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The Price Is Right: Gloucester City Challenge - Are The Kids Alright?
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  1. The Price Is Right: Gloucester City Challenge - Are The Kids Alright?

    Chapter 1

    David (or Boris to those who know him well) sat patiently outside the Chairman's office at Whaddon Road.

    A million thoughts were running through his mind - 'I don't normally get called in on a Monday night... I wonder what's going on... Is it good news about the stadium? Is my budget going to be increased? I just hope it's not what I dread to think it is....'

    The door opened, and Nigel (the chairman) stuck his head out. 'Boris, we're ready for you.'

    David walked in, albeit hesitantly. He could sense this was not going to be good news. Nigel had a friendly but stern look on his face whilst the newly appointed Director of Football, Colin Peake, looked over with a sympathetic glance:

    'David, as you'll be aware, last season the team under-performed and were perilously close to relegation' began Nigel. 'We know that you are loyal to the club and the players, but some of them take your kind-heartedness for granted and don't put a shift in on the field.'

    David knew where this was going, but nodded. Nigel was right, he had let certain players have the benefit of the doubt far too often. Now the chickens were coming home to roost.

    Colin interjected; 'David, it's not as if we suddenly don't like you - we do, but we badly feel that change is needed especially at this precious time in our history. I have to concentrate on getting the new stadium delivered, and with a small fan-base at present I have to jump through so many hoops before the council will consider our business plan. The fans need to come back and, to put it short, they don't believe that you can bring us the success we need.'

    David put his head in his hands - 'it's over' he thought to himself.

    David readjusted his position and looked at Nigel and Colin. He still respected them as friends but this was still a shock.

    'I guess that I should have seen it sooner' commented David. 'You are right - I have been too loyal to certain players who've not delivered the goods and for that I apologise. I won't make a song and dance, and if you have somebody in mind to replace me then I can only wish him the best of luck.'

    David shook hands with Nigel and Colin and left the room.

    Nigel looked at Colin and said 'Colin, we have to get it right this time. This club needs the fans back and I'm desperate for us to have the success we deserve - we need to challenge Cheltenham Town for the mantra of the number one side in Gloucestershire. We need a manager who is young, bright, vibrant and won't suffer fools gladly. A manager who will praise the lads when they've won 3-0 and blast them with verbals when they are 3-0 down. No more softly softly, no more Mr. Nice Guy... Colin... get me Simon Price on the phone!'

    Meanwhile, on the border between Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, Simon Price was about to tuck into a well deserved meal after gym and 5-a-side training. It was a mild June night, and Simon was considering a few pints of Magners down in the local pub with some friends. He cut his salmon steak and was about to eat the first mouthful when the telephone rang...

    'If it's that sodding PPI guy again, I will ram his phone up his back passage!' muttered Simon. He picked up the receiver.


    'Simon, this is Nigel Hughes from Gloucester City Football Club.'

    'Oh, ummm, hello Mr. Hughes' said Simon, quite taken aback, 'what, ummm, can I do for you?'

    'Well, we know that you've been a fan of the club for many years and that you've done your coaching badges and have also received advice from two well-respected UEFA Licenced Coaches in London. Also, you've not been shy in offering advice to our former manager Boris from the stands...'

    'Wait a minute.... former boss?'

    'That's right, Simon. As of ten minutes ago David is no longer in charge at Gloucester City Football Club. We urgently need a change of fortune and a young, dynamic manager in place who can take this club up the ladder and hopefully into the Football League within five years. That's why, Simon, we want to offer you the chance to manage Gloucester City Football Club.'

    There was a brief pause

    'Simon? Are you okay there?'

    'Yes, it just came as a big surprise. I would be delighted to accept your offer and hopefully we can discuss terms shortly?'

    'That is brilliant, many thanks indeed Simon. I shall inform The Citizen and BBC Radio Gloucestershire about this and we will meet at lunchtime on Wednesday at Whaddon Road to go through things before we push you into the limelight and introduce you to the team.'

    'That sounds fantastic, thank you very much indeed!'

    Nigel put the phone down and hi-fived with Colin. 'We've got our man!'

    Colin smiled and said 'He's certainly an interesting character, let us hope that he can fire the boys up for this season.'

    Simon also smiled to himself - he was about to become a Football Manager...


  2. Chapter 2

    In Gloucestershire, big scrums are normally only seen at Kingsholm Stadium. However, that Wednesday morning, the media were jostling for position to get a first glimpse of the new manager of Conference North side Gloucester City.

    BBC Radio Gloucester, The Citizen and Pitchero were among those interested in Simon's imminent arrival, and the moment when the black BMW entered Whaddon Road the frenzy began:

    'Simon, any words for The Citizen?' shouted one reporter. 'How do you feel about taking up the challenge of taking over from David Mehew?' shouted another. Simon waved to the media, and Colin said 'There will be a press conference in 90 minutes in the media room. Please, no questions until then!'

    Simon was hurried inside into Nigel's office where tea and biscuits had been laid on.

    'Ah, Simon' said Nigel 'welcome to the club, we're sure that you're bound to bring us success this season.'

    Simon smiled, shook hands with Nigel and with Colin and Matt Phillips from the Supporters Trust they sat down to discuss matters at hand:

    'Simon, the squad is yours to do with as best you see fit. We have a number of non-contract players and we are looking to keep wages as low as we can. We do not mind you spending money available, but please be prudent and make sure that you can get more money in than you take out.' urged Nigel.

    Simon nodded 'I have some targets in mind and would also like to bring a few lads in on loan. I have an idea of the players who will be staying but there are a few players here whom are not in my plans and I would like to move them on in time. Also, I like my players to play an attacking game and I will be putting the emphasis on fitness and attacking play in training,.'

    'This is all very pleasing stuff' said Nigel. 'If you send me a report of the players you want on loan, we'll see what we can work out.'

    'No problem at all' replied Simon. 'Can I ask if any friendlies have been booked yet?'

    'Yes, we have been lucky enough to secure home games against Tottenham Hotspur Reserves on Wednesday 25th July, Bristol City on Saturday 28th July, Newport County on Tuesday 31st July and Ipswich Town on Saturday 4th August.' replied Colin.

    'Wow, a good friendly list indeed!' said Simon. 'If it's alright with you, can I add in a training game against the Reserves and possibly a game or two before the Tottenham game?'

    'No problem at all' said Colin. 'Just let us know who these teams are and if it's feasible we'll say yes. Cheltenham Town only have one home pre-season game on Wednesday 1st August, so luckily we can play more home pre-season games this season.

    'Okay' said Simon 'When do I get to meet the players?'

    'You'll get to meet them at Hartpury College after the press conference' replied Nigel.

    'That's great' said Simon, 'Okay, time to do the honours then and sign my deal?'

    'That would be brilliant' smiled Nigel, and Simon signed the contract after looking at the figures.

    'I'm very happy with that' said Simon. 'Let's crack open the bubbly and get the press conference done, so that I can see what my charges are like in the flesh.'

    The press conference lasted for about an hour with the typical questions. Simon however kept a friendly face through it all, and was then driven to Hartpury to meet his new charges.

    'Is that him?' Will Morford nudged to Adam Mann as Simon strode up beside the pitch. 'Looks like him' replied Adam. 'Guess that we'll have to show him what we can do.' Will stared as he recalled Simon's comments from one game... 'lazy bastard' he remembered them. 'Bring back Boris' he thought. Sam Rawlings too was nervous - he had played sparingly and knew that Simon liked attacking wingers rather than just a left-sided or right-sided midfielder.

    Darren Edwards walked up confidently to Simon. 'Hello boss, a pleasure to meet you.'

    Simon shook hands with Darren 'Mr. Edwardinho. Nice to meet you too sir!'

    Darren turned around and called the lads in.

    'Just a few quick words - it is official that I have taken over from Boris as manager of Gloucester City. I know that he was a good servant to this club and that many of you had soft spots for him, but because results last season were simply not good enough the club has had to make changes.'

    Will gave an 'oh dear' look. He was guilty of under-performing last season even though he had got into double figures. Wherever Boris would go Will would follow him to.

    'So we will be looking to play a more attacking system next year and we will go back to a four man defence. We have a number of good friendlies booked, and this is your chance to prove to the people of Gloucester that we are a good team and that we deserve to have a new stadium built for us back in Gloucester.'

    Neil Mustoe then walked calmly forward. 'The boss is right lads, it's all or nothing this season. Yes, Boris did a lot but we all under-performed last season - we cannot have a repeat of last season this year and we have to treat every game seriously.'

    Simon nodded and then watched as the lads trained before him. 'Some good talent here' he though 'but not enough to win promotion and get the council to take the new stadium seriously.' He'd have to look to bring some new lads in soon.

    Back at home, Simon made a late call to a contact in Redditch. To his pleasant surprise Redditch United were looking for a game on Monday 23rd July so he tied up that friendly and then heard that Blackburn's game on July 20th had been cancelled - a quick call to them against the odds led to an agreement for Blackburn to come down. It was nearly midnight but Simon just had to inform Nigel - 'we'll get this in the paper for tomorrow afternoon!' said Nigel 'you've done amazingly well already!'

    Simon had only been in the job for about 12 hours, but he felt like already he was making giant strides. A game against AFC Bournemouth was also booked for Tuesday 7th August, and Simon and Gloucester City looked forward to training ahead of one of the best pre-seasons in ages...


  3. Chapter 3

    Friday 20th July

    'They don't come much bigger than this' thought Simon to himself, on the approach to Whaddon Road.

    Tonight was the big night - Conference North side Gloucester City would be hosting Championship new boys Blackburn Rovers. One of the biggest games in Gloucester City's recent history, and demand for tickets had been through the roof for the past two weeks.

    Cheltenham station was a hive of activity with Blackburn supporters heading off trains and making the relatively brief walk into Cheltenham Town Centre. Beers were flowing and the atmosphere generally good on a warm summer's night.

    Inside the home changing room, Simon was finalising his team talk. This would be the first test of his managerial career and already the squad looked a lot different. Out had gone non-contract players Conor Thompson, Chris Holland, Mike Green (defender), Will Morford, Adam Mann, Jack Pitcher, George Lloyd, Sam Rawlings, Scott Wilson and Joe Parker whilst in had come Raajan Gill (a former Leicester City GK), Jordan Tebbutt (a former WBA GK), Awais Lal (a former Coventry City RB), Jasiah Donaldson (a former Huddersfield Town Attacking Winger), Ethan Mannion (a former Wolverhampton Wanderers ST), Tommy Amos (a former Wigan Athletic ST) and Christian Bulembi (a former Peterborough United ST). Joining on loan were Cheltenham Town trio Luke Hitchman, Michael Gonzalo and Joe Hanks, Fleetwood Town striker Rodrigo and Northampton Town midfielder Lewis Hornby. Lewis would not be able to make the Blackburn game, due to not being able to sign in time.

    Also a golden crop of five young players would play some part in the proceedings tonight: Aaron Burley (DRL), Leon Tubbs (DM), Ross Cleverley (AML), Roy Fawke (AMR) and Dominic Raven (AMC).

    Gloucester City would line up playing an attacking, fluid 4-1-3-2 and concentrate on getting the ball forward. They would not let Blackburn get the better of them and they would give them a hard game.

    'Listen up lads' barked Simon. 'This is the acid test - we have a big game tonight, but no excuses. You're all individually great players but you need to operate as a team and ground out a good result. Nigel, Colin and myself worked hard to get Blackburn down here so let's show the fans why they wanted to come and play us - because we're the best team in the Conference North and we fear no team!'

    A deafening roar came from the fired up players and they charged out of the dressing room and into the cauldron of Whaddon Road. Every stand was filled out with Blackburn having one stand to themselves and all the other three filled with Gloucester City fans. A fantastic turn-out and a great show of faith in the new regime.

    Blackburn kicked off and attacked the end where the Gloucester fans stood. They had good early possession but the Gloucester defence held firm and looked to pass forward at every opportunity. New lad Christian Bulembi was badly fouled on four minutes, but the ref waved play on much to the chagrin of Simon:

    'What? Is that ref blind! That was a foul on any day of the week.... sodding hell!'

    Gloucester passed the ball superbly and worried the Blackburn defence with deep drilled crosses and penetrating passes behind the defence. Gloucester's players were well up for this, and none of their players were putting a foot wrong - Jack Harris in particular had a storming game at LB and cut inside to clear balls that Matt Coupe could not deal with.

    Against the run of play, Blackburn scored via Colin Kazim-Richards. A diagonal ball was played to Colin who managed to shrug off the Gloucester challenge and sneak the ball home at the far post despite new GK Jordan Tebbutt almost getting a hand to it.

    Gloucester put pressure on for the equaliser, and it came just before half-time with new loan signing Joe Hanks taking advantage of slack marking to drill the ball beyond Paul Robinson.

    The goal unsettled Blackburn who started the second half nervously. They knew that Gloucester City were not going to lie down and Jordan Rhodes was being carefully marked. Rhodes hardly had a shot on goal, but when he did the reflexes of Tebbutt or the strength of Matt Coupe, Neil Mustoe, Luke Hickman or Jack Harris would put him off. The longer Blackburn went without scoring, the more likely it was that Gloucester would hold up play and then launch an attack for a winning goal. Nuno Gomes scored from a header for Blackburn, but after a quick counter attack by Roy Fawke and a beauty of a cross Rodrigo connected with the ball, got past Paul Robinson and slammed home for 2-2!

    It finished 2-2 with Gloucester fans ecstatic and proud that their team had held a side FOUR leagues above them to a draw - and Gloucester might even had won it had their passing been better. Still, 2-2 in his first match brought Simon great satisfaction and as he headed home he knew that Gloucester City were on the road to glory. Next up for the 1sts would be Redditch on Monday 23rd July, whilst tomorrow the Reserves had Evesham United to contend with at their new stadium...


  4. Chapter 4

    Monday 23rd July

    The coach sped up the M5 towards Gloucester City's next pre-season opponents in the form of Southern Premier League side Redditch United.

    The lads were on a high from the Friday night, and also pleasingly the Reserves had recorded a 0-0 score against Evesham United on the Saturday. Things were good and the players felt confident of another good result at Valley Stadium.

    Arriving at the stadium, Simon and Neil Mustoe took a look at the pitch. 'Tell me Neil - it's been a baking hot day and yet their pitch is muddy and wet...' Neil smiled 'well boss, that's the British weather for you - although when we played here in the Cup last season the pitch was pretty much the same.'

    Simon looked at the pitch - 'Well it's not too bad - just avoid the central areas and we'll get it wide like we did against Blackburn.'

    Neil nodded and both headed in to the changing rooms. After a brief team talk, Gloucester took to the field to face Redditch. Looking around, the stadium had less than 100 fans in it - quite a come-down from the highs of Friday night when just shy of 5000 people were watching the Blackburn game.

    Gloucester had far more of the ball, and following a long-ball out of defence Darren Edwards raced clear and slotted home for the first goal. 'Yessss!!!! Get in!!!!' shouted Simon.

    Gloucester's new signing from Shrewsbury Town, Jack Gwilliam, set up both of the second half goals - crossing hard from the left both times to feed firstly Ethan Mannion and then Steve Davies who thumped home a volley into the top of the net.

    A great 3-0 win but, as Simon lamented 'we should have had more fans turn up - oh well, Tottenham Reserves up next!'


  5. Good luck it's gonna be a challenge

  6. Thanks Tommy, glad you're enjoying the story so far!

    Chapter 5

    The Reserves had just returned from Bishops Cleeve after picking up a 0-0 draw, and Simon sat proudly in his office.

    'That's all the loan deals for now sorted' he thought, as he'd tied up Liam Henderson of York City and Alec Denton of Rotherham United up on 3 month loan deals. 'I'll go in for four more after Christmas, and after Luke Shearer signs that will be it.'

    Neither Liam, Alec or Luke would be able to take part in the next big game - Tottenahm Hotspur's Reserves were in town and trains and buses full of Spurs fans were making their way to Cheltenham for the big game. A crowd of over 2,000 was expected and word among the fans was that already Gloucester City were turning things around. Against Blackburn they had shown stubbornness and resilience, whilst against Redditch they had shown patience and a good attacking instinct.

    Tottenham's Reserves included Carlo Cudicini and Jermaine Jenas. Yet Gloucester played as if these two Premier League stars weren't on the field and picked up an amazing 3-0 win! Ross Cleverley added to his growing reputation with the opening goal which cannoned back off the post and in. Veteran striker Darren Edwards then outpaced a youthful Spurs defence and fired across goal giving the Spurs 'keeper Gomes no chance of getting down fast enough to save it.

    2-0 up at the break and the Stadium (at least where the Gloucester fans were sitting) was going stark raving mad! The fans could not believe their eyes - after drawing with Blackburn, their side was now cruising against Tottenham's Reserves! Lewis Hogg completed the rout with a close range shot to make it 3-0 to The Tigers.

    A night never to be forgotten by Gloucester City, but certainly one to forget if you're a Spurs fan!

  7. Simon Price - YouTube - a quick link to my You Tube account.

  8. Chapter 6

    With the Reserves drawing 1-1 with both Tuffley Rovers and Slimbridge, thoughts turned to the next big game - against Bristol City.

    Confidence was high among the Gloucester fans who were already confident of a great season ahead, and after the recent wins against Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham Hotspur Reserves the visit of Bristol City did not exactly fill the fans with dread. 'Course we can win it COME ON GLOUCESTER!!!' said one fan in an interview for Tigers TV.

    Gloucester started new boys Alec Denton and Luke Shearer, and it was Luke who got the opening goal running in from the right wing to score a shot that beat Tom Heaton at the far post. Not long after, Alec Denton had a great ball played through to him and he finished with aplomb. Although Bristol City did pull two goals back, Gloucester City never gave up and it was new wonder-kid Dominic Raven who scored a last minute winner for The Tigers! A great 3-2 win against the first team of Bristol City, and a truly magnificent performance!

  9. Chapter 7

    The eve of the new season was on the horizon, and only two more games were left before the big kick-off at Histon on August 11th.

    The game against Newport County had, bizarrely, finished 0-0 despite many good chances for the Tigers to win it. New lad Ethan Mannion had his head in his hands in the changing room after his point blank header somehow did not go in.

    'I should have won that for you lads - I'm sorry' said Ethan. Simon put a reassuring hand around his new player. 'Ethan, it's not your fault at all - that ball had come out and had no pace on it. You did what you felt you had to... let's not forget we made chance after chance against a side tipped to be promoted to the Football League this season! If anything, I'm delighted with the progress you've made in the short time I've been here. You're willing to listen, you've got the guts and the attitude necessary to be winners. Okay, forget the score tonight - not many sides in the Conference Premier will hold that Newport side to a 0-0 and frustrate the crap out of them. I've got a fantastic bunch of players who most League clubs would give their right arm for! Right, it's over and done - we concentrate on beating Ipswich Town now! End of!'

    The lads stood and applauded - a few were running on empty and although angry with themselves that they didn't beat Newport County they were buoyed by Simon's words. They'd all dig in for the Ipswich game and Bournemouth game, knowing that they had to impress the gaffer.

    Nigel and Colin were pretty impressed too - speaking before the Ipswich game, Nigel said to BBC Gloucestershire that he was delighted that the team had made such magnificent progress in a relatively short space of time.

    So to the Ipswich game and this was the day that Dominic Raven and Leon Tubbs came of age. Dominic smashed home a Gerrard-esque 25 yard drive beyond the Ipswich 'keeper and then Leon Tubbs raced away to crash home a beautiful goal - had this been a Premiership game he would have been lauded by the media luvvies for at least a year! Ipswich scored via Luongo, but this same player was to go from hero to villain as he headed past his own 'keeper to give the Tigers a 3-1 lead before Chopra gambled and headed home for Ipswich.

    Undefeated thus far, Gloucester face Bournemouth in their last pre-season game and then it's down to the nitty-gritty of the league.

  10. Chapter 8

    Tuesday 7th August

    The final game of pre-season, with AFC Bournemouth coming to town.

    Simon and his players were in confident mood ahead of kick-off:

    'Lads, listen up... okay, it's the last game of pre-season now and on Saturday the season starts at Histon. We've got to go out there and do a hatchet job like we did against Blackburn, Tottenham, Bristol City and Ipswich. You've done extremely well thus far, and you've raised the bar of expectations for not just yourselves but the whole club. Go out there and do yourself and Gloucester proud tonight!'

    The lads charged out with a steely look of determination. This was the last chance to show the gaffer why they should start at Histon.

    Roy Fawke score the opening goal, beating his marker on the left and slotting home from just inside the box. Darren Edwards made it two as he chased a ball over the top and headed over Jalal in the Bournemouth goal.

    Bournemouth pegged it back to 2-2 via McDermott and Tubbs before Alec Denton stole the show with a magnificent hat-trick. Alec had a stormer of a game, and at full-time his manager was beaming with pride.

    'Alec showed tonight why he should be in the team on Saturday, and I have to say that was amazing stuff. For a young lad to come down to Gloucestershire and put in a mature performance and score three crackers, well I am simply amazed! Great stuff Alec!'

    Alec was filled with pride, and his team-mates patted him on the back.

    'Okay lads, we are undefeated thus far - let us keep it that way all season. If we can beat sides above us, or hold them to draws, then we should be able to thrash any side in the league. Histon won't fancy playing us on our current form, so we've got to go to theirs and scare the living hell out of them. Right, shower, head home and report to training on Thursday at Hartpury!'

    At home, Simon pondered the team sheet for Saturday. He had numerous options but would definitely play the five wonder-kids plus Alec and Darren up-front with Matt Coupe, Neil Mustoe and Luke Hickman joining Aaron Buckley in defence and Matt Green in goal. On the bench would be Michael Gonzalo, Jordan Tebbutt, Jasiah Donaldson, Steve Davies and Liam Henderson.

    'That should be a good squad for Histon' Simon thought, and with that he headed off to get some much needed sleep.

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