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A Step Down?

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Leeds' win, though a shock to many, wasn't the only giant killing of the evenings Carling Cup fixtures. Southampton picked up a 1-0 win away to Newcastle but the biggest shock was Burton Albion beating Everton at Goodison Park by 1-0. The draw would still contain some big names as Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City all remained in the competition but having beaten Man Utd the boys from Leeds were on a high that could probably only be topped by that of their superb win over the same side at Old Trafford over a year and a half earlier. But as the manager said, following their day off it was back to reality and minds back on the the chase for promotion.

Burnley were up next and even though it was at home it was still going to be a tough encounter against the side which sat directly behind Leeds in 3rd place. Eddie Howe, like Jamie Redknapp, was quickly gaining a reputation within management circles and a win for the visitors could not only increase his growing reputation but also take Burnley level on points with Leeds though barring a complete collapse Leeds would still remain 2nd on goal difference.

For Matt there had been numerous calls and texts to congratulate him on the win against Man Utd. Even Pancho, an avid Man Utd fan, had called and said Leeds had deserved it. That in itself was a victory all of it's own. With the team still on a high they were allowed once again to watch the draw before kick off as it was due to take place during the Gillette Soccer Saturday broadcast.

"Good afternoon and welcome to the draw for the Carling Cup quarter finals. There are the big guns of Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea along with the giant killers of Burton, Leeds and Southampton so with that in mind lets start the draw. Here to help are two footballing legends in the shape of Matt Le Tissier and Phil Thompson. Matt shall be drawing the home teams."

The numbered balls were dropped into the pot as the first team was drawn by Le Tissier and shown to the camera.

"Thats number 8, Wolves..." Thompson then dug his hand into the pot to draw a ball out. "And they will face.... Number 1, Burton Albion."

"Next up.... Number 3, Fulham.... To take on.... Number 7, Southampton."

"Next is Number 5, Liverpool who shall face..... Number 6, Manchester City." A collective gasp followed from all in the studio.

"And lastly it's number 4, Leeds United..... And they will take on number 2... Chelsea."

This time round there were smiles and nods of confidence. If they could beat Man Utd then maybe, just maybe, Chelsea could also find themselves on the wrong end of a result at Elland Road.....

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"Every day, and in every way, you are getting better and better."

- Emile Coue

Cheesey but true as everyone couldn't help agree with the message someone had pinned on the team board in the changing room. When Redknapp saw it he himself admitted he couldn't take credit for it but did point to it as a source of inspiration.

"I'm not sure who's put this up but it's proof isn't it. People can see how confident and how much better you are becoming game by game, day by day.... Keep the confidence going, keep the results coming. Control the ball, control the game!"

Despite the superb result midweek the team to face Burnley saw four changes. Rachubka returned to goal with Lonegran dropping to the bench in place of Cairns who had come in as cover. Parnaby, White and Kisnorbo came into the defence for Connelly, Pugh and O'Brien who were given a rest following a string games in quick succession.

The midfield and front line however remained unchanged.

npower Championship

29/10/2011

Leeds Utd Vs Burnley

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Stuart Parnaby

LB: Aiden White

CB: Tom Lees

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: Adam Clayton

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Ross McCormack

AMC: Matt Warner

ST: Andrew Keogh

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Paul Connelly

LB: Danny Pugh

AMC: Ramon Nunez

ST: Luciano Beccio

After the pre match hand shakes and coin toss Leeds got the game underway and it was another quick start and commanding display which saw the home side dominate the opening 20 minutes of play, their slick movement and passing a constant cause of concern for the home players, fans and management. Though they carved out a number of chances, notably for Keogh and Clayton, Matt ended up grabbing the opener thanks to McCormack's brilliant through ball and a fine finish into the top nearhand corner. It wasn't a constant barrage on the Burnley goal following the opener and the visitors did pose a problem or two of their own at the other end, in one instance Rodriguez drawing a top drawer save from Rachubka not long before half time. At the break Redknapp was forced to make a change as Parnaby picked up a knock earlier on in the half in the process of making a tackle. Connelly was on to replace him.

The second half was much like the first, nothing overly entertaining with the odd chance at both ends early on, Snodgrass found an opening but produced a tame shot on goal while Stanislas got a run on White but drove his shot straight wide. It wasn't long though before they were on level terms. McCann was given far too much time on the ball and despite Rachubka getting a hand to it he could only palm the high shot onto the underside of the bar and into the goal. The responce was almost instant as Connelly's crossed from deep to Keogh and McCormack at the back post but as the Scottish international applied the finish the flag was up for offside. On the hour mark there was another questionable decision from a referee as Matt skipped past Duff but was cynically brought down on the edge of the area with only a free kick and yellow card given as a result.

There wasn't much of a wait for some well deserved revenge as a nice passing move saw Matt lay in Snodgrass to apply a cool finish from 12 yards out and put Leeds back in what was a deserving lead as they began to tighten their grip on the game with 20mins to go though the scores were almost leveled straight from kick off as no one seemed to want to deal with a Treacy cross at first before Kisnorbo was fouled for a free kick. despite the better of the chances Burnley continued to cause problems. Clayton and McCormack made way for Pugh and Nunez for the final 15mins which in truth was becoming more and more nervy as Burnley pressed looking for an equaliser. Keogh produced the final action of the game with a nice little run but a very poor finish however at that point it mattered little as win number 12 in a row was in the bag and pressure kept firmly on West Ham above them. The win also meant that there was now a 6 point gap between Leeds in 2nd and Burnley in 3rd meaning it was quickly turning into a two horse title race with the possibility of Leeds making it a 9 point gap should they win their game in hand.

Matt's goal and assist bagged him the man of the match award and fully justified Redknapp's decision to urge him to attack more and not get so often dragged into those midfield scraps.

"Boys... Another good performance, we were given more of a game today than we perhaps would have liked but we still got the win and thats what matters. We didn't let out heads drop when they drew level, we rallied and we got what we deserved. But now it's done, Portsmouth midweek so again were off tomorrow but in at 10am Monday morning."

(

)

Leeds Utd 2 (Warner 14; Snodgrass 70)

Burnley 1 (McCann 49)

Att: 30,211

MoM: Matt Warner (Leeds)

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Just before the trip to Portsmouth it was again time for the monthly awards to be dished out and this time Leeds had two awards heading to Elland Road. Keogh picked up the gong for Player of the Month while Redknapp bagged the award for Manager of the Month for an October in which he led Leeds to 5 wins from 5 in the league. Junior Stanislas rounded off the monthly winners by being named as Young Player of the Month.

In the Premiership it remained close at the top. Liverpool and Chelsea sat joint top with 24 points each while Man Utd rested in 3rd just 2 points behind but with a game in hand. Blackburn and Fulham rounded off the top 5 while at the bottom QPR, Sunderland and Newcastle propped up everyone else with Swansea, Stoke, Wigan, Bolton and Norwich all just 2 points above the relegation zone and with only 4 points seperating the bottom 8 teams before a large 6 point gap had been opened between 12th and 13th. In the scoring chart Andy Carroll (8) remained at the top with Darren Bent (7) and Luis Suarez (7) just behind them.

In the Championship there was little change at the top with West Ham still 4 points clear of Leeds. Burnley, Bristol City, Reading and Leicester filled out the play-off places. At the bottom Derby, Watford and Peterborough occupied the drop zone. The scoring charts were a 3-way battle between Zavon Hines (8), Andrew Keogh (8) and Billy Sharp (8) with 4 other players trailing on 7 goals each just behind.

npower Championship Table 01/11/2011

| Pos | |       Team      | P | W | D | L | F | A | GD |Pts| 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 1st | | West Ham Utd    | 14| 12| 2 | 0 | 34| 11| +23| 38| 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 2nd | | Leeds Utd       | 13| 11| 1 | 1 | 32| 10| +22| 34| 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 3rd | | Burnley         | 14|  9| 1 | 4 | 28| 16| +12| 28| 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 4th | | Bristol City    | 14|  7| 7 | 0 | 25| 13| +12| 28| 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 5th | | Reading         | 14|  8| 2 | 4 | 22| 15|  +7| 26| 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 6th | | Leicester City  | 14|  7| 4 | 3 | 26| 17|  +9| 25| 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

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"I'm gonna put you on the bench for this one Matty.... It's not a reflection on your form though, i just don't want tire you out too much as you don't get the international breaks off like most of the squad do ok?" Redknapp said with a pat on the shoulder.

Matt nodded, he didn't like it but he could understand it. The run of games had began to take it's toll on more than just him so a brief rest would be appreciated.

"Your the boss, a bit of a rest would be welcome."

Matt was not the only change as Connelly, Pugh and Nunez came into the starting line up with Beccio being replaced on the bench by Vayrynen for the game against a Portsmouth side that was just a single point away from getting into the play-off places.

npower Championship

02/11/2011

Portsmouth Vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connelly

LB: Danny Pugh

CB: Tom Lees

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: Adam Clayton

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Ross McCormack

AMC: Ramon Nunez

ST: Andrew Keogh

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

LB: Aiden White

MC: Mika Vayrynen

AMC: Matt Warner

As it always seemed to be at this time of year in Portsmouth, the rain was falling. Leeds managed another good early start but unlike the weather there wouldn't have been many who could have predicted the source as Snodgrass whipped in a ball at the near post for Nunez to meet with a strong header down and past the flailing Portsmouth keeper. For those who would be thinking it may be another case of early goal and a win were given a bit of a shock when Huseklepp hit the post with a drive across goal, the rebound hit the back of a still grounded Rachubka but luckily it only found it's way over the touchline for a corner. But that seemed to set the tone as not long after Huseklepp was again given too much time and drove to the byline, the resulting low cross from the right being tapped in by Lawrence at the back post to level the scores. It didn't last long for Pompey as a superb passing move almost straight from the restart was given an equally worthy finish by Keogh to restore the advantage. The rest of the half was mainly Portsmouth though for all their possession they didn't really provide Rachubka with a difficult save to make.

Redknapp of course had a different take on the half,

"Ok were winning but it has been poor, very poor. We are not getting control of the play, were rushing too much.... We need to just calm down when we have the ball, let it do the work. Paddy, you HAVE to get tighter to Huseklepp, he's been given far too much time to do what he wants... Closing him down is the key to winning this game as everything good they do goes through him! Put a tackle on him, make life difficult for him alright?!"

The second half started much like the first ended and again it was Huseklepp who was cause all the problems as he found time and space on the edge of the area to drive in a low effort which rattled the inside of the post, ran across the line before being put out for a corner. Before too long however Huseklepp did get his goal as Redknapp's warnings seemed to go unheeded, once more being given far too much time on the ball before hammering an effort high into the top near hand corner which Rachubka had no answer for. Then, for the first time in what had seemed like an age Leeds were behind. Against it was Huseklepp who managed to turn Lees this time round and with Rachubka rushing out to meet him he produced a sublime chip over his head.

That was all that Redknapp needed to see as Parnaby, Vayrynen and Matt were all summoned from the bench and thrown on for Kisnorbo, Clayton and McCormack. Connelly went in at centre back while Nunez switched to the left of midfield with Matt dropping in once again behind Keogh. The changes did turn the tide slightly with Leeds starting to make in roads towards an equaliser but with 8 mins left a Lawrence free kick from the right found Kanu rising highest to meet it and round off the win. Matt had a number of chances which whistled close but in the end it seemed the defensive weaknesses of last season had caught up with them.

For the first time, Matt saw the angry side of Leeds' young manager.

"I told all you to get tighter to Huseklepp, to calm down on the ball and that we needed to raise our game if we were going to hold that lead.... You fell apart out there, some of the performances were nothing short of shocking. Showered, changed and on the coach.... And your in tomorrow as well, were going to pick apart this match because i DO NOT want to see another second half like that."

The door was slammed as the deafening silence that had been there before the managers entrance returned.

(

)

Portsmouth 4 (Lawrence 24; Huseklepp 53, 66; Kanu 83)

Leeds Utd 2 (Nunez 12; Keogh 27)

MoM: Erik Huseklepp (Portsmouth)

Att: 16,283

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"Yeah he wasn't pleased.... We weren't brilliant in the first half and were utter s**t in the second so we can't blame anyone but ourselves."

"True but 12 wins in a row isn't bad son.... Just pick yourselves up and hit the ground running again. Even the best sides have blips." His dad said while Matt paced up and down the hall of his flat in a slow manner, stopping every few seconds to talk.

"Yeah, not the way i wanted to celebrate my 125th league game for Leeds though..... You been to the doctors yet?"

"I've not really had time to get round to it.... I'm fine."

"Oh you stubborn old git.... If i have to come down there and drag you to a doctor i will. I'm not gonna say it again.... GO-TO-THE-DOCTOR!!"

"..... Ok... Look i gotta go anyway, me and your mum are heading out. Oh and when are you going to come down to see us, it would be nice for you to visit home again."

"I'll try soon, it's two games a week at the minute so i'm either at training, playing a game or home with very little inbetween..... And don't change the subject. You. Doctors. Understand?!"

"Yeah yeah.... Look i'll speak to you soon ok. Take care."

The phone went silent in his hand before it founds it's way back into his pocket. "He still won't bloody go.... Arse!" Matt thought to himself as he again just began wandering around his flat in a boredom enduced trance.

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Following the Portsmouth result Redknapp's anger failed to subside and the teams disappointment was also still ever present. Maybe they had become complacent following their superb start to the season but as seemed customary now the next game felt to come all to quickly. Redknapp had vowed changes for the trip to 2nd from bottom Derby. Howson would miss out through suspension for sure and by the time game day had arrived it was clear Redknapp's words were not without merit.

Pugh, Lees and McCormack were all dropped and all failed to make the bench with White, Parker, O'Brien, Matt, Beccio and Lalkovic all coming into the squad for what many were hoping would be a quick return to form. Derby had previously suffered 8 straight defeats in all competitions before a midweek win, and first for new manager Gordon Strachan, against fellow relegation stugglers Watford but Leeds would be an entirely different prospect for the former fan favourite. Also adding to the atmosphere would be the presence of the BBC camera's.

npower Championship

05/11/2011

Derby County Vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connelly

LB: Aiden White

CB: Andy O'Brien

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo ©

CM: Mika Vayrynen

CM: Adam Clayton

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Ramon Nunez

AMC: Matt Warner

ST: Andrew Keogh

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

LB: Ben Parker

AML: Milan Lalkovic

ST: Luciano Beccio

The game started in much more of a cautionary fashion from Leeds as they sought to bounce back to winning ways, meerly content to just keep hold of the ball and feel their way slowly into the game. Though there was much caution in their play as almost seemed like tradition now the first goal came early and thankfully for Leeds fans it was in their favour. Kisnorbo rose highest to meet a Nunez corner but as his effort came down off the crossbar his partner for the night O'Brien was on hand to sweep the ball in from close range. That gave them the confidence to crack on and not long after it was 2-0 for the visitors. Nunez once more working space to lay in Matt from the left, his shot was saved but the rebound fell staight at the feet of Snodgrass who made no mistake with an empty net as his mercy.

Derby weren't without their threats however as Hendrick had two good chances. The first saw him drive in at the byline but his pass across goal met nothing but air before it was cleared and moments later a cleaver through ball left him with what looked like a simple finish from 8 yards out only for Rachubka to produce a stunning save down low to keep the score at two.... But only for a few minutes.

As Derby pressed forward looking for a way back in a loose pass set Matt free with the ball and despite being outnumbered his cross from the right was bundled in at the near post by Keogh to put the men in black 3 up. At the interval Redknapp was once again warning against becoming complacent.

"I don't care who they are, where they are in the table or how many goals were up by, this job isn't done yet! If we can score 3 goals in one half they can too so keep your heads screwed on, no silliness and lets see this game through to the end ok.... Points are dished out after 90 minutes boys, not 45!"

The worry about complacency was quickly found to be almost ill-founded in a way as, in identical fashion to the opening goal, Leeds found themselves up by 4. Nunez corner, Kisnorbo with a bullet header onto the woodwork and O'Brien was on hand again to sweep home the loose ball for his 2nd goal of the night. Derby still posed the odd threat as Brayford's cross to the back post found Ward free and clear but his head fell inches wide from what was barely 2 yards out. With 20 minutes to go White came off for Parker with the game seemingly assured while with 10 minutes left Parnaby and Beccio came on for Connelly and Keogh but the score remained the same and it was back to winning ways for Redknapp's side.

In stark contract to the last game it was hard to pick out who the man of the match was but in the end it went to Andy O'Brien for his two goals though Kisnorbo who was immence at the back and Matt who'd been a thorn in the Derby side all night weren't far off also. Still as even Matt agreed with the TV panel's decision to name O'Brien as man of the match as he handed over the award after the post match interviews.

(

)

Derby County 0

Leeds Utd 4 (O'Brien 13, 51; Snodgrass 27; Keogh 38)

Att: 27,567

MoM: Andy O'Brien (Leeds)

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"What did i tell you bro, i told you we'd catch up...."

His brothers tone slightly annoying Matt despite the accuracy of his claim.

"True but A) Your still 6 points behind us. B) We still have a game in hand and C) Leicester don't have me....." Laughter on both ends followed.

"Alright alright.... But just remember what i said."

"So that stubborn old jackass dad of ours been to the doctor yet?"

"Yeah, they gave him the once over and have booked him in for some tests and other stuff..."

"When?"

"December..."

"Oh for f**ks sake.... He didn't go to the private health care centre did he? Bet he gave you the old 'My dad never had no private doctor and he survived just fine.' Speech?"

"Pretty much. But at least he went."

"Yeah but there's no point in me shelling out all this bloody money for private health care if he don't use the damn thing...... I'm glad i'm not in Leicester because i would have slapped him upside his bald head by now!"

"I'll try and talk him round...." The sound of a baby crying interupted him "Listen i gotta go, Kaiden's kicking off so i'll catch later.... Oh and don't forget, CoD tonight homo.... I'm gonna shank you bled!"

"You won't even see me to shank me.... I'll ciya later." Matt said with a light chuckle to himself as he ended the call.

They always did have a weird way of showing each other they cared, namely by hurling insults while trying everything they could to kill each other. Moments later though he recieved a text message from Chris "Sky Sports News, Shearer is the new Newcastle manager." After what had been a very disappointing start to the season for Alan Pardue he was shown the door with Mike Ashley finally managing the snag the man who had briefly led them towards the end of the 2008/09 season.

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Author's note: First of all if you are still reading by this point thank you. Secondly even i couldn't believe how this next part panned out in the game but believe me, it is in no way fabricated for dramatic value. Though it won't fit exactly like real life events it'll come pretty close.

=====================================================================

Following the game against Derby the news confirmed his selection for the friendlies against Spain and the USA during the final international break of the year. Ryan Shawcross and Chris Smalling also made the squad following some impressive form at club level and both would be looking to get their first cap in the up coming games.

Matt though was pulled to one side during one training session by Capello,

"Matt i.... Want to ask of you to play centre midfield for Spain.... I want to give Carroll up errrrm front with Wayne." He said in a still thick Italian accent.

"Ok... I've never played there before but if you want to give it a go i'm game."

Capello smiled and nodded, "Ahhh good, maybe it work but maybe not, we try, we try and see what happen."

"Yeah no problems boss." Capello waved him off to rejoin the training session.

International Friendly

12/11/2011

England vs Spain

Formation: 4-4-2

GK: Robert Green

RB: Glen Johnson

LB: Ashley Cole

CB: Rio Ferdinand

CB: John Terry ©

MR: Steven Gerrard

ML: Gareth Barry

MC: Frank Lampard

MC: Matt Warner

ST: Andy Carroll

ST: Wayne Rooney

Subs:

GK: Scott Carson

CB: Ryan Shawcross

CB: Chris Smalling

MC: James Milner

RB: Micah Richards

LB: Leighton Baines

ML: Stewart Downing

MR: Aaron Lennon

Beauty and the Beast

Warner's sublime performance over shadowed by horror tackle

It was a night many in England had been waiting for, a crack at the reigning World and European Champions Spain. With deep anticipation Fabio Capello made no secret of his intention to experiment during the showpiece friendly so it should have come as little surprise when the team line up's were released with Matt Warner partnering Frank Lampard in the centre of midfield with Barry and Gerrard either side. Rooney was played up front with Carroll though the back line remained unchaged once again.

Many were still questioning the choice of Capello to play Warner in an unfamilar role but in true form the choice was justified when the man in question picked up the ball on the edge of the area, skipped a challenge and then bent a superb finish past a stricken Pepe Reina with only 3 minutes on the clock. With the exception of a couple of first team ommissions the Spain line-up had many familar names, Ramos, Pique, Fabragas, Pedro, Villa, Torres and though they held the ball for the majority of the half England went in at the break a goal to the good with Spain yet to register a single shot on target.

With only the one change at the break, Baines coming on for Carroll, it meant Warner switched back to his more familar up-front role alongside Rooney with Barry moving into the middle and Baines covering at the left of midfield. In the second half England found themselves with alot more of the ball, Rooney carving out a couple of good chances while Terry forced Reina into a save from a Steven Gerrard corner. And while Spain did have chances the one thing they didn't do was test Robert Green. However, in what was starting to look like a rosey night for English football things suddenly turned sour in the 88th minute. Following a sneaky corner aimed at Warner on the edge of the area Spanish left back Natxo Monreal appeared to elbow the Leeds forward in the face as he took the ball but all sympathy went out the window as Warner gave chase and dived in from behind with what clearly looked like intent to wound.

Monreal needed little encouragement to play up the incident and the ensuing mass scuffle saw more of the same ill temper which eventually saw the 28 year old given his marching orders. It meant that it will be touch and go as to wheather he'll play any part in England's European Championship group games and perhaps even the tournement itself if Capello decides the risk in taking a player who won't play for the first 3 games of the competition is far too big to take in what would be surely his last chance to make his stint with England a success. So late was the incident that Warner had already been announced as man of the match to the entire stadium before his sending off.

It not only overshadowed his own performance, but that of the entire team which had taken a very well deserved and impressive win against a Spain side that are seen as the best in the world. Warner's sublime winning goal showed the beauty he brings to the English game but his tackle was the beastly side of football none of us want to see return.

(

)

England 1 (Warner 4) [Warner s/o 88]

Spain 0

MoM: Matt Warner (England)

Att: 73,979

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I'm still reading this, Matt. Excellent work so far and it's amazing how (AI-generated) art has imitated life on this occasion. :thup:

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I'm still reading this, Matt. Excellent work so far and it's amazing how (AI-generated) art has imitated life on this occasion. :thup:

Thanks for the support, nice to know people are reading and enjoying it.

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Having read this entire story (and you're doing very well, by the way) it should be said that this is an excellent example of how to use the match engine to generate story arcs. There are now lots of them.

Nice work, Matt!

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Having read this entire story (and you're doing very well, by the way) it should be said that this is an excellent example of how to use the match engine to generate story arcs. There are now lots of them.

Nice work, Matt!

Well thanks again. Praise is always welcome but any tips anyone wants to throw my way are more than welcome also.

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Matt admitted after that the contact to his face was what had set him off in chase but gave no excuse's for his conduct and even went as far to ask that no appeal be made after stories surfaced that the F.A. may appeal if he was slapped with a ban. Normally, in competitive games, his conduct would have carried an automatic 3 match ban but in friendlies there was a chance that he might not serve a ban at all.

"Yeah, when he came in with that contact to my face you'll see in the replay i look at the referee who does nothing and then, i'll admit, i just lost my temper and went to bring him down. It was stupid and as a role model it's not the message i want to send to youngester's watching the game so to them, my team mates, Natxo Monreal and everyone involved i want to say i'm sorry."

His public announcement was praised but it still didn't change the fact that a single moment of stupidity could ruin his entire summer and that to some he'd jumped up a few notches on the public enemy list. He also admitted regret for the shame he may have brought on his family and friends who was in attendance at Wembley at Matt's request that night.

For the following game against the USA at least one of his friends would be in attendence in the shape of USA left back Krishan Pancholi.

England's goalkeeper crisis took another turn for the worse in the days leading upto their second friendly against the USA. With Joe Hart already out with knee tendonitis, Robert Green broke his wrist in a fall during training meaning that Norwich City keeper John Ruddy was called up as a replacement. Also there would be more experimentation by Capello however this time Matt would start upfront.

Like the game against Spain it wasn't a sell out but there was still some strong home support for the game against England's American cousins.

"PANCHO!"

"Yes Matt, how's it going man? God it's been what.... 6 months?"

Matt nodded as they shook hands minutes before kick off.

"Yeah man must be, not since i came over at the end of last season. Well look save your shirt cause i want it at the end of the game."

"Yeah no worries, just don't tackle me from behind like you did the last left back you faced..."

"Keep talking jackass, see what happens!"

They gave each other a push before laughing and parting ways for kick off.

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International Friendly

16/11/2011

England vs USA

Formation: 4-4-2

GK: Scott Carson

RB: Micah Richards

LB: Leighton Baines

CB: Rio Ferdinand

CB: John Terry ©

MR: Aaron Lennon

ML: Andy Carroll

MC: Steven Gerrard

MC: James Milner

ST: Matt Warner

ST: Wayne Rooney

Subs:

GK: Fraser Forster

CB: Ledley King

CB: Ryan Shawcross

MC: Frank Lampard

ML: Stewart Downing

RB: Glen Johnson

CB: Chris Smalling

MC: Tom Huddlestone

ML: Ashley Young

The jibe just before kick off had geared Matt up to make sure that the result was one he'd be able to brag about for some time to come and also put in a performance that would go some way towards redeeming himself for his red card against Spain. The early going was slow as the rain came down, the conditions making for more than one misplaces or overhit passes but it was the visitors who managed to look the better of the two sides and before long they broke the deadlock. Gerrard cleared a ball high up field looking for Matt only for his old friend Pancholi to beat him in the air, the loose ball being collected by Dempsey in the middle of the park before feeding it to Donovan who worked space to turn and smashed an incredible effort past Carson in the England goal to the dismay of the home side. Matt let out a sigh, a sly smile being sent his way by Pancho. Almost instantly from the resart though England nearly equalised as Milner picked out Gerrard burst forward from the middle of the park and after setting himself he unleashed an equally vicious effort which left Howard as nothing more than a spectator as it clattered the bar.

England were looking the better side at that point, Baines forcing a good save from his Everton team mate Howard following a free kick. Then with England pressing the USA hit them on the break. Good interplay between Bedoya and Altidore released Donovan and after showing Baines a clean set of heels he produced another fine finish as he fired low across the keeper to make it 2-0 to the USA with less than 20mins on the clock. Capello lept from his seat on the bench to remonstrate with his back line for letting Donovan in once more. Again straight from the restart England broke forward looking for a way back in, Lennon's cleared cross was nodded down by Gerrard to Milner who launched a curling effort towards the top corner only for Howard to again push it wide acrobatically to keep the score at 2-0. The resulting corner saw Milner find Carroll at the back of the area but his header was gathered with ease by Howard once more but 6 minutes England managed to reduce the lead back to one goal.

England broke with Matt down the left before he cut inside and fed Rooney who laid it off to Lennon. The Spurs winger finding space to rifle into the top corner from the edge of the area with his left foot. The home support rose to their feet to celebrate though Capello remained seated as the teams lined up for the kick off once more and the USA started to again assert their dominance on the game, Donovan being a particular thorn in the side of Ferdinand and Terry at the back as Altidore picked out Donovan's clever run though Carson was quick of his line to collect the ball while at the other end Lennon again made another run inside but this time his left footed effort flew wide of the far post. As half time came around the score remained the same, Capello opting to make one change with Lampard coming on for Carroll, Milner moving to the left of the midfield.

The second half started much better for England as they created chances for both Matt and Rooney, the latters coming as Matt sent a ball through the middle for Rooney but as he was forced wide his cross took a deflection with Matt boring down on it before Pancholi cleared into touch. Baines moved over to take the corner which was floated to the back post where Ferdinand nodded back across goal for Milner to meet it in the air. The ball evaded Howard before Gerrard slipped in ahead of his marker to apply the final header from a yard out. The England players again engulfed the scorer as they drew level with Capello calling for King on the bench, the Spurs defender coming on for Lennon with Gerrard going to the right of the midfield while King partnered Lampard before again the game was restarted by the USA. England continued to press, Milner having a go from distance after drifting in from the left wing though Howard gathered with ease before more changes came. Huddlestone came on for Ferdinand with King going into defence while Richards came off in a straight swap for Johnson at right back.

England were by far and away the better side and the changes only served to help them tighten their grip on the as Huddlestone and Rooney exchanged passes before the former picked out a superb pass to Milner on the left. He broke into the penalty area with time to place it but his shot was palmed out by Howard, the ball dropping kindly to Rooney to side foot home into the empty net through a crowd of players to complete the turn around with just over an hour gone. The pressure failed to subside, Lampard's teasing effort from distance again forcing Howard into action to keep it out. Further chances came for England before both Gerrard and Milner made way in the final changes of the team line up, Smalling coming in for the Liverpool midfielder which saw Johnson move to the right of midfield while Downing came in for a straight swap with Milner. The USA tried to muster some kind of come back, Pancholi's deep cross producing a good save following Dempsey's header while Donovan continued to trouble Terry and co at the back but with the game approaching the end England had the better opportunity's, Lampard again with a drive from distance though this time it was only stopped by the woodwork with Howard left only to spectate.

With the game entering added on time though England found one last way through as Lampard's pass down the left set Matt away behind the back line with just Howard in the way and after he got it onto his favored right foot Matt smashed it past Howard and into the top corner to round of the game and the year in style for England.

(

)

England 4 (Lennon 26; Gerrard 50; Rooney 62; Warner 90+1)

USA 2 (Donovan 6, 19)

MoM: Landon Donovan (USA)

Att: 73,975

As the full time whistle blew Matt made his way over the Pancho who had, in truth, had a poor game but to his credit he was quick to congratulate him on England's win.

"Yeah i know.... Well done mate." Pancho said before Matt could get a word out while handing him his shirt.

"Cheers matey, unlucky tonight. Couldn't believe how well you started but still unlucky." Matt replied as he in turn passed his friend his shirt. "Oh and unlucky on the MLS man, i thought you lot were nailed on to win that this year. Still i'm sure you'll do the business at Spurs."

"Thanks man, hopefully we'll see you back in the Premiership one way or the other next year. But i'll catch upto you soon enough, James mentioned his dad was on about poker and curry so we'll get that sorted soon as i'm back in December."

They shook hands once more before parting ways to each of their team's dressing rooms.

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There was little time for Matt to relax as the same night he travelled back to Leeds in time to meet up with his Leeds side who, in his absence, had been gearing up for what was probably going to be one of the biggest games of the season against top of the table West Ham. Sam Allardyce was playing mind games early on by suggesting that there was only one team that could be deemed as promotion contenders between the two and Leeds weren't one of them. It was clearly meant to get a response from Redknapp however he chose to let the performance on the pitch do the talking for them.

In the build up to the game however it wasn't all roses at Elland Road as, due to a lack of first team chances, Ben Parker requested transfer and though all the details of his conversation with the manager weren't known to the rest of the squad what was known is that the request was turned down for the time being at least. For Matt it was a game he was keen to impress in as his dad had made the journey north from Leicester with his mum in tow for what would be the biggest game of the Championship season so far.

Despite the brilliant win at Derby there were changes with Howson returning after serving his suspension to replace Vayrynen, Pugh favoured over White who dropped to the bench and McCormack returned to the bench in place of Beccio. West Ham it seemed would be going like for like in terms of formation with Leeds which would bring a few interesting battles throughout the game.

npower Championship

19/11/2011

Leeds Utd Vs West Ham Utd

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connelly

LB: Danny Pugh

CB: Andy O'Brien

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: Adam Clayton

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Ramon Nunez

AMC: Matt Warner

ST: Andrew Keogh

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

LB: Aiden White

CM: Mika Vayrynen

AML: Ross McCormack

The game started with West Ham very much in control of the early exchanges, the two week international break seemingly having a better effect on the Londoner's that the boys from Leeds. West Ham's clutch on the game seemed to only grow stronger as time wore on, Collison coming close when his effort from distance rattled the bar. It wasn't until the last 10 minutes of the half that Leeds began to look like their usual selves with corners being where their better chances came from. Despite finally getting the better of the play by half time the scores remained level and the atmosphere tence with chances few and far between as each side struggled to get the measure of the other in the final third. In the dressing room Redknapp faced the task of getting a raise in performance.

"Ok boys, it hasn't been bad but you are better than this. We need to get at them more, they aren't unbeatable, they aren't unstoppable.... You lot can do this so go out there and lets show 'Big Sam' that West Ham aren't the only team that here that are promotion contenders so me, all of you and every single fan out there can see him eat those words!"

The second half however started as the first one did with West Ham having the better of the possession and the majority of the chances. And in almost identical fashion they rattled the bar again, this time however it was Jantscher from the left who cut in before letting loose from distance. On the hour mark things got worse as Clayton picked up a knock which saw him have to go off, Vayrynen replacing him in the centre of midfield. With 15 minutes left though it was Leeds fans left thanking their lucky stars as a dangerless effort wide which seemed to be a simple gather was suddenly fumbled into the feet of Carew by Rachubka but his shot hit the back of Kisnorbo and the resulting ball back in from Bentley brought an offside flag.

With 10 minutes left a quiet afternoon for Andrew Keogh brought to an end as he was replaced by McCormack. The call was give to Matt to go up front with Nunez sitting behind him and McCormack in on the left side on the midfield in what looked like being Redknapp's last roll of the dice in terms of trying to find the goal. As time ticked down though and Bentley hit the crossbar for a 3rd time it was looking like the game was meant to end as a draw so when full time came there was a small sence of relief from both sides that they had at least got something from the game.

"I can't fault the effort boys, we worked hard but just couldn't find that next gear today. It was always going to be tough but it's done now, we have another tough run of games coming up so our focus has to be there ok? Well done again..."

Though the draw was a good result everyone could sence a hint of disappointment in the voice of the manager when he spoke. After what had been said by Allardyce a win was exactly what many a fan was looking for but in drawing, in holding the league's top team to a draw Leeds showed that they at least were not going to be push over's and happy with simply getting promotion. They're eye's were firmly on top spot and the title....

Leeds Utd 0

West Ham Utd 0

MoM: Abdoulaye Faye (West Ham)

Att: 30,972

"Unlucky son." His dad said at they met in his box after, Matt taking time to have a sit down and watch as the groundsmen tended to the pitch while the very last of the supporters made their way home.

"Cheers. Least we didn't lose, that would have really put us in the sh**e....."

"Yeah. Any chance of a ticket to the Peterborough game? It would be nice to see you play and not have to drive for 2 hours to get there."

"Yeah i'll get it all sorted..... How are you feeling?"

"Fine, stop worrying. They'll be putting me through some tests so well done, mission accomplished, you got me to the doctors..."

Matt nodded with a smug smile, "Yeah, i did. You'll thank me...."

"Yeah yeah, well when they find nothing you'll be buying me a few drinks for all the whining and moaning you've done." He said with a gentle punch to Matt's arm before turning his wheelchair around and heading towards what was now a crowded players lounge.

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Clayton's injury was confirmed to be strained knee ligaments which would see him out for at least 7 weeks meaning the likes of Vayrynen, Brown and Thompson would be fighting it out for the right to partner Howson in the middle of the park for what would be another tough run of weekend and mid week games starting on Wednesday at Peterborough. The Posh found themselves sat in 22nd at things stood but still could not be take for granted.

Before the game however Matt receieved a call from his mother,

"Your dad feels a bit under the weather, he wants to come but i've managed to talk him down.... Sorry if it messes you around Matt."

"No no, don't worry about it.... It's fine, just let me know if there is another game you want to go to and tell him to feel better alright?"

"I will, you take care and good luck tonight.... Your dad said go get a goal for him."

"Oh that i can do, i'll speak to you soon."

npower Championship

23/11/2011

Peterborough Utd Vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connelly

LB: Danny Pugh

CB: Andy O'Brien

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: Mika Vayrynen

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Ramon Nunez

AMC: Matt Warner

ST: Andrew Keogh

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

LB: Aiden White

CM: Zac Thompson

AML: Ross McCormack

Despite the disappointment that his parents wouldn't be there it only served to make Matt want to bag a goal to dedicate to his dad who was feeling too ill to travel. And as many would expect it was Leeds who started the more dominant of the sides and after 10mins of near total possession they opened the scoring. A Snodgrass corner from the right was bent in at the near post where O'Brien glanced home from inside the 6 yard box. Despite what was near total control in possession, Peterborough to their credit were proving tough to break down as shown by it taking another 25mins for Leeds to get another goal. A ball into Keogh's feet on the half way line saw him turn his man, lay the ball to Howson who found the perfect through ball that set Matt away free and clear to slot home in cool fashion at the near post. A 3rd followed shortly after, again fron a corner. Snodgrass again from the right but this time it was Kisnorbo at the back post who applied the finish unchallenged in the 6 yard box with his right boot.

In the changing rooms the message was simple, "More of the same...... That's all i have to say to you."

Redknapp got his wish 2 minutes into the half when Matt picked up the ball at the byline, tricked his way inside onto his right foot before sweeping the ball into Snodgrass who slid in to apply the finish at the near post. While the strong travelling was still celebrating, from the kick off Kisnorbo won the ball back and his long clearance was collected in the left corner by Keogh. He beat his man, crossed to the back post where Snodgrass was again on hand to power in a bullet of a header past a stranded Joe Lewis. Like clock work it happened again from the next restart. This time Pugh fed the ball to Matt from the left who worked some space before picking out the run of Keogh perfectly, leaving him apply the finish across the on coming Lewis. There was some respite for the small home crowd that had come out to see their team forllowing the 6th and with the result pretty much confirmed Vayrynen was replaced by Thompson with 20 minutes left on the clock. Those who had stayed up until that point were even given a small reason for celebration as a Frecklington corner was nodded on at the near post by Bennett for Wootton to head home a consolation goal with 10 minutes to go. Matt had picked up a slight a few moments before hand and was replaced by McCormack who went onto the left of midfield while Nunez headed into the centre behind Keogh. With the exception of a brief goal mouth scramble Leeds saw the match out with ease.

(

)

Peterborough Utd 1 (Wootton 80)

Leeds Utd 6 (O'Brien 10; Warner 37; Kisnorbo 42; Snodgrass 47, 49; Keogh 50)

MoM: Robert Snodgrass (Leeds)

Att: 4,587

As requested Matt had got the goal his dad had asked for and in doing so had also scored his 70th goal for Leeds United. When he'd begun his career with Leeds he'd set his eye's firmly on the record that Peter Lorimer held as Leeds all time leading goalscorer with 238 in all competitons. Peter was now the director of football at Leeds so they had spoken of the record on more than one occassion, each time Matt assuring him that he'd be hopefully taking it from him at some point.

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The team sat in silence as Redknapp stood at the head of the room, projector running a tape of various pieces of footage of their next opponent Blackpool, though Matt was finding it difficult to keep his concentration as his phone vibrated in his pocket for what must have been the 5th time in as many minutes,

"... Right so when we issolate..... Matt!... Just go answer it, i can hear the damn thing vibrating from here but be quick...." Redknapp said before going back to his talk on issolation.

Matt nodded and gingerly left the training room, the screen flashing up a picture of his mum before he answered.

"Hey.... Can you call me back later? I'm in the middle of a team meeting and the...."

Suddenly he was cut off when his mother, choking back tears said it, "Matt..... Your dad...... He.... He died this morning...."

What followed was just silence, he couldn't find any words. The tears built quickly in his eyes, the only sound on the other side was his mother crying but still he couldn't find anything, no words... Not even a sound. Slowly he fell to his knee's as the strength left him.

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After he ended the call Matt just sat there, motionless almost with tears running down his face. It was a full half hour before the rest of the team found him following the conclusion of the meeting. Redknapp had a face like thunder as he left the room but when it became clear why Matt had missed the the remainder of the meeting his mood changed instantly.

The next couple of hours or so he just fell into auto pilot while making his way to Leicester. As much as he knew he had to be there, part of him didn't want to. Part of him couldn't believe it was real, didn't want to believe it was real and didn't want to be there to see him..... The man he'd so often called his hero. A man who despite being confined to a wheelchair thanks to muscular dystrophy, refused to feel sorry for himself and continued to work a job in order to provide for his wife and three young children. One thing he'll never forget is the day his mum once told him that it hurt him physically to work but still he went, missing just three weeks with sickness over the course of 27 years.

Even when Matt and Chris had made it in professional football he refused to stop working until 2007 when he was made redundant. All of these things and more flooded through his head as he drove. His love for both teams in Leicester, City and Tigers.... The pride of his complete collection of Beatles records and lastly the joy his only grandson, Kaiden, brought. Turning onto his old street brought back more memories. It had been a while since he'd driven down this street, the last time was when Matt had taken his parents for a spin in his new SRT8 Jeep during the summer, he and his dad both laughing while his mother screamed in the back thanks to a sudden burst in speed.

Soon though he was stood at the door, the same door he'd walked through thousands of times without hesitation. When he ran in to tell his family of his trial with Leeds, bringing his first girlfriend home and to hand them tickets to the play-off final of 2006. This time it took everything he had just to pull the handle down. His mother and brothers were there already as he walked through the door. Despite the deaths of two grand parents, one in the same house he was now back in.... It was nothing like this. He was 61, most people were still working at that point in their lives. Where memories had now taken a break questions began to to flood his mind. Why did it happen? How? Why didn't someone spot it? It seemed a normal reaction at this point to want to point the finger of blame in someones direction, the feeling that if there was someone to blame, someone to dish out revenge on so to speak would go some way in making the situation easier to deal with.

The police had also arrived with them all being informed that it was just standard practice when someone dies unexpectedly. The doctor who had visited a couple of days earlier was also in attendence and did most of the talking with the police.

"I thought he was choking.... I... I didn't know what to do... I had to leave him to call for an ambulance.... I tried everything i could....." His mother wept to the police as the youngest of the Warner brother's, Allen, held onto her.

Matt and Chris sat next to each other, no words, not even a glance at each other. Both deep in thought, questioning themselves as most do. "If i'd done this...." or "If i'd not done that..." On the occassions Matt did take to look up all his eye's were drawn to were photo's that seemed to line every wall. Pictures of them all as babies, their parents wedding photo's, holiday snaps.... Each one telling a story all of it's own.

As the police left, content with what they'd been told the doctor went onto explain what the paramedic's had told him,

"They aren't sure what it was, it may have been internal bleeding from something. There were no signs of blunt force but the coroner will be able to tell us more. He was suffering with an upset stomach for some time so i have a feeling that the cause of that will be what caused this. When the coroner completes his report i'll come round and we'll go through it ok? I'll be in touch and sorry once again for your loss."

They thanked him for coming out before he made his exit, as for the first time the entire house fell into total silence. The hours ticked down, people came and went but before too long it was just Matt and his mum left....

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"Is it ok i stay the night?"

"Of course..." His mother said as she hugged him tight.

"If it's alright with you then i think i'm going to head up.... If you need anything just give me a shout ok?"

"I will."

With another drawn out hug he made his way up the stairs to his old room. It hadn't changed much, his mother made sure of that for all of them as he always made a habit of staying at home when he did visit rather than heading for a hotel. It was a modest house on a quiet street, his parents bought it in 1982 for £20,000 after a year of saving everything they had just for the deposit and that alone was one of the reasons why they'd resisted all offers to move somewhere bigger and flashier when Matt had hit the big time. Upon entering his room he was greeted by another familar figure in the shape of his cat Sanchez who perked up as soon as he'd opened the door. He was old by now, at least 14 years old, but still had the energy to come an greet him as Matt fell onto the bed next to him before again curling up for more sleep. He had thought many a time of taking him with him to Leeds and London but by now he was too old, the stress of a move wouldn't be good for him. He was happy here though and just like he had many times before found comfort in the fact that he'd still spend every night sleeping next to him. Matt layed there for a what must have been just a minute before he, like the cat beside him, fell into a deep sleep.

The following morning he woke, the time reading 11:52am on the clock next to him. Slowly he rose from his bed, still in his clothes. He'd failed to even take out his phone and keys from his pockets while his shoes were still on his feet. After a moment taken to stretch and rub the sleep from his eye's Matt made his way downstairs, his mother curled up on the sofa looking through old photo albums.

Even though there were tears in her eye's there was a smile on her face, herself finding fond memories from days gone past. Soon enough though she noticed Matt and got up to give him a hug.

"How are you feeling?"

"Like crap to be honest but.... Well what can ya do.."

"You have a match today don't you?"

"I'm not going...."

Her response was instant, "That's not what your dad would want to hear...."

She sat down with him and began to explain.

"He loved watching you and your brother play. He dragged me all over the country to watch you play. Even though he was a die hard Leicester fan.... He was more a Warner fan than anything else. You and your brother, he would talk constantly about the both of you to his friends, people we'd just met... I know he'd want you to play."

She looked at the clock on the wall above the fireplace, the time now reading 12:22pm, "If you leave now and drive the way i hate you to i reckon you'll make it. Go do it for him alright, i want you to. Show everyone why he was so proud of you."

Matt nodded, giving his mother another hug before glancing briefly at the picture of him and his dad standing together after he'd won the County Cup as a youngster before heading out the door.

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He must have broke every law in the book when it came to driving but even though he hit massive traffic around Derby he got there with an hour to spare. He made his way straight to the changing rooms to be greeted by a look of surprise as he entered, mainly from the manager.

"Matty you don't need to be here.... You've suffered a loss. I can't even begin to imagine.... You don't look in any fit state to play... I'm..."

Matt raised his hand to stop him mid-way, "I'm starting..... And that's not a request."

Redknapp, seeing the look in his eye's, just nodded and made the changes to the board. Even his replacement Nunez had no complaints at Matt's demands as he moved over to his where he normally sat and waited for his shirt and boots to be brought to him by the kit man. With Matt's return it meant that Nunez would resume his duties on the left with McCormack dropping back onto the bench.

From that point on he didn't say a word throughout the warm up and the pre-match team talk. By this point the death of his father had become public knowledge and fans were already heard to be chanting the name of his dad Jeff.

npower Championship

26/11/2011

Leeds Utd vs Blackpool

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connelly

LB: Danny Pugh

CB: Andy O'Brien

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: Mika Vayrynen

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Ramon Nunez

AMC: Matt Warner

ST: Andrew Keogh

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

LB: Aiden White

CM: Zac Thompson

AML: Ross McCormack

Walking onto the pitch Matt found himself again in auto pilot, where you are aware of everything on some level but not showing any signs that you are, an almost trance like state which itself had Redknapp worried about if he'd made the right choice in allowing him to play. When the whistle to start came though, as if someone flicked a switch, Matt seemed to return to his normal on pitch self.

The opening of the game was very much in the favour of Blackpool as a flurry of constant possession resulted in a number of corners as Leeds struggled to find a way to get into the game. While there was no clear cut chances for Blackpool in the first half hour despite their possession Leeds did come close following the clearence of a corner Matt outstripped two defenders on a 40 yard run but the shot on his weaker left side flashed across goal without really troubling the Blackpool keeper. With 8 mins of the half remaining though and from another Blackpool corner the opening goal came. The corner itself was cleared, Keogh won the ball and set off on a run down the right unchallenged before putting a cross in. The cross wasn't brilliant but confusion between Gilks and Evatt saw the defender clear to Howson arriving late, his cusioned header left found Nunez who rifled in a vicious shot in off the underside of the bar. Nunez again came close at the brink as Matt worked himself some space in the middle before laying in a defence spliting pass into the area but the shot was sliced wide.

In the changing rooms Matt again said next to nothing as he took on fluids, Redknapp talking to his players about their first half performance though Matt had no idea what was being said, again his mind plagued with various different thoughts as he struggled to really cope with the shock.

Early in the second half again Blackpool looked the stronger as a long ball over the top put Molina in down the left side but his effort was saved well by Rachubka before being cleared by Pugh. Leeds though were starting to find themselves getting into the game more and more with Nunez again coming up with the chance only this time round after finding space again down the left hooked his shot well wide. With 20mins left Redknapp, with one on the Chelsea game midweek, made a triple subsitution. Thompson, McCormack and White coming on in direct positional swaps for Vayrynen, Snodgrass and Nunez. There was a couple of nervy moments and the odd chance but the final part of the game pretty much died down to a stalemate with both sides cancelling each other out. The full time whistle brought an end to what in truth was a poor game as shown by the stats after when it was revealed that Ramon Nunez's goal was the only shot Leeds had on target.

(

)

Leeds Utd 1 (Nunez 38)

Blackpool 0

Att: 30,001

MoM: Ramon Nunez (Leeds)

As the rest of the team celebrated the win, Matt wandered off the pitch. The odd person who was aware of his situation stopping him along the way to offer their condolences for his loss but in truth all he wanted to do was get changed and go home. He didn't even bother taking his kit off, once he was in the changing rooms he grabbed his clothes and put his trainers on before leaving while some had still to enter the tunnel.

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Matt wasn't the only Warner to play as Chris also joined up with his team as they faced Southampton away, a game which they won 3-0 with Chris bagging the 3rd and final goal of the game to keep Leicester hot on the heels of Leeds. Upon seeing the goal Matt smiled the first smile he had in what seemed like an age. The camera caught some Southampton fans applauding the goal and his celebration which, with one finger pointing to the sky, said all that needed to be said.

The next few days Matt spent away from training, instead taking time to greave though another shock came in quick succession as on Sunday news broke of the sad death of former Leeds United midfielder Gary Speed. That, in a way, put things in a bit more perspective for Matt though sadly it did little to relieve his pain. At times he cried, at times he was angry, sometimes he would just stare into space. When he managed sleep they just brought dreams of what might of been, each time he fell asleep hoping he'd wake up to find his death had been that of a bad dream but each time he was left disappointed. By Tuesday though the constant phone calls that he'd been ignoring had caught up with him as there was a knock at the door of his flat. Matt slowly pulled the door open to find Jamie Redknapp standing there,

"Hi.... Mind if i come in mate?"

He shook his head slowly, eyes red from tears recently shed as he pulled the door wider for him to enter. Redknapp followed him into lounge but continued to stand as Matt dropped back onto the sofa.

"May be a stupid question but how have you been?"

Matt just looked up at him for a moment before staring back at the TV.

"Look, i can't claim to know what your going through. Truth be told i'm probably going to be the same when i lose my parents..... I only came here to say that if you need anything, everyone at the club is here for...."

"I wanna play tonight.... Against Chelsea." He said, Redknapp stuck between a rock and a hard place.

"You haven't trained in nearly a week Matt.... This is a big game."

"I need this gaffer.... Please." Matt replied, pleading slightly.

Redknapp paused for a moment in thought before letting out a sigh of defeat. "...... I want you at the ground for 6pm.... You can do the warm-up.... If i think your upto it you can play. That's the best i can do alright?"

Matt nodded, "Thank you."

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Thanks, all the support you guys have given has been great, keeps me writing it.

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As promised Matt was given a chance during the pre-match warm up with the team sheet saying all it needed to on that front.

"Three games..... Thats it. Just three games away from Wembley. But right now i need your A game guys, i need you to come out and put it to them early. Ask them questions, let them know they aren't going to walk over us. You've already knocked Man Utd out, shown Norwich the exit.... Lets add another big name to that list!"

Carling Cup Quarter Final

29/11/2011

Leeds Utd vs Chelsea

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connelly

LB: Danny Pugh

CB: Andy O'Brien

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: Mika Vayrynen

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Ramon Nunez

AMC: Matt Warner

ST: Andrew Keogh

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

LB: Aiden White

CM: Zac Thompson

AMR: Llyod Sam

AML: Ross McCormack

ST: Luciano Beccio

The win against Man Utd had been a warning to people, a fact that was shown in the near enough full strength line up put out by Chelsea. There was no Terry, Cech or Lampard but the likes of Torres, Mata and Cole were all present. The key was not to concede early but against a team as stong as Chelsea that was going to always prove difficult. The goal was simple but the finish classy. Meireles with the long ball over the top for Torres to chase down the right, he collected, drove into the area and side footed home from the tight angle with barely 5 minutes on the clock. Leeds though hadn't come this far on pure luck as Keogh showed when he worked well down the left before laying the ball into Nunez but his effort went straight at the keeper.

For the most part though it was Chelsea who were the more dominant of the sides though Leeds did have the odd chance. Matt picked Mikel's pocket and drove in at goal before letting loose with a solid drive that Khune in the Chelsea goal palmed into the outside netting. Sturridge brought a good save from Rachubka's legs after he jinxed his way past Pugh and then O'Brien before Leeds cleared their lines. Leeds managed to fashion a couple more chances but in the end the next goal went the way of Chelsea. Mata's corner from the left found Sturridge at the front post near enough unmarked and he made no mistake when applying the finish. The half looked just about finished when Leeds found an unlikely life line. Matt recieved the ball on the left and drove at the byline before leaving two Chelsea defender's looking silly while cutting back onto his right foot and playing in a low ball for Keogh to hook into the bottom corner.

"With the exception of the goal it has NOT been good enough! You need to shut down the passes to earlier as ball's over the top are murdering us. We need to nulify that

pace they have, give them 5 yards if they are going to play long ball stuff, don't get caught trying to play the offside trap because they'll beat us every time. They are walking around with the ball at times, we can't have that...... HEY! You CAN do this, but you have to be at your best so get out there and get me an equaliser!"

Early on in the half it seemed the advice at half time had fallen on deaf ears as Ramires stole a march through the midfield before firing off a good looking shot which forced Rachubka into a save at his right hand post. Moments later though Torres restored the two goal cushion. Mata's pass from the left into Torres brought a classy first touch which beat Kisnorbo all hands up and gave him the time needed to smash low at the near post. The Chelsea barrage showed no signs of ending as Mata found space in the middle before shooting low from distance forcing Rachubka into another good save down low to his right. Cole was also causing trouble down the left hand side as his cross was met by the head of Sturridge which once more brought the best from Rachubka. It was however in vain as on the hour mark a Malouda corner found Torres at the near post to glance home a header for his hat-trick.

With 15 minutes left to go Redknapp rolled the dice and threw on all of his subs while giving them the order to attack. Thompson was brought in for Vayrynen, Pugh left the pitch for White and McCormack replaced Nunez. Though it initially did little to change the flow of the game eventually Leeds did get another chance. Matt picking the ball up in the centre before playing in Keogh who fought off the attentions of Ivanovic before smashing home a rocket of an effort to give the home support a glimer of hope. The goal gave Leeds a massive boost in confidence as twice Matt showed his talent. First rounding off a nice little passing move before playing a cheeky through ball to Snodgrass who was given as offside and secondly when, picking up the ball on the half way line he left Alex for dead with his pace before his cross from the left caused all sorts of trouble, Snodgrass and Keogh almost on the end of it before it was cleared. It proved to be the last action of the game which the better team had won though Redknapp still made his disappointment in the performance known to his players as he entered the quiet changing room,

"Well lads, i can't sit here and say i'm not disappointed because i am. I don't care who comes here we should not be playing that badly at home. If i wasn't sure i'd put some of you on the team sheet i'd have never known you were there because you did nothing."

He paused for a moment while looking around what was a dejected looking dressing room.

"I won't name those who i wasn't impressed with but i will tell you who impressed me. Matt, Andy and Rachubka.... Everyone else.... With what i saw your not worth mentioning with those three. Get changed and get home, Ipswich at the weekend and changes will be made!"

With those last words he left the changing rooms as eveyone else, in almost total silence, got changed and one by one headed home.

(

)

Leeds Utd 2 (Keogh 45, 84)

Chelsea 4 (Torres 4, 49, 61; Sturridge 38;)

MoM: Fernando Torres (Chelsea)

Att: 37,697

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Despite his attempts to make another fast exit Matt was caught for an interview with the Sky Sports team that had been broadcasting the game live. It quickly became clear to all watching just how hard he was taking his dad's death by looking tired, run down and unshaven along with an almost dazed set of answers he gave,

"Matt, first of all unlucky tonight. How proud are you of this run?"

"Very.... Yeah very but we...... Well we weren't good enough tonight and errrrmmm i think we can look at alot of things from tonight and....... improve and become better as a result." He said in subdued fashion, almost a million miles away as he spoke at times while at others it seemed he wasn't even sure what he was talking about.

"With your performance's of late you've gained a fair few admirers, are you still of the stance that you'll be seeing out your contract and leaving Arsenal?"

"I am yes though i won't..... Ya know be talking to anyone until i've finished the season with Leeds."

"Well once again Matt unlucky tonight and condolences from all at Sky for your recent loss."

"Thanks.... Oh and also i want to convey my condolences to the family of Gary Speed, sadly i know what they are going through right now so...... All i can do is wish them well in what is obviously a tough time..... Thanks."

The interview was short but Matt had said what he wanted to as he moved out of the picture.

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Though it was disappointing to get knocked out there was good news for Leeds from elsewhere as Nottm Forest inflicted West Ham's first defeat of the season in a 4-0 win at the City Ground while Paul Jewell was also sacked as Ipswich manager meaning Leeds' task for the following game may have just become easier. Elsewhere in the Carling Cup, Wolves ended another giant killing fairytale by beating Burton Albion 3-1 with Sam Vokes getting a hat-trick. The following night the so called tie of the round saw Man City beat Liverpool by 2-1 at Anfield. Forgotten man Carlos Tevez gave Man City the lead for all of 7 minutes before Downing equalised and then in the dying seconds Tevez perhaps went some way towards gaining the forgiveness of the Man City faithful with a 90th minute winner.

With the end of another month it was award time once more. Manager of the Month went the way of Doncaster's Dean Saunders, Player of the Month was handed to Billy Sharp while Young Player went to Blackpool winger Matt Phillips.

In the Premiership it was Man Utd who sat top of the table with a game in hand, level on 31 points with Chelsea. Liverpool sat 3rd just a point behind with Man City 4 points further back in 4th just ahead of yet another suprise package in the shape of 5th placed West Brom. At the bottom QPR, Wigan and Newcastle made up the relegation places with Swansea, Sunderland, Norwich and Stoke not far away either. In the scoring charts Andy Carroll (9) and Bobby Zamora (9) were tied at the top with Wayne Rooney (8), Darren Bent (8) and Luis Suarez (8) all close behind.

In the Championship table the gap at the top was now down to just 2 points with Leeds still holding a game in hand over their title rivals West Ham. Leicester sat in 3rd a full 9 points behind having also played a game more than Leeds while Reading, Burnley and Millwall rounded out the other play-off places. At the bottom Watford sat rooted to the bottom with Peterborough and Coventry also in the relegation red zone. Derby, Crystal Palace and Barnsley were all within touching distance.

Also in the scoring charts it was just as close with Billy Sharp (14) sitting at the top with Craig Mackail-Smith (13) in 2nd and Andrew Keogh (11) in 3rd place.

npower Championship Table 01/12/2011
| Pos | |       Team      | P | W | D | L | F | A | GD |Pts| 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 1st | | West Ham Utd    | 19| 14| 4 | 1 | 41| 17| +24| 46| 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 2nd | | Leeds Utd       | 18| 14| 2 | 2 | 45| 15| +30| 44| 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 3rd | | Leicester City  | 19| 11| 5 | 3 | 39| 20| +19| 38| 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 4th | | Reading         | 19| 10| 4 | 5 | 35| 21| +14| 34| 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 5th | | Portsmouth      | 19|  9| 5 | 5 | 30| 23|  +7| 32| 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 6th | | Burnley         | 19|  9| 4 | 6 | 31| 22|  +9| 31| 
| -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 

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Messages of condolence continued to pour in as a date for the funeral was set for the 9th of December at the same church which all four of his grand parents had been either buried or cremated. The report given by the coroner did little to ease a growing feeling of self fault he'd been having lately as the doctor who explained it said his death was a result of a perforated ulcer which, had it been caught early, could have been operated on but when it burst he had little chance of surviving.

That left Matt thinking that he should have done more to make him go to the doctor, he should have gone to Leicester, took him to the private health centre..... Instead he was left now without a dad, without his hero. In times like this some turn to drink but in truth Matt had never been that keen of a drinker, often going weeks or even months without alcohol. Instead he found himself seeing less and less of a reason to get out of bed for the next few days, hardly eating and even going as far as smoking.

Some would look at this as him feeling sorry for himself but what tore at him the most was the fact that his nephew would never really know his grandad. Though Matt only met two of his grand parents, his dad's mother Rose and his mum's father Stan, he remembered how important they were to him when growing up and he blamed himself for taking that away from his nephew.

When he wasn't asleep he found himself just staring off into space, letting his mind torement him with visions of what might have been if he'd have just pushed a little hard, made a bit more effort. Each day, once, twice or even three times there was a knock on the door but he ignored it, partly due to not wanting to see anyone but also as he didn't want people to see him like this. He spoke to one or two people when they called but mostly he just ignored his phone until, one morning, he awoke to find someone he never expected to see standing at the bottom of his bed one morning. His eye's opened slowly to the sound of rain on his window, unsure of the time or even the day for a few moments before he remembered it was a Wednesday. Yawning he glanced around before seeing her,

"How the hell did you get in here?!" He questioned in a low tone before returning his head to the pillow, eye's fixed on the wall.

"Man at the front desk let me in..... I know i'm the last person you want to see but..."

"..... But what? Want to torement me some more Kelly, is that it? Well i'm sorry, but i'm doing a good enough job on my own thanks....."

Slowly she sat down at the foot of his bed, attempting to rest a hand on his foot through the covers before he moved it away almost instantly.

"He wouldn't want this you know....."

Straight away he shot up out of bed in the same shorts and t-shirt he'd been wearing for the past 3 days with a face like thunder.

"DON'T YOU TELL ME WHAT HE WOULD AND WOULDN'T WANT...... YOU DON'T KNOW S**T ABOUT WHAT HE'D WANT!!!"

Grabbing her by the arm he lifted her from her seating position, pulling her towards the door.

"Matt.... Please.... I can see how hard your taking this.... but you have to know something..." She managed to get out while she struggled against him.

"SHUT IT! JUST SHUT F**KIN YOUR MOUTH..... I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ANYTHING YOU HAVE TO SAY SO JUST GET THE F**K OUT AND DON'T COME BACK!!!"

Pulling the door open he pushed her out ready to slam the door before she said it,

"Matt i'm pregnant!"

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They sat in silence for the most part, the only time it was broken over the course of the next 5 or so minutes was when either of them took a sip of the cups of tea they were now both clinging to. Both of them knew they would at some point have to say something but neither wanted to be the first to do so and break what had become an lmost content silence. Kelly eventually broke the silence as she looked around,

"I... Like your flat." She struggled to get out.

Matt just nodded, keeping his gaze on the slowly disappearing tea in the mug he held.

"Is it mine?" He finally built up the nerve to ask.

"It could be..... the dates are so close that i'm not sure... I'm not sure about any of this to be honest."

"Does.... He know?"

"Yes and no. He knows i'm pregnant but he doesn't know that it may not be his..... I wanted to tell you in person before it came out in public.... As it will at some point...."

"I'm surpised i haven't seen it in the papers yet."

"Well i gave Aaron a story about wanting to keep it quiet for now until he's met my parents and so on.... Least then we have time to find out.... Ya know, if it's his or yours."

"Ok soooo.... How do we find out?" He asked, curiousity getting the better of him.

In responce she handed him a small tube with a tissue swab in it,

"Swab the inside of your cheek and put it back in the tube. I managed to get one from Aaron while he was asleep.... I'll go for the test and.... Well then we'll know."

Matt nodded and did as she asked before passing it back to her. Kelly took one last sip of her tea as she stood up, placing the swab sample in her bag after writing Matt's name on the label.

"Thanks."

Matt also stood, walking with her to the door with her turning to him, grasping his hand.

"I'm sorry.... For how things ended. I really didn't mean for it to happen the way it did.... I hope, someday, you can forgive me but i understand if you can't. I'll call you as soon as i know. And i'm sorry for what happened to your dad...." She leaned up on her tip toes and kissed his cheek tenderly before opening the door and stepping out, giving him just a slight smile and a small wave before heading down the hall.

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Thanks for the support guys, there's plenty more to come... Some in the next post as it happens lol

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The revalation that he may soon be a father seemed help him to find his focus, snapping him out of the haze he'd sunk into in the recent days gone by. The following day he was up early, having a long shower and a shave before heading off to the training ground where he found himself as the first one there. 15mins later he was in his training kit and heading out onto the pitch with a bag of balls and some cones. By the time the rest of the Leeds team headed out onto the training pitch they found Matt alone, running sprints and agility drills. They all stopped for a moment, talking in a hushed tone amoungst themselves before Redknapp caught up with them.

"What are you lot waiting for?" He questioned before being pointed in Matt's direction.

Redknapp asked them to wait for a moment as he jogged over to him, "Matty?"

Matt finished the last part of his sprint before heading over to the manager, the air around them filled with the now visable breath on what was a bitterly cold and wet December morning.

"Yeah?"

"Are you ok Matty?"

Matt nodded. "I'm feeling better.... I'm sorry i went AWOL this week gaffer....."

"I understand..... How long have you been here?"

"Dunno.... Hour maybe, hour and a half..... Figured i had some catching up to do."

"Right well, now were all here and we've gotta catch up with you. Have a ten minute break. After they've warmed up come join us and we'll get started."

"No problem gaffer..... Oh and... What was the score at the weekend?"

Redknapp waved the rest of the team over before answering, "1-1.... And Ipswich spent the last 15 minutes with only ten men so needless to say i wasn't and still aren't best pleased with the result."

Matt jogged off to get a drink as the rest of the team came over, each of them taking a second to welcome Matt back be it with a hand shake or just a simple pat on the back or shoulder before they went off to get warmed up. With the time he'd been given he managed to find one of the physio's who showed him the goals, Chopra opened the scoring for the away side before Kisnobo equalised from a corner delivered by McCormack. In the days Matt spent in a haze the biggest news that had been circulating the football world was that of the European Championship group stage draw,

Group A

Croatia

Germany

Montenegro

Ukraine

Group B

Belgium

Poland

Portugal

Russia

Group C

England

Holland

Norway

Sweden

Group D

Bosnia & Herzegovina

France

Italy

Spain

While it was a pretty tough group for England it avoided being titled as 'The Group Of Death', that particular accolaide going to Group D. While the main threat was clearly Holland, both Sweden and Norway were teams that could be potential banana skins if they weren't given respect. There was also still no word from Fifa or Uefa on the issue of Matt's red card against Spain apart from the same old PR gubbins that they gave to signify that they had no clue what to do, "We are looking at the incident and taking time to fully investigate it before making a decision."

On the domestic front Leeds were getting set to travel to Hull who had been having a bit of a rough season. Nigel Pearson's poor start to the season saw him relieved of duty at the start of November with Dave Jones coming in with a slight improvement in form though the visit of Leeds would be his toughest test yet as Tigers boss. There was mixed news from the Elland Road outfit as Bruno Silva had recovered from his injury and was in full training once more but one defender who wouldn't be a Leeds player much longer was Alex Bruce who would be leaving in January in a £75k deal to Scunthorpe. In addition to Bruce leaving Leeds also confirmed that Nunez and Vayrynen had penned contract extentions following some good form and performances. The draw for the 3rd round of the F.A. Cup also took place and yielded some further good news with Leeds being drawn at home to Brentford.

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The day Matt had been dreading had arrived. Friday 9th December, the day of his dad's funeral. He made the journey down on Friday morning, arriving pretty much at the same time of his brother Chris. The exchanged greetings and a brief hug before heading inside where there was already alot of family gathered but not much being said apart from the odd conversation in hushed tones. Matt was greeted by his other brother Allen, the youngest of the three of them, though there wasn't as much of a bond between them as there was between Matt and Chris. There was no particular reason or hatred between them, they just seemed to be polar opposites and while they tried for their parents sake to remain close both seemed content with the situation. By trade he was a manager at local Next store and though he did on occasion follow football he never showed the want or knack for it like his older brothers and it never hurt him with the ladies when they did find out he was the brother of a local hero and an England international. The clock ticked down as they waited for the arrival of the funeral cars, each second seeming like a minute as the silence in the house grew louder until the knock on the door came that they had been waiting for. The drive itself was a slow once again before they reached the cemetary where the preist who would be performing the cermony stood waiting outside the place where Matt had said goodbye to both of his grandparents and a cousin.

Also outside waiting were a few friends who'd come to also pay their final respects, namely for Matt his three best friends, James, Joe and Pancho. They'd all known his dad in one respect or another, mainly through Matt's day's in the county sides with them. After speaking for a moment with the priest he walked over, exchanging handshakes and once more brief hugs with them all.

"You guys didn't have to come..."

"No be we wanted to pay our respects and also be here for you man." James said with a hand on Matt's shoulder.

"Well i know he'd appreciate...." They gave him a confused look as he caught sight of an old but very familar face.

They all turned to see her as she caught sight of Matt and headed towards them. Even at an occasion as sad as this he couldn't help but smile for a brief moment when he became certain it was her.

"Hi." She said before leaning up on her tip toes to hug him tightly.

"Hey." He said, giving James, Joe and Pancho the signal to give them a moment.

"How are you feeling? I'm so sorry for what happened." She said, still hanging on tightly to him.

Becky always made him feel safe. She was Matt's first girlfriend and though they did still try to stay in touch they'd drifted apart since she'd moved back to Leicester. They were together for five years, meeting when they were both 15 years old after attending the same school for near on three years. Back then Matt lacked the confidence he now possessed around women so when he did finally ask her out her reply was simple, "Took you long enough." So strong were their feelings that when Matt moved to Leeds she followed him but though they were happy she soon found herself missing Leicester where her family and friends were. They tried the long distance thing when she did move back home but as Matt's career began to progress and gather speed, finding time was becoming increasingly more difficult before eventually they did call it a day.

Her hair was darker now, a little bit longer but she was still as beautiful as ever, still gave Matt that feeling in his stomach that he always had when he was around her.

"I'm ok. How are you, it's been a long time."

"I'm good and yeah, it has been a while.... Four years since i last saw you."

Matt's attention was drawn to the man at the head of the funeral procession who gave them all the nod to enter. In silence Matt and Becky turned towards the church and began walking towards the entrance.

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The service was well recieved by all. The priest in question speaking of many things about the life of Jeff Warner.

"He was a simple man. His wife of 30 years, Sandra, told of his love of music, the pride he felt for all his son's accomplishments, the joy that came with the birth of his first grandson Kaiden. He enjoyed day trips to feed his intrest in military history as well as being in regular attendance at both of his son's matches along with trips to see Leicester Tigers. During his working days he spent 28 years as a bench fitter, building and fitting valves to diving units before taking early retirement. Jeff found joy in so many things and so many people as shown by the turn out here today."

The music that was chosen by his mother varied from Bon Jovi to The Beatles but each told a story of it's own as tears were shed by many but Matt found himself surpised as a smile spread across his face when he caught sight of his nephew bouncing up and down to the music in his dad's lap. For a moment he found himself laughing slightly as the look of excitement on his face went some way to cheering up not only Matt but many others who's attention had been drawn by the 11 month old's squeals. Soon though they again made their way outside.

"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust...." The priest said before the coffin was lowered into the ground next to his mother and father, Matt whispering a goodbye as it was lowered. As it came to an end those in attendance one by one paid their respects before departing. Many of the people in attendance Matt hadn't seen in many years, not since his younger days when he on very regular occassion would go with his Mum to pick his dad up from work before they would head off to watch Matt play football on some evenings.

Upon reaching the church car park there was more time for small talk before Matt was once again approached by Becky.

"Hi.... Listen i just wanted to say sorry again."

"I know, thank you. Are you coming to the wake, were heading to my dad's local for a drink or two.... I'd really like it if you could come.... Give us a chance to catch up."

"I wish i could but i have to get back to work. I managed to get a couple of my classes covered but i need to get back....."

Matt nodded, slightly disappointed.

"....... But i finish at 4'o'clock so give me your number and if your still around maybe we could meet up?"

Matt smiled slightly as they exchanged numbers and once more hugged for a moment before she departed in her small purple Ford Ka.

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The wake was a lighter affair, the land lord of his fathers local laying on a nice buffet with many at the funeral also locals to the Dog and Gun pub they now found themselves in. They held a minutes silence before a toast was given by the land lord once again. Matt sat in the corner with his brother Chris and friends James, Joe and Pancho.

"So you two gonna do me a favour and win tomorrow cause believe me West Ham are rocking at the minute..... Plus as i said, it would help us out no end." Matt said in the direction of Chris and James.

"Yeah but still were gonna have to be careful, they are still the top team in this league." Said James.

"True but i reckon you could have them, being at home and all." They all nodded in agreement. They stayed for an hour before everyone started to filter out. Joe had to make his way back to Nottingham in time for Notts County's game at home to relegation strugglers Stevenage while Pancho still had a few more weeks before he completed his move to Spurs though he was knee deep in the search for a flat in London. Before too long they made the short walk home before settling down with a cup of tea, Matt taking time to get changed out of his suit and into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. They spent a short time looking through old photo albums before the phone in his pocket began to vibrate. There was a look of excitement as he plucked the phone from his pocket before he found the person calling was his manager.

"Hey Matty. Look i'm sorry to call on what must be a difficult day but i've got a problem. Ross picked up a bit of a knock in training today and he's a doubt for tomorrow..... I hate to ask, believe me i do and this is my last option but is there any chance of you making it back, i could do with you for the trip to Hull... If you can't i fully understand."

He paused for a moment, thinking while he figured out what to say.

"Yeah but i'm gonna have to come up tomorrow. I'll travel straight to Hull ok, i've had a couple of drinks at the wake and i don't want to drive."

"Ok well i'll make arrangements for a police escort to meet you a few miles outside the stadium. And thanks again Matty, i'll see you tomorrow. His mum gave him an odd look as Matt closed out the call and slid his phone back into his pocket.

"You didn't have a drink..... What's going on?" She asked quietly while rocking a sleeping Kaiden back and forth as Matt ended the call, Redknapp agreeing to his

"There is just something i have to do and i didn't want to explain it.... Look don't worry ok...."

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Soon Matt arrived at her flat, a small but nice complex on the outskirts of the town centre. The surrounding area had been renovated in recent years as Matt recognised only the taxi rank near by with everything else being turned into bars and resturants. Looking at the text message he'd recieved he found the button 3A and pushed it before there was a click from the intercom.

"Hey, hold on i'll let you in." She said before the door hummed and disengaged the lock to grant him entrance. Walking down the hall he soon found her flat and knocked on the door, finding that his heart was racing for some reason, like it did when he knocked on her door for the first time after asking her out 13 years earlier.

"Hi!" She said before greeting him with a hug and a kiss to the cheek and welcoming him inside.

"Grab a seat, i'm just finishing getting ready. Figured out what you fancy doing yet?" she asked before disappearing off into her bedroom.

Matt, still trying to shake off the nerves he was feeling, couldn't figure out what to do.

"No... Any idea's, i mean you live round here?"

"Well are you hungry?"

"A little bit... Yeah." He nodded as she came back into view.

He couldn't help but stare for a moment before he found his sences again and spoke.

"You look nice.... Really nice."

"Thanks.... Well i know a nice resturant just down the road, want to go there?"

Soon they were walking down the dark but busy street, Matt trying his best to avoid drawning attention to himself. It never really bothered him but he really wasn't in the mood to be hassled by people chasing a picture or an autograph. Becky spotted this before grabbing his arm and stopping.

"You want to just order some food and watch a film instead?"

Matt nodded and before too long they were back at her flat sharing a pizza while watching Step Brothers. She drank wine while Matt sunk a few budweisers. By the end of the film they had gone from opposite ends of her sofa to cuddled up together. She stretched and let out a yawn before noticing that it had now gone 11pm. Matt also noticed the time.

"Well i should probably go...." He said standing.

Awkwardly she walked him to her front door before they hugged once more.

"You'd better stay in touch."

He nodded as she released her grip on him to lay a kiss on his cheek. At that moment they found themselves looking into each other's eye's before they both leaned in closer. Their lips met in a deep and tender kiss with her pulling him back inside and closing the door behind him. He grabbed her behind and hoisted her up, her legs encircling his waist as they found their way into her bedroom....

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11:47am

The clock read as Matt slowly woke, his eye's trying to gain focus while the pain in his head became quickly apparent. By the time his eye's did gain focus and the nights events had flooded back it clicked in his head he'd suddenly remembered the Hull game,

"S**t... I'm late!"

He groaned before leaping out of bed. Becky beside him stirred as he franticly searched for his clothes, finding the odd piece scattered.

"Whats wrong?"

"I'm supposed to be in Hull.... I forgot all about it last night..... The gaffer is gonna batter me!"

She wrapped the duvet around her and tried to help him find the rest of his clothes. Soon though he was dressed and they were heading again towards the door. As soon as it was open he ran out and down the hall before it hit him and he turned back. Reaching her again as she leaned against the door frame he kissed her deeply.

"I'll call you later ok?" She nodded, still in a half awake haze but with a smile on her face as he ran down the hall.

After a quick stop at his mother's house to grab his suit he was back on the road, using near enough all of the GT-R's 520bhp as he hit the motorway. By the time he did make it to the KC Stadium via police escort which he'd met a couple of miles away, Redknapp wasn't looking altogether pleased.

"What bloody time do you call this?!... Nevermind, get changed and go warm up!"

Matt said nothing, instead just gingerly sliding past him and into the changing rooms.

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There were changes all around for Leeds from the team that started the last game against Ipswich. Parnaby drops to the bench in favour of Connolly, Howson and Vayrynen return to the centre of midfield with Thompson dropping to the bench and Brown not making the squad. McCormack's knock hadn't ruled him out entirely but would only make the bench with Nunez going onto the left and Matt resuming his free role behind Keogh.

npower Championship

10/12/2011

Hull City vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connelly

LB: Aiden White

CB: Tom Lees

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: Mika Vayrynen

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Ramon Nunez

AMC: Matt Warner

ST: Andrew Keogh

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

LB: Ben Parker

CM: Zac Thompson

AML: Ross McCormack

The match opened in dull fashion with neither side really looking like taking the game by the scruff of it's neck early on. The better of the early moves coming from Leeds as Nunez cut in from the left before finding Matt who tricked his way past a couple of Hull defenders, his blocked shot looped into the air near the edge of the area and Snodgrasses header was ambitious at best. Almost straight away though the chance was trumped by Hull when Snodgrass was caught in possession the ball sprang loose to Fryatt who exchanged passes with Waghorn before unleashing a shot which rattled the Leeds crossbar from 20 yards.

The game seemed to die down once more for a few minutes before the game of chance trumps went to the next level. Howson's well measured long ball down the right had the Hull defence on it's heels and after Snodgrass broke free of Dawson he bore down on goal but screwed his effort inches wide. The game continued in the same fashion as the next chance once again fell to Fryatt, the Leeds defence backing off before he once again unleashed an effort from distance which required Rachubka to be at his best once more to keep the scores level as the ball looked destined for the top corner. Towards the end of the half Leeds began to turn the screw a little more on Hull as Basso was forced to make two very good saves to deny Keogh from close range and Matt from the edge of the box.

The manager made it clear he was keen for them to start the second half as they had ended the first. He didn't exactly get his wish but it was Leeds' that were looking more likely to open the scoring as Snodgrass again came within inches, this time with a 25 yard free kick. Matt was gifted a superb chance as good work down the left from White and Keogh released him with just one defender to beat but instead he opted for his left foot and sliced a side footed effort well wide. At the other end Hull weren't all at sea either as some good passing around the area saw Waghorn pick out Barmby unmarked but Rachubka was again. With 20mins to go McCormack and Thompson came on for Nunez and Vayrynen with Leeds still in control. Snodgrass made a brilliant run down the right but with two team mates in the middle he drove at the near post, Basso again producing a good save from close range.

It would be the Scotsman's last action as he hobbled off with an injury shortly after, being replaced by Parker who went to left back with White going to the left of midfield and McCormack taking up the place on the right. It was McCormack who help provide the best chance of the game so far as he drove down the right and found Keogh with the cross but after a brilliant bit of control Basso again saved the close range effort. Matt also had a late chance but drove his near post effort inches over the bar and when the full time whistle sounded it was clear who the man of the match was.

Hull City 0

Leeds Utd 0

Att: 23,889

MoM: Adriano Basso

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It was a disappointing result for Leeds as the stats showed they had the much better of the chances and more possession in the end but the inspired showing by Basso kept Leeds at bay and honours even when all was said and done. Leicester however did keep up their end of the bargain by beating West Ham by 3-1 at the King Power Stadium meaning City now sat five points behind Leeds and six behind West Ham with Leeds still having a game in hand to their name. Following a midweek draw away to Derby to make it six games without a win, Chris Hughton was sacked as manager of Birmingham with former Chelsea and Portsmouth manager Avram Grant coming in to replace him.

In Leeds it was back to training though Matt found his mind wandering once or twice following recent events. It had certainly been a roller coaster few weeks with the death of his dad, the revealation of Kelly's pregnancy and that night with his old flame Becky. They had spoken the day after the game with Hull with Becky planning on visiting during the Christmas period when school finished for the holidays which at least gave him something to look forward to in between what would be a hectic run of games.

The draw at Hull was not well recieved. Though Basso was on top form there was no doubting that from the chances created Leeds should have walked away with all three points and training focused very much on finishing chances during the week leading upto the visit of Nottingham Forest to Elland Road. At the game itself there would be a tribute before the game started to Gary Speed following his funeral which, like Matt's dad, also fell on the 9th of December. Matt however was starting to head towards acceptance, a feeling of weight and sorrow seemingly lifted from his shoulders though he still felt it weighing on him some days.

The good news for Leeds is that though Snodgrass limped off against Hull with a knock it was nothing serious and was fit to train for the week.

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There was just the one change to the team that drew with Hull with Nunez and McCormack switching places. Nunez heading for the bench and McCormack starting on the left.

npower Championship

17/12/2011

Leeds Utd vs Nottm Forest

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connelly

LB: Aiden White

CB: Tom Lees

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: Mika Vayrynen

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Ross McCormack

AMC: Matt Warner

ST: Andrew Keogh

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

LB: Ben Parker

CM: Zac Thompson

AMC: Ramon Nunez

The family of Gary Speed were in attendence for the tribute to the late Gary Speed, there was a minutes applause for the recently departed Wales manager, tributes continuing to pour in and being laid at the base of the Billy Bremner statue that stood outside the ground.

Following the tributes the game kicked off, Redknapp demanding a win following what has now been 3 games without one and the start made was encouraging with the Leeds pressure telling early on with the visitors constantly looking in a panic. It was the same panic that resulted in the first goal. A rushed back pass went out for a corner, the resulting set piece wasn't cleared well with Matt picking up the ball and though his effort was blocked the ball fell to Keogh who volleyed into the top corner. As the rain began to fall though Forest began to apply some pressure of their own but without creating any real danger and soon enough Leeds doubled their advantage. Vayrynen collected a Howson pass before playing it into the feet of Keogh who found space on the edge of the area to turn and play in Matt and the England international applied a classy finish, firing into the top corner from 12 yards. His celebration saw two fingers aimed at the sky, one for his dad and one today for Gary Speed.

It wasn't all one way as a well played through ball released Findley for Forest but his low effort was straight at Rachubka and the resulting clearence almost saw a 3rd goal. As White pumped it clear Keogh and Matt worked well to set McCormack away unchecked down the left but the Scotsman's effort was blazed well over. Despite continued pressure the score remained the same as the sides went in for the interval. Redknapp urged caution in the second half while demanding a 3rd goal to kill the game off. The pressure of the first half continued almost straight from the kick off with Matt leading the Forest defence on a merry dance before his cross with cut out as Keogh looked to apply the finish. Upto the hour mark Leeds continued to look the much better of the two sides on show, creating chances but few to really trouble Camp in the Forest goal though Matt did sting his finger tips from distance. It seemed more a matter of when rather than if for that 3rd goal but eventually it did come.

Snodgrass lined up a free kick from the right following a foul on Keogh in the build up and his left footed effort curled into the top left corner leaving Camp with no chance to get to it. There was little respite for Forest as 4 minutes later there was another goal. This time Howson was given too much time in the middle and his dinked ball to the left found McCormack and Gunter with the former managing to shake his attentions to fire off a clever volley into the top corner though there was a hint of offside in the goal made apparent by the away side's protests while the Leeds players celebrated. With 15 minutes left to play Lees and Vayrynen both made way with Parnaby and Thompson coming in to replace them and in the process Connolly switched the centre back. Things began to calm down as time ebbed away, Leeds finding a nice rhythm of keep ball for long periods before, with 5 minutes left to go, Matt's number was shown and he ran off to a standing ovation, again pointing two fingers to the sky in tribute to his late father and Gary Speed. The final chance of the game fell the way of Forest but after a good piece of movement Miller's effort failed to trouble Rachubka. Though it was a very good team win the front four of Keogh, Matt, Snodgrass and McCormack were the key men in the win and it was tough to decide who would be man of the match.

(

)

Leeds Utd 4 (Keogh 15; Warner 25; Snodgrass 68; McCormack 71)

Nottm Forest 0

Att: 30,779

MoM: Ross McCormack (Leeds)

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There was a feeling of relief around Elland Road following the win after going three games without one and joy as at least for a couple of hours, Leeds would sit top of the Championship table with West Ham due for a later kick off which, following two sendings off for the home side saw West Ham lose a 3rd straight game to Reading by 2-1 with Darwin Quintero bagging twice, one an 81st minute winner. It left Leeds two points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand heading into what would be a very tough Christmas period which would start midweek away to Birmingham.

The game would see Leeds finally cash in that game in hand they'd been holding for the last few months and though it would be coming very quickly after their win against Forest, Redknapp named an unchanged squad for the trip to the West Midlands. With the finish of school on the Wednesday afternoon he'd arranged for Becky to come to the game in Birmingham with another friend of theirs, Steph, and her 5 year old son Cameron.

npower Championship

21/12/2011

Birmingham City vs Leeds Utd

Formation: 4-2-3-1

GK: Paul Rachubka

RB: Paul Connelly

LB: Aiden White

CB: Tom Lees

CB: Patrick Kisnorbo

CM: Jonny Howson ©

CM: Mika Vayrynen

AMR: Robert Snodgrass

AML: Ross McCormack

AMC: Matt Warner

ST: Andrew Keogh

SUBS:

GK: Andy Lonegran

RB: Stuart Parnaby

LB: Ben Parker

CM: Zac Thompson

AMC: Ramon Nunez

The call from Redknapp to some players was simple "More of the same!" and early on Matt almost complied with his request. Carr was caught in possession on the edge of the Leeds area, McCormack played in a through ball to set Matt away but after out stripping two defenders his left footed effort just skimmed past the post. It seemed to set the tone for the early exchanges as Leeds sought to open up a 5 point Leeds at the top of the table. There were more chances but they failed to challenge Myhill in the Birmingham goal. On the half hour mark McCormack won and took a free kick, laying into Howson's feet in the middle before the Leeds born captain hammered a shot goalwards with only the crossbar able to keep the scores level. Though it wasn't all one way traffic the majority of the chances were going the way of Leeds, Snodgrass coming closest after Myhill failed to deal with a shot from Matt, he jinxed back inside and hit the post from the angle. However on the brink of half time it was those two again who found the key that opened the Blues defence up. Snodgrass collects a pass from Connolly before laying a pass inside to Matt who blazed past Fahey and smashed an explosive effort across Myhill and into the top corner. His celebration saw him pointing upto the stands in the direction of Becky, Steph and Cameron before being mobbed by his ecstatic team mates. As half time came around Redknapp was once again at pains to point out that the game was far from over and demanded full attention be applied to getting the 2nd goal and seeing the game out. Early on though the hard work of the first half was almost wiped out in under two minutes as Zigic's was given far too much space to shoot in an almost identical position to Matt's opener only this time the big forwards effect flashed wide of the mark. It brought Redknapp straight from the comfort of the bench to bark orders at his players following what seemed to be a display of their lack of listening skills. The early chance seemed to spark Leeds into life, Matt found himself some space to shoot but it ended up going straight at Myhill.

The 2nd goal wasn't far off though as again Snodgrass turned provider as he once again collected the ball from a Connolly header, turned and played a simple pass into the run of Keogh who found himself a yard and fired just inside the far post to double the lead. As the game hit the hour mark there was a slight set back for Leeds as McCormack signalled to the bench that his game was over, Nunez quickly summoned to replace him on the left wing and things got worse 5 minutes later. Beausejour found space on the left from a thrown in before crossing at the near post where Zigic beat both Lees and Rachubka in the air to head home a way back into the game. Birmingham began to find a rhythm now as became evident from a corner which again found Zigic, his header hit the cross bar and with Rachubka grounded Beausejour headed at the open goal only for Connolly to clear off the line with a header of his own. It set Nunez off up field with a pass to Matt who found himself forced into the corner, as support arrived in the shape of Nunez once more he played in a simple pass but his driven effort was high and wide of the mark.

Redknapp again was on his feet urging concentration and it was again Keogh who responded. Snodgrass involved once more as from a throw in he cross from the right, Nunez and Carr both failed to get any sort of meaningful contact on the ball and as it sprang loose Keogh reacted quickest to drive it low at the near post from 6 yards out. With 10 minutes to go Redknapp made a second change, Vayrynen making way for Thompson in the middle of the park. With 5 minutes left to go the win was pretty much sealed. Snodgrass, a man Birmingham were becoming sick of by now, again tricked two Blues defenders before crossing to the back post, again Nunez and Carr went for it with neither making great contact with it and Myhill too slow to react as the ball rolled gently over the line. The full time whistle came shortly after though by this point many of the home fans had already decided they'd seen enough and made way for the exits.

(

)

Birmingham City 1 (Zigic 66)

Leeds Utd 4 (Warner 44; Keogh 53, 73; Myhill o/g 85)

Att: 20,634

MoM: Andrew Keogh (Leeds)

Nunez, sure he'd made the final decisive contact, was amazed to see the final goal attributed to Myhill as an own goal. Though disappointing for him it did little to overshadow what was another impressive performance and a clear indication that Leeds were a real force to be reckoned with as they approached the half way mark of the season a full five points clear at the top of the table and with over fifty goals. There was bad news from the game however as physio's comfirmed that McCormack had picked up a thigh strain that would keep him out for upto three weeks.

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Following their win Matt met for a few moments with Becky, with her pulling him into a quiet spot away from the crowd that had gathered in the players lounge. They kissed deeply for a while,

"Mmmmmm, i've missed you."

"I've been missing you too....."

"It's a pity your not coming back to Leicester otherwise you'd have scored twice tonight." She said before pulling him closer again for another passionate embrace.

"Don't tempt me woman.... Still, you'll be coming back with me on boxing day won't you?"

She nodded before they moved back towards where Steph and Cameron were sitting. They didn't have to say a word, Steph gave them both a knowing look as they sat down. Sadly Matt couldn't stay and catch up with both of them, Redknapp keen for them to hit the road and return to Leeds to rest up. Reluctantly he left and headed back down to meet the rest of the team as they boarded the coach. Back in Leeds the rumour mill began to spark into life with the transfer window due to open in just over a week's time. The main rumours were to do with Howson and Snodgrass with West Brom and QPR showing interest in them while there were further rumours that Redknapp was trying to free up money to bring in Keogh on a perminent deal following his superb form since returning but that move may have been scuppered following training on Friday when a collision between O'Brien and Brown saw O'Brien damage his cruciate ligaments and rule him out for upto ten months.

In the wake of the injury O'Brien delcared he was thinking of retirement following the injury, sighting that with his age also against him that he may quit as he believed that he may never be able to play at the same level again. It mean that now Leeds only had Kisnorbo, Lees and O'Dea available to play at centre half and with money also short Redknapp may have to spend what he has on bringing in defensive renforcements rather than their leading scorer.

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Following training on Saturday the team were allowed to spend Christmas day with their families. Matt travelled down to Leicester to see both his family and Becky, the back of his Grand Cherokee SRT8 filled to the roof with presents. While he wasn't known for being a massive fan of Christmas he felt the need to make an effort for his nephew's first one as he was sure everyone else was going to spoil him rotten also.

Despite the normal hectic nature of the road system around this time of year Matt made it to Leicester in around an hour and a half and before too long his brother Chris was guiding his reversal into the drive way of their parents house so they could unload the large amount of presents he'd bought. Soon though he'd collapsed onto the sofa for a rest that had been well earned in his own mind.

"You train today?" His brother enquired.

"Yeah, pretty tough one as were off tomorrow and i'll be heading back up on boxing day." He got out before his attention was drawn to his nephew pulling himself upto his feet by the sofa to listen in almost.

"Think your gonna need a house just for his stuff after tomorrow."

"Yeah, i think he'll get more for this one Christmas than we ever had."

Matt nodded just watching Kaiden as he bounced up and down looking up at the both of them. As the night wore on family came and went leaving and recieving presents before Matt himself eventually decided to call it a night, heading upstairs to his room, his eye's hanging heavily. By the time he was in bed he was nearly asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, his cat soon following suit and curling up next to him before falling asleep.

The sleep wasn't as restful as he would have liked with an eleven month old in the next room though it served as a preview for he may be living in a few months should the baby Kelly was carrying turn out to be his. Even though he perhaps should have started thinking about what he'll do if it does turn out to be his, right now everything was coming at him so quickly and it looked to only become more complicated once the first of January hit as at that point he'll be in the last 6 months of his contract and his agent had warned him that he was expecting contact from some big teams with a view to getting him signed up on a deal nice and early for next season with it also possible that Arsene Wenger may seek to heal the rift and entice him to sign a new deal. Though he'd pretty much forgotten at times that he was still an Arsenal player he still intended to at least keep his word and run down his contract before leaving on a free. The question now would be, where would he be playing next season?

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Thanks to the exploits of a unhappy eleven month old his well deserved rest wasn't all he'd hoped it would be so when the shout at 9am came from his mother downstairs for them all to come down to begin what would be the long task of opening what had looked like an endless pile of presents that filled near enough every corner of the living room. With the exception of the boy being carried, the other three adults were still half way to the land of nod as they decended the stairs. Most of the attention was paid to the youngster as he was aided in unwrapping his presents, near enough all of the of the gifts being given less focus than the paper that wrapped them, the cats especially enjoying also playing with the discarded paper. Matt's presents mainly were boys toys, a HD PVR, Turtle Beach CoD edition headset and a few other bits and bobs.

"Football Manager 2012..... Whats this?"

"It's great man, football management sim... I reckon you'll enjoy it."

"I dunno, is it as good as the Fifa career mode?"

"It's like manager mode but.... More extreme... Give it a go."

Matt nodded and looked it over before his mother got the attention of them all. She had kept her gifts for the three brothers to one side but now all the other presents had been unwrapped she handed each of them two presents each. They opened the first one, each looking at it with a distant smile. All three were given pictures firstly. Each one an image of their dad holding them when they were babies.

The 2nd gift for Matt was one he never expected, one he could barely respond to,

"He loved that watch, whenever we were out he'd always show people and tell them who bought it for him..... I know he'd want you to have it."

The watch was a present Matt had given to him just over three years before when, after being made redundant from his place of work, had decided to take early retirement. And it was true, any excuse he had to wear it he would and it brought a tear or two to his eye as he hugged his mother and thanked her for the gift. After a modest Christmas dinner they spent the rest of Christmas day doing what they normally did.... Sitting in front of the TV watching a British Christmas institution, one of the very few things that they had always made a habbit of doing,

Watching Only Fools and Horse's.

Many people around the same time would be watching the Queen's speech but as his dad always said, "Why the f**k should i waste part of my Christmas day watching that old tax dodger talk bol***ks?!" They sat and watched, Matt allowing himself a beer as he relaxed before what would be another long journey back to Leeds the following morning. But before then he'd be heading off to meet Becky and spend the night at her's before heading back up to Leeds with her. Things had moved quite quickly with them again and though they hadn't really talked about how things may work they'd instantly fallen back into the comfort zone they found themselves in all those years ago when they reluctantly split up. After loading up his gifts into the car they all departed. Chris, Kaiden and their mother heading to spend the rest of christmas with Kaiden's mum's family while Matt headed off to Becky's. They'd been texting each other near enough none stop all day so by the time he got to her door and gave it a knock he could hardly contain himself though he was taken back when she answered the door in a sexy Christmas outfit.

"So... Have you been naughty or nice?"

"Nice i think..." He said as she pulled him inside, leading him by the hand straight to the bedroom.

"Well that's good to hear.... Because i've got something for you." She said as the door was shut behind them.

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"Wakey wakey." She said, taking a sip of her coffee, standing over him in just his t-shirt.

"What time is it?" He said as he shot up in a panic.

"Relax, it's only just gone 9am. I reckon we should leave for about 10am though so we don't have to rush."

He layed back down as his heart rhythm returned to normal. After his last night in her flat he wanted to be certain he wouldn't find himself driving like a mad man to get back in time, though he was never really known for his calm driving style he'd rather not find himself doing 158mph again.

"Still you'd better get out of bed. You can go first in the shower."

"Becky please, in these times of environmental uncertainty i think we should be saving water and energy. So with that in mind we should shower together to.... Ya know, save the environment."

"Ooohhh yeah your right but i dunno, i mean this is sort of weird coming from a guy who's car looks like it uses more fuel per mile than mine would in thirty...." She said, pulling the curtains back for a peek into the street.

"Well i'm only concerned with water right now so come on, lets go save the world."

After half hour or so they emerged from the shower and began to dress before they soon departed to make the trip back upto Leeds. It was nice to have a little company on these drives, most of the time Matt found himself alone with only his iPod for company. They spent most of the journey playing catch up once more with each other, Matt discovering that following her return to Leicester she had went to university and qualified to become a school teacher and soon landed a job at a nice primary school. She always made sure to keep up with his progress and admitted to shedding a tear or two when she saw his reaction to Leeds' relegation and to their play-off final defeat a couple of years later. They arrived just as many players were with their partners and children in tow. After giving an introduction to a few of them before the players headed off to meet up with the manager and have thier pre-match meal, Matt deciding on chicken.

"It would be nice, just once, that when i order chicken it turns out to be a KFC."

Some of the other players nodded in agreement before Howson asked the question a few of them had been wanting to ask,

"So who's the girl?"

"An old girlfriend i ran into when i was at my dad's funeral.... Andrew may remember her. Anyway we split up like 8 years ago, drifted apart and now.... Well we've pretty much just hit it off again..."

It was left at that as they all went back to eating.

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