(Future) Premier League Stars – Part 1

Today we welcome our latest guest blogger Ross to the CM9798.co.uk family. I’ve set Ross the challenge of building a team of players who would go on to play in the Premier League but hadn’t as of 97/98. Let’s see how he gets on…

My first of hopefully many contributions to Mr Black’s web page started off life as something that, to be fair, would have been a bit straight forward. Start as Spurs and make them champions.

It needed some spice added to it. So, upon finding this pic:

1 RVN

It created a proverbial light bulb above our heads. Do a save where I can only sign future Premier League stars. So, I couldn’t sign John Curtis, Tommy Svindal Larsen nor Graeme Tomlinson. My aim – to sign Henry for Spurs. Still at Monaco and as we all know became a legend at Arsenal.

First things first, what do I have to deal with squad wise…

2 Squad

Klinsmann and Ferdinand will lead an ageing forward line. I’m also playing 3 at the back so that will be my first port of call. To tighten up a defence that will lose Campbell as I will sell him once he is fit. Yes it’s personal.

3 Dyer

I pick up young Dyer for £1mill, wanted Richard Wright but Ipswich seemed ken to hold on to him. End of season I’ll go back in for him. I worry Walkers blonde curtains will cause to much mayhem soon.

Richard Rufus comes in from Charlton for £4mill and knowing my strikers are almost getting free bus passes I use Andriy Shevchenko’s poor run at Chelsea to my advantage. Common fact about CM9798 is that his name was spelt incorrectly. But at £1.6 mill I’m laughing.

The books need to be balanced and Sol is fit.

4 Sol

Kerching! Lazio were the money team around this time, Sven had just taken over and they were picking players left right and centre. With these funds I bring in Robert Page of Watford, future Everton reject Bakayoko (legend on this game) and Ruud Van Nistlerooy. As you will have seen is not the goal hanging poacher but an attacking midfielder who favours the left. One of the many reasons I love this game was these sorts of quirks.

We start well enough. We play villa in the first few games if the season, with Bosnich seeming very angry with my team. He takes out Nicola Berti but only gets a yellow. Then gets so irate he scores an own goal.

5 villa

Lad needs to has 4 X. Good to see Dyer scoring and Jurgen getting off the mark early doors.

Chelsea come to White Hart Lane for our first game at home. I rev the boys up reminding it’s been since the Lineker days that we beat them.

6 Chelsea

Sparky gets his fuse lit and sees red. I’m a celeb star Dennis Wise even graces the pitch with his presence. We miss a load of chances. But I know we played well. And that gives me confidence.

The ‘pointless cup’ as Dave calls it comes around and to be honest he is right. No European pot at the end of this rainnow, and in this first season I’ve learned Man United normally romp away with everything.

7 Gills

Two reds and Gary injured again with a broken leg, after coming back from the same injury. But the league and FA Cup are my aims. We bounce back by beating Southampton away.

8 Soton

I add this, because Southampton normally ruin me. Hirst turns into Pele and Ostenstad plays like Maradona. If your wondering were Le Tiss is, well he finally got his dream bigger club move too… Sheffield Wednesday. I’ll just leave that there.

More book balancing happens, Jose ‘2 ft tall’ Dominguez and Ruel Fox leave us.

9 QPR

Decent prices, plus Armstrong, Sinton, Ginola and Anderton are up for grabs.

We find ourselves in 2nd but behind the juggernaut that is Fergie’s Man United.
The first Norf Laandan derby comes around. Again I tell the boys to ignore the table and just make the fans happy.

10 Arsenal

A proud moment for me, I celebrate by running to our fans and beating my chest, while ssshhing the Arsenal fans. We dominate again but a Klinsmann goal is all we can do.

With that mob put aside we now focus on trying to catch Man United.

The first time the top 2 meet is at our patch.

11 Man Utd

Heart in mouth time when Grodas, in for the injured Walker, brings Cole down in the box. The lane held its breath as Scholes blasts it over the bar. Again, Dyer pops up from left wing back with a winner. We close the gap. And with another win away to Blackburn we end November in good shape.

12 Prem

Yes 7 points behind, but we want Champions League football to attract the best that would join the Premier League. Other than Henry, I would like Crespo, Desailly, Stam, Wright and maybe Davids. Not a shabby 5 a side actually!

The bottom of the league looks like this

13 Prem Bottom

West Ham in all sorts of trouble, but at least 4 points ahead of the drop zone.

Join me next to see if I can actually sign anyone. And more excitingly Anderton has to choose between Derby and Coventry. How odd.

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Back Breaking Labour

Hello and happy New Year to you. When I spoke to you last, Aberdeen won the Champions League to end season 2 in a result I certainly didn’t expect. Certainly not after just two seasons anyway, but that is where we are. Champions of Europe. How do you build on that? Oh, we’ll find a way…

First priority is to bring in another CM legend to our ranks. Tomlinson is getting better with every game but having a striker who can also operate in one of the two AM positions gives us a lot of options, which I think is vital when you can only name 3 subs (domestically anyway). Anyway, that was my way of justifying signing Ibrahima Bakayoko. Welcome!

Bakayoko to Aberdeen

That will help, surely. What won’t help is little jerks like Ricky Gillies, the long term replacement for Marc Emmers, getting ideas above his station. Newcastle come calling and £1.9m is a pittance but, much to my shock, he still has a big-club release clause.

ricky gillies big club

We’re the European Champions and we’re going to lose a young midfielder to Newcastle who haven’t even qualified for Europe. That doesn’t seem right.

Anyway, I’ll get over it and I’ve signed the very famous DM/FC Icelandic re-gen to fill the void. Forget you, Gillies.

Meanwhile…

cadamarteri man utd

I mean he might help but they’ve sold Paul Scholes to Blackburn. Odd.

The season opener sees us slip back into the old habit. Misse Misse is a bad name for a striker.

first game season 3

Up next comes the Scottish Coca-Cola Cup, a competition that has seen some strange results in this save and that continues here with the visit of Albion Rovers.

8-5

It as a brave move for neither side to play with a goal keeper for 25 minutes but we come out on the right end of a 13 goal thriller.

Rangers aren’t so lucky.

rangers out

Sometimes life isn’t fair. Our reward for winning the Champions League is not having to go through two rounds of qualifying to play in the group stage. When the group stage draw happens, this hardly seems fair

CL draw S3

So this is what the Pet Shop Boys were singing about. What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?!

Nevland takes it out on Celtic. It really is incredible how he always scores a hatful past the Bhoys

Celtic 2 - 4 aberdeen

Nevland loves it though, he skips off to Rugby Park and scores three more.

Kilmarnock 1 - 3 Nevland

That’s not a bad start to the season

Nevland career

Off he goes on International duty to cause mayhem against the Irish. I receive a call in the middle of the day from an unusual number. HE’S DONE WHAT?

Nevland crippled

What the bloody hell goes on at Norway’s training ground? Ten months. That’s the season, basically, so I have to take on the hardest Champions League group in the competition’s history with my main man. Give me strength.

Life without Nevland is off to a very dull start with a 2-0 win over Hearts. We’ll always be functional but Nevland brought the party.

aberdeen 2 - 0 hearts

PSG are up first in our Champions League gauntlet, and Pittodrie’s newest hero steps up to the plate.

aberdeen 3 - 1 PSG

Incredibly that is probably our easiest game, and as if to prove that point, we’re off the Bernabeu.

What follows is scarcely believable.

RM 1 - 4 Aberdeen

Tomlinson loves scoring in the big games, and Dortmund are the latest team to fall foul of the former Man Utd legend

aberdeen 2 - 0 dortmund

He’s at it again in Paris, scoring a late winner and securing us 12 points out of 12. Ridiculous. Erik who?

PSG 1 - 2 Aberdeen

It’s not quite enough to secure qualification in this update but one more point should do it. Even then, the group should be fairly evenly matched and I’ll be surprised if we don’t advance.

CL group 4 games in

I don’t want to panic buy but with Nevland written off for the season, I’ve started to put the feelers out for another top class striker. The train keeps on rolling though, with Rangers brushed aside before a topsy turvy affair at Tannadice

aberdeen 2 - 0 rangers

Dundee Utd 3 - 5 Aberdeen

I am concerned that if Bakayoko or Tomlinson get an injury we’ll struggle. As if by magic, we lose Bakayoko for a month

Bakayoko injured

Michael Owen is interested in the move and a fee of £7.25m is agreed. He’s thinking about my contract offer. He would help a great deal.

In the meantime though we have to face Celtic in the cup semi-finals. Without Nevland or Bakayoko, it’s absymal.

cc semi finals defeat

It’s usually us who end this game with a huge win and I don’t much like being on the reverse of a 4-0 defeat, hopefully Owen wasn’t watching.

We’ve got a 3 point lead after a third of the season but we have lost our difference maker and whilst we might be able to muddle through for a bit, the business end of the season would be tricky without say Bakayoko. We’ve been very lucky that Mulryne and Gillespie have remained injury free thus far as they are the creative force in this team. Come on Michael, do the right thing for once

scots prem nov 99

A quick look at the Premier League shows a close run battle with just 9 points between first and 12th. See Michael, look how dull it is at Anfield

EPL nov 99

I hate him.

Owen rejects

So another update comes to a close and an awful lot has happened in four months. The Euro 2000 qualifiers are about to draw to a close so we’ll see how that effects things, but until next time, please think of Erik Nevland. Our fallen hero.

 

Merry Christmas

Seasonal greetings to you. Normally at this time I’d bring you the latest from Pittodrie but seeing as we’re all a bit pre-occupied with Christmas (eating and drinking counts as occupied) I thought I’d take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and to thank you for your support during 2017.

It’s been a great year for the blog but any success is only down to the reaction I get from all of you. The year started with the American Takeover, before we moved on to Ajax, the 20 year anniversary events and now Aberdeen. We’ve given away prizes, we’ve interviewed some great fans (even Bjorn Heidenstrom!) of the game, released a second book and been invited on podcasts. The Classic CM community is stronger than ever and you should all be very proud of yourselves. Without you, there is no me (well, you know what I mean) so I can never thank you enough for liking, re-tweeting, tagging and all those other words which mean more people see what we’re up to over here.

I must also thank the two Matt’s, who have become guest bloggers, as well as MK who did a shift for me earlier in the year. As I mentioned during the 20 year update, my ambition for 2018 is to get more regular bloggers involved and have a constant selection of content for you, which is easier said than done. We’ve got another guest blogger signed up to start in January so the more the merrier, we just need new ideas.

I have a couple of things in mind, what with it being a World Cup year, but there’s plenty of mileage in the Aberdeen save yet. That’ll be back in January.

On a personal level, this blog has taken me further than I could imagine. I was able to cover a match live from the press box a few months ago, which has long been a dream of mine, and it all traces back to starting this blog about a game from 20 years ago. If you’re considering writing, give it a go. You don’t know who is watching and reading, but you do know that nobody is reading if it’s never been written.

I’ve posted the final CM Advent so go and check that on Twitter if you haven’t already, but all that’s left for me to say is have a great Christmas and a wonderful new year and I hope to see you back here in January.

That Escalated Quickly

Hello! Welcome to the final update of 2017, and as luck would have it, the final update of season 2 of this Aberdeen adventure. Having won the SPL, we battled through Champions League qualifying against Monaco and came through a group featuring Ajax. Our reward was a reunion with (not yet Sir) Alex Ferguson, and we came away from Old Trafford with a 3-2 defeat. We’ll see if we can turn that around shortly, but first, white hot Scottish Cup Quarter Final action

1-0 Cup QF win

Phew. What’s more is we get the plum draw of Albion Rovers in the Semi-finals, no doubt due to the “hot ball/cold ball” theory that some conspiracy theorists subscribe to.

cup SF draw

I’ll play Rangers any time, as even if we give them a two goal advantage, we’ll get the job done.

rangers 3 - 4 aberdeen

Sometimes I think it’s a switch that the front 4 just flick on when they fancy. Three goals in 8 minutes in the hardest away game of our domestic season? No bother.

Now though it’s time for the second leg, and it turns out Fergie has lost the plot. Meet David Beckham, the sweeper.

man utd tactics

I’m not ashamed to admit I tried to buy both their keepers, but only Kevin Pilkington agreed to join. You’ve made a very powerful enemy, Nicky Culkin

aberdeen 2 - 0 man utd

Get it up ya! Dida is magnificent to preserve our clean sheet and a goal in each half past Macaulay Culkin secures our spot in the semis. What a result!

CL SF draw

Oh bloody hell it’s Barcelona.

They arrive at Pittodrie full of talent and Paul Ince.

aberdeen 1 - 0 barca

But they leave empty handed, Marc Emmers scoring an early goal as we seal a famous win. Now we’ve just got to go to Barcelona and get a result!

There’s like a million games between now and then though, and we smash past Albion Rovers to ensure at least one cup final

fa sf results

Scenes. We’ll see Rangers in May.

Thanks to Erik Nevland, we should have the title secured by then.

nev 4 - 2 hibs

He really hates Celtic. Honestly, how we manage to routinely put the Bhoys to the sword is nothing short of brutal.

celtic 1 - 5 aberdeen

The win at Celtic Park is doubly sweet as it actually secures us a second consecutive league title with 3 games to spare.

leagye won

I would like to get 100 goals but my enthusiasm for that will depend on what happens in Barcelona.

Gillespie’s early goal opens the door and after Abelardo is dismissed, it’s in the bag. Sonny Anderson makes it interesting but Barcelona can’t find the two extra goals they need and the rest is history.

barca 1 - 1 aberdeen

Aberdeen are in the Champions League final!

It’ll be Ajax who we meet there, who we’ve already beaten in the group stages. Though that was in Aberdeen…

With the league won, we continue smashing the goals in and we finish with a win at Hearts

last game of season

Those were goals 102 and 103. Nice!

Final table 99

That leads us in nicely to the showdown with Rangers. I really wish it was Celtic.

cup final defeat

There’ll be no domestic double, a really blot on our copybook. But they are Rangers, they’re not just going to let us win everything. We’ll be back, Walter Smith.

Still, at least I lost with dignity.

Belgian cup finak

Oh so that’s where Gerard Wiekens is. It’s no wonder Dortmund sacked Bosz if he captains his side to cup finals in this manner.

Time for the real deal then, Aberdeen vs Ajax part 3 – this time in the San Siro.

3-0 up after half an hour…

CL final WIN

A little wobble towards the end but we did the damage early on. We’ve won the bloody Champions League!

To be honest, I expected this to take a lot longer than it has but er…great, I guess. I’ll look forward to trying to crown us the best club side in the world next season.

Oh Nev, you are everything to me

Nev record 99

GOALS

goals 99

RATINGS

ratings 99

Don’t worry though, this save isn’t anywhere near done. I’m enjoying how things are playing out and I still have Belgium to explore, or better yet trying to unseat this Aberdeen side with another club. All to look forward to. Let’s tie up some loose ends

Man Utd regained the Premier League, with Blackburn joining them in the Champions League. We’ll also be there and we shouldn’t even have to qualify this time.

prem top 99

It’s bad times for Sunderland, Spurs and Leicester who are relegated. Arsenal really recovered their situation!

prem bottom 99 final

Standard Leige are dominating Belgium, Anderlecht are well off the pace.

Belgian top final 99

The most important thing though is that Erik Nevland is getting the credit he deserves

Nev awards

Oh and Jonny C too

JC Awards

I pick up the manager gong which, without being big headed, is not a surprise

Awards 99

Maybe I should sign Clarence Seedorf. If we can get Nev to win European Footballer of the Year, then we’ll know we’ve done a great job.

english awards 99

So that’s it for this update, a golden time in Aberdeen but can we improve on this? Is this as good as it will ever get? We’ll find out in the new year. I’m straight on the phone to Bakayoko who is mulling over whether he wants to swap the South of France for Aberdeen. Champions League winners, Ibrahima.

I’ll most likely post something soppy before Christmas but if you’re not into that, thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the new year. All the best

Return of the King: Part 4 – Domestic Cup Drama

Matt Wills is back in action, trying to re-live Man Utd’s glorious 1993/94 season but in 1997/98. Confused? Here’s part 1 to explain what’s going on, or if you need to see the previous edition, here’s part 3

I left you in Part 3 having taken Utd through the Champions League Group stage, to the top of the Premiership and with the domestic cups getting going. We head into Xmas on a roll, but will it last?

Mid-December ’97 and the Class of 94 are at the summit of the Premier League, through to the knockout rounds of the Champions League and ready to take on the domestic cups in our quest to go one better than the Utd team of 93/94 and win the domestic treble – with the team of 93/94, albeit a little bit older and a little bit slower!

There’s a gap in fixtures while the international friendlies are played. England beat Sweden away 2-0. Scholes, Dublin, Ince, Beckham, Neville and Pallister all feature, with Wright and Scholes scoring for England. France beat Norway by the same score line. Cantona doesn’t get on the score sheet, but does collect a yellow card.

Back at the United camp after the break, some players are not happy with the current regime…

scholes req

That’s turned down, and so is this…

butt req

The last Saturday game of 97 takes Utd to White Hart Lane. Hughes is injured while training with Wales, so Paul Scholes deputises for the Welshman to keep him happy. To keep the Welsh quota up, I bring in Clayton Blackmore on the right wing for a run out and give a recall to Paul Parker at right back.

An early Scholes goal is cancelled out by Nicola Berti. We have 13 shots on goal, but only 2 on target – worrying.

On to Boxing Day and a visit to Old Trafford of old rivals Liverpool whose recent run have seen them climb the table. McClair comes in for want-away Scholes and Kanchelskis comes back to the right wing having recovered from his hip injury. The first half is a cagey affair, but after the break, we turn the pressure into goals, with McClair getting his first of the season, followed by Ince against his old/future club. Bruce makes the game safe in the 81st minute, so I use the cushion to bring on Sealey, Gillespie and Dublin for the last 10 minutes. Paul Parker gets an 8, happy days.

The Third Round of the FA Cup starts, with Utd away to Hartlepool, who are midtable in Division 3. After the Liverpool win, I’m feeling confident with the squad so make a host of changes. Neville, Butt, Beckham and Scholes all start, with Walsh, O’Kane, Casper, Whitworth, Wellens, Wellens, McKee and Ferguson joining them. Wellens gets an early goal, but a 2nd alludes us. Hartlepool equalise in the second half and I start to question my selection policy. Going out of the cup here would be disaster. Thankfully, Colin McKee rescues me on 71 minutes and we’re into the hat for the 4th Round Draw.

hart 1 - 2 mufc

What did I tell you in Part 3? It was almost inevitable…

FA 4th

4 Days later and it’s the Quarter Final of the League Cup and we’re at Hillsborough to play Sheffield Wednesday. In the build up to the game, the press are trotting out the standard cliché’s ‘in a replay of the 1991 League Cup Final, Utd will be looking for revenge against The Owls…’. This gets me thinking, why not let the players from the 1991 final get some revenge? I pull out my Rothmans and check some facts.

Utd were defeated by Div 1 Sheff Wed, led by Ron Atkinson, 1-0 to a John Sheridan goal. The only thing I really remember from that game is Les Sealey ripping open his knee after diving low for a ball with a Wednesday player. Checking the squad from the day, Utd lined up as below…

lineup

Webb and Donaghy aren’t in my squad, having both left the club by the 93/94 season, and Alex is picking up his unemployment benefit. Webb is still in the game, on a free transfer having been released by Grimsby, but I’m not tempted to sign him up, as I have no space in the squad and I don’t want people missing out on their post. Donaghy is nowhere to be found. Looking at the Wednesday squad, I can’t see any survivors from that game, but note that they have the son of Showaddywaddy guitarist Trevor Oakes, Scott, in their ranks – true fact.

I decide to start with Mike Phelan on the right wing in place of Webb. On the bench I put Lee Martin and Ryan Giggs. Now with 3 subs, I opt for Gary Walsh just in-case Sealey rips his knee up again. Hold onto your hats, this cup-tie turns out to be a cracker!

Andy Hinchcliffe puts the host ahead in the 11th minute, but a minute later, McClair is through on goal and gets taken out by the advancing Kevin Pressman. I leap from my seat in the dugout and shout at the ref to send him off. The ref points at the spot and after talking to Pressman, produces no card. I almost explode. Up steps Bruce and Pressman saves it! There’s no justice.

13 minutes later, Wednesday advance and Les Sealey brings down Andy Booth. The ref points to the spot and talks to Sealey. I fear the worst and tell Gary Walsh to warm up. The ref looks over at me and then puts his black book back in his pocket – no cards. My relief is short lived as Booth shows Bruce what to do from the spot and we’re 2-0 down. I’m beginning to think my romantic nostalgia is a bit misplaced!

Phelan makes a clumsy challenge on the edge of the box, but Wednesday waste the freekick and then Pallister does likewise. This time yellows are shown. Having seen enough, I don’t wait until half time and bring Giggs on for Phelan. I can’t afford to lose a player or another goal. The words I say at half time are not appropriate for this blog, but crockery was broken.

My words ringing in their ears, the tide is turned, first by Giggs, and then by Hughes. We’re level in the space of 2 second half minutes. After this it’s end to end action, but neither team can get the third. Sealey keeps us in it and at the other end, Pressman literally fills the goal. Then on 87 minutes, Sharpe rises highest to a Giggs corner and heads past Pressman, we’ve done it, what a comeback! We’re into the two-legged semi final and we draw Liverpool out of the hat. It’s a Tyne-Wear derby in the other semi.

sheff wed 2 - 3 mufc

With that being probably my favourite, and most intense game of the save, we go back to the league and play Everton ‘in a repeat of the 1995 FA Cup Final’…. I revert to the classic line up and an entertaining first half ends 2-2, with Pallister getting the winner in the second half. We follow this up with a 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace ‘in a repeat of the 1990 FA Cup Final’ (I must stop this!), a result which the board describe as ‘Abysmal’ but at least Eric comes through unscathed.

Next, it’s back to the FA Cup and a 4th Round date with Oldham Athletic and a repeat of the 1994 FA Cup Semi-final. I can see it now, Hughes volley in the last minute to take it to a replay, which Utd win 4-1, with Robbo getting his last Utd goal by dicking in a cross from Sharpe.

I get my Rothman’s out again and look up the squad for the 1994 semi-final (In fact I had to pause the highlights on Youtube this time). I believe Cantona was suspended for this game but was surprised to see Dublin starting upfront, McClair in midfield and Butt on the bench. Andy Ritchie was the only survivor from the 94 semi-final in the Oldham squad that I could see. Utd avoid giving me the Sheff Wednesday palpitations, and in a repeat of the ’94 semi-final replay, beat Oldham 4-1 with goals from Sharpe, McClair (2) and Dublin. I bring on Robson for the final 20 minutes, hoping he might chin one in, but to no avail. McCarthy gets their goal and Andy Ritchie comes on but fails to make any impact. We’re through to the 5th round where we’ll play the winner of Bury vs Crewe.

mufc 4 - 1 oldham

In the final game of this Part we play Chelsea (in a repeat of the 94 FA Cup Final – seriously, stop it now!). Hughes and Kanchelskis both score twice and get a 10 rating in a 4-0 win (Just like the cup final), which takes us 8 points clear of Arsenal at the top of the Premiership. United’s fine form also sees me named Manager of the Month for December and January, but the club is still losing money, strangely – I think the board had to give big contracts to some of the returning stars.

The recent cup games have kept me on the edge of my seat for this part of the blog and I’m now fully immersed in my objective of winning the treble with the class of 93/94. I’m even enjoying not having to look at the transfer market! The whole squad have played at least one game now this season, with their ratings below, but not everyone is happy, not even Lee Martin.

mufc squad

In next part we take on Liverpool in the League Cup Semi-final and find out if it’s Bury or Crewe in the FA Cup, hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am, and will join me again.

I’ve given Matt the rest of the year off but Return of the King will be back in the New Year. You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

The Stockport Diaries – Part X

Matt Porter is back with the final update of the year, but can Stockport rediscover some form as they enter 1998? Catch up with Part 9 here

Well the Christmas period was pretty poor, following on again from a poor November, but there were some slight rays of sunshine through it, I feel we may turn a corner. Then again I am pretty confident every year that we will have a great summer, and I live in the north.

First up is Watford in the cup and I am going back to the tried and trusted Keegan way. I shouldn’t have betrayed my belief in attacking football, Terry Mac would not be impressed. A pretty much full strength side against the team from the league below in the hope we might actually start scoring, but I do want to give Carlo Nash a run out, and Sean Connelly comes back in. Matt Bound and Tony Dinning are injured and David Walton is cup tied.

1

Well the entertainment factor has certainly returned with this formation, half time is one all thanks to a Cavaco equaliser but it is a proper cup tie, which we ought to be winning but we still can’t hit the target with decent chances.

2

The second half isn’t particularly memorable, Nash makes a couple of good saves to keep us in it, both stemming from Kevin James’ errors so I can only assume the man of the match was given by a sponsor who decided to stay in the hospitality suite for the second half drinking champagne and listening to Elton John records. It isn’t terrible but it isn’t great, our wait for a win goes on and we have an extra game in the form of a cup replay. When they talk about the magic of the cup, that game is not it.

This is however:

3

A pretty uninspiring 4th round draw, should we get there:

4

Away at Crewe next, the glamour just keeps on ramping up, and I want to try and keep a reasonably settled side so only make 3 changes. Tetradze drops to the bench for Walton, Nash gives way to Edwards and Tomlinson got injured during the week so Charana gets a start. I could do with a result here, no win in 6. Its cold, its damp, it probably isn’t the best place for pretty football so we are going direct and we are going for the jugular, if my strikers could wear football boots instead of clown shoes it may help.

5

The entertainers are back! We have a massive 13 shots in the first half after going behind early on. Unfortunately my strikers display all the prowess of a stoned sloth, but Luis Cavaco shows them how its done with 2 well taken goals, and if it wasn’t for the superb (and underappreciated) Jason Kearton we would have more.

6

Fantastic game, fantastic result, I celebrate a little bit too much, but I don’t care, we’ve finally won a game! 22 shots, a striker who finally scores a goal, what’s not to love? We concede another towards the end but I don’t care, 4-2! I do notice that this win is the first game I haven’t played my two foreign signings, so let’s gloss over that fact, every manager is allowed to sign a crap player or 2.

7

Well we are miles off the top 2, but we did need that, and there’s plenty of time to chase them down, at least one of them will go on a bad run. Now we have the midweek cup replay and I could really do without that to be honest.

8

I still feel we are a bit stale, so I decide to make a bit of a surprise move in the transfer window, die hard Stockport fans look away now, but I decide to sell Tony Dinning. You may look aghast but bear with me, he started the season well but has been rubbish recently, he’s valued at about half a million and I get just shy of a million for him, it just makes sense! Now to find a replacement… (forward planning not massively apparent).

9

A few changes for the cup as there are some tired legs, it would be nice to have a cup run and we have 2 winnable home games which would take us to round 5, but I can’t have a knackered team for Saturday. It’s a juggling act, which ironically would be better than the pre match ‘entertainment’ served up which involves a local boy band (Take Hat, we’re the Hatters you see) murdering songs that are crap even when sung properly. At least the crowd are treated to some genuine comedy in the form of Ian Gray’s warm up routine, please don’t get injured Carlo.

10

I feel like a man who has just bought a DFS sofa for full price. How the hell did we lose that one? I mean seriously? We absolutely battered them, Chris Day played like a superhuman, we hit the post SIX times, they did absolutely naff all for the entire game except score. Then we get a penalty in the last minute, Andy Mutch puts it over the bar, and yet still has time to miss a one on one before the full time whistle. I hate this game sometimes, but ‘at least we can concentrate on the league’. Urgh, I hate saying that.

11

No time to delay, we need a boost, and where do second tier managers always go when they need a boost? Well, Angola naturally.

12

It’s a bit of a gamble but I need something different in midfield, and maybe this is what we need. I have an eye on a couple of other players too, and I know my last two foreign signings haven’t been very good, but I’m going for it.

A reasonably local derby next against Bury, and our efforts in midweek have caused some fitness issues so I have to rest a few players. Thankfully I can recall the fit again Matt Bound though, so it doesn’t weaken us too much. Carlita goes straight onto the bench, and I hope to give him a run out. Bury are still bottom but in recent weeks have improved massively, winning 5 out of 7 and drawing the other 2, so we will have to play well. I am pleased to see them making a fight of it, but hope we can be the blip in that run today. It seems a key game for both teams, there is tension in the air.

13

Another great first half, only tempered by a sloppy goal conceded and a couple of guilt edged chances missed meaning we only go in one goal in front. I try to keep things relaxed at half time and remind the boys how well we are playing. We also get a bit of a collector’s item for the last couple of months in the form of an Alun Armstrong goal, hopefully this will open the floodgates!

14

A comfortable win and I’ll take that, a good performance too, although we did take a foot off the gas towards the end which is concerning, but a win is a win so I’m not complaining, we need to keep this up, and we have a fortnight off now to recharge the batteries. No owl sanctuary this time, just a couple of days off training and then back hard at it for the next match on the last day of the month.

15

We are back within touching distance of the top 2, I’d have taken this at the beginning of the season:

16

I have felt for a while we are lacking a bit of experience in the midfield, and so I have gone for a bit of a left field signing. He is technically a defensive midfielder and so doesn’t really fit my system, but I think he’ll be very useful, and he’s got into the Arsenal team a couple of times this season so can’t be bad!

17

I do feel sorry for Kiko Charana, every time he gets a bit of a run of form he gets injured and now is no different, out for two weeks with a stubbed toe. He therefore misses out on our final game of the month, away at playoff hopefuls Sunderland. Apart from Charana, McIntosh and the suspended Andy Mutch I have a full strength squad to choose from, and so Charana aside this is probably my first choice eleven at the moment.

I am so glad to be back to football after a Saturday off, doing all those jobs I’ve been promising to do for months, finally taking the Christmas decorations down, painting the spare room, wishing I’d put a stronger team out for the Watford game so I didn’t have to do all this crap…

18

Some extremely dubious refereeing in the first half is the main talking point. There are no goals and few chances but Lee Clark gets sent off after 8 minutes for ‘hauling down Martin Lauchlan’, and given that Neil Edwards took the resulting free kick I am guessing it was near our box, so seems harsh to say the least. Tony Coton then ‘takes out Garde when through on goal’, which of course should be a red card and a penalty, but nothing doing, and then Coton rubs salt into the wounds by brilliantly denying Garde and Cavaco before half time. We have to be confident of beating ten men though.

19

Well that was frustrating. Alun Armstrong again showing he has completely lost his touch since the beginning of the season, I am tempted to drop him but replacements don’t seem too good either. We have a few chances, they muster up one, and bizarrely that gives our champagne swilling sponsors the idea that Neil Edwards should be man of the match. I would probably have taken a point beforehand but playing almost the whole game against ten men makes it seem like two points lost.

20

So we have managed to steady the ship after a couple of terrible months and I’ve also managed to get my spare room painted, but we are still not where we were earlier in the season. Hopefully we can keep building momentum and take that into the play offs if needs be or else sneak into those automatic spots. February could be key…

21

Matt is having a well earned rest but will return with The Stockport Diaries in the New Year.

Follow Matt on Twitter @PorterMatt

Fergie Time

As Aberdeen prepare to party like it’s 1999, it’s fair to say these are great times at Pittodrie. Champions League football has been secured and, perhaps more remarkably, looks set to continue into the latter stages. We have a good, young squad who will only improve and yes, some of the better ones are booting off about playing for little old Abderdeen but I’ve told them to ask Andrew Mainwaring about what happens when you leave too soon. That’s shut them up. More importantly, we’re proving we’re the best in Scotland. Let me show you how…

We’ve definitely got Rangers’ number at our place, though why they persist with Gordon Durie is a mystery to me.

3-1 Rangers

However, the real fun can be found at Celtic Park, where Mark McGhee has made Celtic…even worse.

2-6 Celtic

Nevland’s 15 minute hat-trick is always a welcome sight.

We were on the verge of securing our pathway to the Champion League quarter finals last time we spoke. I’m pleased to say the last two games went by without incident

FC Croatia3-1 Gornik

Despite being the first team to concede to Gornik we battle back to finish with 5 wins and a draw, which leaves nothing to chance

Group E

Comfortable qualification ensured, we’re in with the real big lads now. There’s no such thing as an easy draw, but there’s also Fergie returning to Aberdeen…

CL QF Draw

That’s going to be quite the story, and we’ll see how that goes later in the update.

Our league form is serene, we’re able to brush aside most teams with alarming ease.

motherwell 0 - 5

Even when we’re throwing away leads, you can usually rely on Erik the Nev to come up with something.

Hearts 2 - 3 Aberdeen

We even help ourselves to another 6 points off the Old Firm

aberdeen 3 - 0 rangersAberdeen 4 - 1 celtic again

We’re unbeaten at Pittodrie, you’ll be glad to know. Celtic came into that match off another 4-1 loss…

Clydebank Celtic

I’m honestly not sure how Mark McGhee is still employed

1-4

If the papers didn’t use a ‘Grim Rieper’ headline then something is awfully wrong.

We’re still in the FA Cup, unlike Celtic. Rangers remain an obstacle though.

Cup QF draw

So onto the main event and our trip to Old Trafford. Their squad is insane

MUFC squad

We are given a boost though by the fact Peter Schmeichel has a broken skull and will miss both legs. Yes, really. I’m not above signing their two other goalkeepers. Don’t think I won’t do it.

With that information in hand though I know it’s worthwhile sticking to my attacking guns, as away goals are there to be had

For once, I was right. Eventually.

mufc 3 - 2 aberdeen

Ex-Man Utd academy man Graeme Tomlinson nets two late goals to leave things finely poised. You’ll have to come back next week to see if we can complete the job.

That defeat is our first in 23 games…

fixtures 1fixtures

A remarkable run. We’ve opened up a healthy lead at the top of the table, it’s clear that we know where the goal is.

league top end of feb

A 10 points lead with 9 games to go? We should be able to hold on to that. We have double the amount of points Celtic have, who are closer to the bottom than the top. Greenock Morton are terrible.

The squad is a thing of beauty, and the players have good prices on their heads

squad values

Nevland is of course the kingpin in all of this. The SPL can’t handle him!

Nev record

Although Rob Page is the top performer, thankfully him and Mulryne have dropped their requests to leave. I’ll probably look to upgrade wingbacks in the summer, and if I’m being greedy I want Bakayoko to partner Nevland but he’s not keen on Scotland right now.

average ratings

Over in England and it’s 1995 all over again.

Prem top March 99

Champions Arsenal are 16th and £3m in debt. The front three of Shearer, Wright and Bergkamp have not fired.

prem bottom 99

The Belgian league is a two horse race between Club Brugge and Standard Liege. The latter have Kinkladze, so fair play for that.

That’s all I have for this week but do join me next week if you can for the final update of this season and indeed this year. Toodles for now.

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