• Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

About displaced_seagull

  • Rank
    World Cup Winner


  • Biography
    The grass is green, the air is fresh, the chavs want 50p, the grungers mourn the death of the skate

About Me

  • About Me
    Rockin' All Over The World


  • Interests
    Football, Going out, Bashing
  1. The victory had showed Connor Oliver in a very good light - his showing particularly bright in what both Robbie and I considered a very good performance. With three of the planned seven friendly matches now behind us, initial thoughts were beginning to form on some of the trialists - although others, such as Jack Blake , still were coming across as something of an enigma. The week would begin quietly, although Courtney Richards found himself in demand as we accepted a £10,000 bid from Accrington Stanley on Monday morning, although rejections from potential trialists Piero Mingoia and Jamie Turley would prove frustrating. By far the biggest news in the footballing world though would come from managerial changes on Tuesday, when Norwegian Åge Hareide was announced as Wales manager in succession to Chris Coleman . Whilst perhaps best known on these shores for a spell as a player with Manchester City and then Norwich in the early 80's, Harehide's coaching record includes domestic titles in Denmark, Norway and Sweden , as well as four years in charge of his native Norway , whilst Roberto Mancini would also return to English football, taking the Liverpool job to replace the Emirates-bound Jurgen Klopp . With Louis Briscoe passed as fit to resume full training by Gareth on Wednesday morning, there would be no injury concerns as training began in earnest ahead of the final two home friendlies, with Sherborne Town visiting on Saturday before Tiverton Town on Tuesday. There would also be a new face in the squad on Wednesday, with Ben Barclay , a young defender who had failed to make the cut at Brighton & Hove Albion arriving for a fortnight whilst we assessed his claims. He - as with the other trialists - would get another friendly, after Robbie pulled a few strings and managed to arrange us a final friendly, the Tuesday prior to the season's opener at home to Morecambe , away from home against Welsh Premier outfit Aberystwyth Town . Whilst trialist rejections had been something that Robbie and I had discussed over a curry at home on Thursday evening, as if to prove us wrong, by Friday morning there were two new faces in the camp, with midfielder Tom Koblenz arriving on trial until the end of preseason following his release by Derby County , and right back Sam Ling, let go by Leyton Orient, also making his arrival in Devon. The week would end with Michelle - now full-time after the completion of her college course - sending off the Squad Numbers list for the season. Not long now...
  2. Apologies for lack of updates - Non-League politics have left me feeling a little disillusioned with football of late and so have been concentrating on my other hobbies rather than coming online to play FM in the evenings As we boarded the coach to leave Twerton Park, I took a call from Martin Rowlands , who had taken an Under 18 side to Weymouth and was calling to report a 2-1 victory. It was a side mostly made up of players who Martin and Grant Marsh had recruited from local youth sides, with the aim of taking a look over the course of the season to see if they would be worth integrating into our setup, but Karl Cotterill , one of our first-year pros, would also net in a result which would have been more comfortable but for an 88th minute penalty. The following evening, 79,000 people would pack into the Stade De France for the conclusion of a memorable and entertaining Euro 2016 tournament which saw Belgium crowned Champions of Europe. Josip Drmic put Switzerland ahead in the 30th minute, before Eden Hazard equalised shortly afterwards. With the game going to extra time, Romelu Lukaku would prove the hero of the hour - first rising highest to head Kevin De Bruyne's corner against the bar, before reacting quickest to poke the ball over the line and seal the victory. Kevin De Bruyne would be awarded the Player of the Tournament trophy to go with his winners medal after the match, with Croatia's Mario Manzukic clinching the Golden Boot for his six goals over the course of the competition. Whilst for Marc Wilmots it would be a memorable weekend, for Chris Coleman it would be the complete opposite - a hero in Wales a few months ago having led the national team to their first tournament since 1958, his resignation on Monday after a dismal showing in France coming as little surprise. Closer to home there would be two more players rejecting trial offers, with defender Danny Kane and winger Billy Waters saying no to our approaches, but Robbie and I were in attendance - along with a crowd made up mostly of scouts from other clubs - as a Torquay XI , managed by Martin, again with plenty of local youth players, beat Exeter City 1-0 at the Cat & Fiddle Training Ground thanks to a late effort from Tyrone Marsh . His performance was enough that, when I got back to the office, two offers had been received to take the striker on loan for the season - Macclesfield Town and Barrow both interested. A brief discussion with Robbie saw the two offers accepted, with Tyrone given the opportunity to showcase his undoubted talents on a more regular basis than at Plainmoor. On Tuesday morning two more returned our calls - but this time, both would accept, with Aaron Downes , a 31-year old centre back who had played for - and indeed captained - Torquay before my arrival, and Martin Riley , another centre back, who had spent the season at Tranmere , joining us until the end of preseason. With two in, there would also be one departure - Liam Prynn sent off to affiliate club Curzon Ashton for the season to gain first team experience. Whilst victory was welcome, Benjamin Van den Broek turning down his trial offer on Wednesday morning was less so, the Kiwi midfielder, who had impressed both Robbie and I when playing for his former side, Barrow , last season, declaring - via his agent - that he felt his future lay at a higher level than we could offer. Someone else moving up to a higher level would be David Thompson , who had done a good job to keep a Forest Green Rovers side who had started terribly up last season, the job at Carlisle in League Two his reward. With Tyrone Marsh agreeing to join Barrow on loan for the season on Friday morning, the forward would be followed out of the exit door by trialist Aaron Downes , who was decent enough to admit that he felt that returning to his previous club would be a mistake for reasons which will remain personal. Downes' departure left us with a gap to fill, and trialist Connor Oliver certainly seemed keen to be the man to fill it - a versatile player, the former Blackpool man seemed very keen to get started, with his positive attitude impressing everyone, particularly Malcolm Naylor , in training.
  3. Monday morning would see the first of the trial offers responded to, as Jack Blake , who, being a Scot, perhaps didn't enjoy the England result as much as the rest of us, arrived at the club to begin a trial spell until the end of preseason. An attacking midfielder, Blake, 21, had been spotted last season by our scouting team, and after deciding to take his chance and leave Non-League Ilkeston , would bring his boots to try to earn a contract. By Tuesday however, even he had been caught up in the 'Semi-Final Fever' sweeping the camp - and the country - with England facing Switzerland in the first Semi-Final since that memorable night at Wembley back in 1996. Unfortunately though, just like on that night, there would be tears and heartbreak, as after Blerim Dzemalli had given the Swiss an early lead, Danny Welbeck equalised with 18 minutes remaining. This time though there would be no extra time, and certainly no penalties - Josip Drmic instead converting from close range after a misplaced pass from Chris Smalling was intercepted four minutes from time. The deflating feeling of an international tournament exit still hurt - even after many years of watching England fail - and the mood in the camp was certainly a little downbeat on Wednesday. We decided to split the squad into four, with two competitive five a side games as a result, which soon saw the banter flowing once again, although there would also be disappointment of a different kind when Liam Ridehalgh , a defender who had enjoyed a fine season with Tranmere Rovers , turned down our trial offer in the early afternoon, instead preferring to wait for a more northerly club where he could maintain family connections. Thursday morning's papers would give Mark Yates' appointment as manager of Northampton Town a cursory mention, but the big news came from North London in a real 'stop the presses' moment, where, late on Wednesday evening, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had resigned in order to take the post as Arsenal manager, replacing the retired Arsene Wenger . He would not be the only one changing jobs - Steve Clarke , who had taken Reading back into the Premier League, was also announced as on the move on Thursday, with the Leicester City post proving too good an opportunity for Clarke to turn down. Whilst managers were happy to move from one end of the country to the other, it seemed players were not so keen, when, just a day after Ridehalgh's decision to put domestic arrangements before football, another player would give similar motives for turning down our approach, when striker Joe Bunney , who had come through the ranks at Rochdale , turned down our offer of a trial. The news bought some consternation - could we expect more unemployed footballers to react like this? - and if so, how would we strengthen the squad enough to compete?. It was certainly something to ponder, and Robbie and I would again leave training in the capable hands of our coaching staff to look for more potential signings. This time, we struck gold, with the news that a long-term target from last season, central defender Harry Osborne of Welling , had turned down another contract offer to stay with the Wings. The requisite calls were quickly made, and with Harry's contract situation allowing him to talk to offer clubs, we put an offer to him which seemed to go down well. There would also be more potential trialists approached, and by the time we left for the day, the mood was a little more optimistic. Thursday evening's entertainment would come from Marseille, with Belgium scoring four times inside the first 24 minutes to build up what would prove to be an unassailable lead in their Euro 2016 Semi-Final against Croatia . Man of the moment Jurgen Klopp would be referenced here too - in one of the now former Liverpool manager's last acts at Anfield, he had sold Christian Benteke to Marseille - but here, on his new ground, the Belgian striker would score a hatrick for his country, with Eden Hazard also chipping in. Croatia though fought back - Ivan Perisic, Mario Manduzukic and Sime Vrsaljko all on the scoresheet in what became a thriller of a game. If Thursday had seen disappointment with regards to signings, the following day would be the complete opposite - as although Joe Muscatt , a young left back who had been released by Tottenham , turned down our approach to seek a career outside of football, Harry Osborne would become the first permanent arrival of the summer at Plainmoor, putting pen to paper on a one-year deal. It would be a big boost to all of us, with Harry joining the squad in travelling to Bath City on Saturday morning.
  4. We would meet in Newton Abbot at 9am sharp, with the full complement of coaching staff also in attendance to put the squad through their paces. With those who had been told that they would be leaving the club still having a few days to run on their contracts, they would be invited to join in with the fitness-based sessions, with all taking us up on the offer. Although Louis Briscoe would report back, his knee injury would see him ruled out for around three further weeks, instead working with Gareth on rehabilitation in the gym. Waide Fairhurst however would be fully fit, and Dan Butler , a player who struggled to get into the side, came back looking leaner and more toned than ever before, with the young fullback clearly having spent part of his summer break in the gym himself. Training went well, with my 'welcome back' speech striking the right chord - there was no point sugar-coating it, it would be a difficult season with simply staying up the task I had been set by the Board - but the players seemed to respond well nonetheless, and I could tell that, given that most of them had just been handed new contracts, we had a happy squad. Whether they were happy after being given a first day back Bleep Test though would be a different matter, although the traditional weight checks seemed to confirm that most, but not quite all, had spent their month off in a professional manner. Before the day was out there would be a couple of phone calls too - Barrow making an offer for Courtney Richards which would be accepted, whilst young defender Oneil Odofin would also be looking to secure his footballing, if not professional, future early, being granted permission to discuss terms with Non-League Weymouth . We let the players go home by mid-afternoon, with several planning to compare aches whilst watching the international game in the evening. For the coaching staff on the other hand, it would be back to Plainmoor for a debrief and another meeting, as I fully intended to sit down with the complete coaching staff to hear their thoughts ahead of the new campaign. Head Scout George Rooney would join us too, offering his thoughts on where strengthening would be required, with a near unanimous decision that our priority must be at the back. We were still talking by the time Belgium kicked off in a game against plucky Bosnia & Herzegovina in a game they would win 2-0, thanks to goals from Premier League duo Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard . Later that evening, it would be England against Ukraine , with Danny Welbeck settling the nerves early on, before goals from Ross Barkley , who had just become a Manchester United player for the eye-watering fee of £47.5 Million, and Jordan Henderson sealed a comfortable 3-0 victory in Nice. The England victory gave a nice boost ahead of training on Tuesday, which saw mainly fitness work before we would begin ball work later in the week. By Thursday, the out of contract six - Oneil Odofin, Exodus Geohaghan, Ashley Yeoman, Sam Chaney, Bayan Fenwick , and, much to my regret, Luke Young , would all depart, reducing the group in number, with Courtney Richards away discussing terms with Barrow . Thursday evening would also see the first of the Quarter Final games in Euro 2016 , with a goal from Pirmin Schwegler enough to see Switzerland knock out Portugal , 1-0 in Marseille. On Friday, with the official opening of the summer Transfer Window, I would absent myself from training, with Robbie instead joining me for a day in the office as we stepped up the hunt for some new additions to the squad. The departure of the out of contract players would leave the wage bill at just over £11,500 - leaving us with a considerable sum to bolster the squad. Out would come the pen, paper and contacts book, as calls were made, scout reports checked and rechecked and offers made. We had decided that we would not be rushed into any moves, and would instead follow the methodical process which we had established, but by late morning, four offers of trials had been made, with both of us considering our efforts productive. In the evening there would also be a productive evening for Croatia , becoming the second side to reach the Semi Finals of Euro 2016, after a 2-0 win against Germany in the Stade Pierre Mauroy, with quickfire goals from Marko Pjaca and Mario Mandzukic in the space of four minutes midway through the first half sealing a memorable victory. Although Courtney Richards presented himself for the planned short training session on Saturday morning after failing to agree a switch to Barrow his signature would be desired by other clubs, with Wrexham , for the second time, and Newport County both seeing £12,000 offers accepted. Saturday's international went right to the wire, with a goal in the final minute of extra time from Adnan Januzaj gave Belgium a 1-0 victory over Spain in a game which saw FA Cup final hero César Azpilicueta dismissed. On Sunday though there would only be one game in the minds of the nation, with England facing hosts France in the magnificent Stade de France, itself in the slightly less magnificent suburb of Paris, St-Denis. A game which could have gone either way saw just a single goal - but although it was scored by a Frenchman, Mathieu Debuchy , his contribution was to head into his own net under pressure from Wayne Rooney after a terrific run and cross from Theo Walcott which, much to the amusement of the friends we enjoyed the game with, I said reminded me of our own James Hurst's moment of glory in the Playoff final. Convincing it might not have been, but it was still the perfect way to celebrate my birthday.
  5. Robbie returned, tanned and happy, from his break on Monday morning, and by lunchtime we had hammered out our Preseason plans, with eight matches arranged against a variety of opponents, beginning on the 5th of July and completing on the 30th. Michelle arranged for the list to go to the local press, with games against Bodmin, Dorchester, Aldershot, Sherborne and Tiverton at home, with trips to Bath, Gloucester and Slough also planned. The big news of the day though would come from Arsenal , where Arsene Wenger announced his resignation from the club following his side's Champions League victory, and subsequent retirement from football after a lengthy career. It was the big talking point, as you might expect, ahead of the evening Euro 2016 games, where Wales ended a dismal first tournament since 1958 with a goalless draw against Iceland , and Spain thumped Portugal 3-0 to complete their qualification from Group B with a perfect record of three victories. Tuesday morning's meeting with the Scouting team went well, with several targets identified and new assignments issued - Nathan Wannell asked to look at players who could come in and do a job both now and in the future, in the 16-23 age bracket, Rory Campbell focusing on youngsters up to the age of 18, and George Rooney continuing to be our man on the spot, watching the next opposition. Our obvious weakness would be the fullback positions, with little in the way of competition for James Hurst and Dan Butler , whilst only two senior central defenders would certainly not be enough either. I also harboured doubts over our midfield, with Luke Young still not even willing to entertain a contract offer - meaning it would certainly be a busy summer for us all. Tuesday teatime saw Finland bow out of Euro 2016 , finishing bottom of Group C after a 1-1 draw with Denmark , whilst The Netherlands 3-1 win over Croatia was enough for both sides to confirm qualification. In the evening, Group D would also reach a conclusion, with Germany winning the Group after a 3-2 win over second Ukraine , leaving Russia , who beat Slovenia 3-1 to face the lottery of the 'lucky loser' positions. Whilst Courtney Richards would turn down a move to Wrexham on Wednesday after failing to agree personal terms, England continued a fine tournement, with the on-song Raheem Sterling hitting another goal in the first half, and Wayne Rooney netting in the second to give England a 2-0 victory over the Czech Republic , and maximum group points to boot. Elsewhere, Belgium's victory over Romania by 3 goals to nil ensured they would qualify second, whilst completing the group stage would be the games in Group F, where Italy and Bosnia & Herzegovina were both successful, against Slovakia (2-0) and Sweden (3-0) respectively. With the completion of the Group Stage came the announcement of the Second Round ties - Ukraine against England , whilst Scotland against Croatia would also be an intriguing tie. Amongst the other six ties, there would be a repeat of the 1996 final with Germany against Czech Republic whilst Italy against Portugal also looked a potential classic. Friday morning would see Robbie and I at the club on our own for the final time - for the best part of a year at any rate.As we each moved on to our second coffee of the morning, Michelle brought the fixture list through, hot off the printer - with a home game up first, against Morecambe , followed by an away trip to Barnet - and between the two another home tie, this time in the Capital One Cup , against Sheffield United , newly promoted to the Championship after winning League One last season. The latter especially would bring both a sharp intake of breath - followed by excited, schoolboy grins from both of us. It was clear that we had officially arrived in the Football League. Whilst the day went reasonably well - especially after the fixture announcement - there would also be some disappointment, namely a final, failed bid to keep Luke Young at the club - the midfielder still saying that he intended to put up the "have boots, will travel" sign at the expiration of his contract. He would train with us for the last few days of June, as would be his right, but would then be off to seek pastures new. There would also be changes to the preseason schedule - with some indifferent summer weather - and a groundshare - to blame. With promotion sealed, I had asked Chairman David Phillips to arrange for the pitch to be relayed, which he was in agreement with, however some unseasonable rain had delayed things a little, forcing the cancellation of the visit of Bodmin on Tuesday 6th July. We would instead have the trip to Bath as our first friendly, on Saturday 9th, giving us a little more time to shape the squad. Finally, late in the afternoon, came confirmation from Slough that our final friendly would have to be cancelled as they had neglected to inform their landlords, Cirencester , of the date, and the Southern league side had already arranged a game. The tenants would have to cancel, although Curzon Ashton quickly stepped in to offer us a game under our affiliation agreement, albeit on a Thursday evening. The first of the Euro 2016 Second Round ties would take place on Saturday afternoon, with Italy dumped out of the tournament 3-1 by Portugal , with Simone Zaza seeing his early spot kick cancelled out by a brilliant Cristiano Ronaldo hatrick in Saint-Etienne. The teatime match however would be more of a disappointment for supporters of Scotland - Croatia cruising to a three goal win courtesy of first half strikes by Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic and Chelsea target Marcelo Brozovic . In the evening, Denmark would also exit the tournement, Lasse Vibe scoring a late consolation as Spain recorded a 3-0 win through Diego Costa, Pedro and Koke . Whilst Sunday's papers brought little other than previews of England's game on Monday evening, there would also be one snippet of note from our division, with Carlisle United - that would have to be an overnight as well - parting company with Keith Curle before a ball had been kicked after being taken over by an Italian businessman. With the players back in the morning and an early start, I decided that the afternoon international games would be a more sensible option, and saw Germany put in a fine performance with a 3-0 win over Czech Republic , thanks to a Mario Gotze brace and a late free kick from Bastian Schweinsteiger . The second game of the afternoon would see Switzerland require penalties to beat Russia after a 2-2 draw - Victor Faizulin and Alexandr Kokorin scoring in the first half, before Tranquillo Barnetta and the allegedly Watford-bound Valentin Stocker levelled for the Swiss. By the time The Netherlands went out on spot kicks against hosts France after a 1-1 draw, with Nigel De Jong seeing his effort cancelled out by a wonderful goal from Paul Pogba though, the TV had gone off for the evening - an early night needed. I could only hope the players felt the same way.
  6. Monday morning would see George Rooney , Paul Gillingham and Nathan Wannell agree their deals, with Dan Butler and Tyrone Marsh also doing so in the afternoon. With the players now complete - bar Luke Young - there would just be the signature of Rory Campbell from the Scouting Team and Coach Malcolm Naylor , both of whom finally signed on Tuesday. Tuesday would also bring the formal departure of loanees Nathan Smith and Joe Widdowson back to their parent clubs, although in practice both had left the area when the players were allowed to take their summer breaks. Still, the day seemed right to make some gentle enquiries, though neither Port Vale nor Dagenham & Redbridge were keen to sell. With May ticking over into June, and the best part of a month before preseason would begin on the 27th, it would also be time for my summer break - leaving Robbie in charge Sal and I took the kids back 'home' to Sussex, after earlier in the month successfully pleading our case to Charlie's headteacher to avoid the 'holiday tax' fine for non-attendance. Whilst he didn't seem to be much of a football fan, Sal's threat of informing the local media that a local school would not allow the local football clubs most successful manager in years a holiday with his son seemed to tip the balance, with the potential PR disaster that could ensue not appearing to be something he wanted to deal with. We would leave on Friday, but there was time beforehand to enjoy a beer with Robbie, who had become not just a trusted colleague but also a genuine friend, whilst the wives talked about whatever it is that wives talk about, and watch England beat The Netherlands 2-1 in the first of the warmup friendlies for Euro 2016 . Marco Van Ginkel , who had spent the season on loan from Chelsea at Stoke put the Dutch ahead, but goals either side of half time from Wayne Rooney - his 52nd at International level despite a torrid season at Old Trafford which would see him hand in a transfer request - and Jack Wilshere were enough to give England the win. Our first night on holiday would also be spent watching England , although this time with the in-laws, who offered slightly less footballing insight than Robbie, but seemed to enjoy a 3-1 win over Finland , with goals coming from Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling and Theo Walcott , nonetheless. Mika Ojala scored a late consolation for the Scandinavians, but it was nonetheless an impressive performance, and didn't leave me too downhearted that I had pulled England out in the 'family sweepstake' earlier in the day. With Robbie promising to inform me of any important developments, it was a great opportunity to kick back and just enjoy being a family man, rather than a football man, for a few days, although I made sure to keep my eye on the latest news developments. Those, on Tuesday, saw Rufus Brevett get the nod as Aldershot Town manager, whilst Bill Prendergast , who had spent time in the past coaching as part of the highly successful Crewe Alexandra Youth setup, would become the new man at FC Halifax Town . Friday evening saw our final night in Sussex, and a dour opening to Euro 2016 with Scotland holding Switzerland to a goalless draw. We returned to Devon after a very enjoyable week - filled with meeting up with friends and family, as well as allowing the kids to become reaquainted with the seafront of Eastbourne after nearly a year away. In-Car entertainment would be provided by France , who drew 2-2 with Austria and Iceland , who began Group B with a fine 2-2 draw against Portugal . I returned to the news on the answerphone from Gareth Law that he had met up with Shepherd Murombedzi , who was now fit after his injury, as was Austin Lipman , leaving just Louis Briscoe as unlikely to be fit for the start of preseason, with Waide Fairhurst also doubtful, although Gareth felt that he would have more chance than Louis. We returned home in time for the evening game, with Wales suffering a disappointing start to the tournament, going down 2-0 to Spain . Sunday would see more international action despite Sal perhaps not believing my insistence that I needed to watch games for scouting purposes. Germany won the afternoon game, beating Russia 3-2, whilst at teatime Denmark held Croatia to a 2-apiece draw. Finland faced The Netherlands in the evening, by which time my wife's patience was wearing truly thin, with a 3-1 victory for the Dutch completing the first games in Group C. On Monday however she would be more forgiving, as England opened their campaign in style with a 4-1 victory over Romania in the 5pm kickoff. Raheem Sterling scored twice, with Ross Barkley and Wayne Rooney on the scoresheet in a game which was marred, from an English perspective, only by a goal midway through the first half from Bogdan Stancu . I missed the early game, which saw Ukraine beat Slovenia 1-0, but was able to see Belgium beat Czech Republic 3-1 later on. With all still quiet at the club, Euro 2016 continued to keep my attention, with Sweden beating Slovakia 2-0, and Bosnia & Herzegovina holding Italy to a 1-1 draw on Tuesday. Whilst Wales saw their hopes all but ended on Wednesday after a 4-0 reverse against Portugal , there would be joy for Scotland , who saw Ross McCormack and Matt Ritchie on target in a 2-1 win against Austria , with David Alaba scoring the only goal for the Austrians. Conveniently, it was the evening game, after France had continued to stutter on their own turf with a 2-2 draw against Switzerland at 5pm. I, along with the very able Michelle, would now be the one covering life at Plainmoor, with Robbie on his holidays, and when I went in on Thursday there would be a phone call in the middle of the morning which would require an instant response. Gary Mills was on the other end of the line, and after a few pleasant words, he got down to business, making an offer of £14,000 for Courtney Richards . The midfielder had made it clear that he wanted to leave earlier in the season, and despite our promotion, he still showed no signs of wanting to stay. With reluctance, I would accept the bid, letting Courtney know shortly afterwards. For his part, the Jamaican seemed pleased, which in my eyes made it even more clear that he did not want to stay, and said he would discuss terms with our fellow promoted side. With Robbie due back after the weekend, I asked Michelle to arrange a meeting for us with the whole Scouting team in order to step up our preparations for the new season - with several key areas requiring strengthening. There would, of course, be Euro 2016 action to enjoy - Spain seeing off a spirited Iceland 2-1 in the afternoon, to be swiftly followed by an enjoyable affair as The Netherlands held Denmark to a 2-2 draw in a game which saw the Danes race to a two goal lead inside the first ten minutes before being pegged back. By the time I returned home, Croatia's 2-1 win over Finland provided the evening entertainment in another all-action encounter. Taking Sal out for a meal on Friday evening prevented me from watching Slovenia's 1-1 draw against Germany , but there was time before we went out to watch Ukraine demolish Russia 3-0 in a result which, given the recent history between the two nations, raised more than a few eyebrows - and smiles - in certain quarters. Elsewhere, Romania went down 3-2 to the Czech Republic in Group E. Martin Rowlands phoned on Saturday morning to advise that he had accepted friendly offers for the Under 18's , against Weymouth on the 9th July and Dorchester on the 30th. Having given Martin permission to arrange such fixtures, I felt pleased that he had already made the first moves, and also offered him the chance to manage a 'Torquay XI', with local sides Frome and Bideford keen for some 'behind closed-doors' fixtures later in July, which he was delighted to accept. For the first team, preseason would be something else on the list to discuss with Robbie on Monday. Saturday afternoon saw England put in a fine performance, racing to a 3-0 win over Belgium , with a Raheem Sterling brace and Adam Lallana on target in a comfortable victory for Roy Hodgson's side. The day's other games would see victory for Italy , 2-0 over Sweden , whilst Bosnia & Herzegovina continued their fine start to the tournament, although they would need an injury-time winner to defeat Slovakia 2-1. The following day would see the final games in Group A, and with it, a superb draw for Scotland to seal automatic qualification to the knockout stages - James Morrison giving the Tartan Army the lead after two minutes, with Antoine Griezmann's second half strike not enough for the French to snatch a winner, with the 1-1 draw leaving the hosts sweating on other results, with the four highest scoring sides in third place in the groups also progressing. Switzerland would top the group after a 3-0 victory eliminated Austria from contention.
  7. Thanks both - The aim for the new season is simply to consolidate! This time there would be no party, no wild evening, and instead it would be the supporters, players - and indeed management team - of Wrexham who were last seen painting the town red. Whilst David Phillips wasn't overly critical, and the game had at least earnt us £25,000 in prize money as runners-up, I felt the manner of the defeat was an embarrassment, and let the players know of my disappointment on the way back. Nearing home, with empty motorways, I told them that I would be meeting them all individually over the coming few days to discuss contracts. There would be some easy, and some difficult conversations, and only Robbie and I knew what would be coming. The Sunday evening discussion on the way back mostly surrounded the England squad announcement for Euro 2016 , which saw Troy Deeney , the only uncapped member of the preliminary 30-man squad named by Roy Hodgson , dropped from the full squad, along with Harry Kane, Leighton Baines, Saido Berahino and three others. There also came a round of applause when a text came through - read out by Robbie - to confirm that I had been awarded second place in the National League Manager of the Year awards, with Gary Mills adding the winners trophy to his personal haul for the season. Although few were in the mood for it, the annual club awards night would be held on Monday evening, with spirits raised by some very entertaining speeches. The big award, that for Fans Player Of The Season , went to Austin Lipman with some 34% of the vote - Jamie Latham earning runner up with 28%, although both were pipped to Signing Of The Season by loanee Joe Widdowson . Goal Of The Season went to Louis Briscoe for his screamer from distance against Chester - ironically, one which meant nothing coming as it did in injury time during a defeat - but Austin Lipman would also win the Young Player Of The Season award. The rest of the evening consisted of a few beers, a few dodgy dances, and I noticed Michelle getting rather friendly with Will Summerfield towards the end of the evening, but most of all, a chance for everyone to relax after a long, at times fraught, but ultimately - despite the non-performance against Wrexham , a chance to celebrate our quite outstanding achievement in gaining promotion. With the season now officially at an end, training would be too, although for Robbie and I there was certainly work to do. We had plenty of contracts to discuss - on and off the field, with two coaches and the scouting team still not tied up for next season - and there was, of course, the small matter of a meeting with the Chairman to find out exactly what sort of war chest we would have to lead Torquay United back into the Football League. Whilst Michelle had booked the first few players in to see me on Tuesday morning, the Chairman would also oblige with an early visit, giving me rough budgets for the new campaign - which would include a more than substantial rise in the wage budget, doubling it to around the £25,000 per week mark, as well as a transfer budget of close to £38,000 - David explaining that the latter had come solely from the League and FA Trophy prize money. Overall, he revealed, the finances were looking healthy, and we had made a substantial profit given the size of the club over the season. With 16 players to get through, we decided to begin on Tuesday afternoon with what we hoped would be an easy decision. James Hurst had been a key player all year, and would be offered a new deal with no qualms whatsoever. The fullback though would demand a Minimum fee release clause, set at £135,000, which Robbie and I felt would be a small price to pay in return for his signature. Next in would be Alex Fisher , who would also be offered slightly improved terms. Both seemed content with their offers, but next would come a chat that neither of us had been looking forward to. Ashley Yeoman , an unused sub at Wembley, had been with the club for eight years, but at 24, his time at Plainmoor would be over, as we told the local lad that there would be no new deal. Having failed to feature for much of the second half of the campaign, he must have expected it, and although he trailed out of the office rather forlornly, there was a touch of resignation too which seemed to indicate that he knew it was coming. By the end of the day, deals had been offered to Jamie Latham, Louis Briscoe, Angus MacDonald and Waide Fairhurst , whilst Exodus Geohaghan had been told that he was free to leave the club. It had not come easy, and we knew there would be similar, difficult conversations the following day. Wednesday morning brought offers for Simon Heslop, Will Summerfield and Liam Prynn before we hit our first snag, and a major one at that, when Luke Young - in many respects the hero of the last couple of months of the season - informed Robbie and I that he didn't feel the club had the squad to match his ambition, and that he was not interested in extending his stay. Given our treatment of him whilst he had been out injured, we both felt that this was more than a little ungrateful, but decided to hold our collective tongues, in the hope that Luke would come round in time. It would also be the end of the line for Oneil Odofin , Bayan Fenwick , who had failed to make an appearance all season, and likewise 20-year old Sam Chaney , who had enjoyed a decent spell with Dorchester towards the end of the season but was in no way likely to make an impact with us in the Football League. That left just two. Tyrone Marsh was next in, and, if he was disappointed of our offer of a one-year deal on identical terms, didn't show it. He had been one of the 'problem cases', with a decision not coming particularly easy to either of us, given his long loan spell away from the club. Whilst I still harboured long-term doubts about his suitability for life in the League, for now, he could have a part to play, and that he had not completely baulked at being offered the same wages despite our promotion was very much in his favour. The final player to come in would be fullback Dan Butler , who had lost his place in the starting eleven after an injury, being replaced by loanee Joe Widdowson . Despite this, he seemed pleased to be declared very much a part of our plans going forward, but was not happy with our initial contract offer. A sweetener of an enhanced Clean Sheet bonus though would be enough, with Dan leaving to consider our terms very much happier than when he arrived. The other discussions would be with coaches Paul Gillingham and Malcolm Naylor , both of whom were keen to stay, and the Scouting team of George Rooney, Nathan Wannell and Rory Campbell . All three were offered new deals, with small wage increases, in order to keep the backroom staff together, although I intended to have a discussion with the Chairman as to whether we could bolster the numbers a little. By Friday, Louis Briscoe, Alex Fisher, Angus MacDonald, Jamie Latham and Waide Fairhurst had all agreed their new deals, with James Hurst following them on Saturday morning by putting pen to paper. Saturday afternoon saw the domestic season finally concluded with the Championship Playoff Final , where third-placed Brighton & Hove Albion were victorious at Wembley - a brace from Jamie Murphy sending the Seagulls into the Premier League at the expense of Cardiff City , who saw Matthew Connolly sent off on what was a thoroughly miserable afternoon for the Bluebirds, who showed very little throughout the game. In the evening, the Champions League final took place at the San Siro, an end to end affair which was eventually settled, after a goalless draw, on penalty kicks with Arsenal defeating Real Madrid 5-3 in sudden death after key players from both sides - Mesut Özil and Santi Carzola for the eventual winners, and Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Isco for the Spanish giants had all missed from the spot. Liam Prynn and Will Summerfield called to advise that they too would sign new deals on Sunday morning, and when Simon Heslop followed in the afternoon, there would just be the signatures of Dan Butler and Tyrone Marsh , as well as the backroom staff, left to secure as we headed into the new week.
  8. "The result was amazing, and the prize is unbelievable". It wasn't, perhaps, my finest quote, but it would be the one which greeted me, along with a picture of me holding the kids in each arm when I picked up Sunday's Non-League Paper the morning after the night before. It had been an incredible evening, with everyone from the injured Austin Lipman to Chairman David Phillips being asked for their reaction by the local media, who had somehow wangled 'access all areas' passes. Frankly, I wasn't bothered how, but it was certainly memorable. There would though be a slight taint to the shine of the result - injuries to Shepherd Murombedzi (Back) and Waide Fairhurst (Ankle) ruling the pair out of our final game of a wonderful season, the FA Trophy final. By Monday morning, David Phillips had issued a press release, declaring the Board's delight at our 'unexpected' promotion, and had also banked a £100,000 cheque for our victory. With the League season now at an end, the news from HQ would be that Rhys Turner had been awarded the National League Player of the Year award, although it would be scant consolation after the defeat which we had played our part in, whilst Damien Reeves of Altrincham took the Golden Boot award with 27 league strikes. I would also be asked for my vote for the Manager of the Year award, which would be handed out after the FA Trophy final for some reason, with Chris Todd of Eastleigh getting my signature after his kind words in the wake of the utter despondency he must have been feeling after our Playoff success. Later on Monday afternoon, with hangovers just about wearing off, Robbie and I met the Coaching staff in the kitroom to discuss the plans for the week. With one game to go, there was still the need to continue training at a high tempo, although the injuries had certainly stretched the squad, with perhaps some unexpected faces likely to be involved on Saturday. There would also be the elephant in the room of the matter of contracts. Robbie and I had decided - after initially thinking otherwise - that we would tie matters up at the end of the season. Now, with promotion secured - we would stick to our guns. The players were, collectively, informed that we would sit down with all of them after the FA Trophy final, and that would be an end to the matter. In truth, the decision would buy us a few more days to make final decisions. Wednesday evening would see a break from club matters, with the Europa League Final the match of interest, with Roma victorious over Sporting Lisbon in a game which ended 6-2 to the Italians, a scoreline which was made a little more comfortable than it could have been by two goals in the final five minutes, Edin Dzeko claiming his hatrick and Radja Nainggolan also on the scoresheet. The game saw plenty of interest from otherwise neutral English support, with ex-Arsenal man Gervinho and Mohamed Salah , on loan from Chelsea also scoring for Roma, whilst a goal apiece from Colombian duo Harold Preciado and Teófilo Gutiérrez would be scant consolation for the Portuguese side. With the Trophy final scheduled for Sunday, both sides, ourselves and opponents Wrexham , had the honour of being asked to be guests at the FA Cup Final on Saturday. It was a game which would, like ours a week before, go to extra time, with Blackburn Rovers of the Championship twice going ahead against Chelsea through Jordan Rhodes , but ultimately being pegged back twice by goals from Willian , before an extra-time effort from César Azpilicueta and an unfortunate own goal from Shane Duffy sent the trophy to West London.
  9. Robbie turned the radio off, as I turned to face the players. Now was the time for inspiration, I decided. "Right, firstly - well done, that was magnificent" I boomed. "Secondly, I want you to forget all about the Tranmere game a few weeks ago. That was them, this is now. Next Saturday we will go to Wembley for a one off game which will decide how people see us. We don't want to be seen as bottlers - let's do it twice more. Let's go and get promotion, then take the FA Trophy as well". I hoped it wasn't too much of a cliche and that I came across more Winston Churchill than Jerry Hacker. We would have to wait and see. Whilst the penultimate day of the Premier League season, which saw Manchester City clinch the title, would gain more of the headlines, I knew that it would need to be a careful balancing act of not pinning too many hopes on the first game when we also had the FA Trophy final, against champions Wrexham , who would be hoping for a 'Non-League Double' - to look forward to. On Wednesday though there was no chance of Torquay hitting the headlines, with the announcement of the Preliminary 30 man England squad for Euro 2016 . Roy Hodgson would name the uncapped Troy Deeney , who had enjoyed a terrific season with Watford , in the squad, but otherwise there were few surprises, with Gary Cahill's omission the only real matter for discussion. Of course, with two other home nations involved in the summer tournament, there would also be excitement for Scotland fans who saw four uncapped players - Liam Cooper (Leeds), Scott Bain (Dundee) and Aberdeen duo Ryan Jack and Kenny McLean handed international callups, whilst for Wales Morgan Fox of Charlton would earn a first call into a squad hit by injuries, as would Tyler Roberts , a 17-year old with WBA , although he too was a doubt with a shin injury. Closer to home, Thursday would also bring injury worries of our own - and another big blow ahead of the two most important games of the season, with Louis Briscoe straining knee ligaments and ruled out for three months. It was another blow, especially for Louis, who had played an important part, especially considering his goal on the final day had secured our Playoff spot. There would though be little time to dwell on the matter, with another press conference on Friday - focussing this time mostly on comments made by Paul Cox which I declined to dignify with a response - before we boarded the coach on Saturday morning with the hotel booked to give us an overnight stay in London. The destination simply said 'Wembley'. It was enough to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
  10. The news on Austin Lipman was grim. A twisted knee diagnosed by Gareth Law would see the distraught young forward ruled out for not only the second leg, but also for up to five weeks - meaning that his season would be over, and he would only be a spectator at Wembley in the FA Trophy final. It was a cruel, cruel blow, and one which I could only hope would not have too much impact on the rest of the squad. Austin, for his part, was clearly devastated, although for every cloud there would be a silver lining - for someone - with Tyrone Marsh and forgotten man Ashley Yeoman told that one of them would be the fifth substitute against Eastleigh - and, most likely - at Wembley too. Austin's injury overshadowed training on Thursday, and it was perhaps inevitable when the press came calling on Friday morning that it was the first thing I would be asked about. Whilst usually maintaining a dignified silence on such matters, this time I let my emotions run away with me, and told Sam Summers of BBC Radio Devon that it would be a travesty that someone of Austin's quality would be forced to miss out on the remainder of the playoffs and the Trophy final. One thing was though certain - Waide Fairhurst would start on Saturday.
  11. Many thanks, very much appreciated - I've always liked doing the match reports, but I think this time I have found a style that offers me the level of detail I like without spending too long on the formatting!
  12. Absolutely superb work, all the way through. Well done
  13. The changing room after the game was a wonderful place to be - the quiet ones were loud, the loud ones were ear-splitting. I would though have to put a stop to the exuberance with the reminder that achieving a playoff spot was, in many respects, the easy part - we now had two games to play which would define our season - and, Robbie reminded the players, there was still the FA Trophy final to go as well. What a year. With the final table now complete, it was clear that we would be facing Eastleigh in the Playoffs. The first leg, due to be played on Wednesday, would be at Plainmoor, and I reiterated to the players that it would be our best chance of success to build a decent lead in our home game. They didn't really need to be told. After dealing with various phone calls and interview requests, the coach home saw a couple of beers consumed as I took the opportunity to see what else had happened on the final day. At the top, our Trophy opponents Wrexham would go up as Champions, despite being held to a 3-3 draw against Barrow , as both Eastleigh , who lost 1-0 to Woking and Tranmere , who were held to a 1-1 draw with Grimsby failed to take full advantage. Our win had made the playoff race inconsequential in the end, although Altrincham's injury-time winner against Braintree meant that, had Jamie Sword found the target with four minutes remaining, it would have been the Robins and not ourselves who were celebrating. At the bottom, a point for FC Halifax against Macclesfield saved the visitors rather than the hosts, the Silkmen staying up on goal difference, whilst Welling and Aldershot filled the remaining two relegation slots after defeats to Boreham Wood and Bromley respectively. As a result of their relegation, Aldershot would part company with manager Richard Hill before we reached Devon. Whilst Martin Rowlands officially hung up his playing boots on Sunday as April ticked over into May, there would be better news on both a personal and club level, with a call to say that I had been awarded Manager of the Month for April, and Austin Lipman had been named as Player of the Month to boot. There would also be news from FC Halifax , who had parted company with Gus MacPherson after relegation, with rumours also swirling of a potential takeover at The Shay. By Monday, the mood in the camp was one of nervous apprehension. Training took place on what would usually have been a day off, with Robbie and Malcolm Naylor taking the players through a few light workouts, although not without a casualty, in the shape of young striker Liam Prynn , who fell awkwardly and sustained heavy bruising ruling him out for around ten days. The Plainmoor Press Conference on Tuesday saw questions on everything from Liam Prynn's injury to the Manager of the Month award - and, of course, plenty of questions surrounding our preparation for the game. There are only so many ways you can say "wait and see" before it begins to sound rude.
  14. The week would be a busy one, with plenty of interest from the local - and national - media with all the permutations being worked out, analysed and re-analysed. Closer to home, Robbie and I were determined to take the focus off the players, with just one press conference on Friday seeing captain Simon Heslop join me to speak to BBC Radio Devon . Elsewhere, whilst the press reported on the latest rumours on who would make the England squad for Euro 2016 , there was at last some good news after an awful season for Lincoln City , with a consortium headed up by a local businessman taking control at Sincil Bank. Whilst the Chairman had approved another overnight in a bid to give us the best possible preparation, there was only one real decision that I had to make - and it was one which, for much of the week, would give me sleepless nights - whether or not to hand Waide Fairhurst a starting berth after his superb cameo on Saturday. I still wasn't sure when we arrived at the hotel on Friday evening.
  15. Before getting on the coach to go back home, Robbie and I, after sharing a drink with Julian Sibbick and his staff, made sure to look at the latest league table. It was good news - Altrincham had been beaten, 4-2 by Eastleigh , whilst Forest Green had given their survival hopes a huge boost by beating Woking 2-0. All of that meant, that with two games to go, we were back in fifth, and back in the Playoff places. In theory - if results again went our way, at least - we could make sure of a playoff place against Barrow on Saturday. I made sure the players were aware of it as we travelled back westwards. It was to prove, we would learn on Sunday morning, Sibbick's final game as Bromley manager - his caretaker stewardship ended with the appointment of 48-year old Scot Iffy Onuora as the permanent manager at Hayes Lane. Our regular Monday meeting saw much discussion of the permutations for the run in, but we would also be joined by Head Scout George Rooney , who went through some reports from Northern Ireland , with a teenage striker at Ballymena United attracting the interest of our man on the spot, Rory Campbell . I asked George to keep me updated, though he understood that there were perhaps more pressing concerns for the moment. The rest of the week was spent keeping players - and myself - focussed on the task at hand. A Friday Press Conference didn't exactly help matters, with a particularly persistent local hack getting short shrift towards the end of the session, although deserved praise for the recent performances of Jamie Latham was one soundbite I was willing to allow.