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tenthreeleader

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About tenthreeleader

  • Rank
    Moderator

Biography

  • Biography
    | 29-time FMS Award winner
    | FMS Writer of the Year 2008-09-12-15-16
    | Rob Ridgway's doppleganger

About Me

  • About Me
    FMS Hall of Fame Class of 2012

Interests

  • Interests
    "Raising Cain" - 2016 FMS Story of the Year

Favourite Team

  • Favourite Team
    Rangers, MUFC, Reading

Currently Managing

  • Currently Managing
    Oxford United (FM15), Salford City (FM17)

Recent Profile Visitors

19,078 profile views
  1. [FM15] Kyle Cain's Flying Circus

    “A bit surprised how easily some of these League One players go down in the penalty area,” Kyle fumed as he walked down the hallway toward his media appearance. He wasn’t going to accuse Dons players of diving if anyone could hear him publicly, but he was fuming. What he did say was this: “I’m disappointed in the penalties. I think you should expect me to say that. We felt both were soft but the calls were given and the referee has given them two penalties in a game where they score three goals.” Churchill, ever a man to find controversy when it wasn’t there in the past, now saw a chance for some real controversy right before his very eyes. It was like ringing a bell before Pavlov’s dog. “Did he cost you the match?” Nothing like a direct question. “He didn’t help,” Kyle said, “and that’s as far as I’m going. It’s not his job to help anyone.” “You have had to be pleased with Mullins this week.” “He’s done well,” Kyle admitted. “I’m not going to stand here and say he hasn’t. He’s made the most of the chances in the Cup competitions and I need to keep that in mind. We’ve got some very good players ahead of him in the depth charts though, so I have to keep that in mind too.” “Your thoughts on Andy Awford leaving Portsmouth for Rotherham and Micky Mellon going to Hibs?” Kyle hadn’t heard of either of those moves, which had in fact been announced while Oxford was on the pitch. Mellon, of course, managed Shrewsbury Town, the team that had defeated Kyle’s in the playoff final the year before, and now he was headed to Scotland’s capital city and a job in the Scottish Premiership. Awford was something different, though. He had done a tremendous job walking Portsmouth to the League Two outright championship the year before, and was off to Rotherham and a job in the Championship trying to right the slow-starting Millers. He had Pompey playing well in League One as well, in eleventh place and only two points off the playoff places. “I don’t think I have a lot to say about either,” Kyle admitted, “I’ve only just heard of these things. Both of them have done great jobs at their clubs and I surely can’t say anything bad about Micky Mellon, he beat us at Wembley last season. Managers deserve a chance to move up when they do well and clearly they both have so fair play to them.” With that, he headed back to his office and slumped heavily into his chair. He didn’t like losing, even in a diddy cup, and that was that. The coaches were waiting for him and the group had a post-match post-mortem. The general view was that the ‘bastard in the black’ had cost Oxford the match, and there was just enough truth in that to make the view both popular and dangerous. It was Kyle who brought everyone back down to earth. “We have to go to Newport on Saturday and figure out how to get these players back up for another match,” he reminded them. “Sulking won’t do that. We can have them learn from this but we have to do it the right way. Be positive about it but remind these players what can happen when they don’t mind their responsibilities.” He spoke again. “Yeah, they went down in the box easier than a ….” His voice trailed off, not wanting to be overheard by anyone, especially since the second half of the phrase involved the world’s oldest profession, “…but we can’t put ourselves in that position. We can’t be placed in a situation where we let an official make a bloody call. It’s bad for us.” He got general nods of agreement. “Now, let’s go off home and come back ready to work in the morning because we’ve got a ton of it to do.” His coaches left, and Kyle noticed the message light on his phone flashing. He didn’t usually get many calls during a match so he checked his message. “Kyle, this is Iain McInnes, board chair at Portsmouth,” he heard a voice say. “We would like to interview you for our managerial vacancy. Please contact me at your earliest convenience.” # # #
  2. [FM17] Out Of His League

    Chance was well pleased. Josh Hine had scored only two minutes into the team’s only home friendly, against Conference National side Lincoln City. The breakthrough had been incisive, Hine’s finish clinical. The team seemed to be adapting fairly well to 4-1-3-2 and scoring so quickly against higher level opposition only proved it. The Salford fans had turned out in their hundreds for the match, with a strong away contingent cheering for the visitors, and the chants of “Go on, Salford!” rang around the grand old ground a bit earlier than expected. Stung, Lincoln quickly climbed back into the match. Yvan Wassi made the only mistake of his day in the 32nd minute and it turned out to be a big one, as the fullback didn’t stay with the back line on a Lincoln counter, playing both Adam Marriott and Matt Rhead onside about thirty yards from goal. Simon Grand was hung out to dry, with Marriott feeding Rhead for a tap-in goal that restored some order to the scoreline. Chance faced a decision at half. He could shout, as Morley and Johnno probably would have done last season, or he could show the ‘new broom’. He chose to be different. “Well done,” he said. “Let’s stay with each other at the back – and we will work on that because we can’t have it happening – but you’ve done very well against a team a league up. Now go out and get something for yourselves in the second half.” The second half was more tactical, in its way. Salford dominated possession, but used it like you might expect a young and jelling team to use its possession, which is to say in a ragged fashion. The through balls mounted and so did the interceptions, as the home team gave away possession far too easily. That is, until 68 minutes, when Hine made a great play just as Chance was about to substitute him. He won the ball on the touchline in the attacking third, worked around two defenders and laid off for David Norris. The least-fancied member of the first-choice midfield produced a strike that could only be called sublime, a twenty-five yard rising rocket that found the top left corner of Rob Watson’s goal. It was fit to win any football match, and it won this one. One reason Norris’ goal was the match winner was because of the inspired play of trialist Rich Dearle in goals. Invited by Horne for two weeks’ trial, the ex-Nottingham Forest trainee made three dazzling saves in the last five minutes to secure his team’s win, including hacking a goal-bound effort off the line with the ball behind his body in the first minute of added time. Not bad at all. Salford City 2 (Josh Hine 2, David Norris 68) Lincoln City 1 (Matt Rhead 32) H/T: 1-1 A – 538 (101 away) Man of the Match: David Norris, Salford City (MR 8.3) “That kind of play is going to win you matches,” Chance crowed. “I don’t give a toss if it’s a friendly, that were a belting match you just played.” The players looked at their new boss with muted enthusiasm. They seemed pleased but there seemed to be something better in them that wouldn’t allow them to celebrate. Eventually, Chance dialed his joy down a bit, and sent them home. “Lesson learnt,” Morley smiled. “You didn’t yell at them at half but you gave them big ups at the end and they didn’t like that.” Chance reacted defensively. “I’ll praise them when they deserve it,” he said. “I know you will,” Morley replied. “Just don’t be surprised if sometimes that’s the reaction you get.” # # #
  3. The Toast Of The Village

    Looks like fun. More lower league work on the boards -- good luck!
  4. FMS Predictions League 2017/18

    I forgot the Friday night game but it doesn't matter since I'd have gotten it wrong anyway. Saturday 16 September Crystal Palace 1-1 Southampton Huddersfield 0-2 Leicester Liverpool 2-0 Burnley Newcastle 1-1 Stoke Watford 0-3 Man City West Brom 1-1 West Ham Spurs 2-1 Swansea Sunday 17 September Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal Man Utd 2-1 Everton
  5. [FM15] Kyle Cain's Flying Circus

    10 November 2015 – Oxford United v MK Dons JPT South Quarterfinal – Kassam Stadium, Oxford Referee: Fred Graham He really hadn’t had much leverage at the restaurant and he knew it. Stacy was away, that was for the best, and she had Owen. The rest would be up to the lawyers. The meeting had put him in a vile mood the next day, even if Diana had been wonderful from the beginning. His only worry was how he was going to explain a workplace relationship to Eales. The answer had been simple. “Let me do it,” she had urged him, and Kyle simply went back to managing his team. Their conversation had been very matter-of-fact. “Kyle and I are seeing each other – very quietly,” she had said after the next day’s staff meeting. The chairman’s eyebrows seemed ready to climb up his forehead and hide in his hair, but he kept his composure. He smiled, offered congratulations and then ventured a question. “What am I supposed to do with that huge human resources file I have on you two?” he asked. Diana laughed. “If it’s legal, Mr. Chairman, I’d like for you to burn it,” she said. She was only half-serious, but Eales took the joke in the right spirit. “I can’t really do that, but I can hide it if you’d like,” he smiled, and Diana giggled in reply. The visit of the League One Dons, though, was no laughing matter. They were fourth in their league and this matchup promised to be a real test for Kyle’s players. Or rather, those of them who he allowed to play. The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy was one the board didn’t take terribly seriously and as a result Eales’ ‘good luck’ wish before the match was more or less exactly that. Kyle had wanted Max Crocombe to play in this match in the worst way but he was called up for New Zealand – just like he had been the last time Oxford played in the JPT – so he was unavailable. That meant Clarke in goal and another shot for Mullins at right full back, now playing two senior matches in a week just after spending the entire season with the u-21s. Ashby wasn’t ready for a second start so soon after his latest injury so Kyle had to risk Rothwell in the middle, playing ahead of Danny Rose. Roberts got a start up front and Meades played left full back while Tom Richards, usually Skarz’s deputy at that position, moved up to spell O’Dowda on the left side of midfield. Kyle’s Midas touch hadn’t deserted him, as the youngster, Roberts, had the ball in the Dons goal less than ten minutes into the match. Mullins, who continued to play well in his relief role, intercepted a cross-field clearing attempt and headed straight down the right flank, crossing early for the run of Roberts. The youngster ghosted into space and found space for his header between David Martin and his near post. That was about as good a start as Kyle could have hoped for and the young Us settled in to try to hold the lead against their higher league opposition. They were doing fairly well until referee Fred Graham pointed to the spot after Tom Flanagan went down under, shall we say, minimal contact from Dunkley in the Oxford penalty area. Diddy cup or not, that got Kyle off the bench and onto the fourth official’s case in no time flat as Carl Baker sent Clarke the wrong way from the penalty spot to get the match level in 29 minutes. Energized, the League One visitors poured forward after that and got a second goal from veteran Dean Bowditch five minutes later. The striker who was playing for his seventh club at only 29 years of age, made a terrific direct run that made a goal possible when Wright moved up to play Ben Reeves, who had beaten Rose for pace and thus put the defense under pressure. Reeves’ pass found Bowditch in space and Clarke had little chance. The teams made it to half with Oxford trailing 2-1 and Kyle had some words for his men. “We’ll give them one of those goals, the referee certainly did,” he said, “but we have got to get better at tracking runs or they’re going to run us out of the stadium.” Oxford might have put a young team out there but the central defenders – Wright and Dunkley – were the first-choice team and should have known better. Oxford looked brighter in the second half but were finding life a bit more difficult against the kind of opposition they could expect to face if everything went as planned. They had more possession but found getting into good shooting positions was quite difficult. That was by Jim Magilton’s design, of course, so the Flying Circus would have to find another way through. Chances did come, though, with Roberts and substitute Skarz both coming close before the match ticked over into desperation time for Oxford. With the team piling forward looking for a second goal, Clarke made a magnificent save on Bowditch from a Dons counterattack, diving full-length to his left to get a strong hand on the striker’s low drive toward the left corner. The excellent Tom Flanagan found his place in the box for the ensuing corner and made hard contact with Harrop as the ball floated in. And then there was Graham pointing to the spot again, with Harrop standing hands behind head in disbelief. Baker grabbed the ball out of the arms of the protesting Clarke, nearly starting a melee in the process, while Wright looked for answers from the referee and Kyle blistered the fourth official at the same time. Baker scored again, putting Dons ahead 3-1 and you could almost see the steam coming out of Harrop’s ears. He was so angry, in fact, that he scored four minutes later, off another square ball from Mullins, who had really found his form. His shot from the right wing found the lower right corner of Martin’s goal, giving the home team hope with six minutes of normal time remaining. But from that point, the League One side simply closed off the spigot, putting men behind the ball and daring Oxford to find a way through. When they couldn’t, United was out of the Cup – though not without some regret. Oxford United 2 (Roberts 8, Harrop 84) MK Dons 3 (Carl Baker pen 29, pen 80; Dean Bowditch 34) H/T: 1-2 A – 3,561, The Kassam Stadium, Oxford Man of the Match: Tom Flanagan, MK Dons (MR 9.0) # # #
  6. [FM17] Out Of His League

    Bern and Johnno. Johnno and Bern. They were inseparable. Best mates, they had done a good job getting Salford promoted in successive years. And now that Johnno was no longer part of the team at Salford, that didn’t mean he wasn’t still around. Chance’s roles had reversed with the former squaddie. No doubt about it – Johnno was a very tough bloke. When he was with Bernard, they were even tougher. But now, the boots were on the other feet. That was a secret to their success. They could make any discussion with a player a two-against-one argument because they always communicated, they always spoke to each other and after a time they could almost represent each other. It was uncanny. However, there was one thing missing from their two-man touchline act. In most situations where two people have equal authority, one would play good cop and the other would play bad cop, as it were. In this relationship there were usually no good cops. Only bad ones. That was great if you wanted discipline in a squad, but if you wanted to lose a room, all you needed to do was hammer away at your players long enough and it was virtually guaranteed. That was what had nearly happened midway through the prior season. During a mid-season run of poor form, the players would be rollicked by both managers for every poor performance, and finally, the team lost its cohesion. The managers had to dial back their pressure and when they did, the team started to perform. Chance was sat at his desk when Gary Neville poked his head in. “How you gettin’ along, Chance?” he asked, entering and having a seat opposite from the field boss. “Early doors, yeah?” Chance smiled, not knowing the team’s most visible owner was even on the grounds. “But I think it’s all right.” “I think you’ll get it soon enough,” the Sky Sports pundit said. “How’s your interaction with the players?” “They know me, and that’s good,” Chance replied. “I think they also like the idea of not having their bollocks roasted when they miss a pass in training.” Johnno had famously boasted about the size of his during one of those late-season collapses the season prior. Nobody was going to outwork or out-passion him, that was for certain. Yet most people don’t make scrotal endowment a topic for casual conversation, and it simply showed the man’s volatility that Johnno had tried. But there had to be a different arrangement in the coaching team. You can’t just scream at players and expect it to work over the long term. It’s great for a short spurt when a team needs a kick up the backside, such as in 2014-15 when Phil Power had the team going nowhere after a brilliant start. However, in the lower leagues, and especially with players on either part-time or non-contract arrangements, the club did have a lot of leverage. Phil Neville had once called it the “ruthless end” of football. If the players don’t do enough to get in the team, they don’t get paid, or they get released. But the middle ground was where the owners wanted to be. “Motivate positively and negatively,” Gary said. “Sir Alex did that and everyone knows about the negative part, but he could make you want to go out and run through a wall for him and he didn’t do that by telling you that you were s**t all the time.” Chance nodded. “We need a stronger personality in the room and that needs to go for all the team’s moods,” the co-owner continued. “Bernard’s wonderful for when you need to roast them but the first time you do it, you’ll grab their attention in a way he and Johnno couldn’t.” For his part, Chance wasn’t going to restrict Johnno’s time around his friend – he couldn’t – but he wasn’t the boss anymore and that was something Chance had to control. He was a good bloke off the pitch but on it, he knew how to wear out his welcome. Johnno had been best man at Morley’s wedding over the summer and understandably so. But the former manager’s personality had been so strong, so severe, that he had to be given a short leash. In one incident in the television series done on the club, he stood in the middle of the room and demanded instant obedience to his direction from his players. “Do it immediately, or f**k off,” he said. He was better to staff, and he was better to Chance, but the sting of his words could hurt nearly anyone below board level. When it was time to tell Chance he was done, they both did it. Two against one. So when he went to the papers sounding like he was telling the owners their business, they had the opportunity to make a clean start. Chance wasn’t sorry to see him go from a professional standpoint. That seemed a bit odd for a team that had earned successive promotions, but the Class of ’92 was nothing if not a group of hard-workers and, when the occasion merited, swashbucklers. That was what they felt Salford needed – someone who could relate to players but vary his mood to get the best out of them. And that was why Chance was sat across from Gary Neville instead of someone else. # # #
  7. [FM15] Kyle Cain's Flying Circus

    Kyle's learning what life on the other side is like. It's not pleasant. ___ They held hands all the way to the restaurant and arrived five minutes before the reservation, which Kyle had placed under his name. That entitled them to a nice corner table, since Oxford United was one of the two toasts of the town at that moment, and also one that was out of the way, which was vital for the conversation they were about to have. They walked inside together and found Stacy and Boyd Stokes waiting for them. Stacy was seated and Boyd stood over her like a protective mother hen, or he would have been had he been of that gender. She stood wordlessly and the two men cast eyes upon each other for the first time. Boyd was dressed in his best, in an evident attempt to establish some sort of sartorial superiority over the man whose wife he was taking. As resplendent as Boyd looked, he still gave up two inches in height to Kyle so as the men sized each other up, Stokes had to look uphill. Not that he cared. He extended his hand, and everyone looked at Kyle to see what he would do. Wordlessly, the two men shook hands. There was a long pause – one might have said pregnant if one was interested in hackneyed plays on words – and finally Kyle broke the ice. “Kyle Cain,” he said. “This is Diana Moore.” He stepped aside to allow his friend to make her own introduction. “Mr. Stokes,” she said, extending her hand softly. He took it and Kyle was watching him like a hawk as he did. “Boyd Stokes,” he said, and then, almost as an afterthought: “I really do want this evening to go well.” “We all do,” Kyle said, “so let’s not be daft about it, shall we?” He walked to the maître d’s station and gave his name. The fellow, a younger man who appeared to be about ten years younger than Kyle, caught the vibe and said nothing in reply at first. He looked down at his reservation sheet and finally nodded. “Mr. Cain, right this way,” he said, motioning with his hand toward a corner table. Kyle turned and offered his arm to Diana, who gladly took it. They strode purposefully to the table, nearly outpacing the maître d’, who was a bit surprised at the energy in the party. “Wine list?” he asked, as the group was seated. “Please,” Stacy responded. So, the night was off to a flying start. At least there would be alcohol. “We want to talk with you about Owen and what will happen during the separation,” Boyd began. “We want you to be involved.” “That’s very generous,” Kyle began, “because I am going to be involved. You need to understand that you don’t get to just decide these things on your own.” “Don’t be upset,” Stacy interjected. “We’re trying to be decent here.” “I see that,” he replied, “but don’t try to make it sound like you’re going to make all these decisions and tell me what’s what. That won’t fly and my attorney will make sure it won’t fly.” “You were right about him,” Boyd said, turning to Stacy. Kyle glared at him, and now Diana spoke. “Mind your tongue,” she said smoothly. “You’re baiting him using his own son and that’s awful.” “Thanks for your opinion, but it’s not really relevant,” Stokes snapped. “I’m not even sure why you’re here.” “I’m here because Kyle wants me here,” Diana replied, locking eyes with Stokes. “And that’s all you need to know.” She didn’t scare easily, that was for certain. “Can we get back to the reason we’re here?” Stacy asked. “We want to talk with you about a schedule for Owen.” “Fine,” Kyle replied. “You know very well that I can’t take him on every other weekend because we travel but on weekends we’re at home that would be a nice start.” “We’d like a regular schedule,” Stokes said quietly. “Every other weekend would work better for us.” “It won’t work for me,” Kyle answered, “because the fixture list doesn’t work out like that. And still, it’s only four days a month in any event, and most months it would be even less.” At that moment the waiter arrived to take their order. Kyle resigned himself to an evening of argument, and ordered the oak smoked beef fillet, sighing quietly to himself. # # #
  8. [FM17] Out Of His League

    The scouts haven't found anyone better, and if his trial goes well he'll be offered a deal. A bit surprising that a club owned by the star power of Salford would have budget issues, but it does... ___ Barry Horne was sat opposite Chance in the small manager’s office at the ground. The office was small. Either Horne was larger than life, or the walls needed to be moved. The former Wales captain pronounced himself delighted to be at Moor Lane after spending time two years in the same role at Wrexham, where he had also been a board member. Chance couldn’t see the attraction to Salford for the older man but as long as he was there, he wasn’t about to look that gift horse in the mouth. He had been part of the 1995 Everton squad which had beaten the Class of ’92 in the FA Cup Final at Wembley, which made for some interesting introductions when the co-owners showed up at training. Phil Neville had been the only member of the group who hadn’t played in that match, so the banter was playful, if a bit stilted. Giggs had once said that losing that final had ruined not only his day but his entire summer every time he thought about it. That was understandable to Chance, even if he had never played in a match anywhere near that important. Now, though, Horne’s pay packet was authorized by his former adversaries, but for the most part the owners were well pleased with Chance’s hiring decision. He got a chance to pick Horne’s brain for the week after the Goole match and hoped the former Everton man’s connections might eventually help bring a better standard of player to Salford City. But if connections alone were all that was needed, how could anyone at this level not want to play for Salford? The problem had been with the Class of ‘92’s influence on the club’s ethos. Overnight, Salford went from a neighborhood club with a few passionate, volunteer fans, to a growing business, especially when Lim bought in for 50 percent. Yes, the new owners fixed up and expanded the ground, but it wasn’t the same Salford City in a lot of ways. Word did get around. So it was that Horne’s first act was to offer a trial to goalkeeper Rich Searle, a former Nottingham Forest trainee, to help with the goalkeeping situation. Behind Lynch, whose howler in the first friendly had been duly noted, there was only 37-year old goalkeeping coach Craig Dootson who had the ability to hold the senior squad in anything like a real match. The second friendly would be much more difficult than the first – Lincoln at home. The Conference National opposition would be made of sterner stuff. The preseason odds had been released and it seemed that some people thought Salford had a shot at double promotion. Their odds were comparatively short at 6-1, 35-1 to go down, and those odds were fourth best in the league. AFC Fylde were installed as favorites to earn automatic promotion at 11-4, followed by Kidderminster at 7-2, FC Halifax at 11-2 and then Salford. At the other end of the table, Gainsborough and Stalybridge Celtic were listed at 1000-1 with Stalybridge also suffering the slap in the face of being posted at 3-5 to go down. On the positive side, Skapetis had been excellent in his first match and looked like someone the club would want to keep around. But it also needed another goalkeeper, and it was soon obvious that budgets wouldn’t permit both. # # #
  9. FMS Predictions League 2017/18

    Saturday 9 September Man City 2-2 Liverpool Arsenal 2-0 Bournemouth Brighton 1-1 West Brom Everton 1-3 Spurs Leicester 1-2 Chelsea Southampton 1-1 Watford Stoke 0-3 Man Utd Sunday 10 September Burnley 1-1 Crystal Palace Swansea 1-1 Newcastle Monday 11 September West Ham 2-2 Huddersfield
  10. FMS Awards 2017 Final Round Vote

    I must admit that the clock has never been tried before. It's very ... colorful! The Awards Committee has also announced the site of this year's awards (no, it's not Qatar, FIFA had nothing to do with this) Join us for the 2017 FMS Awards -- A Trip to Julian Assange's Hideaway (A Little Piece of Ecuador) The committee felt this location would give special insight into these and other pressing issues of the day: * Russian influence on the FMS voting process * Hacked emails which reportedly show a pattern of behavior devoted to getting Mark Wilson more awards * Why Ecuador is a thing * How he already knows the winners .....and more!
  11. [FM17] Out Of His League

    Goole’s biggest problem for the upcoming season wasn’t likely to be youth or inexperience. It was likely to be diaper rash. As Salford arrived at the Pleasure Grounds for what they hoped would be some truly sexy football in their first friendly, they were greeted by Vikings player-manager David Taylor. He was twenty-three years old and looked like he hadn’t even started his A-levels yet. Talk about boyish. That said, he had scored four professional goals – two with Buxton and two more with Goole, though it had been over two years since he had last played. Chance had scored seven goals in his career at Irlam, which gave him a slight sense of superiority. He showed the Salford players to the visiting changing rooms, which were essentially clothes hooks drilled into the wooden walls of a small shed on one end of the pitch. Since Chance had brought 22 players, that posed special challenges. “Some of you will have to double up,” he said. “Sorry.” That was life in the Northern Premier League Division One. It was a bit sad for a player to have to make the right to his own clothes hook a sign of his professional status, but goals have to start somewhere. On the way to the ground, the club had tendered offers to onetime Forest Green manager Gary Seward to act as a scout and to former Wales captain Barry Horne, 59 times capped and top flight midfielder for Portsmouth, Southampton, Everton and Sheffield Wednesday, to be Director of Football. Chance was a bit intimidated by the thought of Horne, who had forgotten more football than Chance reckoned he knew, being on his team. Yet, he would be a fabulous acquisition for a club Salford’s size and Chance would have to grow up quickly to have a good relationship with him if he signed. The day before, he had attended the England trialists matches, which to him were confusing since both the sides he saw had a player called Aleksandar Gogic. The match also helped place Yvan Wassi into Salford’s colors, as Chance’s first signing. The former Man City and Bolton trainee could play any position on the back line as well as both sides of midfield and his arrival was greeted with enthusiasm. The depth issue at the back was therefore solved, and Chance could turn his attention to his backroom staff. Short a physio in addition to everything else, he offered a position to former Exeter man Graham McAnuff. So it had been a busy day and Salford hadn’t even kicked off yet. Once they did, however, Chance had his first chance to look at his ‘new’ team in his preferred alignment of 4-3-1-2. They didn’t look like much, which was to be expected for a club on a part-time training schedule learning a new way to play. Goole presented very little in the way of attacking threat so for the first half hour the players simply had a kickabout and tried to put their training application into practice. Hine was the first to break through, finding the range in 37 minutes after picking up a bounding ball near the top of the penalty area and beating keeper Max Dearnley from range. That was the half, and though Salford hadn’t played especially well in the attacking third, they had been air tight in front of Jay Lynch. Chance boosted the team at half and watched George Green hammer home a sublime second ball from a Salford corner in 63 minutes. Dearnley had been beaten from fully 25 yards and that got the Ammies traveling support happy. Then Lynch gifted a goal back through a rather stupendous howler six minutes later. Joel Dixon’s long punt forward bounced outside the area and Lynch came to collect it – too late. On the way up, attacker Graham Williams got a head to the ball, popping it over Lynch’s outstretched arms where it bounced into the goal. “Ace goalkeeping, that,” Chance moaned, as he prepared to make a wave of substitutions. One of them was the new striker, Skapetis, who scored in 71 minutes with a superb little turn-and-shoot which showed that the striker liked playing with his back to goal. It was enough. It wasn’t spectacular but then first friendlies rarely are. It provided only a moderate amount of pleasure. Goole 1 (Graham Williams 68) Salford City 3 (Josh Hine 37, George Green 63, Peter Skapetis 71) H/T: 0-1 A – 126 (34 away), Victoria Pleasure Grounds, Goole Man of the Match – George Green, Salford (MR 8.3) # # #
  12. [FM15] Kyle Cain's Flying Circus

    “You looked like you could use a friend at that moment.” Kyle and Diana walked together to the manager’s car at the stadium park on the Monday night. Ruefully, he smiled. “That was a good call you made,” he said. “I felt like she wanted to gang up on me.” “That’s because she does,” the club marketer responded. She had dressed up for the day, and as you might expect for fine dining, so had Kyle. He wasn’t really much of a suit-and-tie type guy – he was almost purely a tracksuit manager on the touchline and hadn’t learned to tie a necktie until the day he signed his first professional contract – so now he fumbled to provide space between his throat and the front collar of his shirt. His discomfort was obvious. “Your tie is too tight,” she laughed. “You’re going to choke yourself.” Kyle flushed a bright and brilliant shade of red – or was that strangulation? He opened the driver’s door and unlocked the passenger side so she could get in alongside him. He thought about the last time he had had a woman in his car – it had been Allison and it hadn’t ended the way Kyle would have wanted. He fumbled with the tie knot and she smiled at him. “Let me do it,” she said, reaching over to him. He leaned toward her and she released a bit of the pressure around Kyle’s neck. Their eyes met – and then they were kissing, folded comfortably in each others’ arms as the world seemed to stop around them both. After a long moment, they broke and they looked into each others’ eyes. “Oh, boy,” Kyle said, with a heavy sigh. “What?” Her voice was quiet and, in its way, calming. “I wondered if that was going to happen, to be completely honest,” he said. But instead of taking his comments as a patronizing slight, she simply smiled at him. “So did I,” she said. “It’s not like I haven’t been dropping hints for the last month.” ”You know what’s been going on with me,” he replied. “And you know the issues that could arise.” “Not if we don’t let them,” she said, reaching out to hold both his hands in hers. “It’s really just that simple. I want you to know this much, Kyle, before we go any farther: you really can trust me. Did you see Stacy’s reaction when I joined your conversation on Saturday?” “Like you had poured bleach into her gin and tonic,” Kyle smiled. “She really did approach me to try to get to you,” Diana said. “She wanted me to try to get you into bed so she could have what she wanted, which was a chance to ruin your career at Oxford and maybe someplace else.” “And I’ve just kissed you,” he said, with another heavy sigh. “After she left you,” she said. “I understand your apprehension, but honestly, Kyle, it’s going to be all right. Really. It’s going to be painful while she tries to drag your name through the mud, but it really is going to be all right.” “There’s so many things I can do to mess this up for both of us,” he protested, but she hushed him with another soft kiss. “Shhhh,” she said. “You are a human being, Kyle Cain, and you have needs. My goal is to become one of those needs. I’m willing to wait, but I want you to know something else. You’re really good at that kissing thing.” At that, Diana blushed, a softer shade of red crossing her cheeks. The shade flattered her blonde hair and Kyle couldn’t help but smile. “There was a time in my life when I’d be trying to take you home,” he said. “When you say she wants to ruin me, it’s not like there’s nothing she couldn’t use that I haven’t already given her. You’d be one of those things, as you know since you evidently crossed her.” “When you and I weren’t friends, I thought that you didn’t scare me, and I was right,” she said. “But I was right for the wrong reason. You aren’t to be crossed in your environment and I learned that. But the reason you don’t scare me is that deep down there is a lovely man that right now, not many people can see. I think I can and I think I can bring it out of you. Now Stacy, on the other hand – she doesn’t scare me at all.” Kyle thought it through. “You know, I believe you,” he said. “I’ve seen you in action and believe me – you scared the living s**t out of me at times.” Now Diana smiled, placing an index finger across Kyle’s lips. “Now, hush,” she said. “That person is on your side now. And if you will only trust me, you’ll find that you don’t have any reason to fear Stacy either.” She leaned in and gave him one last, deep kiss. “Now, start the car,” Diana said as she finally fastened her seat belt. “We’re going to be late for dinner.” # # #
  13. [FM17] Out Of His League

    It turned out Chance didn’t have to worry. Peterborough was the choice for a parent club. It wasn’t exactly Man United, but the club could provide Salford with warm bodies, fit for purpose at Salford’s level. He also didn’t have to worry about Topliss, who signed for Kidderminster shortly after receiving Salford’s offer. As such, the team prepared for its first friendly against Goole of the Northern Premier League Division One North at their home, eyebrow-raisingly named the Victoria Pleasure Grounds. On the positive side, Chance derived some pleasure when Skapetis agreed to come to Salford on trial. At age 21, he could have been a player either for the present or the future and once he found fitness, could do a job. The only problem was that Skapetis didn’t appear to have a lot of staying power, which explained why he had yet to make a senior appearance in English football with his two prior clubs – QPR and Stoke. But if he figured that out, he had the talent to score for fun in the Conference North. He was also recovering from doing his ACL with Stoke, which had led to his release. “Look at him,” Morley said as Skapetis bent over for his breath after a series of wind sprints the other players seemed to handle with ease. “Shattered.” “Well, that’s the trouble, innit?” Chance replied. “I can put him on cardio but he has to want to do it. Otherwise I like what I see.” “You’re right there,” Morley replied. “Some good skill on him.” That was how conversations had been going between manager and assistant – point-form and short. They weren’t friends, but they weren’t circling each other like Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo in Tombstone. “I’m your Huckleberry,” Chance thought to himself with a smile. He didn’t share the reference with Morley, but then, to say anything would have gone against everything Chance claimed to be. As they watched training, Jessica Granger approached. “We put out the word on Skapetis,” she said. “Bailey was the only one to respond.” “Well, you gave it a bash, good job,” Chance said. “What did you tell him?” “Same as everyone, we want to see him succeed and we’ll consider offering a deal if he does.” Chance nodded. He smiled at the young lady, who seemed to know her business fairly well. So did her boyfriend, a fellow called Kieran Wolfe who seemed to be a decent bloke. “Well done,” he said, turning back to training. “Thanks, Chance,” she replied, smoothing her long blonde hair back behind her ears. A slight summer breeze had kicked up her hairdo and this seemed to annoy her. “I’m off to get Kieran from work and I’ll see you tomorrow.” Chance nodded and the press officer left. “Don’t know what she sees in that Kieran,” Morley offered. “Don’t even go there,” Chance said, without looking at his deputy. “Well, it’s true,” he replied. “He’s a good lad, mind, but he’s on the dole as often as not.” “Maybe she loves him,” Chance replied, going there. “In the meantime, we’ve both got better things to do.” “True,” Morley said, watching the defenders. Chance shook his head. “If I’m spending time worrying about a bit of all right, I won’t last long,” he sighed. At that moment, defender Chris Lynch fell to the ground heavily, grabbing at his face. He had been struck by a ball in a drill and he was rolling back and forth, a small stream of blood running from between his fingers. The physios arrived and quickly confirmed a broken nose. It wasn’t that difficult. Lynch was going to have a couple of really beautiful shiners and, in the coming days, a plastic mask to guard the injury, but for now he was just a bloody mess. # # #
  14. A New Plumber

    Love this read. Really a nice style. And as one who has played Blackpool in previous incarnations of this game, it's interesting to see life on the Preston side of things.
  15. [FM15] Kyle Cain's Flying Circus

    Kyle had been very surprised after the match to see Stacy waiting for him in the car park. The crowd had been very sparse by comparison to recent league attendance figures, and he figured she hadn’t been in the ground. He wasn’t exactly looking for her, but he hadn’t seen her, either. “Kyle, there are some things we have to go over,” she said, handing him an envelope. It was from a solicitor and Kyle surmised that there were probably divorce papers inside it. “What would those things be, Stacy?” Kyle asked, knowing he was in plain view of supporters and others and as such dared not say what was really on his mind. “How we split things up,” he said, “and I want you to meet Boyd. You need to. He’s going to be part of things from now on.” “Really,” Kyle said absently, sliding the envelope into an inner pocket of his jacket. “And what on earth makes you think that’s a good idea?” “Well, he’s going to help raise Owen and he’s going to have a role to play with Jenna’s baby as well,” she said. “You need to accept that.” “I don’t need to accept anything a judge doesn’t tell me to accept,” Kyle said. At that moment he wished he could have had someone on his arm to show off to Stacy, purely out of spite. He felt very alone and more than a little bit betrayed, though he couldn’t have answered why he felt either of those emotions. “That’s coming,” Stacy answered, in a sarcastic sweet tone that burned as it hit Kyle’s ears. He was annoyed. That was obvious, and it was what Stacy was after. Waiting for a chance to escape, Kyle had no choice but to bide his time. “If you’ll excuse me,” Kyle said, starting to head to his car, but Stacy blocked his path. “Not so fast,” she said. “I want to schedule a time for us to have dinner, the three of us.” Kyle’s lawyer had told him to be accommodating to Stacy when he could be and this seemed to be one of those times. As he prepared to answer Stacy’s request, they were joined by a third party. “Kyle, Stacy, hello,” Diana said. “Good win today.” “Thank you,” Kyle said as he watched the reaction between the two ladies – spoken and otherwise. “Pardon me, Diana, I’m just scheduling dinner with Stacy and her boyfriend.” At that, Stacy’s eyes flashed with anger. The truth had hit her and had hurt in just the same way, but Diana simply smiled at Mrs. Cain’s discomfort. “It’s not fair that you have to go stag, Kyle,” she said. “I’m free Monday night if you’d like some support.” Stacy was thunderstruck. Kyle merely smiled, and looked at the calendar on his phone. “So happens I’m free Monday night as well,” he said. “Tuesday’s a non-starter with the match the next night, and we’re off to Newport later in the week.” Kyle turned to Diana and smiled. “Lovely offer, thank you, I accept – that is, if Stacy doesn’t mind, of course.” Kyle watched as the two women locked eyes. Stacy evidently hadn’t gotten what she bargained for. “No problem,” she said. “Oxford Kitchen at seven, then? Right.” # # #
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