Run Forest, Run – Part 7: Inge-ing our way to the top

Happy hump day! Here’s Matt with his Forest in the future save. Things have taken a dramatic turn – catch up with part 6 here.

You join me on Boxing Day 2006 in my quest to make Nottingham Forest great again. We’re mid-way through season 2 and out of Europe but keeping pace with the front runners in the league, if only we could find some sort of form…

It’s 4th against 9th on Boxing Day as we take on Bolton away. Injuries have robbed us of some key performers, but I’m hopeful my squad can weather the busy festive period.

We’re not great and rely on Inge to rescue us a point. I think I might be relying on young Thompson in the absence of Debbah a little too much.

1

Some stalwarts are starting to return from injury, but none are fit enough to face Everton at home. We start well through Rubini, then concede immediately. Its back and forth for the rest of the half until Inge pops up in the box to send us into halftime in front. Young Thompson extends our lead and although Everton pull one back, we hold out for a win that keeps us 4th but a point off top spot.

2

Little Luis Enrique is recalled by Las Palmas so I’m short on defensive options at right wingback but keep faith with young Costacurta.

We fall behind to Birmingham away in our FA Cup quest but recover well to seal a 4-1 win. A returning Ascencio helping himself to 2 goals.

3

Staying with cup action, it’s a midweek visit from Sheff Utd in the League Cup Quarter Finals. It’s a tight game, their keeper getting MOTM tells most of the story, but a minute from time young Dutch maestro Inge seals the win and a semi-final spot against Newcastle.

4

It’s a strong statement of intent as we brush aside Ipswich at Portman Road on our return to league action, which is just aswell as the 3 teams above also record wins.

5

It’s tight at the top…

6

Things may change in our next match as we take on first place Watford, who have Figo and Giggs on either wing, but it’s Shay Given in goal who earns them a point in a fairly even 0-0 draw.

7

There’s nothing even when we take on West ham in the FA Cup 4th round, Inge and Debbah combining to devastating effect. Young Inge is growing into a vital player in this team now.

8

Of course, being the team we are, it’s back down to earth with a bump against man City in the league, leaving us 4th and 4 pts off Man Utd in 1st.

9

Maybe we’re just cut out for the domestic cup competition’s like Cloughie’s team of the late 80’s/early 90’s. This is reinforced when we sweep aside Newcastle in the first leg of the League Cup Semi-Final, 6-1. Rubini with 4! Shame we conceded one though.

10

Before the second leg, we’ll stick with the cup and our 5th round tie against Norwich City. Nelo settles the game, it was text book, and we’re into the quarters.

11

We’re even further than that in the League Cup. With a 5 goal cushion, I ring the changes for the return leg and am happy with a 1-1 draw to take us into the final against Leeds United.

12

Back to league action and we brush aside Hull 3-1, but we’re still 7pts off top spot. Ok we have a game in hand, but still.

13

Julen Guerrero has been a real bargain buy for us and has stayed fairly free of injury for a veteran. In contrast, young Brendan ‘Gazza’ Fisher has just recovered from shin splints, only to damage his hip in training and he’s out for the rest of the season. Always seems to be the problem with this regen.

I’m not sure if this signing is really worth it as he’s 34, but he may pop up with the odd important goal in the run in.

14

We’re too strong again for Newcastle at home in the league, Nelo, Inge and Debbah getting the goals to put us 3rd with a game in hand.

15

That game in hand is a midweek trip away to Sheff Utd, and it’s Debbah with a treble to put us 2nd and 2 pts off Man Utd.

16

Its FA Cup Quarter Final time and Rubini puts us in control against Sunderland before Jancker pulls one back. Guerrero makes the game safe and I give his compatriot Alfonso a 20 minute cameo, but no goals on his debut.

17

We’ll have Spurs in the semi-final, a replay of the 91 final, as I expect the papers will caption it.

It’s a dress rehearsal in the league in another midweek catch up game and it’’s action right from the start. Rubini after 5 minutes, then a response from Kovacevic 4 minutes later. Rubini puts us back in front, then Debbah makes it 3-1 before half time. The floodgates open in the second half and it’s a 7-2 rout. Good times!

18

Even though the troops are tired, I send the same team out 3 days later to face Leeds, where a 2-nil win and favourable results elsewhere puts us top of the pile with nine games to go, which seems like the perfect place to end this part. Join me next week where we’ll have the League Cup Final, the FA Cup semi-final and the league run in, it promises to be very interesting!

19

A quick look elsewhere:

Liverpool are up to 4th in Division 1 and looking good for a playoff spot, Czech striker Marek Suchoparek banging in the goals for them.

Lazio have pulled themselves out of the relegation zone in Serie A but are still 1pt from the drop zone.

Espanyol are 2nd in La Liga, 2 pts off Real Sociedad, they’re also in the Champions League quarter-finals, holding Milan to a 0-0 draw in the first leg.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

Run Forest, Run – Part 6: Zizi Like Sunday Mourning

Matt Wills is here to bring you more from his Nottingham Forest in the future save. Having fast forwarded 8 years, it’s all about making up lost time for Matt and return Forest to their past glories. Catch up with part 5 here.

Hi, welcome back to my Nottingham Forest challenge. Part 5 was a bit dour as we had a hangover from our near miss in season one, but I’m determined to be more positive going forward.

I start by dropping wantaway Liberian Zizi Debbah and bring in Derek ‘Alan Shearer’ Thompson up-top as we labour to a 2-0 win over 18th placed Sunderland, but in an attempt to be more positive, the board are pleased with the result and it catapults us from 8th to 3rd in the table.

1

Even Lizarralde’s injury is minor only needing a few days rest. My cup is half-full.

During the international break for European Championship qualifiers, Lloyd Kaye gets his first cap for England in a 2-0 win away to Romania, Noel Whelan and Scholes with the goals. I’m proud of young Kaye.

After the break, we do well to see off 5th placed Leeds, even if we do leave it late, but my inspired substitutions win out in the end.

2

This puts us 3rd on goal difference from Burnley and only 4pts behind Villa at the top.

This nice little run of form brings us to my biggest test since I took over Forest, AC Milan in our 3rd group game in the Champions League. Milan are the holders and did the treble last season.

I decide to swap out Rubi-Gol and bring back Debbah, as I can only play 3 Non-EU players.

Milan have Thierry Henry upfront and Peter Schmeichel’s regen in goal, this will be some task.

3

Although we give it a good go, we spend a disappointing evening in the San Siro, and it’s not without it’s casualties.

4

It would be a divine miracle to qualify from this position. Even 10 points in 2nd is unlikely to be enough to go through as one of the two best runners up. Still, we’ll give it a go.

5

4 weeks without the lad from Chad.

Debbah enjoys his return to the line-up, although he doesn’t score, he gets Man of the Match against lowly Middlesbrough. Fisher and Kaye notching for us and another clean sheet to boot.

6

This win takes us up to 2nd in the table, and a Villa loss leaves us a point behind them with 12 games played. Feeling positive!

7

It’s a break from league action, for the League Cup and Burnley. Debbah adds a hat trick to his previous MOTM award and we’re in the hat for the next round.

8

This will be an interesting game…

9

I keep exactly the same team for the next game, which coincidentally is Burnley again, but this time away and it’s a real kick in the teeth given our recent fine domestic form. We’re a proper Jeckel and Hyde team again and we slide to 5th. A win would have put us a point clear at the top.

10

Our Mission Impossible resumes in Europe and we take away a narrow win from Croatia. It’s probably not going to be enough, but does award us £750k which will pay for Zizi’s hospital treatment for a few weeks at least.

11

Arsenal beat us to Rai’s regen. Back to the shopping list…

12

Another 2-1 win, this time against Man Utd. It’s impressive that we achieved this with Antti Niemi in goal and forgotten Italian regen The Borg up front. However, not so impressive when you learn that Utd have a guy called Jon Salako in goal…

We’re joint top with Everton, but we’ve scored less and conceded more so settle for 2nd spot for now.

13

After missing out on Rai’s regen, I scour Europe for some back up and sign up Brian Laudrup Jnr, he can’t Fahl(en) to improve us.

14

Fahlen goes straight into the team against bottom club Arsenal, and of course, we play absolutely pants in defence and lose 5-3. This team is starting to drive me to distraction. Down to 5th and Man U top the table! Give me strength!

15

I give the squad a right good rollicking for that and they respond in our next game at home to Rosenborg. Debbah with 4, Rubi-Gol with 2, lovely stuff. We still have a slim chance of qualifying, but to do so we’ll have to beat Milan in our last group game, no easy task.

16

Based on that win, I expect us to lose our next match in the league to Norwich, but we don’t and it’s a welcome 3 pts in the bag. Bergkamp and Shearer Jnrs getting the goals here.

17

3 days later and its Division 1 Liverpool in the 4th Round of the League Cup. Shearer has set his team up to frustrate and the only action in 90 minutes is an injury to Spanish wingback Juanmi. I realise I’ve done my usual thing of not shuffling my subs, so it’s either Fabio Cannavaro or Jesper Blomqvist to replace him. I opt for Jesper and we eventually make the breakthrough via Thompson in the 3rd minute of extra-time and we’re in the hat for the quarter final, which will be Sheffield United at home. The returning Nelo gets man of the match, which was nice.

19

It’s away to 17th placed Huddersfield in the league next. Huddersfield have Dick Dolby up front, whose name makes me think of American talk show hosts for some strange reason. Juanmi is out for a month, so Costacurta comes in at right wingback and I recall Rubini for Thompson, but we fail to get out of first gear in a turgid first half. Then we concede to Gifton Noel Williams in the second half, and I wonder what I’ve done to deserve such things, but luckily Zizi Debbah is on hand to equalise a minute later and then he seals all three points in the last minute by rounding the keeper to slot home – please don’t leave me Zizi!

19

So here we go into the final Champions League group game. We’re up against holders Milan, who sit 6 points clear in Serie A with a game in hand. They have already qualified from our group, with a perfect 5/5 and 15 pts. We’re on 7 in second. Dortmund and Aab are the only 2nd placed teams with more points than us with 10 and 8 respectively, so our task is clear. Beat the mighty AC Milan at the City Ground and hope results elsewhere go our way. It couldn’t be simpler…

Fisher is suspended so veteran Guerrero comes in for him and I have to sacrifice Rubini for Thompson to meet my 3 Non-EU quota for European games. We have more of the chances in the first half but the Schmeichel regen Meedom is impervious and Matteo Pelatti makes it Mission Impossible with a goal on 24 minutes. I try to gee the lads up at half time and send them out with their tails up but we need 2 goals and results elsewhere to go our way, it’s a tall order indeed, and one that unfortunately eludes us.

20

Elsewhere, Aab won but Dortmund drew, so we would have made it had it not been for Milan, and all the other results to be honest. So we are out of Europe, woe is me.

Back to domestic duties and it only takes Nelo 5 minutes to get injured at home to Wolves. Luckily, I had Frank Lampard on the bench. Fisher follows him on 36 minutes and I reluctantly bring on Blomqvist and go in 0-0 at the break. Debbah cancels out a Wolves opener in the second half and then grabs a second 2 minutes later, good old Jesper with the assist, what was I worried about? It’s another 2-1 win! Fisher is out for 3 months with shin splints, the legacy of being Gazza’s regen I suppose. Things get better when Rubini hands in a transfer request as he wants to move to a bigger club, and then Debbah goes down injured for a few weeks.

21

Word gets out that we’re the walking wounded, and I get a mysterious call from an agent claiming they can send me Debbah’s cousin for a trial, but I politely decline…

2 days before Xmas, we’re away to 3rd place Aston Villa and they’re 1 nil up after 6 minutes following a goal mouth scramble. Apart from Blomqvist rattling the crossbar in the dying minutes, that’s it and it’s a sobering festive break at the City Ground.

22

That game was our 19th and leaves us half way and at the end of this update. Villa have leapt to the top and we’re now 4th behind Man Utd and last years champions Watford. We’re only 2pts from the top spot but could have been 2 pts clear had we beaten Villa.

23

We’ll pick this up again on boxing day, hoping for more consistency as we head into 2007, but before we go, a quick look at the other teams we turned down:

Liverpool – Out of the League Cup thanks to us, they are still amongst the play off spots in Division 1.

Lazio – Looking at a swift return to Serie B as they lie 16th in the top division – oh dear.

Espanyol – The best of the bunch as they push Real Sociedad for the Spanish title.

See you soon guys.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Run Forest, Run – Part 5: All The Leaves Are Brown

Matt is back to the future again as he starts his second season at Nottingham Forest in 2006. Can they go one better than last season? Catch up with part 4 here.

Hi, welcome back to Futures Past with my Nottingham Forest experiment, simming 8 seasons into the future and trying to make Forest great again. Last season we came close but finished second to a star-studded Watford team. We faded badly in the home run and so I need to add some quality to the squad. This won’t be easy as we’re not that fashionable, yet, and I’m not really sure whose who.

Goalkeeper was also a problem position last season, so this guy might help there…

1

This Klinsmann clone would be a good addition too.

2

But he doesn’t want to sign for us, and in truth it’s a fairly frustrating summer transfer season.

This guy might want to take up snooker though. Don’t you just love the names the AI generates sometimes?

3

Our second place finish last season earns us a place in the Champions League qualifying round. I’m feeling hopeful.

4

The Charity Shield kicks off the domestic season, and Watford are looking for dominance again

5

For our campaign, here’s how we’ll be lining up. I’ve decided to give Coughlin another chance and I have high hope for Dutchman Twan Inge

6

We start at home to Dinamo Minsk in our qualifier and our deadly front two give us a good advantage for the second leg.

7

Ageing midfield maestro Guerrero gets us off to a flyer in the league campaign and Rubi-Gol adds the icing to the cake. (Probably a Black Forest Gateau)

8

For 13 minutes I was a fairly happy man at Goodison Park

9

Its back to basics against Ipswich and I have the regen of Luis Enrique on loan from Las Palmas at right wingback.

10

For the away leg of our Champions League qualifier in Minsk, I rest our front two, and he back up s both score. Thompson is the regen of Liverpool manager Alan Shearer by the way.

11

That result puts us into the hat for the group draw….

12

We’re in with reigning Champions AC Milan. I’ll be aiming for second in the group and hope luck is on my side!

Despite the pummelling at Goodison Park, I nab the first manager of the Month award. Lovely.

13

Then, just one day later, Las Palmas want Little Luis Enrique back, balls.

14

But at least some of my homegrown talent is winning acclaim. Well done Lloyd.

15

Chad International Nelo gives us the perfect start at home to Man City, but if you concede a goal to Robbie Blake you probably don’t deserve all 3 points

16

And when you have your centre half sent off against Spurs, you’re not even going to get 1 pt. Zizi Debbah tries his best to get us back in it but it’s too little too late

17

We recover against Sheffield United, but our form is decidedly patchy. Not the sort of thing you want as you head into your first European campaign since Ian Woan played in midfield.

I think my side could have done with an Ian Woan on this particular Wednesday.

18

The match stats tell the real story. They had 3 shots on target and scored with all of them. And one of our goals too. I don’t even have Coughlin in goal anymore, Lizarralde is back in the sticks. It seems to make no difference.

19

Back in league action and our European hangover isn’t shaken off until the 90th minute when Debbah steals a point. With these players and this formation we really should be scoring more goals and getting results, but we’re not and I’m not sure at the moment what the answer is.

The answer definitely isn’t playing champions Watford away.

20

We’re behind from the 1st minute and never really in it. Rubi-gol scores in his rumoured favourite position but when your Pluck’s out it seems like nothing is going right for you.
Still, we have nothing to Fear when we visit Tyneside and Juanmi (Luis Enrique) is back on loan from Las Palmas and scores to set up a 3-1 win and 3 points on the board.

21

Back into the Champions League and a chance to get our European campaign up and running after a disastrous first result against FC Croatia. Rosenborg don’t agree though and we rely on a late Thompson equaliser to rescue a point.

It leaves the table like this…and we visit AC Milan next….

22

If we lose that fixture, we may as well burn our passports and give up this season on Europe which will really put my challenge in jeopardy.

In the domestic league, we are wallowing in 8th. Ok, we are only 2 pts off 2nd place and the league is tightly packed, but we can’t seem to put a run together to take advantage.

23

Maybe this is the problem, a wantaway striker.

24

Maybe I sold sell last seasons top scorer. He’s worth over £8m and is 28 but the trouble is, who would I replace him with? I have £40m in the bank, but have real trouble attracting the players I want. It seems nobody wants to come to mid-table inconsistent Forest, and who can blame them. I guess I could give Thompson or Twinge a chance upfront with Rubi-Gol and say bye bye to Zizi Debbah.

As you can tell by my tone, the hangover from last seasons title-miss seems to have infected me and my team and I’m hoping we can salvage something from our European campaign in the next part and I hope I haven’t put you off from joining me again next week.

Before we go, our customary round up of the teams you guys turned down…

Liverpool – They missed out on promotion back to the Premiership last season, but after 12 games they are sitting 4th in Division 1, Alan Shearer aiming for managerial recognition now that he has hung up his boots.

Lazio – Last seasons promotion from Serie B has been a bit of a step up for them and they are hovering just above the drop zone and are out of the Copa Italia already, losing 1-0 to Parma.

Espanyol – 5th in the league and top of their Champions League group with two wins from two, but they’ve sold William Gallas to Juventus who are below Lazio in Serie A!

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

Run Forest, Run – Part 4: Forest Stump

Matt is back in the future but still the past. Confused? Nottingham Forest are on the rise and that’s all that matters. Catch up with part 3 here

Hi, welcome back to the final part of Season 1 of my experiment to make Nottingham Forest great again by taking the managerial hotseat 8 seasons into the game. At the end of Part 3 we had been knocked out of the FA Cup, and seemingly my only remaining chance of silverware, but some good results and a tight league meant we were sitting at the top.

We re-join the action with the transfer deadline cut off looming and I still feel we need an extra bit of class and maturity to finish the season strongly so I make a cheeky bid for 32 year old Spanish maestro Julen Guerrero who is turning out for 2nd Division Sheffield Wednesday you may remember.

Before Julen can deliberate on my attractive offer, we overcome 19th placed Millwall 5-3 at The Den.

1

Not sure where to start with this – a turgid first half but the game explodes in the second. With Lizarralde getting injured, I throw on young Scottish keeper Jim Coughlin, but it may as well have been Jim Leighton as this guy fumbles two crosses and Millwall are right back in it until Kaye and then Debbah secure the points.

Lizarralde is out for a month, so I think I should seek out an experienced keeper for the run in too.

The problem with simming 8 seasons into the future is that you struggle to notice decent players unless they are obvious regens such as George Weah or Japhet N’Doram so knowing who to trust is a tricky thing. Luckily, I see Antti Niemi on a free and offer him a chance.

After the international friendly break, some good news!

2

This guy is, I think, a regenerated Dennis Bergkamp with a slightly amusing name

3

I’m pleased to see neither are described as ‘former international’ so must be life in them yet.

Both go into the squad for the visit of Sunderland. The Black Cats did us 4-1 earlier in the season, but they’ve slipped to 16th in the table, so we smell blood and revenge.

Niemi starts in goal and I decide to rest Ascencio for Guerrero.

I’m not sure where to start with this match! 4 goals inside the first 10 minutes and interesting debuts for my new/old boys. Niemi concedes 4 goals, but gets an 8 rating, whereas Guerreo gets a 7 for scoring a goal, helps in setting up 2 goals, and gives away a penalty and gets booked.

4

Wolves pick up the first silverware of the domestic season, Copacabana at the double to see off Gordon Milnes City.

5

I make one more signing on deadline day, and I’m pretty sure this guy is the regen of Non-flying Dutchman Dennis Bergkamp, welcome to Nottingham Tw-Inge.

6

Coincidentally, next up is Bergkamps former club, Arsenal, who lie in 4th in the table and who beat us 2-1 in the first meeting. Twinge is on the bench for this one.

It’s a poor result, and although Twinge comes on for the last 25 minutes and sets up a few chances, it’s a day in North London to forget.

7

It’ll be a replay of the 1970 final in the FA Cup

8

Next up its 5th placed Man Utd, who you’ll recall I was pleased to draw with earlier in the season, but we go one better this time out, Fisher getting a priceless winning goal and Niemi smothering a Whelan shot in the 90th minute.

9

Next up it’s highflying Everton at Goodison and the game is all set up in 3 crazy first half minutes. Double Bogie in the second half settles the game in our favour, we’ve bounced back. Lovely stuff.

10

We have 4 games left in the league, leaving the table looking like this….

11

It’s all about Watfords games in hand now. They’ve even added Ryan Giggs to their ranks – a snip at £2m.

On Easter Monday, 2 days later, I make wholesale changes to my knackered squad and it’s paying dividends until Cannavaro gets himself sent off and they score from the resulting free kick.

12

This allows Watford to jump 2 pts and 2 games in hand ahead of us, and they stretch even further ahead after the international break, beating Man Utd 2-0 at Old Trafford, leaving the table looking like this as we’re away to 13th place Hull while Watford face relegation threatened Spurs at home.

13

We’re without the suspended Debbah and the injured Kaye in defence and I’m struggling to remember the last time Rubini scored a goal, so shift Nelo upfront with him. A loss here and a win for Watford and it’s all over for the title for us.

The first half makes me want to go home and pull the duvet over my head for a week. We rally in the second half but O’Neill’s second sinks us and I await confirmation of Watford’s fate…

14

Watford win 2-1 and seal the title. It’s all about 2nd place now and the Champions League.

Over in Italy, AC Milan wrap up the Serie A title.

I try to raise the heads of my weary troops 2 days later when we face bottom club Blackburn on the May Bank Holiday as we are only 1 point ahead of Man Utd and Arsenal in 3rd and 4th respectively.

So of course we lose 2-0 and concede our first goal to Hennigan, the striker I sold on to make way for Debbah and Rubini. Luckily, Utd only draw 1-1 with Leeds, and Arsenal get hammered 4-0 by 19th placed Millwall. Everton’s 6-1 demolition job on Newcastle lifts them to 4th.

15

In midweek, Inter Milan beat Real Madrid 2-1 to lift the UEFA Cup and Watford beat Blackburn to seal their relegation. Going into he final round of games leaves the table looking like this…

16

I’m second over Man Utd by virtue of goals scored. With 2pts separating 2nd and 5th, its all to play for and I know I need to win, and match or better Utd’s result to secure 2nd place and Champions League football at the County Ground next season. Sheff Utd stand in my way.

17

I decide to watch the Man Utd/Millwall games as a rare treat and an Allen-Bak penalty is all they needed to secure a 1-0 win and 2nd place temporarily. So I know I just need to win to secure 2nd spot, so here goes nothing.

Faith is restored through a Debbah Treble and Robert Jarni-Jnr goal and we end the season in 2nd place, although 60 goals conceded is shameful!

18

The £9.75m prize money is very welcome and will go towards a new goal keeper in the summer and bolstering our defence.

Deportivo secure La Liga with 4 games to go and Liverpool finished 10h in Division 1, missing out on the playoffs by 4pts.

Man Utd suffer defeat in the Cup Winners Cup final to FC Porto, but their place in the competition will be taken by Leeds who beat Division 1 Chelsea 2-0 in the FA Cup Final, Chris Woodcock getting both goals for Leeds.

AC Milan comprehensively beat old foes Juventus in the Champions League final 3-0 to do the treble after beating inter Milan 3-2 on aggregate in the Coppa Italia.

It’s also a double blow for Chelsea as they lose the Division 1 playoff to Burnley, who join Ipswich and Bolton in the Premier League next season.

Lazio managed to return to Serie A, finishing a close 2nd behind Piacenza in Serie B whilst Espanyol finished 2nd in La Liga.

Of course it’s World Cup year, but of my team, only Rubini has been called up to represent Argentina

Man Utd have a point to prove with their latest signing

19

Meanwhile Watford strengthen their squad with the £350k signing of Edgar Davids from Sao Paulo whilst I battle Barcelona to sign free transfer Arno Splinter. I lose that battle as Splinter doesn’t want to talk me and I pass up the option of Jardel on a free as he’s 32 and significantly overweight.

At the World Cup, England crash out at the group stage with 1 pt and without scoring a goal. All fingers pointed at Noel Whelan. Brazil also fail in a group containing Tunisia, Nigeria and Slovenia. Rubini’s Argentina struggle through at the expense of Germany but fall to Sweden in the quarter finals.

The semi-finals are Italy/Sweden and Bolivia/France, with France trouncing Italy 5-0 in the final and no headbutts to be seen, with Sweden securing 3rd place.

20

I expected Lippi to be in trouble after Englands group stage catastrophe but it seems a bit harsh on Van Gaal after losing in the final!

So that’s the end of our first season at Forest and on the whole it has to be a success, but I’m feeling a little disappointed at no silverware and having led the league, our falter at the final hurdle hurts.

I’m off to get to work on the summer transfer options, must check to see if Richard Wright has a relegation clause at demoted Blackburn, see you next week for the start of Season 2 and our European odyssey.

21

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

Run Forest, Run – Part 3: Zizi Top

Here’s Matt Wills with his Nottingham Forest save. He’s been parachuted in 8 seasons down the line and it’s a strange and confusing world. Matt’s found his feet though. Catch up with part 2 here.

Welcome back to my Nottingham Forest odyssey, it’s 2006 and the world is not as we know/knew it.

My reassembled regen squad have climbed up the table and are about to embark on our FA Cup run.

To carry on our good form, I feel we need to cut some chaff from the squad and add some recognisable wheat, so I transfer list a handful of no-hopers and go looking for some recognisable names – set search to Age – 30+ and sort by caps.

Jesper Blomqvist and Erik Nevland catch my eye, but bids will have to wait until I trim my bloated squad.

The FA Cup is our best (only) chance of silverware this season and our 3rd round tie is against Division 2 Sheffield Wednesday, who have Spanish playmaker Julen Guerrero, amongst their ranks and are player-managed by Shaka Hislop.

I send out my strongest side and we put the opposite manager to the test right from the off and Debbah scores after 8 minutes. He gets his second on 37 minutes, 2 minutes after an own goal. Wednesday grab back a goal before half time. Another goal for Wednesday after half time makes me anxious but we hold out to take our place in the 4th round.

1

Our reward is an away trip to Division 1 Burnley. In the meantime, we’re back in action 2 days later in the league, at home to Watford and tiredness requires changes. Our weakened state shows and we’re two down by half time. The break does us no favours, my pleas for a comeback fall on death ears and I begin to rue not snapping up Figo. I love the fact Watford have a player called Barnes.

2

Things are no better away at Middlesbrough and after McAnenay and Giovanni from Brazil cancel out Debbah’s equalisers, Rubi-Gol gives away a penalty and all 3 pts. We’re sliding backwards.

3

I’m fed up (Lynn) – that was a negative and right now I need two positives, You know, one to cancel out the negative and another one just so I can have a positive. I decide I can’t wait for offers on my dud squad players so I release a few on free transfers.

Australian Craig Moore is shown the Doore. It costs me £350k, but he’ll lose his work permit at some point anyway as he never plays. Stig Johmasen and Willie Souness follow him out with their P45’s and I hit the shops.

I bid £140K for 31 year old Blomqvist but Nevland is not for sale at AIK, so I bid for Udinese’s Fabio Cannavaro – hey, he has 4 caps for Italy! Another to catch my eye is Scotsman Steven McManaman.

On Friday 13th January, I secure the signings of Jesper Blomqvist, Fabio Cannavaro and the Scottish McManaman. That’s 3 positives!

My new charges inspire the team, or at least make them fearful for their starting positions, as we demolish Spurs 4-1. My mood is only slightly diminished by realising Alfonso has signed for them and I’ve missed out. Oh Well, it’s a dominant display even if the new signings didn’t even feature.

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That hauls us back up to 7th after 22 games, only 3 pts off Watford at the top, its still wide open. 3 days later Neil Warnock resigns as Spurs manager with them languishing in 17th.

Back to the FA Cup and once we’re 3 nil up and coasting, Blomqvist and Cannavaro get their debuts and even a Barry Smith second yellow doesn’t stop us in a 4 nil win to set up a 5th round tie against Sheff Utd – this cup run might just have legs!

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Debbah gets a treble away to Man City in the league and everything is looking rosy again. I even manage to ship off some squad players to free up squad space. This allows me to make a £1m offer to Roma for Totti. They accept, he doesn’t – silly lad.

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Norwich are our next victims in the league, sunk 2-0 and we’re up to 3rd, 3 pts still behind Watford at the top.

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Our FA Cup quest takes a battering in the first 5 minutes against Sheff Utd, Zabek scoring from a corner and then getting himself injured. Ascensio levels before half time and sets up the last 45 nicely. I bring on Blomqvist and Kemble late in the second half to try and break the deadlock, but we fall to a sucker punch and that’s our FA Cup dreams over for the season. My best chance now for European glory is to try and secure a EUFA Cup place in the league.

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I’m thankful there is no FA Cup hangover as we destroy Derby 4-0. It should have been more.

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It is more of the same away to Villa, who have a decent side, but we are far too strong for them, and Lloyd Kaye gets a Perfect 10, what a signing he has been.

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Wolves, are made of sterner stuff and when Barry Manilow song-soundalike Campobianco, equalises I feel our luck may be running out, but Nelo nudges us in front and we hang on for all 3 pts, which moves us nicely up to 2nd in the table, and only 1 pt behind Watford now.

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The quarter finals of the Champions League are upon us and Gordon Milne’s Man City put themselves in the driving seat for the semi’s, whilst Jimmy Nicholl’s Middlesbrough give themselves a shot against Milan. That’s Erik Nevland’s AIK beating Sevilla by the way.

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Farewell Irons, you weren’t getting a game, and when you did you were a bit crap. Together with a couple of other recent sales to lower league clubs frees up a bit of space in the squad and I consider bringing in another striker to back up Debbah and Rubi-gol for the final run in.

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This guy looks alright and not much of a gamble…

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With stats like that I reckon he’s the regen of Andrea Silenzi.

I’m also going to bid £6k for this Norwegian lad…

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I also make bids for Paul Scholes and Raul as I have £32m in the bank. Regens save a lot of money it seems.

While I wait for the approaches to be considered, we head to St james’ Park to play 5th placed Newcastle. Their squad is packed with players running out of contract, and have James Beattie amongst their ranks.

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Bogie has a sprained ankle, so Cannavaro gets his first start in defence, but apart from that, it’s the usual 11.

Mackenzie gets sent off for 2 yellow cards and I think the floodgates have opened when Rubini races through, only for his goal to be ruled out for off-side. Just as with the previous meeting, Angelo Pagotto plays a blinder in goal for the Magpies and it isn’t until Bak puts through his own net that we make the breakthrough and grab all 3 points.

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Our win puts us ahead of Watford at the top, but they have a game in hand due to their FA Cup exploits. They try and unnerve me by bidding £1.9m for Hamish Chappell but I’m wise to it. Borgonovo makes the right choice and signs for us on a Free and I’ll put him on the bench for the visit of Leeds.

Leeds have Victor Ikpeba upfront and Taribo West in defense and are in the Semi’s of the FA Cup but their league form is patchy and they sit mid-table in 9th.

Nigel Quashie benefits form a Lizarralde fumble from a cross and that’s the only notable action from the first half. I decide to replace Rubi-gol with The Borg for the second half. Nelo does well to get us back into it, but it’s a chaotic last 5 minutes when Ikpeba hots the post and Ioan Timofte is on hand to stab in the rebound. Frustrations boil over and Cannavro gets himself sent off and it’s basically a crap day at the office.

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Still the board are happy, and Kaye’s exploits haven’t been ignored, which was a nice surprise.

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This wasn’t a surprise…

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And nor was this really. Perhaps if I’d taken charge of Oldham instead….

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The European competitions have all reached the semi-final stage…

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English teams represented across all competitions there, hope we can join them next season.

So, with 9 league games to go, here’s how the table looks. Watford can leapfrog us with their game in hand and Man Utd can close the gap on us to 1 pt. It looks like being a 4-horse race for the title and we’ve put ourselves in a great position.

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And for completeness, here’s the bottom section…

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So, can we hold on or will Figo, Owen, Heskey and Mainwaring of Watford overtake us and add to last seasons Eufa Cup win? Or will Everton claim their first ever Premier League title and no-one can rule out Man Utd, but will Scholes regret his snub. Please join me next week to see how it all unfolds.

Before we go, just enough time to look at what we could have won…

Liverpool – hanging on in 6th place in Division 1 and a playoff spot. Shearer hasn’t added to his solitary strike from 2 games.

Lazio – Top of Serie B by a point after 27 games, they are looking good for a return to the top. They lost 2-1 on aggregate to Juventus in the European Super Cup and their defence of the Cup Winners Cup ended in the quarterfinals to Man Utd.

Espanyol – 4th in La Liga, but 22 points behind run-away leaders Deportivo. Playing for pride and a European slot for next season.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

Run Forest, Run – Part 2: Bogie Wonderland

Matt Wills is back with the second part of his latest endeavour. He’s taken over Nottingham Forest in 2005 and is trying to bring the good times back. Catch up with part 1 here.

Hey, and thanks for coming back to my latest blog project – simming the game 8 seasons and taking over Nottingham Forest at the bequest of Dave’s twitter followers to lead them back to glory.

At the end of Part 1, that glory looked to be further away than ever, with my struggling team of regen new comers languishing in 15th in the Premier league, hopefully things would change soon.

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A corner looks to have been turned in our next league game away to Leeds, Fisher (Gazza) and Rubini (Batistuta) scoring either side of half time. At the top, Hull keep winning while we jump up to 10th.

2-0 away win against Leeds moves us up to 10th, Hull still winning.

With not wanting to rely solely on the young clones of Weah and Batistuta for goals, I make a cheeky £3.2m bid for out of favour Barcelona Striker Alfonso Munoz Perez which I’m surprised to have accepted, but less surprised to be rejected by one of the legends of the game, We could have built something beautiful Alfonso.

My disappointment evaporates when I notice he is 33 and his regen might be available next season!

Talking of regens, I put a bid in for the regen of Victor Onopko to add some steel to the defence.

The International Break comes and goes and the Onopko regen Cherchesov is refused a Work Permit, sad times.

In more positive news, my guilt at usurping Forest legend Stuart Pearce from the Forest hotseat is abated when he is appointed manager of Bradford City – best of luck Psycho!

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The international break recharges my players and they run riot in a 4-1 demolition of Millwall, moving us up to 7th in the table. Rubi-gol with a brace, Debbah and Scottish wingback Chappell with the others.

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Chappell’s rich vein of form earns a bid from Sunderland for his services, but this is quickly rebuffed. Instead of selling a wingback, I decide to sign one and you guessed it, its another regen. This time, Croatian D/M L Robert Baksa, or Robert Jarni Junior for simplicity.

Playing Jarni-Junoir in our next game doesn’t save us from a 4-1 reverse at the hands of Sunderland. The defence is becoming a concern.

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In the League Cup 3rd round, normal and extra time can’t separate ourselves and Watford and we squeeze through 3-2 on penalties setting up a 4th round tie with Division 1 Reading.

Back to league action, we lose 2-1 at home to Arsenal. Baksa gets his first goal for the club buts its not enough to save us from a disappointing result.

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I decide its time to sort out the defence. It seems my young French hope Chagnaud is just a young French dope and the rest of the defenders I inherited from Psycho had none of his grit and determination.

I turn to the player search and set up some attributes to find myself a decent centre half to add some back bone to this team. A young English free transfer called Lloyd Kaye catches my eye, so in goes a bid, but I also spy a recent signing at Wycombe called Jason Bogie who happens to have a useful Big Club Release Clause – the bid is accepted and hey, we’re a Big Club!

Bogie is 26 and looks as though he appeared in the second season, joining Crewe before moving onto Chester and then a £2.m move to Everton where he barely features. His search for more playing time at Wycombe last 2 games before I swoop and place all my hopes and dreams on young Jason.

My faith is instantly rewarded when Bogie and Kaye help keep a clean sheet at Old Trafford. These two even kept Noel Whelan quiet.

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Luis, if only I’d have known you were available…..

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Everton are next up in the league and our new found defensive solidity allow Rubi-gol and Frank Lampard to add to Farrell’s own goal in a 3-0 win.

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That’s two clean sheets in a row for Bogie and Kaye, we’re turning a corner at last!

Huddersfield are next to fall to Rubini and Debbah. I’ve even made Bogie captain now, he’s been excellent next to Kaye in the centre of defence.

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It’s a break from the league next and Reading in the League Cup. It’s another 2-2 draw and penalties but Debbah and Nelo snuff their efforts and we’re out. It’s same as this was a competition that Forest did well under Clough in the late 80’s. It’s my own fault though, as I always, always forget it’s only 3 subs allowed and when I look to bring some fresh attacking talent I remember. Now, I’m a creature of habit, so I my subs all line up like this:

12 – My back up goalie – who rarely plays

13 – A versatile defender who can play wingback – they are usually young and get fed up not playing

14 – A central defender – solid and dependable, but not first choice

15 – An attacking midfielder – this guy always gets a game, usually coming on after 60 minutes to chase a goal

16 – Back up striker – of the goal strikers I normally play, I usually sub this guy on for the one who has scored to give the other a chance of finishing the game with a goal.

So, all the above is great – until I forget about the League Cup rules. Anyway, enough pointless rambling, back to the league and high flying Hull visit the County Ground.

I need no subs this time, as Nelo, Debbah and Rubini all combine to consign Hull to defeat. To paraphrase The Housemartins – Forest 4 Hull 0.

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We’re now up to 5th and 3 points off top spot, I could hardly have thought it at the start of Part 2.

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In International news, Noel Whelan will being leading the front line against Denmark, South Korea and Spain at the World Cup next year.

In the last game of this part, we visit basement club Blackburn. Ascensio gets us off the mark and after Craggs get sent off, the deadly duo of Debbah and Rubini both get on the score street. That’s 14 goals in 21 games for Debbah and 12 in 17 for Rubini.

Another bargain passes me by…..although I’m slightly shocked he didn’t make the move until 28!

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We definitely have a post xmas hangover on boxing day, losing 1-0 to Sheffield United, which I’m too annoyed to show you a screenshot of.

What I will show you though is the table at the halfway stage. 4th and 4 points off the top, which is excellent, but our form graph shows how inconsistent we’ve been this season. It’s very annoying!

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As with last week, I’ll give you a quick update on the teams you turned down and hope you join me next week as the calendar ticks into 2006 and world cup year and we play Sheff Wednesday in the start of our FA Cup campaign – cheers!

Liverpool – 5th in Division 1 but out of the League Cup, losing to Man Utd. Shearer has 1 goal in 2 games.

Lazio – Up to 3rd in Serie B – promotion is on the cards!

Espanyol – Also up to 3rd in their league, William Gallas their star player at the back.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

Run Forest, Run – Part 1

Matt Wills put the power in your hands and you chose to send him to Nottingham Forest. For a catch up on what this is all about, click here. Otherwise, over to Matt…

‘Run Forest, run’ is the judgement from Twitter, so here I am, having simmed the game 8 years into the future, I take the reins from Stuart Pearce as Nottingham Forest manager, and find them in the Premiership with £25m in the bank and less than £15m worth of talent in the squad.

My aim is to emulate Cloughie and turn an unfashionable club into the toast of Europe. I’m giving myself a 3 season limit to earn some European silverware.

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You can see Forest having really been pulling up any trees and don’t really have anything to shout about squad wise. The team s also full, so I’ll need to shift some deadwood before I can do any major surgery.

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Didier Lang is 34 and on £30,000 a week, so he’ll be transfer listed. Of there rest, there’s nothing really to shout about, a real mix of journey men and never-will be’s.

Out in the wider managerial world, there are no big shocks, although George Graham is back at Arsenal

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Looking at the player values in England, Man Utd look to have the strongest squad, so I don’t think I’ll be aiming for the Champions League this season. I turn to the free transfer list and spy Vikhash Dhorasoo up for grabs, but I’ll have to beat PSG to his signature ( I don’t).

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I start to thin the squad out in readiness for new signings and turn my attention to my favourite Chadian and Liberian regens – Japhet N’Doram and President George Weah – both available for £5K a pop. Both are 27 by Season #9, but that is no issue for me. I’m hoping to get a tune out of Zizi, as in other saves, Weah’s regen is normally a bit of a disappointment unless playing for someone else.

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After missing out on Dhorasoo, I use my searching skills and find a young Roy Keane regen ready and willing. I also bring in the regen of Ronald De Boer on loan, but he lasts one friendly before being recalled – excellent.

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I decided to get to know my team by playing a few friendless against the other teams in the Twitter vote, but Liverpool are unavailable, so I square up against Lazio, Espanyol and lowly Telford Utd. Two 3-3 draws and a 5-0 demolition of Telford tell me nothing apart from I think Irons is the regen of Bryan Robson.

We kick off the season against Watford, who have Heskey and Mainwaring upfront, who grab a goal each, but we do one better through Debbah, Liverpool reject David Thompson and Frank Lampard to get off to the perfect start. I was surprised to see Michael Owen on the bench, even more surprised to see he’s only been capped twice by England, scoring one goal. I guess he’s no Noel Whelan.

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Next up are Premiership Champions Middlesbrough, and although we lose 1-0, I’m satisfied we matched them for most of the match.

Away at Spurs, our new young French defender caps off a dismal performance by scoring an own goal condemning us to a 2-0 reverse. Things go from bad to worse when we lose 4-0 to Norwich at Carrow Road and new Dutch signing Wessel Kemble get himself sent off early doors.

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Things pick up in midweek though with the visit of Graham Stuart’s Villa, Debbah, Kemble and Lampard with the goals. During the internationals, we also manage to entice Brendan Fisher (Gazza) away from exotic Grimsby for £300k and a house for his mum and dad.

Star-studded Derby are next to visit after the international break and a chance for our next new signing to make a start, Batistuta regen, Rubini replacing the suspended Kemble. Derby feature David James, Dominic Matteo, Rivaldo, Trezeguet and Michael Branch on the bench. Nelo misses a penalty and we miss the chance at 2 extra points as we languish in the lower half of the league.

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The League Cup and a two leg tie with Oldham gives a respite from our indifferent league form and Debbah helps himself to a hat-trick in a 5-2 win. Our young Scottish goalkeeper Jim Coughlin is starting to become a concern, conceding soft goals at an alarming rate.

Back to the league and we nudge aside Wolves, 3-2, with French attacking midfielder Ascencio proving to be an asset and maybe one signing Stuart Pearce got right.

We meet midweek with Man City to play our catch up game due to their Champions League exploits and the closeness of the league means a win would move us from 13th to 5th, but alas it is not to be and we succumb to a late winner by the amusingly named Bradley Hadley.

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Bringing us a quarter of the way into the league programme, Newcastle hold us to a 1-1 draw, with another late goal costing us points.

We round out this update with formalities of the League Cup and the return leg against Oldham, gong through comfortably 3-1 on the night and 8-3 on aggregate, setting up a 2nd round tie against Premier league Watford.

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All of this leaves us 15th in the table, no improvement on last year’s finish, but only 4 pts off 2nd, with Hull stretching away at the top. At the moment the league is wide open, but despite the calibre of the regens, I’m struggling for consistency if I’m honest and hope my fortunes turn around in the next quarter. Hopefully you’ll join me for the next update where I’ll be looking to add some steel to my defence and pts to the board, but before I go, I’ll just give you a quick update on the other teams which lost the vote:

Liverpool – Currently sitting 3rd in Division 1 and into the 2nd Round of the League Cup, player-manager Alan Shearer looking for a swift return to the top table.

Lazio – With 5 games gone, Lazio are languishing in 12th in Serie B in their bid for promotion but do hold a 2-0 advantage in the first leg of the Cup Winners Cup against Sparta Vladikavkaz.

Espanyol – Sitting 13th in La Liga and already out of the Copa Del Rey, it looks to be a long season for Jose Antonio Camacho’s team.

See you all in a week!

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills