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About CFuller


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    Football Manager storyteller from Romford, Essex

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    Dagenham & Redbridge / Norway (FM13)

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  1. ALBANIA vs NORWAY (Friendly) Our trip to Belfast at the end of March 2035 would surely be 'make-or-break' with regards to our hopes of qualification for the 2036 UEFA European Championship. A week before then, though, we travelled to the Albanian capital of Tirana to compete in a rather less pressurised environment. This friendly would give us time to sharpen up our skills before we entertained Northern Ireland. Previously little more than lightweights in international football, Albania had established themselves as a rather strong team over the last two decades. Kuq e Zinjte (The Red and Blacks) qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and only missed out on the 2034 finals after losing to Turkey in a play-off. They also went close to qualifying for the last two European Championships, so their FIFA World Ranking of 36th was perhaps unsurprising. The undisputed star of this Albania side was versatile midfielder Arjan Krasniqi, who spent six-and-a-half years at Norwich City before moving to Nottingham Forest last summer. Other notable faces in the squad included Galatasaray winger Spiro Jakupi, Olympiacos midfielder Klevis Keci, and striker Fatmir Malaj, who played for Czech champions Mladá Boleslav. Albania would definitely provide a stern test for us, but I felt that we had enough quality in our squad to beat them. The eleven players that I selected to start in Tirana were a mixture of key men and backup options. Kim André Gasland and Kristoffer Svendsen were among those who kept their starting places, but record scorer Thomas Wikstrand was dropped to the bench, as was midfielder Tom Inge Fiskum. This would be the first match of my Norway reign in which Fiskum was not on the pitch at kick-off. 20-year-old left-back Nikolas Kristensen made his first senior international appearance from the outset, while Trond Belsas replaced Dagfinn Haug on the right side of our defence. Midfielder Anders Engebraten was given his second cap, over a year after his first, and Emil Solberg was named as the lone centre-forward. 24 March 2035: Albania vs Norway - at Qemal Stafa, Tirana Albania wasted a great chance to pull ahead after just five minutes. Captain Arjan Krasniqi won an aerial challenge with our goalkeeper Kim André Gasland and got his head to a free-kick delivery from Ledian Keci, but he couldn't keep it on target. Albania goalie Ervis Kodra made his first save in the 9th minute, stopping a tame drive from Anders Engebraten. The 31-year-old custodian from Rapid Wien would thwart Engebraten again six minutes later with another solid catch. Gasland then saved us in the 22nd minute, securing a headed effort from Fatmir Malaj, who went down in agony afterwards. The 25-year-old - whose first international goal actually came against Norway about two years ago - had to come off briefly for some treatment. Malaj had just returned to the pitch when we had our next attempt on goal - a 26th-minute half-volley from Dogus Ayan that Kodra spilled before the Albanian defenders frantically cleared the danger. Mikael Nordnes and Emil Solberg later missed the target for us before Gasland pushed away a 39th-minute strike by Krasniqi. It looked like this half would finish goalless... and then, in the first minute of injury time, Solberg went down in Albania's area under a tackle from Kuq e Zinjte defender Aldo Hasani. The referee pointed to the spot, from which Frode Krovel slotted an excellent penalty past Kodra and put our noses in front! I brought on Thomas Wikstrand for Ayan at the interval in a bid to turn the tide inexorably in our favour. However, Albania's own half-time substitute would make a much quicker impact. Less than a minute into the second half, Gzim Agolli - a striker with third-tier German side FSV Frankfurt - thrashed home a pass from Krasniqi, and the Eagles took flight. Albania could've gone 2-1 up on 49 minutes had Gasland not reacted quickly enough to divert Malaj's latest effort away from his goal. Kim would make a more comfortable save two minutes later from Spiro Jakupi. Another two minutes later, Wikstrand skimmed Albania's crossbar with a threatening header. Per Kristian Rossbach and Solberg also narrowly missed out on restoring our advantage before young midfielder Arlind Kraja blasted a couple of Albanian shots wide. After 65 minutes, Kraja set up a great opportunity for Brazilian-born midfield colleague Clodoaldo, whose fierce strike was pushed behind by Gasland. Clodoaldo's subsequent corner was a poor one, but Kuq e Zinjte launched another attack moments later. Kraja slotted a first-time ball into our penalty area, and Malaj outpaced our skipper Kristoffer Svendsen to reach the pass and slip it beyond Gasland. 2-1 to Albania. At that point, I brought on the two Ronnies - midfielder Ronny Brodholt and winger Ronny Ulfsby - along with defender Tobias Juliussen to try and turn the game around. One great chance to do that came from a counter-attacking move five minutes before the end. Jan Holmedal knocked an excellent ball to Thomas Wikstand, who had plenty of space down the right and tried to whip a cross into Albania's six-yard box. Unfortunately, Ilir Kola cleared the danger for the hosts, and when Tom Inge Fiskum fired a long-ranger off target in the 88th minute, it became apparent that we had run out of steam. Despite holding a 1-0 lead at half-time, there would no positive result for us here. Albania - 2 (Agolli 46, Malaj 66) Norway - 1 (Krovel pen45) Friendly, Attendance 12,148 NORWAY LINE-UP: Gasland, Belsas, Svendsen, Nordnes (Juliussen), Kristensen, Kleppa Christensen, Engebraten (Fiskum), Krovel (Brodholt), Ayan (Wikstrand), Rossbach (Ulfsby), Solberg (Holmedal). Make no mistake, that was a real missed opportunity. We should have taken away at least a draw, but our defence lost focus in the second half. It appeared that we had major problems at the back, and I would have six days to sort them out before we returned to competitive action. This next game would, without any doubt, be the most important of my short reign.
  2. MARCH 2035 Talk about tempting fate. At the end of February, I said that a knee ligament injury to Hamzah Jaafar would hopefully be the worst of our problems. Right at the very start of March, attacking midfielder Stipo Brkic sustained a slipped disc in weight training. He was subsequently ruled out of action for three months. That's right, folks. Our best attacking midfield playmaker, who had 10 Premier League assists to his name, is done for the season. Brilliant. Jacques Polomat therefore had to take Brkic's place just behind the strikers when we travelled to relegation rivals Nottingham Forest a couple of days later. Centre-back George Darvill, who'd just won the Premier League Young Player of the Month award yet again (I suspect his dad might be on the awards committee), continued his run of starting in every league game for us this season. 3 March 2035: Nottingham Forest vs Dagenham & Redbridge A couple of defenders seemed to leave their heads in the dressing room, as Nottingham Forest got off to a flying start. Firstly, after a little under two minutes, Forest captain Andy Willis leapt above Dagenham centre-back Velimir Radosavljevic to meet Aleluia's corner with a header that deflected in off his colleague Jens Meertens. That goal was credited to the Dutch centre-half, but we sought to quickly cancel it out. That was when we found Forest goalie Alex Albert to be far more alert than his Serbia team-mate Velimir. The Brazilian-born former West Ham United man kept out a couple of efforts from Souleymane Nomaou in the 6th and 7th minutes. The hosts would then go 2-0 ahead in the 8th minute, as our other Serb was caught out. Stevo Buac was beaten to a long ball from Bernard Bell by Terry Swann, who cut it across our area for Paul Doyle to apply a simple finish. Two minutes later, another Daggers defender began to clear up his colleagues' mess. Left-back Rocco Mazzola snuck ahead of the Tricky Trees' defence to tap in Jacques Polomat's through-ball and halve our arrears with his first top-flight goal. If that goal had shifted the momentum, though, it didn't show in the 15th minute. Paraguay winger Aleluia cut inside from the left and then pulled wide a shot that could've given the home team a 3-1 lead. Doyle also missed a chance to make it 3-1 in the 20th minute. Five minutes later, our right-back Albert Khumalo halted another run inside from Aleluia with a superb tackle. We then steadily probed the ball forward before Polomat laid on a killer pass that Robbie MacKenzie drilled into the bottom corner! We were back level at 2-2! Mind you, Arjan Krasniqi could've restored Forest's advantage just a minute later with a header that thankfully bounced safely into Kieran Whalley's grasp. Two minutes after that, Aleluia's outswinging corner into the Dagenham area was powered just over by centre-back Bell. Our covering defender George Darvill picked up his first booking of the season a few moments later for pulling back on Doyle's shirt. We then survived a couple more scares, with Forest midfielders Krasniqi and John Woods each missing the target before half-time. Whalley showed real anxiety in the second minute of the second half, when he hooked a long ball that was intercepted by Swann. 32-year-old Swann was on 18 Premier League goals for the season, and he attempted a spectacular drive that didn't get particularly close to making it 19. Another awful shot came in the 50th minute from Nomaou, whose attempt to chip Alex Albert in the Forest goal was blown well off course. The home attack that followed was devastating. Krasniqi lobbed the ball ahead of Doyle, who broke clear of Radosavljevic before lashing in a stunning half-volley from a tight angle! Forest were 3-2 up, but there was real concern at the City Ground when captain Willis twisted his knee in the 52nd minute. Willis hobbled on for a few minutes before a rough challenge from Polomat aggravated his injury further and forced him to come off for good. Forest didn't look so secure without their skipper, and we looked to take advantage midway through the second period. Velimir, who'd arguably cost us one if not two goals, headed over a chance to make amends and draw us level on 62 minutes. Sol was also having a day to forget, and I opted to substitute him after he blazed a shot high in the 65th minute. Stevo would also be subbed, though not before we almost let in a fourth goal on 74 minutes. Whalley displayed fantastic reflexes to tip behind a piledriver from Swann that had seemingly been heading for the top corner. Five minutes later, a Daggers breakaway ended with substitute striker Edmundo being brought down in the six-yard box by a clumsy Bell. MacKenzie may have missed our last penalty, but he still felt confident enough to take this one. Robbie's self-belief shone through as he sent Alex Albert the wrong way for his 10th goal of the season - and the sixth goal of another thrilling match! Two minutes after being pegged back to 3-3, Nottingham Forest went back on the offensive, with midfield substitute Alex Payne forcing Whalley into a difficult save. The next attack from either side came in the first minute of injury time. Edmundo collected the ball from fellow Daggers sub Greg Killick and formed a passing triangle with Robbie and Jacques before hammering a shot at goal. We held our collective breaths in the Dagenham dugout... and then groaned in agony as the Brazilian's strike fizzed over. Those groans would become more pronounced three minutes later. We were just moments from taking an away point when Swann climbed above George to nod Jonas Niederhauser's left-wing cross into the net and secure all three for Forest. Gutted. Nottingham Forest - 4 (Meertens 2, Doyle 8,50, Swann 90) Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Mazzola 10, MacKenzie 25,pen80) Premier League, Attendance 16,403 - POSITIONS: Nottm Forest 17th, Dag & Red 15th DAG & RED LINE-UP: Whalley, Buac (Moser), Darvill, Radosavljevic, Khumalo, Mazzola, Fraser, Barnes (Killick), Polomat, MacKenzie, Nomaou (Edmundo). BOOKED: Darvill. Well, that was a real defensive disaster, wasn't it? I held Serbian stoppers Stevo Buac and Velimir Radosavljevic responsible for most of the damage, and neither of them would be playing in our next game. Matthew Fraser would also be out of our home match against 12th-placed West Bromwich Albion, having sustained a rib injury late on in Nottingham. Matthew was joined on a fast-growing injury list by Joel Honeyball, who'd broken a cheekbone in training and couldn't play again for at least four weeks.
  3. That was just a crazy result. Liverpool's defending bordered on the shambolic at times - it felt like my birthday had come a couple of months early!
  4. MARCH 2035 This is my second full year as Norway manager - and unless we pick things up in qualifying for UEFA Euro 2036, it could well prove to be my last. Defeats to Germany and Greece at the back end of 2034 had left us chasing all the other teams in Group E. Our first two fixtures of 2035 were a warm-up match in Albania on 24 March, followed by an absolutely vital qualifier in Northern Ireland six days later. Defeat in Belfast would surely deal a fateful blow to any realistic chance we had of qualifying for next year's finals in my native England. A New Year meant a new Scandinavian football season - and transfers for some of our players. Two of our Norway-based defensive midfielders moved to new Eliteserien clubs. Anders Engerbraten made a £140,000 move from Viking, who finished 10th last year, to Valerenga, who came 5th. After being released by his hometown club Rosenborg, Snorre Alexandersen made a fresh start at... erm, Start. Goalkeeper Kim André Gasland was also on the move once again. He didn't play much for Sunderland, he wasn't playing much for Rangers... and he still wasn't playing at his new club Nice, who'd taken him on loan from Ibrox simply to warm their bench. As Norway manager, I found it incredibly frustrating that my first-choice goalie was getting hardly any competitive action outside of international football. Since we last had the pleasure of one another's company, Norway's FIFA World Ranking had been up and down like an elevator. We were 97th as things stood, but that had the potential to drastically change again, depending on how we fared against Albania and Northern Ireland. Anyway, I won't faff around for much longer. Here was my 23-man squad for our forthcoming fixtures: NAME POSITIONS AGE CLUB CAPS GOALS HEIGHT WEIGHT VALUE Kim André Gasland GK 32 Nice 33 0 5'11" 12st 12lbs £825K Anders Korneliussen GK 30 Lillestrom 0 0 6'1" 13st 7lbs £1.5K Magnus Sundt GK 32 Sarpsborg 2 0 6'0" 13st 5lbs £16K Dagfinn Haug D (RC) 33 Haugesund 39 0 5'9" 11st 13lbs £14K Trond Belsas D (RLC) 29 Brann 7 0 5'11" 12st 3lbs £45K Tobias Juliussen D (C) 27 Frankfurt 8 0 6'4" 14st 4lbs £875K Mikael Nordnes D (C) 30 Sheff Utd 24 4 6'3" 13st 7lbs £2.7M Kristoffer Svendsen D (C) 35 Tottenham 102 2 6'0" 12st 6lbs £210K Emil Solberg D (C), ST 32 Newcastle 65 2 6'2" 13st 5lbs £1.5M Nikolas Kristensen D/WB (L) 20 Helsingborg 0 0 5'11" 11st 9lbs £65K Anders Heramb Ramberg D/WB/AM (L) 33 Molde 44 1 6'0" 12st 8lbs £55K Anders Engebraten DM, M (C) 24 Valerenga 1 0 5'9" 11st 11lbs £90K Freddy Fjellandsbo DM, M (C) 27 Fredrikstad 4 0 5'11" 12st 6lbs £700K Ronny Ulfsby M (RC), AM (R) 34 Hannover 74 13 6'2" 13st 3lbs £525K Ronny Brodholt M (C) 32 Sampdoria 37 0 5'5" 10st 3lbs £1.6M Jarle Kleppa Christensen M (C) 33 Sampdoria 75 2 5'11" 11st 13lbs £170K Per Kristian Rossbach M/AM (L) 31 Heerenveen 57 2 5'10" 11st 6lbs £95K Tom Inge Fiskum M/AM (C) 23 Rosenborg 7 0 5'8" 11st 2lbs £650K Orjan Olsen AM (RC) 29 Molde 3 0 6'4" 13st 12lbs £600K Frode Krovel AM (RL), ST 28 Dusseldorf 21 4 5'11" 12st 6lbs £1.2M Dogus Ayan AM (LC) 27 Trabzonspor 15 1 6'0" 12st 6lbs £1.8M Jan Holmedal ST 26 Dinamo 12 4 5'11" 12st 3lbs £2.3M Thomas Wikstrand ST 31 Dusseldorf 75 38 6'0" 12st 6lbs £4.1M Well, some Norway fans will have undoubtedly been delighted that I finally dropped 67-year-old Per Morten Styrkesnes - and possibly for good. Styrkesnes had been found badly wanting in our last match in Piraeus, where Greece winger Vangelis Vyzas pretty much had him on toast for breakfast. I'm not sure if I can trust the old geezer anymore. Taking Styrkesnes' place in the Norway squad was the much younger Nikolas Kristensen, who had already established himself as a regular starter across the border at Allsvenskan side Helsingborg. He's still very raw technically, but I believe that Kristensen can become first-choice at left-back before too long. I pondered dropping Dagfinn Haug as well, but the right-back had a great season personally at Haugesund last year and perhaps deserved to stay in the squad on balance. There were also calls among the Norwegian press for me to drop another veteran defender in Kristoffer Svendsen. He'd only missed three Premier League games for Tottenham Hotspur this term, though, and I'd have been nuts to drop my best centre-back, even if he was on the decline. Besides Kristensen, the only other change to my squad from last time out was that Magnus Sundt replaced his Sarpsborg rival Sivert Lindahl among the goalkeepers. I found it very difficult to choose between Alexandersen, Engebraten and Freddy Fjellandsbo as to which two of those defensive midfielders would be in my squad. Alexandersen was the unlucky one to miss out, even though his Start side had begun the Eliteserien campaign with back-to-back victories.
  5. Thank you. Wish I could say the same about my team's early performances in the Euro qualifiers.
  6. FEBRUARY 2035 Five of our loan stars returned to Dagenham & Redbridge early in February. Right-back Ross Pearson was almost ready to become a permanent part of the first-team picture after impressing for League One leaders Bolton Wanderers. Meanwhile, winger Shaun Powell played in no fewer than 38 games for Championship club Leeds United, registering four goals and eight assists. Then there were the strikers. Peguy Kasongo continued his steady progress by scoring 11 goals for Oldham Athletic, while Christophe Smith managed eight for Wrexham. Toby Faithfull's more underwhelming tally of three goals for Wycombe Wanderers suggested that the 17-year-old had perhaps stepped up to senior football too early. Our first league match of February saw us go toe-to-toe with Chelsea again - at Stamford Bridge. Lee Nicholls' Blues were on course to put up the worst title defence in Premier League history, as they were placed in mid-table with 10 wins, 10 defeats, and 5 draws. One of those losses, you'll surely remember, came at Victoria Road in October. 3 February 2035: Chelsea vs Dagenham & Redbridge Chelsea's feeble title defence was largely down to an impotent attack. The extent of the champions' attacking Blues became evident in the first half. Spanish midfielder Guillermo Mas smashed their first shot well off target after 11 minutes. Three minutes after that, Mas' compatriot Humberto Cano had to prevent Chelsea from going 1-0 down by saving an effort from our Brazilian striker Edmundo. That would prove to be our only serious attacking foray in the entire opening 45 minutes. The hosts could only muster three more attempts on goal during the last half-hour of that period. Striker Alun Harding's 16th-minute header was easily caught by Kieran Whalley, while midfielder Khaled Fahim curled a free-kick just over in the 19th. The last opportunity fell to leading scorer Gianni Improta in injury time, but the Italian's effort from the edge of the area drifted well off target. The Blues had quite frankly been awful, but I could sense at half-time that a couple of my players were getting surprisingly cocky, so I opted to make two substitutions during the break. Chelsea looked like they needed either a stroke of luck or a Dagenham mistake to take the lead. After 47 minutes, they got a mixture of both. Whalley collected a back-pass from George Darvill and bravely took it out of his penalty area, only to panic as Improta closed him down. Kieran tried to hoof the ball upfield, but it bounced off Improta and left the 24-year-old free to tap in his 10th Premier League goal of the season. That was an embarrassing moment for our goalkeeper, but I could still see the funny side of it! I certainly wouldn't have been laughing had Improta converted his next scoring chance just a couple of minutes later. Our first real opportunity to get back on terms came after Chelsea captain Christopher Khan clipped the back of Rob McLoughlin's heels in the 62nd minute. Khan was booked, and Matthew Fraser dispatched his free-kick just wide. We would then find out just why the Blues, while not scoring many goals, didn't concede many either. Khan and co restricted us to just a couple more scoring attempts in the closing stages. McLoughlin wasted an opening in the 87th minute, while centre-back Hamzah Jaafar had a header caught by Cano right in the final seconds of stoppage time. Our unbeaten start to 2035 in the league ended here at Stamford Bridge, but we had done tremendously well to restrict the champs to a 1-0 win, especially after winger Tomas Jazvin struck the bar in the 84th minute. Chelsea - 1 (Improta 47) Dagenham & Redbridge - 0 Premier League, Attendance 43,000 - POSITIONS: Chelsea 8th, Dag & Red 14th DAG & RED LINE-UP: Whalley, Moser, Jaafar, Darvill, Djuzel (O'Reilly), Brennan (Killick), Barnes, Fraser, Brkic, McLoughlin, Edmundo (Nomaou). Despite that loss, we remained nine points clear of the drop zone by the time we entertained Liverpool at Victoria Road. The Reds had recently emerged as outside contenders for what would be their first league championship in 45 years, sitting below only the Manchester clubs in 3rd place. We had right-back Albert Khumalo back in the squad for this match following his return from the Africa Cup of Nations. However, Albert was seriously short on match fitness, having not played a single minute at the tournament before South Africa were eliminated by Tunisia in the Quarter Finals. 7 February 2035: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Liverpool Liverpool's defence got off to an uncharacteristically slow start. We took full advantage of their lethargy in the second minute, when Souleymane Nomaou ran through and powered Stipo Brkic's weighted pass into the corner of their net! That made it 1-0 to Dagenham... but only for about a minute, as our own defenders seemed to have nodded off as well! Daggers captain Kieran Whalley angrily ordered his colleagues to wake up when Dave Weaver's header from a Pavle Oljaca corner beat him at his near post, thus drawing Liverpool level. We did wake up after that scare... but the Reds fell asleep again in the fifth minute! When Robbie MacKenzie drove another sublime Brkic pass through the away defence and beyond goalkeeper Gavin Stopforth, we suddenly found ourselves back in the lead at 2-1! Brkic really was looking red-hot, and he burnt the Reds again with another excellent ball to Nomaou in the 9th minute. Unfortunately, Sol couldn't quite make it an early hat-trick of assists for Stipo, as his shot clipped the outside of Stopforth's left-hand post and deflected behind. Two minutes later, Liverpool striker Liam Baldwin looked like he would get the game's fourth game when he collected an Oljaca cross on the edge of our penalty area. Whalley managed to parry Baldwin's half-volley and keep us in front, but this match was starting to become a bit of a free-for-all! Surely this frenetic pace couldn't be sustained... When Nomaou went down hurt under a crunching tackle from Reds centre-half Victor Hugo in the 15th minute, there was a real fear that we might have lost our momentum. Sol had to come off with a gashed leg, and Edmundo was sent from the bench to replace him. With Brkic still in the team, though, we remained as threatening as ever. Stipo stunned Liverpool again after 25 minutes with his third assist of the game, which set up fellow midfielder Greg Killick's powerfully-struck first ever goal for the Daggers! The Stipo Brkic show continued three minutes later, when the dynamic Dane made it FOUR assists in a mere 28 minutes! Brkic muscled Liverpool middleman René Wijmer off the ball and moved it forward to MacKenzie, who almost ripped the net open with his second goal of the night! We weren't even a third of the way through the match, yet it was already 4-1 to the Daggers! Liverpool realistically had to score again before half-time if they were to stay in the game. Baldwin tried his best to do that in the 36th minute with a blistering shot that Whalley knocked behind the byline for a corner. Daggers defender Hamzah Jaafar made a poor interception from Adi Music's corner, and Weaver pounced on it with an excellent header. It looked like it was 4-2... but then the ref blew his whistle for a foul on MacKenzie from Weaver, who disgustedly chucked the ball away and was lucky not to be booked for dissent. Had that big call effectively won us the game before the second half? I demanded a professional and ruthless attitude for the second period, two minutes into which we almost scored a fifth goal through Seb Brennan. Seb was doing a fine job at right wing-back, and he would win us a penalty in the 53rd minute. Brennan went down under a push from Reds left-back Erik Molenaar as both men went after a direct ball from Matthew Fraser, prompting the referee to point to the spot. Fraser is rubbish at penalties nowadays, so MacKenzie took this opportunity to wrap up his hat-trick... but Stopforth put a stop to his plans! The new England number 1 then punched away the subsequent Fraser corner to keep our lead at 4-1. Liverpool finally seemed to have figured our gameplan out, and they were pushing higher up the pitch to try and put us under greater pressure. That plan didn't work for them on the attacking side of things, though they managed to stave off any attacks we could throw at them - until the 76th minute. Then Matthew drifted a corner to our substitute centre-half Stevo Buac, who didn't score at all in 442 Chelsea appearances, yet managed to find the net in his 11th game for the Daggers! 5-1 to Dagenham, and game over? Not quite. Liverpool managed to pull it back to 5-2 in the 79th minute through another excellent corner delivery. Weaver's diving header was parried by Whalley into the path of Wales full-back Ken Moore, who finished the move for his first Reds goal. Liverpool then made it 5-3 from another corner a minute later, with Weaver's second strike putting a few doubts in our mind. The visitors could not continue their comeback, though, and a slack pass from Baldwin in injury time led to them conceding yet again. Brkic intercepted the pass and played it to MacKenzie, who promptly set up Edmundo for the game's ninth and final goal. In a truly pulsating encounter, we had defeated Liverpool by 6 goals to 3! Dagenham & Redbridge - 6 (Nomaou 2, MacKenzie 5,28, Killick 25, Buac 76, Edmundo 90) Liverpool - 3 (Weaver 3,80, Moore 79) Premier League, Attendance 12,000 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 11th, Liverpool 3rd DAG & RED LINE-UP: Whalley, Radosavljevic, Darvill, Jaafar (Buac), Brennan (Khumalo), O'Reilly, Killick, Fraser, Brkic, MacKenzie, Nomaou (Edmundo). BOOKED: Jaafar. Unfortunately, the gash to Souleymane Nomaou's leg would keep him out of our next game three days later. After defeating the 18-time English champions, we faced 26-time champions Manchester United at Old Trafford. United were on course for title number 27, as they were six points clear of noisy neighbours Manchester City at the Premier League summit. Star striker Sean Jordan had torn his hamstring in their most recent game at Nottingham Forest, but the Red Devils had another lethal hitman in Salford-bred Moses Penfold, who was on an impressive 24 PL goals this season. 10 February 2035: Manchester United vs Dagenham & Redbridge Manchester United didn't take long to give ex-Manchester City trainee Kieran Whalley his first test in the Dagenham goal. After barely half a minute, Moses Penfold flicked a Marcus Cowley header towards goal, only for Whalley to pull off a breathtaking save that palmed it away! Kieran would save another header, this time from United's Paraguayan centre-back Cristino Valdez, in the 6th minute. Two minutes after that, we found out just why Old Trafford was nicknamed the 'Theatre of Dreams'. Daggers defender Velimir Radosavljevic's wildest dream came true when he prodded a rebound shot into the net after his colleague George Darvill's header had rattled the post! Believe it or not, it was Manchester United 0 Dagenham & Redbridge 1! That scoreline could've become more incredible in the 13th minute, but another Darvill header at goal bypassed Radosavljevic and the post. By the 20th minute, our dream would be over. Shortly after Sebastián Núnez went close to erasing our lead, the Argentine megastar cut the ball to Marcus Cowley, who whipped a cross into our penalty area. The cross cleared Velimir and fell towards Penfold, whose diving header was far too lethal. Penfold, to quote the great Manchester band The Stone Roses, felt "so good to have equalised", and he was soon looking to shoot us down again. The England ace collected a centre from full-back Rocco Gagliardi in the 27th minute and was only denied a second goal by a point-blank save from Whalley. Darvill's attacking misfortunes continued after 35 minutes, when a header from Matthew Fraser's led to him hitting the woodwork for a second time. In the 39th minute, Daggers right-back John Moser was caught out at the other end. John failed to keep tabs on Gagliardi before the Italian curled in a cross that Penfold flicked past Kieran from a tight angle. Penfold's 26th goal of the league season completed the United resurrection, and we would go into the dressing room trailing 2-1. Moser had already picked up a knock earlier in the first half, so I replaced him with Albert Khumalo for the second period. Albert and our defence struggled to deal with the Red Devils early in the second half, and Penfold could easily have secured his hat-trick on 52 minutes. Kieran made a fine catch to deny Penfold his treble, while his United counterpart Dave Pierce stopped a counter-attacking effort from Jacques Polomat. That was as close as Polomat or his fellow Dagenham frontman Edmundo would get to scoring. Manchester United's defence appeared to be made of stone, and it was testament to their resilience that centre-back Darvill represented our biggest attacking threat to them - and exclusively from set-pieces. As the half wore on, George's defensive abilities started to wilt under the extended pressure United were putting us under. In the 69th minute, he was beaten by a diving header from Penfold that Kieran desperately turned away just in time. The trickle of home shots was turning into a waterfall, and we would be swept away three minutes later. Substitute Sam Hohn breached our offside trap to tap Cowley's cross past Whalley and effectively wrap up the win for the Red Devils. United wouldn't stop there, and in the 74th minute, they almost made it 'all 4-1' (okay, now I'm taking liberties with these Stone Roses references). Núnez's free-kick was well held by Whalley, who wouldn't let a couple of earlier lapses prevent him from keeping the scoreline respectable. When all was said and done, a 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford was still an admirable result from our point of view. Manchester United - 3 (Penfold 20,39, Hohn 72) Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Radosavljevic 8) Premier League, Attendance 73,172 - POSITIONS: Man Utd 1st, Dag & Red 14th DAG & RED LINE-UP: Whalley, Moser (Khumalo), Radosavljevic, Darvill, Djuzel, Brennan, Barnes, Fraser, Brkic, Polomat (McLoughlin), Edmundo (Honeyball). BOOKED: Barnes. Because we were out of both cups, that was actually our last match in February. The next three weeks would be spent hard at work on the training field, while the first-teamers would also play in a reserve game or two to keep their match fitness up. Meanwhile, I opted to send Welsh winger Shaun Powell back out on loan to another Championship team. He would spend the last three months of the season at Watford. Although I'd upped the intensity of our training session, we got through our extended break relatively injury-free. Centre-back Hamzah Jaafar strained his knee ligaments and will be out until mid-April, but hopefully that's the worst of our problems. Hopefully.
  7. Yes, it is definitely possible. From my experience in FM17, I started a save at Millwall and was offered the Northern Ireland job a few years later.
  8. Did the power cut out whilst you were in the process of saving the game? If so, then I'm afraid that the save file will have corrupted. I'd suggest you follow these tips to see if your save game can still be salvaged.
  9. *** Mark Catterall's first taste of playing in a major tournament for England came in 1996, when 'football came home' for the UEFA European Championship. The Blackburn Rovers midfielder was brought on for a couple of cameo appearances in the Three Lions' first two group matches against Switzerland and Scotland. The latter game was particularly memorable for that half-volley from Paul Gascoigne - and that 'dental chair' celebration. Catterall made his third and final appearance of the tournament, also as a substitute, in the Quarter Final against Spain, where England recorded their first ever victory in a penalty shoot-out. Thanks to the goalkeeping heroics of David Seaman, and the sharp shooting of his outfield team-mates, the newcomer would not need to step up and take a spot-kick. England would also be taken to penalties in their Semi Final against Germany, which finished 1-1 after extra-time. However, this match was to end in agony for the hosts - and for Catterall, who could only watch the disaster unfold as an unused substitute. As the shoot-out rolled into sudden death at 5-5, Aston Villa defender Gareth Southgate saw his spot-kick saved by German goalkeeper Andreas Köpke. That was followed by an emphatic penalty from Borussia Dortmund's Andreas Möller, and the collective breakings of millions of English hearts. The Mannschaft went through to the Final, where they would beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in extra-time, courtesy of Oliver Bierhoff's golden goal. Terry Venables stepped down as England coach after Euro 1996, with legendary former midfielder Glenn Hoddle succeeding him. Catterall was very much part of Hoddle's plans, and he would find starting appearances much easier to come by. Catterall quickly became an important member of the team, and there were few complaints when he was named in the squad for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. There was plenty of competition in central midfield in this England squad. As well as Catterall, Hoddle had the likes of Darren Anderton, David Beckham, Paul Ince and Paul Scholes at his disposal, not to mention David Batty - a former team-mate of Catterall's at Blackburn. Former talisman Gascoigne had been controversially left out of the squad, perhaps because of his off-the-field antics rather than any problems on it. England cruised to a 2-0 victory over Tunisia in their first group game before falling to a 2-1 defeat against Romania. Catterall did not feature in either of those games, although he did make his first World Cup appearance when the Three Lions played Colombia. He came on in the 79th minute as a replacement for Anderton, whose 20th-minute opener was followed up nine minutes later by an exceptional free-kick from Manchester United's 23-year-old rising star Beckham. England won 2-0 and were safely into the next round. England's opponents in Round 2 - or the Last 16, if you prefer - were old rivals Argentina. It was 16 years on from the Falklands War, during which one of Catterall's uncles had served for the Royal Navy, and the British media were keen to stoke up tensions before kick-off. Both teams scored penalties early on, with England captain Alan Shearer cancelling out Gabriel Batistuta's opener for Argentina. The match really caught fire in the 16th minute, as a superb solo goal from Liverpool wonderkid Michael Owen fired the Three Lions into a 2-1 lead. The 19-year-old's joy wouldn't last until half-time, as Javier Zanetti drew Argentina level just before the break. Then, barely a minute into the second half, disaster struck for England. Argentine hardman Diego Simeone barged into the back of Beckham, who retaliated by kicking out at the midfielder - right in full view of referee Kim Milton Nielsen. Beckham was red-carded, and England had to play out the rest of the match with just 10 men. The Three Lions somehow held firm, despite their disadvantage, and remained level after 90 minutes. Catterall had been left on the bench in reserve, but he would get his opportunity to shine seven minutes into extra-time, when he took over from Anderton in midfield. That was Hoddle's final substitution, and it would prove fateful. With neither team able to break through again before the two hours were up, a penalty shoot-out would be required to decide who would play against the Netherlands in the World Cup Quarter Finals. Argentina and England each converted three of their first four penalties, effectively sending the shoot-out into 'sudden death' mode. When Roberto Ayala gave the South Americans a 4-3 advantage, the pressure was firmly on whoever took England's fifth penalty kick. Up stepped 26-year-old Mark Catterall of Blackburn Rovers. Catterall was a surprising choice to take this penalty, considering that he had scored only twice previously for England, and never in a competitive match. Commentating for ITV, Brian Moore asked former England skipper Kevin Keegan, "Do you back him to score, yes or no?" Keegan confidently replied, "Yes." Catterall blasted the penalty to Carlos Roa's right-hand side, but the eccentric Argentine goalkeeper pushed it away, prompting Keegan - and millions of his compatriots - to groan in horror. A disconsolate Catterall trudged glumly back towards the centre circle, struggling to come to terms with the fact that he'd knocked his country out of the World Cup. Catterall never played at another major tournament, though that penalty miss would not be his final act in an England shirt. He would play in three more matches for the Three Lions later in 1998, scoring against the Czech Republic in what would prove to be his last international. Hoddle was sacked as England boss in February 1999, following an infamous interview with The Times, in which he said, "You and I have been physically given two hands and two legs and half-decent brains. Some people have not been born like that for a reason. The karma is working from another lifetime. I have nothing to hide about that. It is not only people with disabilities. What you sow, you have to reap." Keegan succeeded Hoddle later that year, but Catterall was unavailable for selection for his first few England squads. Catterall had been transferred from Blackburn to Derby County for £3million in July 1998. Just eight months later, however, he suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury that would eventually curtail his career at Pride Park. By the time he returned to full fitness in 2000, he found that the much younger Seth Johnson had taken his spot in the team. Catterall moved on again in March 2000, joining Sunderland for £2.5million. The Mackems were now managed by his former Manchester City boss Peter Reid, while veteran striker Niall Quinn was another familiar face from Maine Road. This was Sunderland's first season back up in the Premier League, but they did tremendously well to finish 7th. They would repeat the feat in 2000/2001 - Catterall's first full season at the Stadium of Light. The combative midfielder had become a popular figure on Wearside, but his consistently impressive performances weren't enough to earn an England recall. After being repeatedly overlooked by Keegan, and also by his successor Sven-Göran Eriksson, Catterall was destined never to pull on an England jersey again. He had represented the national team at the highest level on 29 occasions between 1995 and 1998, scoring three goals. Now approaching his 30s, Catterall's club career went into a steady decline from the 2001/2002 season onwards. Sunderland narrowly avoided relegation that season, but they wouldn't be so fortunate 12 months later. Reid was sacked very early on in a campaign that would see the Mackems go through three managers and win just four Premier League games before pitifully limping home in last place. Catterall didn't drop down to Division 1 with Sunderland, instead linking up with Reid once more after joining Leeds United on a free transfer in the summer of 2003. Just a few years earlier, Leeds were UEFA Champions League Semi Finalists and spending extravagant sums to try and keep themselves amongst the elite. Now, the Whites were in the midst of a full-blown financial crisis - a crisis that would engulf this once-proud Yorkshire club. In a virtual repeat of the previous season at Sunderland, Reid paid the price for a dreadful start, and his managerial successor - bona-fide United legend Eddie Gray - could not save Leeds from relegation. Catterall could never be accused of slacking whilst at Elland Road, but it was clear that his best days as a footballer were behind him. His footballing CV now contained one Premier League victory from nine years previous, and two relegations that were much fresher in people's minds. At the age of 32, his top-flight career was coming to an end. Catterall's next destination was indeed Division 1 (now rebranded the Championship), but not with Leeds. He moved from West Yorkshire to South Yorkshire, joining Sheffield United for the 2004/2005 season. He would spend just one year at Bramall Lane, and a reunion with Hoddle at Wolverhampton Wanderers the following season proved to be similarly brief. Then, in the summer of 2006, Catterall decided to go back to his roots. Blackpool, now playing in League One, had come calling. Catterall could not turn down the opportunity to play for his hometown club - the club where his dad Brian was held in such high esteem. The 2006/2007 season would end in glory for Blackpool, who finished 3rd in League One before defeating Yeovil Town 2-0 in the Play-Off Final. It was only fitting that the now 35-year-old Mark Catterall captained the Seasiders to promotion at the newly-rebuilt Wembley Stadium, in front of his now terminally ill father. Brian Catterall would succumb to pancreatic cancer in October 2007, aged 58. His final words to Mark were, "Even if it's the last thing you do as a footballer, please keep Blackpool in the Championship." Mark Catterall would indeed fulfil his father's dying wish, keeping Blackpool in the Championship in their first season up, albeit by only two points. Catterall junior only played in 12 matches that season due to a string of injuries - a sign that, at the age of 36, his body was starting to fail him physically. Few at Bloomfield Road were surprised when he subsequently announced his retirement from football, ending an eventful 16-year career that had spanned eight clubs and over 500 league matches. *** While his old friend Mark Catterall was establishing himself as one of England's top midfielders, Michael Burke spent much of the mid-1990s in the footballing wilderness. After his career came to a premature end in 1994, Burke - still aged only 22 - sank into a deep depression and was unemployed for 18 months. Burke started to get back on his feet in 1996, when he enrolled on a teacher-training course at the University of Manchester. After two years of studying, he acquired his qualifications and began teaching History to first-year students at a secondary school in Moss Side. Then, in the summer of 2000, Burke had an epiphany. England's early exit from the UEFA European Championship had convinced him that he could've done better, had he been able to fulfil his once huge potential on the pitch. He now wanted to stamp his mark on the future of English football - and that meant going into coaching. Burke began studying for his first Football Association coaching badge later that year. Within 12 months, he had swapped the classroom for the sports field, becoming a full-time Physical Education teacher at his old school in Salford. With his previous experience of playing at the highest level (albeit very briefly), Burke inspired those students who played under him for the school football team. A few of them went on to emulate their teacher by signing for Manchester City's youth team, and then ultimately turning professional, playing for various Football League clubs. Burke acquired a full set of FA coaching licences within four years, and his eye for developing young talent did not go unnoticed. In 2005, he left his PE job to join the youth-team set-up at Bury. Whilst at Gigg Lane, he helped to kick-start the careers of winger David Worrall, who went on to join West Bromwich Albion before becoming a Football League regular, and future Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Dale Stephens. He spent two years with Bury, and then 18 rather less happy months at Oldham Athletic, before moving to Merseyside and becoming a reserve-team coach for Tranmere Rovers in July 2009. It was at Prenton Park where Burke would be reunited with his former schoolmate and team-mate Catterall. Catterall had spent the 2008/2009 season - his first since his retirement from playing - working for Sky Sports as a Football League pundit. By now, he was almost unrecognisable from when he was at the peak of his powers with Blackburn Rovers and England. That mid-1990s mullet had now been consigned to history, as he had - rather symbolically - shaved off his balding locks just days after playing his final professional match. Though his enthusiasm for the sport and his tactical knowledge shone through in his Sky commentary, Catterall knew that this was just a stop-gap, and that he had no desire to work in television for the rest of his professional life. He didn't want to be just another former England international who opted for a cushy punditry job instead of moving into the cut-and-thrust of coaching. Catterall had already taken his first step on the management ladder in 2006, obtaining his first coaching badge whilst still playing in League One for Blackpool. By 2009, he had obtained his UEFA B Licence and was ready to kick-start his new career. Ahead of the 2009/2010 season, Tranmere manager Les Parry decided to give Catterall his first job in coaching. The now 37-year-old was appointed as head coach of Rovers' reserve team, and he brought Burke along with him. 'Catts & Burke' would be at Tranmere for three season, during which time they played significant roles in the emergence of left-back Aaron Cresswell and midfielder Max Power onto the professional stage. As the pair entered their 40s, their coaching careers were going from strength to strength. In March 2012, John Peacock resigned as head coach of England Under-17s after working for the FA for the best part of a decade. A new coach would need to be appointed to work with some of the country's rawest and most talented young footballers, all of whom were either still at school or in the first year of academy scholarships. Catterall and Burke seemed like the 'dream team' for the FA. The former was an ex-England international who had competed at major tournaments and knew the ins-and-outs of team-building; the latter was an erstwhile PE teacher whose man-management skills would help instil belief in budding 15- to 16-year-old footballers. Catterall was named as the new England Under-17s head coach in May 2012, with Burke joining him as his assistant. They relocated from Merseyside and based themselves in Burton-upon-Trent in Staffordshire, where the FA's new national football centre at St George's Park would be opened later that year. Former FA technical director Howard Wilkinson had based St George's Park on the French Football Federation's training centre at Clairefontaine, which had produced many of the France players who won the 1998 FIFA World Cup as well as UEFA Euro 2000. This would be the base for all of the FA's coaching and developmental work, as well as the main training ground for all England national teams - men and women, from seniors to Under-16s. At Under-17s level, the main focus for Catterall and Burke was more on their players' technical and physical development than success at major tournaments. That said, their results at the UEFA European Under-17s Championship over the next four years were mightily impressive. Though England failed to qualify for the 2013 finals, they more than made amends at the 2014 tournament in Malta. They won four of their five matches, avenging that solitary defeat in the Group Stage to the Netherlands by beating the same opponents in the Final. A 4-1 shoot-out win after a 1-1 draw earned the Young Lions just their second European title at that age level. England also reached the knockout phase of the Under-17s Euros in 2015 and 2016, though they ultimately fell short in the Quarter Finals on each occasion. That said, if the Young Lions could translate those results into successes at higher age groups, and then at the very top level, it would surely bode well for the future of English football. Catterall was clearly a coach who was going places within the Football Association. However, when Roy Hodgson stepped down as England manager after the debacle of UEFA Euro 2016, very few would've tipped this young and studious Lancastrian to succeed the wily and much-travelled Londoner.
  10. Premier League Table (End of January 2035) P W D L F A GD PTS 1. Man Utd 25 17 5 3 64 19 +45 56 2. Man City 25 15 6 4 62 28 +34 51 3. Arsenal 24 14 6 4 40 18 +22 48 4. Liverpool 25 14 5 6 48 30 +18 47 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 5. Southampton 25 13 7 5 34 22 +12 46 6. West Ham 25 11 7 7 37 25 +12 40 7. Tottenham 24 11 5 8 39 32 +7 38 8. Derby 25 10 6 9 25 26 -1 36 9. Chelsea 25 10 5 10 24 25 -1 35 10. Rochdale 25 10 5 10 33 38 -5 35 11. Fulham 25 9 5 11 32 34 -2 32 12. West Brom 24 8 8 8 34 47 -13 32 13. Dag & Red 25 8 6 11 30 37 -7 30 14. Norwich 24 7 8 9 27 30 -3 29 15. Wolves 25 8 4 13 28 40 -12 28 16. Burnley 25 6 7 12 27 36 -9 25 17. Everton 25 6 3 16 27 52 -25 21 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 18. Huddersfield 25 5 5 15 23 47 -24 20 19. Brighton 25 5 4 16 38 62 -24 19 20. Nottm Forest 25 4 7 14 30 54 -24 19
  11. JANUARY 2035 (continued) I started my January transfer business by agreeing to sign a Malian international midfielder on a Bosman free transfer. 24-year-old Oumar Fofana is an energetic and aggressive ball-winner who will join our ranks when his contract at Serbian SuperLiga club FK Rad expires in the summer. Meanwhile, I decided to loan out centre-back Carl Quinn yet again. The 20-year-old is still trying to make his mark in senior football, and I hope a four-month stint at Forest Green Rovers in League Two will finally spark him into life. The Dagenham & Redbridge first-team had a couple more home Premier League games in January. Before our grudge match against Lee Clark's Burnley, we grappled with Thomas O'Brien and his Tottenham Hotspur side, who were in 7th place. 20 January 2035: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Tottenham Hotspur I showed plenty of faith in 19-year-old Tristan Egueh by fielding him from the start against a strong Tottenham side. Tristan proved his worth in the first eight minutes, when he struck three excellent shots that were saved by veteran Spurs goalkeeper Stephen Palacios. Captain William Barnes' first effort - a 25-yard volley after six minutes - wasn't quite on target, though he would almost find the net with his next attempt. In the 10th minute, Will met Matthew Fraser's corner with a header that Daniel Poulsen had to hack away from Tottenham's goal line. We would have our first defensive scare after 20 minutes, when goalkeeper Kieran Whalley was called upon to catch a free-kick from Adi Nasser Al-Din. Five minutes later, striker Álvaro Carrascal ran at our defence before pulling an awful shot wide. Three more Spurs players - right-winger Iván Brandan, left-winger Poulsen, and midfielder Vladimir Sipcic - missed the target towards the end of what proved to be a goalless first half. Although our short-passing game was working quite well, I felt that a few more direct balls would help to open Tottenham up in the second period. We put that change of approach into effect in the first minute after the restart. John Moser sought out Egueh, who turned past the ageing Spurs centre-half Kristoffer Svendsen, only to see his shot blocked by full-back Juan Francisco Luperdi. Three minutes later, Peru international Luperdi intercepted a clearance from Daggers left-back Ante Djuzel and hoofed it first-time into our penalty area. Luperdi found his fellow South American Carrascal, but the Colombian's header bounced wide. The tide turned again in the 58th minute, when a poor clearance from Luperdi proved costly. Captain Barnes claimed the ball for us and crossed to Rob McLoughlin, who flicked a header to the centre and watched Tristan thrash it home! 1-0 to the Daggers! This was a very welcome return to form for Will, although he did have to watch his step from the 65th minute onwards after being booked for tripping Tottenham's defensive midfielder Rob King. In the 70th minute, George Darvill almost made it 2-0 Dagenham with a header that only just cleared the bar. Another chance to double our lead came and went on 85 minutes. As Spurs tried to push for an equaliser, we hit them with a counter-attacking move that surely would've led to a second Egueh goal but for yet another superb Palacios save. We had shown ourselves to be more than a match for Tottenham, who failed to produce another shot on target after that Nasser Al-Din free-kick midway through the first period. Another excellent victory meant that we'd now picked up 10 points from our last four league games! Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Egueh 58) Tottenham Hotspur - 0 Premier League, Attendance 12,000 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 13th, Tottenham 7th DAG & RED LINE-UP: Whalley, Moser, Jaafar, Darvill, Djuzel, Brennan, Barnes, Fraser (Hutchinson), Brkic (Polomat), McLoughlin (Edmundo), Egueh. BOOKED: Barnes. Stipo Brkic's 20th league appearance of the season entitled him to an automatic contract extension that will now keep the popular Danish midfielder here for at least another campaign. Tristan Egueh also extended his stay with the Daggers, as he was rewarded for his match-winning goal with a new four-and-a-half-year deal. We stayed at Victoria Road for our next match four days later, which gave us a chance to exact revenge on Burnley, who'd thrashed us 4-0 at Turf Moor in September. Clarets boss Lee Clark bad-mouthed us a few weeks after that result, saying that we were "just not cut out for Premier League football" and that we would be relegated sooner rather than later. Well, who's crowing now, Lee? We were actually five points ahead of 16th-placed Burnley when they arrived in Dagenham, so it perhaps just as well that Clark kept his gob shut in the build-up to this game. 24 January 2035: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Burnley Robbie MacKenzie was back in the Daggers' starting line-up... but he couldn't have got off to a worse start. Just seconds after kick-off, MacKenzie misdirected a pass to Burnley winger Marciel Quadros, who started off a counter-attack that ended with him whipping in a cross for Perry Darlington to head home. We were 1-0 behind after 24 seconds! We looked to retaliate quickly, but George Darvill's 5th-minute header looped wide before Stipo Brkic's effort a minute later was caught by Clarets goalie Jon Wigley. Our keeper Kieran Whalley made his first save on 11 minutes, tipping behind Burnley centre-back Tris Christie's header from Quadros' corner. Daggers midfielder Matthew Fraser then had a couple of chances to draw us level from dead-ball situations. The first was a 15th-minute free-kick that flew over the bar, and the second came from the penalty spot three minutes later after Brkic was brought down in the area by Ion Pavelescu. Fraser's record on penalties had declined in recent times... and it would get worse, as Wigley easily pushed away a shot that was fired to his right-hand side. Wigley produced another save in the 23rd minute, this time from Edmundo, as we started to feel the tension. Fraser was booked for tripping Burnley winger Jakub Kotora on 24 minutes, and his midfield colleague Greg Killick would also see yellow on 35 minutes after pushing Pavelescu. Another of our midfielders - Dave Hutchinson - made a more positive contribution in the 40th minute. Hutch notched up his first top-flight assist when Edmundo collected his pass, rode over a slide tackle from Christie, and cracked in a superb shot with his weaker left foot! That goal sent us into the break level at 1-1... but not before Darlington headed over a glorious chance to restore Burnley's advantage in stoppage time! We entered the second period with renewed confidence. Edmundo could've been celebrating a second goal on 48 minutes but for another fine Wigley save. Whalley made a vital stoppage at the other end in the 55th minute, blocking Lyle Donaldson's attempt to dribble a Quadros centre over the goal line. Four minutes later, another foul on Brkic in the Burnley area - this time by right-back Roman Feurstein - led to us being awarded a second penalty! Matthew insisted that he was in the right frame of mind to take another penalty, but the Scotsman's body language didn't exactly shout confidence. Sure enough, his second spot-kick turned out to be a virtual carbon copy of the first, with Wigley comfortably saving to his right. Fraser was devastated, and he would be substituted a few minutes later, with Seb Brennan coming on instead. MacKenzie had also underperformed badly, but a narrow miss in the 62nd minute, when he chipped a 20-yard shot inches over, convinced me to keep him on. Seven minutes later, Robbie repaid my continued faith in him. The big man latched onto Hutchinson's through-ball into the penalty area before cutting it across to an unmarked Brkic, who tapped in our second goal! We would find the net again in the 79th minute, but MacKenzie had already been flagged offside by the time he fired home from Edmundo's incisive pass. MacKenzie then had a header caught by Wigley in the 85th minute before Burnley renewed their attacking efforts late on. With barely a minute to go, Dagenham defender Stevo Buac - a half-time replacement for Killick - fouled Darlington near the touchline deep in our half. Stevo then failed to keep track of Darlington before the 32-year-old striker prodded Quadros' free-kick delivery into the net and grabbed a late Burnley equaliser. Two more potentially crucial points had slipped away from our grasp. Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Edmundo 40, Brkic 69) Burnley - 2 (Darlington 1,90) Premier League, Attendance 11,899 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 14th, Burnley 16th DAG & RED LINE-UP: Whalley, Banton, Darvill, Radosavljevic, Djuzel, Killick (Buac), Fraser (Brennan), Hutchinson, Brkic, Edmundo (Nomaou), MacKenzie. BOOKED: Fraser, Killick, Hutchinson. I doubt we'll see Matthew Fraser take any more penalties in the near future, then... We certainly won't see any more of goalkeeper Jerome Farrell, defender Paul Habu, or striker Tristan Egueh in the Daggers first-team this season. Those three youngsters been sent to the Czech Republic, and to our new feeder club Ceské Budejovice, where they'll be finishing this campaign. I'm hoping that they can reap the benefits of playing regular top-flight football in another country. Back in east London, we finished the month off with our first ever visit to the Olympic Stadium - home of West Ham United. The Hammers had started this campaign terribly before ditching manager Elvis Scoria and bringing in Paul Clement, who had since guided them up to 6th place. 30 January 2035: West Ham United vs Dagenham & Redbridge Stipo Brkic wasn't known for being a particularly dirty player, so it was concerning that he picked up a rare booking after just two minutes for tripping West Ham left-back Casey Turnbull. Our start threatened to worsen in the 10th minute. Hammers right-back Bill Middleton met Jérémy Jossic's corner with a header that looked goalbound until his Daggers counterpart John Moser nodded it off the line just in time! Two minutes later, Jossic was on the receiving end of a corner from Luke O'Leary. The French left-winger's header flew over the bar, but West Ham's right-winger would end our respite a minute later. It was a truly outstanding goal from Patrik Petrus that opened the scoring, as the Slovakian left our defenders chasing his mazy run inside before he planted a shot past Kieran Whalley. 1-0 could've turned into 2-0 after 16 minutes, but Kieran bailed us out by saving shots from England internationals Ben Clarke and Nathan Guppy. 20 minutes passed, and then another of United's Three Lions contingent - centre-back and captain Francis Windsor - powered forward a header that Whalley did well to catch. Windsor would again miss out on getting his name of the scoresheet in the 39th minute. A goalmouth scramble ended with Windsor unleashing a shot that Kieran parried before John hacked it clear. West Ham's current stars were giving the home fans plenty of reason for encouragement, but in the 43rd minute, a former hero almost stunned the Olympic Stadium! Our first attack of the match saw Brkic play a lovely ball ahead of Rob McLoughlin, who burst through and slipped a shot inches past the post! We remained a goal down, and we would have plenty of work to do in the second half. I switched from the 4-4-2 diamond to a 3-5-2 for the second half, but I didn't make any personnel changes. I did, though, move Moser into the centre of our defence and switch Seb Brennan to right wing-back. Seb proved his worth in the 47th minute, clearing a Windsor header off the line in a similar manner to how John had frustrated Middleton earlier on. Brennan was rather less calm in the 58th minute, when he brought down Jossic and got booked. Two minutes after that, we smashed the Hammers with a cool and composed counter-attack. Left-back Rocco Mazzola moved the ball inside to striker Edmundo - via Brkic and McLoughlin - before the Brazilian drilled in his fourth goal of the month! West Ham boss Paul Clement decided at that moment to replace holding midfielder Yannick Atangana with Portuguese striker Ewerton. The 21-year-old - a summer signing from Sporting CP - darted part George Darvill in the 68th minute, but he then fired a shot over. Ewerton found out just how significant that miss would be six minutes later. Dagenham captain William Barnes tackled the ball off a hesitant Guppy and knocked it to McLoughlin, who burst forward and dealt a devastating blow on his former colleagues! 2-1 to Dagenham! A third goal for us would've surely been the killer, but although Hammers goalkeeper Carlton John-Lewis denied Edmundo a chance to score it, it turned out that we wouldn't need one anyway. A typically brave defensive display by Darvill, and an injury-time save by Whalley from the unfortunate O'Leary, helped us to cross the finishing line in first place at the Olympic Stadium. West Ham United - 1 (Petrus 13) Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Edmundo 60, McLoughlin 74) Premier League, Attendance 34,681 - POSITIONS: West Ham 6th, Dag & Red 13th DAG & RED LINE-UP: Whalley, Moser, Radosavljevic, Darvill, Mazzola, Brennan (Jaafar), Hutchinson, Barnes (Fraser), Brkic, McLoughlin, Edmundo (Honeyball). BOOKED: Brkic, Brennan, Hutchinson. We're now onto 30 points - 10 points above the relegation zone! We're steadily pulling clear of danger. The transfer window closed the following day, though not before I pipped Inter Milan to the signing of Iceland's new boy wonder Engilbert Sverrisson. At the age of just 17, the diminutive attacking midfielder had already been capped by his country three times at senior level. Engilbert cost us a mere £50,000 from Úrvalsdeid club Breidablik and could one day go on to be worth much, much more. Nigel Atta was a very exciting prospect for us once upon a time. Now aged 21, the winger was running out of time to make a major impact with the Daggers. I loaned Nigel out to Kidderminster Harriers in League One for the next three months, but this was pretty much his last chance to convince me that he was first-team ready. One player who had run out of time at Victoria Road was right-back Arran Banton. After 133 league appearances in five-and-a-half seasons, I decided to cash in on Arran and focus on developing our younger right-backs. Banton subsequently agreed a £500,000 move to Corby Town, who were pushing for promotion from League One.
  12. JANUARY 2035 The New Year began with yet another Premier League Young Player of the Month award for George Darvill. The 21-year-old centre-back had now nabbed three of them this season and was seemingly rocketing to superstardom. George had two-and-a-half years on his existing Daggers contract, and I really wanted him to get him tied up to a longer, more rewarding deal before the PL's big boys came calling. Darvill's agent was really playing hardball, though, and we couldn't agree to the terms he demanded. Contract talks would have to be put on hold for the time being. We needed Darvill and his fellow defenders to be at their very best again when we played Southampton away on New Year's Day. The Saints had emerged as shock title contenders after conceding a mere nine goals and suffering only a couple of defeats in the first half of the season. 1 January 2035: Southampton vs Dagenham & Redbridge Barley six minutes into our first match of 2035, Daggers midfielder Greg Killick celebrated his first assist for the club. However, it was Edmundo who really took all the plaudits, as he ran Southampton centre-backs Bob Henderson and Patrick ragged before smashing the ball home! The Saints defence seemed to be seriously hungover from any New Year celebrations, as we struck again in the 16th minute! Rob McLoughlin broke clear to latch onto a long free-kick from Stevo Buac, and he then cut the ball across goal for Edmundo to tuck it away! As the Brazilian striker ran towards the dugout to celebrate his second goal, I told him, "Blimey, you've started off quickly! What on Earth did you have for breakfast this morning?" Kieran Whalley appeared to have eaten his oats as well, as the Dagenham goalkeeper made two fine saves midway through the first half to keep us comfortably ahead. Saints midfielder Niall Goodison and winger Jason Pack both had efforts kept out by the in-form Mancunian. Kieran would not have to produce any additional saves before half time, as Southampton striker Maurice Hockley - who had scored a hat-trick at Victoria Road in September - looked like he couldn't hit the proverbial cow's derriere. A couple of poor shots from deliveries by right-back Nicky Till represented the sum total of Hockley's first-half opportunities for the sinful Saints. For the first time in a long time, Southampton's usually rock-solid defence was leaving itself wide open to attacks. Four minutes into the second period, Goodison's attempted interception from a Whalley goal kick flicked the ball back towards his team's goal... and into the path of McLoughlin! Rob thanked Goodison for his generosity by getting past Patrick and smashing in a shot from just outside the area! This wasn't the first time we'd gone 3-0 up on the Saints... but unlike last time, the chances of a quickfire comeback were incredibly remote. Hockley's horror show continued when he hooked high and wide a chance that Hasney Mitchell set up for him in the 56th minute. Over the next quarter-hour, we would have a couple of opportunities to rip Southampton open again. McLoughlin broke the offside trap in the 66th minute to collect Edmundo's through-ball, which he fired inches wide. Five minutes after that, Stevo volleyed a fantastic long ball ahead of Edmundo, who came agonisingly close to securing a hat-trick. After that miss, I brought on Joel Honeyball to replace McLoughlin. If Southampton thought that was a sign of us taking things easy, though, they had another thing coming. Attacking midfielder Stipo Brkic ran at their defence in the 81st minute and wasn't far off continuing his purple patch with a goal. This was proving to be the day from hell for Southampton's backline - and particularly for Patrick, who was cut down by a superb tackle from Seb Brennan in our penalty area on 83 minutes. The Saints' penalty cries went unanswered, and to make matters worse, Patrick was too badly hurt to continue. With our opponents now a man light, we could now prepare to go in for the kill. With a little under two minutes to go, Edmundo capped off his 'man of the match' display by knocking the ball through to Honeyball. What followed was Joel's 49th league goal for the Daggers... and his first in the Premier League! This truly was one of our finest days in the top flight yet. In one match, we had put FOUR goals past a team who'd previously only conceded nine goals in half a season! We'd won back-to-back PL games for the first time, we'd also kept successive PL clean sheets for the first time, and we were now five points clear of relegation! Southampton - 0 Dagenham & Redbridge - 4 (Edmundo 7,16, McLoughlin 49, Honeyball 89) Premier League, Attendance 31,378 - POSITIONS: Southampton 5th, Dag & Red 14th DAG & RED LINE-UP: Whalley, Buac, Darvill, Radosavljevic (Moser), Khumalo, Djuzel, Fraser, Killick (Brennan), Brkic, McLoughlin (Honeyball), Edmundo. I can't tell you how excited I was when Joel Honeyball found the back of the net. Joel had been with us every step of the way from non-league to Premier League, and now he'd secured the almost unique achievement of scoring in each of the top four divisions for the same club! I obviously know that Barry Lines managed it for Northampton Town in the 1960s, but nobody else springs to mind. A couple of days after that incredible win, I received a call from Fulham chairman Dmitrijs Morozs, asking me if I'd like to take over from Joris Mathijsen as Cottagers manager. Considering that I would have been Fulham's 17th manager since Morozs bought the club 20 years ago, you could perhaps understand why I didn't really fancy it. Four of our loaned-out players returned to Victoria Road over the next few days. Winger Nigel Atta had become an assist machine at Queens Park Rangers, but defenders Adrian Bailey (Ipswich Town), Jefferson Moran (Swindon Town) and Carl Quinn (Kidderminster Harriers) all struggled at their respective clubs. We also temporarily said farewell to Albert Khumalo, who flew out to Egypt to represent South Africa at the 2035 Africa Cup of Nations. Albert wouldn't be back until February, so Arran Banton and John Moser would have to cover for him at right-back for the next few weeks. Next up for us was the FA Cup, where we'd been given a nightmare Round 3 draw at home to Manchester United. The Red Devils had consolidated top spot in the Premier League since we'd last played them in October, and manager Alexander Mejía showed the cup the respect it deserved by fielding a strong starting XI. 6 January 2035: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Manchester United The first 10 minutes were very encouraging from a Dagenham perspective. A couple of early home corners were followed by a long-range attempt from Stipo Brkic that was caught by Manchester United goalkeeper Dave Pierce in the 7th minute. Three minutes later, Stipo played the ball to the feet of Robbie MacKenzie, who steadied himself before unleashing a fierce shot that flew well over. United then started to bare their teeth, with striker Mário Rui and left-back Rocco Gagliardi putting shots just off target. Mário Rui - once capped by Germany - would go on to open the scoring after 20 minutes. The former Bayern Munich striker met Marcus Cowley's free-kick with a diving header that left Mariusz Tylak flailing helplessly in the Dagenham goal. Another Cowley set-piece almost undid us again four minutes later. The England full-back's corner was headed away by Velimir Radosavljevic, but only as far as Mário Rui, who let fly with a half-volley that drifted well off target. The Red Devils would then hammer us with even more shots from a host of players, including striker Sean Jordan and the newly-crowned FIFA Ballon d'Or winner Sebastián Núnez. When the visitors did eventually double their lead after 44 minutes, the goal came from a rather less esteemed player. Tylak blocked a header from United captain José Luis, but he was unable to prevent left-winger Phil Hunter from converting the rebound. Our poor record against Manchester's big two looked almost certain to continue, and seemed incredibly unlikely that our FA Cup run would do likewise. I told my team that they had to take the game to Manchester United a bit more in the second half if they were to stand any chance of staying in the competition. We did go on to launch a promising attack in the 51st minute, but United's German centre-back Leszek Michniewicz broke it down with a firm tackle on Ante Djuzel in the penalty area. On another day, the referee might've awarded us a penalty, but Michniewicz wasn't the only Kraut who would leave us feeling sour early in the second period. Mário Rui found the net again after 53 minutes, volleying home Jordan's flick-on from Hunter's cross. It was 3-0 to Manchester United, and pretty much time for us to give up on the FA Cup. Captain William Barnes wasn't quite willing to wave the white flag in the 67th minute, when he sent a shot inches wide, but there was no hope of us coming back from such a heavy deficit. Our very best chance to bloody the Red Devils' noses was smashed against the bar by MacKenzie on 73 minutes. Fellow striker Souleymane Nomaou and Tristan Egueh also missed late opportunities, although Tristan did force Pierce into a save after 85 minutes. Five minutes earlier at the other end, a superb save from Tylak had denied Mário Rui his hat-trick, but the damage had already been dealt. Congrats, Manchester United. Time to focus fully on the league now. Dagenham & Redbridge - 0 Manchester United - 3 (Mário Rui 20,53, Hunter 44) FA Cup Round 3, Attendance 12,000 DAG & RED LINE-UP: Tylak, Banton, Jaafar (Habu), Moser, Radosavljevic, Djuzel, Barnes, Fraser (Hutchinson), Brkic, MacKenzie (Egueh), Nomaou. To be honest, our FA Cup days were numbered as soon as we were paired with United. At least we came away from this match with club-record gate receipts of £386,000. Centre-half Jameel Bailey's five-month loan at Walsall expired after that weekend. Left-back Rocco Mazzola also returned to the Daggers from Crewe Alexandra, but Adrian Bailey went in the opposite direction, having agreed to spend the rest of this season at Gresty Road. Elsewhere, I rejected a couple of miserly loan offers from Notts County for Jacques Polomat before stepping up my search for a new attacking midfielder. My latest target was Croatia Under-21s starlet Dzenan Genjac, but Dinamo Zagreb rebuffed my first two offers for the 16-year-old playmaker. I might go back in for him later... Some other less positive news came in the form of a serious injury to Neil McCann. The box-to-box midfielder sustained a lower back stress fracture and was expected to be out for the next two months. Our FA Cup loss was followed up by three more home games back-to-back in the league. Rochdale, who were well clear of relegation danger in 9th place, were the next team to arrive at Victoria Road. 13 January 2035: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Rochdale Dagenham right-back Arran Banton had a poor start to this match, as he picked up a yellow card in the 8th minute after lunging in on Rochdale's left-back Reece Richards. Three minutes later, though, Banton played a nice crossfield ball to Dave Hutchinson deep in Dale territory. Hutchinson took the ball forward before being hacked down by centre-back Moses Beasant. The referee waved play on, and Stipo Brkic lashed in the loose ball to give us an early opener! Daniel O'Reilly looked for a second Daggers goal on 14 minutes, but his vicious strike was charged down by Republic of Ireland colleague and Rochdale captain Terry Curry. The visitors made another vital block on 16 minutes, when Beasant got in the way of an effort from Rob McLoughlin. That was the end of our attacking efforts for the first half. Rochdale couldn't create any real chances of their own before the break, as although they did rack up several corners, striker Mario Tortora was kept rather quiet on his return to Victoria Road. Stipo had been excellent for us in recent weeks, so there was understandably some concern when he stayed down after a slide tackle on young Rochdale midfielder Kevin Thomson on 47 minutes. Thankfully, Brkic suffered little more than some bruising, and he went on to put in a superb 'man of the match' performance. His midfield colleague Matthew Fraser could've rivalled him for that accolade had he managed to pull off a sensational long-range half-volley in the 66th minute. Sadly, the Scot's shot drifted just over. We would go on to rue Fraser's miss in the 70th minute. Ex-Daggers hero Tortora left us feeling sick when he outjumped Velimir Radosavljevic to head home from Richards' flick-on into the penalty area. The move that eventually led to the Italian's equaliser had come about after O'Reilly had a header intercepted by Ross Grierson. Daniel's day didn't get any better when he was booked after 84 minutes for persistent fouling. A minute after that, his old mate Tortora picked up a through-ball from Grierson, and we were very relieved to see Super Mario hit the side netting. Just as normal time was coming to an end, however, O'Reilly took his clumsy tackling a little too far. A trip on England Under-21s striker Jordan Connor led to Daniel's second yellow card and subsequent dismissal. We now had to defend against a Tortora free-kick in a dangerous position against 10 men. Fortunately, Rochdale screwed up their attack from the set-piece, and so - despite our lack of discipline - we managed to get away with a 1-1 draw. Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Brkic 11) Rochdale - 1 (Tortora 70) Premier League, Attendance 11,557 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 14th, Rochdale 10th DAG & RED LINE-UP: Whalley, Radosavljevic, Darvill, Buac, Banton (Moser), O'Reilly, Fraser (Killick), Hutchinson, Brkic, McLoughlin, Edmundo (Nomaou). BOOKED: Banton, Fraser, O'Reilly. SENT OFF: O'Reilly. I was quite annoyed at full-time, and not just because we drew a match we really should've won. Daniel O'Reilly had been utterly awful, and his sending-off was another sign that he was perhaps not up to Premier League standard. Was our long love affair with the Irish left-back coming towards an end?
  13. It is indeed incredibly tight, so it's very important that we string together some good results and get ourselves out of trouble quickly. Mind you, the next few fixtures don't fill me with much optimism.
  14. Now I can see the confusion. At the end of each World Cup, awards are handed out for the World Golden Ball (best player) and the World Golden Boot (top scorer). The World Cup World Golden Ball should not be confused with the Ballon d'Or.
  15. I'm pretty sure the World Golden Ball IS the FIFA Ballon d'Or in FM16. In FM17, there are separate awards for the Ballon d'Or (awarded by France Football) and FIFA World Player of the Year (as voted for by national team captains and managers), or whatever the latter one's called now. To add to the confusion, there is also the 'World Footballer of the Year', which is equivalent to the award handed out by World Soccer magazine.