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About neilhoskins77

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    Newcastle-Upon-Tyne & Cwmbran, South Wales

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    Bristol.R & Newcastle Utd

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    Maidstone United (Blue Square South - FM09)

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  1. Wednesday 5th November 2014 Not a good day for us on the loan front. Barnsley midfielder Steven Woodall has shunned us, preferring to stay north and opting to go on a three month loan to Gainsborough Trinity instead. That is still closer than we got to bringing in Charlton Athletic teenager John Stevenson, with the South London based Coca-Cola League One side rejecting our offer, while accepting one from Basingstoke Town, suggesting that he would likely not be a First Team regular for us. A bit like being patted on the back and slapped in the face at the same time to be honest. Thursday 6th November Earlier in the week it was Michael Haswell's happiness at the club that I was being warned about. Today, it's the turn of Gordon Chin. The 31 year old midfielder has been involved in thirteen of our games this season, starting slightly more than he has featured in as a substitute, so I'm not quite sure how valid his complaint is to be fair. The former Canadian Youth International has been pretty decent during that spell too, and the injury to Jamie McMaster doesn't exactly hinder his chances of continuing to get regular First Team football at Bourne Park. Friday 7th November The return from injury of Alan Dallas however may cause Chin a problem. The teenager Ulsterman missed the whole of October with a fractured wrist, and is very keen to make up for lost time. I think it would be fair to say we've missed what he brings to the table while he's been out, and it will be interesting to see if his return brings about an upturn in our fortunes. He won't be back as quickly as tomorrow though, when we'll make the short journey to face bitter rivals Dartford in the First Round of the FA Cup, a game that they are slim favourites for with their home advantage. The fact we are also Division rivals merely adds an extra bit of spice as well, with Dartford going into the match three places and points ahead of us, though we do have a game in hand on them. Their player of the season to date has to be left wing back Marcus Heaton, a 20 year old former Huddersfield Town youngster and Republic of Ireland Under-19 player, in his second season with The Darts, who has netted half a dozen goals in all competitions. He will need to be closely watched tomorrow. They will be without their other six goal scorer this season though, as 27 year old striker James Lawson is going to miss out with a pulled hamstring. Also missing will be their new arrival, almost £1 million rated right back Joe Smith, who has just arrived on loan from Premier Division side Fulham. It's his first season in football, and he is looking to make his Senior Debut, alas, his parent club have not given him permission to play in Cup matches during the three month loan spell. Saturday 8th November FA Cup, First Round Princes Park, Dartford Dartford v Maidstone United Attendance :- 825. Weather :- Breezy, Showers, 18c. It's back to full strength for our big Derby Day in the FA Cup, as we make the 23 mile trip up the A2 to the outskirts of East London, and to Princes Park in Dartford. The attendance is a little disappointing, though we did bring two buses worth of fans along with us. It was The Darts who had the first effort at goal, Jojo Connolly and Danny Mason linking up in the third minute, the latter squeezing a diagonal pass into the box for Tashan Adeyinka, the striker getting under his shot and clearing the cross bar. Connolly was involved again five minutes later, finding David Miller who played Ashan Holgate into acres of space on the right corner of the box. His shot attempted to catch out Josh Derry at his near post, the keeper producing a superb reaction stop to keep the ball out! Our first chance came on the counter attack, Jack Collins stepping off his wing and winning the ball, before volleying it across the park and into the box, Jack Deeney bringing it down and shooting across goal, but missing the target. Less than two minutes later and Deeney was in again, Marc Canham switching play from right to left to pick out Terry Hindmarch, and the winger had the pace on Omar Bekele, and cut it back from the byline, Deeney again aiming his shot across goal, and again missing the target. Our finishing was a bit of an issue, but our issues were about to increase. Bekele, then Mark Graham and Mason got the ball to Miller on the left, and he chipped the ball across towards the far post. Adeyinka climbed above Mark Williams and connected with a downward header, Derry doing superbly to keep the ball out, but it ran loose, and right back to Adeyinka, who had a simple finish, or would have had Williams not rugby tackled him to the floor, about as clear cut a penalty as you could wish to see. Full back Marcus Heaton is every bit as lethal from the spot for them as Williams is for us, and he stepped up and drove his left footed effort just off centre down the middle, and high into the net to open the scoring. So we had problems, which continued when Collins took a knock just moments later, unable to continue, and replaced by Mark Smith. Things couldn't get much worse, could they? With just under ten minutes to go till half time, the recently booked Mason swung in a corner, and the ref deemed that all 5'4 of Gordon Chin had hauled 6'2 Connolly to the ground to prevent him reaching it, awarding a second spot kick in the space of a quarter of an hour or so, and booking Andy Miskimmon when he dared to dispute the decision. Heaton stepped up again, going for a similar spot, but lower, and Derry read it perfectly this time, pushing his spot kick aside and keeping the home sides lead down to a single goal. Thanks to Derry, we were still in this game at the break, but our rivals tried to put us away quickly after the restart, Mason played in between our centre backs by Connolly's knock down, and he tried to lift the ball over Derry as the keeper advanced out towards him, but he got too much on the shot and sent it over the bar. Even when we were trying to get forward, we were being caught on the counter attack, Heaton thumped the ball clear, and we were outnumbered at the back, the ball played through the Dartford players and finding Graham on the edge of the box, who went for power and saw Derry turn his shot over. But nine minutes after the restart, our luck ran out. Centre back Keith Ramsay cleared the ball from the edge of his own box, down the park and right over the heads of our back four. Adeyinka was too quick for our defence, and he slotted his shot low past Derry and into the bottom corner to double the Dartford lead. To our credit, we tried to hit right back, a slick passing move back and forth across the park before the ball was sent in for Deeney, who headed it down to strike partner Daniel Walsh, his first time shot coming back off the angle of the goal frame. Some encouragement at least, and then some more in the 63rd minute, Miskimmon sent the ball down the line to Smith, and his low first time cross picked out Walsh who had halted his run, and he smashed a first time shot into the top corner from 10 yards out, finally netting his first goal three months into the season, and well over 1,000 minutes of football since his last goal. Now Dartford tried to go on the offensive, Mason didn't get the required curl on his shot from range, Heaton did with his free kick effort, but it was too high. With the clock running down, and nothing to lose, we went for it, as we have done on so many occasions. Shaun Culverhouse and Chin came off, Malcolm Carr and Michael Branch came on, one left at centre back with two wing backs only for cover, just one in midfield also. Three strikers, two wingers and an attacking midfielder. Two minutes after the subs were made, Derry lifted the ball up the park, Walsh brought it down, his shot blocked, Deeney fired the loose ball goalwards, Niall Morgan made a crucial save. Then Hindmarch sent over a cross, Smith was unmarked, and had a chance to volley, but he failed to connect with the ball. We were running out of bullets with five minutes to go, Deeney and Branch had shots blocked, but the ball was recycled and sent wide to Williams, and his deep cross cut out a whole group of players, and Walsh got in front of substitute defender Travis Davies, and headed home an equaliser! Now we had to sink back into a formation that would see us through, Carr utilised as a centre back, Deeney and Walsh were in the midfield. Injury time was on the clock, and with mere seconds of it left to play Mason was in a whole heap of space in the middle of the park. He strode forward with options either side, and Smith took one for the team, sending him tumbling to the ground, taking a booking for his trouble, but saving us from potentially being bounced out of the Cup! Dartford (1) 2 - (Marcus Heaton 21 pen), Tashan Adeyinka (54) Maidstone United (0) 2 - Daniel Walsh (63,86) Josh Derry; Andy Miskimmon ©, Shaun Culverhouse (Michael Branch 79), James Curtis, Mark Williams; Marc Canham, Gordon Chin (Malcolm Carr 79); Jack Collins (inj - Mark Smith 24), Terry Hindmarch; Jack Deeney, Daniel Walsh. Unused Substitutes :- Gary Murray, Aaron Steele, Michael Haswell, Mark Gordon. Bookings :- Andy Miskimmon 36, Mark Smith 90+2 Possession :- 43% - 57%. Man of the Match :- Daniel Walsh (Maidstone United). Like all modes of public transport, Daniel Walsh waited a long time for one, and two came along at once. The 20 year old striker who I signed on a Free Transfer from Witton Albion in March, and who's five goals in seven matches helped save us from the drop last season, is finally off the mark this campaign, and not a moment too soon either. It's by the skin of our teeth, but we are still in the FA Cup this season. In fact, if you look at the League table and our form, if it wasn't for the FA Cup, I might have been out of a job by now. Sunday 9th November Fixture congestion is going to be an issue going forward for us, and our squad is going to be pushed to its limit. We have a game on Tuesday, and then a game on Saturday, and also a match scheduled for the following Tuesday as well, meaning that our Replay back at Bourne Park has been set for a week on Thursday, two days after a home game against Newport County, and two days before another home match, that one with Redditch United in the FA Trophy. That's an awful situation for us, three home matches in five days will push our supporters into potentially picking and choosing too. Our Reserve side have travelled to London today, and return with a 1-0 win from their Group 9 match against Hampton & Richmond, the winning goal coming five minutes into the second half from young Northern Irish striker Mark Wallace. Our second string are five points clear at the top now. Monday 10th November We are due right back in action tomorrow evening, with yet another home game, this time the visitors are the fast improving University side from the South West of England, as Team Bath will trek across the country. Only one team has beaten them since mid-August in any competition, and that's Lewes, who beat them twice, once in the League, and also in the Conference League Cup. Both games ended 1-0, and both were away from home for the Team Bath side. There is no doubt at all who their star man is right now, 27 year old Captain and striker Josh Llewellyn, who joined the club on a Free after being released by Derby County in 2006. He has scored eleven times in nineteen matches in all competitions, and is forming quite the partnership with Thomas Ince, the son of former England midfielder Paul, who has laid on five goals this campaign. No doubt about the main event of the day though, and it comes later in the evening, as the draw is made for the FA Cup Second Round, a draw that we will be featuring in after our comeback on Saturday that earned us a draw in Dartford. Should we manage to beat our rivals in the Replay, we have one of the two kinds of tie that we were hoping for, as the draw pairs the winner on an away trip north to face Doncaster Rovers, currently second in Coca-Cola League One. The Yorkshire club have a capacity of over 15,000 in their all-seater Keepmoat Stadium, and have an average attendance of almost 6,000 this season, with their last two home games both attracting well over 7,000. They have a strike duo to be feared too, as Steven Gillespie and Welsh International striker Simon Church have so far struck 23 goals between them this season. Tuesday 11th November Blue Square League, South Division Bourne Park, Sittingbourne Maidstone United v Team Bath (Match Postponed - Waterlogged Pitch) - Rearranged for Friday 14th November 2014 A bit of a farce this afternoon and this evening I'm afraid. Team Bath were well on their way to Kent when the heavens opened, and a pitch that has already been hugely overused and in poor shape, could take no more. Bourne Park was unable to absorb the deluge, and while it became quickly obvious that no football would be played here tonight, that decision was ultimatelyvdown to the referee, and he was travelling to us from Hartlepool! So Team Bath had to wait around while our pitch became a bath, and once the match was called off, less than two hours before the scheduled kick off, they could then head back across country once we had at least fed and watered them. The story of woe doesn't end there for the West Country side, as someone somewhere saw fit to cancel our planned home match this weekend against Bognor Regis Town, and slot the home match with Team Bath into a rearranged slot of this coming Friday night, meaning they have to make the same trip in less than 72 hours time. I'll never quite understand the point of that to be honest.
  2. Saturday 1st November 2014 This is going to be a huge month for the club, with us likely to play at least seven matches over three different competitions in the next four weeks, while I also have a big game for India as well. We need to start finding the form we had at the start of the season, and make our way back up the League table. A poor month will likely see us dragged into the relegation dogfight that we were firmly in when I arrived almost a year ago now. I don't want to be in that position. I want to be able to point at some tangible progress when we move into the New Year in just a few short months time and into March when we reach my anniversary at Bourne Park. Blue Square League, South Division The Fans' Stadium - Kingsmeadow, Kingston-Upon-Thames AFC Wimbledon v Maidstone United Attendance :- 2,141. Weather :- Dry, 7c. I'm back from Japan, jet-lagged, but determined to try and get Maidstone going back the right up way up the table, starting today, with a tough away match against promotion contenders AFC Wimbledon. No defensive formation from us today, as we revert back to our more standard 4-2-2-2 wide tactic that we used last time out against Tooting & Mitcham United in the FA Cup. We have kept the same starting lineup from that win as well, with the only changes made on the substitutes bench. With only five subs instead of seven for a League game, Mark Smith and Adam Campbell are left out, while Danny Carey-Bertram is also left out today, new signing Michael Branch taking his place. Our decision to go on the front foot didn't look like a bad one in the opening stages, Gordon Chin and Terry Hindmarch working together well in the 10th minute to smuggle the ball away from the hosts in midfield, and try to send Jack Deeney into space down the left channel, the strikers lack of pace costing him a chance to get into the box. Ten minutes later and Peter Moore's driving run through midfield gave him a chance to put a through ball into the box for Chris Sullivan, the winger only denied his shooting chance by a last ditch and perfectly timed sliding intervention by James Curtis. That led to a counter attack, Marc Canham and Hindmarch working the ball to Deeney, who this time did get his shot in, the rising effort from 15 yards out cleared the bar. Midway through the half, Dean Keenan struck a curling free kick and only just missed the target. Moments later, striker Craig Boyle managed to pick out Chris Sullivan with a through ball, but his attempt at a delicate finish past Josh Derry was probably the wrong option, and keeper easily pushed his effort aside. Ten minutes before the break, an Andy Miskimmon throw in found Daniel Walsh, who hooked the ball over his own head, Deeney getting on to it and spotting Jason Russell off his line, tried to lift a shot over the keeper, getting just a little too much on his shot and clearing the goal frame. In the final chance of the first half, the left footed Mark Williams received the ball back on the right after his corner was headed back out, and spotting Russell cheating off his near post as he expected a cross, the full back drove in a shot aimed at catching the keeper out, but like most of the first half shots at goal, it was off target. So we had earned parity at half time, and it could be argued that we might have had slightly the better of the first half. The focus in the second half was to keep the mistakes out of our game. There was no blame to be attributed in the 56th minute though, when AFC Wimbledon won a free kick, and Paul Sheffield took it quickly, with a short diagonal pass to Keenan. Their dangerman let fly from nearly 30 yards with a dipping and swerving shot that Derry wouldn't get near, as the ball flew into the top corner! They would quickly attempt to double that lead, Boyle again providing a through pass, Sullivan letting it go by him which also got the ball past Miskimmon, and Graham Fyfe was onto the ball and in the box, but his shot was across goal and well off target. The next shot on target from an AFC Wimbledon player was midway through the half, unfortunately for Sheffield, it was on his own net, as Deeney held the ball up before spreading it wide to Jack Collins, who's low cross would have picked out Walsh for a simple finish from 10 yards out, but Sheffield's attempt to clear it saw him poke it into the bottom corner, and we were level. Our hosts were quite keen to push up the park, while we were pretty happy to have what we held. While they were putting on players to push forward, we were bringing on players to seal up a point, Chin and Walsh came off for Malcolm Carr and Michael Branch's debut, as we crept back towards our own goal, making it even more blatant in the dying minutes when Canham was replaced by Mark Gordon, as two defensive midfielders now sat in front of the back four that AFC Wimbledon could not find a way past, despite a late barrage of crosses and set pieces into our penalty box, that were either deflected from danger or booted clear. AFC Wimbledon (0) 1 - Dean Keenan (56) Maidstone United (0) 1 - Paul Sheffield (66 og) Josh Derry; Andy Miskimmon ©, Shaun Culverhouse, James Curtis, Mark Williams; Marc Canham (Mark Gordon 90), Gordon Chin (Malcolm Carr 80); Jack Collins, Terry Hindmarch; Daniel Walsh (Michael Branch 80), Jack Deeney. Unused Substitutes :- Aaron Steele, Gordon Murray. Bookings :- None Possession :- 41% - 59%. Man of the Match :- Dean Keenan (AFC Wimbledon). Almost 60% of the possession, and out shooting one of the promotion favourites away from home, maybe the more adventurous tactic is the one for us after all. We created enough chances to win that match, though, we could also have lost it too. Dean Keenan was quality in the AFC Wimbledon midfield, not just with his goal of the season contender, but his passing and the way he broke up play as well. Definitely one of the better players we have come up against so far this season. He is out of contract in the summer, and I'm sure The Dons will not want to lose him from their squad. The threat we offered at the Kingsmeadow today gave some food for thought. With Jack Collins back in the side and looking ready to hit some form again, and some genuine competition for places up front amongst the strikers, this might be as good a chance as any to play some slick attacking football and show what we can do at the sharp end of the park. We desperately need at least one of our strikers to hit a rich vein of form to kick some life back into our season, a two place jump today is a start, but we need to be back in that top half as soon as possible. That's now four League matches without a win. Despite our recent new signings, I'm still keeping my eyes open for a quality frontman, and an unlikely bid to sign a young striker from a Dutch side on loan was rejected by his club, as they believe the 17 year old is almost ready for First Team football with them. The prolific non-League striker that we made a vastly under value bid for appeared to be all set to sign for Blue Square Premier side Rushden & Diamonds. But they have pulled the plug at the very last second, stating that they have other options that they are now going to pursue. The Board begin the month satisfied with how things are going at the club. The player given the star signing treatment this time is a bit of a surprise, as it's young defensive midfielder Alan Dallas, and we'll soon have the 18 year old back from injury too. The Boards satisfaction is likely as much to do with the profit of over £30,000 we made in October. Right now, our debt is just back over the £53,000 mark. Sunday 2nd November Our Reserve side play today, with a home Group 9 match against Braintree. It brings both good, and bad news for us. The good news is that despite going a goal down in the 38th minute, our second string won 2-1. They scored twice in a minute at the end of the first half, Chris Wilkinson continuing his impressive recent form, while striker Danny Carey-Bertram netted in stoppage time. The bad news overshadows all that though. In a run out as part of his continued return to fitness after a twisted ankle, Jamie McMaster tore his calf muscle midway through the first half today, and the 31 year old Australian midfielder will now be out for up to four months, a huge setback for both us and the player. Late this evening, we matched a loan bid from Gainsborough Trinity for a young player we have been keeping tabs on for several months now. Maybe it was McMaster's cruel injury news that pushed me into making the decision, though to be fair, the 19 year old Barnsley player is a level or three above the Aussie. The Midlands born midfielder had a loan spell a level below ours last season, and it was very successful, and scouting reports suggest he is a player capable of making an immediate impact on the squad at our level. Monday 3rd November In a meeting with my backroom staff this morning, Assistant Manager at the club Jim Bentley has relayed on some information that 31 year old left back Michael Haswell is not particularly happy with his current situation at Bourne Park. One of our main transfer targets of the summer, Haswell has been kept out of the side by Mark Williams since his arrival from AFC Wimbledon on a Free Transfer, playing just six times in all competitions, and to be fair, registering two assists and an average rating of nearly 7.00. It's been suggested I should look to involve the Londoner more, or it could get to the point where he asks to move on. There may be just such an opportunity to do that this week. Last Monday our domestic attention was drawn to a Cup draw, the FA Cup in that case. It's the same again this week, as the draw is made the Third Qualifying Round of the FA Trophy, the stage of the competition where we enter. This week, the draw is very favourable as far as we are concerned, as we come out of the velvet bag late, secure a home draw, and will be visited by Blue Square North side, Redditch United. They are not in good form, sitting 20th in their Division, which is in the relegation zone, and with just one League win in their last thirteen matches. They have also just been thumped 6-0 away to lower level Cambridge City in the Fourth Qualifying Round of the FA Cup. Naturally, we will fancy our chances in that tie, which we will host in just under three weeks. The League match at home to Maidenhead United has just been pushed back another ten days as a result. Tuesday 4th November Our loan offer to Barnsley for their young midfielder has been accepted, and he now has the choice between remaining in the north with Gainsborough Trinity, or making the temporary move south to spend some time with us in Kent. We have also made an offer to loan another midfielder today too, this one also 17, and plying his trade right now with Charlton Athletic. Our main competition this time are Basingstoke Town. Blue Square Conference League Cup, Southern Third Round Broadfield Stadium, Crawley Crawley Town v Maidstone United Attendance :- 536. Weather :- Wet, 12c. I wouldn't want anyone to be under the impression that we are not taking this game seriously, or that we have no desire to win the match. But we are in four competitions right now, this one is very much the lowest priority, and I've got a group of players desperate to play. Nine changes are made today, with only Josh Derry and Shaun Culverhouse retaining their places from the League match on Saturday afternoon. Culverhouse is partnered in the middle of the back four by Aaron Steele, with Gary Murray and Michael Haswell selected as our full backs. Tommaso Maffei and Malcolm Carr play in the centre of midfield, with Mark Smith on the right wing, and Adam Campbell on the left. Up front, Michael Branch starts, with Danny Carey-Bertram alongside him. Alex Sawyer and Chris Wilkinson are brought up from the Reserve side, and both are on the bench today. They are joined by Marc Canham, Mark Gordon, and a potential debutant in striker Mark Wallace. Crawley were comfortable favourites for this one, but they were nearly behind with barely two minutes on the clock, Michael Haswell's inswinging corner picking out Adam Campbell near the penalty spot, but the winger just failed to keep his header down. We weren't quite as close in the 10th minute when Mark Smith's low cross from the right found Michael Branch with his back to goal, and he laid it off to Malcolm Carr, the defensive midfielders shot was high and wide. It had been an encouraging opening ten minutes or so, but it wouldn't take too long for the tide to turn. A Jack Cross free kick was well off the mark for Crawley, which turned out to be a sighter, full back Luke Rowe had the next try just after the half hour, and he was much closer, only just missing the near post with Josh Derry struggling to get across his goalmouth. With half time approaching Danny Forrest made good ground down the right, and sent a dangerous cross into the box that bounced by several players, only cleared when Smith put his boot to it at the far post to clear the danger, good tracking back by the winger. Much better than our defending in injury time. Forrest skipped by Haswell easily, and then sent in another low cross towards the near post area, where Billy Preston took a touch to take the ball away from Aaron Steele, who committed himself too hastily, and the striker sent a low shot across goal, under Derry's dive, and inside the far post to give Crawley a half time lead. We would need to play more like we did in the opening ten minutes if we were going to turn this one around, but Crawley continued to play on the front foot after the restart, winger Michael Malcolm volleying a cross into the box, Derry having to pluck it out of the air of full stretch to prevent it reaching one of his team mates. He was called into action again quickly, Shaun Culverhouse not clearing a cross at it came at him with pace, Malcolm's shot was well saved, and he stopped Preston scoring from the rebound too. Cross remembered his name when he got another free kick on the right, and crossed to the far post, Forrest connecting with a side footed half volley that Haswell kicked off the line! When Craig Stone missed the target from another free kick chance, and Forrest sent a shot on the turn over the cross bar, changes needed to be made to keep us in the game. Carr, Campbell and a very quiet Danny Carey-Bertram came off, with Mark Gordon, Chris Wilkinson and Mark Wallace coming on in their place. It didn't make much of a difference, though Wallace did show off his pace, and home skipper Nicholas Dunn earned a booking when he grabbed a handful of the teenagers jersey to stop him breaking down the channel. So we went more attacking instead, but that almost cost us too, Stone lifting a free kick into the box that centre back Shane Killock got underneath, and his header was too high. Late on, we had our best chance of the match, Chris Wilkinson whipping in a corner, and Steele climbed higher than everyone, his bullet header tipped over by Andrew Moffatt, his first real save of the match, and he denied Steele redeeming himself for his mistake at the other end. And that was it, our best chance had come and gone. Crawley Town (1) 1 - Billy Preston (45+2) Maidstone United (0) 0 Josh Derry; Gary Murray, Shaun Culverhouse, Aaron Steele ©, Michael Haswell; Tommaso Maffei, Malcolm Carr (Mark Gordon 65); Mark Smith, Adam Campbell (Chris Wilkinson 65); Danny Carey-Bertram (Mark Wallace 65), Michael Branch. Unused Substitutes :- Alex Sawyer, Marc Canham. Bookings :- None Possession :- 57% - 43%. Man of the Match :- Billy Preston (Crawley Town). We're out of a Cup competition for the first time this season, and to be honest, we were probably quite lucky that Crawley didn't bag more than one goal. But, I have to say that we didn't play too badly at all, and that performance in the League would likely have secured at least a point, if not all three. We have exceeded the Boards expectations in the Conference League Cup, and we earn a few grand into the deal as well, with our debt reduced down to £50,000 now. With a big Cup match coming up on the weekend, the fact that it's a Derby Match against our biggest rivals only served to heighten the pressure and excitement for the tie.
  3. Sunday 26th October 2014 I'm most of the way to Japan when the news breaks that Maidstone United have completed the signing of Free Agent striker, and Northern Irish 19 year old, Mark Wallace. On the face of it, Mark is not a striker to be feared, scoring just once in 17 First Team appearances for Derry City, Athlone Town, and most recently, Lurgan Celtic, which is where I first heard about him. They let him go in the summer, but the Portglennone born forward does have something that our strikers at Bourne Park are badly lacking. Pace. And the 5'10 tall lad has plenty of it too. He signs a deal until the end of the 2015/16 season, and at just £25 per week, it's a pretty low risk deal for us. Okay, so I'll admit that the fans may not be over excited with that piece of business. But they are certainly very happy with the second piece of news coming out of the club, which happened a few hours after I landed in Tokyo. 21 year old Bury born striker Michael Branch was a youngster at Blackburn Rovers, and moved on to Cowdenbeath, unfortunately at the time when Scotland's League Football issues began. He moved back south, this time to Grays, where he scored ten League goals last season, but their money issues meant he was let go in the summer. Now the 6'4 target man is a Maidstone United player, also signing on a deal till the end of 2015/16 for £100 a week. Without even kicking a ball, he is deemed to be worth £20,000, and Jack Deeney and Daniel Walsh had best get their backsides in gear and start finding the net regularly if they're going to keep this lad out of the team. With Danny Carey-Bertram in the mix as well, we now have something we haven't had all season, genuine competition for places amongst the strikers. The fans are delighted with his arrival. Monday 27th October It was 4am in Tokyo when the draw was made in London for the First Round of the FA Cup. As much as I would have loved to watch that live, I was still dealing with jet lag, and adrenaline from the match, but there was no way I was getting out of bed at that ridiculous hour. So it was around three hours later when I woke and checked my phone, and the result was revealed in a text from my assistant manager at the club, Jimmy Bentley. You know the drill, we want a home tie against a club we fancy our chances of beating, or a money spinning away trip to a well supported Football League club. We got neither, though it might yet to prove to be a money spinner. How so you ask? We've been handed an away Derby Day trip to fierce rivals Dartford. Since my arrival, we have played them twice, winning once and drawing the other. But they were both at home, and Maidstone has not won at Princes Park in the history of this save, losing twice, once in a Friendly, and last season in the League. The match will take place a week on Saturday. I'm really looking forward to that one! And guess what? Yep, the match with Newport County at home in the League has been rearranged once more, as has the home match with Maidenhead United. I don't quite understand that, but I don't really care either. I've more important things on my mind right now. Tuesday 28th October One of those things on my mind, despite being thousands of miles east of Maidstone, is a move we are trying to pull off to sign one of the most prolific strikers in Non-League Football. His club have started shopping him around after he requested a transfer. They want £20,000, we offer them no fee, and 15% of any future profit we may make on the player. I said we were making an offer, I didn't say it was a good offer. Unfortunately, another club have matched their asking price, which is of course going to be an issue. Also very unfortunate is the decision from MK Dons forward James Thomas to decline the chance of a loan move to Bourne Park for the rest of the season. It's back to the drawing board as far as bringing in loan players go then. Friday 31st October Tomorrow we face AFC Wimbledon away from home, in a match that we now know that I'll be back from Japan in time for. After the midweek matches, we go into the game in Kingston-upon-Thames now sat in 18th place, though we do have games in hand on the teams immediately above us. Our opponents are one of the favourites for promotion this season, and have by far the best average attendance in this Division. They come into the game in 8th place though, and without a League win since their 1-0 away win on the 23rd September against Bognor Regis Town. In the month of October, they played five League matches, drawing three, and losing two. Not exactly promotion form. They have a large squad, but neither spent nor received a penny in Transfer Fee's during the summer or so far this season. They'll be missing their best defender to date this season, 25 year old Irish centre back Derek Foran is out with fractured ribs. He's been a mainstay in their back line for five seasons now. Further up the park, 29 year old Scottish midfielder Dean Keenan is in his first season with the club. After playing for Morton, Ayr United and East Stirlingshire, he moved South for a short spell with Kidderminster Harriers, before heading to Wales, and two seasons with Llangefni Town. He's been outstanding for his new club, and is joint top scorer with strikers Chris Sullivan and youngster Craig Boyle. They are the 4/6 favourites to start the month of November with a League win that they couldn't manage throughout October.
  4. Thursday 30th October 2014 Yesterdays other action was provided by Group D, where heavyweight nations South Korea and Iran played out a 1-1 draw in Hiroshima. Later in the evening, Tajikstan beat Palestine by the only goal of the match, leaving them in with a small chance of progressing to the last eight. I say a small chance, because they'll have to beat South Korea on Friday to accomplish that. Indonesia Under-20's are not an attack minded team, but they will have to change that to a certain degree tomorrow evening in Osaka, as while a draw would be a superb result for us, and guarantee us a passage into the last eight, it's a result that could see the South East Asian nation pack their bags for home. That would be quite the shock for the second seeds in Group B, who are currently ranked 60th in the World. A thriving League structure with an emphasis on home grown players gives the nation of over 250 million people a football team and age group sides that continue to improve and make strides on the Continental stage. Of their twenty player squad, only two play their football overseas. Talented 20 year old defender Tri Yulianto actually plays in Qatar, who they soundly beat yesterday, turning out for Al-Sadd Sports Club. The other plays at a higher level still, and is widely regarded as one of the Continents finest young players. 19 year old defensive midfielder Ivan Suganda plays in South Korea with Suwon Samsung Blue Wings in the K-League. He already has seven Senior International caps, scoring two goals, and in club football this season, he provided 17 assists in 37 matches in all competitions as he side reached the Playoffs. Of the home based players, the best is probably PSM Makassar striker Melky Nasution, a 19 year old who has scored seven goals in just nine competitive games for his club this season. So do the bookies give us any chance? Absolutely not. We are 10/1 rank outsiders in this two team race, versus 1/14. Our win over Japan clearly didn't impress them! The first two Groups were completed this evening. The matches are not scheduled to run concurrently in this Tournament as they are at the World Cup, or European Championships, which means that there are advantages to be gained. In Group A's early match, Saudi Arabia moved serenely into the Quarter-Finals with a 100% record, as they beat Hong Kong 3-0 to claim top spot. In the later match, there was a bit of a shock, with the UAE held to a 1-1 draw by Singapore in Sendai, despite being down to ten men for the last hour of the match. It wouldn't be a difference maker, the point was enough to send the Gulf State nation through in second, while Singapore were still firmly rooted to the bottom of the Group. Tokyo would host the Group C clash between two unbeaten nations who were battling to top the section. It would be China who would take that particular honour, beating Australia 2-0, thanks to a quickfire first half brace from wonderkid Shanghai Shenhua striker Zhao Bin, the 19 year old who has thirty two goals in twenty eight caps for the Under-21 side, and 36 goals in 54 games for his club since they paid just £75,000 for him, and who he already Captains. In the late game, which was very much a consolation match between two eliminated nations, Malaysia were clinical against Syria in Osaka, or at least, Mohd Khairul Hamzah was, the Kuala Lumpur Plus striker notching a hatrick to earn his nation third in the Group. Friday 31st October One early games were key today, the final day of the Group Stages in this Tournament. In our section, Group B, the hosts redeemed themselves after their shock defeat last time out to us, as they thrashed Qatar 4-0 in Tokyo, a brace apiece from Shiro Fujita and Ryo Usami, with three of the goals coming in an eight minute first half spell. And there was finally an upturn in attendance numbers too, with just over 600 turning out to see that one. The result means that only one of Indonesia or us can progress, and Indonesia now go into the match knowing what they have to do, win. In Group D, the early match was a bit of a dead rubber, as Palestine were out, and could only serve to make things more complicated for their Iranian opponents. They did manage that, equalising midway through the first half after falling behind. But they couldn't keep their more illustrious opponents out, and a goal less than ten minutes into the second half confirmed their passage into the last eight, with either South Korea or Tajikstan preparing to do battle in a bid to join them later on. AFC 2014 Asian Under-19 Championship Finals, Group B Nagai Athletic Stadium, Osaka, Japan Indonesia Under-20's v India Under-20's Attendance :- 315. Weather :- Dry, 20c. A draw will be enough tonight, in the scene of our famous victory just forty eight hours ago. But Indonesia need a win, and our defence will surely be tested more thoroughly than the Japanese managed to pressure us. But the hectic schedule is catching up on us, and I have to make changes today to freshen up the team a little. Unfortunately, it's two of our best players who are just too tired to start, Paramjit Kumar is replaced by Sheikh Coelho at left back, while Amit Singh is replaced by Bharat Noronha as one of the pair sitting in front of the back four, as we continue with the defensive formation that served us so well against Japan. We faced more pressure here in the opening spell than we did in the entire first half against Japan. And it was costly. In the 13th minute, a corner was cleared by our defence, but Muhammad Irianto controlled the ball, and as our defenders and the Indonesian attackers moved out, he weighted a through ball towards the right corner of the box as Joko Sopandi moved in, busting the offside trap wide open, and sending a shot across goal, past Seby Kumar's dive, and inside the far post to put Indonesia in pole position early on. That was a bad start, but it was too early to change our whole gameplan in my opinion, despite Ivan Suganda getting into our box and only being denied by a last ditch tackle, and Sopandi curling in a free kick that hit the top of our cross bar. But by the 33rd minute, I would have to make personnel changes at least, as Sheikh Coelho had suffered a knock, and Felix Basheer couldn't continue after getting injured. Both came off, Paramjit Kumar and Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury replacing them, leaving me with just one substitution left to try and change things up if needed later in the game. It felt like we were playing uphill, but at least it didn't get any worse before the break, though Melky Nasution did fire a shot into the side netting when he probably should have scored. The players were told that they needed to lift their heads, we may be a goal down, but a draw was enough for us this evening, and we were still in this game. But it was clear that Indonesia were still in control of the game, Sopandi cutting in from the right, and cutting the ball back from the right corner of the box to skipper and left back Kadri Cahyono, but his shot was wild, and well over the bar. Moments later, winger Johni Aditya spun away from not one, but two defenders, and then sent in a shot that only just cleared the bar. Cahyono missed the target again, and we were starting to get overwhelmed when Andi Tambunan won another corner twenty minutes after the restart, and Suganda's deep delivery was kept in by Aditya, and sent back into the danger area, where it was side footed home by Sigit Sunarya. Now we were up to our necks in it, and had to make changes. We switched to the 4-2-2-2 wide that we used in the opener against Qatar, with Karan Mollah replaced by Gautam Roy, who joined Islam Chowdhury up front. But I'm afraid the damage had been done. Indonesia picked us off at will on the counter attack, Tambunan's inswinging corner glanced home with a header by Nasution in the 74th minute, and in the 80th minute he produced a much more powerful header from close range when Sopandi sent in a cross from the right to put the final nail in our coffin for this Tournament. It could have been worse, but sub Ronny Iskandar curled his free kick a whisker wide of goal in the 87th minute. Indonesia Under-20's (1) 4 - Joko Sopandi (13), Sigit Sunarya (66), Melky Nasution (74,80) India Under-20's (0) 0 Seby Kumar; Freddy Basheer, Satish Das, Steven Colaco, Sheikh Coelho (inj - Paramjit Kumar 33); Bharat Noronha ©, Karan Mollah (Gautam Roy 68); Manjit Singh, Mohammed Nayan, Alan Cervinski; Felix Basheer (inj - Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury 33). Unused Substitutes :- Pradeep Fernandes, Mohammed Babu (GK), Anwar, Amit Singh, Shahidul Islam Rana, Santosh Hakkim. Bookings :- None Possession :- 57% - 43%. Man of the Match :- Melky Nasution (Indonesia Under-20's). That was such a disappointing way to end the Tournament, but we should be patting ourselves on the back. No one gave us a chance of being in with a shot of the Quarter-Finals when we got to the last day of Group B. We had finished third in our section, ahead of Qatar. A very successful Tournament, and the blue print for us going forward. I hope this is just the start of many more successful Tournaments for India, and the more that happens, the more we will expect and demand from the players. This particular Tournament is biannual, and we need to make sure we are in it again in two years time, as it's a great platform for our young players. The debrief from our trip to Japan will have to wait for another day, as I now have to get on a flight, and head right back to the UK, as Maidstone United have an away League fixture with AFC Wimbledon tomorrow afternoon, and if I leave right away, I can get back in time to be there. It won't be long before I'm back on duty with India though, as the Senior National Team play again in less than three weeks, with a ground breaking Friendly in Europe against Andorra, our Senior side's first match against European opposition for at least twenty years. AFC 2014 Asian Under-19 Championship Finals, Group B Final Standings | Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts | | 1st | Q | Japan | | 3 | 2 | 0 | 1 | 7 | 2 | +5 | 6 | | 2nd | Q | Indonesia | | 3 | 2 | 0 | 1 | 7 | 3 | +4 | 6 | ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | 3rd | | India | | 3 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 2 | 4 | -2 | 4 | | 4th | | Qatar | | 3 | 0 | 1 | 2 | 0 | 7 | -7 | 1 | | --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
  5. Tuesday 28th October 2014 Our day off becomes a travel day as we move from our base on the outskirts of Tokyo across to Osaka, where we will play twice more this week, starting with a match against the hosts tomorrow night in the Nagai Athletic Stadium. Whatever happens now for us in this Tournament, we have already achieved more than anyone expected by earning a draw. At moments when things went quiet, I wondered if I might have made a decision that could give my club career a much needed kick up the backside as well. Clearly the bookies didn't think our result against Qatar was anything other than a fluke, as we are priced at 12/1 tomorrow, with Japan a frankly ridiculously unbackable 1/20. Japan have brought a very strong squad to this home Tournament. £1 million rated midfielder Takashi Yoshida is very experienced at the Under-21 age group level, and is currently playing his football in Brazil's third tier, where he has made five League appearances this season. Even more experienced are the Urawa Reds double act of left winger Masaya Murakami and striker Ryo Usami. The former has been a regular in the J-League for several seasons now, while the latter is just about to make his breakthrough it would appear. The squad also includes another left winger playing in Portugal with second tier Penafiel, while at the back, another also plays in Brazil, while 15 year old Masaaki Suzuki is playing in Mexico with Jaguaré. Groups A & C resume today with their second round of matches. Group A see's a meeting of its minnow nations, with Hong Kong taking the narrow win over Singapore, before the clash of its heavyweights, where Saudi Arabia defeat the UAE by a goal to nil. It's more straightforward in Group C, where Australia and China win again, beating Syria and Malaysia respectively, confirming their places in the Quarter-Finals, with their match on Thursday now set to decide the Group Winners. Wednesday 29th October AFC 2014 Asian Under-19 Championship Finals, Group B Nagai Athletic Stadium, Osaka, Japan India Under-20's v Japan Under-20's Attendance :- 342. Weather :- Dry, 21c. Clearly this Tournament isn't going to be particularly well attended, as even with the hosts playing in a nation where football is becoming more and more popular, less than 1% of the seats in this stadium are occupied tonight. Those that have come along to the match are expecting a routine Japanese victory, but they'll have to break us down, as we are going into a very defensive formation, with a little flexibility in the tactic to allow us a chance to counter attack, if and when the opportunity presents itself. Alan Cervinski starts on the left wing in place of Santosh Hakkim, who hasn't suffered any lasting effect from his knock on Monday, and is available from the bench if needed. The other change sees Karan Mollah start, joining Amit Singh sitting in front of the back four, with Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury dropped to the bench. It was immediately clear that the Japanese youngsters fancied their chances of putting a few goals on the scoreboard in this one, as they confidently passed the ball around to try and probe for a gap early on, Kunio Suzuki getting into the box, but failing to get the curl that he wanted onto his shot. For our part, we looked quite comfortable sitting back, and carefully assessing where the threat was coming from. Ten minutes later, and striker Ryo Usami moved out to the corner of the box and and a few Japanese players tried to overload the box and provide him with a target, a last ditch header from Amit Singh kept the ball out of their clutches. Save for the odd dangerous ball into the box, we were doing alright though, and when Suzuki had his second crack at goal midway through the half, it was from range, not getting the dip he wanted on the ball this time, and his effort cleared the bar. Full back Takaaki Nakamura achieved the same result, collecting the ball on the run and shooting from 25 yards out, but also missing the target. I'd like to tell you that it wasn't all Japan, but it was. Until the 36th minute at least. We won a corner from a counter attack, and Manjit Singh's inswinging delivery found the head of Satish Das as he jumped between skipper Keisuke Hirai and keeper Shoji Tanabe, glancing home a header from close range to give us a shock lead! Now we had the hosts rattled, and a header over the top of our defence put Usami in on goal. But Steven Colaco did a great job of getting back and pressuring the striker, who buckled and sent his shot high and wide. We had reached half time with the lead, and a huge shock was still a possibility. We had the cream of the young crop from one of Asia's best footballing nations rattled, and it was drummed into the players at the break that they need to be even more sturdy in defence during the second half, but that chances would come our way as the pressure mounted on the Japanese. It was probably a shock in itself when the first chance of the half fell our way, we won a free kick just outside the box, and Manjit Singh's curling effort just caught a deflection off the outside of the defensive wall, spinning just wide of the target with Tanabe stranded. His corner wasn't quite so good this time, though neither was Usami's attempted cut back moments later, or Alan Cervinski's cross after our left winger produced a great run down the wing as we raided on another counter attack. We had successfully reached the hour mark with our slender advantage still in place, and Japan were showing signs of panic, making all three changes in one go in the 62nd minute. It didn't improve their fortunes though, as they appeared to be running out of ideas to break us down, Hirai's long range effort the latest in a number of poor shots from well outside the box. In contrast, I was going to use my subs to run down the clock, the first coming just after the mid point of the half, the tireless running of Felix Basheer replaced by the more powerful hold up skills of Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury. Just under ten minutes later the big striker got goalside of the Japanese defence when Freddy Basheer curled the ball over their back four. Chowdhury was able to easily hold off the backtracking defenders, but couldn't pick a finish, his shot high over the bar. With ten minutes to go, I made my second change, Amit Singh had run his socks off, and was replaced by Bharat Noronha. Then with six minutes to go, Das' long clearance up the park bounced all the way through to Tanabe. The keeper tried to organise his outfield players into position before sending it back upfield, failing to notice he was being closed down by Chowdhury. He rushed his kick, striking it against the frame of the 6'4 French based striker, and watching in horror as the ball hit his chest and bounced right back past him, rolling slowly into the net to double our lead! The celebrations from the players would make you think that we had won the Tournament, but for us, this was our Final! Sheikh Coelho got a taste of the action late on as a replacement for Paramjit Kumar, as we secured an enormous victory for the nation. India Under-20's (1) 2 - Satish Das (36), Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury (84) Japan Under-20's (0) 0 Seby Kumar; Freddy Basheer, Satish Das, Steven Colaco ©. Parmjit Kumar (Sheikh Coelho 90); Amit Singh (Bharat Noronha 80), Karan Mollah; Manjit Singh, Mohammed Nayan, Alan Cervinski; Felix Basheer (Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury 69). Unused Substitutes :- Pradeep Fernandes, Mohammed Babu (GK), Anwar, Shahidul Islam Rana, Santosh Hakkim, Gautam Roy. Bookings :- None Possession :- 51% - 49%. Man of the Match :- Satish Das (India Under-20's). At half time, our possession was barely over the 30% mark, and by the end of the game, we had just edged the majority. A sign of how Japan fell to bits after the break, constantly giving the ball away, and failing to cause Seby Kumar any real problems, with just two shots on target throughout the entire match. I won't make excuses for them though, all credit to us, we were absolutely superb! In a year when France and Italy were knocked out of the World Cup in the Group Stage, and Sweden reached the World Cup Final, while Holland finally won their first World Title, and there would be a debut Premier League season for Plymouth Argyle, this might be the shock football result of 2014! No one had given us even a prayer of getting anything from this game, but we had just turned over an Asian heavyweight in a major Continental age group Tournament! It will be a day I'll never forget, no matter what happens in my career going forward. And going forward is now an interesting prospect. We face Indonesia here in two days time, and almost as unbelievably as that result today, we head into that match top of Group B, as our next opponents soundly beat Qatar 3-0 earlier today in Tokyo. That means that a draw in the final match will guarantee us a Quarter-Final spot, and depending on the result elsewhere, could also knock the hosts out at the same time. It will be interesting to see the odds for the next game. It will also be interesting to see if our success today has any impact on my reputation.
  6. Thursday 23rd October 2014 Today is the day that the players have their squad numbers registered, which apparently, is quite a big deal. It offers an insight into possible selections, and who may or may not be in favour right now. I'm not sure anyone will learn too much from our squad numbers, as I pressed the 'auto numbers' button. Sunday 26th October The AFC 2014 Asian Under-19 Championships has kicked off today here in Japan, with the first four matches played today in Hiroshima, Tokyo, Sendai and Osaka. There were wins for all the favourites, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in Group A against Hong Kong and Singapore respectively, while in Group C, we saw wins for Australia and China, against Malaysia and Syria. Our Group B campaign begins tomorrow evening in Tokyo, at the Ajinomoto Stadium, where we'll face Qatar. The predictions are that we are the two nations who will be eliminated from the Group, and as such, this is likely to be our best chance of a victory during this Tournament. Not in the eyes of the bookies though, who have made Qatar 1/6 favourites, with ourselves priced at 10/1. Qatar are ranked 73rd in the latest version of the FIFA World Rankings, but that list is not necessarily relevant to age group International Football. The Middle East nation have been Runner's-Up in this competition once, though it's not exactly a form guide, as that was in 1980, so just the 34 years ago. That was very much a golden period for them, as the following year the same group of youngsters were Runner's-Up in the Under-20 World Cup, losing in the Final to West Germany in the Tournament played in Australia. Their current squad however, doesn't look particularly strong. Several of their players don't currently have clubs. Of those that do, 18 year old forward Hussain Majed plays for one of the better clubs, Al-Gharrafa Sports Club. They have been newly promoted into the Q-League this season, and he has played 26 times for them this season. They have one of their players who is earning a living overseas, dual national of both Qatar and Portugal, 17 year old striker Abdulaziz Aman is now living and playing in the European nation, though he has yet to make his debut for top tier Liga Sagres side, Leixðes Sport Clube, now established in the competitive Division, though they are prone to letting themselves get dragged into a relegation scrap. Monday 27th October AFC 2014 Asian Under-19 Championship Finals, Group B Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo, Japan Qatar Under-20's v India Under-20's Attendance :- 313. Weather :- Strong Winds, 22c. If this is going to be our best opportunity to get a result from this Tournament, then we should give ourselves a chance and go for it. So I use the same modified and attacking 4-4-2 that the Senior National Team have played with recently. Seby Kumar gets the nod in goal, while the full backs picked themselves to be honest, Freddy Basheer and Paramjit Kumar both selected. Satish Das and Steven Colaco will partner up at centre back, with the latter also handed the Captains armband. Amit Singh starts in the midfield with Mohammed Nayan, while Shahidul Islam Rana and Santosh Hakkim will play on the wings. Up front, Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury gets an early chance to impress, as he is selected to play alongside in form Felix Basheer. It was a tentative start to the match, particularly from Qatar, which was unexpected, and gave us some confidence. We were forced into an early change though, as left winger Santosh Hakkim was forced off with an injury less than twenty minutes in, Australian based winger Alan Cervinski replacing him. Within a minute of making that change, Mohammed Nayan clipped forward a free kick from the halfway line, and and centre back Khalid Al-Bloushi's attempted header back to keeper Abdulaziz Saeed lacked two things. Power, and awareness. The first one wouldn't have been an issue, if he had been aware that Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury was between him and his keeper, our 6'4 striker heading the ball on further, and it was set to drop under the cross bar, but Saeed back pedalled towards his own goal and got a fingertip on the ball, touching it over the bar and onto the roof of the net. Not everything our striker did went well, when the ball came out towards him after we defended a free kick, instead of holding it up, or playing it out into the channels, he tried it pass it back to centre back Steven Colaco, who was beaten to the ball by Salah Abbas, his curling shot pushed away by Seby Kumar. Before the break, Qatar created the best chance of the match so far, Abdulaziz Aman twisted and turned to find some room in the left corner of our box, and sent a diagonal pass to Hussain Majed, who's shot was superbly stopped by Kumar, though he was offside anyway. Half time, still goalless, and we had done a fairly decent job of smothering Qatar as well, and we were starting to make a mockery of the odds that were given before the match. Clearly they were feeling the pressure, as they made a pair of half time changes, Majed and Abbas both replaced. They tried to get their restart off to a superb start, but skipper Hamad Ballan's free kick beat the wall and Kumar's dive, but was just an inch over the cross bar. Moments later, we gave them cause to think again, Amit Singh and Islam Chowdhury involved in the build up, and right winger Shahidul Islam Rana got into the box, and cut the ball back to our midfielder Singh, but he went for power and sent his shot over the cross bar. By the time we reached the hour mark, Qatar were noticeably more edgy about their failure to break the deadlock, and that was giving us more opportunities to counter attack, in an almost identical incident, Singh once again missed the target when Islam Rana cut the ball back to him. With twenty five minutes to play, Felix Basheer got the ball from an Islam Chowdhury knock down, and played a through ball into the left channel of the box, where Cervinski beat his marker to the ball, and clipped a shot past Saeed, but just brushing the top coat of paint off the cross bar. Moments later, in a reversal of the last chance, Cervinski picked out Felix Basheer in the box, his shot on the turn missing the top corner by inches. Inside the final twenty minutes, and with legs starting to tire, Islam Rana and Islam Chowdhury were both replaced, Manjit Singh and Gautam Roy coming on in their place, the latter asked to play a little deeper than Islam Chowdhury had done. Moments later and Qatar created their best chance, Aman turning away from Satish Das, and then using Colaco as a screen, before letting go of a shot that beat Kumar, but crashed back off the cross bar. At the other end, Manjit Singh sent a long ball down the right, and Saeed had to be off his line quickly to get out of his box and beat Felix Basheer to the ball, and knock it to safety. Into the final ten minutes, and crosses were being fired into our box from all angles as Qatar desperately tried to force their way through, and it almost backfired when Gautam Roy sent in a 30 yard shot when Saeed was off his line, the shot just missing the target and hitting the stanchion behind the goal. With ninety minutes on the clock, Felix Basheer sliced through the Qatar defence, and then placed a through ball into the box and into the path of Manjit Singh. The subs low shot was under the dive of Saeed, but came back off the near post, right to Cervinski, who's effort at the open goal was blocked by Al-Bloushi with a last ditch lunge! We had so nearly provided a huge upset to open the Tournament, but we had provided a minor one at the very least. Qatar Under-20's (0) 0 India Under-20's (0) 0 Seby Kumar; Freddy Basheer, Satish Das, Steven Colaco ©, Paramjit Kumar; Mohammed Nayan, Amit Singh; Shahidul Islam Rana (Manjit Singh 72), Santosh Hakkim (inj - Alan Cervinski 18); Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury (Gautam Roy 72), Felix Basheer. Unused Substitutes :- Pradeep Fernandes, Mohammed Babu (GK), Sheikh Coelho, Anwar, Karan Mollah, Bharat Noronha. Bookings :- None Possession :- 46% - 54%. Man of the Match :- Seby Kumar (India Under-20's). The bookmakers have a bit of egg on their faces after that performance, as we open our Tournament earning a point that no one thought we would get from any of our three matches. The youngsters did a superb job this evening, defending well, counter attacking when they got the chance, and almost stealing all three points right at the end. Japan beat Indonesia quite easily in the other Group B game of the day, a 3-0 win for the hosts puts them in pole position after the first round of games. In Group D, everything went entirely to form, Iran thrashing Tajikstan 4-0, while South Korea beat Palestine 2-0 in Sendai. Tomorrow is our day off, but we will also spend it travelling across the country, as we relocate from Tokyo in the east of the country, across to Osaka where we will play our final two Group B matches. It's a six hour journey on the road, which isn't ideal preparation to face the hosts on Wednesday, who are conveniently already in Japan's third largest city.
  7. Sunday 19th October 2014 Bourne Park gets a little bit of a break from hosting games, as our Reserve side head off to Croydon, South London, where they claim a very impressive victory in Group 9 with a 3-1 win over AFC Wimbledon at the Croydon Sports Arena. It was a good evening for a few of our fringe First Team players, with Chris Wilkinson putting us in front with just two minutes on the clock. Returning striker Danny Carey-Bertram found the net again for the second string side on the hour to put us back in front five minutes after we had been pegged back, and young full back Alex Sawyer sealed the win with a 65th minute header. Good news for the club on the financial front as well, as we are almost down to the £50,000 mark with our debt now. As of today, the club is approximately £52,000 in the red. Monday 20th October We finally get a new player in through the door, as 19 year old Scottish utility player Mark Gordon signs for the club on a deal until the end of next season. At just £55 per week, the former St Mirren prospect represents great value, able to cover positions in both the middle of the park, and on the left. He was released by the Scottish Premier League club just over a year ago, and bounced around a lot of clubs on a Trial basis, but no one was willing to take a risk on him, with him never playing a First Team game. It's a signing that is very popular with the fans. Mark could be in contention to make his Senior debut tomorrow evening, when we take a trip down to the East Sussex coast to play Eastbourne Borough, who are now above us in the League after turning around their start to the campaign. They took only five points from their opening half dozen games, but have recorded three wins from four League matches since then, and are still in the FA Cup too. Experienced 27 year old striker Stuart Nicholson and new arrival right winger Lyndon Share been their stand out players so far this campaign, and they are odds on favourites to pick up three more points tomorrow night, as our form guides are on very different trajectories. Our injuries are starting to clear up, with 19 year old defensive midfielder Malcolm Carr the latest to return to full training. Hopefully the return of these players will bring about a return to our early season form as well, and sooner rather than later would be better. Likely to be leaving the club sooner rather than later is 20 year old Northern Irish centre back Sean Neill, with no less than seventeen clubs making offers to take him on a Free Transfer, and with ourselves being quite keen to move his £275 per week salary off our wage bill. Of those offers, ten have been accepted, with seven from clubs in our Division or above rejected. Tuesday 21st October Blue Square League, South Division Priory Lane, Eastbourne Eastbourne Borough v Maidstone United Attendance :- 976. Weather :- Dry, 12c. We need a result of some kind here tonight, and I'm going to look at some drastic defensive measures to try and get one, as we will look to park the bus here on the East Sussex coast, with an ultra defensive setup, though I've haven't made any lineup changes from the home defeat against Billericay Town on the weekend. There is one change amongst the substitutes, with new signing Mark Gordon taking the place of Jamie McMaster, who is still being handled with care as he returns from injury. There is no way in the world I would have got away with playing this way in a home League match, but there were very early signs of frustration from the Eastbourne Boro players, with both Matthew Pike and Andrew Flynn receiving early bookings, either side of Pike firing a free kick from the edge of the box well over the bar, the best early chance that the home side had. Our plan was causing Boro issues in creating clear cut chances, Robbie Martin's cross was partially blocked midway through the half, Ahmed Deen picked up the loose ball and tried to find the net inside the near post, just missing the target. Fifteen minutes later, Martin sent in a low cross that picked out Stuart Nicholson, the striker slicing across his shot and just missing the target from near the penalty spot. Their next chance came right on half time, and was much closer still to the penalty spot, right on it actually, as from Flynn's corner, Marc Canham was judged to have hauled Pike to the floor, and the referee awarded the home side a spot kick. Martin stepped up to take it, going for power, but seeing his effort come back off the underside of the cross bar, Tommaso Maffei attempting to head it clear, Flynn taking the ball on the volley but sending it over the bar and out of the ground. We had reached half time without being breached, despite conceding a penalty, and I told the players that they were doing exactly what was expected from them, and if we could keep up this defensive work, I'd be a very happy boss. Boro had made a half time time change, Martin brought off after missing the penalty, and Mark Preece coming on. He looked to make an immediate impact, cutting in off his wing, moving further and further across the park and into the box, before striking a rising shot that Josh Derry had to tip over. Carl Walker had the next try, his curling shot from the corner of the box was just over it's target of the top corner. The game was being played with an edge, Boro getting frustrated, and we refused to let them intimidate us. Shaun Culverhouse was the next man to be booked, as he brought down the dangerous Nicholson just before he made his way into our penalty box. We hadn't provided any attacking threat as yet, but ten minutes into the second half, we got up the park and won a free kick outside the box. Andy Miskimmon pulled rank to take it, but the Captains curling set piece was well wide of the mark. Now we were starting to get into the game a little, though it was very possible that Boro were trying to lure us out of our defensive shell. Miskimmon linked up with Mark Smith down the right, and the winger hurdled a challenge from full back Mark Clare, and sent in a cross, Canham taking the ball down, but his shot from 15 yards out was too high as the midfielder leaned back as he shot. Maffei became our second player to be booked for a foul on Nicholson with twenty minutes left to play, moments later the striker would get in a shot, knocking the ball away from Culverhouse and hitting a low shot from 20 yards out that Derry saw all the way and held comfortably. We traded bookings, Paul Connaughton first for a foul on Jack Deeney, quickly followed by Smith as he tripped Clare as he raided forward. We were into the final ten minutes, and I brought on fresh legs, while also removing one of those now on a booking, Maffei, Canham and Deeney replaced by debutant Mark Gordon, midfielder Gordon Chin and striker Daniel Walsh. The clock struck ninety, and we were into injury time. Sub Tim Clarke played a through ball down Nicholson's right side, and he protected it from Culverhouse who couldn't make a challenge as the striker got into the box, and struck a low shot across goal, past Derry's dive, and just inside the far post. Devastating! Eastbourne Borough (0) 1 - Stuart Nicholson (90+1) Maidstone United (0) 0 Josh Derry; Andy Miskimmon ©, Shaun Culverhouse, James Curtis, Mark Williams; Tommaso Maffei (Mark Gordon 82), Gary Murray; Mark Smith, Marc Canham (Gordon Chin 82), Terry Hindmarch; Jack Deeney (Daniel Walsh 82). Unused Substitutes :- Aaron Steele, Michael Haswell. Bookings :- Shaun Culverhouse 53, Tommaso Maffei 71, Mark Smith 78 Possession :- 57% - 43%. Man of the Match :- Stuart Nicholson (Eastbourne Borough). The football purists will of course be delighted that the attack v defence session for most of that match ended with the attackers getting their goal. They can say what they want, we defended superbly today, and no one will convince me that we didn't deserve a point from that game. Instead, we come away with nothing, and have now lost three successive League games, and failed to score in each of them. We do at least remain 16th in the table, and that is where we will begin November as this coming weekend sees us at home to Tooting & Mitcham United in the FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round. Then there is my trip to Japan, with the common opinion being that India won't make it past the Group Stage of the AFC 2014 Asian Under-19 Championships. It's not as if November is about to give us an easy start either, as we'll open the month away to AFC Wimbledon. Just what we needed. Wednesday 22nd October In Reserve Group 9, our second string did manage a win on the road, beating Hayes & Yeading by a goal to nil at The Warren in Hayes, a result that keeps them just a point behind leaders Billericay Town, but with a game in hand. It was a strong side that we sent to Middlesex, and the goal from a player who is bang on form for the Reserves at the moment, 29 year old left sided utility player, Chris Wilkinson. The Ulsterman is banging on the door for a place in the First Team. Thursday 23rd October There is excellent news for the club today. The Board have an agreement in principal with three Football League clubs to become a feeder club for them. Two of the clubs are from the Coca-Cola Championship, current leaders Milton Keynes Dons, and a side we have already dealt with this season, Millwall. The other club is a current top three club from the fourth tier Coca-Cola League Two, which is Shrewsbury Town. The latter is discounted quite quickly, their Youth Development reputation is not particularly good, and the quality of player could loan from them is not likely to be particularly high. To be honest, neither MK Dons or Millwall have much more to bring to the table, though with the Dons being a newer club, they are continuing to improve things. So it's them that I select as my recommendation, though there is cause to be wary, they also already have links with four other clubs, Cambridge United and Aylesbury United in England, then North of the Border they have ties with Stranraer, and across the Irish Sea, the link exists with Monaghan United. They will pay us almost £9,000 per year, and will also cover the wages in full of any player we loan from them, while also playing a Pre-Season Friendly at Bourne Park each summer. The link is merely hours old before MK Dons contact us, and announce their intention to send us 17 year old local centre back prospect, Andy Doughty. It's his first season with the club, but he is short at 5'9, and unlikely to be of much help to our First Team squad. We reject their proposal, and ask if we can take 18 year old forward James Thomas instead. He is in his second season with the Dons, and the Biggleswade born lad spent part of last season on loan at our level with Welling United, scoring six times in thirteen League appearances. We are already aware that multiple clubs are looking to sign him on a permanent basis. Friday 24th October Tomorrow afternoon we return to FA Cup action, as we will be visited by London based Tooting & Mitcham United. They beat Leamington and Whyteleafe to get to this stage, while we had to defeat Lewes and Carshalton Athletic. Our Cup form is, undeniably, considerably better than our League form. We are the overwhelming favourites at 4/7 to win tomorrow, and reach the First Round Proper. We even have a top end official assigned to the match, with Leicester based referee Kevin Friend in charge. Milton Keynes Dons have accepted our offer to take James Thomas on loan, and the decision now lies with the £50,000 rated forward as to whether he would like to spend another loan spell in the sixth tier. Saturday 25th October The day gets off to a very good start, as our Under-18's head to East London, and win well against their opponents AFC Hornchurch. Three goals in a twenty minute spell from attacking midfielder James Hutchings, young Scottish striker Stefan Anderson, and an own goal from centre back Gary McAllister had us well in front by the time forward David Rowe pulled one back late on for the hosts. Our youngsters now have a seven point lead over AFC Wimbledon and Dover Athletic in Group 10, though the latter do have a game in hand as they approach the halfway point of their season. FA Cup, Fourth Qualifying Round Bourne Park, Sittingbourne Maidstone United v Tooting & Mitcham United Attendance :- 668. Weather :- Dry, 7c. After being ultra defensive away from home in midweek, this weekend we intend to be much more attacking against a lower level opposition, and try to secure a place in the First Round of the FA Cup. A modified version of a 4-4-2 will be utilised, a formation that proved successful during my time with Lurgan Celtic, and to a degree with Lokomotiv Minsk as well. Gordon Chin returns to the lineup, partnering Marc Canham in midfield, Gary Murray dropped to the bench, Tommaso Maffei left out of the squad altogether. On the right wing, Mark Smith is also dropped to the bench, with Jack Collins making his return to the First Team following injury. Up front, both Jack Deeney and Daniel Walsh start today. Malcolm Carr is back in the matchday squad too, and with two extra substitutes available to us, Adam Campbell and Danny Carey-Bertram are both in the matchday squad as well. It was a pretty disappointing attendance, considering it was a dry day, and not exactly cold either. But most of those watching on would be pretty fearful with just two minutes on the clock, when our guests won a free kick on the edge of our box, and Josh Mowbray curled it around the wall, and into the top corner, Josh Derry didn't stand a chance! That couldn't have got much worse as starts go, but we were quickly back on terms, as four minutes later we showed some free kick prowess of our own. From the left touchline, Gordon Chin whipped the ball towards the edge of the six yard box, where Jack Deeney met it with a powerful downward header into the bottom corner, adding to the winner he got here against Carshalton a few weeks back. We almost went ahead immediately from the restart, Jack Drysdale got the ball stuck under his feet at centre back, and Jack Collins took it from him and burst into the box, unfortunately sending his shot just over the goal frame. We were all over our guests now, Daniel Walsh rolling his marker and firing across goal, that effort only inches wide of the far post. As the half wore on, we continued to assert ourselves, a through ball from Marc Canham bouncing over the foot of Terry Hindmarch when the winger would have been clean through on goal. With seconds remaining in first half injury time, Ray Quinn moved into our penalty box, Andy Miskimmon made his challenge, Quinn went down and claimed a penalty, but the referee waved play on. All square at the break. It was all to play for, but I was expecting us to turn the screws on United and find a way through. Ten minutes after the restart, Mark Williams pinged the ball down the left, and Deeney got there first, but with Walsh unmarked in the middle, the striker tried to trick his way past Stewart Campbell instead of crossing, and lost the ball. It was fifteen minutes later before we would attack with purpose again, Miskimmon receiving a knock down from Canham on the right, and he got past Bobby Smith, sending over his cross that Campbell just got to in front of Deeney, his daring header back to keeper Matt Wills from close range making the keeper stretch to reach it. United had made all three substitutes by now, and Drysdale had just earned himself a booking for a foul on Walsh. Moments later Walsh gets a clear shot at goal, but he fires it right at Wills. We then win a succession of free kicks around their box, from the best delivery, Gordon Chin's lofted pass towards the far post just missed Hindmarch. The pressure is continuing to mount on United, Deeney flicking the ball on when James Curtis sent it up the park, and Walsh gets between Drysdale and the keeper, lifting the ball over the onrushing Wills, but it just cleared the bar as well. We were still all square heading into the final ten minutes, and a Replay next week was looming. Hindmarch was played into space down the left in the 83rd minute, cutting the ball back to Deeney on the edge of the box with his back to goal. The striker sent the ball out to the right, and Miskimmon fired it into the box first time, where Walsh made his move towards it, and Drysdale lunged in, sending our striker over, and Kevin Friend pointed to the spot. Not content with that punishment for United, he then showed Drysdale a second yellow card, and the centre back was off, and United had no substitutes remaining to use. Mark Williams had to wait almost two minutes before he could take that penalty, but when he did, he made it count, sending Wills the wrong way and the ball just inside the post! With limited options to try and get back into the game, United resorted to pumping the ball up the park. But we were more than equipped to deal with that, and we worked the clock by slowly making the three substitutions I had available to me. Canham, Chin and Deeney all taking turns to take the slow walk off the park, Mark Gordon, Malcolm Carr and Danny Carey-Bertram replacing them. We were into the First Round of the FA Cup! Maidstone United (1) 2 - Jack Deeney (6), Mark Williams (84 pen) Tooting & Mitcham United (1) 1 - Josh Mowbray (2) Josh Derry; Andy Miskimmon ©, Shaun Culverhouse, James Curtis, Mark Williams; Marc Canham (Malcolm Carr 87), Gordon Chin (Mark Gordon 89); Jack Collins, Terry Hindmarch; Daniel Walsh, Jack Deeney (Danny Carey-Bertram 90+1). Unused Substitutes :- Aaron Steele, Gary Murray, Mark Smith, Adam Campbell. Bookings :- None Possession :- 56% - 44%. Man of the Match :- Josh Mowbray (Tooting & Mitcham United). 19 year old Irish left back Mark Williams is our top scorer this season, with four goals in all competitions. And every single one has come from the penalty spot. He's been incredibly consistent since I got here, no more so than with his accuracy from the penalty spot, and now he has fired us into the First Round of the FA Cup. Our prize money for today's win is £12,500, plus our share of the gate receipts of course. We'll be in the draw on Monday evening, by which time I'll be in Japan, and have already been in charge of India Under-20's first Group B match. It will be the middle of the night there when the draw is made. But as a result of today's work, after outgoings have been paid, the club has reduced it's debt down to £45,000. Later in the evening, as I'm at the airport waiting to board a flight to Japan, I get the news that Sean Neill's transfer has been concluded. The 20 year old Northern Irish centre back will move to Bishop's Stortford on a Free Transfer, and we can take his £275 per week wage off our bill now. But with a little bit of room made in the wages department, and the mood of the Board pretty good with the debt being reduced, I've already got a few things moving to bring more potential new players into Bourne Park.
  8. Always appreciate you continuing to read my stories and commenting as well Oche, so thanks very much. Hope all is well with you.
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  10. Monday 20th October 2014 A week from today, India Under-20's will play their opening Group B match in the 2014 Asian Under-19 Championship Finals. No, I don't quite understand that either, but there we go. We'll play our opening match against Qatar in Tokyo, where the venue is the Ajinomoto Stadium, a near 50,000 capacity ground in the Chðfu district of the city. From there, we will move on to Osaka for our next two matches in the Nagai Athletic Stadium, a 47,000 seater building. There, we will face host nation Japan next Wednesday, followed by our final Group B match on Friday evening against Indonesia. As far as the squad goes, I have gone on form, and also for players that I believe will have the opportunity to either play for the Senior National side in the coming months and years, or are already doing just that, and will benefit from the experience of International Tournament football. With a squad of just twenty to be selected, there were some very tough decisions to be made, and players who can cover multiple positions became very valuable. You'll notice some familiar names if you have been following along, and you'll also notice some new names who I hope you will soon hear a lot more about. SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT India Under-20 Squad for the AFC 2014 Asian Under-19 Championship Finals | Name | Position | Club | Height | Age | Value | International Status | | Mohammed Babu | GK | Mohun Bagan | 5'9" | 17 | £12K | 1 Under-21 Cap | | Seby Kumar | GK | Dempo | 5'8" | 19 | £2K | 4 Under-21 Caps | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ | Freddy Basheer | D RC | Viva Kerala | 5'10" | 20 | £5K | 11 Under-21 Caps | | Sheikh Coelho | D L | Bengal Mumbai FC | 5'7" | 18 | £4K | Uncapped | | Paramjit Kumar | D L | Mohun Bagan | 5'7" | 20 | £2K | 5 Senior Caps | | Steven Colaco | D C | Churchill Bros | 5'7" | 20 | £1K |3 Under-21 Caps/1 Goal| | Satish Das | D C | FC Kochin | 5'7" | 19 | - | Capped at Under-19 | | Pradeep Fernandes | D/WB R | Bengal Mumbai FC | 5'9" | 20 | - | Capped at Under-19 | | Anwar | D/M C | East Bengal | 5'9" | 17 | £6K | 1 Under-21 Cap | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ | Manjit Singh | WB/M R | Hindustan Aeronautics | 5'8" | 20 | - | 4 Under-21 Caps | | Amit Singh | DM, M C | FC Nantes (FRA) | 5'10" | 16 | £50K | 3 Senior Caps | | Karan Mollah | DM, M C | AS Poissy (FRA) | 5'7" | 16 | £3K | 1 Senior Cap | | Bharat Noronha | DM, M C | Churchill Bros | 5'9" | 19 | - |2 Under-21 Caps/1 Goal| | Mohammed Nayan | M C | JCT | 5'9" | 18 | £1K |3 Under-21 Caps/1 Goal| | Shahidul Islam Rana | AM R | Pune FC | 5'7" | 17 | £1K | Uncapped | | Alan Cervinski | AM L |Toowoomba Raiders (AUS)| 5'8" | 20 | - | 1 Senior Cap | | Santosh Hakkim | AM LC | East Bengal | 5'8" | 18 | £1K |5 Under-21 Caps/1 Goal| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ | Gautam Roy | AM/F C | Vannes Olympique (FRA)| 6'1" | 20 | £4K | 1 Senior Cap | | Felix Basheer | ST | Mohun Bagan | 5'8" | 19 | £2K |2 Under-21 Caps/1 Goal| |Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury| ST | Unattached | 6'4" | 20 | - | 1 Senior Cap | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Goalkeepers Ganesh Aerts of leading Belgian side AA Gent has once again refused to represent India, and so the two selected keepers are Dempo's current number one, 19 year old Seby Kumar, who despite still being a teenager has played almost fifty times at First Team level in the National Football League. Competing with him for the starting role will be Mohun Bagan's very talented 17 year old Mohammed Babu, who played 14 times for his club last season, and has been in favour this campaign as well. Defenders Our right back options are good, as we select two players at the top end of the age limit, both playing regular football. Freddy Basheer is one of the form players in the whole of India right now, the Viva Kerala 20 year old has eleven caps at the Under-21 level. He has played six League matches this season, and has an average of almost 8.00. He is outstripping the form that persuaded his new club to pay Air India a transfer fee of £5,000 for him in the summer. At the time of the squad selection, he has already played sixty First Team matches. Joining him in the squad is a more attacking option in Bengal Mumbai right back Pradeep Fernandes. He is a new arrival at the club from Dempo, and has made an excellent start, adding a point and a half onto his average rating, and doubling his career attacking production, with a goal and two assists in half a dozen outings for his new employers. On the opposite side of the back four, there was a standout player available to us, Senior National Team regular, five times capped Paramjit Kumar. Our only concern over Kumar is that he hasn't played any domestic football yet this season, falling out of favour with Mohun Bagan, with rumours rife that he is about to make a move to Vasco. His backup is a capable, yet Internationally uncapped teenager, and another example of the strides Bengal Mumbai are making, as 18 year old Sheikh Coelho makes the squad. He made 27 League appearances for the club he joined as a boy last season, and has played nine times in all competition this season, finding the net twice and adding an assist. With limited squad places, only three centre backs are selected for the Finals, though I did at least know that Freddy Basheer can cover the position if absolutely necessary. Satish Das is the first of the trio selected, and his lack of height is typical for our selections, but is made up for with good positioning and speed. He has just made a big move from Assam Dynamo to FC Kochin, and is taking the move in his stride, putting in good numbers. Matching, and then bettering his numbers, and also at a higher level, is Churchill Brothers 20 year old centre back Steven Colaco. Despite his young age, he has played just one game short of fifty for the First Team, and all of them apart from this seasons seven games were at the top level National Football League, while also appearing for the Under-21's three times. Also called in is East Bengal's exciting young prospect Anwar, who is primarily a centre back, but also capable of providing some extra cover in midfield as well. Midfielders/Wingers In midfield, I'm delighted to be able to select my two young French midfielders, one who has become a firm fixture in the Senior National Team, and another who's selection was described as a move capable of turning Indian football into a laughing stock, but has since taken strides in his own young career. Amit Singh plays his football at one of France's biggest clubs, FC Nantes. They also happen to have one of European football's most prolific Youth Development programmes. Until such time as we are able to convince the likes of Aerts or Thakur to play of us, this young lad is probably our shining light. Karan Mollah is more defensive, but made a breakthrough last season when he played 26 times for AS Poissy, though they were relegated last season. It may not be such a bad thing for him personally, as he has increased his playing level in the new lower Division, and earned himself the chance to play in this important tournament for us, and increase his reputation, which has yet to recover from that ridicule. The duo have another French based player for company too, an older player who has started to make some strides of his own. Gautam Roy was another player who I quickly capped, an Indian born attacking midfielder who has spent his entire career in France with Vannes Olympique Club, and has seen them yo-yo between the second and third tiers. This season they are back in the third tier National League, and he has made his Senior debut from the bench. Some more regular football with them would only speed up his progress I feel, and his ability to cover as a striker, where he is more likely to play in this Tournament, makes his inclusion more logical. I mentioned earlier that full back Freddy Basheer is one of the form players in India right now, and here is one of the others. JCT's 18 year old midfielder Mohammed Nayan has had an outstanding start to the season, making six appearances in the Cup, and then a Senior League Debut for his club, where he played at almost an average rating of 8, and over 7 for the season in all competitions. Joining him is a slightly older player, who produces more at the sharp end of the park. Bharat Noronha is only a game away from 50 in the League for Churchill Brothers, and his on course for the best season of his career to date, already surpassing last seasons output in 19 League matches, albeit at a lower level after their relegation. The situation on the wings was, frankly, nowhere near as prosperous as it was in the middle of the park. On the right, I have to go quite a long way down the depth chart to find someone who looked like they could be useful to us in this Tournament. The lucky winner is 17 year old Shahidul Islam Rana, a flair player with a decent cross on him and good acceleration, if not blistering top end pace. He was brought through Mohun Bagan's system for a year, and has now signed for Pune FC, making a Senior and National Football League debut for them. His alternative is older, and frankly better, but he is more of a wing back than a winger. He also is the player at the lowest level of domestic football in this squad. 20 year old Manjit Singh came through the ranks at Mahindra United, eventually making 28 National Football League appearances for them, and also having a hugely successful loan spell with the Oil & Natural Gas Corporation. This season he has signed to play for Bangalore Super League side Hindustan Aeronautics Sports Club. He has played four times for the Under-21's, and could prove useful to have around. Still, it could be worse. It certainly is on the left. Nurul Islam and Joseph Morje are out of form, Naresh Reja and Stanley Alemao are not playing at all. So our best option is 18 year old East Bengal winger Santosh Hakkim, who is at least playing, though isn't in sparkling form himself either. But the teenager who has just made the step up from the Madras Engineering Group Centre club does have good experience at Under-21 level International Football, where he has been capped five times. His understudy is potentially one of our wildcards for the Tournament, as we see the return to the International stage of 20 year old Australian based winger, Alan Cervinski. Capped quickly to tie him to us, the Mumbai born and raised left footer had a great start with Toowoomba Raiders, which quickly tailed off. However, he has moved up a level this season with his club, and has started to show signs that he may yet have something to offer for us. Strikers With Gautam Roy already selected to cover both attacking midfield and as a striker option, there are just two spaces left in the squad. The first is a very easy decision to make, 19 year old Felix Basheer scored nine goals 28 top tier appearances with United SC and Mahindra United over two seasons. Mohun Bagan snapped him up at the end of his contract, and in three League games with them, he has netted four goals, and there are already rumours about what could happen when his contract finishes in May. And his potential strike partner? Well, bring on our second wildcard, and I couldn't resist the chance to give unattached 6'4 striker Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury the stage he so desperately needs to try and impress one of his suitors and finally get the lad signed somewhere. Players with his height are hard to come by for Asian nations, and he is a weapon we don't want to lose from our National Pool.
  11. Sunday 12th October 2014 It was the early hours of this morning when I got back to the UK, and then travelled to Kent, where FA Cup fever was about to hit Maidstone....well, down the road in Sittingbourne actually. A quick nap after sleeping for a good part of the flight, followed by some food, and I was headed to Bourne Park. First stop, the Boardroom, where I was congratulated on the win with India yesterday, and wished good luck for the match today. It was stressed that today was more important than just a chance to progress in the World's most famous Knockout Cup competition. We had an opportunity to wipe out our debt if we continued in this competition, and the Board were as keen to see that happen as anyone. With finance at the front of their mind, I took my chance to urge them to explore other revenue streams, such as a link up with a parent club who would pay a fee, and would be willing to loan us players, as we are finding it very difficult to get the job done ourselves. The Board agreed it was worth exploring at least, and they will get back to me. Next it was a catch up with my backroom staff as the players started to arrive, checking up on any issues in training over the last few days. With the team picked, we are all set to go, as we try and hit a second Board target for the season. FA Cup, Third Qualifying Round Bourne Park, Sittingbourne Maidstone United v Carshalton Athletic Attendance :- 834. Weather :- Strong Winds, 22c. Last time out we made seven changes, and today, I make five to reverse the majority of those and revert the team back to full strength. Mark Williams is back at left back in place of Michael Haswell, while in the midfield, Marc Canham also returns, with Gordon Chin back on the bench. On the wings, Matthew Hatch and goalscorer from last time out Adam Campbell are both left out of the starting lineup this time, Mark Smith and Terry Hindmarch return. Up front, Jack Deeney is on the bench again, Daniel Walsh keeping his place in the side. Aaron Steele does not get his place back after being left out in midweek, Shaun Culverhouse keeping his place in the side. Alex Sawyer is in the matchday squad for the first time, the 19 year old full back sits on the substitutes bench. Our visitors were clearly not going to sit back and mop up the pressure from us, as they showed when they came out punching. Left back Andrew Smart was given the ball in plenty of space, and produced a superb cross on the run, Danny Barrie getting goal side of our own left back Mark Williams, and connecting with a downward header that Josh Derry had to produce a fine save from to keep us on level terms. Stuart Thurgood sent over a corner, skipper Billy Joe Burns brought the ball down on his chest, Tommaso Maffei had to take it off his toe and hack it clear. Burns would soon be booked, only a small hiccup for Carshalton as we were looking very much second best, and struggling to get any kind of a foothold in the game. Ten minutes before the break, we started getting our act together, Terry Hindmarch getting to the byline on the left, his cross was headed away from Gary Murray at the last second, but Mark Smith chested it down and volleyed at goal from the angle, his effort hitting the side netting. That was encouraging though, and in heaps of space in midfield, Marc Canham got the ball to the left again, this time Hindmarch's cross was aimed at Daniel Walsh, but Ryan Pryce came off his line and punched the ball away. This was the best we had played in the near forty minutes the match had been going so far, and it was a very bad time for Maffei to give the ball away to Barrie, then a mix up between Derry and Williams, and Jonathan Cooper lifted the ball into the net from an angle to put us behind. We attempted to hit back, nice passing between Hindmarch and Canham got the ball to Walsh, and he slid it into the path of Smith, who danced past a defender, and sent in his shot, Pryce standing up well, and blocking his shot. Half time, and a goal down, we were in a bit of trouble. In our heads, we had taken this Cup run far enough to pay off our debts, build a new stadium in Maidstone, assemble a squad of world class players, and beat Manchester United at Old Trafford to win the Premier League. In reality, we were 45 minutes away from being humbled ourselves by a team who, with all due respect, we should be comfortably beating at home, even just given our current home form. The air was blue in our dressing room, and the players went out for the second half left in no doubt exactly what was on the line, and exactly what was expected of them. A free kick outside the box when Walsh was fouled holding the ball up presented a chance, but Canham blasted the set piece high over the cross bar. On the hour, Canham received the ball on the corner of the box from Andy Miskimmon, and squared it for the arriving Murray, who just like his team mate moments earlier, showed no composure, sending his shot well over the bar. We were now in almost total control, Walsh bringing the ball down on halfway, and sending it left to Hindmarch, his cross was partly cleared, Maffei aimed a shot at the top corner and just missed the target. A rare counter attack from Carshalton almost left us out of the match altogether with twenty minutes to go, sub Danny Power sent a ball into the box for striker Gary Loughran, his low shot aimed inside the near post was turned behind by Derry. For us, time was running out, and with around ten minutes left to play, I made my changes. Shaun Culverhouse and Maffei came off, and they were replaced by Gordon Chin and Jack Deeney. The latter would join Walsh up front, with Chin right behind them, Curtis left as the only out and out defender, as the full backs were pushed further up the park. We were heading route one, bingo! Hindmarch fired in a cross from the left, Pryce tried to parry it back out, but it hit Burns, rolling back past the keeper, just crossing the line before Chin could apply an extra touch, and we were level with just six minutes to spare. You could see Carshalton's spirit had just been crushed, and while my opposite number tried to rally his players for a final effort to at least earn a replay, I was shouting my own orders. 'Stay pushed up, we've another one in us yet!' I was right too. Moments later, Williams cross was cleared, but only as far as Chin. He sent the ball to Walsh on the penalty spot with his back to goal. He played the team game, squaring it to Jack Deeney, who swept it home with a low eight yard shot, not only his first goal for the club, but our first this season from a striker! It was delight from our fans, though they had to watch us dodge one more grenade yet, as we tried to reorganise into a defensive formation to see the match out, full back David Smith threatened to break clear and spring a three on one against Curtis, until Miskimmon hauled him to the ground, taking a yellow card that was more than merited to get us over the line. Maidstone United (0) 2 - Billy Joe Burns (84 og), Jack Deeney (88) Carshalton Athletic (1) 1 - Jonathan Cooper (39) Josh Derry; Andy Miskimmon ©, Shaun Culverhouse (Jack Deeney 81), James Curtis, Mark Williams; Tommaso Maffei (Gordon Chin 81); Gary Murray, Marc Canham; Mark Smith, Terry Hindmarch; Daniel Walsh. Unused Substitutes :- Aaron Steele, Alex Sawyer, Sol Ward, Adam Campbell, Matthew Hatch. Bookings :- Andy Miskimmon 90+2 Possession :- 56% - 44%. Man of the Match :- Jonathan Cooper (Carshalton Athletic). My opposite number was a talented 36 year old manager by the name of Tony Harrison, now in his fourth season in charge of Athletic. I shook his hand, and put my arm around him, the guy looked devastated, and rightly so, as much as the game meant to us, it would mean just as much, if not more for his side. The attendance hadn't been all we had been hoping for, but the game more than made up for it. I'd have preferred a boring one nil any day of the week, but I congratulated my players on their spirit in sticking at it, and eventually getting the job done. Gate receipts, plus £7,500 in prize money takes our debt down under the £60,000 mark, and we finally have a goal from a striker! Praise the football lords! Monday 13th October A quiet day after yesterdays excitement, that was until the evening of course, when the draw would be made for the Fourth Qualifying Round of the FA Cup, the final round before the First Round, and the point when the Football League clubs from the bottom two tiers would enter the competition. We would want either a money spinning tie away from home against one of the larger and well supported Blue Square Premier sides, or a home tie against a club we have a very good chance of beating, to ensure more prize money, and the chance of a bigger still draw in Round One. We got our wish. The latter of the two. We were last but one to be drawn out of the velvet bag, which is much better than being last, as it means we are at home. Our guests will be another team from lower down the pyramid than us, and again they will travel to us from a London borough, as we are drawn to play Tooting & Mitcham United. With only one player of any note, 19 year old left back Ray Quinn, who is on a season long loan from Wycombe Wanderers, the suspicion is that they will provide less competition than Carshalton did. That match will take place a week on Saturday, the 25th October. That means our home League match against Maidenhead United scheduled for that date, has been pushed back a fortnight, for now. Tuesday 14th October At least the Carshalton Atheltic's and Tooting & Mitcham United's of this world are getting some joy in the loan market, as we certainly don't seem to be. Versatile 19 year old AFC Bournemouth forward Nathan Harwood, and 17 year old Derby County centre back Ernie Keary, an outstanding young prospect, are the latest we try to bring to Bourne Park on a temporary basis. At least our injury issues are starting to clear up slowly, with Australian 31 year old midfielder Jamie McMaster returning to full training today following his groin injury. It was a case of one out, and one in at the treatment room though, as 16 year old Kenny Evans is ruled out for a week after taking an accidental elbow to the jaw in training. Thursday 16th October Newport County have made a loan approach to a player we are keeping an eye on, 18 year old Bristol Rovers left winger Carl Davidson. I'm advised that if we act right away, it's likely we would become front runners. However, left wing is not really an area of the squad that would benefit from a new arrival right now, so I leave that one where it is for the time being. We have another Cup draw to keep an eye on today as well, the Third Round South for the Blue Square Conference League Cup. We are drawn away from home this time, and it will be a tough tie too, as we will take on Crawley Town at the Broadfield Stadium on Tuesday 4th November. They are currently sat 5th in the Blue Square Premier League, and the tie means yet another rearrangement for the home League match against Newport County. It's been pushed back two days, to Thursday 6th November, meaning two matches in three days for us. Friday 17th October 20 year old Northern Irish centre back Sean Neill, brought to the club before my arrival by the previous manager, has today requested a transfer away from the club, citing his need for regular First Team football as the reason. He played 14 times for the club last season, but hasn't featured at all this campaign, despite playing pretty well for the Reserves. His request has been accepted. Tomorrow we are at home once again, as we return to League action, with a visit from the side currently sat in second place, Billericay Town. They were knocked out of the FA Cup last weekend at home by Blue Square Premier side Gateshead, their first defeat of the season in any competition. That is in much part down to their Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland strike duo of Under-21 International striker Michael McNally, and 25 year old Dubliner partner Alan Lynch. The pair have 15 goals between them in all competitions this season, while we have just managed to get our strikers off the mark last Sunday. Town will come to Bourne Park as favourites. We have some more good news on the injury front, with Jack Collins returning to full training today, though it is likely going to be too late to consider him for the squad tomorrow. The day ends with more bad news on the loan front however, Derby County's teenage centre back Ernie Keary has no intention of joining us we're told. Saturday 18th October Sol Ward has returned to the Under-18's squad for this weekend, and his time with the First Team has done the young defensive midfielder no harm at all, as he is named man of the match this morning at Bourne Park in the opening part of the double header at the ground today, as our youngsters draw 0-0 with the counterparts from Basingstoke Town, the first points our lads have dropped all season, but they remain top of Group 10. Blue Square League, South Division Bourne Park, Sittingbourne Maidstone United v Billericay Town Attendance :- 588. Weather :- Breezy, 7c. There is just one change to personnel from last weekends FA Cup win here against Carshalton Athletic, scorer of the winning goal Jack Deeney is selected up front in place of Daniel Walsh, who is on the bench today. We will go with our normal formation at home of a 4-1-2-2-1 Wide, but our intention is too be a little more conservative with it, and not as attacking as we would normally be at home. Australian midfielder Jamie McMaster is on the bench today after his return to full training. Town announced their intentions early on, a deep cross from Jed Dalton picked out Michael McNally unmarked at the far post, but he struck his volley just over the cross bar. Dalton was involved again five minutes later, played into the box by Martin Doherty, he let the ball run past him and got goal side of Mark Williams, who caught his trailing leg and sent him to the ground. The ref pointed to the spot, and my players surrounded him, unhappy with his decision, though it looked pretty nailed on from where I was stood. Williams was booked for his challenge, and Tom Shaw struck his spot kick low and hard to Josh Derry's right, finding the bottom corner to give Town a 9th minute lead. In the 16th minute, Stephen Brooks inswinging corner was claimed bravely at the near post by Derry, and he quickly sent the ball to Andy Miskimmon, who launched it up the park and sent Jack Deeney into acres of space and clear in on goal. Unfortunately, the strikers lack of pace hindered him badly, and James Dayton caught up, sent him wider than he would have liked, and then whipped the ball off his toe, a great chance going to waste. Midway through the half, Mark Smith found himself with room on the right, and he sent a cross towards the penalty spot, where Marc Canham met it with a header that lacked power and was easily caught by Chris Howarth. Chances continued to be spurned, mostly by Town, who saw Alan Lynch get his shot blocked, and then Dalton lash a shot into the side netting when he really should have scored. Dayton's shot across goal was easily pushed away by Derry, before Miskimmon stood up a cross at the other end, Jamie Mckenzie just getting in front of Canham and heading it clear from our midfielder. In first half injury time, Tomasso Maffei lost the ball to Dayton in his own half, and it was quickly played to McNally, the strikers shot just missing it's intended target of the top corner. A goal down at the break, we were probably pretty fortunate it wasn't more with all the chances that Town has wasted. With all still to play for, I didn't make any substitutions, but I did ask the players to try and get on the front foot a bit more. That didn't really do much for our attacking options, and neither did Terry Hindmarch taking a knock just after the hour, with Michael Haswell coming on as his replacement. As we got near the quarter of an hour mark to go, I stepped things up a notch, Shaun Culverhouse and Maffei both coming off, Gordon Chin and Daniel Walsh coming on as we moved into a much more attacking setup. And the impact? Absolutely nothing! In fact, we nearly shipped a second goal in the 90th minute, sub Adam Smith sending over a cross from the right, and fellow sub Stuart McDonald met it with a powerful header that Derry had to tip over the bar. Deep into injury time, Haswell got some space down the left, but his cross couldn't find anyone in a United shirt, and Chris Clough headed it clear and our last chance of pinching a point was dashed. A rare home defeat, but it still stings. Maidstone United (0) 0 Billericay Town (1) 1 - Tom Shaw (9 pen) Josh Derry; Andy Miskimmon ©, Shaun Culverhouse (Daniel Walsh 73), James Curtis, Mark Williams; Tommaso Maffei (Gordon Chin 73); Gary Murray, Marc Canham; Mark Smith, Terry Hindmarch (Michael Haswell 62); Jack Deeney. Unused Substitutes :- Aaron Steele, Jamie McMaster. Bookings :- Mark Williams 8 Possession :- 46% - 54%. Man of the Match :- Stephen Brooks (Billericay Town). That's a second League defeat in a row after our reverse at Eastleigh a fortnight ago, and our first home defeat of the campaign. It may be we have lost to a Playoff calibre team, but there will be plenty more tough tests to come, and we need to become a much more difficult team to play against. There is still plenty of the season left to play, but we have now slid well into the bottom half, falling all the way down to 16th place after this loss, with an away trip coming up in midweek. New recruits to strengthen the playing squad are not getting any easier to come by, as AFC Bournemouth forward Nathan Harwood becomes the latest to decline the chance to move to join us on a loan deal. At least there is a little good news for us on the injury front, as Danny Carey-Bertram will return to full training on Monday.
  12. Sunday 12th October 2014 I hated myself a little for making the decision. It was selfish, and Ganesh Sharma didn't deserve to be let go, but I didn't like the Dempo managers selection for the Under-20 squad during the Qualifiers, and I would rather pick the squad and lead the team myself, knowing I can then take players who are already involved in the Seniors, or are on the fringe of being involved with them. It would be a lie to suggest I hadn't considered how the exposure and any potential success in the upcoming 2014 Asian Under-19 Championship Finals may impact my club prospects as well, and could be a platform to a better job going forward. The tournament takes place in Japan, with the games starting in a fortnight. India are in Group B, and as well as the host nation, we will also face Qatar and Indonesia. The top two from each of the four Groups will advance through to the Quarter-Finals. The current holders are China, Wednesday 15th October It's a huge day for us as a football nation, as we move up into the Top 150 in the new version of the FIFA World Rankings issued today. The win over the Maldives has given us a ten place push from 154th, up to 144th. We have 75 points right now, and there are still multiple nations within striking distance that we hope to pass in the near future. In the near eighteen months since I took the job, we have moved up 58 places in the Rankings, a great achievement. Now we just need some competitive football to build up more points, and to test ourselves. Last time I compared our Ranking against the other Asian nations, we were 36th out of the 46 nations ranked in the Continent, which was almost exactly a year ago now. It makes for much better reading now............ | Rank | Nation | Change | Points | | 21st | South Korea | - | 1144 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 26th | Saudi Arabia | +3 | 1060 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 36th | Japan | +4 | 837 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 45th | China PR | -2 | 719 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 48th | Oman | +3 | 709 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 54th | United Arab Emirates | +2 | 633 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 58th | Uzbekistan | +2 | 581 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 60th | Indonesia | +11 | 570 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 62nd | Australia | -4 | 563 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 63rd | Syria | +1 | 560 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 66th | Iraq | +3 | 522 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 72nd | Lebanon | +11 | 449 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 73rd | Qatar | +8 | 440 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 80th | Singapore | +7 | 375 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 82nd | Iran | -19 | 369 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 83rd | Kuwait | +9 | 351 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 86th | Bahrain | -1 | 332 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 91st | Jordan | +9 | 308 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 110th | Vietnam | +1 | 203 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 128th | Yemen | +4 | 123 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 129th | Tajikistan | +1 | 115 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 132nd | Thailand | +1 | 107 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 144th | India | +10 | 75 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 147th | Turkmenistan | -4 | 72 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 150th | Bangladesh | -3 | 69 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 151st | Hong Kong (China PR) | -10 | 69 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 152nd | Kyrgyzstan | +5 | 69 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 153rd | North Korea | -14 | 66 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 158th | Brunei Darussalam | +1 | 54 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 160th | Malaysia | -10 | 53 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 161st | Guam | -1 | 48 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 162nd | Maldives | -10 | 48 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 165th | Chinese Taipei (China PR) | -10 | 45 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 171st | Mongolia | -4 | 31 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 175th | Palestine | -4 | 26 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 176th | Laos | +3 | 25 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 179th | The Philippines | -3 | 20 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 180th | Sri Lanka | -7 | 20 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 189th | Nepal | -6 | 15 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 190th | Bhutan | +3 | 14 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 197th | Myanmar | -3 | 9 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 199th | East Timor | +1 | 8 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 202nd | Pakistan | - | 6 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 203rd | Afghanistan | - | 5 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 204th | Cambodia | - | 2 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 206th | Macau (China PR) | - | 0 | | ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| That's 23rd out of the 46 nations this time, which is great progress over the year, and sneaks us into the top half of Asian nations in the Rankings. We have overtaken European nations Liechtenstein and the Faroe Islands, we're just one spot behind Kazakhstan, and now within striking distance of Iceland, Armenia, and this months highest climbing nation, Luxembourg.
  13. Friday 10th October 2014 The squad safely have arrived and assembled in Kolkata on Wednesday, and with no fresh injuries to report, we are all set for tomorrow's match against The Maldives. The visitors go into the match two spots ahead of us in the latest FIFA World Rankings, sat in 152nd with us in 154th. I'm of the firm belief that them being ahead of us is an absolute injustice, and we will prove it tomorrow in the Salt Lake Stadium, in front of a crowd of around 70,000. All the questions at the press conference focus on the damage it could do to the squad should they lose at home to a nation considered as bitter a rival as Pakistan and Bangladesh. The assembled media are told that I have every faith in the squad selected, and that I don't forsee any other result than an India win. Saturday 11th October International Friendly Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata, India India (154th) v The Maldives (152nd) Attendance :- 72,038. Weather :- Breezy, 31c. Mohammed Hossain gets a start in goal for us today, the 21 year old JCT keeper earning just his second cap. New Vice-Captain of the side Ajay Bailleux wins his 15th cap today from right back, while there is an International debut for Gumpe Singh, as the East Bengal centre back partners Georgia based Jose Paul in the middle of the back four. Another of our European based players is wearing the Captain's armband in just his third cap, Olympic Charleroi right winger Raheem Alibhaï starting today, with talented 16 year old Amit Singh also winning a third cap as he partners Italy based and recalled William Jidayi in the middle of the park, Joseph Pereira completing the midfield of our 4-2-2-2 wide formation. Up front, the two in form strikers are selected, Lebanon based Ranty Martins partnered by East Bengal's hotshot, Sandip Kumar. On the nine man strong bench, Subrata Pal is the sub keeper, with Nirmal Chetri, James Dissiramah and Azadur Barman the defensive reinforcements. Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Sabri Gharbi as available as midfield replacements, with the winger options the potential debutant Ryan D'Souza, and the recalled Reisangmi Vasum. Up front, Edu is the replacement striker selected. I told the players that I'd be disappointed if we were anything other than convincing winners here, and they set out to get me that result. From the halfway line, Paramjit Kumar swung the ball from the halfway line to the edge of the box, where Sandip Kumar brought it down, and got in an early shot that only just cleared the bar. It was a different story in the 17th minute though, when Joseph Pereira sent over a corner, and Jose Paul met it with a powerful downward header that found the back of the net, to give us the lead. We were asserting our superiority, with Amit Singh heavily involved in the midfield. He picked out Raheem Alibhaï just inside the box with a slide rule pass, the skipper just missing the top corner with a curling effort. Our visitors made a rare excursion up the park, Joseph Shameem getting himself past Pereira, and unable to resist the chance to let a shot go from range, but he missed the target. We were having none of that, and put the island nation right back in their place, Amit Singh and Sandip Kumar combining to put Ajay Bailleux into space on the right, and he angled his run towards the byline, before standing up a cross towards the far post that took the keeper out of the game, leaving centre backs Anthony and Pradeep Saeed to try and deal with Ranty Martins, which they failed to do, the ball hitting Pradeep and nestling into the bottom corner. 2-0 at the break, all was well in Kolkata. The first half had gone well, and I was expecting more of the same in the second half. One change was made at the break, William Jidayi was returning from injury, and I decided 45 minutes was plenty for him in a game with little meaning, so replaced him with Sabri Gharbi at half time. The Maldives hadn't read the script though, Santosh Hassan receiving the ball in the box, and firing in a first time shot that Mohammed Hossain was at full stretch to turn away. Hassan had another go moments later, a shot from much further out that didn't threaten the target. Encouraged, our visitors continued to push and prod to try and find a way through, with most of their good work coming through forward Donald Shibau, who seemed to be everywhere for them in the minutes after the restart, Paramjit Kumar having to head one of his crosses over his own bar from pretty much right underneath it, as Hassan prepared to apply the finish. Keen to get us back on top, I made a trio of changes, Amit Singh, Alibhaï and Sandip Kumar all replaced, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, debutant winger Ryan D'Souza and Edu all coming on. But it didn't quite work out that way, as three subs combined for the Maldives, Mohamed Ibrahim finding Hassan, and he backheeled the ball to Laxman Ibrahim, who slid his shot under Hossain's dive to halve their deficit. It was gut check time for us, D'Souza picking out Edu, but he couldn't pick out the top corner, his shot a little too high. But five minutes later the Brazilian born striker found Martins in the box, and he picked out the bottom corner from ten yards out, much to my relief. It was the Nigeria born forwards fifth International goal, and was the catalyst for me to make some more changes, Bailleux and Gumpe Singh coming off, Nirmal Chetri and James Dissiramah replacing them in the back four. A Mohamed Ibrahim shot wide from distance was all the Maldives could muster by way of a response, and while it wasn't as convincing as we would have liked, we had one over our rivals. India (2) 3 - Jose Paul (17), Pradeep Saeed (42 og), Ranty Martins (75) The Maldives (0) 1 - Laxman Ibrahim (68) Mohammed Hossain; Ajay Bailleux (Nermal Chetri 75), Gumpe Singh (James Dissiramah 75), Jose Paul, Paramjit Kumar; Amit Singh (Mehrajuddin Wadoo 61), William Jidayi (Sabri Gharbi 45); Raheem Alibhaï (Ryan D'Souza 61), Joseph Pereira; Ranty Martins, Sandip Kumar (Edu 61). Unused Substitutes :- Subrata Pal (GK), Azadur Barman, Reisangmi Vasum. Bookings :- None Possession :- 52% - 48%. Man of the Match :- Jose Paul (India). That win should be enough to see us past The Maldives, and a few others hopefully, when the next FIFA World Rankings are released. We should be a Top 150 nation now, and we can have another look at how we are faring against the other Asian nations, as we look to move past as many as possible, as quickly as possible. Sunday 12th October 22 year old man of the match, Jose Paul, spoke to the press after netting his first International goal in his fourth cap for his country. Things are going really well for the Maragao born centre back, who earned a move to Europe after good spells with Churchill Brothers and Mohun Bagan. He has made a bright start in Georgia with WIT-Georgia, and now says he can't wait to pull on an India shirt once more. That next opportunity will be next month, when we break down a barrier with a game in Europe against Andorra. He isn't the only one who has the bug for International Football once again, and I have a decision to make.....
  14. Sunday 5th October 2014 It had been a great weekend to start with for Barnet, as they beat Crawley Town with a last minute winner at Underhill despite being down to ten men. That result had left them fourth in the Blue Square Premier, but by Sunday evening, they had been plunged into administration, and docked ten points, which results in them now sitting in 19th, just a point above the relegation zone. They are rumoured to be over £800,000 in debt, which puts our own cash flow problems into some perspective. Monday 6th October Our own finances could be given a boost over the coming fortnight, as we are about to start a run of four successive home matches, two Cup matches, followed by a pair of League games. We start with a Conference League Cup Southern Second Round tie tomorrow night against a St Albans City side that we'll be odd's on favourites to beat after turning them over a few weeks back at their own ground. Then on Sunday, once I get back from India, we'll host Carshalton Athletic in our huge FA Cup Third Qualifying Round match. A win in that one not only takes us one step from the First Round Proper and another payday, but will also achieve the Boards target for the competition and put us into the Fourth Qualifying Round. We then have visits in the League from struggling Newport County, followed by the current surprise League leaders, Billericay Town. The fans are pretty confident that we can get past St Albans City tomorrow evening, though I am planning on making some changes to the side, with the Conference League Cup pretty low down on our list of priorities. The bookies have us as 4/5 odds on favourites for the match, which will be refereed by Chester official Andrew Hutchinson, who last took charge of one of our games back in February when we were well beaten by AFC Hornchurch. Tuesday 7th October Work is continuing to try and improve our options in the squad, with three loan offers for players that I made this morning all being accepted by their clubs. A midfielder and two strikers are the recipients of the offers, and all play at a much higher level, but have expressed a desire to go out on loan for some First Team football. Blue Square Conference League Cup, Southern Second Round Bourne Park, Sittingbourne Maidstone United v St Albans City Attendance :- 245. Weather :- Dry, 7c. There are seven changes made to the lineup for this poorly attended, and frankly, not very important League Cup tie against St Albans City. A poor performance last time out from Aaron Steele means he steps aside today and there is a rare opportunity for former Plymouth Argyle player, Shaun Culverhouse. At left back, there is a recall for Michael Haswell, who replaces Michael Williams. Tommaso Maffei gets his first start for us today, replacing Sol Ward in the holding midfield role, while Gary Murray pushes up into the centre of the park, and is partnered by Gordon Chin, who is back in the side replacing the rested Marc Canham. There are also changes on both wings, with Mark Smith and Terry Hindmarch rested, and Matthew Hatch and Adam Campbell brought in. The final change is up front, Jack Deeney replaced by Daniel Walsh. There is a place on the bench today for Gavin Molloy. We were dominant from the get go here, and in the 10th minute Josh Derry launched the ball up the park, Daniel Walsh bringing it down and sending it into the right channel, where Andy Miskimmon and Matthew Hatch exchanged passes. The formers cross was cleared right back out, but Hatch got it right back into the box to Gary Murray, his shot blocked, the ball bouncing around, and then landing at the feet of Adam Campbell, who sidefooted home from close range, his first goal in our colours. It looked a question of if, and not when, we would get our second, such was our dominance, Tommaso Maffei sliding a through ball between the defence for Hatch, but his shot was turned aside by Lee Butcher. Our new midfielder was dominating the midfield area, pinging another pass out left for Michael Haswell, but the full backs cross was overhit. Haswell's next cross was blocked and put out for a corner, but Murray's delivery was hooked clear. Ten minutes before the break Walsh knocked the ball down for Murray outside the box, and he sent a pass into the left channel for Campbell who's pot shot at goal was saved by Butcher, but not cleared, Murray believing he was fouled as he tried to get to the loose ball, but the referee wasn't impressed. Before the break, goalscorer Campbell defied the two to one odds against him on the left, and won us another corner, which was promptly wasted. City tried to have the last word of the half, a cross following a counter attack was only partly cleared, and Niall Scullion sent it goalwards, but his effort was too high. My only complaint at the break was that we should have been ahead by more than just one goal. But it was City who were applying the pressure early in the second half, Josh Grant thought he was in the clear for a second or two, but three players converged on him to close down the space, the ball found its way to Chris Dickson on the right, and his low centre needed to be pushed away from danger by Derry. The game took a turn shortly after, with some animosity rearing it's head. Campbell was booked in the 64th minute, which seemed to start it. Haswell damaged his heel when he was clipped moments later, and became the first in a triple substitution, joined by Gordon Chin and Walsh as they were replaced by Mark Williams, Gavin Molloy and Jack Deeney. Within minutes of that, Miskimmon took one for the team, tugging the shirt of sub Sam Rowe as he looked set to launch an attack that would have seen us outnumbered. As Rowe picked himself up, Scullion lashed out at James Curtis as they came together, the Irishman aiming a kick at our centre back that saw him receive a straight red card, while, Miskimmon was booked. We looked to capitalise on our numerical advantage, Murray with a square pass to Maffei, and the defensive midfielder let a 25 yard shot go that crashed off the cross bar, Molloy only just failing to get to the loose ball with an open goal in front of him. As we entered the last ten minutes, Campbell missed a chance to put the game beyond doubt, missing the mark with a cross, while Maffei failed to find Miskimmon with a short pass that would have seen the skipper have acres of space to run into and launch an attack. Hatch was added into the ref's list of bookings when he timed a challenge badly. He then launched Miskimmon into space in the final minute, his low cross was cut back towards the edge of the box, where Mark Williams arrived onto it, but on his weaker right foot, he shanked his shot high and wide. Fortunately, it wouldn't matter on this evening. Maidstone United (1) 1 - Adam Campbell (11) St Albans City (0) 0 Josh Derry; Andy Miskimmon ©, Shaun Culverhouse, Jamie Curtis, Michael Haswell (inj - Mark Williams 68); Tommaso Maffei; Gary Murray, Gordon Chin (Gavin Molloy 68); Matthew Hatch, Adam Campbell; Daniel Walsh (Jack Deeney 68). Unused Substitutes :- Aaron Steele, Terry Hindmarch. Bookings :- Adam Campbell 64, Andy Miskimmon 73, Matthew Hatch 82 Possession :- 59% - 41%. Man of the Match :- Adam Campbell (Maidstone United). We played pretty nicely tonight, but we should have won far more comfortably than by just the single goal. We are still unable to get our strikers to hit the net, though Daniel Walsh was fully involved, winning the ball in the air, and holding it up effectively when he was able to bring it down. So we move on in the competition, banking another £2,500 in prize money, which takes our debt under the £70,000 mark now. We are hoping we can take another chunk out of that on the weekend with a win over Carshalton Athletic in the next round of the FA Cup. A good attendance and a win for some more prize money could see that debt drop by another £15-20k. That was Michael Haswell's first match for a while, as he has been kept out of the side by the impressive form of Mark Williams. In that nasty little spell of the game, he got his heel clipped, and injured as a result. It's not too bad, ruling him out for a week to ten days, but means he is out of the FA Cup tie this weekend. Realistically, he would likely have only been selected on the bench. Wednesday 8th October It's a second visit from St Albans in as many evenings when their Reserve side make the trip to Bourne Park for a Group 9 match. There were rumours that Australian midfielder Jamie McMaster may be given a short run out as an early step in his return from injury, but that didn't materialise. A 2-0 win made it a quick fire double over the Hertfordshire side, Chris Pike netted in the first half, with full back Alex Sawyer adding the second with around a quarter of an hour to play. Friday 10th October An attempt to kill two birds with one stone for myself personally by bringing Free Agent striker Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury to Maidstone has failed. The 6'4 once capped Indian International with a French passport was released by AS Saint-Etienne in the summer, and he hasn't yet signed anywhere else. He found the net regularly playing for their Reserve side, and we could certainly use someone who could do that at Bourne Park, but it won't be the 20 year old. Saturday 11th October And it won't be any of the three players that I tried to bring in on loan either, as we receive a trio of knockbacks there. Midfielder Nathan Fearon of Crewe Alexandra, forward Connor Eastham from Coventry City, and Rangers young striker Mohammed Alam have all said no to a spell at Bourne Park. Back to the drawing board there then. Most of this weekends FA Cup fixtures are taking place today, while I'm away with the Indian Senior National Squad. That means the players, staff, board members and fans of Maidstone United get to soak in the atmosphere of a Cup weekend a little, before we go to work tomorrow with our home tie against Carshalton Athletic, one we are expected to win. The bookmakers have as us 4/6 favourites. All week, we have been drumming into the players that it is so easy to lose focus, and become a Giant Killing statistic in these games. Shocks were in short supply in the Cup today, but it was no shock that Newport County were held to a draw at home to Maidenhead United, meaning they will need a Replay on Wednesday night of next week, which means our League fixture against the South Wales side is rescheduled once again, this time for Wednesday 15th November.
  15. Friday 3rd October 2014 Two days before we name our squad for the home Friendly against our rivals from The Maldives next week, and it looks like we are going to have some injury concerns. Havant & Waterlooville centre back Rikki Bains has had a string of injury issues over the years, mostly small niggly issues, but they have limited his football, particularly at International level. It looks like a sprained wrist may prevent him adding to his five caps next week too. Definitely missing out will be veteran centre back, and 34 year old Air India player, Deepak Mondal, who has a foot injury. Joining him on the missing list is another overseas based player. Hong Kong based centre back Francisco Bhowmick has produced a big upturn in form since moving up to the Third Division A with the Fire Services Sports & Welare Club, but he has broken ribs. Once capped right back Joseph Lal is also definitely out with a twisted ankle, while Aman Verma's great form since moving South of the Border and to Blue Square Premier side Bury won't get a chance to be translated onto the International stage, as he is ruled out with a strained neck. With our right wing options already pretty limited, we are also going to be without 30 year old Mohun Bagan's five times capped Steven Dias, who had a damaged heel. Finally up front, Chidi Edeh is ruled out as well, a broken foot will keep the Mahindra United captain out until well into the new year. Young midfielder Amit Singh, who is still primarily in the Youth setup at FC Nantes in France, but has also played for their Reserve side this season as well, is doubtful as he is just returning from a pulled hamstring. 30 year old William Jidayi, rejuvenated this season at Gela in the Italian Serie C2/C, should also be okay after suffering a bruised shin a week or so ago. 22 year old Sandip Kumar is the form striker in Indian domestic football right now, and he is also labelled as doubtful, the East Bengal striker suffered a damaged foot last month. Sunday 5th October Rumours are circulating that I could be about to name an India squad for the final time, with suggestions that my name is included on a three man final shortlist for an International job elsewhere. I say nothing in response to the story. **SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT** India Senior Squad for Friendly International with The Maldives - (H) 11/10/2014 | Name | Position | Club | Height | Age | Value | Caps | Goals | | Jasbir Singh | GK | Woking (ENG) | 6'0" | 24 | £6K | 2 | 0 | | Mohammed Hossain | GK | JCT | 6'1" | 21 | £2K | 1 | 0 | | Subrata Pal | GK | East Bengal | 6'0" | 27 | £20K | 10 | 0 | ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | Nirmal Chetri | D RC | Vasco | 5'7" | 23 | £1K | 3 | 0 | | Azadur Barman | D L | Air India | 5'8" | 22 | £20K | 2 | 0 | | Paramjit Kumar | D L | Mohun Bagan | 5'7" | 20 | £1K | 4 | 0 | | Gumpe Singh | D C | East Bengal | 5'7" | 22 | £3K | 0 | 0 | | James Dissiramah | D C | East Bengal | 5'10" | 31 | £6K | 3 | 1 | | Jose Paul | D C | WIT-Georgia (GEO) | 5'9" | 22 | £30K | 3 | 0 | | Manju Nanjangud Shivananju | D C | Churchill Bros | 6'1" | 27 | £9K | 11 | 1 | | Ajay Bailleux | D/WB R | Mohammedan | 5'10" | 30 | - | 14 | 0 | ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep | D/AM C | Mohun Bagan | 5'7" | 31 | £7K | 24 | 10 | | William Jidayi | DM, M RC | Gela (ITA) | 6'2" | 30 | £5K | 11 | 1 | | Amit Singh | DM, M C | FC Nantes (FRA) | 5'10" | 16 | £50K | 2 | 0 | | Mehrajuddin Wadoo | DM, M C | Bengal Mumbai FC | 5'11" | 30 | - | 6 | 0 | | Ryan D'Souza | M R | East Bengal | 5'9" | 22 | £1K | 0 | 0 | | Kuldip Kumar | M C | Mahindra Utd | 5'8" | 22 | £9K | 1 | 0 | | Yadwinder Khan | M C | Bengal Mumbai FC | 5'8" | 22 | £1K | 3 | 0 | | Raheem Alibhaï | AM R | Olympic Charleroi (BEL) | 5'7" | 30 | £5K | 2 | 0 | | Joseph Pereira | AM L | Pune FC | 5'6" | 32 | £1K | 2 | 0 | | Reisangmi Vasum | AM LC | SC Goa | 5'8" | 25 | £1K | 2 | 1 | | Sabri Gharbi | AM C | Mohammedan | 5'7" | 26 | £5K | 8 | 1 | ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | Edu | ST | Mohun Bagan | 6'1" | 31 | £1K | 3 | 1 | | Ranty Martins | ST | Nejmeh (LIB) | 6'1" | 28 | £12K | 6 | 4 | | Sandip Kumar | ST | East Bengal | 6'0" | 22 | £24K | 2 | 0 | | Sunil Chetri | ST | AS Rodos (GRE) | 5'5" | 30 | £60K | 24 | 16 | ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is my fourth India Senior Squad Announcement, and it's a pretty inexperienced squad, with some experimenting likely as we face our rivals from The Maldives on Saturday in Kolkata. Two potential new caps are included in the squad, and seventeen of the twenty six players in the squad have less than five caps to their name. Only seven of the squad play their football outside of India, with East Bengal the club side providing the most players to this Senior Squad, with five selected from the current Indian National Football League Champions, and early season leaders. There hasn't been a huge amount of consistency in my squad selections, as with the football being purely Friendly matches since my arrival, there has been plenty of opportunities to experiment with the Squad. That logic does not apply to the goalkeepers however, as for the fourth time in a row, I select the same three goalkeepers. That said, Jasbir Singh isn't having the easiest of times at Woking, and if there had been a legitimate alternative, I think I would have left him out this time. Sadly, no one was able, or willing, to take the spot. Belgium based AA Gent Youth goalkeeper is still saying no to us right now, the 17 year old still holding out hope that he will get a shot with the nation he was born in. A pair of domestic teenagers were also ruled out, one through a lack of football, the other through injury. There is no change to the pair of right backs I selected either, with new Vice-Captain for the Senior side Ajay Bailleux retained despite a pretty poor opening pair of games for Mohammedan, while things have been much more solid for Nirmal Chetri, who is also at a new club, Vasco in his case. There are players coming through behind them, but none currently doing enough to unseat either from the bus to the match, Amar Thakur was included last time, but didn't get a debut and is left out of this squad after a less than impressive start to the season with Air India. There is less competition on the left side of the back four, with both Paramjit Kumar and Azadur Barman fairly comfortable in their spots for the moment. They do have a credible rival though in the form of East Bengal's twenty two year old five times capped Dulal Bhattacharya, who has started the season in very impressive form. There is more of a change around in the centre back ranks, but that's okay, as there is plenty more competition in that position too. Rikki Bains is frustrated that injury has once more cost him a spot. Time is at least on his side at the age of 26, which is the number of caps Deepak Mondal currently has. But at 34, with a poor start to the season, and now six weeks on the sideline, it should be considered that Mondal may have had his last stand on the International stage. Jose Paul has made a great start to his career in Europe with WIT-Georgia, and he is an easy pick for us now. I'm delighted his move is going so well for him. Manju Nanjangud Shivananju has been included in every squad I've named, but only played two halves of football. His decision to leave East Bengal for relegated Churchill Brothers has been seen by many as a poor move, but even with so many good centre backs around, he still keeps his place in the squad time after time. So two places are up for grabs. Another Belgian based teenager has again knocked us back, 18 year old Germinal Beerschot Under-21 player Francisco Reja isn't prepared to turn out for us right now. With Hong Kong based centre back Francisco Bhowmick out injured, I elect to go back to domestic players, and recall 31 year old East Bengal man, James Dissiramah. He is automatically one of the elder players in our squad, but the Ghana born player is turning out regularly for the best side in the country, and has been consistent since I first capped him. He is joined by a team mate, and potentially our first debutant, as 22 year old Gumpe Singh is included in a promotion from the Under-21 squad where he won ten caps. Close to inclusion were twice capped Mohun Bagan star Adil Kundu, and another experienced Under-21 International player, Freddy Basheer, who recently made the move from Air India to Viva Kerala. On to the wings, where we have some fairly major depth issues. On the right, Raheem Alibhaï is our new Captain, and by quite some way our best option. But the Belgian based 30 year old is out of form with second tier side Olympic Charleroi, where he is spending his tenth season. With no goals or assists in seven League games so far, I think everyone concerned is hoping that this International Window brings about a rediscovering of his form. With five cap Steven Dias of Mohun Bagan out with an injury along with Jospeh Lal of East Bengal, we had to look for a new alternative. Step forward the second and final potential debutant of this squad selection, Ryan D'Souza. The 22 year old has two Under-21 caps and has just rejoined East Bengal for his second spell with the club. A pair of assists on his debut for them should ensure he gets more game time than his first spell with the Champions, where he only played three times. Things are not much better on the left. Once more there is a player in control, 32 year old Pune FC new signing, and also back for a second spell with the club, Joseph Pereira. Unlike Alibhaï, he is in good form, with two assists in his opening two League matches. His understudy last time around was 19 year old Naresh Reja, but he has left SC Goa for East Bengal, and has yet to play this season. That leads to the once capped winger being left out this time, and in a twist of fate, his replacement is the man who has taken his place at SC Goa, as there is a recall for 25 year old Reisangmi Vasum, who has just re-signed for them after a below average season with United SC, he previously played for SC Goa in 2012/13. There is a much better wealth of depth in the centre of the park, even with another snub from 17 year old Denmark based Sheikh Thakur, who has this season made some great progress, appearing twice for Viborg in the Premier Division from the substitutes bench. So despite all that depth, there is actually only one change made to the midfield options from last time out. Mohammed Hassan of United SC made his debut last time out against The Philippines in his home city of Kolkata. I can't even say that his form has tailed off particularly either, but a change in club in Italy has seen a return to form for William Jidayi, and he earns a recall. Naduparambil Pappachan Pradeep is still the best defensive midfielder we have at our disposal, and the Mohun Bagan 31 year old retains his place in the squad. Mehrajuddin Wadoo is his natural understudy, and his move to Bengal Mumbai from Viva Kerala has had no impact on his usual excellent form. That form is actually being matched, and bettered, by one of his new team mates, three times capped 22 year old Yadwinder Khan, who's impressive form of last season has continued in the early stages of this campaign. French based 16 year old Amit Singh continues to make good strides at a very high level with FC Nantes, playing for their Reserve side already this season. Kuldip Kumar has seen a great upturn in his production with Mahindra United over the last year or so, and he will hope to add his single cap to date next weekend. Finally, Sabri Gharbi's move from Champions of last season East Bengal to newly promoted Mohammedan has worked out much better than many predicted. In probably the deepest position for us in terms of talent, there is still plenty more behind those selected. Aman Verma is back South of the Border in the UK after switching from Stirling Albion to Bury, and he is playing regularly and well for the Blue Square Premier side, injury ruling him out of contention this time around. French born and raised defensive midfielder Karan Mollah was told he wasn't good enough to be part of the squad when he was first selected. AS Poissy were relegated last season, but the new level has seen an upturn in his form and production. The media were really down on the 16 year old, but I like the lad. Also based in France, but at a higher level, and further up the park, Gautam Roy has made a First Team debut this season from the bench for Vannes Olympique. You can add Under-21 International from Mohun Bagan, nineteen year old Nurul Islam into the mix as well. The strikers were a little more easier to select this time, with the job pretty much doing itself. We have six strikers who are firmly in the picture to be in our squad, but one is injured, and another is without a club. It will be well into the New Year before Chidi Edeh of Mahindra United is back fit and playing again, after he broke his foot early in the season. Despite still having plenty of clubs interested in his signature, Shafiqul Islam Chowdhury still hasn't signed anywhere since being released in the summer by AS Saint-Etienne. So by default, that leaves us with our four. I can't say I was delighted that Sunil Chetri decided to remain with AS Rodos in Greece after they got relegated into non-League, but his season has started well with two goals and three assists in the opening seven matches. 22 year old Sandip Kumar is the form striker in India right now, firing six goals and adding an assist in just five Cup games to start the season with East Bengal. In Lebanon, the form of Ranty Martins has never really dropped, and he has thirteen goals in 23 matches in the League this season for Al-Nejmeh. The final striker included is the Brazilian born Mohun Bagan striker Edu, who's consistency is a great asset to us, and doesn't appear to be changing as he enters the 'veteran stage' of his career. Monday 6th October I knew going into the weekend that my name had been brought up several times as a front runner for the job with Guatemala. That came to a head today, with the Central American nation making a decision on where they were going to go with their next manager. And it wouldn't be me, as they appointed 32 year old native of the nation Leonel Estrada into the role, his first job in football. I have to be honest, if the job had been offered to me, I may well have made the jump. Their National Pool is much, much smaller, but has a lot more quality to it. Plus they play a lot more competitive football than we get the chance to participate in.
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