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Simply Perfect

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    Milton Keynes

Currently Managing

  • Currently Managing
  1. Brexit Transfer Question

    That's a shame as Passlack is a cracking player... On the topic of work permits, I'm in the same situation but I've not had or seen a single player have a work permit rejected, irrespective of international caps.
  2. (FM 16) Stalemate [A Short Story]

    With just a handful of games left in the Championship, as Wrexham were limping towards the League One title, Hull decided to part company with Antonio Díaz Carlavilla, hoping that the change would inspire a late push into the play-off places. Media reports suggested that Paolo Di Canio would get the job but, despite media reports not mentioning me, and having not applied for the job, Hull were given permission by Wrexham to speak to me. It was an opportunity that I declined, and Di Canio came in, won the last two league games and won the play-offs. Changes occurred en masse that summer. Our parent club MK Dons, sacked Gary Rowett following their relegation from the Championship. Preston, a city where I’d first lived when I moved to England suffered the same fate, sacking Dougie Freedman. Both clubs offered me the opportunity to interview for their top jobs, but I wasn’t interested in either. There was only one role that interested me and I actively sought it out: following a 15th placed finish, Steve Evans had been sacked by Leeds United. Leeds United were a hugely successful club, and the last to win the top flight before the formation of the Premier League, under Howard Wilkinson, who’d also formed their successful youth academy. After a spell of underachievement, Leeds found domestic achievement and European adventure under David O’Leary, which ironically led in the long run to their current predicament. In contention for European places, the then-chairman of Leeds took out massive loans to be repaid by success and the financial rewards of that success in the Champions League. When they failed to qualify for Europe’s premier club competition in successive seasons, the revenue to repay the loans wasn’t there. The only way to keep the club afloat was to sell players. The sale of Rio Ferdinand led to a public falling out between O’Leary and the club board. The same fate fell his successor, Terry Venables when Jonathan Woodgate was sold despite assurances that this wouldn’t happen. As the merry-go round of managers continued into the early 2000s, Leeds continued to cash in on their assets to keep themselves afloat. Elland Road, owned by the club for only seven years, was sold with a lease back agreement and any player deemed promising, even in the youth team, were cashed in on as early as possible. Inevitably, this led to their relegation from the Premier League. With a team made up largely of free transfers, Leeds were expected to bounce back immediately. They didn’t. After losing the play-off final to Watford, Leeds downward spiral continued and for the first time in their history, Leeds fell into the third tier of English football and in to administration. Three painful years in League One followed before Simon Grayson took Leeds back to the Championship. Despite coming close to the play-offs at the first attempt, neither Grayson nor his numerous successors mounted a serious challenge to get Leeds back to the Premier League. Off the field, the club was still a mess. The club was subject to takeovers and takeover attempts on a fairly regular basis until the club found themselves under the ownership of Eleonora Sport Ltd. The Cellino family and their eccentric patriarch, Massimo, owned the club. The managerial merry-go round became a rollercoaster, with Cellino attempting to sack manager Brian McDermott before he’d even finalised the takeover. With the backdrop of Cellino’s takeover and his attempts to pass the Football League’s Owners and Directors test, Leeds form dropped off and following the completion of the takeover, McDermott left the club. Dave Hockaday, managing Forest Green Rovers in the Conference, was the surprise successor. After 70 days, Darko Milanič, a Slovenian in charge of Austrian side Sturm Graz became manager. The following month, ex-player and coach Neil Redfearn took the role. He lasted a little more than six months before Uwe Rosler took over. After 12 games, the German was replaced by Steve Evans. Eight months following his takeover, in December 2014, Cellino was disqualified from running Leeds United following a conviction is his homeland for tax evasion. He announced during his enforced sabbatical that he would not be returning to West Yorkshire and after many months, agreed in principle to sell to Leeds supporter Colin Phillips and on the 7th November 2015, Cellino’s unstable reign was over. Under Evans, 9 points separated them from the bottom three as they finished 15th. An upturn in form saw them finish nine points outside the playoffs in 11th the following season, but in his final season, despite accumulating just a point less than the previous season, being 33 points clear of the relegation places and 11 points behind promoted Yorkshire rivals, Hull, the club only reached the lower end of mid-table, in 15th place, and Evans contract was terminated. Redfearn, who had returned to the club as Head of Youth Development was the overwhelming favourite for the role, but undeterred, I pressed ahead, attending an interview with Sam Lofthouse and Director of Football Steve Coppell. I’d love to recount for you some of what I said, but I genuinely don’t recall. Two weeks later, having heard nothing, I received an invitation to interview for the vacant Brighton job which I was mulling over when Sam Lofthouse called me. If I were to be appointed, who from my existing staff would I like to take with me to Elland Road.
  3. (FM 16) Stalemate [A Short Story]

    I replaced Gary Mills as manager of Wrexham on 1st July 2015. My non-football career in London had stagnated somewhat and I spent most of my annual leave to get away early on Tuesdays to manage in the lower leagues. I wanted to get into the professional game, but I never expected a club the size of Wrexham to take a chance on me. I had a lot of big talk about a three year plan leading to a position in the Football League, and staying there. Despite my coaching qualifications, it was even in my mind, just big talk. With an ambition to finish somewhere in mid-table, I used a number of free transfers and loanees to put us in the title hunt. Tranmere had been expected to stroll the Vanarama Conference, and they were in the mix, but ultimately, it was Woking that took the title as we faded to fourth after 5 defeats in our final 7 league games. A 2-0 win at Dover, who had beaten us to third on goals scored, saw us head to Wembley, where, deep into extra time, inspired by Crewe loanee and future Wrexham icon Oliver Finney, we managed to beat Tranmere 3-2 and head back to the Football League at our first attempt. Our League Two campaign was categorised by a great cup run, ending in the fourth round at Tottenham and a vitriolic tussle with Oxford manager Paul Ince. I spent £19,500 bringing in Rowan Liburd, a massive flop on reflection, and Izale McLeod, a moderate success and George Baldock, Harry Hickford and Giorgio Rasulo from our parent club MK Dons amongst a large cast of loanees and free transfers that saw us finish second, in spite of one win in our last six games, four points ahead of Oxford but 16 points behind winners Portsmouth. As we embarked on our League One campaign, I splashed the cash, spending my £80,000 transfer budget on Northampton’s Josh Lelan, although as I write this, I honestly can’t remember if he was a success or not. Crewe’s Oliver Turton unmistakeably was, going on to make himself a Wrexham icon after joining for free. I wanted to pair him with Oliver Finney who has established himself in Crewe’s team but would be plying their trade in the Vanarama Conference following successive relegations, but their £1m price tag ended any hope of that. An FA Cup 1st Round exit at home to Doncaster, a loss on penalties in the Johnstone Paint Trophy North Final to Notts County and just one win in nine games couldn’t take the shine off the season though, as we took the League One title. Sound financial management throughout my spell at Wrexham meant that when they played in the Championship, they’d do so at The Racecourse Ground that they’d been able to repurchase. I was certain though, that they’d do so without me. With by far the smallest budget in the Championship, and with virtually no money to spend, I didn’t feel that I could keep the club up, let alone push on. Crucially though, my head had been turned.
  4. (FM 16) Stalemate [A Short Story]

    Hello! I thought it had been a while since I’d written anything. The career I’ve had in my long-running FM16 career has been a little too fantasy-like to write a story on... but I’ve gotten to a point which may or may not be a little interesting. As of writing I don’t know what will happen. It could be that the crux of this story is shorter than the prologue. Enough pontificating, let’s get going! I was annoyed. “After fifteen years, I deserve better than this”, I chunnered to no-one in particular as I left the office. The source of my annoyance, in short, was the chairman. To be exact, it was the chairman being tight. That chairman is Sam Lofthouse, the 65 year old figurehead of Leeds United. He doesn’t own the club: the club is owned and financed by the mysterious and often absent Colin Phillips. I’ve met Phillips less than a handful of times in the fifteen years I’ve spent at Elland Road. My relationship with Sam Lofthouse has always been fine. Given the success we’ve had, he’s become increasingly open to my suggestions, and I, to his. On this, however, he’d barely negotiate. After 5,626 days at Leeds and with less than eight months to run on my current deal, I wanted a deal that would reflect the success and stability I’d brought to the club. I didn’t think it was an unreasonable request. It’s not that I’m poorly paid, far from it: my last deal, signed in January 2030 put my wages on £60,000 per week. I’d even negotiated the club down from £61,000. To put it into perspective, Gökdeniz Karadeniz at Norwich and Konstantinos Makridis at struggling Spurs are on roughly the same. Long-time Norwich and PSV manager Clarence Seedorf, reigniting the fire under Manchester United after years of ambiguity, took home £72,000 every week. Antonio Conte, now at Manchester City after many years at Juventus had a contract for £91,000. At our competitive rivals Arsenal, Mauricio Pellegrino, who had carved a reputation as a fantastic manager at Real Madrid earned £96,000. I wouldn’t mind, but in the 34 months since Pellegrino had left Real Madrid for North London in January 2031, his side hadn’t won a trophy. In fact, few managers had, because Leeds have been utterly dominate. Yes, Chelsea hold the Europa League. Stoke had won it the year before under Mauricio Pochettino (£68,000). Arsenal, both Manchester clubs and Tottenham had also won it once each in the ten years prior to that. My record? We’ll get to that. First, let’s rewind a little…
  5. Spent 3 successful seasons at Wrexham before I replaced Steve Evans, beating the bookies favourite Neil Redfearn to the role. He's still my HoYD, although I've lost 2 U21 managers in 2.5 years. Also lost Charlie Taylor in my first month, some genius had put an £11m release clause in his contract and we were already £30k overspent in wages. Replaced him with Tyrone Mings who was on the list at Bournemouth for £750k and gave me the cash to bring in Josh Onomah from Spurs plus a few freebies like Dominic Ball and Christian Walton. We went up in 2nd and I strengthened again. Teddy Bishop was out of contract and got him for.compensation of £2.2m. Demari Gray was an expensive buy from Spurs as was Ryan Nyambe from Blackburn but the board gave me another £25m which added Lewis Baker, Nathanial Chalobah and James Wilson. We beat Spurs to 4th. We added Jack Grealish from relegated Aston Villa, Timo Horn replaced Silvestri, Andrew Robertson came in from City, Jon Flanaghan from Hull. Ryan Kent had spent my Championship season on loan but Liverpool wanted £25m to make it permanent. A year later I got him for less than £4m. My best signing has been Matthias Sammer as DoF. He moves players so easily, which Coppell couldn't do. With Chris Wood heading to Huddersfield it leaves Cook, my captain, and Byram as the only two originals. The board has just given me another £41m to spend, our facilities have been massively improved, the purchase of Elland Road will be finalised in the summer and we have drawn Barcelona in the Champions League knock out stages. Things are looking very good indeed!
  6. After 5 goals in 36 games for Manchester United in 2015/16 he appeared just 5 times the next season, leading to a £12.75m move back to Everton, where he appeared to play deeper, in midfield or wide on either flank. Over three seasons he played 71 times and scored 13 goals before a free transfer to Seattle. His staff attributes indicate he'd make a fairly good attacking or shooting coach, with a working with youngsters rating of 16 too. (I'll have to keep tabs on him!)
  7. It's always worth a look at former players. I brought Caulker back to Spurs as, along with needing a CB, he meets the HG at club criteria.
  8. Promoted too soon?

    I usually do one save where I take a club as far as I can. For example, I won the Champions League with Barrow in FM08 and with Luton in FM09. In the last few years though, I've got to the Premier League with Chester and Stockport and not been able to attract even players with reasonable potential to play in the Premier League. I started higher with MK Dons but after getting to the Premier League, I was missing out on players to the likes of Ipswich who were offering lower wages and predicted to finish 20th in the Championship. However, getting promoted too soon isn't a thing. Even with MK Dons, having won 4 points after 8 games, I took the Spurs job. Dons went down under Sean O'Driscoll who then spent £15m (outside of the £6m I spent on Lewis Cook, my biggest buy had been £350k) to win the Championship. They may end up going down again but with two seasons in the Premier League, one in the Championship with parachute payments and, if they do go down, up to four more seasons with parachute payments they easily have the money to upgrade their facilities to get the best out of young players and players that they can attract.
  9. [FM15] Malone Again, Naturally

    Finally catching up with this and not sure why I haven't until now. Up until about 18 months ago, I lived about half a mile from Euxton Lane. One of my colleagues had a meeting with Bolton to stop them from retrieving footballs that they'd kicked on to the railway.
  10. I shook the hand of Simon Weaver and he disappeared down the tunnel, presumably to attend to his press duties, but his players showed a touch of class, staying out on the pitch as our players did a lap of honour and then, once the league officals had constructed their rickity looking platform, applauded as our players collected their league winners medals and Mark Lees lifted the Vanarama Conference North title. The players jumped up on down on the rocking structure as I stepped down to shake the hands of my staff. I tucked my own winners medal in my pocket and hid out towards the back of the squad as they posed for their official league winners photo, before undertaking another lap of honour with the league trophy. 'We are the Champions' blared over the PA system as I headed down the tunnel fielding a few questions from BBC Radio Manchester's Joe Williams before heading to the press room for the official press conference. Williams, that snake Mark Phillips, an over-enthusiastic journalist from BBC Radio York whose name I didn't catch, Gary Pratt from the Non-League Paper and the delightful Miss Phillips formed the waiting press as I answered the standard questions. Yes, I was delighted we'd won the match, the players had worked hard. Of course it was great to add silverware to the cabinet. I was a little lost for words to learn that Stockport legend Jim Gannon had hailed me as a 'wonder-maker' but was more disappointed to learn that Simon Weaver had fumed in his press conference, amazed that his team had lost the match, and labelling our performance as ordinary, and Mark Phillips was only too happy to share that Weaver had proclaimed that Stockport would soon fall away, based on today's performance. Ashley Phillips was surprisingly quiet as the BBC Radio York journalist threw in some questions, about Jordan Fagbola's 100th appearance and us being the most proficient tackling outfit in the league, which, while showing that she had done her research, changed the flow of the conference. Feeling a little awkward at the change of pace, I answered cooly, while playing with a piece of card that had been on the desk in front of the various microphones. Finally, after addressing Gary Pratt's question on my ambitions for next season, I made my exit. As I headed back for the dressing room, I ran into the chairman, Matthew Taylor, whose shirt and hair were soaked with champagne. Catching me completely by surprise, he gave me a bear hug, and told me that he was footing the bill for a team meal in a restaurant in Deansgate that night. In front of me, he reviewed the match, revelling in the delight of the penalty decision, Rutherford's goal and the brilliant saves made by Ormson, grabbing my arm or lapels after each highlight. "What a wonderful day!", he beamed as I silently, stoically nodded. "So, are you going to call her?" he asked, before skipping away to review the game with the next member of staff he ran into. I looked on bemused before looking down at the piece of card that I still had in my hand. On it, it read "Drink?" and had a mobile number scribed beneath. I flipped the card over, to see the business details of my favourite MEN journalist. "What a wonderful day, indeed", I said to no-one in particular as I pocketed the business card and headed towards the buoyant Stockport dressing room and a champagne soaking. *** The end ***
  11. Thanks very much, Mr Horse: I don't feel worthy of such praise, but all feedback is gratefully received! At half time, I kept things very simple. They were doing everything I'd asked of them and to keep doing it. The next twenty five minutes passed much like the last twenty of the first half: we were containing Harrogate and keeping the ball well but weren't fashioning any real chances for ourselves, with the only real incident being Danny Murray replacing his namesake, who had begun to tire. Just shy of the 70 minute mark, Dominic Rowe ran on to a Turner pass down the right channel. Fagbola made a tired clearance, straight to Meynell. His shot spun off Mark Lees and dropped for Rowe whose volley brought an excellent save out of Ormson. Shortly after replacing Fagbola with Danny Gregson and Lofthouse with Scott Spencer, Tom Peers stung the palms of Zizic with a rasping twenty yard shot. Harrogate were keeping possession well, with the left channel work of Shane Killock linking with Mukendi bringing Featherstone and Lenighan into play. Frustrated by this resurgance, Baker gave away a cheap free kick, twenty yards from goal. The players didn't organise themselves quickly enough and Featherstone fired the free kick at goal, with Ormson scrambling across from where he'd been trying to buld his wall, his right hand sending the ball away from goal, but not out of danger. Lenighan blasted the loose ball at a narrow angle, but Ormson stuck out his left hand and pushed the ball away from goal and out of the box. As Harrogate regrouped, we set out our banks of four and five but were undone by a long punt from Zizic. Duxbury over-zealously leapt in on Jake Speight at the edge of our box and surrendered another dangerous free kick. Ormson barked out instructions, a four man wall quickly constructed but Turner sent his free kick high and wide. At the other end, Spencer released Peers, but Zizic kept out the Chester loanee's left footed effort. As the clock moved past the 90 minute mark, Spencer sent Rutherford through but the winger found himself crowded out by Killock and Matt Heath. Ormson sent a free kick into the corner for Rutherford to chase, with whistles howling around the stadium until the referee made a whistle of his own, and the fans erupted. Stockport 2-0 Harrogate Richie Baker (pen) 21 Paul Rutherford 25 Player of the Match: Ian Ormson (Stockport) Attendance: 5,146
  12. The first five minutes were nervy, both sides squandering possession with relative frequency. The first chance fell our way, Bobby Lofthouse heading a Richie Baker clearance out to Paul Rutherford. Rutherford took the ball in his stride and lifted the ball into the box, but his cross was a little behind Tom Peers and his header bounced wide of the goalkeeper's right-hand post as applause rippled around the stadium. It would take another ten minutes before another chance would be fashioned, Ian Ormson saving from Henoc Mukendi after the Harrogate striker had picked up a loose ball in midfield, sent it wide and rushed into the box to receive the cross. Harrogate were growing into the game as I barked out instructions for the players to keep the ball having seen Glenn Belezika with a crunching, but adjudged to be a fair tackle on Mukendi and Nicky Featherstone shooting narrowly over from twenty five yards. Our change in style paid off almost immediately. From a throw-in halfway into the opposition half, Scott Duxbury found Nathan Woolfe in the box. As the winger tried to turn, Lewis Turner bundled into him from behind and the entire Stockport bench, me included, leapt to our feet as Mr Rushton pointed to the spot. Baker stepped up and slotted the ball out of the reach of Danijel Zizic's left hand and into the corner. We were doing a good job of keeping possession, with Woolfe tucking in regularly to offer his support to Baker and Cameron Murray to keep the ball away from Harrogate's central midfielders. This created a lot of space on the left side, which we exploited, Baker feeding Duxbury who feined to cross before poking it to the sprinting Woolfe. Just outside the six yard box and rapidly approaching the byline, he fired the ball low across goal, where it met Rutherford, who had run free of his marker Rhys Meynell and had no problem in tapping home unopposed from all of two yards. Less than 25 minutes had passed, and we had the game in control. The game began to get a little untidy over the next fifteen minutes with Jordan Fagbola, Duxbury, Simon Lenighan and Fetherstone picking up bookings.
  13. [FM15] Malone Again, Naturally

    Great stuff so far, not that we would expect any less.
  14. You flatter me, sir. Good to see Rat Pack still going! *** I was alone in the dressing room, adjusting a set of magnets on the board, 11 blue magnets representing us, 11 red magnets for Harrogate. It bothered me slightly that we didn't have yellow markers, given that's what we expected Harrogate would be wearing: but if these are the sort of sacrifices you have to make to keep the club solvent and profitable, I decided that I could probably live with it. Ali Gibb, the club physio walked in, interrupting my thoughts. "How's Robbie looking?", I asked, referring to my only permanent signing, Robbie Parry. He'd suffered knee ligament damage back in March and hadn't trained since, but had been named amongst the substitutes. "Ok. He's some way short of match fitness, but his movement's ok. If we end up in the play-offs..." "We're not going to be in the play-offs", I answered sternly. "But if we do..." "We won't". The tension lingered in the air, my eyes locked on Gibb, as he shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. After what must have felt like an age but was probably only a few seconds, before I uttered "Sorry, it's just, you know..." I tailed off, not knowing the words to finish. Gibbs nodded his understanding. "All I was saying was that he probably wouldn't be fit to play. He won't need to though. It's going to be a wonderful day!" I smiled sheepishly at my physio as he made his way out of the dressing room. I was annoyed at myself. It was the only time today that I'd snapped. Better now than in front of the players though. I made my way back out of the dressing room and away from the door just before the players came back in. I always wanted to make an entrance to grab their attention before reminding them of the little things we had to bare in mind from that week's training. With the dressing room door closed and the tunnel empty, I made my way return. My messages were succinct, although I was never sure how useful going through their attacking patterns and what to be doing on set pieces was. We'd worked on it in training, and if the players hadn't got it, me telling them about it again wouldn't change that. I dismissed the thought from my mind and looked around the dressing room. "You know what you have to do out there, gents. It's big, I can't deny that...but it's even bigger for the 5000 fans who have come here today to see you, to support you, to see you win this. Leave everything on the pitch, come back in there at ten to five knowing that you have done everything that you could have. For this club, for yourself, and for those people." As one of the officials banged on the door to signify that we were to head out, Mark Lees screamed out something unintelligible to my Northern Irish ears, and the rest of the team joined his battlecry. Dave Conlon swung open the door and Lees led his troops into battle. I was last out of the dressing room and walked straight into the thrust-out microphone of Ashley Phillips of the Manchester Evening News, remarking that my team selection hadn't raised too many eyebrows and asking if I was confident. "Phil, press", I called out, and my assistant came back to field the journalist's pre-match questions. It wasn't anything against Ashley: quite the opposite, I had something of a crush on her, but I tried not to speak to the press much and I certainly didn't want to do it right now. Phil Brown joined the bench a few moments later "She's a tidy piece, that girl. I bet she's a real...", I shot a glance at my assistant and he cleared his throat, turning his attention to the pitch as Harrogate kicked off.
  15. Thanks 10-3, it's good to be back. It's only been five years...! *** It was a few minutes before 10am when I arrived at EP, following the hour long drive. To emanate confidence I made sure to give a wide smile and a friendly greeting to everyone that I passed on the way in: the steward who let me into the car park who declared that it was going to be a wonderful day; Laura on reception; and Richard, our kit man before reaching the sanctity of my office. I closed the door, turned on the radio and flicked through the Stockport Express that I'd picked up on the way in. A big crowd was expected for the game, over 5000 people, which would give us our highest attendance of the season. Skybet had us as slight favourites for the game. Harrogate manager Simon Weaver had agreed that Stockport were overachieving but admitted that we had to be treated as a very good side. I hadn't taken it as demeaning, but had made sure that the credit went to the players. Mark Phillips, in his column, continued to exude negativity proclaiming that the club would continue its ability to let our fans down by blowing it today. "McCreery has already masterminded the collapse of an 11 point Championship lead: there's absolutely no reason to believe that he won't deliver the ultimate disappointment this afternoon". Charming. Training had gone well. We'd had a meeting before Wednesday's video session, and the players looked relaxed during Thursday's full session and Friday's pre-match session. They certainly sounded relaxed as they streamed past my office towards the dressing room. It was just before 2pm when Phil Brown came in. "Ready boss?" I looked up at my assistant. "As I'll ever be", I responded, and took a deep breath before following him to the dressing room. The players began to quiten and sit down as I proceeded through the door. "Right gents, the team. In goal, Ormy...", my eyes moved over to my 20 year-old goalkeeper Ian Ormson who had dislodged Danny Hurst and established himself as the No. 1 over the last few months, and he offered a silent nod. I looked at each of my back four as I read out their names: my captain Mark Lees, Glenn Belezika, Jordan Fagbola and Scott Duxbury. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a slight grimace on the face of centre-back Danny Gregson, who would be on the bench. "Achoring the midfield, Richie,", Richie Baker loosened his neck, "partnered by Cameron Murray". Murray looked up, and smiled. The York loanee had been out after suffering whiplash in the win at Gloucester the previous weekend but neither Danny Murray nor Jamie Milligan, both of who had complained about a lack of first-team football, had done enough on Tuesday night to make me think that Cameron wasn't the best option. Soutport loanee Paul Rutherford would start on the right wing. When I said that Nathan Woolfe, would start on the left, Bobby Lofthouse had looked disappointed. Lofthouse had started the season on the loan list but a move had never materialised and he'd eventually ousted Woolfe from the first eleven. His spirits were immediately lifted when I told him he'd be in the central attacking role. It also meant that ex-Everton attacker Scott Spencer would be on the bench, as Chester loanee Tom Peers, who had 27 goals in 40 appearances after initially joining as back up to Chris Sharp while Spencer and former striker Kristian Dennis were injured, would start up front. The players followed coach Dave Conlon towards the pitch to go through their warm-up routine.