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The Alfa Romeo Metaphor

  1. Conn's Avatar Conn
    Star Player
    Ok 2 hours well spendt reading the last 30 pages of this story while playing my own career game

    I got to say this is awesome stuff! The highlight for me so far is when King Vinny came visiting.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Quote Originally Posted by Conn View Post
    Ok 2 hours well spendt reading the last 30 pages of this story while playing my own career game

    I got to say this is awesome stuff! The highlight for me so far is when King Vinny came visiting.

    Keep up the good work!
    Thanks! Vinnie is an awesome character, isn't he?

  3. As Hanks told the players it was both a lucky (that we didn't lose) and unlucky (that we didn't score) draw, my phone pinged in my pocket. I pulled it out and it was a text from Gwen:

    Don't get on the bus

    Okay, I'll bite:

    Why? Al Queda? IRA? Bad dance music on sound system?

    Within a minute, she replied:

    LOL, no. I'm at St James w Dad n bro, have hotel reserved for us.

    Rather than try and talk, which I can't, or use semiphore, don't know how, or hand signals, I just showed Hanks and Wools the text thread. They both thought it funny. Wools thought it was so funny that he slapped me on the back which caused a coughing fit which they also thought was funny.

    Further instructions arrived and I wandered over to a nearby pub. As I entered, I saw Gwen waving from a booth in the back corner. She was sitting with her Dad and brother.

    "Hi," I croaked.

    After the obligatory handshakes and peck on the cheek, her Dad said he could've been to the loo and had a pie and a beer and just gone into the stand to watch the last ten of each half.

    I nodded and typed message and handed him this message: Yeah, it was pretty bizarro.

    We continued our conversation in this manner until Gwen announced that they had a train to catch and she and I had dinner reservations.
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  4. Spent the last couple of days reading through the 71 pages. Enjoying it.


    71 pages and not finished the second season, pretty.. impressive?

    Are you much further ahead in your save or at the same point as the story?

  5. Quote Originally Posted by CantGetEnoughOfJelavic View Post
    Spent the last couple of days reading through the 71 pages. Enjoying it.

    71 pages and not finished the second season, pretty.. impressive?

    Are you much further ahead in your save or at the same point as the story?
    Glad you're enjoying it. No, I'm not that far ahead. It varies between 1 and 3 matches usually.

  6. Sunday, 15 February 2015 10:05AM

    "Sorry I'm late," I said as I burst into the conference room at New Malden.

    "Not a problem," Hanks replied.

    "How was your Valentine's Day ... night?" Rachubka asked. Wools snickered.

    "Italians do not kiss and tell," Chief Scout Lil Fuccillo said. Then he snickered, too.

    "What am I missing out on?" I replied. "Obviously you see why I'm always early so you all can't gossip about me."

    "Wools saw the billboard," Hanks said.

    "The bill ... oh? Where?" I asked. So the spring fashion campaign was officially kicking off and I was likely to see Gwen more often but not in person.

    "Tube stations," Wools replied. "She looks great. That much skin on display makes me feel like it's almost spring. My tube station, my transfer and here at Berrylands."

    "And you took a pic, right? And you're going to let me see, right?"

    He held up his phone.

    "Damn, that is a lot of skin," I said. "I'd better text her. She'll want to know the campaign has kicked off. Then we'd better get started."
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  7. Friendly: AFC Wimbledon v. Westfield FC

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ID:	593736Everyone got 45 minutes since we were unable to score against Exeter. Matteo Nole opened the scoring, Michael Smith bagged a hat trick and Jack Midson was in the right place at the right time. He seems to have a penchant for doing that.

    What was galling was the goal that Westfield scored. Captain Andy Frampton misjudged a punt and let it bounce over his head. Then dove in on a tackle and missed. He didn't even take the striker, Liam Whymark down. A true comedy of errors.

    Also, Simon Johnson's brace is heartening because I don't want to rush George Francomb. According to Whitney, George is mostly over the flu but extremely weak.

    This was more or less a training match in which we got to practice against a static defense that had parked the bus. I must admit I'm pleased.

    Today's game makes me feel confident that we'll be firing on all cylinders this Saturday against York.

  8. Wednesday, 18 February 2015 2ish in the afternoon

    "Enrico, I'm glad I caught you," Chairman Erik Samuelson said.

    "Erik, how are you?" I asked.

    "Good, good," he replied. "I just wanted to check on fitness facility we're funding and remind you of two contract items you may have forgotten. They're both of the fine print variety."

    "Oh?"

    "Yes, both Reuben Hazell and Andy Frampton have clauses in their contracts that I agreed to that if they were to play 25 matches, they get automatic extensions."

    "Oh."

    "Neither were starters when they signed," Erik continued. "Neal signed them as cover."

    "And?" I asked. "You have that look that says there's something else."

    "Reuben has started 18 matches and come on as a sub in 6 more. You've played him in the Cup and the St. Johnstone Cup. So he'll be here next season."

    "Well, damn," I said. "I hate to disappoint them, but they won't cut it in League One. They're great guys. Great leaders but they simply don't have the footspeed. I wanted to offer them coaching positions not buy-outs."

    "Let's talk more about how we deal with this," Erik said. "It may be entirely my fault. I thought I told you when we initially reviewed the existing contracts but there was such a vast amount to go over with you last June."

    "Don't sweat it," I said. "Hopefully I can convince them to take up coaching. Cuz they certainly won't be playing for me next season. Thanks for the head's up."
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 29/05/2014 at 02:51 AM.
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  10. "Well, my lad, we've finally got some decent weather for football," the grandfather said to his grandson as the father sat down in their seats.

    "Aw we going to win today, Gwampa?" the boy asked.

    "Outside of last week, we've been quite ... what's that look for?" the grandfather said.

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ID:	595644"It's the team sheet," the father replied gawping at the matchday programme. "Jack Midson is starting instead of James Loveridge."

    "Is he hurt?" the grandfather queried.

    "No, he's listed as a sub and, look, he's out there in a track suit knocking the ball around."

    "Wovewidge isn't pwaying?"

    "What's gotten into Pucci?" the grandfather asked. "I ask you in all sincerity."

    "And Leandro Depetris is starting instead of Danny Barlander," the father continued.

    "Gwampa, you forgot to give me my hot dog," the grandson said. "Why isn't Wovewidge pwaying, Gwampa?"

    "I haven't the faintest idea, my dear lad," the grandfather replied. "Here's your hot dog."

    A mere four minutes after kick-off everyone was on their feet cheering a goal. Players in blue mobbed Michael Smith by the corner flag.

    "I wathn't wooking, I was eating my hot dog, what happened?" the grandson asked.

    "They cleared the header from the corner and Michael Smith volleyed it in," the father explained. "We'll see it on the highlight show tonight. It was really that good."

    Two minutes later and Wimbledon won a foul 22 to 24 yards out to the left.

    "Weaw going to score again," the grandson said as Depetris fussed with the placement of the ball. The grandfather patted his grandson ontop of his head.

    The already standing crowd was cheering again after Midson side-footed the ball into the empty net after Depetris hit the crossbar.

    They boy leapt into his father's arms nearly knocking him over into the screaming supporters adjacent to them. Nobody cared. Dons were up by two after six minutes.

    "My dear boy, what has your father been feeding you," the grandfather said. Then addressing the father: "Can I take him to the track with me?"

    The son laughed.

    "What's Pucci doing?" the grandfather asked pointing at the Wimbledon manager who was at the touch line yelling to his players. "He can't be disappointed in anything can he? He baffles me."

    "Judging by the hand gestures," the son replied. "I think he wants them to hang back, be careful about getting caught out."

    "He's so Italian," the grandfather remarked.

    Two minutes later and everyone was groaning as Midson shot wide despite being unpressured at the top of the box.

    The match went quiet for a while with neither team having much possession.

    At the half hour mark, York's Manny Smith thundered a header from a free kick off the bar to oohs from the crowd. The Dons raced upfield on the counter attack and won a corner.

    As Depetris floated his cross toward the back post, the grandfather was up and out of his seat screaming THAT WAS A JUDO THROW along with most of the fans behind the attacking goal. Then everyone was cheering and hugging as the ref pointed to the spot.

    "That was flagrant," the father said. "Who earned that?"

    "Cam Dummigan," the grandfather replied.

    Midson buried the penalty and the fans went ballastic in the stands. Midson ran back to the halfway line in front of the main stand kissing his badge to show everyone how much he loved scoring for the club.

    "Pucci must've been on to something, must've seen something during training this week," the father remarked to his father.

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ID:	595645"Weaw going to win today, wight, Gwampa," the grandson asked.

    "Most assuredly, my dear lad, most assuredly."

    A few minutes later and the fans were serenading goalkeeper Chris Dunn. A York midfielder made a run from deep that wasn't picked up, received a through ball pass and Dunn deflected the shot for a corner. Then two minutes later makes a diving save from a free kick.

    "DUNN! DUNN! CHRISTOPHER DUNN! DUNN! DUNN! CHRISTOPHER DUNN!" the fans chanted.

    Another goal by Midson after the half and every Womble wandered home happy. They remained top and had thrashed a promotion-challenging side. Everyone applauded Midson who was annointed Man-of-the-Match.

    "That was more like we played a Conference side," the grandfather remarked as the threesome walked back towards the father's car.

    The father nodded.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 30/05/2014 at 03:54 AM.
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  11. "Cheers!" Gwen said as we clinked our wine glasses as we waited for take-off.

    On the spur of the moment, I'd decided to reward my players with two whole days off. I texted Gwen that we escape to Cadiz for these two days. She unsurprisingly thought it was a great idea. After throwing a few items into carry-on bags, we roared off to the airport in the Alfa.

    "My friend, Esteban, how are you?" I asked in Spanish. Most people in the first class cabin could hear someone yelling on the other end. "Yes, I'm fine. I'm better than fine. I'm sitting on an airplane that will be taking off in a moment for your fair city."

    Head's in the cabin turned as the voice on the other end yelled some more.

    "Of course, she's sitting right next to me," I said as I stuck an elbow in Gwen's ribs. "No you can't pick me up. I'll text when I land and you direct me to where you'll be. Of course. Ciao."

    Gwen raised an eyebrow.

    "Esteban is crazy excited to meet you," I said. "You'll love Cadiz."
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  12. The magic of going somewhere warm during the winter is the first taste of the air at your destination. It's 15C (60F) at 8pm in Cadiz as we deplane. It's not damp. There's a pleasant breeze. I don't feel the need to wrap a scarf around my neck and zip up my parka. In fact, I only brought a light jacket with me and mainly for when we return to London.

    "I can see why you liked it here," Gwen said as we walked through customs. I smiled.

    "You went to the south of France in January so you get the idea already," I said.

    I felt like a dog sticking my nose out the window as we drove from the airport at Jerez down to the coast, thru Puerto Real and into Cadiz. The air felt so fresh and clean. And warm. We checked into our hotel in Old Cadiz then walked to the restaurant to meet Esteban.

    I opened the door for Gwen and followed her in. The thing about going anywhere with Gwen is men's heads always turn when we enter. Tonight we were in Spain and this effect was only amplified except that one man jumped up and ran across the restaurant. He gave me a great big bear hug then hugged and kissed Gwen. This only drew more eyeballs.

    "Gwen meet Esteban," I said.

    "So nice to finally meet you, Enrico has told me so much already," Esteban said. I translated. "And your head, my dear friend, is looking quite good. Your shave is not an embarrassment. Are doing the buffing yourself or is she helping?"

    "It's all me."

    Esteban introduced Gwen to his friends. We drank wine, told stories, ate dinner, told lies and drank more wine then shut down the restaurant. While the immediacy of our jokes, double entendres and puns were lost in the translation for Gwen, I doggedly translated even the embarrassing stories about me. Translating is exhausting. Especially after many glasses of wine.

    "You haven't made those kind of friends yet in London," Gwen remarked as we slowly wobbled toward our hotel.

    "That's true," I agreed. "He's one of a kind. Where else on the planet am I going to find a barber like him? Of course, you weren't here. You were in London hanging out with those boring English boys."

    "You're just saying that to get in my pants," he replied.

    "That's not true," I protested. "You're not wearing pants. You're wearing a skirt."
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  13. Click image for larger version

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    We enjoyed a light, late breakfast then walked off to see the sights. Like many old cities, Cadiz is compact. We started with a walk along the Mediterranean. We meandered through the old parts of the city. Gwen did some shopping.

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    After lunch we strolled around a bit more then had a siesta back at the hotel.

    Our plan was to meet Esteban around 6pm at a bar near the Ramon de Carrenza and watch The Yellow Submarine play CD Alcala. Alcala were in the relegation zone and were certain to be feast for the league leaders.

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ID:	596303Esteban supplied me with a Cadiz ballcap to better disguise me. With my sunglasses on, I hoped nobody would recognize me. I hoped it would be easier because the stadium was only about a third full.

    My hope for anonymity was nearly immediately quashed as Esteban introduced me to all his friends who sat around him for every home match. But everybody was pretty cool about it. The advantage is nobody in our entourage paid for our beers.

    Only three familiar figures were in the starting line-up. Jose Aurelio Gay (my replacement) had entirely gotten rid of all the defenders that had given me nightmares during my tenure. That was probably why they were sitting in first. Airam would be the lone striker, my Captain, Mikel Martins was running the midfield and Perico would be terrorizing Alcala down the left flank.

    It must have been because I was in the stands, but the defensive began the game defending like I was used to. My palm was covering my face and everyone was groaning in the third minute as Alcala's striker jogged unmarked through the defense and side-footed home a cross to give the visitors an early lead.

    Then just before half-time their other striker played a give-n-go beat two defenders and slotted home to put the Yellow Submarine down by two.

    "***** ******** *** **** ********!" Esteban cursed. "They're defending like when you were, boss. We've lost five, count them all, five matches at home. You know how many we've lost on the road? Yes, you do don't you. One. We've given up nine goals on our travels and double that now at home. It's a ****ing disgrace."

    "Swearing is so much better in Spanish," Gwen said. "That first bit was swearing, right?"

    I nodded then translated what he'd said.

    "What'd she say?" Esteban asked once I was done. I told him. He laughed.

    I told him about how she liked it when I swore in Italian. He laughed some more.

    Perico won a penalty in the 50th minute which Airam converted to get Cadiz back in the match. But in typical Cadiz fashion, they nearly immediately gave up a third. Gay was screaming at his players after the third goal.

    Both sides went through the motions until the ref ended the Cadistas' misery and we could go drown our sorrows over a late dinner.

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  14. Monday, 23 February 2015 9ish

    "Good morning, Esteban," I said as Gwen and I walked into his barbershop. "Give me the business."

    "Sit down, my friend," Esteban replied. "Would you tell the lovely Gwen to feel free to peruse the latest fashion magazines we've laid out for her?" I obliged. "Have you read the Dario de Cadiz this morning?"

    "I didn't."

    He handed me the sports section as I sat down. I scanned through the article about the loss and found this at the end:
    Sightings

    Former Cadiz manager Enrico Pucci was spotted at the Ramon de Carrenza. He is rumored to be scouting his former charge, Airam, who has not agreed to a new contract. Pucci may want to bring him to England to play in London for his current team Wimbledon. Airam and Pucci are reported to be on good terms and Airam speaks English which would smooth any move to England this summer.
    "That's funny," I said. I set the paper down and Esteban began wrapping me up for the upcoming shave.

    "Well, would you be interested?" Esteban asked.

    "I don't suppose why not," I replied. "I know what I'm getting if I were to sign him. Are you proposing to talk to him on my behalf?"

    "He comes in for a shave now and again," Esteban said. "I could broach the subject. Now hold still while I lather you up."
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  15. Tuesday, 24 February 2015 noon

    "Gentlemen," I said as I sat down. "Everyone have a good time off?"

    They all nodded. We discussed our mini-vacations for a few minutes.

    "I'd love to scout Espana for you," Chief Scout Lil Fuccillo said. We all laughed and nodded.

    "I would think that if we can get into the Championship, the Don's Trust Board won't laugh at me when I ask to expand our scouting," I said. "But first we gotta get into League One. And that means we need to beat Cambridge United this Saturday."

    "Well, they've been on a roller-coaster ride all over the bottom half of the table," Lil said. "They're top scorer is Bolton's Conor Wilkinson. He's big and nasty just like Smith. We need to watch their central midfielder, Luke Berry, he's their only other threat with five goals. They play a four-four-two. They are on a four match losing streak. Furthermore, they've only won two out of their last eleven."

    "They don't have a single weakness," he continued. "They leak goals from all over. However, they won six straight before the festive period. That's why they aren't in the relegation zone ... at least not yet. They probably will be though. Our match is Wilkinson's last match for them. With him gone, they have nobody who can score."

    "Will they sit back and let us attack?" I asked.

    "Undoubtedly," Lil replied. "With other top teams, they've tried to hit on the counter."

    "We need to practice attacking through and around the parked bus," I said. "Mark's positioning will be key. We'll need him to make sure to slow it down to give us time to recover. And we need to work on free kicks on Friday afternoon as usual."

    Hanks and Wools nodded.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 01/06/2014 at 05:52 AM.
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  17. League Two: Cambridge United FC v. AFC Wimbledon

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ID:	597474I'm told that Cambridge is a beautiful and picturesque city. Like every other metropolitan area, city and town I've visited in the UK, I've caught a glimpse from the train as it pulls into the station and/or from the bus as we drive through town and up to the stadium.

    Maybe during my May and June holiday period, I'll tour England a bit. Somehow, I think Gwen expects a month in Italy although Spain might be acceptable. We'll see.

    At any rate, we pull up to Abbey Stadium after a not terribly long bus ride. The boys seem relaxed and focused.

    My subs today are:
    Daniel Lincoln (GK), Reuben Hazell (D), Brad Smith (D), Steven Gregory (M), George Francomb (M), Daniel Barlaser (M), James Loveridge (F)

    I tell Leandro Depetris to watch Simon Walton and for Mark Tomlinson to mark their danger man Luke Berry. I have Kris Thackray in instead of Hazell because their on-loan Bolton forward Conor Wilkinson is a large beast of a player in the mold of our Michael Smith. Also, Thackray's tall and Hazell isn't so much.

    Apparently, the players were too relaxed and not particularly focused.

    Cambridge started the game by pinning us back in our end and out-working us. There's nothing I hate more than being out-hustled. That's not to say we wobbled around utterly bereft of any skills or ideas. We broke twice on the counter with Smith grazing the crossbar from a Matteo Nole cross and Jack Midson shot directly at the keeper from the top of the box despite having plenty of time. But we played the opening fifteen minutes in our end. Also and to make matters worse, Jim Fenlon pulled up limping.

    To make the start worse, Wilkinson opened the scoring in the 16th minute. Their other forward Petros Skapitis launched a high ball straight upfield into our box. Thackray reacted a full second later than Wilkinson. I swear that Wilkinson used his left arm to pull the ball down and fire it past Dunn. There's simply no way for any human to run under a ball over your right shoulder and control it with the left side of your chest.

    1-0

    I screamed at the ref and berated the fourth official for a while but only got an explanation that he chested the ball down.

    "But he was completely out of position to see the play," I said to the fourth official. "First, he was still in the center circle when Wilkinson received the pass. Secondly, he couldn't even see through Conor's back to see that he handled. Yet, you are trying to tell me that he was correctly positioned?"

    "Yes, go sit down Enrico," the fourth official said. "He's made up his mind, don't get yourself in any trouble."

    Whitney had run out onto the field of play since play was stopped. He signaled that Fens was done. I turned around to tell Brad Smith to start warming up, but he was doing some sprinting down by the far corner flag already. Hanks had read my mind.

    Five minutes later and I was replacing Kris Thackray. Why would I be replacing my tall, strong and relatively quick defender with the slower, older and shorter Reuben Hazell? Because of the goal that Thacks let Wilkinson score.

    U's left midfielder Emmanuel Dieseruvwe curled a cross into Wilkinson. Thacks was literally five feet away. Wilkinson controlled the cross and, feeling no defender on his back, spun. His shoulder fake froze Thacks, he dribbled right past him and hit a piledriver that hit Dunn managed to get a hand to but couldn't keep out.

    2-0

    I'm still fuming about the goal that Thacks conceded three minutes later as we're playing tiki taka, Barcelona-style football at the halfline. Then Depetris does a cute little back heel to Nole and suddenly players in blue are flooding forward. Nole races down the flank but instead of running to the end line, hits an early ball toward Midson. Midson controls the ball and makes Cambridge's Ian Miller look as useless as Thacks before blasting a shot through their keeper.

    2-1

    My opposing manager, Richard Money, is up off the bench screaming bloody murder at his defense. Can't blame him. It's not like Midson is all that great of a dribbler of the ball.

    For the remaining twenty minutes of the half, both teams race up and down the field. Dieseruvwe hits the post and just seconds before half-time Michael Smith gets hauled down in the box, but no call.

    Once again I'm up and screaming at the ref and berating the fourth official. Tomlinson tried a Route One ball that Midson flicked into the path of Smith. Once again the ref was in the center circle when the Cambridge defender upended Smith.

    "Listen," I say in the changing room. "The fat pig in the center circle doesn't run much. He's not in position to see much. We need to take advantage of that. He's not going to see the subtle tug, the elbow out while you're running, all that ****. We can't let Wilkinson or anyone else have as much space as we let them have in the first half."

    "So go out there, play our game, our game and show me something different in the second half," I said.

    And they did.

    Midson drew both defenders and squared to Smith. With the net gaping and no pressure, he shot wide. I was suddenly looking at my own palm. If we lose, this is the worst way to lose.

    In the 49th minute, Leandro whipped in a free kick from the left touch line. Cambridge defender Harry Worley bear-hugged Midson, preventing him from controlling the cross or shooting or whatever he intended on doing. Thankfully, the fat pig was 10 yards away and even he couldn't miss this rodeo hot-tying.

    TWEEEEEEEET! And he pointed to the spot.

    Midson went and fetched the ball then buried the penalty.

    2-2

    The remainder of the match was probably great for the neutrals. Both teams raced back and forth, exchanging chances. With my team this is usually a risky but often rewarding formula. We can usually outgun any other League Two team. BClick image for larger version

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ID:	597481ut this is the kind of match that visually ages managers. I had no hair to fall out or turn prematurely gray, but I have no more fingernails left. Both teams played horrid defense and we each missed a dozen clear-cut chances.

    I also spent the last ten minutes checking the other scores. York rebounded from the thrashing we gave them with a victory to reduce our cushion to seven points. Second place Cheltenham got spanked 3-0 away at Wycombe. Thank you Wycombe. Third place Burton Albion drew away to Rochdale.

    We get lucky again in that everyone at the top, except York, had a bad weekend.

    "This is one of those games, guys," I tell my players afterward. "Football is a crazy, crazy game. Our passing was great at times. Our defending aged me. I have no fingernails left. I feel like I've been through an emotional wringer we missed so many chances. We could have won 6-2 easily ... well ... at least 6-4 if they didn't misfire as badly as us."

    "But the bottom line is this," I continued. "First goal should have been called off for hand ball. We leave with a point. We're still top the table and our cushion is seven points. Forget today and let's get ready for next week. Get showered and let's get the **** out of here."


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    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 01/06/2014 at 12:08 PM.
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  19. Sunday, 1 March 2015 10:30AM

    "I'm all over the news," I groused. "The BBC, Sky, ESPN, Daily Mail, Times, Independent, ****ing everyone has my quote about the ref. I know I should have kept my mouth shut. It's gonna come back to haunt me. I expect an email Monday morning from the FA."

    "It'll probably just be a fine," Goalkeeper coach Paul Rachubka said. "And probably a small one."

    "Or a slap on the wrist for being a naught boy," Assistant Manager Sean Hankin added.

    "He was horribly out of position," Coach Matt Woolley said. "You can just show the video. He runs as little as possible."

    "The fat pig," Hanks added.

    "So that was then, this is now and we face Hartlepool next Saturday," I said. "They're fifth after their draw and York's victory. Lil?"

    "Cedric Baseya is as much of a beast on his day as Michael Smith is," Chief Scout Lil Fuccillo said. "He's not a clinical finisher, but when he's in the mood few defenders in this league can handle anyone that big and that strong. And if you shut down Cedric, Toni Silva and Adda Djeziri will pop up and slay you."

    "They play the 451 Barca-style formation," Lil continued. "But with Cedric up front, they do resort to Route One when the beautiful game isn't working."

    "Their defense is not particularly fast nor do they communicate all that well. I think we can exploit their weaknesses providing we can shut down Baseya."

    "Thanks, Lil," I said. "Now how do we go about recovering our scoring touch after yesterday's match."

    "First of all, we're doing all the right things up until we need the finishing touch," Wools said. "Yes, as you said in the changing room, we need to write off the performance, but we need to regain our calm in front of goal."

    I nodded. Wools realized I was hoping for him to come up with a solution.

    "You feel like getting a work out, Paul?" Wools asked. Rachubka nodded. "Okay, maybe we have some one-v-keeper drills this week."

    "Yup and let's continue working with our wingers delivering crosses to our forwards," I added.

    "How do we contain Baseya?" Hanks asked. "What should we focus on?"

    "Staying close to him and not giving him any breathing room," I replied. "Thacks gave Wilkinson far far too much respect yesterday. Baseya isn't that good with the ball at his feet so hassling him is the way to go. We can't win headers as he's got six inches on Haz and Andy, but if we at least jostle him every time he jumps, he won't win many clean headers."

    "I can work with that plan," Hanks said.
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  20. Monday, 2 March 2015 10AM or so

    "Hey John, favor to ask," I said to our communications/website/social media/video guy. I'd gone into Kingsmeadow to talk to him. "I said some stupid **** to a reporter about the ref's performance Saturday. The FA have offered a phone interview, but since I'm in London I can appear in person. I need a video clip showing how out of position the ref was throughout the match. Do you have time to pull something like that together?"

    "When is your hearing?" John asked.

    "Tomorrow at three in the afternoon," I replied.

    "I'll put something together for you," he replied.

    "I like your new wheels," I said. "The Jag. Very stylish, very posh. Are you moving into a new flat, too?"

    "How'd you know?" he said grinning. "Is Gwen wanting to move, too? I can hardly believe that radiantly baby blue Volvo SUV she bought."

    "Yeah, we're going to get a new flat this summer," I replied. "I can't believe you're still coming into work here."

    "I love it here," John replied. "It's not just a job for me. I'm a supporter first. But seriously, promise not to tell Erik, but I'm probably done in the summer."

    "I figured. Later. And thanks."
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  21. Tuesday, 3 March 2015

    We had a brief morning training session as we had a friendly match that evening. Then I had lunch with Chairman Erik Samuelson and an extremely well-dressed solicitor named Jonathan Griggs. He was a supporter and had what I can best describe as perfect posture, perfect manners yet was utterly approachable and had a filthy sense of humor once he opened up. He had represented all the other Don's managers when they went before a disciplinary hearings to the various league organizations as the club climbed upwards. I showed Jonathan the video that John had created and we talked over the contents. He thought the video would be helpful then we reviewed all the articles that included my criticisms.

    Then Erik gave us a ride to the nearest station and we headed toward Wembley and FA headquarters.

    "Have you ever been to the new Wembley," Jonathan asked. I shook my head. "Oh, it's quite posh. You're meant to be intimidated and to fill your pants even before you sit before the panel. I urge you to not fill your pants."

    I nodded. Did my nibbling at and playing with my food earlier give my nerves away?

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ID:	599288I had played in the San Siro in Milan and Stadio Olympico in Rome. Eighty thousand people lined up against you is intimidating. So can small stadiums in Italy with eight thousand fans frothing at the mouth and baying for your blood and the only thing separating you from certain death was a twelve foot tall fence of uncertain sturdiness. Those places can be intimidating. How bad could facing an FA disciplinary committee be?

    We emerged out of the Tube station and there she was glistening in the afternoon sun. It's an impressive stadium, I must say. Entirely different when only a few tourists where wandering around. Jonathan led me around to the FA's entrance.

    I'll admit that my palms were damp and my heart rate was a bit elevated as Jonathan opened one of two huge doors to the FA HQ.

    Jonathan walked across the lobby to the receptionist's desk and simply said "Pucci, Disciplinary Hearing."

    "Please sign in," the receptionist said. "And please take the elevators to your right. Third door on the left once you step out."

    As we were walking up, Arsenal's Jack Wilshire threw open the doors to the third room on the left and stomped down the hall followed by three men in suits. Newcastle manager Alan Pardew and his two men in suits stood up from the chairs just outside the third room down and went inside. We took the still warm seats.

    "What's the worst case you've represented Wimbledon for?" I asked to pass the time.

    "A young man broke another lad's leg with a airborne, two-footed tackle," he replied. "The sad part was the victim never really recovered and, more or less, never played again."

    "Geez," I murmured. "And all I did was hint that the ref was a fat pig."

    "Thankfully, your case is in the gray area of commentary that while not well-advised at least wasn't too terribly inflammatory and was more commentary on facts than spewing libelous slander."

    "Would you be so kind as to double check that the video is cued up for me?" Jonathan requested after a moment's silence.

    We sat in silence for a few moments more. Then the door burst open and Pardew stomped down the hall.

    "That was quick," I remarked as we stood.

    "Pardew should really learn to keep his lips sealed," Jonathan said. "It's a pretty open-shut case. Don't you read the back pages?"

    "Should I?"

    "As AFC Wimbledon's volunteer solicitor for matters pertaining to disciplinary committees, I would advise you in the strongest language possible to continue your practice of blissful ignorance."

    By that time we were at our table and sat down facing a three person tribunal. The man on the left looked like a judge. The middle man looked vaguely familiar, like someone who's face I ought to recognize. The third man looked like a bureaucrat through and through; comb-over, glasses askew, badly knotted tie that had been loosened during lunch and a stain from whatever he'd had for lunch.

    "Griggs," the Judge said and nodded.

    "Muldoon," Jonathan answered. "How are the horses?"

    "Spending less than the wife."

    "So she's recovering well from the foot surgery, I presume?"

    Judge Muldoon nodded.

    "Let's get this started," wheezed the bureaucrat. "This FA Disciplinary Hearing comes to order at two minutes to three on the third of March in the year of our Lord 2015. AFC Wimbledon manager Enrico Pucci, you have chosen to appear rather than have a phone hearing over bringing the game into disrepute for your statements concerning the match on Saturday the 28th of February against Cambridge United FC at Abbey Stadium in Cambridge, UK. How do you plead?"

    "Mister Pucci was making factual statements about the referee's movement or lack thereof during the match," Jonathan replied. "I request to state his case before this august tribunal."

    "Duly noted," the bureacrat said. "In statements to various media outlets, exhibits A through H in the folder entitled Pucci Wimbledon, the manager before us said that the referee had a bad game, did not and I quote "cover much ground during the match" and viewed several important plays unfold from and I quote "inside the center circle" while these plays were in our near the penalty boxes."

    "May I approach?" Jonathan interrupted when the bureaucrat paused to breathe. "I would like to present a video compilation of several key plays during the match that show the referee nearly thirty and sometimes forty yards away from the play."

    Muldoon raised a hand and motioned him forward. I opened my laptop, logged on and put my laptop into Jonathan's hands.

    "This will take a mere two minutes," he said and got the video playing. Afterwards, he snapped the laptop shut authoritatively.

    "You will note that the referee was thirty or so yards away from Conor Wilkinson when the young man controlled the ball with his arm. Furthermore, he could not see through the lad's back to see that he had, in fact, used his arm illegally. Additionally, the footage immediately following the goal shows that he did not have a conversation with his linesman who had a clear view of the hand ball."

    "All of the remaining eleven incidents merely illustrate that the referee in question is not particularly fit and that the referee in question is often out of position. Finally, this video demonstrates that the referee did not anticipate where the play would likely be going next. If this was a panel reviewing this particular referee's fitness and ability to anticipate, I would suggest to this panel that he would be told to shed a stone and improve his anticipation."

    "But it's not that kind of panel," said the Bureaucrat. "It's a panel is here to review Manager Pucci's statements to the media."

    "And as such," Jonathan interrupted. "His statements were neither inflammatory, slanderous in any way. I argue to this panel that upon reviewing the performance of the referee, members of this panel can clearly see these statements were made in a manner summarizing what appeared to Manager Pucci to be clear facts about a disappointing draw in which the referee played a major roll in the outcome thereof."

    "Thank you for your statement Solicitor Griggs," the man in the middle. "Please be seated and give us a brief moment."

    The three men leaned in and conferred in whispers.

    "Enrico Pucci," the man in the middle said as the others sat back in their chairs. "This Disciplinary Panel of the English FA will issue you a warning. You're commentary about the fitness of the referee and his anticipation should not be made to the media, but should be reported to the Referee Panel. Please refrain from making such comments in the future. Have a nice day."

    And with that we stood and walked out. I think I almost detected a smirk on Jonathan's face as we left the third room on the left. Lee Cattermole was sitting outside with two men in suits.

    I wonder what he did.

  22. Friendly: AFC Wimbledon v. Erith & Belvedere FC

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ID:	600443The semi-pro side Erith & Belvedere visited from Welling to give the players who did not play last Saturday some exercise.

    George Francomb was on his game and set up two goals. He only played 45 minutes because I want him to gain some minutes in to regain his fitness yet not wear him out. James Loveridge played well and got into good positions. Adam Pepper started out on left wing but I had to move him into the middle because Daniel Barlaser got crunched in a tackle and I wasn't going to risk him playing injured. Peps played well and bagged a nice long-range goal to boot.

    Since Danny Boy didn't do much in the 15 minutes he was on the pitch, George will be starting next Saturday at right midfield and Leandro Depetris will be starting as the playmaker.

    Danny Boy just looks a bit tired. This makes sense, though. He's only 18 and doesn't have the stamina, yet. That will come in time. He and Leandro are the perfect tandem because Danny Boy is young and Leandro is fragile. Between the two I'm covered at the playmaker position.
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  23. Click image for larger version

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    I get it that it's a top of the table clash toward the end of the season, but I was shocked when I walked into the pre-match press conference and someone from nearly every outlet was there.

    "Thanks for coming," I said. "Must a big match tomorrow. I haven't seen you all gathered here since my very first press conference. Let's get started, eh?"

    John signaled that he started recording. Colin Massey of the BBC raised his hand. I pointed at him.

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    Then Robbie Williams of SkySports raised his hand:

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    Back to Colin.

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    Simon Harrison of ESPN raised his hand:

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    Colin had another question:

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    'Colin, do you really think I'm as stupid as you look,' I thought to myself as I listened to his last question.

    Simon had a question:

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    'Because I wouldn't tell Colin, but I'll tell you my strategy, Simon, no problem,' I thought to myself.

    Then Robbie Williams asked a question I wasn't willing to touch:

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    Then followed up with one of those I-don't-know-what-to-ask-but-I've-got-to-ask-something questions:

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    Burton are fifth and How is their top goalscorer.

    Then Simon had a question about another team's chances:

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    York are in third.

    But then Colin had to ask one of his let's-try-and-generate-some-controversy questions:

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    Seriously, Colin. How else do you expect me to answer silly questions like these. I can't wait to someone else tell what he interpreted me to say.

    "Thanks for coming, guys," I said as I stood up. "I've got to go and get ready for training. Thanks again."
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  24. League Two: AFC Wimbledon v. Hartlepool United FC

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ID:	601277My subs are:

    Daniel Lincoln (GK), Kris Thackray (D), Steven Gregory (M), Simon Johnson (M), Adam Pepper (M), Daniel Barlaser (M), James Loveridge (F)

    It was a typical spring day in England or, at least, this is what everybody keeps telling me as I've never experienced spring in England before. It's 13C (55F) and drizzling. But at least it's warmish.

    "This is a big one, guys," I said to start off my pre-game team talk. "Hartlepool are in fourth and would love to move up into the automatic promotion positions by beating us today."

    "So show me what you can do with a full house to support you," I continued. "Hartlepool have scored as many as we have in their last 10 matches. That's 17 goals. But they've conceded 16. We've conceded 10. I have faith that we can maintain our defensive shape and hold them off. I have faith that you guys will find a way to get the ball on the ground and dominate possession. The Pools are supposed to be a possession team like we are. Let's show them what it's like to dominate possession. I have faith that we will generate plenty of scoring chances. I have faith that you'll be calm when you get your chance and you'll put it away."

    Then Captain Andy Frampton and Vice Captain Reuben Hazell got everyone yelling as we marched out into the tunnel and met the Hartlepool players marching out of their changing room. Several of the players who knew each other exchanged greetings.

    As we walked out onto the field, I saw Hartlepool's manager Keith Curle. We met and shook hands.

    "Please don't take anything in the papers in the wrong way," Keith shouted into my ear.

    "Don't worry, dude," I replied. "I don't read them."

    We slapped each other on the back and walked to our benches.

    It was a cagey start. Both teams were feeling each other out and not willing to commit players forward.

    The first chance came in the 9th minute, when Hartlepool played a ball past Haz and their striker Cedric Baseya and Haz raced for the ball. Haz read it well and tackled the ball away, but Baseya got to the loose ball first. Bas beat Haz on the dribble but while his quick toe-poke fooled my keeper Chris Dunn, it wobbled wide of the far post.

    In the 23rd minute, Hartlepool midfielder Andrew Wright was first to a blocked shot. He looked up, looked down and hoofed a Route One Special over the half line. It was a great read by Wright. Their right winger, Toni Silva, is fast. He was on his side of the half line when Wright pulled back the slingshot to execute the Route One Special. Wright and Silva recognized that Captain Andy was standing just on our side of the half line.

    The ball fell behind Andy. By this time Silva was even with Andy. There was never really much to this foot race. Silva sped in on goal and smashed a shot past Dunn.

    0-1

    'Next season I'll have faster center backs,' I promised myself.

    The cautious approach continued for both sides. We were dominating possession but either our final pass was wayward or we just weren't reading each other's runs.

    In the 30th minute, the Pools hoofed a ball over Cam's head. Cam caught up with their left winger Adda Djeziri and tackled the ball away. Unfortunately, his tackle rolled across the top of the box directly into the path of Toni Silva. Silva didn't have to break stride and unleashed a Tomahawk missile for the upper right corner of the net.

    As I braced myself for the goal, Chris Dunn came flying across the goal, leapt and grabbed the shot. He landed, rolled a couple of times and laid atop the ball. I realized that I was staring with my mouth agape. Probably just like everyone else in the stadium.

    Then a mighty roar erupted.

    That was it for the first half. Lots of possession, good defending and a one goal hole to climb out of for all our good work. On the way back to the locker room, I tapped Daniel Barlaser on the shoulder and told him he'd be replacing George Francomb.

    "I expect better than what I just saw out there," I said. "Keep your head up. You know what runs everyone is going to make and generally when they are going to make it. Let's start reading the game better. I expect better this next half."

    We came out with more energy to start the second half. Danny Boy down the right wing was just what we needed.

    In the 55th minute, Leandro Depetris played a ball between the center backs for Jack Midson. Their keeper blocked the point-blank shot. The ball bounced right back to Leandro. He passed it square and back to Mark Tomlinson. Mark uncorked a very hard shot, but right at their keeper.

    In the 57th minute, Matteo Nole whipped in a cross from the left corner. It was headed clear. Leandro controlled it and zipped a pass across the top of the box for Danny Boy. Danny controlled nutmegged their left fullback and smashed a shot right at the keeper. The rebound came right back to Danny who smashed another shot goalward. The keeper was down and Danny smacked his shot into the top half of the gaping net.

    1-1

    We continued to dominate possession and Hartlepool continued to hit us on the break with long balls over the top.

    In the 68th minute, Nole beat his man down the left flank and curled in a cross. It was over Midson and Michael Smith's head. The keeper came for it but mistimed his jump. He got a fingertip to it which only caused the ball to elude the central defender who was prepared to clear the ball.

    Danny Boy stepped in front of the left back and smacked the ball into the wide open net.

    2-1

    I realize that I'm swarmed by the entire bench and we're all jumping up and down and celebrating. My opposing manager is looking up into the cloud-filled sky. Keeper blunders always hurt.

    I replace Smith with Stephen Gregory. I switch the setup to 451. Greg's job is to man-mark their playmaker in the midfield.

    But it all comes undone in the 78th minute. Hartlepool win a corner. They throw everyone forward. They curl in a ball to the near post. Nobody covers left back Darren Holden. Nobody challenges for the ball. Holden doesn't even jump. He just lets the ball glance off his melon and the score is levelled.

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    My face meets my palm. When I manage to remove it, my players are all standing their looking at each other accusingly.

    ****!

    I replace Leandro with James Loveridge. Nole moves inside and Lovers will play left wing.

    We continued to dominate possession, but the only chance was Hartlepool's. Jonathan Greening, yes THE former Prem player is still plying his trade, grazed the crossbar with a free kick.

    Then in the 87th minute, Gregs plays Midson through. He's behind the defenders. He's onside. He only has the keeper to beat. He shoots.

    Wide.

    He falls over like he's been shot and pounds the ground in exasperation.

    The bottom line is this. I'm happy enough with a draw. Our automatic promotion cushion remains the same. We're still in first place. We didn't play all that badly just couldn't convert our possession into goals.

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  25. Click image for larger version

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ID:	602212Sunday, 8 March 2015 noon

    "How's everybody feeling?" I asked. Everyone nodded or grunted. "Because we have ten matches left. Count 'em. Ten. Now you'll hear me talking endlessly about keeping our nerve and winning the title. But just between us, what really matters is the automatic promotion."

    "After yesterday's draw, Hartlepool are on 60 points," I continued. "They can get a maximum of 30 points giving them a maximum haul of 90 points for the season. We only need 24 points to get 91 points and guarantee that we get automatically promoted."

    "Any points that Hartlepool drop just means fewer points we need to clinch automatic promotion," I said. "Obviously, if York or Rotherham or maybe even Rochdale overtake the Pools, we can recalculate but if that happens, our mission just got easier."

    "Now this stays between us," I said. "Don't go talking to any players about this. Our public face is winning the League Two title. Got it?"

    Everyone nodded.

    I nodded at Jon Whitney, our physiotherapist.

    "They're sore, they're showing signs of the strain, but I have no injuries to report," he said.

    "Lil?" I asked.

    "Our next opponents, Dagenham and Redbridge spent the first half of the season in danger of relegation," Chief Scout Lil Fuccillo began. "But they had a good run from late November into January and have been at or around 13th place for a while now."

    "They play an odd 433," he continued. "Back four, three strikers but it's really a kind of 4123 with the defensive midfielder sitting behind their midfield pair. They rely on their fullbacks to give them width. If we pin them back, expect lots of long balls over the top of our defenders. They don't do much build-up passing. Their strikers will retreat to help if they're really under the kosh but that just makes it easier to keep them pinned in. I think we can very easily dominate the midfield and therefore control the game."

    "So in your opinion, can we safely play a 442 or should I go more defensive?" I asked.

    "We should be fine playing the 442," he replied. "Their outside forwards are the fast ones. Cam and Fens can mark them and eliminate their speed advantage over our center backs."

    "Their fullbacks are not much so Nole and George, or will you play Danny out on the right, should have a field day," Lil continued. "Michael Smith should be able to bully their central defenders. If you play Lovers, his pace will cause widespread panic. If you play Midson, he'll find plenty of empty spaces to pop up in at just the right time."

    "Thanks," I said. "Let's prepare for attacking a parked bus. Let's work on 5-v-5 in small spaces, crossing and finishing crosses."

    "Anything else?" I asked. There wasn't.
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  27. League Two: Dagenham & Redbridge FC v. AFC Wimbledon

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ID:	602523Today's road trip was by bus all the way across London to the northeastern burrough of Dagenham. Considering this is during rush hour, it took quite a while.

    The stadium is tiny like ours and sits next to the factory whose owner originally built the stadium. The stadium and facilities are pretty old but decently maintained. Attendance was under two thousand and at least half were traveling Wombles.

    I decided that Danny Boy and Lovers get the starts over Leandro and Midson. I had a feeling. Plus, Danny played great last match and Midson didn't.

    "Here we are guys," I said. "Ten matches to go. The Daggers have nothing to play for. We do. You know the line-up. It's pretty aggressive. Pretty attack-minded. So go out there and show me that I made the right choice. You all know that they'll hoof the ball out when pinned in their own end. Fens and Brad, you guys know you are key to shutting down their strikers. Show me what you can do out there. I have faith that you guys want this bad enough that we'll dominate possession and attack them relentlessly. I have faith that you will all track back when they counter. I have faith you all will defend corners well. Go out their and kick some ass."

    The Daggers were up for our visit. They worked hard from the start. They created the first chance in the 6th minute. Their right forward Sam Gallagher got free but Andy Frampton did enough to force him wide. He shot from an impossible angle and even managed to get his shot past our goalkeeper Chris Dunn. But the ball trickled wide of the far post.

    In the 24th minute, Mark Tomlinson sprayed a ball out to Matteo Nole. Nole took off down the left flank. He saw Michael Smith feint that he was making a near post run then head for the back post. He delivered an inch-perfect cross that landed perfectly on Smith's forehead. Smith carefully cushioned his header into the wide open net.

    0-1

    Then the Daggers ramped up the pressure and kept the ball in our end. My players parked the bus and manned the breaches. Pick your metaphor. We did that.

    At least until the 36th minute.

    Right fullback Alan Dunne played a ball into the box for Gallagher. Captain Andy slid in and tackled the ball away then took out the man. Jim Fenlon ran out to stop Dunne's second cross, but was too late.

    At this point Reuben Hazell, my other center back froze. I could tell he couldn't decide if he should stoop down and head it out or raise a foot and volley it out. The way this works is you have a quarter second to decide, the first ten feet that the ball travels. If you don't decide the instant the ball leaves the crosser's foot, you're screwed.

    Haz was screwed and so were we. It hit him in the chest and fell to Daniel Philiskirk's feet.

    1-1

    D&R smelled the blood in the water, stole the ball from us nearly immediately from the restart and worked the ball into our end. As we got our defense organized, they ripped us apart with a through ball. Dunn saved the day with a brilliant block and they failed to take advantage of the corner.

    Dunn, Haz and Andy calmed everyone down while the ball was returned and we started playing our game again.

    It all culminated just before the halftime whistle. Nole busted into the Dagger's penalty box and got chopped down. The ref immediately pointed to the spot. Lovers ran over and grabbed the ball. While the ref carded D&R center back Jake Goodman, Lovers set the ball down on the spot.

    The keeper went the right way, but Lovers blazed his spot kick into the side netting.

    1-2

    I made two adjustments at halftime. I had my center midfielders Danny Boy and Tomlinson mark their central mids. I also told Lovers to come back more to get the ball and run at their defense with the ball at his feet more.

    We came out for the second half on fire. The Daggers couldn't get near the ball.

    In the 49th minute, Lovers received a pass from Nole on the far side of the center circle. He oClick image for larger version

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    1-3

    His teammates mobbed him and the 800 to 1,000 away fans at the other end serenaded him with "Loveridge every minute of it."

    Just after the hour mark, I pulled off Smith and Tomlinson. I put on Leandro Depetris and Steven Gregory and switched to a 451. I told Gregs to mark their center forward.

    The Daggers kept possession of the ball after that, but couldn't do anything as the midfield was completely bottled up.

    Lovers won a penalty when Goodman blocked his shot with his hand. He converted for his hat trick.

    A good evening at the office for us. Second place Cheltenham drew away to bottom side Morecambe. Thank you, Shrimpers. Third place Burton Albion lost to fourth place York. Fifth place Hartlepool drew.

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  28. Wednesday, 11 March 2015 noon

    "Well, this is the big one," I said.

    "For all the marbles," Goalkeeper Coach Paul Rachubka chimed in.

    "Bottom line, is we're going to play this safe," I said. "A draw is fine for us. It hurts them. Let's absorb pressure and hit them on the counter.

    "Remember, Hartlepool are now in fifth and York are up to fourth," I reminded them. "York can win a maximum of 27 points. They trail us by 8. That means our magic number to clinch automatic promotion is 19 points. With a little luck it could be all done and dusted by 5PM this Saturday."

    "Sounds good to me," Assistant Manager Sean Hankin said.

    "Plus, they're on a poor run of form," added Chief Scout Lil Fuccillo. "They have three losses and two draws in the last ten. That is not title-winning form. Make them win it. From what I've seen, they can't right now."

    "Good to hear," I replied. "What else?"

    "They're slow and great in the air," he replied. "Nole and George should find some joy down the flanks. Our fullbacks will need to be on their game, but their outside midfielders are not all that great. The bottom line, as you are so fond of saying, is that if we shut off the service to Terry Gornell, their best striker and leading scorer, they don't really have a Plan B. If we play a 451 with Mark Tomlinson marking Gornell, they won't be able to do much."

    "Their defense is slow," he continued. "We should be able to hurt them on the counter."

    "Thanks, Lil," I said. "What's your report, Whits?"

    "I actually have nothing to report," Physiotherapist Jon Whitney replied.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 06/06/2014 at 08:10 PM.
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  29. Goalkeeper Daniel Lincoln was standing outside of training after everyone left. This is never a good sign. He is probably going to demand that he play. Though he'll probably be polite about it.

    "Boss, may I have a word," he said.

    "Of course," I replied. "What's on your mind?"

    "I don't want to make a big deal about it, but I'm not getting enough playing time," he said. "I know you've said that I'm the future keeper for the club and all that, but I need playing time to improve."

    I thought back as he talked to me. He hadn't played in five matches. Since the home loss against Rochdale. I'd switched keepers just because. It was the middle of March and he hadn't played since early February.

    "You're not thinking it's because you played poorly, do you?" I asked. He shook his head. "Good. You haven't played because we've gotten hot with Dunn between the sticks. And Chris has been great."

    "You two drive each other to be better," I continued. "This competition will make you a better keeper in the long-term regardless."

    "I know," Daniel replied. "Rachubka keeps telling me that. But if I can't get playing time, I'll push to go elsewhere whether it's a loan or, and I hope it doesn't come to this, you sell me."

    "You work your ass off in training," I said. "You have been an acrobat for us when you've played and done your job really well. I'll put you in, but I expect you to keep up your intense work rate once you're in."

    "Thanks, Enrico," he replied. "I know you'll keep your word and I won't disappoint you."

    'Fine,' I thought to myself. 'You want the pressure of being the starting keeper, kid? Let's see how you do in the biggest match of the season next week.'

    I realized that I was maybe playing with fire sticking a teenager into a pressure-cooker like the upcoming Cheltenham match, but what the ****, he hasn't messed up at all this year.
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  32. League Two: Cheltenham Town FC v. AFC Wimbledon

    Attachment 603364It wasn't too long of a bus ride into Gloucestershire and to Cheltenham. The weather looked to be quite nice, too: nearly 14C (57F) with a pleasant little breeze. Spring. Or at least spring-like.

    Whaddon Road is about two-thirds full with around a thousand Wombles behind one of the goals. The pitch really does suck. All chewed up and bare dirt in the goalmouth. This is to our advantage as I want to stifle the **** out of the match.

    Loveridge deserved the start after the Tuesday hat trick. Smith off the bench late in the match once the defenders are tired should create some chances if the game still hangs in the balance.

    Barlaser and Depetris mark their corresponding Town central midfielder. Tomlinson marks Town top scorer Gornell.

    I tried to give a rip-roaring team talk then Club Captain Andy Frampton stood up (he's never done this).

    "Lads, this is it," he said. "We hold them, we've got it a pretty easy run-in to the finish line. We beat them, the obese opera lady can start singing. For you young lads, you don't get chances to win things very often. I was on the 2013 Gillingham side that won this league. That feeling is incomparable. So stay focused. Never let up your concentration. Work harder than you ever have. Too tired to back track? It might be the time that you save a goal. Never let up today. This is it."

    Everyone roared their approval and we walked out into the tunnel.

    We started out focused and we worked hard for each other. By the 10th minute, Leandro Depetris had sent in George Frampton but he blazed high. Matteo Nole had two wayward crosses, George and Jim Fenlon one each. Then in the 11th minute, Leandro sends George in and he absolutely wallops a shot. It hits the far post and rebound right into the grateful keeper's arms.

    'Now that's some ****ing luck,' I think to myself.

    Then Town catch us on the fast break. Gornell is played through but he's slow so Haz catches up with him. He plays it back to the trailing midfielder Nate Widderburn. Tomlinson throws his body in front of the shot then Frampton blocks the second effort.

    Danny Boy gets to the loose ball first and plays it upfield. Town midfielder Matt Richards tried to block the pass and Danny kicked the underside of his boots. Town were kind enough to kick the ball out of bounds so our physio, Jon Whitney, could run onto the pitch.

    I check the scores from around the league while Whits applies the magice sponge and freezy spray. Third place York are already up by two. Fourth place Burton are already in a 0-2 hole at home. That's shocking. Nil-Nil in fifth place Hartlepool's match.

    Danny signaled he was fine and Whits concurs.

    Then we started a phase of exchanging chances. Much like a basketball game. Back and forth across the field. Town central defender Michael Duff's header hit the post from a free kick. George's free kick grazes the crossbar. Most of the time the chances fizzle out.

    I tell Stephen Gregory to start warming up. Then I check the other scores as we walk into the locker room. York are still leading 0-2. Burton have pulled a goal back, 1-2. Still nil-nil in the Hartlepool match.

    "You're playing great, guys," I say once they're all sitting down. "Gornell has been offside four times so far. They've been offside seven times total. We're playing compact and stifling them. This is exactly what we want. They must win this game. In the second half we'll start seeing gaps. We can counter into these gaps because they'll start tiring from pressing so hard. I have faith that you can hold them and I have faith that you can hurt them on the counter."

    "Danny can't continue," Whits said. "His foot is really sore from kicking Richard's boot. Gregs will have to go on."

    Town come out of the locker room as if they were on fire. Right midfielder John Welsh hits a long ball over Haz's head. Gornell gets to it first, but Haz's sliding tackle is perfectly timed and clears it out to where Cameron Dummigan can get it.

    For the next ten minutes, they try to play balls into the corners. But we track back defensively and their chances amount to nothing.

    By the hour mark, Town were coming to the realization that they were not going to be able to create any chances against us. About this time I replaced Nole with Simon Johnson. Nole had started limping.

    At 68 minutes, I put Michael Smith on for Lovers. I checked the scores again. Coventry had pulled a goal back against York, 1-2. Burton were still trailing 1-2. Bury were leading Hartlepool 1-0.

    Minutes later, Smith drew all the defenders as he leapt for a cross from George. Everyone missed it. Simon catches the volley on the hop but the ball whiffles the side netting.

    The safest kind of defensive play is to keep the ball in the opponent's end. We weren't creating many chances but we were always close. The Wombles were behind the goal we were attacking and they kept urging us on. Cheltenham just parked the bus. The momentum was on our side.

    But not the clock.

    Oh, well. A draw doesn't hurt us. The fourth official signals there will be three minutes of extra time.

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    Jim Fenlon charges past the right fullback and chips it into the path of Smith.

    SMITH SIDEFOOTS IT PAST THE KEEPER AND INTO THE NET!

    Smith runs toward the fans behind the net. There's nearly a pitch invasion as Wombles mob Smith and his teammates mob him. I realize that Rachubka, who's a pretty big guy, has picked me up in a bear hug. Everyone on the bench is one big, bouncing, screaming hug.

    I manage to look at the clock. 91:49. We have to survive two minutes probably and we'll be up by six with eight games to play.

    I calmly watch as Cheltenham manage to launch four long balls into our box before the ref blows the three sweetest tweets that a manager could hope to hear.

    We all jog over to the away supporters end and have an impromptu party.

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  33. I was the last one on the bus after an unusually long Q&A with more reporters than I'd seen since ... well, since last week but really since I was introduced as manager.

    Somehow, they'd already gotten several cases of beer on board. How is that even possible? Captain Andy had wrested control of the PA system on the bus.

    "This is your Captain speaking," he said over the PA. "This is your Captain speaking. We will soon be taking of for London and dinner. Music will be brought to you by the inimitable DJ RuHaz. Please do not puke or vomit during take-off or landing. Our cruising altitude will be three meters. That is all."

    And with that Reuben Hazell plugged his iPod, which he is never without, into the bus's PA and the bus started funking and grooving as it would for the entire ride back.

    I settled in with the coaching staff at the front.

    We talked over the match but there wasn't all that much to say. Soon we started discussing the run-in to the end of the season.

    "Alright," I said pulling out my iPad. "Let's review our final eight games. It seems to me it's the easiest of any of the top four's. We have two matches which I would consider meaningful for our opponents: Walsall and Burton Albion. The rest are against pretty easy opponents though."

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ID:	603806"Bristol Rovers might be a banana skin," Assistant Manager Sean Hankin said.

    "All right, I'll grant that," I agreed. "But we might have clinched or they might already be relegated or safe by then."

    "Safe is more likely," Coach Matt Woolley said. "They're on a tear and Northampton has collapsed."

    "So next consider Cheltenham's run-in," I said and showed everyone my iPad.

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    "Rotherham and Walsall in the next two weeks?" Goalkeeping Coach Paul Rachubka said. "Nasty."

    "Rotherham are undefeated in their last 8," Wools added. "They have 5 shut-outs in this run, have conceded 4 and scored 15."

    "Exactly," I agreed. "Next consider York. It's at least mathematically possible for them to catch us, just highly unlikely. Check out their run-in."

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    "That is not half bad!" Wools exclaimed. "The tough matches are the last two when it might not matter."

    "But most importantly, check out Burton Albion's run-in," I said and flipped my iPad around for them to see it again.

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ID:	603826"Oooh," Rachubka said.

    "Wait," Wools said. "Could we clinch automatic promotion by beating them on the fourth of April?"

    "Maybe," I replied. "8 matches to play means 24 points available. We're ten points ahead of them to that makes the magic number 15 points for automatic promotion. Any combination of victories for us and points dropped by them."

    "Also consider their **** form at the moment," Wools added. "Check this out." And he spun around his iPad so we could see it.

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  35. The Ali G Impersonator

    Sunday, 15 March 2015 4ish

    I was strolling home from training about to pass underneath the Berrylands metro stop. I wasn't walking fast as it was a gorgeous, sunny afternoon and I had nothing else to do for the rest of the day. I heard somebody walking behind me but thought nothing of it. I only recognized that there had been someone walking behind me when they increased their pace.

    "Enrico, Enrico," the person said as he got closer.

    I turned expecting a supporter. This occasionally happens. Sometimes the fan wants a selfie with me. Sometimes they just want to recount events from a recent match. Sometimes they want an autograph. They often want a combination of any of these three items. I'm always glad to do whatever for a Womble.
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    What I saw I can best describe as an Ali G impersonator -- a scrawny white guy in an oversized tracksuit with a huge chain around his neck. In America, we call sleeveless tshirts wifebeaters because of the character of the misogynist tendences of the men who wear them. Mr. Ali G Impersonator was wearing a wifebeater. But that doesn't get to half of it. It was the colors that put him over the top and into a caricature of an Ali G impersonator much in the same way that an Elvis impersonator can be even more over the top than Elvis actually was. The tracksuit was orange and the wifebeater was Irish green. To top it all off, he was wearing a floppy, multi-colored rastifarian hat.

    "Oy, mate yoov got a sec?" he asked. "Ahm bringing greetings from your Italian cuz, va Italian side ov you famly."

    "Sorry, my who?"

    "From Gianluca, your wivez brufa," he said.

    "Puppuma la fava! Ex-wife. We're divorced and they're as much my family as you're a rastafarian."

    "Wuh?" he asked in a comically threatening way to indicate he wasn't sure if I'd insulted him or not but that I ought to be afraid him if I had in fact just insulted him. I should mention that he was my height but scrawny.

    "Whavisit you ah trying to say?" he asked. The ****nut even talked a bit like Ali G.

    "No ring," I said holding up my left hand. "She and her whole insane family are not my family anymore. Ties severed. Once true love lost. Heartfelt affections dead. You follow me?"

    "Well you still owez dem allz dem Euros," he replied. "Loik a lotta dems Euros. Weez been talkin' to Gianluca, yo cuz, an oiv caught up wiz ya cos now that yuza bigtime footie boss it time ya pay yo debts."

    "Bigtime, Baldracca?" I replied. "Bigtime? I'm managing in the fourth tier of English football, you Culattina. The only reason I'm making ends meet is I'm living in a flat donated by a supporter. I'm not exactly rolling in pounds sterling if you catch my meaning. I owe my ex-relatives one hundred thousand euros. I'll make a payment on it when I have any euros to rub together."

    "Heeza deal yo," ****nuts Ali G impersonator said. "As a favor to yo Cuz weez purchased yo debt from yo Cuz, Gianluca. We aims to collect, ya feel me?"

    "So you were stupid enough to become Gianluca's culattina?" I observed. "Did he use any lubrication when you bent over and he gave you il Duro?"

    "Muppetboy ya bettah watch wha yooz sayn, yo," Ali G Impersonator said. "We'll come atcha."

    "You and your Culatinnosa can suck it!"

    "Watch yosef," he said. "Weez warned yooz, yo. You gets the pounds sterling for us."

    "Caccati in mano e prenditi a schiaffi," I said to his retreating back.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 10/06/2014 at 12:14 AM.

  36. hahahaha PUPPAMI LA FAVA made my day

    those Italian roots must be around Tuscany?

  37. Quote Originally Posted by kandersson View Post
    hahahaha PUPPAMI LA FAVA made my day

    those Italian roots must be around Tuscany?
    Author's note: While Enrico grew up speaking a little Italian at home, he mainly picked it up playing in Bologna. The author, on the other hand, can merely order food, ask for directions and buy ****. The Google is this particular author's best friend.

  38. "Are you okay?" Gwen asked as I strode into the apartment and stood in the middle of the apartment. "You're white as a sheet."

    "I'm fine," I lied. "No, wait. I'm not."

    "You're shaking," she observed. "What the **** happened?"

    Where do I start? How much do I tell her. ****. Sweet Mary Mother of God, what the **** do I tell her?

    "Um, it's a long, sordid story," I managed to get out. "You, um, uh, better sit down."

    "So I ... uh ... when I ... um ... when I told you about my marriage, I ... uh ... left out some parts," I said. I guess I was going the honest route. "Particularly, who I married and the significance of her and ... um ... her family. I think I told you they come from Naples. Many, many people come from Naples. Many live there, too. That sounds really dumb, I know, but ... um ... well ... they're ... um ... they're part of the Camorra, the mafia organization that controls Naples."

    She just stared at me in shock.

    So I told her the story. The whole story. The unabridged, tell-all version. Including the Cadiz part of it.

    She was silent after I finished.

    "Thanks," she said. "I appreciate your honesty. I want you to go to the police."

    "What?"

    "I said I want you to go to the police."

    "Oh," I said. "Okay."

    "Let's go," she said.

    I'm so ****ed.
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  39. So several things went through my head after Gwen insisted I go to the police. First, was that this could end up being the end of my career in management if the match-fixing part came out. Second is I need to inform my employers. I called Wimbledon's Chairman, Erik Samuelson before we did anything. I told him everything except for the Cadiz part of the story. He insisted that I talk to Jonathan Griggs and that the club would cover Grigg's expenses. Gwen agreed that I could wait until I'd met with Griggs before going to the police.

    Erik texted me that Griggs had time at five o'clock so we drove over to a hotel near his office.

    "Enrico, please sit. I'm afraid I haven't had the pleasure of being introduced," Jonathan said as we walked up to his table in the hotel's restaurant.

    "I'm Gwen," she replied as they shook hands.

    "Pleasure to meet you," he said. "This place is one of my favorites, everything on the menu is outstanding. Plus they know me and know that I often bring clients here. They are very discrete. Drinks?"

    The waiter walked up at that moment.

    Nope. Not going to start drinking, yet. I declined the hooch. It probably would've tasted and felt really, really good right then but I needed what few wits I had about me. Gwen got a glass of wine.

    "Please make yourselves comfortable and commence with the story," he said as he placed a small notebook on the table and took out an expensive looking pen.

    Once again, I told him everything leaving nothing out. He nodded a lot, grunted occasionally and took notes throughout.

    "Well," he said once I'd finished. "I do believe we'll leave out the match-fixing in Cadiz. If it comes up, I will profess my ignorance. You will note that I took no notes during that part of the story. If it comes up, you will tell them you were scared to bring it up. I will argue that you were coerced into it. Which in fact the truth. It would have been very unwise of you to cross this ..." he consulted his notes "Gianluca, your ex-wife's cousin. Furthermore, there is the plausible argument that the Spanish police have been relatively incompetent when it comes to organized crime in their country."

    "I have cleared my schedule for tomorrow morning and I suggest we go to the police then," he continued. "As Erik mentioned, the club will cover my expenses during this affair, so you needn't worry about that aspect of it. From my experience, here is how this will play out. The police will request to tap your phone. You will probably be asked to wear a wire and record your conversations."

    "I'm actually pretty decent at turning on the digital recording app on my phone," I said. "I record every conversation I have with a reporter or an agent just in case anything goes sideways later on."

    "Good," he replied. "You'll do that but they'll also probably want the wire anyway. You are going to have meetings with these English criminals. That's plural. Multiple meetings. They'll want to get as high up the hierarchy as they can. This will require repeated contacts with them."

    "What I am hoping for is that they are watching them on some other fronts and this plays into an already ongoing investigation. That could also complicate matters. If they're small time, this will be quicker and easier. If they're big enough to have connections to the Camorra, this could drag on a while."

    "Now we need to discuss you, my dear," he said turning to look at Gwen. "I am going to hazard a guess that they do not know you are romantically involved with Enrico and that the two of you share a flat. So I am going to play the role of the frightened Grandmama and insist that you stay elsewhere until this matter is resolved. While I'm certain that the police will easily protect Enrico, if these English hoodlums knew of your existence they might, well, let's just say I want you out of harms way entirely. Do you have any problems with this? Do you have someplace to go?"

    "I can move back into my Mum and Dad's," she replied dejectedly. "At least in the short term. Maybe now's the time I start looking for a bigger flat for the two of us? Move in early?"

    I nodded and squeezed her hand. My hands were clammy. Her's were warm. I'm more frightened than I thought.

    "I am a paranoid person by nature," he said. "I recommend staying with your parents. Sorry."

    "Also, I want to make sure you've not been tailed. When we're done here, go to the front desk. I know the manager. He's going to hand you a blank room key with a cell number taped to the back. You're going to ride the elevator up a few floors then walk down the back stairs. I'm going to order you a cab right now which will meet you in the back. Spend the night in a hotel. In the morning, Enrico, you are to take a cab back here. Once you are here, call the number on the back. That is the manager's cell. He will let you in the back. You will then climb up a flight and take the elevator down as if you've spent the night here. You are then to leave in your car. Gwen, you will not accompany Enrico but will take a separate cab back to your Mum and Dad's."

    "Now please be so kind as to repeat the instructions, please?" he asked. We did and he made us go over it until he felt that we understood exactly what we are supposed to do.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 11/06/2014 at 04:54 AM.
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  40. League Two: AFC Wimbledon v. Walsall FC

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ID:	606920What a week. Alone in my flat with all Gwen's and my stuff. Only talking to Gwen on the phone or via text. Living in fear of the English hoodlums. It was a relief to focus on the football during training. The police had me describe the Ali G Impersonator to a sketch artist then had me look through several photo albums of criminals. I periodically received calls from the Inspector who was assigned my case.

    We hosted Walsall. The weather was rather spring-like. What a relief to leave the long-johns, parkas, hats, scarves and etc. back at my flat.

    We started off the match like I felt. Marlon Harewood (yeah, he's still playing) forced Daniel Lincoln to make a spectacular save in the 4th minute and again on 10th minute.

    "HAZ! HAZ!" I yelled. "YOU MARK, HAREWOOD! MARK, YOU DROP AND COVER BLAKE. YEAH, BLAKE!"

    Then in the 11th minute, we make our first foray into the Walsall half. Danny Boy takes the ball down the right flank. He decides against challenging their left back and plays a ball inside to Leandro Depetris. Leandro one-times a chip into the channel between the left back and central defender. The keeper takes a few steps out as if he was going to go and get the ball then realized Michael Smith would get their first.

    What the keeper didn't realize is he was now not defending the net. EZ PZ pass into the back of the net for Michael.

    1-0

    Then the match got dull. As if the players said Man it's nice out, let's have a stroll in the park, eh?

    It wasn't until the 38th minute that there was a wee bit of excitement. Cameron Dummigan curled in a near post cross that Michael Smith flicked into the goalmouth. Jack Midson met the ball and side footed it goalward from two yards. From out of nowhere Steve Simonsen, the Walsall keeper, comes flying. The ball hits him and is cleared.

    How? The? ****? Did that not go in?

    I'm standing there on the sidelines with my hands on my head in disbelief. It's not like Midson mis-hit the ball. I turn and look at the bench. They're all standing up, frozen in mid-celebration with the most bizarre collection of shocked looks I've seen in quite some time.

    Then a few minutes later and just before halftime, as you would expect would happen, Haz forgets about Marlon Harewood. Marlon does what all good strikers do when they've been forgotten about. They score.

    It was the simplest of crosses in from our right flank. Except that Haz was too busy admiring the sunshine or maybe a pretty girl amongst the away fans behind the goal caught his eye or maybe he was daydreaming about where he was going to celebrate winning League Two. Hell if I know what he was thinking about. It certainly wasn't Marlon Harewood who let the ball hit him failed to control it particularly well then watched as the ball bounced into the net past the flailing Daniel Lincoln.

    1-1

    My face did not meet my palm. No, I just went and sat down on the bench next to my coaches.

    "How ****ing often have we talked about ball-watching?" I groused to nobody in particular.

    "A million times, boss," Coach Matt Woolley replied.

    "A ****ing billion times," Assistant Manager Sean Hankin muttered. Sean was in charge of training the defense.

    From the restart, Midson nearly scored. After a nice build-up, his shot zipped inches wide of the post. It was not Midson's day.

    "Lovers," I said to get James Loveridge's attention. "Warm up during the break, you're going on for Midson."

    "Guys, you are playing exactly how I want you to," I said. "We are keeping the ball well. Except for one slip-up just now, we are defending very well. We just have to keep plugging away. Keep the ball moving. Keep shutting them down. Keep working hard for each other. Stay focused. I have faith that you'll pull a victory out of the hat."

    The second half started out as boring as the middle of the first half. I was pondering making a double substitution as we dinked around with the ball around the center circle and out toward the left flank. Possession football is great if you're winning, but this appeared to be a useless game of Keep-Away on a marvelous Saturday afternoon when they ought to be mowing the lawn or something.

    Suddenly, left midfielder Simon Johnson zips a pass up to Leandro who plays a ball up to Lovers. Lovers held the ball then played a pass to Leandro. Walsall's Richard Hinds lunged in with a wild tackle. Leandro saw it coming and tried to hurdle it. Hinds missed the ball and sent Leandro cartwheeling.

    I held my breathe. Leandro gets hurt pretty easily. Thankfully, he popped straight back up, retrieved the ball and began fidgeting with it's placement while the ref lectured Hinds.

    Unfortunately, Walsall put Ben Davies at the near post when they built their wall. I say this because Davies is 5'7". Leandro's shot went right over Davies head and into the net.

    2-1

    The crowd roared their approval. That woke everyone up.

    We played relaxed and kept the ball quite well. Walsall couldn't mount much of a threat.

    In the 67th minute, Leandro was fouled again. This time about 40 yards out in the center. Everyone lined up at the edge of the penalty box. Instead of playing a long ball into the box. Leandro zipped a pass out left to Jim Fenlon. Fens dribbled forward until several defenders came out to meet him. He dished off to Simon Johnson who dashed for the end line and whipped in a near post cross.

    James Loveridge met it with a powerful downward header. The keeper got a hand on it but it didn't matter.

    3-1

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ID:	606921Walsall were done. They promptly gave us the ball back after the restart. We started zipping passes around the midfield as if we were just having a Saturday afternoon kick-about. Then Mark Tomlinson misplayed a pass. Walsall break. They had switched to a 442 and played a through ball to their second striker Sean Maguire.

    Maguire was several yards off-side but the linesman kept his flag down and the ref didn't whistle it dead. Thankfully, Lincoln smothered his shot. I looked over at my counterpart. Walsall's Manager Brian Laws was covering his face with his hands in disbelief.

    Soon after that, I replaced Leandro with George Francomb. Danny Boy switched inside and George went wide right.

    In the 85th, George scored a beauty. Lovers got chopped down about 22 to 24 yards out a little left of goal. For reasons I don't understand, Simonsen (the Walsall GK) set up his wall to block the far post while he covered the near post. This is not how you organize a wall. Then Simonsen went and stood in the middle of the net as if he was daring George to shoot near post.

    Instead George curled one that started out wide and high of the wall but bent and dipped into the upper corner of the far side.

    4-1

    Simonsen just stood and watched it. Then walked over and picked the ball up out of the net.

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    Sorry, having trouble uploading pix. Will try the table pic later.
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  41. Click image for larger version

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ID:	607438Nine points up on 2nd place Cheltenham with seven matches to go. Cheltenham are in danger of relinquishing 2nd place.

    Eleven points of cushion to guarantee our automatic promotion.

    We need any combination of ten points from wins for us or dropped points from the fourth place team to gain automatic promotion.

  42. There was a note under my windshield wiper when I went out to my car.
    We know everything about you.
    Where you work.
    Where you live.
    We are watching you.
    Pay your debts.
    The note included a phone number. I called the Inspector in charge of my case as I drove off.

    "It's Enrico Pucci."

    "Yes, Mr. Pucci. How are you."

    "I could be better," I said. "A note was left under my windshield. I picked it up by the corner. It says they are watching me and gives me a number to call."

    "Tell me the number so I can start a search," the Inspector said. I told him the number then repeated it. "Don't call. Send a text that you don't have any money. Where are you going now?"

    "I dunno," I replied. "I ... uh ... hadn't really thought through what I'm going to do next."

    "Hold on a moment," he said. "Do you know where the Kingston Railway Station is?"

    "I do."

    "Give your note to a constable you see there," he said. "They will bring it in for processing and analysis. Hopefully, they left some fingerprints. Send the text after you give the note to the constable."

    "Will do. And thanks."
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  44. League Two: Bury FC v. AFC Wimbledon

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ID:	608369Up to Greater Manchester to face Bury. The Shakers are in 17th place with 49 points. They have collected 8 points in their last four matches with two wins and two draws. They beat York and drew against Hartlepool so we need to be careful.

    To that end I reverted to our 451 with Steven Gregory between the defense and midfield. Mark Tomlinson, Cameron Dummigan and Matteo Nole get a rest.

    The pitch at Gigg Lane is horrid. The goalmouths are mud pits and the rest of the pitch is lumpy and chewed up. Like Bury we do our best with our limited maintenance budgets. I guess having a **** ton of volunteers showing up periodically to help out makes a difference. Our pitch isn't great, but it sure is hell is better than here.

    We started really well.

    Captain Andy Frampton and right midfielder George Francomb sent a few messages to the opposition and were carded.

    Brad Smith headed clear from Bury's free kick that George gave away. Danny Boy was first to the ball and played a pass up to Leandro. Leandro dribbled ten yards further forward and then passed up to Michael Smith. Smith held up the ball then gave it back to Leandro.

    Leandro nearly shattered the crossbar.

    So close.

    In the 9th minute, Leandro played a ball into the corner for George to fetch. Leandro continued his run and George whipped in a cross directly into Leandro's path. No post, no crossbar and no keeper in the way of this thunderbolt.

    0-1

    We continued to press. George had two great chances but one was blocked and the next grazed the crossbar.

    Then in the 24th minute, Bury broke with speed and numbers up our right flank. I got that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach as nobody seemed to be marking anyone all that closely. They played it up to their top scorer Ashley Grimes. He passed it square to his striking partner Danny Rose (no connection to Spur's player of the same name).

    Reuben Hazell watched the ball roll to Rose. Grimes, like any striker worth his salt, pointed to where he wanted the pass and started his run. Rose one-timed the pass exactly where Grimes wanted it and Grimes put it exactly where he wanted to: into the bottom corner of the net.

    1-1

    ****ing ball-watching. Caught ****ing ball-watching again. Damn.

    Despite getting scored on, we continued to dominate possession. We failed to create any chances, though. The field was getting really chopped up and players didn't know what the ball would do as it rolled toward them.

    In the locker room, few players had any white one their shorts and their blue socks were mostly brown. Most players still had a decent amount of yellow still visible.

    "You're playing well despite the conditions," I said. "Keep your concentration high especially when they counter. I have faith that you will find a way to score."

    Apparently, Haz wasn't listening to what I said about concentration. Grimes caught him ball-watching in the 47th minute but we got lucky. Grimes shot wide. The ball bobbled as he struck it.

    "HAZ! HAZ!" I yelled. "DON'T BALL WATCH!"

    Haz gave me a thumbs up.

    Dunn booted the goal kick straight to Bury who worked it down our left resulting in a back post cross. Bury's right midfielder Emanuele Catania smashed his header into the side netting.

    I got the sinking feeling that today was Grimes big day. Haz got caught ball-watching again in the 55th minute, but Dunn made a great save to deny Grimes.

    This time Assistant Manager Sean Hankin was off the bench yelling at Haz.

    To no avail.

    At 60 minutes, Danny Boy was knackered so I replaced him with Adam Pepper. Furthermore, I wanted to shut down the midfield so I put on Mark Tomlinson. Mark would play between the defense and midfield, Gregs would move up into the midfield.

    Soon after, Jim Fenlon played a pass up toward Gregory. Peps was running across to get into place to receive a pass. It hit his heel and bounced right to a Bury player.

    Suddenly, Grimes had the ball. I realized my hand was over my face and I was looking through my fingers. Our defending was becoming almost too frightening to watch. Grimes tapped a 4 yard pass to his partner in crime Rose and ran left and around Haz. Haz paid him no mind and Captain Andy let Rose nutmeg him with a pass into Grime's path.

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    Grimes didn't miss.

    I told Lovers to warm up and in the 68th minute sent him on for Simon Johnson. I wanted to switch to a 442 formation. Peps went out to left midfield with Mark and Gregs in the middle.

    We pressed, but there were a lot of factors against us: the pitch; the weather; my two most creative midfielders on the bench. I just knew we weren't going to score. Knew it.

    I checked my phone for the other scores. York were losing, too. Free-scoring Burton were drawing 0-0 at home. Cheltenham were leading one-nil over Walsall. Rotherham were winning one-nil over Scunthorpe.

    6 point lead for the title and still a 9 point automatic promotion cushion.

    Could be worse.

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  45. AFC Wimbledon U18s v AFC Wimbledon Youth Candidates

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    It's a busy week. Saturday morning was the sign-up day for young boys who want to join the AFC Wimbledon youth system. The boys did some sprints, ran 3K, dribbled through cones, measured the stationary and running jump, etc. etc.

    Sadly, we didn't have any outstanding talents show up. After watching them on Saturday and Sunday, I'm going to sign up a couple of the boys. Even the Youth Academy staff are underwhelmed by the lack of talent.

    Here's the thing, if the kid is good enough, I'll probably bring him into the first team.

    Nana Adams scored to poacher goals early. For the first, he found the gap between the central defenders, received the cross and had plenty of time to shoot. The second was he was at the right place at the right time.

    "He's got good instincts," I said to the assembled Youth Staff after his second goal.

    "He hasn't shown anything until now," said Dave Turner, Head of Youth Development.

    "Yeah," agreed U18 Manager Mark Robinson. "Despite these two nicely taken goals, he hasn't got what it takes."

    "Alright, I'll trust your judgment," I said. "I didn't notice him on Saturday or Sunday when I was watching.
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  47. League Two: Coventry City FC v. AFC Wimbledon

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ID:	609027Another huge match for us. They're all huge at this point. You probably already knew that.

    With Barlaser (Turkey U19), Dummigan (N. Ireland U19) and Loveridge (Wales U21) away on international duty, I'm forced to play Brad Smith and Jack Midson. Leandro is more dangerous than Danny Boy right now and Danny would have been on the bench anyways.

    "Today is huge because we can clinch a play-off spot," I said. "We need to accomplish each small goal before us in these final six matches."

    "Additionally, your old boss would like to show that Erik was wrong to sack him," I continued. "But if you've checked the table, you'd know these Sky Blues are at the wrong end. According to Lil, their form is ****. So there's a lot riding on this match on a lot of levels so I want us to go out there and play our brand of attacking football."

    We ripped the Sky Blues apart on our first foray into their half. Matteo Nole raced down the left, right past the right back and whipped in a cross. The ball arrived a smidge behind Michael Smith. So he trapped the ball right to Jack Midson who was running up a few yards back. Midson bulged the ol' onion bag a mere 1:10 into the match.

    0-1

    I had barely sat back down on the bench from celebrating and Nole was racing down the left again. A central defender lumbered over to no avail. Matteo whipped in a back post cross for an unmarked Michael Smith.

    0-2

    Only 3:15 into the match.

    Neal Ardley stood there grinding his teeth with his hands shoved deep into his pants pockets.

    Our rate of scoring slowed down a bit. There was a scrum of flailing legs near the left post after a corner. I couldn't exactly see what was going on but then the ball was in the back of the net and Kris Thackray was racing toward the corner flag. He punched the living hell out of the poor corner flag and was then mobbed by his teammates.

    And that was it for the first half. Coventry started working harder and we took our foot off the gas pedal.

    But we didn't take our foot off their neck. Leandro curled in a free kick at the hour mark to put four past Coventry keeper Carlo Nash.

    Then as the fourth official was fiddling with his board to indicate how much extra time, Nole crossed the half line with the ball at his feet. He drew three defenders and zipped a pass into Smith. Smith turned and rolled a pass between the center back and left back for George Francomb to run onto.

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    "HAAPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!" Everyone sang once we were in the locker room. It was Mark Tomlinson's 17th birthday. "YOU LOOK LIKE A **** HEAD AND YOU SMELL LIKE OLD SHOES!"

    Captain Andy and Haz had been shaking sodas and sprayed Mark.

    "That's just ****ing gross and sticky," Mark said wiping off the sticky spray. "I hate Fanta."

    "But you'll like this," I said handing Mark an envelope. "Here's your first contract offer, Mark. Happy birthday from all of us. We wouldn't be here without you ****ing people up every week. Read it over and let's talk tomorrow about it."

    "ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER YELLOW CARD," the Wimbledon players chanted periodically as they showered, dressed and boarded the bus to head homeward.

    We had 11 points for a cushion now, but Cheltenham didn't play today so while our lead increased over them, they have a game in hand.

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  48. "This sucks and I already miss you," I said. "Hi, how are you."

    I'd driven to a Metro stop, taken the Tube, made several transfers catching one of them just as the doors were closing. I was pretty sure nobody was following me. Furthermore, you recall that I have an app on my phone for hacking other people's phones. That's also good for notifying me if my phone got hacked.

    "Stiff upper lift," Gwen said and gave me a peck on the cheek. "Good result up in Coventry, I see."

    "Yep," I replied. "Cuffen-tray. I love how that gets pronounced."

    I was relaxed enough and we were in Marylebone. We'd never gone to this area nor this restaurant before.

    "I have good news," she said. "I have photo shoot in April. Won't be quite as large of a deal as France, but nearly as high profile."

    "That's awesome," I replied.

    We looked over our menus in silence for a moment.

    "This all ends the second of May," I said. "Well, soon after. We have to do exit interviews for players were not keeping and end-of-season interviews with the ones who will be back. Then we can get the **** out of Dodge."

    "Dodge?"

    "That's Americanese," I said. "Leave town."

    "Can we go to Italy?" Gwen asked.

    "I don't see why not," I said. "I'll have a lot of work to do, but it will be erratic. I'll have a **** load of video to watch and a bunches of deals to make. I'd like to see some of the UK, too."

    "I suppose we have lots of options as long as those options include cell service," she said. "It's only been, wait, it's been less than a week. Mum and Dad are getting on my every nerve and I miss you. You're right. This really sucks."

    "Have you decided?" asked the waiter.
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  50. Monday, 30 March 2015 10AM or so

    My phone jangled in my pocket. It was the Inspector in charge of my case.

    "This is Enrico."

    "Good morning. This is Inspector Jameson. We think we've identified the man who approached you and his associates."

    "Oh?"

    "I'm going to send you an image of the man we think approached you."

    The mugshot resembled the man who approached me. He wasn't wearing the rastafarian hat and big gold chain.

    "Looks like him," I said. "What's his name?"

    "Ian Gairnsley. He's a minor figure in an organization we've been tracking that have been making inroads into the drug trade and sexual trafficking in greater Metropolitan London. We believe they are linked into the Camorra's drug pipeline and that's how they came into contact with your ex-wife's cousin."

    "So they're bigtime, small fry or ...?"

    "They're fairly decent sized and growing," Jameson replied. "They've probably bought your debt to curry favor with your former in-law. Think of it this way, they're doing enough business that giving Gianluca that money is, well, I wouldn't say pocket change but maybe more like a wedding present from what we know of the product they are moving and the prostitution rings they are running."

    "So you are right to be wary," he continued. "They are a dangerous organization. Please contact me immediately if you have any interaction with them."

    "Yes, sir. And thank you."
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