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The Spanish Armada? In the 21st Century? Pah...


sherm

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The Liverpool Echo

The Blues hit Goodison

Everton. A team with a great history. The blue half of Merseyside, although in their own right, they have things to be proud of, have always played second fiddle to the other side of the city. Liverpool were the greatest team of the 80's, with trophy after trophy coming their way, and after 14 years, the Toffees feel it is about their time to shine on the biggest stage. However, they face a setback...No money, and now no manager, with Scotsman Walter Smith having walked out of the door just 3 weeks before the opening day of the season

They are a club almost £6 million in the red, and with the board heaping undue pressure on the manager to sell players, he finally cracked and left his position. Everybody knew of the clubs perilous position, which meant nobody wanted the job...all except for one man. 37 year old former Spain international Fernando Lafuente has stepped up to take the hotseat at Goodison Park. Now, unless you followed his playing days closely, it is understandable that there is very little known about him. In a 12 year playing career spanning from 1984-1996, he made 345 appearances for Deportivo La Coruna, earning 7 caps for his country in the process. He was an untypical Spanish centre half, who relied on his toughness and tackling ability to get him out of sticky situations rather than uncompromising skill, and it worked for him. In 1996, after retiring from the game, he joined the coaching staff at the Riazor, where he worked his way up and eventually became deputy to Javier Irureta

It was, ironically, the Everton pursuit of Irureta that allowed Lafuente to take the job, as the Depor coach made his desire to stay clear. But, he did encourage Everton to take a chance of Lafuente, and also allowed his protege to leave his favoured club for his first managerial role. It woudl prove a tough opening week, as he was forced to sell over £8 million worth of talent, including Alessandro Pistone, Abel Xavier and Steve Watson, with no money spent on outgoing purchases. It meant that younger players, such as Stephen Shumacher, Wayne Rooney, Leon Osman and Nick Chadwick had to be drafted into the threadbare squad to make up the numbers...

--

With just six days until Lafuente led his side out for their opening Premiership game, he was beginning to wonder what he had let himself in for, and the magnitude of the task he had was certainly proved in pre-season. Just one win in their six games, which included opponents such as Telford, Cheltenham, West Brom and Lincoln, was not ideal preparation, but there was nothing could be done about it now. The three players that had added to the squad were free transfers, and though they had performed well (particularly a stunning performance from 22 year old striker Adolfo against West Brom), they were more for the future than anything else. 16 year old goalkeeper Tom Clay looked like he would be a big star, but with Thomas Myhre and Paul Gerrard, it wasn't time for him to break into the team yet. Spanish defender Borja was a 21 year old left footer, a priceless commodity in todays game, but the defence was a little bit frail where the experience was concerned, especially once Pistone, Xavier and Watson were all sold.

The men that Lafuente was looking for to be the lynchpins of the team were their experienced campaigners, such as Alan Stubbs, Duncan Ferguson and midfield star, and probably the most talented player in the team, Dane Thomas Gravesen. Options were few and far between however, so much so that Alex Nyarko was recalled from his loan spell at Monaco (thank christ for that rule!) and Idan Tal was given a chance to shine, the Israeli left winger actually proving to be a useful asset for the side. It was a tough job that he had, and he knew that with no transfer funds available, it would be even tougher. The opening day of the season was looming, and a tough start to the season beckoned. How he would cope, he had no idea, but it was something he was certainly looking forward to...

---

Game is being played on CM01/02, wih England, Spain and Italy loaded, version 3.9.68. Hope you enjoy the story...

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Cheers 10-3. I've been away from the forum for a while but hopefully I'll make a good return :D

---

Pre-season had been, for want of a better word, a disaster. The opening game, against Telford, saw a 1-1 draw, but it was a draw that Everton were lucky to get. The non-league side were superb, inspired by a man of the match performance from Scott Huckerby, and quite conceivably could have won the game. A trip to another low side, in third division Cheltenham was also a poor performance, and it saw a 2-0 defeat. The only bright spot was a 25 minute cameo from Stephen Schumacher that made the side look decent, but after that game, Lafuente knew he had some serious problems. A third game without a win followed suit, as West Brom despatched the Goodison Park side 3-2, although Spanish forward Adolfo hit both the Toffees goal and was an all round menace. That defeat wasn't as bad as the others, with the Midlanders favourites for promotion from the First Division, and Adolfo's performance was a shining light at the end of the tunnel.

The final three games proved somewhat of an improvement, with a 2-0 win over Lincoln, thanks to goals from Rooney and Campbell, while a 0-0 draw with Real Betis and a 2-2 draw with Olympiakos were the other two results, so the signs that showed in the games towards the end were not all bad. Fernando Lafuente had been going over his pre-season report, and just 19 hours before his side kicked off their campaign, he felt confident he knew his starting eleven, although he did feel like he was hindered somewhat with being unable to make improvements to the squad

...

The side hadn't had far to travel for the game, a coach trip on the Saturday morning allowing the short trip down the motorway. It was imperative to get a decent start, especially away from home, so a game against Bolton was not too bad a game to start off with. A setback in the warm up though, Duncan Ferguson picking up a thigh strain, so it mean Kevin Campbell was drafted in to start, with 16 year old Wayne Rooney on the bench. Both sides had a nervous start, neither wanting to push forward too early and get caught, but the Bolton defence nearly allowed the visitors in, a mistake from Simon Charlton allowing Idan Tal in, but the Israeli winger flashed his shot wide. Jussi Jaaskelainen was forced to make a couple of saves too, one of them a top class save from a Campbell header, but the most guilt-edged chance of the half fell to Per Frandsen. The midfielder combined brilliantly with Kevin Nolan, and when he found himself one on one, it just needed a bit of composure. Unfortunately, he failed the test and hit straight at Thomas Myhre.

Going in level at half time was a fair result, but within six minutes of the second half, two substitutes had made a big impact. Akinori Nishizawa had replaced Henrik Pedersen, and on 49 minutes, the Japanese international hit a low hot from 20 yards out, which deflected on its way through, wrong footed Myhre and found its way into the goal. This only got a response from Lafuente's side, and just two minutes later (109 seconds, to be precise), they were back level. A good move found it's way to Danny Cadamarteri, and the winger whipped a cross in, a cross which evaded everybody but found youngster Rooney on the back post, and he calmly slotted in to level the game. It was tight after that, both sides defending well, but on 89 minutes, Everton had a glorious chance to win it, as Rooney played in Pembridge, and in a one on one situation, the Welsh midfielder lashed over the bar. Overall, 1-1 was a decent result, and both sides would have taken that at the start of the day

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The Liverpool Echo

Battling Blues Show Fighting Spirit

In a game at Goodison Park that many expected Everton to be, well, crushed, Fernando Lafuente's side showed a real fighting spirit that could be a massive help in their fight to avoid relegation. The visitors, with such talent as Ruud van Nistelrooy, Seba Veron and Fabien Barthez in the team, were massive favourites, and I'm sure the bookmakers would have been rubbing their hands in delight after six minutes, a Ryan Giggs cross finding Andy Cole, who powered home a header past the helpless Thomas Myhre. Normally, United would go into cruise control, but they simply were not allowed to get into their stride after the goal

The main reason for this was simple, as Denmark international Thomas Gravesen had a superb game in the centre of the Everton midfield. He was there to break up the United attacks, aswell as starting his own sides moves, and it was on of his incisive through balls that almost saw them draw level, Rooney just clipping wide over the onrushing Barthez. That's not to say, however, that the visitors didn't have chances, but three times in the last ten minutes of the first half, they were denied. First from a Veron volley and a wonderful fingertip save from Myhre, secondly, by a post from a Beckham free-kick, and third, a glaring miss from van Nistelrooy, very unlike the Dutchman.

Everton went into the interval 1-0 behind, but happy with their performance, but just like at Bolton, a half-time substitution saw an immediate impact. Rooney was replaced by Kevin Campbell, and the former Arsenal man used all his experience in the game. Idan Tal and Danny Cadamarteri were the main threats on the wings, whipping crosses in constantly, but it wasn't from this that Everton equalised. A nice passing move had seen an inexplicable handball on the edge of the 'D' from Roy Keane, and from the resulting free-kick, Alan Stubbs hammered home a rocket into the bottom right hand corner, giving the home side the equaliser they richly deserved.

Pressure came and went, and two quality saves were required from Myhre to keep his side level, but in the end, I think Alex Ferguson will have to admit that Everton deserved a point. They battled away, weren't frightened to attack, and the draw was just rewards. If Lafuente can get his side to play like that all season, they should have no danger staying in the division

--

The draw against United had made Fernando very proud of his players, and as he sat in the staff lounge, discussing the game with his backroom team, they were all in agreement that the team was making progress. However, the program on the t.v had caught their attention. It was an hour long show, presented by Chris Kamara and Alan McInally, and it discussed the weekend's football. Interestingly, the Everton-United game had been first, and by the time the punditry was finished, Fernando was absolutely livid

"So, Kammy, let's start with the Everton and United game. A surprise point for the home side?"

"Absolutely Al. I think they can count themselves very fortunate to have come away with a point, especially after all the possession and chances that United had. Here, we can show you a few examples..."

"Let's be fair though, they did create a few chances of their own. I thought Thomas Gravesen was absolutely superb, he was at the heart of everything and proved how important this 'holding role' position is in the modern game"

"I still think that they have to be favourites to go down though Alan, or at least one of them. They have no money, have sold four major players, aswell as a few others, and they haven't got enough players of quality to stay up. Three, maybe four injuries, and they are in real trouble"

It had been, at least in Fernando's eyes, an unfair evaluation of his side's performance, and he felt they didn't get the credit they deserved. He made a note of the criticism in his little black book and would come back to it in future reference

After the draw against United, an away trip to Leeds was also going to prove to be a tough encounter. They were a young, fit, hungry side, and with talented players they could easily be challenging for the title if results went their way. However, they were simply second best on the day, as Everton were superb, and should have won the game. The first half was as one-sided as it could have been, with chances falling to Gravesen, Campbell, Tal and Cadamarteri, but Nigel Martyn was having a super game in the Leeds goal. However, on 51 minutes, the chance of winning the game was even greater, as Rio Ferdinand, already booked in the first half, scythed down Campbell to receive his marching orders. This saw the visitors push on, going forward as often as they could, and on 76 minutes, they thought they had a lead, David Weir rising to meet Tal's corner, but the goal was ruled out for pushing. Another disallowed goal on 84 for a marginal offside saw tempers flare on the dugout, and when the final whistle called time on the 0-0 draw, Fernando was left to reflect on what might have been. He made no secret of his anger in the post match interview either...

"The referee was, how you say, a disgrace today. He cost two goals for the team, and cost us the three points"

"So are you going to report the official's performance to the F.A then Fernando?"

"There is no point, the F.A in this country are just like any other, they will not speak out when needed. If that had been Leeds who had disallowed goals, then the official would have, erm, how say? Oh yes, it would have stood. Top teams get decision, that is how this game works..."

That statement, although true, would leave Fernando almost £20,000 out of pocket and with an official warning about his future conduct. He smiled a rueful smile, and decided it would be best to swallow his pride. The F.A will not be spoken to like that obviously, and they made an example of the Spaniard

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August 2001 Summary

(Premier Division unless stated)

Bolton 1-1 Everton

(Nishizawa 49 ; Rooney 51)

Everton 1-1 Manchester United

(Cole 6 ; Stubbs 67)

Leeds United 0-0 Everton

(Ferdinand s/o 51)

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"There is no point, the F.A in this country are just like any other, they will not speak out when needed. If that had been Leeds who had disallowed goals, then the official would have, erm, how say? Oh yes, it would have stood. Top teams get decision, that is how this game works..."

Sheesh. Some things never change :)

Good start, Sherm. Enjoying your opening to this.

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Cheers 10-3

---

The board had, in their wisdom, sanctioned for Fernando to make a cash offer for a player, and that player was one that had been impressive in a pre-season game, Cheltenham's Jamie Victory. The defender was able to play in a variety of positions. aswell as midfield, and for £60,000, he would be a snip of a signing. The bid was quickly accepted, and a contract was offered to the player

While he was mulling over the contract over, he had a chance to see his potential new side in action, as Fernando took his side down to London to face Fulham. As it happened, he wish he'd have never bothered. It was an awful performance, and quite rightly they were soundly beaten by an impressive Fulham side. The start of the game wasn't too bad, as Gravesen and Ferguson both tested van der Sar, but it wasn't unti; the 25th minute that the home side created their best chance, Saha and Marlet combining well, with Saha firing wide. Legwinski also hit a 25 yard effort straight at Myhre, but on 34 minutes, the lead came, a shocking error from David Weir allowing Saha to nip i, the French striker squaring it across the box for midfielder Sean Davis to slot home with ease. The second half was totally different, as Fulham dominated the game, and could quite conceivably have scored four or five. Saha tested Myhre before full back Jon Harley fired home a 20 yard rocket, and eventually Saha got his well deserved goal on 84 minutes, deftly flicking the ball past Myhre to secure the points. Fernando had seen his team well and truly outplayed, and the 3-0 scoreline was no flattery.

..

Fernando had been furious with his side and their performance, and he made no secret of the fact in training on the Monday morning. Having seen them gain creditable draws against Leeds and Manchester United, then to be destroyed off a Fulham side, it smacked of no consistency. This had to change, and consistency had to be at the top of the agenda.

Victory agreed terms just 24 hours before Fernando saw his players compete in their next league game, which meant the defender would be ineligible to play as he wouldn't be registered in time. so, for the visit of Tottenham to Goodison Park, the new signing, introduced to the crowd before kick-off, would sit next to the chairman in his private box to watch his new side in action. Their boss had demanded a better performance than what they had given against Fulham, and to be fair, they delivered. Changes were made, four in total, as Schumacher, Osman, Chadwick and Adolfo all started. The youngsters were all keen to show they deserved their slot, and Chadwick and Osman in particular were superb, creating chances and allowing the strikers to push forward. Chadwick even tested the goalkeeper, a thundering 25 yard effort stinging the hands of Ian Walker as he tipped it wide of the post. Spaniard Adolfo hit the bar with a header, while Gravesen fired wide, but when the opener came on 36 minutes, it was completely against the run of play, Darren Anderton and Tim Sherwood combining well to play in £11 million striker Sergei Rebrov, who rounded Myhre and slid into the empty net.

That goal could quite easily have been a hammer blow for the home side, but it turned out to be a spur, and a minute into stoppagetime, they got the rewards their play deserved, as Osman's saved shot fell straight into the path of Adolfo, who finished with ease and levelled it up going into half time. The second half was a tight affair, neither side wanting to push forward too much and concede the goal, but there were still a couple of good chances. Steffen Iversen had Spurs, a header from six yards that was straight at Myhre, while substitute Duncan Fergsuon missed what can only be described as a golden opportunity, his left foot strike crawling just past the post when it looked easier to score. The final whistle brought to an end the game, locked in a 1-1 stalemate, and though it was a fourth draw in five games, Fernando was starting to worry about his side and their inability to pick up the maximum quota of points, even when dominating games

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Four draws in five league games was, to put it bluntly, not the best start to the season, but there was a perfect chance to end the winless run with a trip down to Shrewsbury in the second round of the League Cup. It was a game that saw both Schumacher and Adolfo keep their places in the starting eleven, while Danny Cadamarteri also started in midfield. Just 340 fans made the trip, but they were treated to their side's best performance of the season, as the game was won within the first 20 minutes

The opener came on six minutes, Unsworth and Tal combining down the left, and the Israel winger drilling a low cross into Adolfo, who touched the ball out of his feet and hammered it into the roof of the net. Tal then turned from provider to scorer, as Schumacher fed him through and he deftly dinked the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper to make it 2-0. This pretty much secured the points, but on 20 minutes, Adolfo headed home his second, and the teams third, which sent them safely into the hat for the third round. That wasn't to say it couldn't have been more, Adolfo could and should have had a hat-trick, Rooney could have scored, Gravesen missed a couple and even Alan Stubbs hit the bar, but the 3-0 win was more than welcome for Fernando and his side

---

"So, joining us on the couch here today for the preview of the weekend's football is Everton manager Fernando Lafuente. Fernando, how important is your side's game against West Ham?"

"Oh it's a huge game Chris. Not quite a six pointer, but still huge. We have to get off the mark in the win column, and it is, how you say, massive for us"

"How do you feel your side have performed so far this season though? Have any particular players caught your eye?"

"We haven't been terrible, and probably should have converted two of the draws into three points, but we still have plenty of time. Thomas Gravesen has been excellent, and without him in midfield, we would be struggling I think"

"And what about the clubs financial situation? Does it require you to sell your best assets?"

"It is no secret that we are short in the financial department, and any funds I do make from selling players has to go to pay off the debts, but that is not my concern"

"So what is your concern then Fernando?"

"The performances on the pitch, plain and simple"

..

The Liverpool Echo

Late Show Gets Everton Off The Mark

Debutant Jamie Victory scored an 83rd minute free-kick to secure his new side their first win of the season, in a result that many fans are hoping can kick start their campaign, although at one stage, it looked like West Ham might keep up the misery for Fernando Lafuente

The game started so well, with Duncan Ferguson using his strength and muscle to cause the West Ham defenders all sorts of problems, and if it hadn't been for Shaka Hislop making three good saves in the opening quarter of an hour, the game could have been wrapped up there and then. However, after 22 minutes, and for the first time this season in the league, the home side took the lead, a long ball from Alan Stubbs bouncing over the defence, and an instinctive left footed volley from the big Scot put them into the lead. In the next 23 minutes, Ferguson hit the bar, Gravesen curled a shot wide and a decent penalty shout was turned down, and going into the half time interval, Everton knew they should have been more than just one ahead

Not capitalising on the dominance was something they were made to pay for, as Wrst Ham started brilliantly in the second half, and within nine minutes, were back level, a moment of genius from Paulo Di Canio saw him turn the defender and curl the ball home past Myhre. This saw a period of dominance from the visitors, and just as in the first half, it was good goalkeeping that kept the scores level, aswell as Trevor Sinclair missing what can only be described as a shocker. Neither side looked like they wanted to give up the point, but when substitute Osman won a free-kick, and Victory curled home from 23 yards, it sent the bench into pandemonium. Victory nearly turned from hero to villian though, as his celebration of running wildly to the fans earnt him a second yellow card and his marching orders, but it made no difference and Everton earnt a vital win

...

It had been a crucial three points, and Fernando looked for his side to continue their form in their next game, an away trip to Southampton, but it was a dull 90 minutes of football, which resulted in a 0-0 draw, Everton's fifth of the season, and saw them sitting just 2 points above the relegation zone at the end of September

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September 2001 Summary

(Premier Division unless stated)

Fulham 3-0 Everton

(Davis 34 ; Harley 57 ; Saha 84)

Everton 1-1 Tottenham

(Rebrov 36 ; Adolfo 45+1)

League Cup Round 2

Shrewsbury 0-3 Everton

(Adolfo 6, 20 ; Tal 11)

Everton 2-1 West Ham

(Ferguson 22 ; Di Canio 54 ; Victory 83 ; Victory s/o 84)

Southampton 0-0 Everton

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Confidence was a little bit higher, thanks mainly to the win over West Ham, and October would start with two home games, both of which were winnable and both of which could provide a welcome gap from the dreaded bottom three. Another boost had also been handed to Fernando, as the board had sanctioned just over £1 million into the coffers, which at least gave some scope for transfers. However, the scouts had been deployed on missions, mainly to find players who would soon be out of contract and available on free transfers, which looked like it would be the best option for strengthening the team.

The first game would see Bobby Robson's Newcastle side travel down to Goodison Park, and the day before the game, bad news struck, as Duncan Ferguson was struck down with the flu. This meant that Wayne Rooney would start, with Kevin Campbell taking his place on the bench, but Stephen Schumacher was replaced by the more experienced Alex Nyarko. This proved to be a good move in the end, as the Ghanaian international was superb, and it was his decisive pass that set up the opener, on three minutes, which saw Wayne Rooney bomb forward and slide past Shay Given. Both sides attacked, and the open game saw several chances created at either end. Craig Bellamy fired a left footed shot wide, while his strike partner Alan Shearer flashed a volley just over. Given denied Nyarko with a stunning save, and David Weir headed over from six yards, a free header he really should have buried, but it was Laurent Robert who was guilty of missing the best opportunity, the ball finding it's way to him, but he managed to hit it straight at Thomas Myhre

The second half was much of the same, as the 'keepers were kept busy throughout the 45 minutes. Rooney tested Given early on, the Irishman tipping the ball wide, but Alan Shearer missed another guilt edged chance, heading over from six yards out. Jamie Victory's long ball set Osman through, but the marauding midfielder fired wide, before Robert hit a thunderbolt free-kick against the woodwork. Both sides had decent opportunities, and with just 3 minutes left, Everton still led 1-0, but that should have been levelled up, as Craig Bellamy set up Lomana Lua-Lua, but the striker somehow contrived to miss when it looked easier to score. Fernando Lafuente didn't care, it was enough to seal his side's second win of the season, and started the month in excellent fashion.

---

Fernando was sat in his office, yet again tucking into a sandwich (which seemed to be his usual food now), when his secretary popped her head round the door

"Mr Lafuente? I'm just heading out for lunch"

"OK Michelle. And what have I said about the Mr. Lafuente bit?"

"Sorry"

Fernando thought he could see a hint of blushing in her cheeks, but he let it go and flashed her his best smile

"Don't be. Listen, how would you like some company for lunch? My treat?"

"Oh...erm, well..."

"I just thought it might be nice to have company, I'm sick of eating on my own"

She suddenly grinned, a smile that made her features look radiant

"Sure. I'll just grab my coat"

They headed into town, and Michelle picked a nice, secluded little Italian place. Fernando enjoyed himself, it was nice to have some company for lunch. He didn't have many friends in Merseyside yet, and though his secretary was a good 8 years younger than him, they seemed to click well. She knew about football too, although she did reveal her alliance was with Liverpool

The hour passed quickly, both of them talking about their families, Fernando about his career, and the food was superb too. They were only interrupted by the sound of Fernando's mobile ringing, distracting both of them from their thoughts

"Damn thing...Hello!"

"Boss, it's Stuart. Have you got ten minutes?"

It was his head scout, Stuart Woolley

"I'm having lunch Stu, can I meet you in an hour?"

"I've got to head back out boss, it has to be now. It is quite important"

"Alright, I'll see you in my office in ten minutes"

He hung up, a little infuriated his dinner had been cut short

"I've got to go back Michelle, how you say, business calls?"

"I think you mean duty calls but never mind"

"That's what I meant. Thankyou for lunch, it was nice to have some company"

"Pleasure's all mine boss. See you later"

And with that, he headed back to the ground, although he wished he was heading somewhere else for the time being

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