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About CFuller


  • Biography
    Football Manager storyteller from Romford, Essex

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  • Currently Managing
    Dagenham & Redbridge / Norway (FM13)

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  1. If I buy FM18, my first career will be at Arsenal - the team I support - with a focus on signing more British players and bringing through more youngsters from the youth academy. I managed them for a season on FM16 but have never really enjoyed a long Arsenal career on any version of the game.
  2. You'll usually get a news item in June/July 2017.
  3. House of Flying Daggers

    FEBRUARY 2036 (continued) If our last away game was devilishly difficult, our next one was likely to be rather less taxing. We were up against second-from-bottom Aston Villa, who had shipped 63 goals and kept just two clean sheets in the Premier League this season. You may remember from our previous meeting with Villa that Tristan Egueh made mincemeat of their defence - and Chad Gauss in particular. For the rematch at Villa Park, I decided to put Tristan and his partner-in-crime Mark Washington up against the now 37-year-old Canadian centre-back again. Would there be another massacre? 6 February 2036: Aston Villa vs Dagenham & Redbridge Our first chance in this game came not from either of our strikers, but from Oumar Fofana, who headed Matthew Fraser's corner just over the crossbar after four minutes. Three minutes after that, Oumar played in attacking midfielder Billy Stevenson, whose drilled effort was caught by Aston Villa goalkeeper Jonathan Hudson. Mark Washington had his first attempt at goal in the 9th minute, but it flew ridiculously far from the target. Mark's next effort, in the 21st minute, did at least test Hudson. The American forward got through the channel between Chad Gauss and Villa's left-back Jon Fleming to collect an incisive pass from Fofana, but Hudson tipped his shot behind. The resulting corner was drifted in by Fraser, and flicked over the bar by Tomo Kurtovic. Then came a worrying development in the 24th minute, as Tristan Egueh went down hurt after a firm challenge from Villans centre-back Théo Forster. Injury effectively ended Tristan's hopes of replicating his stellar performance against Villa in October, as Joel Honeyball came on to replace him. Losing Egueh affected us for a while, and the hosts would have a rare chance to take the lead after almost exactly half an hour. Striker Bruno Vukcevic beat our goalkeeper Kieran Whalley to a first-time centre from Petr Jelinek, but his header flew behind, and we breathed a sigh of relief. Washington and Stevenson then came close to putting us in front before we finally made the breakthrough on the stroke of half-time. After drawing Gauss and Forster towards him, Mark squared the ball towards an unmarked Joel, who tucked it away for 1-0! That was the 50th league goal of Honeyball's Daggers career, and his first this season! Joel may have given us a narrow half-time lead, but he couldn't build on it after the break. Six minutes into the second half, he was floored by an excellent sliding tackle from Jelinek that left him badly hurt. The substitute had to be substituted, and with no other strikers on the bench, I had to drastically change our system. The 4-4-2 diamond became a 4-3-2-1, with Stipo Brkic coming on to accompany Stevo behind our lone striker Mark. Villa boss Will Grigg made a big change of his own in the 64th minute, replacing the tiring Gauss with a younger and fresher centre-half in Andrew Hardy. Washington couldn't really use his pace to cut through the defence anymore, and he would have a limited impact on the rest of this match. Hudson then saved efforts from Stevenson and Seb Brennan before Aston Villa went on the attack in the final 20 minutes. On 73 minutes, Vukcevic pulled a sitter wide after his Villans strike partner Reiss Benjamin had cleverly knocked the ball through Daggers defender George Darvill's legs. The Bosnian tried again in the 75th minute, but Whalley turned his header round the post. Another chance came his way in the 79th minute. A massive gap opened up in our defence, and Vukcevic ran through it to receive on-loan Lyon winger Marko Riou's lob and fire past Kieran. Dagenham left-back Ante Djuzel had been caught napping there, and he would shoulder most of the blame again when we inevitably fell behind in the final minute. Ante was unable to get Riou's byline centre out of our six-yard box before Vukcevic stabbed it into the net. Somehow, against one of the worst teams to grace the Premier League in recent years, we had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Aston Villa - 2 (Vukcevic 79,90) Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Honeyball 45) Premier League, Attendance 28,006 - POSITIONS: Aston Villa 19th, Dag & Red 12th DAG & RED LINE-UP: Whalley, Moser, Darvill, Kurtovic, Djuzel, Brennan, Fofana (Barnes), Fraser, Stevenson, Washington, Egueh (Honeyball (Brkic)). BOOKED: Fofana, Moser. "HOW THE F*** DID THAT HAPPEN, GUYS?" I fumed at full-time. "You were in total control for about three-quarters of that game, but for the last 20 minutes or so, you just seemed to switch off! You can't do that in any Premier League game - not even against a team like Aston Villa!" I specifically singled out left-back Ante Djuzel for criticism. That wasn't Ante's first horror show this season, and so I laid down the law by fining him a week's wages and dropping him to the reserves. The 20-year-old complained that I wasn't being fair, but the Premier League's a harsh environment, and he wasn't yet capable of surviving in it. We had a couple of days to work on our failings before returning to Rainham Road to face Fulham. The Cottagers had bounced back to form this season and were right in the mix for a UEFA Champions League spot, so this match would surely be a tough one. Following our late collapse against Aston Villa, I shook things up by bringing a couple of 18-year-olds into the starting line-up. Argentine right-back Vicente Gridelli was given his Daggers debut, and Icelandic playmaker Engilbert Sverrisson made his first start of this season after tearing up the reserve league. 9 February 2036: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Fulham Robbie MacKenzie came back into the fold after sitting out our last game, and he could've scored within two minutes. Fulham goalkeeper Joe Allen did well to catch MacKenzie's free-kick, and he would also keep hold of a low drive from Engilbert Sverrisson in the 9th minute. Robbie's next shot, in the 13th minute, was rather more wayward. We seemed to have the edge early on, though we did make occasional mistakes that gave Fulham chances to open the scoring. One such opportunity arose after Cottagers midfielder Daniel Chávez intercepted a headed clearance from Daggers counterpart Martin Thompson in the 24th minute. Chávez moved the ball out left to winger Jonathan Gorman, and the 19-year-old Manchester City loanee weighted a cross to his captain Martyn Thomas in our area. Fortunately, Kieran Whalley punched the ball away just before Thomas could head it home. Another big moment came three minutes later, when we stunned the Cottagers with an incisive counter-attack. Greg Killick switched a long ball to MacKenzie on the edge of the area, and Robbie shrugged off Fulham's left-back Mathieu Retailleau before volleying into the net! Shortly after MacKenzie gave us the lead, Fulham attempted to retaliate through Daniele Gatti, but the United States striker sent his half-volley well wide. Our own American frontman Mark Washington then missed the target in the 29th minute, as did Sverrisson in the 34th. Daggers newcomer Vicente Gridelli could have delighted the Rainham Road crowd in the 38th minute, as the right-back hit a strong long-range shot that was caught well by Allen. We broke into Fulham's area again shortly afterwards, and when visiting midfielder Wayne James tugged on Engilbert's jersey, the referee awarded us a penalty! MacKenzie might have missed his last spot-kick, but he made no mistake this time around. Five minutes before half-time, we found ourselves 2-0 ahead! Although Sverrisson had played well in the first half, the Icelandic youngster was struggling for fitness somewhat, so Billy Stevenson took his place for the second period. About four minutes after play restarted, Billy dribbled at the Fulham defence and unleashed a powerful shot that Allen brilliantly stopped. At the other end, Whalley would face his next test from the Cottagers' attackers in the 60th minute. Gorman blasted the ball goalwards from 30 yards out, and Kieran had to react quickly to beat it away. That began a worrying spell in which we conceded goodness knows how many corners, but we got out of that situation alive and soon looked to kill the game with a third goal. A fantastic long ball from left-back Rocco Mazzola in the 72nd minute sent Washington through - and after beating Fulham's centre-back pairing of Ben Williams and Michel, he just had to get his shot beyond Allen. Mark had only scored once in his previous 10 games, and the Yank's drought continued when Allen parried his strike. That miss would prove very significant in the 87th minute, when Fulham pulled a late goal back on the break. You won't be surprised to read that it was Gatti - the Cottagers' hat-trick hero from our last encounter - who halved our deficit by finishing Thomas' through-ball. Stevenson could've settled our nerves by scoring our third goal shortly after the restart, but Allen's latest save kept the contest alive. Then, after one last Daggers attack fell apart in injury time, Fulham prepared to launch a final assault of their own. Winger Biyoko N'Gabsi knocked Williams' clearance past Dagenham defender Hamzah Jaafar to send Gatti racing through on goal. Fortunately, George Darvill managed to force Gatti wide, giving Hamzah time to get back, block the American's shot, and concede a corner. Jaafar then made another vital interception to clear Retailleau's corner, after which the referee blew his whistle. We had won - by the skin of our teeth! Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (MacKenzie 27,pen40) Fulham - 1 (Gatti 87) Premier League, Attendance 17,848 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 12th, Fulham 7th DAG & RED LINE-UP: Whalley, Jaafar, Darvill, Radosavljevic, Gridelli, Mazzola, Thompson, Killick (Barnes), Sverrisson (Stevenson), MacKenzie, Washington (Egueh). That was our fourth win in our last five home league games... but we could easily have thrown it away. A lot of hard work would have to be done in the three-week interval before we next took to the pitch. The rest of February was dedicated to intensive training, with a specific focus on ball control. For a team that liked to play flowing possession football, our passing this season had been rather poor, and we weren't creating as many chances inside the opposition penalty area as I would've liked. Off the training field, I decided to put some of the £10.5million we'd made from selling Albert Khumalo to good use. I persuaded the board to increase our junior coaching budget and help make our youth programme one of the best in the league. Although I pushed the players to their limits during the extended break, they came out of it largely unscathed when it came to injuries. The only notable casualty was Stipo Brkic, who strained his groin and would miss our next two matches. However, Stipo wouldn't be as significant a loss as he had been when he injured his back around this time last year. Indeed, the most serious injury to a Daggers player this month was to one of the many we had out on loan. Unfortunately, the player in question was Elliot Cook - one of our brightest hopes for the future. 16-year-old Elliot had made just one substitute appearance in the Championship for Plymouth Argyle when he tore a calf muscle during an Under-18s match. His season is over already, and I fear that his long-term development might suffer greatly. Let's hope that injury isn't a sign of things to come.
  4. House of Flying Daggers

    Of course it's not a bad thing. We're nowhere near the level of the Manchester clubs, so to only lose 2-0 at City is very encouraging. What I am worried about is whether we'll cope without Khumalo, especially as his replacement Scheepens has picked up an injury already.
  5. An Impossible Man

    Chapter 8 - Korea Calling With one round of fixtures remaining in the 2016/2017 Premier League season, the title race was coming down to the wire. Manchester United had led the table for much of the campaign, but they had notieably faltered since the middle of March. A 1-1 draw at Anfield against Liverpool mathematically ended the Red Devils' chances of claiming their first league championship for four years. So much for new manager José Mourinho being 'The Special One'. Significantly, that point kept Liverpool in the hunt for what would be a first top-flight title since 1990. Going into the final weekend of the season, the 2nd-placed found themselves three points behind new leaders Tottenham Hotspur with a slightly healthier goal difference. Spurs had been on an incredible 12-game winning streak in all competitions before heartbreakingly losing their final league game at White Hart Lane against West Ham United. Tottenham would end a 56-year wait to be crowned champions if they could take at least a point from their final fixture at Sunderland. Were they to slip up, however, Liverpool knew that a victory at West Ham would see them steal the trophy from underneath the north Londoners' noses. For England manager Mark Catterall, seeing Tottenham and Liverpool battling for the title was very encouraging. Those sides provided a large chunk of his senior squad's players. Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker were all key components of Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs side. Meanwhile, Jurgen Klopp's regular starters on Merseyside included the likes of Nathaniel Clyne, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge. On the Monday afternoon before the final weekend, Catterall arrived at the Sky Sports News studios in west London to be interviewed by presenters Adam Leventhal and Natalie Sawyer. Ava Leggett - the FA's Director of Communications - was there to give him some advice before he went in front of the cameras. After Catterall informed her that he wished to put some points across in his interview, Leggett said, "As the England manager, you have to stay neutral at all times. I can't stress enough how important it is that you don't take sides. Just because one team uses more English players than another doesn't mean you should be seen to support them." "Of course I won't say anything like that!" Catterall reassured her. "But I feel like I've gotta say something out there. I want to plant some seeds into the other managers' heads - something that'll perhaps encourage them to go a bit more English." "Okay, that's fine. Just don't turn into Nigel Farage at the same time." Moments later, Catterall met the two Sky Sports presenters on set, and then sat down to await their questions. Once the show went live, Leventhal began, "Good afternoon. We've been here all day looking back at the weekend's Premier League action, and building up to what is sure to be a dramatic final weekend in the race for the title. I'm delighted to say that we are now joined in the Sky Sports News by none other than the England manager himself - Mark Catterall!" Catterall - a former Sky Sports pundit - replied, "After all these years, I'm happy to be back here on Sky Sports News." Leventhal stressed, "Sky Sports News HQ - the HQ's important." Sawyer asked the first question. "Anyway, Mark, we have to begin with the Premier League title race. Either Tottenham will be crowned champions for the first time since 1961, or Liverpool will win the title again after a 27-year wait. How do you think it's going to pan out?" "It's in Tottenham's hands, for sure. Mauricio Pochettino has built a solid team that always stick together and often produces a lot of exciting football. It's not just the English lads that are having great seasons, either. Hugo Lloris has been magnificent in goal, and those two Belgian lads in front of him - [Toby] Alderweireld and [Jan] Vertonghen have been rock-solid in the heart of the defence. For me, they're the best centre-back partnership in the league." Catterall was then quizzed on how he rated Liverpool, to which he answered, "I don't think they'll win the title, but I have to say that Jürgen Klopp has done wonders with that team. He's taken what was essentially a bang-average Liverpool side and built them in his own 'gegenpressing' style. A lot of side haven't been able to cope with the high intensity of Liverpool's play, hence they've done so well this season." Leventhal added, "As England manager, you must be pleased to see so many of your players contending for the title." "Yes, I'm very pleased. When you're managing any national team, you always want to see your players doing well for their clubs as well as their country. And when you've got Dele and Harry Kane ripping other teams to shreds in the Premier League, and to some extent the Champions League, it makes you think of the potential damage they could cause at a World Cup or a European Championship." "Let's turn towards England now, and your first year in charge," Sawyer said. "Five wins from five in the World Cup qualifiers, and a couple of impressive friendly victories over the Netherlands and Germany. It's gone very well for you so far, hasn't it?" "I'm not counting my chickens before they've hatched, Natalie. The one thing I've always said to you and to other broadcasters is that we can't assume that we've done the job until we've actually done it. Complacency has cost England teams dear in the past, and I won't let that happen again on my watch." "But surely victories like the one against Germany will give you some confidence going into tougher matches?" "Of course, but I don't think this team is playing anywhere near as well as it could be. We all know that there's a lot of work to do before we're considered a major force again. That could take two years, four years, maybe longer, but at this moment in time, I feel like we're making steady progress. Not spectacular progress, just steady." Leventhal turned towards the younger age groups, saying, "In terms of the Under-21s, they'll be playing in the Euros in Poland next month. Will you be there to help lead them to what we hope will be a victorious campaign?" "Yes, I'll always be at the big tournaments when the seniors and the Under-21s are involved. David Byrne's done a tremendous job coaching them to qualification after taking over from Gareth Southgate, but I'm sure he'll tell you that having me around will give everyone in the camp a big boost. The players will know that this is not just an opportunity to win a tournament; it's also a chance to put themselves in the frame for a call-up to the senior team." "And what about the Under-20s? Their World Cup in South Korea starts on Sunday." "Matthew Wells - the Under-19s coach - will be overseeing that, but I'll be following the boys' progress from St George's Park." "That'll be a big test for your so-called 'remote management' approach, won't it?" Sawyer asked. "Can that transnational communication between manager and coach work when it comes to a major tournament?" "Why can't it work? The coaches have a good idea of what I want to do with the youth teams. As far as I can see, it doesn't really matter a great deal whether I'm actually out there in South Korea or back home in Staffordshire." "Looking at the various youth squads, who do you see potentially breaking into the senior England team in the near future? Marcus Rashford has to be up there, surely?" "It's difficult to predict what'll happen with Marcus," Catterall admitted. "He's got bags of potential, but he needs to be playing regularly and scoring regularly if he wants to be in the senior squad again after the Euros. If that's at Manchester United, then great. If he has to go out on loan to get regular first-team football, then so be it. "I'm looking forward to seeing how Jordan Pickford gets on with the Under-21s at the Euros. He's shown great maturity in goal for Sunderland this season to help keep them up, and I can see him challenging Joe Hart for a starting place with the senior team a few years from now. In the Under-19s, you have Tom Davies making rapid progress with Everton, and Ryan Sessegnon's just been picked up by Manchester City. I'm very excited about those two lads." Leventhal then asked, "What do you make of the overall state of youth development in this country?" "Honestly? Long-term, as things stand, I'm very worried. 20 years ago, when I was at my peak as a player, you had a good bunch of young players coming through into senior Premier League teams every season. Nowadays, you've only got a handful of them breaking through. "There aren't many opportunities for our best youngsters in the top flight anymore. They aren't just competing with the best players in the world; they're also competing with a load of very average imports who are there only to provide cover. Watford's a good example of that. Most of their players just pass through Vicarage Road whenever Udinese or Granada decide they don't want them anymore. I can't understand why they don't do what the likes of Southampton do, and develop more players from their youth academy." Leventhal - a Watford supporter himself - said, "I don't think you're being very fair on Watford, Mark. The Pozzo family have their own way of how they run their teams as businesses, and like it or not, you cannot make them change that." Catterall continued, "And that's the thing with all these foreign investors in Premier League clubs - they are only in it for themselves! They don't care about the local community, or helping the local kids reach their potential. They just want to (A) get in the Premier League, and (B) make a lot of money out of simply being in the Premier League. "When I was at Blackburn Rovers in the mid-90s, we were run by the late, great Jack Walker - a local businessman done good who simply wanted to do right by his local team. We only had a few foreigners when we won the league in 1995. The rest of the team was all British lads, and a lot of them - like me - were fairly local. We were all passionate about our club, and we had a winning mentality under Kenny Dalglish, and that's why we were so successful. "I look at what Blackburn have become now under their Indian owners, and it makes me sad. They're just one of many examples of how football in this country has got worse - and how the England team has got worse - over the last couple of decades." Sawyer said, "But now that you've been England manager for coming up to a year now, do you feel that you can make a difference? Do you feel that you can reach out to club managers, and co-operate with them to help make the England team stronger over the coming years?" "I wish it was that simple, Natalie. This is something that the FA and the Premier League will have to sit down to discuss at length. As things stand, my hands are tied." Leventhal wrapped up by saying, "Mark Catterall, it has been a pleasure to have you here. Thank you for speaking to us live on Sky Sports News. HQ." Once the interview was over, Catterall returned to Leggett and asked for her honest opinion on how the interview went. She swiftly rebuked him, "I felt like I was listening to a BNP political broadcast!" Catterall explained, "Look, Ava. I wasn't trying to sound like a Nick Griffin or a Paul Merson. I was simply saying that I felt too many English youngsters were having their opportunities limited by mediocre foreign players... and that in turn was hurting my chances of building a successful England team." "I could understand why you raised your concerns about the lack of English players in the Premier League... but there was just no need to be so blunt about it!" "That's just how I can be sometimes. Anyway, it's about time there was an England manager who had the balls to deliver some home truths." "The media are going to have a feeding frenzy over this!" "Let them feast, Ava," Catterall scoffed. "They'll quickly fill themselves up and then look for something else to wash it down with. Besides, I'm expecting Mourinho to have another meltdown any day now!"
  6. Allow players to get better

    With all due respect, that's not a great example. 'Positioning' is a defensive attribute, based on how well a player positions himself to deal with an opposition attack. Are you trying to suggest that Messi and Ronaldo are particularly good at that? The attacking equivalent is 'Off The Ball', which is based on how well a player moves or positions himself to receive a pass or to create space. That's where those two excel.
  7. House of Flying Daggers

    FEBRUARY 2036 I don't hate minimum-fee release clauses; I absolutely LOATHE them. There have been plenty of times in the past where we'd lost a player for a lower price than we'd hoped for because of them. About four hours before the transfer window shut on 31 January 2036, our old foe came back to haunt us. Right-back Albert Khumalo signed a new contract with us back in the summer as we looked to stave off strong interest from Southampton. Negotiations went on for quite a while, but in the end, we'd managed to get his minimum fee release clause up from a pitiful £8million to a slightly more palatable £10.5million. Despite that, I spent the next two transfer windows desperately hoping that nobody would stump up the cash to invoke Khumalo's clause. So, when managing director Chris Langley told me that filthy-rich Rochdale had offered £10.5million to sign Albert, I was left feeling utterly crestfallen. Khumalo was already a leading Premier League right-back in my eyes. As far as I was concerned, the 22-year-old South African would be almost irreplaceable. I had prepared a great deal for this eventuality, but a four-hour deadline to sign a new right-back sent me into panic mode. Mr Langley and I phoned up several top European clubs, and we would soon enter negotiations for a couple of transfer-listed right-backs based in Serie A. The first name on my shortlist was Napoli's DR Congo international M'peti Akuku, but his contract demands were just too excessive for us to meet. Instead, we focussed our attentions on Patrick Scheepens - a 26-year-old Dutchman who'd been put up for sale by Pescara for a mere £1.6million. Talks with Scheepens' representative broke down about two hours before midnight. However, just a few minutes later, the player contacted me to say that he still wanted to join Dagenham & Redbridge. He'd fired his agent and was willing to discuss terms himself. Albert Khumalo's £10.5million transfer from Dagenham to Rochdale was completed at 10:45pm. About half an hour after that, with just 45 minutes to spare, we finally agreed a deal for his replacement. Patrick Scheepens had officially joined the Daggers from Pescara for £1.6million, signing a three-and-a-half-year deal at Rainham Road. Although Scheepens was not quite on the same level as Khumalo in terms of ability, he still looked like an excellent bargain signing. I like defenders who are aggressive, intelligent and hard-working, and Patrick had all those qualities. The former Holland Under-21s international would surely be a fine addition to our squad. It had been a very long night for me, so it was perhaps just as well that our match at Manchester City two days later wasn't played until the evening. This would be our second visit to the Yaya Touré Arena in a little under two months. We bravely went down 2-0 to leaders Manchester United in December, but could we get a better result against their landlords and bitter rivals? Our starting right-back for this match was not new signing Scheepens, but John Moser. Patrick was severely lacking in match fitness, so John got an opportunity to show that he could challenge for a regular first-team place. 2 February 2036: Manchester City vs Dagenham & Redbridge Manchester City were 3rd in the league and had won all of our previous three meetings, so you can probably guess how this match started. City's wing wizards almost cracked us open as early as the fourth minute, but Domenico Papa's corner delivery to Marco Batalla was headed against the bar by the Argentine. Three minutes later, home midfielder Mohammed Ali - a fully-fledged England international at just 20 years of age - was booked for a rash tackle on Daggers playmaker Stipo Brkic. That briefly gave us some respite, but the Citizens would soon be back on the attack. Slovakian strikers Peter Jakubicka and Jozef Kral each spurned massive chances to open the scoring, with Jakubicka hitting the post from a dangerous cross by Batalla after nine minutes. We tried to launch our first real attack in the 17th minute, but City defender Vinicius broke up the move by tripping Daggers target man Robbie MacKenzie and taking the yellow card. Brkic was also booked on 20 minutes, shortly after Mark Washington's free-kick had been headed out of the Citizens' penalty area by Mike Martin. That cleared set-piece was our last opportunity to stun the Sky Blues before half-time. We spent the rest of the first half defending for our lives, though we only allowed our opponents one more shot on target. That moment came two minutes before the interval, when Horacio Ricci - the third of City's strikers - had a header comfortably saved by Whalley. Although we'd done incredibly well to keep the half-time score at 0-0, I was all too aware that Manchester City would come out for the second half in an even more determined mood. Papa and Batalla continued to cause problems with their crosses from the wings - indeed, Papa hit the bar with one such delivery shortly after kick-off! Whalley had to palm behind a particularly worrisome right-wing cross from Batalla in the 52nd minute, and he then saved a 20-yard drive from Citizens defender Harald Burkhard a minute later. When an effort from Jakubicka almost bent into the top corner on 56 minutes, I could sense that a breakthrough was imminent. The Citizens just would not let up, and their persistence finally produced a reward in the 65th minute. One poor header from Dagenham midfielder Matthew Fraser was all City needed, as Kral intercepted the ball and thundered it past Whalley! Matthew almost gifted the hosts another goal soon after the restart, and although Kike Martínez let him off the hook with a narrow miss, I'd seen enough. Fraser was substituted, but before his replacement Engilbert Sverrisson could do anything, the Citizens scored again. Papa demonstrated the talents that had won him two FIFA Ballon d'Or awards by cutting past our right-back John Moser and drilling in an incisive finish. 2-0 to the hosts, and the game was surely up. Our five-man defence had done pretty much all they could to keep the scoreline respectable against a tirade of City attacks. Tomo Kurtovic had worked particularly hard, and with the match seemingly lost, I decided to take the tiring Croatian centre-half off. Moser was shifted further towards the centre, and Patrick Scheepens came on for his Daggers debut at right-back. The new boy almost saw us concede a third goal within moments of coming on, but Kieran showed great tenacity to block a low drive from Citizens defender Willy Danza. Whalley would face yet another major test in the 84th minute. Scheepens' first major contribution in the red-and-blue was to foul Sky Blues winger Taariq Khan - a late replacement for Papa - and concede a penalty. South Africa international Khan took the penalty himself... but Kieran spared Patrick's blushes by making a tremendous save! Manchester City gradually built up another attack from there, and Jakubicka hit the bar with a header from yet another troublesome cross by Batalla. By the time the final whistle blew, I was honestly gobsmacked that we'd only lost 2-0. I kid you not, were it not for multiple slices of luck or some spirited defending from the likes of George Darvill, we would surely have suffered one of our heaviest defeats! The statistics told you everything you needed to know about Manchester City's sheer dominance. They had 71% of possession, and 21 shots at goal (nine on target), compared to zero shots from the Daggers! We also conceded twice as many fouls as our opponents, with left-back Rocco Mazzola and midfielder Greg Killick joining Brkic in the referee's notebook late on. Yes, you could say City deserved the win... Manchester City - 2 (Kral 65, Papa 69) Dagenham & Redbridge - 0 Premier League, Attendance 81,354 - POSITIONS: Man City 3rd, Dag & Red 12th DAG & RED LINE-UP: Whalley, Moser, Kurtovic (Scheepens), Darvill, Radosavljevic, Mazzola, Barnes, Brkic (Killick), Fraser (Sverrisson), MacKenzie, Washington. BOOKED: Brkic, Mazzola, Killick. It was still very early days in Patrick Scheepens' Dagenham & Redbridge career, but conceding a penalty on his debut wasn't the greatest of introductions. The Dutchman was hankering to prove the critics wrong and deliver the goods in his second game... but then he picked up a hernia in training. Patrick's next appearance in a Daggers jersey would have to wait until March. And what became of the man Scheepens replaced at Rainham Road? Well, I'm sure you'll be glad to hear that Albert Khumalo had a blinder on his Rochdale debut; his new club won 2-0 at home to West Ham United and overtook us in the standings. What's more, Albert is now earning £70,000 per week at Spotland. Nope, I'm not jealous of Rochdale's riches. I'm not jealous at all...
  8. What I would add;

    Please read. Will never happen for obvious reasons. What exactly would you gain from watching your players train? Barside sums it up nicely. FM is a simulation, whereas your idea would turn it into a FIFA-like arcade game. They had this in Premier Manager in the late 90s, didn't they? It may look nice, but it wouldn't really suit the general feel of FM. The way cup draws look right now is fine as it is. Managers don't stick to the same old team talks week in week out. That aspect of FM could be better, of course... but I think that if you've got the right roles and duties set, you shouldn't be having too many problems.
  9. CHAPTER 2 - Schoolboy Crush "Gary was always a bit of a ladies' man, even when he was still a young boy at primary school," David O'Hara recalled with a hearty laugh. "He always wanted to impress the girls, whether that be by making them laugh or playing well on the football pitch. "I still remember that Valentine's Day when Gary was eight years old. He'd made a Valentine's card for someone, but it wasn't for one of his schoolfriends. He'd written it for someone named Miss Tomlin. "I thought that card might've been for one of our neighbours, 'cos there was a Tomlin family living four doors down from us, but that wasn't so. It turned out that Miss Tomlin was his music teacher - and it also transpired that she was a lesbian! "Anyway, Gary had loads of friends at school - both boys and girls. As far as serious love interests went, though, there was only really one girl for him. Laura was the one." In September 1991, the then-12-year-old Gary O'Hara was beginning his second year at a secondary school in Islington. It was on the first Tuesday morning of the new school term that he first laid eyes upon his future wife. The sight of a tall, slender, attractive older girl with an overbite flowing locks of blondish-brown hair captivated Gary. In some ways, she bore a striking resemblance to a certain Kylie Minogue - the Australian pop princess whom Gary had had a secret crush on during the early 90s. In other ways, though, Laura Sheridan seemed to be way out of the budding footballer's league. For one thing, she was a good year older than her new admirer. In addition, the 13-year-old Laura was a real swot - today's youngsters might have somewhat questionably termed her as a 'geek' - who had little interest in any form of sport, let alone football. Then there was the difference in family backgrounds. Laura came from an affluent middle-class family - her mother Emma was a teacher, and her father Martin an accountant - who originally lived in Hemel Hempstead, in the nearby county of Hertfordshire. The Sheridans had moved to Islington in the summer after Emma got a new job as head teacher of a struggling primary school in the area. Emma also entered her two children into a local comprehensive, as she wanted them to reap the benefits of state education after several years in the private system. The O'Haras may not have exactly been precariats, but they were the archetypal working-class family, certainly in comparison to the Sheridans. David and Debbie certainly could not afford to put their sons into a private school, while the boys' attitude towards the school's dress code was somewhat lax. When a scruffy-looking Gary - his tie already loosened long before the first bell - initially introduced himself to the rather more kempt Laura in the school playground, she turned her nose up to him and simply walked inside. While Laura's attitude on that first morning might have been off-putting to many aspiring boyfriends, Gary would not be repelled. He spent the following three months trying whatever he could to win Laura over, without success. She was more interested in studying than any, ahem, extra-curricular activities with the opposite gender. Gary's obsession with football arguably didn't help his attempts to woo the distinctly unsporty Laura, but it would actually prove to be his 'way in'. You see, one of Gary's team-mates on the football pitch - and one of his best friends and classmates off it - was a fellow Arsenal fan by the name of Richard Sheridan. He just so happened to be Laura's younger brother. Richie - as the younger Sheridan preferred to be known - was a flexible and agile goalkeeper who aspired to be the next David Seaman. In the future, he would briefly play for Barnet's youth team and then turn out for Harrow Borough in the Isthmian League, only to hang up his gloves before his teenage years were over to concentrate on a burgeoning career as an architect. Though football was far from her biggest passion, Laura would occasionally watch her sibling play for the school team. Whenever his crush was in attendance, Gary would be particularly determined to put in a good performance. Eventually, after one hard-fought victory against a rival school team in January, he registered another minor win of his own. In the dying minutes of the match, with one goal separating the two sides, Richie appeared to have gifted the opposing team a late equaliser by fumbling a tame shot towards his own goal. Fortunately, just as the ball was about to cross the goal line, centre-half Gary rushed back to stop the ball and hack it safely into touch. This hadn't gone unnoticed by Laura. After congratulating her brother on his performance, she turned to Gary, gave him the thumbs up, and told him simply, "Well played." That small token of recognition did wonders for Gary's confidence around Laura. Although his next attempt to ask her out on a date would end in a disappointing rejection, he would eventually win her over through another passion that they did share.
  10. You don't know just how much I appreciate reading those words, 10-3. This story is like nothing I've written before, and I was very unsure as to how it would be received. Your support is very encouraging. I feel that I've developed a lot since I started posting stories onto FMS three years ago. I'm sure you'd agree that I've become rather more mature in my writing, not to mention more confident. I am incredibly shy in real life, but FMS has helped to bring me out of my shell a bit more willingly. Anyway, enough of that. I'm sure you'll want the next chapter now, so without further ado...
  11. [FM17] Out Of His League

    A new tenthreeleader story is always something to look forward to, so obviously I can't wait to see how this one goes. The National League North - or the Conference North, if you prefer - is the one English league in the main FM game (i.e. without extra custom leagues) where I have never managed, so this should be a real eye-opener.
  12. Eight to One - A trip into the unknown

    Top three - nice. That being said, I suspect I'll be next for the chopping block...
  13. House of Flying Daggers

    The word you're looking for is 'tenterhooks', but I get what you mean. I'll leave you to stew over that cliffhanger until Monday. (In the meantime, readers, feel free to speculate over what happens next.)
  14. House of Flying Daggers

    Premier League Table (End of January 2036) P W D L F A GD PTS 1. Man Utd 23 15 6 2 64 18 +46 51 2. Arsenal 23 15 5 3 40 14 +26 50 3. Man City 23 13 5 5 50 21 +29 44 4. Liverpool 23 13 5 5 43 26 +17 44 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 5. West Ham 23 10 9 4 31 18 +13 39 6. Fulham 23 11 6 6 40 31 +9 39 7. Chelsea 23 10 7 6 37 23 +14 37 8. Derby 23 11 3 9 39 33 +6 36 9. Burnley 23 10 6 7 31 29 +2 36 10. Southampton 23 10 5 8 28 28 0 35 11. Dag & Red 23 9 5 9 28 29 -1 32 12. Rochdale 23 8 7 8 24 22 +2 31 13. Nottm Forest 23 8 5 10 40 42 -2 29 14. Wolves 23 7 8 8 28 35 -7 29 15. Norwich 23 5 9 9 31 45 -14 24 16. Tottenham 23 6 6 11 20 49 -29 24 17. West Brom 23 6 4 13 23 38 -15 22 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 18. Sheff Utd 23 4 3 16 21 40 -19 15 19. Aston Villa 23 2 4 17 24 63 -39 10 20. Reading 23 2 2 19 13 51 -38 8
  15. House of Flying Daggers

    JANUARY 2036 (continued) Mid-January saw the return of three more young Daggers who'd spent the first half of this season out on loan. Argentine right-back Vicente Gridelli struggled somewhat at Blackburn Rovers in the Championship, but two other loanees had done rather better in League One. Paul Habu was a solid presence at the back for Colchester United, while 17-year-old Jonas Kjaerulff scored four league goals for Leighton Town and picked up some invaluable pointers. As those three settled back in, we steeled ourselves for an FA Cup Round 3 Replay at Chelsea. Whoever prevailed at Stamford Bridge could look forward to hosting Reading in Round 4. As Denzel Gallen was cup-tied and Kieran Whalley hadn't yet fully recovered from a heel injury, I put 17-year-old Kayo Rowe in goal for his first senior start. Also starting a competitive match for the first time this season was Joel Honeyball, who took the captain's armband and led our frontline alongside Mark Washington. 16 January 2036: Chelsea vs Dagenham & Redbridge The match had barely started when Greg Killick tried to find Ante Djuzel in Chelsea's penalty area. Greg's ball caused some concern amongst the Blues, as defender Libor Mach headed it away from Djuzel before his keeper Mark Thomas kicked it behind for a corner. Joel Honeyball chipped the corner over Chelsea's defence and found Billy Stevenson, who volleyed us into a surprise early lead! Our delight didn't last long, mind, as the hosts levelled after six minutes. Ante was caught out by a cunning first-time pass from Blues winger Manuel Paiva to striker Sam Hohn, who beat our rookie keeper Kayo Rowe at his near post. Chelsea grew from strength to strength afterwards, and they were particularly dangerous in the air. Captain Christopher Khan nodded Maximiliano Fernández's corner just over our bar in the 14th minute, while Rowe had to catch another header - from Hohn - a minute later. Young midfielder Martin Thompson fired wide our next scoring chance on 23 minutes. Then, just before the half-hour mark, Martin ran into Chelsea midfielder Almir Murtic and lost the ball. The Blues countered to great effect, and they went 2-1 up when Hohn's shot deflected off Daggers defender Velimir Radosavljevic and trundled comically over the goal line. Kayo may have been left flat-footed by that own goal, but the teenager showed greater composure in the 34th minute to catch a header from Hohn. That save just about kept us in the game, as we only trailed 2-1 at the break. Chelsea looked to kill us off early in the second half, with Hohn having three opportunities to double their lead. He wasted all of them, but another Blues striker was in more clinical form after 62 minutes. Just like in the original tie, Lee Nicholls' decision to throw on his leading scorer Gianni Improta would pay off handsomely. The Italian hotshot coolly dispatched a right-wing cross from Paiva to make it 3-1 Chelsea and leave us with an almost impossible task. Had Paiva converted a free-kick in the 69th minute instead of sending it wide, there would've been no 'almost' about it. After 80 minutes, we almost clawed the Blues back to within a single goal with a direct free-kick of our own. Sadly, Matthew Fraser's effort swerved wide, and a brave Daggers display would be for nothing. Although Fernández struggled with a knock late on, the Blues coasted into the next phase of the FA Cup and left us behind. Chelsea - 3 (Hohn 6, Radosavljevic og31, Improta 62) Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Stevenson 1) FA Cup Round 3 Replay, Attendance 39,139 DAG & RED LINE-UP: Rowe, Moser (Pearson), Radosavljevic, Kurtovic, Djuzel, Killick, Thompson, Fraser, Stevenson, Washington (Egueh), Honeyball (Sverrisson). I wasn't too critical of my players after that defeat - they'd given close to their all. Also, while it had been a difficult competitive debut for Kayo Rowe, I was sure that he would be all the better for the experience. Chelsea may have booked a Round 4 date with Reading, but we would still get to play the Royals anyway. Three days after exiting the FA Cup, we travelled to the Madejski Stadium for a Premier League match against a side who'd only picked up eight points from 21 games. We would go into this match without left-back Ante Djuzel, who had strained his thigh in training. The young Croat would be out for around a fortnight. 19 January 2036: Reading vs Dagenham & Redbridge Having seen us beat Reading 2-0 at Rainham Road in September, I felt confident that we would complete the double over our opponents. However, the Royals were determined to make life as difficult for us as possible. Daggers striker Mark Washington was temporarily forced off in the 16th minute when he collided with Reading midfielder Dean Oliver, who was on loan with us once upon a time. Three minutes later, another Royals midfielder - Ricky Hales - took out our skipper William Barnes with a sliding tackle. Unlike Mark, Will was left in too much agony to continue, and so Matthew Fraser had to replace him from the bench. Disappointingly, it took us until the 32nd minute to register our first scoring chance against the league's bottom team. Playmaker Billy Stevenson was brought down in a dangerous position by home defender Jesper Forsstrom, and Robbie MacKenzie struck the crossbar from our subsequent free-kick. The last few minutes also saw a couple of attempts from midfielder Oumar Fofana, who tested Reading goalkeeper Kim André Gasland with one of them. By half-time, I was quite annoyed that we hadn't yet taken the lead. I would've been even more perturbed had goalkeeper Denzel Gallen not caught an injury-time header from Royals centre-back Keith McDonagh that could've put the hosts ahead out of the blue. Denzel would have to save our bacon again three minutes into the second half. A headed clearance from Daggers defender George Darvill dipped towards Oliver, who unleashed a volley that Gallen just about managed to push away. A minute after that, Washington drove wide a free-kick that could've eased some of the pressure on us. Both goalkeepers would face their next tests just after the hour mark. Gallen made comfortable work of a free-kick from Royals stalwart Hales, before Gasland - who plays under me for the Norway national team - beat away MacKenzie's close half-volley. Neither Robbie nor Mark were having the best of games, but I persisted with them as our front two. Any lingering thoughts I had of subbing either of my misfiring strikers perished in the 68th minute, when centre-back Tomo Kurtovic had to come off with a rib injury. John Moser was brought on as my final sub, and a bitterly disappointing goalless draw was looking increasingly likely. Then Fraser found MacKenzie with an incisive long ball into the Reading half. Robbie took the ball towards the penalty area, where he unleashed a vicious effort that Gasland could only push towards Mark. Washington drilled the follow-up strike into an unguarded net, and we were finally in front with just over 10 minutes to go! That goal would prove to be the decisive one, although Gallen needed to withstand an injury-time corner from the plucky Royals before we could secure all three points. Reading - 0 Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Washington 79) Premier League, Attendance 16,350 - POSITIONS: Reading 20th, Dag & Red 11th DAG & RED LINE-UP: Gallen, Khumalo, Darvill, Kurtovic (Moser), Mazzola, Brennan (Radosavljevic), Fofana, Barnes (Fraser), Stevenson, Washington, MacKenzie. Thankfully, neither William Barnes nor Tomo Kurtovic was seriously hurt in what had been a surprisingly fierce encounter. Will and Tomo both escaped with minor bruising, and they had plenty of time to recover, as our next match wasn't for another 11 days. Before then, I loaned out another player to Championship promotion contenders Ipswich Town. Teenage right-back Ross Pearson continued his development at Portman Road, where he would play alongside fellow Daggers loanee Mariusz Tylak for the rest of this season. After a lengthy break brought about by our elimination from the FA Cup, we concluded the month with a home game against Southampton. Victory here would see us leap above the Saints and into the top half. 30 January 2036: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Southampton Midfielders Jason Pack and Niall Goodison each sent shots wide for Southampton within the first two minutes. Goodison's effort came from a free-kick, won after he was fouled by Daggers captain William Barnes, who received a very early booking as a result. Southampton would put us under more pressure when Maurice Hockley had a couple of chances saved by Kieran Whalley either side of the 10-minute mark. Shortly after that, Mark Washington sent wide our first two opportunities to take the lead. The match would continue to swing one way and then the other, but neither side was quite clinical enough to open the scoring. The Saints' best chance arguably came in the 22nd minute, when Sam Morley flicked a Pack free-kick goalwards, only to send it into Whalley's hands. Keeping goal at the other end was 33-year-old Josip Prtenjaca, who was making his first league appearance of the season, as both of the Saints' preferred keepers were injured. Prtenjaca may have been third-choice, but he wasn't third-rate, as he demonstrated by saving a couple of powerful efforts from Washington in the 29th and 36th minutes. This was turning into a frustrating evening for us, and for Mark especially. Southampton's defenders kept our target man Robbie MacKenzie quiet until the 54th minute, when he struck a free-kick inches wide of their goal. Three minutes later, an excellent clearance from Daggers defender George Darvill found Washington just inside the Saints' half. Mark cut inside as he advanced towards the penalty area, but his piledriver went nowhere near the target. Our American frontman would get one final opportunity to open the scoring after 68 minutes. MacKenzie flicked Whalley's long free-kick towards Washington, who got beyond Southampton defender Viktor Berglund and now only had to beat Prtenjaca. Alas, the Croatian prevailed, and Mark would soon exit stage left without getting on the scoresheet. It was a similarly fruitless night's work for the visitors' main man, as Hockley's threat to us in the second half was almost non-existent. Darvill deserved plenty of praise for silencing Hockley and helping us to grind out a clean sheet. Had we been a bit more productive at the other end, we could've taken all three points instead of one, but I still saw a goalless draw with Southampton as a decent enough result. Dagenham & Redbridge - 0 Southampton - 0 Premier League, Attendance 16,685 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 11th, Southampton 10th DAG & RED LINE-UP: Whalley, Khumalo, Darvill, Jaafar, Mazzola, Killick, Barnes (Fofana), Fraser, Brkic (Stevenson), MacKenzie, Washington (Egueh). BOOKED: Barnes. The following day was transfer deadline day, and it was a rather quiet one for us... at first. A couple more of our upcoming talents went out on loan. Goalkeeper Courtney Gallagher moved to League One Dartford for three months, while 16-year-old striker Elliot Cook received loan offers from several Championship clubs before opting to join Plymouth Argyle. Rob McLoughlin also left Rainham Road after his contract was terminated five months early. The 33-year-old former England striker hadn't scored in eight Premier League appearances for us this season, so I felt that it was time to let him go and focus on developing our younger forwards. Rob wouldn't be the only permanent departure from Dagenham & Redbridge on deadline day, though. I was just about to pack up for the day and go home when managing director Chris Langley interrupted me with some big news. As far as I was concerned, it was the worst possible news.