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The Wannabe Journeyman’s Pipe Dream

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@MidKnightDreary Sold! All suggestions gratefully received.

Chapter 38 – McRobbed

August ‘22


A mixed month gets off to a good start with a 2 – 1 win at home to Stenhousemuir with a brace from Red Hot Currie – nice to see his form carrying over into the new campaign. I give some new signings a run out for the Caramel Cup tie against Hearts Reserves and the lack of match fitness tells as we slump to a 1 – 0 defeat. The next game is away to Albion Rovers and I put out a full strength side, hoping to bounce back with a win – straight defeats can be terrible for the fragile morale of the side.

albion rovers 2 - 1.jpg


How vexing. Daniel Farrell does well to get out of the way of Park’s first goal from a free kick, when most mortals would have been hit by a ball fired straight at them. Park’s second is a world class free kick, curled into the bottom corner from 25 yards. And that is all Albion Rovers did all game, while we squandered chance after chance.

Even more vexing is a bid from Falkirk for centre back Finn McRobb, probably my most reliable player and a rock at the back. Of course, Finn wants to go and I can’t persuade him to stick around, so end up accepting an offer of £7000. That is likely to be season ruining. Looks like I’m going back into the transfer market. I wonder where Jordan McGregor is. In the league, games don’t come much easier than at home to Elgin City.

2 -1 elgin win.jpg


Despite out-shooting them 21 shots to 2, we did manage to make it a tight game. These players have no killer instinct to finish off games that are begging to be put out of their misery. Nice to see McRobb putting in an excellent performance and bagging a goal in what is likely to be his last game for the club. Why are you doing this to me Finn? Take me with you to Falkirk!

bye bye then.jpg


Yeah, bye then! Keeper Daniel Farrell comes to tell me he’s worried that I thought it was OK to sell one of our best players. Some nerve on this guy. I haven’t got the strength to argue with him, so I reassure him McRobb will be replaced. May I introduce to you: Joe Shaughnessy.

joe shaughnessy.jpg


He doesn’t have the recovery speed of McRobb, but most of the time we defend so deep that’s not going to be an issue. He will hopefully bring some experience and a cool head to the back line. He is, astonishingly, valued at £89k. Probably more than the entire club is valued at. Let’s see what he can do as I throw him straight into the line-up for the final game of the month away to Montrose.

montrose 0 -1.jpg


It took 90 minutes and 25 shots, but we broke Montrose down in the end, with sub Sally McNally slotting in from a Johnston cross. A solid game from Shaughnessy who didn’t have a lot to do, but did commit a sensible foul to prevent a breakaway by Montrose. That’s the kind of cynical, canny mindset we need to kick our way out of this league.

Transfer deadline day sees an unusual flurry of activity. First, I receive unexpected bids for Umaro ‘Gary’ Balde from Falkirk and Dunfermline. I don’t really want to do more business this summer, but it’s not really worked out for Balde here – he has never found consistent form and it’s not clear what he brings to the team. He has established no partnerships in the team and with the team cohesion at ‘good’ I decide to take the risk and bring in someone with a clearer role. Farwell Gary and good luck.

There is also an insultingly low bid from Queen’s Park for winger ‘Wide Eyed’ Johnston. He’s been no better than average since he re-joined the club, but I know it will be difficult to secure even an average winger to replace him. I go back with an aggressively high counter proposal and Queen’s Park drop it. Hopefully that doesn’t unsettle him too much, God knows I can do without any of that this season.

As per usual, we finish the month in second place in the league.

aug 22 results.jpg


aug 22 table.jpg
 
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Chapter 39 – Surrounded By Morons

September ‘22


It’s the usual one-two in the awards for the month as Currie gets Young Player of the Month and I get Manager of the Month. It’s frankly an insult that none of these awards get me any closer to a job interview. I’m still applying for everything reasonable that comes up and getting nowhere because I’ve never got a team promoted.

In Annan news, just before our first game of the month I complete the signing of free agent Ben Gladwin, as a replacement for ‘Gary’ Balde.

ben gladwin.jpg


He can play across the midfield and like Shaughnessy will hopefully bring some experience and know-how to the team. He’s a more natural backup/competition for Wonka in the playmaker role and has the technique, if not the pace, to play on either wing. Like Shaughnessy he is also valued well above the average for an Annan player at £46.5k. Next closest is Tobias Hayles-Docherty at £3.7k. Gladwin starts on the bench for our first game of the month at home to Brechin City.

brechin bore draw.jpg


Another awful game of football produces the borest of draws. The game produced no highlights of any description for 70 minutes. Gladwin wore a look of bemusement as he wondered what exactly he’s signed himself up for. It’s not always this bad Ben. Not always. Remarkably that result is enough to move us top of the table. The league may be exceptionally weak this year.

Only 2 games this month, the second and last being away to East Fife (4th).

east fife 1-0.jpg


Creag Little ‘And Large’ has been having a poor start to the season, to the extent I thought his time might be up, but he played well here for 84 minutes before randomly tripping a man off the ball in the box as Shaughnessy cleared a harmless cross. Sally McNally missed a chance to equalise when he went one-on-one with the keeper 5 minutes later, just to make sure we lost the game. I am surrounded by morons.

We end the month where we always end the month. Permanently second best.

sept 22 table.jpg
 
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Chapter 40 – We’re Glad You’ve Come Along

October ‘22


The last time I targeted maximum points for the month it worked out beautifully. Therefore: This month I am targeting maximum points! We have 4 games to play, the first the most winnable of the bunch at home to bottom club (they always seem to be bottom) Stirling Albion.

stirling 2 - 0.jpg


Mooney had not scored in the league prior to this game and it’s traditional for him to have a long barren patch at some point in the season. If that’s it over then we’re looking good. A good win and a much better showing. Ojo continues to struggle at left back, but a good game from Little is encouraging and means Ojo is my only major concern form wise.

Once the transfer window is closed you can sometimes pick up higher quality players than previously as they drop their expectations. I spot one very interesting name at the top of the pile.

financial muscle.jpg


What are you saying about our financial muscle, pal? He’ll come around.

Our next fixture is away to Brechin in the Cup. No points available for that of course which really undermines the premise of Operation Maximum Points II and illustrates how poorly thought out the whole endeavour is. Never mind, I still demand a win.

brechin crushed.jpg


Brechin hammered by Annan! An outstanding away performance with Hayles-Docherty being the standout player. He came on as a sub to replace injured left winger John ‘Thomas’ Robertson and absolutely ran the game, cutting in from the left and causing Brechin no end of problems. If he keeps this form up, he will be un-droppable. I just need to come up with a nickname for him, because I don’t want to keep typing out Hayles-Docherty.

Third game of October is at home to Stranraer (4th) and I tell the players to carry on where you left off last match.

stranraer zero all.jpg


But they don’t. We generally waste at least one clear cut chance per game, but this time we manage to scuff three and hit the bar with a header from a corner. We’ve currently got the best goals against record in the league and the second worst goals for record. We’re creating chances:

chances created.jpg


But our strikers are just trying to wind me up:

conversion rate.jpg


Operation Maximum Points II might be in the bin, but I know what we’ll be practising in training ahead of the next game.

shoot you fools.jpg


Let’s see if it makes any difference for the final game of October away to recently relegated Peterhead (9th).

Before that though – what’s this, an invitation to Sutton written in what appears to be thick red ink on a bit of old parchment?

welcome sam.jpg


I’m not completely sure whether he said “we’re glad you’ve come along” or “we’re glad you’ve come alone”. Either way the use of ‘we’ is unsettling, as myself and Stewart appear to be the only people in the room. As is the fact we’re doing the interview in his house at midnight. I don’t know if he intends to hire me, seduce me or dismember and consume my remains. I nervously answer his questions, but I don’t think the fact I keep glancing over my shoulder at the door helps my case. At any rate, I make it out alive, so we’ll see.

Back to the grind. Come on lads it’s just a four and a half hour drive to Peterhead. Mooney, don’t forget to bring the travel Scrabble this time.

peterhead demolished.jpg


Much better – we only wasted one clear cut chance this time. A very one-sided game is made safe when Mooney comes off the bench to bag a brace. Peterhead may be the worst team I’ve ever managed a game against and that is a low bar to limbo under. Their club badge looks like it was made using clipart images in 1995. In short, they’re a stain on the league.

No prizes for guessing where we end the month.

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Chapter 41 – How Clean Are Your Sheets?

November ‘22


I have now been the manager of Annan Athletic for more than 800 days. It was not supposed to be like this. I try to gee myself up with the thought that Sutton Chairman Leon Stewart might just be weird enough to give me a job and that job may pay more than my current one.

The first game this month is away to Stenhousemuir (6th).

stenny nil nil.jpg


I have managed to cultivate a style of football that is simultaneously very dull and very frustrating. Mooney is the main culprit this game and misses 5 presentable chances. The result is enough to move us to within 1 point of top spot.

Another scroll arrives by raven, can only be from Stewart.

leon says no.jpg


That’s disappointing, but at least I can continue working without living in mortal fear.

Next up we’re at home to bogey team Albion Rovers (3rd). We hit post 3 times and finish with a shot count in our favour of 22 v 5 and scrape a 1 – 0 win. They say it’s not possible to win a war of attrition, but just watch me. That puts us top of the league and I intend to stay there at any cost. It also puts us on a 5 game unbeaten run as Wilson highlights.

5 unbeaten.jpg


the entertainers.jpg


Finn McRobb – who needs him? It’s a shame I never was able to field him and Shaughnessy, who is proving to be an outstanding replacement and snuffs out so many attacks before they come to anything.

In Job Hunt news, Chairman Ian Richards, who looks like he’s about 12 years old, invites me down to Northampton to discuss their managerial vacancy and his favourite Call of Duty instalments. I have no optimism about my prospects.

We’ve got Montrose (5th) at home next and I indulge myself in the fantasy this will be last game as Annan’s manager. Send me off in style boys!

montrose 3 - 0.jpg


Much more clinical and another clean sheet. Alexandre and Little remain in a private competition to see who can get the most bookings this season. We have opened up a 2 point lead at the top.

It’s a No from Northampton. I must be setting some sort of record for most unsuccessful job applications. I think I am officially giving up on getting another job until the end of the season. If we don’t get promoted I’m binning it off and going full time at the Carphone Warehouse.

Our final game this month is away to Elgin city (7th).

elgin 1 - 0.jpg


The first half performance was particularly strangling as we restricted Elgin to 1 shot in 45 minutes. Another remarkably dull game, but we march on like joyless footballing robots.

That was a good month, with no goals conceded. The style of play is tedious most of the time, but it is proving incredibly effective. In our last 8 games we have conceded 0 and scored 14. I will grind my way out of this league.

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Chapter 42 – The Trial

December ‘22


We have an intimidating 6 games to play this month, finishing up against Alloa in the Cup. If we can get through this we should be set up nicely for the rest of the season. First up a trip to Brechin (5th).

brechin 0 -1.jpg


Even giving away penalties can’t stop us from keeping clean sheets. Little And Large failed to react to a Brechin clearance, then got turned so easily his opponent might as well have been running backwards. Ojo ran in and scythed him down in the box to complete the How Not To Defend For Dummies tutorial, but Farrell was able to claw away the weak penalty. And McNally, on as a sub stole in to nick the win. Lovely stuff. Boring, boring, Annan! Music to my ears.

I take a couple of interesting trialists on, even though I think signing anyone would be a pointless risk with the team performing well and the dressing room an ocean of contented calm. Centre back/right back Donervon Daniels has been without a club since leaving Wycombe Wanderers and looks on a par with Shaughnessy. More surprising is Chilean right back Mauricio Isla, formerly of Udinese, Juve (or Zebre if you prefer), Fenerbahce and most recently Al-Arabi in Qatar. He’s 34 now and would certainly want more money than we can give him. But imagine – Isla at Annan!

In the end, I can’t resist the chance to replace Little And Large. Welcome to Annan, ‘Doner Van’ Daniels.

doner van.jpg


Our unbreachable defence is finally punished for giving away one penalty too many in the next game against East Fife (always 4th). Mantelli was the culprit this time, but thanks to a wonder strike from sub Bradley ‘Pitt’ Johnson, the unbeaten run continues.

east fife 1 - 1.jpg


The next team to chance their arm at ending our unbeaten run is Stirling Albion (10th). It’s basically a criminal offence to lose to Stirling Albion.

stirling 1 - 3.jpg


It never rains, but it pours when it comes to Mooney. Hayles-Docherty tore his knee ligaments, so that’s him out for about 4 months, which is a blow. He hadn’t quite kicked on from that commanding display against Brechin, but he was starting to cement a place in the starting 11.

Barrow are the latest time-wasters to invite me south of the border for an interview. Aaron Howells with his young man’s face and old man’s hair asks me the usual stuff and I give the usual responses.

howells.jpg


It’s hard to concentrate as I can’t help but spend the interview distractedly wondering if he’s wearing a wig to artificially age himself to approximate an air of gravitas, or whether he has discovered some magical anti-aging face cream. I suppose on balance, the former is more likely. Which means he’s a buffoon.

The Peter Heads (6th) have the privilege of the near 5 hour journey this time, as a crowd of 385 welcome them to the Galabank.

peterhead 3 - 1.jpg


The clean sheets have dried up, but if we keep banging 3 goals a game in, I’m not bothered. Keen-eyed readers may spot a couple of shock debuts, as surprise trialists Giovani dos Santos and Sam Vokes come off the bench. Just for the fun of it really. I’m sure neither would seriously entertain a move here, but the chance to play in front of over 300 people was evidently too much to resist. I wonder if Bendtner will bite at a trial? A chance to get your name in the (local) history books Nicklas?

12 in a row.jpg


Our last league game of the month is away to Stranraer (4th), but before that DoF Kenny Adamson has some news.

saint nicklas.jpg


Ridiculous.

stranraer 0 - 3.jpg


Another week, another 3-goal smashing. It was very tight until Henderson lost his rag and hacked down Mantelli with no provocation. Giovani dos Santos comes off the bench to finish the game off and go down in Annan folklore. It does feel somewhat like cheating, but it’s not like I forced him to play. Bendtner also came off the bench, but I’ve decided he’s not a good fit for the club. No hard feelings Nicklas.

dos santos signs.jpg


Now then. I recognise that signing a 33-year-old glory boy goes against the general philosophy of the club and my own guidelines. But I mean – look at him.

dos santos.jpg


How could I not for £190 a week? And to be fair Hayles-Docherty is probably out for the rest of the season, so I simply had to replace him. Ideally I wouldn’t have given him an 18 month contract, but he was very insistent on that point. And don’t the Annan fans deserve a bit of glamour sprinkled on their gruel?

The last game of the month is a 3rd round Cup tie at home to Alloa Athletic – one of many clubs to humour me with an interview for a job they had no intention of giving me.

alloa 1-0.jpg


Tremendous. A lovely goal to win the game, with dos Santos cutting in from the right and not bumping into one of his own players, which is what usually happens when someone else tries that in midfield, before slipping the ball to Wonka to play a perfect one-two with Mooney, who slots home at the near post.

Now this was the best month of my career.

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Chapter 43 – Textbook Stuff

January ‘23


We need to avoid defeat once more to set the all-time record for Annan. We’re at home to Stenhousemuir (6th) and are unbeaten against them in 4 games. One more please.

stenny 3-0.jpg


Stenny were not in the mood to make it easy, and the first half could have really gone either way, but Mooney is on one of his hot streaks, scoring 2 and setting up the other and in the end, it was a comfortable win. That makes it 15 in a row in all competitions which breaks the standing Annan record and 13 in a row in the league. It’s all going suspiciously smoothly.

A big test for the unbeaten streak next as we face Championship side Dunfermline in the 4th round of the Scottish Cup.

dunfermline loss.jpg


Very unlucky to lose that one and mostly a consequence of the players policy of always wasting 1 clear cut chance a game. Never mind, all good things come to an end and we still have the unbeaten league run to protect. More troubling than the loss is the ankle ligament injury Miller picks up that will rule him out for a few weeks. Time for Bradley 'Pitt' Johnson to shine, starting with a visit from Elgin City (8th).

Elgin desmond.jpg


Well, we made hard work of that. Despite dominating the game, we were 0 – 2 down from two indirect free kicks by Elgin, to which I must reluctantly tip my cap. But the run continues, albeit the defence seems less rock solid than it did.

The next game is critical – away to second placed Albion Rovers. We have a 6-point cushion at the top of the league and if we win this it will take some collapse for us to throw it away. The fans are pinning their hopes on Mooney for this game, and they’re probably right to do so.

mooney hopes.jpg


albion rovers 0-1.jpg


Not a great performance, but an excellent result. Mooney got that. He headed home the winner from an Alexandre cross – textbook stuff.

We finish the month with a disappointing draw away to Montrose, conceding again from a free kick. Those dropped points allow Albion Rovers to cut the gap at the top. The team is not quite firing like it was. dos Santos was much better when he was on trial, he hasn’t contributed much since he got his contract. A resolution for next month: no more trialists, keep it simple.

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Chapter 44 – Keeping It Simple

February ‘23


My aim this month is to keep the unbeaten league streak alive and start recording some more clean sheets, which seem to have deserted us lately. The first game sees a visit from 5th placed Brechin City.

brechin 1-2.jpg


16 games blown.jpg


team slam.jpg


‘Slams team’ is correct. It’s been a long time since we were that rubbish. God I hate Brechin City. In this game they played an unusual 5-2-3 formation and my players were just dumbfounded by it. Every time we got into their half there was just a solid block of Brechin in front of them and all the moves fell apart, inviting counter after counter. A disgusting game of football.

We move on. There are 12 games remaining and I don’t want to lose any more of them. Albion Rovers are now within 4 points of us and I am not going back to the play-offs. I will simply refuse to participate.

The next game is our chance to right the ship, away to East Fife (4th of course).

waterlogged.jpg


Sort it out East Fife! At this point in my career, I should not be having to deal with waterlogged pitches. Where did it all go wrong? I blame Manuel Vizcaino. He should never have given me that Cadiz B job.

The incredible weather does give us an easier fixture to bounce back with at home to Stirling Albion (10th). The board have made it a ‘fan day’ with half price tickets for kids. I’m not sure the style of football we practise, or the language myself and the players generally use during the game, is likely to be suitable or appealing to kids, but Jones won’t be swayed. Let’s put on a show then lads!

stirling 3-0.jpg


It may have been hammering down with rain, but we gave the crowd a bit of everything. A daft own goal for the opener, as the ball bounced off the Stirling defender to wrong foot the blameless keeper, who the own goal scorer then berated. Mooney controlling the ball in the box from an Alexandre cross, then zanily deciding to slide tackle it into the net and finally a cracking goal to finish things off, as Mooney leathered it in from 20 yards. Jones declares the day a resounding success due to a ‘bumper crowd’ of 479. Our average attendance this season has been 417 - fair enough Jonesy.

East Fife evidently held their manager responsible for the very wet pitch debacle and he’s been sacked in between that postponement and the rearranged game. Seems harsh. The new man starts with a midfield diamond, which should play into the hands of our wingers….

east fife 1-2.jpg


And it does, both goals being mirror images of each other, with a deep cross being finished by the striker coming in from the opposite side of the box. Robertson to Currie, Alexandre to Mooney. Just as nature intended.

The last game of the month is a routine 2 – 0 win away at Clipart Peterhead and that concludes a good month for the club. The unbeaten run came to an end, but we’ve moved 10 points clear of Albion Rovers at the top and with 9 games left to go, that should be good enough. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

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Chapter 45 – Murmurs of Discontent

March ‘23


We kick off at home to Stranraer (4th), who I notice we have a very favourable record against (since 2020 we’ve played 11, won 7 and drawn 3).

It’s a strangely subdued performance and we’re fortunate to gain a draw after falling behind and labouring for most of the game, until Miller breaks at speed and crosses for Red Hot Currie to tap in an equaliser. Their goal was another ludicrous gift, as Farrell wandered lonely as a cloud from his goal line, only to realise too late that a mis-hit cross was sailing over his head and into the net.

farrell you eejit.jpg


We have an excellent chance to get back to winning ways in the next game away to Stenhousemuir (10th) who have just sacked their manager and are on an atrocious run of form.

stenny 3-1.jpg


My contempt is so pure it could be bottled and sold to internet trolls. Not fit to wear the shirt. Red Hot Currie let himself down badly squandering not one, not two, but three clear cut chances to put the game to bed. Doner Van Daniels has taken on the mantle of giving away stupid penalties since replacing Little And Large in the starting line-up. Their first goal was an affront to the basic principles of defending, as Thorburn was able to control a long, straight free kick into the box on the edge of the 6 yarder, take a touch to steady himself and then pass it into the net. No chips for the boys today.

That makes our next game at home to title rivals Albion Rovers (2nd) absolutely critical. I’m not sure what the cause is for this slump in form, but it stops now. I expect to see a much better performance from you today!

albion rovers 1-1.jpg


It was better, but not by enough. Rovers are now 7 points behind us, and it could be a nervy end to the season. I’m struggling to get a convincing 90 minutes out of the team and the run of form now makes for worrying reading.

murmurs.jpg


A lot of that murmuring is happening between myself and the coaching staff, so I can’t blame the fans for getting a bit twitchy. I’m really hoping for a win in our last game of the month away to Eglin City (7th).

elgin 2-3.jpg


Little and Large is back in the line-up as Doner Van has been called up to the Montserrat national team and he makes this game closer than it should have been by giving away one of his trademark penalties. I’ve been on the fence about whether to extend his contract, but that settles it. This will be his last season with the club. Thanks Little, but in the end you are just too much of a maniac. Ojo picked up an injury that puts him out for 2 weeks, but his form has been inconsistent and he shouldn’t be a huge miss.

It's been a very mediocre month, but thanks to Albion Rovers similarly choking at the business end of the season, we remain 10 points clear at the top.

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