.

Young Scott wont play this season but a good buy for the future.

Next at the Lane is the big one. 2nd vs 3rd! Owen vs Klinsmann! Diego vs Redknapp! Gazza vs the urge not to wear a curly wig and a shell suit.

It’s a great game, we take the lead through Jurgen and young Owen scores after half an hour. With the game ticking away, our leading German puts daylight between the teams in the match and the league.

5

7 points between us and only 8 games to go.

6

Its semi final time. And it’s at Anfield. The locals are not happy, it’s the team who just snatched a victory against Liverpool last time out and Man United.

We start so so well. Either side of a Scholes goal Jurgen and Gazza score. We start dreaming. But you never ever rule out a Fergie side.

7

Oh the pain, Diego’s dream has gone. Gazza is in tears (again), probably didn’t help me accidentally letting slip about the Newcastle bid.

Our aim now is to finish second and get Champions League football. A first for this club.

Wimbledon womble in and we take our anger out them.

8

Gascoigne got himself injured trying a bicycle kick, wouldn’t have minded but the ball was no where near him and he was just trying to impress the crowd.

My usual nemesis Southampton turn up next, wow we have had a lot of home games recently. I speak to Diego before the match, he hasn’t been himself after the Man United game. I try and wind him up by telling him that Egil Ostenstad said his perm looked stupid.

9

2 goals and an assist prove my worth as manager.

We visit Man U again in hope of avenging that late defeat. Therefore the only to happen is…

10

Again? Oh I give up trying to beat this lot.

We bounce back with wins against Derby and Sheff Weds on a Saturday.

Our final game, also Diego’s for the club, is against Newcastle. Second will be sown up with a win. I give the little Argie the armband for the game and he responds with a great performance.

11

Sorry Dave.

The league was over in November to be honest. But 96 goals was a great achievement and even our defence wasn’t too bad.

12

Champions League will be fun.

13

Derby, Southampton (hahaha) and Barnsley are all relegated.

But this about really about one man. Lets look at his stats.

14

15 assists and 11 goals are a great return for the 36-year-old. But its only for one season. The guys in the squad have a whip round and by him a t-shirt which says ‘I’m sorry I cheated you in ‘86’ Luckily he can’t read English so smiles politely and walks away for the final time.

Ciao for now and thank you for reading this.

Thanks to Ross for a thoroughly entertaining series. You can follow him on Twitter @Riddley82

Remember to vote for your Greatest CM9798 Team!

When Diego met Paul: Part 3

Ross is back with another episode of the Gazza and Maradona soap opera from White Hart Lane. It’s January and both survived the Christmas party. Catch up with part 2 here

Hello, welcome back one and all. Maradona has rocked up at the lane. And he would only join if the man below joined.

1

Don’t let the look deceive you, it seems to be working.

We left last time in a place. Doing well in the league and only really Man Utd pulling away in first.

New year and its 3rd round FA Cup and home to Walsall time. Easy right?

2

Not a happy bunny. We score they score, we score again, they score again. A replay awaits us.

3

For some reason Kieron Dyer called me up about taking this job. Can’t think why, plus how did he get my number?

In typical spurs style, we put our struggles against a lower league behind us and beat a good prem side away.

4

This win gears us up nicely for the replay.

5

Yeah take that Walsall. Nice to see Rory Allen score. I had almost forgotten about Chris Armstrong as well.

Coventry feel the force of my anger next. Even David Howells scores. This did cause a few minutes of panic in the stands as people thought the world was ending. Managed to calm the situation and win 6-1.

6

Disaster strikes.

7

Tried a bicycle kick, only problem was it was in the car park. He asks if he could help with coaching, after crying with laughter for 10 mins I stop rolling on the floor and realise he wasn’t joking. OK I say, but no showing off.

We do miss his creativity in the next game (the dreaded champ man curse strikes)

8

Coventry in the next round of the cup next, again it should be fine as we blew them away only a few games ago.

Sadly my strikers have gone shy and the board aren’t happy.

9

You me both pal.

Another replay, maybe it’s how we are going to win the cup.

Word of warning NUMBER 36: Never let Maradona apply gel to your star keeper.

10

We continue our odd league/cup form by tearing Blackburn a new one. Sir Les even finds his scoring boots again.

FA Cup replay again, something about playing under the lights at the Lane that gets the players going.

12

Tough last ten mins but I’m not losing to a side with 83-year-old Gordon Strachan in their team.

More good news as Diego is passed fit for the West Ham, on the bench but it means I get my office back. Lad never took his shoes off and it stinks of cigars.

13

Nice. Even Judas (no I’m not forgiving or forgetting) gets a 10, plus Maradona get 20 mins.

Next up Barnsley away. Gazza winds Diego up by telling him the Barnsley fans will turn up with pitch forks and burning effigies after what happened 12 years before. I find Maradona in the toilets wide eyed and curled up on the floor.

Let’s say he didn’t have the best of the games.

14

Nor did anyone. The Zoo gets sent off and we somehow struggle to get near their goal.

This lets Man United go far ahead. Not happy.

Quarter-Final time, away to Newcastle. I tell the players they have a chance of winning this cup. And to actually win it in one game.

They actually can listen.

15

Remember Darren Anderton? Yeah, he was finally fit. And he scored. A chance for a semi for my players to enjoy.

I get an email while back at HQ. ‘YOUR PLAYER SAIB CAN’T PLAY FOR YOU ANYMORE’ stupid work permit was denied. Yet somehow, he gets a pay off of nearly a million.

Rules state I have to replace like for almost like. As Saib was an attacking midfielder this opens up a spot for another. Bakayoko will do. Diego asks ‘who this is?’ Gazza just wants to know if the local Ice Cream van comes to the training.

(Note the lack of screen shot, it was erm.. lost in the post)

So that rounds up part 3. The league maybe out of reach, but can we get Maradona to Wembley, to win the cup for Tottingham?

Top of the table looks like this:

16

And now the bottom:

17

Can Barnsley pull off a great escape? Probably not.

Anyway I have 43 voicemails from K.Dyer to deal with. Most of them just him talking in awful Italian.

Ciao for now.

You can follow Ross on Twitter @Riddley82

VOTE NOW! We’re looking to find the greatest CM9798 team and we need your help

Bettering Stan the Man: Part 3

Peter is back in Bury! After successfully keeping Bury in Division 1, what now for Peter and the Shakers? You can find Part 1 here & 2 here

Survival in the second tier with relative ease and games to spare, so in one sense, my efforts have already bettered Stan Ternent’s. In the summer of 1998, he chose to go out on a (massive) high, taking up the reins at fellow Lancashire side Burnley in the league below; the allure of managing a sleeping giant with higher potential than the Shakers were likely to afford him was just too tempting, and much to everyone’s chagrin, the board’s replacement was a certain Neil Warnock. ‘Colin’, as he’s more affectionately known by supporters of sides throughout the country, didn’t have quite the same positive reputation he ‘enjoys’ now, and in his 15-month stint at Gigg Lane, he masterminded a relegation, as well as lumbering the club with the costly signatures of many players he’d previously worked with, many of whom were simply not up to the task. My challenge is simple: avoid the drop and look for younger talent to lower the age profile of the squad…

I attempted not to upset the apple-cart (and budget) too quickly by bringing in lots of new faces all at once, but for some, the attraction of leaving ‘Schoolboy’ and ‘Minor Team’ to adorn the white and royal blue in the old Division 1 was all too apparent. In a similar theme to last season, goals were still going to be a major headache for me. A narrow win away at newly promoted Walsall was swiftly followed by the customary exit at the first hurdle of the League Cup to Merseyside giants Everton, licking their wounds after an unexpected demotion from the bright lights of the Premiership. It took until the seventh fixture of the campaign to register more than one goal in a single match, which was only enough to share the spoils with Tranmere Rovers. Another close encounter with Reading yielded maximum points, and the players showed tremendous fight to come within inches of making the derby at home to promotion favourites Manchester City a six-goal thriller.

1

The defence as a whole seemed to be a little bit more porous than last year’s collective effort, with six games on the spin shipping one. Although that doesn’t sound a lot on the face of it, without the requisite increase at the other end, it was making any hope of even matching 1997/1998’s final position difficult, even in the first third of the new campaign. October was shaping up to be particularly miserable until Port Vale came to town. My side had come to rely more and more on Jason Peake’s dead ball skills as the months wore on, and thus it proved against the Valiants.

2

The league meeting with the blue half of Liverpool went precisely as I’d expected: a 3-0 reverse flattered my outclassed group. Thankfully, the city of Stoke-on-Trent had two sides in the same division as me, and the red and white variety were beyond woeful.

53

Whilst it’s certainly true to state that it took a long time to get back in front, this was the rarest of rare feats: a) an away win, b) a convincing away win, c) a striker scoring more than once in a game and d) actually managing to outshoot and outscore the opposition considerably. I could scarcely believe a certain Ray Wilkins was still turning out at the age of 42, having been drafted in as player-manager in an attempt to arrest Stoke’s slide down the table.

4

The triumph was the first in a triad of wins, and I somehow conspired to end November unbeaten… but sadly overlooked once more for Manager of the Month. Whilst I was ruing the Football League bigwigs’ ignorance, Stockport County delivered a harsh lesson of their own, spanking five past my shellshocked troops.

6

The game also marked the debut of 19 year-old right winger Warren Stevenson, and he at least had something to remember the occasion by in a positive manner. Recommend to me by ‘League Scout 2’, within three games, he was second top scorer at the club. With three. In December.

To my relief, the huge setback didn’t take hold of the dressing room for long, as the cloggers down in Berkshire were in festive mood, once again channelling the true spirit of Christmas and gifting Bury three precious points. Huddersfield Town were not so generous, and another ‘0’ was present (no pun intended) in the goals for column.

7

The FA Cup had drawn me against lower league opposition, which is usually no barrier whatsoever to the other side going through at the Shakers’ expense. Exeter City bucked that particular trend though, being beaten 2-0. Bury were in the hat for the fourth round, which is something neither Ternent nor Warnock managed to do at the helm.

8

About where I hoped to be in the standings at just past the halfway point, and still in the most famous domestic cup competition in all of football, you’ll have to wait until Part 4 to see which huge name I got!

When Diego met Paul: Part 2

Ross is back with one of our quirkier series’ – Maradona and Gazza together at last. Playing for Tottenham Hotspur. If you missed part 1, here it is.

Hello, and welcome back to this mini-series. If you haven’t read the first part then well done you on finding this without it.

So far, so good down at the Lane. Diego has rented an apartment near Soho, can’t think why. And Gazza has found his Gold suit from 96. Let the games begin!

I’m not a big fan of the League cup. No Europe if you win it, but Diego wants to play.

1

Yay! 6-2! Whoopy do! Bar Maradona the side I put out was weaker than usual. And yet we still go through.

The league is what I want. But before we kick another ball this surprise happens.
Normally does well but hey ho, not my problem.

2

Palace come to the Lane, we get off to a Dyer start but Sir Les takes over after.

3

Do love a hat-trick. Les seems to be loving having Diego play behind him. Two assists from the curly haired Argentinian and the fans love it.

4

Noooooooooooo. Not again. He has begun the season so so so well. He was even mistaken for Maradona because he grew his hair out a bit.

With England finishing runners up to Italy they will need a play off to get to France.

5

Yikes. But the second leg at home should make it easier.

Liverpool away and we have no Gazza or Carr. Not a good feeling about this one.

6

Hate it when I’m right. We barely enter there half. Thou Diego did visit the Cavern Club and get a load of Beatles memorabilia. Hard day’s night indeed.

Luckily, we are at home next. We play Wednesday on Saturday.

7

Stefanovic was so upset by that previous pun he lashed out on David Howells. How anyone would want to hurt David is beyond me. Good to see Nielsen and Jurgen on the scoreboard.

David was still raging about this on training. And as a experienced member and legend, I ask Maradona to give him some words of advice.

8

FFS Diego! What did you tell him? Lamping Euell was not ideal but we held on to take a point.

Now my rule on transfers is that I can only buy what I sell. Yet no one until this point wants to leave. Not even Judas Campbell. Until…

9

Laters Ramon. Just as long as someone wants you that is.

Pointless cup time. Hoping for a 90 min run around for fringe players and if we get knocked out then so be it. What I don’t need is pens.

10

Went on for hours. Diego kept texting me during the shootout asking what movie to rent from Blockbusters. He didn’t understand you needed a card. Anyway, Colin Calderwood misses the crucial pen, but we are out. Never mind.

The players go off to international duties. England struggle against the Scots. Andy/Andrew Cole scores what could be a crucial last min goal.

11

Sir Les wasn’t happy not playing against Scotland. I tell him to take it out on Southampton.

12

Good lad. Normally a bogey ground we never break sweat.

Why the second leg wasn’t played straight after the first is beyond me but here we are, and this time Ferdinand does start.

13

He sends 70,000 home happy and relieved.

14

This is what happens when you celebrate to much Paul. And just before Man Utd show up.

15

We almost take 3 points, but Butt (always wanted to write that) heads an equaliser.

The next game is away to Bolton. I not saying anything, bar this pic from full time.

16

So annoying.

I say we need to hit more goals to climb back up the league. The last few draws leave us 4th. We need more from our Argie magic man.

We take out our frustrations on Dave’s men.

17

And then Chelsea

18

I let the lads boys celebrate at Diego’s gaff.

19

Hmmm. Around Xmas? Well he has played well so I will let him off.

Anyway, here are the tables, both and top and bottom you lucky lot.

20

Which leaves…

21

Barnsley are pretty much doomed and we hang onto Man United’s coat tails just about.

Until next time, ciao for now.

You can follow Ross on Twitter @Riddley82@Riddley82

Bettering Stan the Man: Part 2

Peter Taylor is back with Bury. It’s been a short while so uou can find Part 1 here. Can he succeed with the survival bid but with more time to spare than Stan Ternent did for Bury in the ‘old’ Division One? Let’s find out…

23 goals from 29 games had me ranked in 23rd in that particular metric, but thankfully, the only one that really mattered was being 14 points clear of the relegation zone when entering the final third of the campaign. A battling point accrued across the Pennines at Bradford City wasn’t capitalised upon, and the reverse fixture against Man City predictably ended with a heavy defeat. Frank Clark’s virtual management was proving to be a lot more effective than his real-life efforts, and the season tickets of the blue supporters at Maine Road remained intact.

Two encounters pitting the Shakers against north-eastern giants would also yield ‘nil’ in the goals for column. Once more, there was plenty of effort shown from the players but little craft or endeavour that could unlock the expensively assembled defences.

Even with a fresh-faced Robbie Keane in their ranks, Wolves weren’t exactly troubling the promotion contenders, although a home game against my shot-shy performers represented the perfect opportunity to at least put a bit of pressure on the top six…1

It’s difficult not to pretend that I wasn’t disappointed; not because I expected a victory, but somehow contriving to score three and not even escaping Molineux with a single point. Alex Notman temporarily found his shooting boots, only adding to the frustration I felt.

Oxford United were next up, and Bury reverted to type, grinding out yet another stalemate to just about keep parity with games played and points gained. This actually represented the start of a fine run, with four consecutive clean sheets. Even with the (rightly) highly rated Dean Kiely in goal, that’s no mean feat. There were crucial wins over ‘local’ rivals Stockport County and Crewe Alexandra (both of which came up with the Greater Manchester outfit the season prior). That had the table looking like this with 10 matches remaining:

2

Easily the most impressive result to date was over likely champions Nottingham Forest, however…

3

Where did that come from?! To keep the likes of the volatile Pierre Van Hooijdonk quiet and amass that margin of victory were both things I didn’t expect. David Thompson ran the show from the right flank, scoring once and laying on a wicked cross for Tony Ellis to tap home. Whilst wins were rare, defeats were as well, and the gap had widened to 15 points with nine to play, and six short of Stan the Man’s total.

Besting Tranmere Rovers back at Gigg Lane made it four wins from four in March, but it still somehow wasn’t enough to secure me the Manager of the Month award. Little Bury were once again being cruelly ignored.

Second tier football all but assured, some of the players became a little lackadaisical, and even worse, the majority of the loanees were recalled by their parent clubs with a significant number of games still to be played. Three more blanks were drawn, threatening to take the gloss a little off the collective efforts of the threadbare roster.

Thankfully, they rallied with the tantalising prospect of a holiday to Magaluf dangled before them. A creditable draw at home to Huddersfield was quickly followed by a rare triumph on the road at Charlton, and the subsequent defeat versus Ipswich was quickly forgotten on final day with a comfortable win over Stoke.

4

My utilisation of three outfield players in the available sub slots has not yet cost me, and today was no exception. That left the final table looking like this:

56

Top of the bottom half can only be regarded as a success against the first part of the challenge I set myself. The only stat I didn’t improve compared to Ternent was the goals scored column, falling three short of equalling his meagre tally.

7810

And a summary of the fixtures:

Come back soon for Part 3, where I set myself a new challenge for the second season, pitting myself against a certain Neil Warnock…

Peter will be back soon with part 3 but in the meantime you can follow him on Twitter @BurymeinExile

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…

Cover

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.

1

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.

2

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…

3

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.

4

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.

5

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.

6

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

7

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.

8

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.

9

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.

10

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.

11

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

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.

2

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.

3

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.

4

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!!

5

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

6

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

7

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.

8

9

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.

10

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.

11

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…..?

12

13

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.

14

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