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Excuse me sir, but you're really not supposed to be doing that.

I\'m Not Ruud

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Well, the go ahead for this story is tentative as of now, so I'm just going to provide a little background here.

Disclaimer: Yep, a lot of this stuff is not true, and then again, some of it is.

It all started...

...in 1986, when I went to Mexico for my summer break from college. I had played a little soccer in high school, but my university didn't have a men's soccer program, and I was too busy to play intramural soccer, so my playing career was over for the time being. However, my interest in the sport didn't wane at all, and while I was in Mexico, I attended a couple of the year's World Cup matches. I had been a fairly decent forward while I played, but I had never seen such talent and skill as I did there. I was left in awe by the moves that Diego Maradona made, and the excitement of every match drove me wild. Occasionally, I'd think to myself just how much I wished that the U.S. could one day be on the same stages as Argentina, West Germany, and England were at the time. I thought it was silly of me to even imagine it, so I tried to take my mind off of it.

I had a great time in Mexico, and I returned to school in Florida a very happy and very red person. I finished school and got my degree in public relations. I married a beautiful woman who I loved tremendously, and still do to this day, and she gave birth to four wonderful children. I went to my office everyday and worked from 8 to 5, then came home to my family. I was a happy, happy man.

However, despite all that, I never forgot about how exciting it had been to be in that atmosphere of Mexico, and when the 1994 World Cup came around, the fire got in me again. My wife was reluctant about it, but I finally persuaded her and the kids to spend the summer traveling and following the year's World Cup in the USA.

She thought I was nuts for being so fanatical about it, but she enjoyed it. Or at least she faked it pretty good. Wouldn't have been the first time there. Anyway, I loved the experience, and seeing the U.S. advance past the first round was a great joy. I was on hand to see the second round match against Brazil, and when Bebeto's 74th minute winner went in the net past Tony Meola, I was heartbroken. But, it was definitely an experience I would never forget.

In 1996, shortly after my wife gave birth to our fourth child, our third son, I got an offer to work for a public relations firm in England. I hesitated on taking the job since I had children in school and then a newborn, but my wife told me that I couldn't pass up the opportunity, so off to England we went...

Next: Part 2 - The Big Break

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Well, the go ahead for this story is tentative as of now, so I'm just going to provide a little background here.

Disclaimer: Yep, a lot of this stuff is not true, and then again, some of it is.

It all started...

...in 1986, when I went to Mexico for my summer break from college. I had played a little soccer in high school, but my university didn't have a men's soccer program, and I was too busy to play intramural soccer, so my playing career was over for the time being. However, my interest in the sport didn't wane at all, and while I was in Mexico, I attended a couple of the year's World Cup matches. I had been a fairly decent forward while I played, but I had never seen such talent and skill as I did there. I was left in awe by the moves that Diego Maradona made, and the excitement of every match drove me wild. Occasionally, I'd think to myself just how much I wished that the U.S. could one day be on the same stages as Argentina, West Germany, and England were at the time. I thought it was silly of me to even imagine it, so I tried to take my mind off of it.

I had a great time in Mexico, and I returned to school in Florida a very happy and very red person. I finished school and got my degree in public relations. I married a beautiful woman who I loved tremendously, and still do to this day, and she gave birth to four wonderful children. I went to my office everyday and worked from 8 to 5, then came home to my family. I was a happy, happy man.

However, despite all that, I never forgot about how exciting it had been to be in that atmosphere of Mexico, and when the 1994 World Cup came around, the fire got in me again. My wife was reluctant about it, but I finally persuaded her and the kids to spend the summer traveling and following the year's World Cup in the USA.

She thought I was nuts for being so fanatical about it, but she enjoyed it. Or at least she faked it pretty good. Wouldn't have been the first time there. Anyway, I loved the experience, and seeing the U.S. advance past the first round was a great joy. I was on hand to see the second round match against Brazil, and when Bebeto's 74th minute winner went in the net past Tony Meola, I was heartbroken. But, it was definitely an experience I would never forget.

In 1996, shortly after my wife gave birth to our fourth child, our third son, I got an offer to work for a public relations firm in England. I hesitated on taking the job since I had children in school and then a newborn, but my wife told me that I couldn't pass up the opportunity, so off to England we went...

Next: Part 2 - The Big Break

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The Big Break

The move turned out to pay big dividends. I was working an executive position, so many days I was able to work from home, and that enabled me to spned as much time with my family as possible. That included coaching my sons' youth soccer team. Sure, I was only doing it as a volunteer, but I enjoyed it. I got to spend time with my children and be involved in one of my favorite sports. My oldest son Will and my second oldest son, Eddie, or Junior as he preferred to be called, played on the same team since they were only a year and a half apart. Seeing them progress as athletes was good, but I was just happy to get to spend time with them.

In 1998, I stayed home for the summer, which was probably best for me that year as the U.S. was extremely disappointing in the World Cup in France. I swore that I could do a better job of leading that team. My wife and everyone else thought I was crazy, but I decided to set out and make that little thought I had first had back in 1986 become a reality.

I spent the next year working on getting my coaching and managerial licenses, and it was a lot of hard work, but by the summer of 1999 I had gotten all the requirements I needed. Now it was just time for me to get a job somewhere. I had built a pretty solid reputation as an agent in the country, but I didn't want to use that to get hired anywhere. Instead I decided to work my way up from the bottom.

While working on getting my license, I did some work as an unpaid assistant at Bury, and that gave me a little experience for the future. In hte spring of 2000, Bury's manager was sacked, and even though I had only been a licensed coach for a few months, they offered me the job as manager until the end of the season. I managed to help lead the team to a 12th place finish, which was fairly remarkable since they were in the relegation places when I took over. Since the squad had suffered many injuries and were low on reinforcements, I laced on my boots again and filled in as a midfielder/forward in a few matches. However, I was feeling much better suited to be on the sidelines rather than out on the pitch.

At the end of the season, I was offered the full time position as manager of Bury, and that definitely required a lot of thinking. I had enjoyed doing it for the few months I had, but I didn't think I could do it on a full time basis and still get to spend as much time with my family as I wanted. However, another offer came along that changed my mind about everything...

Next: Part 3 - Choices, Choices, Choices...

[This message was edited by I'm Not Ruud on 01 December 2003 at 5:07.]

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Alright, this is where the story starts. It's from an old CM 00/01 game that I started a while back but dug up out of boredom last week while at home on vacation. I'm only running the English leagues.

Choices, Choices, Choices

I was on vacation in the U.S. for a while when I got the call. It was totally unexpected, but it was what I needed, or so I thought.

Sir Alex Ferguson had abruptly retired after the 2000 season after Manchester United had won the Premiership title once again, and I was expecting some experienced manager like Martin O'Neill or David O'Leary to get the job, or maybe even Steve McClaren, but for some reason, they decided on me. Young, inexperienced, and American. Not a good combination right?

Turns out their gamble paid off pretty well in the first season. The league title was close throughout, and we had to battle for every point we got, but in the end, we clinched it at home against Chelsea with a 1-0 victory. Liverpool finished second behind us, and Arsenal finished third to get the final Champions League spot.

Cup-wise, we fared fairly well. We made it to the League Cup semifinals, where Chelsea eliminated us with a 1-0 aggregate victory. In the FA Cup, we fared better than that, defeating Leeds in the final 3-1. However, our big achievement was in the Champions League. We didn't win it, but considering our opposition in the final, losing wasn't so bad. The road to the final was mostly a breeze, even though Bayer Leverkusen gave us a scare in the semifinal. We routed them 4-0 at home in the first leg, but in the second leg, they nearly came all the way back from that deficit, only coming up one goal short as they won 3-0 that night but lost 4-3 on aggregate. In the final we faced Barcelona, and for all the talent that we had, we were no match for them. Patrick Kluivert was a one man show, scoring all four goals in their 4-1 victory. It was a disappointing defeat, but it probably could've been a lot worse.

I made a few moves in the season, bringing some players in and sending a few on their way. Fabio Junior, a talented Brazilian striker, was purchased from Roma for 9.25 million pounds. He filled in for Dwight Yorke when the Trinidad and Tobago star was injured and scored 15 goals in less than a half season of play. Dino Baggio, an Italian defensive midfielder, was purchased from Parma for 7 million pounds, and he made a few starts in the campaign.

Jaap Stam left the club for 12.25 million pounds, going to Celta Vigo in January of 2001. Wes Brown was sold to Arsenal for 5.25 million pounds, leaving at the end of the 00/01 season. A few other young players also left the club as well, including Johnathan Johnathan Greening.

It was a good first season, but would I be able to keep it going?

Next: Part 4 - Keeping It Together

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Got that right. I figured I had deleted the save game, since I hadn't played 00/01 in months. It's actually the first save game I ever started on CM. Seems like I had a lot more fun with it than I thought I would. I can't wait to get back home so I can continue it where I left off.

It should be an exciting story, well hopefully.

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Keeping It Together

I spent the summer of '01 in the States with my family, visiting relatives and just traveling around to let the kids see some sights they hadn't gotten a chance to before. While in Missouri to visit a couple of aunts of mine, we went to a Kansas City MLS game, and I used that opportunity to do a little scouting. There was a forward for KC that I liked, even though he was not much younger than me. Alex Bunbury was a 34 year old Canadian international who was still doing well even though he was on his last legs as a footballer. He had been scoring with regularity for the Cnaadians in their World Cup qualifying matches. We signed him for 550,000 pounds, and he'd provide reasonable backup for my front two, and he'd also be a good source of leadership for the younger players.

I made quite a bit of transfer movement between the end of the season and early on in the new season. Robbie Keane, who had only spent a season at Inter came back to England for 4.9 million pounds. I also signed another forward on a free transfer. Richard Barker, a 26 year old, formerly of Macclesfield, provided me with another attacking option. He was a lethal finisher, which drew my attentions to him. It surprised me that Macclesfield would let him go like they did. Since it seemed like I couldn't get enough of finding new attacking options, I signed Paolo Di Canio from West Ham on a Bosman. He was 33, but I felt he'd be a good addition to the squad, both on and off the field.

Shortly after the beginning of the new season, I made my last purchase for the time being. Alpay was purchased from Aston Villa for 3.7 million pounds. Since I had let Jaap Stam, Wes Brown, and then Ronny Johnsen (who followed Brown to Arsenal for 1.9 mil) go, I needed some defensive reinforcements.

The new season started off solidly, wiht a 4-1 victory over Liverpool in the Charity Shield. Dwight Yorke netted a hat trick and young striker Alex Notman scored in the last few minutes to give us a fine opening to the season. The domestic season started off well, with us losing only once in our first eight league matches. That loss was a 4-0 beating that Liverpool gave us at home as a little repayment of what we did to them in the Charity Shield. In Europe, things were going well also. We were grouped with Feyenoord, Spartak Moscow, and FC Kobehavn. We won our first match against the Dutch outfit 3-1 in Rotterdam, then beat Spartak 4-3 at home, and we won in Copenhagen 1-0. Things seemed to be going pretty well. We were playing pretty solidly on the sides of the ball, and I was getting decent contributions from everyone on the squad. I was feeling confident about the season's chances.

Then we hit a snag. And I hit one too.

Next: Part 5 - Everything Blows Over Sooner or Later..Right?

[This message was edited by I'm Not Ruud on 01 December 2003 at 19:45.]

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Everything Blows Over Sooner or Later..Right?

Towards the ned of October, the gears started coming loose. A 1-1 home draw versus FC Kobenhavn was followed by a 2-0 home reverse against the Toon, and then we dropped our third straight at home, going down to Feyenoord by a score of 2-0. In each of those matches, we played terribly, but I figured we'd turn the corner soon.

I thought that turn had been made after we won at Birmingham 3-0 and then at home against Burnley 2-0 in the 3rd round of the League Cup to end the month of October.

November was the beginning of a seesaw time in our form. The month was started off with a goalless draw in Moscow to end the first group phase. Gaining only two out of nine points in our final three matches caused us to slip to second behind Feyenood, and that made us pay when the draw for the second round came out. Heerenveen, Inter, and defending champion Barcelona would be our opponents.

WIth the beginning of our CL second round campaign came a lot of frustration. We lost a two goal lead at home to Barcelona and ended up on the wrong side of a 3-2 reverse. We only would play four matches in the month, and we managed to beat leeds 2-1, but we lost to Arsenal in the 4th round of the League Cup 3-1.

I seriously hoped that the up and down form wouldn't continue much longer, because I knew it'd soon enough take its toll on me, especially with added responsibility that I was about to take on..

Next: Part 6 - A Dream..or a Nightmare?

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A Dream..or a Nightmare?

I couldn't believe it myself when I read it myself, but it was what I had been waiting for.



Arena relieved of post as U.S. manager

In a move that was surprising due to its timing, but not completely shocking, Bruce Arena has been sacked as manager of the United States national soccer team. This comes just days after the United States had finished up their CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, in which they placed second behind Mexico to earn a berth in next year's World Cup, which will be held in South Korea and Japan. The president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, Dr. S. Robert Contiguglia, said that even though Arena had done a solid job in his tenure at manager, he felt it was time for a change if the U.S. was going to have any major success on the world stage. "I wholeheartedly respect all the things that Bruce has done for U.S. soccer, and I hate to let him go, but we felt it was time to look elsewhere to get to where we'd like to be, with the Brazil's, Holland's, Spain's, and Italy's of the world." He mentioned that they have a few candidates in mind already but declined to disclose their names. One likely name to emerge is Manchester United manager Eddie Griffin, who led the English Premier Division side to the league title and to the English FA Cup title in his first season at the club and guided them to the final of the European Champions' Cup, where they lost to Barcelona 4-1. It's unknown whether or not he'd have a large chance of getting the position, since he has only about two years of managerial experience, but considering what he did in his first season in Manchester, he just might be the right choice if the U.S. want to reach the top.

Arena was contacted, but he refused to comment about his being relieved of his position. Updates will follow when developments arise.


I was surprised that Arena got sacked, especially since the team did exceptionally in their qualifying group, finishing second behind a Mexico side who was in the top 10 of the world rankings. I felt bad for Bruce, not only because he was someone I knew as sort of a friend, but also because I knew he had done his best at trying to make the team successful.

However, it was the day I had been waiting for, and I knew that if I didn't take the opportunity it might not arise again anytime soon. I honestly didn't think I'd have much of a chance at being hired since I was still pretty inexperienced and maybe too young for the job, but I figured I would give it a shot. The worst that could happen is that I wouldn't get offered the job. But, before I even applied, I talked it over with my wife, who told me that I should go for it, since she knew that it was one of my biggest dreams. Also, I talked to Martin Edwards and Peter Kenyon, who told me I should apply as well, and they wished me luck. Last of all, I called Bruce.

"Hey Bruce, I heard about what happened. I'm sorry that it had to happen to you," I told him.

"Well, I did the best I could, so I'm not going to get down on myself about it."

"Good. I was considering applying, but I don't know if I want to have the responsibility of managing both a club and national side at the same time."

"Well, personally, I think you'd be good for the job. You're one of the best around, so I don't see any reason why you shouldn't go for it."

"I suppose so. I just hate that you had to lose your job for the opportunity to open up though, especially after you did so well."

"It happens. Go for it. I'll be fine. Just be prepared to have a lot of expectations in case you get it. Then again, you should know about high expectations considering where you're at." He managed to laugh, which was good. He didn't seem too particularly upset about it actually.

"Well, that's very, very true. Well, hang in there, and I'll let you know what happens. Goodbye Bruce."

"See you Eddie, and thanks."

So, it was decided. I would apply for the position of manager of the United States soccer team. It was a long shot, at least in my opinion, and probably a lot of other people's opinions as well. But it was worth a shot.

I put in my application, and a few days later, a few members of the executive committee flew over to watch as I managed my boys against Leeds. Afterwards, they held a meeting with me for about an hour and then invited me to breakast at their hotel the next morning before they left. They told me they'd inform of their decision in a few days, and I anxiously waited.

That next day, when I came home from work, I was met at the door by my wife and kids, who jumped on me all at once.

"Daddy, daddy, you got it!" Will shouted.


"Somoene called today, and you've been offered the job you applied for," my wife said.

"Are you serious?" I couldn't believe what she was saying.

"They left the number and said for you to call them back as soon as you can with your decision," she smiled and hugged me.

"Wow, I didn't think they'd offer it to me. Do you want to talk this over before I give them an answer though? I want to know what you honestly want me to do," I told her.

"Well, I know you've always dreamed about having the job, and I want you to reach every height you possibly can, so take it. You know it'll be a lot of responsibility, but I know you can handle it."

"I hope so," I smiled and kissed her. She had always supported everything I had done, and I loved her for that.

I called Martin Edwards, and told him that they had offered me the job. "Congratulations! You deserve it!" he told me. He told me to take it, and I told him I'd continue on at United and continue doing my best at the club.

I called the USSF official and informed him of my decision. It was a dream come true.

But, there was a new load of responsibility I was now going to have. Would I be able to handle it? It was definitely going to be a hassle.

That'd be the least of my worries though..

Next: Part 7 - A Deer in the Headlights of an SUV

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Official Press Videoconference


Dr. S. Robert Contiguglia: Thanks to all of you for coming. After a few weeks of searching, we have found our new national team manager. Bruce Arena did a fine job turning things in the right direction, but this person, we feel, has the capabilities to lead the U.S. team to heights never before reached in its history. Without a doubt, he is the best choice for the job, if you consider the amount of success that he's achieved in such a short time as a manager. He's definitely going to bring a new approach to things, and that's exactly what U.S. soccer needs. He can't be here in person with us today, but we do have him live via video hookup. So, without anything further, let me introduce to you the new manager of the United States national soccer team, Mister Eddie Griffin.

[applause follows for a moment

Me: Thank you Doctor. I've always dreamed of one day being in this position, but I truly never thought the day would come. Words can't describe how excited and honored I feel right now. First off, Bruce Arena deserves a little credit for getting the team to the World Cup. He did a fine job.

[appluse for a moment]

Me: I see many positives in U.S. soccer. There's a lot of talent already, and there are many up and coming young players as well. The future is bright, and I hope I can be a big part of it. I can't make any set in stone promises, but I will put everything I have into helping the team reach new heights.

Reporter #1: What are your goals for next year's World Cup?

Me: Well, I would like to get past the first round, of course. But I know that no matter who we get drawn with, it's going to be tough. Still, I think if we get it all together in time, we can advance past the group round.

Reporter #2: Are you going to make any changes to the squad?

Me: I'll likely make a few adjustments, but I won't turn it upside down. As is, it's a very talented squad, but I do want to make sure I have the optimal talent at every position. Since there are a few players from the States who play over here in England, I have gotten to see a few of the squad members, some of whom my club has faced.

Reporter #3: What's going to be your focus tactically?

Me: Well, I can't exactly give that away right now can I? I don't want any opposing coaches to get an inside track on figuring out how to beat us! But, I will say this. I'll try to suit my formation to the strengths of the squad. There are several talented attackers, and as anyone who has seen my club side play, then you know I like attacking football.

Reporter #4: Since you're still a relatively young and inexperienced manager, do you think you'll be able to handle the criticism that'll likely come your way? Do you think your inexperience will be a problem?

Me: Well, I received a lot of criticism when I got the Manchester United job, and it hasn't affected me yet, so I don't think that this will have any problems in the situation now.

Reporter #4: Speaking of which, do you think you will be able to juggle both jobs at the same time?

Me: I'll try my best to. I know it'll be a challenge, but I accepted the job knowing that. Well, it's been a pleasure, but I must be going now. It's dinner time. But, in closing, I would like to say that I want to see the red, white, and blue succeed just as much as anyone else, and it will be my mission to make sure that happens. Thank you for all your questions, and it's a dream come true for me to be here today as the new U.S. manager.

[closing applause]

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A Deer in the Headlights...

I honestly never thought it'd all happen as quickly as it had, but it was what I wanted. I was just hoping that little slide the club was going through would come to a halt soon. That'd make having multiple jobs a hell of a lot easier.

December started off with a very, very large thud. On the first of the month we faced Middlesbrough at home, and our dreadful home form of late continued as they beat the stuffing out of us by a score of 4-0. We didn't exactly have too much time to regroup from that defeat, as we had to travel to Holland to face Heerenveen. Giggs, Beckham, Scholes, and Robbie Keane (who hadn't been doing much at all) all scored as we got our first three points of the second round in a fine 4-2 win.

I figured that a good away win would help our home form out, but that was not the case in the least bit. We lost our first three home matches going into Christmas. Not good in the least bit.

December 2001 - Home Results

1.12.01 vs. Middlesbrough - Lost 4-0

12.12.01 vs. Southampton - Lost 1-0

22.12.01 vs. Sunderland - Drew 0-0

By contrast, we were unbeaten away in the month. As good as we had been at home the season before, I didn't understand how we just seemed to collapse now.

The fact that we weren't playing consistently combined that I had to spend a lot of time working on checking out players for the national team put a lot of pressure on me going into the holiday season. In the past three months we had won only three home matches, but a win over Arsenal at home would help wash a bit of the bitter taste out of our mouths.

Christmas was a busy time for me. I flew home with the family to spend Christmas day with my close relatives, then took a flight back the same night so I could be at Old Trafford in time to be on the sideline to manage the club against the Gunners. Goals from Ole Gunnar Solksjaer and Pual Scholes got us a 2-1 win, and I hoped that would help us be able to turn things around at home in the New Year.

The next day, I had to take an early flight to the FIFA headquarters to witness the draw for the World Cup. It was definitely interesting, to say the least.

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Okay, I had to cut short that last post because there was a fire alarm in the building I was in, so I had to log out and submit the post as it was. Unfortunately, I didn't get back in 10 minutes, so I have to finish it on this one.

A Deer in the Headlights...(cont.)

So, I patiently waited for our name to be drawn out of the pot. Three full groups were drawn before us, and when we were the first name drawn in Group D, I smiled and nodded. That smile turned into a smirk when Macedonia was called after us. Looked like we'd have a good chance of going through to the second round if the rest of the draw went our way.

Unfortunately, it didn't. Tne next name called was Italy, who was ranked 4th in the latest FIFA rankings. The final team in our group to be drawn was Spain, who was ranked 2nd behind Holland in the rankings. That smile quickly turned into a look of concern. It was going to be tough, very tough. And since the World Cup would be the first time I'd see my squad play as a team, I really didn't know what I could expect out of them.

A few executives from the soccer federation were present as well, and they let it be known to me that they were expecting me to lead the team past the first round. I wanted to say, "Are you out of your mind?!" but I tried to be positive. We were going to have to get at least a point or two from the matches with Italy and Spain, and we would have to win against Macedonia, then count on them to either shock the two powers or rely on the two to beat each other for us to advance.

Since the World Cup was going to be the first time I'd get to see the squad play together as a team, then I really didn't know what to expect out of them. We were decent, but we're nowhere near being where Italy and Spain are. I had seen Macedonia play in their play-off matchups against Wales, and I could tell that they were a decent team, but they were beatable. I didn't want to take anything for granted. Nothing would be a certainty. 1998 definitely showed me that, and so did our dip in home form recently.

But now that I knew what I'd be up against, it was time to get started..even if I wasn't as ready for it as I thought I may have been.

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Since finals are next week, and I go home for winter break afterwards, this week I might post up to where I've played the game so far (near the end of my second season..yep, I have a slow computer, and I hadn't played the save in forever).

I won't be returning from my break until the beginning of January, so there won't be anymore updates until then after this week or next week possibly. This is intended to be an international story more so than a club management story, even though club management does play a fairly significant role in the story. In my next few posts, the focus is going to shift a little, and I figured it'd be best if I said that ahead of time, to avoid any problems.

Thanks to those who have read it and are reading it; I hope you've all enjoyed it. I'll do my best to make and keep you interested.


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Thanks BobBev, I'll do my best not to disappoint. icon_smile.gif

World Cup 2002 - Full Draw

Group A





Group B

Czech Republic



Sierra Leone

Group C

Burkina Faso




Group D





Group E





Group F





Group G



Saudi Arabia

South Korea

Group H





As you can see, there are no British teams that will be participating. Wales came the closest, bowing out to my group foe FYROM in a penalty shootout in the playoffs after both legs had ended goalless. England has taken a big freefall in the world rankings and are currently 59th, but Kevin Keegan managed to keep his job even after the team finished a dismal 4th in their WC qualifying group, with only Greece finishing below them. Both Irish sides missed out, but the Republic of Ireland fared a little better than Northern Ireland.

World Rankings as of December 2001

1. Holland

2. Spain

3. Argentina

4. Italy

5. Yugoslavia

6. Iran (who was eliminated in the 3rd qualifying round final of the Asian group by Indonesia, who lost out to Finland in the final playoff)

7. Brazil

8. Saudi Arabia

9. Mexico

10. Ukraine

15. France

20. United States

South Korea and Japan, here we come!

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F365 Opinion

Is the World Cup Worth Watching?

by Philip Cornwall

Sure, the last time that England didn't qualify for the World Cup was 1994, which really isn't too long ago. But the last time no British side has participated in the world's premier international competition was before World War II. When Ryan Giggs sailed his penalty kick over the bar against Macedonia to end the Welsh dream and promptly sank to his knees sobbing, the rest of the football-loving UK was doing so with him. Sure, Wales isn't great, but neither is England or Ireland right now. And that, that is quite sad.

If you take a look at the draw, you'll see teams like Saudi Arabia and Burkina Faso in the mix, along with the aforementioned Macedonia, and Slovakia for that matter. Whoever really paid any attention to any of these teams before? I know I haven't.

It'd be a safe bet to assume that the footage of the upcoming World Cup, if the BBC does decide to air it, could end up being the lowest rated program in the history of English television. But truthfully, answer this question: Do you want to watch the World Cup if no British teams are in it? This is only for the Brits out there, so for our readers from other countries, this doesn't apply to you.

First of all, it's really not as if England deserves to be there. We are just plain rubbish, and that is that. In a short time, we've taken the fall from being one of the world's top teams to being below the likes of the previously mentioned countries and Queen Elizabeth forgive me for saying this...the United States.

That actually could give you a reason to watch, simply because if you hate Eddie Griffin, or Manchester United for that matter, then you can watch in hopes of seeing him fail as a national team manager. On the flip side, for you United fans out there, you might watch with interest, hoping to see him bring some sort of success to the U.S. that really has seemed to escape the Red Devils recently this season.

Is the World Cup actually composed of the 32 best teams in the world? No, not really. Does the fact that the UK positively stinks in international football right dim your interest in the World Cup? That's for you to decide. But personally, who would want to watch boring, rubbish football? Not me definitely. Am I talking about British football? Maybe. Am I talking about the World Cup? Maybe.

Now, I won't say who I'll be rooting for (if anyone at all), because you know me, I never do that. But, I will say this, just because the Brits aren't around in it doesn't mean it'll lack any passion and enthusiasm.

Maybe one of our sides would be there if we had some of that. That's all I have to say on the matter.


feel free to e-mail your opinions about this story to here

And while you're at it, vote in the poll on the side and have your say as to who's the more rubbish England manager: Keegan or Hoddle?

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After reading Philip Cornwall's rant about the World Cup, I figured I'd have a little fun and write in. And can you believe it? They actually put my letter on the mailbox the next day.

[scroll down to the bottom of the page to read mine]


F365 Mailbox

Today's mailbox features a lot of World Cup feedback, and make sure you check out that bottom one. We here at F365 have a feeling it's someone that you all may know...

BBC Petition

You know what? I think the whole of England should write a petition to BBC and beg them to not show the World Cup. It's just not the same about England there. Hell, I'd be satisfied if Scotland was there. Philip Cornwall said it best: Who wants to see any of those no name teams play? I know I don't. I say the BBC should just run footage of England's greatest games instead of making us suffer through watching some team like the Ukraine or Yugoslavia go to the final. I'll make sure to be the first one to sign that petition, and when the summer comes, I'll have my box of tissues beside me while I watch the 1966 final again.

Ian Cole (no relation to Joe, England supporter for over 40 years, Leicestershire

Keegan Vs. Hoddle

They're both rubbish, but at least Hoddle got England to a World Cup. Keegan should be tarred and feathered for driving us into the ground. Sack him, now! I'd take that American chap Griffin, even though I don't like ManUre.

Mike (Go Gunners!), East London

...I think a monkey could do a better job than Kevin Keegan. Enough said.

Jimmy, Coventry

...bring back Sir Bobby Robson! Maybe then we'd be good again. But in the current state of things, the old man would have a heart attack after someone like Albania beats us, God bless his soul. We need someone like him. I've never liked Keegan..just because he played for the Scousers.

Andrew Redding, Liverpool (Go Toffees!)

England is Rubbish

It's sad that you now have to scroll down almost halfway to see where England's ranked now. That just requires too much effort for my hand. We need to start winning, for the sake of my hand.

I'm tired, Watford

...With all the talent that we have, you would think that we'd be ranked higher than those teams whose players have unpronounceable names. I mean, come on lads, let's make it easy on those announcers with our one and two syllable player names instead of forcing them to have to say names that only have one or two vowels in their five million syllables.

Gary, Birmingham

...Philip Cornwall is right. We don't deserve to be in the World Cup, so we needn't not go cry in the corner and get all ****y about it. We're rubbish right now, and as long as Keegan's in charge, that won't change. Get your thumb out of your arse Kevin and learn how to manage right. I'm ashamed that he used to manage here.

Liverpool sucks and so does Keegan, Newcastle

...it upsets me to see that Wales got farther than we did. I mean, come on, they're not good. Then again, neither are we. Oh well, I'm still annoyed about it.

Colin, Sheffield

Why You SHOULD Watch the World Cup...

1) There's a lot of talent that will be on display, and it'd be a shame to miss it.

2) Even if you might not have someone to root for, you'll surely be able to find someone to root against.

3) It's what a REAL football fan would do.

4) 'Cause there are sure to be some surprises. That's a guarantee.

5) Like Cornwall said, you can laugh at Eddie Griffin if Italy and Spain rip his team a new arse. But, that just wouldn't be nice. The USA really isn't that bad. I'm not saying this simply because I'm an American, but they wouldn't be there if they hadn't played well. And that goes for the other 31 teams there as well. So watch..it won't be too painful to see someone else do well will it?

A football fan, Manchester


Got anything you want to say? Feel free to send your rants or praises here.

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Happy New Year...or Not

Well, before the match at home against Chelsea on New Year's Day, I had a little business to take care of. Sky Sports invited me to appear on a pre-match special from Old Trafford prior to their live coverage of the match as part of their New Year's Day special. It was quite an adventure, to say the least.


JS: Welcome to Sky Sports New Year's Day special, live from Old Trafford! Today I have with me as usual Rodney Marsh, and we'll have a guest panel as well. Sitting beside Rodney is Andy Gray, who will be commentating the match later today between reigning Premiership champions Manchester United and Chelsea. Beside him is John Nicholson of Football365.com, and all the way at the end is our special guest, Manchester United and newly appointed U.S. national team manager, Eddie Griffin.

[nods and waves from everyone on the panel]

JS: Since we're at the beginning of the New Year, what's everyone's take on the season so far?

AG: Well, from what I've seen, no one team has emerged as a favorite. It looks like there are ten teams or more that could push for the title by season's end.

RM: Well Jeff, as I've said before, anything can happen in the Premiership. I will say though, it's really been quite surprising how United's been unable to win much at home lately.

JS: Well, now that he's mentioned that, we'll go to Eddie. What seems to be the problem with your team's home form this season?

EG: Well, if I knew that answer for sure, we might be doing better at home. I'd love for us to be consistent, but with as many new players as we have, then some inconsistency is natural. I don't think it will last much longer, at least I hope it doesn't.

JN: Aye, are you from the South? You sound like it.

EG: Yes, yes I am. Lived in Mississippi from the day I was born until I went to college.

JN: Oh, one time when I was with my band, we got drunk in juke joint with some hookers who said they were from Mississippi or whereabouts, I think. I can't remember since I was too drunk, but I do remember they were fine in the sack.

JS: Keep it clean John, I'm sure children are watching.

[snicker from me in the background]

JN: Oh I'm sure it's nothing they haven't heard before. You know how music these days is.

AG: Has someone been drinking again?

JN: Be quiet you bloody twit.

[trying not to laugh] JS: Alright gentlemen, back to football. Let's not get off topic here. So, since the World Cup draw is out, would anyone like to give their predictions or thoughts?

RM: Well, Holland should go deep. They're very deserving of that top ranking, and I won't be surprised to see them in the final. And whoever wins Group D should advance far as well.

JS: Speaking of, Eddie, what do you think about your team's chances of getting through Group D? I wouldn't go as far as saying you'll need an extra catheter on the sidelines, but I'm sure you know it'll be tough.

EG: Well, I'm going to pick the players who I think will give us the best chance to advance. Spain and Italy are teams I hold in the highest respects, but all that is going to go out of the window when I'm on the sideline opposite them.

JN: Personally I don't think much of Americans playing footy. But their whores are damn good! Have any of you ever had a good American whore?

AG & RM: I agree with John about Americans and football, but I don't know much about their whores. That's another topic in itself.

JS: No comment.

JN: How about your wife Eddie? I bet she's amazing in bed isn't she? A total freak I'm sure! All of those American girls are! I would know, I did a ton of them when I was over there, but that's not all I was doing then.

EG: I thought we were supposed to be talking about football here.

JS: We are. John, that is enough! You have gone much too far! So, what's everyones take on the match here today?

RM: It's a New Year, so I think there's going to be a change here today. United to win it 3-1.

AG: I have to disagree there. They're just way too inconsistent right now, even with that win a few days ago against Coventry. Chelsea will take advantage of that, so United will be lucky to get a draw.

JN: I'll liken United's current form to a New York or Los Angeles hooker. You never what exactly you're gonna get when you're with one, if you know what I mean. You don't know what to expect out of this team, and it could honestly go either way today. If United can manage to have some defense and create a few chances, they could win today. Or it could be another Boro-like beating. [grin and turn towards me]

JS: What about you Eddie? What do you think of your team's chances today?

EG: Well, they know what I expect of them, and I know what they're capable of. It's just a matter of them showing it. I expect a good performance out of my boys, and I hope they can come through. We've won our last two matches, so that should give us some momentum.

JS: Well, I'm going to have to agree with Rodney here and pick United to win it, but it'll be a bit closer. 2-1's my prediction. Any closing thoughts from the panel as we get ready for the match to start? And it's been a pleasure to have you here Eddie. Good luck today and for the rest of the season with United and good luck this summer with the U.S. in Asia.

EG: Thanks. It's been fun. We'll have to do it again sometime, definitely. [i get up and practically run before anything further goes on)

JN [getting up and running after me]: Hey, you didn't answer my f**kin question! I'm right then! The bird is good in the sack! I knew it!

JS [sighing]: This is Jeff Stelling on behalf of Rodney Marsh and the rest of today's guests, Andy Gray, John Nicholson, and Eddie Griffin, saying goodbye and Happy New Year. Now up to the booth with John Motson.


Well, that was definitely much more entertaining than the match. We got down 3-0 before we put our first in the net, which came through Paul Scholes. But by that time, 70 minutes were gone, and when Chelsea put their 4th in the net with about ten minutes left, we were condemned to yet another home defeat. For those last minutes of the match, the stadium was filled with thousands of booing fans, and it was a relief when the final whistle came to finally put an end to the humiliating 4-1 setback. Considering we had won our last two matches, beating Arsenal at home and then winning at Coventry 5-1, getting routed at home was a huge blow.

I did my best to cut the post match press conference short since there really weren't any answers for how atrociously we played. I ran off as quickly as I could to find my family, which was the only thing that could comfort me right then. I was feeling pretty low, and I didn't think it could get any worse. Oh, how wrong I was to think that...

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Author's Note: I'm trying to switch things up a little, since I currently have a limited amount of information right now from my save game (only up to early April in the current season). As I said, the story is intended to be an international story, but seeing as how I can't schedule any friendlies, I don't have any international matches until the World Cup. And I don't particularly want to be all serious all the story, so I figured it'd be good to add a little something, which I might continue periodically if it seems to add to the story well. Let me know if you like the little added extras I've put in. And if you prefer my serious way of storytelling, then let me know. Feedback from readers is much appreciated and I'll take it into consideration for future posts - Eddie icon_smile.gif.

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Thanks PM icon_smile.gif.

The next day I decided not to go into work and instead called Steve McClaren and let him handle training for the day. I just didn't feel up to going since it seemed like I wasn't doing much of anything in the first place to help the team.

By the time our next match rolled around, four days after the Chelsea debacle, I was feeling a bit confident. We were setting out to defend our FA Cup title, starting off with a 3rd round tie at home against Nottingham Forest. I was hoping a good win would springboard us into something finally. And, we did get that good win. Goals from Robbie Keane, Dwight Yorke, David Beckham (a penalty), and a brace from Bunbury put us up 5-0. Forest did pull one back, but the win was easily ours. We probably could have scored seven or more, but the 5-1 satisfied everyone, including the board and fans.

So, for a few days, I had some of the heat off of me, but it didn't last long. We faced Everton at home on the 9th, and this season, Everton was flying pretty high, as they were among one of the several challengers for the title. And they showed it when they came in to Old Trafford. It was absolutely sickening to watch the embarrassment and humiliation that took place on the pitch. We were outplayed at every facet of the game.

After the Toffees scored their fourth goal, someone from the stands threw a bottle at me. I didn't know it until it nailed me on the side of the head. When I saw it, I wanted to pick it up and throw it back, but I had to keep my composure. The chorus of "Sack the Yank! Sack the Yank!" chants started coming shortly after, and it took everything I had to keep my head up.

But, it seems that even the toughest people can get knocked down sometimes. I found this out the hard way when another bottle came flying from the stands and nailed me in the face. Even though it did break and cut me pretty good, that wasn't what did it. When the security guards rushed me into the tunnel at full time to get me away from the enraged fans, a third bottle was smashed over my head by a fan who had run on to the pitch. I didn't find out about that one until I woke up a few hours later.

I thought that was pretty bad, but when the board called me in for an emergency meeting late that night, that was about the lowest I was going to get. They told me they were behind me all the way, but I could tell from the looks on their faces that their patience was wearing thin.

But..I had a feeling it was going to get better soon. It's never good to pin your future on one player, because he can turn out to be a bust. But my new capture, he was going to turn things around for us..well, for the sake of my job I hoped he would.

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Fans' Reaction to Everton match


From: Alan - Macclesfield, 22:31, 09/01/02

That was absolutely dreadful. If we keep this up, we'll be switching places with City in the First Division next season. That American twat should be sacked, immediately! We won't get better as long as he's around.

From: Louise - Manchester, 22:29, 09/01/02

I was at the match, and yes, I am disappointed with the way we played. But, I'm sure this is only temporary and we'll get things turned around shortly! Keep your head up lads!

From: Ned - Manchester, 22:27, 09/01/02

No words can be used to describe just how horrible we played. I'm ashamed. That's all I have to say about it.

From: Geoff - Blackburn, 22:23, 09/01/02

I figured that Yank would wear out his welcome soon enough. Martin Edwards, if you're reading this, you need to take action quickly. Steve McClaren deserves a shot, not some Yank who probably still calls it "soccer" instead of footy.

From: Taylor - Essex, 22:15, 09/01/02

The ups and downs continue. When will it end?! Soon hopefully, otherwise we might be in need of a new manager, if we aren't already. I know we can't stick the entire blame on him, but he has to take a good heap of it. It's his team. He needs to fix the problem, quickly.


There was a time when I looked forward to reading the supporters' comments after matches. Now, I dreaded it. It wasn't exactly the best thing to wake up to when you've got a splitting headache and nausea from hell.

When I staggered down to the breakfast table, I saw my wife crying. She said, "Look outside." I walked to the window and looked into the front yard. There was a smoldering pig's head on a stick in our front yard. I rushed outside. There was a note beside it. It said, "Soon enough, this'll be your head. You dumb ******!" I rushed back in to my wife and asked her if the kids had seen it. She told me she was letting them stay home from school since she didn't want them to get teased, so they were still in bed.

I was still feeling pretty low..but like I said, I was holding out a little hope.

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Three days later, I was still feeling some lingering effects from the bottle thrashing I had taken, but I was able to lead the team into Anfield to face Liverpool. They, like us, weren't particularly doing so well in the season, as they were on track for a mid-table finish. Even though we were headed that same way too, it promised to be a good game.

Turns out, it wasn't particularly well played, and we likely would've gotten beaten if Michael Owen was in the lineup. But since he wasn't, they were lacking a bit of firepower. Still, they did go up 1-0, and it stayed that way until the 88th minute of the match, when we got a bit of luck. A ball came into the box, and it was headed into the net..by a Liverpool player. Matt Barmby made a crucial mistake that cost his team the win and saved us a point. And it probably saved my job for the time being too. Winning at Leicester four days later helped my confidence a little, especially because they were near the top of the table and really challenging for the title. It was a 3-2 win, and we surely had to fight for it, but it was a win nonetheless. Maybe things were starting to look up a little..

I was really thinking that a few days later, when I finally got the chance to introduce the new star that I had been awaiting a work permit on. It had been kept quiet, just in case the player didn't get his work permit, but there was little chance of it being denied since he had made 19 appearances for his national team and scored 9 goals for them already..at the age of 21.

When Ronaldinho stepped out and put his new number 35 jersey on, the crowd that was assembled outside the stadium let out a big roar. They were probably thinking the same thing I was.

I felt pretty lucky to get him, first of all because Gremio let him go on a free transfer since he was out of contract with them (but was still on a rolling monthly contract when I signed him), and secondly because I beat out the likes of Dortmund, Inter, and Valencia for him. He said he relished the chance at playing in Europe, and likely the fact that I was paying him four times what he was earning at Gremio had a role in his coming to England.

I immediately inserted him into the starting lineup against Derby at home in our next league match on the 19th. I was hoping for a win, since Derby was near the foot of the table. He played well, but we still didn't win. Ryan Giggs scored for us, but Derby levelled the match late and we only got a point. Still, it was better than most of our previous home results. It wasn't reassuring though, since we should've really had a win.

A week later we once again faced Derby at home, but this time it was in the 4th round of the FA Cup. Ronaldinho got his first goal, and Yorke added to his team-leading tally, but Derby managed to pull out a draw and force a replay at Pride Park. We still weren't winning at home, but the gap-toothed one had seemed to already have an effect on the overall performance of the team. We were playing like we wanted to win, and I had a feeling that Ronnie was just getting started. And when he did kick it into high gear, no one was going to be able to stop us.

Like I said, it's never good to pin your future on one player, but this one was a safe bet. Finally January was over, but I had something to look forward to in the next month.

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Going into February I was pretty positive. We still weren't managing to find that breakthrough at home, but we were unbeaten in the four matches we had played since the "Mauling at Manchester" against Everton.

We opened the month on the 2nd at home against Watford, who in their first season back in the top flight weren't doing too badly for themselves. They still had a shot at a European spot if they put together a good run. But we didn't want to be part of that run. We were looking to start our own, and goals from Ronnie, Ole, and Paul gave us a much needed 3-0 victory that really boosted everyone's confidence. It was our first home league win since December 26th against the Gunners, and to say it was long overdue would be an understatement. We hadn't played that well in

a while, and the boys and I were nearly hysterial afterwards.

Next up was our FA Cup 4th round replay at Pride Park against Derby. Just like the first encounter, it was a well-contested and extremely tight match. Ole scored on a penalty, and Ronnie netted a hat trick. The third goal came with just minutes remaining, and it was the winner as we came away with a much deserved 4-3 victory. Our opponents in the 5th round were going to be Newcastle at home, and we hoped we could reverse the result that had occured in October at home to them.

We didn't get much time to celebrate the win, as we were in London three days later to face West Ham. The Hammers had been one of many teams who had taken a turn at being at the head of the table, and I knew it wasn't going to be an easy match. However, the boys made it look that way. We dominated them from start to finish, and goals from Paul, Ronnie, Phil Neville, and Ole's second penalty in two matches gave us a very convincing 4-1 win.

We hoped that would carry us into our next match, a Champions League tie against Inter Milan on the 12th. But our Italian opponents were just too much for us, and we were never really in the match. Dwight Yorke scored late to make it 2-1, but we were unable to find the net again, and the result left us with three points from three matches going into the return tie against the Nerazzuri at home.

I told the boys they couldn't afford to let that loss get them down, and I said the same to myself as well, as we had to face the Magpies in our pivotal FA Cup 5th round match in just four days. The boys came out a determined bunch, and even though the squad was a bit different from last season's FA Cup titleists, we still had the same fight in us. Our Brazilian magician led the charge and scored a brace to lead us to a fine 4-1 win. Scholes and Keane provided the other two goals, and it was an all-around brilliant performance. We advanced to the quarterfinals, where we'd get yet another home tie, this time against the winner of the Leicester - Blackburn replay.

We had to prepare quickly for the match against Inter, which was three days after the Newcastle win. We needed a victory to keep our chances of qualifying for the quarters alive, and it'd be helpful if Heerenveen got their second straight result against Barcelona who were topping the group. Inter were second behind them, and we were third, followed by the Dutch outfit at the bottom.

We took care of things on our end, as Ronnie was a one man show, scoring all three goals as we romped 3-1. I kept tabs on the other group match all throughout ours, and I was very satisfied when I saw that Heerenveen had gotten a draw against the reigning champions. What surprised me even more was that they had actually been two goals up at the Nou Camp, but Barcelona had come back to get a point. So after four matches, we were now in second behind Barcelona (they had 8 points and we had 6). We had the same number of points as Inter, but we led on goal difference. Heerenveen was still bottom, with three points after getting two points from two matches with Barcelona.

Our next opponents were nowhere near as much of a challenge as Inter. Birmingham w4re relegation candidates, but we still didn't need to take them lightly as we were needing to come away with no less than three points if we wanted to continue our surge towards the top. Considering our recent superb home form, it was no surprise though that we dominated the match from start to finish. Dwight scored a brace, and Ronnie got his second straight hat trick, which was his third in six matches, as we routed the Midlanders 5-1.

In the month and a half since our loss against Everton, we had lost only once in eleven matches, and we were unbeaten in nine domestic fixtures (six league, three FA Cup). However, with the amount of matches we had played in February, it was inevitable that the gas would run out of the tank sooner or later. We went to Bolton and faced a Wanderers side who was trying to keep their own European possibilities for the next season alive. It was a high scoring affair, and it went back and forth, but we were mostly playing catch-up throughout. In the end, Bolton triumphed 5-3, and it was a disappointing way to cap off what had been an otherwise wonderful month, with the exception of our San Siro performance.

I was named the Manager of the Month for February due to the team's performances, and the award really meant a lot considering that just a month and a half earlier I was a bad result or two away from getting the sack. Things had come a long way quickly, and I was impressed, to say the least. I was happy for myself, but I was more happy for the squad. They had played their hearts out since the Everton match, and it was showing. We had gotten ourselves back into the trophy hunt once again, and it felt damn good.

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Get it Hot, Get it Fresh, Get it Now!

Want to get in on what everyone's going to be reading soon?!

Well look below to get details on how you can subscribe to the all-new, totally awesome Eddie Griffin E-Zine!!

The second year Manchester United manager wants to give an inside look on who he is and what he does when he's not hard at work for the Red Devils!

For a limited time only, subscriptions to the e-zine will be available at a low, low rate of £2.99 for a month's worth of the weekly feature, and £19.99 for an entire year!

And here's an extra special offer for the first 100 subscribers! Your names will be entered into a draw for several prizes. The grand prize will be the chance to spend a day at training with United and work alongside Eddie Griffin himself! And best of all, you'll get to go a home United match of your choice and be with the team for the full match experience! You'll get to be in the dressing room before the match, at halftime, and afterwards, and you'll get to watch every moment of the action from the sideline! Now I know you wouldn't want to miss out on that.

There are several other great prizes as well, such as copies of Sports Interactive's addictive football management simulation Championship Manager Season 01/02. You can take over as manager of hundreds of clubs around the world and lead them to glory. Or you could be rubbish, and get sacked. Still, it promises to be tons of fun!

Now don't waste any time in subscribing because you surely don't want to miss out on the exciting offers!

Keep watch for a special sneak peek at the first issue of the e-zine, coming up tomorrow!

Good luck to all who enter!

Terms and conditions do apply. To be eligible for the contest, you must be a legal resident of the UK age 18 or older. Prizes cannot be exchanged for cash, so do not whine if you don't get something you don't like. Subscriptions for the e-zine can be paid in credit card or through the post. Only British currency will be accepted however. The E-Zine and contest have been both approved by the board of Manchester United PLC.

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All day long, I've been trying to start on an update but to no avail. The mind's not really working right now, so I'm not going to bother.

In fact, since I'll be busy most of the next few days, it's doubtful I'll be able to get good time to update until maybe Thursday or Friday, and I'm not sure whether or not I'll be burnt out from exams, so we'll just have to see if there are more updates to come before I go home for my winter break.

Hope everyone's enjoyed it so far. It's definitely been a pleasure for me doing it. icon_smile.gif


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Transfer News

The Daily Mirror


United to make "small" swoop?

Early morning reports are saying that Manchester United head man Eddie Griffin is planning on making a move for some new attacking help, and he's going a long way to find it. A source close to the club say that he has been tracking Brazilian strikers Mihgeto and Duarfinho, who both play for a well, small Brazilian side. Yay, now Paul Scholes and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have someone to pick on now..


The Sun


United set to make shock capture?

As if having two midgets in their squad wasn't enough, Manchester United look set to add two more. It is being reported that Eddie Griffin is setting up a swoop to get two of the most talented..and short footballers in the world. The Brazilian duo he's after is said to have scored a combined 90 goals combined in the Brazilian lower leagues. A source close to the club revealed that Griffin says he wants the club to be as diverse as possible. Talk about secret weapons there..and it'll save at least one seat on the team bus too!

Disclaimer: 4thegame.com does not accept responsibility for headaches induced while trying to decide whether the drivel these papers put out is true or not. Your idiocy, and theirs for that matter as well, is not endorsed by us. Thank you, and keep visiting our site!

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Ahh March, wonderful March. We were hoping to continue to our great form of late as we went to Goodison Park to face Everton. The Toffees had been slipping as of late, but I was well aware of what were capable of, as the "Mauling at Manchester" hadn't left my mind at all. I wanted the boys to get redemption firstly, but more so I wanted us to maintain our run at the title. The Bolton loss had cost us a valuable three points as that was our game in hand against the leaders Newcastle, but we were still only four points behind and definitely in it. But, we wouldn't be in it for long if we didn't keep winning.

I wanted to make sure Heath Bar Day didn't go as planned for boys in blue, but it was definitely a tough match. It was exciting from start to finish, and it could've definitely gone either way. But in the end, we hung on for a hard-fought 3-2 victory that kept fine run of form going. Goals from Ole, Ronnie, and Dino Baggio (second goal of the season for him) were enough to get us the three points.

Right after the whistle blew, I went to the Everton side to congratulate Joe Max Moore on a great performance. In the match at Old Trafford he had been a key factor in their win, and he played excellently again, scoring in the 15th minute and terrorizing our defense all match long. He was a thorn in my side club-wise, but he was someonw who I knew would be very important in June for the national team.

"Joe, great game out there. It's really a shame that one of our teams had to lose, but you damn sure made us work for those three points. " I told him.

"Thanks coach. I appreciate that," he said. It was the first time anyone other than a player on my United team had called me coach, and it felt nice to hear that.

"You know, if you play like that against Italy and Spain, we might just be able to pull off a miracle." I laughed and patted him on the shoulder.

"I hope so. You're not the only one who wants U.S. soccer to be something special. And I think we can be with you as coach."

"Well, thanks Joe. And with players like you, we can be. Well, good luck, and I'll be keeping in touch."

"Alright Coach. Good luck to you too." He reached out and shook my hand. It felt great to know that I had the backing of one of the players I'd be relying on the most.

We were still four points behind Newcastle, but we had plenty of time to make it up.

The only downside was that Ronnie got nicked up a little, and he'd be questionable for the next match.

And that next match was a big one. We want to the Nou Camp to face Barcelona. Nothing would've been better than two good revenge wins in a row, but I knew it'd be even tougher than it was at home. And if we made any of the mistakes we did at home, we'd be in for a long night.

I was amazed by how we started. An early goal put us up 1-0, and we actually went into halftime with that lead. Somehow though, I knew that would not be enough. In the last match, a two goal halftime lead wasn't enough, so one goal definitely wouldn't be, unless our defense could perform the same miracle they had in the first half.

It didn't happen though. Barcelona equalized not too long after the restart, and it was 1-1. I hoped dearly that we could find a second goal. If we could do that, maybe it'd stun Barca enough for us to be able to pull off a win. Hell, I would've been content if we held on for a draw.

It didn't happen though. Late in the match, we fell apart, and Kluivert and his crew made sure their fans went home happy, as they scored twice in the last ten minutes, the second by the Dutchman himself, and won the match 3-1.

I was so disappointed. They had done it to us again. No, we had done it to ourselves again. We should have come away with at least a point, but we just didn't get anything done offensively after that first goal, and our defense became nonexistent at the end. We had lost to Barcelona for the third time in less than a year, and each time, it stung a little more.

Fortunately, we still had a chance. Inter and Heerenveen drew, and that meant that if we could win at home against Heerenveen, and Barcelona got a result in Milan, we would go through to the quarters. But nothing was certain yet.

After 5 matches:

Barcelona 11

Inter Milan 7

Manchester United 6

Heerenveen 3

However, before that match, we had another important matter to attend to. We faced Blackburn on the 9th at Old Trafford with a trip to the FA Cup semifinals on the line.

It seems like the most unlikely heros come along late in the season. Against the Rovers, our hero came in the form of Alpay. In the 9th minute, he put us ahead with his first goal as a United player, and for a moment, you would've thought he was a striker by the way he scored that goal. He nearly went delirious with joy, and so did everyone else. Fifteen minutes later, David Beckham doubled the lead for us, and that second goal turned out to be pretty important for us. Blackburn pulled one back, but we held on for the 2-1 that saw us move 90 minutes away from a shot at retaining our cup title.

In the semifinal, we would be facing Chelsea, who was also one of our foes in the league title race. In the other semifinal West Ham would face Leeds. I figured that the winner of our semifinal would end up champion, as even though the Hammers were another title contender, their semifinal was the weaker of the two.

The win over our neighbors helped erase some of the sting from the Barca loss, and I hoped it'd give the team some great momentum going into the match against Heerenveen. Of course, considering our recent home form, and the fact that we had beaten them 4-2 in Holland, I figured there was almost no way we'd screw up. But then again, anything is possible, and I mean anything...

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Manchester United have finalized a deal that will send 30 year old striker Andy Cole to German club Borussia Dortmund in the summer. An 8.75 million pound fee had been agreed between the two clubs, and the former Newcastle hitman agreed to personal terms with the Bundesliga outfit.

Also heading out of Manchester will be Paolo di Canio, who has never really made an impact since his summer Bosman move from West Ham to the reigning Premiership champions. He'll be headed back to his native Italy at the end of the season, as Udinese have agreed with United on a 1.8 million pound package that will be paid out over a period of time. The 33 year old former Hammer, Celtic, and Sheffield Wednesday man will be glad to move where he can get first team football and be able to finish his career on a high note.

Both players had been placed on the transfer list, as United have loaded up on strkers this season, and Cole and di Canio have fallen down the pecking order on that long list. Di Canio has been in the reserve team for the last few months, and Cole has rarely moved from the bench with the exception of a few appearances, so hopefully they will have better success with their new teams.

As far as moves in, United still have their eyes set on Bayern Munich star defender Bixente Lizarazu, and are still the frontrunners for the 29 year old French international's signature. They did agree to a 9.25 million deal earlier this season for the transfer listed left back and had agreed to personal terms with him, but the deal was cancelled as United didn't have enough room in their squad for him. However, now that Cole and di Canio are set to leave, United will almost certainly look to him to add some much needed help for their defense for the 2002/03 season, as this year's back line has had its struggles at times this season as United have been trying to make yet another trophy run. United head man Eddie Griffin has had to alter the starting stoppers several times in an attempt to find some consistency, and he had hoped to have Lizarazu for this year's late season run, as Griffin says he would be "the missing piece of the puzzle" for his squad, but instead it looks to be next season before Lizarazu will put on the red shirt of United, However, the American will have to launch a new bid to do so, but it's doubtful that he will have any complaints about that as Lizarazu has been one of his top targets for many months.

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The match against Heerenveen would be one that would change the way I think about a lot of things.

Going in, I was pretty confident that we could probably come away with three points if we played half as well as we did the first time against them, and I thought it'd be a miracle if we only ended up with one point.

But it's the Champions League, and underestimating any team is a mistake. And that's what I did, the players did, and every United fan in Old Trafford that night.

Heerenveen had other ideas though. They couldn't qualify, but they sure as hell could wreck our dream. And the way they plaed so that they were deadset on being spoilers.

Finding ourselves down 2-1 with time winding down was not how I had imagined things would be. But I was definitely relieved when we found the back of the net on 70 to equalize the match. By that time I had almost abandoned any thought of trying to win..I just wanted to get a point and hopefully get some help from Barcelona.

When Heerenveen pushed forward just minutes later, I was more than relieved when the attack was stopped by a foul. I figured what harm could they do on a 35 yard freekick?

Turns out, they could do plenty. Gerard de Nooijer (who up until that moment was my favorite name to say) came up and blasted a freekick past a helpless Fabien Barthez into the back of the net to put his side up 3-2. I held out hope for an equalizer. But it seemed like de Nooijer's strike had stunned us quite a bit, and only about a minute later, my hopes and the hopes of everyone else were crushed as Emmanuel Olisadebe scored the goal that killed the rest of the fight the boys had left in them.

As the final moments ticked down, I looked at the players and around the stadium at our fans, and everyone was in shock. But so was I. I couldn't believe that we got run over by a team that we had thrashed in their stadium. As the whistle blew to officially end our hopes of making it through, the stunned silence turned into a chorus of boos. It'd been a few months since I had heard boos from our home fans, and it didn't feel good in the least bit.

I tried my best to keep my head up as I walked over to the Heerenveen bench and congratulated their players and staff on the win. Afterwards I went back over to our side and gathered all of our players together. Some had shirts or towels covering their faces or were biting on the edges of them, trying to hide the disappointment. A few players looked angry.

As the Heerenveen players made their way to the locker room, the boos stopped for a moment and the fans who had stayed the full 90 minutes rose and applauded the Dutch team for their performance. I applauded them as well and motioned for our players to do so too.

I really didn't have anything I could say that'd make anyone on our side feel better, so all I said was "Let's go boys." As we walked towards the tunnel, most of the players' heads were down, and I had to put forth maximum effort to not do the same. And then the few fans who had not yet filed out of the stadium slowly started to chant, "Glory glory Man United, glory glory Man United, glory glory Man United, as the Reds go marching on.." As they finished, they let out a big roar, and I stopped the players. We waved to the fans, and then continued our dejected walk to the dressing room.

Inside, it had just hit some of the players that the European dream was over, and tears were in the eyes of a few players. Even though I was hurting as much as they were (shocked more than anything though), I told them that we still had plenty to fight for. We still had a league and FA Cup title to defend, and I told the boys they couldn't let themselves get too down since we had a ways to go yet. At the end of my little speech Roy Keane started to clap. Then Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, and David Beckham joined. Soon, all the players were clapping, even though I could see the hurt plainly on their faces. But I felt like I had let them down by not forcing them to be as aggressive as they had, underestimating our opponents like they also probably had too. "It's alright gaffer. We'll be back next year, and we'll be stronger," Roy Keane said.

I still didn't feel any better as I made my post match comments to the reporters, but I told the truth. "We underestimated them, and we paid the price. That's all there is to it."

I told my wife to take the kids and get a taxi home, and after she reluctantly agreed, I went to my office, closed the door, and sat down with the lights off. I seriously contemplated resigning then, but I thought the better of it. I still had a job to do, but I promised myself that I wouldn't make the same mistake I did that night.

I went home after a few hours, and I climbed into bed beside my wife. I wasn't feeling much better, but I wasn't going to let myself give up after all the work I had done. Losing out in the Champions League was huge, but it wasn't the end of the world.

But I had learned my lesson sure enough. I had always said that anything was possible, but I knew that for sure now.

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Man Utd 2 Heerenveen 4 - Reactions

Manager Reaction

There isn't much to say about the match. We ****ed up, plain and simple. We underestimated them, and they went out there and tore us a new asshole. But, we really can't blame missing out on qualification for the quarterfinals on this one game. We came away with no points in two matches where we could've and should've come away with all three from each. Every point you pick up is important, and we just didn't capitalize enough to get those important ones.

It's definitely nice to make it this far, but having no European silverware for the second year in a row well..just sucks terribly.

Now, if you want to be positive, and really, there isn't much positive you can take from getting embarrassed like we did, but there are some lessons to learn if we want to reach European success.

We know we have some areas that need improvement, and I won't point them out here as criticizing players publicly wouldn't be appropriate after the pain of this loss, but I'm sure they know who they are. I assure you that we will make the necessary changes, and next year, I think we should have a squad that will definitely challenge for the European Cup again.

It might take a little time to really get over the loss, because we were really aiming for a shot at getting to make a run to the final again, but we still have to defend our double, and the boys are going to go out there and do their best to make sure that's done. And I hope the supporters will be behind us 100%. They've been behind us for the most part so far, and I hope that just one loss won't change that. We'll be back next year, and we'll be better!

Fans' Reaction

From: Trevor, Manchester, 23:48, 12.03.02

I'm gutted, absolutely gutted. Why we lost I just don't understand. I can't wait for next year already, and I know the lads can't either. But we've still got the league and FA Cup, so it's okay.

From: Lonnie, Burnley, 23:41, 12/03/02

I'm disappointed that we won't be going farther in the Champions League, as I really wanted the boys to get another crack at the final. We can still win some trophies this year though, so it won't be a bad haul if we can.

From: Hassan, London, 23:29, 12/03/02

I'm very upset at way we played. We played horribly. We need new players so we can win the Champions League. Next year I hope we will, cause then I will be very happy. We can not get down tho, theres still many games we must play. Go United!!

From: Darren, Accrington, 12/03/02

We deserved to lose. We didn't have the same heart, determination, and will to win as Heerenveen did. After beating them like we did, it was easy to write the match off as a win. But the match is won on the field, and we just didn't get it done out there. We can't afford to do that down the stretch this season, otherwise we won't bring home silverware in May. With Ronnie only getting better and the gaffer likely bringing some new players, I think we'll be tougher, more talented, and just all around much better in next season's CL. I'm sure it won't be too long before we're lifting that trophy again. And even though I'm still disappointed about the CL this year, I must applaud the lads for all that they've done so far this season. Go Red Devils!!

Copyright Manchester United PLC 2002

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I settled down at home the night after the Heerenveen match, and I turned on the television to see Inter host Barcelona. I expected it to be a competitive game, but it wasn't. Barcelona dominated from the start and left Milan with a comfortable 3-0 victory. That clinched the group for the defending champions, and after winning undoubetedly the toughest group in the last 16, they were tipped by many as favorites to win it again.

Also what the result did was make me feel a little bit worse about our loss to Heerenveen. It turns out that all we would have needed was a point, and we would have qualified by goal difference. Oh well, so much for that.

It was time to focus on the rest of our season. We had nine matches left in the league season, and along with that we had some FA Cup business to take care of. We had several tough opponents ahead, but I was confident in my squad. Last season, we finished off with an amazing run that propelled us to the title, and with the nucleus of that squad still around, I was hoping we could do it again. However, I knew it wouldn't be easy.

Key Matches:

- at Newcastle (Premiership)

Our October 2-0 loss to them at home was the first loss in that almost three month run of poor league form. This match would pretty much determine whether or not we would stay in the title hunt, as the Magpies were at the top of the table. With us close behind and the season winding down, we'd need to collect three points if we wanted to assure that we were still in it.

- vs. Leicester (Premiership)

With the reigning English Players' Player of the Year Matt Elliott playing a key role once again, the boys in blue were still in the running for not only a Champions League spot, but for the Premiership title as well. Our 3-2 at Filbert Street in January helped us get back on the right track, and with our home league form being superb recently, we won't settle for anything less than a win. But Leicester will have other ideas, as they'll come to Old Trafford looking to keep themselves in the title race and get a little payback in the process.

at Southampton (Premiership)

Our December 1-0 loss at home to Southampton was one of the poorest performances we had all season. That being said, we will need to put in one of our best to win at St. Mary's. Southampton has been in the top half of the table all season long, and it will be quite a challenge to come away with points. I'd love to get three points, but we'll definitely have to work our hardest to get them. It should be a great match.

- at Middlesbrough (Premiership)

Bryan Robson has done a good job this season to put Boro in contention for a European spot. We know what they're capable of, as the 4-0 beating they inflicted on us at OT in December is quite unforgettable. Taking points at the Riverside Stadium will be very key going into the homestretch. If we want to win the title, being good away is going to be very, very important. It'll be a tough game, but we can get the job done I'm sure.

- vs. Chelsea (FA Cup Semifinal)

We split the two league matches we played this season. We won at Stamford Bridge 1-0 in the league opener back in August, and they walloped us at Old Trafford 4-1 on New Year's Day. There is no doubt that the Blues are a quality team, as they are ahead of us in second place at the moment. It should really be an exciting match, and both teams will want to win badly. I feel like whoever wins this one will lift the FA Cup, and that team better be us.

There are a few matches I'd like to call definite three pointers, like the Ipswich and Tottenham games at home, but we can't take any opponents lightly. I learned that the hard way, and I hoped that my team would give it their all the entire match, no matter if we were playing Ipswich or Newcastle.

Overall, this is shaping up to be an interesting finish. I can't wait to see what happens..

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I'm leaving for about three weeks on Friday night, so the story won't be getting updated until after the New Year, unless I get the net at my mom's while I'm there, which I'm not too sure I'll do.

I'm starting a new story, but this one will continue, so no worries for those who've read so far! It'll still be going!

Also, whoever is the 500th viewer of this story, e-mail me. You'll get a special surprise. icon_smile.gif

Happy Holidays to you all, and have a pleasant Christmas and a Happy New Year! icon_biggrin.gif


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  • 2 weeks later...

March/April 2002

vs. Tottenham - Won 1-0

at Newcastle - Won 2-0

vs. Chelsea (FA Cup Semifinal) - Lost 4-3

vs. Leicester - Lost 3-2

at Southampton - Won six - nil

vs. Ipswich - Won five - one

at Leeds - Won 3-1

[my five and six number keys aren't working, so bear with me please]

The loss to Chelsea stung quite a bit, especially due to the way that we lost the game. We were up 3-1 with almost a half hour to play, and then we basically imploded. Hasselbaink made it 3-2 in the fifty-eighth, and then Tore Andre Flo equalized in the 83rd. Then, when I figured that the worst had happened, Phil Neville deflected a free kick past Mark Bosnich into his own net, and we weren't going to get to defend our FA Cup title.

As far as the title race was concerned, we somehow managed to finish April still in it. Leicester beat us, but that was the only time we dropped any points in the leage during that period. Still, going into the final three matches, we were in 4th, but only three points back of Chelsea.


- Jonathan Woodgate won the English Players' Player of the Year award, with his teammate Lucas Radebe finishing second. Matt Elliott, who had won the award in 00/01, finished third.

- Bolton's Matt Hill won the Young Player of the Year award, with Ipswich's Titus Bramble second, and Izzy Iriekpen was third.

- Mikael Silvestre agreed to join PSG in the summer in a deal that would be worth seven and a half million pounds. He had been great at times for us, but he had been very inconsistent at others, and we had more than enough reinforcements, so it wasn't going to be a loss for us.

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We opened May with a 2-all draw with Boro, which was disappointing, but at least we did get a point. However, that put us in a very precarious position with only two matches remaining. We were four points behind Newcastle, and it would take almost a miracle for us to take the title from them. And at that, Leicester and Chelsea were right there with us. It was going to be a crazy finish.

Our next match was against Aston Villa at home, and we did what we needed to do, getting a solid 3-0 win. In the other important game of the day, West Ham beat Newcastle at St. James. I was hoping that'd happen, but I really hadn't expected it since Newcastle was almost unbeatable at home.

The next day Leicester came out the better of the blue teams against Chelsea at Filbert Street, so after 37 games, the top four were separated by only two points. So it was anyone's title still.

It'd be two weeks before our next match, but during that time the FA Cup Final was contested at The Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. Chelsea assured that they'd have at least one trophy this season by beating the Hammers 2-1. Dalla Bona got the winner for the Blues with a quarter of an hour left in a hotly contested match that saw Hammers keeper Alan Kelly sent off in the 22nd minute for a professional foul on a challenge in the box, and in the sixty-sixth things exploded. John Terry headbutted a Hammers player, and Trevor Sinclair retaliated by landing a left hook on Alain Goma. Both Terry and Sinclair were sent off, and the match finished 10 on 9.

Now, to the final day...

Both Leicester and Chelsea had a chance to wrestle the title away, but for the most part it was only between us and Newcastle. The Magpies were away at Watford, and even though I hoped Watford would get a result, I wasn't so sure it'd happen. We had Sunderland, and I expected it to be a tough match, as Sunderland needed a win to be able to stay in the top flight for the next season.

Nine minutes in, Ronnie netted his twenty-fifth goal of the season, and we were up 1-0. Five minutes later, Dwight doubled our lead, and we had the three points wrapped up already.

At the half, I got ahold of my oldest son, who was keeping tabs on the Newcastle game on his laptop. He told me that Watford had taken a 1-0 lead about the same time Ronnie had scored, on an 11th minute penalty by Kachloul. But then he told me Alan SHearer had scored a brace to put the Magpies up 2-1 at the half.

The second half of our match was uneventful, and as the final moments wound down, the only thing that was definitely assured was that Sunderland would be playing First Division football next season. I had my cell phone with me, so I told my son to give me a call towards the end of the match with an update from the Newcastle match. As our players passed the ball between one another, waiting for the final whistle to sound, I felt the vibration of my phone in my pocket. I answered.

"Dad! They scored!" Will screamed.

"What? Who scored?" Since the stadium was fairly quiet, I didn't have to yell.

"Watford! It's 2-2!"

"Are you serious?"


I stood there for a moment as I heard the final whistle sound, then I asked WIll if the other match was over. He told me it was.

"Well, find your way down here then. I'll probably have told everyone the score by then."

After I got off the phone, I gathered the team and the staff together.

"Well guys, first of all I'd like to say that this has been quite a season. I'm proud of the effort that everyone has put in, even when we weren't doing too well." I paused for a second, and everyone clapped.

"With that said, I'd like to be the first to let you all know that..(another pause)..we're champions!!"

When I said that, everyone erupted. The impossible had happened.

Now, with the season over, it was time for me to turn my attention to the World Cup. I'd take a few days to relax, but after that, it was going to be back to business. I was definitely looking forward to it.


- The Manager of the Year award went to Claudio Ranieri for leading the Blues to the FA Cup title and a top four finish. I was second, and West Ham's Harry Redknapp was third after leading the Hammers to a UEFA Cup spot and a spot in the FA Cup final.

- Ronaldhino was awarded the Player of the Month award for May. In all for the less than half of a season that he'd spent with us so far, he had scored an astounding twenty-five goals in only 24 appearances. Free transfers usually don't work out this damn good.

- Darren Fletcher won the Young Player of the Month award for May. I had inserted him in the starting lineup towards the end of the season, and he the gamble of putting a youngster in paid off very well. Maybe one day he'll be a big star for us, and if not, he'll be a big star for some other team.

- Bryan Robson won the Manager of the Month award for May as Boro finished solidly, just missing out on Europe.

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Going into the World Cup, this is what the top five in the World Rankings looked like:

1. Argentina

2. Holland

3. Spain

4. Iran

5. Brazil

We were just inside the top 20, but I hoped that we'd be able to have a decent showing and move up a few spots. The top ten was an ambition, but to do that, we would have to win. And with Spain and Italy in our group, that wasn't going to be the easiest of tasks.

World Cup 2002

The competition got underway on the 12th of June, and it was a very interesting first day. In the afternoon Group A match, Uruguay shocked the defending champions France by a score of 3-1. The South Americans were led by a brace from Walter Pandiani. It was a highly competitive game, with Pandiani opening the scoring in the 4th minute and Johan Micoud equalizing in the 21st minute for the French. However, Uruguay broke open the match in the last 20 minutes. Dario Silva gave them the lead in the 70th, and in the 78th Pandiani secured the win, just as French star Thierry Henry limped off with an injury. It would be interesting to see if he and his team would be able to recover.

In the evening Group A fixture, Denmark defeated Gambia by a score of 4-1. Bo Hansen of Bolton opened the scoring for the Danes in the thirty-sixth minute. Feyenoord's Jon Dahl Tomasson doubled the lead a minute later, and he completed his brace in the 84th. Ebbe Sand scored the other goal for Denmark on the hour mark. Gambia's only goal of the match came through Jatto Ceesay three minutes before Sand's goal.

The next day, there were two more matches as Group B action got underway. In the afternoon match the Czech Republic defeated Sierra Leone by a score of 3-0. Patrik Berger of Liverpool opened the scoring in the 4th minute. Tomas Volava netted his first international goal in the 12th minute to put the Czechs up two. The third and final goal was scored just after the hour mark by Vratislav Lokvenc.

In the evening match, Holland and Finland went at it in a match that should have been exciting, but it wasn't. The Finns held one of the most explosive and talented attacking teams in the world to no goals, but they couldn't score themselves, so the teams came away with a point each.

The next day would be the day that I had dreamed of since the summer of 1986. I could barely wait.

Damn, we were gonna get thrashed.

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World Cup 2002 - Group D

United States vs. Spain

Todoroki, Kawasaki

Date: Thursday, 14 June 2002

The day was finally here, and even though I wasn't expecting a win, I just hoped we could put in a good performance. I was all nerves in the dressing room as I gathered the squad for a pre-match talk. "Alright guys, chances are I'm just as nervous as you are, and maybe a bit more nervous than some. I never imagined that I'd be right here, but there's no better place I'd rather be. There isn't too much I can say, but I just want you to go out and do your best. We might not have much of a chance, but just give it your best shot and something just might happen. Now, red, white, and blue on three. One, two, three!" A resounding yell of "red, white, and blue!!" came simultaneously from all who were in there.

With that, I led the squad out of the tunnel and onto the field for my first match as U.S. manager. The stands were pretty full, and it could go without saying that most of the fans were in favor of Spain, but there was some red, white, and blue in the crowd. I turned to the team and yelled, "You see that? We got somebody behind us! Let's not disappoint 'em!"

I had managed against a few of these players in the Champions League with United, and those who I hadn't I knew from their reputation. But fearing them would accomplish nothing. Without a doubt this team was extremely talented, and that was an understatement. I'd be happy if we could keep up with them for a little while.

Here are the players I put out there to try to do that:

Formation: 4-3-1-2

GK Kasey Keller

DL John O'Brien

DC Eddie Pope

DC Bobby Convey

DR Mike Burns

ML Clint Mathis

MC Jason Kreis

MR Frankie Hejduk

AMC Jovan Kirovski

FC Joe Max Moore

FC Earnie Stewart

The majority of the starting lineup were very experienced internationals, but Convey was getting his first cap. He had been impressive in the few practices we'd had as a team, so I had faith in him to do well.

After all the little formalities had taken place, the match kicked off. Amazingly, it was us who had the first attack of the game. Within moments of the opening kickoff we threatened to score, and I hoped that'd send a message to our opponents that we weren't just going to lie down and get whipped.

But, it seems that only ignited the Spaniards. Almost immediately, Keller was picking the ball out of the net, after Real Madrid star Fernando Morientes fired a shot past him. It wasn't good to be down in the second minute, but we had plenty of time to come back. Unfortunately, we'd have to do so without Mike Burns, who limped off with an injury just minutes after Morientes' goal. That caused me to do a little shifting. Hejduk dropped back in Burns' spot, and Cobi Jones, who is one of the USA's most capped players, came on and took Frankie's spot on the right of midfield.

In the twenty-sixth minute, Morientes struck again, and with us being unable to really create too many chances, a two goal lead for Spain was quite a hill to climb. But as the game went to halftime, I was feeling pretty good, because it really could have been a whole lot worse than 2-0.

I switched to a 4-3-3 at the start of the second half, putting Jovan up front in hopes that we could get something started in our favor. However, we couldn't get anything past Spain's young but talented star keeper Iker Casillas of Real Madrid, who kept a clean sheet with the help of his stingy defense.

As for our defense, it held the Spanish attack as long as it possibly could. And then in the 82nd, Morientes completed his hat trick, and that finished us off. Losing 3-0 wasn't great, but I was proud of how the team had played, and there were many positives I took from the loss. We, for the most part, had been able to keep up with the second ranked team in the world. However, I knew I'd have to tweak the squad and my tactics just a little if we were to have success in our next two matches.

But hey, if we could hang with Spain, maybe, just maybe, we could hang with Italy. But first, we had to take care of Macedonia


United States 0

Morientes 3 (2, 26, 82)

Next up: Macedonia (6/22 at Tokyo National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan)

Here's to hoping my first trip to Japan would get better, even though the result was pretty much what I had expected..a little bit better to be truthful. Anyway, I'm looking forward to our next match!

[This message was edited by I'm Not Ruud on 26 December 2003 at 9:35.]

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In the other afternoon match of the day, Savo Milosevic of Parma scored the

only goal of the match on the hour mark as Yugoslavia defeated Burkina Faso

in the first Group C match 1-0. In the evening match of the day, co-hosts

Japan drew with Chile by a score of 1-1.

In the other opening match in our group, Italy won a tightly-contested match with

FYROM 2-1 in one of the two afternoon matches the next day. In the other afternoon

match, AC Milan's star striker Andrei Shevchenko was on the scoresheet as

Ukraine defeated Tunisia by a score of 3-0 in Group E. In the

only evening match of the day, 1998 finalists Brazil opened their 2002 campaign

with a 1-1 draw with Slovakia in the other opening Group E match.

There were three matches on the 16th, and all of them finished 1-0, with Romania

(Group F)[/b] and Morocco (Group H) winning over Jamaica and Croatia

in the afternoon respectively. The same score was repeated in the evening fixture when

Germany defeated Colombia in the other Group H match.

Three more matches on the 17th concluded the opening round of group fixtures, including]

Saudi Arabia's 2-0 win over the other hosts, South Korea in the afternoon

Group G match. In the evening, world number one Argentina won over China

3-0 in Group F, and CONCACAF qualifying winners Mexico defeated Russia 1-0

in Group G's other opening match.

The second round of group matches began on the 18th with Gambia knocking the wind

out of Uruguay's sails after their opening win over the French. The star for the

Africans was Jatto Ceesay, who took his tally in the competition to four with a hat

trick. Interestingly enough, Uruguay scored the first and last goals of the match, but

that's pretty meaningless considering Gambia scored five in between those to run out winners

by three. The French got back on track with a 2-0 win over the Danes. Juve star

David Trezeguet was on the scoresheet in the match as the French assumed top spot

due to goal difference.

The next day Group B's second matches took place, with Holland getting a strike from

two of the thorns in my side at United, Kluivert (8th) and Hasselbaink (10th), which were more than enough to defeat the Czechs with Edwin van der Sar

registering a clean sheet for the Dutch. In the evening Group B match, Chelsea starlet

Mikael Forssell got a brace as Finland followed up their solid result against

Holland with a 3-2 win over Sierra Leone.

On the 20th, there were two Group C matches, and Lazio's young star Dejan

Stankovic scored the opening goal in the 13th minute, and Yugoslavia got their

second straight win of the competition, beating Japan in Tokyo 2-1 in the

afternoon match. In the evening, Burkina Faso held Chile to a 2-2

draw, in which Burkina Faso held leads of 1-0 (Ousmane Sano 17) and 2-1 (Mamadou Zongo 64), but goals from Marcelo Salas (40) and Clarence Acuna (79) saved a point for Chile.

There was no action on the 21st, and then it was time for our second match. Nothing less

than a win would do for us if we wanted to have a good chance to qualify for the second


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Since I don't have Word on this computer, then the story comes out a little odd, like the end of my last post. Funny that it was fine but one other part wasn't, and when I edited it, that part came out fine and the bottom didn't! Oh well, hope that doesn't cause any problems. On to Macedonia!

World Cup 2002 - Group D

USA vs. Macedonia

Tokyo National Stadium, Tokyo

Date: Saturday, 22 June 2002

I had been on hand to witness both legs of the qualifying playoff in which Macedonia

had given Ryan Giggs yet another international disappointment by beating the Welsh in a penalty shootout (in which Giggs sailed Wales' final attempt over the bar) after 210 minutes of football had produced no goals. That can be looked at two different ways. We were going up against a team who can't score to save their own lives, or we're going up against a team who's extremely solid on defense. But, I do remember that in that second leg against Wales, they had several good chances to score, and they did play fairly well against Italy, so we would have a competitive game. A game that we would win I hoped.

There were a few changes to my starting lineup from the first match, with Brad Friedel

taking over in goal in place of Kasey Keller, and a few other changes as well. Jovan

dropped back into the center of midfield, replacing Jason. Joe Max dropped back from up front to the attacking midfielder position, taking Jovan's spot. Eric Wynalda went into Earnie's forward spot, and Landon Donovan got his first cap, moving into Joe Max's forward spot. I was hoping these changes would ignite something in the team.

I wasn't as nervous as I was about being where I was as the first match, so I was able to give the guys a good talk about how they didn't need to underestimate their opponents. I knew we'd be screwed, and maybe I would be too as far as my job was concerned, if we didn't win.

In the 9th minute we suffered a bit of a blow when Eric limped off. Peterborough midfielder James Bishop got his first American cap, coming on for Eric. In the 17th minute, we suffered another blow as Georgi Hristov put the Macedonians up 1-0. I was screaming at our back line because they did a horrendous job of defending on that attack. Giving up an early goal was not part of my plans.

As it got close to halftime, we hadn't gotten any sort of spark that could get us going in

the least, but in the 43rd minute we got it. Landon found the back of the net, and he went into a wild celebration afterwards. Scoring on your debut is good, but getting your team back in the game is more important. At halftime, I let the guys know that being level at halftime wasn't horrible, but it wasn't what I had expected out of them. I told them that if they wanted to make some sort of mark on the international scene, they'd have to start off by winning this match. I finished off by saying, "Italy won't mean a goddamn thing if you don't go out there and play your asses off in the second half. Now go out there and do what you're supposed to do!"

Shortly after the hour mark, the man who I had labeled months ago as one of the keys for us came up big like I had hoped. He had done it against me for Everton, and he did it for me here when it mattered the most. Joe Max's 61st minute strike gave us a 2-1 lead, and for the last half hour, it was a matter of holding on for dear life. Time and time again, the Macedonians came at us, and time and time again, they were denied. I was pretty frazzled as the final moments wound down, but when the ref's whistle sounded to signal the end of the match, I was able to relax a little and celebrate with the players.


United States 2 (Donovan 43, Moore 61)

Macedonia 1 (Hristov 17)

Now we could look to Italy. Their match against Spain later that evening would determine just how much of a chance we would have of advancing. But for a moment, I'd let the boys relax. And I needed to go calm down.

[This message was edited by I'm Not Ruud on 29 December 2003 at 10:33.]

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In the other afternoon matches of the day, Tunisia had a solid performance against

Slovakia in their 2-0 win in Group E, and Colombia left it late against Morocco, with Juan Pablo Angel's 83rd minute winner the only goal of the match.

There were two games in the evening, including the Italy vs. Spain clash in our group.

It was a rather boring match, and neither team was able to get on the scoresheet. So, with

one match remaining, we were 3rd with three points. Spain and Italy both had four points,

but Spain were top on goal difference. Macedonia were bottom with no points to show for in their two matches despite playing well in both of their matches. We had just a few days to rest and prepare for our match against Italy, in which we would have to win if we wanted to advance.

In the other evening match, Brazil recorded a solid 2-0 win over Ukraine in Group E. The Brazilians were top with their final match against Tunisia remaining, and it looked like they'd be able to advance easily.

The next day, there were three matches, two in the afternoon and one in the evening. In

Group F afternoon action, Jamaica beat China on a 79th minute goal by

Theodore Whitmore in a match that saw Ipswich's David Johnson sent off in the

89th minute. However, the Chinese could not capitalize on the man advantage, and they were

pointless after two matches. In the other afternoon match, the two Olivers came up big for

the Germans in their match against Croatia. Bierhoff's strike five minutes in

was followed by Neuville's just mere seconds later, and that was enough to give

Germany top spot in Group H following their 2-1 win. Croatia did pull one

back through Robert Jarni in the 39th, but they were unable to get anything more,

leaving them pointless after two matches.

In the evening Argentina put in another brilliant performance, running out 4-0

winners over Romania, keeping them top of Group F and giving an early sign that they

were a force to be reckoned with.

The second round of group matches finished up on the 24th with one afternoon and one evening match. In the afternoon match, a solitary Gerardo Torrado strike was enough to give

Mexico the win over Saudi Arabia. In the evening match, co-hosts South

Korea equalized in the 76th to get a point with Russia after Alexey Smertin

had scored for Russia twelve minutes earlier.

On the 25th, the final round of group matches got underway with two Group B matches in the

afternoon. Finland defeated the Czech Republic, with Harri Yionen's

23rd minute score the only goal of the match. In the other match, Holland assured

themselves of the top spot in the group with a 2-0 win over Sierra Leone, with

Roy Makaay's 31st minute strike and Clarence Seedorf's first half stoppage time goal giving

the Dutch a solid win. Due to Finland's win, they finished second in the group and moved on

to the knockout stages.

In the evening, Group A action finished up. France took top spot with their 1-0

win over Gambia, with Marcel Desailly's 58th minute goal the decider. However, they suffered a big blow, losing Zinedine Zidane for the remainder of the competition due to a twisted knee that he suffered in the 35th minute of the match. In the other match,

the Jorgensen's got the job done for Denmark to send them through and deny Uruguay. Mads (23) and Martin (45+) gave the Danes a 2-0 halftime cushion, and that's how the match finished.

The next day was ours to shine. Whatever happened, I'd just have to make sure I used the

bathroom before the match.

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