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What is a personal reason? A bust up with Mrs. Manager, or the kids playing up again? In Jimmy Quinn’s case, no one seems to know, but its enough to make him resign from Shrewsbury Town a mere month before the start of the upcoming 04/05 season. The applicants were many and varied, and among them me, Mark Cosford, owner of nearly all coaching badges, and with 2 season’s experience of management at the heady heights of Ludlow Town, in the Midland Combination League. During my time at the south Shropshire club, I had become well known for picking up most of the youth players let go by Shrewsbury, and molding them into a team which, after a frantic end of season battle, finished a very credible 3rd in the MCL and actually got to the first round proper of the F.A Cup. I’m also a Town fan, and I watched last year as Quinn’s team huffed and puffed towards the play-off final, eventually beating Aldershot and climbing back to the Football League, at the first attempt. Although the achievement was superb, the manner in which it was obtained was less so. Finishing a full 12 points behind free-flowing Hereford, Town survived on a rugged defense, a good goalkeeper, and a succession of midfielders and forwards grabbing the odd goal to secure the points. In the 3 play-off games, Shrewsbury managed a total of one goal from open play. They were the 7th least scorers overall, a feat a long way from the fan’s vision of a poor league waiting to be swept away by waves of blue and amber. I always believed, as I do, that I could do better.

I secured an interview, and laid out in the clearest possible terms my plan for the club. Complete reorganization. For years the place has been a old boys club, going from one half decent appointment to the next, living in visions of grandeur whilst actually content to simply survive, keep the books balanced, and every so often swap the manager for another ex player. I explained this would have to change. The club would be run professionally at every turn, things done quickly and efficiently. There would be no more dishing out of free tickets to everyone who knew someone (out of a 4000 gate I bet 1,500 get in free), no more getting by on half measures. I would get people moving, if they refused to move, or didn’t move fast enough, they’d be out.

Although the fans were eagerly anticipating the play-offs, I explained to the board that, with the current squad, the team would be lucky to stay up. Somewhat shocked, they asked me for a solution. ‘A new squad’. That got a laugh, they wanted to know where I’d find the money, and that was the easy bit. I explained that whilst the players here were good, competent, professional players, you can’t have 11 of them. You need 3 or 4, which surround a core of young, talented players looking to achieve. Its no use just being hard working and professional, its talent that wins matches.

It’s a bright Sunday morning down by the riverside. I walk the two or so miles down into town, past the imposing brick façade of the Wakeman technical collage, down the lane between it and the railway embankment, and out into the tarmac area in front of the rusting corrugated iron main stand. Its my first day at work. I sweep into the deserted main office, and climb the stairs behind the desk. A left, a few more steps, and I’m on the narrow, blue carpeted corridor that, if you turn right, leads to physio room and dressing rooms, and left to the boardroom and offices. I take a left. The board, equally unhappy at being in on a Sunday, are around their slightly stained old table. I sit down, and we go through a few bits and pieces, me essentially spelling out what needs doing where. One by one, they blanch at things, and wonder what this young man they’ve hardly heard of is going to do to their happy cocoon. Make it successful, I think to myself.

A few bits of paper get shoved at me in various suited hands. Financial stuff mainly. They explain that the club is not rich, and that this must be a primary factor when I am considering ‘improvements’. I smile, and convince them that any money I spend on improvements will be made to work for the club, and improve it overall. Therefore, the script runs, making the whole place more profitable overall. Onto the playing side. I explain that, assuming the club was to win the league, it would need about 10 new players of a much higher quality. This takes them by surprise, but it’s true. They stammer again that I only have £22,000 to spend on new transfers, and that a better team can’t be bought for such prices. That’s their opinion. The final act in the play is a stern look from the Chairman and the explanation that the board expects this year, despite whatever I’ve just said, the team to stay in the league. Without giving them a response, I’m up and off, leaving a straggle of suits and ties in my wake, all of them falling over themselves to show me and my file the office. In the ‘office’ there are 3 desks, a few computers, a bookcase, the odd photo of previous managers, and no window. One desk is mine, the other is my assistant’s, and the 3rd is the Chief Scout. Chief Scout? We don’t have a flipping chief scout. Eventually, they go home, leaving the chairman, a Mr. Roland Wycherly (made his money in vending machines), to show me round, and introduce me to all the rest of the coaching staff and other workers in the players lounge. The players themselves will be in tomorrow. I give this lot a similar speech, emphasizing that there will be no shortcuts, and if everyone just does the job they’ve been assigned, we’ll get on fine. I retreat to my office, beckoning the coaches, physio’s and scouts in with me. They’re a funny bunch:

Dave Cooke is my assistant manager, he was Jimmy Quinn’s, but didn’t leave when his boss did. He knows I’ll want a new assistant, and therefore keeps quiet. As a coach, the man is not completely useless I feel, so I can see a new contract offer on the table, removing him from his current position.

Nigel Vaughan is a relic of two regimes ago, and has been head of the youth system for ages. Once again, not terrible, but he’ll be offered a new one year deal soon.

Dave Timmins: Goalkeeper coach. A fat and lazy one. I can see Cooke taking his place, for the moment at least. Dave got the job, I suspect, because he ‘knows someone’.

Jamie Robinson: Another young coach, he’s not been here long, and has had the mat swept from under him, which is a shame. Unfortunately, once again, he seems to have powerful friends, and I ain’t one of them.

Chic Bates: Chic has played and managed this club before, and, whilst he’s a experienced coach, he’s been here too long. I don’t want relics of past years hanging over my head.

Dean Spink: Dean was a popular (if not terribly good) captain for the club in the early 90’s. He’s since turned into a physio. His qualifications are impressive, but once again, he may be close to people who don’t necessarily want me here. A outward move should be engineered as soon as possible.

Rachel Greenly: Our female member of staff is another physio, and a competent one. No problems with Rachel, but again, she’ll get a new 1 year deal to sign

Trevor Cook: Our only scout, and looking at the illegible reports he’s sent in over the past weeks. He’s someone I can cope with out.

The lot of these will be phased out, all will be offered new 1 year contracts, which won’t be renewed once expired.

I now turn to the individual dossiers on the playing staff, a set of men I think I know well. I’ve seen them in action often enough!

Scott Howie: One of our better players, big Scott is a tall classy keeper who I can easily see being my number one. He’s 32 though, and our only keeper, so I’m going to have to look for a replacement.

Darren Moss: Another of our good players. Darren is the only youngster whose really pushed on. He’s a solid 22 year old DR who has several caps for Wales U21’s. Unless someone really better comes along, he’s going to be with us for the foreseeable future.

Darren Tinson: 34 year old ‘Tinno’ is club captain and a much vaunted DC. It was his superb defending that got us up last year, but I feel that his wages are too high, and his legs too slow. He’s going to be gently moved aside.

Dave Ridler: Dave was the other half of Tinson’s centre half partnership and did excellently in the conference. But playing against what? Dave isn’t good enough, and shoring up the defense is a massive priority.

Stuart Whitehead: Signed from the now defunct Telford United in the summer, Stuart is a backup defender, signed when no-one else could be found. I know of better defenders, and therefore Stuart is on his way out.

Dave Walton: 31 year old Dave is back at the club for his second spell. He was a big presence for us many years ago, but he’s not the player he was, and there is suspicion in the press that it was not Quinn, but the chairman that signed him back. I’m not having that, and I’m not having Dave either.

Trevor Challis: Our one and only left back, Trev scored that penalty to take us up last year, and is generally a nice and solid 28 year old defender. Solid is as good as it gets, and while I’m happy to keep him, I’ll be looking for a new left sided defender.

Jake Sedgemore: Brought in as a utility player from Northwich, Jake is just that, a versatile, honest, hardworking 25 year old pro.

Jamie Tolley: Jamie should be the best DMC in the league. He broke into the team at 16, and now, at 21, he’s hardly moved on. He can, on his day, dominate games, but I think the Wales U21 international’s time here is up. He needs to move away from the cosy niche he’s dug himself, and take his £800 a week with him. He’s a asset we may actually get some money for, and his contract is up at the end of the season, so a transfer out now may be the best option.

Sam Aiston: A former England youth international, Sam looked to have it all, but his lack of a final ball has meant this AML has slid down the leagues. He’s still very strong, very quick, and has fantastic skills though, so the chances of him staying in the squad are nice and high I feel.

Dave Edwards: A genuine prospect, 18 year old Dave is already beginning to serge ahead of Jamie Tolley both in our team and in the Wales U21’s. He’s a tough midfielder who can also do bits and pieces with the ball. In a few years, there may be a player there.

Martin O’Connor: 36 year old Martin did more than his share last year, and was a huge favorite of the previous manager. He’s a decent enough MC, but his wages are more than mine, and in this pennywise atmosphere, Martin is going to have to go.

Kevin Street: 25 year old Kev is a good player, make no mistake. However, he’s not as good as some I could bring in for less money, so he could find himself being transferred away from here soon.

Ben Smith: Ben is almost identical to above. Part of that superb Hereford team last year, he’s brought his creative left foot to us. He’s a classy player, make no mistake, but I have plans to bring in some other classy players, so he could find himself squeezed out. No doubt though, he’s my type of player.

Ryan Lowe: Ryan’s a funny player. He’s capable of some good moments, but also of being completely useless. The AM/FR is also earning a pretty packet, so he’s going to be out soon.

Duane Darby: Part of our 3 strikers, Duane has a big reputation, and has never delivered. At 25, he may have been a powerful lower league force, but now, with his 31 year old legs failing, and no ability on the ball to fall back on, he’s turning into a overpaid liability. He’s got to go.

Luke Rodgers: The star man, the fans favorite, the so called goal threat. I’m inclined to disagree. Young Luke scores 5 wonder goals a season and everyone gets taken in by it. He’s a good player, but if we play him and Darby this year we’re not going to score enough goals. He’s quick, and reasonably skillful, but it isn’t going to work, he doesn’t have the brains.

John Grant: Again, signed from Telford, 22 year old John is a useful player, but plainly not good enough for this level. He’s never proved he’s anything more than hard working, and I make plans to ditch him.

There you are, out of that squad, I’m anticipating keeping 5 of them. At most. I like players with talent, and there’s enough of them about to consider scrapping this lot and producing a team with the ability to actually take the game to people and beat them, rather than simply containing them. My view is simple. I expect the things that fans like, like hard work and professionalism, to be there as a basic standard. On top of that, I give players a job to do. I don’t expect to have 11 Zidane’s, I just buy players who will do the job I tell them. A centre half for example, needs to be able to win the ball and give it to a colleague. If they can’t do that, then they’re not up to it. I find a job for people, focusing more on what they can do, rather than what they can’t.

To improve this lot I have £22k, plus a wage budget of just over £9000 a week. They are currently earning nearly £11k. So players will have to go before I can begin improvements.

So that’s it, 8 players transfer listed, and 4 more names circulated with a view to a deal.

Various contacts are already bearing fruit, and today will be spent trying to attract some interest in some players, and then start pre-season training tomorrow.

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What is a personal reason? A bust up with Mrs. Manager, or the kids playing up again? In Jimmy Quinn’s case, no one seems to know, but its enough to make him resign from Shrewsbury Town a mere month before the start of the upcoming 04/05 season. The applicants were many and varied, and among them me, Mark Cosford, owner of nearly all coaching badges, and with 2 season’s experience of management at the heady heights of Ludlow Town, in the Midland Combination League. During my time at the south Shropshire club, I had become well known for picking up most of the youth players let go by Shrewsbury, and molding them into a team which, after a frantic end of season battle, finished a very credible 3rd in the MCL and actually got to the first round proper of the F.A Cup. I’m also a Town fan, and I watched last year as Quinn’s team huffed and puffed towards the play-off final, eventually beating Aldershot and climbing back to the Football League, at the first attempt. Although the achievement was superb, the manner in which it was obtained was less so. Finishing a full 12 points behind free-flowing Hereford, Town survived on a rugged defense, a good goalkeeper, and a succession of midfielders and forwards grabbing the odd goal to secure the points. In the 3 play-off games, Shrewsbury managed a total of one goal from open play. They were the 7th least scorers overall, a feat a long way from the fan’s vision of a poor league waiting to be swept away by waves of blue and amber. I always believed, as I do, that I could do better.

I secured an interview, and laid out in the clearest possible terms my plan for the club. Complete reorganization. For years the place has been a old boys club, going from one half decent appointment to the next, living in visions of grandeur whilst actually content to simply survive, keep the books balanced, and every so often swap the manager for another ex player. I explained this would have to change. The club would be run professionally at every turn, things done quickly and efficiently. There would be no more dishing out of free tickets to everyone who knew someone (out of a 4000 gate I bet 1,500 get in free), no more getting by on half measures. I would get people moving, if they refused to move, or didn’t move fast enough, they’d be out.

Although the fans were eagerly anticipating the play-offs, I explained to the board that, with the current squad, the team would be lucky to stay up. Somewhat shocked, they asked me for a solution. ‘A new squad’. That got a laugh, they wanted to know where I’d find the money, and that was the easy bit. I explained that whilst the players here were good, competent, professional players, you can’t have 11 of them. You need 3 or 4, which surround a core of young, talented players looking to achieve. Its no use just being hard working and professional, its talent that wins matches.

It’s a bright Sunday morning down by the riverside. I walk the two or so miles down into town, past the imposing brick façade of the Wakeman technical collage, down the lane between it and the railway embankment, and out into the tarmac area in front of the rusting corrugated iron main stand. Its my first day at work. I sweep into the deserted main office, and climb the stairs behind the desk. A left, a few more steps, and I’m on the narrow, blue carpeted corridor that, if you turn right, leads to physio room and dressing rooms, and left to the boardroom and offices. I take a left. The board, equally unhappy at being in on a Sunday, are around their slightly stained old table. I sit down, and we go through a few bits and pieces, me essentially spelling out what needs doing where. One by one, they blanch at things, and wonder what this young man they’ve hardly heard of is going to do to their happy cocoon. Make it successful, I think to myself.

A few bits of paper get shoved at me in various suited hands. Financial stuff mainly. They explain that the club is not rich, and that this must be a primary factor when I am considering ‘improvements’. I smile, and convince them that any money I spend on improvements will be made to work for the club, and improve it overall. Therefore, the script runs, making the whole place more profitable overall. Onto the playing side. I explain that, assuming the club was to win the league, it would need about 10 new players of a much higher quality. This takes them by surprise, but it’s true. They stammer again that I only have £22,000 to spend on new transfers, and that a better team can’t be bought for such prices. That’s their opinion. The final act in the play is a stern look from the Chairman and the explanation that the board expects this year, despite whatever I’ve just said, the team to stay in the league. Without giving them a response, I’m up and off, leaving a straggle of suits and ties in my wake, all of them falling over themselves to show me and my file the office. In the ‘office’ there are 3 desks, a few computers, a bookcase, the odd photo of previous managers, and no window. One desk is mine, the other is my assistant’s, and the 3rd is the Chief Scout. Chief Scout? We don’t have a flipping chief scout. Eventually, they go home, leaving the chairman, a Mr. Roland Wycherly (made his money in vending machines), to show me round, and introduce me to all the rest of the coaching staff and other workers in the players lounge. The players themselves will be in tomorrow. I give this lot a similar speech, emphasizing that there will be no shortcuts, and if everyone just does the job they’ve been assigned, we’ll get on fine. I retreat to my office, beckoning the coaches, physio’s and scouts in with me. They’re a funny bunch:

Dave Cooke is my assistant manager, he was Jimmy Quinn’s, but didn’t leave when his boss did. He knows I’ll want a new assistant, and therefore keeps quiet. As a coach, the man is not completely useless I feel, so I can see a new contract offer on the table, removing him from his current position.

Nigel Vaughan is a relic of two regimes ago, and has been head of the youth system for ages. Once again, not terrible, but he’ll be offered a new one year deal soon.

Dave Timmins: Goalkeeper coach. A fat and lazy one. I can see Cooke taking his place, for the moment at least. Dave got the job, I suspect, because he ‘knows someone’.

Jamie Robinson: Another young coach, he’s not been here long, and has had the mat swept from under him, which is a shame. Unfortunately, once again, he seems to have powerful friends, and I ain’t one of them.

Chic Bates: Chic has played and managed this club before, and, whilst he’s a experienced coach, he’s been here too long. I don’t want relics of past years hanging over my head.

Dean Spink: Dean was a popular (if not terribly good) captain for the club in the early 90’s. He’s since turned into a physio. His qualifications are impressive, but once again, he may be close to people who don’t necessarily want me here. A outward move should be engineered as soon as possible.

Rachel Greenly: Our female member of staff is another physio, and a competent one. No problems with Rachel, but again, she’ll get a new 1 year deal to sign

Trevor Cook: Our only scout, and looking at the illegible reports he’s sent in over the past weeks. He’s someone I can cope with out.

The lot of these will be phased out, all will be offered new 1 year contracts, which won’t be renewed once expired.

I now turn to the individual dossiers on the playing staff, a set of men I think I know well. I’ve seen them in action often enough!

Scott Howie: One of our better players, big Scott is a tall classy keeper who I can easily see being my number one. He’s 32 though, and our only keeper, so I’m going to have to look for a replacement.

Darren Moss: Another of our good players. Darren is the only youngster whose really pushed on. He’s a solid 22 year old DR who has several caps for Wales U21’s. Unless someone really better comes along, he’s going to be with us for the foreseeable future.

Darren Tinson: 34 year old ‘Tinno’ is club captain and a much vaunted DC. It was his superb defending that got us up last year, but I feel that his wages are too high, and his legs too slow. He’s going to be gently moved aside.

Dave Ridler: Dave was the other half of Tinson’s centre half partnership and did excellently in the conference. But playing against what? Dave isn’t good enough, and shoring up the defense is a massive priority.

Stuart Whitehead: Signed from the now defunct Telford United in the summer, Stuart is a backup defender, signed when no-one else could be found. I know of better defenders, and therefore Stuart is on his way out.

Dave Walton: 31 year old Dave is back at the club for his second spell. He was a big presence for us many years ago, but he’s not the player he was, and there is suspicion in the press that it was not Quinn, but the chairman that signed him back. I’m not having that, and I’m not having Dave either.

Trevor Challis: Our one and only left back, Trev scored that penalty to take us up last year, and is generally a nice and solid 28 year old defender. Solid is as good as it gets, and while I’m happy to keep him, I’ll be looking for a new left sided defender.

Jake Sedgemore: Brought in as a utility player from Northwich, Jake is just that, a versatile, honest, hardworking 25 year old pro.

Jamie Tolley: Jamie should be the best DMC in the league. He broke into the team at 16, and now, at 21, he’s hardly moved on. He can, on his day, dominate games, but I think the Wales U21 international’s time here is up. He needs to move away from the cosy niche he’s dug himself, and take his £800 a week with him. He’s a asset we may actually get some money for, and his contract is up at the end of the season, so a transfer out now may be the best option.

Sam Aiston: A former England youth international, Sam looked to have it all, but his lack of a final ball has meant this AML has slid down the leagues. He’s still very strong, very quick, and has fantastic skills though, so the chances of him staying in the squad are nice and high I feel.

Dave Edwards: A genuine prospect, 18 year old Dave is already beginning to serge ahead of Jamie Tolley both in our team and in the Wales U21’s. He’s a tough midfielder who can also do bits and pieces with the ball. In a few years, there may be a player there.

Martin O’Connor: 36 year old Martin did more than his share last year, and was a huge favorite of the previous manager. He’s a decent enough MC, but his wages are more than mine, and in this pennywise atmosphere, Martin is going to have to go.

Kevin Street: 25 year old Kev is a good player, make no mistake. However, he’s not as good as some I could bring in for less money, so he could find himself being transferred away from here soon.

Ben Smith: Ben is almost identical to above. Part of that superb Hereford team last year, he’s brought his creative left foot to us. He’s a classy player, make no mistake, but I have plans to bring in some other classy players, so he could find himself squeezed out. No doubt though, he’s my type of player.

Ryan Lowe: Ryan’s a funny player. He’s capable of some good moments, but also of being completely useless. The AM/FR is also earning a pretty packet, so he’s going to be out soon.

Duane Darby: Part of our 3 strikers, Duane has a big reputation, and has never delivered. At 25, he may have been a powerful lower league force, but now, with his 31 year old legs failing, and no ability on the ball to fall back on, he’s turning into a overpaid liability. He’s got to go.

Luke Rodgers: The star man, the fans favorite, the so called goal threat. I’m inclined to disagree. Young Luke scores 5 wonder goals a season and everyone gets taken in by it. He’s a good player, but if we play him and Darby this year we’re not going to score enough goals. He’s quick, and reasonably skillful, but it isn’t going to work, he doesn’t have the brains.

John Grant: Again, signed from Telford, 22 year old John is a useful player, but plainly not good enough for this level. He’s never proved he’s anything more than hard working, and I make plans to ditch him.

There you are, out of that squad, I’m anticipating keeping 5 of them. At most. I like players with talent, and there’s enough of them about to consider scrapping this lot and producing a team with the ability to actually take the game to people and beat them, rather than simply containing them. My view is simple. I expect the things that fans like, like hard work and professionalism, to be there as a basic standard. On top of that, I give players a job to do. I don’t expect to have 11 Zidane’s, I just buy players who will do the job I tell them. A centre half for example, needs to be able to win the ball and give it to a colleague. If they can’t do that, then they’re not up to it. I find a job for people, focusing more on what they can do, rather than what they can’t.

To improve this lot I have £22k, plus a wage budget of just over £9000 a week. They are currently earning nearly £11k. So players will have to go before I can begin improvements.

So that’s it, 8 players transfer listed, and 4 more names circulated with a view to a deal.

Various contacts are already bearing fruit, and today will be spent trying to attract some interest in some players, and then start pre-season training tomorrow.

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12.7.04

Monday morning hits like a submarine. The press are clambering over themselves to take photo’s of me, and there’s a fair few fans milling around the stadium. Its so bad that in the end I start pre-season training not at our dedicated facilities several miles away, but on the Gay Meadow pitch, and therefore finding myself on the wrong side of the groundsman on only my second day. Considering that, in the individual meetings we had this morning, most of these players were told their time at the club was coming to an abrupt end, the training goes fairly well.

To break them this news, I have an individual meeting with all the players, explaining their position. After 20 minutes or so, they begin to see it my way.

The phone is buzzing with messages. I’ve contacted several clubs with a view to freindlies, all of which will have to come after we play Arsenal! They signed a teenage youth player off us last season, and a friendly was part of the deal.

Also today, all of the coaching staff signed their new contracts. They know it’s the best they’ll get.

I sweep around the place changing things. The photo’s of all the old managers are dumped, and I stand over our receptionist as she takes a phone call. Afterwards, I take it upon myself to give her a lesson on professional caller handling. I didn’t work at Powergen for nothing.

13.7.04

A lot of messages back from the club’s we fired of faxes to regarding out unwanted players. Turns out we’re not the only ones who don’t want them. We have, however, received bids of varying amounts for Darby, Grant and Sedgemore.

14.7.04

I’ve settled in ok, and I’m beginning to add my own coaching staff. Gerry Reddy, a astute Irishman with a vicious sense of humor has joined as my assistant. Gerry is a superb diplomat, an inspiring coach, and a hard disciplinarian. He was on the same coaching course as me, and he’ll be fabulous for us. Spencer Field has arrived as chief scout, and Scott Middlemass, and Matthew Jones have both signed as coaches. Jones used to play for me at Ludlow before being finished by injury. He’s 23. Now he has a chance to use the skill’s he’s gained on various courses.

My first ever signing! Danny Bolt is a 28 year old left sided midfielder with incredible skill and a lovely left foot. He can beat people for fun, he’s quickish, and he can whip in some wonderful crosses. No-one knows who he is, but they soon will. He’s going to be a big influence for us.

Tonight is my first ever game, and what a start, the premiership champions at home! Yep, as part of that pre-agreed deal, we play Arsenal at home. I don’t actually want to play this game, it’s a huge distraction, with the players more concerned about whose shirt they’re going to get after the game. They forget we’ll probably be playing a reserve team. On the plus side, its good publicity, and we may make a bob or two.

The game is quite a spectacle. They cruise to a 6-2 win, demonstrating some lovely football, but Danny Bolt is our star. He scores one with a penalty, and goes on several fabulous run’s, one of which leads to a perfect through ball, which Kevin Street scores from. He looks like a sensational signing.

16.7.04

A signing, a cash signing! One of the main ways of winning a game is to score more goals than the opposition. Through signing Scott Fitzgerald, we have secured a player who should do that. The 24 year old has arrived from Watford for £9k, and, with his pace and finishing, he should get us some goals. Now to find someone to play him with.

Also today, the signing of Sergei Baltacha. The 24 year old was capped by Scotland U21’s before sliding away and signing for Peterhill. We’ve picked the DC up for free, and a darn good deal it is too. He’s big, he’s tough, and he’s not completely slow.

I’m also in negotiation to sign big centre forward Peter Weatherson from Greenock Morton. To be continued…

17.7.04

A player out. Jake Sedgemore has signed for Grays in a £2k deal. Good luck to him.

Also, 3 of our youth team have taken up my option and left for other clubs.

Its been a interesting experience with these trial players. They’re from all different backgrounds, different ages, different experience. Its been a eye opener I can tell you. There are no really famous names, but there are some old pro’s, and a few lively young kids. Most are here for two weeks.

To counter that, we have two players in! Lee Briscoe once played for England’s U21’s, but now the 28 year old left back has signed for us. He’s better than Trevor Challis, and is generally a very solid pro. I’m pleased to have him on board, I’m not happy with this defense, so the addition of Briscoe will significantly strengthen it.

Also in, for £8k, is Droylsden’s Chris O’Brien. He’s a tremendous 22 year old MC with a superb left foot and the ability to pick out a pass over any distance. He’s box to box, and can score more than his fair share of goals.

18.7.04

More transfer news: In is Christopher Todd, a man mountain centre back signed for 2 years. The 22 year old is absolutely huge, but has his fair share of pace and is quite classy too.

Out is John Grant, for £4k to non-league Marine.

19.7.04

Droylsden away, a sort of thank-you for Chris O’Brien.

It finishes 4-0. Danny Bolt scored two absolutely magical goals, Chris O’Brien smashed in a goal to cap off a man of the match display and trialist Simon Parke got one for luck.

We played well, and the raw talent of some of these players is there. Dave Edwards did well when he came on too…

20.7.04

Another signing to bolster that defense Gavin Bassinder is a big, quick, no-nonesense 24 year old defender we’ve signed from Fairsley for £4k. He’s uncompromising, and will do us a solid job. Which is all I ask for.

21.7.04

Yet another signing, with George Fotheringham coming in from Larkhall on a free. He’s a 23 year old right winger with something special. He’s not quick, but he seems to have a little turn of pace and a graceful, languid skill which takes him away from his man effortlessly. When he’s done that, he has the right foot to put the ball on a pinhead. To be fair, I admit that these signings are not exactly setting the world on fire, but I think that when they’ve had some time to play, we’ll be on a winner with these guys.

25.7.04

Afan Lido away, yet another warm up game for some of our new players.

Its an entertaining 4-2 win. They score two absolute wonder goals which Scott Howie admits he didn’t even see, but Danny Bolt scores yet again, twice George Fotheringham crosses for Simon Parke (the lankiest striker ever) to score with two bullet headers, and Gavin Bassinder slams in a penalty.

A good performance, and with us struggling to sign Peter Weatherson, Parke may find himself with a job sooner rather than later.

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29.7.04

Another new player. We’ve signed 21 year old Petter Bjorkil from Hammerfest on a free transfer. He’s a very promising goalkeeper who will be backup for Scotty Howie.

We’re also away to Kingstonian tonight.

It finishes a 3-1 defeat. We don’t play well and make several mistakes. Blame being a new team.

31.7.04

New signing. Simon Parke is not that good. He’s a absolutely huge striker with lots of strength and not a lot of pace who has signed a 1 year deal. He’s 31. As I say, he’s not brilliant, but as a backup, he’ll do. He has two good feet, and is terrific in the air, he’ll cause some trouble, but only as a backup I hope.

2.8.04

Our final friendly, with Sunderland at home.

We lose 2-0, which is frustrating. Both their goals are sloppy, and only serve to highlight that my defense is not all it should be.

After the match, in my office, I received a strange phone call. A team based in Singapore, and drawing most of its players from the ranks of the military, wants to buy Luke Rodgers! I tell them that in principle, yes, and then go about making some enquiries about this mystery team…

7.8.04

Today is the day. The pratting about with freindlies is over, today is number 1 of 46, Mansfield at home.

The players are in early, and its not good news. Injuries to Bassinder, Moss and Baltacha have failed to clear. 3 of our best defenders already out.

Thus, my proposed system will have to change. Instead of a flat 4-4-2, we’re going with 3 centre half’s, wingbacks, 3 midfield players and two forwards. Howie is in goal, with a back 3 of Walton, Todd and Challis in front of him. Only Todd of those is a first choice defender. On the right, the wingback is George Fotheringham. I have little choice in that. On the left, it’s the classy Lee Briscoe, who should be ok there. Sitting in front of them will be Jamie Tolley. Its his job to win the ball, and give it to the wingbacks or his fellow midfielders. In front of him are Danny Bolt and Chris O’Brien. Both of them have license to roam, and will be expected to get forward, get shots in, and get the team moving at every opportunity. Up front are big Simon Parke and Scott Fitzgerald. Parke must get in on the deep crosses of the wingbacks, whilst holding the ball up for long enough to allow the midfielders to join him. Fitzgerald’s job is simple. Score goals.

Its not a good formation really, we’re so vulnerable to crosses, and over-heavy at the back. We must make sure that O’Brien and Bolt have most of the ball for us, otherwise the defenders will see too much of the ball, and we’ll be in trouble because they can’t pass to save their lives. On the bench are Bjorkil, Tinson, Edwards, Rodgers and Street.

The captain is young Chris O’Brien, he’s one of those who leads completely by example, and everyone has been impressed with him in pre-season. He leads the clattering group out into the wave of noise and color, for my first ever competitive professional match.

In front of nearly 6000 people, its 1-0 to the good guys at half time. We’ve played well, and our goal was excellent. Dave Walton got the ball to Tolley, who moved it forward for O’Brien. He gave the ball to Fitzgerald, who burst beyond their defender and rattled the ball into the net. We could have had more. Fitzgerald has missed several great chances, and generally we’re on top. Unfortunately, Asamoah is causing our make-shift back 3 immense trouble, and he must be shut out.

The game descends into a scrap, and our defense falls apart. They equalize. Howie only palms the ball away and their lad strokes it home. Not good.

We go forward, but the legs are a bit tired, most of these players have never even played league football before.

Then, in stoppage time, we get our break. Fitzgerald goes up the left wing, and pulls the ball back for Briscoe to shoot. He does so, and just before it reaches the keeper, Simon Parke juts out a leg, and deflects it beyond him and into the net!

A good performance, not as good it could have been, but hey, we got 3 debut points!

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10.8.04

Cambridge away, which is a whole different ball game. It�s a long coach ride, but it gives Sergei Baltacha�s injury time to heal, and he comes in for Challis in the back 3. Today is going to be tough, so, as much as I like fancy football, it�s a case of hitting it at Parke today, and seeing what happens. They�ve got a 5 man midfield and 4 at the back. This means our wingbacks have to push on and make up a Shrewsbury midfield 5. Chris Todd will man mark their loan striker, and the rest should happen from there.

Half time, and we�re 2-1 down. After only 4 minutes, their star man, Luke Gutteridge, scores an incredible 30 yard curler. Suddenly, they�re bright and breezy and our team of newbie�s is on the back foot. Somehow, we get back into it. Briscoe uses that superb left foot to guide a ball over the top onto the boot of Scotty Fitzgerald. He takes a touch, and has the ball in the net before you can blink.

That might have been good, but within minutes its all undone. Guttridge crosses to the far post, Walton fails to deal with it, and its in our net before you can say fiddlesticks. Or anything else. I�m not happy, but I tell them to get out there and take the game to them. Play 10 yards further up the park, get the ball to O�Brien!

For a while it works, then a cross is stabbed into his own net by Jamie Tolley, and it appears to be game over. I�ve had enough, going for all out attack, we finally begin to play some football, and if only Fitzgerald was a bit quicker, we�d have been back in the game long before Danny Bolt cut in from the right and swung a left footed drive over the keeper and in. Surely now we�ll get back. We�re in total command, Cambridge locked in their own half, their formation beginning to cramp them. Then, without warning, Bolt goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. Slamming into a tackle, he earns booking number two, and he�s off back down the tunnel. That�s it, us finished. They come forward, their old confidence restored, and the game cruises to a predictable 3-2 defeat.

Unfortunate, I think had we had all our players fit today, we would have won, but it wasn�t to be.

12.8.04

Bits of transfer news: Firstly, Luke Rodgers has spoken to SAFFC (Singapore Armed Forces FC) and has agreed a deal. It will go through on the 24th of next month!

Also out, but to a less exotic destination, is Dave Ridler. He�s gone to Boston on a free transfer.

In has come Dave McEwen. Dave was once a real hot prospect, playing in the premiership several times for Spurs. One can see why he was so highly rated. He has a touch and grace about him which is way above this level, but its his own body that brings him down. He�s not quite quick, strong, or tall enough, although he is good enough in the air. He�s a real class player though, and to pick the 25 year old up on a free is a fantastic signing.

14.8.04

Lincoln at home, and we need to get a win to minimize the damage done by Tuesday night�s result. Finally, I have people fit, and therefore I�m able to go to 4-4-2. A back 4 of Darren Moss, Christopher Todd, Sergei Baltacha and Lee Briscoe sit behind a midfield of George Fotheringham, Chris O�Brien, Kevin Street and Sam Aiston. Yes, that means Jamie Tolley has been dropped. We have received a bid of �14k for him from Southport, and with money tight, we don�t want him getting injured and depriving us of that sum. Danny Bolt obviously can�t play in his preferred left wing role, so is replaced by Sam who is just as effective, but in other ways. McEwen is on the bench.

Half time brings more chaos than the match. Unused to the stunning concept of 4-4-2, our brave lads are pinned back in their own half by a Lincoln who could possibly score every time they come forward. Somehow, and mainly down to the man currently sitting in a ambulance, they haven�t. In only 45 minutes we�ve lost both captain (Chris O�Brien) and goalkeeper (Scott Howie) to injuries. The second half could be a long affair.

Despite the growing clouds, it starts brightly, and once again it�s the sweet left peg of Lee Briscoe that makes the difference. Calmly taking the ball from Bjorki, he fires a inch perfect pass up the line for Aiston. Sammy cuts inside and hoofs the ball to the far post where George Fotheringham arrives to drill home his first Shrewsbury goal. It doesn�t last. Briscoe gets pulled out, the back two are everywhere and nowhere, Moss, asleep on the right side, doesn�t pick up the runner, and they�re level before our young Norwegian can react.

It finishes 1-1, and before the end, both Moss and Fitzgerald are carried off injured. I�m not happy with either performance or point, we looked lost, we didn�t look like a cohesive unit, a problem I hope time will solve. Without Chris O�Brien there was little in the middle of the pitch and that is a huge problem. I need midfielders, and quick.

The injury news isn�t good either. We�ll be without O�Brien for a full 3 weeks and without Scott Howie for 2. That is most definitely not good, whilst Bjorki is good, his English is still not brilliant. So on top of everything, I need another keeper too.

One player has gone out. We�ve transferred big Darren Tinson to Grays for �2k. It�s a shame for Tinno, who is a perfect professional and a great player in his time. Unfortunately, it hasn�t worked out for him with me. Good luck to him.

17.8.04

Yet another player out, with striker Duane Darby being transferred to Grays as well as Tinno. He has 3 to choose from, so he chose the one that we wouldn�t get a fee from. Thanks, Duane.

21.8.04

A new signing. Lee Marshall is a 29 year old attack minded right back we�ve brought in on a free, but only on a short term contract. He�s better going forward than he is defending, but he passes the ball well. He came to my attention talking to Liam O�Kane at Nottingham Forest, who Lee used to play for. Turns out he�s been on a free since being released by Stockport at the end of last year. He�s not much better than what we have to be honest, but he�s good back up, as we don�t have many right backs.

We Swansea away today, and Lee Marshall goes straight into the side, replacing Darren Moss. Danny Bolt comes in on the left side for Aiston, and Jamie Tolley replaces the injured Chris O�Brien.

It�s a incredible first half. Within 5 minutes, our shape collapses, and we�re reduced to the long ball. They pummel us, and a lack of English doesn�t seem to prevent Bjorkli making several great saves to keep us in it. Then, we break, and get a free kick, which Danny Bolt curls into the top corner. Cue, mass attack from Swansea. Not always good, Baltacha clear, and Parke, doing all he can, flicks on. It sets Fitzgerald away, and he clips a lovely finish into the bottom corner. Can it be? Are we 2-0 up? Yes, and then no. Within 5 minutes, everything comes good, and Paul Connor and Lee Trundle have both made the most of mistakes to score two incredible goals. How come every goal we concede is a screamer?

I�m furious, but I hide it and try and build up the players. Ok, we�ve lost a two goal lead, but if we keep playing, we can go on and win this. It can go either way, please let it go ours. But it won�t without changes, our midfield is none existent, so Kevin Street comes off, and Dave Edwards is on.

We score after 30 seconds. Bolt escapes two down the left, and pulls the ball back to Parke, who slams the thing high over the keeper and in. Right, get yourselves together and hold this. Of course, we don�t. From 30 yards, Bjorkli barely moves as a deflected free kick whizzes past him.

I�m not happy, but I suppose I should be. 3 times ahead, and 3 times surrendering a lead, is not good. Our defense still looks very dodgy, but they need time. It�s the midfield that�s the real problem, the defense looks as though it could do ok, but at the moment what is in front of it is providing no real barrier. We have scored 8 goals, the 4th most in the league, but have let in the same number. Not at all what I want.

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24.8.04

Another player out, and selling Ryan Lowe to Exeter on a free transfer will make a huge difference to our wage bill. He’s a good player, but not for us.

25.8.04

Tonight is an incredibly tough game. We’re away to Championship side Sheffield United. Obviously they will be looking to win, and privately I suspect they will, because our defense won’t be good enough, but we can score goals, and if our midfield can do its stuff in supporting the strikers and getting a few good balls in for them to feed on, we are capable of getting a result. Its going to take a different performance to that that we’ve put out so far, but we may get a bit more space tonight, if they’re not too bothered. Also, this should be a big earner! No changes to the team, we have to go for it if we’re to get anything at all.

As first half’s go, this hasn’t been too bad. They, obviously, have had all the play, but we’ve done ok defensively, even if its been their shocking finishing that has saved us at times. We actually took the lead! Danny Bolt has been wonderful down the left, and on one such occasion, he burst inside Wayne Quinn and pulled the ball to the edge of the area where Jamie Tolley shot first time into the bottom corner. Another Bolt cross was completely naused up by Fotheringham, meaning that we should actually be 2-1 up, rather than only the 1-0 we currently have. Their goal was slightly disappointing in that Sergei Baltacha was completely done for by their striker, but I have to give him some leeway, he was playing part time a month ago.

The second half is similar, us defending, and occasionally trying to play on the break. They have a few chances, which Bjorkli deals with, but we have to score again, at some point, we must get out and get a goal. With half an hour to go, Kevin Street comes off, and is replaced by young Dave Edwards. Its an instant effect. Picking up the ball from Briscoe, he drives at their defense, before chipping a ball over the top for Fitzgerald. He doesn’t reach it, but it bounces off Wayne Quinn’s boot, and falls invitingly to Fotheringham. Paddy Kenny comes racing out, Fotheringham dinks it around him, and uses the outside of his right boot to fire the ball into the empty net from a good 20 yards.

Only 5 minutes later, we do it all again. Edwards wins the ball, and feeds Briscoe up the left wing. Playing at this level is no worry for him, he did it last year. He swaggers past Wayne Quinn (again), and clips the ball to the edge of the area. It’s a repeat job, and Jamie Tolley obliges by hammering the ball into the net. A small cohort of blue and amber fans somersault out of the ground.

Although they pull a late goal back with a stunning strike, we survive, and cruise away up on cloud number 9!

It was a great performance, our defending could have been better, and if their finishing had been better, they should have beaten us, but on the break we showed that having players who can actually use a football rather than just run about is the way to go. Take Bolt for example, he only made 3 runs all afternoon, but from one we scored and went close from the other two. To me, that’s great play, he’s doing the job. Get the ball, and get a good cross in the box.

We’ve also made nearly £40k from tonight, which is a wonderful boost!

26.8.04

Another player has left us, with big Dave Walton going to Exeter for £2k. Its not a brilliant deal, but it gets him out of the way and at 31, it was probably as good as we could have got.

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28.8.04

Home to Layton Orient, a team with no little ability, and one we must beat. We must press on from Wednesday, and start climbing the league. That starts today. There is one change, Scott Howie is fit again, so he returns to the starting line up, with the slightly unlucky Petter Bjorkli making way.

Half time, and its going very well. After only 15 minutes we�d powered into a 2-0 lead. Briscoe took a throw, Bolt turned, got a yard on his man at the byline and whipped a simply wonderful ball to the far post where George Fotheringham turned on the ball and drove it into the far corner. Bolt is some player. It was him who set up goal number 2. His left footed corner was perfect for our massive stand in skipper Chris Todd to smash a header over the keeper and in. Unfortunately, a bit of dodgy defending from Herr. Todd allowed former Shrews striker to nip in and hit a 30 yard screamer into our net.

Just before half time, we got our 3rd. Fotheringham made a fantastic run up the right, flying past two players like they weren�t there. He cut the ball back for Marshall, who gave it him back. George clipped it in, and Parke scored the rebound as Fitzgerald�s header was palmed away. We�re doing good, we�re in charge, and we must stay there. One change, with Dave Edwards replacing Kevin Street. Streety isn�t doing it for us today.

Dave Edwards makes an instant impact. He surges forward, and his long range screamer wins us a corner. Bolt swings it in, and Todd connects perfectly to plant a unstoppable header beyond the keeper.

4-1 it finishes, and it�s a result to be proud of, we actually looked like a very dangerous unit today.

In fact, it was a bit dodgy, if they had taken a few chances it would have been closer, and our strike force is still a bit weak, its midfielders coming forward that are causing the trouble at the moment.

On the plus side, the team is settling down wonderfully. Briscoe at the back is demonstrating some terrific class, George Fotheringham is starting to really play, and Bolt is looking class.

29.8.04

A new signing. We�ve brought in Keith Andrews on loan from nearby Wolves. He�s a 23 year old Irish defensive midfield player, and he�s a very decent player. Weather he�s what we�re after or not I don�t know, but he has a good workrate, and is all-round a decent footballer. Its weather he can have a big impact on every game with his tackling, which is what we need in midfield.

Also, young striker Jermaine Brown is here on a two week trial.

31.8.04

Before the closure of today�s deadline day, we have a new signing. Adriano Rigoglosio was Doncaster�s skillful, creative AM/FC. He has a lovely touch, good skills and can pass it well. He�s let down by his pace, and he�s not quite tough enough, but there is certainty talent there. He�s cost us �5000, and signed a 1 year deal.

He�ll be on the bench for tonight�s big game, the local derby away to Kidderminster Harriers. It�s a big game, and one I�m very confident we can win. We need too. It�s a great atmosphere in the dark, and there�s interest in our two new lads. Tonight is set up for us to get a morale boosting win.

Andrews plays, coming into central midfield for Kevin Street. No other changes.

The first half has been half disaster and half successful. I don�t moan about referees but 7 first half bookings for us in a very normal first half strikes me as slightly over the top. Two of those have gone to Keith Andrews. Not for a bad challenge, but for a silly trip and then arguing back. I�m livid, but I�ll deal with him later. Our second sending off of the season. Jamie Tolley has also had to come off injured, so Fitzgerald has been sacrificed to bring on Edwards and Rigoglosio. Its worked. A minute after his sending off, we scored. Sergei Baltacha headed a long ball out of defense, and it fell to Parke, our loan man up front. Turning, he powered past a defender, and from the edge of the area slid it just in against the post before jumping into our celebrating traveling support.

Almost instantly though, they get back. It�s a sloppy goal that we should have stopped, and once again we were punished for not picking up on-running midfielders. Ian Foster�s shot whipping in off the hands of Howie. Just before half time, after Howie had made a stunning one on one save, we score again! Dave Edwards got the ball from Bolt and powered forward, before slipping a pass inside to Parke. His touch was poor, but it diverted it away from the panicking keeper, and allowed him to nip around and roll the ball into a empty net! I�m talking up 3 points. If we keep defending as we have, keep it solid, and use Bolt to hit them on the break, this can be a superb away win. They don�t have a lot, and we must make sure that we don�t put undue pressure on ourselves by giving the ball away.

For 20 minutes at the start of the second half we�re superb, and we score again. Dave Edwards collects a loose ball wide on the left, cuts back and swings a deep swirling cross to the far post. The keeper misses it completely as it sails over his head. 3-1.

The game then goes downhill rapidly, peaks with Danny Bolt missing a penalty, and then slumps to a new low as skipper Chris Todd is carried off. Turns out we�ll be missing him for about 3 weeks.

When the final whistle goes, it�s a huge cheer from the away fans (more than half a disappointing crowd) and we come off to a standing ovation.

I�m very pleased, we battled well, but we�ve paid the cost. My captain injured, Jamie Tolley out as well for a week, and a new player suspended before he�s even started. A settled team is a successful team.

To tell the truth, it was dodgy. A defensive mistake and a fluke goal, we could easily have drawn or lost this, even though we were the better team.

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5.9.04

Two transfers out today, and both will take a large chunk off the top of our wage bill. Martin O�Connor has signed for Exeter on a free, and we�ve got �5k from Southport for Ben Smith. O�Connor is finished, and is gladly forwarded, and he can take his �1k a week with him!

Smith is a classy player, but now we have Rigoglosio and Chris O�Brien back fit, we don�t need him.

6.9.04

And another out! Sam Aiston has gone to Worcester for another �5k. This could possibly be a mistake, as Sam�s dribbling skills are fantastic in this league, and its hard for full backs to stop him, but again, he was on bigger wages than we could really afford, and when you get offered a fee, one has to take it.

11.9.04

We�re in trouble now. Before today�s game with Rochdale, we�ve lost Fotheringham for a month, and Parke for the next week or so. Plus Todd, Tolley and Andrews. Bassinder comes in at centre half, David Edwards and Chris O�Brien in central midfield, and Kevin Street on the right. Dave McEwen makes his full debut up front.

It�s a home game, and I think we should be able to win it. We�re so low, even Luke Rodgers is on the bench.

Its been a poor, sterile match. We�ve defended poorly, and were punished when Holt ran through a gaping hole in our defense to slide home. Fortunalty, we got back to 1-1. Finally giving the ball to Bolt, he produced a magical run before crossing onto the head of Kevin Street, who headed in.

Its got to improve, we must play higher up the pitch, and we must play at a higher tempo.

It finishes a disappointing 1-1 draw. We have all the second half as Danny Bolt runs riot. He could score twice himself, and his crosses zip around the box. Unfortunately, we�re currently lacking the right man to turn them in, and they all go to waste.

It�s a shame, because had we been able to field the same team, we would probably have been rocking, but a team can only stand so many changes, and we looked off beat and off the pace today. Bolt was spectacular as usual, but O�Brien was off the pace, as was McEwen, and they�re two class players we need to be on form. Both of them can play football properly. Fitzgerald has also been a disappointment, he�s not getting many chances because the norm is to play the ball down the left and wait for the crosses, and he�s obviously a class player, but in these last few games he hasn�t been doing the business. We have the basis of a good side here, it�s a case of getting all our best players fit and playing them for 10 games. Then we�ll see what we can really do. I suspect what we can do is quite a lot. If you look as Briscoe, O�Brien, Fotheringham, McEwen, Bolt, Rigoglosio, Fitzgerald, they�re all players who can play football. All of them have the ability to pass the ball and use natural talent to cause trouble. If we could get them all in together and firing, we would score some goals. Its scoring goals that�s the problem, in the last few games we�ve had midfielders and all sorts coming through to nick us the winning goal. Today, with two strikers that barely know each other, we didn�t look like a serious threat until we got the ball to Bolt. We must make the distinction between good passing football and being direct enough to penetrate, get behind teams, get crosses in then finish of the moves. It will come.

18.9.04

Bury away, which is a hard game to go and play, but we�re �up for it� and I know that we can win today. Simon Parke is back at full fitness, but only makes the bench. Dave McEwen staying up front. Keith Andrews is available again, but doesn�t feature.

Half time, and we�re 1-0 down, Sergei Baltacha heading a corner into his own net. On the break we�ve looked fantastic, and only the either lousy final ball or shot from Bolt or McEwen has stopped us scoring at least 3 goals. They�ve had a lot of the ball, but that�s because we keep giving it to them! Free kicks, throw ins, headers, corners, we give them away like Santa, and its just not going to happen for us. These are big and tough and if you�re going to pass it, you have to do so quickly. They�re playing 3-4-3 and Bolt�s having a wail of a time down the left, but he can�t get the damn ball because we can�t keep it!

It finishes a 1-1 draw, a Bassinder penalty drawing us level. Again, we weren�t far away, but we need to take chances.

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thanks seagull!

the mighty Garry, read both of his cracking books, seems to me he's a class chap and was a class player, despite what he says! Out of interest, do you know where he is now?

21.9.04

Tonight we take on Swansea away in the money-making League Cup, a game we could quite easily lose, but stand a good chance of winning if we pull ourselves together. There’s no Danny Bolt on our bus tonight, he’s suspended, so Chris O’Brien moves out to the left, with Keith Andrews coming into the middle. Tonight, without any recognized wingers, we’re going to have to play a bit different. The ball will have to go into the feet of Dave McEwen, who will have to do something with it.

He has, and we’ve played a excellent first half. We took the lead. O’Brien got the ball to Edwards, who drove forward into the box. He launched a curling shot towards the far post, which was palmed straight into the path of Fitzgerald, who scored. Then, o stupid man, they get into the box, they’re going nowhere, but Marshall fouls him, and gives away yet another penalty. Which they score.

We’ve made some good chances, and we’re playing some good football, with McEwen especially bossing the game. We have to get another goal, and we have to make sure we don’t give the ball away and remain professional.

We don’t do all of that, and lose 2-1. They score a corner 20 minutes from time and that’s it. Dave McEwen misses an easy chance but we don’t have the nous to get back in the game. Possibly with all our players, we’d have pushed them, but we’re nowhere near good enough at the back. I’m coming to the conclusion that Marshall can’t play, he looked lost out there tonight.

We have to toughen up, we have to take chances, and we simply have to play better. We don’t look like a unit, we’re all over the shop, bits of talent here and there, but no real impetus.

25.9.04

Time to go out and play. Even though its pouring down, and the crowd is noticeably down, the 11 I send out today are going to have to compete with this classy Grimsby side. Bolt is back after that enforced rest, so skipper O’Brien moves back into the middle, where Keith Andrews dislodges Dave Edwards. One other change is that Christopher Todd is back in central defense, replacing Bassinder.

We’re going to go out and hit them, pin them in their half for a change. Kevin Street will play right midfield, but he’ll be playing more centrally, just trying to balance the team. All the ball will go to Bolt, whose task today is simply to cross it onto the head of McEwen.

Its worked. Bolt is tearing them apart. We could have had 5 goals, but to be fair, I’ll take the 2-0 lead we’ve managed. Todd has had 3 headers cleared off the line, O’Brien hit the bar, we’ve played stunningly, and finally, we got the goals to cap it off. It was while the classy Dave McEwen, now subbed, was down injured, that we broke. Yet another fantastic tip-toe run from Bolt, and cut inside and burst past his man, and a perfect clipped cross onto the head of Fitzgerald, who got in front of his man at the near post to head home. The perfect goal. The second went, quite rightly, to Todd. Bolt swung in about his 10th dangerous corner, and Todd rose majestically to smash his header home. The midfield is winning the ball from them, and its all going up the left, where Bolt is having a field day. He either beats the man and crosses, or gets a corner or free kick. The defense is doing ok against their 3 man strike force, although Scott Howie has had to make 2 great saves when they broke, our midfield is doing superbly, Briscoe is supporting Bolt wonderfully, and the front two (now Parke and Rigoglosio as both Fitzgerald and McEwen are too knackered to carry on) are lively. We need to keep it going.

We don’t, and Bolt hardly sees the ball second half. Thus, we’re pinned back for most of it, and Scott Howie along with Chris Todd has to save us time and time again. Fortunately for the future health of our players, we still manage to win 2-0.

A much better display today, although there are still things I’m not happy with. What is annoying is that just as we’re getting a side I’m happy with, both McEwen and Fitzgerald will be out for a week. This means that they’ll miss our LDV Vans home tie with Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday night.

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26.9.04

Been trying to bring a striker in on loan today, a task made more difficult by it being Sunday. Tommy Johnson, Kevin Rapley, Eugine Dadi and Dele Adebola are all potential targets.

28.9.04

The once mighty Sheffield Wednesday at home then, and anticipating a bumper crowd. We can win tonight, I know we can, but we�ll have to be more professional than we have recently, especially in the simple things, such as passing the ball, and making sure it stays away from our net. Bringing in a striker has failed, so I�ve produced a bit of a trick. No doubt they�re expecting us to play Chris O�Brien in midfield, but we�re not. He�s up front alongside Parke. Rigoglosio comes in for him in midfield. That may be a mistake, as he won�t tackle as much as others, but lets see what happens.

Pathetically, we�re 1-0 down at half time. We were playing wonderfully, playing them off the park, doing anything other than score of course, and then we switched. For about 5 minutes, we lumped it, we gave it away, we fell apart. Baltacha was asleep, and they scored. Not good enough. O�Brien is doing ok, but Parke is demonstrating he simply isn�t good enough. Half time, and Edwards will come on for Street, and Rodgers for Rigoglosio, with O�Brien going back into midfield.

The second half is pathetic as both teams fail to do anything amounting to anything. They�re good enough to hold us off though, and Bolt hardly sees the ball. They don�t seem to understand, Bolt is our dangerous player, our Ryan Giggs, John Robertson, Kancheilski�s, Figo, and he needs the ball! There�s nothing up front, and when they score again in stoppage time (Baltacha once again not anticipating the flick on) its game over. Very disappointed, we should have done more today.

29.9.04

Big news, finally, after many rounds of negotiation, I have agreed to bring in Peter Weatherson from Morton. On New Year�s day, when the transfer window re-opens, he�ll sign for us for �8k.

2.10.04

Wycome, with their manager of the month, visit us today. They�re a class side, and we�re going to have to be at our very best to beat them today. Fitzgerald is up front with Parke, so O�Brien moves back into midfield. It�s the usual plan, ball to Bolt, cross into box.

Half time, and we�re ridiculously 1-0 down. They had one chance, when Todd won the ball, lost it, and about 5 of our players failed to clear it before their lad slotted it home, and scored. We�ve had all the play, but our blasted front two can�t score! Bolt is injured but still doing the business, but his final ball must be better. Sort it!

We don�t. Once again, we have all the play, and lose 2-0. Once again, in stoppage time, they score after we�d done all the work. Simon Parke is the problem, he�s primarily crap, which I knew, but he�s just not doing anything. We were 3 points behind the leaders, we�re now 5. We�ve scored one more goal than we�ve let in, and it isn�t good enough. Baltacha isn�t doing his stuff, neither is O�Brien, neither is Fitzgerald, Street, Parke, Marshall or Andrews. All of them are underachieving, and I won�t stand for it much longer.

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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by cosford:

thanks seagull!

the mighty Garry, read both of his cracking books, seems to me he's a class chap and was a class player, despite what he says! Out of interest, do you know where he is now?

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Goldstone Gaz? - Diamond icon14.gif - Think hes out of football now.

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Thanks guys icon_smile.gificon14.gif

thats a shame, didn't he go to the P.F.A? Or has he left that too?

16.10.04

This morning, just in time for today’s game away at Northampton, we’ve signed a new player. Jamie Ingledow has arrived from Stocksbridge on a free transfer. He’s a 23 year old midfield player who’s description is as a hard worker and even harder tackler. What talent he has I suspect is limited, but he’s here as a cheap ‘do a job’ merchant.

Northampton away then, not a easy game at the best of times, but we don’t need this just as we’re trying to get some form and confidence back. Ingledow, taking the no.15 shirt, is on the bench, McEwen returns up front.

Half time, and somehow, after playing them off the park, we’re 1-0 down. Their early goal was a good strike by Eric Sabin, but how we allowed him to get there is beyond me. We’ve been great ever since, but we just can’t score.

We lose 2-0. They hit us on the break and that’s the end of that. We can’t score, end of story.

23.10.04

I’ve had enough, today’s game away at Notts County is going to be an improvement. I’ve told the players they’re better than this, and that they can go out and win today. We’re boosted by the return of George Fotheringham. Knackered and out of practice he may be, but he’s drafted straight back into the team. Finally, I can deploy about my full team. We’ve slipped to 14th, and we must claw our way back up.

Half time, and its gone ok for us. Finally, we’ve scored a goal. After missing some great chances, Scott Fitzgerald latched onto an O’Brien through ball and placed it in off the post. Still though, we’re not winning. In first half stoppage time, they score from a corner. Our hearts collectively sink, they’re on top now.

We must make sure they’re not, get the ball, get it wide, go score another goal, we can do it, its easy!

Its not. They score a direct free kick a minute after the first half restarts. I’m livid, what the hell are we doing? We go forward, and again, can’t score! Mind you, we look outplayed, they only have 3 midfielders, but they seem to be outplaying my 4! With 10 minutes to go, they score again, and even though Danny Bolt converts a penalty, its yet another defeat.

28.10.04

It’s the big transfer, that of one of the club’s ‘star’ players, Luke Rodgers. He’s been transferred to that funny Singapore club for a fee of £40k. That, combined with our poor form, have led to a few harsh letters, but they’ll see I’m right in the end.

It’s the end of a era for everyone, and I hope Luke does well.

The money should allow me to strengthen the side where it needs strengthening.

30.10.04

We’re at home to Oxford, and we have to turn it around today, and I’m confident we will. There are one change to make; Lee Briscoe has a slight injury, so Trevor Challis comes in at left back. Morale is poor at the moment, we need a win today desperately.

The first half, as of last week, has been good, and, unlike last week, we’re winning. We raced into a 2 goal lead. On two minutes, Fotheringham went to the line and crossed. O’Brien moved it sideways and Keith Andrews shot left footed into the net. 4 minutes later, Danny Bolt set off one on of his mazy runs. He cut inside the full back, looked up, and moved the ball to the edge of the 6 yard box where Chris O’Brien slammed it left footed into the corner. Finally, my goalscoring midfielder scores, now he needs to get some more!

They then pulled a freak goal back. Mooney was allowed far too much space to turn, he shot, off the bar, off Challis, and tapped in by their midfielder who I’d tried to sign before he opted for Oxford.

Ha-ha, no worries though, because we get another goal instantly. A free kick swirls in from the right side, McEwen flicks on, and Baltacha, finding himself on the corner of the 6 yard box, forgot defenders instincts and drilled the ball into the far corner.

Its been good, but we must become a two half team and carry this on, ensuring that we continue to work hard, and keep playing football. We need to be solid at the back, made all the more difficult by losing Chris Todd to injury. Gavin Bassinder is on leaving me with a defense I don’t privately feel is up to much.

It doesn’t have much work to do. After Gavin Bassinder coolly heads in Bolt’s corner after only a minute Oxford fall apart and the game peters out. At the final whistle we go off to a standing ovation, all sins forgotten. Hopefully.

Yeah, a good win, but the problems are still there, and to cap it all, I’m going to be without my best defender for another 3 weeks, with Todd having injured his back. Also, the front two, although they played well in other areas, didn’t look like scoring, even though Dave McEwen is improving game by game.

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.11.04

It�s a big game tonight, one of our local-ish derby�s, away to Chester City. Chester are below us, and I think we should beat them. Should, and will, are different in my experience. Especially without Briscoe and Todd our two best defenders. Todd is replaced by Bassinder, Challis continues for Briscoe. Apart from that, no changes.

Half time, and we�re winning again. Our overall performance has been good, but once again our inability to put the multitude of chances away is costing us. We took the lead after half an hour. Fitzgerald, who�s playing a blinder if only he could score, cut in from the right, crossed, the keeper pushed it away, and Bolt rolled it home. We�d been playing so well, and that was just reward. Fitzgerald, McEwen, O�Brien, all missing chances.

That�s what makes me incredibly furious when they equalize. A clearance comes to Daryl Clare. He has only 1 other player with him, we have 3 defenders. Bassinder, rightly, goes to Clare, leaving Baltacha and Marshall to deal with Vignial. Both leave him, in half hearted pursuit of Clare. Thus, Daryl�s cross finds a completely unmarked attacker who scores. In the dressing room, I lay into Marshall and Baltacha, its not good enough I scream, both are relatively experienced players, why don�t they look around them?

It�s a good job we re-took the lead only seconds later. McEwen turned his man and curled it towards goal. Again, the keeper got to the ball, and pushed it out, but only to Keith Andrews, who rolled it into a again empty net.

This game is there for the taking, it�s a game in hand (as everyone else is playing in the Vans tonight), and therefore we must claim all 3 points.

In terms of football, our second half is brilliant. We defend fantastically, and break with at speed, creating so many chances that by the end of the game we�d had 27 shots on goal. Some of the ones we miss are insane, Bolt, free, in the middle of the area, drags it so wide its nearer the corner flag than goal, and Parke (on late as a sub for McEwen) hits the post with a fantastic drive.

We do score another, the most difficult of the lot. Dave Edwards, again on as a sub, comes forward, and rolls the ball to O�Brien. He shifts it onto his left foot, and from 25 yards bends it into the top corner. The keeper, with every professional justification, hadn�t even bothered to move. Our fans seem stunned too. They�ve grown used to watch our strikers freeze and miss chance after chance, and now someone has just scored from outside the area! Christ!

6.11.04

Boston United at home, and whilst they�re a good team, we must beat them. I won�t accept anything other than a win.

I have to make changes, with both my first choice centre backs out, I�m forced to play Gavin Bassinder and Stuart Whitehead, who has been recalled from the reserves. At least he�s been keeping fit. I�ve also dropped Lee Marshall. He�s not happy, but I explain that neither am I, and its my opinion that matters. A time away will give him time to get himself together, and return a stronger player.

Once again, the first half has been a mixed bag. It started wonderfully, us going into the lead after only two minutes. O�Brien sprayed the ball through the defense for Fotheringham, who crossed it perfectly back onto our captain�s head. His downward header crept perfectly between keeper and post.

Then, and this was enough to make me scream, we go and undo all the good work of the first half hour by giving away yet another penalty, this time Stuart Whitehead the culprit. They score it, 1-1. It�s a good job, with me going slightly mad, that we re-take the lead. Bolt skins his full back, and then sees his cross deflected behind for a corner. George Fotheringham swings it in, and Whitehead rises highest to nod it beyond the keeper for 2-1.

If we stick to our guns, take some of these damn chances which continue to come our way, and continue to defend reasonably professionally, then we�ll win. That�s the aim and the expectation.

The second half is a complete massacre, we murder them. Our football is crisp and neat, without us ever really finding that full �team-ness�. Bolt and Fotheringham are rampant, as crosses arc through the box. Shots scream in from the midfielders, but none go in. Then, they get a free kick. Guess what? Its rolled straight to their striker, who buries it first time. Why don�t mine do that?

I, of course, go ballistic, and demand a result. I get one. Bolt weaves his way into the box and crosses to Fitzgerald, who is all but chopped in half. Gavin Bassinder does the business from the penalty spot.

That�s the end of them, but not of us, and we score again when Bolt cuts like a knife in from the left, beats a man twice (neat trick that) and whacks it into the middle for Scott Fitzgerald to finally do what I pay him for and prod it home.

A great performance, one of our bests, and it could have been such a heavier win. With these 4, we�ve propelled ourselves to the position of scoring easily the most goals in the league, and up to 6th in the table while we�re at it. Chuffed!

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13.11.04

It�s the F.A Cup today, a day I always look forward too. We�ve got Conference side Exeter at home, meaning it �should� be a win, but nothing is ever that simple. The Cup is important, firstly, we need the money, and secondly�.. erm� We need the money! A 3rd round tie away somewhere big would set us up for a very long time.

My squad has been depleted even further by losing Jamie Tolley and, for the first time, Dave Edwards to the Wales U21�s. Its only a friendly, but it�s a big day for Dave, so I didn�t want to spoil it for him. Thus, Kevin Street comes to the bench.

Half time, and I�m not happy. The score is 1-1, but should be more like 4-1 to us. We�ve wiped them out, Fitzgerald could easily, and I mean easily, have had a hattrick. Danny Bolt�s finishing is absolutely woeful, Keith Andrews has missed a golden chance and then they took the lead. Centre halves don�t usually take free kicks, but their defender, who was formerly our defender, bent it straight in the corner. Thank you, Dave Walton.

Fortunately, we equalized. George Fotheringham�s run up the right was superb, weaving with graceful ease around Santos Gaia, and then rolling the ball into a area where is was 60-40 in favor of Fitzgerald over the keeper. Fitz got there first, went round him, and tapped it into an empty net.

We can win this, this is there for us to take, and we must get the goals to do it. McEwen has had to come off injured, so Parke is on.

In the end, we do win, but its incredibly jammy. We completely dominate the second half, creating chance after chance after chance. 3 times, Fitzgerald is free in the area with only the keeper to beat. He�s obviously not a natural finisher.

Then, in the 94th minute, we get a corner. Its headed away, back to George Fotheringham wide left. He cuts in, and on his right foot, shoots low into the corner.

Its very lucky I suppose, but overall, we deserved it. We wiped them out for the whole game, and deserved to win. I have to do something about this strikeforce though, especially as McEwen�s injury is going to keep him out for about 3 long weeks.

14.11.04

I�ve signed a new player. Danny Smith is a 22 year old attacking right full back we�ve signed from Northwich Victoria. He�s a classy young player, and definitely has the potential to push on and become a higher class of player. We�ve paid �20k, which I feel is rather over the odds, but hey, let see where he takes us.

Also today, the second round draw, and we�ve got Bristol City at home.

19.11.04

Another player has gone. With the signing of Danny Smith, it meant we had 3 right backs. Whilst Darren Moss was not the worst of them, we were offered �10k, and we took it. He�s signed for Carlisle and he�ll do very well there.

20.11.04

Cheltenham away. A tough match, but again, we can win it. I�ve failed to bring in a striker in time, although I do have one or two irons in the fire, so Parke replaces McEwen with Rigoglosio coming to the bench. Smith comes straight into the team at right back, and takes Darren�s number 23 shirt.

The first half has been pathetic. They play has been 50/50, and we�ve done well with the ball. Unfortunately, we�ve cocked it up. We fall behind to a stunning 30 yard drive. Ok, a great strike, but someone should have been there stopping him shooting. Then, after missing a horrendous chance, we equalize. A clearance falls to Fitzgerald, who streaks away and shoots. The keeper gets to it, put only palms it to Parke, who scores. Then, in the stupidest circumstances, they score again. Their throw bounces off Andrew�s foot, and falls to their lad. Howie has for some reason known only to himself raced towards the group of players on the edge of the area. Their midfielder chips it into a empty net.

I round on them, if we shot at goal with the accuracy that we shoot at our own feet I shout, we�d have this game wrapped up already.

It�s a pathetic showing from us. Again in the second half, we play them off the park, and don�t score. With half an hour left, a long free kick comes into our box, and Bassinder gives their striker all the time he wants to turn and score.

I am disgusted, and I tell the players that. They lost themselves this game by not being able to produce a professional performance, and I have had enough. Losing I have no problem with, but when its two crappy defensive mistakes, a load of stupid free kicks given away, and then on top of it all not doing our own jobs, I reach the end of my tether. If I can bring someone in, Fitzgerald will be out next match, I have 3 non scoring centre forwards, and I have had enough. They�ve had enough time, and Fitzgerald isn�t going to score us enough goals, he has no idea how to finish. Andrews is an undisciplined liability, O�Brien flits in and out of games, Fotheringham goes from the sublime to the ridiculous, Bassinder plays like he�s on drugs half the time, and I won�t stand for it. They up their act, or find themselves new clubs.

Secretly of course I know that�s rubbish, there�s no way I could afford 5 new players.

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I'm as crap at throwing as they are at shooting icon_mad.gif

missed the lot of em icon_razz.gif

23.11.04

Yoevil at home, and there’s no new players. They’re down the wrong end of the league, and I expect 3 points. Baltacha is available again, but there’s no place for him. Someone who does go straight back in is Chris Todd, replacing Bassinder, Whitehead has done ok so far. No other changes.

Now I know I told them to go out and attack from the start, but I think I may have been taken a little too literally. From this half of football, I must assume that miracles do in fact happen, because my group of journeymen footballers have turned into Real Madrid. At the half time whistle goes, we’re 6-0 up. Yes ladies and gents, you read that right, the team that *ahem* played like a team of 4 legged cart pullers against Cheltenham has come out and showed me and everyone else exactly what they can do.

It started on only 60 seconds. We wove our way forward and Fotheringham won a corner. The fans were up for it, there’s a energy in the ground today of everybody trying to do just a bit more if you know what I mean. The goal could be sensed, it had to go in, today was our day.

Bolt swung the corner in, Whitehead headed it down, and Todd, falling backwards, smashed it left footed high into the net. Then, Parke, in full view of everyone, swapped being a lower league journeyman for Marco Van Basten. Firstly he picked up Bolt’s clipped pass, raced inside, switched it to his right foot before curling it into the far corner, then finishing off a 6 man 1 touch passing move with a beautiful first time chip over the advancing keeper, and then beating the keeper with a unstoppable diving header at the far post following George Fotheringham’s perfect cross.

What happened next has turned me into a devout Christian. Collecting the ball from Smith, O’Brien turned and laid a perfect pass through the defense. Fitzgerald raced onto it and produced a fantastic finish just beyond the keeper and in at the far post before performing a remarkably acrobatic celebration. Should spend less time doing that and more time practicing Scott. The final goal of this half was nice and simple. A Danny Bolt corner from the left, and Chris Todd reminded me he’s got 5 goals this season by heading his 6th powerfully into the bottom corner. To see so many people all happy, smiling, cheering and to see the players huddled together in a moment of triumph, especially such a good bloke as Chris, was wonderful.

It finishes 7-0, Parke scores again with a far post header off Bolt’s free kick. Of those 7 goals, Bolt set up 4 of them.

The second half was a bit disappointing, with lots of missed chances, but there were highlights, with Parke hitting the post from a very long way out, and George Fotheringham hitting the bar with a 30 yard chip.

Overall a fantastic performance, the fans stay in at the end to cheer us off, there’s standing ovations, the radio and Monday’s paper will be full of praise. We’re up to 5th, and now we must keep it going! Its marred by one thing, Chris O’Brien is booked for arguing, meaning he’ll miss the next game.

27.11.04

Bristol Rovers at home. They’re a solid team who, whilst being mid-table, don’t let many goals in, we’re going to need to take those chances today. O’Brien of course is suspended, so Kevin Street comes in, and Dave Edwards goes to the bench.

At half time, our good form has continued. We were ahead after only a minute, Fotheringham whipping in a corner and Parke heading home. Then, on 20 minutes, 1 became 2. We got a edge of area free kick, the perfect position for Stuart Pearce. Our left foot marvel is Bolt, and he does a creditable impression of the England skipper to whip a beautiful effort around the wall, over the keeper and in.

We then have a goal disallowed, and have to clear off our own line as they come forward, but no matter, because we score again late on. Bolt takes a free kick on the half way line, playing it up the line for Fotheringham. George lays it back to him, before turning and receiving the beautifully flighted return ball. He cuts in and crosses it perfectly to the edge of the 6 yard box, where Fitzgerald smashes it home. The perfect goal, crosses are the way to score, and that was a textbook example.

Our football has been too quick for them, far too quick.

The second half is poor, although how we don’t score more goals is beyond me. What is incredibly disappointing is that Chris Todd is sent off. Two innocuous trips are too much for the card happy ref ( I don’t usually even comment about them) and my best defender is off down the tunnel. He’ll be a big blow.

It was a good performance, even with 10 men we outplayed them, and could have had so many more goals, but it’ll do. We’re up to 4th!

What was also fantastic, and brought a huge smile to the chairman’s lips, was the 7,164 crowd that watched us today. The biggest for a very long time

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1.12.04

A big press day today, as the rewards flowed in. I�m manager of the month for the first time ever, and Danny Bolt and Chris O�Brien have picked up player and young player of the month respectively.

4.12.04

Big bad Bristol City at home in the F.A Cup. They�re in the division above us, but we can win this, no worries. If� Bassinder replaces the suspended Todd, and O�Brien is back in midfield. McEwen is back from injury and is on the bench.

Half time, in front of a completely full 8000 house, we�re 1-0 up! We�ve massacred them, and got our reward when Chris O�Brien floated a wonderful ball over the defense for Fitzgerald to take a touch and plant a low finish into the net from the edge of the area. We�ve played so well, but we have to take these chances, if we don�t they�ll just hit us, I can see it coming.

They never do! We defend with our lives, throwing ourselves in front of things, anticipating, clearing, and patting Scott Howie on the back. He was immense. Going forward, we could score more, somehow we don�t, and we go through to win 1-0!!

Fantastic performance, I have nothing but praise, the effort, thought and professionalism of the display was stunning. Bassinder in particular was colossal, Whitehead alongside him was excellent, Howie incredible, everything was superb! We�re on for the big away tie!

5.12.04

You want to know what the big tie is? Its Lincoln. Away. Brilliant.

10.12.04

A new player today! We�ve signed 24 year old DC Joe Dolan from Millwall for a fee of �7k. He was an N.Irish U21, and while he might not have made it at Championship level, the solid �common or garden� centre half will be a good deal for us I�m sure.

11.12.04

We�re away to Macclesfield today, and this should be a win. They�re bottom of the league, and have managed to score a total of 6 goals so far. I will not be happy with anything other than 3 points. Dolan, our new no.6, isn�t involved. Keith Andrews� loan has finished, so while we think about getting him back, Dave Edwards comes in.

Half time, its 0-0, but I don�t know how. We have missed so many chances its stupid. This has gone too far. We�ve had 19 shots on their goal, missed a penalty, hit the post, and missed an open goal. We have to score, this is just getting ridiculous. Bet they nick it.

They don�t, but we do. Scott Fitzgerald scores a wonderful lashed strike to get us 3 points. It could have been double figures, but in the end I�m just happy that Fitzgerald�s swirling goal from O�Brien�s pass got us the win that pushes us back up to 4th.

Bad news, Danny Bolt is out for 4 weeks with strained ankle ligaments. My worst nightmare.

14.12.04

Although I�ve tried, I haven�t been able to bring a winger in for today�s tough trip to Southend, so Kevin Street fills in out on the left flank. No other changes.

Half time, and we�re 2-0 down. Ok, they�ve had all the play, but we were defending well until they scored a incredibly scrappy goal. Now we could have responded to that, but when they get another, a stupid penalty given away by Bassinder, we�re right up against it. We could go second today, but playing like this, we won�t.

It�s a dismal second half where we just don�t perform, and lose 3-1. I think this was the worst I�ve ever seen us play. Not just what went wrong, but our complete ineffectiveness. Dissapointed because before they scored we�d been defending well, but without Bolt there was little penetration or flair. Hummm�..

15.12.04

My players are being sniffed around. At a Wrexham reserve game I happened to be taking in I was accosted by Brighton�s assistant manager, ruffed up and was made to explain the availability of Danny Smith and Scotty Fitzgerald. I told them that neither player was above being signed. Money talks.

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18.12.04

Darlington today, away at their incredibly impressive new ground. All of the 3 left wingers I enquired about decided they’d rather stay where they were. Fools. Street was useless there against Southend, so I’m going to swap him and Chris O’Brien, who at least has a left foot. Also Bassinder is dropped for Joe Dolan to make his debut.

Half time, and we’re 2-0 down again. Firstly Kevin Street flicks on in his own box for their lad to tap in, then Dolan, instead of heading the bloody thing, tries a fancy tackle, it goes wrong, and their player runs away to score. Pathetic, it’s a repeat of the last game, we’re shooting ourselves in the feet.

We lose 3-1. Dolan gets pulled out, and the same player slams it in. Dolan looks to be a waste of space, and all through the match I could feel Gavin Bassinder’s eyes boring into me from my left. The only redeeming feature is Dolan’s header from a corner. Just to help, Parke gets sent off, getting two of our 8, 8! Bookings! So, once again, I’ll be missing my best defender, my target man, and my left winger for the next match. One more card and Jamie Tolley and David Edwards will both be suspended. I don’t have a bottomless pit of players!

What is also annoying is that these are 3rd to bottom, these last two defeats have cost us dearly. Instead of being second, we’re 6th, and slipping further by the game. We’ve scored 46, and let in 32, which is far too many.

26.12.04

Big game today, we’re at home to the current league leaders, Rushden and Diamonds. Again, no-one has appeared to solve our left sided problem, so I produce another clever trick, and move Briscoe to left midfield, with Challis coming in at full back. Bassinder replaces Todd, and McEwen for Parke.

Today is the day we turn it round.

Half time, its 1-1. Gavin Bassinder headed us in front from a corner, but they equalized with a thunderous free kick. We’ve had all the play, but without Bolt we can’t get behind them. Its scoring goals again, we just can’t do it.

We do it once in the second half, and manage to stop them doing it at all. On one of our breakaways, Briscoe’s sweet left foot clips it over the defense. McEwen races onto it, and swings it around the keeper from a full 20 yards. Its enough, it’s the winner! We have to defend like heck for the rest of the match, but we do it wonderfully, and even find time for Fitzgerald to miss 2 one on ones. If a bid came in, I’d have trouble telling myself we couldn’t live without our second top scorer.

28.12.04

Scunthorpe away, a game we need to win really. Dave Edwards is injured, so Jamie Tolley comes in, and Chris Todd is back, so Bassinder makes way.

Half time, and we’ve been woeful for the whole 45 minutes. Talentless, clueless, tactless. Todd gave away a penalty for a stupid bit of shirt pulling after only 2 minutes, and its practically impossible to respond to. Then Todd made a mistake, leaving Howie completely exposed. 2-0. He’s going to get dropped if he’s not careful.

Somehow, we get back and salvage a 2-2 draw. Dave McEwen slides a low shot home, then Chris O’Brien hits an absolute screamer to get us level. Some of the chances we had we could have won, but I suppose we’ll have to take a point.

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Thanks guys, much appreciated icon_smile.gif

1.1.05

Into the new year, and the first day is spent getting Peter Weatherson to the right place. He’s a mountainous 24 year old forward we’ve signed for a bargain £8k from Greenock Morton. He’s a good player, brilliant in the air and no mug on the ground, Peter is built for this league, and he’s even the right age.

Now the transfer window has re-opened, I have work to do. If I get my signings right in this period, we can really push for the play offs. Get them wrong, and we could slip away.

He’s straight into the side for todays game away at Mansfield. No messing about.

Half time, and we’re 2-0 down again. Two long range strikes have done for us. This is ridiculous.

We don’t do it. Todd pulls a goal back from a corner, but we miss a host of chances, Weatherson in particular guilty, but we go down to a side with only 13 points 2-1. I desperately need Bolt back, there is just no impetus, but its silly goals. We can’t let two goals a match in and expect to win. I thought I had it cracked, there are 11 talented players out there, but its not working. Why? I should know, I’m the manager, but I can’t do a lot about the striker who can’t score from around the penalty spot given 3 tries. We’ve also lost Jamie Tolley to injury now, I’m running out of players, and if we don’t pick up soon, you can forget automatic promotion, we’ll be lucky to get in the play-offs.

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3.1.05

An almost instant game, and therefore an instant chance to put it right. Its Cambridge at home, and if we lose, we’re going to be way out of the play-off picture.

Edwards is injured, so Kevin Street comes in. Bolt is nearly back, and is pushed onto the bench.

Half time, and its 0-0. We’ve had all the play, but we’re not playing with much pace, and we’re not making a significant dent into Cambridge.

In the second half, although being slightly outplayed, our attacking play improves, and peaks with big Simon Parke flicking on for Fitzgerald to streak clear. Finally, he does what I pay him for, and scores a lovely low finish. They continue their bombardment, but we hold out well, and score again late on. Ingeldow squares the ball, and O’Brien hits a lovely left footed shot low into the corner from the edge of the area. It’s a good solid win, and with Bolt back next game, we can maybe start pushing back up the table.

8.1.05

Lincoln away, a tough game we could quite easily lose. Finally though, Danny Bolt is back! Yay! It’s the F.A Cup, and winning this is important, both for the money today and for the chance to make even more in the next round.

Half time, and while we’ve dominated the first half, we’re on ten men. We had our 6th sending off of the year, Chris O’Brien for two stupid trips on the same player. What was he thinking? Now, although we should have scored so many times, its level, but we’ve got 1 less man and Bolt fast running out of energy. Weatherson and Fotheringham are combining wonderfully, but neither can put the damn thing in the net.

We never do score, but neither do they. In the end, we defend like heck, and come away with a slightly lucky replay.

God we miss some chances, Bolt’s completely knackered, but still gets named man of the match. He also gets booked, which means that he’ll miss a game for 5 bookings! How many matches do I lose players for through suspension? This applies to Danny Smith too, so next match I’ll be without 3 of my best players!

That next game is tonight, and also, funnily enough, its away to Lincoln. Marshall replaces Smith, Challis in for Bolt and Edwards in for O’Brien.

Half time, and we’re 2-1 down. They took the lead with a tap in when we for some reason allowed Yeo to get to a ball first. We equalize, Fotheringham crosses from the right and Kevin Street glances the ball home. Justice.

It lasts all of 30 seconds, they come forward and Yeo is given all the room he wants to hit a unstoppable 25 yarder into our net.

This isn’t on, I know this may have been said before, but we’ve had to many chances. Both of our strikers have had one on ones, why can’t they finish? Its pathetic, we should be winning this on quality of chances alone, but we don’t put them away and then conceded just enough goals to lose. I’m not happy.

Ten minutes after half time, and only minutes after, leaning back, Weatherson had put a golden chance into orbit they score another goal. Peter Gain simply steps up and demolishes the back of our net. How does a keeper get beaten from outside of his box twice in one match? I’ve properly had enough now, and, stood on the touchline, tell the players I want a result from this. Seeing that they might have to walk back if they don’t recover, they do produce a effort. Edwards gets Fotheringham away up the right, and he crosses in. Doing what our strikers fail to do regularly, Lee Briscoe slides his first Shrewsbury goal home to give us a chance. Briscoe has had a good game wide on the left, and that carries on. He goes to the byline and sees his cross defected behind. Fotheringham steps up and floats it in, big Chris Todd heads it unstoppably into the net.

Like at Scunthorpe several weeks ago, we masked a poor performance by coming back to get a result, but we can’t give teams a 3 goal head start! At the back, believe it or not, we weren’t too bad. Had we had both a full defense and midfield, I think we would have won today, but its noticeable that all our scorers came from midfield or defense. Neither centre forward looked like scoring all night.

15.1.04

Swansea at home, and we sure do need a win today. Bolt, Smith and O’Brien are all back.

Half time, and we’re 2-0 down again. Firstly there’s a right cock up allows their player to tap home, then Todd, trying to be a footballer, gifts the ball to Trundle, who shoots straight at Howie. Instead of catching it, he clips it up, over his head and into the net. Half way through the first half, and the home manager has gone to 3-4-3.

It doesn’t work, we miss chance after chance after chance. Then, with 5 minutes to go, Chris O’Brien is sent off yet again, two bookables, both of them dissent. I’ll deal with him later.

While we only have ten men, they score again. We’re out of the play-offs.

In the dressing room, I ignore O’Brien, and commend the rest of the team for their efforts.

I keep O’Brien back when the rest go home, and myself and Gerry Reddy confront him in my office. Its not on we tell him, that’s his 3rd sending off, most of those for dissent. Instead of submitting, he attacks us, questioning everything we’ve done. That’s enough. I tell him he can have a month away from the club, and that he’s transfer listed. I brought him in from non-league, and I’ll bloody well put him back there. As far as I’m concerned, he won’t play for us again. He is simply not good enough to be this much of a liability.

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19.1.05

A new player. Stylish Danish forward Mads Timm has joined us on loan from Manchester United for 3 months. He�s a classy player, capable of playing up front or in midfield.

Tonight is the F.A Cup replay, win, and we get the pleasure of taking on Swindon away. Oh goody. O�Brien, of course, is out, so Kevin Street comes in. Timm is on the bench.

Half time, and for a change, the score is 2-0. To us! Wayhay! We�ve played really well this half, as if refreshed by the dropping of our captain. It was his replacement, Chris Todd, who headed us into the lead from Fotheringham�s 8th minute corner. Bolt then got the second, dribbling in from the left following Weatherson�s wonderful through ball, he opted not to pull it back, and instead shot a lovely goal just inside the far post. He has made runs and pulled it back twice, and each time, Fotheringham has volleyed wide. Its becoming a problem, twice a game at least, Fotheringham gets these chances on the edge of the 6 yard box, and every time drags it wide. This is good though, and we need to keep it up.

We add one more goal, and it could have been 4, to win 3-0. Danny Bolt scores a almost identical goal, using tip toe skill and a burst of pace to drive into the area and slam a powerful drive into the net.

Mads Timm does well in his half an hour.

Great result, and hopefully a catalyst to turn the second half of the season around. Its brought us in a right packet, as will the game at Swindon, which its not beyond us to win.

22.1.05

Transfer news today. Chris O�Brien has gone. We�ve sold him to Hucknell Town of the Conference South for �10k. He was a excellent player, definetly one of my best signings, but a complete nutcase who couldn�t keep himself under control, and then reacted badly to being managed.

I�ve moved to replace him instantly, signing 22 year old AMC Rickie Lambert on loan from Stockport. He�s a wonderful player, better than O�Brien, with a lovely right foot capable of hitting great passes or scoring goals. Maybe he doesn�t have an attitude problem as well.

It�s the big F.A Cup tie, away at Swindon. They�re a class outfit obviously, but we can win here if we�re professional and, most importantly take the chances I�m sure we�ll get. Dolan (surprise, surprise) is suspended for 5 bookings, so Bassinder comes in. Lambert also replaces Street in midfield.

Half time, and we�re 2-0 down. We were doing great for 20 minutes until Briscoe gave a stupid pen away. End of story, with our resistance down, Parkin scored both pen and a lovely chip in quick succession to send us down. Maybe if Weatherson and Fitzgerald had scored the two great chances they gave each other it would be a different story.

The final score is 0-3. Parkin completes his hattrick down to some sloppy defending. We did ok, and could have scored a few goals, but we never did enough. Had we not given them that pen, it could have been a different story, as we would have held out longer and maybe created enough chances to nick it, but we didn�t. Fair enough.

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27.1.05

When I arrived I set up a youth scouting system, headed by Spencer Field. Its borne fruit already, with us signing 7 youngsters instantly, all of them Irish. They all arrived on the same flight, and now I take them through expectations and things at Shrewsbury Town. These lads are the future, and here they are: Mick Carter, 16, DC. Matt Flack, 16, DC. John Clegg, 15, DC. Alan O’Shea, 16, SC. Paul Martin, 16, DR. John Jackson, 15, AMR. Gary O’Sullivan, 15, GK. They all have the potential to be terrific players, and one or two of them are especially promising. They’ll be joined by more soon.

A big step for them, coming over as a group to play for this small team they won’t have heard of. It’s a big step, but they’re going to be footballers with us.

28.1.05

I’m seated in my office pen pushing when the door is almost blasted off its hinges and the chairman flies through it. Unaccustomed to having my office assaulted, much less by my boss, I stand and demand a explanation. His eyes gleam back with an almost psychopathic delight. Spluttering something about Christmas he points at a letter in his hand.

Its from the director of Liverpool FC’s sporting academy. They were tracking Mick Carter, but when he signed for us he caught them by surprised. They’re determined to have their man, and have offered us the huge sum of £975,000 for the 16 year old. Its money we can’t turn down, that sort of fee could make this club for the next decade. I ring down and get a bight eyed Mick in my office, a young footballer full of the new world, and tell him the news. He’s overwhelmed, but I explain my position, I have to have this deal. I tell him that all that will happen is that he’ll have a higher chance of turning into a footballer, and that if it didn’t work out, we’d be happy to see him again! It’ll mean starting again for the second time in a week, but I tell him to forget Shrewsbury ever happened. He rings his parents. The deal will go through, I’m sure of it.

Also today, I have other business to attend to. Ross Clarke is a 18 year old AMR/C with terrific abilities and the potential to get much better. He’s been signed on a free transfer and will go straight into the first team squad. He has a terrific right foot, good pace, nice technique and a ability to score goals excellently. He’ll be a good addition.

Also today, ironically, we’ve signed Mark Smyth on loan from Liverpool. A very one dimensional FLC, he has good skill, ok finishing, and good pace. He’s a head down and run player, but that may be ok. He was a last resort, no one else seemed to want to sign, especially to cover that left wing position.

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29.1.04

Away at Rochdale, a tough game we really need to win. They�re in the position above us. If we win, it�s a huge jump up into the play-offs, if we lose, it�s a marathon to climb back. No changes.

Half time, and we�re 1-0 down. We�d defended ok, and broke well. Weatherson 3 times one on one, we can�t continue to miss these. Then, they come forward, and instead of going with his man, Dolan pushes out, gets it played in behind him, and they score. A stupid mistake costs us again. We have to score goals!

2 minutes after the restart we do. The ball bounces stupidly around in the middle of the area, and Weatherson manages to hook it around the keeper and into the net. Fair enough, but the chances big Peter then manages to miss are beyond a joke. He must have had, and I�m not joking, 5 total or very close to one on one chances with their keeper. He misses the lot. Then, with half an hour left, someone gets the ball to the edge of their area, and Patrick McCourt, the one quality Rochdale player, volleys it into the net. My heart collapses.

We pummel them, creating twice as many chances as they do. Mads Timm hits the post, we do everything except score. Then, in the 92nd minute of injury time, Bolt swings in a corner, and Chris Todd heads home his 10th goal of the season. That was our 62nd league goal, but we�ve let in more than 40. Not good.

I may have been on about this quite a few times, but all the chances cannot continue to be missed. We�re scoring goals, but not enough! We don�t let many goals in, but we�re always going to concede one or two. When our strikers have chances, they don�t score them, and its crippling us. Our centre half has 10 goals, how many times has that ability from corners saved us? How many time has a midfielder or defender had to get forward to nick a goal? Our top striker has 15 goals, not bad you might think, but on a chance/goal ratio, its not that good.

1.2.05

Danny Bolt is player of the month!

A new signing, with left sided midfielder Steve Jennings coming in from Tranmere for 3 months loan. He�s there as back up to Bolt. He�s a useful 20 year old.

2.2.05

Today is the day for him to play like it. We�re away at Layton Orient, another match against a team just above us fighting for a play-off place. A win is needed, but we simply must, must, not lose.

Half time, and we�re 2-0 down. They wove past us on 8 minutes to score their first, then Howie got no where near a corner, giving the same player a easy header. We�ve attacked a bit, but we�re not causing them any problems really, we�re never going to get back into this. Remedy? Weatherson and Fitzgerald off, Parke and Timm on. All out attack for 45 minutes. Might as well lose 3-0.

We do. We attack relentlessly, and get hit when a corner is headed back to a completely unmarked player on the edge of the area. We hit the bar, we miss chances galore, but I hardly care. I�ve had enough of this lot, if they can�t be professional (and while I accept that we were beaten by the better team I can�t stomach a striker missing the chances ours do), then I can�t be bothered. I�ve run out of energy for this team. They don�t play with any sense of confidence or drive. Its all half hearted stuff, we don�t dominate at all, we don�t tackle, we don�t look clinical in any way. We�re 10th, and we�re now 9 points away from automatic promotion. Not good enough, this has to be the lowest point, if it turns out not to be, we�re finished big time.

I have to spend some of that money on new players, and now.

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5.2.05

Wycombe Wanderers away today, and yet another play-off team. If we lose here today, I think that�s it. We�re never going to gain enough ground back to launch a serious claim. Basically, we need to win. If we do, that�ll be a huge help, if we don�t�.

I make 3 changes, being ruthless, I drop Fitzgerald, and replace him with Smyth, Fotheringham, and replace him with Clarke, and Edwards, replacing him with Ingledow. That could all go wrong, but I have to try.

For a while, it worked, but then, late on, just as we could have got to half time, it went awry. Clarke lost the ball weakly on the right, it bounced off Todd, off Dolan, and finally fell to their midfield player who scored. A childish goal, like a bunch of 5 year olds chasing after the ball. This is so frustrating. What to do now?

The final score is 1-1. Not a defeat, but not brilliant either. Mark Smyth scores a fabulous goal, turning off two men and driving home, but its not enough to get us all 3 points.

In the second half there�s only one team in it. We destroy them, Todd twice hits the bar with free headers, Weatherson is through no less than 3 times, but misses them all. We have a goal disallowed for a none-existent offside, and there�s a terrible moment when a cross rolls all the way along their completely deserted goal line with no one to tap it in. In the final minute, Bolt was completely free, driving into the box, 4 players shouting at him to pull it back. Selfishly, he shot, and it went for a throw on the far side.

I�m getting so tired of saying it, but its missed chances again that are costing us. We had more than enough opportunities from a multitude of sources to score, and spurned the lot. That is what is going to cost us. Patches of silly defending and then a inability to take a multitude of chances are going to cost us promotion.

12.2.05

Home to Northampton, a midtable team. This has, has, to be 3 points, anything else isn�t acceptable. Fotheringham comes back in for Clarke on the right. Briscoe has a knock so Challis comes in.

Half time, and we�re 1-0 up, Smyth rolling in the rebound from Weatherson�s shot. We�ve done ok, we�re out playing them, but we must score at least one more.

I think the second half is probably one of the strangest I�ve seen. We go down to ten men after only ten minutes of it, Todd getting sent off for two bookable offences. Not good, but to be fair to Chris, he immediately apologizes. Then, something incredible happens, and it happens to Peter Weatherson. Bassinder, on as a Todd replacement, gets up and heads the ball forward, towards their edge of their area. Big Peter picks it up, turns off his man, and unleashes a unstoppable right footed drive which hurtles over the keeper and takes the back off the net. The ground explodes, and Weatherson, both hands outstretched runs 50 yards and leaps on top of me on the touchline. I stuck by him, and this seems to be part of a reward. The other half arrives soon after. Playing at the back for a split second, Smyth simply hacks the ball away. It falls to Weatherson on the edge of their area, completely alone. He holds it up, spins, goes to the byline, cuts back, shoulders past his man and thumps it low into the corner from the angle. I never thought I�d see him do that, even though he does have the capability.

It�s a great 3-0 win, which while it doesn�t take us anywhere, restores optimism and makes the 8 points between us and second place look much smaller than it did a week ago.

There was good spirit about them today, and if Weatherson can put a burst in and take some chances between now and the end of the season, then we have a real chance.

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15.2.04

Bury at home, and again, we must have 3 points, nothing else will be good enough from a game such as this. Gavin Bassinder replaces the suspended Todd.

Half time, and its 0-0. We’ve had all the play, and a Bassinder header disallowed, but we just can’t get a goal. We must, these are 3rd to bottom, and it has to be 3 points today.

Mads Timm on for Lambert at half time.

In the end, it is, by a comfortable margin. Only 2 minutes after half time, Fotheringham gets away up the right and puts in a perfect cross to the far post where Weatherson does as all good poachers should and gets up to crash a perfect strikers header into the opposite corner for 1-0.

Then Mads Timm demonstrates why signing him was a good idea. He nips onto Fotheringham’s chipped ball, runs to the edge of the area on the right side and slams a swerving shot at terrific pace over the keeper and into the far corner. It’s a great goal, and a huge sigh of relief goes up around the ground, not least from me.

As if repaying him for not getting his first, Gavin Bassinder scores. Bolt whips a corner in, and big Gav rises to nod his 5th goal beyond the keeper.

They get one back with their only shot of the match when we’re all over the place at the back and we do about 50 things wrong, allowing Mike Flynn the chance, but fortunately, we’re already 3 goals up!

A good professional performance today, and 3 points secured which takes us back into the play-off zone. We have to keep this run going, we can’t allow ourselves to take anymore knock backs.

19.2.05

Grimsby away, and while these are a good team, we have to go out and ruthlessly claim 3 points. Todd is back, but only makes the bench, as Bassinder did fine last match.

Its been a incredible first half. They take a early lead, our ex forward Colin Cramb bending in a fine free kick, but we get back on level terms when Mark Smyth scores a fabulous goal. Picking up the ball in his own half he breezes forward, beats at least 3 men before finishing sweetly with his left foot. It doesn’t last. The defense crumbles, and Cramb is in again to finish low.

Again, we come back, a Weatherson header is tipped over, and Bassinder scores from the resultant corner with a simply unstoppable header. Finally, can we hold this? No, because they score yet another direct free kick to go back into a 3-2 lead! Whats going on here? Again, to make it 3-3 at half time, we retaliate, and score a equalizer. Weatherson holds the ball up, and flips it through a gap in the defense. Smyth has it taken by the defender, who lets it bounce, giving Smyth another chance to get the ball and hook it left footed into the net.

3 goals away from home and still only getting a point! For gods sake! We can win this, all it will take is a slight tightening up at the back and a continuation of good attacking play for us to get 3 points. Or, of course, it could go the other way.

It finishes 3-3. Scott Howie saves a penalty and they have two goals disallowed, one of which would have been literally the last kick, in the 95th minute.

It’s a hectic game, which, despite all of that, we could have won. It was not the amount of chances we created, but the quality of them, with Peter Weatherson missing an almost completely open goal with a volley.

Although it takes us out of the play-offs again, I suppose I have to be happy with a point. Still though, we could and should have won today, only our again suspect defense letting us down.

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26.2.05

Notts County at home, and with some of the upcoming fixtures we have, today is a absolute must win. One change, Dolan is out, and Todd is in at the back with Bassinder in an attempt to sort out defensive problems. Gay Meadow has a rather restless air to it, no one is sure what is going to happen. Are we going to turn up and wallop these, or just shade it, or fail miserably. Its days like this that make me wish I’d bought 11 hard working monoliths to kick teams like this off the park. Instead, we must try and beat them by playing football.

Half time, and playing football has worked against their ridiculously optimistic attacking formation. We’re 2-0 up. Bolt has got both of them, first prodding home and cross from the lively and imaginative Smyth, and then skinning his full back before cutting into the area and sliding the ball into the corner. So many times they go wide, and now he’s finally got one! We’re playing well, at about our best I think, and we need to make sure we keep it up, and secure 3 points.

In the end, the score line has a top heavy look to it, even though we completely deserved our 4 goals without reply. We miss loads of chances, most of them by Peter Weatherson, before finally scoring 2 goals in the last 5 minutes of the match. Firstly Smyth is fouled, a penalty which Bassinder smashes in, then, in stoppage time Smyth gets his own goal, rolling in the rebound from Weatherson’s shot.

Another great performance, with the back 4 looking much steadier this time around. Against the lower half, we look a absolute class outfit, but we must now carry this on into the last 15 games or so of the season.

1.3.05

Bolt got player of the month again! He’s attracting quite a cult following, and most of the questions I seem to get asked regard him. He’s something different, and a type of player whom there aren’t many of any more.

5.3.05

A very tough game today, away to Oxford United in their posh new ground. These are in the play-offs, have the division’s leading scorer, and we need to beat them, or at least not lose. We make no changes, and I can’t stress how important it is to get a result, we can’t get beat by our immediate rivals.

Half time, and we’re 2-0 down. We’ve been playing them off the park, and suddenly, they get a wicked deflection, and then score from a corner. Its going to be a long way back.

We never do it. They score another blinding goal, and Mark Smyth gets sent off for two bookings. It’s a shocking result, but they were better than us.

8.3.05

Its local rivals Chester City at home, and this has to be 3 points. They’re not a brilliant side, and we must get one over their loudmouth manager Ian Rush by beating them. All this week he’s been on about the rivalry and how his lads would be more ‘up for it’.

Smyth and Bolt are both suspended, are replaced by Timm and Jennings respectively.

Half time, and, having battered them, we’re not winning! We murdered them, and eventually took the lead when Dolan, on for the injured Bassinder, headed home. In stoppage time, they get a cross in. The header their pathetic winger produced was woeful, until it bounced off Todd and crept through Howie’s hands! How come we never get any bloody lucky goals, they’re always against us!! Just to help, Fotheringham has a knock, and can’t continue, so Street is on.

It finishes 1-1, their 1, yes 1, effort on target securing them a point. We hit the post through Timm, they cleared it off the line so many times I lost count, and I just can’t understand how we didn’t win. I know why we’re never going to be consistent enough to challenge for the top prize, we just can’t score enough goals. It’s a terrible result, against a team 5th from bottom we had to get 3 points. If we had, we’d have been 9 points off the title, but as it is, we’re 11. The players seem to be settling for the play-offs, but that’s not on, we need to win some blinking games! After this we have the team above us away, and 2nd placed at home. We could find ourselves out of the whole picture.

This team is so frustrating, I can’t wait for the season’s end when I can clear half of this lot out and get some class in.

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12.3.05

Boston United, and I need some results now. I need these players to do something out of the ordinary. I need them to turn up and perform, instead of faffing about as they have recently. That begins today. Smyth and Bolt are both back in.

Half time, it’s a re-run of Oxford, and we’re 2-0 down. We had the better of the first 10 minutes, but failed to make it count. They then came forward, scored their first when the ball bounced off Todd, deflected off Smith and fell to their lad to score. The second was when their striker got the sort of chance mine get 5 times a match. Difference? He scored. In the dressing room, I’m disgusted. I tell them that half of them are going to be unemployed at this rate at the end of the season, and that they should think about that when allowing themselves to be bossed by a hardly superior team. Get out. What to do? The triple sub ploy. Weatherson, Smyth and Lambert off. Parke, Timm and Jennings on.

We lose 3-0. Pathetic.

I don’t speak to them on the bus on the way home, I’ve had enough of this bunch. Tomorrow they’ll come in and run and run and run. See if I care.

I’m already looking at people for next year, and half of these who played are going to find themselves unemployed anyway.

13.3.05

Enjoying those laps lads?

19.3.05

Cheltenham at home, and if we don’t win, we could be completely out of the picture. Fotheringham and Smith are rested, with Street and Marshall replacing them.

Half time, and *yawn*, its 0-0, with us dominating and not…….you’ve heard it before…

The second half is a improvement, and although for once they hit both post and bar, we score twice, and win 2-0!

Lambert puts us ahead, drilling into the corner even as he fell backwards from inside the area. He nearly missed, but it went off the post and in. The second goal was a gem, a real classic from Mark Smyth. Picking up the ball in his own half he tore forward, ripping the heart out of Cheltenham before finishing coolly from the edge of the area. Ahh… the sweet taste of victory.

Win all the remaining games, and the title is on you know lads!

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2.4.05

Before we pop that Champaign, we have Bristol Rovers to contend with at the memorial ground. Fotheringham is back on the right of midfield, no other changes.

Half time, and after falling behind, we’ve responded with a very powerful performance, and we’re currently 3-1 up!

We equalized almost immediately, Fotheringham getting hacked down and Bassinder scoring the penalty, then Bassinder put us in front with a powerful header. Right before half time, a lucky bounce put Weatherson clean through, and while his curling shot came back off the post, Smyth (misser of several good chances) recovered to prod it in! We need to hold this, and ensure we get all 3 points.

The second half is ridiculous. We go into a 4-1 lead through Peter Weatherson’s low finish after a magical run from Bolt, but they then score a dodgy header and a seemly savable free kick to bring it back to 4-3. Somehow, we hold out, and claim a wonderful away win.

How did that happen? We’re cruising and suddenly they’re back in it. We continued to play wonderfully, created some good chances and generally looked like a good outfit, but I’d say we’re a class defender short of a side at the moment.

We’re 9 points away from automatic promotion, which, with 6 games left, is looking a big ask. 4 of them are at home though…

9.4.05

Maccelesfield at home. They’re 3rd to bottom of the league, and we have to go out there and smash them. No mistakes, no cock ups, I want a win! No changes, even though no less than 6 of our players are a booking away from a suspension.

Half time, and we’re 2-0 up. After about 20 minutes it only became a matter of time until we scored, and we did. Bolt swung in a corner and Bassinder crashed a header in. Only 4 minutes later we scored again. Fotheringham headed a Bolt cross back to the edge of the area. Ingledow moved it into the area, and Lambert smashed it home.

We’re doing ok, we just need to make sure we seal it now.

The second half is anything other than normal. They pull a goal back with a long shot Howie should surely have saved. Question marks are beginning to appear over my goalkeeper. No problem though, because we quickly score two more goals. Bassinder thunders in another header from yet another corner, and Lambert does as all good attacking midfielders should to get into the box and score a diving header off Danny Bolt’s superb run and cross.

Once again, they get yet another goal, but in stoppage time, we knock in a 5th. Mads Timm turns nicely on the right edge of the penalty area and lays the ball across to Ingledow, who blasts it into the corner.

Great performance I suppose, although letting two goals in is slightly worrying.

16.4.05

Yoevil away, and while this is a tough game, we must win it if we’re to have any chance to automatic promotion. After this, there is only 1 away game left, and that’s to Rushden, so winning today is important. No changes.

Half time, and we’re 1-0 up. A quick break got Fotheringham away up the right, and he crossed to the far post where Danny Bolt appeared to slot home. We’ve done ok, but another goal would be nice, and a continuation of this comparative solidarity.

We score again just after half time, Ingeldow rolls of his man and curls lovely little shot into the bottom corner. Game safe eh lads. Nope, because they score two goals through substitute Kevin Gall. My head just falls into my hands. I’ve seen all this before.

Somehow, we score again. Fotheringham gets the ball to Timm, who begins to storm forward. He nutmegs one defender, turns another, and then slams the ball under the keeper, securing 3 points!

Great result, if we can keep this winning run up, we do have a chance of automatic promotion.

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7.5.05

Our final league game, the final league game of my first season. Its at home to Scunthorpe, a side who just about managed to stay up this year. I’m making changes, no doubt about that. To get him fit for the play-offs, Danny Smith returns to right back in place of Marshall. Ross Clarke is given a start on the right wing, while McEwen and Fitzgerald start together up front. Edwards is out in the middle and Kevin Street plays. No other changes.

Half time, and we’ve demonstrated that, given absolutely no pressure at all, we can play like Real Madrid. We’re 5-0 up. McEwen (who I probably should have played more) put us ahead inside 50 seconds. Bolt clipped a ball over the top for him to run onto, he did so, and curled a wonderful finish over the keeper and into the net from the edge of the area. Bolt also set up the next goal, 14 minutes later, for Fitzgerald. His cross caused absolute havoc, first bouncing off the post, then smacked against the bar before finally being rammed home. Scott also got the next goal. Ross Clarke squared it and from the edge of the area Fitzgerald rammed it high across the keeper and into the far top corner. Now if he could do that more often! That, incidentally, was our 100th league goal of the season. Next up was the ubiquitous Gavin Bassinder, who headed in a Bolt corner like it was second nature. Without those corners, we wouldn’t be where we are! For our 5th goal, McEwen demonstrated his class once again. Cutting in from the left, he clipped a sweet cross onto the head of the games smallest man; Kevin Street. Streety nodded it into the bottom corner.

Umm, do you think we can lose this?

We make a muck of up several good chances, but we don’t lose, and even add one more goal, a David Edwards shot, to make a grand total of 6!

That’s it then, at the end of the game, we were given a huge standing ovation, but thoughts are already turning to next week, and the impending play-off clash with Wycombe.

15.5.05

Watched the other first leg today, between Layton Orient and Boston. It finished 1-1.

16.5.05

Its been a hellish week building up to this. Wycombe Wanderers away (first leg) for the chance to go into League One. This time last year we were in the same position, except against Barnet, and with me only a tense fan, rather than half-mad manager.

This can go either way. If we’re on a good day, we can paste them, but if not, it could all go badly wrong. I know we can do it, although I feel we’re the weakest team in the play-offs by some way. If Bolt fires, we have a chance, but its scoring goals that does it, and can we score enough. Ok, we’ve scored 103 league goals, but never when it mattered, now we must score, there is no second chance. I’m happy to be away from home first, we’re always stronger at home, and I’d prefer to go there knowing what we have to do.

The plan is the same, 4-4-2, get the ball to Bolt. The team is thus: Howie, Smith, Todd, Bassinder, Briscoe, Fotheringham, Street, Ingledow, Bolt, Fitzgerald, Weatherson. Having Fotheringham back is good, although he’s only semi-fit, but I’m worried about the front two and the centre of midfield. On a good day, those 4 players look ok, but on a bad day, they can disappear without trace. We need to win today, we need to get those goals, we need to make sure any dodgy goals we let in are accounted for. We need some of that finishing from last week. Will I get it though? For my liking, too many of this team are inexperienced. Lots of this team is in its first year in pro football, let alone a play-off, and we’re facing a big, confident Wycombe who could roll straight over us. We must not let it happen.

Half time, and we’re 2-1 down. The wrong team has turned up. We’re giving the ball away, we’re sloppy, we’re slow, and we’re missing chances. Lots of chances. We took the lead on only 90 seconds. Fotheringham clipped the ball into the area, and Fitzgerald pirouetted before slamming it high over the keeper and in. Cue mass collapse. They equalize with a easy header Howie never gets too and Bassinder doesn’t deal with. Then score again when everyone leaves the ball to everyone else to clear, and Stonebridge scores a once in a lifetime left foot volley. The same old story, missed chances, mistakes, and a wonder goal. For gods sake lads, for your own sake, don’t come all this way and nause it up, for once, go out there and do something that means something! McEwen is on for Weatherson at half time.

Its no good. We lose 2-1. The second half is completely dominated by us, but we can’t score. Bassinder has a header cleared off the line, but we never look like a real threat through the middle. Fitzgerald isn’t up to it running with the ball. I’m so disappointed, I thought that today of all days, we might overcome the problems, we might do things right. But no. It’s the same old story, the way we’ve played out games so many times, the reason we’re in the play-offs instead of winning the title. Against the sides around us we can’t score and do just enough to lose.

Although this result can be overturned at Gay Meadow, I don’t think we will. We’re never going to score enough, we’re all huff and puff, and not enough end product.

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19.5.05

Tonight, in front of a completely full Gay Meadow, we will do or die. Tonight we have to keep a clean sheet and score two goals. That is the ask. We know who we will face, as Boston won 4-0 last night. Now we have to be big enough to face them. We can do it tonight. We have scored enough goals to beat anyone. We can score enough. We can beat anyone. Tonight, we must prove it. That, it seems is the hard part, actually achieving something. It has always been the same at this club, always talk, always dreams, but when it comes to it, no product. Lose tonight and we’ll be made out as unlucky losers, who did well to even get here. That would drive me mad. Winning this game comfortably is the only option open.

I don’t know what to do for the best. Suffering immensely from injury’s and a 50 game season, Fotheringham is barely fit. I don’t want to do it, but I have to. Street moves to the right, and the ridiculously young Dave Edwards comes into midfield. Fotheringham will be on the bench, he can come on and give us 20 minutes if we need him. I realize now I was probably a bit too hasty in selling people, and a bit too slow in replacing them. That is going to cost us now.

We must attack!

Half time, and its 0-0. I try to gear them up, you’re the only side in it I tell them, but I privately think we’re not going to do it. I think the lads think the same. Their keeper has pulled off two fantastic saves from Bassinder, and they’re just too strong. They have a mental block over us. All we can do is go for it. Edwards off, Fotheringham on.

In the second half, I become more and more convinced that we’re not going to do it, and when, with 10 minutes left, Bolt misses a simple header, I’m ready to accept defeat as graciously as possible. Gerry though, has a plan. Off comes Danny Smith, and on goes Dave McEwen to send us to 3-4-3. With wingbacks.

With 4 minutes left, we get a chance. Lee Briscoe sweeps the ball out to the right. Fotheringham, out on his feet, doesn’t get to it, but does put their defender under enough pressure to make him misjudge his sideways header. A yard quicker than their centre half, Weatherson is onto it. Through, one on one. The goalie rushes out, filling the space big Pete has to aim at. With time running out, he slides it towards the far post. I can see right behind the ball. Wide? The post? Or in? Please, please go in. It rolls, slower and slower before finally striking the post… and trickling into the back of the net. The place explodes, as fans rush onto the pitch, burying the team (don’t get injured for gods sake), and the ref, sensing his authority countermanded, wisely blows for time.

We did it!! We won!! But only just. This was sweet justice I suppose, but I can’t help but feel they deserved it more. Emotions are running so high, everyone is celebrating, but myself and the team are simply exhausted. I don’t know how we did that, but somehow, we did. I suspect we won’t get much sleep tonight.

One huge, huge blow. Just before the goal, taking a goal kick, Scott Howie slipped. He’s pulled a muscle, and he’ll be out for the foreseeable future. This is not good.

28.5.05

Its Saturday afternoon, and we’ve left Shrewsbury for Cardiff, to do absolutely nothing in preparation for Monday’s final V Boston. We have a walk by the river, and then go watch the F.A Cup final, which Chelsea, the premiership champions, win 1-0.

30.5.05

The Millennium Stadium rises around us as far as the eye can see. Our fans have half of the lower tier, and they’ve filled it completely, a sea of blue and amber. Where were these in those 3-0 away defeats? The players look a bit overawed, and so am I! The changing rooms are bigger than our main stand, and they’re mostly silent. Lee Briscoe takes charge, he’s not the captain, but he’s an influential member of the team. He’s been there, seen it, and done it. Whatever ‘there’ and ‘it’ are. The stadium almost shakes with the rumbling of the crowd outside. Vague bits of it drift down the tunnel to my players, who look even more nervous then the Boston mob.

They run out into the mass of colour rising away, this is it, the chance, the big one, and we have to win!

The team, decided in front of the lads yesterday, is thus: Young Petter Bjorkli is in goal (god help him), with a back 4 of Smith, Bassinder, Todd and Briscoe in front of him. Fotheringham, who is fit enough, is on the right, Street and Ingledow in the middle, with Bolt on the left. Weatherson and Fitzgerald up front.

Half time, and its 0-0. We’ve played them off the park. You can call me repetitive, but I don’t care. After 5 minutes, Kevin Street hit the post, and ever since then, we’ve destroyed them. We’re bossing the game, but I can just see it, one chance, and they’ll have scored. We must put the ball in their net, we must get a goal, and we must win! We’ve come too far lads.

Its going to extra time. The chances we’ve missed have been incredible. We’ve played so well, but, despite hitting the post again, we can’t score. There is only one team who deserves to win this, and its us. We must make sure justice is done. McEwen is on for Weatherson. Peter has done nothing wrong, but we need fresh legs.

Its half time in extra time. I send one message out to the players. Be solid. We’re 1-0 up. A absolutely sensational Bolt run led to him launching a fantastic 25 yard shot at goal. Their keeper tipped it over. Fotheringham, calm as always, placed the ball down, and whipped in a corner. Coming off his man, Gavin Bassinder flicked his head, and glanced the ball into the corner. Half the place goes wild, Gerry nearly knocks himself out on the dugout, and I find myself half on the pitch in celebration. Now, we have a job to do. For the next 15 teenyweeny minutes, all we have to do is keep a clean sheet, and we’ll be in the second division. Or whatever it is. I make one change, with the slightly tougher minded Dave Edwards coming on for George Fotheringham. The tension at this moment is absolutely incredible.

I cannot believe this. We went 2-0 up through another Gavin Bassinder header. And they got back. Extra time went on and on, into 7 minutes of extra time! 7 bloody minutes! In that time, they got two crosses in, and equalized. I cannot believe it. None of us can believe it. Now, after having 30 shots to their 4, and having led 2-0, we have to take penalties. Its all with them now, they have the momentum.

It’s a war of attrition, which I have trouble watching. Gavin Bassinder takes our first, and puts us ahead. They equalize. McEwen is next, and again scores. They equalize. Bolt steps up, and slams a great penalty high into the net. They equalize. Now Jason Lee, the scorer of their equalizer, comes up. He’s smiling, he looks confident. Bjorkli looks very small. Lee steps up, and shoots straight and true. Bjorkli gets to the ball, and punches it out. If Dave Edwards scores, we win. He’s 19, and he’s not the man I would want taking this. He comes up, and hits it straight at their keeper. I nearly collapse. They score their next. So do we, with Lee Briscoe bending in a lovely left footed effort. Now, it’s the last pen. Time up. If Pitt fails to score, we win. The game is, literally, up. It all comes down to this kick by a player I don’t even own. All those 103 goals, all those games, all those miles on the road, all come down to this moment. The noise is deafening, overwhelming. Bjorkli focuses in on the ball as Gerry has told him so many times. ‘Look at the ball, that ball is your universe….’ Pitt steps up, and drills it. Bjorkli moves instantly, flies to his left, and gets his fingertips to it, diverting the ball around the post. The place explodes, everyone Shrewsbury comes pouring onto the pitch and descends into a huge group pile on in front of our fans, who have gone completely ballistic. ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’ blares out across the ground, and everyone joins in, Champaign explodes around us, and we run about shaking hands, dancing with each other, before being dragged over for the ceremony.

Chris Todd takes the cup, and lifts it above his head. Success at last!

The night is very long and very loud…

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1.6.05

It was the P.F.A Dinner tonight, and although we were so far back from the stage we might well have been in a different room, the evening was highlighted with my winning the League Two Manager of the Year.

Chuffed to get that, it puts the cherry on the cake. I’ve done ok this year, I think bringing in the players from non-league has got it me.

To be honest, we’ve been lucky. If we hadn’t been so good from corners, and if we hadn’t had Danny Bolt, we wouldn’t have got near where we are. We’ve scored a lot of goals, but we’ve missed a lot of opportunities and wherever we could, we’ve made it hard for ourselves.

14.6.05

The players are all off now. But two of them have still be transferred out. Jamie Tolley, frozen out these last few matches, has gone to Whitby for £6k, and flawed attacking midfielder Adriano Rigoglosio has signed for Rochdale for £3k. Sad to see Tolley go, as he’s been here since he was a kid, and was long expected to move up the divisions. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

Adriano hasn’t done a lot for us. We brought him as back up when he preferred to be the centre of the universe. Not going to happen. He’ll do ok there, as long as they play him. Personally, I always found him hard to get on with, especially when out of the team, and putting him in the team was hard, because although I like talent, which he had, he either never seemed to use it, or wasn’t sure of which position to use it. He didn’t work hard enough to be a midfield player, and wasn’t quick enough to be a forward.

Time for a review of the season.

This season, we played in 56 competitive matches, of which we won 26, drew 13, and lost 17. In those games we scored 113 goals, and conceded 83.

Our League Two record, stands like this: Played 46, won 22, Drawn 10, Lost 14, Scored 103, conceded 73, Goal Difference +30, leaving us with 76 points and a 4th placed finish. I’m pretty happy with that, although the goals against is way too high. Mansfield and Macclesfield, both relegated, only let in 7 and 10 goals more than that respectively.

In terms of league stats, we did well. Our average attendance was 2nd best in the league at 6002, we scored the most from corners by a huge margin, 27, 5 goals from IFK’s, and only 2 from direct efforts. Unfortunately, we also came second in yellow cards, with 119, and 7th in red cards, with 8. Macclesfield got a incredible 18!

Our players also achieved things on the league stage. Danny Bolt was rated the highest average rated player, at 8.35, and Gavin Bassinder and Chris Todd also made it into the top 5, with 7.55 and 7.54 respectively. Scott Howie was 3rd in the relevant league with 47 appearances, but the highest we could manage in goals was 14th for Gavin Bassinder’s 16. A tribute to my always on about getting the ball wide was the assist stats, Bolt top on 25 assists, and Fotheringham second on 19. Unfortunately Bolt also claimed another record, with 20 yellow cards, which will see him miss the first game of next season.

Club statistics:

Appearances: Scott Howie 54, Lee Briscoe 53, Danny Bolt 47, Chris Todd 43 and George Fotheringham 41.

Goals: Scott Fitzgerald 18, Gavin Bassinder, 16, Danny Bolt, 12 Simon Parke 11 and Chris Todd 11. Two centre halves and no one over 20!

As far as player of the year is concerned, I can see it being only one man. Danny Bolt, having arrived on a free transfer, is now one of our biggest assets. There hasn’t been a full back he hasn’t made a fool of, and while he’s not all he could be with his skill (which is why he’s playing in this league), he does the job I want him to excellently, which is what I said I wanted at the start of the season. He’s scored goals, although not as many as he could have.

There have been a few players like him, Chris Todd came in on a free transfer, and has captained us to this promotion, being our best defender as he has. Lee Briscoe has been steady, and I know how lucky we were to find a player of his class to play more than 40 games for us. In these last few games Jamie Ingledow has done it for us, as has George Fotheringham, as good a player as League Two has ever seen probably, despite arriving on a free transfer. I have naused some things up. I should probably have played the far more talented Dave McEwen when I kept sticking with Weatherson and Parke, and I should have acted to replace Chris O’Brien, Keith Andrews and Jamie Tolley.

In the end I’ve been lucky, and I know it. We let too many goals in, and generally weren’t good enough to go up automatically, although looking back, it wouldn’t have needed too many results to go differently. I’ve been lucky with players. I sold off a lot of proven League Two type players and replaced them with free transfers or worse, and its only just worked. People like Lee Marshall and Jamie Ingledow were no better (and probably a bit worse) than the people they replaced, but I took the gamble to try and bring wages down and it has worked to a certain extent. Whilst I never actually sad I wanted to go up, it was my private goal for the team and I knew that we just needed to scrape it through. Now we’re up I have the money and the clout to turn this club into what I want it to be, rather than always scrapping about in the bottom division. I’ve rode my luck and I’m glad for it.

I need new players and I know that too. Lots of this bargain squad will have to go be replaced by more talented individuals. The harsh reality of football.

At the end of the season, more than a week ago now I suppose, I did as I did at Ludlow, and had a individual meeting with my first team to go over their contribution this year, and what, if anything is happening for next season. Its all below.

Scott Howie: Big Scott has been good for us this year. He’s a solid keeper at this level, but with his clock ticking past 34 soon, he knows he isn’t going to be behind my defense for long this coming season. I have plans (and permission to) bring in Derby’s Andy Oakes, so we tell Scott we may be looking for a new club for him. He’s ok with that.

Petter Bjorkli: I suppose he’ll go down in history as the man who stopped those two pens for us, and while Petter is talented I feel he’s not instinctively happy here. I tell him we’re more than happy with him, but if his problems should continue, we won’t have a problem helping him out.

Gavin Bassinder: Ahh big Gavin, a refreshing change from a world where defenders have to be midfielders. Get the boot behind the ball or use your head. At either end. He has 16 goals from 29 games, which is actually a better record than my centre forwards! His contract has another year to run, and while we can’t guarantee him first team football every week, we suggest he sticks around.

Joe Dolan: At this level, Joe should be about as good as it gets, but when he’s played for us, I’ve usually been disappointed. We tell him that central defense is a hugely important position next season, and that while he will get his chance, he has to make the most of it to stay in the team. He nods. We’ll see.

Christopher Todd: 23 year old Chris has been one of my better signings. He’s been solid for us whenever he’s played, and led the side well into the bargain. There is potential for him to develop, and his contract has 2 years to run, so he’s going nowhere. We thank him for his contribution this year.

Lee Briscoe: 29 year old Lee has been very consistent in an inconsistent team. Not spectacular, he’s been solid, and that’s good. The other defenders have been able to take a bearing off him and we’ve also benefited going forward from his intelligent use of the ball. Unless someone seriously better comes along, he’ll keep his spot for next year.

Trevor Challis: Despite being part of the squad when I arrived, I’ve had no problems with Trevor this season. Whenever he’s played, he’s done fine. Many moons ago, he played in England U21’s at the same time as Briscoe. Lee has since spent time in the first division whilst Trevor dropped down here. The difference? I think it’s a little bit of composure and use of the ball. All that said, I tell Trev that at his age (29) he needs to get that last decent contract somewhere, so we’ll be looking for a club for him.

Sergei Baltacha: When big Sergei has played, he’s done ok, but unfortunately for him, that hasn’t been enough. His contract is up, and we’re going to release him we tell him. He doesn’t look too worried, he was big mates with Chris O’Brien, and that bust up soured him significantly.

Jamie Ingledow: Another who’s contract is up, Jamie has actually done quite well for us in the games he’s played this year. Unfortunatly, the quality of player coming in will see him released. It’s a genuine disappointment, but he bears it well. He was magnificent in the play-off final, and to be in pro football for such a brief time and then to ditch him is harsh, but I have to be ruthless. I am confident though, he’ll find another league club. The attitude is there.

Dave Edwards: Dave is the main reason I can be so sure about releasing Jamie. The lad, played sporadically this season, can become a great lower league midfield player if he carries on. Whenever he’s played this season he’s impressed and if he carries on, then we’ll have a useful player.

George Fotheringham: I think bringing George to the club was a masterstroke. He’s been class all year, and his ability to put the ball on a sixpence should have been used more by our wasteful forwards. He’ll keep his place.

Ross Clarke: Looked good whenever the 18 year old has played, so I have high hopes of him continuing to impress next year.

Danny Bolt: What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Player of the year for definite. Thing is though, he has to carry on. He has to be the same effective player for us in League One. He assures me that’s no problem.

Kevin Street: Yet another relic of the Quinn era I’ve been quite happy to keep. He’s done a excellent job for us whenever and wherever he’s played. His contract is also up, and with the quality of players I’m bringing in, I think we’ll lose Kevin, but it’s a huge thanks for the job he’s done. He’s a higher class of League Two midfielder.

Dave McEwen: Dave sits down rightly a bit annoyed. He’s a class player and he’s hardly played. I concur, and explain that when he has played a few not-missed-by-much chances converted would have seen him in the team for a far longer period. He is quality player, and while he’ll still be backup, we tell him we want him here for next year.

Simon Parke: Another free transfer, Simon has done very well for us this year I feel. He’s scored some good goals, including that memorable 4 in one match, and been a very useful bloke to have around. He ends the meeting abruptly by telling us he’s retiring. He’s 33 and he’s calling it a day. He thanks us for a pleasant twilight to his career and a nice medal to take home, and we thank him in turn for being such a good pro and making the most of this season.

Peter Weatherson: Peter should be everything at this level. Big, strong, quick, he has the lot, but has a strange problem actually finishing. In a way going up won’t be good for him, because he’ll have to adapt to another set of defenders, but if he can do it, play 35 games and finish on 15/20 goals, he’ll have done fine.

Scott Fitzgerald: Scott has done ok this season, but at the same time has managed to underachieve. He’s a good player at this level, a 15 goal certainty, and when you have other players around him who are scoring as well that’s fine. On the down side, I don’t feel his overall contribution is what it could be, and while he’s scored some blinding goals, he’s also been the main culprit in missing far more than he converts. There are good players in his position coming in we tell him. He will have to score serious goals to stay in the team.

There you are then, a mottly crew, and not good enough for League One. The rebuilding must begin!

20.6.05

The new season is upon us for the professional clubs! Our fixtures were announced today, and we start with a winnable tie at home to Oldham, before playing Plymouth, who came down, at home again.

Also, I had a meeting with the board this morning, during which we discussed how best to take the club forward. They said it needed to stay in the league and be on a even footing, and I said that the training facilites were looking a bit worn, and with the quality of the young players I’m bringing in, it would be worth the money in investment. They concurred.

They then did me a big favor by not taking all the Liverpool money, instead giving me £700,000 to spend this year. While I won’t need that, it does give me a license to bring in whoever I need without worrying.

In the evening, it’s the awards dinner, where Danny Bolt wins the whole lot. Except best defender which goes to Todd.

Although the players are home, they won’t begin training for another week or so.

21.6.05

My first signing of the new season. Adam Proudlock has signed for us from Sheffield Wednesday for a bargain £10k. He’s primarily a wide right midfield player, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind reverting to forward if we needed him.

Pleased to have him, and the fans seem happy to. He’s a name they know from Wolves, and they see it as a sign of the times I think.

23.6.05

2 players out today, with Sergei Baltacha released, and Lee Marshall sold to Layton Orient for £4000. He’ll do a good solid job.

25.6.05

Sorted out some friendly’s today, and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of Championship clubs willing to take us on.

Also, two more players sold. Trevor Challis has gone to Tamworth for £2000, and Stuart Whitehead has gone to Northwich for free.

Negotiations are under way with a number of class players. If most of my targets come off, we’re going to have a useful side here.

27.6.05

Big news today. I received a call this morning from , the manager of Swindon Town. It’s a huge bid for Danny Bolt, in excess of £250,000. There is no way we can turn it down, and I ring Danny immediately. His response is while he’s not hankering after leaving, he wouldn’t say no. My position is identical. Losing him would put a hole in the side, but with the money, we could bring in another class player or two.

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Thanks icon14.gif So am i to be honest, but i'm greedy for the money. Don't get offered that every day.

1.7.05

The day clubs go into overdrive. Today is the reopening of the International transfer window, and with it the time that any players hoping to utilize the bosman system get released.

We’ve not been idle, and we’ve signed a host of class players, which were presented to the media today.

Andy Oakes: Goalkeeper was a position I felt I needed to reinforce, and the 28 year old fills it perfectly. He’s a big, tough, and very competent professional goalkeeper. Just who we need playing behind our back 4. It’s a free transfer.

Alaeddine Yahia: We’ve paid Southampton £50k for the 23 year old Tunisian international. He’s a quick and uncompromising DRC, who will do us a very solid job at this level.

Tomas Backman: Tomas is a absolutely class Swedish DLC we’ve signed for Djurgarden’s IF on a free transfer. The 25 year old is a thinking mans defender, with the ability to appear suddenly and clear the ball. He reads the game excellently and has excellent distribution. Unfortunately, he’s maybe not as tough as he could be, so full back is probably a better position for him. We’ve paid £20k for his services.

Joachim Lantz: I think paying £4k for the 28 year old Swedish DC’s services has been a neat move. He was going nowhere at Kalmar, so I’ve brought him in. His main asset is one we’ve missed a little bit in the centre of defense, and that’s pace.

Scott Wilson: Another great signing. 28 year old Scott, formerly a Scottish U21 international, has joined us from Dunfermline for £8000. He’s a man mountain of a player, but also reasonably good on the ball. He’s a powerful presence, who knows how to defend and does so without compromise. Pleased to have him.

Keith Andrews: We had Keith on loan last year, and while not setting the world on fire, I feel he did enough to convince me he’s a very useful player at this level. The 23 year old Irishman may not play every game, but I still think he’ll be a decent chap to have around, especially as we got him on a free transfer from Wolves.

Kenny Lunt: A real masterstroke this one. Lots of clubs were interested in the dynamic and skilful midfield player as his Crewe contract ran out, but the 25 year old signed for us instead. He can play anywhere across midfield, take corners, and basically cause general havoc among opposition players. He’s a big coup, and should do excellently for us this season.

Keith Kelly: Another bargain deal. A scout of mine picked up 22 year old Keith’s name while on holiday in Jamaica, where he was playing for Arnett Gardens. He went to watch the wide right midfielder, and recommended him. He’s come in on a free transfer, after his 6 international caps got him a work permit. Good prospect.

Gary Dempsey: The 24 year old AMC cost us £16k from Dunfermline. He was a Irish U21 before falling away slightly. Nevertheless, he’s a classy player, and his left foot is as good as any. He can pick a pass excellently, or score goals from free kicks and long distance positions. A hard worker into the bargain.

Stephen Simmons: 23 year old AMC has cost us £20,000 from Hearts in Scotland. He’s a right footed version of Dempsey, although his qualities differ in that he’s much more about hard work than classy passing. A good player though, and one I hope can really push on and improve while with us. Normally, we wouldn’t have had the money for him, but our recent ahem windfall has allowed us to fill one position with two players.

Tom McManus: I chased long and hard to get the 24 year old former Scottish U21 international from Hibs. Playing for Boston last season he scored nearly 20 goals, including two against us while playing wide right midfield. Tom, who can either play there, through the middle, or up front, has joined us for £7000.

Babis Stefanidis: Welcome to our record signing! 24 year old Babis has signed for us from Brondby for a record £80k. He’s a Swedish wide right attacking midfielder/forward with terrific skill and technique who has played numerous times for Sweden U21’s and scored quite a few goals. I’m so pleased to have Babis, especially after the wrangling I had getting him here. He’s a terrific player though, and I think his signing will be a key one.

George Ndah: 30 year old George has signed for us on a free transfer from Wolves. Unfortunately, he has a injury which will keep him out until at least the new year, which is a shame because he’s a proven Championship standard player with a lovely left foot.

Paul Di Giacomo: This 23 year old Scottish AM/F has cost us only £7k from Kilmarnock. He’s a lovely little player, with two great feet and a eye for both a pass and a goal. I think we’ll see good things from Paul.

Eirik Hoseth: Another Scandinavian import, 28 year old Norwegian SC Hoseth has been brought in from Aalesund. He’s a great player, with terrific skill, good physical abilities and a good finish to boot. He has a bit of everything, and if we can maximize his skills, he’ll be good for us.

There’s the new lads then, some of them quality, some of them less so, but all of them able to do the job I will assign them. In general, they’re good signings, and will do well for us.

Also today, I said goodbye to all the old staff of the club. All their contracts ran out today, and we’re not keeping on with them. I’ll bring in my own people, and make the club completely cosford-ised. Of course, this means that we’re low on staff, but all through last season I’ve been sniffing out potential young coaches, so I have plans for a replacement.

Also on the agenda was meeting the lads from our centre of excellence who have done well enough to get onto the next step of the ladder, which is our youth team. A couple of them, striker Gavin Johnson in particular, look excellent.

2.7.05

Another new signing today, with Spanish striker Ramon Pereira coming in on a free from Hearts in Scotland. The 26 year old is a class act, being good with the ball at his feet and with it in the air. He jumps well, isn’t slow and has good shooting technique.

Our first friendly, with Welsh non-league team Ton Petre away.

After only 12 minutes, Scott Wilson is back off down the tunnel having been sent off for dissent and then a silly trip. I’m livid, and follow him off down the tunnel to give him a good rollocking. By half time, we’re 2-0 down.

I rescue it, and send on Danny Bolt to work his magic, and it has results as he scores one and rolls Weatherson in to score with a delightful cheeky chip.

5.7.05

Welshpool in our next friendly.

It finishes an interesting 4-4 draw. Tom McManus scores a hattrick and Bolt a penalty to cancel out some very dodgy goals from our points of view. This defense would appear to need some work.

7.7.05

Another new player today, with us paying £6000 to bring in Crewe’s left back Anthony Tonkin. He’s a very competent 25 year old who can play orthodox left back or higher up if need be. He’s quite skillful and good on the ball, but a useful defender also.

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8.7.05

Porthmadoc away for our next friendly.

This is an easy 5-1 win, with Dempsey, Lantz, Giacomo, Pereira and Tonkin scoring the goals.

9.7.05

My coaching staff was overhauled today, with new faces coming in! 37 year old Steve Palmer has been signed on first team duties. The superb 36 year old former Northern Ireland international Mark O’Neill is brought in for the youth team, as has 33 year old Scott Middlemass. Also for the youth side, as Mark O’Neill will also be doing first team duties, recently retired Ipswich town midfielder Jim Magilton has signed on. Also, we’ve taken a slight gamble on 24 year old former welsh internatial Matthew Jones, who had to retire through injury. I suspect because he’s not much older, he gets on well with most of our youth team players. Also in is Dean Blackwell, another recently retired player at only 35. Another on who’ll be working with both first and youth team.

Finally for coaches is Shaun Bartlett. The former Charlton player retired last year, and has since signed for us as our new goalkeeping coach.

I introduce them to the press, and then take them up to my office. Later, I’ll introduce them to the players, but first, we have a long meeting and go through both their duties and their ideas for the club. We agree that Shaun Bartlett, who is quite good at the old PR thing will do a bit for the community side as well, him being a big name.

Also in today are former Bournemouth centre back Karl Broadhurst and Wrexham winger Carlos Edwards, both on trial, although the chances of them getting contracts are quite slim.

10.7.05

A bit of news to send a shudder through every Shrewsbury town fan, and provoke scathing reaction in the press. Today a transfer was completed, that of Danny Bolt to our league one rivals Swindon Town.

I think I have the best part of the deal. For this last year Danny has been on about £200 a week, the 2nd lowest in our first team. So we’ve spent what, £10,000 on his wages and nothing on bringing him to the club. We’ve made a quarter of a million pounds profit. He was hankering after a new contract, and much more money than I was prepared to pay him. In 6 months time, he’ll turn 30 years old, if he was 18, I wouldn’t have done it.

Ok, he was the main reason we got up last year. He all but won us the final by himself, and certainly his corners will be well missed, as will his incredible skill. His ability to beat people is Premiership standard, its just other parts of his game that are lacking. He’ll go to Swindon and do fantastically for a few years, before dropping out the game. We’ve made a stinking profit and written off all this years transfer spending to boot.

Of course the fans see this as a massive mistake, and it may well be in the short term, but there is no way I was turning this deal down.

Also today, we have Newtown away in a friendly.

We win 3-1, a dodgy defensive performance made up for by goals from Hoseth, McEwen and Pereira.

11.7.05

I think I upset the fans again. Today I completed the outward transfer of 18 goal top scorer Scott Fitzgerald to Brentford for £50k. Once again, we make a huge profit on our initial outlay. I can understand people saying about him being a good player and all, but he’s not that good, and with us bringing in McManus, Hoseth, Pereira, Stefanidis and others he wasn’t going to play many games. I feel it’s a good deal.

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16.7.05

Our first home friendly, with Preston tonight. A chance for us to get some practice against a useful team and for our fans to see some of our new signings.

We lose 2-1 and despite it only being a friendly, I’m not happy. Their first goal is a swift move, but Lantz is completely asleep to block out the space their striker uses to score, and then he’s completely oblivious to the threat of a through ball as their striker runs onto it and scores again.

Our goal is good, Lunt sprays it out to Fotheringham, who is playing on the left, and he crosses for Hoseth to score.

We played some nice stuff, but all the 50 yard passes in the world won’t win you games. We have to tighten up and become a real team.

Two bits of bad news today, with both Scott Wilson and Tomas Backman being ruled out for just under a month with various injuries. Damn!

20.7.05

Bognor Regis away today, in a game designed to improve organization and team play.

It’s a good 3-0 win, and whilst defensive problems are still there we seem to have a good attacking thing going. The very classy Pereira, who scored with a lovely curling finish, seems to be the target man with good feet I’ve been hoping for, whilst Stefanidis’ driving runs from the right cause havoc. He’s a bit of a kick and run player, but he has pace and his cross for Kenny Lunt’s second goal (the first a Ajax like move started and finished by himself), was excellent.

26.7.05

A new player, and possibly a Bolt replacement. Ivar Valo is a 22 year old left sided Norweigan forward we’ve signed from Rorvik for £4k. He’s not a brilliant player, but its what he can do that interests me. Like Bolt he has a good left foot and the ability to go by people. He’s actually two footed, can take corners well, and for the money we’ve paid, he’s a good buy.

Also today, a transfer out, as we sold Kevin Street, who could have gone on a free, to Cambridge for £3k. He’s a good player at this level, but there’s too many ahead of him this year. He did excellently last year though.

30.7.05

Our final friendly, at home to Championship side West Ham.

It’s a really good end to end game, with some excellent football played. Its improved still further by us winning it 3-1, with goals from Hoseth, Pereira and Lantz. We looked a bit shaky at the back again, but did pretty well.

One big blow though, as new signing Ivar Valo has been ruled out for 3 weeks with a shoulder injury. Is that fair?

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6.8.05

Today, we cease messing about, and begin the real work of League One. We’ve been given odds of 50-1 for the title, have a tenner? I would.

The game is at home to Oldham, and the entire place will be crammed full to see us play in the old second division for the first time since 1995. It’s a tense day. The team, which I decided on midweek, is thus: Andy Oakes is in goal, with a injury ravaged back 4 of Danny Smith, Yahia, Lantz and Tonkin in front of him. In midfield, right to left, are George Fotheringham, Kenny Lunt, who will be club captain this year, Keith Andrews and on the left, an unfamiliar position, George Fotheringham. Up front will be Ramon Pereira and Erick Hoseth. The team we face is a good one, but these players can deal with them, even though we’re probably 4 players off where I’d like to be. It’ll mostly go down the right today, with Stefanidis, who’ll try and cross for the two strikers and the forward running Lunt to get onto.

Half time, and its 0-0. We’ve had the better of it, and could well be ahead, but their keeper has made some good saves. We’re doing fine, but we could be troubling them more, especially up front. The game is there for us to take, but we must ensure that we take it, rather than cock this up as we could well do.

It finishes 0-0. We nearly cock it up by giving them several chances and Keith Andrews’ big mouth nearly gets him sent off, but apart from that. We did ok going forward, but our strikers didn’t really put themselves about enough, and at times the delivery from Stefanidis was poor, but I feel we competed well and we could so easily have won today. On another day, we well might.

10.8.05

Another home game this Tuesday night. We’ve got Plymouth, a solid outfit relegated from the Championship last year. I make 2 changes in an effort to get my full and undiluted first team onto the park. The hitherto injured Scott Wilson and Tomas Backman are now fit, and replace Yahia and Tonkin respectively.

These home games are important, not only to pick up points, but also to please our supporters. With our increased wage bill this year, we need them, and they’re unbelievable fickle in these parts, in this stadium every week. Thus, I ensure we put ourselves well in the public image, signing autographs a bit before a match, having lots of banter with the crowd and mascots, and always appearing in the players bar after a match, whichever way 5 goals may have gone.

To this end as well, every month myself, the chairman, and whoever my captain is at the time have a forum with all the fans who can get in the bar, and answer their questions on the website. Although what most of them know about football could be written on the side of a eggcup, we need to keep them sweet, and sometimes they give us good ideas, and let us know of the little things that aggravate their S.T.F.C experience. The sort of things that before I arrived would have either not been noticed or considered irrelevant or too much bother. Of course, we have a general manager and things to deal with all this, but he’s a person I can’t sack, and as I don’t think he does his job well, it falls to me to lean on the groundsman to repaint the gents or other such things. More important than all of this, they pay my wages. For this season, we’ve glitzed up a bit. I demanded that some of the money was spent on basic stadium improvements. New paint everywhere, better catering (notoriously shocking here) and a brand new P.A system, as well as a new computer system in-house to ensure data is moved around quickly, and alleviates all the problems we have with ticket distribution sometimes. Common sense is in short supply around here. Our logo is splashed everywhere, the stewards have been given P.R training, the program is new and genuinely readable, and just things like hanging signs straight on walls has given the place a rather nicer image. Irrelevant? Maybe. Although Gay Meadow will probably have to be knocked down sooner rather than later, I want it nice while I’m here, and I can genuinely trot out the age old adage of ‘I’m a fan too!’, because I was, and I was always annoyed with how the place appeared to be run. We run out to the ubiquitous ‘thunderbirds’ theme, preceded by ‘The 1812 Overture’, and I’m telling ya, that sure ain’t Busted sonny! At a night match like tonight’s, with mist off the adjacent river low around the tall birch trees the enclose the ground on one side, the high technical collage and its grounds on the other, and a looming railway embankment behind one goal, it all creates quite an atmosphere.

Half time, and its 0-0. We’ve done ok, and this game could go either way.

We’ve won it! It’s a tough defensive battle for long periods, but on the break, which is where our two goals are scored, our quality shows. On 60 minutes, the impressive Wilson wins a header, which falls to Stefanidis. His 50 yard ball over the top is absolutely perfect, and Pereira runs onto it before slotting a lovely classy finish into the bottom corner.

Our second goal is a fantastic Ajax like effort. A quick interchange of passing from Lunt, Andrews, the irrepressibly classy Backman, Pereira and McManus combine in the centre of the park to put Briscoe, on for Fotheringham as sub, away up the left side. He cuts in, and clips a lovely cross to the far post where Stefanidis steams in to drive the ball home into the far corner. It’s a wonderfully worked goal, lovely slick passing, and reminds you why good footballers are the key, even if they don’t run about so much.

We should have a 3rd. McManus, on as a sub, picks up Lunts pass and drives into the area. His shot is palmed away by the keeper, but only to Briscoe, who somehow hits the post with the goal at his mercy.

We have to defend plenty, and they miss plenty of chances, but on the whole, I’m a very pleased man!

13.8.05

A tough first away game today, with us traveling down to Milton Keynes to play MK Dons. I make one change. Partly to be more defensive, and secondly to take pity on poor George Fotheringham, I’ve dropped him, and put Lee Briscoe wide on the left. He won’t beat many, but he’s a classy player. We can win this today, and I have an inkling we may just nick it. It also gives me a good chance to have a look at Chelsea midfielder Alexis Nicolas, who we may be making a bid for. He’s on loan here.

I haven’t been looking at Nicolas, for the simple reason he’s injured. Sack that scout! This slight blow has been compensated for by leading 2-0. On only 4 minutes, Hoseth won us a free kick, which Kenny Lunt stepped up, and bent right footed around the wall, off the post and in.

We’ve been lucky. We’re giving the ball away far too much, they’ve hit the post, and the lively McLeod up front is keeping both slightly terrified centre halves occupied. Really, we need another goal, which we are capable of getting (Hoseth has had two great chances, one he shot straight at the keeper, the other a great save), but also need to remain solid at the back. Wilson appeals for more midfield help so he can concentrate on McLeod, and Pereira asks for better passes forward. I just tell them, whoever they pass to, make sure the ball gets there.

The second half is a very tense affair for us, which goes well in some areas, but in others disappoints me slightly. I am disappointed by the chances we miss, not just clear cut shots, but the times when we have a chance to really spread the play and get at what I think is a very negative MK side, we don’t, and overplay, before losing the ball. There were several times when, in their area, it needed a shot, but instead we tried to pass, and it was cleared. We pass the ball well, but not quick enough. It takes us longer to move the ball on than it does for them to catch us and win the ball. I’m disappointed by Hoseth, whose approach play is good, but in front of goal he seizes up, and misses chance after chance. This gets worse as the game goes on.

On the up side, I’m very, very pleased to win 1-0! It’s a very professional away performance, and it was just as I intended. Although they have a lot of the play, and miss chances like they’re copying us, they only actually muster one shot at Andy Oakes, who returns to the dressing room without a spot of mud on him and whistling ‘Its raining men’. Loneliness does things to a man. The back 4 was reasonably solid too. Wilson looks like the big, confident and intelligent defender we could have done with last year, Lantz knows how to get stuck in, whilst Danny Smith does his job with ever increasing efficiency, and Tomas Backman continues to demonstrate a sweet left foot, a engine tuned to BMW standards and a composure and time on the ball which steadies all around him.

Its not all rosy glow, but it’s a more than useful 3 points.

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20.8.05

Looking to continue a reasonable start to the season, we have Peterborough away this afternoon. I can finally put my preferred 11 out, with Ivar Valo coming onto the left side of midfield for the first time. We can win here today to, but we must ensure that we do the same things right as we did last weekend.

Half time, and we’re 2-1 down. They scored two goals in 4 minutes to stun us and put us on the back foot before we even started. Both their strikes were completely unstoppable to be honest, but as they’ve spent the rest of the half making us look incredible ordinary I don’t suppose I should moan. Our goal back was anything other than ordinary. Cutting across to the right, Valo stepped inside and belted a absolute screamer into the bottom corner from a full 25 yards. We have a chance, but we’re going to have to improve from this current position.

I make one half time change with Weatherson coming on for Pereira.

Who is the class manager! We score after only 30 seconds of the second half. Lunt sprays it out wide to Stefanidis, who fires in a perfect near post cross to Weatherson, who does what I bought him for, gets across the defender and heads into the corner. It’s a brilliant, text book goal, and just the sort Weatherson is in the side to score.

We then set about battering the heck out of them. Weatherson could have a hattrick within 5 minutes, and Hoseth scuffs a perfect, perfect chance.

Then, with ten minutes go, the clouds part, and a vision of beauty materializes. Lunt swings a corner in from the right, towards Hoseth. It gets headed away, but only as far as Valo, who catches it perfectly. It sweeps up over the defender and crashes into the top corner. It’s a fantastic debut brace, and if he can do that a bit more often, we have a player.

It’s a fantastic result, especially as we were 2-0 down! It puts us up to second, and I really can’t praise the players enough. Terrific result lads!

24.8.05

It’s the league cup tonight, and with Port Vale at home, we have a good chance to progress to the next round. No changes.

Half time, and we’re 1-0 up.

A great first half, when Pereira hit the bar after only 40 seconds, and we’ve spent the whole time playing some very stylish football indeed. Our goal was superb. Andrews to Lunt, Lunt down the line to Valo, Valo inside to Lunt, Lunt on the outside of the foot to Pereira, and Pereira with a lovely little dink over his shoulder and behind the defense to Hoseth, who cut back, burst past his man and shot into the net from the edge of the area. Class! I’ve enjoyed this half, and now we must make sure that we continue to play like this, get another goal, and keep them out at the back.

It’s a great second half of football which I think everyone enjoys immensely. Except possibly Port Vale, who, despite pulling a save of the season out of Andy Oakes, go on to lose 2-0. It could have been much more, with the most notable chances going to Pereira and Hoseth. They set each other through one on one on the keeper, and both times, the first touches of the two men let them down, and keeper or defender is able to recover. Our second goal is also a little fortuitous. Weatherson, on as a sub for Pereira is set free by a lovely first time pass from Valo, and shoots towards the far corner. The keeper gets to it, and palms it away. It falls to Hoseth, who, off balance, shoots. It cracks off the ball, and comes back to Hoseth who recovers from a first touch which nearly takes it out to roll the ball into the net from the angle.

Very pleased tonight, with all positions doing the jobs assigned to them. Keith Andrews demonstrated a ball winning side I hoped he had but had never seen, and Scott Wilson and Lantz are becoming a useful partnership. Up front, Pereira is a classy exception to Hoseth’s pace and skill, whilst being able to bring on the colossal Peter Weatherson or the tough and fiery Tom McManus has been a big bonus.

27.8.05

Bad news today. Out on the training pitch, during a quick keep ball session, Dave Edwards slips over, and breaks his shoulder. Its 5 months out at least. Gutting for the lad.

Huge news today, as we complete the signing of a player that has got us onto national radio and the national press. How many Guatemalan’s are there in English football? Not many I would suspect, but we have one!

It’s a long story…

I have an uncle, and he runs a high-end hotel chain in major Spanish cities. One of these hotels is in Barcelona, and it also happens to be the one he manages personally. One day, about a month ago he rings me up at home, (he does it often, favorite nephew and all that) and we go through the usual family chat. Almost jovially he tells me ‘hey, I had a bunch of footballers in here the other week, a strange lot’. When, joining in the joke, I ask him who they were, he tells me it was CSD Comunicaciones, Guatemala’s biggest club. I heard about that, they were playing the two giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona to raise money for some children’s charity. ‘Anyway’, he continues, ‘I was serving in the bar that night, and there was this man in a suit ya know, on a mobile phone. You’ll never guess, he worked for a football team like you!’ Oh yes? ‘Yes my friend, Derby County he said, he had been in town looking at one of the players staying in my hotel! He asked me for their room numbers, well naturally I declined but…’ I interrupt; which player was the scout after? ‘Scout amigo? He had no badges!’ Yes good joke, fine, fine, but who was he after!?! ‘Let me think, he kept on about the name Thompson, William Thompson.’

The phone hits the cradle, and the pc is fired up. The Madrid/Comunicaciones game is in two days. There is a flight to Madrid in 8 hours, and Spencer Field, my chief scout, is on it.

It was a normal day at the office that day, and the Burgundy is slipping down nicely at home when, about 10:00, the phone goes. Its Spencer, his aussi tones unusually excited. ‘Gaffer, the lad is a cert, I don’t care who you buy for the next ten years, but get out and buy Thompson before someone else does, the place was crawling with scouts!’ On calming him down, I find out that Spencer’s trip to the Citadel wasn’t in vein. Thompson had played yes, and, it seems, played well. Well enough for my usually hesitant Chief Scout to ring me up from his (low-end) hotel room, and tell me to buy the player.

The next day, Spencer rolls up at Gay Meadow, bleary eyed in an airport taxi with a charity video of the game made on the spot. Thompson, whom the camera basically followed, played more than usefully, kicked Zidane twice, and passed the ball excellently.

I’m on the phone to my chairman, and he begins to set up a deal.

That was all completed a week ago, and two days ago, the DofE&E rang up. Nice of them. Guatemala’s hottest young property is Shrews bound.

Today, he turned up, I actually met him in the flesh for the first time, and showed him around. His English, and his French, are perfect, and he appears a complete gentleman. We introduced him to the slightly bewildered press. Keep em on their toes, sell your player of the year and replace him with an unheard of foreigner who at the same time becomes your record signing. Talk about putting oneself on a pedestal.

So what type of player is Fredy William Thompson? First of all, he’s a darn expensive one. It took pressure from both Comunicaciones and myself on my chairman to squeeze £200,000 out of him and into their bank account, and then I was able to launch a full scale assault on the player himself. We broke him surprisingly easily, in fact, he broke himself, admitting he wants to move to England, and that Shrewsbury were the only club in for him, and he didn’t care he hadn’t heard of it, he had no problems signing.

He’s a 23 year old left footed defensive midfield player. He has 18 caps and 4 goals for his country. He’s a tough tackling box to box type player, who can run for ever and pass and shoot with the ball excellently.

I’m incredibly pleased to have him, he’s signed a 5 year deal, and I’m confident that should we sell him, we could double our money tomorrow.

The fans are a bit wary, and also excited, I keep bringing these people in, and they seem to be trusting my judgment. I think once they see him play, he’ll quickly become a clut hero.

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Mon 29.8.05

Today is quite a big day, not because Swindon are some huge rivals of ours, but because it’s the first return to Gay Meadow for Danny Bolt, and with him up against Danny Smith, we could be in trouble. He gets a good reception, and I have a quick chat with him in the tunnel. Its not that long since he went though, so we’ve still been on the phone sorting bits and pieces out.

William Thompson is on the bench, and he gets a big cheer when announced before the match.

Half time, and we’re 1-0 up. Its been a tough game, which I think we’ve just shaded. Our goal was good. Lunt got the ball to Hoseth, who clipped it over his shoulder to Pereira. Pereira held off one man, beat another got to the edge of the area and chipped the ball over the advancing keeper and into the net. Apart from one great chance for Hoseth which he missed, that’s been about it. They’ve had some good chances, and the lively Fallon is keeping Lantz busy. We need another goal really. Keith Andrews has genuinely not been up to it, so my record signing makes his debut.

The second half, and the contribution of Fredy, is very pleasing. We end up winning by that one goal to nil. We miss chance after chance, several of them created by Thompson’s excellent passing, but also have to defend like heck at times.

Danny Bolt never shows, he was one of two of their remaining subs warming up when they prepared to make a change. I was pleased to see the other lad come on. If they’d played him we’d have been in trouble, Lantz and Wilson were fine, but the fullbacks looked a bit stretched today.

What this means folks, is that, we’re top of the league sir!

1.9.05

Few photo’s to be taken today, with me winning Manager of the Month and Kenny Lunt player of the month!

10.9.05

Cheltenham away, a tough game, but they’re not doing very well, so hopefully we can get 3 points. Thompson is in for Andrews.

Half time, and we’re 2-1 up. A penalty put us ahead, Pereira being fouled at a corner, and Valo firing in. Our second goal is excellent. William Thompson wins a tackle and slides the ball to Stefanidis. He plays it infield to Lunt, who moves it left for Valo. He clips a ball over the top, and Pereira places it into the net from the edge of the area!

Their goal was lucky, as Guinan shot, the ball deflected off Lantz, and bobbled past Oakes, who had previously made two blinding saves. There are 3 points there for us, and we have to take them. McManus on for Hoseth at half time.

4 minutes into the second half, and only 2 minutes after Andy Oakes had pulled off and Buffon like one handed, they equalize. In comes the ball, and Kenny Lunt trips up their striker. Pen, and its thundered home.

Cosford not happy, but fortunately, we upped our game a bit, and finished with a flourish, scoring two late goals. Firstly Tom McManus, on as a sub, finishes off a sweeping counter attack and then Yahia, on as a sub for Lantz, heads home a corner.

In the end a comfortable win, but it nearly wasn’t credit to the lads for defending solidly and taking enough chances to win us the game.

17.9.05

Swansea at home, and whilst they’ve had a good start, this should really be a win for us today. One change, with Yahia coming in for the still unfit Joachim Lantz.

Half time, and we’re rocking at 2-0 up. It was two long balls, one from Yahia, and one from Ivar Valo, inside his own half, which set Hoseth away to score with two excellent low finishes.

Whilst we’ve been made to defend at times, we’re playing about the best I’ve ever seen us, and we could have had more goals. William Thompson, bossing the game from midfield, has hit the post, and a mass scramble and a poor cross was all that was preventing Pereira from nodding home in stoppage time.

Some of our passing has been terrific, and if we keep it up, we should win comfortably.

A fantastic goal gets us our 3rd. Thompson wins it and lays it right to Stefanidis. He knocked it back inside to Lunt, who flicked it over the full back to the Swedish winger. He crossed first time right to the far post where Pereira arrived like a train to plant a typically classy header back across the keeper and into the corner. The fans become almost delirious, is this a Shrewsbury team playing quick swaggering football and scoring goals off it?

It is you know, and we do it again with 10 minutes later. Scott Wilson wins a towering header in his own box and it comes to Kenny Lunt. He takes a touch and fires a sensational 60 yard pass over the defense to Pereira. His first touch is superb, it gives him time to place himself, and clip a perfect chip over the keeper and into the bottom corner.

It’s a fantastic performance, we looked like a absolutely class outfit tonight, everything we did worked perfectly, they simply couldn’t cope.

A new record set of 7 wins in a row!

20.9.05

A interesting game tonight, with us playing our local rivals Hereford United away in the League Cup. They’re top of League Two having been promoted from the conference last year, and in truth we have the talent to stuff them, but it probably won’t be as easy as that. I make no changes.

Half time, and we’re 1-0 up. Danny Smith fired a lovely ball down the wing, and Erick Hoseth cut inside their defender and squared the ball to Pereira, who tapped in. To be fair, they’ve had a lot of the play, and hit the post after one fantastic move had ripped us apart. On the break though, we’re really dangerous, and both Hoseth and Pereira could have scored, denied only by last minute challenges. We can win this, but the next goal will be key. If they get it, we’ll be on the ropes, if we get it, we can begin to dominate.

We score 3 minutes after half time. A header away comes to Backman, and his fabulous left wing cross to the far post is headed powerfully in by Hoseth for his 5th of the season. A great ball in, absolutely inch perfect from Backman, but after that, it was all Hereford. Doing a good impression of us last year they played some fabulous football and had us on the ropes for long periods, but were denied time and time again by Scott Wilson, and, when necessary, by the huge frame of Andy Oakes.

Pleased to win in the end, and it showed great character, but we could easily have lost today to tell you the truth. Nice to see us defend so solidly, but we gave the ball away far too much in midfield. They had us rattled, and we didn’t have the composure to cope with it. Pleasing result though, and keeps our run going.

22.9.05

Two bits of news. Firstly we’ve drawn Crewe at home in the next round of the League Cup, and we’ll be without Tomas Backman for 2 weeks, as he’s strained his hamstring. A bit of a blow, but this is the reason I signed a big squad.

24.9.05

The tough games never stop coming, with Torquay away from home this afternoon. Plainmoor has never been the easiest place to go, and with them scrapping for points, as us too to a certain extent, its going to be a hard game we have to be ‘up for’. Backman is replaced by Briscoe.

Half time, and its 1-1. They took the lead through a goal we should never have conceded. When a long ball came into our box, it should have been delt with by Yahia. He left it, and Wilson was forced to swipe at it. He made contact with the end of his boot, and it skewed out to the edge of the area. It was played back in and Oakes pulled off a great save from the header. Unfortunately, not a blue shirt reacted, and the rebound was stabbed in.

We go straight up the other end, and should instantly equalize. Hoseth played Pereira through, and his clever little shot hits the post.

Just before half time, we do get back. Oakes takes a quick kick to Pereira, and he plays a reverse ball over the defense to Hoseth, who streaks clear and finishes coolly into the bottom corner. There are 3 points there for us in the second half if we want them, we’re playing well on the break, and it won’t take much for us to nick the 2nd goal we deserve.

The second half is a hectic and end to end affair. We’re in it all the way, although they probably have more of the play. On the break we create chances, and even score a goal, which is disallowed for pushing. I then make what is probably a mistake, bringing off Pereira, and replacing him with Weatherson. Within 10 minutes big Peter has had 3 chances where a cool head was needed, and missed the lot.

We do score again! Kenny Lunt, who had an absolutely fantastic game in midfield tonight, picked up the ball from a clearance, and fired it down the right to Hoseth. He started running, and simply kept going, beating 2 men, cutting into the box and hammering the ball with tremendous pace and power high into the far corner. Their keeper barely moved.

They came at us, but with Andy Oakes a huge presence, and Scott Wilson growling and snarling at anyone daring to come into his box, we made it through to claim a fantastic 3 away points!

This is a terrific result, and I can’t praise the players enough for getting it. To come to a place like this and get all 3 points show a fantastic professionalism and determination. It does our players credit tonight.

One blow, Fredy William Thompson picked up a knock, and will be out for about 2 weeks.

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27.9.05

We play in the LDV Vans tonight, which is a competition I’d love to win. We have a winnable tie, with Conference side Accrington Stanley away. I do make several changes, mainly to give players a rest. Tonkin plays left back, with Lunt going to left wing to put Jamaican international Keith Kelly in central midfield alongside Keith Andrews. Adam Proudlock makes his debut on the right wing. I could have made even more changes, bringing in some of the very young kids, but I want to make sure we win tonight.

They’re playing a 5 man midfield, but with only 3 at the back, so the order is to get it wide quickly. Its direct pass into the wingers time. The middle two’s job is to run about and stop their middle 3.

Half time, its worked well, and we’re 1-0 up. Lunt and Pereira, their class showing against a weaker team, are absolutely bossing this. The goal was a bit dodgy compared to some of the fantastic chances our wonderful long range passing has carved out, but it’ll do. Cutting in from the left, Lunt fired a ball between two centre back to Hoseth, who volleyed it. Their superb young keeper, who has kept them in it so many times, palmed it away, and Pereira prodded in.

We’ve destroyed them to be honest. We have control of the midfield, and Lunt especially is ripping them apart. Hoseth’s skill and pace is leading the line, whilst Pereira is dropping off and taking people out either with a trick or a fantastic pass. We should have had more goals, but I’m confident they’ll come. One change at half time, Pereira has a knock, so is replaced by 23 year old Paul Di Giacomo at half time, rather than Tom McManus. I have too many players! I don’t want to sub Pereira, but there is no sense in him getting further injured.

Although they equalize with a good finish 10 minutes into the second half, we run out 3-1 winners. I bring on Tom McManus, and his extra width on the right gives us what we need. Its him that sets up our 2nd goal, with a raking pass from the right which finds Kenny Lunt. Kenny chips it over the defense, and Paul Di Giacomo takes a deft touch and blasts it unstoppably into the top corner. A great finish from a class looking player. Its McManus that actually sets up, and again Di Giacomo who scores, our final goal. McManus bursts past his full back, cuts inside, and fires a wonderful whipped cross who Di Giacomo sweeps home into the corner first time. That’s food for thought then.

Pleased to win, and overall we did pretty well. Our football was excellent as usual, even though our team was slightly weakened, we did excellently.

1.10.05

A very tough game today, with us playing second placed Crewe at home. Its one we need to win to prove we can mix it with the more fancied teams in the league. We do have a problem though, because both Thompson and Keith Andrews are injured. This means that young Stephen Simmons will come in (out of position) to make his debut. Valo is back on the left, Lunt in the middle and Stefanidis on the right.

Half time, and its 0-0, but its very precarious, and they could score quite easily one gets the feeling. We’ve done ok, but we need to score a goal desperately.

Neither team scores, and we both get a point I suspect both of us are probably about happy with. Whilst Oakes did have to make some great saves, we were the better team, and coming forward we played some fantastic football. Our best move led to the best chance, with Valo and Lunt weaving their way down the wing, before crossing to the far post where Stefanidis’ header hit the bar.

It was a ok performance, we could have done with nicking it, but in the circumstances I’m happy.

8.10.05

A free weekend for us, as all the international teams are in action.

That includes Guatemala, even though I felt very strongly that William Thompson, only just back from injury, shouldn’t have been involved.

15.10.05

Back in action today with Brentford at home, and the rest has been good for our more knackered squad members. Backman returns to left back, and Fredy William Thompson reappears in central midfield.

Half time, and we’re 1-0 down. We’ve pasted them, but we can’t score, and they hit us on the break and scored. I’m furious, and I want goals, and I want them now!

It’s a tense 2nd half. They come forward much better and Andy Oakes earns man of the match for his saves, but at the other end, their tackles are a bit less feriocious, and I produce another good substitution, which changes the game. Hoseth, whose skill they had covered, and McManus on.

Its Pereira who equalizes, flipping the ball into the net from point blank range off McManus’s cross. We’re starting to move now, and we take the lead only 4 minutes later. Kenny Lunt slides a ball through their defense, and from the edge of the area, McManus cracks a vicious drive along the pitch and into the bottom corner. He’s a plucky kid, he just seems to have space and when he doesn’t he barges past people. Very hard to get the ball off.

In stoppage time, its him that gets our 3rd. We make a break away, and win a corner. Kenny Lunt swings it to the edge of the area, where McManus meets it full on the volley and sends it thundering into the top corner of the net.

In the end a convincing win, but we didn’t play convincingly for a lot of the game. It’s the 3 points that matters though, and if we can keep picking them up, then we have a great chance of staying top of the league!

19.10.05

Another potentially tough game tonight, with Huddersfield away. We’re without the injured Valo, so Lunt goes to the left, and Andrews comes into the middle.

Half time and its 0-0. We’ve had all the play, but we’re struggling to actually score a goal again.

In the first period of the second half, we miss so many chances its untrue, just shooting everything at their keeper. So I change it, Hoseth comes off, and McManus comes on. Inside ten minutes, its had an effect. William Thompson gets the ball to Andrews, who fires a lovely ball between their two centre halves. McManus takes a touch, lets it run across him, and hammers it into the net.

They then go for it, but Andy Oakes is like a cat, saving things that look almost unsavable. On the break though, we’re destroying them, with just our final ball letting us down, and, in stoppage time, we get our reward. A header comes to Pereira inside his own half, and sets him off running. He keeps going, and beats three men, gets to the edge of the area, draws the keeper, and rolls the ball square to McManus, who only has to roll it into a unguarded net. 2-0, thanks very much.

A fantastic professional performance, and a wonderful 3 points!

22.10.05

Blackpool away, yet another very hard game for us to take on. There are 2 changes, Yahia is injured, so Lantz comes in, and Hoseth is dropped for McManus. I can’t leave a lad with 4 in 2 on the bench any longer.

I was ten seconds away from talking 3 points at half time. Now I have to talk about getting back into the game. We’d played excellently and defended superbly until stoppage time, when we switched off, and they scored from a cross. Not on. We need to get hold of the ball in midfield, and keep it for a while, because at the moment, we aren’t.

We lose 3-1. They’re first to every ball, we’re slow and ponderous. Twice they get crosses in when sharp reactions would have stopped them, and they score two easy goals. We had a couple of chances, one of which Kenny Lunt converted with a direct free kick, but this was definitely our worst performance of the season.

We mustn’t allow it to push us down, today was bad, but we need to go back to the way we have been playing. One problem today was Kenny Lunt, wide on the left he saw so much of the ball, but was unable to do much with it. He isn’t quick enough to be a winger, especially on his wrong side.

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26.10.05

Home tonight to Crewe again, this time in the league cup. One change, Smith is injured, so in comes Yahia at right back.

Half time, and its 0-0. Its been end to end and could go either way. We must make sure it goes ours.

Its into extra time, mainly because given millions of chances, we can’t score. I’d have money on us losing this.

I would have lost my money, but got it back on the prize money, because we’ve won the match.

Our two goals, from youngster Paul Di Giacomo, are both excellent. For the first, almost straight from the kick off, he received the forward pass from Kenny Lunt, took a touch, and hammered it like a dart into the far corner from a full 25 yards. The ground goes mad.

He scores again 5 minutes later, in exactly the same circumstances, but about 15 yards further in. This time though, the pass coming from Scott Simmons.

Pleased to eventually win tonight, it gives us some more money, and we’re back to winning ways.

29.10.05

Chesterfield at home back in the league, and we must ensure this is 3 points. Smith returns for Yahia, but no other changes.

Half time, and we’re 1-0 down a simple header. This is ridiculous, we should not be losing to these! Get the ball, pass it to a blue shirt, and stick it in the net!!!! Di Giacomo comes on for Andrews with Lunt going to the middle, Stefanidis and McManus to the right.

We lose 2-0, and I am absolutely furious. We massacred them, and they scored on the break. They had 2 shots, 2!!!! Both went in. In the dressing room I scream at our front players, they were bloody useless tonight, not a shot between them. For gods sake, scoring goals is vital, you have got to score bloody goals, that’s what I pay you for! I then round on Babis Stefanidis. All blasted 50 yard passes and fancy skills, but absoltuly no product at all tonight. F-ing waste of space. One of his ‘better’ tricks got him into so much trouble he lost the ball and then was booked getting it back. He’ll miss the next match. I am livid, we did nothing tonight, Thompson was useless, Stefanidis was crap, Lunt anonymous, Pereira out muscled, and the defense appeared half asleep.

1.11.05

Away at Port Vale tonight, in the LDV Vans. Changes to the team are as follows: Out; Lantz, Stefanidis, Andrews. In: Yahia, Fotheringham, Ivar Valo (goes to left wing, Lunt in middle.)

I am not a nice person to know at the moment, and I want a win tonight.

Half time, and we’re 2-0 up, despite being outplayed. Yahia scored from a corner on only 6 minutes, and then, 4 minutes before half time, McManus collected a Lunt pass, and slams it into the far corner from 20 yards. Humm… nice strike. Hold it lads, and win the game.

We’ve doubled our score by full time, even though they should really have scored some goals. Pereira extends our lead with a lovely little chip following Stephen Simmons’ through ball and the Simmons himself scores, with a deflected long range strike. The young midfielder looks very useful.

5.11.05

Looking to keep that good form going today, with Bradford City at home. One change, with Stefanidis coming back in for Fotheringham.

The first half has been one of our better days, and I’m convinced we’ve scored a goal of the season. We’re 3-0 up, with all of them going to Ramon Pereira. His first was a beautiful strike from the edge of the area, simply slamming it home from the edge of the area from a McManus cross. His second was slightly fortuitous, as Stefandis’s cross was deflected to him, but he swept his 11th goal of the season home from around the penalty spot with aplomb. Now for the beauty! Yahia won a header on the edge of his own area, and it came to Pereira. He laid it off to Lunt, forward to Thompson, sideways to Lunt, forward to Stefanidis, inside to McManus on the edge of the area, back to Lunt, and a pass rolled inside the defender for Pereira to curl it beautifully around the keeper from just inside the area. As one touch passing it was Ajax, for counter attacking it was Arsenal, it was simply perfect!

There has been one thing to mar this, with Kenny Lunt being sent off. His two bookings were both silly trips, and the second was a little harsh. He needed a rest anyway.

We absolutely cruise the second half, even with a man less than them. We score a excellent 4th goal, when, at a free kick, Stefanidis clips the ball to the left side, where Pereira chips it beautifully to the far post where big Scott Wilson scores his first Shrewsbury goal.

A fantastic performance obviously, they couldn’t get near us today. When we’re on form like this no team in the league could beat us. We go back to the top of the league and deservedly so.

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9.11.05

Tonight is the daddy of all games this year, our League Cup 4th round tie away at St James’ Park. That’s St James’ Park Newcastle, not Exeter.

It’s a cold Wednesday night on Tyneside, the mist is low around the absolutely colossal stadium, and it’s a good atmosphere. Most of our lads are silenced by the size of the place, some of these players have played in biggish grounds, but this is something different. This is Newcastle United.

We go out and train on the vast expanse of pitch, and as the ground fills, a rumble of noise rolls around us. It’ll only be half full tonight.

As far as the game goes, obviously, we’ll probably get stuffed. However, spies tell me they’ll only be playing 3 at the back, and therefore we do have a chance on the counter attack. Basically, I expect to lose, but I don’t expect to be absolutely steamrollered, because we should be too professional for that, and I expect us to give them a good game. McManus is injured, and Lunt is suspended, so Hoseth and Andrews come in.

I’m out to enjoy tonight. We came up here yesterday and we’ve spent a good day in Newcastle. The idea is to use this as a little holiday, with a football match on top. You never know, the relaxation may even help them tonight.

Half time, and we’re 3-0 down. Jenas smashed them ahead, and Patrick Kluivert has got two to basically put the game beyond us. Two of their goals were unstoppable but I feel the 3rd we could have done something about. We’ve done ok going forward, and we’re playing some good stuff. We did score, a good move putting McManus away, but only after scoring a place finish was he told he was marginally offside. And I mean marginally.

We end up losing 6-1. Its incredibly disappointing because it wouldn’t have happened had Fredy William Thompson not got himself sent off for meaninglessly kicking Nicky Butt. With only ten men we can’t hope to compete. At least we do score the goal we deserve. McManus, up front by himself, gets away down the right, and crosses to the far post, where Ivar Valo arrives in space to volley a once in a lifetime goal.

Ah well, I was happy enough. Some of our football was excellent, and for a while we looked genuinely dangerous. I don’t have too many complaints though.

On the plus side, today has made us nearly half a million pounds.

11.12.05

Transfers today, and we’ll start with the outgoing. Joe Dolan, a pillar of strength in our reserve side these last few months, has left us for Luton Town. He did us a job, but I never felt he did as much for us as he could. He’s gone for £14k.

In have come two loan players. Craig Pead is a DMR/C we’ve taken on loan from Coventry for a few months. He’s a determined lad and we’ll see how he fits us.

Also in is Carl Cort, on loan from Wolves. He’s here to give us another option up front, and again, to see if he’s any good for us. I may be looking for new recruits in the summer…

12.11.05

Its another cup today, and one that could make us just as much money if we progress. It’s the F.A Cup, and we have League Two Southend away, a game we could well lose, but should really win... With Lunt and Thompson suspended, Pead and Andrews come into midfield. No other changes. After Wednesday night, we must focus, and get on with winning today.

Half time, and we’re 2-1 up. Tom McManus gave us a two goal lead, firstly firing in from around the penalty spot after a great cross from Valo, then he picked up a through ball from Pead, held off his man, and finished perfectly into the corner. I reckon he’s about the best finisher we have. Unfortunately, I have to sub him, he’s taken a knock, so Carl Cort makes his debut.

They pulled a goal back before half time, but this is our game to win. We mustn’t’ **** this up.

We don’t, and demonstrate a high level of professionalism to end up winning 3-1. I was very pleased, it was a good end to end game, but in every area we were superior. Their long ball was eaten up by our centre backs and breaking forward we used the ball fantastically. Had he actually shot instead of trying to beat just one more man Ramon Pereira could have had a hattrick. He twice went around the keeper then hesitated before being tackled. We did score another in the end, Yahia heading in at a corner.

Overall very pleased, we got through to the next round in an important competition, and did so with a certain measure of style.

Whilst Tom McManus proved not to be seriously injured, Carl Cort took a knock and will be out for a week.

16.11.05

On the day that news came through that Fredy William Thompson will get another 2 match ban, we have to play Bournemouth away tonight in a game in hand we could do with winning. Lunt comes back alongside Andrews in midfield, and Di Giacomo comes to the bench in place of Cort.

Half time, and we’re 1-0 up. Our goal was slightly flukey, with Keith Andrews’ shot being heavily deflected off their defender, but overall we have deserved it. These can be beaten, and 3 valuable points claimed here tonight, but we must be professional and ensure that we do that.

Again, we manage it, although it takes some tough defending and good goalkeeping at times. We win 2-0, Babis Stefanidis crossing into the area where Ramon Pereira is on hand to place it neatly into the far corner. It’s a excellent result, it takes us 3 points clear at the top of the league, and shows that we can produce tough away performances when we need to.

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