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CFuller

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About CFuller

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    Third Team

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  • Biography
    FM storyteller from Romford. Now blogging at fullerfm.wordpress.com

About Me

  • About Me
    28 years old, not your typical Essex man. Possibly an eccentric.

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    Football (obviously), darts, snooker, indie/alternative music, video games... and cats.

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  • Favourite Team
    Arsenal

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  • Currently Managing
    Shrewsbury Town

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  1. *** The third day of Last 16 matches at the 2022 FIFA World Cup had thrown up goals aplenty. No fewer than 13 were scored across the two matches held in the afternoon and evening of 27 June. First up was a battle between two of the tournament's underdogs. Jamaica had made it past the Group Stage of a World Cup for the very first time, but they would progress no further. Greece were in clinical form, defeating the Reggae Boyz 3-1 to reach a maiden Quarter Final against either Brazil or the Netherlands. Then came an all-time World Cup classic in Aït Melloul, between reigning champions Belgium and four-time winners Italy. Vincenzo Montella's Azzurri got off to a very attacking start, going 2-0 up through Lorenzo Insigne and Roberto Gagliardini in the first 13 minutes. Belgium replied by drawing level within seven minutes, thanks to an own goal from Gianluca Mancini and an emphatic drive by Red Devils midfielder Radja Nainggolan. Paris Saint-Germain's Federico Bernardeschi made it 3-2 to Italy after 34 minutes. Though 20-year-old Belgium striker Roel Mertens cancelled that out early in the second half, Bernardeschi would restore the Azzurri advantage with another strike. That looked like being the winner until ten minutes from time, when Belgian captain Eden Hazard struck a superb long-ranger that kept his Red Devils in the hunt. The meeting went to 30 minutes of extra-time, but was decided in the second of them. A mistake by Dennis Praet diverted the ball into the Belgian penalty area, where Simone Zaza rushed forward to power it home. Italy had gone ahead for the fourth time in this match, and this time, a 5-4 lead proved to be enough. Belgium's reign as world champions had ended with a bang. That latter match was of special interest to England. If they could defeat Poland in their Last 16 match in Casablanca the following afternoon, they would move forward to a Quarter Final meeting with the Azzurri in Marrakesh on 2 July. England were now the only team left in the competition with a 100% record, following the demises of Argentina and Spain. The Three Lions were determined not to follow them in falling by the wayside. England boss Mark Catterall went into this opening knockout match without first-choice left-back Brendan Galloway, who was serving a suspension. Jack Wilshere was also unlikely to feature after straining his thigh in the final group win over Guinea-Bissau, though the Arsenal midfielder passed a late fitness and could at least take his place on the bench. Catterall restored many of the major names who'd sat out that dead rubber. Jack Butland, Nathaniel Clyne, Jordan Henderson, Dele Alli, Harry Kane - all five of them were back in the starting XI. Indeed, the only England players chosen to start back-to-back matches were three of their youngest squad members - Arsenal left-back Josh Tymon (23), and Manchester United centre-half Axel Tuanzebe and forward Marcus Rashford (both 24). Unlike England, Poland's passage to the Last 16 had not been smooth. The Biało-czerwoni had drawn their Group G opener against the United States before losing 1-0 to Brazil. They then conceded an early goal to Ghana but fought back to win 3-1 and secure a 2nd-place finish. The victory over Ghana was a Pyrrhic one as far as Sebastian Szymanski was concerned. The Hoffenheim midfielder - one of Poland's leading lights - had fractured some of his ribs during the first half of that fixture. He would therefore miss the meeting with England, and potentially the rest of the tournament. Considering that Szymanski had scored the Poles' equaliser when they drew with the Three Lions in Warsaw in March, his absence would be keenly felt. Of course, Poland did have plenty of quality elsewhere. Captain Grzegorz Krychowiak was a tireless ball-winning midfielder at Valencia who'd been greatly underappreciated during his two-and-a-half years with Manchester City. Other players with previous Premier League experience included the erstwhile Newcastle United striker Arkadiusz Milik - now at Wolfsburg - and Juventus' ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. Another Polish player who was familiar to English supporters was Brighton & Hove Albion centre-half Krystian Bielik. He gifted England a scoring chance in the first minute, when his long ball to right-back Pawel Olkowski was cut out. Rashford took the ball and dribbled upfield before finding Kane, whose drive was turned behind by Szczesny. That shot won England the first of several early corners, but captain Henderson was largely wasteful with them. Poland also accumulated a couple of corners from counter-attacks, though they didn't get a proper shot at goal until the 10th minute. Attacking midfielder Robert Bartczak squared the ball to colleague David Kopacz, whose first-time through-ball to the deeper-lying Karol Linetty was fired straight into Butland's hands. In the 12th minute, Henderson saw another poor corner intercepted - this time by Krychowiak. Henderson's frustrations would boil over two minutes later, when he brought Kaiserslautern midfielder Kacper Przybylko to ground close to the England goal. He duly received a yellow card from Singaporean referee Ram Rattan Joosten. Catterall was concerned enough to have one of his central midfielders in the ref's notebook. The other would also have his name taken on 18 minutes, after Lewis Cook tripped Kopacz. That yellow card had been shown shortly after Poland had seen another scoring opportunity slip away, with Butland parrying Milik's volley from an Olkowski cross. The Three Lions were now really beginning to ride their luck. Henderson narrowly avoided being booked again when he fouled Linetty on the edge of the England box after 20 minutes. Former Leeds United left-back Maciej Rybus - now playing for Minnesota United in Major League Soccer - took the Biało-czerwoni's free-kick, powering it over the bar. England attacked again on 22 minutes, only for Rashford to follow up a promising mazy run with a poorly-struck shot. Right-back Nathaniel Clyne would also miss the target in the 31st minute - four minutes after Milik had again come close to putting Poland's noses in front. Szczesny then had to save Cook's 32nd-minute drive from a Rashford cross that had deflected heavily off Bielik. Rashford's runs inside were causing problems for Poland's more defensive players. Olkowski and Krychowiak were each booked in the 32nd and 38th minutes for upending the Manchester United attacker. Consequently, Krychowiak would be banned from the Quarter Final if his country did progress. Meanwhile, the Biało-czerwoni had a couple more scoring chances, with Milik and centre-half Mateusz Zyro each flicking headers narrowly off target. The first half would finish goalless, after late misses from England's Tuanzebe and Poland's Linetty. Polish coach Jacek Magiera was happy to bring the same team out for the second half, but Catterall did make one change to the Three Lions' line-up. He did not want to risk his captain being sent off and being suspended from a potential last-eight meeting with Italy, so Henderson was substituted for Eric Dier, and Kane took over as captain. Two minutes into the second period, Henderson's absence would be questioned by some of England's supporters. An excellent passing move by Poland resulted in Bartczak picking out Milik, who dribbled through a wide channel between Stones and Tymon. The 28-year-old then smashed an unstoppable shot into Butland's top-right corner, sending the Polish fans into raptures. Poland had not beaten England in a senior football international for close to half a century. They were now 1-0 ahead, and seemingly on the verge of eliminating the Three Lions from the World Cup. Catterall barked orders at his players, instructing them to give themselves more options in attack. A promising move in the 49th minute was ended by Linetty's needless trip on Cook. Sampdoria midfielder Linetty was the third Pole to receive a yellow card from Joosten. Two minutes later, England found themselves in defensive disarray after failing to clear Kopacz' free-kick out of their box. Poland could have taken advantage when Milik squared the ball to Zyro in the centre of the area. 23-year-old Marseille defender Zyro had scored just once in 13 previous senior internationals, but this opportunity to secure a second goal was fired directly at Butland. In the 53rd minute, Milik was brought down by a firm tackle from Tuanzebe on the edge of England's penalty area. Milik gashed his leg in the challenge and would be substituted five minutes later, with Udinese's one-time Manchester United midfielder Piotr Zielinski taking his place. Magiera made another change to the Polish line-up after 63 minutes. Krychowiak passed the captain's armband to Linetty and made way for Nantes forward Mariusz Stepinski. A minute later, England skipper Kane latched onto a weighted ball from Alli and tried to half-volley it towards goal. He was denied by Szczesny's excellent diving catch. Poland attacked again on 66 minutes, with Jordon Ibe deflecting a Rybus free-kick behind after Tymon had upended Przybylko. Before Zielinski could take the resulting corner kick, Ibe headed off the field to be replaced with Tottenham Hotspur midfielder James Ward-Prowse. With the Three Lions' World Cup survival on the line, Catterall was reverting to a 4-4-2 diamond. When play resumed, Bielik scurried after Zielinski's delivery and outjumped Kane to flick it towards goal. Butland had to do well to keep it out, and he did that with a strong catch. The Three Lions countered in the 68th minute. Rashford jinked past Linetty before playing in Alli, whose first-time pass found Kane in the Poland 'D'. Kane's vicious drive was then pushed away by Szczesny. The Tottenham striker was clearly having one of his less prolific afternoons, as he sent another attempt over the bar four minutes later. England's next chance - in the 74th minute - arose after Kopacz barged into Ward-Prowse, who lifted the subsequent free-kick into the Poland box. Stones got to the delivery before Poland's final substitute - Ingolstadt defender Marcin Kaminski - and nodded it across the area to his own central defensive partner Tuanzebe. The inexperienced Mancunian struck the ball on the volley, and it passed Szczesny before deflecting into the net off the post. Tuanzebe's first senior international goal had drawn England level at a crucial time, and the Three Lions were soon looking to pull themselves ahead. After 79 minutes, Rashford searched out Kane with a through-ball into the penalty area. The England fans held their collective breaths as the skipper tried to cut the ball home from a tight angle, only for Szczesny to stand his ground and palm it away. A mini-scramble then ensued before Olkowski cleared the danger. Catterall made his final substitution in the 81st minute, as Callum Wilson replaced Rashford up front. The Chelsea striker almost immediately set up a chance for Alli, but the Tottenham midfielder's drive swerved miles off target. Poland's last opportunity to grab a late winner was an ambitious 83rd-minute strike from Stepinski, which Butland caught easily. Szczesny also defended his goal brilliantly in the closing stages, catching a Wilson half-volley after 84 minutes and a long-range strike from Kane after 89. Wilson missed England's final attempt in the opening seconds of injury time. About three minutes later, Joosten blew his full-time whistle. At one goal apiece, extra-time was beckoning.
  2. Save files should be uploaded here, though again, you will also need to state specifically what you feel is wrong in FM19.
  3. *** The England squad were enjoying some downtime at their Casablanca hotel on the evening before their Last 16 match against Poland. Manager Mark Catterall paid a visit to the games room to see how some of his players were getting on. He saw that Calum Chambers, Nathan Redmond, James Ward-Prowse and Freddie Woodman were playing eight-ball pool at one of the billiards table. "You alright there, lads?" Catterall asked the quartet. "We're good, thanks, boss," Ward-Prowse smiled. "Just playing some pool and having some drinks, and a bit of banter." "I hope they aren't alcoholic drinks!" "Nah, nah. It's orange juice." Catterall nodded, "Good choice. So who's on what team, then?" Redmond said, "Me and Wardy are on the yellow balls. Fred and Cal are on the red. They won the first game, but we're gonna get them this time, aren't we, Wardy?" As Ward-Prowse miscued a shot and fired the last remaining yellow ball against the jaws of a pocket, Redmond sighed, "Or maybe not." "Sorry, Nath," Ward-Prowse apologised. "Got a bit of yips there." Catterall remarked, "At least you're getting some tension out before tomorrow." Ward-Prowse nodded, "Yeah, I'm sure I'll be alright on the night." Chambers then stepped up to pot an easy red ball as Woodman cheered him on, "Come on, Cal! Smash it in like we're gonna smash the f***ing Poles tomorrow!" Chambers' shot was excellent, as the red ball rolled into the pocket, and the cue ball rebounded nicely to leave him with a simple-looking pot on the final red. The Everton right-back smiled, "Too easy." "Don't get complacent, Cal. That's when mistakes happen." However, Chambers would not make a mistake from the final pot. As his Everton colleague secured victory, Woodman cheered, "Get in, Cal!" Ward-Prowse laughed and asked, "Best of five, lads?" Redmond then walked over to Catterall and asked him, "How are you doing, boss? We've just heard what's going on back home." "Yeah, it's not ideal, to put it lightly," Catterall half-smiled. "I hope the powers-that-be will see sense soon enough." "What's happening to you, boss... it's just not on. Yeah, as a manager, you have some... how do you put it?" "Quirks," Chambers offered up. "You're a bit quirky, gaffer, to be fair." Redmond nodded, "Yeah, that's the word. Anyway, you might have your quirks and you might do things different from a lot of coaches, but we know you wouldn't break the law. And you've always shown faith in us and believed in us, so this'll only make us work harder to repay you." "Cheers, Nathan; I really do appreciate that," Catterall said. "I think I'll head on out now, lads, so I guess I'll see you around. Have fun." Catterall then headed out of the games room and walked to a nearby bar, where his assistant Michael Burke was sitting at a table reading a menu. He sat down and asked, "You want a drink, Mick?" Burke shook his head and replied glumly, "Not for me, thanks. I'll only drop the glass anyway." "What's that supposed to mean? And what's with the attitude? This ain't nothing like you." Burke sighed, "I've... been meaning to get this off my chest for a while. Basically, Catts... I'm not a well man." "Why? What's up?" Burke explained, "A couple of months ago, I started getting all these aches in my muscles. I was hurting all the time. Jules thought it was arthritis, but I said that arthritis was for old folks, not for 50-year-old babies like me. And then I was finding it quite hard to grip onto things. "Anyway, I went and spoke with my doctor. She gave me some tests, and a few weeks later, just before we left for the World Cup... the results came back." Catterall asked, "What was it?" Burke swallowed and struggled to hold back tears as he said, "MND. Motor neurone disease. It's incurable." "Bloody hell, Mick," Catterall sighed. "I... I don't know what to say." "The Americans call it ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. I call it a death sentence. The doctor says I've got two to five years to live, maybe a bit longer if I'm really lucky." Catterall said, "That's what Stephen Hawking had, wasn't it? He lived until he was 76, so you could still have a good innings, can't you?" Wiping away more tears, Burke said, "Even if I lived that long, it wouldn't be a life worth living. As the disease progresses, I'll be paralysed... I might lose my speech... and find it hard to swallow solid food... and Jules will have to care for me full-time." "Julia is a carer anyway, isn't she?" Burke nodded, "But that's not the point, Mark. The point is... I'm gonna miss out on so many things. I won't live to see Charlie become a successful businesswoman, or see if Josh can actually make something of his life. I won't get to watch little Alice grow up. I doubt I'll even be alive for the next World Cup." "Blimey. Talk about life giving you a kick in the balls." Burke sighed, "So yeah... I guess that's my career over after the World Cup, then." "It doesn't have to be that way, Mick," Catterall told him. "Let me tell you about one of the bravest men I ever knew." Catterall typed on his phone before showing Burke a photograph of a bald man being wheeled across a pitch in a wheelchair. "His name was Klas Ingesson. I played against him a couple of times when he was at Sheffield Wednesday. On the pitch, he was a strong, athletic midfielder - a bit like me. Off the pitch, he couldn't have been a nicer bloke. "Klas was diagnosed with terminal cancer when he was 40, but he wouldn't let it beat him. He became head coach at Elfsborg and led them to victory in the Swedish Cup in 2014. In fact, Klas continued to coach them until he died a few months later, aged 46." "Wow," Burke gasped. "What an inspirational man he was." "The point I'm trying to make is that you should never give up on yourself. I'm not giving up on you, that's for sure. We've been best friends for over 40 years, and just like our wives, we'll be together forever, 'til death do us part." "That weren't the case with your first wife, to be fair." "Oh, whatever! You know what I mean." Burke started to raise a smile as he said, "Cheers, Catts. It's good to know you'll always be there for me." Catterall nodded, "You're welcome. Have you told anyone else at the FA... about this?" Burke shook his head. "Nobody else knows about this yet. Just you, Julia, and the docs. I'm gonna... keep it all under lock and key until we get back home. I don't want the lads to be worrying about little ol' me when they've got a trophy to play for." "That's fine," Catterall said. He then put a hand on Burke's shoulder and added, "And don't worry; your secret's safe with me. Now, what drink do you want?" "Nothing fancy, Catts. An orange squash will do me fine."
  4. This is not a bug report, which is what the Bugs Forum is for. If you seriously want to help SI make FM20 better than FM19, please explain exactly what you feel is wrong in the game, instead of resorting to tired rhetoric such as saying the game is "broken" and "has the same level of realism as Mario Kart".
  5. Chapter 58 - Heating Up The 2022 FIFA World Cup had reached the knockout stages. Though hosts Morocco were no longer in contention (and neither were any other African nations for that matter), 16 teams remained in the hunt to lift the trophy in Rabat's Stade du Prince Moulay Abdallah on 10 July. By the end of the Group Stage, plenty of money had been staked on either Argentina or Spain ultimately claiming the spoils. Both teams had emerged from their groups with three wins from three, terrorising defences in the process. However, betting slips bearing either of their names would be ripped up across the world after two sensational matches on 25 June. Argentina were expected to make simple work of Mexico in the first knockout game, especially when Paulo Dybala gave them the lead after just three minutes. The Albiceleste remained ahead until a farcical moment in the 75th minute, when Lucas Zelarrayán's Mexican free-kick was spilled by goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli and then scuffed across the goal line by a shocking clearance from Miguel Benavídez. Benavídez's own goal was devastating for Argentina. Two minutes later, Mexico's record scorer Javier Hernández dealt a cripping blow by beating Rulli at his near post. That earned El Tri a shock 2-1 win and sent them to a third World Cup Quarter Final - their first on foreign soil. Another country that wasn't used to seeing its team in the latter stages of this tournament was Sweden. That all changed when Benfica striker John Guidetti's double secured the Blågult a 2-1 victory against an uncharacteristically wasteful Spain team. After those two major giant-killings, some sense of normality returned the following day. Mind you, France made heavy weather of Iraq, only beating them with a solitary goal from Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte. Germany then squandered a two-goal lead against Croatia before eventually triumphing 4-2 in extra-time. Meanwhile, England made their way to Casablanca ahead of their opening knockout clash with Poland. The Three Lions checked into their hotel late in the afternoon of Monday 27 June, having travelled south-east for an hour following their morning training session in Salé. As the backroom staff led the way, David Platt asked Catterall and Michael Burke, "Did you know that this city gave its name to an Oscar-winning film 80 years ago?" Burke replied, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." "No, Michael. You appear to be thinking of 'Gone With The Wind', which starred Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. 'Casablanca', on the other hand..." Catterall interrupted, "Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, blah, blah, blah! We weren't born yesterday, David!" Burke then winced as he loosened his grip on his luggage carrier, hissing, "Jesus!" "You alright there, Mick?" Catterall asked. "It's nothing, Catts." "Don't look like nothing. I know you as well as anyone else, but you've not looked yourself of late." "Can we talk about this a bit later, mate?" Catterall then approached the reception desk, where a young 20-something woman named Ghizlane - wearing a traditional Moroccan dress - greeted him in eloquent English, "Good afternoon, sir. You are Mark Catterall and the England team, yes?" "Yes, we are. There's 40 of us." "All your rooms are ready for you. Enjoy your stay... and good luck tomorrow." "Thank you, er..." Burke replied, as he glanced at the receptionist's name tag and tried to prounce it, "Jizz-lane?" That prompted a few sniggers amongst some of the younger England players, but Ghizlane smiled and said, "Jizz-lan, actually, but that is not a bad first attempt." The FA's communications director Ava Leggett then pulled Catterall aside. She said, "Mark, I know you won't like this, but I think we need to talk. Things have been getting... rather heated back home." "Things are already rather heated right here, don't you know?" Catterall remarked. "Not like that," Leggett said. The pair then walked over towards a nearby café and sat at an outside table. Leggett sighed as she began, "I don't know how to say this... but I think we might have problems getting you home safely once we're done here, whether it takes two days or two weeks." "Ava, you're starting to stress me out here. Cut to the chase." "Alright. The Attorney General has issued an arrest warrant for you." Catterall was left open-mouthed. "WHAT? Why?" "It seems like you've been designated as an 'enemy of the state'. It's got to be to do with all that business regarding you and Michael Love." Catterall groaned, "For f***'s sake!" "So, yeah. The police are already making plans to arrest you as soon as you touch down on British soil. Dexter Poyner is doing everything he can to try and diffuse the situation back in London, but right now... it's not looking good, Mark." "So what? Have I gotta claim asylum in Morocco or summat? What about my family?" FA chairwoman Angela Ruskin - who had arrived in Morocco a few days earlier - then came over to the table. Leggett turned to her and said, "Yeah, Angela... I've just been briefing Mark on everything that's going on back in England." Ruskin shook her head and said, "I'm so sorry that you're having to go through this, Mark. But I think I have some information that may be of use to you." Catterall nodded, "Go on..." Ruskin sat down and continued, "As far as many of us are concerned, Juno Love is horribly misusing her authority as a Law Officer of the Crown. And between you and me - and Ava, of course - she is also a despicable woman who has a bigoted attitude towards the LGBT+ community." She then pulled out her mobile phone. "My son Darren works with a number of transgender activists, and he says a couple of them have been abused by Juno Love on social media." Ruskin showed her phone to Catterall, bringing up some screenshots of direct messages that Love had reputedly sent to Darren's colleagues on Twitter. One such message read, "You weren't born a man; what right do YOU have to say what us REAL WOMEN can and can't do?" Other messages were arguably even more vitriolic and perhaps not worth repeating. Catterall recoiled in his seat. "Bloody hell. She's a nasty piece of work, ain't she?" "This is sadly very common," Ruskin said. "A lot of hardline feminists have serious issues with accepting transgender women. Even one of those male sitcom writers has got involved in the whole debate." "Yeah, Graham Linehan. I hear he's a transphobe now." Leggett suggested, "I suppose someone could... leak those screenshots online for everyone to see what Juno is really like. Once it blows up, the Love family's reputation will be in ruins, and you'll be free to return home... hopefully." Catterall hesitated, "I... I dunno about that, Ava. That don't sound too ethical to me." Leggett exclaimed, "Oh, it don't sound too ethical, says the man who once gave vod... you know what? Forget I even said that!" Leggett then walked away as Catterall threw his hands in exasperation. Ruskin reassured him, "We'll figure something out. Trust me." Mark got up from his chair and immediately phoned his wife Jenny, telling her, "Jen, it's me. I don't want to alarm you, but..." Back in England, Jenny's voice trembled as she answered, "Yeah, I know. The CPS... they want to arrest you. It's just come up on the news." "Jen... I'm so sorry you had to hear it that way." Jenny sobbed, "I'm scared, Mark! I've never been so scared in my life!" "Yeah, I'm pretty shook up too. Believe me, I've not broken the law or nothing! Juno Love's just acting like a vindictive cow again, if you ask me!" "I know you haven't done anything wrong! This isn't right at all! This is like what you were telling me months ago, about George Orwell and..." Mark sighed, "Look... Angela, Dexter and the FA are doing everything they can to get this arrest warrant dropped. Until then, you need to stay strong for Luke and me. I'm just gonna keep on, keepin' on while this gets sorted out. How's that sound?" Jenny wiped some tears from her eyes as she replied hoarsely, "Okay." "Good. I'm sure it'll all work out fine eventually. I've gotta go now, but I'll talk to you again soon, alright?" "Thanks, Mark. Please take care." "Will do, love. Bye."
  6. *** The pressure was off England's shoulders as they concluded the Group Stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Victories against Japan and the Netherlands meant they were already safely into the Last 16. Their final Group H fixture - against Guinea-Bissau - was simply about securing top spot. The Three Lions would require just a single point at the Stade Ibn Batouta in Tangier to guarantee their progression as Group H winners. They would also finish top if the Netherlands - who were favourites to join them in the knockout stages - failed to beat Japan in Laâyoune. England manager Mark Catterall decided to bench most of his biggest stars ahead of their Last 16 match, which would take place four days later. That meant players such as Jordan Henderson, Harry Kane and John Stones could simply sit back and watch proceedings unfold. With Henderson rested, the England captaincy was passed on to Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Eric Dier. He was in a starting line-up that featured three tournament debutants - goalkeeper Freddie Woodman, centre-half Axel Tuanzebe, and striker Lawrence Warner. Guinea-Bissau had come into their maiden World Cup with no expectations. Los Djurtus certainly didn't pull up any trees against the Netherlands, conceding four goals without reply. However, they then drew 1-1 with Japan in a match that they could - and perhaps should - have won. That left them with a slim chance of qualifying for the Last 16, provided that they defeated England handsomely and the Netherlands couldn't beat Japan. This tiny West African nation had few top-level footballers to speak of. Arguably their best player was the 24-year-old Başakşehir midfielder Moreto Cassamá, but he missed this match through suspension after being booked in each of the opening two group games. Leeds United playmaker Ronaldo Vieira did return, having served a one-match ban of his own following a red card in that towelling against the Dutch. It was Guinea-Bissau who had the first chance to strike after five minutes. Dier brought their young striker Al Hassan Lamin down to concede a free-kick about 30 yards from goal. Left-back Mamadu Candé - who was based at Seongnam in South Korea - lifted the set-piece over the England wall and onto the roof of Woodman's goal. Three minutes later, the Three Lions showed their opponents how it was done. Guinea-Bissau right-back Mama Baldé upended James Ward-Prowse on the edge of the penalty area, and Ward-Prowse's midfield colleague Jack Wilshere stepped forward to take the free-kick. The Arsenal man could not have fired it any more emphatically past goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to break the deadlock. Wilshere hoped to create another goal for England in the 13th minute. His square pass found Ward-Prowse, who dribbled goalwards before unleashing a shot that deflected off Bissau-Guinean captain Sambinha. The deflection took the ball into the penalty area and found Three Lions right-winger Raheem Sterling, whose cross was headed against the bar by Marcus Rashford before being cleared by Baba Fernandes. Two minutes later, a Djurtus attack ended with Lamin being upended by Brendan Galloway, who was shown a yellow card by Uzbekistani referee Ravshan Irmatov. As that was the Manchester United defender's second booking of the tournament, he would miss England's Last 16 match through suspension. In the 19th minute, though, the two youngest players in this England squad went close to giving them a 2-0 lead. Arsenal's 23-year-old left-back Josh Tymon quickly retook the ball after his throw-in was headed away by Guinea-Bissau forward Carlos Embalo. Tymon then crossed to the near post, where 21-year-old Liverpool striker Warner headed wide a great chance for his first competitive international goal. The rest of the opening half-hour passed by without England going any closer to strengthening their position. Catterall remained calm in the dugout, though he and his coaches would be celebrating again come the 35th minute. Wilshere again played a pivotal role in the Three Lions' second goal. His one-touch long ball out wide found right-back Calum Chambers, who then crossed deep towards the back post. On the other end of Chambers' delivery was Rashford, whose left-footed volley crept into the net with a little help from Mendy's outstretched right hand. Less than a minute later, England could easily have gone 3-0 ahead. Dier nicked the ball off Vieira with an excellent tackle, and an exchange of passes between Warner and Wilshere followed before the up-and-coming striker pulled a disappointing shot wide. Then came a potentially disastrous moment for the Three Lions in the 37th minute. Wilshere overexerted himself when trying to collect with a long clearance from Chambers, straining his thigh in the process. The 30-year-old's injury problems had resurfaced, and he would be substituted at half-time. While Nathan Redmond took Wilshere's place in the England line-up for the second half, Catterall also made a change to his defence. As Galloway was now facing a suspension, he decided to rest his only other left-back Josh Tymon for the Last 16. Galloway moved over to the left side of the defence, with Michael Keane coming on to partner Tuanzebe in the centre. England's defence had seldom been tested by Guinea-Bissau in the first period. Things were rather different after the restart. After 48 minutes, Guinea-Bissau's substitute striker João Pedro Silva - wearing just the initials 'JP' on the back of his shirt - cheekily backheeled a pass to fellow attacker Valdu Té, whose shot was blocked by Keane. Four minutes later, the Three Lions went after a third goal. Captain Dier passed a free-kick short to Ward-Prowse, who then found Rashford on the edge of the box. The Manchester United striker turned 180 degrees before hooking a shot over the crossbar, wasting a great opportunity to secure his brace. Rashford would soon be the victim of a cynical challenge from Baldé, who collected Guinea-Bissau's first yellow card. England's second came on 55 minutes, as Dier was cautioned for Los Djurtus' newly-introduced midfield destroyer Francisco Júnior. Meanwhile, Warner was having a rather tough time on his first competitive start for England. Though the former Stoke City loanee brilliantly skinned Sambinha in the 59th minute, he then struck another poor shot, missing the target for what would be the third and final time. Catterall did keep faith in Warner, even in the closing stages. When he brought Chelsea striker Callum Wilson on as a final substitute after 65 minutes, it was as a strike partner to the youngster rather than a replacement for him. Instead, it was Sterling who left the game prematurely. Two minutes later, Ward-Prowse lifted a free-kick out right to Chambers. The Everton defender crossed to Dier, who then returned the ball to Ward-Prowse as he entered the Guinea-Bissau semi-circle. 'JWP' tried his luck, though he couldn't get the better of Mendy - a long-time backup goalkeeper at Ligue 1 newcomers Stade Reims. Then, on 74 minutes, England's goalkeeper had a moment to forget. Woodman charged out of his area to claim a long free-kick from Embalo before Silva could head it home. The Everton man appeared to have it covered, but he coughed up the ball to Baldé, whose volleyed shot was deflected into an open net off Chambers' outstretched right leg. Guinea-Bissau's players rejoiced, thinking that Chambers' own goal had halved their deficit to 2-1. What they hadn't counted on was that the referee's linesman had already raised his flag, ruling that Silva was offside when Baldé unleashed his shot. Much to the minnows' display, their 'goal' was disallowed, and England remained in a somewhat comfortable position. England then looked to make certain of victory, which they would've done had Wilson's shooting been rather more accurate. A wayward strike on 75 minutes was followed nine minutes later by a tame header that was easily caught by Mendy. On 87 minutes, a promising run from Rashford was halted by a careless challenge from Júnior. The Strømsgodset middleman - who'd made one League Cup appearance in four years at Everton earlier in his career - was shown a yellow card, but he had at least stifled a potentially decisive England attack. The plucky underdogs - or under-Djurtus, in this case - then showed their bite in the final minute of normal time. When Silva knocked an excellent ball past Keane for Té to run onto, the 24-year-old Zagłębie Lubin striker fired in his 20th goal in 30 Guinea-Bissau caps. It was only a consolation as far as this virtual dead rubber was concerned, but his countrymen wildly celebrated it like a match-winner in the World Cup Final. That late Guinea-Bissau goal tainted what was ultimately a fairly straightforward 2-1 victory for England. The Three Lions had won their opening three matches at a World Cup for the first time in exactly 40 years. While England were comfortable winners of Group H, the Netherlands had only just scraped into 2nd place. The Oranje conceded a 4th-minute opener to Japan's Kôta Yamaguchi in Laâyoune, but strikes from Matthijs de Ligt and Memphis Depay earned them a 2-1 comeback win. The two European giants marched into the Last 16, while Japan and Guinea-Bissau would return home with a point apiece. 24 June 2022: FIFA World Cup Group H - at Stade Ibn Batouta, Tangier Guinea-Bissau - 1 (Valdu Té 90) England - 2 (Jack Wilshere 8, Marcus Rashford 35) ENGLAND LINE-UP (4-2-3-1): Freddie Woodman; Calum Chambers, Axel Tuanzebe, Brendan Galloway, Josh Tymon (Michael Keane); Eric Dier, James Ward-Prowse; Raheem Sterling (Callum Wilson), Jack Wilshere, Marcus Rashford; Lawrence Warner. BOOKED: Galloway 15, Dier 55. In the ITV studio, presenter Mark Pougatch asked his three panellists, "England have won their group, gents, but it was arguably another disappointing performance by their high standards. What do you make of their chances in the next round?" Ian Wright said, "Ask me again later tonight, but right now, I'm feeling positive. We were through to the knockouts anyway, so this was a chance to give the big boys like Jordan Henderson and Harry Kane a rest, and to see what the other lads were all about. Young Loz Warner didn't really do himself justice tonight, let's be fair, but there were other players that I was impressed with. "A lot of us were saying before the tournament that Marcus Rashford didn't deserve to be in the team. Y'know, he weren't playing enough for United, and when he was, José [Mourinho] was using him in midfield. But when you put Marcus out wide, he's a bundle of energy and a lethal finisher, which he showed for that second goal. "Marcus gives us something a little different from Nathan [Redmond] out on that left-hand side. He's got flair, he's got natural scoring talent, he's got tremendous spirit. I'm a bit gutted he ain't become the world-beater we all thought he was gonna be five or six years ago, but he's still a very useful member of this England team." Lee Dixon chimed in, "We have to mention Jack Wilshere as well, who dominated the midfield in the first half before he came off injured. England really lacked his creativity in the second half, and had they been up against a stronger and more experienced team than Guinea-Bissau, I'm not sure they would've held onto their lead. "Tonight also showed how low on depth England are in defence. Galloway and Tuanzebe are not a centre-back partnership I'd be very confident in as an England fan if anything happens to Keane and Stones. They're both quick athletes, but they didn't have the aerial ability to deal with Té in the Guinea-Bissau attack. If they ever get put up against a big, quality centre-forward like [Romelu] Lukaku or [Arkadiusz] Milik or even that young Greek lad [Antonis] Sofianis, they could really struggle to keep them quiet." Scotland manager Gordon Strachan added, "I didnae think much of that goalie either, toos be fair. Did Woodman grease his gloves before kick-off? Dropping that free-kick from Embolo..." "I think you mean Embalo," Pougatch corrected him. "Breel Embolo plays for Switzerland." "Aye, right. Anyways, that was just radge, and he was very lucky tae offside flag went up. And when Guinea-Bissau did score, he didnae look confident coming off his line to try and stop tae Té shot. I mean, we've had some pure shan goalies our side of tae border, but is Woodman really tae second-best yous English have got?" Dixon said, "For me, the goalkeeping position is probably our weakest one. You'd imagine Jack Butland will be straight back in for the first knockout game, but now he'll be under real pressure to make sure he doesn't make any mistakes. One lapse in concentration could be all it takes to unravel all the hard work England have put in over the last six years under Mark Catterall." England would discover their opening knockout phase opponents later that evening, when Group G came to a head. Awaiting them in the Last 16 would be the team which finished 2nd in that group. Brazil went into the final batch of group games in 2nd place, but a 3-1 win over the United States saw them leapfrog the Americans into top spot. Indeed, the USA would miss out on the knockout phase altogether, as Poland had come from behind to beat Ghana - also by a 3-1 scoreline - and qualify instead. Therefore, on 28 June, England would meet Poland in the World Cup Last 16. This would be a rematch of the teams' opening warm-up fixture back in March, which had ended in a 1-1 draw on a breezy evening in Warsaw. The climate was likely to be very different in Casablanca on a scorching summer afternoon, but another close contest looked to be on the cards. 2022 FIFA World Cup Group Stage Results & Tables GROUP A: Qatar 0-5 Argentina, Sweden 1-0 Morocco P W D L F A GD PTS 1. Q Argentina 3 3 0 0 9 2 7 9 2. Q Sweden 3 2 0 1 6 2 4 6 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3. Morocco 3 1 0 2 2 3 -1 3 4. Qatar 3 0 0 3 0 10 -10 0 GROUP B: Cape Verde 0-4 Spain, Colombia 1-2 Mexico P W D L F A GD PTS 1. Q Spain 3 3 0 0 10 2 8 9 2. Q Mexico 3 1 1 1 4 6 -2 4 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3. Cape Verde 3 0 2 1 2 6 -4 2 4. Colombia 3 0 1 2 3 5 -2 1 GROUP C: Germany 2-1 Uruguay, Serbia 1-1 Iraq P W D L F A GD PTS 1. Q Germany 3 1 2 0 4 3 1 5 2. Q Iraq 3 1 2 0 4 3 1 5 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3. Serbia 3 0 3 0 5 5 0 3 4. Uruguay 3 0 1 2 5 7 -2 1 GROUP D: Chile 1-1 Croatia, South Korea 1-1 France P W D L F A GD PTS 1. Q France 3 1 2 0 5 2 3 5 2. Q Croatia 3 1 2 0 4 2 2 5 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3. South Korea 3 0 2 1 1 3 -2 2 4. Chile 3 0 2 1 1 4 -3 2 GROUP E: Belgium 2-1 Australia, Greece 2-1 Egypt P W D L F A GD PTS 1. Q Belgium 3 2 1 0 10 6 4 7 2. Q Greece 3 2 0 1 6 7 -1 6 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3. Egypt 3 0 2 1 4 5 -1 2 4. Australia 3 0 1 2 2 4 -2 1 GROUP F: Cameroon 0-0 Italy, Portugal 0-1 Jamaica P W D L F A GD PTS 1. Q Jamaica 3 2 0 1 4 2 2 6 2. Q Italy 3 1 2 0 4 3 1 5 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3. Portugal 3 1 1 1 4 4 0 4 4. Cameroon 3 0 1 2 1 4 -3 1 GROUP G: Poland 3-1 Ghana, United States 1-3 Brazil P W D L F A GD PTS 1. Q Brazil 3 2 0 1 4 2 2 6 2. Q Poland 3 1 1 1 4 3 1 4 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3. United States 3 1 1 1 5 5 0 4 4. Ghana 3 1 0 2 3 6 -3 3 GROUP F: Guinea-Bissau 1-2 England, Netherlands 2-1 Japan P W D L F A GD PTS 1. Q England 3 3 0 0 7 2 5 9 2. Q Netherlands 3 2 0 1 7 4 3 6 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3. Japan 3 0 1 2 2 5 -3 1 4. Guinea-Bissau 3 0 1 2 2 7 -5 1 2022 FIFA World Cup Last 16 draw Argentina (A1) vs Mexico (B2) Spain (B1) vs Sweden (A2) Croatia (C2) vs Germany (D1) France (C1) vs Iraq (D2) Belgium (E1) vs Italy (F2) Jamaica (F1) vs Greece (E2) Brazil (G1) vs Netherlands (H2) Poland (G2) vs England (H1)
  7. It's likely because the World Cup is being played in Qatar, and the major European leagues are taking a mid-season break to accommodate that.
  8. *** The Group Stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup was coming towards its end, and a few interesting stories had already developed. Sadly, host nation Morocco would play no further part in their own party. They lost their decisive Group A match 1-0 against Sweden, who progressed courtesy of a 65th-minute goal from Manchester United's Alexander Isak. The Atlas Lions were only the second World Cup hosts to be eliminated in the first round, following South Africa in 2010. Argentina and Spain had staked their claims for the trophy by winning all three of their group games, scoring 19 goals between them. Other superpowers had progressed rather less serenely, with France and Germany winning their groups despite only collecting five points apiece. Defending champions Belgium's defence started with a 5-2 demolition of Greece, though they conceded the opening goal after just two minutes. The Red Devils' defence looked somewhat suspect again when sharing six goals with Egypt, but a narrow victory over Australia saw them through to the Last 16. Awaiting Belgium in the knockout round would be Italy, who'd scraped through Group F in 2nd place. That group had surprisingly been won by Jamaica, who'd been inspired by some impressive performances from Bayer Leverkusen winger Leon Bailey. It was Bailey's penalty that secured a decisive 1-0 win over Portugal, thus bring about an early elimination for the European champions, who clearly missed Cristiano Ronaldo's presence. Unlike their conquerors in the UEFA Euro 2020 Final, England were not at risk of being home before the proverbial postcards. The Three Lions had won their first two matches in Group H, which meant they could play their next game against Guinea-Bissau without fearing an early exit. This final group match would take place at the Stade Ibn Batouta in Tangier. Located near the Strait of Gibraltar, where the Mediterranean Sea met the Atlantic Ocean, Tangier was the Morocco's third-largest city. It was also one of its oldest, having been founded in the 5th century BC. Mark Catterall and his side were flown from their Salé base on the eve of the match. After spending the night at a hotel in Tangier and then having a morning training session at the training camp of local club Ittihad Riadi de Tanger, they boarded their team bus and headed for the stadium. Catterall stepped onto the bus with a little more panache than usual. As he sat down beside assistant manager Michael Burke, he remarked, "It's a beautiful day, ain't it, Mick?" "Well, someone's in tremendous spirits!" Burke smiled. "You didn't fly Jenny over and sneak her into the hotel, did you?" "Oh no, when would we ever do that?" Catterall laughed. "It's amazing what getting some things off your chest and getting a couple of good nights' sleep can do for your mood, ain't it?" "Catts, you're confusing me a fair bit. What 'things' are you talking about?" "Forget about it. Let's just say that an old colleague of ours will be getting his just desserts when he returns home from his holiday." "Unlike us, who are seeing just desert out of our windows right now," Burke remarked with some sarcasm. "At least the weather's a bit more tolerable." Coach David Platt said, "27 degrees Celsius, they're saying. That's cooler than it was at our first two games, that's for sure." Catterall said, "No surprise. We're pretty bloomin' close to the Med here, aren't we?" Platt nodded, "We are indeed. I certainly don't envy the Netherlands and Japan right now, that's for sure. They'll be playing in 34-degree heat in Western Sahara, which some people say isn't even part of Morocco!" Western Sahara was a territory south-west of Morocco that had been disputed by the Moroccan government and a movement of Sahrawi nationalists (now known as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) since the 1970s. There was even a 15-year-long armed conflict, which ended in a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire in 1991, though the dispute had not come close to being resolved in the three decades since. It was a huge understatement to say that the selection of Laâyoune - the territory's largest city - as a World Cup host venue was simply controversial. Burke asked, "I still don't get that. Why the hell are they playing World Cup finals matches in Western Sahara in the first place?" "Mick, this is FIFA we're talking about," Catterall said. "If they got their own way the first time round, we would be playing this World Cup in Qatar, the stadiums would only be half-built... and you and about four of our players would have died from heatstroke by now." Platt said, "Speaking of that, Mick, you should probably think about stocking up on SPF 90 suncream. If we win our group, it could be something like 35 degrees in Casablanca for our first knockout game." Burke muttered, "S****in' hell. At this rate, I'll end the World Cup either in an ashes urn or a drinking glass." Some time later, the England bus arrived at the ground and pulled inside. "Right, lads," Jack Wilshere said. "Showtime." As the players and coaches disembarked from the coach, some looked around for their opponents' bus, of which there was no sign yet. "Are we early, boss, or are the other lot a bit late?" Lawrence Warner asked Catterall. "Don't you worry about that, Loz," Catterall said. "Concentrate on yourself and your team, not the opposition." Burke then said, "He might have a point, to be fair. We've always arrived at our stadium an hour on the dot before kick-off. Japan arrived for our first game before we did, and Holland were the same for our second. Why aren't Guinea-Bissau here yet?" "Maybe they got stuck in traffic," Wilshere suggested, before muttering, "I hope they're still stuck now." Catterall then caught a glimpse of a garishly-coloured red-and-green coach, saying, "Ah, here they are." The England team stopped as the coach turned in, parking just a few metres from them. Emblazoned on the side of the coach was a stylised 'djurtu' - otherwise known as an African hunting dog - breathing fire from its mouth. Beside the logo was the title "TEAM GB" in large, bold block capitals. "Team GB?" Burke exclaimed. "Really?" "If anything, they should be 'Equipe GB', being Portuguese speakers," Platt said. "Forget that, just look at the size of that coach!" Marcus Rashford gasped. "It's massive! Even United don't get a coach like that!" Burke asked Platt, "David... how big is Guinea-Bissau?" "They've got a land area that's slightly smaller than Taiwan, and their population is about the same size as Essex," Platt claimed. "Well, it looks like they've brought everyone over for the World Cup." The Guinea-Bissau contingent was led off the coach by manager Baciro Candé. Immediately following him were his 23 players, all of whom were wearing expensive designer tracksuits and even more elaborate headphones. England's AFC Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook spotted his former Leeds United team-mate Ronaldo Vieira stepping off the Bissau-Guinean coach and said, "Hey, it's Ronaldo!" "Yeah, and I bet they've got [Lionel] Messi as a coach as well," Burke muttered, somewhat sarcastically. Cook rushed over to Vieira, saying, "Ronaldo! Good luck tonight! I hope we have a good game." However, the Djurtus midfielder outright blanked his one-time colleague and followed his compatriots into the ground. "That's a bit rude," Cook sulked as he rejoined the England contingent. "This is the World Cup, not Friends Reunited," Catterall told him. "They're fully focussed on their game. We should be as well." The players were followed off the bus by their coaches, medical staff and personal assistants. After them came a large troupe of cheerleaders, followed by various journalists, and even a couple of vloggers. Veteran goalkeeper Fraser Forster said, "They've brought everyone along, ain't they? Who's next - Eric The Eel?" "Eric 'The Eel' Moussambani was a swimmer from Equatorial Guinea, so I doubt it," Platt corrected him, before pointing at a big, sixty-something gentleman who'd just stepped off the coach. "But that there is the President of Guinea-Bissau - José Mário Vaz. He has been in office for eight years." "They've taken their PRESIDENT on the team bus?!" Wilshere gasped. "Where's Jeremy Corbyn when we need him?" Burke said of the Prime Minister's whereabouts, "He's in the Czech Republic, apparently. You know what, this is getting a bit silly! I'm half-expecting to see Clare Balding now!" Sure enough, the BBC sports presenter was one of the last people off the Guinea-Bissau coach, accompanied by her wife Alice Arnold. That prompted Burke to roll his eyes and say. "Figures. She'll join any old Team GB bandwagon." "Mick's right," Catterall growled. "This is just ridiculous! We should be in the dressing room by now, not gawking at the 400,000 people who are on the other team! LET'S GET A F***ING MOVE ON!"
  9. I'm not entirely sure. In my Fiorentina save, I promised two of my key players that we'd "challenge for the title" by 2021/2022 when giving them new contracts. We came 2nd in Serie A that season, but Napoli won the scudetto with a game to spare. As soon as that happened, the players in question complained that my promises had not been kept. I managed to defuse the situation and keep them happy, but this left me wondering what more I would have had to do to fulfil the promises.
  10. *** "Are you sure you want to do this, Mark? Like, completely sure? Why don't you just let the authorities do their job and concentrate on yours?" Ava Leggett was somewhat apprehensive about Mark Catterall's plans for the Tuesday afternoon that followed England's 3-1 win over the Netherlands. The pair were speaking at the team's base in Salé after that morning's training session. Holding a brown briefcase, Catterall told the Football Association's communications director, "This has been playing on my mind for some time, Ava. I know that Clark Gregory's behind all this, and I promised myself that I'd give him a piece of my mind the next time I saw him." The England manager had been informed that Gregory - the former chairman of the FA - was holidaying in nearby Rabat. Catterall now wanted to make the short journey from Salé and confront Gregory. Leggett eventually agreed, though she warned Catterall, "If you're adamant that this is what you want, then be careful. Don't do or say anything that might jeopardise the police's inquiries." "I won't, I promise. I just want to say my piece to Clark, and then I'll leave the dibble to it." "Good... Angela Ruskin will give you what for when she gets here on Thursday." Shortly afterwards, Catterall travelled to Rabat and located the hotel where Gregory was staying. He stepped inside and asked one of the receptionists, "Excuse me? Is there a Clark Gregory staying here please? I'm an old colleague of his and need to speak to him about something." The woman replied, "Yes, he is, sir. Room number 38 on the second floor. Do you want me to tell him that you are coming?" "No, thanks, you're alright." Catterall headed up to the second floor and headed down the corridor, looking for room number 38. When he came across it, he knocked on the door three times. Behind the door, Gregory grumbled in his distinctive Derbyshire accent, "For Christ's sake, I didn't ask for room service!" When Gregory opened the door and laid eyes on his former manager, he sighed, "Catterall." "Gregory," Catterall replied sternly. "We need to talk." Gregory reluctantly agreed, "Alright, then. Nancy's gone shopping, so it's just me here for another hour - or four." Catterall entered the room and sat down at a table as Gregory asked, "You want some tea?" After Catterall politely declined, Gregory said, "Great, 'cos neither do I. I've always been more of an alcohol man myself. Did you know how expensive it is in Morocco?" "Just sit down, Clark," Catterall insisted. Gregory let out another sigh before sitting at the table, opposite Catterall. He said, "I hear England are doing well at the World Cup. Two games, two wins - and not against pub teams like Scotland, either." Catterall nodded, "Yeah, we are, but I'm not here to talk about that." Catterall then placed his briefcase on the table, prompting Gregory to ask, "Mark? What the hell's going on?" "Funnily enough, I'm about to ask you that same question - again, and again, and again." Catterall opened his briefcase and then stared into Gregory's eyes, growling, "What I have here is years of evidence and testimony that you have not only deliberately tried to undermine my authority, but also committed some serious criminal acts." Gregory chuckled and dismissed Catterall's claims, "That's just preposterous. Since when have I tried to undermine your authority?" Catterall said, "Let's start with the Gary Cahill incident in 2018. He didn't become a communist for five months because of spiked vodka! It's just ridiculous to even think that! In fact, he was put under hypnosis." Gregory shook his head. "How can you think I was involved? You know I never travelled to Russia during the World Cup!" "That's not what Russian CCTV says," Catterall replied. He brought out a series of CCTV stills showing a man who resembled Gregory walking outside CSKA Moscow's headquarters while Cahill was negotiating his transfer to the Russian Premier League club. Catterall continued, "In fact, while I was looking through this lead, I came across the National Hypnotherapy Society. Guess who one of their patrons is? Mr Kenneth Clark Gregory. Hardly a coincidence, is it?" Gregory again insisted that he was not involved, but Catterall said, "You were worried that England were going to progress further in the World Cup, so you wouldn't have an excuse to fire me afterwards. Hypnotising Cahill was an attempt to jeopardise the team, but luckily for us, it only made him play even better. It was also lucky that we stumbled across the trigger word when he was unconscious in the physio room after drinking all that vodka, otherwise we might never have snapped him out of it!" Gregory muttered, "Grzegorz Rasiak. I never thought anybody outside of Derby would say his name again." "Well, it just so happened that me and Mick Burke were talking about the worst Premier League players in history while Cahill was out cold. Mick mentioned Rasiak's time at Tottenham Hotspur just before Gary came round." Catterall then said, "Now let's talk about Russell Whiteman. You were behind my interview with him at St George's three years ago, weren't you? You wanted to use the most controversial sports journalist in the country to try and make me out to be this white supremacist bigot, so that the public would turn against me!" Showing Gregory a bank statement, Catterall explained, "Christopher Whiteman was looking into his cousin's finances before and during his fake news trial. It says here that £10,000 was transferred into Russell's account on 29 August 2019 - the day before he interviewed me." Gregory sighed, "Okay, I might have persuaded Russell to do the interview... but that was all! There was no malice behind the interview, I swear!" "Was there no malice behind what happened to Ricardo Arce, though?" Catterall asked. "Three years ago, he was poisoned with arsenic before the 2030 World Cup was awarded to Spain. The Sun blamed it on 'Spanish flu'... but I suspect you as FA chairman would have done anything to persuade FIFA to give that World Cup to England instead." "My conscience is clear, Mark," Gregory insisted. "That had absolutely nothing to do with me, and you won't find any evidence that says otherwise." "And then last year, after Spain got Euro 2028 as well, he was strangled to death in his hotel room." "Again, I wasn't involved in that at all. You know full well that it was some Ukrainian bloke who killed the bastard!" Catterall nodded, "Dmytro Lyubov. He's the brother of Michael Love, from The Sun. You knew Lyubov quite well, didn't you? And Senor Arce?" Catterall then brought out a photograph showing Gregory, Lyubov and Arce smiling and shaking hands at an event promoting Spain's bid to host Euro 2028. He then said, "Just a few days after that, one of those men killed another. That begs some questions. 1) What happened? 2) When were you elected to UEFA's Executive Committee? And 3) Ain't it fishy that a UEFA ExCo member is seen here promoting the Euro 2028 bid which won more votes than are usually available?" "Bloody hell, Whiteman's son is a fine old detective, isn't he?" Gregory muttered. He then sighed, "Okay... this will take some explaining..." Gregory explained that he had been elected to UEFA's Executive Committee in February 2021, about six months after leaving the FA. At around that time, he was approached by Lyubov - a Ukrainian multi-millionaire who was on the boardroom at Dynamo Kiev. Lyubov had offered financial support to Spain's bid to stage the 2028 European Championship, which was led by Arce, in return for backing Dynamo's bid to host the 2023 UEFA Champions League Final at their NSC Olympiyskyi stadium. Arce would use Lyubov's financial muscle and Gregory's newly-gained power to "influence" - as Gregory put it - the Euro 2028 vote in Spain's favour. UEFA's executives had recently changed its rules to grant voting rights to all 17 of its board members, plus the heads of all 55 member associations, though any associations who were in the bidding process were excluded from voting. That clarified the increased number of votes on offer. After the vote was concluded, however, Arce suddenly reneged on his promise to support Kiev's Champions League Final bid the following day, instead lending his backing to a rival bid from Berlin's Olympiastadion. This angered Lyubov, who followed Arce to his hotel room before strangling him to death on his bed. Gregory resigned from the UEFA Exco the following month, citing "ill health". He told Catterall, "I was getting sick of working with those snakes who run European football." "You're no better than they are," Catterall said. "But why did you do it?" Gregory replied, "Mark... I needed the money. Nancy and I were almost bankrupt without the healthy salary I got from the FA, so when Lyubov offered me enough money to clear our debts and secure us a financial future in our retirement." Catterall then put his evidence back in his briefcase as he said, "Okay, I think I've heard enough. And just so you know, I've been tipped off that the British police have been investigating your involvement in all these cases over recent weeks. Your hotel room has been bugged, and this interview is being recorded as evidence while we speak." Gregory hissed, "F***!" Catterall looked outside the window and saw a couple of Metropolitan Police officers standing outside. He said, "Ah, and it looks like the dibble are here to talk to you. Your chickens have come home to bloomin' roost, ain't they?" Catterall grabbed his briefcase and headed for the door, though not before briefly turning back to say, "Have a nice day, Clark."
  11. Well done on another captivating and truly fantastic ED story. I dipped in and out of your FMCU thread when you were first posting there, but I'll be sure to give it a proper read when I can find the time.
  12. Jordon approves of this post, though Jordon is somewhat annoyed that you spelt Jordon's name wrong. If, indeed, you are talking about the right Jordon. The Tim Flowers caricature came about purely by accident. I was about two seasons in when I realised I'd written dialogue for all the big-name coaches, except Flowers. As Flowers enjoyed his best playing days in an era when he was completely overshadowed by David Seaman, I then thought to make a bit more of this 'forgotten man'. There are times when I think in retrospect that the Cahill storyline got a bit outlandish, and even that I should have written it very differently, but I'm pleased to read that you enjoyed it.
  13. *** With a population of a little over 1 million, the northern city of Fès was the second-largest city in Morocco. It was famous for its historic Moorish architecture, as well as for lending its name to the Fez headwear, which was popularised in Britain by the legendary comedian Tommy Cooper. Five days after seeing off Japan in their 2022 FIFA World Cup opener, England arrived in Fès to take on the Netherlands in another high-stakes match. With both teams having won their Group H openers, the Last 16 would be on the horizon for whichever team could record back-to-back victories. Before that match got underway, Japan and Guinea-Bissau battled it out in Safi for their first points of the campaign. Although Guinea-Bissau midfielder Moreto Cassamá had a 15th-minute penalty saved by Shinobu Kodama, the West Africans did take the lead 11 minutes later through Zé Turbo. They remained on course for a historic victory until eight minutes from time, when a stunning 30-yard piledriver by young Japanese defender Motoki Kanai secured a 1-1 draw. That result meant that whoever won in Fès would automatically go through to the knockout phase, with one group match to spare. High drama was to be expected. This match saw Mark Catterall meet the Netherlands for the first time since his very first match as England manager, which the Three Lions won 2-1 at Wembley in 2016. Harry Kane scored the winner on that occasion, and it came as no surprise that he would lead the line again here, especially after his brace against Japan. Southampton forward Nathan Redmond - who'd set up both those goals for Kane after coming off the bench - was rewarded with a start. AFC Bournemouth duo Lewis Cook and Jordon Ibe made their first tournament appearances for England, at central midfield and right wing respectively. Dele Alli and Nathaniel Clyne returned to the starting line-up after sitting out the Japan game, while left-back Josh Tymon started in place of the disappointing Brendan Galloway. Netherlands boss Danny Blind raised a few eyebrows when he dropped Vincent Janssen, despite the 28-year-old Hoffenheim striker claiming a brace in a 4-0 win over Guinea-Bissau. 24-year-old Jay-Roy Grot - who had scored 23 Süper Lig goals for Beşiktaş this season but had never found the net in a senior international - went up front in his place. The Oranje had a strong Premier League presence in their starting XI. Left-back Jairo Riedewald and forward Memphis Depay were both multiple PL champions at Manchester United, while right-back Giovanni Troupée and midfielder Jorrit Hendrix turned out for Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur respectively. Ajax's cultured midfielder Wout Duindam - already a key player at the tender age of 21 - had a brief loan spell with Chelsea earlier in his career. A formidable Dutch squad held no fears for England, who took the game to them almost immediately. Ibe won them a corner in the first minute, when his cross was deflected behind by Riedewald. Three Lions captain Jordan Henderson took the corner, but his hanging-ball delivery was cleared by Napoli defender Stefan de Vrij. England launched their next attack in the fifth minute, with Ibe being utilised on the right wing again. The 26-year-old's cross found fellow Londoner Kane in the box. The Tottenham Hotspur striker then drew de Vrij and his central defensive partner Matthijs de Ligt towards him, leaving Alli open on the edge of the six-yard box. Once Kane drilled the ball to his long-time colleague, there was no doubt that Dele would bury the opener. Alli's goal was just his eighth in an England senior international. Barely a minute later, he almost set up Kane for what would have been his 45th. Netherlands goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet fumbled a catch from Ibe's byline cross, allowing Alli to get to the ball and sidefoot it first-time to Kane. Unfortunately, the usually clinical Three Lions vice-captain couldn't cue a clean shot, and the ball skimmed inches past the far post. Catterall's charges pushed forward again in the 12th minute. Clyne's cross into the penalty area was laid off by Alli to Henderson, who then found Redmond in a great position. Redmond's first-time strike slipped underneath the dive of Zoet, and England had already positioned themselves into a 2-0 lead. A third goal for the Three Lions even looked to be on the cards after 15 minutes. Redmond unleashed an audacious effort after receiving a square ball from Kane, but his strike just drifted wide of the goal. The Netherlands had their first scoring chance on 18 minutes. Marseille winger Anwar El Ghazi met Depay's outswinging corner with a close-range header, which was well caught by Jack Butland. The Stoke City goalkeeper saw off another set-piece in the 26th minute, catching de Vrij's header from a lofted Depay free-kick. England had already come perilously close to going 3-0 up on 24 minutes, when Kane had a powerful drive tipped over the bar by Zoet. That save from the 31-year-old Dutch goalkeeper - who played alongside El Ghazi at Marseille - looked like being particularly significant when the Oranje struck back after an hour. The Netherlands' star man Depay had a significant involvement in this attack, which saw him find Grot close to the England 'D'. Grot might not have found the net for the Oranje, but he showed great vision to knock the ball beyond Three Lions defender John Stones for Duindam to run onto. The young attacking midfielder then slipped it past Butland to cut England's lead down to 2-1. The Oranje now had some momentum, and they almost had an equaliser after 37 minutes. Duindam played an excellent long searching ball to Depay in the penalty area, leaving some England fans fearful about what was to happen next. That was when Manchester City defender Michael Keane came to their rescue, pressuring the United attacker into scuffing a tame shot directly at Butland. Butland made another comfortable catch for England in the 42nd minute, catching Troupée's angled attempt from El Ghazi's weighted ball. Two minutes before then, Zoet had brilliantly denied Alli the chance to give the Three Lions a 3-1 lead. As it was, they would still go into the second half narrowly ahead. Catterall kept his starting line-up intact for the second half, but Blind did not. Duindam was surprisingly rested at half-time, with Manchester City striker Kaj Sierhuis coming on to partner Grot up front. Sierhuis had yet to play a competitive match for the Citizens and had instead spent the last six years out on loan, most recently turning out for Genoa in Serie A. The Dutch might have adopted a more ambitious approach, but England quicky put them on the back foot in the second period. de Vrij had to throw himself in front of another powerful drive from Kane in the 48th minute. Three minutes later, an inch-perfect pass from Alli allowed Kane to get past de Ligt and have another attempt at goal, which Zoet pushed behind. After 54 minutes, the Netherlands had an opportunity to equalise on the counter-attack. Depay tried his luck from distance, but his drive was comfortably claimed by an unflappable Butland. The England number 1 then watched El Ghazi power wide another ambitious strike moments later. England then pushed forward again in the 55th minute, only for the Oranje to make a series of strong interceptions and keep them at bay. Redmond eventually managed to get a shot in from 20 yards, but it sailed over the bar. Blind used up his two remaining substitutes within the next six minutes. Riedewald and captain Davy Klaassen were the men who exited the game in favour of Lyon full-back Jetro Willems and Wolfsburg midfielder Riechedly Bazoer. Catterall didn't even make his first change for England until the 64th minute. Kane was given a rest, as Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford came on for his World Cup debut. Rashford didn't take long to set up a scoring chance for Alli via Redmond, but the enigmatic Tottenham midfielder skied his shot over. The Three Lions had another opportunity to double their lead on 76 minutes, after Ibe had been obstructed by Willems. Henderson lifted the subsequent free-kick over the Dutch wall and sent it inches over the bar. That would be the 32-year-old Liverpool midfielder's last contribution before Eric Dier took his place for the closing stages. The Oranje committed another potentially costly foul on tricky winger Ibe in the 80th minute, with Depay's poor challenge earning him a yellow card. Dier lifted the free-kick up to Alli, who miscued his header. That was followed by the final England substitution, as Catterall freshened up the defence by sending Brendan Galloway on for Keane. Though 'Catts' was arguably content to settle for a 2-1 win, some of his players were not. With eight minutes remaining, Ibe was involved in a 'passing diamond' with Dier, Cook and Rashford. Once Willems slipped as he tried to intercept Rashford's final ball into the penalty area, Ibe had the freedom to slide his first international goal past the onrushing Zoet. At 3-1 to England, the match was now effectively over. Redmond looked to hit the Oranje with a morale-crushing fourth goal on 85 minutes, but his free-kick was caught by Zoet. Dier sent another free-kick over the bar five minutes later, shortly after Grot had collected a second Dutch yellow card for tripping Stones. A disappointing evening for the Netherlands ended with Troupée and Sierhuis each firing wide in injury time. England fans were most certainly not disappointed at the full-time whistle, as they could celebrate their team's swift progression to the World Cup Last 16. 20 June 2022: FIFA World Cup Group H - at Complexe Sportif de Fès, Fès Netherlands - 1 (Wout Duindam 30) England - 3 (Dele Alli 5, Nathan Redmond 12, Jordon Ibe 82) ENGLAND LINE-UP (4-2-3-1): Jack Butland; Nathaniel Clyne, Michael Keane (Brendan Galloway), John Stones, Josh Tymon; Jordan Henderson (Eric Dier), Lewis Cook; Jordon Ibe, Dele Alli, Nathan Redmond; Harry Kane (Marcus Rashford). In the BBC's cushy studio in Salford Quays, presenter Gary Lineker asked his three pundits, "So, fellas, England are straight through to the knockout rounds with time to spare. Dare we start to believe?" Alan Shearer stated categorically, "No. I've not seen anything tonight that tells me this England squad can go all the way. Even against one of the weakest Dutch teams I can remember watching, England were far too sloppy in possession, and their defending for the Duindam goal... goodness me. If a Sunday League team was sliced open by a pass like the one Grot laid on for Duindam, I would be embarrassed." Lineker lightly argued, "Why are you complaining about that one goal Holland scored when England got three? It's only the result that truly matters, isn't it?" "Because we expected Holland to make a load of silly mistakes in defence. They had Troupée at right-back, for heaven's sake! But in terms of attacking quality, they were - apart from Belgium - the only half-decent side England had come up against since they lost to Germany in the Nations League a year ago. The defence was just not prepared for this challenge, and the fact they looked so uncomfortable makes me - as an England fan - very nervous about facing a team like Brazil in the next round." Former Netherlands midfielder Ruud Gullit said, "To be completely honest, I was very impressed with Redmond tonight. His passing, his technique, his movement on the ball, his versatility... it's almost what you expect from a classic 'Totaalvoetbal' player. The way he found the space to take that pass from Henderson and stroke it under Zoet for the second England goal, that was beautiful. "It pains me to say this as a Dutchman, but I do not think this Netherlands team has the quality to go far in this World Cup. We have not been past the second round at any tournament since 2014, and even if we do win against Japan, I don't feel confident we can beat anyone from Group G in the Last 16. We don't have a healthy blend of energy and experience that you need in a challenging team... but Mark Catterall and England have that just right. It would not surprise me if they were still in Morocco for the final week." Lineker said, "So Catterall has got the Gullit seal of approval, but what does one former England manager make of the current boss? Steve McClaren, give us your assessment of tonight's game." McClaren - who oversaw England's miserable UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying campaign before winning the 2009/2010 Eredivisie with FC Twente - said, "Yesh, I think Cattsh ish schetting up a very... what you call... successhful schide. Hendershon ish an exschellent schipper becaush he ish... er, vershatile, and he ishn't very shellfish either, as you shaw when he shet up Redmond - the inschide-forward from Schouthampton." As Gullit tried to stifle a laugh while Shearer stared at McClaren in disapproval, Lineker politely pointed out, "Erm... Steve... you're talking double Dutch again." The 61-year-old Yorkshireman groaned, "Oh, sch..." as the TV footage quickly cut to the BBC's classic test card, consisting of a girl playing 'noughts and crosses' with her clown doll. England now had four days to prepare for their final Group H match, against Guinea-Bissau in Tangier. They would go into that game knowing that they would be heading safely into the Last 16, regardless of how badly they played. Only two other teams across the eight groups - Argentina in A, and Spain in B - had that luxury as well. England would secure top spot with a solitary point against Los Djurtus, which would earn them an opening knockout tie against the Group G runners-up. World number 2-ranked Brazil sat in that position after an unconvincing start, but their group was still so tight that almost anything was possible in the final round. One thing that could be said with confidence was that Catterall was likely to use this forthcoming match to rest his key men and blood some fringe players. He appreciated as much as many managers the importance of squad rotation in major tournaments. 2022 FIFA World Cup Group Stage Results GROUP A: Morocco 1-0 Qatar, Sweden 1-2 Argentina GROUP B: Mexico 1-1 Cape Verde, Colombia 1-2 Spain GROUP C: Iraq 0-0 Germany, Serbia 2-2 Uruguay GROUP D: Chile 0-3 France, Croatia 2-0 South Korea GROUP E: Egypt 3-3 Belgium, Greece 2-1 Australia GROUP F: Portugal 2-2 Italy, Jamaica 2-0 Cameroon GROUP G: Ghana 1-3 United States, Poland 0-1 Brazil GROUP H: Japan 1-1 Guinea-Bissau, Netherlands 1-3 England
  14. *** After opening their 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign by beating Japan 2-0 in Agadir, England were back at their Salé training base the following morning. The team was understandably in high spirits, having taken a huge early stride towards reaching the knockout phase. When the players arrived for training, playmaker Dele Alli asked manager Mark Catterall, "Hey, boss? Do you mind if we show you something?" Catterall replied, "What is it, Dele? It ain't another of them TV adverts, is it?" "No, no, nothing like that. Me and Eric [Dier] taught the lads a song and dance routine last night and we wanna show it to you." Catterall nodded, "Alright. I can't see the harm." Alli gave the nod to Dier, who called out, "Hey, lads! The boss will let us do the Agadir song!" The 23 players then lined up in three lines in front of the coaches, before bursting into their rendition of "Agadoo" - the classic novelty song by 1980s pop group Black Lace. "Ag-a-dir, dir, dir! Nathan Redmond to Harry! Agadir, dir, dir! Our first Group Stage victory! To the left, to the right; jump up and down, slide on your knees! Come and play every night; sing with an England melody!" The coaches applauded somewhat ironically, with assistant Michael Burke saying, "Well done, lads! I think that's, what, the third-best song ever put out by an England team." David Platt said, "Personally, I would rank it as my fourth-best England team song - behind 'World In Motion' from 1990, 'Back Home' from 1970, and 'All The Way' from 1988." "So you didn't really like it, then?" Dier asked. "It's only a bit of fun! Nothing serious!" Warren Joyce replied, "Yeah, we know, Eric. Personally, that music's not my cup of tea, but I'm all for anything that boosts camaraderie." "Kamara Derry?" Harry Kane asked. "What's that Chris Kamara fella got to do with a city in Ireland?" "I'm talking about friendship, Harry. Brotherhood. Affinity. Fellowship. I'm sure David would share some other synonyms if we wanted him to... and even if we didn't." Catterall said, "Yeah, I'm all for it too. But now we get back to work, because the Netherlands will provide an even greater test than Japan did. "Any Dutch team that gets to a major tournament prides itself on having loads of players with great technique, versatility and attacking prowess. But I believe you lot can at least match them on all three counts, and also that you can beat them in other areas, as Warren will explain." Joyce stated, "What we see in this team is determination. Hunger. Confidence. Most of you know what it takes to get to the business end of a major tournament. Those Dutch lads really lack experience on that front; there aren't many left from the side that came 3rd at the 2014 World Cup." Catterall continued, "A few years ago, no England team would have looked forward to playing against Holland. Right now, I suspect the Netherlands aren't really looking forward to playing against us. "When we take to the pitch on Wednesday, I want you to put them on the back foot right from the start. Don't give them any reason to get their tails up. You got that, lads?" The players sounded their agreement, and Catterall said, "Now Mick will take you through today's schedule." Burke said, "Right, lads. Last night was a bit tough on the legs, so we'll take things easier today. Those of you who played Japan will be having recovery sessions with David Fevre and James Haycock; those that didn't will do physical training with Chris Neville. We'll then have a match review at half past 10, and then you're free for the rest of the day." Dier smiled, "An afternoon off! Great!" "Believe me, you'll need it," Catterall said. "At this tournament, in this climate, you need to strike a healthy balance when it comes to fitness. That's why some of you who played against Japan won't be playing on Wednesday." "Are you gonna give Jordon a chance on Wednesday?" asked Jordon Ibe. "We'll see, Jordon. First, you need to prove to me that you're ready to start." "Okay, boss," Ibe nodded. "Jordon's got this." Catterall said, "Right then, lads. We'll leave you to it and see you in the analysis room a bit later." A couple of hours later, in the analysis room, the England players and staff reviewed the previous night's match. While there were plenty of positives to take from the victory, there was also a valuable lesson to be learned. Tactical coach Tony Adams asked the players, "Did you notice something, lads? Did you see how different we looked and played in the final quarter of the match, compared to earlier on?" Raheem Sterling nodded, "We were too narrow to start with. We didn't really try to stretch Japan out, and that allowed them to sit back and restrict our space. When me and Nathan came on, that changed." "Well spotted, Raheem," Catterall said. "When you try to grind down a compact team, what do you do? You look out wide and try to create some space. You know you're doing that right when they start to come to you and leave gaps, instead of you coming to them and just running into brick walls." "Exactly, boss. But I don't understand why we used the diamond in the first place. We've got some top-quality forwards out wide, like me and Nathan and Jordon, so why won't you use our pace and creativity from the start?" Dier said, "Raheem makes a good point, to be fair. And as well as that, Harry's always worked best as his own man up top. No offence to Callum or anyone else, but he don't need a strike partner getting in his way." Kane agreed, "What he said, basically." Catterall nodded, "Well, I'm never afraid to try a system before - and during - the World Cup, and it don't hurt to admit that it don't work anymore. At least we've found that out now, after our first group game, instead of on the flight back home after the Americans have knocked us out in the Last 16. "But here's the thing, lads. This is what I think makes this England group so great. We are all still learning quickly from our mistakes, from the players to the coaching staff. Instead of resting on our laurels and assuming that everything's gonna be all hunky-dory, we're always thinking of ways to strive for better, to find a way to beat any team that's put in front of us. "The team I'm seeing now is very different in mentality from the team I saw in Kazakhstan 15 months ago, and in Armenia 12 months ago. Back then, we were fuming with ourselves and criticising one another, but it's those bad experiences that make us even more determined to pull together and get things right the next time around. "As the US Marine Corps motto goes, you 'improvise, adapt, and overcome'. Last night, we improvised by making the most of a situation we weren't prepared for. We adapted to that situation by switching to a different system. And we overcame our difficulties by finding a way through and getting the result we wanted." Left-back Brendan Galloway suggested, "Or... you play like we do at Manchester United, and smash everyone to bits." Catterall said, "That too. Anyway, I think we're gonna do away with the diamond moving forward. We need one clear focal point up front, along with a couple of inside-forwards who can join him in the attack. Gentlemen, England will be playing 4-3-f***ing-3." The players almost unanimously agreed with this, though Jack Wilshere asked, "Are you doing that just 'cos it suits Harry best? I heard what Gary Neville said about this last night, and it looks like you're gonna play with one striker 'cos it suits one striker, not the whole team." "Mark's making this switch for the whole team, Harry," Adams said. "Anyway, you shouldn't listen to them pundits who only work on telly 'cos they failed at coaching careers in Spain." "Excuse me?" Phil Neville replied, in mock outrage. "Pot, kettle, black!" Catterall said, "Yeah, as Tony was saying, every decision I make as a manager - and we make as a coaching staff - is done with all our players in mind. Harry might be our leading scorer and our vice-captain, but he is just one part of a well-oiled machine. There isn't a man whom I would have replaced with anyone else." Alli hesitated before saying, "Erm, boss... I think we're missing someone really important." "Yeah, we could have done with Luke Shaw, but you have to..." Alli interrupted, "Nah, I ain't talking about Luke." He then signalled to some of his team-mates, "Take it away, lads," before they performed their take on another Black Lace song. "Do, Do, Do! Nigel Reo-Coker! Do, Do, Do! You should have called him up!" Adams buried his head and sighed, "Oh, God! Nobody's ever gonna let me forget about Granada, are they?"
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