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Rob Ridgway's "Rat Pack"

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Finally caght up with the story! the best writing i've seen in my life!

Now, Just a stupid question:

When Patty's second pregnancy was annouced? Because i didnt manage to understand where it happend. I will be thankful for the answer.

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This is truly brilliant. I loved that last post, and in fact, every post that you make. I find myself being drawn into the tale so powerfully by your writing ability that I actually had a dream about the characters last night - which if it comes true, I will claim physic powers :cool: - which clearly shows how in-depth and simply entertaining this tale is.

Thanks for sharing it with us, and long may it continue. :thup:

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First things first: Ori, welcome to the Rat Pack! I appreciate your reading through the story. Patty's second pregnancy was made known to Rob right at the end of the 2008-09 season, before the two left for summer holiday. Her approximate due date would therefore be in late February.

WW, I always appreciate your comments, but now I am curious as to what sort of plotlines you dream up in your sleep :)


Thursday, October 22

“Hello, Rob, it’s Alba. How are you today?”

Her voice was nice to hear, as was the seeming promise of her friendship.

Listening to her on the phone, though, I noted that she sounded determined. She wasn’t giving up.

But on what?

“I’m fine, thank you,” I responded. “And what brings you to me today?”

“Health and welfare check, as we say on the force,” she laughed. “I just thought I’d check in and see how your security arranagements were going and how you’re holding up after the last week.”

“We really haven’t talked about new security, to be honest,” I replied. “Right now we’re just sitting at home and Patty is trying to recover from her trip. With her pregnancy advancing, I don’t know how many more trips she’ll be making out of the country, if you catch my meaning.”

“Especially not when people are shooting at you,” she said. “But I am curious as to your well being.”

“I’m fine, Alba,” I answered. “Really. I’m doing well. We’re all on kind of a high after the Barcelona match anyway and we’re just taking things one day at a time.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear that,” she said. “I am still advising on the cases pertaining to you, so you know, even though I can no longer take active involvement in them.”

“Because you held my hand on a plane?” I asked.

“We are not to get emotionally involved with witnesses,” she said. “And the way things have been going for you lately, that sort of thing would be the last thing in the world you would want to see in the press.”

She seemed to understand the Fourth Estate at least as well as I did. Her savvy had served her well when dealing with the press, and I can use a bit more savvy than I have shown of late.

That’s just one reason why we’re paying Freddie Eaton the money we’re paying him.

And frankly, had Patty had a little more understanding along those lines, maybe the articles we’re now having to worry about wouldn’t be so bothersome.

I can’t blame her for that. I think I know what she was trying to do. She just didn’t succeed.

Yet, the woman on the other end of my office phone didn’t seem to mind all that.

“But as to the reason I’m calling,” she said. “Commander Fowler would like to meet you for lunch when you get back from Manchester.”

“And he has you scheduling his appointments, Alba?” I teased. “I think that’s a waste of your talents.”

“No, I want to come along, and I can’t go unless he accompanies,” she said. “He wants to talk through certain parts of the case and he wants to do that in front of you. He can’t have my input in an interview with you unless he’s there. That was my doing.”

“It was our doing,” I said. “I didn’t have to reach for your hand.”

“And I didn’t have to take it. But I did. If you will pardon the expression, Rob, we made this bed and now we have to lie in it.”

# # #

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"And I didn’t have to take it. But I did. If you will pardon the expression, Rob, we made this bed and now we have to lie in it.”

She wishes ;)

As great as ever 10-3

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Very very very good, but you know that. Just some quick feedback at this stage of the tale...

It wasn't always the case but I'm finding Patty the most intriguing character in the story. I find the concept she 'might' not be as squeaky nice as she was portrayed in the first season to be captivating. What odds that 'Legend in my mind' was a trick of the pen, carefully planted on the forums to make the Ridgway marriage seem invincable, when actually plans are afoot to split them up until forty years down the line when they suddenly reunite on Facebook? (two weeks before Rob has his Legends dream thing). I wonder.

Actually, I find Ratpack to be a story of a reader's own interpretation these days just as much as it is solid facts/results/outcomes. On the subject of themes, this is my interpretation. I felt the first season to be a tale of a happy-go-lucky Yank using his skills to ride the wave of quick success. Simple as. Even if the journey wasn't always simple. By contrast, I find the second season to be indirectly a story about Patty Ridgway and how a football man's spouse can so easily cause utter chaos inside a club (even by doing nothing more than going about her everyday business). I wonder if that will still be the way I see it come May.

As for my friend Emilani - crouching tiger hidden dragon - waiting patiently for Reading's inevitable dodgy spell, he really is the best placed character in the thing isn't he? I get the impression he's not as bothered about making Rob's life a misery as much as Rob thinks he is. I think Emilani likes to wind him up, but hey, if he doesn't get the chance to on any given Sunday, no big deal. He's still doing the job he loves without any of the stress all the other characters go through. Good for Emil.

One more random thought for today - I was reading a non-fiction book about some of football's financial disasters in the last twenty years or so. One chapter focused on Bradford City's fall from the premiership to league two. Guess what the name of the dodgy director was whose dealings were instrumental in the fall from grace? Geoffrey Richmond.

Continue, sir

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I may as well interpret what I'm getting out of it also. Season one (well, two, as American Calcio was S1, and I never got through that - sorry) was the Rocky season, man rises to the top of the game, makes enemies along the way (some already existing and antagonistic). The plot trails you have remind me of how complex Joss Whedon writes his works (and that is a huge compliment from me) - S1 was just the beginning of all of this.

S2 has been more about the exploration of more minor characters - Patty Ridgway, John Madejski, Peter McGuire (who, and this sickens me, I'm starting to feel a little for - a truly great sign of a writer, getting a baddie you can sympathise with). I'm hoping you can create the same feelings for Sidney Richmond eventually, too, because I never like my bad guys, even the "Big Bad" to use Whedonesque language, to be all in black.

Basically, I think you should apply for a job with Mutant Enemy (Whedon's production team) as a writer, as this is all such an epic story. The only thing annoying me is the first person perspective, for some reason I never like that aspect in a story. But that's a personal issue, and the great things outshine it altogether.

I think we're beyond simple compliments here, you know you're good, you know you've got fans. I think it's just what you do with yourself, having built this universe (with the help of your FM save of course ;)

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Thanks for all the great comments, gentlemen. The relationship between Alba and Rob is at this point one of two friends, even if one (or both) may be reading a bit more into it than is actually there at present. Patty's line in the sand regarding Rob and Alba, even if projection of a sort, has been well and truly drawn.

Now, with regard to the comments by ScottLee and dechardonay:

I do like writing the character of Patty Ridgway. Reaction to her has been all over the board, and that's as it should be. She is acquiring a depth this season that she did not have before. She has gone from love interest to quite a complex character in her own right.

As for Legend In My Mind, that's an interesting connection. I'll simply say 'no comment' to any thought of it being a precursor to the fate of the Ridgways' marriage.

ScottLee, your read on Emiliani is pretty accurate, but during S1 (Calcio), Emiliani did see himself as sort of the guardian of the Italian lower-league game. With the arrogance of the journalist, he felt himself entitled. The first person usage throughout the story is due to it being in a diary format, though it does delve into the omnipotent from time to time to advance plot lines.

dechardonay, your comparison is more than flattering and I thank you for it. I'm hardly at that level, but I would like to think that the manner in which plot lines are advanced and details are tied together is worthy of a professional.

Your observation about S2 being about character development is quite correct. There are other characters to note too -- not the least of which is Hardcastle. Fowler is another character who will bear watching in the coming weeks.

You also put your finger on something interesting too -- writing the McGuire beating scene was surprisingly difficult to do. Here's a fellow who has lost everything he once cared about including his wife and children through his own raw arrogance, drinking himself silly and winding up nearly dead on his living room floor. To have come to that point in one's life is more than a sad realization, it's tragic. As for Richmond, I have yet to find a merciful bone in the man's body, but if and when I do, you'll see it.

I will say this, though: your comments about Mutant Enemy are quite possibly the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me as a writer and I thank you very much for that.


With one day remaining before we travel to the northwest for the Sunday hookup with City, we spared a moment today to admire four-star Arsenal.

The Gunners torched Sporting for four last night in Lisbon in a 4-2 triumph that has them atop their group with a perfect record through three matches – the only English side that can make that claim.

And speaking of four stars, I had a smile on my face this morning as well after watching a portion of Rangers’ 4-0 hiding of Slavia Prague at Ibrox in the match they had to win.

Their European dreams aren’t yet dead either so there was reason for me to smile a bit in that regard too. I’d really enjoy the chance to manage against Rangers with this club in the Champions League, but to do that we’re going to need to hold off Barcelona for three more matches to win our group, since Rangers certainly won’t win theirs. That’s a very tall order.

Yet we have the opportunity. The mood of the players was still expansive today at training so we will go into Sunday’s match on a real high.

I’m not going to try to calm them down. They think they can defeat anyone at the moment and that’s the attitude every manager says he wants from his players. We will see if it’s enough on Sunday.

I don’t plan any changes to the eleven except the possibility of Dagoberto and Kitson reuniting up front. Their understanding seems to be better and Kitson’s goal against Barca shows he might be back on his form. This is great news, obviously, but his regular strike partner might be the better choice to solidify that form.

And, I still need to see a bit better from Baptista, who is pressing. He wants to do well so badly that at times he doesn’t seem to be playing with his head – not running into space, not creating when he is on the ball or presenting options when he’s not.

He’s trying to do it all by himself, which means I need to speak with him. He started so well, and now he’s not performing at the level he can.

We seem to have this problem at various positions on the pitch. As players dip out and rise back up to form, you have to stay on them. Some players like to be coddled, others like to be challenged. That is the part of man-management that is the trickiest.

After calling out Bikey some time ago over the quality of his play, he has been better. Baptista, on the other hand, isn’t likely to take that treatment well.

As a performer at one of the world’s biggest clubs, he’s used to being stroked. So that means my approach to him is going to have to be different.

And, I’ve been trying for over a year to get him here, so there’s the matter of needing to fill a few more enemy nets than he has been doing of late. His return of three goals has been decent but sometimes when players don’t perform for whatever reason, they plateau or even regress.

We need him, so regression is not an option. We’ll be talking on the plane.

# # #

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Fantastic writing as always - well done 10-3 :thup:

Now I have a question about the Hardcastle/Patty mail swapping in october S3 in the story as i struggled to understand what Rob, Alba, Fowler and Everyone else saw and made Rob cry and linked Patty for the McGuire beating case. Iv'e read it a couple dozens of and still didnt understand.

So, What did make Rob Crying in the plane and for the rest of the day?, And what linked Patty to the McGuire beating case? (Or its just theory of the readers here?).

I'll be Very thankful as always.

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Fantastic writing as always - well done 10-3 :thup:

Now I have a question about the Hardcastle/Patty mail swapping in october S3 in the story as i struggled to understand what Rob, Alba, Fowler and Everyone else saw and made Rob cry and linked Patty for the McGuire beating case. Iv'e read it a couple dozens of and still didnt understand.

So, What did make Rob Crying in the plane and for the rest of the day?, And what linked Patty to the McGuire beating case? (Or its just theory of the readers here?).

I'll be Very thankful as always.

Ori, I'll do 10-3's job for him here and explain. The message was in the initial letter of each line of the texts, it made a secret code that saw Patty accept a secret meeting with Hardcastle, this is what Rob, in the absence of any reasonable 'positive' explanation of the texts found so upsetting.

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cf, thanks for the help, but I need to make a minor correction. The code was actually the first word of each paragraph in the two e-mails.

Ori, Hardcastle and Patty had set up a simple code to communicate with each other. Patty claims that the code was done so Rob would not be alarmed over her plans to meet Hardcastle (and as it turned out, to help keep him safe). Rob, on the other hand, is not convinced and felt that the code was simply to arrange an illicit secret meeting. Hence, the major gap in trust in their relationship at the present time.

Fulton was the first to spot the code, and elected not to spell it out to Rob for fear of embarrassing him. He did, however, figure it out for himself.


I kept thinking back to Fulton’s words as I prepared the preliminary squad sheet for Sunday’s match.

“I don’t have to lie in any bed that I don’t want to lie in,” I mused. “Why would she say something like that?”

I let my imagination run wild for a few moments – and had to shake my head to put a particular thought out of my mind.

Only it kept coming back. Under any ordinary, red-blooded circumstances, that would have given me a smile, but not today.

“Wrong, wrong, wrong,” I snapped at myself, turning my attention back to the form in front of me.

It didn’t add up. Alba had been very supportive on the plane, and her contact with me was pretty easy to figure out. She is friendly, wickedly beautiful and quite supportive.

As a result, she is also like Kryptonite to Superman, if you will pardon the foray into hubris. I can’t touch her, as much as I might like to indulge myself.

Yet it sure seems that’s what she wants me to do, only she can’t say it. It all sort of shatters any idea I may have had of the police officer as the inscrutable force for good.

I kept thinking back to my dream, which was part of my problem. I don’t know if my non-verbals are giving something away or what, but it’s getting more and more difficult to avoid coming back to that moment in my sleep.

She’s a very nice lady. I keep saying that to myself. And that’s how she needs to stay unless I want a peck of trouble for myself, including a morals violation in my contract that would give Richmond anything and everything he needed to make me pack my bags.

And it would figure I’d be thinking about Alba after such a wonderful night with Patty last night. My wife might not be very good at communicating her innocence to me with words, but she found other ways last night that certainly got her message across.

Alba, on the other hand, is playing a dangerous game and what’s more, I think she knows it. Since the bugging incident, my phone conversations are logged and if she calls too often it could lead to trouble or negative publicity. So if she calls my mobile, Patty will know about it.

I can’t win. But I can do something about it.

# # #

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Why do I feel this is going to backfire on Rob?

On another note, seeing as everyone else is picking up some sort of analysis to your epic saga I got thinking last night about it as well, and while mine isn't as in depth I did notice one thing that bugged me. Is it me, or is it planned, that Rob isn't showing the same enthusiasm to his Job in the Rat Pack in comparison to Calcio? It just seems to me that In Calcio he was doing something he loved, whereas in this it feels like he is being a manager as a way of escaping his home life - much like depressants would bury themselves in work.

Am I reading this correctly, or have I gone and taken a wrong turning somewhere along the lines? :confused:

Either way, I am still enjoying this intensely and congratulate you yet again - god you must be getting bored of this :p - on being such a great writer. :thup:

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Because everything backfires on Rob? :)

In seriousness, WW, your read is correct. Rob is depressed. Sometimes work is an outlet for that depression and Rob is definitely escaping from a situation that gives him little joy. In the fashion of some depressed people (which I know from personal experience) he has searched for a single segment of his home life that does bring happiness and tried to focus on it while ignoring the rest.


Friday, October 23

We arrived in Manchester at lunchtime today after a morning flight from Heathrow. And on the flight, I had my talk with Baptista.

I decided to couch the conversation in ‘how are you getting on’ sort of terms. He’s a very determined man, and I know he’s smart enough to read between my lines anyway. When the manager asks to see a player regarding performance, the meaning is often unmistakeable.

I swore up and down it wasn’t about poor performance, just about a need for better. Thankfully, he seemed to understand that.

He knows the reputational risk I took by bringing him here and he knows that his situation is very closely tied to my own.

So the conversation actually went quite well. I’ve been trying to ease him into his role with us but with Dagoberto, Kitson and Dicã all playing so well for the most part, it has been a little more difficult to have him in the regular eleven each and every match.

However, there’s no doubt he’s playing a lot more than he would have played at Real this season, so he’s happy.

“I know you are looking for more goals from me and believe me, I want to score them,” he said, taking a seat next to me and pre-empting my entire line of conversation.

“Well, Julio, that’s pretty much why I wanted to talk with you,” I admitted. I spoke in Spanish to him – while Julio is also undergoing English immersion classes, I wanted this to be a comfortable conversation for him rather than for me.

Still, though, he needs to get it in gear. He’s here for a reason and right now that reason isn’t happening often enough.

“I need to know if you are having difficulty fitting into the offensive scheme,” I said. “Right now, if there is an accommodation we need to make for you, then I need to know what it is.”

“I am fitting in well,” he insisted. “I need to start taking my chances. Right now they are not going in.”

He was wrong – actually, they aren’t taking place, which is why they aren’t going in.

“This scheme is designed to get you some space through the late runs of Dicã,” I said. I’m not seeing you get separation on your runs, and if there is anything we can do to help you with that then I’m all ears. Having you out there means other teams must always account for you and we understand that, but we are looking for that touch of extra class we know you have.”

“I know I have it too,” he insisted, trying his level best to keep the conversation on a positive tone. He needs it to be.

# # #

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We landed and went straight to the hotel, with a tactical session scheduled for the afternoon. We will train tomorrow at the City of Manchester Stadium before Sunday’s match.

After the high of the Barcelona match, I’m going to expect more of the same from the players. They remain quite confident they can provide it.

And despite everything still going on both on and off the pitch, this felt more like a normal away trip for me. There was a sense of normalcy that I haven’t felt for far too long.

I made my usual call to Dillon and Downes to meet for a a beer and some strategy after dinner, and unpacked my things with a degree of calm that I really haven’t felt in awhile.

I thought back to Patty sitting at home, and wondered if she was having the same thoughts and feelings I was having.

“You had one good night,” I said to myself as I hung my touchline suit in the hotel room closet. “Don’t you dare think that everything’s fixed yet.”

I headed into the bathroom to dispose of my shaving kit and kept right on talking to myself.

“You have to start somewhere, you idiot,” I said, watching the angels on either shoulder having an internal argument through my own mouth.

Heading back into the suite’s living room area, I sat down at the small conference table my room contained. I leaned my head back and counted dots in the ceiling for a few minutes while I collected my thoughts.

I refuse to feel guilty for making love to my wife. That would just be the living end. It’s time to put that canard away for good.

Having had more than one discussion with myself on this topic in recent days, my determination to get back on top of my game – and quit reacting so much to the people who are tormenting me at the present moment – felt good at the time. Now I have to follow through.

The idea is pretty simple – I am supposed to be in charge until someone who is in charge of me tells me that I’m not.

Now, I have a home situation that appears to be improving if I will only let it, a major decision to make about Patty and her security, and a rather gorgeous police officer who talks about lying in bed with me.

And I have a job to do on Sunday that involves finally taking the measure of Manchester City. For the time being, that it is my most important task.

So, I continued to count dots on the ceiling while trying to think everything through. Who says football isn’t a mental game?

# # #

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Why do I have the feeling that patty is gonna suspect an affair between Rob and Alba? (If she hasnt already)

Apparently rob isnt pleased from making love with his wife. (Which probably connects with my affiar thoughts).

Otherwise Brilliant Writing as Always 10-3 :thup:

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I do wonder myself whether it is a case of IF we will see TTL weave in pictures of Rob and Alba in the rags or WHEN he will weave that into the story. As long as 'mere mortals' like me keep on guessing people will agree with Ori's last sentence (if he edits 'usual' into it).

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I've been away for awhile and it was great to come back with so many posts unread. Top notch work as always 10-3. I stand by my earlier comments about not liking Patty. I like her even less than before after all of this Hardcastle secret message nonsense.

And I think maybe I'm missing something you're trying to communicate. Maybe I just don't get Patty well enough, because I have no feelings of sympathy for her. I don't understand where she's coming from or why she does what she does or says half the stuff she says. I think it was Stephen King who said that authors have a sort of telepathy with their readers and I think I'm on a different wave-length than what you're intending for Patty.

I hope no one, especially 10-3, takes that as a slight on the writing here. I mean it as a slight aimed at myself - for whatever reason I just can't "get" Patty or why Rob puts up with her crap.

I'm sad now that I'm all caught up again.

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Ori, Patty already suspects exactly that. nette, Rob is already thinking about the potential embarrassment that might ensue - you know how he is regarding tabloids! And Colorado, it's interesting for me to read your thoughts about Patty. I have tried to write her character as one that is evolving, because she has clearly changed as a person since meeting Rob. We met her as a sweet, innocent girl who had been badly hurt in a prior relationship. The attempt made on her life in Venice, however, changed her into a much more cautious, safety-conscious and above all calculating person. Add to this mix the trappings of newly-found fame without the real emotional makeup to handle it, and you get a very complex character. The issue with Rob is basically this -- he loves Patty dearly. And frankly, some men will put up with a lot in order to have the one they love. Hence, what some have seen as an overly sensitive or over-the-top reaction to Patty's relationship with Hardcastle. When a man feels he has lost the one woman in his life he is willing to change himself to love, it can lead to completely atypical reaction.


Saturday, October 24

Three of our four main competitors were in action today, and one of them did us a favor.

West Ham came back from 2-1 down late in the game to knock off Manchester United at Upton Park this afternoon, giving me a reason to smile. John Pantsil opened the scoring 13 minutes in for the Hammers, and that score held up until there were twenty minutes to play.

Then, Carlos Tevez and substitute Febian Brandy scored two minutes apart, and United prepared to defend a lead in the late going.

As we have discovered to our discomfort many times this season, that lead didn’t last. Craig Bellamy scored the equalizer eight minutes from time and Bobby Zamora drove home the winner in stoppage time to give West Ham all the points.

Unfortunately for us, though, Chelsea continues to roll along. Didier Drogba scored nine minutes from halftime and ten-man Newcastle couldn’t find an equalizer at St. James’ Park. Alan Smith got his marching orders for violent conduct after headbutting Vedran Corluka, and there was no way back for Big Sam and his boys.

And, Arsenal made short work of Boro at the Riverside. Cesc Fabregas, Emmanuel Adebayor and Alex Hleb all found the range within the first 37 minutes and even though onetime Gunner Jérémie Aliadière pulled one back right after the restart, Adebayor had one more finish left in him for a 4-1 triumph that presumably has them feeling pretty good.

That left the most entertaining match of the day to be played at the JJB, where Wigan and Bolton clashed in a northwest derby. Paul Scharner and Malik Mouath al-Hawasawi scored on either side of the interval for the home team, but the visitors reeled them back in.

Oscar Trejo and Spanish u-21 Adrián pulled Bolton level in fairly short order, with the Argentinian scoring the winner two minutes from time in a hotly-contested match.

Tomorrow, Liverpool hosts Villa so we are hoping that Martin O’Neill’s boys will be able to do us a favor as well. If we keep our focus, the possibility is there for a pretty good day.

If we don’t, and if we let down like I am starting to fear we might, the results could be much less palatable.

There is so much confidence in our group at the moment it is starting to make me a little nervous. I don’t see the kind of respect for an opponent that I feel we should show, and that makes little sense since we’re fifth and City are only two places below us.

There is something really to play for tomorrow and it’s not going to be given to us.

So at our team brunch this morning before our brief training session, I tried to re-instill that knowledge among my players.

“Barcelona was Barcelona,” I told them, “and tomorrow’s match is tomorrow’s match. You cannot approach this match with the sense of entitlement that I am seeing. You just can’t. If you don’t focus, they are going to take your scalps just like they did last year.”

At that, I finally saw a little sense that my players understand what’s at stake. The chief among them was Kitson, he of the great confidence – and he who will return, with Dagoberto, to the eleven for tomorrow.

I just hope it’s not too late.

# # #

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This is my first post: I had been a fan of Football Manager since FM05, but I hadn't decided to check out the online community until very recently; largely looking at tips and hints. I saw a category for FM Stories, and I assumed that it merely was players crowing at eachother about their management achievements, so I skipped over them. After a couple of months, I decided to check them out and was largely unimpressed (this was on another forum), but right before I left, I saw a story with a high view count and it piqued my interest. It was ok. After looking through the more popular stories and writers, I decided it was worth a shot and I ambled over to this forum--seeing 18 pages of one thread, I figured this would be a good place to start--thankfully, I didn't. I followed a link from your first post to read American Calcio. I'll be honest, it was a cut above (and reading it first certainly helps with the story here). After taking 3 or so days to read it (would have been faster, but I do have SOME work to do...), I headed back here and was at first disappointed that you switched clubs, but happy for Rob. I was mostly disappointed because I was starting to like the players at Padova and some of the character development was pretty good. I think this story has improved over the last one perhaps simply because the framework for your characters is already set. I may like American Calcio more, but this is probably a better story; I don't really know how to explain it.

EDIT: After rereading this post before posting it, I realized this turned into a review. I'm OK with that and I'm pretty sure you will be too (here's to hoping). I felt sort of lame just saying I REALLY LIKE YOUR WORK even though it's true because everybody else has said it before me and probably more effectively.

I don't think I liked Patty from Day 1 (I didn't really dislike her too much until recently), so this change in our (Rob's?) perspective of the character is not only refreshing, but for me a little gratifying--if only because I wanted a reason to dislike her. I think also because having a reason to dislike her makes her a fuller character--she was perhaps (in my opinion) the least developed major character in AC, and having her become much rounder as a character exposed a lot more of who she is and how she reacts to different kinds of adversity. The tension in their marital problems here is better and much different than the tension created in Padua and it's nice to see her reactions to that change. Also, what the hell? I know they're having marital problems, but Patty is SO underwhelmed by this Barcelona success. WHAT-ever. That crap is earth shattering. It's like a slightly less epic Wimbledon FC (who deserved Europe. Alas. The only reason I would really be critical of the 'Pool).

Rob is wonderfully flawed and a great character, if only because he is the opposite of many characters in online original works: relatable but not a placeholder. Some people would necessarily relate to him better than others because of who Rob is, what his strengths are and importantly, what his weaknesses are. His pride, his relative weakness for "the other perspective," and his commitment to a passion at the behest of other, sometimes more important ones are all things I can relate to very well and has made this story very exciting--sometimes I agree with Rob when we know he's wrong, for example. As characters, I love Emiliani (what a terrible journalist, why do people not from the local paper read his drivel?), I love Richmond, I like Martin and I think Peter could use more work--maybe making his character more sympathetic instead of his situation? I don't know, that's hard given the diary format. A tire-iron to the face might be the only thing you CAN do to make that guy sympathetic... John Madejski is liked a toned down skinner from the X-Files (In that sometimes, you don't know what side he's on, but you sort of like it), but not quite because of his "unusual" support for Rob.

I enjoy that your language and FM's commentary language (I'm using 10.3 now, so maybe I'm wrong) are different and remarkably so. Your match reports are extraordinary and your news articles are great--the fact that you can vary the style of the news articles from different authors and that they felt like sports writing really speaks to your journalistic background whatever it may be. I think that perhaps other parts of your work need a little bit more; I think you might write just a little too much like Rob. By that I mean that the types of things we don't notice in real life are the types of things that we notice in writing and sometimes writing doesn't or shouldn't reflect reality because of it. Rob has the tendency to repeat phrases, which makes sense in real life but alerts readers that they are reading a story (this is also a compliment in disguise, because it indicates that readers were NOT alerted to the fact that they were reading a story most of the time--your writing is really quite engrossing, take all of my criticism with a grain of salt). "Taking scalps" is one example--it's a good description of Giant Killing, but I feel like I've read it quite a number of times.

I think the concept of an FM story is fantastic--from a literary perspective, I can't really find an equivalent. The idea that a story does not have a definite path, a story that by its very nature cannot be planned ahead (mostly) is so intriguing. I think you've mastered this aspect--keeping a running story entertaining and compelling while being vulnerable to the fact that a simulation engine can drive major plot points, or be irrelevant, depending on the circumstances (that the simulation sometimes provides). I also think that you use the simulation in unique and creative ways--bidding for Beckham "as the board" in the game to create tension between Richmond and Ridgway is fantastic. Willing to break the budget to do so is even greater. It's hard to imagine where your story would be right now if Beckham DID accept the bid (which underlines my point!). I also enjoy that it cannot be a "Disney Sports Movie" (Although all of the Mighty Ducks are near and dear to my heart--I'm a Minnesota Man) because I can't predict how the matches will go (although this late goal bug really does justice the Sports Entertainment genre). Beating Barca is all the more impressive and satisfying for the reader this way (grats, btw). Also, Rob's understanding that different players respond to different types of motivation is cool (and certainly something built into the engine). Why does Rob know that The Beast responds differently than Bikey, though?

I think you're a really good writer. I think that when or if American Calcio gets published, it'll have the changes it might need to reflect that. I think that you could be a great writer, but you're just knocking on the door (sort of like Rob). I hope this is something you're committed to, because it could turn out well.

I'm also worried that Rob will end up cheating on Patty (I may dislike her, but really that would hurt both of them unduly). Rob is showing a lot of the warning signs of an ultimately good person who somehow cheats on his loving wife, which I'm actually sympathetic to. Marital troubles, bad interpersonal decisionmaking, resentment, insecurity, fantasies, and what could be projecting (it's a bit of a leap to take the common phrase "now we must lie in it" to mean Officer (Jessica) Alba totally wants to sleep with me). What could stop him might not only be the love of his wife (which, should be enough but often isn't. Even to good people), but his growing media savvy (which is a lame reason, but a problem like this needs any reason it can to be resolved).

In conclusion, Rob needs a drinking buddy.

I might also be a little tipsy--this post was very long.

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KernelReefer, welcome to the Rat Pack. As I've discussed some of your points privately, I'll simply say thank you for a tremendous post and address some of the more salient points here in slightly shorter form than I did to you privately.

It's no secret that Patty Ridgway is a polarizing character. You're right to note that her development has come comparatively late in the story; but it is also fair to say that in the diary format, Patty's reaction to the Barcelona match is somewhat subjected to Rob's fears about the state of their relationship, which dominates his thoughts when he is not working.

I do think your summary of Rob's character is highly accurate. He is intended to be flawed, but perhaps in more subtle ways. At least they were subtle until you found them :D I have also noted that when people make observations about likes and dislikes of my characters the reaction is all over the board; either Rob is too sensitive or not sensitive enough, Patty is calculating or she is conniving. I feel, therefore, that the characterization is close to correct in many instances judging from the wide range of reaction I sometimes receive.

Rob's tendency to repeat phrases is indicative of the diary form; we all have pet phrases we like to use from time to time. They help define us.

Thanks also for your honest assessment of my ability. I am not a novelist by profession; I am a journalist by trade. However, were I to win the lottery or something so I could devote full time to my writing, I would gladly do so as it is a passion I have held for many years. My long-term plans do indeed include publishing AC; however, the line-editing that is clearly necessary before that work is ready for the printer is a daunting task.

Also, your thoughts about Rob and Alba are interesting. I'll need to think them through. Since neither Rob nor I have drinking buddies I have to be careful what beverage is in my hand when I do, though!

Thank you for a compelling, thought-provoking and honest post. I appreciate all its facets.


A Saturday night, far from home.

Hardcastle sat in his hotel room in Bordeaux, trying to figure out how to get back into the British Isles and avoid further suspiscion.

He knew that staying away would be bad from a public relations standpoint. He knew that going back would do nothing but cause even more trouble.

There was really no way to win.

He wanted to just disappear – and with his specialized training, it was almost possible for him to do just that – but he still had unfinished business.

“Not yet,” he mused to himself, as he sat drinking a glass of brandy. He rather admired the old naval tradition of a daily ration of rum, and since he preferred brandy, decided long before to splice his own mainbrace, if you will.

He looked out the window of his room down on the square where he had saved Patty Ridgway’s life not so long before.

“Ah, Kitty,” he said, raising his glass to the area where the shots had been fired. “Next time, my dear. Next time.”

Leaning back in his chair, he decided that for the time being, he could stay right where he was.

He picked up his mobile phone and placed a call to England.

“Going to bide my time for a few days here,” he said. “No, no, everything’s fine. How did that summary from the SFO turn out?”

He listened to the response.

“Well, all’s well that ends well for us,” he said. “I can guarantee you this: Sidney Richmond will never know what hit him.”

# # #

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“Well, all’s well that ends well for us,” he said. “I can guarantee you this: Sidney Richmond will never know what hit him.”

# # #

Richmond VS Hardcastle?@! :eek: That's gonna be intresting for sure!

Otherwise brilliant writing as always 10-3 :thup:

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Well, well, well.

I honestly don't know where to start. There are more story arcs here than you can shake a stick at, and they're all so brilliantly interwoven that each new post leaves me second-guessing myself - it speaks volumes that your excellent match-writing is often taking a back seat in an FM Stories forum!

This is absolutely brilliant, as so many others have said - your character development is second to none, and you have the rare knack of getting your readers emotionally involved. That takes more than a little bit of talent, and I don't think I'm the only one who can't wait for further instalments!

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Thank you for the comments, gentlemen .. seems like it might be an interesting winter in the consortium!


Sunday, October 25

Manchester City (7-2-1, 7th place) v Reading (6-5-0, 5th place) – EPL Match Day #12

It looked like a very nice day to play football.

It was a very nice fall day in Manchester. The weather was calm, the sun was shining bright and the temperature at kickoff was 13 degrees. It was a good day to go out and show the world what we were made of.

So, heading over to Eastlands from the Lowry Hotel, we were in a pretty good mood. The night had passed more or less uneventfully, and my evening call to Patty was completely civil for the first time in longer than I cared to mention.

I didn’t ask her personal feelings about the other night. I wasn’t ready for the answer I might have gotten, or for the line of questioning that would certainly have followed. Such as ‘are you having second thoughts about sleeping with me?’

No, that wasn’t what I wanted. I assumed I knew her answer since I didn’t wake up alone the next morning.

No news was good news. As far I knew, nobody else was staying in my house so I could count that as a moral victory.

With that out of the way, our team breakfast was high-spirited. I thought the necessary warnings had been given yesterday so there was no reason for the players to be toned down in terms of their attitude.

I’m usually impressed with the professionalism I see from the players when we are on the road. Our routine involves the entire party – coaches, physios, support staff, and players – meeting in one of the hotel conference rooms where a special buffet has been set up.

The physio staff works with our nutritionists to make sure that what the players eat on match day is correct in terms of providing energy without being too filling.

That means proteins, carbohydrates and juices. Not exactly the most appetizing things on God’s earth, some of them, but the steak dinner could come after the match. If we won.

The players were in their usual groups – the Latin and South American players together, the Englishmen at another, the Africans at a third table and Lobont and Federici sitting all by themselves at the back of the room. Nobody is allowed to interfere with the Goalkeepers’ Union and that’s the way it should be. I don’t want to catch whatever it is they’ve got.

Their conversation seemed to have two tracks – WAGs and football. In that order.

That was the wrong order, but we still had a bus trip to the ground to get their priorities straight. I let the banter continue.

There’s no point in unduly influencing a winning eleven, and the thought of not changing one is also prevalent in my mind. Yet, that was exactly what I was doing by pairing Kitson with Dagoberto again. With all the skill and impact Baptista brings, Kitson and Dagoberto are still my best strike pairing because they understand each other.

The mood remained light as we headed to the ground and I was finally able to repeat my warning about complacency and getting heads into the game on the trip.

“We keep hearing that from you, gaffer,” Ferreira called out from the back of the bus.

“And you will until you step out on the pitch and show me you got the message,” I snapped. “Now I’m all business, and I expect you will be as well.”

The Portguese international sat back in his seat, his sails trimmed a bit. When he came forward as the players left the coach, I took him aside.

“Understand me well, Paolo,” I told him. “I do not expect this match to be as easy as you expect it to be. Do I make myself clear?”

His expression told me that he was understanding me under duress. I had to do something about this.

He left the coach and I turned to Dillon, who along with the driver were the only others on the coach.

“Halls is going to play today,” I snapped. “Ferreira to the bench. I won’t take that from anyone.”

“Nor should you have to,” he agreed. He preceded me off the coach and into a small group of well-wishers who had traveled from Reading to meet the players at the stadium.

We are starting to travel fairly well, as you would expect from a Champions League entrant. Our following is growing, in keeping with the axiom that you’re most popular in the year after you win something.

Except in our case, we have won nothing of note. We’re just the camp team in the Premiership at the moment. So it’s fashionable to be around us until we start losing.

Sorry. It’s the Scandinavian in me. I can’t help it.

# # #

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still finding the story to be one where I enjoy it even more when I allow lags in my reading schedule, as I don't feel as satisfied reading one entry at a time. The continuity works better for me when I allow multiple posts to be logged before returning for the goods. Delighted by the feedback you've been receiving as well. Articulate responses and well thought out rationales. Huzzah! Hope your enjoying the writing as much as I am the reading. Cheers!

Oh, and one more thing....if Rob benched Ferreira for criticizing the pre-match talks, what would Rob do if he ever caught wind of his players including his wife in their WAG discussions?

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Copper, thanks for the comments and for the interesting ideas you always seem to come up with :) Rob doesn't spend a lot of time around his players as a rule so I don't know how that might work out but it's definitely something to think about!


Ferreira was not best pleased at winding up on the bench. Too bad. He crossed me.

Sending the eleven onto the park – the standard eleven with the exception of Halls for Ferreira at right full back – I had made my expectations crystal clear.

The teams started in a sort of trance. I expected this from us after the bravado of the week but I hadn’t expected it from Sven’s team as well.

The first decent chance for either team didn’t come until the eleven minute mark when Kalou’s long shot caromed off Julien Faubert for a corner that came to nothing.

The match quickly degenerated into a midfield battle but the thing that was most alarming to me was that we couldn’t crack them. Our opportunities were practically nil.

Of our players, Kalou seemed to have the most energy. Everything soon went through his side of the field since he seemed to be the only player interested in running.

He kept trying to link with Kitson, since Dagoberto seemed to be a step slow for some unknown reason, and Faubert kept snuffing him out. It was actually a longer ball for Kalou to find Kitson, who was the left-side striker in our alignment to allow him a better angle at goal with his preferred right foot, but Dagoberto seemed to be laboring.

The other fellow we were having trouble with was the comparatively unheralded Scott Parker, acting as a holding midfielder in a formation very much like our standard 4-1-3-2. However, away from home I again opted for 4-4-2 and the defensive stability it offered.

City, though, were playing my formation in a defensive fashion the way I wish my boys could do it. We couldn’t buy a sniff.

After intercepting a lead ball from Pogatetz, Parker started the first good chance for either team by sending Pablo Zabaleta away in 23 minutes. His lead ball in turn was not intercepted, but rather found the run of Freddie Kanouté between Huth and the overextended Pogatetz.

Thankfully, Lobont smothered his shot with a full-length dive to his left, managing to control the rebound in the process. I don’t know what we’d do without him.

However, City kept up the pressure, with Sonko blocking a Faubert shot soon afterward and Kalou deflecting a follow-up drive behind for a corner. Of the two teams, it was now clear which one had awakened first.

Now Kanoute and Zabaleta worked a series of 1-2 passes right up to the edge of our box, with Kanoute carrying in for Lobont to collect at feet. So far, two of our players – Kalou and Lobont – had proved themselves worthy of the shirt, and my entrance from the dugout to the touchline was both pronounced and rather loud.

Bianchi’s cross for Kanoute was headed behind by a rather desperate looking Pogatetz for another City corner, and now the captain was into the act, dressing down not only hi defense but also his midfield for simply standing around.

Sometimes there isn’t a need for a manager to say anything to his players because the goalkeeper takes care of all that for him. That was certainly the case here.

I simply stood on the touchline, glowering. Any player who dared look in my direction got a non-verbal hair dryer. This was exactly the sort of start I had warned against, and it was exactly the kind of start we had gotten.

“New game, new day, gentlemen!” I screamed as play finally headed back toward the City half. It hadn’t been there for very long before the ball was once again in the defensive third where it seemed to live.

Halls was now standing up for himself at right back, as City tried his side for a way into the box. He blocked consecutive crosses and looked generally pleased with himself – until he looked at his bench for a little moral support.

I wasn’t in the mood, and Halls returned to his business.

Moments later, Bianchi was free as a bird off the pass from Zabaleta, who now warranted a lot more attention than my game plan had originally detailed to him. This time Lobont charged, and once again his timing was impeccable, as he took advantage of a touch that was just a little too firm from the striker to steal the ball from his feet.

That was twice in quick succession. Lobont was clearly doing the captain’s duty, but I was just as concerned with keeping his head on his shoulders. His bravery was appreciated but he was starting to buck the odds.

They were dominating. I couldn’t argue that. We ran into a blue wall in midfield whenever we had the ball, and they would stop us with ease. We never looked like scoring in the half, and they threatened again just before first half injury time when Faubert’s cross met the head of Bianchi.

My old nemesis from last season headed the ball well wide, though, and when Rob Styles blew for halftime, I was darned glad to get us off the field.

# # #

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He who underestimates Scott Parker does so at his own peril, 10-3. He's like Steve Bruce - the best player at his position to get consistently ignored by English National Team selectors. Loved him at Newcastle and still think he's absolute class.

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You seem to be having problems with Scott Parker :p

Waiting to see the rest of the match :thup:

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I myself have admired Parker for some time; my reference to him as 'comparatively unheralded' is a reference to the lack of respect he gets compared to some other players.

And now, a short word to the team from our sponsor.


“Anybody in this room who doesn’t believe me now?” I asked, stepping to the front of the room to give the players the dressing down their play had deserved.

“I don’t care if you’re away from home, I don’t care who you just beat, that sort of effort is just not acceptable,” I said. “I tried to tell you, I tried to warn you, and you come out and just lie down. If it weren’t for your captain you’d be down at least two by now and you all know it.”

“They are taking our formation and they’re making us look silly,” I said. “You of all people, who play this formation every day in training, know how to move the ball into space against it. They are crowding their midfielders across the center and playing right through the middle against us. They aren’t playing as wide as we do, so you know what to do. Get it to the wings in space and do something with it. They are giving us both touchlines, gentlemen, and with the wings we have on this club that should be a recipe for disaster. Yet it’s not – because you aren’t making it one.”

“Play like you did against Barcelona, like you’ve been saying all week like you will,” I challenged them. “Talk is cheap. Do it between the white lines or I’ll put players out there who will.”

With that, I left the room and left the cleanup to Dillon.

# # #

A little tantrum usually doesn’t hurt in an effort to kick-start a struggling team.

I had that chance, unfortunately, but the problem with giving the proverbial kick up the back side is that you never know which way the players are going to fly.

The second half began and it seemed that most of the players’ concern about my tirade had been generated by the fact we weren’t losing.

We should have been, considering how we were playing, but sometimes you just have to kick players around before the other team does it for you.

In our case, the players chose to be offended, but did so in a constructive manner. They applied pressure for the first time in the match.

That was gratifying, since otherwise a long flight from London to Manchester would have been completely wasted.

Kalou drove a shot at goal that Parker knocked behind for an early corner, and as Maloney immediately put a useful ball into the box, it seemed there was hope for us.

We were a lot brighter as the half wore on. Maloney especially seemed to get the message, and eventually his overall play brightened with the rest of them.

He sent Dicã through the defense just before the hour with a slide-rule ball that the Romanian took with a wonderful first touch, Micah Richards on his hip.

Dicã took three strides, sized things up, and blazed a powerful shot past Kasper Schmeichel to put us into the lead in 57 minutes.

Just like that, one moment of brilliance had put us ahead.

Except we weren’t. Rob Styles stood, with his arm outstretched in the opposite direction, indicating a foul. He had disallowed the goal, and both Dicã and Maloney were hopping mad.

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Gnarrgh ! I heard that Rob Styles likes to torture small furrry animals too !

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He's just a big meanie :)


Dicã got right in Styles’ face, which wasn’t such a bright idea, risking a card for dissent. I turned to the fourth official, who today was Alan Wiley, and simply raised my arms.

He cupped his hand around the earpiece to his communications system, while the crowd behind our bench gave me various urgings as to when, where, and how I should sit down.

Not really caring about the fans’ opinion, I simply waited for my answer. It wasn’t long in coming.

“Push on Dicã, sit down please, Rob,” he said.

So he had combined a rather spurious explanation with a request for me to get off his back. No changing the minds of this crowd.

Shaking my head, I returned to the bench – only to look up and see City starting a quick counterattack that ended with Lobont saving smartly from Bianchi six yards out from the goal.

Unfortunately, we were spectators on our back line, and Kanouté had no trouble cleaning up on the stroke of the hour.

Now the fans had something else to cheer about, now that Kanouté had scored his first goal for the club. My back line, which had been so culpable for the goal, now all began to remonstrate with Styles, looking for the same break City had gotten.

Had we spent that much energy fending off their two strikers, I’d have been pleased. Instead, we were grousing at the referee again, a right I usually reserve to myself.

Red-faced, I was left to again remark on how a sudden change of momentum had spun the game right on its axis.

Two-goal swings in the space of three minutes are never fun to endure and we didn’t endure this one well. At all.

The players seemed to wilt, in fact. It was an alarming decline from our usual standard of play.

We were due for a bad game after the run we had endured but the sort of petulance I was seeing in our play at that moment was really alarming. We had had a tough break, and the way we had reacted was not at all professional.

Sort of like myself, I thought, as I paced the touchline thinking of options.

We just weren’t generating anything. The first to come off was Kitson, who looked sort of lost. Baptista came on for him, full of energy and vigor and ready to please.

Again, though, he too disappointed. As the match passed seventy minutes I really didn’t know where we were going to find an equalizer.

Lita had the answer, though, or at least he thought he did. This situation was tailor-made for him, and the arrival of the hero of 2008-09 onto the pitch at last brought some noise from our traveling support.

We hadn’t done anything to get them into the match, though, so I could hardly blame them for not raising the roof.

Sonko rampaged in on a corner for a header on 75 minutes that wound up nowhere near the target but was at least an expression of intent. That was more than I was seeing from any of the forwards.

Pulling the ineffective Dagoberto from the match just past eighty minutes in favor of Lita was a signal of a different kind of intent – mine. The Big Two were gone, now replaced by Baptista, Lita and a horde of forwards all surging forward looking to create some mayhem.

They nearly did. As the match ticked over into injury time, Kalou broke free on the right and cut sharply toward the box. He looked for Lita in the middle and knocked a great little ball in his direction.

But Bikey was offside.


André Bikey.

My holding midfielder.

Blast and damn.

Manchester City 1 (Frederic Kanouté 1st, 60)

Reading 0

A – 47,955, City of Manchester Stadium, Manchester

Man of the Match – Pablo Zabaleta, Manchester City (7)

# # #

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Rob Styles is such a poor *******!!! :mad:

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Ori, as Rob will make clear, Rob Styles didn't lose the game. And Balty, we didn't just lose, we got embarrassed :(


It was a statistical whipping.

Despite our having 55 percent of the possession, City had had 15 attempts at goal to our four. They had ten shots on target to our one.

At least, our one that counted.

Still stewing about Dicã’s disallowed goal, an angry bunch of players sat waiting for our first post-mortem of the season. No one likes to lose.

Least of all, me.

“You guys are kidding yourselves if you think that was anywhere near good enough,” I snapped, closing the changing room door behind me.

“I’m not going to stand here and tell you I told you so because you all know that,” I said. “You’ve got six days to fix this before we play Fulham and I am going to expect much, much better from you. You won’t want to look at your place in the table tomorrow because the way the top of the league is going, a slip like this is going to knock us back a couple of pegs. We’ve been beaten by a team beneath us and that’s going to have some consequences on the table.”

Nobody said a word. They all like the thought of being in the top four and talking about the Champions League. Well, right now we aren’t in one of those places.

“Think about that on the plane home,” I said. “Now get your plunge pools taken and get ready to get out of here. I have to go tell the press how wonderful City is. Soon you will too.”

# # #

Deciding how mad I was going to get at these players was a difficult decision.

From the standpoint of overall play, I can’t recall a more lifeless effort since I’ve been in charge here. There has to be a consequence for that.

Now, that said, this is the first loss we have suffered this season in any competition. We’ve done very well to get to this point. So while the setback should sting, the pain should not be permanent.

That is, unless it becomes a pattern.

We are right back in action on Tuesday night in the League Cup against Wigan. I don’t intend to play many of those who blew it so badly today in that contest, and wouldn’t have anyway even if they had won. I can make a statement without making a statement, in that respect.

It was a quiet flight home, by design. No, we aren’t The Invincibles, nor are we anything like them. But I don’t want them to get used to this feeling, so drilling that truth home to them was the thing to do on the way back.

The other results meant a rather precipitous drop in the table. We’re now seventh, and we haven’t been that low in the table since the first match of the season. It just goes to show that even away from home, elite teams – and I mean truly elite teams – have to find a way to get it done.

We didn’t. So that should tell these players all they need to know.

On we flew toward London. The compartment was completely silent. A few music players were on, with the volume low enough so that the boss couldn’t hear.

Other players just looked out the window, or some had their heads back in their seats with their eyes closed, resting while thinking about the events of the day.

I did the same.

Dicã had scored. There wasn’t much doubt about that. We had been unfairly victimized and there wasn’t much doubt about that either.

However, that would have simply papered over the cracks of a poorly played match where these players might have stolen a point. In this case, I actually felt it better for us to lose.

We aren’t talented enough or deep enough to get through an entire season without defeat, so it’s best that we not kid ourselves.

I sat up front on the plane, every now and again looking back down the rows at the players during the hour-long flight back to London. I was looking for any sign of behavior I didn’t like, and what’s more the players could sense that.

A look back over the shoulder from the boss every few minutes kept the plane nice and quiet.

Just the way I wanted it.

# # #

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Monday, October 26

This evening’s Post headline said it all.

The local paper’s expectations are rising along with everyone else’s.

“City-ots”, it blared, over a scathing article from Weatherby that I could not fault one single scrap. She essentially called out the entire first team for yesterday’s performance, and that meant that the media were doing that part of my job for me.

That wasn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s good for people to hear criticism from time to time – Lord knows I certainly do – and it didn’t hurt that the beat reporter’s comments were right on the mark. She wrote:

“The Royals were due for a bad outing after all this time, but it’s fair to ask whether the game they were due should frankly have been this horrible.

As manager Rob Ridgway is fond of saying, his club could have played all day before scoring a goal. Yes, they were that bad.

Don’t talk about Nicolae Dicã, either. Yes, he did score and yes, it did look to be a good goal but you can’t take the immediate aftermath of that incident – in which a dispirited Reading side conceded the only goal of the match that wound up on the scoreboard – and suggest this was a team that deserved points.

You must generate more than four attempts at goal in ninety miunutes in this league if you hope to win. That truism applies whether you are at home or away.

The damage caused by yesterday’s setback is not great in terms of points, but it might be in terms of places in the table. This year’s Premership promises to be a crowded affair at the top, and Reading’s new position of seventh will not please many at the Madejski Stadium.

Only four places matter for this club at the present – obviously, they are the first four. As of this moment, Ridgway is farther away from the top four than he was yesterday and that means something will likely have to give in terms of his selection and approach.

Players who have been given chances to shine such as Paolo Ferreira, Andre Bikey and yes, even Julio Baptista – are going to be on notice.

No one in yesterday’s first eleven with the exception of Bogdan Lobont was good enough. Anyone who watched, or worse yet traveled, to see the match knows that. It is time for a little self-examination.

And with the first eleven expected to be watching from the stand or the players’ bench during Tuesday night’s Cup tie with Wigan, there will be plenty of time for that examination.

The next pop quiz is Saturday at home to Fulham, and Ridgway will expect better from those wearing the blue and white hoops. You as fans should too.”

# # #

With the match tomorrow night out of the league, a small crowd is expected. It will give me a chance to blood the squad players again, and I don’t care what Richmond thinks.

I half expected to see someone from the front office in my face today to complain about the setback. That’s how the expectations have gotten around here.

That would have been fine. I couldn’t have complained, since we were in fact so horrible yesterday. The humility would have done me a little good as well.

# # #

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Thank you, sir :) The headline makes the story, if you will...


Patty knew better than to say much to me last night when I got home from the airport, which was good since the last thing we need is another needless fight.

Instead, her reaction was simply to try to make things as they once had been. That was a gratifying thing to see.

It was also the path of least resistance.

That’s something we’ve needed. It was a deep breath in relationship terms.

There was no request to read each others’ e-mail, no questions about who had taked to whom that day, and that felt nice.

I really didn’t care whether she had talked to Hardcastle. As long as that meatstick wasn’t in my house, I was good with whatever had happened that day.

I wasn’t in the mood to fight or argue.

Neither was she.

Instead, she had a better idea.

“Rob, come here for a moment and put your hand on my stomach,” she said, with a smile.

She kept her smile as I approached. She leaned back on the couch and held out her hand.

Sitting next to her and looking into her smiling face, it just seemed surreal. It also seemed quite domestic, which was something else we needed.

The baby was moving again and we shared a quiet moment. I’ve always said that family was more important than the game – and now was the time to prove it.

We had just a game where we played very poorly and managed to destroy much of the momentum we generated from defeating Barcelona. It had been a very bad day at the office.

But now that didn’t matter.

Feeling the baby’s gentle movements for the first time, I was quite happily silent. None of what happened on the pitch mattered.

There was just a very happy looking redhead with a wiggling baby inside her.

I ran my hand over her smooth stomach and tried to make sense of it all.

Why had all this happened with Hardcastle? Why was she so happy to have me right where I was?

And why couldn’t I let go of all this and simply believe her?

# # #

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Cant really say much more than what other people have said about this story...but the post count and view count says it all Tenthree...legendary

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Fellows, thanks so much. I love knowing that people are still following and enjoying. As for legendary status, that is thankfully not for me to decide.


“Alba, I don’t understand why you did what you did.”

Fowler sat across a table from the Thames Valley DCI wanting a cigarette. He always seemed to think more clearly when he was smoking and this genuinely didn’t make sense to him.

“We were on the verge of breaking all this nonsense with the Italians and your files on the McGuire beating were starting to generate solid leads. Then you went and got yourself pulled from the case for being friendly with Mr. Ridgway. You know better. Why?”

“Commander, we’ve been over this and frankly the price I’ve paid in the press should indicate that I don’t feel good about it. I made an error in judgment because I reached out to Rob as a friend.”

“So it’s Christian names, now?” Fowler asked.

“As a matter of fact, yes it is,” she said. “I don’t regret that. I do very much regret hampering the investigation. I’ve almost finished briefing DCI Hastings on what I know so the investigation can resume again very soon.”

Fowler looked at his compatriot and tried to figure out her motive. She was a good cop – a damned good cop, in fact – so it just didn’t make any sense.

“Do you care for him, Alba?” Fowler asked. “I have to inquire.”

“As a friend, yes,” she replied. “Nothing more. There can’t be anything more, and you know that. I’d lose my job and I do need to keep it.”

“I’ve never known you to behave like this, is all,” he said, leaning back in his chair and once again craving a smoke.

“There’s nothing sinister going on,” she insisted. “You know investigators get pulled from cases quite frequently, for a variety of reasons. I wish you would let this go, Commander.”

Her formality seemed odd to him. He shrugged, knowing it was a habit of hers, and once again tried to put one and one and one together. It seemed he had been doing that far too frequently of late, in matters not related to the case.

“Alba, you know I have a lot of respect for DCI Hastings, but he doesn’t have your mind.”

“That’s for others to decide, Commander, not me.”

“Well, I’ve decided,” Fowler said, getting up from behind his side of the table. He walked to the window of the conference room and adjusted the blinds to cut down on a bright shaft of light that had broken through the clouds to invade the room.

“Do you think you can put your friendship aside for a little while and help me get to the bottom of all this?”

“I have never doubted that I could do that,” she replied. “I took myself off the case this time after what happened on the plane. No one did it for me.”

“All right,” he finally said. “I’m going to speak with my superiors. I want you on this case, Alba. And I am going to trust that you don’t get any closer to Mr. Ridgway.”

“Very well,” she replied. “Perhaps we can use DCI Hastings in a different way on this case.”

“We need someone to buy me smokes,” Fowler laughed.

As he smiled, Fulton smiled too, but only to herself.

# # #

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“As a friend, yes,” she replied. “Nothing more. There can’t be anything more, and you know that. I’d lose my job and I do need to keep it.”

She lies!!!! We all know that she loves Rob and wants to shag him!!!!!!! ;)

Otherwise Brilliant writing as always 10-3 :thup::)

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She lies!!!! We all know that she loves Rob and wants to shag him!!!!!!! ;)

Otherwise Brilliant writing as always 10-3 :thup::)

Well, strictly speaking her statement doesn't deny any of what you claim. It could very easily be read as saying she wants to do all that you claim but she can't afford to get fired so she's not acting on it.

Anyway, everyone knows Rob is hot for a certain journalist... ;)

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Anyway, everyone knows Rob is hot for a certain journalist... ;)

Is Rob not hot for every female in this story ? Is that not why we all readily identify with him ? or is that just me ?

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Is Rob not hot for every female in this story ? Is that not why we all readily identify with him ? or is that just me ?

The journalist that I'm referring to is most certainly not female.

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Remember, gentlemen, in the diary format whatever impressions you read about women are generated by Rob's mind. He's a bit of a prideful fellow at times. And Balty, behave :D


Tuesday, October 27

Reading v Wigan, Fourth Round, League Cup

“I don’t like the direction of the table and I don’t like the financial figures.”

Richmond was up to his old tricks, which meant McGuire was sitting across from him in a cold sweat he was trying not to show.

The two were having their monthly meeting before the meeting, which is to say they were reviewing the early financial statements for the month priort to the scheduled November board meeting.

It being that the first of November will fall on a Sunday, the monthly manager’s inquisition won’t take place until the Monday following.

Still, though, Richmond wasn’t happy with the amount of blood presently being squeezed out of the Reading turnip.

“Look at these cash flow figures,” he said. “Our brand isn’t taking hold and our shirt sales aren’t taking off like we had planned. I’ll need to ask Mr. Winthrop what is being done about that.”

“You can’t make people buy the shirts,” McGuire noted. “However, beating Barcelona might sell a few more.”

“You can only sell so many Dave Kitson shirts,” Richmond snorted.

“If he finally gets picked for England, that will change,” McGuire replied.

“So how do we do that?” Richmond said. “We don’t have an England player. What’s Ridgway doing to get our English players more exposure?”

McGuire smiled thinly.

“I don’t know what he’s doing,” he answered. “Why don’t you ask him on Tuesday?”

“Why don’t we buy bloody David Beckham like I’ve been screaming about for all this time?” he insisted. “Don’t people understand what this club is all about?”

“I think people have a good idea,” McGuire replied.

“You don’t,” Richmond said, tossing the financial figures on his desk. “In a month where we beat bloody Barcelona, to have the return we’ve had is just not good enough. This club is a business, and it is going to make money when I run it. A lot of money.”

McGuire picked up the financials and studied them.

“The wage budget is so far under guideline it’s ridiculous,” he said. “Say what you will about Ridgway, and we both do, but he’s keeping Sir John’s money in the bank for him.”

“January is coming,” Richmond said. “Ridgway will feel pressure to buy because I’m putting pressure on him for results to save his miserable skin. That will affect Sir John’s bottom line – though it will not affect mine when I take over – so this club will be fairly deep into the red if players are bought that exceed budgets.”

“And the Director of Football? How is that going to affect your bottom line?”

“We’ll have decent players when he gets here, and I will admit that the new manager is going to have to accommodate Ridgway’s purchases for a time. However, it’s all going to be driven by revenue growth. Look at what Fulham are doing.”

McGuire noted that the long-awaited takeover of the Cottagers was now complete, with board member Nathan Thomas now in charge after purchasing a controlling interest from Mohamed Al-Fayed.

“Mohamed Al-Fayed knows a thing or two about making money,” Richmond said. “Yet for the right price, he sold up. Nathan Thomas understands that revenue is what drives a club and he’s going to make them profitable, just you watch and see. We need his attitude here and as yet I can’t give us that attitude.”

“So what is your plan? Ridgway is going to spend in January.”

“When I announce the takeover, there will be a transfer embargo placed on the club,” Richmond said. “Even you are aware of this. So the outflow won’t be too great, and the end result will be a club that is profitable on the owner’s terms. Since I will be the owner, it will happen my way.”

McGuire smiled, but not for the reason Richmond suspected.

How on earth can such a wealthy man and such a smart businessman be so naïve?” McGuire thought to himself. “Is he that insistent on having his own way in everything he does?”

“You’d better get used to that thought,” Richmond said. “My way. It’s going to be done my way, and the price of opposition will be stiff. The first man to find that out will be Sir John. The second will be Ridgway, and after those two learn it, no one will want to be the third.”

McGuire said nothing in reply. Richmond looked at him.

“How’s your face?” he asked.

# # #

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So Ridgeway and Sir John are going out...?


I doubt that Rob doesnt know about this whole saga...

Otherwise Brilliant writing as always 10-3 :thup::)

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Richmond has a one-track mind, Ori. It's all about money. Some people are like that, I guess.


“We’re going to look a lot different.”

The team sheet fluttered out of my hand and onto the desk in the manager’s office.

“I should expect so,” Dillon replied. “Most of them are still heavy-legged from Sunday.”

“Most of them didn’t run too much,” I countered, and my deputy gave a sideways smile in reply.

“Yeah, we look a lot different,” I said, heading into the still-empty changing room to write the eleven on the center board:

GK Federici

DL Golbourne

DC Cathcart

DC Gaspari

DR Ferreira

ML Fleck

MC Harper

MC Osbourne

MR Oster

ST Long

ST Saivet

Turning back to my office door, I re-entered and waited for the players to arrive, flipping on the television on the far wall.

Downes arrived, flopping down onto the couch opposite my desk to watch the Premier League review show. Unfortunately, our match was first.

“I should make these guys watch this,” I mused as my charges looked just as bad on video tape as they had in real life.

“You should make them watch the whole match,” he said, grabbing a cold beverage out of the little refrigerator at one end of the sofa.

“Don’t think I haven’t thought of it,” I said. “These eleven playing tonight will need to be a lot better, but if they are, I’ve got some problems. If they aren’t, I’ve got even more problems.”

“Complaining?” Downes smiled, dodging a friendly wad of balled-up tape thrown in his direction by the manager.

“No,” I said. “Just making an observation.”

A keenly different group of sixteen players was soon assembled – right on time – to try to get us back on the winning track. The Cup competitions are their chance to shine, and they know it. With the club coming off a setback, they were all smart enough to figure out what was at stake.

I had the right to expect an added element of professionalism in the changing room from this group. As they arrived one by one, I watched to see how they would greet each other.

I also watched for the reaction by my substitutes who had been part of the City traveling party – Bikey, Kalou, and Lita. The three who had been part of that dreadful performance in Manchester owed me something too, at least in my mind.

I was looking for some indication that the events of Sunday were not put entirely out of mind.

Five of the players on the park were my purchases – Ferreira, Gaspari, Fleck, Osbourne and Saivet – and one of the bench players was, in Kalou. I had a fair bit riding on this in terms of reaction.

Those who had been to Manchester were supportive to their teammates and they appeared to be focused, which was what I needed more than anything else.

They were waiting for the speech they knew they’d get due to their own poor play, and when the time came to talk with the team, I didn’t disappoint them.

“I want to see a bounce-back from everyone who wears this shirt even if you didn’t play in Manchester,” I said by way of greeting. “We’ve had a good run at this club from the start of the season so I see no reason why this group can’t start another one tonight. You are here because you can do a job and tonight I will expect to see that job done.”

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I drew the tried and true 4-1-3-2 on the board with the eleven names fit into the appropriate places.

“This is the formation you’ve played in reserves and you know it like the backs of your hands,” I said. “This will be a night where I’ll expect you to prove it. It’s your graduate exam. Show me you deserve your diplomas.”

Dillon stepped forward to brief the group on our expected opposition. Wigan was putting out close to a full strength side so we were going to get a good test at home.

The players took the field to a murmuring of applause from a much smaller crowd than had attended the Barcelona match. The place was about one-third full, which is probably one reason why so few managers of big clubs seem to care much about the Carling Cup.

For us, though, it’s a chance to perform in front of people who may not get the chance to see us play in the Premiership, so I was looking for a good effort even though most of my first team was watching from the stands.

Right away, the players were bright. Saivet tested Chris Kirkland just four minutes into the match with a set piece that I think was intended for the head of Osbourne but which wound up on goal.

Ferreira showed he was up for the fight as well, throwing himself in front an angled drive from the Spanish forward Gari just a few minutes after that, walking off a rather painful charley horse given him by the ball in the process.

“Another six inches north and he’s singing soprano,” I said to Downes, seated at my right. He suppressed a chuckle and told me I was right.

Good man, Wally. That’s his job.

Radoslav Kovac had the next good chance, getting Wigan into a threatening position with a mazy run that left first Osbourne and then Harper for dead in twelve minutes. Luckily for us he dragged his shot wide, and Federici restarted play quickly.

Ferreira’s square ball for Cathcart in defense gave the defender a chance to lob a long ball forward for Oster on the right, who in turn found Saivet lurking on the edge of the Wigan area. His shot was charged down by the onetime Swedish u-21 Andreas Granqvist.

We then sort of settled down into a malaise. It was like City all over again, and even though the fans weren’t restless yet, I certainly was. It wasn’t good.

Oster wound up in Mike Dean’s book for a cross-body block thrown against Paul Scharner, which was a rather interesting collision to witness, even if it wasn’t fun to pick up the pieces after it was done.

Harper, Golbourne and finally Long worked a nice little three-way passing play, but the striker’s finish was wanting, as the teams danced around each other for a few minutes longer.

Saivet was the more active of our two strikers, which I suppose should not have been surprising. Scharner got his revenge by knocking Fleck into the second row of the stands and getting a tut-tut from Dean in reply.

That didn’t make the Scotsman – or his manager – best pleased, and we turned up the heat a bit as a result. Fleck switched play beautifully to Oster on the right, and his ball to the middle was met with a very nice little half-volley from the Frenchman Saivet. Kirkland saved well, though, and our best chance of the match to that point had died in transit.

Gaspari got a talking-to from Dean for holding back Colombian international Tressor Moreno just after the half hour and it seemed as though they were holding us pretty well. If you will pardon the expression.

Fleck was still annoyed at Scharner, though, and played the ball past him at the first opportunity to get to the byline. His pullback found Harper in the middle of the area, and he flicked on for Saivet at the far post.

From there, the youngster’s finish was simple, getting us onto the scoreboard in 34 minutes with his first official goal for the club.

He loved it, and so did the faithful who saw a good goal worked by two of our young guns and one of our oldest.

At that point, Roberto Martinez went to his bench, replacing Kovac. That seemed odd, since he hadn’t done much wrong, but Martinez wanted his captain on the park.

Emmerson Boyce came on in due course, and play resumed with Wigan having five defenders on the field. I sensed a switch to 3-5-2 and that was exactly what we got, with the visitors looking to get wing backs forward.

Our 4-4-2 was handling them with some ease, though, so I felt it best to simply let it ride for the time being. I wanted to see how the young players would handle the Wigan tactical change, with the idea being not to concede an equalizer before halftime.

I’m smart that way. It’s why I’m a manager.

The youngsters did just fine, thank you, particularly Golbourne. The England u-21 is starting to impress and frankly, it’s going to become more and more difficult to keep him away from the senior squad before the end of the season. I’m also looking at him as a potential heir-apparent to Pogatetz in the left fullback position, or also even as a senior squad player during the African Cup of Nations when we lose so many players to various national teams.

Ferreira, who had been left out of the City fiasco due to a rare burst of attitude, now stood tall on our right. Surely his veteran presence helped us as Wigan burst forward looking for an equalizer before halftime.

Paolo got just enough of the ball to stifle an attempt by Gari as the match turned past forty minutes, and was right there to hack a rebound of a second Gari effort to safety after Federici made a snazzy diving save to his left.

Wigan weren’t through trying, though, and before halftime they were on our doorstep once more. This time it was Tomasz Cywka playing Moreno through on 43 minutes, but thankfully the striker couldn’t connect clearly and he pushed his shot well wide to Federici’s left.

Dean blew for halftime and though we seemed to once again have had difficult containing chances late in the half, at least we didn’t concede.

# # #

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The kids were just all right in the second half as well.

After a rather impassioned plea to show me what they could do in terms of holding a lead, the youngsters started out smartly in the second session.

Martinez used his second substitution at halftime and replaced the Cameroonian Salomon Olembé with Nigerian Julius Aghahowa to assume a slightly more attacking shape.

With all three of my substitutions still open and a veteran group of bench players available, I felt pretty good about our chances, especially when Federici absorbed the substitute Aghahowa’s best effort just three minutes after the restart.

Wigan had done virtually nothing with the ball in the first forty minutes of the match, but the five minutes on either side of the interval clearly belonged to them. I signaled for a slower pace to try to hold possession for a bit. Taking the air out of the ball seemed to help.

So, frankly, did Ferreira’s challenge against Gari, which crocked the Wigan striker and forced Martinez into his third and final substitution before an hour had been played.

He groused about the challenge to the fourth official and I can’t say I blamed him. I was surprised that Ferreira didn’t wind up in the book, but it was clear to me that the Portuguese was trying to play his way back into my good books.

Matthew Etherington came on for Gari, and the match resumed. Wigan would have to stand or fall with their present eleven.

The play of our whole back line, in fact, was more physical than I had been used to seeing. We were dominating them in the air, especially Gaspari, and soon that spirit spread to the midfield.

Osbourne was also lucky to avoid a card for a physical obstruction of Cywka, with Dean giving the player a long dissertation while Martinez gave the fourth official a blast that was just about as lengthy.

We reacted well to the referee’s tongue-lashing of Osbourne, with the player himself driving forward to lash a shot that Kirkland tipped behind for a corner.

Oster, who had also been very good to that point, trotted off to take it. He whipped in an effort with little hesitation and I looked up to see Cathcart towering above Boyce in the middle of the Wigan six-yard box.

His header was perfectly angled, striking the ground right on the goal line beyond Kirkland’s despairing grasp. His first goal for the club was safely home in 65 minutes, giving us two young players opening their accounts on the same night.

The Belfast native’s joy was obvious, but to make matters even better for him, it was also his first goal as a professional.

More importantly, it put us firmly in the saddle. The youngsters had absorbed Wigan’s best blast and prospered in spite of it.

We surged forward again, with Long now especially interested in proving himself. He took a ball from Harper and strode forward with some purpose right after we stole possession from Wigan’s kickoff.

He forced Kirkland into a save, as we picked up right where we left off. We maintained pressure and more importantly, we kept possession.

Long was right back into the thick of things moments later, taking the ball right to the edge of the area before being felled by a rather desperate challenge from Boyce.

Mike Dean gave the free kick about twenty-five yards from goal, and Oster grabbed the ball. He wanted a shot at redemption too, but playing behind Kalou in the pecking order he found that redemption increasingly difficult to find.

Dean blew his whistle, Oster approached the ball, and whipped a perfectly taken set piece into the upper left corner of Kirkland’s goal for a 3-0 lead that was completely unassailable.

Nineteen minutes from time, the lead was three goals and even some of the smallish crowd gathered to watch knew that the match was over.

Wigan flailed away at us for a few more minutes before withdrawing into a dispirited shell. They couldn’t crack us, the youngsters were playing beautifully, and there was only one decision left for me to make.

Potential substitutes were scurrying up and down the touch line waiting for a chance to enter the fray. Finally, though, I looked over at Dillon.

“I think they can stay warmed up,” I said to him. “I want to see them all play the ninety minutes.”

It was funny, in a way. I felt a sense of unease.

To save certain players’ legs, I ordinarily substitute late in matches, or of course make tactical substitutions as situations warrant. But not today.

For the first time in my career as a manager, the eleven players who started the match also finished it. That was a great feeling, since when the whistle blew, those eleven players had provided what was arguably our most complete victory of the season.

Reading 3 (Saivet 1st 34; Cathcart 1st 65, Oster 1st 71)

Wigan 0

A – 12,207, Madejski Stadium, Reading

Man of the Match – Jon Oster, Reading (MR 8)

# # #

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Taking the air out of the ball seemed to help.

And there is me thinking ball tampering only happened in cricket :D

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Nice win 10-3 :thup:

I want updates on Alba and Rob! ;)

1800th post :)

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