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Amaroq

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  1. Thursday, 1st March, 2007. The monthly meetings with the board are starting to go to my head, I'm afraid. They're still utterly delighted, and after listening to them gush about how they never expected to be in a title chase this season, they'd have me believing I'm the best manager ever to grace Bootham Crescent. I suppose its been a long time, and having such success really seems to validate the entire Supporter's Trust concept. Still, where's the guy who whispered in Caesar's ear "You are only mortal"? Oh, yes, that would be Sophie McGill, my financial officer. She reminds me that we're still 12% over our wage budget, and that we're still hemorrhaging money: we lost £60,000 last month. We're still up £607,000 for the season, but the vast majority of that is from transfers, and we only have £362,000 in the bank. Well, it sounded more ominous when she said it - her point being that over budget and experiencing a negative run rate isn't a good situation, exactly. You'd think that the board, so happy with performances on the pitch, would be excited to renew my contract, but no - like the elephant in the room, it was the thing nobody talked about. When the meeting adjourned, chairman Steve Beck pulled me into his office. "I'm glad you haven't let this contract issue distract you from the pitch," he said. There didn't seem to be any response required. He sighed. The silence was almost unbearable, and I broke first. "What's on your mind, Mister Beck?" "I'm unhappy that you've hired an agent," he answered. "And interviewing at Spurs? That hurt." That was predictable. "I've every right to representation," I replied stonily. "You could have avoided this if you'd just agreed to an extension back in January. I don't understand your reluctance." "It's like this. I'm not sure we can afford you." It took a minute to get my jaw back off the desk, and when I did, all I could articulate was: "What?!" "Surely you realize, you've become one of the hottest young managerial prospects in England." "I .. suppose..." "Well, clearly you deserve more than an untried Conference-manager's salary. You were already due a huge pay raise - and we're already well over budget. "Now this 'agreement' Tom has with Spurs has set your 'price' - but its well beyond our means. If we were to pay you what you deserve, you'd bankrupt the club. "And if we don't.. well, that's hardly fair to you, after everything you've done for us." Nothing's ever simple, is it?
  2. Wednesday, 28th February, 2007. A mostly amateur Reserve side took on Moor Green at Bootham Crescent mid-week. Kevin Butler played well to post a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw, but young defenseman Kevin Eaton tore a groin muscle, which would rule him out a month. I spoke with physio Jeff Miller after the match, and he warned that groin injuries are frequently a recurring problem. He recommended that Eaton be given a surgical treatment followed by lengthy rehabilitation, effectively ending his season but helping prevent a recurrence of the injury. The kid is 17, and one for the future, so I agreed pretty much immediately - there's no point risking his health when he's not a part of our first team. Striker Thomas Carroll, whom I had started as he's so utterly lacking match practice lately, picked up a one-match ban for his fifth yellow card of the season. Perhaps I shouldn't say this, but bringing him in has turned out to be the worst move of the year for me: he's never cracked the starting lineup, and is becoming increasingly more disgruntled with the time he's spent on the bench. I had rested right back Mark Dixon, intending to get him some time with the senior side over the next week, but he strained his calf in training. He, too, would be sent off to physiotherapy, ruling him out for the entirety of March.
  3. Tuesday, 27th February, 2007. I'd been on tenterhooks for a week, with no word from London, and I finally called Tom Conlin. "Hi, Tom, any news?" "Nothing worth printing," he answered. "We've agreed to terms in principle, but they don't want to put it to a contract." "What's that mean?" "Officially, they 'Are still interviewing other candidates.' "Unofficially? I don't think they were too thrilled with you. "Still, its put us in a very good position to negotiate with other clubs from, and given us some real leverage to use with York." "Okay." I didn't ask him what the terms were; I didn't want to know. I tried to focus, to remind myself that I didn't really care about Tottenham one way or the other - I wanted to stay here - but oh, White Hart Lane... I can't believe I'm being seduced by a stadium!
  4. Sunday, 25th February, 2007. The League Cup Final between Liverpool and Blackburn was one for the ages. After 90 scoreless minutes, fairly adjudicated by legendary disciplinarian Rob Styles, the match went to extra-time. Blackburn scored through Matt Jensen in the 91st minute, but the Golden Goal hasn't come to the League Cup yet, and Liverpool had fully thirty minutes to seek a reply. It looked like they would be unable to find one until unlikely hero Florent Sinama-Pongolle, on in only his 10th match of the season, found the net in the 112th minute. He'd played his best with the game on the line, and the goal included a nifty move past two defenders before he fired a 25-yard piledriver. Eight scoreless minutes followed, and it went to penalties. Each side made three off the first five - the two goalscorers each missed - and then the next two, leaving it 5-5 after seven kicks. Igor Biscan secured the sixth for Liverpool, and when Danny Marsh missed wide of the net, it was Liverpool's Cup to lift. Meanwhile, our injury crisis on the wings continued. This time, it was Jon Paul McGovern, who pulled a groin, apparently in the final moments of the match or during the celebration afterwards. That would cost him two weeks, and left us with only three wingers total. I was really regretting turning down the loan for Jamal Campbell-Ryce, as every other offer I'd made had been turned down. I was getting desperate, offering in on loan just about anybody I could find who could play both wings. It took a late goal by amateur Chris Simpson to equalize for the York U-18s to earn a 1-1 draw at home against Lincoln Sunday, in a warm rainstorm. The breeze which had made Saturday's match so chilly was gone, but the Lincoln U-18s dominated the match, peppering Colin Hart with shots, and only a Man of the Match performance by the youthful keeper kept it to a one-goal game for Simpson to tie up in the 87th.
  5. iacovone - wow! I hadn't realized that! Thanks for pointing it out! Strankan - I hope you've read flipsix3's tale, then! aaberdeenn - Thank you; as I've often said, its the support of the readership that's kept me going.
  6. Saturday, 24th February, 2007. League Two - Game 35, vs Scunthorpe United. We returned home for our next two games, the first against 16th-placed Scunthorpe United. A League club since 1950, they've been hanging around in League Two since 1968/69, with only occasional one-year stints in League One following promotion. They had been strong last year, placing 7th in League Two, but had managed to win only 11 games out of 34 thus far this year. One of those was against us, 1-0, at Glanford Park, but I was sure it would be a different result in the friendly confines of Bootham Crescent. They were led by the one-two punch of Steve Basham and Lee Matthews, who had combined for 26 of the side's 41 goals. Our starting lineup returned nine from last weekend's victory: Alan Blayney in goal, Tony Caig, Liam Fontaine, Jamie Cooper, and Graeme Law defensively, and Alan Navarro at defensive midfield kept the back six utterly unchanged. Adam Corbett took left wing, allowing me to shift Phil Townley to the right and let McGovern recover from his injury, though the Scot was available off the bench if needed. Theodore Whitmore, after a grand performance, would remain up front partnered with ten-goal man Robert Cousins, and the team's leading scorer Paul Edwards would look to build off of his brace against Exeter City in his 100th career league appearance. It was a breezy, wet afternoon at Bootham Crescent, and Viv and I exchanged incredulous looks when Scunthorpe came out in what can only be described as a 4-2-4. With no midfield to speak of, they had real trouble transitioning from defense to attack, and showed no real way to break down our defense if we had time to set up. They did threaten on the counter-attack a few times, but with Alan Navarro free to clean up, it was slim pickings for the visitors. In the 22nd minute, Navarro took a free kick about 35 yards from the Scunthorpe goal. He played it into the area for Robert Cousins, but Darren Holloway headed it away. Navarro held it in the attack zone, dribbling to the top of the arc before trying a long shot. It was blocked by Steve Basham, kicking off of his knee. The rebound looped crazily into the air, to Tappa Whitmore, who leaped up and headed it on goal from just inside the 18. It curved over stumbling Scunthorpe keeper Paul Montgomery, but hit the crossbar. Montgomery was completely turned around, but the ball fell directly to Paul Edwards inside the six, and the team's leading scorer made no mistake with the unguarded net. I'm not above taking a wacky goal for a 1-0 lead! In the 34th minute, Tony Craig made a long run up the left wing, and took a pass from Robert Cousins. The fulllback, nearly unmarked, sent a cross in, and over the near-post feint of Edwards to an unmarked Phil Townley. Eight yards from goal, with Montgomery again out of position, it looked a sure thing, but the speedy winger's shooting leaves a lot to be desired, and he put this one into the crowd. In the 40th minute, Townley made a vicious tackle which took the legs away from Lee Matthews, leaving the dangerous striker to be carted off the field on a stretcher. It looked a disturbing red-cardable offense, but Townley escaped with only a foul, and no card issued. Both sides took note, and the second half was an ugly affair. Scunthorpe had shifted to a 3-5-2, trying to clog the midfield and get more chances forward to their strikers, but the early second-half chances were ours. Cousins's 30-yard effort was tipped over, and Townley struck a fifteen yarder through traffic which forced a fingertip save from Montgomery. Then the hard tackling began to take over. Andy Butler's rough treatment forced Tappa off at the 51st minute, but Lee Croft's clear retaliation, which ended Butler's afternoon, also met with no card - it was as though referee John Hayto was letting the players police themselves. The disturbing chants of "You're going home in a f***ing ambulance" showed the darker side of the game. I was content with a one-goal game, and shifted to an utterly defensive formation, putting on Jon Paul McGovern and striker Keith Barker as my last substitutions. They combined on the counter in the 76th minute, with the Scotsman's long ball played out in front of Barker's fresh legs. He ran onto it past the last defender, and one-on-one with Paul Montgomery. Montgomery saved the first attempt, but Barker got to the rebound. Montgomery had a chance at stopping his second chance, but Barker put it into the net from inside the six. 3,351 came to their feet to applaud his first-ever York goal, and it was 2-0. They almost made it three when McGovern sent the same long ball over the top in the 86th. Barker came into the area from the right side. His shot was too powerful for Montgomery to stop, but the keeper got a solid hand on it. It was rolling slowly goalward, but defender John Anderson arrived just in time to put it out at the near post. It was not to matter, and luckily we survived the last few minutes without any further injuries. York 2, Scunthorpe 0 Edwards 22, Barker 77; ---- MoM: Whitmore The crowd were happy, and there was celebratory reggae in the York locker room yet again. I couldn't help but think the selection of Tappa Whitmore as Man of the Match had more to do with his two-assist performance the previous week than his lucky one assist in fifty-one minutes this week, but there weren't any other obvious candidates. Viv's report from the radio was that Cheltenham had dispatched Boston United by the same 2-0 scoreline, which meant we were still second on a narrow margin, but had opened up a five-point lead over third place.
  7. Friday, 23rd February, 2007. I was grateful when Jeff Miller's post-match report indicated that Simon Roberts had only rolled his ankle, and had managed to avoid even spraining it - he'd be able to play Saturday if I needed him to. Joe Foote's sprained wrist would rule him out until the first game of March, not a big loss thanks to our sudden luxury of healthy attacking midfielders. We were unlucky on Thursday, as John McGrath - not yet back to match fitness while recovering from his high ankle strain - pulled a groin, an injury which will cost him another two weeks of training time, at least. The oft-injured winger will be leaving for Bournemouth at season's end, and I'm starting to wonder if he'll be able to contribute at all before the end of the year. Stockport did finally wind up with a York City goalkeeper, as they purchased former Minsterman Tony Caig from Cambridge for £12,000. The difference between Caig and Alan Blayney, whom they had made overtures towards, is tremendous, but they professed to be happy to have 'got their man'. The close battle for League Two supremacy continued, with Boston United and Cheltenham due for a key clash at Whaddon Road. Despite being on the road and underdogs, Boston manager Steve Evans claimed his side were "very confident of victory." John Ward responded by saying he thought it was "make or break time" for both sides, and that he "would be surprised if the losing team could recover." Personally, I told the Yorkshire Press I was just hoping that they knocked each other about, letting us slip into first place.
  8. Wednesday, 21st February, 2007. <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Richards Interviews with Spurs York City manager Ian Richards was in London yesterday to interview for the vacant Tottenham Hotspur managerial position. According to agent Tom Conlin, Richards was very impressed with the facilities, and the agent announced that contract talks were already underway. The club refused to confirm or deny the report, but Richards's meteoric rise at York City is well-documented, and with his contract expiring at season's end, any compensation which would be owed to the Minstermen would be minimal. </div></BLOCKQUOTE> Great. My agent leaked my interview to the press. I wasn't the only one disappointed: Joe Keenan's proposed move to Stockport County collapsed today. The injured fullback had rejected my contract offer, rightly enough, as I could not offer him any wage increase. Instead, excited at the prospect of playing at a higher level, he'd accepted the offer from Stockport County. With the deal signed and sealed, Stockport were forced to back out because they lacked sufficient transfer budget to complete the transaction. How embarrassing! In other news, John McGrath and Jon Paul McGovern both resumed training. The Irishman looks pretty rusty after his month off, and neither looks like they will be quite ready by Saturday's match. McGrath played 30 minutes in the York Reserves' Wednesday match at Halifax. With a week-long break for the senior side, I fielded a full professional side, giving a number of big names some work. I expected a dominant performance, but got only a 1-0 victory, with the goal left late into the second half. Unluckily, Simon Roberts went down clutching at his ankle just before halftime, and Joe Foote sprained his wrist in the second half. Ricky Shakes scored the goal, after an amazing dribble, and Micah Richards, in his first action since Saturday the 3rd earned Man of the Match honors. I'd given him a week of rest, followed by a light training load, and now he seemed completely recovered from the exhaustion Jeff had noticed. The opening games of the Champions League knockout round was Wednesday evening, and I hurried back to see what TiVo had on television for me. At Emirates Stadium, Arsenal had dominated Werder Bremen 4-1, with two early goals by Thierry Henry setting the tone for a match that was over by halftime. Chelsea defeated Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 at Stamford Bridge, while Liverpool's hopes were dim after a 0-1 defeat to FC Bayern München at New Anfield. In the other matches, Bayern Leverkusen earned a 1-1 draw at Barcelona, AC Milan and Juventus fought to a 1-1 draw, and Turkish side Fenerbahçe pulled out a 1-1 draw at Real Madrid. The other two home sides succeeded in taking care of business, with A.S. Roma dispatching Deportivo, 2-0, and Inter Milan manhandling Valencia 4-1.
  9. Tuesday, 20th February, 2007. Spurs certainly didn't wait long! Tuesday I went down to London for my interview with Tottenham Hotspur Chairman Daniel Levy. I thought it was going well: he says that he watched our match against Boston, and was very impressed, and was impressed as well with our F.A. Cup run of 2005/06. He gave me a long spiel on the history and tradition of the Spurs, and stated that this 'momentary blip' down into the Championship was merely a hiccup. He spun a dream of success in Europe, competing with the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool for the title, and made it sound all-so-achievable. The insider's tour of White Hart Lane is amazingly impressive. The stadium itself is a 36,000 all-seater with under-soil heating, but the complex surrounding it is an even greater leap up from the comfortable confines I've been used to. Three full-size practice pitches, top weight-lifting and video facilities, and a budding youth academy are luxuries I never thought to contemplate asking for at Bootham Crescent. I expressed my unfeigned admiration - so this is what a world-class facility looks like! Unfortunately, in the afternoon, the interview took a sour turn. Levy wasn't particularly impressed with my plans to switch Spurs over to the 4-5-1 which had served me so well thus far, saying that "the supporters" - by which I think he meant himself - expected a more aggressive attacking style of football, and wouldn't be satisfied with the 1-0 games which I rely on to drop three points into the table. I thought for a moment he would hide behind that, but he concluded by expressing his worry that I was 'too young' and not well-enough known to 'command the respect' of the 'international superstars' which he normally employed. I left disheartened: surely they weren't going to hire me after that. I'd missed the discussion about finances which I'd hoped to have, not that that was going to matter now one way or the other.
  10. Sunday, 18th February, 2007. Port Vale manager Mark Hateley was talking it up in the aftermath of his team's victory over Boston, saying that he considers his side the leading contenders for promotion. With four top teams, and only three guaranteed positions, it was an exceptionally close race: <pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre"> Team Pts W D L GF GA GD GP 1 Cheltenham 63 17 12 5 52 31 +21 (34) 2 YORK 63 19 6 9 48 28 +20 (34) 3 Boston Utd 61 18 7 9 57 41 +16 (34) ---------------------------------------------------- 4 Port Vale 60 17 9 7 48 32 +16 (33) 5 Cambridge 58 18 4 12 56 43 +13 (34)</pre> If Hateley was serious about his aspirations, however, he may have made a big mistake, as he completed the sale of starting goalkeeper Mark Goodlad, 27, to Swindon Town up in League One. Goodlad had been the Port Vale starting keeper for the previous three years, including their relegation season from League One, and had really wanted to move back up the football pyramid. He'd had 13 clean sheets in 45 starts this year, and his departure left only Paul Rachubka, signed on a free the previous year, to take over between the sticks. That move prompted me to go look over Port Vale's lineup, and believe it or not they had eight players injured, comprising 130 starts over the course of this year - it looked like they were down to playing good portions of their Reserve team on a regular basis. I can't see them as a serious threat after that! Speaking of injuries, Jon Paul McGovern's proved to be merely a bruised thigh, and he hoped to be ready to return by next weekend's game. Nonetheless, it had scared me, as it was a clear reminder of how thin we were on the wings with John McGrath injured and Jamal Campbell-Ryce gone. We entertained a pair of transfer offers on Sunday, both from Stockport County. The League One side offered a meager £75,000 for Alan Blayney - I told them they could meet his release clause of £1.5M or do without him. However, they did meet the £350,000 minimum fee for injured left back Joe Keenan. I had no choice but to accept - but I knew that I wanted to keep him, so I tabled a contract offer of my own for him. I could also hope that he wouldn't pass their physical, due to his current injury, which would keep him out through the summer.
  11. LoL! Thank you! You should enjoy the rest of this season, then, with two rooting interests!
  12. Saturday, 17th February, 2007. League Two - Game 34, at Exeter City. The long trip South to the Devonshire coast and Exeter City followed. They were another team which we'd faced in the Conference National, and my last trip to St. James Park had ended in a 4-0 defeat back in April of 2005. Our meeting this season in Bootham Crescent had been a 1-1 draw, and with them in 11th place to our 2nd, we were the favorites to win even though we were on the road. That might be as much due to the fact that City's leading goalscorer, Matt Derbyshire with 14 goals, was banned for the match due to receiving a red card in the previous one. It was back to a strong lineup for us, though our 'weakened' one hadn't done poorly against Boston! Alan Blayney made his 35th start of the year in goal. His defense was our first choice of Tony Craig, Liam Fontaine, Jamie Cooper, and captain Graeme Law. Alan Navarro would run the midfield, with Phil Townley on left wing and Jon Paul McGovern on the right. I had some doubts about selecting Tappa Whitmore in the attacking midfield - Joe Foote was rested as well, and the Jamaican wasn't giving me anywhere near the performances he once had, but he used to be the spark in the attacking midfield and I gave him the nod, partnered with debutante Ricky Shakes. Paul Edwards, co-team-leader with ten goals, was the striker. A mere 11 seconds after kickoff, Tappa earned a yellow card for a minor shirt-tug at the halfway cicle, which had me thinking about pulling him at halftime. The hosts had a caution of their own by the tenth minute, and I was expecting a card-filled game, but then the ref let us settle down and play. In the 20th minute, Paul Edwards put a low centering pass for Whitmore, who was about five yards outside the City arc. Edwards darted for the area, and Tappa's return pass threaded through a tight mark by Tony Dennis with perfect precision. Edwards launched it to the far corner, and it spun in off the post: a 1-0 lead in the early going! The incredible pass was a clear reminder why Tappa was still one of my best choices in the attack, a true creative genius even at the end of his career, and it gave me cause to forgive as a few of his long shots failed to trouble keeper Neil Baker later in the first half. At halftime, it was still 1-0, and I refrained from making any changes. In the 56th minute, Exeter right wing Paul Duncan took a throw-in on the right sideline about 45 yards from the end line. He launched a beautiful long cross towards the 6-yard-box. Our central defenders clearly thought Alan Blayney had it, and let Matt King go through unmarked. Blayney waited complacently in the six-yard-box, unaware of the danger, and let King meet it in time and space for what he would afterwards call "the easiest goal of my career." 3,769 fans went wild at St. James Park as the scores were level at one apiece. A week earlier, that might have ruffled our disconsolate team, but they just kept up the hard work, and continued soaking up any Exeter pressure and replying with a counterattack of their own. In the 66th minute, new loanee Ricky Shakes settled for Tappa in midfield. The Jamaican played it forward with his first touch, picking out Edwards with a bit of space in the arc. The striker settled, then smashed it from the 18 to the top corner, a blistering shot which Baker could not stop. It was 2-1 with 25 minutes left, and that silenced the crowd. I made my first substitutions then, letting Shakes and Whitmore both come off despite their contributions to that goal, as I shifted to a more defensive focus. In the 74th minute, Phil Townley sprinted up the left wing, and then played it forward for Edwards. The striker beat the last man into the area, and shot for his hat trick - but came up with only side netting. We soaked up Exeter's ever-more frantic pressure until the 89th minute, when Jon Paul McGovern was injured. He required lengthy treatment, and though he did hobble back on before injury time expired, he could barely more than walk. Deep in injury time, captain Graeme Law launched a long free kick from our half. Somehow it slipped past the last Exeter defender, and Edwards pounced, again looking to complete the hat trick. One-on-one, Neil Baker made a fabulous save to deny him, but there was only time for one desperate 40-yard shot for the hosts, and then time expired. Exeter 1, York 2 King 56; Edwards 20, 66 MoM: Edwards Two-goal hero Paul Edwards was decidedly the Man of the Match, though you could have made a case for Tappa Whitmore, who had dispelled my doubts about him with two fine assists. As we gathered in the locker room, Viv broke out a radio to get us the scores from around the league. Boston United had lost at home to Port Vale, 1-2, dropping them out of the lead and moving Port Vale up to fourth with a game in hand, but that hadn't put us top of the table: co-leaders Cheltenham had pounded Scunthorpe 3-0, which nudged them from one behind us on goal differential to one ahead of us. Our April was beginning to look very interesting, as two of our final three games were Port Vale and Cheltenham!
  13. 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
  14. 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.
  15. 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!
  16. 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!
  17. 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."
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. avs - Panpardus - I do have some elderly save-games to check things out on, and apparently I was still Local at this juncture.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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."
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