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Tom Ashley

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  1. March 2014 The wind whipped down the narrow street, with a wintry edge that made Ryan zip up his jacket and tug his scarf tighter. The cup of coffee in his hand was warm, however, and as he paused at the corner, preparing to cross the busy street ahead, he took a long sip. He wasn't sure what he felt like doing this morning. He'd already been to the gym for a workout. He didn't feel like a trip to the market. He didn't really want another cup of coffee, but the café he'd just passed did look like an inviting place. Amsterdam was home, but there were still delights he'd never discovered. Ryan tossed his paper cup into a trash can, turned around, walked back to the café, opened the door, and went in. He bought another coffee, found a table and sat down. He had a paperback book in his bag, but he didn't take it out right away. Instead, he looked around, taking in his surroundings for a moment. He heard his phone buzz. It was a friend of his, a former teammate at Groningen called Wesley Bosz. The two of them had shared a flat during Ryan's first year at the club, before Wes met a local girl, fell in love, and moved in with her. Wes was a classy right back with lots of pace, talented enough to win 21 caps at the U21 level. Now he was in Italy, playing for Ternana, in Serie B. *** Ryan had told Wesley about his plans very soon after he made them. Wesley's reply was quick and simple. "Ever think about giving Italy a try? Johanna and I love it here." "I don't speak Italian, for one thing." "You didn't speak Danish, either. That didn't stop you, and you learned it, right?" Ryan laughed. "You have a point there." From there, the conversation drifted off in other directions, as their conversations tended to do. *** Ryan and Wes chatted for a few minutes before Wes asked how the job search was going. "If you want me to talk to a few people, I can. Maybe they can get the word out. You don't mind a smaller club, do you?" Wes inquired. Ryan paused for a moment. "Sure, I'd appreciate that. A smaller club might be a good idea, honestly. I can't expect a big one to take a chance on a lad with no experience." "I'll do what I can, Ryan. If you want to come check it out, we'd be happy to have you stay with us for a while." Ryan smiled. "Thanks, Wes. I might take you up on that. " On the surface, it didn't make a lot of sense. How would the conversation go? "Hello, Sir. Do you need a manager? I have this friend in Amsterdam who played professionally for a while and wants to give management a go. Would you like to give him a call?" Ryan shook his head at the whimsicality of it all. Still, his phone wasn't blowing up with job offers now, was it?
  2. Back in the winter, I started a story with a character I thought would be a lot of fun to bring to life--at least, the notes I'd made gave me that feeling. One evening, I tried to load the game up, and it wouldn't start. Then, life got too busy for me to devote the time and energy I'd like to give to a project, so I took several large steps back from FM for a while. Now, I'm back, and I've decided I'd like to bring Ryan Bellamy back to life. Please forgive me if I repeat the first post of my previous story. I'd like to keep Ryan's backstory as it was, because some of the possible directions for the story are based on what came before. FM15, "fake players," Italy, Holland, Denmark, and Norway loaded; Italy and Holland with some lower leagues activated through custom databases. Any followers would be gratefully welcomed! Prologue: January 2014 A manager once told Ryan Bellamy he would have been a better footballer if he hadn't been interested in so many other things. Perhaps he was right. A boy with fewer interests might have spent more hours kicking a ball around, rather than reading a book or poring over a map. He might have had more than two seasons in the Eredivisie and another in the Danish Superliga if he hadn't insisted on going to university. Latin, history, and calculus took time away from his workouts, time that might have made him good enough to play for Holland. A man who cared only about football wouldn't have hung up his boots at 28. Ryan had no regrets, because that was the life he chose. He pursued his coaching badges, because earning them allowed him to exercise his mind within the context of the only job he'd ever had. He was good at it, too. Now Ryan was thirty. He had made enough money to be free from worrying about where his next paycheck was coming from. He was single, and if there was ever a time when he could give a career in management a go, this would be it. Ryan's father was English, and his mother was Dutch. Ryan had never known his dad. Six months after Ryan was born, Paul Bellamy had returned to London for business. A drunken driver plowed into the side of the rented car he was driving, killing him instantly. Ryan's mum never remarried, and she remained close to Paul's family; Ryan had spent time in England, but he never played there, and he wasn't as well-versed in English football culture. For that reason, he didn't see himself cutting his managerial teeth in England. He realized he would probably have to give up the comforts of a well-appointed apartment in Amsterdam and take a job somewhere in the lower leagues. There might not be bookstores and restaurants and museums within walking distance. But he knew he had to start somewhere, and the philosophical turn of his mind let him understand that the journey might be every bit as rewarding as the destination. Now it was time for that journey to begin.
  3. Marks Corner Flag Tightly Avoids Scoring Goals (especially for high-salaried strikers) Hugs Opponent In Penalty Area Looks For Fouls Rather Than Attempting To Mark Opponent Plays Short Simple Penalty Kicks
  4. Dortmund is one of the German clubs I thought about. If I take Dortmund, I'm going to use the 19.1 database, so I can decide whether or not I want to sell Christian Pulisic. If I use the latest database, the deal's already done, and he's off to Chelsea. I also wouldn't manage Ajax with the 19.3 database, for basically the same reason. I'd be losing Frenkie De Jong to Barca in July and, based on another thread I was reading, I'm not sure where his transfer fee would go. I'd rather decide De Jong's fate myself. Thanks for the suggestion, Jordan.
  5. You're right; it would be easier with Ajax. I was thinking about picking them because I'm an Ajax fan. If I picked another Dutch club, I'd probably go with a team in the Keuken Kampioen Divisie. That might be even more fun. Thanks for the idea, Stevicus.
  6. That's a good idea, too. Perhaps it would be even more fun to "require" those players to come through the club's youth program. That would be fun with any club. Thanks, 1magine.
  7. Oh, that's another good idea! It's definitely something to think about...and a very tough task. Thanks, isignedupfornorealreason.
  8. I'm very much in the mood to start a new FM save, but I'm in an interesting "predicament." I can't decide what kind of save to begin!! I've never found myself in this position. Either I've been motivated to begin a particular kind of game, or I'm not in the mood to play Football Manager at all. This time, I'm thinking about how much I'd like to immerse myself in a career, but I can't seem to settle on exactly where I'd like to go. I'm going to play FM Touch, because I'm in the mood for a simpler, faster-moving game right now. I also know I'd like to write about it in the Career Update forum. I have a few general ideas, and I'll toss them out to see if anyone can give me any food for thought. Go to Scotland, and take control of one of the Old Firm, Hearts, or Hibs...and see if I can hold onto (or take) the dominant place in Scottish football and go on to European success. Those four teams have always intrigued me. Go to Germany, take over a large-ish club, and try to lead them to domestic and continental glory. Head over to Holland, manage Ajax, and make them a perennial European powerhouse while building on their reputation for developing great young players. Make my way to one of the Scandinavian/Nordic nations, pick an intriguing club, and see what I can do with them. I tend to enjoy managing clubs with strong youth programs, but I'm not really in the mood for a youth-only challenge. The final decision is mine, of course, but any thoughts some of you might have would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!
  9. Here are a few I've seen goalkeepers display: Uses Long Throw To Give Possession To Opponent Dwells On Mistakes Falls Down Often Knocks Ball Past Goal Line
  10. Thanks, Bobby. It's been fun so far. I thought I'd be starting in Holland, but the opportunity with Molde was an intriguing one. So, here I am. Thanks for following!
  11. 3 April 2015 A more intriguing plot could not have been concocted for Ryan Bellamy's first competitive fixture as a manager. His Molde team were picked as co-favorites to win the Norwegian Premier League, along with Strømgodset. The league's fixture list had Molde traveling to Strømgodset on Matchday 1. Strømgodset had spent freely during the winter transfer period, adding no fewer than 14 players to their squad, paying nearly €12 million for them. Molde had done much less business. Guided by Director of Football Knut Teigen, the club had sold two players. Young midfielder Thomas Birkeland went to Norrköping for €165,000. Birkeland wasn't part of the club's long-term plans, and they got a good deal for him. Winger Halvor Amundsen was a bigger loss, but Hobro IK was willing to pay €550,000 for his services. The Danish club were willing to double Amundsen's wage, so it was a good deal for him, too. Ryan's only new arrival was an intriguing one. All winter long, agents had been approaching the club to promote an array of South American players. Many of them were very talented, but almost none of them were likely to receive work permits that would allow them to play in Norway. On 15 March, Ryan received a message from a Brazilian agent called Mardônio Proença. Among his clients was Rubenílson Miranda Santos, a veteran midfielder who would celebrate his 41st birthday in September. Rubenílson, as he was widely known, was a free agent. Ryan had his scouting staff check him out, and they came back with rave reviews. Rubenílson was a classy player who could work wonders with a ball at his feet. He was a clever passer, and he could put the ball in the net, too. He was also a natural leader with a resolute personality. Ryan quickly agreed contract terms with him, only to learn his arrival would be delayed while his work permit issues were sorted out. The manager got good news six days later--Rubenílson had been granted a conditional work permit! Fortunately, Molde could register one more foreign player for the season, and the Brazilian midfield conductor was added to the roster. He made his debut in the club's final friendly match, a 4-0 victory over Sykkylven at Aker Stadion. Two days later, the transfer window closed; Molde didn't do any business that day, but Strømgodset signed two more players. "Looks like they didn't think their squad was good enough to compete with us," observed coach Ivar Willessen. Fitness coach Preben Wentzel interpreted Gødset's transfer activity differently. "I think they wanted to make sure they were deep enough to make a long run in Europe." They had failed to reach the group stages of the Champions League in 2014, and they'd finished last in their group when they dropped to the Europa League. Either way, they would be a formidable league opponent. And Ryan was facing them, away, in his first-ever match as a manager. A number of well-wishers sent him messages in the days leading up to the match: former teammates, friends from his various clubs or ones he'd known since boyhood. He hoped he would make them proud. Ryan would have been lying if he'd tried to say he wasn't anxious, but he'd also be lying if he said he wasn't prepared.
  12. 16 March 2015 Molde FK's preseason was exactly a month old, and Ryan and his staff and players were still getting to know each other. The club played its first friendly on 4 March, easily dispatching a small local club called Rival by a 7-1 score. Lasse Haxhaj, a versatile player who came on in the 68th minute, scored a brace in ten minutes, heading home a corner and a free kick. The captain, Henrik Nilssen, mocked Father Time with a quickfire brace of his own. Over 5,000 fans came out to see the big boys play their neighbors. Ryan and the team traveled to Denmark to face Skive on a windy, drizzly day. The home team scored twice on corners and looped a long ball over the Molde defense for a third tally. The manager was disappointed to lose 3-0, but he came away with two vital pieces of information. His team needed to drill its set piece defense, and Peter Gryndeland and Martin Janssens could be burned badly by quick forwards if the team played too high a defensive line. Haxhaj was a natural central defender, and he had plenty of pace. So did Kristinn Sigurðsson, an Icelandic international who would soon be returning from an ankle injury. Perhaps those players would feature when Molde faced a team with pacey attackers. On the 12th, Head of Youth Development Magnus Ludvigsen presented Ryan with a fresh class of youth graduates. Among them were some players with promise: left winger Magnus Brandstadmoen, versatile forward Magne Pedersen, and center half Tommy Brataker. The most interesting young player, however, was the son of a family friend back in Holland whose parents sent him to Norway to train with Molde when Ryan was hired. Gerard Smit was a defender whom Ludvigsen rated very highly. At 5'10", he lacked ideal size for a center back, but he was 15, and he might still have some growing to do. He was fast, however, and his mental game was quite advanced for his age. He was one of the few youngsters who looked comfortable when the Youth Candidates lost, 3-1, to the Under 19s, and on his debut for the U19s, he pounced quickly when a teammate hammered a shot off the post and swept it in. Gerard was a bright lad, and he'd already picked up a basic understanding of Norwegian. Ryan was renting a home from the friend of one of the club's directors. It was located on a quiet street called Sollivagen, and from its deck Ryan could look down over the town and its harbor. He wasn't quite as close to the Aker Stadion as he might like, but since Molde wasn't a large city (population 25,000 or so) it wasn't hard for him to get around. He was settling in nicely, but he had been jolted by a reminder of the fact that life as a football manager could be very precarious. After a promising start, his friend Nick Nok had been struggling to keep RKC Waalwijk competitive in the Jupiler League. On 27 February, the board had seen enough, and after the team lost 2-0 at home to Fortuna Sittard, they presented Nick with his termination notice.
  13. 16 February 2015 Ryan spent most of December at home in Amsterdam. He made three trips up to Molde to sort out his living arrangements and connect with various members of the Molde FK staff. He liked Knut Teigen, the Director of Football. Knut was a discerning judge of football talent, and he had fairly extensive connections in Norwegian football. Arne Hammari agreed to stay on board as Ryan's assistant, which pleased the new boss greatly. Arne would be an invaluable source of information about the squad, and he was a skilled hand on the training pitch as well. At 52, Arne was considerably older than Ryan, and his presence would add a touch of gravitas to the back room team. After relaxing with his family over the Christmas holidays, Ryan moved to Norway in early January and began to settle into his new job. His first order of business was to sit down with the chairman and discuss the budgets under which he would be operating. Audun Finstad seemed determined to do what it took to help Molde climb back to the top of the table; there would be over €4 million available for transfers, and the weekly wage budget was set at €105,000. Ryan figured only Strømsgotset and, perhaps, Rosenborg could spend as freely. Ryan also had to deal with several players who envisioned their futures with bigger teams, in bigger leagues, and whose heads were being turned by various suitors. Before January was out, Molde had sold three players to clubs outside Norway. Promising right back Harald Skauge was the first to go. The Norway U21 captain went to LOSC Lille, for a sale price of €550,000 that was considerably above his market value (at least as Molde figured it). Various other clauses could make the haul from Skauge's sale rise as high as €1.2 million. Dagoberto Toro, a flashy Chilean midfielder, would have figured in Ryan's plans, but he, too, wanted to play in Ligue 1. Girondins Bordeaux came calling, and were willing to pay €675,000 for his services. Again, if "El Toro" featured prominently for his new club, Molde would receive almost double as much. Skauge and Toro were both talented teenagers, but losing them didn't force Ryan to rethink the composition of his first eleven. The third wantaway, right back Kjell Pettersen, was another story. Pettersen, 23, was a perfect fit for the system Ryan wanted to play. He was mobile, technically adept, and a tireless worker. He had recently received his first two Norway caps, and his future seemed bright indeed. The talent spotters at Atalanta agreed, and the Italian club's pockets were deeper than Molde's. The supporters weren't happy to see the popular Petterson go, but they had to agree that a cool €1 million was a fair return. And, again, another €300,000 would come the club's way if Kjell reached a variety of appearance clauses. Molde would also receive a percentage of any future sales of the three players. Ryan had told Finstad he wanted to both develop and buy young talent, and he used some of the money he'd brought in to begin fulfilling his promise. The first purchase was versatile Øyvind Hansen, a tall, lanky 19-year-old whom he acquired from Vålerenga for €70,000. Hansen had played fairly regularly for Enga's first team in 2014, usually at left back, but he could fill in at a variety of positions. At the very least, Øyvind would provide depth, and he had the promise to become much more valuable. FC København had released Lasse Schultz in October, and he'd been without a club since then. Perhaps it was his lack of raw athleticism that caused the Danish club to give up on him. When Ryan looked at video footage of Schultz in action, he saw instead the way Schultz went about his business in the middle of the park with a calmness that few 19-year-olds possessed. He was also a fearless tackler. Schultz was a project, but he was also free. The third new man was expected to step into the first team. Ryan liked playing 4-3-3, and when he looked at the team, he didn't see a player with the skills he wanted in a holding midfielder. So Ryan turned to his Dutch roots and bought Sjors Klein from ADO Den Haag for €425,000. Klein was a well-rounded footballer with a mature understanding of the game. He put himself in good positions to make things happen, and he was a confident, creative passer. Sjors was also 19, and everyone in Ryan's staff believed his upside was as promising as anyone in the team. When the players reported for pre-season training on 16 February, Ryan had an idea of what his preferred first eleven would be. Lasse Holth would return to his regular spot in goal. Tall and lanky, Lasse didn't look like much of an athlete, but he was quite agile, with quick hands, and he was very good in the air. He also organized his defense skillfully. Athletic Swede David Bengsston would be his understudy, with American U20 'keeper Phillip Foose also available. Foose would also see regular duty for Molde 2. Ball-playing central defender Peter Grydeland was perhaps the team's best player. Peter was a Norway international who lacked pace, but his skill set was otherwise complete. He was especially adept at passing from the back, a key to the style Ryan wanted his team to play. Belgian Victor Janssens would be Grydeland's usual partner. He was no faster than Grydeland, but he was big and strong, and he was a good set piece taker. He'd earned 11 caps, and gave Ryan a center back pairing of full internationals. Pacy Raymond Grong was the first choice at left back. He was technically sound, and had the stamina to run up and down the wing all day. Ryan figured Marius Kjetland would take Kjell Pettersen's place at right back. Kjetland possessed several of Pettersen's signature qualities--among them, the ability to deliver well-placed crosses and an uncompromising work ethic--and Ryan hoped he would deliver a passable imitation of his predecessor. Klein would play in front of the back four. Frederik Bjørkestrand was another option at this position; he offered a little less pace and a bit more passing range than his younger teammate. Bjørkestrand was mobile and tenacious enough to serve as a ball-winner, and might earn playing time in that role, too The other main contenders to feature in the midfield trio were the similarly named Henrik Nilssen and Alexander Nilsen. Henrik was the club captain. At 39, he had lost what pace he once had, but his technical skills remained sharp and his footballing IQ was superb. Alexander brought more flair and creative vision, but cared less about marking and tackling. The two could play together, or either could play with Bjørkestrand. Until 10 June, Ryan would also have the services of Emil Hillersøy, who would be leaving for Switzerland's BSC Young Boys. Emil was a classy midfielder with a well-rounded game, and he had been ever-present last season. At age 20, Geir Ove Langerud had already earned his first senior cap for Norway. Bigger clubs were beginning to court him, impressed with his crafty dribbling, his polished technique, and his flair. Langerud could play on either wing. Playing on the left, he could cut inside and fire away with his strong right foot. Langerud banged in six goals the season before. Ingar Bremnes was probably the second best wide man in the squad, and if Ryan wanted to employ a left-footed winger instead, he could call on Pontus Gustavsson or Christian Gramsbo. Another option was veteran Halvor Amundsen, who was the fastest man in the team. The competition for these spots would be spirited indeed. Striker Christopher Nielsen had been purchased by Ryan's predecessor a week before he was sacked. The Dane had scored seven in 17 appearances for Esbjerg in 2014/15. He was somewhat raw, but was blisteringly fast. He'd have the first crack at leading the line. Ibrahima N'Diaye, who netted eight times in 2014, had also become a want-away. He hoped to receive an offer from SK Sturm Graz of the Austrian Premier Division. While Ryan wouldn't have minded having the Senegalese hitman on board, if Ibrahima wasn't all in, the manager could do without him. Speedy Simen Ruud would do just fine as Nielsen's understudy, and Samuel Diallo was available if Ryan wanted a center forward to serve as a creator rather than a poacher. Ryan was on the lookout for a big lad whom he could stick in the front when he wanted to play more directly. The Molde board did not mince words when they presented Ryan with their expectations. They wanted him to win the league, and to take the team to the Final of the Norwegian Cup. Time would tell if the new manager, and the team he was starting to shape, had what it took.
  14. 24 November 2014 Ryan figured his chances of landing the job at Roda JC slipped away when he told Toby van Steensel he was interested in bringing players from the club's youth system into the first team. The Roda JC board had their misgivings about this policy, and for a moment Ryan thought about keeping his thoughts about his managerial philosophy to himself. He ended up being honest with van Steensel, and the club decided to hire Daan Albertus instead. That meant the Almere City job was now open, but Ryan didn't feel like throwing his hat into another ring quite so soon. To make matters worse, he strained a muscle in his lower back working out, and spent the better part of a week in bed. The weather turned cooler and rainier. A former girlfriend, the first woman who broke his heart, announced her engagement to a guy they knew at university whom Ryan had never liked. November wasn't starting out very well at all. The second week of the month brought the end of the regular season in northern nations like Norway and Sweden. Ryan was somewhat familiar with Scandinavian football; besides his season in Denmark, he had played two years in Norway's second division. He'd taken advantage of the opportunity to learn Danish and Norwegian and picked up enough Swedish to get by. So, when several Scandinavian clubs, disillusioned with their managers, sacked them, Ryan paid some attention. He was a bit surprised by the news out of Molde FK. Champions of the Norwegian Premier Division in 2011 and 2013, they fell to third in 2014. Still. they finished only two points adrift of title winners Strømsgotset. Perhaps the board were more disappointed with their quick exit from the Norwegian Cup, which they'd won the season before. At any rate, Molde's board showed the door to Jørgen Johnsen the day after the season ended. Ryan remained in his doldrums for several days and didn't do anything more than think about whether he'd like to manage in Norway. 16 November was a Sunday. That evening, Ryan was walking around his neighborhood when his friend Nick Nok called him. Ryan congratulated him on his success--he had RKC Waalwijk up to sixth in the Jupiler League table--and Nick asked him if he'd had any promising job leads of his own. Ryan told him about the opening at Molde FK. "I suppose you've applied," Nick assumed. Ryan paused for a long moment. "No...not yet." "What are you waiting for, Ryan?" "They just sacked a manager who missed winning the league by two points. I'm not sure I want to face that kind of pressure in my first job." "That means they've got a strong team in place. You won't have to rebuild the squad. Make a decent run in the Cup and you'll buy yourself some time." "I don't know, Nick..." "You've never been one to back away from a challenge. You told me yourself--you weren't getting anywhere playing here. Then you took a chance, went up there, and played for a few years. Next thing you knew, you were signing for Groningen. That worked out pretty well for you, didn't it?" "Okay, okay. I'll put in an application." Ryan shook his head and smiled on his end of the line. "Good man." The next day, Ryan submitted his application to the board at Molde FK. On Saturday morning, he stepped off a plane at the Molde airport, after nearly missing his flight from Oslo. Three hours later, he was seated across a desk from Audun Finstad, the chairman of the Molde board. Finstad asked Ryan many of the same kinds of questions he'd heard from Toby van Steensel. Ryan felt much better about the Molde chairman's response when he mentioned his belief in building through youth, and Finstad didn't seem terribly worried about Ryan's lack of managerial experience. When the interview ended, the two men shook hands. "We will let you know something in the next day or so," Finstad told him. Ryan had already planned to wait until Monday evening to fly back home, because he felt like he might want to relax a bit after his interview. Sunday was a cloudy, cool day, but he spent much of it strolling around the town, and he had a delicious meal at a cozy restaurant called På Hjørnet which was, as its name implied, located "on the corner." The next morning, his phone buzzed. Audun Finstad was on the other end. The chairman invited him back to the club's offices to discuss contract terms. "I'll be right there," Ryan replied. When Ryan boarded the plane for home, he was officially the manager of Molde FK. His contract was for two years, at a weekly wage of €4,300. In his bag were two blue-and-white Molde shirts--one for his mother, and one for Nick Nok.
  15. 30 October 2014 Several of the nations where Ryan had thought he might like to manage began their league campaigns in spring. So, by the time the Dutch season began in August, clubs in Scandinavia were well into their seasons, and their boards might be considering managerial changes. Ryan wasn't sure he would be willing to move too far for a job with a very small team, and so far, none of the larger clubs had seen fit to sack their manager. The first job that intrigued him was with Bielefeld, in the German Third Division. Ryan went as far as expressing interest in the position, but the board didn't interview him and, in September, they hired Andreas Buchwald, a veteran manager who'd played for Germany. Ryan couldn't feel too bad about missing out on this opportunity. On a whim, he mentioned he might not mind managing Limerick, but the Irish Premier outfit wasn't interested in him, either. Ryan admittedly felt mixed emotions when his friend Nick Nok was elevated from caretaker status to earn a permanent gig at RKC Waalwijk. Nick had been Ryan's teammate at FC Groningen. He was only seven months older than Ryan, and his Continental B license was a level lower than Ryan's Continental A badge. Ryan was happy for Nick, and texted him to tell him so...but at the same time, Nick's promotion made him think about the fact he'd been on the job market for several months now without even the slightest bit of interest from any team. Meanwhile, Nick was coaching a team in the Jupiler League, probably earning €2,000 a week. Ryan was in a particularly gloomy mood on the afternoon of 22 October. Not even a walk through the Vondelpark could chase his blues away. He didn't even notice the news from Kerkrade, where Roda JC sent their manager, Louis Koster, packing. The club was languishing second from the bottom in the Jupiler League, after the media had tapped them for second place in their season preview. That's why Ryan was somewhat caught off guard when an email from Roda chairman Toby van Steensel appeared in his inbox. In fact, Ryan nearly deleted it before he opened it. Had he done so, he would never have known that van Steensel wanted to interview him. Instead, he quickly dashed off a reply to the chairman, who quickly responded with several times and dates on which the two men might meet. Ryan chose the morning of 30 October. The media figured Almere City boss Daan Albertus was the front-runner for the job. Albertus, who had been at Almere City since 2007, was apparently feeling restless, and he made no secret of his interest in the Roda JC job. Ryan wondered if he stood a chance in a competition with the older, more experienced Albertus. Still, there was nothing to be lost in trying, was there?
  16. Hello, all. I gave this a try or three a while ago, and I thought I would come back for more. I've loaded several European countries, with a database that lets me play in the Dutch lower leagues. My players aren't real, so I'll be able to turn them into any kinds of characters I see fit. I'm also playing FM 15, because "fake" players have much more realistic looking faces in that edition. My character is starting his story unemployed. We'll see where it takes him. Prologue: Spring 2014 A manager once told Ryan Bellamy he would have been a better footballer if he hadn't been interested in so many other things. Perhaps he was right. A boy with fewer interests might have spent more hours kicking a ball around, rather than reading a book or poring over a map. He might have had more than two seasons in the Eredivisie and another in the Danish Superliga if he hadn't insisted on going to university. Latin, history, and calculus took time away from his workouts, time that might have made him good enough to play for Holland. A man who cared only about football wouldn't have hung up his boots at 28. Ryan had no regrets, because that was the life he chose. He pursued his coaching badges, because earning them allowed him to exercise his mind within the context of the only job he'd ever had. He was good at it, too. Now Ryan was thirty. He had made enough money to be free from worrying about where his next paycheck was coming from. He was single, and if there was ever a time when he could give a career in management a go, this would be it. Ryan's father was English, and his mother was Dutch. Ryan had never known his dad. Six months after Ryan was born, Paul Bellamy had returned to London for business. A drunken driver plowed into the side of the rented car he was driving, killing him instantly. Ryan's mum never remarried, and she remained close to Paul's family; Ryan had spent time in England, but he never played there, and he wasn't as well-versed in English football culture. For that reason, he didn't see himself cutting his managerial teeth in England. He realized he would probably have to give up the comforts of a well-appointed apartment in Amsterdam and take a job somewhere in the lower leagues. There might not be bookstores and restaurants and museums within walking distance. But he knew he had to start somewhere, and the philosophical turn of his mind let him understand that the journey might be every bit as rewarding as the destination. Now it was time for that journey to begin.
  17. 27 May 2015 Exactly a week later, Dan got a call from Lucas Dean. The Leatherhead board were willing to bring him in for an interview. He borrowed Paul's car and made the hour-long drive around the M25 to the Tanners' grounds at Fetcham Grove. Dan liked Lucas Dean. He was a pleasant, soft-spoken man, and he had a clear vision of the kind of manager he wanted to hire. He shared Dan's desire to play direct football; it might not always be stylish, but it often worked quite well in the lower leagues, and most British lads knew how to play that kind of game. Dean also wanted to bring in young players, and Dan agreed with that objective, too. He figured he might be able to command the authority of players in their late teens more easily than those who might be several years older than he. The two men shook hands, and Dean told him he'd be in touch when the board had made up their minds. The drive back to north London seemed much shorter. That evening, Dan got together with a few of his mates to watch the FA Cup Final. Trevor Hale was there, and a couple of lads he knew from Eton Manor. They watched Chelsea get a brace from Javier Herrera, who'd scored 32 goals in all comps, and a third goal on an audacious strike from their flashy Brazilian winger, Capitāo. Plucky Norwich got a late goal from Ian Francis, who banged it in off the post. Trevor was a Chelsea supporter, so he was especially delighted with the outcome. The weather fit the English stereotype on 20 May, with a low fog that never burned off. Dan had always felt better about days like these when he got outside and did something active, so he took his bicycle out for a good, long ride. Shortly before noon, his phone rang. “Dan, this is Lucas Dean,” said the voice on the other end. “We'd like to offer you a contract to manage our club.” Dan nearly dropped his mobile. He nearly blurted out “Yes, Mr. Dean,” but something made him pause. He hadn't heard anything about the Barrow position. Did he dare asking Dean for time to consider his offer...just in case Barrow were considering an offer, too? How would a move like that, from a managerial candidate with absolutely no experience, come across? He took a deep breath. “Thank you very much, Mr. Dean,” he replied. “I'd like to think about the offer a bit, if you don't mind.” “That's fine, Dan. We'd like to have you. We can wait a week before we need to know anything definite.” Dan closed his eyes. Perfect, he thought. “I appreciate it very much.” Was it his imagination, or had the fog really begun to lift as soon as Dan ended his call from Lucas Dean? Life certainly seemed more exciting now, full of possibility. Such was not the case for supporters of Wigan Athletic. They hosted Watford in the Promotion Playoff, with a berth in the Premier League at stake. The visitors struck three times in the second half, dashing the Latics' hopes. Watford would join Reading and Fulham in the top flight next season, with Stoke, West Ham, and Leicester going down. The next morning, Dan's phone buzzed again. This time it was Jeremy Traynor, calling from Barrow. Could Dan make the trip up to interview for their manager's position the next day? “I realize this is short notice, but we'd really like to speak with you,” Traynor explained. “Sure, I can be there,” a delighted Dan replied. The next noon, Dan was seated in Traynor's office at Holker Street, discussing the chairman's plans for his club. Traynor was also open to Dan's suggestion of a direct playing style. And Dan agreed with the Barrow board's goal of developing the club's young talent. Dan had plenty of time to think about the interview on the long drive south, and he felt quite good about how it went. Jeremy Traynor wasn't wasting time. Dan was eating breakfast the next morning when Traynor called with a job offer. When Dan asked for time to think it over, Traynor agreed. Eight days earlier, Dan Beardsley was this close to ending his dreams of managing a football club. Now, he had two job offers—enticing ones—from which to choose.
  18. 9 May 2015 Dan spent that spring watching for news of managers who might be getting the sack. He felt a bit guilty about almost rooting for other men—men with pride, with a love for the game, perhaps with families to support—to lose their jobs. For a while, the job market was very slow, and that gave Dan time to pay closer attention to events on the pitch. The news out of his second nation was not good. On the first day of April, the American national team traveled to Vaduz for a friendly match with tiny Liechtenstein, and the hosts handed them a 1-0 defeat on a goal by a rather nondescript forward called Martin Hartmann. He was at Wembley a fortnight or so later, watching Norwich upset Spurs in the FA Cup Semi Final. The Championship side got a brace from Spanish front man Francisco Jesús Moreno. The Canaries would face Chelsea—who saw off Arsenal in the other Semi Final. April turned to May, and Dan was starting to resign himself to the idea of finding a job outside football. His father had spoken to a headmaster friend who had a position available for an English literature teacher, starting in the fall. He'd be willing to keep the position open until the end of the month to give Dan a few more weeks to pursue his last few managerial job leads. Almost on cue, the first of those leads materialized. The aspiring manager's hopes were thereby rekindled. Barrow had been an overwhelming favorite to win the Conference North this season. The Bluebirds underachieved, finishing fifth, nine points off front-running Harrogate's pace. They battled back to earn a place in the Promotion Final, but when they were trounced by Leamington, the board sacked manager Sean Edwards. Dan sent his CV to Barrow chairman Jeremy Traynor. Expectations had also been high at Leatherhead. The Isthmian Premier League side had been tapped to earn a place in the Promotion Playoff. But when the team collected only two points from their first five matches, manager Joe Whittaker--who'd been there since 2011--was dismissed. His successor, Jake Beale, didn't fare much better. The Tanners spent most of the season fighting to keep above the drop zone and finished 18th, and that cost Beale his job, too. The Leatherhead position was intriguing. A Level Seven club like the Tanners might be more willing to take a chance on an inexperienced manager like Dan. He decided to put his name in the pot for that position as well. Chairman Lucas Dean acknowledged the receipt of his application and promised to respond in the near future. Now, all Dan could do was wait for either—or both—the clubs to contact him for an interview. Something told him that these could be his last chances.
  19. October 2014-March 2015 “I think you're selling yourself a bit short, Danny. You've got a National A license. You ought to be taking a shot at a manager's position.” Trevor Hale took a long sip of his drink. He'd been a good friend of Dan's since they were schoolboys. Dan knew he could count on Trevor to give it to him straight, but this time he wasn't completely convinced his friend was right. “I haven't been given a shot at a coaching job, Trev. If a club won't bring me in to talk to me about that, what makes you think I'd stand a chance at the top job?” “What's it going to cost you? The time it takes you to change a couple lines on your CV?” Dan shrugged. “I guess you have a point there.” Over the next few weeks, the first round of sackings began. The press actually listed him among the front-runners for the job at Nuneaton Town in early December. Nothing came of it; the Conference club hired Stephen Leeson, a veteran manager with a single England cap to his credit. Dan spent Christmas with his mum and dad in Edinburgh. For a few days, he relaxed and took his mind off his job search. After the calendar turned to 2015, however, he found himself becoming more anxious about his prospects. A number of jobs came open with clubs in the Conference North and South—Boston United, Worcester, Hemel Hempstead, Basingstoke, Bradford Park Avenue—and while Dan was sometimes mentioned as a “short list” candidate, none of the clubs considered him seriously enough to interview for a position. Then, on a dreary February day, Dan learned his position at the animal shelter was going to be cut in a month. Money was tight, and a volunteer or two could do the jobs Dan was covering. The owner felt badly, and Dan didn't harbor any ill feelings, but the fact remained that Dan was now out of work. He had no choice but to return to his parents' home. It was now nearly springtime. Paul Beardsley's connections with schools in the towns north of London were fairly extensive, and he pointed that fact out to his son one night over dinner. “I can talk to a few people, Dan. I ought to be able to get you an interview for a teaching position somewhere.” Dan sighed deeply. “If I haven't found a job by the end of the term, I'll give it some thought. Maybe I can coach a school team, something like that.” Perhaps it was time to turn another page.
  20. I haven't forgotten my Dutch story, but I can't resist the temptation to manage in England, too. This time my protagonist will start out unemployed, and we'll see where he ends up. Football Manager 15; "fake names," so I can create player-characters with their own personalities. Prologue: Spring and Summer 2014 Paul Beardsley was doing graduate work in history at the University of Michigan when he met Patti Howell, a vivacious blonde who thought his accent was “precious.” An invitation out for coffee turned into a four-hour conversation, and two years later, Paul and Patti were husband and wife. The Beardsleys returned to England; Paul took a teaching position at a school in north London, and Patti worked at Debenhams. Baby made three on the first day of December, 1987, and they named their new son Daniel Paul Howell Beardsley. Paul had been a decent Sunday league footballer, a scrappy defensive midfielder. Dan inherited his dad's talent, and then some. He played the same position as Paul, with just as much grit and a bit more panache. Intrigued by his mum's homeland after spending some time there on summer vacations, he studied and played football at a small college in Pennsylvania (or "soccer," as they called it in the States) . He took a degree in English literature and came back home to England without any real plan for what might happen next. Dan was good enough to play for Eton Manor, a semi-professional club in the Essex Senior League, and he found work with an animal shelter, where he wrote copy for their website and did anything else the owner needed. The more time he spent around the football club, the more he realized he'd enjoy coaching the game more than he did playing it. He began studying for his coaching badges and got as far as the National A level. He finished near the top of his class each time and, just as significantly, the bug bit him. Hard. He thanked his manager at Eton Manor, a fellow named Micky Hatfield, for giving him a chance to stay in the game, and told him he'd be hanging up his boots. Micky wished him well, and told him he'd be welcome to help out with the youth teams while he looked for a paying position. That spring, Dan began sending his CV to any nearby club who advertised for a coaching position. Money was tighter now; Dan found himself missing the little bit he was paid to play for Eton Manor now that it was gone. There were times when he doubted the wisdom of his decision. Those times came more frequently in July, once the preseason began and he hadn't heard anything from any of the clubs he contacted. Dan was a patient man, and he'd need every bit of that patience now.
  21. A good story is a good story, no matter what version of the game you're playing. I've gone back to playing FM14 myself! Enjoy your Christmas break, and happy 2018, in advance! Tom
  22. 8 August 2014 Tom arrived in Holland in early July, and he had five weeks to shape the Den Bosch squad that would contend for the Eerste Divisie title. He decided to leave the club’s back room staff intact, at least for the time being. He sensed the players might appreciate some sense of continuity, because most of them had liked their previous boss. Tom really liked Kevin Zwaan, who would be continuing as his assistant. Kevin was a local hero of sorts, a hometown lad who kept goal for the club in the 1980s and stayed on to coach the goalkeepers before earning a promotion to the assistant managership. The decision to keep Kevin around was, therefore, a no-brainer. Den Bosch employed an avuncular Belgian called Björn Schaap as Director of Football. He had found several players he wanted to bring into the team, but none of them had been willing to play for the Blue White Dragons--at least for the wages the team were willing to play them. The team's transfer budget stood at zero, and there weren't more than a few hundred euro worth of room in the wage budget. So, Tom would have to make do with the team he'd inherited, too. Tom was a true son of England when it came to football tactics. He favored direct football, big target men, and pacey wingers, a system where every man knew his place and played his role. His father Jan warned him that approach might not work in the country that gave the world totaalvoetbal. "You're going to have to give them a bit of what they want," Jan cautioned him. "Your team can't just lump the ball up the pitch to the big blokes." Tom, somewhat begrudgingly, set aside his beloved 4-4-2 for a "trendier" 4-2-3-1, but he'd also been training the team in a 4-4-1-1 that more closely fit his own preferred style of play. One man who wasn't sorry to meet the new boss was the team's number one 'keeper, Padraic O'Connor. Paddy hailed from Limerick, and spoke only a few words of Dutch. He was, however, a very well-rounded custodian. Young Pip Joosten backed him up. Right back Jeffrey de Jong was the best defender in the team. He was athletic and, at 21, understood the game like a veteran. Wee Ruud Nelis, all 5'6" of him, would start on the left. He had bags of pace and the mentality of a terrier. Tom wished there were a couple big British-style center halves in the team. Right now, the best choices were Derek Klooster, who was a natural midfielder, and Tim Verlaan, who was much more comfortable on the left. Neither Derek nor Tim were good in the air, and Tim revealed a disturbing unwillingness to get stuck in. Björn Schaap was hard at work looking for their replacements. Harry Blom was a decent holding midfielder, and he'd team with either quick Eric Thoma or tough Jerry Groeneveld. In front of them, Tom could choose to employ Tiago Ferreira, a clever Portuguese import, or club captain Mike Berghuis. Right now, Tom was leaning toward playing Tiago as an advanced playmaker, with Mike shifting to the left wing. Even at 37, Berghuis was in superb shape, and could still do the job out wide. Another speed merchant, Mats de Goede, played on the right. Mats was also absolutely deadly from free kicks. The young manager had several options at center forward, too. Bart Sneijder wasn't flashy, but he did everything fairly well. Arjen de Groot was tall, strong, and quick--in other words, a classic target man. Tom couldn't help thinking how well the two players would work together in a formation with two strikers... Today, the Blue White Dragons would open their season at home away to Telstar. As he sat in his office before the team boarded the coach for their journey to IJmuiden--an hour or so from the team's home in the old city of 's-Hertogenbosch--Tom heard his phone buzz. He picked it up to see a text from his dad. Good luck gaffer. Tom smiled. He took a deep breath, slipped his phone into the pocket of his jacket, and stood up from his desk. It was almost time.
  23. I originally began this save on FM 14, but the file crashed. I liked the story idea enough to give it another go, using FM 15 this time. Same basic premise, same first couple posts...with a few changes that reflect the details of the new game. "Fake players" again. Summer 2014 Some boys who grow up with famous fathers decide they'll do anything but follow in Dad's large footsteps. If Dad's a musician, they won't pick up an instrument. If he's a doctor, they aspire to a career in law. Others never consider anything other than "the family business." Tommy van de Mark was one of those lads. Tommy's father, Jan, had been a very good footballer in his day, a center half with eleven Holland caps to his name. It was as a manager, however, that Jan truly excelled. He led AS La Jeunesse d'Esch-Alzette to three league titles in Luxembourg. He managed in the Dutch lower leagues for several seasons, and in 1979 went from there to England, where he became a club icon at Carlisle United. Jan van de Mark liked England. He put down roots there, marrying an English woman ten years his junior and, finally, starting a family. Tommy arrived on 1 December 1983, Jan's second child, and only son. Tommy quickly proved he'd inherited his father's athletic gifts, and then some; his mum, Emma, had been a fine athlete as a schoolgirl, and she passed her pace down to Tommy. Armed with that speed, Tom became a flashy winger, good with either foot. By the time he was 20, he'd cracked the first team at Aldershot Town. He wasn't destined for the highest levels of the game, but he was well on his way to establishing himself as a solid professional. It became clear to Tom that he had inherited his dad's love of coaching the game of football. He'd often stop by the pitches where the youth teams were training, lending a hand and chatting with the youth coaches. He also began studying for his coaching badges. More and more, Tom found greater enjoyment in these activities than he did playing the game itself. Dad wasn't shocked when, in 2010, he received an application for a coaching position from his son. "I asked Tom if he was sure this was what he wanted to do," Jan recalled. "He was only 26, and he was still in his prime years as a player. He wasn't injured, and he was a fixture in the first team at Aldershot. So it wasn't a desperate move on his part. He assured me he was doing exactly what he wanted to do." There were some whispers of nepotism when Tom got the job, but he quickly proved he was a good hire. "I don't have a family. I can come in early and stay late, and I'm happiest when that's what I'm doing," he explained. His boss was impressed by his knowledge, too. "I tried to be neither too demanding or too easy on Tom," said Jan. "I really didn't have to look over his shoulder too much. He's good." Ronald de Jong was the chairman of FC Den Bosch, a club in the Eerste Divisie, Holland's second division. De Jong had known Jan van de Mark for years; they'd played against each other as schoolboys. One day in the late spring of 2013, de Jong gave his old friend a call. His manager had just taken another position, and he had a vacancy. Did he know of any talented coaches who might be flying under the radar, someone who might want a chance to manage a team? "I didn't recommend anyone," Jan insisted. "I simply told him I would put the word out among people I knew." A week later, de Jong received a resume from Tom van de Mark. The directors weren't immediately impressed. Tom was 30, and his experience was limited to three years as a first team coach. His name and heritage were Dutch, and he could speak the language, but Tom had never lived outside England. He'd be managing men who might be several years older than he, with better credentials as players. Hiring such a manager would be a gamble. With some reservations, the board put his name on the short list of candidates who would come to stadion De Vliert for an interview. In Tom's words, "I aced it." The board were impressed with his energy and optimism. The interim assistant manager, Kevin Zwaan, found him easy to talk to, easy to work with. So did Jan Hooiveld, the Under 19s manager. What impressed chairman de Jong the most was the way the players responded to the young candidate. Mike Berghuis, the club captain, was four years older than Tom and might have been less than happy with the idea of taking direction from him. Instead, Berghuis took the initiative to dash off an email to de Jong, letting him know how favorably the players viewed Tom. So, against the wishes of at least one of the directors, Tom van de Mark was offered the chance to manage FC Den Bosch. His father, back for another year at Carlisle, was the first to wish him well. "I'm not going to be managing against him, so I hope he wins every single match," Jan said with a wink.
  24. @BluesGuy : Thanks very much! I didn't attend Davidson, but a good friend of mine did, and I spent some time on their campus. My own alma mater doesn't play Division I soccer, and I wanted my character to have a decent playing career. 15 August 2013 I've been on the job here at Diss Town for about six weeks now. At first I thought I might want to ask the chairman, Danny Bennett, to allow me to bring in a new backroom staff, but after some consideration, I decided to stick with the current situation. They're all nice enough fellows, and good enough at their jobs, especially for a club in the County Leagues. The best of the lot is Steven Williams, my assistant, who just hung up his boots at the age of 48. He's a former center forward who would like to see us play an attacking formation like a 4-3-3, but I don't think we have the players for that style of football right now. Steven knows the lads well, so I've been leaning on him pretty heavily while I get to know them. Our squad is small right now--only sixteen players, and two of them are still schoolboys. There's no money in our budget to bring any more in, unless I want to push my luck with the board. And, what's more, the best player in the team is a non-contract player. He's a Welshman called Rhys Collins. I've been using Rhys at right back, but he is comfortable anywhere along that side of the pitch and at center back. He can do a job at striker, too, so he'll be in my eleven as often as he's fit. The goalkeeper looks like a good one, too. His name is Norman McShane. He's 19, and with some additional work on his positioning he'll possibly be too good for our league. For now, he's an automatic choice for our number one. He's also the only 'keeper in the team. Center back Neil Clough is the club's captain, and our unquestioned leader. Since I arrived, several clubs have tried to prise Neil from us, offering 25 percent of his next sale price. I've turned them down, because I think we need his presence on the pitch and his steady play in the heart of our defense. I've been tempted by the offers, though. Center back is the one position where we actually have a bit of depth. Besides Clough, we have James Cameron, a big lad who plays in the mold of an old school English center half, and Anthony Peers, the best in the team at marking and tackling. The left back is Steve Adams, a well-rounded footballer who seems to do most things fairly well and nothing spectacularly. I'll take that. We've been training to play 4-4-1-1. On the right side of midfield is Joe Collins, the team's elder statesman at 32. Joe excels at the mental aspects of the game, and he is the club's vice captain. Pacey Jamie Harvey mans the other flank. Our best central midfielder is Ryan Leggett, a tenacious player with a balanced set of skills. Ryan can fill any role in our midfield, depending on who else is on the pitch. He is a full foot shorter than the 6'5" Cameron, his best mate. Craig Billings frustrates me. He's got the physique of a decathlete, and more than enough technical skill for this level. He's also a slacker of the first order, who usually looks like he's running uphill. I like Chris Cooper's attitude a lot better. Chris is a work in progress as a player, but his attitude is first rate. Leggett is well-suited to play the point of our midfield triangle, which means using both Billings and Cooper. I can also use versatile Brian Middleton, who can do a job in any position from the midfield forward. I've had Middleton in the first eleven most of the time during the preseason. Collins is probably our best striker, but he's so much better than the alternatives at right back that he's going to play there for the time being. We have other decent options to lead the line, including Martin Williams, a big, powerful striker, and David Bruce, who has more pace and can finish but otherwise lacks Williams' finesse. A pair of youngsters round out the team. Simon McKie is a right-sided midfielder, a very athletic player who plays with verve. I nearly mistook the other lad for a Under 13 who had cheekily wandered over to senior team training. I thought about shooing him away. He might have been five feet tall. Even Ryan Leggett has a few inches on him. I asked Steven who he was. "That's Gavin Sturdy," he told me. "He's how old?" "Sixteen. He's a scrappy lad, though. He can play anywhere you want, except in goal. That motor of his never stops." After the first week of training, I was already a fan. Steven was right. Gavin threw himself into every drill with gusto. I could tell that his teammates respected his pluck, and wouldn't go out of their way to rough him up. Still, when things did get physical, he picked himself up and went right back into the mix, and I soon saw that Gavin gave as good as he got. Sturdy is quite a fine name for the lad. We played seven friendlies during the preseason, all at our home grounds, Brewers Green Lane. We did well, winning five, drawing one, and losing one (0-1) to a Histon side that plays in the Conference North. Williams and Bruce each scored three goals. Better yet, we only conceded two goals ourselves. Is it too much to expect us to keep up that form as we enter league play? Is that the first dream I'll have to put aside? Again, we'll see. The Premier Division of the Eastern Counties League awaits.
  25. I'm going to give story writing another go. I'm playing FM 14, with a database that extends the English system down to the County Leagues. I'm using "fake players," so all my characters are entirely fictional. My name is Tom Ashley. I'm about to turn thirty years old. I don't have a wife, a girlfriend, or a pet. I do, however, have a job. Actually, I now have two jobs. That's how this story begins. On second thought, perhaps I should back up a bit, to my days as a schoolboy. I didn't usually have a girlfriend then, either. I was too busy with two other loves: football and my studies. I was better at the latter than I was at the former, but I was good enough at both to attend an American university on a scholarship, and a good one. I played at Davidson College, in North Carolina, and took a degree in history. I liked the USA, but not well enough to stay there, so I came back home to Norwich and got a job teaching at my former grammar school. I found the time and the energy to turn out for semi-professional clubs from time to time, and once or twice I was told I might be able to do better than that if I went all in and concentrated on my football. Maybe I could have. I'll never know, because I didn't want to risk quitting my teaching post, not making it as a footballer, and finding myself with no place to turn. I suppose trying my hand at coaching was the next natural step. I began taking my badges three years ago, and now I have a National A license. Don't get me wrong. I love teaching history. Every class, every day is different, and I enjoy the vibe, the atmosphere of a school. But I've never let go of my desire to be part of the world of football. I'm very lucky to have the chance to pursue that desire. Fortunately for me, my headmaster is a football fan, and he gave me his blessing, more or less, to look for a coaching gig. I figured I might land a spot on a club's coaching staff, maybe working with the youth teams. Instead, I got an offer to manage a club--and a semi-pro club, at that! Diss Town Football Club has been willing to take a chance on me. Diss isn't far from Norfolk, twenty minutes or so by car. The team trains on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the headmaster was kind enough to let me take a lighter teaching load. It will make for some long and tiring days, but if my players can work at their jobs and come to training afterwards, so can I. There's a song from a Rogers and Hammerstein musical my mum used to sing to me. It's called Happy Talk. I've never forgotten one line from the song: You've got to have a dream. If you don't have a dream, how you gonna make a dream come true? What's my dream? Right now I'm not entirely sure. I might want to go all in this time, pursue football management as a career, and see how far I can go. I might want to keep teaching while I manage a smaller club like Diss Town, and do both for thirty years. I do think I want a pet, though. Probably a girlfriend, too. Let's see which of these dreams I can make come true.
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