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[FM20] Have Coaching Badges, Will Travel....


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Chapter 40: Friendlies and finances

It was a busy August for Basil and Werribee City, five games to be played with all but one played away from home. That meant that was hardly income coming into the Club which meant, despite the takeover, the Club was still far from solvent. Basil was stringent with the contracts he was offering, trying to get the player to accept a lower than normal requested wage.

As August stood, Werribee were spending a shade of over £9,000 a week on wages against a budget of £11,949 a week. That was good but the financial experts in the board room were limiting what the Club could offer a new signing or any existing one. This was something Basil had to deal with. It was what it was.

Pre-Season Match 3:    Brandon Park 3 - 2 Werribee City

The first friendly in August saw Werribee travel to the Freeway Reserve to play Brandon Park. It was an entertaining spectacle and Basil walked away quite frankly, very disappointed indeed. Werribee controlled the game but their finishing left a lot to be desired and that angered Basil. However the Bees were the first out of the traps, opening the scoring after just seven minutes. With the rain lashing down, Michael Jessup progressed down the right wing before sweeping in a cross that was volleyed home at the near post by Nathan Elasi.

Brandon equalised on the 17th minute, the first of three goals in eight minutes. Lovro Tomic's free-kick wasn't properly dealt with the Bees and Vincenzo Vigano swept home the loose ball. If Basil was unhappy with that goal then he was hopping mad four minutes later as the hosts took the lead. Again Tomic provided the delivery, Thomas Nelson got above Tom Lakic at the back post to head home. The scores were level in the 25th minute, and again the defending left a lot to be desired when Lisandro Paz clipped a cross into the six yard box and Jessup ghosted in unchallenged to score.

The winner came with 17 minutes to go, Anthony Williams unmarked at the far post to squeeze in a volley that substitute keeper Thomas Dunn really should have kept out. So the Bees experience their first pre-season loss, how will they react now?

Team: Baird (Dunn 69); Lakic (Wilkes 53), Abbott (Dillon 53), Parkinson © (Gorgovski 71), Bavcar (Jarvis 61); Pistininzi (Gonano 61); Jessup (Zaffina 69), Gaspari (Gasparis 61); Ammache (Davis 53), Paz (Kessie 69); Elasi (Goodwin 69)
Scorers: Elasi, Jessup

Days before the second friendly, Basil and the Bees received a financial boost. The board, conscious that the Club were not making any money due to away friendly after away friendly, pumped £140,000 into the club's coffers. Sadly for Basil, none of that was for transfer purchases as it was to deal with running costs and any revenue from transfer fees obtained will also go into the same pot. Basil scratched his head, was this the place he wanted to be at still?

The following Saturday, it was back on the road as Werribee travelled to Beaumaris SC. Could they bounce back?

Pre-Season Match 4:   Beaumaris SC 0 - 3 Werribee City

After losing to Brandon Park seven days ago, Werribee got the winning feeling back when they produced a polished performance to see off Beaumaris SC. They opened the scoring in just the third minute when a cross from Lakic, playing unaccustomedly at left-back, was headed home from a close range by Omar Ammache. The outstanding Ammache created the second in the 52nd minute when he stood up a cross to the back post where Michael Holden volleyed in via the post.

Werribee thought they had a third in the 72nd minute when substitute Nicholas Bavcar lofted a ball forward and fellow substitute Alec Goodwin steered it home. However, the striker's celebrations were muted immediately with the assistant's flag for offside. Replays shows the striker a good ten yards between him and the last defender. The third did come, and in time added-on. Bavcar provided the cross and Paz nodded in from the edge of the six yard box; completely unmarked.

Team: Thurtell (Dunn 71); Abbott (Wilkes 67), Dillon (Gaspari 71), Petrov (Parkinson 67), Lakic (Bavcar 60); Gonano (Collett 60); Gorgovski (Gasparis 60), Ballan © (Zaffina 71); Ammache (Davis 60), Holden (Paz 67); Scott (Goodwin 67)
Scorers: Ammache, Holden, Paz

Before game three, Basil was able to announce his latest capture.

Aleksandar Putilin - ST C: Free Transfer

Aleksander is another promising young striker that our scouts have identified for us as we look to scour the best talent out there for Werribee. A local youngster, born to Macedonian parents, he played 24 times in this division for St.Albans Saints last season. He also bagged four goals for a talent so raw. Blessed with pace, the youngster is a natural fox in the box type player. We have awarded him a two year contract as we think there is something special in his ability. He will start the season in the youth team but isn't too far from a first team call up should those in the pecking order above him, fail to deliver.

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Chapter 41: Getting up to speed

After the signing of Putilin, not Putin as some comedians were making out, Basil switched his attentions to the next three friendlies scheduled for Werribee. The month would end with a much needed home game against South Melbourne, and that would be a test in itself. But still there were two matches before that came around and a chance for everyone, Julyan Collett included, to get up to speed and gain some valuable match fitness with the start of the season less than two months away.

Pre-Season Game 5:       Doncaster Rovers 0 - 4 Werribee City

The middle of August saw Werribee face Doncaster Rovers in their fifth pre-season encounter. No, they hadn't travelled to South Yorkshire to face the English League One side but an amateur side of the same name in Melbourne. And it proved to be a very good workout for the Bees as they coasted to what was pretty a comfortable victory.

Werribee opened the scoring after 16 minutes when [b]David Parkinson[/b] swung in a corner that Nathan Elasi to touch back to Brandon Zaffina who lashed into the net from twelve yards and before the keeper could even move. Rovers' afternoon got tougher after 36 minutes when Lefteris Vliasroulis was dismissed for a crude two footed challenge on Lisandro Paz as the inverted winger rampaged forward to launch another attack. The Bees were determined to make the extra man count as Brush encouraged his troops to pass the home side ragged, Rovers knew it was going to be a hard game.

In a strong line-up, it was back up winger Lachlan Davis who really stole the show and he scored the second just four minutes after the red card. Nicholas Bavcar swung in a deep cross and Davis peeled away from the Rovers defence to volley home at the far post. The same two combined for the third which came five minutes after the restart, another deep cross from Bavcar and Davis provided the finish at the far post. Nine minutes later, Werribee had their fourth when Jordan Wilkes crossed and Michael Holden powered home a header from six yards. It came from both substitutes first touches, talk about making immediate impacts!

Team: Baird (Dunn 54); Gonano (Wilkes 59), Abbott (Dillon 59), Parkinson © (Collett 54), Bavcar (Gorgovski 66); Pistininzi (Lakic 54); Zaffina Gaspari 59), Ballan (Gasparis 59); Davis (Ammache 66), Paz (Holden 59); Elasi (Scott 59)
Scorers: Zaffina, Davis 2, Holden

The fourth away game in succession followed a week later, as the Bees travelled to the Power Reserve to face Endeavour Hills Fire. In fact, the only fire was the Bees attack as it steamrolled their opponents with a comprehensive victory. The Bees had an astonishing 31 shots at their opponents goal in the match, leaving the home keeper complaining to his manager of a bad back by the time he was substituted in the 70th minute. Basil offered very little in terms of sympathy, smiling to himself and sticking a thumbs up to his squad.

Pre-Season Game 6:      Endeavour Hills Fire 1 - 6 Werribee City

Last season's top scorer Alec Goodwin was given the start to lead the attack and the gangly number nine opened the scoring after just nine minutes when Omar Ammache got to the by-line and he measured his cross onto the head of the striker to simply direct a header into the bottom corner. Five minutes later, Werribee had their second. A free-kick from Matteo Ballan was met by the head of Ammache which struck the post but straight to Brendan Gonano who tapped home the rebound.

In the 25th minute, the Fire provided a sensational goal to halve the deficit when Doug Salik drilled one in from 30 yards which Jordan Thurtell had no chance of saving whatsoever. It was their highlight as three minutes later, Werribee restored their two goal advantage, Goodwin unselfishly teeing up Ammache who slid the ball with ease into the far corner. Then two minutes before half time, Werribee made it 4-1 when Gonano scored his second of the game with a superb strike into the top corner or as Brush referred to it post-game "Top Bins!". It was some strike from the defensive midfielder.

The fifth arrived in the 54th minute when a free-kick from Ballan was met with a powerful header into the net from central defender Daniel Petrov. Could they make it six? The answer was a yes as it came with two minutes left, Parkinson with the cross and a fierce volley home from Holden. A thoroughly impressive performance from Basil's Bees. 

Team: Thurtell; Lakic (Wilkes 59), Dillon (Abbott 59), Petrov (Elasi 59), Bavcar (Parkinson 59); Gonano (Pistininzi 67); Gasparis (Gaspari 72), Ballan © (Gorgovski 59); Ammache (Holden 67), Paz (Zaffina 67); Goodwin (Putilin 59)
Scorers: Goodwin, Gonano 2, Ammache, Petrov, Holden

Having signed on non-contract terms at the end of June, Michael Cole had been showing a fair bit of promise in training and rumours were circulating that the young striker could leave. However, Brush was confident he could fend off those advances so he got Cole and his father down to talk. The result was that the 19 year old signed a deal that would keep him at Galvin Park Reserve until the end of 21/22 season, similar to the deal that attracted Aleksandar Putilin to the Club.

Pre-Season Game 7:      Werribee City 1 - 1 South Melbourne

The final game of August was the visit of divisional rivals South Melbourne to Galvin Park Reserve. South Melbourne had won the division last season but were eliminated in the NPL Championship Play-offs by Sydney Olympic on penalties. This would be a benchmark of what Basil and Werribee could expect in the new season.

The game though was a bit of a dull spectacle with the visitors edging it. However, Werribee scored in the opening minute with what was to prove their only shot on target all game. Lachlan Scott saw a shot blocked but straight to Ammache, who continued his impression on the right wing, by slamming it into the net. The time 57 seconds on the clock. South Melbourne levelled midway through that first half when Jade North headed home at the far post.

But other than that, that was as good as it got for the fans. A real bore draw.

Team: Baird (Dunn 72); Lakic (Wilkes 72), Dillon (Abbott 72), Collett © (Petrov 58), Bavcar (Parkinson 64); Pistininzi (Gonano 64); Zaffina (Gaspari 58), Ballan (Gorgovski 58); Ammache (Davis 72), Paz (Holden 58); Scott (Goodwin 64)
Scorer: Ammache

Edited by hockeybhoy71
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Chapter 42: Should I stay or should I go

As soon as the South Melbourne game finished, Basil didn't hang around and headed back to his hotel. That left assistant manager John Waddell to deal with any media questions.

Something was on Basil's mind.

What was bothering Basil, was the lack of transfer funds the board were promising. It was quite simply nothing and if the Club sold a player for a transfer fee, none of it would go into the transfer budget..not a single penny! So Basil sat there in the hotel room, crunching numbers. The wage budget was still under control, so Basil reduced it to allow himself some transfer funds of £62,000. However, Basil knew if he needed to have money for wages then transfer funds would be adversely affected. It was this and that.

But this was also the second year of the contract initially handed to Basil by previous chairman Angus Brown. Another conundrum to deliberate.

Basil loved Melbourne, he loved Werribee. However, would it be a good idea to move on? Basil was still young as a manager, plenty of time to build a legacy. Yet the finances at Werribee were potentially crippling his masterplan. Depending how the Bees performed, that would make the decision at the end of the season. However, if anyone else was open to appointing Basil then he was all ears. Sometimes you gotta think what's best for you and your future Basil said to himself as he downed yet another VB.

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Chapter 43: New Season, new expectations

There were four more games to come and the preparation work would then be all complete. Three more away trips before finishing off with a home friendly against Northcote City. In the meantime, John Waddell would get the fixtures sent to him and that meant the regular email to be forwarded onto Basil. 26 games for the new season, an increase of four on last.

The board had already emailed Basil though with their plans for the season ahead.



From: Craig Adam

To: Basil Brush

Date: 1 September 2020, 10:00

Subject: Board Expectations

Good afternoon Basil.

Just a wee email to let you know what we're expecting this season. Apologies I haven't been able to arrange a face to face meeting to tell you personally but I've had meetings and meetings so it's pretty hard at the moment.

* Ensure a top half finish in the league.

* Keep the wages under budget, do not spend more than we can afford. Every penny counts.

* No signings of players over the age of 30, they're too old.

* Bring in players under 23 for the first team, these are our future.

* Have a team that is defensively sound but will harry opponents into mistakes.

Not too much to ask, but I don't think we're being unrealistic. Everything here is very much achievable.

Up the Bees!


Basil read through it a couple of times, then looked at his squad list which he had spent the last couple of months or so building. He next looked at the finances which got updated to him every week. Yeah, Craig was talking a great deal of nonsense Basil thought. "Does he know that this is not NPL - Victoria 2 anymore? And what does he know about footballers themselves?" Basil asked himself. Then Basil remembered something that his grandfather told him when Basil just a little boy. 

In 1956, a former England internationalist called Len Shackleton released his autobiography and one chapter was more famous than anything. That chapter was entitled: "The Average Director's Knowledge of Football" and was simply a blank page. That summed up Craig Adam and his footballing philosophies and practices, so Basil sent him a quick reply back in two words: "Yeah OK" before deleting the Chairman's email.

If he didn't achieve what Adam was asking for then it would be tough. Basil knew it was a different challenge ahead and the team wouldn't find these opponents as easily to dispose of as the teams last season. The feet were getting itchy, it was time to have a peruse of the job market and see if anything took Basil's fancy.

Now if Angus hadn't sold the Club in the summer, Basil was sure that the expectations would have been different. That passport might come in useful soon...

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Chapter 44: Agents and another arrival

Basil still couldn't get his head around that email from the Chairman, it was like he was expecting things from season one to be almost as good in season two. The standard was higher and there was more games to play. Werribee were the new kids on the block and Basil knew that he couldn't rely upon the same names that had done so well for him in that unforgettable opening season, this was why he had to buy, buy, buy in the close season.

Make sure, there's more than adequate cover in every position in case there's injuries or suspensions. That was why Basil decided to bring 13 new players, and not because Collett's outburst had forced his hand. But there was something gnawing at the back of Basil's head, that was whether to jump ship or not. As it stood, even if Werribee won a second successive title (highly unlikely) then there was no way they could advance to the A-League. Therefore, even if Basil saw out his contract, he would have taken Werribee as far as it was genuinely possible in the Victorian football structure. So he contacted his agent, and asked for updates on managerial vacancies worldwide. 

Stewart Smith was a man that Basil had used as an agent since those heady days as a young professional, and was someone that Basil trusted implicitly. The days before the latest friendly were spent thinking things over whilst welcoming yet another new face to Galvin Park Reserve. Meet arrival number 13:

James Karvelis - D C: Free Transfer

Another centre half to take the number of centre halves on the first team books to eight, now that's called having strength in depth in a position. James is aged 25, and joins Werribee after spending last season at Northcote City. He has experience of the new division with South Melbourne and Oakleigh Cannons, both whom Werribee will face this season, so this should help those lesser experienced names out. James provides height and presence to the defensive corps and his 6'3 frame should be something to look out especially on set-pieces. 

That same day had been a busy day off pitch for Basil as Stewart had come back with a couple of possible options for future destinations. Option number one was Madang FC, who featured in the exotically sounding Kumul Petroleum Resources National Football League in Papua New Guinea. The city, as Basil researched, was on the Eastern side of the country and 308 miles north of the capital Port Moresby although the two cities were just a 30 minute flight apart. Option number two was a bit closer to home though; as in closer to home back in the UK. Former Crystal Palace defender John Pemberton had been given his departure cards from Chesterfield, a town not far from Mother Brush's and of course famous for its crooked spire which dominated the town centre skyline. That would be a step up in standard.

Pemberton had, whilst Basil was doing remarkable things in that rookie season, taken the Spireites into the National League play-offs. They were unable to regain their league position as they slipped to a penalty shoot out loss to eventual winners Dagenham and Redbridge but were one of the favourites this season. Yet the new season hadn't started well, Chesterfield picking up just three points (all draws) from their nine games so far which had left them bottom of the National League. Thus David Sharpe, the grandson of Dave "JJB Sports" Whelan had seen enough and Pemberton's tenure was ended. Basil knew this would be a challenge he'd relish should Chesterfield offer him the job. Smith had sent Basil's CV to both sides and it was now the waiting game.

The night before the friendly, Basil got a call from Stewart. Madang's Chairman, Matheson Kanake, was flying into Melbourne in the morning and wanted to talk about the job. With the Bees playing in Bendigo later that day, it was going to be an early morning meeting. Basil decided to have an early night, a good night's sleep would do just the trick.

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Chapter 45: Wake me up when September ends...

Basil opened the curtains that Saturday morning and was greeted with incessant rain and grey skies. He showered, shaved and changed into his suit which he would normally wear on a matchday but with one exception to the rule: the Werribee City blazer was cast aside for a basic black one. The lift arrived in the main hotel lobby, and the staff advised Basil that Kanake was in one of the hotel's conference rooms waiting for his respondent.

Kanake was a well dressed and well spoken man, and immediately thrust out a warm and welcoming handshake the moment Basil opened the conference room door. Nothing like creating a good impression straight off the bat. Basil sat across from his host, his eyes focused on what was being said. The interview actually started with Kanake waffling on about the City of Madang like it was a salesman's pitch on Dragons Den. All this went in for a good 10-15 minutes and Basil was struggling to keep his focus. Kanake then asked Basil if he had a female partner. Taken aback, Basil responded in the negative to which Kanake then went about crime in the country and that violence against women was particular rife as well as carjacking. "Don't worry about this Basil, it's under control." Kanake added, causing Basil to shift a bit uneasily in his leather backed chair.

As regards the interview, once it got going then it was about bog standard as an interview as you could have. At 10:00am, the two men shook hands and Kanake advised Brush he would be in touch with a decision in due course. The conference room opened and the men went in their separate directions: Basil back to his room to change into his Werribee blazer before the bus would pick him up for Bendigo in half an hour, and Kanake to a waiting car which would take him back to the airport and a flight to Port Moresby and home.

There had been no word from Chesterfield though, and Craig Adam had been kept in the dark with these covert movements. "Just looking after my own interests." Basil said to him as he finished getting ready and headed back to the lift so he could await the arrival of the team bus. Focus back on Werribee now.

Pre-Season Game 8:            Spring Gully United 1 - 7 Werribee City

Basil selected a fairly strong squad for the game in Bendigo, and told the lads he wanted plenty of goals to help boost the team morale. The team provided the perfect start, scoring in 25 seconds when Lachlan Davis crossed for Michael Holden to loop a header into the far corner. The encouragement was for more, and the players responded with some excellent attacking movement which left the home team chasing shadows in the sunshine and rain. Goal number two came in the 14th minute, Papadimitrou upending Holden as the winger advanced into the area. skipper for the day Matteo Ballan converted expertly. Two minutes later, Ballan had his second and Werribee their third when a Holden corner was nodded down by newcomer James Karvelis and the central midfielder rifled the ball home.

With the home side struggling to match Werribee, the game was as good as over so it became a glorified training session from then on with the visitors hardly getting out of first gear. Two minutes from half time, Werribee had a fourth. Once more Holden tortured Papadimitrou on that left flank like the defender was standing in treacle before measuring his cross onto the head of the attacking Josh Gaspari for 0-4. The home support had a rare moment of happiness five minutes after the restart when Werribee failed to clear their defensive lines and Lukas Durand scored, Brush was furious and took his frustrations out on a water bottle whilst berating his team for conceding a sloppy goal. The team knew they had to put that right.

And they did so with a fifth in the 55th minute, and it came when a Ballan corner found its way to the far post and Nathan Elasi headed in unchallenged. Five minutes later, it was 6-1 as Werribee were awarded their second penalty of the game when Holden was baulked in the area by Sevin. With Ballan off the pitch taking a deserved breather,  substitute Marinos Gasparis stepped up and made no mistake. The goal fest was complete in the 73rd minute with goal number seven for the Bees, Lisandro Paz with a sweet half volley following some more less than convincing defending at a set-piece by the home side.

Team: Dunn (Thurtell 66); Abbott (Wilkes 57), Karvelis (Petrov 57), Dillon (Parkinson 57), Lakic (Bavcar 57); Gonano (Pistininzi 57); Gaspari (Jessup 63), Ballan © (Gasparis 57); Davis (Ammache 63), Holden (Paz 63); Elasi (Goodwin 63)

Scorers: Holden, Ballan 2 (1 pen), Gaspari, Elasi, Gasparis (pen), Paz

With no word from either Chesterfield or Kanake, it was business as usual in the week leading up to the penultimate away friendly of the season. That would see the Bees go play Moreland City, a team that Werribee had swept aside last season. Moreland fancied their chances, which had become a bit of a friendly slanging match on social media between the relevant sets of fans, but Brush was out to prove a point and to show that the title win was far from a fluke.

Pre-Season Game 9:           Moreland City 0 - 3  Werribee City

Three goals in the first 25 minutes proved to be the difference as Werribee picked up another win in their pre-season schedule. 

The game itself was just four minutes old when the first goal arrived. Wearing their white away colours, Werribee made the initial run and were rewarded when Paz attacked the left wing before pulling the ball back for Lachlan Scott to finish with a low finish from six yards out. Midway through the half and Werribee put some daylight in the game with two goals in three minutes which had Brush purring with happiness. These had come after both Omar Ammache and Scott had efforts chalked off for offside. In the 22nd minute, Munn sent Scott tumbling with a reckless challenge and referee Adam Kersey pointed to the spot. Ballan stepped up and made no mistake.

The teams had just regrouped when Werribee added a third in the 25th minute and it was a move right off the training ground. Ballan swung in the free-kick and new signing Karvelis powered in a header that went in via a tickle off the post. Whatever Moreland attempted, Werribee repelled with confidence, Still there was time for a third disallowed Werribee in second half added-on time, Davis this time having the effort chalked away for another offside decision.

Team: Thurtell (Dunn 74); Lakic (C,Holmes 65), Karvelis (Abbott 60), Collett © (Dillon 65), Bavcar (Parkinson 60); Gonano (Pistininzi 60); Zaffina (Jessup 65), Ballan (B.Holmes 65); Ammache (Kessie 60), Paz (Davis 65); Scott (Goodwin 65)

Scorers: Scott, Ballan (pen), Karvelis

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Chapter 46: Stick or Twist

It was a sunny morning when Basil awoke from a decent night's sleep, and he had only been awake for less than five minutes when the mobile rang. On the other end of the line was Kanake, probably telling Basil the result of the interview.

"Morning Basil, Matheson Kanake here."
"Oh, good morning Mr Kanake." Basil replied.
"I was just calling to say the manager's job at Madang is yours. I was very impressed in your interview, you are very passionate football man."
"Oh right, thank you."
"You don't have to tell me straight away. Call me back when you've made a decision but it's yours."
"Appreciated, I'll be in touch."

That call now left Basil with a dilemma, the first real one of his rookie managerial career. It was a case of stick or twist as his late father would have called it. Stick with Werribee or twist and move on, that was the conundrum. Basil fired off a text to John Waddell, he needed to speak to his able assistant. The text was short and to the point: "John, come to the hotel ASAP. Need to chat." Whilst he awaited the arrival of the likeable Victorian, Basil showered and shaved. Eventually he arrived.

"Wads, good morning. Take a seat."
"Sure mate, what's up?"
"Wads, I've been offered a managerial role at Madang FC in Papua New Guinea."
"Woah, really?"
"Yeah, and to be honest I don't know what to do. I really don't."
"Well, you follow your heart buddy. That's the best thing I can advise."
"You're happy here, and I know you want to progress. But why not see this season through mate then take stock after that. Challenge yourself one more time and then leave with your head held high at the expiry of your contract."
"Yeah sure we can't go further than this but let's enjoy this ride Basil mate. The players, despite Collett's outburst, appreciate what you've done in such a short space of time."
"I guess."
"But that's how I see it, and what I'd do. You make your own choice though. Look after number one."
"Thanks Wads."
"Anytime, anyway here's the opening month's games."

John handed over a sheet of A4, on it was the opening month of games. Two at home and two away:

Saturday 10 October 2020: Bentleigh Greens @ Home 

Saturday 17 October 2020: Oakleigh Cannons - Away

Saturday 24 October 2020: Hume City @ Home

Friday 30 October 2020: Port Melbourne SC - Away

Waddell had said his piece and Basil respected the honesty. What a decision to be left to make. Whatever Basil chose, someone was bound to be upset but then again this is football management. He paced up and down the room for a good ten minutes, Waddell looking on, before picking up his mobile and dialled Kanake's number. Time to give a decision.

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Chapter 47: Thanks but er, no thanks

Basil waited for the call to be answered and continued to pace the hotel as if he was desperate to go to the toilet and couldn't find one. After about eight rings, the call was answered but picked up by Kanake's voicemail: "Hi, this is Matheson Kanake. I'm sorry I can't get to the phone but if you kindly leave me a message then I'll get back to you later." then a beep.

Basil disconnected, he had a pet hate of leaving voicemails. "Damn voicemail Wads, " he bemoaned to John Waddell who was relaxed in the armchair and helping himself to a bottle of Bundaberg Ginger Beer which Basil had a stock of in the fridge. Waddell shook his head, and carried on drinking.

He tried again, voicemail again. And so the charade continued for the next half an hour, Basil was getting rather annoyed as each minute passed.

"I'm going to give him one more try Wads, you hear me?" Waddell shrugged his shoulders and sighed.

And so he did, this time Kanake answered. Success at last.

"Hello Basil?"
"Mr Kanake, oh it's so good to get in touch with you." Basil responded, tongue firmly in cheek.
"I'm sorry Basil, I had a board meeting with my company. You have to excuse me."
"It's fine, I do understand."
"Anyway, how can I help?"
"I'm just phoning back to advise you that I won't be taking the job. I thought long and hard and whilst you made me a great offer, for personal reasons I just can't accept it. I'm sure you'll find a new and willing candidate to offer it to in my place."
"That's a shame Basil, but of course I do accept this. You will be good manager in the future, I wish you the best."
"So no hard feelings?"
"Thank you for the understanding, and good luck to Madang FC."
"And to you, goodbye."

The call ended, the deed had been done. Now it was time to focus for the next friendly against Eastern Lions as well as work out the squad numbers for the new campaign. That said, Basil was unaware that he had been earmarked elsewhere and would need to decide again.

Waddell got out his notepad from his tracksuit pocket, ready to write.

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Chapter 48: The numbers game

For the next couple of hours, Basil and John Waddell started to discuss numbers. Not financial numbers, but squad numbers for the new season ahead. The players would be notified in the team meeting before travelling for the next friendly against which was a matter of just four days away. And this was the final list:

1.   Alex BAIRD
13. Jordan THURTELL
21. Thomas DUNN

2.  Tom LAKIC
3.  Nicholas BAVCAR
5.  Julyan COLLETT
6.  William ABBOTT
14. Oskar DILLON - on loan from Western United (A-League)
15. Daniel PETROV
20. Jordan WILKES
22. David PARKINSON 
23. James KARVELIS

4.  Brendan GONANO
7.  Brandon ZAFFINA
8.  Matteo BALLAN
16. Amanze KESSIE
25. Josh GASPARI
26. Omar AMMACHE
33. Michael JESSUP
34. Marinos GASPARIS

9.   Alec GOODWIN
10. Lisandro PAZ
11. Michael HOLDEN
18. Nathan ELASI
19. Lachlan SCOTT
28. Lachlan DAVIS

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Chapter 49: Preparations complete

Two more Saturdays remained before Basil and Werribee could determine that their pre-season preparations were completed. After turning down Madang in the week, Basil got his focus back. What John Waddell had said, had really hit home. Yeah, the Club couldn't go any further than the league they were in at the moment so seeing out his contract seemed to be the correct choice.

That was unless there was an offer that Basil found too hard to resist.

Pre-Season Game 10:        Eastern Lions 1 - 1 Werribee City

It was a sloppy performance that Basil experienced in the penultimate friendly as Werribee laboured to a draw against Eastern Lions. 

After a goalless first half, it was the home side that grabbed the lead in the 53rd minute when Jordan Tsekenis crossed from the right for Ziggy Razuki to volley home past a static [b]Thomas Dunn[/b]. Brush's response was almost immediate as he changed his entire line up six minutes later, giving concern that he was seeing a probably defeat as an embarassment. Thankfully for him and the 119 visiting fans out of 156, Werribee equalised ten minutes after that goal.

The goal came when Brandon Zaffina teed up Michael Holden to hammer an unstoppable effort into the roof of the net. It was so fiercely struck by the winger that Keegan Coulter in the home goal didn't try to get a hand to it in case it broke said hand; Holden really put some venom into the shot. Neither side could manage to get a winner after that and the teams shook hands on a draw, Brush looking far from pleased as the teams left the field.

Team: Dunn (Thurtell 59); Abbott (Collett 59), Dillon (Karvelis 59), Lakic (Petrov 59), Bavcar (Parkinson 59); Gonano (Pistininzi 59); Gasparis (Gaspari 59), Ballan © (Zaffina 59); Davis (Ammache 59), Paz (Holden 59); Scott (Elasi 59)
Scorer: Holden

Basil resisted the temptation to delve back into the transfer market after the Eastern Lions draw. He had got an astonishing 45 players registered for Werribee for the season ahead. Granted he obviously couldn't play them all but he sat back and reflected on that there was more than enough cover now to see the team through the season ahead. It was at that time that he also received an email from David Sharpe, telling him that Chesterfield wouldn't be taking Basil's application any further for the position at the Proact Stadium.

The Werribee chief would later learn it had been given to Paul Tisdale, the former manager of Exeter City and MK Dons. "Their loss," Basil reflected, "I'll go and prove a point elsewhere." Basil said to himself. Back to Werribee business.

Pre-Season Game 11:        Werribee City 2 - 0 Northcote City

Two goals in the late stages ensured that Werribee City would finish their pre-season schedule with a win and a clean sheet. It was particularly satisfying for new central defender James Karvelis who had played for Northcote City last season and gave Brush reasons for optimism that his reshaped squad can hold their own this season.

Despite creating the best of the chances, it seemed for a long period that Werribee would rue missed chance after chance. That was until 11 minutes from the end when they were awarded a penalty when Dunlop obstructed Lachlan Davis in the penalty area and right under the referee's nose. Marinos Gasparis stepped up and coolly placed the resultant spot kick low and into the bottom corner. Then in time added on, the victory was secure when Josh Gaspari produced a sublime curling effort into the corner from range. It was a goal that was worthy winning any match, never mind a pre-season one.

Team: Baird (Dunn 60); Wilkes (Abbott 60), Karvelis (Petrov 65), Dillon (Parkinson 60), Lakic (Bavcar 60); Gonano (Pistininzi 60); Zaffina (Gasparis 60), Ballan © (Gaspari 65); Paz (Davis 65), Holden (Ammache 65); Goodwin (Elasi 60)
Scorers:  Gasparis (pen), Gaspari

So the pre-season record stood at played 11, seven wins and two draws and losses apiece. A win percentage of 64% which pleased Basil no end but as Basil reminded the players in the shed after that last game; pre-season means nothing to what the real stuff is like.

The following morning, Basil would receive a surprise call. One he hadn't seen coming for sure.

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Chapter 50: Can you smelll what the Brush is COOKing?

Basil was enjoying a relaxing Sunday morning with the tunes blasting from the Alexa, absolute bliss. Then suddenly, his mobile rang. It was an unknown number. Being sceptical as always, Basil answered it with a degree of trepidation.

"Hello, is this a Mr Basil Brush?
"Yes, and this is?"
"Hello, my name is Kayva Tauira and I'm calling on behalf of Mii Piri."
"Sorry but I haven't heard of either name. Are you sure you have the right person?"
"Oh yes, I have. I work for the Cook Islands Football Association; and we would be honoured if you will be the national team's new Head Coach."
"Yes, we have seen your achievements with Werribee City in Austraila. They speak for themselves Mr Brush, we think you can help improve the team's national standing."
"Just a moment..."

Now this was a call out of the proverbial blue, an international job. Basil texted Stewart, telling him was unfolding and Stewart's response was positive: "If they let you manage Werribee too, take it. It's a real development opportunity." The nation stood 189th in the world rankings out of 211, not exactly a world force, there might a potential to grow them Basil thought. He released the hold.

"I have one question Kayva, before I give you a decision."
"I have a club managerial commitment here in Australia, and I would like to continue with that."
"No problem, we can commit to this."
"You can?"
"Of course."
"I, well, accept then."
"Welcome on board then Mr Brush. Your first international will be on 11 November 2020, a friendly against Micronesia. We will expect you a few days beforehand, a reception party will meet you at Rarotonga Airport. Goodbye for now."

So Basil's fledging managerial had taken another step forward with his first international role. Granted it wasn't with a big nation but from small acorns grow. He was going to combine club and international management for the new season ahead, and then take stock afterwards. Nothing big was expected at the Cook Islands, Basil just wanted to grow the nation as a footballing force and make them little bit more respectable in the Oceania confederation. 

The following day, Basil was sat in the hotel restaurant, enjoying a nice mixed grill, when he received his now complimentary copy of the Herald Sun newspaper. It was talking about the new season ahead, and had a preview of the new NPL Victoria season. The Werribee preview was very heartening:



Werribee City: Last season's Victoria Division Two champions come back to the NPL Victoria after an absence of seven seasons, and they have the potential to cause a few surprises. They won the Division Two title with an unbeaten record and whilst we don't expect them to repeat this, they will finish comfortably away from the relegation zone.

Pundits Media Prediction: 3rd
Odds to win the title: 7/1

Of course South Melbourne were the favourites at 4/1, but to see the Bees listed as 4th favourites was pleasant in itself. Basil smiled, he really couldn't wait for the new season to start. Was it Saturday the 10th of October yet? The days couldn't be ticked off quick enough now.

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Chapter 51: Unbeaten in two!

There was a real buzz enveloping the Galvin Park Reserve on the second Saturday in October, Basil could literally taste it as he arrived in the car park. Despite the media saying that the Bees would have a great season, Basil was content to consolidate and stay alive. That was something he made clear in the shed before that first game against Bentleigh Greens.

"Guys, we're up against a higher standard of class here. No disrespect meant to Manningham United Blues and Bulleen Lions but this is as good as it will get for a club of our standing. It's the pinnacle."
"Yeah, and it's imperative we come out of this first month with some points on the board eh boss?" Matteo Ballan said.
"Exactly Matty, exactly. We need to get points on the board as that might just make a difference. I'm targeting a top half finish here if we all pull together. Anyone think otherwise?"

The shed fell silent as the players looked at each other, nodding as if to say "Yup, with you on that boss." Could the Bees achieve what their manager wanted? Brush had confidence in them, whether they wanted it as well was a different proverbial kettle of fish.

Matchday 1:     Werribee City 2 - 2 Benteligh Greens (Half Time 0 - 0), Attendance: 545

Werribee City staged a remarkable comeback from two goals adrift to secure a point on their return to the NPL Victoria. Both the Bees goals came in the final minute, something that Basil Brush's mentor Sir Alex Ferguson would have applauded and left former Hibs midfielder Grant Brebner wondering what had happened. Brush gave debuts to four of his summer signing spree whilst sticking by a number of his title winners.

The visitors had the better of the game for sure and took the lead after 57 minutes when Marco Jankovic lashed in an unstoppable effort from just inside the box after Werribee failed to clear their lines. Six minutes later, they doubled their lead when James Xydias crossed for Matt Thurtell (older brother of Werribee's Jacob to power a header towards goal. Alex Baird parried that but unlucky for him and Werribee, the striker snaffled the rebound home.

Brush's response was a double change with Michael Holden, such a goalscoring sensation in pre-season, entering the fray alongside Josh Gaspari. Then as time ticked on for six minutes of added on time, Brush urged his players forward in the hope they might get something and cause jitters for Bentleigh. And as soon as that fourth official disappeared with their board, Werribee and their fans were rejoicing as the Bees halved the deficit. Lisandro Paz sped down the right, leaving the defender for dust, before crossing to the back post where Holden volleyed in. Keep pushing was the message, we can get something. And in the fifth minute of six, it became 2-2. Oskar Dillon opted to go route one from a free kick deep inside the home half, and Nathan Elasi was onto it before slipping it past the advancing keeper. Absolute scenes!

Team: Baird; Lakic, Abbott, Dillon, Bavcar; Gonano; Zaffina (Gaspari 67), Ballan ©; Ammache (Holden 67), Paz; Scott (Elasi 57)
Man of the Match: Marco Jankovic (Bentleigh Greens)
Position After Game: 5th

The week between the games was eventful as well. First was the good news that Werribee had sold 132 season books for the new campaign, a 20 per cent increase on last season. Hopefully if the crowd was a decent as the opening day, granted there was 308 away supporters though, then the Club's financial situation might improve and maybe some off-pitch investments could be made. The biggest surprise came midweek when Julyan Collett phoned Brush up to apologise for his pre-season outburst. Brush was dumbstruck but accepted the defender's words with the dignified good grace he had shown all along. But as soon as the dust settled on that, Elasi was whining about depth in central midfield to him. Obviously having six players to fill just two slots wasn't on. Maybe one last shopping trip....

Matchday 2:     Oakleigh Cannons 0 - 0 Werribee City (Half Time 0 - 0), Attendance: 581

Werribee secured a hard fought point from their first away game of the new season with a goalless draw with an Oakleigh Cannons side that finished runners-up to South Melbourne last season. Both sides created many a chance but neither could get that all important breakthrough to edge ahead. For Werribee, Brush will see this as a point gained rather than two dropped whilst the Cannons will feel that they could have, and should have done better given they were at home.

Team: Baird; Lakic, Abbott, Dillon, Bavcar; Gonano; Zaffina (Gaspari 80), Ballan ©; Ammache (Holden 54), Paz; Elasi (Goodwin 63)
Booked: Elasi (1st)
Man of the Match: Tyson Holmes (Oakleigh Cannons)
Position After Game: 9th

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Chapter 52: Boom, bang a bang!

Basil knew there was no way to deal with the unhappiness which had enveloped both Nathan Elasi and Lisandro Paz. To deal with the striker, one final central midfielder whilst Paz would only be content if he was played on the left as an inverted winger, and even if it meant that Michael Holden would be used as an impact player to begin with then if it did it's trick then it could only benefit the Club. So when a recommendation came through to sign a quality midfielder, Basil literally jumped at the chance.

Dion Kirk - M C: Free Transfer

Dion is a quality central midfielder that fits right in with what we want at Werribee. He was once on the books of A-League side Adelaide United, and although he didn't make the grade there, he's trained at a high level. A great passer of the ball and with equally good technique, he will add more quality to our midfield options. He has also very good leadership skills so we can count on him to make others accountable if they are not pulling their respective weight. Last season he was at Campbelltown City who nearly made the end of season play-offs, and has also played for South Melbourne and Bentleigh Greens in our division. He might be the final piece of the jigsaw.

He will allocated squad number 29 for the season.

Then as soon as Kirk had signed on the dotted line, Brush got a text from Elasi. The message was short and succinct, a thumbs up emoji. Moments later, a second text came through: this time from Paz. Paz's text said: "Happy with everything boss, no need to cause a fuss now." So all was fine and dandy for now. But with the squad having cover everywhere now, Basil knew he couldn't play everyone. Players might have to be moved on, but nobody was wanting to at present. It would be a case of horses for courses as Basil's grandfather used to say to him.

Matchday 3:       Werribee City 1 - 2 Hume City  (0 - 1) , Attendance: 522

Werribee City slipped to their first loss of the season as goals in each half enabled visitors Hume City to walk off with the three points. The Bees gave an immediate debut to new signing Dion Kirk and dominated their opponents from start to finish but failed to make their opportunities count. The visitors took the lead six minutes from half time when Stratis Tsoukarellis crossed from the right to the far post, and winger Thierry Iradukunda peeled away from Tom Lakic to drive a low shot home. 

Midway through the second half, the visitors went two goals to the good when Mark Ochieng blasted in an unstoppable shot from the edge of the area that simply rocketed into the roof of the net. Brush's response was a double substitution moments later, and one of those substitutes halved the deficit with 16 minutes to go. Skipper Matteo Ballan played a ball into Lachlan Scott who spun away from his marker and drilled a low effort into the far corner. However, that was as good as it was and Werribee suffered their first loss in 25 games under Brush,

Team: Baird; Lakic, Abbott, Dillon, Bavcar; Gonano; Kirk (Gaspari 66), Ballan ©; Ammache, Paz (Holden 60); Elasi (Scott 66)
Man of the Match: Mark Ochieng (Hume City)
Position After Game: 12th

The new week started with a Zoom call for Brush on the Monday morning. Calling him was Domenico Serafino, the new chairman of Bangor City. Bangor, who had won the Welsh Cup three seasons in a row in the late 2000s, were having a wretched start to the new season with four points from 13 games and had recently sacked former Argentinian internationalist Pedro Pasculli. Pasculli had been a teammate of a certain Diego Armando Maradona when La Albiceleste won the World Cup in 1986, so had the pedigree. But winning in Mexico wasn't as easy as a wet night on the Menai Strait.

The discussion went well but Brush sensed a sticking point, what the prospective new chairman was demanding. Whilst they seemed to agree that avoiding the drop in 20-21 was paramount, Serafino was targeting winning the league the following season. Talk about a jump in expectations. Brush was more conservative in his judgement, and he told Serafino such: "If the Club survives the drop, you should be looking at a mid-table finish the following season. And then, only one, should you target the title." Serafino's reaction said it all, speechless. Aside of that, Brush received a call from Michael Jessup: one of the senior players at Werribee. Jessup announced he was going to end his career at the end of the season, and he thought it would be considerate of him to give Brush and Werribee a fair of advance warning instead of just dumping on them.

Brush appreciated it, and hoped the season would end up a decent one and give the midfielder a happy finish, Yet the next game was another test, Werribee were off to the J L Murphy to face a Port Melbourne side that had won three out of three so far. No pressure, right? Well considering the Sharks had been tipped to finish 10th, they were certainly punching above their weight. Could Werribee stop them?

Matchday 4:      Port Melbourne SC 0 - 1 Werribee City  (0 - 1), Attendance: 453

Port Melbourne saw their unbeaten record disappear when Werribee City took the spoils at the J L Murphy Reserve on a windy Friday evening. After losing to Hume City the previous Saturday, Werribee made three changes to their starting line up. Out went Alex Baird in goals, winger Omar Ammache and striker Elasi; and replacing them were Jordan Thurtell, Holden and Scott. The changed line up certainly didn't perform like a struggling side as they controlled the leaders with ease and took the lead after just four minutes when William Abbott sent Paz away down the right and his cross was thumped into the net by Scott for his second goal in successive games.

Werribee went close to a second and almost did so six minutes after the restart. A goalmouth scramble saw Scott hit the post from close range. Then the home fans thought their team had equalised in the 57th minute when Milos Lujic found the back of the net from a Evan Christodoulou pass, but those celebrations were soon muted by a linesman's flag. And deservedly so. Yet with Thurtell proving to be a barrier on his debut, Port Melbourne couldn't get back on even terms and Werribee celebrated a well earned three points.

Team: Thurtell; Abbott (Pistininzi 78), Dillon, Lakic, Bavcar; Gonano; Kirk (Zaffina 65), Ballan ©; Paz, Holden (Ammache 70), Scott
Man of the Match: Lisandro Paz 
Position After Game: 8th

As he got on the team bus post-game, Brush received a text: Bangor had not appointed him and he knew it was because of what he (Brush) had perceived as regards the team expectations.  "Ah well," he said to himself. "Their loss."

Soon enough it would be time to pick an international squad for the first time; that would be interesting and a challenge as well.

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Chapter 53: Naming the international team

After celebrating his birthday quietly, Basil sat down with a list from which he would name his first ever international squad for the Cook Islands. This would form the side for the friendly against Micronesia on 11 November 2020. He chose the following names, following on from a recommendation.


Tahiri Elikana (10 caps /0 goals), Keegan Inia (12/0), Manaariki Pierre (0/0)


Don Aiturau (5/0), Tyrell Barringer-Tahiri (15/0), Spoon Hallin (4/0), Sunai Joseph (9/0), Roimata Karika, Samuel Maoate-Cox (2/0), Ishaq Mohammed Nazeem (12/1), Arus Sem (13/0), Manu Tautu (2/1)


Daryl Areai (6/0), Tereapii Moutiaki (3/0), Gustav Raiora (7/0), Rhys Ruka (3/0), Rua Samuel (0/0), Harlem Simiona (15/1), Lee Tereu (3/0)


Maro Bonsu-Maro (4/4), Emiel Burrow (13/1), Darren Hall-Batty (3/0), Gustav Sila (4/2)


Tyrell Barringer-Tahiri has been named as captain, with Arus Sem as vice-captain at present.

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Chapter 54: Home is where the heart is

Basil poured himself a glass of wine after submitting his first ever international squad list to the Cook Islands FA public relations team so the media could be informed. Since he was in Australia, Basil delegated to job of letting the players to Tokoa Newnham: Newnham, despite having no coaching qualifications to his name, had been given the role of being Basil's number two. An advertisement had been put out for a proper number two with qualifications prior to Basil's appointment, but sadly this attracted very little in the way of interest.

So Basil had to deal with what he had. There was no scout either so getting an insight on the opponent would be very limited. It was like stepping into the dark and trying to find the light switch. At least at club level, Basil did have some kind of network in place. The advertisements would be re-submitted into the job centre in the next week. Even at international level, it was important to have the right structure and if that meant expanding the management team for such a small nation: then it would have to be.

As he relaxed, there was suddenly a knock on the door. Basil arose from his comfy chair and opened the door to John Waddell, panting as if he had just completed a marathon.

"Wads, come in. Take a seat mate."
"Thanks, thanks Basil."
"You look shattered Wads, everything OK?"
"Yeah grand, I've just been out for a wee 5K run and had to call in..."
"Sure everything's OK?"
"Yeah. Here, take this..."

Waddell thrust a piece of paper into Basil's hand. It was the fixture list for November.

"They had a computer glitch down at the FA mate, so I had to phone up and get our fixtures that day. Apologies for the terrible handwriting, you multitasking and that..."
"Aye, and they say us blokes can't multi-task."
"Yep, exactly."

Basil looked at the paper:

Saturday 7 November 2020 - Dandenong City @ Home
Saturday 14 November 2020 - Altona Magic (Away)
Saturday 21 November 2020 - Avondale FC @ Home
Saturday 28 November 2020 - Green Gully SC @ Home

Three home games, that would boost the Club's coffers a bit and if the team could get a winning streak then maybe the crowds would go up as well. Seemed like a win, win situation to Basil. If only...

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Chapter 55: COOK-ed to Perfection

After Werribee's home game against Dandenong City, Basil didn't hang around to speak much with the media. A couple of questions and he was away in his car, and off to the airport. Basil's destination was Auckland International Airport and then onto Ranotonga as there were no direct flights from Melbourne, for that read also no direct flights from Australia, to the Cook Islands.

There was 5 hour wait between flights so Basil would sit in the lounge, headphones on and tuned to his music in the meantime.

The Cook Islands was somewhere Basil had never been to before, not exactly number one on his holiday plans for sure but it was somewhere he was going to experience. The second flight was just a shade over four hours long, equivalent to Basil taking a flight from Manchester to Dalaman in Turkey back home. Therefore that Spotify playlist Basil created a few nights previous was being to put some serious usage. As he eventually disembarked the flight in Ranotonga, Basil looked up at the skies and typically the heavens opened with a downpour. "Just like being at home in the UK", Basil said to himself. "Nothing ever changes."

After collecting his suitcase from the carousel, Basil made his way to the arrivals concourse. There he met Tokoa Newnham for the first time, the assistant manager.

"Pleased to finally meet you Basil." Newnham said.
"Thank you, and likewise to you." Basil replied.
"Sorry about the weather, I wish I could make the sun shine for our new national team manager."
"No need to apologise Tokoa, am used to it. I come originally from the UK, and from a city that's used to its fair share of rainfall."

Newnham laughed.

"I like you already Basil, you have an incredible sense of humour."
"It's what makes me what I am. Now I think we best get me checked in at the hotel, yeah."
"Yeah, sounds good Basil. Sounds so good."

The two made their way to a black Ford, and clambered inside: Head Coach and assistant ready to start their adventure. For the next couple of days, Basil put the 23 players he had named in that initial squad; through their paces. Putting them through professional drills he had been through himself as a player and observed as a coach. The players were unused to this kind of regime so seeing a few of them blowing as they completed yet another circuit of the pitch, represented some kind of achievement for Basil. As the players passed him, Basil barked out: "Keep going lads, this will be of benefit in the long run for you. You'll become better players for it."

Eventually, game day came and it was time to test himself on the international stage. Basil opted for the same formation that he was using at Werribee even though the players were far from adept at it. The rain was still teeming as the players emerged from the tunnel, and a warm round of applause greeted Basil as he was announced to the sparse crowd. He leant forward from his dugout, and shook the hand of Micronesia's player manager Alex Panuelo warmly.

The game itself was a classic case of a game of two halves, The Cook Islands dominated the first then Micronesia had the best of the second. The home nation took the lead in the 37th minute when Harlem Simiona fed the ball into Maro Bonsu-Maro who placed his shot out of the reach of the Micronesia keeper for his fifth goal in as many internationals. Simiona scored the second four minutes later with a nice angled finish from a deep cross from Lee Tereu. Then with half time just a couple of minutes away, The Cook Islands scored a third when Rhys Ruka arrowed in his first ever international strike from the edge of the area and right into the top corner. Basil couldn't have wished for anything better as the teams came off at half time.

Panuelo made changes at the interval and Brush did likewise, after all it was only a friendly. And Micronesia seemed to respond to their changes better than the home nation as they made it 3-1 just three minutes after the restart. Kenneth Suldan was the scorer, a low shot from 25 yards out that skidded off the wet turf and in. Basil saw it as a goal that shouldn't have happened. Second choice keeper Tahiri Elikana should have at least got a hand to it Basil rued. That goal seemed to breathe a new life into Micronesia, and they got within one with a second goal on 66 minutes when Panuelo powered in a header. Twitchy times for Basil and his new squad, they needed to get a goal to settle any nerves which were become all too apparent. Thankfully for Basil, it came with 15 minutes to go when Ruka netted from the spot after Arus Sem had been fouled whilst challenging for a free-kick.

Micronesia pushed to get back into the game after the goal but The Cook Islands defence held firm for a win on Basil's maiden international game. It hadn't been pretty, it had been nervous in places but at least Basil had an idea what his new charges were like. He smiled, and walked down the tunnel a happy man. Half an hour later, he walked out of the stadium and into the car bound for the airport. Time to go home, and go back to Werribee whilst the Cook Islands FA planned the next friendly out.

Team: Inia (Elikana); Manate-Cox (Hallin), Joseph (Aiturau), Barringer-Tahiri (Karika), Nazeem (Tautu); Sem; Areai, Ruka; Tereu (Sila), Simiona; Bonsu-Maro
Scorers:  Bonsu-Maro, Simiona, Ruka 2 (1 pen)
Man of the Match: Rhys Ruka (Cook Islands)
Attendance: 648

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  • 2 weeks later...

Chapter 56: Fireworks!

After the team had delivered three points to him as an early birthday present, Basil settled down to enjoy his birthday in peace and quiet with a quiet meal accompanied by John Waddell, John's wife and vice-captain Matteo Ballan and his spouse. The meal had been planned by Ballan as he wanted to show Basil the best Italian restaurant in Melbourne. It was a huge success, and the perfect way to unwind from the football managerial stresses.

The team put in their best performance of the season against Port Melbourne; and despite the large squad; Basil was reluctant to ring the changes. Never change a winning squad was the philosophy that Basil had been instilled with but despite this, he was still far from happy. He wanted a team that was settled with the players believing in themselves. A tweak here and there wouldn't harm anyone.

Matchday 5:     Werribee City 3 - 0 Dandenong City  (1 - 0), Attendance: 545

Despite the win at Port Melbourne, Basil did decide to change the team for the first of three home games in November. James Karvelis was given his debut after missing the opening four games to a rolled over suspension, this meant that Tom Lakic moved back to the right back spot and Lachlan Davis came in for Michael Holden on the wing. What Brush got was a performance that delighted him no end in a tight encounter settled by two late goals.

Werribee had the best start when they took just a couple of minutes to open the scoring. Ballan fed recent signing Dion Kirk 30 yards out, and the midfielder strode forward before launching a long range effort that simply rocketed home. It was a class strike and underlined to Basil that this signing was one worth making especially for moments like that. Dandenong thought they had equalised a couple of minutes later when Brayden Mann played in strike partner Stipo Andrijasevic but a flag soon subdued those celebrations. It was to be one of those nights for the Dandenong frontman who was well shackled by the home defence.

The Bees were given some breathing space when they made it 2-0 with seven minutes to go. Ballan swung a free-kick and the ball dropped to the feet of Lisandro Paz who netted his first of the new season from eight yards out. The game was firmly Werribee's three minutes later when they netted a third. This time it was the turn of Alec Goodwin to net his first of the season when the substitute latched onto a Kirk through ball to lash in an unstoppable effort from the edge of the area.

Team: Thurtell; Lakic, Dillon, Karvelis, Bavcar; Gonano (Pistininzi); Kirk, Ballan ©; Davis (Holden), Paz; Scott (Goodwin)
Booked: Davis, Karvelis, Gonano (all 1st)
Man of the Match: Dion Kirk
Position After Game: 3rd

After completing his maiden international bow with the Cook Islands in the week, Basil arrived back in Melbourne: exhausted. Considering he had not played any international football in his career, the globe trotting came as a culture shock to the Werribee manager. Prior to this, the most he had done in terms of travelling was the flights between Britain and Australia or the usual summer break in Mexico or Dubai which Basil enjoyed. Still it meant more stamps in that passport.

Matchday 6:     Altona Magic 1 - 2 Werribee City  (0 - 0), Attendance: 455

The sole away game in November saw Werribee travel to the Paisley Reserve to take on Altona Magic. It was a return back to an old stomping ground for Marinos Gasparis although the midfielder didn't make the matchday eighteen to mark his return with an appearance. After that 3-0 win against Dandenong, Brush chose an unchanged side which indicated that perhaps just perhaps he might have found his ideal first eleven. It was a game Werribee controlled from the start to the end even if the scoreline suggested it was much closer.

After a goalless first half, Werribee took the lead in the 47th when Llevares fouled Brendan Gonano as they tussled at a free-kick. Ballan stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot. With 20 minutes to go, Werribee had a second when a cross by Lakic was finished with aplomb at the far post by an unmarked Holden. There was time though for a jittery finish when Shahril Mohamad scored with a long range shot that Jordan Thurtell got a hand to but couldn't keep out. Yet Werribee held on and as a result also improved their league standing.

Team: Thurtell; Lakic, Dillon, Karvelis, Bavcar (Abbott); Gonano; Kirk, Ballan ©; Davis (Holden), Paz; Scott (Goodwin)
Man of the Match: Shahril Mohamad (Altona Magic)
Position After Game: 2nd

Edited by hockeybhoy71
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Chapter 57: It's gotta be...PERFECT!

After reaching their highest position in the new division with their triumph at Altona Magic, Basil poured himself a nice glass of Merlot to celebrate of sorts. For a team that had been massively overhauled in the summer, Werribee were certainly punching above their weight. It was becoming the stuff of fairy tales and of course Basil wanted it to last for as long as it could. Nothing lasts forever was the phrase Basil was thinking of as he scanned the latest league standings. It was a case of seeing how long this winning feeling would last.

As he did, he received an email from the admin team at the Cook Islands FA. They were still buzzing that their new national Head Coach had led them to a win in his first game in charge, even if it proved to be too close for comfort in that second half. The email also advised Basil of his second national team assignment, a home friendly against Fiji on 24 March 2021. Fiji were ranked 30 places above the Cook Islands in the recent world rankings, and had also won the last meeting between the two nations: 3-0 in the OFC Nations Cup this summer. But they would be foolish to think that something similar would happen again, right?

Matchday 7:     Werribee City 2 - 1 Avondale FC  (1 - 1), Attendance: 464

Werribee's next game was against bottom of the table Avondale at Galvin Park, the first of back to back home games for the Bees. The mood was upbeat, the media predicting Werribee would swat their opponents aside like flies: after all Werribee were on a run of three consecutive wins. But it didn't start off as planned though as the basement dwellers took the lead after just five minutes play, Argentine Jonatan Germano chipping Jacob Thurtell from the edge of the penalty area. 

The game had a pattern throughout, Werribee attacking and Avondale trying to stop by fair means or foul. Midway through the first half, Werribee got back on level terms when Abliantis inexplicably handled the ball from a Michael Holden corner with nobody near him. Not the smartest decision for sure. Anyway, skipper Matteo Ballan stepped forth and sent Markogiannkis the wrong way from twelve yards. It was his second in successive games.

Werribee suffered a blow to their team plans in the 67th minute when Dion Kirk limped off but Basil knew he had a ready replacement in mind. The replacement was Brandon Zaffina, and within three minutes of his introduction, the substitute netted what turned out to be the winner. With the rain continuing to lash down, Lisandro Paz played him in and he then had the composure to steer his shot into the far corner. What an impact! Blushes spared and now it's four wins on the spin for an in form Werribee.

Team: Thurtell; Abbott, Dillon, Karvelis, Lakic; Gonano; Kirk (Zaffina), Ballan ©; Paz, Holden (Bavcar); Scott (Goodwin)
Man of the Match: Jonatan Germano (Avondale FC)
Position After Game: 2nd

Basil rued the injury to Dion Kirk, particularly as the new signing had been starting to show why he was so well sought as an acquisition. But the midfielder would recover in time for the final game of the month. Yet before then Basil had to also deal with a strange sequence of events involving David Parkinson. A couple of days before that final game of the month, the Kiwi had phoned Basil to ask him if he could have a wee chat: Basil naturally agreed. The chat was for Parkinson to voice his concerns about not getting much game time recently. Basil understood the concerns and the two shook hands on an agreement for the defender to get some chances soon. After all, the season still had plenty of games to go and there was bound to be an injury or two happen.

Then the following day, Basil was down at the stadium ensuring the kit was ready like he did the day before a home game when John Waddell appeared from out of nowhere.

"Good afternoon Wads, what you doing down here?"
"Basil, I've got some news for you mate."
"It's David (Parkinson), he's walked out on the Club."
"What? I was only chatting with him yesterday and we'd sorted his playing time out for a period. All was good."
"Well, he's decided to walk on us. He was out of contract today, and didn't fancy a month to month one so he's gone back home to New Zealand. Like on a flight this morning..."
"Blow me down, I'll phone him."
"Don't bother Basil, I've tried to call him back but it's saying number unobtainable."
"Well, fine. We move on without him."
"My sentiments exactly."
"I tell you one thing though, I'm calling Matteo Ballan later to tell him he's got the armband for the foreseeable now."
"Good shout, and I'm thinking young Jordan Thurtell could be a good vice-captain to him. He's always vocal on the training or match pitch. Reminds me a bit of that Peter Schmeichel fella."
"Couldn't agree more, great call Wads. Jordan's the new vice-captain, he's deserved it."

And so a new era of Werribee history was written. Nobody heard from David Parkinson, and when the squad heard about it: nobody seemed to raise a concern as if to say, we don't miss him. Basil took this as a positive step.

Matchday 8:     Werribee City 2 - 1 Green Gully SC  (0 - 1), Attendance: 476

The day after he was confirmed as Werribee's new captain for the foreseeable, Matteo Ballan fired the Bees to a fifth win in a row as they came from behind to defeat Green Gully at Galvin Park Reserve. It was a game that the visitors had the majority of the possession but that in the end counted for nada as Werribee continued their impressive start to life in NPL - Victoria. Basil had made one change to the side that had won seven days ago, Nicholas Bavcar coming in for William Abbott which allowed Tom Lakic to revert back to right back from left back.

Green Gully took the lead three minutes before half time when Diamant Yusuf played a through ball and Mate Dugandzic nipped in between both Oskar Dillon and James Karvelis to poke the ball past Jordan Thurtell and into the corner of the net. Yet just four minutes after the restart, Werribee equalised. As [b]Ballan[/b] lifted in the free-kick, Karvelis was fouled by Kalmar for a nailed on penalty. The skipper assumed responsibility as always, and this time opted for sheer power to convert rather than placement. Game back on!

Werribee suffered a setback when Kirk limped off for the second game in a row, causing Basil to cast a concerned glance as the midfielder hobbled down the tunnel. Yet Werribee would get the winner for five in a row in the 69th minute when Brendan Gonano found his skipper in a pocket of space and he rifled one in from range with a slight kiss from the post. By this time Green Gully had been reduced to ten men when George Mohammed was dismissed on the hour for a couple of yellows. 

Team: Thurtell; Lakic, Dillon, Karvelis, Bavcar; Gonano; Kirk (Zaffina), Ballan ©; Paz, Holden (Collett); Scott (Goodwin)
Man of the Match: Matteo Ballan
Position After Game: 2nd

The question after the game remained though, just how bad was the injury to Dion Kirk? Head Physio Jordan Jones' report was keenly awaited...

Edited by hockeybhoy71
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  • 2 weeks later...

Chapter 58: Winter is coming

After the crowd had dispersed following the 2-1 home win over Green Gully SC, Basil sat in his car a worried man. He had seen one of his key central midfielders walk off the pitch, and then head off in an ambulance to the hospital to have his injury assessed. Head Physio Jordan Jones had accompanied Dion Kirk in the ambulance and Basil sat there in stony silence. He looked to the skies for apparent divine inspiration, hoping that the injury was just a slight knock.

After spending ten minutes doing precisely nothing, Basil drove back to his hotel. Normally he would have some rock album pumping out of the stereo but not tonight, the drive was completed without a single musical tone being emitted. He nodded at the receptionist as he walked through the lobby, glancing frequently at his mobile. Jordan hadn't phoned, what was keeping him? The more the time passed, the more anxious Basil became. He plonked himself in the cosy chair in his suite, mobile on the glass table, and a large scotch on the rocks in his left hand. Then suddenly the strains of "Welcome To The Jungle" came through on the mobile, Basil picked up the mobile...it was Jordan at long last!

"Jordan, Jordan..."
"Hi boss, sorry for the late response. A&E was absolutely chocka, we finally got seen about half an hour ago."
"Anyway, the doctors have checked Dion out and it's not good news but it could have been worse."
"Right, what's the diagnosis Jordan?"
"Dion's got pulled knee ligaments boss, you're gonna have to change that team up."
"Timescale, what's the freaking timescale Jordan?"
"Looking at three weeks boss, then there's the fact Dion will have to get his match sharpness back..."
"So we're possibly looking at seeing him miss all of December?"
"Yup, that's pretty much the realistic response. Sorry, but it could have been much worse. A ruptured anterior cruciate for example."
"Sure. Don't talk to me about ruptured anterior cruciates Jordan, I had one of them in my younger days. Not good."
"Yeah they ain't, but you know now. I'll drive Dion home to his family now, and I'll be seeing you later. Take care boss."
"Take care Jordan, and thanks for looking after Dion. You're the best Head Physio in this league mate."

So the injury was a bad one, but could have been which might have ended a career yet wasn't. Three to four weeks, that's a bit of a hole to fill as Kirk and Matteo Ballan were really starting to gel together. Who could fill that void, Basil pondered. He fired up his laptop and looked at his squad list, four possible candidates. There was the experience provided by Michael Jessup and Marinos Gasparis, and the much younger guile of Josh Gaspari and Brandon Zaffina. Zaffina had partnered the skipper in NPL Victoria 2 but Basil saw him as an impact sub these days, so that left Gaspari. "I'm not gonna make a decision now." Basil said to himself. "I'll see how training goes first."

Basil then unfolded the sheet of A4 that John Waddell had given him in the shed pre-game, it had December's fixture list on it. The fixtures were as follows:

Saturday 5 December 2020: Melbourne Knights (Away)

Saturday 12 December 2020: Heidelberg United (Away)

Saturday 19 December 2020: Dandenong Thunder @ Home

Saturday 26 December 2020: South Melbourne (Away)

On the road for the majority of the month then, and every game as difficult as the one before. If Werribee could emerge from this latest batch fixtures , which would take the Club to within one game of the halfway stage, in touch with the leaders as they were at present then perhaps Basil could dare to dream again. Winning this title would mean a lot, and leave Basil with a decision to make since his contract was up at the end of May. He was still unsure about committing for a third season, the itch to try his luck elsewhere was burning away.

December would be a crucial month for Club and manager alike. That was a given.

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Chapter 59: Nothing lasts forever

The day before the ninth game of the season saw some welcome cheer at Werribee and it pleased Basil no end. Not content with three home games in November, which boosted the financial situation at the Club, Basil was pleasantly surprised when Chairman Craig Adam publicly announced that he and his consortium were reaffirming their commitment by putting another 85K into the Club coffers.

Nice wee bonus Basil thought, just the thing ahead of the next crucial game on the schedule.

Matchday 9:     Melbourne Knights 1 - 2 Werribee City (0 - 0), Attendance:  449

Werribee City relied upon two sensational strikes to take their winning run to six games and as a result set a new NPL Victoria record. The goals came from inverted winger Lisandro Paz who seems to have lifted his game to a new level after Basil Brush had agreed to play him in his favoured position. The result kept the Knights in mid-table whilst helping the visitors continue their chase of league leaders Bentleigh Greens.

After the sides had gone in at the interval goalless, Werribee exerted their control of the game with two goals in four quickfire minutes shortly after the restart. In the 50th minute, Paz would score one of the strikes of the season. Picking up a ball from James Karvelis wide on the left, the inverted winger cut inside his marker and took a few strides forward before unleashing an unstoppable effort into the top corner. Safe to say Anthony Zucco in the Knights goal had no chance whatsoever.

The keeper was picking the ball out of his net again in the 54th minute, Paz crashing a half volley into the far bottom corner with the same unerring accuracy. The Knights halved the deficit with 18 minutes to left to play, John Buceto measuring his cross to perfection and 16 year old striker Fu Wei heading home. However, Werribee held on for their fourth 2-1 win a row and with it, the league record for consecutive victories.

Team: Thurtell; Abbott (Bavcar), Karvelis, Dillon, Lakic; Gonano (Pistininzi); Gaspari, Ballan ©; Ammache, Paz; Scott (Goodwin)
Booked: Gonano, Karvelis (both 2nd)
Man of the Match: Lisandro Paz
Position After Game: 2nd

Matchday 10:     Heidelberg United 2 - 0 Werribee City (2 - 0), Attendance: 454

After winning six straight, the question on the lips was could Werribee make it a lucky seven against Heidelberg United? Alas Basil Brush and his team saw that unbeaten run come to an end when two first half goals proved to be enough to give the Bergers a much needed victory after losing to local rivals South Melbourne seven days previous. The damage was done early with both goals scored in the opening quarter of an hour.

Bees manager Basil Brush named an unchanged side for this game at Melbourne Olympic Village, but saw his game plan undone after just 12 minutes when Heidelberg netted their opener. It was a route one goal which caught the Bees out with Chris Theodoritis launching a huge goal kick that was collected by teenage striker Park Il-Soo who took one touch before rifling the ball past Jordan Thurtell. Three minutes later, the young South Korean striker and Heidelberg had a second when he blasted home from the edge of the six yard box following a well worked corner routine.

Werribee thought they had reduced the margin in the 32nd minute when Paz had the ball in the net. However, the celebrations were cut short when the linesman's flag went up for offside. That was about as good as it got for Werribee who now slip down two places in what has been a rather successful start to life since being promoted.

Team: Thurtell; Abbott, Karvelis, Dillon (Petrov), Lakic; Gonano (Pistininzi); Gaspari, Ballan ©; Ammache, Paz; Scott (Goodwin)
Booked: Paz (1st)
Man of the Match: Park Il-Soo (Heidelberg United)
Position After Game: 4th

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Chapter 60: All Good Things Must Eventually End

In between the games against Melbourne Knights and Heidelberg United, Basil had been summoned to a Zoom call. That call was with a certain Jerry Dolke. Jerry was the chairman of Vanarama National League side Bromley, who had sacked former Gillingham midfielder Neil Smith after eight years in charge about a month ago.

This was a chance to finally head back home after 15 months Down Under, and test his mettle in the fifth tier. Having being discounted by Chesterfield earlier in the season, Basil was unsure if he was the right fit. Only Jerry could decide that.

Jerry presented him with his vision on the call, Basil studied it closely:


  • Finish Mid-Table in the National League for 2020-21
  • Reach the National League Play-Offs in 2021-22 (contract will expiry that season if appointed)
  • Work within the wage budget and control it as such
  • Reach First Round Proper of the Emirates FA Cup in 2020-21 


  • Sign players under 23 for the first team squad
  • Reach quarter finals of the FA Trophy in 2020-21 

Well, having also visualised the season so far, Basil knew that he couldn't go any further in either the FA Cup nor the FA Trophy. All that really remained was to ensure he got, should he be appointed, the team into mid-table and then kick on for the play-offs the season afterwards as per Jerry's plan. However, Basil had ideas in his head that he could actually go that bit further not that Jerry or his potential playing staff would know. He looked at the squad list, four players on long term loans and a little bit of cash available to spend as well. All seemed good. There was also a few spots spare on the backroom team, so that would needed to be sorted as well. Jerry also promised that he would put some extra funds in for the youth system as per Basil's request.

All in all, Basil felt he was being asked to achieve reasonable targets. Nothing too over-realistic like some Chairman do. 

A few days later whilst preparing the Werribee side for the Heidelberg game, Basil took a phone call. It was Jerry.

"Hello Basil."
"Oh, hi Jerry."
"Just calling you to advise you that we were very very impressed with you the other day. So impressed, we would like to appoint you."
"Really. I've sorted a compensation figure out with the Werribee Chairman. So it's yours, just let me know if you want to accept."
"Oh cheers, thank you very much. Can I have a few days thinking time please?"
"Of course, I've sent you a contract via email to sign if you accept. Just drop me a reply back to that email and we'll be OK. Bye for now."
"Bye Jerry."

So that was that, Basil had ticked Bromley's boxes and they wanted him. As he sat on the team bus waiting for Wads and the players, Basil contemplated. Nobody would know his decision, not yet anyway.

The Tuesday after the Heidelberg loss, Basil had made his decision. He arrived at training, sans whistle and clipboard and called everyone into the centre of the training pitch in a massive circle.

"Guys, I'm going to make this short and sweet." Basil said. "I've accepted a job back in England so as of today, Wads, will be in temporary charge until the Club find a permanent successor."
"Wow!" said skipper Matteo Ballan. "Where you off to gaffer?"
"Bromley, a team that play in the fifth tier of English football. It's a chance to establish my name back in England. And to be honest, I did think hard about it before accepting the offer."
"Good luck Basil, we won't forget your impact." Wads said.
"Thanks Wads. I'd been considering to move at the end of the season anyway but this is time and the role sounds like something I can progress with. You'll be in good hands lads, and I won't forget you all either."

At that point, a cab arrived to take Basil to the airport and the long flight home. Basil Brush was the new manager of Bromley, subject to international clearance which was a bit of formality. Next stop, Hayes Lane BR2 and to meet the players Thursday morning: jet lag permitting.

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Chapter 61: Getting to know you

[justify]Basil stepped off the flight at Heathrow Airport after the Boeing 777 parked at gate 32. It was 07:30 in the morning. The rain was teeming down as normal, and there was a brisk south-westerly wind which made the disembarking that bit more hazardous. He zipped up his Adidas rain jacket and held his New Jersey Devils hockey baseball cap tightly as he scurried across the tarmac and into the warmth of the Terminal 3 building.

He meandered his way through to border control, and smiled attentively at the officer on duty.

"Good morning sir, and the purpose of your arrival in the UK please?"
"I'm the new manager of Bromley Football Club."
"Really? But you have a British Passport yet have come from Austraila."
"I was managing over there, non-league."
"Right. Well everything seems to be in order, enjoy your time back home then. Good luck."
"Thank you."

Basil headed to the baggage reclaim area, picked up his case and looked for the signs for the passenger meeting point. After heading in this direction and that, Basil saw a sign with his name on it. Holding that was none other than Jerry Dolke, the Bromley FC chairman, A few steps further, and the two men shook hands.

"Welcome back to England." Jerry greeted enthusiastically, happy to have his man in place.
"Thank you Jerry, see the weather's still as rubbish as I remember it?"
"Nothing changes Basil, nothing changes here in the UK."
"Yeah, pretty much standard."
"Now let's get you to the Bromley Court Hotel. I've arranged for you stay there until you find a property of your own. That OK?"
"Sounds a plan Jerry, let's do this."

The car sped its way through the inevitable morning rush hour travel, and arrived at the hotel an hour later. Basil checked in, and left his case for the concierge to drop off at the room. Keen to get stuck in, Basil wanted to meet the players and his backroom staff before the customary press conference later in the afternoon. Surprisingly, there was hardly any sign of jet lag but Basil put this down to sleeping on the flights. Jerry parked his car at the stadium, and ushered Basil into the stadium where the team were training at this morning. He pointed the office which would be Basil's domain, and introduced him to Janette: his PA.

Basil made his way up the tunnel, to see a man laying cones out on the pitch. The man paused, cast the remaining cones aside, and jogged over to where Basil was stood.

"Morning, you must be Basil?"
"Yes, and you are?"
"Jon, Jon McCarthy - assistant manager at your service."
"Pleased to meet you, let's get down to doing the preparation before the rest arrive eh?"
"Good idea."


Jon has been assistant manager for the Club since the summer. A former Northern Irish internationalist, despite being born in Middlesbrough, Jon obtained 18 caps for his adopted nation. His playing career saw him start his career at Hartlepool United but he really shone at York for five seasons before moving onto Port Vale. Two impressive seasons there saw Birmingham City pay £1.5 million for him in 1997 where he had four reasonable successful seasons despite a multitude of injuries. He eventually hung his boots up in 2007 and after completing additional studies started his coaching career at Chester in 2014.

As they laid out the training exercises, the two men chatted intently as if to bounce ideas off each other. Jon explained to Basil that the Club had the following in place: a goalkeeping coach in Jim Stannard (the former Fulham goalkeeper), a fitness coach in Ben May (who played for Millwall), Sean Wickenden was the Head Physio and two more former pros in Brendan Moloney and Brian Atkinson (he of Sunderland and Darlington fame) managed the Under 23's and Under 18's respectively. But there was scope to expand if Basil felt suit. Moments later, Jim Stannard and Ben May arrived: Jon did the formalities and introduced Basil to them.

Now to await the arrival of the players...

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Chapter 62: Understanding Bromley

As Basil and his new backroom staff chatted in the centre circle of the Hayes Lane pitch, the players slowly trundled up the tunnel for training. Each player looked up as if to wonder what was going on, and smiled. Basil counted each one to confirm that he had the right numbers available for that first session, and from the list that Jon (McCarthy) he appeared to be four short.

"Jon, we're four short!"
"Sorry, my bad Basil. I didn't mark out the injured on that list." Jon took a pen and wrote "INJ" at the side of four names. "There you are, all should be correct now."
"Yep, cheers."

Basil then took the formalities of breaking the ice with an introduction to the players, just like he had done at Werribee. One of the four marked as injured, then spoke.

"Thanks for your warm introduction. Welcome to Bromley, my name is Billy Bingham. I'm the Club Captain."
"Billy Bingham? Jeez, you've changed from when you managed Northern Ireland." Basil quipped.
"Very funny boss, like your sense of humour."
"You'll get used to it Billy, trust me. And that applies for you all too."

Basil then explained his plan for the remainder of the season, that he was targetting a mid table finish come May. The team currently found themselves in 18th place, just three points and three places above the drop zone. Five points separated Bromley from Basil's target position, and eleven from the last play-off position currently occupied by AFC Fylde. In Basil's mind, that was his personal target but the players and Jerry were not aware of this; neither were the backroom staff either.

With the formalities over, Basil let Jon take training and preferred to have a watching brief for the first couple of days: he would begin to take training on the following Monday. That way, he could see what was looking good and what needed to be worked on. Two and half hours later, the session finished and the players made their way into the canteen which was housed underneath the main stand. Basil didn't join them, preferring to sit in his office to do more club planning. Methodical as always, he made the following notes from the information he had been given from Jon and Jerry respectively.

There was £72,000 to spend if needed on players. Prior to a spot of Basil tweaking, there had been nothing at all. Jerry had given Basil full control of the budget adjustment. It also meant at the moment there was just over £1,500 a week spare to cover wages so Basil knew he would have to be extra prudent with any transfer dealings. Bromley weren't the richest club in the division so Basil knew he was in for a challenge but he relished it. If he could achieve the targets, the finances would get better.

Bromley had two affiliations in place which pleased Basil no end. The first was with local league club Gillingham who were flying high in second place in League One, whilst the second was with Premier League side Crystal Palace. Having that link Basil viewed as a good move, perhaps he might be able to nab some of the Eagles young talents on loan and get the Premiership side to cover the wages. A smart move he thought, especially if Bromley needed to kick on towards the end of the season.


Goalkeepers:  1. Mark COUSINS, 23. Ryan HUDDART, 33. Will TODD, 38. Liam TOWNER

Defenders:  3. Ryan GALVIN*, 5. Jack HOLLAND, 6.  Chris BUSH, 13. Jordan LAWRENCE-GABRIEL, 25. Jamie BARTON, 26. Michael CHAMBERS, 28.  Anthony WISE, 34.Harrison HOLGATE, 36. Joey JONES**

Midfielders:  4. Jordan HIGGS, 7. Luke COULSON, 8. Frankie RAYMOND, 10. Billy BINGHAM, 11. TQ ADDY, 15. Robbie SIMPSON, 17. David BOATENG, 18.Ben ALLEN, 24. Ellis HUDSON, 27. Monday SUNDAY, 29. Johnson WICKENDEN, 30. Andrew REAY, 31. Jude ARTHURS, 32. Mark BROWN, 35. Faysal BETTACHE***, 37. Henry WOODS****

Forwards:  9. Vadaine OLIVER, 12. Michael CHEEK, 22. Matt RUSH

* - on S/L loan from Sheffield Wednesday, ** - on S/L loan from QPR, *** - on S/L loan from Salford City, **** - on S/L loan from Gillingham


Michael Cheek - the 29 year old striker has scored over 100 plus goals in non-league football and as such Bromley rely upon him and his usual strike partner Vadaine Oliver for their goals. He joined the Lilywhites in the summer of 2019 from Ebbsfleet United, and has also seen service with Dagenham and Redbridge, Braintree Town and Chelmsford City. Currently top scorer with 5 goals from 17 games.

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Chapter 63: Off and running

Basil looked the fixture for the remainder of December 2020. A long trip north to Chorley to begin with then back to back Christmas home games against Aldershot Town and Havant and Waterlooville. Assessing the table, Basil thought that if he could win a couple of games then that would be progress and a good start. The question was though, could he get the players to buy into what he wanted almost straight away?

A tough ask, yes. But fingers crossed, right?

Matchday 25:     Chorley 1 - 2 Bromley (1 - 0), Attendance: 934

Backed by 44 loyal away supporters, the Basil Brush era at Hayes Lane began with a win at Victory Park in Chorley. The Lilywhites owed their win to a quickfire second double, with on loan defender Joey Jones being the unlikely hero. 

Bromley lined up in their new manager's preferred 4-1-4-1 formation with Michael Cheek playing as the sole striker. Chorley took the lead in the 27th minute when veteran attacking midfielder Louis Dodds curled in a free-kick from the left which was headed home by Marcus Carver. However, two goals in as many minutes saw the points head back to South East London. In the 69th minute Luke Coulson's free kick was netted from an acute angle by Jones. The on loan QPR defender was in the right spot shortly afterwards to score the winner when a Jack Holland header was parried by Matt Urwin into his path six yards out.

Team: Huddart ©; Holgate (Coulson), Holland, Bush, Galvin; Jones; Raymond, Bettache; Allen (Rush), Addy (Boateng); Cheek
Man of the Match: Joey Jones
Position After Game: 16th

Basil's plans to name an unchanged side for the Boxing Day clash suffered a setback when left-back Ryan Galvin turned up at the light session on Christmas Day with flu like symptoms. Keen to ensure the rest of the side would not be affected, Basil sent the defender home straight away, The loanee would miss both Christmas games, forcing a bit of a reshuffle.

Matchday 26:     Bromley 2 - 3 Aldershot Town (2 - 2), Attendance: 1,853

At a very wet Hayes Lane on Boxing Day, it took a wonder strike to give Aldershot all three points and in the process ensure that Basil Brush's first Bromley home game wouldn't be a winning one. Brush made two changes from the side that won at Chorley; Coulson and club captain Billy Bingham came in for the injured Galvin and Frankie Raymond who dropped to the bench to accommodate the skipper. The Shots though netted the first goal which came after just nine minute when Libyan midfielder Mohamed Bettamer glanced a header into the far corner from a Joe Muscatt delivery.

Bromley were level just five minutes later. Ben Allen saw his curling free-kick parried by Walker but straight to Jones who poached in his third in two games from inside the six yard box. Aldershot regained the lead in the 22nd minute when a weak defensive header by Harrison Holgate was blasted first time into the net by Alfy Whittingham. The fourth goal of an action packed first half came nine minutes before half time when Allen crossed for Michael Cheek to score with a thumping header. The winner though came twenty minutes from the end when a Robbie Tinkler cross was headed away by Holgate but only as far as Muscatt who arrowed a volley first time into the top corner. Try as they might, Bromley couldn't equalise for a third time and the visitors move up to fourth in the table.

Team: Huddart; Coulson (Boateng), Holgate, Holland, Bush; Jones; Bettache (Raymond), Bingham ©; Allen, Addy (Reay); Cheek
Man of the Match: Alfy Whittingham (Aldershot Town)
Position After Game: 17th

Matchday 27:     Bromley 3 - 1 Havant and Waterlooville (2 - 1), Attendance: 1,098

The final game of 2020 saw Bromley record their second win under Basil Brush's new regime with a well earned triumph over the Hawks. Once more Brush made two changes, both positional. Coulson and Holgate made way for Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel, back from injury, and David Boateng: the latter playing the holding role in front of the back four with Jones dropping into central defence alongside Jack Holland

Bingham had an influential role in the opening goal after 23 minutes, a teasing centre from the skipper and Allen poked in his first ever Bromley goal from close range. The Hawks equalised eight minutes before half time though when central defender Craig Robson glanced in a header from a Roarie Deacon set-piece. However, Bromley regained the lead on the stroke of half time with a sensational strike from Faysal Bettache. The QPR loanee ran at the Hawks defence before unleashing a thunderbolt from 25 yards that gave the keeper no chance whatsoever.

Bromley secured their win with a third goal just a couple of minutes after the restart. A low cross by Lawrence-Gabriel found Cheek in space who slammed it home at the second time of asking after his initial effort had been blocked. After that Bromley cruised to the win, and there was still time for a cameo appearance from Vadaine Oliver who made his first appearance after four months out with a hip injury.

Team: Huddart; Lawrence-Gabriel (Higgs), Jones, Holland, Bush; Boateng; Bettache, Bingham ©; Allen, Addy (Raymond), Cheek (Oliver)
Booked: Jones (2), Bush (2)
Man of the Match: Billy Bingham
Position After Game: 17th

Edited by hockeybhoy71
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Chapter 64: No rest, no play

The New Year echoed with bangs and fireworks a plenty. Basil had gone down to the centre of London for a few days to celebrate 2021's arrival. Like thousands, Basil stood in the cold night air on the Embankment watching the London and the Thames light up in a serious explosion of colour and splendour. There was no Jessica Miesel, nobody actually to snuggle up close to and gaze into "come to bed" eyes, just pure strangers whooping and hollering as the display unfolded. After spending the previous year in Australia, experiencing it back in the UK: well, it was nice to return to normality for a while.

The following day, Ne'er Day as Basil's father used to say it, Basil was in his office planning for the next game for Bromley. It was a long trip north in 24 hours which meant an early departure from South East London. Destination, Darlington. Basil read the online edition of the Northern Echo and as part of the game preview, it mentioned Basil's loan spell at Hartlepool United when he was a player. Hartlepool and Darlington, even though the two towns were 25 miles apart, enjoyed a bit of fierce rivalry. So Basil braced himself that he might get a bit of banter in his direction tomorrow when he took his place in that visiting dugout at Blackwell Meadows.

But before that, there was a transfer to deal with. Bolton Wanderers of League Two wanted to sign David Boateng, and the player had expressed a wish in making the move permanent. Because the 19 year old defensive midfielder was out of contract since the previous manager not decided to offer him a full time deal, the youngster could move and Basil would be powerless to stop it. As it was, the Trotters agreed terms with the player and he left there and then. That was the cruel side of football. But the same day brought some good news as the Club managed to expand their off pitch team with 27 year old Dean Jones arriving at Hayes Lane as a Sports Scientist. Jones had been the standout candidate from the recent advertisement, and only the best would do. He wouldn't be the last new arrival in January.

Matchday 28:     Darlington 1 - 1 Bromley (0 - 0), Attendance: 1,464

Bromley picked up a valuable point in their bid to clamber out of the relegation dog fight but it could have been much more if they hadn't been so wasteful in their finishing at Blackwell Meadows. Barracked by the home support constantly through the ninety minutes, Basil made just a single change to the side that defeated Havant and Waterlooville. David Boateng had departed for pastures new, Bolton, with Frankie Raymond coming into the starting eleven and forming a central midfield trio alongside Billy Bingham and Faysal Bettache. TQ Addy and Ben Allen stayed on the wings with Michael Cheek continuing as the lone striker.

After a goalless first half, Bromley took the lead in the 54th minute when Salam pushed Harrison Holgate as they challenged for the ball after an inswinging free-kick from Bingham. Referee Constantine Hatzidakis pointed straight to the spot, and Cheek stepped up to drill the penalty kick right into the bottom right hand corner: absolute perfection. With 22 minutes left, the home side equalised. Salam charged into the area and fired in an angled effort that Ryan Huddart could only parry out to Jordan O'Brien and he rammed his shot into the vacant net.

Team: Huddart; Lawrence-Gabriel, Jones, Holland (Holgate), Bush; Allen, Bettache, Raymond (Oliver), Bingham ©, Addy; Cheek (Higgs)
Booked: Holland (3)
Man of the Match: Jordan O'Brien (Darlington)
Position After Game: 18th

With there being a fortnight between the Darlington game and the next one, a home one against 8th placed Barrow, Basil sought the time to continue his backroom staff overhaul with new faces coming into Bromley. Tuesday the 5th proved to be the most hectic with two new names arriving to fill roles. The first new name was the appointment of Director of Football, and filling that role was former Oldham Athletic goalkeeper Andy Lonergan who had retired from playing in the summer after a spell at Liverpool. Also coming in that was a boost to the medical team with Deanne Goring joining the Club as an extra physiotherapist, this would ease the pressure on Sean Wickenden who had been rushed off his feet since arriving in the summer.

The following day, it was the turn of the scouting network to receive a boost as Joe Taylor was appointed as an additional scout. Then Basil brought in George Stevens 24 hours later after this as a Chief Data Analyst, Stevens would watch the team's game and see what was good and what was bad before submitting a report to Basil. All the top clubs had this model in place, so why not Bromley? Then the biggest arrival came on Saturday the 9th as Basil and Bromley brought in their big name acquisition as a coach. For arriving in Bromley was none other than 81 times capped French internationalist and five times Premier League winner with Manchester United, Patrice Evra! Yes, the very same one. Evra was swapping the bright lights and party scene in Barcelona for coaching on potential wet days in Bromley! What a coup!

Matchday 29:     Bromley 4 - 0 Barrow (1- 0), Attendance: 1,130

Bromley produced their best performance under the short time they have been managed by Basil Brush; with a comprehensive dismantling of Barrow at Hayes Lane. Barrow were ripped apart with some scintillating football from the hosts and didn't help themselves with two Bluebirds players being sent for early baths by referee Paul Rees. Brush made two changes to his side that drew at Darlington, both in the back four as he persisted with the 4-5-1 formation. Coming into the starting line up were Holgate and Ryan Galvin, the latter now fully recovered from flu which had left him bedridden over Christmas and New Year and out went Jack Holland and Chris Bush.

The rout started in the 19th minute when Ben Allen stood up a cross from the byline and Cheek planted a header into the far corner. It was the beginning of a great day for the former Ebbsfleet marksman. With the second half less than a minute old, he and Bromley had a second when Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel's low cross was tapped home at the near post by the striker. Two minutes later, he completed a hat-trick when he got his head onto a Bingham corner. The striker's elation was felt all round Hayes Lane. Then Barrow really started to unravel as they were reduced to nine men before the game reached the hour mark. Lewis Hardcastle and Josh Kay both saw red for second bookable offences, leaving their manager and supporters watching in disbelief.

Goal number four arrived in the 64th minute. Another Bingham corner and this time substitute Vadaine Oliver thumped home a header into the back of the Barrow net. After that Bromley played the game within themselves, keeping it simple at front and back. The boys had earned their Monday off after this!

Team: Huddart; Lawrence-Gabriel, Jones, Holgate, Galvin; Allen, Bettache (Coulson), Raymond (Oliver), Bingham ©, Addy; Cheek
Booked: Cheek (2)
Man of the Match: Michael Cheek
Position After Game: 16th

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Chapter 65: Sometimes you can't always be a success

As the month of January ticked closer to being completed, Basil sat back in his office chair...content shall we say. He'd finished his first month at Bromley, and the team were slowly buying into what he demanded from them. He fired up his work laptop, and connected to the internet just to see how Werribee were doing. Had things gone pear shaped after Basil's departure? In fact, not they were still doing rather well. So he typed up a nice email to Wads to pass on his fondest wishes and that he (Basil) still had a soft spot for them despite being on the other side of the world now.

In between the last game at home to Barrow and the next away to AFC Fylde, Basil added another name to his now increased back room staff. He had found a Head of Youth Development, and arriving from north of the border was Scot Stevie Campbell. Stevie had been enticed to come from Brechin, near Dundee to take up the role that Basil was so keen to fill. He had experience in this role before with both Dundee clubs as well as at Inverness Caledonian Thistle as well as acting as a number two at Glebe Park. Just the ticket. With the squad also thin on numbers, the first team squad only had 18 players with the rest scattered in the Under 23s and Under 18s, Basil was also scouring the loan and free transfer markets in the hope of finding a gem and keeping the wage budget still firmly under control.

Matchday 30:     AFC Fylde 5 - 3 Bromley (3 - 2), Attendance: 1,518

There were goals a plenty at Mill Farm as hosts AFC Fylde and visitors Bromley put on an attacking show that must have really satisfied the neutrals but not been good for the heart rates of the managers and supporters of the two sides. Bromley manager Basil Brush named an unchanged side from the side that thumped Barrow 4-0 seven days previous which meant the team continued with the 4-5-1 formation for the third game in succession. However, Vadaine Oliver had been become the latest victim of the flu bug which had hit certain members over the last month. 

Fylde started with a bang with two goals in the opening eight minutes. In the second minute, the hugely impressive Tom Walker netted from the edge of the area after a slick passing move before Angolan winger Érico Sousa drilled in a second six minutes later. Bromley looked shell shocked to say the least. Yet Bromley picked themselves up and stunned their hosts with two goals of their own in two minutes to make it 2-2 after just 22 minutes. First of all in the 20th minute, a superb defence splitting pass from Faysal Bettache found TQ Addy who beat Montgomery at his near post with an angled finish. Then Bettache himself scored the second, a curling effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

The home side regained their lead a minute before half time when James Craigen's corner drifted all the way through to the far post and Gary Oliver slid in to convert. The striker bagged his second three minutes after the restart, Walker charging down the left before delivering a low cross to him who made it 4-2 with a low finish. Bromley had to fight back and fight back quickly if they were to get anything out of the game. They got within one in the 67th minute when Joey Jones bulleted home a far post header from an curling free-kick by skipper Billy Bingham. Then as they pushed forwards for a fourth and equalising strike, Fylde put the game beyond them when former Macclesfield Town midfielder Danny Whitehead lashed one in from long range with four minutes to go.

Team: Huddart; Lawrence-Gabriel, Jones, Holgate, Galvin (Holland); Allen (Coulson), Bettache, Raymond, Bingham ©, Addy; Cheek
Booked: Lawrence-Gabriel (7)
Man of the Match: Tom Walker (AFC Fylde)
Position After Game: 16th

The midweek saw Basil manage to bring in his first signing, and he was adamant it would not be the last as there were still certain spots in the team which lacked depth.

Jack Diamond - M/AM L: On loan to the end of the season from Sunderland

A young winger who will add competition to the left wing slot currently occupied by TQ Addy. Has come through the Academy of Light, and this represents the third loan spell of his fledging career. Made eight appearances towards the back end of the 2018-19 season with Spennymoor Town and a full season long loan last season at Harrogate Town, scoring four goals in 45 league and cup matches. Made his Black Cats debut as a substitute for Lynden Gooch in their 3-1 home win earlier in the season and scored his first goal for them in an Papa John's Trophy group encounter against Everton Under 23s. Will be wearing squad number 16 at Hayes Lane.

Matchday 31:     Yeovil Town 0 - 2 Bromley (0 - 1), Attendance: 2,756

Bromley took advantage of some slack finishing by their hosts to record a vital away win to boost their chances of not being drawn into a relegation dogfight. Goals from top scorer Michael Cheek and Frankie Raymond did the damage against the Glovers for whom new Dutch manager Foeke Booy will be far from impressed with his team's chance to conversion ratio. The Lilywhites surprisingly named an unchanged side for this game, with new loan signing Jack Diamond from Sunderland not deemed fit enough to start.

The opening goal came after 20 minutes play. Ben Allen headed a pass into Cheek who took one touch before unleashing a half volley into the roof of the net beyond Liam O'Brien. The former Coventry City keeper had no chance with that one and he certainly had no chance with the second and decisive goal, which came six minutes from time, Raymond curling a sublime free-kick into the top corner.

Team: Huddart; Lawrence-Gabriel, Jones, Holgate, Galvin; Allen (Coulson), Bettache (Rush), Raymond, Bingham ©, Addy; Cheek (Holland)
Booked: Allen (3)
Man of the Match: Michael Cheek
Position After Game: 14th

The following day saw the belated Vanarama National League monthly awards be handed out for December 2020, and Basil was pretty pleased it had to be said. Top scorer Cheek finished in second place in the Player of the Month category whilst loanee Bettache went one better. The midfielder's superb effort against Havant and Waterlooville secured the Goal of the Month crown for him to much applause from Basil, his backroom and team-mates when it was presented to him at training.

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