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The Alfa Romeo Metaphor

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  2. Sunday, 4 October 2015, almost 1pm

    My phone jangled as Gwen and I were signing the lease for our new flat.

    "I'm terribly sorry," I said and pulled it out of my pocket.

    It was Erik Samuelson.

    "Sorry, I'd better take this, it's the boss," I said and stepped out of the conference room.

    "Erik, what's up?" I said.

    "So you're signing the paperwork today then?" Erik said.

    "Actually, right now," I replied. "It's a nicest of the three we looked at."

    "Three? What? You were considered three? Have you read the Mirror today?" he asked.

    "Um, no? Should I have?"

    "According to them, you're leaving for Ipswich!"

    "I am?" I asked. "Wait, what?"

    "They say your signing the paperwork later this afternoon."

    "Erik, the only paperwork I'm signing today is for my new flat," I said. "I might sign my new contract tomorrow if it'll be ready."

    "Oh ... well then ... yes, it will be ready," Erik said.

    "Wait a sec ... you don't believe anything you read in the Mirror, do you?" I asked. "They get just about every transfer rumor wrong. Relax Erik. Let's schedule a press conference tomorrow and end this bull**** and sign the contract in front of these ****ing paparazzi clowns."

    "Thanks, I was rather worried there for a minute," he said.

    "Let's keep a media silence until tomorrow," I said. "Let's keep them twisting in the wind for a little bit. Spread the word. Training is at three so I'll message the team list right now. I'll tell them the story is a lie, but to stay silent if anyone asks and that I'm signing my extension tomorrow."
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  3. Click image for larger version

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ID:	666969Monday, 5 October 2015 10am

    "I'd like to thank you all for coming," Erik Samuelson said to the two journalists who bothered to show up for our little press conference. "Here at AFC Wimbledon we pride ourselves on being upright, open and honest. We have repeatedly said that the manager of this club, Enrico Pucci, wasn't going anywhere. I personally have told dozens of journalists that nobody has contacted me to talk to my club's manager. Also, Enrico has repeatedly reassured me that he's not going anywhere."

    "So to put these rumors to bed once and for all, here is Enrico's new contract through the summer of 2017," he concluded and slid the document and a pen across the table.

    I scribbled my signature on the line.

    "So next time instead of stalking me like paparazzi, call me," I said. "Present company excluded as you guys have my mobile, do call if you have a question."

    "So there was no truth to the Mirror's story that you were about to sign for Ipswich Town?" asked Martin Muir of the BBC. He was the replacement for Colin Massey. Apparently, we weren't the only club that didn't like him.

    "Nope," I replied. "I never talked to anyone from Ipswich."

    "And Doncaster?" Muir asked.

    "Nope. Nada, zilch, no contact."

    "What about the rumors linking you to Inter Milan," Simon Harrison of Sky Sports asked.

    "Well, I read on Sky Sports that they appointed Mancini," I replied. "I'm not in the same league with Mancini. Let's be honest."

    "My source says that your agent Lucca Piccioni is close personal friends with Inter's Director of Football Piero Auselio and that's how you got your foot in the door, so to speak," Harrison said. "Care to comment?"

    "Sonafa ... really?" I lied. "Well, I'll be ... uh ... a son of a bus driver. I didn't know that. If your source has any other helpful information about who my agent knows, would you ask him to tell me. I mean, Lucca knows everybody, but I didn't know they were BFFs."

    "BFFs?" Harrison asked.

    "Best friends forever," I replied. "Either of you want to talk football? No? Everything else you could possibly want to know is in the press release. Or call me. But don't wait outside my new flat, it'd be a waste of time. It's secure and has underground parking. And if you get in I'll have you arrested. Also, our joint venture with King's College London to upgrade New Malden is nearly done and, just in case any of your friends want to behave like paparazzi at our training ground, New Malden will now have a secure gate with a guard to keep any paparazzi out. Present company excluded as the regular reporters for the lower league beat are always welcome."

    "Thanks for coming," I concluded.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 12/08/2014 at 04:47 AM.
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  5. Johnstone's Paint Trophy 2nd Round: AFC Wimbledon v. Leyton Orient FC

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ID:	668661It's a cold and bitter fall evening in southwest London. And, of course, this is England so it's drizzling. A reminder of how awful English winters can be. Consequently, turnout is embarrassing. This is the lowest turnout of my tenure. We've had friendlies in the winter with a better turnout. Trust me, I even checked.

    I tried to be a man about it and wear a windbreaker and a fleece liner. But after warm-ups I switched to my parka. Seriously, Cadiz ruined me.

    I demanded a win from my players. Leyton Orient are the kind of team we should be beating.

    Leyton put us under siege from the opening kick. We only got forward once in the first quarter of an hour and won a corner. Manny Smith almost scored against the run of play with a glancing near post header.

    Then in the 18th minute, Liam Noble tackled Steven Gregory from behind taking out Gregs standing leg. I knew from the scream it was serious. The ref didn't even blow for the foul.

    "THAT WAS A RED CARD FOUL!" I screamed at the ref my voice echoing around the empty ground. "CLEATS UP AND ANKLE HIGH!"

    One of Noble's teammates kicked the ball out. Whitney sprinted out onto the field.

    "HOW IS THAT NOT A FOUL!?!" I bellowed.

    "How is that not a foul!?!" I shouted at the fourth official as I ran toward him. "From behind. Cleats up. Through the standing leg. Clear intent to injure. Did FIFA change the rules about tackling since Saturday? I demand an explanation."

    "Watch yourself, Enrico," the fourth official said covering his mic.

    "But he clearly saw it!" I moaned. "It was right there in front of him."

    Whitney signaled that Gregs was done. I spun to look at my bench. I'd given Mark Tomlinson the evening off. Mark Byrne was already limbering up. Hanks must have got him up and going while I was whinging. BTW, I love that word whinging. It so perfectly describes what I do when the ref misses a clear call like this. If I take away anything from my stay in England, it might very well be that word.

    "Okay, Mark," I said to Byrne as the fourth official held up his board to announce the change. "Here's your chance to show me what you've got. Short passes, play the easy pass in front of you."

    That woke us up. We started dominating possession. Initially we squandered some decent chances, but Leandro Depetris came through with a perfectly weighted chip pass behind the left fullback for George Francomb to run onto. George hit a wobbling, disgraceful shot well wide of the far post. While I'm running short of patience with George, Leandro apparently was feeling sorry for George and played the exact same pass from nearly the exact same spot a minute later.

    Unlike in the league, George graceful took his shot on the short hop and smashed the volley in off the far post.

    1-0

    The game changed with the substitution. Byrne was running around like a rabid dog, tackling anything that moved. Suddenly, the guy who was never where he needed to be and who always made the wrong choice looked like Claude Makelele. I kept glancing over at the bench as if to ask 'who is this guy?'

    The second half started just as the first ended. Byrne playing the best game of his brief Wimbledon career and everyone feeding off it.

    In the 52nd minute we capitalized on their disorganization following a corner. The ball was headed back toward the corner flag and we worked it back and then across the pitch to the middle where Matteo Ricci lasered in a pass for Leandro. Leandro spun and shot.

    2-0

    In the 72nd minute, Leyton Orient were trying to bring the ball upfield. Byrne intercepted a pass and played a 10 yard pass to Ricci. Ricci zipped a 30 yard pass upfield for Lovers. Lovers spun and chipped a ball behind the left back for George. George's first touch as he entered the box was poor and took him wide. So as he came to the end line, he pulled it back and fed the charging Ricci. Ricci smashed it home.

    3-0

    Game, set and match.

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ID:	668662 I sent on Andrea Sbraga for Leandro. Time to get him off in case it got rough. I switched to a 451. Byrne and Ricci in the center of midfield. Martin Riley moves up to defensive mid and Sbraga slots in at his usual position.

    I replaced Lovers with Dylan Griffiths with ten minutes to go so that the Griff some playing time.

    In extra time, Riley went down in a heap after a challenge with Leyton's Karl Henry. He got back up right away and signaled for Whits to return to the bench. No foul yet again.

    I screamed some more at the ref and whinged some more at the fourth official.

    Despite the injury to Gregs and an empty Kingsmeadow, it was a great night. Plenty of excitement and drama. Whits said he needed to see an x-ray of Gregory's ankle before he'd know how long he'd be out. He was also a bit worried about Riley's knee.

    Bring on Round 3!

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  6. Name:  Enrico-twitter.png
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Size:  4.8 KBEnrico Pucci @enricopucci - 7 Oct 15
    Worse than I originally feared. @SteveGregs out 6 weeks, ankle ligaments.
    @MartinRiley86 will be 2 mths, knee ligaments #wimbledon
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  7. Long time lurker here. Man this could be a book. Seriously great stuff. Also with the Graphics ... how did you do that animated pic of you at the press conferance. I want one of me so bad. Really good stuff. Awesome bro.



    I want one .... lol.
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  8. Quote Originally Posted by ThePav View Post
    Long time lurker here. Man this could be a book. Seriously great stuff. Also with the Graphics ... how did you do that animated pic of you at the press conferance. I want one of me so bad. Really good stuff. Awesome bro.



    I want one .... lol.
    ThePav, thanks. I'm glad you're enjoying this.

    As to the presser graphic, I did this totally low-tech.

    I started out with the head. Literally, just the head part. I used MS Paint on a PC to cut out just the head. Paint is cool b/c you can use your mouse to cut out just what you want to copy-paste. I pasted it onto a body sitting in front of a pair of mics.

    Then I switch to my Mac and use Paintbrush. Paintbrush is cool because you can smooth edges that don't match. At this point the head fits correctly on the shoulders but there is not background.

    The background was simple. Just copy paste the logos and make them all line up.

    Then I used a PC to exacto-cut out Enrico's head n shoulders and pasted it onto the background.

    Then I used my Mac to smooth the edges and add shadowing.

    Of course, any graphic designer with all their expensive, hi-tech software could do this, too. But I'm not one of them.
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  9. Name:  Enrico-twitter.png
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Size:  4.8 KBEnrico Pucci @enricopucci 8 Oct 15
    Congrats to @andreasbraga for making the Sky Bet League Two team of
    the week wimb.le.don/8Ys8fs2 #wimbledon

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  11. League One: AFC Wimbledon v. Portsmouth FC

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ID:	669718Unlike the last couple of weeks, Kingsmeadow is packed for Pompey. All the superstars of the recent past are all long gone. They bring a solid squad of journeymen with a trio of regular youngish players amongst their starting XI. They have 7 wins and 3 losses in their last ten. Apparently, there's no middle ground with them.

    I go with my first choice pairing at fullback with Cameron Dummigan and Jim Fenlon. Lovers gets the start up top with Jason Banton and George Francomb on the wings. Matteo Nole isn't available due to an injury he picked up yesterday.

    I give them the ol' 'relax and play our game' talk.

    Maybe they're a little too relaxed. Nothing happens for the first 15 minutes. We play tiki taka in and around the center circle but go nowhere. They are unable to keep possession in our half.

    Bill Knott, whom we got to know last season when he was at Rotherham, finally dribbles a shot right at Lincoln. It wasn't quite a first shot in anger as the announcers are fond of saying on this island, but at least it was something.

    Then we race forward with the ball. Leandro Depetris plays a ball up to James Loveridge who controls the ball with his back to goal and considers his options. He plays in George Francomb who takes advantage of the ball-watching right fullback. George beats the keeper but central defender Craig Morgan clears the ball off the line.

    The clearance hits George in the stomach and drops at his feet. Then Danny Potts slides in for the tackle takes out George's planting foot.

    The crowd roars as it's clearly a penalty. Except the ref charges over and stands over George. George looks up at the ref incredulously. The roars turn to whistles and boos. I can read George's lips as he says "you've got to be kidding me." The ref cards him as he gets up.

    I'm speechless. I'm just standing their gawping (another UK word I've learned to love), mouth open with a look of disbelief on my face.

    "How on God's green earth is that not a penalty?" I moan to the fourth official. "Seriously. He clearly took out his standing leg. Please ask Mr. Ilderton how he can explain away an illegal tackle as not a foul and explain how my player fell down all on his own."

    The fourth official held up his hand as he was obviously conferring with Ilderton via their headsets.

    "The refs are on to Francomb, Enrico," Portsmouth boss Guy Whittingham said. "Word is out that he's a diver."

    "Your clumsy lummox of a defender took out his standing leg, that's why he fell," I retorted.

    "The card was for embellishment," the fourth official said.

    "But was he fouled?" I asked. But the fourth official aggressively ignored me. "Seriously. Don't insult your own intelligence and and and what credibility the FA and whatever credibility the referees on this island may have had. I want an answer from him. Was George fouled."

    There I stood. Chin out, arms waving and gums flapping. His previous career must have been as a palace guard at Buckingham Palace for all the reaction I could get out of him.

    I stomped away disgusted as the boos and whistles rained down from the stands.

    And that was about all that happened in a shockingly dull first half. Lovers passed to George rather than shooting and George shot high. Lovers shot horribly wide after a melee in the box following a corner. And Andrea Sbraga missed the net on a free header from another corner.

    I tried to talk to the ref after the half time whistle but they were all pretending to be palace guards and aggressively ignored me.

    "Guys, listen up," I said once everyone was in the locker room. "We're stifling them. That's great. We're moving the ball decently. Great effort out there on that right flank, George. The penalty that wasn't and cleared off the line. That's football. Just keep plugging away and the goals will flow."

    We raced up the right flank from the restart. But George hit a horrible cross that they cleared easily. We controlled the clearance and attacked right up the gut. Lovers played in George but George shanked his shot horribly wide.

    I realized that both palms were covering my face. I have no winger to replace George. Nole is hurt and I wanted Dylan Griffith to gets some playing time so he's off with the U19s today. **** me.

    In the 51st minute, George squandered another chance. George is scoring in cup play but can't buy a goal in league play. **** me.

    In the 59th minute, Sbraga tunes out for the absolute wrong second. He tuned out at the exact second that the aged and slow Bobby Zamora decided to make a run. Their captain Romain Padovani recognized this and sent a pass into the space for Zamora to amble toward. I covered my face with both hands and peered out from between my fingers.

    But Sbraga recovered with a brilliantly timed desperation tackle that nudged the ball away just as Bobby was about to clobber it goalward.
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    The whole stadium and I sighed in relief. Then the stadium applauded Sbraga's tackle.

    I need to jumpstart this match. I look at my bench. Nope, nobody there to do add any life. Michael Smith still doesn't seem all that confident in front of goal. Dummigan is tiring so on goes Brad Smith at the hour mark. Same for Matteo Ricci so I put on Mark Byrne.

    The two Marks, Byrne and Tomlinson, work their butts off and are very solid defensively, but neither do much going forward. Combine that with Banton is anonymous and George can't score and we're down to Lovers and Leandro. Neither are having their best games today.

    So in the 70th minute, I replace George with Michael Smith and send Lovers to the right wing. With someone who can score in the league out on the right, we don't create any more chances out there.

    The game eventually ends but this was a horrible bore draw. We didn't have it in us and Pompey never looked threatening. I told the boys that this we should be beating Portsmouth and this seemed to motivate them.

    I guess I have to put it in perspective. That's four straight games without conceding and five if you count the Johnston's Paint Trophy match. Only one loss in our last ten. 1 point away from a play-off spot. That ain't half bad. Plus, MK Dons lost again and remain second bottom.

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  12. phew. Finally caught up on all 97 pages. Cracking story !! Keep it up!

  13. Quote Originally Posted by Roddo7 View Post
    phew. Finally caught up on all 97 pages. Cracking story !! Keep it up!
    Thank you very much. Glad you've enjoyed it.

  14. This is the most in depth I think anyone has gone into writing a story and this is probably the best story anyone has ever made! You should start a blog and post this on there as I feel this could get a lot of followers.

  15. Quote Originally Posted by bluebirdboi View Post
    This is the most in depth I think anyone has gone into writing a story and this is probably the best story anyone has ever made! You should start a blog and post this on there as I feel this could get a lot of followers.
    Oh, stop. Now I'm blushing.

    As to a blog. I used to be a political blogger so I know how to build a blog and all that. The issue is I don't wanna. I'm just here to spin a yarn and keep writing. Ya know ... practice the craft of writing and have a good time. At some point, I'm going to start developing some of the stories (some more developed than others) that I have kicking around in my head and some written down.

    On the other hand, I'm going to need to build a website for my writing endeavors. Maybe I incorporate this in somehow.

    Thanks for the idea...
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  16. Sunday, 11 October 2015 9am

    "Gentleman," I said as I sat down at the new conference room table at New Malden. "l hope everyone had a good evening last night. Matt, you have your first quarter report?"

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ID:	670896"I do," Coach Matt Woolley said. He connected his laptop to a cable. "Alex, would you turn on the TV? Yeah, the green button. Thanks."

    "As you all know, we're 12 games or roughly one quarter of the way into the campaign," Wools said as the league table displayed. "We're sitting 9th, stingiest defense in League One which is obviously why we're 9th as we're not scoring much. Most of the other teams around and above us have scored 20 or more. Obviously, Michael and Lovers are not adapting to the new league as quickly as we'd hope."

    "At home, we're undefeated," he continued. "3 wins, 3 draws. Away we have 2 wins and a draw from six matches. I'd like to point you all toward four interesting statistics. One, Andrea Sbraga has 3 Man-of-the-Match awards. Two, Chris Dunn has only conceded 2 goals. Three, Daniel Lincoln has 4 shutouts and Mark Tomlinson is not among the leaders in yellow cards."

    There were murmurs of approval from around the table.

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ID:	670905"I'm worried about our offense," Shooting coach Andy Garner said. "We're getting into good positions but just not converting."

    "And it's not just Lovers and Michael," I added. "George Francomb can't seem to score. That in particular is driving me ****ing mad. He's getting 3 or 4 chances per match."

    "Do we give Dylan Griffiths a chance to start?" Wools asked. "He's shown plenty of promise in training."

    "Well, the Oxford match would be the perfect opportunity," I said. "They're in the relegation zone and are leaking goals like a broken pipe. And neither Michael or Lovers are scoring away."

    "Boss, would you like a list of available strikers?" Lil Fuccillo asked.

    "Yeah," I said. "If they're not scoring by January, I'll need another striker."
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  17. Oh, the drama of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Quarter Final draw. There actually was a smidge of drama. There was the possibility that we'd be drawn with MK Dons. Didn't happen, though.

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  18. Tuesday, 13 October 2015

    My Chief Scout Lil Fuccillo supplied me with a list on Sunday. So I've spent all my spare time watching videos. An American, Ben Rolfe, grabbed my attention. Fast and looks really good in front of net.

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    I could sign him for January on a free transfer. So I called his agent.

    His agent came at me with an attitude right from the start. Of course, it was never going to go well. No wonder a player of this skill is about to get released on a free. What a douchenozzle. When I asked what the ball park salary Ben was looking for, he countered by saying it would take a pretty large salary to even get him to consider.

    "And what range would that be?" I asked.

    "How much are you willing to offer?" Agent Douche Nozzle replied.

    "I like to structure my contracts to be performance based," I said. "And I'd also like to give players a salary bump after 10 or 15 matches. So I can offer a salary of 2,000 initially with 2,700 after ..."

    "Let me just stop you right there," Agent Nozzle interrupted. "You're not even in the ballpark. I don't have time for amateurs. Have a nice day."

    Click.
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  19. Quote Originally Posted by Enrico Pucci View Post
    Oh, stop. Now I'm blushing.

    As to a blog. I used to be a political blogger so I know how to build a blog and all that. The issue is I don't wanna. I'm just here to spin a yarn and keep writing. Ya know ... practice the craft of writing and have a good time. At some point, I'm going to start developing some of the stories (some more developed than others) that I have kicking around in my head and some written down.

    On the other hand, I'm going to need to build a website for my writing endeavors. Maybe I incorporate this in somehow.

    Thanks for the idea...
    Being honest I believe you are able to write really interesting football romances like this one but even more better more developed And I believe these (yours) works are able to become succesful

  20. Quote Originally Posted by dainis View Post
    Being honest I believe you are able to write really interesting football romances like this one but even more better more developed And I believe these (yours) works are able to become succesful
    Thanks!

  21. After Senor Douche Nozzle's player, there weren't many that would be an improvement. There was a promising 18 year old Welsh kid. He'd scored 11 goals in 25 appearances when his Welsh club, Afan Lido loaned him to Shrewsbury. The videos suggested he wasn't the finished product but certainly had potential. Like Premier League potential. And I could have him on my roster in January for a song. So I called up his agent.

    "This is Kevin," he said.

    "Hi, this is Enrico Pucci, manager of AFC Wimbledon," I said. "I'm calling about a Welsh boy your represent, Craig Williams."

    "Okay," he said.

    "I'm interested if Craig would like to move to London and play in League One?" I asked.

    "Wimbledon, huh," Kevin said. "Yeah, he probably would."

    "I see that he's making a youth wage, you'd be okay with a typical League One salary for a promising young player?" I asked.

    "If by that you mean 1,000 a week, yes," he replied.

    "Alright then," I said. "I'll be in touch once I've got an agreement with his club."

    "Cheers."

    Click.
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  22. Thursday, 15 October 2015

    The Chairman of Lido accepted the pitance of a transfer fee I offered and once the paperwork got filed, I offered Craig the following contract:

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    And this is the player I'll be getting in January:

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  24. Hi guys, can ask a massive favour for you to check out my new FM story- Satisfying Stan. It is an Arsenal story which will have certain twists and incentive based on performance including the amount of transfer budget available, key players being sold and limited appearances for certain players. Please check it out, cheers

  25. League One: AFC Wimbledon v. Leyton Orient FC

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ID:	672689Unlike a week and a half ago, it wasn't near winter-like conditions. It was coolish, partly-sunny and a perfect afternoon for football. Kingsmeadow looked full except for the bad seats in the corners and the odd empty.

    We just beat these guys and we know what to expect from them. I'm giving Mark Tomlinson the afternoon off. At least hopefully. I think Mark Byrne's combative nature and work ethic will be enough to keep the Os in check. I can't imagine that they've gotten better since the previous meetings.

    We start off attacking them right from the start. After playing keep-away for the first minute in and around the center circle, Matteo Ricci fed Michael Smith. Smith held the ball up nicely then played a ball behind the left back Mat Sadler for Jason Banton to run onto. Their keeper blocked it out for a corner.

    Leandro saw that Leyton's captain, the 5'8" Steven Irwin, was marking 6'5" Michael. So he aimed his corner kick at them. Irwin threw Michael down like in WWE wrestling and kicked the ball clear.

    No foul.

    I was still busy moaning at the ref and fourth official in the fourth minute when Ricci got the ball up to Michael who played Jason in.

    1-0

    Jason just stood there as his teammates mobbed him and the Womble faithfully went ape****. It was looking like a rough afternoon for Mr. Hoyland and Co.

    Jason nearly got a second in the 14th minute when Nathan Houghton cleared the ball into his fellow central defender Nathan Clarke. But his shot trickled just wide.

    Fifteen minutes into the match it was clear that the ref wasn't going to protect players from over-the-top challenges and other ultra-violence. I'd spent nearly eight of the first fifteen minutes exhorting the ref and fourth official to begin enforcing the rules of the game pertaining to violent conduct.

    Apparently, today was going to be the Jason and Michael Show. In the 20th minute, we cleared a corner and Jason got their first. He then ran 60 yards up the left flank and fed a pass into the space between the central defenders. Michael got to the cross first and smashed a shot goalwards that grazed the crossbar.

    In the 29th minute, the match descended into farce. Ricci dispossessed O's midfielder Liam Noble. Noble pushed him down. I was about to restart my Moan-A-Thon but I saw the ref reaching into his back pocket. Yellow for Noble.

    In the 33rd minute, Jason put the ball past their left back Sadler who cynically chopped him down. Not even a foul. The ball rolled out of bounds. Whitney raced out onto the pitch to apply some magic sponge and freezy spray. Jason indicated that he was fine.

    Right after the restart from Jason's injury, Clarke lashed out at Ricci with an elbow. It just missed his chin by an inch. So Ricci chopped out Clarke's ankles. Yellow for Ricci.

    In the 38th, Leandro beat central midfielder James Weir. Weir reached out and nearly pantsed Leandro. Leandro hoisted his shorts back up and jogged after the ball. Yellow for Weir.

    In the 42nd minute, Ricci and O's forward Kenneth McEvoy both leapt for a corner. Ricci's elbow caught McEvoy. No foul. This time Manager Hoyland was bellyaching at the ref and fourth official. I'm a bit partial, but it may not have been unintentional the way the Os had been trying to kick the **** out of Ricci and Leandro. We put the ball out so McEvoy could receive some treatment.

    Then 2 minutes into stoppage time, Noble lost his mind. The red mist descended. Pick any metaphor you want, but left his teammates in an impossible position. They'd lumped the ball into our right corner. Cameron Dummigan had retrieved it and played it square to Andrea Sbraga. I looked at the ref. He looked at his watch. McEvoy rushed Sbraga so he dished it to his partner Manny Smith. Manny dallied on the ball. I looked at the ref again, he was putting his whistle to his lips. I was kind of worried as Noble charged up, but Manny turned to shield the ball. Noble slid right through Manny's legs and got up pointing at the ball which rolled to McEvoy's feet. Manny lay on the ground clutching his planting leg.
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    The ref blew his whistle all right, but for the foul. Then he reached into his left back pocket and produced a yellow card as he reached into his right pocket for his red card.

    Then he blew for half time. Ah, Noble ... what a maroon. What a box of rocks. To call Noble stupid would be an insult to stupid people everywhere. But thanks for guaranteeing our win, though, dude. Much appreciated.

    We exploited our extra man. Michael bagged two well-taken goals from crosses. Jason and Matteo Nole were the providers. They scored a consolation from a long ball over the top. Then we scored our fourth.

    Have you every played hall ball? Normally, it's played in dormitories. Anyways, there's always a point in hall ball when it's two against two with all four participants flailing away in an attempt to get the ball past their opposition. Then with less than 10 minutes left, Manny scored a bizarro, hall ball goal. Leandro took a corner that landed a foot from the near post. It was Andrea Sbraga and Manny Smith in a game of hall ball with two O's defenders. They bumped and jostled for only a second or three, but all four participants got several leg swings in. Manny won.

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  26. Quote Originally Posted by King1999 View Post
    Hi guys, can ask a massive favour for you to check out my new FM story- Satisfying Stan. It is an Arsenal story which will have certain twists and incentive based on performance including the amount of transfer budget available, key players being sold and limited appearances for certain players. Please check it out, cheers
    That will be a massive challenge. I look forward to reading how you navigate the Ivory Tower politics of the gleaming halls of the Emirates. The job that every manager would dread to have ... replacing Arsene Wenger.
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  27. Gwen was leaning against the Alfa, waiting for me outside Kingsmeadow in the security parking area where the coaching staff and players park. She had an impish grin on her face.

    "Either I'm in a huge amount of trouble or you've been naughty," I said.

    "A wee bit of both," she replied cryptically. "Get in."

    "Have you been waiting long?" I asked.

    She shrugged and sat down into the car.

    "I was watching the match with my Dad and Bro," she said. "You were rather animated this afternoon. I couldn't hear what you were saying but don't you ever get in trouble for complaining so much?"

    I laughed and started the engine.

    "First, I'm careful never to impugn the honest and integrity of the refs," I said. "Most of the time I'm asking for an explanation. Or I'm explaining how that was in fact a foul. Am I really that bad?"

    "My sweet, Italian-American hunk of Whinge, the team is doing really well and I don't think that anyone cares," she replied very diplomatically as we pulled out of the parking lot. "You've won the league, you've won their hearts."

    "No seriously," I said. "Am I making a spectacle of myself."

    "You are an entertainer," she replied. "Seriously. If the match is dull you're out there shouting, waving and directing your players. Personally, I think you're really cute when you stomp about all angry."

    "Now I'm cute?"

    "Mmmm hmmm," she said and pinched my love handle.

    "HEY!" I yelped nearly side-swiping the car next to us. "Leave the driver alone!"

    She just giggled and slouched down in her seat.

    "Hey, before you tried to get us killed, you were going to tell me something," I said.

    "Hee ... yeah," she said. I glanced over. She looked even more impish. This is hard to do for a tall, strikingly gorgeous woman, but that's how she looked, impish.

    "I had some furniture delivered today," she snickered.

    "Some?"

    "Hee ... um ... yeah," she said. "And they'll be donating the IKEA stuff like we'd talked about."

    "Donating my stuff?"

    "My sweet and sexy Italian-American hunk of short-term memory loss, don't tell me you don't remember talking about what we should do with the, and I quote, pieces of **** furniture I bought when I was dead broke?"

    I grunted my disapproval.

    "Do you remember everything I say verbatim?" I asked rhetorically. She pinched me again. "Hey! Okay, wait. How much did you have delivered and how much did you spend?"

    "Well let's get some take-away, bring it back and decide where everything should go," she said. "Chinese? Indian? What?"

    "Wait a minute here," I said. "You didn't answer my questions."

    She answered by pinching me again.
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  30. Monday, 19 October 2015 eleven-ish in the AM

    We were training early so as to miss the afternoon showers the forecast was calling for. Tomorrow we travel up to Oxford and I had a number of things I wanted to work on, the most important being giving Dylan Griffiths his first start. Lovers and Michael have been ice cold away from Kingsmeadow and Oxford are the Us are giving up the most goals of anyone in the league.

    What a great opportunity for the kid and an opportunity to send a message to Lovers and Michael.

    My phone vibrates in my track suit pocket. It's a reporter.

    "This is Enrico," I answer.

    More questions about me leaving Wimbledon for Crystal Palace. As I've said to all the others, I'm staying at Wimbledon and that I'm perfectly happy at the club. I reiterate that nobody has contacted me or the club from Palace.

    As I'm listening to yet another question from the reporter that is more or less the same question I've already answered but with slightly different semantics, I watch Jason Banton stumble in mid-dribble, collide with Leandro Depetris and go cartwheeling through the air. He lands all wrong on his head and shoulder and crumples to the ground.

    "Uh, I've got to go," I say into the phone. "Just watched an injury happen. Thanks so much for calling instead of stalking me. Ciao."

    Click.

    Everyone gathers round as our physio Jon Whitney is asking questions. Jason tries to sit up. Whits forces him to remain lying on his back.

    "Relax, guvnah," Whits says. "Talk to me about your neck."

    "Well, for starters it ****ing hurts and I'd like to sit up," Jason replies.

    So with Whits cradling his head and a guy on either side, they ease him up to sitting. Jason tries to loosen his neck and roll his shoulder but it's obviously painful. From my experience it's either a dislocated shoulder or he's going to need a chiropractor. Or both.

    But more likely than not, he ain't playing tomorrow.

    ****.
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  31. League One: Oxford United FC v. AFC Wimbledon

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ID:	675479It's a chilly October evening so I'm decked out in my parka. I've got my club scarf on but not wrapped tight. My hat is in my pocket just in case.

    Jason Banton just has a sore neck. Whits says we should have the chiropractor we work with adjust him tomorrow after the swelling has subsided a bit. Steven Gregory and Martin Riley are out. Matteo Ricci needs a rest so Mark Byrne will play alongside Leandro Depetris. Like I said, Dylan Griffiths gets his first start.

    The stadium is about a third full and there a good number of Wombles who have traveled up to Oxford.

    Not much happened in the opening 10 minutes. The Griff shot right at the keeper and Andrea Sbraga collided with their striker Kyle Copp and came away hobbling. Play didn't stop or anything but Sbraga was obviously in pain.

    In the 20th minute, Leandro curled a ball out to Matteo Nole on the left sideline. Nole beat his fullback and raced for the corner flag. He whipped in a beautiful cross perfectly into the path of Griff. Griff hits his volley cleanly and I'm raising my arms when the keeper tips it round the post.

    Dang.

    In the 35th minute, Leandro plays a pass up to Griff. Griff holds it up nicely then gives it right back to Leandro. Nole, Mark Byrne and George Francomb have all advanced up into gaps during this exchange. Leandro plays it up to George who one-times his pass into the middle to Griff. Griff draws two defenders and plays a ball behind the right fullback for George to run onto.

    George sees Nole's back post run and delivers the cross right into Nole's path. Nole is too eager and overruns it a bit but manages to whack the cross with his thigh into the net!

    0-1

    Nole's first goal for AFC Wimbledon. Took for-freaking-ever but it finally arrived. Nole runs over to the Wombles behind the net to celebrate.

    Right after the restart, Oxford's Chris Birchall chopped down Leandro rather viciously. Leandro rolls around on the pitch a couple of times, tries to get up then sits down.

    As you can probably guess, I'm screaming bloody murder about red cards and violent conduct at the ref then moaning at the fourth official. I know you're going to be shocked, but the only reaction I get is the fourth official tells me to calm down and go sit down.

    I wave Mark Byrne over.

    "Yeah, boss," Byrne says.

    "Take out Birchall since the ref won't," I say. "Spread the word."

    Byrne walks over to Mark Tomlinson. Andrea Sbraga and Manny Smith come over. They talk briefly. Eventually, Leandro limps off with supported by Whits and Griff. I send on Matteo Ricci to replace him.

    A few minutes later we win a corner. Manny is standing directly behind Birchall. George whips in a cross and Manny pushes Birchall into the path of the onrushing Sbraga. This is in the middle of the mixer so it's a mosh pit anyway, but the ref whistles Sbraga for running poor Birchall over.

    My foursome in the middle spend the remainder of the first half giving Birchall the special sauce. Ricci even got in a good kick to his shins.

    With time winding down in the half, Nole played a pass to the overlapping Brad Smith. Brad looks up, looks down and drills his cross right at the keeper. I spin a full 360 with both hands over my face. He had Griff making a near post run and George at the far post. What a waste.

    Sbraga wins the punt back upfield and Ricci zips a pass up to Griff. Griff smashes a shot to the keeper's right. It looks good but the keeper dives and gets to it. The ball bounces right into the path of Nole. Will it be two in one game after such a long drought?

    NO!!! The left fullback slides in and clears Nole's shot off the line.

    At half time, I warned my players not to get complacent in the second half. Griff was looking agitated and distressed about his inability to score. I told him to relax and let it flow. He smiled, nodded and seemed to calm down a bit.

    Birchall does not come out for the second half.

    Not long after the restart, Ricci played a ball down the right sideline for George to chase. He whipped in a cross. It wasn't his best. But Griff and the keeper were in a race for it about 2 yards from the near post. The keeper dives for it as Griff reachs for it with his left foot. It's hard to tell if Griff managed to back heel it toward his trailing right leg or the keeper fumbled it. But Griff was looking down between his legs and did a sort of behind-the-back side foot shot that bobbled over the keeper and into the net!

    0-2

    First start and first goal for the young man!

    Oxford players swarm the ref complaining about offsides and keeper interference. He waves them all away but not before lecturing their Captain. His lecture even included a severe finger wagging.

    It was at this point we quit playing. Oxford were without any hope so they didn't realize it for some 20 minutes or so. It all started with giving the Us there first chance of the game which Lincoln fumbled for a corner. A few minutes later after this first chance and Oxford has us running around on defense. Tomlinson eventually gets fed up and chops down Birchall's replacement Simon Mensing. He gets up shouting at his teammates to "wake the **** up."

    Lincoln has trouble with the direct shot from the free kick. I'm not sure why. It was from long range and he reacted like he didn't see it until late. He managed to get a hand down and block it. Manny cleared it to safety.

    With my keeper shaky behind them, my defense proceeded to try to do everything to give away the 3 points. My midfielders suddenly are incapable of stringing more than two passes together at a time. Luckily, we were playing Oxford United who are in the relegation zone for a reason.

    In the 83rd minute, Byrne gives the ball away at midfield. Oxford quickly played a long ball behind Manny for their striker John Constable to chase. Manny wasn't paying attention and Constable got the drop on him. He lined up his shot and didn't hit it all that well but it managed to sneak under Lincoln's armpit as he went down.

    1-2

    Hope for Oxford. I'm ****ing fuming. Rather than making a spectacle of myself and screaming at my players, I begin pacing up and down my technical area.

    Our passing gets worse but someone always manages to intervene with a desperation tackle to prevent any real chances. Our play is getting embarrassing, though. I'm getting more and more angry.

    The fourth official signals 3 minutes of extra time. Can we survive? Maybe. Oxford are that incompetent. But we try our best to give the points away.

    In the 92nd minute, they break down our left after we give them the ball. I have my hands over my face and I'm looking through my fingers. Thankfully, Lincoln comes to his senses and snares the cross.

    Lincoln rolls the ball out to Jim Fenlon, my left back. Fens has loads of options. Nole is up the line. Byrne is inside and jogging towards him to take a pass. He could play it square to Manny. He could even play it back to Lincoln. Instead, he waits for the defender to run up. At this point he realizes he's in trouble and kicks the ball out of bounds gifting Oxford the ball deep in our half.
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    At this point I'm just standing there, hands in my pockets, expecting the equalizer. We really are playing that bad.

    But the Oxford player dilly-dallies over the throw. His teammates aren't doing much to get open. He eventually throws it in and Fens lunges in and kicks it right back out of bounds. They do a better job of inbounding the ball, but they end up passing the ball backwards until they have it in their own half. Sbraga clears two of the three long balls and Manny clears the last one.

    I'm keeping an eye on the ref and on play. I see the ref check his watch. I see substitute midfielder Stuart Lewis catch Manny's clearance on the short hop and unleash a heat seeking missile bound for the upper corner to the left of Lincoln.

    I realize I'm crouching down in anguish, expecting it to rip the netting clean off. Instead, Lincoln comes flying across the net and manages to tip it over the bar.

    The ref looks at his watch and let's Oxford take the corner. After Lincoln snares the cross, he blows three long blasts on his whistle and ends my agony.

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  32. Click image for larger version

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    Enrico Pucci @enricopucci 21 Oct 15
    Congrats to @MatteoNole and @SmithManny for making the Sky Bet League One
    Team of the Week wimb.le.don/U4eK4y #Wimbledon #TOTW
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  34. For once there were manager job openings and I was not among the likely candidates. What a ****ing relief.

    I should give you an update on the new flat. All we managed to do on Saturday was get in a fight about the layout of the living room, make-up and then get the bed set up. On Sunday, we talked more about the living room and both made some concessions. Well, mainly I made a number of concessions. You know how it is. Or maybe you don't. Let me explain it this way: if a man is alone in the woods, is he still wrong? Alright, I'll admit that I'm a little bit grumpy about not getting my way and being a wee bit cynical.

    Then I struck upon a brilliant idea.

    "Why don't we get one or two of your gay friends over," I suggested. "Have them suggest what we ought to do with the living room and go with whatever they say. They have more style in their pinky fingers than we do."

    "Hmmm," Gwen grunted but she eventually agreed.

    So on Monday, we got my den mostly set up. My old TV is in here along with one of those freakishly comfortable scandinavian ergonomical chairs and matching couch. I hope I hung the TV right. It'd suck if it came tumbling down.

    The dining room was easier as the table goes in the middle. Duh. Much less possibilities for disagreement about where to put the dining room table so on Tuesday morning I put it together and we unwrapped the chairs.

    Tuesday, Greg and Aaron stopped over to assess our living room and make their recommendations. It went well. I kept my big yap shut and let them talk it all over with Gwen. In the end the three of them settled on a lay-out.

    "But seriously, Gwen," Greg said. "What's missing is that you have these vast empty walls. They need something on them."

    "He's got a point," Aaron concurred. "And I'm not talking some Monet print ****. No, you need some big pieces by some local artists."

    "Yeah, something edgy, something modern," Greg added. "Some pieces to pull this all together."

    "And I hope you two have some suggestions about where we should look?" Gwen said. "Or should I have my Mum along for that."

    "Ooh," Aaron said. "I'd completely forgotten about Mumsy."

    "Yes, talk to Mum," Greg concurred.
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  36. League One: AFC Wimbledon v. Burton Albion FC

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ID:	676240Tuesday I was prepared for winter, today I'll sit in the dugout and try not to feel the need to harass the fourth official -- it's raining. It's been raining all day. This is the England that I expected when I took the job.

    Mark Byrne and Leandro Depetris need to rest and Jason Banton is fit again so I moved Matteo Nole into the middle of the park. Also, I told Jason to shoot more. We'll see how that works out. My Chief Scout Lil Fuccillo tells me they'll play a 4141 so my central midfield trio will mark their trio.

    "We tied against these guys twice last year," I said to begin my pre-game talk. "As many of you will recall, we let a three goal lead slip away. Now after how bad we played at the end of Tuesday's game, I don't want to see any of that **** today. Clear? Okay. We just have to relax and play our game. Get in their faces, don't give them any time on the ball. Let them hoof it forward, Andrea and Manny will eat that weak-ass **** up all day long. When we have the ball, relax and keep the ball moving. Don't be a hero with the ****ing Hollywood ball, keep it simple. We're playing great, we're on a great run, I have faith we'll keep it going."

    So much for staying in the dugout. By the fifth minute, I'm out in the rain yelling at Nole and Ricci (the Matteo brothers) to mark tighter. Burton are just walzing straight through the middle of the park.

    "Hey, don't get us wet," Assistant Manager Sean Hankin says as i set down next to him.

    "Oh, terribly sorry," I apologize and flick some water off my dome onto him.

    In the 20th minute, we clear a corner and Nole picks up the ball. He takes off with it up the left flank. He nimbly evades a cynical rugby tackle attempt and has acres of empty space ahead of him. Everyone piles forward. As he nears the box he tries a shoulder fake on the Burton player who has just sprinted back. He bites and Nole takes off for the corner flag. He doesn't play in the greatest crosses and looks down at the turf in disgust.

    The ball is slightly behind Ricci so instead of trying to control it, he deflects back upfield and into the path of the hard-charging Mark Tomlinson. Mark steps into it and crushes it. It doesn't hit anybody and bulges the back of the net.

    1-0

    Another first! Mark's first goal! The entire bench empties and we're all jumping up and down and shouting and generally carrying on like we've won the Cup or something.

    Burton respond by bringing the ball down into our end and set up camp. After a couple of minutes of pressure, we finally get the ball but Nole passes right to a Burton player as we're trying to work the ball into the opponent's half. Andrew Tutte hoofs a long ball over Sbraga's head. Their lone forward Billy Kee sprints after it. Kee isn't exactly what you would call quick or fast. So Manny easily catches him. Kee shoots high as Manny arrives.

    The game falls into a rhythm of we work the ball upfield into the Burton half, lose possession and Burton hoof it long trying to catch Manny or Sbraga napping. This makes for rather dull football. But what the ****, we're winning.

    "You need to have a word with Nole," Hanks says as we walk to the locker room. "His passing is embarrassing."

    I have Leandro up and warming up to start the second half. This only makes Nole more nervous apparently, as he gives the ball away in the 46th and 47th minutes. So at the 48th minute, I replace him with Leandro. Ricci moves back to play alongside Tomlinson and Leandro plays in the hole.

    In the 52nd minute, Burton right winger Ryan Flynn smashes a drive against the post and out for a goal kick.

    In the 62nd minute, George races down the right flank. I look across and Michael is heading towards the near post and Jason is heading towards the back door. Michael smashes the volley home and everyone starts celebrating.

    2-0

    Everyone except George. He is begging and pleading with the linesman who has his flag up. Dagnabbit, offside.

    1-0

    Now Ricci is starting to look gassed. I replace him with Mark Byrne. The two Marks will protect our lead.

    In the 71st minute, Mark Tomlinson has the ball on the Burton side of the center circle. He's facing the left half of the pitch but doesn't have any options over there. He spins and zips a pass out to George. Here we go again. George races past the fullback and whips in a cross. Michael comes storming through and smashes another volley into the back of the net.

    Everyone in the stadium looks over at the linesman. George has his hands up to pantomime 'Well then?' The linesman has his arms at his sides and it's a goal!

    2-0

    A minute later, George and Michael do the same routine. As the ball nestles into the back of the net yet again, everyone looks over at the linesman. His flag is up. George just shakes his head and trudges back toward our half.

    In the 76th minute, Jack Dyer dives in with a high tackle and studs up from behind Leandro. He got all Leandro, no ball. Leandro is lying there on the ground screaming as I launch myself toward the fourth official. I'm not even going to bother with the ref.

    "Please explain how that wasn't a red card, please?" I ask politely.

    Crickets.

    "I am asking you a question," I continue. "I want an explanation. How is that Dyer isn't walking toward the showers right now?"

    "He got the ball," the fourth official replied.

    "Give it a break, Enrico," Sturrock said. "You're winning."

    "So now that we're winning, there's no need to protect the players from studs up tackles?" I ask rhetorically. "Did the FIFA manual change and nobody let me know? And, by the way, no he did not get the ball. The force of his studs up, ankle-high tackle moved Leandro's leg causing the ball to roll."

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ID:	676243"I'm reporting you clowns to the FA," I continued. "That was clear malicious intent and you all are not doing your damn jobs."

    "Watch yourself, Enrico," the fourth official warned.

    "I'll stop moaning when you all start doing your jobs and start protecting my players," I replied. "I want it noted in the match report that I am officially complaining to the FA and that you are not calling the rules of the game and protecting my players."

    I felt two sets of hands grab me from behind by the arms and shoulders and pull me back. I knew this would be goalkeeping coach Paul Rachubka and Alex Inglethorpe who replaced Hanks on the Drag-The-Manager-Away-From-A-Possible-Fight/Conflagration squad because he's a lot bigger than Hanks.

    "You can let go now, I'll go sit down and be a good boy," I said after they'd dragged me ten or so yards.

    I was out of midfielders. So I sent on Andy Frampton to play defensive midfield and switch to a 4141 formation.

    That was until Michael just tipped over clutching his knee in the 89th minute. ****, **** and God damn it all. Just when he'd started scoring.

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  38. Sunday, 25 October 2015

    So I'll start out with the most depressing part which could actually be worse. Michael Smith has strained his knee ligaments in his right knee. To try and think positively about this, he doesn't need ACL surgery. But he will be out until January at the earliest.

    The question is can James Loveridge carry the load. Lovers has so much potential but he's not working at it like I want. He's not doing extra training and hasn't really improved since he signed in the summer of 2014. And it's not just me. My coaches corroborate what I'm seeing. I left it until late to sign him last spring and only offered him an extension when he had a great spring.

    My other options are Jason Banton and Dylan Griffiths.

    This might be the Griff's big chance. Then again, it might not. He's got a quick first step, but he's not fast. He's getting better at being the Target Man and doing the link up play that Michael does so well. He's got his first start and his first goal under his belt so anything's possible.

    Jason can play with either foot, he's fast and he's shown a decent enough scoring touch. He'll probably do fine up top. It comes down to the long-term: I want Griff and eventually Chris Williams once he arrives in January to get their chances.

    Michael and Lovers are not my long-term strikers. I don't think they can play in the Championship. Griff and Williams have the potential to be Premiership strikers. We'll see how this develops. Don't be surprised if Michael and Lovers are on the bench come the end of the season.

    Also, we found out who we'll be facing in the First Round of the FA Cup: Kidderminster or Tamworth. Both clubs are in the Conference.

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  39. AWESOME STORY! You have a very entertaining Wrtiting Style.
    Keep it up !

  40. Quote Originally Posted by Razrec View Post
    AWESOME STORY! You have a very entertaining Wrtiting Style.
    Keep it up !
    Thank you so much!

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ID:	678086I had to get out of the flat. Gwen was organizing it and was going to drive me bat****. So I hopped in the Alfa and drove up to Tamworth, a wee bit northwest of Birmingham, to see them play Kidderminster in their FA Cup replay. We'd be playing the winner.

    It made me remember that i don't drive all that much. The Alfa is really fun to drive, so responsive. It's just too bad that it's cool and drizzling or I'd have the top down. I guess it is almost November.

    Anyhoo, the Lamb Ground is tiny. While it's only a thousand seats smaller than Kingsmeadow, but it just feels smaller. I buy a ticket, get some popcorn and a cup of tea and find my seat. I'm right near the edge of the covered, main stand and my seat's damp. Since the stadium is only half full, I wander over toward the middle of the stand and find a empty seat where I'll remain dry regardless.

    Both teams are in the Conference, the Skrill Premier League, and the quality difference between League One sides and them is obvious. First, there's the speed. From footspeed to speed of thought, League One is just quicker. And League One is markedly slower than the Premier League.

    Or to put it in other terms as the wet, boring first half grinds to it's inevitable, moist conclusion, my Wimbledon squad is faster than either team and our passing should tear them to shreds.

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ID:	678087 Soon after the break, the Kidderminster right back hoofs a speculative ball forward. The Tamworth center back misjudges it and it gets over his head. Half time substitute Ryan Rowe gambled that he'd miss it and nicely controlled the 50 yard kick and hit a decent shot into the keeper's upper right corner.

    0-1

    Kidderminster kept pressing and were rewarded on the hour mark. A cross from their left back was headed clear and Alex Smith thumped a shot goalward from 25 yards. It looked like the Tamworth keeper didn't see it until late. As the ball sailed past the last defender, he flailed at it to no avail. The ball hit the underside of the crossbar, hit the poor keeper in the back of the head and went in.

    0-2

    I'd seen enough. If we mark their central midfielders tightly, they won't be able to do **** against us. I can't see our defenders having any trouble with this lot. This FA Cup tie will be a good opportunity to rest some players. Not to sound overconfident or anything.
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  43. There were a few mid-week League One matches.

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  45. League One: Tranmere Rovers FC v. AFC Wimbledon

    [editor's note: sorry folks, I'm unable to upload pics. I'll upload them as soon as possible]

    We were on the bus early today to catch the train up to Liverpool. Our bus from the train station arrived in plenty of time for us to mentally get off the bus as well. Tranmere are 7th and victory over us might put them into the play-off places.

    Our voices echoed around an empty Prenton Park as we warmed up. It seats over 15K, but had a mere thousand in it during warm-ups. 500 of the people in the stadium were Wombles getting some beers in and the vocal cords warmed up.

    I told my players to relax because we were the underdogs and nobody expected us to come here and take the points.

    The stadium was only a third full as we walked out for the kick-off. The Wombles sounded really loud in the Cowshed end of the stadium.

    The game got off to a dull splat. Inside four minutes, the Rover's physio was out to treat their right midfielder John Bostock. It was all stops and starts, missed passes and poor control from both sides. And it started to piss on us. Gusts of wind occasionally drove the misty rain right into your face or down the back of your neck. At least it was warmish.

    The first real shot in anger occurred in the 26th minute when the ever-young, but not quite so quick anymore Matthew Etherington crushed a shot that grazed the crossbar.

    In the 38th minute, our hard work pressuring Rovers finally paid off. Mark Byrne, George Francomb and Matteo Ricci forced a turnover. George tapped it to Ricci who started jogging forward with it looking for options. Rovers just backpedaled. Their left back failed to notice George's 30 yard sprint. How he failed to notice this I'll never understand, but he was nonetheless shocked when the pass that Ricci hit rolled right into George's path. George's first touch wasn't good, but I could tell he was going to shoot regardless of the angle.

    He absolutely smote it. Howitzer. Tomahawk missile. Nearly broke the sound barrier. Rover's keeper wasn't tight enough to the post and let it get over his shoulder. Not that he had much time to react as George was only 10 yards away.

    0-1

    The only sound in the stadium aside from a few groans were the Wombles in the opposite end going nuts, Tranmere manager Gary McAllister kicked the turf and looked displeased. I wonder how many times they'd talked with their left back Andrew Halliday about not ball-watching. Halliday was moaning at the linesman for missing the call.

    We did a nice job of keeping possession and harassing Tranmere into giving it back when we lost it. It looked like we were going to play out a boring first half and go into the locker room up a goal.

    Until Ricci decided to lose his mind and make the game more interesting. He held onto the ball inside the center despite having plenty of options. When the pressure came, I could tell that he wanted to roll the defender and head upfield. But he suddenly panicked and decided to play a back pass to Manny Smith. Except the pass was nowhere near Manny. Ricci hit it hard enough that it looked like a back pass to Daniel Lincoln. Manny jogged back pointing to the ball and yelling for Lincoln to get it. Except Lincoln just stood there. I swear I heard Rover's striker Harry Cardwell say 'thank you very much' as he sprinted past Manny for the loose ball which was now entering our box. Thankfully, his first touch let him down and he ended up shooting from a bad angle and Lincoln blocked it out for a corner.

    Suddenly, we completely forgot how to play. Thankfully, the ref saved us by blowing for half time a bit early.

    "What the **** was that?" I asked calmly once we were all in the locker room. "How is it that we all suddenly forgot how to play for those last two minutes of the half? Don't get complacent out there. Tranmere are a good side. A veteran side. They deserve to be level considering how badly we collectively lost our minds out there. I have faith that from here on out. From the restart, you will play smart, hard-working footie. Play the simple easy pass when you have it. Don't let yourself get into a situation in which you will panic. C'mon guys!"

    In the 47th minute, Jason Banton lost control of the ball just over the half line. Matteo Nole came charging up to help. The two of them and two Rovers players all collided. Rover's Chris Lines crumpled to the turf. I think Nole ended up kneeing him right in the middle of the thigh. They stretchered Lines off. I had no idea Nole was such a thug!?!

    From the restart, Rovers worked the ball down the right flank. Abdullai Bell-Baggie hit a long high cross towards the far side of the penalty area. Normally, you'd think this was an over-hit cross that would bounce across the far touch line. Nope, not this time. Matthew Etherington was standing there in acres of space and had plenty of time to line up his volley.

    1-1

    Cameron Dummigan had completely forgotten to check on where his man was. Oops. Etherington is a class player who isn't about to flub a volley when given that much time.

    Tranmere then put us under pressure. We coped, but barely. Thankfully, Andrea Sbraga kept the defense organized and we just parked the bus and hoped for the onslaught to end.

    Lovers wasn't doing much to help the team so I sent on Dylan Griffiths just after the hour mark. Tranmere were having no luck and finally, we managed to get the ball out of our defensive third and the game was mainly played in the middle of the park which was fine by me. I was perfectly content with coming away from this match with a draw.

    In the 82nd minute, we had a throw deep in the right corner of Rover's half. Cam threw the ball back upfield to Nole. Nole gave it right back to him. Cam whipped in a cross which fell right to the feet of Griff. Griff heard Brad Smith's shout and rolled the ball into the path of the charging left fullback. Now, I'm not sure what inspired my left back to charge all the way into the box and to the right side of the goal, but I'm glad he did. When I think about it, it might have been his parents in the Cowshed watching him play.

    1-2

    He had half of the net to shoot at from 6 yards and he didn't miss. The players all charged the Cowshed to celebrate with their fans.

    Rovers worked hard but were too eager to peg us back. Sbraga took advantage of their eagerness and caught them offside about 5 times in the last 5 minutes to seal the victory. Those were some big points against a possible play-off contender. We had quite a celebration on the train ride to London.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 29/08/2014 at 09:23 PM.
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  46. I want to apologize for the lack of updates. I'm having major internet connectivity issues. I'm switching providers and should be online Thursday with a slew of updates.

  47. Hehe... good work! Fun to read!

  48. Quote Originally Posted by Bierhof View Post
    Hehe... good work! Fun to read!
    Thanks!

  49. Rog: Davo, enough of this doom and gloom. Here at Men in Blazers, we don't just discuss how crap everything is.



    Michael: Is it possible to do a group hug on a podcast?


    Rog: With the technical innovations available to us, no. But don't let that bring you down, Davo. We'll just talk about something that will warm everyone's heart.


    Michael: We love a heart-warming story.


    Rog: Specifically, we're going to talk about the club that nobody can hate, AFC Wimbledon. The team founded by the fans after Wimbledon FC moved to Milton Keynes.


    Michael: Risen from the ashes, Rog.


    Rog: They joined the Combined Counties League in 2002. As far down into the depths of English football as you can possibly get. They held try-outs, Davo, try-outs to put together their first squad.


    Michael: They had nothing except hope.


    Rog: This began a climb up through the leagues. They clawed their way up into the Conference and in 2011 won promotion into League football.


    Michael: I'm getting teary just listening to you.


    Rog: Their current manager is on the line with us right now to discuss the latest with Wimbledon and their maiden season in League One.


    Michael: We'd like to offer a special Men in Blazers welcome to Enrico Pucci. How are you, Enrico?


    Enrico: I'm good. It's great to talk to you two again.


    Michael: So let's just start off and get the important things out of the way first, you're a baldy, right?


    Enrico: I am.


    Rog: As you may or may not know, hair is a really important topic for us.


    Michael: Mainly due to our genetic lack of much of any of it. Please tell us and our listeners about the history of your hair and the current lack thereof.


    Enrico: When I played in Serie A, I proudly wore a wild mop of curly hair. But on the day I was to interview for what turned out to be my first manager job, I walked past a store window and saw my reflection. I think that the next storefront was a barbershop. So I walked in to get a haircut and the barber insisted I shave it all off. I was losing a bit on the top. I got the job and the rest is history.


    Rog: Wow. Wow. Right before the interview. That's brave. Commendable, too. Did you ever thank that barber for the assist?


    Enrico: Yes, in fact, we've become good friends and we stay in touch. Esteban founded the first Spanish Wimbledon Fan Club.


    Michael: Football really has become a global game when even a League One team has an international fan base.


    Rog: In case any GFOP out there doesn't know, Enrico is an American of Italian extraction. You have dual citizenship isn't that correct?


    Enrico: True.


    Rog: Who finagled himself a try-out with Bologna and ended up playing for them in their first team for six seasons. That first manager job was with Cadiz in the south of Spain.


    Enrico: They sacked me.


    Michael: Enrico, this is supposed to be an uplifting, the uplifting part of the show.


    Enrico: Well, they did.


    Rog: But your record with Cadiz was quite admirable. You had a winning record, were in with a shout for a play-off spot. Right?


    Enrico: The main requirement was that I get into the playoffs. I'd been called in front of the board because, well, they were worried. I explained that in the ten or so matches we had left, I needed to win six to get into the playoffs. When we lost an away match to the league leaders, which I'd told them I didn't need to win to make the playoffs, the sacked me. Well, one of my players told me. They read about it online on the bus ride home.


    Michael: Wait. Paul Carr is going to save us.


    Rog: Paul Carr blows your mind, Paul Carr blows your mind.


    Michael: Here's an interesting statistic. You've won fifty percent of your matches. Plus, you've drawn a decent percentage. Your ratios are the same at both Cadiz and Wimbledon.


    Rog: So we'll let you, Enrico, tell us about what is happening with Wimbledon.


    Enrico: Well, first off we won the League Two so we're in League One this season. We just finished upgrading our training facility and we'll be moving back to Wimbledon into our spiritual home on Plough Lane starting next season.


    Rog: Just up the street from the original stadium location, correct?


    Enrico: Yes.


    Michael: Go on, how's this season going? No struggles adapting to the new league?


    Enrico: We added some pretty talented young men to our squad this year and no, we're kicking some butt.


    Rog: Wimbledon sit fourth in the table which is a playoff spot. So it could return full circle inside fifteen years. Fifteen years after the owner complained that they couldn't build a new stadium and needed to move the team, you'll be moving Wimbledon back to Wimbledon proper into a new stadium.


    Michael: And possibly while playing in the Championship. Is there no ceiling to your ambitions, Enrico? Can anyone or anything stop you?


    Enrico: Heh, I don't know about that. We just need to keep our head's down and keep working. The players have bought into the system.


    Rog: So humble. That's a positive, too. Now as you may know we really like the demonstrative managers.


    Michael: Miguel Ernesto Herrera, Mexican National Team Manager, is a particular hero of ours. We've been fans of his since the 2014 World Cup.


    Rog: And we've seen the highlights of you on the sideline.


    Michael: We're impressed.


    Rog: Talk to us about your demeanor, give some insights into your demeanor on the sideline.


    Enrico: Ohmygod. Um ... actually, my girlfriend pointed out just the other day that I often look like a manic ape. I mean, she said it nicer than that, but, ya know, I'm uh I'm uh I'm not really sure what I'm doing out there. Recently, I've been trying to be more calm.


    Michael: Did she suggest anything?


    Enrico: No, she just said she thinks I'm cute when I get mad at the refs.


    Rog: To me, and I hope you'll pardon me for suggesting this, it sounds like she approves.


    Michael: And as everyone knows, we don't do much of anything without getting our wives approval.


    Rog: Don't change that, Enrico. We love a manager who kicks every ball and cavorts around with maniacal glee when his side score.


    Enrico: Last match it was raining and cold, that prototypical English weather. So I had additional motivation to just sit on the bench like a real bench boss, like a leader of men, you know, calm yet fierce.


    Rog: And that lasted ...


    Enrico: Five minutes. I was out there, flailing away, shouting at my midfielders.


    Michael: Well something is obviously working, Enrico.


    Rog: Thanks for joining us and don't go changing.


    Enrico: Always a pleasure to talk to you guys.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 05/09/2014 at 03:01 PM.

  50. I hope this thread hasn't gone dead and you get your connection issues sorted!

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