Bouncebackability: "The ability to bounce back or recover from bad circumstances"

This story is done, but the career continues - what is next?

  • Retire - my work in football is done

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Sell Parker, Thiry & Lazenby for mega-bucks & rebuild

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Resign and look to move abroad - I've earned it

    Votes: 1 100.0%
  • Keep the team and build a legacy

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    1
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December 2032

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Another good month for the young players as my 20 year old attacking midfielder Stewart picks up the young player of the month for November.

West Ham (a) - We were holding on a bit as that game ended, but the hard work had been done in the first half. How good it is to see Jansen back at his clinical best and Stewart just goes to justify his award last month, taking him to 6 goals in all competitions this season.

Sheffield United (h) - Almost unchanged and, in theory being a home game this should be more comfortable. We huffed and puffed and worked hard, dominated possession and chances without somehow getting that second goal, which gave them the opportunity to score...which they did. We should never have let them back into that one.

Ludogorets (h) Euro Cup II Gp C - I’m definitely not expecting a repeat of the double figured victory we got in the first game and we have already qualified, so this could just be a chance to enjoy ourselves. And we do...Alvarez in particular, but I wasn’t expecting another such emphatic result.


That gives Alvarez 13 in 7 European games this season and is, unsurprisingly, the competition's top scorer. Not bad for a free transfer.

An excellent group of players coming through...let’s hope so.

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Southampton (a) - Back to the day job of the league and back to business with a number of players returning to the starting line-up. Football is so much easier when the players are confident and morale is high...we just blew Southampton away. Jansen was unplayable and unlucky not get a hat-trick.

Wolves (h) - The only enforced absentee is Gard, who is missing a month or so with an injury, which is a blow. Pye is a good back-up, but isn’t necessarily a Premier League from standard player. We rode our luck a bit, especially as the game wore on, but Alvarez replaced an under-par Jansen and did what all good substitute strikers should do.


8 games without loss

The £18m signing from Rangers is going through something of a purple patch at the moment and could comfortably see an increase in his value over time. He seems to have a knack of timing late runs into the box to perfection which is paying off in terms of his stats. He and Aaron Wilson rotate the attacking midfielder role, but Stewart just about has the edge at the moment.

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One days rest and then we’re on it again...and it’s a toughie:

Arsenal (a) - Not much rotation needed, but by the end of the game an awful lot of players were out on their knees. We were a bit unlucky not to come out of that with anything, but once again beaten by outrageous talent - Augusto is a Brazilian international (21 goals in 62) has scored 15 in 18 league games, is valued at £77m and paid £275k a week. Hmmmnnn

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January 2033

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This is a nervy transfer window as our great run of form has not gone un-noticed with 9 players wanted; Guobjartsson, Mulenda, Calatayud, Antonio, Abadaki, Owolabi, Torres and Jansen. Only Torres will be allowed to leave, although I’m going to get every penny for him, but I am concerned the board has previous for accepting bids over my head with the other.

Bids of £28m bid are rejected for Calatayud, £29m for Owolabi and £20m for Torres

Norwich (a) FA Cup3rd Round - Helm and Psarionas make rare starts and Alvarez leads the line as the cup striker. Despite Alvarez’s best efforts as the starting striker for the cup, we throw away a 2 goal lead and have to do it all over again. That was a game we really should have won.

Rejected: £28m for Antonio, £26 for Calatayud, £28m for Torres

Two Brazilians come in on a free and immediately find themselves worth quite a lot of money. They both sit in the U23s but it does give us some flexibility if players do leave as both can step up into the first team. 2 very good pieces of business.

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Rejected: £40m for Jansen, £24.5 for Mulenda, £24.5m for Calatayud and £37m for Owolabi. It seems to be the Chinese teams with the interest.

Rejected: £40m for Jansen, £34.5m for Calatayud...he really is wanted...and £33m for Torres. Torres is the one player I am happy to let leave, so if I can negotiate the next one up, he is free to go.

Liverpool (a) - Liverpool’s form hasn’t been great, but we have a horrible record against one of the top teams in the league. I completely mess up my starting line-up from the Norwich game meaning that Helm starts and Stewart starts up top. We nearly did our best to throw that one away at the end, but held on to record a sensational win.

Rejected: £29.5m for Mulenda and £32.5m for Guobjartsson but then I do accept a transfer as we negotiate Shenhua up to £53m for Borja Torres.

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He’s only really been a bit-part player and losing him does not weaken the first team.

Rejected: £41.5m for Calatayud & £62m for Jansen….this is getting silly now.

Norwich (h) FA Cup 3rd Round replay - It all went downhill after Wilson’s penalty miss and then we just capitulated. Psarionas created a number of good chances for Alvarez, but he was unusually poor in front of goal.

Manchester City, in 2nd, and Chelsea in 3rd up next...but on the plus side, both games are at home, so let’s see how we get on!

Rejected: £32m for Antonio.

Manchester City (h) - Jansen latches on to a short backpass to give us a deserved lead, but then during halftime Haaland must have realised they were losing and does what Haaland does to take the game away from us.

Haaland - 27 goals in 18 league games this season and 248 in 334 for City overall. FFS.

Both Krawiec and Gard pull ankle ligaments meaning 4 weeks out. Drzaic and Pye will get some gametime off the back of those injuries.

Rejected: £41m for Calatayud.

Chelsea (h) - We were just blown away by the far and away better team and even Jansen couldn’t really put a respectable tint on the scoreline. I know we’ve played against some good sides, but that’s now 19 goals conceded in the last 6 games...I have no idea where that shocking defensive run has come from.

Having failed with bids for Owolabi, Shandong go for our Owolabi-lite; Abadaki with a £15m bid. After quite a bit of toing and froing, we work them up to £24m. After 141 league games, I am happy for him to leave and can shuffle the team slightly, bringing Sangalli into a more defensive role and allowing Joshua and Psarianos to share the carrilero role on the right hand side of the middle three.

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That gives me £72m for transfers and the top target is a 18 year old super striker at Crystal Palace named Barrington Parker. He has a release fee of £55m to domestic clubs in higher divisions - which we are - and Palace don't look like they’ll accept a penny less. If he came in, Alvarez & Bernat could be sold in the summer to cover the cost.

The youth facilities are completed to state of the art to match up with the training facilities.

Another Brazilian midfielder is brought in on a free, with the shameless intention of selling quickly for a significant profit as I could do without another foreigner. His value rises to £35m immediately.

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Leeds (a) - Some back to basics tactics are employed to try and shake off the poor form we’re currently suffering and Leeds, who are struggling in the league, might be one of the teams we can take advantage of. Okay, so that wasn’t exactly the scintillating return to form, but it stops the rot of goals conceded.

Bournemouth (h) - But this is the result which means that we end the month on a high and Jansen is on top form as we utterly dominate a relegation threatened Bournemouth and I’m really hoping that restores some confidence and momentum to the team. That takes Jansen to 21 in 22 games making him the 3rd top scorer in the league.


Rejected: £28.5m for Lopez & £32m for Mulenda.

German central midfielder Psarianos is one of only 2 players who will be club trained by the end of the season, so despite questions about whether he can star for the first team, he will be kept around. His high passing ability and tries killer ball trait, does mean that he supplies a number of first time through balls onto the striker to put away, so is capable of creating chances and did so for Jansen’s 3rd against Bournemouth.

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And we do break the club transfer record for the Palace striker Barrington Parker.

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January’s transfer business was interesting. Eugenio & Geraldao are prospects for the first team. Miranda has, hopefully, come in to be loaned out and to increase in value before selling and Parker has come in as the big transfer day deadline window marquee signing.

Torres and Abadaki were the big outgoings, with everyone else on loan. Ipswich came in with a late loan bid for Helm and, as he won’t be in the first team, thought it was only fair to let him go out for the rest of the season.

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February 2033

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Burnley (a) - That was a shocking result. We had a horrible 20 minutes and never recovered from that. I don’t know what happened there, especially following the fine Bournemouth performance. Another 3 goals conceded so it’s back to the training ground lads, you’ve got work to do. Parker makes his debut, but he won’t want to remember that one.

A bit of an eventful week though. Reserve (but premier league potential) 18 year old leftback Gereldao tells me he’s struggling to settle and requests a transfer, which I allow.

Alvarez, my rotation striker and starting cup striker injures himself for a month. He’s scored 20 goals this season, so could well be missed but it does mean Parker may get a decent amount of gametime.

Leicester City (h) - It’s a long injury list as Gard, Krawiec, Wilson, Alvarez, Drzaic and Stewart are all injured, leaving us with a decidedly defensive looking bench. The starting 11 are shuffled and Jansen has to start in an unfamiliar AMC position. That really was the narrowest of narrow unconvincing wins with two goalscorers getting their firsts for the club.

Geraldao is knocking on my door again, although this time it's about not getting gametime. He is transfer listed - and wanted by a number of clubs - but the 18 year old could be the long-term successor to Pye if he’s patient but the Derby game might be a good one to blood him in.

Leftback Logan Pye has given a pretty good account of himself over the last 3 and a half seasons, but he is one of my players who the coaches tell me are only Championship standard and with Geraldao in the wings, he could be free to go...although I won’t be kicking him out the door.

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Derby (a) - They are bottom of the league with just 2 wins all season but with more than two weeks break since the last game, some players return. Geraldao gives a pretty good account of himself, but it’s Jansen who really takes the headlines….again. Stewart picks up a couple of assists as well in an overall good performance.

West Brom (h) - That should have been a routine win against the 19th placed team, but not only did they do a number on us in terms of preventing us from scoring, they properly did a number as we conceded a penalty in injury time. A draw would have been bad enough, a loss is just unacceptable.


Between the Burnley and West Brom results, it’s something of a miracle we are still where we are.

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March 2033

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We picked up Austrian side St Polten in the Euro Cup II which will be a nice little trip for the fans and there are some interesting teams who have progressed through to the knockout stages:

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St Polten (a) Euro Cup II 2nd Round 1st leg - There are a number of injuries to my usual cup players, so this isn’t as much rotation as I would like, but there’s still a lot. Parker leads the line and a midfield 3 consisting of players aged 20, 21 and 22. We didn’t really start to get a handle on that game until Psarianos scored, but after that we were comfortable. That gives us a good base for the home leg.

Everton (h) - Harwood-Bellis, Mulenda, Curtis, Alvarez and Sangelli are all out injured. We were properly labouring and making very hard work of that game until Everton handed us a lifeline fouling Jansen in the box under no pressure. Definitely not our finest performance but a good three points.


That goal for Jansen takes him to 24 for the season all in the league. Our other top scorers are Alvarez with 20, although just 4 are in the league, Stewart with 9 and Curtis with 5. Very striker heavy.

Our top assisters are Curtis (10), Gard (8), Wilson (7), Stewart and Antonio (6) and Sarue & Pye with 5.

St Polten (h) Euro Cup II 2nd Round 2nd leg - The 3-1 first leg win gives us every chance of progressing, so this should be straightforward. I’d really like to rest Calatayud as he’s played almost non-stop but I am still short of other fit centre-backs and Alvarez doesn’t get the chance to add to his ridiculous goal total as he’s injured as well. Despite this, Sarue & Wilson produce the goods to see us through.

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That’s a far kinder draw than it could have been and with Galatasaray knocked out and one of Fiorentina or St Etienne out of the next round, this could actually be winnable.

Spurs (a) - We missed the chance to leapfrog Spurs in the league, but we didn’t really deserve to get anything out of that and failed to produce very much, even after the sending off. Frustrating.

That was Jansen’s 150th league game for the club and his 90th goal...and still no Netherlands call up.

The youth intake is in and there are a couple of promising options. Contracts are offered promptly this year to prevent the shambles of having kids poached like we did last time round and we gamble on a few youngsters ourselves paying out compensation for some promising youngsters from other clubs.

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Manchester United (a) - Despite playing a more defensive system than usual, we get thoroughly outplayed. Martin’s high rating is testament to the fact that the scoreline could have been an awful lot worse there. Not a great end to the month.

Sangalli is ruled out for 5 weeks with a hernia, which is a blow, but not fatal to for the team. He will miss the European games though.

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April 2033

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Busy month…

Psarianos’s good performances last month earn him 2nd place in the young player of the month competition for March.

Blackburn Rovers (h) - The sending off helped us as we were struggling to make a breakthrough, but after that it was one way traffic. Jens ‘Mr Consistent’ Jansen got his goal and Curtis tapped in following some 6 yard pinball.

That win gives us a 7 point gap over 8th placed Wolves with 6 games remaining and this season, the Euro Cup II qualification is based on league placings.

Dundalk FC (h) Euro Cup II quarter final 1st leg - this is a nice diversion from the hustleof the league and should (...should…) be a comfortable win. Alvarez finally gets a start after a long injury layoff but my usual cup keeper MacFarlane is still injured. And it is Alvarez that makes the difference in about as routine a win as we get these days.

Brighton (a) - Brighton are doing pretty well and sit in 11th, but this is the perfect opportunity to consolidate our position a little bit as the season runs in. The first half was not good and it was only the enforced change of Stewart for Wilson that changed things as he scored almost immediately and Calatayud gives the scoreline a more respectable look.


Trausti Gudbjartsson didn’t play in that game, but he is a pretty good example of the transfer business that we’ve been doing. I’ve got a soft spot for the £150k signing - designated wonderkid when we signed him, and although he perhaps hasn’t achieved the same levels he might have done at a bigger club, he has been key for us over the last couple of seasons in rotation with Antonio.

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Dundalk FC (a) Euro Cup II quarter final 2nd leg - A 2-0 headstart from the first leg puts us in a good position and we utilise the full squad as most of the usual cup squad get to play in this game. Alvarez does get his goal and Lopez gets a second, but we will need to play much better to any further…

...against Wolfsburg. That is a tough Semi Final draw.

West Ham (h) - Back to the bread and butter of the league and Jansen puts in another one of those performances which remind me that we are somewhat lucky to have him. He’s making his 8 goal return last season look poor as he’s now scored 28 and having his best season yet in terms of goals.

He needs 3 more to beat Jude Soonsup-Bell’s record of 31 in a season.

Sheffield United (a) - We’re 4th in the form table, well above Sheffield United and it’s probably our strongest possible 11 put out. Even so, I was not expecting the goal-filled first half as Jansen runs riot. The 2 goals conceded weren’t part of the plan, but at least the fans were entertained.

Six straight wins and we’re putting together a run at the right time.

Wolfsburg (h) - 1st leg at home against a team, apparently, on a par with us. Disappointingly, MacFarlane and a couple of the usual cup team miss out through injury and suspension so it’s not team who have got us here so far, but importantly, Alvarez is fit. Gudbartsson gets a goal and assist and Alvarez continues his astonishing record in the cup...18 goals in 10 European games.

3-0 is a very good result against good opposition.

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May 2033

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Southampton (h) - We utterly battered Saints there, restricting them to just the 1 shot on goal which….yup...they scored and most frustratingly of all, did so in injury time. We can take the positives from that, but that doesn’t put points on the board. That was the most frustrating result we’ve had for a while.

Wolfsburg (a) Euro Cup II Semi Final 2nd leg - 3-0 up from the first leg, team heavily rotated again but we do shift things around to try and contain the threat with a couple of the CMs dropped into the DM position and it pays off emphatically.


Amazingly, we’ve made it into the final and it’s St Etienne as the opposition.

Wolves (a) - That was not a great game for my health as we missed chance after chance before Calatayud comes up with the goods yet again.

Leading from the back and by example. What a threat from set-pieces he is and, still only 25, he has plenty of first team gametime ahead of him if we can stave off interest from elsewhere. He’s been pretty much permanently wanted by clubs since signing, but we’ve resisted so far.

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Arsenal (h) - I have to do my best to persuade the lads that they still have something to play for here and there are still league positions to gain, but it shouldn’t take much. Despite this, too many players have off games and fail to turn up. We couldn’t make home advantage count, which we really should have done and even when Arsenal appear to have gifted us the win with a penalty at the death, we still couldn’t take it.

A 6th placed finish is way above expectations, again, and could have been even better if that last minute penalty had gone in. On balance, we were well worth that position and have the European Cup to look forward to next season which will be a step up from the teams we’ve faced in the Euro Cup II

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The domestic cup runs were disappointing, with two third round knock-outs but the the FA Cup is won by Liverpool with a 1-0 victory over Blackburn.

EURO CUP II FINAL

It’s been a bit of a strange run to get here and we’ve played some interesting teams but the Wolfsburg result in the semi finals is the one that really makes me think we can compete and win this. St Etienne must be on a similar level. As much as possible, it’s the team who has got us here so far.

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It doesn’t take Alvarez long to get on the scoresheet but we’re quickly pegged back through two set piece goals. Sarue equalizes with an absolute worldie from 30 yards, Stewart taps in after excellent work from Antonio and Drzaic scores a direct free kick to make the final result comfortable in the end. That was a game for the fans and what a result it was.

Another trophy for the cabinet.

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The best 11 is slightly misleading due to the amount of rotation in the team. Alvarez has the higher rating, but Jansen played more games and scored more goals as the starting striker in the league.

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A £45m transfer budget is provided and another stadium expansion is announced taking us to 25,000. The board also announce their intention to sell the club. This could be an interesting summer.

We’ve played 57 games this season and have tried to rotate quite significantly, with almost a league and cup teams, but it’s not quite worked that way. Calatayud & Martin have been consistently very good at the back and have played a lot of games. Every one of Jansen’s 31 goals came in the league and he finished 4th top scorer. Alvarez’s 21 goals in 12 European games means he wins the Euro Cup top scorer and player of the competition

Those two were ably supported by 21 year old Stewart in the attacking midfielder role and he, Krawiec, Wilson and Drzaic have rotated the two AM positions.

I might have expected £55m signing Parker to have played more, but Alvarez hasn’t really left the door open for him.

Left-back Geraldao was signed on a free with the intention of selling, but the fact he’s first team ready at 18 and adds to the clubgrown contingent means he may not be sold at all. On the other side, rightbacks Guodbjartsson and Antonio have been consistent.

It’s still a pretty young squad with just one player (Harwood-Bellis) over the age of 30 and 6 aged 21 or younger.

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Broad got relegated with League 1 Swindon - if he makes it to the first team, it's only going to be as back-up.

Kinsella & Marin have both been at Championship Reading, but struggled. Both of their futures are in doubt.

Thompson has been at Championship Portsmouth, but if not near the first team at 23, is never likely to be now.

Lawson has been at Championship Hull and is the closest to our first team, but he’s not there yet.

Cortinhas was signed with the intent of retraining to a new position but hasn’t really taken it on so we’ll be looking to offload him. His value has increased with the loans though and he's clearly a very good player, but doesn't guite fit our structure.

Helm is our longest standing player but no longer good enough for the first team but can do a job lower down the leagues if the interest is there.

Miranda was signed on a free with the sole intent of selling. His value has risen to £40m and we’ll be looking to move him on.

Layton Stewart is in a similar position to Helm, but his contract is expiring this summer. It will not be renewed.

Bernat was signed on a free as a ‘too good to refuse’ option. He’s been on loan to Premier League Leicester which I hope has put him in the shop window.

Field didn’t get a single appearance at League 1 Morecambe, which is a concern.
 

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June - July 2033
6 wanted players, a number of players I’m looking to offload and 4 players already coming in this transfer window.

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3 for the future.

Paraguayan keeper Ismael, already capped, has first team potential and could be back-up when McFarlane’s contract expires next year. Striker Derry was poached and I will be looking to get him in and around the first team in due course. Central midfielder Luiz is actually not that far from the first team, but could do with some training in specific areas.

Both Arsenal & West Ham offer me job interviews...I take great pleasure from telling them both where to go.

A takeover bid is at hand and transfer embargo in place, so it’s quite a good job we’ve already brought in the players needed...but it’s lifted almost as soon as interest arose.

The 1st July comes around and two of my more experienced players leave as its free transfer time.

After 71 league games over 4 seasons, Logan Pye is subject to a £15m bid from a number of teams. It’s less than he’s worth, but with Geraldao coming through and aged 29, Pye found himself on the very fringes of the team so there didnt seem much point in keeping him around.

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And the second outgoing player is Layton Stewart after 229 league games and 94 league goals. He was a significant part of our Championship winning side and contributed in a big way. He’s had a good loan spell in Austria and Salzburg move early to get him in permanently. He definitely leaves with my blessing and a lot of credit in the bank.

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The number of wanted players in the first team has gone up to 10.

World class midfielder Ousman Manneh is signed to add some experience and quality cover in central midfield. He was transfer listed and the £14.7m is a good deal - his £180k a week may not be…

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No, no, no...what are you doing Jens?

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Well they were emphatic and Alvarez is making a seriously strong case for being the starting striker, which he probably is, but I want Jansen to succeed.
 
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August 2033

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Wolverhampton Wanderers (a) - The choice of who to play up front is made slightly easier as Jansen is only deemed fit enough for 45 minutes. New signing Manneh does make his debut in the centre of midfield. That was a grim watch and does not bode well for the rest of the season. Wantaway leftback Geraldao, however, does have a good game and Manneh is neat and tidy enough. Despite this, overall that was not one to remember.

Leicester City (a) - A few changes are made so Gard, Psarianos, Krawiec and Jansen all start but two quickfire goals before halftime seemed to knock the stuffing out of the team and there was no coming back from there and no amount of encouragement, demanding or berating made a difference in the second half.


Lots of transfer interest in players, but none are allowed to leave. I’ve rejected significant bids for Jansen, Guodbjartsson, Calatayud, Sarue and Martin. I’m not really in the habit of selling my best players.

Gereldao finally sees sense and withdraws his transfer request. The 19 year old leftback has started promisingly, so much so that longterm Oldham player Logan Pye was allowed to leave in this window.

I’m also receiving fairly significant bids for the other left-back Louie Gard and have rejected £48m for the £32m valued player. With no suitable back-up, he’s definitely not going for cheap.

Arsenal (h) - Not the game I could have done with given the start we’ve had but I’m hoping home advantage and the crowd help us out here. Just as it looked like we were going to hold on to an admittedly improbable win, their main man pops up to peg us back. He just keeps delivering against us.

The Carabao Cup pitches us away to Premier League opposition in the shape of West Ham. tough draw.

Having won the Euro Cup II last season, the Euro Cup proper might present a far tougher challenge. We’re 3rd seeds for the group stage draw:

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That definitely could have been tougher.

For the first time since I’ve been here, I think, the board have made it very clear that they are willing to listen to any offers for the club.

Everton (a) - Some players return, Joshua hasn’t impressed and is dropped and Curtis stays in as both Drzaic & Krawiec pick up injuries. I lost patience with the team on about 70 minutes and pushed the nuclear button, bringing on two attacking options and going all out attack...and how it paid off. Hopefully we can kick on off the back of that result.


Aaron Wilson, who got the first on our comeback against Everton, is one of my longest serving players and that was his 201st league game for the club (233 overall). At just 26, he’ll be around for a few years yet and, as that game proves, can be a gamechanger when needed.

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And actually, he will be needed as Stewart is ruled out for 3 weeks.


The transfer window closes with not a lot of incoming business. Manneh is the world-class central midfielder who comes in first team ready. Both Payne and Schulz have been brought in to sit in the U18s, gain homegrown status and develop into first team players.

Only 5 players have left permanently, but Bernat has a hefty loan fee and a mandatory fee of £15m after 20 games. That will be less than he’s valued at, but given he was picked up on a free, I’ll take it. Lots of players going out for first team loan experience and a couple could be good enough for the first team squad next year.

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That Everton result makes the table look a lot better than it would have done otherwise.

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September 2033

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2 Oldham players - Geraldao & Sarue - are in the young player of the month top 3. More good work from the youngsters there.

Now that the transfer window has closed, I can look at renewing some contracts. Guobjartsson & Mulenda’s contracts are extended. Calatayud signs a new contract, taking him up to £75k a week.

Chelsea (a) - The games just don’t get easier. Jansen hasn’t been up to his usual high standards so is replaced by Alvarez, Drzaic replaces Curtis and Wilson comes in for the injured Stewart. The less said about that game, the better - Chelsea just tore us apart.

FC Tambov (h) Euro Cup Gp H - In theory, our easiest game of the group so a win is required to get us off to a decent start. Whilst we do get the win, that was hardly the most convincing performance and it took Jansen coming off the bench to seal it. Wilson was the best player on the pitch with a fine free-kick and glorious assist.

Manchester City (a) - Despite putting the barricades up and starting with a defensive outlook, we end up on the losing side, despite a valiant effort. Frustratingly, both goals were easily avoidable - Haaland scored unmarked from a corner, then a very poor crossfield pass is intercepted.


Curtis’s injury rules him out for 3 weeks.

West Ham (a) Carabao Cup 3rd Round - I’m not sure if the cup game is a welcome respite from the league, and particularly the opposition we’ve had to face, or an unnecessary distraction. Lots of changes, including McFarlane coming in and Parker starting up top. As it happens, Parker has his best game in an Oldham shirt and Geraldao gets his first for the club. No-one likes penalties unless you win.

The scheduling gods have been slightly kinder with the 4th round draw as he face up against league 1 side Nottingham Forest next month.

Sheffield United (h) - The toughest decision is who to start with up top, but we go with Jansen. Poor recent form forces a mentality change, but Krawiec returns from his injury and starts as Antonio has to deputise at left-back with Geraldao struggling with match load fitness. For a long time we struggled to make the breakthrough but when we did, it was Sarue who pulled the strings.

Rangers (h) Euro Cup Gp H - Rangers drew the first game with Eintracht, so this is the perfect opportunity to take control of the group and put some distance between us. And we do, in some style. The more patient approach means we dominate possession and the chances. Both Geraldao and Krawiec pick up a goal and assist each.


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Spurs are really struggling so far this year and their £151m in transfer fees has not helped them.

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October 2033

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West Brom (a) - Krawiec’s performance against Rangers and Curtis’s continued absence means he’s in. Jansen returns as does Stewart. For such a reputation, Manneh has failed to impress so far, so Owolabi is in for him. That was the very definition of a game of two halves. Got absolutely battered first half and Martin is the only reason it was goalless at half time, massively changed things in the second and Jansen reaped the rewards.

Sarue is capped by Argentina manager Pellegrini and makes his debut. Oldham have an Argentina International in their squad!!

My leading International players are:

Aaron Wilson - Northern Ireland - 49 caps (19 goals)

Stefan Drzaic - Serbia - 48 caps (8 goals)

Ousman Manneh - Belgium (39 caps) but not played for 2 years.

Hamidou Owolabi - Niger- 38 caps (1 goal)

Cesar Lopez - USA - 27 caps (2 goals)

Trausti Guobjartsson - Iceland - 20 caps (1 goal)

Maciej Krawiec - Poland - 11 caps (1 goal)

Ian Stewart - Scotland - 4 caps

Matias Sarue - Argentina - 1 cap

No English caps yet but Joshua & Parker both have U21 caps and I have 2 youngsters in the U19 squad….it will come.

And Wilson becomes just the second player in 14 seasons to get into double figures for his country in a year, with 5 goals against Kazakhstan. He’s closing in on Northern Irelands all time record of 36 held by David Healy.

Brighton (h) - Sarue and Geraldao miss out through a lack of fitness so Sangalli, who hasn’t featured much this season comes in and Antonio resumes at left-back as Gard is still a longterm absentee. Krawiec pops up with a rare goal from a free-kick, just as the game looks like it’s petering out to a draw. We were fortunate to get the full 3 points there.

Eintracht Frankfurt Euro Cup Gp H - In theory, our toughest game of the group stage but they’ve not been in great form, drawing both their openers. Alvare leads the line, MacFarlane is injured...again...and Curtis is finally back on the subs bench. Joshua scores the goal of the game with a 25 yard howitzer off the top of the post and after that we absorbed everything they had. A great away result.

Watford (a) - Joshua retains his place, Jansen returns and Drzaic in too. He has some work to do to convince me he is worth keeping around, especially as we have a couple of decent prospects in the U23s. That was all very neat and tidy but with no cutting edge. Poor result.

Nottingham Forest (a) Carabao Cup 4th Round - McFarlane starts in goal, as per usual for the cup games and a couple of other changes are made but we’re hampered by injuries and Antonio has to a job at left-back again. We are so inconsistent and the scoreline doesn’t reflect the one-sided nature of that game. If Parker was more composed, he could have scored 5 in normal time but it comes down to the lottery of penalties and we don’t do those terribly well.

West Ham (h) - We had 35% possession, 3 shots on target to their 9 and were comprehensively outplayed in parts, so that must go down as the scrappiest of scrappy wins, but a win it was and a very important 3 points.


Drzaic is enjoying a bit of a run in the first team and that’s a goal and 2 assists in his last 3 games. The one-time wonderkid was never likely to develop fully here, but he has turned into a pretty good player and a good option whilst Krawiec is struggling to find fitness to play consecutive games.

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That West Ham result makes the table look a bit better, but with 6th to 13th so tightly positioned, any single result has quite an impact.

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November 2033

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Geraldao & Joshua come 2nd and 3rd in the young player of the month award for October.

Eintracht Frankfurt (h) Euro Cup Gp H - Parker leads the line, Krawiec comes in and after a long layoff, Gard finally finds the bench. McFarlane is the cup keeper, so has his chance to impress. The better chances probably just fell to us, but Stewart can’t head the ball, Psarianos can’t shoot with power and, seemingly, Alvarez needs some 1 on 1 finishing practice.

In the grand scheme of things, that’s not a terrible result, but leaves us with 2 away games and means Tambov, up next, is critical before we go to Ibrox.

Liverpool (h) - Liverpool’s scout report: ‘They will be tough to beat’. Well, no **** Sherlock...I could have told you that. They were tough to beat, but we gave a very good account of ourselves and shouldn’t be too disheartened.

Jansen seems to alternate between his good scoring seasons, and his record reads 10, 20, 27, 8, 31 and, so far, 4.

700 games up.

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Spurs (a) - Spurs sack Diego Simeone on the eve of this game, although I’m not sure who that gives the advantage to and it’s a very rare unchanged starting 11 to start this game. That was a very eventful game, but it didn’t really start going our way until supersub Alvarez comes on with 20 minutes left.

Louie Gard, who is one of my left-backs has a horrendous injury record and has only played 4 of the last 20 games. He’s currently valued at £34m and wanted by Wolves, so we could be looking to offload him in place of someone who can be available more often. Thankfully, having picked up Geraldao on a free, we do have very good options there, so it’s not urgent.

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FC Tambov (a) Euro Cup Gp H - Tambov are the minnows of the group, but away to Russia presents it’s own challenges. Back-up CB’s Lopez & Mulenda get a chance to star, along with Parker up top. This is a rotated team, but it’s still a strong one and it does the job.. Parker didn’t get on the scoresheet but he ran the defence ragged. At 6ft6, decent heading and good jumping reach, Lopez really should score more from set-pieces.

Fulham (a) - After his Spurs heroics and a week off, Alvarez gets the nod ahead of Jansen against the bottom placed team. Despite this, that was turning into one of the dullest 1-0 victories I’ve ever had the misfortune to sit through until the game sparked to life in injury time. Jansen proves perhaps he is the first choice after all as he rescues the points.


FA Cup 3rd round...and we welcome Bournemouth to, hopefully, a newly expanded Boundary Park.

Manchester United (h) - I was hoping to have mostly an unchanged side, but Krawiec, Joshua and Stewart all struggle with their fitness. Jansen’s reward for a last minute goal is a start. A bit of a meh first half, but the tempo and passing length increased for the second half and it paid off enough to get a goal back, but in the end their quality came through.

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Qualification guaranteed to the knock-out stages which is good to see and means we can rest some players in the final game.

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December 2033

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Joshua picks up another young player of the month top 3 award - that’s two months in a row for him.

Having spent a couple of months looking round the transfer market for viable options, it is impossible to get anything like value for money and the English player premium is well and truly in place. We desperately need to improve our home-grown & club-grown quota but the money being requested is making it impossible to bring these players in.

I don’t have any 5* potential players in the U23s/U18s but do have perhaps 2 or 3 prospects for each position at the moment, so buying new players isn’t a priority. If I get to bring in any genuinely world class player at any point though, that would be nice.

Southampton (a) - The increased tempo and passing is retained although a couple of players have to miss out as a result of a lack of fitness. I absolutely hate games like that as we weren’t in it for long spells of the game and it needed tactical tweaks for almost 90 minutes. Kudos to the lads though - they did not stop ad got their rewards.

Rangers (a) Euro Cup Gp H - Final game of the group, top of the pile already confirmed so chance here to rotate and to tell them to enjoy themselves but it almost horribly backfires until a Churchillian halftime speech. Parker & Mulenda rather dug us out of a hole there.


Joshua breaks a jaw in training, which is annoying as he was having a reasonable run of form. We do have Psarianos & Sangalli who can cover, but that’s not ideal. Squad game.

Birmingham City (a) - Due to an administrative error naming the squads, McFarlane starts a very rare league game. Moving Jansen to a poacher role stretched the play enough to ensure that he had a couple of clear one on ones and made the most of both of them.

Mulenda makes the most of his starts as well. He’s not played as often this season, but does a job when he comes in. He’s made 117 league appearances, scored 15 goals and is my captain and a team leader….and all for a bargain £5.75m.

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Bit of a varied report for the youth there.

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Boundary Park is finally extended and we’re up to 25,000 seats. There are also rumours of a takeover consortium doing the rounds… I’m asking for another expansion or a new stadium the next chance I get.

Turns it isn’t just a rumour….and I may not get the chance to ask for an expansion after all.

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Burnley (a) - Oh, this is one of those games. Obviously, since Muliattieri hasn’t even started for Burnley this season, let alone score, it is he who does the damage as he latches on to two over the top clearances. Not impressed with that.

Bournemouth (h) FA Cup 3rd Round - A fairly routine win over the lower league opposition but it took a while to get started and wasn’t quite as emphatic as it could have been. Sarue’s was a goal of the season contender though as he volleys a long crossfield pass first time in off the post from about 25 yards. He won’t score a better one than that.


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January 2034

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That is a lot of games.

Two signings were made quite a long time ago, but are only old enough to move now. Toprak is being retrained to become a defensive central midfielder and MacKenzie will be a striker. Both are put in the U18s and probably won’t be loaned out so they can gain club-grown status.

Left-back Louie Gard is subject to a £30m bid from Man City. His injury proneness means I’m happy let him go, but I can’t sign a replacement due to the transfer embargo...so this is rejected.

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I’ve also had U23 prospects Cortinhas and Hermes Miranda return from their loan spells. Cortinhas’s value has risen to £7m, Miranda’s to £42m so if I can offload Miranda that would be ideal and would give us a bit in the kitty.

There isn’t as much transfer interest this year as there has been previously in my players, but Lopez & Curtis are both wanted. I have 5 players (Curtis, Sarue, Joshua, Psarianos and Sangalli) all competing for the 4 central midfield roles, so one could be allowed to leave. Curtis is valued at £54m...but is homegrown.

Man City come back with a £38m bid for Gard.

Wolverhampton Wanderers (h) - It’s a bit of a back to basics approach as we strip back a lot of the team instructions to make it simple. I don’t know whether that’s the reason, or it’s just a coincidence but it has the desired effect as we comfortably dispatch Wolves. Krawiec grabs a hat-trick of assists and Jansen’s good recent form continues.

And in front a full house in our expanded 25,000 seat stadium.

Arsenal (a) - This could be a far tougher proposition though, but the Gunners are struggling in 11th this season and we find ourselves ahead of them in the table. Just one enforced chance as Psarianos comes in for Sangalli. They had a lot of shots, but mostly from distance which didn’t cause problems, but were dangerous when they got closer. We did very well to come back twice to get a point there.

Gard must be wary as he puts in a performance and produces both assists for the Arsenal game.

The proposed takeover collapses, but the board intention is still to sell as soon as possible.

Leicester City (h) - Some change are needed as we have a lot of games this week and 6 members of the first team squad aren’t fit enough. Sangalli has to deputise at right-back. We just about edged a pretty even game there. Sarue missed a chance that was easier to score than miss just before Drzaic scores after some 6 yard pinball.


Everton (h) - We kept possession well, knocked the ball around very nicely and looked good doing it but didn’t record a single shot on target which was a bit depressing. I’m hoping that was a one-off, but we haven’t looked terribly impressive in recent games which may mean some tweaking.

Bristol City (h) FA Cup 4th Round - We do make a couple of tactical tweaks, but it’s the same faces for the cup. Parker forces an own goal but despite 72% possession, 21 shots, 12 on target, 95% pass completion and an xG of nearly 3...that is all we manage.


We reject further bids for Calatayud, Mulenda and, for a first time, Joshua...all from Beijing. Weird.

Thanks to that uninspiring Bristol City win in the cup, we are drawn at home to West Ham in the 5th Round which is as far as we’ve ever been.

Beijing offer a massive £85m for Calatayud. I do consider this, but it’s a no.

And we end the month facing the teams in 1st and 2nd in consecutive games.

Chelsea (a) - A slightly weaker team than usual given that there are a lot of knackered players due to the number of games played and they put in a valiant effort. 2 goals from set-pieces and we were far better than the 4 goals conceded suggests.

Manchester City (h) - Not really the game I would have asked for after the Chelsea result. They blitzed us in the opening 20 minutes with 4 goals from 4 efforts on target and we never recovered. Wilson was clinical to get his 2 goals though.


A team meeting to try and recover morale seems to go okay.

The transfer window has been a bit of an odd one - there is no-one out there interested in a move, for any sensible transfer fee, who will significantly improve the first team, so clearly our reputation needs to be improved.

Jens Jansen and Alvarez have been competing for the strikers spot and, more often than not, it’s Jansen who has delivered. For 6 seasons he’s been our main threat - although struggling this time round - and is the player I’m looking to break some Oldham records. So far, 107 league goals in 182 games.

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Very little January business done. Those 2 youngster in at the beginning of the month and two loans out...with Mirandes having a mandatory fee of £30m after 5 games, which is perfect.

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February 2034

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Sheffield United (a) - They are struggling and sit bottom of the league so this as good a game as any to come back to after the last two games last month. Alvarez has to replace Jansen, who is in poor form, and given the number of goals we’ve conceded recently, the formation is tweaked to include a defensive midfielder with 2 central midfielders in front. It didn’t help us concede fewer goals but we got the win regardless and Alvarez did the job he was brought in to do.

The next couple of home games might give a better indication as to whether this is a structure we should keep.

Bournemouth (h) - Last month was first and second in consecutive games - this month it’s 20th and 19th. Hmnnnn… As it happens, Calatayud does most of the hard work as he scores twice from a corner and then blows his hat-trick opportunity. That was a pretty tough well fought win.

West Brom (h) - We have a surprisingly poor record against West Brom and Amat is our tormentor in chief this time round as he consistently terrorises the defence. Stewart finishes off a fine team move to get his 9th goal of the season but the second half is a battle as we struggle to contain them.


First choice keeper Daniel Martin has regularly been one of our top performers since signing for £22m from Sporting Gijon. He hasn’t kept as many clean sheets as usual this season, but overall we haven’t been as consistent. 136 league games and counting.

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Having faced Scottish opposition in the group stages, we get to do it again as the 2nd round pitches us against Celtic. Away in the first leg.

Brighton (a) - The injury list of Krawiec, Lopez, Sangalli and Geraldao means this isn’t as straightforward as it might have been. Despite this, we put in a pretty good - although slightly toothless - performance until I make some changes to win it in the last 10 minutes, which backfires somewhat.

West Ham (h) FA Cup 5th Round - Almost entire rotation again and a slight formation tweak to get the best out of Parker, putting him out on the left hand side where he has a very good game and didn’t really deserve to be on the losing side. We were unlucky with 2 goals ruled out through VAR and that was a good opportunity to progress.


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Our league form has dropped off a cliff a little bit as we have recorded just 2 wins in the final 7 games which is frustrating.

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March 2034

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Watford (h) - Wow. we are really struggling to put a run of anything together at the moment. Martin gets another deserved man of the match award, but we were somewhat lucky to get away with a draw there. Didn’t keep the ball or create anything which is somewhat worrying.

Krawiec declares English nationality which helps me out with the foreigner rule for the Premier League and brings me down to 14 with a limit of 17. It takes 5 years to do this and I have a number of other players who will also qualify for this, if they take it.

Celtic (a) European Cup 2nd Round 1st leg - An away first leg and given how uncreative and threatening we’ve been recently, I’m a bit apprehensive about this one. That was a narrow win, an unlikely opening goalscorer and a bit of a topsy turvy game, but overall we probably just scraped deserving that win. Parker was very good and Psarianos - whose future is doubt as we look to better players - also had a very good game.

Both the quarter and semi finals are drawn in one go which just shows the quality of the teams left in the tournament. If we beat Celtic, it’s Monaco or Napoli next...that is tough.

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Rumours of another take-over as the board are looking to sell the club as soon as possible, although it is about the third time I’ve seen this.

West Ham (a) - Some players have to return as it’s not been that long since the Celtic game and the squad are struggling with fitness. Neither Alvarez or Jansen has been in great form, but Alvarez gets the nod to start although he does very little to convince me he should be first choice. Losing as late as that is a bit gutting.

Celtic (h) European Cup 2nd Round 2nd leg - A narrow lead from the first leg puts us in a good position but we need to finish the job, so a strong team is chosen. Neither Curtis or Jansen have been in good form but I give both a morale boost before the game to try and get the best out of them for this. They went for a far more defensive approach than the first leg but the high line does not help them and Jansen takes full advantage.


That would be a great result to build momentum off the back of, but frustratingly there’s a 2 week international break. 22 players are called up.

Napoli in the quarter finals of the European Cup….yup, QUARTER-FRICKIN-FINALS boys.

Paul Curtis was one of my first big signings and he performed like it in the first couple of seasons, but has been disappointing this year. He’s fighting with Parker and Drzaic for the AP role just behind the striker and could be sacrificed if a significant bid came in as we have the cover.

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And more takeover rumours...come on board, just get it done (but keep me in a job please…)

The youth intake looks reasonable, but probably just the 3 players who may get anywhere near the first team if I’m lucky.

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Jansen takes up British citizenship too and with him being club-grown as well, that makes him one of my most valuable players in terms of registration status AND he finally makes his International debut.

Parker also plays games over the International break meaning we have an England International in the squad. The only player who scores is Aaron Wilson who gets his 27th...edging nearer David Healy’s record.

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April 2034

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Fulham (h) - A bit of a tactical tweak does wonders as Curtis’s role is changed from Carrilero to Mezzala on on attack, Parker plays in an off-centre inside forward and both rip Fulham apart. Curtis gets 2 assists to add to his 2 goals and is outstanding whilst Parker is a constant threat. We weren’t as solid defensively as we could have been, but Fulham did only have 3 shots on target…

Every home game since the ground was expanded has been at its 25,000 capacity which is good to see...keeps the bank balance turning over.

Napoli (h) European Cup quarter final 1st Leg - This is a step up and serious European opposition and my strongest possible team is played. Napoli played a really open game and at times seemed to just allow my attacking players Jansen, Parker and, particularly, Stewart free runs in on goal. Stewart got 2 assists to add to his goal and was comfortably the difference.

Another player who was excellent and has been all season is my American centre-back Cesar Lopez. Since being picked up on a free, he’s mostly played cup games but with Harwood-Bellis now 32, he’s likely to start coming into his own and will get more games.
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The scheduling gods have been unkind here as we play 2 games in 3 days, with the second that crucial second leg of the European Cup and then followed by league topping Man Utd & Liverpool.

Spurs are struggling in 18th so a slightly weakened team may be enough, or I could save the more defensive players for the Napoli leg.

Spurs (h) - It is a massively rotated team and they do the job in the most one-sided 1-0 result I have seen for a very long time. Spurs recorded no shots on target and looked bereft of confidence, which we really should have exploited. Sarue got a fine goal but the performance deserved more goals.

Napoli (a) European Cup quarter final 2nd leg - With a good lead to defend, it’s an all out defensive 4-5-1 for this one and we played pretty much the perfect away counter-attacking performance after conceding the early goal. Soaked up the pressure, sprung quickly and scored twice from set-pieces.


We’re playing with the really big boys now though and it’s Atletico Madrid in the semi’s.

Manchester United (a) - We put in a valiant effort there, but just don’t have the 300k a week £82m quality to match theirs. Conceding 2 in injury time was not part of the plan though, that was disappointing and hardly reflective of the overall performance.


FFS...these games don’t get easier…

And the consortium are back for another attempt at a takeover.

Liverpool (a) - There are too many games this month and it’s starting to show as some players are looking jaded, including Calatayud & Krawiec who don’t make the starting 11. The players who are left put in another game performance but it’s a struggle to produce anything of note despite, this time round, having some chances….too many of which fell to the wrong players.

Birmingham (h) - This is a weird game...Birmingham, struggling in 18th between United, Liverpool and Atletico Madrid and has to be a welcome distraction from the semi-finals. It was hardly our most complete performance of the season, but it was enough to put three points on the board as Jansen scores a penalty and Krawiec runs the entire length of the pitch to get the first.


Alvarez’s injury - a torn thigh muscle - rules him out for the rest of the season. Parker can deputise up top, but I am going to bring in 18 year old Schulz from the U18s for the final few games for the experience.

Atletico Madrid (h) European Cup Semi-Final 1st leg - Right. The strongest possible team is put out, including Martin in goal, Calatayud at the back and Joshua, Parker and - necessarily - Jansen up top. Two early goals and we held our own until a very late away goal which may be a deciding factor in the second leg.

Burnley (h) - A lot of players are wrapped in cotton wool for the second semi-final leg so its almost a second string starting 11, with Schulz making his debut. There’s still quality and goalscoring potential on the pitch though. Burnley had chance after chance to score but either they couldn’t beat McFarlane, who was in inspired form, or couldn’t hit a barn door.


Schulz, however, will get the headlines after a brace, having thrown him in really just to save Jansen for the European game and his second, a chip from outside the box, was a thing of beauty.

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May 2034

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The board takeover is finally complete and they seem intent on building the youth including having the best youth system in the world!!! Wow...that is a big call. And, they commit to building a new stadium…

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It’s like it’s Christmas or something as they really splash out and give me an upped transfer budget of £73m, most of which I go and spend on a longterm target before they change their minds.

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Nice had previously demanded £168m for the youngster, so £35m up front, + 15m in 3 instalments, £6m after 50 games and £6m after 1 International appearance feels like a pretty good deal. If he’s good enough to play 50 games for us and get capped by France, those add-ons will look like excellent business.

Atletico Madrid (a) European Cup Semi-Final 2nd leg - A very narrow lead from the first leg, our best players returning and this is probably the biggest match of my management. We gave that a really good go and matched Atletico for periods of the game without really looking as threatening as we should have been. Difficult to be disappointed with that though - a very good effort.

Unless Wolves, in 6th, have a spectacular implosion - they’re 5 points ahead with 2 games left - and we’re flawless, that will be that for European football for the time being.

Southampton (a) - I feel like I should make lots of changes for this one, but I don’t so it’s a very familiar looking starting line-up. Perhaps I should have done as that is a very tepid affair and we don’t threaten at all. I’m just filing that result in the cabinet titled ‘instantly forgettable’.

Bournemouth (a) - The final game of the season, and it’s against an already relegated Bournemouth, but with no win in 5 away games, nothing is being taken for granted. Although, it looks like we’re all on our holidays already. We concede 4 headed goals from corners, have just 35% possession and seemingly show no interest in defending. We definitely saved the worst until last - that was an awful outing. Fuming.


Such a poor end to the season as we only win 1 of our final 10 away games and we need to do a lot better away from Boundary Park.

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Manchester City wrangle the title away from Man Utd as it swaps across the city again - those 2 have won the last 11 seasons between them. The board did expect mid-table, so I suppose they should be happy enough with that.

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In addition, Arsenal beat our victors, Atletico Madrid, in the European Cup final and a Jurgen Klopp managed Barcelona defeat Inter Milan in the Champions League.
 

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May 2034 (cont'd)​

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In all competitions, Jansen leads the goalscorers with 20, Krawiec topped the assists with 10 and Martin the average rating.

GOALKEEPERS:

Daniel Martin - My main number 1 keeper in the league and although this season hasn’t been his best - down on clean sheets, up on goals conceded and down with player of the match awards, he is a key reason we are able to be consistently mid-table.
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David McFarlane - My ‘cup’ goalkeeper, although he’s smuggled in some appearances in the league. He’s always been happy to be back-up, but has played his last game for the club as we look to promote one of the U23 keepers to the first team. For the £55k he cost - a bargain.
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LEFT-BACKS:

Geraldao
- Considering he was signed on a free with the specific intention of selling on, the Brazilian left back - now worth £20m - has forced his way to first choice player. Only 19 and will be club-grown in a couple of years, he will be kept around.
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Louie Gard - He is seriously injury-prone, mostly with minor knocks, and this has meant that Geraldao has gone ahead of him in the pecking order although the 28 year old is a useful rotation option. Inter are interested in him and were they to offer much above his £33m value, it might be tough to turn down.
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CENTRE-BACKS:

Alex Calatayud
- First choice centre-back and set-piece threat. Easily the most important £20m I’ve spent and, at just 26, plenty of gametime ahead of him. Huge player in the dressing room and in the mentoring groups, so it is a concern he thinks he should be looking to play at a higher level, although there are no clubs interested...yet.
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Cesar Lopez - The second centre-back spot has been up for grabs, but it’s Lopez who has performed best when selected. He’s good in the air and should score more from set-pieces but is also usually the master of the last-ditch tackle. Considering he was picked up on a free, he’s worked his way into contention.
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Taylor Harwood-Bellis - Another player who has been plagued by injuries when, really, at 32 should be in his defensive prime. He made fewer appearances this season in the league than any of his previous 3 and has been inconsistent, but will be kept around for the duration of his contract - another 2 years.
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Friedrich Mulenda - Regardless of how many games he’s played this season, the £5.75m signing has proved inspired since signing. In total, it’s 125 league games and he’s still 28, if he’s willing to be a rotation option, he is a strong rotation option and very much worth keeping around.
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RIGHT BACKS:

Jose Antonio
- Right-back is a position where we are very well catered for with both Antonio & Gudbartsson young and talented. The £1.9m spent on Antonio looks like an absolute bargain when you consider he’s now played almost 100 premier league games.
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Trausti Gudbartsson - The other right-back, also 24 and Icelandic International and another player that was picked up for a pittance £150k. He is probably the slightly better defensively of the two, meaning that his stats aren’t quite as good...particularly in relation to assists...he has had more in every other previous season.
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CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS:

Matias Sarue
- The Argentine International has typically played on the left of the middle three as a Carrilero or, more latterly, a Mezzala. Another who has benefitted from the fine youth recruitment programme we have in place - signed at the age of 19 for £10m, now 22 and worth £45m and one of our best players. There are questions about his versatility though.
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Hamidou Owolabi - Is exclusively one of the defensive central midfielders, rotating with Manneh. Another who has been with us for 3 seasons and looks very much at home. His stamina, strength, work-rate and defensive nous make him an ideal choice.
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Joshua - The Spanish born (hence singularly monikered ‘Joshua’) player has been slightly disappointing this season and we haven’t got the output I would have liked. He is one of, if not the best passers in the team and has good composure levels, but at the age of 21, he is only going to get better. The £45m spent on him does not look a waste...yet but he could do with scoring more.
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Ousmane Manneh - Mennah has rotated the defensive role with Owolabi, but has been disappointing as he was signed as a world-class player...and paid accordingly. I’m hoping this was just a lull of a first season, but as he’s only got 1 year left on his contract anyway he needs to improve to stay.
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Paul Curtis - Curtis is one of our best advanced playmakers, but has not been able to play there as we’ve looked to solidify the team generally, so the left-footed player has been swapping with Sarue. This is a key summer window as he doesn’t really fit into our tactics and were his £55m value to be met, it would be tough to turn down.
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Lazarus Psarianos - The German was bought into the first team as a 19 year old, having gained club-grown status. Unfortunately, other than the sporadic very good game here and there, he’s not really been consistent enough. His ‘tries killer balls’ and ‘hits first time passes’ traits are not utilised enough. Unlikely to be here next season.
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Ibon Sangalli - Another player with a long list of injuries, but could be the natural heir to Manneh when he leaves. Very high teamwork, work rate and stamina are perfect for the central midfield role. At 23 he has plenty of seasons to give us yet. He should be playing more for us.
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ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS:

Ian Stewart
- The attacking midfielder is the second highest scorer in the team and his knack of arriving late in the box contributes significantly to this. Scottish International, very good player and definitely worth keeping around.
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Aaron Wilson - Wilson is the player who has most frequently rotated with Stewart to be the AM behind the lone striker. He’s got a lot of games under his belt - 221 league - for us and although not the most prolific, is a very good stand in option. Is, however, prolific at International level for Northern Ireland.
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Barrington Parker - It was only in the second half of the season when the tactic was tweaked to allow Parker a role that gave him more freedom and we started to see the better of him. His stats don’t really reflect that, but I’m confident he can grow into this - he is only 19 after all. Our only England International.
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Maciej Krawiec - Krawiec is one of 3 players trying to fit into the AML inside forward role, but he has had a good season, particularly on the assists front. He’s taken set-pieces, from which we’re always a threat, and his delivery is usually good. Is unlikely to be going anywhere, unless we have a too goood to refuse offer.
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Stefan Drzaic - Drzaic is the player who is most at risk as 3 players don’t fit into the two roles - first choice and back-up - but he is capable of doing a job and, if he was playing regularly, could probably produce better numbers. Valued at £25m...if a decent bid comes in…
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STRIKERS:

Jens Jansen
- Usually first choice in the league and reached double figures for his 5th season in 6. He didn’t anywhere near the 31 league goals he got last time round, but has led the line admirably and can usually be relied on to be clinical...if his morale is up. Going nowhere.
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Guillermo Alvarez - Another player signed on a free with the intention of selling on, but was so prolific in his cup games has been kept around. Has spent more time on the physios bench this season, so hasn’t had the gametime, but can be clinical in front of goal. Another player who seems happy to be back-up, so is ideal, but I need to be careful he doesn’t block any youngsters progress.
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Also...honourable mention to Niils Schulz who came in from the under 18’s for a few games while Alvarez was injured and scored twice on his debut.
 
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June-July 2034


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With McFarlane’s contract expiring, it’s a bit of a toss up between Broad and Marsella as to who will be back-up next season. 22 year old Broad kept 16 clean sheets in the Championship last season - the second highest in the league. 19 year old Marsella has the potential to be first team but could do with another year or 2 on loan.

Kinsella is unlikely to ever be good enough to make the first team so will be transfer listed.
Lawson really needed first team football this season...his future is in doubt as well as he’s not going to be good enough to usurp Wilson or Stewart in the AM role.
Cortinhas - now valued at £10m - doesn’t fit the team structure and hasn’t taken to being retrained. Another loan could see that value rise even higher.
Helm’s contract expires this summer and won’t be renewed. 302 league games.
Both Miranda and Bernat were loaned out with mandatory future purchase fees. £45m between the two of them which is great business.
Greening has been excellent on loan and could do with more first team football.
Maguire is another that isn’t first team ready - more first team football would be beneficial.

The transfer window opens and we’ve moved early, bringing in £92m worth of talent.

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I was thinking that only Rousseau will be in the first team straight away but Thiry comes in and is our best striker, at just 18 and may force me into a rethink.

As ever, there’s a lot of transfer interest in my players but I’m waiting until 1st July to see how the land lies so we end up rejecting A LOT of bids:

Gudbartsson - £49.5m - Arsenal

Schulz (U23) - £8m - Everton / £6m, £15m - Watford / £6m - Liverpool / £7.5m Mainz / £6.5m Chelsea

Eugenio (U23) - £12m - Watford

Ismael (U18) - £5m - Liverpool / £4.7m Porto /

Payne (U18) - £2.5m, £2.9m, £3.9m - Norwich / £2.3m, £3.4m C Palace /

Curtis - £37m - Brighton / £52m, £69m - Southampton /

Gard - £26m, £32.5m, £35m - Brighton

Antonio - £26.5m - Brighton / £37m - Leipzig /

Owolabi - £32m - Brighton

Broad - £475k, £750k - Spurs / £600k, £1m - Middlesbrough / £600k - Sheff Utd.

Luiz (U23) - £13m - Chelsea /

Is there something about keeper Matthew Broad that I don’t know? For a back-up keeper, he is seriously in demand.

World Cup Performances:
The World Cup squads are named and 6 Oldham players feature:

Cesar Lopez - USA
Barrington Parker - England
Aaron Wilson - Northern Ireland
Maciej Krawiec - Poland
Stefan Drzaic - Serbia
Matias Sarue - Argentina.

Group Stages:

Krawiec scores in Poland’s group win over Barbados but Wilson’s Northern Ireland fail to make it out of the group stage without troubling the goals scored column.

2nd Round:

Poland then go out in the second round, eliminated by Italy.

Drzaic scores in Serbia’s second round draw with Mexico, but they lose on penalties.

Sarue’s Argentina are knocked out in the second round by Algeria.

Cesar Lopez stars in the USA’s win against Japan.

Parker helps England to a 3-1 victory over Morocco.

3rd Round:

The States then lose to Spain on penalties after a goal-less 120 minutes. Lopez is out.

England beat Peru in extra time but Parker doesn’t play.


Quarter Final.

More South American opposition are swept aside as Chile are beaten by England, albeit without Parker again.

Semi-Final

It’s Portugal next and England beat them - injury time again.

World Cup Final

It’s England vs Spain and England pull a 3-2 victory out of the bag, after going 2-0 down although Parker was an unused substitute.


Right-back Antonio & centre-back Mulenda both take up British citizenship...which helps with the Premier league registration limits.

After 6 seasons of mostly cup appearances, McFarlane is released.

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As is Mark Helm. He played far more games and came up the leagues with us from League 1. A club legend as far as I’m concerned.

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Broad is promoted to the first team from the U23s to replace McFarlane and I’m ruthless, transfer listing Drzaic, Manneh, Alvarez and Psarianos as we look to thin the first team squad.

Rousseau’s arrival meant that Psarianos’s gametime was going to be severely limited, so a move to Galatasaray is good business for everyone.

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And Thiry’s arrival probably meant that Drzaic was not going to play as often so the £25m bid from Salzburg is gladly accepted. He had some good moments in an Oldham shirt, but was not consistent enough. He could be a game changer somewhere like Salzburg though.

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August 2034
The pre-season friendly tour of China went well, although clearly it wasn’t the toughest of opposition and when the opposition did step up a notch, we struggled.

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So...as far as an opening set of fixtures go, I don’t think they could have made it harder if they’d have tried...oh, and Chelsea is the first game of next month.

Still more transfer interest - bids rejected for Schulz (he’s a popular lad) and despite being told he’s going to be in the first team this season, keeper Broad decides he wants a transfer request...which I grant. If he doesn’t want to be here, he can leave….which he does.

He is replaced in the first team by 19 year old Ismael - a Paraguayan International - who was signed for almost £6m from Espanyol a couple of seasons ago. He’ll get his fair share of rotation in the cups etc.

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We start the season with a bit of an injury list - Parker, Sangalli, Harwood-Bellis and new signing Rousseau all miss the opening few games.

Liverpool (a) - A defensive bank of 7 and not even counter-attacking, this is set up to be anti-football at its absolute worst. And we get battered in terms of possession, shots and chances...but it doesn’t matter as Krawiec has the game of his life, scoring one, assisting and a constant threat dribbling from deep. What a result that is, but it was not a pretty watch.


We get Rochdale in the Carabao Cup and we’re at home, which is nice.

Manchester United (h) - It’s the same tactics and formation as the Liverpool game, with just Gard replaced by Geraldao for fitness reasons and Curtis & Mulenda coming in. Despite having a far better game than we did against Liverpool, and creating better chances, we got caught out there. New signing Thiry did get on the pitch though.

Ibon Sangalli has been subject to some transfer interest and having rejected a few bids, we manage to up Southampton up a bid of £38m. With Rousseau coming in and Sangalli not versatile enough to play the defensive role, cashing in was the obvious choice. 83 league games and a lot of cup appearances and, importantly quite a big profit.

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Manchester City (a) - Parker is fit enough to return and replaces Krawiec. Sarue returns, Alvarez keeps the spot leading the line and Lopez comes back in at centre-back. We’re sticking with full on defensive but we are helped out with the absence of Haaland. We repel attack after attack and should have got absolutely battered there, so to come away with just the 1-0 defeat is something.

Rochdale (h) Carabao Cup - Ismael makes his debut, Thiry starts and a number of players make first appearances of the season. It took a while to eventually put that to bed, but we never looked like losing it. We needed that after the run of league games.


Norwich await...

Transfer deadline day is interesting. We use the Sangalli money, and then some, to bring in Spanish central midfielder Rayco Duro for a record fee of £58m to, mainly, fill the mezzala role. This leaves Matias Sarue as slightly surplus to requirements, but he is more of a playmaker than we need in this position.

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In the same space, we also loan out Sarue to Lazio for the season so he can get some gametime.

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