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About CFuller


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    Football Manager storyteller from Romford, Essex

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    Dagenham & Redbridge (FM13)

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  1. *** Manchester City had been the biggest spenders in the Premier League over recent years, rising from mid-table mediocrity to become perennial title contenders. City were crowned Premier League champions in 2012 and 2014, but it already looked unlikely that they would follow that up in 2016. About a quarter of the way into the new season, the Citizens found themselves in a disappointing 10th position, and 11 points off the championship pace. Rumours that club bosses were already looking for a replacement for manager Manuel Pellegrini were spreading like wildfire, with Bayern Munich's renowned coach Josep Guardiola reportedly at the top of their shortlist. City were also on a seven-match winless run on all competitions, putting Pellegrini under additional pressure to break that sequence. On 31 October, the Chilean would smash that streak to smithereens against Arsenal in North London. O'Hara was wary of the attacking threat that would be posed by Argentine striker Sergio Agüero and his fellow sky-blue superstars. To begin with, he instructed his Arsenal players to keep things tight at the back, and not leave too much space for the opposition to exploit. He would then hope for some counter-attacking opportunities to arise. The problem with O'Hara's more cautious approach was that it simply played into the hands of a Manchester City team who loved to charge forward and destroy anything in their path. They set their stall out after just seven minutes, when Agüero struck an excellent volley towards goal. Though Cech did superbly to tip the shot onto his near post, that was about as 'good' as the hosts' afternoon would get. Two minutes after Agüero's near-miss, Samir Nasri - who spent three years at Arsenal between 2008 and 2011 - marked his latest return to the Emirates by haunting his former colleagues. The skilful French attacker passed Bellerín and collected a through-ball from Fabian Delph, which he fired plum into the far corner. Former Aston Villa captain Delph would set up another Nasri goal in the 22nd minute. After nodding in the England midfielder's flick-on from a difficult angle, Nasri gleefully sprinted over to the baying Arsenal supporters, cupping his ears in response to a chorus of boos. There would be further hecklings from the Gooners at half-time, but this time, they were directed at their own players. Arsenal's underperforming stars were jeered off trailing by a 2-0 scoreline - a scoreline that could yet have been worsened further but for a series of excellent Cech saves late in the first period. O'Hara was irate in the home dressing room during the interval. He roared at his players, "Where's your f***ing passion, lads? Do you even want to play for this f***ing club? Right now, I don't think any of you lot do! "Perhaps you'd rather be at City, like Nasri or [Bacary] Sagna, or [Gaël] Clichy, or even Kolo Touré when he was there. Let me tell you one thing. The way you're going right now, you'd be lucky to get trials at f***ing Chelmsford City!" O'Hara also made a bold change of strategy between halves, as he sacrificed any defensive principles and urged his team to go all-out. Arsenal would come out for the second half looking to take the game to Manchester City at every possible opportunity. The end result was absolute carnage. The Citizens knew exactly how to exploit the gaps Arsenal would inevitably leave in defence. Nine minutes into the second half, centre-half Martin Demichelis controlled a cross from full-back Aleksandar Kolarov and sent a blistering strike beyond Cech's reach. 3-0 to City. More boos rang out at the Emirates. Four minutes later, Nasri ran through Arsenal's sorry excuse of a backline and was denied a hat-trick only by a brave save from Cech. Alas, it was to no avail for the veteran goalkeeper, who could only watch on as Agüero made light work of the rebound. 4-0 to City. More boos rang out at the Emirates. Had this been a boxing match, the trainer would surely have thrown in the towel before the referee decided to stop such a one-sided bout. O'Hara refused to wave the white flag, or even to drop back a little bit. Arsenal continued to attack with abandon, and they almost snatched a consolation goal when skipper Mertesacker flicked a header against the bar on 67 minutes. Not long after that, teenage substitute Reine-Adelaide was denied his first senior strike by Citizens goalkeeper Joe Hart, who'd otherwise seen very little action. The visiting refused to show any mercy against an opposing team that was completely devoid of self-control. Arsenal's implosion would end after 81 minutes, with Demichelis securing his second goal of the afternoon from a centre by substitute David Silva. Prior to this game, the 34-year-old from Argentina had found the net three times in his previous 67 league appearances for City. The 50,000-or-so Gooners in attendance could not believe what they had just witnessed. Arsenal had never previously lost a match by FIVE goals at the Emirates Stadium. The other two Cities that Arsenal had been concerned about - Swansea and Leicester - would win their matches that weekend and move 11 points clear of the Gunners, who fell from 6th to 9th. O'Hara had endured his fair share of bad days at the office thus far during a managerial reign that was barely into its fifth month, and this was undoubtedly the worst of the lot. O'Hara's fiercest critics came out in force in the wake of that disastrous result. There were widespread calls - on social media, and around the Emirates Stadium - for O'Hara to be sacked, with many Gooners demanding that director of football Arsène Wenger be reinstated as manager. Even the likes of Paul Merson, who'd been quick to praise O'Hara earlier in his reign, had lost faith. The ex-Arsenal striker exclaimed, "You can't go all hammers blazing [sic] all the time! You definitely can't do that against City! That's football suicide!" Merson later added, "I just don't know what's going on in Gary O'Hara's head. In fact, at this moment in time, I'm not sure that even Gary O'Hara himself knows what's going on in his head! He's a total nutcase, that's what he is!" What O'Hara was doing - in the hours that followed the 5-0 loss - was having crisis talks with leading Arsenal executives in the club boardroom. Owner Stan Kroenke, who'd made a rare trip from his native United States to watch the match in person, was in attendance, along with chairman Sir Chips Keswick and CEO Ivan Gazidis. Kroenke may have been nicknamed 'Silent Stan', but he couldn't keep quiet about his discontent any longer. The 68-year-old made it clear to O'Hara in no uncertain terms that he had not flown out to London to "watch Manchester City hand our asses to us on a silver platter". O'Hara tried to reassure Kroenke that it was just "one of those days", and that there was still time for Arsenal to turn their league season around. The American was not wholly convinced. Kroenke issued his manager with an ultimatum. "You're in Kiev on Tuesday," he began. "I expect a massive improvement against Dynamo, otherwise you'll be out on your ass," then he clicked his fingers, "just like that". A despondent O'Hara nodded in acknowledgement. He knew now that, after a little over four months in charge, he was already walking a tightrope. This was turning out to be the most disastrous period of Gary O'Hara's career, and there was still worse to come.
  2. House of Flying Daggers

    2036/2037 season round-up: Part 2 Major Transfers Manchester United bought a couple of new strikers this summer - Inter Milan's Massimo Bruscaglia and West Ham United's Ewerton - for a combined £39.25million. Unsurprisingly, they both struggled to displace the lethal strike partnership of Sean Jordan and Moses Penfold, who notched up 59 goals between them this season. The Red Devils' biggest single purchase would come in January, when South Korean left-winger Kim Chang-Hoon arrived from Wolverhampton Wanderers at a cost of £26million. Manchester City might have said goodbye to club legends such as Andy Boyes, Martin Klonz and Stuart Lindsay, but manager Rogier Molhoek was now building a new team of icons. Molhoek's top purchase this summer was Dutch striker Hassan Ben Ayad, who bagged a whopping 45 goals following his £20.5million signing from Bayern Munich. City also paid Juventus a combined £37million for a couple more forwards in Bojan Abramovic and Souza, the latter of whom would score a hat-trick in the FA Cup Final. Much-loved Arsenal midfielder Willy Wawa left the Emirates Stadium after 13 seasons last summer, returning to his former club Rennes. One man who's hoping to follow in Wawa's footsteps and become a Gunners icon is the 23-year-old Colombian centre-back Jhon Jairo Pena. He enjoyed a solid first campaign in North London after being acquired from Las Palmas for £22.5million. Chelsea captain Christopher Khan left Stamford Bridge in the summer, moving to Spanish giants Real Betis for £23million. The now 29-year-old England defender had an excellent first season with Los Béticos, who finished 2nd in La Liga. The Blues also sold striker Javier Montenegro to Liverpool for £14.5million, and then saw the Argentinean score 16 Premier League goals for his new team. Another big-name transfer in La Liga concerned the midfield playmaker Peter Maurin, who moved from Sevilla to Real Madrid for £33million. Real's plan must've simply been to weaken Los Nervionenses, as they only gave Maurin eight competitive appearances in his maiden campaign at the Santiago Bernabeu. To be fair, the United States international did miss three months of the season with a torn hamstring. West Ham sold their record signing Jérémy Jossic in January after accepting a £23.5million offer from Porto for the 25-year-old French winger. Jossic would quickly become a key player in a Porto side that won their seventh Primeira Liga title in a row - their fifth under the management of Moanes Dabour. Managerial Movements Paul Clement's retirement last summer prompted Abdoulaye Soumaré to leave Anderlecht and succeed him as West Ham United manager. Soumaré promised to deliver UEFA Champions League football back to the Olympic Stadium, but he was sacked in March after failing to meet expectations. He was replaced by two-time Ligue 1 winner Sanel Jahic, whom Soumaré subsequently replaced at Marseille! Jahic's move to London came four months after his Bosnian compatriot Asmir Begovic was sacked from Fulham in late November. Former Arsenal and Ajax boss Kenneth Vermeer took over from Begovic and went on to oversee the Cottagers' worst Premier League finish since 2008. Tottenham Hotspur were just above the relegation zone when they dismissed Steven Davis after the first 10 games of the season. They hoped that James Marshall, who'd taken Ipswich Town to the top flight, would be the man to keep them up. However, the move backfired for all concerned. Tottenham were relegated to the Championship, as were Ipswich under their new manager - former Heart of Midlothian chief Jamal Byfield. Ross Barkley's reign as Nottingham Forest manager lasted just six months before he was ditched in favour of Will Grigg. The Northern Irishman's decision to leave Aston Villa did not pan out well, as Forest finished bottom of the PL. Barkley was very much having the last laugh at the end of the season, having returned to his former club Everton and taken them back into the top tier as champions of the Championship! Barcelona and Real Madrid each made surprisingly slow starts to the La Liga campaign, prompting them to sack their respective managers Dirk Orlishausen and Ard van Peppen. Ex-Turkey striker Fevzi Acar resigned from Fenerbahce to take over at Barca and eventually lead them to 3rd place. Gianni Bruno fared even better after being lured to Real, as he guided Los Merengues through an excellent run of form that would see them crowned champions! Bruno's departure to the Santiago Bernabéu resulted in AC Milan naming Hajduk Split's Lovre Kalinic as their new manager. The Rossoneri went on to finish 4th in Serie A, just behind Napoli, who sacked Alessandro Budel very early in the campaign and replaced him with Luca Lezzerini. Second place behind perennial champions Juventus went to Empoli, who enjoyed a solid first season under new boss Federico Macheda. The 45-year-old had spent nearly a decade cutting his managerial teeth at Genoa. Other Major Stories Incredibly, the Premier League provided all four teams in the UEFA Champions League Semi Finals. Holders Manchester City had produced a miraculous escape in the Quarter Finals, recovering from a 4-0 first-leg deficit to knock out Real Madrid 5-4 after extra-time. The Citizens then launched another comeback against Arsenal to set up a Final meeting with Manchester United, who comfortably saw off Liverpool 5-1. The all-Manchester decider in Berlin would see United dash City's hopes of becoming the first back-to-back European Cup winners since 1990. Sean Jordan put the Red Devils ahead after 26 minutes, and a couple of second-half goals from Moses Penfold completed a convincing 3-0 win for Alexander Mejía's side. Bayern Munich finished a full 20 points clear of Borussia Dortmund to claim a record-equalling fifth successive Bundesliga title - their 40th in total. Dortmund were also runners-up in the DFB-Pokal, losing to second-tier Karlsruhe 4-2 on penalties following a 2-2 draw in the Final. As Juventus wrapped up their fourth consecutive scudetto, FOUR players shared the Capocannoniere - Serie A's Golden Boot award. Napoli's Pietro Paolo Farris, Crotone's Luca Gennaro Iannicelli, and Empoli duo Emanuel Vico and Per Nielsen all scored 17 goals - the lowest tally for the leading scorer in Italy's top division since 1987/1988. The winner back then was a certain Diego Maradona. Former England goalkeeper Boyes retired at the age of 39, having played in a record 707 Premier League matches for Watford, Manchester City, and finally Derby County. His old national team boss Sir Sean Dyche also called it a day, having led Aberdeen to the heights of... erm, 7th in the Scottish Premier League. Danny Ceciliano - the most capped male international football of all-time - ended his Costa Rica career in January after an unbelievable 209 caps and 82 goals over the course of 16 years. The 34-year-old winger then won the Swiss Super League with FC Basel before hanging up his boots completely. Other notable retirees included Roma and Portugal defender Pedro Nunes, and former Barcelona midfielders Claudio Aureli and Inaki Arce. Cup Winners FA Cup: Manchester City 3-2 Dagenham & Redbridge. League Cup: Manchester City 3-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers (aet). Community Shield: Manchester United 2-0 Derby County. Football League Trophy: Oldham Athletic 1-1 Cheltenham Town (3-2 penalties). UEFA Champions League: Manchester United 3-0 Manchester City - at Olympiastadion, Munich. UEFA Europa League: Benfica 2-1 Anji Ramenskoye - at Ernst Happel Stadion, Vienna. UEFA Super Cup: Manchester United 5-3 Anderlecht (aet) - at Stade de Geneve, Geneva. FIFA Club World Championship: Sao Paulo 3-0 Manchester City - at BMO Field, Toronto. Major European Leagues Dutch Eredivisie: Ajax (1st), PSV (2nd), FC Twente (3rd). French Ligue 1: Paris Saint-Germain (1st), Marseille (2nd), Monaco (3rd). German Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (1st), Borussia Dortmund (2nd), VfB Stuttgart (3rd). Italian Serie A: Juventus (1st), Empoli (2nd), Napoli (3rd). Portuguese Primeira Liga: Porto (1st), Benfica (2nd), Guimaraes (3rd). Russian Premier League: Anji Ramenskoye (1st), Alania Vladikavkaz (2nd), Lokomotiv Moscow (3rd). Scottish Premier League: Hibernian (1st), Celtic (2nd), Rangers (3rd). Spanish La Liga: Real Madrid (1st), Real Betis (2nd), Barcelona (3rd). Award Winners PFA Player of the Year: Gianni Improta (Chelsea). PFA Young Player of the Year: Maurice Hockley (Southampton). FWA Footballer of the Year: Domenico Papa (Manchester City). Premier League Manager of the Season: Christopher Fuller (Dagenham & Redbridge). PFA Premier League Team of the Year: Carl Baker (Manchester United), Emerson (Manchester United), Nathan Guppy (West Ham United), José Luis (Manchester United), Tarek Taider (Manchester United), Dudu Ashkenazi (Manchester United), Liam Wood (Arsenal), Mohammed Ali (Manchester City), Domenico Papa (Manchester City), Hassan Ben Ayad (Manchester City), Gianni Improta (Chelsea). FIFA Ballon d'Or: Andrzej Wolanski (Real Betis). World Soccer World Player of the Year: Andrzej Wolanski (Real Betis). European Golden Shoe: William Schmidt (Real Madrid). UEFA Best Player in Europe: Domenico Papa (Manchester City). FIFA/FIFPro World XI: Ander Bengoetxea (Paris Saint-Germain), Alois Backer (Juventus), Nathan Guppy (West Ham United), José Luis (Manchester United), Juan Manuel Abad (Real Sociedad), Tomeu (Marseille), Rafael Pinau (Lyon), Matteo Caurla (Paris Saint-Germain), Andrzej Wolanski (Real Betis), Adrián Gil (Bayern Munich), Clive Johnson (Arsenal)
  3. House of Flying Daggers

    2036/2037 season round-up: Part 1 Premier League Manchester had a monopoly on all the major trophies this season. Manchester United, whose captain José Luis was once again imperious at the back, returned to a newly-expanded Old Trafford and staved off Manchester City to win the Premier League by 11 points. Alexander Mejía's United also wrestled the UEFA Champions League title from the grasp of their local rivals. Mind you, City did claim both the League Cup and the FA Cup, and their new big-money signing Hassan Ben Ayad topped the PL's scoring charts with 30 goals. The battle for the other two Champions League places went all the way to the final day. Chelsea - with PFA Player of the Year Gianni Improta continuing to bang in the goals up front - beat Burnley 1-0 to leap up into 3rd place. Arsenal were knocked down to 4th, but they still finished above surprise FA Cup runners-up Dagenham & Redbridge on goal difference and Liverpool by two points. West Ham United claimed the last remaining UEFA Europa League spot after staving off Norwich City in the battle for 7th. Rochdale returned to the top half after spending close to £45million on new players in the summer, while League Cup finalists Wolverhampton Wanderers ended the season poorly and had to settle for 11th. Meanwhile, Fulham's dismal placing of 16th was their lowest for nearly 30 years. The PL's three worst defences were all relegated after shipping at least 86 goals apiece. Nottingham Forest didn't win their first league game until late in November, and they never really recovered. Ipswich Town's return to the top flight lasted just a single campaign, while Tottenham Hotspur's chickens came home to roost after years of neglect and mismanagement. This coming season will be Spurs' first in the second tier since 1977/1978. Top Four: Manchester United (1st, 88 pts), Manchester City (2nd, 77 pts), Chelsea (3rd, 69 pts), Arsenal (4th, 68 pts). Relegated: Tottenham Hotspur (18th, 31 pts), Ipswich Town (19th, 31 pts), Nottingham Forest (20th, 30 pts). Championship An emotional return to Goodison Park for new manager Ross Barkley inspired Everton to a 17-match unbeaten run that saw them take the Championship title. They'll be returning to the Premier League next season, as will Reading, who bounced back emphatically after suffering the agony of relegation 12 months earlier. Coventry City's late surge into the Play-Offs couldn't get them past 3rd-placed Newcastle United, who won their Semi Final on penalties. The Magpies' win set up a Final meeting with a Sheffield United side who'd knocked out Huddersfield Town. Travis Richardson scored his 30th league goal of the season for Newcastle at Wembley, but his day out was to end in disappointment, as Shaun Barrow's extra-time strike earned the Blades a thrilling 4-3 victory. Aston Villa's promotion charge ran out of steam late on as they finished in 9th. A couple of places below them were Sunderland, who had a very underwhelming campaign after three successive play-off failures. In contrast, Chesterfield were delighted to finish well clear of relegation in 15th, while Corby Town narrowly stayed up to guarantee themselves a third consecutive season in the Championship. York City's first season at this level for over 60 years was a nightmare one. The Minstermen won only six times - and just once at home - as they brought up the rear. Leicester City were also relegated straight back to League One, while Oxford United joined them there, despite club legend Reis Collins topping 20 league goals for an 11th season in a row! Promoted: Everton (1st, 93 pts), Reading (2nd, 87 pts), Sheffield United (5th, 80 pts). Also in Play-Offs: Newcastle United (3rd, 83 pts), Huddersfield Town (4th, 80 pts), Coventry City (6th, 77 pts). Relegated: Oxford United (22nd, 44 pts), Leicester City (23rd, 43 pts), York City (24th, 29 pts). League One Karl Scully - one of the Football League's youngest managers at just 30 years of age - inspired Stockport County to win promotion back into the Championship. County also saw off the late challenge of Leeds United and their more experienced coach Gary Rowett to win the League One title. Cardiff City won an all-Welsh battle with Wrexham to reach the Play-Off Final against Wycombe Wanderers, who'd denied Hull City a second successive promotion. Wycombe were bidding to win a first ever promotion into the Championship, and their dream would come true at Wembley. Homegrown striker Tom Weait's 10th-minute goal was all that the Chairboys needed to give them the greatest victory in their 150-year history. Curiously, Cambridge United scored as many goals as champions Stockport but still finished bottom of the pile! Just ahead of them were a Millwall side whose run to the FA Cup Semi Finals distracted them from their battle for survival. Colchester United and Rotherham United were the other two teams who dropped into League Two. Promoted: Stockport County (1st, 80 pts), Leeds United (2nd, 79 pts), Wycombe Wanderers (5th, 73 pts). Also in Play-Offs: Cardiff City (3rd, 77 pts), Hull City (4th, 73 pts), Wrexham (6th, 72 pts). Relegated: Rotherham United (21st, 52 pts), Colchester United (22nd, 51 pts), Millwall (23rd, 48 pts), Cambridge United (24th, 47 pts). League Two The battle to win League Two was won by Southend United, who survived a late wobble to end a 27-season exile from League One. Gillingham and AFC Bournemouth each came within two points of the Shrimpers and also went up automatically. The Gills finished their campaign with eight victories on the bounce. The Play-Off Semi Finals saw AFC Wimbledon defeat Shrewsbury Town on penalties after a 5-5 aggregate draw, while Middlesbrough saw off Cheltenham Town 4-1. The Boro were hot favourites to win promotion, but it all went wrong for them in the Final. Andrew Mullin's opener was soon followed by a Sam Austin hat-trick as Wimbledon won 4-0! A terrible start from Barnsley ultimately cost them their Football League membership after 139 years. Port Vale were relegated alongside them, despite a typically valiant battle to stay up. Pre-season title favourites Portsmouth finished just one point above Vale in 22nd, while Birmingham City were also rather fortunate to survive. Promoted: Southend United (1st, 86 pts), Gillingham (2nd, 84 pts), AFC Bournemouth (3rd, 84 pts), AFC Wimbledon (5th, 75 pts). Also in Play-Offs: Middlesbrough (4th, 81 pts), Shrewsbury Town (6th, 73 pts), Cheltenham Town (7th, 69 pts). Relegated: Port Vale (23rd, 47 pts), Barnsley (24th, 43 pts). Conference Premier Despite a very shaky start, Morecambe took top spot midway through the Conference Premier season. They would ultimately win the title by four points from Mansfield Town and earn an immediate promotion back to League Two. Mansfield's narrow Play-Off Semi Final win over Gateshead saw them book a Final showdown with Hartlepool United. Hartlepool had already seen off Harrogate Town, and Leigh Anderson's 118th-minute winner at Wembley would fire Pools back into the Football League at the third attempt. It was a sorry season of relegation for four clubs based in London or Surrey. Staines Town, Leyton Orient, Barnet and Woking will all be gracing the Conference South with their presence next season. Promoted: Morecambe (1st, 84 pts), Hartlepool United (4th, 76 pts). Also in Play-Offs: Mansfield Town (2nd, 80 pts), Harrogate Town (3rd, 79 pts), Gateshead (5th, 74 pts). Relegated: Woking (21st, 49 pts), Barnet (22nd, 46 pts), Leyton Orient (23rd, 44 pts), Staines Town (24th, 40 pts). Conference North Promoted: Altrincham (1st, 80 pts), Macclesfield Town (5th, 69 pts). Also in Play-Offs: Marine (2nd, 77 pts), Tamworth (3rd, 74 pts), Bury (4th, 72 pts). Relegated: Hinckley United (20th, 31 pts), Worksop Town (21st, 30 pts), Cambridge City (22nd, 18 pts*). * 10 points deducted Conference South Promoted: Crawley Town (1st, 85 pts), Eastleigh (2nd, 83 pts). Also in Play-Offs: Brentford (3rd, 78 pts), Stevenage (4th, 76 pts), Ebbsfleet United (5th, 66 pts). Relegated: Yate Town (20th, 40 pts), Farnborough (21st, 34 pts), Sutton United (22nd, 33 pts). Regional Premier Divisions Promoted from Northern Premier League Premier: Sheffield (1st), Retford United (3rd). Promoted from Isthmian League Premier: Potters Bar Town (1st), Milton Keynes Dons (2nd). Promoted from Southern League Premier: Tiverton Town (1st), Weston-super-Mare (2nd).
  4. House of Flying Daggers

    I'm afraid that, like most of my Romford players, Garry Morath-Gibbs did not progress to the professional levels. He left Romford in 2023 (a year after me), and spent three years at Concord Rangers and one at Ashford Town before retiring from football at the age of just 26. He would be 36 years old in-game right now. Curiously, there is a 16-year-old George Morath-Gibbs in the Romford youth team, and he looks a bit like Garry, so I'm going to assume that he is Garry's son. Mind you, he's not very good. I have now completed 25 seasons of this FM career. If anyone else would like to ask me anything about the in-game universe or any of my former Romford/Dagenham players, please fire away.
  5. First FM Team

    As I stated in that other thread, my first team was Shrewsbury, in the CM3 demo. I was eight years old and just getting into football, so I just picked a team at random, and that team happened to be the Shrews. I was hopeless in this first attempt at playing CM/FM. I knew very little about tactics, other than that defenders should go in defence, midfielders in midfield, etc. I didn’t necessarily know that players had preferred sides at that time. Anyway, under my management, Shrewsbury lost every single pre-season friendly (a 3-0 loss to Total Network Solutions still sticks out in my mind), went out of the League Cup at the first round, and suffered eight straight defeats in Division 3. I gave up on the Shrews after that, but after brushing up on the game, I was rather more successful when CM99/00 came around. (By ‘successful’, I meant that - in the space of four seasons - I went from Man Utd to Barnsley via Scotland, Charlton, Birmingham, Shrewsbury again, Luton and Sheffield United. I was very impatient back then. ) Nearly two decades on, I’m planning to mark my 20th CM/FM anniversary by returning to where it all began, and giving Shrewsbury a proper go in FM19. The way they’re playing at the moment, I could well be taking over a Championship team!
  6. I'm actually planning a Shrewsbury career for FM19, to mark the 20th anniversary of my first experience with CM/FM. Shrewsbury were the first club I ever managed, in the CM3 demo (I chose them at random). Of course, being an 8-year-old who had no idea about tactics, I lost every single game with the Shrews, but I've been hooked on the franchise ever since.
  7. An Impossible Man

    *** England had participated in 14 of the previous 20 FIFA World Cup tournaments. They were now just one more win away from qualifying for their 15th global finals - and booking their flights to Russia in June 2018. Manager Mark Catterall was looking to seal the deal in the Three Lions' final away qualifier. If England could record a victory in the western Slovakian city of Trnava, they would top Group 6 and be under no pressure to get results against either Lithuania or Slovenia at home in October. England were also chasing back-to-back 100% records in qualifying tournaments. They'd won 10 out of 10 preliminary matches for UEFA Euro 2016 and were now 7 from 7 in their quest to reach the 2018 World Cup. If that proud record was to be spoiled at any point, it would surely be spoiled in Slovakia. Catterall appreciated the threat that the Slovaks would pose, even without their talisman - Chelsea playmaker Marek Hamsik, who was out with a back injury. He didn't want the Repre to dictate terms in midfield, and so he abandoned his usual 4-2-3-1 in favour of a narrow 4-3-1-2. Among those who came into a beefed-up England midfield was Danny Drinkwater of Leicester City. The 27-year-old won his seventh international cap, and after six minutes, he came within inches of snatching his first goal. Slovakia captain Martin Skrtel could only clear a Danny Rose cross as far as Drinkwater, who volleyed just over the bar. Harry Kane and Daniel Sturridge - who usually had to squabble with each other over one striker position - led the England frontline together this time around. It was Sturridge who had a pop at goal first, though an overhit strike in the 12th minute gave Slovak goalkeeper Matus Kozacik very little to worry about. Kozacik's first save of the match came after 14 minutes, when he palmed behind a right-wing delivery from Nathaniel Clyne. He then comfortably claimed Adam Lallana's corner, but England would be attacking again within moments. On 15 minutes, Lallana's first-time pass found Kane, who'd been very hit-and-miss for the Three Lions in this qualifying campaign. A determined block from Kozacik set the tone for what would be very much a 'miss' evening for the Tottenham Hotspur hotshot. Five minutes later, England captain Jordan Henderson ran onto an excellent cross from Jack Wilshere on the left and tried to volley it towards goal. Henderson was making his 38th appearance for the Three Lions, but a horrific miscue summed up why the 27-year-old Liverpool man was still waiting for his maiden goal. In all fairness to Henderson, his next attempt at goal was slightly better. On 29 minutes, he beat Slovakian right-back Peter Pekarik to a corner delivery from Drinkwater, only to see Kozacik safely catch his header. The next five minutes from an England perspective saw Wilshere float a free-kick wide and Sturridge scoop another effort over the bar. Slovakia's attacking threat had been all but nullified by a watertight English defence, though Ondrej Duda did find one chink in their armour in the 35th minute. The creative Hertha BSC midfielder fed the ball through to Vladimir Weiss, whose drive drew an awkward opening save out of Joe Hart. Half-time was looming large, and as the 43rd minute approached, England finally decided to get their act together. Clyne swung a deep cross from the touchline, and Sturridge got ahead of Pekarik to knock it down towards Wilshere. The enigmatic Arsenal star then produced one of the best finishes seen in an England jersey for some time, half-volleying the bouncing ball into the net with his left foot. The Three Lions were 1-0 up, and just one half of football away from ensuring that they would be at the World Cup in the summer. That said, Catterall did not want any of his players to get complacent before they crossed the finishing line. They would have to keep battling on, as if the team's very future depended on a win. Rose certainly showed plenty of determination in the 49th minute, when he won the ball in a scrappy challenge on Weiss. However, the referee adjudged Rose to have tripped Weiss and duly showed him a yellow card. As that was the left-back's second booking of the campaign, he would be suspended from England's next qualifier against Lithuania. Slovakia's players, meanwhile, were putting up plenty of resistance, as they had no intention of letting Slovenia pull ahead of them in the race for 2nd place - and a play-off spot. After 54 minutes, Hertha right-back Pekarik threw his body at a half-volley from England's half-time substitute Dele Alli. Then, after 59 minutes, a lapse in concentration from Wilshere inadvertently gifted the Repre a real chance to strike back. Wilshere lost focus while attempting a direct pass to Sturridge, which ricocheted off Duda and into the path of Weiss. The winger then cut inside and moved the ball space to David Depetris, who cracked it inches wide. Another shot that barely missed the target came from Sturridge in the 67th minute. Alli teed up a 20-yard opportunity that the Liverpool striker blasted agonisingly over the crossbar. Sturridge was now being accompanied up front by Chelsea's new big-money signing Callum Wilson. Those two strikers linked up to unpick the Slovakian locks in the 74th minute, when Wilson's square pass was met by a blistering piledriver from Sturridge that Kozacik couldn't quite push away from his goal. Sturridge now had eight goals in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, and England were now on the very brink of reaching the finals. If the Three Lions could hold onto their 2-0 lead - or simply restrict Slovakia to just one consolation goal - in the final 15 minutes, they would be on their way to Russia. The away fans were already celebrating in Trnava, but Weiss was determined to spoil their party. On 81 minutes, the former Manchester City winger - now at Al-Gharrafa - played an excellent weighted pass to substitute midfielder Erik Sabo, who was only denied his first Slovakia goal by an outstanding save from Hart. While Hart had hardly been tested in the first 80 minutes of this match, he was at least kept busy in the final 10. Zenit St Petersburg winger Róbert Mak forced Hart to tip behind his half-volley from a Weiss lob in the 88th minute. Weiss and Sabo then drew a couple more saves out of the England goalkeeper, but there was no dirtying his clean sheet. The final whistle prompted more wild celebrations amongst the England supporters, but the players and coaching staff were rather more understated. In qualifying for Russia 2018 without any major scares, they had merely completed the first objective of their World Cup mission. Their main objective was to get to the knockout stages, and maybe even reach a first Semi Final since 1990. Slovakia's own dream of getting to the finals wasn't quite dead either. They remained just two points behind 2nd-placed Slovenia, who had emulated Scotland by suffering a humiliating 1-0 loss in Malta. That result meant the Scots, who won 4-1 in Lithuania, maintained their slim hopes of reaching the play-offs. 4 September 2017: FIFA World Cup UEFA Qualifying Group 6 - at Stadion Antona Malatinskeho, Trnava Slovakia - 0 England - 2 (Jack Wilshere 43, Daniel Sturridge 74) ENGLAND LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Joe Hart; Nathaniel Clyne, Gary Cahill, John Stones, Danny Rose; Danny Drinkwater, Jordan Henderson (James Ward-Prowse), Jack Wilshere; Adam Lallana (Dele Alli); Harry Kane (Callum Wilson), Daniel Sturridge. BOOKED: Rose 49. 2018 FIFA World Cup UEFA Qualifying Group 6 (After 8 rounds) P W D L F A GD PTS 1. Q England 8 8 0 0 27 4 23 24 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2. Slovenia 8 4 2 2 7 3 4 14 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3. Slovakia 8 4 0 4 7 8 -1 12 4. Scotland 8 3 1 4 9 13 -4 10 5. Malta 8 2 0 6 3 16 -13 6 6. Lithuania 8 1 1 6 2 11 -9 4 "Mark, congratulations on securing qualification for the World Cup with plenty of time to spare," Gabriel Clarke told the manager at full-time. "What lies ahead for you now?" "Thanks for that, Gabriel, but this is only the start of our journey," Catterall responded. "The aim now is to make sure that we win our last two qualifiers and take a perfect record with us to Russia. That'll send out a message to everyone at the World Cup that England are back on the big stage, and that we mean business this time." "So do you think this England team is capable of, dare I say it, winning the World Cup?" "I never said that, Gabriel. And besides, it's far too early to say. Ask me again in about nine months."
  8. An Impossible Man

    *** England's first away game of the UEFA European Under-21s Championship qualifiers took place in Tirana. The Young Lions had already brushed Latvia aside, and it seemed that Albania would be no match for them either. The Kuq e Zinjtë - the Red and Blacks - had lost their opening qualifier 2-1 in Scotland and boasted no standout talents. Just like against Latvia, England gave the captaincy to a defensive debutant - Manchester United centre-half Axel Tuanzebe, who'd shown some impressive form while on loan at Championship side Blackburn Rovers. The Lancastrian went close to scoring in the second minute, flicking a Patrick Roberts corner inches over the bar. A less impressive corner from Roberts in the 13th minute was headed away by Albania's left-back Irlian Ceka - a former youth-team player with both Roma and Lazio. Marcus Rashford nodded the clearance back towards goal, but he drew a very comfortable catch out of goalkeeper Mario Dajsinani. The Young Lions had needed more than 20 minutes to get going against Latvia, with their first goal not coming until the 23rd minute. History would repeat itself in Tirana when AFC Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook's killer pass to Roberts was calmly finished by the Leicester City forward. That said, he did benefit from some calamitous goalkeeping by Dajsinani, who almost pushed the ball into his own net. Dajsinani was rather more switched on in the 37th minute, when he caught Roberts' header from a Rashford cross. He also tipped away Roberts' next effort in the 39th minute, as well as a sumptuous drive from Rashford in the 44th. Despite Dajsinani's inconsistency in goal, Albania's defence had held up pretty well in that first period. They'd only let in one goal, and though right-back Ardit Toli received a very early booking for tripping Izzy Brown, the back four looked disciplined and alert. That would all change after the interval. Left-back Ceka was cautioned in the 48th minute, after he tripped up the seemingly unstoppable Roberts. From that point, England took every possible opportunity to run at the Albanian defence and potentially draw even more fouls. England didn't find have much defending to do themselves until Everton midfielder Tom Davies brought down Endri Çekiçi in the 59th minute. Davies was booked, and Çekiçi readied himself to fire a 30-yard free-kick towards goal. Though the Dinamo Zagreb forward had scored on his first (and to date only) senior Albania appearance against Macedonia a year previously, he could only fire the set-piece hopelessly off target. Albania were awarded another free-kick even closer to England's goal when substitute Trent Alexander-Arnold hauled down the AC Milan left-winger Ismet Sinani on 64 minutes. Çekiçi took this one as well, and skimmed the crossbar. Two minutes later, a coming-together between Rashford and Alexandros Dhamo led to a booking for Albania's Greek-born defensive midfielder. Rashford hadn't really got himself into the game until that challenge from Dhamo, which served to fire the Manchester United striker up no end. The English dream team of Roberts and Rashford came alive once again after 71 minutes. The latter ran onto Roberts' exquisite lob over Albania's defence, and a tidy finish doubled the Young Lions' advantage. Rashford's incredible goalscoring form would become better still two minutes later. When he headed in a deep first-time cross from substitute left-winger Josh Sims, Rashford improved his England Under-21s record to 18 goals in just 15 caps! Rashford then had a couple of chances to wrap up his second hat-trick in the space of five days. The first was a 74th-minute free-kick that was flighted well wide. The second came a minute later, when Rashford ran onto a long ball from Joshua Onomah to go one-on-one with Dajsinani. For once, though, it was the Albanian keeper who prevailed. As Rashford came off to be replaced with Dominic Solanke, Albania pressed forward to try and claw one goal back at least. The Kuq e Zinjtë would have one shot on target in the whole match, but Esin Hakaj's drive was tipped behind by Freddie Woodman, who was otherwise little more than a spectator in the England goal. England's next attack, on 85 minutes, saw Onomah play a series of passes with Roberts before powering a shot just over the bar. The Tottenham playmaker would go one better a minute later, breaching the home defence to convert Solanke's through-ball and increase the gap to four goals. Albania's embarrassment ended after 88 minutes, when their defenders were left chasing shadows again before conceding a fifth goal. Roberts sought out Sims' run with a crossfield ball to the Middlesbrough winger, who rounded off his England Under-21s debut with a straightforward tap-in. England's first two qualifying matches for the Under-21s Euros had seen them score 13 goals. Rashford had helped himself to six of them, while Roberts also racked up a sextet of assists. It was clear to see that those two players were far too strong for Under-21s football, and that it would surely only be a matter of time before Mark Catterall brought them into the senior England team. England remained top of Group 5, but France kept pace with them after a 4-0 thumping of Scotland in which ex-Celtic striker Moussa Dembélé - now at Bayer Leverkusen - scored twice. Meanwhile, Latvia recovered from their 8-1 shellacking at the Young Lions' hands to put three goals past Azerbaijan without reply. 4 September 2017: UEFA European Under-21s Championship Qualifying Group 5 - at Qemal Stafa, Tirana Albania U21s - 0 England U21s - 5 (Patrick Roberts 23, Marcus Rashford 71,73, Joshua Onomah 86, Josh Sims 88) ENGLAND U21s LINE-UP (4-2-3-1): Freddie Woodman; Mason Holgate, Axel Tuanzebe, Brendan Galloway, Ben Chilwell; Lewis Cook, Tom Davies (Trent Alexander-Arnold); Patrick Roberts, Joshua Onomah, Izzy Brown (Josh Sims); Marcus Rashford (Dominic Solanke). BOOKED: Davies 57. 2019 UEFA European Under-21s Championship Qualifying Group 5 (After 2 rounds) P W D L F A GD PTS 1. England U21s 2 2 0 0 13 1 12 6 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2. France U21s 2 2 0 0 7 2 5 6 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3. Scotland U21s 2 1 0 1 2 5 -3 3 4. Latvia U21s 2 1 0 1 4 8 -4 3 5. Azerbaijan U21s 2 0 0 2 2 6 -4 0 6. Albania U21s 2 0 0 2 1 7 -6 0
  9. House of Flying Daggers

    Romford watch: 2036/2037 Romford were taken over by a Belgian consortium midway through last season before finishing 13th in the Conference Premier. Could manager Dominic Shimmin take them into the top half this time around? Conference Premier: 11th Romford couldn't have started much worse, as they picked up just two points from their opening four games. The Boro's early nadir was a 4-0 thumping at Matlock Town. They finally secured a win at the fifth attempt against Darlington, but couldn't follow it up in any their next four games. That left Romford bottom of the Conference Premier before a hard-fought 1-0 win at Tranmere Rovers finally got their season up and running. They would eventually climb out of the drop zone after their next victory, against Eastbourne Borough, at the end of September. Wins became a more regular occurrence for Romford in October, although a couple of 4-0 home defeats against Boston United and Mansfield Town hinted at serious defensive failings. That was followed by a run of four losses in five games, and a return to the bottom four by late November. However, a 1-0 revenge win over Matlock set the tone for an unbeaten December that pulled the Boro clear of relegation. Indeed, Romford would lose just once in eleven games until mid-February and rise as high as 11th. A late surge into the play-off places looked to be on the cards for Shimmin's side. Unfortunately, they would soon start leaking goals again, and four defeats in a row effectively ended their slim hopes of promotion. The Boro then drew 2-2 at Maidstone United before finishing the season with four successive wins - at home to Leyton Orient and Blackpool, and then away to Lincoln City and Staines Town. They ended up returning to 11th position, which was two places higher than last season's finish, and only 10 points adrift of the play-off spots. FA Cup: Qualifying Round 4 The FA Cup was a bust for Romford this season. They were favourites to win their qualifying tie at home to Conference South outfit Eastleigh, but surprisingly succumbed to a 2-1 defeat. FA Trophy: Round 4 Romford had better luck in the FA Trophy, batting off Staines, Farnborough and Hednesford Town without conceding a goal. That put them to a last-eight tie with Eastbourne Borough, who held them to a 1-1 draw at Ship Lane despite having a couple of players sent off. When it came to the replay at Eastbourne, it was Romford who saw red, with right-back Craig Innes getting dismissed late on in a 3-2 defeat. The hosts had gone 3-0 up, but retaliatory goals from Darren Cunningham and Innes proved academic as far as Shimmin's men were concerned. Essex Senior Cup: Round 4 Romford entered their county cup in Round 3 with a comfortable 2-0 win at Tilbury. However, they would fall to a single goal in the very next round against eventual runners-up Concord Rangers. Best Players Former Tottenham Hotspur youth striker Cunningham joined Romford midway through last season, but he really came to life in his first full campaign at Ship Lane. His tally of 24 competitive goals was the most in a single season by a Boro player since the great Duncan Greenwood in 2021/2022. Romford's next-highest scorer was on-loan Charlton Athletic youngster Will Dunne, who just about reached double figures. The top assist-makers were midfielder Steven Studley on 11, and left-winger Carl Callander on 10. With the popular Ruben Coombes now at Canvey Island, Shimmin brought in the experienced George Swan as his new first-choice centre-back. Swan struggled for consistency, as did his fellow central defender Glen Holmes. Left-back Tom Worthington was also largely disappointing, and he looks set to join his old mate Coombes at Canvey next season after nine years with the Boro. The Future Romford have broken into the Conference Premier's top half in just their third season up. Mind you, it's hard to see Shimmin and co launching a serious bid for the play-offs next term without major alterations to their defence. The manager could also do with another striker to take some of the burden off Cunningham - the Boro were the division's joint-fifth-lowest goalscorers.
  10. House of Flying Daggers

    JUNE 2037 There were no real surprises when Dagenham & Redbridge's supporters named their Best XI for the 2036/2037 season. Their dream team from an exceptional season consisted of Denzel Gallen, Patrick Scheepens, George Darvill, Tomo Kurtovic, Colin Fox, Greg Killick, Matthew Fraser, Kenneth Jorgensen, Orlando Salvador, Mark Washington, and Robbie MacKenzie. Captain Mark Washington was the resounding winner of the Fans' Player of the Year award. With a record of 31 goals and 15 assists from only 42 matches, it really couldn't be anyone else but the 25-year-old American. Mark really is turning into an exceptional striker, and I'm hoping to sign him up to a new contract later in the summer. There weren't too many gaping weaknesses in my squad, so I wouldn't be making mass changes on the same scale as last season. That said, I perhaps needed to add some more depth, considering that we would be playing in the UEFA Europa League soon. As the FA Cup runners-up, we would go straight into the Group Stage of that competition instead of having to negotiate those pesky early-season qualifying rounds. The board gave me a transfer budget of around £25million, as well as a weekly player wage budget of £500,000. We were spending just over £425,000 on player wages per week at the end of the season, so I was still had plenty of freedom in that sense. My first signing of the forthcoming campaign was 22-year-old Sweden international Axel Rubarth. This lightning-quick left-winger had excellent dribbling ability and a deft first touch. He cost us £2.9million from Young Boys, for whom he made 14 assists in the Swiss Super League last term. I then swooped for a new goalkeeper to take us through our first European campaign. Several targets were considered before I turned to the United States, and struck a £5.5million deal with Los Angeles Galaxy for their 24-year-old gloveman Ben Perk. Perk had made over 200 Major League Soccer appearances for his home city club since bursting onto the scene as a 16-year-old. He was now the first-choice goalkeeper for the USA, who were playing in the FIFA Confederations Cup in Australia. We sent our top negotiator Down Under to thrash out terms and complete the deal. Even though Ben has never played club football in Europe before, and even though there are doubts about his mental fortitude in big matches, I think we've got a top-quality goalie on our hands. He's a fantastic communicator, he's very commanding between the sticks, and he'll rarely be seen out of position. Perk wasn't my most expensive signing this season. That was Enrico Messina - a 21-year-old Italian forward whom we had bought off Inter Milan for £7.5million. For someone who had scored 14 Serie A goals for Inter in the season just gone, that wasn't a particularly high price to pay. Although there was already plenty of attacking firepower in the Dagenham & Redbridge ranks, there were a few reasons why I went in for Messina. Firstly, both of our target men would be leaving us this summer (more on them later), and I needed a frontman who could be physically imposing in the air and on the pitch. Enrico fitted the bill, as he was 6ft 3in tall and incredibly strong. I also needed someone who could dovetail with captain Washington and ease some of the scoring burden off our captain's shoulders. Enrico could be the ideal 'number 10' for our 'number 9' Mark, and with Tristan Egueh and some other exciting young attackers on the fringes, nobody will want to mess with our strikeforce next term. I made one more signing in June - that of a very promising schoolboy by the name of Michael Walters. At 15 years of age, the Port Talbot-born centre-back had already made five Welsh Premier League appearances for his local club Afan Lido and been capped twice by Wales Under-21s. I sensed that Walters had something about him, and so I snapped him up from Lido for £50,000 compensation. Michael will join our youth team once he completes his education back home, and after that, who knows where his career will lead? Those were our early arrivals, but what about departures? The first player to leave us this summer was Robbie MacKenzie, who'd scored 31 goals in 102 league games for the Daggers over the course of four seasons. The giant Scottish centre-forward hadn't quite done enough to earn a new contract with us, and so he moved on to a new challenge at Blackburn Rovers. Our other target man Elliot Hernández is also likely to depart soon, whether it be temporarily or permanently. Hernández cost us £6million last summer, but only provided one goal and one assist in 22 senior matches during his first year with us. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that he'd been one of the worst signings, if not THE worst, of my Dagenham & Redbridge tenure. Speaking of poor American signings, that brings me onto Stephen Palacios. Steph played in only three cup matches for the senior team during his time at Rainham Road, where he was our third-choice goalkeeper and basically little more than an expensive mentor. It was a pitiful end to the 38-year-old United States legend's career, as he announced his retirement after being released. Reserve goalkeeper Courtney Gallagher was also let go, along with the youth sextet of Roy Anderson, Ollie Brothers, Liam Hamsher, Djibril Ibrahim, Axel Svonne and Colin Thompson. Gallagher - who'd spent most of this season at Scunthorpe United - was among 13 Daggers who'd been out on loan. Jameel Bailey, Kayo Rowe and Engilbert Sverrisson all returned from Ceské Budejovice after guiding our feeder club to 10th place in the Czech First League. Teenage goalkeeper Kayo had performed reasonably well in the Czech Republic, and I rewarded him with a new contract. Danish striker Jonas Kjaerulff also signed a new long-term deal with the Daggers after coming back from Xerez in Spain. Jonas scored only three goals in 16 appearances for Los Xerecistas, who finished bottom of La Liga, but I felt that he was almost ready for more senior football with the Daggers. Kjaerulff is bidding to become a first-team regular next season, but so is another striker in Toby Faithfull. I was pleasantly surprised to see Toby score 16 Championship goals for Newcastle United, who only just lost in the Play-Off Final to Sheffield United. Could he be the next Daggers prospect to break through? Neil McCann, Martin Thompson and Ross Pearson all played reasonably well in the Championship and will hope to be back in first-team contention soon. I also retain high hopes for 18-year-old ball-winning midfielder Lee Allen, whose year-long tenure at Swansea City in League One was unfortunately hampered by injuries. I can't see Velimir Radosavljevic, Daryl Ryan II or Christophe Smith staying with us for much longer after they all fared terribly elsewhere. I'm particularly disappointed that Irish midfielder Daryl hasn't kicked on since he emerged as one of our most exciting youth prospects a few years back. Our backroom saw a few new additions. The Nigerian former Genk defender Godwin Okafor joined us as a fitness coach, replacing David Wheater, who departed after 13 years of service. Meanwhile, the Under-18s team got a new physio in Ben Wheeler, following his recruitment from Millwall. We also recruited a new South American scout - 34-year-old Brazilian national Odair da Silva, otherwise known simply as Silva. The retired striker had spent much of his playing career in eastern Europe and was most recently part of the scouting set-up at Serbian SuperLiga club Radnicki Nis. In other news, Dagenham & Redbridge announced an exciting new tie-in with Chinese second-division club Shanghai Shenxin. This agreement will help to grow the Daggers 'brand' in China, where we've agreed in principle to tour next year. This coming pre-season will see us go further afield than ever. Our nine-match schedule will include a match in Russia, followed by a three-game tour of the United States. It'll be the first time that the Daggers have ever played outside of Europe. As far as the 2037/2038 Premier League schedule is concerned, our opening fixture will be against Liverpool at home on 15 August. (Don't forget that we'll be renting the New Boleyn Ground whilst Rainham Road is being expanded.) Our first away game will come a week later at Wolverhampton Wanderers. The local derbies with West Ham United have been scheduled for 19 September (away) and 2 February (home). Our first league match against Manchester City since the FA Cup Final is set to take place at the Yaya Touré Arena on 19 December. The new campaign will be more hectic for us than ever, as we try to juggle domestic competitions with the Europa League. Many a Premier League team has struggled to compete on both fronts in the past, so we've got to be careful to avoid a similar fate.
  11. House of Flying Daggers

    After two seasons in lower-mid-table, I was only aiming for a top-half finish! Reaching the FA Cup Final and finishing 5th had completely surpassed all expectations! You're right about the Europa League. In this save, it's not uncommon for teams who qualify for the EL to struggle at the wrong end of the Premier League table. I will probably need to beef up the squad to avoid that, whether that be by recruiting new players or just promoting them from the reserves.
  12. FMS Community Thread / Episode VII / Goalfinger

    You know, folks... it completely passed me by that Arsenal are playing Red Star Belgrade in the Europa League this evening. I had no idea until just now, when I read that it was 0-0 at half-time. Sounds like I didn’t miss much. I wouldn’t have forgotten something like that 10 years ago. That’s another sign of how blasé I’ve become with club football nowadays.
  13. *** Arsenal tried to recompose themselves for their next Premier League game at Carrow Road against Norwich City, who were third-from-bottom and perhaps struggling to cope with life back in the top division. That being said, Alex Neil's Canaries had won their most recent home fixture, against none other than Manchester United. Prior to that, they had taken just two points from seven matches. As far as the Gunners were concerned, O'Hara was delighted to have Özil back to full fitness - and back in the starting line-up - after a two-month injury lay-off. The German playmaker would look very rusty in Norfolk, though one of his fellow Arsenal midfielders almost got off to a flyer. Ramsey rifled a half-volley at goal just 10 seconds after kick-off, drawing a very early save out of Norwich goalie John Ruddy. City had an injury scare just four minutes in, as star winger Nathan Redmond pulled up with a thigh strain mid-run. The England Under-21s international did play on, though he wouldn't threaten Arsenal's defence. The same could not be said of another of the Canaries' main attacking threats. A lapse in concentration from Koscielny proved costly for Arsenal after 22 minutes. The French centre-half failed to intercept a cross from Norwich midfielder Steven Naismith before striker Dieumerci Mbokani fired it home. The Congolese striker - a loanee from Dynamo Kiev, no less - had scored his first goal for the hosts after an injury-hit start to life at Carrow Road. The Canaries remained 1-0 up ahead at the break, as Giroud missed a host of opportunities to draw Arsenal level. The big centre-forward had been wildly inconsistent early in O'Hara's tenure, and this would prove to be one of his less productive performances in the red-and-white. To his credit, Giroud did show a bit more of what he was capable of midway through the second half. After 65 minutes, he cracked a powerful shot from the edge of the area, leaving Ruddy in some bother as he pushed it behind. Though the resulting corner did not directly lead to an Arsenal equaliser, Norwich's resolve would be broken barely a minute later. Another unconvincing save by Ruddy from Ramsey pushed the ball on to Cazorla, whose strong finish salvaged a point for the misfiring Gunners. O'Hara was more relieved than overjoyed to have avoided defeat, but failure to take away all three points would see Arsenal drop down to 6th. Meanwhile, Swansea City and Leicester City continued their dream starts, each recording their eighth victories in 10 matches. The underdogs were now an astonishing seven points clear of nearest challengers Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Liverpool, with Arsenal and champions Chelsea a further point adrift. Following back-to-back draws, Arsenal attempted to get back to winning ways when they welcomed Steve McClaren's Newcastle United to the Emirates Stadium in Round 4 of the League Cup. O'Hara had given opportunities to several reserve and youth players during the Gunners' victory over Charlton Athletic in the previous round. Two of them would return for this fixture, with Chris Willock and Kaylen Hinds playing in attack from the outset. Several more experienced players - most notably Özil, Walcott and Mertesacker - were also named in the starting XI, but this was most certainly not a full-strength Arsenal team. The manager's continued faith in Hinds could have been repaid after eight minutes. Walcott intercepted a slack pass from Magpies defender Jamaal Lascelles and rolled it on to the 17-year-old striker, whose shot was awkwardly parried by visiting goalkeeper Karl Darlow. Hinds almost got to the rebound, but Lascelles got back and slid it away just in time. Newcastle's best chance of the first half would prove to be more successful than Arsenal's. After 36 minutes, a couple of members of the strong French contingent assembled under previous manager Alan Pardew combined to put the north-easterners ahead. Midfield powerhouse Moussa Sissoko played a clever one-two with left-back Massadio Haïdara and drilled the ball beyond Ospina. Newcastle had won just twice in the Premier League up to this point and were labouring in the relegation zone. Despite that, the League Cup was giving McClaren and the Geordie Army reason to be hopeful of winning a first major trophy in nearly half a century. The Magpies looked significantly stronger than Arsenal throughout the first half, not to mention more determined. They could well have moved further in front in the second period with some more accurate finishing, particularly from striker Seydou Doumbia. Arsenal hadn't won the League Cup since 1993. Back then, captain Tony Adams celebrated the Final defeat of Sheffield Wednesday by lifting up match-winning midfielder Steve Morrow, only to see the Northern Irishman slip from his grasp and break his arm in the resulting fall. The Gunners' 23-year wait to lift that trophy again would be extended to 24 when Mathieu Flamini shot himself in the foot late on. Flamini was already carrying a yellow card when, in the 73rd minute, he committed to a reckless challenge on Sissoko. The volatile midfielder was dismissed, and Arsenal subsequently whimpered out of the League Cup after just two matches. Though the League Cup was not high on O'Hara's list of priorities, he was furious to have seen one chance of major silverware slip away so early in the season. After begrudgingly congratulating McClaren at the final whistle, he entered the home dressing room and delivered what had already become - to some Arsenal players - an all-too-familiar dressing-down. Chambers was amongst those who'd played in that Newcastle defeat. He recalled, "The boss was raging at the final whistle. He said that we'd all let the club down and embarrassed the fans. "I remember one player saying, 'Oh yeah, boss, but it's only the League Cup'. O'Hara hurled his notepad at him, only just missing his face. "I knew the manager had a temper, but I hadn't seen him get this violent before. I knew from that point on that I didn't really want to be at Arsenal anymore." Morale at the Emirates was at its lowest ebb, but things were likely to get worse for the Gunners before they got any better. Awaiting them next was arguably their toughest test yet, against the pre-season title favourites.
  14. House of Flying Daggers

    Dagenham & Redbridge Player Statistics (2036/2037) (Includes stats from all first-team matches & 3 Essex Senior Cup matches) GOALKEEPERS APPS CON CLN MOM P% TR ST% Y R AV RAT Denzel Gallen 27 31 11 0 72% - - 0 0 6.94 Stephen Palacios 4 9 0 0 81% - - 0 0 6.83 Kayo Rowe 2 4 0 0 64% - - 0 0 6.65 Kieran Whalley 18 22 7 0 69% - - 0 0 6.92 OUTFIELD PLAYERS APPS GLS AST MOM P% TR ST% Y R AV RAT Roy Anderson 2 0 0 0 73% 1.50 100% 1 0 7.35 Bradley Charles 0 (1) 0 0 0 62% 0.00 0% 0 0 6.90 Elliot Cook 1 (4) 0 1 0 72% 1.61 0% 0 0 6.80 Dario Curnis 16 (4) 2 5 1 76% 3.76 47% 3 1 7.07 Milen Danchev 1 (2) 0 0 0 78% 2.50 0% 0 0 6.60 George Darvill 40 (2) 3 1 6 73% 3.05 36% 5 0 7.59 Mathew Davies 1 0 0 0 85% 5.00 - 0 0 7.20 Ante Djuzel 26 (1) 1 2 2 83% 4.87 25% 8 1 6.99 Tristan Egueh 19 (9) 12 4 1 79% 2.60 49% 1 0 7.15 Colin Fox 22 (3) 0 2 0 79% 7.32 0% 2 0 7.13 Matthew Fraser 24 (6) 1 6 0 86% 7.00 45% 0 0 7.24 Vicente Gridelli 18 (4) 0 0 0 78% 3.54 - 1 0 7.03 André Gross 3 (7) 0 0 0 66% 2.87 0% 0 0 6.53 Keith Hamilton 0 (1) 0 0 0 100% - - 0 0 - Elliot Hernández 11 (12) 2 2 0 75% 2.04 53% 0 0 6.95 Joel Honeyball 4 (11) 1 0 0 78% 3.61 33% 2 0 6.77 Dave Hutchinson 11 (10) 1 4 0 84% 6.05 25% 1 0 7.05 Neal Jacobs 2 0 1 0 84% 1.30 33% 0 0 7.60 Kenneth Jorgensen 37 (3) 1 3 2 84% 7.95 44% 5 0 7.26 Karl Kéita 12 (5) 1 5 0 82% 8.97 25% 2 0 7.22 Greg Killick 27 (3) 4 3 3 84% 10.1 37% 6 0 7.44 Tomo Kurtovic 36 (1) 3 0 2 75% 2.73 50% 1 0 7.41 Robbie MacKenzie 19 (9) 9 4 1 72% 1.90 47% 1 0 7.23 Thulani Mazibuko 12 (3) 2 1 2 73% 4.55 70% 0 0 7.46 Neil McCann 8 (4) 0 1 0 83% 5.50 33% 2 0 6.99 Niall Nash 1 1 1 1 76% 2.00 100% 0 0 8.60 Ngalim Ould Mafoud 1 (1) 1 0 0 73% - 67% 0 0 7.20 Ross Pearson 7 (5) 1 0 0 81% 2.84 66% 1 0 6.78 Shaun Powell 17 (11) 3 6 0 76% 3.50 63% 2 0 6.98 Carl Pratt 3 (3) 0 0 0 82% 5.19 0% 1 0 7.05 Velimir Radosavljevic 12 (2) 2 0 0 75% 2.23 75% 0 0 7.27 Tommy Russell 1 0 0 0 81% 2.00 - 0 0 6.70 Daryl Ryan II 1 (1) 0 0 0 78% 9.43 - 1 0 7.05 Orlando Salvador 26 (6) 4 16 2 82% 5.38 43% 4 0 7.46 Patrick Scheepens 30 (5) 0 2 0 81% 5.69 33% 4 0 6.99 Christophe Smith 2 (5) 5 0 1 85% 2.31 50% 0 0 7.32 Kirtys Sterry 1 1 1 1 83% 1.00 50% 0 0 8.60 Billy Stevenson 13 (5) 5 2 1 83% 3.81 39% 1 0 7.43 Axel Svonne 1 0 0 0 50% - - 0 0 5.70 Colin Thompson 0 (1) 0 0 0 50% 0.00 - 0 0 5.40 Mark Washington 42 31 15 7 71% 2.67 47% 1 0 7.62 APPS - Appearances (Substitute apps), GLS - Goals, AST - Assists, CON - Goals conceded, CLN - Clean sheets, MOM - Man of the Match awards, P% - Pass completion %, TR - Tackles per 90 mins, ST - Shots on target %, Y - Yellow cards, R - Red cards, AV RAT - Average match rating
  15. House of Flying Daggers

    Premier League Table (End of 2036/2037) P W D L F A GD PTS 1. C/CL Man Utd 38 27 7 4 87 26 +61 88 2. CL Man City 38 23 8 7 88 44 +44 77 3. CL Chelsea 38 20 9 9 61 48 +13 69 4. CL Arsenal 38 19 11 8 67 39 +28 68 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 5. EL Dag & Red 38 19 11 8 66 45 +21 68 6. EL Liverpool 38 19 9 10 68 48 +20 66 7. EL West Ham 38 16 12 10 56 41 +15 60 8. Norwich 38 15 11 12 50 45 +5 56 9. Rochdale 38 14 10 14 49 43 +6 52 10. Southampton 38 13 12 13 49 46 +3 51 11. Wolves 38 15 5 18 62 66 -4 50 12. Derby 38 14 8 16 50 57 -7 50 13. West Brom 38 13 8 17 50 66 -16 47 14. Blackburn 38 11 9 18 53 70 -17 42 15. Burnley 38 10 11 17 56 72 -16 41 16. Fulham 38 10 8 20 48 61 -13 38 17. Brighton 38 10 7 21 51 64 -13 37 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 18. R Tottenham 38 8 7 23 48 88 -40 31 19. R Ipswich 38 8 7 23 41 94 -53 31 20. R Nottm Forest 38 8 6 24 49 86 -37 30