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Amaroq

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  1. Thursday, 24th August, 2006. <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Quarter-Million-Pound Transfer! York City yesterday bid farewell to young Turkish phenom Leven Yalcin, who moved to Burnley immediately following the Minstermen's 2-0 defeat to Rusheden. The Championship side spent £275,000, plus additional clauses, to pry the popular 21-year-old striker away from Bootham Crescent. Yalcin is reportedly delighted with the move. "Its sad to say good by to Bootham Crescent after five years," he acknowledged, "Its the only home I know! But I'm very much looking forward to playing for such a big club. I know I won't start right away - Mister Hart has warned me I may find myself in the Reserves - but I hope that with hard work and dedication, I can break into the first team." The fee represents the highest transfer fee received at Bootham Crescent since Jonathan Greening's £1 million move to Old Trafford in 1998, and represents a life-preserver for manager Ian Richards. The third-year York City skipper had made no secret of his desire to strengthen the squad, and though he's had to sell one of his top assets to do so, he should now have the funds he so desperately needs. Fan reaction has been mixed. Yalcin was a favourite amongst the fans, and seemed on the verge of a breakout year at the end of last season. "We can't really judge the move," said the pragmatic president of the Supporter's Club, Skip Johnson, "Until we see how much is made available for transfer, and who Ian brings in." In other Minsterman news, playmaking attacking midfielder Tappa Whitmore returned to Bootham Crescent this week to begin his first light workouts. Physio Jeff Miller cautioned that he is unlikely to be able to play until early November, and might not be fully fit until Christmas. The jovial Jamaican's good cheer should provide a morale boost around the clubhouse! </div></BLOCKQUOTE> Levent Yalcin, FLC, 21: July 2001-August 2006: 5 seasons, 79 games, 15 goals, 3 assists, 6.90 I genuinely wished the lad well - he'd been a fine young player for our side - but I also found myself relaxed and upbeat for the first time since Barcelona. At last, I could get a good night's sleep. We still had plenty of needs, and I had hundreds of phone calls to make, but unlike last week, now I had a transfer budget to work with!
  2. Wednesday, 23rd August, 2006. League Cup - First Round, vs Rushden and Diamonds. The matter still wasn't entirely resolved by Wednesday night's match. The cards were nearly all in place: Burnley had withdrawn their offers for McGrath and McGovern, and I'd received the full paperwork to complete Levent Yalcin's transfer just before the match, but opted to start him one final time before counter-signing to make the transfer final. In retrospect, the risk of injury vastly outweighed whatever gain we might have made from having him in the lineup, but I wasn't thinking about that, then. Rushden are a League One side, and so above us in the English footballing pyramid, but they've been off to an abysmal start this season, with four straight losses to open the year. Consequently, optimism was high in Yorkshire. It was a crisp, cool night, and an average crowd of 1,567 attended Bootham Crescent to show their support. For my starting lineup I had Alan Blayney in goal, with Joe Keenan, Liam Fontaine, and Michael Staley in defense. They were joined by 16-year-old Daniel Smith, making his competitive debut at right back in place of suspended captain Graeme Law. Alan Navarro would wear the captain's armband from defensive midfield. John McGrath and Phil Townley were on the wings, with Joe Foote and Ryan Ashington running the attacking midfield. Yalcin would be making his final appearance in our red and white at striker. If we'd expected Rushden to be disorganized and demoralized, we got an eye-opener right from the start. They applied constant pressure throughout the first 8 minutes, which culminated in Andrew Sambrook's beautiful ball that picked out Dani Rodrigues in the area. Somehow he had wriggled free of all markers at about the penalty spot, and had a glorious chance. Alan Blayney made an amazing save to turn it behind. Andy Burgess took the ensuing corner, which he curled towards Andy White, who had young Daniel Smith beat at the near post. Joe Keenan desperately raced across the goalmouth, and tried to head it wide, but with his late arrival, he only succeeded in putting it into his own net! By the 25th minute, I was pushing everybody forward, looking for an equalizer. Joe Keenan, desperate to make amends, launched a beautiful long cross to Phil Townley in the 35th minute. The speedy winger dribbled to the end-line, then centered for Joe Foote about 12 yards from goal. David Mannix partially cleared it, but only as far as Ryan Ashington, who unleashed a piledriver from the top of the area. Burgess did well to block it, and it was out for a corner. In the 44th minute, after a slow buildup that gave our defense time to get tightly set in the area, Peter Hawkins played the ball from the left wing to White at the top of the area. White's shot was charged down by John McGrath, and kicked back out to the left, where Rushden captain Marcus Kelly was unmarked 8 yards from goal. He drilled a left-footed shot past Blayney, and it was 0-2 going to the half. The second goal hadn't really been Smith's fault - though it was his normal responsibility, the youth had gone down in a collision, and required the physio on as Rushden celebrated the goal. Still, I couldn't help but wonder if we'd have conceded either with Graeme Law on at right back. Early in the second half, Levent Yalcin nearly gave the fans a memorable send-off, breaking past the last line of Rushden defenders on captain Navarro's sizzling pass. Goalkeeper Billy Turley came rushing off his line, to break up the chance before the Turk could get the shot off. By the 55th minute, I'd switched to a 3-5-2, looking for offensive inspiration, but Rushden countered with a deep defensive formation, and penetrating such tactics had always been problematic for us. Though we had the lion's share of the possession, we never seemed to threaten. Without Tappa, the final 'killer ball' seemed sadly lacking, and the League One defense had no trouble cutting out our eforts. Alan Navarro did get one chance with about twenty minutes left, firing an 18 yard effort which curled just wide of the post, but for the most part the Rushden defense completely shut us down for the final half hour. York 0, Rushden & Diamonds 2 ----; Keenan o.g. 10, Kelly 45 MoM: Robinson (Rushden DC) I announced the transfer of Levent Yalcin to the players in the locker room immediately after the match, so that they could all say their goodbyes - he would not be returning to Bootham Crescent in the morning. Rushden central defender Paul Robinson was a well-deserved Man of the Match, anchoring their central defense throughout our second-half attack.
  3. Monday, 21st August, 2006. Jaw-dropping news! Just as I was beginning to feel resigned to a dreary season with insufficient depth, Burnley manager Paul Hart called. He wanted to buy players. Not one. Not two. Three of our players! Hart didn't say as much directly, but reading between the lines, I gather the chairman of the Championship side had given him a late addition to his transfer budget, and he was making calls to a number of clubs. Like me, he wants to build with youth and potential, rather than for immediate gain, and that's good news for us: he wished to talk terms about several of our most promising players! Levent Yalcin was the big ticket item. Hart had heard what I'd demanded from Newcastle for the striker, and asked if I would be willing to accept £275,000, plus 30% of his next transfer fee, and a promise to arrange a friendly match prior to the start of next season. He also wanted both our wingers, offering 30% of his next transfer but no cash for John McGrath, and a flat £130,000 for Jon Paul McGovern. I was stunned. It felt so sudden! I mean, I'd known that they had a scout watching us, but I thought they were only interested in McGrath. I hadn't realized that they would be willing to offer such large sums for Yalcin and McGovern. After twenty seconds of careful consideration, I decided that what he was offering for Levent Yalcin was reasonable, and nearly snapped off his hand to accept the offer. The two wingers, however, I negotiated the price around: they're key components of the team. Negotiations, both for price and contracts, would take through our mid-week League Cup encounter.
  4. Sunday, 20th August, 2006. With two consecutive losses, we'd dropped down to 13th, which was much closer to what I'd expected from the team this season: our brief flirtation with the top of the table had flattered to deceive, I thought. The pressure was constantly building, and I found myself losing sleep at night. No transfer budget. Insufficient players. Nobody coming in on loan. And, like a spectre, the shadow of the relegation zone looming behind us. There were several scouts at the Mansfield game, and to my morose eyes, they circled like vultures over our still-breathing squad, waiting for us to draw our last breath. The short-term bad news from the match was that Graeme Law would serve an automatic one game suspension - effective immediately, which meant he would miss our mid-week League Cup game. With the Under-18 Cup match coming up mid-week, I went with a lineup almost entirely trialist and amateur on Sunday for the first match of our youth club's title defense. Honestly, I didn't expect them to have a chance. In a pouring rain at Chesterfield, however, amateur striker Chris Simpson had a stunning, 4-goal first half. Trialist right wing Steve Ingram made it 5-0, and although Colin Hart lost his shutout in the 87th minute, amateur Paul Ford's injury time goal made the final score 6-1, putting our lads emphatically top of their table on goal difference! I spoke with Simpson about the possibility of turning professional, but the 17-year-old indicated that he intends to attend university: he's already been offered an athletic scholarship by one, and several more are considering him. Sunday night, we bid farewell to young goalkeeper Gareth Gray, who signed a new contract with Welsh side Brickfield Rangers. I'd let the 19-year-old go on a free transfer; after his embarassing pre-season gaffe, I didn't feel he had what it took to compete with our other four goalkeepers.
  5. Saturday, 19th August, 2006. League Two - Game 4, vs Mansfield Town. It had been a long week, and I was looking forward to the weekend, and our next match. Our fourth encounter was against 13th-placed Mansfield Town, a team which had narrowly missed relegation the previous season. They'd gone into the final match safe by just a single point, but won, and finished four points clear. With McGovern and Corbett out, and Goodwin on loan, we were down to just two healthy wingers. Our lineup started of course with Alan Blayney in goal. The back four held my first choice of Joe Keenan, Liam Fontaine, Mark Wright, and Graeme Law for the first time all season. Alan Navarro was the holding midfielder, with John McGrath and Phil Townley on the wings. Joe Foote and Ryan Ashington led the attack, with Jon Shepherd alone up top. We mounted a ton of pressure from the opening minutes, and earned corners in the 5th and 6th minutes. The first, Alan Navarro hit a long shot from about 16 yards, which Mansfield starting keeper David Lucas just tipped over. On the ensuing corner, Liam Fontaine drove a header at the near post. Lucas made a diving save, keeping it out, but hitting his head against the post. After several minutes of treatment, the Mansfield physio determined he had a concussion, and on came reserve goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington, aged 32. I must say, I was looking forward to peppering their backup 'keeper with shots, and when Jon Shepherd put a shot just wide in the 15th minute, the game looked solidly in our control. I began sending the fullbacks forward to put a bit more pressure on the Mansfield defense and the backup keeper. Navarro put another long shot on target in the 30th minute, but Pilkington tipped it over in a near replay of Lucas's earlier save. In the 40th minute, Joe Keenan launched a long ball to Phil Townley, charging up the right wing. The speedster dribbled into the area one-on-one with the veteran 'keeper, but Pilkington, rushing off his line, made the stop. Mansfield had been surprisingly quiet through the first half, but in the 44th minute, they got a nice permieter passing game set up around the outside of our penalty area. This was brought to a halt when Graeme Law slid in and took away the legs of Wayne Corden. Referee Neil Hancox pulled out a straight red card, and the Bootham Crescent crowd of 1,610 first groaned, then began to boo the decision. That left us a man down for the second half, and the visitors were in complete control right from the restart. Alan Blayney saved their first shot, and Keenan blocked a second, but in the 48th minute, Andy Parkinson broke free past Keenan up the right wing. He whipped a cross into the six-yard box, which Blayney was going to let go, but decided at the last minute to try to catch. It was about shoulder height, and he failed to hold it: it dropped off his palms, redirected off of his chest, and found its way straight into the net! A disastrous, short-handed own-goal, and now we had to chase a 0-1 deficit with ten men. I juggled the lineup around as much as I could, shifting to a 3-5-1 to try and generate some extra chances. For about a five minute period around the hour-mark, we staged a period of very heavy pressure, with several chances, corner kicks and threatening free kicks, but it came to naught each time. That brief bright spot was brought to an end when Phil Townley, whose speed had been instrumental on the wings, picked up a knock. I brought Levent Yalcin on at attacking midfield, shifting Daryl Peters to the right wing, out of position, but it just wasn't the same, and the final twenty minutes expired with few threats at either end. York 0, Mansfield 1 ----; Blayney o.g. 48 MoM: Pilkington (Mansfield GK) Alan Blayney was disconsolate in the York locker room, though the red-carded Graeme Law also tried to shoulder the blame. There had, in fact, been enough for everybody, and I gave a brief talk about the squandered chances in the first half. "We can't let opportunity pass us by," I told them, "Or it will come back to haunt us later." Mansfield Town substitute goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington was named Man of the Match for a fine performance replacing the injured Lucas.
  6. Thursday, 17th August, 2014. Sunday afternoon, York Reserves defeated an almost entirely amateur York U-18 side 1-0 in a pre-season scrimmage. I'd invited Rob Styles to come referee it as though he were custodian of a Premier League match, so that I could get a better idea of which trialists were loose-tackling, and luckily saw just three yellow cards. Trialist Martin Beale was the goalscorer. The play of another one of our trialist right backs prompted me to sign him to a contract: D R Daniel Smith, 16, English: Schoolboy - similar to Mark Dixon, a physically gifted youth with a good array of skills developed already, both technically and mentally. He doesn't have any particular weaknesses, although he isn't a particularly influential player, and isn't as strong in the air as one would hope for a center back, which is probably why he's a fullback. Like Dixon, he has the potential to be a replacement for captain Graeme Law in a few years' time. With his acquisition, and three better right backs, it was clear to me that there was no future at the club for Steve Hall or youngster John Barker. Barker I released on a free transfer, while Hall we managed to sell to Bridlington for £5,000. Steve Hall, DR, 19: February 2006-August 2006: 1 season, 1 game, 0 goals, 1 assist, 7.00 I'd also arranged a pair of three-month loans. No, not loans in. Loans out. 17-year-old goalkeeper Kevin Butler joined Poole Borough, a non-Conference side, and 19-year-old right wing Mark Goodwin visited our neighbors Harrogate Town in the Conference North. With the injury to Jon Paul McGovern, this was actually his best chance of the season to see some first-team action, but the deal was already arranged and the youngster was very much looking forward to gaining invaluable first-team experience with competitive football. Meanwhile, contract negotiations with Ryan Ashington had broken off: his agent was demanding a promise of first-team football as well as a salary larger than Tappa's, neither of which I was willing to give. I had a gut-feeling that - free kick aside - the 23-year-old had risen above the level he was capable to play, and had progressed as far as he was able.
  7. Sunday, 13th August, 2006. Jeff Miller was waiting at my office when I arrived to work the next morning, and I received a severe tongue-lashing from him. Jon Paul McGovern had been playing the entire match on a strained groin, and according to Miller I was very lucky the winger hadn't further injured it: he could have done lasting damange, I was informed. He recommended sending the winger off to a specialist in London to ensure a proper recovery, which I agreed to. Its early in the season, and I'd rather lose three or four weeks of his time now than risk worse later in the season - and I was feeling a bit guilty after Miller's diatribe. That made it all the worse when Stacy chose Sunday night to give me a piece of her mind, as well. I'll be the first to admit I've been letting the job consume me: its the stress, I think, of knowing the team I have isn't quite ready for the challenge it will face. I've been working long hours - it didn't even occur to me until she said it that a 12-hour day was about the shortest I've had since July first, with 14 to 16 as an average, and sometimes even more. Seven days a week, too. Between training, scouting reports, studying game film, and . At least I haven't been much of a tactical tinker-man: its 4-5-1, all the time, although there's a pretty big difference between the counter-attack version and the attacking version: <pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre"> Conservative Counter-attack: DL WBL <- ML DC MC <- AMC GK DMC SC DC MC <- AMC DR WBR <- MR Attacking: DL -> WBL ML -> AML DC MC <- AMC GK DMC SC DC MC <- AMC DR -> WBR MR -> AML</pre> Still, after the normal day's work is done, then begins the phone calls: manager after manager, agent after agent, desperately searching for anybody who can strengthen the side. Its exhausting, my back is sore, and I hardly want to speak at all when I get home late at night: just let me eat some leftovers and lie down. That's hardly a way to treat my wife, especially after I'd neglected her for the World Cup, and she let me know it. I promised to cut it back a bit, just as soon as the transfer window is closed.
  8. Saturday, 12th August, 2006. League Two - Game 3, at Hereford United. Hereford United had earned promotion from the Conference National two years earlier, and come 15th last season. With a draw and a loss in their first two matches, they were currently 16th. Hereford is a long drive from York, as its located north of the River Severn, and north-west of the Black Mountains, south-east of Birmingham, near the Welsh border. Our last visit to Hereford, early in my tenure as manager, had been a Conference battle which saw us defeated 2-1. We returned to a lineup close to my first choice: Alan Blayney in goal, Joe Keenan, Liam Fontaine, Michael Staley, and Graeme Law across the back, Alan Navarro at defensive midfield, John McGrath and Jon Paul McGovern on the wings, Ryan Ashington and Joe Foote attacking, and Levent Yalcin still searching for his first goal of the season at striker. It was another stiflingly hot August afternoon, but both sides came out pressing hard, and there were plenty of chances in the first ten minutes. The 3,704 fans had barely had time to get settled when Levent Yalcin put a shot wide merely 45 seconds in, and both keepers had saves by the sixth minute. Around the corner-hour, Jon Paul McGovern dribbled up the right wing into the corner. His cross, intended for Joe Foote's far post run, was partially blocked by fullback Ross McLeod. It just got past Guy Branston, and Yalcin poppup up 8 yards from goal. With his first touch, he hammered it home for a 1-0 York lead. Hereford didn't get another shot off through the remainder of the first half, and it seemed our Minstermen were in complete control. McGovern had picked up a bit of a knock, but manfully played through it, and in the 43rd minute, he sent a short cross, again to Yalcin. The Turk launched a blistering shot from 15 yards, but Jonathan Gould made a fantastic diving save to take the 1-0 scoreline to halftime. Whatever tactical adjustments Hereford made over the intermission had immediate effect, as they had two good chances - men unmarked in our area - in the first three minutes of the second half. Luckily, both shots missed badly. It looked unlikely that a single goal would suffice; both sides had their chances. In the 51st minute, Foote's 18 yard gem was tipped away by a lucky Gould. At the 57th minute, Hereford United had a corner kick, and Jamie O'Hara connected with a header, blocked back into play by Alan Blayney and cleared by Alan Navarro. The heat was definitely taking its toll, and Hereford seemed to be struggling by the 65th minute. Just as I began to relax a hair, my defense did also, just as Ryan Green sent a long pass upfield. Liam Fontaine was trying to mark both Lee Martin and Nathan Blake, and splitting between both of them had left each uncovered. The pass was to Blake, and his shot from within the penalty arc beat Blayney - our first goal conceded of the season, and a 1-1 score. That goal, I think, might be attributable to having 'zonal' marking instructions throughout the side - Fontaine couldn't mark two guys, and had no help forthcoming. I'll have to keep an eye on that. In the 69th, Navarro nearly put us ahead with a 25-yard shot that whistled just inches wide of the far post. We still looked the dominanat side, and the goal had been against the run of play, so I was shocked in the 73rd, when McLeod's crazy hit-and-hope long range effort took a deflection off of Grame Law. It skipped through to the far side of the area, where substitute Tony Ball arrived a half-step ahead of Joe Keenan, and rifled home a 16-yard shot to make the score 1-2. We pressed forward seeking a late equalizer, with fresh legs on for Yalcin, Ashington, and McGrath. In the 80th minute, Foote put a nice pass ahead of speedy Daryl Peters, who broke into the area, but Gould tipped his shot over the bar. Two minutes later, Navarro's pass set Phil Townley loose down the left wing. He dribbled into the box, and around Gould, but his shot only found side netting. That was our last good chance, and injury time expired to the raucous cheers of the home crowd, as their side had just handed us our first defeat of the season. Hereford 2, York 1 Blake 67, Ball 73; Yalcin 14 MoM: Gould (Hereford GK) There was a good deal of frustration in the York locker room afterwards: we knew we'd outplayed them, outshot them, and fully deserved three points. I didn't say anything, myself, but captains Graeme Law and Alan Navarro really lit into their teammates for the half-hearted effort they'd given in the second half.
  9. Thursday, 10th August, 2006. As I glanced through Wednesday morning's Yorkshire Post article about our match, I noted that chairman Steve Beck had declared himself extremely pleased with the result. In the same paragraph, I learned that, to my utter shock, the victory had put us top of the table! Flipping to the back page, I saw that five teams had won six points from the first two matches, but we were the only ones with a +4 goal differential. "That's not so bad, is it?" Viv said, stepping into my office as I was studying the paper. "No, not at all," I said, meeting his grin with a laugh. "Still, we knew we had a strong eleven. Its injuries and December that worry me." The Champions League had reached the Third Qualifying Phase, a home-and-away matchup. Liverpool crushed Bosnian side NK Siroki Brijeg 5-0 at New Anfield, while in Armenia, Newcastle beat Pyunik 3-1. Scottish Old Firm Celtic were shocked in Israel, 0-3, by Maccabi Haifa, which would leave them a lot of work to do in the second leg. Ryan Ashington's agent called me this evening, and informed me that his client is now unhappy with his contract. I'd originally signed him as a backup player through 2009 on wages appropriate to a reserve player, and as his agent pointed out, he leads active York players in goals scored, played an important role in last year's side, and there's nobody who could take his place this year either. The agent went on to point out his Beckahm-esque free kick and Man of the Match award in our last match. I may have to give in and offer him a pay raise, but they're asking four times his current salary; there's no way I can afford that. On the training pitch, Malcolm Parker had suffered a bruised thigh, which would rule him out of Saturday's match, not that I'd been tempted to select him ahead of in-form Alan Navarro.
  10. Thanks, paulsgruff. Yeah, it gave me a big smile to see him. Even against me, I rather hoped he'd have more impact! Thanks Damien. I'm going to have to put the story 'on hold' for a week again in a couple days; I've a family vacation coming up. Hope you'll all bear with me!
  11. Tuesday, 8th August, 2006. League Two - Game 2, vs Peterborough United. We would renew our rivalry with Peterborough for the second game of the season, our home opener. We'd beaten them in the pre-season, 2-1, and they had lost their first match, but they are a side recently relegated from League One, so I expected them to be dangerous. David Stockdale, a former Minsterman, was starting in goal for the visitors. There were four changes from my weekend squad. Alan Blayney was of course in goal. Mark Wright would make his first start of the year with Joe Keenan, Michael Staley, and Graeme Law in the back row. Alan Navarro remained the defensive midfielder, while Phil Townley would play left wing opposite Jon Paul McGovern. Ryan Ashington returned to the starting lineup, partnered with goalscorer Joe Foote at attacking mid, and Jon Shepherd would make his first start for York at striker. It was a disappointingly small crowd of 1,510 that came to Bootham Crescent on a cool summer evening. We settled in quickly, and began putting some pressure on the Peterborough defense right from the off. Joe Foote had the first chance, in the ninth minute, but put it wide. A nice 15th-minute pass from Jon Paul McGovern found Jon Shepherd in a dangerous place, and John Mackie brought him down, gifting us a free kick from 20 yards. Ryan Ashington curled a spectacular free kick over the wall and in at the near post: we had an early 1-0 lead, and the crowd chanted "Beck-ham, Beck-ham" in acknowledgement! In the 26th minute, McGovern nearly got one of his own, as left wing Phil Townley sent a cross over the box for him at the far post, but David Stockdale made the save. The former teammates exchanged smiles. In the 32nd minute, Phil Townley jinked around Mackie about forty yards from goal, and sprinted into the box. Danny Hall desperately slid in on him, too late: he got off the shot a mere twelve yards from goal. Stockdale made a great reflex save, but the deflection skittered the top of the 6-yard box. Shepherd was the first two it, and buried it into the open net for his first-ever York goal, and a 2-0 lead! The play on the pitch felt closer than the two-nil scoreline, with chances for both sides, and a tough battle in midfield that was really taking its toll. Still, we held the lead firm through halftime, and gauging the atmosphere at the break, my players were relishing the fight. Mark McCammon had Peterborough's best chance on the hour, a breakaway which saw him elude both of our central defenders, but Alan Blayney proved up to the task, coming up with a fine save. With McGovern tiring, I brought him off for John McGrath, switching the veratile Townley over to the right side, a move which would lead to our third goal. In the 83rd minute, Ashington was central, and with the Peterborough defense collapsing to clog the middle, he played it ahead of McGrath into the box along the left side. The Irishman took two touches, then curled a cross past every defender to Townley at the far post. Stockdale overreacted, coming too far to his left to close down the easy shot, and the Liverpool loanee coolly cut his shot back across to the far post to make a convincing 3-0 final. York 3, Peterborough 0 Ashington 15, Shepherd 32, Townley 83; ----; MoM: Ashington There was celebration in the locker room after that one, a dominant victory which, though it had felt close to my view from the sidelines, had never been so in reality: we'd scored as many goals as Peterborough had had shots, and Alan Blayney had only made one save all evening.
  12. Monday, 7th August, 2006. I switched from our late pre-season training regime to the season-long training I'd run last year. I still had worries that it wasn't getting the most out of our players in the second half of the season, but that seemed a long ways off, yet, and as a training system it had done well for six months or so. Premier League winners Arsenal beat the FA Cup winners Aston Villa in the Community Shield at Wembley, 3-2, jumping out to a 3-0 lead after merely 11 minutes, but weathering a Villa comeback that saw it 3-2 by halftime, and a defensive affair thereafter. Last Thursday, the York Reserves were completely dominated by the West Ham Reserves. Though the final score was only 0-2, it could and perhaps should have been much, much worse. Today, I added two more youth players to the roster, but neither would solve our offensive woes, or was likely to see any action with the senior side. GK Colin Hart, 15, English: Schoolboy - A physically gifted youngster, Hart had earned a place on the side with a fine performance against West Ham Reserves. He's a hard worker, and already reasonable in a number of the key attributes for a goalkeeper, so I'm hoping that with a few year's training he might develop into something worth mentioning. D R Mark Dixon, 16, English: Schoolboy - Another physically gifted youth, Dixon actually seems to have sufficient ability already to be an excellent player at the Conference level. With time and training, he might well be able to overtake Graeme Law for a position on the right side of our defense. If he has weaknesses, they're on the mental side: his concentration wanders and he hasn't shown the sort of determination I would prefer.
  13. Saturday, 5th August, 2006. League Two - Game 1, at Rochdale. Our first League match under the care of the Supporter's Trust would be away to Rochdale AFC. The Dale are a perennial relegation battler in League Two, having come 18th and 19th the past two seasons, and the oddsmakers actually have us pegged as the favorites to win outright. It wasn't a long trip, as Rochdale is a mid-sized town just north of Manchester. The club is now the home of a 40-year-old Teddy Sheringham, in the twilight of his stellar career, and he was named to their starting lineup, his announcement met by a large cheer from the crowd of 3,420. I kept the same lineup as had played the final pre-season match against Leeds. Alan Blayney made his officieal debut in goal. Joe Keenan was on his debut at left back, with Liam Fontaine and Michael Staley central, and captain Graeme Law at right back. Alan Navarro would play the pivotal defensive midfield role, with John McGrath and Jon Paul McGovern on the wings. The attacking midfield pairing of Daryl Peters and Joe Foote felt very weak to me, but were the best available with Whitmore and Ashington injured. Levent Yalcin would make the start at striker. It was a defensive affair from the get-go. Joe Keenan demonstrated the worth of his signing within the first ten minutes, getting in with a pair of key headers to thwart Rochdale attacks. The hosts did seem to be getting the better of play, and in the 13th minute, Alan Blayney made a diving save to his right to deny Lee O'Neill. Or first chance followed, as Joe Foote's pass put Levent Yalcin into space, only for the Turk to cut his shot well wide from 20 yards. In the 28th minute, Alan Navarro's long pass put Foote into the box, but his shot was blocked by central defenseman Matthew Wicks. The breakthrough came in the 31st minute, as we earned a throw-in deep down the right side. Graeme Law took it, and Jon Paul McGovern played it back to him. The fullback curled a deep cross into the area, which looked to have overshot everbody, but Foote, backpedalling nine yards out, was able to get a head on it. As he fell to the turf, the ball nestled in at the far post, and we had a 1-0 lead in our first League match! His teammates dog-piled atop the 16-year-old before he could get back to his feet! The lead lasted through halftime, and the lads were quite grateful for a water break - it was a hot summer day. Foote nearly got a second in the 48th minute, but Keenan's beautiful long ball was wasted when the young attacking midfielder let it come too far off his feet on the dribble, and goalkeeper Neil Cutler came out to collect it. Sheringham left the pitch, a non-contributor, after 60 minutes. In the 68th, Grant Holt broke into the area on the right, and only another great save by Blayney could deny him. By the final minutes, I had our players on a full defensive outlook, to protect the 1-0 lead, but in the 83rd Phil Townley's counter-attack gave Ryan Ashington - on as a substitute - a golden chance from 17 yards. His shot beat Cutler, but skated just wide of the left post. Injury time ticked away, and when Michael Geoghegan scuffed one last chance over, the final whistle blew, and we were winners in our League debut! Rochdale 0, York 1 - - - -; Foote 32 MoM: Navarro From the way the lads were celebrating, you might take it that some few of them had had doubts about our ability to perform in the League, but I'd known we belonged. As I'd expected, we were very solid defensively. Our real problems were at the sharp end, and of course, an injury crisis could reduce us to an Under-18 side in a real hurry. Defensive midfielder Alan Navarro had played a very solid game, just ahead of the back four, and was a key part of the shutout - he made sure to get Sheringham's jersey, after, which probably meant more to him than the Man of the Match award.
  14. Tuesday, 1st August, 2006. The monthly board meeting went fairly well. The board's expectations are fairly low: anything better than a relegation battle would be frosting on the cake for them, and they're really just hoping that we can build a strong squad for the future. With the big-name friendlies, we'd actually netted a positive balance of £70,000 for the month, which put us up to a profit of £200,000 for the season, although that still wasn't enough to tip even our temporary cash flow into the positive realm, and the remaining transfer budget was a mere £4,000. The worst news came from Director Terry Doyle. "We've been working on securing new sponsorship for the upcoming season, but the last deal we had has lapsed and we have been unable to find a new corporate partner. We're still working on it, but the sponsorship at £27,000 per month which had covered our loan payments has expired." That news killed my request for more transfer funds before I'd even had a chance to voice it to the board. There was one slight positive: for our first League Cup game, we drew a home match against League One side Rushden & Diamonds. The review of monthly training was fairly disappointing. Graeme Law was the most improved player on the side, but most of our players had made no progress, and a number of them had actively regressed during the pre-season training regime. They might be fit, but they weren't learning their trade. Alan Navarro had shown a stunning negative dip for one so young. Viv, however, remains bullish on a number of our players, rating Alan Blayney, Joe Keenan, and Jon Paul McGovern as players to build the squad around, and Michael Staley and Simon Roberts as 'potential stars' for the future. He also suggested trying Jon Shepherd and Levent Yalcin on the pitch simultaneously, dropping Yalcin back to the attacking midfield role. That was a move we'd discussed last season, but hadn't implemented; I don't think its likely unless we can find another striker. Our fans, too, were excited, and ticket sales, even for season tickets, remained brisk. The bookmakers had us pegged at 8-1 odds to win promotion this season, which was very reasonable and perhaps a bit better than my own estimation of our odds.
  15. Monday, 31st July, 2006. Luckily, Jeff's report was positive. Levent Yalcin had had his ankle cruelly stepped upon, but it was no worse than bruised. Ryan Ashington's injury wasn't particularly serious, either: he'd strained some ligaments in his right shoulder, and should take a week's rest but wouldn't miss an extended period. For the preseason overall, I was very happy with our defense, which had conceded only four goals - three to Premier League side Tottenham, and one through our fourth-choice goalkeeper. However, the offense had left a lot to be desired. As had been clear from the moment I looked over the lineup, it was obviously the area which needed the biggest upgrade. I could hope that the return of creative midfielder Tappa Whitmore mid-season would spark some life, but honestly our offense last season had relied heavily on loan products, and without them wehad scraped but five goals in seven friendlies. Unfortunately, despite my best attempts to remedy the shortcoming, the only luck I was having on the transfer market was in the coaching department, where I'd secured the services of 32-year-old goalkeeper's coach Alan Robertson, filling the last void in my staff. Tappa was quite disappointed when I told him that the last staff position had been filled, but I promised him another interview at season's end.
  16. Sunday, 30th July, 2006. Friendly vs Leeds United. 9,412 fans turned out for the final pre-season match, a renewal of our rivalry with local Championship side Leeds United. Last year, they had beaten us on the same date by a score of 1-0. As I had the previous year, I intended to treat this as a regulation match, using only three substitutions and playing most of the squad the full ninety minutes. The lineup was Alan Blayney in goal; Joe Keenan, Liam Fontaine, Michael Staley, and Graeme Law in defense; Alan Navarro the holding midfielder; John McGrath and Jon Paul McGovern on the wings; Joe Foot and Ryan Ashington as the attacking midfielders; and Levent Yalcin up front. With Leeds operating in an adventurous 4-3-3, both sides had plenty of chances early - by the 7th minute, Neil Sullivan had made a nice save on Joe Foote's 25-yard effort, and Alan Blayney had made two fantastic reflex saves to deny Simon Johnson and Jamie Winter. Unfortunately, by the quarter-hour, Levent Yalcin had picked up a knock, and had to come off, giving way for new signing Jon Shepherd. Five minutes later, Ryan Ashington looked certain to score from 12 yards, but Sullivan made a great save to tip it wide. In the 30th minute, McGovern and Ashington teamed up along the right side, with Ashington finding Jon Shepherd in the box, but again Sullivan was there to deny the York attack, and the game went to halftime 0-0, a fine display by both goalkeepers. Early in the second half, Ryan Ashington went down under a hard tackle by Sean Gregan, and didn't get back up. Physio Jeff Miller rushed onto the field, and I was worried that our leading scorer might be out a considerable time. I'm sure I was as relieved as the crowd when he got up and walked off the pitch under his own power, though he was cradling his right arm gingerly to his chest. In the remainder of the second half, Alan Navarro played exceptionally well, clearing away four dangerous balls from his role in the central defensive midfield. Despite my resolve to limit my substitutions, I made three more changes at the 66th minute, and another three at 87 minutes as no few of my players weren't quite ready to go a full ninety. York 0, Leeds United 0 ----; ---- MoM: Sullivan (Leeds GK) The two goalkeepers were the clear Men of the Match, with Leeds' Neil Sullivan earning the nod over our own Alan Blayney. I congratulated the lads on a job well done, and then turned my attention to the physioroom.
  17. Friday, 28th July, 2006. It was time to choose a captain - last year's captains had been loanee David Fox and the now-departed Darren Dunning. I'd been trying a number of players with the captain armband through pre-season, but in the end I chose stalwart right back Graeme Law, co-captained by defensive midfielder Alan Navarro, with youngster Jamie Cooper to captain the Reserve side. It was also time for "the cut", as players were sent down to the Reserve and U-18 sides. The Reserves would get goalkeepers Kevin Butler and Gareth Gray, defenders Jamie Cooper, Kevin West, Kevin Eaton, and Steve Hall, wingers Mark Goodwin and Adam Corbett, along with Daryl Peters and Simon Roberts. The only player assigned directly to the U-18 side was injured right back John Barker. The draw for the Under-18 Cup saw York Under-18s draw an away match against Hartlepool Under-18s.
  18. Wednesday, 26th July, 2006. Friendly, at Barrow. Barrow-in-Furness is a small town across Morecambe Bay from Morecambe and Lancaster, to the west of the Yorkshire Dales, along the coast of the Irish Seas. The team is in the Conference North, and I could no longer remember why I'd scheduled them - a "B" team match, but to give us some practice with a travelling routine, I suppose. The lineup I selected was well shy of full strength. Kevin Butler made his second pre-season start in goal, with Adam Eckersley, Jamie Cooper, Michael Staley, and trialist Nick Davies across the back four. Malcolm Parker would start in the defensive midfield, with Phil Townley and Mark Goodwin on the wings. Up front, it was starters Ryan Ashington and Joe Foote, while new signing Jon Shepherd would make his debut at striker. It was a wet night, and a meagre crowd of 144 braved the rain to visit Holker Street ground. The early action consisted of a few corners at either end, but the crowd weren't really brought to their feet until the 23rd minute. Phil Townley made an electrifying move up the left wing, then sent in a cross to Jon Shepherd. The new Minsterman launched a left-footed volley from 16 yards for a scintillating goal, and we led 1-0. "I thought he wasn't flamboyant," I muttered under my breath. Who had done the scouting on him? Ah, James Tracey and Gary Lloyd. Not the first team, those two, but the lad was having a good debut so hopefully it wasn't money wasted. Barrow were playing very conservatively, and there were few chances through the remainder of the first half. In the second half, my line went from reserves to giving my trialists some chances. Alan Eckersley took a free kick from his side of the midfield line in the 56th minute, and launched it straight up the park. It was 15-year-old striker Simon Roberts split tight coverage, and the ball just snuck through between two blue-shirted Barrow defenders. Roberts, with his first touch, launched a magnificent strike from 18 yards, and it was a solid 2-0 York lead. A trialist attacking midfielder named Ryan Hutchinson missed two good chances to impress, blazing a 20-yard shot over the bar despite having space, and missing with a headed half-chance off a corner, but that 2-0 scoreline was how it finished. Barrow 0, York 2 ----; Shepherd 23, Roberts 56 MoM: Liddicott (Barrow GK) The side had played well, and if I'd been concerned about Shepherd's signing, my fears were allayed for the moment with the picturesque goal on his debut. In the oddest decision of decisions, Ross Liddicott, a Barrow 'keeper who had played a mere 12 minutes after the outcome was already decided, was named Man of the Match. I can only presume he had some heart-warming tale of obstacles overcome, as his play on the pitch had hardly seemed significant.
  19. Tuesday, 25th July, 2006. Surprisingly, the mood in camp was still upbeat. Some of my coaches had questioned the need to play higher division opposition - driven, if I'm honest, by a thought of the gate receipts - and more than one had espoused the theory that we should build camaraderie with some easy victories, rather than risk demoralizing the side with blowout losses. It hadn't turned out that way: the lads were all over-the-moon to have faced the legends at Spurs, and the 0-3 scoreline had given the lads a sense of pride. "We belong," they seemed to say. I did address one area of obvious need this evening, completing the transfer of Montrose striker Jon Shepherd for a fee of £12,000. S C Jon Shepherd, 19, English: 15 games, 6 goals, 6.93 with Montrose - Like Levent Yalcin, a young player who is very well balanced, Shepherd's strengths are his concentration and acceleration. He doesn't have any real weaknesses, but he isn't a flamboyant player, and we've heard rumours that he isn't much of a team player. He'll be under contract through 2010, and will alternate with Yalcin up front.
  20. Wow, BobBev, thank you, that's .. high praise! .. and not lightly given. Much appreciated. Paulsgruff, thanks - if it were all roses and victories, there would hardly be a story, eh? I'll drink to the injury-free friendlies though!
  21. Saturday, 22nd July, 2006. Friendly, vs Tottenham Hotspur. Our next match was against even more illustrious opposition, Tottenham Hotspur, who had agreed to the friendly as part of their purchase of impressive young goalkeeper Craig Saunders. 9,411 fans were crammed into Bootham Crescent to see the illustrious Premiership side, and my players were absolutely stunned as the starting lineup were announced: they would be on the same pitch with Louis Saha and Robbie Keane! I started a mixed bag, with many of my starting XI seeing action, joined by a few younger players whom I wanted to see in the first team. Alan Blayney was again the goalkeeper, with Joe Keenan, Michael Staley, Jamie Cooper, and Kevin West the back line. Alan Navarro played defensive midfield, with Phil Townley in for the injured McGrath at left wing and Jon Paul McGovern at right wing. Daryl Peters would get a chance with the first team alongside Ryan Ashington, and young Simon Roberts also got a look at striker. I refused to concede to their quality, and instructed the lads to try and play "their" game, our typical conservative strategy. Unsurprisingly, it was Spurs who struck first, and it took them merely 3:18 to score. Sean Davis found some space in the center of the pitch, and curled a jaw-dropping shot from 30 yards out past a stationary Alan Blayney - all I could think was how grateful I was we wouldn't be seeing strikes like that all year long! It was clear the lads were nervous, as they were having trouble stringing together two consecutive passes, but they started to settle down a bit after ten minutes or so. Cooper outjumped Saha to head away a corner, and Alan Blaney made a nice save to deny Saha from 10 yards. Just as it looked like we were finding the pace of the match, Atouba sent a cross into the box. Blayney and Pedro Mendes went up for it together at the 6-yard box, with Blayney getting the ball - but also drawing the whistle for pushing Mendes. It was a penalty! Ronnie O'Brien would take it.. but to the amazement of the crowd, and the relief of Blayney, he put it wide! Tottenham kept up the pressure, as Saha fed Keane into the area in the 25th minmute. He made to dribble around Blayney, and looked to have an open goal, but Blayney recovered to make a fantastic save. In the 30th minute, Joe Keenan made as clean a tackle as you'll see at any level to rob Keane in the area, and we were looking much better. Then the creativity of Pedro Mendes struck. The Portugese international, running the Tottenham midfield from a central role, played a fabulous ball into space behind our back line. Keane made a perfectly timed diagonal run into the box, and suddenly it was just he and Blayney. Keane made no mistake this time, settling it with one touch at the corner of the six-yard box, and slipping it underneath the Northern Ireland 'keeper to the near post. We nearly caught them napping to open the second half, as Daryl Peters grazed the bar with a 20-yard shot - our only shot of the game, as it would turn out. As though to make the point that that shouldn't happen again, O'Brien sent a cross from deep on the right sideline to find Saha behind our line. Second-half goalkeeper Paul Carruthers read it too late, and though he rushed out, he couldn't beat Saha to the ball. The Frenchman had an easy finish to make it 0-3 at 50 minutes. Spurs were in complete control, and it was only the fact that they mercifully fell back into a completely defensive stance at that point, sending on youngsters and odd Reserves from the bench, that prevented a worse scoreline. We were never going to threaten their defense, and former Minsterman Craig Saunders, who played the final thirty minutes, was never called on to dirty his gloves. The final whistle, when it blew, was a mercy. The fans gave a rousing round of applause at the match's end, though I suspect it was in appreciation of Tottenham and not for the home side! York 0, Tottenham 3 ----; Davis 4, Keane 33, Saha 50 MoM: Mendes (Tottenham MC) It had been a memorably star-studded night for many of our players, who insisted on a kit exchange after - I even saw no few of them collecting autographs! For myself, I could only dream of fielding a competitive side against a team of that quality. I truly wanted nothing more.
  22. Thursday, 20th July, 2006. Jeff Miller's report on McGrath's injury was reassuring. He would miss about a week, including our next match, but should be back in time for the pre-season finale on the 30th. I continued to work the telephone, painfully aware that I needed to strengthen the depth of the squad, but I had no luck. I swear, my right ear felt like a cauliflower, it had been pressed to the earpiece so long. I asked my AA to purchase a hands-free unit for me. David Fox, last year's captain, had been available on a free, but spurned my three-year contract offer to sign with Oxford United. I was discovering that by and large I couldn't afford anybody whom I felt was good enough to play League football. I still had three full-season loans available, but was getting nowhere on my attempts to bring people in. I didn't even need starters, just some squad depth, and frankly I couldn't understand why I'd had more luck with loans last year than this. It was Fulham manager Micky Adams who took a moment to explain it to me. "Everyone's sure you're going straight back down, lad. You've not got enough depth." "But that's why.." "Look, a relegation scrap is hardly the best place for talent development. Besides, the guys you're interested in, I'd want to send to League One or the Championship."
  23. Tuesday, 18th July, 2006. Friendly, vs Leicester. Our third match in four days would be back at Bootham Crescent, against Championship side Leicester. They're big enough to have some international players, and listening to the announcer going through their lineup - Canero, Lizaridis, Schnoor, de la Cruz, Petrescu - made a stark contrast to our all-British name selection (save Yalcin, of course). I rolled out ten of my starting XI - Navarro was too tired to start matches in back-to-back nights. Alan Blayney returned in goal, with Joe Keenan, Michael Staley, Liam Fontaine, and Graeme Law the back four. Malcolm Parker was the defensive midfielder, with John McGrath and Jon Paul McGovern on the wings. Joe Foote and Ryan Ashington would handle the attacking midfield behind Levent Yalcin. With better weather, and much better opposition, we drew a near-capacity crowd of 9,344 to Bootham Crescent, and they were cheering loudly even before the sides took the pitch. Leicester were, of course, the better team, but for the first fifteen minutes it was really the Graeme Law show, as he performed at his best, blunting attack after attack. Leicester left wing Jordan Stewart grew so frustrated that he drew an early yellow card for hacking away Law's legs, and never did seem to recover and settle in. In the 18th minute, Leicester's best chance of the match came on a long throw-in by Peter Canero. Tommy Wright sent a knock-on header into the 6-yard box, where it was met by a diving Kevin Warner. It looked a certain goal, but he put it straight to Alan Blayney, who gathered it in with relief visible on his face. In the 36th minute, John McGrath fell and dislocated his shoulder, and I had to send Phil Townley in his place. I looked on with concern as Jeff Miller took McGrath back to the physio's room. It was still scoreless at halftime, and both sides made numerous substitutions through the second half - I'd hoped to find out who could go ninety minutes, but learned that only Joe Keenan and Michael Staley were in shape to do so. By the 75th minute, the fans were growing fairly restless, as we'd taken only four shots on goal, and hadn't ever mounted anything that seemed a real danger. Some began heading for the exits early, and though they met taunts from the faithful, today those early departures were the wise ones: they beat traffic, and didn't miss any excitement. York 0, Leicester 0 ----; ---- MoM: Butler Second-half goalkeeper Kevin Butler was named Man of the Match, though he hadn't had to make much in the way of saves. It was another solid effort defensively, but I was noticing something about this year's squad. In previous seasons, I'd had sufficient depth to bring on quality attacking players in the second half, and fresh legs with quality creativity had been a formula for creating holes through tired defenses. This year, the drop-off from my first team XI to the next best players at the position was tremendous, and it meant that once I made substitutions, we were a defensive squad at best. I needed more players, and I was already over budget - that meant loans.
  24. Thanks for that, Panpardus - I was quite glad to see you start a new tale. Your hardware woes remind me, I need to make sure to dump all I've written to CD so we don't lose this story. Damien - I must have had about forty loan offers out at this point in the story, and was getting more rejection letters than a hopeful author. I really wanted Tappa as a coach, but he was still demanding player's wages, which I couldn't afford. Slight bug, that, I think, but I had to come up with a story-explanation for it.
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