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It's Just a Coincidence (The Brian Clough Challenge)


Pierroth

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Well, the bags are packed, the passport’s been checked and the paperwork’s been completed. In less than 24 hours, I’ll be in England; Hartlepool to be exact.

It’s funny – most of my close friends were a little surprised to hear I was going to work in a town that they’ve never even heard of. They went on the Internet, checked out stuff about the town, then came back and still couldn’t comprehend why on earth I’d want to work there. Still, they understood that it was a dream job opportunity – managing a soccer (henceforth to be known as football to not confuse anyone reading this account, although I’d think people would be smart enough to know the difference aside from a few Americans) team. Considering how many of them act as armchair coaches and general managers for the Montreal Canadiens or Toronto Maple Leafs, you can imagine how jealous they were about my opportunity.

Even though it’s in Hartlepool.

It’s funny though; a few of my friends who know a lot about the sport kept telling me, “Oh, so you’re going to be the next Brian Clough, right?†I knew that Clough was a hell of a manager in his day, but I certainly didn’t think I’d be capable of measuring up to the man during my career. Hell, it’s only just starting anyways. But they brought up the fact that he was once in charge at Hartlepool, and that’s where he started to work his way up the managerial ladder. I merely laughed it off and said that it was just a coincidence that I had been chosen to start my career the same way he started his – nothing more than that.

...Of course, the fact remained that despite my ambitions of earning a living as a football manager, I was still going to Hartlepool. Like it or not.

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Well, the bags are packed, the passport’s been checked and the paperwork’s been completed. In less than 24 hours, I’ll be in England; Hartlepool to be exact.

It’s funny – most of my close friends were a little surprised to hear I was going to work in a town that they’ve never even heard of. They went on the Internet, checked out stuff about the town, then came back and still couldn’t comprehend why on earth I’d want to work there. Still, they understood that it was a dream job opportunity – managing a soccer (henceforth to be known as football to not confuse anyone reading this account, although I’d think people would be smart enough to know the difference aside from a few Americans) team. Considering how many of them act as armchair coaches and general managers for the Montreal Canadiens or Toronto Maple Leafs, you can imagine how jealous they were about my opportunity.

Even though it’s in Hartlepool.

It’s funny though; a few of my friends who know a lot about the sport kept telling me, “Oh, so you’re going to be the next Brian Clough, right?†I knew that Clough was a hell of a manager in his day, but I certainly didn’t think I’d be capable of measuring up to the man during my career. Hell, it’s only just starting anyways. But they brought up the fact that he was once in charge at Hartlepool, and that’s where he started to work his way up the managerial ladder. I merely laughed it off and said that it was just a coincidence that I had been chosen to start my career the same way he started his – nothing more than that.

...Of course, the fact remained that despite my ambitions of earning a living as a football manager, I was still going to Hartlepool. Like it or not.

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Of course, this is the first FMS Challenge for 2005, and it’s a worthy winner. I didn’t vote for it, but it’s still good and at least I’m going to give it a go and see how long it takes before both my stories get sidetracked by school. icon_smile.gif

FM 2005, Large DB, all English leagues active. Nothing more needed.

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(Thanks. icon_smile.gif)

When a football fan is asked about Hartlepool United, the term “mediocre†will usually spring to mind. Throughout their long history, the club simply hasn’t done too much of note; bear in mind that the team was officially founded in 1908 and you’ll have an idea how painful it must be to call oneself a fan of the club.

You’d have to go to 1955 to see Hartlepool’s first brush with success, as they managed to make it to the FA Cup 4th Round, knocking off Chesterfield, Aldershot and Darlington along the way before losing to Nottingham Forest. They finally were promoted from the old Fourth Division after their 67/68 campaign, but their stay in the Third Division would only last one season.

Then for a long time nothing happened. Poor league performances, early cup exits, the usual.

Finally, in 1991 they went back up to the old Third Division, and actually stayed there for a couple of seasons before going back down. The names of the main English divisions changed at this time, meaning that Hartlepool were now in the new Third Division, although that didn’t matter; the team still stunk up the place for the next five seasons. The best they’d finish during this time was 17th, which tells you that they were extremely lucky to stay in the league system.

The team would eventually gel together; of course, when you’ve been in the league for 90 years, that has to happen at some point. They finished in 7th during the 99/00 campaign, but lost in the playoffs. The following year, they were 4th but suffered another playoff loss. They completed the trifecta the following season – three straight appearances in the playoffs, three straight losses.

Obviously some high-ranking official in the team figured out that Hartlepool United was destined for failure if they finished anywhere between 4th and 7th, so the obvious solution was to earn outright promotion – which they did in the 02/03 season, finishing 2nd and finally heading to the Second Division.

Surprisingly, the team had an excellent run during last season’s campaign. They managed some success for once in the FA Cup; of course, they played non-league sides Whitby Town and Burton Albion, so it wasn’t surprising that they made it to the Third Round. Sunderland would be their opponents, and despite a brave performance, a 1-0 defeat would be the result on this day. Hartlepool focused on the league after that, and some good performances allowed them to finish 6th in their first season up; of course, that meant the playoffs, and the team sucks in playoffs so it was no surprise that they’d stay put.

Hartlepool United now reside in League One, which means that they’ve gone from the Fourth Division to League One in a 10-year span with only one promotion. You figure that one out.

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My task is simple; to finally get Hartlepool United to the second level of English football, now known as the Championship. *sighs* Doing so would be a monumental feat, given that the team’s never really enjoyed that kind of success before. Of course, that won’t be easy. Although I have some funds to spend (£17,000 to be precise), Hartlepool United is, in essence, bankrupt. Oh, the team’s not in debt or anything, but the bank is rather insistent that a £3,000,000 debt be repaid by September of 2006, at the tune of £90,000 a month. That’s not going to make the job any easier.

On the flip side, the squad itself is pretty good by League One standards; both the board and the fans would like the team to put in a respectable performance on the field, and that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. It will likely take some work to earn promotion during my first season in charge, but we shouldn’t be in for a long struggle either. Besides, the team’s used to mediocrity so odds are the fans wouldn’t be disappointed with a mid-table finish. If nothing else, my goal is to make a good first impression and to hopefully strengthen the squad in preparation for a serious challenge, either this season or next.

Penpix of the first-team squad:

Goalkeepers

Jim Provett (ENG, 21): He’s young but looks to have a bright future ahead of him. A Hartlepool boy since his debut, he could become a cornerstone in the team’s drive for success.

Dimitrios Konstantopoulos (GRE, 25): The backup to Provett. He joined Hartlepool last year and hasn’t had much of a chance to shine, but he’s capable of filling in if Provett goes down to injury.

Defenders

Jack Ross (SCO, 28): One of four Scots on the team, Ross has just joined from Clyde, where he’s spent the last 5 seasons. He can cover either the left or right flank and looks to be in tremendous physical shape.

Michael Barron (ENG, 29): A long-time member of the squad, Barron isn’t as good as Ross and could lose out on a spot if Ross ends up getting slotted in the right flank. He’s a hard worker, but he’ll have to prove that he deserves £1,100 a week.

Hugh Robertson (SCO, 2 U21 caps, 29): OK, so his international career didn’t pan out, but Robertson is a fine player despite his nationality. Not only is he a solid defender, but he also seems to have a knack at set pieces as well.

Michael Nelson (ENG, 21): A youngster who came from Bury last season, Nelson still has some way to go before he can achieve his true potential, but he’ll definitely see his share of first team action; that is, after he recovers from his groin injury. He’s out until the end of September at least.

Chris Westwood (ENG, 27): He’s been at Hartlepool for a while, but Westwood seems to be getting on in years; indeed, his best football may be behind him. He’s still a good backup and I feel he’ll have his chance to shine. If nothing else, he came to the first training session in tip-top shape.

John Brackstone (ENG, 19): Not a bad player considering his age. Brackstone still needs to develop as a player, but he wouldn’t be a liability to toss out there in a pinch. He’ll see some playing time throughout the year.

Andy Jordan (SCO, 3 U21 caps, 24): I’m shocked that we have three decent Scots in the lineup. Jordan’s the worst of the three so far, granted, but he’s played for the Scottish U21 squad and seemed to get along well with the lads in the locker room. If he can put together some strong showings and impress me, he may well be rewarded.

Midfielders

Richie Humphreys (ENG, 3 U21 caps, 26): After failing to impress at Cambridge, Humphreys came to Hartlepool and has come into his own as a player. He makes a whopping £1,500 a week, but if he builds on his form last season he could be a powerful asset for us – as well as a potential transfer target.

Mark Tinkler (ENG, 29): It’s pretty sad when you’re 29 and considered “old†on the team. Tinkler is certainly a capable midfielder, and has played well for the team ever since he was signed on a free transfer after leaving Southend United. He’ll certainly add sorely-needed experience to the squad.

Darrell Clarke (ENG, 26): Signed on a free transfer a few years ago from Mansfield Town, Clarke prides himself on his rigorous pre-season training regiment; however, he’ll need to produce the goods on the pitch if he wants a spot on the squad.

Gavin Strachan (SCO, 8 U21 caps, 25): Another pickup from Southend, Strachan never could live up to his potential as part of the Scottish U21’s; regardless, he’s an extremely intelligent player and should figure into my plans provided he stays healthy.

Antony Sweeney (ENG, 20): He’s young, granted, but the coaches say that he exhibits a great deal of potential; he won’t see too much action at first but if he works hard, he could figure into the first team by the end of the season.

Matty Robson (ENG, 19): One of those players who’s “nearly there†in every aspect of his play but hasn’t quite perfected his skill yet. Robson will likely bounce between the first team and the reserves, but he’s a prime prospect.

Forwards

Adam Boyd (ENG, 22): After a successful loan stint at Boston United last year, it seems that Boyd is ready to be an important part of the campaign this year. If we can hold on to him, he could put a lot of goals in for us throughout the next 10 months.

Eifion Williams (WAL, 2 U21 caps, 28): He’s known as a lethal finisher, but Williams doesn’t seem to have the same qualities that Boyd does; an important player, definitely, but he’ll need to improve on last season’s 13 goal showing.

Joel Porter (AUS, 4 caps/5 goals, 25): Roughly equal in skill to Williams, Porter brings with him some international experience, having appeared for Australia a few times. Hopefully, that experience translates into a breakout season for him.

Jack Wilkinson (ENG, 18): Opinions on young Jack vary; some in the squad think that he could become great, others think that he’ll be nothing more than a League Two or Conference player. I’ll give him a chance, but if he fails to impress he may be on his way out.

As for the reserves and U18 squads... some players were listed, others will get to stay on so I can see what they’re made of. There’s a few good youngsters in the bunch, but I don’t know if anyone will be able to crack the starting 11 for the start of the season.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| Loa | David Foley | S C | ENG | 17 | £14K |

|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| Loa | Steven Istead | AM R | ENG | 18 | £14K |

|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| Lmp | Graham Low | D C | ENG | 17 | £3K |

|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| Lmp | James Winter | GK | ENG | 18 | £3K |

|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| Lmp | Neil Wilkinson | D C | ENG | 18 | £3K |

|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| Lst | Karl Richards | AM L | ENG | 18 | £3K |

|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| Lst | Daniel Fox | M C | ENG | 18 | £3K |

|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| Loa | Darren Craddock | D RC | ENG | 19 | £3K |

|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| Lst | Andrew Appleby | S C | ENG | 18 | £3K |

|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------|

|--------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| Lmp | Stephen Turnbull | M C | ENG | 17 | £3K |

|--------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| Lmp | Philip Turnbull | M C | ENG | 17 | £3K |

|--------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| Lmp | Neil Muckles | D R | ENG | 17 | £3K |

|--------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| Lmp | Michael Maidens | AM/F C | ENG | 17 | £3K |

|--------------------------------------------------------------------------|</pre>

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Preseason 2004

On paper, the bookies think that we’re not extreme longshots, which is comforting to hear.

Bristol City: 6-4

Tranmere Rovers, Swindon Town: 3-1

Bradford City: 5-1

Port Vale, Walsall: 8-1

Hartlepool United: 14-1

So there we go.

Oh, you want to know about how the preseason went... well... it was crap, to be perfectly honest. The players seemed to take a while to get used to my system, and as a result the performances on the pitch suffered. A loss to Gloucester City was a terrible way to start, and it all went downhill from there. Two blowouts, one to lowly Exeter City, had the fans a bit steamed as to how the team would do during the season – of course, I handled the early criticism well and said that I won’t forgive the players if they turn in performances like these starting in August.

Of course, after I said that Derby County throttled us in our last warm-up, 4-1.

Absolutely nothing happened on the transfer market, although I did try to get Ryan Garry and John Spicer (both from Arsenal) on loan. Didn’t work out.

July 14: Gloucester City 2–0 Hartlepool United

July 17: Southport 1–1 Hartlepool United (Porter)

July 21: Hartlepool United 0–2 Stoke City

July 24: Exeter City 4–1 Hartlepool United (Strachan)

July 27: Hartlepool United 0–2 Millwall

August 3: Hartlepool United 1–4 Derby County (Boyd)

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August 2004

The League Cup draw took place on the eve of our first league match, and we found out that Burnley would be our opponents at home. Not an ideal draw, but it could have been a lot worse.

The season started off innocently enough with a fine performance at home against Bradford City, easily breezing past the troubled team 2-0. A harsh loss to Tranmere Rovers followed in midweek, Provett looking very shaky in net during the contest. We then proceeded to throw away a decision against Huddersfield Town, giving up a late goal to Pawel Abbott to only earn a point. Things seemed to look up when Blackpool visited Victoria Road, but a late penalty by Leam Richardson spoiled our prospects of a point.

Following that was our League Cup tie against Burnley, which didn’t go according to plan. Of course, given that we were Hartlepool United, cup success is a bit of a foreign term for us. We were down 1-0 at the break and could never really get going, crashing to a heavy 3-0 defeat. A boring nil-nil result at Swindon Town followed, before we managed to add a bit of shine to a lackluster first month by edging past Colchester United at the death. Although we finished the month in 11th place, that’s still only 3 points off the drop zone; of course, the season’s just begun.

Transfers that took place at the end of the month:

In: Daniel Westenhöfer (Lauda, £0), Owen Morrison (Stockport County, loan)

Out: Daniel Fox (Hednesford Town, £2,000)

Morrison gives us cover on both flanks in midfield, which we desperately need with our injury situation and squad makeup. He’s Northern Irish and was capped 7 times for the U21’s – he’s now 22. In Westenhöfer, we get a young 20 year old German player who can defend on both flanks and has potential; he’s signed until 2008.

Jim Provett was surprisingly called up to the England U21 squad at the end of the month to play (well, I have a feeling he’s the third keeper, but still) Austria and Poland.

August 7: Hartlepool United 2–0 Bradford City (Williams, Boyd)

August 10: Tranmere Rovers 2–0 Hartlepool United

August 14: Huddersfield Town 2–2 Hartlepool United (Tinkler, Williams)

August 21: Hartlepool United 1–2 Blackpool (Williams)

August 25: Hartlepool United 0–3 Burnley (League Cup First Round)

August 28: Swindon Town 0–0 Hartlepool United

August 30: Hartlepool United 1–0 Colchester United (Clarke)

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Pos Inf Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st Hull 6 4 2 0 13 4 +9 14

2nd Huddersfield 6 4 1 1 13 8 +5 13

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

3rd Sheff Wed 6 4 1 1 9 4 +5 13

4th Colchester 6 4 0 2 13 5 +8 12

5th Blackpool 6 3 3 0 11 5 +6 12

6th Swindon 6 3 2 1 8 5 +3 11

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

7th Port Vale 6 3 1 2 11 10 +1 10

8th Oldham 6 3 0 3 11 5 +6 9

9th Bristol C 6 2 3 1 12 9 +3 9

10th Tranmere 6 3 0 3 11 9 +2 9

11th Hartlepool 6 2 2 2 6 6 0 8

12th Bradford City 6 1 4 1 9 8 +1 7

13th Barnsley 6 1 4 1 5 5 0 7

14th Walsall 6 1 4 1 6 8 -2 7

15th Peterborough 6 2 1 3 10 18 -8 7

16th Luton 6 1 3 2 8 10 -2 6

17th Brentford 6 1 3 2 6 8 -2 6

18th MK Dons 6 2 0 4 4 8 -4 6

19th Wrexham 6 2 0 4 6 13 -7 6

20th Chesterfield 6 1 2 3 8 11 -3 5

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

21st Torquay 6 1 2 3 6 9 -3 5

22nd Bournemouth 6 1 2 3 9 13 -4 5

23rd Stockport 6 1 2 3 4 11 -7 5

24th Doncaster 6 0 2 4 4 11 -7 2 </pre>

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September 2004

September didn’t look like it would be kind to us early, as despite a dominating performance by the side, Barnsley ran out of Victoria Park 1-0 winners. A draw against Oldham Athletic followed, as we once again threw away what should have been a guaranteed win. Things looked up near the end of the month however. We first managed to sneak past Torquay United in front of a large home crowd, then came from behind for the first time this season to humble Wim... er… Milton Keynes Dons by a rather flattering 3-1 scoreline. That allows us to finish the month just one point shy of the playoffs, which is more of a curse than a blessing.

I’m the type of manager who puts a lot of stock into cup competitions, so a full-strength team traveled to face a strong Barnsley team in the First Round of the LDV Vans Trophy; the North section, of course. The score was 1-1 early and stayed that way until extra time, where despite our best efforts, we fell to a 119th minute goal; we also lost Williams with an ankle injury for a month, which is a shame as he’s been one of our most consistent performers up to this point. If nothing else, at least we won’t have fixture congestion barring a FA Cup run.

September 4: Hartlepool United 0–1 Barnsley

September 11: Oldham Athletic 2–2 Hartlepool United (Westwood, Williams)

September 18: Hartlepool United 1–0 Torquay United (Boyd)

September 25: Milton Keynes Dons 1–3 Hartlepool United (Clarke, Boyd 2)

September 28: Barnsley 2–1 Hartlepool United (Tinkler) (LDV Vans Trophy First Round)

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Pos Inf Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st Swindon 10 7 2 1 16 7 +9 23

2nd Hull 10 6 3 1 20 8 +12 21

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

3rd Blackpool 10 6 3 1 19 9 +10 21

4th Sheff Wed 10 5 4 1 13 5 +8 19

5th Tranmere 10 6 0 4 16 12 +4 18

6th Colchester 10 5 1 4 16 10 +6 16

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

7th Bristol C 10 4 4 2 18 13 +5 16

8th Port Vale 10 5 1 4 16 14 +2 16

9th Hartlepool 10 4 3 3 12 10 +2 15

10th Huddersfield 10 4 2 4 16 15 +1 14

11th Brentford 10 3 5 2 15 14 +1 14

12th Barnsley 10 3 5 2 10 9 +1 14

13th Oldham 10 4 1 5 17 12 +5 13

14th Luton 10 3 4 3 14 13 +1 13

15th Walsall 10 2 6 2 11 14 -3 12

16th MK Dons 10 4 0 6 10 13 -3 12

17th Bradford City 10 2 4 4 12 15 -3 10

18th Torquay 10 2 4 4 10 13 -3 10

19th Wrexham 10 3 1 6 12 20 -8 10

20th Stockport 10 2 4 4 7 15 -8 10

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

21st Chesterfield 10 2 3 5 14 17 -3 9

22nd Doncaster 10 2 2 6 10 19 -9 8

23rd Peterborough 10 2 1 7 12 29 -17 7

24th Bournemouth 10 1 3 6 11 21 -10 6 </pre>

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October 2004

High-flying Hull City were our first opponents of the month, and for a long time it looked like we were heading to certain defeat until Strachan converted a... shall we say, slightly dubious penalty decision to snatch a point away. Despite missing another penalty in the following match, we still captured victory at Luton Town, although the draw would have been fair for both teams. An ill-tempered match at home to Chesterfield followed, and despite Robertson being sent off we cruised to a 2-0 win; of course, it helped that the sending off came late in the match, while Chesterfield played most of it with 10 men. Our good run of form had to come to an end, but I certainly didn’t expect Brentford to get 5 goals past us; Boyd had mouthed off to the ref to get ejected, but that didn’t justify such a thumping. The following trip to Peterborough was strange, as we stormed to a 3-1 lead through Porter’s hat trick, only to see him go down to injury not long after completing it; luckily, he was fine and we held on for the 3 points. Finally, the month ended with us going down to defeat at Victoria Park to Port Vale, thanks to a late penalty decision that didn’t go our way. What goes around, it seems, comes around.

We made a few signings following the Port Vale match:

In: Manuel Nischi (free transfer), Bruno (free transfer)

Nischi is a young 21 year old Italian keeper that looks like a third-stringer I can at least put my faith in. Bruno, 20 years of age, is an Andorran midfielder who, unlike most Andorran players, actually looks like he has some skill. Hopefully he can earn some experience playing for the national team.

October 2: Hartlepool United 1–1 Hull City (Strachan pen)

October 8: Luton Town 0–1 Hartlepool United (Porter)

October 16: Hartlepool United 2–0 Chesterfield (Porter, Morrison)

October 19: Brentford 5–0 Hartlepool United

October 23: Peterborough United 2–3 Hartlepool United (Porter 3)

October 30: Hartlepool United 0–1 Port Vale

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Pos Inf Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st Sheff Wed 16 10 5 1 24 7 +17 35

2nd Hull 16 9 4 3 29 15 +14 31

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

3rd Bristol C 16 8 5 3 26 16 +10 29

4th Blackpool 16 8 5 3 30 21 +9 29

5th Brentford 16 7 7 2 29 18 +11 28

6th Colchester 16 7 5 4 25 16 +9 26

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

7th Swindon 16 7 4 5 18 13 +5 25

8th Hartlepool 16 7 4 5 19 19 0 25

9th Torquay 16 6 6 4 21 18 +3 24

10th Tranmere 16 7 3 6 19 16 +3 24

11th Port Vale 16 7 3 6 21 22 -1 24

12th Barnsley 16 6 5 5 16 19 -3 23

13th Oldham 16 6 3 7 24 20 +4 21

14th Huddersfield 16 5 6 5 21 20 +1 21

15th Stockport 16 4 7 5 12 19 -7 19

16th Walsall 15 3 9 3 15 19 -4 18

17th MK Dons 16 5 2 9 16 19 -3 17

18th Bradford City 16 4 5 7 18 23 -5 17

19th Luton 16 3 6 7 18 22 -4 15

20th Wrexham 15 4 3 8 18 28 -10 15

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

21st Doncaster 16 3 5 8 16 28 -12 14

22nd Bournemouth 16 3 4 9 22 30 -8 13

23rd Chesterfield 16 2 5 9 18 28 -10 11

24th Peterborough 16 2 5 9 23 42 -19 11</pre>

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(Well, at least I can say the finances aren't that deep into the red at this point.)

November 2004

The month began with good news and bad news; Porter would be going to play for Australia against Guam and Austria in a pair of friendlies later in the month, while we drew Torquay away in the FA Cup First Round. Before that, we had to host Doncaster Rovers, which turned out to lead to a rather embarrassing defeat; no shots on target for us equaled a 2-0 defeat. Then it was time for the big match, and we fell behind early in the second half before Morrison converted a timely penalty. Sadly, we couldn’t hold on for the coveted replay and now only have the league to play for. We scurried off from there to play Sheffield Wednesday and won a spectacular match 6-3... That is, if yellow cards counted as goals. The real score was 5-1 for Wednesday as our confidence was at an all-time low. We finished the month hosting Bournemouth, and the less said about that game, the better. The fact that 3 players earned suspensions due to yellow cards says a lot about our discipline as of late. All in all, a disastrous month that really put a dent in our promotion hopes.

November 6: Hartlepool United 0–2 Doncaster Rovers

November 13: Torquay United 2–1 Hartlepool United (Morrison pen) (FA Cup First Round)

November 20: Sheffield Wednesday 5–1 Hartlepool United (Collins o/g)

November 27: Hartlepool United 0–3 AFC Bournemouth

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Pos Inf Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st Sheff Wed 18 12 5 1 31 8 +23 41

2nd Hull 19 10 5 4 31 20 +11 35

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

3rd Brentford 19 8 9 2 32 19 +13 33

4th Colchester 19 9 6 4 30 19 +11 33

5th Bristol C 18 8 6 4 26 19 +7 30

6th Blackpool 19 8 6 5 33 27 +6 30

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

7th Tranmere 18 9 3 6 24 18 +6 30

8th Swindon 19 8 4 7 20 17 +3 28

9th Port Vale 18 8 4 6 23 23 0 28

10th Torquay 19 6 8 5 22 20 +2 26

11th Oldham 18 7 4 7 26 20 +6 25

12th Huddersfield 19 6 7 6 23 21 +2 25

13th Walsall 19 5 10 4 23 23 0 25

14th Hartlepool 19 7 4 8 20 29 -9 25

15th Wrexham 19 7 3 9 25 31 -6 24

16th Barnsley 19 6 6 7 18 24 -6 24

17th Stockport 19 5 8 6 14 22 -8 23

18th MK Dons 18 5 4 9 18 21 -3 19

19th Bradford City 18 4 6 8 20 27 -7 18

20th Doncaster 19 4 6 9 20 31 -11 18

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

21st Luton 19 3 8 8 22 28 -6 17

22nd Bournemouth 19 4 5 10 27 34 -7 17

23rd Chesterfield 19 3 6 10 23 32 -9 15

24th Peterborough 18 3 5 10 26 44 -18 14</pre>

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December 2004

Another terrible start to the month to extend our losing streak, falling 2-1 to Walsall in a game that I felt we had to win. Better things would come in our next game, as we fought back from 2 goals down to tie Stockport County thanks to brilliant clutch performances by Boyd and Bruno. That would stop the bleeding temporarily, but our performance against Wrexham didn’t do us any favors; we took another point but it took a last-second goal from Boyd to clinch it in a match where we didn’t deserve anything. Morrison didn’t do us any favors in the Boxing Day clash with Oldham Athletic, getting sent off early as we crashed to a 2-1 defeat. We ended the month limping into Ashton Gate to take on Bristol City, and this wasn’t a contest at all; two goals on each side of the break, 4-0 final. The season’s turned from promising to appalling.

Boyd put in a transfer request at the end of the month; I had no choice but to accept rather than risk losing him for nothing at the end of his contract, which is fast approaching.

December 7: Walsall 2–1 Hartlepool United (Murphy o/g)

December 11: Hartlepool United 2–2 Stockport County (Bruno, Boyd)

December 18: Wrexham 1–1 Hartlepool United (Boyd)

December 26: Hartlepool United 1–2 Oldham Athletic (Boyd)

December 28: Bristol City 4–0 Hartlepool United

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Pos Inf Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st Sheff Wed 24 16 6 2 41 14 +27 54

2nd Hull 24 13 5 6 39 25 +14 44

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

3rd Tranmere 24 13 4 7 35 25 +10 43

4th Bristol C 24 11 8 5 39 27 +12 41

5th Colchester 24 11 7 6 38 27 +11 40

6th Port Vale 24 11 6 7 34 29 +5 39

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

7th Brentford 24 9 11 4 39 27 +12 38

8th Swindon 24 11 5 8 28 22 +6 38

9th Bradford City 24 9 7 8 30 31 -1 34

10th Torquay 24 8 9 7 30 28 +2 33

11th Walsall 24 7 12 5 30 30 0 33

12th Oldham 24 8 7 9 30 26 +4 31

13th Blackpool 24 8 6 10 38 43 -5 30

14th Wrexham 24 8 6 10 30 35 -5 30

15th Huddersfield 24 6 10 8 25 27 -2 28

16th Stockport 24 6 10 8 21 29 -8 28

17th Hartlepool 24 7 6 11 25 40 -15 27

18th Doncaster 24 6 7 11 27 39 -12 25

19th Barnsley 24 6 7 11 18 31 -13 25

20th MK Dons 24 6 6 12 26 29 -3 24

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

21st Bournemouth 24 6 6 12 34 41 -7 24

22nd Chesterfield 24 5 8 11 27 34 -7 23

23rd Peterborough 24 5 7 12 34 50 -16 22

24th Luton 24 3 12 9 27 36 -9 21</pre>

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(Ooh... 6 or 7 seasons might be too generous. :p)

January 2005

The new year got off to a flyer away at Barnsley. Finding ourselves down 2-0, we sprinted out to a 3-2 lead thanks to a brace by Boyd. He added his hat trick later to make it 4-3, but we couldn’t hold on for the three points and lost what might be categorized as a shootout. After the game, we learned that Porter has been denied a work permit to stay at the team, and it looks likely that the Aussie international will have to leave England. The bad news continued in our next match, as we totally outplayed Milton Keynes Dons but fell to a 90th minute goal by Jamie Mackie to throw away another result. I immediately, in desperation, switched from our customary offensive-minded 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2 so that we might get midfield control. We didn’t get totally outplayed by Luton Town when trying the tactic, but still could only come up with another draw. Of course, after this game, one player made his exit...

Out: Adam Boyd (Millwall, £85,000)

It was either sell him for under market value or lose him for nothing in June. With that done, and with Porter sadly on the block as well, we headed off to Plainmoor to face Torquay United. Team morale was at an all-time low, and despite Tinkler cutting the deficit to 2-1 after the half, we crashed to a 6-1 defeat, another in a series of one-sided thrashings this season. We went back to a standard 4-4-2 after I declared 3-5-2 an absolute failure based on that result; that, and the fact that the board was starting to show signs of unrest. The players responded to my slightly noticeable desperation, finding the net three times to allow us to upset Bristol City and earn our first win since October 23. Unfortunately, the pressure is still on according to the media, which means a win in the month’s final match against Hull City is a necessity. To try tip the scales in our favor, I make some moves...

In: Jóhann Þórhallsson (KA, £22,000), Gabriel Acheampong (Kolstad, £4,000)

Out: Andrew Appleby (Bamber Bridge, £0)

Þórhallsson (however you pronounce it) is an extremely skilled Icelandic forward, and he’s been capped (and recently called up) by the national team as well. Acheampong is a young Norwegian who shows a lot of promise, and gives us some forward and midfield cover.

Despite these moves... the match looked promising with Þórhallsson scoring early and allowing us to take the lead into the half... but then we exploded again as Hull used the counter-attack to strike quickly, and took home a 5-1 victory over us. I was certain the sack was near, but after a long talk with the board... I have a little more time.

January 1: Barnsley 4-4 Hartlepool United (Boyd 3, Humphreys)

January 3: Hartlepool United 0–1 Milton Keynes Dons

January 8: Hartlepool United 1–1 Luton Town (Williams)

January 15: Torquay United 6–1 Hartlepool United (Tinkler)

January 22: Hartlepool United 3–1 Bristol City (Bruno, Williams, Porter)

January 29: Hull City 5–1 Hartlepool United (Þórhallsson)

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Pos Inf Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st Sheff Wed 30 19 8 3 53 19 +34 65

2nd Hull 30 19 5 6 55 26 +29 62

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

3rd Bristol C 30 14 10 6 50 34 +16 52

4th Tranmere 30 16 4 10 41 36 +5 52

5th Swindon 30 15 5 10 39 31 +8 50

6th Colchester 30 12 11 7 44 34 +10 47

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

7th Brentford 30 11 11 8 47 39 +8 44

8th Oldham 30 11 10 9 40 28 +12 43

9th Bradford City 30 11 10 9 40 39 +1 43

10th Torquay 30 10 10 10 42 38 +4 40

11th Port Vale 30 11 7 12 39 41 -2 40

12th Blackpool 30 10 9 11 44 47 -3 39

13th Stockport 30 9 11 10 30 35 -5 38

14th Huddersfield 29 8 12 9 31 32 -1 36

15th Wrexham 30 9 9 12 34 43 -9 36

16th Walsall 30 7 14 9 33 38 -5 35

17th Doncaster 30 9 8 13 36 46 -10 35

18th MK Dons 30 8 8 14 31 36 -5 32

19th Hartlepool 30 8 8 14 35 58 -23 32

20th Barnsley 30 7 10 13 25 41 -16 31

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

21st Bournemouth 29 7 9 13 42 50 -8 30

22nd Luton 30 5 14 11 34 43 -9 29

23rd Chesterfield 30 6 10 14 30 39 -9 28

24th Peterborough 30 6 9 15 39 61 -22 27</pre>

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February 2005

I had a feeling that we’d have to get a win right off the bat for me to see out the month, and thankfully, Bruno and Williams combined to give us an extremely lucky, but still deserved, win over Chesterfield. It was nice to see Bruno get a cap for Andorra in midweek, although they fell to Macedonia 2-0. Peterborough United were next up at home, and for a long time it looked like we would fall to certain defeat after a Robertson own goal, yet Morrison popped up in the 89th minute to seal a draw. A trip to play Port Vale was next on the agenda, and despite Provett letting in some howlers early on, goals by Nelson and Williams late in the game made it seem like we would earn an important away win. Of course, Vale struck back twice, we lost 4-3, and somehow I still had a job. We only came alive late in the match against Brentford, but that didn’t make any difference because neither team could find the net in a disappointing match. Finally, we limped to the end of the month with a disastrous performance at Stockport County, putting up no fight at all in a 3-0 defeat.

February 5: Chesterfield 1–2 Hartlepool United (Bruno, Williams)

February 11: Hartlepool United 2–2 Peterborough United (Williams, Morrison)

February 19: Port Vale 4–3 Hartlepool United (Williams 2, Nelson)

February 22: Hartlepool United 0–0 Brentford

February 26: Stockport County 3–0 Hartlepool United

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Pos Inf Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st Sheff Wed 35 22 10 3 61 24 +37 76

2nd Hull 35 21 6 8 61 31 +30 69

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

3rd Bristol C 35 19 10 6 63 38 +25 67

4th Swindon 35 18 7 10 53 38 +15 61

5th Tranmere 35 18 5 12 50 43 +7 59

6th Oldham 35 13 11 11 49 37 +12 50

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

7th Colchester 35 13 11 11 53 49 +4 50

8th Bradford City 35 13 11 11 47 45 +2 50

9th Brentford 35 12 13 10 51 46 +5 49

10th Wrexham 35 13 10 12 47 45 +2 49

11th Doncaster 35 12 10 13 46 49 -3 46

12th Torquay 35 11 12 12 50 48 +2 45

13th Stockport 35 11 12 12 39 42 -3 45

14th Blackpool 34 12 9 13 49 56 -7 45

15th Port Vale 35 12 8 15 48 55 -7 44

16th Bournemouth 35 10 11 14 55 58 -3 41

17th MK Dons 35 10 9 16 37 43 -6 39

18th Walsall 35 8 15 12 36 47 -11 39

19th Hartlepool 35 9 10 16 42 68 -26 37

20th Luton 35 7 15 13 40 49 -9 36

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

21st Huddersfield 34 8 12 14 35 44 -9 36

22nd Peterborough 35 8 11 16 49 68 -19 35

23rd Barnsley 35 7 12 16 29 52 -23 33

24th Chesterfield 35 7 10 18 33 48 -15 31</pre>

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...Indeed it is. icon_frown.gif Made a boo-boo on the cut/paste, it seems. Here's March.

March 2005

March came in with another close call, at least regarding my job; we threw our umpteenth lead of the season to Wrexham, but somehow I managed to stay in charge for the following match against Tranmere Rovers at home. This time, I decided to experiment with a 4-3-3, hoping that we could generate more chances with 3 men up front. We got more shots on target than usual, although we were still woefully outplayed, and earned a draw due to another penalty decision going against us. Another harsh match against Bradford City was next, with our opponents showing us no mercy and enjoying much of the possession in a 1-0 defeat. I felt that our best chance of stopping this slide was against fellow battlers Huddersfield Town, but that plan didn’t exactly work out as they slotted 3 past us for the easy win. Finally, after receiving justified abuse from our fans, we traveled to Blackpool, who did us no favors; another 3-0 defeat leaves us in critical condition.

March 5: Hartlepool United 1–2 Wrexham (Porter)

March 12: Hartlepool United 1–1 Tranmere Rovers (Porter)

March 19: Bradford City 1–0 Hartlepool United

March 26: Hartlepool United 0–3 Huddersfield Town

March 28: Blackpool 3–0 Hartlepool United

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Pos Inf Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st Pl Sheff Wed 39 24 11 4 68 32 +36 83

2nd Bristol C 40 21 12 7 67 42 +25 75

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

3rd Hull 40 22 7 11 66 39 +27 73

4th Swindon 40 20 9 11 62 45 +17 69

5th Tranmere 40 20 7 13 59 50 +9 67

6th Oldham 40 18 11 11 60 37 +23 65

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

7th Brentford 39 15 14 10 61 50 +11 59

8th Colchester 40 15 13 12 60 54 +6 58

9th Bradford City 40 15 13 12 50 47 +3 58

10th Blackpool 40 15 11 14 58 60 -2 56

11th Wrexham 38 14 11 13 49 48 +1 53

12th Torquay 39 13 13 13 57 52 +5 52

13th Doncaster 40 14 10 16 52 58 -6 52

14th Stockport 40 12 14 14 42 47 -5 50

15th Bournemouth 40 11 13 16 61 64 -3 46

16th MK Dons 40 12 10 18 46 53 -7 46

17th Port Vale 39 12 10 17 52 65 -13 46

18th Walsall 40 9 17 14 41 53 -12 44

19th Barnsley 40 10 14 16 40 58 -18 44

20th Huddersfield 40 9 13 18 41 53 -12 40

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

21st Luton 40 8 15 17 46 61 -15 39

22nd Chesterfield 40 9 11 20 41 56 -15 38

23rd Peterborough 40 8 14 18 57 79 -22 38

24th Hartlepool 40 9 11 20 44 77 -33 38</pre>

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April/May 2005

In desperation, I make a loan signing before the month starts, defender Danny Jackman becoming our second player in from Stockport County. The problem was, defense wasn’t an issue in our next match; no matter how deep the backfield was, Swindon Town would have likely decimated it anyways. Another hard defeat resulted from that encounter. Having tried nearly every tactic and combination possible, I rolled the dice with a 5-3-2 against Colchester United. The good news was that we didn’t give up so many goals; the bad news was that it didn’t help us win at all. A more defensively-minded 5-3-2 went into effect against the league leaders in a pivotal match, and although we did well for ourselves, Sheffield Wednesday took all three points to clinch promotion and leave us hanging on for dear life; 8 points from safety with 3 games to go. Of course, if you were reading this thinking that we were going to make a spectacular escape, well... our next match was spectacular. It produced a 5-star performance by Doncaster Rovers that sealed our fate. The next two games saw our reserves play as I benched all the starters, and the results speak for themselves.

April 2: Hartlepool United 1–4 Swindon Town (Williams)

April 9: Colchester United 2–1 Hartlepool United (Porter)

April 15: Hartlepool United 0–1 Sheffield Wednesday

April 23: Doncaster Rovers 5–0 Hartlepool United

April 30: Hartlepool United 0–3 Walsall

May 7: AFC Bournemouth 6–0 Hartlepool United

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Pos Inf Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st C Sheff Wed 46 29 12 5 82 34 +48 99

2nd P Bristol C 46 25 12 9 75 47 +28 87

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

3rd P Hull 46 24 11 11 74 43 +31 83

4th Swindon 46 22 12 12 67 49 +18 78

5th Tranmere 46 23 9 14 65 52 +13 78

6th Colchester 46 20 13 13 73 59 +14 73

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

7th Bradford City 46 18 15 13 61 52 +9 69

8th Oldham 46 18 13 15 65 46 +19 67

9th Wrexham 46 18 12 16 58 57 +1 66

10th Brentford 46 16 15 15 65 61 +4 63

11th Doncaster 46 17 11 18 61 63 -2 62

12th Blackpool 46 16 14 16 62 65 -3 62

13th Torquay 46 15 15 16 63 66 -3 60

14th Walsall 46 13 19 14 52 57 -5 58

15th Stockport 46 14 15 17 45 54 -9 57

16th Barnsley 46 13 15 18 52 66 -14 54

17th Bournemouth 46 13 13 20 69 73 -4 52

18th Luton 46 11 17 18 57 66 -9 50

19th Huddersfield 46 12 14 20 49 58 -9 50

20th MK Dons 46 12 14 20 50 62 -12 50

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

21st R Chesterfield 46 13 11 22 49 62 -13 50

22nd R Port Vale 46 13 10 23 55 78 -23 49

23rd R Peterborough 46 9 15 22 61 88 -27 42

24th R Hartlepool 46 9 11 26 46 98 -52 38</pre>

How (terribly) our reserve and U18 teams did:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Pos Inf Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st C Brighton 42 27 9 6 91 39 +52 90

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2nd Hull 42 24 9 9 84 50 +34 81

3rd York 42 23 10 9 73 54 +19 79

4th Bradford City 42 23 7 12 73 48 +25 76

5th Yeovil 42 21 10 11 74 57 +17 73

6th Scunthorpe 42 20 11 11 68 46 +22 71

7th Plymouth 42 20 11 11 79 61 +18 71

8th Blackpool 42 21 7 14 65 42 +23 70

9th Rochdale 42 20 10 12 70 63 +7 70

10th Darlington 42 19 11 12 70 63 +7 68

11th Exeter 42 16 14 12 67 61 +6 62

12th Halifax 42 14 12 16 57 69 -12 54

13th Carlisle 42 14 10 18 56 60 -4 52

14th Crawley 42 15 5 22 59 69 -10 50

15th Accrington 42 13 9 20 56 69 -13 48

16th Scarborough 42 14 5 23 49 69 -20 47

17th Bournemouth 42 11 12 19 52 69 -17 45

18th Torquay 42 12 7 23 54 71 -17 43

19th Morecambe 42 12 7 23 49 70 -21 43

20th Hartlepool 42 9 12 21 37 62 -25 39

21st Leigh RMI 42 10 7 25 52 83 -31 37

22nd Gravesend 42 5 3 34 35 95 -60 18</pre>

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Pos Inf Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st C Newcastle 22 14 6 2 38 18 +20 48

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2nd Blackpool 22 14 5 3 36 21 +15 47

3rd Bradford City 22 11 4 7 38 23 +15 37

4th Hull 22 10 5 7 35 30 +5 35

5th Sunderland 22 10 5 7 29 26 +3 35

6th Middlesbrough 22 9 5 8 27 30 -3 32

7th Grimsby 22 7 8 7 33 30 +3 29

8th Carlisle 22 7 6 9 30 28 +2 27

9th Hartlepool 22 7 6 9 30 33 -3 27

10th Doncaster 22 5 8 9 22 37 -15 23

11th Darlington 22 4 4 14 17 37 -20 16

12th Bury 22 2 2 18 21 43 -22 8</pre>

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2004/05 Recap

Premier Division: Arsenal

Championship: Preston North End

League One: Sheffield Wednesday

League Two: Chester City

Conference National: York City

Conference North: Worksop Town

Conference South: Sutton United

FA Cup: Arsenal

League Cup: Chelsea

LDV Vans Trophy: Boston United

FA Trophy: Crawley Town

Under 18s Cup: Manchester City

Community Shield: Arsenal

UEFA Champions League: Chelsea (England)

UEFA Cup: Inter Milan (Italy)

European Super Cup: Valencia (Spain)

Intercontinental Cup: Once Caldas (Colombia)

Relegated from Premier Division: Charlton Athletic, Manchester City, West Bromwich Albion

Promoted to Premier Division: Preston North End, Wigan Athletic, West Ham United

Relegated from Championship: Millwall, Burnley, Watford

Promoted to Championship: Sheffield Wednesday, Bristol City, Hull City

Relegated from League One: Chesterfield, Port Vale, Peterborough United, Hartlepool United

Promoted to League One: Chester City, Oxford United, Boston United, Notts County

Relegated from League Two: Yeovil Town, Lincoln City

Promoted to League Two: York City, Barnet

Relegated from Conference National: Northwich Victoria, Scarborough, Morecambe

Promoted to Conference National: Worksop Town, Sutton United, Bradford Park Avenue

Relegated from Conference North/South: Kettering Town, Vauxhall Motors, Altrincham (North), Bishop's Stortford, Newport County, Bognor Regis (South)

Promoted to Conference North/South: Burscough, Gateshead, Hednesford Town, Hyde United (North), Bath City, Kingstonian (South)

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well that wasn't the best of opening seasons icon_frown.gif interesting point, though. i wonder if getting promotion from League Two would count as stage one completed.

all the best for next season, hope it goes far better than this one icon_smile.gif

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I was about to call that loophole if I do gain promotion in season 2. icon_smile.gif The rules are... shall we say... quite open-ended in that department. icon_smile.gif

I'm working on the second season now of course, so I can't say anything... icon_wink.gif

And I think I just got nailed with bad luck. icon_frown.gif I can't recall the last time an implosion like this happened...

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

well that wasn't the best of opening seasons icon_frown.gif interesting point, though. i wonder if getting promotion from League Two would count as stage one completed.

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

If it does my team's gonna drop like a lead balloon into next season icon_wink.gif

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Preseason 2005

I still can’t believe the board hasn’t let me go after last season, but that’s a moot point right now. At the moment, our goal is simple – to win League Two and head straight back up on our first attempt. It’s not going to be easy however; I have a rather large wage bill to trim down by £5,500, which means a few players have to go…

In: Steffen Hagen (Mandalskameratene, £12,000), John Spicer (free transfer), Per Fahlman (IFK Sundsvall, £0), Kenneth Stenild (free transfer)

Out: Michael Barron (Yeovil Town, £10,000), Michael Nelson (Coventry City, £16,000), Mark Tinkler (Torquay United, £10,000), Jim Provett (Burnley, £14,000), Karl Richards (Stalybridge Celtic, £1,000), Neil Wilkinson (free transfer), Richie Humphreys (Grimsby Town, £45,000), Dimitrios Konstantopoulos (Scarborough, £0)

That, my friends, is what you call clearing out the dead (and expensive) wood. Hagen is a capable defender coming from Norway, Spicer is a talented midfielder who was released by Arsenal at the end of last season, and Fahlman (from Sweden) and Stenild (from Denmark) are our new goalkeepers.

As for friendly matches, we at least showed a marked improvement compared to last year, as I went back to a fairly simple 4-4-2.

July 12: Hartlepool United 3-1 Stockport County (Cutler o/g, Robertson, Porter)

July 16: Cambridge City 1-3 Hartlepool United (Wilkinson, Þórhallsson, Williams)

July 21: Cremonese 1-0 Hartlepool United

July 28: Torquay United 2-2 Hartlepool United (Westwood, Williams)

July 31: Hartlepool United 0-0 Liverpool Reserves

The odds came in for the League Two campaign...

Grimsby Town, Swansea City, Rushden & Diamonds: 6-4

Peterborough United, Macclesfield Town, Port Vale: 7-4

Hartlepool United: 5-1

Not a good sign according to the bookies. Of course, this squad really has to step up its game this season so that we can go straight up...

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">| Pkd | Inf | Name | Position | Club | Nat | Age | Value |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | | Per Fahlman | GK | Hartlepool | SWE | 21 | £9K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | | Kenneth Stenild | GK | Hartlepool | DEN | 17 | £26K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | | Chris Westwood | SW/D C | Hartlepool | ENG | 28 | £9K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | Inj | Steffen Hagen | D C | Hartlepool | NOR | 19 | £16K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | | Jack Ross | D/DM RL | Hartlepool | SCO | 29 | £14K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | | John Brackstone | D/DM L | Hartlepool | ENG | 20 | £3K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | | Hugh Robertson | D/DM L | Hartlepool | SCO | 30 | £14K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | | Bruno | DM C | Hartlepool | AND | 21 | £30K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | Inj | John Spicer | M C | Hartlepool | ENG | 21 | £40K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | | Gavin Strachan | M C | Hartlepool | SCO | 26 | £10K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | | Antony Sweeney | M C | Hartlepool | ENG | 21 | £9K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | Inj | Steven Istead | AM R | Hartlepool | ENG | 19 | £12K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | | Matty Robson | AM L | Hartlepool | ENG | 20 | £6K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | | Darrell Clarke | AM C | Hartlepool | ENG | 27 | £14K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | Unh | Gabriel Acheampong | AM/F RC | Hartlepool | NOR | 22 | £4K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | Unh | Jóhann Þórhallsson | F LC | Hartlepool | ISL | 25 | £30K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | Lst | Joel Porter | S C | Hartlepool | AUS | 26 | - |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | Inj | Jack Wilkinson | S C | Hartlepool | ENG | 19 | £30K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| - | | Eifion Williams | S C | Hartlepool | WAL | 29 | £20K |

| --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|</pre>

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August 2005

The League Cup draw sees us traveling to face Wrexham, 9th in League One last season. Considering how they schooled us last season, it’s not a good start to our traditional cup obligations... I mean, campaign. We hosted Shrewsbury Town to start the season, and looked to be in horrendous physical shape, barely managing to get the draw. Rochdale visited us in midweek, and again we didn’t look like we were clicking at all, giving up an early goal to plummet to our first defeat. We looked as if we would earn our first win against Bury, but Bruno was sent off late and Nugent scored for the home team to give us another draw. The match against Barnet was another story, as the League Two newcomers absolutely humiliated us, sending us crashing to the foot of the table. It was then time to get the League Cup out of the way, and despite a brave performance, Hagen accidentally hit the ball into his own net to see us go out of our first cup of the season. Things would look up at the end of the week, as Þórhallsson put together a fine performance to see us get past Chesterfield for our first 3 points of the season. Finally, the last match of the month against York City proved to be a dull affair; neither side really deserved a goal, to be honest.

A copy of more moves took place at the end of the month:

In: Steven Blommaert (Rupel-Boom, £5,000)

Out: Andy Jordan (Gateshead, £0)

Blommaert is a person I’ve had my eyes on for a while; a tremendous left-flank defender who can also move up to midfield if need be.

August 6: Hartlepool United 1–1 Shrewsbury Town (Robertson)

August 9: Hartlepool United 0–1 Rochdale

August 13: Bury 2–2 Hartlepool United (Þórhallsson, Williams pen)

August 20: Barnet 2–0 Hartlepool United

August 24: Wrexham 1–0 Hartlepool United (League Cup First Round)

August 27: Hartlepool United 2–1 Chesterfield (Þórhallsson 2)

August 30: York City 0–0 Hartlepool United

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Pos Inf Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st Cambridge 6 5 1 0 8 1 +7 16

2nd Peterborough 6 4 1 1 16 5 +11 13

3rd Cheltenham 6 4 1 1 12 5 +7 13

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

4th Rushden 6 4 1 1 12 9 +3 13

5th Darlington 6 3 2 1 9 6 +3 11

6th Barnet 6 3 1 2 7 4 +3 10

7th Rochdale 6 3 1 2 9 7 +2 10

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

8th Bristol Rovers 6 3 1 2 8 7 +1 10

9th Mansfield 6 3 1 2 7 8 -1 10

10th Kidderminster 6 2 3 1 8 6 +2 9

11th Port Vale 6 2 3 1 8 6 +2 9

12th Leyton Orient 6 2 3 1 8 7 +1 9

13th Southend 6 2 2 2 11 9 +2 8

14th Shrewsbury 6 2 2 2 10 10 0 8

15th Grimsby 6 2 2 2 6 8 -2 8

16th Swansea 6 1 3 2 4 5 -1 6

17th Hartlepool 6 1 3 2 5 7 -2 6

18th York 6 1 2 3 2 10 -8 5

19th Scunthorpe 6 1 1 4 9 10 -1 4

20th Bury 6 0 4 2 5 9 -4 4

21st Macclesfield 6 1 1 4 6 12 -6 4

22nd Chesterfield 6 0 3 3 4 8 -4 3

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

23rd Wycombe 6 1 0 5 4 10 -6 3

24th Northampton 6 0 2 4 6 15 -9 2 </pre>

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September 2005

The LDV Vans Trophy First Round draw started off the month, and once again we would have to travel to York, hoping that the match wouldn’t be as boring as the last one. Istead went off for us in the 40th minute of our clash with Rushden & Diamonds, but Burgess went off for the visitors and we ended up with a fair 1-1 draw. We controlled most of the following match against Scunthorpe United, but gave up another late goal, which we have a bad habit of doing, for our second straight draw. Despite outshooting bottom of the table Wycombe Wanderers 11-0, virtually none of those shots were on target and it seems that we’re stuck in draw hell at the moment. We had hopes that this streak would end against York City in the LDV Vans Trophy, but Bishop scored early for them and York held on despite being totally outplayed for large portions of the match. Only the FA Cup remains...

September 10: Hartlepool United 1–1 Rushden & Diamonds (Westwood)

September 17: Scunthorpe United 1–1 Hartlepool United (Spicer)

September 24: Hartlepool United 0–0 Wycombe Wanderers

September 27: York City 1–0 Hartlepool United (LDV Vans Trophy First Round)

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Pos Inf Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st Peterborough 9 6 2 1 20 5 +15 20

2nd Rushden 9 6 2 1 17 11 +6 20

3rd Southend 9 5 2 2 21 11 +10 17

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

4th Cheltenham 9 5 2 2 15 8 +7 17

5th Bristol Rovers 9 5 2 2 14 9 +5 17

6th Cambridge 9 5 2 2 9 7 +2 17

7th Rochdale 9 5 1 3 12 9 +3 16

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

8th Barnet 9 4 2 3 9 6 +3 14

9th Mansfield 9 4 2 3 11 13 -2 14

10th Kidderminster 9 3 4 2 12 11 +1 13

11th Darlington 9 3 4 2 10 12 -2 13

12th Swansea 9 3 3 3 8 7 +1 12

13th Port Vale 9 2 5 2 9 8 +1 11

14th Shrewsbury 9 3 2 4 12 13 -1 11

15th Northampton 9 3 2 4 15 17 -2 11

16th Hartlepool 9 1 6 2 7 9 -2 9

17th Leyton Orient 9 2 3 4 8 11 -3 9

18th Macclesfield 9 2 3 4 8 13 -5 9

19th York 9 2 3 4 6 13 -7 9

20th Chesterfield 9 1 5 3 6 9 -3 8

21st Grimsby 9 2 2 5 7 12 -5 8

22nd Bury 9 1 4 4 10 19 -9 7

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

23rd Scunthorpe 9 1 2 6 12 16 -4 5

24th Wycombe 9 1 1 7 5 14 -9 4 </pre>

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October 2005

We traveled to Darlington in an attempt to get our league form back on track, and it works out thanks to Armstrong being sent off for the hosts right before halftime and two advantageous penalty situations. A bit lucky, but we’ll take it. What didn’t rely on luck was our performance against Cambridge United, and it’s a shame that we couldn’t get more balls into the net. Of course, we had gone too long without a thrashing, and that came at the hands of Bristol Rovers; a terrible display there, even being a man down. The month ended on a low note, as we attempted a late comeback against Southend United but got nowhere. We also ended up drawing Rochdale away in the FA Cup First Round, continuing our streak of having no luck when the balls are drawn.

One player in this month…

In: Jason Allen (Banbury, £5,000)

He’s pretty much fodder… I mean, cover.

October 1: Darlington 0–2 Hartlepool United (Ross pen, Spicer pen)

October 15: Hartlepool United 1–0 Cambridge United (Þórhallsson)

October 22: Bristol Rovers 5–0 Hartlepool United

October 29: Hartlepool United 1–2 Southend United (Spicer)

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Pos Inf Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st Peterborough 13 7 4 2 29 14 +15 25

2nd Bristol Rovers 13 7 4 2 21 10 +11 25

3rd Rushden 13 7 4 2 24 16 +8 25

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4th Southend 13 7 3 3 25 14 +11 24

5th Cheltenham 13 7 3 3 20 11 +9 24

6th Rochdale 13 6 3 4 16 14 +2 21

7th Port Vale 13 4 7 2 15 10 +5 19

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8th Shrewsbury 13 5 4 4 20 16 +4 19

9th Darlington 13 5 4 4 14 16 -2 19

10th Barnet 13 4 6 3 13 10 +3 18

11th Cambridge 13 5 3 5 11 14 -3 18

12th Kidderminster 13 4 5 4 15 17 -2 17

13th Northampton 13 5 2 6 21 25 -4 17

14th Leyton Orient 13 4 4 5 14 15 -1 16

15th Macclesfield 13 4 4 5 12 17 -5 16

16th York 13 4 4 5 10 16 -6 16

17th Mansfield 13 4 4 5 13 20 -7 16

18th Swansea 13 3 6 4 11 11 0 15

19th Hartlepool 13 3 6 4 11 16 -5 15

20th Chesterfield 13 3 5 5 14 16 -2 14

21st Grimsby 13 3 4 6 12 17 -5 13

22nd Scunthorpe 13 2 3 8 18 22 -4 9

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23rd Bury 13 1 6 6 14 26 -12 9

24th Wycombe 13 2 2 9 8 18 -10 8 </pre>

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Well I think going out of the cups was a good call - more time to focus on the league. Good luck though - seems you need a bit of it - but early days so far, and I'm sure you've got enough strength to get out of there. Some decent youngsters and Scandinavians there who'll only get better with time. ( hopefully icon_wink.gif )

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(Can I actually make it to the Conference? Well...)

November 2005

I knew this month was going to be hard right from the get-go; 5 out of the 6 scheduled matches were away games. Despite another good performance on the field, we couldn't back it up when it came to the scoreline, losing to Kidderminster Harriers in our first match of the month. Of course, the board had to give me a final ultimatum after that match, saying that a loss against Swansea City would force them to consider my position. Thankfully, the team turned in possibly their best performance of my stay at Hartlepool, coming back after blowing a 2-0 lead to win 4-2 and buy me some time. We had 3 players out due to international commitments heading to Rochdale for our FA Cup First Round match, yet I still chose to go with the same tactics that gave us our big win at midweek. They produced a big win - for Rochdale. A 5-1 loss sent us spiraling right out of the FA Cup, as my record in cup matches goes to 0-0-6. The following match at home to Leyton Orient seemed promising... That is, until Williams missed a penalty that he should have converted. And then Orient came back up the field to score.

If he had converted that penalty, we wouldn't have lost the game.

If he had converted that penalty, the team would have had some breathing room.

If he had converted that penalty, I wouldn't have gotten the sack.

November 5: Kidderminster Harriers 1-0 Hartlepool United

November 9: Swansea City 2-4 Hartlepool United (Þórhallsson 2, Wilkinson 2)

November 12: Rochdale 5-1 Hartlepool United (Gallimore o/g) (FA Cup First Round)

November 19: Hartlepool United 0-1 Leyton Orient

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Pos Inf Team Pld Won Drn Lst For Ag G.D. Pts

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1st Southend 16 10 3 3 33 17 +16 33

2nd Rushden 16 9 4 3 28 19 +9 31

3rd Bristol Rovers 16 8 5 3 26 15 +11 29

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4th Peterborough 16 8 4 4 33 18 +15 28

5th Cheltenham 16 7 5 4 24 16 +8 26

6th Shrewsbury 16 7 5 4 24 17 +7 26

7th Rochdale 16 7 5 4 20 17 +3 26

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

8th Cambridge 16 6 5 5 17 16 +1 23

9th Darlington 16 6 5 5 18 19 -1 23

10th York 16 6 5 5 14 17 -3 23

11th Port Vale 16 5 7 4 17 14 +3 22

12th Leyton Orient 16 6 4 6 18 18 0 22

13th Kidderminster 16 5 5 6 19 24 -5 20

14th Macclesfield 16 5 5 6 14 19 -5 20

15th Barnet 16 4 7 5 16 15 +1 19

16th Scunthorpe 16 5 3 8 23 22 +1 18

17th Swansea 16 4 6 6 16 17 -1 18

18th Hartlepool 16 4 6 6 15 20 -5 18

19th Northampton 16 5 3 8 26 35 -9 18

20th Chesterfield 16 3 7 6 16 20 -4 16

21st Grimsby 16 4 4 8 16 24 -8 16

22nd Mansfield 16 4 4 8 13 27 -14 16

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

23rd Wycombe 16 4 2 10 18 25 -7 14

24th Bury 16 2 7 7 16 29 -13 13</pre>

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Well, obviously attempt #1 at the challenge didn't work out as I thought it would. icon_frown.gif The early league form in season one seemed promising, and I thought that I could have finished mid-table at the very least, but then for some reason it all went to hell. I don't know if Hartlepool are harder in FM than in CM (considering the board wants a decent mid-table spot, the team can't be totally crap) but obviously I'm going to have to take a different approach at this the second time around.

And yes, if you can all put up with someone actually going back to try a failed challenge again (crashed games are a different story) then I'm determined to give this a second shot. icon_smile.gif Let's see... 7 day rule... started the story on a Tuesday... yeah. Expect attempt #2 later this week after I check into a few things. ^_^

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Ah, I thought that the 7-day rule didn't apply to challenges in terms of, for example, starting a story one day and then starting a challenge the next day. Thanks for clearing that up (although I don't intend to try this 500 times or anything - although that might win me a perserverance award next year. icon_wink.gif)

Besides, I had a 3-page (single-spaced) paper to do yesterday, so I respected the rule even if it doesn't exist. icon_wink.gif

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Well challenges are time limited, in the sense that after three months we move on, even although some people do keep them going. So it was decided to waive the 7 day rule presicely because if you got sacked it meant you couldnt restart and also because challenges are meant to be different and a chance to experiment. Or something like that icon_wink.gif

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