2019 CM9798 Cup – Day 1: Defending champions get tournament underway

Welcome! For the next month, this is your life. Or at the very least, this is my life. You’ll have seen in the preview blogs that our 20 managers have been working for this moment for several weeks. Drafts have been drafted, torn up and then drafted again. Four players were accidentally drafted twice. Steve Potts was inexplicably included. Kinder eggs were used for an unnecessary draw ceremony. All of that lead to this moment – the beginning of the 2019 CM9798 Cup.

Without a host nation to speak of, what better way to start than our defending champion FPLHints?

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2019 CM9798 Cup Preview: Groups C & D

Well hello there. With the 2019 CM9798 Cup due to kick off next week, it’s time for the second of two previews. Last week I analysed/insulted (a fine line) Groups A & B if you want to have a pick through that, or you can remind yourself of the whole process here.

Let’s take a look what groups C & D have to offer.

Group Draw portrait

Group C

Real Mathdrid – @davemathieson84

Dave is a bit of a wildcard in the pack. Selected based on his thorough knowledge of the CM9798 editor, he’s played the draft system reasonably well and has a strong squad to pick from.

Real Mathdrid

@davemathieson84

Having landed the most sought after player in the draft process – Luis Enrique – Dave is one of the few managers with a multitude of options in defence. Generally, there’s a lot of versatility throughout the squad which can only bode well. Creativity shouldn’t be a problem with Djorkaeff, Mijatovic and Denilson in the ranks but where will the goals come from?

Bobic and Hubner are good but are they world class? This will be a good test of their ability. I bloody love Youri Djorkaeff and you wouldn’t say there were many weaknesses in the squad. It’s a solid 8 out of 10 everywhere really plus Enrique, who is brilliant. My advice – don’t waste him at full back just because he can play there.

Verdict – Dave will be in the mix for qualification but the lack of a goalscorer might inhibit the chances of winning the group.

Selected Odds – Mijatovic most assists in tournament – 5/1

PSG Mashup – @tomreedwriting

Tom Reed is one of our veterans having entered all three CM Cups to date. His squad has a strong PSG presence plus the “friends of Giggsy” draft pack. Can it succeed?

PSG MAshup

@tomreedwriting

Getting the most out of Giggs and Rai looks vital here. Nicky Butt is also very good but that’s more about keeping the goals out. There’s a lot of strikers who become very good, but how will they get on just a few days into the game? That might put the scoring burden on Andy Cole which history has shown will either be feast or famine. The defence is ok – Pallister and Goma flanked by Abel Xavier, Irwin and Paul Le Guen in some combination means they will be solid if unspectacular.

Verdict – Unfortunately I think this side will just fall short. However, there’s a lot of Man Utd and PSG players in here who are two extremely strong sides, so they must have something about them.

Selected Odds – PSG Mashup to qualify – 10/1

Exeter Gently – @Riddley82

Another “three cup” veteran, Ross will be hoping to reach the latter stages after exiting in the group stages last year. If he is to progress this year, it’s not going to be based on his defence.

Exeter Gently

@Riddley82

The first issue is the goalkeeper. Ogrizovic is coming towards the end of his career whilst Neil Finn is 18. Jorge Costa will have his work cutout at centre half with the promising Valerien Ismael likely to partner him. Dyer, McCall and the veteran Tommy Boyd will vie for the full back positions. The real question is where Ross fits Matthias Sammer into his system. Sammer is still riding the wave of being the best player at Euro 96 and usually attracts interest from Barcelona.

Bisgaard and Fernando will have to take on creative duties but who are they supplying the bullets for? That’ll be a tough call.

Verdict – Long term, this side would do pretty well. Over a short sprint of 4 games, Ross is going to have to call on all of his skills that were on show during his guest saves.

Selected Odds – Matthias Sammer highest average rating of group stages – 7/2

Sporting Po-Taitos – @taitanator

Rob Tait is extremely knowledgeable about CM9798. His guest blogging series’ have shown that but also his in-depth tactics article last year was very useful. He’s assembled a varied squad which looks to have star power at both ends of the pitch.

Rob Tait

@taitanator

I was surprised to see Kopke deemed a star player given some of the other players in the squad but the AI knows best. Oli, Del Piero and Chiesa is a devastating trio whilst Rob has gotten the best out of Leandro before. Albertini and Ince should lock own the midfield whilst Iuliano, Panucci and Ziege are three parts of a solid back four. Whether it is Stimac or Beto who partners Iuliano remains to be seen.

Rob still plays regularly and this team has goals in it. I suspect he’ll find a way and he’s my favourite to progress.

Verdict – A potential group winner with plenty of goals to be had.

Selected Odds – Leandro to win golden boot – 12/1

Quickly Kevin United – @QuicklyKevin

Michael Marden is flying the flag for Quickly Kevin and he’s managed to get together a rather strong team. What he lacks in strikers he makes up for in…holding midfielders. Michael moves from the punditry booth to the dugout this time but can he inspire his team to glory?

QK United

@_Michael_Marden

I was fascinated by Michael’s interview with us a few years ago. Here is a man who played the hell out of this game when it was first released. Sure, he blotted his copybook by boldly claiming Perez Munoz Alfonso and Denilson were the same person but we’re all allowed one. In Maldini, Desailly and Southgate there’s a strong defence in there – even backups Hinchcliffe and Duberry are fairly useful alongside the versatile Haaland.

Deschamps and Sousa will marshal the midfield which should free up Le Tissier to do Le Tissier type things. Ravanelli won the golden boot at the World Cup last summer, proving he has the credentials to lead the line here whilst Kirovski is highly rated. Totti is young and similar to Michael Owen – he’ll have good games and bad.

Michael’s always been very generous in giving up his time to help out with my various schemes and I’m delighted he’s on board for this year. If he can find the right formation here I’m tipping him to advance to the knockouts.

Verdict – A strong defence will set him up nicely and I think he’ll be hard to break down away from home. If he can find a formation that gets the best out of Le Tissier and Ravanelli then I’m backing Quickly Kevin United for 2nd place.

Selected Odds – Le Tissier to score 3+ goals – 2/1

Group D

Bells United – @RossBell1984

Ross has somehow nabbed two of the best goalkeepers on the game but no right backs. An impressive set of options up front should make all the difference as Ross looks to bounce back from a group stage exit last summer.

Bells United

@RossBell1984

The positives then, outside of the two aforementioned goalkeepers, are Bakayoko and Ortega. A fearsome partnership in the making there. Sadly Henrik Larsson is somewhat short of his real life heroics whilst Hasselbaink is good if not great. Edmundo is a real wildcard, just as he was in real life. Rui Costa and Moller will create plenty.

The defence is obviously a bit lopsided but Antonio Carlos, Lucic and Bjorklund are all good centre half options. Having Jarni and De Boer is a shame but I’ll be interested to see what system Ross uses.

Ross created the Man on the Post podcast network and gave me a podcast home last summer. For that, I am eternally grateful. My advice is to get Bakayoko as far forward as possible.

Verdict – If there was a right back this squad would be great. Instead, it will have to settle for being good. Bakayoko and Ortega can win games by themselves and to be fair they might have to.

Selected Odds – Henrik Larsson to score 0 goals – 6/1

FPLHints FC – @FPLHints

The current champion didn’t have the best of drafts but with so many attacking options available, who needs defenders anyway?

FPL Hints

@FPLhints

With Johnsen, Hierro, Porrini and Dublin all good centre half options I’d imagine our champ will be looking at three at the back. Having Roy Keane and potentially McAllister to knit things together should help release Raul, Laudrup and Yorke, amongst others.

What we saw last year was that Ash (real name!) reaped the benefits of taking a hands on approach. In game changes won him several matches and I’d expect more of the same this time around. He’ll have to pull on all of that experience to get through this time.

Verdict – I think his past form will propel him into the mix, most likely for second. This is a set of teams who could all beat each other though.

Selected Odds – FPLHints to retain the CM Cup – 16/1

Criterion Club – @Matt_C_Wills

If you’ve been following Matt’s guest blogs you’ll know he is somewhat of a mad scientist. Full of bright ideas, he’s picked a squad that was mostly unique and gives him plenty of options.

Matt Wills

@Matt_C_Wills

What I like about this squad is that it’s full of players who are extremely good but you wouldn’t think it. Witschge, Guerrero, Finidi and Watson all fall into this category. Papin performed brilliantly for France in last summer’s World Cup but that is my only concern with this team – are there enough goals in the forwards?

Verdict – I expect Matt will win this group due to having the most balanced squad. It’s a really tough group to call though.

Selected Odds – Criterion Club to qualify – 7/4

Rewind Rovers – @BarkerDan10

Dan picked a squad right out of the 90s back book. Indeed Dan only needed to pick one player on the draft pack and he chose…Dave Beasant. This was akin to Bart choosing the elephant on that Simpsons episode.

Rewind Rovers

@BarkerDan10

Ginola, Kinkladze and Kanchelskis will provide the creativity and if they can provide the crosses for Ferdinand and Ferguson, that could be a positive avenue. Anelka is still very raw, as is Ian Harte.

I think this is one of the weaker sides in the group but I wouldn’t want to defend against Ferguson and Ferdinand. It’s a classic back four too, which will be difficult to unlock.

Verdict – They’ll compete in every game but will they have the quality?

Selected Odds – Duncan Ferguson to be sent off – Evens

S4ooters Outlaws – @s4ooter

Dan won our prize bundle in 2017 and comes in with a startling lack of defenders. He does however have Gazza.

S4ooters Outlaws

@s4ooter

Dan will have no option but to go all out attack to try and bring Hagi, Gazza and everyone’s favourite Icelandic superstar into play. CM favourite Bjorn Heidenstrom will need to be at his best to marshal this defence.

Verdict – I have it on good authority that Dan is going to throw caution to the wind which I think is the way to go. Ultimately though they’ll have to play two away games and I think that’ll be where they fall down.

Selected Odds – Darren Anderton to get injured – 1/10

2019 CM9798 Cup Preview: Groups A & B

Greetings and welcome to the first of two previews for the 2019 CM9798 Cup. Seeing as I opted out of playing this year I get to run the rule over everybody’s selections. If you need reminding of how we got to this stage, this post should help. Today I’ll be going through Groups A & B with C & D to follow on Sunday. Here’s a reminder of the draw:

Group Draw portrait

It is of course very difficult to say how some of our new managers will perform but I have some good intel on some of the repeat competitors. Please note odds are offered purely in jest, there isn’t a real market for this.

Group A

FC Garrincha –  @RonnieDogChris

I was going to say something nice about every competitor but it’s really difficult with Chris. His CM Cup campaigns so far have seen him manage Real Madrid to a first round loss in 2017 whilst his Argentina team were eliminated in the last 16 by Spain in the World Cup last summer. He failed to read the rules correctly this year but his squad may give him some hope of progression.

FC Garrincha

@RonnieDogChris

I would say it lacks star power at first glance but he’s one of the few teams able to put out a back four, with Sergi a particular standout. Robert Page and Christian Worns are both CM stalwarts whilst Laudrup, De Boer and Sibierski are all excellent. The team is perhaps a little light on strikers but Litmanen scored over a goal a game for my all conquering Ajax side and Boksic is a useful hand – this is pre-Boro.

I owe Chris a lot for his support over the years not just with this blog but the subsequent books and writing platforms he has given me. For that I give you one solid piece of advice – don’t play 4-4-2.

Verdict – This team is hamstrung by the manager. If Chris can have his Mike Bassett moment and take charge of this mob then he might not get his eyebrows shaved off for drawing 0-0 with Egypt. He has an outside chance of qualifying.

Selected Odds – Stuart Pearce to miss a pen – evens

Rostance Rovers – @TJRostance

By Tom’s own admission he hasn’t played the game for roughly 20 years but he’s clearly still got a good memory for some stars of the past.

ROstance Rovers

@TJRostance

There’s an obvious omission of a left back but with Davids as a DM he could play as a wingback. The AI clearly doesn’t fancy David Platt or Steve Potts but I think that’s more down to the club’s reputation being 20. Ian Wright is lethal in the first season so don’t underestimate him whilst Maurice, Salas and Pires are obvious stars. Add in Beckham and the always popular (on CM) Lamouchi and there’s a pretty solid side in there. Finding the right formation will be the difference between progressing and an early exit.

Tom has always been very supportive of the blog since I tagged him in one of the early Darlington live texts. He definitely live blogs a good game but can he play one on Champ?

Verdict – What I like about this squad is that it has the right mix of flair and graft. Blending them is easier said than done but if Tom can solve that puzzle then he’ll be in the running.

Selected Odds – Rostance Rovers to qualify for the knockouts – 7/2

Plumstead Common Rangers – @AshRoseUK

Ash played down his chances last summer but the host of Alive and Kicking 90s Podcast was always going to know a thing or two and took Holland to the semi-finals. His squad is stacked although maybe a little too much in the goalkeeper area.

PCR

@AshRoseUK

Three top centre backs and one of the bets left backs on the game should provide good cover in front of presumably Nigel Martyn. There’s a myriad of attacking talent, the most exciting of which is probably Juninho but Davor Suker is at Real Madrid at the start of the game and is very good indeed. Bergkamp’s talent is no secret whilst Michael Owen is very young but capable of great things. Shevchenko – who has his name spelled incorrectly in the database – was a goal machine for my Aston Villa side when I was tactics testing the other year. The biggest problem Ash is going to have is figuring out the jigsaw that gets all of these players into the team.

Obviously Ash and I share a common interest so I was delighted when he asked me to be a guest on his show a few years ago, even if re-living Newcastle’s 95/96 meltdown was a tough one to take. My only advice here is not to expect miracles from Owen – this game came out before World Cup 98 so whilst his potential is very high, he’s very inconsistent.

Verdict – If Ash can find a formation that hides the right back frailty and gets the best out of his many attacking options I can see PCR sneaking through.

Selected Odds – Roberto Carlos to score a free kick – 4/1

AFC Supernova Dragons – @SupernovaDragon

Poor old Supernova came bottom of the draft phase and had most of his squad handed to him by the draft pack system. To make matters worse I ballsed up and gave him Paolo Maldini when he had been drafted elsewhere. Talk about kicking a man when he’s down…

Supernova Dragons

@Supernovadragon

Despite all of that, the squad is competitive. Any team that can pair Nesta and John Curtis at centre half should do fine, whilst McManaman and Fernando will provide the creativity. I’m just not sure where the goals will come from. Emile Heskey is extremely highly rated whilst Sutton and Negri have been proven goalscorers at this point in their careers. Nevland and Tomlinson have their best years ahead of them whilst Kanu is a bit of a maverick.

SD has done great blog work with the Man Utd youth team and three of that squad have made it here. I would say this is the weakest squad in the group but a solid defence will make him hard to beat.

Verdict – It doesn’t look the strongest but then again neither did Greece. A strong defence can get you everywhere.

Selected Odds – Neil Lennon to be red carded in any game – 1/3

Glipton Grasshoppers – @sid_lambert

If you haven’t read “Cashing In” by Sid then you are missing out. I’m not contractually obliged to plug Sid’s material but good work deserves to be recognised. Meanwhile, Sid is another who hasn’t played the game in 20 years but his squad is groin grabbingly good.

Glipton

@sid_lambert

The defence is decidedly average, admittedly. But fundamentally he is able to name a conventional back four should he want to so it stands up well already. Martin Djetou is one of my favourite ever CM players, he will do a job in defence or midfield. Svindal Larsen speaks for himself and then any combination of Shearer, Batistuta, Romario and Scholes will get goals. This is one of the better balanced squads in the group and if he can nail that in a formation, he’ll go far in the competition.

Verdict – My favourite to win the group but at the very least should qualify for the knockouts.

Selected Odds – Gabriel Batistuta to win the golden boot – 8/1

Group B

Patrick Thistle – @90sFootball

Paddy was runner-up last season with France. Some people will claim he has not taken this entirely seriously, but at the end of the day he got his entire team without question.

PAtrick Thistle

@90sfootball

So, genius or insanity? In Kluivert, Loko, Berger, Vieira and Andersson there’s the spine of a good team there. Whether Pat Nevin is entrusted alongside them remains to be seen. My main concern here is the goalkeeper. I think it’s the most important position on the game and I know nothing about Lodewijks. Pat Bonner is terrible. There are a lot of unknowns in this squad.

I’ll always be grateful to Paddy for giving me a re-tweet when I first got started, it may even be how some of you came to find the blog. I wish I could offer some constructive advice here but many of these players even I have never managed. Patrice Carteron played for Sunderland and scored in the Tyne-Wear derby once whilst Patrick Valery played for Blackburn. Good luck?

Verdict – With the attacking talent he has available I suspect he will be strong at home but may struggle away given the strength of some attacks they will be up against.

Selected Odds – Patrick Vieira to be booked three or more times – 2/1

The Rookies – @KingOfTheRooks

Andrew had such high hopes for his Norway side last summer but ran into an inspired Belgium side in the last 16 and that was that. A real connoisseur of the Scandinavian leagues, this side could be a force.

The Rookies

@KingOfTheRooks

Two good goalkeepers and options at the back – this is not like most teams we have seen so far. Figo and Joao Pinto are rightly flagged as star players whilst Vieri always scores goals. Neset, Rushfeldt and Svensson are relative unknow quantities but they have been selected for a reason.

Andy knows this game inside out as shown by his blog posts for us. He will find a way and probably already has. He’s one of my favourites to progress from this group.

Verdict – I think he’ll get through. It’s not the flashiest of teams but it will be organised and the likes of Figo will unlock a door.

Selected Odds – Mihailjovic to score a free kick anytime – 3/1

Bayern Bru – @MarkCarruthers_

There’s been a lot of love for Mark’s squad on Twitter and it’s not hard to see why. Has he found the perfect mix? Mark was Brazil manager last summer but couldn’t convert a great start into the cup win. Will this year be any better?

Bayern Bru

@MarkCarruthers_

Let’s focus on where it matters here. Zidane and Rivaldo in the same team? Crikey. Emmers is just as good as them, bizarrely, whilst Ronaldo could be partnered by any of his colleagues there and still be a hit. There’s barely a wasted spot in the squad. Bould, Ferdinand and Gravesen is a good pool of centre backs and even the AI often plays Gary Neville there.

Mark has shown great form in these competitions. He was runner up in the inaugural cup in 2017 and will have a re-match with Dan during the group phase. A strong favourite not only to progress but for the cup itself.

Verdict – I think he’d have won the World Cup last summer if Ronaldo had stayed fit. Assuming he remains fit here, I think Mark will be in the latter stages.

Selected Odds – Ronaldo to win the golden boot – 7/2

Boca Seniors – @winkveron

As mentioned, Dan won the inaugural cup in 2017 and provided one of my favourite moments in last summer’s World Cup. His much unfancied Chile side faced elimination unless they could pull off a high scoring win over Mexico and a 90th minute goal secured a 5-3 win and progression to the next round. What can he do here?

Boca Seniors

@winkveron

It’s a very strong attacking team but there’s a high risk of Jeff Kenna at the other end. That said, Phil Neville and Luis Fernandez should keep him away whilst Campbell and Roberto Rios is a good pairing. Barcelona pair Guardiola and De La Pena will do well in central midfield whilst Alfonso is a hero to us all. Japhet N’Doram and Kiko are both highly rated in game. There’s a lot to like here.

Verdict – Dan is basically the Bielsa of CM. His games will be entertaining but will he fall on his sword? For me he’ll be in the scrap for second. As we found out last summer, never write him off.

Selected Odds – Boca Seniors most goals scored in Group B – 5/1

Corinthian Collector – @CorinthianHead

This is a squad of great players but will they make a great team? Michael knows what he is doing and did well with Romania last summer but what will he do to get the most out of this squad?

Corinthian Collector

@CorinthianHead

With only two centre backs any injuries could be problematic. He has three right backs though so that’ll help. Robbie Fowler is a goal machine whilst Baggio, Zola, Signori and Henry is an embarrassment of riches. There’s not much balance to the centre of midfield though and I think that may be where he falls down compared to some other teams. He does however have a good CM pedigree and has probably already figured out how to get the most out of this squad.

Corinthian Collector has a book coming out about Corinthian Figures soon so you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for that. The recipe for doing well here is probably not playing Maradona.

Verdict – Should score a lot of goals but might lose the edge in tight matches. Will be in the running but I think will just fall short.

Selected Odds – Diego Maradona to be sent home – evens

There we go then, the first two groups previewed. The thing is, all teams are stacked with top class players and it could even just take one of them to have a great day to win the game for his team. I think Group B is marginally stronger than Group A but it’s pure speculation, I’m really looking forward to seeing this play out.

I’ll be back on Sunday with the preview for groups C and D. See you then!

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.

1

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.

2

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.

3

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…

4

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

5

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.

6

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.

7

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!

8

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

Bigmouth strikes again.

9

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.

10

Such is life, with the race over, we then go and thrash Burnley in our next league game
11
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.

12

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.

13

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.

14

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.

15

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.

16

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.

17

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.

18

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.

20

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

21

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

Confirmation of our trophy haul over 3 seasons

22

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

23

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.

24

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

26

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

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

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

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

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

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You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills

Starting from Scratch – Part 16

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

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

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

1

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

2

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

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

3

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

4

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

5

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

6

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

7

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

8

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

9

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

10

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

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

11

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

12

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

13

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

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

14

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

15

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

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

16

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

17

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

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

18

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

19

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

20

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

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

21

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

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

22

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

23

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

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

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

25

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

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

30

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

31

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 CM9798 Cup Draw

Hello! Since introducing the tournament last week, anticipation has been building for the 2019 CM9798 Cup. I mean that genuinely as well, I’ve received literally more than 5 tweets about it. It therefore gives me great pleasure to bring you the draw as we move a step closer to actually playing some matches. For those who don’t want to watch my wife draw names out of kinder egg pods for 6 minutes, you can scroll down past the video and there’s an image of the draw to save you the hassle.

As promised, here it is in pictorial format.

Group Draw portrait

Matthew and Matt will be here on Tuesday and Wednesday to finalise their two saves and then there’ll be a preview piece for the cup on Thursday. The matches should start next week.

Merry Monday to you all,
Dave

CM9798 Academy – Part 40: Used to have a little now we have a lot

Hello! The end of Season 13 has arrived for the Academy. It is also the last update before we take a break for the summer and the CM9798 Cup. Season 13 has been a mixed bag. We’re still in with a shout on three fronts but some of our results have been a real struggle. We’re second but only by a point, we have a Champions League quarter final to look forward to and right now, we’re in the FA Cup 5th round.

We’re frustrated for large parts of the tie but just as we start to make plans for a replay in 10 days, Alfonso Junior scores yet another vital goal and we’re into the last 8. Well done.

Sheff Wed 0-1

A week later and all the action happens in the first five minutes rather than the last. An own goal after one minute sets us on our way and then a red card seals an easier afternoon. It’s not convincing but is it the sign of champions?

0-1 palace S13

Let’s hope so as just four days later we sneak a third consecutive 1-0 success. The Scottish Messi opens the scoring but captain Lawrie is dismissed. Still, points are points.

1-0 chelsea S13

It’s a far more entertaining game when Arsenal pay us a visit. They usually do a number on us but three of our delicious front four are on the scoresheet and a fun filled 22 minutes is all we need. No jokes.

3-1 arsenal

That leads us into the Champions League and the awkward trip to Amsterdam. At 2-0 down, we’ve got our work cutout but as is our want at the moment we only play for 15 minutes and a last minute goal from McBoyaboy means we leave with a spring in our step.

2-2 Ajax

You’d forgive us for being weary in the FA Cup but McCallum settles the tie in the second half to book us a place in the semi finals where we’ll meet Crystal Palace.

brum 0-1

We’ve got 11 days until we play again so we’re nice and rested for Ajax. Sticking with the theme, we score three in 7 minutes and then relax. How a tie can turn around eh?

3-0 AJax

Two Portugese representatives in the last four – we’ll be playing Porto, who we beat over two legs in the qualifying round last season. Torino remain the dominant force of European football.

CL SF draw S13

Chester, who unsurprisingly prop up the table, is our next destination. A very quick start and an early red for them should make for a comfortable afternoon. Although they do half the arrears with 10 men, McCallum settles it and a mix of our “no more than 20 minutes” attitude plus resting a few for Porto means it finishes 3-1.

Chester 3-1

The International break doesn’t cost us any players but Porto have had their raw meat. 2-0 up inside 15 minutes and it’s looking bleak. As usual though we find something from within, McCallum pulling one back and Powell chipping in before the break. 2-2 at half time would be good but Da Rold heads into his own goal from a corner. Hmm. 3-2 wouldn’t be so bad but 4-2 leaves us with a hill to climb.

Porto 4-2

The big games are coming thick and fast. We’re 2-0 up against Palace but it finishes 2-2 due to a sloppy second half. Colomba heads us in front and Lukic surely settles it although George Benson makes sure we’re having to fight to the bitter end. What a nuisance.

4-3 palace SF

Wolves are a lot less of a threat. Phew.

2-0 Wolves S13

Blackburn go 2-0 up inside 8 minutes though. That’s a problem. The lads fight back though and although Eadie junior is dismissed late on, it’s a significant result.

3-2 blackburn S13

The games and thankfully the wins have been coming thick and fast, a pause to look at the table shows we have an 8 point lead and a game in hand. With the schedule taking us to Goodison Park on Easter Monday before Porto away two days later, it’s time to rotate.

table easter monday

As we’ve discussed before, I have about 14 good players and 8 terrible ones. The 8 terrible ones are very much in action here and we barely manage a shot. Everton are ruthless. A well deserved thrashing.

5-0 Everton

I don’t care though. My selection is totally vindicated when we face Porto two days later. Fresh and rampant, we win 5-0.

5-0 Porto

It’ll be Torino in the final. That’s going to be tough.

Torino CL final

Time to focus on winning the league though and a 2-0 win over Derby helps us along the way.

2-0 derby

Our game in hand comes at White Hart Lane, where an efficient performance sees us open a ten point gap with four games to go.

spurs 0-2

We’re on the verge!

4 games to go S13

We could win the title at Hull but instead…

3-1 Hull away S13

I’d much rather win it at home anyway. Leeds put up a great battle but Giggsy junior climbs off the bench to save the day. The title has been retained!

2-1 Leeds S13

Yay.

Champs 2 games to spare

The remaining two games are formalities. We lose at Bolton with little Dunc scoring for them.

3-2 bolton

We thrash Sheff Utd though, I can’t have Iversen getting one over on us.

Sheff Utd 4-1 S13

Nice. A comfortable retention.

Prem Top final S13

It’s second place Arsenal in the cup final and it’s frankly one of the oddest games I’ve ever been involved in. Pretty much every shot goes in, 2-0 after 13 minutes is 2-2 after 17, McCalum scores a 13 minute hat-trick and it’s 6-3 at half time. It ends 6-4. Not bad for one set of tennis.

6-4 Arsenal FA Cup Final

The double has been completed but the treble…well that would be a wonderful end. Torino play this crazy mess of a formation:

Torino team

Gudnason is the famous Icelandic re-gen, Denilson is of course a hero and Puschmann has been banging them in for years.

But not today!

2-0 Torino

Captain Colomba seals the game, a lovely moment for him and the Academy have gone from nothing to European champions in 13 seasons.

Many of the lads are involved in the World Cup, which is nice. Somehow it’s an England vs Scotland semi final, Powell & Larmour vs Lawrie…

WC SF

Powell puts England in the final!

Powell WC SF

Both Academy lads play the final and are now World Champions. What a time.

WC Final 2010

Let’s take a look at the club now in 2010. That attendance has come on some way.

Info S13 end

As we’ve never purchased a player our balance of £171m is healthy to say the least.

finances

Charting our rise through the ranks, it only took 13 seasons for the defence to be sorted out.

League history

Here’s what lined Ike Mashley’s pockets.

Fees received

Alfonso Junior gets the gong from the writers. Rightly so.

fons junior

McCallum takes the golden boot and I get the manager award. We’ve had a wonderful time.

Awards S13

If this is the last time we talk about the Academy, what a ride it has been. 40 weeks of trials and tribulations but we got there in the end. Of all the saves I’ve blogged, this one has captured the imagination of you readers more than any other. Thank you for humouring me and convincing me to keep it going during the bleak years where I thought we were never going to get out of the bottom half of the table. Whether there’s a new save or a continuation in August we’ll have to wait and see.

For now though, I’ll be giving the CM Cup all my attention. A lot of effort has already gone into it from the lads involved and I hope you’ll all stick around to see how it plays out. Goodbye for now.