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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. JULY 2033 This was season 5 for Dagenham & Redbridge in the Championship, and it looked set to be our most testing yet. Although we had reached the play-offs in our very first season at that level, subsequent finishes of 12th, 10th and 12th suggested that we were little more than a mediocre mid-table team. To tell you the truth, I was getting rather restless. I had never previously gone three consecutive seasons without even getting as far as the play-offs. If we went through a fourth campaign without seriously challenging for promotion, I'd have real doubts about whether we could ever take that next big step into the Premier League. Our squad as it stood certainly looked competitive, but I felt we were still one or two big players short of being contenders. However, the board's decision to build a new stadium has eaten a large hole into our finances and left me without a great deal of money to spend. To further complicate matters, the wage bill for the playing squad now stood at close to £100,000 per week. In order to get a reasonable wage budget that left me with some room for manoeuvre, I had to promise the board that we'd finish in the top half again - and with the Championship so competitive at both ends, that is not a given. If it all goes wrong, I could be in massive trouble. Anyway, I'll now move onto pre-season - and a potential fourth signing of the summer. We took 31-year-old Antigua & Barbuda international Leon Curran - who can play at left-wing or up front - on trial. Leon had spent the last eight seasons playing in the Scottish Premier League, initially for Motherwell and later for Ross County. In other news, two young Daggers centre-backs left the club - one temporarily, and another permanently. Carl Quinn went out on loan to League One side Middlesbrough until mid-January, while Larry Wood was sold to last season's Welsh Premier League runners-up Bangor City for £50,000. Two other Dagenham youngsters who wouldn't be with us for a huge chunk of pre-season were Dave Hutchinson and new summer signing Adrian Bailey. Ady and Hutch were both part of the England squad that was competing at the European Under-19s Championship in Belgium. We were actually in talks to sign a THIRD member of that particular England party, but I'll reveal more later on. Our first friendly of the summer was in south-east London against non-league Bromley. The Lilywhites narrowly missed out on the Conference Premier Play-Offs last season under manager David Raven, who was now in his 13th season at Hayes Lane. 6 July 2033: Bromley vs Dagenham & Redbridge We started off the match with a couple of long-range punts at goal. Tyrone Sedgley drove the ball inches wide in the first minute, while Ante Djuzel went closer still in the ninth minute. Indeed, the Croatian left-back's 40-yard attempt looped over Bromley goalkeeper Steven Edgar and into the net, thus giving us an early lead! Edgar was soon having to prevent us from pulling further ahead, as he saved an 11th-minute strike from Daggers skipper Joel Honeyball. Our new target man Robbie MacKenzie went within inches of finding the net a minute later. While our strikers were putting the hosts under increasing strain, Lilywhites frontman Mitchell Hooper was struggling to make his mark. Hooper damaged his elbow in a collision with Dagenham right-back Arran Banton in the 23rd minute and didn't look at all comfortable thereafter. Our dominance continued midway through the half, with Sedgley having a handful of long-distance strikes, one of which was saved by Edgar. Bromley's Northern Irish goalkeeper also had to tip over a fabulous effort from Honeyball two minutes before the half-time interval. Bromley finally came to life in the 47th minute, as Hooper's powerful strike was tipped away by Jerome Farrell. The Lilywhites subsequently won a corner, and Trevor Mason's delivery was headed inches wide by Jack Shirley. Six minutes after that, Daggers sub Ollie Reynolds nodded a Honeyball centre tamely into Edgar's hands. Ollie would miss an even greater chance to make it 2-0 after 60 minutes. A disastrous back-pass from Bromley forward Ady Simmonds wound up at Reynolds' feet, leaving our teenage striker needing to only beat the hosts' substitute keeper Leon Sedgley. Ollie scooped it horrendously over the bar, but he would make up for that dreadful miss seven minutes later. Reynolds collected a tidy pass from summer arrival Stipo Brkic and rolled it forward to Honeyball, who slipped the ball home to send us 2-0 up. We would be 3-0 up by the 72nd minute, thanks to a dream debut strike from Stipo, whose 25-yarder squeezed past the goalkeeper! Nigel Atta pulled wide an opportunity to secure goal number 4 from a counter-attack in the 81st minute, but we would only have to wait another three minutes before scoring again. Atta's cross to Tristan Egueh was blocked by Lilywhites skipper Alexander Harris, and Ollie fired the loose ball against the post before Tristan scored from the rebound. That goal rounded off a very convincing victory against a very poor team who'd only registered a single shot on target all game. Bromley - 0 Dagenham & Redbridge - 4 (Djuzel 9, Honeyball 67, Brkic 72, Egueh 84) Friendly, Attendance 1,744 DAG & RED LINE-UP: Farrell (Duncan), Banton (Pearson), Radosavljevic (Habu), Casey (Moser), Djuzel (Mazzola), Powell (Atta), Virgo (Fraser), Sedgley (Brkic), Zandbergen (Curran), MacKenzie (Reynolds), Honeyball (Egueh). Not a bad start, then. To be fair, Bromley looked completely inept throughout and would surely not pose as great a threat as our next opponents. Four days after battering Bromley, we travelled to the Weston Homes Community Stadium to renew our Essex rivalry with Colchester United. Although the U's had just been relegated to League One after four seasons in the Championship, there was no way that I was going to take them lightly. 10 July 2033: Colchester United vs Dagenham & Redbridge Jacques Polomat drove wide our opening shot in the fourth minute of what proved to be a very cagey affair in Colchester. The hosts proved much tougher to break down than our previous opponents, and we would only have a single shot on target in the first period. That came after 18 minutes, when Souleymane Nomaou's attempt was caught on the goal line by U's keeper Shayne Griffin. In the 24th minute, Tyrone Sedgley attempted to score a spectacular 30-yard half-volley from a cleared Stipo Brkic corner. The Scottish midfielder's punt drifted just over. Trialist Leon Curran then missed the target a minute later as our attack fizzled out. The half could have ended on an even worse note for us had Euan Duncan not produced some goalkeeping heroics on his first start for the Daggers. He pushed away a point-blank effort from United right-winger Joel Edwards after 40 minutes, tipped behind a cross from left-winger Clive Russell moments later, and then punched Jamie Baker's resultant corner out of his area! With Euan in such fine form, it would surely take something very impressive to beat him. We went back on the attack two minutes after play resumed for the second half. Daniel O'Reilly's long-distance strike sailed well off target, but another Daggers stalwart would find the net after 54 minutes. Curran nodded the ball into the Colchester area and found Derek Wright, who looked set to score until defender Michael Bridges stepped in with a big tackle. However, Bridges could only knock the ball on to William Barnes, and the Dagenham captain finally broke the deadlock with a simple finish! Surprisingly, we wouldn't get another shot on target until the 73rd minute, by which point Barnes had been replaced with Martin Thompson. Martin intercepted a slack pass from United striker Victor Hamsher and took the ball to the byline, where he squared it towards Leon. Griffin did very well to catch Curran's header and thus keep Colchester in the running. Seven minutes after that, our substitute goalie Jerome Farrell made two quickfire saves from Edwards and Eric Ford to prevent the U's from drawing level. Arran then squirmed the ball behind for a corner, but the danger hadn't yet been dispelled. Jerome needed to save another Edwards header on 80 minutes before Hamsher drove Colchester's next shot wide about half a minute later. Despite a brave effort from the hosts, we held on for a narrow but still rather satisfying victory. Colchester United - 0 Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Barnes 54) Friendly, Attendance 1,467 DAG & RED LINE-UP: Duncan (Farrell), Pearson (Banton), Moser (Radosavljevic), Darvill (Casey), O'Reilly (Mazzola), Sedgley (Virgo), Barnes (Thompson), Brkic (Fraser), Polomat (Charles), Curran (MacKenzie), Nomaou (Wright). After that win, I ratified the sale of defensive midfielder José Cochet to Ligue 2 club Rouen for £100,000. Cochet returned to his native France after making only 15 league appearances in three years with the Daggers. Unfortunately, injuries badly stifled his progress at Victoria Road, and I felt that he was never going to grow into a first-team regular, so it was a case of, "Au revoir, José." The following week, it was a case of "guten tag" to Bayer Leverkusen, who started a pre-season tour of England by paying us a visit. The German giants finished 8th in the Bundesliga last season and were managed by former Bayer defender Philipp Wollscheid, who won 45 caps for Germany during his career. 14 July 2033: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Bayer Leverkusen Bayer Leverkusen right-winger Leonel Deering was booked after just two minutes following a trip on Daniel O'Reilly. The visitors looked even nervier in the 9th minute, when Danish midfielder Stipo Brkic almost scored a blistering opener for Dagenham. It took a fantastic fingertip save from Germany goalkeeper Dawid Wisniewski to divert it behind and keep the scoreline at 0-0. Souleymane Nomaou missed the target completely with our next shot four minutes later. After that, however, it was all Leverkusen. In the 16th minute, Brazilian striker David Enrique raced away from his marker Velimir Radosavljevic to head teenage right-back Christoph Maly's deep cross into the net. Velimir had arguably cost us with his lack of concentration, and he would have another moment to forget just five minutes later. Deering's right-wing centre across the six-yard box found Rolf Schmadtke, who prodded it home before either Radosavljevic or George Darvill could clear the danger. Bayer were now 2-0 up, and England defender Joe Southwood went within inches of heading them into a three-goal lead after 33 minutes. The Germans' class was shining through, and to make matters worse for us, Matthew Fraser gashed his arm midway through the first half. Fraser would not return for the second period, during which we pretty much resorted to damage limitation. Matthew's place in midfield was taken by William Barnes, who almost gifted Leverkusen a third goal on 51 minutes. His slide tackle on Schmadtke knocked the ball on to David Enrique, and the former Barcelona striker struck an excellent shot that was pushed away by Kieran Whalley. This was Kieran's first appearance of pre-season, having missed our first two friendlies with a bruised jaw. Whalley would only have to make one more save - from David Enrique again in the 88th minute. Those saves aside, the second half was pretty much a damp squib. Although we finished with more possession than Bayer Leverkusen, we didn't really have a hope in hell of taking anything from this match. In the end, a 2-0 defeat was perhaps the 'best' result we could've expected. Dagenham & Redbridge - 0 Bayer Leverkusen - 2 (David Enrique 16, Schmadtke 21) Friendly, Attendance 11,601 DAG & RED LINE-UP: Duncan (Whalley), Banton (Pearson), Radosavljevic (Casey), Darvill (Moser), O'Reilly (Djuzel), Virgo (Atta), Fraser (Barnes), Honeyball (Zandbergen), Brkic (Powell), Polomat (Wright), Nomaou (Curran). BOOKED: Barnes. Although it was still early to predict where we'd finish in the Championship this season, we had thus far done little to suggest that we would be seriously challenging for promotion. A leading bookmaker placed us at 40-1 to go up - longer odds than last season. Interestingly, big-spenders Rochdale and Coventry City were the favourites to secure back-to-back promotions, as they were rated at 5-2 and 3-1 respectively. Sunderland were also at 3-1, while fellow relegated sides Derby County and Sheffield United weren't far behind.
  2. 2032/2033 season round-up: Part 2 Major Transfers Arsenal forked out a whopping £37.5million to lure 24-year-old England midfielder Liam Wood away from Fulham. The hard-working east Londoner would have an impressive first season at the Emirates Stadium, missing just one Premier League game as he registered nine goals and five assists. Manchester City were the biggest spenders yet again, acquiring Bayern Munich winger Diogo Dias for £36.5million and Cagliari midfielder Andrea Broli for £22million. However, it was a couple of free signings who really stole the show. Ex-Chelsea striker Zdravko Toplak scored 18 PL goals for City, and he was helped a great deal by former Real Betis playmaker Kike Martínez, who notched up 10 assists. Manchester United had a largely quiet summer in the transfer market. Although they sold midfielders Nico Albert and Danny Reid to Barcelona and Chelsea respectively for a combined £27million, United's only permanent signing was a free transfer - and a controversial one at that. Former City left-winger Arturo Samario arrived from Real Madrid, but he quickly endeared himself to the Old Trafford faithful with some productive displays that helped take the league title to the red side of Manchester. The £17.25million signing of Chinese right-winger Lu Lu from Wolfsburg certainly made Tottenham Hotspur's fans want to shout. However, the 25-year-old's first campaign with Spurs would be a largely stop-and-start one, due to injuries. West Ham United also signed an expensive right-sided midfielder from the Bundesliga, snapping up Belgium international Rob Houben in a £12.25million deal with 1.FC Koln. One of the more surprising big-money moves this summer saw Red Star Belgrade obliterate the Serbian transfer record to sign young Russian midfielder Nikolay Kuvshinov from CSKA Moscow for £24.5million. The dominant force in the SuperLiga had financed that transfer by selling their own midfield maestro - Alejandro Cayaffa of Uruguay - to Real Madrid for £20.5million. Bayern Munich made their most expensive purchase yet in January, parting with £41million to sign the flamboyant Argentine left-winger Adrián Gil from Russian Premier League side Alania Vladikavkaz. Another mid-season transfer saw Sunderland right-back James Weatherly join Real Sociedad for £10.75million. Managerial Movements After Peter Overson completed his takeover of Wolverhampton Wanderers, the new chairman appointed Sporting CP's Sergey Mustafin as head coach. The former Roma and Arsenal forward wouldn't even last five months before being sacked with Wolves stuck in a battle against relegation. Mind you, former Canada international Mustafin wouldn't have to wait long for his next Premier League job. Tottenham Hotspur's decision to sack Paul Clement in November set off a chain reaction of managerial changes. Fulham's Vladimir Weiss moved across London to take over at the AIA Stadium, and the Cottagers brought in Ashley Westwood from Leeds United. A month later, West Bromwich Albion dismissed David Wotherspoon and hired Jack Rodwell, who'd just been sacked at Huddersfield Town and replaced with Mustafin. And who eventually replaced Mustafin at Molineux? Why, it was Paul Clement! Liverpool and AC Milan suddenly decided to swap managers in March. Little more than 48 hours after Reds boss Alexander Mejía was poached by the Rossoneri, the Anfield club named the Colombian's replacement as Joris Mathijsen - his direct predecessor at the San Siro! Real Madrid coach Miodrag Bozovic signed off by guiding Los Merengues to their first La Liga title in six years. Ard van Peppen succeeded him at the Santiago Bernabeu, prompting Chelsea to recruit Lee Nicholls from Norwich City as their new boss. Meanwhile, Owen Coyle retired from Newcastle United and was replaced with Hibernian's title-winning manager Thomas O'Ware. Steven Davis' Valencia adventure ended after he was sacked in November, with his job being given to former Real Sociedad chief Petr Bystrov. Elsewhere in Spain, it all went horribly wrong for Granada's new coach Jonathan Viera, who was dismissed after only five months in charge. Olexandr Sevidov came in to try and save Los Granadinos, but a side who had finished in La Liga's top half for 20 consecutive seasons ended up being relegated to the Segunda División! Thomas Tuchel resigned as Germany manager following their penalty shoot-out defeat in the UEFA Euro 2032 Final. He was succeeded by ex-Borussia Moenchengladbach boss Marc-André Kruska, who completed his first year with another agonising Final loss - to Argentina in the FIFA Confederations Cup. Meanwhile, Leonid Slutskiy - who managed six Serie A clubs between 2015 and 2030 - returned to his native Russia as the new national team coach. Other Major Stories Moanes Dabour's first season as Porto manager went rather well. The Dragoes retained the Primeira Liga and regained the Taca de Portugal, while they also squeezed in a first UEFA Champions League win since 2022. They beat Real Madrid 2-0 in the Final in Marseille, thanks to a 9th-minute opener from Paraguay striker Ignacio Valdez, and a sensational lob from midfielder Serafim Meira in the 38th. Hibernian celebrated their first season at the 36,457-capacity Argyris Vasilakos Arena by wrestling the Scottish Premier League crown back from Rangers. Also returning to winning ways were Empoli, who ended Juventus' six-year dominance of Serie A, and Paris Saint-Germain, who were crowned kings of Ligue 1 again after narrowly missing out to Lyon in back-to-back seasons. Werder Bremen were sensationally relegated from the 2. Bundesliga for the first time, while Montpellier suffered a similar fall from grace in France, slipping from Ligue 2 to the Championnat National. There was an arguably even more remarkable story in Belarus, where BATE Borisov had won the Vysheyshaya Liga for 26 years in a row before finally being toppled by Shakhter Soligorsk! Kuban Krasnodar had a big season, pipping Alania by a single point to win just their second Russian Premier League title. Kuban also reached the UEFA Europa League Final, which they lost 1-0 to Chelsea in Amsterdam. 33-year-old Derek Halliday ended his Chelsea career on a high, scoring his 298th and final goal for the club after 59 minutes. As far as Halliday's international record was concerned, he finished on an incredible 96 goals for Scotland in just 111 caps. Damien King's record as England's top international scorer was smashed in June, when Clive Johnson bagged a hat-trick against Croatia in a FIFA World Cup qualifier. Later that month, Johnson scored five times in a 7-0 FIFA Confederations Cup demolition of Vanuatu, marking the third time he'd struck a quintet of goals in an England game! The Arsenal striker now has 118 goals in 126 caps for the Three Lions - and he's still only 31! Three of Juve's most popular players - goalkeeper Nicola Leali, midfielder Alison Brito Neves, and striker Marcus Ekberg - all announced their retirements. Legendary Italian centre-back Filippo Casetta, who spent his entire career at Roma, also hung up his boots. Cup Winners FA Cup: Arsenal 4-0 Liverpool. League Cup: Manchester City 2-0 Liverpool. Community Shield: Manchester City 1-0 Arsenal. Football League Trophy: Rochdale 1-0 Cambridge United. UEFA Champions League: Porto 2-0 Real Madrid - at Stade Véledrome, Marseille. UEFA Europa League: Chelsea 1-0 Kuban Krasnodar - at Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam. UEFA Super Cup: Manchester United 2-0 Fulham (aet) - at Oreste Granillo, Reggio Calabria. FIFA Club World Championship: Manchester United 1-0 River Plate - at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi. Major European Leagues Dutch Eredivisie: Ajax (1st), FC Utrecht (2nd), Feyenoord (3rd). French Ligue 1: Paris Saint-Germain (1st), Rennes (2nd), Valenciennes (3rd). German Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (1st), Borussia Dortmund (2nd), Hamburg (3rd). Italian Serie A: Empoli (1st), Juventus (2nd), Roma (3rd). Portuguese Primeira Liga: Porto (1st), Benfica (2nd), Braga (3rd). Russian Premier League: Kuban Krasnodar (1st), Alania Vladikavkaz (2nd), CSKA Moscow (3rd). Scottish Premier League: Hibernian (1st), Rangers (2nd), Dunfermline (3rd). Spanish La Liga: Real Madrid (1st), Barcelona (2nd), Real Sociedad (3rd). Award Winners PFA Player of the Year: Domenico Papa (Manchester City). PFA Young Player of the Year: John Woods (Nottingham Forest). FWA Footballer of the Year: Clive Johnson (Arsenal). Premier League Manager of the Season: Sylvain Marveaux (Manchester United). PFA Premier League Team of the Year: Shaun Murat (Arsenal), Romaric Mawéné (Arsenal), José Luis (Manchester United), Christopher Khan (Chelsea), Tommaso Fiorillo (Arsenal), Dudu Ashkenazi (Manchester United), Dario Laraia (Manchester City), Cheick Tigana (Manchester United), Domenico Papa (Manchester City), Mario (Manchester United), Clive Johnson (Arsenal). FIFA Ballon d'Or: Clive Johnson (Arsenal). World Soccer World Player of the Year: Clive Johnson (Arsenal). European Golden Shoe: Mario (Manchester United). UEFA Best Player in Europe: Clive Johnson (Arsenal). FIFA/FIFPro World XI: Andy Boyes (Manchester City), Cristian Soriano (Paris Saint-Germain), Marcel Schaap (Barcelona), José Luis (Manchester United), Cristiano Magnolo (Juventus), Andrzej Wolanski (Real Betis), Andrea Broli (Manchester City), Ricardo Venturelli (Empoli), Christos Vassiliadis (Bayern Munich), Domenico Papa (Manchester City), Clive Johnson (Arsenal).
  3. 2032/2033 season round-up: Part 1 Premier League The Premier League title stayed in Manchester for an incredible 12th consecutive year, as Sylvain Marveaux delivered the league title to Old Trafford in his first season as Manchester United boss. The Red Devils were inspired by the likes of winger Dudu Ashkenazi, evergreen midfielder Cheick Tigana, and striker Mario, who scored 29 PL goals in his final season before moving to Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer. United had to hold off a strong title challenge from Chelsea, who finished a close 2nd before lifting the UEFA Europa League trophy. Manchester City couldn't quite hit the heights of last season, as they slipped to 3rd place, despite having PFA Player of the Year Domenico Papa in their squad. Only goal difference kept City ahead of West Ham United, who qualified for the UEFA Champions League for just the second time in their history. Arsenal came 5th, while Brighton & Hove Albion achieved their first ever top-six finish in the top flight. It was a frustrating season all round for Liverpool. The Reds were runners-up in both domestic cups, losing to City in the League Cup Final and conceding a Clive Johnson hat-trick against Arsenal in the FA Cup Final. In the league, they also narrowly missed out on 7th place - and the final Europa League qualification place - to Norwich City. Tottenham Hotspur could only finish 11th, while Wolverhampton Wanderers had a tumultuous campaign that ended with them narrowly avoiding relegation in 16th. The bottom three teams all finished on the same number of points - 32. Sheffield United were bottom of the pile, thanks largely to their inability to score regularly enough, while Derby County also dropped straight back into the Championship. Following them down were Sunderland, whose six-year-long stint in the top division was ended by an awful defensive record. Top Four: Manchester United (1st, 81 pts), Chelsea (2nd, 78 pts), Manchester City (3rd, 74 pts), West Ham United (4th, 74 pts). Relegated: Sunderland (18th, 32 pts), Derby County (19th, 32 pts), Sheffield United (20th, 32 pts). Championship Malky Mackay's return to Watford reinvigorated a Hornets side who had only finished 11th last season. 35 goals from David Cabezas helped fire them to the Championship title, while yo-yo club Southampton took 2nd place and returned to the Premier League as well. Gary Harper's 35th goal of the league season sent Crewe Alexandra through to the Play-Off Final at Leeds United's expense. Standing between Alex and a first promotion to the top tier were Stoke City, who knocked out Blackburn Rovers. Those fans who wanted to witness a real-life fairytale would be left disappointed. A single goal from Stoke's Allan Moffat decided a tense Final at Wembley, which ended with the Potters securing promotion. Stoke very nearly missed out on the play-offs altogether, only edging out Ipswich Town on the final day of the regular season. Wrexham's final placing of 9th was their highest ever at this level, while Aston Villa in 11th had their worst finish for 59 years. After a few years of steady progression, Millwall suddenly plummeted down to last place and returned to League One. Colchester United - one of only two teams who beat Watford at Vicarage Road this season - and Hull City were also relegated after the final round of fixtures, with Peterborough United lucky not to go down. Promoted: Watford (1st, 95 pts), Southampton (2nd, 90 pts), Stoke City (6th, 69 pts). Also in Play-Offs: Blackburn Rovers (3rd, 85 pts), Leeds United (4th, 84 pts), Crewe Alexandra (5th, 70 pts). Relegated: Hull City (22nd, 46 pts), Colchester United (23rd, 45 pts), Millwall (24th, 44 pts). League One After being bought out by Argentine business tycoon Federico Chiaraviglio in the summer, Coventry City secured a triumphant return to the Championship. They went up as champions of League One with an impressive 99 points, although runners-up Wigan Athletic weren't too far off the pace. League One's other big-spenders - 3rd-placed Rochdale - made it to the Play-Off Final after beating Bolton Wanderers. Scunthorpe United won the other Semi Final in extra-time against Wycombe Wanderers, but they were no match for the Dale at Wembley. The Lancashire side won 2-1, thus booking their place in the Championship. Years of financial mismanagement took their toll on Queens Park Rangers, who slipped into the Football League's lowest division for the first time. Cambridge United and Birmingham City also went down, as did Corby Town, whose rapid ascent up the leagues was halted. Promoted: Coventry Town (1st, 99 pts), Wigan Athletic (2nd, 94 pts), Rochdale (3rd, 91 pts). Also in Play-Offs: Scunthorpe United (4th, 78 pts), Wycombe Wanderers (5th, 74 pts), Bolton Wanderers (6th, 73 pts). Relegated: Corby Town (21st, 49 pts), Birmingham City (22nd, 46 pts), Cambridge United (23rd, 44 pts), Queens Park Rangers (24th, 37 pts). League Two It was a good season in League Two for clubs from the south coast. Exeter City were crowned champions after finishing eight points clear of runners-up AFC Bournemouth, while Portsmouth returned to League One at the first attempt following relegation. Both Play-Off Semi Finals were effectively decided by penalties, as 20-year-old Daniel Bastow's spot-kick sent Cheltenham Town through against Gillingham, while Bristol City defeated Port Vale in a shoot-out. It was Cheltenham who won the Final, with second-half strikes from Mitch Calcutt and Daryl McKeever sending the Robins up. Tranmere Rovers' 112-year membership of the Football League was terminated following an awful campaign that saw them finish rock-bottom. It was also a dark season for the Tangerines of Blackpool, who couldn't re-establish themselves in League Two after winning the Conference Premier title last term. Promoted: Exeter City (1st, 90 pts), AFC Bournemouth (2nd, 82 pts), Portsmouth (3rd, 79 pts), Cheltenham Town (7th, 72 pts). Also in Play-Offs: Gillingham (4th, 76 pts), Bristol City (5th, 75 pts), Port Vale (6th, 72 pts). Relegated: Blackpool (23rd, 40 pts), Tranmere Rovers (24th, 34 pts). Conference Premier Southend United returned to League Two at the second attempt, with their Conference Premier success built on one of the division's sturdiest defences. Ashford Town (Middlesex) and Hartlepool United contested the Play-Off Final after respectively seeing off Preston North End and Gateshead. There was to be no first promotion to the Football League for Ashford just yet, as two goals from on-loan Norwich City striker Tristian Flynn inspired Hartlepool to a 2-1 win at Wembley. Newport County and Carlisle United sank into the regional Conferences alongside Brentford, who suffered back-to-back relegations after entering administration, and Chelmsford City. Promoted: Southend United (1st, 89 pts), Hartlepool United (3rd, 82 pts). Also in Play-Offs: Ashford Town (Middlesex) (2nd, 82 pts), Gateshead (4th, 80 pts), Preston North End (5th, 78 pts). Relegated: Chelmsford City (21st, 44 pts), Brentford (22nd, 43 pts*), Carlisle United (23rd, 32 pts), Newport County (24th, 32 pts). * 10 points deducted Conference North Promoted: Barrow (1st, 81 pts), Stevenage (4th, 76 pts). Also in Play-Offs: Bury (2nd, 80 pts), Mossley (3rd, 78 pts), Salford City (5th, 74 pts). Relegated: Stafford Rangers (20th, 40 pts), Sheffield (21st, 40 pts), Gainsborough Trinity (22nd, 24 pts). Conference South Promoted: St Albans City (1st, 73 pts), Canvey Island (3rd, 68 pts). Also in Play-Offs: Maidstone United (2nd, 71 pts), Horsham (4th, 67 pts), Staines Town (5th, 63 pts). Relegated: Sutton United (20th, 48 pts), Witham Town (21st, 45 pts), Oxford City (22nd, 38 pts). Regional Premier Divisions Promoted from Northern Premier League Premier: Marine (1st), North Ferriby United (5th). Promoted from Isthmian League Premier: Cambridge Regional College (1st), St Neots Town (2nd). Promoted from Southern League Premier: Solihull Moors (1st), Redditch United (5th).
  4. Create a new game and select your leagues. Then, when you're at this screen... Make sure the "Prevent teams which already have managers from being controlled" box is NOT ticked.
  5. When you create a new game, is the box for "Prevent teams which already have managers from being controlled" ticked? If so, untick that box.
  6. Now there's a surprise. But Vagner Love joining Real Madrid and winning World Player of the Year! I did not see that coming! I didn't realise the Northern Irish Second Division had such a short season games-wise. So many cup matches, though. You did very well to finish 2nd and win a cup last season, but I suspect things will be rather more difficult for you this time around.
  7. In the Basque Country, yes. Over there, I'm known by some hardcore Elgoibar fans as "El Burro Inglés". In Andalusia, though, I'm just another middle-aged Brit.
  8. With all due respect...
  9. Romford watch: 2032/2033 This was Dominic Shimmin's first full season as Romford manager. Could he build on a strong finish to the previous campaign and guide the Boro towards promotion from the Conference South? Conference South: 6th A 2-2 draw at home to unfancied Witham Town on the opening day set the tone for an inconsistent start to the season. Although Romford won at Boreham Wood and Woking early on, they suffered a home defeat to newly-promoted Horsham. They also really struggled to find form in September before steadily building up momentum in October. Most of the other high-flyers were also hit-and-miss early on, and thus the Boro's tally of 24 points from their first 16 games was enough to put them in 6th place. November was dominated by cup fixtures, but December was when the wheels fell off in the league. Back-to-back draws were followed by four straight defeats during the Christmas period, and Romford were in the bottom half by New Year's Day. This barren run continued into 2033, and after winning just two of their next nine games, the Boro were 14th by mid-March. Their promotion dream already looked to be over. Romford's late surge last season was impressive, but they ended this term even more strongly. Victories at Basingstoke Town and at home to Wealdstone began a six-match winning streak that sent the Boro soaring towards the play-offs... until they lost their penultimate game 2-0 to St Albans City at Ship Lane. That defeat would prove fateful, as although Romford won their final match of the campaign 1-0 against Farnborough, they missed out on the last remaining play-off place on goal difference. Yet another season had ended in agony. FA Cup: Qualifying Round 2 Romford's FA Cup run ended very abruptly at the Kingfield Stadium, where Woking got revenge for an early league defeat inflicted on them by the Boro. FA Trophy: Round 2 The FA Trophy was a local affair for Romford, who edged past Billericay Town in Qualifying Round 3 before overcoming AFC Hornchurch in a Round 1 replay. They then ran into Southend United - the eventual Conference Premier champions - in Round 2. The Shrimpers won 1-0 at Roots Hall, and the Boro were eliminated. Essex Senior Cup: Round 4 Speaking of local affairs, Romford were expected to go far in the Essex Senior Cup... but that simply did not happen. A narrow opening win over Ilford in Round 3 was followed up a month later by a 2-0 home loss against Canvey Island. Best Players Romford were the fourth-highest scorers in the Conference South, although their main goalgetter - Gareth Coe - only found the net 11 times in the league. Other major scoring contributions came from ex-Chelsea youth midfielder Paul Jackson and Charlton Athletic loanee Andy Joe. Jackson provided six assists in all competitions - the same number as left-flankers Peter Frankum, who arrived last summer, and Tom Worthington. However, the real star on that front was 35-year-old Ben Edmonson, who got seven. Centre-back Ruben Coombes was once again Romford's best performer as he continued to build a strong partnership with Roger McClurg. Right-back Dean Mansell again looked solid at right-back, despite a poor disciplinary record, but the Boro's search for a consistent long-term goalkeeper continued. If Romford are to challenge for promotion next season, Shimmin will definitely have to find one. The Future Once again, Romford's end-of-season report card reads "could do better". The Boro have now missed the play-offs in three consecutive seasons, and Shimmin will surely have to take a few more risks in the transfer market this summer if that run isn't to be extended further.
  10. JUNE 2033 During the off-season, Dagenham & Redbridge's fans voted on their best XI for 2032/2033. The eleven starters in their line-up were Kieran Whalley, Arran Banton, Gareth Lloyd, George Darvill, Velimir Radosavljevic, Matthew Fraser, William Barnes, Tom Virgo, Dean Martin, Baldur Hreidarsson, and Souleymane Nomaou. There was a new winner of the Daggers' Player of the Year award. George Darvill became the first Dagenham youth product to win that accolade following his consistently impressive performances in the centre of our defence. At just 20 years of age, this is unlikely to be the last time he takes that honour home. That was our team of last season... but what about the season ahead? Well, it certainly wouldn't include our erstwhile record signing Paul Nixon. (I'll expand on the 'erstwhile' later.) As record signings go, Nixon was to us what Andriy Shevchenko was to Chelsea and Savio Nsereko (who?) was to West Ham United about a quarter of a century ago. In 19 competitive games for the Daggers, the Northern Irishman provided a measly two assists, and scored exactly as many goals as Yours Truly. His signing was a gamble that had most definitely not paid off. I wanted to nix Nixon's Daggers career as soon as possible, even if we got nix for him. When St Mirren offered £170,000 to buy Paul, I was prepared to drive him all the way to Paisley myself. I didn't actually do that, but if I had, Dean Martin would have gone in the car as well, as he too was heading north of the border. Martin had served us well since coming through our youth system, making 191 league appearances and scoring 17 goals. Sadly, the 24-year-old attacking midfielder's productivity had declined over the last couple of seasons, and I felt that a transfer would do him - and us - the world of good. Heart of Midlothian offered us £1million - half up front, and the other half over 24-month installments. I took the money, and Dean headed off to Edinburgh with my best wishes for the future. Two other significant parts of the Dagenham furniture were regretfully removed from the house and left on the pavement for disposal. After making 224 league appearances in a decade at Victoria Road, goalkeeper Daryl Ryan moved on to Dundee United, from whom we'd just signed his replacement Euan Duncan. There's a joke in there about moving in with the woman whose husband has just cheated on her with your wife, but that's not my type of comedy. Mario Djokic is also leaving Dagenham, and indeed England. The Montenegrin, who scored an impressive 48 goals in 105 Championship games for us, will start a new challenge late in his career with Israeli champions Maccabi Tel Aviv. Centre-back Gareth Lloyd (33) and midfielder Filip Svensson (35) each announced their retirements from playing. Left-winger Steven Shelton and striker Baldur Hreidarsson returned to Manchester City and West Ham United respectively - but don't rule out the possibility of us signing Baldur on loan for a THIRD time this summer. Youth players Will McCourt and Anton Morris were released, along with Colin Glasgow - one of four Daggers who finished their loans at Salthill Devon. The other three - Joe Charles, Kevin McManus and Ollie Reynolds - would all be staying with us for the time being. That was a rather long list of outs. Crucially, though, that list did not feature our captain William Barnes. The 24-year-old had just 12 months to go on his existing contract with us, but after some long and drawn-out negotiations, we managed to sign him up for another three - until the end of the 2036/2037 season. Barnes is now on £7,500 per week - the same weekly wage that our new record signing will be earning at Victoria Road. One of my main criticisms of us last season was that we didn't create enough clear-cut scoring opportunities, especially not from midfield. What this team lacked was a truly creative and technically-gifted attacking midfield playmaker who could produce magic on a consistent magic. Stipo Brkic could be the answer to our prayers. Brkic had all of the above attributes and more - pace, flair, work ethic, professionalism, you name it. He was 28 years old - and thus in the prime of his career - and he was available on the cheap from Spanish Segunda División champions Málaga. Less than a year after signing Brkic from FC Midtjylland for £500,000, Málaga were willing to sell the Bosnian-born former Denmark youth international for just £300,000. I reckoned that Stipo would be a steal at that price, and so I travelled to Spain to discuss a transfer. A few days later, Stipo Brkic was unveiled as Dagenham & Redbridge's new record purchase. Unlike Paul Nixon, I don't see this signing as a risk. Stipo is a player with real quality, and I'm certain that he'll shine at Victoria Road. Speaking of Nixon, I've found a new target man to replace him in that role. His name is Robbie MacKenzie, and he comes to us from Dartford, for whom he's scored 59 goals in League One over the last four seasons. What I really like about this 24-year-old Scotsman is that he's 6ft 7in, built like a brick 'house, and absolutely deadly in the air. The great Mark West may have been known as 'The Beast' in his heyday, but MacKenzie could well make him look like a mouse by comparison! I also hired a new Under-18s coach - someone that some Dagenham fans might remember fondly. After all, we might not have even got into the Football League without him! A decade after arriving at Victoria Road to wind down his playing career, James Dunne - now aged 43 - was brought back to help coach the Daggers of the future. James had spent the past five years working with Bolton Wanderer's youth team, but he jumped at the chance to help me out again. With our pre-season about to get up and running, we were given our fixture list for the 2033/2034 Championship campaign. For us, the season would begin with a home game against Charlton Athletic on 30 July. Plymouth Argyle would await us in our first away match three days later. Colchester United's relegation meant that there would be no Essex derbies for us in the league this term. Indeed, we would only have four league matches against Greater London sides. Charlton and Crystal Palace (whom we would play away on 29 October and at home on 1 April) were the only other capital teams in the Championship. This division becomes increasingly difficult to get out of with each passing year. Can we snap out of our rut, and prove that we're more than just mid-tablers?
  11. Dagenham & Redbridge Player Statistics (2032/2033) (Includes stats from all first-team matches & 4 Essex Senior Cup matches) GOALKEEPERS APPS CON CLN MOM P% TR ST% Y R AV RAT Jerome Farrell 5 5 2 0 70% - - 0 0 7.12 Daryl Ryan 10 16 1 0 75% - - 0 0 6.97 Kieran Whalley 37 45 10 0 75% 0.03 - 0 0 6.92 OUTFIELD PLAYERS APPS GLS AST MOM P% TR ST% Y R AV RAT Nigel Atta 1 (1) 1 0 1 79% 10.2 100% 0 0 7.45 Arran Banton 23 (4) 0 1 0 82% 4.81 0% 3 0 7.01 William Barnes 32 (3) 1 4 1 86% 6.72 21% 10 1 7.14 Zola Casey 9 (1) 0 0 0 71% 3.18 50% 1 0 7.13 José Cochet 7 (6) 1 0 0 78% 5.71 20% 1 0 7.03 Victor Dam 16 (2) 1 4 1 85% 4.58 18% 3 0 7.13 George Darvill 37 (2) 1 0 2 75% 3.58 50% 2 0 7.35 Mario Djokic 14 (8) 5 3 1 80% 2.82 46% 2 0 6.96 Ante Djuzel 6 (1) 0 0 0 86% 3.38 - 0 0 6.61 Tristan Egueh 2 (5) 2 1 0 69% 1.70 40% 0 0 6.69 Toby Faithfull 0 (1) 0 0 0 100% - - 0 0 6.60 Matthew Fraser 32 (1) 4 2 4 86% 5.57 38% 3 0 7.26 Paul Habu 2 (3) 4 0 0 63% 1.58 67% 0 0 7.56 Joel Honeyball 19 (9) 10 9 1 81% 2.85 48% 1 0 7.09 Baldur Hreidarsson 36 (3) 20 7 4 77% 2.69 38% 3 0 7.24 Dave Hutchinson 6 (5) 0 1 0 85% 6.21 17% 2 0 7.01 Gareth Lloyd 32 (1) 0 1 5 71% 3.08 33% 1 0 7.50 Dean Martin 18 (14) 1 4 0 84% 6.04 40% 0 0 7.00 Rocco Mazzola 6 (1) 0 0 0 78% 6.28 - 0 0 7.10 Dennis McCann 3 (1) 0 1 0 71% 4.13 0% 0 0 7.45 Will McCourt 1 0 0 0 75% 0.00 - 0 0 7.10 Kevin McManus 0 (1) 0 0 0 79% - - 0 0 6.30 Aaron Megson 1 (1) 0 1 0 64% - 0% 0 0 6.90 Jefferson Moran 4 0 0 0 72% 1.90 - 0 0 6.90 Anton Morris 1 (2) 0 1 0 75% 4.26 0% 0 0 7.27 John Moser 21 (3) 0 1 0 81% 2.74 20% 1 0 6.93 Paul Nixon 12 (8) 0 3 0 77% 3.99 37% 0 0 6.99 Souleymane Nomaou 21 (9) 16 3 3 75% 2.41 51% 0 0 7.37 Daniel O'Reilly 20 (1) 1 1 1 83% 4.67 31% 2 0 7.00 Ross Pearson 4 (3) 0 1 0 73% 2.45 100% 0 0 7.12 Jacques Polomat 14 (5) 3 5 1 86% 2.18 47% 0 0 7.22 Shaun Powell 17 (8) 3 7 1 72% 3.63 32% 3 0 7.00 Heikki Puustinen 21 (3) 0 2 1 80% 4.44 50% 0 0 7.03 Carl Quinn 2 (5) 0 0 0 65% 3.20 100% 0 0 7.21 Velimir Radosavljevic 22 (3) 0 0 3 67% 3.52 50% 1 0 7.34 Ollie Reynolds 2 2 1 1 76% 4.50 50% 0 0 8.65 Tyrone Sedgley 3 1 0 0 86% 6.78 100% 1 0 7.30 Steven Shelton 17 (10) 5 7 1 72% 2.91 62% 0 0 6.94 Filip Svensson 15 (4) 1 1 0 82% 3.61 53% 1 0 6.98 Martin Thompson 3 (3) 0 1 0 76% 5.12 0% 1 0 7.27 Tom Virgo 16 (14) 0 3 0 83% 6.43 14% 2 0 6.98 Larry Wood 2 (1) 1 0 0 71% 1.53 100% 0 0 7.67 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
  12. Championship Table (End of 2032/2033) P W D L F A GD PTS 1. C Watford 46 28 11 7 88 52 +36 95 2. P Southampton 46 26 12 8 83 45 +38 90 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3. Blackburn 46 25 10 11 90 74 +16 85 4. Leeds 46 23 15 8 71 50 +21 84 5. Crewe 46 19 13 14 65 52 +13 70 6. P Stoke 46 18 15 13 73 62 +11 69 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 7. Ipswich 46 18 12 16 77 68 +9 66 8. Cardiff 46 17 15 14 65 61 +4 66 9. Wrexham 46 15 18 13 59 56 +3 63 10. Bradford 46 16 15 15 66 71 -5 63 11. Aston Villa 46 16 14 16 73 78 -5 62 12. Dag & Red 46 15 15 16 70 61 +9 60 13. Charlton 46 15 15 16 76 83 -7 60 14. Doncaster 46 15 12 19 56 68 -12 57 15. Northampton 46 12 20 14 50 50 0 56 16. Notts County 46 14 14 18 54 62 -8 56 17. Luton 46 13 14 19 53 58 -5 53 18. Reading 46 14 10 22 64 77 -13 52 19. Crystal Palace 46 12 15 19 60 70 -10 51 20. Plymouth 46 11 17 18 64 72 -8 50 21. Peterborough 46 12 11 23 55 74 -19 47 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 22. R Hull 46 12 10 24 52 73 -21 46 23. R Colchester 46 10 15 21 50 72 -22 45 24. R Millwall 46 10 14 22 48 73 -25 44
  13. MAY 2033 Before the squad broke up for the summer, I managed to negotiate some new contracts with several of my players. First in the queue for a new deal was centre-back George Darvill, who was about to exit his teenage years by becoming one of our highest-paid players. Despite his tender age, George has already played in 102 competitive matches for the Daggers and is now contracted to stay with us for at least four more years. Jacques Polomat will also be staying put for the foreseeable future. The French attacking midfielder signed a new three-year contract and can expect to be a big part of the senior team moving forward. A host of youth players signed their first professional contracts. Jerome Farrell, Paul Habu and Carl Quinn will both be promoted from the Under-18s next season, as will Kevin McManus, who's having an excellent time on loan in the Republic of Ireland. Tristan Egueh and Ross Pearson each signed pro forms a year ahead of schedule, while Martin Thompson will do likewise when he turns 17 in July. For other players, the future looks rather less certain. After three mid-table finishes on the trot, I decided that my squad needed shaking up... and that meant casting off some of the old guard. Some went quietly, reluctantly accepting that their time at Victoria Road was up. Mario Djokic and Daryl Ryan would both be released in the summer, while Filip Svensson was told that he couldn't stay with us for another year - at least not in a playing capacity. Heikki Puustinen also departed, signing for Leighton Town in League Two, but not before he reacted furiously to my decision to release him. Another defender who was set to leave on an acrimonious note was the consistently impressive Gareth Lloyd, who failed to agree a new contract with us. Reserve midfielder Dennis McCann also departed, having failed to develop over the last couple of years. He'll be hoping to reinvigorate his career at Yeovil Town - another League Two club. In other news, I was pleased to see Dave Hutchinson named as League Two's Apprentice of the Year following a sensational loan spell at Cheltenham Town earlier in the season. Dave played in 11 league games for us upon his return and is expected to continue his progress towards regular first-team football next term. After the players went off for their holidays, I had my annual debrief with chairman Neil Booth and chief executive Chris Langley. I sought an update on the situation regarding our new youth facilities, the construction of which was due to begin this month. Mr Langley then, rather awkwardly, admitted that the construction had been scrapped. The reason for that would both excite and horrify me. Even after spending four successive seasons enhancing our ground, the board felt that the 12,000-capacity Victoria Road was STILL not large enough to accommodate our fast-growing fanbase. And here's the thing - because of nearby housing, Barking & Dagenham Council would not give them permission to increase the capacity any further. If we wanted a bigger ground, we would need to build a brand new one. Since the turn of the year, Mr Booth had been in discussions with the council about building a new stadium. A number of sites in the borough were identified as possible locations, and his preferred choice was the former site of a pharmaceutical firm on Rainham Road. At the end of April, Mr Booth officially got the go-ahead to build Dagenham & Redbridge's new stadium there. This new ground would have a capacity of 17,848 and an undersoil heating system. It would be a modern stadium fit for a club with Premier League ambitions - but it also had a Premier League budget, which we most certainly did not have. To finance this project, the Daggers board secured a £20million bank loan and agreed a 10-year sponsorship deal worth around £5million. The board hoped that our new stadium would be open for business in time for the 2035/2036 season. On the one hand, this was a very exciting development. Victoria Road was owned by the council, and we have to pay rent to keep playing there. However, the new ground on Rainham Road will be completely owned by us, so we'll get to keep all our matchday income. If we can fill it on a regular basis upon relocation, we could be raking in the money. On the other hand, as far as our short-term finances are concerned, this could be absolutely crippling. It's difficult enough to keep a steady hand on the tiller without having to factor in a massive loan that could take as much as 15 years to pay off. I'm now in a bit of a catch-22 situation. If I sell off our best assets to keep us afloat and build up some sort of transfer kitty, I'll run the risk of us slipping further into mediocrity... and possibly towards an even more vicious battle against relegation. If I try to keep the crux of the squad together and go all-out for promotion when we can't afford to, we'll be risking a possible financial meltdown in the event that it ends badly. Of course, this news would greatly affect my transfer and wage budgets. Fortunately, I'd managed to ratify three new signings beforehand. The first of them was the pre-arranged deal for teenage Heart of Midlothian striker Christophe Smith, which had been agreed back in January. My second new acquisition was also a free signing from Scotland, although the player in question had somewhat more experience. You may remember that I tried to loan in goalkeeper Euan Duncan from Dundee United five years ago, when we were in League One. He'd just had an excellent season at our divisional rivals Shrewsbury Town and was being tipped for a bright future. We didn't sign Euan in the end, and his career since then had not been particularly stellar. After spending the last four years rotting on Dundee United's bench, and making just five Scottish Premier League appearances in the meantime, Duncan decided to move on to pastures new. That's where I came in, recruiting the now 26-year-old as backup to Kieran Whalley. Finally, for the time being, I added to my centre-back collection by poaching 18-year-old Adrian Bailey from near-neighbours West Ham United. The Grays-born youngster is an aggressive stopper who is likely to be part of the England squad for this summer's European Under-19s Championship. I'm a little surprised that West Ham didn't offer this promising lad a new contract, but their loss is our gain! There were also a few changes in the backroom. While most of my staff received new contracts, there were a couple of exceptions. Sam Cutler's contract as our head physiotherapist was mutually terminated. Adam Hutchings was promoted to head physio, while 35-year-old Andrew Marks - who worked at AFC Telford United for a couple of years until last autumn - joined him on our medical team. Goma Lambu also left the Daggers after serving as a scout for nine years. Replacing him on our scouting team was a 36-year-old Italian by the name of Antonino Pirozzi.
  14. APRIL 2033 (continued) As we entered the final moments of the 2032/2033 season, I began handing out new contracts to some of my players. Left-back Daniel O'Reilly and defensive midfielder Tom Virgo were the first to sign theirs, each of them being rewarded with improved four-year deals. Meanwhile, schoolboy midfielder George Conlon - a trialist with our Under-18s side - signed a youth contract for the Daggers. Local lad George hadn't quite done enough to earn a contract at the first time of asking following a trial match last month, but he'd certainly taken advantage of the 'second chance' we afford all of our youth candidates. On St George's Day, we played what was very likely to be our final away match of the season, unless about half a dozen teams got struck down with food poisoning at the same time and we stumbled into the play-offs as a result. Our opponents were Aston Villa, who - like us - desperately needed a win to keep alive their hopes of extending their season. 23 April 2033: Aston Villa vs Dagenham & Redbridge Baldur Hreidarsson hadn't scored in over two months, and his lack of confidence showed in the second minute. Souleymane Nomaou found Baldur with an excellent pass towards Aston Villa's penalty spot, but the Icelander pulled what should've been a simple finish against the post and out. One of Villa's strikers also wasted a great chance in the 11th minute, as Sam Price - on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion - drifted a shot wide. The deadlock would be broken two minutes later - by an absolute howitzer from Tyrone Sedgley! On just his second senior appearance for Dagenham & Redbridge, the Scottish midfielder collected a superb square ball from Shaun Powell and drove it home from outside the Villa area! Four minutes after giving us the lead, Tyrone set up a chance for Baldur to put us two ahead. Disappointingly, Hreidarsson dragged it off target from a long way out. A trio of Villans then sent shots wide before one of them fared rather better with their next attempt on 28 minutes. 20-year-old midfielder Luke O'Leary slipped the ball beyond Daryl Ryan to pull the hosts level. Their first opportunity to move in front was driven past the post by Harvey Jeffs just before the half-hour mark. Price was kept off the scoresheet about a minute later by a fine fingertip save from Ryan, who was making his 224th - and possibly final - league appearance in goal for the Daggers. The rest of the first period was rather dull, save for a couple of bookings - for Villa's top scorer Harvey Jeffs, and for our captain William Barnes. I was forced to make my first substitution after just a couple of second-half minutes. Right-back Ross Pearson hurt his neck whilst tackling Villa winger Muharrem Kurt and had to be replaced with fellow youth player Carl Quinn. Our weakened defence would be left badly exposed in the 51st minute. Price found space in our penalty area and nodded a deep cross from Brazilian right-back José Roberto into the net. Phil Parkinson's Villans were 2-1 up... or at least they were until the 54th minute. An excellent display from our Welsh right-winger Powell continued when Shaun squared the ball to Baldur, who shook off José Roberto's presence and ended a long wait for his 20th goal of the season! Barely a minute after that, our other winger turned the game on its head. Left-sided Steven Shelton lobbed an excellent ball ahead of striker Souleymane Nomaou, who got past Villans defender Marius Pricop and goalkeeper Jonathan Hudson before finding the net! We were now leading by the odd goal in five! After a frantic start to the second period, things went quiet attacking-wise - perhaps understandably - for the next half-hour or so. Jeffs missed a couple of Villa efforts from inside our penalty area, and Hudson saved a couple at the other end from Hreidarsson, but it seemed that the scoreline would remain at 3-2 to us. Then Armenian midfielder Armen Nersesyan decided to make his mark for Aston Villa. The 34-year-old had a shot blocked by Velimir Radosavljevic in the 79th minute, but he made his next effort count seven minutes later. Nersesyan made his way through a crowd of Dagenham defenders to prod in a centre from Mostafa Youssef and send Villa Park rocking! Long-time followers of the Daggers may remember that Nersesyan had scored a late equaliser against us once before, three seasons ago. The big difference here was that we did have enough time to muster a reply and retake the lead. In literally the last few seconds of normal time, players from both sides scrapped for the ball on the halfway line before young Dagger Dave Hutchinson slid it forward to Hreidarsson. Baldur quickly passed forward to Nomaou, who then spotted Shelton making a run into space. Steven used his pace to get away from José Roberto and prod Sol's through-ball into the goal! Aston Villa thought that Shelton should've been flagged offside, but the goal stood, and we won a thrilling match 4-3! After many near-misses and what-ifs, we had finally managed to vanquish the mighty Villans - and at Villa Park to boot! Aston Villa - 3 (O'Leary 28, Price 51, Nersesyan 86) Dagenham & Redbridge - 4 (Sedgley 13, Hreidarsson 54, Nomaou 55, Shelton 90) Championship, Attendance 30,432 - POSITIONS: Aston Villa 12th, Dag & Red 9th DAG & RED LINE-UP: Ryan, Pearson (Quinn), Radosavljevic, Darvill, Mazzola, Powell, Barnes (Atta), Sedgley (Hutchinson), Shelton, Hreidarsson, Nomaou. BOOKED: Barnes. Sadly, our third consecutive win was not enough to take our play-off challenge into the final weekend. 6th-placed Ipswich Town won their match to pull themselves out of our reach, and 7th-placed Stoke City followed suit in midweek. We therefore went into our final game of the season - at home to Leeds United - knowing that we could finish anywhere between 8th and 13th. Leeds also had little to play for in this game, as they were already assured of a play-off spot. As I usually do when the season-closer is a dead rubber, I used this match as an opportunity to blood some of our younger players. The only non-teenagers in the starting XI were skipper Joel Honeyball in attacking midfield, and a couple of strikers who had points to prove. Mario Djokic hadn't scored for the first-team since August, while Paul Nixon was still looking for his maiden competitive Daggers goal. Both of them were effectively playing for their long-term futures at Victoria Road. 30 April 2033: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Leeds United Our defence was particularly youthful, with 18-year-old Jerome Farrell keeping goal in a competitive match for the first time. He would be beaten after just nine minutes. Our inability to effectively clear a corner delivery from Leeds winger Bozenko Mikulic was punished when the Bosnian played a superb follow-up centre towards the far post. United striker Nicky Garbutt then got past our rookie centre-half Carl Quinn to prod it home. Garbutt was unlucky not to score a second goal in the 11th minute, when Farrell caught his header. Veterans Ron Cowlishaw and Mick Riley then missed further chances to extend Leeds' advantage as the visitors threatened to dominate. We didn't even get a look-in on the attacking front until Joel Honeyball's 22nd-minute shot was caught by Whites keeper Grant White. Six minutes later, Honeyball played the ball short to Nigel Atta just outside the 'D'. Nigel hit a low shot that swerved beyond White's fingertips and into the net. That wasn't a bad way for him to score his first competitive goal for the Daggers! Thanks to Nigel, the match would be level at half-time. Leeds were looking the slightly better team, though they had an injury concern when Mikulic hurt his elbow in a collision with Daggers midfielder Dave Hutchinson just before the break. Five minutes into the second half, Tyrone Sedgley struck a 30-yard attempt to put us in the lead. White managed to secure the ball, and the Whites would soon be back on the attack. After 51 minutes, our young goalie Farrell had to push behind Aaron Ebdon's shot from a Mikulic free-kick. The resulting corner would lead to Leeds moving back into the, er, lead. Dagenham defender John Moser's attempted clearance only sent the ball to United striker Shane Gennings, who drove it back into the penalty area and watched Cowlishaw deflect it into the net. Gennings then missed out on a goal for himself in the 62nd minute after flicking Vasil Popov's cross beyond the post. By then, I'd already subbed off the ineffectual Mario Djokic and brought on youth striker Tristan Egueh. On 66 minutes, Tristan created a chance for Paul Nixon - our other misfiring striker - to finally get his first Daggers goal. However, as was typical of Paul this season, the Ulsterman screwed it wide. Our club-record signing seemed destined to end his debut season at Victoria Road without a single goal to his credit. I gave Nixon another nine minutes to try and break his duck before eventually losing faith and sending on 15-year-old Toby Faithfull to replace him. Midfielder Martin Thompson - another very promising talent from our youth ranks - also got some late gametime as our campaign ended with a whimper. Leeds finished their regular season with a 2-1 victory, although a fine save from Farrell in the 75th minute prevented Cowlishaw from extending their winning margin. Wrexham, Bradford City and Aston Villa all overtook us on the final day with victories, and Charlton Athletic would've done the same had they beaten champions Watford. In the end, Charlton could 'only' draw 3-3, and so we finished 12th - ahead of the Addicks on goal difference. Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Atta 28) Leeds United - 2 (Garbutt 9, Cowlishaw 52) Championship, Attendance 11,679 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 12th, Leeds 4th DAG & RED LINE-UP: Farrell, Moser, Quinn, Darvill, Djuzel, Hutchinson, Sedgley (Thompson), Atta, Honeyball, Nixon (Faithfull), Djokic (Egueh). BOOKED: Sedgley, Hutchinson. We had maintained our proud record of never finishing outside of the top half in the Championship... but only just. We'd also mustered our lowest points total in any division since we were last relegated from the Football League in 2021/2022. For a team of our quality, 60 points is below my expectations. Inertia seems to have set into this side, and I must seriously consider making major changes over the summer.
  15. That looks like a... very conservative tactic, to put it lightly. I'm more concerned about your offence than your defence. All three of your midfielders will be sitting deep. Nobody will be making runs from midfield or hassling any opponents in possession, especially as they've been ordered to stick to their positions. The attacking target man will be up on his own with barely any support, apart from the wingers if you get lucky. Why do you need two deep-lying playmakers? Couldn't one of them be better served as a box-to-box or ball-winning midfielder? At least then you'd have at least one 'runner' or 'aggressor', instead of three midfield 'sitters'. Now, defensively... you've said that your players are not the fastest. If that also refers to your defenders, then I don't know why you have a high defensive line. Any quick strikers or wingers in your division will love playing against you. I'd go so far as to say that this tactic probably looks more suitable for counter-attacking, in which case I'd move the D-line slider quite a bit more to the left. I'm sure someone else will be on hand to dispense some more useful advice, but those are just a few pointers I've picked up from several tactical guides over the years.