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  1. Saturday 13th November A lot of the trip today had been taken up by some of the single lads in the squad approaching me to ask about Claire, whether she was single and if I would give them her number. When I declined I was accused of wanting her for myself. “I’m happily married with a child!” “Yeah but you would, wouldn’t you?” Came the response from Lionel. “I’m not prepared to answer that, now why isn’t there some music playing.” I sighed a sigh of relief as I saw that we were approaching the Crown Ground, the home of Accrington Stanley (Who?). The players were all re-enacting the famous advert, and I had to shout at them before they offended one of the Accrington fans or staff. Bundling into the changing room the players looked at me expectantly. “Right, here’s the moment you have all been waiting for, the team” Elliot Parish David Raven Clayton McDonald Leon Johnson Tomos Roberts Lewis Montrose Nicky Wroe Sean McAllister Mark Wright Liam Davis James Collins Subs: Marcus Bettinelli, Jermaine Grandison, Andy Van Der Meyde, Lionel Ainsworth, Ian Sharps, Alain N’Kong, Lee Trundle. Andy was obviously struggling to get use to the difference between the grounds in the Premier League and the ones in League 2, for this he was getting the micky taken out of him, but he was responding well to the banter. Heading out to get warmed up Clayton banged his head on the door, which caused much laughter from the rest of the squad, yet they were all careful when exiting after that. My parents were in attendance once again, my mother had asked my father what he had wanted to do for his birthday, and he had chosen this. As an extra present I had invited him to sit in the dugout with me, an offer he jumped at the chance of. People have called me a football fanatic and I get it from my father. As we watched the players warm up, we chatted about football and my dad tried to tell me how the team should play. I could see my mother stood with Jody and Charlie, Jody looked right at home in the north, considering the fact she was from Chorley she should have looked at home. Heading into the dressing room, I prepared to give the players my usual team-talk, however I was now aware that my father would be in there with me, and for some reason I felt a bit of pressure. “Right then lads, now people have told me that the only advantage we have over Accrington is that we are taller than them. Now I think that is wrong and it is up to you to prove that it is wrong, now get out there and win!” Leon led the team out and every single member of the team ducked as they went through the door, even Sean who isn’t the tallest of people. “Ready?” I asked my father. He nodded his agreement and we headed out. I took my place on the touchline and John and my dad stood next to me. I take back what I said about the journalists looking like the three musketeers. As the Accrington players headed out, I spotted Ian Dunbavin and Jimmy Ryan, both of whom I had played with, and in Jimmy’s case I had tried to buy. I shook their hands and wished them luck and also shook hands with John Still a man who continued to impress me with the miracles he had worked at Accrington. Anthony Taylor kicked the game off in drizzling rain, but when isn’t it raining up north? In the 22nd minute we were almost punished by a defensive error at the back following a mix up between Clayton and Elliot. Terry Gorrell made the most of it and slid the ball home, yet luck was on our side as one of Anthony Taylor’s assistants flagged for offside. In the 29th minute we were cursing the other linesman, as Liam Davis ran onto a through ball from Sean McAllister, and as Liam rounded Ian Dunbavin, the ref blew for offside. Clearly Liam was offside but I had hoped to get away with it. The 34th minute was certainly interesting, as following a corner for us, Clayton McDonald received his marching orders for violent conduct, I had no complaints as Clayton had clearly punched one of the Accrington centre-backs who had been marking him at the corner, what infuriated me was the fact that the Accrington player in question did not receive a booking for the shove that led to the punch. As Clayton walked off of the pitch I didn’t look at him, and focused on the football. Nicky Wroe was the player substituted and Ian Sharps took up a place in defence, we carried on with the 4-5-1 formation, yet there was only one central midfielder now. Luckily we managed to limp through to half time, yet Accrington ran us close and we barely escaped by the skin of our teeth. “Right, we are one man down, but that doesn’t matter, we can still win this just take your chances when they present themselves to you!” The second half kicked off pretty much the same as the first half had ended, we were on the back foot due to Accrington’s one man advantage, and James Collins was still finding it difficult to actually score. In the 62nd minute I decided to change things, I had decided to give James a bit more time, but felt that Andy Van Der Meyde would help to provide crosses for him. So Andy came on for Liam Davis. My patience with James soon ran out and in the 71st minute I decided to stick Lee Trundle on in his place. Lee had more experience and would be more likely to make the most of the chances he would have. Lee certainly helped as he was fouled by Dean Winnard practically as soon as he came on and Dean received a booking, in the 78th minute Dean did it again and he was given his marching orders. With the squads now even, I decided to throw caution to the wind, and told the players to overload the Accrington defence. Yet somehow Ian Dunbavin kept us out, it was just a shame he couldn’t maintain this kind of form when he was with us. Anthony Taylor brought the game to an end with the scores tied. Final Score: Accrington Stanley 0-0 Shrewsbury Town “The one man disadvantage obviously didn’t help, we threw everything we could at them, but Ian managed to pull out some first class saves, a skill I didn’t realise he possessed. Let’s forget about today and concentrate on the next game.” I turned to Clayton at this point. “I don’t care what that Accrington player did to you, what you did was stupid and reckless, and I’ll be fining you two weeks wages for your actions, I hope in the future you use your brain.” Clayton nodded. I sent John to the press conference after the game, as I had promised my parents and Jody that we would go for a meal after the game. We ended up in a restaurant in Manchester, and following the meal and one to many drinks we checked into a hotel.
  2. Wednesday 10th November My bids for Cyril Perali and Billy Joe Burns were rejected, and I wrote a note on a post-it and stuck it to the front of the computer, I was going to try to sign these players during the January transfer window, these rejections were getting annoying now, and I wondered if I had done something to upset nearly every manager in the world. My mood brightened when Neil Fitzhenry appeared in my office, he had mulled the offer over and was wanting to sign on as a physio for us. I slid the contract across the table to him, and he put pen to paper, once the paper work was completed I led him down to the treatment room and introduced him to Steve and Chris. Hopefully the extra physio would help to alleviate the injury problems within the squad. Leaving the treatment room I headed home, it was Wednesday the players had the day off and there wasn’t much more for me to do. Anyway Jody had the day off work and it was going to be nice to see her. Friday 12th November Today was my father’s birthday and after a phone call to him, I headed down to the ground to start my preparation for tomorrow’s match against Accrington. John Still was working miracles at Accrington and had been since he joined. Standing by the side of the PowerLeague bar pitches John turned to me and gave me his information on Accrington. “Now don’t be too annoyed Darren, but we are taller than them. They are going to be more determined, they are better passers and dribblers and are more likely to create moments of magic.” “Height, is that all we have?” “I’m afraid so.” I shook my head and looked at the players, they were a tall bunch but they were also good passers of the ball, and I couldn’t understand why every team in the league was supposedly better than us. I turned around as I heard the familiar footsteps behind me. “Good morning Darren, we have a few questions for you.” Rosie started. “Morning.” “Are you hoping to build on the recent good results, and possibly carve out a good run of form?” “Of course we are, but we need to take it one game at a time.” “Tomos Roberts has been amazing since he joined, what are your thoughts on him?” Barry asked. “It’s hard to believe that Tomos is only 18 years old, we suffered badly when Mat got injured but Tomos has taken over Mat’s role brilliantly.” “Some people have been suggesting that you will take a defensive approach to the game tomorrow, is this true?” “Seriously if I ever find who keeps saying this I will strangle them, I have told you time and time again that we will go out there and attack, sitting back and defending is not an option for us.” “Do you think that the FA cup draw has been tough on you?” Rosie quickly interjected. “I’m not going to complain about, we have to go out there and treat it like every other game, maybe non-league opposition would have been easier, but anything is possible.” “Leon has become a real fan’s favourite, do you think the fans have affected him?” Barry asked, he seemed to have gone red after I made the comment of strangling someone. “The fans have taken Leon in as one of their own, this is why I love the fans of this club. I have said this before, but the fans play a huge part in spurring the players on.” “Is Leon on the top of his game right now?” “Yes and no. Yes he is playing brilliantly, but I feel there could be a lot more to come out of Leon, just watch this space.” At this point Claire came running across the car-park, as she did John’s, Barry’s, James’, mine and most of the players’ mouths fell open, it was like something out of Baywatch. She approached me and one of the players wolf whistled at her, Dave Hughes hadn’t seen her approach and started to shout at the players for stopping. Rosie glared at Claire, there obviously wasn’t any love lost between them but Claire didn’t notice or just didn’t care. “Mr Phillips, Carlo Monti has rejected your offer of a trial.” “Right, can you make a note and stick it on my computer, I want to bid for him in January and will need reminding.” “Ok, Mr Phillips.” With that she ran back off to the main building, I was puzzled as to why she had felt the need to come and tell me, but I still couldn’t get the image of her running across the car-park out of my mind.
  3. Monday 8th November Roland phoned me today to remind me that I still had space for one more physiotherapist, this surprised me as he told me I was only allowed one more, anyway once over the shock I asked Steve and Chris for their recommendations and was pointed in the direction of Neil Fitzhenry. “Good morning Neil, it’s Darren Phillips.” “Morning Darren, how can I help?” “Well I’m Shrewsbury Town manager and have been told by Steve Whitehall and Chris Tomlinson that you would be a great addition to our physios.” “Well I’m still wanting to ply my trade as a football, not a physio just yet.” “Name your price, whatever it takes for you to become one of our physios.” “£350 per week until the 30th June 2012.” “Done, I’ll give you time to consider the offer but I need to hear from you by the end of the week.” “Okay, speak to you later.” With that he put the phone down, and Claire entered she handed me a note and left. Opening it I breathed a sigh of relief as I realised it wasn’t another phone number, but a couple of recommendations from John Trewick. It read: “Morton’s Left Winger Carlo Monti, Linfields’ Billy Joe Burns, who can play at Centre Back, Defensive Midfield and Central Midfield, and Michael Gault who can play at the same positions as Billy Joe, and Genets Anglets’ Central Midfielder Cyril Perali.” Staring at the note I googled all of the names on it, I was able to watch clips of each player, and found many glowing reports from newspapers and other sources. Deciding that all four could do a job for us, I sent out messages to the respective clubs asking if I could take the players mentioned on trial. Crossing my fingers I hoped that I would be able to get these players in. Luckily I finished all of my tasks before the FA cup 2nd round draw which was taking place at noon, with the BBC covering it. I was hoping for another non-league team. Watching I saw as other teams drew non-league opposition, every time a team from the Blue Square Premier and below was drawn I sat forward in my seat. Yet as our name was drawn I felt as if I was going to be disappointed. And disappointed I was. We drew… Colchester. At least it was a home game. The game was due to played on Saturday 27th November. Tuesday 9th November I received notification today that Ian Sharps and Nicky Wroe were selected in the N Power League 2 team of the week, I made a mental note to inform them of this, when I saw them at training. I also received notification that my trial bids had been accepted by Montrose for Carlo Monti, and by Linfield for Michael Gault. Yet Linfield had rejected my bid for Billy Joe Burns, immediately I out in a loan offer for him, 3 months, 90% of his wages, £20k up front and £40k if I wanted to make the deal permanent. I also received notification that my bid for Cyril Perali had been rejected so I put in a loan bid for him as well 3 months, 100% of his wages paid, £8k up front and £20k in the future if he was good enough for us. Steve Whitehall popped in to give me an update on the injuries within the first team squad. “There is no way Mat Sadler will be back any time soon, it might even be worth terminating his loan.” “I’ll think about it.” “Samba Kanoute and Tom Eaves should be back in time for the FA cup 2nd round game against Colchester, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.” “That’s good to hear, we could do with them.” With that Steve stood up and left, I followed out after him as I remembered I needed to tell Ian and Nicky that they had been selected in the N Power League 2 team of the week, hopefully it would improve their morale.
  4. Saturday 6th November FA cup fever had gripped the squad and they were more excited than they were against Morecambe. I too was bouncing around and the coach to Droylsden had basically been a party. We arrived in Droylsden around noon, and were greeted by the Droylsden chairman who showed us to our changing room. As the team bundled into the changing room, they looked around at their surroundings and remarked how small they thought the place was. “What were you expecting? This is a conference ground! Play well and you may get to play at Old Trafford, or the Emirates.” “Or Wembley!” Shouted a voice at the back of the changing room. “Well, let’s just concentrate on today. Here is the team, if you aren’t selected then you will be standing with the fans.” “Standing?” “Yes.” Elliot Parish David Raven Clayton McDonald Leon Johnson Kelvin Lomax Lewis Montrose Nicky Wroe Sean McAllister Lionel Ainsworth Alain N’Kong James Collins Subs: Marcus Bettinelli, Jermaine Grandison, Mark Wright, Lee Trundle, Ian Sharps, Liam Davis, Matt Harrold. I had gone for a physically strong squad, and had excluded a number of younger players as I felt today would call for more experience. The players started to get changed and I left with the unpicked players to give the rest some room. I stepped out onto the pitch and looked around at my surroundings. The Butchers Arms was a proper non-league ground, it had a capacity of 3,000 and only 500 of which was seating. The Shrewsbury fans were bound to turn up in large numbers and generally have a good time. Finally the clatter of boots sounded behind me and the Shrewsbury players ran onto the pitch to warm up, Tony, Michael, John, Dave B and H, and Pete put them through their paces in the warm up. I asked Pete to attend as he had been there before and had played with me when we went on our last FA cup run. The Shrewsbury fans started to arrive in a steady flow, segregation wasn’t in action today and some of the Shrewsbury stewards had travelled to help their Droylsden counterparts. My parents were in attendance and were stood with Jody and Charlie, who were enjoying the open terracing. As we headed back into the changing room I noticed that it had started to drizzle and wondered how Jody would react. “Lets win this today lads! Droylsden will definitely want to cause an upset and we must be aware of this threat, the best form of defence is attack. Use your heads today.” Martin Atkinson knocked on the door and Leon led the players out. As we ventured outside I noticed that the rain had gotten heavier and it was certainly going to make for an interesting game. Jody was stood behind the goal we would be attacking looking like a drowned rat, yet Charlie was enjoying standing with his granddad and they were deep in conversation about the game. Martin blew his whistle and Droylsden went on the attack looking for the early goal, we struggled to get to grips with the muddy surface and twice Clayton slipped allowing a Droylsden attacker in, Leon luckily was aware to any threats and swept up behind Clayton. “Get some longer studs on!” Came the call from one of the Shrewsbury fans behind me. Immediately I sent John off to find Clayton another pair of boots with some longer studs. During a break in the game, Nicky had taken a shot which had cleared the stand and Droylsden were unable to find a spare ball, Clayton changed his boots and immediately was happier with the pitch. In the 20th minute Sean started the scoring as he tapped in from an Alain shot which had bounced back off of the post, sliding through the mud Sean connected with the ball and steered it home, as he stood up he attempted to shake some of the mud off of him. The mud obviously didn’t affect his jumping, as in the 25th minute he headed home from a Nicky Wroe corner, despite being one of the smaller players on the pitch, Sean managed to beat his marker to head home. The Shrewsbury fans were bouncing, and were making themselves heard in every corner of the ground that they had taken over. Martin Atkinson blew for half time just as the rain began to ease up, and we headed into the changing room with the players covered in mud from head to foot. “Well done, we have taken the lead early on and we have taken our chances, now get back out there and continue to enjoy yourselves.” Leon led the team back out, and I followed after trying to avoid the mud which now littered the changing room floor. Heading back outside I slipped on the mud and grabbed onto the top of the dugout and pulled myself back up before I could fall over. Martin Atkinson came out a few seconds after us and started the game again. It wasn’t long before I decided to make a change as in the 47th minute I decided to bring Matt Harrold on for James Collins, James was barely in the game and was struggling to get to grips with the pitch. My second substitution followed only 6 minutes later as I brought fan favourite Liam Davis on for Alain N’Kong. Liam received a standing ovation as he entered the field of play and he took up his position on the left wing. 10 minutes later I used my final sub by bringing Mark Wright on for Lionel Ainsworth, Lionel had ran himself into the ground and I decided to torture the Droylsden left back even more by bringing a fresh pair of legs on. Nicky Wroe once again played the role of provider in the 68th minute as his corner found the head of Clayton, who had found some space in the box and made his height advantage count. Clayton sprinted in my direction and pulled me into a hug, when he released me I looked down and found that the entirety of the front of my suit was covered in mud. In the 71st minute Mark Wright killed the game off, by skinning the Droylsden left back and firing into the top right hand corner. Sliding through the mud on his knees he celebrated in front of the Shrewsbury fans who had changed end at half time. For the next 18 minutes we enjoyed our football, and barely noticed when Martin Atkinson brought the game to an end after two minutes of extra time. I applauded the Shrewsbury fans and shook hands with the Droylsden management and players, and disappeared down the tunnel. Final Score: Droylsden 0-4 Shrewsbury Town “Excellent guys, I’m really proud that we got the win today, again enjoy your day off tomorrow, you have earned it.” Heading out of the changing room I bumped into Barry, who asked me to conduct an interview at the side of the pitch, I agreed and followed him. “James Collins has been unable to score in a couple of games now, do you feel that is affecting him?” Barry started. “Well strikers, can be judged on other parts of their games, not only scoring. I am happy with the contribution he makes.” “Sean McAllister picked up the man of the match award for today, how do you feel he played?” “Sean was impeccable today, I couldn’t fault him at all, he deserves the man of the match award and should be pleased with his performance.” “Clayton McDonald played brilliantly today, what did you make of his performance?” Rosie asked, she was back to her flirty self, and she played with her hair as she looked at me. “Clayton was solid today and I expect more of it in the future.” At this point John shouted me from the tunnel, the coach was ready and they were prepared to leave without me. I apologized to the journalists and ran to the coach.
  5. Friday 5th November “Remember, remember the 5th of November. Gunpowder, treason and plot. I see no reason why gunpowder treason. Should ever be forgot.” As I sat and watched Charlie in his school assembly, I thought about tomorrows FA cup game, I certainly hoped that there would be fireworks, but only for the right reasons, I didn’t want players sent off, or stuff like that. I wanted spectacular football against a lower side who would definitely be up for it. Charlie had taken the lead role in the assembly and was definitely enjoying the lime-light. As the assembly finished I made my exit with Jody, and drove her over to Sundorne, I had promised that I would take Jody to a training session and decided that today would be the best day. Once I arrived the players made jokes about me bringing the ball and chain, and Jody gave as good as she got. Standing with Jody and John, I discussed tactics with John. “We are taller, stronger, technically better, better dribblers and we have the better first touch.” “Are we fitter than them?” “Just about.” I groaned we weren’t even fitter than a team of part-timers. “We need to be careful against this lot, I’ve been in the side when we have lost against lower division teams and it can be hard on the morale side of things.” John nodded his agreement, and gestured towards the approaching journalists. “Do you guys go anywhere without each other?” I jokingly asked. Rosie was still obviously annoyed after my response to her question in the last talk we had, and glared at me. Jody luckily was in a conversation and hadn’t noticed Rosie. Barry laughed at my joke and started the questions. “How do you feel Leon has been since he joined?” “Without a doubt Leon has been brilliant since he joined.” “Are you confident about tomorrow’s match?” “Yes, of course I am, we may have had problems against smaller sides in the past but we rectify that tomorrow.” “Do you think your side will find motivation a problem against Droylsden?” Rosie asked. “No, they will want to win as always, and they will be motivated and will go out there and play to their best.” “That seems like a very confident answer, how do you feel your confidence will affect the players?” Barry asked. “It will hopefully rub off on the players and they will be prepared to win.” John nudged me at this point, Lionel and Jermaine were squaring up to each other, I sprinted across the pitch and pulled Lionel away, Ian grabbed Jermaine and pulled him away. I told them both to go and sit down at opposite ends of the training pitch and calm down. I looked round at John who was shooing the journalists away. It turned out that Jermaine had caught Lionel late in a challenge, and Lionel had lost his temper. “Right you two, Jermaine that was reckless, what were you thinking? But Lionel you could see I was talking to some journalists, and if they saw any of that they will manufacture stories about how the squad is split and at war. Use your heads next time!” Both shook hands and sheepishly apologised to me.
  6. As Fat_Steve has mentioned Brendan O'Connell!
  7. Monday 1st November Training had been interesting yesterday, the players had obviously been unhappy about having to get out of bed on what should have been their day off, but I simply told them that they didn’t deserve the day off after how they had played. Today found the players training at Sundorne, and John and myself stood at the edge of the pitch as the players went through some fitness exercises with Dave B. “Any information on Morecambe?” “Well we are more aggressive, taller and stronger. But they are more determined and more creative.” “Uh-huh, right so we just need to eliminate their creative threat, and get in their faces and attempt to wind them up.” “You’re a difficult man to track down Mr Phillips.” I spun around half expecting to find a Bond villain stroking a white cat, instead I found Rosie, Barry and James. “Not difficult enough it seems.” James sidestepped the sarcastic comment, “Peter Ward is having a difficult time at Stockport, do you think the Stockport board should get rid of him?” “No, he just needs more time to turn the results around, what will a new manager achieve? It will only disrupt the squad.” “What chance do you think Morecambe have in the upcoming fixture? Some people think that they don’t have much of a chance.” Barry asked. “Obviously they have a chance, upsets happen every week, but I feel this is a game we can win.” “This is a question that seems to annoy you, but what tactics will you deploy?” Rosie enquired. “If you know it annoys me then why ask it? To be honest you already know the answer. Attack.” “Phil Jones will pose your defence a problem tomorrow.” James stated matter of factly, “Who will you counter him with?” “Leon Johnson, Phil is obviously a good player but Leon is better.” I had obviously annoyed Rosie by being so short with my answer, and to be honest I was quite blunt, as she left without saying goodbye, James and Barry however shook my hand and followed after Rosie. They were becoming almost like the three musketeers. Tuesday 2nd November Pulling into the car-park I wondered how the players would respond to the result against Hereford, my answer was provided for me as I walked into the dining area, where I found Ian Sharps rallying the troops. As I entered the players looked at me, I gestured for Ian to carry on and I went to grab my pre-match meal. As I sat down at the table, Ian stopped and sat down, he had obviously finished and now the players were buzzing around me. Entering the changing rooms, I had to shout twice to get the player’s attention, they were bouncing off of the walls with energy and enthusiasm. “Right then, here is the team.” Elliot Parish Jermaine Grandison Ian Sharps Leon Johnson Tomos Roberts Sean McAllister Nicky Wroe Benji Van Der Broek Lionel Ainsworth Liam Davis Lee Trundle Subs: Marcus Bettinelli, David Raven, Andy Van Der Meyde, James Collins, Clayton McDonald, Mark Wright, Matt Harrold. The players that hadn’t been selected still bounced out of the changing room, they were obviously going to be supportive during the game, and I was glad that I had Ian in the changing room. The players selected for the match day squad got changed quicker than I have ever seen them get changed, and they bounced out of the changing room to go and get warmed up. I followed after, their enthusiasm causing me to bounce out of the changing room as well. I stood on the touchline and couldn’t stop moving, bouncing from one leg to the other. 15 minutes before kick-off I gathered the players in the changing room. “Right, so we are motivated, and ready to win! Then let’s do it, let’s win this game and bring home the three points. Go get them!” Ian led the team out, I watched as they ran after him, hoping that Lee Mason wouldn’t be too harsh on the lads tonight. I took my position on the touchline and watched as Lee Mason started the game. In the 8th minute Nicky Wroe went storming down the right wing and delivered a cross into the middle which was met by the head of Ian Sharps, I was still confused as to why Ian had been so far forward, but a goal is a goal and I joined in the celebrations on the touchline. The lads enthusiasm had obviously had an effect on the crowd, who hadn’t stopped singing since the first goal, the stands were positively bouncing, and the noise reverberated around the ground. “Darren give us a wave, Darren Darren, give us a wave.” I turned to the source of the noise, the Salop Leisure Stand and waved, they had burst into life around the same time as the West Stand and both stands were competing to be the loudest. As soon as I waved the Salop Leisure Stand roared. “STFC, Darren Phillips’ barmy army.” After about 10 minutes the chant began to become a bit annoying and I was glad when the West Stand started a new chant which beat the Salop Leisure Stand for noise. Lee Mason brought the game to a halt a couple of minutes later and we headed into the changing room the happier of the two sides. Ian Sharps provided the half time team talk and I was happy to sit back and let him talk. In fact I enjoyed the break from having to shout at them. As I listened to Ian a thought entered my mind. “Ian Sharps = Next Assistant/Manager.” Lee Mason popped his head around the door and Ian led the lads back out for the second half. Lee blew his whistle to start the second half and the noise started again. Lee Trundle made the most of a defensive error in the 59th minute as he gathered the ball on the edge of the area and dispatched a long shot into the top right corner. Punching the air, I stood on the touchline, in a couple of seconds the players had crowded me and Lee Mason had to try and break the celebrations up. In the 68th minute I brought Andy Van Der Meyde on for Lionel, the Shrewsbury fans cheered their new hero, and I silently prayed that he wouldn’t get injured again. In the 77th minute I sent Clayton on for Sean, and moved Leon into the defensive midfield role, Sean had played brilliantly but he had picked up a booking and I didn’t need him getting sent off, as Sean exited the field of play I hugged him and congratulated him on his performance. In the 87th minute Colin Larke smashed home a header to set up a nervy last couple of minutes for us, which wasn’t helped in the 90th minute as the fourth official signalled for 4 minutes of extra time. So in the 92nd minute I sent Matt on for Lee just to try and waste some time. After 4 minutes of nerves and biting my finger nails Lee Mason brought the game to an end and we celebrated the three points. Final Score: Shrewsbury Town 2-1 Morecambe “Well done lads, I’m glad we had that extra training session on Sunday, enjoy your day off tomorrow, and make sure you celebrate our win.” As soon as I mentioned a day off the players looked at me happily. “Good performances mean rewards, play badly and you won’t be rewarded.” As the players left the changing room after getting changed they shook my hand and thanked me for the day off.
  8. Friday 29th October I had secured my new scouts, all three had wanted £350 per week until June 2011, I had immediately dispatched them to find the best youngsters possible. I wanted to make sure that there were a couple of gems coming through the U18s squad to make sure that we were set up for the future. I walked down to the training pitch behind the Salop Leisure Stand to find the first team training before the match against Hereford. Standing with John we discussed the tactics that Hereford were likely to deploy. John was an ex Hereford manager and was nervous about getting a good result against his former team. “We are taller, stronger, technically better, better dribblers, and we have the better first touch. This is a game we should easily win, maybe that could be our downfall.” “We will just have to make sure that the players understand the importance of this game to the fans and to us.” I gathered the players in to talk to them about tomorrow’s game. “Right then, tomorrow’s game means a lot to the fans and it means a lot to John and myself, we need to win it. We are good enough to win it. Go home tonight and make sure you come back tomorrow ready to win.” Saturday 30th October[/b ]I arrived at the ground early, the players were arriving in a steady flow and there was a state of nervousness around the ground. Settling down to our pre-match meal the mood was nervous and the players were quiet. Heading into the changing room, I looked at the players, they were nervous and so was I. “Here’s the team” Elliot Parish David Raven Clayton McDonald Leon Johnson Kelvin Lomax Lewis Montrose Alain N’Kong Sean McAllister Mark Wright Liam Davis James Collins Subs: Marcus Bettinelli, Jermaine Grandison, Nicky Wroe, Matt Harrold, Ian Sharps, Tomos Roberts, Lee Trundle. The players that weren’t selected for the match squad left to take their seats in the stand; they breathed a sigh of relief as they left the changing room. The rest of the players got changed in silence. Once they had changed they ran out of the changing room to get warmed up. I followed after to find that the Greenhous Meadow was filling up quickly, as fans from Hereford and Shrewsbury arrived early to warm up their vocal chords. About 15 minutes before kick-off we headed back into the changing room. “Right, guys we can win this game, as I said yesterday. When the chances present themselves all you have to do is take them. Relax and we will win this.” Leon Johnson stood up and led the players out, as we arrived out onto the pitch the Hereford fans unfurled a banner calling Graham Turner a traitor and they proceeded to hang it in the away end, this provoked the Shrewsbury fans and a lot of chanting and macho posturing took place. Stuart Atwell started the game and we started to attack. I prowled the touchline aware that the eyes of the board were on my back and more importantly the eyes of Graham Turner were on me. We attacked well and looked the more likely to create something, but the nerves of our players meant that we snatched at our chances and were unable to convert any of them that presented themselves to us. In the 38th minute we won a corner and Alain stepped up to swing it into the box, Leon managed to get himself in front of the Hereford keeper and headed home. The Hereford management were sure that Leon had fouled the keeper, but I didn’t care I was celebrating a lead over our rivals. Unfortunately some of the Shrewsbury fans decided to take the chance to have a go at the Hereford fans and there was a break in the game as the trouble was sorted out. Once the game was allowed to kick off, we continued to attack and looked for a chance to double our lead. However we were unable to do so and Stuart Atwell brought the half to an end. “Excellent guys, keep it up. Whilst we have done brilliant in the first half, we can do even better in the second!” Leon led the team back out for the second half and I followed out afterwards, hopefully we would be able to keep up the good work in the second half. Stuart Atwell started the second half, and we attacked towards the Salop Leisure Stand. However it was Hereford that came out the strongest, obviously their manager had shouted at them. In the 55th minute Erik Tonne headed home from a corner, our defending of the corner had been terrible, as we allowed Erik to find space within the box to head home, I let the players know what I thought of them, and we kicked off. I decided to send Nicky Wroe on for Sean McAllister, as Sean was supposed to have been marking Erik at the corner and had failed to take care of him. Unfortunately the game ground to a holt and the 4,329 people in the crowd went quiet, without the support from the fans, the players lost the enthusiasm to win. Stuart Atwell brought a disappointing second half to an end, and I stormed down the tunnel. Final Score: Shrewsbury Town 1-1 Hereford “What was that? Do you call that defending? They should never have been able to score that corner, Erik should have been watched, Sean what was wrong with you? Did someone distract you with something?” “No boss.” “Well why the hell did you lose Erik? Actually I don’t want to hear it, just improve for Tuesday’s game, see you in training tomorrow.” “Training tomorrow?” Came the response from one of the players. “Sorry did you not hear me? Maybe we need to get your ears tested. Training tomorrow at 8am.” I left the changing room at this point, there were no journalists today, they knew better than to try and talk to me at the moment, and I headed home.
  9. Monday 25th October I awoke around 8am I had had trouble sleeping, ever since I was a young boy this time of year made me stupidly excited. It was FA cup time! The first round was due to be drawn today, and I couldn’t wait to find out who we would be playing. Bouncing down the stairs I quickly ate breakfast and got ready for work, the BBC were showing the draw at 12 and I wanted to get everything I needed to do done before it started. Arriving in work I checked my phone to find the list of my tasks for the day. The first task was to find a new scout, I needed someone who had a good understanding of a country apart from England, or any part of the United Kingdom. They also needed to be good at spotting potential within players. Phoning Alan I asked for his recommendation. “I have heard of Andrzej Szarmach, he’s supposed to be a good scout.” “Thanks Alan, I’ll get in touch with him.” Putting his name into Google, there were a few results for him, most of them were about his inclusion in finding good players at our level. Now I had to find his number, or email. Looking for previous clubs was fruitless as they were mainly eastern European clubs, and I doubted they would know where he was. It was 11:30 by the time I managed to find some contact information for him, he actually had his own website, which detailed how to contact him. Picking up the phone I gave the number a call. “Hello.” Came the Polish accent from the other end. “Andrzej?” I don’t think I pronounced it right. “This is Darren Phillips, manager of Shrewsbury Town.” “Good Afternoon Darren.” Afternoon? He must have been in Poland. “Just wondering if you would be interested in joining our scouting team?” “Sure, I will need a week to find a new house in Shrewsbury, but yes I will do it.” “Great, how much do you want a week?” “£275 a week until the end of June 2011.” “Alright, be here as soon as you can and we will get the contracts signed.” “Okay.” With that he put the phone down, I turned to the computer screen and found the link to the live draw on the BBC Sport website. Watching I didn’t notice as other teams were drawn out, but finally my interest peaked as we were one of the last teams in the hat. Out came Droylsden and we followed. We would be playing Droylsden away. Non-league opposition. I groaned, the team had not had the greatest of times against non-league opposition in past years. The announcer informed everyone watching that the games would be played on the 6th November. Now I just had to find out more about Droylsden. Looking at my phone I checked the tasks for the day. I had found a new scout, I had watched the FA cup draw and now all that was left was to… Pick up milk. Tuesday 26th October Andrzej arrived in my office this morning, he had obviously taken an early flight to arrive her and he looked tired. Pulling the contract out of a drawer in my desk I handed it across to Andrzej to sign. “Thank you Darren.” “No problem, any chance you can recommend some more scouts?” “Yes, Ernie Tippett, Carl Daws and Ian Salter.” “Excellent, now I suppose you’ll want to get some shut eye?” “Yes, I shall see you tomorrow.” With that he left and I got round to contacting the three scouts he had recommended to me, all three agreed to come in and have a talk about becoming scouts for us. I had found my info on Droylsden, they were a mid-table Blue Square North team and hopefully they wouldn’t prove too difficult to beat, yet we had thought this of Histon, and Staines to name but a few. I left for the training ground, as we had Hereford in a couple of days, I wanted to bounce back and thought the Hereford game would be a brilliant game to bounce back on.
  10. Friday 22nd October I awoke early today and decided to head down to the ground, it was only about 8am but I wanted to get started on my day, as I stepped out of bed Jody rolled over and smiled at me. “Morning sleepy.” “Morning you, off to work?” “Yeah, going to have a long day.” “Have fun, don’t be too late home, I do want to spend some time with you.” Her eyes looked at me pleadingly as if to say don’t go in just yet. Just as I was about to get back into bed my phone buzzed, it was John he wanted to know what time I would be arriving, I texted him back to say ASAP. I apologised to Jody but she just rolled her eyes and rolled back over. I arrived at the ground at about 9am, I parked my Ford Focus next to one of the player’s Land Rovers, I didn’t see the need for a Land Rover plus this one was white and looked like it had never seen a muddy piece of road. I walked up to my office, as I headed in Claire stopped me to tell me that Tom Bradshaw had decided to join Hednesford on loan. I headed into my office and switched on the computer, I was still in the hunt for players to fill my shopping list of players. Claire buzzed through to me to tell me John was here. John entered and closed the door behind him. “Wow, your personal assistant is looking pretty good, isn’t she?” “Yeah she is, what do you want to discuss?” “Right, here’s the lowdown on Gillingham. We are taller than them.” I interrupted John at this point. “We are taller than them? Don’t tell me that is all we are better than them at!” “Sorry, they have a determination, speed, passing and fitness advantage.” “Great.” I put my head in my hands and sighed. My phone rang at this point. “Mr Phillips, Jon Taylor has agreed to join Hednesford on loan as well. Oh and the journalists are here.” Claire mumbled something about being able to spot Rosie’s cleavage from a mile off but I ignored her. Standing up I apologised to John but he obviously had Rosie and Claire’s cleavages on his mind. As soon as I entered the Arthur Rowley lounge my eyes went straight to Rosie, she was wearing a black pencil skirt with a tight fitting white blouse, her black bra showing through. I sat down in front of them. “Morning Darren.” My mind raced to imagine what it would be like to wake up to that voice. “Are you hoping to build a good run of results following the Wycombe win?” “Yes, of course we are hoping to build a good set of results.” “How do you think the three day gap will affect you?” James asked. “They generate a good run of momentum, which will serve us well.” Rosie continued her questions. “Liam Davis has been a revelation since he signed, the fans have been singing his praises. How do you feel their praise has affected him?” “The fans have been great, the have made Liam feel right at home and quite frankly this is why I love this club!” “How do you feel Liam has been playing recently?” “All you have to do is watch him, to see how brilliant he has been, I am still amazed Northampton let him go for as little as they did.” At this point I stood up to leave, I wanted to have a final look at the players before the game against Gillingham. I needed to know if there was any way to make our height advantage count, except for playing the ball off of the ground. Saturday 23rd October The trip down to Gillingham had been uneventful, I still disliked Gillingham since the last time we played them was the play-off final which also happened to be my last ever game as a player. It would be fair to say that I enjoyed it when they were relegated. We arrived at Priestfield to find that the weather was windy but it was still about 8 degrees Celsius. Heading into the changing room I looked around, the players all sat on the benches provided for them. Turning to them I grabbed the kit bag and began to locate the individual shirts. Elliot Parish David Raven Ian Sharps Jermaine Grandison Tomos Roberts Leon Johnson Nicky Wroe Benji Van Der Broek Mark Wright Liam Davis Tom Eaves Subs: Marcus Bettinelli, Kelvin Lomax, Lionel Ainsworth, Lee Trundle, Clayton McDonald, Alain N’Kong, James Collins. As I read the names out I threw the appropriate shirt at the player, the shorts followed as John Trewick helped to dish the kit out, the kit manager stood by the door and sorted out the equipment we needed for the warm-up. I looked at the disappointed faces of the other players and handed them tickets for the away end. I had decided to do away with the whole “you can travel if you want” and now all the fit, injury free players travelled. As the players left the changing room, I sat on one of the empty benches and thought back to that game, the corner that should never have been, and the poor defending. I wanted revenge and I wanted it today. I headed out to the pitch and watched as the lads warmed up, James Collins and Lionel Ainsworth were messing around trying to cause mischief, but it was ignored by the rest and Ian Sharps soon told them to stop it and concentrate. 15 minutes before the game we headed back into the changing room, I was desperate to get the team ready and raring to go. “Let’s do this for all of the Shrewsbury fans who travelled down to Wembley in 2009, only to be robbed! We can win this! We will win this! Now get out there!” Ian Sharps jumped up and ran out of the changing room, the rest of the team followed out after him. I followed out afterwards, and took my seat in the dugout. “League 1 and you f***ed it up!” Came the chant from the away end, I smiled and laughed. Andy D’Urso started the game and Gillingham went straight onto the attack. In the 7th minute Gillingham thought they were ahead as one of the Gillingham wingers slotted home the ball from the 6 yard box, luckily for us the linesman had signalled that the player was offside and we breathed a sigh of relief. However our luck ran out in the 46th minute as Michail Antonio headed home a corner, when the corner was given I had leapt to my feet as the corner had clearly come off of a Gillingham player. When the header went in I turned to the 4th official and started to berate him. “Aren’t eyesight tests compulsory for anyone in your job? Seriously do you want me to provide you and the rest of the officials with glasses?” “Just sit down, or you will be sent to the stand.” “No, for god sake at the end of the day that kind of mistake could cost us promotion!” Andy D’Urso brought the game to an end and I approached him to have a go, before I could get into too much trouble John pulled me away. “What was that? Are you actually trying to tell me that you are professional footballers? I could go down to the park and find people that could have defended that corner! Sort it out!” I left the changing room first and stood in the technical area, the clatter of boots came from behind me and the Gillingham players ran past me, a couple of seconds later the Shrewsbury players followed out. Andy D’Urso whispered in my ear that I needed to watch myself during the second half. “And you need to actually use your eyes.” “Last chance Phillips.” I turned my back and looked towards the away end, the Shrewsbury fans seemed defeated and I sighed and shook my head. The second half kicked off and Gillingham attempted to play keep ball, they seemed happy enough to sit on their lead. In the 57th minute I brought Lionel Ainsworth on for Liam Davis in an attempt to unlock the Gillingham defence. Lionel started to attack but the Gillingham defence were able to repel his attacks, and any long balls played for him were proved to be too long. In the 70th minute Tom Eaves went down following a heavy challenge from one of the Gillingham centre-backs, I appealed to the ref for some kind of punishment but my appeals fell on deaf ears, and I was forced to bring Lee Trundle on in his place. By the 80th minute the Shrewsbury fans were beginning to become restless and were starting to get on the players backs, true we were playing badly but ever since the inclusion of Lee Trundle we had started to attack well and were starting to carve out a number of chances. In the 86th minute I decided to bring Alain N’Kong on for Nicky Wroe, the midfield needed new blood and I felt Alain would be the attacking presence we needed to equalise. Alain ran on with enthusiasm and took his place in the centre of midfield, he began to shout instructions to the rest of the players, I had told him to tell the team to attack. Unfortunately we were unable to take our chances and Andy D’Urso brought the game to an end soon after. Final Score: Gillingham 1-0 Shrewsbury Town “Unlucky guys, we should have got an equaliser but we were unable to. It’s just a minor blip in the road and we just need to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off.” I left the changing room to find some of the journalists stood there, looking at them I told them to talk to John as I was in no mood to talk to them about the game, walking out of the stadium I hopped onto the coach. Pulling my phone out I phoned Roland. “Roland, it’s Darren.” “Darren, what can I do for you?” “I need more scouts, I need to be able to find more players, possibly even find some young gems.” “Done, as long as it helps you to improve on the pitch results.” “Thanks Roland.” I put the phone down and made a mental note to ask John for suggestions. As I sat on the coach I chatted with the coach driver. Once the players had changed they started to file onto the coach, Steve approached me to tell me that Tom Eaves would be out for between 5-7 weeks with strained ankle ligaments.
  11. Wednesday 20th October Chris had informed me that Ravo would be able to make the bench for tonight’s game but unfortunately Samba Kanoute had twisted his ankle and would be out for 5-6 weeks. The players who were still fit had arrived at 5pm and were raring to go, my words on Saturday had had the desired effect and the players wanted to get back out there. Once the pre-match meal had been eaten we headed into the changing rooms, where I read the team out. Elliot Parish Kelvin Lomax Ian Sharps Leon Johnson Paul Dummett Lewis Montrose Alain N’Kong Sean McAllister Lionel Ainsworth Liam Davis James Collins Subs: Marcus Bettinelli, David Raven, Tomos Roberts, Lee Trundle, Jermaine Grandison, Mark Wright, Tom Eaves. I took Leon to one side and had a quiet word. “Look, I know we are playing your old club, but for today you need to forget about them and just remember who you are playing for.” “I know boss, I’m going to play to my best.” “Good, now get out there and warm up.” I walked out with Leon and took a walk around the pitch whilst the players warmed up, I stood by the West Stand and stared across at the dugout. In my head I could see John, the rest of the coaching staff, the players and myself celebrating promotion, the stands in my head were packed full of people all wearing blue and amber. John broke my thoughts as he reminded me that there were only 15 minutes till kick off, I jogged across the pitch and headed into the changing room. “Now let’s improve on Saturday’s performance, and win this!” I kept my team talk short and hoped my words inspired a performance out of my players. Steve Tanner stuck his head around the door and told the players to get into the tunnel, Ian Sharps led the team out, and I followed after them. In the 3rd minute it was obvious my team talk had had its desired effect, as Liam Davis slotted home from 6 yards from a Lionel Ainsworth cross, Lionel had beaten the Wycombe left-back and had smashed a low cross across the face of the goal. Liam led the celebrations and the players re-enacted the incident after Saturday’s game. In the 26th minute, Paul Dummett went down in a heap by the corner flag in our half, he had obviously been caught by the Wycombe player’s boot as he followed through on his cross. Chris confirmed that Paul couldn’t carry on and in his place Tomos Roberts entered the pitch. Leon was getting a bit of stick from the Wycombe fans who had bothered to make the trip, but he seemed unaffected by it and carried on playing to his best. In fact, he was the best player in the defence and had cut out many Wycombe attacks which he always followed with a smile and a nod in mine or Sharps’ direction. Steve Tanner brought the half to an end, and we headed into the changing room the happier of the two sides. “Excellent, keep it going guys, we are playing brilliantly all over the pitch. Wycombe can’t handle us. Leon keep it up mate, but don’t get to cocky.” As I said this I smiled, I was joking with him and he took it well. Sharps led the team back out and Steve Tanner started the second half before I could take my seat, looking around the ground I could see that it was empty, with a glance towards the scoreboard I saw that only 3,842 people had turned up, most of them would be season ticket holders, Roland wouldn’t be happy with this. In the 64th minute I decided to bring Lee Trundle on for James Collins, I wanted a second goal and I wanted it soon. However we carried on with our one-goal lead and we seemed happy to defend for the rest of the game, Sharps was telling the players to be sensible, but I just couldn’t settle with only one goal. So in the 80th minute I brought Mark Wright on for Lionel Ainsworth, Lionel had run himself into the ground and was beginning to look exhausted. Mark Wright made his impact in the 91st minute as it was his wayward cross, which was deflected out to Alain N’Kong who fired home from just outside of the area. Alain sprinted towards the home support in the Salop Leisure Stand to celebrate his first Shrewsbury goal. I had gotten the second goal I had wanted, just a shame we got it so late. Steve Tanner brought the game to an end after the Wycombe kick-off and after applauding the fans we headed into the changing room. Final Score: Shrewsbury Town 2-0 Wycombe Wanderers “Well done, you have improved on last time’s performance and I am pleased to see that my words have had their effect. Keep it up and lets try to build a sequence of results.” I headed out of the changing room and found Claire walking towards me, as she approached she half-jumped which caused her breasts to bounce in her shirt, which was low-cut, she was wearing bright red lipstick, along with a smoky black eye shadow, which drew attention to her blue eyes. “Mr Phillips, the journalists are here.” She said seductively. “Thanks Claire.” I replied whilst fighting impure thoughts about my personal assistant. I wondered how Rosie would be dressed today. I shook my head and went into the Arthur Rowley lounge. Sitting down in front of the journalists my eyes went straight to Rosie’s cleavage. “So how do you feel about Liam Davis’ early goal, did you think the game would be easy after that?” James asked. My response was slow in coming as I struggled to avert my eyes from Rosie. “It was a great moment for the lads and we obviously were going to win.” “Terry, from BBC Three Counties, James Collins has been unable to score for the past couple of games, are you worried?” “Not at all, James is still a great hold-up player, and we have other scoring options, James just needs to relax and take his chances.” “Alain N’Kong’s first goal was an amazing goal, what did you make of it?” Barry asked me. “It was definitely a brilliant goal, and certainly a great one to score for your first ever goal in a Shrewsbury shirt.” “Leon Johnson was a rock today, and has been since he joined, how do you feel he has played?” James asked. I was still looking at Rosie who was chewing on her pen seductively as she took notes. “Leon has been amazing since he joined, I’m pleased to have signed him.” “Liam Davis picked up the man of the match award today, how do you feel he played?” Barry asked. “Liam was amazing today, he didn’t put a foot out of place and gave the Wycombe right-back a lot of trouble.” As I stood up to leave, Rosie winked at me, and pushed her cleavage up. Women were certainly acting weird around me, were they unaware of my wife and child? I headed out of the stadium and just as I reached my car, I heard Rosie’s high heeled shoes behind me, as she passed she slipped me a piece of paper, as she reached her car she motioned “call me”. As I sat down in my car, I looked at the number, things had been tough between me and Jody recently, but I couldn’t do it, I scrunched the number up and stuffed it into an empty drinks bottle.
  12. Friday 15th October Training today was only going to be a light session seeing as how we had Stevenage in a league clash the day after, as John and myself watched the players training with Tony and Dave B we talked about the league new boys Stevenage. “We are more aggressive, taller and quicker than them. But they are better passers and better at dribbling.” “Right so play the ball off of the ground and play it for our players to run onto. Also we should try to get in their faces and try to intimidate them.” John nodded his agreement. Claire came up to me at this point and told me that the journalists were here, I noticed that Claire had had a haircut and was wearing more figure hugging clothes, she obviously wanted one of the players to notice her, still as I walked with her back to the reception I couldn’t help but check her out. Walking into the Arthur Rowley lounge, I noticed that there was someone new in Sarah’s place she introduced herself as Rosie and told me she was also from the Football League Paper. It was Rosie that started the questions and I noticed her voice was softer than Sarah’s. “Peter Taylor is having a pretty hard time at Bradford, should they sack him?” “Sack Peter?!? No way he used to be part of the England set up, yes they are underachieving but he is the best man for the job!” “Do you think Stevenage have much chance in the next game?” “Yes, of course they do, it won’t be a walk in the park for us.” “What tactics will we see you deploy?” “Attack as always.” James finally snapped into life, he had obviously had enough of staring at Rosie’s chest and wanted to ask his question now. “How do you feel the rest will have affected the players?” “They will be sharp and raring to go.” At this point Barry decided to question me and James went back to staring at Rosie who had noticed. “What are you going to do to combat Chris Beardsley?” “I think Leon will be the best man for the job.” Rosie stood up at this moment, and James’ and Barry’s eyes went to her backside. “Thank you for your time.” She said in a seductive whisper as she left. James and Barry were too interested in her backside to say anything, and I too watched her leave. What was it with the women around here recently? Saturday 16th October We arrived at Broadhall Way at about 12pm, it was a dry day with a temperature of about 14 degrees Celsius. I stepped off of the bus first and headed into the changing room, Broadhall is a good stadium which certainly has its quirks. I read the teamsheet out to the players assembled in the changing room. Elliot Parish David Raven Samba Kanoute Leon Johnson Kelvin Lomax Lewis Montrose Nicky Wroe Sean McAllister Mark Wright Liam Davis Tom Eaves Subs: Marcus Bettinelli, Jermaine Grandison, Tomos Roberts, Lee Trundle, Ian Sharps, Alain N’Kong, James Collins. The players began to get changed at this point and I left to check out the pitch and stadium, stepping out of the tunnel, I could see that the pitch was in condition with few bobbles which would allow us to play our passing game. The ground was a small, compact place, this would allow for the Shrewsbury fans to create a lot of noise. As I admired my surroundings the Stevenage players jogged out, to be honest they were huge and at 6ft 2” I felt small. The Shrewsbury players trotted out after and began to warm up. This was another game my parents had travelled for and I walked across to have a chat with them. I saw the players head into the changing rooms and followed after them, as I did I turned to the Shrewsbury fans and gestured for them to make some noise, which they did. I arrived in the changing room and looked at the players assembled in front of me. “Lets win this, for us and most importantly for the fans, we’ve all had a long trip down here and lets take the 3 points home with us!” David Raven was the captain for today’s fixture and he yelled a couple of words of encouragement and led the team out. Keith Stroud the referee for the day, blew the whistle to start the game and off we went, the Shrewsbury fans greeted the first attack with a wall of noise. In the 22nd minute Tom Eaves picked up on a loose Mark Wright cross and chipped the ball into the box, the Stevenage keeper managed to spill the ball and Mark managed to get his head on the ball. He sprinted towards the Shrewsbury fans and enjoyed their praise. Unfortunately Stevenage had other plans, and in the 39th minute, one of the Stevenage wingers kept the ball in on the byline and swung a cross into the box, Chris Beardsley popped up to head the ball home. I swore and shook my head. Keith Stroud brought the game to an end 6 minutes later, heading into the changing rooms I could see that Raven was limping and I decided to take him off and place Jermaine Grandison on in his place, I informed them both of the decision and Jermaine stayed out to warm up. “Right, let’s start this again, 45 minutes and 1 goal is all we need. Now don’t switch off at the back, remain alert and attack.” Leon had taken the armband and he led the players back out for the second half. I sighed and headed back out. There was a goal in the second half, but it didn’t go our way, Peter Win made the most of a defensive mix up in the 58th minute and slid the ball home at the back post. At this point I was stood drinking out of one of the water bottles provided for the players. Watching the goal go in I slammed the bottle and the floor, the bottle bounced and caught Mark Wright in the leg. “Tell them to sort it out, or I won’t hit players in the legs with water bottles after the game, I shall be aiming for people’s heads, maybe it will knock some sense into them!” Mark looked at me like a rabbit caught in headlights. Glancing down at the away fans I could see Shrewsbury fans gesturing towards me and Mark. As the players lined up, I looked Mark in the eyes, picked up a water bottle and mimed throwing it at someone’s head, he looked at the rest of the team and told them to get their act together. I decided experience would be a good idea and decided to send Lee Trundle on for Tom Eaves, who had been bouncing off of the Stevenage centre backs all game. So in the 60th minute Lee trotted on to replace Tom. Lee suffered from the same problem as Tom, the Stevenage defenders were like rocks, I made a mental note of their names and weighed up whether or not to put an offer in for all of them in the January transfer window. In the 70th minute Tomos Roberts replaced Kelvin Lomax at left back, Kelvin had been playing out of position and I felt he wasn’t having the best of effects on the game. The game fizzled out as Stevenage seemed happy to keep possession and waste time, and we just couldn’t get the ball off of them. Keith Stroud blew for full time and I applauded the Shrewsbury fans and headed down to the changing rooms. Final Score: Stevenage 2-1 Shrewsbury Town I had waited till after the players and booted the door open causing a loud bang and making the players jump and stare towards the door. I stood in the doorway and began to yell. “What the bloody hell was that? Do you actually want to achieve promotion? Do you even want to play for the club?” “Yes boss.” Lee Trundle answered. He had chosen the wrong time to speak and the water bottle smashed into the wall behind him. “I didn’t ask you to speak! Improve against Wycombe, all of you, or get out of my club.” I spun on my heel and left, as I went I realised I had kicked the door off of the hinge, I headed to find someone in charge to pay for the door. It wasn’t fair for me to take my anger out on Stevenage. The coach journey home was a quiet one, the players kept their mouths shut and I sat and fumed at the front of the coach. As we arrived back at the ground I got off of the coach first and told the players to assemble in the car park. “I may have been harsh with my words, but you seriously need to improve. I need to see that you love the club as much as the fans and I do. Roland hasn’t put all of the money he has in just to see us lose to Stevenage, and the fans don’t travel like they do for these kind of results!” The players looked at me with a new passion in their eyes. “Promotion, it can be our only aim, we are good enough and we obviously have a great fanbase, and chairman behind us.” The players all shook my hand and headed off to their cars, John put his hand on my shoulder. “We will probably need to strengthen.” “Yeah I know, we need a new centre back, defensive midfield, central midfielder, striker and cover for the left wing.” “Right, I’ll get on it.” “I’ll get the scouts on it, and I’ll think of some names.” I shook John’s hand and headed to my car, I needed sleep.
  13. Excellent start! Really enjoying this!
  14. Saturday 9th October I called Nathan Elder, Chris Neal and Ben Smith into the office today, I sat down with Nathan first, he was unlucky seeing as how he had an injury and had been treated badly by Paul Simpson. “Nathan, good morning.” “Morning boss.” “Now Nathan you earn over £1000 a week, but I can’t see you playing for the first team when you recover, which is why I am asking you to name your price for us to terminate your contract.” “Well I’m disappointed that it’s come to this, but I trust your decision, let’s say about £75k?” “Sure, good luck in the future Nathan, I hope one day you come back and prove me wrong for releasing you.” “I hope so too.” With that he left and I called Chris into the office. Chris was unlucky seeing as how we had brought in better keepers on loan for no wages at all. “Chris, let me cut to the point, you won’t be getting first team football here. We are willing to terminate your contract to enable you to find a new team asap.” “What?” “Chris face it, you aren’t getting football.” “I want paying till the end of my contract!” “Fine, go and tell Roland, he’ll sort it out for you.” With that Chris stormed out and Ben entered, he was about to suffer the same fate. “Ben, you won’t be getting first team football here, I want to cut the wage budget and I don’t feel we should pay your wages.” I was getting more and more impatient with this process. “Nah, I’m not leaving.” “Ben I’m being fair here, this deal allows you to name a price and find a new team.” “Stick your deal.” At this point I picked Ben’s contract up and tore it in two. “Go see Roland for your redundancy pay.” Ben’s face was a picture but he left and headed to Roland’s office. Within a couple of minutes both players had left and Roland called me. “You’re a ruthless one aren’t you?” “Well if it benefits the club. I’m going to have to be.” “Good.” Wednesday 13th October I had taken the time off to do some DIY around the house, however it had ended badly and I had put a hole in the kitchen wall whilst trying to fix a cupboard, I’m still not sure how it happened. I also had found that Tommy Amos, one of the U18s had played for the Republic of Ireland U19s, he hadn’t played well but it was still more experience for him. Yann Nsaku had also moved on-loan to Hednesford on a season long loan, this would aid his development in the future and was a good move for both teams. Anyway I had asked the first team to attend tonight’s U18 Cup 3rd round against Tamworth, I was still annoyed after the Johnstones Paint Trophy and the players were walking on eggshells around me following the dismissal of Nathan, Chris and Ben. The U18s were excited to see that the first team were in attendance and I received news from Dave H that they wanted to play them in a closed door friendly. I told Dave that I would think about it. I was hoping that they would play like they did in the last round but it wasn’t to be as Tamworth scored in the 35th minute as Alexander Lewis broke loose and smashed home a shot. But we responded well and 4 minutes later Ryan Woods equalised with a perfect header from a corner We took the lead before half time as Kieran Mills Evans, found himself clear in the Tamworth half and placed his shot to the left of the keeper, he could’ve hit it anywhere as the keeper stayed rooted to the spot, but at half time we found ourselves in the lead. In the 73rd minute we all but confirmed the win as Steven Jones popped up to head the ball home from a cross. “That’s how you win a game.” I said to the players. They all nodded. “Let’s see if you can do that, oh and the U18s want a game against you.” The players looked rather sheepish, and nodded, maybe the U18s would get there friendly.
  15. Monday 4th October As I stood by the training pitch watching the players train in preparation for tomorrow night’s game against Chesterfield in the Johnstones Paint Trophy second round, John approached me with some information on the Chesterfield team. “They are fitter than us. But we are stronger, taller, more aggressive and more likely to create magic.” “Fitter? I’m getting fed up of hearing that other sides are fitter than us!” “I know, but we just need to get at them in the first half, and then sit back in the second half when we start to get tired.” “True, I just hope the players actually turn up in the first half.” John laughed and we turned back to the players training in front of us. At this point Sarah, James and Barry turned up to talk to me about tomorrow night’s game. “Following his £20k transfer do you feel Liam Davis has started to pay the money back?” James asked. “Yes he has, to be honest he is probably worth twice the amount we paid for him.” “Last time you played Chesterfield you suffered defeat, how will that affect the team?” “It will add a little more incentive for the players to go out there and win.” “Are you confident that you can get a win tomorrow?” Sarah enquired. “Yes of course I am, I wouldn’t be a good manager if I said no.” “Will you be resting players?” Barry asked. “Yes, we will be rotating the squad.” “Finally, do you feel you can win the Johnstones Paint Trophy?” James asked. “Yes, yes I do, I was in the team the last time we got to the final, and I would like to rectify the fact we lost it.” With that the journalists left, apart from Sarah who informed me that Lionel had made the N-Power League 2 Team of the Week. I thanked her for letting me know and went to tell Lionel. Tuesday 4th October The lads gathered at 5pm, they were all pretty excited to be playing in a cup fixture. I couldn’t work out why they would be excited about playing in a meaningless cup fixture but kept quiet for their sake. The players ran into the changing room before I had even finished my meal. Once I had finished I walked into the changing room to find the players bouncing around rather excitedly. “Calm it! Here’s the team.” Elliot Parish David Raven Samba Kanoute Leon Johnson Paul Dummett Sean McAllister Nicky Wroe Benji Van Der Broek Lionel Ainsworth Liam Davis James Collins Subs: Marcus Bettinelli, Jermaine Grandison, Alain N’Kong, Tom Eaves, Ian Sharps. The players looked at me rather quizzically. “Yes I have only named 5 subs that is the rule of the competition, don’t blame me.” “Seems weird that’s all.” Lionel chipped in. “Yeah, but rules are rules.” I walked out of the changing room at this point, and headed out of the tunnel, I heard the clatter of boots about 5 minutes later and the first players started to run out to get warmed up. Looking around the ground I saw that the North, West and South stands were empty. I turned to the steward next to me and asked why. “Not enough interest, we have put the away fans, down in blocks 1&2 and the home fans get the rest. We only expect about 2,000 people and the stand can hold that.” I nodded and looked at the East (Roland Wycherley) Stand, sure enough I could see a pocket of Chesterfield fans at one end, there could have only been about 200 of them sat there. I brought the players back into the changing room and began my team talk. “Right, we can win this today, use your excitement to your advantage!” With that they walked out led by Leon, as we entered the tunnel I saw that Mark Clattenburg was the ref for tonight, which I was glad of because he is a good ref, and we could have had worse. We exited the tunnel to light applause from the crowd, there were a few shouts of encouragement but nothing major. Taking my seat in the dugout I waited for the game to begin. We started brightly as usual, and Collins and Ainsworth had shots saved in the first ten minutes, we were having the greater amount of possession but we were unable to take our chances and actually score. We continued to press hard but that proved to be our downfall as one of the Chesterfield wingers picked up on a loose ball and sprinted down the wing leaving our defence in his wake, as he neared the byline he swung in a cross and Ian Morris headed home. I cursed our luck as this goal came against the run of play. The next 7 minutes seemed to fly by and by the time Mark Clattenburg brought the half to an end we could have been 3 or 4 up. “Guys, what are you doing? You have had these chances presented to you on a plate, but you are failing to take them! Get out there and improve.” Leon led the team back out and I followed after hoping that they could improve. Yet I might have well as spoke to them in Spanish, as in the 55th minute Danny Whitaker found himself with the ball on the edge of our area, he didn’t need to be told what to do and he sent the ball whizzing into the back of the net. If I hadn’t been so annoyed at our defending I probably would have applauded his spectacular goal. In response I sent Jermaine on for Ravo who was at fault for the second goal, Ravo slumped into his seat in the dugout and swore. “I hope you’re thinking about your performance.” Was my response. I didn’t hear what he said in response as my attention was elsewhere. 7 minutes later I decided to add some more experience to the defence and sent Sharpy on for Samba, who hadn’t been playing badly it was just his inexperience letting him down. My final substitution came in the 68th minute as I sent Tom on for Collins, who had been outplayed by the Chesterfield defenders. As Tom went on I told him to tell the rest of the team just to attack. Tom made his first impact in the 75th minute as his shot bounced back off of the keeper and into the path of Lionel who slid the ball home, instead of celebrating he grabbed the ball and ran back to the centre circle. However his determination failed to make an impact and the game finished 2-1 to Chesterfield. Final Score: Shrewsbury Town 1-2 Chesterfield “It’s a shame you only started taking your chances in the final 15 minutes, if you had been awake for the rest of the game we could have easily beaten this lot. Maybe you should all attend the U18s cup game next Wednesday, so they can show you how to play.” I stormed out this part and walked straight past the journalists. “Speak to John.” I said as I walked away. As soon as I got home I text the squad to tell them to take the next week off, we had a gap in the fixture list anyway so I thought this would be useful to rest the players in.