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Amaroq

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Everything posted by Amaroq

  1. How to start a story I fully agree that the "career ending injury" is the most overused opening in FMS, and those others are pretty bad, too. If you've got to suffer a career ending injury... don't put it in the first post! I think that's a typical "new writer mistake" - don't start with background. It's "Show me don't tell me" all over again. Ideally, you want to start with a cliffhanger, to suck them into reading "What comes next". Heinlein was best at this: "As I left the Kenya Beanstalk capsule he was right on my heels. He followed me through the door leading to Customs, Health, and Immigration. As the door contracted behind him I killed him." Damned if anybody can read that and not read the second paragraph! (Opening lines of Friday.) Write your backstory.. its useful for you-the-writer to know .. just don't post it! Pick the story up in the middle, at a point where the conflict has already reached boiling... and then reveal the backstory in bits and pieces. If you're "playing in advance of posting", that can let you choose a key moment of the season: - Ten matches to go, six points back of safety. - The halftime team talk which turned a game around, and after that, the season. - The argument with one of your players which threatened to tear the team apart.. and what you did about it. - The player rising for a header which he just has to win. - The injury which turned a promising season to mud in a split second. Alternately, if you're going for a strong out-of-game story, don't start with anything football related at all: start by setting up the out of game conflict. Read flipsix3's opening post of Leaving the past behind: until the last paragraph, you can't even tell that its about football at all... but anybody whose ever had a breakup immediately identifies with Ed, and we get the first glimpses into his character in how he handles it. More importantly, we've established the conflict, and what he wants, and how what we needs is different from what he wants.. Some other classic "First Posts": The Bet (Faramir) - a powerful man visibly nervous entering a seedy building? .. of course you have to read on to find out why!! The Strands of Time (PM7) - a murder? A life that our narrator could have saved? .. of course you have to read on to find out why!! The True Story of a Footballing Legend (PM7) - Starting with a funeral? Why did so many people care? The Highly Recommended, Improving Influence of Cold Hard Cash. (attjen) - Why are we here? Qatar? Americans? Shady dealings? What? They each throw the reader into the deep end; few of them even reveal the team involved. They're all a lot more "gripping" than "After the shock sacking of Joe Bloggs, the new manager of Somewhere FC was .. ME!" So, why write the backstory at all? For yourself. You want to know more about your character than we-your-readers do. He'll be a lot more "alive" if you have details to let slip, possibly to let slip repeatedly. Playing career ended via injury? Don't reveal that until its relevant to the character, maybe because his achy knee can sense the storm coming. ;-) He used to play for Clermont? Have somebody mention that to him in conversation. If nothing else, having unrevealed backstory and characterization to reveal as you go keeps it from losing your "out of game" stuff and falling into a matches-only story; you still have work to do as a writer! The flip side of it is, you can do foreshadowing. His favorite side is Newcastle? Mention it early.. and have him follow Newcastle's results even if he's managing several divisions below. Then when he gets offered the Newcastle job, your readers have an emotional investment in Newcastle already, and may already know some of the key players. Other things you can do - give your character details. A favorite drink ("Shaken, not stirred."). A phobia ("Snakes. Why'd it have to be snakes?"). A car - better yet, one with personality ("Gay, bounce!"). A pet. A friend who has nothing to do with football. A bogey team. A recurring saying. A mannerism. ... they'll all come together to make the character "alive" much more than. Limit yourself to revealing no more than one per post.. and come back to them. Repetition breeds comfort.. and real people are creatures of habit.
  2. In creative-writing classes, a common mantra is "Show me, don't tell me." For example: TELL: The man who walked into the store was obviously nervous. Sizing up the other customers, he put his hand in his jacket to finger his gun, then realized that looked suspicious, so he took it out again. SHOW: The man walked into the store, sweating, though it was barely 10 degrees Celsius outside. He glanced shiftily from side to side, and he kept putting his hand in and out of his pocket. The second shows the reader that something is wrong without telling him what it is. You "see" that he is nervous .. but you don't know what he's got in his pocket, or why he's nervous. A screen shot, of course, is the ultimate "tell me", the exact opposite of "showing me".
  3. We're really not the "FM'07 Records Thread". This isn't so much about "proving that you're a good FM player" as it is about sharing your story with some friends. Personally, I don't want a constant reminder that you're playing the game.. I want a description (like in your last post!!) that makes me emotionally involved in your experience. That can be comedy, tragedy, your emotions, the fans' emotions, anything... but its not a screenshot!
  4. HK, "An Englishman in Sweden" looked a lot more mature and well-developed than most "first stories". In particular, you've got: good grammar and punctuation; nice use of spacing, italics, and bold without overdoing them; good word choice; character development; and most importantly, conflict. It didn't feel disjoint from a reader's perspective, and you're obviously beyond "intro to writing" so the things I'd remind from my earlier post are "Work in a real editor", and "Get ahead"! For you, I've an added observation that you're being too hard on yourself in your comments here. I wish I'd gotten into it to give you an encouraging "nice start" in-thread or something, it looked very promising. . . . Let's talk about conflict for a moment, though, as its a generally useful topic for new writers. Its not just about giving your character "something he wants but doesn't have" - promotion, title, true love, Champions League. The stories that really come to life for me are ones in which the author can identify and set up a recurring conflict, one which sustains indefinitely. "The club is on the verge of bankruptcy" can last a good long while. Board takeover rumours can last months. Alternately, you can introduce a villain, a recurring character whose actions and goals oppose your main character's. Like two cards leaning into each other, these two can sustain a tenuous balance almost indefinitely. In HK's final post, his chairman sells the team captain without his permission. Bam, instant conflict: between "profit" and "success on the pitch", and with the power dynamic, the fact that they're each stuck with each other.. that's a conflict he could milk for 20 pages of degenerating relationship . There's plenty of other things you can do: Set up a major rival, especially one with more financial muscle than you (Chelsea, United, Arsenal). Identify a "villain" referee, and call it out every time he comes in with a call against you. If you've got one developing, play up a player/manager conflict. If one of your players costs you a game, play up the player/fans conflict. If you want to tack on a fictitious conflict, more tangentially related to the game: You could set up internal politics within your board, with a pro-manager and anti-manager faction, or some other dynamic: pro-success/pro-money, etc. There's plenty of scope for a "villian" female character, hundreds of different directions to take that. The "Rupert Wormwood" character (journalist as villain) in "Blade" provided immediate conflict, a "You love to hate him" sort of character. Flipsix3 has adopted perhaps the toughest challenge for Edgar Allen, giving him conflict with himself, an authorial challenge of the highest order, to pull off successfully!
  5. And, making me sniffle just a bit, today's featured article at wikipedia was York City F.C. How did they know?
  6. Panpardus - I'd been foreshadowing it for quite some time.. and not just those recent interviews, either! Thanks, aaberdeenn, I hope you'll be joining us in the new thread. irishregan, your support all along has been tremendous; I don't think we'd have gotten this far without your encouragement, and that of everybody else who has posted a KUTGW! along the way. Behind the curtain, I had originally intended the story to go something like this: start at Lancaster, take them into League Two, then step down to York, my favourite club, and turn them into a European powerhouse. I got the York job a bit too early.. and then around about February of 2007, in story terms, Dave C posted his rant (since deleted in the purge of GQ) about taking York from the Conference to fourth in the Premiership, only to get sacked for not taking the title in the following year (while still alive in their first Champions League, no less!). Apparently, consistently exceeding expectations while raising a club too high, in FM'05 especially, caused the board to expect you to continue to exceed expectations, if that makes sense. In other words, their expectations became unreasonably high. His point spurred my interest in the "Club Legend" concept, basically, that a manager who has achieved what he had would be much more secure at a club; it would also help prevent things like Sir Alex getting fired in the first season for not winning the title with Man U. However, it gave me serious concerns about the long-term prospects for the story - and, though I hadn't yet posted the first episode, I was already concerned for my readership; I figured it would be more painful to get an difficult-to-explain sacking after eight to ten years with the club than to see our narrator make an easy-to-explain step up, so I started interviewing. If I had one thing to do over, I'd have waited a week or two to apply to Sheffield, so I could finish out the title run.. heck, even a "DELAY" button would have been nice! If you want to find out how things turn out for York.. well.. you'll just have to read along!
  7. Thus concludes Book I of Sharpening a Rusty Blade. If you'd like to continue with the story, please follow along at Sharpening a Rusty Blade - Book II. Thanks for all your support!
  8. Sunday, 22nd April, 2007, midnight. I yawned blearily. "God, what a day." Tappa, who had been helping me clean out my office, gave me a sympathetic smile. "Its a great move, boss." "It is, I know." The retiring Jamaican midfielder, of course, has been one of York's key players over the past three seasons. <pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre"> Season Pos Age GS GP Goa Ass MoM Av.R League --------------------------------------------------------------- 2004-05 AMC 32 15 18 7 7 7 8.28 Conference 2005-06 AMC 33 22 28 6 10 5 7.71 Conference 2006-07 AMC 34 20 31 2 8 4 7.16 League 2 ---------------------------------------------------------------- Totals AMC 57 77 15 25 16 7.62</pre> Without his brilliance, I suspect I'd still be down in the Conference! "So," I asked. "Are you coming with me?" "What do you mean?" "I've got complete control over hiring. You have your coaching badges. I'm offering you a position." He broke into a great big grin. "Thank you, mon, but no - I've already got one." "What?" I almost thought I'd misheard, but his beaming countenance assured me I hadn't. "Get out! Where?!" "I'm going home. You be talkin' to the new coach of the Jamaican national Under-19s!" "Wow!!" "I start in Kingston in three weeks." "Congratulations, my friend!!" "Right back at you, mon. Its been a joy playin' for you, an' I hope I can be as good to them as play for me."
  9. Sunday, 22nd April, 2007, late. The year in review: York team statistics, 2006/07 season - League Two. <pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Players Pos Age GS App Goa Ass MoM Av R Paul Edwards SC 24 22 27 17 1 2 7.22 Simon Roberts SC 16 0 21 8 2 1 7.10 John Shepherd SC 19 12 19 4 5 0 7.21 Transferred £350,000 Marc Walton SC 19 8 9 5 1 0 7.11 Loan Thomas Carroll SC 23 2 10 4 0 0 7.00 Loan Keith Barker SC 20 4 8 1 1 0 6.88 Loan Levent Yalcin SC 21 3 5 1 0 0 7.00 Transferred £275,000 Robert Cousins AMC 18 29 36 11 4 3 7.39 Tappa Whitmore AMC 34 20 31 2 8 4 7.16 Retiring Micah Richards AMC 18 24 30 2 6 1 7.10 Ryan Ashington AMC 23 7 9 1 1 2 7.11 Transferred £ 30,000 Ricky Shakes AMC 22 1 4 1 0 1 7.00 Loan Joe Foote AMC 19 2 7 0 3 0 7.00 Lee Croft AMC 21 8 10 0 1 0 7.00 Loan Daryl Peters AMC 17 2 6 0 0 0 6.67 Transferred £ 12,000 Phil Townley AMRL 20 24 38 4 4 1 7.13 Loan Jon P McGovern AMR 26 28 32 1 7 1 7.25 Campbell-Ryce AMRL 24 11 17 0 4 4 7.29 Loan John McGrath AML 25 26 31 0 4 3 7.10 Transferring £40,000 Mark Goodwin MR 19 4 6 0 2 0 7.17 Adam Corbett ML 17 5 9 0 1 0 7.00 Transferring £150,000 Richard Fox AMRL 17 4 9 0 1 1 7.00 Transferred £ 85,000 Alan Navarro DMC 25 37 38 2 2 1 7.21 Ian Bannister DMC 17 13 16 2 0 0 7.00 Transferred £ 10,000 Malcolm Parker DMC 19 1 1 0 0 0 7.00 Liam Fontaine DC 21 40 40 0 1 0 6.97 Graeme Law DR 22 39 40 1 1 0 7.05 Joe Keenan DLC 24 29 33 0 2 0 7.09 Jamie Cooper DC 18 26 27 0 1 0 7.15 Michael Staley DC 19 22 23 0 0 0 6.61 Adam Eckersley DL 21 14 19 1 0 0 6.95 Mark Wright DC 19 14 15 1 0 0 7.07 Transferred £100,000 Tony Craig DL 22 10 11 0 0 0 7.18 Loan Mark Dixon DR 17 9 9 0 0 1 6.89 Daniel Smith DR 17 2 2 0 0 0 6.50 Expiring Kevin West DLC 17 0 1 0 0 0 7.00 Transferred £ 35,000 Kevin Eaton DC 17 0 0 0 0 0 -.-- Reserve Players Pos Age GS App Con Cln MoM Av R Alan Blayney GK 25 42 42 31 21 4 7.10 Kevin Butler GK 18 4 6 3 3 1 6.83 Nick McDonald GK 17 4 4 3 1 0 6.75 Paul Carruthers GK 17 1 1 1 0 0 6.00 Transferred £20,000 Colin Hart GK 16 0 0 0 0 0 -.-- Reserve</pre>
  10. Sunday, 22nd April, 2007, night. "Thanks for coming in so late," I said, to my assembled players and coaches - ex-players and ex-coaches - at a late-evening team meeting. "I've called you here to tell you that I'm leaving the club, effective immediately. I've accepted a position with Sheffield United. "Viv will be taking over in my absence. "I want to say 'thank you' for everything you guys have done for me these past three years. We've really built a family, here, and I deeply appreciate all of your determination and sacrifice, and the team spirit which you so obviously feel for each other. "I won't be here for the big game against Cheltenham, but you don't need me: you lot have done all the hard work yourselves. "I just want you to do one thing: "Win it. "Win it for yourselves. "You deserve to be champions!"
  11. Sunday, 22nd April, 2007, sunset. "Congratulations," Steve Beck told me, and seeing the genuine smile on his face, at least half my tension over the decision melted away. I could feel my shoulders melting, I hadn't even realized how stressed I had been about how he would take it. "No, I'm not surprised," he told me, reading my face. "Mister Dooley had to call me to arrange transfer terms." I blinked; I hadn't even considered that there might be transfer fees involved for managers. Its obvious, of course - there are fees for players, coaches, and physios, and a manager is just another employee. "Look, lad, at last I can explain myself fully," he said, walking around the large desk to join me on the visitor's side of his office. "One reason we haven't done a deal is to ensure that you considered your options. "I know you're loyal, to a fault at times, but you're going to go far - further than this tired old club could take you. "These past two years have been a dream .. but with this ground, and our catchment area? We're not poised to take you to the Premiership, and I think that's where you belong. "I hope you'll forgive me, but I thought you might need a nudge out of the nest, so to speak." I was overcome by emotion, and couldn't trust myself to speak. Mister Beck, at his most demonstrative, reached out and placed a brief, manly hand on my shoulder.
  12. Sunday, 22nd April, 2007, evening. "Yes." Even as I said it, I suffered a last pang of regret: how will I break it to Steve Beck, and the McGills, who have offered such faith in me these past three years? Stacy had been the one whose advice pushed me over the edge: she reminded me that we'd dropped our entire lives - jobs, friends, family - in California to come here, to pursue my dream, and the least I could do was "go for it" when such a glorious opportunity presented itself! Tom telling me the terms hadn't hurt - they weren't just generous, they were utterly shocking: five thousand pounds a week, over £250,000 per year! The deal also included a signing bonus - enough to put a down payment on a house at last - and large bonuses for winning promotion to the Championship, or any trophy, plus a guaranteed raise if by any chance we reached the Premiership. It wasn't the money, I told myself. I think it was true.
  13. Sunday, 22nd April, 2007, aftenoon. It took me four hours of soul-searching. I know I should take it. I know that the United position is a much better one than I'd be able to turn York into, with a larger stadium, better training facilities, and a much larger budget thanks to the size of the city its located in. I should take the position. I know its the right decision. On the other hand, God, to leave Bootham Crescent, and what we've built here! Tappa, Robert Cousins, Joe Keenan, Spencer, Dave, Viv .. I've got so many friends here! While I was still dithering about it, Jeff Miller showed up with the news about Robert Cousins. The unlucky lad had torn a groin muscle, bringing his season to an end, and Jeff recommended that he be sent for surgery. He should naturally recover from the injury in about a month, but Jeff thinks it is likely to recur unless operated on. Recovery from the surgery could take anywhere from 2 to 6 months. Its an unfortunate end to what had been a fantastic season for the 18-year-old, but I'm certainly not willing to risk his long-term career by denying him the proper medical attention at this time.
  14. Thanks you, avstwentyone! Thats a tremendous compliment! I would like to write professionally at some point; I'll make sure to let you all know when I do.
  15. Sunday, 22nd April, 2007, early afternoon. I picked up the phone after just one ring. "Richards here." "Mister Richards? Derek Dooley." "Hello." "I'm calling to offer you the managerial position here at Bramall Lane. I think you're the ideal person to replace John Gregory." My heart started racing, and my blood rushed in my ears. "Wow!", I suspect, was all I managed in response. "I've arranged terms with your agent, and we have a mutually agreeable contract ready, it just needs your signature. Your Work Permit has been approved by the Home Office, providing you qualify for your UEFA 'B' badge over the summer." "Okay." "The only hitch is, I need you to start immediately." "Oh." The joy which had coursed through me just sixty seconds earlier chilled; I couldn't.. "The coaching badge won't be a problem; we should be able to get you enrolled in one of the June courses and they'll accept that. The question is, are you willing to leave York tonight?" I thought about that for a moment. "I'd really like to manage one more match, Mister Dooley. We're away to second-placed Cheltenham next - I'd really like to secure the title before I leave." "Listen, lad, I appreciate your loyalty, but we're in a desperate scrap for the playoffs here. We need you now." "I.. I'm sorry, I'll need to think about it." "Don't take too long - I'd like to have the press conference today, if possible, tomorrow morning at the latest."
  16. Thanks, Wag! Hope you enjoy the tale when you get the chance to read it through..
  17. Saturday, 21st April, 2007. League Two - Game 44, vs Port Vale. With three games to play, this was a crucial match: a win for us would guarantee our promotion to League One, while for Port Vale, lurking in eighth and just a point behind Lincoln for the final playoff position, every point was crucial and escaping with at least one from the league leaders would be a big victory. We've met Port Vale twice before, defeating them 2-0 at Bootham Crescent in our F.A. Cup run of the 2005/06 season, and drawing 1-1 earlier this year at Vale Park. Billy Paynter is their leading scorer with 18 goals, but only two other players have netted more than one, and our focus will be on shutting Paynter down. For this key game, Alan Blayney remained the goalkeeper, with Adam Eckersley at left back, Liam Fontaine making his 40th start of the season in centre, with his partner Michael Staley making the 50th appearance of his career, and captain Graeme Law on the right. Alan Navarro was the holding midfielder despite short rest. Speedy Phil Townley had the left wing, and Jon Paul McGovern was on the right. Lee Croft partnered with Robert Cousins in the attacking midfield, and leading scorer Paul Edwards was trying to recover his form up front after a poor showing in his last start. We were in complete control of this match from the very beginning. Lee Croft fired a warning shot in the third minute, when he broke a long dribble into the right corner, then cut it back for Jon Paul McGovern overlapping inside. The Scotsman squared left for the unmarked Phil Townely, whose shot grazed the bar from 16 yards. By the tenth minute, as our dominance became clear, I ordered the fullbacks and wings to start pushing forward aggressively. In the 13th minute Robert Cousins launched a fantastic long header, connecting with a powerful pass to flick a header some forty yards. The unexpected feat sprang McGovern up the right wing, and he launched a cross into the six yard box. Port Vale goalkeeper Paul Rachubka pushed it away, but the rebound fell to Townley, and this time the speedster hit the net, bringing the Bootham Crescent crowd to their feet as we took a 1-0 lead! There was no reason to let up, and in the 20th minute Townley nearly turned provider, sending a great aerial ball for Paul Edwards, whose header went just wide. Cousins had a fine shot saved from 18 yards, and as halftime rolled around it was clear that my defensive strategy had Billy Paynter thoroughly marked out of the game; Port Vale hadn't taken a single shot. The news from Milton Keynes was good: the Dons had taken a 2-0 lead over Cheltenham, putting us in an excellent position. I exhorted the lads to keep up the effort, and to make sure they didn't let their enemy back into the match. They did, in fact, keep the pressure on, with Townley's long cross over everyone to put McGovern into the box in the 57th minute. The Scotsman dribbled close to net, but shot wide. By the 70th minute, it was a tense affair, with the fans on the edge of their seats every time Port Vale managed posession, almost wondering how we were going to give up the lead, as we just couldn't seem to put them away. In the 72nd minute, Robert Cousins was knocked out of the game on a vicious tackle by Simon Robinson, and that put the crowd in an ugly mood as the offender escaped without even a yellow card. Port Vale began to push forward, and I retreated first to our counter-attack tactic, and then to a fully defensive one. In the 82nd minute, McGovern's long pass put Cousins' replacement, Ricky Shakes, through on goal. Rachubka came out to meet him well out of the box, and the ball took a wild bounce away from their collision. Lee Croft got to it first, and tried an audacious 40-yard shot on the empty net, but he couldn't settle and it went narrowly wide. Finally, a minute into stoppage time, we earned a corner kick. McGovern took it, placing it perfectly for Alan Navarro at the near post. The defensive midfielder buried it with his right foot, and the crowd of 3,407 began to celebrate our second successive promotion!! York 2, Port Vale 0 Townley 13, Navarro 90; ---- MoM: Townley The party lasted well into the night, and our lads had thoroughly earned it, having held Port Vale without a shot throughout the entire match. Alan Blayney was joking about how he'd been dying of boredom, and I told them I had never been prouder of a defensive showing. I might have tried to stop it, but Cheltenham had collapsed again, 0-4, at Milton Keynes, and we'd have a week to clear away any hangovers in time for the key match at Whaddon Road. <pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre"> Pts W D L GD P 1 YORK 85 26 7 11 +29 2 Cheltenham 80 22 14 8 +19 3 Walsall 78 21 15 8 +31 ----------------------------------------- 4 Bristol Rovers 75 20 15 9 +22</pre> With two matches remaining, even a draw at Cheltenham would see us crowned champions!
  18. Thursday, 19th April, 2007. I was called down to Bramall Lane to interview for the Sheffield United position today. I hadn't expected them to move so swiftly, but they're in a desperation fight for the playoffs, and Chairman Dooley told me he didn't want to go any longer than he had to without naming a manager. I think that may be a sticking point, honestly, for though he spoke very highly of my tenure at York City, he seemed very disappointed when I said that I wanted to finish out the season and win the title here at Bootham Crescent before considering my options. I was very impressed with the facility. Its not White Hart Lane, but the Blades have a state-of-the-art four-stand stadium with open sky over the pitch but roofing over each of the four stands. Its a beautiful facility, and they have a wonderful youth academy - it would really be a joy to work for such a well-supported club. I think the interview went well - I'd already met Mister Dooley, of course, and he hardly grilled me at all. It felt more like he was a salesman, trying to ensure that I was interested in the position. I liked the Assistant Manager, a younger man named Stuart McCall, and even that portion of the interview seemed mostly aimed at figuring out if we would get along. I was sold; I felt like a kid with his nose against the candy-store window, especially when I returned to the facilities at Bootham Crescent this evening. Though its homey, and I love the club, seeing the accoutrements of a modern club really drove home just how big a gap there is between the leagues in English football.
  19. Panpardus - just be glad the story isn't shareware. "If you'd like to read the REST of the story, please send £4.99 to ..."
  20. Wednesday, 18th April, 2007. Cambridge had also earned a draw, so the top four remained unchanged - but with only three matches remaining, our chances of guaranteed promotion were almost certain. It seemed only Cheltenham could beat us, though both Walsall and Cambridge still had a mathematical chance of taking the title. <pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre"> Pts W D L GD 1 YORK 82 25 7 11 +27 2 Cheltenham 80 22 14 7 +23 3 Walsall 75 20 15 8 +30 ------------------------------------ 4 Cambridge 74 22 8 13 +18</pre> The Cheltenham board have promoted former Assistant Manager Bob Bloomer to manager, offering him a full-time post through 2009. The chairman stated that they hoped his appointment would bring a sense of stability, and end the speculation which has abounded about the vacant managerial position. This evening, York Reserves captain Joe Foote was named Man of the Match in a 0-0 draw punctuated by frequent shots off target by both sides. It had seemed a demonstration of how not to finish, an exercise in futility, as both sides missed the target on almost 80% of their shots.
  21. Tuesday, 17th April, 2007. League Two - Game 43, at Walsall. There was no response by Tuesday evening's match. Walsall manager Alan Buckley tried to build his side up for our key late-season encounter by telling the national media that, with a six game winning streak, and after beating Cheltenham 1-0 on the road, his team are very confident of beating York and closing the gap on the leaders to four points. I didn't deign to respond, and some of the lads concluded that we could win the big games without much effort. I could only hope they didn't underestimate Walsall, though we'd beaten them 2-0 in a friendly in 2004 and 1-0 in league play earlier this season. Both of those matches were at Bootham Crescent, and I tried to stress that it would be much more difficult at their ground. Fortunately, they are missing leading scorer Matty Fryatt, who is out with two fractured ribs. I brought out the following lineup: Alan Blayney in goal, with Tony Craig, Liam Fontaine, Michael Staley, and Mark Dixon across the back four. Alan Navarro returned at defensive midfield and would be captain. John McGrath made his return to the starting lineup on left wing, with Jamal Campbell-Ryce on the right. Micah Richards and Theodore Whitmore partnered in the attacking role, with Keith Barker the striker. It took Walsall a mere eight minutes to back their manager's statements up. John Mooney came up the right wing utterly unchallenged, as John McGrath seemed unable to keep up with him, and Tony Craig didn't cover him quickly enough. Mooney sent a cross in, but it carried over everyone. David Perpetuini, well wide of the goal, headed it back from the end line, finding Adam Bolder about ten yards from goal. Bolder took it on the bounce and shot, beating Alan Blayney to the near post, and Walsall had a 0-1 lead. The 6,217 fans, who had not been silent for even a second of the match, went wild, and our lads were trudging back to their positions with their heads down. It looked like a dire start. When things didn't improve by the 30th minute, I was getting frustrated. Again, we'd wasted a third of a match without a shot, and again I made the change to start pushing players forward. In the 39th minute, Jamal Campbell-Ryce broke up our right wing, then tried to cross it to McGrath in the box. McGrath looked dangerous 12 yards from net, but Cooper made a beautiful crunching tackle to knock it away. In the 41st, Tappa Whitmore sent a beautiful long ball up the right wing for Campbell-Ryce. He broke into the box unchallenged, and could have shot, but tried to square it for Keith Barker instead. He couldn't win it from Chris Armstrong, and the ball trickled tamely to goalkeeper Dean Harris. I gave the lads a thorough tongue-lashing at halftime, telling them if they couldn't motivate themselves to play the most important game of the season so far, what were they doing in professional football? We came out looking an entirely different side, and the first five minutes were spent entirely in the Walsall end. In the 51st muinute McGrath earned a corner kick. Alan Navarro took it, playing it to Micah Richards at the near corner of the arc, unmarked eighteen yards out. He touched it twice into the area, then shot, a brilliant strike to the top-left corner which threaded its way past a half dozen bodies, including the diving Harris - and it was 1-1. We nearly took the lead on the 55th minute, as the stunned crowd and Walsall players seemed only to watch. Tappa sent another superb long pass forward, springing Richards into a one-on-one with Dean Harris. The keeper came out to meet him about 12 yards from goal, and somehow Harris made the save. The ball rolled tantalizingly across the six, but Mark Williams arrived just before Thomas Carroll to clear. I'd brought Carroll on at halftime, pulling the uninspired Barker as part of my tirade. In the 59th minute, Tony Craig stole the ball deep in our half, and started a quick counter up the left sideline, ranging well forward. When we turned it over, that left a gaping hole in our back line, and Walsall was quick to take advantage. David Perpetuini played a beautiful ball for Mark Yeates, who had slipped Liam Fontaine's mark to get into the area. Yeates dribbled past Alan Blayney, and made it 1-2, getting the crowd back into it with thirty minutes remaining. The additions of Joe Foote and Graeme Law to try and spark some offense didn't seem to help, but in the 74th minute, Richards, McGrath, and Carroll teamed up on a series of lightning-quick passes which saw Carroll into the area and free of a mark. His shot was just saved by Dean Harris, and the rebound trickled just wide of the far post. We were definitely looking like the dangerous side, putting more shots on and having the lion's share of posession, a big change from the first half, but time was running out. There were just eight minutes to play when Cooper upended Carroll about 25 yards from goal, and the striker lined up to take it. He curled a superlative shot into the upper-right corner, and we'd stunned the crowd with an equalizer - it was 2-2! In the 87th minute, Walsall earned a corner kick, but our defense dealt with it well, and we had a quick counterstrike, as much as six on four. Jamal Campbell-Ryce played a stellar ball to spring Richards, and suddenly he was through past the last defender, with Thomas Carroll running hard to keep up with him. They raced into the box 2-on-1 against the stranded keeper, but Richards shot wide rather than passing to Carroll for the sure game-winner. I had my hands in my hair - surely this sort of thing is why so many managers go gray early. Walsall 2, York 2 Bolder 8, Yeates 59; Richards 51, Carroll 82 MoM: Harris (Walsall GK) The 2-2 draw seemed a victory, the way our lads were celebrating in the locker room. The requisite reggae blared from a stereo, and Thomas Carroll was the hero again. The news in from Port Vale was good: they had held Cheltenham to a 0-0 draw, which meant we were still tops with three games remaining. It was a bit odd to see Dean Harris named Man of the Match for Walsall, as he'd stopped merely 60% of our shots on target - I would rather have seen David Perpetuini so honored for his two assists.
  22. Monday, 16th April, 2007. <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Sheffield Sack Gregory Following the team's disappointing 3-0 defeat at Colchester, Sheffield United have sacked their manager, John Gregory. The Blades, relegated from the Championship last year, sit in seventh place in League One, just outside the playoff spots. "We need a manager who can acheive promotion," chairman Derek Dooley said at the press conference, "And the team's performances this year have not convinced us that Mister Gregory will be able to deliver." The club languished mid-table at the start of the season, but after revamping the defense in November, they climbed solidly into the playoff fight by mid-March. A 4-0 defeat to Bournemouth started a wicked slump, however, and Gregory hadn't won a match in over a month. The Blades have compiled an unimpressive 0-2-4 record over that time, including the defeat to Torquay in the LDV Vans Trophy final. </div></BLOCKQUOTE> At Tom's recommendation, I sent in my application.
  23. Sunday, 15th April, 2007. Jeff Miller's news from the locker room wasn't good - Jamie Cooper's sprained ankle would keep him out through the end of the season. It doesn't look likely to be a recurring injury, and Jeff expects that Jamie should be in perfect shape by the time camp rejoins in July. That brought to a close a fine campaign for the youngster, who played his way into my starting eleven and has been one of our best developing players all year. It leaves me strapped for central defenders, however - I have only Fontaine and Staley, as Cooper, Kevin Eaton, and Joe Keenan are all out, and I've sold off Mark Wright and Ian Bannister. The good news was that Cheltenham had faced Walsall, and the 3rd-placed side had earned a 1-0 victory at Whaddon Road on John Mooney's first-half goal. This meant that we were still first, two points ahead of Cheltenham, but Walsall were coming on strong, closing within a shout of the battle for the lead: <pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre"> Pts W D L GD 1 YORK 81 25 6 11 +27 2 Cheltenham 79 22 13 7 +23 3 Walsall 74 20 14 8 +30 ----------------------------------- 4 Cambridge 73 22 7 13 +18</pre> Despite our defeats, other results throughout the league had gone our way such that we were now guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, even if we lost our last four games. Not a pleasant scenario to consider, but good to know. Elsewhere, Tottenham Hotspur clinched the English Championship title, and Scarborough have locked up the Conference North title. Tranmere Rovers, 24th in the Championship, have been relegated down to League One, where it looks like we'll be one of their competitors.
  24. Saturday, 14th April, 2007. League Two - Game 42, vs Chesterfield. The fourth oldest club in the Football League, tracing their history to 1866, Chesterfield had fallen to 10th place with a defeat by Walsall last weekend. We had beaten them 2-1 on the road, so that might make them one of the easiest matchups of the difficult month coming to Bootham Crescent. Their captain was none other than former York captain Darren Dunning, leading the side with 12 assists - two in the big 4-0 win over Cheltenham that had done us such a favour. We got bad news Saturday morning in warmups for the match, as Jamie Cooper sprained an ankle, and it looked bad. I hadn't even had Liam Fontaine suit up - I was intending to pair Cooper with Michael Staley in central defense, but there was literally nobody else who plays central defense. Liam ran in to change and start a belated warmup, while I pencilled in the rest of the starting lineup: Alan Blayney in goal, Adam Eckersley with Fontaine, Staley, and captain Graeme Law as the defensive four. Malcolm Parker was making his first start of the season at defensive midfield. Phil Townley was on the left wing, with Jon Paul McGovern on the right. Robert Cousins and Lee Croft paired in the attacking midfield, and Paul Edwards was the striker. Chesterfield started out as the more confident side, sallying forward several times in the first ten minutes before we settled down. Our crowd of 3,560, one of the better of the year, remained supportive and our lads began to assert control. Darren Dunning and Jon Paul McGovern were fighting a titanic battle out wide, which seemed to result in neither being able to get past the other. When we hadn't gotten a shot off by the half-hour, I decided to start pushing men forward. A minute later, Phil Townley found Robert Cousins. His shot deflected off of Ian Evatt and looked goalbound, but Rob Burch dove on it to make the save. In the 43rd minute, Cousins's low ball forward for Paul Edwards found the striker in space on the eighteen, a golden chance, but he lanced the shot inches wide of the left post. Chesterfield came straight back the other direction, and when leading scorer Mark De Bolla took the ball about 30 yards from goal, defensive midfielder Malcolm Parker was nowhere to be seen. Michael Staley came forward to challenge De Bolla, who passed left to Stephen Schumacher. Liam Fontaine was left with two men, and he had to choose between challenging the ball and covering Tony Thorpe. He hesitated in an instant of indecision, and covered neither. Schumacher's pass was right to Thorpe's feet in the area, and as Alan Blayney charged out, Thorpe took one touch to his right and found an angle.. No! My groan was drowened out by that of the Bootham Crescent faithful: it was 0-1 going to the break. In the second half, we continued to push forward looking for the goal, but the visitors fell back into a tough defensive shell. We kept rushing straight into the teeth of the defense, giving possession away far too cheaply. Frustrated with our lack of progress, I told the lads to switch to our patient buildup perimeter game rather than looking for the quick strike. That looked infinitely better, but it was still going nowhere, breaking down in the final third time and time again. By the 70th minute we had only one shot in the second half, and I had to make a change. The crowd let out a delighted roar when they saw the number of 16-year-old Simon Roberts, whom I brought on for the exhausted Fontaine, shifting to a 3-5-2. That seemed to help, but the Spireites were now in a 5-3-2 bunker, and collapsing all eleven back on corners an free kicks. Though we got a number of shots off in the dying ten minutes, only Roberts's injury time effort was on target, and Burch made just his second save of the night to preserve the shutout and one goal victory for Chesterfield. York 0, Chesterfield 1 ----; Thorpe 44 MoM: Davies (Chesterfield DMC) We'd outshot the visitors, but managed to put only two shots on target, and I was a bit disturbed at how poorly the side had played. I'd opted to put out a nearly full-strength side for the two home matches, with a weakened side for the away match against Walsall, counting on getting six points from the three games - coming up empty against the weakest team in the group was not in my plan. Chesterfield defensive midfielder Gareth Davies was named Man of the Match, and Chesterfield would be able to walk proud over the summer after beating the top two teams in League Two during the title run-in.
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