Potless FC – Part 3: Stan & Beppe

Here’s Matt Wills with your Thursday fun. Potless FC are getting serious…

Crystal Palace, the team that has never won a major title, filled with players who haven’t won any either, sit 3rd in the Premiership under my tutelage and with all to play for in the domestic cups. Selhurst Park is a wonderful place to be at the moment.

We left Part 2 having been beaten by 17th place West Ham, so a pick me up is on the agenda, which comes in the form of Southampton who we netted 6 first half goals against earlier in the season.

It’s a tighter affair this time out at The Dell, Richard Shaw putting the game to bed after a late Saints rally.

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Potless FC – Part 2 | @Matt_C_Wills

Matt Wills returned to the blogging arena last week with his Potless FC concept. He’s put together a team of decent players who never managed to win a cup, can he put that right? Here’s part two…

Hello, and welcome back to my new blog, taking a team of 90’s stalwarts who never won a major title, in a team that has never won a major title (you can catch up with Part 1 here).

I left you in part 1 on a run beyond my expectations with a front two of Beppe Signori and Stan Collymore scoring for fun. We’ll start back with league action and something of an oddity for us, a clean sheet, as we beat Barnsley 1-0. Shaw, he won’t let you down.

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Potless FC – Part 1 | @Matt_C_Wills

Matt Wills is back with a new blog! What’s next in line for the man who brought Cantona out of retirement and got England’s class of 1990 back together? Over to Matt…

New Years Eve 2019. The wife and kids are in bed and I fire up CM97/98 to see in the new decade as I’ve promised Dave a new blog.

This will mean I’m in my 4th decade with this game, I can scarcely believe it.

I played it (unwisely) during my A-Levels when first released and then again for a year or two in 2004/05, before picking it back up again in 2017 and doing some blogging for Dave, after reading his excellent stories.

Those of you who have followed some of my other blogs will know I love to tinker with the editor and loosely rewrite history, whether it’s bringing Cantona out of retirement to win the treble with Utd in 99 or giving the heroes of Italia 90 another crack at glory, I always find I’m drawn to a strong theme.

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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

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

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…

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

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AaB dominant with no goals conceded so far.

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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I just want to avoid Milan in the next round.

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Well we did, but not much better.

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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

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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

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

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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

Run Forest, Run – Part 9: Search For The Guerrero Inside Yourself

 

Hello – we’re into the third and final season of my attempt to return Nottingham Forest to European supremacy after simming 8 seasons into the future. Or the past. Whichever. After a near miss on season one, we completed a domestic treble but performed badly in Europe, so this season we’re setting our sights on European glory.

I decide the team needs some defensive solidity at the back and in the nets. Trouble is, we’re still not that attractive a prospect yet and it’s hard to attract players.

Arno Splinter is available from Barca for £3m but wants nothing to do with me and the regen of Jean Pierre Papin is available on a free, but despite zilch interest from anyone else, he snubs me.

So, it’s youngsters and unknowns again. I sign up the regens of Luis Figo and Finidi George to compete down the right hand side, sign a German defender with 2 caps to his name and a promising looking French goalkeeper. I trim some deadweight from my squad, releasing Anti Niemi in a free and selling The Borg, some squad players and Frank Lampard to Derby.

Paul Scholes is available for £2m but turns me down too and Marcello Lippi is sacked as England manager, so I apply, but just like Cloughie, I am ignored – not even an interview for me! Spain also sack Claudio Ranieri, I can only assume for calling up Julen Guerrero and then not playing him. I throw my hat in the ring and the Spanish FA set fire to it. Cheers for that.

Anyway, with the squad surgery done for now, (I also added everyone’s favourite Icelandic DM/FC) after a few pre-season friendlies to get us fit and in the mood, we take on Man Utd in the season curtain raiser.

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It’s not a classic encounter and it’s not until the second half when Fitzgerald cancels out Rubini’s opener and after pummelling the opposition keeper, we can’t find a winner but we’re five from five in the shootout with Beckham fluffing his lines.

That’s another trophy in the cabinet at the City Ground.

We kick off the league defence against our old foes Watford.

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They are a star-studded team as you can see. Robbie Fowler, Emile Heskey, Ryan Giggs, Shay Given, Tom Youngs and the hilariously named Gerry Cherry on the bench. Inge is the difference, but we lose the Lad from Chad, Nelo, in the first minute, which is not ideal as Guerrero is out for 3 months after a pre-season injury.

Boy ‘Finidi’ George comes in to replace Nelo for the next match against Huddersfield, who scores and then gets injured and we stumble to a disappointing draw. We’re losing midfielders as fast as Spinal Tap lose drummers. Dobly gets the equaliser for Huddersfield. Tap fans will enjoy that.

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Marco (Luis Figo) comes in for the injured Boy George/Julen Guerrero/Nelo/Gazza Regen against Swindon and it’s not until Dennis Waterman scores an own-goal that we start clicking. Not so good for you, Dennis. (He’s not really called Dennis). Thompson and Bogie make the score look more comfortable than it really was.

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Next up, it’s a midweek look at what you could have won, as vote option Liverpool are back in the Premier League. It’s an unchanged side for me.

The regens of Figo and Shearer condemn the real Alan Shearer’s team to a 2-0 defeat and it’s 10 points from 12 for Forest.

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While all that was going on, Jesper Blomqvist leaves us for Rotherham and our Champions League group is drawn and it’s a beaut. I hope.

6

Our happy bubble of a fairly easy Champions League group is pricked when we play Spurs and lose our first game of the season. 3 goals disallowed! I’m spitting feathers! Now we’re 6th and Spurs go top.

7

4 days later, we entertain Man Utd and Boy George nets as Ricken is stricken. Paul Scholes tries to show me what I’m missing in the final minutes, but is denied by the post and we collect the 3 points.

8

Norwich City next, and it’s all fairly routine this time out.

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Liberian Debbah getting his first goal of the season along with Brendan ‘Gazza’ Fisher.

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Debbah is in fine form as we start our Champions League campaign at home to Rosenborg. We’re actually 1 nil down at half time as I give a start to new German defender Jurgen Levy, but he manages to concede a penalty and get sent off allowing Metallica bassist Rob Trujillo to slot from the spot, and nothing else matters. We come out of the blocks after the break firing on all cylinders and put the game to bed before Trujillo nets again from the spot. What a great start to our European adventures.

Back to reality now as we welcome Chelsea to the City Ground and he just can’t get enough. Rubini and young Marco Figo getting on the scoresheet. I’ve kept faith with Lizarralde in goal, or The Lizard as I’ll intermittently call him from now on, who rewards me with a clean sheet.

11

It’s back in the air in midweek as we fly to Sofia. Debbah has been so good lately I don’t want him getting big-headed so I drop him for veteran Alfonso who scores his first goal since joining in the 2nd minute. Barely 60 seconds later, Boy ‘Finidi’ George doubles our lead and it’s the crying game for CSKA when Guerrero puts us three to the good after 10 minutes. It’s too good to be True, so to cut a long story short, CSKA reply with two before half time, Boy George scores again and Inge makes it 5 before half time. The second half is like an exhibition match and we fly home with 3 more points on the board.

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After all that, we’re only second to AaB, who we’ll face next time out.

13

All that excitement means we have played 9 games and are roughly a quarter of the way through the season. Despite the setback to Spurs, we’re a point in front at the top, with plent of seasoned Premiership teams breathing down our necks.

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At the bottom, Sunderland, Chelsea and Swindon all look like being cut adrift already.

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Well, that’s it for this update, the league is going well and we’ve made a positive start in a fairly comfortable group in Europe, so it can only go wrong in the next save.

Before I go, my customary round up of the teams we could have been following instead of Forest.

Liverpool – They may be struggling in the league, but their Cup Winners Cup campaign is off to a flyer as they hold a 1st round 1st leg 6-0 lead against Finnish team TPV Tampere (No, me neither).

Lazio – Midtable after 6 games and already out of the Coppa Italia – it looks like a long season is in store for Dario Hubner’s men.

Espanyol – They are top of the pile in La Liga after games and 2nd in their Champs League group, but they have also signed Mickael Silvestre, so you can’t have everything.
Thanks for reading, see you next week!

PS Catch me on Twitter for my infrequent postings of my Alex Ferguson challenge where I try to emulate another managerial legend and follow his career path from East Stirling to Man Utd via St Mirren, Aberdeen and the Scottish national side. Only if you want to of course!

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills