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Amaroq

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  1. Thursday, 15th February, 2007. On the pitch, Manchester United and Charlton Athletic met in UEFA Cup action which saw the Old Trafford side entirely dominant in a 4-0 victory. Bolton Wanderers, up in 8th place in the Premier League, had agreed to let attacking midfielder Ricky Shakes join us on loan through mid-May. AM/F C Ricky Shakes, 22, English: 9 appearances with Buscough in Conference North, 2 goals, 1 assist, 6.22 - there was nothing too impressive about Ricky Shakes. He has good balance and a good work ethic, but for the most part looks much more a Conference-level player than one that belongs in the Premier League, or even in League Two. I've loaned him in primarily to provide more cover at a position which has been troubling us with injury and exhaustion, but he'll be a long way down the depth chart and more likely to see Reserve team action than first team. Jamal Campbell-Ryce's loan would expire Saturday morning, and late Friday night, I got a faxed approval from Charlton to renew the loan. Thinking about his injury history, I decided to cancel the deal, and seek somebody more reliable for the final push. So, early Saturday morning as we all boarded the bus for the long trip to Exeter, it was time to say good-bye to the likeable Jamaican. Jamal Campbell-Ryce, AMRL, 23: November 2006-February 2007: 1 season, 11 games, 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 MoM, 7.09
  2. Wednesday, 14th February, 2007. The board were utterly pleased with the victory, so unexpected in its magnitude, and the press were singing our praises as the odds-on favorite to win the League now. Never mind their pre-season predictions of relegation, or the fact that we still trailed Boston by a point in the standings. Man of the Match Jamal Campbell-Ryce had injured his shoulder, apparently popping it out of joint and then back in, but Jeff recommended we give him about two weeks of rest to let the swelling come down. That had me re-considering our offer to Charlton to extend his loan: the Jamaican has been so injury-prone, maybe I should loan in some other winger instead. Wednesday night, in a cold rain at Bootham Crescent, the York Reserves defeated Brighton Reserves 2-0. The goals came through amateurs Ian Black and Chris Simpson, with Kevin Parker earning Man of the Match honors for his performance in goal. I took my wife to a fine restaurant we'd found in Leeds for Valentine's Day dinner. After the 3-0 win, I certainly had something to celebrate, and enjoyed a bit of wine and fine meal - its tough to find good vegetarian meals in England, I've found. Much of the conversation focused on the position in London: whether I should apply, and if they accepted, what it would mean for us. She was very supportive, despite the problems it would give her in finishing her schoolwork. Can you believe we've been at York only two years? Parts of three seasons, to be sure, but it feels so much longer! After much soul-searching, I decided to apply for the job. I felt disloyal even contemplating the move, but Stacy reminded me that York weren't committed to me as manager forever - and in fact, if they wouldn't renew my contract, they were only committed for three more months.
  3. Tuesday, 13th February, 2007. League Two - Game 33, at Boston United. An away match against first-placed Boston United might be the biggest game of our season to date. They crushed us 2-4 at Bootham Crescent in October, and with an eleven game unbeaten run that had propelled them to the top of League Two they would be a formidable opponent. We were unlucky to have drawn them mid-week, with all of the injuries and suspensions we'd suffered and some of our remaining players poorly rested due to the draw with Rotherham. With 19 goals in 34 games, Scottish striker Craig McMillan led the league's highest-scoring offense in goals, but midfield trio Courtney Pitt, David Noble and Robert Gough, with 15 goals and 23 assists between them, were the heart and soul of the side. It was a crucial match: a loss would leave us seven points adrift, while a draw would keep us four back and a win would close the gap to one. We sported the league's best defense, and the York press were billing it as "the Irresistable Force versus the Immovable Object." Our lineup was stretched painfully thin for the key match, and morale was fair to poor in camp; I tried to brace the lads with my best inspirational pre-match talk. Alan Blayney was, of course, the starting goalkeeper. His defense was Adam Eckersley, Liam Fontaine, Jamie Cooper, and Graeme Law, and Ian Bannister was the defensive midfielder. On the left wing Jamal Campbell-Ryce made what might be his last start as a Minsterman. Opposite him was Phil Townley, tired from a ninety minute performance against Rotherham. Up front, Lee Croft and Robert Cousins were a dynamic pair in the attacking midfield roles, while talented Blackburn striker Keith Barker got his first start on loan. The hosts were clearly the dangerous side to start with, and only a fine save by Alan Blayney stopped an early move for the Pilgrims. Fullback Mark Greaves had played the ball forward to Robert Gough in the box, and his fourteen yarder curled goalward, only to be saved at the post by a perfectly positioned Blayney. Through the first thirty minutes, we managed only four long shots, none of which troubled Sean Thomas, and Boston - goaded by their vocal home support - had had several chances, though Gough had hit the side netting with one, and David Noble missed wide after a dangerous odd-man rush. In the 35th minute, Liam Fontaine took control in our own half, and after holding up the ball to look for opportunities, he spotted Lee Croft moving out wide. Fontaine launched a long pass, which Croft ran down to cross from the end line. The ball carried over the 6-yard box, but Jamal Campbell-Ryce kept it in play, cutting it back for attacking midfielder Robert Cousins. From 12 yards out, his shot deflected off of Lee Beevers, and Thomas had no time to adjust. It was Cousins's team-leading tenth goal of the year, and for the first time, the York Street crowd of 5,708 were silenced as we took a 1-0 lead. Keith Barker had looked quite dangerous through the first half-hour, several times breaking deep only to cut it back for a long shot by one of our attacking midfielders. In the 44th minute, he got free again, this time picked out by Campbell-Ryce's superb pass down the left wing. Barker dribbled along the end line, and instead of passing, had a go from that tight angle. Thomas, braced for the shot, could only palm it away with both hands, and the rebound kicked out across the area. Phil Townley pounced on it in space about 8 yards from the far post, and hammered home despite Beevers's desperation attempt to block it (which only meant that both York goals had touched him last!). It was 2-0 going to halftime, and I could only imagine the rollicking the Boston side must have gotten at the break! We started the second half with more pressure, as Barker found Townley again. This time the speedy winger laid it off for Cousins, but Thomas made a diving save at the post to push it wide. Boston switched to a 4-3-3 to try and change things around, but I countered with our 'defensive' posture, guaranteeing that all four backs stay home, even on corner kicks. In the 55th minute, Campbell-Ryce was injured again, and came off for McGovern; I also brought in youngsters Joe Foote and Simon Roberts on 65 minutes. Boston were growing ever more desperate, and had plenty of men pushing forward when Beevers played a ball back to captain Paul Ellender, a central defender, in the 75th minute. He dribbled back towards his own goal, under pressure from Foote, who nicked the ball away, and suddenly it was 2-on-1 with Ellender the last man. Foote raced into the box and, as Ellender challenged him, passed it right for a wide open Simon Roberts. The 16-year-old sensation had an easy finish past the stranded Thomas, and it was 3-0!! It was a simple matter of running out the clock for the final fifteen minutes, and we could claim a resounding victory! Boston 0, York 3 ----; Cousins 35, Townely 44, Roberts 75 MoM: Campbell-Ryce There was a mighty celebration in the visitor's changing room after that performance: every man on the squad had performed well, and I doubt any of us had expected a victory, not even myself and Viv. I'd have been quite happy with a draw, and a 3-0 victory, with 18 shots on goal, was more than I'd have dared dream for!
  4. Welcome back, cms! Its only fair you missed a couple months due to lack of internet; I missed a couple months of posting for the same reason. It certainly can be tough to keep a tale going; my '07 attempt faltered badly, though luckily before I'd started posting it. Thanks for the support. And Damien... shhh! No spoilers!
  5. Monday, 12th February, 2007. We were now in third, four full points behind Boston United, who had continued their incredible run with a 3-1 victory over Walsall. Despite pre-season predictions that they would be relegated, Boston United had run off eleven straight without defeat, a sharp contrast to the four straight without a win which had seen us slump from top of the table to just one point above the playoff zone. Alan Navarro had picked up a yellow card against Rotherham which would see him banned for one match after accumulating five for the season. Also, Jamal Campbell-Ryce's loan was on the verge of expiring. I had a feeler out to Charlton Athletic to see if they would renew the Jamaican winger's loan for another three months, but I didn't have much sense for whether they would accept or not. In bigger news, Tottenham Hotspur's manager Jacques Santini was announced as the successor to Vicente Del Bosque at Manchester United. This left a vacancy at the London club, who had suffered an embarassing relegation the previous season and were now undeniably the top side in the Championship. Just as I read the paper, the phone rang. "Hi, Tom." "Did you see the Spurs news?" "Yes, Santini's finally out." "I think you should apply for the job." "What?! No! Listen, I told you, I want to stay here." "I know. But they're a very prestigious club, with resources York could never hope to match. If they make you an offer, you'd be a fool to refuse - and even if they don't, I think its a perfect negotiating ploy to shake things up. "Think about it."
  6. Saturday, 10th February, 2007. League Two - Game 32, vs Rotherham United. Rotherham were a club in free-fall, having concluded four years in the Championship with a 22nd-placed finish and relegation in 2004/05, and a 24th-and-last finish in League One last year. This year, they were down in 14th, and we'd beaten them at Millmoor 2-1 earlier in the year. The side includes former Minsterman Neil Danns, but is led by Martin Butler, who has knocked in 16 goals in 32 games, and strike partner Kevin Braniff, with 11. If we can contain those two, however, there is nobody else on the team who seems really able to find the net, and their morale makes ours look like a bunch of schoolboys playing hooky. Alan Blayney would remain our starting goalkeeper, though his confidence was beginning to slip. In front of him, just about the strongest team I could field took the pitch. Tony Craig, Liam Fontaine, Michael Staley (on for the suspended Cooper) and Graeme Law were the defensive foursome, with Alan Navarro just in front of them. Phil Townley and Jon Paul McGovern held the wings, with Theodore Whitmore partnering Joe Foote in the attacking midfield. Leading scorer Paul Edwards was the starting striker. Rotherham came out in a 3-5-2 which seemed designed to stifle our midfield. If that was their aim, it fell short, as in the 13th minute Philip Townley's 12-yard shot skimmed the bar after one corner kick. Five minutes later another corner gave Joe Foote a chance to shoot from 15, but it was blocked by United captain Martin Butler. In the 26th, we got our first chance from the run of play, as Tappa Whitmore tried a spectacular volley from the 18 that went just over, and the Jamaican had another effort saved by Rotherham keeper Gary Montgomery four minutes later. It was one-way traffic, and a goal seemed inevitable. Our crowd was on their feet in the 40th when Jon Paul McGovern came up the right wing, and tried a long switch to Townley. With no marker, the speedy left winger quickly broke into the box. His shot was saved by Montgomery, and the rebound kicked out just between Whitmore and Paul Edwards to the luck Neill Collins, who made the clearance. It was scoreless at halftime. Rotherham went even more defensive in the second half, and by the hour mark, I had to change things around a bit, going to our 'aggressive' tactic, which brings the wings into play more. It paid instant dividends, as Townley broke up the left wing in the 61st, spotted McGovern wide open in the box, and picked him out with a perfect cross. The Scotsman rifled a vicious shot back to the far post, but Montgomery made an amazing save to deny him. In the 68th, it was as though we were watching an instant replay, as the same buildup and cross sprung McGovern into the area again. This time his shot had Montgomery beat, but went just wide. With our players pushing forward, Rotherham finally had space at the back in the 80th minute, as a long clearance spotted Kevin Braniff, who ducked into our area with a great chance, but Alan Blayney made an acrobatic save to tip his shot over the bar. Time was running out, and the match still scoreless, when an 86th minute corner kick found substitute Robert Cousins on point. He shot from 16 yards, and it deflected off of one of Rotherham's defenders, hit the post, and went out for another corner! Montgomery knew he'd gotten lucky, but when he punched clear the resulting hanger, Rotherham had managed to escape with a nil-nil draw. York 0, Rotherham 0 ----; ---- MoM: Montgomery (Rotherham GK) It was a hard-fought match, but one which it felt that we had deserved to win, so it was very disappointing to split the points. The York fans, who had been so supportive all through the match, expressed their displeasure as we trudged off the field. I can hardly blame them: we seem to have been in an almighty slump since December, and I can't see quite where its going wrong.
  7. Thursday, 8th February, 2007. I'd been making a real effort to spend more time with my wife this season, and skipped Wednesday's international friendlies to make an outing of it with her. An afternoon wandering the malls may not have been my ideal 'good time', but it certainly fit as a break from school for her, and she's always enjoyed having someone to talk to whilst shopping. It certainly helped relax me, though its hard to leave the office at the office, if you know what I mean. I'm always thinking about it, and when the club's in a poor spell the temptation to change something, anything, to try and break out of the slump is overwhelming. Apparently, England had an easy time of it in a 2-0 victory over Serbia & Montenegro, although the press afterwards lambasted Sven-Goran Eriksson for letting it be so close. Scotland beat Northern Ireland, 2-0, and Wales were in absolute control in a 3-0 victory over Brunei. In other matches of interest, Spain beat Germany, 1-0, the U.S.A. drew with a young Argentina lineup 1-1, and Holland scored a 2-1 win over Denmark. France and Italy each won 3-0, against Austria and Tunisia, respectively. Meanwhile, both our Reserves and Under-18s had matches, which stretched us thin: between our young players, our recovering-from-injury players, and our amateurs, we barely had 22 to make up the sides without including first-teamers. Led by Malcolm Parker, the U-18 side, playing at Halifax, looked bound for three points courtesy of amateur James Smart's goal, but conceded one late to leave a disappointing 1-1 final. At Torquay, the York Reserves lost to Torquay Reserves, 0-1. Lee Croft and Adam Eckersley put in very good efforts in keeping it scoreless through the first 70 minutes. Then Thomas Carroll, on as a substitute striker, hyperextended his elbow in a fall, which left our Reserves down to 10 men for the final 20 minutes. Torquay converted in the 85th, sending us to defeat, but Croft was named Man of the Match for his 64 minutes. Carroll's elbow would keep him out for a week - it seemed he was snakebit to become the least useful player in squad history. Mark Goodwin also strained a wrist; he'd be out for a week. Fortunately I hadn't expected either to contribute despite having two senior matches during the week they'd miss, but even with new man Barker it left us stretched dangerously thin across every outfield position at this point.
  8. Tuesday, 6th February, 2007. Pulling Paul Edwards when we did, Jeff Miller assured me, had prevented further serious injury, and he would be fine with a day's rest. Jeff was also very concerned about Micah Richards, who was becoming progressively more exhausted - unsurprising, given how much I'd had to utilize our attacking midfielders this season. I promised him that I would give Richards a week of rest, and at least two weeks between now and his next match, so that he could recover. There was one other item - Jamie Cooper had earned a yellow card, which would prompt an automatic one-match ban, ruling him out for our game against Rotherham. The mood on the training ground was bleak and black: after three straight games without a win, the cocky, joking attitude which had prevailed for the past two years was gone, seemingly a thing of the past, and worse, nobody seemed to want to put the effort in during training. Its a long season, and we were all tired, but this felt like something worse, as though everybody who had had doubts about us avoiding relegation had suddenly conjured up the team that would have had trouble with that, and that team of course couldn't compete for a title. There was good news on Sunday, joy for one player at least, as we'd had a player called up to the Jamaican national team for their friendly against Puerto Rico on Wednesday. No, not Tappa: winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce! Given that he's recovering from injury and not yet at full match fitness, I sent a telegram to Jamaica manager Sebastiao Lazaroni, asking him to limit Jamal to 45 minutes, if possible. On Tuesday, I finalized a deal which would bring striker Keith Barker over from the Blackburn Reserves, as a replacement for Jon Shepherd and Marc Walton, since our striker rotation had gotten down to three players, only one of whom I trusted to start a match. The terms would see Barker on the squad through the last game of the regular season, but he would leave before the playoffs, if we'd managed to qualify for them. S C Keith Barker, 20, English: 15 games on loan to Peterborough, 4 goals, 2 assists, 7.13 - A youthful striker who displays superstar-quality determination and concentration, and an almost preternatural anticipation for where the ball is going. If he had the physical or technical skills to match those, he would be a sure candidate for England. Unfortunately, his pace, passing, finishing, and other attributes are merely of the League standard, which makes him a fine candidate for our rotation, but probably limits his long-term usefulness to Rovers. He said all the right things in his first interview with the Yorkshire Evening Press, telling them how he wanted to gain invaluable first-team experience, and that he knew he'd be limited to the Blackburn Reserves, so it made much more sense to get some competitive league football under his belt.
  9. avs - Panpardus - I do have some elderly save-games to check things out on, and apparently I was still Local at this juncture.
  10. Monday, 5th February, 2007. <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Richards Hires Agent Ian Richards sent a clear message to the York City board with the announcement that he has hired agent Tom Conlin to represent him in the ongoing negotiations over his contract. Conlin, a registered barrister who also represents Tappa Whitmore, has a distinguished client list including David Coulthard and Fernando Cavenaghi. With talks between Richards and the club apparently at an impasse, the introduction of Conlin has significantly raised the stakes for the Bootham Crescent side, who may have missed their best opportunity to renew the American's contract without a major hike in pay. </div></BLOCKQUOTE> I hadn't taken the decision lightly, of course, but I'd felt comfortable with Tom from the first time I'd met him. He was wonderful on first interview: older, with the commanding presence of a judge, and a talent for listening. I told him I wanted to stay with the club, and he promised he would do what he could to arrange it.
  11. Saturday, 3rd February, 2007. Leage Two - Game 31, at Cambridge United. He was right, of course, and the first piece of work to be done was a tough road match against sixth-placed Cambridge. They were trying to build on an eighth-place finish from last season, and had been mounting a reasonable campaign towards promotion until three straight defeats had dropped them from challenging for the title to fighting for a playoff spot. Still, they'd beaten us 0-2 at Bootham Crescent earlier in the season, and weren't going to be any easier at The Abbey. Our starting lineup was undergoing continual change, it seemed. Alan Blayney was a constant in goal. Loaned-in left back Tony Craig made his York debut alongside Jamie Cooper and Liam Fontaine, with captain Graeme Law on the right. Alan Navarro played the holding midfielder role as he had all season. Speedy winger Phil Townley would roam the left sideline, with Jon Paul McGovern opposite. Micah Richards and Theodore Whitmore were partnered in the attacking midfield. Amazingly, that was only Tappa's 50th league appearance for us over his three seasons - between injury, and resting for Cup matches, he'd missed a lot of League play. Paul Edwards, tied with Cousins for the team's goalscoring lead, was the starting striker. The match started slowly, with both sides feeling the other out and content to play for possession. Paul Edwards picked up some form of injury on the rain-slicked turf about a third of the way through the first half. Though he was visibly limping, he waved me angrily away when I asked if he needed off. In the 22nd minute, Tappa Whitmore got on the end of McGovern's cross, but his header sliced just over the net. Only a few minutes later, Tony Craig's long pass from the back line picked the Jamaican out front and center. Drawing a man to him, Whitmore played a superb ball into space for Edwards. Despite his injury, and close attendance from Adam Tann, Edwards launched it home from a diagonal angle about 18 yards from goal. It was his 10th goal of the season, and we had a solid 1-0 lead. Only Kingsley Mbome's long ball forward for John Turner had given Cambridge much of a chance in the first half. Turner had split our central defenders, and broke into the clear one-on-one with Alan Blayney, who came up with a fantastic save to keep the 1-0 score to halftime. Jeff Miller had bad news for me at the break. "You've got to take Edwards off," he told me, "He's in danger of pulling his hamstring." So warned, I brought Thomas Carroll on to replace the goalscorer. Just five minutes after the restart, it was all level. Mbome took a free kick from about 35 yards out, and played it aerially into the box. Despite Jamie Cooper and Alan Navarro both being close enough to head clear, Wesley Daly connected on a diving header from 10 yards out to equalize at 1-1. It was only the fourth game on loan from QPR for Daly, and his first-ever goal for Cambridge. We'd made the mistake of letting the crowd back into the game, and they answered with a wave of noise. While we were still making the mental adjustment to a tie game, Greg Traynor came up the right wing for the home side. Despite Phil Townley's none-to-gentle attempts to impede him, he hit it forwards for Daniel Chillingworth from about 40 yards out. One of Cambridge's leading scorers, Chillingworth had come on at halftime to try and sort out the offense. He took his first touch about 25 yards from goal and absolutely schooled young Jamie Cooper, playing it right past the 17-year-old to make space for himself into the area. From about 12 yards out and to the right of the goal, he launched it into the roof of the net at the far post, and there was absolutely nothing Blayney could have done to stop it. It was a truly magical goal, and 7,708 fans were delirious with the 3-minute double salvo that had put us down 1-2. United nearly made it 3 in ten minutes shortly before the hour, when Traynor's shot clattered off of Robert Cousins. Shane Tudor got the rebound, and fired from a tight angle, but Blayney was there to make the save. Still, Cambridge were in complete control, and even shifting from our typical 'soak up pressure and counterattack' tactics to a more aggressive pressing one didn't seem to help. Former Minsterman Tony Caig was in goal for Cambridge, and dealt capably with anything that got past the Cambridge defense, anchored by captain Andy Duncan in his 300th career league appearance in the Cambridge yellow-and-black. We only had one real chance, as Phil Townley's cross made space for Carrol to try a diving header, but he put it just wide of the net. It looked more likely Cambridge would score a third than that we would get back into it, and the final ten minutes expired without a whimper from our beaten side. Cambridge 2, York 1 Daly 50, Chillingworth 53; Edwards 28 MoM: Traynor (Cambridge MC) That had at last dropped us out of the league lead, and down to third. I'd expected a tough game, but I was very disappointed with the lack of fight that we had put up in the second half. It seemed like without Keenan and McGrath, the team was missing a good portion of its heart, and hadn't really had the will to fight once we'd gone a goal down.
  12. Sunday, 2nd February, 2007. After the astounding gains most of the squad had made in training last month, I wasn't at all surprised to see that most of them were training less well now. Disappointed, perhaps: it felt like the entire club was on the same rhythm, and this was a 'down' month. Some of the players were as spectacularly down as they had been up last month, while others had suffered only slight reverses. Ian Bannister was one of the few players to be on an upswing, and he was well up from last month. Perhaps the players are just down, sensing my mood: I feel something dark and brooding looming on the horizon, a vague sense of unease that I can't put my finger on. Perhaps its Joe Keenan's injury, or perhaps its something else - thinking about where all of this ends. Is it just an endless climb up the English footballing pyramid? Would there even be sufficient catchment area to draw fans if I could, heaven forbid, get us up to the Premier League? If it weren't for my constant sale of quality young players, we'd be losing money steadily, and that problem doesn't feel like it will be 'fixed' by promoting up to League One - it will just be made worse, as it will be difficult to pay players of the League One calibre what they deserve. Musings for another day, perhaps - I tried explaining my malaise to Viv Busby, and he said, "You're getting ahead of yourself, lad. There's work enough to be done this season."
  13. Thursday, 1st February, 2007. It was time for the monthly review with the board, and I was feeling confident. The side remained top of League Two despite our patchy run since late December, although we'd let the trailing clubs close up the gap. Cheltenham had made a rocket climb up the table, going from seventh to 3rd with 4 wins and 2 draws in the month of January, so they appeared deangerous, while Port Vale had gone unbeaten and untied, rising from 9th to 4th, where they had a game in hand over us: three more points and they would go from a playoff spot to top of the table. <pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre"> Team Pts W D L GF GA GD GP 1 YORK 56 17 5 8 42 25 +17 (30) 2 Boston United 55 16 7 7 52 35 +17 (30) 3 Cheltenham 55 15 10 5 44 27 +17 (30) ----------------------------------------------------- 4 Port Vale 54 15 9 5 44 26 +18 (29) 5 Lincoln 52 14 10 6 47 30 +17 (30) 6 Cambridge 50 16 2 11 45 37 + 8 (29) 7 Walsall 49 13 10 6 45 22 +23 (29) ----------------------------------------------------- 8 Bristol Rovers 47 12 11 7 42 32 +10 (30) 9 Chesterfield 47 13 8 9 49 41 + 8 (30) 10 Leyton Orient 46 12 10 8 38 35 + 3 (30)</pre> Unfortunately, although the news on the pitch has been generally positive, the boardroom atmosphere was chilly and restrained. The congenial "we're all in this together" atmosphere which had ruled while we were struggling seems to have degenerated into a "them versus me" separation: I felt like I was facing a tribunal. The question of my contract never came up, left untouched as though by mutual consent, and the meeting focused on the challenges ahead. Ironically, Chief Financial Officer Sophie McGill was as content as I'd ever seen her. For the previous month, we'd just about broken even, leaving the same healthy £500,000 in the club's coffers prior to the payment of our loan. She did chidingly remind me that we're still over our wage budget, but that number has come down: we're only £61,000 per-annum over budget, a mere 12%, and she even said "Honestly, as long as we continue winning, I don't think anyone minds."
  14. Wednesday, 31st January, 2007. The news that John McGrath had suffered a high ankle sprain which would enforce at least a month's rest on him was bad news, especially as we still had yet to find a long-term replacement for him. For now, Phil Townley and, when he recovered, Jamal Campbell-Ryce would have to cover for him. Though we'd had bad luck on our pitch, we'd had good luck elsewhere, as Boston United had drawn at Lincoln, keeping us a point ahead of them in the standings. Better, Wolverhampton Wanderers had agreed to loan us left back Tony Craig for 3 months, which would take us almost to the end of the season and provide some decent cover for the injured Joe Keenan. D L Tony Craig, 21, English: 15 games with Notts County in League One, 6.07 - a brave and aggressive fullback with excellent concentration, Craig doesn't really approach Keenan's skills and abilities. However, he's quick, and a good marker, who makes solid decisions. I shouldn't expect him to contribute anything going forward, as his creativity, first touch, and finishing are all abysmal. Other than that he's pretty consistent across the board, which should make him better than Adam Eckersley. In other news, Manchester United, the largest team representing the Supporter's Trust movement at this point, fired manager Vicente Del Bosque. Apparently 3rd place in the tough Premier League wasn't sufficient for their demanding fans. The Wednesday evening Reserve match was another point in the recovery from injury for many of our players, with Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Lee Croft, and Joe Foote starting, and Mark Goodwin coming on off the bench. Though the side played very well in the first half, and fullback Mark Dixon's first-ever goal had put us ahead 1-0, the wheels came off in the second half as Carlisle Reserves netted two in a three-minute span to beat us 1-2. Wednesday night's transfer deadline came and went without any big moves from York City. In fact, our biggest change went the wrong direction, as Marc Walton's loan expired and he returned to Newcastle. Mark Walton, SC, 19: November 2006-January 2007: 1 season, 9 games, 5 goals, 1 assist, 7.11
  15. Saturday, 27th January, 2007. League Two - Game 30, vs Torquay United. Back on September ninth, we'd beaten Torquay 2-0 in their stadium, and a return match with them placed down in 16th didn't frighten me much, even with our defense in shambles. Their midfield was in even worse shape, with their assist-leading left winger Martin Phillips and number-two goalscoring central midfielder Alex Russell out injured. Worse, they were missing starting goalkeeper Anthony Williams, and one of their forwards, Dele Adebola was away on international duty for Nigeria. They did have one important milestone: captain Matt Hockley was playing in his 200th league game, all for Torquay. Our lineup was fairly straightforward. Alan Blayney made his 31st start in goal. The decimated defense included only one starter from Opening Day: Graeme Law at right back. He was joined by Adam Eckersley, Michael Staley, and Jamie Cooper, with Ian Bannister in the defensive midfield role. The front five were our top choice across the board, with John McGrath on the left wing, Jon Paul McGovern on the right, Robert Cousins and Micah Richards in the attacking roles, and Marc Walton the striker. It looked like Walton's last start, with his loan expiring on the 31st, as Newcastle had rejected my offer to renew his 3-month loan. It was raining, and both sides seemed to start out a bit tentatively. Each had chances - the Gulls with a couple of free kicks from out wide, where our fullbacks were having a bit of trouble, and us with a few shots from range that didn't trouble Torquay goalkeeper Alan Main. Unfortunately, we got into a bit of trouble when Marc Walton took a knock about 25 minutes in, and he was never right after that. I'd had little time to adjust when, in the 28th, Torquay earned a corner kick. Tony Bedeau sent a sizzling kick curling into the six-yard-box, where it was met by the head of Torquay's leading scorer Martin Gritton. Alan Blayney never had a chance, and the crowd of 2,863 were stunned into damp silence. The hard-tackling game continued, as both Gritton and Bedeau joined Walton in the playing-through-injury category before halftime. I wouldn't say it was vengeance, necessarily, but it seemed our players were hard tackling whenever Gritton got near the ball. By half-time, he'd had enough, and gave way for Rodney Jack, while I brought Simon Roberts in for Walton. I also told the lads to go get the two goals they needed, pushing forward in the second half. This worked a treat in the 51st minute, as Torquay was still looking to attack themselves. Micah Richards recovered a careless ball in our own area, and played it up for Robert Cousins. Cousins sent a lovely ball forward for Roberts, in one-on-one coverage with Kevin Hill, whom he beat in a straight sprint. With only the keeper left, the 16-year-old dribbled around 39-year-old Main to slot home his seventh goal of the season, and it was equal at 1-1! In the 66th minute, Adam Eckersley sent a long pass from the left flank to pick out Roberts on a diagonal run into the box. Again he was alone with Main, but this time the aged Scotsman came up with the save. Roberts pounced on the rebound, and looked certain to score, until Hill hauled him down by his shirt. There was no doubt about the yellow card and penalty that accompanied that foul, and a red card might have been warranted for the pure cynicism of it. The fans were on their feet as Jon Paul McGovern stepped confidently to the spot, but the wily Alan Main outguessed his countryman, diving to his right to make the stop! It was a blow, but we still looked the better side. With twenty minutes to play, substitute Tappa Whitmore worked his way up the left wing with Roberts. The young striker sent a low pass in for Cousins, who blazed it over from the 18 yard line. The visitors came right back with a chance of their own, as Rodney Jack slipped away from Michael Staley in our area, shooting to the near post from 9 yards but Alan Blayney made a fabulous save of his own, in full extension at the post to preserve the draw. In the 79th minute, John McGrath was taken out on a hard sliding tackle by Michael Small, and the match seemed to be getting out of hand with the injuries. We were down to ten men, and I told the lads to pin back and defend, which they did, providing a tortoise shell of a defense that limited Torquay to a few low-percentage long shots. Still, Stuart Boardley almost got lucky with one of these, a bending curler from the left edge of our area, which was pushed aside of the post by a diving Blayney. York 1, Torquay United 1 Roberts 51; Gritton 29 MoM: Blayney In the minds of everyone in our locker room, the missed penalty had cost us three points, and I was glad to see a number of the lads giving the disconsolate McGovern pats on the back and 'cheer up' comments: it was a sight better than the acrimony we'd experienced after the mid-week loss.
  16. Thursday, 25th January, 2007. I didn't jump straight into hiring an agent - there's some part of it that feels like it would put more pressure on the board, even escalate the tension .. and I don't really want this to turn into a protracted stalemate. Still, after talking it over with Viv and Stacy, they both gave me the same advice my Jamaican midfielder had. What's that old saying? The man who represents himself has a fool for a client.
  17. Wednesday, 24th January, 2007. Luckily, we'd entered the game with a four-point advantage in the League, so we were still top, but our lead was down to a single point over Boston United. We were still four clear of the playoff zone, and nine clear of the mid-table. There was good news on the injury front: Liam Fontaine had merely dislocated his shoulder, and physio Jeff Miller had managed to pop it back into the socket. He recommended giving the lad the weekend's game off and not letting him train very hard, until the swelling went down, but it wouldn't be a significant problem for him. As well, Jamal Campbell-Ryce had completed his physiotherapy course, though it looked like he might just be getting up to match fitness as his loan expired in mid-February. Campbell-Ryce played 20 minutes as our Reserves won their match 2-0 at home against Hartlepool Reserves. Forgotten man Thomas Carroll scored a first-half goal, and Lee Croft added the second during a tune-up appearance as a substitute. Youngster Kevin Eaton was Man of the Match for a strong performance in central defense. Barry Fry, the former Peterborough manager, has taken over the reigns at Barnet, down in the Conference National. Its strange to find myself managing above names that I recognize! He has quite a task in front of him, as Barnet are 20th, in debt, and demoralized.
  18. Tuesday, 23rd January, 2007. League Two - Game 29, at Kidderminster Harriers. A visit to Kidderminster, dead last in the League and looking certain for relegation, was exactly what we needed to recover from our injury blow. When we'd first faced the Harriers at Bootham Crescent, we'd beaten them 2-0: this side was a far cry from the Conference National champions of 1999/00, or the squad that had finished sixth in League Two two years ago. It was another mid-week game, and that meant a tired side, and so a squad selection well off my first choice. Alan Blayney remained our stalwart at keeper, with Adam Eckersley taking over at left back for the injured Keenan. Liam Fontaine would anchor the defense with Michael Staley, while Mark Dixon spelled Law at right back. Alan Navarro was captain from the defensive midfield role, with young Adam Corbett on the left wing and Phil Townley, energized by his goal on the weekend, starting on the right. Tappa Whitmore was no longer my first choice in the attacking midfield, but he was partnered with Joe Foote. The youngster was making his first start of the year, and wasn't yet up to match fitness after his injury. I could only hope the duo fed the ball to striker Paul Edwards, who had demonstrated an ability to find the net with 8 goals this season. In a cruel twist of fate, after our reconciliation yesterday, Liam Fontaine was injured in the 9th minute. In a shocking display of poor sportsmanship, the Harriers pressed on despite the man writhing on the ground, seeking to exploit the gaping hole in our defense, and only an alert play by young Mark Dixon averted trouble. That just made our lads angry, and they generated plenty of chances in the first half: Whitmore sent Edwards away with a beautiful long pass, but the one-on-one was saved by Kidderminster goaltender John Danby. Whitmore's curling top-drawer 22-yarder was saved in spectacular fashion, as Danby at full extension tipped it over the bar. Edwards's header just skimmed over the bar. At the other end, our defense looked good, and Dixon was having a fantastic game, really making a case for a starting role. When the whistle blew for half-time, it was still 0-0 and all to play for. I wanted to elicit a bit more pressure, so I told the lads to beging pushing the wings and fullbacks forward. Disaster struck nearly five minutes into the second half, as Iyseden Christie slipped past Michael Staley over the eighteen. Jamie Cooper let his man go to try and get over to help out, and Christie, rather than taking the shot himself, passed it ahead and to his right for Danny Cadamarteri. The Kidderminster captain should have been offsides, but was kept on by a mis-positioned Dixon, and that meant he had an easy easy finish to put the 2,037 Aggborough fans into delight. Kidderminster seemed content to hold the 0-1 lead, and played solid defense for the next 15 minutes, really stifling our best efforts. In the 66th, just as I was contemplating changing things around, Adam Corbett sent a cross from the left corner into a packed box. Kyle Nix tried to head it clear from the far post, but succeeded just in sending it back through the area. It fell to Joe Foote, who unleashed a spectacular volley from twelve yards. Unfortunately, it was straight at Danby, who blocked it in self-protective reflex. The rebound dropped to the feet of Paul Edwards, who touched it once around the sprawling Danby, and just at the post kept it from going out by tapping it gently into the net. Finesse work in close space, and it was 1-1! The final twenty minutes saw chances at both ends, with Adam Corbett breaking into the Kidderminster area only to be denied by Danby, and a period of five minutes of Kidderminster pressure ending on a corner kick, where Luke Dimech's powerful header banged back off the crossbar to the relief of Alan Blayney. It was still level in the 89th minute, when Alan Navarro blocked Stuart Jones's shot. The rebound kicked wildly out to Keith Gillespie on the right wing, and he managed to cross past Adam Eckersley to the near post. Adriano Rigoglioso took it at the corner of the 6-yard-box, and played a weak ball towards the post. There wasn't much on the shot - but Blayney couldn't quite get to it. Rigoglioso had his first goal of the season, and Kidderminster had a late 1-2 victory! Kidderminster 2, York 1 Cadamarteri 50, Rigoglioso 89; Edwards 66 MoM: Danby (Kidderminster GK) I couldn't help but think that if I'd had Joe Keenan and Graeme Law on the corners, neither goal would have happened, and we would have won that game 1-0. It was a bitter pill to swallow, especially on a goal so late. More frightening was what it did to our locker-room cohesion, as afterwards several players were pointing the blame, yelling at each other, and I had to play peacemaker to calm them down.
  19. Monday, 22nd January, 2007. I'd been worried how the injured Joe Hamill would take my comments to the press, but Viv told me that was exactly the right tone to take with him. Joe is in fine spirits despite the injury, sure of his place in the squad and determined to get back in form for next season. Even better news, however, Liam Fontaine came to visit my office Monday afternoon, and apologized for getting sent off. "I've been thinking about it, and I can understand the warning, now," he said. "I apologize for venting my frustration on you." I told him I couldn't say how much that pleased me, that I'd been sorry I was so harsh on him, and that I was glad it hadn't permanently soured our relationship, as I was counting on him to be the stalwart center of the York defense for years to come. Sunday night's game was York Under-18s against Accrington Stanley's U-18s. With the wage budget problems, our squad is small enough that our promising youths are playing mostly in the Reserves, so the only non-amateur on the side was goalkeeper Colin Hart. He earned a shutout, Paul Ford had a goal and an assist, and Chris Simpson scored an injury time goal to make a 2-0 victory. In somewhat shocking news, 34-year-old Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, the Middlesbrough striker, has joined Mansfield on loan. He scored 24 goals for Middlesbrough as a starter in 2004-05, but his playing time had diminshed until this season, he'd been reduced to four appearances, most from the substitute's bench, and accepted the deal just to get some playing time at any level. For Mansfield, languishing just above the relegation zone and steadily losing attendance, the deal would stir up some local interest and give them a credible offensive threat - I was just glad we'd already played them twice! I also read that Lee Morris, who is a teammate of Mark Wright's at Inverness Caledonian Thistle, has suffered torn knee ligaments, and will be out for two to three months. That looks to be stopping the former Minsterman at four goals for this season. On our training ground, Lee Croft resumed full training following his fractured ribs, which was good, as it gave us another healthy attacking midfielder for the rotation.
  20. aaberdeen - Thank you very kindly! It was one of my favourite tales that inspired me to start this, so I wish you all the luck with yours. Damien - thanks, did , and it was a beautiful ceremony. Strankan - thank you .. and we shall see! Now, lets see .. how about a double episode to make up for lost time?
  21. Adieu for a week or so - I'll be out of town for a good friend's wedding. Next post should be the 10th of August or so.
  22. Sunday, 21st January, 2007. "Well, I have some good news, and some bad news." That's not what I'd wanted to hear from Jeff Miller when I arrived at the hospital. I'd wanted entirely good news. "The good news is, nothing's broken. The bad news is, he's torn a calf muscle, and pretty badly. I think he'll be out for the rest of the season. I'm really worried, though, that if we let it heal badly, it might be a recurring problem for him." "What are our options?" "When the swelling's gone down, there's a doctor in London who I think should perform surgery." "What's the risk?" "If we don't perform surgery, he might be able to return in time for the playoffs if we have them, and ought to be recovered by the start of next season. But, there will always be the risk of further injury to it. If we do perform surgery, it means he's likely to miss the playoffs as well. Of course, it could actually shorten his recovery time, getting him back for the end of the season - or it could lengthen it, preventing him from joining us in the pre-season training next year." After careful consideration, and a conversation with Joe, we decided to recommend surgery. None of us wants to take the chance on him re-injuring it, and with the summer break looming, even a longer recovery seems a worthwhile thing to chance. Then I had to deal with the assembled media, in a press conference with Jeff and myself. First we announced the injury and our prognosis - out for the year. Then I had to deal with the questions. I deflected the first five or six - all directed at my future with the club. There was nothing to say, other than the obvious "I want to stay," and of course "We're all doing our best, and I don't want it to become a distraction." Finally, the wolves turned to the injury, and of course, I was asked the question "Joe Keenan is a key player for you. If he's out for the season, how much will the team miss his presence?" "It's certainly a blow, but I believe we have adequate cover for him in Adam Eckersley, who we're lucky to have." I didn't mention the next layer of cover - there was none. No, seriously, there is nobody else on the squad who plays left back, and I'm going to have to bring somebody in on loan.
  23. Saturday, 20th January, 2007. League Two - Game 28, vs Carlisle. Carlisle are our most familiar opponent, a side we've seen seven times in the past three years. Thanks to our F.A. Cup clash and replay, this was our fourth meeting this year alone. We'd had a four-game winning streak against them before being shut out in both F.A. Cup matches back in December. Though they'd beaten us then, Carlisle were having a torrid season which saw them down in 23rd, on a streak of nine games without a victory, and looking certain to be relegated unless something dramatic changed. I almost started the same XI who had beaten Hereford the previous week, but I wound up making a couple changes. Alan Blayney stayed in goal, with the same defense of Joe Keenan, Jamie Cooper, the unhappy Liam Fontaine, and captain Graeme Law. Fontaine was making the 50th league appearance of his career, all for York. Instead of Alan Navarro centrally I played Ian Bannister. The wingers were again John McGrath and Phil Townley, with Robert Cousins and Micah Richards in the attacking role. Up front, I switched Marc Walton in to give Edwards a brief respite. In the Cup matches, Carlisle had shown an aggressive 3-5-2 with an attacking midfielder, but coming to Bootham Crescent they looked like they were playing for a draw, with a timid 5-3-2. It was clear within 20 minutes that our usual conservative tactic wasn't going anywhere against their defense, and I began to push players forward, asking the fullbacks to join in the attack. The rain, which had been threatening all morning, started to fall just as I made the change. At the 28th minute, Joe Keenan's aggressive run made room for John McGrath into the left corner. He crossed into the packed box, where Walton was able to rise over everyone for a killer header that Matty Glennon barely turned over the bar by his fingertips. In the 39th, Keenan fed Phil Townley, whose shot from the eighteen Glennon also saved. Just before the half, Robert Cousins broke free down the right sideline. He centered with a low pass to Townley, who played it on to the unmarked McGrath on the left. From 12 yards, the Irishman unleashed a blinder, but Glennon came up with it again. At halftime, it was still nil-nil; we were piling on the pressure, but again found ourselves unable to make the finish. I was happy to see one thing, however: Liam Fontaine had received a yellow card on a very bad call, but just bit his tongue and walked away. It stayed scoreless through the hour, and in fact Carlisle nearly scored on a rare counterattack after bringing on Carlos Roca as a substitute. He sent a superb long pass over the top that sprang their leading scorer, Elvis Hammond, into our area. It looked dangerous, but Jamie Cooper made a perfect tackle to take it off his foot without conceding a penalty. The breakthrough finally came with fifteen minutes to play, as Keenan played a brilliant pass over our left winger and into space, where he'd seen substitute Paul Edwards on a run. At full sprint, Edwards ran it down just before it crossed the endline, doing well to keep his balance in the slippery conditions. With his first touch sent a cross in to the far post, where speedy winger Phil Townley was just arriving unmarked. The on-loan winger powered a header past Glennon and into the net, bringing the 3,211 to their feet for a 1-0 lead! Carlisle changed things around, looking in desperation for the equalizer, and we soaked up the pressure while piling on some of our own. In the 85th minute, Townley started a move from our area that saw Micah Richards play a long ball to substitute Tappa Whitmore. He entered the area unmarked, but Glennon smothered his shot. The wet ball rolled away from him, and Adam Corbett got to it once it was several feet clear of the far post - he almost got lucky from an impossible angle. Two minutes later, Tappa had another great chance unmarked in the area, but put it wide - an embarrassing miss that showed just how far my once-mighty star had fallen. Again, his teammates covered for the gaffe, ensuring that it wouldn't matter, as Corbett played a ball to Richards about 30 yards from goal. Marlon Dill had to choose between covering Edwards or closing down the man with the ball, but as soon as he left Edwards, Richards played a perfect pass for him. With no marker and in the area, Edwards coolly buried it to the near post to make it 2-0. The referee initially signalled two minutes of injury time, and if he'd stayed with that, it would never have happened. With my watch showing 92:31, we cleared away one last Carlisle foray.. but Joe Keenan was down on the ground in some obvious pain. I didn't see what had happened to him, but it didn't look good. York 2, Carlisle 0 Townley 76, Edwards 88; ---- MoM: McGrath There had been a jovial, jocular mood on the sideline and on the pitch after our two goals, but any inclination to celebrate was gone as we awaited news on Keenan's injury. He'd been taken to hospital, and I had to dismiss the lads before we'd had word. I went over to the hospital myself, my heart heavy.
  24. Friday, 19th January, 2007. "Why don't you hire an agent?" I stared at Tappa in surprise. "Uh.." "You have to be the only manager in the League without one," the playmaker told me. "I hadn't .. thought of it, I guess." "How can you be so good on the pitch, and such a fool off it?" the Jamaican asked in wonderment. "Aren't agents, you know... slime?" "The clubs would love to have the fans believe it, but no, mon. The agent's job is to look after his man. You know that. So of course the clubs don't like them." I had nothing to say to that. He was right, of course, and while I'd seen my share of agents convinced that their player was worth more than I thought he was, there were also a good number who'd been gentlemen. Afte a minute or so, Tappa broke the silence. "Mine's good."
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