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The Alfa Romeo Metaphor

  1. WOMBLEblog.co.uk
    Weakened Dons waxed by Rochdale

    Duff
    4 October 2014 19:01

    I've been sitting on this train back to London reflecting on the kick to the gentleman's sausage that Rochdale just gave us. This match was always going to be tough. I recognize this, but does the 6-1 shellacking tell us something. Anything?

    Thrash is despondent. Verging on incoherent. It's understandable. He traveled 5 hours to watch his beloved Dons get mauled.

    But I think it's important note several things.

    First, Mark Tomlinson had a terrible time today. He fouled in the box and gave away the penalty that ended up being the game winning goal. But it was when he came off that the floodgates opened. And he had to come off. He was about to get sent off.

    But it says something that when our 16 year old midfielder comes off, our defense is so exposed. It says something about how special Mark is. It also doesn't reflect well on our other central midfielders and their defensive abilities.

    Secondly, the score would have been worse but for Chris Dunn. Rochdale's Coulibaly was alone against Dunn 5 times, I think. If we play defense in from of him, we've got a keeper who will steal points for us.

    Thirdly, we really miss Daniel Barlaser. Yet another teenager critical to our success. Without him, we seem incapable of keeping possession. Without him pulling the strings, Michael Smith is nearly useless -- mainly because he never gets the ball. Neither Gregory or Pepper seem capable of filling his shoes.
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  2. Gwen and I had dinner but I had to get up early so she went out with her friends and I went home. I wasn't very talkative or very good company anyway.

    I couldn't sleep. Should I have gone with a 451 formation, plugged up the midfield? Was I naive to think I could play 442 away from home against a decent side? Was I overconfident? Were we overconfident?

    More accurately, was I stupid to play 442 with such a weakened defense? Shouldn't I have sat back in a 451 and hope for luck, play for the draw?

    How badly had I damaged Cameron Dummigan's confidence?

    Why the hell wasn't Matteo Nole getting the ball? He didn't have a cross in the last match. Francomb and Johnson put some crosses in, just didn't do a good job at it.

    At some point, I drifted off ...
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  3. Sunday, 5 October 2014 8 AM

    "How do our two upcoming opponents stack up, Lil?" I asked to kick off the coaches meeting on Sunday morning.

    "Brentford is playing really well and have no major injury worries," he replied. "With our weakened defense, Tuesday is going to be tough. They have fast wingers, decent enough forwards and a solid defense."

    "So stick a fork in us, we're done?" I quipped.

    "That's one way to look at it," he replied. "But if we can hold them, we might be able to generate some chances on the counter."

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ID:	521037"What about York?" I asked.

    "This is where things start to look better," Lil replied. "They've lost three of their last four League Two matches. Our injury and suspension woes are nothing compared to how short-handed York is. We should be able to exploit this. They've lost the last two league matches and are thin up top and in the midfield. While their defense is intact, I'm not overly impressed. Speed kills and ours will definitely injure, severely harm and even kill them."

    "So I'm thinking we play a 451 against both teams," I said. "First because we're outgunned against Brentford and two because I want to stop York first before we consider the other end of the pitch."

    "I want to try something odd against York. I want Matteo Nole in the left-sided central midfield role. I want him attacking with speed through the middle. Smith is up top. With Nole on the ball, I want Loveridge at left midfielder. I want him to have the liberty to roam. I want him and Matteo on the ball racing at the York defense."

    "You all are sure that Fenlon and Thackray final match suspended is against Brentwood in the Johnstone Paint Cup, right?"

    Everyone nodded.

    "Good, cuz we'll really need them against York."

    "Injury report?"

    "Some good news, boss," Physio Jon Whitney said. "Danny Barlaser should be available to sit on the bench for the Cambridge match week after next. Andy Frampton is still two to three weeks away. The surgery is healing nicely, but it just takes time."

    "Thanks, Jon," I said. "We're going to start with stretching, take a nice jog then do killers. We always do killers the morning after we embarrass ourselves. Dave and Jon, you'll monitor everyone's well-being."

    Dave Wilson was my fitness trainer.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 07/03/2014 at 01:50 PM.
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  4. Johnstone's Paint Trophy 2nd Round: AFC Wimbledon v. Brentford FC

    If I wasn't missing Captain Andy Frampton, Kris Thackray, James Fenlon and Cameron Dummigan (with the Northern Ireland U19s), I think we'd have a chance. I also decided to give Daniel Lincoln another start.

    GK: Daniel Lincoln
    D: George Francomb, Reuben Hazell, Pat Baldwin, Ben Harrison
    M: Mark Tomlinson, Simon Johnson, Adam Pepper, Steven Gregory, Matteo Nole
    F: James Loveridge

    We only get 5 subs: Chris Dunn (GK), Harry Pell (M), Drissa Dabre (M), Michael Smith (F), Jack Redshaw (F)

    Francomb drops to right fullback and teenager Ben Harrison is in at left back. Mark Tomlinson is the defensive midfielder and I told Steven Gregory to get stuck in as he often just won't challenge anyone for the ball.

    I had to choose between Loverboy and Smith. I thought Lover would be better on the counter.

    And we got off to the worst start ...

    A pass up to their forward Marcello Trotta, Haz steps up to challenge, Trotta spins past Haz races goalward and curls a shot past Lincoln.

    0-1

    3 minutes in and we're already down a goal. Sigh. So much for my strategy to hold them and hit them on the counter.

    Here's the epitome of what kind of night we had. In the 15th minute, Baldwin stepped forward and leapt to challenge Brentford's big forward Ryan Taylor. Baldwin won the header, but right to a Brentford player, Pat Reeves. Reeves sent a pass into the gap that Baldwin left behind him and Taylor beat Baldwin to the pass and raced goalward.

    Lincoln made a great save and beat the ball out for a throw in.

    In the 19th minute, Brentford's Adam Forshaw raced down our left flank. Baldwin raced over to help Harrison. Forshaw beat both of them. Haz read the play well and sprinted over to shut down Forshaw. Sadly, Forshaw beat Haz to the line and zipped a pass into the middle. Francomb, Tomlinson, Pepper and Gregory couldn't get a foot to it. One of those seeing eye passes.

    Our tormentor for the day, Trotta got a foot to it.

    0-2

    Oof mother****ing Da.

    We took our first shot in the 24th minute. We won a corner and Francomb whipped in a cross that they headed back out toward Francomb. George sent the ball right back in and Nole volleyed a shot right at the keeper.

    We managed to hold them for the rest of the half, but mainly because Trotta missed several golden opportunities to increase the lead.

    I got so frustrated with Steven Gregory's poor positioning and unwillingness to challenge for any ball, that I yanked him in the 33rd minute and put Harry Pell on.

    "I realized that we're getting outplayed by a team that is second in League One," I said to begin my half time talk. "But our fans paid money to watch us. They want to be entertained. What they just saw out there was not good. Let's give them something to cheer about in the second half."

    "I have faith that you defenders can hold them if you keep your shape," I continued. "When we get the ball, play the short simple pass. Alright?"

    They all nodded.

    From the kickoff, we worked the ball down the left and set up Matteo for a shot. The problem is Matteo isn't much of a shooter. He hit it right into the keeper's gut.

    But it gave me an idea about how to play against York. Why not play Loveridge out on the left? Matteo isn't creating much as a winger, but he can play as a central midfielder, too. Loverboy can score and we seem to be able to set up our left winger for scoring chances. This was something worth considering.

    In the 50th minute, Baldwin got caught ball-watching and Taylor filled his pants instead of increasing Brentford's lead with a shot that dribbled past the post.

    Lincoln thumped the resulting goal kick well over the center line. They won the header and got to the loose ball and sent the ball out to their left midfielder Angelo Balanta. Balanta raced down our right flank, beat George and whipped in a cross. Baldwin cleared out the cross. Brentford's Romaine Sawyers controlled the ball and launched a cruise missile towards the upper right corner of the net.

    Daniel Lincoln leapt and not only got to the shot, he held the ball. The crowd went nuts. What a save.

    I turned and looked at Rachubka. Rachubka had his "OMG" face on. We both looked at each other with the recognition that this kid had some real potential.

    After 60 minutes of getting no service, I replaced Loverboy with Smith.

    Brentford kept creating good chances, but their finishing continued to fail them. We looked toothless, but kept trying.

    In the 76th minute, Ben Harrison won a header right to Harry Pell. Pell saw a gigantic gap between the Brentford center back's and sent a through ball into the path of Smith.

    Smith coolly rolled a pass past the advancing Brentford keeper and we were suddenly in a match in which we'd been thoroughly out-played.

    1-2

    We never got that break, bit of luck or created much of anything. The epitome of this occurred in the 80th minute. Tomlinson won a tackle and Pell got to the loose ball. Pell tried to play a ball up to Smith. Unfortunately, Tomlinson had just gotten up from the sliding tackle he'd just made. Pell kicked the ball right into Mark's butt cheeks. No, I mean that literally.

    The ball caromed to Brentford's striker Taylor who played Trotta in. Lincoln made a fantastic save to deny Trotta his hat trick.

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ID:	521417Trotta finally got his well-deserved hat trick in the 89th minute.

    From a free kick out on our right, Baldwin let him get free. He got to the low free kick first and flicked the ball past Lincoln.

    Trotta's contract is up in June. If don't offer him a new contract, I'll sign him. He's young and that good.

    "Congratulations, Marcelo," I said in Italian after I tracked him down on the pitch after the whistle. "If Fulham are stupid enough to not sign you, I will offer you one. We'll be in League One next year."
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    "Thank you," he replied non-committally.

    I applauded the fans and walked into our changing room.

    "Listen up," I said once everyone was in the room. "I'm not all that worried about this result. You all played much better in the second half. You gave the fans something to cheer about."

    "A bounce here or a break there or not playing a through ball off of Mark's butt and we might have tied this baby up," I continued.

    That got some chuckles.

    "You all need to be refocused as of tomorrow morning," I said. "We play York this Saturday. Think about that."

    "We're getting Fens and Thacks back and Lil tells me that York are riddled with injuries," I continued. "We need to get over these last two losses. How we respond against York will tell us what kind of team we are."

    "See you all at noon tomorrow."
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  5. Friday, 10 October 2014

    Pat Baldwin pulled up lame during training. Whitney ran over and Baldwin pointed to his groin. Everyone stopped what they were doing and walked over.

    "I just felt something rip," Pat explained to Whitney as I got within hearing range.

    ****.

    Whitney poked, prodded and asked questions.

    "Let's get you changed and get an X-ray," Whitney said. Then turning an looking at me said: "Best case scenario: groin strain. Worst case: hernia."

    My face met my palm. What the **** was I going to do now? Ben Harrison was going to have to play tomorrow.

    "Congratulations, Ben," I said putting my arm around Harrison. "You're starting tomorrow."
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 07/03/2014 at 09:10 PM.
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  6. Name:  Enrico-twitter.png
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    Pat Baldwin out 5-6 weeks with sports hernia. Thankfully, @JamesFenlon &
    @KrisThackray are back. #Wimbledon
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    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 07/03/2014 at 09:46 PM.
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  8. League Two: York City FC v. AFC Wimbledon

    After our horrific performance against Rochdale, Chairman Erik Samuelson approved an overnight hotel stay. The compromise is we took the bus to York. So we drove up Friday evening. No big deal. So we can't have the excuse of staying on the bus like against Rochdale.

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ID:	521484So after sleeping in, I wandered York. I checked out the Cathedral and York Castle. Gorgeous day, too.

    I don't know about my players, but I was rested and relaxed as we boarded the bus at the hotel to head over to Bootham Crescent. The stadium isn't the newest or in the best condition, but the showers and toilets work. This is always a good thing.

    Reuben Hazell makes me so nervous when he plays in the middle that I'm pairing teenager Ben Harrison with Thacks.

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ID:	521485And this line-up is a curveball that I'm sure nobody expected:

    Subs: Daniel Lincoln (GK), Simon Johnson (M), Steven Gregory (M), Drissa Dabre (M), Harry Pell (M), Jack Midson (F), Jack Redshaw (F)

    "Alright," I said getting everyone's attention. "We have an opportunity here today. We know York are really short-handed because of injury. We all know how poorly we played last Saturday against Rochdale. Let's set things right today."

    "Matteo, I want you to attack from the middle today," I said in Italian then repeated in English.

    "Loveridge," I continued. "You have full liberty to roam where you want. When you can get forward and into the left channel, take it."

    "Let's keep the ball and play short passes," I said. "I have faith in you defenders to shut them down. I have faith that there's plenty of offense coming today out of the midfield. And Smith, do your thang, baby."

    Despite taking the bus up on Friday to avoid a horror start again, my face met my palm in the 3rd minute.

    Their left fullback played a Hollywood ball at the halfline out toward their right midfielder Craig Westcarr. Westcarr out-jumped Fenlon and headed the ball to their right-sided forward Paul Hayes. Hayes muscled over Harrison took a couple of steps and smashed a shot past Dunn.

    1-0

    "YOU LIKED THAT HOTEL STAY?" I hollered at my players as they walked forward for the restart. "YOU LIKE YOUR CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST? YOU LIKE YOUR LAZY DAY SPENT IN YOUR HOTELS ROOMS? EVER WANT TO DO THAT AGAIN?"

    I think they got the message. We brought the ball up the field and Smith got hauled down 20 yards out in the middle.

    Francomb teed up the ball just how he liked it and surveyed the wall and the keeper. The ref blew his whistle and his shot got over the wall and hit the place where the crossbar and post meet and out for a goal kick.

    York brought the ball up and Westcarr beat Fenlon on the dribble and hammers a shot that beat Dunn. It hit the post and bounced straight up the middle. Thacks cleared it over the half line and onto the roof of the stadium. He then turned and screamed at Fenlon to pull his head out.

    We kept the ball for a moment or two and Smith got fouled 20 yards out and right. Francomb hoofe the free kick high.

    In the 9th minute, Fenlon got beat by Westcarr again. He whipped in a back post special that their right midfielder headed off the crossbar. Once again, Thacks cleared it and yelled at Fenlon.

    "KEEP HIM IN FRONT OF YOU," I yelled at Fenlon. "HE'S NOT FASTER THAN YOU. KEEP HIM IN FRONT OF YOU."

    His teammates gave Fenlon a break and kept possession of the ball for a while. We also kept the ball in the York end.

    In the 16th minute, York finally broke out of their half, but they tried a through ball that went straight to Dunn. He threw the ball to Pepper who shifted it over to Nole who took off across the half line and as defender's converge snuck a pass to Smith.

    Smith received the ball and spun. And he waited. Then he flicked a little pass between the center back and ball-watching left back. George Francomb smashed a shot that York's keeper got a hand to but couldn't keep out.

    1-1

    Now that was the kind of response I was looking for.

    And we kept the pressure up. Loverboy forced a nice save and hit the post on another. Smith shot twice as well: once high; once right at the keeper. Nole waffled two weak shots right at the keeper as well.

    We were finally rewarded for wave after wave of attacks in the 41st minute.

    Their center back rolled a lazy pass toward his midfielder in the center circle. Nole raced in, intercepted the pass and sprinted at the static defense. Smith drifted into the channel and Nole got him the ball, Smith spun and hammered a low shot into the side netting.

    1-2

    "WELL DONE! WELL DONE!" I applauded my players.

    I nearly had a brain aneurism seconds later as Haz nicely intercepted a pass destined for their left midfielder but then rolled a lazy pass toward Tomlinson in the middle. This was the exact same thing that the Minstermen had just done to gift us our goal.

    Their midfielder intercepted the ball and fed their forward Hayes. He played a ball behind the ball-watching Fenlon and Westcarr was in alone. Westcarr shot weakly right at Dunn.

    Haz apologized to his teammates for his pass.

    The football Gods were smiling on us today.

    "I'm pleased with how we're playing, keep it up," I said once everyone was in the dressing room. "They can't handle Smith, Lovers and Matteo running at them. Keep it up."

    "Listen," I continued. "We had some shaky moments out there defensively, but I have faith that you guys know what to do. No more ball-watching, stay tight, stay compact, work for each other. Clear?"

    My defenders nodded.

    From the kickoff, Loveridge broke down the left flank, cut the ball back to get on his preferred right foot and lasered a cross in for Smith. Smith one-timed the shot, but a desperate defender lunged in and blocked the shot.

    And we didn't give the Minstermen much during the first fifteen minutes of the second half.

    Tomlinson got carded in the 49th minute. He'll miss our next match. Thankfully, our next opposition is Cambridge and maybe I can convince Steven Gregory to tackle someone between now and then.

    Unfortunately, our offense always ended with Nole taking a weak long range shot.

    "NO MORE SHOOTING, MATTEO," I yelled in Italian after he'd taken his third shot. "FEED THE FORWARD AND WINGERS INSTEAD."

    He waved an acknowledgement.

    Dunn made outstanding save after outstanding save to preserve our lead.

    First in the 63rd when Hayes broke down the left flank and had time to assess his options. He chose the trailer. Midfielder Emmitt Delfouneso hit a low shot destined for just inside the post but Dunn got a fingertip to it and redirected it onto the post.

    Smith took a little pressure off of Dunn by increasing our lead in the 71st.

    In the 70th minute, I replaced Francomb with Simon Johnson. Fresh legs and all that.

    Johnson's first touch was a sprint down the right wing culminating in a inch perfect cross to Smith who side-footed
    his 8th league goal past their forlorn keeper.

    In the 78th, Haz got caught ball-watching and the York left midfielder Michael Doughty was in alone with a chance to equal things up for the Minstermen. Once again, Dunn was up to the task and blocked his shot out for a corner.

    The footballing Gods were surely smiling down upon us, but how many more times would we need Dunn to bail us out? Well, one time more.

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ID:	521503In the 84th minute, Fenlon stripped the ball off Westcarr. It hopped up and Fenlon decided to hoof it forward. The problem was he hoofed high and towards the middle and not particularly far up the pitch.

    A York player won the header and a York player gathered up the ball. In a panic my players collapsed inward and toward the top of the box. This was the correct response. Unfortunately, Fenlon compounded his initial poor choice by not noticing the York replacement striker Ryan Bowman drift behind him.

    Delfouneso played a ball behind Fenlon and Bowman was in alone on Dunn. Dunn raced out and blocked the shot out for a corner.

    I replaced Nole and Pepper with Harry Pell and Drissa Dabre in the 85th. Both Matteo and Adam were gassed and I figured the fresh legs in midfield would stop York from playing.

    I was right.

    "Well done, well done!" I said after we were all in the changing room. "Great response to last Saturday. Great response from going down to an early goal. You showed real character today. Let's get showered and out of here."

    I checked the other scores once we were on the bus.

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  9. Quarter mark of the season

    Here we are, one quarter of the way through the season and top of the League Two table.

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ID:	521921We're second in scoring behind Rochdale in scoring. You may recall the 6 goals we gifted them a few weeks back.

    Of the 16 goals we've conceded, 11 came in our two losses. 6-1 v. Rochdale and 5-2 v. Scunthorpe.

    James Loveridge and Michael Smith lead the league in scoring.

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    And here's the players sorted by assists on the left and sorted by ratings on the right.

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    And we're also the dirtiest team in the league. Heh.

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  10. Quote Originally Posted by Enrico Pucci View Post

    And we're also the dirtiest team in the league. Heh.

    Attachment 521988
    Classic Wimbledon!

  11. Quote Originally Posted by mking1992 View Post
    Classic Wimbledon!
    I know, the Crazy Gang II, right?

    My teams often lead whatever league in cards. It's cuz I set my fullbacks, defensive (ball winner) midfielder as well as any central defender who plays really soft to 'Tackle Harder.'

    Furthermore, in the Opposition screen, I always set it so we 'Tackle Harder' the strikers. If they have three attacking midfielders and a lone striker, I set it so all four get the Special Sauce.

    I'm surprised that I don't give up penalties more often.

    My players don't get red carded all that often. Cuz as soon as they get carded, I set them to 'Ease Off Tackles.' I've found that players seem to still be able to tackle well even though they're on a card.
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    Where is this man?

  13. Quote Originally Posted by KevinHann View Post
    Attachment 522741
    Where is this man?
    Cantona? Living in France last I heard.

  14. Quote Originally Posted by Enrico Pucci View Post
    Cantona? Living in France last I heard.
    I think he meant Vinnie Jones.
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  15. Quote Originally Posted by wr1097 View Post
    I think he meant Vinnie Jones.
    I know.

  16. You should get him with your backroom staff, would love to watch the touchline if you play Chelsea in a cup game then

  17. Quote Originally Posted by KevinHann View Post
    You should get him with your backroom staff, would love to watch the touchline if you play Chelsea in a cup game then
    That's a great idea. I should bring him into the story somehow.
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  19. 12 October 2014, noonish

    "I love it when a plan comes together," I said to my assembled coaches.

    "Wait," said goalkeeper coach Paul Rachubka. "What ****ing movie was that from?"

    Everyone shrugged.

    "Not a movie," I replied. "The A Team, TV show."

    "I remember that show," Rachubka face palmed.

    "Instead of reminiscing about your misspent childhoods," Assistant Manager Sean Hankin. "Could we possibly talk about soccer?"

    "Your just jealous because you weren't raised on crappy TV," Rachubka replied.

    "Anyhoo," I interjected. "My tactics worked."

    "****!" exclaimed Hanks.

    "What?" I asked.

    "Wools forgot to bring the medal we got for you," he replied.

    "Sorry," added Wools.

    "Oh **** off," I said. "Lil, please save this meeting."

    "Right," said Lil Fucillo, my Chief Scout. "Cambridge United, our next opponents, are in 16th place. Their top scorer with 5 goals, Liam Hughes is out injured. They're poor away from home and have played 442 in every match."

    "Hughe's replacement, Connor Wilkinson, is a lot like our Michael Smith except without the scoring," Lil continued. "He holds the ball up well. I think we should be worried about him distributing it."

    "Alright, thanks Lil," I said.

    "I say we stay with the same 451," Wools said. "What with Tomlinson suspended and we all know how Gregory hasn't convinced any of us that he'll tackle anyone."

    "Yeah," Hanks agreed. "This way our defense is protected as he's physically standing in front of it. Or something."

    There was a murmur of agreement.

    "Well, that was easy," I said. "Anything else?"

    "Fine, I'll just go home if nobody cares," the physio complained.

    "What is it now, Whitney?" I asked.

    "Well, Barlaser will be fit enough for the bench next Saturday," he said. "Captain Andy won't be back for two weeks, I think. Baldwin will be a month maybe five weeks."

    "You and Wilson come up with any ideas why they'd both got hernias?" I asked.

    "No, sorry," Whitney and fitness coach Dave Wilson chimed.

    "It's like this," Wilson said. "Lumpy pitches equal twisted ankles. Rock hard pitches equal shin splint, sore knees and sore hips and even back strains. Boggy pitches can cause groin strains. Sports hernias happen occasionally to older players but I can't figure why two in one month."

    "I may have just struck on it," Whitney said. "He you met their wives? They're both quite beautiful. Maybe they ..."

    He was drowned out with a chorus of STFU.

  20. Monday, 13 October 2014

    "Enrico? Is that you?"

    "Esteban, how is everything?"

    "Me, great! Word got out that the manager got his shave here. Business has never been better. Albert Dalmau, Aimar and couple of the new players come here for their shaves."

    "So you're still getting all the inside scoop on the club then?" I asked.

    "Oh, yes. But enough about me, how is London?" he replied.

    "The suburb of Kingston-Upon-Thames has been treating me well. I haven't found a barber, yet, though."

    "You must! You must look good in London."

    "Okay, I will. What's the latest rumors with the Yellow Submarine?"

    "We're doing quite well, so consequently everyone is fearful that the ownership group will demand salary cuts," Esteban complained.

    "Hasn't the Ramon de Carranza been paid off, yet?"

    "I think so, but somehow we're still losing lots of euros. That's the impression I'm getting."

    "By contrast, Wimbledon is owned by the fans and is financial stable," I said. "It literally is night and day in comparison."

    "Are you still heartbroken over Ana Maria?"

    "No," I replied. "A model recognized me and introduced herself." I told him the story of how I met Gwen.

    "You Italians are the lovers!," Esteban replied. "And I'm so glad Wimbledon are doing well. I've founded the Cadiz Wimbledon fan club. Thank you for the scarf and shirt."

    "Ciao, my friend."

    "Hasta La Vista!"
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 12/03/2014 at 04:54 AM.
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  21. Thursday, 16 October 2014

    "Hey Mark, how's it going?" I said after training as the players were making their ways off the New Malden fields and into the showers.

    "Good," Mark Tomlinson said.

    "So how's it feel to be suspended for the first time in your career?"

    "Heh, um, okay, I guess," he replied.

    "It's a badge of honor, you know," I continued. "Playing at the edge of what's legal is an art form. Actually, you're quite good at it."

    "Thanks."

    "It's that innocent looking face of yours," I said. "Exploit it. You're awfully polite out there, use that to your advantage, too."

    "Okay."

    "How's everything else going?"

    "I haven't told anyone else," Mark replied. "I ... um ... uh ..."

    "It's okay, Mark," I interjected. "Take it at whatever speed you want. But I think that when you're ready, we talk to Andy and Haz first."

    "Okay."

    "Boss, we have a problem," said Hanks running up.

    "Talk to you later, Mark, what's up?"

    "It's Smith," Hanks replied. "Groin."

    "Fkn God Damn Sumbitch," I growled. "Better fkn not be a motherfkn sports hernia. Hrrrrmmmm..."

    We jogged into the locker room.

    "Whitney!?!" I exclaimed as I burst into the sick room. The scene I saw said it all. My star striker Michael Smith sat on the examination table with ice packs wedged between his legs and a forlorn look on his face. Whitney looked despondent, as if it was his fault.

    "No," I moaned.

    "Sorry, boss," Whitney said shaking his head.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 13/03/2014 at 12:39 AM.
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  23. I would love that article to pop up in real life hahahahaha

  24. Quote Originally Posted by mking1992 View Post
    I would love that article to pop up in real life hahahahaha
    But for a team that you hate. Right?
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  25. League Two: AFC Wimbledon v. Cambridge United FC

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ID:	526594I really had a quandary. Was I going to be brave and play a 442 with Redshaw partnering Loveridge with Adam Pepper and Steven Gregory in the center of the midfield? Or was I going to be a chicken and go with a 451 with Gregory sitting in front of the defense?

    Yea, I'm chicken.

    GK: Chris Dunn
    D: Reuben Hazell (C), Kris Thackray, Ben Harrison, James Fenlon
    M: Steven Gregory, George Francomb, Adam Pepper, Matteo Nole, Simon Johnson
    F: James Loveridge

    Subs: Daniel Lincoln, Cameron Dummigan, Daniel Barlaser, Drissa Dabre, Harry Pell, Jack Midson, Jack Redshaw

    I have no confidence in Gregory's ability to boss the midfield and Redshaw's confidence isn't quite where it needs to be yet. I'm hoping Matteo's speed through the middle proves decisive.

    "My message today is simple," I told my charges. "Relax and play our game, the result will come."

    And I sent them down the tunnel.

    We brought the ball down the right and then worked it across to the left. Fenlon played Johnson in on goal, but his shot was blocked. The ball popped out to Fenlon. He passed across field to Hazell. Haz was a little right of center but 25 yards out. Sadly, Haz is one of the last players on the team I'd want to take a long shot. His shot wasn't that hard and right at the keeper.

    But a trend was started. We'd work the ball around and either set someone up who wasn't all that good at shooting or lob a cross in the would be cleared.

    In the 23rd minute, Cambridge broke down our right flank. Andy Pugh beat Haz and curled in a high cross. Dunn came out but mistimed his jump and only ended up flapping at it. The ball landed right at Cambridge striker Connor Wilkinson's feet. He had the easiest of tap-ins.

    0-1

    No. Wait. The linesman's flag is up! The Cambridge manager is going ape****. I nearly crumple to the ground in relief.

    0-0

    In the 28th minute, our pressure nearly paid off. Adam Pepper beat 3 players on the dribble and shot. The goal dives and parries the shot out left. Simon Johnson is first to the ball and shoots, but it's cleared off the line.

    Dang.

    We continued to keep the ball in the U's half, but either couldn't make the final pass, fluffed a long-range shot or lumped in a harmless cross to stationary players.

    In the 44th minute, Cambridge lost the ball in our half. Gregory played the ball up to Nole who dribbled over the half line. He played the ball square to Pepper. Peps saw Francomb running all by himself down the right wing. He played a pass into his path. Francomb looked up, saw Loverboy making a near post run, looked down and curled a perfect-looking ball in to Loveridge.

    As I and the nearly full stadium groaned when the ball flew just over Loveridge's head, it hit the defender who should have been marking Loveridge in the knee.

    And bobbled over the line.

    1-0

    Ugly, but I'll take it. I had been getting worried that we'd be unable to break down the Cambridge defense.

    "I think their confidence is pretty fragile out there," Hanks said as we walked towards the locker room. "Don't be too hard on them."

    "Yeah, I'm with you," I replied. "I'll do what I can to boost their confidence."

    "Solid play, boys, you're looking solid out there," I said once everyone was sitting down. "I'm happy with our passing and our defense. Our luck in the final third will come, just keep at it. No changes."

    From the kickoff, we won the ball from Cambridge pretty quickly and brought the ball up the right. Loveridge was making a run into the right channel, but instead of playing a pass into the gap, Pepper lobbed a long ball over the top that bounced once and into their keeper's arms.

    That was not how I wanted to start the half.

    As the half progressed, I couldn't decide what to do. We couldn't keep possession at all. Lovers kept barking at the midfield to play balls to his feet. They wouldn't. Francomb was playing like a reheated bowel movement. Pepper was continually making wrong decisions. Nole wasn't making runs from deep with the ball and Johnson looked bored.

    At the 53 minute mark, Cambridge broke down our right flank. Their left fullback played a long ball up to Wilkinson, he played a ball out to their left midfielder Andy Pugh. Pugh crossed in and their other striker, half time substitute Tom Elliott, smashed a header goalward. Thacks smashed blocked it and Haz cleared it out to the sidelines.

    Push then lumped in another cross. Elliott controlled the cross, beat Thacks on the dribble then Haz and shot far post. It hit the post and rebounded right out in front of goal. Harrison cleared.

    I turned and told Dummigan, Barlaser, Pell and Redshaw to warm up.

    I yanked off Francomb just before the hour mark. Simon Johnson would go out on the right wing, Nole would move out to the left wing and Danny would go on and play in the middle.

    We didn't do all that better after the reshuffle. However, Gregory stepped up his play. He headed out 8 crosses, blocked two shots and more or less played like a third central defender. The teenager Harrison wasn't exactly up to the task, sadly.

    A combination of predictable Cambridge attacking and solid defensive organization made this look like we were going to ride the own goal into the sunset for another victory.

    In the 85th, I replaced Pepper with Pell. In the 88th, I replaced Nole with Redshaw.

    Then it got interesting.

    Pugh beat Haz and whipped in a cross. Thacks got to the ball first and headed out for a corner. Elliott had it lined up for a header and punched the air in frustration. We cleared the first corner for another and the third curled out of a goal kick.

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    In the 90th, Pugh beat Haz yet again and raced for the byline. Thacks leapt in for a desperation tackle to prevent the cross. I held my breathe. He got all ball, but conceded a corner.

    We cleared the resulting corner, but not far enough. A Cambridge player headed it right back in. Wilkinson leapt and flicked it goalward. Dunn, having learned his lesson early in the season, had stayed on the line and was perfectly positioned to catch the flick and save the day.

    Dunn took as long as he could before hoofing it well into their half. We played ping pong with them in and around the center circle for a while. Then Barlaser played a pass up to Loveridge. As Loveridge spun to race goalwards, he was chopped down.

    I looked at my watch. 91:55. That should just about do it. We took forever to take our free kick.

    Then the ref blew those three sweetest sounding blasts that a manager could ever want to hear and we'd weaseled all three points.

    I told the players that our performance wasn't good enough and that they'd need to play better against better competition.

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  26. WOMBLEblog.co.uk
    Dons whelm Cambridge but just

    Thrash
    18 October 2014 19:12

    Our beloved Wimbledon made due without our captain Andy Frampton yet again in defense. We coped without our offensive dynamo Michael Smith. We got Danny Barlaser back from a month out injured but he was rusty.

    Thankfully, we played Cumbridge.

    Cumbridge are to offensive juggernauts what penguins are to Formula One. Just in case anyone from Cumbridge is reading this, I will explain my comparison: penguins have no relationship whatsoever with Formula One racing. Therefore, you can infer that I believe the Ewes have a worthless offense.

    And despite playing these intellectual sheep molesters, the only goal we could manage was an own goal.

    Color me whelmed.

    Manager Pucci resorted to his Italian Catannaccio roots. Steven Gregory functioned as a fifth defender and more or less played center back in the second half. While I'm discussing the defense, with Cameron Dummigan available, why wasn't Reuben Hazell in the center of the defense. Pucci played him at right back. For the second straight match, teenager Ben Harrison was paired with Kris Thackray.

    Seriously?

    George Francomb's cross led to the goal, but that was his lone contribution. WTF, George? And Adam Pepper was aimlessly spraying passes about Kingsmeadow like a sprinkler gone amok. And I'd tell Matteo Nole off, too, except he doesn't speak a word of English. Hey, Pucci. How about getting Matteo some English lessons?

    Listen, lads. We're going to be without Smith for a while. Get used to it and generate some offense. James Loveridge isn't chopped liver. Get him the ball on the ground. It's simple.
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  27. Sunday, 19 October 2014

    The English FA Cup First Round Draw was today. AFC Wimbledon drew Shrewsbury Town FC away. The first round takes place on 1 November.

    Shrewsbury are adrift at the bottom of League One. They have a goal differential of -14 from 1 win and 2 draws in 12 matches. 14 goals scored and 28 conceded.

    I think we have a pretty good chance of advancing to the Second Round.

    Our League Two home match against Cheltenham has been rearranged for Wednesday, 5 November because of the FA Cup.
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  28. Monday, 20 October 2014 9am

    "Hartlepool are going to be tough," Lil Fucillo said. "They're in third right now and have won 4 of their last 5 in the League. They beat Scunthorpe in the Johnstone's Paint Cup. Scunthorpe thrashed us as you all probably recall."

    "They've got a 6'5" center forward," Lil continued. "Cedric Baseya has 5 goals, 3 assists and 2 Man of the Match awards so far this season. Basically, everything goes through him. I imagine they'll play a lot of high balls up to him. Our fullbacks will be busy with knockdowns for their wingers Toni Silva and Kieron Cadogan."

    "Their fullbacks are fast, their central defenders are pretty good and their keeper is decent enough," he said. "Jonathan Greening, formerly of Man U, West Brom, yes, that Jonathan Greening, runs the midfield. They play a 451 with wingers so they'll attempt to keep the ball and bottle up the midfield."

    "We match up pretty evenly in my opinion," Lil concluded. "I think it'll be a close match."

    "What's the prognosis on Frampton?" I asked our Physio Jon Whitney.

    "He's not going to be ready, yet," Jon replied. "But Daniel Barlaser should be."

    "We stick with the 451," I said. "Gregory played well against Cambridge in the holding midfielder role so I want Tomlinson and Pepper in the center of midfield. This will make sure that Hartlepool will have a hard time playing through the middle."

    "We stick with Harrison in the center of the D with Thacks," I said. "Sadly, I have no faith in Reuben Hazell. He ALWAYS gets beat and it usually leads to at least one goal. Thacks will mark Baseya."
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  29. Monday, 20 October 2014

    "Boss, I'm ready to go," Daniel Barlaser said to me between warm-ups and the first training drill.

    "I appreciate your enthusiasm," I replied. "But let me tell you something about hamstring injuries. Just when you think you're just about healthy, you sprint to intercept a pass or get the ball and take a quick step and snap you've done it and you're out three months."

    "You've been key to our success," I continued. "And I want to take this slowly. I want you to contribute for the whole season. You notice that Wilson has been having you do a ton of back and especially low back lifting?" He nodded. "And a **** ton of ab work in addition to the hamstring curls. And Whitney tells me that he can still feel a little knot of scar tissue in that hammie."

    "This tells me you might be susceptible and I want that knot to soften and for you to do more back and ab work," I concluded. "I want you to get 30 minutes this Saturday so we can see how it goes."

    "Right, boss," Daniel said with just a hint of resignation in his voice.

    "Listen, I'm telling you this from personal experience," I said. "I've torn both. It ain't fun."

    "I'm good with it, don't worry, boss," Daniel said as he jogged off to work with Wools. "I trust you."
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 15/03/2014 at 01:35 AM.
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  30. Name:  Enrico-twitter.png
Views: 868
Size:  4.8 KBEnrico Pucci @enricopucci - 20 Oct
    Wow! 2K followers. Thanks for all the luv you gorgeous Wombles
    you! #Wimbledon
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  32. League Two: Hartlepool United FC v. AFC Wimbledon

    With Smith out, we'd worked on bringing the ball out of the back and how we'd transition from defense to offense. Obviously, we'd be counter attacking against Hartlepool.

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ID:	528033It's a three hour train ride to Middlesbrough where we boarded a bus for the ride to Victoria Park in Hartlepool.

    Victoria is a small ground and they were projecting that it would be half full. While it was sunny, it wasn't warm and there was a strong wind that made it seem really, really cold.

    I've been spoiled by Cadiz. I wore a scarf and parka.

    My line-up shouldn't be surprising. I really wish Andy Frampton was available.

    GK: Chris Dunn
    D: Cameron Dummigan, Kris Thackray, Ben Harrison, James Fenlon
    M: Steven Gregory (DM), George Francomb, Adam Pepper, Mark Tomlinson, Matteo Nole
    F: James Loveridge

    Subs: Daniel Lincoln (GK), Reuben Hazell (D), Daniel Barlaser (M), Simon Johnson (M), Harry Pell (M), Jack Midson (F), Jack Redshaw (F)

    From the kickoff, we worked it down the left flank. Matteo mishit his cross and it went out for a goal kick, but, hey, at least he tried to cross the ball!

    Once again we were punished early. Why is it that we can't defend properly early in matches?

    In the 4th minute, they worked the ball down our left flank. Fenlon didn't do much to try and prevent their right winger Kieron Cadogan from crossing and to an unmarked Cedric Baseya. There were 5 Don defenders nearish to him but nobody was actually marking him. Who doesn't score from a free header from 3 yards out?

    1-0

    I just stood there gritting my teeth and let my Assistant Manager Sean Hankin yell at them.

    In the 6th minute, Adam Pepper took a knee in the thigh. Whitney ran out, sprayed it and indicated he needed time to see if Peps could run it off. I told Barlaser to start warming up. We'd given him a half dozen heat packs to use through the match to keep his hamstring warm so I was hoping it wouldn't take him long to get loosened.

    In the 7th minute it was obvious Peps just wasn't moving well. So In goes Danny Boy.

    "May Sweet Mary Mother of God look after that fkn hamstring of yours," I said in Italian.

    "What'd you say?" Daniel asked me.

    "I just blessed you're hamstring," I said. "Now go out there and show them how to run a fkn midfield."

    "Right, boss," Danile replied and jogged onto the pitch.

    Not only was it really windy, Pool wingers dropped back to help out their fullbacks and the midfield was packed. We generated our first real chance in the 12th minute.

    Barlaser, Dummigan and Francomb worked the ball down the right and Francomb eventually crossed in. They headed it clear, but right to Mark Tomlinson. He tried to volley it. It was a valiant effort. It was just a yard high of the crossbar.

    Pool worked the ball into our half and Baseyas got himself one-on-one with Harrison. Ben couldn't stop him and neither could Dunn. Thankfully, his blast nicked the crossbar and went out for a goal kick.

    "THACKS! THACKS!" I hollered. "YOU MARK BASEYA. BEN STAYS FREE. GOT IT?"

    Thackray signaled he understood.

    Despite Thacks best efforts, Baseya still created two good chances for himself. I guess he's just not that good with his feet. Probably why a guy as strong and athletic as him is in League Two. I dunno.

    We created a couple of chances, but nothing all that threatening.

    Just before halftime, Pool had the ball in our half and were knocking the ball around back and forth across the top of our penalty area. We'd parked the bus and they were seeking a way in.

    They eventually worked it into Cadogan inside the box. He juked around Fenlon and hammered a shot for the far post. Dunn dove and parried it out to our right side. Dunn was up like a cat because he saw that their left winger Toni Silva was going to get to the ball first.

    Silva shot but a flying Dunn blocked his shot out for a corner.

    We'd survived the first half, but just barely.

    "C'mon, guys," I said at halftime. "Show me something different out there."

    "And to help, I'm switching to 442, Gregs your out, Redshaw, go warm up," I said.

    Nothing much changed. Except that Hartlepool found it easier to keep the ball and keep it in our half.

    We paid the price in the 55th minute. Both Baseya and center back John Egan got free at the near post. Egan flicked the ball past Dunn.

    2-0

    There wasn't much to do. Hartlepool outnumbered us in the midfield and we lacked our target man up front. Matteo Nole hadn't done much out there other than shiver, so I took him off and put Simon Johnson on.

    In the 68th minute, Dunn bailed us out again. Cadogan got free and looked like he was ready to ice the game with a third goal. But Dunn blocked his shot out for a corner.

    In the 71st minute, Francomb finally beat his defender and raced down the flank. He whipped a cross in, but Loveridge was a step late getting to it. Tomlinson ran down the clearance and played a pass into the box for Barlaser.

    Danny Boy smashed a shot off the keeper and into the net from 15 yards.

    2-1

    Were we back in this match? Not without some luck.

    Hartlepool stifled the midfield and we just couldn't keep the ball for long.

    In the 72nd minute, Thackray plowed through Baseya. The ref blew for the foul and ran over.

    "Please please please please please please," I muttered under my breathe. Thacks was at 4 yellow cards. I was probably getting Frampton back next week. I didn't want to have to make the choice between playing Haz or Ben next week.

    The ref wagged his finger at Thacks and gave him his final warning.

    I breathed a sigh of relief.

    In the 75th minute, Thacks hit the side netting with a near post header from a corner. Wrong side of the post, though.

    Then in the 86th, Simon Johnson got free and raced down the left flank.

    'C'mon Simon, c'mon Simon," I muttered to myself. I had the feeling this might just be our last chance. Hartlepool were playing quite well.

    He won the tackle that the Pool right back tried and raced into the box.

    "Go Simon! Go Simon!" I said out loud.

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    "PENALTY! PENALTY!" I bellowed. "HE DIDN'T TOUCH THE BALL! C'MON, REF!"

    While I was hollering at the ref Redshaw pounced and shot.

    Right at the goalkeeper.

    The ref made the hand motion to indicate that the defender had in fact touched the ball.

    "Blind as a fkn bat," I muttered to myself.

    After applauding the frozen traveling supporters for their suffereing, I checked my iPhone to see how the other matches had turned out on my way into the away changing room.

    Not good. We were down to third spot, but only a point behind the leaders Rochdale. Hartlepool were in second.

    "Don't be too worried about this result," I said. "They put their chances away, we didn't. **** happens. We can get back on track against Dagenham and Redbridge next Saturday."

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  33. Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 14/03/2014 at 08:24 PM.

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  35. Wednesday, 22 October 2014 9AM

    "Awrighty, our challenge this week is to get our offense working without Smith," I said. "Suggestions?"

    "I think we should play Redshaw as a poacher sitting on the shoulder of the last defender," Matt Woolley replied. "His game is starting to come round and poacher is a pretty easy role."

    "So a 442 with Lovers dropping deep to get the ball?" I asked.

    Wools nodded.

    "Pepper is out three or four games with a dead leg," Whitney said. "And Danny Boy showed no ill effects of playing 83 minutes yesterday. Obviously, we'll see how he's feeling this morning."

    "A big thing will be to get Matteo, George and Danny to play balls into the channels for Lovers and Redshaw to run onto," Hanks added.

    "Are Dagenham and Redbridge going to park the bus, Lil?" I asked.

    "Probably," Lil Fuccillo replied. "They play a defensive 433 with a defensive midfielder and two central midfielders. They might also try to kick us off the park."

    "In their six away matches this season, their only result was a win," he continued. "They've only scored six goals away and have concede eleven. So they aren't getting beat by much. Overall, they've scored 15 and conceded 20."

    "They tend to come out of the gate really strongly," Lil said. "16 of the 28 goals they've scored including Cup and preseason were in the first 30 minutes. So if we're leading at halftime, odds are good we're going to win. You all should concern yourselves with the early goals we've been conceding."

    "Their top scorer by a long ways is Adrian O'Brien," he said. "He's bagged six goals, four assists and 2 Man-of-the-matches."

    "Thanks, Lil," I said. "So they'll probably be gaps between the forwards and midfield. With Frampton back and Tomlinson in the defensive midfielder role, I'm pretty confident we can pin them down in their end and smother them. If they play three central midfielders, our fullbacks and outside midfielders need to have strong games."

    "Alright, that it?" I asked. And we broke up the meeting to get prepared for the training session.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 15/03/2014 at 01:41 AM.
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  36. I was standing on the sidelines of Kingsmeadow. The players are out on the field. Except the goalkeeper is Paco Leal when he was younger and still playing at Melilla when I was on loan there. The players are having trouble figuring out how to play the 442 and it's pretty clear they are unable to figure it out. The fans are starting to laugh and chant He Doesn't Know What He's Doing.

    I realize somehow that the opponents have just scored. I look at the scoreboard and there's on a few seconds gone on the clock. I look back up at the scoreboard and it's 0-3. We're getting smoked.

    Then I look at Paco. He's pointing at me and laughing. The whole crowd is laughing. What the hell? I go to put my hands in my pants pockets and I'm not wearing pants. I look down and I'm naked.

    I wake up bathed in sweat. Fkn dreams.
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  37. Thursday, 23 October 2014 9AM

    "Guys, I've chickened out," I said as me and the coaches were getting ready for training. "We're going with the 451."

    "What?" Goalkeeper coach Paul Rachubka said. "You have a bad dream or something?"

    "I was just thinking about it last night," I replied.

    "You had a bad dream, didn't you?" Hanks queried.

    "No," I said.

    "You're a horrible liar," Wools said. "But fine. We'll go with the 451. You're the boss."
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 15/03/2014 at 01:43 AM.
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  38. WOW!!!! What an absolutely amazing read, has took me 2 days to read all of this and haven't done a drop of work in the process (Thanks for that). I've been hooked, the way you have integrated all of these people/characters into the story is just superb, I feel like I'm actually building relationships with these people as the story develops....I'm really gutted not to have Ana Maria in it still, bet she rather lonely over there now without you (can't connect with Gwen) but I really hope this story continues as this is just a masterpiece. Top Work Enrico and please keep up the Great work.
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  39. Quote Originally Posted by Dean Wilkes View Post
    WOW!!!! What an absolutely amazing read, has took me 2 days to read all of this and haven't done a drop of work in the process (Thanks for that). I've been hooked, the way you have integrated all of these people/characters into the story is just superb, I feel like I'm actually building relationships with these people as the story develops....I'm really gutted not to have Ana Maria in it still, bet she rather lonely over there now without you (can't connect with Gwen) but I really hope this story continues as this is just a masterpiece. Top Work Enrico and please keep up the Great work.
    Now I'm blushing. Thank you very much. Glad you've enjoyed it.

  40. WOMBLEblog.co.uk
    Dagenham & Redbridge are just what we need right now

    Duff
    24 October 2014 13:55

    Some Wimbledon supporters can't help but see the dark in every beam of sunshine. Thrash, my good friend, is in his heart, afraid. Do not be afraid fellow Wombles like Thrash is afraid. Do not give in to the cynical and fear calamity around every corner.

    Wimbledon rose to the Premier League once before. The Crazy Gang had a great run. And that team was ripped from it's rightful home. And the phoenix that has arisen from it's ashes is following the same spiritual quest. We've climbed 5 divisions in the 12 seasons since our rebirth.

    Why is that when we're having a remarkably good third season in League Two that fans like Thrash are so pessimistic.

    So fear not, good Wombles, Dagenham and Redbridge are coming to town and, like Saint Nick, will be bearing gifts like an inability to score and a porous defense. They are 19th in this division for a reason.

    We are valiantly battling injuries to key players and finding out our squad is deep enough for the Dons to succeed in League Two. I commend our new manager Enrico Pucci for building a strong squad and leading them to our highest league position since rebirth.
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  41. League Two: AFC Wimbledon v. Dagenham & Redbridge FC

    Alright, fine. I'm chicken. I'm not even under pressure and I'm feeling the pressure. It's the pressure to succeed. I realize that we're at a critical juncture. I don't think that the confidence of this team is that strong. I think it's getting better, but I keep losing key players. Get my captain back, lose the keystone to my offense.

    What's a manager to do? Cope. That's what.

    So here's me coping. Going with what I'm most certain will keep us in the match and hope something good and/or fortunate happens.

    GK: Daniel Lincoln
    D: Cameron Dummigan, Kris Thackray, Andy Frampton (C), James Fenlon
    M: Mark Tomlinson (DM), George Francomb, Daniel Barlaser, Matteo Nole, Simon Johnson
    F: James Loveridge

    I'm giving Daniel Lincoln a match. Matteo will pair with Danny Boy in the center.

    "Once again, boys, it's a simple game," I said to start my pre-game team talk. "If we play our game, we win. Get the ball on the ground and move it around quickly. We've talked all week about defending against three strikers and I have faith that we can shut them down. I have faith in you guys that we'll dominate the midfield. Let's get the ball into Loveridge on the ground. Right James?"

    Loveridge nodded.

    They started out pretty committed and pumped up. The ref was lecturing Loverboy for a striker's tackle inside one minute. He'd come back to help in the midfield and had scissored down an opponent.

    We quickly won the ball back from and broke upfield. Dummigan played a ball to Francomb. George race down the flank until he came up on the Dagger's left back. He then flicked a pass into Danny Boy and continued his run. Danny rolled the ball into Dummigan's path who played a pass into the box which George ran onto.

    George smashed a shot past the keeper to give us a dream start.

    1-0

    I put my hands in my pockets to make sure I wasn't dreaming.

    Soon after the restart, Tomlinson got lectured for a late tackle. From the free kick, Barlaser thundered into a Daggerman. I often call him Danny Boy, but the kid is six foot tall. The ref carded him while the D&R physio helped the winded player. Dang.

    The match fell into a pattern of them hoofing the ball forward, our defenders winning the headers and passing the ball around as we moved upfield before losing it.

    In the 16th minute, Fenlon took a throw on the left flank in their half. He threw the ball to Tomlinson who passed up the line to Loveridge. Lovers played a ball back upfield to the left corner of the penalty box where Fens controlled the pass. He fed a pass towards the corner of the six yard box.

    Danny Boy controlled the pass with his left, drew that foot back and unleashed an unstoppable tomahawk missile of a shot into the roof of the net.

    2-0

    Unlike earlier in the season when I wondered if we'd concede after scoring, I didn't have that worry today. D&R were only hoofing balls forward.

    They created their first chance in the 25th minute when their top scorer Adrian O'Brien header over the crossbar.

    At halftime, I told them I was happy with how they were playing and to keep it up.

    From the kick-off, we brought the ball into their half. Danny got chopped down 25 yards out and a bit right of center.

    George hammered a low shot under the wall and the keeper did well to to get down to his right. He parried it right to Matteo who calmly passed the ball into the net for his first goal in England.

    3-0


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ID:	528266He ran to the corner flag to celebrate but slowed to a jog then a walk. The linesman's flag was up. Damn, it'll have to wait.

    2-0

    This bit of good fortune rejuvinated or woke up the Daggers. They didn't change their tactics, but they tried harder and started winning headers and getting to second balls. And my players started to tire.

    I replaced Danny Boy with Steven Gregory in the 53rd minute. He looked the worse for wear.

    Daniel Lincoln was called upon to make two great saves within a five minute period to preserve his shutout.

    By the 70th minute D&R were tiring and getting sloppy. I made some late subs to relieve my most tired players.

    All in all, a good day at the office.

    We remain in third as Rochdale beat Oldham and Hartlepool beat Walsall.

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  44. "My agency really liked the photos that John took," Gwen said.

    "Yeah," I said looking up from my menu. "John mentioned his big chance yesterday so someone called you today?"

    "Yes, the ****ing owner!" Gwen exclaimed.

    "Wow."

    "We'd presented to that VP I told you about," she continued.

    "Yeah, the one you described as "an douche nozzle," I interjected.

    "Yeah, him. So Mr. DN liked it and must've talked to the owner since yesterday afternoon. The boss man described our work as lyrical, whatever the hell that means in terms of photography, and vibrant and um engaged. I'm guessing they've talked to John, too. They're going to pitch me and him to some clients with proposed projects. This could be big."

    "Wow, again," I said. "Who knew that a simple case of stalking would end up with a cool result like this."

    "Yeah," she replied. "What do you think you're going to have?"

    "Um, I was looking at the Biryani. You?"

    "I love their Vindaloo."

    We talked while we ate about how difficult it was to catch a break.

    As the waiter was clearing our dishes, my phone jangled. I pulled it out.

    "It's Paco, my former assistant manager," I said. "He never calls, will you hate me?"

    She gestured with a finger across her throat and grimaced.

    "Paco," I answered.

    A torrant of Spanish curses singed off any ear hairs I'd missed. Maybe permanently burnt up some hair follicles.

    "... ****ing ***** ********s have forced Guy to sell Dalmau," Paco Leal concluded.

    "Albert Dalmau, the right back? To who?"

    "****ing ***** **** *** *******s Ponferradina," Paco replied. "Airam and Aymen Souda are next. So are two of the new signings who are critical to us being in first in the league."

    "I'm so sorry, Paco," I said. "We called it that night on the busride back the night I was fired."

    "Yes, we make good drunken prophets," Paco agreed.

    "I'm out to dinner, call you tomorrow?"

    "Yes, my friend."

    Click.

    I told Gwen the story of the insanity of the Yellow Submarine.
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  45. Sunday, 26 October 2014

    "Hey, where's Tomlinson?" I asked to nobody in particular. We'd just finished a 20 minute jog after stretching. We were about to break into smaller groups and begin some tactics training.

    "And where's Whitney?" Assistant Manager Sean Hankin asked.

    "Oh, ****," I muttered and jogged over to New Malden's buildings and into the sick room.

    Mark Tomlinson was face down on the examination table and Physio Jon Whitney was digging his elbow into Mark's hamstring.

    "****!" exclaimed Whitney.

    "What?" I asked. He didn't need to answer. Whitney, as the team's massage therapist, was trying unsuccessfully to loosen a knot that was not willing to come untied. Been there, done that. "How long?"

    "Two maybe three weeks," he replied. "Let's get some ice on that, Mark."

    "Here's how a hamstring strain works," I explained to Mark once he was sitting up. "First, it's ice, acupuncture and massage. Once Whitney determines that the rip in your muscle has begun to heal, we'll add hamstring curls. Once he thinks it's strong enough, he'll put a compression sleeve on your thigh and you'll resume training."

    "DO NOT under any circumstances rush it," I said. "Hamstrings tears are the worst. Trust me, I've been there."
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  46. Tuesday, 28 October 2014

    I realized something: I need to add two more players.
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    First, I need more cover in defense. Too many players are getting injured. We just don't have the top-of-the-line training facilities like I was used to at Bologna or even at Cadiz. We don't have ice baths nor a whirlpool. There's only three treadmills and they're quite old. There are five stationary bikes, but only two work reliably. The weight room is adequate but not great. I'm going to have to find time to talk about improving the training facilities with Chairman Erik Samuelson.

    I searched through the FAs list of unsigned players and watched vids of several before I watched a vid of Brad Smith. He'd washed out of the Liverpool Academy and was considering moving back home to Australia when I called him.

    He's 20, can play with either foot and would love to come on trial with us.

    Second, I needed an attacking central midfielder for my 451 formation. Daniel Barlaser fills the Advanced Playmaker role. He's popped up with a few goals, but that side of his game hasn't really developed, yet. It will, but not for a few seasons. Adam Pepper can shoot pretty well, but just never seems to do anything useful under pressure. Matteo Nole can get himself into great scoring positions, but he's great at crossing not shooting.

    So I need an attacking midfielder who can dribble past defenders on occasion, do something useful when in front of goal and pass well.

    Now let's be honest, MOST teams are looking for someone who can do that. And I mean most teams at all levels.

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ID:	531129I looked through the FAs database and found several close matches. But if they could shoot and pass, they were slow and couldn't dribble. Or some almost-close-enough combination like that.

    So I called a few old friends in Italy. Guys I knew were either still in the game as players or as coaches.

    One asked if I remembered Leandro Depetris. He was pretty sure that he'd been cut loose by some lower league team and was free. Back around 2005 or thereabouts, Brescia brought him over from Argentina. My old colleague reminded me that we'd played against him once with Bologna in the Cup. For whatever reason, injuries or whatever, the Brescia manager had given him the start.

    My friend was even kind enough to look in the Federcalcio's (the Italian FA) database to pull up what he could find on him. This produced a cell phone number.

    I searched for some videos of him and found one from last season with Delta Porto Tolle which had just gotten promoted from Serie D into C2A. The town of Porto Tolle is just northeast of Bologna on the coast. He was quite clearly a class above his teammates. Why the **** was he toiling in C2A? He'd had several injuries in the second half of last season and was released at the end of the season.

    Well, what the hell, if he doesn't work out, it's not like I'll have spent much money on him. So I called him.

    "This is Leandro."

    "Hi, this is Enrico Pucci calling from London," I introduced myself in Italian. "I hear you're out of contract. I'm managing Wimbledon in London and I'm looking for an attacking central midfielder."

    "Pucci?" he said. "You played for Bologna, no?"

    "Yes. And I remember you when you were a teen with Brescia."

    "In the Coppa, no?"

    "Yeah. I recall I got carded for stomping on your foot."

    "Hah, yes, no hard feelings. Those were the good old days."

    "So what happened? You had the raw talent? I saw a video of you playing for Delta Porto Tolle last season. You still have it. Tell me why I should bring you to London to give you a chance?"

    "I was young, stupid. Milano wanted me, there were rumors that many teams wanted me. I thought I had the world at my feet. I didn't work hard and wouldn't listen to my coaches."

    "If I bring you here, I'm as cruel of a trainer as I was vicious on the pitch. I will work you to the edge. Ever been to London?"

    "No, I haven't."

    "Either I'll be flying to Italy to meet with you or we'll be flying you here," I said. "I'm going to make some calls and make sure you're not a coke-snorting, skirt chaser or something. Is there anything I should know before I start checking on you? Last season I loaned a player with a 18 months FIFA drug suspension hanging over his head. His club didn't bother to tell me about it. I don't want to get caught with my pants around my ankles again."

    "Well, I spent far too many nights in the discos and clubs when I was younger. I'm too broke now to party hard. I'd give anything for a second chance."

    "Good to know," I said. "I'm going to make a few more calls and get back to you by Friday."

    "Thank you very much and it was very nice to talk to you, Enrico. I look forward to talking to you on Friday."

    "Ciao."

    "Ciao."

    Click.

  47. "Hey, Erik. You got a minute?" I asked.

    "Sure, please come in," Chairman Erik Samuelson said looking up from his laptop.

    "How'd we do this October," I asked.

    "Similar to September," he replied. "We'll lose about 94 thousand this month. I'm still projecting that we'll clear in the vicinity of 1.3 million this season with a available balance of 2.3 million. Those preseason mini-tournaments were a brilliant idea. The combination of TV revenue and gate income provided us just over 800 thousand."

    "How much did we have in match day expenses compared to gates?"

    "Gate receipts are just under 50 thousand and we spent 33K for our matchday expenses," Erik replied. "Oh, and we spent 17K on ground maintenance. So, it's a wash. If you can get us into League One and I can get us into a new stadium, we could actually start making money."

    "About that promotion thing," I said. "I'm going to bring in two players. A fullback and a central midfielder. I don't have enough cover in defense. Defenders seem to be dropping like flies. And I need someone to pair with Danny Boy and bring some attacking flair. When we play with a lone striker, the central midfielders get loads of scoring chances."

    "Well, you certainly have room in your player wage budget," Erik remarked. I'm currently spending 22,525 per week with a budget of 25,411.

    "One of them is an Argentine-Italian guy," I continued. "I'm checking into his background right now, but if I decide to go with him, how do you want me to do this? Fly to Italy to meet him or would you prefer flying him here?"

    "Well, flying him here would be cheaper," Erik replied. "That's only one ticket. Will we need to help move his family?"

    "He's single," I replied.

    "And the other is a Brit?" Erik asked. I nodded.

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ID:	531301"There's another item I need to discuss," I said. "New Malden. I want to upgrade it. We need a better weight room, new stationary bikes, new treadmills, ice baths and a whirlpool. I think these hernias and Danny Boy's and Mark's hamstring strains are preventable."

    "Well," said Erik reclining in his office chair and steepling his fingers. "I would really prefer to pile up some moneys for the potential stadium redevelopment. We're still pushing the Council to let us redevelop the dog track in Wimbledon proper. Hmmm. I'll have to talk to King's College London as it's their facility, but if we're paying, I can't imagine they'll protest. In your opinion there is no other way?"

    "No," I replied. "If players can do ice baths right after training, the body flushes out the lactic acid build-up faster. It encourages quicker recovery. Hot tubs help loosen sore muscles so that Whitney's massages can do more. And Wilson could do more if he had a better weight room."

    "Okay, I'll need a budget estimate for this," Erik replied. "I'll get you a phone number of a plumber who can estimate the ice baths and hot tub."

    "Thanks, Erik," I said.
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  48. In love with this!

  49. Quote Originally Posted by SwiftNG View Post
    In love with this!
    Thank you very much!

  50. Thursday, 30 October 2014 9AM

    "Hey everybody, listen up," I said as the players were all getting dressed for training. "I'd like you all to meet Brad Smith. Brad's on trial. Brad meet everyone. Andy right over there is our Captain Andy, he'll introduce you to the defenders."

    "Hi," Brad said and kind of, sort of waved.

    "Now listen up," I continued. "No hazing this time and I'm serious. We don't want Scotland Yard down here like last time. That's just bad press and we don't need any more of that. So no duct tape. No hair spray flame throwers. None of that ****. I'm fkn serious this time."

    Brad sat down in an empty stall amongst the defenders.

    "He's utterly full of ****," Captain Andy explained as I walked off. "Welcome, Brad. This is Haz, Thacks, Fens, Harry, Baldy and Cam."

    "We're going to have to call you Brad," Haz explained. "We've got a Smith already."
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