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The Alfa Romeo Metaphor

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  2. FA Cup First Round: Shrewsbury Town FC v. AFC Wimbledon

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ID:	531547Today dawned clear and it's turned into a beautiful day for football. We left shortly before 8AM on a 3 hour busride to Shrewsbury. It was nearly 15 degrees Celsius (60 F) when got off the bus at Greenhous Meadow.

    This is a new stadium with a nice changing room. The stadium was about half full with a decent contingent of Wombles up from southwest London.

    GK: Chris Dunn
    D: Cameron Dummigan, Kris Thackray, Andy Frampton, James Fenlon
    M: Steven Gregory (DM), George Francomb, Daniel Barlaser, Matteo Nole, Simon Johnson
    F: James Loveridge

    Subs: Daniel Lincoln (GK), Reuben Hazell (D), Ben Harrison (D), Adam Pepper (M), Harry Pell (M), Fabian Rowe (M/F), Jack Redshaw (F)

    We were away to a side used to playing tougher competition. League position doesn't mean **** in a Cup competition. For whatever reason, I just didn't have confidence without Michael Smith in the line-up. Nole partners Barlaser in the middle.

    They looked up for it and told them to relax because we're the underdogs and just play our game.

    2 minutes in and James Loveridge took our first shot. It was weak and from 25 yards and wobbled wide. He could have attacked the defenders more. They were backing off.

    Shrews striker Tom Bradshaw answered two minutes later with a strong, 25 yard shot that whizzed just wide of our post.

    In the 7th minute, Simon Johnson beat his defender and raced into the penalty box. His shot was blocked, but he nabbed the rebound and dribbled back into the box. He laid the ball off for Nole to shoot, but his shot was blocked, too.

    In the 13th minute, Andy Frampton lost his mark, Craig William, for a split second and the absolute wrong split second -- the second when the Shrews midfielder was watching. Williams bashed a shot just wide of the near post and into the side netting.

    In the 16th, Nole laid a slide-rule pass behind the Shrews left back for Simon. His shot trickled past the far post inches wide.

    In the 22nd minute, Dunn punted a ball forward into the center circle. Nole lost the challenge for the high ball. The ball fell to Williams. He spun and played blind pass in the direction of Bradshaw. Bradshaw got the jump on Thackray and was in on goal. As Dunn charged out, he scooped the ball up and over Dunn.

    Time slowed down as the ball floated in the air. Dunn took several steps backward and leapt. He may have gotten a fingertip to it, but it didn't matter.


    Pretty goal. Pretty sad defending.

    We answered by winning a corner. George curled a ball into the mixer, but a defender headed it back out. So George lobbed another ball in. A melee ensued that ended with Loveridge hammering a shot goalward. The keeper fisted the ball back out to George. He whipped in his third attempt and Frampton headed it over the crossbar.

    Both teams raced back and forth across the pitch. Much activity ending in wasted opportunities. We were always rushing our passes and trying to up the tempo at the sacrifice of possession.

    We only managed to make their keeper work for his wages one more time before halftime. Loveridge dribbled 40 yards before hitting a low shot he got down well to smother.

    "Why are we rushing everything?" I asked in the locker room at halftime. "The ball won't burn you if you keep it, we won't get docked points if we keep possession. I realize you guys are excited because this is the FA Cup, but let's slow things down and play the possession game that makes us so successful."

    "So show me ball possession and attacking their defense," I continued. "These guys don't look better than the sides we face every week. I have faith in you guys. I know what kind of game you can play. Now show me."

    Shrews kicked off and their left midfielder Scott Barron curled in a delicious ball for Bradshaw at the near post. Thankfully, his flick header hit the side netting.

    We kept the ball much better and worked it into dangerous positions. Unfortunately, the killer pass, the Shrewsbury mistake or the lucky bounce just didn't occur.

    In the 50th minute, Williams played an early pass behind Fenlon for his teammate Jon Taylor to run onto. Fens caught him and forced him to the end line. Taylor jigged one way the juked another and he got a cross past Fens.

    The ball was past Frampton before he could react, but Dunn just stood there as the ball sailed past him. Thackray had lost Bradshaw who was standing 2 yards from the goal line waiting for the ball to arrive. He didn't miss with his header.


    Thacks got burned twice today. Simple concentration mistakes. Oof.

    We didn't give up and dominated possession, but just couldn't put the run with the pass with the finish all together. Loverboy was starting to get the feeling that he could beat the Shrewsbury central pairing and kept running at them. Finally, his confidence was building.

    In the 57th minute, Francomb won the tackle against their left back and hit a hard, low pass into Lovers. James controlled the pass and ran right at the two center backs. The way to really get defenders to panic is to run strong and hard for the gap between them. A shoulder feint froze one and he simply raced past the other.

    He buried a low shot into the side netting.


    Simon Johnson was tiring so I replaced him with Adam Pepper around the hour mark. Peps would partner Barlaser with Nole moving to the left flank.

    In the 68th minute, Lovers beat Darren Jones, the slowest of the two center backs, and unleashed a shot for the low right corner. Their keeper dove and got a strong hand to it. Francomb got the rebound and tried to chip a ball into Lovers. Jones deflected Loverboy's header wide.

    They cleared out corner attempt and Nole's shot from the second ball in was blocked.

    I could tell that George was tiring, too, so I replaced him with Fabian Rowe. Let's see what he can do in 20 minutes.

    In the 71st minute, Fens took a throw in deep in our half. We worked it up the left and Danny Boy played a perfect through ball for Loveridge. They were only saved by a lucky, desperation tackle by Jones.

    Loveridge got to the loose ball first and hammered a shot an inch wide.

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ID:	531597We pressed and we pressed and we pressed, but just couldn't put it all together.

    With time running out in the 86th minute, Barlaser chipped a ball in to Loveridge, but his flick header was right at the keeper.

    Fabian Rowe finally contributed something in the dieing seconds. He whipped in a cross that Shrews exhausted defender Darren Jones mishandled. It bounced off his knee and fell to Daniel Barlaser. I took a big breathe of anticipation as Danny pulled back his right foot.

    And exhaled a groan as his shot hit the side netting wide of the post.

    We'd played well enough but just hadn't converted. Lord knows we'd had enough chances.
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  4. Sunday, 2 November 2014

    "So we're in a rut," I said to my coaches as we gathered at 8AM. "Thoughts?"

    "Well, Loverboy took 8 shots yesterday," Matt Woolley said. "Their keeper stopped 5. And those two misses were inches wide. Simon and Matteo took 3 each. We all know they're not the most dangerous in front of goal."

    "Just to state the obvious, but we need another scoring threat other than Lovers," I said.

    "But with Tomlinson out, you don't want to play a 442," Sean Hankin said. "I'm not saying I'm disagreeing, cos Gregory can't cover the ground and make the tackles, but basically only Danny Boy has contributed in the goals department. I'm sorry, Francomb has scored, too."

    "Daniel and George both have 4," Wools added.

    "And when I play Matteo as the other center mid, we all know he's not going to score," I said. Everyone nodded. "This is why I'm pursuing Leandro Depetris. He can shoot, dribble and pass well."

    I explained to them all I knew about Leandro. I'd learned a few more details. Delta Porto Tello, the Serie C2A side let him go not because of attitude or ability, but because of his large salary and 3 injuries in the second half of the season.

    "Nobody has mentioned Harry Pell," goalkeeper coach Paul Rachubka said. I shrugged.

    "He hasn't impressed in training and can't even perform against semi-pro teams in friendlies," I said. "I can't see how he'll contribute."

    "We could really use Michael Smith back," Hanks added.

    "He's around two weeks away from being fit," Physio Jon Whitney said. "He's progressing nicely. Same for Mark Tomlinson."

    "I think we should try Adam Pepper with Daniel in the middle," Wools suggested. "He's got a decent enough shot. We've all seen it. He just can't seem to put it all together."

    "So who do we play out left? Matteo or Simon?" I asked.

    "Matteo," everyone said nearly in unison.

    "One other thing," I said. "I'd like you're input on Brad Smith. He looked decent enough on Friday. I want to decide on whether to sign him as cover tomorrow after training."

    Everyone nodded.
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  5. Monday, 3 November 2014

    "May I have a word with you?" Chairman Erik Samuelson said to me as we transitioned between training drills. He'd stopped by to watch which happened often but irregularly.

    "Of course, what's up?"

    "You're going to love this, I'm really excited if this all comes together, Vinnie Jones will be London around the Festive Period and I'm trying to coordinate him attending a match," he enthused.

    "Wow, that is exciting," I replied.

    "Very much so, I'll keep you posted on how this progresses," Erik said. "Please don't tell anyone until it looks more certain."

    "Of course," I said. "You see that new guy? Yeah, in the red stocking hat. Yeah, him. That's Brad Smith, the guy on trial. I'm impressed enough. I think I'm going to sign him as defensive cover."

    "Great," Erik replied. "I'll be in my office this afternoon if you want to bring him round to thrash out his terms."

    "See you then," I said and jogged off to help Hanks.
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  7. "Ciao, this is Leandro."

    "Ciao, Leandro, Enrico calling."

    "Good evening, Enrico."

    "You got my texts, right?" I said. "I didn't want you to worry. It took far longer than I thought to talk to everybody I needed to."

    "I did, thanks."

    "So let's talk business. I want to bring you to London. What are you looking for?"

    "Great. Well, I guess I'd like 1,000 Euros per week plus the usual: appearance fee, goal bonus, unused sub fee. Wait, I have no idea what that would be in pounds."

    "Uh, me neither," I replied. "Hold on, lemme get the convert rate on my phone."

    And after a moment of surfing...

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ID:	532346"Okay," I said. "Found it. First off, I want to make your package incentive-based. I'm willing to pay you 750 pounds per week which is roughly 900 Euros. I'll give you, and this is all in pounds, 300 per appearance, 375 per goal, Team of the Year 7,500 and 5,000 if you score ten goals in a season. How's that sound?"

    "How long would the contract be?"

    "Until June 2016. So a year and a half roughly."

    "Would you consider a salary increase for next season?"


    "Then I'll sign," Leandro said.

    "Fabulous," I replied. "Text me your email address, I'll be arranging a flight for you for Thursday. I'm not exactly sure what the fee is but we'll give you a flat sum to ship your belongings to London."

    "Excellent, Enrico," he replied. "I'll see you Thursday and thank you so very much."

    "I look forward to working with you. Ciao."


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  8. League Two: AFC Wimbledon v. Cheltenham Town FC

    It's a pretty cool night in southwest London. 9 Celsius (48F). I'm wearing my parka. Getting used to this cold will take some time. Cadiz really ruined me for cold weather. At least I'll be sporting my new Wimbledon scarf! Despite the cold, The Fans Stadium at Kingsmeadow is nearly sold out.

    My head scout Lil Fuccillo says I need to mark Cheltenham's forwards pretty tightly. Despite Daniel Nardiello's 1 goal in 5 matches, Lil warned me not to underestimate him. Terry Gorrell is their top scorer by a long shot, so I'll have Steven Gregory shadow him. I decided that Captain Andy mark Nardiello. This leaves Thacks free.

    I told Adam Pepper to get forward and attack whenever possible. So despite playing a 451, it's a pretty attack-minded 451.

    GK: Chris Dunn
    D: Cameron Dummigan, Andy Frampton (C), Kris Thackray, James Fenlon
    M: Steven Gregory (DM), George Francomb, Daniel Barlaser, Adam Pepper, Matteo Nole
    F: James Fenlon

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

    We got off to yet another horrid start. WTF is with our inability to defend inside the first 5 minutes?

    Dummigan chopped down their left midfielder about 40 yards out near the side line. Everyone lined up across the top of the box. Robin's right midfielder Anthony Jeffrey smashed a low missile towards the near post. Their central defender Mike Duff controlled it and smashed a shot inside the near post past Dunn.


    Francomb and Dummigan looked at each other with the old I though you had him look. Fkn A!

    We didn't threaten the opponents net until the 10th minute. Adam Pepper unleashed a shot from 20 yards that the keeper palmed away but right into the path of Francomb. I started to raise my arms in expectation of George side-footing the ball into the gaping net.

    Instead, he controlled the ball which gave the defender time to get in front of him. George tried to kick the ball off the defender for a corner but only managed to kick the ball over the end line.

    My hands were already rising so I converted what should have been a celebration into a double facepalm. I spun and looked at the crowd. They were all in a state of shock, too. The Cheltenham visiting support applauded Francomb's mistake.

    "Georgey Pordgey Pudding Pie ... kicked the ball out and sat down and cried," sang the away supporters.

    "C'mon guys, fkn turn it around," I muttered to myself.

    In the 12th minute, Pepper passed the ball up to Lovers. This had happened several times already to no good end. Lovers controlled it, held it for a second waiting for the center back to step up then played a pass to Danny Boy. Loverboy took off goalward into the space vacated by the center back. Daniel chipped a ball into the space. Lovers controlled the pass off his chest perfectly without breaking stride, rounded the keeper and coolly slotted home.


    The crowd went nuts.

    "Loveridge every minute of it," The wombles sang to the tune of Loverboy's hit single from the 80s alternating with chants of "Danny Danny Danny Boy!"

    The teams are pretty evenly matched. I chosen to dominate the midfield with 5 players and shut down Gornell. He didn't touch the ball until the 20th minute when he played a blind pass to where he thought Darniello might run. Well, I know you'll be shocked that Darniello made that run and caught Captain Andy asleep at the wheel.

    Thankfully, Dunn made a great foot save and Fenlon cleared to safety.

    Nole was first to the clearance and raced 50 yards beating 4 Cheltenham defenders before passing tamely into the midsection of their grateful keeper.

    I walked over to the bench and leaned down so Hanks and Wools could hear me.

    "He's got to start rounding the keeper," I said into Wools. Wools nodded.

    We traded chances until the 36th minute. Dunn punted a ball well over the half line. I sighed. He could have rolled the ball to either fullback like Hanks and I had told him a hundred-million times. But, no. Duff won the header and Fracomb stood and watched their left midfielder Fenwick run onto the loose ball. Fenwick took a touch and played a ball into the channel between Dummigan and Frampton.

    Nardiello raced onto it. He lasered a near post shot past Dunn.


    Mistake #1: Dunn punting forward. Lovers isn't good in the air. If, and that's a big if, he won the header, who's up there to win the knock-down.

    Mistake #2: George couldn't be bothered to chase after a loose ball. WTF, George?

    Mistake #3: Huge channel between Dummigan and Frampton.

    Mistake #4: Frampton didn't anticipate the run by Darniello. He certainly doesn't have the speed to recover.

    I sighed and put my hands in my pockets. A. Lot. To. Work. On. Tomorrow. Sigh.

    The players were obviously dis-heartened by the goal. Nardiello nearly scored except for he scuffed the shot wide 2 minutes later and did score another two minutes after that except the linesman flagged him offside.

    We were almost literally doing everything we could to give up a goal, but the Robins failed to capitalize. Nardiello was threatening to slaughter us single-handedly.

    "First off, relax guys," I said once everyone was sitting down. "We're all panicking. Just calm down."

    "I want to switch how we're covering Gornell and Nardiello," In continued. "Gregs, you cover Darniello. Thacks you cover Gornell. Andy, you're free now. This should limit Darniello's chances as we'll be, in effect, double-teaming him. Clear?"

    The three all nodded.

    "Matteo and George both had chances," I said. "It could just as easily be 3-2. We've been unlucky. Let's relax and go out and take it too them. Okay?"

    Everyone nodded.

    We created a ****load of chances in the second half. Danny Boy had a chance just after the restart from 12 yards but opted to pass out to Matteo who shot high. Their keeper robbed Loverboy in the 56th and Thacks' header from the resulting corner hit the post.

    Matteo crossed right into the keeper's arms 4 times. Instead of racing between the two central defenders like he often does, Lovers whiffled a shot well wide from 25 yards. The one time Matteo gets in a decent cross, Pepper's near post flick hits the side netting.

    In the 73rd minute, Pepper was pole-axed. He lay writhing on the ground as I screamed at the ref for a red card. I only think the ref whistled for the foul because of the reaction from the crowd and me. Whitney raced onto the pitch to administer the magic sponge and freezy spray.

    "Would you refresh my memory as to what constitutes a red card in this country?" I asked the fourth official. "You'll have to forgive me as I'm new to this country and am not sure which version of FIFA's rules applies here."

    "Go sit down before I write you up," replied the fourth official.

    I looked at my bench. Harry Pell is the natural center midfielder, but he hasn't looked useful all season. Simon Johnson can play center midfield. I told Simon to get up and get ready.

    Whitney helped Pepper hobble to the sidelines. Simon was ready a minute later. Despite 3 stoppages and despite allowing the Robins a substitute, the ref wouldn't let me replace Pepper who remained on the bench with a ice pack on his ankle.

    And it couldn't have been that he didn't know I wanted to put in a substitute. I don't need a bullhorn. I am one.

    Eventually, I resorted to screaming at the fourth official from 5 yards away that I wanted a sub.

    "I'm reporting you clowns," I said to the fourth official once they allowed the sub in the 79th minute. "I've got the match video. You even allowed Cheltenham to sub a player. Completely and utterly unprofessional."

    We pressed and pressed to no avail once we were back up to a full contingent of players.

    The fourth official held up his sign that there'd be 3 minutes of extra time.

    In the 91st minute, we won a corner. Everyone ran up into the box. George lobbed a ball right into the mixer. Their keeper waded through the mosh pit and snared it.

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    I walked out onto the pitch as the refs assembled in the center as they usually do.

    "I'm reporting you," I said waving a finger in the face of Eric Ilderton, the ref. "You wouldn't allow me to sub. You let a full 6 minutes go. You even let Cheltenham sub. I've got it all on the match vid. You should have your qualifications reviewed."

    I felt arms grab me from behind and I was dragged away.

    "Fkn let me go," I hollered.

    "Shut it, boss," Hanks said.

    "We probably just saved you from doing something stupid," Wools added.

    They escorted me back into the locker room. I was only getting more and more steamed about the ref, about how we played, about our injuries because of our inadequate facilities. In other words, I'd lost all perspective.

    I stood there looking at my players. I could see the looks on their faces. They could see I was absolutely livid. I've seen pictures of myself from back in my playing days. Veins standing out on my neck. Face beet red. Now that my head is clean-shaven I probably have veins standing out across my skull.

    I picked up a nearby trash can and hurled it into the shower.

    Then I walked out. This is probably a good time for the players to sort this one out without me, anyways.

    Gus the maintenance man let me in the utility room. I checked the other scores. That calmed me down. We were still in third.

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    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 19/03/2014 at 09:40 PM.

    Sound and fury that only signifies another loss

    5 November 2014 23:50

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ID:	533983I will admit that Cheltenham are a good side this season. And I realize that sometimes you just don't have luck on your side. But today's loss was a failure.

    How is it that we can't defend our near post on corners? The goal we conceded in the 3rd minute was pathetic. Why won't manager Pucci put a defender at the six yard box to prevent any low corners from getting in?

    So we were a goal down to start things off.

    Against Brentord, York and Hartlepool we did the same thing. That's 4 out of the last 6 matches that we've conceded within 3 minutes. Unacceptable.

    And how is it that we make every goalkeeper we face look like Peter Shilton?
    Cheltenham's Scott Brown is an adequate keeper but could we maybe possible stop shooting directly at the keeper every time we get a chance?

    I must credit James Loveridge with a classy, well-taken goal. He made Brown actually work for his pay package today. We really need Michael Smith back so that Loveridge isn't our lone threat.

    We have now lost 5 out of our last 8 matches. Two of those matches were cup matches which also galls me. Brentford and Shrewsbury are crap sides. We should be beating teams like these even if they are in League One.

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  10. Thursday, 6 November 2014 2pm-ish

    Chairman Erik Samuelson, Matteo Nole and I piled into Captain Andy Frampton's minivan and drove out to Heathrow to welcome Leandro Depetris.

    "Matteo, how are your English lessons progressing?" I asked in English.

    "Good, I think," he replied slowly. "I learn some. Also, Andy and Haz teach me swearing."

    We all laughed.

    "And how is your wife doing?" I asked in Italian.

    "She is good," he answered in English. Then switched to Italian. "She's having a hard time finding the ingredients she wants for cooking. Things are so different here in the grocery stores."

    "And your boy?"

    "He good," he replied. "Learn English fast. Fast more than Daddy."

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ID:	534136Midday traffic seemed unusually heavy but we managed to park and make are we into the waiting area for international arrivals before Leandro came out. I got to hold the 'Depetris' sign. Chairman Erik checked his phone to see that the plane was on the ground.

    "They landed a bit ago," Erik said. "He should be through customs fairly soon."

    Eventually, we spotted him. It was rather hard, though, he is tiny. A mere 5'6".

    "Welcome to London, Leandro," I said in Italian. I introduced him to everyone and explained our agenda. First lunch then contract signing then hotel. He'd meet his teammates in the morning and we'd have a press conference afterwards at the stadium.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 21/03/2014 at 04:51 PM.
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  11. Friday, 7 November 2014 1:00pm

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ID:	534435"Thank you so much for coming," Chairman Erik Samuelson began. "We're not just here to announce signings. I also want to announce that we'll be spending four hundred thousand pounds to upgrade our New Malden facility. As you well know, King's College London owns New Malden. They, of course, were perfectly happy to let us spend money to upgrade their facilities. They're great partners for us."

    "I have passed out sheets describing the changes," Erik continued. "A new weight and exercise room. New bikes and running machines. Ice baths. Two hot tubs. It's all delineated on the sheet.""

    "This is all possible because of our fabulous supporters here and across the world," Erik said. "From the internet fundraisers we've had to the preseason tournaments Enrico arranged, we have enough money available to us that we will not be paying for these upgrades with a loan."

    "Now on to our new signings," he said. "We're so very pleased to welcome Leandro Depetris and Brad Smith to the Fans Stadium Kingsmeadow. We see these two young men as more proof that this club is moving forward in challenging for yet another promotion and adding players who can help Wimbledon. I'm available for questions, but I'll turn it over to our Manager, Enrico Pucci."

    "Like Erik said, thanks for coming," I said. "I'm very happy to introduce you to Brad Smith and Leandro Depetris who have just signed for Wimbledon. Brad is a fullback who can play either side. Brad comes to us from Liverpool's Academy."

    "My scouting team was unable to identify a left back to sign in the summer but kept looking," I continued. "We've been coping well up to now, but I've always felt we could have used a third fullback. When they discovered Brad was unsigned by Liverpool, we jumped at the opportunity. Brad will provide cover as we push for promotion."

    "I played against Leandro in Italy," I said. "It was obvious back then he was talented and that hasn't changed. I've been looking for additional central midfielders and when I asked my contacts in Italy, one of them reminded me of Leandro and that he was unsigned. Leandro brings the passing, ball skills and attacking I need in midfield."

    "Any questions?" I asked.

    "Robbie Williams, Skysports. Smith is available for Walsall? Will you be throwing him straight into the side?""

    "Brad is a good player but he'll have to earn his spot on the training ground just like everyone else," I replied. "Cameron Dummigan is a bit tired from Wednesday's match so it will be a game day decision who starts at right back tomorrow."

    "Collin Massey, BBC. Leandro is rather susceptible to injury, isn't this deal a bit of a risk? Won't he be more in the sick room than on the pitch?"

    "Leandro was a top player at his last club," I began my reply. "Last season he was rushed back early because of his quality. Listen, I know what training facilities and what rehabilitation is like in the lower league clubs in Italy. Say a few Hail Marys, rub your rosary and get back on the pitch. We'll establish some base lines and monitor his condition closely just like we do with all our players."

    "What does this mean for Harry Pell and Adam Pepper?" Collin asked. "Pepper, the only player you've spent money on, has been a bust and you haven't played Pell all season. Will you ship them out?"

    "Leandro provides depth and competition in the center of midfield," I replied. "I play the players who are the best in training."

    "Wayne Dunby, ESPN. You must be hoping Depetris will play a big part in any success the Dons have in the future?"

    "I certainly hope he can make a big conribution," I replied.

    "Follow up if I may," Wayne continued. "Depetris was highly rated when he first moved to Italy from Argentina but you have admit he's been a disappointment."

    "I understand what it's like to leave home at a young age," I replied. "It's tough. I'd prefer Leandro to answer your question."

    I translated into Italian for him. He answered.

    "I was young, stupid," I translated. "The media said that all the clubs were chasing me. That they all wanted to sign me. The nightlife was fun, too fun. I felt homesick a lot. I hope that I can reward Enrico's faith in my skills and show that I have the talent and am willing to work hard."

    "So do you see Smith as a signing more for the future?" Massey asked.

    "Obviously," I said. "I'm acquiring young talent who can progress as this team progresses. Lovers and Smith up top. Twenty and Twenty-three. Danny Boy and Mark in the center of midfield. Both seventeen. Cam is eighteen. Lincoln my other keeper will get his share of matches and he's eighteen, too."

    "Alan Duffington, Wombles Blog. I blog as Duff. How did you manage to keep this under wraps? Leandro is quite a signing."

    "Well, first we aren't Chelsea," I joked. "I don't have paparazzi stalking my every move. Secondly, we know how to be discrete."

    "What about the language barrier?" Duffington asked.

    "Well, I speak both Italian and Spanish," I replied. "Matteo Nole is Italian and Drissa Dabre also speaks Italian. Initially, it'll be difficult. That's to be expected. But we're a family here. We'll work it all out. He'll get English tutoring."

    "Would you agree that you've pulled off another coup?" Williams from Skysports asked. "Smith, Dunn, Nole now Depetris?"

    "I'd like to answer that one, Robbie, if I may," Chairman Erik interjected. I smiled and nodded. "We've risen from the ashes of ripping a club out of it's community. We held try-outs on Wimbledon Commons as we tried to figure out where we'd play. We've risen through five divisions in nine years. We're in political negotiations with Merton Council about a new stadium. We're moving into a position where we can play real wages if Enrico can lead us to promotions. We're an exciting club that people want to be involved in."

    Well played, boss.

    "Brad, what did Liverpool overlook in you?" Duffington asked. "What did Enrico see in you that they overlooked?"

    "First off, I'd like to thank Liverpool for my footballing education," Brad said. "It's a numbers game there. There are a lot of talented lads there and they will only keep so many players at each position. Look at how many Premiership and Championship players are Liverpool trainees. This is football. I hope to prove to Enrico and everyone here that I'm top quality."

    "Anything else?" I asked when there were no more questions. "Alrighty then. Thanks for coming everyone."
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 21/03/2014 at 06:55 PM.

  12. League Two: Walsall FC v. AFC Wimbledon

    And we're off to the West Midland to visit Bank's Stadium in Walsall just north of Birmingham. With Saturday morning traffic it really is a two and a half hour drive. The stadium is relatively new. This means working showers and toilets. That won't get old. Not for a long while.

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ID:	534477We rolled up and got off the bus to sunny skies. But I knew it was a lie. By the time we'd come out for warm-ups, it was overcast. By the time the match was ready to start it was drizzling.

    GK: Daniel Lincoln
    D: Brad Smith, Kris Thackray, Andy Frampton (C), James Fenlon
    M: Steven Gregory (DM), Simon Johnson, Daniel Barlaser, Adam Pepper, Matteo Nole
    F: James Loveridge

    Subs: Chris Dunn (GK), Cameron Dummigan (D), Reuben Hazell (D), Leandro Depetris (M), George Francomb (M), Fabian Rowe (M/F), Jack Redshaw (F)

    Lincoln has been steadily improving and deserves to get some starts. Dummigan needed break so Brad is thrown into the deep end. Francomb's form had been deteriorating and either needed a rest or a benching so Simon Johnson gets a rare start.

    "I'll get right down to it," I said to my players. "I want a win. Walsall are hurting. He was only appointed a few days ago. They'll be trying to impress their new boss. Don't take your foot off their neck.

    "Tactically, I want you to play more narrowly, especially defensively," I continued. "We're fast enough to get out and shut down their wingers. I want to deny them any room to breathe in the middle."

    "I have faith that you'll be solid at the back. I have faith that we'll control the midfield. I have faith that we'll create plenty of chances."

    Their new manager Brian Laws lined them up in a 442 with the experienced Marlon Harewood partnering 20 year old Sean Maguire.

    I was right about playing narrow. We just parked the bus and they couldn't get the ball inside and couldn't get a cross in from the flanks. They finally took their first shot in the 7th minute. A long-ranger that sailed high over the bar.

    In the 14th minute, Simon caught their left back ball-watching but he couldn't convert Danny Boy's slide-rule pass into a goal.

    Eventually, we started to have our way with them.

    In the 28th minute, Gregory intercepted a pass and played a high ball out to Nole. Surprisingly, Nole won the header and his header went right to Pepper. Peps played a ball out wide to Simon. He beat the left back and charged into the penalty area. His shot was blocked and cleared.

    Frampton got under the clearance and headed the ball to Danny Boy. Daniel turned and had time to look up and survey they scene. I saw the opening and so did he. Their central midfielders left him a nice, wide gap to run into. He did.

    He took off like a greyhound chasing the rabbit at the track. He was entering the penalty box and the shocked central defenders had still only taken a few steps by this point. He hammered a low shot that the keeper got a hand to but couldn't keep out.


    He ran over to the fans behind the goal and they all celebrated 5th of the campaign.

    Walsall upped their effort after the goal, but couldn't get past our parked bus. Their best efforts were from long-range and only one was reasonably dangerous and I think Lincoln made his save look a wee bit more spectacular than it needed to be. Whatever, the kid looked really dependable in net -- I'm not going to quibble over style -- I just think he wants to impress.

    Brad didn't nearly as unfit as I'd expected him to be at halftime. I figured I'd reevaluate at the hour mark.

    Once again the Saddlers couldn't get past the parked bus. Their most dangerous moment was another long-range effort Lincoln snared with a diving save.

    Danny Boy was spent after an hour so I replaced him with Leandro.

    "Just relax and keep it simple," I told him in Spanish. "I have faith in you."

    Pepper, Leandro and Steven Gregory began tapping the ball around the center circle then into the Walsall half. Purest tiki-taka stuff. Like they'd been doing this together for years. Then they brought Loveridge into the fun and he laid the ball off to Fenlon who'd charged forward from left back.

    Fens shot right into the goalkeepers chest from 10 yards.

    I knew that we were going to regret not icing this game.

    I didn't know how soon.

    Pepper played a sloppy pass across the midfield line that got intercepted. I wasn't too worried, though. The back line was in good shape, Gregory was in a good position to defend and Danny Boy was still back. The defender thumped a ball behind Brad. Brad got caught ball-watching. Their left midfielder James Baxendale raced onto the through ball and calmly slotted under the charging Lincoln.


    My palm met my face. But then I heard a couple of shouts from the bench. I looked up and the linesman, Sweet Mary Mother of Jesus bless his sharp-eyed soul, had flagged for offside and it'd taken the ref a moment to notice.


    Boy Howdy had we just gotten off the hook.

    We held firm after that.

    In the 81st minute, Lincoln made a long-range, dipping knuckleball shot that he played off the short hop look easy. While he looked calm, it was his excellent footwork that made it look easy. I turned to see everyone near my Goalkeeping Coach Paul Rachubka giving him high fives.

    Brad wasn't looking tired. Fenlon was. So I sent on Dummigan at around 85 minutes. Since Brad was naturally a left back I sent him over to the left side.

    As the clock approached 90 minutes I replaced Thackray with Reuben Hazell. Thacks looked haggard.

    The ref signaled 3 minutes of extra time.

    1 minute rolled by.

    2 minutes roll by.

    2 minutes, thirty seconds roll by.

    Walsall picks up a stray pass in the midfield and I see the ref look at his watch. Any second now. They play it up to Harewood. Frampton heads it long and high.

    The right fullback retrieves the ball and plays it down the wing. The ref looks at his watch. Blow the damn thing already.

    Their right midfielder picks up the ball and runs at Brad. Brad has his angles right and has Matteo back-tracking to support him.

    "Don't let him around the corner, Brad, don't let him around the corner," I mutter.

    Davies puts on a burst of speed and beats Brad.

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    Andy Frampton watches the ball zing past him.

    Daniel Lincoln watches it whiz by him.

    Reuben Hazell doesn't do a thing as it sails past him. He's also forgotten about his mark.

    Sean Maguire knows what to do. He cushions the ball into the back of our net.

    "You've played your last match for me, Haz," I mutter to myself.

    "I know this feels like a loss," I tell my players back in the changing room. "But except for 20 seconds at the end of the match, you played a perfect away match. It just wasn't meant to be our day."

    "And if it's any consolation, we're still third," I continued. "Rochdale got spanked but are still first. Hartlepool also drew away."

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  13. Sunday, 9 November 2014 9AM

    "I'm fkn kicking myself for replacing Thacks," I said shaking my head. I really had. I'd nearly gotten into a fight with Gwen because I was just so grumpy from losing points we should have banked. I defused the situation by apologizing for being in a bad mood because of the dropped points.

    "Furthermore, I shouldn't have removed Fens," I continued. "Fens is faster than Davies and had kept him shut down all fkn day."

    "****ing *** **** sunafabidge," I concluded.

    "Seriously, boss, chill," Hanks said. "Smith and Tomlinson are back soon."

    "And we only have Bury, the best away side in the league visiting our humble ground," Wools added. "They've only picked up a mere 12 out of 15 points."

    "You guys are helpful like ..." I said and put my head in my hands without completely the analogy.

    "Bury are going to be tough," said Lil continuing to worsen the situation. "They're rubbish at home. Relegation fodder. I just watched them. At home. I will never get that time back nor will I be able to unsee the horrid football they played. Dagenham and Redbridge, yes, Dagenham and Redbridge swatted them aside like they would a youth side. 4 nil."

    "Yet in 8 away games they've won 6, drawn 1 and lost 1," he continued. "It's flabbergasting. They've scored 13 and conceded 6. On the road. It makes no sense. I obviously should have attended an away match."

    "To be clear," physiotherapist Jon Whitney added. "Smith could be back as early as next Saturday or as late as two Saturdays. I should know more by Wednesday. Tomlinson might be fit again next weekend, but I wouldn't risk it. Match after Bury is a safe bet."

    "I want to focus on shooting this week, attacking," I said. "Our scoring is only coming from Loveridge and Danny Boy. Now I realize we need to focus on defending as we face Bury next Saturday but let's sneak in some shooting drills each day."

    "Also, I'm going to schedule a mid-week friendly against a semi-pro side," I added. " I want us to get used to scoring freely again."
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  14. I awoke Monday morning to emails from the U19 managers from Northern Ireland and Turkey. I didn't have to open them to know the good news wrapped around a brick of diminishing playing squad. This was going to hurt. Brad Smith wasn't fit enough yet to play a full 90 minutes and WTF was I going to do with out Danny Barlaser. Leandro wasn't fit to last 90 either and I didn't want risk an injury to him.

    Leandro is going to have to start alongside Pepper. Okay, that can work. Peps game is starting to pick up and he already showed he and Leandro can emulate Barca.

    I read and replied to my emails while I drank my coffee.
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  15. Friendly: AFC Wimbledon v. Kingstonian FC

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ID:	534859Isn't this fun? We're going to work out some of the kinks in our offense against our buddies Kingstonian. Here's the history. We moved in with them and eventually bought Kingsmeadow from them when they were having trouble. They're a great organization and we dubbed this match Kingston-Upon-Thames Cup. Now that we're a professional side, the occasional friendlies are no longer competitive. They just hope for a good showing against us. But this one was going to be all in good fun.

    GK: Daniel Lincoln
    D: Brad Smith, Reuben Hazell, Ben Harrison, James Fenlon
    M: Steven Gregory, George Francomb, Leandro Depetris, Adam Pepper, Matteo Nole
    F: James Loveridge

    There was a bit of controversy in the first minute!

    George broke into the box and was tackled from behind by Kingstonian's Anton Heys. Despite pleadings from both sides, the ref flourished a red card. My players pushed the irate Kingstonian players away and begged and pleaded with the ref not send him off.

    The ref was taking this far too seriously.

    Leandro went up for a header in the 21st minute and fell strangely and clutched his ankle.

    I cursed for nearly thirty seconds straight. His night was done and his ankle was wrapped in ice.

    Other than George not getting a goal, I saw what I wanted. Everybody got 45 minutes except Sam Bailey, Leandro's replacement. I let him play the full 70 or so minutes.
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  16. Name:  Enrico-twitter.png
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    For any #Wimbledon fans that were worried about @LeandroDepetris,
    he's fine. He'll be ready for Bury on Sat.
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  18. League Two: AFC Wimbledon v. Bury FC

    Which Bury would show up? The best away team in League 2 or the team who play like relegation candidates at home. I think y'all know who I'm hoping shows up.

    Adam Pepper called me this morning. He has the flu. Yet another midfielder down. Nice.

    So Matteo Nole moves inside to pair with Leandro Depetris. I decided to give Fabian Rowe his home debut. Let's see if he shows me something. Simon Johnson is my reserve midfielder to come on when Leandro starts to fade.

    Lil says I need to tightly mark Ashley Grimes who he expects will play left midfielder. Consequently, Fenlon starts at right back. Their teamsheet indicates they'll come out in a 451. So Gregory marks their striker Chris Iwelumo.

    GK: Chris Dunn
    D: James Fenlon, Kris Thackray, Andy Frampton, Brad Smith
    M: Steven Gregory (DM), George Frampton, Leandro Depetris, Matteo Nole, Fabian Rowe
    F: James Loveridge

    "C'mon, guys!" I say to start off my prematch team talk. "You hear those fans out there? This stadium is full yet again. They show up week after week to see us. And we've delivered. So far at least. Today is the perfect day to break out of this rut we're in. Let's go out there and kick some fkn Bury backside for these people, eh?"

    Fabian and Fens take the ball down the left. Fabian tries several times to get crosses in but fails. So he tries dribbling in. The Bury right back eventually manages to get a toe to the ball and it rolls free but Fabian is on it in a flash and shoots high.

    Nice start kid. I appreciate the effort.

    In the 10th minute, Francomb curls in a to the far post. Matteo Nole leaps and connects on a header. It looks goalbound until the keeper gets a fingertip to it and get it over the crossbar.

    In the 19th minute, Nole hit a 40 yard pass from our side of the center circle between the center back and left back. Nole saw Loveridge start a run in that direction. Lovers was on it in a flash and raced goalwards. Loveridge slowed down a bit and scooped the ball over the keeper.

    I heard the entire stadium gasp.

    The ball floated in slow motion over the keeper. It started dropping. It was going to be close.

    The entire stadium groaned as it bounced off the top of the crossbar.

    What did we have to do to buy a goal?

    In the 28th minute, Brad dribbled into the penalty box and teased the defender while trying to find an option. He couldn't so he made a move to the end line. A defender managed to get a tackle in and another managed to clear the ball but only to the edge of the box. Nole then tried the same thing and won a corner.

    George lobbed the ensuing corner straight to the goalkeeper.

    In the 35th minute the broken record continue. From a corner George's corner is cleared to Captain Andy. Andy's shot is cleared off the line.

    When the ref blew for halftime, Bury hadn't taken a shot. I guess the relegation fodder version of Bury had shown up.

    "Okay, listen," I said once everyone was settled in our locker room at halftime. "We're playing great. They haven't had a sniff and we're banging away. Keep it up. The goals will come. Stay focused and keep working hard."

    Bury came out for the second half much more energetic. It only resulted in a long-range shot that Dunn easily saved.

    In the 50th minute, George beat two defenders like rented mules but he only had Loveridge to aim for. Bury easily cleared it.

    In the 51st minute, Leandro played a pass up to Lovers. He controlled the ball and charged at the defenders. When he created a space in which to shoot, he chunked a dribbler of a shot well wide.

    Lovers wasn't having the best match. Someone else was going to have to step up if we were going to score.

    In the 53rd, Andy's header from yet another corner glanced off the post and into the side netting. The crowd groaned for what seemed the umpteenth time.

    We kept up the pressure. As the hour mark passed, Bury's defense was panicking. The Shakers simply couldn't get the ball and when they did, they couldn't get out of their half. They were resorting to Keystone Kops desperation defending. At some point, someone was going to be left unmarked and we were going to score.

    I had to replace Leandro. He was starting to tire and I wasn't about to risk it. Simon replaced him at about 65 minutes.

    James Loveridge certainly wasn't going to score. He was having a rare poor match. I replaced him with Jack Redshaw with 21 minutes left.

    In the 72 minute, Brad went galloping down our left flank with the ball. When he drew two defenders, he played a ball into the box for Fabian. Redshaw made a near post run drawing the two central defenders.

    George Francomb made a very late back post run. Fabian, bless his li'l old overblown sense of entitlement, saw the run and hit his cross toward the far post.

    George side-footed the ball in from about 3 yards.


    The stadium went nuts. I was mobbed by Hanks, Wools and Rachubka.

    What a relief.

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ID:	536024And we kept up the pressure. Several chances were squandered until the 78th minute. Simon ran at the back-pedaling defense. He played it square to Redshaw who blasted away from 20 yards. It hit a defender and fell to Nole. He took two quick touches forward resulting in a panic. He then flicked the ball to his right to a forgotten Francomb who blasted a missile past the forlorn keeper.


    For once I was able to relax. That iced it.

    I replaced Brad with Haz so as not to risk an injury to my not-quite-fully-fit new signing.

    This victory was quite the team effort. Yes, George was man of the match, but Gregory intercepted nearly everything sent toward the Bury striker Iwulumo. With Andy and Thack's help, Iwulumo didn't win a header all match. Fenlon made sure their dangerous left midfielder Grimes did nothing. The midfield did a great job of moving the ball and the possession stats show that.

    Well, maybe Dunn didn't contribute much. But, seriously, keeper's always love the occasional match in which they don't get their kits dirty.

    We are in 3rd on goal difference, but the table-topper match of Rochdale-Southend ended in a one all draw. Hartlepool stayed 4th with a 3-1 win and Cheltenham 5th with a 2-0 away win.

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  19. Click image for larger version

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ID:	536425We're more or less one-third of the way through the League Two season. The top of the table is pretty packed. We're a point behind the leaders but Burton in the last playoff spot are only three points behind us.

    Michael Smith will be coming back from injury in a few days. This means that I can reunite the deadly Loveridge-Smith combination up top.

    Mark Tomlinson will also be back in a few days. This means that I can play a 442 as he covers so much more ground than Steven Gregory and gets the tackles in whereas tackles are a rarity with Steven.

    Consider our fixture list through the end of the year.

    Our next match away to Burton will be tough as will Wycombe and Southend.

    The only "easier" matches are Oldham and Accrington.

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    Next consider the full stats for the top of the table.
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    We're ****ing lucky to still be in third. When we've dropped points, so did many of the teams around us.

    I think we're primed to go on a nice little run. Here's hoping...
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  20. "We should be thankful we're playing Burton at away," Lil Fuccillo, my Chief Scout, began our Sunday 1PM staff meeting. "They're quite good, actually the best in the league away. But at home they're +1 goal differential. They've scored 17 but conceded 16. We've scored 17 at home as well. The difference between our sides is we've conceded only 4."

    "They play a 451 with wingers not outside midfielders," Lil continued. "But he bottom line is, stop their lone forward and we stop Burton."

    "They're on a nice little run, though," Lil said. "They won five straight, drew and won yesterday. So they're undefeated in 7. Also, they don't let in goals in the first half. Stay patient and wait until the second"

    "Thanks, Lil," I said. "So Tomlinson will mark their forward and Cam and Fens lock down their wingers."

    "I plan on starting Smith up top" I said. "Loveridge has been carrying the team offensively and needs a rest. Yesterday was a pretty sad display."

    "How're Smith and Tomlinson looking, Whits?" I asked.

    "Mark will be back in training Tuesday," our physiotherapist replied. "Smith on Wednesday. Pepper will be available Tuesday. He's lost a good bit of weight from the flu."
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 26/03/2014 at 12:46 AM.
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  21. It started Sunday afternoon during training. It was cold and drizzled the whole time and I felt the slightest tickle in the back of my throat towards the end. As soon as I got into the changing room, i.e. when I got somewhere warm, I could tell that something was wrong. I changed but didn't feel better. I got home and felt worse. My throat started hurting and my nose was running.

    I texted Gwen to cancel our date. She called and said she'd be right uover. She quizzed me about my symptoms.

    She arrived with a bag full of Chinese take-out and pills.

    "Take two of these green ones and one of these," she said then plied me with soup. Then she wrapped me up in blankets in my reading chair and took my temperature.

    "I wouldn't have guessed you had such a maternal instinct," I croaked.

    "It's just good you're adorable when you're sick," she replied.
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  22. 400 Likes. Thanks, y'all.
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  23. Monday 17 November 2014

    Please kill me. Please. I beg you.
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  24. Toosday Novembry 2018

    At least the hallucinations stopped. I think. Still not dead yet. Wish I wash.
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  25. Wednesday, 19 November 2014

    My fever finally broke. My bed is a lake.
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  26. Thursday, 20 November 2014

    I went to the training today. I watched my coaches run things. I feel feeble. I knew if I tried to yell or anything I'd just hork up a lung or something so I just watched. Smith and Tomlinson are back. Good to see them training again. It looks like we'll be ready for Burton.
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  28. League Two: Burton Albion FC v. AFC Wimbledon

    Attachment 540597Another morning train ride up into the Midlands. Woot.

    I was bundled up as if a blizzard was about to hit. Running tights underneath my pants, scarf, hat and parka. I was feeling better but I was paranoid the dampness of this island would make me sick again.

    Fabian Rowe had played well enough last week and my coaches said he'd had a good enough week that he ought to start on the left.

    Mark Tomlinson was fit enough to start, but Michael Smith wasn't so he's among the subs.

    GK: Chris Dunn
    D: Cameron Dummigan, Kris Thackray, Andy Frampton (C), James Fenlon
    M: Mark Tomlinson (DM), George Francombe, Daniel Barlaser, Leandro Depetris, Fabian Rowe
    F: James Loveridge

    Subs: Daniel Lincoln (GK), Reuben Hazell (D), Brad Smith (D), Steven Gregory (M), Matteo Nole (M), Simon Johnson (M), Michael Smith (F)

    I told Tomlinson to mark their forward Rene Howe. I told Fenlon and Dummigan to mark their outside midfielders tightly. Lil had warned that they played well in the first half, so I told them to start cautiously.

    On our first foray into their half (7 minutes in), we lost the ball and the broke on the counter. Their right midfielder Jason Banton had the ball, their left midfielder Adam McGurk was wide open as Cam was slow getting back and they outnumbered us. But their counter just fell apart. Frampton intercepted the hospital ball pass Banton rolled toward Howe.

    In the 9th minute, we made it into their half again and lost the ball. They broke fast on the counter again and this time managed to play Banton in alone on Dunn. Dunn made himself large and Banton's shot hit him point blank. Fenlon cleared.

    In the 13th minute, Tomlinson lumped a ball forward. He has a tendency to try the Hollywood ball early in matches. Normally, I yell at him to maintain possession. But this time Loveridge chased it down, won it and curled a ball toward the far post. The keeper dove and tipped it round the post. Honestly, it was a brilliant save.

    As everyone jogged forward for the corner, Mark looked over at me and smiled. Smartass.

    We created the better chances. Their keeper made another great diving save on Lovers in the 21st. Francomb's free kick hit the post in the 24th and Lovers hit a spectacular volley against the post in the 28th.

    I was starting to get worried. That was 4 great chances.

    Rory Delap put the ball in the back of the net in the 34th minute. He was a mile offside. Didn't count.

    Then we got three chances in quick succession. In the 38th, George curled in a back post special and Fabian headed it back across goal. Burton cleared it and broke on the counter. It fell apart and we brought it back forward. George curled in a near poster which Lovers controlled at the edge of the six yard box.

    I'll grant him that he had his back to goal. And I'll grant him that it was generous of him to dish to Leandro who was 15 yards out for a chance to score his first goal for the Dons. The keeper parried his shot and Burton broke yet again on the counter.

    Tomlinson leapt in with a brilliantly timed tackle and ended the counter. Damn I'm glad to have him back.

    We brought the ball up and resumed testing and prodding their defense. We kept the ball in and around the box for a while but couldn't find a weakness. We eventually won a corner. George saw Cam making a near post run and delivered a ball to his feet and Cam deflected it in for his first ever first team goal!


    The team mobbed him by the corner flag in front of the travelling supporters.

    Only a couple of minutes until half time. To my surprise Burton didn't bring the ball straight down and score. I really shouldn't be this pessimistic. I just can't help myself.

    "Great job out there, boys," I croaked. I sounded ridiculous so like with my pre-game talk, I kept it brief. "Keep it up. We're shutting down Howe and their wingers. Great job."

    Smith spent halftime warming up and replaced Lovers. Lovers wasn't looking dominant. That's two straight matches he'd looked off. He just wasn't running at the defenders with confidence for whatever reason.

    And they scored soon after the restart.

    Delap heaved in one of his patented long throws. Andy headed right back to him. Rory played a pass infield to Banton. Banton controlled it took one step and unleashed a laser-guided missile from 35 or more yards out that nearly ripped the netting to shreds. That's a goal of the year golazzo candidate.


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ID:	540866 There's not much you can do when someone does something amazing except applaud. I only object to the preventable goals.

    The game settled down and neither team were able to create any chances.

    In the 68th minute, Stuart O'Keefe lobbed a 40 yard free kick into the box. Someone in the mosh pit headed back out where it came from. For the second time that night, a volley screamed netward. O'Keefe had connected as purely as you could dream of. Thankfully, Dunn saw it the whole way, leapt and snared it.

    What a shot, what a save.

    With time running out, Fabian took a speculative long-range shot. Their keeper must've taken his eye off it for a fraction of a second and spilled it. Smith tried but the keeper got their first.

    Bore draw. I'll take it.

    We drop to fourth because Wycombe won. We could have gone as low as fifth but Cheltenham drew at home.

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ID:	541785Sunday, 23 November 2014, noonish

    "Well," I said. "We're still in this."

    "We've got 4 wins and 3 draws out of our last 9," Coach Matt Woolley said. "But only 1 win in our last 5."

    "In our last 8 matches, since the drubbing at Rochdale, we've conceded 7," Assistant Manager Sean Hankins added. "That isn't too shabby."

    "True, but we've only scored 13 in our last 9," Wools replied. "And 6 in our last 5."

    "I think we can agree that we're struggling offensively," Goalkeeper coach Paul Rachubka concluded. "I think it's also obvious that injuries have been the cause."

    "We need to get Michael Smith back on form now that he's healthy," I said. Everyone nodded. "So it's pretty obvious that our training focus should be on our offense this week."

    "Was Cam's first goal our first goal from a corner all season?" I asked.

    The meeting went silent as we all consulted our phones.

    "He's the first defender to score," Hanks replied.

    "Yes, first goal from corner all season," Wools replied.

    "Depetris is pretty good at corners," Rachubka observed. "Do we want to switch to him taking corners?"

    "Sounds like a plan," I replied.
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  31. League Two: AFC Wimbledon v. Coventry City FC

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ID:	541895Another full house at The Fan's Stadium - Kingsmeadow.

    We really should beat Coventry. The problem is we don't have the killer instinct I want in front of goal. Loveridge has cooled down and Michael Smith is just back from injury and isn't even fully fit yet. Daniel Barlaser and George Francomb are the only other two who have contributed offensively. And George is sitting this one out because he's too tired from Saturday.

    Matteo Nole just cannot finish and Leandro Depetris is still settling. Adam Pepper has not lived up to expectations but has been playing better lately.

    Also, I'm not risking Mark Tomlinson's hamstrings after playing all 90 minutes on Saturday. I'll start with Pepper paired with Barlaser in the middle of a 451.

    GK: Daniel Lincoln
    D: Brad Smith, Kris Thackray, Andy Frampton, James Fenlon
    M: Steven Gregory (DM), Simon Johnson, Daniel Barlaser, Adam Pepper, Matteo Nole
    F: James Loveridge

    Subs: Chris Dunn (GK), Reuben Hazell (D), Cameron Dummigan (D), Mark Tomlinson (M), Fabian Rowe (M), Leandro Depetris (M), Michael Smith (F)

    "Listen to them," I said. "Who knew five thousand people could make this much noise. We've been great at home this season and they know it. They love it. Coventry are going to play a striker with three attacking midfielders. Since we're playing five in midfield, they'll be easy to shut down."

    "I think we can send them home happy," I continued. "Steven, you mark their central attacking mid Billy Daniels. Let Thacks and Andy deal with Ben Hoskins. Brad and Fens, play narrow and deny their three attacking mids any space behind you. Daniels and Hoskins get an extra helping of special sauce, clear?"

    "If we play our game, we'll win," I said. "Michael and Leandro will come on late once their defense is tiring. I have faith that we will dictate the tempo and keep possession. We do these simple things and we'll get the result we want. Let's go, boys!"

    George won a corner inside a minute. The Sky Blues cleared it but right at Loveridge. Lovers smashed a volley right back into the mosh pit and hit somebody hard.

    In the 6th minute, we shut down a Sky Blue attack. We passed it around in our half a bit then Pepper played a pass up to Lovers. He didn't have much space so he played it out wide to Simon. Simon raced past the Coventry left back and curled in a beauty.

    Lovers leapt and smashed a header past their keeper.


    A header!?! By Lovers!?! AWESOME!

    In the 13th minute, we won a corner. George's cross in was cleared and Lovers controlled it outside of the box. He dished it off to Danny Boy. Coventry keeper Carlo Nash made a great save to tip it round the post.

    In the 21st minute, Matteo beat 3 defenders in a mazy run in from the left but Nash denied him.

    Pepper shot wide in the 26th and 36th when he had other, better options.

    Captain Andy won the ensuing goal kick from Peps' second wild shot and we worked the ball around the midfield for a while. Then Lovers showed for the ball, got it, dribbled forward but instead of trying to take his defenders on, he shot well wide from 30 yards.

    This is what I'm talking about. Despite already scoring, he tries to impersonate Frank Lampard. Lovers has got a decent enough shot from inside the box and he scares League Two defenders when he runs at them. Running at the defense is his strength so why the hell is he blazing away from 30 yards.


    In the 42nd minute, Brad dribbles into the box and shoots. His shot is blocked but it falls to Lovers. His shot is blocked but it falls to Brad. Brad clears the ball to safety. Actually, he hit it so hard and so high it left the stadium. That's not actually that hard to do, BTW.

    Thacks won the header to Steven Gregory. Gregs lobbed a long ball to nobody into the corner. Coventy keeper Nash raced out and tried to play a pass up to their left midfielder. Simon intercepted it and played it quickly into Lovers hoping to catch Nash out. Unfortunately, Lovers needed to take a bunch of touches and ended up shooting wide.

    Just before the 45 minute mark, Matteo beat his defender and whipped in a cross. It was cleared but only to Danny Boy about 20 yards out. Guess what happened? They blocked his shot! Are you seeing a pattern here?

    Brad was first to the clearance and played a pass infield to Gregs. Gregs spotted Lovers wide open at the edge of the box and got him the ball. Sadly and predictably, the shot was blocked.

    Danny Boy was first to the ball and hammered a shot destined for just inside the post. Except Nash intervened with a flying save that he held.

    And soon after the half was over.

    "Great work rate, great passing out there," I said. "They're blocking a ****load of our shots. Keep hammering away. Sooner or later we'll bag the insurance goal. Keep your work rate high and keep playing the simple ball. No changes."

    Not long after the restart, Coventry worked the ball into our half with some nice passing. Their forward Hoskins and their attacking midfielder Fleck continued their attack culminating in Hoskins playing a pass behind Brad. Brad was caught ball-watching and Fleck was in on Lincoln.

    Lincoln smothered the shot Fleck tried to sneak under him.

    Coventry managed to keep it in our half for a while. It didn't help that we started to play long balls out of the back instead of working the ball out.

    "C'MON! PLAY SHORT PASSES!" I yelled after the third time we hoofed the ball out when we had passing options. "SHORT PASSES! SHORT PASSES!"

    In the 57th minute, we did manage to get the ball into their half. Unfortunately, Coventry were working harder than us and shut down our attack. They countered and this time Fleck became provider for Hoskins. Lincoln made a fantastic sprawling save to tip the ball round the post and preserve our lead.

    Their corner amounted to a goal kick for us. Lincoln played a short pass up to Thacks. Thacks played it out to Brad. Brad had time but instead of turning and playing a ball up to Simon, he played it back to Lincoln. Lincoln thumped it over the half line and yelled at Brad for playing it back.

    Coventry won the clearance and proceeded to pitch camp in our half. They couldn't get past our parked bus, but it was now clear that my players were going to sit back and defend.

    I told Smith, Leandro and Fabian to start warming up.

    In the 64th minute, I replaced Danny Boy with Leandro.

    I then decided that we needed more muscle up front, i.e., someone who would chase after clearances and hold up the ball. Smith presented his card to the second official as Leandro waited for Danny Boy to trudge off.

    The ref wouldn't let me get my second change in immediately. The fourth official was trying to get his attention.


    We entered the 66th minute.

    I hollered some more.

    "Do I need to insult him to get his attention?" I asked the fourth official in the 68th minute.

    By this time the crowd was whistling and booing to try and get the ref's attention.

    In the 70th minute, I got into the fourth official's face.

    "Listen you imbecile," I said. "Get that incompetent toilet shroud's attention. You've got a ****ing headset. ****ing use it."

    "Shut it, Enrico," said the fourth official. "What do you think I've been trying to do. I think the ****ing thing is busted."

    So I got the entire bench up and we started jumping up and down and waving to get the referee's attention.

    I finally got replaced Lovers with Smith in the 73rd minute but not before Lovers picked up a knock.

    By this time, we completely fallen apart. All we could do was hoof the ball out of play.

    I put my hands in my pockets and gritted my teeth. You may know the saying "nobody is dumber than all of us." Well, as a group, we were unable to complete simple passes. The remainder of the match was going to be spent in our half and I hope our luck held.

    It didn't.

    In the 77th minute, Hoskins went down like he'd been shot by a sniper. Captain Andy was running next to him and immediately began remonstrating with the ref that he hadn't touched him. Of course, you know where Hoskins was lying. Several of my player were either concerned that he'd been shot or were yelling obscenities at him.

    Kevin Stroud, being the idiot that he'd proven to be so far in this game, pointed to the spot.

    Hoskins leapt to his feet and received congratulations from his teammates. Thank God a sniper hadn't infiltrated our security here at Kingsmeadow and he'd only been faking it until the ref awarded the penalty.


    Fleck sent Lincoln the wrong way.

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ID:	541928Our spirit was deflated and all we could manage to do was park the bus and absorb the Sky Blue's attacks. Daniel Lincoln was the sole reason we kept at least a point today. Utter collapse as far as I'm concerned.

    When the final whistle blew, I walked over and shook Dean Smith's hand. I turned to walk out onto the field and talk to the ref but I felt the long arm of Paul Rachubka go over my shoulder. I also noticed that Hanks was at my other shoulder.

    They spun me around and escorted me off the pitch before I could do or say something stupid.

    "Can I at least check the scores?" I pleaded with my captors as the frog-marched me into the changing room.

    They let me take my phone out of my pocket once I promised not to use it as a weapon.

    It was a drawtastic weekend. Leaders Southend drew. 2nd place Rochdale drew with 3rd place Wycombe. Hartlepool drew and moved into 5th because 5th place Cheltenham lost and dropped to 6th.

    Sometimes, timing is everything.

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  32. My phone jangled as I was driving back to my flat after the match. It was Paco.

    "Paco, how are you?" I answered in Spanish.

    "We're great, but you were robbed of all three points!" Paco shouted. I could hear other voices in the background. "Hold on, I'm going to put you on speaker."

    "Okay. Why? Where are you."

    "The Cadiz Wimbledon Fan Club had our third official meeting and watched your match against Coventry," Paco said.

    "Hey, Enrico," the unmistakable voice of Esteban chimed in. "The ref was a **** ******* ** ****** ******!"

    "Did you see my coaches restrain me afterwards?" I asked. "Wait. How did you watch the match?"

    "Streaming over the internet, you knucklehead," added Javi Garcia. "And, yes, we saw you being led off the pitch like a confused, senile pensioner."

    "Wait, you gentleman, wouldn't have been drinking would you?" I asked.

    "A toast to Enrico!" exclaimed Paco. "May he scream at refs for many, many years to come!"

    I heard much yelling and clinking then silence as they drank.

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ID:	541993"I must apologize as I've nothing to drink in my car," I said. "I'm driving the kilometer or so home from the stadium."

    "Kingsmeadow is really small," Esteban said.

    "We're working on that," I replied. "You all know the story, right?" I heard a chorus of replies. "Wait. How many people are there?"

    It turns out about 20. Mikel Martins, Airam and Perico were there in addition to the coaches. A number of friends of Esteban's that I'd met over the year I lived there.

    "I should offer you all my congratulations," I said. "The Yellow Submarine is in 1st place with games in hand. Sounds like Aurelio is really doing the job."

    There was a cacophony of agreement.

    "The defense is hard," Paco replied. "Dalmau, Belforti, Josete, all of them are gone. Alejandro, the goalkeeper, too. The new defenders are simply better players. It is night and day. We were never going to do anything with the back four we had last year. It was our curse."

    "Your numbers show it," I replied. "7 goals conceded is fantastic."

    We chatted for a while after I got home. It's always good to reconnect with old friends.
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  33. Wednesday, 26 November 2014 1:30PM or so

    "A word, Enrico," said Erik Samuelson, Chairman of AFC Wimbledon, between drills during training. He often watched training.


    "I want to discuss extending your contract," he said quietly so nobody else would hear.

    I nodded my approval.


    "Of course," he replied. "I'll be there with the rest of the DTB. Do you think you can be by at half three? I'll text them."

    "Works for me," I said.
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  34. I had Hanks drop me off at Kingsmeadow. Erik's car was already there as was Ivor Heller's. I have no idea what the other member's Dickie Guy and Nigel Higgs drove.

    For those of you who have forgotten or aren't aware, AFC Wimbledon are owned by the supporters. I am to be meeting with the Don's Trust Board. The four men mentioned above are the Directors appointed by the Supporter's Trust Board and oversee the operations of the club. This means that the DTB have gotten permission from the STB to offer me a contract extension and the STB must approve whatever contract the DTB and I agree to before it becomes official.

    The door to the conference room was open so I walked in. I shook hands with all four members of the DTB.

    "I'd like to start off by saying how pleased we are with what you've done so far in the six months you've been here," Erik began. "Before we start talking terms, we'd like to review our expectations."

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ID:	542774"We expected a mid-table position, we've given you a transfer 70,000 pound budget of which you have 31,000 pounds remaining. We've given you a wage budget of 25,000 per week. We expect you to sign young players for the first team and to play attacking football."

    "Do you wish to alter these expectations?" Erik asked.


    "Then let's talk terms," Erik continued. "We offer you 775 pounds per week plus the flat and the car maintenance. A 10% increase for promotion and 35% reduction upon relegation. This contract would be through the end of June 2016."

    "Okay, I appreciate the offer and thank you for having confidence in me," I replied. "But I have a team that with the addition of a few players can compete in League One once I get them there. Most managers in League One make in the vicinity of two to three thousand per week."

    "So with that in mind," I said. "Here's my counter offer. 1,000 per week and a 25% increase upon promotion plus the flat and car maintenance."

    "That's too high for our structure," Erik responded. "We could do 825 per week. I know you realize that we're working toward paying competitive League One and Championship wages, but we can't do that until we get a stadium and larger gate receipts."

    "Would that include the 25% increase upon promotion?" I asked.


    "What I want you to consider is that I can build a team to get us into the Championship," I replied. "As these kids mature, we can be a Championship side."

    While I made the pitch for what I could do for the club, I was also calculating that 825 would become over 1K weekly wage once I got the team.

    "Okay, how about this," I continued. "850 per week, flat, car maintenance, 25% promotion increase, 35% relegation decrease. Is that acceptable?"

    Erik looked at the other Directors. They all nodded their agreement.

    "Excellent," he concluded. "I do believe were in agreement. I'll draw up the terms and present them to the STB. They meet tomorrow and provided they approve this, and I can't imagine they won't, we can announce this extension on Friday."

    We all stood and shook hands.

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  35. "What can I get you?" Gwen asked.

    "I'll have one of you," I said.

    "I'm sorry, sir," Gwen said and turned to examine the menu on the wall behind her. "I'm not on the menu today. Would you like to order something off the menu before you, sir?"

    "Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?" I asked.

    She groaned.

    "I'm off in fifteen, you want an espresso or something while you wait?" she asked.

    "Yes, an espresso, please, miss," I replied.

    I sipped my espresso and read the latest football and world news on my phone.

    "What brings you down here?" Gwen asked sitting down across from me.

    "I have good news. Wimbledon and I have agreed to a contract extension and a raise."

    "Brilliant," she exclaimed. "What do you want to do to celebrate?"

    "That's where I thought you might help."

    She suggested high tea, a movie and then dinner. Works for me.
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  37. Friendly: AFC Wimbledon v. Hastings United

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ID:	543757Our fixture against Oldham Athletic had been moved to mid-week because Oldham were still in the FA Cup.

    We needed to break out of our scoring slump, so I scheduled this friendly against the semi-pros Hastings United. Now that Michael Smith and Mark Tomlinson are back, I want to start playing the 442 again.

    Everyone would get 45 minutes.

    GK: Daniel Lincoln
    D: Brad Smith, Kris Thackray, Andy Frampton, James Fenlon
    M: George Francomb, Mark Tomlinson, Daniel Barlaser, Simon Johnson
    F: James Loveridge, Michael Smith

    Loveridge set up Smith for a number of chances. He converted one. I'm still concerned about Lovers, though. He isn't running at the defense like he used to. Also, his shooting is limp and inaccurate.

    Back-up defender Pat Baldwin scored from an inaccurate cross that floated over the keeper and nestled into the upper far corner of the net. Everyone but Pat claimed he meant to do that. Pat remained silent on the subject.

    The teams who hadn't had their League Two matches postponed. We slipped to 5th after Hartlepool beat Bristol Rovers and moved up from 5th to 2nd. But more important for the bigger picture and Wimbledon's prospects for the season, Southend lost at home. That had to hurt.

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  38. Sunday, 30 November 2014, noonish

    "Alright, Lil," I said. "Tell me about Oldham."

    "They stank under your predecessor Neal Ardley and they have improved marginally since they sacked Neal and replaced him with Richie Barker," Lil explained. "They still play a 451 with wingers and if we mark their wingers tightly we shouldn't have too much problem."

    "If we use 442 I foresee them having real problems with James and Michael," my Chief Scout continued. "And they drop deep when defending so late runs from Daniel or Leandro should be devastating."

    "Thanks," I said. "What else?"

    "Fabian Rowe has whatever flu you had," Physiotherapist Jon Whitney said. "As you know, he'll be at home until further notice. Probably back in training next weekend. We'll see. He's young. Matteo's groin injury is going to take time. Looks like two more weeks at this point."

    "Danny Boy and Mark Tomlinson are improving by leaps and bounds," my Assistant Manager Sean Hankin said. "From strength and endurance to tactics to ball skills, everything. Being in the starting eleven is the key for their improvement. The concensus is still that Daniel's potential is as a League One midfielder and that Mark could play in the Championship."

    "On the other hand, Haz and Pat Baldwin's ball skills concern me," he continued. "They seem to be getting worse."

    "And Lincoln is also improving rapidly," Paul Rachubka, goalkeeping coach interjected. "His skill set is improving nicely, but he's got top class agility. The lad's like a cat."

    "I have news about the possibility of Vinnie Jones showing up for a match," I said. "It's been confirmed. It'll be sooner than we originally had thought during the holidays. Instead it'll be for the Accrington Stanley home match on the 13th. This is also good because Accrington stink and we'll probably take all three points. Would hate to ruin his visit by losing."

    "Anything else?" I asked. "Alright then. Focus this week is on attacking. Oldham and Bristol are weak sides and we need to make sure our offense is in top shape. As per usual, we'll work on free kicks prior to each match."
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  39. Name:  Enrico-twitter.png
Views: 557
Size:  4.8 KBEnrico Pucci @enricopucci - 30 Nov 14
    RT @AFCWimbledon It's official! @VinnieJones will attending the 13 Dec home
    match v. Accrington. Get your tix now! #Wimbledon
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  40. League Two: Oldham Athletic AFC v. AFC Wimbledon

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ID:	543774An afternoon train ride up north to Manchester and then a bus ride to Boundary Park in Oldham. People often moan about the weather in England. I understand. It's damp. Often. But occasionally you get days in December like today. 9 Celsius (48 F) and calm is mighty nice for an evening match. I'll be enjoying it from underneath my hat, scarf and parka.

    The Latics are having a tough season. They've been a point or two above the relegation zone since September. Their new manager Richie Barker motivated them to bag a couple of victories, but two straight losses combined with victories for fellow strugglers have dropped them back into the danger zone.

    We hope to compound their misery.

    GK: Chris Dunn
    D: Brad Smith, Kris Thackray, Andy Frampton (C), James Fenlon
    M: George Francomb, Mark Tomlinson, Daniel Barlaser, Simon Johnson
    F: James Loveridge, Michael Smith

    Subs: Daniel Lincoln (GK), Reuben Hazell (D), Cameron Dummigan (D), Steven Gregory (M), Adam Pepper (M), Leandro Depetris (M), Jack Redshaw (F)

    Oldham have quick wingers so Cam is on the bench. Also, Dave Wilson, the fitness coach, has mentioned that Cam came back really knackered from his last international trip. Probably partied too hard, but Dave's assessment was he needed a rest.

    "As you noticed, this stadium is not even a quarter full," I said to begin my team talk. "And a whole lot of the people in the seats are Wombles up from London. Oldham are hurting and I expect you all to step on their necks and make their misery worse. Their confidence is low. Many of the players were part of last season's relegation. Now they're staring at another relegation and this time it's out of the professional league. It's got to suck to be in that locker room, to turn up to training every day. Let's make it worse for them."

    "If we are title challengers, if we are promotion hopefuls, we win today," I said. "I have faith that our defense can shut down the worst offense in League Two. I have faith that we can score against one of the worst defenses in League Two. Go forth an emasculate them."

    Oldham started well. Having been relegated, I could tell they wanted to get off to a strong start. We held them at bay without giving them any early chances. Our early counter attacks were toothless.

    In the 20th minute, they created the first chance of the match. Left winger Salim Kerkar fed a pass across the top edge of the box. Their striker Adam Rooney had a wide open shot and despite having plenty of time to set himself, fired directly at Chris Dunn.

    I can see why they're in trouble.

    We started to wake up. We started winning tackles, winning 50-50 balls and getting to loose balls first.

    In the 29th minute, Danny played a pass up to Loveridge. Lovers controlled the ball and raced into the left channel. Once inside the box, he cut back onto his right foot and rolled a weak shot well wide of the far post. Everything looked great up until his shot.

    'I gotta do something about this,' I thought to myself. 'He's just not playing like himself for a while now.'

    Danny unleashed a cannon of a shot, but right at the Latic's keeper in the 31st minute. But this was more like it. We were starting to control the play.

    As the clock rolled past 36 minutes, Oldham finally broke out of their end on the counter. Tomlinson ended their chance with a cynical tackle. I was shocked he wasn't carded. But it would have been worth the card regardless as Rooney was about to dribble into the box.

    Midfielder Michael O'Connor curled the free kick around the wall and a whisker wide of Chris Dunn's left post. Dunn just stood there and watched it whistle past. We got lucky. But this is what happens against team's facing relegation; they have no luck.

    In the 44th, Simon ran into a dead end dribbling down into the left corner. He played a ball back for Fenlon. Fens stepped into it and whipped in a ball to the back post. George outmuscled and out-jumped their left back and smashed a header goalward. Unfortunately, right at the keeper who tipped it over the bar.

    I hadn't mentioned Michael Smith up until this point. It's because he'd been waging a personal war against the Oldham backline and midfield. He'd challenged for many headers, held up the ball when he got it and generally taken a beating and given one as well. I could tell he was tiring, but needed the mayhem that he creates at least until halftime. Unfortunately, it was just about halftime and we were still tied.

    Anyway, George whipped in a free kick and Smith leapt above two defenders at the far post and headed the ball across the goal mouth. Captain Andy leapt and smashed it off the keeper's hand and into the net for his first goal of the season!


    We'd scored a second goal from a corner after scoring none all season.

    We then proceeded to do exactly what drives me absolutely bat**** crazy. We proceeded to fall asleep defensively. We gave them two chances in quick succession that they didn't convert because they are completely and utterly lacking in any attacking confidence. A decent side would have punished us.

    Dunn was brilliant to deny them. Our lead is down to him.

    "I'm in a quandary, Hanks," I said quietly to Sean Hankin as we walked toward the changing room. "Do I praise them for keeping the ball in their half and attacking? Or do I rip them for the four chances they gave away and especially the two right after we'd scored? Or do I warn them not to get complacent?"

    "You're still planning to switch to a 451 and take Smith off?" Hanks asked. I nodded. "Hmmm ... let's just praise them and hope the Oldham collapse in the second half. If we hold them until the hour mark, I think they'll fall apart."

    I went with Hanks' advice. Tomlinson dropped into the spot right in front of the defense. Leandro replaced Smith but slotted in beside Danny Boy in the midfield.

    When Oldham came out, they'd switched to a 442. Dang. This meant that I'd need Tomlinson to patrol in front of my backline and leave the marking to my backline.

    Oldham also came out of the locker room determined. They took the ball into our half from the kick-off and stayed there for a few minutes.

    In the 48th, we broke out on the counter attack up the left flank. Simon beat their right back and charged into the box. Their center back swooped in with a powerful tackle that got just about as much of Simon as ball.

    "ALL MAN, NO BALL! PENALTY! PENALTY!" I shouted at the ref. All the Wombles behind the goal also had a great view and screamed for a penalty. The ref made the symbol of the ball with his hands to indicate that it was a clean and fair tackle.

    I walked up to the fourth official.

    "That was ridiculous," I said. "Simply ridiculous."

    Oldham took the ball back down managed a long range shot as I continued to moan at the fourth official. Dunn made an easy save and punted the ball upfield. George Francomb ran forward to get underneath it. I cringed as I expected a bone-shattering collision with the left back who was also watching the ball. Maybe their left back noticed George in that split second before the collision because George won the header cleanly and sent it over Lovers head and towards the goal.

    The keeper got to the ball first but nearly collided with his retreating center back. Loveridge ran onto the loose ball, took a touch, aimed and filled his pants. He rolled the ball an inch wide of the far post from 20 yards. He could have run the ball all the way into the net.

    My palm met my face.

    The ball stayed in our half until the 61st minute. Dunn thumped a goal kick over the half line. Lovers won the header to Leandro. Leandro, Tomlinson and Danny Boy passed between themselves until we had it at the top of the Latic's box. Then Leandro played a pass behind their right back for Simon to run onto.

    His shot was blocked by a desperation tackle. The ball rebounded to Leandro just outside of the box. He unleashed a thunderous strike that nailed Lovers square in the backside. Lovers barely had time to wince before he got clobbered.

    The ref whistled Lovers for being offside.

    In the 64th minute, George won another corner down the right. Leandro jogged over to take it. He curled in a near post ball that Brad Smith smashed home.

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    First goal for the club! And Oldham were done and dusted now.

    I replaced Simon in the 68th minute. He'd gotten his foot stomped on. Adam Pepper got a few playing minutes. I replaced Loveridge with Redshaw in the last few minutes to waste some time.

    As we thanked the traveling supporters they serenaded us with the idiotic little ditty:

    "Brad and Andy, fine and dandy! Wombles in second is better than candy!"

    I only say it's idiotic because their little ditty stuck in my head all night long. Just wouldn't go away.

    But they were right, we were in second. It's so tight up at the top that a win goes a long way when your fellow challengers have the night off or draw or lose.

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  42. I awoke on the bright shining morning of December 4th to math calculations running through my head. We'd hit the 20th match in the League 2 season. 3rd, 4th and 5th positions were all tied at 37 points.

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    How many points would these three teams accumulate at the rate they are currently bagging points? If my math was correct, they'd have 85 points at the end of the season.

    This meant Wimbledon would need to accumulate 49 more points to finish in an automatic promotion spot. That's 16 wins and a draw in the remaining 26 matches.

    This doesn't seem unreasonable.

    At home, we are 6W, 3D and 1L. 21 points in 10 matches. That's 2.1 points per match. We have 13 remaining home matches. By my calculations, we'd pull in 27 points in our home matches. In other words, we must win 9 of our 13 home matches. I don't see that as a problem.

    That leaves us 21 more points we need to accumulate. Essentially, we need 7 wins in 13 away matches.

    Or in other words, we need 16 wins in 26 matches to get us to 48 points. That doesn't seem at all unreasonable.

    Ah, math.

  43. Thursday 4 December, 2014 noonish

    "Is it just me or am I worried for a no reason about our ability to score if we get behind or defend a lead?" I asked.

    "What has your doctor said about your meds?" Assistant Manager Sean Hankin asked.

    "I hear shock therapy works really well for new managers," Coach Matt Woolley said then started poking away at his iPad.

    "It ain't the keepers," Goalkeeping Coach Paul Rachubka added. "Dunn and Lincoln have been keeping us in the matches."

    It was clear that Wools was looking up some stats. So we waited.

    "Well, we're third best defensively," Wools said finally. "But do consider that we shipped eleven of those 26 goals in two matches."

    "We've scored one goal in seven of our last ten," Wools continued. "Of those seven in which we've scored one goal, we've triumphed once, drawn three and lost three. We have not come from behind to draw a match yet this season. Draws have always felt like lost points not a point gained."

    "We haven't scored three in a match since October," Wools concluded.

    "Thanks, man," I said. "That's not uplifting news but it's interesting."

    "I say that sooner or later we're going to bust out," Hanks said. "Our defending is solid. We have the base there. We just need to start scoring."

    "Smith has been out, but Loveridge has been stuck since Smith went out," I added. "So I agree with you. I think that once we get them back on form, the goals will start flowing."

    "What about Bristol Rovers, Lil?" I asked.

    "They'll probably line up with a 451 with wingers," he replied. "They've been hovering in or just above the relegation zone all season. They're one of the few teams near the bottom that haven't fired their manager. They score a decent amount of goals, 29 so far, but have conceded the second most of all teams in the division."

    "So I'd play cautiously and count on them crumbling," Lil concluded.
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    I don't believe Rover will just roll over

    5 December 2014 17:28

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ID:	546078I like the city of Bristol well enough. It's pleasant. Been there several times with the wife before the kids. I'm a huge fan of Massive Attack, Portishead and the whole Bristol music scene.

    But not their football clubs. City have no redeeming qualities of which I'm aware. We may be visiting them next season as they look certain to be relegated from the Championship and we Wombles are looking good for promotion. But I'm not really interested in them in the least as we don't face them tomorrow.

    Maybe it's something in the water but Rovers are in danger of getting relegated as well. Tomorrow, we'll bring our smooth passing game to the poorly maintained pitch surrounded by sheds on three sides and a massive stand on one that the locals call the Memorial Ground.

    As away fans, they'll cram us into one the uncovered cattle pen behind one of the goals. Thankfully, the weather is supposed to be rather nice. That would be a change from last season.

    And don't get me started on the food. Ghastly. Not fit even for cattle. Which is why they feed it to visiting supporters.

    The proposition of playing Rovers in Bristol worries me. We haven't been scoring and Rovers look like a banana peel to me. I think we've rather lost our way of late. I think we've been lucky to stay in the promotion places. It seems everyone is having troubles of late.

    I can see Pucci putting out an attacking side and us getting thrashed like at Scumthroat and Roachdale. Yes, I know that those two clubs are much farther up the table, but I'm saying that Pucci has the tendency to naively line up a very attacking side that simply gets shredded.

    I'd love to see Smith and Loveridge reunited up top. Love to see them start banging in the goals like back in September and October as we climbed into first. I just can't see it happening tomorrow.
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  45. League Two: Bristol Rovers FC v. AFC Wimbledon

    It's the 6th of December and it's 15C (60F). We had worse weather this time last year in the south of Spain. So I'm loving the weather. We had a nice two hour bus ride to Bristol's Memorial Stadium.

    I'm worried about Bristol's ability to score, so I went with a 451. Francomb and Loveridge are tired so Simon Johnson and Michael Smith start. Matteo Nole is still out injured so Adam Pepper starts out on the left wing. Fenlon needs a rest so Dummigan starts at right back and Brad at left. Also, Kris Thackray is suspended so I'm playing teenager Ben Harrison. I've completely lost faith in Reuben Hazell in the center of defense.

    Also, Daniel Barlaser will not play a full 90. I think he can manage about an hour.

    GK: Chris Dunn
    D: Cameron Dummigan, Kris Thackray, Andy Frampton (C), Brad Smith
    M: Mark Tomlinson (DM), Simon Johnson, Daniel Barlaser, Leandro Depetris, Adam Pepper
    F: Michael Smith

    Subs: Daniel Lincoln (GK), Reuben Hazell (D), Jim Fenlon (D), Steven Gregory (M), George Francomb (M), James Loveridge (F), Jack Redshaw (F)

    Normally, I give you the exciting highlights. Today was not exciting. Our goal was flukey. 5'7" Mark Tomlinson won a header from a goal kick. He sent it goalward. Michael Smith was first to the ball, fended off two defenders, rounded the goalkeeper and scored.

    Tomlinson's screw up led to their goal 3 minutes later. We were camped in their half. The ball had been cleared out and Mark got there first. Instead of passing to any of the several options he had, he held until they stripped it off him. Two passes later and their winger Ellis Harrison was in alone on Dunn.

    Suddenly, we couldn't pass. We could barely defend. Rovers could have scored 3 or 4 before half time. Thankfully, their battling relegation for a reason and couldn't convert the chances we gifted them.

    Our only other chance in the first half was when Michael Smith dribbled 60 yards but the keeper made himself large and blocked the shot.

    "You're playing like strangers," I said at halftime. "Settle down. This is a simple game. Pass to the guys in the same color shirt as you. Seriously."

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ID:	546629Newbie Brad Smith was have a poor match. He had the ball out on the left in our half. For reasons I fail to understand, he decided to play a ball halfway between Andy Frampton and Chris Dunn. A perfect through ball for their striker to run onto. Thankfully, Dunn blocked the shot and saved our bacon.

    I immediately replaced Brad with Fenlon.

    A minute later, Michael Smith fell clutching his knee. I sent on Loveridge.

    As a manager, this was the most depressing half of the season. We collapsed into parked bus formation and defended incompetently. Everyone was ball-watching. When we got the ball we couldn't do anything. Literally.

    As I was standing on the sideline fuming about our poor performance, Hanks walked up next to me and handed me his phone. It was the live scores.

    "Can you ****ing believe it?" he asked.

    I couldn't. If we managed to hold on, all the other teams above us were losing. It made watching the last 20 minutes pure torture.

    Fortunately, Rovers were just as poor as we were and the match ended 1-1.

    "We got lucky today," I said once everyone was back in the locker room. "We should have lost. We've been working on several fundamental things like working hard for each other so we can play a short passing game. Today was horrible."

    "And this is the strangest team talk I may ever give," I continued. "Because despite our horrid performance, we're in first because everybody around us dropped points or lost. ****ing unbelievable."

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  46. There are two things I like about this story. The first is the obvious, the amount of work and actual story telling put into it, miles above most other stories. The second is the way in which you work all those baffling and often annoying FM bugs into the story. That bit about the player freezing on the ball until relieved of it by the opposition. Seen it So. Many. Times.
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  47. Quote Originally Posted by kewlwarez View Post
    There are two things I like about this story. The first is the obvious, the amount of work and actual story telling put into it, miles above most other stories. The second is the way in which you work all those baffling and often annoying FM bugs into the story. That bit about the player freezing on the ball until relieved of it by the opposition. Seen it So. Many. Times.
    Once again, thanks for reading.

    The two other bugs that really make FM14 difficult and annoying are:

    1. wingers, outside midfielders and fullbacks won't cross.
    When any player beats a defender in either offensive corner, they NEVER curl in a cross. Instead, they dribble into the penalty box. Once in the box and EVEN if the easiest play is to chip in a little cross, they will
    a) wait for a defender to come out and try to beat them (if they have good dribbling skills)
    b) dawdle aimlessly if they aren't good dribblers then blast a shot with 3 defenders plus keeper in front of them.
    c) try to bounce the ball off the defender and hope to get a corner.

    2. Referee won't stop game for substitute.
    If you have a substitute pending, DO NOT pause the game and make another sub. The game won't recognize the second sub. I've noticed that several times this season for Wimbledon that the ref won't recognize my sub. There doesn't seem to be any pattern.

    The other weakness in FM14 is I can't configure a defender to stop a low near post corner or free kick. I get scored on fairly regularly because EVERYONE is out at the penalty spot or back post.

    These are annoying bugs that didn't exist in FM12.
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  48. "I've got news," Gwen said after we've ordered our dinner. "I'm going to the south of France in early January for a photo shoot."

    "That's great!" I replied.

    "It's for the spring line for [company name redacted]," she continued. "We will be outside of Toulon and guess who's going to be the photographer?"

    "Since I get to guess, it has to be John," I replied. As in John, the communications and tech guy for AFC Wimbledon.

    "Mmm hmmm," she said. "This could be big. Just found out this afternoon. I'm so excited. I've only done local shoots and, let's face it, small-time shoots. This is the big time."


    "Yeah, I know," she said. "I hardly know what to think."

    "So John's going to be asking for some time off then?" I asked rhetorically. "Who knew that a simple case of stalking might actually turn into something good. BTW, you haven't seen stalker boy recently, have you?"

    "Haven't seen the little bastard since when I called you to the bakery," she replied.
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  49. Sunday 7 December 2014 9AM

    "I'd just like to note that nobody has requested that I get them a ticket until we announced that Vinnie Jones would be in town for the Accrington match," Assistant Manager Sean Hankin announced. "How do I go about getting them in?"

    "I have no idea," I replied. "Better ask Erik. Let's start with Lil's report."

    "Well, they're a pretty sad lot," Lil began. "They've been toward the bottom all season and yesterday's match against Walsall was dire. Ninety minutes I'll never get back."

    "They play a 451 with wingers," Lil said. "But come on. I know everyone wants to be Barcelona, but this 451 fad is so tiresome if you don't have any quality. Sorry. Anyway, their wingers aren't particularly fast nor talented. Their lone striker is fast enough except for being rather useless. At any rate, I wasn't impressed."

    "They got one defender, a Scottish lad, Tom Aldred who isn't too shabby, but the rest of the lot are bunch of slow-footed ball-watchers," Lil said. "Seriously, yesterday's match was really that bad."

    "So, in summary, Vinnie picked the right weekend to visit," I said. Lil nodded.

    "I want to focus on team cohesion," I said. "We'll need to work hard to break them down as I imagine they'll sit back and hope to cause trouble on the counter."

    "Matteo Nole should be available for next weekend," Physio Jon Whitney said. "And Fabian Rowe should be back today from his flu."
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  50. "Enrico, may I have a word," Fabian Rowe said between drills.

    "Sure, you feeling better? Energy back yet?" I asked.

    "Yeah," he replied looking at this feet. Then he looked me in the eye. "I want a transfer. You're not treating me right and I want first team football."

    "Really," I replied. I did not expect this. The kid's been playing well enough, showing a little promise but get's sick so we tell him to stay away until his flu has run it's course. "You've been demanding **** since you got here. You don't work hard in training and yet expect me to put you straight into the first team ahead of guys who work their asses off for me. When injuries give you an opportunity, you play alright."

    "Sure, I'll gladly sell your entitled ass as soon as I can," I said pulling out my iPhone. "But here's how it works. You train with the reserves. Yes, that's right. The reserves. And you'll note that we don't have a reserve team. So go shower and get the **** out of here. I don't want to see you again."

    "But ..." he started to say.

    "Get the **** out of my sight and take your sense of entitlement with you," I spat out at him.

    Then I used my phone to do all the necessary paperwork to put him on the transfer market.
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