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'Bullardinho' - My Story - The Prelude To An FM16 Story

  1. 'Bullardinho' - My Story - The Prelude To An FM16 Story


    This is the story of Matt ‘Bullardinho’ Bullard, the English born, Spanish national who fought his way to the pinnacle of the footballing world, before retiring prematurely at the age for 27.

    As he takes his first steps into management, we take a deeper look into his glittering career, we journey through the ups and downs, his struggles and his adulation, from the very beginning, to the day he was forced to finally retire and his career took a whole new direction.

    This is the story of possibly the greatest footballer ever to grace our planet, will he be the greatest manager? Only time will tell..

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  2. If you were to ask me when it was I first realised I wanted a career in football, I would tell you I was probably too young to remember. From the moment I was able to balance on my own two feet, I was kicking a ball. By the age of four, I didn’t have an interest in toys or watching television like other children were, I wanted to spend my childhood kicking my plastic ‘air floater’ Power Rangers ball around the back garden until the kitchen window opened and I was summoned in for ‘tea’ by my mother.

    I was born on the 31st July 1988, I grew up in a purpose built council estate in suburban London, with hundreds of children, all of which went to the local recreational ground to play football most evenings, not that I was allowed to play with them at this point, the only time I got to see them play was when we drove past in the car on the way home from school, my mother would say “You’re too little to play football with them boys, once you’re old enough to cross the road on your own you can go”. So for now I would have to be content with my back garden.

    I surrounded myself with football, everything I did revolved around the game, I would watch MOTD every Sunday Morning, the only game I would play on my Sega MegaDrive would be FIFA and I had reams of tapes, all recordings of FA Cup, UEFA Cup and Cup Winners Cup. My Favourite player at this time was Alan Shearer, naturally as he was a young English forward like I dreamed to be, he was scoring goals for fun at Blackburn, of course my mother went straight to our local sports shop and bought a Rovers shirt with Shearer on the back, I scored hundreds more goals then him in that shirt, in my back garden of course but still, one day I am going to be just like him.

    Last edited by Bullardinho; 15/07/2015 at 02:44 PM.

  3. The day was finally here, after several test runs and my mother reminding me to look both ways before crossing at least a hundred times, I was finally allowed to go and play football with the ‘big boys’. My mother still walked me over for the first time, she had also bought me a new size 4 Mitre leather football and some fluorescent yellow Mizuno astro-turf trainers.

    I arrived at the field and there must have been at least 14 or 15 older children, all aged between 10 and 14, they all stopped what they were doing and looked at me, my mother said in her gentle and kind voice, “This is Matthew, he would like to play football with you if that’s OK?”, to which one of the lads replied “Yeah ‘course. He can join your team your team Chris”, which was then followed by a series of moans and groans. With that I walked over to Chris, I looked at my mother, she smiled and then made her way home.

    'Bullardinho' - My Story - The Prelude To An FM16 Story-8f56ffb3.jpg

    I spent much of my first hour running around, timidly calling for the ball to just be ignored. ‘I have had enough of this’ I thought, I waited until the opposing player nearest to me had the ball, I harassed him and won the ball with ease, with two touch’s I was around him, I looked up to some of the other boys on my team, they were all marked, ‘These boys have no idea what they are doing’ I said to myself, I put my head down and ran with the ball, with a few step-overs and the odd feint, a simple dink past the keeper and the ball and rolled past the keeper, between a pile of bags and a pile of coats, they could do nothing but look at me in astonishment.

    From that moment I was known by every young lad on our estate, needless to say I was invited back, every day when I got in from school I would throw my uniform on the floor, get into my Blackburn ‘Shearer’ shirt and run over to the field, looking both ways before crossing the road of course. I was the first to be picked every time there was a team game and the last anyone wanted to face in a game of ‘knockout’. I was playing at a standard several levels above even the best 14 year olds on the field, I was the best there by far and I remained the king of the ‘Rec’ until I turned nine years old, my mother had recognised my talent and allowed me to sign up for my first ‘Sunday League’ football team.

    Last edited by Bullardinho; 15/07/2015 at 12:00 PM.

  4. 'Bullardinho' - My Story - The Prelude To An FM16 Story-ca_shield-final-01.jpg

    My mother handed over the signed forms, my £10 sign-up fee and my two passport photos and with that, I was officially a Crayford Arrows U-10’s player.
    I was so excited I literally could not contain myself, I just wanted to play straight away. It was the pre-season, we trained on a Wednesday evening on a flood lit pitch, during which I would hear our manager Mick constantly talking about how good I was to the other parents, ‘We are going to walk the league with him in the team’ I would hear him say, he never said my name but I knew it was me he was discussing.

    We played several friendlies against the local teams, all of which we won with ease and all of which I scored for fun, three, four, sometimes five goals a game. To give us a challenge we even played the Under -12 team of our local rivals Pheonix, I can’t remember the exact result but I remember people saying it was like a rugby score line. I was named captain for the new season, not because I was a leader or I was extremely vocal but because I was their star player.

    But the time our first season had come to an end I had amassed a Bexley League record of 48 goals in 20 games, I won the Player of the Year in our end of season club award ceremony and I had been asked by several Kent League clubs if I would like to join them, to which I politely declined, we had won the league and I was playing football with my friends, why would I leave my friends?

    'Bullardinho' - My Story - The Prelude To An FM16 Story-0067a.jpg
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  5. Things carried on this way for a few seasons, each year we won the league without dropping a single point, each year I was scoring goals for fun and each year I was being asked to jump ship by clubs across Kent and the London Boroughs.
    I had now reached the age of secondary school, I already knew half of the boys in our my year from Sunday football, so everyone already new how talented I was.
    Word had spread to the staff at my new school, our Year 7 football coach had approached me within the first week, “I hope you will be playing football this year” he said, to which I smiled and replied with a definite “Yes”.

    I was now training Tuesday evenings with my school as well as playing the odd midweek game and then training Wednesday evenings with Arrows and playing my regular Sunday football, still finding the time to play hundreds of hours a week over the old ‘Rec’ with my childhood friends. I was now playing teams spanning the whole of Kent and London, word had spread far and wide within the amateur football community that there was this young kid from Bexley that was something a bit special, with that interest was now starting to come in from bigger teams, professional teams.

    Last edited by Bullardinho; 15/07/2015 at 01:44 PM.
    clarky1683 and Telstar like this.

  6. Following, looks great!
    Bullardinho likes this.

  7. I was now nearly 13 years old, football was still my life, I hadn’t shown much of an aptitude for much else in school except football. My more academic teachers thought of me as the ‘class clown’, the ‘joker’, to be honest I was quite proud of that, my PE teachers however held me in high regard, they loved me, I was their prize possession in every school tournament going, something to brag about to other PE teachers in the opposing district’s schools.

    I had a Kent Cup match coming up for the school on a Thursday, it was against one of our biggest rivals in the borough, they had some really good Kent League players within their year. We got taken out of school for a few hours at the end of the day for the big cup matches, natural everyone was buzzing on the coach all the way there.
    I arrived to mother greeting me at the rival school’s grounds, she had taken the afternoon off work to come and watch, she was supportive like that. We went into the changing rooms to get ourselves ready and with that made our way out to the pitch.

    We walked all over them, the game was ours from the get go, our main instruction from our Coach was ‘When you get the ball, look up for Matt, pass to him’, that was just the way it had been my entire life. I scored 4 goals in that match and at the final whistle everyone lifted my up above their heads and cheered “Bullardinhoooo, Bullardinhooo”, a nickname I had picked up due to my skill, technique and dribbling ability on the ball, much like the rising star at the time, PSG and Brazil forward Ronaldinho.

    I noticed after the game my mother was speaking to a man I had never seen before, he looked like an average guy, he came on his own and just watched the match, they were looking directly at me for the duration of their chat. When I got home I asked my mother who the man was she was speaking to:

    “His name was Brain Williams, he is a scout for MIllwall FC, he wanted to know if you would like to go along for trials for their under 16’s team?”
    “Under 16? I’m not even 13 yet? They will kill me” I replied.
    “I am sure they won’t kill you, he obviously thinks you are good enough otherwise he wouldn’t have asked me”, there was a long pause. “Well?”
    “Well of course, I mean, it’s Millwall!”
    “OK, I will call him tomorrow when I am at work. I am so proud of you Matt”, she smiled “or should I say ‘Bullardinho”.

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  8. Quote Originally Posted by Telstar View Post
    Following, looks great!
    Thank you, much appreciated
    Telstar likes this.

  9. Click image for larger version

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    After weeks of excitement it had finally be done, I had signed pre-contract with my first professional club, Millwall Football Club. There was a lot of excitement in the room, the club manager Mark McGhee had come over to watch my signing, along with a couple of the youth coaches, a journalist for the club magazine and my mother, who also needed to co-sign due to my age.

    Click image for larger version

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    Shortly after I was taken over to the clubs training ground over at Calmont Road in Bromley, which is also where we would play our home matches. The pitches were immaculate, even for a training ground, a million miles away from the Sunday league and school pitches I had become so used to.

    'Bullardinho' - My Story - The Prelude To An FM16 Story-80dddbf3-61c5-49f9-8e72-2b3ab4554e4b_800.jpg

    My first day’s training with the Youth Academy were incredible, I was so nervous but so excited, these lads were all much older, bigger and more confident in themselves then I was, I knew in myself though that they didn’t have what I had, a talent comparable too few in our age group, I was regarded by many of the staff at the club, as the future of Millwall FC and possibly English football.

    'Bullardinho' - My Story - The Prelude To An FM16 Story-youth-team198-400800_478x359.png

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  10. Good start, following.
    Bullardinho likes this.

  11. Quote Originally Posted by CantGetEnoughOfJelavic View Post
    Good start, following.
    Thank you, really appreciated

  12. Brilliant. Will definitely follow this!
    Bullardinho likes this.

  13. I had now been in the Millwall youth set up for a month or so, I was still not a regular starter at this point, mainly due to the vast difference in the game and despite my obvious skill, I didn’t have the physicality to keep up with the 15 and 16 year old lads I was up against. I was given a strict regime of healthy eating and gym work, again this in small doses due to my age.
    When I was finally given my chance, after a solid month of training drills and matches, I was told by our coach that I would be given the second half to show what I am made of, “Don’t be scared Matt, you have an incredible talent, from what I have seen in the past four weeks, you are ready for this”, he seemed so sure, it put me at ease.

    'Bullardinho' - My Story - The Prelude To An FM16 Story-20120815-181221-0090-4x3277-314976_478x359.jpg

    We were losing 1-0 to a poor Brentford youth academy, they hadn’t really shown much at all but neither had we. We had a young African born London boy up front called Ikam, we was the quickest player I had ever seen and his pace had ruined their defence on a number of occasions, but he was lazy and wasn’t a great finisher.
    Half time came, during the talk the coach gave his instruction “Ikam, good work that half, but I am gonna give Matt ago for the second half” he looked at me and smiled, I was so nervous I felt like feinting.
    Five minutes or so passed without so much as a single touch, I wasn’t being involved in the game enough and I was getting frustrated. As the game come to a close, I had made a few good runs off the ball, my passing was 100% accurate and my touch was great.
    With a few minutes to go and both teams starting to look fatigued, I saw an opportunity, I received the ball just outside the opposing 18-yard box, I heard a call to lay it off but I wanted to make a big impact. I turned a defender and made a yard of space, dropped my left shoulder and put my laces straight through the ball, the dipping effort skimmed the underside of the crossbar and rustled the back of the net, the elation I felt was incredible and with the celebration that followed, I really felt accepted, like I belonged.

    Last edited by Bullardinho; 15/07/2015 at 04:51 PM.

  14. Really enjoy these type of stories! Will be following.

    Good luck.
    Bullardinho likes this.

  15. Fantastic start mate, looking forward to this!

  16. Quote Originally Posted by clarky1683 View Post
    Brilliant. Will definitely follow this!
    Quote Originally Posted by Disclaimer89 View Post
    Really enjoy these type of stories! Will be following.

    Good luck.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lippo255 View Post
    Fantastic start mate, looking forward to this!
    Thank you for the kind words gents, means a lot I hope you all enjoy!
    clarky1683 likes this.

  17. 'Bullardinho' - My Story - The Prelude To An FM16 Story-3247722.jpg

    We was now coming to the end of the 2003/2004 season and I was approaching my 16th birthday and my first professional contract. Times had moved quickly at The Den, we had recently seen Mark McGhee’s tenure at the club come to an end after three forgettable years. The man the club had chosen to replace him was the former Chelsea legend Dennis Wise as a player manager, he was a funny man, I liked him a lot. He had come to watch the Under 16’s from time to time and always made the effort to come and speak with me, he would often tell me how much he admired my talent and divulged the plans he had for me, he even gave me the odd sub appearance in the first team for cup games to give me some experience, which all in all was very successful.

    We had a huge game coming up, we managed to defy all odds that season and make it the FA Cup Final which was played at the Millennium Stadium against Manchester United, this was a major thing for MIllwall Football Club, we would be the first team outside the top tier of English football to reach the final since 1982. This in itself was a double achievement as Man U had already qualified for the Champions League, meaning Millwall would take a place in the UEFA Cup for the following season.

    The week leading up to the match, Dennis visited me at my home, he had some pretty big news for me:

    Can I come in Matt? I have something I need to discuss with you”

    “Have I done something wrong?
    ”, I thought he was going to tell me I wasn’t going to be offered my contract at the end of the season.

    “Nothing mate. As you know we are really suffering with injuries and to be honest my legs can’t cope as well as they used to. I am going to be putting you into the match day squad for the final, with the idea of bringing you on at some point”, to which my jaw dropped.

    “Are you kidding me? I am going to play in the FA Cup Final?”

    “Listen, you have come a long way in the past year I have been here, you have twice the ability I ever had and you have a chance to make a big name for yourself here. Between me and you, you are better than MIllwall, one day soon you are gonna be movin’ on, grab this chance. I have every faith in you mate”

    With that he shook my hand and left, I watched him get in his car and drive away, I went back into my front room, sat on the sofa and just stared at the TV for what felt like a year before what just happened eventually sunk in. I was possibly going to be the youngest player to ever play in an FA Cup Final!

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  18. I hope people don't mind me re-writing bits of football history btw..

  19. As I woke up on what was going to be the biggest and most exciting day of my short life so far, it still hadn’t sunk in. I am possibly going to be playing in the FA Cup Final today, against Manchester United, Scholes, Giggs, Van Nistelrooy, Roy Keane! This was crazy, I’ve only just finished my GCSE’s!

    We flew in to Cardiff Airport early that morning and arrived at stadium a few hours before kick-off, the reception we received as we stepped of the coach was unbelievable, I even signed my first fan signature, people were asking for pictures, even though most still didn’t even know who I was. Frist thing we did after we dropped our stuff in the changing rooms was have a look at the pitch, ‘this stadium is fucking huge!’ I thought to myself, my heart was already racing, but I couldn’t wait.

    'Bullardinho' - My Story - The Prelude To An FM16 Story-article-0-00eddd7f1000044c-164_634x448.jpg

    The Stadium was packed for the kick-off, nearly 72,000 fans filled the ground, I was on the bench to start with as expected but the experience of that alone was such a buzz, the feeling was amazing and I told myself this is what I have been waiting for, I want to do this every day for the rest of my life.

    'Bullardinho' - My Story - The Prelude To An FM16 Story-millwall-2004-400x300.jpg

    We gave a good account of ourselves first half, most of the 45 minutes was spent in our own half and much of the possession was spent in their midfield, Scholes and Giggs were incredible, it was truly inspiring to watch them play. Unfortunately we were one-nil down at the half time whistle, Scholes had scored a poachers effort after Anders (Andy Marshall) had parried a goal bound header from Van Nistelrooy.

    'Bullardinho' - My Story - The Prelude To An FM16 Story-millwall-fans-008.jpg

    “Right boys, you have done fucking well to keep it to just one, this is one of the best teams in the world!” Wisey was shouting with immense pride.

    “But I am fucked, I can’t keep up with that little Ginger fella out there anymore, Matt, you’re coming on for me second half, Tim-o (Cahill) you drop into the middle and take my place, Matt you sit behind Neil (Harris) up to, don’t be afraid of Kean-o, I know he has got a reputation and he is probably gonna try and kick the shit out of ya, but he is a pussy cat really, just keep on your toes and you will be fine.”.

    I pulled on the No. 11 shirt, sat down and took in the rest of the gaffers team talk, well at least I tried, all I could think about what was about to happen to me.

    At just 15 years 294 days old, I was now officially the youngest player ever to play in an FA Cup Final, the sound when we walked back out was insane, it made every muscle and bone in my body shake.

    I didn’t get much of the ball in the first 10 minutes or so, to be honest neither did anyone else in a blue shirt. It was at about 60 minutes when I finally got my first decent touch, it was a ball into my feet from Cahill, I knocked it round Keane who as expected clattered the back of my ankle and sent me crashing to the floor, the ref blew for a foul about 25 yards out. Roy came over to me and offered is hand out, “Don’t try’n make me look like a feckin i’diot kid” he said with smirk on his face.
    Tim planted the ball down and looked up, I hadn’t exactly been gifted with height, so I just loitered around the right side on the edge of the box. I heard a call for my name, I looked up and before I knew it the ball was whizzed in at my feet, I hadn’t even had a chance to think, I flicked the ball up with my right foot and hooked the ball to the back post with my left, it was a point perfect cross straight on to Harris’s head for him to slot into the bottom left corner. The Crowd went absolutely crazy, everyone ran over and picked me up screaming ‘Bullardinhoooo, Bullardinhooo’ it reminded me of my Arrow’s days, the crowd were wide eyed and wide mouth screaming at me as my team mates held me out to them like Simba form Lion King.

    From then on we had them on the back foot, we had been given a new lease of life and we were riding the wave for as long as possible. With a few minutes to go the ball was played in their box, Harris headed the ball back to me, I was 18 yards out with the ball at my feet, I looked up and see Howard off his line, I picked my spot and pulled my right foot back to strike the ball, the next thing I knew I had been kicked into orbit with a force so hard it was like a Bull had just ran through me. The blew his whistle and pointed to the spot, he called a Penalty all though personally I would have said I was just outside the white line.

    The captain Cahill, picked up the ball and walked to the spot, on walk back for his run up seem to go forever, he was walking towards me, “Don’t panic Matt, put it straight down the middle, this is your moment kid!”
    I didn’t know what to say, I was stunned, I didn’t say no, why? I walked up to the ball and looked at Tim Howard in the eyes, he had a steely determination in his eyes. I could see 15,000 odd Millwall fans glaring at me with bated breath.
    I took a deep breath, took a step to the left and calmly put my foot through the ball straight down the middle.. It was saved off of Howards ankle, my heart literally sunk, that millisecond felt like a life time, but before I had a chance to contemplate what had just happened the ball had ricocheted upwards and back in my direction.. I jumped as high as I ever had and headed the ball back downwards.. I landed in a heap on the floor with my back to goal. Before I had even had a chance to turn round and look I knew it was in the net from the eruption of screams in the crowd, the referee blew his whistle and the goal was given.
    The final minutes were tense and we had to hold on at times, but after 3 minutes of extra time the final whistle was finally blown. We had done it. We had won the FA Cup.

    I had scored the winning goal in the FA Cup Final, The youngest to ever play and score in the final. My name was to now be known be every football fan up and down the country, it would be written in the history books for decades to come. I had instantly become a Millwall legend!

    Last edited by Bullardinho; 16/07/2015 at 07:31 PM.
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  20. Great pre-story mate. The updates gonna be this regular through till fm16?

  21. Quote Originally Posted by Tracz View Post
    Great pre-story mate. The updates gonna be this regular through till fm16?
    Cheers pal. Yeah I would say so, I've got so many ideas for where my career could go. Hopefully I can keep people interested for that long
    Tracz likes this.

  22. Quote Originally Posted by Bullardinho View Post
    Cheers pal. Yeah I would say so, I've got so many ideas for where my career could go. Hopefully I can keep people interested for that long
    Good luck,
    Bullardinho likes this.

  23. My 16th birthday had now been and gone and I had signed my first professional contract with MIllwall. After the FA Cup final several agents approached me to be my representative and I eventually agreed to allow a Mexican guy by the name of Rafael Romo to represent me, he seemed like a really nice and genuine man, very laid back. He agreed my new contract with the club:

    Wage: £800 p/w
    Contract Term: 1 Year
    Appearance Fee: £60 per appearance
    Goal Bonus: £60 per goal
    Additional Clauses: 2 Year contract extension (After 10 First Team appearances)

    The past three months since the FA Cup final had been crazy, I was on the back page of every newspaper in England for weeks. There were stories ranging from me being ‘the future of England’s Three Lions’, I was going to be snapped up by several premiership clubs, at one point I even read a story saying I was seen in Barcelona and I would be moving to the Catalan club for a fee in the region of €12 Million, the publicity was crazy. My mother and Rafa told me I needed to just ignore everything I was reading and to just concentrate on my game and more importantly my education.

    The new season was going to soon be upon us, the gaffer had told me I will be featuring a lot more this season so I needed to get my head down and train hard. He also wanted to make sure I knew the importance of staying grounded, “ignore the papers Matt, don’t let the pressure get to ya, you’re still just a kid” he would say to me.

    My physical game had improved a lot over the summer, I had a growth spurt and was now almost six foot tall and I had also been doing a lot of gym work to build my core strength, I wanted to be ready for the start of the season and more importantly our first competitive match against Hungarian club Ferencvárosi Torna in the UEFA Cup Qualifying rounds.

    I was chilling at home one afternoon after a pretty harsh Tuesday morning training session when my phone started ringing, ‘Wisey Calling’.

    “Hi Dennis, what’s up”

    “Hi Matt, sorry to bother you mate, I will keep it brief. I was just calling to say that unfortunately I will not be registering you for the first team this season mate”

    “What.. Why?”

    “it’s out of my hands mate, I tried to convince them not to but by the sound of it the deal is done”

    “You’re not making any sense Den, deal? What deal?”

    “A club has made an offer for you, and apparently the board just couldn’t it turn down, looks like you’re moving on to bigger and better things mate. I can’t say too much more, If I was you I would give Rafa a call straight away!”

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  24. As soon as I had finished on the phone with Dennis I rung Rafa, not only was I completely confused, I was angry and intrigued at the same time. I couldn’t believe people would just go ahead and organise a deal behind my back without me even being made aware, is this what football is really like? Unfortunately I got his voice mail.

    “Hola, you are through to the mail for Rafa Romo, if you leave your name and number I will call you back as soon as I have finished agreeing the deals for the very finest players in the world, Saludos!”

    “Rafa its Matt, What’s going? Why am I being told by Dennis there’s been an offer from another club for me? Shouldn’t this be something I should be involved in? Call me back please straight away"

    Within minutes my phone was ringing, ‘Rafa- Agent Calling’

    "Matt! Hola my friend!"

    "Rafa! I take it you got my message, what is going on??"

    "Calm down, calm down Matt, I want to make sure things were agreed between the two clubs before speaking with you my friend. I promise you Matt I have only your best interests in my heart."

    "I don’t care Rafa, I should have been told as soon as the offer came in and been given the opportunity to choose for myself."

    "I hear what you are saying my friend, but you not give me a chance to tell you what these club had to offer, believe me you are going to like it.."

    "OK, go on then, this better be good though."

    "Its Villarreal Matt, they are huge club in the Spanish top division La Liga, I am good friends with Mr Pellegrini and he asked me to recommend, you are my first choice, he has seen some videos and wants you in his side, he see’s big potential in you. He will be paying FC Millwall the sum of €7.5million for you, I will email a copy of the contract offer over to you but the basic is €10,833 a month, sound good no?"

    "Villarreal?! Really? I am not sure I would want to move to Spain, what will I do for school? What about my mum?"

    "Do not worry Matt, I met with your madre, she will move also and the club have only the best schooling for you, speak with your mother, she and I think this will be very, very good for you. I told you I only have your best interest in my heart."

    "Ok Rafa, I am going to need to speak with my mother about this, thanks!"

    "Saludos, adios Matt"

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  25. 'Bullardinho' - My Story - The Prelude To An FM16 Story-villarreal_cf_logo.svg.png

    After sitting down with my mother and discussing my options, we both decided that accepting the offer from Villarreal would be the best thing to do for my career (and her). I didn’t really know much about Pellegrini as this was his first job in Europe, apparently he had done some great work in the Americas though. I wasn’t the only forward that would be signing for ‘El Submarino Amarillo’ either, Diego Forlan had just signed from Manchester United, he hadn’t had a great time there but I was sure I could learn a lot from him and his experience. Another player I was looking forward to working with was Juan Riquelme, he had been on loan from Barcelona and looked like a fantastic player, I couldn’t wait to get a chance to train with him.

    'Bullardinho' - My Story - The Prelude To An FM16 Story-villa2.jpg

    We flew into Valencia Airport and then took a chauffeur driven car to the Estadio El Madrigal. We was greeted by an English speaking Spanish man, he said he worked within the HR department at the club and he would be our translator for the day, apparently Manuel didn’t speak a word of English, which did scare me a bit.
    Once I heard what Manuel and a few other members of the staff had to say, I was really excited to be making this move. He told me that youth would be important to him and should I get my head down, work hard and impress in the youth side, I would be assured opportunities in the first team.

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    Next we was shown around the Villa the club would be offering us upon arrival, apparently this would be a ‘gift’ until we were settled in the area and had found our self a place of our own. It was amazing, it was a secluded, large 3 bed villa situated by the cities port, it had a heated outdoor pool, huge terrace area, a gym and our own private tennis court, I literally couldn’t wait to live there. We were also shown around the local town of Vila-real, a city in the province of Castellon, it was great, it just felt like all the places you would usually go on holiday.

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    Once the day was over, me and my mother went back to the hotel, she asked me whether I had made up my mind, I didn’t even need to think twice about it, I was moving to Villarreal!

  26. My first few days at Villarreal were spent settling in to the new surroundings, things were done very differently in Spain. The clubs education centre had pretty good facilities and my tutor there seemed nice enough.
    I was given my training schedule which would see me train predominantly with B team, although there were a few of the young first team players that were also training with us other than myself, two of those players were Santi (Cazorla) and Pepe (Reina), both were a bit older than me at 19 and 21 respectively but both had already had a taste of the first team and were considered great talents. It was an exciting time to be at Villarreal.

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    Within a week I had already had a chance to play my first ‘B’ game, it was a friendly against Alcorcon, a fellow Segunda side. The team on the day was a mixture of youth and experience, I started on the bench for the first half. Diego Forlan and Xisco started up front for us, Diego managed to net three goals before half time, at which point Xisco was brought off, he hadn’t made much of an impact.
    Me and Diego instantly hit it off, creating several openings together along with Santi, we carved them opening 7-8 times, I managed to grab a goal and was involved in another three or four. I can’t remember the exact score now but I think it was nearly double figures, it was an amazing experience and I got to play with some really talented first team players.

    PatrickLFC likes this.

  27. It was now mid-September and results had so far been disappointing for the first team, a 2-0 loss in the season opener to Valencia, followed by a 0-0 draw to Real Sociedad and a 1-1 draw to Racing S. had left us sitting just above the relegation zone in fifteenth place with only 2 points. Many were of the opinion that this was due to there being a lack of cohesion in the final third, whilst new boy Forlan had played every minute of the La Liga campaign so far picking up the clubs only goal in the process, he had already played alongside three different players in Manuel’s preferred 4-4-2 formation, the ageing Sonny Anderson, youngster Xisco and Jose Mari, none of whom had managed so much a single clear cut chance between them.

    Things carried on this way for the next couple of matches, in fact it wasn’t until October 3rd, match day 6 of the season that we finally got our first win, a 2-0 win at home to Zaragoza, this game was again down to the brilliant finishing of Forlan, who had again seen another two players partner him up front, taking him to a total of five different strike partners in 6 matches, surely if things carry on like this the manager may start to look at his options in the ‘B’ Team I thought?

    Everything had been going well for me, I had managed to grab three goals in as many Segunda league matches, the boss had been along to watch one midweek match, he said to me after that match “very good, very good!”, whilst smiling and nodding his head, I was pretty chuffed. I had been training hard and was continuing to gain strength at an alarming rate, I was now bigger and stronger than most of the ‘First Team’ players, when we trained together, Riquelme would always joke around, running away from me whenever I ran towards him to tackle him, me and him got along well, he would often say it wouldn’t be long until I was taking his place in the squad, I hope not, I want to play alongside him.

    I was really starting to settle in Spain, I was now used to playing football in front of crowds of two or three thousand on a regular basis and I was much more acclimatised to the physicality of the ‘adult’ game. Murmurs had been spreading throughout the club that I would soon be given my opportunity in the ‘first team’, I didn’t want to get my hopes up but a lot of people seemed sure my time would come soon. Shortly after Pellegrini called me up to train with the first team, after which he pulled me to one side (with the club translator):

    “Matt, it is no secret that the club is struggling for a forward to partner Diego and I was impressed with your partnership with him during the pre-season friendly. I would like you to start with him this weekend against Mallorca, they are also struggling in the league and their defence is ageing, I feel you can exploit this”

    I was delighted, as the boss had said, they were struggling in the league, but they still had some great players and as for ageing defence, I would be up against one of the best Spanish defenders in recent history, Miguel Nadal. At 38, he may not of had much in the way of pace but his game was built on his reading of the game and his strength. Despite the gaffers optimism, I knew this was going to be a hard game.

    Last edited by Bullardinho; 21/07/2015 at 03:34 PM.
    clarky1683 likes this.

  28. This is great to read mate. KIU!
    Bullardinho likes this.

  29. Quote Originally Posted by clarky1683 View Post
    This is great to read mate. KIU!
    Thanks very much
    clarky1683 likes this.

  30. Great read, mate. Can't wait to read this for FM16.
    Bullardinho likes this.

  31. It was the eve of my first La Liga experience and we had just arrived at the Iberostar Stadium, the atmosphere was electric, you could really feel the passion from the fans inside and outside, all around the grounds. Once we had all clambered off of the coach and settled into the teams suite, I spoke with Manual and he confirmed once again his intention to start me from the beginning, I couldn’t believe that I was just hours away from playing in an actual La Liga match.
    The pressure I felt was incredible, not only had we been performing below expectations as a team so far this season but also we had been struggling in front of goal, in fact if it were not for Diego (Forlan), we would only have scored on one occasion all season. I spoke with Diego before the match and he gave me some great advice, he also told me I had nothing to fear and he thought we would work well together, that made me feel a little better.

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    The game was well under way, I hadn’t really had a chance to make much impact as Mallorca had much of the possession in the opening fifteen minutes, the ball had been played into me a few times but I was being marked tightly by Patrick Muller.
    On the stroke of 18 minutes we gave away a free kick on the edge of our area, one that Luis Garcia despatched with ease, we were 1-0 down and things hadn’t been going our way up until this point.
    We kept the ball for a good period of time after the restart, I got involved with a few cute touches and I played great cross-field ball to switch play out to Riquelme. There was now 24 minutes on the clock and we had continued to press since conceding, the ball was played into my feet from Marcos Senna with my back to goal, I had already looked up and seen Diego was moving around in the box waiting for me to play the ball to him, I shifted the ball to my right, running past a defender in the process, I was now on the right-hand side, just on the edge of the 18 yard box with two defenders in front of me, I had a yard or so of space and was urged to shout by every one of the 5,000 travelling supporters. I stopped the ball dead and took one final look up, I could see the keeper was deep on his line, I decided to clip the ball to the back post, there was just enough pace and bend on cross, the ‘keeper committed but just miss-read the flight of the ball, it fell perfectly on the head of an oncoming Forlan who gratefully headed home to equalise.

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    The team was now visibly lifted, I was playing on my adrenaline, my assist had really given me a confidence boost and I was beginning to really exert my influence on the match. I had continued to link up well with Diego and the defence were struggling to handle us both, so much so that they were now resorting to a physical game and I had consequently been on the receiving end of several hard tackles, one that in particular would be the end of my game, possibly my season.

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