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The Alfa Romeo Metaphor

  1. "Howdy," I said walking into the conference room at Kindsmeadow to meet with the U18 coaching staff. We all shook hands again. I'd been introduced to them on Friday. "I want to apologize for being unable to remember your names, but I'd just driven all night to get here last Friday. Would you all tell me about yourselves?"

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ID:	484610"I'm Mark Robinson, I'm the U18 manager," said the young man next to me. He couldn't be 25 years old. "I was a trainee at Charlton, I'm from Romford. That's in the northeast of London. I played for Havant and Waterlooville, Gloucester and Maidenhead. I ruptured my ACL in 2011. I couldn't keep playing so I got my B certifications. I'm working on my A right now."

    "I can relate to the ACL thing," I said.

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ID:	484613"I'm Walsh, Dave," said the crusty looking character next to him. "I quit playing probably around when your were born. 1912 to be exact. I'm The Kid's assistant. I change his nappies, wipe the drool, etc. etc. Actually, I'd been out of football a while. I'd been been working for the Post for many years and volunteered to help out with the kids back in '03. I took my pension and now I'm actually a paid employee. I played for Braintree, Dartford, Lincoln, Wrexham and Burton if I haven't forgotten someone."

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ID:	484614"I'm Dave Turner, Young Dave, I'm the Head of Youth Development. I was an Arsenal schoolboy, but washed out. I played in school and at University while I got a degree in Early Childhood Education. I applied when this post opened up last July and got it. I play for a pub team now."

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ID:	484617"I'm Michael Hamilton. Nobody calls me that. Everyone calls me Hammy. I mean, I will respond to it after you say it three or four times. I'm a coach. I played for Exeter and Hartlepool then York then Barrow then Boston and then Histon. I moved down here with the wife when she got transferred. I hired on coming up on two years ago."

    "Thanks, I look forward to working with you," I said. "As you know all the senior team staff left or just got let go. From everything I've heard you all are doing a great job with the youngsters so you're staying. Plus, I think continuity is good with them."

    "I'm going to bring in younger players, possibly some teenagers if they're quality," I continued. "I want to rely on youth. It's a two-fold deal. First, if a bigger club comes in for some young star, we get a nice windfall. Secondly, if a teen has the skill set, he'll be cheaper than a thirty-something."

    "I need to know if there are any kids I should promote to the first team?" I asked.

    "There are two," Young Dave said. "Mark Tomlinson and Daniel Barlaser. Mark is a central midfielder. He's tenacious and he's big potential. He's only 16. Daniel is a winger. His first touch and dribbling as well as his passing and long range shooting are rather good."

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  2. Oh, the drudgery

    I scoured the League Manager Association's CVs and I had a list of:
    • 9 Assistant Manager candidates
    • 4 Goalkeeper Coach candidates
    • 8 Physios
    • 8 Fitness Trainers
    • 7 Defense coaches (two of which were also Assistant Manager candidates)
    • 8 Offense coaches (one of which was also an Assistant Manager candidate)
    • 9 Scout candidates
    This was a bit of a tough juggling act. The FCB said I could only have an Asst Mgr, 3 coaches and a U21 Manager. One of my 3 coaches was going to have to be the Physio as they aren't allowing for me to hire for a Physio position.

    Between these 4 I needed the following training taken care of:
    1. Fitness (Strength)
    2. Fitness (Aerobic)
    3. Tactics
    4. Ball Control
    5. Defending
    6. Attacking
    7. Shooting
    8. GK - Shot Stopping
    9. GK - Handling
    Obviously, my fitness guru and GK coach would take care of items 1, 2, 8 and 9. This left two hires to help with the rest. Obviously, I would be doing plenty of hands on training. No watching training from my ivory tower and texting my minions with pointers to teach the players.

    I called 50 candidates. 8 weren't interested in talking, Wimbledon were below them. That makes 42 phone interviews. I finished by Friday. Yes, that's right. 42 hours of talking on the phone. While it's vital and it's important, IT ****ING SUCKED!!!

    I have 4 Assistant Manager/Coach candidates coming in next week, 2 fitness guys, 1 GK coach, 3 Physios and 3 scouts.

    WILL THIS TORTURE NEVER END!?! Oh, wait, it's Friday and May turns to June this weekend. And I'm in London. Yes, it just did get better. And the forecast for the weekend is splendid.
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  3. In addition, I spent my evenings using the FA's friendly scheduling capabilities to arrange some money-making friendlies for the preseason. The secret is to arrange Cup competitions.

    Wimbledon Kickoff Challenge
    Birmingham, Blackburn and Bolton on Friday, July 11th and Saturday the 12th

    Wimbledon Summer Cup
    Arsenal, Liverpool and Totteham on Friday, July 18th and Saturday the 19th

    Wimbledon Summer Challenge
    Everton, Newcastle and Wigan on Saturday, July 26th and Sunday the 27th

    Plus, I convinced Celtic to come down to kick our preseason off. Toss in AFC Dunstable, Braintree (away) and Luton (away) and that's a complete preseason.

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  4. Saturday afternoon I wandered around Temple and the Inns of Court then walked upriver to Parliament. Next I wandered over to Trafalgar Square. I had some sushi then caught a movie. I was hungry after the movie so I looked for something interesting and settled on a Middle Eastern kabob joint.

    It was 10:30pm and I wasn't exactly in the mood to go home. After a little searching on my iPhone I discovered that one of the top nightclubs in London, Borderline, wasn't that far away. So I dawdled at the restaurant read about the upcoming El Segundo playoffs. Cadiz were not favored to beat Racing Club Santander.

    Around 11 I walked over. I figured I'd have a couple of drinks and listen to some of the latest music. Bologna and Cadiz are not exactly hubs for culture.

    "Bourbons on the rocks," I yelled to the bartender.

    After I got my drink I searched out and found a good place to people watch. I really hadn't heard any of the tunes the DJ was playing and some of it was good. I'd installed the app Shazam when I first got my iPhone but finally used it tonight.

    It took me a half hour, but I'd nursed my bourbon until all the rocks had melted. So I sacrificed my vantage point to get another drink.

    "Martini, dirty," I yelled at the bartender over the music.

    I got my drink, turned and was face to face with a gorgeous tall, brunette.

    "I know you," she yelled over the music. "You're that famous soccer manager."

    "I'm famous?" I yelled back. Soccer? Nobody over here calls it that. I should better describe the young, very young woman before me. The hemline of the thing she was wearing that some might call a dress was immorally low.

    "Yeah, all the boys in my family are Wimbledon fans," she yelled. "My brother says you're a wanker."

    "Does he." I replied working incredibly hard to maintain eye contact and not let my eyes wander downward. Blue eyes.

    "Yeah, but he's got shiite for brains. The intellectual capability of a pebble. I'm Gwen."

    "Enrico, nice to meet you." Then there's her earrings. They were huge and looked amazingly expensive.

    "So you're both Italian and American then?" she yelled. I shrugged. "That's good in my book. Brit boys are so desperately, desperately boring and of course this horrid island is filled with them."

    Was I getting hit on? I wouldn't be shocked if it turned out she was still a teenager. Eye contact was the key.

    "But this is London, isn't that cosmopolitan enough?" I yelled.

    "I'd rather be in Milan," she yelled back.

    "Oh, they'd love you there," I yelled.

    "And why would that be newly acquainted Italian friend?"

    "You have got to be a model," I yelled back. She was playing coy. I'm not nearly as dumb as I look, though. "My ex-wife spent a lot of time and money there. I know enough about what she'd bring back that what you're wearing is really expensive, designer stuff."

    "And why would they like me?" She didn't deny that she was a model.

    "Tall, pale," I replied. "They don't get all that much of that there. You'd stand out even more there than you do here."

    "But you're American, too," she added. "That makes you extra interesting."

    "It does?"

    "Of course. First, you're not British. Secondly, you're Italian and that's so sexy. Third, you're an American who's not a businessman and you go to clubs. And I'll forgive you for being a footballer since you're managing my brother and Dad's favorite club."

    "Need a drink?" I yelled. She nodded. I didn't catch what she ordered but she got something neon blue with an umbrella in it. "What the hell is that?"

    "Smurf Piss."

    I looked down at my martini. Took a sip.

    "Name is Pucci, Enrico Pucci," she yelled at me pulling me toward the dance floor. "You dance, don't you?"

    Badly.

    "Meet my friends," she shouted in my ear. "Alicia and Darcy."

    They both smiled cold, icy smiles. Boy, did I feel welcomed. Both were most likely also models and clad in skimpy black dresses.

    "They're so charming, where did you find them?" I asked in her ear. "A department store window?"

    She laughed.

    She wasn't that much of a dancer, either, but has the advantage of being beautiful and scantily clad. Furthermore, the fact that she doesn't fall over wearing heels that high indicates she's quite athletic. Put that combination together and who gives a ****.

    The witty dialog went on all night except for when we were dancing. Well, at least between Gwen and I. Her friends were shockingly dull and. I know. Surprising.

    At around 2AM, I just couldn't take it any more. This was way past my bedtime. The three young women huddled in conference.

    "Shall we get some air?" she yelled. I nodded. "You look knackered."

    "Can I offer you a taxi ride home?" I asked once we were outside. She nodded. "Your friends off to the next club?" She nodded.

    "Listen," she said quietly while we were heading southwesterly. "I know it's crossed your mind that why would a young woman such as me be as forward as I've been. Well, here it is. I have a mutually beneficial proposition. As a modal, I need to raise my profile. Be seen with people. And what new football manager doesn't need a modal on his arm occasionally. Plus, you're not a boring ass."

    "I can agree to that."
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 08/02/2014 at 08:04 PM.
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  5. Welcome to June 2014! There's nothing like spending a Sunday morning watching game tape. I need to watch some matches from last season to get an idea of I want to keep any of the player's with expiring contracts. After watching three matches, I can confidently say none of them. I didn't see a couple of them play, but if they're not featuring, that's likely for a reason, right?

    There's also a good number of player's with another year on their contract I'll want to sell, loan or release.

    It might be more accurate to determine what players I actually want to keep. I'm going to need to add a whole bunch of players to fill out the squad.

    By afternoon, I was feeling squirrely. I decided to go and see Hampton Court. I'm at a loss for words to describe it.

    In other news, bad day at the office for Cadiz. They lost two-nil at home to Racing Club Santander.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2014-01-31-10.25.34-pm.png The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2014-01-31-10.26.21-pm.png

    Sevilla Atletico scored two invaluable away goals and dramatically increase their chances of promotion. Albacete tied, but conceding 2 goals at home makes their next leg very tricky.
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  6. This first week in June will be a big week. The FA release the League Two schedule, the FTB (Football Trust Board) will approve the transfer budget which I am expecting will be 50,000 British Pounds Sterling and I should have a staff by the end of the week.

    Here's my squad as of early June:

    Goalkeeper: need one

    Defense:
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    I've got an experienced but slow pair of central defenders. Speed is nearly as important as you'd think. We'll just play a deep line so nobody can beat us over the top.

    Frampton and Hazel aren't that tall, 5'11', but I plan on adding two more central defenders.

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    But Jim Fenlon looks like he'll be awesome. Young, fast and good with either foot. He can play either fullback position. He doesn't read the game all that well, but he makes up for it with his speed. I can't teach speed, I can teach positioning, anticipation and work with him on his decision-making.

    Furthermore, I can't teach determination and Hazell and Fenlon are very determined. I'll add two center backs and a few fullbacks and make sure the average level of determination at the back is high.

    Midfield:
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    My problem in the midfield is I don't have much to work with.

    Harry Pell is a decent prospect. He's okay at the things I need in a central midfielder, but doesn't excel at anything.

    George Francomb will do just fine as my right midfielder or winger, depending on what system we use.
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ID:	485346Forwards:

    I don't see Jack Midson or Charlie Strutton as forwards who can lead Wimbledon to the next level.

    However, they're both determined players and that can go a long way in a lower league.

    I'll bring in two forwards.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 01/02/2014 at 07:57 PM.
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  7. Assistant Manager

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    Wednesday, June 4, 2014

    Sean Hankin is going to be my Assistant Manager. He's just hung up his boots and gotten his B license. His primary responsibility will be the defense.

    During our conversations, we got to talking about technique. Like me, he knows how to strike the ball correctly and how to teach it, it's just that neither of us are any good at it for whatever reason.

    Like me he's a fan of the passing game and thinks that even a League Two side doesn't have to be an embarrassing and boring Route One machine. We talked extensively in our interview about how to get whatever team I assemble to pass the ball out of the back and maintain possession.

    Hoofing it forward as a general principle is anethema to us, so we'll get along great.

    Defensively, he prefers a mix of marking and zonal. From my experience last season with Cadiz and his experience playing in the lower divisions, we both realize that a strict, tight marking scheme just doesn't work all that well because of players' ability to read the game, communicate and pass assignments around.

    For example, if you're a center back and the striker has drifted out wide you have a several responsibilities aside from the game in front of you. You need to both talk to the fullback on that side and keep an eye on that striker. The keeper can help with that, but that all depends upon the three of you talking about that striker. This is easier described than done.

    We have some ideas about how to pull this off for a League Two side with the players we'll have available
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 01/02/2014 at 08:25 PM.
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  8. U21 Manager

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    Matt Woolley is going to be my U21 Manager. He's young, too; 32 and recently completed his B license. After reading the reports on all the U18 players who are graduating and the U21 players who are out of contract, I'm considering not even having a U21 squad. If we have any decent U21 players, they'll be in the senior side. Matt knows this and agrees with my assessment. He understands that hiring him in this position is just a sneaky way to get a coach for the senior side. He'll also help out with the U18s and he's excited about this. He said he really likes working with the "kids."

    Matt will be responsible for coaching the offense. He prefers a high pressure, defend from the front system. Attack-wise he prefers to give the players the liberty to figure it out as they go and talk to them about strategies and tactics for breaking down defenses. He wants the players used to figuring it out on the fly. He wants to coach them to think for themselves.

    We talked about the difficulties of playing a high pressure, defending from the front system when we have a center back pairing like Frampton and Hazell who are slow. He asked if I planned to sign a speedy fullback to complement Fenlon. I said I would do my best. I said if he wasn't the fastest, he'd be young and bursting with energy.

    He thinks the forwards and midfield can pressure high up if the fullbacks are quick. Then can cheat inside then race outside if the ball is played out there.

    He brought up that he thinks the best way to beat League Two defenses is by catching defenders ball watching. I agree. From the vids I've reviewed so far, exploiting ball watching should generate more than enough chances.

    Furthermore, he's also a firm believer that League Two defenses simply cannot cope with runs from deep. In a more defensive 451, this means the two center midfielders are given liberty to get forward whenever they want. In a standard 442, the more attacking center mid is free to join the attack with deep runs.

    He made me promise to sign at least a couple of fast players for the wings.
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  9. Goalkeeping Coach

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    Getting Paul Rachubka to sign on as Goalkeeping Coach is quite a coup if you ask me. The former Manchester United trainee just decided to hang up the gloves and boots. If I wasn't the first to call him, I'd be surprised. He only just announced his retirement and put his CV up.

    He's also a fellow Yank. Well, at least a little bit. He was born in San Luis Obispo, California which is 250 or so miles north of Los Angeles just a few miles from the coast. His family moved to England when he was 7.

    He is excited about the prospect of getting Wimbledon up a division or two. He's also seen up close and personal what the vaunted Manchester United Academy is like. That will be invaluable as Wimbledon attempt to grow ours.
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  10. Fitness Coach

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    Dave Wilson will be my Fitness Coach. Don't confuse Dave with the other Dave Wilson who played for Manchester United, Charlton and Bristol Rovers. Or the Dave Wilson who played in Sweden and now is a scout for Chelsea.

    Wimbledon's Dave Wilson was born in Liverpool to a family of Everton fans. His heart was broken when Everton wouldn't consider him for their youth academy. Blackpool took him on, though. He never featured for Blackpool. He spent varying amounts of time with Barrow, Chorley, Halifax, Stalybridge, Eastleigh, Sutton United and finally Woking.

    He earned a degree in Kinesiology after hanging up his boots. The gist of his degree is that he will tailor training to the player based upon his size, bone structure, running style, old injuries and recent injuries.
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  11. Physio

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    Jon Whitney will be the Physio. He is 43 and was born in Nantwich which is near Crewe in Cheshire. He played for Huddersfield (twice), Wigan, Lincoln (twice) and Hull. He was recently Walsall's Physio.

    Between Whitney and Wilson, the Wimbledon players will be in pretty good shape.
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  12. Scouts

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    Andrew Walker, another fellow Yank, and Paul Lowe will join Lil Fulcillo as Wimbeldon's scouts. Fulcillo will scout our next opponents.

    Walker was born in Boston, MA and holds to Irish parents. He holds dual citizenship. Lowe holds an A license and managed Crystal Palace's U18 side recently.
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  13. When I wasn't interviewing my final candidates, getting their paperwork straightened away with Erik, I watched videos. I watched League One, League Two and all three Skrill divisions. My goal was to discover some players whose contracts were ending that I would want to sign or at least invite for a trial.

    I was watching Bradford PA v. Stalybridge Celtic in the Skrill North. Celtic had this diminutive midfielder with solid passing, decent first touch and dribbling skills. He could use either foot and was clearly better than anyone else on the pitch. I checked and he was also out-of-contract in July.

    I immediately called Lil Fulcillo.

    "Boss, how can I help you?" Lil answered.

    "Adam Pepper, played for Stalybridge last season, you got a file on him?"

    "Sure do, I'll email it right now."

    "I am watching him in the Skrill North and I have no idea why he's in that division," I enthused. "I might even pay Stalybridge money to get to talk to him before any else."

    "A second, boss," Lil replied. "I'm pulling up the file. One moment ... okay ..." Lil told me all I'd already described about him but in addition that he had a pretty good instinct in front of goal.

    "So you're assessment?"

    "Buy him. Spend money now. He'll be worth it."

    "Thanks. Talk to you later."

    "Cheers, boss."

    Click.

    After a little more digging, I had all the contact information for Stalybridge. Then I checked at the FA for how much it would cost me if I just negotiated a contract with Pepper. 18K. Heck. That was worth it.

    Here's why:

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    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 02/02/2014 at 05:59 AM.

  14. Monday, June 9, 2014

    "Welcome to our first coaches meeting," I said. "Everything going okay getting settled?" Everyone nodded. "No, seriously, if something isn't going well talk to me or Erik. We're here to do what we can to help you."

    "Okay, as I mentioned when we talked individually," I continued. "We have a lot of work to do. We have to build a squad. I want a knew keeper and backup, We only have three defenders of sufficient calibre. In midfield, I have a right midfielder and a young prospect I'm not sure about. Finally, we need two strikers to lead the line. There are two with a year left on their contracts that are sufficient for back-ups."

    "So we've got a transfer pot of 50,000 and I'm going to spend 18 on a midfield lynchpin," I said. "So we need to look for free transfers."

    "Who's the midfielder?" Assistant Manager Sean Harkin asked.

    "Adam Pepper," Lil Fulcillo replied. "I've been tracking him and the Gaffer saw him watching vids."

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    "You said a keeper, yeah?" Paul Lowe said. "Yeovil's backup keeper looks interesting. Chris Dunn's his name. He's a big lad. I've seen him train and he's good. I think he's got to be getting desperate to be a starter. I'll get you his cell number and my file on him."

    "What are you looking for in defenders?" Andy Walker asked.

    "Fast fullbacks and the best central defenders we can get," I replied. "Pace isn't the most important thing in the middle. Good reading of the game, solid tackling, good in the air, the usual."

    "Since you're going to ask anyways," I continued. "In the midfield we need a defensive midfielder and wingers. I want fast wingers. For forwards, I'd prefer to find a good target man and a fast player with good dribbling."

    "You know we loaned out a young man named Michael Smith," Lil said. "He never impressed the previous Gaffer but I discovered him and I think we should offer him a new contract.

    The staff all got talking, we all logged into the FA and we started compiling lists of free transfer possibilities.

    "Alright then," I said once we'd been at it for two hours. "I think we have decent enough lists to get started. Let's divide it all up. Paul Rachubka, you watch some vids of Dunn. If you approve, you and I will go and talk to him. Sean and Andy, you two watch vids of the defenders. Matt and Lil, you watch vids of forwards. Paul Lowe, you and I will watch vids of midfielders."

    "Dave and Jon, enjoy yourselves," I concluded. "Your hard work comes later."

  15. Cadiz CF's season is done. They didn't concede a goal away at Santander, but could only score one.

    The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2014-02-02-08.14.57-am.png The Alfa Romeo Metaphor-2014-02-02-08.14.11-am.png

    What must have been torture to the fans and coaches, as Kike Lopez scored early but the Yellow Submarine only managed ONE additional shot the entire game. But that makes sense as Jorge Luque got injured and had to be replaced in the 19th minute.

    I can tell you one thing, I hope Adam Pepper has some of whatever it is that makes Luque awesome.

    "Enrico," Paco Leal said answering his phone.

    "Sorry to see you couldn't overcome the two goal deficit yesterday."

    "Thanks. What an excruciating way to end it all. What a wild ride."

    "You going back for another season?" I asked.

    "Yeah," Paco replied. "The boss like us enough as his coaching staff and I don't think the club has the money to terminate our contracts. We had another incident of not getting paid after you were sacked. It's just chaos week after week."

    "Yeah, I miss Cadiz. I miss you all, I miss Ana Maria."

    "But it's your team, your system, Enrico," Paco replied. "Gay is smart enough that he didn't change your system much. He'll bring some new players and we'll see if he can do any better."

    "You've got a month off now?"

    "Yes. That will be nice."

    "Going to do anything with the kids?"

    "No, not really. Days at the coast, but nothing special. How's London? Wimbledon?"

    "I have a staff now, an apartment and we need to build a team nearly from scratch."

    "Just what you love to do," Paco replied.

    "Yeah. Enjoy your vacation, Paco."

    "I will, Ciao."

    "Ciao."
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  16. I have a feeling you're going to bring Ana Maria back into this somehow...

    (Or maybe I'm just overly-hopeful.)
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  17. Quote Originally Posted by ZeCarlos View Post
    I have a feeling you're going to bring Ana Maria back into this somehow...

    (Or maybe I'm just overly-hopeful.)
    There is always hope.
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  18. World Cup Begins!!!

    It's June 13th and it's the favorite time of year for me and 2 billion of my closest friends. Chairman Erik invited all of we staffers over for a party at his house to watch the opener with Brazil vs. Cote d'Ivore. Despite all the pomp and circumstance and expectation it was a drab match. Well, on the pitch anyway. We had fun.

    Group A was most definitely the Group of Death this World Cup.

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    At least the France-Mexico match was entertaining. Here's the Saturday results from the first round:

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    On Monday London came to a standstill. Steven Gerrard was awesome!!! The end of the match got ugly as the Iranians became dirty and petulant as England gloated. USA were dreadful and were soundly thrashed by the Russians.
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    Tuesday: Nobody expected the reigning champions to come out flat. But the other two matches were thrilling.
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    Wednesday: Forza Italia! Colombia had a great qualifying but the Italians were focused and Mario was Mario. The Belgians look bad ass as do the Swiss.
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    Thursday: The Kiwis played a 6-3-1, or at least that's what it looked like as I missed the pre-game. Germany cruised and Croatia-Paraguay was fabulous entertainment.
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    That's round one, folks. I made bets with anyone who would that Italy would make the final and side bets about how many England would score. Everyone I know has written off the US of A. Sigh.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 02/02/2014 at 11:51 PM.
    AndySams10, dainis and Nurquidi98 like this.

  19. Now you may think that I only spent my time watching the World Cup. Well, you would be wrong. Adam Pepper and Chris Dunn signed. Now I have my midfield maestro and my keeper. Dunn was especially excited to work with Paul Rachubka whom he knew from reputation. Both wanted to be part of my plans to get Wimbledon up two more divisions.

    Check out some of the other new boys who will be moving to southwest London this July!

    I said I wanted a fast, young striker with excellent dribbling skills. I got James Loveridge. He's also rather tall. Hopefully, Dave Wilson can put some muscle on those scrawny bones, but he'll do great in League Two. The debate amongst staff is will he top out at League One or The Championship.

    He'd washed out of the Swansea system whom he'd joined as a teenager. He's Welsh and really excited to move to London.
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    Simon Johnson featured for Eastbourne Boro since he was a teen, but wanted to move to a bigger club. We're that bigger club. I'm not sure he'll help us much when we reach League One, but he will certainly help this season.
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    I'm finding it remarkably hard to find a left fullback who is willing to talk to me.

    Also, we're in negotiations with Michael Smith, the so-to-be former Wimbledon player who was shipped out on loan. I'll keep you posted.

  20. 2nd Group Matches of the World Cup

    Group A just got interesting. Mexico are pretty much guaranteed a spot in the second round. If Brazil beats France they are in the second round unless Ivory Coast beats Mexico by two or more goals. If France beats Brazil, they are in the second round. Ivory Coast are in the second round if the Brazil-France match is a tie and they beat Mexico. Goal differential is huge for them.
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    Costa Rica stunned Ronaldo and Portugal. Holland got their **** together and beat Egypt, but barely. All the Dutch care about is getting to the second round. Or at least that's what all the pundits say.
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    Bloody old England. Samuel Eto will now be booed throughout England for at least a year for punishing the horrid English defense. Of course, once the Indomitable Lions had the lead, it was as if there were snipers in the stands. Every time a English player came into contact with an opponent, it was as if they'd been shot. Iran kept the game interesting, but it was never really a competition. Messi being Messi and all that.
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    USA's World Cup is done. Russia beats Tunisia to go top. Tunisia will be in the second round if beat the USA. Uruguay need the USA's help.

    Spain and Slovakia put themselves in the driver's seat in Group E. Nigeria needs Spain's help to advance.
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    Belgium look awesome and defeated a solid and determined Chile. Japan were smooth, too. Both are through to the next round. The final matches in this group are meaningless.
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    Why is it that Italy always always always have to keep everything hanging on the outcome of the final matches in the group stage? Mario was Mario and Italy looked to be through after his 65th minute goal. But then Italy fell asleep and let the Aussie left midfielder dribble all the way from the half line into the box and allow him to shoot? Where was the desperate/cynical foul just outside the box? At least make theme earn it. Sheesh.

    If Australia or Colombia win in their head-to-head, the loser of the Italy-Switzerland match might go home.
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    Germany are through. If Paraguay beat New Zealand by enough and a combination of a win and Germany beat Croatia by enough, Paraguay are through. However, odds are in Croatia's favor now. Paraguay and Croatia's hopes all hinge on the final group matches.

  21. Tuesday, June 24, 2014

    Oh the drama. Brazil wins and Mexico goes through.
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    Ronaldo and Portugal are out! Costa Rica joins the Dutch in the second round!

    Negotiations are progressing with Michael Smith. Here's my defensive midfielder. He'll be joining on a free in July.
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  22. Wednesday, June 25, 2014

    I'm pursuing a English defender who played last season in the German second division. His contract ends June 30th. We're trying to find out either his agent or his cell. I'll need cover for Frampton as Hazell.

    England very nearly shut down today at noon (4pm in Brazil). There were a lot of contingencies. If England beat Argentina (yeah right), they are through unless Cameroon win by a big enough goal difference. Currently, England are +1 to Cameroon's -1. If Cameroon lose England are through. If Cameroon win by 3 and England draw, Cameroon are through.

    All the speculation was entertaining, but mooted because England drew and deserved to. Cameroon drew and England are through. I could almost sense the collective sigh of relief when the Cameroon match finished followed nearly immediately by cheering and much alcohol consumption.

    Attachment 487373
    Russia and Uruguay are through. Yanks come through when it doesn't matter. What's up with that? Sheesh.
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    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 04/02/2014 at 05:16 AM.

  23. Awesome story man!

  24. "If you can't take yourself to gills you take gills to you. In the form of STEVEN GREGORY
    it's an enigma"
    2 days later he is shot by a Swindon fan for supporting gills ba*****s

  25. Quote Originally Posted by Riess View Post
    Awesome story man!
    Thanks. I'm sure Wimbledon will be a challenging, but hopefully more stable than Cadiz.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dobbi View Post
    "If you can't take yourself to gills you take gills to you. In the form of STEVEN GREGORY
    it's an enigma"
    2 days later he is shot by a Swindon fan for supporting gills ba*****s
    It doesn't make sense why they'd let a fairly decent player like Gregory go. I went and checked and the four central midfielders currently on their roster are inferior to Gregory. Sometimes the AI isn't all that smart.
    Nurquidi98 likes this.

  26. Thursday, June 26, 2014

    Spain needed at least a point to advance and they got it. The shared points means Slovakia advance, too.
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    Belgium are on fire. Japan were assured a spot in the second round and were in this game until late. The other game didn't matter.

    We're getting prepared for this Saturday's big volunteer day. We've got a lot of talented supporters who are willing to help. We're clearing up some brush outside the stadium to re-installing some heavy stainless steel guard rails to repairing a small corner of the roof over one end to painting. Then we're going to watch the World Cup matches and drink. Or depending on how long it takes, watching a recording. Regardless, we'll have a huge projection screen wheeled into a corner of the ground.
    dainis and Nurquidi98 like this.

  27. Friday, June 27, 2014

    Group G is the weirdest! If Italy or Switzerland were to lose and Colombia or Australia were to win by enough (most likely Colombia), one of the Europeans would go home. But Italy and Switzerland looked at each other and decided a draw would be fab. And so it was.
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    Group H got really interesting. Well, not for Germany anyways ... they were already through. Croatia lost but goes through because they didn't lose by enough and Paraguay didn't win by enough. The Kiwis decided to open things up and both teams took plenty of shots and created plenty of chances. What a match.

    It's one of those moments when you a team loses but is hugging, dancing and singing in celebration while the winners of the other match are crying and looking suicidal. Whacky stuff!
    dainis and Nurquidi98 like this.

  28. So here's the draws for the second round. Holland-Mexico and Germany-Italy are the one's I'm looking forward to most.
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    Tomorrow is Holland Mexico and Brazil-Cost Rica. England play Sunday. Italy play Tuesday. I think we'll have a great big match watching party as its the day the players arrive for physicals.
    dainis likes this.

  29. Saturday, June 28th dawned with clear skies and the promise of heat. It'd been a pretty hot June for London I'm told. All the supporters arrived at 9AM and we got started.

    "Remember everybody, turn off your cells, don't cheat!" Erik yelled to the assembled throng. "The match starts at 11AM and we're recording it. We'll watch, eat and drink sometime between noon and one when we're done. As always, thank you for making this club what it is!"

    And the painting, cutting, repairs, scrubbing and refurbishing began. There were loads of people on the painting crew and I'm about as handy as a sheepdog so I went out to help with the brush cutting.

    "Hello, Enrico," said a familiar voice from behind me. I turned and there was a tall, young woman flanked by two young men. She was wearing cut-off jeans and an oversized grey tshirt. Then I recognized her without the heels, high fashion and make-up.

    "Thanks for coming, Gwen," I said. "Are you three on brush clearing?"

    "We are now," she said. "Meet my brother Nick and his mate Martin."

    We all shook hands. This had to be the brother who thought I was a wanker. Nice.

    "Shall we?" I followed them out the gate.

    "So Gwen mentioned your a lifelong Wimbledon fan. And your Dad, too."

    "Uh huh," he replied. "Me Pops followed back when they was the Crazy Gang. Long before the move."

    "So what do you think of the club now?" I asked.

    "Wull, it's great," he replied as we approached overgrowth and were all given snippers and clippers. "Me Dads got a share. Donates occasionally and all that."

    "And you Martin?" I asked.

    "I support Chelsea," he replied. "But at least you've got a cool thing going, yeah?"

    "There seems to be a lot of good will for the club from what I can tell," I said. They'd pointed to a section of overgrown bushes for us to begin sheering back.

    "Wull, yuh," replied Nick. "You played in Serie A, right?" I nodded. "What was that like?"

    "On the one hand, we were a pampered bunch," I replied. "But there's always the threat of the Ultras coming to a training and threatening everyone if you're on a bad streak. It's a lot slower there. Even compared to the lower leagues here. You guys ever watch any ice hockey?"

    "I saw Milton Keynes against Peterborough once," Martin said. "I couldn't figure out what the **** was going on, but the fights was pretty cool."

    "Well, the English play more like hockey," I replied. "I grew up going to NHL games in Washington, DC and the back and forth action that you see here just doesn't happen in Italy. Life just isn't as hectic like here in London as far as I can tell. I mean I've only been here a month."

    "You went up against Totti and Ibra all them, right?" Nick asked.

    "Yeah," I replied. "Totti is a force of nature and Ibrahimovic is a beast. He is far more stronger than you can imagine and the things he can do with the ball are amazing."

    "Who's the greatest you faced?" Martin asked.

    "Hmmm," I said. "Well, Totti and Ibra for sure. Gattuso is an annoying **** but man oh man was he difficult and painful to play against. There's Pirlo, too. He's from another ****ing planet. He sees things that I could only see watching video the next day. Del Piero. I don't know. The Milan teams hadn't gutted their squads, yet. Serie A was still the greatest league back then."

    The boys, I realized they were younger than Gwen, were a bit in awe of actually meeting a professional footballer in the flesh. So the questioning went along those sort of lines until I saw Erik waving to me as he walked over.

    "Pleasure meeting you two, but my Chairman wants something," I said and left the three of them to finish up the little bit that was left.

    "Some good news, Enrico," he said as we met. "Michael Smith is happy with the terms we've offered and will get back to us. Probably tomorrow. Also, that lad playing in Germany, he's willing to come here on trial. He'll be here on the first with them. Also, can you come and help me with the final setup for lunch?"

    Holland-Mexico was a cracker of a match. Mexico scored first and the Dutch responded immediately. It looked like it was going to be a basketball game. But of course both sides settled down. Nigel de Jong was at his most violent best. Arjen Robben got the Orange's goal and was flying. Van Persie must have been hurt as he was on the bench but never came on.

    De Jong got a well-deserved second yellow in the 101st minute. That just guaranteed a cagey, boring end and penalties.

    Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scores.
    Jorge Enriquez scores.
    Robben scores.
    Diego Reyes scores.
    Johnny Heitenga misses! Seriously? Who let's Heitenga take penalties.
    Hector Herrera scores.
    Douglas misses. Among all the players available why him?
    Ulisys Davila scores.

    Pandemonium breaks out throughout Mexico and in the green half of the stadium.
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    Costa Rica got lucky with an early penalty, but were never really in this one. Brazil simply overwhelmed them.

  30. Sunday, June 29, 2014

    Big day. Big big day in England. Some people by staying drunk from the previous night. Bars opened early. The busy thoroughfares near my flat were nearly empty. A nation held it's collective breathe.

    Rooney would start up top. Milner and Young would play on the wings. Gerrard and Wilshere would be the midfielders with Carrick in the holding role. The talk was about would Gerrard be able to keep up his sublime form.

    The defense would be Hart in goal, Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole as fullbacks with Phil Jones and Chris Smalling in the center.

    No Lampard, no Leighton Banes, no Theo Walcott.

    England took the game right at the Russians from the whistle as it was a pleasant, sunny Brazilian winter day. The Russians couldn't cope.

    In the 16th minute, Ashley Young won a corner down the left flank. Everyone waited while Jones and Smalling jogged forward. Rooney was aimless strolling around the penalty spot, back and forth. As Young stepped forward to take the corner, Rooney raced towards the corner flag. Young drilled a low one-hopper toward Rooney. With an outlandish flick of his heel he redirected the ball over the defender at the near post.

    0-1

    There were about 50 of us packed into the pub just around the corner, Young's Waggon and Horse, and the building literally shook and everyone screamed jumped up and began hugging everyone within hugging range.

    They were unrelenting. The kept pressuring the Russians. They'd only made into the English half four times and launched three harmless, long-range shots.

    We were justly rewarded in the 32nd minute. Once again I felt the anticipation build as we knocked the ball around the midfield. Milner and Gerrard did a little position swap as they interchanged passes with Glen Johnson. Then Gerrard was away down the right flank on one of his storming runs. He doesn't have the pace anymore, but he's decided to be the force of nature he once was. A slight head fake froze the defender and we all saw Rooney get free on a near post run.

    Rooney met the cross with a volley past the keeper and bedlam ensued.

    0-2

    Hugging, kissing, too. Beer was spilled. The building shook once again.

    Then the match calmed down. The Russians realized they needed to do something (anything?) to stop or at least slow down the unrelenting waves of attacks. And as everyone knows, the best way to do that is to apply some special sauce. The English wanted to make sure they didn't let the Russians have any chances.

    By the time the fourth official had signaled 3 minutes of extra time in the first half, they'd been whistled for a ten fouls. If you counted fouls by the outraged pointing and shouting in the Waggon and Horse, fouls had reached three dozen.

    Then with about a minute left in extra time, Wilshere caught the Russian right back ball watching. He played a ball behind the poor fool and Ashley Young was free to measure then line up then re-measure his shot just to be safe before curling the ball past the forlorn Russian keeper.

    0-3!

    It was all over before halftime. The second half was a celebration in the pub. The Russians tried in the second half but only launched long-range efforts. Quite a comprehensive victory. Remarkably, no Englishman got carded.

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    And, apparently, there was another match that day. Who knew?

    I watched this one from home. Plus, I don't usually get this drunk this early in the day.


    Uruguay played an awesome game. Their strategy of frustrating Messi and Argentina met an Argentina side that had an off day. Zabaleta saved the day with a late goal. But Messi and Aguero were off their games and Uruguay won the penalty lottery. I did not expect this result. Wow.
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    The preseason starts tomorrow! The coaches and I went over and reviewed our training facilities at King's College sports ground at New Malden. While we share the facility with students, we can use the weight room, stationary bikes and we have one full pitch to ourselves from 10AM to 2PM. There's a conference room with a projector that we can use for reviewing match videos. It's a nice setup.

    There's a ton of space. King's College brags they have 10.9 hectares of sports fields. I have no idea of what that means. Okay, Google tells me that 10.9 hectares is nearly 27 acres. The bottom line is that my squad is not going to have any conflicts with anyone else using the facilities. There's LOADS of room.

    Back at Kingsmeadow, we're getting the Middle Bar set up for the World Cup watching party. You may or may not recall that AFC Wimbledon bought Kingsmeadow to ensure stability for us and for Kingstonian FC who also use the ground. Kingsmeadow has three conference/party rooms. We're using the middle-sized, middle one that is so aptly named. After the players do their physicals and establish their cognitive baselines (in case they have a concussion during the season) at New Malden, we'll come back Kingsmeadow where Erik and I will address the players.

    "Gaffer," someone said from behind me. I turned. It was John the communications guy. Here's the deal. He's got an official title, but it's long and I can't remember it. He takes care of the website, puts together the matchday program, handles the media.

    "Hey, John, what's up?"

    "We've got to get you set up on Twitter."

    "We do?" I replied.

    "Yeah," he replied. "We're taking advantage of all technologies to boost our visibility and promote ourselves. This means we want you tweeting."

    "Tweeting," I echoed.

    "Let's sit down and get you set up," John said and pulled out a chair for me.

    John explained that Facebook and Twitter were just like any other mode of communications. As manager I would be an official spokesman for the club. We reviewed what was acceptable behavior and what wasn't. The "fails" were hilarious, but I got the idea that I could potentially get sacked for being a complete @$$hole on the Twitter or on the Facebook. I was to avoid "flame wars" with irate fans or "trolls" from other clubs looking to start something.

    He explained hashtags. I'm not sure I entirely understand, but I do understand that I'm supposed to use #wimbledon when I tweet about the club. He said that I'd fairly quickly build up a following, mainly fans and journalists.

    Then we set up a Facebook account for me. It's sad, apparently, that I've never used Facebook. He gave me a tutorial. I'm sure I'll be back with plenty of questions and he said that this was normal -- there was going to be a learning curve.

    Then he installed an app on my iPhone so that I could manage both the Twitter and the Facebook. The app seems pretty cool and mighty handy.

    Here we go. Here's my first tweet:

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    Enrico Pucci @enricopucci - 5m
    Players report tomorrow for @AFCWimbledon. Very excited to meet them
    and get the preseason started. We're ready. #wimbledon


    By the time John had gotten me all set up and I'd tweeted out my first tweet, it was time to watch the match. The food we'd ordered arrived and it was game time.

    The Slovaks managed to stay close then tie it. The goal woke up the Belgians who went on to destroy them. Awesome match.
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    Spain lost to Japan? Inconceivable. Japan led 4-1 at one point. The fourth goal woke up the Spaniards but their fight back was too little too late.

    Holy buckets! Argentina and Spain are out? That's huge. England and Italy might have a chance now. Germany and Belgium become the favorites, though. But don't forget the Swiss; they are playing really well. And then there's the Dutch.

    Wow, it's getting exciting!
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 09/02/2014 at 04:10 AM.

  32. Preseason begins

    "Welcome to Wimbledon to some of you and welcome back to the rest of you," Chairman Erik Samuelson began. "We're very excited to welcome all these new faces. It's very exciting. You all know what this club is about and what we stand for. I'd like to turn it over to one of the new faces, our new manager Enrico Pucci."

    "Thanks, Erik," I said taking a step forward as Erik took a step back. We were in the changing room at King's College London's New Malden sports ground. Everyone was in some state of lacing up boots or tugging on socks.

    "I'm also excited to be here," I began. "There are only a few clubs like this on the planet. In American NFL there's the Green Bay Packers. They've won a couple of titles. But aside from them, we're probably the next most successful. Seriously."

    "The club are working on plans to move to either a new ground or into the fan's spiritual home, Plough Lane," I continued. "We are working on building an Academy. Outreach to the community is a key philosophy. Whenever you see a supporter, they're not just a supporter. They could very likely be your boss."

    "Because the supporters have such control, input and stake, we have certain obligations as their employees. Some portion of all of our salaries come from donations from supporters. You returning players understand this, but I want to not just welcome the new guys, but emphasize what Erik already talked to each of you about -- your unique role."

    "Now, about the upcoming season," I said. "Many players contracts ended and I have been given the task of building a team that can compete for promotion into League One. We are still negotiating with several players and are still searching for just the right person in other cases."

    "I played in Serie A for Bologna and know what it takes to compete at the top levels. I got relegated and promoted with them. The staff know this league and how to succeed in it. Hopefully within a week or so, we'll have the complete squad and you'll see what I'm talking about. You'll feel it in your gut and you'll see it in our friendlies and eventually during the season that this team is competitive."

    "**** is going to happen," I continued. "When it does, not if, let's talk. I don't really have an office, but you all have my cell and I'm always around. This will be a long, long season. Much will change. Everyone will get their opportunities."

    "I would like to say one thing before we get started with the physicals. Okay, two. I am going to rely on young players to fill the gaps. I'll be watching how everyone practices, especially you younger players. I'm a firm believer that you play like you practice. Impress me and I'll play you."

    "Anyone want to say anything?" I asked.

    "Yeah," said Andy Frampton. He was most likely going to be Captain. "We came solidly in mid-table. We can build from that. I'm also really pumped up to have all you new lads here. We know now what it takes to be mid-table. We can do better!"

    There were some grunts and some "yeahs" from the players.

    The next part was boring. We have six treadmills, but only 2 breathing monitor setups. So everyone had to wait their turns to do the treadmill for Jon Whitney the Physio then run some wind sprints for Dave Wilson my Fitness Coach. The rest of us juggled or played man-in-the-middle.

    I pulled Andy Frampton and Reuben Hazell aside to talk about who would be Captain. Andy would be Captain and Reuben would be Vice Captain.

    Eventually, we all headed over to Kingsmeadow for lunch and the Germany-Italy match. What a history between these two countries.

    Germany has never defeated Italy in a major tournament. Italy beat the Germans in 1982 in the final. In 2006, Italy beat them in the semi-final and went on to hoist the cup that year. Most recently, we beat them in Warsaw at the European Championships.

    I was feeling hopeful.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 09/02/2014 at 04:13 AM.
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  33. Click image for larger version

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ID:	490830Another classic between the Germans and the Italians!

    The Italians strategy was to apply an extra thick layer of special sauce and Mario Balotelli would do something magical. The strategy at least kept the Germans from scoring in the first half. The Germans could not get any rhythm going because of the incessant fouling.

    The stats tell it all: 29 fouls in the match. 6 players booked. It says something about how disciplined the Italians were playing that nobody got red carded. The Germans had 59% of the possession but it was more like 75% in the first half.

    The Germans managed to score of a corner in the 58th minute.

    Then the Italians immediately changed their strategy and started playing. Wave after wave of Italian attacks pinned the Germans back. In the end the Italians out-chanced and out-shot the Germans, but needed Balotelli to be at the right place at the right time to poke home a rebound of Claudio Marchesio's shot which cannoned off the post just as the fourth official was holding up his sign to indicate 4 minutes of extra time.

    And the Germans won the shoot-out lottery. The Germans finally beat the Italians in a major tournament.

    And the Swiss beat Croatia. It was actually closer than it looked.

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  34. WOMBLEblog.co.uk
    Wimbledon rebuild for new season

    Duff
    1 July 2014 19:47

    New manager Enrico Pucci isn't bringing back any player whose contracted ended in June. That's 8 first team players. So far the players Pucci has brought are impressive. I saw them at the Berrylands yesterday as they gathered for the first time.

    Adam Pepper is a tiny, ball-control wizard moving up from Conference play to League Two. He looked like the real deal at the kick-around yesterday while waiting to run on the treadmill or run sprints. I'm guessing he'll run the midfield.

    Forward Jame Loveridge is tall and fast. Coaches seemed impressed with his sprints anyway.

    There were some more players I didn't recognize, but the club hasn't announced announce any new signings so I can only guess that they are on trial. What made is slightly more difficult is all the youth players were there, too.

    I only bring that up because Pucci is on the record saying he wants to bring in young players.

    Pucci is holding a presser between World Cup matches tomorrow so we'll see what he has to say.
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  35. "Welcome to the second day of the season," I said to my coaching staff. We were gathered at the New Malden before the players arrived for the first real day of training. "We'll have a new arrival today, Kris Thackray. He spent last season playing in Germany and is out-of-contract. He's on trial."

    "We've begun negotiations with Chris Dunn, goalkeeper," I continued. "I doubt he'll be here in time for Friday's match against Celtic. I'm fairly certain he'll sign. Keeper will be competitive this year, that's for sure."

    "Steven Gregory and Simon Johnson will join us pretty soon, too. Erik and I are just crossing the tees and dotting the eyes and all that ****."

    "Also, Michael Smith is willing to rejoin us," I said. "He just wants some guarantees in his contract. Erik and I are working those out right now. It shouldn't be too long until he's here."

    "What else?" I asked looking over at my scouting team. Or at least the lone member who was here today. "What can I talk about at the press conference today."

    "The player search continues?" Lil Fuccillo joked. "But seriously, we'll keep feeding you leads on players. There are loads out there."

    "Any leads on players we can loan?" I asked.

    "Not yet," said Lil shaking his head.

    "Alrighty then," I said to change the topic. "Let's talk about the upcoming week."

    "Work on the defense?" my Assistant Manager Sean Hankin asked. I nodded. "We're going to be pretty short-handed for Friday against Celtic but we should have a decent enough first half. Unless of course some new defensive signings appear."

    "Everyone keep an eye on Daniel Barlaser and Mark Tomlinson," U18 Manager Mark Robinson said. "We think they're ready to step up and start contributing for the big team."

    The entire youth team coaches nodded in unison.

    "Okay then, we're done?" I asked. Everybody shrugged or just looked at me. "We're done. Players should be here soon so here we go."

  36. Name:  Enrico-twitter.png
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    Hey! Was that a new @AFCWimbledon signing walking up at Kingsmeadow? Um,
    no. Just a reporter here for the 2PM press conference. #Wimbledon
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 08/02/2014 at 05:37 AM.
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  37. I'm only on page 2, but I want to say I love this!

    Helps that Cadiz are the baby cousin of Udinese and Granada, who are the sister clubs of my club, Watford.

    Mucha Suerte!
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  38. World Cup Quarterfinals

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    Mexico-England and Brazil-Uruguay are Friday. The other two are Saturday. We finally have some time off to get some **** done.

  39. Quote Originally Posted by mking1992 View Post
    I'm only on page 2, but I want to say I love this!

    Helps that Cadiz are the baby cousin of Udinese and Granada, who are the sister clubs of my club, Watford.

    Mucha Suerte!
    Thanks!

    In FM14, Cadiz are affiliates of Udinese and Fluminense. So, yes, Cadiz and Watford are siblings.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 08/02/2014 at 05:49 AM.
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  40. that was a brilliant read riveting stuff cant wait for more update

  41. Quote Originally Posted by Iceman362 View Post
    that was a brilliant read riveting stuff cant wait for more update
    Thanks and I hope to keep it you enthralled.

  42. Editor's note: I went back and edited the post in which Enrico meets Gwen. I retrospect, no young woman would go out on the town without friends. The changes are minor, but as this story arc moves forward, it might be critical. So I'm suggesting you regular readers might want to go back and read page 31 again.

  43. We've offered Kris Thackray a contract. He'll be solid enough as a central defender and can play either fullback position.
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    He's displayed enough determination and has convinced us he's decent enough at reading the game. Plus he's got 2 inches on Frampton and Hazell so that'll help when we face Route One specialists.

    Dunn, Gregory, Johnson and Smith are all about to sign their contracts.

    I'm still having trouble finding any left backs interested in talking to me. Since Fenlon and Thackray can play left back, I think I'll focus on bringing in a right back. On the island of above-average defenders, you'd think I wouldn't have this much trouble finding a right back. Sheesh.
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  45. It's July 4th, Independence Day in America. That has a entirely different meaning over here, when anyone even bothers to discuss it. It's always been a weird day for me. The feeling that I ought to do something to celebrate has receded over the years, but, you know, I ought to do something, right?

    It's a good thing we didn't try to train today, I don't think anyone would have been able to concentrate all that well. The entire country seems completely giddy over the impending duel with the Mexicans.

    Is Gerrard carrying a knock? Did Rooney have porridge or a smoothie for breakfast? Is Joe Hart pooing regularly? The media have utterly lost their minds.

    Brazil play Uruguay first at 11AM and the big game is at 3PM.

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ID:	491751Brazil dominated but needed extra time to dispatch Uruguay. David Luiz scored in the 50th minute on a goal mouth scramble after a corner. But Luis Suarez won a questionable penalty in the 87th minute and Gaston Ramirez converted it to send it into extra time.

    You can see from the statistics how badly Brazil dominated. Uruguay only had 1 shot on goal.

    Their dominance paid off in the 116th when Fred converted a rebound from a Ramires shot.

    Quite a good day for Chelsea's Brazilians.

    After an hour of pre-game hystrionics or what otherwise passes for analysis, it was time for the big showdown.

    GK: Joe Hart
    D: Glen Johnson, Phil Jones, Curt Smalling, Ashley Cole
    M: Steven Gerrard (C), Frank Lampard, James Milner, Jack Wilshire, Ashley Young
    F: Wayne Rooney

    The Mexicans were hoping that Chicharito and Carlos Vela would come to life and deliver the goals. El Tri had relied on a wide variety of players for their goals though Vela had delivered against Holland in the second round.

    England got off to a dream start. Gerrard played a ball into the right inside channel for Rooney to run onto. He blasted a shot that hit the Mexican keeper and caromed right to Milner's feet. Milner side-footed the ball into the net and England led after 4 minutes.

    0-1

    In the 15th minute, Ashley Cole whipped in a cross that Rooney flicked goalward. Once again, the Mexican keeper managed to get an arm in the way. The ball fell to Ashley Young at the left 5m box corner. He had time to control the ball and smash a shot past the fallen keeper.

    0-2

    In the 28th minute, the Mexicans made a game of it. The keeper punted the ball over the half line. Jones headed it back where it came from but right at his Manchester United teammate Chicharito. Chicharito raced forward and played a pass between Smalling and Ashley Cole that Vela ran onto. Smalling was caught out and Cole just let Vela zip past him.

    Vela rounded Hart and rolled the ball into the net.

    1-2

    In the 41st minute, Jonathan dos Santos hacked down Gerrard just outside and to the right of the center circle in the Mexican half. Dos Santos got booked. As Gerrard received treatment on the sidelines, Milner lobs a long free-kick into the Mexican box. Ashley Young was running across the top of the defense and chested the ball perfectly down into his path and zipped a quick shot past their keeper. It was truly bizarre how a player running in front of the entire Mexican defense could get so open.

    1-3

    Ashley Young had struck twice and at halftime it appeared that England were cruising for a semi-final berth.

    England played the boring, safe game you would expect a Roy Hodgson managed team to play in the second half. Of course, this is exactly the kind of situation for that.

    Then in the 66th minute, Young decided to finish off Mexico single-handedly. He got the ball out near midfield and raced down the left flank. The Mexican right back Paul Aguilar had neither the speed nor the skill to handle him. Young left the poor guy's shorts, spandex underwear, socks and boots strewn along his path to goal as he danced and teased the poor Mexican right back at speeds that would be illegal except on the German Autobahn or Montana. Why nobody came over to help the poor guy out we'll never know.

    But with one last juke, Young stepped inside and hammered a shot near post past their frozen keeper.

    1-4

    That's all she wrote for the Mexicans. Absolute bedlam for two hours at my new favorite pub. England will face the winner of the Belgium-Switzerland match next Tuesday.

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  46. Wimbledon v. Celtic

    After the delerium of the afternoon, we all had to get our head's together and focus on Scottish champions Celtic visiting Kingsmeadow. What a contrast to Cadiz. Instead of a gleaming, new and empty Ramon de Carranza, Kingsmeadow is tiny, older and packed for a friendly.

    This was my first chance to see my players in action. I was expecting a thrashing but was hoping that Celtic wouldn't be at the top of their game. I chose a 442 formation gambling that Celtic wouldn't be on form and that 2 strikers would keep them honest.

    My first team players played credibly. The ball was mostly in our end, but Celtic didn't score in the first half. I started swapping out tiring players at 60 minutes, but my keeper Ross Worner and my center backs Frampton and Hazell played the whole match.

    Celtic's second team scored against my second team in the 67th minute. But Frampton thumped in a header from a corner immediately afterward.

    Yeah, they won the game in the 87th, but my players weren't embarrassed.

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  47. Saturday, July 5, 2014

    I get to introduce my new first choice keeper and my a new winger to the team. We had all agreed to start a little early so that we could finish in time to watch the World Cup.
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    "Gentlemen, I'd like to introduce Chris and Simon," I said once everyone was laced up and ready to go out and start training. Chris stood up and just kept on standing up. He's impressively tall. "Chris is a keeper. For those of you who are counting that gives us two on the first team. Simon can play on either wing. Welcome. And remember, everyone, no hazing. And this time I mean it. And anyone stupid enough to try and haze Chris, well, I'll send flowers to your widow."

    "I expect to welcome two more additions tomorrow," I continued. "Midfielder Steven Gregory and forward Michael Smith."

    Today we started working on our offense. I left Sean to continue to work with the defense and U21 Manager Matt Woolley and I started walk the players through the offensive system.

    We even finished in time to get showered and over to Kingsmeadow to watch the matches.
    Last edited by Enrico Pucci; 09/02/2014 at 10:48 PM.
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    England would face Switzerland after the Swiss won the battle of the up-and-coming sides. No surprise that Germany beat Japan.
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  49. Sunday, July 6, 2014

    I decided that since I can walk to work, I ought to. It's just over a mile and it's quite pleasant.

    Out of Claremont Gardens (my street), I take a right onto Maple road and cross Surbiton Hill Road (the A240). Maple become Beaufort Road becomes Lingfield Avenue until I hit Villiers Avenue. I cross Villiers onto Lower Marsh Lane. I follow Lower Marsh past the Surbiton Cemetery and the waste treatment facility.

    Now I know what you're thinking, but this isn't America. The sewage treatment buildings are hidden behind a thick and tall mass of shrubs and trees. And the same for the graveyard. I follow this until I cross underneath the Berrylands Metro stop. Once through the metro station, I'm on Chilten Drive. I follow that for a block and take a left onto Surbiton Hill Park. Two blocks later and I'm walking into the park which the New Malden fields, aka Berrylands, is a part of.

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    Today I got to welcome Michael Smith and Steven Gregory.
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    I think Steven will provide some maturity and calm in the middle of the field. Our midfield is going to be quite young. I'm seriously considering making 16 year old Mark Tomlinson Gregory's backup. The kid shows promise what better way to learn than from Gregory.

    As the players were making their way into the facilities for showers and massages for those who want them, my Captain and Vice Captain approached me.

    "Me and Rubes been talking," Andy Frampton said. Reuben Hazell nodded in agreement. "Normally, we all call the manager Gaffer or Boss."

    "Yeah, but that don't seem appropriate," Hazell added. "You being Italian and American and all that."

    "Yeah, so we been talking," Frampton continued. "We think he have a better Nome de Plume, if you will."

    "And if you're not okay with it, we'll call you Boss or whatever you prefer," Hazell interjected.

    "Anyways, me and Rubes is big fans of Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather," Frampton said.

    "So we want to call you Don Pucci or The Don," Hazell said. "If it's okay with you and all that."

    "You seem to want to keep it light around here," Frampton added. "So we just see it as one way of doing that."

    Several thoughts crossed my mind. First, if they had any idea I was in over my eyeballs with the Camorra. Second, would it lead anyone to think I might have real, actual connections like I was ****ing married into the mafia. Third, where was Matthew Modine to rescue me from ... oh nevermind. And fourth, oh what the ****, it sounds like fun.

    "Sure," I shrugged.

    "We even got you a pinky ring," Hazell added. I laughed as my face met my palm.

    "Actually, since I have you two together," I added. "I want to talk over something serious." They both nodded. "So you'll notice that I'm pretty calm. I don't let much get me excited or angry. But there are a few things that do. As the leaders of this team, I want your backing when I do lose my **** and start screaming and chucking stuff."

    They nodded.

    "I'll do it strategically like when we're losing, not concentrating and just didn't bother to show up," I continued. "Everything I do is strategic. I'll do everything to accomplish some end. If you ever wonder what the **** I'm up to, feel free to ask. I'll gladly fill you in."

    They nodded.

    "And you guys know what Killers are don't you?" I asked. They glanced at each other wondering if the other knew. "You probably call them something else, but it's punishment. I'll often give the team the day off after games. But when we lose and play poorly, we'll do Killers. Killers are sprint to the 6 yard box and back, to the penalty box and back then out to the center line and back."

    They both knew what I was talking about now.

    "Yeah, those," I said. "We'll do them as long as I feel appropriate. In the long run I want to instill some fear of my reaction to losing by not working hard."

    "We're totally with you, Don Pucci," Frampton said.

    "Laters," said Hazell as they walked toward the New Malden facilities for their showers.

  50. Tuesday, July 8, 2014

    We coaches decided that the team would watch the match at Kingsmeadow then hop on the bus for the two hour bus ride to Braintree. We also decided to eat while watching as everybody will have digested by the team we reach Braintree. England kicked off at 3PM, we kicked off at 7:45PM. If it came down to extra time, we'd watch on the TVs on the bus.

    We made everyone promise that if we left as soon as the match was over (5ish) that we wouldn't play like we'd just gotten off the bus.

    Everyone was really nervous as we settled in at the Middle Bar in Kingsmeadow. England were favorites, but nobody knew what to expect from the Swiss. They'd qualified very easily, but their group had been the easiest of the easy. Sorry, but Iceland, Norway, Slovenia, Cyprus and Albania is not tough competition. But if they played well and England didn't ...

    The lone change was Hodgson chose Leighton Baines over Ashley Cole.

    The match started with both sides being careful to not allow the other to gain any advantage. Eventually England were able to camp in the Swiss end and were rewarded in the 35th minute by you-know-who. Ashley Young broke down the left but had the ball taken off his foot by Stephane Lichtsteiner. Lichsteiner fed the ball to the right midfielder Pirmin Schwegler. Shwegler idiotically passed the ball up the middle.

    Steven Gerrard pounced. He intercepted and unleashed a grass-clipper from 35 yards for the near post. Unfortunately for Gerrard, Rooney was in the way. Rooney didn't have time to jump or do much as shot was fiercely struck. He did manage to lift his foot and stamp down, controlling the ball dead. Fortunately for England, the Swiss keeper couldn't stop his near post dive and The Roonster had the simplest of tap-ins.

    1-0

    At half time everyone loaded their stuff into the bus so we'd be ready to go.

    Switzerland evened the score on the stupidest inventions of the modern game: the long throw. Christian Schwegler heaved a long throw toward the near post. Phil Jones reacted late and Swiss attacking sensation Eren Derdiyok rose and flicked the ball over the outstretched arms of Joe Hart.

    1-1

    England created plenty of chances but just couldn't get anything to click. As the ref blew for full-time, everyone groaned because we'd have to watch extra time from the bus.

    The extra session was purest Hodgson. And by that I mean that England took no chances, created fewer and it all came down to penalties. I don't believe I need to remind anyone on this island how England have faired in the past on penalties.

    The bus was dead silent as Ashley Cole placed the ball on the spot. He adjusted it. He stepped back, looked at the ref who blew his whistle and drilled the ball just inside the left post.

    1-0

    Blerim Dzemaili scored. Hart went the wrong way.

    1-1

    Frank Lampard stepped up. Several of the coaches were unable to watch (I won't say whom). Lampard is usually money for Chelsea, but this was England. He blasted it hard and high and straight down the middles as the keeper dove to his right.

    2-1

    Xerdan Shaqiri tried to be cheeky by hitting the ball softly down the middle ala Pirlo in 2006. But the shot wasn't high enough and Joe Hart managed to get a toe on it. It hit the crossbar and bounced harmless downward and away from the goal. Shaqiri had missed!

    2-1

    Rooney smashed his shot into the side netting.

    3-1

    Gokhna Inler did the same.

    3-2

    Gerrard looked as calm as ever. The England Captain placed the ball and stood there staring at the ball for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually, the ref blew his whistle and Stevie G lasered a ball along the grass toward the left post. The Swiss keeper guessed the right way but only managed to deflect it into the side netting.

    4-2

    Eren Derdiyok had to score or England were through. He coolly sent Hart the wrong way and rolled the ball into the net.

    4-3

    Jack Wilshere could win it for England. He placed the ball. He stood up. The camera zoomed in. He stared into space, waiting for the whistle. It blew. He unleashed a rocket into the upper left corner. Perfectly placed.

    The bus erupted. Hugging. Kissing. Jumping up and down followed by bellowing and eventually by singing. England had finally won a match in a tournament when the match went to penalties.

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