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A Bright Dawn- Kings Langley


Faramir
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A Bright Dawn- Kings Langley 2027-28 1st Season Premier

To Date: (This story comes from the Dafuge Challenge, where I am playing Kings Langley up after they were promoted to play in Vanarama South to start 2022-23 season).

Mike Havel slumped in his comfortable, but heavily worn desk chair. He glanced at his Assistant Manger Michael Stewart as Stewart relaxed in one of the other two chairs in the office. 

"You know I always admired your tenacity on the pitch Michael."

Stewart grinned, "It was about the only thing I had going for me sometimes. Didn't get me on the pitch much for ManU, but it helped me when I moved back to Scotland."

Havel smiled back, "Always thought ManU missed the boat on you. If I had been coaching then, I would have been happy to have you in my midfield." (ed.- I actually did, Stewart was a key midfielder for many of my sides in past CM/FM play)

"I appreciate the confidence you have shown me Mike. You gave an untried, barely badged Coach an opportunity as your Assistant and then didn't ditch me when you had better options asking to join you."

Havel grunted with a smile, "I was used to you by then. We were working well and the club kept moving up- no reason to change."

Stewart smiled widely, "Quite a trip it has been. If I hadn't been along, I wouldn't have believed it."

"A good share of fortune along the way for us Michael, but I am proud of how Kings Langley has grown since we took over."

"Come on Mike. I know you don't want the credit, but you bloody well better accept it. You found the right players at the right time and put them in positions to excel."

Havel smiled, "I honestly didn't think we would achieve five consecutive promotions. I was happy enough to get through VN-South and then National."

"League 2 wasn't too bad, but things got a lot more difficult in League 1 and then last season in Championship."

Havel nodded, "Last season was the best, when Tyrese (Omotoye) scored the match winner in 86th minute over Blackpool in next to last match to clinch our promotion to Premier."

Stewart sighed, "Would have been nice to be Champions, but one Demarai Gray header boosted Brighton past us."

"It was disappointing, but promotion was more important in my book. It is really strange to be sharing Craven Cottage with Fulham after they won the 3rd promotion spot to EPL."

"Well, we will finally have our own stadium in 2029."

"That was a big relief after the Board approved my request. I will keep pushing them for better training facilities in the meantime. Looking back it is hard to believe that we played at Billericay's New Lodge all the way up to the Championship."

Stewart laughed, "It was a cozy little place to play to be sure."

Let's take a quick look at the side, now that we are through our friendlies."

Stewart glanced over at the wall that held the listings for the Senior side, "Are you worried about Aaron (Maguire) in goal?"

Havel shrugged, "Maybe a little. He has been our #1 keeper since our 1st season in VN-South. Signing him after Tottenham released him at 18 has been probably our best overall signing, but he was a lot more inconsistent last season. I am not backing off on him being our #1 keeper, but signing Will Jaaskelainen was to give me the option of a proven keeper if he hits a rough patch. In the end, Gaston Folia- the 18 year old that came after his loan stint last season from Man City, may turn out to be better- but for now we are rolling with Aaron."

Stewart nodded, "At least we have a solid backline to support him. Zach Awe coming back again has boosted everyone's sprits."

"Quite a journey for both us and Zach. He signed on free for us at same time as Aaron after Arsenal released him. Then he was a star for us until Watford bought him out from us during January of our VN-National season, but at least they loaned him back to us. I was so upset with the Board for that sale, but the funds did help us survive financially."

"Then Watford kept loaning him back to us and he kept being the rock of our backline. To have them sell him back to us for 750K as we headed to EPL play must have been satisfying."

"More like strange. Well, satisfying too, but strange. They bought him and he spent all of his time on loan to us. In any case, having him back really made the fans happy and boosted the morale in the dressing room. 

"Getting Weverton last season was a boon. That 23 year old Brazilian is really a wonderful talent in the center defense."

Havel nodded, "Thank Robby (Savage, Kings Langley GM) for that one. Scouts hadn't even tweaked to him when Robby tumbled on the rumor he was unhappy at Lille. When he gave me the rundown, I immediately called them and got the deal done."

"Taylor (Foran) may be a little put-out by that, but he is a good enough team player to understand the addition. I do think he is a little worried about enough playing time now that you added Max Normann Williamsen on loan from Napoli and then also Elkan Baggott."

"I love Taylor and he has been a good partner with Zach all the way up from that first season, but he doesnt't quite have the EPL level quality. I am glad to have him as Skipper now that Aiden Mesias left, but he is only a depth player now. I do want add Normann Williamsen permanently, but will pursue that in January." 

Stewart glanced up again, "You really rolled the dice on getting both Neco Williams and Joel Bagan this summer. Jack Scott and Hugo Bueno were both a little stunned, but I convinced them they still have roles to play on our club."

"I took a lot of flack in the Press on getting Neco for his buy-out clause of 7 Million from Preston. It was both a record transfer purchase for us and took more than a quarter of our available transfer funds. I remain convinced he will be a huge difference maker for us in EPL play. He is only 26 and he really suits us as a right WB player. I know Jack thought he had the position locked up, but he doesn't offer nearly as much going forward as Neco. The same applies on the left side as Bagan is really impressive. Hugo is a good left WB, but Bagan is an excellent one. I hope I can keep both Scott and Bueno happy enough as we need the depth they offer us."

"Losing Aiden (Mesias) took our set piece attack away and he was a good leader too- but I must admit you replaced him well with Agustin Lopez."

Havel gave a curt nod, "Scouts deserve their due for Lopez. They were the ones who found him at Colon. He isn't the flashiest player, but his tackling and set piece ability were what we needed in center midfield."

"Center midfield looks a lot like that- solid, not flashy- with Nile John, Tomislav Dubnjak, Tim Iroegbunam and promising youngsters Keith Ballard and Tyrik Osborn on hand."

"True, I expect we will eventually have to improve more there, but good enough to start our first season of EPL with. Now that we can finally play Vladmir Bocanegra on leftwing, we really have something. That 19 year Columbian is going to be a Star. I just hope we can hang on to him."

It was Stewart's turn to grunt, "63 Million is a low release fee for a player that good. I hope we can keep him, but you know the big sides will be sniffing around soon."

Havel shrugged, "I had to give it to him and his agent. It is a risk, but that was the reason I also got Callum (Williams) back when Arsenal said they would listen to offers on him. He has been great for us on loan the last two seasons. That also allowed me to move Armstrong Oko-Felix up to the strike corps, as he didn't want to keep playing on the wing this season. At least Bob Bell's release clause doesn't apply now since there aren't any higher divisions. Bell is really turning into a wonderful player on rightwing for us."

"Bob is a bit of an injury risk. Getting that youngster Hari Gould from Arsenal really helps us depth wise there. Arsenal seems to turn out young wingers that fit our style perfectly."

Havel chuckled, "I was surprised they let both Williams and Gould come to us. Thankful, but surprised. Don't forget that now Mauricio Munoz is finally on loan, he may finally get a Work Permit and be with us next season- he could be another Columbian difference maker for us on rightwing."

Stewart stood and paced, "We are pretty thin on our strike force."

Havel sighed, "Tyrese (Omotoye) getting a double hernia didn't help things, but yes that is true. I wanted to avoid spending a huge chunk of our transfer funds to bolster us up front. For now, we will lean on Layton Stewart, James Taylor and Armstrong (Oko-Felix) and hope that is good enough. If we need to Hari Gould might help up there and Harry Case might be able chip in."

Stewart laughed, "Fulham spent 165 Million in tranfer fees adding players. Our whole budget was 28 Million and you only used about 20 of that."

Havel shrugged again, "Life of a small market club Michael. You get the best you can, find the better youngsters, and try to make it work. Just look at the wage structure, Erling (Haaland, Manchester City) earns 625K a week. Our entire club only makes 485K a week."

Havel continued, "We have to try and get off to a good start Michael. Leicester at home and Fulham on the road- which is also our home this season, so not really on the road- are critical matches. The schedule after that of Arsenal at home, Liverpool and Manchester United on the road seems a bit daunting."

"Don't forget the CC Cup match at AFC Wimbledon after Fulham. Isn't the Leicester match televised?"

"Yes it is. The Liverpool match is also set for TV. The money from those matches is terrific for a club with finances like ours. If we can survive one season in EPL, we will be set financially with our low wage structure."

Stewart smiled, "If?"

Havel grinned back, "Well I have my hopes, but the Press isn't going to hear them."
 

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14/8/2027 Leicester City- Televised match

Kings Langley stunned favored Leicester City as they kept the Foxes at bay in a close 4-3 win. Leyton Stewart's first half hat-trick stunned the visiting side and though they fought back in the second half it wasn't enough to take any points from the match. A sold out Craven Cottage was rocking when Stewart deflected an Agustin Lopez cross past Ibrahim for the lead in the 7th minute. Stewart made it a brace at 19 minutes on a neat 1-2 with Bob Bell. It was a natural hat-trick in first half injury time as Joel Bagan threaded a pass through for Stewart to tuck inside the left post. Leicester fought back in the second half when Youri Tielemans searching pass found Goncalo Ramos streaking past the Kings backline to score past Aaron Maguire in the 50th minute. Bell restored the three goal margin when he slammed home a loose ball from the six yard line at 52 minutes. Amine Gouri outfoxed both Weverton and Maguire to score on a magnificent solo effort at 58 minutes. A poor challenge in the Kings area by James Taylor allowed Gouri to make it a brace with a penalty kick at 87 minutes, but Kings Langley was able to close out the win from there.

Kings Langley (4) Leicester (3) POM- Leyton Stewart, Kings Langley

Stewart and Havel hugged as the Ref's whistle closed out the match. The TV crews microphone was close enough to catch Havel cheerily comment to Stewart "Welcome back to the EPL Michael!"
 

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2 hours ago, mark wilson27 said:

Its good to have you back writing here Faramir, Like with all your stories you have posted here I will be following along

Thanks Mark. This is the first time in awhile I have had the time to write something. Hope you enjoy!

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21/8/2027 Fulham

Another packed house at Craven Cottage, as Fulham and Kings Langley- who both call the Cottage home this season, battled hard as Kings Langley edged the nominal home side 1-0. Fulham had the better of possession throughout the match, but fine work from the Kings backline and keeper Aaron Maguire kept them off the scoreboard in a clean sheet. The difference in the match was imperious Neco Williams as he scored the only goal off a slick 1-2 passing sequence with winger Bob Bell. Williams tucked a shot inside the right post past keeper Marek Rodak in the 53rd minute. The tiring Kings were under incessant Fulham pressure in the last 10 minutes of the match, but Maguire stood firm to earn the Kings their close win.

Fulham (0) Kings Langley (1) POM- Neco Williams, Kings Langley

Havel slumped in his office chair, completely drained, "Whew!"

Stewart leaned on the door frame with a tired smile, "I do believe Aaron showed he can stand up to the pressure."

Havel smiled, "That he did. Neco was bloody brilliant today- exactly the kind of difference maker I thought he could be for us."
 

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24/8/2027 AFC Wimbledon Carabao Cup 2nd Round

An assertive Kings Langley side dominated AFC Wimbledon at Plough Lane in a 3-1 win to advance in the Carabao Cup. Wimbledon keeper Myles Boney was very sharp in the early going as he stopped both James Taylor and Armstrong Oko-Felix in one-on-one situations. Kings Langley finally broke through in the 34th minute as Callum Williams served a delicious cross on a plate for Taylor to smash past Boney. The Kings swarmed the Wimbledon area the remainder of the half, but were unable to add to their lead. Their pressure continued to open the second half and a well-timed, delicate lead pass from Jack Scott sprung Hali Gould to score his first ever Kings Langley goal. Williams made it a 3-goal lead as he deflected a Tomislav Duvnjak cross past Boney in the 83rd minute as the Kings clinched their win. Josh Murphy scored a consolation goal for the home side in second half injury time as he headed a free kick fom Tom Conlon past Will Jaaskelainen to ruin the clean sheet.

AFC Wimbledon (1) Kings Langley (3) POM- Callum Williams, Kings Langley

Havel gave Callum Williams a quick hug around the shoulder, "Brilliant match Callum!"

Williams beamed, "I will keep working for the side like that. Duvnjak gave me a terrific ball to knock home."
 

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Thanks much bigmattb28-- have had a bit of practice at this :D

***

28/8/2027 Arsenal

Arsenal could not find a way to score themselves, but took advantage of an own-goal to secure a 1-1 draw against Kings Langley at Craven Cottage. Arsenal's pressure came in waves during the first half as they dominated possession. Aaron Maguire was dazzling at times in denying Mateus, Talles Magno and Bukayo Saka on excellent opportunities. Martin Odegaard was maestro in the Arsenal attack as his passes sliced and diced the Kings backline. Arsenal's break through came when Weverton tried to deflect a cross wide, but instead put it past Maguire for an own-goal in the 23rd minute. Kings Langley tried to show more life in the second half, but was stymied by poor passing. The equalizer came against the flow of play as a counter-attack found Leyton Stewart threading a pass through the Arsenal central defenders to put Armstrong Oko-Felix away free and he chipped in past Aaron Ramsdale in the 66th minute. Maguire was called on for one more terrific save in the waning moments as he denied Dejan Kulusevski to preserve the draw. 

Kings Langley (1) Arsenal (1) POM- Martin Odegaard, Arsenal

Stewart shook his head, "We wasted a brilliant effort from Aaron."

Havel nodded, "Our central midfield passing was poor today. We kept handing the ball back to them on bad passes and paid the price in the end. I wasn't happy with either Nile John's or Agustin Lopez efforts today."

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8/31/2027  Deadline Day

"Are we really looking at anything today?" asked Michael Stewart.

Mike Havel shrugged, "No. Not really. We don't have much room in either wage budget or transfer budget right now."

"Is that what you're telling the press"

"Hell no. I just commented there is enough to bring in another player or two."

***

31/8/27 Deadline Day

"You decided not to go through on that deal we had previously arranged for Fabian Hoyos?" asked Stewart.

"We have been waiting a month now for Independiente Santa Fe to approve the deal. They wanted time to sign a replacement, and I haven't seen any commitment from them that they are actually looking that hard for one. Hoyos is a talented 18 year old Colombian and the work permit was already OK'd, but we can't wait any longer- so I told them the deal is off," answered Havel.

***

31/8/27 Deadline Day

"Wait. I thought we weren't doing anything today?" asked Stewart.

Havel shrugged, "With the Hoyos deal off, we had enough space in the wage budget to look around for a loan to help us up front. I looked through the reports and Daniel (Otu) looked intersting- even if the report was incomplete."

"I take it Bayern was amenable when you contacted them?"

"Very much so. They even offered us a future purchase clause of 425K, which is bloody reasonable for a 21 year old with his level of talent."

"You see him as a first-team player?"

"Maybe. But they were OK on my specification as a Squad Player, instead of regular- so I was happy to make the offer. Daniel and his agent were very happy to receive the offer and more than willing to make the move to the Premier. His work permit went through smoothly, so plan on having him for training and the eventual press conference tomorrow."

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11/9/2027 Liverpool  Televised Match

Kings Langley didn't enjoy their first ever trip to Anfield as the more experienced Liverpool handed them a humbling 4-2 defeat. The Kings backline failed to track as Jamal Musiala and Karim Ademeyi played a crisp 1-2 sequence and Musiala easily finished past Aaron Maguire at 33 minutes. Kings Langley hit back with the equalizer when Tyrese Omotoye slipped a pass through for Bob Bell. Bell rounded Alisson for a simple finish at 39 minutes. Liverpool jumped into the lead in the early moments as Musiala turned provider, finding late arriving Luka Sucic and he blasted a close-in shot past Maguire at 47 minutes. A dazzling pinpoint cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold allowed Adeyemi an easy volley past Maguire for the quickfire double as Liverpool went up 3-1 at 49 minutes. The home side clinched the win when Mo Salah lofted a pass that found Musiala beyond the Kings backline and Musiala tucked a shot off the inside of the far right post for his brace. Layton Stewart scored a late consolation goal in second half injury time as he headed a cross from Armstrong Oko-Felix home to make the final 4-2

Liverpool (4) Kings Langley (2) POM- Jamal Musiala, Liverpool

Havel sighed, "We needed to be at our best to have a chance, and we weren't that."

"The entire backline had their issues today. We could not deal with Musiala at all."

"I will be having a few words with them on that. Callum Williams will also get a moment of my time he was poor today."
 

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18/9/2027  Manchester United

Manchester United smothered young Kings Langley as they handed them a 4-0 thrashing at Old Trafford. A header in the 6th minute by Frankie De Jong past Will Jaaskelainen on a Bruno Fernandes free kick gave the home side the lead. Fernandes then split the Kings central defense with a pass that put Jaden Sancho in free for an easy score at 24 minutes. Manchester were unable to build on that halftime lead, but put the match out of reach as Mason Greenwood picked out Sancho with a step on Neco Williams and he swept his shot home for a brace at 60 minutes. ManU closed out the rout in injury time as Fabian laid off a pass that Dusan Vlahovic smashed home to close out the convincing win. 

Manchester United (4) Kings Langley (0) POM- Jaden Sancho, Manchester United

Havel balled his match summary up in frustration, "We didn't do anything right today. We weren't even close to performing the way we can."

Michael Stewart nodded in a agreement, "I think the Old Trafford atmosphere got to us early on and it snowballed from there."

"I hate to think what the scoreline would have been if Jaaskelainen hadn't played so well."

"Why did you play him over Aaron?"

"Aaron had been under so much pressure the last three matches. I thought it was time to give Will playing time. He will also start against Preston in our midweek Carabao Cup match.

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Thanks Mark.

***

21/9/2027 Preston Carabao Cup 3rd Round

A workmanlike performance punctuated by a pair of terrific finishes pushed vistiors Kings Langley past Preston in a 2-0 win at Deepdale. Kings Langley struck early as Nile John slipped a pass through to Hari Gould and a calm finish past onrushing Alejandro Aguilar sent Kings into a lead in the 2nd minute. Elkan Baggott earned Player of the Match honors in his Kings Langley debut as he marshalled a strong backline effort in support of Will Jaaskelainen's solid keeping. The match was much more comfortable for Kings Langley as loanee Daniel Otu scored his first goal for the club in volleying home off the inside of the right post on a Hugo Bueno cross. The clean sheet was welcome after two matches of yielding four goals.

Preston (0) Kings Langley (2) POM- Elkan Baggott, Kings Langley

"Nice debut by Elkan," smiled Stewart.

"Better than I thought he would be. Will was exactly what we needed him to be in goal today as well."

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25/9/2027 Wolves

Tyrese Omotoye scored the only goal in a closely played 1-0 win for Kings Langley at Craven Cottage. Kings Langley surged in the start of the match and it paid dividends when Callum Williams was knocked over by Oghuzan Oguz after Williams had run onto a long pass from Agustin Lopez in the Wolves area. Omotoye converted the penalty kick high into the left portion of the goal past Philipp Kohn. Wolves turned up the pressure, but were a bit unlucky as they hit the post twice and both loose balls were promptly cleared away. Kings generated one more quality chance in the second half and Kohn denied Bob Bell after Neco Williams sprung him with a swerving pass into space. Williams earned his Player of the Match honors with a saving tackle on Israeli Wonderkid Aviran Shmeuli after a loose ball bounced to the winger with an empty net in view. Aaron Maguire played well in earning his clean sheet.

Kings Langley (1) Wolves (0) POM- Neco Williams

"Another close one!" exclaimed Stewart as they strolled to the tunnel.

"Too close," agreed Havel. "Still we took all three points thanks to our backline and Maguire- those kind of points are invaluable to staying up."

"How soon is Vladmir Bocanegra coming back from his twisted ankle? Callum (Williams) has done well, but we could really use 'Drac's" explosiveness."

Havel grinned at the obvious moniker bestowed on the young Colombian winger, "Andrew (Balderston, Head Physio) says full training this week, then however quickly he can get to match fitness."

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3/10/2027 Newcastle Televised Match

Struggling Newcastle hoped to boost their chances against underdog Kings Langley at Craven Cottage. Instead they found the home side putting their stamp of authority on the match as the Kings edged the visitors 1-0. Early pressure by the Kings was blunted by the fine play of Newcastle keeper Andre Onana. The only goal of the match came on a candidate for Goal of the Season as Agustin Lopez sent a scorching 25 yard rocket into the upper right corner of the goal at 24 minutes. Kings Langley hammered away the remainder of the first half, but wasn't able to add to the lead. Newcastle rallied in the second half but found themselves launching shots from distance as they were unable to penetrate the good work of the Kings backline. Aaron Maguire was stellar in the waning moments as he parried a blast from Callum Hudson-Odoi and pushed a rising shot from Raul Moro over the bar to preserve the clean sheet in the 1-0 win.

Kings Langley (1) Newcastle (0) POM- Agustin Lopez, Kings Langley

"That was a strong effort. I think Newcastle thought they would roll over us for their first win this season," offered Mike Havel.

"They found out the boys were ready to battle from the start. That strike from Agustin was worth the price of admission," answered Stewart.

"I am really happy with how much the backline has stablized."

"Just remember we aren't facing the likes of Erling Halland, Jamal Musiala or Jaden Sancho here."

"True. Did you realize this was Aaron's 3rd clean sheet. That is more than he had all last season."

"His inconsistency from pretty much all last season seems to have gone away this year. Did you realize he broke the club league appearance record tonight?"

"No. Sorry, hadn't been tracking that at all. How many appearances does he have for us?"

"193 League appearances."

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16/10/2027 Brighton

Kings Langley made a first half goal stand up and held firm under heavy late pressure to edge fellow promotee Brighton 1-0 at American Express Community Stadium. Fairly even early play by both sides saw chances missed as each failed to put shots on target. Kings Langley struck for the lead in the 7th minute when Joel Bagan crossed into the Brighton six yard box and Ibrahima Konate's poor first touch left the ball for Leyton Stewart to rifle past Nathan Baxter. Baxter made up for his miss with two brilliant saves on Armstrong Oko-Felix and Stewart as Kings pushed hard in the waning moments of the first half. Neither side could generate much in the opening stages of the second half. Home side Brighton finally started asserting themselves as they desparately tried to equalize in the last 15 minutes of the match. Aaron Maguire was called on for reaction saves on Demarai Gray and Said Benrahama before making the save of the match at 89 minutes when Karamoko Dembele was in free and Maguire stoned him in the one on one situation. Brighton were a bit unlucky in injury time as Danny Loader's sharp header carromed back off the crossbar and the Kings escaped with a close 1-0 win.

Brighton (0) Kings Langley (1) POM- Joel Bagan, Kings Langley

"Have you ever seen Aaron on a streak like this," asked Michael Stewart.

Havel answered, "I have seen him play well, but over 300 minutes without yielding a goal in the Premier is a completely different level of play. We were lucky that Max Normann Williamsen was able to blast the loose ball far into their end after it bounced back off the crossbar."

"Leyton Stewart just has the goal scoring touch and luck right now. That ball was on a platter for him to score."

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23/10/27 West Ham Televised Match

Arlo White and Lee Dixon were very complimentary toward Kings Langley in a fine effort at London Stadium, but the Kings dug themselves a 3-0 hole in the first 20 minutes that they were unable to come back from in a close 3-2 loss to West Ham. A terrible pass from Tomislav Duvnjak set the home side on an immediate counterattack and Jarrod Bowen finished well past Aaron Maguire in the 7th minute for a West Ham lead. Setpieces then killed the Kings as Mady Camara deflected a Bruno Tabata free kick inside the right post at 13 minutes. West Ham made it 3-0 at 18 minutes when Dominic Solanke was in the right place to chip home a rebound after Maguire made a brilliant reaction save to deny Gary Thornley's header on a corner. Kings Langley stopped the bleeding and righted the ship as Vladimir Bocanegra was hauled down in the area by Mykola Matvienko. Tyrese Omotoye converted the 20th minute penalty kick to make it 3-1. West Ham lost out on a 4th goal at the end of the half when Bowen was ruled offside by VAR as he headed a looping corner kick past Maguire. The second half found the Kings surging and it was painful to watch Omotoye stopped twice by Alban Lafont in one-on-ones when put clear by terrific passes. Callum Williams came on for a struggling Bocanegra and sparked the Kings in the later stages as he made a pinpoint cross for Leyton Stewart to flick home and draw the visitors within a goal. Late pressure saw Lafont dive and parry a low, curving shot from Williams to preserve the close win for West Ham. 

West Ham (3) Kings Langley (2) POM- Bruno Tabata, West Ham

"I can't fault our effort at all," murmured Mike Havel. "We have a lot of work to do on set pieces though. Those two goals were tough to watch."

"Don't forget about the VAR denied one as well. We completely botched how we covered the far post," stated Michael Stewart.

"Tyrese is definitely frustrated about not scoring in the second half and rightfully so, but if he can keep getting into those positions I know the goals will come."

"He was limping off after the match. Pretty sure he will be out for a match or two."

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26/10/2027 Middlesbrough Carabao Cup 4th Round

The agony of penalties saw Kings Langley out of the Carabao Cup as they fell 5-4 to Middlesbrough after playing scoreless in regulation time. Kings Langley looked the better side in the first half, but squandered several opportunities by taking one pass or one dribble too much and allowing the Middlesbrough backline to scramble the chances. At 57 minutes Agustin Lopez received his 2nd yellow card of the match and the Kings were left to soldier on with only 10 men. Kings Langley didn't give up the attack, despite being a man down and Armstrong Oko-Felix headed off the crossbar in the 65th minute. Middlesbrough looked to go ahead on a free kick that Joe Powell headed past Will Jaaskelainen in the 74th minute, but VAR showed him well offside and the goal was disallowed. After each keeper saved one of the first 5 penalty kicks, Hugo Bueno missed high over the crossbar and Ronnie Edwards converted his kick to send Middlesbrough onward in the Carabao Cup. 

Kings Langley (0) Middlesbrough (0) Middlesbrough wins on penalties 5-4 POM- Kaine Kesler Hayden, Middlesbrough

"I was confident we were going to win that one, until Agustin got sent off," sighed Havel.

"Anthony Taylor did us no favors with his calls today."

Havel shook his head, "We aren't blaming the Referee for this one. We had our chances."
 

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1/11/2027 Burnley Televised Match

The Telly audience enjoyed the Benjamin Sesko show as the towering Burnley striker netted a brace, but a late equalizer from Tyrese Omotoye allowed Kings Langley to split the points with their struggling visitors in a 3-3 draw. Almost the entire first half was dominated by Kings and Bob Bell put the home side ahead with a well placed shot inside the far left post past Nick Pope at 8 minutes. Bell earned his brace in the 30th minute as he side-footed a cross from Joel Bagan past Pope. With the half winding down, the Kings backline fell asleep and Sesko was able to launch a pass into space that Edon Zhegrova ran onto and then the Kosovan striker whipped a low shot past Aaron Maguire. That goal buoyed Burnley and they came out with fire in the second half. Sesko scored the equalizer as he bulled past Max Normann Williamsen and took a pinpoint pass from Bartosz Slisz before smashing a shot past Maguire in the 54th minute. Sesko struck again for the lead as a poor pass from Vladimir Bocanegra allowed an immediate counterattack and Slisz again found Sesko bursting free as he tucked home a placed shot in the 65th minute. Kings Langley continued to show the pluck that has helped them in their first season in the Premier as Omotoye snapped home a rebound after Pope stopped Bell's chance for a hat-trick in the 78th minute. Neither side had a good chance after that and settled for the 3-3 result.

Kings Langley (3) Burnley (3) POM- Benjamin Sesko, Burnley

"Man, I wish we had Sesko. He would be perfect for how we play," stated Stewart.

"Me too. I wish he hadn't woken up for this match."

"We didn't do ourselves any favors. Even after you told the backline to mark and close him down- he still scored the go ahead goal due to their inattentiveness."

"I do have to take fault myself for their first goal. I should have told Andre Burley not to take throw-ins on the right side when I was playing him on the left side of center defense. That mistake cost us the goal when he could not get back on Zhegrova."

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6/11/2027 Southampton

Southampton dominated their trip to Craven Cottage and were left wondering why they were only able to post a 1-0 win. The visitors struck early as Alexander Isak escaped Weverton's marking to slide a shot inside the right post past Aaron Maguire in the 10th minute. Kings Langley had little possesion in the first half and bad passing by the midfield plagued them. Kings Manager Mike Havel brought on Vladimir Bocanega and Tyrik Osborn in hopes of boosting the home sides play, but those plans were short-ciruited when Agustin Lopez earned a 2nd yellow card at 71 minutes and the visitors were content to play keep away from a tired Kings Langley side in closing out the close win.

Kings Langley (0) Southampton (1) POM- Alexander Isak, Southampton

"That was not good," muttered Havel. "Not only getting sent off- Agustin's passing killed our attack today as he gave away counter-attacks right and left with his poor choices."

"If Tomislaw Duvnjak could have scored in those waning moments, we might have been celebrating. Instead he completely missed the net from the six-yard marker."

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14/11/2027

"That was an impressive 1st Cap!" offered Mike Havel as he spoke with Bob Bell.

"It was a dream for me. To get to represent my country is something I didn't think would happen this quickly," answered a smiling Bell on the Zoom call.

***

15/11/2027

"We are going to miss his leadership in the clubhouse," sighed Havel.

"He had kept his spirits up and was really helping the positive feeling on the club," agreed Stewart.

"Taylor (Foran) was in good spirits, but he was realistic when the Dr. talked about surgery on the disc in his back."

"How long does the Doc think?"

"Likely at least three months."

***

16/11/2027

"So, he is ours full-time in July?" asked Stewart

"I thought it was the time to go ahead with trying to get him here. I think he is a key part of our backline for the future."

"How much did we have to pay Napoli to get the deal done?"

"3.1 Million. I think that was a fair deal for Max (Normann Williamsen)."

"I agree, but that about killed our transfer budget."

"True, but anything we do in January was always more likely to be a loan."

"Is there any room left on the wage budget?"

"Not a lot, so we might be mostly sticking with what we have."

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20/11/2027 Tottenham

Kings Langley provided a stunning opener to their match at 1st place Tottenham as Tyrese Omotoye scored at 25 seconds into the match. Unfortunately for the Kings, that would be their last highlight as Tottenham roared back for their 8th consecutive win. Spurs leveled the match in the 6th minute as  Ethan Ampadu flicked a header past Aaron Maguire on a corner provided by Angel Correa. Tottenham moved in front two minutes later as Correa ghosted in at the right post to head a cross from Andi Zeqiri past Maguire. Neco Williams went off injured at 13 minutes and Nile John earned a straight redcard for a foolish two-footed lunge at 41 minutes. Maguire was brilliant in the match, but a questionable penalty call allowed Harry Kane to convert in first half injury time for a 3-1 Spur lead. Kings Langley defended stoutly in the second half, but were finally unlocked for a 4th marker as Kane made it a brace. 

Tottenham (4) Kings Langley (1) POM- Andi Zeqiri, Tottenham

"Might want to hold the temper a minute there," murmured Stewart.

Havel balled his fists and then shuddered as he let some steam leak out, "I am so upset with Nile. He is supposed to be one of our leaders and then makes a schoolyard tackle like that. He may end up sitting a few matches, because that showed me a complete lack of game awareness."

"Aaron was brilliant, wasn't he?"

"He is certainly proving to everyone that he can be a Premier League keeper."

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27/11/2027 Brentford

Brentford, fresh off a resounding 1-0 win over Arsenal, sought to improve their lot in the relegation battle with a good performance against struggling Kings Langley. Instead they found themselves pushed back down into the quagmire in the lower end of the table as the home side earned a gritty 3-2 win to end their poor form. Kings struck first in the 6th minute as Bob Bell laid off a pass to a late arriving Tyrese Omotoye and Omotoye rifled a shot inside the far left post past David Raya. Brentford equalized at 20 minutes when Jamie Shackleton picked out an unmarked Moises Caicedo in the Kings and Caicedo snapped a shot past Will Jaaskelainen. Kings Langley quickly restored the lead when Jack Scott slipped a pass through to Omotoye. Raya made a brilliant parry on Omotoye's sharp, low shot but was unfortunate as Vladimir Bocanegra was quickest to the loose ball and slotted it into the open goal. Both sides had good chances in the waning moments of the second half, but the score remained 2-1. Jaaskelainen made two terrific saves on Ivan Toney to open the second half. Raya returned the favor but stopping rampaging Omotoye on a pointblank shot. Kings opened a two-goal lead at 85 minutes as sub Callum Williams crossed for fellow sub Daniel Otu to volley past Raya. Brentford kept the end of the match lively as they drew a goal back when Matty Cash headed a looping cross down for Kristoffer Ajer to neatly finish past Jaaskelainen in the 88th minute. A tense Craven Cottage crowd roared when the final whistle finally came on the 3-2 win.

Kings Langley (3) Brentford (2) POM- Tyrese Omotoye, Kings Langley

"Man, did we need that win," grinned a cheery Havel.

"We could have made it much easier on ourselves," chuckled Stewart.

"Yes, but a win is a win is a win at this point of the season."

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1/12/2027 Everton

A brilliantly played match saw Kings Langley battle hard to earn a 1-1 draw with 3rd place Everton at Craven Cottage. The visitors struck for the early lead as Max Aarons made a dazzling run on the right before crossing for Jack Harrison to sweep home in the 20th minute. Jordan Pickford capped a brilliant first half with sprawling saves on Tyrese Omotoye and Tim Iroegbunam to keep the lead to halftime. Aaron Maguire shone in the early moments of the second half with timely stops on Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Tiago Tomas. Kings equalized at 70 minutes when Vladimir Bocanegra sent a delicate pass over Ben Godfrey to put Tyrese Omotoye in alone and Omotoye chipped over an onrushing Pickford for the equalizer. Both sides had chances to take all three points in the final moments as Maguire and Pickford each made dazzling saves to preserve the 1-1 draw.

Kings Langley (1) Everton (1) POM- Tyrese Omotoye, Kings Langley

"Two POM in a row for Tyrese," offered Stewart.

Havel nodded, "I knew he might blossom if we could get him worked into our system. I only wish we could get both he and Leyton (Stewart) going at the same time."

"Layton has struggled of late."

"At least Vladimir (Bocanegra) is starting to show the performances we thought he was capable of."

"I did notice the fans and the Board kind of shut up regarding the criticism of late."

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6/12/2027 West Brom

Looking at the stats, there is no way that Kings Langley should have been in this game against West Brom as the home side had 64% possession and 23 shots. Sometimes stats lie and the match came down to a Player of the Match performance by Kings Keeper Aaron Maguire and a dazzling effort from young winger Bob Bell as they stunned the home side 3-1 in a match that saw Kings Langley score three with only 6 shots. It is clear that all of the Kings goals came against the run of play and it was Bell who put them into the lead after a Neco Williams through ball sprung him and he fired off the inside of the far, left post past Luiz Junior at 20 minutes. Maguire commanded the remainder of the first half with his scintallating work in goal, but couldn't keep the first half lead as Meschack Elia got past Elkan Baggott to score in first half injury time. Kings Langley leapt back into the lead in the opening minute of the second half when Bell made it a brace with another precision shot past Luiz Junior. Kings finally clinched the win in the waning moments as Armstrong Oko-Flex crossed for Leyton Stewart to push home on a sliding half-volley. 

West Brom (1) Kings Langley (3) POM- Aaron Maguire, Kings Langley

"How did we do that?" asked Havel of Stewart.

Stewart grinned, "A large helping of Maguire, with a large pinch of Bell."

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11/12/2027 Chelsea

Chelsea Manager Pep Guardiola was very complimentary towards visiting Kings Langley on the heels of a closely played 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge. The Blues took the early lead in the match as their initial pressure found Phil Foden pouncing on a loose ball and laying it off for Ben Chillwell to drill past Aaron Maguire in the 9th minute. Kings Langley equalized in the 23rd minute as Nile John, fresh off his 3 match suspension, crossed for Leyton Stewart to volley past Edouard Mendy. Chelsea renewed their pressure and possession in the second half and it finally paid dividends when Francis Kasongo earned a free kick to the left of the Kings' area. Christian Pulisic supplied a wonderfully delivered free kick and Alessandro Bastoni powered his header past Maguire for the deciding goal. Chelsea stifled any chance for Kings Langley to fight back by continually keeping the ball through the remainder of the second half.

Chelsea (2) Kings Langley (1) POM- Alessandro Bastoni, Chelsea

"Well, the boys have seen what we need to aspire to," sighed Havel.

"They played hard, but when we couldn't get the ball away from them in the second half- well it wasn't going to be a good result."

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15/12/2027 Manchester City

Manchester City continued their hot streak as they rolled over Kings Langley 5-2 at Craven Cottage. Man City took control in the early moments as Gabriel Jesus took the ball off Elkan Baggot's foot as he dawdled in the Kings area and fired it past Aaron Maguire. A bad pass from Tomislav Duvnjak allowed Florian Wirtz to put Erling Haaland away free and he easily finished past Maguire for a quickfire double. Kings Langley showed a bit of fight when Daniel Otu timed a laser pass through to put Armstrong Oko-Felix away and he chippped over Ederson to make it 2-1 at 8 minutes. That would be the last highlight for the Kings as ManCity destroyed the homeside backline the remainder of the half. Maguire made a brilliant stop on Kevin De Bruyne's free kick, but had no help clearing the ball and Declan Rice blasted the rebound in at 30 minutes. Ruben Dias made it 4-1 as he was unmarked on a De Bruyne corner at 34 minutes. Gabriel Jesus finished off the first half as he rifled a shot off the inside of the post when Hugo Bueno failed to track his run for a 5-1 halftime score. Kings scored the only goal of the second half as Tim Iroegbunam whistled a shot past Ederson from the edg eo the area at 64 minutes. Man City closed out the convincing win from there.

Kings Langley (2) Manchester City (5) POM- Florian Wirtz, Manchester City

"Time to just forget that one," stated Havel.

"I agree. Even the tapes aren't worth reviewing," agreed Stewart.

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18/12/2027 Crystal Palace

Shaking off their two recent losses, Kings Langley surged to a convincing 2-0 win over struggling Crystal Palace at Craven Cottage. The Kings were rewarded for consistent pressure in the first half as Vladimir Bocanegra headed down a cross from Agustin Lopez for Leyton Stewart to tuck past Luis Malagon for his 9th League goal. Malagon made sharp saves on Nile John and Neco Williams to keep the visitors close at halftime. Aaron Maguire made a dazzling, sprawling stop on Daniel James in the opening moments of the second half to preserve the clean sheet. Kings clinched the win at 74 minutes when Bob Bell's pinpoint cross allowed Bocanegra to tap home for the 2-0 lead. Palace never threatened in the closing stages and Kings Langley was very content with their tidy victory.

Kings Langley (2) Crystal Palace (0) POM- Vladimir Bocanegra

"Bit of a coming out party for Vladimir," commented Stewart.

"His 1st Player of the Match award- he really deserved it."

"Neco Williams also had a terrific match. His runs on the rightwing bedeviled Palace all day."

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26/12/2027 Aston Villa

Kings Langley scored a stunning 2-1 comeback win over heavily favored Aston Villa at Villa Park in their Boxing Day match. Villa had a comfortable first half with heavy pressure throughout and took the lead after Zach Awe clattered Ollie Watkins in the area. Thiago Almada converted the penalty kick past Aaron Maguire. That would remain the only stain on the ledger for Maguire as he turned in another wonderful effort. Kings Langley capitalized on a lightning counter-attack to equalize at 53 minutes when Agustin Lopez placed a precision pass on Neco William's right foot and Williams drilled a shot past Alex Meret. The Kings then stole all three points against the flow of play as Vladimir Bocanegra's mazy dribble gave him space to lay the ball off for Leyton Stewart to score the match winner at 84 minutes with his 10th goal of the season.

Aston Villa (1) Kings Langley (2) POM- Neco Williams, Kings Langley

"Stole is the right word," chuckled Havel. "If not for Aaron Maguire, this would have been a loss."

"He was brilliant, but the boys showed themselves to be very opportunistic on the counter today."

"Vladimir had another excellent match, as did Neco."

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28/12/2027 Leicester

Keith Ballard was the late hero for Kings Langley as he came on for an injured Hari Gould and scored the eqalizer in 2-2 draw at King Power Stadium. The Kings took the early lead when Gould made a run to the byline before laying a ball off for Daniel Otu to sweep past Ibrahim Eren in the 2nd minute. Leicester wasted little time in drawing even as Sander Berge slotted home a cross from Pablo Maffeo at 14 minutes. The Foxes took the halftime lead when an unmarked Darwin Nunez took a neatly laid off pass from Luca Orellano and whipped a shot past Aaron Maguire inside the far, right post. Kings Langley showed more offensive life in the second half but found no equalize until the 78th minute marker for Ballard, as he scored for the 1st time this season after finding space in the area to snap a short cross from Tomislav Duvnjak past Eren.

Leicester (2) Kings Langley (2) POM- Darwin Nunez, Leicester

"Very nice to see our depth show up today," offered Stewart.

"I was really happy for Keith (Ballard). We hadn't been able to give him much midfield time and he came up big today."

***

29.12.27 

Havel was laughing after he hung up the phone.

"What's got your funnybone?" asked Stewart.

"Millwall."

"Hmm?"

"They wanted an interview with me for their Head Coaching opening. The personal assistant said they liked my approach on high pressing, but had reservations on my not playing for set pieces."

Stewart grinned, "Ah, bet that went over well."

Havel shook his head, "I am not sure why a club struggling against relegation in the Championship thought I would leave a club that is mid-table in the Premiership for them."

"Not like they are a richer club at this point."

"True the Board hasn't really loosened the purse strings for us, but that will come if we can stay up. Our overall balance right now is already up to 40 Million and that will continue to rise with the TV money."

"Don't forget we just got selected for three more national televised matches. Another 4.8 Million to the good right there."

"I believe they were surprised when I turned the interview down."

"Really? They must be a bit thick then."

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1.1.28 Arsenal

Kings Langley failed to show up at Emirates Stadium as Arsenal thrashed them in a 5-0 rout. Though Kings survived early pressure, their backline looked helpless as Gabrielle Martinelli dribbled apst four players before finishing past Aaron Maguire. Zach Awe was called for a trip on Mateus in the area and Gaetano Castrovilli converted the penalty at 25 minutes. Bukayo Saka crossed for Martinelli to volley in for his brace as it was 3-0 at 26 minutes. Mateus snapped home a rebound after a Maguire parry wasn't cleared for a 4-0 score after 32 minutes. Martinelli capped the scoring by finishing his hat-trick as he headed home a cross from Takehiro Tomiyasu in the opening moments of the second half. Kings didn't demonstrate they could accomplish anything in this match.

Arsenal (5) Kings Langley (0) POM- Gabrielle Martinelli, Arsenal

"Ouch!" grumbled Stewart.

Havel nodded, "Some very poor performances today. We will be back on the training pitch bright and early tomorrow."

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09.1.28 Cambridge 3rd Round FA Cup

Despite going down to 10 men early, Kings Langley showed their overall superiority in seeing off League 1 challenger Cambridge 3-0 at Craven Cottage to advance in the FA Cup. Jack Scott received two yellow cards in quick succession and was sent packing at 20 minutes. Kings went with a 3 man backline for the first time in anyone's memory of Mike Havel managing the club and it paid dividends when Hugo Bueno sent a free kick that found Elkan Baggott bursting free at the left post and he volleyed it past Josh Vickers. Though Kings Langley failed to build on the lead before halftime, they remained comfortably in control of the play. In the opening moments of the second half it was Cambidge going down to 10 men when James Brown drew his 2nd yellow card. Kings put the match away with two goals in quick succession as Callum Williams took a delicate pass from Keith Ballard and scored, followed two minutes later by 18 year old Uruguayan SC Jorge Miranda as he celebrated his debut by smashing a shot inside the right post. Scott Moloney was solid in his 1st start of the season in keeping a clean sheet.

Kings Langley (3) Cambridge (0) POM- Elkan Baggott, Kings Langley

"Delightful debut for Jorge (Miranda). How much did we pay Juventud for him?"

Havel answered "725K and he looks worth it. I was pleased with everyone's effort and the fact that no one panicked when we went down a man."

"Situational match practice paid off. The backline adapted to three men very well."

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15.1.28 Fulham

Fulham was looking for revenge after losing to Kings Langley in their first go around at their neighbour sharing Craven Cottage with them. Instead Kings added to their relegation worries in a 3-1 win. 19 year old leftwinger Vladimir Bocanegra sparked Kings Langley to the win and started the scoring in the 13th minute as he swept home into an open net after Marek Rodak parried a chance from Leyton Stewart on his doorstep. Fulham pegged back immediately as Keane Lewis-Potter picked out unamrked Tyrese Campbell and he slipped a shot underneath a diving Aaron Maguire at 15 minutes. Just as quickly Kings Langley moved back into the lead as Daniel Otu ended a pretty passing sequence by finding Bocanegra in full stride and he chipped over an onrushing Rodak for his brace. Neither side could add to their lead as the backlines and keepers finally asserted themselves. Kings Langley finally clinched their win in second half injury time as Zach Awe powered a free kick from Tomislav Duvnjak past Rodak. 

Kings Langley (3) Fulham (1) POM- Zach Awe, Kings Langley

"Now that was the arrival of Vladimir as a Premier League player!" bubbled Havel.

"He was brilliant. Not sure why Zach received MOM honors over him," commented Stewart.

"Probably due to that saving tackle on Leandro Trossard late in the 2nd half. A goal there might have changed things a lot."

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19.1.28 Liverpool 

A breezy, sleety day saw Kings Langley play just as grimly as the weather as they were thrashed 4-0 by Liverpool. Diogo Jota struck in the 6th minute as he was put away free by Karim Adeyemi and whistled a shot past Aaron Maguire's ear. Rodri made a slicing pass through Kings midfield and Adeyemi bulled past Max Normann Williamsen to scrore in the 25th minute. Matthijs De Ligt flicked a header past Maguire on a precision corner from James Ward-Prowse in the 36th minute for a 3-0 halftime lead for the visitors. Diogo Jota made it a brace as Luka Sucic put him in free at 87 minutes to cap the convincing victory.

Kings Langley (0) Liverpool (4) POM- Diogo Jota, Liverpool

"Just a bad effort on a horrid day," sighed Havel.

"We didn't do anything very well today," agreed Stewart.

"Still, another fine match for Aaron."
 

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22.1.28  Wolves

A driving rain and heavy gusting wind were the highlights of a forgettable match at Molineux. Kings Langley edged the hosts 1-0 thanks to a staunch effort by their backline and stellar goal keeping from Aaron Maguire. Wolves generated the better chances in the first half and Maguire was at full stretch to get fingertips on a swerving 25 yard blast from Ruben Neves. Maguire also pulled off a fine reaction save on Carlos Vinicius as a loose ball fell into his lap late in the half. Kings finally generated some chances in the early portion of the second half, but they were for naught as Tyrese Omotoye and Leyton Stewart both misfired over the net. Maguire was on point with a dazzling save on Eddie Nketiah as he was sent in free. The match winner came on a corner in the late stages as Nile John's inswinger was headed on by Max Normann Williamsen and Zach Awe was left unmarked at the far post for his simple headed match-winner.

Wolves (0) Kings Langley (1) POM- Zach Awe, Kings Langley

"Just a terrific, terrific effort by Maguire and the backline," said a please Havel.

"We may get it wrong against the bigger sides, but we are holding our own against the other clubs," observed Stewart.

"If we can find a way to get some scoring to support how well our defense has been- at times- we will be on better footing."

"Some of that is down to how young this side is- especially on the attacker's sides."

"We are going through the only way to solve that- by getting them playing time."

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24.1.28 Transfer Window

Havel smiled, "We finally have another backup keeper."

"I had heard that you let Scott Moloney go to Derby, so I figured we were still looking for one with Will Jaaskelainen's continuing hip miseries."

"We got Archie Mair from Greenock Morton for 400K."

Stewart whistled, "Nice one. I have known Archie for awhile and he gives us a good option to rest Aaron occasionally."

Havel nodded, "That was what I had in mind. Aaron hasn't had any breaks except for the Cambridge match and he has been under tremendous pressure. He has played well, but I want to keep him tuned well for the final stretch of the season."

"I heard you let Dilan Markanday out on loan for the rest of the season?"

"Exeter City wanted him and he wanted playing time. I couldn't justify keeping him here if they were willing to pay his salary."

"What else do we have in the wind this last week before the window closes?"

"I made an offer on a 19 year Colombian SC Julio Cesar Garcia. He has already scored 12 goals for the Senior side at America de Cali. He is considering the contract right now."

"Will he get a Work Permit?"

Havel winced, "Not sure yet, still haven't gotten the call. He is still worth the investment."

***

26.1.28 Transfer Window

"Who?"

"Bruno Trautwein. 16 year old Brazilian midfielder at Vitoria. Flavio (Roca - SA South Scout) found him. We won't see him until summer of 2029, but the kid is a beast already. He is a crunching tackler and is already showing decent game intelligence. I like him a lot to help our midfield."

"Is he going to be strong enough to handle EPL play?"

Havel stroked his chin, "I believe he will, with some training. We can't compete with even the mid-level clubs on transfers right now, so we more or less have to keep gambling on finding good youngsters. I think he will be one. We only had to pay 24K for him."

"If he is anywhere close to what you think he is, that is a stone-cold steal."

"I was surprised the fee was so low, so I didn't hesitate to make the offer."

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29.1.28 Manchester United

Manchester United defeated Kings Langley 2-1 at Craven Cottage despite a game effort from the home side as ManU moved to the top of the Premier Table. An early corner resulted in ManU taking the lead as Fabian headed home a cross from Kylian Mbappe when Weverton missed his header. Kings Langley answered back as Tyrese Omotoye equalized to finish a brilliant passing sequence as he volleyed a Bob Bell cross past Dean Henderson. ManU restored the lead when Jadon Sancho laid off a pass to late arriving leftback Josko Gvardiol and the Croatian International slotted a shot past Archie Mair off the inside of the right post. Omotoye missed a golden chance to equalize as Henderson stopped him after he wriggled free of marking late in the half. ManU looked to have increased their lead at 60 minutes when Mbappe scored, but VAR found him well offside and the goal was disallowed. Mair made a sprawling block with his left leg when Mbappe was in again free in the 70th minute. Neither side could come up with a late marker and Kings were left with a close, but unsatisfying 2-1 loss.

Kings Langley (1) Manchester United (2) POM- Josko Gvardiol, Manchester United

"I do think it was encouraging that we could stay with them when we weren't playing close to our best," stated Havel.

"We were more resilient than we have been against the bigger clubs. Usually that one-goal lead multiplies, but we battled hard."

"I plan on giving Archie (Mair) the FA Cup match against Blackpool that is next. That two-match breather should be enough to get Aaron (Maguire) rested and ready for our heavy slate that follows."

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5.2.28 Blackpool FA Cup 4th Round

10-man Kings Langley showed their determination and ability as they defeated Blackpool 2-0 at Bloomfield Road to move on in the FA Cup. Vladimir Bocanegra showed his youth with a poor two-footed challenge that earned him a straight redcard in the 7th minute. The Kings backline quickly showed their mettle as Blackpool sought the lead before the visitors could get organized. Archie Mair denied Jerry Yates as he pushed Yates' header ove the bar late in the first half. Kings finally sorted their formation out in the second half and a sweeping cross from leftback Joel Bagan picked out Jorge Miranda alone and he fired a shot into the roof of the goal past Conor O'Malley at 63 minutes. Blackpool looked to press for the equalizer and paid the price in the 80th minute as Julio Cesar Garcia celebrated his debut with a dazzling through ball that put Miranda away and Miranda was able to round O'Malley to clinch the win with his brace.

Blackpool (0) Kings Langley (2) POM- Max Normann Williamsen, Kings Langley

"Really strong effort from the backline and Archie Mair," commented Stewart.

"Silly challenge by Vladimir. We will have to see how many games suspension they give him for that."

"Jorge continues to impress me. He showed brilliant composure for an 18 year old in that brace."

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8.2.28

"I thought the transfer windoow had passed?" asked Stewart.

"Turkey has an extended window, compared to ours. They made a solid bid for Andre (Burley) and with him being so unhapppy, it made sense to let him go to Kayserispor."

"Aaron (Maguire) got hurt in training?"

"Strained groin. He will be out at least a week. At least we will have Will Jaaskelainen back for the Newcastle match."

***

12.2.28 Newcastle

Newcastle showed superior finishing as they converted their chances in 4-0 win over Kings Langley at St.James Park. Newcastle started quickly as Raul Moro laid a pass off for Paulo Bernardo to smash home past Will Jaaskelainen at 18 minutes. Newcastle retained possession throughout the first half, but failed to build on their lead despite numerous chances. Moro added to the lead as he capped a quick counter-attack by slotting home at 51 minutes. Kings tried to rally but Andre Onana made very good saves on both Leyton Stewart and Julio Cesar Garcia to keep the sheet clean. Jaaskelainen failed to cover the near post when Patson Daka rapped home in the 64th minute. Onana stopped Stewart twice more and Garcia once to prevent comeback hopes. Newcastle completed the scoring as Teun Koopmeiners converted the penalty after Weverton knocked over Daka in the area. 

Newcastle (4) Kings Langley (0) POM- Raul Moro, Newcastle

"We didn't play badly, especially in the second half," offered Stewart.

"Onana had a brilliant game and Will Jaaskelainen looked rusty. That was part of it, but our backline- especially Weverton- played terrible today."

"If Stewart could have finished, it might have been a different match."

"True, Neither Leyton or Julio could get the goals we needed today."

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19.2.28 Brighton- Televised Match

Kings Langley came to play after a poor effort against Newcastle and struck early for the lead as Vladimir Bocanegra's neat cross was half-volleyed past Nathan Baxter at 12 minutes by Tyrese Omotoye for the lead. Baxter kept the visitors hopes alive as he denied Leyton Stewart and Bob Bell to keep the scoreline 1-0 at halftime. Kings kept up their attacking momentum in the second half and Agustin Lopez laid a pass off for Joel Bagan to rifle into the upper left corner of the goal past Baxter. Brighton finally generated a good chance in the 78th minute, but Aaron Maguire got his fingertips on a curling shot from Demarai Gray to preserve the clean sheet. 

Kings Langley (2) Brighton (0) POM- Agustin Lopez, Kings Langley

"I am very happy. The boys really responded after that poor match against Newcastle," said a pleased Havel.

"Did you realize that puts us at 40 points?"

Havel laughed, "I haven't looked at the table lately. To get there in 27 matches is good. We are pretty certain to stay up now."

"A couple more good results and we will clinch staying up. We are in 10th at present, so overall we are way above the predictions."

"Not like we were 2000-1 to win the league," smiled Havel.

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25.2.28 West Ham Televised Match

West Ham played a solid first half and collapsed in the second half as Kings Langley dumped the visitors 3-0 in a televised match. The opening moments saw the visitors go close twice, but fail to beat Aaron Maguire. Nikola Vlasic was put in free but drilled a hot off the far right upright. Luiz Vasquez pushed hard to get on to a looping cross from Eric Dier, only to see Maguire leap and palm the shot wide of the post. Kings Langley settled after the early Hammer pressure and began asserting themselves, but failed to make inroads as the West Ham backline blocked several shots. Kings broke through at the 53 minute mark when Vladimir Bocanegra lofted a pass that saw Julio Cesar Garcia sail past Gary Thornley and then score his 1st goal for Kings Langley. Bocanegra then made that a quickfire double at 58 minutes when he flicked a precision cross from Neco Williams past Alban Lafont. Williams then earned his 2nd yellow card at 60 minutes to give West Ham hope, but the Kings backline stood firm in support of Maguire's solid keeping. Kings Langley put the match to bed at 85 minutes when Tomislav Duvnjak half-volleyed Joel Bagan's cross past Lafont to close out the win.

Kings Langley (3) West Ham (0) POM- Vladimir Bocanegra, Kings Langley

"They are growing," said a relieved Havel.

"Certainly are. We might have folded in a different match, but they kept with it in the second half and were rewarded."

"I am happy Julio (Cesar Garcia) got his goal. Now he doesn't have to keep answering questions and it should help his confidence."

"Don't forget another good effort and clean sheet from Aaron. He really steadied us in the early going."

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1.3.28 Middlesbrough FA Cup 5th Round

Middlesbrough players sagged to the pitch as the final whistle sounded. Kings Langley players were tiredly hugging each other as they fought back from a 2-0 deficit to edge Middlesbrough 3-2 in Extra Time to advance to the FA Cup Quarter-Final. Middlesbrough struck for the lead in the 4th minute of the match. Marcus Tavernier launched a well-timed long pass that found Ademipo Odubeko running free of Max Normann Wiliamsen and Odubeko had an easy time rounding Will Jaaskelainen to score. Kings Langley went on the attack for the remainder of the half, but the visitors defended stoutly and keeper Simon Enzler provided scintallating work to keep Kings off the board. Against the flow of play at 56 minutes, Tavernier took a sharp pass from Valentin Castellanos and raced through to drive  a low shot past Jaaskelainen. Moments after a crushing penalty miss by Tomislav Duvnjak, Kings clawed a goal back at 66 minutes as Duvnjak laid a pass off for Tim Iroegbunam to slip past Enzler. Kings found the equalizer as Agustin Lopez delivered a precise corner for Elkan Baggott to head home at 82 minutes. In Extra Time it was another Lopez corner, this time hammered home by Weverton, that proved the match winner.

Kings Langley (3) Middlesbrough (2) Extra Time POM- Agustin Lopez, Kings Langley

"Nice to see the work on Set Pieces pay off," said a cheery Stewart.

"We certainly could have made it easier on ourselves, but I am happy with the heart and effort the Boys showed today."

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5.3.28 Burnley Televised Match

Last place Burnely desperately wanted to make a good showing in this televised match. Kings Langley kept the home side from doing so in a gale as they continually pressured Burnley and left them making longer passes that were affected by the wind. The wind also kept Kings Langley from taking advantage of their possession as their shooting was abysmal through most of the first half. Kings finally solved Nick Pope in the 41st minute as Vladimir Bocanegra picked out unmarked Daniel Otu. Otu fired a shot off the left upight, but it bounced directly back to Otu who bustled it into the open goal. Both sides continued to struggle with the gusting stormwinds in the second half. Kings put the match away late in the half as Nile John nailed a swerving free kick that eluded Popp in the 84th minute. John then made it a quick brace two minutes later as Otu slipped a pass through and John whisked it into the open goal.

Burnley (0) Kings Langley (3) POM- Nile John, Kings Langley

"Bad conditions, but good effort" said a chilled Havel.

"Not sure the telly audience enjoyed that much."

"I enjoyed it just fine. A win is a win at this time of the season."

Stewart nodded, "Another clean sheet for Aaron too."
 

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12.3.28 Southampton Televised Match

Southampton will surely feel hard done as Kings Langley scored a match winner deep into 2nd half injury time to edge the home side 2-1. Early pressure from Southampton resulted in a goal at 20 minutes as wingback Cody Drameh surged up the right and crossed hard. Neco Williams whiffed on his header and Troy Parrott ended Aaron Maguire's scoreless string. Against the flow of play, Kings Langley found the equalizer late in the half. Joel Bagan lofted a pass that sent Vladimir Bocanegra in free and Bocanega drilled a shot past Ian Meslier off the inside of the right woodwork at 42 minutes. Southampton controlled much of the play in the second half but failed to capitalize as they continually made one pass too many. Officials announced five minutes of injury time and that was jus t enough as Nile John picked out Julio Cesar Garcia moving past Jan Bednarek and Garcia rounded Meslier to score a dramatic match winner.

Southampton (1) Kings Langley (2) POM- Vladimir Bocanegra, Kings Langley

"We really didn't deserve that win, but I am happy it turned out that way," stated Mike Havel.

"It was a boosting result- the club is buzzing right now- but Southampton did outplay us," agreed Stewart.

"Was more a matter of Southampton playing well, but then not well enough. If they had finished some of their chances, we would have lost."

"Agree with you on that. Maguire and our backline weren't special today, we just got away with their  poor play in our area."

"The win clinched us staying in the Premier, so letting them celebrate a bit before we board the bus."

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18.3.28 Brighton FA Cup Quarter-Final Televised Match

Young Kings Langley was dominated by Brighton's Demarai Gray as they were bounced from the FA Cup 4-1 at Craven Cottage. Gray bedeviled Neco Williams all match and broke free to score past will Jaaskelainen in the 36th minute as Danny Loader's good pass sprung him. Brighton added to the lead when Luis Vazquez zipped past Zach Awe and ripped a shot home at 43 minutes. Gray added to the lead to make it a brace in the opening moments of the second half and then made it a hat-trick at 56 minutes as Loader picked him out breaking free of Williams again. Kings Langley scored a consolation goal as Armstrong Oko-Felix headed home a cross from Bob Bell in the 75th minute. 

Kings Langley (1) Brighton (4) POM- Demarai Gray, Brighton

"I really thought Neco (Williams) could handle Gray. My faullt for not telling him to back on the attack and defend Gray sooner," offered Havel. 

"The boys just looked a little awe struck at being in the quarters. We just didn't get much going and Brighton took advantage of our mistakes."

"We did outshoot them in the match, but Gray was ruthless in his finishing today."

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2.4.28 Everton 

1st Place Everton was forced to fight back in the 2nd half and they edged Kings Langley 2-1 on a late winner. Kings Langley made a good early impression as Vladimir Bocanegra deftly passed to Leyton Stewart. Stewart fired a rising shot past Jordan Pickford in the 14th minute. That goal seemed to wake up the home side and the urging of a packed Bramley-Moore Dock Stadium brought intense pressure to the visitors. Aaron Maguire kept them off the scoreline to halftime with timely saves. Everton's pressure intensified in the second half and they found the equalizer when Amadou Diallo headed a Al Moatasem Hamdi corner past Maguire in the 50th minute. The Blues then took all three points when Tiago Tomas bundled the match-winner past Maguire in the 86th minute as Elkan Baggott missed intercepting the cross from Brandon Aaronson. 

Everton (2) Kings Langley (1) POM- Al Moatasem Hamdi, Everton

"Ah, so close to a good result," muttered Havel.

"We came close. That was a pretty awful mistake by Elkan."

"He had played such a good match to that point. That miss on intercepting the cross hurt."
 

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5.4.28 Brentford

A taut match wound up in a 2-2 draw as Kings Langley took the lead twice andd Brentford fought back twice to earn the draw. Kings Langley took the lead at 20 minutes when Bob Bell served a delicate pass over the Brentford center defenders that Tyrese Omotoye ran onto and slotted home past David Raya. Brentford equalized when Hugo Bueno gave away a penalty with a poor challenge on Carlos Palacios. Andre Anderson converted the penalty kick past Aaron Maguire. Kings turned a precision counter-attack into Omotoye's brace as Julio Cesar Garcia slid a pass across for the unmarked Omotoye in the 70th minute. Kings Langley tried to hold on from there as they came under heavy pressure from the home side. Brentford finally equalized as Palacios controlled a cross from Anderson before chipping over Maguire in the 84th minute. Brentford missed a golden chance to win when Jude Soonsup-Bell was in alone on Maguire and fired over the crossbar in injury time.

Brentford (2) Kings Langley (2) POM- Tyrese Omotoye, Kings Langley

"Though we didn't play all that well, we could have taken the points. Their goals were both direct results of our mistakes," sighed Havel.

"Still we battled and a draw on the road isn't too bad."

"I was really happy to see Tyrese finally make a mark in this match."
 

2.4.28 Everton 

1st Place Everton was forced to fight back in the 2nd half and they edged Kings Langley 2-1 on a late winner. Kings Langley made a good early impression as Vladimir Bocanegra deftly passed to Leyton Stewart. Stewart fired a rising shot past Jordan Pickford in the 14th minute. That goal seemed to wake up the home side and the urging of a packed Bramley-Moore Dock Stadium brought intense pressure to the visitors. Aaron Maguire kept them off the scoreline to halftime with timely saves. Everton's pressure intensified in the second half and they found the equalizer when Amadou Diallo headed a Al Moatasem Hamdi corner past Maguire in the 50th minute. The Blues then took all three points when Tiago Tomas bundled the match-winner past Maguire in the 86th minute as Elkan Baggott missed intercepting the cross from Brandon Aaronson. 

Everton (2) Kings Langley (1) POM- Al Moatasem Hamdi, Everton

"Ah, so close to a good result," muttered Havel.

"We came close. That was a pretty awful mistake by Elkan."

"He had played such a good match to that point. That miss on intercepting the cross hurt."
 

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9.4.28 Tottenham Televised Match

Kings Langley stunned favored Tottenham as they struck twice in the first half and held on for a close 2-1 win at Craven Cottage. Leyton Stewart keyed the first goal with a cross that Bob Bell headed across the goal past Thimothee Lo-Tutala in the 16th minute. Kings doubled that lead after Agustin Lopez was tripped by Morato in the area. Vladimir Bocanegra calmly converted the penalty to make it a 2-0 halftime lead. Tottenham, likely spurred by a lively halftime lecture from Manager Zinedine Zidane, rallied in the second half and Oliver Skipp blasted off the crossbar in the early moments. At 73 minutes, Hugo Cortinhas slipped a pass through to unmarked Andi Sherqi and Sherqi tucked his shot off the inside of the post. Kings kept the favored vistors at bay in the waning moments to earn the 2-1 win.

Kings Langley (2) Tottenham (1) POM- Agustin Lopez, Kings Langley

"Now that was a good, pleasing win," smiled Havel.

"We are seeing some seriously good team play now." agreed Stewart.

"Vladimir held his nerve on the penalty. That was the first he ever took."
 

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15.4.28 West Brom 

Kings Langley left it late, but after West Brom went down to 10 men at 79 minutes, the home side crashed in 3 goals for a convincing 4-1 win. Early pressure from the visitors saw Aaron Maguie come up with timely saves on Liam Delap and Grady Diangana to keep things square. Matt Robinson knocked over Tyrese Omotoye in the area and Omotoye converted the penalty kick at 35 minutes. Kings Langley were unable to build on that lead and those squandered chances came back to haunt them as they misplayed the coverage on a throw-in by Jack Stacy set Rhian Brewster free to equalize at 67 minutes. West Brom's downfall came as Perr Schuurs earned his 2nd yellow card at 79 minutes. Taking advantage of the extra space, Omotoye crossed for Tim Iroegbunam to slot home in the 82nd minute. Omotoye setup Iroegbunam again three minutes later for a brace. Vladimir Bocanegra capped the scoring in injury time when he headed home a Nile John cross.

Kings Langley (4) West Brom (1) POM- Tyrese Omotoye, Kings Langley

"Wow! That was the Tyrese show today," laughed Stewart.

"He had a dominating match. It was nice to see Tim (Iroegbunam) get his brace- he has worked hardd this season without much reward."

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